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Jumbo Package: Alabama alumni in the pros

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TJ Yeldon, Jalston Folwer, and Derrick Henry all are having things written about them right now

NFL: Tennessee Titans-Minicamp Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Aside from VanDarius Cowan being kicked off the team (which Josh wrote about yesterday), there is absolutely nothing happening in the world of Alabama— and really all sports in general, aside from the World Cup. It’s just that horrible part of the year.

However, the NFL is getting ready to start opening up training camps and preparing their rosters for the preseason. As such, we’re starting to get a lot of pieces on individual players across the league, many of whom are Alabama alumni (read: if you want to be in the pros, come to Alabama).

T.J. Yeldon aims to add to his championship collection

In the NFL, despite his injuries, Yeldon led the Jaguars in rushing in 2015 and 2016. Last year, a hamstring injury had Yeldon on the bench to open the season as did the presence of LSU running back Leonard Fournette, who’d been the fourth player picked in the 2017 NFL Draft.

When he finally got his first chance to carry the ball in the seventh game of the season with Fournette out with an ankle injury, Yeldon ran for 125 yards and a touchdown on nine carries in a 27-0 victory over the Indianapolis Colts on Oct. 22.

Yeldon played in every game after that, finishing the regular season with 253 yards and two touchdowns on 49 carries (averaging 5.2 yards per carry) and 39 receptions for 224 yards. Yeldon had 10 carries for 45 yards and one touchdown and five receptions for 63 yards in the playoffs as the Jaguars reached the postseason for the first time since 2007.

The Jaguars have Fournette back after his 1,000-yard rookie season and will use Yeldon and former Opelika High School and Auburn standout Corey Grant to spell him after releasing former 1,000-yard rusher Chris Ivory in February.

TJ Yeldon is one who’s generally been shafted in his playing time for the Jags. He’s been more than effective every time he’s had the chance to get on the field, but they went and drafted Fournette anyway.

In any case, this article talks a lot about a youth camp that Yeldon and his old teammate, Ryan Anderson, put on on in their hometown—Daphne, AL. It’s good to see these guys coming back to their home and continuing to pump resources into the state of Alabama.

Jalston Fowler, the low-key other piece to the Seahawks rushing plans

It’s anyone’s guess as to the future of the NFL fullback. Will the position make a comeback? Will it disappear entirely like the bubal hartebeest? (The bubal hartebeest was a North African antelope that was officially killed out by hunting sometime in the 50s.) Will this article have more animal references?

Possibly.

One team that has no immediate plan to eliminate the fullback is the Seattle Seahawks. During Pete Carroll’s most successful seasons with the team, fullback Michael Robinson was a key component to the offense, setting blocks and opening lanes for a bubal hartebeest of our own: Marshawn Lynch. Robinson was in Seattle from 2010-2013, which almost perfectly lines up with an Alabama hartebeest of a different sort.

Jalston Fowler.

Meanwhile, after being head-scratchingly released from the Tennessee Titans, Jalston Fowler was quickly picked up by the Seattle Seahawks, who are looking to improve their historically horrific run game from 2017. He’ll be competing with incumbent Tre Madden (who didn’t do much as a fullback, but was a more-than-adequate special teams player) and rookie Khalid Hill. But Fowler comes with about as good of a pedigree and resume as you’ll see from a fullback in today’s game.

This article has quite a few links to videos of Fowler, as well as quotes from him and Nick Saban. Give it a read.

Derrick Henry and The Outside Zone

You’ll often here the term “one cut back” when talking about zone runners. This is the ability to “plant and go”. That is, read the defense, plant a foot in the ground, and then get North South. Henry isn’t this type of back. He has so much mass, and momentum, that we shouldn’t expect him to be. And, you see that here. In a perfect world. he’d plant and get North South at right around the right hash. However, he takes more time to make that read. It’s not a huge deal, but even in a well blocked play like this one, that split second removes the backside defender that eventually makes the tackle. It isn’t the difference between 5 yards and an explosive, but it probably would have added a few more yards to this run.

With every player, there are compromises. There certainly are with Henry. It’s unreasonable to expect a 6’3”, 240 lb player to move like Devonta Freeman. Initially, I had this fear with Henry entering this system. Yet, as I rewatched every run of his NFL career this offseason, my concerns were gradually reduced. This isn’t to say they are non existent, but his strengths in this system will far outweigh that his weaknesses.

Given his size, he’s often viewed as a power back, but he’s really a home run hitter in a power back’s body. So, while there may be a handful of plays a game where Henry leaves yards on the table, I believe they will be made up for with the additional explosive opportunities this system affords him.

The meat of this piece is actually a film study of how the outside zone run is supposed to work— how the line decides their blocks and how the back chooses his path. It’s a good study piece if you like to know more about the game.

But, since Derrick Henry is the man featured in the play, you get some commentary on his abilities as well.

DeMarco Murray predicts ‘bright future’ for Derrick Henry

“I think Derrick’s a smart guy,” Murray said. “He’s a fast guy, very physical, athletic. Now that I’m not there, I think he can hone in on being the guy, and if they use him the right way and if he can consistently be the every-down back, I think he has a great future, a bright future.

”The Titans are a great team, a great organization, and (quarterback) Marcus (Mariota) is going into this fourth year. So with him having played three years -- and I know it’s a new offense, but going through the offseason I think they’re going to simplify things for him a little bit and let him be the quarterback, let him kind of take charge. So I think Derrick will be great. I think he’ll continue to run the ball well and protect the quarterback. I think they’ll be fine.”

It certainly seems like DeMarco Murray— a stalwart top running back in the NFL since 2009— is on the El Tractorcito train. I can’t wait for Henry to prove all the pro people wrong, just as he proved people wrong in high school and in college.

Lastly, Landon Collins is having some fun trolling Kentucky.

Seriously though, that’s just weird. I think I would have laughed if I was on the return team.