10 things that defined the 2019 NFL season

By Sean Tyler (@seantyleruk)

Looking back at last season, there were some great games and some awful ones. Amazing throws, catches and runs. Incredible touchdowns. Last-ditch tackles. But that’s the case every year. So what were the events that really defined the campaign? Here’s the @Full10Yards take on what 2019 should be remembered for.


1. Luck finally runs out as Colts’ QB retires


The first headline of the 2019 season was written during Indianapolis’ preseason game with the Chicago Bears, when 29-year-old franchise quarterback Andrew Luck suddenly announced his retirement. Sadly, he was booed off the field at Lucas Oil Stadium as the news leaked out.

AP Photo/Michael Conroy

The reasons cited at an emotional press conference in August centred on the mental and physical toll of the injuries sustained during his career. Referring to the seemingly endless cycle of injury and rehab, he said “I haven’t been able to live the life I want to live. It’s taken the joy out of this game… and the only way forward for me is to remove myself from football. It’s the hardest decision of my life but it is the right one.”

Touted as a generational talent, the Stanford QB was selected as the first overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft as the successor to Peyton Manning. He immediately delivered, leading the Colts to the playoffs in his first three seasons without missing a start. His best season, 2014, saw him throw an NFL-leading 40 touchdowns as Indy reached the AFC Championship game.

But during his final four years, he missed 26 games and played in pain most of the time. He tore abdominal muscles, rib cartilage and a labrum, lacerated a kidney, suffered concussion and, in what was probably the final straw, endured a mystery ankle issue that was never resolved.

Despite an injury-blighted 2015, he signed a $140m extension to become the highest-paid player in the NFL, but then missed all of 2017. The four-time Pro-Bowler came back with a career-high 4,593 yards in 2018, and finished his career with 23,761 yards (third on the Colts’ all-time list) and 171 touchdowns.


2. Player holdouts become a thing


The 2019 season saw more NFL holdouts than ever before. Skipping training camp seemed to be an increasingly common and effective tactic as players tried following in the footsteps of Le’Veon Bell, Aaron Donald and Khalil Mack.

There are several reasons why players hold back their services and demand a trade: it’s usually about money so each franchise needed to weight up whether keeping the player active benefits either party in the long run. And in 2019, the results were mixed.

Take Dallas’ Ezekiel Elliott and Melvin Gordon from the LA Chargers. With two years left on his rookie deal, Zeke held out through August and got a six-year, $90m contract extension for his troubles. Gordon didn’t. He was looking to prove his value though his absence but the Chargers dug their heels in and leaned on Austin Ekeler instead. Gordon, in the fifth year of his rookie deal, caved after a few weeks of cat and mouse, and slinked back into the fold in late September when his request fell on deaf ears.

Despite being set to make a paltry $1.1 million in 2019, Saints star wideout Michael Thomas was adamant that he wouldn’t hold out, but he did. But boy, did it pay off. Negotiations led to a $100m, five-year deal – a new record for a receiver.

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The Texans’ Jadeveon Clowney also had a deal below market value so he sat out all of preseason, prompting a trade to the Seahawks days before the start of the campaign, while the Jaguars’ defensive end Yannick Ngakoue refused to attend minicamp and preseason workouts until his contract was resolved.

There were also two holdouts not driven by the dollar: Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey demanded a trade after a touchline bust-up with head coach Doug Marrone during their Week 2 game against Houston, and Washington tackle Trent Williams sat out the entire year due to the way he believed the Redskins medical staff handled a health scare. 

To me, saying you won’t play till you get what you want feels like a spoilt child sulking and stamping their feet. Then again, it might be worth a try if you’re gonna get paid $100 million to zip it.


3. Antonio Brown quits the NFL


The former Pittsburgh wide receiver had a difficult 2019 to say the least. Having bounced around three different teams in under a year, he tried to claim back around $40 million in unpaid wages, fines, guarantees and bonuses from the Raiders and the Patriots.

Lynne Sladky/AP

Oakland acquired him from the Steelers but cut him before Week 1, creating a flurry of complaints concerning fines, lost guaranteed money and a $1m signing bonus voided because he was axed prior to playing a regular season game. Picked up by the Patriots just hours later, Brown is also attempting to salvage his unpaid Week 1 salary plus another $9m signing bonus, accusing the franchise of breach of contract. Then there’s the two (unsuccessful) grievances he filed against the NFL while disputing the ban on his preferred style of helmet.

And as if that wasn’t enough, Brown was also accused of sexual assault by his former trainer, Britney Taylor, while another woman accused him of sexual misconduct and sending intimidating text messages. Brown strenuously denies the charges but that final claim tipped the scales for the Pats. He was released after just 11 days and one game.

Soon after, AB84 hit social media saying he wasn’t going to play in the NFL any more, as team owners can obviously cancel whatever deals they liked. He also took pot-shots at Patriots owner Robert Kraft and former Steelers teammate Ben Roethlisberger, who had both been linked with scandals in the past without much fall-out.

The investigations rumble on but whatever the eventual outcome, the league has lost a star. The 31-year-old was one of football’s most prolific offensive players with the Steelers, where his 686 catches and 9,145 receiving yards were the highest totals for a receiver over a six-year span. But it has also lost a troubled soul. Let’s hope he gets the support and professional help he needs.


4. Kaepernick holds a weird workout


Colin Kaepernick is undoubtedly a divisive figure. At his peak, the quarterback led the 49ers to consecutive NFC championship games but in his last season, the Niners went 2-14. He has been out of the league since 2016 after kneeling during the national anthem – a protest against police brutality on people of colour. Since then, there has been no love lost between the player and the NFL.

Having settled a lawsuit with the NFL in February after claiming teams blanked him in retaliation for his protests, the league organised an out-of-the-blue, take-it-or-leave-it tryout for Kaepernick in mid-November. He was given just two hours to accept. A work-out for 25 teams was scheduled to start at the Atlanta Falcons’ training complex but amid bickering over terms and conditions, Kap pulled out and held his own private workout at a high school in Georgia, 60 miles away. About six representatives made it to the new location in time.

Carmen Mandato, Getty Images

The workout was clearly a PR stunt by the NFL – probably in an attempt to deflect criticism of their treatment of Kaepernick – but it was his only shot to get in front of scouts. As a free agent, he is eligible to sign with any team and at the time, several potential suitors were being mooted.

Regardless of the motivations behind it, one guy did something out of it but it wasn’t Kaepernick. Jordan Veasy, one of the receivers used in the workout, was subsequently signed to the Redskins’ practice squad, so it wasn’t a complete waste of time.


5. A new position is invented: the quarterback-up


How many quarterbacks saw game time in 2019? Would you believe 57? Most teams had to rely on at least one stand-in and in a few cases, more than one. Every week or two, it seemed like a franchise QB was replaced by a stand-in for one reason or another, and with varying degrees of success. 

Injuries were obviously the main reason for a swap and for some, there was hardly a blip. 41-years-young Drew Brees lost five weeks but the Saints’ stand-in Teddy Bridgewater held the fort admirably, going a perfect 5-0 in his stead. Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes also missed game time when he dislocated his kneecap against Denver, but veteran Matt Moore ably took over.

Alas, it didn’t always work out so well. Jets back-up Trevor Siemian – pressed into action when Sam Darnold contracted mono – didn’t even complete two quarters before suffering a season-ending ankle injury. Luke Falk’s two subsequent starts produced 0 TDs, 3 INTs and 14 sacks. Likewise, after Ben Roethlisberger’s elbow surgery, Pittsburgh were forced to call upon Mason Rudolph and then Devlin ‘Duck’ Hodges (both underdelivered) while Matthew Stafford’s deputies were Jeff Driskel (0-3) and then David Blough. The undrafted rookie had a blinding first few minutes, throwing TD passes against the Bears on his first two possessions, but the rest of his five-game run was ‘sub-optimal’.

Retirement also played it part, with the Colts forced to start Jacoby Brissett after Andrew Luck retired, while the Giants hastened the changing of the guards just two weeks into the season, subbing in Daniel Jones at the expense of the outgoing Eli Manning.

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But for many teams, starting QBs were benched left, right and centre purely due to their performance. After a mediocre stretch in Miami, Ryan Tannehill took the Titans’ starting job from an underwhelming Marcus Mariota in mid-season and promptly went 9-4, including two on-the-road playoff victories at New England and Baltimore. With 22 TDs and 6 INTs, Tannehill went from ‘work in progress’ for the Dolphins to Comeback Player of the Year in Tennessee.

Back in Miami, Josh Rosen floundered for six games, leaving Ryan Fitzpatrick to pick up the pieces and win five games (despite the team being in full rebuild mode) while in Washington, journeyman Case Keenum paved the way for young buck Dwayne Haskins, the possible future of the franchise. In contrast, Ryan Finley really isn’t the future in Cincinnati. Andy Dalton was benched with the Bengals at 0-8 but the rookie was beyond terrible. After three more painful losses, Dalton was restored.

Likewise for the Panthers, Cam Newton’s injury gave Kyle Allen his chance. After four wins in four starts, he was sacked seven times by the 49ers (with a painful 28.9 passer rating) in Week 8, and was replaced by Will Grier. But he was even worse in his two starts: amid a flurry of interceptions, fumbles and sacks, Carolina lost both by 32 points.

There was one other guy I deliberately haven’t mentioned, as he deserves an entry of his own, so let’s move on… 


6. Minshew Mania


Having signed a $88m deal to become Jacksonville’s QB1, Nick Foles went down with a shoulder injury in Week 1. The Jaguars needed a new hero. Step forward sixth-round draft pick Gardner Minshew II.

The rookie put the Jags’ first W on the board in his second start, a Thursday night win over the Titans, and by the end of September, he’d been named Offensive Rookie of the Month, having thrown for 905 yards, seven touchdowns and one interception in four games. The Jags were 4-5 when he handed the reins back to Foles but not before “Minshew Mania” had taken hold.

Not all heroes wear capes; some wear helmets and cleats. And on their days off, they wear aviators, headbands and cut-off denim ‘jorts’. Aided by giveaways of fake moustaches at home games, fans dressed themselves and their kids as Minshew. His distinctive look even became the Halloween costume of choice. With plans for his own fashion range, Minshew has since filed trademark applications for several terms, including Minshew Mania.

Somewhat appropriately for our moustachioed maverick, the mania ended in November (see the UK men’s health campaign Movember to see why), when Nick Foles returned. However, Minshew wasn’t quite done, replacing the former Eagle halfway through a 28-11 loss to the Buccaneers in Week 13.

Looking beyond the hype and hysteria, Minshew racked up 3,217 yards, 21 TDs and six INTs in 14 appearances, and oversaw all six of Jacksonville’s wins. Solid enough production to reassure fans, should he be called upon again.


7. Myles Garrett loses his head


As we all know (*cough*), Rule 12, Article 17 of the NFL rulebook states: “A player may not use a helmet … as a weapon to strike, swing at, or throw at an opponent.”

Well, eight seconds from the end of Cleveland’s fractious 21-7 victory over Pittsburgh in November, that’s exactly what occurred. Steelers QB Mason Rudolph had just completed a pass when he was engulfed by Browns defensive end Myles Garrett. The players shoved each other, then wrestled and grabbed each other’s face masks. The top draft pick from 2017 pulled Rudolph’s helmet off and clobbered him over the head with it.

Jason Miller/Getty Images

The ensuing melee led to three immediate ejections, followed by fines for both teams and suspensions for the main protagonists. Garrett’s indefinite ban for his actions – termed “totally unacceptable and inexcusable” by coaches, players and pundits alike – was only rescinded after the season ended. And he had previous: Garrett had already been handed a $50,000 fine for punching a Titans player and two roughing-the-passer penalties against the Jets, one of which ended Trevor Siemian’s season.

At the time, Garret said: “I lost my cool and I regret it. I hurt my whole team.” He later stated: “A win’s a win. I don’t think it’s overshadowed by what happened.” Yeah right, fella – we’re only going to remember the result.

Contrite at the time, Browns Head Coach Freddie Kitchens added: “I’m embarrassed. Myles is embarrassed. It’s not good. He understands it’s totally unacceptable.” But just a couple of weeks later, Kitchens was pictured wearing a “Pittsburgh started it” T-shirt, reigniting tensions just 48 hours before the teams’ rematch. Smart.


8. The Patriots play i-spy (again)


There’s a well-known saying: “To get caught spying on your opponents once is unfortunate; to get caught twice is foolish.” OK, there isn’t, but given New England’s track record, there should be.

In early December, the Patriots acknowledged that a video crew working for them filmed the Bengals’ sideline during their game with the Browns, violating league rules in much the same way they did in 2007 during the original Spygate scandal. The Patriots admitted that a crew, making an online series titled “Do Your Job”, inappropriately filmed the field from the press box, and failed to inform the Bengals and the league of their intentions. They did, however, hand over all footage. In a statement, the Patriots accepted full responsibility for the incident (blamed on an error with credentials) but Bill Belichick distanced himself and the team from the shenanigans.

AP Photo/Gary Landers

When confronted by security, the video guy reportedly said he was an employee of Robert Kraft, not the team itself. That’s very interesting, as a key witness 12 years ago told investigators that was exactly what he’d been told to say if caught.

The seized tape apparently showed eight minutes of footage focusing on Bengals coaches signalling during the game. Sounds incriminating enough to me, especially with a game with Cincy coming up. Yet according to the NFL investigation, there was no clear evidence of the Patriots trying to gain a competitive advantage.

Maybe it was just a communication breakdown but with the Pats also at the centre of the 2015 Deflategate scandal, I can’t help thinking “there’s no smoke without fire” – and that is a well-known saying.


9. Tough Mudder comes to the NFL


In October, the Super Bowl-bound 49ers faced the Redskins at FedEx Field, holding them to 154 total yards and zero points in a 9-0 win. The game was played in appalling conditions: driving wind and rain turned the already substandard field into a quagmire, with many players struggling to keep their feet in the pooling surface water.

Not surprisingly, literally nothing of any note happened during the regulation 60 minutes (check out the box score if you like). ‘Skins QB Case Keenum made nine throws for 77 yards and Washington had -7 net yards in the fourth quarter. On the other side, Jimmy G only made 12 of 21 attempts and the game’s only points came courtesy of Robbie Gould’s boot.

That’s why the game will be remembered for what happened after the last play. Nick Bosa sacked Keenum as the clock hit zero and celebrated with a headfirst slide 10 yards across the grass. Fully embracing the conditions and their inner child, several teammates joined in. Before you knew it, a pack of white jerseys (OK, brown) were skimming across the sodden field like body-boarders.

Niners defensive end Deforest Buckner said. “It was a lot of fun. It was definitely worth it. Everybody started sliding around. It was like a bunch of little kids out there. That’s part of the game, having fun. Right now, we’re having a lot of fun.” Cornerback Richard Sherman added: “It takes you back to being a kid: you’re sloshing around and your shoes are full of water and mud. Guys had a lot of fun slipping and sliding out there.”

Patrick Smith/Getty Images

10. A new UK venue earns its spurs


Coming to London for regular season games since 2007, the NFL continues to grow over here. British fans sport flags, foam fingers, face paint and the jerseys of all 32 teams. We hang out like old friends, then scrap like alley cats for the merchandise fired into the crowd by the ‘party patrol’. And then there’s the possibility of a London-based franchise.

In 2019, we got four games for the first time as the all-singing-and-dancing Tottenham Hotspur Stadium joined Wembley as a UK International Series venue. In early October, the Oakland Raiders saw off the Chicago Bears in front of 60,463 people. The Raiders led 17-0 at half-time, the Bears fought back with 21 unanswered points but Oakland eventually triumphed 24-21.

But it wasn’t Josh Jacobs’s late TD or Gareon Conley’s game-ending interception that will stand the test of time. It was the authentic experience created by an arena built to NFL specifications that went down so well with players, coaches and fans. The dual-purpose venue has a grass football pitch (used just five days earlier for Spurs’ 7-2 Champions league defeat to Bayern Munich) that retracts beneath the stand, revealing a synthetic, NFL-ready surface. Then there’s the bespoke, super-sized locker rooms and conference suites for both teams.

Miles Willis Photography

No wonder Raiders QB Derek Carr liked it so much. “Everything is first class, every little detail,” he said afterwards.This is definitely one of, if not the best, stadiums I’ve ever been at. Bears coach Matt Nagy concurred, adding: “It blows you away – it’s absolutely phenomenal.”

Rather than borrowing a ‘soccer’ stadium like Wembley, the NFL may just have found its spiritual home on these shores.


11. And one more for luck…


We started with a story about Luck so for a purr-fect finish, we should end with one too, even if it takes us over our designated 10 items.

During the second quarter of Dallas’ Monday night game at the Giants’ MetLife Stadium on 4 November, play was delayed for a few minutes when a black cat trotted onto the field. Displaying Amari Cooper-esque speed and agility, the elusive feline evaded players, officials, stewards and security with some neat route running and play-action before heading off under one of the stands.

Game caller Kevin Harlan had a ball, providing play-by-play commentary on the moggy’s progress: “Now he’s at the five… he’s walking to the three… he’s hit the two. A state trooper has come on to the field and the cat runs into the end zone! That. Is. A. Touchdown!”

The black cat seemed to give the Giants instant bad karma, as the home side threw away a 9-3 lead to eventually lose 37-18. And for weeks afterwards, superstitious fans clocked the fact that the ‘cat’ teams – the Lions, Panthers, Bengals and Jaguars – couldn’t buy a win for love nor money. In fact, it took almost a month, when Cincy beat the Jets on 1 December, for the hex to be lifted.

Season In Review – Miami Dolphins

By Dave Moore (@davieremixed)

Time for everyone’s preseason favourite tankers, the Miami Dolphins. It didn’t quite turn out that way, but did the Dolphins do themselves any harm? Depends if your a tank half full or a tank half empty kind of person…


Entering The Season



After two losing seasons under Adam Gase, the Dolphins made a move for Brian Flores from the Patriots to further extend the Belichick coaching tree.

However this was not to be with a view to a galvanisation of the team to lead to a wildcard spot. Quite the opposite. The Dolphins front office put Flores and the team well and truly in the tank.

Laremy Tunsil was sent off to the Texans for a haul of picks including two first rounders and Ryan Tannehill was sent to the Titans for a 2020 4th rounder.

The writing was on the wall. If they could get valuable picks for you and you were playing well, Miami were packing your bags and driving you to the nearest airport.

Were we about to see another 0-16 season in the NFL? Could the Dolphins be historically bad?


During The Season


Week 1: Baltimore Ravens 59. Miami Dolphins 10. 
This could be a long season.

Time for a get right game, right? Wrong. The Dolphins got royally spanked 43-0 with two pick sixes and more punting yards than total offense. The season couldn’t have started much worse for the team whilst the front office were rubbing their hands at the prospect of that first round pick.

Things really didn’t improve for Miami until Week 6 when they started to put touchdowns on the board in a 17-16 loss to the Redskins. Both teams were winless and in what some might have termed a cynical move to lose the game, the Dolphins opted to go for an end-of-game 2 point conversion instead of kicking the XP to tie the game. The defeat took the Redskins to 1-5 and sank Miami to 0-5.

0-5 became 0-6, which became 0-7, which became 0-Hold The Phone It’s An Adam Gase Revenge Game!

That’s right! The 1-6 Jets against the 0-7 Dolphins. A divisional matchup for the ages. Step forward the only man for the job.

Ryan FitzMagicPatrick.

The bearded genius threw 3 touchdowns as the Dolphins secured their first win of the season against an equally hapless Gang Green. This result was reward for Flores and his team after becoming increasingly competitive with a poor roster over the prior month.

Flores and his charges would get further reward a week later with back-to-back wins, beating the understaffed-at-under-centre Indianapolis Colts 16-12.

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Two straight defeats to Buffalo and Cleveland preceded a stunning third win against a Philadelphia Eagles team who were looking to win their division. Miami overturned a 21-14 deficit at the half to win 37-31 to go 3-9. The best part of this game? The trick play with the punter Matt Haack throwing a one-yard shovel to kicker Jason Sanders with an utterly bizarre lineup from the Dolphins. If you haven’t seen it, get yourselves to YouTube ASAP.

Much like the Colts game, however, after a surprising win against a team chasing the playoffs, two defeats followed. This time on back-to-back weeks in East Rutherford against Gang Green and the G-Men to leave Miami at 3-11 and eyeing a top 3 pick or maybe even #1 if, IF, they conspired to lose to the hopless Bengals in Week 16.

What we got in the BurrowBowl/TankForTuaBowl was one of the most entertaining games of the season.

Heading into the 4th quarter the Dolphins lead 35-12 in what was turning into a blowout with FitzMagicPatrick throwing 4 touchdown passes including one to rookie DE Christian Wilkins (more on him shortly).

With 30 seconds left on the clock the Dolphins led 35-19.

The Bengals scored two touchdowns AND two 2 point conversions in thirty seconds! Sixteen points! Merry Christmas!

As you’d expect with these two, overtime went the distance. We had dropped passes, terrible route running, third down sacks and even some great defensive play in there but finally, finally as time expired Jason Sanders hit a 37 yarder to end the game and reward the handful of fans left in Hard Rock Stadium.

If you’re going to give up the #1 pick you may as well do it in the most entertaining way possible and the ‘Fins did not disappoint. Bravo.

As an addendum, Christian Wilkins not only made a name for himself with that touchdown pass but also for the funniest mic’d up moment of the season. Enjoy.

Now for the encore. A trip to New England to close the season out. The Patriots needed to win to secure a first round bye and with the Miami Miracle only twelve months prior surely they weren’t going to let their divisional rivals land another scalp…Surely?


The much vaunted Patriots defense of September gave up 320 passing yards to Wonderlic’s FitzMagicPatrick and even ran in a pick six. Ryan FMP also ran a touchdown in. What is this fresh madness? Miami cost New England a first round bye with their first win in Gillette Stadium since 2008!

I’d even stretch as far as saying that this result contributed greatly to Kansas’ Super Bowl appearance.

A 5-11 finish for a team that wanted the #1 pick will disappoint some but in the second half of the season, Miami were one of the most enjoyable teams to watch. There was a freedom to their play and under Brian Flores I think there are foundations – assuming their draft choices are sound – for a bright future in Florida.


Offseason Outlook


It’s all about the draft. With Tua seemingly recovered from a severe hip injury the thinking is that Miami expect him to fall to #5 if the first four picks go according to plan but with Detroit and New York above them and quarterback hungry teams below, there is a danger a team could usurp them.

Miami have the most selections (12) which include three first rounders and two second rounders. Add on the estimated $93 million in cap space and the room that Miami have this offseason is terrific.

There won’t need to be any trickery with the salary cap, just start rebuilding and maybe even make a big play or two in free agency for a true WR1. Just do one thing for us, Miami. Keep Ryan Fitzpatrick around. The league is better for it.

Next season brings matchups against the NFC West and the AFC West as well as a rematch that will be as hotly anticipated as Wilder v Fury III. That’s right. It’s Bengals v Dolphins back at Hard Rock! Make it primetime, schedulers, Burrow vs Tua? Yes please.

Season in Review – New York Jets

By Tim Monk (@Tim_MonkF10Y)

Today we take a look at the New York Jets. Not quite saving the best ’til last but alas, another season to break down for you. Is Adam Gase the answer in New York? Is Sam Darnold still their guy? Will LeVeon Bell still be a Jet next season? Let’s find out.


Entering the season


Adam Gase punched the 2nd hole in his AFC East loyalty card when moving from Miami up the east coast to East Rutherford, New Jersey. Whilst I very much doubt he’ll get a full house with New England/Buffalo, there were many amongst the Jets’ fanbase that were hoping that he’d get his chance sooner rather than later. It just seems like yesterday that he had that extraordinary eye bulging press conference when being introduced to the media, to be later dubbed “Taco man”.

LeVeon Bell’s exodus from Pittsburgh saw him end up in the green of New York, looking to finally sort out the muddling backfield which it has been for years. He signed a 4 year $52.5 million deal with $35m of it fully guaranteed. Whilst many in the fanbase were “happy”, Adam Gase seemingly wasn’t, causing tension between him and Mike Maccagnan. Elsewhere, Sam Darnold was expected to step up in his 2nd year, especially with Gase being the “Quarterback Whisperer”.

Draft wise, Quinnen Williams was the pick at #2 whilst their next pick, Jachai Polite didn’t even make it to the Regular Season, ultimately ending up on the Seahawks/Rams practice squads. The rest of the draft class was not much to write home about with Tackle Chuma Edoga and Tight End Trevon Wesco both playing cameo roles in their first season.


DURING THE SEASON


It turned out to be a peculiar season for the Jets, finishing 7-9, but you have to say the assist goes to the strength of schedule and you could argue that the team should have had a better record.

The early part of the schedule saw Sam Darnold sit out due to a case of Mono (the price of fame, eh?) but he returned in week 6 to demolish the Cowboys at home to register their first win of the season.

Image result for sam darnold mono
Todd Kirkland/Getty

They finished off the back half of the season 6-2 with losses coming against the Ravens and the Bengals. Their wins against a half Rudolph/half Duck led Steelers and a “nothing to play for” Bills team in week 17 meant they were able to finish with a 7-9 record.

This was a team that were 2nd worst in terms of points scored, 3rd down conversion %, total 1st downs and total rush yards on the season. Not great, Bob.

The running back position was as bad as it’s ever been with off-season free agent signing LeVeon Bell averaging a career-low 3.2 yards per carry and did not have a 100-yard rushing game (no running back on the roster mustered over 4 yards per carry). How much of that was on him or the poor offensive line play or playcalling, is up to you to decide.

One glimmer of hope for the Jets offence was the chemistry between Sam Darnold and Jamison Crowder, who’ll look to build on their rapport which enabled the slot receiver to find the endzone 6 times (team high) on 78 receptions. Fellow wide receiver Robby Anderson didn’t quite have the breakout he was perhaps expecting and the tight end production from Ryan Griffin, filling in for Chris Herndon, varied on a week to week basis but he managed to find the endzone 5 times.


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The defence as a whole unit played averagely, with their run defence being one of the better units in the league.

You could argue Quinnen Williams had a quiet start to his career, totaling just 2.5 sacks on the season and 15 solo tackles. Leaders on the defence started and ended with Jamal Adams, especially when CJ Mosley went down after week 2. Linebacker Jordan Jenkins was their sack leader with 8, giving him 20 on his career and building nicely upon his 7 from 2018. Certainly a name that flies under the radar in the NFL.


OFFSEASON OUTLOOK


The Jets probably hindered themselves more with that back half win collection they achieved, picking from the #11 spot. There are a variety of needs so would be candidates to trade back if the opportunity presents itself.

Image result for leveon Bell
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

In free agency, WR Robby Anderson looks likely to head for the exit door and the LeVeon Bell/Adam Gase rift rumours continue and has led to speculation about the Jets trying to trade Bell this offseason, something that seems unlikely because of the $13 million guaranteed he has coming his way this season.

Many will continue to question Adam Gase and his suitability in the organisation and with good reason, this team seem to be behind the 8-ball in terms of being the team that overhauls the Patriots (if that ever becomes a thing) with both divisional rivals putting themselves in a much better position to do just that. The Jets may be landed for a while in New York.

Season in Review – Kansas City Chiefs

By Sean Tyler (@SeanTylerUK)

As we get to the end of our Season in Review series, we finally get to the story with the fairy tale ending. Here’s the lowdown on the 2019 campaign that saw the Kansas City Chiefs lift the Lombardi Trophy for the first time in 50 years.


ENTERING THE SEASON


2018 had been a successful year for the Chiefs, winning the AFC West and getting within a coin toss of reaching the Super Bowl. An overtime loss in the AFC Championship game to the Patriots may have ended differently if Patrick Mahomes had started with the ball instead of Tom Brady…

In the offseason, KC released two of their most established players in linebacker Justin Houston (now with the Colts) and safety Eric Berry (still a free agent). They also shipped out newly acquired receiver Sammie Coates, now starring in the XFL for the Houston Roughnecks.

DE Dee Ford was franchise tagged before being traded to the San Francisco 49ers, while Frank ‘The Shark’ Clark came in from Seattle. He was joined by running back Carlos Hyde, corner Bashaud Breeland and the Honey Badger himself, safety Tyrann Mathieu.

Joe Robbins/Getty Images

All this trade action left KC with no first-round option in the 2019 NFL Draft. Nonetheless, with their first selection (#56 overall), the Chiefs acquired WR/return specialist Mecole Hardman from Georgia, who went on to the Pro Bowl in his first season. Their other Round 2 choice, safety Juan Thornhill, formed a solid partnership with Mathieu.

During pre-season, Chiefs fans wouldn’t have had a sense of what was to come. Of course, they beat the Bengals but lost the other three warm-up games to the Steelers, 49ers and Packers.


DURING THE SEASON


In 2019 – the Chiefs’ 50th NFL campaign, 60th in total and seventh under Andy Reid as Head Coach – they shot out of the gate with four straight wins. As well as going to Jacksonville (three receiving TDs for Sammy Watkins), Oakland (four TD passes by Patrick Mahomes in the second quarter) and Detroit (three rushing touchdowns), they dished out a rare L to the much-fancied Baltimore Ravens at Arrowhead Stadium. One of Hardman’s two receiving plays that day was an 83-yard score during which he was clocked at 21.7 mph.


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But given how the season started and finished, it’s hard to believe that KC then went on a run of just two wins in six. Their 19-13 loss to the Colts ended a 25-game streak of scoring at least 25 points, and they also fell at home to the Texans (having only 20 minutes of possession didn’t help). Matt Moore stepped in at QB after Mahomes injured his knee in a TNF win over Denver, and started two home games: a loss to the Packers and a win against Minnesota, decided by a Harrison Butker FG with three seconds left.

Mahomes returned with a bang to face the Titans, attempting 50 passes, racking up 446 passing yards and nailing three TD throws, including a 63-yarder to Hardman, but it still ended in defeat. Luckily, it was their last one of the campaign.

James Kenney/Associated Press

Through their sticky patch, KC had stumbled from a confident 4-0 to an unsteady 6-4. But from Week 11 onwards – when the Chiefs dispatched the LA Chargers in Mexico City – they became the model of perfection, recording nine wins in a row, including The Big One in Miami on 2 February. 

After their bye week, the Kansas City defence really stepped it up, keeping Oakland to just nine points and running a blocked kick back to the house with the final play. After a 23-16 win over the Patriots, which sealed the AFC West crown for the fourth time on the bounce, the Chiefs held both the Broncos and Bears to a single field goal in easy wins. 

In Week 17, Hardman returned a kick-off for a 104-yard TD in another victory against the Chargers, earning them the No.2 seed in the AFC and a free pass through to the Divisional Round of the playoffs. The Chiefs battled back from 24-0 down after 15 minutes to see off the Houston Texans 51-31, with Mahomes throwing three of his five TDs passes to TE Travis Kelce, and Damien Williams running in two more. Their points tally was a KC postseason record, it sealed back-to-back playoff wins for the first time in franchise history and it was first time any team has scored TDs on seven consecutive drives since 1970, when Kansas last won the Super Bowl. (Oooh, spooky…)

Jeff Curry

The Chiefs hosted the AFC Championship, where they got their revenge over the Tennessee Titans in front of the Arrowhead faithful. Again, they trailed at the end of the first quarter but five TDs (including two for Tyreek Hill) saw them advance to Super Bowl LIV with a 35-24 win.

As we all know by now, Mahomes rallied his team once last time in the season finale, leading a late charge to beat the 49ers 31-20 and take their first championship title since Super Bowl IV exactly 50 years ago. Read my take on the game here.


OFFSEASON OUTLOOK


Heading into the offseason, it’s obvious that KC really need a new quarterback… ha ha, as if.

While they may need a new backup, with Matt Moore entering free agency, their top priority should be re-signing Chris Jones, the team’s sack leader for the last two years. The defensive lineman’s contract could set them back around $20m a year – akin to what they pay Frank Clark – and when the time comes, they’ll have to pay Mahomes mega-bucks too. This won’t leave GM Brett Veach much of his $13.9 million cap space (the sixth lowest in the league) to be as aggressive as he has in previous offseasons unless something else gives.

Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Of the Chiefs’ 24 players whose contracts are expiring, LeSean McCoy, Terrell Suggs and Spencer Ware are three that will probably depart or even retire. And when it comes to April’s NFL Draft, the Chiefs only have five picks, having traded away their sixth and seventh rounders. As champions, they’ll pick last, starting at #32 overall.

Given the free-agent status of Jones, as well as Bashaud Breeland and Kendall Fuller, the Chiefs may target a defensive lineman (Jordan Elliott from Missouri?), cornerback (Clemson’s AJ Terrell seems a possibility) or linebacker (I’m seeing Kenneth Murray out of Oklahoma and LSU’s Patrick Queen mocked to the Chiefs). Another edge rusher could complement Clark well, so Curtis Weaver (Boise State) or Zack Baun (Wisconsin) may also be in the mix.

On the other side of the ball, WR Sammy Watkins has another year left but he didn’t score after Week 1. The Chiefs could release him, save a shed-load of money and pluck a young pup from a loaded 2020 class. They could also upgrade at running back, either with a draft pick like Johnathan Taylor from Wisconsin or maybe a free agent, with the names Austin Ekeler and Matt Breida being bandied about.

But as you’d expect with a Super Bowl-winning side with a much-respected HC, there’s a lot of silver lining and not very much cloud in the long-range forecast. So if you fancy a flutter on the year ahead, the Chiefs (in or around 6/1) are the current favourites to defend their title next year in Tampa.

Season In Review – San Francisco 49ers

By Lee wakefield (@Wakefield90)

Time to look at this year’s bridesmaids, the San Francisco 49ers. How did Jimmy G and Kyle Shanahan turn it all round? Are they here to stay? Let’s find out…


Entering the season


Coming off a 4-12 season when your starting QB tears his ACL is tough, especially when we’re talking about a QB you traded for and signed him to a 5 year contract (although more of that later), in the hope that he could lead your team to bigger and better things.

What’s more, the NFC West is a very competitive division and a division rival had just been beaten in the Superbowl. The Rams and Sean McVay were the darlings of the NFL in the media, Kyler Murray and Kliff Kingsbury were teaming up in the desert to but Arizona back on the map and Seattle, well, nobody in San Francisco likes Seattle and their Seahawks.

However, it was certainly looking rosier in the Bay Area…

Image result for nick bosa draft
USA Today Sports

The reward for finishing 4-12 was the #2 overall pick which turned into Nick Bosa – Not a bad consolation prize, and the rest of the draft class looked good in the Spring. Bosa was followed by wide receivers, Deebo Samuel and Jalen Hurd on day 2. Day 3 brought punter Mitch Wishnowsky and linebacker Dre Greenlaw from Utah and Arkansas respectively – Neither of these players moved the needle much back in April of last year but both were very solid contributors to the past season.

Drafting well made what looked like a decent draft haul into what is now a great draft haul and for those of you who haven’t been paying attention, that is what makes teams stick around at the top.

Another aspect of team building is, of course, trades and this is another method by which John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan improved the 9ers in the off season; Laken Tomlinson and Shon Coleman looked like solid acquisitions, even if they weren’t groundbreaking by any means, and even if Coleman didn’t play a snap this year after being injured in preseason. However, the point is, the 49ers braintrust was prepared to make moves in order to elevate their group and drag them from the second pick to what became second place.


During the Season


You know how I mentioned that things were looking rosier in the Bay? Well things started off more than rosy, the 49ers began the season on F I R E. Week 1, the 49ers went across the country and smoked the Bucs – The defense, led by Nick Bosa, Fred Warner and Richard Sherman, suffocated Tampa, forcing 4 turnovers and put Jameis Winston on his backside another 3 times. This was the kind of performance from the defense that we came to expect week-in, week-out from this unit and they were really the driving force behind the much improved San Francisco squad.

Week 2, for example against the Bengals, the 49ers surrendered a mere 25 yards rushing, sacked the QB 4 times and forced another turnover. Week 6 against the Rams, L.A. were held to a total of 157 yards of offense and 7 points. The Rams, the Sean McVay Rams, the team that every media analyst was salivating a few months before. These are just a few examples of how dominant of a unit the 49ers defense had become – Like I said, it was sort of to be expected. This unit was the 2nd ranked defense by total defense by the end of the year.

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Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

Another thing that we came to expect was Jimmy G just doing enough in the passing game. This offense was powered by Kyle Shanahan’s running game and play-action.

The passing game finished a middle of the road, 13th in yards per game at 237, which usually wouldn’t be enough to power anyone to 13 wins but the running game was absolutely dominant. 144 yards per game was second only to the Ravens frankly insane, 206 per game. No matter how it’s cut, if you’re putting up a shade under 30 points per game, your offense is a problem.

Of course, not everyone has a head coach who is an offensive genius, willing blockers such as Kyle Juszczyk and George Kittle and a bevvy of running backs who can all get hot in a hurry but these two guys were certainly the driving force, the heartbeat and the emotional leaders of the offense. They really did personify it. Whereas other tight ends might get uppity about not catching passes, George Kittle loved running people over, laughing as he did it and jogging to the sideline to ask Shanahan to run the ball again.


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What was the result of this?

Well, a whole bunch of blow out wins. The 49ers weren’t just winning most weeks, coming out the right side of one score games – which can sometimes be a sign of a team getting lucky – the 49ers were smoking a lot of teams, and not just being flat track bullies either. San Francisco blew out; the Bucs, the Panthers, the Rams in L.A., the Packers… And when they were asked to win a close one, they were able to get the job done, such as the regular season wins against the Saints, the Seahawks in Seattle and the Rams at home.

The only losses were in overtime at home to Seattle by 3, a 3 point loss in Baltimore and a weird loss at home to the lowly Falcons.

The offseason beckoned and it was much of the same – The Vikings and Packers fell again and truth be told, they were one-sided affairs. The 49ers steamrolled them both, Nick Bosa was on his way to Defensive Rookie of the Year and a Pro Bowl nomination and so were Juszczyk, Kittle and Sherman.

(Fred Warner was robbed y’all).

Kittle, Sherman and DeForest Buckner made All-Pro too, but this team was gunning for the biggest prize of all, not personal accolades.

The Superbowl then… Sorry to 49ers fans who are reading… I tried to hold off talking about it for as long as a could.

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Jose Carlos Fjarado/Bay Area News Group

It was all going so well, wasn’t it? Until it wasn’t. The Chiefs just did what they do and put up points in bunches with their blitzkrieg-esque offense. It was a great game and even if it’s no solace to 49ers fans, the 2019 season was still a great season for this team and I have optimism that the 9ers are here to stay, too. Which leads me on to… 


Offseason Outlook


I think the offseason outlook for the 49ers is pretty good. As I alluded to a moment ago, I feel like this team is set to be good for a while, or at least the next 3 or 4 years.

I’m a massive fan of Kyle Shanahan and keeping him in the building is going to be of paramount importance – Although, why would he want to leave?

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Wilfredo Lee/AP

John Lynch has just won NFL Executive of the Year, and seems to do as he’s told by Shanahan in terms of player recruitment and he hasn’t been afraid to put the trigger on a deal. Aside from Garoppolo and the linemen I mentioned earlier, Dee Ford has been brought in, Emmanuel Sanders was acquired later in the season and provided a boost, and not only incomings, before this season, the likes of Daniel Kilgore, Vance McDonald and Trent Brown all left town.

We see far too many teams who stick rather than twist when it comes to roster building, talent acquisition and the acquisition of draft capital, and many of those teams stagnate.

San Francisco, New England and Seattle are teams that I think of that are never afraid to do a deal, whether that be in season of around the draft and that coupling of good coaching and a front office that isn’t scared to deal has meant that in the past 10 Superbowls, since Superbowl XLV in 2011, there has only been two Superbowls that hasn’t featured at least one of those 3 teams.

Food for thought – That’s an elite group of teams in terms of their philosophy and the way they do business.

In terms of the business that the 49ers need to do this offseason, well… there’s actually very little to be done. Which is a great thing! This team is fresh and young in all the right places – Young leaders on defense, such as DeForest Buckner, Fred Warner and of course, Nick Bosa are matched on the other side of the ball by George Kittle, Mike McGlinchley and Deebo Samuel. All these guys and more are young or coming into their primes on relatively cheap contracts.

Buckner is moving into his 5th year option and Kittle is in the final year of his rookie deal and will both need extending and both will get done, I’m sure.

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Brett Duke/AP

The 49ers have a decision to make with Arik Armstead, whose contact is up and there may be no room at the inn unfortunately, since the two players above and also Kyle Juszczyk need paying first and the cap situation isn’t the prettiest in the NFL.

The 49ers have $12.8m of space to play with according to Overthecap.com, which isn’t a lot when you have to find money for Buckner and will probably have to make Kittle the best paid tight end in the NFL.

Cuts will have to be made…

Sanders deal is expiring and was worth $11m, so I doubt he’s retained unless he takes a hefty pay cut – That frees up a fair chunk of capital. As will saying goodbye to the likes of Jimmie Ward, Jascon Verrett (and it maybe goodnight on his NFL career) and a bunch of other players who are further down the pecking order such as Ben Garland, Anthony Zettel and Jordan Matthews.

It is also quite handy that other free agents that they may want to keep hold of, players such as, Emmanuel Moseley, Matt Breida, Kendrick Bourne and Jeff Wilson are all exclusive rights free agents or restricted free agents, meaning the 49ers can retain them on the cheap for another year, which I am sure they will.

Ok so, a little bit of careful surgery here and there, a contract extension or two and delaying extending a couple of others means the 49ers can do into next season with a pretty similar squad to last year and just add to it via the draft, but what about next year when new contacts kick in for Kittle and Buckner and you still need to extend Moseley and Bourne?

Well, this is where we come all the way back to the top of the article and look at the contract of one, James Richard Garoppolo.

Image result for jimmy garoppolo
Jose Carlos Fjarado

The 49ers are on the hook for $25.2m for Jimmy G next year, however, due to the way Jimmy’s contract is structured, San Francisco’s dead cap hit drops from $13.7m to just $4.2m after the 2020 season and after that it’s just $2.8m in 2021 when Garoppolo’s deal could cost $25.2m.

That’s a heck of a cap saving. Especially because we’ve got to start considering where the money is going to come from to make Nick Bosa the most highly paid edge defender in football in a few years time.

We know Jimmy G isn’t the greatest QB of all time – The 49ers focused on their run game and making that the strength of the offense in 2019 and relegated Garoppolo to being a facilitator. Which is fine and he did a good job and will probably do a good job in that role again in 2020… But do you know what, you can pay a facilitator QB around $10-15m per year and get similar results.

Unless Garoppolo seriously elevates his game next season, I think it’ll be his last season in the Bay Area, because it simply isn’t a good business decision to give a facilitator QB north of 25 million dollars when you have to pay a young team who are coming into their prime.

So yes, the future for San Francisco football is bright but they just may have a new QB in 12-18 months time.

A final word on the draft before I sign off here…

The 49ers are one of the most intriguing teams in the later portion of the first round this year, in my opinion.

As Superbowl runners-up, they pick 31st in the first round, a prime trade back spot for teams to deal with another team who want to get back into the 1st round and get that 5th year option on a guy they really want.


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Now what do the 49ers do?

Due to their wheeling and dealing in the past, after the 31st pick they don’t pick again until the 5th round and the 159th overall pick – That’s quite a wait.

Do the 9ers trade back and pick up a few more swings? Or do they recognise that they are perhaps one player on defense away from becoming a complete unit?

I believe a deep safety such as LSU’s, Grant Delpit or a physical corner such as Jaylon Johnson of Utah or Trevon Diggs of Alabama could really be that icing on the cake.

In reality, they will probably wait and see how the board falls on the night and see how it matches up with their board and go from there, but it, like the draft as a whole should be absolutely fascinating.

Either way, I’d back this group to do the right thing – I was part of the 49ers Hype Train last year and I think I’ll be signing up again for 2020.

Season in review – New York Giants

by Lawrence Vos (@F10YRetro and @NFLFANINENGLAND)

In a decade that included earning their fourth Vince Lombardi trophy the New York Giants only won a single NFC East crown and had 4 winning seasons. How would they finish the 2010s? 


Entering the season


Having finished dead last in their division in 2017 and 2018 it was time for some significant changes if Big Blue was going to emulate its predecessors. 

Photo credit: Anthony J. Causi (N.Y. Post)

In possession of the 2018 Offensive Rookie of the Year Saquon Barkey, a top three fantasy pick, the Giants were looking to begin the NFLs 100th season in a much better way than 1-7 (as they did in 2017 and 2018). 

The Giants bid farewell to a number of big names, WR Odell Beckham Jr and LB Olivier Vernon going to Cleveland by trade and S Landon Collins departing in free agency to divisional rivals Washington. The only veteran names of any significance coming into the team were WR Golden Tate and G Kevin Zeitler.

Without doubt the biggest offseason transaction for the G-Men was their first round draft pick (#6) Daniel Jones. Ridiculed by draftniks across the globe for selecting the former Duke standout so early, head coach Pat Shurmer and GM Dave Gettleman knew the writing was already on the wall for veteran QB Eli Manning. 

Ending up with three first round selections, the Giants made two more conventional early picks, grabbing DT Dexter Lawrence at #17 and CB Deandre  Baker at #30 to try and immediately improve a weak defense. They also picked up WR Darius Slayton in the 5th round. 

Reggie White Jr, son of legendary Hall of Fame DE Reggie White was signed as an UDFA but was cut before the season started, before earning a place on the Giants practice squad. 

Photo credit: Sarah Stier/Getty Images

Would this be the final season we would see double Super Bowl winning QB Eli Manning suiting up in the Big Apple? Could Saquon move onwards and upwards? Could the Giants find some defensive consistencey? 


During the season


Despite going undefeated in the Preseason the Giants began the 2019 regular season in familiar fashion with two consecutive losses. In both defeats Saquon rushed for over 100 yards. 

With the season outlook already starting to turn dark Coach Shurmer made the bold move to bench Eli Manning for only the second time in his career (the first being for Geno Smith in 2017). 

Photo credit: Andy Lyons/Getty Images

In Eli’s place was rookie Daniel Jones, who despite harsh criticism, managed to win his first two NFL starts against Tampa Bay and Washington. Jones threw for 336 yards and two scores in his debut, but had a tougher outing against the Redskins, tossing two picks. 

The small taste of success was then turned into as much fun as licking an Amazonian tree frog for Giants fans as the team went on a nine-game losing skid, a franchise record defeat streak, last performed in 1976 when the team introduced the word ‘Giants’ on the sides of their helmets. 

Saquon Barkley missed Weeks 4-6 with an injury, and didn’t have his third 100+ yard rushing performance until Week 14, which coincidentally happened to be the next time the Giants won a a game, having not won a single contest in October or November. 

The two December wins, against the Dolphins at home and then on the road in Landover, Maryland was enough to leave the Giants with a 4-12 record, and the smallest of moral victories, having finished the season 3rd in the NFC East.


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A few side notes on another season without a sniff of the postseason included Eli Manning, in his final contest of the season, and his career, leaving the league on a winning note, a week 15 triumph against Miami, and the cutting of CB Janoris Jenkins for calling a fan a ‘retard’ on social media. 

After their 12th loss, a Week 17 defeat to the Eagles, Giants brass sacked head coach Pat Shurmer, who accumulated a poor 9-23 record in two seasons in charge. 

Team leaders for the Giants included Markus Golden (10 sacks), Janoris Jenkins (4 interceptions), and rookie Darius Slayton (receiving yards – 740 and touchdowns – 8). Kicker Aldrick Rosas did himself no favours missing 29% of his field goal attempts and failing on 4 point after touchdowns.


Offseason outlook 


Photo credit: Danielle Parhizkaran

Much in the same way that NFL experts were scratching their dandruff ridden scalps after the Giants selected QB Daniel Jones at 6 overall in the 2019 draft there were similar flake inducing moments when they announced Joe Judge as the new head coach. 

Judge, only 38, has an astonishing track record, winning two College championships with Alabama (2009 and 2011) and three Super Bowl winners rings as a special teams coach with the New England Patriots. This will be his first ever head coaching job. 

In other franchise altering news Eli Manning retired in late January 2020, ending 16 seasons of NFL gameplay, taking with him two rings, the same number as his big brother Peyton.

The Giants have lots of work to do everywhere in 2020 having failed to muster a single Pro-Bowl player for the 2019 season, the first time they failed to send someone somewhere sunny since the mid-90s. 

Photo credit: Newsday.com

Building blocks will include QB Daniel Jones, who rode out a torrid rookie season with three wins and over 3,000 yards passing and DT Dexter Lawrence (pictured above), who made the PFWA All-Rookie starting lineup.

This is a very young team, with no big names on defense, no 1,000 yard receivers, no Pro Bowlers and no big prospects in 2020. 

They do pick high again, this time at #4 overall and will likely be targeting a playmaking speed rushing defender or the best CB or S available. The team need to target WR, CB and LB in free agency.

The jury is out already and the verdict is not good for Coach Judge in 2020.

Season in Review – Jacksonville Jaguars

By Tim_MonkF10Y

Time to look at the London Jacksonville Jaguars, just a few seasons removed from being 5 minutes or so away from beating the Patriots in the AFC title game and appearing in a Super Bowl. Fair to say that since then, they’ve taken a nose dive quicker than the most theatrical of Soccer players. Are the good times ever going to come back to Jacksonville? Or are they destined for misery until a move overseas occurs?


ENTERING THE SEASON


2019, the post Blake Bortles era (or error). It was looked upon as a fresh new start with a fresh new Quarterback, breathing new life in to the team and the franchise. Opinions were split when Nick Foles signed a 4 year $88m deal to become the new face of the Jaguars, effectively choosing him over paying the defence or trying to get a QB in the 2019 draft. Mr Khan, Tom Coughlin and co. were seemingly under the impression their Super Bowl window was still open. High expectations for a team that have finished with a points differential of worse than -50 every year since 2008 except for that AFC conference visiting year of 2017.

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Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP

Leonard Fournette, their 1st round running back from 2017 had yet to complete a full season (either through disciplinary consequences or injury) was under pressure to perform even before they selected Ryquell Armstead in the 2019 draft. The defence were branded as the type who quit on the fans and the team towards the end of last season and were labelled as a group who thought they were better than they were based on previous years’ performances whilst Doug Marrone, seemingly enters every year under pressure, somehow always manages to come out on the other side.


DURING THE SEASON


Jacksonville were handed one of the tougher draws right out of the gate, with a home game against the Kansas City Chiefs. However, Nick Foles left off where he finished from the Super Bowl and led the Jaguars to a fine 2nd drive. Problem was, he would no longer participate in the game after going down on the touchdown throw to DJ Chark, breaking his clavicle.


Nick Foles
Stephen B. Morton/AP

Enter, Gardner Minshew (or Mr Moustache as he would later be known). The 6th round rookie draft pick out of Washington State would go on to lead the Jaguars for the next 8 games. He started off well, leading the team to wins over the Titans and away in Denver. “Minshew Mania” had struck. Close defeats to Carolina and New Orleans followed up by wins over the Bengals and the Jets meant that London were treated to Minshew Mania in week 9. Oh how it capitulated so horribly.

Houston Texans v Jacksonville Jaguars
Jack Thomas/Getty Images

Mr Moustache’s exerts in London of 2 awful Interceptions, 2 gut wrenching fumbles lost and 3 sacks taken culminated with the hapless Jaguars mustering just the 3 Josh Lambo points at Wembley Stadium. Minshew Mania officially died.

The Jags entered their week 10 bye at 4-5, Doug Marrone had seen enough of the Minshew Mania and recalled Nick Foles, back from injury. Fortunes were not to be with the Jaguars though and Foles lost the next 3 games. The latter of those losses to Floridian neighbours, Tampa Bay where Foles “did a Minshew” of sorts, throwing an interception and losing 2 fumbles, achieving only 3 1st downs in his 27 snaps from the start of the game. Minshew came in for the other 41 snaps for the Jaguars’ offence but to no avail.


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The Jaguars fell to 4-8 and rode with Minshew until the end of the season, going 2-2 in that stretch with wins against division rivals in week 17 in a dead rubber but they did manage to upset the Raiders in the final game in Oakland where Minshew led the team to a great final drive to win it. In the midst of all that, Mr Iron Fist and VP of football operations for the Jags, Tom Coughlin got the boot after allegations of excessive fines and player grievances.

One bright spot on the season was DJ Chark, who broke out for 73 receptions and over 1000 yards on the season, finding the endzone 8 times. Dede Westbrook, the guy we all thought would have that type of season, fell well short on 66 receptions with 660 yards and found pay dirt just 3 times. Leonard Fournette managed to compete in 15 out of the 16 games this season, but avoided the endzone like the plague, finding it just 3 times also.

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Streeter Lecka/Getty

Whilst the teams passing offence held up somewhat even after the Jaguars traded motor mouth Jalen Ramsey to the Rams after week 6 for 2 future 1st round picks, it was the rushing aspect of their defensive duties the jaguars defence failed particularly well on, giving up the 2nd most yards per attempt (5.1) and rushing touchdowns (23). Rookie first rounder from the 2019 draft Josh Allen made it to the Pro Bowl in his first season after his efforts saw him achieve a team high 10.5 sacks.


OFFSEASON OUTLOOK


After the dust settled, it was yet another season finishing in the AFC South basement. A few more years and they’ll legally be able to claim squattage. Doug Marrone has been given yet another vote of confidence which could mean 1 of 2 things: 1) they think Marrone is the right man for the job or 2) he’s just keeping the seat warm until they move to London. With the Jaguars playing 25% of their “home” games at Wembley next year in back to back games, the overseas Franchise rumours linked with the Jaguars will never die and seemingly is only trending in one direction. Jaguars fans in Florida are angered by this latest move, mainly because of the lack of transparency given by owner Shahid Khan.

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Getty Images

Jacksonville are trying to accommodate Khan’s requests for upgrades in the town, with Khan putting a small % of his money in too, with upgrades in and aorund the stadium, but a lot more investement is earmarked for overseas, flowing across the Atlantic in the hopes of far bigger returns. The potential new market size bringing with it an untapped brand growing and monetising opportunities seems to be staring us all in the face that it is now a question of ‘when’ and not ‘if’.

On the field, the offseason will be fuelled yet again by Quarterback talk and don’t even be surprised if they draft one in 2020 considering they have 2 1st round picks to have a dart throw at one of them.

They are not flush with cap space entering next season so will have to get creative in order to make any major moves but expect to see at least 1 big name head for the exit door which could include any of Marcell Dareus ($20m saving), AJ Bouye ($11.5m) or recent NFL Man of the Year award winner Calais Campbell ($15m). Expect WR Marqise Lee, LB Jake Ryan & TE Geoff Swaim be cap casualties, who collectively would save the Jaguars around $15m in cap room.

Season in Review – Tampa Bay Buccaneers

By Sean Tyler (@seantyleruk)

Time to take a look at Mr 30/30 himself and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Arguably one of the most exciting teams to watch (not always for the right reasons) in 2019 but what did Bruce Arians achieve this season and what has he got to do to try and obtain a winning record in 2020? More importantly, does it involve Jameis Winston?


ENTERING THE SEASON


Hoping to improve on 5-11 from the previous year, Tampa Bay spent the spring re-signing, extending and acquiring a whole host of players. These included offensive tackles Donovan Smith and Demar Dotson, and leading rusher Peyton Barber. WR Breshad Perriman was a decent pick-up in free agency, but linebacker Shaquil Barrett was arguably the best signing (by any team) in 2019.

Paul Sancya/AP

A couple of months later, former LA Rams defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh also joined the fray, and in the NFL Draft, the Bucs stayed D-heavy. Other than kicker Matt Gay and receiver Scotty Miller, every other pick was a defender. Headed by another linebacker (LSU’s Devin White) at No.5 overall, followed by corners Sean Murphy-Bunting and Jamel Dean, NFL.com recently gave the rookie class an A+ grade.

Not surprisingly, the Bucs’ pre-season games were close, low-scoring affairs, with a two-point loss at Pittsburgh preceding wins over Miami (16-14), Cleveland (13-12) and Dallas (17-15). 


DURING THE SEASON


To the uninitiated, their eventual 7-9 record might appear to have been an unremarkable campaign for the Bucs. But in many ways, it was anything but; in fact, the record-book writers were kept pretty busy.

Providing a snapshot of what was to come, Jameis Winston featured heavily in the highlight reel of the opening day 31-17 loss to San Francisco, for all the wrong reasons (three interceptions, including two pick-sixes). The Bucs’ win at Carolina in Week 2 featured some solid last-ditch defending to keep Christian McCaffrey out of the end zone but then they blew an 18-point lead against the New York Giants, with rookie kicker Matt Gay missing what would have been a winning FG as the clock hit zero.

In Week 4, Suh, a former LA Ram, iced the 55-40 victory over the reigning NFC champions with a 37-yard fumble return. The win took the Bucs over the 50-point mark for the first time.

Bucs Report

Despite their early promise, the Buccaneers hit a wall and limped to 2-6 with a run of four defeats. In a lacklustre 31-24 loss to New Orleans, Teddy Bridgewater threw four TD passes, while the Seahawks’ Russell Wilson went one better a couple of weeks later. Worryingly, Tampa shipped almost 1,000 total yards in those two games alone.

In between, Tampa lost 37-26 in their Panthers rematch, with Winston (five interceptions – there’s a theme here, people) fumbling twice and getting sacked seven times in the second NFL game at the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London. After the bye week, our erstwhile quarterback hero (four turnovers) carried on where he left off in a 27-23 loss to the Titans.

Somehow, things picked up with a run of five wins in six, starting with Arians getting the better of his former team the Arizona Cardinals. After another loss to the Saints (Winston: four interceptions), the Bucs hit their stride, tormenting Matt Ryan, Nick Foles and Gardner Minshew in wins over Atlanta and Jacksonville. And in defeating the Colts 38-35, Winston (three turnovers) nabbed five total touchdowns and threw for 456 yards, surpassing his own single-season total with three games to spare. The win lifted the Bucs to 6-7, but it wasn’t enough to avoid elimination from postseason contention.

In setting yet another NFL benchmark – two consecutive games of 450+ yards passing – Winston threw for four TDs in a dominant 38-17 win over the Detroit Lions. Third-choice wideout Breshad Perriman – suddenly the target man after Chris Godwin and Mike Evans sustained hamstring injuries – set career bests down the stretch with 134 yards receiving (week 17 vs Atlanta) and three TDs (week 15 vs Lions), and finished the season with three 100-yard games.

Leon Halip / Getty Images

Disappointingly, having battled to back to 7-7 and the chance for a winning season, Tampa lost their last two against the playoff-bound Houston Texans and NFC South rivals the Atlanta Falcons, in which Devin White returned a fumble 91 yards to the house.

Looking back, the season was awash with new franchise records: most touchdowns (54), most points (458), fewest rushing yards allowed (1,181) and, to put the icing on the cake, Shaq Barrett smashed his one-year ‘prove-it’ deal out of the park with 19.5 sacks. The Bucs also led the NFL in run defence, allowing only one player (Seattle’s Chris Carson) – and only three entire teams – 100 yards rushing.

Even Jameis Winston himself set new highs: 5,109 passing yards, 33 touchdown passes, 626 passing attempts and 389 completions. But on the flip side, he also led the NFL with 30 interceptions. Amazingly, that wasn’t a franchise record (thanks to Vinny Testaverde back in the Eighties).

Reaching 7-9 in 2019 – with Head Coach Bruce Arians at the helm for the first time since being hauled out of retirement – the Buccaneers weren’t a million miles from the playoffs. That said, their eventual failure extended the NFL’s second-longest postseason drought to 12 years.


OFFSEASON OUTLOOK


At this time of year, which Bruce Arians has referred to as “monotonous”, there are no gaping holes to fill but Tampa Bay do have 19 unrestricted free agents, which muddies the waters somewhat. Even keeping the half-dozen regular starters like Suh, Dotson and Perriman will put a sizeable dent in their $92 million of available cap space (the third most in the NFL). While they’ll want to keep the bulk of their young defence in tact, the priorities remain two-fold: Shaq Barrett and Jameis Winston.

Back in December, Arians said that Barrett “ain’t going anywhere”. Alas, the Pro Bowl linebacker only signed for a year so if he’s staying, he’s gonna get paid. And if he’s not staying, he’s still gonna get paid. They could franchise tag him but if not, a DT like Javon Kinlaw (South Carolina) or Iowa’s edge rusher AJ Epenesa could be Round 1 draft targets.

As for quarterback, heaven only knows what they’ll do. At 67, Arians can’t wait forever for Winston to eradicate the errors. After their final game, he summed up the dilemma perfectly: “There’s so much good, and so much outright terrible.”

Octavio Jones / Tampa Bay Times

So do the highs outweigh the lows enough to pay Winston the $25m he could expect? It’s hard to tell.

They could move him on and get a bridge quarterback (a la Dalton or Bridgewater). They might keep him – possibly on a franchise tag – but still sign a new young thing to wait in the wings in case he goes turnover-crazy again. (And since his 30 TD/30 INT season ended, he’s had eye surgery so maybe we can expect something nearer 20/20 next year?) Or they could just let him compete against some of the game’s best QBs in a crowded free agent market, and sign a newbie. Whatever the case, Arians likes ‘em big and strong, so Oregon’s Justin Herbert, Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts or Jacob Eason from Washington could well be in the frame when they’re on the clock at the NFL Draft with pick #14.

So in summary, Buccaneers fans should be looking ahead to the coming year with a degree of optimism… as long as they can tie down a few of their best performers (#ShackleShaq) and solve The Great Winston Conundrum.

Oh, and there are some snazzy new uniforms in the pipeline…