NFL

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Ridder Respect

By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

With the 74th pick in the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft the Atlanta Falcons selected Desmond Ridder QB of Cincinnati.

With the selection Ridder looks like the future QB in Atlanta.

The Falcons signed Marcus Mariota as a free agent for the 2022 season. The drafting of Ridder signals that Mariota is a bridge quarterback that will play until Ridder is ready to take over the job.

I am guessing by midway through the 2022 season the reigns of the franchise will be handed over to Ridder.

Ridder is a great athlete with an above average NFL arm. He should be able to make all the throws. He ran a 4.52 forty at the NFL Combine so he will be a threat with his legs if the pocket breaks down.

Ridder has a reputation as a student of the game with tremendous work ethic. He started 48 games at Cincinnati so experience should not be an issue.

Some mock drafts had Ridder going in the bottom of the first round so the Falcons got excellent value by him being there at the 74th pick. He finished his college career with over 10,000 yards passing, 87 TD’s to only 28 interceptions. He also rushed for 2,180 yards with 28 TD’s.

He became the Bearcats’ starting quarterback as a redshirt freshman in 2018 and passed for 2,445 yards and 20 touchdowns and gained 583 yards rushing along with 5 touchdowns. He was named the American Athletic Conference (AAC) Rookie of the Year for the 2018 season.

As a redshirt sophomore in 2019, Ridder completed 179 of 325 passes for 2,164 yards and 18 touchdowns against 9 interceptions, while also rushing for 650 yards and 5 touchdowns.

Ridder was named the MVP of the 2020 Birmingham Bowl leading the Bearcats to a win over Boston College.

The 2020 season would prove to be a breakout campaign for the junior QB. Ridder was named the AAC Offensive Player of the Year after passing 2,296 yards, and 19 touchdowns with 6 interceptions, while also rushing for 592 yards and 12 touchdowns. Ritter played well in the Peach Bowl in a close loss to Georgia.

Ridder led the Bearcats to national prominence in 2021 as the No. 7 Bearcats defeated No. 9 Notre Dame on the road.

Ridder went 19-of-32 for 297 yards and 2 TDs. In addition, he rushed for 26 yards and a game-sealing fourth quarter touchdown as the Bearcats snapped the Fighting Irish’s 26-game home winning streak.

Following an unbeaten 12-0 season, Ridder and the Bearcats went into the 2021 American Athletic Conference Football Championship Game ranked number four in the AP Polls, meaning a victory would see them stay in a playoff spot.

Following a 35-20 win over the Houston Cougars, they became the first Group of Five team to make the playoffs, as well as the last major undefeated team going into the post-season. Cincinnati lost to Alabama in the college football playoff 27-6 to finish with a fine 13-1 record.

 

Career highlights and awards:

2× AAC Offensive Player of the Year (2020, 2021)

AAC Rookie of the Year (2018)

2× First team All-AAC (2020, 2021)

Birmingham Bowl MVP (2020)

 

Desmond Ridder is a deal for the Atlanta Falcons.

Excellent value/need pick in third round. He brings a quiet confidence to the QB room. He brings some intangibles to the position that the Falcons have not seen in over a decade. Those are mobility, athleticism, and youth.

The Matty Ice era in Atlanta is over. The only memories that remain are the agony of blowing a 25-point lead in the Super Bowl with 2:00 remaining in the third quarter.

Can Desmond Ridder be the next great QB in Atlanta? The jury is out on that right now, but this kid has the work ethic and talent to be an above average to great NFL Quarterback.

Making The Grade?

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The NFL Draft is over and now we have an idea of what each team will look like next year.

Several players will surprise or disappoint fans as time goes on. Let’s take a look around the NFC South and see how each team did.

Atlanta: The Falcons did a good job on not reaching for a quarterback in the first round.

They selected USC wide receiver Drake London with the 8th pick. He’s a big target at 6’3 7/8 and 219 pounds. In 8 games last season he had 88 receptions for 1,084 yards and 7 touchdowns.

Calvin Ridley is suspended the entire season so he will be the #1 receiver. He should do well paired with tight end Kyle Pitts.

In the second round they drafted Edge rusher Arnold Ebiketie (Penn State) and linebacker Troy Anderson (Montana State). In Anderson’s case I think they fell in love with measurables. He’s 6’3 ½, 243 lbs. and he ran a 4.42 40-yard dash.

Ebiketie played his first three seasons at Temple. In 2021 he had 62 tackles, 18 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks and 2 forced fumbles.

They also drafted quarterback Desmond Ridder (Cincinnati), edge rusher DeAngelo Malone (Western Kentucky), running back Tyler Allgeier (BYU), guard Justin Shaffer (UGA) and tight end John FitzPatrick (UGA).

Grade: B

Carolina: The Panthers selected tackle Ikem Ekwonu (NC State) with the 6th pick.

Ekwonu is a great combination of size (6’4, 310 lbs.), power and athletic ability.

Carolina had the 31st ranked offensive line last season so this helps address a serious need.

Trades for Sam Darnold and C.J. Henderson left them light on picks.

Carolina also drafted QB Matt Corral (Ole Miss), linebacker Brandon Smith (Penn State), edge rusher Amare Barno (Va Tech), guard Cade Mays (Tennessee) and corner back Kalon Barnes (Baylor).

Getting Corral in the third round may be great value for a potential starting quarterback.

Smith should compete in the linebacker rotation.

Grade: A-

New Orleans: The Saints had two first round picks and they got WR Chris Olave (Ohio State) and tackle Trevor Penning (Northern Iowa). They should both be immediate contributors.

Trevor Penning is reminiscent of Terron Armstead as a prospect. He’s an uber-athletic tackle coming from a small school. He’ll now replace Armstead, who started 93 games for the Saints over the past nine seasons before signing with the Dolphins this offseason.

Olave was extremely productive in college and he might be the best route runner in this draft class.

The other picks were CB Alontae Taylor (Tennessee), LB D’Marco Jackson (Appalachian State) and defensive lineman Jordan Jackson (Air Force).

Grade: B+

Tampa Bay: The Bucs didn’t have a first-round pick. They had two second round picks and they got defensive lineman Logan Hall (Houston) and guard Luke Goedeke (Central Michigan).

Hall will probably begin his career as a defensive tackle but could develop into a pass-rusher. Goedeke might be the biggest sleeper among interior linemen.

They also selected RB Rachaad White (Arizona State), TE Cade Otton (Washington), kicker Jake Camarda (UGA), CB Zyon McCollum (Sam Houston State), TE Ko Kieft (Minnesota) and edge rusher Andre Anthony (LSU).

I don’t think there are any All-Pro players in this draft class. This draft is more about getting role players that can help them get back to the Super Bowl.

Grade: B

On The Clock

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

For a second straight year, the Jacksonville Jaguars will have the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft. After going 1-15 in 2020 and selecting Trevor Lawrence first overall last year, the Jags went 3-14 in 2021 to finish with the worst record in the league for a second straight year.

The Jaguars have 12 total draft picks this year.

After a tumultuous few months as head coach, Urban Meyer was fired after 13 games last season. This year, Doug Pederson will lead the way in Jacksonville.

The team has been extremely active in free agency, signing WR Christian Kirk, OG Brandon Scherff, and LB Foye Oluokun to deals. The team has committed more than $175 million of guaranteed money to free agent signings.

Unlike the last four drafts, a quarterback is not likely to be the first prospect off the board in 2022. With the draft just three days away, Las Vegas has updated the odds for the No. 1 overall selection, choosing a new favorite to walk across the stage first.

“Around the NFL, there’s talk about GM Trent Baalke, and his draft history with SF,” NFL Network’s Peter Schrager said. “Year after year, the 49ers took players with incredible physical traits over the top collegiate performers. That’s Travon Walker.”

Walker has pushed out Michigan star Aidan Hutchinson from the top spot in the odds with less than a week to go before the draft in Indianapolis. Either defensive lineman would be the first non-quarterback to be selected first overall since Myles Garrett went first in the 2017.

The buzz around Walker had been growing for some time. Top minds across the NFL landscape have pointed to the possibility of hearing his name called first for a number of reasons. NFL analyst Todd McShay broke down what he likes about the Bulldogs veteran.

“I think his best football is still ahead of him,” McShay said. “He’s got to learn how to use his hands a little bit more efficiently as a pass rusher and how to finish better, kind of gather himself because he left a lot of sacks on the field – only finished with 9.5 sacks in his career. He was the dynamite out on the defensive line just taking up blocks. I always say fishing with dynamite. He’s the dynamite that goes in and blows everything up. He’s an exceptional defensive end when it comes to stopping the run. I think he’s gonna be at his best rushing the passer right away on the inside,” he continued. “The more time goes on and the more he works on his hands as a pass rusher, he’s gonna become a really good edge rusher too. I think the ceiling for him is extraordinarily high. He’s 6-(foot)-5, 272 pounds running 4.51 (40-yard dash) with 35.5-inch arms.”

Walker started all 15 games for Georgia last season, finishing with 37 tackles, six sacks with 7.5 tackles for loss and a team-high 36 quarterback hurries.

One thing is for certain, Jacksonville should draft with the philosophy of “What Helps Trevor?”

This is where we could see a surprise. So much of the spotlight right now is on edge rushers, it’s among the biggest Jacksonville Jaguars draft needs. However, the offensive line is also an area of weakness, Doug Pederson emphasized the importance of offensive line depth and versatility.

It makes Alabama offensive lineman Evan Neal and North Carolina State offensive tackle Ikem Ekwonu legitimate possibilities.

Ekwonu is the best run blocker in this class and could start his rookie season at guard before kicking outside to left tackle when Cam Robinson departs in 2023.

As for Neal, he’s better in pass protection and started at multiple spots during his collegiate career in Alabama.

Jacksonville you’re on the clock!

Needy Falcons

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The Atlanta Falcons may not want to admit it but they are in full rebuild mode. They finished the 2021 season 7 – 10 and have the #8 pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. Atlanta traded quarterback Matt Ryan to Indianapolis in the offseason.

The Falcons signed Marcus Mariota but he is not a long-term solution. We are going to take a look at their biggest needs and the player they could select for that.

Wide receiver has to be the top need. Calvin Ridley is suspended the 2022 season for gambling. Before his suspension Ridley missed the majority of last season with mental health issues.

The #2 target, Russell Gage signed with division rival Tampa Bay in the offseason.

Atlanta should draft multiple pass catchers throughout the draft but if they get one in the first round, they can choose the best option.

That means Drake London (USC) or Garrett Wilson (Ohio State) will be selected, depending on which one is available.

Edge rusher is a big need. Atlanta only had 18 sacks last season which ranked last in the league. They released their best pass rusher, Dante Fowler Jr. and did little to upgrade the position in free agency.

Oregon defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux’s stock seems to be sliding as we get closer to the draft. Thibodeaux was the top player in the nation as a high school senior and he’s very talented. They may draft a great player that will have a chip on his shoulder.

Quarterback is also a big need. I thought they would have addressed that last year when they had the 4th pick and the 2021 quarterback class was deeper. They selected tight end Kyle Pitts with that pick.

This year’s QB class is not as good and none of them are actually good enough to be a top-10 pick. The top two options at the position are Kenny Pickett (Pitt) and Malik Willis. Pickett is more equipped to play immediately.

Nose tackle might also be a need. Grady Jarrett could be released or traded before Fall camp. Jarrett has been a force for Atlanta since being drafted in 2014. He does not fit well in defensive coordinator Dean Pee’s scheme. They want someone that can play in a two-gap system and bull rush up the middle.

Georgia’s Jordan Davis would be a good fit. If they wait until Day 2, UConn’s Travis Jones would be a good fit.

The last need is between tight end or running back. Head coach Arthur Smith came from Tennessee where they had star running back Derrick Henry.

The Falcons resigned Cordarrelle Patterson and retained Mike Smith. They also will not select a running back that high so they will still probably address the position later.

Smith loves to use two tight end sets. Pitts is the flex, but the Smith is going to want a more traditional player, who can be an efficient blocker while helping in the passing game.

This is likely a Day 3 selection, so keep an eye on Wisconsin’s Jake Ferguson, Iowa State’s Charlie Kolar and Texas A&M’s Jalen Wydermyer as the best options.

Jaguars Draft Needs

By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The 2022 NFL Draft will be the 87th annual meeting of National Football League franchises to select newly eligible players.

The draft is scheduled to be held in Paradise, Nevada, from April 28–30, 2022.

For the second year in a row the Jacksonville Jaguars hold the number one overall selection. The Jags are a team with many pressing needs. Let us look at the top two areas of need for the 2022 Jacksonville Jaguars.

 

Wide Receiver: The Jaguars have a potential franchise quarterback in Trevor Lawrence, who they selected first overall in 2021.

They must build the offense around him and keep surrounding him with more weapons. Their wide receiver corps is good but not great.

Jacksonville paid a pile of money to sign Christian Kirk form Arizona. Kirk was never the #1 option in Arizona, but Jacksonville gave him a #1 receiver contract. We shall see how this plays out. The top five receiving prospects in this draft are:

Garrett Wilson/Ohio State University/Projected top ten pick

Jameson Williams/University of Alabama/Projected top fifteen pick

Drake London/University of Southern California/Projected top fifteen pick

Treylon Burks/University of Arkansas/Projected top fifteen pick

Chris Olave/Ohio State University/Projected First Round

 

To get one of the top five rated wide receivers the Jaguars would need to trade down in the draft for a Garrett Wilson and collect draft capital in the process.

If the top five names above, go as projected in the first round where they are slotted could Jacksonville draft former Georgia WR George Pickens with the first pick in the second round #33 to address the need at WR.

Pickens is a stud who ran 4.47 at the combine 11 months removed from a torn ACL. Pickens is a top thirty rated prospect on many NFL draft boards. This is a position of high need for Jacksonville that needs to be addressed in the first two rounds.

 

Offensive Line: The Jaguars need to replenish the offensive line in 2022. Look no further than the University of Alabama’s Evan Neal.

 

Neal’s Draft Profile:

Rating: 92.93 (All-Pro)

Pro Comparison: Bigger Andrew Thomas

Strengths: Insanely large, impossibly twitched up for his size. Carries his weight extremely well. Loose-hipped blocker with effortless power, which makes him a tremendous asset at the second level. High-end recovery skills because of his suddenness. Creates huge arc for rushers to run around to the QB. Balance could use some work. All-Pro upside and is mostly NFL ready.

Weaknesses: Can get a little overanxious at the second level and lunge, and the same is true in pass protection. Anchor is not as sturdy as expected given his size. Occasionally, small speed rushers get the best of him.

Accolades: 2021- Consensus All-America (two sacks allowed in fifteen starts)

Forty career starts (2020 CFP national champion)

Neal has been projected anywhere from the first overall pick to the fifth overall pick in most mock drafts I have seen.

I think Jacksonville should take Neal with the number one overall pick and draft the best wide receiver on their board with the first selection in second round. Then draft additional wide receivers and maybe some help secondary help in the mid to later round.

To take the next step the Jacksonville Jaguars need to provide Trevor Lawrence with some weapons, or you are setting him up for failure.

Leaving The Nest

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Is there proper etiquette to trade the best player in a franchise’s history?

There’s no written rule for something like that but I’m sure the Atlanta Falcons handled that poorly. Matt Ryan has been the starting quarterback since 2008.

Last week Atlanta was one of four finalists trying to trade for Deshaun Watson. Watson ended up being traded to Cleveland and that led to this trade. Ryan, a four-time Pro Bowler was traded to Indianapolis for a third-round pick.

“This was a difficult decision, but it was made easier by Matt’s professionalism and understanding throughout,” Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot said in a statement released by the team. “Our goal in every decision is to improve our organization for the long term. We believe today’s agreement is the best long-term decision, not only for our organization, but also the best for Matt.”

The team will take a substantial $40.5 million salary cap hit in dead money to move on from Ryan and his contract.

The Colts, who are not making any changes in the contract, will have Ryan for two years at $24.7 million in 2022 and $28.2 million in 2023.

Dead money counts against the salary cap even though the player is no longer with a team. All of the bonus money paid to Ryan accelerates into this year’s salary cap for the Falcons, who were already at $20 million in dead money mostly from the Julio Jones and Dante Fowler contracts.

“This business is not without its difficult decisions, and while this is one of the most difficult decisions we have faced as a club, we feel it is in the best long-term interests of both the Atlanta Falcons and Matt Ryan,” Falcons owner Arthur Blank said a statement released by the team. “On behalf of the entire Falcons organization, I wish him success as he continues his career and know that he will bring the same dedication and professionalism to his next club.”

I think this was the best-case scenario for Ryan. The Colts have a good offensive line, the leading rusher from last season (Jonathan Taylor) and a top 10 defense. He will lead the Colts to the playoffs next season.

His replacement was signed less than two hours after the team announced the trade. Marcus Mariota signed a two-year contract.

Mariota, 28, was originally selected by the Titans in the first round (second overall) of the 2015 NFL draft from Oregon. He completed 1,128 of 1,795 attempts (62.8%) for 13,437 yards, 77 touchdowns and 45 interceptions for an 89.5 passer rating in 74 games (61 starts) for the Titans and Raiders.

He has also rushed for 1,574 yards on 264 attempts (6.0 avg.) and 13 touchdowns. He has been the backup with the Raiders the past two seasons after his final season with the Titans in 2019.

Falcons head coach Arthur Smith was tight ends coach and offensive coordinator with the Titans when Mariota was in Tennessee.

Atlanta is in full rebuild mode. The question now is will they draft a quarterback with the No. 8 pick in this year’s draft or will they wait until next year?

This year’s quarterback class is considered weak so I believe the goal is to tank this season, so they get a high draft pick in 2023.

Wanna Bet On It

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley has made the headlines for a negative reason.

Ridley stepped away from football on Halloween, saying he needed to get his personal life in order.

He gambled on NFL games in 2021 and he has been suspended for at least the 2022 season.

The NFL released a statement Monday announcing his suspension, saying Ridley gambled on games over a five-day stretch in November 2021 when he was on the non-football injury list to address his mental health.

In a series of tweets, Monday after the suspension was announced, Ridley said he bet $1,500 total and that “I don’t have a gambling problem.” He also tweeted that he couldn’t even watch football at the time he made the bets. He added that he’s just going to “be more healthy when I come back” and that “I know I was wrong But I’m getting 1 year lol.”

The NFL determined that Ridley placed multilegged parlay bets involving three, five and eight games that included the Falcons to win via his mobile device out of state, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

“There is nothing more fundamental to the NFL’s success — and to the reputation of everyone associated with our league — than upholding the integrity of the game,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell wrote in a letter to Ridley notifying him of his suspension. “This is the responsibility of every player, coach, owner, game official, and anyone else employed in the league. Your actions put the integrity of the game at risk, threatened to damage public confidence in professional football, and potentially undermined the reputations of your fellow players throughout the NFL.”

“For decades, gambling on NFL games has been considered among the most significant violations of league policy warranting the most substantial sanction. In your case, I acknowledge and commend you for your promptly reporting for an interview, and for admitting your actions.”

The NFL said its investigation uncovered no evidence that Ridley used inside information or “that any game was compromised in any way.” There also was no evidence that any of the Falcons’ coaches, staff or players were aware of his betting activity.

The earliest Ridley can apply for reinstatement is Feb. 15, 2023, the NFL said. He also can appeal the suspension by filing notice within three days, per the collective bargaining agreement. It is not known if he has appealed the punishment.

Multiple NFL teams reached out to the Falcons in recent weeks to inquire about trading for Ridley, and each time, Atlanta declined to enter into talks out of good faith, knowing the issues in store for their standout wide receiver.

Ridley’s contract will toll until 2023 and come off the books for 2022, opening up $11.1 million in salary-cap room for the Falcons.

Ridley was a disappointment last season because he only played a few games. It was his first season without Julio Jones because he was traded to Tennessee. Having a player not play for reasons that are not related to an injury is hard for a team to deal with.                                 The Falcons only have one receiver from the 53-man roster last season under contract; rookie Frank Darby.

Southern Draft

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The 2022 NFL Draft starts April 28th in Nevada. We’re going to take a look around the AFC South to see who the first picks will be for each team.

#1 Jacksonville: The Jaguars (3 – 14) have the top pick in the draft for the second year in a row. Last year they picked Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence. He struggled in his first season but that’s because they were a bad team with bad coaching.

The Urban Meyer experiment ended during the season. Doug Pederson has been hired to replace him. He won a Super Bowl in Philadelphia, which was the first for the franchise.

“This culture is all about winning. The players here want to win. I want to win. And that’s what I can bring to the Jacksonville Jaguars, to this community, and to our fan base,” Pederson said at his formal introductory press conference, with the former Eagles coach flanked by owner Shad Khan and general manager Trent Baalke.

Jacksonville’s first priority should be a tackle to protect Lawrence. Alabama tackle Evan Neal will be the pick. He’s massive, standing 6’7 and 360 pounds. He’s versatile and he should help improve Jacksonville’s fifth worst third down conversion rate (35.8 percent).

#3 Houston: The Texans (4 – 13) have a ton of needs which also includes a quarterback. The problem is this is not a great quarterback class and rookie signal-caller Davis Mills got better later in the season. I think they’ll draft the best available player which will be someone on defense.

Oregon defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux will be a good pick. He’s the best pass rusher in the draft. He’s 6’5, 258 pounds and a great athlete. Last season he had 35 solo tackles, 7 sacks and 2 forced fumbles. He should be an impact player and an immediate starter.

# 26 Tennessee: The Titans (12 – 5) had a surprisingly good year considering star running back Derrick Henry missed several games with an injury. They were the top seed in the AFC and lost to Cincinnati in the divisional round.

Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum would be a good pick. He’s athletic with a mauling mentality, which is perfect for the run game. That would be an ideal fit for the Titans.

Alabama wide receiver Jameson Williams might also be a possibility. He tore his ACL in the National Championship Game against Georgia, which unfortunately altered his draft status.

He obviously will need time to recover from his injury, but this may be a bargain for an explosive receiver. Williams had an amazing 2021 season with 79 receptions, 1,572 yards and 15 touchdowns.

#47 Indianapolis: The Colts (9 – 8) traded their first-round pick to Philadelphia for quarterback Carson Wentz. The Eagles have the 16th pick and Wentz struggled last season so it may not have been worth it.

Washington corner back Kyler Gordon would be a good selection because he addresses a need. He had 36 solo tackles, 2 interceptions, 7 pass deflections and 1 forced fumble. He’s 6’0 and 200 lbs. so he’s a big corner back.

The New Head Jag

By: Charles Skipper

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The Jacksonville Jaguars recently announced the hiring of Doug Pederson as their new Head Coach. Pederson will become the seventh Head Coach of the organization.

Pederson’s hiring comes after Urban Meyer was fired with cause during the 2021 season with the team sporting a 2 – 11 record at the time of his firing.

Meyer brought unwanted negative attention to himself and his team with some of his off the field shenanigans. These actions coupled with lack of respect from his players, treating his assistants and other team employees badly plus poor on the field performance led to owner Shahid Khan showing the Golden Boy of College the door. The firing ended his first and probably his last professional coaching job.

The Jaguars have had a total of six head coaches in the 27-year history of the team. The men whom have been at the helm of the ship in chronological order are Tom Coughlin, Jack Del Rio, Mike Mularkey, Gus Bradley, Doug Marrone and Urban Meyer.

Coughlin was the first and by far the most successful hire for the organization. He had almost complete control of team operations even though he never wore the title General Manager. He commandeered the most successful expansion team in league history.

Jacksonville entered the playoffs with a win in the last game of the season and made it all the way to the AFC Championship Game in only its second year of existence.

Coach Coughlin was fired after a 6 – 10 finish in 2002. He finished his career in Duval with a 68 – 60 regular season record and a 4 – 4 slate in the playoffs. After leaving the Jaguars he went on to coach the New York Giants for 12 years securing 2 Super Bowl victories along the way.

Nineteen seasons and five head coaches later the Jaguars have not been able to equal Coughlin’s four trips to the playoffs. Del Rio with 2 and Marrone with 1 represents all the playoff appearances since their initial success.

Quickly achieved success is not foreign to the fifty-four-year-old Pederson. He led the Eagles to a Super Bowl Title in his second season as leader of that squad.

Coach Pederson spent 13 years in the NFL as a backup quarterback although he did make some starts for the Eagles and Browns during his playing career. He won a Super Bowl ring with the Brett Favre led Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl XXXI.

The victory with the Eagles as a Head Coach puts him in the category of only four people to win the ultimate prize as a player and Head Coach.

The new head honcho for Jacksonville and his extensive NFL background is the polar opposite of the College background of Meyer.

Pederson comes to the Jaguars touted as a creative minded offensive play caller. Andy Reid served as mentor to the new Jag leader while he was his assistant at Philadelphia and when he served as his offensive coordinator at Kansas City.

Reid is known as an offensive whiz and Pederson displayed some of those traits while at Philadelphia. The signature play of his team’s Super Bowl victory was run on fourth and goal minutes before halftime. The trick play became known as the Philly Special and will forever be associated with the win.

It remains to be seen if the Jaguars new leader will be able to quickly turn the franchise around like he did the Eagles. I am absolutely certain that they are in better hands than they were heading into the 2021 season.

Who knows? Maybe winning is in the future for the River City gang and the Black, Teal and Gold will become something special to watch.

 

Needy NFC South

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The 2022 draft starts April 28th in Paradise, Nevada. I’m going to take a look at the NFC South and see who each team will draft in the first round.

#6 Carolina: The Panthers (5 – 12) have several positions they need to address. Quarterback is the biggest glaring weakness. They did trade for Sam Darnold last April. He started the season well but suffered fractured scapula during the game against New England and he missed seven games.

Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett would be a good pick if he’s still available. He had a breakout senior season, throwing for 4,319 yards, 42 touchdowns, 7 interceptions while completing 67% of his passes.

If they don’t get him NC State tackle Ikem Ekwonu would also be a good pick. He’s a very good run blocker but he still needs to get better in pass protection.

#8 Atlanta: The Falcons (7 – 10) announced they have no plans to move on from Matt Ryan. The number one receiver Calvin Ridley only played in five games before missing the rest of the season. Surprisingly, it was not due to injury but to deal with personal issues. Atlanta also needs to improve on the offensive and defensive lines.

Oregon defensive end Kayvon Thibodeux would be a great fit. The Falcons have struggled with getting pressure on the quarterback for a few seasons and he can change that. He had 7 sacks and 2 forced fumbles last season.

Ohio State wide receiver Garrett Wilson could also fill a void if Ridley is traded. He had 70 catches for the Buckeyes with 1,058 yards and 12 scores.

#18 New Orleans: The Saints (9 – 8) had several injuries last season and started a few quarterbacks. They still wound up over .500. Sean Payton has resigned as head coach and defensive coordinator Dennis Allen has replaced him.

Drew Brees retired after the 2020 season and Jameis Winston was supposed to replace him. He suffered a season ending injury so we do not know if they will resign him or move in a different direction. Star receiver Michael Thomas also missed all of last season.

If they pick a quarterback Matt Corral from Ole Miss will get selected.  He passed for 3,349 yards, 20 touchdowns, 5 picks and completed 68% of his passes. On paper he’s good but he struggles in big games.

Wide receiver Chris Olave from Ohio State could also be an option. He caught 63 passes for 936 yards and 13 TD’s.

#27 Tampa Bay: The Bucs (13 – 4) had a great season. They lost to the Rams in the divisional round of the playoffs. Tom Brady has retired after the season. I believe they will try to get a veteran QB to replace him as a free agent.  They could also lose Chris Godwin in free agency.

Boise State WR Khalil Shkir would be a good replacement. He primarily played in the slot last season. He only had 22% of his snaps were out wide in 2021. He caught 77 passes for 1,117 yards and 7 touchdowns.

Texas A&M offensive lineman Kenyon Green could also be an option. He is versatile and could play guard or right tackle. He has more than 35 starts in his three-year career so he has a lot of experience.

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