Against their Pac-12 competition, Utah is crushing offenses. In their last four games, Utah’s defense was exceptional:
Washington State – 13 points
Oregon State – 7 points
Arizona State – 3 points
Cal – 0 points
Utah’s defense is destructive, powerful and suffocates opposing offenses. The UW football program will be tested.
An Offense to Match
Somehow, the Utah Utes have a fantastic offense as well. Impressively, they’ve scored at least 30 points in six of their eight games. Tyler Huntley’s 10-to-1 touchdown-to-interception rate perfectly complements Utah’s dominant defense.
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Additionally, Zack Moss is the perfect game-closing running back. His 6.6 yards-per-carry (on 728 total yards) and 10 touchdowns display this. Moss is the second-best running back in the Pac-12 and Utah’s offense is lucky to have him.
How UW Football can Reign
As noted above, Utah has a dominant defense that destroys its opponents. Moreover, they have an offense that routinely scores at least 30 points. The Huskies have to bring their A-game in order to get a victory.
Convert Third and Fourth Downs
Currently, the UW football team ranks 106th in third-down success rate. Against Oregon, this was detrimental. They converted just 3 of 13 third downs. Oregon came back from a 14-point deficit to win. If Chris Peterson wants a UW football win, he needs to create opportunities for success. Third-down play-calling may seem the most important. But, it’s the calls on first and second down that ultimately put a team in third-down success.
On top of that, the Huskies need to continue their fourth-down bravery. Last week, against Oregon, their fourth-down conversions were key to offensive success. Even though the last one didn’t work out, Washington needs to keep going for it (process-over-results).
Continue to Play Young Wide Receivers
As easy as it is to play the seniors, UW football’s been better with young players. Playing the young, talented wide receivers like Puka Nacua is a big component of success. In order to win, Chris Peterson needs to prioritize talent over age.
Last week, Jacob Eason and company displayed offensive effectiveness against a stout Oregon team. They broke Oregon’s elite defense. Granted, they didn’t win the game, but they still showed life. Eason needs to lead this team to another offensive performance. Utah’s dominant line won’t give any room to Washington’s running backs. So, it’s ultimately up to Jacob Eason to step up.
Heartbreak. At half, the Washington Huskies led the Oregon Ducks 21-14. Then, Jacob Eason and the UW offense marched down the field to open the third quarter. They were up 28-14 against a formidable Oregon football team. The Huskies were at home, up by two touchdowns and playing well.
Honestly, it was incredible, considering how strong the Oregon Ducks’ defense is. In their previous five games, Oregon held its opponents to a combined 25 points. Washington had it.
But, tragically, Oregon came back from a 14-point deficit and defeated the Huskies 35-31. Heartbreak and tragedy aside, here are the big takeaways from the loss.
Any Hope of a Huskies 2019 Pac-12 Title is Lost
Any chance the Huskies had of a Pac-12 title in 2019 is now gone. Against the Oregon Ducks, they needed to win. It was their only hope. And while they, for the most part, followed the keys to winning against Oregon, they lost. And with that loss, Washington lost their Pac-12 title berth.
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Jacob Eason and the Huskies Offense Finally Showed Up Against Competition
As most Huskies football fans will lament, Jacob Eason’s 2019 play is up and down. Against quality defenses, the offense collapsed. But somehow, against a stout Oregon Ducks defense, Eason and company rolled. Even with top-prospect Justin Herbert on the field, Eason was the better quarterback of the night. 23 of 30, 289 yards, 3 touchdowns and exceptional play against an incredible defense.
Against an Oregon Ducks team that only allowed 25 points in five games, the Huskies racked up 414 yards, 20 first downs, and 31 points. Although they failed in some areas, it was a bright game for Eason and the Huskies offense.
Young Talent Emerges Again
Surprisingly, this was without Sean McGrew, Richard Newton and Aaron Fuller. Even without some of their regular contributors, Washington made due and baffled Oregon with 31 points.
Without McGrew, Newton, and Fuller, the Huskies got to see some of their younger playmakers get involved. Alongside senior standout Hunter Bryant, Washington’s most utilized receivers were:
Puka Nacua – Freshman – Wide Receiver
Terrell Bynum – Sophomore – Wide Receiver
Cade Otton – Sophomore – Tight End
The Huskies Went for it
Finally, Chris Peterson and the Huskies attempted multiple fourth-down conversions. Ignoring the final play of the game, the Huskies two earlier fourth downs were critical. Deciding to attempt fourth downs, rather than punt or kick, gave the Huskies an offensive advantage. They were good calls and it was nice to finally see a coach confident in his offense.
Now, back to that last fourth down. Obviously, as Huskies fans will attest, the fourth down was controversial. Was it pass interference?
Yes, it was obvious pass interference. To anyone that actually knows football, it was an easy flag. With the correct call made, the Huskies drive would continue. However, they still had a quarter of the field to go and the win wasn’t guaranteed.
Third Down Efficiency Killed the Huskies
But, as with many games, there were plenty of opportunities for the Huskies to win it earlier. On third down, the Huskies were atrocious. Just awful. They went 3 for 13. The play-calling on third down needs to improve.
While Eason isn’t perfect and does miss occasional reads and throws, he is an excellent quarterback. Great offensive play-callers optimize their talent. Unlock Eason with better schemes, routes and talent configuration. With more open looks and crafty play-calling, the Huskies win this game. This loss isn’t on Eason.
Growing Pains and Bowl Games
To say this season is a letdown for Huskies football fans is to say the least. They expected a Pac-12 Title game, another Rose Bowl and a possible College Football Playoff berth. However, with the losses to staggeringly different levels of talent, Washington’s high hopes are gone.
Still, there is good for the Huskies. They are only one win out of bowl eligibility. Will they get a Rose Bowl again? Not a chance. But at least they can end up in the Alamo Bowl, Holiday Bowl or Redbox Bowl. And, if Jacob Eason decides to come back in 2020, he’ll be the best quarterback in the Pac-12. Hands down.
Pac-12 Football had big offensive performances, with three teams (Oregon, Washington, Utah) scoring over 45 points. Multiple receivers and running backs found the pay-dirt multiple times. These top-athletes displayed powerful running, big-play ability, and creativity to make the Pac-12 Football’s Best Offensive Performances list.
While many Pac-12 football players had big games, Unafraidshow only has room for one at each position.
Best Offensive Performances from Pac-12 Football Week 7: Quarterback
Jayden Daniels – Arizona State
Though he’s a freshman, Jayden Daniels is ballin. He led the Sun Devils to a big win against the Cougars. He threw for three touchdowns, zero interceptions and showed off his mobility.
On Arizona State’s final drive, Daniels was poised as a senior. He executed play after play. Then, in a moment of brilliance and creativity, Daniels kept the ball and ran it in himself. It’s not every day Pac-12 football fans get to witness a freshman do this. Especially a freshman from the west coast. From San Bernardino to glory, it’s good to watch Jayden Daniels rise.
Zack Moss – Utah
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On just five carries, Zack Moss ran for 121 yards and 2 touchdowns. Yes, only five carries. Moss continues to be an underutilized, efficient runner. His five carries yielded yards of:
91 yard touchdown
6 yard touchdown
Moss didn’t even play in the second half. Why? Because the Utes didn’t need him any more. Although in a limited role, Zack Moss showed why he is in the conversation with Eno Benjamin for Pac-12 football’s best back. Moss is powerful and can take any carry to the house.
Brandon Aiyuk – Arizona State
There’s fast. And then there’s Brandon Aiyuk fast. As pointed out by Dane Brugler of The Athletic, Aiyuk’s route speed makes him an “underrated NFL prospect” in the 2020 class. With his acceleration and long-speed, Aiyuk torched the Cougars secondary. After a performance like this, Aiyuk’s rank among Pac-12 football receivers surges.
Against WSU, Aiyuk made the most of each target from Jayden Daniels. With 8 targets, he secured 7 receptions for 196 yards and 3 touchdowns. On those, he sped past the Cougars for touchdowns of 40, 86 and 36 yards. It was impressive!
Jacob Breeland – Oregon
It is nigh-impossible to remove Jacob Breeland from any best Pac-12 football list. He is just too good at football. Breeland is reliable and can turn any reception into a big play. On the season, Breeland leads NCAA tight ends in receptions-per-game and touchdowns-per-game.
He’s a large target with speed and route-running skills. Like many first and second-round tight ends before him, he’s a matchup nightmare. It’s why Breeland is on scout’s lists as a potential second-round NFL pick in the 2020 draft.
However, after catching a 22-yards reception, Breeland suffered an injury that forced him from the rest of the contest. Mario Cristobal said that his leg injury is serious and will cause him to miss the rest of the season. If healthy, Breeland will get drafted on Day 1 or Day 2 of the 2020 NFL Draft.
Disagree with the Unafraidshow’s Best Pac-12 football players?
If you disagree with this list, send in your own recommendations. Each week, Unafraidshow will rank the best quarterback, running back, wide receiver and tight end performances from Pac-12 football. Be sure to comment, tweet Unafraidshow, or email us firstname.lastname@example.org with your favorite moments of each Pac-12 football week.
The UW football team just lost to a second-string quarterback who didn’t even complete the game. Davis Mills left during the third quarter and Jack West played the rest of the game… without throwing a single pass.
Against Stanford, the UW football team was lackluster and disastrous. They were outgained 482-294 yards and beat 13-23 even though they were 17-point favorites. With another unexpected loss, the Huskies lost their chance for college football playoffs and likely any chance at a Pac-12 title.
1-2 in Conference Games
In Pac-12 football games, the UW football team is not meeting expectations. Against Cal, at least they lost to a team that beat North Texas and Mississippi in the following weeks. There was also a lightning weather-delay. If the Huskies kept winning, the ranking system could brush the Cal loss away.
But come on. A loss to Stanford. Really? This was a Stanford team that had a losing record, lost its starting quarterback and was playing three freshmen on the offensive line. It was an inexcusable loss. Their conference game record is a reflection of a defense that lacks turnovers and an offense without creativity.
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Jacob Eason in three non-conference games:
77.5-percent completion percentage
901 passing yards
Jacob Eason in three conference games
54.3-percent completion percentage
548 passing yards
Is UW football’s conference record all Jacob Eason’s fault. No. Yes, he certainly has made mistakes and lacks consistency. However, his receivers, offensive system and personnel groupings aren’t doing him any favors. Against Stanford, Eason targeted Aaron Fuller 17 times for 9 receptions and 171 yards. On his other 19 targets, his receivers totaled just 7 receptions for 35 yards. With the pressure the Husky offensive line let through, Eason needed playmakers. But his receivers either couldn’t get open or dropped big-time throws.
On the year, Fuller and Hunter Bryant are the most consistent receiving threats for Washington. In 2019, the Huskies just four receivers with 10 or more receptions. The targets are heavily consolidated. But worse, Andre Baccellia totals just 6 receptions for 41 yards and zero touchdowns. He’s the wideout opposite of Fuller and lacks Pac-12 production. Yet, the coaches are still putting him out there as a starter. Either he isn’t getting open, drops passes, or he doesn’t have chemistry with Eason. Bottom line, he needs to step up or step off the field.
If the UW football team wants to have more offensive success, they need to start experimenting with different receivers and play calls that will give Eason open looks.
Washington Huskies vs Arizona
Now, the Dawgs face off against an Arizona football team on a four-game win streak. After their loss to Hawaii, they beat Northern Arizona, Texas Tech, UCLA and Colorado. Yes, the Huskies are 9.5 favorites to win the game, but they were 17 point favorites against Stanford. Everyone saw where that got them. Arizona is a good team on a streak. They put up 35 points against Colorado last week. In comparison, UW’s highest point-total against Pac-12 competition this season in 28 points (against USC). This game is going to be tougher than expected and UW football fans might witness a three-game losing streak.
Chris Peterson and the UW football program need to figure out a better system, offensively and defensively. Whatever it is they’re doing right now is not working.
Another great NFL week is over. Week 3 is in the books and there are plenty of excellent Pac-12 NFL performances. Here are the best, broken down by college.
Reggie Gilbert – Tennessee Titans
Finally! We can take Will Parks off this list. Granted, it’s still a stretch to name Reggie Gilbert a top performer. He only got eight defensive snaps in Week 3. But, the Arizona list of Pac-12 NFL players is quite small.
It’s important to put his eight snaps in context. This was Gilbert’s first active game for the Titans. Also, in just 8 snaps, Gilbert managed to make two solo tackles. Not a bad debut.
Lawrence Guy – New England Patriots
Everyone saw it coming, but the New England Patriots still put in a solid performance against the New York Jets. Part of that win was Lawrence Guy. Guy continued to block the gaps, make tackles and take on double teams. He made Le’Veon Bell bounce the ball outside and didn’t let the offensive line get any push.
Keenan Allen – Los Angeles Chargers
Against the Houston Texans, Keenan Allen had himself a game!
183 Receiving Yards
Allen did everything possible to secure a win for his team. And even though the LA Chargers los the game, Allen had the best performance of his career. 183 yards was also a career best. The Cal product shed his injury-tag last season and continue to be one of the best Pac-12 NFL players.
Ahkello Witherspoon – San Francisco 49ers
Yet again, Ahkello Witherspoon kept doing his thing. He made it quite difficult for Mason Crosby.
Unfortunately for fans of the 49ers or defense, Ahkello Witherspoon is likely to miss a month. That’s a massive hit for the 49ers. Through three games, Witherspoon only allowed 13 targets, 5 receptions and 57 yards. His Passer Rating Allowed is only 32.9 (No. 5). Most of all, his plus-114.2 Coverage Rating is the league-best.
Witherspoon is the most important piece of the 49ers defense (or team) right now. Missing him is a big deal.
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DeForest Buckner – San Francisco 49ers
While his teammate and fellow Oregon-alum Arik Armstead was a top Pac-12 NFL player last week, DeForest Buckner got the glory in Week 4. He made defensive play after defensive play in a tight win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Buckner led his team with 8 tackles and also added a quarterback hit, a forced fumble and a clutch fumble recovery.
Against the Cincinnati Bengals, he racked up 11 tackles, 1 forced fumble and 1 fumble recovery. It was an unbelievable game for him. Poyer is a big reason why the Bills continue to win.
Christian McCaffrey – Carolina Panthers
153 Rushing Yards
1 Rushing Touchdown
35 Receiving Yards
Stanford fans! Look away from the college games and pay attention to Christian McCaffrey instead. His elite, NFL career continues to shine a bright spotlight on the Stanford name. Ignore the Stanford program freefall and watch the rise of Christian McCaffrey. He’s one of the greatest Pac-12 NFL players to step onto the field.
Kenny Clark – Green Bay Packers
Let’s keep Kenny Clark on the list. He’s one of the better Pac-12 NFL players and the best nose-tackle to come out of the Pac-12 in years. Against NFL centers, he continues to be a mismatch.
Clark is too strong and continues to overpower offensive linemen. Interior pressure is a huge advantage in NFL games. Clark brings that.
Tyron Smith – Dallas Cowboys
This will be obvious. But, the Dallas Cowboys obliterated the Miami Dolphins. The tanking Dolphins were no match for the Cowboys. Nonetheless, Tyron Smith showed well and displayed why he’s an NFL great.
Against Miami, the Cowboys racked up 235 rushing yards on 34 carries. It was a piece of cake for the stellar offensive line. Leading the way, as usual, was Tyron Smith. It’s been another good year for him. On 206 snaps this season, he’s allowed zero sacks and only has one penalty.
Marcus Williams – New Orleans Saints
Not only is Marcus Williams getting his second spot on Unafraidshow’s Best Pac-12 NFL Players list, but he was the Saints best defender in Week 3. On 83 defensive snaps. Wow. Marcus Williams glued himself to the field and helped the New Orleans Saints beat the Seattle Seahawks. Even though they had Teddy Bridgewater as their quarterback, the Saints made too many plays.
In the secondary, Williams continues to cover well and make tackles. It’s turning out to be a career year for Williams and he’s making a name for himself.
Vita Vea – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Although the Giants ultimately won the game, due to Daniel Jones’ heroics, Vita Vea played well. On just 65% of defensive snaps, he consistently gave the Giants offensive line trouble. In addition to accidentally stepping on Daniel Jones’ helmet, he totaled two quarterback hits.
After getting hit twice from the 350-pound Vea, Jones must be feeling it.
Washington State University
Gardner Minshew – Jacksonville Jaguars
If you haven’t already fallen in love with Gardner Minshew, better start now. Minshew must be in all Pac-12 hearts.
Against Tennessee in Week 3, Minshew put in a stellar game for his first NFL win. Buy in now to the Minshew hype because he’s going to be one of the great Pac-12 NFL players from WSU.
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Just two weeks ago, after a heartbreaking loss to Cal, everyone, Unafraidshow included, thought that UW football was out. In that loss, Washington was reluctant to score touchdowns and ultimately failed offensively. In a tight race for College Football Playoffs, in-conference losses like that make or break a season.
However, somehow, UW football is still in the mix. They are the No. 17 team in the nation, third to California (No. 15) and Oregon (No. 13). Even with the loss to Cal, Washington is showing signs that they can fight for the Pac-12 North.
The Washington Huskies Offense is Rolling
UW’s Jacob Eason
“I mean, he’s an NFL quarterback.”
“He’s got the size, the arm, and everything. When he’s dialed in on the plays and his reads and things like that, he’s one of the greats.”
In a dominant win, Jacob Eason dismantled through the air. He was precise, making tight-window after tight-window throw. In the first half, Eason had a streak of 13-consecutive completions. Additionally, Eason displayed a big arm and a knack for making big plays out of nothing.
Efficiently, Eason finished 24 of 28 with 290 passing yards, 3 touchdowns, and 1 interception. He continues to impress scouts, fans and the Pac-12 alike.
The Rest of the UW Football Offense
Aside from the Huskies loss to Cal, Eason and the UW offense looks incredible. The two-headed rush attack of Sean McGrew and Richard Newton is consistent and powerful. But, the receivers are making the big difference. Aaron Fuller is making big plays, both in the receiving game and on special teams.
Adding to Fuller’s playmaking are seniors Andre Baccellia and Hunter Bryant. While Baccellia is certainly having a solid start of the season, Hunter Bryant continues to be the most difficult man to cover. Bryant is too big, too strong for a defensive back. But, he’s also too fast and shifty for a linebacker to try and cover him. He’s looking more and more like a first or second-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
If the offense continues to make big plays, UW football will be the one to beat.
Strength of Schedule
In the Pac-12 North, UW football is competing with Oregon and Cal for the top spot. After reviewing their rest of season schedules, there are some intriguing findings.
AP Ranked Opponents:
Cal: 3 (Oregon, USC, Utah)
Oregon: 3 (Cal, USC, Washington)
UW: 3 (Oregon, USC, Utah)
Cal & Oregon Share 4 Opponents
Oregon & UW Share 5 Opponents
Cal & UW Share 6 opponents
Rest of Season Competitors Record
First, it should be noted that anything can happen in the Pac-12. If this season has proven anything, it’s that the Pac-12 is full of cannibals. No team is safe in-conference.
Second, it’s important to note that UW football and Cal have much easier schedules than Oregon. But, the overall record (4-0) and strength of schedule still side with Cal.
UW Football and Cal have the edge over Oregon
Last, Oregon has to play both Washington and Cal. In order to get a top spot, Oregon has to make it past both of them. That’s going to be quite difficult based off of recent play. The overall edge still goes to Cal in their schedule. But, UW football fans can take solace in the similarities between Cal and UW’s rest of season. If Cal slips, UW can leap them.
There were some incredible performances from the NFL in Week 2. While some colleges like Cal had a multitude of options for this Best Pac-12 NFL Players list, others like Arizona barely had one. Which alumni from your college had the best Week 2? Check out the list below!
Will Parks – Denver Broncos
While Will Parks isn’t great, he’s not bad either. Parks was on the field for 82-percent of defensive snaps for the Broncos. No, he didn’t record any counting stats. But, as a strong safety, he doesn’t have to record stats to have a positive impact. Denver held Chicago to just 16 points. More importantly, they held Mitchell Trubisky to 120 yards. It was a good game for the Denver defense. So, it also was a good day for Parks.
All in all, Will Parks is a good NFL player and gets consistent snaps for the Broncos. That’s more than the rest of the Arizona alumni can say. Yes, he was on this list last week. But until someone else from Arizona can step up, Parks will remain on the Best Pac-12 NFL Players list.
Vontaze Burfict – Oakland Raiders
Even though the Oakland Raiders lost to the Kansas City Chiefs 28-10, the defense actually played well. They held Mahomes and company scoreless three out of four quarters. Against KC, Vontaze Burfict played 97-percent of defensive snaps. Win, lose or tie, he was out there for the Raiders. Burfict is a consistent, albeit dirty, NFL player. The linebacker racked up 4 tackles and a pass defense, in addition to being sent after Mahomes. No, they didn’t win and no he didn’t get any sacks or turnovers. But, it was still a good game for Burfict in his new home and why Burfict is one of the best Pac-12 NFL players this year.
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Cameron Jordan – New Orleans Saints
Against the formidable Los Angeles Rams, Cameron Jordan returned a fumble 80 yards for a touchdown. Then, the refs blew it. Saints fans died a little more this week. Not only did they see their third straight game with officiating blunders. This time also came amidst a Drew Brees injury. It’s a bad time to be a Saints fan.
Nonetheless, Cameron Jordan is still a force to be reckoned with. His career makes a case for him to not only be one of the best Pac-12 NFL players this week, but all time. Even without the touchdown, Jordan accounted for:
1 Tackle for a Loss
2 QB Hits
1 Fumble Recovery
This was also his second game straight with at least 5 tackles, 1 tackle for a loss, 2 QB hits and 1 sack. He is unstoppable right now. Well, unless the refs get in his way.
Ahkello Witherspoon – San Francisco 49ers
Yet again, Witherspoon highlights Colorado with exceptional defense. However, it wasn’t all pretty.
While he didn’t get the pick-6 in this game, he still made up for it with impressive play. Witherspoon totaled 5 tackles and 2 passes defended. But, his overall quarterback rating when targeted speaks volumes on his play. Ahkello was one of the best Pac-12 NFL players of any school in Weeks 1 and 2 of the NFL season.
With play like this, Witherspoon is making a case to earn a big paycheck. The 49ers desperately needed playmakers on defense the past few seasons and it seems Ahkello Witherspoon is stepping up weekly.
Arik Armstead – San Francisco 49ers
In another dominant, defensive win, Arik Armstead helped the 49ers cruise past the Cincinnati Bengals. In their win, Armstead played 43 defensive snaps. During that time, he was able to make 3 tackles, 2 tackles for a loss, 1 QB hit and 1 sack. He constantly frustrated the Bengals. The 49ers have a plethora of defensive linemen to create pressure (a lot of them that could become some of the best Pac-12 NFL players). And it looks like Arik Armstead is taking advantage of his situation.
Jordan Poyer – Buffalo Bills
In Week 2, the Buffalo Bills comfortably beat the New York Giants 28-14. They held Eli Manning to 250 yards on 45 attempts. He tried his best to beat them through the air, but threw more interceptions than touchdowns. One of which went to Jordan Poyer.
In their win, Jordan Poyer had 2 tackles, 1 interception and defended 1 pass. He’s had an excellent season so far. In 2019, Poyer is credited for 8 solo tackles, 1 interception, 1 sack and has only been targeted once. On top of that, the target didn’t succeed. So, he hasn’t even allowed a reception. It makes sense why his current PFF grade is 84.4. Jordan Poyer is the best Pac-12 NFL player on the Bills.
Harrison Phillips – Buffalo Bills
Harrison Phillips was an excellent interior defender against the New York Giants. He made plays on both Eli Manning and Saquon Barkely. Against Manning, Phillips finally got his first sack. Well, half sack. But still, that’s a big thing for an interior defender who’s job is to make defensive stops.
Against Barkely and the Giants run game, Phillips did what he does best: didn’t allow push and made defensive stops. But, as said above, Phillips also recorded 1 QB hit, 0.5 sacks and 2 passes defended It was quite the game for the big guy up front.
Kenny Clark – Green Bay Packers
Man. Kenny Clark had a game. He looked like an All-Pro against the Vikings. Clark consistently created havoc and pressured Kirk Cousins.
Keep in mind that Kenny Clark is a nose tackle. A nose tackle that pressured, frustrated and sacked the opposing quarterback. In their win, Clark hit Cousins twice, sacked him once and forced a fumble. He was a large part of their divisional win.
Nelson Agholor – Philadelphia Eagles
On Sunday night, the Philadelphia Eagles lost DeSean Jackson, Alshon Jeffrey and Dallas Goedert to injuries. Other players had to step up and fill the offensive void. That player was Nelson Agholor. Granted, it wasn’t a perfect night for Agholor.
But, other than the drops, Agholor played well. On 11 targets, he had 8 receptions for 107 yards and 1 touchdown. Of note are his two biggest plays. The first, and his only touchdown of the game, came on fourth and goal. His hands worked there.
The other, more impressive play, came on the same drive as his big drop seen earlier. Just look at this catch. On 4th and 14!
When the Eagles needed playmakers, Agholor made himself available.
Eric Weddle – Los Angeles Rams
This just in. Eric Weddle can still lay a hit. He layed the hit on Jared Cook in their Week 2 matchup, causing Cook to lose the ball and the Rams to intercept it. Keep in mind that this is just one week after Weddle took a knee from Christian McCaffrey and bled all over.
He’s an experienced veteran and is still willing to lay his body on the line. Against the Saints, he played well and helped stifle the non-Brees offense. This season, he has a 79.3 PFF grade, 12 tackles and a pass defended in 2019. If he manages to stay healthy with the hits he’s taking/giving, the Rams have a menace in the secondary.
Will Dissly – Seattle Seahawks
Will Dissly had himself a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. 5 Targets
2 First Downs
1 Embarrassing Pancake Block on Devin Bush
Against Pittsburgh, Russell Wilson trusted Dissly to make big plays. It was Dissly’s best game in his short NFL career. Aside from his first two weeks in 2018, Will Dissly has either gone unnoticed or was injured. Perhaps this is his year to connect with Wilson in a sans-Baldwin offense.
Joe Dahl – Detroit Lions
For a Detroit Lions team that is constantly rotating their offensive lineman, Joe Dahl is playing well. On 117 snaps at guard, he hasn’t allowed a sack and holds a 71.6 PFF grade. He isn’t dominant yet, but he’s made a significant jump in performance from 2018 to 2019. The Lions need to keep him in more regularly and commit to offensive line continuity.
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Although he’s a few years removed from his Cinderella story Super Bowl run, Nick Foles is still a good quarterback. Though his play oscillates dramatically at times, he still has a ceiling fit for a championship ring. At the top of his game, he is up there with the elite quarterbacks.
With a solid defense around him in Jacksonville, Foles doesn’t have to revert back to his old Rams days. Instead, he can manage the game and come up with big plays when it’s clutch time. Foles has played well in playoffs in recent years. The Jaguars haven’t. That’s why they need Foles and its why he made our best Pac-12 NFL players list.
Obviously a Super Bowl Ring helps illuminate players like Lawrence Guy. Nonetheless, his 2018 play is deserves a highlight. Guy made 30 defensive stops against the run last season. His run-stopping ability helped hold the Los Angeles Rams to just 62 yards rushing.
But, he’s more than just a run-stopping big man. Guy was one of 11 interior defenders with 30-plus run stops and 20-plus pressures. In fact, he racked up four quarterback hurries in the Super Bowl, disrupting Jared Goff again and again. When an Arizona State player comes up big in the Super Bowl, he lands himself square on the best Pac-12 NFL players list. No, Guy isn’t going to flash and dazzle like Aaron Donald, Von Miller or Fletcher Cox. But, as an interior defender, he’s brilliant and sound. It’s no wonder he posted an elite PFF grade of 91.1.
Shocking as it may be, Cameron Jordan takes this spot from Aaron Rodgers. While many can argue against this, Jordan is currently performing better. Honestly, Cameron Jordan could be one of the best Pac-12 NFL players of all time when he’s done. First off, Jordan is extremely consistent. In his nine seasons in the NFL, he’s played every game. Get that. 128 straight games. He’s a machine.
Moreover, in those seasons he’s been a steady source of disruption. He’s totaled 409 tackles (98 for a loss), 143 quarterback hits, 71.5 sacks, 10 forced fumbles and 9 fumble recoveries. In his last three seasons, he’s earned a PFF grade of 90.0-plus. For that reason, PFF ranked him 16th on their 2018 Top 101 and 16th in for their 2019 rankings. Additionally, Cameron Jordan is a top-5 edge in run-defense and pass-rushing ability. His 66 pressures in 2018 show that he continues to be a nightmare for quarterbacks. He’s reliable, well-rounded and elite. Offenses beware.
Other than Aaron Rodgers, the next best player on the Green Bay Packers in David Bakhtiari. Bakhtiari is a staple of consistent, elite, pass protection. And in Green Bay, pass protection is gold.
In three straight seasons, Bakhtiari leads all offensive tackles in PFF’s pass-blocking grade. He’s earned pass-blocking grades of 93.0-plus in 2016, 2017 and 2018. He’s not only one of the best Pac-12 NFL players, he’s one of the best in the whole league. Per PFF, he is their highest-ranked offensive lineman for the 2019 PFF50. In 691 pass-blocking snaps in 2018, Bakhtiari only allowed 25 pressures. Of those, 18 were hurries, 3 were hits and only 4 were sacks. He protects his quarterback.
At 6-foot-7, 291lbs with 84th-percentile arm length, DeForest Buckner is a large man. Combing that with a 112.4 (84th-percentile) Burst Score and an 11.98 (77th-percentile) Agility Score, Buckner is a difficult defended to stop. The defensive lineman performed quite well in back to back seasons. In 2018, Buckner totaled was tied for 14th in sacks and 10th in tackles for a loss. Also, Buckner added 53 pressures, 37 defensive stops and even 3 passes defended. Most of all, Buckner did all of this on a 4-12 San Francisco 49ers team. In 2019, he’ll hopefully have more opportunities to win.
2019 should be a big year for Buckner and he can set himself apart from even the best Pac-12 NFL players. While not elite just yet, he’s entering his fourth season and has steadily risen. With Nick Bosa joining the pressure, Buckner has the chance to face easier blocking and schemes for his production. With more favorable opportunities, Buckner should wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks this season.
Each of the last four seasons, on three separate teams, Brandin Cooks topped 1,000 receiving yards and 6 touchdowns. He’s a remarkable talent, gifted with raw athleticism. Athletically, Cooks is known best for his blazing 4.33 (99th-percentile) 40-Yard Dash speed and equally impressive 10.57 (99th-percentile) Agility Score. His raw speed and agility made him one of the best Pac-12 NFL players in the 2014 NFL draft. But more than that, Cooks has ball skills. Even in the deep quadrants of the football field, he posted a 87-percent (No. 25) True Catch Rate. Imagine what his catch rate would be closer to the line of scrimmage.
But putting him closer isn’t optimal. Because no matter the opponent, Cooks is a threat to take the top of the defense. Because of this, he’s well-respected by opposing defenses. This allows his teammates to operate with greater success. Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp and Jared Goff owe a lot to Cooks and his powerful skill-set.
With the NFL evolving into a league that places more and more importance into pass-catching running backs, Christian McCaffrey emerged in 2018. He caught an otherwordly 107 passes for 867 yards, leading all backs in both categories. Additionally, he rushed for 1098 yards and tallied 13 total touchdowns. McCaffrey was electric in 2018.
Beyond the typical counting stats, McCaffrey had 57 Evaded Tackles, an 86.3-percent Catch Rate (No. 2), and only dropped 3 passes. His 2.4-percent Drop Rate was second-best for running backs in 2018. Also, per PFF, his receiving grade of 89.3 ranked first in the NFL of running backs with at least 60 targets. He makes his case to be on the best Pac-12 NFL players of all times list if he keeps this production. All in all, Christian McCaffrey is the most elite pass-catching back in the league and is primed to do so for years to come.
In year three, Kenny Clark broke out in a big way. He’s currently one of the best defensive interiors in the NFL. Clark earned the No. 43 spot on PFF’s 2018 Top 101 and spot 37 on the 2019 PFF50. As a sophomore and a junior in the NFL, Clark was an excellent rush defender. Clark’s 9.9 run-stop percentage ranked 16th-best in run-stop percentage at the position.
But, Clark’s pass-rushing growth is what made the biggest difference. Clark went from earning pass-rushing grades below 70 in his first two seasons to an amazing 88.8 in 2018. Clark ranked 11th in pass-rush win percentage and ninth in total pressure percentage. His year three proved he can win in all facets of the game and put himself square on our best Pac-12 NFL players list.
At just 22 years of age, JuJu Smith-Schuster battled (and arguably won) Antonio Brown for the top spot in the Pittsburg Steelers offense. His 22-year-old season included:
111 Receptions (5th for wide receivers)
1426 Receiving Yards (5th for wide receivers)
587 Yards After the Catch (1st for wide receivers)
7 Touchdowns (13th for wide receivers)
839 Air Yards (10th for wide receivers)
16 Redzone Receptions (2nd for wide receivers)
He’s so young. And abundantly talented. He’s already climbed above even the best Pac-12 NFL players. Smith-Schuster, now operating in an offense sans-Antonio Brown, now has his chance to truly shine as the number one. His elite career is just beginning.
Eric Weddle is entering his 13th year in the league. This veteran safety has been one of the best Pac-12 NFL players for a while. He’s 34-years-old, but that didn’t stop the Los Angeles Rams from signing him to a two-year, $10.5 million contract. Despite his age, Weddle continues to play at a high level.
Joining John Johnson, the Rams duo make for an elite safety tandem. The Rams secondary just got stingier. Though Weddle turned down larger offers from other teams, his eyes are set on the Super Bowl. Signing with the Rams is his best shot at that. Weddle is still a strong contributor and will add value to the Rams. Joining John Johnson, the Rams duo make for an elite safety tandem. The Rams secondary just got stingier.
Though Desmond Trufant is no Jaylen Ramsey, he’s certainly a good cornerback. Washington Huskies fans certainly remember why he’s one of the best Pac-12 NFL players around. Even with the Atlanta Falcons defense struggling last season, Trufant remained solid. He led his team with 12 passes defended and made a plethora of veteran plays. Moreover, Trufant was exceptional in deep coverage. Among 59 qualifying cornerbacks by PFF, Trufant ranked 9th in deep target coverage. On 12 targets 20-plus yards down the field, he allowed just 2 receptions. Of those 12 targets, he forced an incompletion on 25-percent of them. He made it difficult to go deep against him.
Overall, Trufant remains an above-average cornerback. He is one of three cornerbacks that have “allowed less than a yard per coverage snap for four consecutive seasons.” In his six seasons, he’s had a PFF grade above 70. No, he’s not elite. But he certainly is great.
For the Detroit Lions, Joe Dahl gets his shots with versatility and availability. A converted left-tackle, Dahl played both guard spots, center and even fullback for the Lions. An injury here or there, and Dahl would slide into the five-man O-line. Yes, it’s surprising for a spot-starting lineman to make it on the best Pac-12 NFL players list. But, he’s played well in his starts and has a promising future.
While Dahl hasn’t impressed enough to be a consistent starter yet, this year is his shot.
“I think he’s really transformed his body over the last year,” Lions head coach Matt Patricia said on Thursday. “He just looks bigger and stronger. He moves better.”
Dahl is vying for the starting left guard position for the Lions. With Matt Patricia’s (projected) run-heavy scheme in 2019, Dahl’s guard position is incredibly important. The WSU product needs to build chemistry with the other offensive lineman and cement his place in the starting five.
An apple a day keeps the doctor away. In the state of Washington, the UW football and WSU football teams got off to hot starts, offenses clicking in blowout wins against Eastern Washington and New Mexico State. Overall, Washington and Washington State outscored their opponents 105-21. It was an excellent start to the season for Evergreen State Football fans and teams alike. With each game in the books, here are the big takeaways.
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Quarterbacks Jacob Eason and Anthony Gordon Set the Field Ablaze
Wow. Could it have played out any better for Eason and Gordon in their openers? Washington State Football quarterbacks are the best of the bunch (minus Justin Herbert obviously).
Eason, in his debut, set the record for the most passing yards in a UW football debut with 349 yards. His 4 touchdowns were also the most in a UW opener since Brock Huard in 1998. He led the Huskies to touchdowns on their first three drives and opened a 21-0 lead. As a former number one recruit, Eason lived up to the hype and put all the other Jake quarterbacks to shame.
Additionally, Eason displayed both arm-strength and touch. Though players and beat reporters talked up his arm strength over spring and summer, it was nice to see how it played out in a game. He made 50-plus yard throws look easy. And while his 50-yard touchdown to Andre Baccellia was impressive, it was not nearly as impressive as his incomplete pass to Aaron Fuller. After an awkward snap, Eason somehow managed to heave a 60-yard bomb to Fuller. Though it sailed over his intended receiver (possibly due to Fuller slowing down), it nonetheless displayed quick decision-making and natural arm-strength. All in all, Eason looked good.
Not to be outdone by his Puget Sound rival, Anthony Gordon made things look easy. In less than three quarters, Gordon lit up New Mexico State for 420 yards and 5 touchdowns. Yes, the Mike Leach Air Raid Offense makes the quarterback’s job easier, but not that easy. In fact, Gordon ended the first half with an insane line: 22 for 23, 330 yards and 4 touchdowns. Unbelievable.
In his impressive victory, Gordon completed passes to 9 different receivers and threw touchdowns to 4 different ones. He spread the ball around well. Gordon was decisive, precise, and carved through New Mexico State. He led the Cougars to a touchdown on each of their five, first half drives. Though he’s a redshirt senior without any Pac-12 experience prior to this game, he let his name be known. Anthony Gordon and Mike Leach made their case for the Pac-12’s best offense.
Other Offensive Highlights
UW Seniors Lead the Team in Receiving
Seniors Hunter Bryant (TE), Andre Baccellia (WR), Aaron Fuller (WR) and Chico McClatcher (WR) led the team in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. It was a senior day all the way. Each notched at least five receptions from Jacob Eason. It appears that Eason and coach Peterson are completely fine with riding the talent and experience of their senior playmakers in the pass game.
UW and WSU Have Breakout Running Backs
Richard Newton came out of nowhere. On his first collegiate touch, Newton took it 23 yards to the end zone. He continued his redshirt freshman debut and totaled 91 yards on 12 carries. At 6-foot, 210lbs, Newton was difficult to tackle and displayed excellent rushing instincts and power.
Max Borghi of WSU displayed efficiency and explosiveness. On just 10 carries, Borghi broke the century mark with 128 rushing yards. As many already know, Borghi showed an ability to catch passes last season. With his impressive opener as the leading rusher, Borghi looks to be the Pac-12’s leader in yards from scrimmage at the end of the season.
Will these Evergreen State Football running backs be the best in the Pac-12?
Defenses Bend, But Don’t Break with the New Guys
Though the scoreboard would deceive most, there was a lot that UW football and WSU football could have done better.
UW allowed 274 yards and two touchdowns. Additionally, they let the Eagles march down the field with 79 and 84 back-to-back drives. With that being said, Chris Peterson rotated in a variety of redshirt and true freshmen on defense. Cam Williams, Laiatu Latu, Alphonzo Tuputala, Trent McDuffie, Asa Turner, Jackson Sirmon, M.J. Tafisi, Tuli Letuligasenoa, Sam Taimani, Faatui Tuitele, Jacob Bandes, Noa Ngalu all got snaps. So obviously there is room for growth. Additionally, the Dawgs notched 4 sacks, 9 tackles for a loss, and 1 safety. They also allowed just 2.1 yards per carry to the Eagles. All in all, it was a promising day for Chris Peterson’s defense. It looks like Peterson has once again recruited and schemed a top defense for the Huskies.
WSU on the other hand, looked both shaky and solid. Yes, they held New Mexico State to just one touchdown. However, they gave up the touchdown just after Anthony Gordon marched WSU down the field. They let New Mexico tie the game 7-7 right away. Additionally the Cougars’ defense allowed nearly 200 yards in the first half. Their defensive line was pushed around more than the scoreboard showed. But, WSU did an excellent job making adjustments in the second half and continuing their dominance. Overall, WSU’s defensive line is the most suspect. They need to find quality players that can penetrate and make consistent, defensive stops.
The Rest of the Bunch
Apart from Utah, Washington and Washington State had the best weekends. It was a very good week for Evergreen State football fans. Unlike them, Oregon had a rough time. After leading by 15 in the third quarter, buckled to Auburn. They lost the biggest Pac-12 game of the week (and possibly the season). This extended the Pac-12’s losing streak to 10 against ranked, SEC opponents. As much as it helps Washington and Washington State in their Pac-12 rankings, Oregon’s loss hurts the Pac-12 conference overall.
Overall, the Pac-12 went 1-2 against Power Five teams, 5-2 against Group of Five (including independent BYU and New Mexico State) teams and 2-0 against FCS teams. Not inspiring. If the Pac-12 wants to be taken seriously as a conference, teams need to win every out of conference game. It obviously doesn’t help when Oregon collapses late to Auburn. But UCLA, Oregon State, USC and Cal looked like they kept last season’s issues. They were lackluster. Additionally, USC lost their quarterback to a knee injury. J.T. Daniels had to be carted off. Pac-12 teams needed to step up this season, and many teams aren’t.
As the dust settles from Week 1 of the Pac-12, Evergreen State Football appears primed for the top-spot. Stanford’s schedule is too difficult. USC has a difficult schedule, displayed poor play/judgement and lost their quarterback. Colorado needs a defense. Cal needs an offense. Oregon lost when it counted most.
It’s a year for the Evergreen State to claim the top spots. Though, Utah was impressive and Oregon could bounce back. If Oregon proves to be just shy of elite, Utah and WSU can each attempt to leap UW this season.