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

Vrabel ready to take the Titans to the next level

If Mike Vrabel is as accurate at coaching decisions as his career reception-to-touchdown ratio, the Titans will have no regrets about this hire. Vrabel, after all, stated in a recent press conference that he wants to take the Titans to the next level.

After a 9-7 season and an early playoff exit despite astonishing talent on the roster, Titans General Manager Jon Robinson and team owner Amy Adams Strunk decided to move in a different direction going forward.

Vrabel has years of defensive experience under his belt. But will his experience translate to the biggest stage in football?

The former Ohio State great is a disciple of the Bill Belichick tree. Well, sort of. Vrabel became a Super Bowl champion under Belichick. Though he never served as an assistant under the famed head coach, he found ample success. He absorbed knowledge right from the hand that fed him for eight seasons.

While the ex-player has no head coaching experience and little assistant coaching experience, the Tennessee Titans decided to gamble on the 42-year-old former New England Patriots linebacker.

Vrabel, in one season as the defensive coordinator for the Houston Texans, masterminded a defense virtually glued together last season after injuries to star player and defensive anchor, J.J. Watt.

The Texans defense remained in the middle of the pack for the majority of the 2017-18 season while losing several key players on that side of the ball. Vrabel impressively demonstrated his ability to progress and not regress as the season progressed.

Boasting a less than impressive 3-4 record and having lost its budding franchise quarterback in Deshaun Watson, the Texans turned to Vrabel to mitigate losses on defense – exactly what he did with the resources provided.

The Texans only won one game after Deshaun Watson went down with an injury in practice following a career-best game against the Seattle Seahawks.

The Texans offense only mustered three games with at least 225 passing yards or more after Watson went out for the season. Out of the final nine games, the Texans ran for 100 or more yards in only one game.

Stagnant and unable to move the ball, the offense disappointed. The defense cannot be blamed for poor performance.

Vrabel leaned heavily on young talent like Zach Cunningham, a rookie linebacker out of Vanderbilt drafted in the second round. Cunningham, a key piece to the defense, was thrown into the fire in the season-opener.

Vrabel found another key piece to the defense with the development of Jadaveon Clowney. Clowney recorded 9.5 sacks while being double-teamed with Watt out of the lineup.

Vrabel’s ability to recognize and develop talent on the defensive side of the ball is promising for the Titans.

Houston finished 17th in scoring defense and 14th in average rushing yards on the season.

The Texans offense only had one rush over 20 yards all season from the running backs, so Vrabel and the defense get a pass for many of the defensive woes, simply because the offense was so lackluster.

While Vrabel has such a small sample size to demonstrate his coaching performance, the utilization of older veteran and younger players is certainly promising for the Titans.

With the defense Vrabel inherits, the offensive side of the ball will need slight tweaks from a nine-win team to be successful going forward. Star safety Kevin Byard will play a vital role in Vrabel’s defense.

Vrabel went on record saying he will vet the current staff carefully. Vrabel relieved Dick LeBeau of his duties as the defensive coordinator, a sign that he wishes to take a more youthful route.

The new head coach will only be as good as the staff he hires.

Vrabel filled the defensive and offensive coordinator positions with the draft nearing. Vrabel assigned Rams offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur to the full-time offensive coordinator position.

LaFleur, a 38-year-old offensive guru, built Jared Geoff from the ground up into a “worst-to-first” player from 2016-17. After leaving the previous Super Bowl runners-up Atlanta Falcons and working with Matt Ryan as the quarterbacks coach, LaFleur had no issues with Geoff’s development.

LaFleur coached and developed players like Matt Ryan, vintage Robert Griffin III and keyed a big role in the development of Kirk Cousins, who bloomed into an NFL star. LaFleur’s latest project, Geoff, led the No. 1 offense in 2017-18. LaFleur also made previous stops as quarterbacks coach at Notre Dame and the Washington Redskins.

Vrabel went on record saying he will not hire his buddies. He insisted he doesn’t “have many of them.” The new head coach also knows the spotlight doesn’t last long in the NFL.

“I want to put together a great staff, and I am not rushing that,” Vrabel said. “You only get so many cracks at this thing.”

He also hired Dean Pees as defensive coordinator. Pees, who retired less than a month ago, decided to return to coach alongside one of his favorite ex-players.

Vrabel played for Pees in New England many years ago. Pees’ defense was the only squad to finish in the top 10 in scoring defense during his tenure. Vrabel hopes to keep the defensive scheme the Titans currently have in place, a 3-4 style defense – as this is the defense in which Pees has expertise.

If Vrabel tailors the offense around franchise quarterback Marcus Mariota, what Mike Mularkey failed and refused to do, he could find great success in Nashville.

Edited by Ben McKee 

Featured image courtesy of Outside The Lines

Tennessee running back John Kelly declares for the NFL Draft

Tennessee junior running back John Kelly announced Friday afternoon that he will be forgoing his senior season and declaring for the NFL Draft.

Kelly announced his decision on Instagram, saying, “I’d like to take this opportunity to announce that I will be declaring for the 2018 NFL Draft and thank so many that were instrumental in getting me to where I am today.”

“From my time in Detroit to my collegiate career at Tennessee, words can’t express my gratitude to everyone that has helped me throughout my journey. To my friends and family, I want to thank you for always being there for me. To my teammates, and coaching staff, I want to thank you for always pushing me to better myself and grow on and off the field. To Vol Nation, I want to thank you for all your support through all of the highs and lows.

“I will always call Neyland Stadium home.”

I’d like to take this opportunity to announce that I will be declaring for the 2018 NFL Draft and thank so many that were instrumental in getting me to where I am today. From my time in Detroit to my collegiate career at Tennessee, words can’t express my gratitude to everyone that has helped me throughout my journey. To my friends and family, I want to thank you for always being there for me. To my teammates, and coaching staff, I want to thank you for always pushing me to better myself and grow on and off the field. To Vol Nation, I want to thank you for all of your support through all of the highs and lows. I will always call Neyland Stadium home. As I take the next step in my career, I will never forget where it all began. Detroit and Tennessee will always be a part of me at every step of this journey and I promise to always represent you well. With everything you’ve given to me, that’s the least I can do for you all. From the bottom of my heart – thank you, all. Go Vols!

A post shared by John M. Kelly ll (@jkshuttlesworth) on


Kelly declares for the NFL Draft following a breakout junior season on Rocky Top. Before the season began, the Detroit native conducted an interview with Marcus Spears of the SEC Network, stating that he viewed himself as the best running back in the SEC and that he couldn’t wait to prove it.

During the 2017 campaign, Kelly ranked second in the SEC and 25th in the country in yards per game from scrimmage with 118.3. He also ranked seventh in the SEC in rushing yards per game (86.8) and eighth in rushing touchdowns with eight.

He finished the season rushing for 778 yards and nine touchdowns on 189 carries in 11 games. Kelly missed the Kentucky game due to suspension.

Against Florida, Kelly had the best game of his career, rushing for 141 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries. He also caught six passes for 96 yards.

In the opener against Georgia Tech, Kelly had an outstanding game as he rushed for a career-high four rushing touchdowns to go along with 128 rushing yards.

Kelly finishes his career at Tennessee having rushed for 1,573 yards and 15 touchdowns on 327 carries. Through the air, Kelly recorded 43 catches for 350 yards.

As a fan favorite during his time in Knoxville, Kelly says that as he takes the next step in his career, he’ll never forget where it all began.

“Detroit and Tennessee will always be a part of me at every step of the journey and I promise to always represent you well,” Kelly said. “With everything you’ve given to me, that’s the least I can do for you all. From the bottom of my heart – thank you, all.”

“Go Vols!”

Edited by Seth Raborn

Feature image courtesy of Craig Bisacre/Tennessee Athletics

Vols in the Pros: Week 12

With six players drafted in the 2017 NFL Draft, the contingent of former Vols in the league grew significantly. Let’s take a look at how former Tennessee stars performed during Week 12 of the NFL season.

Baltimore Ravens

Morgan Cox: Started his 113th game as a long snapper and contributed to the Ravens 23-16 win over the Texans on Monday night.

Carolina Panthers

Michael Palardy: Palardy punted six times for 284 yards, including two balls punted inside the 20-yard line in the Panthers 35-27 win over the Jets.

Cincinnati Bengals

Josh Malone: Malone suffered an in-game injury and recorded no stats in the Bengals 30-16 over the Browns.

Cleveland Browns

Britton Colquitt: Colquitt punted twice for an average of 46 yards-per-punt. He left the game with a possible concussion. The Browns lost 30-16 to the Bengals.

Dallas Cowboys

Jason Witten: Witten had seven catches for 44 yards in the Cowboys 28-6 loss to the Chargers.

Detroit Lions

Jalen Reeves-Maybin: Reeves-Maybin was sidelined with an ankle injury.

Houston Texans

LaTroy Lewis: Lewis is on the Texans practice squad.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Malik Jackson: Jackson had two tackles in the Jags 27-24 loss to the Cardinals.

Mychal Rivera: Rivera was placed on injured reserve due to a hand injury.

Kansas City Chiefs

Tyler Bray: Bray was inactive on Sunday’s game.

Eric Berry: Berry is out for the season after rupturing his achilles.

Zach Fulton: Fulton started at center in the Chiefs 16-10 loss to the Bills.

Dustin Colquitt: Colquitt had eight punts for an average of 49 yards-per-punt and downed two balls inside the 20-yard line.

Miami Dolphins 

Ja’Waun James: James was placed on injury reserve due to a hamstring injury.

New Orleans Saints

Alvin Kamara: Kamara had five carries for 87 yards, highlighted by a 74-yard TD run in the Saints 26-20 lost to the Rams.

New York Giants 

Jordan Williams: Williams is currently on the Giants practice squad.

Oakland Raiders

Cordarrelle Patterson: Patterson recorded three catches for 72 yards in the Raiders 21-14 win over the Broncos.

Philadelphia Eagles 

Derek Barnett: Barnett recorded no stats in the Eagles’ 31-3 win over the Bears.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Joshua Dobbs: Dobbs was inactive on Sunday’s game.

Ramon Foster: Foster started in the Steelers 31-28 win over the Packers on Sunday.

Justin Hunter: Hunter recorded no stats on Sunday’s game.

Daniel McCullers: McCullers was inactive on Sunday’s game.

Cam Sutton: Sutton was activated on Nov. 21, but recorded no stats on Sunday’s game.

Seattle Seahawks 

Justin Coleman: Coleman had three tackles in the Seahawks 24-13 win over the 49ers.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Robert Ayers: Ayers was out with a concussion and did not participate in practice prior to the game against the Falcons.

Luke Stocker: Stocker was inactive on Sunday’s game.

Featured image courtesy of UT Sports 

Edited by Seth Raborn

Vols in the Pros: Week 11

Photo by Ben Proffitt

With six players drafted in the 2017 NFL Draft, the contingent of former Vols in the league grew significantly. Let’s take a look at how former Tennessee stars performed during Week 11 of the NFL season.

Baltimore Ravens

Morgan Cox: Started his 112th game as a long snapper and contributed to the Ravens 23-0 shut-out of the Green Bay Packers

Carolina Panthers

Michael Palardy: Palardy and the Panthers had a bye week.

Cincinnati Bengals

Josh Malone: Malone and the Bengals had a bye week.

Cleveland Browns

Britton Colquitt: Colquitt punted eight times for an average of 47 yards-per-punt and two balls downed inside the 20 yard line. The Browns lost 19-7 to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Dallas Cowboys

Jason Witten: Witten had just one catch for seven yards in the Cowboys demoralizing 37-9 loss to the Eagles.

Detroit Lions

Jalen Reeves-Maybin: Reeves-Maybin was sidelined with an ankle injury.

Houston Texans

LaTroy Lewis: Lewis is on the Texans practice squad.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Malik Jackson: Jackson had two tackles and a sack in the Jags 19-7 win over the Browns.

Mychal Rivera: Rivera did not have any recorded stats.

Kansas City Chiefs

Tyler Bray: Bray did not have any recorded stats this week.

Eric Berry: Berry is out for the season after rupturing his achilles.

Zach Fulton: Fulton started at center in the Chiefs 10-9 loss to the Giants.

Dustin Colquitt: Colquitt logged five punts for an average of 43 yards-per-punt and downed four balls inside the 20 yard line.

Miami Dolphins

Ja’Waun James: James was placed on injury reserve due to a hamstring injury.

New Orleans Saints

Alvin Kamara: Kamara had eight rushes for 42 yards, including over 70 yards and a touchdown receiving in the Saints 34-31 overtime win against the Redskins.

New York Giants

Jordan Williams: Williams is currently on the Giants practice squad.

Oakland Raiders

Cordarrelle Patterson: Patterson recorded four catches for 45 yards in the Raiders 33-8 loss to the Patriots.

Philadelphia Eagles

Derek Barnett: Barnett tallied three tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble in the Eagles 37-9 beatdown of the Cowboys.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Joshua Dobbs: Dobbs was inactive on Sunday’s game.

Ramon Foster: Foster started in the Steelers 40-17 win over the Titans on Sunday.

Justin Hunter: Hunter was inactive on Sunday’s game.

Daniel McCullers: McCullers was inactive on Sunday’s game.

Cam Sutton: Sutton remains on the injury reserve list, but he has returned to practice.

Seattle Seahawks

Justin Coleman: Coleman had one tackles in the Seahawks 34-31 loss to the Falcons.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Robert Ayers: Ayers logged three tackles in the Bucs 30-20 win over the Dolphins.

Austin Johnson: Johnson is currently on the practice squad.

Luke Stocker: Stocker had no reported stats during this game.

Edited by Ben McKee 

Featured image courtesy of Ben Proffitt

Vols in the pros: Week 10

Photo by Ben Proffitt

With six players drafted in the 2017 NFL Draft, the contingent of former Vols in the league grew significantly. Let’s take a look at how former Tennessee stars performed during Week 10 of the NFL season.

Baltimore Ravens

Morgan Cox: Ravens were on a bye this week.

Carolina Panthers

Michael Palardy: Palardy had two punts for a total of 85 yards. The Panthers beat Miami 45-21.

Cincinnati Bengals

Josh Malone: The Bengals suffered a loss against the Titans, 20-24. Malone had one reception for six-yards.

Cleveland Browns

Britton Colquitt: Colquitt had five punts for a total of 241 yards.

Dallas Cowboys

Jason Witten: The Cowboys suffered a rough loss against the Falcons, 27-7. Witten had seven receptions for a total of 59 yards.

Detroit Lions

Jalen Reeves-Maybin: Reeves-Maybin was out this week due to an ankle injury.

Houston Texans

LaTroy Lewis: Lewis is on the Texans practice squad.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Malik Jackson: Jackson had three tackles and one assisted tackle to contribute to the Jaguars 20-17 win over the Chargers.

Mychal Rivera: Rivera did not have and recorded stats.

Kansas City Chiefs

Tyler Bray: Chiefs were on a bye this week.

Eric Berry: Chiefs were on a bye this week.

Zach Fulton: Chiefs were on a bye this week.

Dustin Colquitt: Chiefs were on a bye this week.

Miami Dolphins

Ja’Waun James: James was placed on injury reserve Saturday due to a hamstring injury.

New Orleans Saints

Alvin Kamara: Kamara had a three-yard rushing touchdown to contribute to the Saints win over the Buffalo Bills, 47-10. Kamara rushed for a total of 106 yards.

New York Giants

Jordan Williams: Williams is currently on the Giants practice squad.

Oakland Raiders

Cordarrelle Patterson: Raiders were on a bye this week.

Philadelphia Eagles

Derek Barnett: Eagles were on a bye this week.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Joshua Dobbs: Dobbs was inactive on Sunday’s game.

Ramon Foster: Foster was inactive due to an injury.

Justin Hunter: Hunter was inactive on Sunday’s game.

Daniel McCullers: McCullers was inactive on Sunday’s game.

Cam Sutton: Sutton remains on the injury reserve list, but he has returned to practice.

Seattle Seahawks

Justin Coleman: Coleman had three tackles and one assisted tackle on Thursday. The Seahawks defeated the Cardinals, 22-16.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Robert Ayers: Ayers had four tackles and one sack in the Buccaneers 15-10 win over the Jets

Austin Johnson: Johnson is currently on the practice squad.

Luke Stocker: Stocker had no reported stats during this game.

Featured image courtesy of Ben Proffitt 

Edited by Seth Raborn