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.

Jared Goff is a brand new player in 2017

Game Film, Gif Breakdowns, NFL

Mansur Shaheen

Last winter I chose to do a film breakdown on a lot of the crucial players on a few bad teams. I chose many rookies, including Jordan Howard on the Bears and DeForest Buckner of the 49ers to highlight how good they were and how much they could bring to their team down the line. I decided to go a different direction with the Los Angeles Rams, though.

I chose Jared Goff.

Goff was arguably the worst quarterback in the league in 2016. He had an awful team around him but his decision making and mechanics were bad. I did not want to give up on him yet, but it seemed like it would be years before he at least became an average quarterback.

He has proved me wrong so far. Goff has completed 70% of his passes and has thrown five touchdowns through three games. His lone interception of the year came late in desperation against the Washington Redskins week two.

The Rams joined the San Francisco 49ers to put on a show on Thursday night football last week. They combined for 80 points in a game that went down to the wire. Goff put on a show for the national audience throwing for 292 yards and three touchdowns in what was his best game of his short career so far.

His best throw of the game was unfortunately dropped in the first quarter.

The Rams run a corner/vert combo on each side of the field with their running back running a shallow curl over the middle. The 49ers are in cover 2 man. Both of the 49ers linebackers drop in shallow coverage with the safeties behind them in zones of their own. Goff wants tight end Tyler Higbee running a vertical route into the end zone but the linebackers are blocking his throwing lane. He looks towards the shallow running back, which pulls one of the linebackers out of the way. He then throws a perfect bullet pass that should have been a touchdown had Higbee not dropped it.

The end result was not ideal but this is exactly what the Rams coaches want from their quarterback. His decision making and accuracy were questionable last year, but this play demonstrates a huge step forward for him. Last season he would have tried his best to sneak the ball over the linebacker. He clearly has increased his football IQ and has a better understanding. The pass itself was perfect, and one you would expect from the elite class of quarterbacks.

His deep ball was great all night for the second year quarterback. The Rams gave him the green light to let the ball fly downfield and his decision making and accuracy punished the 49ers defense.

The Rams run play action on this play against the 49ers blitz. Goff drops back to pass and his eyes instantly scan deep down the field. He sees Watkins has room ahead of his man. He delivers a great pass as he takes a hit from a defender and Watkins makes the catch for a huge gain.

Not only did Goff had the peace of mind to get that pass off despite the blitz, he placed it perfectly. The 49ers safety was coming over to help and should have gotten there in time to break up the play. He placed the ball towards the sideline instead of Watkins inside shoulder. Only the receiver could make a play on the ball and it gave him the ability to use his body as a shield to make sure he came down with it.

Goff would hook up with Watkins again late on a crucial touchdown, but it was a much shorter throw.

Goff again uses his eyes to clear room for his receiver here. Watkins and another receiver both run shallow curls, and there is a linebacker between them. The defender is in range to potentially break up a pass to either of them. Goff manages to look him off, causing him to clear the area. He darts the ball to Watkins who quickly turns upfield for a touchdown.

The second-year quarterback was not perfect, though. He sometimes would panic under pressure and get stuck on certain receivers. He had a tendency to always drop way back out of the pocket at the slightest signs of pressure and seemed scared to escape out of the pocket to the left. He also rarely steps up and into the pocket allowing the rush to close behind him.

On this play, he entirely misses an open man as he was too focused on his running back in the flat.

Goff drops back and has a clean pocket for the most part. The 49ers rush begins to come around the edge and the clock in his brain seems to go off. He stares down Todd Gurley the entire way and completes a pass to him that ends up losing a yard. Another receiver was wide open over the middle of the field, but Goff just never saw him. It did not cost the Rams much but being able to scan the entire field and not just panicking when the pressure still has not reached you are things that the young quarterback will have to work on over the next year.

It is clear that the improvements that Los Angeles made to the offensive line have done wonders for Goff. He is not spending the majority of his time just trying to escape the pocket with his life like he was last season, and has time to scan the field and deliver a good pass. When that protection does break down, though, he seems to struggle and make a few of the panicky mistakes you expect from a young quarterback.

Goff looks like an entirely different player this year, and the Rams look like a decent team that can steal a few games. With Seattle and Arizona struggling, a hot year from Goff could have the Rams competing for the NFC West title come winter.



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Why DeForest Buckner may be the future of the 49ers defense

Gif Breakdowns, NFL

Mansur Shaheen

After a slow start to the season, DeForest Buckner, along with the rest of the San Francisco 49ers roster, looked disappointing. The rookie had growing pains initially as he got used to the NFL, but towards the end of the season he finally found is form and took off as one of the leagues feared pass rushers.

Buckner has finally learned to utilize some of the raw talent we saw during his college football career in Oregon. He has shown great strength in coming off of blocks and has great closing speed when chasing down a scrambling quarterback.

During the Cardinals week 10 match up he showed both of these skills on this 3rd quarter play.

Buckner comes off of the snap fast and pushes off the first blocker to break towards the outside, this allows the edge rusher pull a stunt towards the inside. He then shoves off of the Cardinals left tackle, Jon Wetzel, and gets a free run at Carson Palmer who is rolling out of the pocket. Palmer is forced to throw it into coverage and is nearly intercepted.

Although Buckner ultimately made the hit on Palmer that forced a bad pass out of Palmer, the play was created by the interior rushers. Buckner, though, has the ability to create plays by himself using his speed and strength, as demonstrated on this week 14 play against the New York Jets.

DeForest Buckner is matched up one on one against Jets tackle Ben Ijalana on the edge. He makes a move towards the inside, then uses his agility and speed to beat Ijalana on the outside after pushing off of him. This gives him a free run at quarterback Bryce Petty for an easy sack.

He can make the same type of plays on the interior as well as he showed a few weeks later against the Los Angeles Rams. On this third quarter play, he throws off Rams Guard Jamon Brown, then quickly closes down on Jared Goff for a sack.

Jamon Brown had trouble blocking Buckner on the interior all day, and was again totally beaten allowing Buckner to reach the quarterback at the same time as his opposite edge rusher to force a bad throw from Jared Goff.

Even when he is properly blocked, Buckner’s closing speed can be an issue to offenses when a quarterback extends a play within the pocket.

On this second quarter play, Goff is forced to scramble from the pocket after his offensive line breaks down. Rams Center Tim Barnes does a good job keeping Buckner at bay initially, but as the play breaks down, Goff scrambles towards his right (away from Buckner). Buckner releases himself from his opponent, then manages to run across the entire play to hit Goff from behind as he throws. Goff still completes the pass, but his throw his short and behind the receiver leading to minimal gain. Buckners speed in getting across the formation helps hold the Rams to a minimal gain despite Goff escaping the first wave of rushers.

DeForest Buckner is obviously still not one of the NFL’s elite pass rushers yet, and may not be as good as his rookie counterpart Joey Bosa of the Chargers. He has had good games against some of the leagues weaker offensive lines, but has a tendency to fall into the background when facing harder opponents.   His late season form shows a lot of promise, though,  and he may have the potential to be one of the NFL’s elite pass rushers in the future. He has a lot of raw talent, great speed and as he becomes more accustomed to the NFL he should only get better over the next few years.

Not much from the 49ers 2016 showed promise for the future. Their defense is nothing like the unit they had put together just a few years ago that was key in a 2012 Super Bowl run. San Francisco will need to rebuild almost every part of their roster over the next few years, and Buckner may become a key piece to on their defensive line.


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Quickhit: The 49ers Problems in One Play

NFL, Quickhits

Mansur Shaheen

The Blaine Gabbert led San Francisco 49ers are 1-3 so far in 2016, and have lost three straight after hammering the Rams on the opening night of Monday Night Football. Many of the team’s faults rest upon their quarterback, who miraculously will still be starting over Colin Kaepernick in their match up against the Arizona Cardinals.

What’s wrong with Gabbert?

This one play alone from their game against the Cowboys last week displays a lot the issues many have seen that has fans calling for a change under center.

Trailing 7 to the Cowboys with less than two minutes to play, the 49ers faced a 4th and 6 and need to convert to keep their hopes of tying the game alive.

And they do that…


The 49ers lined up with trips at the top, Torrey Smith (#82), Quinton Patton (#11) and Jeremy Kerley (#17), and Garret Celek (#88) as a lone receiver on the other side. Carlos Hyde (#28) lined up alongside Gabbert in the backfield. The Cowboys had three down linemen, and Linebacker Justin Durant (#56) showed a blitz.

Upon the snap Durant and fellow linebacker Sean Lee (#50) both drop into man coverage, and the Cowboys rush three. Kerley runs a deep crossing route, long enough for the first down. Patton runs a corner route, long enough for the first down. Celek runs a curl, long enough for the first down. Hyde runs a curl out of the backfied, long enough for the first down.

Torrey Smith also ran an out route, which was initially long enough for the first, but when he had to move to get open for the then scrambling Gabbert, he moved 3 yard up field and at that point was way short of the first, with the Cowboys Morris Claiborne (#24) right behind him.

There are three huge issues for the 49ers on this play. First, Gabberts decision making. It’s 4th down and you know you need 6 yards. Smith takes some fault for shortening his route, but Gabbert should be aware enough to not throw to a receiver short of the sticks with a man lurking behind him. He had scrambled to the right side of the field, removing some of his options, but throwing a dangerous pass towards Patton downfield at least would give his team a chance. This has been a problem for Gabbert throughout the season. His lack of situational awareness leads to him throwing to the nearest man with any sort of room around him no matter how many yards the team needs on the play, and this time it costed them the game.

From this angle you get a good view of the pocket and what Gabbert saw, or should have seen, on the play. The Cowboys only rushed three, yet they still managed to put heavy pressure on Gabbert against five 49ers blockers. Joe Stanley (#74) got beat by Anthony Hitchens (#58) initially, but he managed to recover and push Hitchens behind the play. Every other 49ers lineman failed, though.

Both Terell McClain (#97) and Tyrone Crawford (#98) tried to go through Guard Andrew Tiller (#61), and Tiller did not receive much help. Zane Beadles (#68) does not really do anything on the play. He does not shift right to help with Crawford and McClain, and does not turn left to help out Stanley on Hitchens. The 49ers were running a zone blocking scheme, but if the play has developed and there is no one near you while your teammates are getting beaten it is your responsibility to shift into a different spot.

Crawford manages to burst through the double team of Tiller and Trent Brown (#77) and begins to chase after Gabbert. This allows McClain to release and also chase Gabbert.

Which brings the third thing that went wrong for the 49ers on the play. When Crawford breaks through his blocks, which should never have happened anyways, Gabbert chooses to scramble right.


On his right, Gabbert is facing two Cowboys defensive lineman, free of any blocks, chasing him. On his right, there is, now on his knees, Hitchens being handled by Stanley.


If Gabbert has chosen to run left at this exact moment, he would have had more room, and more options to throw too. He had Hyde, Celek and Kerleys route would have headed towards him over the middle. On the right there was more danger, and only Patton and Smith near the sideline.

This again shows Gabberts poor decision making, he chooses to run towards the oncoming pressure instead of away from it, and puts himself in a situation where his only legitimate option was a receiver short of the first down anyways.

Failing the fourth down pretty much ended the game. The Cowboys got the ball back and ran the clock out despite the 49ers two remaining time outs. This is just one of the many times already this season where Gabbert has costed the 49ers heavily, and with Kaepernick waiting in the wings, it seems that Chip Kelly made a mistake in choosing a quarterback this season.


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