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Dec 302013
 
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Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Oregon Ducks (November 29, 2013)

CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu – © USA TODAY Sports Images

December 30, 2013 Bowl Games: 2014 NFL Draft Prospects to Watch

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

OLE MISS

*#12 Donte Moncrief – WR – 6’3/226

Third year junior that has not yet declared. Moncrief is a thick receiver that can push his way around a secondary. Very good functional strength and power. He has some sneaky speed downfield when tracking the deep ball and shows great ball skills. He is a reliable pass catcher with a strong pair of hands. The main issue I see here is the lack of ability to separate from defensive backs. I like receivers that run themselves open, Moncrief struggles to do that. He is a QB friendly receiver that can be a guy that moves the chains though. He could be a day two pick next spring, but if he goes back and shows more agility/speed, he could be a 2015 first rounder.

#38 Mike Marry – ILB – 6’3/250

Fourth year senior that has played a lot over his four years. Marry won’t jump off the screen when looking at statistics and production. But I see a guy that has the tool set you want out of an inside linebacker in the NFL. He has a huge frame with a lot of length. He has good straight line speed that can maintain power on the move. I think his game is limited because he doesn’t change direction in short space very well, but he can make an impact as a run defender and special teamer. I’d look for him in the 6th or 7th round.

Potential UDFAs to Look For:

#71 Pierce Burton – RT – 6’5/290
#85 Ja’Mes Logan – WR – 6’3/185
#3 Jeff Scott – RB – 5’7/170

GEORGIA TECH

#45 Attaochu, Jeremiah – LB Georgia Tech – 6’3/240

Fourth year senior that has been very productive over the past three years. Has played in a couple of different schemes, having experience as a 3-4 OLB and a 4-3 DE. I think his future will need to reside at linebacker because he doesn’t have the bulk to play with his hand in the dirt. Attaochu is a great athlete that plays aggressive and smart. He bends well, explodes off the point of attack well, and pursues with the best of them. I took a liking to him last year, but was a little underwhelmed in 2013. He is a raw space player that struggles when bigger linemen get a hold of him. He is going to need a specific role on top of needing time to add some weight and strength. I think he ends up being a 4th-5th rounder.

#14 Jamea Thomas – S – 5’10/195

Fifth year senior. Versatility is his top asset, as Thomas has played plenty of CB and S. I need to get another look or two at him before getting a feel for who he is. This is only my third time watching Georgia Tech this year. Thomas has the movement skills to play cornerback. He can turn his hips and maintain balance when sticking with a receiver. In addition, he plays a physical game and tackles well in space. He doesn’t seem to make a jump on many passes however. He doesn’t diagnose well and his angles towards the action are over-aggressive. I think Thomas is attractive because he can back up several spots but I don’t think he will ever be a consistent starter. 6th/7th rounder.

#20 David Sims – RB – 6’0/225

Interesting power back here that has really been evolving in to a quality prospect over the past few years. He was originally brought to Georgia Tech as a quarterback, but was moved to running back because the coaching staff wanted to get his talent in to the mix. From there, Sims took off and created a nice role for himself in one of the nation’s top running attacks. Sims will break a lot of tackles and earn the tough yards inside. He struggles in space, as he is not a quick change of direction back. He is strictly north/south, plain and simple. Backs like this won’t get drafted early but I think teams will look at him late day three.

Potential UDFAs to Look For:

#8 Louis Young – CB – 6’1/196
#52 Will Jackson – LT – 6’3/295

OREGON

*#14 Ekpre-Olomu, Ifo – CB – 5’10/185

Third year junior, third year starter. Ekpre has been one of the nation’s top cornerbacks from the beginning of his career and he will grade out near or even at the top of my sheet at the position. Despite the size, he is a physical player that tackles well and hits hard. I really like his movement skills and combining that with his strength, I think Ekpre can be a very good man-coverage cornerback. The lack of height and length may hurt his grade for some, but I’ll still have him in the top 20 overall.

*#8 Marcus Mariota – QB – 6’4/215

Redshirt sophomore that has already stated he will be going back to school, but has also sought out a grade from the advisory board. Mariota was my favorite QB prospect early in the year, showing improved throwing mechanics, arm power, and presence within the pocket. He has accuracy on the move and obviously the movement skills to be a factor as a rusher. He started to fizzle out as the year progressed, however. He failed to adjust to certain looks and schemes that defenses threw at him and it seems obvious that he needs more time to develop. When all is said and done, Mariota is a solid prospect but could be THE guy in 2015. If he comes out now, I think we are talking about a 2nd/3rd rounder.

#1 Josh Huff – WR – 5’11/202

Fourth year senior. Huff was one of my favorite under-the-radar prospects heading in to 2013 but I’m afraid he is no longer overlooked. He went for 57/1,036/11 this season. Huff is a deep threat that accelerates well and runs decisive, aggressive routes. He has great ball skills, attacking the ball with strong hands. He can track the ball well downfield. Once he has the rock in his hands, he is a tough guy to bring down. He has a thick frame with strong legs. Huff lacks the ideal height and length but he is a guy that simply produces no matter what the situation is. I think he gives an offense a reliable threat all over the field. He’ll grade out in the 3rd/4th round area.

#25 Boseko Lokombo – LB – 6’3/229

Fifth year senior. Lokombo is a tools-rich athlete with the frame, length, and speed you want out of a do-it-al linebacker. A quick look at him and he may become one of your favorite defenders in this class. Lokombo became a factor in the Oregon defense in 2012 after consistently grading out as one of the fastest/strongest players on the team in workouts. I want to like Lokombo but he was very average in 2013. He doesn’t seem to click mentally when diagnosing plays. He has poor reaction time which consistently leaves him in poor positions to make plays and/or get off blocks. Lokombo will get drafted based on his upside because watching him move and hit will make many dream about the upside. He can be a good one if it ever clicks. 3rd/4th rounder.

*#6 De’Anthony Thomas – RB – 5’9/169

Third year junior that had made himself known as one of the most explosive talents in college football. Thomas has not yet declared and I think he needs to go back for another year. Rarely do you see a ball carrier under 170 pounds do well in the NFL. As of right now, he is mainly a return specialist in the eyes of NFL scouts. He has elite burst once he finds a seam and doesn’t lose any speed when changing direction. He has he unique level of acceleration. My issue is that he doesn’t have the physical side to his game that you need when carrying the ball. I don’t see him having the impact at the next level that he does in college. The elite movement skill set will be hindered a bit in the NFL and he doesn’t have the necessary strength to do anything else. If he comes out, I think he is viewed as a 4th/5th rounder.

#12 Brian Jackson – S – 5’10/197

Fifth year senior. Good athlete that will test out well in workouts with a nice strength/speed combination. Jackson is good tackling safety that does his best work in the box. Even though he doesn’t have elite size, Jackson plays strong and big. He isn’t a quick-twitched cover man, however. He struggles to turn and run and won’t hang with receivers underneath. I think his lack of coverage dependability will knock him down to day three, but I think he gets drafted based on his ability to play the run from the defensive backfield.

#21 Avery Patterson – S – 5’10/189

Fifth year senior that made the move to S from CB during the 2012 season. Patterson is less physical than Jackson, but he is a much better cover man that plays the centerfielder role very well. He is a quick decision maker that can reach the sidelines fast. While he isn’t as physical, Patterson has shown reliable tackling ability in space. His versatility in the defensive backfield will earn him a draft-able grade, possibly even in front of Jackson.

#66 Taylor Hart – DT – 6’6/287

Fifth year senior. Versatile player that can pretty much play any role along the defensive line in any scheme besides the 3-4 NT spot. Hart has played mostly inside, but he has the movement skills to shift outside in certain packages. Hart is an aggressive hustler that makes a lot of plays away from the line of scrimmage. He pursues well and knows how to finish. I think he will struggle to make an impact in the NFL though. He plays with such a high pad level and doesn’t generate power from his base. He can be pushed around by bigger linemen. He is a very cheap version of JJ Watt, in that he uses his length to his advantage along different spots of the line. I see him as a 6th/7th rounder.

#92 Wade Keliikipi – DT – 6’3/306

Fifth year senior. He was a rotational guy early in his career that became a stout run defender in 2012. Keliikipi’s game revolves around anchoring his position and eating up blockers to free up the linebackers. He does that well but is very limited elsewhere. He offers minimal pass rush and won’t make plays away from the line of scrimmage. I think a limited amount of team will like him based on his ability to play the NT role in a 3-4, but that’s about it. I see a late day three pick here.

TEXAS

#1 Mike Davis – WR – 6’2/195

Fourth year senior. Davis has been a productive asset to the Texas offense for all four years of his career. I think he is one of the more underrated receivers in this class. He has tools to work with, being tall and long with big hands. Davis is a quick accelerator downfield that can knife his way through the top of a defense. He’s not just a long strider though, he can get open underneath with quick steps and agile hips. Very efficient route runner that understands coverage. Davis shows the toughness necessary to be a factor over the middle in tight spaces. If you watch him, there isn’t much he can’t do on the field. I think he can be a solid #2 receiver at the next level.

*#6 Quandre Diggs – CB – 5’10/200

Third year junior that many think will be leaving school early for the NFL. Diggs was a top tier recruit out of high school and made an immediate impact in 2011, winning Big 12 Freshman of the Year. Diggs will get a high grade from a lot of teams because of everything he can do. He is playing a similar role to what Vacarro did last year. He can play a solid CB and safety as well as add to the return game. He is short and stout with a physical element to his game. Diggs is a great tackler that plays downhill. Very fast reaction with good ball skills. I question his ability to turn and run however. He has tight hips when trying to shadow a receiver, which can be an issue if he plays CB in the NFL. Is he a tweener without a position? I think he only fits specific roles in specific schemes, which will hinder him a bit. All in all, Diggs is a solid prospect that will be drafted somewhere on day two.

#75 Trey Hopkins – G – 6’4/300

Fourth year senior. One of my favorite under-the-radar prospects in the nation. Hopkins has played plenty of RT and G during his time at Texas with a lot of starting experience. Hopkins has the ideal frame I look for in a guard. He is thick and powerful with minimal bad weight and a huge lower body. He has great knee bend and heavy hands. Hopkins is a guy that consistently creates a new line of scrimmage, pushing his man back and controlling engagement. He is a good enough pass blocker, as he can handle any speed/strength combination. I really think Hopkins will be a quality starter at the next level and I will likely have him graded in the top 100 overall.

#44 Jackson Jeffcoat – DE – 6’5/250

Fourth year senior. Jeffcoat’s career got off to a promising start and was considered a future first round pick until a torn pectoral ended his 2012 season prematurely. He came back for his senior season and has had a great year statistically. 12 sacks and 18 TFL will get a second look from anyone. Jeffcoat has the tall and long frame that teams want at defensive end in a 4-3 scheme. I don’t like what I see on tape though. He doesn’t have an elite burst and he can’t push linemen backwards. He is a slow-reaction defender that plays too high. I think his production is a result of playing next to some big time defensive tackles on that Texas squad that you will hear from in a couple years. I can see a team selecting him on day two but I wouldn’t touch him anywhere before round 4 or 5.

#23 Carrington Byndom – CB – 6’0/180

Fourth year senior. Has started 38 straight games for Texas. I’ve seen Byndom a lot over the past two years and I think there is some serious talent here to work with. He has good length and ball skills. Those two attributes together are always sought after but what I think sets Byndom apart is the fluidity in his hips. He shows effortless movement when changing direction and has the speed to chase receivers downfield. The one knock I have on him is the lack of physical play. He is a hesitant tackler at best and he won’t press a receiver at the point of attack effectively. He is a slender 180 pounds. I’m not sure how much that can improve and it will keep his grade down on my sheet. But he is a candidate for a guy that gets drafted late and shines at the next level.

#72 Mason Walters – RG – 6’6/320

Fifth year senior that has been starting at RG since his first season. 50 straight starts. Walters is best known for his work in the offseason. He has won numerous strength/conditioning awards. Walters is a tenacious blocker that plays angry. He can be a fun guy to watch because of his style and size. Movement wise, he is average across the board. His feet get heavy and he struggles to adjust to quicker defensive linemen. Walters might be a limited athlete but I think he is a safe bet to be at least a quality backup.

Potential UDFA to Look For:

#17 Adrian Phillips – S – 5’11/210

ARIZONA STATE

#90 Will Sutton – DT – 6’1/288

Fifth year senior that had to sit out a year because of poor academic performance. Was viewed as an average college player until 2012 where he broke out and earned 1st Team All American honors (23.5 TFL and 13 sacks). He came back down to earth a little in 2013 (11.5 TFL and 4 sacks) but many still view him as a top 45 overall guy. He is a fun player to watch, but I don’t see a big time prospect here. His impact play-to-play isn’t there. He is a gambler that can hurt a defense as much he helps one. He is a poor athlete in space that looks sluggish. He won’t anchor his position well and simply doesn’t demand double teams. He can however break in to the backfield with a powerful bull rush and make plays in tight spaces. Sutton is a solid prospect for a specific scheme but he just isn’t a fit for others.

*#52 Carl Bradford – OLB – 6’1/241

Fourth year junior that has already graduated and is seeking a grade from the advisory board. Most think he will leave early. Bradford is a hybrid DE/OLB that has had a nice two year run since the start of 2012 (39.5 TFL and 20 sacks). He is another fun player to watch because of his overly aggressive style. He is an all out hustler that wears a lot of hats for this team. When it comes to a tool set and overall ability, I think he is average across the board. A lot of his production comes from pure hustle and that’s not a bad thing at all, but it is something to consider. Can he, at this size, be a factor at the 3-4 OLB role? I see him as a solid contributor that can backup multiple spots and see some spot duty in pass rush situations. But as an every down player, I don’t see a difference maker. I’ll likely have him graded in the 3rd/4th round area but I think he goes higher.

#1 Marion Grice – RB – 6’0/205

Fourth year senior that is questionable for the game because of a lower leg injury sustained November 23rd. Grice transferred to ASU in 2012 after a couple years at Junior College. He is a legit dual threat that catches a lot of balls and rushes for an average of 5+ yards per carry. He has a nice frame for more weight, which he needs prior to be given a role in the NFL. He needs a stronger lower half to handle the physical upgrade he will see at the next level. Grice doesn’t have superb runaway speed nor does he have a lot of wiggle. I think he struggles to perform as an every down back but he can do enough to carve himself a nice role somewhere. 4th/5th rounder.

#4 Alden Darby – S – 5’11/195

Fourth year senior that has a lot of experience and a very good amount of production. Darby was a CB recruit but made the move to S upon arrival at ASU. He is a great zone defender that takes the proper angles and reads in coverage. He has an average impact on the game from a physical perspective and doesn’t have the speed you want back there. I think he is a backup caliber guy but can still make an impact. 5th/6th rounder.

#62 Evan Finkenberg – LT – 6’4/298

Fifth year senior. Has been starting since 2010 at both left guard and left tackle. He has a lot of experience against some of the nation’s top pass rushers over his career. Finkenberg is a guy that surprised me a few times in 2013. I think he can be a quality guard at the next level if he can develop physically, adding some weight to produce more power at the point of attack. He is a fluid mover that can explode out of his stance and get himself in to the right position. I like his consistent use of mechanics. He anchors well and doesn’t seem to be too far off from starting in the NFL.

#87 Chris Coyle – H-Back – 6’3/240

Fifth year senior. Versatile player that has seen a lot of time at Fullback, H-Back, and Tight End. Coyle was the team’s leading receiver in 2012 after standing out as a special teams producer earlier in his career. Coyle is an athletic blocker that does well against the second level of the defense. I think he has enough strength and power to be a solid fullback in the NFL. With is skill set as a receiver; offenses can do a lot with him. Versatile players like this usually get drafted late day three.

Potential UDFAs to Look For:

#24 Osahon Irabor – CB – 5’11/181
#21 Chris Young – ILB – 6’0/244
#9 Robert Nelson – CB – 5’10/169
#95 Gannon Conway – DE – 6’4/280

TEXAS TECH

*#22 Jace Amaro – TE – 6’5/260

Amaro’s 2013 season has helped his draft status more than any other player in the country. He was a backup in 2011 with minimal playing time, but came on strong in 2012. However he missed the final 6 games of 2012 with a back injury before coming back for their bowl game. Enter 2013 and we may be looking at the top graded TE in the draft that could sneak in to the top 15. Amaro is a matchup nightmare because of his height, length, and girth. He plays in the wide open Texas Tech offense that has him playing the role of a WR most of the time, but Amaro has a physical style to his game. He can push defensive backs around with ease and get to a spot where only he can make a play on the ball. He has superb ball skills and sneaky speed up the seam. He plays with a tough, hard nosed aggression. Very competitive athlete. Amaro may need a little coaching up on blocking technique, but I think he can factor in to the passing game right away in the NFL. I really like what he can do for a passing game and he will grade out as a first rounder if he comes out.

#18 Eric Ward – WR – 6’0/205

Fifth year senior. Ward is a statistical compiler without the ideal tool set. He doesn’t have the speed to get behind a defense more does he show the elusive movement ability after the catch. Ward his a strong player though with reliable hands and route running ability. He comes away with a lot of balls in traffic. He does a lot of little things well that can hide some of his talent-weakness. I actually like this kind of player a lot. Very similar style to Anquan Boldin. He’ll struggle to stick to a roster in some places but I can see him eventually finding a team that uses him well out of the slot.

Potential UDFAs to Look For:

#5 Tre Porter – S – 6’0/205
#1 Terrance Bullitt – OLB – 6’3/225
#91 Kerry Hyder – DE – 6’2/280

Dec 282013
 
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Eric Ebron, North Carolina Tar Heels (September 7, 2013)

TE Eric Ebron – © USA TODAY Sports Images

December 28, 2013 Bowl Games: 2014 NFL Draft Prospects to Watch

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

RUTGERS

*#17 Brandon Coleman – WR  6’6/220

Fourth year junior that has already declared for the NFL Draft. Has been a big play threat since becoming a part of that offense in 2011. His upside after the 2011 season was being discussed as if he was eventually heading to the first round tier, but that is no longer the case. His size/speed/strength numbers are off the charts, no doubt. But Coleman lacks quickness and agility. He is a guy that really struggles to get open in man coverage. His acceleration is below average and simply lacks the quick twitch that is needed to react to speed. He will get drafted based on his upside and physical style of play. He is a terror or defensive backs to tackle in the open field, and he does pose as a deep threat. Coleman can be molded in to a receiver that creates matchup problems for the opposing defense, but I don’t see him being an every down contributor in the NFL.

Potential UDFAs to Look For:

#75 Antwan Lowery – G – 6’4/305
#18 Jeremy Deering – S – 6’2/200
#37 Jamal Merrell – OLB – 6’4/225
#92 Jamil Merrell – DE – 6’4/255

NOTRE DAME

*#7 Stephon Tuitt – DE – 6’6/312

Third year junior that has not declared for the draft yet, but I expect him to. Tuitt is one of the most unique players I have ever scouted. At his size, he moves exceptionally well when rushing the edge. Combining that with a top-level power grade leads me to the Richard Seymour-comparison. I am very careful about comparing players to Seymour, whom I believe was one of the top defensive linemen of his era. But Tuitt has that kind of body and movement ability, and I expect his services to be in high demand next spring. His power presence against the run and dynamic pass rush ability against the pass can be used in so many ways. He will likely end up in the top 15 on my sheet, and that is being conservative.

#70 Zack Martin – LT – 6’4/304

Fifth year senior that has been the top offensive lineman on the ND roster for a few years now. He has started every game of his career, mainly at left tackle. Because of his size and style of play, I think Martin will make the move to guard at the next level, where he projects to be a very good player. Mechanically, Martin is very sound and consistent with his form and approach. Excellent knee bender that shows flexibility from his ankles all the way up through his shoulders. Very good athlete in space that is balanced, maintaining power and strength. Martin has all the tools and skills you want in an offensive lineman. I think he’ll be a starter within a year or two, and a very good one at that. Expect to hear his name called as soon as the second round.

#55 Prince Shembo – OLB – 6’1/255

Fourth year senior with a ton of starting experience for a team that has had a very good defense over the past four years. Shembo is a high-motor edge player that always hustles, always plays through the whistle. He is a strong athlete that bends well and gets under the pads of his opponent consistently. He has a quick jump off the snap, but doesn’t have that next gear to strike fear in to opponents. He also doesn’t have the ideal height and length. With that said, Shembo can be a nice backup/rotational guy because of how hard he plays combined with his tools. I can see him being a middle round pick that a team ends up being very happy with.

#66 Chris Watt – G – 6’3/321

Fifth year senior, three year starter. May not be the prospect that Zack Martin is, but Watt is a different kind of player. He has great size for the position, carrying his weight well and really get the most out of himself. He is a little inconsistent with his weight distribution, playing on his toes too often and getting beat by the quicker defensive linemen. But when Watt has his mechanics and technique lined up, he can win the one on one battles against anyone. Watt has the upside of a quality starter at the next level. I think he gets called somewhere between rounds 4-6.

#2 Bennett Jackson – CB – 6’0/195

Fourth year senior, two year starter. Jackson stood out to me in the games I watched. I think he is a prime candidate for a move to safety at the next level. He has the size and tackling ability to be a factor in the middle of the field. What he struggles with his the quick twitched receiver that runs underneath routes. He is an ultra-aggressive downhill defender that knows how to finish. He can make due at cornerback with a strong jam at the line and ability to diagnose routes and throwing lanes, but he struggles to turn and run. A good defensive mind can find a role for him. I think he goes somewhere in rounds 4-6.

#7 Jones, TJ – WR – 5’11/195

Fourth year senior, three year starter. Jones has been a consistently productive receiver that shined in 2013. Despite some poor quarterback play, he had his best year and some believe he could be a mid-round pick. I like Jones and his ability to run routes and make things happen after the catch, but I think he is merely average across the board. Average size, average speed, average quickness. Jones doesn’t stand out as an athlete at the college level. A lot of his production was a result of being matched up against mediocre defensive backs and the defenses attention elsewhere. I view him as a late round guy that will struggle to stick somewhere.

Potential UDFAs to Look For:

#48 Dan Fox – ILB – 6’3/245
#44 Carlo Calabrese – ILB – 6’1/250
#11 Tommy Rees – QB – 6’2/215

CINCINNATI

#51 Greg Blair – LB – 6’2/252

Was a junior college transfer prior to the 2012 season. He started right away and opened some eyes with a 138-tackle season. His main issue revolves around athletic ability. Even though he lost 15 pounds prior to the 2013 season opener, he appears to be too slow to play every down. He struggles to reach the sideline on outside runs and doesn’t make an impact in coverage. With that said, it’s hard to find a linebacker in this class with the power presence of Blair. He can impact an inside run defense at the next level right away. I think Blair will be drafted on day three, most likely in round 6 or 7.

#10 Jordan Luallen – FB – 6’3/240

Little bit of a shot in the dark here, but I think Luallen is an athlete worth gambling on in round 7. He started off at Georgia Tech, but opted to transfer after just one year. Luallen has mainly been a rushing quarterback out of the wildcat package for Cincinnati. But whenever I saw him play in 2013, his tool set jumped out at me and I think he could be a prime candidate for a move to TE, FB, or even LB at the next level. He is a physical player with that plays hard and fast. Throw him on a practice squad for a year or two and I think he can blossom in to something that helps an NFL team.

Potential UDFAs to Look For:

#94 Jordan Stepp – DT – 6’1/285
#76 Austen Bujnoch –LG – 6’4/290
#11 Brendon Kay – QB – 6’4/228
#60 Sam Longo – RG – 6’5/305
#11 Deven Drane – CB – 5’11/187

NORTH CAROLINA

*#85 Eric Ebron – TE – 6’4/245

Third year junior that has already declared for the NFL Draft. Has been a big play threat ever since coming to UNC in 2011. Ebron is a weapon for any passing scheme in the league, as he creates matchup problems with his size/speed combination. He has shown some freakish ability when leaping for balls away from his body. In addition, Ebron has elite speed for the TE position once he has the ball in his hands. He has Kellen Winslow-type tools without the overhype. As a blocker, Ebron’s effort and technique are both there but he will need simply add some weight room strength to his lower half. He can still make a difference there, however. What he has shown on tape over the past two years could land him somewhere in the first round, possibly even within the top 20 overall.

#93 Kareem Martin – DE – 6’6/265

Martin is a little under the radar among the draft-analyst-public. He has always been a tool-rich player with upside, but lacked the quality level of play week to week. Well I have seen Martin play five times in 2013, three of which in the past size weeks, and I am a believer he is going to be a quality starter in the NFL. He has all the size, length, speed, and skills required to play the 4-3 DE role at a high level. Martin makes a lot of things happen behind the line of scrimmage. He can cover a lot of ground in just a few steps. I’ve seen him completely take over games and I think it starting to really click with him. There are little technique aspects to work on with his pad level and hand work, but NFL coaching will elevate him to a high level. Don’t be surprised to see him taken in round one.

#68 James Hurst – LT – 6’7/305

There is a ton of talk regarding the abundance of quality left tackle prospects in this draft class, and rightfully so. What often happens as a result, however, is the second and third tier or players at that position get overlooked. I think that is what happens with Hurst. Hurst was a 5 star recruit out of high school that has been starting at left tackle for four years now, grading out as the team’s best performing lineman every season (Ahead of 2013 first round pick Jonathan Cooper for three years). Hurst is a reliable, powerful blocker that can handle speed and/or strength. He is not an elite-tools guy. He does struggle in pass protection the further out in space he gets, often leaning forward on to his toes and being susceptible to inside moves. But when his mechanics and balance are there, he can play with anyone. He showed some signs of struggle against Clowney early in the year, but I thought he did a good enough job to hold on to his round two or three projection. He’ll be a starter in the NFL at some point.

#10 Tre Boston – S – 6’1/205

Fourth year senior that started his career off at cornerback, but made the move to strong safety in 2011. He has led the Tar Heels in interceptions each of the past three seasons. Boston is an aggressive hustler that is always around the action, but lacks some of the necessary tools to be considered a top safety in this class. He does not have the catch up speed downfield, nor does he intimidate receivers over the middle. He makes a lot of tackles with is ability to attack downhill and make plays in space against quicker ball carriers, but he doesn’t have a big power presence. Boston has the versatility to be a factor at the next level, but I’m not so sure he can be a quality starter. I project him to be taken between rounds 4-6.

#4 Jabari Price – CB – 6’0/200

Fourth year senior that has been a productive player over the course of his career with a lot of experience. Price is intriguing from the size/speed perspective. He is put together nicely and has shown the willingness to be a physical player. He is a straight line athlete, one that can turn and run down the field with anyone. He appears to be a little uncomfortable with some technique-based aspects to the position. He isn’t very fluid with facing the action, struggling to efficiently turn his hips and change direction. He doesn’t make a big difference with his jam at the line, and his ball skills need to be worked on. Price is a good athlete with an intriguing tool set that coaches want to work with. I think he gets drafted late because of the upside.

Potential UDFAs to Look For:

#93 Tim Jackson – DT – 6’5/285
#15 AJ Blue – RB – 6’2/215

MIAMI

*#52 Denzel Perryman – LB – 6’2/243

Third year junior that has started games at OLB and MLB for the Hurricanes. Has not yet declared but many think he will after a strong 2013 campaign. I’ve seen Perryman four times in 2013 and I think he is ready for the NFL. He has a country-thick frame that plays with power and short area explosion. I think he is an ideal fit for the MIKE or WILL position in certain 4-3 schemes, but could also play inside within a 3-4 defense as well. Perryman is hard nosed, physical tackler that can make things happen. For the teams that want an enforcer inside, Perryman is your guy. He doesn’t make a big difference in coverage and won’t rush the passer, but his ability against the interior running game is draft-able by itself. I can see him being a 2nd/3rd round pick that makes an immediate impact at the next level.

#1 Allen Hurns – WR – 6’3/195

Fourth year senior. Hurns was an afterthought heading in to 2013 but his big senior season has helped his draft stock quite a bit. Hurns is tall, long, and fast. He showed good ball skills and some quality route running skills this year. He has a wiry frame that struggles to handle physical corners. He doesn’t like contact and that was obvious when watching him go across the middle. All in all, Hurns looks like a diamond in the rough at the WR position. He really stepped up when the team needed him the most. A lot to like here. He could be a day two pick if he works out well.

#77 Seantrel Henderson – OT  6’8/345

Fourth year senior. It’s been quite the roller coaster for Henderson, the nations top rated high school prospect in 2009. Since the start of his career, he has been bouncing between the injury list, coach’s doghouse, the bench, and the starting lineup. There will need to be a lot of extensive looks in to his off the field issues. With that said there are very few people on this earth that stand 6’8”/340+ pounds and move the way Henderson does. His movement ability in space is almost unbelievable. He is a dominant run blocker with easy knee bend, strong hands, and explosive hips. His pass protection issues are technique-based and can be improved. Despite the character issues, Henderson will be drafted somewhere on day three. His tool set is something that won’t come by very often.

#65 Brandon Linder – RG – 6’6/317

Fourth year senior that has been starting since his freshman year. Big, physical mauler that loves to run block. He is a straight ahead, no-nonsense player that can dominate the point of attack. Linder struggles with his weight distribution, often leaning on his toes making him susceptible to quicker defenders. Linder has the frame and power to get him drafted on day three. He can be a starter down the road if he works on his skill set.

#51 Shayon Green – DE – 6’3/262

Fifth year senior. Former middle linebacker that has a couple of torn ACL’s on his resume. Was the team’s leading tackler in 2012 despite playing defensive end. Green doesn’t jump out at me play-to-play, but he is a guy that makes things happen over the course of a game. He is a disruptor against the run, getting in to the backfield and pursuing down the line. Green is not an elite pass rusher from a tools or skill perspective, but his aggressive style of play and strong hands will get him a second look from some teams. I think Green has a shot at being a 6th or 7th round pick.

Potential UDFA to Look For:

#96 Curtis Porter – DT – 6’1/316

LOUISVILLE

*#5 Terry Bridgewater – QB – 6’3/196

Fourth year junior that has been re-writing the record books at Louisville, a program that has had its fair share of accomplished collegiate signal callers. Bridgewater has been considered the top quarterback in this draft class for a long time. The majority of the analysts believe he will be the first overall pick of the draft, but I don’t see it and I never have. Bridgewater doesn’t jump off the tape to me and I think his career in the NFL will eventually will reside as a backup. He doesn’t great size, doesn’t have great arm strength, doesn’t make a ton of plays with his feet. How is he considered “The” guy at the most vital position in sports? He does throw with tremendous accuracy and has a quick release, but so did Sam Bradford in college. Bradford is the guy I always think of while watching Bridgewater, and I think they will have similar careers. Neither are built to handle a lot of contact and neither can take over a game and elevate the level of play of those around them. I’ll grade him similar to the level where I had Geno Smith last year. He is a 2nd or 3rd round prospect that will get a shot in the NFL, but is best utilized as a quality backup type.

*#29 Calvin Pryor – S – 6’2/205

Third year junior that has not yet declared for the Draft. I watched Louisville twice in September and both times Pryor jumped off the screen. He is a do-it-all safety that gives the defense a lot of options. As the year progressed, every time I saw him play he appeared to just get better and better. Pryor will likely end the grading process as the best, or second best, safety in this class. He is an explosive downhill athlete that can fly in to the box and make physical tackles on ball carriers. He has tremendous ball skills and breaks on the ball in a way that you will usually only see in cornerbacks. He is such a reliable player that does all the little things right, but will make eye—opening plays as well. I think Pryor can be a star at the next level if he comes out. He could sneak in to the end of round 1.

#2 Preston Brown – MLB – 6’2/260

Fourth year senior that has played every game of his career, starting since 2011. He is a thickly built, powerful run stuffer that has more range than you would think. He makes a lot of tackles all over the field and I think he can be a quality player at the next level. I think he will eventually need to lose some weight if he wants to be an every down guy, but he has quick/agile hips and light feet to move around. Brown appears limited but he can be a contributor in most schemes. I am thinking rounds 5-7 here.

*#9 DeVante Parker – WR – 6’3/209

Third year junior that hasn’t declared yet. Parker has been the go-to-guy for Bridgewater over the past few years and I think his decision will be tied to what his quarterback does. As a prospect, I don’t think Parker stands out enough to earn a high grade. He has the size but he struggled to run himself open in almost every tape I saw. He isn’t physical and he won’t make things happen after the catch. I feel there are a lot of receivers just like Parker available every round of every draft. I’d rather go after a receiver with more upside and/or a tool that can be worked off of. 5th-7th rounder here.

#91 Marcus Smith – DE – 6’3/252

Fourth year senior. Smith was a high school quarterback that made the move to LB right away in 2010. His time was short-lived there, transitioning to DE in 2011 and going on to leading the team with 5.5 sacks. He has evolved in to a nice player and his breakout 2013 campaign may get him drafted in the first five rounds. Smith has average get off and flexibility. He isn’t a pure edge rusher. The Louisville scheme has him roaming around pre-snap, letting him rush the passer from numerous angles and positions. Smith is a good athlete in space, and I think his fit will be in a 3-4 scheme at the next level. He has the power and strength to mix it up with the OL, but also the athletic ability to cover and pursue. Solid player here.

#7 Damian Copeland – WR – 6’1/182

Under the radar receiver despite being a productive player over the past two years. Copeland lacks size and speed, and doesn’t exactly jump off the screen when it comes to agility and acceleration. But every time I watched this offense go, I found myself jotting positive things about Copeland. He is tougher than nails that will get after balls running straight in to the teeth of a defense. He is a hard nosed player that runs reliable routes and catches the ball with his hands. Copeland is likely a 6th or 7th rounder but I think he sticks somewhere and has a nice little career.

#29 Hakeem Smith – S – 6’1/179

Fourth year senior that has been a bit of a disappointment. He was the Big East Rookie of the Year in 2010 and came back strong in 2011, earning 1st Team all conference. Since then, however, Smith’s role has diminished and his level of play never took that next step. He has a thin frame that doesn’t make an impact in the power game nor does he run downfield with speed receivers. There isn’t anything to his game that jumps at you and I think he’ll be just another guy at the next level. His experience and early success will get him drafted late day three.

MICHIGAN

#77 Taylor Lewan – LT – 6’8/315

Fifth year senior that took over the starting left tackle job in week four of 2010 and hasn’t looked back since. Lewan’s grade has been an up and down experience for me. I’ve seen games where he looks like another Jake Long with his dominant straight ahead run blocking and overpowering hands as a pass blocker. Last year when he was considering leaving early for the NFL, I didn’t have a 1st round grade on him. I thought he was too stagnant against speed rushers and struggles to adjust to double moves in space. He came back strong in 2013, proving to be much more technically sound and efficient. When a guy with this much power plays with mechanics, big things can happen. However, as the year progressed Lewan got a little banged up and seemed to lose his dominance. He really struggled in the final two games that I saw. I head in to the draft process still unsure about how good he can be on the left side in the NFL. He warrants a first round grade but I don’t think he is a top 10 guy in this class.

#21 Jeremy Gallon – WR – 5’8/184

Fifth year senior. Gallon’s primary roles early in his career resided on special teams as a return specialist. His quickness and ability to get open were too good to ignore in 2012, however. He made his way on to the field and led the team with 49 receptions, 829 yards. I think Gallon is an excellent slot receiver prospect. His body control and agility give him the tool set the be an outstanding route runner. Teams need a receiver underneath that can run the quick routes and get that separation. Gallon does that well and has the toughness and reliable ball skills to be a factor there. The size will limit him, but he has the look of a guy that turns in to a quarterback’s best friend on third down. I see a 4th/5th rounder here.

#75 Michael Schofield – RT – 6’7/304

Fifth year senior that has starting experience at LG and RT. Schofield is mechanically sound with outstanding footwork. He is a balanced athlete with solid weight distribution. Coaches at the next level will like how ready he is for NFL action right off the bat. I think he will struggle against the speed of the league, however. His reaction time is slow, as he was often playing catch up in the games I saw. I think he grades out as a 5th-7th rounder but can be a quality backup in the NFL.

Potential UDFAs to Look For:

#28 Fitzgerald Toussaint – RB – 5’10/200
#76 Quinton Washington – DT – 6’4/301
#55 Jibreel Black – DT – 6’2/278

KANSAS STATE

#12 Ty Zimmerman – S – 6’1/204

Fourth year senior that has been starting since his freshman season. Zimmerman has had a very productive career (13 career INTs) that has been a steady presence in the middle of the field for that defense from the beginning. He is the son of a football coach and excelled as a high school QB. With that in mind and by simply watching him play, it is clear that he gets by with his on-field intelligence. He is a student of the game and it can make up for physical shortcomings. Although he has good size and length for the position, Zimmerman doesn’t have a big physical impact on the game. In addition, he doesn’t run with the speed receivers downfield nor does he have the short area explosion and reaction to hang with them in underneath coverage. I think Zimmerman is a nice player to have on special teams, backing up the safeties. Other than that, I think he would be a liability for a defense more than an asset. 5th-7th rounder.

#79 Cornelius Lucas – LT – 6’9/328

Fifth year senior that didn’t start until 2012. Made an immediate impact, earning 1st Team All conference his junior year. At his size, I am surprised to see his ability in space. He is an excellent run blocker at the second level. He covers a lot of ground in just a few steps and with his length, he can overwhelm linebackers. He does have issues as a pass blocker, however. He struggles to play with consistent knee bend and is often trying to play catch up. Lucas gets really sloppy with his hands and feet and is a candidate for the practice squad before he is trusted to protect an NFL quarterback. Unique tool set however, and I think it gets him drafted late day three.

Potential UDFAs to Look For:

#86 Tramaine Thompson – WR – 5’8/167
#33 John Hubert – RB – 5’7/191
#79 Keenan Taylor – RG – 6’4/290

Dec 272013
 
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Ra'Shede Hageman. Minnesota Golden Gophers (October 26, 2013)

Ra’Shede Hageman – © USA TODAY Sports Images

December 27, 2013 Bowl Games: 2014 NFL Draft Prospects to Watch

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

MARSHALL

Potential UDFAs to Look For:

#26 Gator Hoskins – TE – 6’2/244
#76 Garrett Scott – LT – 6’5/294

MARYLAND

#17 Goins, Isaac – CB – 5’11/190

Under the radar cover corner that I saw twice in 2013.  I had no intention of scouting him but his speed and acceleration caught my eye a few times.  After a closer look, I came away thinking Goins could be a diamond in the rough.  He has such fluid and agile hips.  Combining that with his deep speed leads me to believe he can handle the pace of the NFL as a cover man.  He won’t be a fit for the physical defenses.  He is an aggressive player and is not afraid to mix it up, but he simply doesn’t show the presence of when taking on blocks from receivers nor does he make an impact as a tackler.  I think Goins has a shot at being a late round pick that makes an impact at the next level.

Potential UDFAs to Look For:

#41 Marcus Whitfield – OLB – 6’2/240
#16 CJ Brown – QB – 6’3/210

SYRACUSE

#96 Jay Bromley – DT – 6’3/280

Undersized when it comes to weight and girth, but has the length to make up for it.  Can easily add weight if he gets put in to a scheme that needs him to anchor more.  But Bromley is a solid, penetrating interior defender that makes plays behind the line of scrimmage (18.5 TFL and 10.5 sacks over past two years).  I question his ability to play in a gap controlled scheme because he can be overwhelmed by power and size.  I think a limited amount of teams will be interested in him, making him a late round pick.

Potential UDFAs to Look For:

#11 Marcus Spruill – LB – 6’0/224
#59 Mackly MacPherson – C – 6’2/286

MINNESOTA

#99 Ra’Shede Hageman – DT – 6’6/311

Fifth year senior that started off as a TE, but moved to the DL in his redshirt season.  By far the top prospect in this game.  Hageman was a bit of a late bloomer, as he did not make much of an impact until last season.  With that said, he has come a long way and some consider him to be a top 45 prospect.  He has shown flashes on tape of sheer dominance at the point of attack.  He has tremendous movement ability for a player his size.  When his pad level is right and he fires out of his stance at the right time, he creates a new line of scrimmage whenever he wants.  The upside here is about as high as any defensive tackle in this class, and it could end up getting his name called in the first round.

#21 Brock Vereen – CB – 6’0/202

Fourth year starter that has played mostly at cornerback, but played safety for the final six games of the 2012 season and had some action there this season as well.  Vereen’s best trait is the versatility he brings to the table as a result of his size/speed combination.  He is a strong 200+ pounds and plays a physical brand of football.  He can attack downhill and make tackles in the open field.  He can line up at the point of attack across from a receiver and play solid press coverage.  I think he ends up being a 4th-6th round guy when all is said and done.

Potential UDFA to Look For:

#57 Aaron Hill – OLB – 6’2/231

BYU

#3 Kyle Van Noy – OLB – 6’3/245

Highly decorated fourth year senior that almost came out after an impressive 2012 season.  Van Noy is an edge rusher that makes a lot of plays behind the line of scrimmage (37.5 TFL 17 sacks past two years).  Some project him to be a top 45 talent although I think he is a notch or two below that tier.  Van Noy has outstanding quickness and movement ability.  He bends well and can change direction with ease.  I question his ability to play a power game, however.  Too often did I see him overpowered by a lone blocker.  He was be ridden out of a plays and be neutralized by guys that won’t be playing in the NFL.  He doesn’t have a lot of experience dropping in to coverage and when he did, it didn’t look like a natural role for him.  I think Van Noy is a limited player that needs a very specific role to succeed.  I will likely have him graded in the 3rd-4th round area.

#55 Eathyn Manumaleuna – DT – 6’2/305

Versatile player that started his career in 2007.  Has played a NT in the 3-4, DE in the 3-4, and DT in the 4-3 in games I’ve seen.  Solid movement ability for a 300+ pounder.  Strong against the run, can anchor his position and use his hands to free himself of blockers.  Will make a lot of plays between the tackles against the run.  I think Manumaleuna’s best position at the next level is at 3-4 DE.  He is a stout run defender that can be a solid role player at the next level.  I think he ends being taken between rounds 5-7.

#2 Cody Hoffman – WR – 6’4/213

Fifth year senior that has started all four years.  All time BYU leader in catches, yards, and touchdowns.  Highly decorated that some have projected to the top 100 overall.  I’ve seen Hoffman four times this year and was never impressed.  He failed to stand out and I think he will struggle to make an impact in the NFL.  At his size, I’d expect a player to be more physical but Hoffman was often tossed around by the stronger defensive backs he was matched up against.  In addition, he doesn’t have deep speed and struggles to run himself open underneath.  Hoffman is a solid hands catcher that will get drafted at some point, but there are too many important factors to the position that I don’t like about him.

#41 Uani’ Unga – ILB – 6’1/233

Under the radar linebacker that always caught my attention while scouting Van Noy.  Unga started off at Oregon State before transferring in 2010, sitting out the 2011 season.  2013 is really the first season that he has made an impact, thus why you rarely see his name out there.  He has very good movement ability, showing top tier balance and short area quickness.  He is a linebacker that gets off blocks well and will get his hat in on a lot of action.  Drops in to a deep zone coverage with ease and there were times where he actually matched up with slot receivers and stuck with them on seam routes 20-30 yards down the field.  Unga may not be a top tier prospect, but I think he is a guy that should be drafted late to see if he can evolve in to a rotational and/or quality backup.

Potential UDFAs to Look For:

#9 Daniel Sorenson – S – 6’1/215
#82 Kaneakua Friel – TE – 6’5/250

WASHINGTON

*#25 Bishop Sankey – RB – 5’10/203

Third year junior that is expected to leave school this offseason.  I’ve seen Sankey a lot in 2013 and I think he may end up being the top running back from this class when all is said and done.  Don’t be mistaken by his lack of elite size, Sankey is a tough ball carrier to bring to the ground.  He breaks a lot of tackles by missing the meat of a hit from tacklers.  His low center of gravity, elite balance, and ability to change direction allow him to gain extra yards every time he touches the ball.  Once in the open field he has shown the ability to run away from defensive backs.  I’m not sure he will show the elite speed at workouts, but he makes it happen on gameday.  Sankey should be a taken somewhere in the first two rounds with the possibility of sneaking in to the end of round one.

*#88 Austin Seferian-Jenkins – TE – 6’6/266

When a tight end prospect with Division I basketball experience at this size is coming in to the NFL, everyone perks up.  Seferian-Jenkins had a big year in 2012 but failed to take the leap this year.  I was disappointed in the games of his that I saw.  He lacks the quick twitch and movement skills that I like in receivers.  In addition, he doesn’t make an impact as a blocker.  At his size, I have to believe there is an issue with his desire to mix it up in the trenches.  I would advise him to go back for his senior year because the upside is there, he simply needs to show that he can improve on his weaknesses.  Coming out now could result in him being a 3rd or 4th round pick.  If he can put out some better tape in 2014, he could be a 1st rounder in the 2015 class easily.

#1 Sean Parker – S – 5’10/190

Fourth year senior that has started every game since the start of 2011.  If it weren’t for his lack of ideal size, Parker would be considered a first round pick.  He is a consistently productive defensive back that can play multiple roles.  He actually has the movement ability to play cornerback at the next level in most schemes and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him end up there.  Parker has great ball skills and anticipates the action as good as any safety in the nation.  He is rarely fooled, rarely caught out of position.  I like his game a lot in a league where the passing game has completely taken over the offensive game.  There is a lot you can do with him.  I view him as a 3rd-4th rounder that will play at a level that exceeds his draft position.

#17 Keith Price – QB – 6’1/202

Fifth year senior that has a shot at getting drafted late.  Price is a thick-framed signal caller that can rifle the ball in to tight gaps.  He is a smart player that takes calculated risks.  Athletic player that doesn’t look to run first in most cases but makes an impact with his legs.  Price has had some bad games, however.  Bad to the point where I think there is a shot he won’t be in the league within 2-3 years.  His accuracy woes when throwing the ball deep are scary.  He doesn’t have the necessary touch when throwing in the intermediate window either.  A QB coach may want a kid with more tools than Price when looking for a project, but I think the toughness and arm strength will get him drafted somewhere in the later rounds.

Potential UDFAs to Look For:

#37 Princeton Fuiamano – ILB – 6’1/217
#8 Kevin Smith – WR – 5’11/214

Dec 262013
 
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Devin Street, Pittsburgh Panthers (November 16, 2013)

Devin Street – © USA TODAY Sports Images

December 26, 2013 Bowl Games: 2014 NFL Draft Prospects to Watch

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

PITTSBURGH

#15 Devin Street – WR – 6’4/195

Fifth year senior that has missed just 2 games over his career. Street has been the go to receiver for a few years now, and is now ready for the NFL. I can see him being a day two pick and might be considered even higher because of his size, fluidity, and ball skills. He’s an easy mover, easy catcher and can make things happen all over the field. I’m very impressed with the body control and his decision to go back to Pitt for his senior season was a good one. Don’t be surprised to see him sneak in to the end of round one.

#97 Aaron Donald – DT – 6’0/285

One of the most productive players statistically speaking that you will find in this draft class. 60.5 tackles for loss over the past three years, including 26.5 this season alone. Donald is a bit undersized when thinking about the prototypical defensive tackle, but he has freakishly long arms and incredibly strong legs. He’s an active player that plays low with heavy hands. I think he can do well at the next level in the right scheme. He has played every spot along the 3-4 front and if you can get a creative defensive mind to create packages for his unique ability, he can be a difference maker.

#7 Tom Savage – QB – 6’5/230

Savage took a rather complicated path to the position he is in right now. He started off at Rutgers, playing there for two years. He then transferred to Arizona for less than a year, never taking a snap. After sitting out 2012 when he transferred to Pitt, he took over the starting job in 2013 and displayed a lot of NFL-caliber ability. He is a classic pocket passer with a big frame and even bigger arm. He had a few games where he looked like a draft-able player, most notably against Florida State. While his state line was nothing to brag about, I was impressed with his poise and ability to maintain his presence and mechanics under pressure. I also saw his games against Duke and Notre Dame, both performances being something scouts will love to watch. I think he can project as a Charlie Whitehurst-caliber backup at the next level.

Potential UDFA to Look For:

#25 Jason Hendricks – S – 6’0/190

BOWLING GREEN

#82 Alex Bayer – TE – 6’4/253

I’ve only seen Bowling Green once in 2013, this I have some catching up to do on Bayer. He is a fifth year senior that has been the starter for three years now. In his matchup against Northern Illinois, he absolutely shined. He shows good hands and good enough speed to get up the seam and split a defense. Against the lower level of competition, his power as a blocker was solid. He is a thick 253 pounds with a strong and athletic lower half. Bayer is a traditional tight end that has a shot at being drafted late day three.

Potential UDFA to Look For:

#24 Jerry Gates – S – 5’11/209

UTAH STATE

#58 Tyler Larsen – C – 6’4/312

I saw Larsen twice in 2013. He is widely considered to be one of the top three or four centers in this draft class. Most project him to be taken somewhere in the rounds 3-5 area. I can see why he dominates his level of competition. He is a comfortable 310+ pounds with great athletic ability. He can move laterally and can hang with linebackers in space. He struggles to control defensive linemen, however. While he doesn’t get pushed back, he doesn’t exactly create space with his power, nor does he lock on to defenders and ride them out of plays. I am hesitant to believe he can handle the physical side of NFL defensive tackles right away. I see Larsen as a developmental prospect that could start a couple years down the road.

#1 Nevin Lawson – CB – 5’10/187

I saw a lot of Derek Carr & DeVante Adams (Fresno State) this year, one of the nation’s top QB/WR duos. Lawson had one of the best performances of the entire year against them, and I think he has mid round-potential. Despite being smaller than I like, Lawson is one of the top press corners I’ve seen. Very aggressive jams at the line combined with the ability to quickly turn and accelerate make him a tough matchup for any receiver. Again, being physical in college is almost completely different than what it demands in the NFL, but the foundation is there. I think Lawson can be a player at the next level. At the very least he can be an effective nickel defender.

Potential UDFA to Look For:

#28 Joey DeMartino – RB – 5’11/200

NORTHERN ILLINOIS

#15 Jimmie Ward – S – 5’11/192

Fourth year senior, three year starter that has been very productive. Ward is an undersized safety that lacks a physical presence. While he is aggressive and consistently hustles all over the field, he fails to make an impact on the game as a power player. He has made a lot of tackles over the past three years, but he is an ankle diver and won’t send any jolt to the ball carrier. I think he is the kind of defensive back that misses a lot of tackles at the next level, which isn’t the end of the world for his potential but I tend to stay away from safeties like this. As a cover man he man, he has the tools and plays the position like a cornerback sometimes. Very quick feet and agile hips. Diagnoses well and has made some tremendous plays on the ball in the three games I’ve watched. I think Ward ends up going between rounds 3 and 5….I am likely going to have him grade out a bit lower.

#93 Ken Bishop – DT – 6’1/308

Another undersized defender that plays a position that requires a little more power presence than he currently has. Bishop is a fun player to watch though. He has a high motor, always playing amped up and with plenty of aggression. He does a nice job of pursuing down the line and gets in on a lot of action. I think he could be a solid prospect for a team that runs a scheme with bigger bodies playing outside of the guard/tackle gaps. He needs to bulk up his lower half, but I think he is draft-able player late day three.

#6 Jordan Lynch – QB – 6’0/212

Lynch is one of the most accomplished quarterbacks in MAC history when it comes to production and wins. However, I don’t see him making at the next level as a signal caller. I think Lynch has some tools that teams look for when building backfield, however. He is a very good runner with vision and toughness. I think he could be turned in to a Michael Robinson-type fullback that is used for more than just blocking, but also some rushes and short passes. Lynch is a football player, plain and simple. I think if he can throw away the responsibilities a quarterback has to deal with, he can add some weight and be made in to a quality role player.

Potential UDFA to Look For:

#79 Matt Krempel – RT – 6’5/307

Dec 242013
 
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Brandin Cooks, Oregon State Beavers (November 23, 2013)

Brandin Cooks – © USA TODAY Sports Images

December 24, 2013 Bowl Games: 2014 NFL Draft Prospects to Watch

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

BOISE STATE

#65 Matt Paradis – C – 6’3/300

Fifth year senior that made the move to offensive line in year two. Three year starter. I saw one game of his in 2013 and was impressed with the athletic ability at 300 pounds. He looks like a candidate for a zone blocking scheme that likes to have their centers pull out laterally and lead block. He maintains power on the move and should have little issue adjusting to the speed of the NFL. When it comes to one on one blocking against bigger, more physical nose tackles, I think Paradis struggles. I need to see some more tape before making a definitive statement there, however. Late day three prospect.

#78 Charles Leno Jr. – LT – 6’4/298

I only got one look at Leno this year, thus I’ll need to do more work on him in the coming months. I saw him against Washington and took down a few notes. He has a physical presence about him. Very good run blocker at the second level. He struggles in pass protection, however. The further out to the edge he got, the worse he looked. He was losing balance and often reaching for the defender. For his size and the minimal tape I have seen on him, I think he will move to guard at the next level. He has a decent shot at hearing his name called late day three.

Potential UDFAs to Look For:

#43 Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe – NT – 6’3/300
#48 Kharyee Marshall – OLB – 6’2/240

OREGON STATE

*#7 Brandin Cooks – WR – 5’10/182

Winner of the Biletnikoff Award, given to the nation’s top wide receiver. He had a huge year, going for 120/1,670/13 and 31 catches over 20 yards. Statistics aside, Cooks will be one of my top receivers in the class if he decides to forego his senior season. He is such an aggressive, efficient mover that runs outstanding routes. He can run himself open from the slot play in, play out. In addition, he has NFL-ready ball skills. He attacks the ball with his hands and showed the ability to make plenty of tough catches in traffic. It’s impressive to see a receiver at his height win so many one on one battles down the field. He has a lot of Steve Smith in him, especially after gaining 12 pounds of muscle to his frame last offseason. He is a guy that gets it, plain and simple. He’ll be an impact player.

*#95 Scott Crichton – DE – 6’3/265

Fourth year junior that has had a lot of success on the stat sheet but hasn’t impressed me on tape. He has not yet declared, but many think he will. He is a high-energy player that makes a lot of plays based on his relentless pursuit of playing through the whistle. While I love to see that kind of attitude this day and age, I think there is a lack of overall talent here. He has an average burst off the ball and doesn’t do much other than a pure bull rush. He has strong hands and good instincts, but I think he is the kind of player the really struggles to make an impact at the next level. I felt this way about Bjoern Werner (Florida State) last year, and I don’t think it will change between now and then.

#16 Rashaad Reynolds – CB – 5’11/187

Three year starter with good size and speed down the field. Part of the OSU track team in the 60M event. Reynolds is a tools-rich prospect that I think could sneak his way in to the 4th/5th round area. He has sloppy mechanics in man coverage. He backpedals too high without balance and his jams at the line are often soft and uncalculated. But he has the length and speed to attract the scouts eye He has the much-needed fluidity in his hips. In the games I saw, he was avoided by opposing QBs for the most part. Was that by design, or pure coincidence? I’ll try to find that out in the coming months but he has shown enough to prove he can be a player.

#77 Michael Philipp – LT – Oregon State – 6’4/328

4 year starter at left tackle in an offense that throws the ball a ton. Missed all of 2011 because of a torn ACL. Philipp has played at a high level the past two years. While he lacks the ideal length for tackle, I think he can stick there if need be. But where I think his future resides is inside at guard. Very powerful body that plays low and strong, Philipp knows how to move his feet and hips to get himself in to proper position. I’ve seen him struggle with quick lateral movers, which will be an issue in the NFL. With that said, I think he could be an end of day2/early day 3 guy that makes a roster and molds himself in to a starter down the road.

Potential UDFAs to Look For:

#69 Josh Andrews – LG – 6’3/304
#71 Grant Enger – RG – 6’6/291

Dec 232013
 
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Derrell Johnson (56), East Carolina (October 4, 2012)

Derrell Johnson (#56) – © USA TODAY Sports Images

December 23, 2013 Bowl Games: 2014 NFL Draft Prospects to Watch

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

EAST CAROLINA 

#56 Derrell Johnson – OLB – 6’2/262

Productive edge talent that caught my eye the one time I saw East Carolina this year. Thick frame with huge legs. Bends well and tries to get under the pads of his opponent. He has strong hands and understands how to get off blocks in a tight space. His issue is a lack of explosion after the snap. He takes too long to change direction and once faced with a stronger offensive lineman, he appears ineffective. Johnson has a good chance at getting drafted however. An edge talent, in a weak edge talent class, with his kind of year and power output will be worth gambling on late day three.

Potential UDFAs to Look For:

#21 Vintavious Cooper – RB – 5’9/200
#78 Will Simmons – RG – 6’5/342

OHIO 

#18 Travis Carrie – CB – 6’0/212

One of my favorite under-the-radar prospects in the nation. Few will talk about this kid, but I think he sticks in the NFL and ends up being an impact player. Carrie has great size for the position and brings a physical style of play. Despite his thick frame, he can turn his hips with explosion and his feet are light and agile. He shows minimal stiffness in man coverage. I first noticed him early in the year when he matched up against Louisville. He was across from NFL prospects DeVante Parker and Damian Copeland, catching balls from arguably the top QB prospect in the nation Terry Bridgewater. He shined in that game and since then, I’ve made it a point to watch him as much as I could. After missing all of 2012 with a shoulder injury, he came back on fire and seems to really understand the subtle, but vital, nuances to the position. He has top tier intangibles to boot and combining that with what he has on tape leads me to believe he’ll grade out as a top 100 player on my board.

Potential UDFAs to Look For:

#22 Beau Blankenship – RB – 5’9/206
#3 Donte Foster – WR – 6’1/200

Dec 212013
 
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Khalil Mack, Ohio State Bobcats (November 5, 2013)

Khalil Mack – © USA TODAY Sports Images

December 21, 2013 Bowl Games: 2014 NFL Draft Prospects to Watch

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

WASHINGTON STATE

#20 Deone Bucannon – S – 6’1/198

Bucannon is one of the most well rounded safeties in the nation. However, few have ever heard his name because of the school he plays for. Make no mistake, this kid is a legit NFL prospect that has starter potential. He is a four year starter that led the team in tackles in 2010, 2012, and 2013 while snagging 14 career interceptions. His playing strength and power are elite for his position. He can close a 10-15 yard window as fast as any safety in the country and he knows how to finish once he reaches the ball carrier. He doesn’t have the ability to turn and run with receivers down the field, but he is a savvy zone defender that can anticipate and pounce. He is an asset against both the run and pass. He has the potential to be a legit day two prospect.

#1 Vince Mayle – WR – 6’3/240

Mayle has one of the more interesting paths to the draft that you will find in 2014. He played basketball for a community college in 2009 and 2010 before sitting out in 2011 because of a family sickness and academic issues. He then proceeded to Sierra College where he dominated for a season, getting him multiple offers from schools around the country. He settled on Mike Leach’s offense at Washington State and has had a solid, but unspectacular year. He didn’t put together any eye-popping games statistically, but I saw some things on tape against California, Arizona State, and Oregon that raised my eyebrows. He has a natural tool set that NFL coaches want to work with. He has a unique ability to high point the football, using his body and timing to his advantage. He lacks the quick twitch that I look for and his ball skills need some work, but he has a few things that cannot be taught nor acquired by others. He is a late round project type that teams will look at when considering adding a versatile weapon to the passing game.

Potential UDFAs to Look For:

#77 John Fullington – RT – 6’5/301
#6 Damante Horton – CB – 5’10/178
#95 Ioane Gauta – NT – 6’3/285

COLORADO STATE

#70 Weston Richburg – C – 6’4/300

4 Year starter that has played Center, Guard, and Tackle with the most of them being at Center. Richburg is a good mover that can be attractive to teams that like to move their interior linemen laterally. He is an all out hustler that will play through the whistle for the entire game, every week. He lacks the ideal tools and doesn’t display a lot of ability but he produces and gets the job done. He’ll need more power and girth before he can handle the NFL defenders, making him a late round/UDFA prospect. Teams like guys in the wings that can play multiple spots and have the frame for more comfortable weight. Those will help him in his grading process.

Shaquil Barrett – OLB – 6’2/250

4th year senior that exploded on to the scene in 2013 with 20.5 TFL and 12 sacks. I saw him play against Alabama and Utah State and his ability to disrupt the opposing passing game is legit. He is strong and explosive and plays with a low center of gravity, making him a tough block for any kind of offensive lineman. He understands how to play the game with his hands and feet. He lacks the ideal length and size for the edge and won’t jump off the tape when it comes to speed and agility. But I think Barrett is a prospect worth taking late in the draft and seeing if he can develop in to a situation player against the pass. In a draft class that lacks depth at the pass rushing positions, Barrett could surprise some and be taken in the middle rounds.

Potential UDFAs to Look For:

#10 Crockett Gilmore – TE – 6’6/255
#78 Jared Blair – RT – 6’7/315

FRESNO STATE

#4 Derek Carr – QB – 6’3/218

Three year starter that has a legit shot at being the first overall selection. From what I’ve seen in 5 games, Carr has the best arm talent of any quarterback in this upcoming class. The power and accuracy are there, but what stood out to me in studying his tape was the ability to maintain that accuracy with altered arm angles depending on what was going on around him. He has great athletic ability within the pocket and understands how to avoid the pressure. Carr is a fiery athlete that is constantly praised for his leadership and toughness. The brother of former number one overall pick David, Carr comes from a strong football background and you have to think he has it all together between the ears. Combine that with some elite throwing ability and big time production, Carr has the opportunity to be a big time player at the next level.

*#15 Davante Adams – WR – 6’2/215

Redshirt sophomore that appears to be all but declared for the 201 Draft. Has had two monster years statistically in Fresno State’s pass-happy offense. He has been the go-to guy for Derek Carr over the past two seasons, showing the ability to make tough catches against single coverage down the field as well as dynamic run-after-the-catch skills. He has long speed but can make guys miss with quick cuts a decisive movement. There is a lot to like here and he is one of the receivers in this class that has Pro-Bowl potential. However his lack of physical play and hustle stood out to me. Little-to-no effort as a blocker in a scheme filled with screen plays and a lack of willingness to get after it with safeties bearing down on him stick out in my mind. Can he handle the physical side of the NFL? Speed helps but it will only go so far. Likely a second day pick should he come out.

#89 Marcel Jensen – TE – 6’6/270

2 year starter. At first glance, most will think Jensen played the role of the blocking tight end for Fresno State. But he was far from a single-role player and I think there will be several teams attracted to his potential. He’s tall, thick, strong, and has surprising speed up the seam. He can be a tough guy to cover and even tougher to bring down in the open field. His production won’t jump out at you but keep in mind the scheme he played which was very wide receiver-friendly. The upcoming months will be huge for Jensen. He needs to show he can start with his hand in the dirt and effectively control a defender at the point of attack. His athleticism and receiving skills are on tape, but the other nuances to the tight end position need to be worked on. I view Jensen as a mid rounder at the moment but this tight end class as a whole has a ton of question marks. Jensen has a legit shot at being a day two pick.

Potential UDFAs to Look For:

#1 Isaiah Burse – WR – 6’0/187
#72 Austin Wentworth – LT – 6’5/306

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

*#9 Marqise Lee – WR – 6’0/195

Lee is a classic “used to be overrated, but is now underrated” story. His career got off to a special start, especially in 2012 when he went 118/1,721/14 while nearly averaging 30 yards per kick return. He was being discussed as a top 5 pick prior to the 2013 season but inconsistent QB play and a knee sprain has put him in to the shadows of some receivers that simply don’t grade out the way he does. Lee has elite acceleration and agility. He has shown the ability to run away from defensive backs once he gets the ball in his hands. He can also run pro-caliber routes and run himself open all over the route tree. He is an every down weapon that can fill multiple roles within the passing and return games. His knee will have to check out in the coming months, but expect to see him taken somewhere in the first round, most likely in the top 20.

#25 Silas Redd – RB – 5’10/200

Well known for his transfer from Penn State to USC following the 2011 season as a result of the Sandusky scandal. Came to USC with high expectations after a promising start to his career, but has failed to stand out among a crowded USC backfield. He has had injuries to both knees over the past year but neither has been too serious. On tape, Redd doesn’t stand out in any facet of the game but he is a solid all around back. He is decisive and can locate running lanes quickly. He may be best suited for a zone-blocking scheme because of that. He lacks game breaking speed and doesn’t break a lot of tackles. That’s a tough combination to work with in the NFL. Some believe he still has some untapped upside that is worth gambling on later in the draft.

#77 Kevin Graf – RT – 6’6/295

Fifth year senior that has been starting since 2011 at right tackle. Has come a long way since his freshman year. Has developed big time weight room strength and has the frame for more bulk. He will need it before he can handle the physical side of the NFL trenches. Graf doesn’t make it look pretty, but he gets the job done more often than not. He is a hard nosed, gritty player that can move his feet and keep himself between the defender and the ball carrier. As a pass blocker, he doesn’t reach the edge well and lacks controlling power in his hands. I don’t see a lot of upside here so if Graf gets drafted at all, it will be late.

*#18 Dion Bailey – S – 6’0/200

Third year junior that has not yet declared, but I think he will. While I scouted safety TJ McDonald last year (71st overall selection by St. Louis), Bailey was a guy hat kept jumping out at me. He is nicely put together and has the blend of size, speed, and power that you want in a guy in the middle of the secondary. He defends the run well but can also turn his hips and cover receivers one on one. I think there is an upside here that a lot of safety prospects don’t have. If he comes out, I think he could be a day two pick.

*#90 George Uko – DT – 6’3/295

Another junior that hasn’t declared yet. Personally, I think he should return to USC for his senior season because he has the tools to be a very good player, but has yet to put a lot of quality tape out there for scouts. Uko is a long and almost slender 295. The frame is there for more bulk and combining that with his athletic ability, most notable speed and explosion, he can be molded in to a first round caliber player. The one thing he lacks the most is the ability to anchor himself in to the ground against double teams. Too often was he knocked back a few yards. He can rush the passer and disrupt the backfield though. Very good hands and feet allow him to win a lot of one on one battles throughout a game. Right now I see him as a 4th/5th rounder with enormous upside.

#42 Devon Kennard – OLB – 6’3/255

Coming in to 2013, the one thing Kennard had to prove was that he was at least capable of playing an entire season at one position while maintaining a starting spot. He has been bounced around from defensive end, to middle linebacker, to outside linebacker, and back to defensive end. In addition, he has a long list of serious injuries in his past including torn knee ligaments, torn cartilage in his hip, a torn pectoral muscle (forced him to miss all of 2012), and a thumb injury that required surgery. There is a lot to look in to with Kennard, but at the end of the day he has had an impressive 2013 campaign. He is physical player that has good power presence and range as a run defender. He gets off blocks well and can close a gap with speed and explosion. Kennard won’t test out in workouts exceptionally well nor does he jump off the tape but I liked what I saw in what was his first real complete season since 2011. Edge players with potential always get a second look and I think some 3-4 fronts will look at him late in day three.

Potential UDFAs to Look For:

#24 Demetrius Wright – S – 6’1/295
#4 Torin Harris – CB – 6’0/190

BUFFALO

#46 Khalil Mack – OLB – 6’3/248

One of the best players to ever come out of the University of Buffalo. Has 75 TFL for his career, which is tied the NCAA all time record. Mack has played the hybrid OLB/DE role over his four year career and developed in to a potential top 10 pick in 2014. Mack has the short area burst/explosion that you almost always see in the elite edge rushers in the NFL. In addition to that, he has a strong base that bends well with light feet and heavy hands. Those tools combined with his ability to use a wide variety of rush moves leads me to believe he will be highly sought after on day one of the draft. This is a class without a lot of edge rushing talent, thus there could be a lot of teams looking to gamble on him earlier than you would think. He is coming from a lower level of college football and he may need some more power output before he can be thrown in to the NFL trenches, but his upside is enormous. I see some Cameron Wake in him down the road.

#32 Branden Oliver – RB – 5’8/208

Under the radar prospect based on the lower level of college football and his size. I watched Oliver four times this year and I simply can’t ignore him. He is a hard nosed runner that is tough to tackle. I compare him to another overlooked back (for the same reasons) that I really liked coming out of Western Kentucky 2012, Bobby Rainey. Oliver runs with a similar style where he can diagnose running lanes before they really open up and has the burst to sneak through them. His low center of gravity is used to his advantage and he will surprise some with his willingness to lower his shoulder and break tackles. Oliver finished the season among the nation’s leading rushers despite missing one game early in the year. I think his performance has pushed him in to late round consideration.

Potential UDFAs to Look For:

#19 Alex Neutz – WR – 6’3/205
#34 Colby Way – DE – 6’4/293
#30 Okoye Houston – S – 6’0/209

SAN DIEGO STATE

#27 Eric Pinkins – S – 6’3/215

Some believe that Nat Berhe is the only draft-able player on this team, but I think Pinkins has a better shot at having his name called. Pinkins plays a lot of safety, but I saw him play a good amount of CB in two games this year and I liked what I saw. Pretty fluid hips and solid press coverage at this size can open eyes when scouts are looking for developmental defensive backs. The pre-draft process will be very important for him.

#78 Bryce Quigley – LT – 6’5/300

Well balanced athlete with the length and frame to be a developmental guy for the offensive line. I really like Quigley’s technique and understanding of mechanics. He almost always seems to be in the right position. The learning curve for him at the next level will be less mental, more physical. That is a safer gamble more often than not when drafting guys in the later rounds.

Potential UDFA to Look For

#20 Nat Berhe – S – 5’10/200

TULANE

#3 Ryan Grant – WR – 6’0/191

I have only seen Tulane once this year, hoping to get another couple tapes in the coming months. Grant is a quick, easy change of direction guy that can make things happen after the catch. He lacks the size/speed that you look for in an ideal NFL prospect, but he has a good chance to stick somewhere. Good hands and good routes from what I saw. Looking forward to seeing another game of his tonight.

#19 Cairo Santos – K – 5’8/160

I don’t scout kickers but Santos is considered to be the top, if not one of the top kickers in this draft class.

Potential UDFA to Look For:

#26 Orleans Darkwa – RB – 6’0/210

LOUISIANA-LAFAYETTE

Potential UDFA to Look For:

#34 Justin Anderson – LB – 6’2/235

Dec 052013
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (December 1, 2013)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 24 – Washington Redskins 17

by Joey in VA for BigBlueInteractive.com

Game Review: The ever annoying “Redskin” name controversy will not dominate this attempt to re-cap, but in case anyone forgot the original lyrical part that was changed because it was…too offensive, I present the honorable, Native American heritage-honoring fight song of the very politically-aware Washington Redskins, who I will refer to as the potatoes, as in Redskin potatoes. Typing that word repeatedly stirs every ounce of dark-side hatred that I possess, and I fear it will be too much strain. It’s not an attempt at humor – it’s a sobering reminder of how much disdain that team deserves.

Scalp ‘em, swamp ‘um

We will take ‘um big score

Read ‘um, Weep ‘um, touchdown

We want heap more

I got a heap more for you, but it’s in a joyous recap of the Giants 24-17 vanquishing of the mighty Potatoes and the Chris Collinsworth’s new man-crush RGIII. Early on RGIII looked as good as Collinsworth slobbered about, leading the Potatoes to a 14-0 lead on the heels of an up-tempo attack aimed at negating the Giants’ pass rush and exposing a MASH unit masquerading as the Giants left cornerback spot. The approach caught the Giants flat footed as the Potatoes, for the first time all year, scored on their opening possession on a 14-play 73-yard drive that ended with an Alfred Morris 1-yard TD plunge. Eli Manning got his first crack at answering the bell but a Brian Orakpo (The MS Word Dictionary’s suggestion for Orakpo is Crapo, just in case you were wondering) sack forced an ugly three-and-out. After exchanging punts, the Potatoes doubled their lead to 14-0 on a 19-yard pass from Griffin to the Brawny Paper Towel guy (Logan Paulsen – it even sounds woodsy) to wrap up a 59-yard march that ate just over 4 minutes of clock.

As the second quarter unfolded, Peyton Hillis was dusted off and the bruising former Razorback ran twice, for 8 and 27 yards on back-to-back runs to get the G-Men to the Potato 30. Andre Brown covered the final 30 yards in two plays, and just like that the Giants were awake and ready to respond. Two Potato and one Giant punts later, Eli Manning awoke from a season-long slumber, going 6-fo- 6 on a 9-play, 81-yard drive that tied the score at 14 going into the second half.

After trading punts yet again, the Potatoes caught a break when Eli Manning tossed interception number 18 on the year to S Brandon Meriweather, whose 32-yard return had the Potatoes knocking on the door again with a 1st-and-10 from the 12-yard line. As they have all year, the Giant defense tightened up, pushing the Potato drive back three yards and forcing RGIII and company to settle for a Kai Forbath field goal and a 17-14 edge. The teams again traded three-and-outs, but a Sav Rocca fumble and subsequent 18-yard punt put the G-Men in business at the Tater 46. Four plays later, Andre Brown gave the Giants a 21-17 lead that they would not relinquish. Josh Brown would add to that lead on the heels of a 40-yard drive late in the fourth quarter, but at 24-17 the Potatoes had life until S Will Hill stripped WR Pierre Garcon and sealed the victory for the visitors. The controversy surrounding the final plays have been beaten to a pulp, and the bottom line is that Will Hill stole the football and the Giants won the game, regardless of what down it was, should-have-been or would-have-been.

Inside the Game: Hands, it’s that simple. Proper hand placement and keeping their legs free from the cut-blocking Redskin zone-blocking scheme, was the difference for the Giants’ defensive line. After being gutted by Alfred Morris last year, the Giants’ DL simply had to do one thing to slow down the Redskins’ running game, keep the offensive line from creating lanes and getting to the second level. What makes the zone-blocking scheme that the ironically red-faced Mike Shanahan employs so successful is its ability to create cut-back lanes as opposed to trying to create one hole the defense can focus on. As the zone runs unfold, the offensive linemen move in unison laterally, and use the DL’s own momentum against them to quickly create running lanes. The way to stop it from a technique standpoint is to “play big”. Defensive linemen often want to play skinny, twisting and turning to knife between blockers to get into the backfield, but against the zone runs, that plays right into the offense’s hands. To play big, you extend your arms and keep a wide base, using your hands to keep the OL at arm’s length as you move laterally, taking up as much room as you can in your assigned gap. Controlling those gaps is essential to slowing down the zone runs, and the Giants’ DL did an exceptional job all night of playing big, staying square and maintaining gap integrity, giving the DBs and LBs clean lanes to fill in run support. Credit DL Coach Robert Nunn and Defensive Coordinator Perry Fewell for fixing what didn’t work against Morris in 2012, and completely stuffing the rushing champ from a year ago. 

Quarterbacks: Eli Manning was like a Phoenix…rising from Arizona. Manning’s clunker of a season was a thing of the past on Sunday, as the vet cobbled together a 22-for-28 day passing for 235 yards, 1 TD and of course 1 INT just to keep things interesting. The Giant signal caller was again harassed all game, mostly by OLB Brian Orakpo, and the offense started slowly, but Manning caught fire (not literally, that would be rather dangerous) late in the 2nd quarter, going 6-for-6 on an 81-yard drive that tied the game at 14. Eli just missed Victor Cruz on a deep option-route that had a shot to go the distance, but give credit to LB Perry Riley, who had solid coverage and slowed Cruz just enough to prevent the big play. Manning’s interception came with five minutes left in the 3rd quarter; the ball glanced off of WR Rueben Randle’s fingertips and into the arms of Mr. Cheapshot, Brandon Meriweather. Manning never had room to step into the throw with Orakpo bearing down on him, chalk that one up to Will Beatty, not Manning. As he is wont to do, Manning shrugged it off and led his team to two more scoring drives in the second half, zipping the ball to Myers and Cruz en route to a 21-17 lead, and eventually a 24-17 victory.

Running Backs: RB Peyton Hillis gave the running game a little shot in the arm, with 45 yards on six carries, including a 27-yard run that looked like the play that gave the Giants life. Hillis bulled over Brandon Meriweather and rumbled past picture-perfect blocks by TE Brandon Myers and RT Justin Pugh and it ignited the entire offense. Andre Brown followed suit, rumbling right for a 23-yard TD run behind another bone crunching lead block by FB John Conner. Hillis and Brown only piled up 20 carries between them for 80 yards, but both had long runs that woke up the offense and kept the defense honest enough for Eli and company to come away with a win.

Wide Receivers: WR Hakeem Nicks made a drive-saving catch on the Giants’ game-tying drive, but was mostly quiet with only 34 yards on two grabs. Victor Cruz, who has fricasseed the Potatoes regularly, was clearly bracketed and held to 80 yards on six catches. But Cruz was able to give the Giants solid intermediate yardage and a reliable target when the defense was hell bent on preventing the deep ball. Cruz was instrumental in the Giants’ lead-taking drive as the 4th quarter opened, hauling in a 19-yarder that put the G-Men at the Potato 1-yard line.

Tight Ends: TE Brandon Myers continues to play better every week, in both phases of the game. Myers nabbed five Manning offerings for 61 yards and a touchdown, and is consistently holding his ground in the running game after a very poor start to the season in the blocking department. Myers’ 22-yard grab on a perfectly run seam route knotted the score at 14. Myers’ ability to make teams pay down the middle for selling out to stop Cruz has been a big difference in the past few weeks. With Nicks struggling and Randle still battling inconsistency on occasion, Myers’ ability to make plays and be that other threat will have to play a big role if the Giants make anything of this head scratching 2013 campaign.

Offensive Line: LT Will Beatty’s Jekyll-and-Hyde season continued. Beatty was beaten cleanly on the Giants’ first play and made it a habit most of the night. Manning’s struggles, a few errant passes and his lone INT were 100% the result of just flat out bad play by Beatty. Putrid game for Beatty, and quite frankly unacceptable given his age, experience and shiny new contract. The right-side tandem of Justin Pugh and David Diehl appear to have figured out how to operate a little better, leading the way on the Giants’ biggest runs of the night by Hillis and Brown. The reliability of the right side in the running game is giving the Giants a go-to play when things are not going well, and for the third week in a row they have given opponents fits on outside runs. C Kevin Boothe, moving in for the injured Jim Cordle, had a strong game and helped pave the way on Hillis’ 27-yard run and Browns’ 23-yard TD scoot. LG James Brewer had a solid outing as well, no big hiccups and solid run blocking most of the night.

Defensive Line: When you hold the league’s leading ball carrier to 26 yards on 11 plays on the #1 rushing team in football, you’re clearly doing plenty right. As they have all season, the Giants’ DL, simply put, owned the line of scrimmage and imposed their will on the Potato running game, even without the resurgent Jason Pierre-Paul who was sidelined with a shoulder injury. DE Justin Tuck tallied four sacks and was an anchor against the run all night long. Tuck’s trademark stack-and-shedding was back in full force, as the former Golden Domer controlled his side of the field with picture perfect run technique, shoulders square, outside arm free and moving laterally until the runner commits. Hats off to #91, who has been criticized here when he looked disinterested, but on Sunday night, Tuck clearly was at his best. Tuck’s sack from DT late in the 3rd quarter was a thing of beauty as he dipped his shoulder, leaned outside and forced G Chris Chester to follow. Tuck redirected and blew past him, dropping Collinsworth’s new girlfriend on 3rd down. DE Mathias Kiwanuka chased the dive fake all game long, giving RGIII a free running lane seemingly all night long. Not a read-option went by without #94 jumping the A gap as RGIII dashed past him. It has to be by design, no one simply misplays the option that many times without being told to do so. DTs Linval Joseph, Cullen Jenkins, Mike Patterson and Jonathan Hankins were superb play in and play out. The quartet had one mission, keep the LBs clean, control your gap and force the Potatoes to beat them with someone other than RB Alfred Morris. Rookie DE Damontre Moore wasn’t as bad as initially thought, a few decent pressures, but not much to write home about yet for the former Aggie.

Linebackers:  Jon Beason started the game with a thump, launching RGIII about five yards backwards on a 4th and 1 that shockingly got a good spot for the home team. Beason was again a tackling machine, finishing with 17 stops and making life miserable for anyone who ventured near him. Spencer Paysinger got the nod over Jacquian Williams, which I think was silly honestly. Granted Paysinger is a bigger body in there against the run, but Williams has been playing well in both phases and he certainly hasn’t looked like a liability in the running game. Paysinger played solidly though, not a knock on him starting at all, but sitting Williams is a head-scratcher. Keith Rivers, you no longer stink, I apologize for being mean earlier in the year, please be my friend again. The former Trojan chipped in again with seven stops, often lining up in the 5-2 as the flex DL, in an effort to hem in the running game which again worked to perfection.

Defensive Backs: A bit of a struggle against the no huddle, and with Giant LBs focusing on shutting down the run, the DBs were challenged all night. Minus CBs Corey Webster, Aaron Ross and Trumaine McBride, the Giants turned to the little-used, oft-injured CB Jayron Hosley who responded with a strong outing. S Antrel Rolle got in on the Griffin launching, knocking the whiny QB off his feet as he tried to block on a reverse early in the game. Rolle planted TE Fred Davis early in the second quarter to prevent a 2nd down gain from potentially going much farther had Rolle not come up and made the stop. It was a very physical game from the former Hurricane, who also shot into the backfield to drop Morris for a 3-yard loss midway through the 2nd quarter. S Will Hill finished with five stops, but most importantly, one strip of Pierre Garcon that sealed the game. Hill and Rolle have quietly become as good a safety tandem as the Giants have maybe ever had. Hill’s ability to erase the deep ball, come up in run support and be a physical presence all over the field have been a big part of this defense’s surge. Jon Beason certainly gets all the attention, but don’t discount the fact that since Hill came back, this defense has made a huge jump. CB Prince Amukamara just missed an INT in the end zone, and generally played well, nothing majorly good or bad out of the former Husker.

Special Teams: Nothing to complain about from this bunch, P Steve Weatherford again punted well, averaging 42 yards (net) with a booming long of 62 yards.

NFLW (NFL for Women): I changed up the routine and watched with the man who forced me into Giant fandom, Dad in VA. Mrs. Joey got the night off and NinVA was busy celebrating a birthday so I made my way to the folks’ house for free food, a TV that was way too loud and an array of comments that simply cannot be reprinted on a family website. The head-scratching quote of the game was courtesy of Dad in VA, who after hearing me praise Zak DeOssie for years of dependable long snapping replied…”Well he’s not as good as Hostetler was.”  At what, I’m not sure, I’m assuming he means at QB but it was late and the booze was flowing so who knows.

Cram it in your Cramhole Award:  I will simply let the quotes from NBC color man Chris Collinsworth stand on their own merit, no need to explain why he gets the award. The following will illustrate just how well-deserved it was this week.

 This is just fantastic by the Redskins.

The Redskins are ready for prime time action.

He deserves to get up from something like that after the week he’s had.

I think the improvement on this team is noticeable.

RGIII looks like he’s having a flashback to Baylor, this has just been absolutely brilliant and they’re doing it without TE Jordan Reed.

How good has RGIII been, he’s been absolutely perfect, it has been something special.

Never a doubt about RGIII and that arm strength. He uncorked a few 80 yarders in practice.

I’m really seeing a calm in the pocket, I’m telling you on almost every play so far he’s going to one, two three looks, that’s what Tom Brady and Peyton Manning do.

His greatness has not been captured yet. He’s been brilliant and my favorite part about it is watching him scan the field, look around and find who’s open.

(Boxscore – New York Giants at Washington Redskins, December 1, 2013)
Nov 192013
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (November 17, 2013)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 27 – Green Bay Packers 13

by Joey in VA for BigBlueInteractive.com

Game Review: “The Autumn Wind is a pirate, Blustering in from sea, With a rollicking song, he sweeps along, Swaggering boisterously.” NFL Films legend Steve Sabol penned the legendary (in NFL nerd circles) poem “The Autumn Wind” in 1974, and 39 years after its unveiling it rang eerily true around the league. On a blustery November day that ushered in violent atmospheric upheaval around the country, the Giants continued to sweep along, and may have finally found their swagger in time for a playoff run. Giants head coach Tom Coughlin talked about all three phases needing to play well for this team to continue its upward surge after a head scratching, coach firing, Jerry Reese mocking 0-6 start to this now more interesting 2013 season. It was by no means perfect, there were passing game hiccups, missed blitz assignments and a few too many deep balls allowed but as the Autumn Wind did its worst, the Giants were still standing, ready to face the coming cold.

Andre Brown’s first two carries netted -4 yards, Eli Manning’s 17-yard first down conversion run was negated by a Justin Pugh personal foul, and six plays into their tilt against the visiting Packers, the Giants looked like an 0-6 team again. Right on cue though, the veteran defense manned the wheel and forced a quick three-and-out against a struggling Packer offense. Jump started by Rueben Randle’s ensuing 32-yard punt return, Eli Manning moved his charges 42 yards in five plays and jumped out to a 7-0 lead courtesy of a 26-yard Manning to Randle touchdown pass. Without all world QB Aaron Rodgers, and unable to get rookie RB Eddie Lacy going, the Packers went three-and-out again and handed the ball right back to the home team. Eleven plays later, the lead grew to 10 at the end of a drive that saw Manning convert a 3rd-and-7 to Victor Cruz and a Brandon Jacobs 4th-and-1 plunge that was a portend of the physical style this Giants team is embracing to overpower their opponents.

Unable to move the ball on the ground as the second quarter unfolded, Packer QB Scott Tolzien took to the air and moved his team 70 yards on back-to-back passes to Jordy Nelson and James Jones, who got an inside track on CB Prince Amukamara to get his team to the Giant 12-yard line. Determined to help their young signal caller out, Mike McCarthy’s Pack went back to the ground game and were thumped on consecutive James Starks runs by DE Jason Pierre Paul. JPP’s back-to-back stuffs held the drive at bay, and Mason Crosby put the cheeseheads on the board with a 24-yard boot that cut the Giant lead to 10-3. Looking to extend their lead, the Giants then marched 74 yards in 11 plays, but a poor route by the little used Louis Murphy led to Manning’s 17th INT of the year and a few questions about why WR Hakeem Nicks removed himself from the game. After trading punts, the Pack moved 24 yards in 4 plays and used a 57-yard Crosby moonshot to pull within four at the half. After careful made-up analysis, our team determined that Crosby’s kick would have been good from 157 yards, which may or may not be some kind of record.

As the second half opened, Lacy struggled for two yards on three carries and Tolzien was again forced to wing it. MLB Jon Beason leapt into Tolzien’s passing lane for the interception and charged downfield for a violent 9-yard return. With the rock now at midfield, Manning quickly found Hakeem Nicks for 35 yards and four plays later Josh Brown added a 28-yarder to push the G-Men ahead 13-6. Unable to get Lacy going, the Packers went to a shorter passing game in lieu of running into the teeth of the Giant DL and moved 50 yards in eight plays, stalling out at the Giant 48. After a Louis Murphy penalty on a 4th-and-12 punt, McCarthy rolled the dice with a fake, but LB Spencer Paysinger made a stop just short of the line to gain and with 6:32 left in the third quarter, Eli and the offense began to salt the game away. A 63-yard, 10-play drive that ate up over six minutes was spurred by two big third-down conversions from Manning to Cruz and then TE Brandon Myers. Brandon Jacobs did the clean-up work, pushing over left guard for a 1-yard TD and a 20-6 lead. Tolzien, now down 14, took to the air again and hit Jordy Nelson for 18 and Jarrett Boykin for 52 and 83 yards later the Packers trimmed the lead to just a TD.

Up just seven points as the fourth quarter opened, the Giants did something truly astounding, they gained 12 yards on a screen pass. The drive went just three plays and netted -4 yards but they completed a screen pass. No INT, no fumble, no disaster, actual yardage (I recommend playing the lottery this week if your last name rhymes with Milbride). Mike McCarthy’s goal of ending his second-half offensive drives in every way possible (one INT, one fake punt failure, one TD, one punt and one INT return for a TD) played right into the Giants hands. Up 20-13 and unable to move the ball, the Giants again looked to their defense and it was JPP bailing them out. With the ball at the Green Bay 30, Tolzien dropped back and wound up, JPP read the play, leapt up and snared the ball, rumbling to the end zone and putting the Giants up 27-13. The teams traded punts again and the Packers last gasp was thwarted by who else, S Antrel Rolle, who snatched the third INT of the day and notched a fourth straight win for suddenly rollicking Giants.

Inside the Game: Despite giving up 339 yards passing and five plays of over 20 yards, the Giants’ defense again was the catalyst for victory for the second week in a row. And again the LBs were at the heart of the formula. Give JPP credit for his TD, it was a thing of athletic beauty, and yes Justin Tuck, Kiwi, Cullen Jenkins and Mike Patterson put heat on Scott Tolzien but it was your LB corps that made this formula work again…something NO ONE would have guessed about five weeks ago. Correctly assuming that RB Eddie Lacy would be the way that Packer coach Mike McCarthy would help a struggling offense, Perry Fewell again deployed a defense with the sole intention of sealing Lacy and RB James Starks off and forcing Scott Tolzien to win the game on his own. No funny tricks, no complicated coverages, just “Let’s line up and see who hits harder.” Fewell opened the game again with a 5-2 Okie front, utilizing LB Keith Rivers as his flexed DL as S Will Hill knifed into the backfield to stop rookie RB Eddie Lacy for a 3-yard gain. Starting LBs Rivers, Jon Beason and Jacquian Williams all played with a timing and rhythm that has become the norm during the defense’s resurgence. The improved coordination between those three (and Spencer Paysinger in some sub packages) has been making a huge impact in controlling opponents’ running games. At the snap, keep your eyes on the trio – they move as one laterally as the play unfolds, only attacking upfield when the runner has picked a gap, almost completely eliminating cut-back and second-chance runs that have gashed this defense in the past two years. The trio combined for 17 stops and an interception, but most importantly, filled their run gaps with precision and stifled Eddie Lacy and the Packers running game to 55 total yards and a 2.8 yard per carry average. The second level of this defense, the one most maligned prior to Beason’s arrival, has become the glue between a talented front four and a secondary with more than enough talent to combat just about every passing game this team has faced and will face. I’ve been rough on Fewell, but with Beason’s arrival, he has this defense humming. Credit Beason’s versatility, physicality and just plain high energy for the sudden and impressive resurgence of this once lost group of LBs. All three levels of this defense have impact players now, all three are playing together and it may spell trouble for the NFC East as the wind turns colder.

Quarterbacks: “I’m coming to getcha, I’m coming to getcha, Spittin’ out lyrics, homie I’ll wetcha.” I can’t verify that Eli Manning was quoting “Jump Around” (nor can you disprove it) as he found his bearings, but in four weeks Eli has turned MetLife from a House of Pain to a house of not too shabby. A solid outing (unless you’re in Dallas or Washington and have to face this ornery bunch) for Eli who finished with 279 yards, one TD and another INT. With an improved running attack and creative blocking schemes up front, Manning had more time to get the ball downfield, completing passes of 30, 35 and 26 yards to his big WR trio. His best pass of the day was a rifle shot to Cruz on a 3rd-and-7 that went for 30 yards. No long Cruz or Nicks TDs, but after pulling in the reins for weeks, Manning pushed the envelope more than he has recently, and was able to make up for Andre Brown’s modest 66-yard day against an enormous Packer front seven. Eli did miss a wide open Bear Pascoe, but he had to have been just as shocked as anyone to see Pascoe very slowly running free down the left sideline. You won’t find it on a stat sheet, but Eli just looked more comfortable and threw with more authority than he has in weeks. Credit Kevin Gilbride, TE coach Mike Pope, running back coach Jerald Ingram and OL coach Pat Flaherty with really shoring up the OL with their series of RB and TE chips, motions and blitz pick up schemes. Manning in turn seems more comfortable in the pocket, is stepping into his throws a little more and is slowly starting to trust his move ’em out gang enough to start getting back to doing what he does best, torturing teams with Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks down the field. Slowly but surely the signal caller is returning to form, I wouldn’t be shocked to see this offense explode in the next month.

Running Backs: Tough sledding all day for Andre Brown, who only managed 66 yards on 18 carries, but the threat he presents is forcing defenses to play a little closer to the line of scrimmage which is slowly opening up the downfield passing lanes. Brown missed two catchable passes from Manning on outlet passes, but pass blocked well and did enough to keep the defense honest. Brandon Jacobs notched his 60th career TD and only had nine yards on five carries, but two of those key 4th-and-1 conversions. Again, it’s not something visible on a stat sheet, but Jacobs presence combined with FB John Conner’s knee-buckling lead blocks has added an element of toughness to this running game and this offense that was noticeably absent prior to the arrival of the two big RBs. As has been the theme in this 4-game run, all of the Giant backs have been outstanding on blitz pickups, often staying in to pick up the extra rushers that teams are so eager to send after the turnover-prone Manning.

Wide Receivers: Victor Cruz had his best game in weeks, hauling in eight balls for 110 yards. Cruz had more room to operate than he has in weeks thanks to the shored up OL – stay tuned for a signature long TD. Still no TDs for Hakeem Nicks, but former Tar Heel pitched in with 50 yards on four grabs, including a 35-yarder on the Giants third scoring drive of the day. Rueben Randle hauled in a 26-yard crossing route for the Giants first score, and set up the drive with a 32-yard punt return that was one tackler away from a TD. Randle finished the day with 37 yards on three catches and again found the end zone as teams seek to take away Cruz and Nicks in the red zone.

Tight Ends: Brandon Myers pulled in three catches for 32 yards, including a 15-yard third-down conversion from Manning. More importantly, Myers has found his niche blocking, usually from a move TE or H-Back spot where he’s essentially a RB in to pick up blitzers as they come free. Myers’ recognition and reaction has improved weekly, and he is a big big reason that Manning is finding more time to throw and this beleaguered OL is getting by.

Offensive Line: Four sacks allowed and 78 rushing yards at 3.3 per clip is not exactly a great day, but against a 3-4 with B.J. Raji, Ryan Pickett and Johnny Jolly, the Giants faced 337, 340 and 325 pounds of starting DL mass. Tough enough sledding, but when the OLBs are 255lb Clay Matthews and 285lb Mike Neal, you have to expect a few issues up front. So with all of that size and talent taken into account, you have to be impressed with how this slightly smaller OL fared against easily the largest and most-talented front seven it will see all year. C Jim Cordle again had a good game, stepping into the breach on Manning’s TD pass to Randle, as the Packers overloaded RG David Diehl’s gap. Great recognition by Cordle there, which gave Manning the pocket space to step up and hit Randle for the score. LT Will Beatty had one whiff, slip miss kinda thing that led to a sack, but overall a good effort against a big nasty front.

Defensive Line: DT Cullen Jenkins blew past G Evan Dietrich-Smith on the defense’s second snap, dropping 230lb bowling ball Eddie Lacy for no gain and immediately setting the tone for the afternoon. Fellow DTs Johnathan Hankins and Mike Patterson did the dirty work inside, not allowing second-level penetration and allowing Giant LBs to flow to the run game all day long. DE Jason Pierre Paul, questionable with a shoulder injury, answered any questions about his health with a leaping interception return and TD run that effectively sealed the deal for the G-Men. DEs Justin Tuck and Mathias Kiwanuka both applied consistent pressure outside, keeping Tolzien off balance and setting the edge in defending RB Eddie Lacy. Tuck has been rounding into form – give the old boy credit, he’s fighting through his struggles and starting to make a real impact on the edge.

Linebackers: Aside from the Governor’s return to the Walking Dead, MLB Jon Beason has been the biggest surprise of the fall. Lamented as too injured, too little and too late, Beason has been the 9-volt battery of the defense. Allow me to explain, wait there is no time, let me sum up…you never know that your 9-volts work until they don’t and your smoke detectors beep incessantly for you to change them. Mark Herzlich, Dan Connor, Chase Blackburn…beep…beep…beep and finally Jerry Reese had enough and traded for the 3-time Pro Bowler who has put out the fire on defense. Terrible and annoying analogous nonsense aside, Beason has been the glue that has this defense playing as well as it has since its two recent Super Bowl runs. Beason’s interception and angry 9-yard return of a Tolzien pass are a perfect snap shot of his impact on this team. My second favorite South Florida Bull of all time, Jacquian Williams, continued his return from an injury-plagued 2012 and notched eight stops, tying Beason for the team lead. Williams’ size is simply no longer an issue. His speed, technique and timing more than make up for the 10-15 pounds that would make him a wrecking ball. Deposed starter Spencer Paysinger had two stops, but one on a fake punt and one on a third-down run both had a big impact. I’m not Paysinger’s biggest fan as a starter (I banged the Williams drum all pre-season), but Spitty P always brings it when he gets a shot, and does his job when called upon.

Defensive Backs: S Will Hill had an almost INT on the Packers second drive, and a great stop of RB Eddie Lacy on the game’s first defensive snap. Hill’s emergence has made the loss of Stevie Brown sting a lot less (and made me wonder what Hill, Brown and Rolle could do on the field together). Hill is always around the ball, rarely late in coverage, and he and Rolle seem to be in sync, and most importantly, interchangeable, which gives Perry Fewell the flexibility to disguise coverages without sacrificing run support or deep patrol.

Special Teams: Rueben Randle’s 32-yard punt return, Spencer Paysinger’s fake punt tackle and P Steve Weatherford’s impressive bounce back from a rough week 10 performance added up to a not-so-terrible day for the special teams. That’s it, I’m already bored with this section. Someone wake me when Phil McConkey Jr. plays for the G-Men and takes WWE quality clothesline shots to the face after a 3-yard return and gets up to celebrate like a kid who got lucky on prom night. (I did not).

NFLW (NFL for Women): I did not have the NFL’s express written consent, but NinVA and her Cowboy-loving fiancé took me and Mrs. Joey to Lexington, VA this weekend. Our goal was to peruse wedding venues, taste free wine and taste not-so-free beer, and taste more beer, some Jack Daniels, some more beer, wings and possibly a cheese fry (I detected a hint of faux cheddar on my pants the next day). By game time Sunday, NinVA and Mrs. Joey decided they were too tired to watch the game together (woohoo!), so NinVA headed home, dejected at missing the game. While I did some intestinal yoga, I told NinVA and Mrs. Joey to see if Skype could create a virtual living room for us. Sure enough, Mrs. Joey pulled it off and my shock at her Kip Dynamite level of technology love was instantly bested by her knowledge of the Godfather. “You did this without my help?” I queried, “I’m smaht…not like everyone says, I can do things I’m smaht and I want respect!” Sadly I am now Fredo to the NFL if anyone of legal importance reads this pirated transmission account.

Cram it in your Cramhole Award: I have to give this to CB Tramon Williams for his second quarter high school drama club level of histrionics over a pass interference call. Williams arrived early enough on Manning’s pass to Hakeem Nicks to suggest he’s watching film with Bill Belichick and the spygate bunch. After being flagged, Williams pulled the NFL version of a flop, flapping his arms and looking just befuddled (not Jim Fassel level, but still, befuddled) that he was flagged.

(Boxscore – Green Bay Packers at New York Giants, November 17, 2013)
Nov 142013
 
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Oakland Raiders at New York Giants (November 10, 2013)

Oakland Raiders at New York Giants – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 24 – Oakland Raiders 20

by Joey in VA for BigBlueInteractive.com

Game Review: If someone had told you that Cooper, not Peyton or Eli would spur the Giants to a win, you may have slowly backed away from the crazy man. In an ironic twist last Sunday at a blustery MetLife Stadium, it was Cooper (Taylor) playing the hero, Peyton (Hillis) playing the goat and little brother Eli just kind of getting in the way. Heading into week 10, the Giants were on a roll, two in a row, turnover free and slowly stabilizing. With a two game streak, newfound confidence and an antsy home crowd rocking early…the Giants fumbled the opening kickoff, and two plays later the visiting Raiders were up 7-0 on a Terrelle Pryor sneak. Again quickly down 7-0, your Giants took the field on offense with Eli and Peyton in tow, and the two played a game of “who can stink more” on the first possession. Eli missed a wide open Victor Cruz on first down, Hillis genuflected in lieu of a blitz pick up, and our favorite band “The 3 and Outs” were back.

Fortunately for Eli and the “Outs”, the Giants defense pulled on their big boy pants again and stuffed the Raiders’ first possession after 21 yards. Cooper (Taylor) did what Eli and Peyton could not do on the ensuing punt, he found the end zone when he scooped up a Damontre Moore punt block, and sprinted 21 yards to pay dirt, evening the score at 7. The defense again held serve on the next Raiders’ possession, but were back on the field five plays later thanks to a Peyton Hillis fumble on the now dreaded screen pass that gave the Raiduhs the spheroid back at the Giant 21-yard line. Unwilling to let the offense ruin the day, no matter how hard they tried, the Giants’ D rose up again, forcing the Raiders to settle for a 33-yard FG and a 10-7 lead.

After trading punts, the Giants’ offense finally got on track, marching 90 yards in 11 plays with Manning hitting WR Rueben Randle on a 5-yard TD pass and a 14-10 lead. After another hold by the defense, Eli pulled a Peyton and hit CB Tracy Porter in the chest with an INT that was returned for a TD and the Giants trailed 17-14. It was Porter you may recall who sealed a Super Bowl win over Peyton Manning’s Colts with an INT return for a TD. (I refuse to use term Pick Six, Beast Mode or Sick to describe anything football related, unless it makes me physically ill of course). The Raiders opened the second half with the ball and a 3-point lead and embarked on a 74-yard drive that put them at the Giants one-yard line after chewing up half of the 3rd quarter. With a first and goal at the one, the Giants’ defense faced a defining moment and stared their season in the face.

Inside the Game: Down 17-14, facing a Raider first and goal at the 1, the Giants defense may have saved their season. Lining up in an Oklahoma 5-2 (A 4-3 with an OLB lined up in a 2-point DE  stance on the weakside) with Rivers lined up as the elephant, or flex DE, the Giants gambled a bit by keeping safeties Antrel Rolle and Will Hill in with Rivers as the extra DL. Against power back Rashad Jennings, giving up the bulk seemed riskier than using an extra DL and run-stuffing safety Ryan Mundy but DC Perry Fewell once again forced the Raiders’ hand. By keeping Rolle on the strong side and Rivers as the weakside boundary defender, Fewell hedged his bet against Pryor getting to the edge and forced the Raiders to go inside. With Jon Beason manning the middle, Fewell gambled that he’d be able to defeat a lead block and Rivers would hold the edge, forcing Jennings to try his luck against JPP, Tuck, DTs Mike Patterson and Linval Joseph. Check and mate to Mr. Fewell, Beason blew up the A gap, Rivers got inside of LT Khalif Barnes and Tuck cleaned up as Patterson and Joseph got low to take out the Raider interior OL. Fewell’s alignment worked on 2nd and goal, with Rivers eyeing the mesh point (the spot where the QB and RB meet on any type of pass/run option) and forcing Pryor to throw into tight coverage against Antrel Rolle. That speed on the edge kept Pryor in check, and forced the Raiders to earn their $14 dollars…the hard way. LT Khalif Barnes jumped on 3rd and 1 and the Giants forced Pryor into an errant 3rd down throw as Jon Beason, Justin Tuck and Jacquian Williams played with outstanding discipline, not leaving their gaps and hemming Pryor in. Antrel Rolle was again in on the play, with tight coverage in the end zone, and the Raiders went from a potential 10-point lead to a much more manageable 20-14 bulge. Excellent strategy down there by Fewell to negate the Raiders’ best player, limit their options and turn the tide of the game.

Down 20-14, Eli again missed Cruz twice, forcing another three-and-out but never fear the defense is here. CB Terrell Thomas continued his game-changing play, intercepting Pryor and rumbling down to the 5 to set the G-Men up for a 1-yard TD plunge by Andre Brown. With a one-point lead, the Giants’ defense forced another three-and-out thanks to another Justin Tuck pressure and errant Pryor pass. After the defense’s goal-line stand, Eli dusted himself off and led the Giants on a 70-yard, 13-play drive that ate up 6:56 and pushed the margin to 24-20 on a 23-yarder by K Josh Brown. Manning hit Hakeem Nicks on a perfectly placed sideline route that got the offense out of a 2nd-and-14 hole, and spurred the offense on its final scoring drive. Up 24-20, the Giants’ defense held yet again (I am NOT getting tired of typing it, seeing it and saying it) and gave the offense the ball at the Raider 44, with a chance to end the game. But that’s not fun enough for Eli and the Outs, and their opening act, the Unspecial Teamers. Defensive heroics be damned, the offense went a pathetic three-and-out (including ANOTHER failed screen pass) and not to be outdone, the special teams gave up a punt block to give the Raiders one more shot to steal a win. Say it with me now….and the defense came up with another big stop, as Mathias Kiwanuka stripped Terrell Pryor, Cullen Jenkins belly flopped on it, and the day was saved despite the offense and special teams’ dogged determination to flub the game away.

Quarterbacks: Ugly stat line, ugly game. 12-of-22 for 140 yards, one TD and one INT. Not quite worth $14 million or whatever he’s being paid, but a win is a win during this head-scratching campaign. Eli Manning again struggled, misfiring on some easy throws that the vet usually hits. Manning badly, badly missed a wide open Peyton Hillis on a 3rd-and-9 and overthrew Cruz on the game’s first throw. In both cases, Manning did the same thing – he threw without getting his plant foot set, didn’t get his hips through the throw and sent both passes sailing. Eli’s 90-yard scoring drive, was in the words of our pal Bruce (BBI’s resident optimist), “vintage Manning.”  Manning mixed in play action, hitting all three of his top WRs for 10 plus yard gains and finding Randle on a perfectly placed 3rd-and-goal TD pass. Just as he was feeling good after a 25 yarder on 3rd-and-11, Eli threw a head-scratching pick to CB Tracy Porter who waltzed into the end zone, erasing the Giants’ 90-yard effort with just one errant toss. Eli threw a few darts when he had to, one to Nicks on the Giants’ final drive, the perfect fade to Randle for a TD, a 3rd-and-5 to Cruz and a 3rd-and-1 dump-off to Brown that kept a drive alive. Eli missed badly on a few too, notably a wide-open Cruz on a quick out from the Raiders’ 5 that would have been an easy six points. A few good throws, some very bad and inconsistent mechanics all day long. Good enough for a win though, and right now that’s all that matters.

Running Backs: RB Peyton Hillis, the steadying force of the past two weeks had a rough day. He gave up a safety blitz for a sack on the Giants third play of the day and quite honestly looked like he was checking for a logo on Usama Young’s shoe instead of blocking him. Hillis then coughed up a screen pass and RB Andre Brown took the reins for the day in his return from a broken fibula. Clearly rested, Brown racked up 115 yards and a TD on 30 carries. Brown ran with good power between the tackles, and breathed life into the Giants’ trademark play-action offense. Brown played well, but in reviewing, could have played better with a few quicker reads. But after the layoff, a damn good effort by Brown and another sign of good things to come for this offense that has to find its bearings to be relevant in the NFC East. FB John Conner was again a thumper, leading the way for Brown’s big day with crushing lead after crushing lead. This is the best lead fullback blocking this team has had since Mo Carthon’s reign of terror in the mid-80s. Conner’s blast of CB Charles Woodson gave Brown a wide open lane to dash into the end zone and give the Giants a 21-20 lead they would not relinquish.

Wide Receivers: Rueben Randle led the WRs with 50 yards on three grabs and a TD, including an impressive 25 yarder on a 3rd-and-11 that got the Giants out of the shadow of their own end zone. Hakeem Nicks chipped in with four catches and 49 yards and drawing a pass interference penalty that inched the ball closer on the Giants’ lead-taking drive in the fourth quarter. Nicks’ 25-yarder on the Giants final scoring drive was a tip-toe effort that got the Giants out of a 2nd-and-14 hole, outstanding effort and focus by Nicks with a safety bearing down on him. Victor Cruz was quiet with only 37 yards on three catches, the result of oodles of Cover 2 designed to hem in the Giants’ downfield passing game. The offense is taking fewer shots downfield, the WRs numbers are dipping, but it’s working for now. Before this season ends, the dangerous duo will have to make some game-changing plays if this team hopes to make any noise in the NFC.

Tight Ends: No catches, no yards, no problem. Brandon Myers, Bear Pascoe and Larry Donnell were used as extra FBs, downfield blockers when lined up in the slot and out wide, and decoys that gave Andre Brown just enough room on off-tackle runs to keep the chains moving. Pascoe had an outstanding edge-sealing block on Brown’s TD, and did his usual dirty work on the edge.

Offensive Line: Rough start for the rookie RT Justin Pugh, giving up an early sack on the Giants’ second possession, but Pugh steadied himself and helped pave the way for Andre Brown’s big day. LT Will Beatty gave up an early pressure as well, forcing a Manning underthrow, but like Pugh, he held his own the rest of the day. Despite three sacks, the OL played pretty well, paving the way for a big day on the ground but their blitz recognition was below average on all of the sacks, an unfortunate result of a unit that has not played long enough together. My hat goes off to Jim Cordle again, he’s not pancaking anyone, but he kept rhino-sized DT Pat Sims from getting in Eli’s face and helped lead the way to Andre Brown’s big day. Cordle is by far the player who has improved the most from his first game. He’s gone from liability to steady presence, and has been a pleasant surprise.

Defensive Line: DE Justin Tuck had an uneven day, firing off for several clean shots at Pryor and missing, but forcing enough hurried passes to make up for his maddening run defense. DE Jason Pierre-Paul notched his second sack of the year, but was injured early as he dove to grab Pryor and landed awkwardly on his shoulder. Stay tuned for that injury, because JPP was starting to heat up. And with Shaun Rogers now on IR, the DL is suddenly down two key elements. DT Cullen Jenkins finished with five stops and harassed Pryor inside all day long. Jenkins’ ability to force Pryor to move sooner than he wanted to was a big reason that Pryor struggled throwing all game. He simply had no time to get set thanks to the front seven. With RGIII on the menu twice, the Giants’ DEs had better learn to stop jumping the A gaps when the QB is a running threat. Fortunately for the G-Men, Terrelle Pryor was hobbled a bit. Nevertheless, both Tuck and JPP jumped inside repeatedly on dive fakes only to see Pryor sprint to where they were. It’s been going on for two years now, it’s on film, and it’s easily correctable but for some reason it remains a big, big concern when facing a QB who can get to the edge. Minus DT Shaun Rogers, the Giants gave up one long run inside, but for the most part, Mike Patterson, Linval Joseph and Johnathan Hankins held serve, holding the Raiders to 213 yards of total offense. Not to be forgotten, DE Mathias Kiwanuka attacked the mesh point on a 1st-and-10, dumping Pryor for a 2-yard loss.

Linebackers: Keith Rivers made a big impact, seeing his most action in weeks, responding with 8 tackles and a fourth-quarter sack. Rivers badly missed his gap assignment on the Raiders’ second drive, allowing Pryor to rumble by for a 9-yard gain and a first down, but followed with a great open-field stop on RB Rashad Jennings on the very next play. Rivers had good containment on Pryor on 3rd-and-1 early in the second quarter to force a Raider punt, and applied pressure off the edge to force Pryor into an intentional grounding that put the Raiders in a 2nd-and-30. Yes, I said thirty. Rivers just missed a sack on Pryor that would have ended the Raiders third- quarter scoring drive. But good hustle again from the former Trojan who provided good edge containment for the most part. LB Jacquian Williams had two stops, but one was a big open-field stop of Jennings that dropped the Raiders for a 3-yard loss. For good measure Williams made a perfect read on a fourth-quarter Pryor throw that was nearly an interception – a great read and jump on the ball. Jon Beason only had three stops, but did an excellent job inside taking on lead blocks to allow Rivers and Rolle to flow to the ball and combine for 20 stops.

Defensive Backs: CB Trumaine McBride has been an emergency fill-in at CB during Corey Webster’s injury struggles, and has played well enough to not be noticed – which is the idea for boxing referees and CBs in coverage. CB Prince Amukamara had one gaffe, giving up a long pass to WR Denarius Moore after Pryor was nearly sacked. S Antrel Rolle’s tackle of Rashad Jennings prior to the Giants’ goal-line stand was the biggest play of the day for the former Hurricane on a day filled with them. Rolle dragged Jennings down short of the end zone, and the Raiders had to settle for three, making one Giant TD all that was needed for a victory. Rolle dumped Terrell Pryor on 3rd-and-7 midway through the fourth quarter to snuff out another Raider drive. CB Terrell Thomas came up with a game-changing INT, taking a Pryor pass to the Raider 5-yard line and setting up the go ahead score. There is no player to be more proud of on this team than T2, his resurgence has been nothing short of storybook-ending good. S Will Hill gave up the punt block, sort of, but I’m not asking a 210 lb safety to be the personal protector on the punt team…ever. Bad move by Quinn putting the smallish Hill in there.

Special Teams: Aaaahh mannn..OH MAN!  WTH? Ho-boy. That’s a Jernigan fumble, a Moore block and Taylor TD, an inexplicable Rueben Randle punt fielded at the 2-yard line, and some wobbly Steve Weatherford punting. We’re down, we’re up, and we’re down, pretty much the story of the Giants’ special teams this season. Before I rip into that handsome devil Tom Quinn, let it be said that special teams play league wide is atrocious. I refuse to do any real statistical analysis (Google schmoogle), but in watching every Thursday, Sunday and Monday Night games, I have seen an alarming number of STs miscues league wide. If I had to blame anyone, I’d point to the new friendly CBA that severely limits practice time and is reducing the quality of play overall league-wide. DE Damontre Moore’s block was a thing of beauty and Cooper’s quick scoop-and-score gave Giant fans a glimpse of the size-and-speed specimens the two rookies are. Mark Herzlich made the cardinal sin on the punt gaffe, by not starting his progression from the inside out, allowing a huge hole for the Raiders to exploit on an almost disastrous play.

NFLW (NFL for Women): Congratulations to my niece, who recently got engaged, albeit to a Cowboys’ fan. But I will let it slide for now. We’ll call her Niece in VA (NinVA) from now on. NinVA and my wife, Mrs. Joey were NOT talking alternative uniform pants; they were discussing wedding dresses over my strained cries for gap integrity from Justin Tuck. So in true NinVA and Mrs. Joey form, the game was minutes old and they were knee deep in wedding magazines and excessive maid of honor celebrations (I threw a flag for excessive hugging). As I ignored them and tried to watch this debacle, NinVA jumped up and exclaimed…”I just got taco (expletive) on my leggings!”  In honor of Richie Incognito’s slur-filled voice mail, I erred on the side of discretion by using expletive instead of the actual word, which may shock my tiny disloyal following. Hint, it rhymes with biz and tacos can’t technically do it.

Cram it in your Cramhole Award: This week’s CiiyCA goes to me for being a day late and way long-winded with this review. The game stunk live, stunk more on DVR and still stinks moments after I deleted it. 

(Boxscore – Oakland Raiders at New York Giants, November 10, 2013)