Pro Player Insiders Executive Editor Melissa Mahler http://proplayerinsiders.com Behind the scenes look at lives and lifestyles of NFL players and their families plus sports news, interviews & events Mon, 23 Jan 2017 01:08:45 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 Falcons Prove to be Too Much Against Packers in NFC Championship http://proplayerinsiders.com/nfl-player-team-news-features/falcons-prove-much-packers-nfc-championship/ http://proplayerinsiders.com/nfl-player-team-news-features/falcons-prove-much-packers-nfc-championship/#comments Mon, 23 Jan 2017 01:08:45 +0000 http://proplayerinsiders.com/?p=168645 The Green Bay Packers were riding an eight game winning streak dating back to week 12 in the regular season. That streak ended Sunday in the Georgia Dome against the Atlanta Falcons in a 44-21 loss.

The Packers offense was held in check for most of the game. Missed field goals, fumbles in the red zone, and an interception helped the Falcons get up to a 24-0 halftime lead.

After halftime, the Falcons continued to put it on the Packers as receiver Julio Jones took a slant from quarterback Matt Ryan 73-yards to the end zone. Jones finished with 180 yards receiving and two touchdowns on nine catches. Ryan added 392 yards passing and four touchdowns as they head to Super Bowl LI.

Ryan had all day to find his open receivers like Jones, as the Packers were not able to notch a sack against him. The lack of pressure did not help players like undrafted cornerback LaDarius Gunter who was matched up with Jones.

The Falcons will look to capture their first Super Bowl in franchise history as they face the winner of the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers game.

For the Packers, they now have all offseason to get healthy and find the right players to help them reach the Super Bowl next season. It was quite a task for them to get this fair with all the injuries they faced.

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2017 NFLPA Collegiate Bowl American Team’s Top Performers http://proplayerinsiders.com/nfl-player-team-news-features/2017-nflpa-collegiate-bowl-american-teams-top-performers/ http://proplayerinsiders.com/nfl-player-team-news-features/2017-nflpa-collegiate-bowl-american-teams-top-performers/#comments Sun, 22 Jan 2017 12:45:55 +0000 http://proplayerinsiders.com/?p=168635 The National team defeated the Americans 27-7 at the Stubhub Center in Carson, Calif. on Saturday. In the presser after the game, National coach Mike Martz equated the NFLPA bowl experience to a week-long job interview for the players rather than practicing for an all-star game. If that’s the case, let’s take a look at the five top players from the losing side who might be able to get hired based on their performance in the game.

American Team Top Performers

1. Lorenzo Jerome, Defensive back, St. Francis (PA).

Even though the American team lost by 20 points, the MVP of this game was awarded to one of its players. That says a lot about Jerome’s performance. He lined up primarily at free safety and intercepted two passes in the first half, deep into his own territory. Jerome displayed great ball skills and body control on both of the interceptions. On the first pick, he leaped high to his left to snatch the pass in front of the receiver, he got both of his feet down as he fell out of bounds. On the second, he dove to his left and was able to scoop the ball in his hands right before it hit the ground. Jerome also made some big hits to thwart the National team on third downs.

2. Teriyon Gipson, Running back, New Mexico.

Teriyon Gipson during American Team practice. Courtesy of Kevin A. Koski / NFLPA

Gipson was featured on our site leading up to the game, and he was the lone bright star on the offensive side of the ball for the American team. He wound up finishing with 54 rushing yards on eight carries and 32 receiving yards on three receptions. He prevented the American team from being shut out when he caught a swing pass on the left sideline and tip toed passed a defender on his way to scoring the a touchdown, late in the fourth quarter. Three of his carries went for more than 10 yards.

3. Avery Williams, Linebacker, Temple.

Williams was all over the field on Saturday. Weighing in at 210 pounds, he did an excellent job of shedding a blocker to stop the ball carrier at the line of scrimmage, he covered the flat to make a tackle on a running back, and he chased down a running back deep into the secondary to prevent a touchdown. He even made a couple of tackles on special teams. His name was announced often in the early stages of the game, and was the leading tackler for the  At his size, NFL coaches might try to convert him into the hybrid safety/linebacker that’s become nouveau.

4. Tre’Von Johnson, Linebacker, Weber State.

Johnson checked all of the boxes that Williams didn’t. He put in most of his work and made a lot of big plays in the second half. He was physically dominant as he repeatedly caused a disturbance on plays within five yards of the scrimmage line, whether it was dropping back into coverage to make a tackle on a tight end or stuffing a runner in the back field.

5. Grover Stewart, Defensive tackle, Albany State.

Stewart had two sacks and two tackles for loss. On his first sack, he showed great quickness off the snap when he split the center and left guard; he was on top of the quarterback before he completed his drop back. It was a play that was reminiscent of Warren Sapp.

Honorable Mentions: Sean Maguire, Quarterback, Florida State and Shaquill Griffin, Cornerback, Central Florida

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National Team Steamrolls American Team http://proplayerinsiders.com/nfl-player-team-news-features/national-team-steamrolls-american-team/ http://proplayerinsiders.com/nfl-player-team-news-features/national-team-steamrolls-american-team/#comments Sun, 22 Jan 2017 10:00:07 +0000 http://proplayerinsiders.com/?p=168619 Mike Martz’s National team beat Jim Zorn’s American team 27-7, but this was more about the players showcasing their skills for NFL scouts in attendance. There were just about 200 scouts in attendance at the StubHub Center, which will be the home of the Los Angeles Chargers in 2017. There were plenty of players who benefited from practicing this week and this game as the NFL Draft gets closer. Some of these guys will not get drafted, but it does not hurt to have former NFL players and coaches endorse them as someone worth signing.

“I told my players don’t think of this as an all-star game, think of it as a job interview,” Martz stated.

Martz gave Philip Nelson a ton of praise. Coach believes he can make all the throws and be a starter in the league. He completed 11 of 18 passes for 101 yards and scored on a sneak. He moved around in the pocket to find throwing lanes and looked comfortable doing so. Greg Ward Jr. struggled as a passer, but he had two long runs that electrified the stadium. Unfortunately, his day ended early when he injured his ankle on a horse collar tackle.

The running backs and offensive linemen for the National team flexed their muscles all afternoon. Taquan Mizzell ran the ball 10 times for 96 yards, which was a game record. He showed great speed in the open field with the ability to make the first guy miss. Mizzell was shaking guys out of their cleats and lowered his shoulder a few times. Lenard Tillery and TJ Logan had good games as well as the trio ran for 213 yards. They showed off their versatility as they caught passes out of the backfield. Coach Martz highlighted Tillery’s intriguing skill set.

“He’s a good returner, lead blocker, and he broke some runs out there. He’ll make someone’s team, at worst, as a special teamer,” Martz exclaimed.

The American team quarterbacks struggled in this one. They would get a first down or two and then the drive would stall around midfield. Sean Maguire made some good throws and showed toughness as he completed a dart over the middle to Zach Pascal. Mitch Leidner and Ryan Higgins struggled under center as they took snaps. Higgins threw two interceptions in the second half.

Teriyon Gipson had a great week of practice for the American team and that translated to Saturday’s game. He exhibited enough speed to test the edge on sweeps and acceleration in between the tackles. Gipson scored late in the fourth on a 13-yard run and had 96 total yards. The offensive line for both teams impressed me, as they were able to open holes big enough for a Mack truck.

Defensively, DJ Jones and Lucas Wacha had solid week of practice and it carried over to the game. Jones teamed up with Grover Stewart on a sack. Wacha played like a man with his hair on fire as he made a bunch of tackles.

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Lorenzo Jerome of St. Francis (PA) had the best performance. He showed his ability to cover the deep third like a NFL safety as he picked off Ward Jr. twice. His strong performance earned him the game’s MVP even though his team lost. Jerome prides himself on recognizing plays before the snap and being a ball hawk. He had 18 career interceptions as a member of the Red Flash. Jerome went on to say who he models his game after.

He said, “My best friend in college. His name is Bishop Neal. He played linebacker for us and he was a dog. And Sean Taylor.”

There were plenty of players that stood out this week in practice. The offensive linemen and tailbacks for both sides will start to get more attention from NFL teams. Jerome and Nelson did a great job of absorbing what their coaches taught them this week. The path toward a NFL opportunity started this week for these guys as they got the needed exposure.

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Running Back and Offensive Line Group Leads National Team to Big Win http://proplayerinsiders.com/nfl-player-team-news-features/running-back-offensive-line-group-leads-national-team-big-win/ http://proplayerinsiders.com/nfl-player-team-news-features/running-back-offensive-line-group-leads-national-team-big-win/#comments Sun, 22 Jan 2017 10:00:00 +0000 http://proplayerinsiders.com/?p=168631 From the first drive on, the National Team dominated with their offensive line on the way to a 27-7 victory against the American Team in the 2017 NFL Players Association Collegiate Bowl.

“I was pretty impressed with that first group,” said National Team Head Coach Mike Martz on the offensive line play. “I think every one of them has a chance in the league.”

The National Team improves to 6-0 since the NFLPA Bowl started in 2012 while Martz improves to 3-0 in coaching this game. He had his players ready to go with his message before kickoff.

“Don’t think of this as an all-star game, think of it as a job interview,” Martz said.

The running backs and offensive line heard Martz message loud and clear on their way to 213 yards rushing on 42 carries.

“This was by far the best offensive line,” he said. “I thought it was a good group during the week. Its some really good players in there.”

That line consist of Javarius Leamon (South Carolina State), Ethan Cooper (Indiana University of PA), Jay Gulliermo (Clemson), Josh Boutte (LSU) and Jermaine Eluemunor (Texas A&M).

The group of offensive lineman helped open holes for running back Taquan Mizzell (Virginia) run for the most rushing yards in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl history with 96 yards and one touchdown on 10 carries.

Running Backs B.J Logan (North Carolina) and Lenard Tillery (Southern) had themselves a day as well. Logan added 63 rushing yards on 14 carries while also being the National Team leading receiver with 28 yards on two catches.

“I was able to get a couple plays, catch a couple balls out the backfield,” said Logan on his week at practice leading up to the game. “When I got out here it was really just like a real game.”

Tillery did just about everything for the National Team. When he wasn’t running the football at running back, Tillery was catching passes out of the backfield, lining up at fullback or returning punts and kickoffs. He had 20 yards on 6 carries and added two catches for 25 yards.

“He’ll make somebody’s team no worse than a special teams player,” Martz said on Tillery.

The NFLPA Collegiate Bowl continues to improve their talent level each year. Martz believes there is about four or five more players compared to last year that can make a NFL roster.

“This is by far the best year,” said Martz on the talent level in the game. “They’ve gotten better the three years I’ve been in it.”

Follow us on twitter @PlayerInsiders @ColdAsFrost_.

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Pittsburgh Steelers vs. New England Patriots Preview http://proplayerinsiders.com/nfl-player-team-news-features/pittsburgh-steelers-vs-new-england-patriots-preview/ http://proplayerinsiders.com/nfl-player-team-news-features/pittsburgh-steelers-vs-new-england-patriots-preview/#comments Sat, 21 Jan 2017 17:00:29 +0000 http://proplayerinsiders.com/?p=168591 On Sunday, the New England Patriots will be playing in their record sixth-straight AFC Championship as they will host the Pittsburgh Steelers at Gillette Stadium. This will be Patriots head coach Bill Belichick’s and quarterback Tom Brady’s 11th appearance overall in the AFC Championship.

Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger isn’t a conference championship stranger either as this will be his fourth appearance. Believe or not, this will be the second time Roethlisberger and Brady have met one another in the AFC Championship. In the 2004 AFC Championship, New England defeated Pittsburgh 41-27 at Heinz Field in Roethlisberger’s rookie season.

New England got to the AFC Championship by beating the Houston Texans 34-16 in a game many expected to be a total domination. In the Steelers divisional round win, they were led by six field goals by kicker Chris Boswell as Pittsburgh was able to hold off Kansas City 18-16 at Arrowhead Stadium.

The winner of Sunday’s game will break a tie also held by the Dallas Cowboys and Denver Broncos for the most Super Bowl appearances (eight).

Pittsburgh Steelers at New England Patriots 

Kickoff: Sunday, January 22, 6:40 p.m. ET

TV: CBS

Spread: New England -6

 

Three Things to Watch

  1. Tom Brady vs. Steelers Defense

Despite their 18-point victory, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady had a poor outing as he was only able to complete 47.4 percent of his passes against the Texans. Houston was able to sack Brady twice and knocked down the future Hall of Famer eight times. If Pittsburgh is going to pull off the upset on the road, they will need to follow a similar blueprint.

Steelers Bud Dupree and Ryan Shazier have enough athleticism and speed to create havoc defensively. Brady has one of the quickest releases in NFL history, so the Steelers defensive backs will need to be physical to allow time for defenders to reach the backfield.

  1. Le’Veon Bell

In the first two rounds of the 2016 playoffs, Pittsburgh running back Le’Veon Bell has had one of the best stretches in postseason history. Against the Miami Dolphins in the AFC Wild Card Round, Bell rushed for a franchise record 167 yards and two touchdowns.

Bell then followed that performance up with a 170 yard game against the Chiefs in the divisional round. New England will present a new challenge for Bell as the Patriots finished third against the run during the regular season as they allowed an average of 88.6 yards per game on the ground.

When the Steelers and Patriots played each other three months ago, Bell was held to just 81 yards on 21 carries, but that was without Roethlisberger. Now with the threat of a passing game, that could help Bell become more of a factor on Sunday.

 

  1. Dion Lewis

Last week against the Texans, Dion Lewis showed how versatile he could be. Lewis recorded a touchdown on a 98-kickoff return, a 13-yard reception and a touchdown run as he became the fifth Patriots player in history to score a touchdown three different ways.

While running back LeGarrette Blount gets a lot of attention; the Steelers will also need to pay close attention to Lewis. Brady could rely on Lewis a lot in the Patriots short passing game to avoid pressure. Pittsburgh has the speed on defense to keep Lewis from making big plays as the Steelers defense was able to prevent Chiefs all-purpose player Tyreek Hill from making any huge play in last week’s win.

Final Analysis

Even though New England has been in the AFC Championship quite often in recent memory, they’re not invincible when they reach this stage. The Patriots have lost three out of their last four AFC Championships and they’re going to have their hands full with the Steelers, who have won nine consecutive games, five of them on the road.

Pittsburgh has one of the best offensive lines in the league as they’re led by center Maurkice Pouncey and right guard David DeCastro. In order to continue Bell’s hot run, the Steelers offensive line unit will need to contain the Patriots defensive line and linebackers.

2008 was the last time the Steelers won a Super Bowl and this is their best chance since then to return to the big game. Pittsburgh won’t be intimidated by playing in Foxborough, so Sunday should be a very compelling contest between the Steelers and Patriots.

Twitter: @antwanstaley

 

 

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Sean Maguire to get Exposure in NFLPA Bowl http://proplayerinsiders.com/nfl-player-team-news-features/sean-maguire-get-exposure-nflpa-bowl/ http://proplayerinsiders.com/nfl-player-team-news-features/sean-maguire-get-exposure-nflpa-bowl/#comments Sat, 21 Jan 2017 13:01:38 +0000 http://proplayerinsiders.com/?p=168593 The NFLPA Collegiate Bowl has presented an opportunity for Florida State quarterback Sean Maguire to show off his skills to some NFL personnel.

The NFLPA invites and utilizes former NFL players as position coaches to work hands-on with game participants and show them the nuances of the professional game during a week of practice. Former NFL quarterback, head coach, and long-time quarterback coach Jim Zorn is the head coach of Maguire’s team.

Maguire taking instruction from Jim Zorn (Kevin A. Koski / NFLPA)

“Coach Zorn has been involved with the league for many years,” said Maguire after Thursday’s American Team practice.   “He’s been giving us the inside scoop left and right about what we need to work on, some things I’ll be able to take away and apply for the next couple of months.”

Maguire was under the tutelage of quarterback-guru Jim Fisher for five seasons at Florida State. It also doesn’t hurt to have had a national championship and Heisman trophy-winning quarterback as a teammate to spend time with.

“I learned a lot from Jameis,” said Maguire. “We came in together and sat in the quarterback room together. He’s a great player and better guy.”

Kevin A. Koski / NFLPA

Maguire had a decent  2015 season in which he was 4-2 as a starter. Unfortunately, he broke his ankle in the 2015 Peach Bowl and spent the majority of the off season rehabbing his injury. He was still on pace to start in 2016 until foot surgery paved the way for Deondre Francois to win the starting job.

“Obviously my situation – breaking my foot in camp – was terrible but I loved Florida state and try to give Deondre every piece of advice I ever had and help him along the way,” said Maguire.

That type of unselfishness speaks volumes about his character and probably earned him brownie points with people who put stock into such things. One NFC scout in attendance, who requested to be anonymous, said that Maguire is a smart player and made excellent reads.

“I’m looking forward to playing Saturday in a real-live game,” said a confident Maguire. “I’ve been able to show them what I can do this week in practice.”

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2017 Deacon Jones Award http://proplayerinsiders.com/news-features-carousel/2017-deacon-jones-award/ http://proplayerinsiders.com/news-features-carousel/2017-deacon-jones-award/#comments Fri, 20 Jan 2017 21:25:29 +0000 http://proplayerinsiders.com/?p=168569 The Deacon Jones Award is given to the best player that is the sack leader in the NFL. The award was named after Deacon Jones. He was one of the most terrific, hard  hitting, and aggressive lineman that the league has every seen. After he passed away in 2013, the NFL decided to honor him by giving an award in his honor.

The player that has the most sacks this season is Atlanta Falcons’ Vic Beasley Jr. Beasley is averaging around 15.5 sacks. He brings a lot of speed on the defensive side. He can get around defenders and uses his speed to push the offensive guard off of him. He likes to make a move to the inside and that is why he has been very successful this season. The Falcons are one game from the Super Bowl and they have to give credit for this young man that came into this league with a mission.

The second sack leader is Denver Broncos Von Miller. Miller averaged 13.5 sacks. Even though he started off the season slow, he finished second as far as the sack leaders. It is hard to contain Miller. He has the ability to power through Offensive Lineman and make a move around them to get to the opponents’ QB. Each year Miller has improved and has shown the league that he still can get it down on the defensive side of things.

The winner for the Deacon Jones Award will be announced Saturday Feb.4 at the NFL Honors Awards.i

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2017 NFLPA Collegiate Bowl Preview http://proplayerinsiders.com/nfl-player-team-news-features/2017-nflpa-collegiate-bowl-preview/ http://proplayerinsiders.com/nfl-player-team-news-features/2017-nflpa-collegiate-bowl-preview/#comments Fri, 20 Jan 2017 21:11:43 +0000 http://proplayerinsiders.com/?p=168570 Collegiate seniors will have a great opportunity to impress NFL scouts and improve their draft stock in the 2017 NFLPA Collegiate Bowl as the American Team and the National Team face off Saturday at 4:15 p.m. eastern time at the StubHub Center in Carson, California.

Kevin A. Koski/NFLPA

This game is not fully about the outcome, but about players showing NFL teams how valuable they can be to their roster.

On the American Team, Stanford wide receiver Michael Rector is a player to watch. He is a speedster that is able to outrun defenders when he has the football in his hands. In a game against USC, Rector outran 2016 Thorpe Award winner cornerback Adoree Jackson on a jet sweep on his way to a touchdown.

Rector will have a talented quarterback to distribute the football to him in Louisiana Tech University quarterback Ryan Higgins. After sitting out the first game of the 2016 season due to a DWI incident, Higgins still managed to throw for 4,617 yards and 41 touchdowns while only throwing eight interceptions.

In the American Team backfield, Western Kentucky running back Anthony Wales is someone to keep an eye on. At 5’10” 195 pounds, Wales had an average of 6.8 yards per carry on his way to 1,621 yards rushing and 27 touchdowns in 2016. Wales can also be a passing threat out of the backfield. He caught 30 passes for 323 yards and two touchdowns.

Utah cornerback Brian Allen is a player that could impress scouts defensively for the American Team due to his 6’3” stature. The NFL is looking for bigger cornerbacks because of the height of wide receivers in the league. Allen finished his senior season with four interceptions and six pass deflections.

Kevin A. Koski/NFLPA

For the National Team, the most notable name out of all the players playing in the game may be University of Houston quarterback Greg Ward Jr. At 5’11” Ward is a small quarterback, but his speed is something scouts may like. Ward can possibly convert to a wide receiver or running back in the NFL due to his skill set. He ran for 2,381 yards in his career at Houston and played wide receiver his first two years on campus.

Ohio State University Dontre Wilson was used at running back and wide receiver in college, but he will be lined up in the mostly slot during the game. His quickness gives him an advantage over defenders and is able to elude tacklers when he has the football in his hands.

Adrian Colbert out of the University of Miami can impress scouts due to his height at the cornerback position. Standing at 6’2” and weighing 205 pounds, he can provide the physicality at the NFL level. Colbert needs to stay healthy as he did miss five games his senior season.

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Defensive end Tashawn Bower out of LSU will be looking to do the same thing against the American Team he did to 2016 Heisman trophy winner Lamar Jackson. Bower sacked Jackson three times in LSU 29-9 win in the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl against Louisville.

The future starts now for these players and they look forward to ending their college football and starting their childhood dream in playing in the NFL. Players just need one NFL team to fall in love with them and they can start that process in this game.

Follow us on twitter @PlayerInsiders @ColdAsFrost_.

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NFLPA Collegiate Bowl: Teriyon Gipson Q&A http://proplayerinsiders.com/nfl-player-team-news-features/nflpa-collegiate-bowl-teriyon-gipson-qa/ http://proplayerinsiders.com/nfl-player-team-news-features/nflpa-collegiate-bowl-teriyon-gipson-qa/#comments Fri, 20 Jan 2017 20:46:21 +0000 http://proplayerinsiders.com/?p=168556 The 2017 NFLPA Collegiate Bowl will be played on January 21 at the Stub Hub Center in Carson, California and will air live on FOX Sports West. One of the players to keep your eye on will be Teriyon Gipson, the explosive running back from New Mexico. Gipson, a communications major, was second in the nation this season with a ridiculous yards per carry average of 8.8. I witnessed his skills first-hand during American Team practice sessions as he continually left defenders in his wake. Pro Player Insiders caught up with the Dallas native on his week-long experience with the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl.

Teriyon Gipson during American Team practice. Courtesy of Kevin A. Koski / NFLPA

What NFL scouts are saying about his potential:

A lot of scouts are talking about my speed and my ability on third down and being able to come out the backfield to catch the ball and my home-run threat.

Who his favorite player of all time is:

Warrick Dunn. We’re kind of the same size. I feel that he was a complete back; he ran the ball great, he caught the ball great, he had a great career in the NFL.

The best part of his American Team practices:

Just being back out here to play football again. To compete against all these top guys to see where I’m at against some of the best players in the nation.

The NFLPA hosts various seminars for players invited to the game to help get them adjusted to life as a professional player before they sign with a team.

Here is what Gipson took away from the off-field sessions:

I’ve learned to stay within my budget. When you make it to the next level you can’t live outside your means. I know I have to be honest and straight forward with those guys (NFL personnel) because they pretty much know everything. Lying will only hurt your character, just play football and everything else will fall into place.

A life lesson he learned in college:

I learned that things are going to fall in place if you keep your nose clean and do the right thing.

 On his arrest:

Pretty much every scout asks me about it. I’m straight forward with them and tell them the truth. Most scouts respect that I tell them the truth. I don’t know how it will affect my future. It shouldn’t have taken place, it was something that I shouldn’t have had any parts in. I just have to stay clean and hope for the best.

Improvements he needs to make:

I need to gain some weight to be better at pass blocking. My speed is going to be key but everybody is fast in the NFL so you have to have something more than that. Work on my pass catch ability and my return ability.

In his free time:

I just like chilling with my family. I have a lot of brothers and sisters and we are tight. So when I get a chance to go home and be with my family, that’s all I’m doing.

 Bucket list:

I’ve never thought about putting one together but the first thing I want is to do something special for my mom. She’s been there every step of the way. She travelled 10 hours every weekend during the season to watch me play football for four years, and even longer on some road games.

 Final thoughts:

I’m just thankful for this invitation to the NFLPA game to showcase my abilities in front of these scouts and against top quality players in the nation.

Follow us on @playerinsiders @spitsgame

Photos courtesy of Kevin A. Koski / NFLPA

 

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Falcons Ready To Tackle Green Bay http://proplayerinsiders.com/nfl-player-team-news-features/falcons-ready-tackle-green-bay/ http://proplayerinsiders.com/nfl-player-team-news-features/falcons-ready-tackle-green-bay/#comments Fri, 20 Jan 2017 19:40:24 +0000 http://proplayerinsiders.com/?p=168482 For the Atlanta Falcons and the Green Bay Packers, this weekend’s game either sends them to the Super Bowl or sends them home.

Coach Mike McCarthy’s Green Bay Packers have made it to the playoffs for the last eight seasons.  They have been a model of consistency in the NFL and for all their accomplishments and double win seasons (seven of the last eight) they’ve only netted one Super Bowl win.  Nobody is saying it’s “easy” to win the Super Bowl, but a team like the Packers has set a precedent for themselves that anything less – would be a disappointment.

On the Atlanta side of things, head coach Dan Quinn has a Super Bowl win as well, but as a defensive coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks.  He, along with offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan have helped to coach up the leagues number one offensive, ringing in 33.8 points per game.  Quinn was on thin ice coming into the year, and as a defensive minded coach, fans of the dirty-birds expected something a little more south than the 25 points a game this defense gives up.  The defense has gotten noticeably better late in the year, but that includes games against Colin Kapernick and Jared Goff, so hold a torch for those numbers as much as you’d like. . .

Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers brings along with him, his 40 touchdown passes on the year, but as earlier reported by Ed Werder “Jordy Nelson and Davonte Adams responsible for 26 of Aaron Rodgers 40 TD passes. Both uncertain for Sunday.”  This would be  huge blow to the Packers (Captain Obvious, reporting for duty!) but chances are, Rodgers will at least have one of the two.  Jordy is by far the better receiver who has the better chemistry with Rodgers though.   The truth is, the Packers offensive line has led the late season charge for the Packers, as Rodgers seems like he has all day to make passes lately – and even when he doesn’t – he’s in such a groove right now it doesn’t even matter. . .

Matt Ryan is having, without a doubt, the best season of his nine year career.  Posting career bests in touchdown passes, quarterback rating, completion percentage and total yardage.  The Falcons offense has been too much for anyone to handle as virtually every member of this offense is a threat to break open a big play or be a threat in the red zone (13 players in total have been on the receiving end of a Matt Ryan touchdown pass).

Both teams have been on a roll, but while the Packers are healing from the thrilling shoot-out-style victory they had last week in Dallas – the Falcons are sitting pretty after shutting down one of the most loud-mouthed teams in the NFL in the Seahawks.

The wise-guys at Vegas are treating this game like a Big12 Conference match-up and have set the over/under at 61 (ridiculous for an NFL game).

There is no doubting the firepower of both offenses, it’s all about which defense will make more stops. . .

As talented as Aaron Rodgers is, Matt Ryan is gifted in his own right and has more talent to work with.  The running back tandem of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman are true dual-threats from the half-back position, while Robinson, Sanu and Gabriel have done well for themselves being on the field with (and even at times without) the great Julio Jones at wide receiver.  Rodgers has a wide-receiver turned running back as his best player in the back field, and last week he relied on an undrafted wide-out named Geronimo Allison and Jared Cook, a veteran tight end who was released by. . . the Rams. . .yuck.

With Rodgers simply having to do everything, it will be too much to handle.  This Atlanta offense – will not – and I repeat – will not stumble against a defense like Green Bay’s that allows 4 yards a rush and allows opposing QB’s to throw at a 65% completion rate.  Not saying the Falcons defensive stats are much better – - they are just all around, a more talented team.  And that’s what it’s all about at this time in the season: the better team, not the better player. . .

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

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Inside Look at NFL Prospect Noel Thomas http://proplayerinsiders.com/nfl-player-team-news-features/inside-look-nfl-prospect-noel-thomas/ http://proplayerinsiders.com/nfl-player-team-news-features/inside-look-nfl-prospect-noel-thomas/#comments Fri, 20 Jan 2017 10:00:41 +0000 http://proplayerinsiders.com/?p=168551 One of the biggest standouts at the NFLPA Bowl practices for the American team has been Noel Thomas. At 6’1 202 pounds, he played for the Connecticut Huskies and was featured as the number one wide receiver for the team. It was a tough season for the Huskies as they only won three games, but Thomas produced. He garnered 100 catches, 1,179 yards, and three touchdowns. In addition, Thomas had an eight game stretch in which he accumulated 90 receiving yards or more.

There are a few traits in Thomas’s game that I admire the most. First, he catches anything in his vicinity like a Venus flytrap. I bet his quarterback called him “Mr. Reliable” or “7/11″ because he was open all day. Second, Thomas is extremely aggressive when going up for the catch. He could go right over a defender’s back and pluck it away from them like it is child’s play. His best play was when he caught a pass even though he knew he was about to be sandwiched in between two defenders. That is tough. Finally, he knew what to do with the ball in his hands. When the UCONN receiver caught the ball, he was looking to score every time. All of these skills have been on display this week at practice. He told me he modeled his game after and studied Antonio Brown and Odell Beckham Jr. as some of their features permeate in his game.

Thomas is getting a great opportunity to learn from former NFL receivers TJ Houshmanzadeh, Matthew Hatchette, and Mike Wilson as they have coached him this week. He said enthusiastically, “I am just trying to be a sponge. They have emphasized the smaller things such as switching my feet on routes, stemming as I go up the field, and getting in-and-out of routes.” Being coachable is the key to making it at the next level or any level for that matter.

What impressed me the most about Thomas was his humility and bond he has with the state of Connecticut. He is from Norwalk, CT and he tied his love for his state into what it meant to be drafted. Thomas stated, “It would mean the world to me, my family, and the state of Connecticut, which is overlooked, if I get drafted.” He certainly takes pride and holds the torch for his home state. In fact, he recently received the Connecticut Player of the Year awarded that is usually given to the top athlete that played high school in the state.

Thomas has certainly stood out this week at practice and is well on his way to possibly having a big game Saturday in the NFLPA Bowl. He has a chance to catch a few scouts’ eyes with a good showing in the contest. Thomas was invited to the NFL Combine recently as well. Good luck to Thomas in Saturday’s game as well as throughout this perilous journey to what would be a dream come true.

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Photos taken by Kevin A. Koski/ NFLPA

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Wounded Packers Look to Continue Hot Streak Against Falcons in NFC Championship http://proplayerinsiders.com/nfl-player-team-news-features/wounded-packers-look-continue-hot-streak-falcons-nfc-championship/ http://proplayerinsiders.com/nfl-player-team-news-features/wounded-packers-look-continue-hot-streak-falcons-nfc-championship/#comments Fri, 20 Jan 2017 04:41:32 +0000 http://proplayerinsiders.com/?p=168535 After starting the season 4-6, the playoffs seemed out of reach for the Green Bay Packers. Now the Packers are the NFC North Division Champions and one game away from Super Bowl LI after winning eight consecutive games dating back to week 12 of the regular season. The Packers will travel to Atlanta to face the Falcons in the last game in the Georgia Dome.

This will be a rematch from earlier in the season. Back in week 8, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan threw a touchdown with 31 seconds left to wide receiver Mohamed Sanu to give his team a 33-32 victory. Ryan finished with an efficient stat line, going 28 for 35 for 288 passing yards and three touchdowns.

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The Packers may be without their top two wide receivers: Jordy Nelson and Davante Adams. Nelson is still nursing a broken rib that kept him out of last weeks win against the Dallas Cowboys. Adams suffered an ankle injury against the Cowboys and has not practiced all week.

To make matters worse, backup wide receivers Genronimo Allison (hamstring) and Jeff Janis (quadriceps) are listed as questionable on the Packers injury report.

It is considered a long shot for Nelson to play while Adams status is unknown.

“Well, we’ve won without them before,” said Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. “We’d like to have them out there, but we’ll see what happens.”

In their first game against the Falcons, both Nelson and Adams had big games. Nelson caught four passes for 94 yards and a touchdown while Adams was a reception machine catching 12 passes for 74 yards.

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Wide receiver Randall Cobb and tight end Jared Cook will need to step up if Nelson and Adams cannot play on Sunday. Cobb leads the Packers in postseason receiving touchdowns with three while Cook caught Rodgers miracle sideline pass to put the Packers in field goal range to beat the Cowboys.

Defensively, the Packers face a tall task against Pro Bowl wide receiver Julio Jones and the abundance of weapons the Falcons have. Ryan has thrown touchdowns to 13 different players, a NFL record.

Divisional Round - Seattle Seahawks v Atlanta Falcons

The Packers held Jones to three catches for 29 yards in their first matchup, but the Falcons still managed to find success offensively.

Packers cornerback Quinten Rollins is still in concussion protocol and safety Morgan Burnett is rehabbing an injured thigh that he suffered against the Cowboys. Both play crucial roles in the Packers secondary and will be needed against the high-powered Falcons offense.

It is anticipated the game on Sunday will be high scoring due to the two quarterbacks playing. Rodgers lit up the Falcons in their first matchup, throwing for 246 yards and four touchdowns. He will need to put up similar numbers if the Packers want to move on to the Super Bowl.

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Super Bowl Event Week http://proplayerinsiders.com/nfl-player-team-news-features/super-bowl-event-week/ http://proplayerinsiders.com/nfl-player-team-news-features/super-bowl-event-week/#comments Thu, 19 Jan 2017 13:52:35 +0000 http://proplayerinsiders.com/?p=168464 Houston Texas will be the home of Super Bowl 51 and a week’s worth of unforgettable events. Super bowl week is a time for football fans to come and experience the excitement together. During this week there are many events being held across Houston. Opening day, held at Minute Maid Stadium, home of the Houston Astros is Monday, January 30th. Super bowl opening day is a chance for coaches and players to meet media and a chance for fans to catch a photo or autograph with team mascots, cheerleaders, and NFL legends.

Later in the week Ocean 2 Ocean Productions will put on their annual Legends for Charity event at the Marriott Marquis Downtown. Guest will be able to enjoy a cocktail hour and dinner. The Legends for Charity event benefits the St Jude’s children Research Hospital. This year NFL Network’s studio host Rich Eisen will be the 12th recipient of the Pat Summerall Award. Pass recipients include John Madden (2016), Joe Buck (2015), and Michael Strahan (2014).

For 18 years the NFL has put on the Super Bowl Gospel Celebration. This is the first and only inspirational music event with the stamp of approval from the NFL. Those in attendance will be surprised by special guests, performances, and the covenant NFL gospel choir. This year the event is at Lakewood Church in Houston on Friday, February 3rd.

For the foodie in the group, the 26th annual Taste of the NFL (TNFL) takes place at the University of Houston on Saturday February 4th. There will be more than 35 stations of prepared food for event goers. TNFL’s mission is to address the needs of the hungry and homeless by raising awareness and money through special events and programs, so guest will be able to enjoy food from the top chefs around the country while mingling with Hall of Fame NFL players, current NFL players, and celebrities while making a difference.

Last, but not least is the event everyone waits all year for, the Super Bowl. The game will be at NRG Stadium, Sunday February 5th at 6:30pm.  This will be the third year that the Super Bowl will be in Houston. The game will be televised on FOX and FOX Deportes. This year viewers will be entertained by “Bad Romance” singer, Lady Gaga. Lady Gaga also performed the National Anthem at Super Bowl 50. All events are ticketed, get them while supplies last.

 

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American Team Standouts and Impressions http://proplayerinsiders.com/nfl-player-team-news-features/american-team-standouts-impressions/ http://proplayerinsiders.com/nfl-player-team-news-features/american-team-standouts-impressions/#comments Thu, 19 Jan 2017 10:00:00 +0000 http://proplayerinsiders.com/?p=168510 Wednesday’s practice at the StubHub Center, the home of the Los Angeles Chargers, for Jim Zorn’s American team was one filled with spry athletes. As I walked into the practice venue, I looked around and saw that many NFL scouts were in attendance. Teams like the Chargers, Dolphins, Panthers, Patriots, Jets, Giants, Chiefs, Broncos, Raiders, Bears, and Falcons had scouts there as they looked on hoping to find a hidden gem. The reality is that most of these guys are question marks because they came from smaller schools, had little production, or something else. Nevertheless, there were certainly a few guys that stood out.

After finding somewhere to sit with a good vantage point, I started to watch the quarterbacks. Mitch Leidner, Ryan Higgins, and Sean Maguire all looked comfortable in a pro system and they each threw with velocity. There was not much to separate them as the competition for the right to start Saturday wears on. The signal callers looked really comfortable taking snaps under center. Leidner’s arm looked better than the other two because he knew when to put touch on his throws.

The offensive line looked solid as they practiced one on one drills with the defensive linemen. BYU tackle Andrew Eide caught my eye with his size and tenacity in the trenches. He was really aggressive when he shot his arms and when he got his hands on guys it was over. On the flip side, Cornelius Henderson, Jackson State, and DJ Jones, Mississippi, were hard to block. They were violent with their hands and had a low center of gravity when they engaged with the offensive linemen.

Then I moved on to the running backs and this is the group that could help win the game. Anthony Wales and Teriyon Gipson showed me why I thought they could be the cream of the crop in terms tailbacks. They exhibited good speed and ran good routes out of the backfield. I did not see them drop a pass and they have NFL speed. Running backs coach Carnell “Cadillac” Williams really focused on route running and being precise with it. Wales impressed me with his tenacity as a runner. He was like a bowling ball as the defenders were pins. However, the best day came from North Carolina A&T’s Tarik Cohen. He is 5’6 179 pounds and he was extremely productive in college as he rushed for 5,619 yards and 56 touchdowns. Cohen was like Speedy Gonzalez on the field and I liked his explosiveness as a returner.

I highlighted Lance Lenoir and Noel Thomas as some players to watch. Both guys displayed great hands, precise routes, and separation at the top of their routes. They demonstrated fluidity in their ability to contort their body and make tough catches. Zach Pascal stuck out as well as he was consistent throughout the day. He really surprised me with his athleticism, as he was not one of the faster receivers he just simply found ways to make plays.

Finally, the team transitioned into 11-on-11 and the energy started to permeate in the arena. Both sides of the ball showed a great deal of pride as they went back and forth. It was like watching a pendulum swing as momentum switched sides often. Cohen had a long run as he was ushered down the field by Leidner and scored. Pascal had a sensational one-handed grab that got everyone excited. Those two plays caught everyone’s eye as people in the stands started to move closer to the field and look enthusiastically. The defense had the better day though because they forced two turnovers and frustrated the offense. Lorenzo Jerome, St. Francis, and Brian Allen showed great instincts at safety as they stuffed some runs. Pita Taumoepenu impressed me at linebacker with his sideline-to-sideline speed and physicality.

Overall, there was a great deal of talent on the American team. I liked the energy I saw out on the field and the players looked like they were having fun. Guys got their reps and some of them maximized them. The kicker, Rigoberto Sanchez, even showed off his foot and for all we know he could be the MVP as one year a kicker won that honor. After all, these guys are all competing for the opportunity to get drafted or get a call from a franchise after the draft. Most of the aforementioned guys talked to scouts after practice for an extended amount of time. The players that impressed me the most were the guys from smaller schools. Players like Cohen, Wales, Lenoir, Pascal, Jerome, and others played with a chip on their shoulder. They did what was necessary to get exposure and noticed.

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Photos taken by Kevin A. Koski / NFLPA

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Key Notes at Practice for National Team http://proplayerinsiders.com/nfl-player-team-news-features/key-notes-practice-national-team/ http://proplayerinsiders.com/nfl-player-team-news-features/key-notes-practice-national-team/#comments Wed, 18 Jan 2017 22:09:07 +0000 http://proplayerinsiders.com/?p=168472 The National Team is getting prepared to face the American Team in the 2017 NFLPA Collegiate Bowl on January 21st at 4:15 p.m. eastern. In Wednesday practice, the National Team had a productive practice.

One player that stood out is quarterback Greg Ward Jr. Ward is a dynamic quarterback who played at University of Houston and led the team to a 9-4 record his senior year. In 2016, Ward threw for 3,557 yards, 22 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.

In a full 11-on-11 team drill, Ward showed off his legs when he took a QB draw up the middle and showed off his elusiveness as he ran for a big gain. Defenders are not allowed to hit the QB, but even if they could, Ward would have still ran for a big gain due to the huge hole he ran through.

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Ohio State University football player Dontre Wilson spent his time as a slot receiver during practice. Wilson was used all over the field during his time at OSU, but his 5’10” stature positions him at slot receiver. Wilson has an advantage over defenders due to his elusiveness. If Wilson can put his skill set altogether, he can be a diamond in the rough for his future NFL team.

Former NFL wide receiver Torry Holt was very active in Wednesday practice. Holt is serving as the WR position coach for the National Team as his former head coach with the St. Louis Rams Mike Martz was named to the same position for the National Team. Holt played under Martz for seven years so he knows the offensive scheme better than most.

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Almost after every snap, Holt was giving pointers out to the WR and correcting them on their mistakes. His advice is to be taken in as Holt went to seven NFL Pro Bowls while playing and looks to be named to the NFL Hall of Fame in the future. In 2016, Holt was named a semifinalist for the modern-era, but failed to make the final cut.

The National Team will practice tomorrow and will continue to improve for their game against the American Team. Players will have every chance to impress scouts before the game and improve their draft stock.

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NFLPA Bowl American Team Players to Watch http://proplayerinsiders.com/nfl-player-team-news-features/nflpa-bowl-american-team-players-watch/ http://proplayerinsiders.com/nfl-player-team-news-features/nflpa-bowl-american-team-players-watch/#comments Wed, 18 Jan 2017 13:00:11 +0000 http://proplayerinsiders.com/?p=168396 With the American team roster set, I have a few guys people should bear in mind this week with two practices being available to the media. There will be a lot of question marks all over the field whether it is a player from a big school or a small school. It will be interesting to see who is absorbing the coaching and capitalizing on this moment they have worked so hard for. Yes, combines and pro days will be a big part of their process, but the scouting starts now. There will be scouts from every team and every professional taking note of everything a player does. This is the time to get exposure and a time to get noticed.

Anthony Wales ran for 1,000 yards the last two seasons at Western Kentucky along with 27 rushing touchdowns as a senior. In two of the biggest games in his career, he ran from 206 yards in the Conference USA Championship and 245 in the Boca Raton Bowl game. Wales even ran for 152 against Zach Cunningham and Vanderbilt. He is versatile as a running back with his ability to catch passes out of the backfield. I am interested in seeing him in pass protection during the week at practice and in the game on Saturday. Wales could also help his case as a runner in between the tackles.

Teriyon Gipson ran for over 1,200 yards on limited carries out of the backfield. It boggles my mind on why New Mexico did not run him more or throw him the ball more. At 5’8 185 pounds, Gipson has the speed to break for a long touchdown anywhere on the field. He can answer some of those questions as a pass catcher this week and I would like to see him return some kicks or punts. Gipson has to be willing to do any and everything as a smaller back as the 2017 draft class is loaded with bruisers.

Brian Allen is one of the bigger defensive backs on the American team at 6’3, but I wonder if he is a safety or corner. He could capitalize on being a bigger corner with his length and physicality at the line of scrimmage. However, mainly against smaller receivers, will he be able to keep up with speedsters? At safety, Allen could use his coverage skills to cover tight ends, but will he be willing to tackle running backs? Utah used him everywhere in their defense so we will have to wait and see.

Michael Rector has speed and is believed to have run a 4.5 40 or faster. Remember when he housed a jet sweep against USC? He outran Adoree Jackson who is known for his world-class speed. I am interested to see how Bill Muir and the receiver coaches utilize his speed. I think he is better suited as a wideout, but he has a lot of question marks after having little production at Stanford. How good are his routes? How are his hands? Can he use his speed to create separation at the top of his routes? Rector is like Ty Montgomery when he came out of Stanford. He has loads of speed and upside.

Noel Thomas had one of the most prolific seasons at receiver as he racked up 100 catches, 1,179 yards, and three touchdowns. Now close your eyes and imagine him at Oklahoma or even North Carolina. Thomas would probably be a shoe in for getting selected in the 2017 NFL Draft. He has good size and build at 6’1 202 pounds. Thomas will have to separate himself with the pack of receivers with tough catches and winning one on one battles outside.

Ryan Higgins had a DWI incident in 2016 and he paid for it by sitting out the first game. This guy got overlooked in 2014 and 2015 as graduate transfers came in to take his job. Then in Week 2 of the 2016 season, he got his first start since 2013 and he led Louisiana Tech to the C-USA title game. Higgins fought hard in a tough loss to Wales and WKU as he threw for 501 yards and three touchdowns. He threw for 4,619 yards, 41 touchdowns, completed 66.3 percent of his throws, and had a top five passer rating in all of college football. Higgins added nearly 300 rushing yards with three touchdowns. He does not have prototypical size at 6’2 207 pounds, but his accuracy is what will get him drafted. Higgins has to display poise in the pocket and be able to drive the ball down the field on deep throws.

Pita Taumoepenu is undersized for a defensive end or a 3-4 stand up outside linebacker, but guys like Elvis Dumervil and Lorenzo Alexander are just fine in the game of football. He was extremely productive as a Utah Ute as he had 12 tackles for losses, nine sacks, and three forced fumbles. I would like to see what kind of technique he uses when rushing the quarterback. Is he a finesse rusher or bull rusher? I want to see how active he is in the run game. Is he a situational pass rusher? Finally, I want to see how fast he moves on the snap of the ball.

Lance Lenoir is my small school guy to keep an eye on after having three straight 1,000-yard seasons at Western Illinois. He caught 273 passes as a Leatherneck and 28 receiving touchdowns. I want to see how he competes against the guys from bigger schools as most guys form smaller schools typically play with a chip on their shoulder. I think he will turn a few heads as a guy way under the radar.

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Ward Jr., Wilson Among Key Players to Watch in 2017 NFLPA Collegiate Bowl http://proplayerinsiders.com/nfl-player-team-news-features/ward-jr-wilson-among-key-players-watch-2017-nflpa-collegiate-bowl/ http://proplayerinsiders.com/nfl-player-team-news-features/ward-jr-wilson-among-key-players-watch-2017-nflpa-collegiate-bowl/#comments Wed, 18 Jan 2017 10:00:18 +0000 http://proplayerinsiders.com/?p=168446 Former NFL coach Mike Martz was named head coach of the National Team for the third time in the sixth NFLPA Collegiate Bowl. He is 2-0 so far and will be looking to add another win on January 21st at 4:15 p.m. eastern time at the Stubhub Center in Carson, California.

Martz coaching staff will be made up of former players and coaches such as hall of famer Andre Reed, Torry Holt and Jon Kitna. They will have the opportunity to coach talented college seniors as they prepare for the NFL Draft in April. These are the key players to keep an eye for the National Team.

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QB Greg Ward Jr.—University of Houston Cougars

Standing at only 5’11” and 185 pounds, Ward is undersized at the quarterback position, but his talent is unmatched. Over four years at the University of Houston Cougars, Ward threw for 8,705 yards, 52 touchdowns and 26 interceptions.

He is impressive as a runner as well. In his junior season he ran for 1,108 yards and 21 touchdowns to go along with 2,828 yards passing and 17 touchdowns. He led the Cougars to a 13-1 record and won the American Athletic Conference Championship MVP

Ward may want to switch to wide receiver in the NFL to fit his frame. He is an outstanding athlete with speed. During his freshman and his sophomore year, Ward spent time at wide receiver and a return man. He caught 25 passes for 239 yards and eight touchdowns over the two years.

According to nfldraftscout.com, Ward runs a 4.49 second 40-yard dash and ranks 33rd out of 389 wide receivers in the NFL draft. Ward can be a Swiss Army knife type player for whichever team he lands on due to his dynamic skill set.

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RB/WR Dontre Wilson—Ohio State University Buckeyes

Wilson was surrounded with hype when he first stepped foot on OSU campus out of DeSoto, Texas. He was rated a four star recruit and a player with a dynamic skill set. His career at Ohio State did not live up to expectations, but he is capable of being a dynamic player if he puts it all together.

At 5’10” and 195 pounds, Wilson served as a H-back where he was used all over the field. In 2016, he caught 27 passes for 352 yards and five touchdowns while adding 78 yards rushing and one touchdown. In his college career, Wilson had 1,218 kick return yards to put him fifth on Ohio State all-time list.

He has talent with a lot of quickness, but scouts may question him on his off the field issues. In 2015, Wilson and three other OSU football players were suspended for the season opener against Virginia Tech. OSU cited the players were suspended for violation of athletic department policy.

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DE/OLB Tashawn Bower—LSU Tigers

6’6”, 253-pound defensive end Bower picked a great time to have his best game.

In the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl, LSU faced 2016 Heisman Trophy winner quarterback Lamar Jackson and the Louisville Cardinals. He managed to sack Jackson three times as LSU dominated Louisville 29-9. Coming into the game, Bower had only notched one sack on the year.

With his size, Bower can play standing outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme or defensive end in a 4-3 scheme. He has played both positions at LSU so it should be no issue for whatever positions he plays in the NFL.

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S Jeremy Tyler—West Virginia University Mountaineers

In his time at WVU, Tyler was described as their handyman at safety. He played all three-safety positions: bandit, spur and free safety at WVU. Tyler knows how to play in the box and is also able to roam around at free safety.

At 5’11” 207 pounds, Tyler has great size at the safety position. His versatility at the safety position is something a team can use as Tyler provides depth. At WVU, Tyler played behind current NFL safeties Karl Joseph and K.J. Dillon when both players attended the school and he learned valuable information by watching them.

“Preparation is very key, so I watched how those guys prepared for games and how they took care of their bodies,” Tyler said. “They film studied everyday just to try and get to know their opponent and just realizing what you need to work on and what your body needs to work on. That’s what I picked up from watching them.”

Tyler intercepted opposing quarterbacks twice in 2016 to go along with eight pass deflections and 56 tackles.

2016 California Golden Bears Football Schedule

RB Khalfani Muhammad—Cal Golden Bears

If its one thing Muhammad has, it’s speed. He finished seventh in the Pac-12 Championship 100 meter finals. His fastest 40-yard dash clocked out at 4.27 seconds according to nfldraftscout.com.

The knock on Muhammad is his size. He is 5’8” and weighs 172 pounds. NFLdraftscout.com ranks Muhammad 22nd out of 193 running backs available for the NFL Draft.

Muhammad was named a 2016 All-Pac-12 Conference Honorable Mention by the coaches. In 2016, he finished the regular season with 827 rushing yards on 152 carries; both were team and career highs. He also added two touchdowns on the ground.

He was more of an all-purpose player for his team. Muhammad was a factor catching 17 passes out of the backfield for 132 yards. Returning kickoffs, he had a total of 584 yards on 24 returns. Muhammad 4,575 career all-purpose yards ranks third all-time while his 87 kick returns and 1,931 kick return yards both rank second on Cal’s all-time list.

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Things to Do in Houston http://proplayerinsiders.com/nfl-player-team-news-features/things-houston/ http://proplayerinsiders.com/nfl-player-team-news-features/things-houston/#comments Tue, 17 Jan 2017 14:09:25 +0000 http://proplayerinsiders.com/?p=168408  

Superbowl 51 is on its way, are you traveling to see your favorite team play?  Houston is not only known for their sports, but for their attractions and events as well. For those that are interested in shopping there’s the famous Galleria mall. The Galleria is located in Southwest Houston and holds a large variety of stores from American Eagle to Fendi, Cheesecake Factory to Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse all under one roof.

If you’re coming in with children there’s  the Children’s Museum of Houston an interactive exhibit that engages children in science and technology, history and culture, health and the arts located in Houston’s convenient  Museum District. Also in the Museum District is the Houston Zoo. The zoo is in Hermann Park with over  6,000 animals and 55- acres of so much to see and do. It is sure to be a great time.   The Space Center Houston, an Official Visitor Center of NASA Johnson Space Center provides engaging and educational tours, also fun for adults. Located in the Greater Houston area,  The Space Center is the only Smithsonian Affiliate in area and one of Houston’s top attractions.

There’s never a dull moment in Houston, whether you’re into dance clubs or bars Downtown and Midtown Houston is known for their wide-array of different nightlife venues.  With the multicultural, metropolitan mix you are bound to find something that everyone will enjoy.  Whether you’re in Houston for a day or for a week there will be plenty of things to do. The best part about Houston’s fun and unique attractions are many of them are budget friendly or free!

 

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NFLPA Bowl American Coaching Staff http://proplayerinsiders.com/nfl-player-team-news-features/nflpa-bowl-american-coaching-staff/ http://proplayerinsiders.com/nfl-player-team-news-features/nflpa-bowl-american-coaching-staff/#comments Tue, 17 Jan 2017 13:00:29 +0000 http://proplayerinsiders.com/?p=168390 The NFLPA Bowl was founded in 2012 and is an opportunity for draft-eligible players to get exposure and get noticed. Former players are there to give the young players advice and paint a picture for what they should expect for the next few months as the draft approaches. Scouts from every NFL team and other leagues come to watch these players. In recent years, players like Chris Conley, Marquette King, and Jatavis Brown have helped their draft stock. Tony Softli is the Director of College Recruiting while Josh Buchanan and Pete Russell assisted in recruiting the players for the game. The game will be played in Carson, CA at the StubHub Center Saturday January 21st 4:15 pm EST/ 1:15 pm PST. The American team has never won.

Former Redskins coach Jim Zorn will coach the American team. Zorn can relate to these players as a former player when he played for the Seattle Seahawks. He once earned second team All Pro as a quarterback. He can relate to these guys because he used to coach in college at Boise State and Utah State. His staff includes former players and coaches. Matthew Hayes, Bill Muir, Clayton Lopez, Ty Knott, Darnell Stapleton, Carnell “Cadillac” Williams, Ron Howard, TJ Houshmanzadeh, Matthew Hatchette, Mike Wilson, Randy Hart, Antonio Pierce, Chip Vaughn, and Darrell Green will help Zorn coach this young crop. Their experience and path to the NFL is something that the players will gravitate toward.

Muir will serve as the offensive coordinator, Knott will be the special teams coach, and Hayes will serve as a coaching assistant to the head coach. Lopez is a former defensive backs coach for the Rams and Raiders, but will run the entire defense as the coordinator. Stapleton is an offensive line coach at Bucknell and will assume the same role for this game. He went to Rutgers and played for the Steelers as he won a Super Bowl. Howard will serve as the tight ends coach and I think he will be perfect for every player. He is a guy who went to a small school in Seattle and went undrafted. Howard would go on to player for the Cowboys, Seahawks, and Bills in 65 games. Talk about making something out of nothing.

Cadillac Williams is a graduate assistant at West Georgia after rushing for over 4,000 yards in the NFL. He had one of the best rookie years by a running back as he rushed for over 1,000 yards and was named AP NFL Rookie of the Year. Williams will monitor the running backs. Hatchette, Houshmanzadeh, and Wilson were all late round selections in the NFL Draft, but would go on to play five seasons or more in the league. Wilson played with Michael Irvin and won four Super Bowls while Houshmanzadeh played with Chad Johnson.

Defensively, Hart will serve as the defensive line coach after playing guard at Ohio State. He has made stops at his Alma mater, Notre Dame, Stanford, and Washington. Pierce won a ring with the Giants against an undefeated Patriots team as he played a chess match at linebacker against Tom Brady. He has served as an ESPN analyst and is currently the head coach at perennial west coast powerhouse Long Beach Poly. Houshmanzadeh is also a member on his staff.

The secondary will be divided, as Vaughn will monitor the safeties while Green will take the corners. Vaughn won a Super Bowl with the Saints and is currently playing in the CFL. Green currently holds a position as an Associate AD after playing in the NFL for almost two decades. He was a seven time Pro-Bowler, four time First team All-Pro, and was named to the Washington Redskins Ring of Fame. He recorded over 1,000 tackles, 54 interceptions, and won two rings. Green is also known for his big heart as he often gives back to the community through charitable events. This rounds out Zorn’s staff.

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Martz Named Head Coach in 2017 NFLPA Collegiate Bowl http://proplayerinsiders.com/nfl-player-team-news-features/martz-named-head-coach-2017-nflpa-collegiate-bowl/ http://proplayerinsiders.com/nfl-player-team-news-features/martz-named-head-coach-2017-nflpa-collegiate-bowl/#comments Tue, 17 Jan 2017 10:00:30 +0000 http://proplayerinsiders.com/?p=168424 For the third time, former NFL coach Mike Martz will be the head coach for the National Team in the 2017 NFLPA Collegiate Bowl.

NCAA Football: NFLPA Collegiate Bowl

The NFLPA Collegiate Bowl first started in 2012 and gives college seniors the chance to impress NFL teams and scouts in their last game action.

Martz has won both games he coached and will look to add to his winning streak versus the American Team over opposing head coach Jim Zorn.

NFC Divisional Playoffs:Panthers v Rams

Martz is most notable for being the St. Louis Rams offensive coordinator and head coach through the “greatest show on turf” era. He won a Super Bowl with the Rams in the 1999-2000 season as the offensive coordinator and led the team back as head coach.

His last NFL head coaching job was in 2005 with the Rams. He later had offensive coordinator jobs for the Detroit Lions, San Francisco 49ers and the Chicago Bears from 2006-2008, 2010-2011.

His staff will consist of former players such as quarterback Jon Kitna, wide receivers Torry Holt and hall of famer Andre Reed, and other former players and coaches.

Kitna will serve as offensive coordinator for the National Team. He threw for over 4,000 yards in two consecutive seasons when Martz served as offensive coordinator for the Lions in 2006-2007.

tory-holt-nfl

Wide receivers on the National Team will get the chance to learn from former greats Holt and Reed, as they will serve as position coaches for the group. Holt played under Martz from 1999-2005 with the Rams where he had 619 receptions, 9,487 receiving yards and 54 touchdowns.

The game will be played on January 21st, 2017 at 4:15 p.m. eastern time at the StubHub Center in Carson, California. Martz will look to win his third consecutive NFLPA Colligate Bowl as he won last year in a close 18-17 game. He managed to lead the team to victory without scoring a single touchdown, but the six field goals was enough.

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