Thursday, October 31, 2019

The best basketball player in the Detroit Lions locker room? T.J. Hockenson

Dave Birkett, Detroit Free Press
Published 6:00 a.m. ET Oct. 31, 2019

Every week we ask six Lions one question that provides some insight to their childhood, personality or life now in the NFL. If you have a question you want answered, email it to Lions beat writer Dave Birkett at
This week’s question: If you can pick one teammate to play two-on-two basketball with, who are you taking?

OT Tyrell Crosby

“T.J. (Hockenson). Hands down, T.J. Dude can just straight up ball. He’s good. I’ve seen him just playing around a couple times. I’ve heard stories on how good he is, so I’m choosing T.J. Only person that might get a rebound over us is (Taylor) Decker or Kenny (Wiggins).”

Lions tight end T.J. Hockenson during the game against the Chargers, Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019 at Ford Field. (Photo: Kirthmon F. Dozier, Detroit Free Press)

RB Kerryon Johnson

“Oh, boy. I ain’t going to lie, I’m taking Hockenson. Hockenson can hoop a little bit. We did a little team event this past summer, Hockenson can hoop. I’m telling you, T.J.’s game is nice. And he’s tall, too. Yeah, I’m taking Hock. First of all, you see him, he looks dorky as shit, so it’s like, can this guy really hoop? Shit, he came out there and starting shooting. He had a nice little form on him. Then we did a little shoot-around and he was hitting things. I’m like, 'OK, Hock’s a hooper.' So yeah, I’ll take T.J.”

DE Trey Flowers

I might go with T.J. He got a jumper on him. He got a jumper on him that’s pretty nice. I would say somebody else, but I think I can handle the paint, I just need somebody on the outside so I can throw it out to make some shots. He’s pretty quick.”

S Tracy Walker

“That’s tough. Believe it or not, I’m going to take T.J. I’m going to take T.J. Cause what I seen from T.J., T.J’s nice. T.J. can play big, and so I can run point guard so we’re straight. And then we both big, long, athletic, so, oh, that’s tough. That’s nasty. But I don’t know. That’s a very difficult, difficult question because I ain’t seen too many of our teammates on the basketball court so it’s hard. Quandre (Diggs) can hoop, too. I’ll take Quandre. Yeah, I’ll take Nino. That’s tough. I’d take (Darius) Slay, but Slay’s going to want to be Kobe (Bryant) and I can’t have Slay out there trying to be Kobe. No, that ain’t the move.”

TE T.J. Hockenson

“I’ve got to pick one of the (tight ends). I’d probably pick Logan (Thomas). Logan. Quandre was my other teammate, though, so I might have to pick him, too. So one of those two, obviously. … See, Quandre can shoot, but I don’t know. That’s interesting. Logan, he’s a good basketball player. Big basketball guy. I don’t know if you know Logan too well, but big basketball guy. Size, can do it all. Post up on someone. Can shoot it. He’s a good candidate.”

CB Darius Slay

“I got to go with a big man. I can score the points, I just need somebody to get rebounds, so I can get Logan or somebody. I need somebody big to get rebounds. Yeah, Logan. He’s the tallest one. I got to get the tallest one. I just need him to grab rebounds. If we’re going to 21, I’ll score all 21.”
Contact Dave Birkett at Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett. Read more on the Detroit Lions and sign up for our Lions newsletter.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

NFL Week 8 Team of the Week

OCT 28, 2019

Seattle Seahawks’ Russell Wilson and Tyler Lockett both made PFF’s NFL Week 8 Team of the Week along with several members of the Green Bay Packers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and San Francisco 49ers.

PFF’s NFL Team of the Week series features game grades and advanced statistics for the NFL’s top players at every position in a given week. All of PFF’s ELITE subscribers have access to game grades, advanced statistics, positional snap counts and more in Premium Stats. All of PFF’s grades and advanced stats from this week and every other week this upcoming NFL season are made available to ELITE subscribers within 24 hours of the final whistle.

Among quarterbacks with at least 25 dropbacks in Week 8 (including plays nullified by penalty), Wilson ranked first in PFF passing grade (89.8) with three big-time throws and zero turnover-worthy plays.


Jones caught 7-of-8 targets for 159 yards, three first downs and two touchdowns against Kansas City on Sunday night, earning a 96.6 receiving grade in the process. He also earned an impressive 81.0 rushing grade and forced four missed tackles on his 13 carries.


Kupp was unstoppable in the Rams’ win over Cincinnati. He caught seven of his 10 targets for 220 yards, six first downs and one touchdown in the contest, earning an elite 91.3 receiving grade in the process. He also forced one missed tackle and caught one of his two contested targets.


In Seattle’s win over Atlanta, Lockett caught both of his contested targets and all six of his total targets on the day, picking up 100 yards and five first downs along the way. He earned an 89.4 receiving grade for his efforts, good for the second-highest mark at his position on the week.


Kittle finished Week 8 leading all at his position in overall grade (94.2), receiving grade (93.0) and run-blocking grade (78.3). He really could do no wrong the 49ers’ blowout win over Carolina on Sunday.


Though Tampa Bay couldn’t come away with the win, Evans was still fantastic against Tennessee in Week 8. The big wideout caught 11-of-12 targets for 198 yards, six first downs and two touchdowns on his way to an 89.2 overall grade and 87.3 receiving grade.


Reiff earned an 89.1 overall grade, 78.7 pass-blocking grade and 88.9 run-blocking grade against Washington on Thursday. He allowed just one pressure across 30 pass-blocking snaps, as well.


Green Bay’s second-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, Jenkins led all left guards in overall grade (89.2) with his efforts against Kansas City in Week 8. In addition to his 87.8 run-blocking grade, Jenkins allowed just one pressure in 41 pass-blocking snaps.


Working alongside Jenkins at center, Linsley earned position-highs in overall grade (77.8) and run-blocking grade (81.1) on Sunday night.


Scherff held onto his lead at right guard after earning a 92.3 overall grade on Thursday night against the Vikings. He also led all qualifying guards in Week 8 in run-blocking grade at 91.6.


Originally signed by Atlanta as an undrafted free agent out of San Diego State in 2017, Brunskill turned in the best performance of his young career on Sunday. He earned a 79.7 overall grade, 78.4 pass-blocking grade and 73.4 run-blocking grade against Carolina in Week 8.


Fatukasi was a constant disruptor at the line of scrimmage for New York on Sunday. He finished Week 8 ranked second at his position in overall grade (90.0) with an 83.7 run-defense grade and 79.7 pass-rush grade.


Hill was solid across the board in the Giants’ loss to Detroit on Sunday. He earned an 82.3 run-defense grade and a 79.8 pass-rush grade on his way to a 90.4 overall grade in Week 8.


Among all NFL defensive linemen with at least 25 defensive snaps played in Week 8, Graham ranked first in overall grade (92.6) and run-defense grade (95.5). He had two defensive stops and a forced fumble defending the run on Sunday.


Hunter finished Week 8 with a 91.1 overall grade and a 90.8 pass-rush grade, totaling four pass-rush wins and three defensive stops in the process.


David was a standout performer in the Bucs’ loss to Tennessee. He totaled four defensive stops and zero missed tackles across 56 defensive snaps, earning a 90.1 run-defense grade and an 84.6 coverage grade in the process.


Johnson has balled out for Denver in recent weeks and continued his dominant display in Week 8. He’s earned a 92.0 overall grade across 222 defensive snaps so far this season and earned a 91.1 overall grade against the Colts in Week 8.


Earning a 90.7 coverage grade against the Bears on Sunday, Hayward led all at his position in single-game grade in Week 8. He allowed zero receptions from three targets and logged two forced incompletions.


Sherman earned an impressive 90.0 overall grade and 90.9 coverage grade against Carolina on Sunday. He allowed just two receptions from four targets for nine yards and logged an interception in the contest.


The rookie Gardner-Johnson led all at his position in overall grade (85.0) with his performance on Sunday largely because of his efforts in coverage. He allowed just three receptions from six targets for 11 yards and one first down against Arizona, earning a 90.1 coverage grade in the process.


The drop-off from Gardner-Johnson to Harris is significant, but the Raiders safety still turned in a quality performance in the team’s loss to Houston. He recorded one forced incompletion and a 73.9 coverage grade on Sunday.


No cornerback was targeted more than Los Angeles’ Troy Hill in Week 8, and he still finished second in overall grade at his position in Week 8. He allowed just three receptions from 11 targets for 45 yards, zero touchdowns and two first downs. He also recorded three forced incompletions and zero missed tackles in coverage.
Special Teams


Myers hit both of his field goals from 40-plus yards out and was perfect across three extra-point attempts.


Wadman pinned six of his seven punts inside the 20-yard line and averaged 4.5 seconds of hangtime per punt.


Neal forced a fumble running with the punt team against Philadelphia to start the fourth quarter, but Josh Allen & Co. couldn’t turn the turnover into points.


Logan averaged 23.5 yards per kick return and 15.0 yards per punt return against Tennessee on Sunday,

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

This is the Trey Flowers that Detroit paid $90 million to see

Updated Oct 28, 2019; Posted Oct 28, 2019

DETROIT -- Trey Flowers has been one of the best defensive ends in the league against the run this season. But he wasn’t paid $90 million just to set an edge.
He’s paid that kind of money to wreak havoc in the passing game. He’s paid for chaos and disruption. He’s paid, ideally, to dump quarterbacks on their rear ends.
On Sunday, Flowers finally broke through by racking Giants rookie Daniel Jones for sacks on back-to-back plays in the fourth quarter of a 31-26 win against New York. He becomes the first Lions player to post full sacks on consecutive plays on the same drive since Kelvin Pritchett did it on Nov. 24, 1994.
These were big ones, too. The Lions were playing their first game without starting safety Quandre Diggs (traded), then lost fellow starting safety Tracy Walker to a knee injury in the third quarter. That forced Tavon Wilson into an every-down role, and then he suffered an injury of his own with about 10 minutes left in the game.
That left Detroit with just two healthy safeties -- rookies Will Harris and C.J. Moore, the latter of whom is usually just a special teams ace. Things were so dire, Miles Killebrew -- who moved to linebacker last season and hadn’t played a snap of defense since Christmas Eve in 2017 -- was pressed into emergency duty in the back end of the defense.
Throw in the absence of star cornerback Darius Slay, and Detroit’s secondary was stretched to its limits. The Giants were exploiting it, too, and crossed into Lions territory while trailing 31-19 midway through the fourth quarter.
That’s when Flowers went to work, tossing left tackle Nate Solder to the ground and then crushing Jones for a strip-sack. Jones was fortunate the ball bounced right back to him, but New York lost 8 yards on the play. Then they lined back up, and Flowers did it again, this time delivering an arm bar to Solder’s chest and driving him so far into the pocket that Jones fell over. That play lost 6 yards, and suddenly, New York’s scoring opportunity was facing a third-and-26.
Spoiler alert: They didn’t get it.
They turned the ball over on downs, and Detroit coasted to victory with relative ease.
“I think a lot of guys just continue to work hard,” Flowers said. "It was just one of those deals where you work hard, you continue to fight, plays are going to come to you. A lot of guys doing their jobs. Guys in the back end making them hold the ball for a lot longer, guys on each side of the ball collectively, keeping them in the pocket and not allowing him to escape, things like that. We knew (Jones) was a dynamic quarterback as far as his legs, he can definitely hurt guys. So, just keeping him in the pocket and understanding that we still have to continue to press the pocket.”
The Lions did just that, finally.
Their defensive line was so heralded, so highly anticipated, after Flowers and Mike Daniels joined Snacks Harrison, A’Shawn Robinson, Da’Shawn Hand and the rest of what was already a terrific defensive front. But bogged down by performance and injury issues almost across the board, they were one of the least effective units in the league through seven weeks.
Nobody was winning their pass rushes less often in the air game, and only six teams were allowing more yards per carry in the ground game.
Against New York, though, Detroit stiffened up. Flowers led the way with a season-high seven pressures, and the Lions were credited with 21 as a team. That was a game high since Week 1, and nearly what they combined for in losses to Minnesota and Green Bay the previous two weeks (23).
Aaron Rodgers and Kirk Cousins had all day to throw, and they hurt the Lions badly. Cousins had his best ever since joining Minnesota last year. Jones did have some luck picking at that depleted secondary, too, but the pressure up front helped limit the damage and force the rookie into some critical mistakes.
That includes Jarrad Davis lighting up Jones on a delayed blitz up the middle in the first quarter, jarring the ball loose. Devon Kennard scooped up the pill and returned it for a touchdown, his first since high school.
“It was a lot of fun,” Kennard said. "It was my first time scoring since high school, so touching the paint and getting in the end zone was a lot of fun for me.”
And in the ground game, the Lions held talented back Saquon Barkley to jut 64 yards on 19 carries, his worst yardage and per-carry outputs in a full game this season. None of his carries went for longer than 13 yards.
The Lions held New York to 80 rushing yards overall, after giving up at least 112 in each of their first six games.
“We tend to stay just even keel with anything,” coach Matt Patricia said. "We never tend to get too high or too low with all of that stuff. We don’t like to ride the wave. Good from a numbers standpoint, but I’m sure there are a lot of plays in there that we have to do a better job of getting coached up, and getting taught and technique.
"We’ll just keep pushing forward to try to get better because what would be nice is to try to do just do it consistently. I think that’s the biggest challenge for us going forward from that standpoint.”

Monday, October 28, 2019

Baltimore Ravens film shows Marshal Yanda has still got it

Today 6:00 AM

AP | Baltimore Ravens offensive guard Marshal Yanda (73) spikes the football as he celebrates with teammates after running back Mark Ingram (21) scored against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 6, 2019, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Don Wright)

About 14 months ago, retirement was on the mind of Baltimore Ravens seven-time Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda. Yanda broke his ankle in 2017 and also underwent a procedure on his shoulder, and as the ‘18 season began, the Ravens great said he figured he would end his career if another serious injury or two arrived. But it didn’t. He got through another Pro Bowl season and decided to return in 2019 — and the Ravens are ecstatic about that.

At 35, Yanda is the elder statesmen of a young and unique Baltimore offense. He’s one of its most important players, too, as a right guard with the ability to stand up against pass rushers, clobber defenders in the run game and set the tone for a unit led by quarterback Lamar Jackson.
Offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris said he’s “always glad” Yanda didn’t retire before this season.
“Seven-time Pro Bowler, just his attitude and his energy,” D’Alessandris said. “You see it on Sundays, how he plays, right? Guess what? I see it Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday at practice. The same guy. And I see it on Sunday. He displays — he is what he is. He is one hell of a football player.”
Yanda’s dependability and consistent performances provide value to the Ravens. But two plays from Sunday’s win over the Seahawks stood out as specific examples of the affect the veteran offensive guard has on his team, and they both came on during Baltimore’s go-ahead drive in the third quarter.
The first one came on an 8-yard carry for Mark Ingram and it showcased still-impressive set of skills Yanda carries in his 13th NFL season. Watch below. Yanda (No. 73), the only Ravens lineman pulling on the play, makes an athletic and clean move to get out of his stance and sprint to his left. That helps him get position to clear a path Ingram (21).
And just as Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright comes in to try and make a play, Yanda pancakes him with a punishing hit.

From NFL Game Pass

Later in the drive, the Ravens scored a touchdown on a fourth-and-2 from the Seahawks’ 8-yard line when Jackson ran to his left and darted through a hole.
On this play, Baltimore elected not to pull Yanda. Instead, the Ravens sent other lineman running in front of Jackson and asked their most accomplished offensive player to take on the task of blocking 330-pound nose tackle Al Woods.
Had Woods sliced into the backfield or found space to run to his left, perhaps he could’ve disrupted Jackson’s path. But look at how much push Woods is able to generate once Yanda locks in on him — none.

From NFL Game Pass
Yanda still has the athleticism and the strength to hold up against the NFL’s top defensive players and his dependability allows Baltimore to get creative with schemes for the league’s No. 1-ranked rushing offense. Judging by Yanda’s response to Jackson’s touchdown run, the decorated lineman still carries enthusiasm for the game, too.
The Ravens signed Yanda to a contract extension that runs through the 2020 season, but it’s unclear whether he’ll continue playing beyond this year.
What’s certain is that the 2019 Ravens feel fortunate he decided to stick around.

Aaron Kasinitz covers the Baltimore Ravens for PennLive and can be reached at or on Twitter @AaronKazreports. Follow PennLive’s Ravens coverage on Facebook and Youtube.

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