Flying from Miami
The 2017 NFL trade deadline certainly threw up a few shocks this year, one of the biggest of which was Jay Ajayi’s move from the Miami Dolphins to the Philadelphia Eagles. Ajayi was having an up-and-down season in Miami as Jay Cutler’s limited success throwing the ball was giving defences the chance to stack the box against the rush, so a move to the Eagles – who boast a contender for League MVP in Carson Wentz and a number of offensive weapons – will certainly open things up for him. In his first game for the Eagles against Denver he may have only had 8 carries as he shared snaps with Corey Clement and LeGarrette Blount, but he took those carries for 77 yards including a 46-yard touchdown.
This addition will also be great for the Eagles, as the competition for snaps should hopefully bring out the best in all the running backs, while it also allows them to always have a fresh runner available to come in… and also decent cover if someone goes down injured. The Eagles were already looking good value for a Super Bowl appearance, this trade could make them favourites! Blount is out of contract after this season so bringing in Ajayi, who is only in his 3rd year of his rookie contract, also gives Philly some more young talent next season to blend around Carson Wentz. If they continue how they are, this could be the start of a new dynasty!
The Jay Train wasn’t the only big-name trade this year, as the San Francisco 49ers also acquired Jimmy Garoppolo from the Patriots for a second-round draft pick. This could be the ultimate boom-or-bust acquisition for the Niners, as Garoppolo has a grand total of 95 passes to his name over 3 and a half seasons in the league. The Patriots under Bill Belichick have a knack of getting the best out of average quarterbacks – they went 11-5 with Matt Cassel under center – so there is a chance Garoppolo may struggle in the Bay, but with the difficulties of finding a franchise quarterback, he has certainly looked a better option than some current starters in the league.
What I really like about this move is that the 49ers now have almost half a season to evaluate Garoppolo and decide if he is the player they want to rely on moving forward. This is a franchise undergoing a massive rebuild, so to be able to pick the best players available in the Draft, rather than looking at a specific position, will be a huge benefit to them. I also really like how Kyle Shanahan is not committing to playing Garoppolo in 2017. The San Francisco pass protection has not been great to put it nicely, so to throw a player in at the deep end when they are learning new system could end horribly for both the team and Garoppolo, much as it did when Blaine Gabbert was elevated to starter for the Jaguars after just a few weeks of the 2011 season.
It will be interesting to see how things work out for the 49ers over the next few seasons. In my opinion the NFL needs franchises like them being competitive, hopefully Garoppolo is the next piece in the puzzle to get them back where they should be.
Only the Browns…
There was one other story that caught my attention on deadline day: the Cleveland Browns made an attempt to trade for the Bengal’s AJ McCarron. Both teams agreed the trade, only for the trade to be disallowed by the League as the Browns missed the deadline to notify the league. This was an absolute nightmare and could only happen to the Cleveland Browns, who unfortunately can be seen as the laughing stock of the league at times – especially when you’re watching the BBC highlights show!
The Browns clearly aren’t sold on DeShone Kizer as their QB moving forwards and McCarron has looked decent when given a chance for the Bengals. But he could consider himself lucky as there are very few offensive weapons for him to rely on in Cleveland and even with Josh Gordon being reinstated, there is no guarantee that he will be as good as he was before his suspension. It will be interesting to see if the Browns look to more for a veteran QB in the offseason or go into the Draft again. Who knows, they may even shock us all and actually stick with one of their current options and try to develop them…
Going through the motions
When I saw the shot Kiko Alonso landed on Joe Flacco recently, my initial thought was that this was a cheap shot. Flacco had clearly gone for the give-up slide and Alonso had plenty of time to pull out of the hit, but instead connected and knocked Flacco out of the game. However the comments were not as unanimously in favour of Flacco as I expected, and having watched him face the Titans in Week 9, I have lost some sympathy for him.
Against the Titans, Flacco went for a similar slide, but it was pointed out by the commentators that when he slides he keeps his body upright. Having had this pointed out, I went back to watch that hit. Sure enough, Flacco slides, but again leaves his torso relatively vertical rather than getting low to the ground. By sliding like this he is creating a bigger target for a hit – whether accidental or deliberate. Watch most QBs slide, they will minimise the target by getting their body as low to the ground as possible, Flacco needs to seriously work on this move to protect himself.
But is it that he does know to do this and instead feels that he doesn’t have to? As many people were saying in the comments section of the video, Quarterbacks are heavily protected, but once they become a runner many of these protections are no longer applicable. If a QB wants to ensure he is not his during a slide, then he needs to make sure he is sliding well before the opposition. The slide is a way of giving up to avoid contact, not to try gaining yards without being hit. Maybe players need to go back and remember that there is only so much protection they can receive and just choose to play it safe.
I still feel that it was a late enough hit by Alonso to be penalised, but if Flacco continues to slide like he does, it will be interesting to see the reaction if he gets hit again.