The rush came and went. We watched our favorite teams play organized football for the first time in ages.
Now, all there is to do is pass the time until those bright lights are back on and we are all enjoying our favorite vice, football. Here are some tidbits that should help tide you over until the weekend.
SEC Player to Watch
Last week, we spotlighted Falcons rookie Calvin Ridley and his ridiculous route running ability. This week we decided to spotlight a veteran that is trying to keep his game ascending.
Los Angeles Rams running back and former Georgia phenom, Todd Gurley (stats), is making his case for best running back in the league. There are some names we can argue, namely Le’veon Bell, but right now Gurley reigns supreme. It also doesn’t hurt that he just signed a record-shattering four year 60 million dollar extension.
It’s tough to call last season a breakout year for Gurley because he dominated as a rookie in 2015 and won Rookie of the Year honors as a result. But, last year was something different. A new head coach and a brand-new offensive system helped elevate Gurley into a different phase of his game.
He still is a homerun hitting-runner who can break one at any moment. Yet, last year he proved to the league that he could catch the ball as well. He was just as explosive a receiver as a runner. If he can continue that trend this season, then he will no doubt make a case for MVP.
Games of the Week
Jets vs. Redskins:
Sam Darnold looked like an NFL quarterback last week and is shooting for much the same this week. An enormous addition to the Jets defense during the offseason is free agent signee, Avery Williamson (stats). The former Kentucky Wildcat was a dominant run stopper during his tenure with the Titans. Jamal Adams (stats) and Morris Claiborne (stats) are both defensive backs that played for LSU and they will both be trying to lock down their side of the field. I think they’ll be able to successfully do that against the Redskins passing game.
Washington’s first-round pick out of LSU, Derrius Guice, was going to be one of the big names in this matchup but sadly he suffered a torn ACL in last week’s contest. Florida alum and often injured tight end Jordan Reed (stats) is going to have to step up his offensive production now that Guice is out for the year. He had some bones removed from his toe in the offseason and is quickly returning to 100%. A couple of rookies out of Alabama, Da’Ron Payne and Shaun Dion Hamilton, are attempting to prove they are both NFL ready defenders.
Final Score: 27-17 Jets
Chiefs vs. Falcons
This game should be highly entertaining. The Chiefs will try and get creative now that Andy Reid doesn’t have to deal with “game-manager” Alex Smith. Chris Conley (stats), a wide receiver out of Georgia, has been semi-productive so far in his career but he could be set for a breakout season. The Chiefs need a receiver with his skill set to step up. Vol legend Eric Berry (stats) will be patrolling the defensive side of the ball. If he stays healthy, he should produce another Pro Bowl caliber season.
The Falcons will be rolling out their ungodly wide receiver duo of Ridley and Jones. The Chiefs have a talented secondary, so this will be a crucial matchup. I’d still pick the Falcons receivers in this one, though. The matchup nightmares that Julio Jones (stats) alone can create are scary. But, add an underneath threat like Calvin Ridley to that and you’ve got gold. LSU alum Deion Jones (stats) will be handling the middle of the field for the Falcons defense. He has been a beast in his first two years totaling 236 tackles. Expect him to do much of the same this season.
Final Score: 21-13 Chiefs
Bills vs. Browns
For the Bills, they have a handful of talented SEC players on their roster but the most exciting position to watch is the quarterback group. They have two former SEC quarterbacks in Nathan Peterman (stats) (Tennessee) and AJ McCarron (stats) (Alabama) battling it out at quarterback. McCarron is a free agent signee that was brought in to stabilize the group. Peterman is a sophomore looking to burn his rookie campaign out of his memory. My money is on McCarron getting the nod, but Peterman had an impressive showing last week.
The Browns are essentially an amalgam of different college stars of the past decade. They have a boatload of big-name talents. On paper, their team looks like they can play with anyone but we all know better than that. Former Aggie Myles Garrett (stats) is rolling into his sophomore campaign with a new perspective on what NFL football is like. If the game slows down at all for the monster defensive end, then he will hear his name called often this season. Georgia running back Nick Chubb is trying to carve out a role on the Browns offense. He could be a late-season surprise. Someone worth keeping an eye on is Evan Berry, the little brother of Eric Berry. He was a defensive back and returner at Tennessee. The Browns are trying him on offense instead because of his elusive ability. However, with his prowess at returner, I predict he will win his share of Special Teams Player of the Week awards.
Final Score: 24-17 Bills
Bengals vs. Cowboys
The Bengals have all the pieces for a solid 2018 season. Josh Malone (stats) is a guy I like in this one. The wide receiver out of Tennessee was a fourth-round pick by Cincinnati in 2017 but hasn’t seen much action due to various injuries and depth chart log jams. He shined last week though with three catches for 41 yards. The Bengals have been searching for someone to complement All-Pro receiver AJ Green (stats) (Georgia) for a few years now and they hope they’ve found their man in Malone. Defensive back Dre Kirkpatrick (Alabama) and defensive end Carl Lawson (stats) (Auburn) will look to hold down the defense for the Bengals.
The Cowboys, of course, have quarterback Dak Prescott (stats) (Miss St.) on their roster. He is looking to have a more dominant third year after an up and down sophomore campaign. I’m more interested in how rookie out of Alabama, Bo Scarborough, is going to fit in at the running back position. Elliot clearly has the starting spot locked down but where will they use Bo? I think he could be a dangerous weapon in the right situations, possibly in goal-line sets.
Final Score: 24-21 Bengals
Seahawks vs. Chargers
Mississippi State alum KJ Wright (stats) has flown under the radar as one of the most consistent linebackers in recent years. He has registered over 100 tackles in each of the past four seasons. Former Vol Justin Coleman (stats) has blossomed into a full-time starter on the Seahawks defense. He was rated by some sites as the best defensive player on the field last week against the Colts. That’s encouraging news for a unit that is trying to recreate its former glory. We’ll see if they can handle the task of slowing down old man Rivers and the Chargers offense.
Former Razorback Hunter Henry (stats) was going to one of my players to watch, but the young tight end tore his ACL in May and should be out for the season. Casey Hayward (stats) (Vandy) and Melvin Ingram (stats) (S. Carolina) are two integral players on the defensive side of the ball. Ingram is instrumental to the Chargers defense because of his ability to generate pressure on the quarterback. In the past three seasons, he’s tallied 29 total sacks. That’s not too shabby for the former Gamecock. Like their counterparts on the Seahawks, the Chargers defense will have a fun time trying to slow down Russell Wilson and Seattle’s offense.
Final Score: 28-22 Seahawks
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