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Three keys to the game vs Patriots

This Sunday gives us Dolphins vs Patriots, part 2. Here are the three keys to the game against the New England Patriots

It’s week 17 as the Miami Dolphins head over to Foxborough. Let’s dive into the keys to the game: Dolphins vs Patriots, part two.

Three Keys vs Patriots

Running the ball effectively

Miami can’t seem to consistently commit to running the football, but when it does it generally has some success. Mostert leads the team with 791 yards with a 4.9-yard average while Wilson adds 275 yards at a healthy 5.2-yard clip.

The Patriots have a good run defense, ranks ninth in the league, allowing 109.8 yards per game on the ground. They are also the 10th ranked rushing defense in EPA/play. Furthermore when looking into third and fourth down rushing plays the Patriots are the 4th best rush defense in EPA/Play.

On the other hand, Miami is the 17th best rush offense in EPA/Play but the third worst in third and fourth in EPA/Play partly as they pass more often than run.

While we know that Mike McDaniel is a pass happy play caller, the Dolphins run the ball efficiently on early downs. They are 6th best in the league in EPA/Rush on first and second down. Conversely, the Patriot’s rush defense is ranked 16th on early downs.

It will come down to moving the ball by running early and efficiently to get into manageable third and short situations and convert. The Dolphins rank 9th in third down conversion EPA. Certainly a factor to watch in Dolphins vs Patriots.

Getting three and outs

The Dolphins defense has not been that bad late in the season compared to the start of the season. They have been and elite run defense.

However, with the injuries in the secondary their strength has turned into a weakness. Getting the Defense off the field on third downs will be key in Dolphins vs Patriots.

They Dolphins are the 5th worst defense in passing yards allowed per game (245), and 4th worst over their last three games. Also, they are the 12th worst dropback passing defense in EPA.

Patriots quarterback Mac Jones is the fourth worst passer in EPA/Play and the offense overall passes the football 6% over expected than what they should on third and shorts.

Defensive Coordinator Josh Boyer will have to be aggressive in getting after Mac Jones and limiting third down conversion so the Patriots do not sustain drives.

The Dolphins defense ranks sixth worse in EPA given up on third downs, it will be intriguing if defensive coordinator Josh Boyer gets aggressive and gets after Mac Jones to limit third down conversions.

Jason Sanders will have to be special

This season Jason Sanders has been in a funk. Sanders, who was once deemed to be automatic is 1-4 from the 50 yard yard line and out. He has an 82% extra point percentage which is 24th in the league.

Not to mention he had a “missed kick” on a 93 yard kickoff return against the Packers last Sunday.

Sanders will have be reliable for the Dolphins special teams unit, especially if the Dolphins offense can’t score in the redzone. Especially as the Dolphins rank sixth worse in red zone touchdown percentage since week 12.

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2022 Senior Bowl mid-season All Riser Team

The Senior Bowl just released it’s 2022 mid-season all riser team. Hussam Patel takes a look at the defensive side of the ball.

The Senior Bowl just released its 2022 mid-season All Riser team. It consists of offensive and defensive players that have risen two rounds or more on the Senior Bowl board from their junior year tape grades.

Let’s take a look at the defensive prospects.

All-riser Defensive Lineman

EDGE Keion White

Keion White joined Old Dominion as a freshman and transferred to Georgia Tech as a junior. Before making the transition to an EDGE rusher, White was a Tight end. He made Bruce Feldman’s “Freaks list”.

“White was a devastating player for Old Dominion in 2019, making 19 TFLs. He was 265 then. He transferred to Tech, but then suffered an ankle injury that sidelined him. He’s now 6-4, 290, and primed to be a problem for ACC teams. White has hit 21 mph despite being almost 300 pounds. He also has vertical-jumped 32 inches and done 38 reps of 225 on the bench press.”

Bruce Feldman

White is a well-built and dense-framed defensive end. He plays with good power on initial contact that can help soften edges and rush angles. His power in short spaces is effective. He’s a high-motor player, and he shows good enough hand use, as well as a tight spin move, to win as an edge rusher.

EDGE Mike Morris

Michigan EDGE rusher Mike Morris leads the Wolverines with five sacks on the season and is third-best in the Big Ten conference overall. As a junior, behind David Ojabo and Aidan Hutchinson, Morris played in four games and contributed on 107 snaps. He recorded just five tackles, no assists while making seven stops.

Morris explodes off the line with a quick first step, with agile feet to counter inside and closing burst to finish plays. His hand use is excellent; he’s strong in the upper body and consistently swats away blockers. As a pass rusher his junior year, he produced 14 total pressures, which included 10 QB hurries, one QB hit, and three sacks on the year.

“He’s one of those types of guys that he’s good at so many things. I think at some times, it’s like, ‘Oh, we can do this with him, we can do that with him.’ But he’s also a really good one-on-one rusher. And I think that’s what he’s proven to me. I think the most (he’s improved) is he has a great ability to win one on ones using his tools and what he’s good at a really consistent level.”

Michigan Defensive Coordinator Jesse Minter

DT Tyler Davis

Clemson defensive tackle Tyler Davis has made an immediate impact at Clemson, earning the starting role in his first career game as a true freshman in 2019, and becoming a key interior piece for Clemson’s defense ever since. Davis looks like a potential pro starter and top 100 pick, ideally suited for a team that utilizes a rotation-heavy defensive line.

Hearing from his head coach, Dabo Swinney, Davis is “Fundamentally sound. Technically sound. Relentless with his effort.” A compactly-built, high-motor lineman, he brings a nice blend of power and quickness. Davis shows impressive get-off, often exploding off the line and getting into gaps before blockers can react.

All-riser Linebackers

LB Owen Pappoe

The senior linebacker has more than lived up to his nickname, the Freak. He’s been compared to former Alabama linebacker Dylan Moses. He’s made 165 tackles and six sacks in his career for the Tigers. Equally good in the run game and pass game, Pappoe reads the offensive line well and attacks blocking schemes – has a natural feel for the game. Can attack the edge with speed and has the flexibility to dip low and under the tackle’s reach.

Pappoe gets the shout out in the 2022 Senior Bowl mid-season all riser team as he arrives at the receiver at the same time as the ball, giving up few yards after the catch.

EDGE/OLB D.J. Johnson

Oregon Duck D.J. Johnson made the 2022 Senior Bowl mid-season all riser team due to his pass rush and cover skills. He has established himself as one of the most versatile players in the country in his senior season at Oregon. He previously played tight end for the Ducks.

Johnson has a good bull rush, but his best attribute is probably his speed off the edge. He has a lot of athleticism for a guy his size, which is probably why he’s in the defensive line position most likely to drop back into coverage. Fluid and quick drop into zone, covers enough ground to be Tampa-2 “MIKE” and knows where the markers are.

Linebacker Daiyan Henley

Daiyan Henley is still relatively new to the linebacker position, which bodes well for his continued development as a player and offers perspective on just how enticing his instincts are. According to the Associated Press, Daiyan Henley is one of the nation’s three best linebackers at the midway point of the season.

The most productive defender for the Cougars, Henley enters the bye week leading his team with 68 tackles. ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. released his latest 2023 NFL draft big board this week, and Henley came in at No. 24 overall. He’s a former wide receiver and defensive back, so his ball skills when playing in coverage are considered a strength as well.

All-riser Defensive Backs

Cornerback Nehemiah Pritchett

Nehemiah Pritchett’s role for Auburn went up every year and was a key starter on cornerback and helped on kick returning on special teams, showing his ability to play multiple positions and help the team out in anywhere he can.

He’s very quick and very confident cover corner who plays bigger than his size when lined up in press coverage, delivering quick, surprisingly powerful punches and using his natural quickness and change-of-direction ability to mirror on underneath routes. Pritchett can get flat-footed but his makeup speed is impressive. He plays the ball as if it was thrown for him.

Cornerback Devon Witherspoon

The fourth-year Illini cornerback sure has come a long way from being an under-recruited, late addition to the Class of 2019. Now he’s one of the nation’s top cornerbacks. Witherspoon was named a Midseason All-American by Pro Football Focus (First Team) and The Athletic (Second Team). Now, he’s part of the 2022 Senior Bowl mid-season all riser team.

The Illini product reads receivers’ routes and anticipates throws at the first down marker. Covers a lot of ground in a hurry when in space. Reads the quarterback’s eyes and sees the routes very quickly, then has straight-line speed to arrive with, or just after, the ball. Witherspoon shows good awareness when dropping into zone coverage, with good route recognition and the ability to break quickly and cover a lot of ground.

Safety Jay Ward

In 2021, as a junior, Ward played in 11 games and contributed on 704 snaps. He chalked up decent 58 tackles, 15 assists, and added 13 stops. In the secondary, Ward forced two pass breakups and notched two interceptions.

Ward flashes good ball skills for a safety. The Tiger product tracks the ball well downfield and has the hands and coordination to come away with interceptions, even while not targeted often. He has the range and cover ability you want out of a post safety.

Safety Daniel Scott

Safety Daniel Scott is the old man of the Cal defense.  The 2022 season will be his sixth year of college football in Berkeley, and he will turn 24 midway through the season.

“He’s a play-maker, makes quick decisions, and I think that’s what he does best. He has good instincts and when he makes a decision, he can go fast.”

Cal Defensive Coordinator Peter Sirmon

Regardless of age, he looks the part with prototypical size and strength for a strong safety — long arms with a filled-out frame. Extremely strong with natural power to make punishing hits. He’s a willing and capable hitter in run support and closes fast to make plays against quick screens.

Safety Chris Smith

The Georgia Bulldogs senior made the midseason all-riser team for the Senior Bowl. Christopher Smith has 21 total tackles, two interceptions, and three pass deflections this season.

Smith’s an instinctive center fielder who flies around the field, has the tools to make up for a relative lack of size. He’s got a great football IQ and is versatile. He handles assignments as a deep safety, robber, and nickel corner. His downhill trigger is impressive showing the propensity to click and close, driving on anything in front of him with burst and intent.

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2022 Senior Bowl mid-season All Riser Team

The Senior Bowl just released it’s 2022 mid-season All Riser team. Hussam Patel takes a look at the offensive side of the ball.

The Senior Bowl just released it’s 2022 mid-season All Riser team. It consists of offensive and defensive players that have risen two rounds or more on the Senior Bowl board from their Junior year tape grades.

Let’s take a look at the offensive prospects.

Quarterback Hendon Hooker

The Tennessee quarterback is kind of like a mix between Bryce Young and CJ Stroud physically. He has Stroud’s arm and size and Young’s athleticism and accuracy. He may win the Heisman. The only major flaw about Hendon Hooker is his age. It brings with it questions of how much upside is left?

Running back Chase Brown

The Illini product has the ability to see where holes are going to open up. Brown can twist his hips in between the blockers to squeeze through holes that aren’t there to the naked eye.

He’s capable as a receiver, a weapon on swing passes and in the screen game. His stats through seven games:

  • ATT: 192
  • YDS: 1,059
  • TD: 4
  • AVG: 5.5

All-riser Pass Catchers

Tight End Luke Schoonmaker

Senior Luke Schoonmaker has picked up where Michgan TE Erick All left off last year, becoming a key part of the Wolverines’ passing attack and a favorite target of J.J. McCarthy.

Through six games, the 6-foot-6, 250-pound tight end is second on the team in catches (23) and receiving yards (229). Schoonmaker has reliable hands and shows the willingness to make catches in traffic over the middle.

Wide Receiver Zay Flowers

Xavien “Zay” Kevonn Flowers has caught my eye for a while now, and he’s been on the Senior Bowl radar for quite some time. The Eagles product is first or tied for first in the ACC in:

  • Targets (63)
  • Receptions (42)
  • Receiving yards (556)
  • Receiving TDs (5)
  • 40+ yard catches (4)

His stock hasn’t only risen in the Senior Bowl board, but also among NFL draft boards.

“He’s a smaller receiver, like a [Terry] McLaurin, that type of guy. He can fly. He’s a highlight reel. Probably a second-rounder, might sneak in first if he runs real fast [at the combine].”

NFC Scouting Director

Wide Receiver Charlie Jones

Purdue receiver Charlie Jones is coming of age, especially on the mid-season All Riser team for the Senior Bowl. Although Jones is more of a possession target than a field stretcher, his fiercely competitive demeanor and run-after-catch ability make him a major threat in the middle of the field.

His play this season is even more impressive when you consider he had 39 career receptions coming into the year. Jones has become the most reliable target for Aidan O’Connell and consistently comes away with the difficult catch during the game’s critical moments. He has 62 catches for 735 yards and 9 touchdowns.

Wide Receiver Jonathan Mingo

Ole Miss Rebels receiver Jonathan Mingo was graded by Pro Football Focus as the No. 1 wideout in college football. Mingo plays with a smoothness and balance, and shows a knack for setting up defensive backs. He’s equally dangerous in catch-and-run situations as he is taking the top off a defense.

Mingo transitions quickly from receiver to runner, and he has enough speed to threaten the seam and has a knack for getting open. Through six games, Mingo has amassed 22 receptions, 507 receiving yards, and three touchdowns. He is also now averaging 23.0 yards per reception, which is good for first in the SEC and second in the nation.

All-riser Offensive Lineman

Offensive Tackle Tyler Steen

The development of Alabama offensive tackle Tyler Steen, a veteran transfer from Vanderbilt, has been critical for the Crimson Tide.

Through six weeks, he has been an anchor for the Crimson Tide at left tackle. He is a very instinctive player and leads by example along the offensive front. It will be interesting to see how he develops as the season progresses.

Offensive Guard O’Cyrus Torrence

Proving himself as Florida’s most impactful addition from the transfer portal this past offseason, Right guard O’Cyrus Torrence was recognized for his play twice through six games with the Gators as he lands on Associated Press mid-season All-American team and 2022 Reese’s Senior Bowl Mid-season All-Riser Team.

Torrence does a nice job working with teammates to build the pocket, anchoring against bull rushers and displaying good awareness against stunts and twists. As a result, he’s continued his college career-long streak of games without giving up a sack, up to 42 games between his three years at Louisiana and six appearances at Florida.

Center Alex Forsyth

The Oregon product is little known outside of the college football community but has slowly risen up the ranks. Forsyth is currently on the mid-season watch list for the Lombardi Award. In the run game, he shows good burst off the line of scrimmage, with the ability to win at the point of attack.

Forsyth has enough speed and athleticism to move to the second level and land blocks. He’s a rock in the middle of the line as a pass protector, with the heavy hands and strong grip to hold his own against bigger defensive tackles.

Offensive Guard Matthew Jones

Matthew Jones’ name has not been a hot name recently as Ohio State’s high powered offense has names like C.J. Stroud, Marvin Harrison Jr., and Paris Johnson. However, Matthew Jones is a key contributor to keeping C.J. Stroud upright and to the Buckeyes having one of the best run games in the nation.

Jones consistently lands blocks at the second level and finishes strong. As a pass protector, he has violent, heavy hands. Along with a strong initial punch, he has the hand strength to grip and redirect pass rushers.

Offensive Tackle Darnell Wright

Last week Volunteers offensive lineman Darnell Wright stood out against Alabama. He had the task playing against an impressive EDGE rusher in Will Anderson Jr.

He has the feet to adjust when he anticipates what’s coming. Effective trapping and bends at the knees with adequate core strength to absorb the bull rush. Can clear a path at the second level if he hits the target. With a thick build and a naturally wide base, he brings power and physicality in the run game.

Wright’s pass protection has been key to keeping Hendon Hooker upright, and a big contributor for an explosive Volunteers offense.

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Dolphins vs Bills: Week 3 Preview

Dolphins ATB recaps the Week 2 comeback victory against the Ravens and preview the keys to success, in their Week 3 matchup against the Bills.

Dolphins vs Bills

This Dolphins vs Bills matchup presents Miami with a real chance to make a statement to the rest of the league, even in defeat. If the Dolphins can keep the game close, a strong performance will put the league on notice that they are a legitimate post-season contender.

Dolphins vs Bills Game Information

  • Date: Sunday, September 25
  • Time: 13:00 ET (18:00 UK Time)
  • Venue: Hard Rock Stadium, Miami FL
  • TV: CBS and Sky Sports NFL
  • Record: Dolphins (2-0) Bills (2-0)

Week 2 Recap

A comeback performance for the ages! For the first time in 711 games, a team was able to overcome a 21-point deficit heading into the fourth quarter. Miami were able to turn adversity into opportunity, following a shaky first half, to pull off a stunning comeback against a very strong Ravens’ side.

Strengths:

  • Offensive productivity on third down
  • Noticeable elevation in Tua’s game in fourth quarter
  • Hill and Waddle = Weapons of Mass Destruction
  • Improvements in the run game
  • Alex Ingold’s blocking contributions
  • Goal line run defense

Star Performer- Tua Tagovailoa

Have a day Tuanigamanuolepola Tagovailoa!

Following a rocky first half performance, Tua elevated his game to become only the third Dolphins’ QB to throw for 6 TDs in a game, alongside Dan Marino and Bob Griese.

Tua finished the game 36/50 for 469 yards, 6 TDs and 2 INTs. Tua’s confidence and poise was such that he could have continued to score as and when was required.

In my Week 2 preview article I wrote that  “Tua needs to step up and elevate his game to a level which will allow him to take the game to this Ravens defense, in the event that the game turns into a shootout.” And a shoot-out it was.

Tua’s performance was a notable step towards silencing his biggest critics.  It is often said that the Dolphins win in spite of Tua. Well that was not the case in this game. Tua stepped up and carried the team forward in light of the defense’s early struggles.

I have to admit at half time, I for one was skeptical, with the offense seemingly having no answer to the Ravens who were able to score with ease. In my game day notes at half time, Alec Ingold was the Dolphins’ star performer. Lamar Jackson had an outstanding MVP caliber performance, yet Tua’s remarkable comeback performance was able to overcome the high bar that Jackson set.

Mandatory Credit: Dol-Fan UK Podcast

Honorable mentions:

While Tua had a career game, I would be remiss if I did not honor the superb performances of Jaylen Waddle and Tyreek Hill. The speedy tandem of receivers were all over the field and unplayable in the second half, despite Hill suffering from cramps and being doubtful to return to the game.

Excitement is certainly high as to what this Mike McDaniel offense can achieve this season.

Weaknesses:

  • Tua’s impatience- resulting in two unnecessary picks
  • Dolphins’ secondary playing too soft
  • Lack of pass rush

You know the defense is having a bad day when Xavien Howard is beaten time and time again. Howard had a PFF coverage grade of 41.7 against the Ravens allowing 5 receptions for 119 yards on 8 targets. The Dolphins secondary played too far off man, resulting in Howard being exploited against the speedy Bateman.

Buffalo Bills Week 2

The Bills are off to a red hot start in 2022, following wins against the Super Bowl Champions and last year’s #1 seed in the AFC. The Bills were relentless against the Titans putting up 34 unanswered points, with Josh Allen being allowed to rest up during the fourth quarter.

Buffalo are clicking on all fronts following another strong defensive performance in which they held the Titan’s offense to a mere 187 total yards. Tyreek Hill had more yards than the entire Titan’s offense in Week 2.

Dolphins vs Bills- Keys to Success

A battle of two undefeated teams, and staunch divisional rivals. This Dolphins vs Bills game is set up to be a real showdown for two teams with the playoffs firmly in their sights.

Buffalo are the consensus Super Bowl favorites and have dominated Miami in recent years. So what will the Dolphins need to do to stand a chance of going toe to toe with the Bills, who are #1 in scoring offense and #1 in scoring defense?

1. Improvements on Defense

It is safe to say that Buffalo has had their way with Miami in recent years. In 2021, the Dolphins were outscored 61-11, mainly attributable to Miami’s offensive woes.

In the Week 8 matchup, the Dolphins’ defense kept the game within one score until the fourth quarter when Buffalo ran away with the game. However, Tua and this offense are vastly improved and should help the defense by keeping Josh Allen and the Bills’ offense off the field.

If the Dolphins are to stand a chance in this game, their defense must improve and that starts with the pass rush. Jaelan Phillips and Jerome Baker have been incredibly quiet to start the season.

Strong performances from these two will not only limit the time that Allen has to sit in the pocket, but also take away his ability to escape the pocket and run with the ball.

2.  A Confident Tua

Tua is his own biggest critic, which is hard to believe given the amount of critics that he has. He was the first to admit that his first half performance was not up to standard, often trying to force plays when things were not clicking offensively.

However, in the second half against the Ravens, Tua played with more confidence than he ever has in his career and it showed. A confident Tua who plays with poise and consistency will be key to victory on Sunday.

“I want his confidence to outweigh his perfectionism, or whatever that word would be, so that he can continue along his journey, but also be a little more present in reality.”

Coach Mike McDaniel

Tua slowed down his game was able to focus his fundamentals and the individual play in question to deliver in key moments. I urge all Dolphins fans to watch the film breakdown below.

3. Discipline

While discipline is a key to victory in just about every game, Buffalo’s ability to punish on extended drives will be detrimental to any hopes that the Dolphins have in starting the season 3-0.

Special teams’ mistakes, forced interceptions and penalties almost resulted in Miami contributing to their own downfall in Week 2. Make no mistake, they will need to be at their very best to beat this Buffalo side.

Injury Concerns

Buffalo’s victory against the Titans did not come without a cost. With Tre’Davious White remaining on IR, the Bills secondary is badly beaten up. Both starting safeties, Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer sat out of practice on Thursday.

Both Hill and Waddle will look to take full advantage of this on Sunday. Meanwhile, look for Gabe Davis to potentially return after just missing out in Week 2.

Miami are not without their own injury concerns. Terron Armstead (toe) did not practice on Wednesday or Thursday. Let us hope that this is just Miami being cautious with the highly experienced veteran not needing as many practice reps to be game ready.

The Dolphins also appear to have caught a break in their secondary. Despite not practicing on Wednesday, Xavien Howard returned to practice on Thursday and looks likely to play on Sunday. His involvement will be key to keeping the Dolphins in this game.

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Week 3 College Football Preview

Week 3 of College Football is finally here! Hussam Patel gives his top three week 3 college football preview and games that you need to watch.

Photo Credit: Doug Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Week 3 of the 2022 college football season is finally here. Here are the top three college football previews and games from week 3 that you need to watch.

Penn St. vs. Auburn preview

#22 Penn State Nittany Lions v Auburn Tigers. 3:30 P.M. EST, CBS

  • Line: Auburn -3, o/u: 46

Penn State week 3 college football preview

Sean Clifford is the most important player on Penn State’s roster, and the team’s success will heavily rely on what he does leading the offense. Clifford does have some help, though, as last week saw the arrival of one of the top players for the future, freshman running back Nick Singleton.

There were problems against Aidan O’Connell and the Purdue passing game, but the secondary held its own. Between that game and the Ohio win, Penn State has allowed just 48% of all passes to be completed.

Penn State’s offensive line is still looking to show some solid improvement. Through two games, this group has given up a big play to the opposing defense just when you think things are improving.

The Nittany Lions have an advantage at quarterback and feature multiple wide receivers to spread the ball around against the Auburn Tigers.

Auburn week 3 college football preview

For all of the problems the Tigers had least season, run defense wasn’t one of them. They held Penn State to 90 yards and just 2.7 yards per carry in the 28-20 game last year.

TJ Finley has thrown three more interceptions than touchdowns this season, and he will be going up against a solid defensive secondary led by cornerback Joey Porter Jr.

Running back Tank Bigsby should be a featured player, just as he was last year in this game when he ran for 102 yards and two touchdowns. He should get his work in this week. It’s a small sample size, but Penn State has surrendered 161 total rushing yards and three touchdowns on the ground in its first two games.

Clifford and Singleton may have a tough time establishing much rhythm against Derick Hall and the Auburn defense. Can TJ Finley rise up and get the O moving? 

Miami vs. Texas A&M preview

#13 Miami Hurricanes v #24 Texas A&M Aggies. 9 P.M. EST, ESPN

  • Texas A&M -5, o/u: 45

Miami week 3 college football preview

Miami’s defense isn’t quite there yet, but it showed off the offensive talent in layups against Bethune-Cookman and Southern Miss, with 100 points and well over 1,000 yards in the two games.

So far, the early returns on Miami quarterback Tyler Van Dyke are as advertised. Working in new OC Josh Gattis’ system, Van Dyke has hit on 73% of his passes, connected with 12 receivers, and heads an offense that averages 9.0 yards per play, can spread things out, and works well in space.

Miami’s defense struggled last year (28.4 points a game allowed) and had issues with tackling and inconsistent play at linebacker. They still struggled early against Southern Miss and Bethune-Cookman.

The Hurricanes’ back seven is untested so far in two games, and had its weaknesses a year ago. They haven’t faced anything like Ainias Smith or Evan Stewart yet, either.

Texas A&M week 3 college football preview

For all of the team’s problems, the offensive line has been good in pass protection so far, the secondary hasn’t allowed much of anything, and there’s too much talent overall to be this mediocre.

The Aggies need to control the tempo and establish the run behind Devon Achane. Miami is 8th nationally allowing 58.5 yards per game on the ground, but hasn’t faced a back of Achane’s quality yet.

LSU transfer Max Johnson gets the start this game. Playing mistake-free ball and getting the ball in space to receivers Ainias Smith, Evan Stewart, Chris Marshall, and Yulkeith Brown has to be the priority.

The Aggies had aspirations of contending for a playoff spot, but now face major questions before the SEC opener.

BYU vs. Oregon preview

#12 BYU Cougars at #25 Oregon Ducks. 7:30 P.M. EST, ESPN

  • Line: Oregon -3.5, o/u: 58

BYU week 3 college football preview

Jaren Hall finds ways to guide BYU to victories when facing Power 5 opponents. Hall improved to 7-1 all-time as a starter against P5 foes following last week’s win over Baylor.

The Cougars are legitimately punishing on defense and still relatively healthy on that side of the ball. Offensively, BYU doesn’t usually do anything to beat itself. 

BYU will need more production from the backfield this week to have success against Oregon in their week 3 matchup.

Oregon Ducks week 3 college football preview

A matchup with a talented and physical BYU team will be a good indicator of where Dan Lanning can take his team in year one

Containing Jaren Hall and keeping him from escaping the pocket will be a big task for a defensive front that hasn’t consistently collapsed the pocket.

Oregon was unstoppable in the run game last week after struggling to move the chains against Georgia. The Ducks collectively averaged 5.5 yards per carry while totaling 263 yards and four touchdowns on the ground.

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Week 2 College Football Preview

Week 2 of College Football is finally here! Hussam Patel gives his top three week 2 college football preview and games that you need to watch.

Photo Credit: SCOTT WACHTER/USA TODAY SPORTS

Week 2 of the 2022 college football season is finally here. Here are the top three college football previews and games you need to watch

Alabama vs. Texas preview

#1 Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Texas Longhorns. 12 P.M. EST, FOX

  • Line: Alabama -20, o/u: 61.5

Alabama week 2 college football preview

This is a fully-focused Alabama team that lost a slew of star parts, and yet still ran for 278 yards last week and threw for 281 yards.

The offensive line has been worked on and tweaked to be better in pass protection. This allows Bryce Young time to to spread it around more.

The only noteworthy thing the Crimson Tide have to worry about is the notorious “horns down” penalty that Nick Saban did not even know existed.

You think Alabama is going to flinch for an instant when Texas connects on a 78-yard touchdown pass? 

Texas week 2 college football preview

This will be the biggest week 2 college football game. Texas has the guys to at least hang with Bama at home, but they need a good start and to believe they really can do this

Steve Sarkisian and the coaching staff have settled in, there’s a healthy Bijan Robinson in the backfield, Quinn Ewers – at least prospect-wise – is as promising as any quarterback in the country. You’re not crazy to hype Xavier Worthy among the best wide receivers in college football, either.

How will the Longhorns react if Will Anderson Jr. sacks Ewers twice on the first drive? What happens when the Crimson Tide stops Bijan Robinson and the run?

Prediction

Alabama 45, Texas 27

Tennessee vs. Pittsburgh preview

#24 Tennessee Volunteers v Pittsburgh Panthers. 3:30 P.M. EST, ABC

  • Line: Tennessee -6.5, o/u: 66

Tennessee week 2 college football preview

The Tennessee offense is going to go off. The Vols’ offense looks as potent as ever, scoring 59 points in the season opener against Ball State. Hendon Hooker has a plethora of help.

Four of last year’s offensive line starters are back, but that unit allowed an SEC-worst 44 sacks last season. How effective this Vols offense can be is dependent on the guys up front. 

Tennessee didn’t have a sack in last week’s game, and only had two tackles for loss. Linebacker Jeremy Banks will be looked upon to create some negative plays, as will defensive end Byron Young.

Pittsburgh week 2 college football preview

The running game was held in check, but Kedon Slovis had a terrific debut, throwing for over 300 yards. Now he gets to throw on a Tennessee secondary that struggled last season.

The Vols secondary has some experience in Trevon Flowers and Jaylen McCollough, but they were also a big reason why the Vols’ pass defense struggled in 2021. Slovis needs to feast on them.

Pitt finished third in the nation in sacks last fall, and their top havoc producers, Calijah Kancey and Habakkuk Baldonado, are still around to cause problems. If the Panthers D can create chaos and force three-and-outs, the Vols’ defense can expect to be on the field for much of the game.

Prediction

Tennessee 44, Pittsburgh 38

Kentucky vs. Florida preview

#20 Kentucky Wildcats at #12 Florida Gators. 7:30 P.M. EST, ESPN

  • Line: Florida -5, o/u: 52

Kentucky week 2 college football preview

The offense has a mayo-loving pro prospect of its own in quarterback Will Levis, coming off a 303-yard performance. He’ll keep pushing a Gator secondary that had issues with the Utah passing game late last week.

With only one starter returning, along with Auburn transfer Tashawn Manning, the Wildcats return only 45 career starts. Kentucky’s “Big Blue Wall” is young, inexperienced, and a work-in-progress.

Offensive coordinator Rick Scangarello will want to get Tayvion Robinson, who was marvelous in his Kentucky debut (6 receptions, 136 yards), the ball early and often on Saturday night.

Kentucky is also very deep at linebacker; it’s been an area of strength in Stoops’ recruiting operation. This means the Wildcats are less likely to tire late compared to Utah. If Kentucky wins, it’ll be likely because it won this battle.

Florida Gators week 2 college football preview

Led by quarterback Anthony Richardson, the Gators piled on 283 ground yards and four TDs, while averaging over seven yards per touch against a very good, and physical, team last week.

The Gators have plenty of talent up front, and start multiple five-star players on the defensive line. Still, Florida surrendered over 200 yards rushing to Utah last Saturday and was too often pushed back easily at the point of attack.

Kentucky’s top running backs are out, one with a suspension and another with an injury, so the Gators may get a break in the running game. But they still have to deal with Will Levis and his strong arm. Jason Marshall Jr. will have to keep up with Tayvion Robinson.

Anthony Richardson will be contained by the Wildcats defense, he will have to rely on his arm more than his legs. It needs to be the next step in his development in week 2 of college football.

Prediction

Florida 27, Kentucky 24

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Week 1 College Football Preview

Week 1 of College Football is finally here! Hussam Patel gives his top three game previews and games that you need to watch.

Week 1 of the 2022 college football season is finally here. Here are the top three Week 1 college football games you need to watch, and a preview of each.

Arkansas vs. Cincinnati preview

#23 Cincinnati Bearcats v #19 Arkansas Razorbacks. 3:30 P.M. EST, ESPN

  • Line: Arkansas -7, o/u: 52

Cincinnati Week 1 College Football Preview

There might be big talent losses in several areas, but the offensive front is loaded with all-stars and veterans, and it should be among the best in the nation at keeping defenses out of the backfield

Coach Luke Fickell’s comments raise some alarms heading into the Razorbacks stadium. He admitted that the Bearcats are not suited to play against a loud SEC home crowd.

Cincinnati lost a talented quarterback in Desmond Ridder, can they replace his production week 1 against the Razorbacks?

The biggest key in winning this top 25 matchup in week 1 for the Bearcats is containing Arkansas quarterback K.J. Jefferson.

Arkansas Week 1 College Football Preview

Razorbacks quarterback K.J. Jefferson was good last year; however can he be special against a good defense in the Cincinnati Bearcats in week 1?

Without a doubt, Jefferson will be the key for the Razorbacks. Furthermore, their running game should help him out. The team led the SEC in rushing.

The passing efficiency should be there against a revamped Cincinnati secondary that lost a slew of NFL talents. With the loss of Treylon Burks to the NFL, coach Pittman wants to see how good receiver Drew Sanders can be. 

Utah vs. Florida preview

#7 Utah Utes v Florida Gators. 7 P.M. EST, ESPN

  • Line: Utah -2.5, o/u: 53.5

Utah Week 1 College Football Preview

Linebacker Devin Lloyd might be gone, but former Gator Mohamoud Diabate is a good one to try helping the cause. 

The defensive front will once again be a killer in the backfield, and the tackles are massive human beings who’ll gum up the works.

Head coach Kyle Whittingham brings a veteran, disciplined team against the Gators in Week 1. The Utes are led by standout QB Cam Rising, who threw for 2,493 yards and 20 touchdowns to five interceptions, along with 74 rushes for 499 yards and six touchdowns.

Florida Week 1 College Football Preview

Gainesville’s own Anthony Richardson, with his superb athleticism and arm, is the face of the team as its quarterback. Richardson’s supporting cast is full of returning players. 

Head coach Billy Napier squares off against a top-10 team in Week 1 as his first game as the Gators coach. Napier brings along a few of the good parts from Ragin’ Cajun days; the offensive line really will be a strength, and the running back situation is about as deep as any in the SEC.

The Gators will have to rely on a good rotation on the defensive front and return top NFL draft prospects in Brenton Cox Jr., Gervon Dextor, and Jason Marshall Jr.

Florida’s run defense has to prove it can be night-and-day better than it was last season, as Patrick Toney is in charge of the defense this season.

Notre Dame vs. Ohio State preview

#5 Notre Dame at #2 Ohio State. 7:30 P.M. EST, ABC

  • Line: Ohio State -16.5, o/u: 58.5

Notre Dame Week 1 College Football Preview

New head coach Marcus Freeman’s biggest test is right out of the gates Week 1 against last year’s college football finalist Ohio State. No pressure, Marcus.

It’s the debut of new quarterback Tyler Buchner. Notre Dame needs to establish a running game that is much more effective than that in order to support Buchner. Furthermore, stud tight end Michael Mayer will be targeted most of the game due to an injury sustained by wide receiver Avery Davis.

Al Golden is the new defensive coordinator for the Fighting Irish. Will he and his secondary hold up against a talented trio of another batch of Buckeye receivers in Jaxson Smith-Njigba, Marvin Harrison Jr., and Emeka Egbuka?

Notre Dame fills the loss of Kyle Hamilton with Northwestern transfer Brandon Joseph, and eyes will be on EDGE rusher Isaiah Foskey who has first round potential in this year’s draft cycle.

Ohio State Week 1 College Football Preview

Ryan Day’s squad returns Heisman hopeful quarterback C.J. Stroud against a top-5 team in Notre Dame in Week 1 of college football. No one boasts Ohio State’s skill position talent, and it may very well be the reason why they are heavily favored.

The Buckeyes feature three of the top 12 players in the Heisman odds with quarterback C.J. Stroud, running back TreVeyon Henderson, and receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba. 

The Buckeyes defense was its major problem last season against top teams in Alabama, Michigan, and Oregon. Ryan Day brought in Jim Knowles from Oklahoma State to shore up the run defense. 

The linebacker play from Steele Chambers and Tommy Eichenberg will come into focus to stop the Fighting Irish ground attack.

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Nebraska vs. Northwestern Preview: Week 0 Prospect Roundup

Image via NUSports.com

Northwestern vs. Nebraska preview
PHOTO BY CRAIG SULLIVAN

Nebraska vs Northwestern Preview

Let’s take a deep dive into some of the best 2023 NFL Draft prospects in this Nebraska vs Northwestern preview!

College football’s return begins with the annual Week 0 matchups. Although these aren’t the crowd-pleasing matchups that come later in the season, these early games offer a nice appetizer.

By far the most anticipated game in Week 0 is the inter-conference bout between Nebraska and Northwestern. This is the biggest Power Five game, between two teams looking to bounce back.

This BIG 10 rivalry game has the allure of being set in the Irish capital of Dublin, with the actual game taking place at Aviva Stadium. 2022 marks an important year for both teams, especially for Nebraska after coming off a 3-9 season in 2021. Their last win came against Northwestern in the fall of 2021, scoring a whopping 56 points against the Wildcats.

2021 was also a trying season for the Northwestern Wildcats, finishing the season with the same record as their opponents at 3-9. Head coach Pat Fitzgerald hopes to rebound in 2022, hopefully through their downhill rushing attack lead by their impressive room of running backs.

More important than their individual team aspirations are the draft prospects found within each team. Both squads have plenty of talent on their rosters with each varying in terms of their strengths and weaknesses. The following list will attempt to preview all of the 2023 NFL Draft prospects you should care about as you watch this exciting Week 0 matchup of Nebraska vs Northwestern.

Nebraska vs Northwestern Preview: NFL Draft Prospects

Northwestern 

Evan Hull – Running Back 

The Wildcats haven’t been known for their offensive star power. However, that doesn’t mean they lack talent at the skill positions. In the last five years, players such as running back Justin Jackson and wide receiver Ben Skowronek haven’t been the most impressive prospects, but have carved out roles at the next level nonetheless. This year, the Northwestern Wildcats have another solid skill player in running back Evan Hull. 

Hull had a breakout year in 2021, amassing 1009 yards rushing at 5.1 yards-per-carry on almost 200 touches. Additionally, he rushed for seven touchdowns while catching another two through the air.

At 5-11, 210 pounds, Hull has a dense build that allows him to carry good strength in his lower body to churn out runs down the field. He’s not an elite-level athlete, at least on tape, however, he shows good fluidity in between the tackles that allows him to create extra yards. 

Playing against a stout Cornhuskers front, Hull will have a chance to showcase his ability and potentially get more eyes to his game. He’s certainly an underrated prospect coming out of the summer, but is certainly worth some attention in Week 0 this Saturday. 

Peter Skoronski – Offensive Tackle 

Similar to his former teammate and 2021 first-round pick Rashawn Slater, Wildcats offensive lineman Peter Skoronski is Northwestern’s biggest offensive star by a long shot. Skoronski is considered to be one of the top offensive tackles in the 2023 NFL Draft, and one of the best players in the BIG 10 Conference. 

Skoronski shows excellent power with a crisp anchor, having great lower half strength that helps him to supplant opponents with little issue. He’s an excellent mover in the second level, with his foot quickness and hip fluidity allowing him to take advantageous angles to his targets.

The biggest draw to Skoronski’s game, however, is his versatility — or rather — potential positional versatility. Skoronski lacks elite arm length, so there are questions as to whether he’ll stick at offensive tackle or not. He’s had experience at center, which should open up different opportunities for him to see the field. 

As mentioned above, the Cornhusker’s front seven looks to be stout this year, with their pass rushing possessing a three-headed rotation that could give Skoronski some struggles on Saturday. Even so, Skoronski could quickly cement himself as one of the top tackles if he comes out sharp against Nebraska

Adetomiwa Adebawore – Defensive End 

Where Northwestern has begun to shine over the last five years is with its defense. A few edge rushers such as Earnest Brown IV, Dean Lowry, and Ifeadi Odenigbo have made it to the league — with varying degrees of initial success. This year Adetomiwa Adebawore could be the next Wildcat edge rusher to make his way to the professional level. 

Adebawore was recently featured on Bruce Feldman’s Freaks Lists, where he was highlighted for his impressive strength and weight room prowess. He also showed good numbers in the three-cone drill as well, reflecting the above-average change of direction skills found in his college film. He has solid first-step quickness that will allow him to establish leverage while using that elite strength to maintain gaps. 

Adebawore was not a highly thought of player initially by yours truly after summer scouting, but after more film study his stock has begun to rise a little bit in my rankings. He has a great opportunity to make some noise this weekend against a Nebraska offensive line that lacks elite talent. Adebawore is a solid day three prospect at this point and could continue to rise if he builds off of a promising 2021. 

Cameron Mitchell – Cornerback 

Greg Newsome was great for the Wildcats and quickly became among one of the best cornerbacks in the 2021 NFL Draft class. Newsome was a quick riser in that draft class after not being a widely discussed prospect for much of the early process. This isn’t to say that Cameron Mitchell will reach the same heights as his former teammate, however, he is one of the BIG 10’s best-kept secrets. 

Mitchell plays outside corner for the Wildcats and, despite not possessing elite ball production, there are still elements of his game that show some promise. Mitchell plays with quick feet and solid fluidity in his hips, allowing him to be a relatively successful man-coverage corner with some good activity in his hands.

At this point, Mitchell is an underrated prospect but looks to have a good weekend against the Cornhusker’s receivers. 

Nebraska

Casey Thompson – Quarterback 

The Texas Longhorns had a down 2021 season under their first year with Steve Sarkisian, although quarterback Casey Thompson was one of the bright spots for the team. Now at Nebraska, the 23-year-old passer aims to guide the Cornhuskers to the promised land in the BIG 10 in 2022.

Thompson possesses some good athletic traits when using his legs, with great foot quickness which allows him to break off big runs down the field. He has a solid arm, too, and has several instances where he’s been able to astutely press the ball downfield. 

Although it’s unlikely that Thompson will be considered among the ranks of Bryce Young and C.J. Stroud, he could carve out a nice place for himself in the 2023 draft class. And that journey starts on Saturday. 

Travis Vokolek – Tight End

Chase Allen was the focus at tight end for the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Now that duty has turned over to Travis Vokolek. With Zavier Betts off the team, there isn’t a top-end pass catcher for Thompson to rely on. Vokolek has nice speed with solid hands, but in a deep tight end class he’ll need to find his footing.

Ochaun Mathis – EDGE 

Nebraska’s second biggest offseason addition is pass rusher Ochaun Mathis. The former Horned Frog transferred this year after having a solid career at Texas Chrisitan. He finished his career at TCU with 12.5 sacks and 26 tackles for a loss, with eight of those sacks coming during the 2020 season.

Mathis already has many fans in the draft community, but will have an excellent opportunity to gain more with a great performance on Saturday. 

Mathis already possesses some solid athletic traits, showing a good initial step and change of direction skills when operating from gap-to-gap. He stands at 6-5, 260 pounds, possessing great length for the edge position with enough mass to anchor versus the run. Mathis is still learning the finer points of pass rushing, but has the potential to improve and showed plenty of promise in 2021. 

Caleb Tannor – EDGE 

By far the biggest unknown out of every player mentioned here is the “other” edge rusher at Nebraska, Caleb Tannor. After starting only a handful of games in 2020, Tannor made the jump to full-time in 2021 and the results were not disappointing. While he didn’t necessarily crush the stat sheet, the raw athleticism on display was something to behold. 

Similar to Mathis, Tannor is still somewhat raw as a pass rusher. However, he can absolutely supplant tackles with speed-to-power, using his length to stun offensive linemen and drive them deeper into the backfield. He has an incredible burst off the line of scrimmage, while his body control allows him to play underneath his opponents.

Tannor vs. Skoronski will be must-see television on Saturday. 

Garrett Nelson – EDGE 

The final pass rusher in the Cornhuskers’ Hydra linebacking core is veteran and reigning team sack leader,  Garrett Nelson. Coming off of a six-sack 2021, the lead pass rusher of Nebraska is an underrated prospect in this class. He’s not as athletically gifted as his teammates, but Nelson still has plenty of talent of his own and is certainly worth a look going forward. 

Nelson has solid hand technique when operating as a pass rusher, but still relies heavily on effort and power. More so than his teammates, it will be interesting to see what improvements he’s made as a run defender. Run defense was not his strongest suit in 2021, with him struggling to set a physical edge against the inter-conference competition. He’ll likely see snaps against Skoronski as well, so viewers will get the chance to see how he fairs against top talent early on. 

Luke Reimer – Linebacker 

The final prospect in this preview is the Cornhuskers’ 2021 tackles leader in linebacker Luke Reimer. Reimer isn’t an elite-level athlete but has proven he can make consistent plays against the run. The 2021 All-Big 10 Honorable Mention is one of the teams’ top defenders, and its easy to see why.

Reimer has shown on film how easily he deconstructs blocks, using hand force and body positioning to stave off potential blocks. He’s quick on the hoof against the run, and tries to be the first player to the football. He’s deceptively sticky in man coverage versus tight ends, but will not be heavily relied upon in that regard. Reimer is still a junior and may not even declare this year. However, he’s still worthy of your time. 

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College Football storylines to watch this season

2022 college football season kick off soon. So with the season about to start, here are the top five college football storylines to watch.

Week 0 kicks off this Saturday before Labor Day weekend’s huge slate of games. So with the season about to start, here are the top five college football storylines to watch.

Conference realignment

Arguably the biggest college football storyline this season, it remains to be seen only how big the SEC and Big Ten want to get, especially with their new media deal.

Oklahoma and Texas are in their final seasons within the Big 12 before transitioning to the SEC. BYU, Cincinnati, Houston, and UCF are set to join the Big 12 next season.

The ACC is taking away divisions in 2023, as the Atlantic and Coastal will be no more.

The Pac-12 on the other hand, looks to be disassembled as Oregon is in talks to join the Big Ten along with USC and UCLA.

Mo’ Money, No Problems

The second top college football storyline is the fact that NIL is making athletes into small corporations.

Millionaires. Cars. Shiny bling. Endorsements. These are among the parts of NIL rights after its first calendar year. We enter the second season of NIL with somewhat of a calm that has centered over the landscape.

2022 sure feels set to be the first season where NIL deals are widely accepted and no longer a novelty in the world of college sports. NIL contracts established a standard for recruiting and team personnel, but some of the deals in 2022 have created a national buzz. Then there’s the booster funded collectives that garner recruitment for teams like Texas A&M and the University of Miami.

Here are some of the most unique NIL deals of 2022:

  • Bijan Robinson signs with Lambroghini Austin
  • DeColdest Crawfords signs with HVAC company
  • Jaden Rashada’s $9.5 million NIL Contract
  • Texas Tech players receiving base pay of $25,000

Are they really back?

Another top college football storyline this season is the emergence of the Texas Longhorns and Miami Hurricanes. 

After 20 years getting lost in the championship wilderness, Miami may have finally figured it out. The solution? Money. Miami native Mario Cristobal got a $80 milllion contract.

Miami finally got a coach who understands the culture and can recruit, added an NIL battleship in John Ruiz, and a plan to spend their way to a championship that doesn’t seem outlandish — and not that far off for the Hurricanes.

But will it translate on the field?

Head coach Steve Sarkisian has a slew of all-star talents across the board, and he’s got the skill guys that could, and should, be as good as any in the country outside of Alabama and Ohio State.

Arch Manning, Quinn Ewers, Bijan Robinson, and not to mention the glorified football powerhouse transitioning into the SEC. However, with its stars and money — can Texas win the Big 12?

Alabama vs. Texas A&M

The date is Oct. 8. Texas A&M at Alabama. Circle it in red. Hell, circle it in blood. This has immediately escalated into the most bitter rivalry of 2022 — if not ever.

One of the biggest college football storylines, if not THE biggest storyline, is the fuel-raged inferno between Alabama head coach Nick Saban and Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher. 

May 18th, Nick Saban opened Pandora’s box and launched an attack on Jimbo Fisher saying the Aggies “bought every player on their team.” Jimbo Fisher fired back and called his former boss’s statements “despicable”, stating that Saban is a “narcissist who thinks he’s God.”

Texas A&M beat Alabama last year 41-38 last year, but the Crimson Tide have dominated the matchup over the years. One day, the Aggies could post a problem for the Saban led Crimson Tide.

Per 24/7 sports, the Aggies landed four five-star recruits in the 2022 class and finished with the No. 1 signing class for the 2022 cycle.

October 8th, 2022 will just mean more.

College Football games to watch

Of course, there are no college football storylines without games actually being played. Here are the top three games to watch this college football season:

Notre Dame at Ohio State, September 3rd 

Marcus Freeman has done everything right since taking over the Fighting Irish. Now, he must face his alma mater in his first game as a head coach. Heisman hopeful C.J. Stroud and his Buckeyes, of course, are aiming to start a potential national title season with a bang.

Alabama at Texas, September 10th 

Two college football powerhouses will look to put on a spectacular show. This is not your old Texas Longhorns team, especially on the defensive side of the ball. They will face a tough test as the Crimson Tide have reloaded with names like Jahmyrr Gibbs, Jermaine Burton, and Tyler Harrell.

Miami at Texas A&M, September 17th

First-year coach Mario Cristobal and the Miami Hurricanes get a tough test against the hyped up Aggies. Cristobal is a proven recruiter and winner, and has put together a legitimately great support staff. While the Hurricanes have Tyler Van Dyke at quarterback, can the Hurricanes protect him against a talented Aggie defense?

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Music and Sports: Why Cover Both?

music and sports
Credit: NBC Los Angeles

At first it may seem out of place for a sports website to venture out and cover music. You may be seeing us on Twitter and asking yourself “why are they talking about a music artist?” The answer is simple. When you really think about it, music is an integral part of the fabric of sports.

Whether it’s a marching band in high school, fight songs and hype songs in college, entrance music in baseball or wrestling, or the PA playing heavy metal — or symphonic deathcore, to be specific — at a hockey game, music is everywhere in sports.

The Intersection of Sports and Music

So why, then, should you have to go to one spot for your sports coverage and then leave to go to a specific music website to read album reviews? Why should you have to come to us to read about what’s going on in training camp, then have to head to an entirely different site to see a band’s entire discography ranked from worst to first?

You shouldn’t! And that’s the ultimate goal here at Around the Block Network. We want to be your one-stop entertainment hub! We want to be at the intersection of sports and music.

That’s why you’re going to see someone who tweets about the Giants and his local Baltimore teams talking about a hot new artist he loves. That’s why you’re going to find two Dolphins fans and a Lions fan promoting a heavy metal-focused podcast. Because at the end of the day, we all love sports and we all love music. So why shouldn’t you be able to get analysis and opinions on both in the same place?

It may seem strange at first, but should it? We would argue that it shouldn’t, and we hope you agree! Who knows, maybe someday in the future it’ll become some normal, par-for-the-course content strategy. For now, ATB is here to give you the latest on all your passions. Stay tuned and enjoy the ride!

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2023 NFL Draft Watch List: Wide Receivers

Summer scouting season is underway and continues with the wide receiver class. Here’s Hussam Patels’ 2023 NFL Draft wide receiver watchlist.

Summer scouting season is underway and continues with the wide receiver class. Here is my 2023 NFL draft wide receivers watch list.

LSU wide receiver Kayshon Boutte tops Hussam Patel's 2023 NFL Draft watch list at the position.
Photo Credit: MG Miller, USA TODAY Sports

Top 5 2023 NFL draft wide receivers watch list

Kayshon Boutte

The top wide receiver of the 2023 class had a very productive freshman 2021 season and sadly dropped off a little bit due to injuries in 2022. Boutte is an extremely well-rounded receiver. He flashes the foot quickness and toughness to handle slot duties at the next level and lines up all over the field. Boutte is dangerous with the ball in his hands.

Speaking of, the Tigers product hands’ accepts the ball fluidly on most throws and is ready to make a play afterward. He makes catches in traffic, even going up over taller defenders with vertical and toughness.

Kayson Boutte is one of the most athletically gifted players in the 2023 class, who possess great speed, acceleration, and size, and combines these traits with decent hands and outstanding route running. 

The only reservation I have of Boutte is his medical issue. If he has a quality year in 2022, Boutte could easily become the top-rated receiver come the 2023 NFL Draft. Still, Boutte is the top prospect on the 2023 NFL draft wide receivers watch list.

Jaxson Smith-Njigba

At the age of 20, Jaxson Smith-Njigba has fine-tuned his route running and has a great understanding of how to dissect different zones and attack the leverage on defensive backs.

As a sophomore in 2021 he played in 13 games and had 95 catches for 1595 yards for an average of 16.8 yards per catch, with 9 TDs, and a QB rating when targeted of 141.8

The Buckeyes standout has the strongest hands any NFL wide receiver coach and quarterback would covet. He tracks the deep ball over either shoulder and brings in passes fluidly without breaking stride downfield

Expect 2022 to be even better than 2021, as Smith-Njigba will be gifted the number one receiving spot on the Buckeye’s offense. I have him slated as the number two prospect to watch on this 2023 NFL draft wide receivers watch list.

Jordan Addison

The third pass-catcher in this 2023 NFL draft wide receivers watch list is USC’s Jordan Addison. Addison had a very productive season last year winning the Biletnikoff trophy at Pittsburgh.

This off-season he transferred to USC and will play for offensive mastermind Lincoln Riley. Addison is looking to replicate his 2021 season with Caleb Williams as his quarterback.

The Trojan playmaker has amazing flexibility and can pretty much make any catch you ask him to.

The speed element of his game is evident, along with the ability to break the ankles of defenders in the open field. A slippery athlete, Addison is a headache to deal with when he has the football in his hands

Addison’s catch comfortability does not instill much confidence, as he does tend to bring passes into his frame rather than working with his hands away from his chest. The further outside of his frame he has to work, the less dependable his hands become.

He has a chance this year to become to establish himself as a top-ten pick if he continues to play at the level he displayed as a sophomore at Pittsburgh.

Parker Washington

Nittany Lions’ receiver Parker Washington had an 800 yard season sitting behind Jahan Dotson as the number two option. With a prime role coming this season, he’s looking to absolutely breakout and torch Big Ten defensive backs.

Washington saw the bulk of his snaps from the slot last year, and got a lot of free releases. I expect to see him on the outside a little more, and how he handles contact at the line of scrimmage will be crucial.

He is very good at tracking the ball in the air and, for his size, does a great job timing jumps to beat defenders for contested catches. So far in his career, he has brought in 11 out of 23 attempts on contested balls. A big reason as to why is due to his strong hands.

When Washington gets in the open field, he can take it the distance. He snags the ball well and is able to fully extend on off-target passes by extending his arms rather than with pure speed.

Marvin Mims

Marvin Mims has the versatility to line up at all three receiving positions (X, Flanker, and Slot), and is able to execute at all three levels of the field. 

A savvy, natural pass-catcher with reliable hands and very good focus. He routinely looks the ball into his hands and can maintain concentration to haul in circus catches way outside of his framework.

Despite being a smaller receiver, Mims competes well above his weight class and his competitive toughness shines as a blocker. Mims is one of the few receivers in this draft class who blocks well, which catapults him to the fifth spot in the 2023 NFL Draft wide receivers watch list.

In 2023, Mims could solidify himself as a first-round talent if Oklahoma builds on his route tree. He runs the routes in his package well, but a more diverse route tree will allow him to produce more and more quickly at the NFL level.

Honorable Mentions: 

Josh Downs-UNC, Dontay Demus-Maryland, Zay Flowers-BC, Quentin Johnson-TCU, Xavier Hutchinson-Iowa State.

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2023 NFL Draft Watch List Quarterbacks

Summer scouting season is underway and it kicks off with the 2023 quarterback class. Here is Hussam Patels’ 2023 NFL Draft quarterback watchlist.

Summer scouting season is underway and it kicks off with the 2023 quarterback class. Here is my 2023 NFL draft quarterbacks watch list.

Bryce Young tops the 2023 NFL Draft watch list for quarterbacks
Photo Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Top 5 2023 NFL draft quarterbacks watch list

Bryce Young

Alabama’s Bryce Young is coming off a Heisman season and is looking to build off that, as he’s regarded as one of the best quarterbacks in the nation at making throws out of the pocket and out of structure. 

Although, his draft stock may be hurt by his slight frame. Young looks more like a slot receiver compared to what a franchise quarterback is billed at.

Young led the Crimson Tide to a win in the SEC Championship game, becoming the only quarterback to beat the vaunted Georgia defense last season. In that game he was 26 of 44 passes for 421 yards and three touchdowns. 

While the Crimson Tide ended up losing in the title game in the rematch against Georgia, Young showed throughout the season that he could play the position at a high level.

In the play above you see Young’s quick feet moving him to allow him a clean pocket. He throws a rope in-between two defenders outside the hash marks. 

His anticipation and touch at this level makes him one of the top quarterbacks in the nation and number one in this 2023 NFL draft quarterbacks watch list.

C.J. Stroud

Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud is one of the most pro-ready quarterbacks in this class. He completed 72% of his passes in 2022. Stroud will look to build off what he did in the Rose Bowl game against Utah.

Stroud is accurate, aggressive, willing to attack the middle of the field, and reads the field extremely well as a passer.

Pre-snap, Utah shows single-high coverage in the defensive backfield. However, the post-snap reality does not match the pre-snap expectations. The Utes defense converts into a two-deep shell.

Stroud, after opening to the left side of the field, reads the rotation and throws to the post route to Jaxon Smith-Njigba.

He’s a smart signal-caller who is a natural leader with great instincts and the ability to quickly cycle through his reads. Which makes him the second quarterback on my 2023 quarterback watch list.

Tyler Van Dyke

There is excitement in the area around the Miami Hurricanes this season, mainly in part to new head coach Mario Cristobal. Tyler Van Dyke’s play last season is another big reason for that excitement.

In 2021, as a sophomore, he played in 10 games as he passed for 2918 yards on 326 attempts with a completion percentage of 62 for an average of 9.0 yards per pass, with 25 TDs. He also took 23 sacks while putting up a QB rating of 108.9. After the first year as starting quarterback, he earned ACC Rookie of the Year and ACC Offensive Rookie of the Year honors.

This touchdown early in that contest is a good example of how well Van Dyke sees the field and throws with anticipation. He hits the post route for a touchdown on a switch concept, letting the ball fly as the receiver gets into his break.

Van Dyke is my third ranked prospect in this 2023 quarterback watchlist because of his processing skills. Also, he uses good technique, squaring his shoulders to the target and stepping into his throws

Will Levis

Kentucky’s Will Levis came from nowhere last year and is now looked at as a legitimate first-round talent. He has great physical gifts as well as good accuracy and a powerful, quick release. Levis also possesses a natural feel for the game

Levis offers a nice blend of size, arm strength, and toughness. In the pocket, he has a good feel to climb and avoid pressure — and also possesses enough athleticism to extend plays with his legs.

If he can work on ball placement issues, and lower-body inconsistencies with his mechanics, he’ll live up to the hype.

The Wildcat product has an elite quick-release coupled with fast processing skills which makes him an ideal for a condensed formation offense, similar to the likes of the Rams.

Tanner McKee

In his first year starting at Stanford, Tanner McKee showcased a handful of NFL traits. He has elite size for the position — standing 6’6″ and weighing 230lbs — and has the arm strength to match.

The Cardinals product’s accuracy is decent, but his ball placement is one of his best traits overall. McKee shows excellent accuracy on short timing routes to backs and receivers. He frequently places the ball in front of the receiver to lead them to potential yardage after the catch.

This completion against Oregon highlights two of his strengths: Aggression and ball placement. McKee is not afraid of challenging small throwing windows, and has no fear throwing over the middle. Couple that with accuracy, and McKee can have a solid foundation for the NFL.

He’s an intriguing pro prospect due to his obvious tangibles. McKee looks the part, possessing prototypical drop-back passer qualities, is a quick decision-maker, and has decent accuracy. He can easily transition into a pro-style offense which makes him the fifth prospect on this watch list.

2023 NFL Draft Quarterbacks Honorable Mentions: 

Phil Jurkovec-Boston College, Spencer Rattler– South Carolina, Hendon Hooker-Tennessee, Anthony Richardson-Florida, Jake Haener-Fresno State.

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Yadier Molina’s ejection is a Bad Look

It doesn’t look good when your star catcher gets ejected from a basketball game when he is supposed to be rehabbing his knee. Here’s why Yadier Molina’s ejection is a bad look.

Yaider Molina’s ejection made the wrong kind of headlines, when this happened the other day.

What led to Yadier Molina’s ejection?

While Yadier Molina is recovering from injury, he decided to go back to his native Puerto Rico to do his rehab work there. He also happens to own a professional basketball team there, and was attending one of their games. It seems like he saw something he didn’t agree with and lost his cool, and an ejection quickly followed. As a result of Yadier Molina’s ejection, he has since apologized for his behavior.

The Cardinals Are Hurting Without Their Catcher

Molina has been out with knee inflammation since the middle of June. Since then, the Cardinals have struggled to replace him. Andrew Knizner, Ivan Herrera, and Austin Romine have not been up to snuff. Offensively, they have been below average to dismal. That is a drop-off from Molina’s steady, but unspectacular batting. That drop is compounded by the fact that none of them are anywhere near the defensive x-factor that the veteran Molina is. This is coming at a time where the Cardinals have been treading water just to stay within striking distance of a sputtering Brewers club for the NL Central crown.

Not a Good Look Right Now

The optics of Yadier Molina’s ejection could not look much worse right now. Just the fact that Molina is not in one of the fifty states is likely to infuriate fans. However, legends like him are rare exceptions and can get a pass here. That pass gets a lot harder to accept when videos like the one above come out.

Also, this feels like a last hurrah for the Redbirds, with Molina, Adam Wainwright, and Albert Pujols likely hanging it up after this year. Seeing a crucial player that fans are hoping to get back doing anything other than rehabbing is going to be frustrating. The only news that fans want to hear right now is when he is coming back. They don’t want to hear about him being the Mark Cuban of the Puerto Rican NBA.

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Where does Lynn Bowden Jr. fit on the Dolphins roster?

Last year, Lynn Bowden Jr. did not play a single snap in Miami. Now, he can. The question is, what is his fit on the Dolphins roster?

With a new coaching regime in Miami, Lynn Bowden has a shot to make the roster, The question is, what is Lynn Bowden’s fit on the Dolphins roster?

Last year I wrote about how Lynn Bowden Jr, would be an X factor in Miami. However, due to unforeseen circumstances, Bowden was placed on season ending IR.

Fit as a wide receiver

Currently listed as a wide receiver in Miami, Lynn Bowden Jr. played only 10 games his rookie season. Of those 10 games, Bowden started in four games for Miami.

Bowden played a big role for the Dolphins offense down the stretch in the 2020 season, catching 27 passes for 212 yards (7.9 avg.) in the final five games.

In the Dolphins offense, Lynn Bowden Jr. is a rare talent. He can line up out wide, in the slot, as a running back, or a wildcat quarterback.

Within this new Dolphins offense; however, Lynn Bowden Jr. is not the rarity. Receivers like Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle, and Erik Ezukanma can do everything Bowden does.

Frankly, the Miami Dolphins wide receiver roster is loaded with versatile talent:

  • Tyreek Hill
  • Jaylen Waddle
  • Cedrick Wilson
  • Erik Ezukanma
  • Preston Williams
  • Lynn Bowden Jr.
  • Cody Core
  • River Cracraft
  • DeVonte Dedmon
  • Braylon Sanders

While Bowden Jr. will see some snaps at receiver if he is kept on the roster, will it be enough to make a sizable impact?

In 2020, Bowden logged 9.6% target percentage when he was on the field. Player profile loggs it as the 99th best in 2020.

Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle, and Cedrick Wilson are locked as the Dolphins first three receivers. Battling for the fourth receiver spot will come down to rookie Erik Ezukanma, Bowden, and Preston Williams.

Both Williams and Ezukanma are bigger than Bowden and can line up more on the outside. Williams has taken snaps at running back before. Ezukanma at Texas Tech did the same things Bowden did.

Financially, letting go of Bowden earns almost $1.04 million back to sign free agents in the middle of the season due to any injuries.

PlayerCap ChargeDead CapCap Savings
Erik Ezukanma$886,248$724,992$161,256
Lynn Bowden Jr.$1,038,128$0$1,038,128
Preston Williams$1,290,000$275,000$1,015,000

However, depth on the roster is like money, you can never have too much. Carrying more than six receivers on the roster is a necessity, especially in a pass-heavy league.

But…

Lynn Bowden Jr. as a running back?

We all know in 2020, the Las Vegas Raiders botched their plan for Bowden Jr. by slotting him as a running back. It never worked out.

But what if the Miami Dolphins tried it?

When the time comes Lynn Bowden Jr. will be a great case study in the value of versatility.

We’ve seen what Julian Edelman, Taysom Hill, Brian Mitchell, Antwan Randle-El, Hines Ward, and others back to Frank Gifford and Paul Hornung have accomplished, but staff matters.

This is where Lynn Bowden could thrive in an offensive staff and scheme assembled by Mike McDaniel.

Yes, we all have heard Mike McDaniel and his evolution of turning Deebo Samuel into an all-pro wideback.

Just the combination of running the ball and Bowden’s toughness minimizes the offense’s risk in the passing game.

A personnel of Waddle and Hill on opposite sides of the field with Bowden Jr. in the backfield will make defenses scratch their heads. There’s an advantage of lining him up in the backfield and as a running back.

Running Back Financials

PlayerCap ChargeDead CapCap Savings
Chase Edmonds$5,500,000$5,500,000$0
Raheem Mostert$1,936,765$1,000,000$936,765
Myles Gaskin$2,561,777$21,777$2,540,000
Sony Michel$1,750,000$850,000$900,000

Those are the four top guys at running back right now, and Gaskin has the least dead money and offers the most cap savings by far.

The Dolphins are also carrying Alec Ingold whose 2022 salary is fully guaranteed for a cap charge of $2,750,000 at fullback. Chase Edmonds and Alec Ingold are both locks for the roster.

Again, depth is money- but you become smart with money. Unless there’s an injury in camp at the position or Gaskin has a strong training camp, it will be hard justifying his cap charge as a running back.

The Miami Dolphins currently have the fourth-highest positional spending at the running back position. This is where Lynn Bowden Jr. comes into play.

The Dolphins can carry Bowden as the fifth running back on the roster while also stacking the deck at wide receiver on the roster.

Positions are given based on a core scheme. In contrast, the league is moving towards position-less football on offense and defense with players becoming more versatile.

NFL teams make roster and personnel changes each game based on the opponent and matchups dictated. There may be more receivers on a game day roster one week, more running backs another week, and potentially two fullbacks the week after.

This may be the most logical option of getting a talented and versatile player like Lynn Bowden Jr. on the field.

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Why Chase Edmonds will have the biggest impact in the Miami Dolphins running back room

The Miami Dolphins signed Chase Edmonds in free agency this year and he will have have the biggest impact in the Miami Dolphins running back room

The Miami Dolphins signed Chase Edmonds in free agency filling a pressing need at running back. Chase Edmonds was the first signee for Mike McDaniel, and for a good reason.

Chase Edmonds fit in Miami

With Mike McDaniel as the play-caller in Miami, his offensive scheme is centered around the outside zone running game. Edmonds, while in Arizona did indeed play with zone blocking but in an inside zone scheme.

“The flow of the backers is different because in inside zone, it’s more slow to fast, where I can pitter-patter my steps,” Edmonds said. “Outside zone here, it’s kind of like you’re riding a wave. Once you hit that wave, you’ve got to hit it and go. I’m getting used to that. I’m getting my feet under me. I’m taking pride in that journey, that challenge of fine-tuning it.”

Chase Edmonds on the outside zone scheme

While all zone blocking concepts are the same, the way the running back finds gaps are not. Chase Edmonds does bring that experience into Miami, especially to help quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.

Some of Chase Edmonds most explosive plays came on RPO concepts that Miami will be running at lengths.

Running the Ball

Arizona routinely ran bubble screen RPO’s where it’s an inside zone option.

In the play above against Detroit, Edmonds takes the ball and finds a crease on the left side of the line exploding for a first down.

The most intriguing part of this play is the design itself, the threat of the quarterback keep. Tight end Zach Ertz executes an H-back arc block on this play. Ertz motioning from right-to-left leaves the EDGE untouched and climbs second level.

If the EDGE rusher were to crash on Chase Edmonds, Kyler Murray can keep the ball and run around the edge with Ertz blocking for him. Furthermore, if the linebacker was also focused on Edmonds, Murray could throw the ball to Zach Ertz.

With Chase Edmonds, the Miami Dolphins can utilize this same concept on different designs. After all, the did something similar like it last year.

Chase Edmonds intangibles is exactly what the Miami Dolphins need out of their running back room this year.

In a zone running scheme, running backs should have fast feet to move quickly around blocks, vision to see gaps open up before a block is made and short area burst after running through the hole.

Edmonds brings all of that to Miami, here’s a play that demonstrates his skills.

Edmonds finds the crease, using quick footwork behind the offensive line to get into the hole and gains 11 yards. He swiftly reads and reacts to the blocks in front of him

Given his experience, vision, footwork and burst, Edmonds is a near-ideal fit for the rushing offense McDaniel implements.

Catching the ball

Chase Edmonds is capable in the passing game, and a serviceable blocker. He has the potential to be an every-down back even though he has been limited in his usage during his tenure in Arizona.

With 96 catches for 713 yards the last two seasons, and no sacks allowed on 132 pass blocking snaps the last three years, Edmonds has demonstrated the ability to play on all three downs.

In Arizona, Edmonds was used in the receiving game as a slot receiver and used effectively in the screen game. As a result of Edmonds skillset, routinely, Arizona utilized his quickness against reacting linebackers in short areas of the field.

Mike McDaniel, as the play caller in San Francisco produced three top 10 run-after-catch players in 2021, this bodes well for Chase Edmonds in Miami.

With more defenses playing two-high coverage at an alarming rate, it’s important that teams have pass-catchers that can make defenders miss underneath and gain yards after the catch. Last year, Edmonds averaged 7.9 yards after the catch and used as an underneath option.

Chase Edmonds’ Efficiency and EPA

There is another component to the Edmonds news that makes sense from Miami’s perspective.

Efficiency. The emphasis is through EPA, expected points added. Basically, it measures the expected points of a play. 

The average rushing EPA per play last season? A negative number.

However, contextualizing Edmonds rushes, He is one of those rare running backs who was efficient last season.

According to charting data from Sports Info Solutions, Edmonds had an EPA per rushing attempt of 0.08. That placed him fifth overall among ball-carriers with 100 or more rushing attempts last season.

Head Coach, Mike McDaniel values this extremely in his running back room. It’s something he speaks to at lengths in media pressers and believes in his scheme

The value of the running back position — what value do you put on anywhere from a third to a half of the plays on a given offensive season? You got to realize running backs, collectively… you have about 300 to 400 some touches, so it’s incredibly valuable, but there is a more diverse way of finding them. From a historical perspective, there is rookies, second-year players, mid-to-late-round [draftees] that have more success at that position than some others. But it’s…of paramount importance. We just have a concrete skill set that we found that can really flourish in a zone-blocking system.

Mike McDaniel on running back value

In Chase Edmonds, McDaniel now has that zone-blocking fit, as well as one of the league’s more efficient backs from a season ago to help bolster the Miami Dolphins rushing attack.

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Does running the ball set up the pass?

Running the ball to set up the pass is an age old adage where your father and grandfather told you how to play football, but does running the ball really set up the pass?

Running the ball to set up the pass is an age-old adage where your father and grandfather told you how to play football, but does running the ball really set up the pass?

Traditionally, when an offense executes a successful run for a significant chunk of yardage, an opposing defense will attempt to compensate by bringing additional defenders into the “run box.” The more bodies in the way of the run, the more likely it is for the run to be held short. 

However, if more defenders are in the box, that means there are fewer players to defend passes away from the box, so the passing game has greater opportunity to get the ball further down the field. 

The NFL evolves every decade moving onward towards something unique but building on basic concepts. We’ve witnessed the fall of the I-form power football in the ‘70’s, to rise of the West Coast offense in the ‘80’s, Run ‘N Shoot and K-Gun in the ‘90’s, Spread and Shotgun offenses in the early 2000’s to the RPO revolution in the 2020’s.

Ultimately, this has come as a result of the NFL’s purposeful rule changes and schematic breakthroughs that have led to its desired impact: more touchdowns. In turn this led to running the ball much less.

EPA on running the ball to set up the pass

A study done by Sean Clements, who is now a data analyst for the Baltimore Ravens, found that establishing the run early in NFL games does not open the passing game later in games.

Through a boxplot Clements made, it’s found that there is little correlation between running the ball early and at a high volume increases the yardage obtained on passing plays.

The next emphasis is through EPA, expected points added. Basically, it measures the expected points of a play. 

In a graph made by Ben Baldwin, the number of expected points decreases as the number of rushing attempts increases. Contrary to the belief running the ball will help to set up the pass and score.

If that were the case, then we would expect to see higher EPA as the number of rushing attempts increases.

How the modern era has discontinued running the ball to set up the pass

From 2015-2020 passing on first down has averaged a 7.6 YPA, yards per attempt, while running the ball gained 4.3 YPA.

Per sharp football stats, 30.4% of pass attempts on first down have ended up moving the chains. However, only 12.8% of running plays have picked up another first down. In 2020, NFL teams ran the ball on 50.3% of their first-down plays in 2020 and passed the ball on only 49.7%.

In 2021, NFL offenses averaged 7.4 YPA passing on first down compared to 4.2 YPA rushing.

Even the most run-heavy teams like the San Francisco 49ers and Tennessee Titans had higher YPA’s on first down compared to running the ball. San Francisco had an 8.9 YPA passing and 4.4 YPA rushing. Tennessee had 7.2 YPA passing and 4.2 YPA rushing.

Yet, 20 of 32 NFL teams, run the ball on first down gaining minimal yards compared to easily moving the chains to score. So what gives?

How two-high coverages has stopped running the ball to set up the pass

As a result of the modern NFL, many offenses are trigger-happy and defenses have had to respond with swift actions.

Defenses have adapted as time has passed. This time to coverages that include a large base of two-high safety shells.  Two-high coverage means both the strong safety and free safety defend the deep end of the field, with each responsible for a section that runs to each boundary.

Thus leaving the middle of the field open, the main purpose of two-high is to prevent explosive plays in the deep third of the field and not allow big plays.

Some NFL offenses and high-profile quarterbacks like Patrick Mahomes have struggled against two-high coverage early on because they struggled to take what the defense gives them.

In 2018, the highest amount of two-high looks faced by any quarterback in the league was 42%. Eight weeks into the 2021 NFL season, only five teams faced two-high safeties less than 40%.

The key to beating two-high coverage? Running the ball. Two-high is not the perfect scheme to use a majority of the time as yards can be gained in the intermediate passing game and the running game.

Due to the nature of defensive backs lined up well outside the box, offenses often have a light defensive body count in the box to go against. This opens up numerous lanes for running backs.

How passing the ball has set up the run

Running the ball does keep the defense honest and it can be noted on second and third down. YPA on rush attempts increases to 4.4 on second down and 4.5 on third down.

The success rate of it gaining five or more yards is 50% on second down and jumps to 53% on third down. 

Passing on second down yields a 6.9 YPA with a 47% success rate, on third down passing results in 7.2 YPA with a 37% success rate.

First down has become the most successful passing down to move the chains and get drives started for offenses with a 54% success rate.

The most successful offenses in the NFL have potent passing attacks and have the most success by passing the ball on first down and converting it five-plus yards or past the sticks.

1st down situational Pass:Run Ratios

Buffalo, San Francisco, Green Bay, Cincinnati, and the Los Angeles Rams all have 8 or more yards per attempt passing coupled with being over a 54% success rate.

Respectively, each team’s YPA on running the ball increases on 2nd and 3rd downs.

Second and Third down Pass:Run ratios

As the NFL continues its passing revolution, gone are the days of running the ball to set up the pass. With the league running two-high shells almost 50% of the time, the NFL offense has adjusted to throwing the ball more on early downs to gain more yards. Thus, able to run the ball effectively when needed to be.

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Tua Tagovailoa and Play-action passing

Play action passing has become a staple of explosive NFL offenses. Here’s how Mike McDaniel will bring that to Miami and help Tua Tagovailoa.

Tua Tagovailoa has become a hot topic this off-season from pundits deciding if this would be his make-or-break year. Additionally, a recent article from PFT’s Mike Florio detailed that free agent acquisition Tyreek Hill had low expectations for Tua.

The third-year Dolphins quarterback has received the most criticism from the media, fans and throughout last season, even players. One man is here to change that narrative – new head coach Mike McDaniel.

How Mike McDaniel will help Tua Tagovailoa

The big thing is what new head coach Mike McDaniel wants to do. McDaniel comes from the Shanahan coaching tree, the ever glorious wide-zone, bootleg, play-action world with Kyle Shanahan that has made Jimmy Garrapolo, Matt Ryan and Kirk Cousins successful in the NFL.

Mike McDaniel with Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay utilized 12 personnel mainly in their time with the now Washington Commanders. McVay now utilizes a spread concept using 11 personnel to maximize his players skill sets. Kyle Shanahan uses 21 personnel to maximize his offensive players skillset and utilizes the pistol formation.

McDaniel is able to use a combination of the two but put his spin on how he can maximize his players skill set; mainly, Tua Tagovailoa.

The easiest way to explain the offense McDaniel has helped culture through the past couple of years is to break it down into two parts. It’s a wide zone run scheme paired with a west coast offense passing scheme. 

In terms of the west coast passing scheme, it involves a lot of play action passes that can be deadly with a good running game. It is comprised of a lot of slants and crossing routes.

This is a perfect offense for Tua Tagovailoa. It truly does maximize everything he does well, while limiting the things he does bad. Tua will be asked to make quick reads, and throw the ball primarily to the middle of the field.

Slants, crossing routes, screen passes, and dig routes are gonna be the bread and butter of this offense’s passing plays, and Tagovailoa excels at those routes

Play-action passing

This off-season the hottest name is Miami Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel, who understands the the vast superiority of the play-action pass.

Simply put, play action is the easiest way to scheme quarterbacks more time and create big plays downfield.

At the heart of it all is the outside zone run, a very popular run concept in the NFL today. Not only is it effective, the play action off outside zone affords the quarterback more time than a normal dropback when passing.

The biggest question heading into the 2022 NFL season is if Miami’s new offensive line can block decently for Tua. Play-action passing provides Tua more time to maneuver the pocket and throw the ball down the field.

More and more teams are beginning to buy in to this line of thinking, for instance, with the play action rate in the NFL in 2018 reaching 24%. Expect the Dolphins to be one of them.

Per PFF, Tua Tagovailoa has a 80.3 grade on play-action passes and the offense as a whole has a 82.3 grade. In other words, when there’s a successful fake, he usually makes magic happen.

Flood Concept

A staple of the 49ers offense McDaniel is from is using the fullback or tight ends to condense across the formation, kick out in a split zone concept that allows for cutbacks, and take advantage of overflowing defenses. 

This play action flood concept aims to put the flat and deep third defender in conflict

With the 49ers run game’s reputation and established tendencies, this leaves the window open for play action off of it.

This play action flood concept aims to put the flat and deep third defender in conflict. If #33 stays deep under the corner by Dwelley, QB can hit the 10 yard dig route to Emmanuel Sanders or dump it down to Juszczyk in the flats. If #33 comes up, QB can throw one over his head and in front of the FS occupied by the skinny post ran by Deebo Samuel.

The beauty of play-action is that it can create simple reads and make them even easier.

Mike McDaniel and Kyle Shanahan did an amazing job of giving Garoppolo easy reads and setting him up for success by scheming guys open and allowing for easy completions.

Boot-action and roll-outs in play action passing

Bootlegs are nothing new. Yet the rebirth of the outside-zone-then-boot idea has led to one specific change: the boot-action is no longer a specific down-and-distance call.

It’s no longer about moving the chains on third down, or bluffing on early down to steal ten yards. The boot-action and roll-out has become the go-to way for the league’s most prominent offenses to hit explosive plays.

The NFL is a league of explosives. Hit as many as you can; stop as many as you can. That’s it. In the passing era, that’s the entire ball game.

I believe this may be the key to unlocking an explosive Miami Dolphins offense.

How it works

Bootleg passes have several advantages, but one major disadvantage: they only attack one side of the field.

All play-action bootlegs are built around the same principals and are designed to achieve the same goals. These plays use misdirection to confuse defenders.

In other words, they look like running plays, slowing the pass rush and drawing linebackers close to the line of scrimmage to open passing lanes.

The run action also slows the pass rush, and the movement of the quarterback forces defensive linemen to change their pass-rush angle.

Finally, play-action bootlegs usually move one side of the field with receivers while putting the quarterback in position to execute short, easy throws.

The use of the boot has steadily trickled up across the league. The quarterback, offensive line, and running back are set up like it’s outside zone. Everyone kicks one way. It looks like outside-zone.

However, only the quarterback keeps the ball, rolls to the outside, away from the pass-rush, and then surveys the landscape.

Traditional boot-action concepts are built like any old “flood” concept: there’s a deep route, an intermediate route, and a short route.

In the modern game, with almost all just about quarterbacks mobile enough to be a perimeter threatthe quarterback is his own option. If nothing is open, he can run the ball himself.

Usually that quarterback rolls, opens up his hips and fires to a receiver swooping across the field. The defense bites one way, the ball is thrown the other way.

How a “flood” bootleg pass works

How Mike McDaniel can utilize Boot-action and Play-action passes to help Tua

By many, Tua Tagovailoa is seen as a one-read quarterback who is heavily reliant on RPO’s.

While it might be true that the Dolphins led the league in RPO passes down the field, many forget about Tua’s play-action game. Per Pro-Football reference, Tua Tagovailoa had the 11th highest play-action pass attempts (113).

Play-action passing with Jimmy Garrapolo

Assuming RPOs are considered play-action, the San Francisco 49ers had a 31% play-action usage in their pass attempts, with Jimmy Garoppolo accounting for 147 passes on 441 pass attempts.

Most of the 49er’s play-action passes in 2021 came from under shotgun compared to the usual Shanahan system. The quarterback under center, him turning and handing off or throwing a play-action pass or bootleg.

The play-action pass from under center in particular was the staple of the Shanahan offense.

Shanahans usual way is not the best play-action system for Tua, neither for Jimmy Garropolo.

2021 became the year where, with McDaniel’s help, Shanahan changed his philosophy.

From Week 8 onward, the 49ers were exclusively in shotgun instead of under center.

Per Sharp Football stats, the 49ers were in shotgun on 67% of all passes in 2021, coming in at 13th overall of all NFL teams, an increase from 20th in 2020.

When asked about the change from under center to shotgun, here’s what McDaniel had to say:

“Well, Jimmy’s a lot more decisive in the gun. He likes to see it while he’s delivering tight window throws… minimizing pass exclusive situations, which on first and second down, you can do if you have the threat of (run out of gun). And we’ve just kind of evolved. Kyle in 2019, really started noticing that and put pressure on us to evolve. And every week you figure out different ways to do some of the same things, maybe a couple of wrinkles.” 

Mike McDaniel

Jimmy Garropolo’s efficiency and decisiveness went up towards the middle weeks of the NFL season, a huge part in driving San Francisco to the playoffs.

This is not something new to Mike McDaniel. As an offensive assistant with Washington, McDaniel and Shanahan took the league by storm by utilizing read-option plays to capitalize RGIII’s effectiveness in the run game.

Play action passing with Tua Tagovailoa

Similar to Jimmy Garropolo is Tua Tagovailoa. We’ve seen how decisive Tua can be in no-huddle, up-tempo, shotgun based offense. It’s one of his biggest strengths.

In the play seen above, the Dolphins are in a condensed 11 Personnel formation with Isaiah Ford motioning to the right side of the field.

Jaylen Waddle runs a “go” route and looks to be Tua’s first read. Tua identifies the bracket coverage on Waddle and shifts towards Devante Parker, his second read.

Tua moves LB Rashaan Evans with his eyes and holds him towards Waddle. This creates an opening to fire a pass down the middle to Devante Parker on a post route.

This is the type of play-action sequence Tua is successful at.

New Play-action sequences for Tua Tagovailoa

One of the most used play-calls used by the San Francisco 49ers under Mike McDaniel was the “DRIFT” concept.

 It is a quick-hitting play that hits in the zone vacated by linebackers flowing toward the run action.

The run fake draws up the linebackers and opens the zone behind them for the quarterback. This most basic of play-action of concepts opens some of the biggest throwing lanes in any offense

I do expect this “DRIFT” concept to be utilized for the Dolphins offense in 2022, especially for Tua Tagovailoa.

How the RPO gives a boost to play-action passing

Per PFF, the Dolphins had 63 downfield RPO’s thrown beyond three yards, which was the highest figure since 2016.

These downfield RPO’s generally enhance a teams play efficiency in the run game, giving a boost to play-action passing.

In addition, the 2021 Dolphins RPO system was generally a “one-read” system as plays were meant for one person.

This will change as McDaniel brings a different philosophy in terms of RPO’s and improvements along the offensive line.

It all starts with a concept called “WANDA”.

The biggest difference is that if the football is not given to the running backs as the quarterbacks first read, the running back himself can become another outlet instead of pass blocking.

By providing another read to the quarterback, the running back runs a “wheel” concept giving another downfield passing threat if the blocking is solid.

The threat of the pass will open up running lanes for running backs in RPO’s and Tua in play-action passing concepts.

Fortunately, Miami signed running backs in Raheem Mostert and Chase Edmonds who have ample experience in this type of offense.

Will these play-action passing concepts work?

“One thing I know about you is you have the ambition to be great. My job is to coach you to get all that greatness out of you”

These words were uttered by Mike McDaniel in his first phone call to Tua Tagovailoa.

McDaniel has success with quarterbacks with similar skill-sets like Tua, however the young man must put in the work to silence his critics and improve.

 

“What I’ve seen is a skill set that I’m familiar with, that’s very successful in this offense, you’re seeing a very accurate passer that receivers love to catch footballs from — tight spirals and accurate throws, which are huge for run after the catch and YAC yardage. What that means for an offense is if you have people who can run after the catch, that’s an outstanding skill set for him.

Mike McDaniel on Tua Tagovailoa

It’s time for Mike McDaniel to tap into Tua’s skillsets and Tua to put in the work to make the Miami Dolphins offense successful in 2022.

Follow Hussam Patel on Twitter

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Kartik Akkihal and the South Asian Athlete

Kartik Akkihal has always played sports as a little kid. Akkihal always dreamed about walking onto the field as a Longhorns player. That dream finally came true.

Nowadays, playing recreational sports as an Indian kid is not that uncommon at all.

Kartik Akkihal has always played sports as a little kid. Four vs. Four soccer, flag football, and almost every Indian American’s favorite sport, basketball. 

Akkihal always dreamed about walking into the DRK Texas Memorial Stadium field as a Longhorns player. That dream finally came true.

In high school, the former Longhorns wide receiver played some snaps at quarterback. However, he was mostly a wide receiver and at times a tight end. He even lettered in track before lettering in football.

Little did Akkihal know at that time he represented only 1.76% of Division I athletes during the 2020 season, according to the NCAA’s Race and Gender Demographics Database.

At 6-foot-2 192 pounds, Kartik Akkihal tied his cleats onto the Longhorns squad as a freshman in 2018.

Akkihal’s start in football made him realize the lack of a role that football played in the Asian community. He didn’t see players that looked like him on his high school’s field or many at Texas.

“It’s always been like that, I did not feel anything by just being the only Asian kid on the football field on my team or my opponents”

It’s not about the lack of interest from first or second generation Americans in athletics like football. It is more so about the way South Asian communities tend to look at sports in general. 

“Some kids in the community do not have the opportunity to get into sports, they are not able to do anything but focus on academics and studying”

Kartik Akkihal echoes the same message many understand, it all starts at home and in the community. Luckily for Akkihal, his parents were supportive to him as a child. He was a multi-sport athlete in high school and played for the Longhorns in college.

Akkihal says there has to be more representation in the community. It’s not necessarily about meeting a quota of diverse athletes, it’s to be good enough.

The Asian community prides itself on being the best at what they do and they have a passion for it. However, it is structured in a way that it is purely academically driven.

What many in the Asian-American community fail to understand that is you can still be studious and participate in athletics — it’s what Akkihal has been doing since he was a kid.

“The way we can get the community to open up more to it is by seeing others do it. They see what I have done, getting the good grades that I’ve had and being successful in sports. Now they are asking how can their children be like me, asking questions on how to get started, what to do.”

These are all talking points to get the buy-in of Asian American communities and especially the South Asian community in America.

While he was not recruited out of Vandergrift high school, Akkihal was convinced by his now WR coach. Former Longhorns wide receiver Mike Adams convinced Akkihal that he can play college football.

“He came during my senior year of high school and told me that I could play football at the next level, and I started to think about it.”

Donning number 82, Akkihal appeared in a handful of games his junior year before taking a back seat to the coaching change his final year as a Longhorn. College football not only taught him about practice and preparation in skills, but a valuable lesson in different leadership styles

Kartik Akkihal was present during Tom Herman’s last three years at Texas and Steve Sarkisian’s’ first year at Texas. Akkihal noted that Sarkisian is more of a technician and explains concepts well to players, whereas Herman was more of a disciplinarian.

Different styles resonate with different people and it was a great learning experience for Akkihal.

Akkihal’s biggest inspiration was not someone like him, instead it was the 2005-2009 Texas Longhorns football team.

An Austin native, Kartik Akkihal admired the way Vince Young and Colt McCoy led those teams and wanted to be a part of Texas’ rich college football history.

“I loved the longhorns and wanted to play for Texas, why would you not play for the best team down the street”

Akkihal was nurtured as a kid to have a healthy balance of school and sports by his parents. His father, from Dharwad, and his mother from Kerela, both from India had a kid growing up in Austin who also played college football.

Soon enough, Kartik Akkihal hopes there will be more people like him in college and the NFL.

Follow Hussam Patel on Twitter

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TD Hunter’s Final 2022 NFL Mock Draft

We are less than a week away from the 2022 NFL Draft. There are handful of trades as well as a few picks to mimic the craziness we all know and love on draft day. Without further ado, here is my final mock draft of the season!

Georgia defenders Travon Walker and Jordan Davis go top 10 in this mock draft
Photo Credit: John Adams/Icon Sportswire
No. 1 Jacksonville Jaguars: Travon Walker, EDGE, Georgia

The Jaguars opt for a high ceiling player with unmatched physical potential to kick of this year’s mock draft. Though he wasn’t the most dominant pass rusher in college, Travon Walker’s physical upside is too much for the Jaguars to pass on and they get a difference maker on defense.

No. 2 Detroit Lions: Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan

Head coach Dan Campbell gets his tough, gritty defender in the Michigan native Aidan Hutchinson. The former Wolverine has all the tools to excel in the NFL, as he is solid in every facet of the game. His leadership ability makes him a big draw as well.

No 3. Houston Texans: Evan Neal, OT, Alabama

The Texans must lay a foundation for their franchise and Evan Neal can help them do that. Adept at playing both left and right tackle, the physically imposing Neal can be a franchise tackle in Houston for years to come.

No 4. New York Jets: Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon

It wasn’t too long ago that Kayvon Thibodeaux was the conseus top player in this draft, but falls to fourth overall due to unfounded questions of his effort. Robert Saleh made a career off of a vaunted pass rush in San Francisco, and he grabs a dynamic EDGE here for his defense.

No 5. New York Giants: Ikem Ekwonu, OT, NC State

The Giants need serious help along the offensive line in order to help protect quarterback Daniel Jones and open holes for running back Saquon Barkley. Ikem Ekwonu is a phenomenal run blocker who plays with a nasty streak that the Giants will certainly covet.

No. 6. *TRADE* (from Carolina) Pittsburgh Steelers: Malik Willis, QB, Liberty
(Panthers receive 20th overall selection, 52nd overall selection, 2024 first round pick)

Word on the street is the Steelers are enamored with Malik Willis, and it’s not hard to see why. A tremendous athlete with a cannon for an arm, Willis can bring to life a position that has been on the wayside in Pittsburgh the last few years. Though he’ll need time to develop, and he’ll get that behind Trubisky, Willis will be well worth the wait for the Steelers.

No 7. New York Giants: Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, CB, Cincinnati

New defensive coordinator Wink Martindale prioritizes defensive backs and coverage over pass rush, and hasn’t been shy about saying so. Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner has the size, speed, and swagger that Wink drools over, and would be a perfect fit in the Giants new look defense.

No. 8. Atlanta Falcons: Jordan Davis, IDL, Georgia

The first big shock of this mock draft goes to the Falcons, who stay close to home and are not above taking athletic marvels, even if the position isn’t a big need or matches the value of the spot. At 6’6, 340 lbs and running a 4.78, Jordan Davis is a freak of nature the NFL has never seen the likes of and he should have teams drooling.

The Falcons ranked last in sacks and were sixth against the run, but Davis can elevate those around him. Not to mention, Grady Jarrett is due over $16 million during his final year of his contract and Davis could help ease that eventual loss.

No. 9. Seattle Seahawks: Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Illinois

The Seahawks have massive holes at both tackle spots, and it doesn’t matter much who is under center in Seattle until those spots are filled. Trevor Penning has been a fast riser in the draft process due to his athletic testing and his nasty style of play. This may be seen as a reach, but Pete Carroll’s draft board has always looked vastly different from most everyone else’s.

No. 10. New York Jets: Drake London, WR, USC

Getting quarterback Zach Wilson more help should be a high priority for the Jets. They go out and snag a big target for their second year quarterback here. Drake London may not have blazing speed, but he is a big-bodied target with a massive wingspan who makes contested catches look easy. The Jets get a much needed-number one wide-out in New York.

No. 11. Washington Commanders: Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame

The backend of Washington’s defense needs an upgrade, and Kyle Hamilton is one of the best upgrades a team can have. Seen as one of the top players in this draft, Hamilton has tremendous range, versatility, and overall talent, and fits in nicely with Ron Rivera’s defense.

No. 12. *TRADE* (from Minnesota) Kansas City Chiefs: Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama
(Vikings receive the 29th and 30th overall picks)

The Chiefs have shown that they are not afraid to go all-in to get players they feel will help Patrick Mahomes, as evidenced by their overhaul of the offensive line last year. Now, the Chiefs need weapons and they grab perhaps the best one in this year’s draft. Jameson Williams is an explosive pass catcher who can play all over the field and keeps the Kansas City offense dangerous.

No. 13. Houston Texans: Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU

The Texans need help across the board and are in a prime position to take the best player available. Derek Stingley Jr. is far and away the best player on the board. There were talks of him being a potential first overall pick after a tremendous freshman year at LSU, and while his play has cooled off since then, there is no denying that Stingley possesses unreal talent.

No. 14. Baltimore Ravens: Jermaine Johnson, EDGE, Florida State

Despite owning a bevy of mid-round picks, the Ravens do the Ravens thing and stay put to let good players fall to them. Jermaine Johnson fills a massive need for Baltimore, as the team has no proven players beyond Tyus Bowser and Odafe Oweh, both of whom are coming off of injuries themselves. Johnson can rush the passer in a variety of ways on top of being a stout run defender.

No. 15. Philadelphia Eagles: Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington

The Eagles are in desperate need of secondary help, and Trent McDuffie offers just that. Though he doesn’t possess prototypical length, McDuffie is an outstanding athlete who has the ability to play both the slot and out on the perimeter.

N0. 16. New Orleans Saints: Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State

Jameis Winston is firmly entrenched as the team’s starting quarterback, so the Saints look to upgrade the talent around him in this mock draft. There is a gaping hole at left tackle after the departure of Terron Armstead, but Charles Cross can help fill that. Seen as the best pass protector in the draft, Cross can step in from Day 1 and be the Saints blindside protector.

No. 17. Los Angeles Chargers: Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State

The Chargers are seriously invested in making a championship run while Justin Herbert is still on a rookie contract. The defense has been massively upgraded and now the Chargers look to upgrade Herbert’s weapons. Chris Olave has tremendous deep speed that complements the other receivers well, and he can immediately take advantage of Herbert’s big arm.

No. 18. Philadelphia Eagles: George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue

Philly’s defensive line is in serious need of some youth and George Karlaftis provides just that. Perhaps the best power rusher in the draft, Karlaftis is a stout run defender with a non-stop motor to get to the opposing quarterback.

No. 19. New Orleans Saints: Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State

Whatever the Saints need from him, Garrett Wilson can provide. A smooth route runner with sticky hands who can create separation in an instant, Wilson provides a much needed complement to the returning Michael Thomas — himself a former Buckeye.

No. 20. (from Pittsburgh) Carolina Panthers: Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh

The Panthers have a massive need at quarterback and are in dire need of draft picks. The trade down with the Steelers in this mock draft nets Carolina solutions to both, as the Panthers snag a second round pick and the quarterback they were targeting all along.

While Kenny Pickett is far from a finished product, he has enough physical and technical ability to give the Panthers confidence that he is their franchise QB going forward.

No. 21. New England Patriots: Andrew Booth, CB, Clemson

Even if J.C. Jackson had returned, defensive back would still be high up on New England’s list of needs. But with Jackson’s departure to LA, the Patriots are in need of an influx of talent on their defensive back end. Though there are some medical concerns, Andrew Booth is an astounding athlete and a tough competitor who can play both in the slot and out on the perimeter.

No. 22. Green Bay Packers: George Pickens, WR, Georgia

George Pickens is a big-bodied receiver with deceptive speed who can make any catch thrown his way. Aaron Rodgers needs more weapons, and he will come to love Pickens in a hurry.

No. 23. Arizona Cardinals: Zion Johnson, IOL, Boston College

Though there are more pressing needs for Arizona, the team’s top priority should be surrounding quarterback Kyler Murray with talent, assuming he comes back. Zion Johnson is an interior lineman who has it all and can instantly upgrade Murray’s protection, which has been suspect at times.

No. 24. Dallas Cowboys: Tyler Smith, OL, Tulsa

For years, the strength of the Cowboys has been the offensive line. But age, injuries, and free agent departures have thinned out that line. Tyler Smith offers some much needed reinforcements. A violent run blocker with obscene strength and power, Smith can open up holes for Cowboys runners with ease.

No. 25. Buffalo Bills: Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas

Wide receiver isn’t the biggest need for Buffalo but Treylon Burks is too enticing at this spot to pass up. Falling a bit due to disappointing 40 times, Burks is still a big-bodied receiver who complements Stefon Diggs and could quickly become a favorite target of Josh Allen.

No. 26. Tennessee Titans: Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah

The Titans have a noticeable hole in the middle of their defense at linebacker. Devin Lloyd can come in right away to remedy that. Ultra versatile with sideline-to-sideline speed, Lloyd can be a useful weapon head coach Mike Vrabel could deploy effectively.

No. 27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Devonte Wyatt, IDL, Georgia

Devonte Wyatt was productive while at Georgia and has all the tools teams want in a defensive lineman, but he’s one of the oldest prospects in the draft. That could cause him to fall. The Bucs need to inject some youth into their defensive line and Wyatt could be a Day 1 starter.

No. 28. Green Bay Packers: Lewis Cine, S, Georgia

The Packers grab a versatile defensive back to strengthen their defensive backfield. Lewis Cine has great range and can play in multiple spots on the defense and would be a needed boost to Green Bay’s secondary.

No 29. (from Kansas City) Minnesota Vikings: Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida

The Vikings have had a revolving door at corner for a number of years, and it’s not for a lack of trying to upgrade the position. Kaiir Elam has the NFL pedigree and a great combination of size and athleticism to be a standout defensive back.

No. 30. (from Kansas City) Minnesota Vikings: Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati

There’s a new regime in Minnesota and that typically means a new quarterback. While Kirk Cousins is back for one more year, that doesn’t preclude the Vikings from taking a signal caller and getting that coveted fifth-year option. Desmond Ridder is an experienced player with the tools necessary to succeed at the next level.

No. 31. Cincinnati Bengals: Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa

The Bengals made a surprising Super Bowl run last season and that is no thanks to the offensive line. The Bengals have made much needed additions to that unit and Tyler Linderbaum can be the cherry on top.

No. 32. Detroit Lions: Daxton Hill, DB, Michigan

The Lions close out this mock draft and go Michigan once again with their second first round pick, Daxton Hill. The former Wolverine can line up and virtually any spot in the secondary, which is a relief because the Lions need help in their secondary in a bad way.

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Hussam Patel’s Final 2022 Mock Draft

The 2022 NFL Draft is less than a week away, which means teams are finalizing their draft boards. Check out Hussam Patel’s 2022 NFL Mock Draft 2.0.

With the NFL Draft less than a week away we are in the final calls for mock drafts. Here is my 2022 NFL Mock Draft 2.0

2022 NFL Mock Draft 1.0

No. 1 Jacksonville Jaguars: EDGE, Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan

The Jaguars re-signed Cam Robinson and signed Brandon Scherff in free agency to protect franchise quarterback Trevor Lawrence.

In this 2022 NFL Mock Draft 2.0 the Jacksonville Jaguars select Aidan Hutchinson to serve as the leader of the defense and usher in a new era of Jaguars football.

No. 2 Detroit Lions: QB, Malik Willis, Liberty

While the Detroit Lions still have Jared Goof as their QB, it’s likely he is not in the Lions long term plans.

Head Coach Dan Campbell wants an electric team that can run the football well and have electric passing plays. Malik Willis can do both.

No. 3 Houston Texans: OT, Ikem Ekonwu, North Carolina State

A shocker as the consensus tackle is not chosen. I believe Ikem Ekonwu will be the first tackle taken in the 2022 NFL Draft.

Ekonwu fits well compared to what the Houston Texans blocking scheme calls for. A zone blocking scheme that calls for twitchy, smooth movers that can glide with excellent speed.

No. 4 New York Jets: EDGE, Travon Walker, Georgia

This pick riles up the Jets fan base on this 2022 NFL Mock Draft and is a classic projection vs production debate. Walkers projection at the NFL level outweighs his production levels at Georgia.

In a crowded yet star studded defense, Walker was still a bright spot opening up opportunities for his teammates.

Travon Walkers’ traits scream high upside. He has the ability to cover running backs and tight ends, is an excellent run defender. Furthermore, Walker showcases raw power and rushing ability throughout his tape. Robert Saleh will have fun with Walker.

No. 5 New York Giants: EDGE, Kayvon Thibodeuax, Oregon

Joe Schoen has legitimate interest in Oregon superstar Kayvon Thibodeuax and would be a fantastic pairing opposite Azeez Ojulairi.

Thibodeauxs’ explosiveness pops out on tape and consistently performs well against the run. He brings excitement into a defense that has been lacking it

While Thibodeaux has fallen down draft boards the last few weeks, the New York Giants should not over think this selection as he is a pure pass rusher that can also defend the run.

No. 6 Carolina Panthers: QB, Matt Corral, Ole Miss

Amidst the talk about the Carolina Panthers swinging big for a quarterback, Malik Willis is already off the table. Peter Schrager of Good Morning Football says to not be surprised if the Panthers select Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral.

Routinely we have seen quarterback needy teams bring in one to two year stop-gap veterans to make way for a franchise quarterback and Matt Rhule believes Corral is their guy.

One of the strongest arms in this years class, quick feet and pocket presence are a couple of traits the Panther organization are sold on.

No. 7 New York Giants: OT, Evan Neal, Alabama

The Giants continue to build through the trenches in this mock draft. Firstly, by pairing up Azeez Ojulari and Kayvon Thibodeuax on the defense.

Secondly, Daniel Jones has solid pass protectors and Saquan Barkley has valuable run defenders in Andrew Thomas and Evan Neal.

The Giants could pair up both Thomas and Neal on the left side or Neal could be their starting right tackle. Either way the Giants get the consensus number one tackle with terrific value.

No. 8 Atlanta Falcons: EDGE, Jermaine Johnson II, FSU

Former “Last Chance U” star turned Senior Bowl standout Jermaine Johnson is selected by the Atlanta Falcons in a rebuilding year.

He has massive upside as a pass rusher with all athletic tools you could wish for. Johnson is still relatively new to the position and was dominant in college.

I expect him to have a big impact at the next level, especially in Atlanta and possibly put up double-digit sack numbers

No. 9 Seattle Seahawks: DB, Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, Cincinnati

Ahmad Gardner is a Cover 3 zone corner and the Seahawks with Pete Carroll are known for primarily utilizing Cover 3 scheme.

Gardner should bring the length, size, speed and swagger that the Seahawks secondary has been missing since the Legion of Boom days. This should help Seattle build up their defense.

No. 10  New York Jets: WR, Drake London, USC

The Jets have made it known that they are looking to add a premier wideout into their offense to help Zach Wilson.

Drake London is just the wide receiver that fits into their offense. London is known as a deep threat and is willing to put his body on the line around the middle of the field. This bodes well for Zach Wilson’s gun slinger mentality and strong arm as London has a big catch radius.

Not only can London gain yards after the catch but he will be a important piece in LaFluer’s offense as a run blocker.

No. 11 Washington Commanders: DB, Kyle Hamilton, Notre Dame

The Commanders released Landon Collins and have a void in their three-safety package on defense. Kyle Hamilton is versatile enough to play any position in the secondary.

The right player in Washington’s buffalo nickel package is Kyle Hamilton.

Never say never to a unicorn like Kyle Hamilton who is the consensus number one defensive back in this years draft class. He’s a swiss army knife.

No. 12 Minnesota Vikings: CB, Derek Stingley Jr., LSU

The Minnesota Vikings are privy to drafting LSU talent and I would not doubt them picking up Stingley in the 2022 NFL Draft.

Minnesota was 22nd in passing touchdowns allowed and 28th in passing yards allowed last year. They picked up Patrick Peterson to shore up the secondary and will get stronger if Stingley is the pick.

Stingley is terrific at press man, defending against the run and explodes in space.

No. 13 Houston Texans: WR, Jameson Williams, Alabama

The possibility exists for Williams to be ready by Week 1 of the 2022 NFL season; also, it feels like a good idea for the Texans to surround Davis Mills with offensive talent.

His blazing speed and stellar route running coupled with his ability to stretch the field vertically and track the deep ball would be an electric addition to a lackluster Texans offense.

No. 14 Baltimore Ravens: OT, Trevor Penning, Northern Illinois

Yes, the Baltimore Ravens do have Ronnie Stanley, Morgan Moses and Ju’wan James on the roster; however, Stanley’s ankle injuries have been a cause for concern.

Trevor Penning is a solid selection to develop in Baltimore and take part in a fearsome ground attack with Lamar Jackson, Mark Ingram and JK Dobbins, when healthy.

At worst, Penning can start as a left guard and then transition into the left or right tackle position. Undoubtly, it will help Lamar Jackson to have time in the pocket to throw more.

No. 15 Philadelphia Eagles: CB, Trent McDuffie, Washington

Trent McDuffie is one of the most versatile defensive backs in this years class and a reason as to why I have the Eagles drafting him in this 2022 NFL Mock draft 2.0.

Philadelphia is lacking corners badly. He might not be the best press corner in Jonathan Gannon’s scheme, but he will be critical in their zone looks. McDuffie can be moved to safety if needed as he has safety reps from his time in Washington.

No. 16 New Orleans Saints: OT, Charles Cross, Mississippi State

Charles Cross has elite potential as a pass protector and is one of the best in this years class.

The Saints get a fantastic pass protector to replace Terron Armstead who left in free agency. 

No. 17 Los Angeles Chargers: WR, Garrett Wilson, Ohio State

The Chargers always seem to have the best luck in the best players available. This time the Chargers fill a need and get one of the best route runners in the draft.

Wilson is a dynamic prospect at the receiver position that leverages his athleticism with equal success when the ball is in his hands. Helps that Justin Herbert is his quarterback.

No. 18 Philadelphia Eagles: EDGE, George Karlaftis, Purdue

Philadelphia has hosted numerous pass rush prospects for their private workouts and it is no secret they are looking to draft an EDGE rusher.

Karlaftis was not eye-opening on the stat sheet but his film speaks for himself. Routinely, the Boilermaker product would be double teamed. Thus, allowing other teammates to be free and make plays on the quarterback and backfield.

He is an athletic EDGE rusher that can play inside and outside, the Eagles could use his versatility to create opportunities on defense.

No 19. New Orleans Saints: QB, Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh

It’s the dawn of a new era in the bayou. The Saints are rumored to have interest in Kenny Pickett as their potential franchise quarterback.

Pickett possesses a good arm and is capable of making most NFL throw easily. The Panthers product fits the Saints offensive system as he can drive the deep ball out to the sideline from the opposite hash and has no problem threading the needle between closing defenders.

No 20. Pittsburgh Steelers: QB, Desmond Ridder, Pittsburgh

The Steelers are in the midst of finding a franchise quarterback after the retirement of Ben Roethlisberger. Pittsburgh opts to draft a high ceiling rising quarterback in this 2022 NFL mock draft 2.0.

Ridder is pro-ready coming from a pro-style offense in Cincinnati and fits what Matt Canada’s offensive scheme looks like for a quarterback.

No 21. New England Patriots: DB, Daxton Hill, Michigan

Drafting a cornerback seems like a relatively safe bet for the New England Patriots. Considering they lost J.C. Jackson in free agency and Stephon Gilmore last season, Daxton Hill is a perfect injection to their secondary.

Hill does everything, can be a slot corner, play center field, tackles well, gets after the quarterback and defends the run. Versatility is the name of the game in a New England defense.

No 22. Green Bay Packers: WR, Treylon Burks, Arkansas

Treylon Burks visited the Green Bay Packers for an individual workout, and history shows that the Packers draft players they usually bring in for workouts.

Green Bay has an obvious need at the pass catching position following the loss of MVS and the trade of Davante Adams.

Burks brings the YAC ability Aaron Rodgers has been missing since 2008 and a big bodied big play target.

No 23. Arizona Cardinals: CB, Andrew Booth Jr., Clemson

One component  Cardinals’ defensive coordinator Vance Joseph loves is physical cornerbacks, which makes Booth an option for the Cardinals.

Booth plays the ball well, fits a zone system and can be put on an island if needed.

Cornerback remains a critical position the Cardinals must address heading into the draft.

No 24. Dallas Cowboys: iOL, Tyler Linderbaum, Iowa

Linderbaum would be the best pick if the board falls this way and fills a need.

Linderbaum solidifies the interior offensive line and can be a replacement for Tyler Biadsz. The Cowboys value flexibility along the offensive line and the Hawkeye product could play guard and then transition to the center position.

No 25. Buffalo Bills: CB, Kyler Gordon, Washington

The Buffalo Bills love players with athletic potential and versatility. Kyler Gordon can play as a secondary cornerback and as a slot corner.

Levi Wallace left for Pittsburgh in free agency which leaves up a hole opposite Tre’davious White. Gordon would be a solid CB2 and the Bills staff will be able to coach him up.

No 26. Tennessee Titans: OL, Kenyon Green, Texas A&M

Kenyon Green has played all over the offensive line as an Aggie and it makes him a versatile weapon.

“Being able to play everything isn’t just to help you, but it’s also to helps your team out”

Kenyon Green

Green has all the potential in the world – he has elite strength, is very quick for his size that can help protect Ryan Tannehill and has tremendous drive in the running game.

No 27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: DL, Jordan Davis, Georgia

The Bucs’ four-man rush wasn’t the most effective in 2021. Per Sports Info Solutions, the Buccaneers defense was 17th in sack percentage when rushing four defenders and 29th in pressure rate  when rushing four defensive linemen.

This is where Jordan Davis comes into play. Davis, while a powerful defensive tackle can also beat people with speed and quickness inside the interior gaps.

A massive human such as Davis can engulf multiple blockers allowing teammates to get after the quarterback.

No 28. Green Bay Packers: OL, Zion Johnson, Boston College

Zion Johnson is a plug-and-play starter at guard, and has the versatility to kick out and play right tackle at the next level. 

He even took snaps at center during Senior Bowl week. That type of versatility could make him an attractive target for the Packers with the 28th overall pick in this 2022 NFL mock draft 2.0.

No 29. Kansas City Chiefs: WR, Jahan Dotson, Penn State

The Chiefs will look to draft a wide receiver after losing Byron Pringle and Tyreek Hill.

Jahan Dotson just gets open and is one of the better deep threats in this years draft class. He’s been productive with below average quarterback play.

Routinely, Dotson has shown the ability to make tough acrobatic catches. He’s got great burst, is an excellent route-runner, has dependable hands, and comes back to the ball well.

No 30. Kansas City Chiefs: LB, Devin Lloyd, Utah

Devin Lloyd is a tall athletic linebacker with great range and lean build. The loss of Melvin Ingram opens up a pass rush position for the Chiefs.

Lloyd could be the centerpiece of Steve Spagnulos defense with Nick Bolton in the linebacker core.

The Utes product can line up as a MIKE, outside, EDGE rusher and as a big slot defenders.

No 31. Cincinnati Bengals: CB, Kaiir Elam, Florida

The Bengals are expected to draft a cornerback in this years NFL Draft and do just that in this 2022 NFL Mock draft 2.0.

“A guy with length, a guy with speed, can change direction, go get the ball—those are some of the qualities you look for, especially higher in the draft”

Bengals Defensive Coordinator Lou Anaroumo

Elam has all of those traits and is suited towards a zone scheme, which Bengals run

No 32. Detroit Lions: LB, Nakobe Dean, Georgia

Nakobe Dean will be a culture changer in Detroit and someone Dan Campbell will love to have.

The Bulldog product is a matchup weapon on defense that can be utilized as a pass rusher, run defender and coverage linebacker.

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Dwayne Haskins’ Death Shows the Disease of NFL Culture

Dwayne Haskins death was sullied by people representing the league’s media and former executives. That isn’t how Haskins should be remembered.

Dwayne Haskins throwing the football while with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

On Saturday, Dwayne Haskins tragically lost his life, after he was struck by a dump truck on the side of the interstate in Florida. At just 24 years old, he still had the great majority of life in front of him. Joys, pains, the glories of life; all of which were stripped away in crushing suddenness.

While the great majority of the NFL community showed their support, the league’s culture reared its ugly head again. As Saturn devoured his son, a portion of the league’s media devoured a man’s honor in death.

Zero Empathy from NFL Media

Adam Schefter was, for most people, the first person to break the news. He did so in a way that focused on Haskins’ struggles in the NFL, rather than a person who just died.

Dwayne Haskins, a standout at Ohio State before struggling to catch on with Washington and Pittsburgh, died this morning when he got hit by a car in South Florida. . .

Adam Schefter

Schefter deleted the tweet, and posted a new one that focused on Haskins’ accomplishments. The damage was done, though. Adam Schefter had taken a terrible situation and made the worst of it. Haskins’ failures in the NFL were the first thing that came to his mind.

Not even two hours later, Hall of Fame executive Gil Brandt appeared on SiriusXM NFL radio to discuss Haskins’ death. What resulted was a disturbing diatribe about Haskins’ character.

Brandt said that “he was a guy that was living to be dead,” and placed the blame for Haskins being hit on the interstate on Haskins himself. At one point, Brandt launched into a story about Haskins wanting to hang out with friends and family at a bowling alley on draft night. This was somehow supposed to be a knock against his character.

Yes, Brandt is 90 years old. No, that doesn’t excuse him from launching into this rant. Even if he was asked about him from a purely scouting standpoint, he could have turned it down until a later date.

Brandt eventually apologized, but phrased it as a “poor choice of words.” Yet, the problem is that the words reveal a mindset far too common in this league. Players, even in death, are looked at as assets to be judged.

A Chronic Problem

Of course, race is the great divider in how the league treats players, and always has been. White players enjoy a standard of humanity in death. That humanity is looked at through the lens of football, but it still exists. When Colt Brennan died last year, Schefter did not focus on his pro failures, but on his successes in college at Hawai’i.

Meanwhile, the ugly saga of Sean Taylor’s treatment in death rears its head again. Taylor, despite being the victim of a burglary, was blamed for his own death by the media. Famed troll Colin Cowherd delivered his racist id’s invective, saying that one should “ask yourself realistic questions….Just because somebody cleans the rugs doesn’t mean there aren’t stains.”

Taylor was famous for not caring about what the media thought of him. At points, he was even combative. For this, the shadows of the NFL’s media saw themselves fit to judge him for his own demise.

It is no wonder, then, that players like Marshawn Lynch refused to give access to the media during their playing career. They understood that the league only cared about access, and little about them. Whatever story that they, as Black men, brought to the game, didn’t matter to the media or the league as a whole.

Haskins Deserves Sweet Remembrance

With Black athletes and coaches degraded in the NFL as such, it is logical that former Dolphins coach Brian Flores is suing the league. Black executives get no redoubt from racism because of their supposed authority. Black athletes put their bodies on the line for white owners, who care little for what happens to those players.

All these people suing for change, demanding respect from the media, and asking for people to care are just that; people. They have lives, loves, ambitions, and dreams.

Whatever there is to say about his career, Haskins has achieved so much in his short life. To play quarterback for Ohio State, and at the NFL level, is a life most would give anything for.

Dwayne Haskins was a dreamer who achieved, and that is the way he should be remembered.

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The Miami Dolphins are Back to Having Fun

The Miami Dolphins are back in the facility for their offseason program, and the aura around new HC Mike McDaniel is refreshing and fun.

As the Miami Dolphins head back to the facility for their offseason program, there seems to be a common theme among players and coaches. That being the fun, lighthearted nature of coach Mike McDaniel.

“It’s more like… fun.”

Emmanuel Ogbah on the differences of having Mike McDaniel as Head Coach.

At first glance, it would appear the Dolphins, specifically on defense, enjoyed their time under Brian Flores. Rattling off back to back winning seasons was quite the accomplishment, and much of it came on the back of the defensive unit. An opportunistic bunch with a knack for timely turnovers and sacks was able to drag a lackluster offense to two of their best seasons in recent memory.

However, it was clear that the other side of the ball wasn’t improving, and Flores’ no nonsense attitude was wearing on players. When the “Patriot Way” isn’t winning postseason games (or getting you there in the first place), then it all falls apart.

Mike McDaniel, however, had a clear goal coming into this offseason: keep the defense intact while bringing in players and staff who can get their offense back to being competent for the first time since Dan Marino was under center.

Mike McDaniel brings hope of getting Miami’s offense back on track.

New Acquisitions

McDaniel came in with aggression, quickly bringing in major acquisitions in the free agency period. Namely, signing All-Pro tackle Terron Armstead and trading for the NFL’s most explosive receiver Tyreek Hill showed determination.

Along with that, depth pieces and other upgrades, such as Cedrick Wilson Jr., Raheem Mostert, and Chase Edmonds are sure to give Miami a more dynamic unit.

The Miami Dolphins have a new look offensive unit.

This was a clear issue under the previous regime. Brian Flores showed an unwillingness to go after free agents, leading to an offense bereft of talent.

They also brought in familiar faces and rising stars in the coaching room. Patrick Surtain, Sam Madison, and Wes Welker, all former Dolphins players, will be taking on the reigns as assistant coaches. There have even been jokes about whether the assistants will run one-on-ones in practice, which is yet to be seen.

Keeping Your Best Players Happy

However, this was all on-paper, and if players are unable to get along with the coach, then it all goes downhill. Miami’s previous two coaches alienated players from one side of the ball, and it was up to McDaniel to show he won’t make the same mistake. How would he do that? By paying Miami’s premier defenders.

Xavien Howard and Emmanuel Ogbah, two of Miami’s best defensive playmakers, received extensions to remain in the aqua and orange.

Unlike Flores, McDaniel’s regime didn’t let these contracts linger, as they made sure to keep the best players happy. It’s important to make a strong first impression, and the new coaching has definitely done just that.

Fun Off the Field

However, McDaniel’s connection with Miami’s fanbase has been just as strong. Dolphins fans across social media noted the former OC’s stellar press conferences, which always included witty remarks. Thus, he struck a cord with those who wanted a more lively candidate at the helm.

It’s clear that the wit and humor has remained in Miami, along with the lighthearted interactions with fans and media.

Mike McDaniel accepts and conquers Rich Eisen’s coaching cliché challenge.

The Bottom Line on Miami Dolphins and Their Fun Offseason

On paper, the Dolphins look to be much more fun than years past. The offensive line is vastly improved, appearing much more able to support Mike McDaniel’s outside zone scheme. This would give the support needed to quarterback Tua Tagovailoa needed to get the ball to his new dynamic duo at wide receiver.

On top of that, a defense that ranks among the top of the league in turnovers is still intact. Although many thought Xavien Howard or Emmanuel Ogbah might not be retained, they are both back for the foreseeable future.

They even found a way to acquire one of the league’s most fun-to-watch wide receivers in Tyreek Hill. One whose ability after the catch is unmatched, and appears to be a great fit in their scheme.

However, the X’s and O’s only begin to describe this new era for the Miami Dolphins. New Head Coach Mike McDaniel brings an aura that Dolphins fans and players haven’t seen in a long time. It is this hope, humor, and… fun, that has eluded this fanbase for decades, and comes back in it’s newest form.

While we are unsure of how good the Miami Dolphins will be, it’s clear that something has changed this offseason. We can expect coaches, players, and fans alike to be having a lot more fun in the years to come.

Follow Tyler DeSena on Twitter

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Miami Dolphins Trade Devante Parker to Patriots

The Dolphins traded long-time wide receiver Devante Parker to their AFC East Rival New England Patriots. What does it mean for Miami’s future?

Miami Dolphins wide receiver Devante Parker, acquired by the Patriots in a trade
Credit: The Phinsider

The Miami Dolphins traded wide receiver Devante Parker. This does not come as a surprise to most; however, the team he was traded to was a bit of a shocker. GM Chris Grier made a deal with the AFC East rival New England Patriots to trade Devante Parker and a 5th-round pick to New England in exchange for a 3rd-round pick in next year’s draft. 

Parker had been mentioned in trade rumors for a couple of years, but Miami never dealt him.

During his time in Miami, Parker was a key contributor when he was on the field. Unfortunately, hamstring injuries have plagued his career and he hasn’t been as consistent as many had hoped.

What the Devante Parker trade means for Miami:

Salary cap:

This offseason, Miami signed wide receiver Cedrick Wilson and traded for star receiver Tyreek Hill. With 2nd-year wide-out Jaylen Waddle already on the roster, Parker quickly found himself in the fourth spot on the depth chart.

Parker was owed about $6 million in 2022. It is an unprecedented amount to pay for a fifth pass-catching option. According to Spotrac, the move frees up $6.25 million in cap space for Miami and they will take on no dead money. 

Draft capital:

By sending this year’s fifth-round pick to New England, Miami has just four picks in the 2022 NFL draft: a third and fourth-round pick, and two seventh-round picks. What goes unnoticed is the amount of cap space “created” by not having to sign an entire draft class this year.

The most exciting part of the trade, however, is not the money Miami saved. It’s what the Dolphins got in return.

New England sent Miami a third-round pick in next year’s draft. Miami now has a whopping five picks in the first three rounds of the 2023 draft. Currently, the Dolphins have two first and third-round picks as well as one second-round pick.

Who “won” this trade remains to be seen, but Dolphins fans should feel good about adding cap space while adding future draft capital. 

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Miami Dolphins Agree to Extension with Xavien Howard

Miami Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard
Photo Credit: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

The Miami Dolphins have agreed to a contract extension with cornerback Xavien Howard, per his agent.

Contract terms

The deal will keep the disgruntled Howard in Miami for an additional five years and give Howard an additional $50+ million in new money. The deal also reportedly contains the most guaranteed money for a cornerback in NFL history.

A step in the right direction

The Dolphins have clearly gone into “all-in” mode this off-season. It started with a revamp of the coaching staff, spurred by new head coach Mike McDaniel.

McDaniel promises to bring a fresh, new offense to the team. One that should maximize the talents of third-year quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.

From a personnel standpoint, the Dolphins “all-in” approach has seen the team add Terron Armstead, Connor Williams, Raheem Mostert, Chase Edmonds, Cedrick Wilson, and Trent Sherfield in free agency to help bolster a struggling offense and implement McDaniel’s system.

The off-season also brought former Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill to Miami in a blockbuster trade. It’s clear the Dolphins think their time is now.

In hindsight, all the moves on the offense were going to ring hollow if Howard wasn’t wrapped up long-term. The two sides had their dispute last off-season.

What it means

In exchange for Howard signing a one-year extension, the two sides agreed to come back to the table this off-season and once again attempt to get the young star manning the Dolphins defensive backfield for years to come.

Today, those efforts have come to fruition. This extension with Xavien Howard is the feather in the Miami Dolphins cap that is the 2022 NFL free agency period.

Now, the team – and fans – can fully turn their attention to the NFL Draft. Miami doesn’t have a pick in the first two rounds, but there should be plenty of excitement around the event nonetheless.

A new era has come to South Florida as the team is finally starting to keep their developed talent. Xavien Howard’s contract extension is a step in the right direction.

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2022 NFL Draft: Three wide receivers that fit the Miami Dolphins

The Miami Dolphins could add a Wide Receiver through the NFL Draft. Here are three Wide Receivers that fit the Miami Dolphins offense.

Building a wide receivers corps like the one the Miami Dolphins have is a lot like building the starting five of a basketball team. Pass catching units need players with a diverse skill set consisting of wide receivers whose skills levels are labeled as: Possession, Burner, Contested Catcher, Versatile, Blocker.

Bringing a fresh perspective is new head coach Mike McDaniel.

“I see aggressive plays as a problem-solving solution, I look like, ‘What is defense? What defense do they play? What issues do they have? Where are they vulnerable?’ and how to attack it. It’s all about finding solutions that defense presents. And then, well, how do we take advantage of our offensive personnel?”

Miami Dolphins HC Mike McDaniel

The Miami Dolphins are fresh off a trade that entailed Tyreek Hill as their new primary weapon at the receiver position, with Jaylen Waddle returning after a record breaking rookie year.

There could be more receivers added to the roster and one possibility is through the 2022 NFL draft. Here are three wide receivers who fit the Miami Dolphins offense.

Khalil Shakir, Boise State

Khalil Shakir was a multi-level threat at Boise State. In 2021, as a senior Shakir put up his best season yet. He chalked up 1117 yards on 77 receptions and hauled in seven TDs.

Skillset

At 6-feet 193 pounds, Shakir is a natural and crisp route runner. He has great body control and made some spectacular catches in his college career. He provides a good amount of versatility as he can line up in the slot and outside.

Though having a smaller frame with average arm length is not ideal, Shakir’s play style does not reflect that. He is a natural pass-catcher with reliable hands. He snatches balls out of the air, on tape his concentration on the ball makes acrobatic catches look easy.

Shakir willingly catches passes over the middle and is not afraid of contact. He’s a really good yards after catch play-maker who’s got excellent field vision and able to slip out of tackles. Shakir had 470 yards YAC in the 2021 season.

Although he lacks an initial burst off the line of scrimmage and has more build-up speed than burners, Shakir is able to beat press man with leverage and foot speed. Furthermore, he gets separation down the sideline and over the middle routes by extending his arms rather than with pure speed.

Boise State’s offense was more spread based compared to what the Miami Dolphins run — a wide zone scheme. Shakir did not get enough experience in diversifying his route tree, running a handful of routes. However, in those routes he has run, he executes those routes and sells others to gain separation and take advantage of space.

Projection

Shakir has experience running jet sweeps and motions, and is a valuable asset in the screen game. He also has experience as a returner, as the Dolphins may not want to use Jaylen Waddle in the return game. He’s considered to be a late Day two or early Day three prospect in the 2022 NFL draft.

Kyle Philips, UCLA

Kyle Philips was not so noticeable in UCLA’s offense, which was very much a run first attack — similar to what this new Dolphins offense might look like. At the NFL level, Philips is a great fit for a team that use West Coast offensive philosophy.

Skillset

At 5-foot-11 and 186 pounds, Philips is a prototypical slot receiver in the 2022 NFL draft, and the kind of prospect teams usually drool over. The Bruin product flashes the foot quickness and toughness to handle slot duties at the next level and lines up all over the field.

His route running is a legitimate weapon and he can be used to both take advantage of schemed separation and to create traffic for defenders. Philips is a fluid athlete with explosive burst and speed who makes full use of his considerable quickness and agility to breeze past defenders.

Defenders are put into difficult spots with Philips. He’s difficult to predict, as his understanding of how to use all phases of his routes is a weapon. His elusive footwork allows no wasted movements between the reception and burst upfield.

While Philips ran a 4.58 40 at the Combine, his play speed is much faster than that. His acceleration on vertical routes allows him to reach his top speed to stretch the field. He is a solid vertical option that can be used on deep crossers, down the sideline or the middle of the field.

What makes Philips intriguing to me as a potential fit in the Miami Dolphins wide receivers group is his blocking skills. Philips is a reliable blocker, coming from a run first system, and shows that toughness on film. He plays much bigger than his size and was frequently used as a lead blocker for UCLA’s running game.

Projection

Philips could well be buried on the depth chart if he is selected as a Miami Dolphin, but he should be able to work his way up due to the scheme fit he posses in a Mike McDaniel offense. He reminds me a little bit about current Dolphins wide receivers coach Wes Welker.

Philips current projection is an early Day 3 pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.

Tyquan Thornton, Baylor

NFL Combine sensation Tyquan Thornton shocked the world with his unofficial 4.21 40 time. Obviously, Thornton has blazing speed — his official 40 time came in at 4.28, just a hair under his unofficial 4.21. Thornton utilizes his blazing speed to create natural separation and opportunity in the passing game when the offense moves the ball downfield.

Skillset

Thornton couples that speed with his 6-foot-3 frame. Having that frame gives him the ability to pluck the ball in the air over defenders with little to no contest.

This makes the Baylor product an intriguing option in the vertical passing game as Baylor was more of a running team. He fits a zone system, can sift through oncoming traffic and explode through tiny creases and cutback lanes.

However, Thornton has concentration drops and does not secure catches, as he can be too focused on gaining yards after the catch. Baylor’s offense did not fully maximize Thornton’s skillset, which means whatever NFL team drafts him is based on projection.

Projection

Opportunities will come at the NFL level for Thornton but it will be at a learning curve as he has not had many reps to showcase his entire skillset.

Thornton does block well in his weight class as the blocking reps in Baylor’s offense helped develop him. I do think Thornton will start of as WR4 and make his way up on special teams as a gunner.

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Tyreek Hill is the Stephen Curry of the NFL

Tyreek Hill is among the most unique players in the NFL, and his skills may be most comparable to one of basketball’s greatest players.

Tyreek Hill had his opening press conference with the Miami Dolphins on Thursday, and his confidence is contagious.

Among the topics of conversation, an appreciation for Mike McDaniel and his scheme was prevalent. It’s clear that, after having a falling out in Kansas City, Miami was a place Hill believed that he could succeed at — or past — the level he did previously.

While it’s unknown what Hill’s role will bring in McDaniel’s system, it’s clear that they can both elevate each other.

McDaniel brings a new scheme, centered around wide zone runs and timely play action. Hill, on the other hand, brings an element of speed the league has never seen before.

However, it’s his gravity, and how that plays into the entire offense, that’s so exciting for McDaniel and the Dolphins. That innate ability is rarely seen in football. It’s so rare, in fact, that his best comparison might be NBA superstar Stephen Curry.

The Gravity of Stephen Curry

For those unfamiliar with Curry, the three-time NBA champion has the most three-pointers made in NBA history, and is regarded as the greatest shooter of all-time. He has made a living on making defenders pay, and his other-worldly skill has brought fear into those tasked with covering him.

“If teams are going to throw the kitchen sink at Steph, they’re going to pay”

Steve Kerr (Warriors Head Coach)

Everybody knows that Steph Curry can score better than just about anyone in the NBA, but it’s how his play effects others on the team that makes him different.

Due to his ability to get such a high volume of points in a short amount of time (along with him being able to threaten any space on the court), teams instantly go for the double team (and sometimes more).

The ideology seems sound: stop Stephen Curry and, in turn, shut down the rest of the team. However, this is the exact opposite of the case.

Stephen Curry’s manipulation of leverage and gravity opens up opportunities for others.

By dedicating an extra defender to Curry, the rest of the court now has one less defender, leaving somebody open.

This now gives the rest of the offense an opportunity to be just as dangerous. Teams will go after the star with everything they have, which takes the ancillary pieces out of their focus. This allows said players to operate in a much less congested space and make big plays for themselves.

A Similar Effect for Tyreek Hill

This exact effect has transpired for new Dolphins wide receiver Tyreek Hill during his time in Kansas City. Much like Stephen Curry, Hill has a generational talent, and while it isn’t three point shooting, it brings the same type of impact.

His speed, which has been brought up time and time again, brings the ability to attack any space on the field with maximum effectiveness. His long range as a deep threat is one of the most unique skills in league history. So much so, that it can only truly be compared to an athlete in a different sport.

A prime example of this can be found in the divisional round of last year’s playoffs against the Buffalo Bills.

Reaping the Benefits of Hill’s Gravity

This play, shown below, shows just how much explosiveness Hill has, and what can happen if he isn’t doubled. Buffalo comes out in a pretty balanced defense, not shading over to Hill’s side, which ends up being a big mistake.

As he comes over the middle, Mahomes puts a perfect pass between the numbers. After that, we see just how much of a game-breaker Hill is. When defenders believe that they have leverage, he finds a way to make them look silly and destroy their angles.

He does so right here and finds his way into the end-zone.

Tyreek Hill destroys angles and finds his way into the end-zone.

On the following possession, we see the effects of Tyreek’s big play potential, and how teams will give up big plays elsewhere to limit one from him. Due to his ability to make a home-run play at any point, Buffalo lines up way too deep.

Kansas City is running low on time, but this is too much room for Mahomes to work, and it’s clear that this defense was called in response to Hill’s generational speed.

The Bills’ fear of Tyreek Hill as a deep threat leaves Travis Kelce wide open underneath.

By lining up their defensive backs deep, Buffalo was unable to account for the middle of the field. Thus, Kansas City was able to take advantage of matchups, which left Travis Kelce with too much room to work. This put Kansas City deeper into field goal range and was a crucial play in pushing the game to overtime.

Without Hill’s speed and explosiveness, the prevent defense likely isn’t called. This begins a domino effect that likely ends with Kansas City losing this game. Thus, likely ending their playoff run a round early. It’s clear that the gravity Hill attracts is extremely important and brings great potential to Miami.

The Bottom Line on Tyreek Hill and his Gravity

Miami has one of the best young cores in the NFL now. Behind Jaylen Waddle, Mike Gesicki, and Cedrick Wilson, there are several players capable of having big games.

The probability of doing so has just gone up. Tyreek Hill will continue to draw the best defenders, with teams often coming out in preventative defenses with two-high safeties or double teams. As it did in Kansas City, the surrounding pieces will be too much to handle.

The gravity that Hill brings simply isn’t matched by any NFL player, and his generational talent, similar to Stephen Curry’s, will do wonders for the Dolphins’ offense.

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How will Tyreek Hill fit with the Miami Dolphins

The Miami Dolphins have traded for Tyreek Hill, and he presents a unique fit with his new team and coach Mike McDaniel.

On Tuesday, the Miami Dolphins traded a slew of picks for Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill. Hill will be joining Mike McDaniel in his first year in Miami, and the Chiefs received a first, second, two fourths and a sixth round pick in the NFL Draft for the six-time Pro-Bowler.

Miami sees Hill as the missing piece to a contending roster, and clearly envision him having high production in McDaniel’s scheme, but it won’t be coming in the same ways as it did in Kansas City.

Andy Reid and Kansas City’s Offense

Andy Reid, who was Hill’s coach throughout his NFL career, runs a vastly different scheme than McDaniel. Coming from a vaunted BYU coaching tree, Reid runs more air-raid passing elements. His offense thrives in the shotgun, typically having receivers spread out across the field, making their money in the deep passing game.

Tyreek Hill was elite in the deep passing game.

Kansas City, especially after bringing in Patrick Mahomes, committed to the deep passing game, in which Hill thrived. His ability to take the top off of the defense was his best skill, and it vaulted the Chiefs into contention.

His vertical speed made it nearly impossible to guard their offense, and allowed others to succeed as well. Among them, tight end Travis Kelce had major success coming over the middle and finding open space.

This came primarily out of 11 personnel, which KC brought out 64 percent of the time, and was the staple of their offense.

Tyreek Hill with Mike McDaniel and the Miami Dolphins

This, while something that will be used under Mike McDaniel, will likely no longer be the calling card of Hill’s game. McDaniel, whose offense I broke down in a previous article, operates in much more condensed formations.

They pride themselves on being run first, so the formations involve much more use of fullbacks and tight ends. San Francisco ran a league high 34 percent of their plays in 12 personnel (1 running back and 2 tight ends). This is a stark contrast from Kansas City, who only ran this grouping five percent of the time.

Mike McDaniel runs a high amount of 12 personnel.

Being more condensed means not only a more heavy run focus, but also different plays in the passing game.

San Francisco did a lot of their damage in the play action, dialing up timely crossers after gashing with the run. Their receivers (namely Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel) would often use their speed to get out in space for YAC (yards after catch). This is where Hill fits in nicely.

Although, he was known for the aforementioned deep receiving ability, he was deadly after the catch. When they weren’t running him deep, Kansas City often used Tyreek on crossers to get him targets in space.

Success Over the Middle

Prime examples of this were found in 2021, especially in the playoffs. When Kansas City faced two high safeties, such as they did against the Bills, they were forced to adapt. This meant more consistent short passes and crossing patterns, and Hill was just as — if not more — effective.

Tyreek Hill was deadly on crossers.

Being what NFL fans and media define as a “gamebreaker”, it’s simply difficult to stop Hill on crossers.

He makes defenders who believe they have positioning look silly, using generational speed to pass them and ruin their angles. This bodes well for him in Miami, which, under Mike McDaniel, is expected to run a high amount of crossers.

McDaniel has stated that he is enamored with players who can win in space, and that shows with Hill. His ability will be maximized on crossing routes, and much of his success will hinge on Tua Tagovailoa.

How will Tyreek Hill fit with Tua Tagovailoa?

Although many see Hill as a poor fit with Tua, it may be quite the opposite.

Coming out of college at Alabama, Tagovailoa was regarded as one of the best short-to-intermediate throwers in his class. This has translated well into the NFL, and he has quickly become a consistent threat in the RAC game.

His ball placement — one of his best skills — helped Jaylen Waddle reach over 1,000 yards in his rookie season. In a scheme that prioritizes his best throws, this can do just as well for Hill.

They both have a knack for working well in the middle of the field, and if Tua is able to find Hill in space, it will be dangerous for opposing defenses.

With Tagovailoa at quarterback, it’s safe to say that we will be seeing the new Dolphin between the numbers quite often. They will clearly use his deep-threat skillset, but the short and intermediate game will be his bread-and-butter.

The Element of Gravity

Tyreek Hill, much like is described with Stephen Curry in the NBA, brings a level of gravity that is unmatched by many.

Teams fear his ability to go over the top, so they bring the strength of their defense over to his side. This opens up others across the team, none more exciting than second-year receiver Jaylen Waddle.

Coming off his aforementioned 1,000 yard season, Waddle broke the rookie receptions record. He was consistently Tua’s number one option, and while that will likely change, so will the quality of his targets.

Waddle and Gesicki

The primary issue with Waddle’s season was not one of his own doing.

Due to a variety of offensive issues (line play, playcalling, quarterback inconsistencies, etc.), Waddle was unable to find many deep targets, which was his number one trait in college.

When combined with being focused on as the number one playmaker, we weren’t able to see as many big plays as anticipated. However, Tyreek Hill’s arrival in Miami will mark a change.

Defenses can’t double team both receivers, and with consistent one-on-one matchups as well as deeper routes called, Waddle can be much more explosive.

Jaylen Waddle’s top 10 plays.

It’s very possible that we see one of Hill or Waddle working over the top. Thus, opening up the middle of the field for the other weapons. Notably, the other of the two.

A similar effect will be seen for Mike Gesicki, who can reap the benefits of a Kelce or George Kittle.

Opposite the most explosive receiver duo in the NFL, the middle of the field will be more open. Furthermore, teams won’t be able to dedicate the defenders to him that they were previously able to.

When there isn’t safety help, teams will be forced to lighten the box or put a linebacker on him. The latter of which is a clear mismatch, and further expands the role for the recently franchise tagged tight end.

The Deebo Factor and the Bottom Line on Tyreek Hill and the Miami Dolphins

The most important question, which I broke down previously, was how similar Hill’s role will be to Deebo Samuel.

The receiving portion of their games, shockingly enough, will likely be similar. Both will operate in the open middle of the field. However, it’s likely we don’t see Hill rushing in the same way as Samuel.

Deebo has a listed 31 pounds over Tyreek, and is able to work between the tackles how few players can. McDaniel himself stated that Samuel is a one-of-a-kind player, and that looking for him won’t bring strong results. It was maximizing talent, however, that brought the results we saw of 2021’s All-Pro.

The role we saw Samuel in was custom built for him, and I expect the same thing for Hill.

It’s conceivable that we can see some similar backfield work, and Tyreek will definitely be in motion. However, his role will be unique to his skill set as a player, which is just as one-of-a-kind as Samuel — albeit in a different way.

While we can all guess what his role will be, it’s just conjecture for now. It will be fascinating to see how Miami utilizes their weapons, and it will start with their newest toy as Tyreek Hill plays his first season for the Miami Dolphins.

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Miami Dolphins Free Agency Targets

Chicago Bears offensive lineman James Daniels, a potential target for the Miami Dolphins in free agency
Photo Credit: chicagobears.com

It’s only been about seven weeks without Miami Dolphins football, but it feels like it’s been seven years. The good thing for Miami Dolphins fans is that NFL Free Agency is rapidly approaching. The Miami Dolphins holes and positional needs on this roster were made abundantly clear during the 9-8 campaign. Fortunately, many of these needs will be filled during free agency.

Team Needs

The Miami Dolphins will surely be in the market for a top-tier OL in free agency, maybe even two. Miami had a bottom-3 offensive line in 2021 and was a big part of the reason the offense struggled. The Dolphins offense finished  25th in yards per game and 24th in points per game. With new OL coach Matt Applebaum and a run-heavy offense with HC Mike McDaniel, expect GM Chris Grier to look for top-tier offensive linemen when FA opens. 

For a second straight offseason, the Dolphins will likely be looking for wide receivers. Aside from Jaylen Waddle, no WR from the Dolphins 2021 roster is a guarantee to be back. In the Dolphins new offense, guys who can make plays in space with the ball in their hands will be valued. 

The Dolphins will also look to add front-seven starters/depth pieces on defense. The linebacking corp was a weakness last year on defense, and getting a key piece next to defensive play-caller Jerome Baker would be significant.

Potential Miami Dolphins Free Agency Signings

Wide Receiver, Amari Cooper

Cooper is still under contract with the Cowboys. Fortunately, Dallas is expected release the veteran due to cap concerns.

Amari Cooper would be an huge signing for Miami for obvious reasons. He is still a big-playmaking receiver who would become an instant threat in the Dolphins offense.

A huge part of what makes Cooper’s game so special is his route-running.

The Dolphins will have to spend more money on Cooper than other WRs I’ve listed, but they have the space.

If Miami can make a hometown reunion with for Cooper, Miami’s offense will instantly look more powerful.

Wide Receiver, Juju Smith-Schuster

Juju Smith-Schuster has been a key part of the Steelers offense for the last five seasons. He is set to hit free agency for the second offseason in a row.

In five years, he’s missed a combined 18 games(more than one season). That hasn’t stopped him front putting up nearly 4,000 yards and 26 touchdowns.

What doesn’t show up on the stat sheet though is his ability to block in the run game. In a offense that will place an emphasis on running the ball, receivers who can block downfield will be a great advantage.

Smith will also be a great addition in the passing game for Miami. He can stretch the field vertically as well as make guys miss in space.

Steelers GM Kevin Colbert implied that the Steelers will try and keep Juju in Pittsburgh, but if he makes it to FA, expect Miami to be mentioned as a potential landing spot.

Wide Receiver, Byron Pringle

Pringle just finished his fourth season with the Chiefs and is expected to hit the open market. Pringle, like Wilson, is the perfect fit for the Dolphins offense.

The way Pringle can move with the ball in his hands in traffic is incredible. In an offense that will feature quick passes to receivers in space, Pringle’s skill set would be perfect.

According to Hussam Patel on the Donna Daily podcast, the Dolphins are interested in Wilson Jr. and Pringle and view both as an “Albert Wilson type” player.

Similar to Wilson Jr., Miami should not have to break the bank for Pringle. 

Center/Guard, James Daniels

The offensive line is clearly Miami’s biggest need. It was the downfall of the offense last year and will be key in Mike McDaniel’s run-heavy offense. Daniels, who spent his first four seasons in Chicago, has shown he can play multiple positions on the OL. 

During his rookie campaign, Daniels started nine games at left guard and one game at right guard. In 2019, Daniels split time between guard and center. 

Daniels has had an under-the-radar yet impressive career so far. In four seasons, he’s allowed just four sacks and only has five penalties. 

The Dolphins OL struggled significantly against stunts last season.

While using his experience at three out of five OL positions, Daniels has become elite at picking up stunts.

In the video above, Daniels picks up a stunt and takes on Aaron Donald one-on-one.

Clearly, he can do similar things at left guard. In an offense that expects to run the ball a lot, linemen who can get to the next level are a necessity. Daniels’ ability to block upfield would be a huge addition for the Dolphins. Miami could likely get Daniels in the $10M/year range.

Guard, Brandon Scherff

Scherff will probably cost Miami more money. Scherff has spent seven seasons in the league, all in Washington. Almost all of his time has been spent at right guard. Scherff is clearly a top guard in the game and has the accolades to prove it. He’s a five-time Pro Bowler and was voted First-team All-Pro in 2020. 

Although Scherff is a star guard who has established himself at the top of his position in this league, there are a few reasons Miami may shy away from him.

Scherff was moved to RG during his rookie offseason because of his strength and ability to handle bull rushes. Miami currently has Robert Hunt at right guard. Hunt played solid football down the stretch last season, and it would not be surprising to see him get a shot there this season. There will be movement along the OL this offseason, so it will depend on whether the Dolphins feel that Hunt or Scherff can play another position or whether Hunt is just not the answer at RG. 

There’s also the money issue. Miami has a plethora of cap space, but Brandon Scherff will not be cheap. After playing last season on the franchise tag at over $18  million, Scherff is probably looking for one of his final big deals like Terron Armstead.

Whether or not he will be in South Florida next season will depend on numerous factors, but he is a name Dolphins fans should keep an eye on. 

Linebacker, Rashaan Evans

The Dolphins were considered a landing spot for Evans in the 2018 NFL Draft, but they elected to select Evans’ Alabama teammate, Minkah Fitzpatrick. Evans has had a somewhat underwhelming career thus far in Tennessee but has significant potential. 

Miami will be thin at linebacker this offseason with Vince Biegel and Elandon Roberts set to hit free agency and will need to add veteran pieces to the middle of the defense. 

Evans is an aggressive linebacker who can make tackles in the open field, stuff run gaps, and play coverage when needed. A versatile linebacker will thrive in the Miami defense.

Evans will be a low-risk high-reward free agent and will likely generate lots of traction if his asking price is right.

Potential Miami Dolphins Free Agency Re-signings

Aside from the obvious potential re-signings like Emmanuel Ogbah or Mike Gesicki, there are a few other Miami Dolphins that Chris Grier should try and bring back in free agency for the 2022 season.

Wide Receiver, Mack Hollins

In 2020, Mack Hollins showed flashes of potential at the depleted WR position; however, he proved to be inconsistent and was not a reliable piece at the position. He was brought back last season and showed incredible improvement. He became a solid option in the passing game and was a dog on special teams.

Hollins is highly respected in the locker room. The leadership and passion he brings to the squad is second to none.

Bringing Hollins back on the right price tag is something the Dolphins seriously should and will consider.

Running Back, Duke Johnson

The Dolphins RB room has been a cause for concern for the past few years. The lack of run game can partially be attributed to a lackluster offensive line, but also due to a lack of experience and/or talent.

Johnson, who was drafted in 2015, joined the Dolphins in late October and got his first start in a home game in December. Johnson broke out for over 100-yards and two touchdowns. 

He is a hard-runner and has the ability to hit holes and make guys miss in the open field. 

He clearly also has the ability to be a threat in the passing game. Johnson will find himself a nice role in a Mike McDaniel offense should Miami decide to re-sign him.

Johnson’s asking price should not be unreasonable, and he may even take a hometown discount to stay in Miami, where he was born, raised, and attended college.

Follow Rishi Desai on Twitter

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Jaylen Waddle, Treylon Burks and The Myth of “The Next Deebo Samuel”

NFL analysts and coaches are looking for the next Deebo Samuel, but his unique skillset deserves some appreciation across the league.

Is Treylon Burks or Jaylen Waddle the next Deebo Samuel?

The San Francisco 49ers had one of the most prolific offenses in 2021, and Wide Receiver Deebo Samuel was one of the biggest reasons. The self-proclaimed “wide back” moved all around the field, revolutionizing a run-game that stays at the forefront of innovation.

The scheming from now-Miami Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel was brilliant. Samuel would often start outside, then motion back in, giving San Francisco not only a ball carrier, but also a numbers advantage. By lining him up at receiver, defenses would lighten the box, anticipating fewer players in the backfield.

However, Samuel would move in, adding another big body to the running game. This allowed San Francisco to out-muscle weak boxes, while also having one of the most effective zone-rushing schemes.

Deebo Samuel scores a TD against Dallas.

This success was prevalent late in the season, and it quickly became a habit. Down the stretch, Samuel saw increased snaps at running back, while also being the 49ers’ number one receiver. His ability to create in space was unmatched, but he was just as good in-between the tackles.

Reaping the Benefits of Innovation

This development changed the trajectories of several careers. Samuel is now a total offensive weapon, with the ability to line up anywhere. His value has skyrocketed, and so has his coordinator’s. Mike McDaniel, now seen as an offensive innovator, landed the job he has today, and is entering his first draft combine with Miami.

During this Combine, McDaniel will search for the next player he can maximize. Contrary to popular belief, he won’t be looking for the next Deebo Samuel.

During a combine press conference, McDaniel explained his process for finding players, and how it leads to innovation.

“Deebo wasn’t found by looking for the next Deebo.”

Mike McDaniel

This quote, through its simplicity, pushes a point many overlook.

The best coaches in the league don’t look to imitate, but rather innovate. The number one job of a coach is finding places in which their players succeed. This mindset leads to carving out roles for your best athletes, rather than fitting them to a mold.

Mike McDaniel speaks on Deebo Samuel’s role.

Before Samuel, this “Wide Back” role on the 49ers didn’t exist. Sure, they used receivers in the run game, but this extent of between-the-tackles action was never before seen. It was only after acquiring Samuel and, more importantly, understanding his skillset, that McDaniel and San Francisco were able to bring this innovation to fruition.

McDaniel and the rest of the league’s best offensive minds will utilize the Combine to envision how players can change them and their schemes, not the other way around. Rather than envisioning how a prospect fits their scheme, they will envision how the player can revolutionize their offenses.

Jaylen Waddle

Upon Mike McDaniel’s arrival in Miami, many were looking at how receiver Jaylen Waddle can be “the next Deebo”. His skill set is relatively similar. Both move very well in open space and are dangerous threats in the RAC game. However, that’s about where the comparisons end.

It takes a compact, muscular athlete to run between the tackles, and that’s exactly what Samuel is. Coming in at six feet tall and 216 pounds, he weighs 33 more pounds than Jaylen Waddle — who has his advantages as well.

Waddle, although not as bulky, is significantly faster than Samuel, and moves more with elusiveness — which is exactly what intrigues McDaniel. There is a role that McDaniel sees for Waddle, and it’s clear through his interviews that he’s excited to utilize his explosive skill set. It’s also clear, however, that it won’t involve nearly as much running between the tackles.

Jaylen Waddle catches a deep pass from Tua Tagovailoa.

Treylon Burks

As far as the Combine is concerned, fans and media alike have seen Deebo-like traits in receiver Treylon Burks. Coming out of Arkansas, Burks definitely shares some traits with the All-Pro. Both play big and don’t have trouble breaking tackles. However, Burks is built more like an X receiver. Standing at 6’3″ and 225 pounds, it’s clear that their body types aren’t identical.

Treylon Burks has a unique skillset.

Burks is regarded as the closest thing to Deebo in the draft, yet the differences are still significant — which is exactly why it’s unfair to both players. Although it didn’t seem this way at first, Deebo Samuel is a generational talent, and has a unique skill set that no players have matched. Burks, on the other hand, has just as much individuality in his skill set and body type. They may look quite similar on paper, but their strengths and weaknesses don’t line up perfectly.

The Bottom Line on The Deebo Samuel Role

It would simply be lazy for someone to try to force Burks or Waddle into the Deebo Samuel role. That role was created for a specific player who is among the most unique in the NFL, which is why it works so well.

Samuel’s ability, when combined with the innovation of McDaniel and Shanahan, is a perfect storm for San Francisco, which brings us to the main point.

The best coaches, although taking some from others, pride themselves on innovation. It’s all about finding the next big thing, and that’s exactly what San Francisco did.

Just like the zone-read or the air-raid, the “wide back” will catch fire across the NFL. While others will attempt to copy it, the innovators will be working hard to find another wrinkle, which separates them from the rest. Defenses are working hard to stop new trends, so it becomes pertinent to find something they haven’t seen before.

“It’s more solving problems in different ways and having different tools and abilities to do so.”

Mike McDaniel

Mike McDaniel has equated constructing an offensive gameplan to solving problems, and it shows in his innovation.

Critical thinking brings out the best in top-end offensive minds, and McDaniel came across a gold mine with Samuel. It will be exciting to see what he does next in Miami. How he uses Jaylen Waddle will be on everyone’s mind, as will how Treylon Burks is used with his new team.

However, it’s clear that Deebo Samuel can never be duplicated, and it’s important to recognize and appreciate his greatness.

Follow Tyler DeSena on Twitter

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Day 2 NFL Combine Takeaways

Day 2 of the 2022 NFL Scouting combine is in the books here are 3 takeaways from the second day of on-field workouts.

Image Credit: Bleacher Report

Day 2 of the 2022 NFL Scouting combine is in the books here are 3 takeaways from the second day of on-field workouts.

40 times (again)

Remember Thursday night at the scouting combine, when the receivers blew the roof off like they were on the racetrack?

It extended to Friday’s offensive line drills, when we saw a display of pure speed from Hog Mollies we’ve never seen before.

It’s as if monster trucks beat Dale Earnhardt Jr. by one-tenth of a second

There were six offensive linemen with official sub-5.0 40 times in the first group, and six in the second. The previous record was six, and there were 11 sub-4.5 40-yard dashes overall in the last three combines.

Rutgers’ Isiah Pacheco and South Dakota State’s Pierre Strong tied for the fastest running back at the 2022 combine with 40 times of 4.37 seconds.

Notre Dame’s Kyren Williams caught flak for his 4.7 40 yard dash time as many expected him to run faster.

However for RB’s there are more important factors and measurables at play than 40 times.

Zion Johnson’s Big Day

Zion Johnson played tackle and guard at Boston College, and then took reps at center during Senior Bowl week. Johnson has showcased his versatility and followed it up with a fantastic combine performance.

Few offensive linemen are as undersized like Johnson at 6-foot-3 and 312 pounds, but few had better combines than Johnson. He ran a 5.18 40-yard dash aced other drills, and looked very smooth and powerful on the field.

Johnson needed to show some athleticism to go with his play strength, and he took care of that admirably. He led all lineman with 32 bench press reps and showed off his movement in space with the wave drill.

The Boston College product was showing an ability to create power without planting during on-field drills.

Johnson is an easy mover, and you can see how he’s able to gain power and efficiency from that. He has separated himself as one of the top interior offensive linemen.

James is Cooking

In today’s league, top running backs threaten defenses on third down with their receiving skills, and NFL teams loved what they saw in James Cook on Friday.

ESPN’s Jordan Reid summed up Cook’s traits with the best system fit for him on the pro level.

Cook ran a 4.42 40 times and made seamless cuts with the ball in his hands during the on-field drills. He looked natural in space, secured all of his passes and caught the ball with his soft hands like a natural receiver.

At Georgia, Cook only logged 230 carries, so he doesn’t have mileage on him; however, he can project as a featured ball-carrier primed to log 15-plus carries a game.

Furthermore, Cook can become a matchup nightmare on crucial downs either in the slot or on short routes in the middle of the field.

Follow Hussam Patel on Twitter

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Day 1 NFL Combine Takeaways

Day 1 of the 2022 NFL Scouting combine is in the books here are the 3 takeaways from the first day of on-field workouts.

Takeaways from day 1 at the NFL scouting combine
Image Credit: Sporting News

Day 1 of the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine is in the books here are the three takeaways from the first day of on-field workouts.

40 times

The first night of on-field workouts was a speed thrill. In a city that celebrates speed with Indy cars, the wide receivers at the NFL Scouting Combine matched a record Thursday that would have NASCAR opening their eyes.

The group of pass catchers left dust, as the eight sub-4.4 clockings tied the most by the wide receivers at the combine in any year evaluated since 2006.

Tyquan Thornton had the only official time under 4.3, as Tennessee wide receiver Velus Jones Jr., had the second fastest official clocking at 4.31.

Many unofficial times had to be changed and chatter around the league was this years class of pass catchers is the fastest in NFL History — or the 40 times were off.

Kenny Pickett’s Hand Size

It is hands-down the most critiqued quality attached to NFL quarterback prospects each year.

As a potential first round pick, Pickett’s hand size has been scrutinized heavily. His hands officially measured in at 8 1/2″ at the NFL Combine. This makes Pickett’s hands the smallest of any quarterback in the NFL.

“The reason I didn’t measure at the Senior Bowl was just to have those extra couple weeks, just kind of a commonsense thing, to have more time working the exercises…Whatever it measures, it measures, I’m sure that won’t be the end of it, but that will be the last measurement I’m sure I’ll take of it.”

Kenny Pickett

According to ESPN Stats & Information data, average hand size for quarterbacks taken in the first round from 2008 to 2020 is 9 7/10 inches.

Christian Watsons big day

Watson won the day at the receiver position. He’s 6-4 and 210 pounds, one of the most sizable receivers in this class.

He ran 4.36 with a 38.5-inch vertical jump and an 11-foot, four-inch broad jump, one of the longest in combine history. 

““He’s a special dude. You can see that just physically, how big he is, how fast he is. Great person to be around, obviously one of my closest friends. Someone that helped me get to where I am right now. I wouldn’t be here without Christian.”

Trey Lance on Christian Watson

I wrote about Christian Watson last summer and how the Miami Dolphins should take a chance on him.

Now, I’m not sure if Watson lasts till the end of the 2nd round, he’s highly thought of in league circles.

Follow Hussam Patel on Twitter

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Chicago Bears Offseason Guide: Three Moves For Ryan Poles To Make

Chicago Bears Off-Season
Image via Anthony Vazquez//Sun-Times

The Chicago Bears finally have new management. With the Ryan Poles and Matt Eberflus era ready to begin, no one knows how they will approach this team. Let’s take a look at three offseason moves the Chicago Bears could make.

1.) Bring In A Veteran Wide Receiver

Darnell Mooney should be a perfect partner for Justin Fields. Mooney’s deep threat ability is impressive and Justin Fields throws the best deep ball Chicago has seen since Jay Cutler. However, this offense needs more than one good weapon.

Allen Robinson is coming off of a brutal 2021 season. Some are pointing out that Matt Nagy iced him out of the offense because of a contract dispute. Others are just saying Robinson is washed up and this is the start of his decline. Either way, Allen Robinson will most likely not be back in 2022. Chicago needs new weapons on offense.

Bringing in a guy like Brandin Cooks could be the perfect solution. Cooks has had over 1,000 receiving yards in six of his last seven seasons. At 28 years old, he still has plenty of juice left in his game as well.

He’s a guy who Chicago would have to eat a lot of money for, but could provide a huge boost to this offense as well as help Justin Fields in his development. His 16 million dollar cap hit isn’t appealing, but Houston could look to trade him for nothing or even give up a draft pick to get him off of their books.

Chicago has 25 million dollars in salary cap space without making any cap saving moves heading into the 2022 off-season. If Ryan Poles wants to surround Justin Fields with talent in 2022, adding a proven veteran playmaker like Cooks would be a good under-the-radar move while gaining a late-round draft pick.

Another possibility is that Brandin Cooks becomes a cap-casualty in Houston and Chicago is able to sign him as a free agent at a much lower salary.

Projected Trade Compensation:

  • Chicago receives: Brandon Cooks, 2022 6th round (183rd overall) draft pick, 2022 6th round (206th overall) draft pick
  • Houston receives: 2022 6th round (185th overall) draft pick

2.) Trade Back From Pick #39

Ryan Poles inherited a less-than-ideal situation from former general manager Ryan Pace. With only five draft picks in 2022 and an aging roster. Chicago needs an injection of youth and talent.

The NFL draft is often times called a “crap shoot” because of how unpredictable it is. Players drafted in the top 50 picks sometimes ‘bust’, players drafted outside of the top 50 sometimes hit. It’s common sense, but taking as many “dart-throws” as possible could be a good way of adding talent without a first round draft pick.

To gain extra picks, Chicago is going to have to trade back from #39 overall. At the top of the second round is where we often see the most trades of the draft. With teams having a night to reassess and reconstruct draft boards, there’s a great chance teams will be calling for that pick.

If Chicago could trade back with a contender trying to win-now, they might be able to add a few extra draft picks in 2022 in the process.

A potential trade with the Los Angeles Chargers could make some sense. Brandon Staley and the Chargers are fighting to make the playoffs in a tough AFC conference.

Los Angeles has eleven draft picks in the upcoming draft. Trading away a few late round picks while jumping up ten spots in the draft could be beneficial for both sides. The Chicago Bears offseason would be a major success if they pulled off a trade of this caliber, while still drafting a difference maker.

*Note: Chicago traded up from 52nd overall to 39th overall last year and gave up their 3rd round pick (83rd overall) in the process as well, a trade of this size isn’t unrealistic.

Potential Trade:

  • Chicago receives: Los Angeles Chargers 2nd round draft pick (49th overall, 4th round (119th overall), 5th round (158th overall), 6th round (195th overall), 7th round (251st overall)
  • Los Angeles receives: Chicago Bears 2nd round draft pick (39th overall)

3.) Prioritize Offense In The Draft

This is slightly more open ended for a Chicago Bears offseason move. Ryan Poles inherited Justin Fields. We assume that he likes Justin Fields and believes in him, but he did not make the choice to trade up for him and name him the next franchise quarterback.

Poles will have to find out as soon as possible if Justin Fields is the answer in Chicago. Similar to why the Bears need to bring in a veteran wide receiver, they also need to bring in young talent at offensive line and also at receiver.

Offensive Line Questions

Last season’s starting left tackle, right guard and right tackle Jason Peters, James Daniels and Germain Ifedi, respectively are all set to become a free agents. Teven Jenkins is still an unknown At left tackle. Poles has to operate as if he is the starter, but that shouldn’t hinder him from adding more talent along the offensive line.

Sam Mustifer was also below average as a starting center for Chicago last year and Poles could look to upgrade there as well.

Questions At Receiver

As mentioned above, Allen Robinson is most likely gone this offseason. Without many proven options on the roster to begin with, Chicago needs to continue to add playmakers, even if they do bring in a veteran like Brandin Cooks.

Drafting a wide receiver on day two of the draft would give Chicago a nice mix of veteran and youth talent.

A player like Chris Olave in the second round would be a perfect fit for Chicago. Although many draft analysts think me may be gone by then, Olave and Justin Fields’ chemistry from Ohio State would help both of their developments immensely.

Another option could be small-school standout, Christian Watson. Watson displayed surprising agility and route-running acumen at the Reese’s Senior Bowl last month. At 6’4” he would also add a different body-style to the receiver room as well when paired with 5’11” Darnell Mooney.

Adding two or three new pass-catchers to this offense should be a priority for Ryan Poles as he tries to distinguish if Justin Fields is a star quarterback or not.

Chicago Bears Offseason Conclusion

“There’s a heigh ceiling. It’s just putting him [Justin Fields] in a position to succeed and seeing how high that ceiling really is.”

— Ryan Poles

The Chicago Bears offseason is going to be filled with moves. The defense is aging and the offense is under-developed. However, finding out if Justin Fields can be a great quarterback will be the priority. Building an offense to cater to his strengths will be offensive coordinator Luke Getsy’s number one priority. Getting Luke Getsy all of the players he needs sounds like it will be Ryan Poles’ number one priority.


Be sure to follow us: @bears_atb and @ryanmcaloon on Twitter! Until next time, peace!

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Important Dates in the 2022 NFL League Calendar

As the 2021 season comes to a conclusion, it’s time to look at important dates heading into the 2022 NFL season.

Important Dates in the 2022 NFL league calendar
Photo Credit: Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

As the 2021 season comes to a conclusion, it’s time to look at important dates on the league calendar heading into the 2022 NFL season.

Dates to remember on the 2022 NFL league calendar

February

19th: HBCU Legacy Bowl

March

1-7: NFL Combine

8: Deadline for clubs to designate Franchise or Transition tag players

14-16:

  • From noon EST on March 14 and ending at 3:59:59 p.m., EST on March 16, clubs can contact, and enter into contract negotiations with, agents of players who will become unrestricted free agents at 4:00 p.m. EST on March 16.
  • A prospective UFA who is not represented by an NFLPA Certified Contract Advisor is permitted to communicate directly with a new club’s front office officials, excluding the head coach and other members of the club’s coaching staff, regarding contract negotiations.
  • No prospective unrestricted free agent can sign a contract with a team until 4:00 p.m. EST, on March 16.

16: New league year and free agency begin

27-30: Annual league meeting

April

4: NFL teams who hired a new coach after the end of the 2021 regular season may begin offseason workout programs

18: Offseason workouts begin

20: Deadline to bring in draft-eligible prospects for physical examinations

22: Deadline for restricted free agents (RFA) to sign offer sheets

27: Deadline for prior NFL teams to exercise Right of First Refusal to restricted free agents. Deadline to time, test, and interview draft-eligible players.

28-30: NFL Draft

May

2:

  • Deadline for prior club to send “May 2 Tender” to its unsigned Unrestricted Free Agents.
  • If the player has not signed with a team by July 22, or the first scheduled day of the first NFL training camp, they may negotiate or sign a contract from that date until the Tuesday following the 10th weekend of the regular season, at 4:00 p.m., New York time, only with his prior club.
  • Deadline for clubs to exercise fifth-year option for players selected in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft.

6-9 OR 13-16: Rookie mini-camp

16: Rookie Football Developmental Program

19-22 (tentative): NFLPA Rookie Premier

23-25: Spring league meeting

June

1

  • Deadline for prior club to send “June 1 Tender” to its unsigned Restricted Free Agents who received a qualifying offer for a right of first refusal, only in order for such player to be subject to the CBA’s “June 15 Tender” provision.

15

  • Deadline for teams to withdraw qualifying offer to Restricted Free Agents and still retain exclusive negotiating rights by substituting “June 15 Tender” of one-year contract at 110 percent of the player’s prior-year Paragraph 5 Salary (with all other terms of his prior-year contract carried forward unchanged).

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Browns’ 2022 Senior Bowl Targets

Daniel Garrett looks at Senior Bowl players and who might be a fit for the Cleveland Browns for the upcoming 2022 NFL draft!

The Browns are a tricky organization to project Senior Bowl players to due to the current front office’s apparent age policies. While no player is off the board due to age entirely, they will lean much more towards younger players. For example, a player in the Senior Bowl like Bernhard Raimann (who is 24 years old) would be significantly lower on the Browns’ board, more or less eliminating him for selection. The Browns will still have Senior Bowl targets this year, as long as the value is worth it.

Last year, the Browns selected two Senior Bowl players. They were offensive tackle James Hudson in the 4th round and running back Demetric Felton in the 6th round. Hudson struggled a lot in his first season, but Felton played decently well in limited opportunities. He contributed on special teams as well as occasional snaps on offense both in the slot and at running back. The Browns have a good amount of needs to fill in the draft, and a lot of picks to work with, so don’t be surprised if one of the players from the Senior Bowl is selected by them.

Browns Senior Bowl Targets

Dameon Pierce Florida Gators
GAINESVILLE, FLORIDA – SEPTEMBER 28: Dameon Pierce #27 of the Florida Gators scores a touchdown during the third quarter against the Towson Tigers at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on September 28, 2019 in Gainesville, Florida. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)

Running Backs

The Browns may need another running back to fill in the role of D’Ernest Johnson as a third running back, with Demetric Felton still being used as a hybrid player. If they select a running back, it will almost certainly be on day three of the NFL draft.

Dameon Pierce: Florida, 5090, 220lbs
Brian Robinson Jr: Alabama, 6015, 226lbs
Jerome Ford: Cincinnati, 5106, 209lbs

Dameon Pierce has been the most impressive back at the Senior Bowl during the practices. However, his performance may mean he goes before the Browns would be willing to target a running back. Robinson had a solid career and can be a good third running back. Jerome Ford did really well at Cincinnati after transferring from Alabama, and could also be a quality third back. Ford and Robinson are more likely targets, as they will go much later in the draft.

Wide Receivers

Christian Watson Senior Bowl Target
MOBILE, AL – FEBRUARY 02: National wide receiver Christian Watson of North Dakota State (1) during the Reese’s Senior Bowl practice session on February 2, 2002 at Hancock Whitney Stadium in Mobile, Alabama. (Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The Browns desperately need multiple wide receivers. Jarvis Landry will most likely be gone, and that leaves the Browns in need of three receivers. Free agency is a possible avenue to add a player, but they will need one, if not two, receivers. I would expect a receiver to be taken early, as well as one on day three.

Christian Watson: North Dakota State, 6040, 211lbs
Alec Pierce: Cincinnati, 6026, 208lbs
Romeo Doubs: Nevada, 6017, 204lbs
Khalil Shakir: Boise State, 6000, 193lbs
Jalen Tolbert: South Alabama, 6012, 195lbs

Christian Watson has been the most impressive player at the Senior Bowl practices. Alec Pierce provides a traditional X receiver. Jalen Tolbert is a deep threat that disappointed in terms of measurements, with belief pre-Senior Bowl that he could be 6’4″. Doubs has been fantastic in his time with Carson Strong. Shakir is a player with a lot of versatility, earning himself the nickname “Swiss” after the swiss army knife.

Offensive Tackles

Max Mitchell Senior Bowl Target
NEW ORLEANS, LA – AUGUST 31: Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin Cajuns offensive lineman Max Mitchell (74) lines up for a play during a game between the Mississippi State Bulldogs and the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin Cajuns in the Mercedes Benz Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana on August 31, 2019. (Photo by John Korduner/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The Browns may need to draft an offensive tackle given that Jack Conklin will be out for a while. If they do so, they can look for one of these day two tackles, one of which may fall. The Browns have had great development from late round picks, so if they draft a player on day two or day three they have a solid chance at success. The only internal competition will be James Hudson.

Trevor Penning: Northern Iowa, 6066, 330lbs
Max Mitchell: Louisiana, 6056, 299lbs
Bernhard Raimann: Central Michigan, 6061, 304lbs
Abraham Lucas: Washington State, 6061, 322lbs
Daniel Faalele: Minnesota, 6081, 387lbs

Raimann is the least likely selection due to his age. Mitchell is extremely undersized and needs experience against higher-level competition. Penning was a solid tackle at Northern Iowa. Abraham Lucas has played in multiple systems and has a lot of experience as a pass blocker. Faalele is a massive human being with decent movement skills. All would be solid players to fill in for Conklin if the Browns are not comfortable with James Hudson and his development.

Defensive Tackles

Perrion Winfrey Senior Bowl Target
STILLWATER, OK – NOVEMBER 27: Running back Jaylen Warren #7 of the Oklahoma State Cowboys runs the clock against defensive lineman Perrion Winfrey #8 of the Oklahoma Sooners late in the fourth quarter at Boone Pickens Stadium on November 27, 2021 in Stillwater, Oklahoma. The Cowboys won ‘Bedlam’ 37-33. (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)

The Browns Senior Bowl targets are going to significantly focus on the defensive line. They need a lot of help on the interior of the defensive line. Tommy Togiai was selected in the fourth round of last years draft, and Jordan Elliott was selected the year before. Other than that, there are no other defensive tackles on the Browns’ roster for next season.

Phidarian Mathis: Alabama, 6037, 313lbs
Perrion Winfrey: Oklahoma, 6036, 303lbs
Devonte Wyatt: Georgia, 6026, 307lbs
Travis Jones: UCONN, 6043, 326lbs
John Ridgeway: Arkansas, 6046, 327lbs

Ridgeway and Jones can be plug-and-play 1-techs. Mathis, who played more of a true nose-tackle for Alabama, can make the transition. Devonte Wyatt was fantastic for the best defense in college football. Perrion Winfrey has played in a 3-front for Oklahoma, but will have to move to a 3-tech.

Edge Rushers

Myjai Sanders Senior Bowl Target
CINCINNATI, OHIO – DECEMBER 19: Myjai Sanders #21 of the Cincinnati Bearcats attempts to sack Zach Smith #11 of the Tulsa Golden Hurricane in the American Athletic Conference Championship at Nippert Stadium on December 19, 2020 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)

Perhaps the top Senior Bowl target position for the Browns, Myles Garrett is the only one of the top 3 edge rushers still under contract for the Browns. The Browns will take an edge rusher early. Clowney may be back, as might Takk McKinley, but edge depth is always a plus.

Myjai Sanders: Cincinnati, 6043, 242lbs
Jermaine Johnson: Florida State, 6043, 259lbs
Boye Mafe: Minnesota, 6034, 255lbs
Kingsley Enagbare: South Carolina, 6036, 261lbs
Sam Williams*: Ole Miss, 6040, 265lbs
Arnold Ebiketie: Penn State, 6023, 250lbs
Zach Carter: Florida, 6034, 287lbs
Tyreke Smith: Ohio State, 6030, 245lbs

The top edge rusher at the Senior Bowl practices was Jermaine Johnson. He looks to be a first round pick. On day two, Myjai Sanders and Kingsley Enagbare are two good options, as is possibly Boye Mafe, Arnold Ebiketie, Zach Carter, and possibly Sam Williams. Tyreke Smith is a possible day three selection as well.

Safety

Leon O'Neal Jr Senior Bowl Targets
DENVER, CO – SEPTEMBER 11: Leon O’Neal Jr. #9 of the Texas A&M Aggies attempts to tackle Brendon Lewis #12 of the Colorado Buffaloes during the first quarter at Empower Field At Mile High on September 11, 2021 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images)

The Browns are possibly losing safety Ronnie Harrison, and will need a replacement. Richard LeCounte didn’t significantly contribute as a rookie. Grant Delpit will return for his third season (second healthy) as will John Johnson III. Versatile safeties will be important for the defense.


Leon O’Neal Jr.: Texas A&M, 6002, 211lbs
Jalen Pitre: Baylor, 5106, 196lbs
Verone McKinley*: Oregon, 5110, 194lbs

Verone McKinley had a lot of ball production this year at Oregon. He was a late addition to the Senior Bowl roster. Jalen Pitre has been a standout at the practices. Leon O’Neal Jr is one of my personal favorites at safety. He can be an instant replacement for Ronnie Harrison, and is good coming up towards the line in shallow zones.


For More Senior Bowl Content Check Out These Articles:

Follow us on Twitter: @danielrgarrett, @browns_atb, @draftrite_atb

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Key offensive recruits for the Texas Longhorns in the 2023 cycle.

Introduction:

With the 2022 class coming to a close, the Horns locked down the number five class in the nation. The 2023 recruiting cycle is now under way and what better way to kick it off than to take a look at the key offensive recruits the Texas Longhorns should focus on. In this piece I will be choosing one to two players from each position and going in depth about what they mean and what I see on film.

If you have not read my first article talking about the impact of the 2022 class on the 2023 class, start HERE.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

NOTE TO THE READER: I tried to get videos of each player in the article, however, if I cannot find one I will link their 24/7 profile to their underlined name.

Quarterback:

The key piece to this class will rest on the shoulders of Arch Manning (Isodore Newman, LA). Manning being the number one overall recruit in the 2023 cycle is going to be instrumental in building the future of the program. Arch has mentioned Texas and the future move to the SEC may be what pushes us to the front of the pack.

Running Backs:

Reuben Owens (El Campo, TX). Owens has been high on Texas for what feels like 2 years now. Owens can beat you with speed or power in the hole, and is a great asset in the passing game as well. The physical back from south Texas has great potential and is a guy that can make a huge splash in the class.

Dalton Brooks (Shiner, TX) is another guy that can be big for the class. The ATH from small-town Shiner, Texas is also a defensive lineman. Brooks is one of the most punishing runners in the nation and could line up on either side of the ball in college. Brooks is very patient to start but once he finds an opening, he is able to kick into another gear and pull away from opposing defenders.

Wide Recievers:

Johntay Cook (De Soto, TX) is a big time playmaker out wide or in the slot, and would be a fantastic target from the get-go. The WR has great speed and hands but can also beat you with his route running and head fakes. He is a threat at all levels of the field. He also knows how to successfully high-point the ball which will make him a threat in the red-zone as well.

Jaden Greathouse (Westlake, TX) is another reciever the Horns could immediately utilize in the passing game. The 6’3″ target has fantastic hands and wins off the line with both speed and physicality. He is someone who will have a lot of influence in the class with him being from Austin. Look for Greathouse to start narrowing down schools in the coming months.

Tight End:

Will Randle (Isodore Newman, LA) is a guy that I chose due to his connection with Arch Manning. He is currently projected to attend LSU, but he and Arch Manning have grown up together and both of them coming to Texas could be a big-time chemistry boost for the offense. We also know how Coach Sarkisian likes to utilize the tight ends. He isn’t as polished as Lafayette Kaiuwai but he can be just as dangerous.

Offensive Tackles:

Two tackles in this class really stand out to me as far as the guys we have offered. Olaus Alinen (Loomis Chaffee, CT) is a big left tackle with a high motor and eyes in the back of his head. Additionally, his IQ is through the roof and his physical attributes give him a high ceiling for potential growth. Texas is in his top 4 so be on the lookout for a verbal this summer. He would fit in really well with Banks and Campbell and is a great asset in both the rushing and passing game.

Another tackle prospect is Isaiah Robinson (Lamar, TX). The 6’7″ Tackle prospect is strong and he knows it. He often overpowers the defensive linemen from the start and ends up driving them to the second level of the defense. Robinson shows great potential in the pass game and shows great skill in the run game. He is even more dangerous when in motion and if used correctly, will lead to big runs down field.

Inside Offensive Line:

Harris Sewell (Permian, TX) is a big time guard/Center in the 2023 class. He has great size and speed that makes him very difficult to get around. His film shows great success in the run game as both a guard and a center and could be just what the horns need to boost the line play. The top 70 recruit has offers from Texas, Texas A&M, Alabama and more are on the way. I wouldn’t expect him to make a decision anytime soon, but keep an eye on him.

Conclusion:

The 2023 Recruiting class is only going to build off of the momentum of the 2022 class. Make sure to follow for more 2023 class inside looks and targets. The defensive side of the ball is coming soon.

———————————

Longhorn Nation should also be excited that @longhorns_atb is starting a podcast! Follow all of us on Twitter to make sure you don’t miss it: @ryanmcaloon@michalfarber_@tn_longhorn, @Sam_WaltonFB.

We also now have Around The Block — Longhorns merch! Check it all out here and support your favorite small business, us!

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Making sense of the Jim Harbaugh to the Miami Dolphins rumors

There’s buzz that Jim Harbaugh is connected to the Miami Dolphins Head Coaching opening. Hussam Patel updates the recent reports.

Yesterday, my colleague Tyler DeSena wrote a column about Michigan Head Coach Jim Harbaugh being a potential Dark Horse Candidate in the Miami Dolphins Head Coaching search.

As reported, Harbaugh had an interview scheduled with the Minnesota Vikings.

Per sources, Harbaugh is potentially mulling NFL offers.

While it is not shocking, Harbaugh is considering coming back to the league there are several factors into play.

Money not the primary factor but talks

Money is not the main issue in this situation, Michigan is offering plenty of resources at Harbaugh’s disposal.

A world class facility, complex and stadium to capture the best recruits. While potentially getting a blank check from the University itself.

When the University asked coach Jim Harbaugh to take a pay cut to return this past offseason, he did not flinch.

Harbaugh described it as “no big deal” to the request. His base salary was cut from $8 million to $4 million as part of a four year extension; however, it is maximized with incentives.

“Attacking each day with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind, as always. It didn’t really mean anything to me. It’s just money.”

Michigan Head Coach Jim Harbaugh

In turn, Harbaugh finally beat Ohio State, won the BIG 10 Championship game and an appearance in the College Football Playoffs.

Unfinished Business

Jim Harbaugh lost in the Super Bowl as the Head Coach of the San Francisco 49ers to the Baltimore Ravens, against his brother John Harbaugh, 34-31.

If Jim Harbaugh has a chance at something and can not accomplish it, it will motivate him to reach it. It’s exactly what he did to finally beat Ohio State. The potential to get a Super Bowl victory could mean a chance at redemption.

The NFL is just better than College. Little recruiting is done compared to the NFL with better say in who will be in the organization. Along with the new NIL deals and rules in place, there are no worries about potential players transferring out of programs.

A roster full of talent, along with full control of decision making is enticing to any potential NFL Head Coach.

Rumor Mill updates

Per source, there is a Wolverines team meeting this morning; however, it is not anything related to do with Harbaugh or any contract negotiations. It’s business as usual for the Wolverines as Spring Conditioning will take shape soon.

The buzz around Harbaugh to Miami is not gaining much traction around Ann Arbor. It is speculated in coming from the NFL side and to leverage Harbaugh’s negotiations in a new contract extension.

Per source, Harbaugh is considered to be in the mix of the Vikings job and has conveyed interest.

What it means

Mighigan

For Michigan, it says that Harbaugh has done the most what he could do at Michigan. While it may be hard for a lot of Michigan fans to realize is that if not given what he wants the potential is there for him to leave campus.

He beat Ohio State, won a BIG 10 Title, and made the playoffs in one season. No one is winning a national title at Michigan, especially with how powerful SEC schools have become and rival Ohio State with more resources at their disposal.

The salary range for College coaches are rising.  Currently, Michigan State’s Mel Tucker and Penn State’s James Franklin have lucrative contracts. Tucker’s deal is approximated at $9.5 million per year for 10 years, while Franklin has a 10-year contract worth a minimum of $70 million and potentially $10 million more.

LSU lured Brian Kelly out of Notre Dame similar to what Tucker is receiving and USC swooped Lincoln Riley away from Oklahoma with a $110 million contract.

Money might not be the primary motivator, but it talks. At this point, its either Michigan or Minnesota.

Miami

As for the Miami Dolphins, owner Stephen Ross has claimed that he will not be the one to take Harbaugh away from Michigan. Ross, an alum from Michigan, is a prominent donor to the University.

There have been reports about Harbaugh to Miami, but it’s all about connections and Ross has gone after Harbaugh before.

There has not been any official word on Harbaugh interviewing with the Dolphins organization and directly contradicts what Ross has told the media.

This morning on Peter King’s Football in America column:

“Heard some cryptic things about the Michigan coach over the weekend, including that he’s not likely to get the Vikings job and yet one other job is in play. Not sure which that would be. Would Shad Khan take another shot at a famous college coach? Can’t imagine. Houston? Miami? Steven Ross? No! Who knows. I hear a lot of weird things this time of year”

As of now the main candidate in play for the Miami Dolphins Head Coaching gig is favored to be 49ers Offensive Coordinator Mike McDaniel. McDaniel is scheduled to interview today.

The other candidates include Rams RB and Assistant HC Thomas Brown and Cowboys OC Kellen Moore.

The Dolphins Head Coaching search is a situation to be worth monitoring.

Follow Hussam Patel on Twitter

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Where do the Patriots fit in a crowded AFC?

While the Patriots may have the future figured out on offense, they aren’t going anywhere until they figure out the Josh Allen problem.

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND – NOVEMBER 03: Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots reacts against the Baltimore Ravens during the fourth quarter at M&T Bank Stadium on November 3, 2019 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)

At first glance, discussing the New England Patriots and their offseason plans aren’t relevant at this point. The Bengals and Chiefs will face off this Sunday in the AFC Championship Game. Before that, the Chiefs and Bills treated us to an all-time shoot out in the divisional round. All three teams feature prolific young passers and a group of stud pass catchers. Only the Bills featured a defense ranked in the top 5 by Pro Football Reference. The days of defenses winning championships may well be over.

So where do the Patriots fit into this future of the conference?

They too feature a young passer, albeit not in the same echelon of Burrow, Mahomes, Herbert, and Allen. Lamar Jackson had a down year but still would be a tier above Mac in a quarterback rankings.

The Patriots got solid quarterback play from their rookie but Mac faded down the stretch, stringing together subpar performances as the Patriots championship aspiration dwindled.

Watching the Chiefs and Bills go back and forth Sunday Night it was obvious that the AFC has transformed into an arms race, where the most potent offenses will succeed.

Belichick has only a few times loaded up on the offensive side of the ball during his tenure in New England. And even in those years he coupled splashy offseason moves on the offensive side with an already stout, veteran-laden defense.

2021 Patriots were good, just not good enough

The 2021 Patriots featured the splashy offseason additions on the offensive side of the ball and a veteran-laden defense, albeit with a couple newcomers on that side too. Despite the poor taste left from the dismantling at the hands of the Bills, the Patriots defense was one of the best in the league in 2021. But therein lies the problem. What does the second ranked defense get the team if it can’t stop a runny nose when it plays the Buffalo Bills?

Belichick has specific physical profiles for every position in defense, whether it be from physical measurables or agility drill times; his defensive players fit a mold.

The linebackers are big bodied thumpers. The defensive line is often stout forward players who are difficult to push backwards. The defensive backs often have top three cone drill times while his boundary guys are preferred to big taller press corners. Only at the safety position has Belichick led the transition to the hybrid types.

Patrick Chung was the first linebacker-safety hybrid but even he failed spectacularly in his first stint with the Patriots.

Against the Bills, the defense looked slow. Forget old. Even the young guys couldn’t keep up with the Allen led attack. The Pats were gashed routinely by the speed and short area quickness of the Bills skill guys.

That doesn’t include the absolute clinic put on by Josh Allen. Allen looked like the older brother who finally relented and let the younger brother and his friends play. Then the older brother showed no mercy for a physically inferior opponent.

Allen was on a different physical level and against the Patriots defense, having been unstoppable for nine straight quarters. While the Patriots may have the future figured out on offense, they aren’t going anywhere until they figure out the Josh Allen problem.

Offseason Plans

That problem will be addressed this offseason. With their current salary cap situation, they will have to choose between adding further to the offense or completely retooling the defense.

The Chiefs just beat the Bills by outscoring them. There was no stopping either offense. The only hope was to have more points than the opposition at the final whistle. That is not typically how the Patriots build their teams. They want an edge in all three phases.

The Pats could add a Davante Adams. A Chris Godwin. They could trade for Calvin Ridley. See if Michael Thomas can be had for relatively cheap. They can add to the offense, one that already features an impressive running game, and try to outscore the upper tier of AFC teams next year.

Or they can retool the defense. Focusing on smaller, faster athletic types to keep pace with the “small ball” trend in the NFL.

The Dont’a Hightower’s of the NFL world may be a dying breed. A dinosaur in a modern game. Sideline to sideline backers is the future of the game. The Deion Jones’. The Darius Leonard’s. Problem is these types of guys don’t grow on trees. The only slightly comparable veteran available in free agency may be Leighton Vander Esch. He of the full-length novel injury history. Nakobe Dean is an uber talented speedster coming out of Georgia, but any draft pick comes as a gamble in and of itself.

What does the crystal ball say?

It is increasingly unlikely the Pats pursue the number one receiver route. They are married to their free agent crop from a year ago. Agholor has a $15 million cap hit in 2022. Bourne still has two years left on his deal and is extremely affordable ($5 million per year).

The Patriots also spent at tight end. Hunter Henry has a cap hit of $6.88 million in 2022. Jonnu Smith has a $13.75 million cap hit in 2022. Smith is signed for three more years, Henry for two. The Pats aren’t moving on from either.

Smith had a disappointing year in his first in New England. Going forward, I’d expect the Patriots to try to incorporate Smith into their attack much more heavily next year before adding more to this offensive cast. They gave him all that money for a reason and hopefully that reason becomes apparent next season.

That leads to the Patriots upgrading the defense. The crop of free agent defenders features many aging veteran pass rushers and a handful of quality safeties. The Pats don’t NEED a safety as Kyle Dugger and Adrian Phillips are under team control for the foreseeable future. If McCourty hangs it up, the team could kick some tires but it won’t be a splash move.

Upgrading the front seven will be the priority. Matt Judon started on a tear but completely fell off after the bye week. Barmore appears to be the future in the interior of the defensive line. The Pats are in a mess of their own creation. Promising young players such as Josh Uche, Joejuan Williams, and Chase Winovich both hardly saw the field this season. Third round rookie Ronnie Perkins was never active on game day. Maybe they all blossom into full time impact players going forward, but there’s probably a reason they haven’t seen the field much.

The Pats are in a hole of their own creation by missing on a number of their early draft picks in recent years. Now they are faced with a near impossible task of upgrading several positions with limited cap space. Teams have been able to take advantage of rookie QB’s contract situations. The Patriots will need to get creative to do so.

Follow Colby Fauser on Twitter

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The Texas 2022 Class And The Effect On The Longhorns 2023 Targets

This past weekend the Texas Longhorns hosted a “Junior Elite Day” for their 2023 targets. Why would these elite prospects choose the Horns over teams like Oklahoma, Alabama, and LSU? The answer is simple — the 2022 recruiting class. Recruiting is all about momentum and Texas’ 5th ranked class is growing stronger by the day. In an attempt to carry the momentum into the 2023 cycle the Longhorns offered eight underclassmen.

Underclassmen

The Longhorns 2023 targets offered last weekend included: Ian Reed (OL, Austin Vandergrift), Kyle Parker (WR, Lucas Lovejoy), Jaren Woods (OL, La Grange), Ansel Nedore (DL, Round Rock), Tyler Turner (DB, SA Brennan, currently a verbal commit to Baylor), Colton Vasek (DE, Westlake), Braylan Shelby (DE, Friendswood), and Cameron Cook (RB, Round Rock Stony Point).

Every Longhorn 2023 Target can be found HERE.

Photo courtesy of @TexasRecruiting on Twitter

Current Influences

Derrick Brown (2022 LB, Texarkana) has been an important factor in this year’s recruiting class and that doesn’t seem to be changing in the upcoming cycle. Brown is always in the replies of the Longhorns targets and with him being on campus, it will end up making an important mark on the underclassmen. He seems to be in the ear of any potential longhorn, especially on Twitter. Brown was influential in the recruitment of Kelvin Banks, Terrance Brooks, Bryan Allen Jr., Justice Finkley, and J’mond Tapp. Brown seems to be a great locker room leader and someone that can have an impact recruiting for his tenure on the Forty Acres.

Staff Influence

I also like to consider any new coaches part of the signing class. With that said the addition of Gary Patterson (Special Assistant to the Head Coach), Tashard Choice (Runningback Coach), and Brennan Marion (Wide Receiver Coach) will also be an instrumental part in the upcoming class. These additions are already making an impact. Specifically Marrion and Patterson with the underclassmen. Patterson was included in most of the recruits’ tweets and pictures from this past weekend.

The 2022 class will also be the best pitch since this is Sarkisian’s first full recruiting class at the helm. The talent of this class (especially with players from the portal) is already drawing attention to the next generation of Horns. How this class develops both in the locker room and on the field will be important in how recruits see the program trending in a short amount of time. That all started with the underclassmen weekend the Texas staff hosted this past week.

Momentum is one of the most important things in recruiting and with guys like Brown, Finkley, Neyor, Billingsley, and Quinn Ewers the Horns are already hot on the trail for guys who want to play with the best. Combine that with a good season and we will be in a fantastic spot when early signing day comes back around in December of 2022.

Conclusion

All and all the 2022 class will make the biggest impact on the Longhorns 2023 targets from a point of culture and expectations. The first major pitch will come at the hands of the spring game and national signing day on February third. Be on the lookout for upcoming offers and you will see firsthand who is in the replies before any fans, family members, or friends of the recruits!

Be sure to give us a follow us on Twitter here and check out our most recent articles below. As well as Episode 3 of “Around The Horns” here.

BIG News Coming On Sunday For The Texas Longhorns?

and

Breaking News: Texas hires Gary Patterson to staff

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2022 Atlanta Falcons Offseason: Breaking Down the Cornerback Situation

Cornerback could be a strength for the Falcons in 2022. The Falcons have one of the best corners in the NFL in A.J. Terrell to build around.

Atlanta Falcons cornerback A.J. Terrell
Photo Credit: Dale Zanine / USA Today

Cornerback could be a strength for the Atlanta Falcons in 2022. The Falcons have one of the best corners in the NFL in A.J. Terrell to build around, but outside of him, there are some solid corners who can be solid role players within the coverage schemes Dean Pees deploys. The big focus for the Falcons will be trying to increase the length at the position and trying to see if they can continue to get more solid man coverage cornerbacks for the roster.

Atlanta Falcons Cornerbacks Under Contract:

CB A.J. Terrell: 2 years, $8.453 million left on his contract and a potential fifth year option

CB Kendall Sheffield: 1 year, $2.73 million left on his contract

RS/CB Avery Williams: 3 years, $3.0 million left on his contract

CB Darren Hall: 3 years, $3.424 million left on his contract

CB Cornell Armstrong: 1 year, $965,000 left on his contract

DB/CB Lafayette Pitts: 1 year, $1.035 million left on his contract

CB Corey Ballentine: 1 year, $895,000 left on his contract

CB Dee Alford: 1 year, $705,000 left on his contract

The Atlanta Falcons have a lot of talent locked in cheaply at cornerback for the 2022 season. This includes the Falcons No. 1 corner A.J. Terrell. The PFF All-Pro is arguably the best cover corner in the NFL. Darren Hall and Avery Williams are great fits for the Pees scheme.

Cornell Armstrong, Lafayette Pitts, and Dee Alford were all futures contracts who can compete for roster spots that fit into the scheme. Corey Ballentine is a former starter for the Giants who can potentially be that Fabian Moreau in 2022 for Atlanta.

Unrestricted Free Agents:

CB Fabian Moreau

CB Isaiah Oliver

Both of these cornerbacks should be brought back for different reasons. Fabian Moreau should be a cheap option who could continue to compete for depth with the Falcons even if he misses out on the starting role. Isaiah Oliver was Dean Pees preferred nickel back before the Falcons lost him due to injury. If they can bring him back on a prove-it type deal for a year and he stays healthy, it would give the Falcons someone who could really elevate the defense in 2022.

Current Need

The Atlanta Falcons have a solid need for a second cornerback even if the Falcons re-sign Fabian Moreau. Potential options for the Falcons in free agency are guys like Jason Verrett, Casey Heyward, and for a more long-term option Carlton Davis. These are all talented starting options, but they could end up being just out of the price range. Depending on overall cost, the Falcons should at least consider all three of these options.

Potential Future Need

The long-term need for a cornerback across from A.J. Terrell is there. However, the team could see it as filled if Darren Hall or Avery Williams drastically improve their coverage abilities. That’s unlikely, but the team could end up liking the idea of having Isaiah Oliver come back for a year and then seeing what they have. However, they could also see someone like Sauce Gardner or Coby Bryant or Andrew Booth as their future starter across from Terrell long term.

What the Atlanta Falcons Plan at Cornerback Should Be Moving Forward

There’s a lot of potential on this unit. However, moving forward, the Falcons should cut Kendall Sheffield for the cap space it would bring. After that, considering a free agent for around the same money Sheffield was going to make is an avenue to consider. If they can’t get one of those, drafting someone at any point in the draft to compete with Darren Hall and Avery Williams at right cornerback is the move to make. At nickel, bringing back Isaiah Oliver is the move.

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Football Super Team: A Football Team From Other Sports’ Athletes

Welcome to the Twilight Zone. In this article I will be pulling athletes from every sport possible to construct a “football super team”.

The goal of this is simple — to have fun. So please leave a comment below and let’s see who would be on your football super team! Grab yourself your favorite beer, cocktail, or a cup of coffee and let’s run through this squad!

Offense

Quarterback

Starter: Joe Mauer, Baseball Player

Joe Mauer may have been the easiest name to pencil in. Mauer was a five-star quarterback coming out of highschool. He had a legitimate chance to be the starting quarterback for the Florida State Seminoles.

Instead, he opted to enter the MLB draft. Not a bad choice at all as he went number one overall and went on to have a hall of fame career in the MLB.

Backup: Jason Kidd, Basketball Player

I could not find anything about Jason Kidd playing football. However, at 6’4” and 215 pounds, he has the frame of a quarterback. Add in his athleticism and vision as a passer on the hardwood and there is a strong chance he turns into a great quarterback.

Playing quarterback isn’t just about height, weight, talent and athleticism though. Jason Kidd is a clear leader, highlighted by become a coach after his hall of fame NBA career was over.

Running Backs

The tandem of Zion Williamson and Russell Westbrook would work well as a classic thunder and lightning duo.

Zion Williamson, Basketball Player

Zion might be a biscuit away from transitioning to the offensive line, but for now he provides enough strength and speed to scare anyone on defense with the ball in his hands and a head of steam.

Williamson would also serve as the fullback and spend time at tight end as well. At 6’6” and 290 pounds, Williamson will move around this offense often. With that size he could develop into a phenomenal blocker.

Russell Westbrook, Basketball Player

Russell Westbrook is one of the most explosive athletes in the NBA. With his competitive mindset and speed, teams would have trouble bringing him down with just one tackler.

Dwayne Wade, Basketball Player

Dwayne Wade would likely come in on third and long situations to provide a pass catching threat out of the backfield. With his speed and quickness he would be a threat to take anything to the house.

Wide Receivers

Experience, speed, quickness, and size. This wide receiver room has absolutely everything an offense could want.

Jeff Samardzija, Baseball Player

Jeff Samardzija was once Notre Dame’s leading receiver two seasons in a row. Accumulating 2,266 receiving yards and 27 touchdowns his final two seasons in South Bend.

Usain Bolt, Olympic Athlete

Usain Bolt’s speed is obvious. His size — 6’5” 205 pounds — is also exciting. He may need to be coached up on the nuances of route running, but he brings dynamic size and speed immediately.

Mookie Betts, Baseball Player

Perhaps under the radar, Mookie Betts is one of the most athletic stars on this list. Mookie is a legitimate professional bowler as well. While competing in the Professional Bowlers Association World Series, Betts bowled a perfect game in 2017.

However, Betts’ bowling prowess is not the reason he is on this lineup. Mookie is a gold glove outfielder in the MLB, showing off incredible ball tracking skills that are valuable for a wide receiver. His second best position is second base, where he displays incredible reaction time and quickness to field ground balls. Those skills would show up every play as a slot receiver.

Kevin Durant, Basketball Player

Kevin Durant is an elite scorer, maybe the best in NBA history. His size — 7’0” and 240 pounds (although there is plenty of debate on his actual measurements) — would provide this team with an almost un-guard-able goal line option. Making him potentially an elite scorer in two sports.

Tight Ends

Giannis Antetokoumpo, Basketball Player

Serving as the same goal line option as Kevin Durant, Giannis gives this team similar size at 6’11” and 250 pounds. However, “The Greek Freak” might bring a slightly nastier streak as a blocker.

Dave Bautista, Wrestler

Our first WWE superstar is here. Some might bash the inclusion of — earmuffs for all 10 year olds reading this — “fake wrestlers”, but they have every right to be on this football super team.

Standing at 6’4” and weighing 280 pounds, Bautista possess enough athleticism for his size to be a weapon as a blocker and still be sufficient as a pass catcher. “The Animal” would be moved around all over the offensive formation to utilize his size and speed as a downhill blocker most often. He would serve as the back-up to Giannis and Zion.

Offensive Line

A football super team is incredibly hard to make inside the trenches. Most big, strong, athletic freaks are currently in the NFL.

Left Tackle: CC Sabathia, Baseball Player
Left Guard: Bartolo Colón, Baseball Player

The left side of this offensive line is featuring two of baseballs biggest pitchers. Not only in name — as Sabathia checks in at 6’6” and 300 pound and Colón at 5’11” and 285 pounds.

Center: Pablo Sandoval, Baseball Player

Pablo Sandoval is easily the smallest lineman on this team. At 5’10” and 270 pounds, “Kung Fu Panda” should be able to use his surprising agility and awareness to be a solid offensive center.

Right Guard: Mark Henry, Wrestler
Right Tackle: The Big Show (Paul Wight), Wrestler

The world’s largest tag team is back. Mark Henry and The Big Show are no strangers to working together, as they were a tag team duo in the WWE from 2013-2014.

The right side of this offensive line would be a terror to go against. Henry at 6’4” and 440 pounds and Wight at 7’0” and 420 pounds, would be absolute maulers as offensive linemen. Paving huge runways for the rest of this football super team.

Defense

Defensive Linemen

Prince Fielder, Baseball Player

Prince Fielder is another big boy in baseball. At 5’11” and 275 pounds, he would work as this football super team’s nose tackle and space-eater along the defensive line.

Charles Barkley, Basketball Player
PJ Tucker, Basketball Player
Dwight Howard, Basketball Player

This trio of basketball players will fill out the defensive line rotation, playing anything from the 3-tech to the 7-tech. All three have exceptional instincts and ability to bat down passes at the line of scrimmage.

Edge Rushers

Lebron James, Basketball Player

One of the most physically gifted athletes of all-time. Most people would simply slot “The King” into his highschool position, tight end and call it a day.

At edge rusher, Lebron has a much better chance at making an impact on every single play. Standing 6’9”and weighing 250 pounds, James in his prime would glide up and down the court as if he was 6’2” and 190 pounds.

Muhammad Ali, Boxer

Muhammad Ali would be an absolute nightmare for offensive lines and quarterbacks. At 6’3” and 215 pounds, Ali may look slightly undersized for an edge rusher. However, Ali’s violent hands, long arms, speed, and agility would be more than enough to stop offensive tackles from ever getting ahold of him.

Jon Jones, Mixed Martial Artist

Jon Jones is an incredibly talented mixed martial artist. At 6’4” and 210 pounds, Jones is another “small” edge rusher. Similar to Muhammad Ali, Jones would rely on technical skills and agility to win on the edge rather than pure strength.

Jon “Bones” Jones is the brother of Arizona Cardinals star edge rusher Chandler Jones. That relationship made slotting in “Bones” Jones at edge rusher a no-brainer.

Linebackers

Barry Bonds, Baseball Player

Barry Bonds might be the most hated athlete on this list. He’s also one of the biggest freaks. At 6’2” and 230 pounds. Barry Bonds would be able to run with any tight end in the NFL while having the size and strength to be a contributor in the running game.

Playing the weak-side linebacker spot, Bonds’ main duty would be to eliminate tight ends and runningbacks in the passing game.

John Cena, Wrestler

John Cena would fit in perfectly as this football super team’s captain on defense. Playing middle linebacker, John Cena would be in-charge of all checks, audibles, and keys.

Cena would back a punch as a hitter, at 6’1” and 250 pounds. His “You can’t see me” motto would also be a nice bonus for a middle of the field defender in pass coverage, Jamies Winston has been warned.

Mike Tyson, Boxer

Mike Tyson was one of the most dominant boxers of all-time. Standing at 5’10” and weighing 220 pounds, Tyson may be under-sized. What he lacks in height and mass, he makes up for with his insane mentality.

Penciling Tyson in as this team’s strong-side linebacker was a no brainer. He would be regarded as one of the hardest hitters on this team, with no regard for the safety of himself or others.

Cornerbacks

Michael Jordan, Basketball Player

The G.O.A.T., Michael Jordan is the perfect athlete to slot in as a cornerback. At 6’6” and 215 pounds, he would be the biggest cornerback in the NFL by a large margin.

Jordan’s ability to match ball handlers step for step on the hardwood would transition nicely to the gridiron when covering wide receivers.

Jordan’s killer instinct and overall mentality of hating to lose is exactly what cornerbacks mentality needs to be to survive on the outside.

Kobe Bryant, Basketball Player

Kobe Bryant is another legend. He is constantly compared to Michael Jordan as a basketball player, so it’s common sense to make him Jordan’s teammate in the secondary.

Everything said about Michael Jordan and his fit as a cornerback is exactly the same for Kobe Bryant.

This duo would play plenty of press-man coverage. Jamming wide receivers at the line of scrimmage and disrupting the timing of every pass.

Allen Iverson, Basketball Player

Allen Iverson’s highschool highlight tape is absolutely incredible to watch, check that out here. He was a quarterback at Bethel Highschool in Hampton, Virginia. However, Iverson is a pure playmaker. Where ever he is on the field he will be electric.

Someone with Allen Iverson’s level swagger and extreme confidence is a must in any secondary. He would have free reign as a nickel corner to freelance at times and make big time plays. While also possessing the athleticism to stay with just about any wide receiver lined up across from him.

Kamaru Usman, Mixed Martial Artist

Another mixed martial artist on this football super team. Kamaru Usman would provide some needed physicality to this secondary. At 6’0” and 170 pounds, Usman’s role would be near the line of scrimmage as a corner-safety hybrid.

Usman’s background as a wrestler would help immensely when shedding blocks and making tackles in the run game.

Safeties

Mike Trout, Baseball Player

Built similarly to Barry Bonds, Mike Trout is listed at 6’2” and 235 pounds. Trout’s elite range and size gives him the ability to be versatile in the secondary.

Trout’s ability to be a force in the box at his size while also being able to drop deep and play the middle of the field is the perfect blend of athleticism and size for a safety.

Ken Griffey jr., Baseball Player

Ken Griffey jr. is regarded as one of the most iconic baseball players of all-time. He brought a unique swagger to a baseball diamond not many other players have. His swagger and confidence are only the icing on the cake though.

“The Kid” is also known as one of the greatest outfielders of all-time, winning ten gold gloves in his MLB career. At 6’3” and 200 pounds, Griffey would play a true high-safety role as a coverage player.

Special Teams

Place Kicker: Lionel Messi
Punter: Pelé

Two of the greatest soccer players of all-time as this football super team’s kicker and punter, seems logical enough.

Lionel Messi and Pelé both are clearly athletic enough to make plays on fake punts and kicks as well. Using their incredible speed to get to the edge and pick up first downs on trick plays.

Kick/Punt Returner: Derrick Rose, Basketball Player

One of the most explosive athletes since 2010. If not for injuries, Derrick Rose would be looked at as one of the greatest pure athletes of all-time. Rose was electric with the ball in his hands on a basketball court, that would transition nicely to a football field in open space.

Conclusion

This was one of the most fun articles I’ve ever done. Going back and watching some of these incredible athletes play highschool football was a joy. With that being said, I’d love to see what team you would put together. Comment below who would be on your squad or tweet at me @ryanmcaloon!


Featured

Zach Thomas: The Case for the Hall of Fame

The NFL Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony took place this weekend, and Zach Thomas wasn’t there (again). At this point, it seems like a recurring motif.

Miami Dolphins linebacker Zach Thomas deserves Hall of Fame honors
Credit: The Phinsider

Every August, we see posts explaining why Zach Thomas should be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and then the chatter ends. Then, the next year’s finalists are announced and everyone makes their case for Thomas again.

The same thing happens every year; but, hopefully, that changes next year.

Zach Thomas’ Hall Of Fame Endorsements

On Saturday night, now Hall of Fame coach Jimmy Johnson made sure to let everyone know his thoughts on Thomas. Johnson said “Zach Thomas belongs up here” as he talked about his defense that led the Miami league.

Jimmy Johnson is now the 2nd Hall of Fame inductee to emphasize that Zach Thomas needs to be in the HOF. In 2019, former New York Jets OL, Kevin Mawae said Zach Thomas should be in the HOF.

The Numbers

Thomas was drafted in 1996 and spent 12 seasons with the Dolphins, before spending his last season with the Cowboys. He retired after his 13th season.

Thomas intercepted 17 passes and returned 4 of them for touchdowns. He also forced 16 fumbles. Although the turnover numbers aren’t eye-grabbing, offenses could never be too cautious with the ball around Thomas. With 33 forced turnovers, he is tied with LB Brian Urlacher, who has been in the HOF for 3 years. 

Thomas racked up 1,100 solo tackles and 627 assists through his 13-year career. For comparison, Urlacher and Junior Seau had less tackles. Both are in the Hall of Fame. As a matter of fact, he led the Miami Dolphins in tackles 10 out of his 12 seasons in South Florida. The tackling machine ranks 5th all-time on the tackling list.

It is crucial to note that all 4 players ahead of Thomas on that list played significantly more games than Thomas.

Zach Thomas also had 5 first team all-pro selections and 2 second team all-pro selections. Additionally, he was voted into 7 Pro Bowls.

Clearly, Zach Thomas has the stats to be in the Hall of Fame. From tackles to forcing turnovers, Thomas wreaked havoc wherever he was on the field. 

Leadership

Aside from the numbers, Thomas was a hell of a leader and football mind. He took blame for every Dolphins loss. Thomas was often the first one in the facility and the last one out. During Kevin Mawae’s enshrinement speech, he said Thomas was “one of the smartest, if not the smartest” defender he had ever faced.

On Sunday, Peyton Manning was inducted into the Hall of Fame. Most people consider Manning a top-3 QB of all-time. Whenever Peyton Manning discusses players who posed the greatest challenge, he always mentioned Zach Thomas

According to Manning, Thomas was able to call out the Colts offensive plays.

He was the quarterback of the Miami defense for 12 years, and caused opposing quarterbacks and offensive coordinators to lose sleep.

Why Zach Thomas isn’t in the HOF yet is, quite literally, unanswerable. He started all but 2 games in his career and has the numbers to compete with other HOF LBs. Thomas averaged almost 10 tackles per game, and was one of the smartest LBs to play the game. He’s been endorsed by two Hall of Famers during their enshrinement speeches and called on of the greats by Peyton Manning.

The difference for Thomas may be that the Dolphins didn’t have real success as a team during his time in Miami. Whatever the reason may be, we won’t ever know. However, at this point, it’s laughable that Zach Thomas doesn’t have his own gold jacket. 

Thomas has been a finalist two years in a row now. He is bound to get in at some point, right? Dolphins Fans all over the world(literally) will have to wait and see if Thomas is on the stage unveiling his bust next August.

Follow Rishi Desai on Twitter.

Featured

Miami Dolphins Playoff Chances

The Dolphins have won their last five games. What remains to be seen will be a hope for a playoff push. @rishidesa1 show how they can get there.

miami dolphin playoff chances
Credit: PhinPhanatic

If you told me in August that the Miami Dolphins would start the season 1-7, I would’ve told you that you’re crazy. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened. At 1-7, if you told me the Dolphins would win five straight, get to 6-7, and have a chance to win-out and make the playoffs, I would’ve called you a lot more things than just “crazy.”

However, that is exactly the point we have reached. The Dolphins have won five games in a row, the defense looks elite, and Tua and the offense are slowly finding a rhythm. Can the once 1-7 Miami Dolphins make the playoffs and what are the Miami Dolphins playoff chances?

Dolphins Remaining Schedule

After their Week 14 bye, the Dolphins will have four games remaining. They host the Jets, visit the Saints, visit the Titans and former QB Ryan Tannehill, and lastly host OROY favorite Mac Jones and the Patriots in Week 18. Clearly, every game is very likely a must win game. 

New York Jets

The Dolphins have won four of their last five games versus the Jets, and most people expect them to make it five of six. Miami easily beat New York less than a month ago at MetLife Stadium and shouldn’t struggle too much with the 3-9 squad in a humid Hard Rock Stadium. 

Of course Miami’s bye week is seen as a chance to get healthy and have extra time to prepare for the Jets. However, it is also coming at a point in which Miami has won five straight games and a bye week could put a dagger in Miami’s momentum.

If the defense continues to perform at an elite level, beating a Jets team lead by rookie QB Zach Wilson shouldn’t be a problem.

New Orleans Saints

The New Orleans Saints have lost five straight games. They have uncertainty in their QB room as Trevor Siemian and Taysom Hill are both playing below average football, the wide receiver(WR) room is depleted, and overall seem to be struggling in the post Drew Brees era. 

The Saints will be a far tougher challenge than the Jets though. Compared to the Jets bottom tier defense, the Saints are a top-15 defense in the NFL. Miami’s offense, although performing a little better as of late, has been inconsistent. 

Even though Miami upset Baltimore in their last primetime game, the narrative that they do not perform well in primetime is still overshadowing the team. Going into a packed Caesars Superdome on primetime will be a tough challenge for Brian Flores’ young squad, but there’s no reason to believe they can’t win this game.

Tennessee Titans

The schedule gets harder by the week for Miami. In Week 17, Miami will travel to Tennessee to take on their former franchise QB, Ryan Tannehill. This game looks a lot less challenging now that RB Derrick Henry is dealing with a foot injury he suffered earlier in the year. 

The Titans started out 8-2 but have dropped two straight games in embarrassing fashion. They lost to the two-win Texans and were blown out by the Patriots. 

Regardless, they are still the No. 2 seed in the AFC, and a Mike Vrabel lead team can always pose a great challenge. 

Fortunately for Miami, the Titans offense has struggled, and the defense is once again having issues. 

The Titans have averaged just 16.3 points over their last three games, while Miami’s defense has returned to its elite form from 2020.

On the other side of the ball, the Titans defense has also struggled. Tennessee has allowed over 280 passing yards in two of their last three games to teams who haven’t had the most aggressive passing attacks in New England and New Orleans. In their last three games, they’ve allowed over 26 points per game. 

A struggling Tennessee defense will help Miami immensely as the offense needs all the assistance they can get. 

The weather will likely play a role in this game. For a team like Miami who is used to playing under the scorching sun year round, a game in Tennessee in the winter will not be easy. 

If things continue the way they have for both teams, the Dolphins should have a good chance of winning and keeping their playoff hopes alive.

New England Patriots

If all things go according to plan, this game will be the final factor in deciding Miami’s fate. 

The Patriots started 2-4 and are the only team hotter than the Dolphins right now. They’ve won seven straight games, lead the AFC East, and currently hold the first seed in the AFC.

The defense has turned it on and they look like a championship defense.

Offensively, they’ve looked very efficient and rookie Mac Jones has done what he’s been asked. The Patriots scored 36, 25, and 45 points in the three games before their Week 13 snow matchup versus Buffalo.

Miami will have a slight advantage as they always seem to have an edge versus the Patriots when playing at home. Miami is 6-2 in their last eight matchups versus New England in South Florida. 

Expect this to be a heavily defensive matchup with two head coaches who are known for torturing young quarterbacks. 

If Miami can methodically pick apart the New England defense one play at a time(as they did to the Panthers and Giants), and the defense continues their elite run, Miami should have a good chance to win this game.

Is there a chance Miami can lose a game and still make the postseason? Yes. However, that is very unlikely. Miami needs to win-out and hope for some help from other teams.

Teams Ahead Of Miami

If Miami wins out, it’s not guaranteed they make the postseason; but the odds are in their favor.

  • Chargers, 7-5: The Chargers have been inconsistent this season but hold the 5th seed. They have five games remaining and three of them are against potential playoff teams. 
  • Cincinnati, 7-5: The Bengals currently hold the 6th seed. Their remaining five games are all against teams who currently hold a playoff spot or are firmly in the hunt. They were just dominated by the Chargers and have a tough slate of games to finish the season. 
  • Buffalo, 7-5: Buffalo holds the last spot in the AFC playoff picture for now. Just a year removed from an AFC Championship game appearance, they find themselves facing slight uncertainty. Of their remaining five games, two are against current playoff teams(Tampa and New England). Two other teams are in the hunt.
  • Pittsburgh, 6-6-1: The Steelers were dominated last night versus the Vikings and it doesn’t get easier. They have arguably the hardest closing stretch of the teams in the hunt. They close the season against three division leaders and Cleveland.
  • Indianapolis, 7-6: The Colts have their bye week this week. After that, they have four games remaining. Two of those are against division leaders. Another is against Las Vegas who is still squarely in the hunt. It is important to note that the Colts own the head-to-head tiebreaker over Miami.
  • Las Vegas, 7-6: Like the Colts, the Raiders also own the head-to-head tiebreaker over Miami. Vegas ends their season with three divisional games, and every team they play is firmly in the hunt or currently holding a spot in the playoffs. They have a difficult schedule for a team that has been very inconsistent as of late.
  • Cleveland, 6-6: The Browns defense has been excellent this season, but their offense has held them back. The Browns finish their season with five straight potential playoff teams, similar to other teams in the hunt. If their offense continues to struggle, they may very well find themselves in a bad spot by Week 16.
  • Denver, 6-6: Denver hosts the one-win Lions in Week 14. Denver then faces three teams who are currently in the playoffs and Las Vegas, who is already ahead of them.

It seems very clear Miami has one of the more favorable closing schedules out of any team in the hunt. Most teams finish with four or five straight potential playoff teams. In Miami’s case, their schedule gets slightly harder each week, and they could be controlling their own destiny in Week 17.

Miami isn’t playing this week, but can make up serious ground on some of the teams above.

Tiebreakers

  • If Miami finishes with the same record as Buffalo, Buffalo will finish ahead of Miami as Buffalo owns the head-to-head tiebreaker this season 2-0.
  • Miami will also the head-to-head tiebreaker to Las Vegas due to their early season loss to the Raiders when Tua Tagovailoa was injured.
  • The Colts, currently one game ahead of Miami, also hold the head-to-head tiebreaker due to their win in Miami over Jacoby Brissett.
  • Miami does own the head-to-head breaker over Baltimore, but that won’t matter if the Ravens win the AFC North.
  • Miami will hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over New England assuming the Dolphins win out. However, like the Ravens, it won’t matter if New England wins the AFC East. 

The Dolphins currently have a 4-5 record in the AFC. Winning out will give them a 7-5 record in the AFC and may play a role in tiebreakers in Week 18.

Will This Matter?

There’s a chance none of this will matter by 4:00 PM on December 19th. If they lose to New York, the Miami Dolphins playoffs chances will take a serious hit. 

Miami has to take care of their business, go one week at a time, and win out. If they can do this, there’s a great chance they will be the first team to start 1-7 and make the postseason.

Follow Rishi Desai on Twitter.

Featured

Miami Dolphins Offense: The Pistol and the Motion

Riding a five game winning streak, the Dolphins implementation of the Pistol Wing formation may provide a clue on their offensive success.

miami dolphins offense
Nov 28, 2021; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1) directs his teammates against the Carolina Panthers during the fourth quarter at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Dolphins offense has had a bit of a resurgence lately thanks in part to continuity in players at quarterback, wide receiver and offensive line.

What’s been a facet for the offense of the Miami Dolphins success has been the implementation and use of the “Pistol Wing Formation”

What it is

The pistol formation, like the shotgun, is really an alignment between the quarterback and the running back. In the pistol formation, the quarterback lines up four or five yards behind the center, the running back lines up two or three yards behind the quarterback. In the shotgun formation , the quarterback lines up seven yards behind he center, and the running back lines up to the side of the quarterback.

The Pistol Formation comes with it’s advantages and disadvantages, lets take a brief look at them

Advantages

  • The Pistols main advantage is its versatility that comes from it’s hybrid design. Having the quarterback three to four yards deep allows him to make downfield reads and separate himself from the pass rush by a few yards.
  • It also has the running back five yards from the LOS and directly behind the quarterback to build momentum before getting the ball.
  • The Pistol formation supports Read Options. It can be a fully functional pass play, keeping the running back to pass block. It can also serve as a run play with power blocking and pulling guards
  • The real nightmare is the RPO. It’s entirely dependent on the quarterback to watch the defense and decide which play will have the most success.
  • Can create advantages in the play-action game. The pistol alignment represents a run-first perception, it makes the play-action pass that much more effective.

Disadvantages

  • It’s dependent on the quarterback to quickly decipher defenses and make smart decisions, it comes with a big learning curve. A wrong decision could prove disastrous.
  • Playing Man coverage takes away most of the passing game, leaving minute plays for offenses to employ
  • Offensive line blocking is dependent as the quarterback is closer to the LOS. OL blocking can make or break the offense

What it means

For any Offense which runs the Pistol, it means these things:

The best Pistol offenses are those that can implement aspects of a Spread Offense into their game plan, it requires a smart quarterback who can properly read defenses once the ball is snapped.

While the Pistol could be used just to run the ball, it’s at its best when each play is different than the last. As such, having a solid core of blockers, pass catchers and a good quarterback is necessary.

When running the ball out of the Pistol, teams run up the middle where there are a lot of defenders. Teams that are undersized along the offensive line aren’t built for this type of play.

The Miami Dolphins Offense

Over this current five game winning streak the Dolphins have primarily lined up in shotgun, which includes the pistol formation. Usually this formation includes the basic Pistol offense with a Wing look.

Other Pistol Formations | OptionFootball.net
A variation of the Pistol Formation

How it’s done

The Pistol usually has two to three players in the backfield, primarily as it is designed to be a run first offense.

However, with the wing formation, TE’s on the edges, force defenses to play at least three players deep.

While it may seem that the pistol is most effective on the dependence of the running game; paradoxically, it is dependent on the threat of a passing game.

The passing game is dependent on the quarterback moving the ball to and from the flow of attack. The best description may be the term of “sequence football”.

Basically, the offense runs in plays where it attacks different parts of the field once the ball is snapped. This does not mean that every play is called in order, it is mostly based on matchups and post snap reads.

Which is why you see plays that look and feel similar, but can attack different parts of the field. Similar to Sean McVay’s singleback look.

Backfield Motion

Passing Game

The main sequence the Miami Dolphins offense use is the backfield motion to create space and attack different facets of the field.

On the play above Wilson motions to the right side of the formation, this allows Tua to see the defense is in zone coverage.

Wilson runs the wheel route gaining depth into the defensive backfield. Waddle runs the curl, an intermediate route, attacking the soft zone in the middle. Meanwhile, Durham Smythe is jammed at the LOS running a short crossing route.

The biggest threat to the defense is Wilson gaining depth into the defensive backfield, which forces Giants defensive backs Xavier McKinney and Aaron Robinson to stay deep and prevent a big play.

In turn, this frees up the intermediate route Jaylen Waddle runs, he has enough space to catch the ball for a first down and keep the drive alive.

Running Game

The Dolphins also use the backfield motion concept to create space and attack different running lanes in the run game.

Using the motion while using the same type of blocking scheme. Usually Pistol offenses run with a power scheme along the offensive line. However, the Dolphins use a zone blocking scheme.

The sequence in how the run game can vary in playcalls but use the same blocking style. Run out wide, off tackle, and up the middle all use down blocks by most of the line with a pulling guard and blocking on the other side of the backfield.

This concept is used on the run above.

The counter play uses down blocks to build a wall of bodies away from the play and a pulling guard to kick out and head upfield to clear a running lane.

Albert Wilson motions and post snap so does the right side of the offensive line. The theory is that the flow of a play can take multiple blockers to the point of attack or be decoys while the running back is on the opposite end.

The execution on the play above illustrates how the theory is able to work. The blocking style is designed so when a defender reacts to blocks to stop a play, he will be placing himself in jeopardy for a companion play. Sounds familiar to the RPO. 

Multiple Threats

The Pistol offense is designed in complete backfield series, each of which presents multiple threats to the defense on each play.

Passing wise, the Dolphins run the Pistol Wing to put the perception that there are multiple deep receivers. Most of the time when it is ran, it is in a condensed look.

“When you condense the formation in general out of those RPO looks… it gives defenses more things to look at leading to conflict and hesitation on the eyes as there are a lot of motions, possible split zone action and a variety of different plays that can happen. For Tua he gets the options of the flat, the hook, the curl, the post, the handoff. There are so many different ways [Tua] can put the defense in conflict , when you condense that you increase the post snap reads”

Travis Wingfield

In the condensed Pistol Look, there can be many options, threats, Tua can look in his post snap reads.

For example, the stick flat RPO that is a staple in the offense. Based on the type of Coverage is shown once a play is motioned, the flat play to the tight end is an easy read against man coverage.

It has a balance of passing, which is predominantly play-action in nature. The RPO adds that extra conflict for defenders where they have to hesitate, they have to read and react. It puts defenders in a bind.

The Future

When you watch NFL teams run the Pistol offense, you see them tire out defenses in the running game. It’s discouraging when a team can just pound the rock for six yards a carry and there’s nothing you can do to stop it.

The Dolphins, however, cannot run the ball well due to issues along the offensive line. Once these issues are fixed through the draft or free agency signings, the offense has the potential to become a possession team head coach Brian Flores has preached about.

The flip side for the Miami Dolphins offense is that it is labeled as a predominantly RPO offense that dink and dunks its way; although, defenses have not been able to fully halt it.

The threats the condensed Pistol Wing looks bring defenses are the route combinations designed on three levels of the field. Opposing defenses have tried to match up with the wide receivers on the outside to stop deeper routes from forming. Thus, being okay with Tua to throw to shorter and intermediate routes.

Defenses are pattern matching on the outside and allowing linebackers to stay in zone. By doing this, defensive backs are focusing on route distribution while linebackers are able to play with their eyes in the backfield. Leaving the middle of the field open for running backs and tight ends to roam.

Essentially, it is death by paper cuts.

Partner that with a better offensive line, preferably to run a power scheme, and a premier running back. The Miami Dolphins offense could do damage next year.

Follow Hussam Patel on Twitter

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Dolphins vs Panthers All-22 Breakdown and Key Observations

Miami won for the 4th time in a row, in convincing fashion, and the Dolphins vs Panthers All-22 Film tells an interesting story of the game.

dolphins vs panthers
Photo by Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images

For the fourth week in a row, the Dolphins have found themselves as winners. This time, Miami won in decisive fashion vs the Panthers, with a final score of 33-10.

This game brought hope to Dolphins fans, and for good reason. This game showed the formula many thought they would at the beginning of the season. A combination of stellar defense and opportunistic, ball-control-based offense has gotten Miami wins over the last four games.

When watching the All-22 tape on NFL Gamepass, it was clear that Miami’s plan is starting to work out, and here are five things that stood out when watching the film for Dolphins vs Panthers.

Fantastic Phillip Lindsay

Following being waived by the Houston Texans, running back Phillip Lindsay was claimed by the Miami Dolphins, who were looking for another back to complement young guns Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed.

Coming off a short week, it was uncertain if Lindsay would play, but, as he explained, he was quick to get into the facility and study the playbook.

It was clear that the hard work, even in minimum snaps, has paid off. The two-time thousand-yard rusher showed, even with a below-average OL, why he was so successful in Denver.

Phillip Lindsay’s first run in Miami.

Above all other traits, his burst and awareness have stood out. Other backs, especially Myles Gaskin, seem to wait for holes to develop. This, although valuable with a good OL, becomes an issue when there isn’t time to sit back.

Lindsay, on the other hand, is constantly moving. Even when the hole isn’t there, his feet are always driving forward, raising his floor on yards to gain. Even when he gets tackled early in the play, his forward momentum keeps him from losing yards.

Phillip Lindsay showing off his great burst.

Along with this, his pass blocking is a thing of beauty. On QB Tua Tagovailoa’s 57-yard pass to Jaylen Waddle, Lindsay makes up for OT Liam Eichenberg, who got beat on the play. Coming out of the backfield, he demonstrated textbook blocking, attacking the rusher and providing his quarterback a throwing window.

Phillip Lindsay’s block opens up the throw to Waddle.

The Tuscaloosa Connection

Throughout college, Tua Tagovailoa found success in getting the ball out quickly in the RPO game, typically to his track team at wide receiver. The Dolphins, after drafting Tua thought that the best way to maximize the young quarterback was getting his collegiate teammate, Jaylen Waddle.

Through the first few games of the season, it was apparent that Tua and Waddle had chemistry, the level of which was unknown.

Now, however, as the season progresses, we can see that the 2nd year quarterback is significantly more comfortable with Waddle than any other receiver.

Throughout the game vs the Panthers, Tagovailoa targeted Waddle on a variety of looks, including several tightly contested looks, which contradicted notions on Tua coming out of college that he was unwilling to make risky throws.

Tua and Waddle connect on an out route.

More impressive, however, was the ability that Tua and Waddle have to know when the ball is coming out, and where. Tua, through repetition and natural chemistry, consistently throws the ball to Waddle before, or as, he’s coming out of his break. A prime example of this is the touchdown between the two.

Excellent Anticipation

When Tua releases the ball on a curl route, Waddle has yet to turn around and has three defenders near him. The ball was not only thrown early, but also put in a perfect spot for the rookie to make the play. That anticipation was a trait Tua was praised for at Alabama, and it seems Waddle is bringing it out now.

Tua’s throw to Waddle was out FAST.

This was not the only instance of this chemistry, however, as the aforementioned 57-yard play showed the duo’s promise as well.

Following the Lindsay block, Tua put the ball right in the middle of the field as Waddle made his break. Knowing his ability to move after the catch, his throw gave Waddle ample room to work, even with a safety coming down.

Tagovailoa and Waddle connected nine times for 137 yards and a touchdown, and this game looked promising for the duo.

Jaelan Phillips is Legit

This year, after a rough start, had been largely dominated by rookies Jevon Holland and Jaylen Waddle. Their ability to make impact plays has certainly been noticed, and both have flashed in crucial moments.

However, Dolphins fans and media alike had seemed to forget about the first-round pick, Jaelan Phillips. Coming out of UM, Phillips was regarded as a potentially elite pass rusher with a deep bag of tricks. This left Miami fans excited when he fell to them at the 18th pick.

Despite the hype, however, Phillips had failed to produce by all simple counting stats. While it seemed that he was getting close, he was rarely able to get home. Dolphins fans became frustrated, and it seemed that the optimism for Phillips faded as it grew for Waddle and Holland.

When the Dolphins took on the Panthers, all of it started to come together.

Coming out Party

Against an offensive line ranked among the worst in the league, Phillips was able to tally three sacks, a pass deflection, and a pressure leading to an INT.

Jaelan Phillips creates a pressure leading to an INT.

The numbers, however, weren’t as impressive as the tape on the plays themselves.

In particular, his work from the inside, with Emmanuel Ogbah on the edge, was spectacular. With Ogbah taking an outside route, Phillips was often left 1-on-1 with a guard. His combination of size and speed left these guards in the dust, and him in the backfield at will. With a skill-set as refined as Phillips’, it will be very difficult to stop him without tackle help.

Jaelan Phillips gets a sack vs a guard.

It’s clear that Miami has something special with Ogbah and Phillips, and I suspect they will use that pairing on the same side more often.

Improved Play Calling

Going into this season, Miami knew their offense needed to improve from the 15th ranked scoring unit. Thus, when they opted to make in-house coordinator hires, many were confused. A staff that was unable to produce a consistent offensive scheme would now be led by play-callers with limited experience.

These concerns lingered into the season, as Miami’s offense was dwelling near the bottom of the league. Many were calling for the jobs of Studesville and Godsey, and Miami had lost seven straight.

However, they seemed to have found their stride in the winning streak, both of which continued on Sunday.

Operating out of heavy pistol sets with lots of pre-snap motion, Miami was able to create misdirection. The threat of motion-man Albert Wilson stressed defenses to his side, while Jaylen Waddle and Durham Smythe were able to find soft spots in coverage.

Miami goes underneath to Waddle off the Wilson motion.

Miami also used these looks to create counters from a play they love to run: the wheel to Albert Wilson.

Against both the Jets and Ravens, Miami teased this formation, running a deep wheel route to Wilson in both games. It was clear Miami wanted defenses to pick up the idea, and I had clamored on Twitter for counters.

Those wishes came to fruition on Sunday, as Miami ran almost their entire offense out of this formation. This base set led to several different runs, short and intermediate passes. With the Panthers expecting the wheel route, Miami was able to catch Carolina off guard and tear them apart underneath.

Miami runs their motion based pistol offense and gets a first down.

The offense will still need to improve over the coming weeks, but they are trending up during the most important stretch of their season.

Area Of Improvement

Even in a 23-point win, there were areas of the team that were less than ideal. One that stuck out was the offensive line.

On three separate occasions, Miami’s offensive lineman gave up pressures or bad snaps that ruined potential scoring drives.

On separate drives, Jesse Davis and Liam Eichenberg were beaten badly, leading to crucial sacks on Tua and then punts.

Liam Eichenberg gets beaten by Brian Burns.

The other drive, before the half, contained one of Austin Reiter’s several bad snaps. After going too low, Tua was unable to recover the snap, and Carolina turned a potential Miami FG into one of their own.

Here’s one of Austin Reiter’s bad snaps.

If Miami is to continue their streak, eliminating drive-ending mistakes is crucial, and those start with the OL.

The Bottom Line

The Miami Dolphins are showing signs of life, and are only two games below 500. With games against the Giants and Jets upcoming, Miami has a chance to contend for a playoff spot.

Whether it’s too late is yet to be determined, but Miami has continued to improve over the last month. The tape continues to get better, and Miami looks like the team we envisioned back in August.

The coming weeks will be the most telling, and it will be exciting to see if Miami can complete the miraculous comeback season.

Follow Tyler DeSena on Twitter

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Featured

A Miami Dolphins Thanksgiving: What I’m Thankful For

With the 2021 NFL season winding down and things not going quite as planned, here’s a few things I’m thankful for as a Miami Dolphins Fan

miami dolphins thankful
Credit: The Phinsider

While the 2021 season has not panned out many fans had hoped, the three-game win streak has been a nice breath of fresh air but that does not mean there are not things to be thankful for as a Miami Dolphins fan.

A postseason trip seems unlikely barring an incredible season-ending run, which Miami has found themselves on the end of in previous seasons. With Week 12 upon us, the Miami Dolphins have not left much to be thankful for this season. Except, outside of a few individual performances.

As a 21st-century Dolphins fan (my age is not my fault), success and accomplishment come few and far between. However, there’s plenty to be thankful for as a fan of the orange and teal over the past 20 years. So on this Thanksgiving, let’s take a look at a few things the Miami Dolphins have made me thankful for:

As a Miami Dolphins fan I’m thankful for:

LB Zach Thomas

Let’s kick things off with one of the primary reasons I am a Dolphins fan. I was born and raised in Virginia. However, I personally disagree with the idea that Washington D.C.’s teams are assumed on Virginia citizens. So I have primarily viewed this as a fandom free-agent pass to find whatever team I want to invest emotional energy in. 

Every Sunday, I would go over to my grandfather’s house and watch that Week’s slate from 1 PM through 4 PMs, sometimes even the night game. So one Sunday early on, I had my grandfather list me all the NFL teams. As a ten-year-old does, I latched onto a team with my favorite color, orange, and prominent player sharing my first name, Zach. 

Zach Thomas interestingly comes up again as the five-time first-team All-Pro linebacker was recently named a semifinalist for the NFL Hall of Fame. There are too many discussion points that highlight how his omission from the Hall is absurd at this point. But I am thankful for Thomas’ play spurring his name into households and leading to my Fins fandom. 

WR Greg Camarillo

Let’s go in an opposite direction here: I’m thankful for WR Greg Camarillo for saving Miami from being the Detroit Lions. Before every channel on the TV was broadcast in high definition, yeah, 2007, the Dolphins had quite a rough season. Back in 2007, if you weren’t playing good football, you weren’t getting the HD treatment, but my grandfather had the NFL Sunday Ticket. The Dolphins were on TV, but that doesn’t mean the quality was great. 

I watched every week of the 2007 season, hoping, praying for a win. Then in seemingly the last moment possible, Week 15 rolled around a showdown at Dolphins Stadium against the Baltimore Ravens. Coming into the game 0-13, not many expected a surprise overtime upset. But after Matt Stover missed a 44-yard field goal, Camarillo took a mid-level pass 65-yards to the house to snap the winless streak. Miami finished 1-15 but saved the franchise from the embarrassment of the dread 0-16 season. 

You knew this was coming: The Miami Miracle.

As stated earlier, I’m a 21st-century Dolphins fan, not a lot of success to draw upon. The Adam Gase Era was filled with ups and downs, but despite missing the playoffs and Gase’s inevitable firing in 2018, things somewhat ended nicely? Picture this, Week 14, the postseason looks murkier and murkier. The Tom Brady-led Patriots are 9-3 and primed for another playoff run. What solves the situation? An absolutely bonkers last-second 69-yard touchdown to win the game by one point. 

The only player who touched the ball on that play that is still on the team is WR Devante Parker. The Miracle in Miami will forever live in Miami Dolphins history. Some might scoff at the idea that a regular-season game could mean so much, but sometimes people need something to hold onto. If that means beating your bitter rival in a meaningless game that could hurt draft position, so be it. It was fun, fabulous, and I am thankful for the Miami Dolphins giving me quite a few jaw-dropping fandom moments throughout this journey. 

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Follow Zachary Knerr on Twitter

Featured

Chicago Bears Mock Draft

Chicago Bears Mock Draft
Image via Cleveland.com

This season has been brutal for Chicago fans. At this point it feels like the Bears are playing just to get Justin Fields more experience in the NFL. With the 2021 season looking as bleak as ever, let’s look ahead into the 2022 NFL draft. Here is my November Chicago Bears mock draft. Grab yourself your favorite beer, cocktail, or a cup of coffee and let’s run through it!

Round 2

Jameson Williams, Wide Receiver, Alabama

The Bears offense is set to lose Allen Robinson this off-season and doesn’t have a very great receiving corps to begin with. Darnell Mooney has been solid, but Chicago’s front office must give Justin Fields the weapons to help him succeed at the next level.

Let’s give this Bears offense some more juice. Jameson Williams is a burner out wide, as evidenced by this video. Williams also has some chemistry with Justin Fields already, as both were at Ohio State in 2019 and 2020. In those two seasons, Williams had 266 yards and three touchdowns on 15 receptions, that’s good for 17.7 yards per catch.

This season, Williams has taken his game to the next level. Williams, through eleven games, has 59 receptions that have gone for 1,218 yards and 13 touchdowns, good for 20.6 yards per catch.

That kind of game-breaking ability is exactly what this Chicago offense needs. Vertical passing is probably Justin Fields’ greatest strength as well.

Round 3

Jarrett Patterson, Interior Offensive Line, Notre Dame

Protect Justin Fields at all costs. Jarrett Patterson is one of the better pass protectors on the interior in this draft class. Patterson also has the capability to play all three positions on the interior of the offensive line.

This Bears offensive line is still a work in progress even after drafting Teven Jenkins and Larry Borom last off-season. With James Daniels still without a contract extension, this could be a huge need for Chicago. If Daniels does get his extension — which in my opinion he should — the Bears can easily drop Patterson in as their starting center day one.

My summer scouting report on Jarrett Patterson can be found here!

Round 5

Cam Hart, Cornerback, Notre Dame

The Bears secondary is still going to be an issue in 2022. Jaylon Johnson has been solid, but the rest of the secondary has been poor. Good teams have depth in the secondary and Chicago has none.

Cam Hart may not be a sexy name, but he has been a rock-solid cover man for the Fighting Irish this season. As the draft nears closer and closer, he might be a guy who won’t even make it out of Day 2 of the NFL Draft.

I have some thoughts on him after I attended the ND-USC game this season that you can find here!

Round 6

Cade Mays, Interior Offensive Line, Tennessee

As I mentioned above, this Chicago Bears offensive line needs improvement. Even after selecting Jarrett Patterson, Chicago could add a depth piece in Cade Mays late in the draft.

A nice complement to the Teven Jenkins pick last year, Mays will bring the intensity this offensive line room lacks at times. Mays isn’t afraid to block defenders through (and sometimes after) the whistle.


Clearly you can see that I think the biggest objective for the Chicago Bears this off-season should be to build up this offense around Justin Fields. He has shown glimpses of incredible arm talent already this season, even in a poor situation.

With only four draft picks (not including any comp picks that will be coming Chicago’s way), it is tough to imagine this team getting much better though the draft.

Matt Nagy and Ryan Pace are almost definitely gone after this season. You can read my thoughts on that here. It’s hard to predict how a new general manager will draft and what he prioritizes, but I will continue to do Chicago Bears mock drafts throughout the season and in the off-season. Until then, peace!

Follow Us: @ryanmcaloon & @bears_atb

Featured

Detroit Lions Mock Draft 1.0

Junior David Ojabo 55 (Allison Engkvist/Daily)

The Lions suffered another gut-wrenching loss against the Browns yesterday. For the fourth straight season, the Detroit Lions will finish with a losing record. At 0-9-1, they are currently on pace for the first pick, so it’s time for a Detroit Lions Mock Draft.

Round 1 Pick 9 (via ATL): Garrett Wilson, WR – Ohio State

Detroit Lions receive: #9, #42, #63, #73, 2023 ATL 2nd
Atlanta Falcons receive: #1

USA Today Sports

Surprise!! The Lions do a trade back here with the Falcons and take Garrett Wilson with the 9th pick. It may not be popular but the Lions are lacking in depth and need to gather as much tale