Sunday, May 9, 2021

Dave Preston Plays with Two Uniform Numbers in Same Game

 By John Turney
Left, Preston is his usual #46, and on the right wearing #49

In 1967 Les Josephson wore two different numerals in the same game. In 1980 Dave Preston, running back for the Broncos did the same thing as Josephson

Jenson's jersey was "ripped up" according to Dick Enberg and Preston was given a replacement jersey with a different number.

Additionally, the extra jersey didn't have a name on the back.

Shots from early in the game and later in the same game, early in November 1980—

One oddity—Merlin Olsen was at both games, playing for the Rams in 1967 and covering the game for NBC in 1980. We are not suggesting these are the only games this has happened, we know of one other (Rich Saul, 1972—Olsen played in that game, too) but it is kind of a cool footnote.

Les Josephson wearing #34 and #35 vs Dallas, 1967





Friday, May 7, 2021

Randy Gradishar's Seven Defensive Positions

 By John Turney 
Randy Gradishar
Karl Mecklenburg was a tremendous player and one of the interesting aspects of his career is he is credited with playing "all seven positions in the defensive front".
Actually, we think it was more than seven. But be that as it may, it should be noted that in the Broncos front that was nothing new for an inside (or outside, for that matter) linebacker.

In the late 1970s Joe Collier, the Broncos Defensive Coordinator deployed Randy Gradishar in a similar fashion, though not as much as Mecklenburg. And to be accurate, though Mecklenburg did play all those positions his primary position was inside linebacker in base and defensive end in nickel.

Similarly, Gradishar's position was inside linebacker, and since his forte was pass coverage in passing situations he stayed as a linebacker in those defenses rather than rushing the passer, which was Mecklenburg's strong suit.

So, with that background, here at some screenshots of the various techniques Gradishar lined up at—which totals seven. 

The Broncos did play some 4-3 and in those schemes Graidahar
was the MIKE, and also in the 33 nickel and in goalline defenses.


Gradishar as a MLB in a 4-3

Gradiahr at RILB in a 3-4

Here is Gradishar at LILB

Gradishar stemming up and back as ILBer, RDT

Again, RDT, makes this a 4-3 under

Here is Gradishar (#53) at RDT to make the Broncos 3-4 into a 4-3

Here is Gradishar (#53) at RDT

Here is Gradishar (#53) at LDT, again,  to make the Broncos 3-4 into a 4-3


Stemming into and out of the LDT (3-tech) position


Gradishar as the RDE in nickel

Gradishar as the LDE in nickel

More...




On occasion, Gradishar would line up over a tackle on the second level

Again, to be clear, this simply shows the Broncos scheme, under Joe Collier, required versatile linebackers, and that included Tom Jackson, Joe Rizzo, and Bob Swenson, though none of them lineup in as many techniques as Gradishar. 

So, when Collier got his new toy, Karl Mecklenburg, in 1983 he simply expanded what had been done before but is was not really anything new. 

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

THE QUEST: The Statistical History of this Game of Passion.

By TJ Troup 

Has been about a month since one of my stories, and over the years there have been a few that I really relished doing—and this one just might rank near the top. 

Will begin in 1986, and no you are not going to hear about all of the past 35 years, yet that Spring/Summer was a turning point in my life. So very fortunate to have the opportunity to finally coach at the community college level at Riverside City College as the tight ends and wide receivers coach. 

Always enjoyed reading about the history of the NFL, and on May 20th of '86 got a letter from Mr. John Hogrogian imploring me to join the Pro Football Researchers Association. The upside of joining was being able to communicate in the forum once in a while, and the folks that communicated with me—including a few that became lifelong friends. 

That summer of '86 sat down at the typewriter in the coaches office and sent letters to the two men who became lifelong friends, and mentors—Mr. Paul Lionel Zimmerman and Mr. Steve Sabol. 

You just never know what doors will be opened and what those open doors can lead to? When time permitted my initial quest was the history of the Chicago Bears pass defense, and upon completion, expanded to other teams, and my first significant success—when you return an interception for a touchdown how often do you win? Became known for this, and was offered the opportunity to write and research with Mr. Allen Barra. Boy oh boy was that fun and rewarding. 

Along the way began an association with John Turney, and we all know when we have a friendship that transcends football research. My first visit to NFL Films in 1988 and my first face-to-face meeting with Steve solidified our common joys and what the game meant to us. Over the years have visited many, many times and am always treated like family when entering the building. 

Though Steve has left us, Mr. Chris Willis and Mr. Chris Barlow have gone above and beyond to help me, and over the years have tried to repay that kindness, and help in any way possible. Research, research, and more research expanded my communications, and while working on Green Bay Packer interception history was blessed to have Lee Remmel pick up the phone, and while he did not have the answers I needed he stated there was a young man in Green Bay who just might be able to help me! Mr. Eric Goska is a man of ethics, intelligence, and dedication to get the history of the game "right". 

There are some of us that believe in accuracy, and Packer Dude is at the top of the list. Bear Dude (me) and Eric share many common values and interests, so for those who state that Packer fans and Bear fans cannot get along....that is just folly. 

You just never know who you will come in contact with along the way, and out of nowhere hear from a John Richards in Palo Alto. His sense of humor, his pure joy in communicating about football film, and overall earnest dedication to his film library gave us a common bond. Eventually, Steve Sabol told me that I had the "gold card" and could invite anyone to join me at NFL Films, and as such these men got to know each other and become friends. 

Guess you could say I was the "lynchpin"...not sure that was the goal, yet will take that and run with it. Met John Turney's good friend and fellow pass rush maven Mr. Nick Webster, and the fact that he and I could talk Black & Gold football for hours just added to the group. Erik Stratton might have had his own Animal House fraternity, but Otter have mine also. 

The research continued and EXPANDED. Lugging the Leather, who caught the ball, which teams truly played defense, and tangents off of these subjects kept me busy. Dr. Z. flat out told Joe Horrigan to "treat me right" when I was going to visit in the summer of 1993, and again feel blessed for all that Joe, Mr. Pete Fierle, and these days Mr. Jon Kendle have done for me. 

When Grant Heslov contacted the HoF and Joe and asked who actually knew and understood the game in 1925..Mr. Horrigan recommended me, and off to the Carolina's to help George Clooney make "Leatherheads". Felt very strongly in 1998 that Steve Sabol should do a special feature on Emlen Tunnell, but wait a second folks...Steve wants me featured for an eight-minute segment about my career as a teacher with special needs children, and my historical perspective on pass defense? 

November of 1998 and was featured on "NFL Films Presents" in Father Figures. National publicity, and ESPN radio with Chuck Wilson (was fun), and then the phone call from a man known for statistical history Mr. Seymour Siwoff. For twenty minutes could not get a word in edgewise, and for those who know me, that is unusual. 

Siwoff came off as paranoid, and wanted to know what I was going to do with my research that no one, and I mean NO ONE had ever done before? Poise under pressure has been a given for me all my life, and my sense of humor shut Seymour up as I ended the call with "if you ever want to know accurately what really happened in NFL history just give me a call". 

Have the memos from Elias concerning areas that I corrected that they had not corrected, and hopefully someday Joe Gilston will see merit in "trading" for my many, MANY corrections that are needed for an accurate statistical history of the game. For all of you out there who are timid about reaching out to folks...take a tip from a former safety who was anything but timid...contact those people you respect----you just never know what that communication can lead to? Film finished and back to teaching, and more research and projects. 

My honors high school English teacher Ms. Lenore Fields once told me that someday would become an author...ok Lenore, when? Have written two books (my first at age 58), and my second was a labor of love, and along the way learned how badly publishers can treat their writers. 


That second book "The Birth of the Modern 4-3 Defense" shook the foundation of those who actually thought they knew the decade of the '50s. Sadly the publisher sold a paperback book on a very specific topic to the few folks in America who would be interested in football in the '50s for $49.99! Research, research, and more research, and personal growth as I retired from teaching and returned to coaching. 

There have been many successful coaches, and yes that is how you keep a job in coaching; by demanding from your players their absolute best, treating them with respect, and WINNING. Have been able to weave together aspects from coaching into research, and recently my agent Mr. Shane Holmes was able to cobble a deal together with Sports Reference and Mr. Sean Forman. He has purchased much of my statistical library, and as such he now has ownership of the "stats". 

Am on retainer for future projects, and as such hopefully when you go to Pro Football Reference in the future you will see complete box scores for games from 1948 through 1969 in areas that have never been addressed. What areas you ask? A team has both quarterbacks taken down in the game "yards lost attempting to pass" or sacks. For sake of discussion the team lost 80 yards in sacks, but how many times and for how many yards was each quarterback sacked? 

For those of you who actually care you can now have this data. Over the course of a season many players fumble, but no one, and I mean NO ONE ever listed who lost the handle on the ball----and to whet all of your appetites? Name the one league rushing champion from 1950 through 1969 that did not lose a fumble in his year of success? 

Mr. Forman also has the list of who threw every "pick six" from 1940 to the present, which takes me full circle back to where I started with pass defense. My best friend lives in Arkansas and he told me years ago told me, always leave 'em laughing....thus the cartoon on my desk with the neophyte devil asking Satan a question, and Satan's response ..."We don't raise Hell here, son. We just try to manage it". 

Monday, May 3, 2021

Rams 2021 Draft and Previous Rams Comparables

 By John Turney

We know, we know. Draft grades mean little. A draft cannot be evaluated for years. And player comparisons rarely work out—players are too different. 

But we are going to do it anyway. But we will limit the Rams draft to former Rams draftees to narrow the field and make it more interesting. Certainly, it's not perfect, but it's a fun exercise. 

See what you think.

2-57 Tutu Atwell, Louisville

Former Ram comparable 
Tavon Austin

Tavon Austin is the obvious one. Rams traded up to get Austin in 2013 and he added a lot of pop in the punt return game he also has a lot, seemingly, called back. But he never was the factor on offense his speed, quickness, and skill set promised. 

Atwell is smaller, but has the same skill sets but did run deeper routes in school. 

Seems like an odd choice for the #57 overall. Atwell says he's up to 160 pounds but does not look 5-9. He's a definite smurf. 


3-103    Ernest Jones, LB, South Carolina   

Former Ram comparable 
Fred Strickland

It was hard to find a comparison in Rams draft annals. Fred Strickland out of Purdue was a second-round pick who was about Jones' size when he was drafted but Strickland had a much bigger frame and was able to add 10-15 pounds to his frame. He also looked like he ran a bit better than Jones, based on film study.

Strickland also had pass-rush skills and strength that allowed him to be featured in the Rams 5-linebacker gimmick defenses the Eagle/Hawk and 5-LBer nickel as a nose tackle and defensive tackle. Jones cannot do that.

Other than that perhaps Jim Collins is a fair comp. Collins was smaller (as were most inside linebackers of that era and was taken higher—second-round) but maybe similar in talent, but Collins was a good cover linebacker in zone as well as a solid run stuffer. Jones may be able to do that, but it has not been his forte.

Perhaps the best Rams comp is Micah Kiser the man he will compete with for the starting ILBer position. 

4-117    Bobby Brown III, Texas A &M     

Former Ram comparable 
Phil Murphy

Phil Murphy was a 3rd round pick in 1980. He was 6-5, 290 (listed) but was well over 300 pounds. He shot up Rams board after good college All-Star game performances. He was large and had good movement. Rams played a 4-3 then so all he played was defensive tackle.

Brown will likely play 5/4i tech and can play the shade (1-tech) which he did in college but Sebastian Joseph Day and Greg Gaines will split snaps there for the most part. 

If the Rams are lucky Brown can be as productive as Ryan Pickett who did some good work as a shade tackle for the Rams but let him go to the packers where he played some 5/4i tack as well. Not flashy, good base, solid all-around was Grease Pickett.

Brown has better pass-rush skills than Grease, however.  If the Rams have shouted right he can be the permanent replacement for Michael Brockers who was a top-run defender and a decent interior rusher who played the "spy" role in the Rams rush—watching for draws and so forth.  However, we cannot really compare Brown to Pickett and Brockers since they were first-round picks—we are trying to match similar rounds if we can along with skill sets and size and speed and strength and so on. 

A good pick.

4-130  Robert Rochell, CB,  Central Arkansas    

Former Ram comparable
Brandon McGee

Brandon McGee. McGee was a corner who had a lot of the physical qualities that Rochell has in terms of measurables. Speed (4.40), vertical leap and broad jump (9'11"), and the 3-cone, etc. 

Jonathan Wade was a third-round pick in 2007 and he was another corner who was kind of similar in size and in the so-called "measurables (4.36 forty, 40.5 vert, 10'6" broad).

Another comparable might be Jacoby Shepard who was taken in the second-round in 2000. He was taken higher than Rochell and is about an inch or so taller so that is a fair comparison. Shepard had excellent, but not freakish measurables, maybe a 4.5 in the forty and a ten-foot broad versus the 11 feet Rochell did. However, another fair comparison is that Shepard was taken as high as he was largely based on his measurables, and at the time his private workouts really impressed Rams scouts but his play did not impress the coaches in his stint with the Rams. 

Rochell is listed at 6-0½, 193, and timed as a 4.4 forty, and had an 11-foot broad jump and a 43-inch vertical jump. He was very high on the measurable scale. Rochell does exceed Shepard, McGee, and Wade but they were all excellent athletes and take in the middle rounds (except for Shepard who was likely overdrafted) like Rochell. 

4-141  Jacob Harris, WR, UCF             

Former Ram comparable
Rams have drafted a couple of tight end wide receiver hybrids with great athletic ability and limited college playing time and/or success—Fendi Onobun and Lovell Pickney. Both failed. 

Harris is 6-5, 220, which is smaller than Obobun and Pickney who were both 20 or so pounds heavier, Onobun was raw, as is harris. Pickney was someone who played but he was a big guy who Rams thought, at the time, who could be a TE/WR. 

5-174 Earnest Brown IV, DE, Northwestern    

Former Ram comparables
Reggie Doss

Too many to name. Rams have spent a lot of mid-round picks for average college players with average size, speed, and strength but maybe had one physical trait that made them special.

Brown is 6-4, 270, runs a 5.0 forty did 25 reps, all decent but was not very productive in college (7 career sacks and 18.5 TFL in 40 games). 

Reggie Doss was a 7th round pick in 1978—he was 6-4, 267, but didn't have speed (5.2) but turned out to be a fair 4-3 defensive end and a good 3-4 defensive end when Rams went to that scheme.  
Doug Barnett, a 1982 fifth-rounder had some speed (4.9) and strength and some wiggle, but was backing up Jack Youngblood and didn't get many reps. He blew out a knee in 1983 and his career was over.

Doug Reed was a 6-4, 255 or so defensive end who ran a 4.8 but quickly put on weight and was, like Doss, a fairly good 3-4 end. Hal Stephens, another like Reed and Doss, but hurt his knee and was never able to play get much done in NFL. All three of those were kind of similar, though smaller (as was almost everyone in that era), and had Stephens been healthy he might have been similar to Doss and Reed and we think Barnett would have been fairly similar as well. 
Victor Adeyanju. Also a fair comparison to Brown IV in terms of size and speed. A fourth-round pick was a hard worker but was able to play in a 4-3 scheme, whereas Brown will have to play a 5tech/4i if he starts and if he can play to his potential will be a tackle in nickel situations. Even though the Rams play a one-gap 3-4 scheme (really a 33 nickel), 270 pounds is on the small side. Would need to put on 15-25 pounds to really hold up as a base player. 

John Franklin-Myers may be the best comparable to Brown IV. He was a 4th round pick by the Rams in 2018 and showed potential until he was felled by an injury. Was beaten out by Morgan Fox and the Jets picked him up and in 2020 showed well as a nickel interior rusher. But, remember, Franklin-Myers was more athletic than Brown IV, a bit fast (4.8 and larger 288 pounds) but played at a smaller school (Stephen F. Austin). 

7-233  Jake Funk, RB, Maryland

Former Ram comparables

Chase Reynolds and Jim Jodat

If the Rams are fortunate Funk can be as good as Reynolds or Jodat on special teams. Funk is faster than Reynolds but not as big as Jodat was. 

7-249    Ben Skowronek, WR,  Notre Dame

Former Ram comparable
We really struggled to find one.  Skowronek is a 6-2, 225, 4.6ish WR/TE hyrbid so we had to look deep. He is a big WR but maybe the best comps we can find are smaller tight ends the Rams have drafted like Kerry Locklin, though  Skowronek runs better. 

UDFA in the 1971 draft Matt Maslowski who was 6-3, 210, big for that era,  is a fair comp, too, though he was not drafted. He was a solid special teams player and could run well. In spirit Rams second-round Chuck Scott was comparable but he was about 205 pounds when he finally put on Ram uniform. He had been very productive in college and the Rams felt he'd be the "big, sure-handed" receiver to match with the speedsters that had on the roster at the time. 

7-252   Chris Garrett, OLB, Concordia University

Former Ram comparable
Jason Chorak
Pass rushers Jason Chorak, Bronzell Miller, George Bethune are all similar in size, speed and all seventh-rounder picks. 

Garrett played at a small school and is 6-4, 241 and runs a 4.8 forty. In 1998 the Rams took Jason Chorak in the 7th round. He was a hybrid DE/OLber type kind of a 'tweener at 6-4, 255 pounds and ran a 4.8-4.9 or so. Not quite big enough for end in a 4-3 es and not quick enough to play outside linebacker.

In 1995 the Rams took Bronzell Miller in the seventh round who was 6-4, 245 and ran a 4.7, and six years before that they drafted George Bethine who was 6-4, 238 and also ran a 4-7-4.8 forty but Miller and Bethune played for bigger schools but none had NFL careers that amounted to much. 

Chris Garrett's NFL odds are no better than these three in our view.

Analysis

None of these players are going to be Pro Bowl players. Atwell has a shot to be a good returner and if Rams get very lucky they have a smaller version of Tyler Lockett and if they are super lucky have a Desean Jackson clone. But those odds are low. 

Ernest Jones has a shot to be a rookie starter, there is an open competition position at inside linebacker because Kiser has been hurt, but also, when the Rams do use a base defense they do play two inside/off-the-ball linebackers, so it's possible that both Kiser and Jones on the field at the same time...if Jones can play the pass better when teams throw from their base offenses. 

Bobby Brown is enthusiastic, motivated, and has a "size and movement combination" that is rare. Though he was a shade tackle in college, his body type screams that he will be Brockers' replacement at defensive end.

The corner/safety Rochell will make the team and should get snaps, he's a physical skill upgrade over David Long (who got some snaps last year) so if he grasps the scheme he should be a keeper.

Harris, Skowronek, and Funk have value as special teamers, but the odds are low for all three that they will be contributors on offense. The NFL is so talent-ladened that these kinds of guys who not be special. Players with their skill sets have been seen before and we've seen the results.

Garrett will have to really shine to get a job as a potential edge rusher. Rams ran through quite a few guys with much greater talent and they are gone (Polite to name one) so it's had to think this kid can do much.

Finally, Earnest Brown IV is interesting. He's solid but is always going to be limited (see our Rams comparables above) but he can be a role player, most likely as a tackle in nickel situations. But he seems like he lacks quickness, NFL quickness, to be great. Decent to Good? Perhaps. Rams are hoping he can do well in Morgan Fox's role, we think.

In three years we will know for sure but this was not a draft that added any stars and didn't add any offensive linemen. (Rams have taken seven offensive linemen in the last six drafts and that includes the pick they sent to the Browns to acquire Corbett). 

So, if they are short some offensive linemen in 2022, 2023, and so on, this will be the draft analysts look at because it was purported to be a draft deep in offensive linemen. 

We'll check in on this topic in 2023.