Draft Profile: Jack Allen, MSU

Wherever Jack Allen lines up, his impact is palpable.
Anchoring the line as center at Hinsdale Central High School, in west suburban Chicago and then at Michigan State, Allen sets a standard of excellence. When the National Football League draft takes place in Chicago, Il. [April 28-30], Allen will be watching at home with his parents, John and Leslie, and two brothers, waiting to hear where he will be heading for his professional career.
Allen felt a comfort zone visiting the East Lansing, Mi. campus.
“I had three offers, Wisconsin, which wanted me to play nose tackle, Iowa and Michigan State,” he said. “The big selling point Michigan State made was how hard it would be, in practice and in the offseason.

Allen, Jack
Photo courtesy of Michigan State Athletic Communications

“The first thing [strength and conditioning] coach Ken Mannie said, ‘If you don’t like to work hard, this is not the place for you! That’s been true from day one; we take a lot of pride in our work ethic as a team.”
A four-year starter and two-time All-American, Allen’s weight was felt on the line and locker room. A state champion wrestler and three-time finalist, his mat skills translated quite well to the gridiron.
“Wrestling helped me more than anything else in my career; I’d never be in the position where I am now,” said Allen, whose dad, wrestled at Hinsdale Central and was a heavyweight at Purdue in the 1980s. Jack had his first match in second grade. Brothers Brian (2013) and Matt (2016) were also state champions. “The hand fighting, body position, leverage, mental toughness and hard work all apply to playing the line.”
A four-time All-Academic Big Ten selection, who graduated last December with a degree in business hospitality, Allen came in at 285, was up to 315, but is currently under 300. A top five center in all draft publications, who was interviewed by 27 teams, Allen projects as a third-fifth round selection.
“I feel quick at this weight,” he said. “I’ve studied a lot of film and I feel I know offensive schemes like the back of my hand. I’ve tried to excel in everything I do. It’s been a step by step process to get here. I have no idea who is interested in me, but I am anxious to get started.”
Allen’s adroit assets where appreciated by offensive line coach Mark Staten.
Jack Allen
Photo courtesy of Michigan State Athletic Communications

“Jack’s wrestling background definitely helps,” said Staten. “On the line, it’s an individual matchup. A wrestler’s mentality is, ‘I have to beat my guy.’ All the Allen brothers [Brian, who started last fall at left guard, Matt will be a freshman at MSU in the fall] carry that trait well. Leverage is a big part, he can feel which way guys are moving and use his leverage against them. I’ve seen Jack overpower a lot of guys who were bigger than him.
“Our whole line and team fed off Jack, he’s a tremendous leader and I know he’ll continue to be in the NFL. Jack has an incredible skill set. He’s capable of playing guard, he has terrific quickness and a great first step. He has a great desire to learn and sharp football mind. He’ll spend hours studying to figure out an opponent’s weakness. He’s got the mark of a champion.”
Staten wouldn’t be surprised if Allen was used as a goal line fullback.
“Jack is a great athlete,” he said. “Using him at fullback allowed us to give the defense different looks and gave us plenty of thump at the point of attack. He’s also able to catch if you want to throw it to him.”
Seth Schwartz is a freelance writer in Chicago. He can be reached atseth.schwartz@sbcglobal.net

Scouting Bootcamp in Chicago recap

This weekend, aspiring evaluators, coaches, writers, and General Managers from around the country attended our Scouting Bootcamp course in Chicago, with more joining via a live stream. The course spanned three days and covered, in depth, player evaluation at every position, and the life of a scout. Taught by former Bears’ Director of Scouting, Greg Gabriel, and held at University Conference Center, the course was well received and enthusiastic students made it an outstanding experience. Our sincerest thanks to those who attended, and we hope to offer the course again soon. A recording of the entire weekend will be available for purchase soon as well.
Below are some photos from the event:

"Typical" Bills no more

I remember the Music City Miracle like it was yesterday. I was home on break from college and had to work. I was a pit man at a now defunct oil change shop in Cheektowaga (suburb of Buffalo). Y2K had come and gone without a hitch. And for some reason that stumps people in bars throughout Buffalo every time that game comes up, Rob Johnson got the start over Doug Flutie. You know how it ends. We sat there, huddled around a TV the manager brought in as Kevin Dyson scored, and somebody said, “Next year I guess.” Of course! Next year. There was always next year. Almost every year of my adolescence involved Bills’ football in January. Had I foreseen the decade-and-a-half playoff drought that would follow, I could have saved myself a lot of disappointment and bitterness.

And those are all from the same game! I’m not proud of this. It has made me the worst kind of Bills’ fan. I’m the guy you hate to watch games with. As soon as I see EJ Fitzlospatricktonwards (pick any of them) go three-and-out, I’m the first one to throw in the towel. I’ve explained this in previous articles and an unhealthy amount of gameday tweets, but this off-season has changed me.
The 2015 Buffalo Bills are a different team. For 15 seasons, I’ve watched defensive stars, just entering their prime, walk away at the end of their contracts, yet I woke up this morning to find Jerry Hughes resigned. I’ve watched teams so devoid of offensive firepower that Stevie Johnson was the number one receiver for SEVERAL YEARS and a front office that limps into free agency like they are walking to their death. This year, they traded an unnecessary part for a star running back before it even started. I’ve watched coaches who are almost apologetic for being the Bills in their play-calling. Now we’ve got a coach who wants to bully the Patriots and made his truck into a tailgater’s dream. These are not the traits of the same team that lost 6-3 against Cleveland in 2009 or the team that couldn’t beat the Raiders with their season on the line in 2014.
It’s different. And it’s going to take a while for the Buffalo faithful to come around to accepting it and to avoid applying what have become cliches in #BillsMafia. “We just don’t spend the money.” “They just don’t seem to want it.” “Typical Bills.” Stop. I call upon you all to erase those from your memory, and give Rex Ryan, this defense of monsters, and the one-two punch of Sammy Watkins and LeSean McCoy your full and undivided attention for the next few years. I’m not sure if it will translate to 11-5 or 1-15, but I know for the first year in many, I’m not dreading the first Patriots’ game this season.
The city of Buffalo, the people within it, and everything about Sunday are so much better when they’re good. What I remember most about the aforementioned Music City Miracle game was that we didn’t see a single car come through our shop the entire day. Even if we did, I’m not sure our manager would have let us work on it. The playoffs are holidays in Buffalo. A holiday that has been indefinitely suspended for 15 years. Get your Zubaz ready, Buffalo. It’s time.
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Wait, what?: McCoy/Alonso trade

Is there a more exciting offseason transaction than a star player for star player, straight-up trade with your team involved? When the words hit my screen, every word of the headline on ESPN raised my heart rate just a little bit.

How? Who? What? Is this real life?
This is a paradox. Not because it doesn’t make sense for either team. It’s actually perfect for both of them. It’s the kind of trade you’d talk through with football cards when you were 10, but rarely see executed. When was the last time you saw all three of the following in one NFL trade?:
-Good player-for-good player on opposite sides of the ball
-No draft picks involved
-Both teams improve as a result
It doesn’t happen. Ever. The stars so rarely align with situations equal enough to get a deal like this done without additional compensation, even if it’s an extra 7th thrown in.
Rex Ryan wants to run the ball. A lot. C.J. Spiller never developed into the 20 carry back that merits a first round pick. Fred Jackson is in perennial, “He’s probably got another year in him” mode. Kiko Alonso had a sensational rookie year, but Buffalo didn’t exactly miss him in 2014 when he missed the entire season with a torn ACL. It was the most ferocious defense in years. And it may get even better under Ryan.
McCoy just wasn’t working in Philly. Part of it might have been Chip Kelly wanting to spread it around conflicting with McCoy’s preseason quest for 2000 yards. Part of it might have been the beleaguered line throughout 2014. Who knows. And the Eagles’ defense, which saw great improvement in 2014, can take a step towards the elite with the addition of Alonso, whose versatile skillset shores up a suspect linebacking corps. Not to mention the cap implication for the Eagles, now on the hook for $1 million with Kiko as opposed to $11.95 million for McCoy.
Now if we can only talk them into a Foles for EJ Manuel trade…
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5 college reunions that could happen in the NFL Draft

1) Chip Kelly and Marcus Mariota
I imagine the Roseman/Kelly saga involved a conversation like this:
Roseman: Chip, where are the results?
Kelly: I just need the right guys! I told you, I need Oregon guys in the draft, and what do you give me?
Roseman: I did! I drafted Josh Huff and Taylor Hart!
Kelly: Yeah, no. I meant ALL Oregon guys. Give them all to me. They’re the only ones who truly understand me. Just let me do it next year.
This is the obvious one getting all the press, but Kelly’s love for Mariota (and many of his former players at Oregon) is well documented. With the 20th pick, it’s definitely a long-shot, but if Kelly isn’t sold on his current personnel, some of those pieces would be very attractive to some of the Top 5 teams. I’m looking at you Jags (McCoy?) and Titans (Foles?). Throw in a 3rd or a 4th, and it’s a deal. I don’t even like the Eagles, but it would be awesome to see Kelly’s offense take even 80% of the form it had in Oregon.
2) Teddy Bridgewater and DeVante Parker
If you put 2013 Bridgewater with 2014 Parker (who put up comparable numbers to his 2013 stats in half the games), I think Louisville has a better run than they did. Still, they were impressive together. Vikings’ GM Rick Spielman has already talked with Parker, and despite saying Bridgewater has nothing to do with it, it has to be tempting.
Look at these highlights. They’re like one singular mind, always knowing exactly where to place and find the ball.

3) Blake Bortles and Breshad Perriman
This would be a tough one to pull off. It would be insane to take him with the third pick with the other needs in Jacksonville (RB, OT, CB, etc..) and he might not last until the second round, but Perriman was Bortles favorite deep ball target at UCF. A trade down, or a trade back into the mid-to-late first might be worth it.
4) Teddy Bridgewater and Amari Cooper
This reunion is less talked about that Parker/Bridgewater, but the one that makes more sense for the Vikings. They played together at Miami Northwestern. Cooper is almost “uncoverable” in medium routes, an area where the Vikings were lacking in 2014. Parker is more of a deep threat. It comes down to whether Minnesota is convinced that Jarius Wright and/or Charles Johnson can become the primary long-ball target.
5) Jeremy Hill and Connor Neighbors
This is my sleeper pick. Hill had an impressive rookie year in Cincinnati averaging 5.1 yards per carry behind a sub-par line. The fullback is a dying breed in the NFL, and one I’d love to see resurrected. Watch this (at :46) or any number of Hill’s LSU highlights, and you’ll see Neighbors frequently paving the way. He’ll be available in the 6th or 7th round, so what have you got to lose?
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Josh McCown is a busy man

Earlier today, ESPN.com’s Vaughn McClure posted:

Just a few days earlier, he was spotted at a Sabres’ game (because when you want to impress, take your potential quarterback to watch your record-settingly bad, kind of intentionally tanking hockey team) with Greg Roman.

If you see McCown in an Applebee’s or an indoor soccer game in your city, don’t get too excited. You’re not the first.
Joking aside, McCown is very fortunate to be in the right place at the right time. With at least 10 teams having question marks at the quarterback position, a sub-par free agent pool, and no can’t-miss draft prospects, McCown, only two seasons removed from his best football can probably land himself a 2-3 year deal comparable to what Kyle Orton managed in Buffalo. (a little more if it is with the intention of making him the starter)
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Redskins: "Gruden anticipates RGIII being the starter going into the 2015 season."

In an odd move, the Washington Redskins’ Twitter account posted this:

What’s odd about that? When was the last time you heard anyone name a starter in as shaky a QB situation as there seems to be in Washington before Free Agency even starts?
Whenever things like this “leak”, I’m always left questioning the motivation. In this case, this is either the start of what Greg Gabriel calls, “The Lying Season”, or they are really over assuring us. My bet is on the former, as there would be no reason why you would officially marry yourself to a starter with all the possibilities ahead of you. They are setting the market, trying to prop RGIII up as unattainable, and hoping to get a nice price for him.
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To pass or run?

by Joshua K. Connelly, Head NFL Writer, The Sports Quotient

It is no secret that the NFL has evolved into a pass-first league over the past 30 years. When Dan Marino became the first quarterback to throw for 5,000 yards in a season and added 48 touchdown passes for good measure (obliterating George Blanda’s then-record 36), the true age of the passing offense was ushered in. Despite the constant increase in passing attempts, Marino’s single-season records stood for years. Peyton Manning finally broke the single-season touchdown record in 2004, 20 years after Marino set it. The single-season passing yards record lasted even longer — 27 years! — before falling to Drew Brees in 2011.

Despite the increased role of the quarterback over the past three decades, a common belief still exists among NFL fans and experts alike that strong defense and rush offense are more important when it comes to winning a championship. This idea stems from the early days of the NFL, when rushing the ball was far more common than passing. Even in the first five Super Bowls combined, rushing attempts outnumbered pass attempts 678 to 525. It was not until the 1980s that passing truly took off.

Now, getting to the Super Bowl is one thing, but once a team arrives in the host city and begins game preparation, is it more beneficial to run the ball or pass it? A definitive answer may not exist, but looking back at previous Super Bowls may provide insight that could at least get the ball rolling.

The popular belief that running the ball wins championships suggests that the NFL’s pass-first attitude is left at the door when it is time for the Super Bowl, but looking at the pass-rush splits in each Super Bowl suggests the opposite.

The trend of passing overtaking rushing — in the Super Bowl, at least — has been evident increasing since Super Bowl XVIII, back in 1983, with a brief exception in Super Bowl XXV (1990), where run and pass play calls were split directly in half. Beginning in 1991 and continuing to this day, not a single Super Bowl has seen more rush attempts than pass attempts. The fact that 23 consecutive Super Bowls have featured more pass plays than run plays is a testament to the evolution of the game. (Fun Fact: The last time the number of runs in a Super Bowl was more than the number of passes was Super Bowl XVII, after the 1982 season.)

The differential between pass plays and run plays throughout Super Bowl history has been extreme at points. More than 60% of offensive plays in Super Bowls VI through IX comprised rushes, while passing made up 70% of the offense in Super Bowls XLIV (2009) and XLV (2010). There have been limited occasions over the past 20 years where passes and rush attempts have been nearly equal. Super Bowls XXXII and XXXIII saw 52/48 and 53/47 splits, respectively. Super Bowl XLI in 2006 was another instance where passing made up on 53% of the offensive play calling. The lowest margin between passes and rushes since 1990 came in Super Bowl XLVII, in 2012, when the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers combined to pass only 51% of the time.

All of this is intriguing, but it doesn’t answer the question: Can you still win the Super Bowl if you pass more than you run? So far, these stats have shown the combined offensive play calling of the two Super Bowl participants. What happens when you break the data apart and compare the winning teams to the losing teams?

Because more recent Super Bowl data is more helpful than that of 30 or 40 years ago, only the past 15 Super Bowls (1999 season and onward) will be taken into account when looking at pass-rush splits between Super-Bowl-winning teams and Super-Bowl-losing teams. As the graph above shows, only five Super Bowl Champions ran the ball more often than they passed: the 2000 Baltimore Ravens, 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers, 2006 Indianapolis Colts and 2013 Seattle Seahawks. Of those five teams, none ran the ball more than 59% of the time in their respective games, and only one ran on more than 55% of its offensive snaps. The fact that two-thirds of the past 15 Super Bowl Champions passed more than they ran seems to dispel the idea that teams must have a strong run game in order to win an NFL title.

What about the losing teams? Again, looking at the past 15 Super Bowls, of the losing teams, none ran the ball more than they passed. The 1999 Tennessee Titans came the closest, rushing on 49% of their plays from scrimmage. The 2002 Oakland Raiders threw more often than any other Super Bowl loser of the past 15 years (on 82% of snaps).

It is true that, in some of these cases, this heavy favoring of the passing game came as a result of the losing team being down for a good part of the game, which would result in a higher percentage of pass attempts. However, eight of the past 15 Super Bowls were decided by one possession. A ninth was decided by two possessions, but only because of a late pick-six by the trailing team. The fact that the majority of these games have been so close sheds doubt on the idea that passing numbers were boosted by trailing teams. There are certainly instances of this happening — the 2000 New York Giants, 2002 Oakland Raiders and 2013 Denver Broncos — but the majority of losing teams were very much in their games until the end.

In addition, some of the losing teams — especially the 2009 Indianapolis Colts and 2011 New England Patriots — featured strong passing offenses with little to offer in the running game. Could this lack of a rushing presence have contributed to the teams’ Super Bowl losses? Definitely. However, because the NFL has become a pass-first league, using a run-first approach may not have done much for the losing teams anyway. They may simply have been outmatched regardless.

The problem that arises when comparing Super Bowl winners and losers in this way is the fact that this ongoing pass-first trend means almost all Super Bowl teams – at least in the past 15 years – pass more than they run. Of the past 30 Super Bowl participants, only five ran more often than they passed, a measly 17%. This realization is one of the reasons why these statistics are inconclusive, regardless of how interesting they may be.

In the end, it may not be possible to determine a Super Bowl winner ahead of time, just by looking at stats from previous games – especially when all Super Bowl teams pass as often as they do – but doing so can still provide insight into the NFL’s most-important game. When watching this Sunday’s game, keep an eye out for which team runs the ball more; which team passes from the get-go; and which team has to play catch-up. And remember that run-first offense does not automatically lead to victory, even in the Super Bowl.

Article and graphics both by Joshua K. Connelly,
Super Bowl pass-rush splits provided by Pro Football Reference

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