The NFL regular season is now complete and we will continue to track Scarlet Knight alums in each round of the playoffs. Since regular season awards don’t factor in the post season, we will hand out some of our own accolades while reviewing the season and future for each Scarlet Knight in the Pros. First up is the offensive players (including specialists).
MVP: Kenny Britt. This was a no brainer. We tracked Britt’s quest for the 1,000 yard receiving milestone which he reached with a game to go. He finished with 68 catches and 5 touchdowns.
The Rams moved from St. Louis to Los Angeles prior to the season and were embarrassed in their first game. After that they stayed competitive with a tough defense and some skill position play by Britt and Todd Gurley to cover up deficiencies elsewhere on offense before the wheels fell off. With their season going nowhere, the team elected to go to rookie Jared Goff at quarterback which yielded disastrous results save a few big plays by Britt. They have already made a coaching switch and look toward 2017 when they will share LA with the recently relocated Chargers.
Most improved: I was tempted to say Andrew DePaola here because the Bucs just somehow turned from previously hapless to contenders by simply doing everything better than last year. Their kicking and punting games have been huge in many of their wins.
Instead though, I’ll say Brandon Coleman, who even though his stats (especially yards) are down from a year ago, he has shown improvement. Coleman, 26 catches, 281 yards, and three TDs became a consistent threat in the red zone and on short yardage for Drew Brees. Coleman was initially questioned for his small hands and catch radius despite his height but now has defenses accounting for him which opened it up for other receivers as well. If he remains with a hall of fame quarterback, expect even more scores in 2017.
Mr. Consistency: Jeremy Zuttah’s gets the nod over Michael Burton here. Despite Burton’s high ranking by Pro Football Focus, the emergence of Zach Zenner made him a healthy scratch in the playoffs. Detroit fell apart losing their last four.
Zuttah continued to develop a repore with quarterback Joe Flacco resulting in many successful performances and ALMOST a return to the playoffs for Baltimore. The Ravens went as the wildly inconsistent Joe Flacco did, occasionally looking unstoppable (38-6 win over playoff bound Miami) while others looking pedestrian (losing to the Jets?!?!?!). Zuttah finished his 8th season as a primary starter in the NFL on the offensive line tying him with Shaun O’Hara for most all-time by an RU alum.
Biggest jump expected in 2017: Leonte Carroo. Carroo is the third highest Scarlet Knight receiver ever selected in the NFL draft (86th overall) but when Miami’s offensive identity shifted to the running of Jay Ajayi, he was left to scrap for offensive snaps. He did show signs of promise with some special teams play and a nice touchdown against San Francisco. Remember he did not play receiver at all his first season on the banks, but that ended up working out for 29 touchdowns so there is no reason to worry yet. Teams don’t like wasting draft picks and remember 2017 will be his first season with the same offensive coordinator since high school.
Bounceback in 2017: Tim Wright gets the edge over Tyler Kroft because he has had more success at the NFL level (though it would be the total opposite in college). Wright had only 4 TDs at RU, but already 13 in the NFL. Wright tore his ACL (hopefully not a sign of his injury problems in college) in spring and should be a full go in 2017 when the season starts. He is not under contract with Detroit, but is likely to find a home somewhere.
Wrapping it up:
Tyler Kroft of Cincinnati had 10 catches for 92 yards in a lost season for the Bengals. You had to expect they would eventually fall back to earth after an almost unfathomable 5 straight playoff appearances, all of which resulted in wild card exits. Kroft’s numbers were down slightly from his rookie campaign so it will be interesting to see if he stays in the same role in year 3 backing up Tyler Eifert.
Clark Harris also of Cincinnati completed another season as the team’s long snapper. The team had some struggles in the kicking game, but not as much as in all the other facets of the game. Expect another season of Harris in the team’s most unheralded role.
Mohamed Sanu and the Falcons continue their playoff journey in his first season with the team. Despite an injury plagued season, Atlanta kept on rolling with whomever lined up alongside Matt Ryan. Sanu finished the regular season with 59 catches for 653 yards and 4 touchdowns.
Michael Burton as previously mentioned is highly rated as a fullback. Unfortunately for him, fullback is no longer the glory position it once was and some teams don’t even have one on their roster. Likely more than any other team, Detroit will be doing soul searching in the off-season. His role could expand in 2017 alongside Zenner or perhaps he could end up on a team that is more in need of his services.
Anthony Davis retired again after a brief comeback citing health risks with head injuries. The former first rounder and highest ever selection out of Rutgers still has the skills to play. The question is whether his desire and the right organization will coalesce. If it weren’t for the Cleveland Browns continued ineptitude, the 49ers would absolutely be the laughingstock of the NFL losing 13 straight games only defeating the lowly Rams (though twice). The organization will struggle to replace Chip Kelly, the second consecutive one year head coach with the franchise and prospective GMs are being advised to not even consider the organization.