Marcus Davenport is the best defensive player that nobody is talking about

Saints DE Marcus Davenport may be from another planet

By: Jake Rajala

When Saints defensive end Marcus Davenport takes the field, you will surely witness the closest thing to an offensive tackle being pushed back into in a quarterback’s lap every play. In 2021, the 25-year-old DE for the Saints has truly learned to utilize his 6’6 frame and 4.58 40 time in 2021. Nonetheless, the injury bug has continued to hurt the edge player’s appearances, as he’s only played “eight of the 14 games” this season. 

Davenport and Jadeveon Clowney struggle to contain their giant-like frame mixed with a near Olympic runner explosion, as they’ve routinely been injured in their playing careers. 

Even if Davenport has been MIA in six contests this season, the player has been productive and the utmost efficient when healthy and on the field. On October 26th, it was well painted how Davenport was the “most effective edge player” by PFF. As it stands now, Davenport is the third-ranked edge defender per PFF. The DE has not been a reliable source of health Still, it’s been a roller coaster ride strapped with dynamite for the fourth-year pass rusher. 

Here is a deeper look at Davenport’s key stats on the season:

  • 6.5 sacks in eight games (translates to 13.8 sacks in 17 games) 
  • Nine tackles for loss (equals 19 TFLs in 17 games)

The Saints DE is like a bolt of lightning when he comes off the line of scrimmage. Saints defensive coordinator has proudly called Davenport the best defensive player. It’s not a slouch comment by Allen, especially when the Saints defense fields Marshon Lattimore, Demario Davis, and Cameron Jordan (NFC defensive player of the week in Week 15). His playmaking ability has been blatantly obvious in the run and pass game. As portrayed above, the Saints DE would be in the conversation as one of the top defensive players in the league if he could stay on the field just a bit more. 

Saints GM Mickey Loomis made a bold decision to trade two first-round draft picks to acquire the UTSA prospect Marcus Davenport in 2018. Leading up to 2021, Davenport was widely considered a bust for missing a few plus games a season and only having 12.5 career sacks to show for it. Yet, it appears in this day in age the Saints DE could complete a career season of production, potentially help the team in the playoffs, and show Who Dat nation he’s transforming into the player he was expected to be on draft day.

3 reasons why Clowney could have a career season

Browns Clowney will unravel his potential in 2021

By: Reese Nasser

Jadeveon Clowney had the worst year of his career since his rookie season when he appeared in only four games. A knee injury knocked Clowney out of his first and only season with the Tennessee Titans. After signing with the Cleveland Browns this off-season, Clowney wilh have a chip on his shoulder and be prepared to show that he can still be one of the top defensive players in the NFL. The Browns will also be looking to build on a strong 2020 season and Clowney will be thrust into a big role with this team. Here are three reasons why he will have a career season.

Good Health

Injuries have plagued Clowney since he entered the NFL. This upcoming season, that should no longer be a problem. After missing half of last season, Clowney has had time to prepare his body and be ready for the 2021 season.

The Browns having such a deep defense should also allow for Clowney to not have to overexert himself, like he has potentially had to in the past. A healthy Clowney could easily be a top-5 defensive player in the NFL. 

Strong Defense

The Browns have assembled one of the top defenses in the NFL and were also able to return a majority of the starters from last season. The Browns strong draft will also help with this. 

In the first round of the draft, the Browns selected Northwestern cornerback Greg Newsome II. Newsome paired with other corners, Denzel Ward, Greedy Williams, and Troy HIll plus safeties Grant Delpit, John Johnson III, and Ronnie Hrrison Jr, this secondary will be a terror for opposing wide receivers.
As offenses struggle to get past this secondary, Clwoney will be fighting to get into the backfield. The longer that the secondary can lock down the offense, the more opportunity that Clowney will have to make a big play. 

In a potential bigger draft selection, the Browns selected linebacker Jeremiah Owosu-Kormamoah. This linebacker out of Notre Dame has proven that he can get into the backfield and disrupt plays.  During his two seasons at Notre Dame, he accounted for 24.5 tackles for loss. He is able to consistently get into the backfield and while only having 7.5 career sacks, is still able to impact both on run and pass defense.Clowney should benefit from Owusu-Koramoah, who opposing offensive lines will also have to scheme for. The defensive unit had 38 total sacks last season. The defensive line themselves accounted for 20.5 of these sacks. WIth the addition of Clowney, this unit will account for even more.

Myles Garrett

The biggest reason for Clowney having the biggest season of his career will be the guy lining up down the line from him. Myles Garrett has proven to be one of the best defenders in the NFL. Garrett accounted for 12 sacks last season in only 14 games played. He is a dominant force that can do almost anything he wants on the field. His ability to make plays forces defenses to prepare for him constantly. He is consistently double teamed and it is just an overall nightmare for opposing offensive coordinators. 

Clowney has proven that when there is another star on the defensive line, he can be even more disruptive. While J.J. Watt and Clowney weren’t able to share the field often in their five-year run together, the one season where they were able to was a strong year for both players. The 2018 season saw both Watt and Clowney play at a high level. Watt recorded 16 sacks while Clowney added another 9. The two also combined for 34 tackles for losses. 

In this same 2018 season, Myles Garrett had a career high in sacks with 13.5. Garrett also has the upside of age so this duo, if all goes well, will be able to perform together for some time. 

So now add Clowney into the conversation and see what happens. Clowmey played some of his best football when playing alongside J.J. Watt. And Watt received treatment just like Garrett. Clowney should be able to reap the benefits of having Garett double teamed and being the central focus. In the least, his stats will look good. The potential for both of these players to have double digit sacks is very real. 

Which pass rush duo has the edge: Cleveland or Washington?

Washington pass rush or Cleveland pass rush?

By: Jeremy Trottier

Something that has noticeably been forming this offseason as well as the last is the edge rushing room for Washington and Cleveland.  Both teams have spent a top two pick on an edge rusher that is currently on the roster and have another high-level talent across from them.  In this article, I will be comparing these two edge duos, and determining which is better based on a few factors.  These being:

  • 2020 Production
  • Potential Growth from 2020-2021
  • Coaching (defensive coordinator)

The assumed starting duo for each team is Chase Young and Montez Sweat for Washington, as well as Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney for Cleveland.  Just so it is stated prior to my answer to this question, I believe both of these edge duos are phenomenal, respectively.  This is more about which one overall fits the most points to determine success.  

With this established, lets get right into the first of these points.

2020 Production

Starting off, we have how each of these edge duos produced as a combined unit in 2020.  Starting with Washington, rookie Chase Young and sophomore Montez Sweat combined put up the following statline:

  • Young started 15 games, Sweat started in 16
  • 16.5 sacks, 89 total tackles, and 32 QB hits
  • 22 tackles for loss, 6 forced fumbles, 3 fumble recoveries, 1 interception, and 2 total touchdowns

Overall, the duo performed extremely well for their first year together, as well as Chase’s first year in the league.  Being able to dominate at such a high level so early in both of their careers gives them a huge advantage, as they are only going to go upwards from here. 

Then we have the Cleveland duo’s stats.  Keep in mind that they did play on separate teams last year, so playing opposite of each other may dent these numbers slightly in 2021.  Under that pretense, here are their combined stats from 2020:

  • Garrett started 14 games, Clowney started in 8
  • 12.0 sacks (all from Garrett), 52 total tackles, and 24 QB hits
  • 14 tackles for loss, 5 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries, 0 interceptions, and 0 total touchdowns

The main reason they are so far apart is that the Washington duo (31 combined starts) had more playing time than the Cleveland duo (22 combined starts).  

Potential Growth from 2020-2021

This is more of a personal feeling rather than a true factually defined section like the last.  With that said, Washington’s duo most definitely has the most room to grow here.  There are a few factors that lead into why I believe this is the case as well.

First off, they are a much younger combined unit than Cleveland’s.  Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney are 25 and 28 respectively, while Chase Young and Montez Sweat are 22 and 24 respectively.  With this notion, the Washington duo should end up growing in their 2nd and 3rd seasons, at least at a higher rate than the Cleveland duo.

Coaching 

Finally, we have coaching, which is a little more interesting to think about.  Starting with Cleveland, they have Joe Woods at defensive coordinator who was just promoted into this role with 26 years of coaching experience.  However, his experience on the defensive side is enormous.  Serving as a DB coach for the Denver Broncos during their Super Bowl 50 victory, in which defense was a huge part of that game.  

On the other side, Washington has defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio, who is entering his 22nd season of coaching.  A former NFL player, as well as Super Bowl winner (as a coach) which was Super Bowl 35.  Overall, this is a pretty close debate between coaches, and will likely not lead to a huge change in either duo.  Rather the development of Washington’s, and the integration of Clowney into Cleveland’s.

Conclusion

With these points, seemingly each favors Washington, as they produced more in 2020, have the potential to develop even further and produce more in 2021, and have the coaching means to do so.  Granted, this is subjective, and based solely on my opinion as well as the stats available to me.  However, Washington is my final pick to be the better of the two edge rushing duos for now.  

Post-NFL Draft Super Bowl Dark Horses in AFC and NFC

Which surprise franchises have a legit shot at winning the Super Bowl?

by Michael Obermuller

The NFL Draft came and went like a hurricane once again, with winners and losers grades flying in from every analyst in America. According to aggregate rankings, some of this year’s draft champions were teams like the Chicago Bears, Cleveland Browns, Los Angeles Chargers, New York Jets, and Miami Dolphins. Do any of these franchises actually have a shot at the Super Bowl though?

The short answer is yes. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers flipped the script in a single offseason, going from 7-9 to parade yachting through Tampa’s harbor. I know they signed the greatest quarterback the game has ever seen, but we’ve seen the NFL pull championship 180’s more often than any other sports league, and we could definitely see another dark horse Lombardi winner in February of 2022.

Based on both the NFL Draft and NFL Free Agency, here are four teams that could make the jump to SB Champs in what is now less than one calendar year away.

Cleveland Browns

Now I know this one seems like a cop-out, because the Browns were pretty darn good last season, but they’re still not even favorites to win their division according to most oddsmakers right now. On FanDuel Sportsbook, Cleveland has +1700 odds to win the big game, behind the AFC North rival Baltimore Ravens at +1400. To me, the Browns might have had the top draft in football, and that’s after having a solid free agency and an 11-5 record in 2020.

General manager Andrew Berry made a splash just before the draft when he signed edge rusher Jadeveon Clowney. He had already bolstered the secondary in March, bringing in safety John Johnson III and corner Troy Hill (both formerly of the Los Angeles Rams), not to mention DT Malik Jackson and LB Anthony Walker elsewhere on the defense. This unit held Cleveland back in 2020, with a fluid consistency on the other side of the ball. After the signings they made, and the sleeper potential of draft picks like CB Greg Newsome II and LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (who never should have fallen out of the first round), it might be their strength just one year later.

The Brownies have been improving ever since Baker Mayfield took over at quarterback, and now this team is built to win it all. Top offensive line, ferocious pass rush, youthful secondary, blistering run game… oh, and star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. set to return from injury. Cleveland somehow faces a third-place schedule with a first-place roster, and I expect them to dominate.

Denver Broncos

A lot of people had the Denver Broncos as dark horses in 2020, but I promise you that I was not one of them. Even before the Courtland Sutton and Von Miller injuries (both healthy again), I thought Denver was a few missing pieces away from contention, but they may have solved a large chunk of that puzzle this offseason. They rank 11th on the aggregate draft boards, but I actually thought they deserved a higher grade. GM George Paton did a ton of things I liked this Spring, and it all started in the secondary with signings Kyle Fuller and Ronald Darby. It continued in the draft.

The tweet above doesn’t even include seventh round pick Kary Vincent Jr., who I thought was one of the top value picks of the entire draft. The LSU cornerback’s rank seemed to fall after he opted out in 2020, but he was very productive the season before when the Tigers won the College Football Playoff. The Broncos needed a deep secondary that could keep up with Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs, and this one can. Factor in Miller and Bradley Chubb finally pairing together off the edge, and this defense could have championship pedigree under Vic Fangio. The offense should be no slouch either, with a plethora of young weapons and the one tricky question being at quarterback (Drew Lock and Teddy Bridgewater set to compete).

P.S. Denver is currently the front-runner to trade for Aaron Rodgers… and that would only boost their +2400 Super Bowl odds.

Dallas Cowboys

The Dallas Cowboys may not have had the best draft grades in their entirety, but I thought they made a couple of very key selections early on, like middle linebacker Micah Parsons. After trading back for a couple of extra picks, the Boys drafted the top LB in the draft. Parsons is not only talented, he’s a leader with the ceiling of a Bobby Wagner type captain. They also filled their cornerback need in the second round (after missing out on Jaycee Horn and Patrick Surtain II), drafting Kelvin Joseph out of Kentucky (a solid prospect with elite speed), and UCLA defensive lineman Osa Odighizuwa is another intriguing prospect nabbed in the third.

Jerry Jones and Dallas went defense, defense, and more defense this draft after dishing out $240 million to Dak Prescott this offseason, and I loved the commitment here by Jones and company. This offense was spectacular before Prescott’s injury, averaging 32.6 points per game (PPG) during the five games he started. Dak plus a healthy offensive line should put the Cowboys back near the top of the league in efficiency, but this defense was in desperate need of reinforcements, allowing the fifth most PPG last season. When you consider how many injuries the franchise suffered in 2020, plus the improvements they’ve made this Spring, they are an easy 2021 dark horse in my eyes at +2800 odds.

Chicago Bears

I’m surprising myself with this one as I’ve been one of the biggest Matt Nagy-Ryan Pace haters the past few seasons, and most Bears fans would probably agree with me after the way this franchise has been run. That could all change with one draft decision, however, the trade-up for dual-threat quarterback Justin Fields. Now you are either a Fields believer or you aren’t — and I am — ranking the Ohio State product as my QB1 in 2021 (yes, that’s including Trevor Lawrence). As expected, NFL GM’s disagreed with us Fields supporters drafting Lawrence, Zach Wilson, and Trey Lance over him. To be fair, I like Wilson and Lawrence and think both could be successful, Lance I’m less sure about it.

Having the game-ready Fields as the Chicago QB1 instead of Andy Dalton makes all the difference in the world when evaluating this roster’s chances, but it wasn’t just the addition of Fields that changed my entire perspective on the Bears. Pace was drafting like his life depended on it (only because it totally did), and I have to admit that he struck gold under pressure. Left tackle Teven Jenkins was a steal in the second (a first round talent that will start after the release of Charles Leno). Then guard prospect Larry Borom and cornerback Thomas Graham Jr. were also some picks with some major potential to be had.

This once-great defense still flaunts playmakers like Khalil Mack, Roquan Smith, Robert Quinn and Eddie Jackson. The defensive line should also get back 2020 opt-out Eddie Goldman alongside Akiem Hicks. So long as they get something out of corners Desmond Trufant and Jaylon Johnson, this is a formidable unit again in 2021. On the offensive side, the Bears managed to hold onto Allen Robinson, while adding interesting weapons like Damien Williams, Damiere Byrd and Marquise Goodwin for Fields to get the ball to. There are still problems to solve, but Chicago took a major leap in the Super Bowl odds after draft night in my opinion, yet they still sit at +4800 odds on FanDuel. I may just have to take that bet.

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