Thursday, October 28, 2021

The grades are in: Best offensive, defensive players for Bengals in Week 7 win over Ravens


Kelsey Conway

Cincinnati Enquirer


As head coach Zac Taylor said to his team following the 41-17 win over the Baltimore Ravens, the Cincinnati Bengals played their most complete game of the season. 

Several players stepped up and led the way for the Bengals to take over as the top team in the AFC North and the No. 1 seed in the AFC. 

Here's an in-depth look at the players who stood out in the Bengals' Week 7 win over the Baltimore Ravens

Best overall offensive player: Ja’Marr Chase

Cincinnati’s star rookie wide receiver recorded eight catches for 201 yards and a touchdown against Marlon Humphrey, one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL. Chase earned an 89.2 grade from Pro Football Focus and now leads the AFC in receiving yards with 754 on the year. The No. 5 overall pick is well on the way to securing the league’s Offensive Rookie of the Year award.

Top offensive line performance: Riley Reiff

The acquisition of Riley Reiff in free agency is proving to be one of the most important moves the team made. Reiff anchors the right side of the offensive line for Joe Burrow and he had one of his best games against the Ravens. Burrow was sacked one time against a defense that’s known for its pressure packages. Reiff earned the highest grade (74.5) in run blocking for the Bengals. Trey Hopkins and Quinton Spain were the only two offensive linemen who earned higher grades in pass blocking.

Defensive players of the game:

Chidobe Awuzie

Cincinnati has found its No. 1 cornerback in Chidobe Awuzie. There hasn’t been a week where Awuzie is a liability in defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo’s defense. Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson is playing at a high level finding his weapons all over the field. Awuzie limited Jackson and his receivers’ opportunities and earned an 84.2 grade in coverage. The Bengals have one of the best pass rushing units in the NFL and having Awuzie anchor the secondary is a key reason the defense is having the success they are.

Larry Ogunjobi

It’s not always flashy but Larry Ogunjobi has provided a massive boost to the Bengals’ interior defensive line. Ogunjobi and D.J. Reader are stout against the run and play with a physical mentality that sets the tone for the unit. Ogunjobi was given a 76.4 grade against the run and was Cincinnati’s highest-graded run defender according to Pro Football Focus. Outside of Lamar Jackson’s 88 yards, the Bengals limited the Ravens to 29 yards on the ground. He was also credited with three quarterback hurries.

Vonn Bell

Vonn Bell is one of the Bengals’ captains on defense and as one of the leaders of the team, how he plays carries a lot of weight for the team. Bell played his best game of the season against the Ravens, especially in the run game and applying pressure when his name was called upon. Bell was also the Bengals’ best tackler in Baltimore.

Marshal Yanda: Iowa's greatest offensive lineman


High school football: Every state's greatest offensive lineman

Kevin Askeland |

Wednesday, October 27, 2021 1:30pm

When it comes to NFL offensive linemen, consider the legacy established in California. The state is home to Hall of Famers Larry Allen, Bob St. Clair, Ron Mix, Anthony Munoz, Ron Yary and Gary Zimmerman, who combined for 49 Pro Bowls. Yet, none of them are the greatest professional offensive lineman to come from the Golden State.

That honor goes to Bruce Matthews, a graduate of Arcadia who played in 14 Pro Bowls in his career.

Close behind is Ohio, which is home to Hall of Fame linemen Bob Brown, Dan Dierdorf, Lou Groza, Wilbur Henry, Mike Michalske, Jim Parker and Orlando Pace. However the greatest lineman, based on the number of Pro Bowl selections, is Tom Mack with 11.

Bruce Matthews and Tom Mack are just two of the 51 offensive linemen (District of Columbia included) to make the MaxPreps list of every state's greatest offensive lineman. Lineman were selected based on the number of Pro Bowls selected. A couple of exceptions were made, such as the case of Mel Hein in Washington. A Hall of Fame center, Hein played many of his best seasons prior to the advent of the Pro Bowl.


Every state's greatest offensive lineman

John Hannah, Albertville
Pro Bowls: 9

Mark Schlereth, Service (Anchorage)
Pro Bowls: 2

Randall McDaniel, Agua Fria (Avondale)
Pro Bowls: 12

Willie Roaf, Pine Bluff
Pro Bowls: 11

Bruce Matthews, Arcadia
Pro Bowls: 14

Nate Solder, Buena Vista
Games played: 134

Bob Skoronski, Fairfield Prep (Fairfield)
Pro Bowls: 1

Luke Petitgout, Sussex Central (Georgetown)
Games Played: 110

District of Columbia
Jonathan Ogden, St. Albans
Pro Bowls: 11

Maurkice Pouncey, Lakeland
Pro Bowls: 9

Rayfield Wright, Fairmont
Pro Bowls: 6

Olin Kreutz, St. Louis (Honolulu)
Pro Bowls: 6

Jerry Kramer, Sandpoint
Pro Bowls: 3

Chris Hinton, Phillips (Chicago)
Pro Bowls: 7


Zach Martin, Indianapolis Bishop Chatard
Pro Bowls: 6

Marshal Yanda, Anamosa

Pro Bowls: 8


Mike McCormack, De La Salle (Kansas City)
Pro Bowls: 5

Dermontti Dawson, Bryan Station (Lexington)
Pro Bowls: 7

Kevin Mawae, Leesville
Pro Bowls: 8

Chet Bulger, Stevens Academy (Blue Hill)
Games played: 86

Brian Holloway, Churchill (Potomac)
Pro Bowls: 3

Walt Sweeney, Cohasset
Pro Bowls: 9

Ed Budde, Denby (Detroit)
Pro Bowls: 7


Jim Langer, Royalton
Pro Bowls: 6

Billy Shaw, Carr Central (Vicksburg)
Pro Bowls:

Russ Washington, Southeast (Kansas City)
Pro Bowls: 5

Pat Donovan, Helena
Pro Bowls: 4

Mick Tingelhoff, Lexington
Pro Bowls: 6

Ronnie Stanley, Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas)
Pro Bowls: 1

New Hampshire
Don Macek, Manchester Central
Games played: 162

New Jersey
Jim Ringo, Phillipsburg
Pro Bowls: 10

New Mexico
Ricky Siglar, Manzano (Albuquerque)
Games played: 100

New York
Ed Newman, Syosset
Pro Bowls: 4

North Carolina
Marvin Powell, Seventy-First (Fayetteville)
Pro Bowls: 5

North Dakota
Mark Slater, Bishop Ryan (Minot)
Games played: 82

Tom Mack, Cleveland Heights
Pro Bowls: 11

Will Shields, Lawton
Pro Bowls: 12

Stan Brock, Jesuit (Portland)
Games played: 234

Mike Munchak, Scranton
Pro Bowls: 9

Rhode Island

John Mellekas, Rogers (Newport)
Games played: 84

South Carolina
Art Shell, Bonds-Wilson (North Charleston)
Pro Bowls: 8

South Dakota
Barry French, Washington (Sioux Falls)
Games played: 49

Gene Hickerson, Trezevant (Memphis)
Pro Bowls: 6

Forrest Gregg, Sulphur Springs
Pro Bowls: 9

Willie Wilkin, Springville
Pro Bowls: 3

Bob Yates, Montpelier
Games played: 68

Roosevelt Brown, Jefferson (Alexandria)
Pro Bowls: 9

Mel Hein, Burlington
Pro Bowls: 4

West Virginia
Dennis Harrah, Stonewall Jackson (Charleston)
Pro Bowls: 6

Jim Otto, Wausau
Pro Bowls: 12

Nick Bebout, Shoshoni
Games played: 97



Monday, October 18, 2021

Kirk Ferentz’s 20 best decisions as the Iowa head coach


Kirk Ferentz (Rob Howe/


Pat Harty October 14, 2021


By Pat Harty


IOWA CITY, Iowa – Kirk Ferentz’s decision to call out Penn State for what he believes were some questionable injuries in last Saturday’s game probably ranks among his most controversial decisions as the Iowa head coach.

So, you won’t find it on the following list of Ferentz’s 20 best decisions as the Iowa head coach.

Ferentz is in his 23rd season as the Iowa head coach, and he has made countless decisions that have impacted the program in a positive way, so many that it was hard trimming the list to 20.

Iowa is 6-0 for just the third time under the 66-year old Ferentz and ranked second in the Associated Press heading into Saturday’s homecoming game against Purdue (3-2) at Kinnick Stadium.

Some of the Ferentz’s decisions on this list are having a major impact this season.

The list is in no particular order because to rank them from one to 20 would’ve been too difficult. It was hard enough trimming the list to just 20.

1. Hired Norm Parker as his first defensive coordinator: Ferentz saw how well the relationship worked between Hayden Fry and his defensive coordinator, Bill Brashier, and then built a similar working relationship with Norm Parker.

Ferentz gave Parker free reign over the defense and trusted his wisdom and ability to teach and motivate players, as Fry did with Brashier.

The approach worked in both cases as the Iowa defense excelled under both coordinators. Parker’s defenses were always fundamentally sound, aggressive, opportunistic, and well-connected. They also rarely gave up big plays.

Parker retired from coaching after the 2011 season and passed away in 2014 at the age of 72.

But his legacy with Hawkeye football will live on forever.

LeVar Woods

2. Hired Levar Woods as special teams coach: Woods returned to his alma mater in 2008 after having played 88 games in the NFL. He started as an administrative assistant, a job he held from 2008-11, and then became the linebackers and special teams coach.

He also coached tight ends and worked with special teams from 2015-17 before becoming the full-time special teams coordinator in 2018.

Special teams have become a strength under Woods, and that is certainly the case this season with Iowa having one of the best kicker-punter combinations in the country in senior kicker Caleb Shudak and sophomore punter Tory Taylor. Shudak has made 11-of-12 field-goal attempts, while Taylor is averaging 46.6 yards on a Big Ten leading 40 punts.

Taylor was also named the Big Ten Punter of the Year as a freshman last season.

“Huge,” Shudak said of Woods’ impact. “I think the attention to such small details whether it’s tempo, speed, strategy, whatever it is, it’s huge and it’s been vital for our success.”

Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum (65) helps quarterback Spencer Petras (7) across the goal line during a game against Indiana on Sept. 4, 2021at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City.

3. Moved Tyler Linderbaum from defensive tackle to center: The Solon native was recruited to play defensive tackle and played that position throughout the regular season as a true freshman in 2018.

Linderbaum switched to center during preparation for the 2019 Outback Bowl at the suggestion of the Iowa coaches, and the decision helped to change the course of his life as he now ranks as arguably the top center in college football.

Kirk Ferentz said Linderbaum performed well on defense and would’ve been a key contributor if he had stayed on that side of the ball. But Ferentz also saw something in Linderbaum that made him think center would ultimately be his best position, and Ferentz now looks like a genius in this case with Linderbaum having ascended to greatness.

4. Moved Dallas Clark from linebacker to tight end: Clark came to Iowa as a walk-on linebacker under Hayden Fry and then switched to tight end under Ferentz.

The position switch paid huge dividends as Clark would go on to become a consensus All-America tight end in 2002. He also won the John Mackey Award in 2002 as the nation’s top collegiate tight end and would go on to have a long and distinguished career in the NFL, winning a Super Bowl with the Indianapolis Colts.

Clark was one of the first position switches under Ferentz that worked out brilliantly.

5. Moved Eric Steinbach, Robert Gallery and Bruce Nelson from tight end to the offensive line: Speaking of positions switches that worked out brilliantly, here are three more. All three came to Iowa as tight ends before switching to the offensive line where all three would go on to earn All-Big Ten and All-America recognition.

They formed three-fifths of the starters on Iowa’s 2002 offensive line, with Steinbach playing guard, Gallery at left tackle and Nelson at center. Gallery won the Outland Trophy in 2003 as the nation’s top interior lineman, and he was also the second player selected in the 2004 NFL Draft.

Brad Banks. Photo courtesy of Iowa Sports Information Department.

6. Recruited Brad Banks from junior college: Kirk Ferentz is very selective when recruiting junior college players, and he doesn’t do it very often.

But when he does, it usually pays off.

And in the case of Brad Banks, it paid off in a way that nobody could’ve imagined as Banks went from being the backup quarterback in 2001 to the Heisman Trophy runner-up in 2002.

Banks is one of few dual-threat quarterbacks to play for Ferentz at Iowa, and his ability to make plays with his legs was a key to Iowa’s success in 2002.

7. Offered Bob Sanders a scholarship: Iowa and Ohio were the only schools to offer Sanders a scholarship. Iowa offered largely due to Ferentz’s close friend and former high school coach, Joe Moore, who convinced Ferentz that Sanders was worth taking a chance on.

Sanders was undersized at about 5-foot-8, but he was a transcendent player and arguably the most influential player under Ferentz. He changed the tempo at Iowa while becoming one of the top defensive backs in program history.

Sanders played with the kind of violence and aggression that would’ve made it hard for him to avoid penalties in today’s game with the heightened awareness about head injuries.

Bob Sanders on the attack. Photo courtesy of the Iowa Sports Information Department.

He wasn’t dirty, but he played with a reckless abandon that struck fear in opponents. His bone-jarring tackles energized his teammates and often left opponents woozy.

Sanders also achieved stardom in the NFL where he was named the Defensive Player of the Year in 2007 as a member of the Indianapolis Colts.

8. Hired Reese Morgan after the 1999 season: Morgan was building a dynasty as the head coach at Iowa City West High School when Ferentz hired him after his 1-10 debut season in 1999.

Morgan became a recruiting force and a keen judge of talent. He saw potential where other coaches didn’t, and he was widely respected in Iowa, which helped Iowa dominate instate recruiting.

He also excelled as a position coach, first with the offensive line and then with the defensive line. Morgan earned his players trust and admiration and that carried to the field where they performed well for him.

9. Promoted Phil Parker to defensive coordinator: Parker had shown promise as Iowa’s defensive backs coach and was an original member of Ferentz’s staff when he was promoted to defensive coordinator after Norm Parker retired after the 2011 season.

A former all-Big Ten safety at Michigan State in the 1980s, Parker has respect as a former star player, and he has a knack for putting his defenders in the right spots to make plays. His defenses rarely give up big plays and they’re fundamentally sound.

Phil Parker

Parker probably could’ve been a head coach by now, but he also has a pretty good gig under Ferentz that now pays him $1 million annually.

Iowa currently leads the nation with 16 interceptions and leads the Big Ten and ranks fourth nationally in scoring defense (13.0.) Iowa also ranks second in the Big Ten, and ninth nationally in total defense, allowing just 274.2 yards per game.

Iowa also has played 28 straight games without surrendering 25 points.

10. Benched Jake Christensen in favor of Ricky Stanzi at quarterback after four games in 2008: The Iowa offense sputtered throughout the 2007 season with Christensen playing quarterback, and the same thing was happening in 2008 until Ferentz finally benched Christensen in favor Ricky Stanzi after four games.

Stanzi would go on to post a 26-9 record as Iowa’s starting quarterback and he threw at least one touchdown pass in 21 consecutive games. He finished his career with 7,377 passing yards and 56 touchdowns.

11. Stayed committed to Shonn Greene when he had to spend a year in junior college: Ferentz could’ve easily moved on after Greene left the program in 2006 due to academic reasons.

But Ferentz stayed committed to Greene, while Greene stayed committed to Iowa during his year in junior college.

Greene became Iowa’s featured running back in 2008 and would go on to have arguably the greatest single season ever for an Iowa running back.

He set Iowa’s single-season rushing mark with 1,850 yards and had at least 100 yards rushing in all 13 games.

Greene also led Iowa to a 9-4 record, including a victory over South Carolina in the Outback Bowl.

He skipped his senior season to enter the 2009 NFL Draft where he was selected by the New York Jets in the third round.

Iowa Football assistant Ladell Betts meets with the press during the team’s annual media day on Aug. 13, 2021 at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City. (Photo – Rob Howe/

12. Hired Ladell Betts as running backs coach: Betts is only in his first season as the Iowa running backs coach, but his impact already is noticeable, especially in recruiting.

Iowa has verbal commitments from a four-star running back from Florida and from a three-star running back from Ohio in its 2022 recruiting class. Betts is largely responsible for that.

He brings instant credibility as a former NFL running back, and as Iowa’s second all-time leading rusher with 3,686 yards. Betts is also familiar with Iowa’s tradition, and with the Iowa City community.

The timing of Betts’ hire is also significant because it came just months after the racial unrest that rocked the Iowa program in the summer of 2020. His addition helped to stabilize things, and helped to connect the present with the past at Iowa.

Recruiting was a concern in the wake of the racial unrest, but Betts already has shown that he can bring talent to Iowa City from all over the country.

13. Hired Kelvin Bell as a graduate assistant in 2012: The Mississippi native was a defensive lineman at Iowa under Ferentz, but his career was cut short by injuries. 

Bell’s first job in coaching was as an assistant coach for Iowa City Regina High School in 2004. He spent three seasons at Iowa Regina before coaching the offensive line at Cornell College in 2006 and 2007. He then coached for two seasons at Wayne State and for one season at Trinity International in 2011 before returning to Iowa.

Kelvin Bell

Bell was Iowa’s recruiting coordinator from 2016-19 before switching to the defensive line where he has helped develop star players such as A.J. Epenesa, Daviyon Nixon and Chauncey Golston.

Iowa has established great depth on the defensive line under Bell with as many as nine defensive linemen playing key roles.

Senior defensive end Zach VanValkenburg has also emerged as a star after playing his first three seasons at Division II Hillsdale College in his home state of Michigan. 

14. Hired Neil Cornrich as his agent: Ferentz has certainly had enough sustained success to give him leverage when negotiating his contract.

But his agent, Neil Cornrich, also deserves credit because it seems that each time Ferentz has re-negotiated his contract he has had the upper-hand over Iowa, from the number of guaranteed years to the expensive buyout.

More power to Ferentz.

15. Moved practice to the morning: This was a change that Ferentz made after the 2014 season and Iowa has a 59-21 record since the start of the 2015 season. This was a pretty dramatic change with players having to adjust their schedule away from football, and their sleeping habits. But it seems to be working, considering Iowa’s success.

16. Replaced Jake Rudock with C.J. Beathard at quarterback shortly after the 2014 season: This was another change that Ferentz made shortly after the 2014 season.

Rudock had started for two consecutive seasons, and had played well at times, especially early on. But the offense became stagnant under Rudock and the losses started to mount.

There were also rumors that C.J. Beathard was seriously considering transferring unless he became the starter. Those rumors quickly vanished after Beathard was named the starter and he would go on to lead Iowa to a 12-2 record in 2015 and to the Rose Bowl, while making second-team all-Big Ten.

Iowa’s Tory Taylor (9) punts the ball against Penn State during their game on Oct. 9, 2021 at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City. (Rob Howe/ 

17. Had LeVar Woods travel to Australia to recruit Tory Taylor: Ferentz sometimes has been criticized for not thinking outside the box enough, or for being too stubborn or set in his ways.

 But not in this case.

 Ferentz saw that other teams were having success with punters from Australia, so he allowed LeVar Woods to recruit Tory Taylor, who is from Melbourne, Australia. Woods flew to Melbourne to meet with Taylor and the rest is history that’s now being made.

 Taylor has arguably been Iowa’s most valuable player so far this season. His ability to shift field position, and to pin opponents deep in their own territory has been crucial to Iowa’s success.

 18. Turned down Jacksonville’s offer in 2002 to stay at Iowa: Ferentz almost certainly would’ve handled the Jacksonville job with more class and dignity than Urban Meyer, but it still would’ve been a risky move trying to build a winning team in the NFL.

He has a lifetime of security at Iowa, thanks to a contract that has paid him incentive bonuses for only winning seven games in a season.

19. Allowed his players to be on Twitter: Ferentz was forced to make some changes in the wake of the racial unrest in the summer of 2020, and allowing his players to be on Twitter was one of the changes.

It was Ferentz’s way of empowering his players and allowing them to express themselves on another platform. Ferentz had been concerned that Twitter would be a distraction, and that some of his players, might say things that they ultimately would regret.

But so far, it’s gone smoothly.

20. Moved Marvin McNutt from quarterback to receiver: McNutt was given a chance to compete for the starting quarterback position. But when it became clear that he wouldn’t see much action at quarterback, he moved to receiver, and to say the switch paid dividends would be an understatement.

McNutt is Iowa’s all-time leading receiver with 2,861 yards and 28 touchdowns.


Friday, October 08, 2021

Marshal Yanda goes from playing in NFL to harvesting in Anamosa


Former offensive lineman to be recognized at Iowa-Penn State game Saturday

John Steppe

IOWA CITY — When Iowa football head coach Kirk Ferentz looked out the window of his office Tuesday, he saw a familiar sight: Marshal Yanda’s truck “Old Blue.”

Yanda, a former Hawkeye lineman, has been spending a lot more of the fall months in Eastern Iowa the last two years after retiring from the NFL at the end of the 2019 season.

Yanda, who grew up in Anamosa and spent 13 seasons with the Baltimore Ravens, “for sure” misses playing in the NFL. He still is getting used to not thinking about which defensive linemen he’ll be going up against in the following season.

“I miss the competitiveness in the air,” Yanda said. “You can’t get that anywhere else.”

He knew it was time to retire, though, after having back-to-back healthy seasons in 2018 and 2019.

“I was due to get hurt if I played one more year,” Yanda said. “I never made it more than three years without having a major injury in the NFL.”

In 2020, he spent his Sundays in front of thousands of acres of farmland instead of thousands of shouting fans.

“I’ve helped my dad harvest the crops,” Yanda said. “Which was great spending time with my dad and being on the farm.”

Yanda wasn’t exactly a stranger to Iowa during his professional career, spending offseasons working out in Iowa City with Ferentz’s teams.

More than a decade since first seeing “Old Blue” in Iowa City, Ferentz still gets emotional thinking about his former offensive lineman.

As he talked about current Hawkeye Zach VanValkenburg, he got teary-eyed looking back at Yanda and his work ethic.

“Good football player, yeah, but there's a reason the Ravens basically made him their franchise player,” Ferentz said. “They weren't going to let him leave that building because they understood what he did to the locker room. There's so much value in that, besides running 40-yard dashes, all that other stuff.”

Iowa will recognize Yanda as the newest member of the America Needs Farmers Wall of Honor at Saturday’s game against No. 4 Penn State.

“For Marshal to be honored this weekend is really special, so deserving,” Ferentz said. “What a great list of awardees on that wall, too.”

The award goes to a former Iowa player who showed the “tenacity, work ethic and character” of a farmer.

“People always talked about how I had that farm strength, that natural strength, that core strength,” Yanda said. “That definitely came from the farm.”

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Joe Burrow singles out Riley Reiff as a major upgrade for Bengals offense


Chris Roling 



One of the reasons the Cincinnati Bengals were so confident in not making an offensive lineman the fifth overall pick this year was due to the stability added in free agency with veteran offensive tackle Riley Reiff.

And Burrow points to Reiff as a big reason for the 3-1 start and buzzing offense.

“He’s made a world of difference,” Burrow said, according to Geoff Hobson of “He’s a veteran leader that doesn’t say a lot, but when he does, you listen. And he’s really locked down that side of the offensive line.”

Reiff, a first-rounder in 2012, spent the last four seasons in Minnesota before coming over to replace the ineffective Bobby Hart at right tackle. While he hasn’t been perfect, Reiff is still a large upgrade in consistency and the veteran experience has come up big in key situations.

Burrow pointed out one of those key plays to C.J. Uzomah that helped the team win on a Thursday night as proof, per Hobson:

“He got out, maneuvered … – they brought one guy inside, one guy outside and he slipped them and then got skinny and blocked the linebacker. And he was really the key block that allowed us to get 20 yards instead of five.”

Not bad for a guy the Bengals signed to a one-year deal worth $7.5 million in a move that didn’t get a ton of publicity at the time.

Wednesday, October 06, 2021

These 10 Detroit Lions may be the only players guaranteed to stick through the rebuild


The Lions aren’t married to many. But they are to these guys

By Mike Payton  Oct 6, 2021, 9:00am EDT  


Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images


Patience doesn't seem to be the name of the game for the Detroit Lions. We’re nine months into the Brad Holmes/Dan Campbell experiment, and the Lions’ top guys have shown they’re not going to be the guys who are loyal to everyone. They have no intentions to stand by any of Bob Quinn’s mistakes or their own for that matter. You need not look further than the fates of Jahlani Tavai and Breshad Perriman for evidence.

Recently, the Lions have shown that the end of training camp wasn't the end of trimming the fat for this team. Just a few weeks ago the Lions attempted to trade linebacker Jamie Collins before ultimately releasing him despite piling more dead money on top of the league’s highest dead money pile.

They’re still not done. While they haven’t made any significant moves, their recent comments tell a story that says the Lions may be getting ready to bench guys and replace them.

All is fair in a rebuild. There’s likely to be plenty more players excused from this team over the course of the next few years. Almost nobody is safe.

But who actually is safe? Who’s going to be a full on part of this rebuild? Who’s going to be on this team in three years? We picked out 10 players that we can say, at the moment, are going nowhere.

T.J. Hockenson

Number one with a bullet is the Lions’ Pro Bowl tight end. Hockenson has shown that he keeps getting better and better. He’s had a rough last two games, but the former eighth overall pick is without a doubt the Lions’ biggest star right now. The Lions will probably wind up making him the highest paid tight end in the NFL before long. There’s no way they let this guy out of their sight.

D’Andre Swift

Swift hasn’t totally figured it out yet. There are moments where he looks like an absolute stud like he did against the Ravens, and then there’s moments where you can barely tell he’s out there like he did against the Bears. Chances are Swift is going to have way more stud moments than missing-in-action moments. For that reason, there’s no way the Lions are going to move on from this guy anytime soon.

Frank Ragnow

He’s the best center in the league, in my opinion. He consistently grades out higher than anyone on the Lions offensive line on Pro Football Focus and you just don’t move on from a guy like that. He’ll be the highest-paid center in the league before you know it. He deserves every penny.

Penei Sewell

There’s been some growing pains for sure. He’s been trending downward lately. He graded out at 46.3 against the Bears. That’s pretty bad, but you can’t ignore his performance against Nick Bosa and the 49ers. Remember, he only 20 years old at this point. There’s a lot of career left in this guy, and he’s getting tossed right into the deep end right away with having to switch from left to right. I think he’ll show enough by season’s end to feel comfortable with him being around for a long time.

Taylor Decker

Decker is one of the best left tackles in the NFL. He’ll show that again as soon as he plays a down of football this season. He’s like the rug in “The Big Lebowski.” He really ties everything together. He’s a left tackle and he’ll stay the Lions left tackle despite all those calls for him to move to right tackle after Sewell’s early success.

Alim McNeill

McNeill just keeps getting better. Again, with rookies there are growing pains, but McNeill has shown some flashes of a player that can be huge for the Lions in the future. Head coach Dan Campbell said McNeill had his best career game against the Bears, and PFF agreed, giving him a great 76.9 grade. He’s probably going to have more games like this going forward. His case to be a big part of the defense is only furthered by the fact that guys like defensive line coach Todd Wash are planted firmly behind him.

A.J. Parker

Parker has been quite a steal this season. Yes, he’s having a really hard time in the last two games, but what member of the Lions secondary hasn’t? When the Lions were fully healthy, Parker graded out in the 70s in the first two games of the season. Since the injuries, Parker has graded out at 28.4 and 42.4 in the past two games. I don’t think you can count too much of that against the undrafted rookie who has suddenly taken on way more responsibility now that he’s out there with guys like Bobby Price and Will Harris. This may be the one I wind up being dead wrong about, but right now it feels right enough to put him on this list.

Romeo Okwara

You really hate to hate to see Okwara go out with such a bad injury., especially since the Lions had been getting their money’s worth from Okawara in 2021 after his $39 million extension. Normally I’d be inclined to say that this injury may affect Okwara’s long term and end his chances to be a big defensive star, but Okwara’s work ethic won’t allow me to believe that. He should be back next season and his rise should continue.

Quintez Cephus

We’re still waiting for Cephus to really have a breakout moment. If you would have asked me a few weeks ago, I would have put Amon-Ra St. Brown on this list, but he has been damn near invisible while Cephus keeps having moments that show he could be the only Lions receiver to survive this season. Cephus is probably never going to be the Lions’ number one receiver, but if he keeps playing like has and if he has that big breakout moment, he could definitely carve out a number two receiver spot for himself going forward.

Trey Flowers

I know it doesn’t seem like it because his stat sheet isn’t exploding off the page, but Flowers is pretty good at his job. When healthy, Flowers is the best guy on the Lions defense. He just shouldn’t be the guy you expect to constantly get to the quarterback and lead the league in sacks. He’s just not that type of player.

But he’s shown that he can be good at what he does, which is stop the run and tackle guys. This may be the only thing Bob Quinn did right during his time in Detroit. Imagine if he would have paired Flowers up with a guy who can do the stuff that does shows up on the stat sheet. I’m guessing the Lions will try to do that going forward.

The guys who are almost there, but I just couldn’t put them on this list

Derrick Barnes: Barnes is basically the 11th man on this list. He’s more than likely safe after he gets over his early struggles.

Jamaal Williams: I didn’t add Williams to the list because his contract is so short. I think the Lions will ultimately want to keep him, but I’m not sure he winds up staying.

Levi Onwuzurike: It’s not working out for him yet. I think that it will eventually, but right now it looks bad.

Amon-Ra St. Brown: Really had high hopes for this kid. He has not shown anything at all so far. I wonder how much a quarterback change could help him.

Jonah Jackson: He’s been better than I thought he would be, but can the Lions do better later? Probably.

Jack Fox: He’s the punt god. He’s. Probably never leaving.

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