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Pac-12 Preseason All-Conference Team

Welcome to the final instalment of our Power-5 All-Conference series! We have loved putting these articles together and making our picks, we hope that your appetite is sufficiently whetted for some football.

We will end things with the Pac-12 conference selections here with our man, Lee Wakefield making the picks. However, if you want to go back and have a look at the previous four articles in this series, check out the college section of the site here and have a browse. Don’t forget to let us know what you think and have your say in the Twitter comments!

Here come the picks:

Here is how Lee has justified the selections that he’s made;

We all know that the Pac-12 is firmly positioned as the fifth of the Power 5 conferences, however, I do feel like this team could mix it with the best in college football. Cam Rising will be a name on the lips of a lot of people come January and is about as talented of a passer that Utah have had, since Alex Smith almost 20 years ago.

The skill positions are packed with production and a good mixture of size profiles, with Rome Odunze and Benjamin Yurosek providing the size/speed profiles, with a pair of receivers who are both under 6′ (probably), who combined for over 3,000 yards last year in Jordan Addison and Jacob Cowling – Although both were outside of the conference last year with Addison in the ACC with Pittsburgh and Cowling in Conference-USA with UTEP.

Zach Charbonnet rounds out the weapons and he was an absolute revelation last year at UCLA, and he’ll be looking to build upon this over the next season.

The offensive line has a lot of talent too, with the headliner being USC’s Andrew Vorhees, who could be a first round pick when April rolls around. Outside of Vorhees, Washington Tackle, Jaxson Kirkland has a lot to prove over the next few months, but he has the talent to get it done, although he could probably benefit from an extra 10-15lbs of weight being put on. LaDarius Henderson will be a draft riser whereas Myles Hinton and Alex Forsyth are very solid and join a number of their team mates on my All-Conference team.

Defensively, I feel like there’s star power at every level with Korey Foreman, Noah Sewell and Clark Phillips.

Foreman is the former #2 recruit in the 2021 class – He has athletic abilities that are off the charts and is already in possession of an NFL edge rushers’ frame – He only registered 2.5 sacks as a Freshman but he is set up to have a more prominent role moving into 2022.

Noah Sewell is one of the better players in the conference as a whole and should be the heartbeat of the Ducks’ defense this coming year. A player who can do it all, he’s going to accumulate the tackles, shut down run plays in his sleep and if Oregon uses him to his full potential, he could be used as a weapon in the blitz games too. Sewell, much like his older Brother, should be a first round pick when he declares for the NFL Draft.

Finally in this rundown of the defensive stars, Clark Phillips is a top-5 corner prospect and will be a playmaker for a Utes team who I have down as the conference champion – I think he will be an elite nickel defender in the NFL but whilst I he playing in Salt Lake City he’ll be an outside corner and a problem for quarterbacks throughout the conference.

Elsewhere on defense, don’t forget my other edge defender, Zion Tupuola-Fetui, ZTF has recovered from an achilles tear but he returned before the end of last year and he’ll be another player looking to kick on and show his full potential in 2022.

Thanks for reading this, we hope you enjoyed this and the rest of the series! Check back later today, as we are dropping part 2 of our writer’s preseason takes! Part 1 can be found here.

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2021 College Football: Week 2 Scouting Notes

After the storm of unbelievable games in week 1, week 2 provided a much more calming schedule. It was a busy weekend in the Lord Lucken towers, so I’ve only managed to get a full watch of two games, but these produced some really good performances, and I’ve even got some skill position players to talk about too for a change.

Utah @ BYU

Menacingly dubbed “The Holy War” the game itself had a little bit for everyone, and was a much better watch than anticipated. BYU knocked off #21 Utah and ended a losing streak against them that had run since 2009. I’ve got both team’s Centers and Running backs to discuss here, as the ground game certainly dominated proceedings.

Nick Ford, Center, Junior, Utah, 6’5, 317lbs

Ford is a guy who I’ve been high on for the last couple of years. He brings versatility to the Utes, as he’s played every position on the Offensive Line for them, but he seems settled at Center now. BYU has some mammoth Defensive Tackles, but Ford showcased his strength in this game, moving them out of the way to provide some very enticing holes for the next guy we’ll talk about, to run through. He was often faced up with a Nose Tackle, but even here he was quick off the snap and dominated, mostly without help from the Guards too. You can see from the way he moves that he could be a Tackle, but I think Utah is using him wisely here at Center, as he clearly has the IQ to call the protections and he seems to thrive in the middle of all the chaos. He looks really athletic too, often out in front of screens and can easily get to the second level and handle the Linebackers. There’s a lot to like here, and even though this Utah team may not be pulling up trees, they have the makings of a decent Offensive Line, with Ford the headliner.

Micah Bernard, Running Back Freshman 6’0 202lbs

The main recipient of Ford’s hard work was redshirt Freshman Running back Micah Bernard. I liked what I saw from him in two games from last season, and he now seems to be the lead back for Utah, ahead of notable Oklahoma transfer T.J Pledger. The immediate stand out is how well this guy breaks tackles. He isn’t overly elusive, but he’ll run over you showing elite contact balance and strength. He has a nice build, really good vision and a powerful run style, but he has a little wiggle to him too. He had a stat line of 12 carries, 146 yards and a touchdown, which is a ridiculous 12.17 yards per carry, and he caught 4 balls too, so going forward you’d expect him to remain the focal point of Utah’s Offense. Whilst not draft eligible, I did want to shout him out, as I think he may end up being very highly regarded in the future.

James Empey, Center, Junior, 6’4 303lbs

James Empey is almost the complete opposite of Utah’s Center Nick Ford. Empey has a whopping 2,367 career snaps to date, and all of them have been at Center. You can see in his style of play that he is a little limited athletically, but in the pivot this isn’t as important as playing in space. We got to see a fair bit of him last year when all eyes were on QB Zach Wilson, but you could see then that the BYU Offensive Line was a good unit, led by Empey and third round pick Tackle Brady Christensen. Empey reminds me of a more traditional center, excelling in the run game first, understanding leverage and getting to the second level to seal linebackers. There were multiple plays in this game where he’d peel off a double team with the Guard and seal another defender off, creating huge holes. He clearly is the leader of this Offensive Line and has a very high football IQ, both very important traits to have when playing Center.

Tyler Allgeier Running Back, Redshirt Sophomore, 5’11 220lbs

Like Empey, we got to clamp eyes on Tyler Allgeier quite a bit last year thanks to Zach Wilson, and what we saw was very intriguing. He has a similar running style to the previously mentioned Micah Bernard of Utah, but with Allgeier you can see there’s something a little bit special here. He is such a smooth runner, very elegant and graceful, but then in the next step he’ll run over you too and show off a physicality that you love to see. He forced 8 missed tackles in this game against a very aggressive Utah defense, but did blot his copybook by fumbling, although luckily for him it went out of bounds and BYU kept the ball. He has the size you want in a bell cow running back, and I think he’ll test very well too, so he could easily be a top 100 selection if he plays this well all season and declares.

Honourable Mentions:

Simi Moala (Right Tackle, Utah), Brant Kuithe (Tight End, Utah), Blake Freeland (Left Tackle, BYU), Jaren Hall (Quarterback, BYU)

Washington @ Michigan

I do like a spectacle, and a Michigan night game at the “Big House” truly is a spectacle. Having the crowds back really is adding something to this season already and I think the players give that little bit more (if that’s possible) when there’s a full house. The game itself was a bit of a dour Defensive struggle for almost three quarters, but when Michigan began to pull away, they looked comfortable. 

The big match-up from a scouting perspective was Washington’s Left Tackle, Jaxon Kirkland up against Wolverine Edge Aidan Hutchinson. If this had been a boxing match, Kirkland would’ve been stopped in the second quarter. Hutchinson has everything, and Kirkland, who I’m still high on, has limitations that I think we already knew about, they were just cruelly exposed here, and not just by Hutchinson either.

I like to look at the not so big names, if you haven’t guessed already, and here I’ve picked a couple of guys who had really nice games but are very much under appreciated.

Terrell Bynum, Wide Receiver, Senior, 6’1 190lbs

Bynum can be excused from Washington’s loss to FCS Montana last week, as he didn’t play. Unfortunately, Bynum has a bit of an injury history and has missed plenty of games over the last couple of seasons, but when he does play, he makes you take notice. The immediate impression with him is how natural he is. This guy knows how to catch properly, run efficient routes, and can go make a contested catch too. He caught five of his six targets, for 115 yards and a TD, not too shabby at all. This offense is struggling with a young Quarterback at the helm, but Bynum certainly made the plays he could against a very veteran Michigan secondary. Whenever he’s been on the field he’s stood out, now if we can just get a whole season from him, I think he’ll make people sit up and take notice.

Gemon Green, Cornerback, Senior, 6’1 181lbs

Michigan churns out decent Cornerbacks and I think Gemon Green is the next draftable one. Not as highly regarded as teammate Vincent Gray, I prefer what I’ve seen from Green last year, and during this game too. In fact, for the first three quarters he locked down everyone, it was only during the fourth quarter that he got a bit sloppy technique-wise and gave up a couple of catches. He looked smooth in transition and had great route recognition here, effortlessly sticking to the receivers. He plays the run really well too, no half-hearted tackling here, he was like a missile at times knifing down the ball carriers. Now he certainly benefited from playing against a flustered young Quarterback, but if he can play like this when the Wolverines play Penn State and Ohio State, we may have a late riser on our hands. 

Honourable Mentions:

Ryan Hayes (Left Tackle, Michigan), Trevor Keegan (Left Guard, Michigan), Andrew Vastardis (Center, Michigan), Mazi Smith (Defensive Tackle, Michigan), Kris Jenkins (Edge, Michigan), Aidan Hutchinson (Edge, Michigan), Josh Ross (Linebacker, Michigan), David Ojabo (Edge, Michigan), Brad Hawkins (Safety, Michigan), Sam Taimani (Defensive Tackle, Washington)


Follow Keith on Twitter – @LordLucken

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Betting Preview – NFC East

By Tim Monk

Hello darkness, my old friend.

The NFC East isn’t synonymous with making profit. You wouldn’t have had many accumulators including teams from this division last year. Well, if you did you’d be in the poor house.

Ante post wise and the division title, its been nearly 2 decades since a team retained the division title (2004), form book usually goes out of the window and is a scrappy division and throw in the injuries, you have yourself a betting nightmare. Washington won the division after going 1-5 last year, hope you all got on. Its always a candidate for worst to first, the only advice usually to heed is to avoid the favourite or last year’s winner.


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Before we get in to the markets, just to let you know we have an affiliation this year with Redzone betting. If you aren’t signed up to them yet and want to take advantage of decent overround books on the NFL, sign up here!

Content wise, we will have a weekly podcast throughout the season so be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel. We will also look to bringing you a weekly look at the best Request a bet’s out there as well as our best bets on all the common markets in written form.

You can also find more betting previews in our NFL season guide, which you can buy from our shop.

Prior to the season, we will have ante post previews on divisions, outrights, team totals, season awards and a whole lot more if ante post is your thing.


Odds taken end July 2021

That bet is Washington Football Team to retain, yes RETAIN the NFC East. Sitting at around 2/1, they have the best defence on paper, on the field on the stat sheet by a country mile.

I could reel off the heavy investment that front 7 has received over the past couple of years from the NFL draft including Chase Young, Montez Sweat, Daron Payne, Jonathan Allen to name just a couple from the 1st round.

They gave the eventual Super Bowl champs, the Tampa Bay Bucs the biggest scare in the post season last year, and that was with Taylor Heinicke. No disrespect to the guy, especially after his dive to the pylon in said game, but if they have an average Quarterback playing the position in that game, things may be looking a lot different.

It’s the 2nd season for Ron Rivera in Washington, and despite his discontent at the vaccination status of the team, they just have to be a lot shorter than the current 2/1 they find themselves at. They have brought in Ryan Fitzpatrick, who isn’t to be trusted for a whole season and there is a reason why he has never played in a playoff game. They have also acquired the services of WR Curtis Samuel to go with Terry McLaurin. Added to that Adam Humphries is a signing that has gone under the radar and also selected a couple of wideouts from the draft including the potentially exciting Dyami Brown.

The defence is enough to win them a few games this season and can account for any of Fitzpatrick’s erratic episodes. The talented RB Antonio Gibson should continue to produce behind a competent Washington offensive line, backed up by JD McKissic.

For me the reason the prices are how they are is because this screams “bookies dont want to take any money” on Dallas.

Sometimes in gambling, you’ll find what is called “false favourites”. This usually means the bookies cripple the price of a certain selection, not because they think it will win or they think they are the best, it’s because they dont want to be on the wrong side of that selection or they want a “green” line on it, meaning they want the favourite to be a winning selection for the house.

That, for me my friends, is the Dallas Cowboys in 2021. Hard knocks team, hype around the star and now particularly wealthy Quarterback Dak Prescott. Happy to debate whether Dallas are worthy favourites, however i will not have that the Washington Football Team aren’t at least closer in the betting to them.

Dallas are horrendous on defence and there isn’t too much they have done in the offseason to think that they’ll be anything than just below average. The signing of Malik Hooker looks good on paper, but 1st round draft pick Micah Parsons has character questions, the Cornerback group have a lot of question marks and the linebackers have more than a point to prove with Jaylon Smith coming off a poor season, Leighton vander Esch struggling to stay healthy, taking over that mantle from Sean Lee.

Even if they shave a couple of points of the 30 pt average they gave up in 2020, they’ll still struggle to get to double digit wins. You can’t even mark them up confidently for 3-4 divisional wins, let alone 10 for the season.

Do they have the best offence, yes, and it’s by a country mile, especially if the offensive line stays healthy, but even that is a coin flip these days. They had 12 different offensive line combinations in their 16 games last season, #NotGreatBob.

Even with all of the above guaranteed and having a number one scoring offence, it’s hard to cover up all the cracks on a pourous defence. Dallas even with Dak struggled in their first 4 full games last year and were only a successful watermelon kick away from an 0-4 start as they had seemingly more double digit deficits than you have had hot dinners. This is despite averaging 31.5pts through those first 4 games.

The division will likely go down to the wire as it usually does and in all honestly, will likely hinge on the head to head matchups between Dallas and Washington, which come in week 14 and 16. Going head to head, Washington’s defence absolutely mauled Dallas last year including an humiliation on Thanksgiving. Yes, Dak was missing, but you could have had Tom Brady or Peyton Manning behind center and it still would have been a bloodbath.

Dallas have a tough start to the season with the opening kickoff cameras on them at Raymond James Statdium as they face the defending champs, Tampa Bay Buccaneers before travelling to the Chargers in week 2. 3 winnable games follow at home before a potentially pivotal game at New England in week 6 before their bye. They’ll need to be 3-3 going in to that.

Making a case for the other 2 teams in the division. Well, it’s the NFC East.

The Philadelphia Eagles (seemingly) have given the keys to Jalen Hurts for a year. There are continuous rumours swirling that Deshaun Watson could pull on the Eagles jersey in 2021 and if that move comes to fruition, Philadelphia’s odds will come crashing down.

They employ 1st year rookie Head Coach Nick Sirianni and you can expect a lot of “Hey, Siri” jokes plastered across social media. He’ll look to improve on the 4-11-1 record from last season in a season where they waited until week 4 to record their first win and went 1-7 after their bye week.

Similar to Dallas, Philadelphia need an offensive line that is healthy for Hurts to have a chance (less so if Watson comes through the entrance) to make things happen. That being said Hurts is a mobile QB, which is any leveller for poor offensive line play. Drafting his teammate in the 1st round will help too as Devonta Smith, WR from Alabama joins a particularly poor group of players the position.

Zach Ertz seemingly couldn’t find a new home and miraculously is “sorting through” the problems he seemingly had with the Franchise. He was underwhelming in 2020 and Dallas Goedert may still have more playing time in 2021 at the position, but expect both to be on the field for the most part, especially if the aforementioned poor O-line play or injuries rears it’s ugly head.

The much maligned Cornerback group of the Eagles was bolstered by Steven Nelson, who comes over from Pittsburgh and joins Darius Slay, one of the premier corners. Anthony Harris was also added to the secondary of the Eagles which may make them a bit closer to the average. They’ll look to improve the 26th ranked defence in the redzone and 22nd in terms of points allowed per drive on average.

The Eagles probably are in too much tumult to cause a stink but as it always is with the NFC East, they all love playing party poopers when it comes to the divisional games.

Moving over to the New York Giants, already had some fun and games as Daniel Jones found himself at the bottom of a big Giant pile, much to the dismay of Joe Judge who then sent them running for a little while. Kelvin Benjamin and Joe Judge if you believe some reports, have had a few back and forths, leading to Benjamin’s release only after 1 day in New York. Saquon Barkley looks unlikely to be ready for week one. Oh, and Jason Garrett is still around.

A shaky offensive line has not had much attention given to it in the offseason and fully expect that to be part of their troubles again this season.

Kenny Golladay and eyebrow raising 1st round WR selection Kadarius Toney join a middling set of WR in Slayton, Shepard and TE Evan Engram. Golladay has injury troubles in the past year and there are already whispers that Toney has not been the most focused or motivated since being drafted and participating in camp.

The defence should be competent enough after re-signing Leonard Williams and acquiring Adoree Jackson at Cornerback.

That being said, it’s just feels like an absolute mess in New York, something which the New York media should have fun with in 2021 and I do not see them troubling for the division title or a playoff spot.

It’s likely that only 1 team progresses to the post season from this division, so as a Washington backer, i have no interested in any of them at the prices.

Other Markets:

Finishing Positions

Dallas – 1st – 5/4 , 2nd – 2/1 , 3rd – 4/1, 4th – 13/2

Washington- 1st –2/1 , 2nd – 2/1 , 3rd – 11/4 , 4th – 4/1

Philadelphia – 1st – 11/2, 2nd – 4/1, 3rd – 9/4, 4th – 5/4

New York – 1st – 9/2, 2nd – 3/1 , 3rd – 19/10, 4th – 2/1

Selected prop bets:

Just to remind you that there are 17 regular season games this year, which is why you might find the lines a bit higher than you normally would if you are cross referencing previous year’s totals. On first glance, Ryan Fitzpatrick’s number looks quite high. He has only played a full season 3 times and his highest total is 3,905, which was for the Jets. However, i think that they’ll be a defensive side and I am not sure how gunslinger happy he will be in this team. Dak Prescott on the other hand could smash 5,000 yards. he was on course for a million of them through 5 games (had 1875) and still ranked 32nd in passing yards in 2021 despite playing less than a third of the season. The defence is not that much improved and could see the same pattern as last year. Difficult to gauge Jalen Hurts’ line as they’ll likely be behind a lot this year but Hurts, like myself is a leg man. Daniel Jones has barely reached 3,000 in the either of his first 2 seasons. His line of 3,800.5 looks fairly inflated. Of the props below, the absolute standout bet is Dak Prescott over 3.5 rushing TDs. He had 3 last year in just over 4 games. He did have 3 the year before but i would be shocked to see this go under. He had 6 in each of the first 3 seasons in the NFL.

Passing Yard lines: Ryan Fitzpatrick – 3,900.5, Jalen Hurts – 3,650.5, Dak Prescott – 4,795.5, Daniel Jones – 3,800.5

Passing TDs: Fitzpatrick – 23 , Hurts – 20.5, Prescott – 32.5, Jones – 24

Rushing Yard lines: Antonio Gibson – 1,025.5, Ezekiel Elliott – 1100.5, Miles Sanders – 1000.5

Rushing TDs: Gibson – 9.5, Elliott – 9.5,Prescott – 3.5, Hurts – 7.5, Sanders – 7,

Receiving Yard lines: McLaurin – 1,180.5, Cooper – 1,175.5, Lamb – 1,050.5, Golladay – 1000.5

All in all, the division is always a tough one to bet on, however it seems to be a tale of two halves. the top 2 being Washington and Dallas, Philadelphia and New York being the bottom 2. Redzone are offering 7/5 on Dallas and Washington in the top 2 positions come January, which appeals considering the state of the franchises. Is also a nice security blanket of sorts if you are betting Washington to win the division

Favourite bets:

  • Washington Football Team to win NFC East – 23/10 (07/08/21)
  • New York Giants under 7 wins – 11/10 (if you can find 7.5 wins line take that)
  • Dak Prescott over 3.5 rushing TDs – 10/13
  • Dallas / Washington Dual forecast – 7/5

PLEASE GAMBLE RESPONSIBLY.

IF YOU FEEL LIKE YOUR GAMBLING IS TOO MUCH OR STARTING TO AFFECT YOU, PLEASE TALK TO SOMEONE ABOUT IT OR USE THE TOOLS AVAILABLE TO YOU ON EACH RESPECTIVE SITE.

“When the fun stops, stop”

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New Pac-12 Commissioner: Who is George Kliavkoff and How is he Going to Help?

On Wednesday 13th May, the Pacific-12 conference began a new era. Larry Scott is leaving his post as the conference’s commissioner, a post he had held since 2009, when the conference was known as the Pacific-10.

Scott will be replaced by George Kliavkoff, who will be taking up the role of Pac-12 commissioner, leaving his role as MGM Resorts International President of Entertainment and Sports.

But who is Kliakoff and will he be an improvement on Scott for the Pac-12?

Let’s begin by examining the conference from the points of view of where it stood in 2009 when Scott came in, where it stands now and Larry Scott’s tenure.

In 2009, as mentioned above, there were just ten teams who played football in the conference, Scott was seen as an innovator and was hired by the ten chancellors and presidents off the back of frustration which was linked to the lack of television revenue and being seen as a much smaller conference than the likes of the Big Ten and SEC conferences.

Scott seemed like a great hire at the time, he was seen as a left-field hire but the kind of tonic that the conference needed – Scott had come from a position as the Chairman and CEO of the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) where he oversaw huge revenue growths, including record sponsorships and TV deals.

Scott’s innovative side came through in 2011, when the conference grew by two teams, when the University of Colorado and University of Utah joined the conference. However, these two schools weren’t the only teams that Scott tried to recruit to play out West; Scott’s original plan was to get Texas, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Colorado to join the original ten schools (no Utah at this time) and by all accounts this move nearly came to fruition.

How powerful would the Western-16 conference have been, had Scott’s vision been realised?

Obviously it did not come off and the conference’s format has been unchanged for 10 years with regards to football. In that time, the conference has gotten better, I don’t think that can be denied, but on the flip-side of that coin, I don’t think Scott will say that he has succeeded in everything that he has done.

The Pac-12 has had its strong points; it’s a very competitive league, where almost any team can beat anyone on a given weekend. The conference is able to compete with other top conferences in terms of recruitment; at least one of Oregon, UCLA and USC have been in the top-10 for recruiting classes every year aside from 2020 (Oregon placed highest at #11) since Scott took over as commissioner in 2009, so kids want to play for Pac-12 schools. In addition to this Scott is commended for modernising the conference and introducing things such as #Pac12AfterDark. 

However, there are negatives too; Scott didn’t foster good relations with the athletic directors around the league, nor did the conference handle the COVID-19 pandemic well either. Prior to the 2020 season, the conference’s football schedule was cancelled  two weeks after it was announced leading to a group of student athletes forming the #WeAreUnited group in protest to the COVID protocols and lack of leadership from the top. Lastly, as much as Scott brought in equal revenue shares for the 12 members, lower end Big Ten teams still earn tens of millions of dollars more than upper echelon Pac-12 schools from broadcast incomes.

This was epitomised by Mel Tucker’s move from Colorado to Michigan State the 2020 season where his salary jumped from $2.7m to $5.5m. So in the grand scheme of things, was the improved revenue down to Scott’s leadership, or was it a by-product of money in college football rising exponentially over his tenure?

Ultimately, I feel like Scott’s reign as Pac-12 commissioner will be viewed as a failure – Scott has grown the revenues of the conference significantly but it still lags behind the other four Power-5 conferences, not only in revenue but also in prestige.

2023 will be a huge year for the Pac-12, as that is when the new television deal will begin and given the catastrophe that has been the Pac-12 Network, given that the conferences own network wasn’t able to broadcast football for the first 6 weeks of the college football season last year, the new TV deal cannot come quick enough for these schools and I’d imagine that getting the new deal right will be atop of Kliavkoff’s to-do list.

Photo Credit: LA Times

Let’s get into the new man in charge then…

As the article’s title asks, who is George Kliavkoff?

Kliavkoff comes from MGM after a career which has gone through the legal field, as he graduated from the law school of the University of Virginia.His career led him through sports, tech and media, through roles in on-demand TV at Hulu, MLB advanced media and prior to MGM. Kliavkoff was a member of the board of governors for the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) and furthermore on a sporting level, Kliavkoff also managed the WNBA’s Las Vegas Aces before the team was sold by MGM to the Las Vegas Raiders owner, Mark Davis in January 2021.

So what can we deduce from this?

Kliavkoff has relevant experience and is highly qualified and academic but isn’t coming from a position where he has managed a league before; nor did Larry Scott. So is this a problem?

Maybe.

However, Kliavkoff is said to be prioritising forging a strong bond with the 12 member schools and their athletic directors – Something which it feels like Scott failed to do.

Kliavkoff will do well to have the AD’s and players at the heart of what he does in the early days and give them input on key negotiations, such as the imminent talks over the new broadcast deal mentioned previously, which kicks in for the 2023 season.

I would imagine that experiences in media and potential relationships with streaming services such as Hulu and knowledge of that market will be absolutely paramount for the conference in the short-term. All sports fans know that streaming and on-demand services are going to become the norm in the coming years, as opposed to the traditional broadcasters, as fans search for more customisation and personalisation of their television subscriptions. Klaivkoff will surely tap into this and if he does the Pac-12 could strike gold in terms of broadcast revenues.

What else will be on the agenda?

Aside from revenues, perhaps Kliavkoff will attempt to push for an expanded college football playoff?

This is something that Larry Scott pushed for in 2020, using the COVID-19 pandemic as the reasoning, however this fell of deaf ears and the tournament remained restricted to just four teams.

If the playoff is expanded to eight teams, it’ll be great for the Pac-12 as this will mean that at least one team will gain automatic entry to the tournament and with that comes a chance to bring a National Championship out West, something that has never happened in the college football playoff era and last happened in the BCS era in 2008 when Utah claimed a National championship under Kyle Whittingham – The year before Scott was appointed commissioner, no less.

A playoff team every year protects the Pac-12’s status as a major conference and allows those teams who recruit well to dangle an even bigger carrot in front of recruits eyes as they will no longer need to play for Alabama, Oklahoma, Ohio State or Clemson to have a chance to win a National Championship, they could do it at USC or Oregon. It also allows West Coast teams to attract players from elsewhere across the country too and also fend off teams from the Deep South poaching top tier recruits from California in particular. 

George Kliavkoff has a chance to get things right out West – If he gets it right, football (and with that, every other sport these institutions compete in) will be better funded, the conference will be of a better standard and the conference may even bring home more than a Rose Bowl victory in future.

By Lee Wakefield

Follow Lee on Twitter @Wakefield90

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Pac-12 Conference Preview

The Conference of Cannibals gets underway in just a few short hours with the opening game being an absolute blockbuster! Arizona State is in Los Angeles to take on USC, it’s a game that contains two young quarterbacks who we previewed on this past week’s podcast as Kieran and Andy talked up Jayden Daniels of ASU and Kedon Slovis of USC respectively; these two passers are set to be the jewels in the Pac-12 quarterback crown for at least two more years before they both head to the NFL. The Pac-12 is the conference of quarterbacks, afterall.

If you haven’t already heard this week’s podcast, be sure to check it out for all of our takes on the most exciting conference in college football.

Photo Credit: LA Times

Conference overview:

The Pac-12 never gets the respect that it truly deserves on a national scale, which I feel like is a huge crime.

As mentioned above, it is the conference of quarterbacks, both historically and at present. There is also a heck of a lot of talent on most teams throughout the conference and because of this there is much more equality throughout, with tighter games and teams able to take wins off each other on any given day. Hence, Conference of Cannibals and why these teams barely ever make the playoffs – it is hard to run the table out west.

Time zones, of course, play a part in the lack of notoriety of the conference too – playing later and often in the small hours of Sunday morning for us in the UK.

The conference has made strides to market this as #Pac12AfterDark, with some success but realistically until there are teams from the west coast consistently pushing for and/or making the college football playoffs, the Pac-12 will always be seen as the fifth conference of the Power-5.

Alternatively, once the college football playoffs are extended to 6 or 8 (or more) teams, the Pac-12 will have a representative, then it’ll be up to the team who makes it to fly the flag.

The conference is split into North and South divisions, with 6 teams in each division, the champions of each division meet in the conference championship game and the winner gets an automatic entry to the Rose Bowl (unless that team makes the college football playoff).

Last year, Oregon overcame Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl with Justin Herbert running in 3 touchdowns

Historically, the parity is for all to see – Since 2011, there have been 4 different champions and 5 different runners up.

Stanford and Oregon have 3 titles each, with Washington (2) and USC (1) being the other previous winners.

This year, the conference is the last conference to get started (and it almost didn’t happen at all) and will just play a 7 week schedule. 5 of these games will be the usual divisional games and one crossover game. Week 7 will feature the conference championship game, with the division winners facing off as usual, however the rest of the week 7 schedule will be made up of a group of games that have yet to be decided. This is because the final week of the conference games will be all of the respectively placed teams playing each other, 2nd in the north plays 2nd in the south, 3rd placed teams play each other and so on.

A nice addition and ending to the conference for one year only.

Teams and last season’s record:

North Overall (Conference)

Oregon 12-2 (8-1)

Oregon State 5-7 (4-5)

California 8-5 (4-5)

Washington 8-5 (4-5)

Washington State 6-7 (3-6)

Stanford 4-8 (3-6)

South

Utah 11-3 (8-1)

USC 8-5 (7-2)

UCLA 4-8 (4-5)

Arizona State 8-5 (4-5)

Colorado 5-7 (3-6)

Arizona 4-8 (2-7)

Team in focus:

I’m going to take one from the North and one from the South here.

North; Oregon

The Ducks are the reigning Pac-12 champions and will once again be amongst the front runners. However, after losing star QB, Justin Herbert to the NFL in the off season I feel like it’ll be the defense which will be the leader of this team, rather than the offense as it was when Herbert was at the helm.

Why do I think that?

Well The defense is more of a known quantity, plus they have been boosted by a couple of 5-star recruits at linebacker in Justin Flowe and Noah Sewell (little Brother of star left tackle, Penei). Flowe was the 6th and Sewell the 13th ranked prospects of the previous recruiting class, and together they were the #1 and #2 inside linebackers. Whether these two talents will start immediately remains to be seen but it’s safe to say Oregon’s run defense is going to be good for a few years.

Elsewhere on defense, Oregon’s secondary was amongst the best in college football prior to the season, however the unit was heavily hit with opt-outs due to COVID-19, which safeties Javon Holland and Brady Breeze, and corner Thomas Graham now sitting out the season. The unit will now be led by corner Deommodore Lenoir and safety Nick Pickett.

On offense, it’s all change once again as Joe Moorhead replaces Marcus Arroyo as offensive coordinator, which is Oregon’s 4th OC switch in 5 years.

The offense will be run by QB, Tyler Shough, however, Grad Transfer, Anthony Brown will be hot on his heels if things don’t run smoothly.

The Ducks have replaced every starter on the offensive line, 4 to the NFL (Calvin Throckmorton, Jake Hansen, Dallas Warmack and Shane Lemeuix) and Penei Sewell, who has opted out of the season.

It’s going to be a lot of change to overcome on that side of the ball, and really interesting to see how Mario Cristobal’s squad fare with all of the upheaval. 

South; USC

The Trojans are coming into the season with a much more settled playing staff, the biggest question seems to be whether Clay Helton can knit it all together to mouth a serious challenge for the conference title this year.

The talent is there on both sides of the ball for sure, and unlike Oregon, this team feels like it may be at its peak this year rather than trying to introduce a bunch of younger players whilst mounting its challenge.

The offense is headed up by Kedon Slovis, as mentioned previously. Slovis is one of the best young QB’s in the college football ranks and will be looking to build upon a fantastic Freshman year to position himself as one of the better passers outside of the NFL when he becomes draft eligible after this season.

Slovis also has plenty of weapons to throw to – Amon-Ra St. Brown, Tyler Vaughns and Drake London make up a group of wide receivers who are as good as you’ll see outside of Alabama. The running game is in great hands with Vavae Malepeai and Stephen Carr, who should make up a thunder and lightning duo for USC, so as much as OC Graham Harrell runs an air raid system, you will see plenty of yards on the ground from this team too. Lastly on offense, watch out for Alijah Vera-Tucker who will be lining up at left tackle this season after spending some time on the inside at guard previously in his college career – If he performs at tackle, Vera-Tucker could be one of the hottest names in this upcoming offensive line class.

On defense USC has a lot of talent too – Most notably, watch out for linebacker Palaie Gaoteote and safety Talanoa Hufanga. Both of these young men were great recruits from the 2018 class Gaoteote especially considering that he was the #15 overall recruit and #1 linebacker. These two are going to be at the peaks of their college careers and should be the enforcers on defense for USC.

It is a shame that defensive tackle Jay Tufele opted out of the season, otherwise we would be looking at a highly draftable talent at each level of this defense. 

These two teams are my picks for the Pac-12 championship game but ultimately I feel USC will take it.

Players to watch:

I’m going to go for one on offense and one of defense and look outside of Oregon and USC here.

Offense; Max Borghi, RB, Washington State

Max Borghi grew up in the Denver area and in fact originally committed to Colorado in 2017 as a 3-star rated all purpose running back out of Pomona High School in Arvada, Colorado.

Borghi was committed to his home state university but a late push for his signing by WSU and Stanford, made Borghi reconsider and eventually sign for the Cougars.

Borghi also ran track in high school as part of the 4x100m relay team who won a silver medal at the state championships as a Sophomore.

Borghi is a back with back with a lot of receiving experience and it really shows in his comfort level when catching the football – He does so with soft hands and a natural technique, plus he runs a varied route tree out of the backfield and has been used in the slot on occasion and rare drops passes.

Defense; Hamilcar Rashed, EDGE, Oregon State

Rashed is a twitched up athlete who despite being the only guy on the Beavers defense these past couple of years, has had a lot of success getting after the passer. This shows in his production, 22.5 tackles for loss last year and 14 sacks, up from 12.5 and 2.5 in 2018, which is exactly the type of growth I love to see when evaluating players for the NFL Draft.

Rashed is a player who wins with speed and bend, he has a quick first step and ability to turn the corner. Rashed plays as an outside linebacker in the Beavers defensive system and at 6-4 and 235lbs, I’d imagine that he’ll be going the same in the NFL unless he put on 25lbs in the pros.

However, I don’t think you want to take away from his speed and agility by bulking him up just so he can put his hand in the dirt – Brian Burns is showing that you can be successful as a lighter pass rusher for the Carolina Panthers. Burns has put on some weight and I would expect the same to happen with Rashed but he’s still going to want to be on the lighter side.

Oregon State aren’t going to pull up any trees in the Pac-12 North this year, but when you watch the tape or if indeed, you do put on any of their games this season, watch out for #9 coming off the edge.

The offensive lineman will know he’s coming, the question is whether they can stop him…

Photo Credit: NFL Draft Diamonds

Game to watch:

We will have to watch this space throughout the season as games have already begun to fall foul of COVID-19 in the Pac-12, Utah vs. Arizona and Washington vs. California later today has already been cancelled.

At the start of the article I referenced Arizona State going to USC today, which genuinely has the chance to be one of the best games in the conference and to get it off to a bang – Both teams have a chance to be a contender in the South and with that, both have a chance to assert themselves immediately.

Outside of today, Week 5 gives us Oregon vs. California which will be two of the strongest teams in the North division, who should both be in full flow by that time and it really could be the division decider.

To finish off, another fantastic clash will be Utah and Colorado on week 6 – This is a huge rivalry game, it will be absolutely freezing in Bolder, Colorado and it is a Friday night game.

This will be a war of attrition full of big hits and tough football – exactly the sort of game that epitomises the Pac-12, and exactly the sort of game where the bigger teams come unstuck on their run to the top of the division.

Utah will be a very tough team and I think they will challenge Oregon and California for the North – Colorado would love nothing more than upsetting the Utes and stopping their title bid at the last hurdle.

Record predictions:

North;

Oregon 7-0

California 5-2

Washington 4-3

Oregon State 3-4

Washington State 2-5

Stanford 1-6

South;

USC 6-1

Utah 5-2

Arizona State 4-3

Colorado 4-3

Arizona 1-6

UCLA 0-6

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NFL Deep Dive – Mid-Season Special / NFC

By Ste Tough (@SteTough)

As we reach the halfway point in the NFL season, let’s have a look at the state of play of all 32 franchises. Who is getting top marks and who has the dreaded “Must try harder” remarks? We’ve already been through the AFC, so let’s turn our attention to the NFC…

(Note: written after Packers vs 49ers on 5 November)


NFC East

Dallas Cowboys (2-6)

Half-Term Report

The Cowboys have been one of the biggest disappointments in 2020. With a new Head Coach, a good draft and their star QB back (albeit on the franchise tag), most picked the Cowboys to win the NFC East. How that has all unravelled! While Dak’s injury was a real gut-punch, Mike McCarthy just doesn’t look like he has what it takes to drag this team into the post-season. Their defence looks a mess, conceding 266 points through eight games (the worst in the NFL) and their offence hasn’t been much better (even taking the Dak injury into account). Key players like Zeke have not been contributing as McCarthy would have liked, especially for someone who loves the run game as much as he does.

Star Pupil or Detention Specialist

Dak Prescott – I know, I know, he’s injured now and out for the season, but you just have to tip your cap to the fifth year QB for the season he was having. Until he went down with that horrible ankle injury in Week 5 against New York, he had more than 1,800 yards with 9 TDs and a 75.4 QBR. Had he kept that up, he would have thrown for over 5,900 yards and 29 TDs… It is now a case of ‘what could have been’ for Dallas fans. Has Dak played his last game in a Cowboys jersey?

Expectations for the Second Half of the Season

Dallas is the worst team in the NFL right now. Yes – in the entire NFL. Philadelphia put the game on a plate for them last week and they had absolutely nothing on offence to be able to go and get it. If a team can’t score points, it won’t win games: it’s that simple. If Andy Dalton can come back from concussion and COVID-19 protocols and get some semblance of fluidity with the talented Dallas WR room, then they could pick up a couple more wins this campaign, sealing a final record of around 4-12. But I think a bigger question looms for Jerry Jones. Is Mike McCarthy really the man to lead ‘America’s Team’ going forward?


Philadelphia Eagles (3-4-1)

Half-Term Report

I’m not really too sure what is happening in Philadelphia right now, although old curses still remain. They have been rocked by injury. On the offensive line alone, they are missing four starters (Brandon Brooks, Isaac Seumalo, Lane Johnson and Andre Dillard) as well as TE Zach Ertz and WRs DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery. Their offence and defence seem incapable of playing well in the same game and their franchise QB is having a really difficult season, leading the league in interceptions and turnovers. With wins coming against the Cowboys and Giants, Philly fans are hardly filled with confidence that this team can go far. However, the defence has shown signs of promise with 28 sacks (equal 2nd) and the shutdown play of star CB pickup Darius Slay.

Star Pupil or Detention Specialist

Brandon Graham – The 2010 first-round pick defensive end is having his best season in the NFL, at 32 years old. It cannot be understated how good Graham has been so far. He has seven sacks and is on course to get into double figures for the first time in his career. He also has nine tackles for loss and 11 QB hits. He’s playing at a very high level this season and I would expect the Philly veteran to make the Pro Bowl on this trajectory. Another honourable mention goes to Travis Fulgham, the former Detroit Lions sixth rounder. He has 435 receiving yards since he came into the team in Week 4 and leads the entire NFL since then.

Expectations for the Second Half of the Season

The Birds should win the NFC East but they have to improve if they want to go any further than that. Carson Wentz is having a really down season and needs to play better than he has been. They also need to get healthy, and with a bye week this week, that should help with the likes of Miles Sanders, Lane Johnson and Alshon Jeffery expected to return for the Week 10 game with the Giants. Their schedule is tough and many are expecting that they won’t get more than 6 or 7 wins in total – which amazingly should be enough for them to host a playoff game! Doug Pederson needs to give more playing time to his young break-out players. With guys like Jeffery, Jackson and Peters unlikely to be in the City of Brotherly Love next season, I’d like to see more of the likes of Fulgham, Jalon Reagor and Jordan Mailata.

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Chris Szagola – AP

Washington Football Team (2-5)

Half-Term Report

Aside from their impressive Week 1 comeback win against Philadelphia, Washington have been a bit of a dumpster fire this season. New Head Coach Ron Rivera is having a tough first season, much like his NFC East counterparts. However, his decision to drop young QB Dwayne Haskins not just to the bench, but to third choice – behind a QB who hasn’t played a snap in almost two years – is a puzzling one. With their only other win against a depleted Dallas side, Washington looks destined for another losing season. However, it isn’t all doom and gloom. There have been some signs of life from their D-line, who have 22 sacks on the season (sixth in NFL).

Star Pupil or Detention Specialist

Montez Sweat – One of very few stand-out players this far for Washington, Sweat has five sacks this season and looks to be improving all the time. The 2019 first-rounder terrorised Baker Mayfield in Week 3 with a sack and three QB hits and did the same in Week 7 against Dallas with a couple of sacks and three QB hits. Washington’s pass rush has been a major positive for Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio, and Sweat has been a key component of that.

Expectations for the Second Half of the Season

The Washington Football Team have the benefit of being in the 2020 NFC East – the worst division in the NFL (perhaps ever). What this means is that amassing even six or seven wins could be enough to clinch the division and with it, a play-off berth. While Philadelphia leads at the moment, the NFC East hasn’t had a repeat winner since 2004. Washington’s schedule is also very kind; they have games left against the Giants, Lions, Bengals, Cowboys, Panthers and Eagles, all of which could be considered winnable. If Washington can put a run together and get some momentum going, I would not be surprised if they take the NFC East title this season.


New York Giants (1-7)

Half-Term Report

The Giants, like divisional rivals Washington and Dallas, have a new coaching staff this season and just like those other two teams, they’re struggling. HC Joe Judge has a solitary win against Washington in Week 6 and, aside from that, has struggled to get his team going. New York has only scored 145 points in eight games, which is 31st in the league. However, one positive has been the production from their defence, one with limited pieces. They have allowed only 199 points (14th in NFL) so considering the Giants are 1-7, Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham deserves a ton of credit for that. Losing star RB Saquon Barkley to an ACL injury in Week 2 has obviously been a huge blow and their run game has suffered dramatically since.

Star Pupil or Detention Specialist

James Bradberry – The big name free agency pick-up for GM Dave Gettleman continues to look like a shrewd investment. Bradberry has started all eight games and all 533 defensive snaps in those games. He has three INTs, 12 pass break-ups and a forced fumble, making Bradberry one of the few bright sparks in an otherwise grim Giants team.

Expectations for the Second Half of the Season

Questions continue to be raised at the QB position, like ‘Is Daniel Jones the guy when the 2021 draft class looks so strong?’ As he continues to struggle, the microscope will be put over Jones and HC Joe Judge. The Giants still need to play each divisional rival once as well as the Bengals. Then they have four games against teams with winning records (Seahawks, Cardinals, Browns and Ravens). It looks likely that the Giants may not win again this season. With another high draft pick looming, the main question must surely be whether Dave Gettleman is the guy they still want to be overseeing that pick?

Al Bello – Getty Images

NFC North

Chicago Bears (5-3)

Half-Term Report

Chicago have raised a few eyebrows so far in 2020. It took HC Matt Nagy just three weeks to realise that the Mitch Trubisky experiment was over. However, Chicago have put together impressive wins this season against Detroit, Tampa Bay and that incredible comeback against Atlanta in Week 3. They also took New Orleans to overtime and only narrowly missed out on the win last week. Their QB situation still doesn’t look solid. Nick Foles has had periods where he has struggled but Chicago has managed to grind out wins when it mattered and have certainly put themselves in the conversation for the NFC North title, especially with Green Bay stuttering. Not many would have expected them to be 5-3 by the halfway stage, but here we are!


Star Pupil or Detention Specialist

Allen Robinson – Where else is there to go here other than the stand-out WR? The wideout has been the go-to man for Foles and Trubisky, amassing 631 yards through eight games. His average YPC is 12.6 and he has 3 TDs. That incredible TD catch against the Saints in Week 8 highlights how crucial he is to the success of Chicago. Expect Foles to continue going to him to drive this Bears offence.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia – Sun-Times

Expectations for the Second Half of the Season

The theme of the second half of the season for Chicago is divisional. They still have to play five divisional games (two each against the Packers and Vikings, and one against the Lions). Divisions can be won and lost against your rivals (see NFC East) and if Chicago can go even 3-2 in those games, they will put themselves in a strong position, even for one of the Wild Card spots now that seven teams per conference make the playoffs this year. However, doubts will remain as long as there is a question mark hanging over the QB position.


Detroit Lions (3-4)

Half-Term Report

Detroit has had a somewhat underwhelming first half of the 2020 season. Aside from that eyebrow-raising Week 3 victory over the Cardinals, their only other wins this season have come against teams they would be ‘expected’ to beat (the Falcons and Jaguars). Head Coach Matt Patricia’s overall record since he came in is 12-25-1 and some fans in Detroit have understandably had enough. Their defence has really struggled, with 206 points against through seven games which is 26th in the NFL. They’ve also conceded 35+ points on three separate occasions so far this campaign.

Star Pupil or Detention Specialist

Marvin Jones Jr – The veteran wide receiver was expected to help carry the Detroit offence this season but he only has 265 yards from 22 receptions. Aside from his stand-out game against Arizona, Jones has been largely disappointing with only 3 TDs from 37 targets through seven games. He needs to improve down the stretch.

Expectations for the Second Half of the Season

The chances of Detroit tasting the postseason in 2020 are slim-to-none. Even though they have five of their remaining nine games against teams with losing records, they’d still have to win another two or three outside of those divisional games to be in with a shout. I’m just not sure the Lions have it in them. Some big questions could be asked in Detroit again this off-season if they fail to play in January yet again.


Green Bay Packers (6-2)

Half-Term Report

The Packers started this season on fire, racing out to an impressive 4-0 record and looking unstoppable, with Rodgers back to his best and several young playmakers around him. Their offence scored a mammoth 122 points in their first three games and by their Week 5 bye, they had amassed over 150 points on offence. However, their losses have looked ugly, only managing 10 points and 22 points in losses to Tampa Bay and Minnesota respectively. The defence is beginning to show some holes and Matt LaFleur needs to get them back on track if they are to clinch that coveted single play-off bye spot in the NFC.

Green Bay Packers vs. Minnesota Vikings game recap: Everything we know
Dan Powers – Appleton Post-Crescent / USA TODAY

Star Pupil or Detention Specialist

Za’Darius Smith – It would be easy to mention Aaron Rodgers here (2,253 yards, 24 TDs, 2 INTs, 86.9 QBR), but I’m not going to go with him. I’m going to pick their stand-out Pro-Bowl OLB Za’Darius Smith, who has seven sacks, eight tackles for loss and 13 QB hits. He’s also forced and recovered a crucial midfield fumble in their Week 3 victory in New Orleans and another on Week 9 TNF against San Francisco. Look for him to kick on in the coming weeks.

Expectations for the Second Half of the Season

After their shock loss to poor divisional rivals Minnesota in Week 7, the NFC North isn’t as wrapped up as Green Bay may have hoped. The 5-3 Bears are breathing down their necks and it could go down to the wire. This week, they had a tough road trip to San Francisco (but won comfortably, due in part to the Niners’ injury woes) but they now have four match-ups against teams with losing records and they still have to play Chicago twice. The Packers should win at least another five or six games. If they can get to 10 or 11 wins, that should be enough to take the NFC North, but the NFC overall? We’ll have to wait and see.


Minnesota Vikings (2-5)

Half-Term Report

Minnesota has been one of the most disappointing teams so far in 2020. I don’t think many would have predicted them starting their season 1-5 until they managed an impressive win in Lambeau at divisional rivals Green Bay in Week 8. Their schedule hasn’t been too kind, with match-ups against Seattle, Indianapolis and Tennessee so far. However they also suffered a humiliating loss in Week 6 to Atlanta. The loss of go-to WR Stefon Diggs has clearly had an impact in Minnesota.

Star Pupil or Detention Specialist

Kirk Cousins – The 32-year-old gunslinger has struggled this campaign, and his 12 TD to 10 INT ratio hasn’t helped the Vikings’ offence. He’s been sacked 15 times and has a measly QBR of 52.9, which is 26th in the league. Cousins’ contract APY is $33m so he needs to be playing far better than he is. An honourable mention here goe to Dalvin Cook who has rushed for 652 yards and 10 rushing TDs, as well as one receiving TD from 127 receiving yards.

Expectations for the Second Half of the Season

The good news for the Vikings is their second-half schedule is kind. With matches against Dallas, Carolina and Jacksonville as well as two games against fellow NFC North strugglers Detroit still to play, Minnesota has a clear path back to .500. However, they also face tough match-ups against the likes of New Orleans, Tampa Bay and Chicago twice. Their season could very quickly unravel if they suffer further ‘unexpected’ defeats. Of course, there is no such thing as an ‘easy’ game in the NFL but for a team that has finished with a winning record in four out of the last five seasons, a sub .500 season would be quite the setback.


NFC South

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-2)

Half-Term Report

Tom Brady packed his bags this offseason and shipped out of Boston. The result? A Tampa Bay team that looks like a real Super Bowl contender. With experienced HC Bruce Arians at the reins, the Bucs are really challenging New Orleans for the NFC South title this season. Brady has picked up where he left off in New England: he’s thrown for 2,189 yards (fourth in NFL) and 20 TDs (third). They also have eight rushing TDs (two from Brady) and have scored 247 points (second). Defensively, they have been dominant too, with 28 sacks (T-2nd) and holding teams to an average of 300 yards per game (third). Tampa Bay did have a surprise loss against Chicago in Week 5 and it will be interesting to see if that was just a blip, or if they also have similar struggles as the season goes on.

Star Pupil or Detention Specialist

Jason Pierre-Paul – I didn’t want to talk about Brady here, everyone knows he’s been great. Instead, the veteran LB has been superb for the Buccaneers so far this season. Alongside Devin White, JPP contributes to one of the most fearsome LB groups in the NFL, with 6.5 sacks, four tackles for loss and three forced fumbles to date. He really aids the Bucs rush defence, having allowed only 563 rushing yards (2nd in NFL) in the first half of this season.

Expectations for the Second Half of the Season

I expect the Buccaneers to continue to dominate and put themselves in the conversation for the NFC Championship game. Next week, they face the return of Drew Brees and New Orleans after that hotly contested Week 1 match-up. They also have interesting games at home to the Rams and Chiefs before their bye in Week 13. Then they end with Minnesota, Atlanta (twice) and Detroit – you’d imagine they finish 4-0 after their bye. Many predicted Tampa Bay to be the first team to ever play a Super Bowl in their home stadium; no team has ever done it before but the Bucs could well be the first in 2020.


Atlanta Falcons (2-6)

Half-Term Report

The 2020 Atlanta Falcons are somewhat of an enigma. A Super Bowl team just four years ago, they now look a shadow of that, giving up points and throwing away games. After their Week 3 loss to Chicago, they became first team in NFL history to have back-to-back games in which they blew a 15+ point fourth-quarter lead and lost. They fired their HC of five years, Dan Quinn, after starting the season 0-5 and since doing so, they’ve gone 2-1. Matt Ryan is, incredibly, second in the NFL for passing yards per game with 292.4 so it isn’t Atlanta’s offence that is struggling this season.

Star Pupil or Detention Specialist

Atlanta Defence – Atlanta’s defence has been so poor as a unit that it was impossible to single out one or two players. They are allowing 331.4 passing yards per game (31st in NFL) and have allowed 224 points through eight games (29th in NFL). Dante Fowler Jr. was given a monster three-year, $45m contract in Atlanta and so far has posted a lacklustre two sacks and six QB hits. Since 2016, their defence has been getting progressively worse and this year, HC Dan Quinn finally paid the price.

Expectations for the Second Half of the Season

Atlanta reside in a division with two teams who already have six and five wins respectively so they won’t be tasting the off-season this year. After parting ways with their HC and GM, they need to decide who is going to take the franchise in its next direction – in the front office and coaching positions especially – as it looks like they may have another top 5 draft pick in 2021. The rest of this season looks difficult with games against New Orleans, Las Vegas, LA Chargers, Kansas City and Tampa Bay (twice) following their Week 10 bye. All of those teams will look to this game and place it in their prospective ‘W’ column. It’s hard to disagree.

Atlanta Falcons v Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Brian Blanco – Getty Images

Carolina Panthers (3-5)

Half-Term Report

The Panthers are putting together a very respectable campaign considering all of the transition they went through during the off-season. Rookie HC Matt Rhule turned some heads when he was hired but so far, he appears to be doing a great job transforming the culture in Carolina. Since their 2015 Super Bowl appearance, they seem to have been suffering from that hangover and have only been to the playoffs once (2017) where they suffered a Wild Card loss to New Orleans. This season, they’ve had an impressive win against Arizona in Week 4 and were actually sitting at 3-2 after Week 5. However, consecutive losses against Chicago, New Orleans and Atlanta have dragged them to 3-5.

Star Pupil or Detention Specialist

Robby Anderson – Anderson has been such a good free-agent signing for Carolina. They had been desperate for a star WR to compliment second-year wideout DJ Moore. Anderson is providing OC Joe Brady with another speedy weapon in this exciting Carolina passing game. He’s proving to be good value for his two-year, $20m contract. Anderson could afford to improve his contributions with more TDs but so far, he’s doing a terrific job of helping Teddy Bridgewater spread the ball around the field – especially with franchise poster-boy, Christian McCaffrey, still out injured.

Expectations for the Second Half of the Season

The remaining eight games for Carolina are a mixed bag. On the one hand, they face teams with losing records (Detroit, Minnesota, Denver and Washington) but they also need to play tough games against teams doing very well (Kansas City, Tampa Bay, Green Bay and New Orleans), all of whom could be vying for the NFC title come January. They’ll welcome Christian McCaffrey back either this week or next, a very welcome return from IR after being out since Week 2. I think Matt Rhule would be happy with 7-9 or 8-8 this season, knowing that it is a foundation year to start the rebuild. But with questions at QB looming, Carolina needs to decide what to do with Bridgewater too.


New Orleans Saints (5-2)

Half-Term Report

Drew Brees and his chase for that second Super Bowl ring seems like the never-ending love story; if anyone in the league deserves another, it’s him. Brees has had a Super Bowl-calibre team for the last few seasons, and they’ve faltered in the play-offs every time. This time around, he’s signed a fresh two-year deal in what is surely his final dash to grasp the Vince Lombardi once again. The Saints stuttered at first, with back-to-back losses to the Raiders and the Packers, but since then have won out and now sit at 5-2. What is possibly more impressive is that they’ve done it all without star WR Michael Thomas due to an ankle injury. Once he comes back, I would only expect they’d get even better. They are averaging 29.4 points-per-game (7th in NFL) on offence and allowing an average of 28.1 points-per-game (23rd in NFL) – every Saints game seems to be a shootout! It’s worth noting that their rush defence is one of the best around – only allowing an average of 90.6 yards per game (3rd in NFL).

Star Pupil or Detention Specialist

Alvin Kamara – Sometimes you run out of superlatives to describe players, and Kamara is one of those players. In mid-September, the Saints and Kamara agreed on a five-year, $75m contract extension keeping him with the franchise until 2025. He is looking very good on that investment so far. He is one of the best ‘dual-threat’ RBs in the league. He has posted 431 yards rushing but perhaps more impressively, he has 556 yards receiving, adding up to almost 1,000 all-purpose yards through seven games. Kamara leads the Saints in broken tackles (nine) and TDs (seven), making him absolutely crucial to their success.

Expectations for the Second Half of the Season

The Saints just seem to find ways to get it done in the regular season. Even without Thomas, when Brees normally struggles, they have five wins. They should have Thomas back for Week 10 at the latest and that will only add to their offensive weapons. Their remaining schedule is relatively kind. Aside from tough games against the Buccaneers and Chiefs, they should stand a good chance of winning their remaining games. I would fully expect the Saints to be in the play-offs, as they usually are. However, with some of the quality around the NFC, they may find it difficult to make it to the top of the conference and book their slot at Raymond James Stadium in February 2021.

NFL: Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints
Derick E. Hingle – USA TODAY Sports

NFC West

Arizona Cardinals (5-2)

Half-Term Report

After admitting their shortfalls at QB and going back into the draft and selecting Kyler Murray #1 overall in 2019, the Cardinals are beginning to look like a young, up-and-coming team that has everything together. Off-season addition DeAndre Hopkins has given HC Kliff Kingsbury yet another offensive weapon and allows the Cardinals to be more aggressive and spread the ball around the field. So far, they are keeping up with the leading pack at 5-2 and have had a couple of impressive wins against divisional rivals (49ers and Seahawks). However, they’ve also had a couple of underwhelming losses against Detroit and Carolina that have kept their feet firmly on the ground. They lead the league in average offensive yards per game with 419.1 and are second in the league in rushing yards per game with 160.7.

Star Pupil or Detention Specialist

DeAndre Hopkins – It’s difficult to pick anyone else than the league leader in receiving yards. When Hopkins became available from Houston in the off-season, Kliff Kingsbury must have been straight on the phone to GM Steve Keim and packing David Johnson’s bags himself. Hopkins has been one of the best receivers in the league for several seasons. This time around, he has 704 receiving yards (first in NFL) and is one of only two WRs in the league averaging more than 100 yards per game (along with Green Bay’s Devante Adams). Hopkins has continued his impressive production in Arizona and just carried straight on from where he left off with the Texans.

Expectations for the Second Half of the Season

The Cardinals are in the most competitive division in the league. Any of the four teams could still realistically win the NFC West (although the 49ers’ injury woes are seeing them fall away). However, outside of their remaining divisional games, the schedule is tricky. Miami have one of the best defences in the league and Buffalo being led by Josh Allen have been impressing so far in 2020. They should win games against the Patriots, Giants and Eagles but they will have to do well in their divisional match-ups. It’s also worth noting they are 2-0 in their divisional games so far. If they keep that up, the NFC West could be heading to Arizona for only the second time since 2009.


Los Angeles Rams (5-3)

Half-Term Report

The story of the Los Angeles Rams so far in 2020 is defence, defence, defence. They lead the league in average yards allowed per game with 291.9 and are holding teams to an average 19.0 points (T-3rd), holding five of their eight opponents this season to under 20 points. They also have 25 sacks on the season (fourth in NFL). DC Brandon Staley has done a terrific job with the defence. Their offence hasn’t been quite as productive but Jared Goff has been spreading the ball around with five different pass-catchers having more than 220 yards and at least one TD so far. Their five wins have come against teams you’d probably expect them to beat (the entire NFC East, plus Chicago) and their losses have all been relatively close. Los Angeles have been a bit too ‘predictable’ so far.

Star Pupil or Detention Specialist

Aaron Donald – I know, it’s a bit boring to talk about the six-time Pro Bowler, two-time Defensive Player of the year, 2014 Defensive Rookie of the Year and current sack leader in the NFL… but it is a testament to just how dominant he is and how crucial he is to the success of the Rams. He is equal first for sacks with nine so far in 2020, including four in a single game against Washington. He also has 15 QB hits and 11 tackles for loss. Since he entered the league in 2014, he leads the league in sacks with 81. I think Donald’s most incredible statistic is that in his 6.5 years in the NFL, he has only missed two of 104 games. He keeps himself so healthy, which is even more impressive given the position he plays.

Expectations for the Second Half of the Season

The second half of the Rams’ season is where things start to get a bit tricky. They still have five divisional games remaining as they have only played at San Francisco (a 24-16 loss) so far. They have a bye in Week 9 then, after a tough home game against Seattle, they travel to Tampa Bay for the prime-time MNF slot in Week 11. The only remaining games on LA’s schedule you would expect them to win are at Foxborough in Week 14 and at the Jets in Week 15. That said, with the dominance of their defence so far, LA should remain competitive. I’m just not convinced they can get any more than another three or four wins. Wild Card weekend could be beckoning for Sean McVay.

Arizona Cardinals v Los Angeles Rams
Sean M. Haffey – Getty Images

Seattle Seahawks (6-1)

Half-Term Report

The Seattle Seahawks are the best team in the NFL right now, with their dominant offence brushing teams aside. They are third in yards per game (289.0) although Dallas is top and I expect them to drop off now Dak is injured. They are leading the league with 34.3 points per game, which is wild – and a full 2.7 points above their closest competitor (Green Bay). What has perhaps been most impressive about Seattle’s offence has been their ability to adapt without a consistent, healthy running back. Chris Carson only has 323 yards rushing and 3 TDs so far, but HC Pete Carroll has let Russell Wilson take the reins on offence and spread the ball around. DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett look like they’re going to have career seasons – both have seven TDs – with Wilson under centre. Defensively, the ‘Hawks have been the polar opposite. They are deal last in average yards per game allowed with 460.0, and 23rd in average points per game allowed (28.4). Pete Carroll’s approach seems to be just get the ball back in Russell Wilson’s hands as quickly as possible, no matter how, and let him work his magic…

Star Pupil or Detention Specialist

Russell Wilson – Who else is there other than the current league MVP favourite? Let’s look at his 2020 stats. Total passing TDs: 26 (1st in NFL); average YDS/G: 307.3 (3rd in NFL); passer rating: 120.7 (1st in NFL); completion percentage: 71.5% (3rd in NFL). On top of those numbers, he also has 260 rushing yards, making him the ultimate dual-threat QB. Wilson has been nothing short of incredible in 2020 and I fully expect his dominance to continue right the way to the NFC Championship game and perhaps even Super Bowl LV.

Alika Jenner – Getty Images

Expectations for the Second Half of the Season

Seattle should continue its early season dominance as long as it can keep its stars healthy. The breakout of DK Metcalf has been a welcome addition to the WR room and gives Wilson another reliable asset down the field. They still have four divisional games to play (including two against the Rams) but then should pick up at least four wins from their remaining five (Bills, Eagles, Giants, Jets and Washington). Their only loss so far came in overtime. I can see this Seattle team going 13-3 and clinching that first round play-off bye.


San Francisco 49ers (4-5)

Half-Term Report

No team in the NFL has had worse luck with injuries than the San Francisco 49ers. For their Week 9 TNF game against Green Bay, San Fran had almost $80m worth of contract cap hit on Injured Reserve, including QB Jimmy Garoppolo, CB Richard Sherman, DT Solomon Thomas, DE Nick Bosa, DE Dee Ford, TE George Kittle and RB Raheem Mostert. With such substantial injury problems, it is actually incredible that the 49ers have accrued four wins this season. Aaron Rodgers and the Packers put them to the sword on TNF but they still managed 17 points and 337 total yards. Aside from their loss to Philadelphia in Week 4, the other losses probably would have been expected, especially given their injuries. They’re very middle of the road when you look at statistics – 225 points for (18th in NFL) and 207 points against (10th) – but they have just struggled to convert that into wins.

Star Pupil or Detention Specialist

Brandon Aiyuk – The rookie WR out of Arizona State is having an impressive year after being asked to contribute much more than expected after injuries to key 49ers WRs. While his stats don’t light up the page (seven games, 371 yards, 4 TDs and a modest 66.7 catch percentage), he has been an important factor. He’ll be an important piece in San Francisco in the coming seasons and offers Kyle Shanahan a young, cheap option at WR , a position they have struggled to add depth at in recent years. There was also his atheltic hurdling of Eagles safety Marcus Epps in Week 4… it was beyond belief.

Expectations for Second Half of the Season

It feels unlikely that the 49ers will improve much further this season with number of players they currently have out. Jimmy G and George Kittle are both expected to be missing until at least Week 14 and without them, San Francisco will struggle to pick up Ws. They face a tough road game to New Orleans in Week 10 and then they have their bye, perhaps a chance to get a couple more players back from injury. However, the schedule doesn’t get any easier, with games against the LA Rams, Buffalo, Arizona and Seattle. I think this season might just have to be a write-off for Kyle Shanahan, especially given the competition in their NFC West division. They can regroup, get healthy in the off-season and go again in 2021.



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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.

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Player Profile: Jacob Eason, QB, Washington by Lee Wakefield

Is there a prospect that had more intrigue surrounding him prior to the season than Washington QB, Jacob Eason?

The Huskies QB had just sat a year out in 2018 due to the NCAA transfer rules after he left Georgia. Eason, a former 5-star recruit who headed back to his home state to kick start his college career and I, for one, was excited to see what the future would hold for a player who was full of potential.

However, the issue at hand was that in the summer of this year, when we were going through our summer scouting routine, the only game tape we had of Jacob Eason was from 2016, when he was playing for Georgia. Operating in an offense that was different to the Jake Fromm Georgia offense that we see today.

We just had to wait and see…

Fast forward to today and Eason is 10 games into his Huskies career and I feel like now, we can at least begin to assess what kind of quarterback we have on our hands and whether it would be wise for Eason to declare for the NFL draft after this season, his Junior season, with another season of eligibility remaining.

Player Profile

Eason is 6’6 and weighs in at 227lbs, per school measurements. These are nice measurables that NFL scouts and front office staff will love, yet I would like to see Eason pack on a little bit of muscle before entering the pros – I feel like he looks sort of lanky and an extra 10 or 12 pounds would help him be more durable at the next level.

Coming out of Lake Stevens High School in Washington, Eason ranked the No. 4 overall prospect in the nation by 247 sports; rated No. 7 overall, as well as the No. 1 quarterback, by Rivals; listed by ESPN as the No. 13 overall prospect nationally.

So he was pretty good. No shock he was highly recruited and went to Georgia then.

Whilst in a Bulldogs uniform, Eason threw 204/370 (55.1%) for 2430 yards, 16 TD’s and 8 INT’s in his Freshman year.

The next season, in 2017, is when Jake Fromm arrived on the scene and assumed the role of starting QB in Athens. Eason only ended up appearing in 3 games and throwing 7 passes.

So far this season, Eason has completed 63.7% of his passes for 2472 yards, 20 touchdowns and 7 interceptions.

So What’s to Like?

So let’s start to dissect Eason then… Well he’s tall, he’s got a strong arm and he’s white, so he’s nailed on to be a first rounder. End of article. Thanks.


I’m joking, of course…Although John Elway is still an NFL General Manager.

Ok so, whilst (spoiler alert) he’s far from a perfect prospect, Eason is a good QB prospect who has good arm strength, which he can use to push the ball to the sidelines without the ball hanging in the air. He can also push the ball downfield when he needs to – This isn’t something we’ve seen a great deal of but there is evidence that he can do this. Here’s one fantastic throw – Strong armed, accurate and pushing the ball to the sideline from the opposite hash mark. Lovely. 

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MisUNIV5Eqs&w=560&h=315]

From the game film I’ve seen, Eason works really well off of play action and both offenses he’s worked in have used this trait to good effect to set up deep shots down the field. This example is again from the game against Arizona earlier this season – Eason has standard 5 man protection out of I-formation and finds his man deep.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NgwKCg3lfQE&w=560&h=315]

When it comes to passing the football, I feel like Eason is best over short to intermediate distances and when he can get the ball out of his hand on time and in rhythm – Eason has a short, sharp release which aides him, especially when looking to hit receivers on horizontal routes. I feel like early in his career, he would often put the ball behind receivers running across the field and his ball placement generally was spotty at best. He’s still not got the greatest ball placement, don’t get me wrong. He still has the tendency to miss receivers high to this day, but it’s certainly an area of his game that he has taken strides in whilst on Washington’s scout team in 2018 and this year as the Huskies starter. Here’s a few examples below:

First off, the good stuff  – Eason hits Hunter Bryant in stride and leads his tight end for a 15 yard gain against Oregon.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_2IgevMv72Q&w=560&h=315]

Unfortunately, here’s an example of Eason missing an open receiver with a high pass from his Georgia days.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ag6pyGQ2SXo&w=560&h=315]

And another from more recently, against Oregon on a clutch 4th down play.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l00s7gbrLcE&w=560&h=315]

When it comes to being pressured, Eason isn’t afraid to hang in the pocket and find a pass knowing that he’s about to get leveled by an oncoming defender. Although that said, Eason has this crazy tendency to roll to his left when he feels pressure – I felt that this was a big enough issue that I will explore this later in the article. Before that, here’s a great example of Eason delivering a great pass in the face of a blitz and getting a whack for his troubles.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8mOtwNxfRfk&w=560&h=315]

However, it must be stated that this isn’t wholly positive – Eason’s completion percentage drops below 40% when he’s under pressure. That’s pretty alarming and it’s lower than every 1st or 2nd round pick from the past three drafts aside from Giant’s QB, Daniel Jones. 

Just before we close out on the good stuff, I will mention that Eason displays sneaky athletic ability for a man his size when he does choose to tuck the ball under his arm and run. He needs to do a better job of protecting himself and the football when a runner but he is brave and has shown the ability to make tough yardage and a first down. Eason is also the master of the QB sneak – from what I’ve seen, the guy is pretty much Tom Brady-automatic from a yard or less.

And The Bad Stuff?

One thing I absolutely need to see from college quarterbacks is accuracy. If you’re not accurate in college, you don’t magically become more accurate when throwing against defenders who are better in coverage and better athletes at the next level – it simply doesn’t work like that.

Eason has improved his accuracy from 55.1% at Georgia in his Freshman season, to a mark of 63.7% (202/317), which is where he stands at the time of writing at Washington, as mentioned previously.

For comparison, Joe Burrow of LSU currently leads FBS quarterbacks with 78.9% (236/299), that mark is frankly outrageous but even an extremely high volume passer (and less talented QB) such as Washington State’s Anthony Gordon is throwing 71% (323/455) and Eason’s percentage is exactly the same as Hawai’i QB, Cole McDonald – someone who came into the season with questions over his own accuracy.

Food for thought.

The issue for Eason seems to be careless ball placement which crops up at times as discussed earlier. The other issue that I feel Eason is only just weeding out is that until recently, he seemed completely incapable of throwing the ball with any touch.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k347gfGpFw0&w=560&h=315]

Woah there Jacob, we know you’ve got a strong arm… your receivers are probably better without broken fingers.

And that leads us into our next problem… Eason knows he’s got a pretty strong arm and at times he trusts it way too much.

This throw was super, ill-advised… trying to hit your guy who was in triple coverage against one of the best defensive backfields in college football.

Silly. Justin Blackmon east those up. 

This was the first of two picks that Eason threw in the game against Utah… the other one, Jaylon Johnson returned for a touchdown.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9L9oLCeyQeE&w=560&h=315]

Speaking of throwing into coverage… Well, this is something that Eason seems to have a pretty annoying habit of doing. Is this a case of not having the mental processing skills associated with high level quarterback play? Yes. Could this improve in future? Maybe.

For every throw like this one against Oregon where he lays it in nicely in between zones…

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q901lXyLdyM&w=560&h=315]

There’s one like the Blackmon interception or one like this, from his Georgia days against TCU

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1vvzmBDRSSY&w=560&h=315]

I mean… Come on, it was a good thing he throws this one long.

Let’s get inside the pocket now and see what Eason is like as a pocket operator.

You’ll notice in the clips I’ve used that one thing that you don’t see much of with Jacob Eason is nifty footwork. In fact, you don’t see much footwork inside the pocket at all; no climbing; no sliding to give himself extra time; I just don’t see much movement.

In the modern NFL, you need your QB to be mobile. I’m not talking Lamar Jackson style athletic ability, that’s ancillary and a huge bonus, I’m talking that bare minimum is Brady/Rivers/Brees type little movements to just avoid that defender’s outstretched arm or just moving up in the pocket to allow your tackle to push the edge rusher downfield.

Eason is a statue, a lot of the time – I feel that this is something that comes with games and experience, knowing when to move, knowing the tendencies of you offensive linemen and of the pass rushers who are hunting you.

Obviously this could develop in time, but it’s just a matter of games,yet there’s no guarantee that it’ll click for him and Eason could just be the next (post Superbowl) Joe Flacco instead of the next big thing.

Now let’s dive into Eason biggest pocket habit…

To the Left, To the Left

Jacob always rolls outta the pocket, to the left…

It is startling to see. For a right handed QB to want to escape to the left this badly just doesn’t make sense. In the video below, you’ll see how often this happens, he even throws in a double spin to the left for good measure at one point.

Don’t get me wrong, he does escape pressure to the left at times but as a righty, it doesn’t make sense.

As a right handed QB, if you’re running to the left, it takes longer to turn your body to reset your feet to throw off of your usual base OR you end up throwing across your body – both of which result in your throw being less accurate and both of which are obviously compounded by having to throw under duress whilst on the move. These will be contributing towards the sharp drop in completion percentage when under pressure, which I went over earlier.

It’s something that Washington Head Coach, Chris Peterson addressed after the Utah game, saying, “We’re trying to emphasise him staying in the pocket. It’s your game to step up [in the pocket], not out”.

Here’s a short video on the issue:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FH36fWDL3Mc&w=560&h=315]

Summary

I feel that Eason has a very high ceiling, both from what I’ve seen on tape and the improvements he’s made from 2016 to now and also the physical traits and measurables that he possesses.

However, the mental side of his game, his footwork and his accuracy aren’t what I would want from an NFL quarterback, especially one that I may be drafting in the first round, and these areas need work.

He simply wouldn’t get away with the shoddy ball placement and throwing into coverage nearly as much in the NFL as he does in the Pac-12.

NFL defensive co-ordinators would gameplan for his tendency to move to his left and just to apply pressure on him generally to see if they could exploit his lack of footwork and he would obviously have to avoid bigger and strong defensive players coming for him whilst trying to process the game quicker.

In short, I feel like Eason simply needs more experience. He’s got the talent but with another year of eligibility left, I feel he would be wise to use it and work on the aspects of his game that need some polish.

Jacob Eason turns 22 years old this Sunday, (17/11/19), next season may be the season when he takes the leap. It seems to be the way of things that QB’s hit a golden zone around the age of 22/23. Patrick Mahomes won NFL MVP at 23, Joe Burrow has taken a giant leap this season when he has turned 23 years old, Lamar Jackson (who is 4 weeks younger that Burrow(!!)) is tearing up the NFL at 22 and will be 23 in January.

Could Eason be the next QB to go through this growth spurt at this time? I think it’d be worth trying to find out… It’s an awful lot easier to develop in college than it is in the NFL.

Stay in school Jacob, it may just be on the verge of clicking.

Follow Full 10 Yards College Football on Twitter @Full10YardsCFB

Follow Lee on Twitter @Wakefield90


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Half-Term Report: AFC/NFC East

Time to head east for the last 2 sets of Half-Term reports. Quite a few teams in these divisions have underwhelmed and then there’s the Patriots. At the very least the NFC equivalent should be a bit more exciting, but that wouldn’t be hard to do when you are comparing against the AFC East.

Nonetheless, Let’s give them some grades:


AFC East 


Image result for afc east
By Lawrence Vos (@NFLFanInEngland)

Current Standings 

  • New England Patriots – 8-0
  • Buffalo Bills – 5-2
  • New York Jets – 1-6
  • Miami Dolphins – 0-7

*New England Patriots*

Midseason Grade: A+

How has it gone so far? 

At some point the never ending story of Patriots success has to end, but the 2019 season still has the tale without an end in sight.

The AFC’s only undefeated team at the half-way point Sith Lord Belichick and his cyborg QB Tom Brady are continuing to excel, but the offense is being out-shadowed by a defense that is looking like the 1985 Bears on some old-school steroids. A remarkable statistic to come to the fore after 7 games was that the Patriots would have been 4-2-1 if they had all of their offensive touchdowns removed.

Current Super Bowl MVP Julian Edelman is still the heartbeat of the offense, catching more balls than a set of snooker table pockets, and the recent acquisition of sure-handed WR Mohammed Sanu from the Falcons will immediately compensate for the loss of Josh Gordon to injury. 

Rest of Season Outlook:

The Pats go up against the Ravens, Eagles, Cowboys, Texans and Chiefs to open up the second half of the season, and you read it here first they WILL lose one of this handful of high-profile games. You can run on the Patriots, just don’t turn the ball over.

Ever since the Patriots shut down the Rams in the Super Bowl they flicked on a switch of defensive dominance and 61 points allowed in 8 games is quite simply amazing. The Patriots are a bit of Mahomes magic from yet another trip to the Big Dance. Just give up betting against them.

Regular season record prediction : 15-1 and trip to Super Bowl. 


*Buffalo Bills*

Midseason Grade: B+

How has it gone so far? 

One of the genuine surprise units of the NFL, aside from a rather lacklustre loss to the Eagles the Bills have played solid defense to help them to five wins in their first six games. Josh Allen has not exactly lit it up so far but he is now completing 60% of his passes.

Free agent WR John ‘Smoky’ Brown is on target for over 1k and the Peter Pan of the NFL RB Frank Gore is leading the team in rushing with 422 yards.

On their defence, the strongest part of their setup, CB Tre’Davious White and S Jordan Power lead a top 10 secondary. The Bills allowed a maximum 21 points against them in the first six weeks.

Rest of Season Outlook

Buffalo’s next four are all winnable, before a tougher ending that includes trips to Dallas, New England and Pittsburgh and home against the Ravens.

The Bills could have a rather shiny 9-2 record heading into Week 12 if they continue their brand of bend but don’t break football. Josh Allen does need to reduce the turnovers and rookie RB Devin Singletary needs to get back on the field.

At some point in the next three weeks Frank Gore will remarkably pass Barry Sanders in the all-time rushing table, with just Walter Payton and Emmitt Smith ahead of him.

This is a team on the rise but likely another one and done in the playoffs.


Regular season record prediction: 10-6


*New York Jets*

Midseason Grade: E

How has it gone so far? 

The Jets have won six games so far, oops that’s the NHL’s Winnipeg Jets. The New York Jets unfortunately kissed goodbye to a winning season when their QB Sam Darnold went down with mono. The combination of backups Trevor Siemian and Luke Falk were atrocious.

Mega signing RB Le’Veon Bell has been disappointing, and was even allegedly in the shop window at the trade deadline. His 536 total yards in 7 games is not what was expected and his two scores is pitiful.

With the exception of a bizarre upset win over the Cowboys in Week 6 this is a team heading in the wrong direction fast. Trading away DE Leonard Williams (to the same stadium) will not help matters, but the Jets must love namesake DT Quinnen Williams. 

Rest of Season Outlook:

The Jets have perhaps the softest schedule in the entire league over the next six weeks, including two contests agains the Dolphins and trips to Cincy and Washington.

They should come away with two wins at least in this tea cake of a period. The Jets came into 2019 with a new uniform, a new superstar RB and even a wild-card buzz, but this is clearly not a playoff team, and its back to the drawing board already for Adam Gase, who may not be in post when St Nick comes down your chimney.

Trying to shop your top assets, such as Jamal Adams S and Roby Anderson WR is hardly inspiring confidence and will only serve to further fracture an already shattered locker room.

Regular season record prediction: 3-13


*Miami Dolphins*

Midseason Grade: E

How has it gone so far?

The entire Dolphins team were given a lovely present just before the start of the 2019 season, a one year digital subscription to ‘The World of Tanks’.

With QB Ryan Fitzmagic at the helm Miami are surprisingly competing in games but the feeling is they are told to pump the brakes if there is any danger of actually winning a game. QB Josh Rosen was clearly not the answer, and judging by the trade of RB Kenyan Drake for little more than a handful of conkers, the team is not serious about winning football games.

The ‘Fins trade at the deadline for CB Aqib Talib was merely to get better pick status, and losing CB Xavien Howard to injury is a blow. The tiny ray of offensive light is resurrection project RB Mark Walton who will look for 700 yards rushing.

Anything is better than RB Kalen Ballage, who is averaging less yards per carry than the team’s punter Matt Haack. 

Rest of Season Outlook: 

This is a team capable of going 0-16, having scored less than anyone else to this point, and only behind the Falcons (who have played one more game) in terms of points conceded. Fitzmagic has shown up in patches, and it’s not beyond belief that the bearded wizard pulls off one or two wins against the Jets (two games) or Giants or Bengals.

Problem is Miami will be desperate to get the number one draft pick. The ultimate irony would be to beat a 15-0 Patriots team in Week 17 if they rest their starters and their backups. It won’t happen, but it would put a cap on a historically Sherman-styled season. 

Regular season record prediction: 0-16



NFC EAST


Related image

Current Standings 

  • Dallas Cowboys – 4-3
  • Philadelphia Eagles – 4-4
  • New York Giants – 2-6
  • Washington Redskins – 1-7

*Dallas Cowboys*

Midseason Grade: B-

How has it gone so far? 

Despite a horrendous three-game losing streak the Cowboys are still the class of the NFC East and are atop the division, albeit due to having had a bye week.

The Cowboys had a marshmallow schedule to start, and when they had quality opponents (Saints, Packers) Day and Zeke couldn’t get the W, but a monster 27 point win over the Eagles will have Jerry Jones smiling in the executive box.

Ezekiel Elliot is gunning for a third rushing title, with 602 and 6 scores in 7 weeks. WRs Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup are stretching the field – 65 catches, over 1,000 yards and just under 16 yards a catch between them. 

Rest of Season Outlook :

HC Jason Garrett has been in the corner quite a lot this season, clapping to himself as no-one will even give him a high-five. Somehow Garrett is still in post, but this is an appearance in the NFC Championship (most likely as the road team) or bust for the guy who has been in Dallas for 10 seasons.

The Cowboys have a quality roster on both sides of the ball, but they cannot afford to fall asleep at the wheel again for the rest of the season as they did in the shocking loss to the Jets in Week 6.

Look for Zeke to get fed more than Eddie Hall did on his tour of American eateries. 

Regular season record prediction: 11-5 and trip to NFC Championship. 


*Philadelphia Eagles*

Midseason Grade: B-

How has it gone so far? 

The Eagles are a hard team to gauge, so can the real team please stand up.

Losses to the Lions and Falcons and wins over Buffalo and Green Bay is a clear sign that there is a lack of consistency.

QB Carson Wentz has been OK (1,821 yards and 14 touchdowns) and he has sorely missed the deep threat of DeSean Jackson, who returned to Philly after five seasons away. Jackson hasn’t suited up since Week 2 leaving WRs Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor to average under 10 yards a catch combined.

Rookie RB Miles Sanders has played second fiddle to Jordan Howard who leads the team with six scores.

Rest of Season Outlook

Philadelphia’s second half has five very winnable games including three in-division contests, but New England and Seattle games will be season defining matchups. The Eagles defense has regressed and their secondary is their weakness so they will struggle against superior passers like Russell Wilson and an evergreen Tom Brady. Just two seasons away from lifting a Vince Lombardi Trophy this Eagles team is arguably underperforming, and judging by the 4-4 record to date its not clear which team is coming out of the locker room each week. 

Regular season record prediction: 9-7


*New York Giants*

Midseason Grade: D-

How has it gone so far? 

This season will go down in New York history as the end of the Eli Manning era and the start of the Daniel Jones one.

The Giants made a bold move to draft Jones early and doubled up when they inserted his in the starting lineup in Week 3. Jones did come out the gate on fire gaining the Giants two wins on the bounce, but that has been followed by four consecutive losses. Jones is on target for around 3,000 yards and 20 touchdowns.

Stud RB Saquon Barkley has already missed three games and only has three touchdowns in the five contests he has played in.

The only other half-decent offensive performer is TE Even Engram who has 38 catches to lead the team.

Rest of Season Outlook: 

With the Jets, Dolphins and Redskins on their second-half slate the Giants should equal their first half win total. Daniel Jones is growing in confidence week by week and the recent return of WR Golden Tate from a suspension will be a big boost.

The Giants need to improve pretty much everywhere on defense and also they need to get better performances from their offensive line. It is a real shame that Saquon is on such a poor team as he has All-World potential.

Another season of frustration in the Big Apple and an emotional farewell to double Super Bowl winning QB Eli Manning in December.

Regular season record prediction: 4-12


*Washington Redskins*

Midseason Grade: E

How has it gone so far? 

It’s no surprise the Redskins are cellar dwellers;

Their best offensive piece T Trent Williams has held out to this point and the team only announced this week that they are willing to trade him.

Veteran QB Case Keenum has been serviceable as a bridge passer, and will likely see more snaps than expected as rookie Dwayne Haskins has been the proverbial ‘deer in the headlights’ in his limited appearances.

The biggest surprise has been rookie WR Terry McLaurin who leads the team in anything meaningful. The biggest move of the season in Washington was the removal of head coach Jay Gruden, who failed to win a game before the locks were changed.

Interim replacement Bill Callahan won (barely) in his first outing, and has changed the mentality of the team on both sides of the ball. In his three games in charge the Redskins have fed Adrian Peterson the ball and played solid defense, only allowing three touchdowns in three games. 

Rest of Season Outlook: 

The season was a lost cause from Week 1 when the Redskins had Coach Gruden in charge. With 8 games left the Redskins will play tough, but their lack of offensive weapons will cost them dearly.

The only achievable target will be trying to finish above the equally woeful Giants in the NFC East. There are two potential Pro Bowl candidates, rookie WR McLaurin and a very under the radar CB Quinton Dunbar, who has shone on a defense that has underperformed considering the early round picks they have spent trying to build a competitive unit.

If they do trade Trent Williams that could at least bring a good pick in the 2020 draft. 

Regular season record prediction: 2-14

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Full10Takeaways – Week 5

By Lawrence Vos (@NFLFanInEngland) and Shaun Blundell (@Shaun_F10Y)

Ouch!

Image Credit – Joe Sargeant / Getty Images

You could be excused for confusing the NFL redzone coverage on Sunday for an episode of casualty. Several times the electric cart was brought out onto an NFL field on Sunday as what was a day that several players saw their season come to an abrupt end.

2 of the more notable season ending ones were Colts 2nd year pass rusher Kemoko Turray, who broke his ankle in SNF. Tony Jefferson tore his ACL earlier in the day to leave a big hole in the Ravens secondary. Several players left games with varying injuries throughout the day but the scariest of the lot though without doubt was Mason Rudolph lying unconscious on the Heinz Field turf. It certainly wasn’t the worst hit you will ever see but a combination of Brandon Carr from behind and an Earl Thomas helmet to the chin had the young QB out cold.

Thankfully he regained consciousness and walked from the field which was lucky as the electric cart broke!


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16 Weeks on the Road?

Image Credit – Harry How / Getty Images

Talking of injuries, thats a nice link to arguably the most unlucky team in football the LA Chargers.

A team that seemingly gets a bigger slice of the injury pie than anyone else, actually welcomed back a player this week, as Melvin Gordon saw the field. He however was part of a predictable and conservative gameplan which was too much dink and not enough dunk. On a day that Austin Ekeler caught a career high 15 passes the Chargers couldn’t get anything going consistently offensively, as Vic Fangio tasted success for the first time in his short head coach career.

Its unsurprising that this brand of football isn’t attracting fans into watch the franchise as the move from San Diego continues to look like a mistake as the Broncos fans hugely outnumbered the fans of the supposed “home” team.


Texans Feast on Falcons

Image Credit – Troy Taorimina / USA Today Sports

DeShaun Watson is good.

DeShaun Watson when not getting pressured is superb, and that was the case on Sunday as the Texans dropped a 50 burger on the Falcons. A career high 426 yards through the air was accompanied by 5 touchdown passes and a further 47 yards rushing. His main weapon on the day was Will Fuller who caught 14 balls for 217 yards and 3 touchdowns.

Atlanta battled and had the deficit at a 1 possession game for much of the contest but the takeaway here isn’t so much how good Watson and co were offensively but just how bad this Atlanta defense is.

Tim wrote last week about Dan Quinn and his seat getting warmer, displays by the side of the ball he is supposed to be stronger in will do nothing to turn the temperature down a few degrees.


High, Wide and Not Handsome

Image Credit – James Kenney / AP Photo

Cairo Santos, dear oh dear oh dear. In a game that was the most obvious candidate ever to be decided by a small margin, it wasn’t a good night for the Titans kicker to suffer a disastrous tilt.

He left a total of 12 points off the board with field goal misses from 50, 36, 32 and 53 yards away. Missing kicks, especially from 50 plus yards is obviously not uncommon, but Santos was closer to threatening supporters sitting behind the posts as opposed to the kicking net as he kicks were way off throughout.

A strange decision by Mike Vrabel to even attempt the 53 yarder when down by 7 points and under 7 minutes left in what had proven to be the defensive slugfest that we had predicted.

Maybe he will find himself as a member of Jason Garret corner on this week’s podcast?


Super Ted

Image Credit – David Grunfeld / nola.com

Ladies and gentlemen, Teddy Bridgewater can still throw!

For the first time in nearly 4 years the signal caller threw for over 200 yards as he powered the Saints to a dominant divisional win over the Bucs. 4 touchdown passes also found the box score as on the day Teddy remembered how to air it out, Michael Thomas remembered how to dominate on the outside. He was a perfect 9/9 when lined up against press coverage on a day when the Bucs star receiver Mike Evans was held catchless.

The post game interview with Teddy was a reminder of just how far he has come since suffering what many thought to be a career ending injury. He couldn’t tie his shoelaces and now he has steadied the Saints in Drew Brees absence, a remarkable turnaround.


Tottenham triumph 

Image result for white hart lane nfl
Image credit: Pitchcare.com

All the hype about the shiny new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium is 101% justified. The stadium is situated right on the Tottenham High Road opposite some local shops such as bookies and kebab outlets.

Fans took full advantage of the road being closed, throwing balls and gathering en-mass to play NFL jersey bingo. Any fans wanting to buy any merch can expect to queue up as the store has security arches. Inside the stadium the views are awesome wherever you are sitting, and the experience is full immersive. The three rings of digital information screens, along with jumbo screens in all four corners mean you will never miss a highlight, a replay or a challenge. The sound is quality and the lights are stunning.

Fans were treated to some pyrotechnics around the roof’s inner ring on Sunday which is something you simply have to be in the stadium to experience. If the NFL plan to lure an existing team to London it won’t be a hard sell on the stadium.

England captain and World-Cup golden boot winner Harry Kane was a guest of honour on Sunday and he looked like he had a whale of a time. If he does decide to one day transition to an NFL kicker, what’s the odds that he doesn’t even need to change his parking pass? 


You’d be crackers not to like Jacobs 

Image Credit: AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth

As the top drafted rookie running back on a team in transition with a new (returning) head coach you could excuse the output to less than impressive for the Oakland Raiders Josh Jacobs. Thing is Jacobs is absorbing that pressure like a seasoned veteran.

Jacobs was voted the Tottenham game ‘man of the match’ winner even before he went airborne for the game winning score. Jacobs has been a number one back all season and is easily justifying his high pick position.

After five weeks he is 6th in the league in rushing with 430 yards and four scores. Jacobs picked up the hard yards in London both rushing and receiving, and arguably could have had three scores. Backup RB Deandre Washington was a TD vulture.

Jacobs would not be achieving such positive results without two key factors being delivered – his ability to pass block when called upon and the play of the Raiders offensive line. Khalil Mack flew home with a Union Jack fridge magnet, a six inch Beefeater and a jar of Marmite but had no sack to put them in. 


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Redskins change the locks 

Image Credit: Nick Wass/AP

Jay Gruden, when asked by the media on Sunday, after the Washington Redskins fifth consecutive loss, about his job security he said that he would carry on if his key still worked.

That was enough for owner Dan Snyder and GM Bruce Allen to dial up a locksmith and get a shiny new Chubb installed at the gates of Fed-Ex Field (no Browns fans they did not trade for Nick).

This was the most obvious firing and was inevitable after Tom Brady, in second gear, helped himself to an easy victory against a Redskins team that atrocious to say the least. Gruden was unable to overcome major injuries to stars, failed to develop and true WR talent and had zero playoff wins in his tenure.

New ‘interim’ Head Coach Bill Callahan led the Raiders to s Super Bowl in 2001, and is a true advocate of a strong running game. Gruden seemingly banged nails in his own coffin when he deactivated future Hall of Fame RB Adrian Peterson in Week 1. Trent Williams the All-Pro T is the last remaining holdout, and the defence has been as porous as Sponge Bob Square Pants.

In fact Spongebob would probably be an upgrade in the secondary.