OTIPodcast:Week 4 Recap

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OTIPodcast:Week 4 Preview

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OTIPodcast:Week 3 Recap

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Just Win Baby: Analysing the Raiders Week 2 victory over Baltimore

I was doubly shocked on Sunday. My first shock came when my beloved Tampa Bay Buccaneers managed to hang on to win in New Orleans even when they tried their best to give the game away in the fourth quarter. My second shock, after I’d recovered from this new ‘winning’ sensation I wasn’t used to, was when I noticed that the Oakland Raiders had beaten the Baltimore Ravens. I had all the usual questions when presented with shocking information. Who? How? What? Why? I decided to watch the game with a critical eye to see how the Raiders had managed to defeat Joe Flacco’s Baltimore Ravens.

All about the Offense

This game really was a tale of two offenses. Perhaps, given the fact that Oakland have finished in the bottom third of both Overall defensive performance and Football Outsiders defensive DVOA over the last two years, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Baltimore were able to move the ball on the Raiders. What was a real surprise was the inability of Baltimore to hold down the Raiders offense as the game became a shootout. In both overall defensive performance and Football Outsiders defensive DVOA, Baltimore have finished in the top third of NFL franchises in the last two years.

Early in the game I noticed that Baltimore rarely sent more than their defensive lineman to attack Carr on passing plays, preferring instead to drop multiple men into coverage. I suspect the game plan was to challenge Derek Carr to beat them deep. Last season Carr’s passes traveled 7.6 yards in the air, ranking 23rd among qualifying quarterbacks. In short, Carr was not pushing his passes deep down field last season, preferring to make ‘easier’ throws underneath the coverage. By dropping more players into coverage you should, theoretically, limit the windows for which the quarterback can thread the ball into. In the second half the Ravens changed their approach. They sent more edge rushers, usually blitzing one of their outside linebackers on passing plays. They blitzed on the first 4 passing plays by Oakland in the second half and continued to send multiple linebackers on passing plays.

However, Baltimore was not able to get any sort of pass rush going. The Oakland Raiders offensive line did a superb job protecting their Quarterback. They only gave up one sack during the contest while consistently giving Carr clean pockets in which to work with. There were multiple plays where Carr would have had time to pour himself a nice cup of tea before he had to pass. The game plan also helped Carr, throwing from the shotgun and a lot of his throws were either 3 step drop or no drop at all. On all of these throws Carr got the ball out quickly, nullifying Baltimore’s pass rush. Not only was the ball out quickly, the throws were accurate. Carr was 30/46 for 351 yards and 3 TDs with a QBR of 85.6. A pretty decent day for a 2nd Year Quarterback.

Who needs to run the ball anyway?

Neither team were very effective running the ball, however it was for different reasons. Baltimore seemed to not actually want to run the ball very often, whilst Oakland were just not good enough to do so. When Baltimore chose to run the ball they were very effective, rushing for over 5 yards on average in the first half. One of the big problems Baltimore faced was the very quick start the Raiders got. The Raiders were 10 points up with less than 4 minutes played in the game. Even with a decent running game, the Raiders were scoring at a high rate and to keep up with that level of scoring the Ravens had to throw the ball more than they ran it. The Raiders just had no success running the football against a solid Baltimore run defence which did a solid job bottling up the Raiders runners, limiting them to a rushing average of just 3.5 yards.

Although the offensive line was doing a great job of protecting Carr, they didn’t do a very good job shoring up the blocking of the defensive line. A typical play came on the first Oakland run of the day. Courtney Upshaw lined up just outside Oakland LT Donald Penn as the right defensive end of Baltimores 3-4 defense. On the snap Upshaw managed to force Penn back four yards and then maintained his position to keep ‘outside contain’ (meaning any runner would have to cut back into the middle of the field or bounce their run further outside to avoid being tackled by Upshaw).

The ball carrier, Latavius Murray, decided to bounce his run further outside and took a couple of steps towards his own endzone for depth to get around Upshaw. Credit to Murray who managed to get a couple of yards on the play by making Jimmy Smith miss his tackle. However had Penn done a better job of preventing penetration from Upshaw then the space behind Upshaw was huge and the play could have resulted in a large gain for Oakland.

Warning, substance may contain a defence

In a game with 70 total points scored you are not going to see a lot of outstanding defence. However it was a stretch by the Oakland defence in the third quarter of the game which won them the game. Baltimore scored zero points in the third quarter and the reason was the Raider’s pass defence. Although Oakland didn’t get any sacks during this period, they did manage to get some pressure on Joe Flacco and their coverage was better during this period than it was at any other point in the game. A good example of this came on a 3rd and 3 play at just over 7 minutes gone in the third quarter. Kalil Mack lined up as the left defensive end opposite Ravens TE Crockett Gilmore.

At the snap Gilmore set off to run a route, while Ravens right tackle Rick Wagner set up in pass protection. Mack attacked Wagner’s outside shoulder and was simply too fast for Wagner to cope with. He bounced off the initial contact and started to bear down on Joe Flacco. Although he didn’t sack Flacco, Mack did extert enough pressure to force Flacco to throw the ball to his wideout on the left side of the field, Marlon Brown. The pass was overthrown, however even if the throw had been accurate, the coverage on Brown was good enough that Raiders safety Julian Wilson nearly intercepted the ball.

For much of this game it could have gone either way. Two offenses were firing while two defences were floundering and Oakland emerging victorious. It could have easily been a victory for Baltimore had some things gone their way, however the Raiders deserve credit for what they did well. They protected Carr very well, and the QB took advantage of that by being extremely efficient and pushing the ball down field when required.

This week, the Raiders fly to Cleveland to face another formidable defence in the Cleveland Browns. However if they can continue to protect their Quarterback the way they did against the Ravens, then they may well emerge victorious again. Just win baby.

This OTI piece was written by Will Claringbold.
Will is from Harrogate, UK and is a huge Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan. Will has been involved with UK football as a coach and player for 10 years. He enjoys writing about various topics, especially offensive line play. Drop him a line @wclaringbold on twitter

OTIPodcast:Week 3 Preview

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OTIPodcast:Week 2 Recap

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Elverys Sports NFL Apparel Launch w/Joique Bell Recap

Editor Note: The Q & A from the event is available to listen to on the podcast stream at the bottom of this page.

Thursday July 16th, saw the official launch of Elverys Sports as the official supplier of Nike NFL Apparel in Ireland. The occasion was marked by the appearance of Detroit Lions star running back Joique Bell. Bell is fresh of his best season in the league, reaching career highs in carries, yards, offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi previously of the New Orleans Saints, helped revitalise Bell’s career. Bell, proved to be an entertaining and charming character, fans and media regaled in his stories.


He spoke of his long journey to his hometown Lions, progressing from Division II college team Wayne State University and five NFL teams in two years. His confidence never wavered, he simply had to bide his time: “Once I got there, and I play, I knew I could play in this league”, his confidence was certainly aided by two players who acted in an advisory and mentoring capacity in his early years. Marshawn Lynch, then of the Buffalo Bills, helped the young running back acclimatise to the NFL in his first training camp, the respect is still palpable with Bell referring to the Seahawks star as the best running back in the league. Bell and recently departed teammate Reggie Bush also share a close relationship. The NFL is known for its cutthroat nature, but Bell’s recollection of his friendship with Bush provided a touching moment. He recalled how he would spend hours watching Reggie Bush’s college footage, seeking to emulate the running back. He described Bush as kind and welcoming, openly greeting Bell on his arrival to the Saints in 2010. Bell would later return the favour when Bush joined him in Detroit in 2013.

Inevitably, the talk turned to the possibility of a London franchise. The Lions will make their second trip to London to play the Kansas City Chiefs having emerged victorious in a thrilling encounter with the Atlanta Falcons last year. Bell noted “I think the reality of having a team in London is relatively close.. probably before 2020”. The NFL is certainly increasing its commitment to London. Bell appeared to be quite positive on his London experience and the franchise option intrigued him. I still question the feasibility of a London team, but Bell’s words suggests that players are perhaps open to its possibility in the near future. Having played in the dreaded snow game in Philadelphia in 2013, the dreary winter weather of the British Isles will not upset Bell.

Looking towards the upcoming season, Bell was encouraged by this offseason. While the defence has certainly undergone some changes since last year he noted how the 2013 crew were the toughest he faced all year. The Lions are a very insular team focused on personal improvement: “We don’t spend this whole offseason saying we got to bet the Packers… one motto that we live by, every day you either getting better or getting worse”. In the face of young competition from Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick, Bell does not appear to be worried. He is not a selfish player acknowledging the diverse skillsets his fellow running backs provide for the team, confidence emanates from the veteran running back. “When it’s my time, it’s my time.” Additionally, Bell and his fellow running backs were keen to nurture a strong relationship with their offensive line “if you take care of your O-Line, they take care of you”. Bell joked how he and Reggie Bush took the Line out for a meal over in London worth “half a year’s salary”. Personal goals don’t motivate Bell,(earlier in the offseason he noted how he hoped to get 1,200 yards rushing this season) but with additions on the offensive line and the sacrifices he has made this offseason he believes he can achieve his goals. Bell said all the right things noting how his focus was purely on team pursuits making the playoffs, and winning the Super Bowl: “My only concern is my team making and going deep in a playoff run”


The media were graced by the charming and respectful side of Joique Bell but he also divulged some details of his more sinister playing side. While he may not be Chad Johnson, Bell is certainly capable of dishing out some trash talk, “I mightn’t start it, but I’ll finish it”.

It was both refreshing and fascinating to hear Bell talk about life after football as well as some of the details behind his offseason training programme. Bell is committed to his education and is currently pursuing a Master’s degree, he has no definite plan as of yet with coaching his son’s High School team and Front Office work among his options. Many players struggle with finances and boredom following their careers but Bell should not be caught in this situation. It’s rare to hear professional athletes discuss academic pursuits, Bell maximised his opportunity epitomising the idea of a student athlete. When you consider that Bell was also a father at the time, his success is certainly admirable.

While certain aspects of diet and nutrition for professional athletes would be quite well known, Bell certainly added a new wrinkle to our knowledge. Bell sends a lock of his hair to a company, who analyses the hair and will supply vitamins to fill areas he is deficient in. This is in addition to the standard blood samples given which further detail the recommended levels of certain food groups. During the season he may waver occasionally, but during the offseason he appears to live almost an ascetic lifestyle. I suppose not everybody can be Rob Gronkowski.

I would like to express our thanks to Anne Reid and Hopscotch Media for inviting myself and DJ to Dublin for the occasion. It was a thoroughly enjoyable event, Elverys are now the official supplier of Nike NFL gear in Ireland, so pop into your local shop or click here to buy your gear online http://www.elverys.ie/category/american-football/0000001419

This OTI Piece was written by Conor Philpott. Conor is a writer from Cork, Ireland and a big Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan (yes apparently the Bucs have Irish fans!). He has never played American football but is an avid fan and thinks playing Madden compensates for his lack of physical football experience. You can find him on twitter at @cphilpott95 where he will talk about a huge variety of sports.

The Brod View: NFL Mock Draft

This is one of the more interesting NFL drafts in recent memory. It neither presents the massive excitement that saturated the American sports media in 2014 nor does it fail to have some discussion points. The biggest talking point that has occurred over the past few months is about where Marcus Mariota will end up—Tennessee? New York? Washington? Cleveland? San Diego? Philadelphia? New Orleans? And where he is drafted will damage the game plans for many franchises. This is where the excitement lies. While Jameis Winston will definitely be drafted number one overall, this draft will surely be remembered as the Mariota draft (especially if he falls outside the top ten.)

Pick #1: Tampa Bay Buccaneers select Jameis Winston (QB, Florida State)

It is quite clear that everybody thinks the 2013 Heismann Trophy winner Jameis Winston is remaining in Florida to play football. Despite several off the field issues—some of which has a Manziel-esque feeling—his ability to play in a pro-style offense in college means Tampa, who desperately need a quarterback, will be selecting Winston at number one.

#2: Tennessee Titans select Leonard Williams (DE, USC)

It’s the best pick of the draft versus the most marketable pick of the draft; Williams vs Mariota. The Titans are an organisation that desperately needs a star player and Marcus Mariota would fit the billing if it were not for the fact that the coaching staff seem high on Zach Mettenberger. However, Williams is one of the most explosive defensive linemen in the draft and certainly the most promising talent—one which could destroy Andrew Luck and the weak Colts O-line.

#3: Jacksonville Jaguars select Dante Fowler Jr (OLB, Florida)

This is as certain as the first pick of the draft. It seems unlikely that Fowler Jr will go anywhere else as he is perfect for Gus Bradley’s system. He could also be moulded into a defensive end or an inside linebacker. Adaptability is never a bad thing.

#4: Oakland Raiders select Amari Cooper (WR, Alabama)

Many pundits believe that Kevin White will be the first wide receiver to be picked in the draft. While Oakland love drafting players with massive upside (e.g. Khalil Mack and Derek Carr from 2014), Cooper would definitely be the safer pick of the two receivers. Cooper is a touchdown machine, drawing parallels with Julio Jones, a former Alabama WR and current NFL superstar.

#5: Washington Redskins select Vic Beasley (OLB, Clemson)

Washington are now in desperate need for a playmaker on the defensive side of the field with Brian Orakpo leaving the team.. Beasley was a dominant player for Clemson, ranking first in his school’s history for sacks. He will be very effective on the pass rush, something that is much needed for Washington when facing the good QBs and offensive systems in the NFC East.

#6 New York Jets select Shane Ray (DE, Missouri)

The new General Manager Mike Maccagnan loves to draft pass rushers. He’s drafted the likes of Jadaveon Clowney and Mario Williams during his time as director of scouting at the Houston Texans. New head coach Todd Bowles loves aggressive defensive play and Ray’s selection could mean that the Jets will possess the most valuable defensive line in the NFL. The Jets could go for Mariota here, but they picked up Ryan Fitzpatrick in free agency and the staff seem reluctant to drop Geno Smith despite two years of poor QB play.

#7 Chicago Bears select Kevin White (WR, West Virginia)

If Kevin White isn’t available then Amari Cooper is the other option here. Chicago don’t necessarily need to go wide receiver in the first round, but a selection like White or Cooper would not only cater for a “team need” but they would be picking up a quality talent. White is not as NFL ready as Cooper, but a lot of scouts believe that he has a lot of upside and that’s why White will go in the top ten.

#8 Atlanta Falcons select Brandon Scherff (OG, Iowa)

For the second year running Atlanta will be selecting an offensive lineman in the first round. Many pundits believe that Stanfords’ offensive tackle Andrus Peat could go here instead of Scherff, but they would not be selecting the best OL man in the draft if they were to go Peat. Scherff offers something that Peat cannot; versatility—the guard from Iowa can also play anywhere else on that offensive line which is what Atlanta really need.

#9 New York Giants select Danny Shelton (NT, Washington)

Danny Shelton is the most attractive defensive/nose tackle heading into this draft and has the ability to play a dominant part in Steve Spagnuolo’s NASCAR defense. The Giants could trade down here for a safety or they could draft an offensive lineman instead.

#10 St Louis Rams select Andrus Peat (OT, Stanford)

Their latest QB acquisition Nick Foles is not very good under pressure and the St Louis O-line are not very good at protecting their QB. It’s an easy pick for the Rams. They could also do with improving the secondary and they really don’t need to draft a new QB if they already have Foles in place.

#11 Minnesota Vikings select Trae Waynes (CB, Michigan State)

Trae Waynes is what the Vikings need—a starting cornerback. The signing of 36-year-old Terence Newman from Cincinnati should provide no competition for the rookie, who should start from week one across Xavier Rhodes. He is a tough player both physically and mentally and loves a one-on-one challenge with a WR but he will concede a lot of penalties.

#12 Cleveland Browns select Devante Parker (WR, Louisville)

Apart from just having bad quarterbacks, the reason why the Browns have endured bad QB play in 2014 was down to the fact that the receiving corps were poor. And with Josh Gordon being Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron now at Miami, Cleveland need to draft a wide receiver badly to help out McCown or Manziel. They need a receiver more than they need a QB (ergo no Mariota.)

#13 New Orleans Saints select Randy Gregory (OLB, Nebraska)

Gregory should be a top ten pick on talent alone but his failed marijuana test means he drops out of the top ten. Even then, it could be considered overly optimistic to see the Saints draft Gregory here and it would not be surprising to see if they find a different pass rushing talent. However, the Saints will be desperate to draft a great defensive talent that helps replicate their defensive success in 2013.

#14 Miami Dolphins select Jalen Collins (CB, LSU)

Miami have only one good cornerback in Brent Grimes and that is it. The Dolphins need improving in the secondary and it would not be that hard to envisage a lot of corners being selected in the first round. Therefore Miami will select Jalen Collins, a rookie that has had very few starts at college level but has immense physicality which gives coaches something to work with.

#15 San Francisco 49ers select Arik Armstead (DT, Oregon)

NFL.com at this point has him as the best player on the board and considering the amount of talent San Francisco have lost this offseason on defense then it’s a simple case of one plus one equals two. Or in other terms, just take the best defensive player on the board.

#16 Houston Texans select Kevin Johnson (CB, Wake Forest)

Kareem Jackson’s new contract means that cornerback isn’t the most urgent need for Houston but it does mean that Jonathan Joseph might not be re-signed after 2015. Therefore the Texans could build for the future here by selecting Kevin Johnson. However, it would not be surprising to go with what many analysts expect by drafting a wide receiver instead of a CB.

#17 San Diego Chargers select Todd Gurley (RB, Georgia)

The Chargers do not have a running back. They could draft elsewhere like Marcus Mariota (since Phillip Rivers may not sign a new contract), but to reject Gurley’s talent would be a big mistake from the Chargers front office.

#18 Kansas City Chiefs select Breshad Perriman (WR, Central Florida)

Perriman is the biggest “late climber” of this year’s draft after having an excellent showing at the scouting combine as well as exciting coaches and scouts alike with his game tape. Despite signing Jeremy Maclin from the Eagles, the Chiefs need to draft a receiver.

#19 Cleveland Browns select Malcom Brown (DT, Texas)

Malcom Brown could go as high as number seven in this year’s draft so he could be a steal at number 19. He’s a very physical defensive tackle that has the ability to be a defensive end too. He will be very useful for Cleveland as a run stopper as well as being a decent pass rusher.

#20 Philadelphia Eagles select Marcus Mariota (QB, Oregon)

It is unlikely that Mariota will fall below number 20, but it would be unsurprising if Chip Kelly trades up to acquire Mariota’s services. And then the dream team will be formed; Oregon QB teams up with Oregon head coach in Oregon’s offense. For Mariota it will be homecoming, because the biggest issue many scouts have is whether or not he can adapt to a pro-style system. Philadelphia is easily Mariota’s best fit.

#21 Cincinnati Bengals select T.J. Clemmings (OT, Pittsburgh)

Many analysts have raised issues with current 33-year-old left tackle Andrew Whitworth and are asking how long will he last in the NFL. While Whitworth is playing well, he needs to be moved to the inside of the O-line. The Bengals could draft a number of offensive tackles here so they may not necessarily sign T.J. Clemmings.

#22 Pittsburgh Steelers select Landon Collins (SS, Alabama)

Troy Polamalu’s retirement this past week means that the Steelers definitely need to sign a safety in the first round and thankfully for them they have landed in a decent spot to land Landon Collins—the best safety in the draft. The Steelers could also go OLB at #22 if they wanted to sign someone like Bud Dupree to replace the recently retired Jason Worilds.

#23 Detroit Lions select Eddie Goldman (DT, Florida State)

The Lions absolutely need a defensive tackle and they need to draft one in the first round at all costs. Losing Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley is a crippling blow to their defensive line and the only way to repair that is by getting someone like Goldman in.

#24 Arizona Cardinals select Bud Dupree (OLB, Kentucky)

Aside from Calais Campbell, the pass rush was slightly inconsistent from the Cardinals—which is a shame because they have a good defense. Despite signing LaMarr Woodley from the Raiders, the Cardinals need to inject some fresh blood into their linebacker corps and Dupree fits the bill.

#25 Carolina Panthers select D.J. Humphries (OT, Florida)

No brainer. They need to protect Cam Newton more than anything else. The offensive line was extremely poor in the first half of the 2014 season and while things were starting to improve, Newton was still taking some big hits. Humphries is also a good run blocker.

#26 Baltimore Ravens select Jaleen Strong (WR, Arizona State)

Baltimore will need to pick up two wide receivers in this draft as Torrey Smith has left for San Francisco and Steve Smith Sr has turned 36. Yikes. Signing Jaleen Strong would be a good start as his size and presence means he has the potential to dominate cornerbacks and that would suit Joe Flacco’s vertical style of play.

#27 Dallas Cowboys select Melvin Gordon (RB, Wisconsin)

It would be a shame for the Cowboys to have the best offensive line in the NFL only for it not to be exploited by a star running back. Enter Melvin Gordon who would definitely start from week one over the nice but not overly brilliant Lance Dunbar and the underwhelming Darren McFadden. Gordon has the potential to be a bigger star than DeMarco Murray.

#28 Denver Broncos select La’el Collins (OT, LSU)

Peyton Manning is old and has neck issues. He needs protecting. Draft an offensive lineman. Simple. Anyway, Collins offers flexibility and he can play as a guard too as well as having an aggressive but positive attitude on the field. Downside: he’s not so good with his hands and feet—something glaringly essential for an OT. Coaches love him though and that’s why he will go in the first.

#29 Indianapolis Colts select Ereck Flowers (OT, Miami)

This is yet another team that really needs to improve the offensive line as superstar QB Andrew Luck took too many hits last season. Flowers may not be the best suited offensive lineman for the Colts as he is a better run blocker than pass protection, but his signing would mean major improvements on the run game—something which the Colts have needed since 2012.

#30 Green Bay Packers select Paul Dawson (ILB, TCU)

The Packers need to address the inside linebacker position and they could either end up signing Paul Dawson or Eric Kendricks to accompany Clay Matthews (who moved to the inside from the outside in 2014). Losing A.J. Hawk to the Bengals has not helped matters for the Packers too. Dawson is projected to go at round two, because he needs work with his tackling and run blocking.

#31 New Orleans Saints select Dorial Green-Beckham (WR, Missouri)

If the Saints do sign Gregory, then it is possible that Green-Beckham (or DGB) may not be picked up by New Orleans due to the fact that he also has off-field issues. Green-Beckham is definitely a first round talent and the Saints need a wide receiver after losing both Jimmy Graham and Kenny Stills. DGB may drop to the second round or he could be drafted in a higher position—like Mariota, it will be impossible to tell where he may end up.

#32 New England Patriots select Byron Jones (CB, Connecticut)

A few NFL.com analysts have him going in the first round by squeaking in at number 32. Bill Belichick loves intelligent players and therefore he will like working with a player like Jones who has the right attitude to learn in the NFL.

This OTI piece was written by Brod Sutherland. Brod is from Bath, UK and is a massive New York Giants fan. He has recently started a blog that covers a variety of sports called “Armchair Analyst” and he also writes European football topics for our friends at lastwordonsports.com. He also supports Manchester City and Celtic football clubs. Follow him @BrodSutherland . And visit his armchairanalystblog.wordpress.com .

Off-Season Simulation: San Diego Chargers

Up until the start of free agency (March 10th), I will be doing off-season simulations for each team in the league in draft order. The off-season simulation entails free agency: cutting players and restructuring contracts, re-signing players, and signing free agents; and the Draft.

(The off-season simulation programs are provided by fanspeak.com; All salary cap figures are provided by Over The Cap – overthecap.com)

Off-season simulations for other teams can be found at overtimeireland.com/articles; Season recaps for each team can be found at overtimeireland.com/podcasts.

The Chargers have $26.3m in cap space, but they don’t have any players who are worth cutting or restructuring based on their cap numbers. I was considering restructuring Donald Butler’s contract since it’s a and one, but it’s not worth it at this point in time.

Moving on to the next part of the off-season, the Chargers have plenty of players to re-sign. Let’s start with the big boys. I didn’t want to just give Marcus Gilchrist the franchise tag, and we ended up working out a $7m/year, 30% guaranteed, 5-year deal. I also kept Brandon Flowers in San Diego with a $8m/year, 25% guaranteed, 4-year contract. I re-signed one more defensive back: Shareece Wright ($3.3m/year, 25% guaranteed, 3 year). With Verrett being healthy again, he’ll move back to the slot where he belongs. The last starter on defense I brought back was Dwight Freeney. He had a good season in 2014, and at the finishing stretch of his career, he stayed for one year for $3m, 75% guaranteed. Andrew Gachkar and Ricardo Mathews help when they hit the field. As decent backups, they each signed a $1.3m/year, 25% guaranteed, 2-year deal, and a $1.7m/year, 50% guaranteed, 3-year deal, respectively. On to the offense, the Chargers need a new starting centre. Rich Ohrnberger can be that guy for $2m/year, 30% guaranteed, 3 years. The last guy I re-signed was Vincent Brown. With Eddie Royal testing the market, he can be helpful when healthy, which got him a $2.5m/year, 20% guaranteed, 3-year deal.

I only signed one free agent to start filling the holes on the roster. George Johnson has gotten some nice production in recent years. He agreed to come to San Diego for $3.4m/year, 30% guaranteed, 3 years: a cheap deal for what he can yield on the field. that all let time with $2.8m in cap space.

I filled the rest of the Chargers’ needs in the Draft:

Round 1, Pick 17 – DL Arik Armstead

Round 2, pick 16 – WR Dorial Green-Beckham

Round 3, Pick 19 – G TreJackson

Round 4, Pick 18 – LB Derrick Malone

Round 5, Pick 17 – CB Lorenzo Doss

Round 6, Pick 16  – DE Martin Ifedi

Arik Armstead can play outside and kick inside in sub-packages. That makes him a valuable player at the Chargers’ biggest position on need. The Chargers also really need another number one-type receiver. Dorial Green-Beckham fell into the second round do to his red flags, but I’m willing to take the risk due to his rare talent. An upgrade could be had at right guard. Tre’ Jackson will be able to compete for the job. Derrick Malone gives the Chargers some depth at outside linebacker in or inside linebacker. Lorenzo Doss is a possible gem in this draft. He can start out as the dimeback. Depth is still needed at defensive line, and Martin Ifedi was the best available player at that position.

Here’s how the depth chart looks after these moves:

This OTI Piece was written by Eli Bookstaber. Eli, born and raised in Silver Spring, Maryland, is a huge follower of all things NFL and an avid fan of the Redskins. He writes the weekly Power Rankings as well as “Bookie’s Playbook”, where Eli breaks down the X’s and O’s of various plays and things of the sort. He welcomes all feedback on his articles, and you can always talk to him about anything NFL-related. You can follow him on Twitter @Ebookstaber, but be prepared. He never shuts up. 

Off-Season Simulation: Atlanta Falcons

Up until the start of free agency (March 10th), I will be doing off-season simulations for each team in the league in draft order. The off-season simulation entails free agency: cutting players and restructuring contracts, re-signing players, and signing free agents; and the Draft.

(The off-season simulation programs are provided by fanspeak.com; All salary cap figures are provided by Over The Cap – overthecap.com)

Off-season simulations for other teams can be found at overtimeireland.com/articles; Season recaps for each team can be found at overtimeireland.com/podcasts.

The Falcons have a modest amount of money to fill their many holes — $27.3m. There isn’t much they can do to make cap room, as I only found it feasible to get up to $36.5m with the right moves. Sam Baker has been a big disappointment and has most definitely not lived up to his extension. Coming off an ACL injury, the Falcons could designate him as a post-June 1st cut, which would save $4.5m, but a restructure would save $2.8m. Without good depth at tackle, the Falcons could keep Baker in their back pocket at a cheaper price. Steven Jackson is another player with high hopes who hasn’t given the Falcons their due. Cutting him saves $3.75m. The rest of the players I cut each clear up less than $1m, but it all adds up. Peter Konz ($880k) is not athletic enough to play in a zone-blocking scheme, and Lamar Holmes ($660k) can’t seem to develop into the starting right tackle the Falcons had hoped he would. Nate Stupar ($570k) and Sean Baker (510k) are both replaceable on special teams by young players already on the roster.

There weren’t many players worthy of cutting, but the Falcons have plenty of players they should re-sign. Starting with über-reliable kicker Matt Bryant, I inked him to a $3m/year, 30% guaranteed, 3-year deal. TJ Yates can be a capable backup quarterback, and he decided to stay put for $2.25m/year, 20% guaranteed, 3 years. Sean Weatherspoon hasn’t been able to shake the injury bug, but he can be a good player. For some reason he wasn’t listed on the program, but giving him another chance on a $2-3m, 15-20% guaranteed, 1-year prove it deal is worth it. Eric Weems ($1m/year, 20% guaranteed, 3 years) and Antone Smith ($1.3m/year, 25% guaranteed, 4 years) add a lot to the team in their roles. On defense I brought back Dwight Lowery ($1.2m/year, 25% guaranteed, 3 year), Josh Wilson ($2.8m/year, 25% guaranteed, 4 years), and Robert McClain ($2.8m/year, 20% guaranteed, 4 years). Lowery and McClain can help as backups, and Wilson had a very good year as a nickelback. I tried to re-sign Kroy Biermann, who adds a lot in a limited role but not as a starter. However, he wants starter-money so I let him walk.

In free agency I filled some voids without always giving an enormous contract to the top player available. Jermaine Gresham agreed to be the new tight end for $4.4m/year, 25% guaranteed, 4 years. Jerry Hughes will give an immediate lift to the pass rush fir $10.7m/year, 30% guaranteed, 5 years. Last year the Falcons wanted to pursue Brian Orakpo, and this time they had the chance, bringing him down south for $3.7m/year, 20% guaranteed, 3 years. Quintin Demps had his best games wit the Giants last season while playing as free safety. He’ll play that role for the Falcons for $3.6m/year, 30% guaranteed, 4 years. That shores up the safety positions. To finish off the free agent signings I brought in a couple of ex-Seahawks to reunite with their old defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. Byron Maxwell, who signed a $7.4m/year, 30% guaranteed, 5-year deal, will give the Falcons a good, young cornerback tandem beside Desmond Trufant. The other former Seahawks is Brandon Mebane, will add a lot to the defensive line rotation in both the run game and pass rush. After signing all of these players, $2.5m remained on the cap.

This is how my draft went:

Round 1, Pick 8 – DE/OLB Dante Fowler

Round 2, Pick 10 – ILB Benardrick McKinney

Round 3, Pick 9 – T Cedric Ogbuehi

Round 4, Pick 8 – RB Ameer Abdullah

Round 5, Pick 10 – G Jarvis Harrison

Round 6, Pick 9 – DE/OLB/TE – Lynden Trail

Round 7, Pick 8 – WR Levi Norwood

Round 7, Pick 32 – DE Cedric Reed

The Draft went exactly to plan. Dante Fowler is one of the best pass rushers in the class and can play the Leo role in Dan Quinn’s defense. I was really hoping McKinney would last to the second round. Hopefully, he can solve the Falcons issues at inside linebacker. Cedric Ogbuehi might not play next season, but he will be a really solid player in this league. Ameer Abdullah will give the Falcons a nice running back tandem alongside Devonta Freeman. Jarvis Harrison will add some depth to the offensive line. Plus, this reunites him with fellow former Texas A&M teammate Jake Matthews (and Ogbuehi). The already existing communication will smooth the transition if he Harrison has to come into the game. Lynden Trail is an interesting pass rush prospect who might also try out as a tight end, which should excite the Falcons. Levi Norwood rounds out the passing attack, and Cedric Reed might not have so much to offer, but he was the best player available to be Mr. Irrelevant.

Here’s what the depth chart would look like reflecting these moves:

This OTI Piece was written by Eli Bookstaber. Eli, born and raised in Silver Spring, Maryland, is a huge follower of all things NFL and an avid fan of the Redskins. He writes the weekly Power Rankings as well as “Bookie’s Playbook”, where Eli breaks down the X’s and O’s of various plays and things of the sort. He welcomes all feedback on his articles, and you can always talk to him about anything NFL-related. You can follow him on Twitter @Ebookstaber, but be prepared. He never shuts up.