With the draft a couple of weeks in the rear view mirror, I thought it would be fun to check in on how a lot of former Missouri Tigers are doing in the professional football ranks. There are quite a few to check in on. (If I missed an update for someone, let me know in comments.)
"I feel like I’m very comfortable," Ray said. "This offseason I’ve put in tons of work and just made myself more of a complete player. Last year, I was limited to playing a lot of WILL linebacker, which was majority rushing. But now, I can play the SAM just as freely as I played the WILL as far as drops and coverages and just knowing my assignment and what I’m supposed to do. It’s not really a rush and a panic now that I’m more relaxed and I’m more comfortable. I know where I’m supposed to be and how I’m supposed to play the technique."
Ray is looking to make the quantum leap. Even though he was a good contributor to the Broncos' No. 1 defense as a rookie, you can tell Ray was slightly disappointed in his production. His injury had a lot to do with that. But he didn't take off much time following the Super Bowl and now, he believes he's ready to turn the corner.
"It's not really a rush and a panic now that I'm more relaxed and I'm more comfortable," Ray said of his role. "I know where I'm supposed to be and how I'm supposed to play the technique."
And this freshman education is something Ray has shared with Broncos' new rookie quarterback, Paxton Lynch. Although Lynch and Ray play very different positions, they share some camaraderie as No. 1 draft pick.
At the Combine McGovern pointed out that he had preferred playing defensive line in high school, but he always knew his body type was better on the O-line. When he was recruited by Missouri, it was mostly for his all-around athleticism.
"Mizzou recruited me. They said, ‘We don't know where we're going to put you. We're recruiting you because you're an athlete," McGovern recalled. "We're going to teach you how to play football.'"
Credit the Mizzou coaches for doing just that.
(A certain Rock M'er and Bronco fan has a cameo in this post, by the way.)
"Lots of guys to go to here, Dari, Kentrell Brothers, though, is my favorite," Kiper said. "He is a tackling machine coming out of Missouri to the Minnesota Vikings.
"I said on draft day, the Spielman family (Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman and Chris Spielman), those linebackers, Chris Spielman didn’t have a great 40 time, was phenomenal in Detroit," he added. "Don’t worry about measureables for linebackers. It’s instincts. He ran a 4.85. He plays like he runs 4.6. That’s all that matters."
In the 2015 season Ealy was once again asked to contribute more than initially expected due to Frank Alexander and Charles Johnson getting injured. While Johnson was gone Ealy played at left defensive end which seemed to be a better fit considering he recorded a sack in five straight games at the position. When Johnson was brought off of injured reserve Ealy, Johnson and Jared Allen split defensive end snaps evenly and the rotation worked well enough to put pressure on Carson Palmer and Russell Wilson in the playoffs.
Then there is the matter of his Super Bowl performance.
Relatively quiet in the playoffs, Ealy performed as was expected of him and Carolina rolled out a pair of convincing playoffs wins to establish themselves as a legitimate Superbowl contender. Then the wheels came off. For the team that is. One of the characteristics that often separates a player from the crowd and all but defines the Panthers mentality is how they perform with faced with adversity. Carolina did everything they could but the breaks just weren't coming. Still, they managed to stay in the game until end. Part of that lingering hope came at the hands and feet of Ealy who played like a man on a mission. He amassed 3 sacks, a forced fumble and a 19 yard interception in the biggest game of his career. He showed that while a lot of first time players will struggle with the size of the big stage he had every intention of playing lights out. It's that dedication that Getts and Rivera look for in their players and it's hopefully that driven attitude that's going to launch him into the next phase of his career where he takes another big step in 2016 towards being an even scarier piece of an already intimidating defense.
SPOOOOOOOOOOOOOON (and William Moore)
It's easy to see why the team brought Spoon back. Even if he's not the same player he once was, and even if his health is tenuous, the leadership Spoon displays is truly invaluable. To be frank, Spoon still has the potential to contribute at a high level - it all depends on his health. (Sadly, if his history is any indication, he may have a hard time staying on the field.)
Falcons linebacker Sean Weatherspoon has been in contact with former pro and college teammate William Moore, who was released by the Falcons over the offseason.
"It happens," Weatherspoon said. "I’m sure they felt (a certain) way when I wasn’t here last year. … But when I sit in the room and look up, he’s on the wall in there because he made the Pro Bowl. I get to see him in the defensive meeting room. That’s my dog."
"I know the last couple of years with us, he had a couple starts against San Diego and played extremely well. I think that he’s at a position in his career where given the opportunity and his work ethic, it puts him in a position to be a starter."
That was my new head coach, Doug Pederson, the day he signed me. Doug’s my old position coach from Kansas City. He really gets me, I think, or at least I thought he did. He was me once, a career backup behind some great arms, and I figured if I came here, I’d at least get a chance to compete for the job and make that mid-career jump from backup to starter like some other quarterbacks, a few who became famous, have.
Murphy eventually suffered a high-ankle sprain during a Week #14 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers; and although it wasn’t considered serious, given how late it was in the season the Saints decided to place him on injured reserve.
Still in all, it’s that type of big-time threat as a kick returner the reason that the Saints presumably drafted him for, which means that the re-signing in the off-season of veteran Travaris Cadet, who can return kicks AND play RB better than Murphy can, would seem to counter-act the Saints’ need to keep Murphy around.
I completely missed that, after a successful stint with the Edmonton Eskimos, Kendial signed with the Saskatchewan Rough Riders in February.