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4 tight ends the Carolina Panthers should target in the 2021 NFL Draft



Carolina Panthers

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) Ian Thomas

Which college prospects are emerging as early draft candidates for the Carolina Panthers at the tight end position?

The Carolina Panthers clearly have a need at the tight end spot which needs to be addressed next spring. They are getting next to no production from either Ian Thomas or Chris Manhertz through six games of the 2020 season and this is a stark contrast to what the team got from prolific veteran Greg Olsen for so many years.

It’s hard to deny that this isn’t what the Carolina Panthers expected coming into the season. They had high hopes for Thomas to step up and fill the void left by the Pro Bowler, who opted for one more shot at a Super Bowl with the Seattle Seahawks before inevitably taking up a broadcast position next year.

Thomas hasn’t lived up to his billing this season. He has accumulated just six receptions, 39 receiving yards, and one touchdown from 11 targets, which simply isn’t good enough if the former Indiana standout wants to make a real go of things from a starting role.

Although all hope isn’t lost, he is clearly skating on thin ice.

There were fewer expectations on the shoulders of Manhertz. The veteran is seen as more of a blocking tight end and has aided the Panthers in this area. This has been of particular use to quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and running back Mike Davis, depending on what play is called by Joe Brady.

If things continue as they are then this might be priority No.1 for the Panthers once the dust has settled on the 2020 season. Whether they bring in a veteran during the free agency period is up for debate, but there are plenty of exciting tight end prospects entering the 2021 NFL Draft that will also warrant consideration during the evaluation process.

Let’s take a look at four players at the position who could come into Carolina and potentially make a big impression.

NFL Football

Atlanta Falcons prediction: Can the birds get their first win of the year?




The Atlanta Falcons are back in action for the first time since firing Dan Quinn.

At 1-4 the Minnesota Vikings aren’t much better than the 0-5 Atlanta Falcons. This has all the makings of a really bad pillow fight among two teams that had Super Bowl hopes coming into 2020.

This will be the fifth time that these two teams have met over the last seven NFL seasons, the Falcons are 0-4 in the previous four meetings. The Falcons last win against the Vikings came in 2011 when Matt Ryan threw for 262 yards and three touchdowns.

Here is how the staff at Blogging Dirty thinks the game turns out.

Jeff Benedict – Site Expert

When these two teams met last season, I was shocked at how bad the Atlanta Falcons had looked. Minnesota jumped out 28-0 and never looked back.

Vikings running back Dalvin Cook evolved into one of the best pass-catching running backs in the league and while he was able to rush for 111 yards, he didn’t embarrass the Falcons like he did other teams across the league.

He will be out Sunday, which is a big advantage for the Falcons.

This Vikings team is much different on the defensive side than they were a year ago and I think the Falcons will be able to take advantage of that.

I think Raheem Morris starts his Falcons coaching career with a win.

Joe Beasley – Contributor

I expect the Falcons to play with some type of fire. If interim head coach Raheem Morris wants a shot at this job or any other head coaching gig, he has to show he can somewhat fix this mess in Atlanta.

The offense does get Julio Jones back which is good for everyone except a young Vikings secondary. Add that to the fact that Dalvin Cook isn’t playing and you have a perfect storm for the Falcons to get their first win.

Besides, I’m bound to get one of these right.

Justin Churchill – Contributor

Last week the Vikings were close to beating the Seahawks. They have a very good offense but may struggle without Dalvin Cook in the backfield.

Their defense will give up a lot, hopefully allowing Todd Gurley to get back into a groove. However,  I think the Vikings will win this one.

Ross Terrell – Contributor

It’s officially a new era in Atlanta. Maybe just maybe Raheem Morris was gunning for this job the whole time. So he sabotaged Quinn to get his shot as head coach. Or maybe the Falcons downward spiral will continue.

Let’s hope the latter isn’t true and the Atlanta Falcons finally pull themselves off the mat.

Next: Falcons have a chance to get out of sports purgatory

Ethan Johnson – Contributor

The Atlanta Falcons will not win this game. The team may come out inspired and rejuvenated, or heartbroken because their coach is gone.

Either way, it doesn’t really matter because they haven’t beaten the Minnesota Vikings since 2011, and that streak won’t end Sunday.


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NFL Football

Buffalo Bills: 4 defensive tackles to consider trading for this season




Buffalo Bills

Sep 22, 2019; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins (97) jogs off the field following his sack of Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (not pictured) during the first quarter at New Era Field. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

These are four defensive tackles the Buffalo Bills should consider trying to trade for before the trade deadline.

The defensive line for the Buffalo Bills went through a significant change this past offseason. They saw free agents Jordan Phillips and Shaq Lawson leave in free agency but the front office replaced them with Vernon Butler, Quinton Jefferson, and Mario Addison as well as selecting A.J. Epenesa in the second round.

In addition to those offseason moves, the Bills had last year’s starting defensive tackle Star Lotulelei elect to opt-out of the 2020 season due to concerns around the pandemic.

After six games, it is clear that the changes have caused this defense to take a step backward stopping the run and the front office may need to look outside the organization on how to correct this.

The focus for general manager Brandon Beane should be to look for someone similar to Lotulelei in terms of a zero tech defensive tackle that can eat up space and take on multiple defenders. This will help force running backs into fewer lanes but also free up Tremaine Edmunds and the rest of the second and third-level defenders clear running lanes to get to the ball carrier.

These are four defensive tackles that could be available for a trade that makes sense for the Buffalo Bills.

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NFL Football

Chicago Bears Film Review: Rashaad Coward holds back run game




The Chicago Bears running game was held back by Rashaad Coward in Week 6

Losing James Daniels was going to be tough to replace. The Chicago Bears had to choose between Alex Bars, a UDFA who redshirted his rookie year, or Rashaad Coward, who had started at right guard most of 2019.

The issue with starting Coward is that he is a former defensive tackle who was developing into a right tackle. However, he was thrust into right guard and learned on the fly. Still, that means that while he has played guard, every snap he has taken at an NFL level has been from the right side.

The Chicago Bears run game struggled as a whole, and it is impossible to say that Coward is solely to blame for the team not being able to get the ground game going against the league’s worst run defense.

However, a review of the tape does make it clear that Coward cost his team yards in the running game. Take a look at the play below. This is on the first drive after the turnover. Coward is pulling from left to right. However, you can see how long his route is. David Montgomery runs into Coward and Coward whiffs on a collection of players who he could have blocked.

Instead, it leaves Montgomery taking on three or four defenders.

One of the better attributes that James Daniels offers is his ability to pull and get into the second level. He is a smooth mover for his size and can complete complex blocks. The outside-zone running scheme is built perfectly for an athletic lineman like him.

However, in the play below as well as the one above you can see that Coward does not move quite the same. In this play, you can see that Coward should be blocking 54. Cole Kmet is going to block the closest linebacker, while Coward is leading in front. However, as the linebacker cross, Coward gets confused and gets stuck on his man. Coward and Kmet double team one linebacker, and the other is able to force Montgomery to cut back.

The first two plays can be excused. He is pulling from a position he has never played and making reads in a zone-blocking scheme he has never run. The play below hurts, though. He gets completely blown off of the football by rookie Derrick Brown. This blows the play up in the backfield.

The issues with power are not scheme related. You can argue things are flying at him, and he is thinking and not reacting. Still, as a former defensive tackle, the best trait of Coward is his bulldog mentality and power. Brown blew him up above, and 92, Zach Kerr holds him up and pushes him away to make run stuff in the play below.

The last play we will look into is below. This once again goes back to the change in scheme. At the snap, you can see all of the linemen in unison pull and find their man. That is how the zone blocking system works. In a power blocking scheme, you take on the man in front of you. Coward sees 93 in front of him and gets preoccupied once again. 93 moves into the zone of Charles Leno. Coward needs to move with the line and he would step into the gap that 52 filled. Instead, he forgets his role, looks lost, and misses his assignment. You can tell that Coward is the only one off-sync in this play.

It may be hard to admit, but the play above can inspire some confidence. Coward got better as the year went on in 2019, but in 2020, he is looking at a new position and a new scheme. As he gets more NFL snaps, he should slowly be able to get accustomed to playing and pulling from a completely different side. Also, his first instinct will not be the man blocking scheme that he spent so much time developing into.

Next: Roquan Smith plays career best game against Carolina

Still, each and every play you can point to lost yards that were left on the field. In the three plays in which Coward is pulling or moving, you could easily assume that Daniels would pick those blocks up. While Coward may slowly pick things up, you also have to wonder just how scaled back things are becoming for the Bears run game as well.

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