Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Time for Robert Quinn and William Hayes to Model Underwear?

By John Turney
One of the rights of passage for a defensive end in Los Angeles is getting a spokesmodel job with a company that sells men's underwear. Now that the NFL is back in LA, it's time for a men's clothing store to continue a slight dubious tradition of excellent defensive ends in skimpy clothing. After that, come the movies and television as the following fearsome foursome all had opportunities in Hollywood in television and movie.

The first Ram to do it was Fred Dryer, for Jockey in 1976.
Then Jack Youngblood, who signed with Munsingwear in 1984.
Lyle Alzado and Howie Long follow them both going with Haynes in the mid-1980s

So, it seems logical for Madison Avenue and get off the dime and sign these two: Quinn and Hayes.

Barney Chavous: As Steady as the Rocky Mountains

By John Turney
Some really good players never make First-team All-Pro, like Elvin Bethea (who made several Second-teams) or Julius Adams, and some never make a Pro Bowl or All-Conference, like Barney Chavous. But that does not mean his career is not worthy of mention.

He was a 13-year starter for the Denver Broncos at left defensive end and missed only 8 games in his career. He spent the last 10 in a 3-4 defense where his duties were more akin to a defensive tackle than a defensive end and the first 5 years in that scheme the Broncos rarely when to a 4-down linemen nickle scheme on likely passing downs, relying instead for linebackers to get extra pressure.

Still in all, Chavous had a fine career:
Blocked kicks in 1974 and 1977 and scored a safety in 1982
He totaled 75½ sacks and forced 12 fumbles, but of note is that from 1973-85 the Broncos 3.7 yards per rush allowed was second-best in the NFL to the Steelers 3.6 (Rams also 3.7) and were fifth in rushing yards allowed behind the Steelers, Rams, Cowboys, and Raiders. Clearly, the Orange Crush defense was more than a one-year entity.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Will Telvin Smith Get Pro Bowl Notice?

By John Turney
Credit: Twitter
Going to the Pro Bowl may not be on Telvin Smith's mind these days, dark days after dealing with the loss of is brother, 25-year-old Brian Moore, who was shot and killed in their hometown of Valdosta, Georgia, on November. 13, 2016. Smith is using football to move on, what he calls "football moving on".

However, the bright side is he's a new father, with his girlfriend giving birth to a son last week.

Also on the bright side is Smith is having a Pro Bowl season, though it may be tough for him to get that recognition due to rushbacker-type linebackers in the AFC like Von Miller (NFL-leading 12.5 sacks) and Khalil Mack, both of which are having superb seasons.

Other possible Pro Bowlers are Lorenzo Alexander of Buffalo (10 sacks), Dee Ford, another DE/OLB hybrid who has 10 sacks, and Terrell Suggs to name a few.

With these sackers in the mix, it makes it easy to overlook a base linebacker who is good at pass coverage, and makes plays in the backfield, but not the sacks. Smith's plays in the backfield are the type that often go for a one- or two-yard loss, but are vital because they put opposing offenses behind on their down and distances.

Since 2014 Smith has 33.5 run/pass stuffs (tackles on run and pass plays behind the line of scrimmage) and this year he leads the NFL in that category with 12.5 in 11 games. He also leads all AFC outside linebackers in tackles with 88.

He is, in a sense a throwback to players like Seth Joyner, Darryl Talley and others who were all-around linebackers who could blitz, but were in traditional roles, dropping into zones or covering running backs and filling their gaps in the run game.

Smith is a becoming a smaller version of Derrick Brooks, another Florida State alum. While at FSU Smith totaled 214 tackles (139 solo) with seven sacks, 29 tackles for loss, 4 FR, 2 FF, 10 passes defensed and four INTs, three returned for TDs.

As a senior he started all 14 games and team-high 90 tackles (61 solo), three picks, 9.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, 2 FR and four passes defensed and had recorded three INTs and tied the school single-season record with three returned for TDs. For his efforts he was a First-team All-ACC selection by the league’s coaches, ESPN.com and Sporting News.

We will see what the next few weeks brings, but with 5 games to go he has a shot at setting a linebacker record for run/pass stuffs, which is 18.5, held by Ed McDaniel (1995) and Mark Barron (2015). Since 1982 no one except J.J. Watt has ever had more run/pass stuffs in a single season than McDaniel and Barron.

If he does get even close we hope the players, coaches and even fans remember him in the Pro Bowl voting, it's something he likely deserved last year as well.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

A Quick Update on Stuff Leaders Through Week 11 of the NFL season

By Nick Webster
Jadeveon Clowney has arrived. Clowney has been playing well against the run all year and it shows as he’s second in the league in stuffs, tackles of runners or receivers behind the line-of-scrimmage. Remember, his signature play in college was not a sack, it was blowing up a running play in the backfield, we’re starting to see that Jadeveon Clowney emerge this year. The prospect of 2017 with a healthy J.J. Watt, Jadeveon on the upswing and Whitney Marcellus able to take advantage when an offenses's focus is elsewhere should have Texans fans relishing next season.
Lavonte David has returned to where he belongs. Under the radar in Tampa, David has been spectacular at making plays in the backfield in his still young career.  In 2012 through 2014 he was 2nd, 1st and 1st in the NFL in Stuffs. But last year, after signing a big contract in the offseason, he finished tied for 42nd in the league with just 7 sStuffs.  However, it appears David is back, already exceeding last season’s figure with 8.5 so far tied for 3rd in the league – welcome back Lavonte.

And, of course, the incomparable Aaron Donald is also tied for third.  Toiling through a difficult season in LA as they manage their relocation and breaking in a new QB, Donald continues to show he’s the best interior Lineman in the NFL.

Luke Kuechley was having another fine season – it remains to be seen what will happen to Luke as he heals from the concussion he suffered a few weeks ago, we wish Luke well, he’s a great one, and appearing on this list even after missing time for injury supports that.
On running plays – Clowney leads the league and receiver hawkers Telvin Smith and Lavonte David begin to drop down the list.
On passing plays, you can see part of what supports Telvin Smith’s overall stuff lead. The speedy undersized LB is excellent at tracking receivers and taking them down in the backfield. Lavonte also shows up here, the trend to speedy small LB’s and box safeties has placed many players on this type of list in the last couple of years – Mark Barron (box safety) dropping out this year in favor of Telvin Smith. Many defenders are tied with two pass stuffs.

This year 16% of stuffs have been on passing plays, actually down from the 18 to 19% rate we’ve seen over the past few seasons – but still up versus longer historical trends.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Sports Illustrated's 1985 Players of the Week


Complete Lists
By John Turney
From 1984 through 1986 Sports Illustrated chose an Offensive and Defensive Player of the Week. 

There were no repeaters as each week had a different winner. Jim McMahon won it once, and was the quarterback of the World Champion Bears, and he was only Bear on offense to win it. Otis Wilson won it once, the only Bear defender.

Here is the 1985 list, you  can click on each to enlarge.
Week 1

 Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

Week 5

Week 6

Week 7 

Week 8

Week 9 

Week 10 

Week 11

Week 12

Week 13

Week 14 

Week 15

Week 16, no selections

Karl Mecklenburg Career Stats

By John Turney
Broncos inside linebacker Karl Mecklenburg was a jack-of-all-trades in their front 7. He was a player than when he earned his starting job as an inside linebacker, he would often move and play outside and on passing downs would usually line up at right defensive end, but sometimes he'd play the left end or even inside.

Six times he received post-season honors and he went to six Pro Bowls, all in the same seasons he was All-Pro by various organizations.

He began his career as a pass rush specialist before starting at inside linebacker, and he ended his career, in 1994, as a 4-3 middle linebacker, though by that time he came off the field on passing downs.  His career was certainly a unique one and he's been recognized as a Pro Football Hall of Fame semi-finalist (Top 25) five times.
Tackles and assists and other stats in the above chart come from NFL Gamebooks and differ from the seasons the Broncos used stats based on coaches' tape review. We try and keep our charts with an apples-to-apples comparison when possible.

Pro Bowl:  1985, 1986, 1987, 1989,  1991, 1993

1985 First-team All-Pro (Consensus)
1986 First-team All-Pro (Consensus)
1987 First-team All-Pro (NEA)
1989 First-team All-Pro (Consensus)
1991 First-team All-Pro (USA Today)

Mike Merriweather Career Stats

By John Turney
Steeler and Viking outside linebacker Mike Merriweather, is we think, one of the more underrated players of his era. He garnered post-season honors from 1984-87 then he sat out a season due to a contract dispute, then was traded by the Steelers for a First-round pick and had a few fine seasons with the Vikings, gaining Second-team All-Pro status from College & Pro Football Newsweekly in 1990.

He was more than just a rushbacker, he dropped in coverage and was adept at knocking down and picking off passes and ran four of them back for touchdowns.

Tackles and assists and other stats in the above chart come from NFL Gamebooks and differ from the seasons the Browns used stats based on coaches' tape review. We try and keep our charts with an apples-to-apples comparison when possible.

Pro Bowl:  1984, 1985, 1986

1984 First-Team All-Pro (PFW)
1985 Second-team All-Pro (NEA)
1987 Second-team All-AFC (UPI)
1990 Second-team All-Pro (C&PFN)