Before we get started, I'd like to start off by welcoming myself to the Roll Bama Roll community. This is the first of (hopefully) many articles I plan to write here. Each week, I will be covering the Alabama alumni in the NFL and provide an analysis on the top performances for that week. Since this is the first Built By Bama, this week's will be a lot longer than most. Unless, of course, my length gets positive comments ;)
Let's get down to brass tacks. Alabama currently has 42 players on active NFL rosters which means there's a lot to write about each week. I've decided to narrow it down to the top performers of the week, as well as a few other stories on former Tide players. You can find a full list of ex-Alabama players and their week 8 performances in a table at the bottom of the article. Without further ado, let's ride!
Week 8’s Top Performances
Amari Cooper finished week 8 leading the league in reception yards. His 173 yards put up against Tampa Bay helped the Raiders edge the Buccaneers 30-24 in overtime. Cooper ended the week with 52 more receiving yards than the receiver in second place (A.J. Green). The only thing keeping the second-year wide receiver out of Alabama from having a near flawless game was a dropped pass in the end zone that would have won the game for the Raiders in regular time. Oakland’s offensive line had a monster game which allowed quarterback Derrick Carr to throw for 513 yards and 4 touchdowns while only being sacked twice. Fellow Oakland wide receiver Michael Crabtree finished the week at number five in receiving yards with 108. Head coach Jack Del Rio went all in on trying to break records this weekend. Unfortunately for the Raiders, the only record that ended up being broken was for the number of penalties in the game (23). With more than enough penalties to go around the active roster, Amari Cooper
selflessly let his teammates rack up all of the penalty yardage while finishing the game without a single flag thrown against him finished the game with a single penalty for unnecessary roughness in overtime (Thanks to @allan8147 for catching my error).
The big guys up front need love too. D.J. Fluker and the rest of the interior offensive linemen for the San Diego Chargers dismantled the defensive line of the Denver Broncos on Sunday. Despite losing 27-19 to the defending Super Bowl champions, the Chargers’ line exposed plenty of holes for second-year running back Melvin Gordon to break through on his way to 111 yards on 23 carries. Gordon found himself at number three for total rushing yards in week 8; behind DeMarco Murray of the Titans (123 yards) and Jordan Howard of the Bears (153 yards). Although the interior line of the Chargers played great, keep in mind that this was against a Broncos run defense that has lost any of its luster since their Super Bowl victory last season. Currently, the Broncos are ranked 24th in rushing yards per game allowed (117.4) and hosted the Chargers without two of their starting linebackers as well as their shutdown cornerback Aqib Talib, who is surprisingly not missing game time due to a gun related incident this time. Despite that, the Chargers offensive line has definitely stepped up this year and helped change the minds of plenty of individuals who thought that Melvin Gordon would be a bust in the NFL after his rookie season last year.
The former Tide linebacker, Dont’a Hightower, has been a key component in the New England Patriots’ 7-1 record. Even without their franchise quarterback for the first four weeks, the Patriots have proven that they are a top contender for the Super Bowl this year. Last season, the Denver Broncos won the Super Bowl with a top-tier defense and a less than stellar offense. Many fans, including myself, thought that the Carolina Panthers would trounce the Broncos, yet the old saying remained true: Defense wins championships. The Patriots almost have an unfair advantage this year. Not only is their offense under Tom Brady lights out, but their defense has also been quite a thorn in the side of many offenses that have had to play New England this season. The Patriots defense is currently number three in points per game allowed and much of New England’s dominance can be accredited to their front seven.
This week against the Bills, Dont’a Hightower accounted for 5 total QB pressures, as well as 4 solo tackles and 2 assisted tackles. While in coverage, Hightower was beaten only once in coverage for a 2-yard reception. The Pats went on to crush the Bills 41-25. The Buffalo Bills were, however, the only team to beat the Patriots this season. In week four, the Bills traveled to Foxborough to take on the Patriots without Tom Brady at the helm. The Buffalo soldiers ended up defeating the Patriots 16-0 that game. As a part of a fully operational team with their eyes set on the playoffs, all Dont’a Hightower has to do to is continue to play how he’s been playing and the Patriots should have the easiest road to the playoffs this year.
With the Bills’ loss to New England in week 8, Rex Ryan’s team is now right back to where many believed the Bills would finish the season; at .500. Some weeks, the Bills have looked like they could play for the Super Bowl, yet other weeks have featured a Bills team so bad that it's found itself on the losing end against the New York Jets. This week’s matchup against the Patriots could be categorized in the latter after getting demoralized 41-25. The highlight of the game for the Bills Mafia came when
Roger Goodell made a surprise appearance a fan threw a dildo [ed. note: oblong marital massage aid] on the field in the 3rd quarter.
Marcell Dareus and the front seven of the Buffalo Bills held LeGarrette Blount and the Patriots’ rushing offense to only 72 rush yards on 23 carries. Unfortunately for Dareus, the Bills’ secondary is nowhere on par with the front seven. Tom Brady torched the Bills through the air for 315 yards and 4 touchdowns. However, of the 4 sacks Buffalo was able to get on Brady, Marcell Dareus at least made his name heard for one of them.
Derrick Henry enters my list at number five finishing the week tied at number 14 for total rushing yards. The former Heisman winning rookie also caught 4 passes for 37 yards. My first prediction as a writer at Roll Bama Roll was calling that Derrick Henry would score his first career NFL touchdown against the Jacksonville Jaguars this past Thursday. I can’t feel too proud of that prediction, however, as the Jaguars are slowly sinking to the bottom of the NFL in rushing yards per game allowed (Currently at 26). How iconic is it though that Henry scored his first NFL touchdown in the annual Condiment Bowl as the Jaguars donned their Dijon Mustard color rush jerseys and the Titans sported their Miracle Whip inspired color rush jerseys? Probably not that iconic, although the upper management of the Jags needs to seriously consider firing Helen Keller from designing their uniforms from now on.
The departure of Tennessee’s leading back, Demarco Murray, with a toe injury gave Henry plenty of snaps in their 36-22 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars. In the rookie running back’s previous two games played, Henry has combined for 114 yards rushing as a backup. This past week, the Titans have also incorporated Henry into the passing game for the first time since week two of the season. It’s clear that Demarco Murray is the number one back in Tennessee for now, but Derrick Henry proved this week that if anything should happen to Murray long term, the rookie back from Alabama is more than ready to fill the starting role.
Pray For Julio Jones
Last season, Julio Jones came alive for the Atlanta Falcons leading the NFL in receiving yards with 1,871. After 7 weeks this season, Jones was once again at the top of the league in receiving yards (830). However, his lead over the Cincinnati Bengals’ AJ Green has been overtaken at the end of week 8. Although the old saying "Don’t judge a book by its cover" comes into play here. With the exception of his week 4 mollywhopping of the Carolina Panthers where he put up 300 yards on 12 receptions, to say Julio’s 2016 season has been sporadic would be the understatement of the year.
Averaging just over 8 targets a game, Jones’ production has been either feast or famine for the Falcons this season. Jones has gone over 100 yards in half of the eight games he’s played so far: Week 2 @ Oakland (106), Week 4 vs Carolina (300), Week 6 @ Seattle (139), Week 7 vs San Diego (174). In Week 1’s matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Julio caught 4 of his 8 targets for 66 yards and a touchdown. Against the Saints, Jones only caught 1 of his 7 targets for a 16 yard gain which ties for his third worst performance in his outstanding six year NFL career. The Denver Broncos and their defense that is the NFL equivalent of Alabama’s defense held Jones to only 29 yards on 2 receptions in Week 5.
"Every night before you go to bed, you’ve got to pray." Green Bay DB Micah Hyde had commented earlier this week on preparing for a player like Julio Jones. It appears Micah Hyde has found Jones’ kryptonite; God. Against the Packers, Jones was held to 3 receptions on 5 targets for 29 yards. An ankle injury limited the snaps Jones played, however he remained in the game for all four quarters. All of Jones’ receptions came in the first half and his only second half target came late in the fourth quarter. Rookie cornerback for the Tampa Bay Bucs, Vernon Hargreaves, better fall to his knees and start praying because their Thursday night matchup against the Falcons will feature a completely different Atlanta team than the Buccaneers defeated at the beginning of the season.
Veggieburger Eddie Has Relapsed!
The past two seasons have been difficult for former Alabama and current Green Bay Packer running back Eddie Lacy. Last year’s news story was Lacy’s weight gain which led to a severe drop in his carries and gave way for James Starks to take over as the leading back for much of the season. Lacy ran for over 1100 yards in his first two seasons in the NFL. Last season, Lacy finished the year with only 758 yards on the ground. If you follow Lacy on Twitter, his immense weight gain, to the surprise of nobody, is due to his love of food - especially "China food." I began making a picture of all of his tweets which featured a mention of his love of China food before I ran out of room (See below). I’m not exaggerating when I say I could have filled up at least three more pictures full of Tweets. I can’t blame my man, as I, too, have been known to succumb to the temptress that is China food.
Eddie Lacy spent the offseason losing weight and getting back into playing shape, but his on the field play hasn’t improved much since last season. His biggest game came in Week 3 against the Detroit Lions where he carried the ball 17 times for 103 yards. A bye week separated the Packer’s next game against the NY Giants where Lacy put up his second highest output of the season with 81 yards on 11 carries. However, Lacy failed to put up more than 65 yards in each of his other three games. According to ESPN, Eddie Lacy is back to the "255 to 265 pounds" he carried last season. So far, Lacy has yet to score a touchdown and could very well end the season without a touchdown.
An ankle injury kept Lacy out of the Thursday Night Football matchup against the Bears two weeks ago. Apparently the injury is much more serious than previously thought and will require surgery and keep Eddie Lacy sidelined for at least eight weeks. This loss couldn’t have come at a worse time for Green Bay’s injury riddled backfield as backup James Starks is out and will miss another three games with a knee injury. The Packers have placed Eddie Lacy on injured reserve which may mean that number 27 has played his final down in a Green Bay jersey against the Dallas Cowboys. Lacy signed a four-year contract with the Packers in 2013; which, for all of you non-math people, means this is his last contract year. With plenty of NFL quality running backs entering the draft this year and Lacy’s career being filled with weight issues and injuries, the Packers may look elsewhere and send Cheeseburger Eddie packing for free agency.
Saving Private Ryan Kelly
Last season, the Colts finished the regular season tied at 15 for number of sacks given up with 37. Through eight games this season, the Colts' offensive line has already given up 31 sacks. Not only are they in dead last in the league, but the Colts are also on pace to nearly double last year's sack count. Andrew Luck is currently on the fast track to having a career that mimics Tony Romo if he continues to eat sack lunches all day. This week's game against the Kansas City Chiefs was no different as Luck was sacked 6 times. In the eight games the Colts have played, coach Chuck Pagano’s team has seen five different offensive line rotations. Starting left guard Jack Mewhort has been out with a triceps injury, which devastates an already thin offensive line depth. One player who's been a godsend for Indy is Alabama's own Ryan Kelly.
Kelly was drafted number 18 overall by the Colts in the 2016 NFL Draft. Since then, he has been the only glimmer of hope on a young, injury-riddled offensive line. Despite being a part of a team that has its heart set on breaking Andrew Luck in half, Kelly has failed to receive that memo. Through 8 games, Ryan Kelly remains the only Colt lineman yet to give up a sack. Teammates and coaches alike have had nothing but positive remarks when talking about the 2015 All-American, Remington Trophy winning center.
"Obviously in the evaluation process we saw his body of work down at Alabama and knew that he had a chance to be a really good football," Pagano has said of Kelly. "When you get to know the player you get to know the guy. From the first day he stepped on campus, it hasn’t been too big for him. It was a seamless transition for him."
"It seems like he’s been here a lot longer than he has. His game isn’t perfect; he’d be the first one to tell you that. He’s making some mistakes like everyone else, but the sirens aren’t going off at that position which is a good thing."
Since drafting Andrew Luck in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft, the Colts have yet to land a franchise player in the first round. Kelly’s career is still very young, but appears to be heading the right way toward a very promising future in the NFL. One thing is very clear; Indianapolis needs desperate help at offensive line. With left guard and center being the only line positions that have shown any sign of solidarity (with some flashes of promise in fellow rookie right tackle Joe Haeg), the Colts absolutely have to hit another home run in the 2017 draft on a left tackle or right guard to possibly replace 6 year pro Anthony Castonzo or second year guard Denzelle Good, respectively. Perhaps another Alabama lineman will be joining Ryan Kelly in left tackle Cam Robinson, despite having a somewhat lackluster year for the Tide.
DEVELOPING STORY: The Gift That Keeps On Giving - Trent Richardson
Former Alabama running back and current NFL bust Trent Richardson had reportedly worked out with the Kansas City Chiefs on Tuesday following Tuesday's placement of Jamaal Charles on the injured reserve due to knee problems. The Chief's starting running back Spencer Ware left Sunday's game with a concussion. Charcandrick West is expected to take over the starting position this week, although a severe lack of depth at the running back position now exists. Could Trent Richardson find his way onto another NFL roster? I feel like a Tennessee fan saying "this is the year" every time Richardson lands on a roster, so I won't get too hopeful just yet.. But this is the team (if anything happens from this story).
COMPLETE LIST OF ALABAMA PLAYERS IN THE NFL
|PLAYER||TEAM||POSITION||WEEK 8 NOTES||NUMBER||STARTER?||WENT PRO IN|
|Evan Mathis||Arizona Cardinals||Guard||Ankle injury against 49ers (Week 5)||69||IR||2005|
|Ed Stinson||Arizona Cardinals||Defensive Tackle||DNP||91||3rd String||2014|
|Julio Jones||Atlanta Falcons||Wide Receiver||3 receptions, 29 yards, Injured after landing on his ankle, 53 (84%) snap counts||11||Yes||2011|
|Courtney Upshaw||Atlanta Falcons||Linebacker||2 tackles, 1 assisted, 37 (60%) snap counts||91||2nd String||2012|
|C.J. Mosley||Baltimore Ravens||Linebacker||BYE||57||Yes||2014|
|Marcell Dareus||Buffalo Bills||Defensive Tackle||4 tackles, 1 sack||99||Yes||2011|
|Cyrus Kouandjio||Buffalo Bills||Offensive Tackle||No sacks allowed while on the field||71||2nd String||2014|
|Reggie Ragland||Buffalo Bills||Linebacker||ACL tear in preseason||59||IR||2016|
|Dre Kirkpatrick||Cincinnati Bengals||Cornerback||6 tackles, 90 (99%) snap counts||27||Yes||2012|
|AJ McCarron||Cincinnati Bengals||Quarterback||DNP||5||2nd String||2014|
|Rolando McClain||Dallas Cowboys||Linebacker||2 more games left in suspension (10 game, substance abuse)||55||Suspended||2010|
|A'Shawn Robinson||Detroit Lions||Defensive Tackle||1 tackle, 3 assisted, 1 sack (2nd career sack), 25 (37%) snap counts||91||2nd String||2016|
|Ha Ha Clinton-Dix||Green Bay Packers||Safety||4 tackles, 1 assisted, 63 (100%) snap counts||21||Yes||2014|
|Eddie Lacy||Green Bay Packers||Running Back||Placed on IR October 20 (Ankle)||27||IR||2013|
|Kareem Jackson||Houston Texans||Cornerback||5 tackles, 48 (79%) snap counts||25||Yes||2010|
|Ryan Kelly||Indianapolis Colts||Center||No sacks allowed, 66 (100%) snap counts||78||Yes||2016|
|Carson Tinker||Jacksonville Jaguars||Long Snapper||8 (27%) special teams snap counts, snap infraction in the 1st quarter||46||Yes||2013|
|T.J. Yeldon||Jacksonville Jaguars||Running Back||3 carries, 20 yards / 4 receptions, 36 yards, 41 (57%) snap counts||24||Yes||2015|
|Mark Barron||Los Angeles Rams||Linebacker||BYE||26||Yes||2012|
|Kenyan Drake||Miami Dolphins||Running Back||BYE||32||3rd String||2016|
|Anthony Steen||Miami Dolphins||Guard||BYE||65||2nd String||2014|
|Andre Smith||Minnesota Vikings||Offensive Tackle||Torn triceps (Week 4 vs Giants) ; Free agent in 2017||71||IR||2009|
|Austin Shepherd||Minnesota Vikings||Guard||N/A||74||Practice Squad||2015|
|Dont'a Hightower||New England Patriots||Linebacker||4 tackles, 2 assisted, 5 total QB pressures, gave up only one 2-yard recption in coverage||54||Yes||2012|
|Cyrus Jones||New England Patriots||Cornerback||N/A||24||2nd String||2016|
|Deandrew White||New England Patriots||Wide Receiver||N/A||17||Practice Squad||2015|
|Roman Harper||New Orleans Saints||Safety||10 (19%) snap counts||41||2nd String||2006|
|Mark Ingram||New Orleans Saints||Running Back||3 carries, 5 yards, 1 fumble lost (returned for Seattle TD), 6 (8%) snap counts||22||For Now||2011|
|D.J. Pettway||New Orleans Saints||Defensive Lineman||N/A||Reserve||2016|
|Landon Collins||New York Giants||Safety||BYE||21||Yes||2015|
|James Carpenter||New York Jets||Guard||73 (100%) snap counts, offensive holding in 4th quarter on 3rd and 16||77||Yes||2011|
|Amari Cooper||Oakland Raiders||Wide Receiver||12 receptions, 173 yards, 1 TD, 90 (96%) snap counts||89||Yes||2015|
|D.J. Fluker||San Diego Chargers||Guard||81 (100%) snap counts, earned run blocking grade of 82. RB Melvin Gordon rushed for 111 yards.||76||Yes||2013|
|Damion Square||San Diego Chargers||Defensive Tackle||1st tackle last week against ATL, 13 (20%) snap counts||71||2nd String||2013|
|Kevin Norwood||San Diego Chargers||Wide Receiver||N/A||88||Practice Squad||2014|
|Quinton Dial||San Francisco 49ers||Defensive Tackle||BYE||92||Yes||2013|
|Jarran Reed||Seattle Seahawks||Defensive Tackle||1 tackle, 2 assisted, 30 (39%) snap counts||90||Yes||2016|
|Jalston Fowler||Tennessee Titans||Fullback||13 (19%) snap counts||45||Yes||2015|
|Derrick Henry||Tennessee Titans||Running Back||16 carries, 60 yards, TD / 4 receptions, 37 yards, 32 (48%) snap counts||22||2nd String||2016|
|Rashad Johnson||Tennessee Titans||Safety||DNP; Neck injury against Indianapolis (Week 7)||25||Yes||2009|
|Chance Warmack||Tennessee Titans||Guard||Placed on IR Sept. 21 (hand) out at least 8 weeks||70||IR||2013|
|Arie Kouandjio||Washington Redskins||Guard||DNP||74||2nd String||2015|
Like what you've read? Hate what you've read? Let me know in the comments section or follow me on Twitter (@cprins338) and direct all of your hate that can fit into 140 characters that way! Stay tuned for more updates on players and until next week, Roll Tide!