Monday, September 28, 2020

TJ Hockenson off to franchise record start with Lions


ByDAVID EICKHOLT 4 hours ago


T.J. Hockenson has had a strong start to his 2020 season. After a devastating ankle injury prematurely ended his rookie season, the former Iowa Hawkeyes star has been a consistent weapon for Matthew Stafford

In Detroit's 26-23 win over the Arizona Cardinals, Hockenson finished with four receptions totaling 53 yards. Following the performance, the Detroit Lions' PR account tweeted out a feat that Hockenson has already accomplished this season.  


"(T.J. Hockenson) is the first TE in franchise history to produce at least 50 receiving yards in each of the first three games of a season. He is also the first Lions tight end to have 4+ receptions and 50+ yards in 3-straight games since TE Brandon Pettigrew did so in 2010."


Through three games this season, Hockenson has 13 catches totaling 171 yards and one touchdown. It's a solid start, especially considering that Hockenson told reporters in August that he still doesn't feel one hundred percent.


During his rookie season, the former Iowa star went on to appear in 12 games with seven starts, hauling in 32 receptions on 59 targets for 367 yards and two touchdowns.


Earlier this offseason writer Adam Rank previewed the Lions 2020 season and believes that Hockenson will be a breakout star for Detroit this season. 


“A lot of people called the tight end "Patricia's Gronk" after Detroit selected him at No. 8 overall in the 2019 NFL Draft,” Rank wrote. “And those folks doubled down on that sentiment when Hockenson caught six passes for 131 yards and a touchdown in the season opener. But he never came close to that kind of production again, totaling just 26 catches for 236 yards and a touchdown over the rest of the season.


“Honestly, not a huge surprise, considering A) the TE position usually takes a few NFL seasons to master, B) Hockenson was limited by injuries and C) Stafford missed half the year. I'm really looking forward to seeing what Hockenson can do in 2020.”


Prior to the start of the season, Tim Twentyman of said that Hockenson is his breakout player for the Lions in the 2020 season. 


"The tight end position is probably the toughest for rookies to learn outside of quarterback," wrote Twentyman. "It's essentially learning three positions at once, and those guys have to know all the protections, blocking schemes and then obviously the route tree and passing game concepts."


"We don't typically see tight ends come into the league and tear it up as rookies. There's plenty examples, however, of guys having big second seasons, and that's certainly what I expect from Detroit's first-round pick in 2019."


Hockenson was a star for the Hawkeyes caught 24 passes for 320 yards and three touchdowns over 13 games in 2017. But he broke out as a redshirt sophomore, hauling in 49 catches for 760 yards and six touchdowns en route to winning the John Mackey Award as the nation’s top tight end and being named a first-team All-American.


The former Iowa star is currently on pace to finish 2020 with 69 receptions totaling 922 yards and five touchdowns. Hockenson and the Lions will return to action on Sunday when they host the New Orleans Saints. 


Rex Burkhead thanked his teammates after 3 TD performance


"It all starts with the guys up front."

Rex Burkhead of the Patriots celebrates scoring a third quarter touchdown against the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday. –Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

By Deyscha Smith, Staff

September 27, 2020

“Burky had a game. He had a day.”

That’s how Patriots quarterback Cam Newton summed up an electrifying performance from running back Rex Burkhead in the win against the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday. The Patriots’ running backs dominated against the Raiders, especially Burkhead — who had 49 yards rushing, 49 yards receiving, and finished with three touchdowns.

“It doesn’t matter if it was at the running back position, which was highlighted today, or anything else moving forward. It’s just another different asset to attacking the defense and, like I said, Burky had a day and who knows who it could be next week.”

 While Newton praised him, Burkhead dished the credit to his teammates for helping with the win.

“It all starts with the guys up front,” Burkhead said after the game. “Offensive line did a tremendous job tonight, just being physical from the get-go from the first drive, and of course J.J. [Taylor] and Sony [Michel] doing great as well.”

With the absence of center David Andrews and running back James White, he was just as impressed with how different players stepped in to fill their spot.

“Like you said, it’s the next guy up. For them to fill in was tremendous [and] not only them but the receivers out wide, blocking Julian [Edelman], N’Keal [Harry] doing a great job finishing plays.”

Burkhead himself was doing his job, leaping over Raiders’ defenders to find the end zone. It’s the first three-touchdown game of his career.

As far as what to expect against the Kansas City Chiefs next Sunday,

“It’s a great challenge for us,” he said. “They’re the defending champs so we know they’re a great team offensively, defensively and special teams. We’re going to have to be ready to go.” 

Anthony Gonzalez in the 16th Congressional District


Posted Sep 25, 2020

In a July 2019 file photo, U.S. Reps. Anthony Gonzalez, a Rocky River Republican, left, and Colin Allred, a Texas Democrat, discuss Allred's then-upcoming trip to Gonzalez' Ohio congressional district.

By Editorial Board, and The Plain Dealer

U.S. Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, the freshman Rocky River Republican representing Ohio’s 16th Congressional District, has been in Congress fewer than two years but is already making his mark as someone eager to reach across the aisle to achieve compromise.

Gonzalez, 36, a former star football player at Cleveland’s St. Ignatius High School who played in the NFL for five years before knee injuries cut short his football career, is looking for bipartisan solutions not just on small matters, like allowing battlefield crosses in U.S. military cemeteries. A member of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, Gonzalez is also seeking potentially breakthrough solutions to consequential disputes, such as the gridlocked coronavirus stimulus aid package.

And he told our editorial board during the endorsement interview this week that he’s also working on legislation to improve on health care delivery and costs, including drug costs -- to go beyond, not to discard, the Affordable Care Act.

Gonzalez is, in fact, one of those rare Republicans who says he opposes abrogation of the ACA -- as is being sought single-mindedly by the Trump administration in a case the Supreme Court has agreed to hear. Rather, he said, his legislation will propose a series of innovative ways to address issues such as health care cost transparency and prescription drug costs that the ACA failed to solve.

Gonzalez is being challenged for reelection by Westlake Democrat Aaron Paul Godfrey, 34, a physicist who has worked in the aerospace and defense industries, who has a compelling life story of his own. He grew up in a lower-income family in Lorain County, where his father could not afford the regular insulin treatments needed for his diabetes until he reached an age that qualified him for Medicare. By then, according to Godfrey, it was too late to restore his father’s health fully, and his father died of complications relating to the disease, a decline that also meant Godfrey had to leave his Ph.D. program at the University of Toledo to help care for his father and provide for the family.

Godfrey is earnest and well-versed on technical issues in energy policy, where despite his strong support for the Icebreaker wind energy project on Lake Erie, he also sees a role for nuclear power to keep the lights on for now. However, he needs more political seasoning and to moderate partisanship that causes him to stake out narrow and unachievable positions.

Anthony Gonzalez is a refreshing example in a U.S. House that seems to have become untethered from the people. He’s a congressional representative who wants to be a doer, not a speech-maker or grandstander, and who is working in a focused manner to achieve solutions that work for more Americans.

He deserves reelection in the kangaroo-shaped 16th Congressional District, which picks up parts of Cuyahoga, Medina, Summit, Portage and Stark counties and all of Wayne County.

In the Nov. 3 election, voters in the 16th Congressional District in Ohio should return Anthony Gonzalez to Congress for a second term. Early voting starts Oct. 6.

The two candidates for Ohio’s 16th Congressional District -- incumbent U.S. Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, a Rocky River Republican, and physicist Aaron Paul Godfrey, a Westlake Democrat -- were interviewed by the editorial board of The Plain Dealer and on Sept. 23, 2020, as part of the editorial board’s endorsement process. Listen to audio of this interview below.

About our editorials: Editorials express the view of the editorial board of and The Plain Dealer -- the senior leadership and editorial-writing staff. As is traditional, editorials are unsigned and intended to be seen as the voice of the news organization.

Two members of U.S. House introduce bill regarding NCAA athletes' name, image and likeness


Steve Berkowitz


Two members of the U.S. House of Representatives are introducing a bipartisan bill on Thursday to address the ongoing fight over college athletes’ ability to make money from their name, image and likeness.

The measure from Reps. Anthony Gonzalez, R-Ohio, and Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., would enhance athletes’ opportunities in ways that would make some NCAA schools unhappy while stabilizing the name-image-and-likeness (NIL) issue for college sports officials in ways that may not please athlete advocates.

“There are things that everybody's going to see that they like and some things that they wish were different,” Gonzalez, who played wide receiver at Ohio State and in the NFL, told USA TODAY Sports. “But I think that's the sign of a good bill. And, frankly, that's the hallmark of a bipartisan bill. It's never everything that any one individual, or one group, wants. It's always a collaboration.”

According to a copy of the bill provided to USA TODAY Sports, its “rules of construction” – or guidance related to the legislators’ intent – state that none of the bill’s provisions can provide the basis for an antitrust lawsuit. They also state that athletes who make endorsement deals will not be considered school employees.

Friday, September 25, 2020

Lions - Packers Unsung Hero of the Week: T.J. Hockenson holds it down


The sophomore tight end is becoming one of Matthew Stafford’s favorite targets.



Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images


The Lions are a mess, and the offense isn’t living up to the potential we all envisioned. The passing game has failed to pick up where it left off when Matthew Stafford was at the helm last season, in no small part due to Stafford simply not looking like himself.

On that note, Kenny Golladay has yet to play, and the Lions will need him around on Sunday to have a fighting chance against the fast-paced Arizona Cardinals. One thing has been consistent through two weeks, however.

Unsung hero of the week: TE T.J. Hockenson

Honorable mention: Frank Ragnow, but he won this last week. He has been the only other consistent thing through two weeks.

Back to Hockenson. He’s blossoming just like we all hoped. After the failed conducting of the Eric Ebron hype train, there was a lot of negativity and fear surrounding the selection of T.J. Hockenson in 2019. While I still think it was a reach, Hockenson is at the pace that a superstar tight end should be at entering their sophomore year.

Hockenson has accumulated nine catches for 118 yards and a touchdown through two weeks, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. When you see it on film, you truly appreciate how hard those stats were to come by. Hockenson has made snatches in traffic, earned yards with his new and improved muscular frame, and he’s been a security blanket for his quarterback, as a good tight end should be.

Hockenson has bullied defensive backs through two weeks and is learning to utilize his size in the way that the best tight ends do—something we shouldn’t take for granted since Hockenson had a nasty injury that ended his 2019 season after trying to hurdle a defender.

Hockenson is holding his own, and he’s continuing to grow week by week. Keep an eye on him for Bold Prediction of the Week, as he’s matching up against an Arizona Cardinals defense that he torched to the tune of 131 yards in his debut game as a rookie. If Hockenson keeps this up, he’ll be in the conversation for the “really good” tier of tight ends in no time.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Behind Enemy Lines: Breaking down the Browns' Week 2 game with Bengals Wire


Jeff Risdon 


The Browns get prime-time treatment in Week 2. What will Cleveland and the rest of the country see when the Cincinnati Bengals head into FirstEnergy Stadium on Thursday night?

To help get some answers, I turned to Bengals Wire managing editor and old friend Chris Roling for some intel on the visitors from the other end of I-71 in Ohio.

What is the perception of Joe Burrow’s performance in Week 1?

Burrow himself was too hard on his performance with the “D” grade. But there was certainly a gradual progression throughout his debut as he got adjusted to pro speed and realized his line wasn’t doing much to protect him. It’s generally accepted as an up-and-down performance.

He had a horrific shovel-pass interception that he lofted right into the arms of a defender. But he also audibled to his long touchdown run and orchestrated a brilliant drive with three minutes left before a tough flag led to the missed field goal attempt.

There have been some changes to the defense and some injuries too. Who has stepped up and who is looking vulnerable?

Cornerback Darius Phillips had a rougher Week 1 than the team would’ve liked to see with him playing in place of the injured Trae Waynes. But that’s comparing him to the elite showing from William Jackson. Right now the biggest concern is health, as Geno Atkins hasn’t been able to suit up yet and D.J. Reader suffered a minor injury last Sunday. Otherwise, the upgrades at linebacker have been a notable improvement, and Vonn Bell looks good as the new starter next to Jessie Bates.

Obviously the kicking situation is a big deal, but how are the rest of the Bengals special teams?

Coordinator Darrin Simmons remains one of the best in the business, but even this is pretty impressive. He had to wave goodbye to core pieces like Clayton Fejedelem and Stanley Morgan this offseason. But he’s put a name like Giovani Bernard in a key spot, and the turnover has yet to have much of an impact.

We’ll see how Randy Bullock nurses his calf injury on a short week, but everything else has managed to remain steady.

What is one area where the Browns look like they should have a big advantage, and also one where the Bengals should thrive?

The Browns are probably going to do whatever they want against this Bengals offensive line. Jonah Williams had some serious rookie moments last week, and Billy Price is already back in the starting lineup after an injury. The coaching staff inexplicably put Bobby Hart on an island with Joey Bosa multiple times, which is one of the least ideal things possible.

Funnily enough, the Bengals should thrive in the same areas, as edge players like Carl Lawson and Carlos Dunlap are still as disruptive as it gets.

Who wins and why?

This one probably goes to the Browns. Losing to Baltimore, even in blowout fashion, doesn’t seem like the worst thing in the world right now. Burrow’s first road game of his career — and in prime time — is asking a lot of the rookie, especially with this offensive line in front of him. Add in missing Geno Atkins and keeping A.J. Green on a pitch count, and the Browns should squeak past.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

TROPHY CASE: Karl Klug, once a Warrior always a Warrior


Karl Klug was an All-State football player at Caledonia, an All-Big Ten selection at Iowa and had a seven-year career in the NFL. He coaches high school football in Tennessee these days, but his heart remains in Caledonia.


Written By: Isaac Trotter | Sep 20th 2020 - 11am.

Caledonia’s Karl Klug sheds two defenders and runs for a 33-yard touchdown during a Class AA state semifinal football game against Hawley at the Metrodome in Minneapolis on Nov. 19, 2005. (Post-Bulletin file photo)


Karl Klug dedicated his entire life to football.

That’s what mattered most above almost everything else. Klug's dedication certainly paid off.

The Caledonia High School graduate and All-State football player went on to have a standout, All-Big Ten career at Iowa and then scrapped his way to a seven-year career with the Tennessee Titans (2011-17).

In the seven years, Klug missed just three total games. He was a warrior and a lynchpin of the Titans’ defensive line.

But life for Klug looks a little different now that the veteran is three years removed from football. He’s still around the game, he's just giving the orders now instead of executing them. Currently, Klug is coaching the defensive line at Page High School in Franklin, Tennessee.

Tennessee Titans defensive end Karl Klug sacks Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles during a game in 2014. (File photo)

Klug is also coaching his kids in 8U baseball and 6U softball. He might be the biggest 6U softball coach around.

“The biggest thing about 6U is that you’re trying to get them to quit playing in the sand,” Klug said with a laugh.

It’s sort of a transition season for Klug.

He’s found a rewarding side job helping out in a special needs program.

“These are kids who have graduated and we’re trying to get them ready for the real world,” Klug said. “They go to stores and stock shelves. They need someone to care for them. What the heck am I going to do with my life? I’m dabbling with a few things and seeing what I liked. I enjoy working with them. They’re just big kids.”

Even though Klug is more than 700 miles away, he still keeps close tabs on Caledonia athletics.

He thought Owen King had the potential to be an NFL quarterback one day with the right development. Eli King’s jaw-dropping highlight reel has Klug thinking that he could do something special, too.

“I’ve seen Eli King’s film and holy Toledo,” Klug said. “Holy smokes. His athletic ability speaks for himself. I feel like I don’t really have to dress it (up) because he’s just so special. His work ethic is off the charts, based off what I’m told. The great thing I hear about those boys is that they’re always humble. The few times I’ve been around them, they seem like just great standup dudes.”

Klug knows how stressful the recruiting process can be, but he’s given King some space to make the tough choice on his own. But he certainly wouldn’t hate for King to pick the Hawkeyes –– a school that’s offered King for both basketball and football.

"I talked to his dad about a month ago and told him, ‘You’ve been through this process before, but if you have any questions, just holler,’” Klug said. “I just want to let him enjoy his recruiting process and stay out of it. I know he’ll make an educated, wise decision.”

Klug is healthy, rested and happy in Tennessee. But his heart remains in Caledonia.

Monday, September 21, 2020

Lions’ T.J. Hockenson Makes Incredible Catch and Run


T.J. Hockenson flexes after a catch.


The Detroit Lions should have won during Week 1 of their NFL season, but they’re wasting little time flexing their offensive muscle in Week 2.

Early on against the Green Bay Packers, the Lions got a huge catch and run by tight end T.J. Hockenson to help set them up and keep them on the move. Hockenson was initially bottled up on the play in the second level, but used his leg drive and strength to press forward and pick up extra yardage.

A few plays later, the Lions paid things off by ramming Kerryon Johnson into the end zone for an early 7-0 lead. Detroit would yield a field goal on their next defensive drive, but manage to maintain the lead early on in the first quarter.


Hockenson put up 56 yards and a score last week, and has looked like one of the team’s top emerging weapons. If the Lions can keep feeding Hockenson, he will make their offense tough to stop. 

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Rex Burkhead enjoying his new role in Patriots offense


SEPTEMBER 16, 2020

By Alex Barth,

The Patriots offense looked very new and very different on Sunday in Cam Newton's debut. While besides Newton himself it's mostly the same players out there, they're being asked to do different things than they were in the past.

Perhaps the most notable shift for a returning member of the team was Rex Burkhead. He's always been known as a versatile player, but they had him lining up all over the field in the season opener. From traditional running back sets, to jet motions, split out wide, and even in an inline tight end spot, the 30-year old back seemed to be everywhere in the formation on Sunday.

"I enjoy it," Burkhead told reporters on Wednesday. "Just being able to be the versatile piece for the offense to be able to - whether that's split out wide, come in motion, be in the backfield, whatever that is. You know, I take pride in that."

While it's certainly a new look to the Patriots offensive sets, Burkhead says his new role didn't come as a surprise.

"It's something I could always kind of see myself doing," he said, before crediting offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels for seeing the potential in that kind of usage. "Coach McDaniels knows our strengths and how we can be used out on the field. And so he does that to the best of his ability and to put us in a good position to win."

That potential was certainly maximized in the opener. The Patriots rushing for a league-high 217 yards on 42 carries, their best performance on the ground in two years. Burkhead himself accounted for 32 yards on seven carries, and his fifth-best career rushing average (4.6 yards/attempt) when carrying the ball at least seven times in one game.

Expect Burkhead to keep thriving in his newly modified role. After all, it's offensive creativity like this that helped draw him to the Patriots in free agency in 2017.

"That's a part of it," he said. "You've always seen how they've used their backs in the passing game. It's something that always I wanted to do (sic). And in the run game, of course, as well. So it's definitely intriguing. It was intriguing to me and I just enjoyed that."

Now, that was only one game, and what we saw week one likely wasn't the finished product of the 2020 offense, but rather just a taste of what's to come. We'll see how Burkhead's role continues to evolve as the season goes on.

Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

TIM AND MIKE: Week 1 observations


Sep 14, 2020 at 11:26 AM

Tim Twentyman & Mike OHara Writers


Three safeties: The Lions used a heavy three-safety package in Sunday's 27-23 loss to Bears. Duron Harmon played 100 percent of the defensive snaps (65), with Tracy Walker playing 83 percent (54) and Will Harris 80 percent (52). Some of that could be attributed to Detroit losing two of their top three corners in the game, but the coaching staff has talked about how they liked the talent and depth at that position heading into the season. – Tim Twentyman


Up front – defense: Having one sack wasn't the only stat where the Lions were deficient up front against the Bears. A lack of penetration in the run game allowed the Bears' backs to cut back for extra yards. That was evident in their average of 5.3 yards per carry, with 28 carries for 149 yards. – Mike O'Hara


Up front – offense: The Lions' offensive line passed its first test, with rookie Jonah Jackson starting at right guard and backup Tyrell Crosby in at right tackle. The Lions rushed for 138 yards on 29 carries, with an average of 4.8 yards per carry. – Mike O'Hara


Shorter passing game: Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford averaged 7.1 air yards per completion against the Bears, according to Next Gen Stats, which was his lowest with Darrell Bevell as his offensive coordinator, and over a full yard below his average of last year (8.3). Chicago's defense made sure they kept everything in front of them as best they could. Stafford missed deep threat wide receiver Kenny Golladay (hamstring), too. – Tim Twentyman


AP, AD: In the first game of his 14th season, running back Adrian Peterson looked like he could have played as his nickname indicates – All Day. He had 93 yards rushing, an average of 6.6 yards per carry and three receptions for 21 yards. The obvious question is how long he can maintain that production. Who's going to bet against him? – Mike O'Hara


Rookie playing time: Lions rookie wide receiver Quintez Cephus played 79 percent of Detroit's offensive snaps against the Bears. Among rookie receivers, only Dallas' CeeDee Lamb played more (84 percent) through Sunday's slate of games. A big reason for that was the absence of Golladay, but Cephus has been trending up, and he showed some good things, along with some rookie moments. He was targeted 10 times, more than any other Lions receiver, and caught three passes for 43 yards. – Tim Twentyman


Quiet Zone: It was too quiet at Ford Field Sunday. There has to be a way to pump up the volume for the next home game vs. the Saints. – Mike O'Hara


Picking up where he left off: Defensive end Trey Flowers was Detroit's top defender the second half of last season, and he picked up right where he left off. Flowers was graded as Detroit's top defensive player vs. the Bears, per Pro Football Focus, finishing with four tackles, three quarterback hurries, a sack and a forced fumble.

His sack was the only one recorded by the defense. He was one of just three Lions players with more than one quarterback pressure (Romeo Okwara, 4 & Julian Okwara, 2) on the day. – Tim Twentyman


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