Alen Dumonjic


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calvin pryor2

The moderately thick dreads bush out the back of his helmet and lie on his jersey, covering his name’s stitching before reaching the top of the No. 25. His bulging arms are creased at the elbows, while his long legs are bent at his knees more than a dozen yards from the line of scrimmage. From a bird’s-eye view, he looks like Bob Sanders, the former Indianapolis Colts safety. A close-up when the play begins reveals more — that Calvin Pryor plays like him too.

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aaron Donald2

The grass was still dark green. The hashes still looked freshly painted. It’d only been five minutes since the Saturday game started, and North Carolina’s offense was taking the field for the first time. Quarterback Marquise Williams stood in a shotgun formation, set to take a quick three-step drop and toss the ball out to the left flat, near where Aaron Donald was crouching across the left guard’s outside shoulder.

Donald, Pittsburgh’s fourth-year senior, was known for disturbing the backfield peace. That’s why when the play began, it wasn’t a surprise the Tar Heels assigned the left guard and center to him despite the nose tackle being closer to the center. But even two blockers weren’t going to silence Donald on this day.

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justin gilbert2

The Iowa State outside receiver motioned inside the numbers before going back out. A yard from the line of scrimmage, Justin Gilbert followed across the formation and back, distancing himself more than five yards now and waiting for the receiver to make his first move. He switched his stance from a traditional backpedal to a shuffle, using the technique to match the receiver’s route. It went eight yards up the field and then he abruptly cut outside. Gilbert jammed his left foot out like a cane in the concrete and exploded off to the receiver’s direction, driving on the out route and the incoming throw. He had a couple yards of ground to make up in a hurry, but that wouldn’t be a problem. He’s always been known for his speed. As the throw sailed slightly inside, he craned his neck around to find it, intercept it above his head with both hands, and take it to the house.

The interception showed Gilbert’s physical talent when combined with proper technique. It’s what NFL evaluators want to see. Frankly, it’s something they need to see more of from him.

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He’s not Rolando McClain. He’s not Dont’a Hightower. Both of those guys were cut from a traditional linebacking cloth, as they’re big and lumbering downhill types coming out of Alabama. C.J. Mosley is part of the new breed, the type that plays in space, covers significant ground from sideline-to-sideline and roams in underneath coverage. He’s more fluid and athletic and rangy. He’ll run down a ball carrier or jump a route in the middle of the field.

But does that make him a better player than them?

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wilson throw2

There’s been a lot of criticism of Russell Wilson as of late. It’s been about how he didn’t finish the regular season with remarkable statistics, or how he’s missed throws he should be completing. He has been a bit inconsistent at times, leaving throws on the field in favor of holding the ball and trying to make a bigger play, but he’s played fairly well in the playoffs. In the games against the New Orleans Saints and San Francisco 49ers, two games which have stark contrasts in raw statistics, he played well, making big plays when his team needed them and keeping drives alive.

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manning jags2

Nobody knows how Peyton Manning will attack the Seattle Seahawks’ defense. He may not have a choice, to be frank. He may have to settle for underneath throws all night and work his way up the field. It’s entirely possible if his Week 6 matchup with the Jacksonville Jaguars’ defense is any indication.

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He’s short and quick, a playmaker that can line up all over the formation and pin defensive backs on their heels. He can then turn them around full circle or run by them for big plays. He’s not Percy Harvin, however — he’s Doug Baldwin.

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