Don’t let the distractions distract you from Josh Rosen’s talent

Game Film, NCAA Football, NFL, NFL Draft

Mansur Shaheen

The discussion surrounding UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen has been dominated by non-football events so far this draft season.  Whether it’s questioning his love of the game or outrage over some of his college dorm room antics, football has taken the back seat in his draft profile. Even his former college coach Jim Mora got in on the action at the start of April.

With the media circus in full force this spring, it’s easy to forget how great of a player Rosen is. The Bruins quarterback threw for over 3,700 yards, completing 63% of his passes for 26 touchdowns. UCLA football is in a dire state at the moment. The offensive talent surrounding the quarterback was severely underpowered compared to their competition within the Pac 12. This meant that despite the quarterback’s best efforts the Bruins posted a losing season in 2017.

Rosen ranked 17th in the nation with 8.3 yards per attempt. He did throw 10 interceptions last season, though many of them can be credited to poor play by his wide receivers. His four interceptions thrown in the red zone last season may raise concerns.

UCLA runs a pro-style offense. Rosen is forced to make pre-snap reads and he and his receivers must be on the same page. He takes snaps from under center and the offense forces him to have to go through progressions post snap as well to find the open man.

Rosen is very calm and collected in the pocket. He goes through his progressions and will even make it to his fourth or fifth read at times. The quarterback generally avoids forcing passes and is willing to stand in the pocket and keep his eyes downfield for as long as the defense will give him.

The Bruins receivers had a lot of trouble getting open last year and many other college quarterbacks would not let that stop them from just throwing the ball into coverage. Patience was key to any success Rosen had last season, and his ability to spot receivers just as they freed themselves from coverage and quickly get them the ball will translate extremely well to the next level.

While Rosen is great at keeping his eyes downfield and searching for open targets, he may be a little too great at it sometimes. His pocket presence isn’t very good, and he struggles when put under pressure.

He is often late reacting to pressure and takes sacks that he should be able to escape. Getting hit when off guard makes him extremely prone to fumbling. When he does feel the pressure, he panics. At least twice last season he randomly dropped the ball without even being hit after noticing the pass rush getting near him. Rosen backs way too far out of the pocket when the pass rush starts breathing down his neck. When he tries to climb into the pocket he gets himself sacked and his panicked reactions to pressure cause him to make matters worse. He throws errant passes into coverage, which also caused his high number of red zone turnovers in 2017. The Bruins offensive line was bad, but they cannot eat all of the blame. Developing a better feel for what’s happening immediately around him and reacting appropriately will be a much needed skill that he needs to develop at the next level.

Rosen is great at finding open receivers post-snap, but some of the work he does pre-snap helps get the Bruins moving as well. He excelled in the “pitch and catch” game and was able to spot which receivers would have space right off of the snap and hit them on quick outs, ins, and curls.

These quick passes are a simple way to stay ahead of the chains, pick up easy yardage and can occasionally break for huge gains. It also pulls the defense in and forces defenses to play closer to the line of scrimmage. This opens up space further downfield and gives his receivers a better chance at getting separation on their deeper routes.

A lot of what Rosen does well hinges on how smart of a player he is. The Bruin can read defense’s and rarely makes troubling decisions. That does not take away from his incredible arm talent.

Rosen can put passes on a rope. He clearly prefers high velocity bullet passes and his arm strength allows him to get balls quickly to his target before the defense can close in. His arm strength is not on the same level as the likes of Sam Darnold and Josh Allen but it is nothing to scoff at.

The quarterback is extremely comfortable hitting all of the intermediate throws with velocity. He has great command of his accuracy when he’s throwing mid-range passes and has a knack for always putting the ball right where it needs to be.

 

Rosen has the short and medium passing games down. He can find open receivers and perfectly place the ball to them. The Bruin rarely misses those throws and is smart enough reading the field to almost always spot the open man.

He loses some of this control while testing defenses downfield.

Much of the control that Rosen has throwing towards the intermediate levels seems to vanish throwing downfield. His accuracy struggles, as he often underthrows some of his longer passes. The throws are often errant and turnover worthy. The carefulness and precision that he has on shorter throws seem to disappear when testing defenses long. He will have to clean this up and be a little smarter with his passes going downfield when he begins to play at the NFL level.

Rosen is the best quarterback in the 2018 draft class. He is the most accurate, the smartest and has great arm talent. The UCLA product will definitely be selected in the top 5, and if I was in the Cleveland Browns war room on draft night there is no way I would not let him slip through our fingers. His floor is higher than anyone else in the class and he is more bust proof than the strong armed Allen and Darnold. Cleveland has been most closely linked to the other two quarterbacks and unless something changes within the next few weeks he will most likely be playing in New York. The Giants and Jets are two options for him, and the Buffalo Bills may possibly make a move into the top five to grab him as well.

 

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Sam Darnold: The next NFL product out of QBU

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Sam Darnold: The next NFL product out of QBU

Game Film, Gif Breakdowns, NCAA Football, NFL Draft

Mansur Shaheen

Sam Darnold fits the old school mold for an ideal college quarterback perfectly. Went to USC, won a Rose Bowl, has a big arm that he uses with confidence and has had absolutely zero off-field incidents during his college career.

But how good is he?

Darnold completed 64% of his passes last season, along with 26 touchdowns and over 4,000 yards. He also threw a whopping 13 interceptions and was a dud in a few high profile games.

While he did have a few flops on the big stage, Darnold’s numbers against some of the top teams in college football are similar to how he performed against some of the bottom teams.

His 8.6 yards per attempt was 11th in the country last season which makes him an exciting prospect for any team looking for a quarterback. He was fourth among power five quarterbacks in interceptions, which may make teams scared to take him on at the next level.

So what can we expect from Darnold?

USC runs one of the more interesting offenses in the country. It is a run first offense where repeated runs between the tackles are used to pull the defense into the box. The defense is forced to account for the run, which opens the horizontal passing game. It is an interesting version of the spread offense that you see so often in college football. Unlike a majority of other college QB’s, though, Darnold had to regularly take snaps from under center rather than just lining up in shotgun.

This offense would not be deemed “pro-style” but it does draw some similarities to how the Philadelphia Eagles ran their offense when Nick Foles replaced an injured Carson Wentz.

Darnold as rarely expected to properly make a read of the defense in front of him, and his decision making when he had to struggled. He made a terrible read on what was arguably his worst play of the 2017 season, throwing a pick 6 against Ohio State.

*Off of an RPO, Darnold’s read is an Ohio State linebacker that shows a blitz on the play. The linebacker leaves an area free behind him, and a safety creeps into it. Darnold keeps the ball to pass and there is a miscommunication between the quarterback and the receiver and the ball is thrown right into the path of the defensive back who snatches it for a pick 6.*

Darnold failing to make a proper read of the defense hindered him all year. Even when the quarterback had a clean pocket he would still throw terrible passes into coverage. He seemed to lock on to a receiver, stare him down, and lob passes to the receiver he was pre-determined to throw to. The coverage or the number of defensive backs draping the receiver did not matter, he was still going to throw the pass he wanted.

This is legitimately troubling. HE doesn’t take care of the ball as well as you’d hope from an NFL quarterback, and has a lot to learn before he is ready to start at the next level.

Darnold had a clean pocket on all of those plays. When he was put under pressure he was even worse.

The quarterback seems to panic at the first sign of pressure. He often walks himself into sacks stepping up into the pocket when he doesn’t need to. When he drops back further, he goes way too far back and puts himself in an inescapable position.  His eyes drop, and he gives up on looking downfield for an open man even when he still has a chance to make a pass before the pressure gets him. He is not willing to stand strong in the pocket and release the ball right before he takes a hit. When he does manage to escape the pressure, some of the issues he has when throwing from a clean pocket show up again. Darnold usually just throws a pass to whichever receiver he see’s first, no matter how well he is covered.

Even when the quarterback does make a proper read, his accuracy can be anywhere. He misses open receivers long and short. Ball placement often fails him when throwing to open teammates.

So why are teams so high on Darnold? Despite some of his failures reading defenses, and occasional missed pass, the passes he does hit are incredible.

He can put touch on balls to float them into a spot right between two defenders. He can put passes on a rope and get them to his receiver before the defense can even react. The quarterback can make throws on the run and can hit passes off balance. The arm talent is there, he just needs to learn how to reign it in. At his peak, Darnold has potential to be one of the best passers in the NFL.

The quarterback is also great on the move. While he does occasionally panic and make bad decisions while under pressure when the defense opens a chasm in front of him he is not scared to take off on his feet.

He isn’t a tree in the pocket and does have a high level of athleticism. Darnold isn’t the fastest guy but he’s fast enough to make plays. The quarterback is a smart runner and knows how to avoid hits and when not to risk his body for an extra yard.

The USC quarterback isn’t the best player today, but his ceiling is extremely high. He has a lot of natural talent and a strong arm. Darnold should not be a starter day one but if he is properly developed he has potential to be a star.

Rumors link him to the Cleveland Browns as the first overall pick, and at worst within the top three. I believe that may be a little high for him as he will need time and a great coaching staff in order to be ready to lead an NFL offense. I would love to see him sit behind Sam Bradford in Arizona for the first half of the season at pick 15, or maybe even a long-term replacement to Tom Brady in New England at pick 31.

No matter where he goes, Darnold will need time and a coaching staff willing to properly develop him in order for him to succeed. They should not just throw him into the fire unprepared (like the Browns did last season to DeShone Kizer) as it could have terrible long-term effects on his play.

*corrected: initial paragraph seemed to absolve blame from the receiver on the play*

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Baker Mayfield: The quarterback with fire, fury and the talent to back it up

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Baker Mayfield: The quarterback with fire, fury and the talent to back it up

Game Film, Gif Breakdowns, NCAA Football, NFL Draft

Mansur Shaheen

From walk-on at Texas Tech to Heisman winner and potential top 5 draft pick at Oklahoma, the Baker Mayfield story may be one of the best from the 2018 draft. The protagonist of the story also happens to be an incredible football player. The fiery quarterback terrorized the Big 12 last season as he lead his team to a conference title and an appearance in the college football playoff. He threw for over 4,600 yards and 43 touchdowns in his senior year, both career highs, and was only picked off six times, a career low. He was one of the most efficient quarterbacks ever in college football and his huge numbers weren’t just a product of beating up on bad teams either.

Mayfield was just as efficient against some of the best teams in the country as he was against the bottom feeders. He rose up to every challenge in front of him and could be depended on to make huge plays in huge games.

Some of his huge numbers can be attributed to the offense he played in, though. The Sooners deployed a spread offense focused around the incredible athletes they had populating every skill position on the roster. They forced defenses to devote resources towards the outside by running a variety of deep passing concepts and screen passes, then took advantage of the soft spots they left in the middle.

One play Oklahoma loved to run that took advantage of this was a quick toss over the middle off of an RPO.

These holes open for the Sooners offense because of how overwhelming they can be. Opposing defenses are willing to give up an easy first down over the middle if it means they won’t get torched for 60 yards and a touchdown instead.  Mayfield plays “toss and catch” football really well and was comfortable making a quick read and taking the easy pass underneath. Oklahoma forced teams to play bend, don’t break, defense all year and it created an offensive goliath.

This will not be the case for Mayfield at the NFL level, though. NFL corners are just as good as NFL receivers, and middle linebackers aren’t just going to leave gaping holes in the middle of the field on a regular basis.

While these plays inflated his stats a bit, he was still an incredible passer throwing downfield. He can put virtually every pass on a rope, and his quick release combined with the velocity of his passes made them extremely hard to defend.

While Mayfield is not the biggest quarterback, measuring in at 6’1, his ability to get the ball away to quickly and with such speed quells some of the concerns around balls being batted down at the line. Getting the ball over the first level was never an issue for him as a Sooner, and despite his size, he rarely had to sail passes just to get them over people.

When forced out of the pocket, whether it was due to pressure or designed rollouts, Mayfield still managed to deliver great balls. He doesn’t lose much accuracy or power when his feet aren’t set, and still manages to spot open men downfield and make plays.

Mayfield has a Russel Wilson-esque ability to improvise and make plays on the run. He’s slippery in the pocket and always has an escape plan once things start to get dangerous for him. His abilities do come with their faults, though. The quarterback seems over-eager to try to make a play at times and will hold the ball too long. When he was pressured he would usually abandon his progressions and bolt. This would often work out, as his receivers were good enough to usually get open for him to find downfield even when out of the pocket. Needless extension of plays can lead to your team surrendering big gains, though, as receivers are forced to come back towards the ball to get open. Mayfield also hated to throw the ball away and seemed much more willing to take a sack rather than just take the easy way out.

One knock on Mayfield is his willingness to throw off of his back foot. When your base isn’t fully set it is very easy to have passes sail on you, and they can become easy interceptions for a free safety playing center field. An NFL coach will probably work with him to reduce the amount of times he only throws off his back foot, but in his defense, he did throw off of his back foot extremely well in college.

Mayfield is a great passer, but his ability as a runner can truly unlock defenses. As mentioned earlier the Sooners run a lot of RPO plays and the quarterback was not afraid to keep the ball and make plays with his feet. While he is not as fast or athletic as a player like Lamar Jackson he has enough burst to find the edge and take off downfield. He never runs scared but also manages to protect his body and get out of bounds.

He is a smart runner and can beat teams whether the run is designed or not. When looking downfield to pass if he notices there is no spy on the defense he can force them to pay by quickly bolting on his feet. He near perfectly fits the mold of a modern dual-threat quarterback.

While the Sooner is a great runner and an even better passer there are still many questions surrounding him entering the draft. The biggest has to be whether or not he can function in a pro-style offense. Much of Mayfield’s job at Oklahoma was to quickly scan the defense, find which one of his receivers were wide open by nearly ten yards and just get him the ball. He did not have to worry much about hitting his receivers in their hands, leading them or placing the pass in an area where they could avoid danger. He would still have to deliver a pass on target, which he regularly did, but was not the best at hitting them in stride. Completing 71% of your passes in your senior season is incredible, but he was not challenged as much as many of the other quarterbacks in the draft.

Mayfield rarely had to throw into tight windows, and when he did it rarely ended well.

Throws like those are ones he will have to make on a regular basis at the next level and he still hasn’t shown he can make them. While there is no reason to believe that he will not be able to quickly learn a new offense, make reads against a pro defense and complete tight window throws, we have no proof that he can yet and he is less experienced at doing so than the likes of Josh Rosen or Jackson.


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Whichever team drafts Mayfield will be getting a great player with a lot of talent. They will also have to find a way to refine his game without hurting his creativity. Teach him how to play like a disciplined NFL quarterback, while also not extinguishing the fire within him that makes him such a great player. Mayfield’s ceiling may not be as high as Rosen, Josh Allen or Sam Darnold, but he has the tools necessary to be a great NFL quarterback today.

He is definitely going to be selected within the top 20, and he will most likely end up in New York playing for either the Jets or Giants. My favorite landing spot for him is a little later in the draft, going to the Arizona Cardinals at pick 15, where he can spend the early parts of the season sitting behind Sam Bradford before fully taking over the offense later in the year.

 

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Lamar Jackson; the most dynamic QB in the NFL draft

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All 24 of Jimmy Grahams 2017 Redzone targets

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Lamar Jackson; the most dynamic QB in the NFL draft

Game Film, Gif Breakdowns, NCAA Football, NFL, NFL Draft

Lamar Jackson is the most exciting player in college football. The Louisville Cardinals quarterback and 2016 Heisman winner threw for 3660 yards, a career high, and 27 touchdowns in 2017. He added 1600 yards, also a career high, and 18 touchdowns on the ground in his third season. While the Cardinals struggles in 2017 caused Jackson to take a step out of the spotlight, the quarterback may have been even better last year than he was in 2016.

Before we continue I am dispelling any talk the Jackson should switch to wide receiver. No. He is a quarterback and a damn good one.

The most remarkable skill in Lamar Jackson’s toolbox is his incredible speed, agility, athleticism and overall ability as a runner. Read options were a significant part of the Cardinals offense and Jackson’s running prowess may have been the most important aspect of Louisville’s attack last season.


Related: Josh Allen might be the most interesting prospect in the draft


In last years meeting against the Clemson Tigers, arguably the biggest game of the team’s season, the Cardinals offense was entirely stagnant until Jackson gave them a jump start with his feet.

The second the Tigers defensive end took a step inside Jackson took off. Just that slight bit of space is all he needed, and his explosiveness helped him get to the second level before the defense could react.

Jackson mastered these plays. He rarely ran himself into trouble and did a good job handing the ball off when an opportunity for him to run didn’t open. He is a quick thinker and he is even faster on his feet. If the edge defender even bites a bit on the read, Jackson keeps the ball for himself. Give him even the slightest crease and he’s suddenly gone.

Even when the plays weren’t designed for Jackson to keep the ball for himself he still often made plays on his feet. The Cardinals poor offensive line, combined with Louisville’s receivers having trouble getting open, left the quarterback having to improvise on a regular basis.

Jackson has incredible pocket presence. He manages to avoid pressure with ease while still keeping his eyes downfield. The quarterback does not seem to get spooked by the slightest bit of pressure and goes through his progressions and still manages to make great decisions. Many athletic passers have the tendency to drop all focus on their receivers and bolt when they’re in hot water, Jackson does not. His speed allows him to avoid the rush and turn upfield to make huge gains out of plays that shouldn’t gain anything.

The quarterback doesn’t totally abandon the pass once he takes off, though. He can complete passes on the move and does not fully need to set his feet to deliver a great ball.

Being able to throw on the run keeps the defense honest, and even open more opportunity to take off on your feet. Defenses sprinting forward to contain Jackson when he bolts out of the pocket opens up receivers downfield. If the deeper defenders do not come forward, though, they are susceptible to giving up huge yardage.


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Everyone knows that Jackson can run, though. Majority of the highlights of his you see on the likes of SportsCenter and Twitter are plays the dynamic player makes with his feet. This leads many to believe that he is a run first quarterback.

That notion is false.

Jackson is an incredible pocket passer, and arguably one of the best pocket passers in all of college football.

Louisville runs a pro-style passing offense. Coach Bobby Petrino’s offense focused on quick passes and the receivers ran a variety of quick in, quick out and curl routes. This offense forced Jackson to quickly process the defense, spot the open receiver and make a quick and accurate pass as soon as the receiver breaks on their route. These passes need to be accurate not only to get to the receiver but also to hit his man in stride to maximize the yards run for after the catch.

The quarterback thrived in this offense. He was able to release the ball quickly and safely and rarely threw troublesome passes on these shorter routes.

Throws like these should have offensive coordinators around the league salivating. Quicker shorter passes keep the defenses on their toes and the offense on schedule. These plays punish a team in they drop too far into zone coverage and if the defense is caught off guard occasionally they can bust for a huge gain.

Jackson can do more than just throw these shallow routes, though. He has an amazing arm and is not scared to test defenses downfield. When given a clean pocket and room to step into throws the quarterback can absolutely torch teams downfield.

His arm talent his severely underrated, and occasionally overshadowed by all of the work he does with his legs. Even if Jackson was not an athletic freak of nature, he would still be a great quarterback prospect based on his arm alone.


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The biggest mark against Jackson, though, was his 60% accuracy in his final year at Louisville. Some of his poor accuracy can be attributed to the failures of the talent around him. His offensive line was atrocious last season and his receivers had trouble bringing in routine passes.

Not all of his struggles can be on his team, though. Jackson’s deep ball failed him on occasion and he missed a few throws really badly. Throws would float on him at times, and overthrowing receivers over the middle can be low hanging fruit for an interception to an attentive free safety. Majority of his interceptions last season came on balls that were overthrown.

These types of throws happen often when a quarterback tries to throw off of his backfoot without properly stepping through his passes. This is a coachable flaw, though, and one that many college QBs carry entering the NFL.

Jackson is one of the best quarterbacks in the draft and is definitely a first-round talent. The player he is today is a quality starter in the NFL. His combination of arm talent and his ability as a runner give him an extremely high ceiling. The quarterback is 6’3, but at 205 lbs he will definitely need to learn how to protect his body well when finishing runs, as he tends to fall into hits often when he could instead slide to protect his body, but that is also a coachable skill. He is not the biggest or strongest option at quarterback in the draft, but definitely the most dynamic of the bunch.

The New York Giants provide an ideal fit for Jackson at #2. They already run a similar offense to Louisville. Weapons like Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Sheppard could thrive with Jackson at QB and with Eli Manning’s career coming to a close this is probably their best chance to find an adequate long-term replacement.

Other good options for Jackson include the Arizona Cardinals and Buffalo Bills. No matter where he lands, the team that drafts Jackson may be getting a special talent that could take over the league.

 

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Josh Allen is the most interesting prospect in the 2018 draft

Game Film, Gif Breakdowns, NCAA Football, NFL, NFL Draft

Mansur Shaheen

Josh Allen is the most polarizing prospect in the 2018 NFL draft. The Wyoming quarterback is being mocked by ESPN’s Mel Kiper to be the #1 pick, while many others believe he shouldn’t even be selected in the top 10. He measured at 6’5, 233 lbs at the NFL combine and that combination of size and his athleticism make him a scouts dream. On the other hand, the quarterback was statistically awful last season in a weak Mountain West conference. Allen completed 56% of his passes and threw 16 touchdowns compared to six interceptions. His best games all came against lower level teams, such as Gardner Webb and Texas State. He only played against 2 power five teams in 2017 and combined for a 50% completion rate, a touchdown and three interceptions in his teams biggest games.

When looking at his game splits you can see how badly Allen struggled when playing against quality opponents. Outside of a great bowl game performance against Central Michigan, he was awful against winning teams. One thing to consider, though, is how bad the rest of the Wyoming roster is. Allen sat out the last game of the Cowboys regular season against a terrible San Jose St. team and a 7 win Wyoming team fell to their lesser foes.

Allen notably told reporters “stats are for losers” at a senior bowl press conference referring to his poor numbers not matching up to his draft stock. While I do not agree, stats can be misleading especially in college football where the talent discrepancy between teams is larger than ever.

And that’s why we are here.

Stats can lie to us, film can’t.


Related: Patrick Mahomes is ready to take over the Chiefs offense


Allen can do things that no other quarterback in this draft can. He has a cannon for an arm and the confidence that he can make every throw.

Even when he is off balance he can manage to draw enough power to let it rip for a huge gain. His form at times fails him and he does not properly step into passes, but he can still gather enough power to get the ball where he needs. Allen is coming out of college as a similar prospect to Patrick Mahomes out of Texas Tech last season. The Wyoming quarterback just happens to be bigger, faster, stronger and have an even bigger cannon for an arm.

Poor form and his over-willingness to throw off of his backfoot cost him at times. He doesn’t step into his throws as well as he should even when he has space too. This leads to passes often sailing on him or falling at the feet of his receivers.

As much as many would love to blame Allen’s teammates for his low completion percentage, the main reason he couldn’t complete passes in college was because of his own inaccuracy. Bad form leads to bad passes and it is legitimately concerning how often he overthrows receivers.

Beyond just incompletions, some of Allen’s completions are also passes that he could do much better on. Wyoming’s offensive scheme focuses mainly on their receivers running a lot of comeback and curl routes. Majority of passes that Allen threw last season were on those routes where his target would have their back facing the end zone. The proper way to throw these passes is to either place it towards the receiver’s stomach, so they can secure the pass while they potentially get hit from behind, or just in front of them, so they can step up into the catch and quickly whip around to run after the catch. Placing passes high and above a receiver’s chest area forces them to expose their body to a hit they can not see as they try to make the grab.

He also at times throws the pass to far in front of his target, forcing them to come to far forward for the catch. This can cause a 10 yard route to only gain 6 yards and put the receiver in a tricky spot after they make a catch.


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Allen’s confidence sometimes gets the best of him as well. He throws terrible passes at times when he really does not need to. The quarterback does not always go all the way through his progressions and can get in trouble passing to a blanketed receiver despite having no pressure in the pocket. He zeroes in on guys and stares them down at times. Occasionally he will just rip the ball towards a receivers feet for absolutely no reason.

Another knock on Allen comes before he even releases the ball. While he is mobile and can take a hit, his pocket awareness is lacking. Occasionally as rushers close in on him he will not even notice their presence until it is too late.

Allowing rushers to get with him so easily allows unnecessary sacks, and also leaves him more vulnerable to being strip-sacked as he is not tucking the ball away to brace for impact.

Allen often gets put into motion in the Wyoming offense. They run a variety of read option plays and bootleg’s that roll him out of the pocket. His awareness will fail him in some of these situations as well. The quarterback often runs himself into defenders, taking an unneeded sack when he can either throw the ball away or just run in a different direction.

The quarterback does not give himself up often either. He allows himself to take unnecessary hits instead of surrendering himself at the end of runs. While this does speak to his immense toughness and confidence, it leaves him extremely vulnerable to big hits and fumbles.

Wyoming did not have the greatest offensive line last season. Allen was under pressure often and had the terrible habit of trying to escape the pocket backward. This leaves him less of an escape route, costs him more yardage in case he gets sacked and leaves him more vulnerable to an intentional grounding call.

While he does occasionally run himself into bad situations, Allen is still an exceptional runner. Wyoming relied on his ability as a runner a lot last season. He never looked scared to keep the ball himself, put his shoulder down and become a power runner similar to Cam Newton. He has decent speed and agility for his size as well and can beat teams running off the edge.

His ability to run combined with his size can also lead to some wild plays, like this (eventual) sack against Iowa.

It can also lead to some spectacular, hard to believe passes. This touchdown against Boise State shows how special of a player he truly is.


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So what can we expect from Allen at the next level?

Of the top five QB prospects, Allen possibly has the highest ceiling. He is the biggest, strongest and probably has the best arm of the group. At his peak, I could see him be a better Matthew Stafford.

Unfortunately, he also has the lowest floor. He is currently the least accurate of the group. His football instincts are lacking, and he seems to rely way too much on his physical gifts rather than proper football form. I could say that this works on a college level but won’t in the NFL, but it didn’t even work at the college level.

Allen did not play on a very good team but he did not seem like he was enough to tip the scales against mid-tier opposition. He was awful against both Oregon and Iowa, and Boise State managed to keep him uncomfortable all night when they met. It would be hard to argue that Wyoming had any quality wins last season. His floor is lower than any of the other prospects, and there is a very real chance that he just never picks up on some of the mental skills needed to play quarterback in the NFL.

I would grade him as a day two pick. Based on positional value alone, though, he will most likely be picked in the top 20. Whoever drafts him will have to be patient and realize that he may need a few years to really get up to speed. Within the top 20, I believe the Baltimore Ravens are the ideal landing spot. Baltimore is still stuck in an awful Joe Flacco contract for at least two more years. Their offense is in rebuilding mode and John Harbaugh can begin to groom the successor to Flacco.

Wherever he goes, the team that selects Allen might hit on a future hall of fame, but it also can prove to be a costly investment.

 

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Robby Anderson can become a star

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All 24 of Jimmy Grahams 2017 Redzone targets

Robby Anderson made his presence in the NFL known in 2017

Game Film, Gif Breakdowns, NFL

Mansur Shaheen

Robby Anderson was a revelation for the New York Jets in 2017. New York was pegged to be the worst team in the leagues entering last season. Some even believed that they would end up 0-16. When Quincy Enunwa went down before the season started, many feared that the Jets had lost the only play maker on their roster. Enter Robby Anderson.

Anderson went undrafted out of Temple in 2016. He earned a roster spot after an impressive training camp for the Jets, and played in all 16 games his rookie year. He was surprisingly productive in his first season, topping 500 yards and 40 receptions.

He was still overlooked for the most part entering 2017, and was not on the national radar at all. Enunwa going down would end up opening the door for him, though. Anderson caught 63 passes on 114 targets for 941 yards, all career highs. He had 17 receptions that went for over 20 yards last season, and three catches for over 40 yards. Six of his seven touchdowns came from more than 20 yards out as well.


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Anderson is an incredible deep threat. He is most efficient on vertical routes, and as expected his incredible speed is his greatest asset.

Every time he is on the field Anderson brings the threat that he can scorch a defense for a huge gain. He has attracted the attention of some of the best CB’s in the league and even been able to leave them in his dust.

On this play Anderson is lined up against AJ Bouye, arguably the best cornerback in the NFL. Bouye is known for is incredible technique and footwork, but still gets caught flat footed by Anderson here. Anderson comes off of the snap and takes his first step inside. He stabs in after a few yards, then gets his hips low and quickly changes direction to break his route downfield. Bouye is quick to recover after falling behind for a moment but is still way behind is man. The ball is slightly underthrown, which allows the corner back into the play and keeps the receiver out of the end zone.


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Even when given a cushion defensive backs have trouble keeping up with Anderson when he takes off with his blazing speed.

The Dolphins give Anderson a 7 yard cushion on this play and drop into cover 3 zone. Anderson takes off on a hitch route off of the snap, and before the safety or the corner can even react he manages to split their zones and find himself wide open for a touchdown. This play was way to easy for the Jets but plays like these can happen when a defense falls asleep for a split second against a player with this kind of speed.

While a majority of his highlight plays are on deeper routes downfield, the Jets use Anderson in a variety of ways. One of the best ways to attack a team that is playing off coverage on your deep receiver is to run deep curls and comeback routes. These types of routes keep the opposing corner on their heels, as if they leave to much space for the receiver upfield then the other team can get a quick 10 yard gain. If you don’t leave a cushion, though, you are liable to getting torched downfield for even more.

New York took advantage of that concept on this play.

Anderson is split wide to the right on this play against the Cleveland Browns. It looks at first as though Anderson was just running a go route to keep the CB across from him out of the play. An extended play breaks out though, as Josh McCown is forced out of the pocket. The defensive back still left the cushion on Anderson intact, so he wouldn’t get lost in the commotion and beat them deep. The receiver instead runs a comeback and makes an easy wide-open catch with no one anywhere near him.


Related: All 24 of Jimmy Graham’s redzone targets in 2017


While majority of deep threats in the NFL mainly focus on longer routes, and the occasional comeback or curl to throw the defense off (notably Kenny Stills) the Jets used Anderson in a variety of ways in 2017.

Even when not running downfield Anderson’s ability as a route runner combined with the always existing threat of him beating teams deep allows him to throw defenses off of his trail with ease. On this play against the Falcons he slips through man coverage to get wide open.

Anderson is lined up in the slot here. The corner covering him has given him nearly 10 yards of cushion pre-snap. The receiver runs a slant route, while the other receivers run routes that divert the attention of the other defenders away from where Anderson will go. This leaves the corner on Anderson a lot of ground to cover in little time with absolutely no help. The receiver makes a simple catch in the flat and bursts up field into open space for a huge gain on the play. Plays like these are impossible if Anderson isn’t a threat for a deep touchdown on every play and will draw the defense in closer on subsequent plays opening more opportunities to beat them deep.

The Jets receiver thrives against one on one man coverage just as he does against zone. On this play against the Patriots, he embarrasses his opponent for a big gain.

Anderson is split wide to the right here. He takes off after the snap and angles his run inside. This pulls the corner, who gave him a huge cushion in man coverage, inside with him. He gets low and dips his hips inside, before flipping his body and breaking on his route outside. The defender gets lost on the play, and does a full spin to reorient himself and find Anderson again. It is too late, though, and the receiver gets wide open for a simple catch near the sideline for a big gain.

The Jets should be a better team in 2018. Enunwa should be back, they are one of the final teams in the race for Kirk Cousins and they have a top ten pick in the draft. There still are many holes on the roster, and they did slightly overperform in 2017, though.

Anderson should be a part of their long-term rebuild, and as the remainder of the AFC East begin to put together teams that will hopefully become contenders once the Tom Brady era comes to an end. The receiver does have some off the field issues, though. A bad run in with the police at the beginning of the offseason was the beginning of what has turned into a tumultuous offseason for him. It would be unwise for the Jets to release him, as the offenses were minor, but much of the fanbase and maybe even some in the front office have turned their back on the receiver.

Despite all of his talent, Anderson may not be a Jet in 2018. It would be a huge loss for New York, though, and if he can clean up his act Anderson has the potential to be a scary weapon for any team.

 

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Marlon Mack is legit

Pat Mahomes is ready to take the Chiefs to the next level

 

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Marlon Mack makes your Saquon Barkley to the Colts mock draft look bad

Game Film, Gif Breakdowns, NFL, NFL Draft

Mansur Shaheen

Turmoil, heavy roster turnover and front office malpractice have haunted the Indianapolis Colts in the post Peyton Manning era. With all these distractions around, many may be forgetting about one of the young gems on their roster, Marlon Mack.

The Colts enter the NFL draft with the third overall pick after a tumultuous 2016. Quarterback Andrew Luck ended up missing the entire season after a long drawn out injury saga. Their offensive line remains one of the worst in the league and despite flashes from back up Jacoby Brisset, who they acquired from New England right before the season, their offense was still lackluster.

The public still doesn’t really know the status of Luck’s shoulder, and whether he will start week 1 in 2018. Luck is still a special talent at QB when he is on the field, and despite a deep QB draft class, the Colts will be looking elsewhere at #3.

Veteran Frank Gore has been a small bright spot for the Colts, but he is a free agent this offseason and the oldest running back in the league is not expected to return. Saquon Barkley, a human highlight reel out of Penn State, has been a hot name in mock drafts for Indianapolis. With so many needs for the Colts on the defensive side of the ball, especially in the front seven, picking Barkley may be a waste.

Especially when they have a player like Mack already on the roster.

Mack was drafted by the Colts in the fourth round of the 2017 draft coming from South Florida. He was drafted to be a perfect compliment to Gore. While Gore does much of his running grinding his way between the tackles, Mack excels bouncing runs to the outside.

The rookie running back had a career day week 5 against the San Francisco 49ers. He accrued 91 yards on 9 carries and scored a touchdown. When he was given adequate room to operate off the edge he can torch a defense for huge plays downfield. He had a few big runs this game off the edge, and they accounted for the bulk of his yardage.

His lone touchdown on the day is a good example of the danger he brings running horizontally.

Mack takes the hand off out of the backfield and initially angles towards his left. A defender comes flying through the gap, and he quickly switches to the right where there is another gap. Once he gets into open space the race is on. He has great vision, and sees another defender coming towards him around midfield. The running back swings his run out wide, around a blocker on the edge. Two defenders end up crashing into each other as he perfectly uses the block to his advantage and finds the sideline and then the end zone for a touchdown.

While that run is the one that shows up on the scoreboard, his preceding rush may be even more impressive.

Mack takes the hand off and instantly runs horizontally towards the right side. The blocking in front of him helps seal the edge and allow him to stretch outside, but the 49ers still have a corner back playing run contain that he must beat. He head fakes as if he is going to turn upfield, but instead swings the run outside, impressively beating a man in space. Mack gets to the second level before being run out of bounds for an 11 yard gain.

The South Florida product works extremely well in open space. He has great open field vision and anticipation, and the agility and burst to take advantage of the opportunities he sees.

While his open field running his great, he is a liability running between the tackles.

On this play Mack had a hole open in front of him and failed to take advantage. He takes the hand off and should have tried to run through the play side A gap that was opening in front of him. Instead, he dances around in the backfield for a second hesitating and most likely looking for an opportunity to bounce the run outside. The hole is quickly closed, and he is swallowed up in the back field for a loss on the play.

Mack seems almost scared of contact at times. Even in the open field, he does not finish runs well and instead is content with getting shoved easily out of bounds or shoved over rather than powering through hits. He measures in at 5’11, 213 lbs, similar to between the tackles back Frank Gore. He is a little slimmer, but he is not small enough to be so hesitant to take hits.

Patrick Mahomes is ready to lead the Chiefs

Game Film, Gif Breakdowns, NFL

Mansur Shaheen

The Kansas City Chiefs may have made the biggest move of the 2018 offseason before it even began. In the days leading up to the Super Bowl they traded quarterback Alex Smith to the Washington Redskins for a 3rd round pick and cornerback Kendall Fuller.

Smith had been the quarterback for the Chiefs for the past five years since he arrived from San Francisco via trade. He turned the Chiefs into a routine playoff contender and won at least 11 games in three of his seasons as a starter. The writing was on the was on the wall for Smith, though. Kansas City were set to enter the offseason with -$8 million in cap space and needed to clear out space if they wanted to be active at all in free agency and the draft.

Kansas City traded up in the first round of the 2017 draft to take Patrick Mahomes 10th overall out of Texas Tech. He sat behind Smith for the 2017 season, as his senior quarterback was named to a pro bowl and even was in the MVP discussion early in the year. With the AFC West having been wrapped up already he was given the nod to start the Chiefs final game of the season against the Denver Broncos in week 17.

The week 17 match up was the first game action Mahomes had seen since preseason, and he showed some development after spending a year on the bench. Kansas City was not scared to give him the reigns of the offense, letting him throw 35 times. He completed 22 of his attempts (completed 62.9% of his passes) for 284 yards and threw an interception.

Coming out of Texas Tech, Mahomes was most well known for his arm strength. He has a cannon attached to his right shoulder, and can fire off bullet passes even when while draped with defenders.

On this play against the Broncos he used his great core strength to swing off a defender coming in for a sack. As he attempts to regain his balance and step up in the pocket he see’s a receiver break open up field, and fires a bullet pass towards him.

Mahomes was never able to reset his feet, so all of the power that was put into this pass was from his arm. Throwing a pass that hard, that fast and that accurately off of your arm is not something that many quarterbacks can do.

Arm strength alone is not the only important part of these incredible off balance passes Mahomes let fly with ease. His footwork and navigational skill from within the pocket is better than you would expect from a rookie.

On this play, the Denver pass rush gets through the initial pass protection with a stunt. As the defenders burst into the backfield Mahomes remains calm. He quickly sidesteps the first rusher and treads towards his left. As the second rusher comes for him on that side he deke’s back towards the middle and gets off a pass before the rushers can converge on him.

The most impressive part about this play is what Mahomes does with his eyes. His eyes stay down field the entire time. He still goes through his progressions and manages to spot the open man. The Texas Tech product manages to extend the play without having to leave the pocket, and still delivers a great bullet pass, perfectly placed for his receiver.

His arm strength and ability to throw off balance combined with his great navigation in the pocket allows him to make high level throws.

Kansas City runs a play action on this play. The two edge rushers come flying around the sides of the pocket, and both have a step and a path to Mahomes. The quarterback senses the pressure coming from both sides and slides up into the pocket. He again keeps his eyes down field while doing so and spots an open receiver. Mahomes puts an off balance pass on a rope, and hits his receiver throwing off of one foot.

One issue that does arise in his game, though, is his ball placement when he does get the ball to his receiver. Mahomes does not lead receivers well and usually aims his passes in a straight line between him and the receiver. Every single one of the above passes forced the receiver to turn their back fully towards the end zone to make a catch, and when they caught it their momentum was carrying them backwards. This play near the end zone is another great example.

This pass was supposed to be a quick out to the receiver, where he could potentially follow a blocker into the end zone and dive towards the pylon for a touchdown. Instead, Mahomes throws the ball behind the receiver. He is forced to turn around in order to catch the ball, and the defensive back on that side is able to get behind the blocker and take him down for minimal gain.

Mahomes should have thrown this pass towards the sideline and slightly in front of the receiver. This would allow him to make a catch on the run and still have a chance to align himself behind his lead blocker. The poor throw might as well have been an incompletion.

Mahomes has potential to a be special talent for the Kansas City Chiefs, though. He made this throw early in the game which should have every fan excited.

This ball is perfectly placed between the defenders and his receiver comes down with a great catch. Mahomes made a few of these tight window throws against Denver, and his accuracy has already shown great improvements from his college days as a Red Raider.

It is time for a new era in Kansas City football. Trading Smith was not the only tough decision they will have to make this offseason, and many of their older veterans on the defensive side of the ball may find themselves looking for a new home this spring as well. The Chiefs became one of the pioneers of the new age, college style offense last season and have a wealth of young budding talent including Tyreek Hill and rookie rushing champion Kareem Hunt. Mahomes will now be the new leader of what has potential to be a revolutionary offense in the KC.

 

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More from Bird Breakdowns:

The Chiefs use Kareem Hunt perfectly

It’s Pat Mahomes season in Kansas City, and he is up to the challenge

 

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Aaron Donald vs the world; how the defensive tackle terrorized the Falcons

Game Film, Gif Breakdowns, NFL

Mansur Shaheen

The Los Angeles Rams saw their wonderful run this season came to an abrupt end when they fell to the Atlanta Falcons in the opening game of the NFC playoffs. Their offense was inefficient and could not get by a stiff Falcons defense. Despite troubles on offense they managed to stay in the game until the end due to an incredible job by the Rams defense.

Los Angeles was able to hold the Falcons to field goals for a majority of the game, not allowing Atlanta to fully pull away from a struggling Rams team. Quarterback Matt Ryan was forced to operate under pressure almost all game, and they had trouble running between guards.

Much of this was the doing of defensive tackle Aaron Donald.

If you care enough about football to be reading a film breakdown in the first place you have heard of Aaron Donald and know his reputation around the league. Donald is arguably the best defensive player in the NFL, and was recently named a near unanimous first team all pro. Saturday night was his first shot at putting his skills to test in the postseason, and he showed why he is regarded so highly around the NFL.

Pro Football Focus credits Donald with 10 hurries and a sack during the game, 9 of the hurries coming during the first half. He was consistently in Ryan’s face and the interior pressure he created helped his edge rushers create pressure of their own.

It did not take the Rams star interior lineman long to get going. He registered pressures on the first two defensive snaps of the game and kept Ryan on his heels near his own goal line.

Donald showed his versatility on those plays. While he usually lines up on the interior of the defensive line, where his brute force and strength allow him to bully the quarterback and push him out of the pocket. Despite his incredible size and strength, Donald still manages the speed necessary to become a dangerous edge rusher, where he can close around the pocket fast to land hits on the quarterback. He can line up anywhere on the defensive front and be an absolute terror for an opposing offense.

The Falcons offense was seemingly stuck in the mud for the early stages of the game. They only managed 16 yards on their first three possessions, as they could not get by Donald and Los Angeles’s defense.

On this play later in the first quarter of the Rams wild-card matchup, Donald gets the defense off the field on third down.

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Donald is lined up as a defensive tackle as a part of Los Angeles five-man front on the play. His first punch deflects the hands of the guard in front of him. He catches a slap to the head, but is virtually unbothered as he blows by his opponent. Falcons center Alex Mack (No. 51), who was named first-team All-Pro by Bird Breakdowns last week, can not react in time switching on to Donald. Mack is late because he was distracted by the feigned blitz from one of the linebackers. Donald gets through the Falcons ranks with ease and barrels towards Ryan. The quarterback see’s him and attempts to slide away. With the defensive tackle breathing down his neck he is forced to throw an off balanced pass to his running back, which falls incomplete.

The ability to dispatch of blocks like they are nothing more than just speed bumps on the way to the quarterback make Donald a terror. He has incredible technique and can hand fight in the trenches better than anyone. He is a smart pass rusher and knows how to counter the first move of an offensive lineman as well as anyone, as he did on this second quarter play.

On this play, Donald is lined up in a similar spot in the same five-man front. Wes Schweitzer (No. 71) is the guard across from Donald here. The offensive lineman takes a few steps back off of the snap and eventually makes his first move to the defender. He leans in for the initial punch, and Donald embarrasses him. Donald uses a great swim move on Schweitzer’s shoulder and flings him to side with ease. Mack comes around to help, but the defensive tackle brute forces through him en route to the quarterback. Donald meets a teammate in the backfield as they join together to take down Ryan for a sack.

While Donald has a knack to stuff the box score himself, his pressure on the interior also creates plays for his teammates.

On this play, Donald is again lined up on the interior. He paths wide of his pass rush, helping the defensive end of the side overload the left side of the line of scrimmage, and open up space for a stunt on the inside. The overload from Donald, combined with the edge rusher from the other side, helps push Ryan into the pocket. With the pass rush behind him, the quarterback tries to make a play with his feet, and end up getting chased down from behind by the pass rushers.

While a majority of the plays that Donald makes are in pass rush, he is also an amazing run stuffer.

Tevin Coleman (No. 26) takes the handoff from Ryan on this second quarter play. He heads into the right side a gap. The Falcons pull a guard to help block on the play, and Coleman uses his agility to dodge the first potential tackler. Schweitzer is yet again on Donald and does a decent job creating space for Coleman. As the running back reaches his gap, Donald manages to shed his block and wrap his arms around the running back from behind and just tear him to the ground.

Donald’s run stuffing ability does not fill up the stat sheet the same way his pass rushing does, but he may be better against the run than he is when rushing the passer. His great instinct allows him always shed blockers and leverage himself to be in position to attack the runner.

While he had a great game, all of these plays by Donald were made during the first half. He was still an active pass rusher in the second half but was not as fearsome. He only registered one pressure after half time and had trouble getting to the quarterback. He was facing double teams pretty much all night, and while he managed to tear through them early on in the game he wore down. Just the pure gravity of having him stuffing up the middle allows his teammates more opportunity, but after Michael Brockers left the game with an injury the entire Rams defense began to slowly falter.

Donald is only 26 and should only get better over the next few years. He has a year left on his rookie contract with the Rams, and there are questions as to whether he will return in 2019. He held out of the early stages of training camp last summer, and if he does not receive an extension this year one of the most attractive free agents in the league may hit the market Spring 2019.

If Los Angeles does retain him, though, then they have found a centerpiece of what is a young, budding and exciting defense that can terrorize the NFL for years to come.

 

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Jared Goff was a new man in 2017

Adrian Clayborn had a career day against the Cowboys

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2017 NFL Awards

NFL, NFL Awards

As we close the book on yet another NFL season, here at Bird Breakdowns I have decided to hand out a few awards to some of the best players I watched this season. Listed below are the official Bird Breakdowns end of season awards and NFL All Pro lists.

Because I am a Lions fan and absolutely love including them in things, I have also put together an All-NFC North team.

 

Most Valuable Player:

Todd Gurley (RB-Rams)

Runners Up:

Tom Brady (QB-Patriots)

Carson Wentz (QB-Eagles)

Russel Wilson (QB-Seahawks)

 

Defensive Player of the Year:

Aaron Donald (DT-Rams)

Runners Up:

Cameron Jordan (DE-Saints)

Bobby Wagner (LB-Seahawks)

Calais Campbell (DE-Jaguars)

 

Rookie of the Year:

Alvin Kamara (RB-Saints)

Runners Up:

Kareem Hunt (RB-Chiefs)

Deshaun Watson (QB- Texans)

Leonard Fournette (RB-Jaguars)

 

Defensive Rookie of the Years

Marshon Lattimore (CB-Saints)

Runners Up:

Tre’Davious White (CB-Bills)

Myles Garret (DE-Browns)

T.J. Watt (LB-Steelers)

 

Coach of the Year

Sean McVay (Rams)

Runners Up:

Doug Pederson (Eagles)

Mike Zimmer (Vikings)

Sean Payton (Saints)

 

Most Improved Player

Jared Goff (QB-Rams)

Runners Up:

Carson Wentz (QB-Eagles)

Nelson Agholor (WR-Eagles)

Kevin Byard (FS-Titans)

 

Underrated Player of the Year (Player who I believed received the least amount of national attention for how great they were this season)

Micah Hyde (SS-Bills)

Runners Up:

Glover Quin (FS-Lions)

Nelson Agholor (WR-Eagles)

Jimmy Smith (CB-Ravens)

 

 

NFL All Pro

Offense

Defense

 

All NFC List

Offense

Defense

I covered the NFL all year on Bird Breakdowns, you can find all of the film breakdowns here! I am always on twitter discussing NFL news and opinions, follow me here!