AFC South: Tony Gonzalez

NFLN survey/Super Bowl player: Colts

January, 22, 2014
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The third question in the series of NFL Nation confidential survey questions leading up to the Super Bowl is: Who's the player you'd most like to see in the Super Bowl?

Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson barely beat Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez in the confidential voting done by 10 players on all 32 teams in the league.

Peterson picked up 59 votes compared to Gonzalez's 56 votes. The two easily outdistanced Detroit's Calvin Johnson, who was third with 26 votes.

Peterson, one of the premier running backs in the league for years, has run for 10,115 yards and 86 touchdowns during his seven-year career. The closest he got to the Super Bowl was when the Vikings lost to the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Championship Game during the 2009 season. The Vikings had some player named Brett Favre quarterbacking them at the time.

Gonzalez, a first-ballot Hall of Famer, is the career leader in receptions (1,325), touchdowns (111) and yards (15,127) amongst tight ends.

But unlike Peterson, Gonzalez won't have an opportunity to play in a Super Bowl. Gonzalez is expected to retire after 17 years.
I have a feeling that if players could choose their own teammate, every one of the Houston Texans would have chosen Andre Johnson as the player they'd most like to see in the Super Bowl.

He's the longest-tenured Texans player, having been with the franchise since its second year, and has shared with his teammates the trials that have come with that.

But when we surveyed 320 players from around the league, they were told to choose one active non-teammate who has never played in the Super Bowl. Johnson still received 14 votes, ranking him fifth behind Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, Falcons retiring tight end Tony Gonzalez, Lions receiver Calvin Johnson, and Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, who received votes from 15 players who will be happy to see him there this season.

Peterson (59 votes) and Gonzalez (56) were close at the top.

You get one guess on the other Texans player to get votes.

Yup, four players chose defensive end J.J. Watt.
A large portion of the 320 players that participated in an NFL Nation confidential survey about which non-teammate they’d like to see play in a Super Bowl didn’t get their wish.

Three Jaguars players did, though.

Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson topped the survey with 59 votes, narrowly edging out Atlanta’s Tony Gonzalez (56 votes), who retired last month after 17 years in the NFL.

Obviously neither was able to make to the Super Bowl this year, but three of the players named by the 10 Jaguars players polled did: Denver’s Terrance Knighton and Demaryius Thomas and Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch. It’s not a surprise that someone named Knighton because he was the Jaguars’ third-round pick in 2009 and one of the most well-liked players in the locker room during his four seasons in Jacksonville.

The interesting thing about the Jaguars’ responses was that no player was named more than once. In addition to Knighton, Thomas and Lynch, seven other players were named: Jake Long, Brandon Carr, Julio Jones, Matt Ryan, Andrew Luck, Peterson and Michael Vick.

Marvin Harrison should make Hall of Fame

September, 12, 2013
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The Indianapolis Colts could, actually I take that back, should be represented at the Football Hall of Fame next summer.

Former coach Tony Dungy and receiver Marvin Harrison are part of the 16- first-year-eligible modern-era candidates. The election will take place Feb. 1, 2014.

Dungy and the Colts won the Super Bowl in 2006.

Harrison
Harrison
Harrison fell off the map after he and the Colts parted ways in 2008. The only blemish on Harrison's resume is his alleged involvement in a Philadelphia shooting in 2008. The gun that was used belonged to him, but he was never charged.

That was off-the-field stuff. The numbers Harrison put up on the field are Hall of Fame-worthy.

Here is more proof that Harrison should be giving a Hall of Fame speech next summer (and his speech would be interesting, because he wasn’t exactly a media darling, according to those who covered him).
  • His 1,102 receptions are third behind Jerry Rice and Atlanta tight end Tony Gonzalez, who is still catching balls today.
  • His 14,580 yards are sixth behind Tim Brown, Isaac Bruce, Randy Moss, Terrell Owens and Rice.
  • Harrison’s 128 touchdowns are fifth behind Cris Carter, Owens, Moss and Rice.


So in other words, Harrison can go ahead and get sized for his tailored Hall of Fame jacket.

Cook ranks higher than he thought

October, 17, 2012
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- We’ve talked a good deal about Jared Cook not being used enough in this space.

Last week offensive coordinator Chris Palmer promised Cook would get balls early. The Titans tight end wound up with four passes, including the 25-yarder that set up Rob Bironas' field goal that beat the Steelers last Thursday night.

The Titans shared an interesting note this week about where exactly Cook ranks over the past two season in receiving yardage and receiving average in the AFC.

I asked Cook to guess where he’d fall on such a list.

“Probably seventh, around there, I’d guess,” he said.

Actually he’s second. The only tight end ahead of him is New England’s Rob Gronkowski (1,683 yards).

Cook has 1,050 yards and a 14.6-yard average, a half yard better than Gronk.

Include the whole league and Jimmy Graham, Tony Gonzalez, Jason Witten, Brent Celek, Vernon Davis and Fred Davis also get ahead of Cook in receving yardage for 2011-12.

But Cook, who expressed frustration before the Steelers game about not being more involved in the offense, said it’s not about yards as much as receptions.

Of those seven tight ends in front of him and the next seven behind him on the yardage list, they all have more receptions than Cook’s 72. (Owen Daniels is 10th in the NFL, third in the AFC with 1,034 yards on 80 catches.)

“It could be better,” Cook said. “If I had more receptions, I’d have more yards, of course. My average could come down. I’ll take more receptions of course. Who wouldn’t?”
Is a vegan running back going to lack power?

The image some of us carry in our heads of a prototypical, carry-the-load running back is a bruiser who eats his red meat raw, when he’s not snacking on old tires.

I suspect the Texans Arian Foster will be just fine without eating animals or animal products.

But never mind my suspicions.

I spoke with Jessica Bennett, a registered dietitian who works at Vanderbilt University’s nutrition clinic in Nashville and assists the school’s athletes.

She said the college athletes who have gone vegan that she’s worked with have generally returned to a vegetarian diet or even one that includes meat.

“The biggest challenge for them is if they get injured, getting the muscle strength back,” she said. “It’s definitely possible to get enough protein, but you have to have the resources. He probably has the resources to do it properly.”

As a vegan, Foster will have to look to tofu, beans and legumes for protein.

At his listed weight of 229 pounds from last season, Benet said as a strength and power athlete, Foster will need about 175 grams of protein a day.

Per Bennett:
  • A three-ounce piece of meat -- roughly the size of a deck of cards -- has roughly 25 grams of protein.
  • A half cup of tofu has 19 grams of protein.
  • A half cup of black beans has seven grams of protein.

Minus meat, Greek yogurt and milk, getting those 175 grams a day can be challenging she said. The staff responsible for feeding the Texans on the road will also have to work to set Foster up with what he needs.

There are protein powders that can help -- but Bennett talked of many being unregulated.

Because of the NFL’s strict banned substances list, any protein powder Foster uses will be one he’s had looked over and approved by Houston’s training staff. (He didn't quickly return a message I left him to talk of this, perhaps he still might.)

In the Twitter conversation Foster’s mention of going vegan set off, he mentioned that he and Roberta Anding, the Texans' nutritionist, follow each other’s accounts.

Atlanta tight end Tony Gonzalez is among athletes who have adopted a vegan diet, according to this recent ESPNW piece by Sharon Liao.

Foster is a disciplined and interesting guy. He wouldn't make this choice without researching it and knowing what he's doing. If it somehow negatively impacts him he'll change course, I'm confident.

I look forward to hearing more from him about it.

Rapid Reaction: Falcons 23, Titans 17

November, 20, 2011
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ATLANTA -- Thoughts on the Tennessee Titans' 23-17 loss to the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome:

What it means: The Titans fell to 5-5, continuing their up-and-down season. Some will call them inconsistent. But beyond their first two games -- a loss at Jacksonville, a win over Baltimore -- they’ve simply beaten bad teams and lost to good ones.

What I didn’t like: The Titans allowed the Falcons too many big plays. Matt Ryan found Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez too often and too easily. The Titans didn’t find enough big plays. Outside of Nate Washington's 40-yard touchdown catch, a forced fumble by Colin McCarthy that Will Witherspoon recovered and a couple of big Jake Locker throws on a late drive, the Titans didn’t make a lot happen.

Will there be a quarterback controversy? Locker gave the Titans a nice, immediate jolt when he entered the game late in the third quarter, hitting Washington, who stiff-armed a defender off him and ran to the end zone for a 40-yard score that made it 23-10. Later, the rookie made a couple of big throws, then found Washington again for a 4-yard score. Locker entered the game after Matt Hasselbeck strained his throwing elbow. I feel certain that if Hasselbeck is OK, the Titans will stick with him. Locker can add something with his ability to move around but is likely to make more mistakes.

Disappearance: A week after Chris Johnson broke through with a big game, he was a nonfactor. He carried 12 times for 13 yards.

What’s next: The Titans host Tampa Bay in the third of three games in a row against the NFC South.
Dallas Clark and Marcedes Lewis made strong showings in ESPN.com’s newest positional Power Rankings where we sorted through the league’s tight ends.

Here’s Bill Williamson’s piece on the rankings, where Clark came in third and Lewis finished eighth.

Those seem reasonable placements to me and aren’t far out of line with my ballot:
  1. Jason Witten
  2. Antonio Gates
  3. Vernon Davis
  4. Dallas Clark
  5. Chris Cooley
  6. Jermichael Finley
  7. Kellen Winslow
  8. Dustin Keller
  9. Owen Daniels
  10. Marcedes Lewis

The primary controversy involved Tony Gonzalez, whose one second place vote kept Gates from tying Witten at No. 1. I explained my non-vote for Gonzalez thusly:

“Gonzalez is still an excellent player. But as I struggled to find room for the 10 I felt needed to make the cut, he fell off. In 2010 his numbers suggest he was more quantity than quality. I'm not looking for giant plays from my tight end, but Dallas Clark-replacement Jacob Tamme matched Gonzo's 9.4-yards a catch, and while Gonzalez's first-down percentage was good (55.7) it was way lower than that of the three top rookies and smaller than that of guys like Heath Miller, Ben Watson and Todd Heap, who I hardly considered. One final note: As I've got access to Frank Wycheck during three shared radio appearances a week, I asked him for a ballot. I'm sure he admires Gonzalez's body of work. But right now Gonzalez wasn't in Wycheck's top 10 either.”

Houston’s Owen Daniels didn’t make the cu. My note was his only one, and got him a tie for 15th. He was coming off a blown-out knee last season and had some hamstring issues. So he wasn’t himself much of the year. When he is, I have no doubt he’s a top 10 guy, a tight end who runs receiver-caliber routes.

Overall, I expected to have an easier time putting together this ballot. But even avoiding rookies altogether, I struggled.

“After a hellish pass-rusher ballot, I thought tight ends would be far easier,” I told Williamson. “They were just as difficult. There is a great deal of young talent too. I steered clear of first-year guys, but in another season or two, this could be even more brutal to sort through.”
AFC South notes from ESPN Stats & Information’s targets report from the end of the regular season:

  • Andre Johnson was the most-targeted player in the league with 169 passes thrown his direction, 10 more than went to Roddy White. Reggie Wayne was seventh (149).
  • Johnson was the lone player from the division in the top 10 players targeted on third down -- he caught 21 of the 39 passes aimed at him.
  • Johnson tied for fifth with 39 fourth-quarter targets.
  • Only Brandon Marshall (25) was targeted more in the red zone. Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald and Sidney Rice all had 23 balls thrown their way from inside the 20. Wayne was eighth with 19.
  • Wayne was tied for fifth in times targeted in the red zone in the fourth quarter with seven.
  • Johnson was tied with Calvin Johnson for second with 51 targets on balls throw 15 yards or more in the air. Vincent Jackson was first with 57. But Andre Johnson’s 30.4-yard average on those balls was best of the three.
  • Kevin Walter was first in catch percentage on balls thrown 15 or more yards downfield (72.2 percent) while Kenny Britt ranked sixth (59.1 percent) and Johnson eighth (56.9).
  • Dallas Clark was targeted the most among NFL tight ends, edging Tony Gonzalez 131 to 130.
  • Chris Johnson (70), Maurice Jones-Drew (69) and Joseph Addai (63) rank fifth, sixth, and ninth, respectively, among the most-targeted running backs.
  • Walter ranked second (minimum 70 targets) with a 74.6 catch percentage, Austin Collie 10th at 67.4, Wayne 11th at 67.1.
  • Nate Washington, Pierre Garcon and Carolina’s Steve Smith shared the 17th-lowest catch percentage (minimum 70 targets) at 51.6 percent.
  • Washington ranked ninth worst in yards per target (minimum 70 targets) at 6.3.
  • Johnson was tied for ninth with 53 targets when a defense rushed the passer with five or more defenders. He averaged 15.5 yards on those chances, second highest among the top 10.

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