Vols in the Pros: Season in review

Photo by Sumner Gilliam

Even though the 2017 season was a tough one to swallow for the current Volunteers and their fans, former players now playing in the NFL had a big year. Here’s a look at how all of the NFL Vols faired in 2017.

Baltimore Ravens

Long-snapper, Morgan Cox – Cox started all 16 games for the Ravens. The Ravens finished the season 9-7 and missed the playoffs.

Carolina Panthers 

Punter, Michael Palardy – Palardy played in all 16 games for the Panther, registering 71 punts. His average was 46 yards with a long of 63 yards. The Panthers finished the season 11-5 and lost to the Saints in the NFC Wildcard playoffs.

Cincinnati Bengals

Wide receiver, Josh Malone – In his rookie season, Malone played in 11 games and had six cathes for 63 total yards. The Bengals finished the season 7-9.

Cleveland Browns

Punter, Britton Colquitt – Colquitt played in all 16 games for the Browns and had 80 punts on the year. He had an average of 47.6 yards per punt with a long of 67 yards. The Browns finished the season 0-16.

Dallas Cowboys

Tight end, Jason Witten – Jason Witten finished his 15th season in the NFL with 63 receptions and 560 yards and five touchdowns. The Cowboys finished the season 9-7 and missed the playoffs.

Detroit Lions

Linebacker, Jalen Reeves-Maybin – Maybin finished his rookie season playing in 14 games with 30 combined tackles and 0.5 sacks. The Lions finished the season 9-7 and missed the playoffs.

Houston Texans

Linebacker, LaTroy Lewis – Lewis had three total tackles and one sack in his rookie season while playing in two games. The Texans finished the season 4-12 and did not make the playoffs.

Jacksonville Jaguars 

Defensive lineman, Malik Jackson – In his sixth season in the league, Jackson played in all 16 games for the Jags. He had 39 total tackles and eight sacks on the year. The Jaguars finished the season 10-6 and lost to the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game.

Tight end, Mychal Rivera – Rivera did not play in 2017 due to a hand injury. He was placed on IR and has not played since the 2016 season with the Oakland Raiders.

Kansas City Chiefs

Safety, Eric Berry – The all-pro safety Berry played in only one game in 2017 due to an Achilles tendon injury. In his only game played, Berry had seven tackles.

Quarterback, Tyler Bray – Bray played in one game and had one passing attempt in 2017.

Punter, Dustin Colquitt – In 2017, Colquitt played in all 16 games for the Chiefs. He had 65 punts on the year with an average of 45.2 yards and a long of 77 yards.

Offensive lineman, Zach Fulton – Fulton started in all of the Chiefs games in 2017. The Chiefs finished the season 10-6 and lost to the Titans in the opening round of the Wild Card playoffs.

Miami Dolphins

Offensive lineman, Ja’Wuan James – James played in all 16 games for the Dolphins in 2017. The Dolphins finished the season 6-10 and missed the playoffs.

New Orleans Saints

Running back, Alvin Kamara – Kamara burst onto the scene in his 2017 rookie season. With over 1,500 yards of total offense and 14 total touchdowns, Kamara earned the honor of Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2017. The Saints finished the season 11-5 and lost to the Vikings in the NFC Divisional Playoffs.

Oakland Raiders

Wide receiver, Cordarrelle Patterson – The electric return man Patterson finished the season with 19 kickoff returns, 968 total yards and two touchdowns.

Offensive lineman, James Stone – Stone played in the last two games of the season this year after sitting out all of 2016 with the Falcons due to injury. The Raiders finished the season 6-10 and did not make the playoffs.

Philadelphia Eagles

Defensive end, Derek Barnett – The Nashville native burst onto the scene in 2017 in his rookie season. Barnett finished the season with 23 total tackles and five sacks. He also had a fumble recovery returned for a touchdown in the week 15 matchup with Oakland. Barnett had a key fumble recovery in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl to seal the win for the Eagles. The Eagles finished the season 13-3 and won Super Bowl LII.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Quarterback, Joshua Dobbs – Dobbs did not play in any games in his 2017 rookie season.

Offensive lineman, Ramon Foster – Foster played in all 16 games for the Steelers in 2017.

Wide receiver, Justin Hunter – Hunter finished his fifth season in the league with four receptions, 23 yards, and one touchdown. Hunter only played in 7 games for the Steelers in 2017.

Defensive tackle, Daniel McCullers – In his fourth year in the league, McCullers played in five games with only one tackle on the year.

Corner, Cameron Sutton – In his rookie season, Sutton played in five games and finished with five combined tackles. Plagued by injury in 2017, Sutton looks to surge up the Steelers roster in 2018. The Steelers finished the year 13-3 and lost to Jacksonville in the AFC Divisional Playoffs.

Seattle Seahawks

Cornerback, Justin Coleman – The third-year corner finished 2017 with 42 combined tackles, two interceptions and two touchdowns. Seattle finished the season 9-7 and did not make the playoffs.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Defensive end, Robert Ayers – In his ninth NFL season, Ayers finished with 31 combined tackles and two sacks. The Buccaneers finished the season 5-11 and missed the playoffs.

Tennessee Titans

Tight end, Luke Stocker – Playing in nine games in 2017, Stocker had three catches for 18 yards and one touchdown. The Titans finished the season 9-7 and lost to the Patriots in the AFC Divisional Playoffs.

 

 Feature image courtesy of Sumner Gilliam

What the Eagles need to do in order to win the Super Bowl

The City of Brotherly Love is known for iconic movies, architecture and cheesesteaks. People of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania are best known, however, for their die-hard fandom no matter the sport. With their beloved Eagles playing in Super Bowl LII, the expectations are nothing less than to bring a championship back to Philly.

Whatever the outcome of Sunday’s game is, Philadelphia will burn to the ground. For Nick Foles and the Eagles to be named champions of the football world, there are three things that they must do.

DISRUPT BRADY AND THE PAT’S TEMPO

Tom Brady will go down as one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time. Many give him the title exclusively now even though he is not retired. A key part of Brady’s success is his ability to get his offense to the line and snap the ball before the defense has a chance to get set.

The Eagles defense, however, is not an average defense. Arguably having the best defense in the league from top to bottom, the Eagles will give New England its toughest test of the season.

During the season, the defense of the Eagles was one of the nastiest in all of football. Led by Fletcher Cox and Malcolm Jenkins, the boys from Philly have stopped just about everything that has been thrown at them. For much of the season, the Eagles defense was ranked in the top five in all of the NFL. Philly also ended the season in a four-way tie for the best record in the league with the Steelers, Vikings and Patriots.

The Eagles have been in the back field all year, no matter the opponent. They must continue their dominance and pressure Brady into making quick decisions. If they cannot knock Brady out of synch and disrupt his tempo, they will be in for a long night in Minneapolis.

BIG BOYS MUST PROTECT FOLES

Nick Foles was tasked with one of the toughest jobs when Eagles starter Carson Wentz went down with a leg injury. Not only would he have to be the Eagles’ starting quarterback now, but he would have to keep them in their winning ways and lead them to the Super Bowl.

Foles has been a reliable backup throughout his career, but no one thought that he would be able to lead the Eagles to the Super Bowl. Little did we know that is exactly what he would do. If Foles wants to win it all for Philly, his big boys will have to play the game of their life.

The Patriots have always had a defense that can take away your strength on offense at their will. Luckily for Foles and the Eagles, their offensive linemen are some of the best in the league.

If they can stop the pass rush of New England and give Foles time to make his reads, the Eagles will have a shot at victory.

Along with having one of the best offensive lines in the league, the Eagles also have a talented receiving core. Alshon Jeffrey, Torrey Smith, Nelson Agholor, and Zach Ertz look to tear up the Patriots secondary, but they can only do so if Foles has time to throw.

FORMER VOLS IN SUPER BOWL LII

There is only one school that has sent more players to the Super Bowl than Tennessee (61), and that is the University of Miami (62). The Vols have prided themselves on developing players and sending them off to the next level. This year, Super Bowl LII will only feature one former Vol, and he is only in his rookie season. His name is Derek Barnett.

The Nashville native looks to bring Philly its first Super Bowl victory in his rookie season. Coming out of Tennessee, Barnett passed Tennessee and Eagles great Reggie White as the school’s all-time leader in sacks. Barnett looks to reach another milestone in his young career on Sunday in making the Eagles Super Bowl Champions.

Edited by Ben McKee

Feature image courtesy of the Philadelphia Eagles

Eagles select Derek Barnett with the 14th overall pick

With the 14th selection in the 2017 NFL draft, the Philadelphia Eagles select the all-time sack leader at Tennessee, Derek Barnett.

This is a great fit for both Barnett and the Eagles. Defensive end served as one of the Eagles’ bigger team needs, as their talent level at the position is underwhelming outside of All-Pro talent Brandon Graham. In Jim Schwartz’s 4-3 defensive scheme, Barnett should be expected to replace Chris Long at the right defensive end position. Schwartz’s preference to use a Wide-9 defense and Barnett’s quick burst off the line makes him an intriguing fit to start opposite of Graham.

Despite the underwhelming athletic testing numbers, Barnett’s college production is enough to prove he’s an excellent football player, and one who will benefit from playing under Jim Schwartz. In Barnett’s pre-draft visit with the Eagles, the coaches told him they see a lot of Terrell Suggs in his game. That’s some high praise for the former Vol and explains why the Eagles were high enough on him to make Barnett their first-round selection.

Vol fans should be excited for the now-former Tennessee defensive end, and Eagles are surely even more ecstatic. Expect Barnett to contribute right away against both the run and pass and enjoy a lengthy career in Philadelphia.

Edited by Robert Hughes

Featured image by Alison P. McNabb, courtesy of Tennessee Athletics

Where Tennessee’s top draft prospects fit best

The 2017 NFL Draft is just a week away, and for the first time in two years, the Vols will be well-represented on draft day.

Tennessee has a handful of guys that are certain to be drafted, while a couple Vols could potentially sneak their way into the later rounds of the draft. With NFL teams searching for the next faces of their franchises, let’s look at where the Tennessee prospects would be good fits.

Derek Barnett:

 Best fits – Saints, Panthers, Bengals 

These three teams have one thing in common: they must upgrade their pass rush. Barnett would do just that for any NFL team, but especially these three. The Bengals finished 19th in sacks last season, while the Saints finished 27th in the league. With the departure of Kony Ealy in Carolina, the Panthers need an edge presence to replace his production. As a top-three pass rusher in this year’s draft class, Barnett would be an instant upgrade. With the Panthers picking at No. 8 and the Bengals picking at No. 9, don’t expect Tennessee’s all-time sack leader to make it out of the top 10.

Alvin Kamara:

Best fits – Eagles, Packers, Colts

Kamara is regarded as a borderline late first-round pick or an early second-round pick. Depending on the particular team’s grade, the former Vols running back could easily find himself being selected as early as the middle of the first round.

The Eagles, Packers, and Colts are in need of a dynamic running back that can take their offenses to the next level. Each of these teams has an excellent quarterback in place, and pairing them with Kamara could be deadly. Wentz, Luck, and Rodgers utilize the running back quite often in the passing game and Kamara is one of the best receiving backs in this year’s class. Dumping the ball off to Kamara on screen plays or in the slot allows him to do what he does best: make plays in the open field.

Josh Dobbs:

Best fits – Steelers, Patriots, Cardinals 

After a marvelous Tennessee career, Dobbs now takes his talents to the NFL, where he has the tools to be a successful pro. First things first: Dobbs would be best served to land with a team who is led by a veteran quarterback. Somewhere where he can sit for a year or two, learn from the best, and develop in the passing game would be ideal. Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger are nearing the end of their careers. Who better to learn from than a future Hall of Famer? Dobbs’ classy personality would be an excellent fit for two of the best organizations in all of sports.

After not having a true quarterbacks coach in Knoxville for much of his career, it would serve Dobbs best to land with a team whose coach has an offensive background. The Arizona Cardinals and Bruce Arians fit that bill perfectly. Arians has a fantastic track record when it comes to developing quarterbacks. He played an instrumental role in the development of Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck, Carson Palmer, and Roethlisberger. Expect Dobbs to sneak his way into the second round of the draft as NFL teams continue to fall in love with Tennessee’s former quarterback.

Josh Malone:

Best fits – Titans, Buccaneers

 After leading Tennessee in receiving yards, Malone declared for the draft following his junior campaign. Many are overlooking Malone, but his size and speed allow him to be a big target down the field for quarterbacks. Along with blowing the tops off of defenses on deep routes, Malone is also exceptional at making plays on shorter routes. If Malone can take his route running to the next level, there’s no reason he can’t be a starter in the NFL for a long time.

Who has young gunslingers and no vertical threats at wide receivers? That would be the in-state Titans, as well as the Buccaneers. Malone would be a fantastic deep threat on the other side of Mike Evans in Tampa Bay or Tajae Sharp in Nashville. Expect Malone to come off the board in the fourth or fifth round.

Cam Sutton:

 Best fits – Steelers, Chiefs, 49ers, Falcons

Sutton enters the NFL as a corner, but don’t be surprised if he ends up at safety. Thanks to his versatility, teams are falling in love with the former Tennessee defensive back.

The Chiefs, Steelers, 49ers, and Falcons are all in a situation where they would be wise to upgrade the defensive back position. Sutton carries himself like a pro in everything he does, and would can provide an instant impact. The Georgia native is an elite athlete, has great football instincts, and has excellent football IQ. Sutton also excelled as a punt returner in college, making him even more valuable to teams. Expect him to be drafted anywhere from the third to the fifth round.

Jalen Reeves-Maybin:

 Best fits – Dolphins, Raiders, Redskins, Lions

Reeves-Maybin decided to return for his senior season in Knoxville, but things didn’t go to plan. The Tennessee native missed almost all of the season due to a shoulder injury, and because of it, NFL teams are nervous to draft him. General managers and team executives love his football IQ and production, but because of his injury history, many question just how effective he’ll be in the NFL.

Reeves-Maybin is a tackle machine, and, if healthy, could provide a spark to a team that doesn’t tackle well. His speed and play recognition allowed him to lead Tennessee in tackles in 2014 and 2015. Reeves-Maybin is also an excellent special teams player, which would help him carve out a name for himself in the league.

Edited by Robert Hughes

Featured image by Donald Page, courtesy of Tennessee Athletics

Alternative Takes: SEC sacks mean everything

Photo by Sumner Gilliam

NFL scouts have the easiest job in the world.

We, the people, take their analysis as the holy grail of player evaluation, but if you think about it, literally anybody could do their job.

Over the years, the public has been fed a lie that scouts are fixated on watching countless hours of film and take into account every measurable known to man at the combine, but those are alternative facts. Instead, each position on the football holds a specific trait that scouts look out for. These traits are the indicators of success.

For example, quarterbacks are judged on their ability to roast Alabama, hence why Johnny Manziel should’ve been the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft and Deshaun Watson is the clear-cut top quarterback prospect in this draft.

For defensive ends, the litmus test is simple: SEC sacks.

I challenge anyone to name a more important stat in all of sports than SEC sacks. Women love them, men want to be them and Derek Barnett is the only player to ever record them.

Did you know that Barnett has more SEC sacks than Myles Garrett, the consensus No. 1 overall pick in the upcoming NFL Draft?

If you didn’t know, please create a Twitter account and get woke.

Barnett (allegedly) recorded 29 of his 33 career sacks against SEC teams, while Garrett (allegedly) only recorded 11 of his 31 sacks in conference play. Whip out your handy dandy TI-84 and you’ll see that roughly 88 percent of Barnett’s sacks are SEC sacks, compared to Garrett’s meager 35 percent.

So we can now automatically eliminate Garrett from being in contention for the top overall pick. That’s fake news. He doesn’t have enough SEC sacks to warrant such praise. He MIGHT be a third-round prospect at best (the number 3 is the first number in 35, so that’s how I decided that).

Now, I bet you’re wondering, why are SEC sacks so valuable?

First of all, Alabama could beat the Cleveland Browns, and Alabama plays in what conference?

The SEC.

Next, the SEC is the best conference by hundreds of sets of 5,280 feet. Lastly, the SEC features the strongest group of offensive lines if you ignore all seven teams in the SEC East.

The fact that Garrett couldn’t muster 45 of his 31 sacks in the lowly SEC West is actually enough to make me believe he shouldn’t bother pursuing an NFL career. Just look at these other edge rushers in the NFL and gander at their SEC sack percentage (SSP).

SSP among trash NFL pass rushers

  • Kahlil Mack: 0 out of 28.5 sacks (0 SSP)
  • Von Miller: 3 out of 33 (9 SSP)
  • JJ Watt: 0 out of 11.5 (0 SSP)
  • Joey Bosa: 0 out of 26 (0 SSP)

Sure, Mack is the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, Miller is a perennial All-Pro and was the MVP of Super Bowl 50, Watt is a 3-time Defensive Player of the Year and Bosa is the reigning Defensive Rookie of the Year, but here’s my counter:

Shut up.

Those four players have nothing going for them because between the four, they have three career SEC sacks. Give Barnett a couple of minutes against Vanderbilt’s elite left tackle and he’ll quadruple that number.

Need more proof that SEC sacks mean everything?

Lawrence Taylor and Bruce Smith finished their careers with a combined 336 sacks in the NFL, but neither played college football in the SEC, thus rendering their NFL highlights as fake highlights.

I personally call for the removal of Taylor and Smith’s Hall of Fame jackets and the immediate destruction of their busts. All film that doesn’t include an SEC player getting a sack on an SEC offensive lineman is clearly doctored by a contingent in the non-SEC faction of college football designed to add relevancy to non-SEC sacks.

But let’s say you aren’t a sucker for SEC sacks. Let’s say you believe that there aren’t any SEC teams in the NFL. Let’s say you care more about sacks against teams whose name starts with a consonant. In the NFL, 28 of the 32 team names begin with a consonant (ex. New England Patriots, Dallas Cowboys, etc.) Logically, I charted how Barnett and Garrett performed against programs whose names began with a consonant (ex. YouCLA Bruins, Kentucky Wildcats, etc.).

Here are my findings:

  • Garrett: 24 of 31 sacks (77 percent)
  • Barnett: 30 of 33 sacks (91 percent)

Boom. Garrett supporters, consider yourself finished. NFL franchises, consider yourself warned.

Ignore Garrett’s freakish athleticism. Ignore his elite skill set. Ignore his vast improvement at stuffing the run. Ignore his sheer will and desire to play through a brutal ankle injury during this past season. Ignore his dedication to team and country when he refused to skip out on the Texas Bowl.

He doesn’t have enough SEC sacks.

And let’s say Garrett gets drafted by a team in the AFC and Barnett is taken by a team in the NFC, do NFC sacks count more than AFC sacks?

I believe so.

Edited by Robert Hughes

Featured image by Sumner Gilliam

Vols to watch for against Vanderbilt

Photo by Ben Proffitt.

Josh Malone, Wide receiver

Josh Malone is the type of player that makes defenders constantly think about a potential long ball. Malone, a 6-foot-3-inch athlete, has the ability to leap and catch passes over defenders on deep balls, something he’s done successfully all season long. He has 12 catches that have gone for 20 yards or more this season and has produced in crucial moments for Tennessee. Watch for the Vols to call on Malone to get a quick six points on a long pass.

Josh Dobbs, Quarterback

Josh Dobbs’ potential this week is interesting when considering the strength of Vanderbilt — its defense. Dobbs will need to continue to escape the pocket and finding receivers downfield in order to have success Saturday. After recording five total touchdowns (three passing, two rushing) and a career-high 190 rushing yards against Missouri, look for Dobbs to produce more big plays by extending drives with his legs.

Derek Barnett, Defensive end

Barnett trails Reggie White, one of the Vols’ biggest legends, by just one sack for a share of the career sack record (32) at Tennessee. This weekend, he goes up against a Vanderbilt offense that struggled for much of the season, relying often on the running game. However, the Commodores are vulnerable to pressure in passing situations. Vanderbilt has allowed 26 sacks this season, tied for second-worst in the SEC. Look for Derek Barnett to take full advantage of Vanderbilt’s offensive struggles.

Alvin Kamara, Running back

Kamara has played behind former Vol Jalen Hurd and has dealt with some injury problems this season. However, since Hurd’s departure and Kamara’s healthy return, averaging 8.4 yards a carry in wins over Kentucky and Missouri. Kamara could be the crucial difference maker against a Vanderbilt defense that’s only allowed 11 rushing touchdowns, good for 20th in the country. Watch for Tennessee to give Kamara early opportunities in order to try and establish the run.

Edited by Nathan Odom

Featured image by Ben Proffitt