The Baltimore Ravens are crossing their fingers and hoping Earl Thomas can turn back the clock:

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Author: Jon Kuzma


The Baltimore Ravens lost a lot of defensive talent this off-season and they signed Earl Thomas to patch those holes. It’s tough for a safety to have a big impact when the front-seven isn’t generating enough pressure.


However if there’s anyone who can create opportunities on the back end it’s certainly Thomas. This is a pure free safety and what that means is his ball hawking skills are the strength of his game. When Thomas plays the deep middle third he always jumps the routes that are in his zone and those takeaways can tilt the odds in Baltimore’s favor. He’s also got really sticky fingers and if there’s any tipped passes Thomas is coming down with the interception. From a talent standpoint there’s no denying how spectacular the 30 year old is. The biggest challenge for Earl Thomas will be whether or not his body holds up? The last time this guy played in all 16 contests was back in 2015. That’s a big red flag considering the Ravens just paid Thomas a 4 year $55M contract. In fact he’s the highest paid player on the team and when you spend that kind of money you better get it right. This has the potential to be one of the worst free agency busts we’ve ever seen especially if Thomas plays a season or two and then retires. Give his agent some credit though because that was a nice deal to sign after all of the medical problems Thomas has faced.

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The Baltimore Ravens made Earl Thomas their highest paid player and now they’re hoping he can turn back the clock.

Out of the stable. The Denver Broncos will benefit from a more confident Courtland Sutton:

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Author: Jon Kuzma


Last year the Denver Broncos were transitioning to a new era particularly at the wide receiver position. Demaryius Thomas was on his way out and eventually got traded to the Houston Texans.


A move that was made to make way for rookie wide receiver Courtland Sutton. The 2018 second round pick out of SMU was outstanding in his first professional season recording 704 receiving yards and 4 touchdowns. Those were impressive numbers out of the gate and it’s amazing how effective he was. Sutton has a big frame at 6’4” 216 pounds and he creates mismatches on game day. Smaller corners have trouble tackling this guy and Sutton can also win one-on-one battles by high pointing the football. Where he does his best work though is over the middle. It seemed like Case Keenum connected with Sutton often on slants, posts, and drags. Having that safety valve is crucial for this offense because those are easier throws to make. Now with Joe Flacco at the helm we could see more vertical routes out wide. So it’s possible that Sutton will be asked to stretch the field more frequently and it’s likely he’ll flourish on deep patterns as well. At the end of the day this a pure football player and Courtland Sutton can make the clutch catch. Denver is going to hand the reins to the 23 year old and he should go over 1,000 receiving yards this time around.

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The Denver Broncos will benefit from a more confident Courtland Sutton.

Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Brandin Cooks might be the most underappreciated player in all of football:

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Author: Jon Kuzma


There’s always more than a handful of players who don’t get the respect that they deserve.


Some are flying under the radar and become more popular down the line. Others like Brandin Cooks are overlooked and even passed over by former employers (Saints and Patriots). This is obviously shocking because Cooks is coming off 4 straight 1,000 yard seasons. You don’t have that kind of production unless you’re one of the top receivers in pro football and Cooks will be crucial in the Los Angeles Rams success once again. Ndamukong Suh is no longer with the team, the offensive line is a little bit worse, and Cooper Kupp is battling back from an ACL tear. So Cooks has to be sharp because Sean McVay is relying on his output. Jared Goff can’t throw the ball down the field if he doesn’t have Brandin Cooks’ speed out wide. Robert Woods is better on slants and drags but he’s not as fast as Cooks. Those are abilities that Los Angeles can’t afford to lose. Meaning he has to stay healthy and perform at a high level. Fortunately for this group Cooks has been consistent and there’s no indication things will change anytime soon. New England may have gotten cold feet when Cooks got knocked out of the Super Bowl by Malcolm Jenkins but the Patriots have been burning through pass catchers ever since. While Cooks hasn’t skipped a beat since then and it looks like he finally has a home in California.

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Brandin Cooks has been very underappreciated throughout his career.

The Cleveland Browns defense is being overlooked and people are forgetting just how good Myles Garrett is:

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Right now everyone’s talking about the Cleveland Browns offense. You hear a lot about Baker Mayfield, Odell Beckham Jr., and Jarvis Landry but don’t forget about the other side of the ball.


A group is only as good as their best individual and for this team that’s Myles Garrett. The 2018 first overall pick has been exceptional over his first two years recording 20.5 sacks. Garrett typically lines up at the right defensive end spot and left tackles have their hands full trying to block this guy. He’ll go right around the edge and then hammer the quarterback. The other thing Garrett is really good at is strip-sacks. By knocking the ball out of the QB’s hands it creates chances to get off the field. By forcing takeaways Cleveland is much more likely to win and it makes for some exciting football. Myles Garrett also doubled his production from year one to year two and that means the Browns have to be very optimistic for this upcoming season. We could be witnessing a player who can finish around the 20 sacks mark and that’s so much output for one defender. The addition of Olivier Vernon will also take some of the focus off of Garrett so he’s in a good situation with week one quickly approaching. If the former Aggie (Garrett) can become a top 5 talent then we can probably expect to see the Browns in the playoffs in January.

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The Cleveland Browns defense is being overlooked.

Why newcomer Jabrill Peppers will pack a punch in the New York Giants secondary:

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Author: Jon Kuzma

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The safety position is somewhat unique because those players line up 9 yards off of the ball and sometimes it’s hard to evaluate their impact.



Sure it’s easy to see when Eddie Jackson or Tyrann Mathieu intercept a pass but there’s other things the last line of defense must accomplish. Whether it’s a touchdown saving tackle or flying up in run support those are plays that can change the outcome of games. Which is why Jabrill Peppers will be so good for New York. Peppers is an elite athlete and he’s exactly what the Giants need in their defensive backfield. He’s very versatile and a big hitter. The former Michigan alum is also a willing tackler and you’ll see him get down and dirty on game day. This guy basically has a linebacker’s mentality but his athleticism is off the charts. It’s so impressive that Jabrill Peppers can also double as a return man on special teams. So Dave Gettleman is smart for making Cleveland throw him in the Odell Beckham Jr. trade. It’s an acquisition that can provide some great returns and the Browns could regret shipping Peppers out. Especially if he has the breakout season that he’s capable of. Peppers is easily one of the most physically gifted players on the field at all times.

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Jabrill Peppers will pack a punch for the New York Giants defensive backfield.

Shaping up. The Detroit Lions know they’re going to get the best out of Jarrad Davis in 2019:

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Author: Jon Kuzma

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Former first round pick Jarrad Davis started to put it all together in his second NFL season. The Detroit Lions linebacker recorded 100 tackles and 6 sacks proving how valuable he can be for Matt Patricia’s defense. You can see right away how physically gifted Davis is.



Not very many 240 pounders are able to move as well as this guy does and he’s everything you want in today’s era. Stopping the run is fundamental no matter what level of football it is. Jarrad Davis goes a step further and he lays some pretty heavy blows on opposing ball carriers. That ends up striking fear in the offense and you’ll see some teams start to clam up a little bit. Once that happens the Lions have a much better chance of winning the game. It should also be noted that Davis is very strong against the pass too. Receivers think twice about running crossing routes against him because those can turn into devastating hits over the middle. Because of the speed that each guy is moving at it’s almost like witnessing a car accident. The final part of Davis’ game that we have to talk about is his ability to rush the passer. He’s got a knack for slicing through the offensive line and those sacks help Detroit get off the field on passing downs. So when Jarrad Davis takes down Aaron Rodgers, Kirk Cousins, or Mitchell Trubisky on 3rd and 10 those are drive killers that keep points off the board. You just can’t say enough good things about Davis and his third year should be truly special.

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Detroit Lions linebacker Jarrad Davis is shaping up.

Taking command. San Francisco 49ers linebacker Fred Warner is earning a larger role on defense:

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Sport Author: Jon Kuzma

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Every rookie has high expectations when they’re entering the NFL. These are individuals who had success at every stop before they became professional athletes. Yet it’s so difficult to transition to the next level because the competition gets even harder.


That didn’t prevent 49ers rookie linebacker Fred Warner from bursting onto the seen though. The former third round pick recorded 124 tackles in 2018 and he did that while filling in for Malcolm Smith. Reuben Foster also got cut halfway through the season so Warner’s emergence couldn’t have come at a better time. What he essentially did was turn a weakness into a strength. Clearly John Lynch hit on this mid-round selection and a lot of Warner’s success can be traced back to his instincts. This is a player who can shoot through the gap’s so quickly and it seems like he’s always making plays in the offensive backfield. It all starts with a good read step which is used to build momentum. Then Warner collides with running backs and lays it all out on the field for his team. By proving himself Fred Warner has gained (defensive coordinator) Robert Saleh’s trust. Therefore the young defender is stepping into a leadership role in 2019 and now San Francisco expects him to set an example for everyone else. Producing a large output made that possible and the 49ers also added Kwon Alexander to make their run defense even stingier. Together those two should be able to deflate their opponents morale. They’ll also join Deforest Buckner, Richard Sherman, and Nick Bosa as the core of this group.

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Fred Warner is taking command of the 49ers defense.

The Denver Broncos defense can be elite because Bradley Chubb is living up to his potential:

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Author: Jon Kuzma

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Let’s make one thing clear the Denver Broncos are Von Miller’s team. Miller is easily the best player on this roster and it all starts and ends with him. However it was the addition of Bradley Chubb which really took this group to the next level.


The 2018 first round pick is also a pass rushing specialist. While Miller gets the job done with his quickness. Chubb is more powerful and tends to rely on his bull rush. Even though their styles are different Chubb was still effective as a rookie recording 12 sacks. Offenses can’t leave one-on-one blocking on Chubb or they’ll end up getting overpowered. So that creates a predicament when it comes to pass protection because Von Miller is also a huge threat. Having to account for both guys puts you in between a rock and a hard place because sooner or later one of those players will break loose. It’s not just the sacks that teams have to worry about either. Chubb is getting very good at coming down the line and stuffing runs that are away from him. Meaning that he can make his opponents somewhat one dimensional and that plays right into Denver’s favor. The Broncos actually want teams to pass because they have all of the tools to consistently win those battles. They’re licking their chops when quarterbacks drop back and this is one of the main reasons they’re a sleeper team. Talent wins games and you could see the strides this group was making a year ago. With Chubb’s progression 2019 could be even better and the worst of Denver’s struggles are in the past.

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Denver is getting better because Bradley Chubb is living up to his potential.

 

A star is born. The Los Angeles Chargers know Derwin James can change the safety position forever:

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Author: Jon Kuzma

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Every once in a while a great safety comes along that completely breaks the mold. We saw it back in 2004 when Sean Taylor blew us away with his physicality.



We kind of witnessed it again when Eric Berry and Earl Thomas brought their ball hawking abilities to the league. However Derwin James is different than all of those other guys because he’s so versatile. Last year the Los Angeles Chargers lined him up all over the place and it seemed like James excelled whether he was deep, in the box, in the slot, or on the edge. Which is rare because usually a player is only good in one of those phases of the game. That wasn’t the case with the rookie and his numbers prove it. James recorded 105 tackles, 3.5 sacks, and 3 interceptions in his first campaign and it’s rare that you see someone hit the ground running like that. Obviously it’s possible because James has some exceptional instincts and the athleticism to execute his reads. And when you add that to all of the other talented players Los Angeles has it makes for a very dangerous defense. People forget Joey Bosa was hurt for most of last season but that group still held up well (9th ranked in total defense). It’s because James came in and minimized a lot of their weaknesses and they should be even better with a healthy Bosa and the additions of Jerry Tillery and Nasir Adderly. Collectively all of those pieces will be demoralizing for opposing teams and James should build on the momentum he was able to establish in 2018. He’s not as big of a hitter as Taylor was but Derwin James is probably better when it comes to making tackles for a loss. Not to mention he can blitz and get after the quarterback. So it’s almost like having another linebacker who can also cover like Berry and Thomas (who were free safeties). The blend of it all is what makes James who he is.

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Derwin James can change the way the safety position is played forever.

A healthy Devonta Freeman will be everything the Atlanta Falcons hoped for. Their offense has another gear when he’s on the field:

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Author: Jon Kuzma

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The Atlanta Falcons caught a bad break last year when Devonta Freeman went on injured reserve with a groin problem.


Freeman only ended up playing in two games in 2018 and that was so tough for this team to overcome. Yeah Tevin Coleman eliminated some of the issues the Falcons had running the ball but there‘s a reason Freeman has always been the ace. It’s because he’s so much better as the lead back and the results prove that. Freeman has 30 career rushing touchdowns and Coleman only has 18. So the running game is way more effective when Atlanta is handing the rock off to number 24 and he’s just an exciting ball carrier to watch. You’ll notice right away that Freeman is a shorter player but he has a low center of gravity. Therefore it’s hard to get a solid hit on him and then there’s his agility. Whether it’s juking, spinning, or changing directions it seems like this guy has a variety of ways to break defenders down. Those are plays that this offense lacked for most of this past season and they should be much more balanced with their workhorse back in the fold. Why go with an air raid approach when Dirk Koetter can call runs and let Freeman work his magic on the ground? It’s safer to go that route and then Matt Ryan will have those playaction plays to work off of. That seems like the best course of action down in Georgia.

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Devonta Freeman’s return will be everything the Atlanta Falcons hoped for.

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