Friday, March 16, 2018

STILL THE RECORD: Denver vs. Houston—December 1962

By T.J. Troup
When Wally Lemm took over the Oilers during the 1961 campaign, he polished a "tarnished team" and went undefeated leading Houston to its second consecutive AFL championship. Lemm switches leagues to the NFL Cardinals, and former St. Louis head coach Frank "Pop" Ivy is now in charge of the Oilers.

Replacing Lemm as defensive co-ordinator and secondary coach is former Eagle Neill Armstrong. Philadelphia intercepted 8 passes against the Cardinals in '50 and Armstrong was part of that team (though he did not intercept that day). Armstrong is again going to watch his team intercept 8 times; this time against Denver.

The Broncos became revitalized in 1962 under Jack Faulkner and at one point with a 7-2 record still stood a chance to win the western conference, but a three-game losing streak has sent them to Jeppesen Stadium in Houston to take on the Oilers on a muddy field with the rain coming down. George Blanda leads the Oilers down the field completing 3 of 6 passes and kicks a field goal to put Houston on the scoreboard. Denver punts after three plays, and Blanda finds Cannon open for a 60 yard score and a 10-0 lead.
The quarter ends with no more scoring, and the only turnover is all-league left corner Tony Banfield's fumble recovery for Houston. Second quarter, and Denver recovers Cannon's fumble and scores. The best right safety in the early AFL was Goose Gonsoulin of the Broncos and he intercepts as Denver takes over on their own forty-four yard line. Tripucka completes six straight passes, and Denver scores again to take the lead 14-10. Blanda again misfires as linebacker Jim Fraser intercepts, but the Broncos cannot take advantage when Bobby Jancik of Houston intercepts a pass intended for speedster Jerry Tarr.

When Denver gets the ball back they are eventually faced with a 3rd and five situation deep in their own territory. Tripucka throws to Frazier who is blasted by linebacker Doug Cline; the balls goes up in the air and Banfield intercepts. Blanda again pitches to Cannon for the score and Houston reclaims the lead. Old pro George Shaw comes in for Tripucka yet he is also intercepted. Jim "The Blade" Norton returns 10 yards, but Blanda's errant pass is pilfered by corner Jim McMillin as the half ends. Houston 17 Denver 14, with an unprecedented 6 interceptions in the second quarter. Denver cannot move on their first possession of the second half. Right corner Mark Johnston of the Oilers blocks the punt, and there is that man again Tony Banfield who scoops up the ball and returns 21 yards.
Blanda finds Hennigan open for the touchdown, and Houston ups it's advantage to 24-14. Tripucka's 3rd down pass is intercepted by linebacker Mike Dukes (today is his birthday). Houston punts and Tripucka locates Lionel Taylor for 27 yards which leads to a Mingo field goal and Denver is back in the game; 24-17. The quarter ends with Houston driving as Blanda continues to throw the J-5V pigskin almost every down. Wahoo McDaniel ends the promising drive early in the 4th with his interception. Jim Norton gets the ball back for the Oilers with his second interception. The Houston drive ends with a field goal and a 27-17 lead.
Shaw re-enters the game for Denver but his short pass is nabbed by Oiler defensive end Don Floyd who returns 28 yards and a touchdown. Second down and five for Denver,  and Dukes makes his second interception. The Broncos have now had 3 of their last four passes intercepted. Houston and Denver exchange punts, and Blanda keeps firing; Bronco defensive end Chuck Gavin latches onto a pass and returns 35 yards. Tripucka's long pass is intercepted by Norton. The game ends with Blanda doing what else? He passes on the final play of the game.

Will we ever see a game like this again? 97 passes attempted by both teams with nary a sack, and 13 intercepted (all from the second quarter on). Six interceptions in both the 2nd & 4th quarter. The game took only 2 hours and 27 minutes to play. Imagine how long a game like this would take today? The Oilers were 4-3 at midseason, yet much like '61 they continue to win and advance to their third straight AFL title game with a seven-game win streak. Denver ends the season with another loss and a final mark of 7-7 as Faulkner earns coach of the year honors.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Rams Create a "No Fly Zone" Secondary, But What About the Front?

By John Turney
In the past month the Rams have shipped off Alec Ogletree, Robert Quinn, a 2018 4th round pick a 2018 5th round pick, a 2018 6th round pick a 2019 2nd round pick and a 2019 7th round pick and have received Marcus Peters,  Aqib Talib, two 2018 4th round picks and 3 2018 6th round picks.

That's quite a lot of draft picks moving back and forth, but to make some sense of it, we can use the   Draft Value Chart, purportedly invented by Jimmy Johnson to weigh the value of those picks and come up with a net value. The chart assigns a numerical value to each of the picks in any given NFL draft and by using the chart, teams can more accurately trade picks and players.

Since the chart's publication, many more supplementary picks seem to be added so it DOES skew the chart a little bit, but in most cases, we are just talking about a handful of "points" and here it involves a lot of 4th, 5th and 6th round picks. In the case of future picks, they are estimated by discounting them one round and it is assumed they will be in the middle of the round. So here, the 2019 2nd round pick would be a mid-3rd rounder in 2018.

So, here is the list of players and picks for these recent trades—
So, all told, the net effect of the trade is Ogletree and Quinn and a 4th rounder traded away in order to receive Peters and Talib.

So, it would seem the Rams have the makings of a great secondary with these two corners, All-Rookie John Johnson III and free safety Lemarcus Joyner who was franchised tagged and nickel back Nickell Robey-Coleman.

The Rams also generated 48 sacks in 2018 which was fourth in the NFL. Of those, Quinn had 8.5. He had six of those sacks as a right defensive end in the nickel and 2.5 when playing WILL backer in Wade Phillip's defense. It's not a huge number to overcome. And the Rams have Aaron Donald, the Associated Press NFL Defensive Player of the Year who is the best inside pass rusher in the NFL.

All of the above suggests that the Rams will have the talent, at least, to stop the passing games of their opponents and in a league that passes as much as the NFL, that is extremely important.

However, even though many folks in the metrics crowd don't think stopping the run game in the NFL is not as important as it was in the 1970s or 1980s, it's still important to NFL coaches. Also, the last three Super Bowl champions have stopped the run at a rate of 83.8 yards a game and an average carry of 3.6. The last three Super Bowl losers allowed 102.6 yards rushing per game at a 4.4 yards per carry clip (4.6 yards per carry for the last two losers).

All of this begs the question of if the Rams are going to be able to have a front seven or six (in case of nickel defenses) that can stop the run.

Donald, the NFL's best defensive tackle, averaged 12 run/pass stuffs per year in the 4-3 defense as a 3-technique. In the 3-4, still as a 3-technique, he had 11 sacks, tying a career-high but his r/o stuffs dropped to 6.5. When adjusted for the two games he didn't play it's 7.5 r/p stuffs.
The fine football site Football Outsiders has a metric called adjusted line yards that measures the effectiveness of NFL defensive lines and front sevens.

Here is how it is explained. You can click here to read more.
We have taken the liberty to combine 22 years of data for the Rams and created this chart:
The yellow cells in the above chart represent a top 10 finish for the run stopping prowess of the Rams. Grey is 11-20th finishes. Red represents the bottom finishes, 20th and higher.

From 2012-16 the Rams were in the top six in the NFL every season. The only "red" finished for that group were in 2012 on the right end and right tackle categories, meaning runs going to that side.

From 2006-011 the middle of the defense got gashed the most, finishing in the "red" five of six seasons. When Michael Brockers and then Donald were added, the middle of the defense was shored up finishing in the top eight five straight years.

As can be seen, the Rams fell to 27th in the NFL in 2017 and were in the "red" in everything except at right end. So, this is one more data point to ask some questions.

Courtesy of Pro Football Reference here is a more straightforward look at the Rams run defense:
Certainly, there is room for improvement. Seeing these things and more could be why the Rams thought they could afford to send Ogletree and Quinn away. The question is who will replace them.

Samson Ebukam backed up SAM 'backer Connor Barwin but could likely move to the weak side and replace Quinn. Of course, that leaves a hole on the strong side, but Barwin could be brought back.

At the MIKE position, where Ogletree played, it is unclear who would play there. Yesterday Les Snead suggested Cory Littleton would play a large role, but it was not clear where that would be. If the Rams are planning to jettison MO 'backer (Weak inside linebacker) Mark Barron, Littleton could step in there where he played some in 2017. He didn't take many (if any—we never saw any) at MIKE. 

The Rams went through three nose tackles in 2017. Michael Brockers began the season there but was moved to 5-technique (defensive end) when rookie Tanzel Smart took over the position. Smart did not excel and a defensive end—Ethan Westbrooks finished the season at the nose. Westbrooks had experience as nose since he had backed up Michael Brockers at the "shade" position in 2015.  Additionally, Tyrunn Walker started one game at nose, and backed up all the starters for most of the season.

Here are the Rams front seven starters in 2017. (Note: This differs slightly from what the Ram organization published but ours is based on still shots from the game, rather than the Gamebooks, which while good, sometimes can contain errors. This chart is accurate).
So, who will be the 2018 starter? Brockers excelled at 5-technique (though he was excellent on the nose as he had been his entire career, especially since being a dedicated "shade" beginning in 2014. Will Smart improve enough to start? Westbrooks, who makes some excellent plays and then sometimes seems maybe just above average, is on the smaller side.

Since the late-1990s Phillips had had several types of nose tackles. He's had All-Pro/Pro Bowl 350 -pound giant-types in Ted Washington and Jamal Williams. He's had smaller (295-ish pounders), quicker types in Ed Jasper and Pro Bowler Jay Ratliff, and Shaun Cody  In Denver Phillips had Sylvester Williams who was more in the middle in terms of size, at a listed 313 pounds.

So, it is tough to tell what direction the Rams may go. Could they stand pat with Westrbooks? Give Smart another shot? Bring someone in? Draft someone?

The same goes for the MIKE and MO positions as well as the OLBer spot, the one where Ebukam does not play. 

One thing is not "for sure" but if the last few Super Bowls are an indication, stopping the run may be more important that some of the metrics crow suggests.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

2017 Sacks Plus Run Stuffs and 2012-17 Sacks and Run Stuffs

By John Turney
James Burgess had 10 stuffs in 2017

Derrick Kindred had 10 stuffs in 2017
Stats, LLC., has been tracking run stuffs since 1992. Run stuffs are tackles on running backs (or wide receivers on reverses or even a quarterback on a run) that result in a loss.

By adding run stuffs to sacks it gives a reasonable metric on the effectiveness of a front seven by tracking plays that end up in losses and put the opposing team behind the chains in terms of down and distance.

Here are the leaders in that metric in 2017:
Here are the leaders from 2012-17 in the same metric:
Here are the yearly leaders since 2012:

Joe Thomas Announces His Retirement from the NFL

By John Turney
When the Pro Football Hall of Fame All-Decade Team is announced in a couple of years surely Joe Thomas will be one of the tackles on that squad. And in 2023 when the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class is announced Thomas will likely be on that roster as well.

For offensive linemen the only real stats are their honors, i.e. the All-Pro selections and Pro Bowl selections that they garner in their careers.

Since the early 1990s Stats, LLC., though, as kept tracks of penalties linemen are flagged for and the sacks they allow. These stats, like many stats, are subjective and differ some from the coaches stats but they can give some indication.

Here are Thomas's career average compared to four recent Hall of Fame tackles—Willie Roaf, Jonathan Ogden, Orlando Pace and Walter Jones:
Source: Stats, LLC.
Like Orlando Pace, he had an issue with false starts but his holding calls were just 1.5 per season. He allowed an average of 3.6 sacks per season which is lower than the other four but 1.5 to 2 sacks per season.

The following table shows the "honors" of all the Hall of Fame tackles and where Thomas falls in relation to their honors—
Thomas falls near the top, ahead of all the recent tackles with the exception of Anthony Munoz

Certainly, we cannot predict what will happen in 2013 with regards to the Hall of Fame Selection Committee and how it votes, but we feel Thomas stands out as much as any player and we tend to think it will result in a first-ballot election to the Hall of Fame for Thomas. The only potential "negative" would be he played for a franchise that struggled and didn't get a chance for post-season play and additionally playing just 11 seasons is on the lower end of the spectrum. However, those things are far outweighed by the "positives".

Saturday, March 10, 2018

The Four Top Active NFL Leaders in INTs per 16 Games Traded or Released Recently

By John Turney
We like to measure statistics, whenever possible on a per-game basis. Career leaders are fine and we often use that metric as well, but in terms of comparison, we find a per game analysis is usually better.

That said, we found it very interesting that three of the active leaders in interceptions per 16 games were traded or released in the past couple of weeks—two of them going to the Los Angeles Rams.

Currently, Marcus Peters is the active leader in picks per 16 games with 6.8. He has quite a lead on Richard Sherman. Aqib Talib is tied for fourth with 4 pickers per 16 games. Peters and Talib are headed to SoCal and Sherman is going to NoCal (he signed a three-year deal with the 49ers on March 10, 2018). Damarious Randall was traded by the Packers to the Browns today as well.
And these players are not "pigeons"—a cornerback who gets thrown at a lot because there is a shutdown cornerback on the other side of the defense. These are, for all intents and purposes, the shutdown corners on their teams—all except Randall being former All-Pros and Pro Bowlers.

Remarkably these are the top for interceptions per sixteen game leaders that are active in the NFL with Talib being fractions ahead of DeAngelo Hall and Kevin Byard with Peters just under 7 and Sherman just under 5 and Randall just over 4 picks per 16 games.

Here is the list of all players who played as recently as 2017 and average 2.9 interceptions per 16 games—
We will be doing some research to see if this has happened before, but we sincerely doubt it, we can hardly think of a time where so many All-Pro/Pro Bowl corners have been traded and/or released in such close proximity in time.

One note, since 2011 (Sherman's rookie season) NFL passers have been picked off at a rate of 2.6%. For comparison, from 1952-65 (Night Train Lane's 14-year career span) passes were picked off at a rate of 6.2%. Interceptions come at a premium these days with how the passing game has developed, i.e. interceptions are hard to come by now as opposed to previous generations.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Trader Les Snead, Shades of George Allen?

By John Turney

In 1966 George Allen was hired by the Los Angeles Rams to be the head coach of the club but also was the de facto General Manager, with the power to make trades and he made heavy use of that power.

He sent players all over the league but mostly he drafted draft picks for players with some seasoning and experience. He simply didn't like rookies—too many mistakes, he thought.

Today's NFL is almost the exact opposite but in the last couple of years there has been, from our observation, an uptick in trades. It is not nearly like it was in Allen's era but it makes for a more interesting off-season with some of these trades being made.

In the last few days, Rams GM Les Snead and Head Coach Sean McVay have unloaded a couple of players and brought in a couple players.

The Rams traded a 2018 4th round pick and a 2019 2nd round pick to the Chiefs for cornerback Marcus Peters and a 2018 6th round pick. They also sent a 2018 5th round pick to the Broncos for Aqib Talib.

Additionally, the Rams shipped Alec Ogletree (plus a 2019 7th round pick) to the Giants and Robert Quinn (and a 2018 6rh round pick) to the Dolphins in recent days and receiving a 4th and 6th round pick from each club.

How will they turn out? In perhaps two years we will know. However, here are some of the notable trades the Rams made that involved giving draft picks for established players (trading AWAY players for picks is the subject of a future post) and how they turned out, beginning in 1964—
The Rams sent a 1964 4th round pick to the Giants for Rosey Grier, who played from 1963-66 for the Rams before he was felled by an Achilles tear which ended his career. Grier was the final piece of the Fearsome Foursome and was a leader and helped Deacon Jones perfect the head-slap. Had Grier lasted a bit longer it would be an "A" but for his four years of service and the fact that it was only a 4th rounder, give this trade a B+.

The Rams sent a 1965 2nd rounder to the Browns for tight end Billy Truax. Truax was acquired before the 1964 season and was a starter from 1966-70 for the Rams then was traded to Dallas with Wendell Tucker for Lance Rentzel who gave the Rams a few years of service. So, while not stellar, it was a positive trade. Give it a B-.

George Allen's era was complex and the deals often involved picks as well as players and an in-depth study would be needed to be entirely accurate. The can be 6th or 7th round "givebacks" that make the draft value chart closer to even or even conditional picks based on playing time. For this exercise, we'll just list the key players and the acquired and the primary picks:
 1. Choice to Vikings  (For Tommy Mason)—Mason was hurt a lot, Grade: D
 2. Choice to Packers  (For Tom Moore)—Moore excellent in 1966, then gone. Grade: B-
 3. Choice to Eagles (For Maxie Baughan)— 5-year starter, leader, Pro Bowler. Grade: A
 6. Choice to Falcons (For Mike Dennis)—of no real consequence
 8. Choice to Bears (For Earl Leggett)—of no real consequence

 1. Choice to Lions (For Roger Brown)—Expensive. Pro Bowler. Only got 3 years. Grade: B
 2. Choice to Falcons (For Ron Smith)—Got two years then traded. Grade: C
 3. Choice to Steelers (For Myron Pottios)—Like Baughan, a start for multiple seasons Grade:  A-
 3. Choice to Lions (For Roger Brown)
 7. Choice to Steelers (For Willie Daniel)—Solid nickel back, low round. Grade: A-

 2. Choice to Lions (For Roger Brown)
 3. Choice to Falcons (For Dick Absher)—traded multiple times in career. 
 3. Choice to Lions (For Milt Plum)—Backup. Grade: C
 5. Choice to Cowboys (For Coy Bacon)—Bacon became an excellent player, then traded to Chargers with back Bob Thomas for John Hadl. Grade: A

 2. Choice to Eagles (For Jim Purnell)—Became a starter in 1971 and 1972. Grade: B-
 3. Choice to Eagles  (For Alvin Haymond)—Solid special teams performer Grade: B
 4. Choice to Bears (For Ritchie Petitbon)—Two-year starter then traded. Grade: B-
 4. Choice to Redskins (For Mitch Johnson ) —Backup. Did win one NFL Player of the Week Award with the Rams. Grade:  C
 5. Choice to Saints  (For Karl Sweetan)—Backup. Grade:  C
 6. Choice to Falcons (For Rick Cash)—Backup, traded to Patriots. Grade: C
 7. Choice to Redskins (For Mitch Johnson) 

  2. Choice to Packers (For Travis Williams)—Didn't last long enough to be worth a 2nd Grade: C
  4. Choice to Saints (For Karl Sweetan)
  6. Choice to Eagles (For Alvin Haymond)
  7. Choice to Bears (For Ritchie Petitbon)

 1. Choice to Patriots (For Phil Olsen)—Olsen was 2-year starter, then a backup  Grade: C-
 3. Choice to Giants  (For Tommy Crutcher)—Didn't make team. Injuries. Grade: F
 3. Choice to Patriots (For Phil Olsen)
 4. Choice to Eagles  (For Joe Carollo)—Backup Grade: C
 5. Choice to Giants (For Tommy Crutcher)
 5. Choice to Browns (For Joe Taffoni)—Grade D-
  6. Choice to Packers (For Travis Williams)

 1. Choice to Patriots (For Fred Dryer)—played 10 years, nine as a starter. Grade: A
 3. Choice to Cardinals (for Pete Beathard)—Backup. Grade: C
 3. Choice to Lions (For Al Clark)—Started some. Grade B-

 5. Choice to Vikings (For Charlie Stukes)—Two-year started filled a hole. Grade: B+

 3. Choice to Bears (For Greg Horton)—Never a starter. Not worth investment  Grade: D-
10. Choice to Bears (For Greg Horton)

 4. Choice to Eagles (For Tom Dempsey)—Two-year kicker, good distance, missed a lot of PATs. Grade: B-

 5. Choice to Chargers (For Ed Flanagan)—Didn't make team. Grade: F
 6. Choice to Bucs (For Dan Ryczek)—Was long snapper for two seasons. Grade: B

 3. Choice to Redskins (For Eddie Brown)—Gor hurt, was the nickel back for one year Grade:C-
 6. Choice to Browns (For Oscar Roan)—Didn't make team Grade: F
 8. Choice to Cardinals (For Jerry Latin)—A "need trade" barely played  Grade: D

 2. Choice to Redskins (For Eddie Brown)
 5. Choice to Redskins (For Eddie Brown) (Rams got a 7th back)
 6. Choice to Chiefs (For Walter White)—Didn't make team Grade: F

 3. Choice to Chiefs (For Walter White)

 1. Choice to Colts (For Bert Jones)—Hurt in his first season with Rams. Grade: D-
 2. Choice to Colts (For Bert Jones)
Choice to Oilers (For Mike Barber)—Starter for two years then hurt.   Grade: B
 3. Choice to Redskins (For Henry Childs)—Contributed little.  Grade D
 7. Choice to Redskins (For Henry Childs)

 3. Choice to Giants (For Gary Jeter)—Fine designated rusher for five years.  Grade: A
 5. Choice to Lions  (For Russ Bollinger)—Backup.  Grade: B
 6. Choice to Giants (For Gary Jeter)
10. Choice to Vikings (For Ron Yary)—Backup for one year.  Grade C

 1. Choice to Chiefs  (For Gary Green)—2-year starter, then neck injury. Would be higher grade had he not been felled by injury so soon. Grade: B
 2. Choice to Browns (For Ron Brown)—Great returner, average receiver. Grade:  B
 3. Choice to Lions (For David Hill)—Excellent blocker, big part of Dickerson run game Grade: B+
 5. Choice to Chiefs (For Gary Green)
 6. Choice to Oilers (For Dwayne Crutchfield)—One-year backup  Grade: C

 4. Choice to Vikings (For Steve Dils)—Backup. Grade: C
 5. Choice to Chiefs (For Steve Fuller) —Backup. Grade: C
12. Choice to Bucs (For Booker Reese)—Brought in to fill in for injured Jeter. Grade: C-

  4. Choice to Eagles (For Dennis Harrison)—Backup. Grade: C-
  5. Choice to Chargers (For Bobby Duckworth)—Backup. Grade: C-

 1. Choice to Oilers (For Jim Everett)—Franchise QB, got club to NFCCG Grade: A-
 5. Choice to Oilers (For Jim Everett; Also Kent Hill, William Fuller to Oilers) )
 5. Choice to Giants (For Rob Carpenter)—Backup. Grade: C-
 7. Choice to Eagles (For Dennis Harrison)
11. Choice to Broncos (For Steve Busick)—Backup. Grade: C-

 1. Choice to Raiders through Oilers (For Jim Everett)
 4. Choice to Chargers (For Pete Holohan)—Was a key piece of Rams offense  Grade: B+
11. Choice to Chargers (For Jeff Walker)—Never made the club. Grade: F

 4. Choice to Lions (For Pat Carter)—Backup. Grade: C
 5. Choice to Jets (For Bobby Humphrey)—One-year starter. Grade: C

 3. Choice to Lions (For Chuck Long)—Backup. Grade: C

 4. Choice to Chargers (For Leo Goeas)—A four-year starter. Solid trade.  Grade:  B

 5. Choice to Cardinals (For Ernie Jones)—Backup. Grade: C-
 7. Choice to Chiefs (For Chris Martin)—Backup. Grade: C+

 4. Choice to Chargers (For Nate Lewis)—Never made the club. Grade: F
 4. Choice to Broncos (For Tommy Maddox)—Backup. Grade: C
 6. Choice to Chargers (For Marquez Pope)—Solid one-year starter, lost to free agency but received a 2nd round pick for 49ers as compensation. Grade: A

2. Choice to Colts (For Marshall Faulk)—Grade; A+
5. Pick to Colts  (For Marshall Faulk)
6. Choice to Packers  (for Steve Bono)—Backup. Grade: C

5    Choice to Patriots (for Mike Jones)—A one-year starter. Grade: C+
6.   Choice to Broncos (for Derek Loville)—Never made the club. Grade: F
7.   Choice to Raiders (For Paul Justin)—Backup. Grade: C

2.    Choice to Cardinals (for Aeneas Williams)—Four years of service, 2 great seasons. Grade: A

6.   Choice to Colts (for Terrance Wilkins)—Never made the club. Grade: F
6.    Choice to Colts (for John Baker)—Was needed as fill-in for injured punter  Grade: B-

7.  Choice to Patriots (for Grant Williams)—Three years service, one as starter. Grade: B

2.   Choice to Saints (for Kyle Turley)—Solid in 2003, then big-time issues. Grade: B-
6.   Choice to Pittsburgh (for Troy Edwards)—Never made the club. Grade: F
7.   Choice to Colts (for Rich Coady)—Solid backup.  Grade: B

5.   Choice to Chiefs  (for Dante Hall) Rams and Chiefs also swapped 3rd rounders. Grade: B
5.   Choice to  Lions (for James Hall) ams ended up with this pick back. Hall was solid player, a four year starter on a talent-poor Rams team. Grade:  B+

7.  Choice to Vikings (for Adam Goldberg)—Six years of mediocre service, 2 and a half as a starter. Well worth a 7th round pick, but was not a very good player. Grade:  B

The Rams traded its fifth- and sixth-round selections (138th and 176th overall, respectively) to the Falcons in exchange for Laurent Robinson and the Falcons's fifth- and sixth-round selections (160th and 196th overall, respectively). 
 5.  Choice to Falcons (For Laurent Robinson)—Two years, 14 starts. It was a low cost-trade since it just swapped picks. Grade: B-
 5.  Choice from Falcons— Brooks Foster  
 6.  Choice to Falcons (For Laurent Robinson)
 6.  Choice from Falcons— Keith Null QB—a bit of added value in trade.

St. Louis traded their 6th round pick (#180) to Ravens for Baltimore’s 7th-round selection (#228) and wide receiver Mark Clayton.
6    Choice to Ravens (for Mark Clayton)—Clayton got hurt early. Rams had to trade for him due to injury to starting receiver Donnie Avery. Grade:  B-
7 (From Baltimore) Jabara Williams, OLB

5    Choice to Denver (for Brandon Lloyd)—Another necessary trade, was decent for one year with Rams. Grade: B-

4    Choice to Tampa Bay (for Mark Barron)—Barron has given Rams solid seasons. Grade: A-
6    Choice to Tampa Bay (for Mark Barron)

7.    Choice to Tennessee (for Case Keenum)—Decent backup for Rams. Grade:  B-

The Rams traded their second-round selection (56th)and CB E. J. Gaines to Bills for Buffalo's sixth-round selection (195th)and WR Sammy Watkins.

The Rams traded their fourth-round selection (124th) and second-round selection in 2019 to Kansas City in exchange for Chief's sixth-round selection (196th) and cornerback Marcus Peters.

2.    Choice to Bills (for Sammy Watkins)—jury out
4.    Choice to Chiefs (for Marcus Peters)—jury out
5.    Choice to Broncos (for Aqib Talib)—jury out
7.    Choice to Redskins (for Derek Carrier)—jury out

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Knuckles In The Dirt or Standing Up: Dale Dodrill Got it Done

By TJ Troup
The Pittsburgh Steelers, during the season of 1950, had some strong moments, yet at times their run defense was like a sieve. Rookie middle guard George Nicksich did not play well during the campaign so and with the 67th draft choice for the 1951 season, the Steelers chose Dale Dodrill of Colorado A&M.
Dale Dodrill came to CSU as a 21-year-old freshman in 1947 after serving in World War II. (Photo: Courtesy CSU Athletics)
Dodrill had served our country in WW II and had a sterling college career, but he wondered if he could compete at the pro level based upon what he had heard and read about East coast football players. Though he started from game one of his career and gave a strong effort, his rookie season was not an effective one. Dodrill broke his nose in a collision with Bucko Kilroy of Philadelphia thus he did not finish the season.

Pittsburgh, under John Michelosen, was still in the outdated single-wing offense, and the defense would improve with an infusion of young tough talent. In the games Dale played in during 1951 he would align at middle guard and sometimes shift to left defensive tackle when Pittsburgh went into a 4-man line. When the Steelers were in their goal line defense Dodrill would attempt to "submarine" the offensive lineman in front of him, and he was not very effective.

The Steelers, in 1952, under the guidance of Joe Bach had an improved offense as Jim Finks passing so well in the victory over Washington to close the '51 season was now in the T-formation. Though the league did not have a most improved player award Dale Dodrill sure would have been a candidate based upon his play in '52.

Not every middle guard in the league used the same style and techniques. Some would align in the gap and penetrate, some would align right up on the center's nose and attempt to drive him back into the offensive backfield, and some would hand fight the center or guard and pursue.

Pittsburgh still is not a factor in the divisional race as Cleveland dominates and Dodrill sure has hands full when battling Browns center Frank Gatski. Whether he moves to left or right defensive tackle and plays the gap, or utilizes the "twist" stunt with right defensive tackle Ernie Stautner— Dale plays the run very well.

Dodrill is not much of a pass rusher; in fact at times even though the Steelers have a middle linebacker (Darrell Hogan) he drops into pass coverage the opposite side of Hogan. November 2nd, against Washington, Dodrill shoots the gap and blocks George Buksar's field goal attempt. Dale finally is able to grab the bouncing pigskin and is off and running for his first NFL touchdown in the win over the Redskins.

All Steeler fans can talk about the famous 63-7 win over New York in late November, and Dodrill's contribution is again on defense, and in the kicking game. Tom Landry is going to punt from his own end zone, but Dodrill again penetrates into the backfield, goes over Eddie Price to block the punt. George Hays trots into the end zone with the ball as the Steel City Eleven pour it on over the Giants.

The once contending 49ers are beaten badly by the Steelers at Kezar, and Pittsburgh can end the season on the west coast in fine fashion by knocking off the red-hot Rams in the Coliseum. Los Angeles needs a victory to earn a playoff berth in Bob Waterfield's last game. The Rams lead 7-0 and Waterfield is attempting a short field goal. Rangy George Tarasovic flashes in from the left and blocks the attempt. Dodrill grabs the ball on the ten and heads up the right sideline with a Black & Gold convoy. Deacon Dan Towler ends the cross-country trek at the Los Angeles nine-yard line when he wrenches Dale to the turf with a face mask tackle (not a penalty in those days). Finks is unable to get Pittsburgh into the end zone, and the Rams make enough plays to win the game.

Earning All-League recognition is always a player's goal, and the group of men listed at middle guard are a who's who of this era.—Stan West, Bill Willis, Les Bingaman, Bucko Kilroy, and Dale Dodrill.

Coach Bach returns in 1953 and the November game against the Giants again demonstrates Dodrill's outstanding ability to hustle and pursue. Fullback Merwin Hodel catches a swing pass, and fumbles when hit by Flanagan. Dale is right there to scoop up the ball and put Pittsburgh on the scoreboard with his 16-yard fumble return. The Steelers again cannot put a winning team on the field with any consistency.

Dodrill is still the anchor at middle guard in the Pittsburgh 5-3-3 defense and again receives some All-League recognition in Bill Willis's final season. The Steelers, under Walt Kiesling, open up the 1954 season with an improved brand of football and finally beat Cleveland. Dodrill is playing the best football of his career as Pittsburgh is now in the standard 5-2-4 defense. He still has his knuckles in the dirt, and continues to shoot the gap, run the twist with Stautner, but he now will quickly stand up from his four point stance and drop into pass coverage.

Dale is the team MVP in '54 and again earns All-Pro recognition. Pittsburgh must improve their last place ranking in run defense as the 1955 season begins. Dodrill's pass defense instincts from middle guard have improved as he records interceptions in the early season victories over the Cardinals and Giants. The fast start fades as Pittsburgh loses their final seven games.

Watching the heartbreaking loss to the Lions on film allowed me to concentrate on Dodrill. Late in the second quarter with the Lions leading 14-0 Layne attempts a lateral to Bill Stits who cannot find the handle. Dodrill as he has so many times in his five year career hustles to the ball and takes off for an apparent 40 yard touchdown. Wait a minute? You cannot advance a fumbled lateral? No score Dale, and the valiant Steeler rally falls short 31-28.

When the All-Pro team is listed for the 1955 season the organizations now list a middle linebacker, and Dodrill is First-team All-Pro (listed as defensive guard by AP) and garners the most votes ahead of the likes of George Connor, Chuck Bednarik, Bill George, Joe Schmidt, and Les Richter.

January 15th, 1956, we are in the Los Angeles Coliseum for the Pro Bowl game. Dodrill has been here before, yet this is a landmark game as both teams do NOT align with a middle guard. The 4-3 defense is now the preferable defense in the league. The Eastern Conference starter at middle linebacker is Chuck Drazenovich of Washington, and he rotates quarters with Dodrill. Second quarter and Dale demonstrates he was meant to play the position and play it well. He tackles Moegle of the west team on a cross buck after a short gain, and then drops the swift 49er back on screen for a loss of five. The Eastern All-Stars claim victory 31-30.

Walt Kiesling just cannot put a winning Steeler team on the field, and we enter the 1957 campaign with the legendary Buddy Parker at the helm. Pittsburgh continues to play improved run defense each year (finishing 3rd in '57), and the Steelers are a factor in the tight division race during the year. October the 13th at Forbes Field and the 1-1 Steelers must win to stay even with Cleveland. Dodrill is now the veteran leader of a team that fields 15 rookies under Parker. Jack Butler, Ernie Stautner, and Dodrill form one of the best defensive trio's in the league.

Pittsburgh leads 12-6 in the 2nd quarter when Dodrill as he has done before on "special teams" shoots the gap to block Summerall's field goal attempt. Bob O'Neil recovers the bounding ball and scores. Second half as McHan fires over the middle to running back Frank Bernardi, but Dodrill calls a halt to the Cardinal drive as he pilfers the pigskin and sets sail for the goal line. He leaps over prone team mate Aubrey Rozzell and dashes 44 yards (longest Steeler interception return since October of '54) before Bernardi can chase him down in the 29-20 win. Pittsburgh is 4-3, and must beat Green Bay to stay in the race, and on the first play of the game Dodrill intercepts Bart Starr, yet the team falter's badly in the 27-10 loss.

The improved Steelers knock the Giants from the race with a 21-10 December victory, but cannot catch Cleveland yet again. Dale will earn his final pro bowl berth and ranks with the best middle linebackers in the game. The trade for Bobby Layne two games into '58 gives Parker the quarterback he needs. Dodrill intercepts for the 10th and final time in the 24-3 decisive victory over Philadelphia. Pittsburgh's record when Dale intercepted was 8-2. He is 33 years old and begins the year as the starter at middle linebacker in 1959.

The lanky bowlegged Dodrill is listed in programs at 6'1'' and 211 lbs, but as the season progresses he shares time with rookie Mike Henry (who later became TVs "Tarzan"). Late in the campaign he sees less and less playing time in his final year. Graduate history studies at CSU, Fullerton granted me an opportunity to learn from some excellent professors. Dr. Reitfeld would explain and define the word significance for us. He stated that being first, or only was always historically significant.
The dictionary tells us that significance is derived from the latin word significantia (force, energy). Later defined as important and consequential. Combining all of this sure helps define Dale Dodrill on his 92nd birthday—he is the ONLY middle guard who became a middle linebacker and earned both All-Pro and Pro Bowl recognition.