“The Million Dollar Cam”: Mississippi’s new star

By Alex Lewis (@alexlewis226)

Florida State University has managed to produce a solid set of running backs over the last 30 years including Devonta Freeman, Warrick Dunn and Chris Thompson and following the conclusion of the 2020 NFL combine, another one could be about to smash the league apart.

Cam Akers, who hails from Clinton, Mississippi, put on an exceptional display in Indianapolis to put himself firmly within that elite top three of draft running backs – or at least so I think.

Now this revolution of FSU running backs hasn’t just returned, the Minnesota Viking’s running back, Dalvin Cook, slipped to the second round of the draft in 2016 and has gone on to prove a lot of teams wrong by becoming an RB1 in just three years.

The physical comparison between Cook and Akers is incredibly similar, but what skills the two backs bring to the field are a bit more different.

What will be the same however, is there dominance on a Sunday afternoon.

Cook, who left for the NFL before Akers arrived at FSU, had enough time with his successor to realise what it was possible for Akers to achieve.

In speaking with OrlandoSportsBlog on YouTube in 2017, Cook said of Akers: “he’s ready to learn, ready to see what the older guys could teach, I think it’s another version of what I went through, high recruit but still ready to learn”

“I think he’s got some greatness in him.”


Cam vs Cook – an apt comparison  


The similarities between the two Seminoles, at least physically is an extensive list.

Both standing at 5”10 and around 210 pounds, it would be a challenge to separate their tape had they worn the same number.

It doesn’t help matters that when you try to compare the combine scores and times of Akers, it becomes possible to conceive that Cook may have just competed for a second time in Indianapolis.

In actual fact the draft capital of Akers took a huge upswing following his performance on Thursday.

As you can see, the similarities in the combine performances of Akers and Cook are striking.

Not only did Akers numbers trump (marginally) those of former Seminole, Cook, but if anything, the speed and explosiveness that the scores suggest is far more important to Akers draft day potential than it was to Cook.

For an explanation of why that is so can be found in the tape study of both of these players college careers.

Dalvin Cooks ability to take five-yard toss plays and make it a 50-yard house call was just about unparalleled in his class but when forcing him inside between the tackles, it’s a totally different story.

With a mixture of an upright running style and a consistent desire to bounce runs outside, rather than plant and go downhill, it came as no surprise to many that his combine performance was an impressive one.

For Akers however, who’s main criticism has been an inability to take big long runs and hit his head on the goalpost, an impressive amount of athletic explosion has the potential to boost his eventual draft position far more than it did Cook.

Now for Cook, a suspicion that there was some off-field issues eventually dropped him to the second round and the 41st overall pick, and although Akers doesn’t have those same concerns, a feeling that his hands are less natural than Cooks will likely leave him on the board until a similar range.


Mock draft riser


Outside of the stats and numbers that Akers was able to post in the workouts at Lucas Oil Stadium, his performance in the drills caught the eyes of far more General Managers and analysts.

The brand new Duce Staley drill was dominated by Akers, who demonstrated quick feet and smooth hips to navigate what is fresh territory for the talent scouts of the NFL.

The same themes followed him throughout the more standard off-tackle drill which Akers successfully displayed to pretty much perfection, which will go a long way to convince some that despite entering the draft as a junior, he has the gap-reading maturity of some of his fellow class-mates.

Akers also impressed at the stand when addressing the media before his on-field display later in the week.

Coming across with that same level of maturity that he managed to display in the drills, he supported Dalvin Cooks revelation that he was willing to listen and take guidance from those that has come before him.

Asked by 247Sports.com what sort of running back he is, Akers said:

“Just an all-around running back,

“Somebody’s who’s, of course, able to run the ball but another important aspect of running back is being able to block also. I just think I’m a complete back from catching to blocking to running.”

Instead of being pre-draft rhetoric, its possible to believe that following the combine, Akers has a point.

A one-handed grab on a swing pass drill may help to alter the narrative that he struggles to make catches outside his frame, as did a smooth participation of the new “Texas” route drill.

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Hang on a second


Despite all of the above-mentioned successes and improvements for Akers at the combine, the original tape concerns still warrant some thought before he flies up the relevant draft boards.

His 4.4 speed will assist concerns about his chunk play ability, that he hasn’t demonstrated in high volume in his three years of Seminole football and will also address how well he can bounce plays to the outside.

During college Akers has been excellent inside the tackles, and falling forwards for small gains on first down, but the question as to whether he can do the same against the bigger bodies of the NFL will need to be considered.

He also faces questions in the passing game, which despite a strong combine showing, will still be something to consider when thinking about drafting him as high as FSU compatriot Dalvin Cook.

Akers can be comfortable in the fact that he is a far more advanced blocker than Cook was coming into their respective drafts, giving him an extra upside as the league moves further into a pass happy style.


Where will he go?


In totality, Cam Akers combine show-off was about as beneficial to draft stock as any single player this year.

Showing off in the areas that he had failed to dominate at in college, his 4.4 speed and soft hands will go some way to convincing teams that Akers really is a three down back.

Pre-combine mock drafts listed Akers as a 3rd round talent but following all of the above combine boosts, I would not be surprised to see him in that early to mid-second round range.

Partially because you should never question the power of combine hype, but also because there is some teams in that area who really need a running back and have Dalvin Cook as a case study to prove Akers could make it as a RB1.

Any of the Atlanta Falcons, Tampa Bay Buccaneers or the Houston Texans should be considered strong contenders should they move up to in and around that area of the upper second round.

Whoever ends up with Akers on their roster, they should consider themselves very lucky to have a stud, and likely at a discounted price.

AMIK ROBERTSON: ALL-IN

By Alex Lewis @(alexlewis226)

About this time last year, I wrote an article about now-Washington Redskins corner back Jimmy Moreland.

Coming out of James Madison, Moreland was undersized and playing at a small school with little credible, quality opposition, but presented some of the most intriguing and impressive highlight reel I had seen in the entire process.

Despite now being an established nickle corner for Washington, Moreland wasn’t always so highly rated.

Despite being just 5”10, the JMU prospect boasted excellent instincts, an uncanny eye for the ball and really sticky coverage, which at least in my mind, had him being drafted well before the end of proceedings in Tennessee.

Eventually taken 227th overall, Moreland has since made himself a major part of the Redskins defence as the nickel corner, even with less than ideal play on the outside by the veterans, with Josh Norman being released after the seasons conclusion.

So here we are in 2020, and I’m seeing chatter begin to grow about another small school, undersized defensive back called Amik Robertson out of Louisiana Tech, so it would be rude not to have a look what all the fuss is about.


What’s to love?


Amik Robertson has a lot to love when you watch his tape from the last year.

Not only can he give you all the coverage ability that you get from some of the top prospects, but he also has some of the more elite instincts of any corner in the draft.

Whether that’s reading the ball in the air and deciding when to come out of coverage to go get it or when to come up and make tackles, Robertson has a confident and enjoyably aggressive play style.

In general, Robertson’s tackling is impressive, and you can find lots of clips from his tape where his reading of the play has led to big hits and crushing blows.

In the modern age where tackling on DB’s is often their weakest link, Robertson’s willingness to get players down by any means necessary is a welcome change.

His attributes, all of which lead me to believe he can become a starting nickel corner in the NFL, show a raw athleticism that should excite scouts and evaluators across the teams.

An injury to his groin means that Robertson will not participate in the combine drills in Indianapolis this week, but if his own predictions are to be believed, a 4.3 40 could have been on the cards.


What’s not to love?


Amik Robertson is not a perfect prospect, despite a whole host of upsides.

The size is certainly not prototype at just 5”9 and 182 pounds, but in his own words, his height isn’t changing, so probably best to try and look past it.

Robertson has good jumping and has addressed the need to put some weight on in the gym, so it should be possible to survive the NFL at his size, his quest likely aided by the increasing need for smaller nickel corners.

In full, his lack of size concerns me far more in the running game than the passing, he understandably struggled with 6”6 Collin Johnson against Texas this past season.

His instincts, as great as they are, also need some harnessing; the splash plays where he blows up a screen in the flat look great when they work but leave his team hurting when they don’t, so any defensive co-ordinator worth his salt will want to control Robertson’s overshoots sooner rather than later.

In reality there is small degree of rawness to Robertson’s game.

In forgoing his senior year as a Bulldog, Robertson will miss out on an opportunity to polish his skills but that shouldn’t be something that people look down on, and instead as a harness-able weapon that some late round picks won’t have to fall back on.


Robertson in review


I find it particularly fitting that Robertson’s twitter profile has a photo of Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu as its header.

The apparent need to inspire players around him through his own passion is visible even through the screen and his character helps to define his potential as a prospect.

I love his instincts, his passion and his desire to make every tackle and every play, and this will carry him through a lot as he adjusts to the size and speed of the pro-game.

Overall though, Robertson is an outstanding prospect with excellent speed and agility which gives him sticky coverage ability in short and intermediate routes.

His height will probably have him move inside to nickel corner at the pro-level and this should help him avoid some of the bigger receivers in an attempt to make him feel comfortable.

Expect a third or fourth round pick to be used on Robertson, but also expect him to make waves the second he gets on the practice field as a pro player.

I look forward to using him as a comparison this time next year.

Byron Jones: In or Out?

This encroaching off-season will be a very stressful one for the Dallas Cowboys. They have some big names looking for some big contracts and they’ll need them if they want a Super Bowl LV run. One of these names is cornerback, Byron Jones. But does the Cowboys No. 31 deserve to sit at the table with Jerry first? Alex Lewis (@alexlewis226) takes a look..


Why Byron Jones deserves his big money in (31)0 words.


Byron Jones from the second that he was seen at the combine, has consistently demonstrated his unique and impressive athletic ability. Able to set a world record standing long-jump of 12”3’ and recording a 4.36 in his 40-yard dash, Jones has never been needing for athletic confidence. When pairing this demonstration of prowess in the gym to the various measurable’s that Byron Jones is considered “perfect” for, like height and hand size, it’s not particularly shocking that he was drafted in the first round.

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Julio Cortez/AP

2019 for Jones, considering it being just his second season as a cornerback, was a highly impressive campaign for the UCONN alum. Despite missing the first game of his entire career in Week 17, Pro Football Focus ranked him the number one defensive free-agent prospect back in December. Jones faced just 64 targets on the year, which can be easily attributed to his impressive coverage ability, and allowed just 395 passing yards, a similar yards-per-target to DPOY winner Stephon Gilmore.  

During his time with the Cowboys as a cornerback, No. 31 has been asked to play a lot of press-bail coverage in cover 1 or cover 3. Not only has this made it hard to rack up the turnover numbers expected but playing cover 1 can lead to cornerback’s being on islands. Given this challenging scheme fit and the top receivers he has faced in his contract year like, Michael Thomas, Stefon Diggs and Kenny Golladay, Byron Jones can definitely consider 2019 a job well done.

The defensive situation outside of Texas could easily end up helping Byron Jones’ prospects of a long-term deal with the Cowboys. This years draft and free-agency period are both far deeper in top-quality safeties than high level cornerbacks and this should increase the urgency on the Cowboys side to get Jones signed up and bought in, rather than wait.


Why the Cowboys should move on from Jones in (31)0 words.


Byron Jones’ chance to stay on this Dallas Cowboy’s roster for the long-term has been severely hurt by his inability to come up with turnovers, recording just two interceptions in 79 games. This is many ways has become a microcosm for the ‘Boys defence who rank 26th in total turnover’s on the season and failed in big situations to come up with the ball. It is true to say that grading Jones shouldn’t come down to purely his takeaway potential, and that is correct, but it is definitely part of the bigger picture.

AP Photo/Bill Kostroun

Jones has also struggled because of the changes that the Cowboys have seen on the defence since he entered the fold in 2015. Deciding whether he would be better suited to corner or safety took the team until 2018 to decide on, with Jones playing at free safety until then. This switching between where he played has meant that Jones only has two proper years of statistics to analyse when making the decision on his contract, and it doesn’t help that during those years Jones has gone from DC to DC, with Rod Marinelli, Chris Richard and now Mike Nolan. This lack of secure and consistent coaching may cause the current regime to doubt the numbers that the cheque book would require to hold onto Jones for a long time.

Although not his fault, Jones has also faced a continuously rotating and revolving backfield of team-mates to play alongside, which hasn’t lent itself to consistent play that the position requires. Barry Church, Brandon Carr, Morris Claibourne and Orlando Scandrick to name just a few. The great defences of NFL history often have uniformity at the core as they develop over seasons, and while I’m in no way suggesting the ‘Boys are that, Byron Jones case for a contract has not been helped by a lack of stability.  


To sign or not to sign; that is the question!


The obvious answer on how to deal with Byron Jones is to franchise tag him, and by pure chance with the turn of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the Cowboys will have use of both the Franchise tag and the Transition tag for this season. This should help to alleviate some of the pressure on the Jones family with both Amari Cooper and Dak Prescott looking for new deals. Byron Jones has obvious raw talent, with refinement coming since he was committed to the position and this is only going to get better. With a new system and co-ordinator on the horizon again, I would implore Jerry to get the long-term deal done and trust in the process.

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House-call Hardman: The Chiefs Secret Weapon.

By Alex Lewis (@alexlewis226)

The Kansas City Chiefs have one of the most stacked offences in the league, if not the most stacked.

Asking someone to name off their weapons would be like asking the Army to name all of theirs; they’d get half-way through and you’d already know that you were going to lose.

Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, Travis Kelce, Damien Williams; the list goes on and they really do seem as dangerous on paper as on the grass of the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami where they will face up against the equally impressive San Francisco 49ers for a shot at the Lombardi Trophy.

But despite all the big names on their roster, and despite all the first-round picks on the 49ers defence, there is a certain name you should be looking out for as soon as that ball is kicked off on the 2nd February.

Mecole Hardman.

A second round pick out of Georgia this last year, Hardman’s explosive rookie season has seen him go to the pro-bowl as a returner, and as I’ll explain, may take him to Super Bowl MVP.


Return to sender


Hardman’s impact as a return specialist has been incredibly impressive in just his rookie season.

You can expect the Pro-Bowler to attempt to affect field position and even cause some danger to the end-zone in Miami as Hardman has a serious chance to be the first player since Devin Hester to return the opening kick-off of a Super Bowl for a touchdown.

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Stan Szeto/UAS TODAY Sports

The Chiefs not only lead the post season in return yards with 247, but also post the highest average return of any team that featured in the Championship round.

The 49ers gave up 148 kick return yards to the Minnesota Vikings in the Divisional Round, so the possibility of breaking a big runback is there for Hardman who ranked highly in all returning statistics this season.


A helpful alternative


Mecole Hardman’s fairly lowkey status may also be of huge assistance as he shoots to become the Chiefs main Super Bowl weapon.

With Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce likely to be doubled by the 49ers defence, there is space for an alternative threat to emerge for Andy Reid’s offence.

Image result for mecole hardman travis kelce tyreek hill
Abbie Parr/Getty

Hill will be in crosshairs come game time after his performance in the AFC Championship meaning that he may see coverage rolled his way by Niners DC, Robert Saleh.

And as for Kelce, well you can expect to see him struggle in Florida as well, as the 49ers gave up just 552 receiving yards to Tight Ends in the regular season, the fewest of any team.

Kelce suffered a similar fate vs the Tennessee Titans as he saw chips and bracketing galore in an attempt to slow him down, which worked.

These techniques used by opposing DC’s to prevent the Chief’s main weapons often give up some space to players like Hardman to make a name for themselves, or indeed Sammy Watkins who ended up over 100 receiving yards last time out.


Slotting into place


Both at the University of Georgia and indeed as a Chief, Hardman has done much of his business from the inside the hashes.

37% of his season has been spent trying to take advantage of the slot and the people who defend it, and it has been fairly successful as Hardman collated 6 receiving touchdowns in his debut campaign.

Image result for mecole hardman lined up
Icon Sportswire/Getty Images

This week he is likely to face up against Slot Cornerback K’Waun Williams who had a good game against the Green Bay Packers and specifically Allen Lazard.

The challenge for Williams this week is the incredibly rapid Hardman, who times in over a quarter of a second faster over 40 yards (4.33 to 4.58) than Williams and posts far higher agility and speed scores, per PlayerProfiler.

The 2019 49ers defence for all its dominance, have given up 50+ yard and one touchdown receiving games to both Tyler Lockett of the Seattle Seahawks and Pharaoh Cooper of the Arizona Cardinals.

Of all the players to have returned against the Niners, interestingly these two post the hights snap share in the slot, 50% and 67% respectively, all of which could be pointing to an area of small weakness for Andy Reid to try and use.


Rushing to conclude


If I hadn’t already convinced you to back Hardman at the Hard Rock, then just give me one last chance.

Any college football fans will probably recall, the 2017 National Championship between Alabama and Georgia, but what you might not remember is Mecole Hardman having over 130 all purpose yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Image result for mecole hardman georgia vs alabama
Jamie Squire/Getty

Apart from preventing concerns that Hardman struggles to perform when the lights are bright and the pressure is on, his rushing touchdown in that game on a Jet Sweep leads me to my bravest prediction.

Andy Reid often takes advantage of trick plays like Jet Sweeps and motions from his receivers like Tyreek Hill’s first touchdown of the Championship game.

He has only rushed Hardman four times this season, preferring Hill for this duty, which if I’m not mistaken, is setting us up for an attempt or two in the big game for number 17.

Hardman may just end up with a rushing touchdown to match the 150 all purpose yards and a receiving touchdown that i’ll be betting on him to have.

All hail King Henry of Tennessee

By Alex Lewis (@alexlewis226)

Image result for derrick henry crown
Image Credit: Will Newton/Getty

Enforced, beheaded, died, enforced, decleated, taken-for-a-ride.

Derrick Henry, or King Henry as most now know him, is an animal on the field with the ability to physically dominate anybody that goes within touching distance of a football field.

You can stack the box, employ the National Guard, or even put extra-men on the field and ill bet you any money or commodities that he still falls forwards for a seven-yard gain.

Sure, Christian McCaffery will get you 1000 touches a game, and Aaron Jones can get you four touchdowns in Jerry World, but Derrick Henry is the true definition of power back.

His build is totally unique at the position; 6 foot 3 inches, 250 pounds and absolutely rapid in the open field, it’s literally no wonder that defensive backs barely slow him down.

To try and describe it, take the biggest wardrobe you have, have it placed at the top of a steep hill and then wait for it at the bottom with a hard hat on.

That’s what it is like trying to stop King Henry when he’s at top speed, so give Earl Thomas some slack for turning around rather than face a tackle.

Point is, that the running back in Tennessee should be the highest paid in the league for at least four years.


“But Henry isn’t nearly as good in the passing game like Christian McCaffery?”

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Image Credit: Evan Habeeb

The biggest knock on King Henry and his crown as the best running back, is his inability/lack of experience in catching the ball out of the back field as a dual threat.

And to a degree, that’s a relevant point, teams are far less likely to stack the box against someone like Christian McCaffery knowing the damage he can do on a screen play.

Despite Henry’s improvement this year with 200+ receiving yards for the first time, including a 75-yard touchdown, it doesn’t take much to see that Henry is not as much of a threat when the ball is pulled out of his belly.

However, if you put your Bill Belichick hat on for a second, you can quickly see that this lack of action in the passing game is in fact potentially protecting him from Todd Gurley syndrome.

The LA Rams have lost a large chunk of their investment in Gurley as his body has failed to fully live up to the rigours of his second, big contract.

Over the first four years of his career, Henry had a total of 861 touches of the ball during regular season football in Tennessee, in comparison, Todd Gurley racked up nearly 1233 total touches over that same spell.

That lack of touches in his early career wasn’t intended as an attempt to conserve his body, but by chance, and with the touches unlikely to go much higher than this year, Henry might be the back most likely to give you the most of a big, long-term contract.  


“But surely Saquon Barkley deserves a bigger contract when it becomes time?”

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Image Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

I’m not so sure about this either.

I absolutely love Barkley, he’s an unbelievable athletic freak, a homerun hitter and all-round generational talent.

But not only does he have some of the risk of too many touches leading to injury like I described earlier (he missed three games through injury this season) but he is also in a up and down franchise.

Henry plays for the Titans who have been well coached, well run and unbelievably consistent with their performance since he arrived.

He has a top-10 O-line, a head-coach who is persistent with the run game and is going to be there for a long time, and a cast of players on the outside who demand coverage and attention.

Saquon Barkley has none of that, and the chaos around the organisation has meant that his rookie season, and any strong performance last year has come from his own herculean efforts.

It’s not his fault – but in his situation, with so miles already on the milometer, Henry still seems a better shout.


“But surely teams will eventually catch onto him game-in and game-out?”

Image result for derrick henry
Image Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

This is the big one.

Can Henry still dominate when teams know exactly what is going to happen next season?

And the answer is yes. 100% yes. Don’t bother asking again, yes.

Ryan Tannehill has been effective in the play-offs but overall pretty ineffective, and yet against the incredible defences of both Bill Belichick and Jon Harbaugh, with the ball only going to one person, Henry still recorded at least 180 yards rushing.

Everyone knew that Henry was getting the ball and yet time and time again he found himself into the second level of the defence.

This is what gives him the edge over LeVeon Bell or Ezekiel Elliot, his ability with his direct style to run through you even with the right call and scheme.

Set up how you like.

Put your biggest linebacker in the A-gap or build a concrete wall between the centre and the guard, it doesn’t matter what you do, this Titans Train is rolling with Henry at the wheel and it isn’t stopping for anybody.

Has the Rooney Rule become a tick-box exercise for the NFL?

By Alex Lewis (@alexlewis226)

The NFL has nearly completed it’s list of head-coaches for 2020 with just the Cleveland Browns outstanding but seem poised to sign Josh McDaniels from the New England Patriots.

The hiring of Patriots Special Teams coach Joe Judge by the New York Giants came as a particular surprise to many, having seemingly not had enough experience to make the jump to leading a franchise.


Image result for joe judge"
Image Credit: Charles LeClaire

Within the reaction to that hiring however, there was also some sighs of disappointment, especially from those who are becoming concerned that the “Rooney Rule” has become stagnant in its attempts to increase the number of minority race head-coaches.

Steve Wyche reported to NFL Network that upon the hiring of Judge by the Giants, that many of the league’s black coaches and co-ordinators were “not happy” with the decision to once again skip over ethnic minority candidates.

Wyche also explained that although the teams were indeed having candidates in to meet the Rooney Rule, the lack of minority hiring’s was alarming.


What is the Rooney Rule?

The Rooney Rule, named after the former Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney, was bought into existence by the leagues diversity committee in 2003 following the firing of Tony Dungy and Dennis Green.


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Image Credit: Post Gazette file photo

Given that both coaches had been wildly successful during their tenures, and the fact that only seven black candidates had been given NFL head-coaching jobs until 2002, it was considered important that something was done to deal with the issue.

The ruling meant that from 2003, all senior football operations positions now had to interview at least one ethnic minority for the role unless the assistant coach has wording in his contract to guarantee him the job.

The rules impact was immediately visible as the percentage of ethnic minority head-coaches shot up from 6% to 22% in just four years with the change in place.

There have been a lot of subsequent calls for the ruling to be employed in the Premier League in the UK and US college football where the percentage of minority head-coaches is still just 6%.


Why the Rooney Rule isn’t working.

Although the Rooney Rule was effective in the immediate years after its arrival in the league, the Detroit Lions even being fined $200,000 in 2003 for failing to comply, the long-term success of the rule has come into question.

Jim Caldwell has often been at the forefront of the argument for whether minority head-coaches are getting a fair amount of chances.


Image result for jim caldwell"
Image Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Having coached in Superbowl XLIV with the Indianapolis Colts before a successful spell with the Detroit Lions between 2014-2017 in which he took them to two playoff berths and just one losing season at 7-9, the decisions to fire him, let alone to not hire him, were seen as confusing.

It has been suggested that the Rooney Rule rather than becoming a progressive, inescapably positive and definitive fork in the road for the future of ethnic minority coaches, has in-fact devolved into a tick-box exercise performed by general managers and owners so they can avoid a fine.

The agent for Pittsburgh coach Teryl Austin told The Athletic that he felt his client received a “token” interview from the Lions in 2017.

This regression from genuine interviews with a mix of coaches of creeds and colours, to nothing more than a need to fill a quota can be seen in the current crop of candidates.

2019 marked the lowest total of black NFL head-coaches since the creation of the legislation with just Mike Tomlin of the Steelers, Anthony Lynn of the Chargers and Brain Flores of the Dolphins remaining.


What can be done to change the impact of the rule?

As the Rooney Rule continues to struggle to have the desired impact on the leagues hiring process, calls to change the system are increasing.

The concern that the lack of ethnic minorities in front office or ownership positions is becoming more vocal as older, white general managers continue to pick from the carousel of young, white assistant NFL coaches or college head-coaches.

Without disregarding the achievements of Kyle Shanahan, Sean McVay or Cliff Kingsbury, there seems are fairly defined theme about the leagues current taste in what a head coach should look like.

As with many issues of race, the importance of education should not be forgotten.

Teaching young players of colour that they have as much of a future as a coach as on the pitch will be crucial to generate a continuous stream of talented young, football brains.

Of all races.

What do you think can be done? Get in touch with us here at the Full10Yards on social media @Full10Yards

The Pressure of the Playoffs.

By Alex Lewis (@alexlewis226)

The playoffs are here and are accompanied by the usual stresses and pressures that the post-season provides.

This week’s Wild Card Weekend will feature the New England Patriots for the first time since 2009 following their disappointing slip up against the Miami Dolphins in Week 17.

They face a Tennessee Titans team that is built for some cold weather up in Foxborough with a strong rushing game and a quarterback on a hot streak with his receiving corps.

Elsewhere, the NFC East champion Philadelphia Eagles play host to a Seattle Seahawks team that few considered a serious challenger before the season.

The New Orleans Saints will seek out some revenge as they welcome the Minnesota Vikings in the Superdome in an attempt to heal the wounds of the Minneapolis miracle.

The other AFC match-up sees two of the NFL’s youngest quarterbacks face off against each other as Josh Allen leads his Buffalo Bills into battle with Deshaun Watsons Texans.

But who is heading into the 18th week of the season with the weight of the world on their shoulders and who will thrive in the pressure?


Titans @ Patriots

Image Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel

The Patriots made a costly error last week by failing to beat the lowly Dolphins.

It is the sort of situation that Brady and Co. have become infallible in, which may explain why the Dolphins went into the game as 14-point underdogs.

In a year where Tom Brady has been questioned more than ever, registering his lowest ever adjusted QBR score of 55.0 in comparison to Lamar Jacksons 81.7, the Week 17 result continues to heap pressure on the 42-year old to prove he is not done and dusted.

Bill Belichik will also face questions over Miami’s last-ditch winning drive against what was one of the best defences in the league.

The Titans enter the game feeling far less pressure on the table.

Heading into the season out of the playoff picture, with questions marks at the quarterback position and a second-year head coach, things have gone better than many envisaged.  

They have also performed well over the odds given their mid-season QB switch and have been helped a long by the thumping downhill power of Derrick Henry in the back field.

PRESSURE IS ON: NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS


Bills @ Texans

Image Credit: Kevin Jairaj

Its AFC East vs AFC North part two as Buffalo head southwards to visit a Texans team still giddy with the news that talismanic edge rusher J.J Watt has returned early from a pectoral injury.

The Texans who sealed up the division a week early, concluded their season with a loss to the division rivals, Titans.

Now the fourth season of six under Bill O’Brien where they have finished top of their division, the pressure will begin to fall on the head coach to deliver some deeper runs into the post-season.

For the Bills, very few coaching staffs can consider to have done more with less.

Sean McDermott has just one pro-bowler on his roster and a quarterback that still has an uncertain ceiling, managing to look more developed to incredibly raw from week to week under centre.

For this reason, there is little pressure on the Bills who probably expected a more mediocre season than this.

Any further playoff progression is just extra credit.

PRESSURE IS ON: HOUSTON TEXANS


Vikings @ Saints

Divisional Round - New Orleans Saints v Minnesota Vikings
Image Credit: Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

These two franchises are pretty hard to separate when it comes to who’s under more pressure to win.

Both of them have quarterbacks in need of a deep playoff run but for very different reasons.

Drew Brees is a lock for the Hall of Fame but aged 40 and 10 years removed from his Superbowl, the window for a second Lombardi Trophy is gradually closing.

The quarterback of the Vikings, Kirk Cousins, is not fighting to seal his Hall of Fame status but instead just looking to set himself up another big contract once his time in Minnesota expires after next season.

Still attempting to prove himself as one of the leagues elite quarterbacks, Cousins needs some primetime, big-time playoff performances to stack a currently empty CV.

Both teams also have a fairly young core of talented players, giving them both a bigger Superbowl window than some of the other teams in the Wild Card.

Overall the pressure will lie on the Saints though as they try to forget and forgive their acrimonious playoff exits in 2017 and 2018.

PRESSURE IS ON: NEW ORLEANS SAINTS


SEAHAWKS @ EAGLES

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How good is Carson Wentz? That’s the real pressure here.

The 2016 second overall pick has played in spells of brilliance, including his MVP trajectory of 2017 before his injury kept him out of the Superbowl run.

The Eagles paid Wentz big in June of last year and are waiting to see some return on that investment in the form of a play-off run.

The North Dakota State alumnus has done a lot alongside an un-experienced receiving corps so far, but whether they can withstand the rigors of playoff football is a new question.

In Seattle, another impressive season for superstar QB Russell Wilson has meant that the Seahawks are in a playoff that many did not predict.

Considered to be a rebuilding year by lots of experienced pundits and commentators prior to Week 1, Pete Carroll’s teams should feel little pressure going into the Wild Card Weekend.

PRESSURE IS ON: PHILADELPHIA EAGLES