NFL Week 7 – 7 Up, 7 Down: Seventh Circle of Heaven?

Credit: USA Today

A somewhat dross and quaint NFL Week 7 is in the books. What were the hottest topics for those in the inner sanctum within the league? Who were the headliners that made waves in the seventh week of the season? The Weekly Power Rankings have arrived and the question is: who made it to the seventh circle of heaven?

Up

1. Non QBs throwing touchdowns!

– We had a pair of non-quarterbacks to get the scoring fiesta started on Sunday within minutes of each other. 

First up, was MVP contender Derrick Henry throwing a perfectly timed pass to tight end MyCole Pruitt (on national tight end day, no less!)

Next was Patriots receiver Kendrick Bourne doing the honors. 

2. Throwback uniforms for GB and SF

Two iconic legacy franchises sporting high-caliber throwback duds. Enough said. 

San Francisco’s clean 1994 throwbacks

3. Local meteorologists in the Bay Area

Every dog gets its day or so they say. Well, viewers of the Sunday Night Football broadcast heard the words, “atmospheric river” and “bomb cyclone” enter the sporting lexicon. Strange times indeed as the Niners and Colts did battle in a seemingly endless torrential monsoon. There was a crazy sequence in the first half where both teams couldn’t hold onto the slick ball, trading turnovers like baseball cards (they still do that, right?)

4. Joe Burrow to Chase is pretty pretty pretty good

– Yeah, you got the prohibitive favorite for offensive rookie of the year award catching passes from a young gun with the dawg in him. It appears that the lethality of 2019 LSU Burrow to Chase carried over to Ohio’s Queen City. Not much more to say than Larry David probably approves of the young emerging duo. This could be a weekly thing in the article. Is this the remake of the 1998 Vikings with Randy Moss?

5. Dan Campbell’s bravado and passion

– Campbell’s Lions are fighting every single week despite the stacked odds against them. Most 0-7 teams would have caved long ago and dissolved into internal dissension. You can see the tangible chemistry and passion that his players play for him. It’s too bad that Jared Goff isn’t the answer for a moribund Lions franchise. Campbell is part of an increasing trend of coaches laying it all on the line and going for it despite the odds of failing to convert first downs. May the Lions get their first win soon. 

6. Kyler Murray’s MVP candidacy

– Murray has to be the favorite for the MVP award at this point in the season, leading the Cardinals to a 7-0 record against a tough schedule. It’s not like the Cardinals are loading up on wins against the patsies of the league, either. They’ve had to deal with tough COVID issues knocking out their head coach for a game along with multiple key pieces. He’s one of the more dynamic playmakers in the league alongside the terrifying Lamar Jackson. He’s making plays like this seemingly every drive

7. Marshawn and the Legendary ManningCast 

– The affable, jovial, and loquacious Marshawn Lynch joined Monday Night Football’s ManningCast and he did not disappoint. In related news, the FCC could be just as happy that their coffers will be filled by ESPN’s banking department for Lynch’s glorious expletive-filled appearance. The only downside was Peyton “apologizing” for the fun. We need more Marshawn on prime-time TV! 

DOWN

1. Sam Darnold isn’t the present nor the future

– He has turned into a pumpkin after a solid start to life in Charlotte and 2021 will likely be his last as a starter in this league. Darnold was benched for PJ Walker on Sunday and it isn’t like Walker lit it up either. Perhaps the damage done to Darnold in New York is too much for him to rebound from. Carolina took a gamble passing on multiple rookie passers with their first-round selection. It hasn’t worked out but that’s life. The Panthers were on the periphery of the Deshaun Watson chase but now are firmly on the list of top-tier contenders for his services after the past few weeks. 

2. Brian Flores and Matt Nagy’s job security

– The expectations for either man to keep his current job beyond this season have to be slim to none. Flores has been a fun quote machine during press conferences and his Dolphins are on life support in the AFC East. Fortunately, Miami has long been the rumored destination for one Deshaun Watson. Nagy on the other hand, is a dead man walking as the Bears look lifeless, their star rookie passer running for his life, and the coach mostly ambivalent about the whole affair. It’s over for the Nagy regime in the Windy City. Flores’ rear end is firmly planted on the hot seat if he can’t turn it around. 

3. New York teams 

– Both New York teams are a colossally terrible combined 3-10 through seven weeks of this season. The Jets have a plan in place to build something at least despite the horrific decision not to have a veteran backup quarterback throughout the offseason to guide a now hurt Zach Wilson. Robert Saleh might be regretting his decision to go for this job as his defense has been something awful. Meanwhile, the Giants are just bad and rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic under the embattled Dave Gettleman. Granted, they’ve suffered a ton of injuries but Daniel Jones is looking more and more not the long-term answer. Joe Judge still has some cache so there’s that. 

4. Mike Evans and historical landmarks

– On a more light-hearted note, Mike Evans wasn’t cognizant of the implications of Tom Brady’s 600th touchdown pass and gave the ball to a now-infamous fan in the stands. That said fan was the subject of immense ridicule for giving the ball up for such little return. Evans had a hilarious reaction after the fact and a member of the Buccaneers staff had to go and negotiate for the return during the game for all to see. It all worked for everyone involved as the fan won out relatively decently, Evans scored a couple more, and Brady got to roast everyone on national TV. 

5. Chiefs D is still bad 

– Yeah, it was bad and Patrick Mahomes couldn’t bail them out on Sunday after the woebegone Titans defense held the Chiefs to a field goal. It felt like the Titans were actively trying to sit on the lead during the second half. A silver lining could be that the horrendous Kansas City defense held the Titans’ offense in check after allowing a 27-0 deficit? It’s still a long way to go but it’s increasingly looking like a massive Achilles’ heel for the franchise. 

6. Homecomings

– Not the most enthralling of contests between the two quarterbacks traded for another in Los Angeles. Matthew Stafford and Jared Goff weren’t at their best in this one. At least Dan Campbell made it entertaining with his panache and derring-do? A game that left a lot more meat on the bone, that’s for sure. Maybe next time?

7. Kyle Shanahan 

 – Are we sure that the boy wonder can evolve instead of being all hype? When opposing defenders are openly deriding your offensive philosophy, it’s time to question certain things. We all know Jimmy Garoppolo is injured and limited as a passer when healthy but at least Frank Reich adjusted to his passer’s strengths in the eternal monsoon. Shanahan will need to go back to the drawing board and figure out what went wrong. Please get healthy, Trey Lance. I mean, the coach couldn’t figure out that this play was working exceedingly well for the opposition and couldn’t adopt the same tactics? 

Previous Editions

Week 1: Opening Overreactions

Wk 2: Perceptive Repeats

Week 3: So Nice, Do It Thrice

Wk 4: Good Quads Like Saquon

Week 5: Thrive at Five

7 Up, 7 Down: So Nice, Do it Thrice

Week 3 of the NFL season has been done and dusted. Who stood out in a positive manner? Who has some work to do as we move forward to Week 4? How will week three be perceived in the long run of the gauntlet? Will it be nice that everyone will look at it thrice?

In case you missed the previous weekly editions, they can be found below

Week 1: Opening Overreactions

Week 2: A Perceptive Repeat

Up

1. Herbert is legit top ten, if not top five QB 

– The precocious young gun from Oregon went into rowdy Arrowhead Stadium and outdueled the superstar Patrick Mahomes. Which is to put him in rarified air as few signal callers can claim legitimate victories over the league’s most electrifying passer. Herbert can make every improbable throw look perfectly natural as a simple pitch and catch. He has been blessed with physical gifts that few quarterbacks in history have possessed. Much will be anticipated when these two quarterbacks meet up and with good reason. Herbert has a bright future in this league. 

2. Special Teams are FUNdamental

– What a fun week for special teams histrionics. The most overlooked phase of the game got its time in the sun on Sunday with several epic standout plays as seen below. 

First up, Dustin Hopkins kicks a deep shot and then recovers his OWN kick. How? 

Not to be outdone, Younghoe Koo led off the walk-off kick bonanza with a 40 yard bomb for the Falcons

Mason Crosby called Koo’s kick and raised it with his own bomb

Not to be outdone, the evergreen Justin Tucker called Crosby’s shot, re-raised with a record-breaking Giancarlo Stanton level nuclear strike

Earlier in the day, the previous record-holder Matt Prater had an insane 68 yard try returned for a KICK SIX remix

3. All the King’s…posters?

– Derrick Henry paced the Titans offense once again with several impact runs including another posterization of a poor, hapless defender who accepted the challenge. The latest victim: star linebacker Darius Leonard. The King also low key destroyed Julian Blackmon who thought himself worthy of taking him on. At this point, the pantheon of defenders who bravely went at the king is too numerous to count. He’s just built differently than any other running back in the league today. How many times does it need to happen before defenders realize that challenging Henry in one on one situations is just foolhardy? Quandre Diggs (censored) around and found out last week as well. 

4. Josh Allen is pretty, pretty good

– Allen had yet another standout performance on Sunday against a really good Washington front who never really got in his face. The fourth-year pro is looking very well primed for another MVP run with five total touchdowns this past weekend. OC Brian Daboll has definitely unlocked the star potential from the young man. With Allen at the helm, the Bills can legitimately go blow for blow with the suddenly vulnerable Chiefs now. The league is in good hands with the young guns as more and more old star passers age out. Allen might be tops among them pretty soon if he keeps this up. 

5. Ja’Marr Chase might be good after all 

– Chase’s young career is off to a similar start to his speed. Flying. He had a breakout performance on Sunday against the hated Steelers, scoring on multiple big plays. The mysterious vanishing act during the preseason is a thing of the past as he’s proven to be an astute pick as long the Bengals’ offensive line can hold up. The Burrow to Chase connection is off and running again, much to the chagrin of everyone on the Bengals’ schedule. He has a pretty good case for offensive rookie of the year thus far into the season. 

6. Gus Johnson in the NFL 

– Two weeks, two instantly iconoclast Gus Johnson calls. Need I say more? Like many football fans, I’m glad he’s returned to announcing NFL duties after spending time exclusively in the hinterlands of amazing college football broadcasts. He simply belongs at the pro level, expressing his high-intensity emotive moods in an NFL broadcasting world often devoid of such brilliant missives, much like Marv Albert did for the NBA.  

7. R-E-L-A-X and enjoy “The Last Dance”

– We don’t know how the story of the 2021 Green Bay Packers will end but Aaron Rodgers might have a few self-authored chapters to write just yet. Speaking of stories, Kyle Shanahan and late-game mismanagement are one as old as time immemorial. Turns out even 37 seconds is too much time left for the future Jeopardy host to launch remarkable comebacks. If it is indeed the last hoorah for Rodgers in a Packers uniform, I hope for Jordan Love’s sake that he soaks up a lot of institutional knowledge learning at the feet of AR. GM Brian Gutenkunst must be feeling some type of way though. His offseason was a story unto itself. A story of what not to do in terms of managing a relationship with your ultra superstar quarterback. 

Down

1. Injuries

– The 2021 season is turning out to be quite Darwinian as the litany of injuries continues to pile up across the league to key players. Week 3 saw the likes of Quenton Nelson, AJ Brown, Josh Norman, K.J. Hamler, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Terron Armstead, James White, and Dalton Risner leave and do not return. Khalil Mack and Rob Gronkowski were injured but returned, fortunately. The Colts (Kwity Paye and Rock Ya-Sin) and Giants (Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton) were particularly hard hit with two key guys each ruled out. May the injured return to full health as quickly as possible. 

2. Hollywood turning into Marquise

– Lost in all the hoopla of Justin Tucker’s utter destruction of the longest field goal record is Marquise Brown. He dropped three critical passes including an easy touchdown that would’ve likely rendered the field goal attempt moot in the first place. Maybe it was just a bad game as he was on fire the week prior against the Chiefs. Still, the potential game-breaking option is there. Next up for Brown and the Ravens: The Broncos tough secondary. We will see if this is a worrying trend or just a blip on the radar. 

3. Seattle’s defense in a tailspin 

– The Vikings just ran roughshod all over the struggling Seahawks’ defense with a backup running back, no less. Letting Derrick Henry run wild is one thing, letting Alexander Mattison do it is entirely another. Kirk Cousins went off on Sunday as well. The secondary has been torched repeatedly with horrifically substandard play. The next two weeks are likely not going to help either with the high-powered 49ers and Rams on the docket. They can’t keep on relying on Russ cooking to save the defense over and over, right? Pete Carroll needs to try everything possible underneath the sun to try to fix the hemorrhaging defense, otherwise, they will be also-rans in the wild and wacky NFC West. 

4. The end has emphatically arrived for Big Ben 

– As remarkable as Ben Roethlisberger’s return to play after a devastating elbow injury was, the fall has been just as stunning. The Steelers’ offensive line was expected to be below average entering the season and it has been, save for flashes of improvement. Roethlisberger is notorious for stringing out the play but his body isn’t responding as it once did. The receivers in the game against Cincy last week did not help by getting hurt but he should’ve been better. It’s time for the Steelers to see what they have in backup Dwayne Haskins. The end for the future Hall of Fame quarterback was none more glaring than checking down to the back in a must-have, do-or-die play. 

5. Jonnu Smith’s nightmare fuel game

– The $50 million tight end has had a rough start to his career in Foxboro, no play is more evidence of his struggles than a tip drill pick-six that Malcolm Jenkins snagged. He’s had multiple drops and has failed to make the expected impact for the Patriots offense led by rookie quarterback Mac Jones. To be fair to Smith, his start in Tennessee wasn’t the most illustrious either. Fellow big money tight end signing Hunter Henry has also failed to live up to his high-priced contract so Smith isn’t alone. It’s going to be a long year for Jones if his two tight ends can’t get it going. Let’s hope that they do. 

6. Justin Fields’ mental and physical health

– Well, that was a demolition job by the Browns on poor Justin Fields making his first start in lieu of Andy Dalton’s injury. The young passer had zero chance from the minute he was announced as the starter and subsequently was sacked NINE times by Cleveland. If you’ve ever seen a blatantly egregious example of horrendously illogical cancerous coaching malpractice, that was it. Coach Matt Nagy refused to adjust his gameplan to account for his franchise passer getting destroyed in the pocket. Then he had the utterly dumbfounding unrepentant arrogant malevolence to say what he said after the festivities. The arrogance of this man is limitless. If Justin Fields were to succeed, he needs to get Windy City Adam Gase terminated with immediate effect for at least his mental health. GM Ryan Pace does not escape scrutiny either as he built the floundering offensive line. Asking a washed-up almost 40 years old Jason Peters to protect Fields is tantamount to a hostile work environment. Drafting a giant medical risk in Teven Jenkins who, to no one’s surprise, got injured is another. Matt Nagy is done in Chicago, there’s no going back.

7. LeBron’s High School Quarterback

– On more of a funny note, LeBron was a guest on the ManningCast on MNF and the legendary hoops superstar delivered a gem. He also noted that both the Seahawks and Cowboys offered him a roster spot during the 2011 NBA lockout. The current Laker star joked that if he had a better QB in high school, he’d have a pro football career. Imagine being some random dude in Ohio sitting down with his family watching Monday Night Football and catching a stray from the top rope from one of the best basketball players of all time. Poor guy. He most likely has been roasted by EVERYONE in his circle, not to mention social media. 

49ers v Lions: 3 Keys to Success for Each Team

49ers-Lions opener among worst games on NFL 2021 full schedule | RSN

Week 1 is finally upon us, and the San Francisco 49ers and Detroit Lions are facing off. The game kicks off at 1:00 p.m. EST, often a challenging time frame for teams coming over from the West Coast. The 49ers are the heavy favorite heading into Sunday’s match-up; they are a 7.5 point favorite (odds from MyBookie).

Both teams will be trotting out changes to the coaching staff, most notably the Lions. From the front office down to the position coaches, Detroit has gone through a significant overhaul. Dan Campbell and his team will look to make changes to the on-field product and the culture in the building, too. It will be interesting to see what the identity of the Lions will be. However, one can infer based on Campbell’s press conferences that they will be a team who will look to run the ball and take the will out of defenses.

Not only did the Lions make changes to the coaching staff and personnel, but also to who will operate under-center. Detroit elected to move and trade Matthew Stafford to the Los Angeles Rams for two first-round picks and Jared Goff in return. Goff doesn’t possess Stafford’s talent, but he has helped lead a team to the Super Bowl. He isn’t going to put the team on his shoulders like Stafford did time and time again in the 4th quarter, but he can operate an offense and help push the ball downfield, especially behind the Lions’ formidable offensive line.

As for the 49ers didn’t lose/gain as much as Detroit did this offseason, but they did lose strength to their team, defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, who took a head coach job with the New York Jets. DeMeco Ryans, a part of the 49ers staff, got promoted from coaching linebackers to the defensive coordinator. Saleh ran a “safer” defense than what Ryans plans to run this year. So we may see more blitzing from San Francisco and perhaps some more man coverage on the back end.

With changes schematically being made for both teams, it makes for an exciting match-up. Again, San Francisco is the favorite, but there is a path in which the Lions could come up with an upset.

49ers Keys to Success:

Putting Pressure on Jared Goff

When Jared Goff is able to sit back in the pocket and move through his progressions he is a viable option at quarterback. When Goff has pressure in his face, he is the opposite of a viable option; he is a liability.

Goff suffered the biggest decline at his position from a 55.8% passing DVOA without pressure to a -126.8% DVOA with pressure in 2020…”

Not only was it an issue last year, but it has been a problem for the past several years and probably played a crucial factor in McVay wanting to find another quarterback. In 2018, Goff posted a 69.1% DVOA vs. no pressure (good for 5th in the league) and a -67.9% against pressure (11th worst). In 2019, he posted a 52.9% DVOA vs. no pressure (14th in the league, a bit of digression) and a -66.8% DVOA vs. pressure (19th worst, the league average was -62.8%).

The 49ers’ front four doesn’t have to be as good as they were in 2019, but they will need to push the pocket and put Goff in uncomfortable situations. If they can force Goff to make bad decisions, it will likely lead to turnovers, and the 49ers can continue their win streak against Goff-led teams.

Eliminate Turnovers in Their Own Territory

The Lions’ offense, aside from their offensive line, isn’t full of world-beaters. They don’t have weapons on the outside and will likely rely on rookie receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown, to be one of their main targets. If the 49ers can refrain from committing turnovers in the Lions’ territory and force them to move the ball the length of the field, the Lions are less likely to score (obvious, I know).

Even with one of the better defenses in football, it is still tough to keep the opponent from scoring when they get the ball in with less than 50 yards to go. If the 49ers can keep the mistakes to a minimum and not give up free yards, it sets them up nicely to not only get the win but to cover the spread as well.

Consistency From Jimmy Garoppolo

This option may run hand in hand with the last “key to success,” but it’s more than just a turnover issue with Garoppolo. If you surveyed the conventional fan in the NFL and asked them what type of quarterback Garoppolo is, they would like to tag him with the “accurate, game manager” label. However, that isn’t necessarily the case. Aside from the injuries, Garoppolo’s most significant issue is his game-to-game consistency. One game, he looks like the quarterback that led San Francisco to the Super Bowl, and the next, he seems like the quarterback that forced them to draft Trey Lance third overall.

If the 49ers get the latter, they could be looking at an upset. Garoppolo tends to throw the ball high, which often leads to tipped balls. Tipped balls equal easy interceptions. Of course, interceptions are not the only cause of concern, but having to punt the ball is another possibility they want to avoid. Garoppolo doesn’t have to have the best game of his career for the 49ers to win, but he must avoid having a game as he did against the Miami Dolphins last season.

Seth’s Score Prediction:

49ers: 31 – Lions: 17

Penei Sewell thriving at his best position

With the injury to starting Left Tackle Taylor Decker, the #7 overall pick in Sewell will be asked to play at LT. This is the position in which he thrived in at Oregon and in his first start for the Lions, he will get a real big test by facing Nick Bosa.

If the Lions can get real consistency from the left side of the O-Line with Sewell and Jonah Jackson, we could see a nice game from D’Andre Swift. Sewell tended to struggle at times during the Preseason, but he did an excellent job of adjusting and bouncing back quickly in the following drives.

Setting the Edge on Defense

The Lions have one of the better EDGE tandems in the league with Trey Flowers and Romeo Okwara. They are facing a run-heavy Offense in the 49ers this weekend and it’ll be crucial to make sure Mostert and Sermon don’t get easy access on the outside.

If the Lions can get solid EDGE play from those two, they can make this game really interesting with the lack of depth at Wide Receiver. Though the Interior of the DL is young, aside from Michael Brockers, they’ve looked really good during practices and preseason so there shouldn’t be too much of an issue there.

Getting some success from the Play-Action

If the Lions can get that run-game going, which I think they will, then the Lions are going to need Jared Goff to make some really nice throws out of the Play-Action. They have a lack of weapons at Wide Receiver, but attacking the middle of the field will be key with Hockenson.

Goff is a pretty big downgrade from Stafford but he did help lead a team to the Super Bowl back in 2018. Would it be nice to get that from him this year? Sure, but even a 2017 version of Goff is more than good enough.

Ronnie’s Score Prediction:

49ers: 34 – Lions: 20

Lions Keys to Success:

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The San Francisco 49ers Draft and RAS

(AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

These articles are meant to show connections between teams draft preferences and RAS. RAS is Relative Athletic Score. Created by Kent Lee Platte. It uses a special formula that uses all of a players combine/pro day workout numbers and puts out a 1-10 overall athleticism score pertaining to their position. 1 being being the worst and a 10 being best. You can access his website here: ras.football. Here we take a look at the San Francisco 49ers drafts and their RAS.

In the previous part the Indianapolis Colts were evaluated. Since every GM and or front office are different we are only evaluating John Lynch’s picks starting with the 2017 draft and through the 2021 draft.

Quarterbacks:

The 49ers have only drafted two quarterbacks in the John Lynch Era. CJ Bethard and Trey Lance. Bethard had a RAS score of 7.67. Which for a quarterback means he’s a solid athlete. Now while Lance did not do any physical testing, based off film he looks to be a pretty athletic player himself. I wouldn’t be surprised if he had tested 8.0 or higher. So safe to say they at least like guys who can move around and get some yards on broken plays at the very least.

Running backs:

To the running backs the 9ers have drafted three guys under Lynch. Joe Williams, Trey Sermon and Elijah Mitchell. Their average RAS score is a high score of 8.98. Round off its basically a 9. This shows high overall athleticism is very important to the 49ers at this position. All three are similar in size between 200-215. All three put up good explosive grades.

Wide Receivers:

Now Lynch’s history with his receiver draft picks is kind of interesting. Lynch has drafted seven receivers in his time. He has either drafted highly athletic players or unathletic players. Not much in the middle. The overall average of all the receivers is a 6.47 Four of the picks had a RAS score of 7.92 or higher. The other three? 6 or lower with one of them being a 4 and another a 2.73. Also the less athletic guys were later picks. All taken in the 5th or later.

A lot of times when you see teams when drafting receivers later they take highly athletic guys. Usually guys with special teams potential. Either as a returner or gunner. The guys San Francisco took were not, and they were also smaller slot type receivers. The four very athletic guys were taken in the 3rd round or earlier. They were all also bigger dudes outside of Pettis. All of them were 205 pounds or heavier. Again outside of Pettis. So this shows they have two types of receivers they draft. Big, athletic, physical type receivers or smaller less athletic slot types.

Tight Ends:

Lynch has not drafted very many tight ends in his time. He has drafted three. Of course because of who his first pick ended up becoming it makes sense. Their average score is a decent 6.76. George Kittle tested out highly athletic with a score of 9.52. Then at the other end of the spectrum is Kaden Smith with a 3.84. Of course in the middle is Charlie Woerner with a 6.93. Which is close to a 7. So he is a borderline above average athlete. All three interestingly enough were drafted on day 3. It seems they do have a size preference all three are 6’4-6’5 and all are 245-255. As far as athleticism it is hard to say what the 9ers preference is. Maybe a couple more draft picks will bear out some more consistency.

Offensive Line:

Another interesting position for the 49ers and Lynch. In his time in San Francisco John Lynch has drafted only five offensive linemen. Four of the five were offensive tackles. Their average RAS score is a 6.55. There is no score for Mike McGlinchey. Although coming out of Notre Dame he was never known to be a athletic freak. He did have a 28.5 vertical jump and a 8’9″ broad jump which are seen as average. Interestingly enough three of the four that there are scores for have a RAS between 7.16-7.49. That might just be a coincidence though.

They do however like tall tackles. three of the four that they have drafted are 6’6 or taller. Jaylon Moore is the only tackle under 6’6 and there was talk coming out of the draft he might be better as a guard. I have not heard weather they have moved him there permanently or not. High agility scores seem to not be a priority for Lynch as well. There has been word from people who have been to San Francisco’s training camp have said it looks like they are having depth issues on the offensive line. The lack of picks is a symptom of this.

Interior Defensive Line:

The 49ers have drafted four defensive linemen since Lynch took over. Only three of them have RAS scores. The average for those guys is a 8.35. A small sample yes, but Kinlaw is the 4th, and while he does not have any testing. It was well known that he was a freak athlete at South Carolina. You could bet he would have scored at least a 8 or higher. John Lynch likes to have athletic interior defensive linemen.

It makes sense. Those guys are hard to come by. By the look of it they like their defensive linemen to have a quick get off. All of them have a fast 10 yard split. Between 1.66-1.75. Interestingly two of the four are “smaller” type guys. Both Street and Taylor are sub 300. The other two though are both over 319. So it seems the 49ers like a combination of smaller guys and bigger guys. Always athletic and with a quick get off though.

Edge Defenders:

Lynch has drafted three edge defenders(or defensive ends) since 2017. Which is some what surprising since they run a 4-3. The average for the three is a 8.54. Two of the three have been high level athletes. Both Nick Bosa and Solomon Thomas rated out as 9.44 or higher. Which means elite athletes. The third Pita Taumoepenu only had a RAS of 6.46 which is slightly above average. His speed and agility grades really helped him out. His size did hurt his grade only being 6’1 243. This highlights what they prioritize with their defensive ends. Speed and Agility! Specifically their 10 yard splits. This seems to be a common theme amongst a a lot of their picks. Lynch also seems to value long arms. All three have 32 inch or longer arms. Thomas and Bosa both happen to have exactly 33″ arms.

Linebackers:

Now in regards to their linebackers there is not much to go on. Since 2017 they have only drafted three linebackers, and one of them Ruben Foster has no testing data. One thing that can be inferred is that they like smaller, quicker linebackers. All three are 236 pounds or less. Fred Warner is a freak athlete with a 9.67. Greenlaw had a 4.96 so borderline average. What they both share in common besides not being the biggest linebackers is they both have good 20 yard splits. All three also have 32″+ arms. The difference is Foster is 6’0 and Greenlaw is 5’11, but Warner is 6’3. So another statistic to point out is they like their linebackers to have long arms. Which means they like linebackers that can shed blocks.

Defensive Backs:

Now to the final group. The defensive backs. A position that I think will have a lot of commonality amongst the teams. That is a lot of draft capital spent on this position. Its two fold. You need to have at least three good cornerbacks in the NFL now. Also they are great on special teams.

The 49ers have drafted nine defensive backs since 2017. Five cornerbacks and four safeties. All together they average an RAS score of 7.75, which isn’t too bad. Looking further into the numbers five of them scored a 7.59 or higher. There are two players that really brought down that average score. Adrian Colbert with a 5.03 and Talanoa Hufanga with a 5.77. Both of them were day 3 picks. DJ Reed who had a 6.6 was also a day three pick. Outside of DJ Reed all of the defensive backs were 5’10 or taller. All of them were 188 pounds or heavier. We can say the 49ers do not like small defensive backs. Five of them were 197 or heavier. Interestingly enough only one was over 200 pounds. Marcell Harris was 216.

Looking at their cornerbacks they really value speed scores. That includes 40, 20 and 10 yard splits. They all had a 40 of 4.51 or faster. As well as 10 yard splits of 1.58 or faster. This is another position group where the 49ers find speed to be important. All their CBs also had a broad jump of 10’1″ or better. So it looks like that is something that is important to them as well. Agility drills do not seem super important for them. As long as a player gets an average score there. There are only two safties with RAS scores so not much can be learned there. Both are kind of average athletes, so that might not be a priority with John Lynch. Not enough data to say definitively.

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Deebo Samuel Poised for a Break Out Season in 2021

The 49ers as a whole had an extremely rough time navigating through the 2020 NFL season. Throughout the year it seemed as though every player had gotten injured at some point, something San Francisco has battled through in the past. On top of that add-in the effects of COVID-19, including being forced out of their own stadium and having to move and play their home games in Arizona, the 49ers did not have an easy go at it.

The injuries during last season forced San Francisco to constantly make adjustments to their game plan and scheme week-in and week-out. One player who was affected by this was the former second-round pick, Deebo Samuel. Jimmy Garappolo struggled to stay on the field last season due to an ankle injury and it forced the 49ers to not only make adjustments but to have to play both their back-up quarterbacks and play the hot hand, despite neither Nick Mullens and CJ Beathard not having the “hot hand”.

The way Kyle Shanahan and San Francisco used Deebo in 2020 was much different than the way they used him in the 2019 season. Perhaps the injuries play a role, he was only on the field for 7 of the 49ers’ 16 games last year, but when he was, he was used as a glorified running back. Last year, his average target distance was only 2.6 yards which would rank 108th in the NFL compared to his 2019 season where he saw an average target distance of 7.9.

It’s tough to nail down an exact reason as to why he lost over 5 yards a target, was it the effects of COVID, perhaps the lack of consistency at the quarterback position, or even the addition of Brandon Aiyuk in the 2020 NFL draft could have played a role. That being said, Deebo should not be limited as he was last season, he has real receiver chops and can affect multiple levels of the field and his 2019 film shows that.

Deebo was given many more opportunities during the 2019 season to show off his route running prowess, something he showed in college for the South Carolina Gamecocks. He has a knack for creating separation, both on the inside in the slot and on the outside against press coverage as seen verse the Seahawks in the last clip. He has the ability to gain leverage on defensive backs forcing them into bad positions and then using it against them. He is extremely explosive out of his breaks and can carry his speed through his cuts making it tough for corners to stay in his hip pocket.

In the last clip, against the Seahawks, is where we see Deebo at his best as a route runner. He does an excellent job winning at the line-of-scrimmage and getting the cornerback to flip his hips to the inside. Once he does so Deebo uses his hands to help create more separation as he begins to stem his route vertically. The corner stood no chance of staying in-phase with Deebo because he not only approached his route with a plan, but he was able to use his athleticism and route running prowess to get the defensive back out of position.

Deebo Samuel is never going to be a vertical threat who can stretch the defense downfield because he doesn’t possess the size and speed of some of the more dangerous deep threats in the game, but he has the requisite speed. He forces corners to respect that which is evident in the first clip. He does a great job climbing vertically and getting the corner into a position where he is forced to turn and run with Deebo and when this happens Deebo can snap his route back into the middle of the field and pick up a nice gain.

In the second clip, again verse the Seahawks, Deebo gets the corner into a place where he is forced to chase. Deebo makes him pay and had Jimmy Garappolo seen him come open it may have ended in a touchdown because there was nothing but open grass in front of him.

When you turn on the film from the 2020 season, you don’t see the same route distribution that you did in 2019. There were a lot more shuffle passes, which Deebo is extremely good at, and routes that took place much closer to the line-of-scrimmage. Not only that, but when Deebo was asked to run routes into the intermediate areas of the field the quarterback was not able to get him the ball as you see in the first 3 clips against the Miami Dolphins.

Last season for San Francisco, Deebo was used in more of a gadget role than a traditional receiver role. They used him in the screen game much more and even as a running back at times. As eluded to earlier in the article, it’s tough to nail down a definitive answer as to why this is the case, it could be many reasons. However, it shouldn’t be going forward. Deebo has receiver chops and can help add to San Francisco’s passing game and take some of the load off George Kittle in the middle of the field while you allow Aiyuk to be the receiver who stresses defenses vertically.

Many outside of the 49ers community view Deebo as a glorified running back, but that just isn’t the case. Is it a part of his game? Absolutely, he can do things with the ball in his hand that few are able to do, even take reps out of the backfield, but he should not be limited to this role. Again he may not be a vertical field stretcher like Aiyuk is, but he has the ability to win in both the short and intermediate areas of the field.

With competent quarterback play this year, and a full offseason to prepare, hopefully, we can see Deebo and the 49ers get back to their 2019 form where they were one of the best offenses in the NFL, and if this is the case Deebo Samuel could be in for a break-out season.