Matt Pearce
NFP Fresh Voices


Technically speaking, unrestricted free agency is over for the 2015 offseason and has been for more than a week.

On May 12, all free agents became street free agents, compared to previous years when it was June 1. After this date, all free agent signings don’t count against compensatory draft picks in the following draft, hence the reclassification of the players.

With this in mind, there are still some players on the market who could help your favorite team reach the playoffs in the 2015 season. As teams suffer injuries in minicamps and other team activities, expect to see these free agents sign with teams.

The defensive free agents will be posted at a later date.

Quarterback: Michael Vick

As Vick has aged, his play has declined and he is no longer the best athlete on the field. Soon to be 35 years old, he won’t be confused for a starting quarterback anytime soon, but he could be a backup for plenty of teams. In one of his three starts last season, he led the New York Jets to a 20-13 upset over the Pittsburgh Steelers, while throwing for two touchdowns. His quarterback rating in these three starts was 83.1.

Running Back: Pierre Thomas

A staple of the Saints’ offense for years, the 30-year old Thomas is one of the better pass catching running backs in the league. He is coming off an injury-shorted season, but still caught 45 passes for 378 yards. While he has never played outside of Sean Payton’s diverse scheme, Thomas has attributes that can be transferred to any offense in the league. He can contribute as a third down running back for most teams.

Wide Receiver: James Jones

Released by the Oakland Raiders after the draft, Jones was the best receiver in Oakland last season. With a rookie under center (Derek Carr) and a lack of other talent on the offensive side of the ball, Jones caught 73 passes for 666 yards and six touchdowns. Prior to that, he played in the receiver friendly Packers’ offense. There won’t be any repeats of 2013 where he caught 14 touchdowns, but the 31-year old Jones can still be a solid receiver in the NFL.

Wide Receiver: Donnie Avery

Injuries limited Avery to just six games (three starts) in 2014, but prior to that he was a productive receiver for Kansas City and Indianapolis. Between the 2012 and 2013 seasons, he caught 100 passes for 1,377 yards and five touchdowns. Soon to be 31 years old, Avery isn’t a spectacular receiver, but he can be a contributor for a team looking to add a veteran presence to their offense.

Wide Receiver: Wes Welker

One of the best slot receivers in history, Welker’s performance has sharply declined recently. Last season, he caught 49 passes for 464 yards and two touchdowns and appeared to be a shell of his former self at times. At 34 years old with a concussion history, his career is close to over. There is a chance he could come in and contribute as a fourth receiver for some teams.

Tight End: Jermaine Gresham

If not for back surgery earlier in the offseason, Gresham would have been off the free agent market by now. Teams are waiting for his back to heal before giving him a look. Soon to be 27 years old, Gresham caught 62 passes last season, but this is an inflated number from Andy Dalton regularly checking down to him. Assuming his back progresses nicely, expect him to be with a new team by training camp.

Offensive Tackle: Jake Long

A former first overall pick, talent isn’t the question with Long––it is his health. The 30-year old hasn’t played a full 16-game schedule since 2010 and is currently rehabbing a torn ACL, which was suffered in week eight. This is the second year in a row that he has torn his ACL, causing teams to stay away. Once healthy, Long should sign a contract with playing time incentives and little guaranteed money.

Offensive Tackle: Anthony Collins

One of the prized free agents in Tampa Bay’s 2014 haul, the 29-year old Collins lasted just one season with the Buccaneers, in what was his first season as a full-time starter. He fell from Pro Football Focus’ (PFF) 23rd rated offensive tackle in 2013 to 63rd in 2014. With the ability to play either tackle position, most teams would love to have him on their roster, but he is likely holding out for a starting position.

Guard: Justin Blalock

Since entering the league in 2007, Blalock has started 125 out of a possible 128 games for Atlanta, the only team he has ever played for. Released in a salary cap move, the 31-year old has been a top 30 guard the last two seasons according to PFF. He isn’t a top guard, but he could be a quality starter for a team.

Guard: Rob Sims

Sims is in a similar situation to Blalock, being 31 years old and having started 94 out of the last 96 games for Detroit and Seattle. Sims wasn’t as good according to PFF, ranking in the top 40 the past two seasons, but that is still a serviceable level. Sims is the type of guard who you can improve upon, but you could also do much worse than him.

Center: Chris Myers

One of the best centers in the NFL over the last few seasons, Myers has started 128 straight games for the Texans and Broncos. At 286 lbs, he is undersized for the position, but has thrived in zone blocking schemes as a run-blocking center. The 33-year old has received a few looks as a free agent after Houston cut him for salary cap reasons. If he goes to a team with a zone-blocking scheme, he should have another successful season.

Matt Pearce is a graduate of National Football Post’s Introduction to Scouting and Scouting Boot Camp. Follow him on Twitter @Matt_Pearce13

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Greg Gabriel
The Director's Report


Anthony Johnson – DT – Miami Dolphins

Going into the 2014 NFL Draft, it was thought that Johnson had the talent to be a premium round draft choice. Because of some off field issues and an inconsistent motor on the field, Johnson didn’t get drafted and ended up an undrafted rookie free agent.

Regardless, the talent is there and if Johnson decides he wants to play to his potential he can be a top player in the Dolphins’ defense. He is big, strong and athletic and can both play the run and rush the passer. Granted, the Dolphins signed Ndamukong Suh and drafted Jordan Phillips, but most clubs now are playing their defensive linemen in a rotation, and there will be plenty of reps for Johnson to show his ability. Having strong depth on the defensive front can help Miami challenge New England for AFC East supremacy.

Cyrus Kouandjio – OT/OG – Buffalo Bills

Before the 2014 Scouting Combine, the general consensus was that Kouandjio had a strong chance of being a first round draft choice. Medical testing at the Combine found that Cyrus had an arthritic knee, and that dropped him to the second round.

Once camp opened in July, Kouandjio was not in the best of shape and was beaten out for the right tackle spot by seventh round pick Seantrel Henderson. Henderson played well at the right tackle position, and it is doubtful that Kouandjio can beat him out. Both of the guard positions are open, however. The Bills signed Ritchie Incognito to play on one side, but Kouandjio can and should challenge Kraig Urbik for the other position.

Reportedly, Kouandjio has lost weight, is in top condition, and is looking good in the offseason program. If that is the case, he should put up a strong fight for one of the guard positions. The talent is there, does he want it?

Dominique Easley – DT – New England Patriots

Easley was the Patriots first round pick last year. He was a bit of a surprise pick in that he was coming off two ACL injuries while at Florida. As a rookie, Easley was still bothered by knee issues and only played in 11 games.

This year, the Patriots are taking their time getting Easley ready, but all reports indicate that he will be 100% by training camp. If that is the case, the combination of Easley and rookie defensive tackle Malcom Brown will give New England a very quick and athletic pair of defensive tackles.

The Patriots decided not to bring back perennial Pro Bowler Vince Wilfork, and while Easley doesn’t have Wilfork’s combination of bulk and power, he is far more athletic and will be able to do much more as an interior pass rusher.

Jimmy Garoppolo – QB – New England Patriots

Going into the appeal hearing of Tom Brady, it is not known if Brady’s suspension will be held up or reduced by a game or two. No matter, Garoppolo has to be ready to play as he will start some games this season.

Garoppolo put up some huge numbers in college leading Eastern Illinois. In his little bit of play time in 2014, Garoppolo showed that he was ready to make the jump to the NFL. While he will never be the passer that Brady is, Garoppolo is far more athletic and gives the Patriots a player who has to be accounted for as both a runner and a passer. It will be interesting watching how he develops this year.

Jace Amaro – TE – New York Jets

Amaro didn’t play badly as a rookie, but he didn’t do quite as well as expected either. He finished the season with 38 receptions for 345 yards and two touchdowns. With his athleticism and natural talent, he should be able to almost double that output in 2015.

Today’s offenses are designed for an athletic tight end to put up big numbers. Amaro can be almost like a big wide receiver and create some big time mismatches. His presence can help Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker, and rookie deep threat Devin Smith. If quarterback Geno Smith puts it together, the Jets passing attack can be something to be reckoned with.

Follow Greg on Twitter @greggabe

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Ken Crippen
Football History


NAME: Eddie Meador
POSITION: DB
TEAMS: 1959-70 Los Angeles Rams
UNIFORM NUMBER: 21

Overall Analysis

STRENGTHS
• Excellent tackler
• Quick and Aggressive

WEAKNESSES
• Can get caught out of position due to his aggressiveness

BOTTOM LINE
A very good defensive back. Quick and aggressive. Always around the ball. Very good at reading the play and adjusting. A solid tackler and can take on the ball carrier one-on-one. His aggressiveness can get him in trouble. Receivers can get behind him to cause damage. There are times that he can recover quickly, but there are times when he is too far out of position. Very good instincts and competitiveness.

GRADING SPECIFIC FACTORS
OVERALL ATHLETICISM (QAB): 8.0
QUICKNESS: 8.2
AGILITY: 8.0
BALANCE: 7.9
STRENGTH AND EXPLOSION: 7.5
COMPETITIVENESS: 7.9
MENTAL ALERTNESS: 7.9
INSTINCTS: 7.9

OVERALL GRADE 7.7

NUMBER OF GAMES REVIEWED: 7

GAME: October 31, 1965 – Detroit Lions: 7.3
BOTTOM LINE: This was a NFL Play by Play Report film. Meador showed quickness and aggressiveness throughout the game. However, several times he was caught out of position or too far downfield to make a play. Receivers were able to get behind him. This was evident early in the game as Joe Don Looney (#32) ran past him for the first score of the game. Later in the first quarter, Terry Barr (#41) also got behind him to catch a touchdown pass. Meador showed excellent tackling skills. However, in the third quarter, Joe Don Looney ran through him for a touchdown. When in position, Meador was able to make a play. However, frequently, he was caught out of position and the Lions were able to capitalize.

GAME: September 25, 1966 – Green Bay Packers: 7.8
BOTTOM LINE: This was a Game of the Week film. As a result, not all plays were shown. Meador played the weak-side safety position in the game. Overall, he played well. He showed excellent speed and mental awareness to always be around the ball. His speed was on display in the third quarter, when he chased down Paul Hornung (#5) to not only tackle him, but to strip the ball away from him for a fumble. He was quick to react to the play and was in on a few tackles. He was very good in run support. A very good game for Meador. He showed excellent quickness and aggressiveness.

GAME: December 18, 1966 – Green Bay Packers: 7.6
BOTTOM LINE: This was a Game of the Week film. As a result, not all plays were shown. Meador had a very good game. He was injured in the third quarter, but returned in the fourth quarter. In the first quarter, he chased down Elijah Pitts (#22) on a screen pass to knock him out of bounds. He made a good solo tackle in the second quarter, but had a few missed tackles throughout the game. In the third quarter, he was run over by Jim Taylor (#31). When he returned in the fourth quarter, he undercut a receiver to intercept a pass. He left the game again later in the fourth quarter. He showed very good competitiveness and quickness.

GAME: December 9, 1967 – Green Bay Packers: 7.6
BOTTOM LINE: This was a Game of the Week film. As a result, not all plays were shown. Meador played free safety throughout the game. He made an excellent touchdown-saving solo tackle on Donny Anderson (#44) in the first quarter. He also made another tackle later in the game to prevent a long gain. However, there were few plays of his shown in the film.

GAME: December 8, 1968 – Chicago Bears: 7.7
BOTTOM LINE: This was a Game of the Week film. As a result, not all plays were shown. There were few plays of his shown in the film. Meador played right safety throughout the game. He showed very good mental awareness. He also had a very good 39-yard punt return in the second quarter.

GAME: November 16, 1969 – Philadelphia Eagles: 8.1
BOTTOM LINE: This was a Game of the Week film. As a result, not all plays were shown. Meador showed excellent quickness, speed and mental alertness. He made a few downfield tackles, but occasionally was sealed away from the play. This was seen twice in the second quarter. He had an outstanding third quarter. He showed excellent toughness on a fake field goal, where he ran the ball to the right and powered his way through a few defenders for a five-yard gain and a first down. Later in the quarter, Meador recovered a fumble by Tom Woodeshick (#37). Still in the third quarter, Meador cut in front of Leroy Keyes (#20) to intercept a pass and return it for a touchdown. His excellent third quarter made up for a few shortcomings earlier in the game.

GAME: October 26, 1970 – Minnesota Vikings: 7.7
BOTTOM LINE: This film was an original television broadcast. Meador played free safety throughout the game. The field conditions were rainy and muddy, making footing difficult. Meador showed excellent tackling skills throughout the game. He was consistently around the ball. In the first quarter, he was looked off by quarterback Gary Cuozzo (#15) on a touchdown pass to Bill Brown (#30).

HISTORIC REPORTS GRADING SCALE

Hall of Fame
9.0 – Rare
8.5 – Exceptional to Rare
8.0 – Exceptional

Hall of Very Good
7.5  – Very Good to Exceptional
7.0 – Very Good
6.5 – Good to Very Good

Other
6.0 – Good
5.5 – Above Average to Good
5.0 – Above Average
4.5 – Average to Above Average

Ken Crippen is the former executive director of the Professional Football Researchers Association. He has researched and written about pro football history for over two decades. He won the Pro Football Writers of America’s Dick Connor Writing Award for Feature Writing and was named the Ralph Hay Award winner by the Professional Football Researchers Association for lifetime achievement on pro football history.

Matt Reaser is a member of the Professional Football Researchers Association and serves on multiple PFRA committees. He has written articles on football history and recently contributed towards a book on the 1966 Packers. He has researched high school, college and professional football. He is a former high school quarterback.

Follow Ken on Twitter @KenCrippen

































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Greg Gabriel
The Director's Report


While fans are always anxious for rookie players to have big years, coaches, on the other hand, look for players in their second year to begin make big contributions. In their second year, players are feeling comfortable in the system and have the confidence to play at a high level. That said, here are some second year players who should begin to become regular contributors for their teams in 2015.

Eric Ebron – TE – Detroit Lions

When the Lions selected Ebron with the 10th overall selection of the 2014 Draft, a lot was expected. Because of his size and athleticism, he was going to be the guy who took pressure off Calvin Johnson. Instead it was free agent acquisition Golden Tate who came up big with 99 receptions.

With a year under his belt in the system and knowing what is expected of him, I feel Ebron can be one of the top move tight ends in the NFL. His physical traits are rare, and there is no reason why he can’t become a focal point of the Detroit offense. Last year, he finished with only 25 receptions. He needs to more than double that total this year.

Caraun Reid – DT – Detroit Lions

The Lions lost Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairly during free agency. While it was expected they would take an interior defensive lineman early in the draft, it wasn’t until the fourth round that they actually pulled the trigger on a player at that position when they chose Gabe Wright from Auburn.

Yes, they signed former Baltimore Raven Haloti Ngata to play inside, but last year’s fifth round pick Caraun Reid needs to come on and I think he will. Reid was a dominant player at the Ivy League level, but it’s a big jump from the FCS Ivy League to the NFL. Reid got just spot duty in 2014. He has excellent overall athleticism, and I feel he can be the young guy who breaks out for the Lions this year.

Davante Adams – WR – Green Bay Packers

Adams flashed as a rookie and was starting to really come on towards the end of the 2014 season. Still, he finished the season with only 38 receptions for 446 yards and three touchdowns.

Adams came from a fairly simple spread offense in college, and like many receivers, it takes some time to adjust to an NFL offense. He has the size, speed, and overall athleticism to eventually become a dominant receiver in the NFL. I look for that to start to happen this year. If he comes on as expected, he helps give Green Bay a receiving corps that is as good as any in the NFL.

Scott Crichton – DE – Minnesota Vikings

Crichton did not play much as a rookie. He finished the season with only two total tackles. In college, Scott was a high-motor playmaker who flashed dominating ability. Based purely on what I saw him do while at Oregon State, I feel Crichton can become an important part of the Vikings’ defense in 2015. He has the physical tools, he just needs to remain healthy and play to his talent level. While he may not be a starter, he can play an important role in the defensive line rotation.

Kyle Fuller – DC – Chicago Bears

Fuller earned a starting role while in training camp and began the season very strong. He had three interceptions in the first three games and made a number of other big plays. He then suffered a hand injury and like the rest of the Chicago defense, disappeared.

From a traits viewpoint, Fuller has ideal corner size, speed and athleticism. He also has long arms, can tackle and has excellent ball skills. Playing in a new 3-4 scheme, Fuller needs to revert back to his early season form. If that happens, he will be one of the better corners in the NFC North.

Ego Ferguson – DT – Chicago Bears

As a rookie, Ferguson was a role player for the Bears and actually played fairly well in limited opportunities. This year, playing in a new scheme, a lot more is expected of him, and I feel he will come up big.

In the Bears’ new scheme, Ferguson will most likely be playing both as a nose and a 5-technique. He has the length, strength, and overall power to be a very good NFL defensive lineman. New defensive coordinator Vic Fangio’s scheme fits Ferguson’s traits very well. While I don’t expect Ferguson to be a starter, I feel he will play 50% of the defensive snaps playing in a rotation and put up some good numbers. He will be a presence in the Bears’ defense as both a run defender and inside pass rusher.

Follow Greg on Twitter @greggabe

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Ken Crippen
Football History


NAME: Jerry Kramer
POSITION: RG
TEAMS: 1958-68 Green Bay Packers
UNIFORM NUMBER: 64

Overall Analysis

STRENGTHS

• Excellent quickness and agility
• Run blocking is exceptional
• Can pull effectively and seal the blocks

WEAKNESSES

• Can get off-balance on pass blocking
• Occasionally pushed back on a bull rush
• Has a habit of not playing snap-to-whistle on pass plays

BOTTOM LINE

Kramer is excellent at run blocking, but not as good on pass blocking. Whether he is run blocking or pass blocking, he shows good hand placement. He missed many games in 1961 and 1964 due to injury. Also kicked field goals and extra points for the team in 1962-63 and 1968. He led the league in field goal percentage in 1962. Run Blocking: When pulling, he is quick to get into position and gains proper leverage against the defender. While staying on the line to run block, he shows excellent explosion into the defender and can turn the defender away from the runner. Pass Blocking: He can get pushed a little far into the backfield and lose his balance. He also has a habit of not playing snap-to-whistle. If a defender gets by him, he gives up on the play. He can also get high and flat-footed on pass blocking, which leads to his balance issues. When he sheds a blocker, he is good (not great) at picking up a new blocker. He also has trouble deciding who to block and sometimes makes the wrong decision. However, he is excellent when he is pulling to pass block on the screen. His skill and instincts are on par with his run blocking.

GRADING SPECIFIC FACTORS
OVERALL ATHLETICISM (QAB): 7.8
QUICKNESS: 8.0
AGILITY: 8.1
BALANCE: 7.4
STRENGTH AND EXPLOSION: 8.0
COMPETITIVENESS: 7.3
MENTAL ALERTNESS: 7.5
INSTINCTS: 7.7
RUN BLOCKING: 8.0
PASS BLOCKING: 7.7

OVERALL GRADE 7.8

NUMBER OF GAMES REVIEWED: 27

GAME: December 26, 1960 – Philadelphia Eagles:  7.5
BOTTOM LINE: Kramer showed excellent quickness and agility throughout the game. However, he did have issues with balance. He showed good drive and leverage in run blocking. In pass protection, he did not always finish the block or make the block when in position to do so. He frequently dove at defenders.

GAME: December 30, 1962 – New York Giants: 8.0
BOTTOM LINE: This was a radio broadcast with available video footage shown. As a result, not all plays were shown. In fact, very few plays were shown. Depending on the blocking scheme, Kramer either faced Dick Modzelewski (#77) or Sam Huff (#70). In the first quarter, Kramer recovered a Jim Taylor (#31) fumble. After the play, he left the game for a few plays. He returned, but left a few more times throughout the game. In the second quarter, Kramer gave up a sack to Modelewski. Later in the quarter, he made an excellent block on Modelewski on the Taylor touchdown run. Also in the second quarter, he picked up a rushing Jim Katcavage (#75) to protect Bart Starr.

GAME: October 27, 1963 – Baltimore Colts: 8.1
BOTTOM LINE: Kramer had an excellent game against Jim Colvin (#75) of the Baltimore Colts. He showed excellent quickness and agility as a pulling guard. He was able to get good penetration on run blocking. He could also seal the block. Pass blocking was a little weaker as he occasionally got pushed back or lost his balance. In the first quarter, he blocked Colvin, then quickly shed him to block Jackie Burkett (#55). He also recovered an onside kick in the first quarter.

GAME: October 3, 1965 – Chicago Bears: 6.4
BOTTOM LINE: This was an NFL Play by Play Report film. Kramer hit the ground on a few occasions against Bob Kilcullen (#74). A lack of balance has been an issue for him. Also, competitiveness was lacking on a few occasions as he gave up on the play before the whistle. Kramer showed some waist bending. However, he did show good hand position throughout the game. He kept his knees bent and flexible ankles. He repeatedly turned his back toward the defender after initial contact. Not Kramer’s best game.

GAME: October 10, 1965 – San Francisco 49ers: 6.4
BOTTOM LINE: This was an NFL Play by Play Report film. Dan Grimm (#67) started. Kramer only played briefly toward the end of the first half. He did not play in the second half. Kramer showed good run blocking and pass blocking skills in the short time he was in the game. However, he also exhibited balance issues. He repeatedly fell to the ground after initial contact.

GAME: October 31, 1965 – Chicago Bears: 7.5
BOTTOM LINE: This was an NFL Play by Play Report film. Kramer had a rough start versus Bob Kilcullen (#74), but he improved as the game progressed. Toward the beginning of the game, Kilcullen beat Kramer to Kramer’s left, went around Kramer and straight to Bart Starr. As Kilcullen shed the block, Kramer stopped playing and watched Kilcullen run straight to Starr. A little later in the quarter, Kramer was pulling to the right. He failed to hit either defender in his path. However, as mentioned previously, he improved as the game progressed. He showed better run and pass blocking. Overall, he showed improved balance than in previous games. He also showed very good quickness, agility, explosion, foot placement and flexibility. Competitiveness was lacking in the beginning, but improved later in the game. In the first quarter, Kramer made a very good down block on Jim Taylor’s run.

GAME: November 21, 1965 – Minnesota Vikings: 8.3
BOTTOM LINE: This was an NFL Play by Play Report film. Exceptional game for Kramer. Few to no mistakes. He showed exceptional skill in all phases of his game. He was able to get good penetration on run blocking. He showed excellent pass blocking against Gary Larsen (#77). But, Kramer left the game in the fourth quarter and was replaced by Dan Grimm (#67).

GAME: December 19, 1965 – San Francisco 49ers: 8.0
BOTTOM LINE: This was an NFL Play by Play Report film. Kramer struggled in the first offensive series against Charlie Krueger (#70). Krueger was able to get excellent penetration into the Packer backfield, including shedding Kramer’s block to get in on a sack of Starr. However, Kramer strengthened his skills after that series and put together an exceptional game. Few mistakes were made.

GAME: December 26, 1965 – Baltimore Colts: 7.9
BOTTOM LINE: Kramer faced Fred Miller (#76) for most of the game. However, in the third quarter, Miller was replaced by Guy Reese (#75). Kramer Held his own in both run blocking and pass protection throughout the game. However, there were two occasions where Miller bull rushed Kramer and got the better of him. On one of those occasions, Miller easily tossed Kramer aside. Kramer was out of action for a few plays in the fourth quarter. He was replaced by Dan Grimm (#67). There was no noticeable drop-off in the quality of play when Grimm was in for Kramer. However, it was only for a few plays.

GAME: September 10, 1966 – Baltimore Colts: 8.0
BOTTOM LINE: Excellent game by Kramer. He showed quickness, agility and balance. Good drive and leverage. In run blocking, he got excellent penetration into the defense. On pass blocking, he maintained his balance and was very effective. On screen passes, he got outside quickly and sealed the block effectively.

GAME: September 18, 1966 – Cleveland Browns: 8.0
BOTTOM LINE: This was a Game of the Week film. As a result, not all plays were shown. Overall, an excellent game by Kramer. However, I need to grade him slightly lower based on a play late in the fourth quarter. Matched up against Walter Johnson (#71), Kramer held him off momentarily. But, Johnson was able to get around him. Once Johnson got around him, Kramer stopped playing for a few seconds. To his credit, though, when Bill Glass (#80) was running unabated to Starr, Kramer kicked it in gear and blocked Glass. You never want to see a player stop playing before the whistle blows. Excellent hook and seal blocks.

GAME: September 25, 1966 – Los Angeles Rams: 7.6
BOTTOM LINE: Kramer’s run blocking was excellent in the game. His opponent was Merlin Olsen (#74). However, he did struggle at times in pass blocking. Olsen was able to get good penetration into the backfield and disrupt plays. Kramer did get help from center Ken Bowman (#57) and right tackle Forrest Gregg (#75) at times.

GAME: October 2, 1966 – Detroit Lions: 7.6
BOTTOM LINE: Alex Karras (#71) had a good day pass rushing against Kramer. On a bull rush, Karras was able to push Kramer back or push him to the side. On run blocking, Kramer did well. There was an instance late in the third quarter where Jim Taylor (#31) ran through the B gap. Kramer had Karras turned toward Taylor. Karras easily shed the block and stopped Taylor for minimal to no gain. Kramer was also aided on a few occasions by center Bill Curry (#50) in blocking Karras. Also, Kramer regularly pulled away from Karras. In the fourth quarter, Kramer gave up a sack to Karras.

GAME: October 9, 1966 – San Francisco 49ers: 7.9
BOTTOM LINE: Kramer had a good game against Charlie Krueger (#70). There was one instance where Krueger easily pushed Kramer aside on a pass rush. Kramer lost his balance and was out of the play. Otherwise, Kramer put together a solid performance.

GAME: October 16, 1966 – Chicago Bears: 8.0
BOTTOM LINE: Bob Kilcullen (#74) and Dick Evey (#79) swapped DT positions throughout the game. The Bears also sprinkled in Frank Cornish (#73) at LDT in the fourth quarter. Kramer played well throughout the game. He especially had a great play against Cornish in the fourth quarter. On a pass rush, Kramer easily knocked Cornish to the ground and out of the play. However, in the first quarter, Kramer fell backwards to the ground out of his stance.

GAME: October 23, 1966 – Atlanta Falcons: 8.1
BOTTOM LINE Kramer had another excellent game. This time, against Karl Rubke (#74) of the Falcons. Very few mistakes. However, he did give up on a play in the first offensive series. The same series, he was tossed aside.

GAME: November 6, 1966 – Minnesota Vikings: 8.0
BOTTOM LINE: Kramer had an excellent game. Very few mistakes. His primary responsibility was left defensive tackle Gary Larsen (#77). Kramer maintained excellent positioning and leverage in both the run and pass game. He was quick to pull and cover the sweep and screen pass. He lost his balance on a few occasions due to waistbending and not maintaining good leverage, but overall had a good base under him.

GAME: November 20, 1966 – Chicago Bears: 8.0
BOTTOM LINE: Kramer mainly lined up against Bob Kilcullen (#74), but the Bears also shifted Dick Evey (#79) and Frank Cornish (#73) into the left defensive tackle position. Overall, a very good game from Kramer. However, he did miss a few blocks on the power sweep. Also lost his balance a time or two. On pass blocking, Evey blew through the A gap and Kramer was slow to react.

GAME: November 27, 1966 – Minnesota Vikings: 7.8
BOTTOM LINE: Faced Gary Larsen (#77) at left defensive tackle. For the most part, Kramer had a very good game. Pass blocking was an issue on occasion, as he gave up on a play before the whistle and did a little waist-bending. Fortunately, it did not impact the game to any degree. Run blocking was excellent.

GAME: December 4, 1966 – San Francisco 49ers: 7.9
BOTTOM LINE: This film was more of a highlight reel and a play-by-play game film. As a result, not all plays were available. Of the plays I could see, Kramer did an excellent job against Charlie Krueger (#70). A few times, Kramer was knocked to the ground. However, the turf was very icy and players were easily losing their footing. I will not mark him down much for loss of balance at the iciest portions of the field. Kramer did miss a block on Krueger, who made a tackle for a loss.

GAME: December 10, 1966 – Baltimore Colts: 7.8
BOTTOM LINE: Kramer faced Fred Miller (#76) throughout the game. Miller was able to get a few plays against Kramer. On a passing play, he got around Kramer by tossing him aside. Kramer did not have a solid base and could not get leverage on him. Miller also was able to get penetration on Kramer when Kramer went low to block. Kramer missed hitting Miller squarely and Miller was able to get into the backfield and almost make a play. On a screen pass, Kramer went to block an outside defender, but missed the block.

GAME: December 18, 1966 – Los Angeles Rams: 7.7
BOTTOM LINE: This was a Game of the Week film. As a result, not all plays were shown. For the most part, Kramer handled left defensive tackle Merlin Olsen (#74) well. However, there were a few issues in the game. When Kramer went low to block Olsen, Merlin was able to shed the block and make a play. An example of this was a handoff to Jim Grabowski (#33) in the second half. Kramer went low, Olsen pushed him aside and penetrated the backfield. Olsen hit Grabowski to force a fumble.

GAME: January 1, 1967 -Dallas Cowboys: 7.6
BOTTOM LINE: Not many plays were shown. In the third quarter, Larry Stevens (#77) went around Kramer and Stevens tripped over another player. Stevens had easily beaten Kramer and had a clear path to Starr until he tripped. The play resulted in a touchdown pass, but it was not a good play for Kramer.

GAME: October 22, 1967 – New York Giants: 8.1
BOTTOM LINE: This was a Game of the Week film. As a result, not all plays were shown. Kramer had an excellent game against left defensive tackle Jim Moran (#74). Both run blocking and pass blocking were excellent. On one occasion, he did not play snap-to-whistle, but he was competitive the remainder of the game. Kramer did exhibit waistbending on pass blocking on occasion.

GAME: November 5, 1967 – Baltimore Colts: 7.3
BOTTOM LINE: This was a Game of the Week film. As a result, not all plays were shown. Kramer did well on run blocking against Billy Ray Smith, Sr. (#74). However, he struggled against him in pass blocking. Smith was able to get deep penetration into the backfield, including getting in on a sack of Starr in the first half. The second half was more of the same. In the third quarter, Smith was able to get around Kramer for a sack of Starr. NOTE: The quality of the film is very poor.

GAME: December 9, 1967 – Los Angeles Rams: 7.4
BOTTOM LINE: This was a Game of the Week film. As a result, not all plays were shown. Kramer struggled in this game against Merlin Olsen (#74). In the first half, Kramer was called for holding as Olsen was pushing past him. Olsen regularly was able to get penetration into the backfield to disrupt plays. Kramer was also susceptible to getting knocked down.

GAME: December 15, 1968 – Chicago Bears: 8.2
BOTTOM LINE: Kramer only played a partial game against Frank Cornish (#73). In the fourth quarter, Kramer was replaced by Bill Lueck (#62). In the time that Kramer was in, he played well. No glaring issues were seen in his game.

 

HISTORIC REPORTS GRADING SCALE

Hall of Fame
9.0 – Rare
8.5 – Exceptional to Rare
8.0 – Exceptional

Hall of Very Good
7.5  – Very Good to Exceptional
7.0 – Very Good
6.5 – Good to Very Good

Other
6.0 – Good
5.5 – Above Average to Good
5.0 – Above Average
4.5 – Average to Above Average

Ken Crippen is the former executive director of the Professional Football Researchers Association. He has researched and written about pro football history for over two decades. He won the Pro Football Writers of America’s Dick Connor Writing Award for Feature Writing and was named the Ralph Hay Award winner by the Professional Football Researchers Association for lifetime achievement on pro football history.

Matt Reaser is a member of the Professional Football Researchers Association and serves on multiple PFRA committees. He has written articles on football history and recently contributed towards a book on the 1966 Packers. He has researched high school, college and professional football. He is a former high school quarterback.

Follow Ken on Twitter @KenCrippen























































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