The NFL playoff field is set — an eclectic mix of high-powered offenses (the Rams score a league-best 29.9 points per game) and stingy defenses (the Vikings allow a league-low 15.8 points per game), hotshot rookies (league rushing leader Kareem Hunt) and Hall of Fame locks who have been playing forever (Tom Brady), postseason regulars (Steelers) and teams that haven’t been to the playoff party in a long time (Bills).
Since they say defense wins championships, that means there are some defensive backs whose play will mean a lot in determining how the road to the Super Bowl is paved. Continue reading
L-R: Harmon, McCourty, Ryan
The media coverage leading up to Super Bowl LI (a.k.a. Super Bowl 51 for the Roman-numerically-challenged) between the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons has mirrored the media coverage leading up to last month’s college football national championship game between Alabama and Clemson.
Legacy has been a popular angle.
Going into the NCAA title game, the biggest question surrounding Alabama head coach Nick Saban was not if he could lead the Crimson Tide to the program’s 17th national title. It was more like, when Saban did it, would he then be considered the greatest college coach of all-time? Would he be considered better than ‘Bama legend Paul “Bear” Bryant? Continue reading
Tags: Brian Poole, Cyrus Jones, Dashon Goldson, Desmond Trufant, Devin McCourty, Duron Harmon, Eric Rowe, Jalen Collins, Keanu Neal, Logan Ryan, Malcolm Butler, NFL, Patrick Chung, Ricardo Allen, Robert Alford, Super Bowl LI
Six secondary standouts from football’s week that was:
1. Logan Ryan, CB, Patriots (NFL) — Early in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s AFC divisional playoff game, the Texans forced the Patriots to punt and, facing an eight-point deficit, got the ball with a chance to tie.
On the first play of the ensuing drive, however, Ryan intercepted Houston QB Brock Osweiler and returned it to the 6-yard line. New England punched it into the end zone a couple of plays later, going up by two touchdowns and essentially sealing the eventual 34-16 victory.
Ryan finished with seven tackles, an interception, a sack and three pass breakups. Continue reading
The NFL Network is in the process of gradually revealing its ranking of the league’s top 100 players for 2016, airing a new episode each week that unveils 10 players at a time.
The reveal of the NFL’s list of the league’s top 100 rookies for 2016 was less ceremonial. The whole thing landed quietly all at once as an NFL.com article last week.
Surprisingly, the second-ranked rookie was former UCLA linebacker Myles Jack, whose talent is unquestioned but whose injury history allowed him to fall to the Jacksonville Jaguars in the second round of the draft. Since the top 100 rookies list is based on who the experts think will make the biggest impact next season — and because some observers still doubt whether Jack will be able to play next season — it was an interesting choice. Continue reading
Tags: 2016 NFL Draft, Eli Apple, Jalen Ramsey, Karl Joseph, Keanu Neal, KeiVarae Russell, NFL, Su'a Cravens, Vernon Hargreaves III, Vonn Bell, William Jackson III
During the most recent NFL postseason, I jokingly suggested to my cousin that every linebacker and safety in the league needed to meet somewhere in secret to discuss what they were going to do about Rob Gronkowski.
It seems none of them can solve the puzzle of keeping the Patriots’ superstar tight end in check, and Gronk isn’t getting any easier to cover as defenses see more and more of him. Even the eventual Super Bowl champion Broncos and their critically acclaimed defense got lit up by Gronk for 144 yards and a touchdown in the AFC Championship game.
If the NFL’s linebackers and safeties were to get together sometime between today and the start of the 2016 season, the first order of business wouldn’t be the Gronk crisis — it would be the identity crisis that is beginning to afflict their respective positions. Continue reading
Tags: 2016 NFL Draft, Deone Bucannon, Jeremy Cash, Justin Simmons, Keanu Neal, Mark Barron, Miles Killebrew, NCAA, NFL, Rob Gronkowski, Su'a Cravens
More than 50 defensive backs were selected in this year’s NFL Draft — 52 to be exact, if you include Washington-bound linebacker/safety hybrid and second-round pick Su’a Cravens. That figure is up from 46 the previous year.
Seven DBs were taken in this year’s first round; up from five a year ago. And while the first DB drafted last year wasn’t called until the 11th overall pick (Vikings CB Trae Waynes), three DBs went in the top-11 this year: No. 5 Jalen Ramsey to the Jaguars, No. 10 Eli Apple to the Giants, and No. 11 Vernon Hargreaves III to the Buccaneers.
With each (no pun intended) passing year, it would appear defensive backs are becoming more valuable in the NFL. Just look at the salaries that the league’s best veteran DBs command in free agency, and look at how many rookies DBs are popping up on the draft tracker. Continue reading
The 2016 NFL Draft started with a pair of quarterbacks, and toward the end of Thursday’s first round, another QB provided the most authentically emotional moment of the night.
Then there was the twisting, turning story line involving a 315-pound offensive lineman and some social media skullduggery that sent him on a Warren Sapp-like slide down the draft board.
And added to the mix were some crazy red-carpet outfits, one adorable scene-stealing toddler, a handful of unexpected picks and some interesting trades.
Almost lost in all of that was the fact that no position group had a better first round than the defensive backs, a group headlined by No. 5 overall pick Jalen Ramsey, the Florida State corner-slash-safety who is headed to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Continue reading
In the 80-year history of the NFL Draft, only once has a defensive back been taken with the No. 1 overall pick. That was all the way back in 1956, when the Pittsburgh Steelers took safety Gary Glick out of Colorado A&M (now known as Colorado State). Glick, who was also a kicker, played seven years in the league with the Steelers, Colts, Chargers and Washington. He finished his career with 14 interceptions and 12 fumble recoveries.
Six decades later, 2016 was shaping up to be the year in which a defensive back went No. 1 in the draft again.
The league was ready for it. Continue reading
Tags: Darian Thompson, Eli Apple, Jalen Ramsey, Karl Joseph, Keanu Neal, Mackensie Alexander, Morgan Burns, NCAA, NFL, NFL Draft, Vernon Hargreaves III, Vonn Bell, William Jackson III
These are high-pressure times at the University of Florida, thanks to last season’s 4-8 record and the uncomfortably warm seat on which head coach Will Muschamp is currently sitting — undoubtedly made hotter under the glares of big-money boosters who are used to winning and not so much used to waiting.
So while most programs would be OK with the Gators’ 2-1 record this season — consisting of a 65-0 rout of Eastern Michigan, a triple-overtime win over Kentucky and last Saturday’s 42-21 loss to Alabama — there is panic in Gainesville because, well, they don’t like losing to the Alabama. Continue reading
Tags: Alabama Crimson Tide, Brian Poole, Florida Gators, Jabari Gorman, Jeff Driskel, Keanu Neal, Marcus Maye, NCAA, Nick Saban, Treon Harris, Vernon Hargreaves III, Will Muschamp