Wednesday, January 31, 2024

International Rugby Players Within the NFL


Damond Talbot

January 30, 2024

The sports world buzzed with excitement at the news of Louis Rees-Zammit, the Welsh rugby phenomenon, making the audacious switch to the NFL. This transition shines a spotlight on the intriguing journey from rugby to football, a path less traveled, but rich with success stories. As Rees-Zammit prepares to don the pads and helmet, we delve into the legacy of rugby players who have carved out careers in the NFL, setting the stage for this latest crossover.

Notable Rugby-to-NFL Success Stories

Christian Scotland-Williamson

A former rugby union player who played for Worcester Warriors in England, Scotland-Williamson switched to football, joining the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2018 as a tight end through the International Player Pathway Program. He’s an English talent that will be sorely missed in England’s match against Scotlandin the upcoming Six Nations tournament.


Nate Ebner

Formerly an Olympic rugby sevens player for the United States, Ebner made his mark with the New England Patriots, showcasing his special teams prowess and contributing to multiple Super Bowl victories. Ebner’s successful transition is a testament to the complementary skills between all codes of rugby and NFL play.

Christian Wade

The English rugby union standout made headlines with his switch to the Buffalo Bills. Despite facing steep learning curves, Wade’s explosive speed and agility have made him a player to watch, demonstrating the potential for rugby talents in the NFL.

Jarryd Hayne

The Australian rugby league star’s stint with the San Francisco 49ers was met with great anticipation. Hayne’s versatility and athleticism allowed him to make an impact, albeit in a brief NFL career, highlighting the challenges and opportunities of such a transition.

Alex Gray

A former England rugby union sevens player and captain, Gray transitioned to American football, signing with the Atlanta Falcons in 2017 as a tight end through the NFL’s International Player Pathway Program. He spent multiple seasons on the Falcons’ practice squad.


Louis Rees-Zammit’s move to the NFL is more than just a career change; it’s a continuation of the intriguing narrative of rugby players making their mark in football. As he joins the ranks of those who have ventured before him, Rees-Zammit carries the torch for the next generation of athletes looking to make a similar leap. His journey underscores the growing interconnectedness of global sports, promising exciting developments for fans and future players alike.


Monday, January 29, 2024

Giants 2024 UFA Primer: LS Casey Kreiter


Casey Kreiter has been a steady performer for the Giants in an underrated position.


JAN 25, 2024 10:00 AM EST


Casey Kreiter, LS

Height: 6 foot 1
Weight: 250 lbs.
Age: 33
NFL Exp.: 8 seasons
College: Iowa

Casey Kreiter was signed by the New York Giants in 2020 to a one-year deal worth $1,047,500. Kreiter was acquired to replace long-time Giants long-snapper Zak DeOssie. Following a promising preseason showcase and the retirement of DeOssie that year, Kreiter earned his spot as the starting long snapper.

Before becoming a Giant, Kreiter signed with the Dallas Cowboys to a three-year deal as an undrafted free agent following the 2014 NFL Draft. The Cowboys would cut Kreiter that August, only to re-sign him in March 2015. Though he was given a second chance at becoming the Cowboys’ long snapper, Kreiter lost out to L.P. Ladouceur and was released before the start of the 2015 regular season.

After signing in April of that year, Kreiter finally got his turn to shine in 2016 with the Denver Broncos. Kreiter started in the first ten games before sustaining a calf injury that sidelined him for the rest of the 2016 campaign.

Kreiter played another three seasons for the Broncos as their starting long snapper, finishing his four-year stint with five combined tackles (four solo) and a Pro Bowl appearance in 2018 (the only one of his career).

Since arriving in New York, Kreiter has yet to miss a single game due to injury. Kreiter, who began his Giants tenure as No. 58, switched to No. 59 last year, yielding his former jersey number to new inside linebacker Bobby Okereke.

2023 Recap

There’s a saying in football that ‘the best ability is availability.’ And when it comes to Kreiter, he’s been as available as it gets, never missing a game due to injury since becoming a Giant. Executing clean snaps week in and week out, Kreiter managed to post a career-high in tackles (4) over 2023 as well, all of which were solo.

Why Giants Should Re-Sign Him

When you have a specific positional player that has delivered nothing but efficient and consistent results, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t keep them, particularly if they can be re-signed to an affordable deal.

Kreiter has grown into his role on this Giants' special teams unit and delivered a standout performance in 2023 for someone who’s never had more than two tackles in a single season.

In addition, Kreiter, who signed a one-year $1,317,500 deal with the Giants for 2023, will most likely stay with a one-year deal, which the Giants should be able to fit comfortably under their salary cap.

Why Giants Shouldn’t Re-Sign Him

For as good as Kreiter has been, he is set to turn 34 this August. While there is no evidence to suggest his game has fallen off, that's something to consider as he continues his career.

But more importantly, there is the money aspect. As already noted, Kreiter had his best season as a Giant last year. So would another one-year deal be enough, or might he want a little something more? And could the Giants maybe look to get younger at the position by bringing in someone whose veteran minimum would be less than Kreiter would need to receive?

The Giants have cap space and are expected to gain more with some anticipated moves. But at what point might the team want to start looking for a snapper to develop for when the time comes to pass the baton?

Keep or Pass?

Until the Giants find a long snapper able to deliver at the same if not better level, they might as well stay with Kreiter, who has chemistry working with Gillan and Gano, for at least another one-year deal. From punts to field goals to extra point attempts, Kreiter got the job done on special teams and delivered crisp snaps to his intended targets every game week this season.

Unless he asks for an outrageous type of contract, the Giants have no reason to move on from Kreiter. Kreiter comes with plenty of veteran experience. Seeing how well he played, especially last year, the Giants could do worse than to keep Kreiter around for another season.

Monday, January 08, 2024

The best NFL third-round draft pick in the history of each franchise


Updated 4 days ago (January 4, 2023) |  By Seth Trachtman

Great middle-round picks can make all the difference for a franchise's future. These are the best third-round picks in the history of each NFL franchise.


Cleveland Browns: Anthony Pleasant, DE (1990)

A 14-year pro out of Tennessee State, Pleasant peaked in his six seasons with the Browns. He recorded 11 sacks in 1993 and eight sacks two years later. A favorite of Bill Belichick, he followed the historic head coach to stops with the Jets and Patriots.

Long Photography / USA Today Sports Images

Thursday, January 04, 2024

Ravens Have Seven 2023 Pro Bowlers


Jan 03, 2024 at 08:00 PM

Ryan Mink

Editorial Director

With the best record in football comes the rewards – and not just a first-round playoff bye.

The Ravens have seven 2023 Pro Bowlers, including four first-timers.


Baltimore's Pro Bowlers are quarterback Lamar Jackson, linebacker Roquan Smith, safety Kyle Hamilton, defensive tackle Justin Madubuike, center Tyler Linderbaum, linebacker Patrick Queen, and kicker Justin Tucker.


It's the first time for Hamilton, Madubuike, Queen, and Linderbaum – all players General Manager Eric DeCosta drafted.


While seven is a very healthy number, the Ravens had a dozen the last time they were the AFC's top playoff seed in 2019, which tied an NFL record.


The Ravens are poised to make a playoff run this year, so all of them are hoping not to actually play in the Pro Bowl Games, which will take place on Feb. 4 in Orlando. Baltimore has its eyes on Las Vegas instead.


Here's why each of the seven Ravens made it:


QB Lamar Jackson

(third trip / 2019, 2021, 2023)


Jackson is the runaway favorite to win his second MVP, so this was a slam dunk. Jackson's growth as an all-around quarterback this season has been clear, as he has set career bests in completions (307), completion percentage (67.2) and passing yards (3,678), while also rushing for 821 yards. He has been on fire during Baltimore's current six-game winning streak, throwing for 14 touchdowns with just two interceptions and a 109.8 quarterback rating, including spectacular performances against some of the top defenses in the league in San Francisco and Miami the past two weeks.


LB Roquan Smith

(second trip / 2022, 2023)


Smith has been the heart of the Ravens' defense since he first arrived midway through last year and he's only elevated his game this season. Smith has the fifth-most tackles in the league (158), as well as 1.5 sacks, one interception, and a forced fumble. But his impact goes well beyond his stats. Smith is the leader of the NFL's best defense, which has given up a league-low 16.4 points per game. Baltimore is currently on track to finish as the first unit in NFL history rank No. 1 in scoring (16.4 ppg), sacks (57), and takeaways (29). The way Smith patrols the middle with Queen sets the tone for Baltimore.


"It's an honor to be voted into the Pro Bowl. I'm very grateful for my teammates and coaches; each and every week we go to war together, and the guys put me in some of the best possible situations to be successful," Smith said. "I'm also very thankful for the fans who voted for me and see my talent and the way I respect the game. I'm very grateful to be in this position, and I don't take this award lightly.


"My plan, though, is to not be playing in the game, because I want to be in the Big Dance. But still, I appreciate that accolade next to my name. It's a great honor."


S Kyle Hamilton

(first trip)


Hamilton has been Mr. Do-It-All in the Ravens defense. He's the first NFL defender since Tyrann Mathieu in 2015 to notch four interceptions and 10 tackles for loss in a single season. Hamilton also has three sacks and 13 passes defensed, playing all over Baltimore's formation. The Ravens' scheme versatility and ability to match up with a variety of different offensive threats and schemes is in large part due to Hamilton's unique abilities.


"It's kind of surreal. I don't think it has settled in yet. I have to be thankful for where I'm at and for all the people who got me here. Honestly, growing up, watching the Pro Bowl every year, it's cool to have the opportunity to play in it. Obviously, we want to be playing in the Super Bowl, but I'm blessed either way, just to be selected. I'm thankful for everybody who voted for me and believed I'm good enough to be in the position that I am.


"It's an honor, honestly, this early in my career to see success like this. I feel like it's a confidence booster. I feel like I have a lot more room to get better, and that's a good thing. I feel like I haven't reached my peak, and I'm still getting better each and every day, but being included in a group of people like all of the past Ravens Pro Bowlers, it's an honor."


DT Justin Madubuike

(first trip)


Madubuike leads all NFL defensive linemen with 13 sacks. He leads Baltimore's pass rush, which has a league-high 57 sacks. This season, Madubuike tied the NFL record with at least a half sack in 11 straight games, putting him alongside some of the greatest pass rushers to ever play the game. In his fourth season, Madubuike has been a game-wrecker inside for Baltimore, causing all sorts of problems for opposing quarterbacks and run games.


"Being named a Pro Bowler is special and something I share with my family and everyone who has believed in me. I'm very grateful for all these people – my parents, coaches, teammates and Ravens fans – because they're the ones who help inspire me every day. While this honor is amazing, it just makes me hungrier and more focused to work even harder. This year has been so unique in the sense that I'm playing better, learning more and am truly enjoying the football journey with my teammates. Hopefully this is just the start of many more great things to come for all of us."


C Tyler Linderbaum

(first trip)


Linderbaum anchors Baltimore's offensive line, which has allowed Jackson to flourish and paved the way for the league's top running game (159.7 yards per game). Linderbaum was a dominant and versatile run blocker as a rookie, but he's elevated his game specifically in pass blocking. He hasn't allowed a sack, per Pro Football Focus, in 484 pass blocking opportunities.


"A lot of credit goes to my teammates – the other O-linemen I work with every single day. Without them, I wouldn't be in this position for this accolade. It's just a team effort. I'm always a firm believer that if the team is winning, a lot of accolades are going to come with that. There's still a long way to go, but it's good for my second year.


"There is hard work that goes into it. It isn't easy, but there is more work to be done. I'm a long way from where I want to be. And hopefully, we'll be doing something else when that time comes around the Pro Bowl time. But to just be recognized by other people, it feels pretty good."

LB Patrick Queen

(first trip)


Queen has been a playmaker in the middle of Baltimore's defense, both for himself and in helping to set up teammates. He has a career-high 125 tackles (78 solo) and matched a career high with six passes defensed, while adding 3.5 sacks, nine tackles for loss, one interception, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery for the best defense in the league. Queen is a tone-setter alongside Smith. This has been a long time coming considering Queen is the only NFL defender to produce at least 400 tackles (445), 10 sacks (13.5), and 10 takeaways (four interceptions and six fumble recoveries) since he entered the league in 2020.


"This honor means a lot, just for the recognition and all the hard work that goes into it. I have nobody but God to thank, because truly without Him, it's not possible to be in this position. It's everything that you could want, and knowing the type of run that we're on right now makes it that much better.


"The way we play, I think everyone on our defense should have made it, honestly. The guys that didn't make it, it's a shoutout to them for how much time and effort and dedication that goes into us playing well as a unit. You could easily fall off at any point, and for our team to just be steady, be on the uphill climb and prove themselves every day, it means a lot for everyone."


K Justin Tucker

(seventh trip / 2013, 2016, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023)


Tucker is still the best kicker in the league. This season, the most accurate kicker ever (90.2%) has connected on 31-of-36 field goal attempts and 50-of-51 point after tries, scoring a career-high, team-record and AFC-best 143 points in 2023. All but one of Tucker's misses this season have been on tries of at least 53 yards, including a blocked 55-yarder. Tucker last missed a field goal from within 40 yards on Jan. 2, 2022, drilling 46 consecutive tries within that distance. In 2023, Tucker posted his ninth-ever season reaching at least 30 field goals made, with no other kicker in NFL history producing more than five such seasons. He also owns an NFL-record 12 straight seasons (each year of his career) with at least 25 field goals made.


𝕋𝕙𝕒 𝔽 𝕚𝕤 𝕗𝕠𝕣𝔽𝕝𝕪 𝕝𝕚𝕜𝕖 𝕥𝕙𝕖 ℝ𝕒𝕧𝕖𝕟𝕤” - @LilTunechi

🎶: "Birds" @RepublicRecords
📺: 1/6 4:30 ABC/ESPN

— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) January 4, 2024


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