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3 Buccaneers Who Must Step Up With Antonio Brown Gone

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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ fortunes have changed rather quickly in the last couple of weeks.

The headline-grabbing event which has put an added focus on Tampa Bay’s season was the antics of wide receiver Antonio Brown last Sunday at MetLife Stadium.

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While it seems like there will be a prolonged battle of “he said, he said” between the former Buccaneers pass catcher and head coach Bruce Arians, the team will have to somehow remain locked in on the task at hand.

Defending their Super Bowl crown will be difficult amidst this adversity, but the loss of Brown on the field is a notable blow to the team’s chances to repeat.

Tampa Bay was already without fellow wide receiver Chris Godwin, who is out for the rest of the season with a torn ACL.

Brown’s presence on the roster was once viewed as a luxury—then it became a necessity—and now it’s a giant void in his absence.

While it’s unlikely Brown’s ability or production is replicated, here are three Buccaneers who need to step up.

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3. Mike Evans

The only member of Tampa Bay’s big three receiving triumvirate still standing as we head into the playoffs is Mike Evans.

As a three-time Pro Bowler, and one of the most talented weapons in the NFL, Evans’ increased production throughout the postseason is mandatory for a team with high hopes.

It won’t be easy for the former Texas A&M star, as defenses might soon decide to shade coverage his way, if not blanket him with two defenders.

His job won’t be as easy as it has been the last two years being flanked by Godwin and Brown, but Evans’ stock stands to take a huge leap forward if he delivers a huge postseason with a target on his back.

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2. Cyril Grayson

Cyril Grayson certainly has one thing working for him.

He has the LSU Tiger wide receiver pedigree that has influenced the NFL for the better part of a decade with Odell Beckham, Jr., Justin Jefferson, and Ja’Marr Chase.

Grayson has actually been with Tampa Bay for three years, but has primarily been used on special teams.

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However, in a limited sample size, he has flashed some big play ability, inclusive of his game-winning touchdown catch against the New York Jets last week.

While Breshad Perriman and Scotty Miller figure to mix in to replace Brown, Grayson’s athleticism and field-stretching ability will be most needed for the Bucs in the postseason.

 

1. Leonard Fournette

While Evans and Grayson need to make an impact without Brown, perhaps the most effective way offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich will choose to replace him is through the backfield.

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Le’Veon Bell and Ke’Shawn Vaughn figure to handle running back duties in the team’s regular season finale, but Leonard Fournette will need to return to “playoff Lenny” form in the postseason.

The former Jaguar may handle a few extra handoffs from Tom Brady starting on Wild Card Weekend, but Fournette has proven to be an adept pass catching option as well.

He has posted 69 catches this year, only trailing the 76 receptions he reeled in for Jacksonville in 2019.

It may take the form of dump-offs and screen passes, but Fournette will need to make some defenders miss in the open field for the Bucs to advance in the postseason.

The post 3 Buccaneers Who Must Step Up With Antonio Brown Gone appeared first on The Cold Wire.

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2023 NFL Draft: Ranking the ACC’s top 10 prospects as Clemson defense loaded with talent

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The ACC fell short of placing a team in the College Football Playoff despite a strong season from Pittsburgh. The upcoming regular season represents a clean slate, and Clemson should feature one of the most talented defenses in college football. Although early days, CBS Sports took a gander at the best NFL Draft prospects in the tradition rich conference entering the 2022 campaign:

Davis does a great job of shooting gaps and creating chaos in the opponent’s backfield. He does a good job of stacking and shedding blockers to make an impact in the run game. 

The depth of Clemson’s defensive line allows the team to rotate players and keep everyone fresh. It has a lot of talent along the front seven. In addition to Myles Murphy, Trenton Simpson, Bryan Bresee and Davis, defensive tackle Ruke Orhorhoro, edge rusher Xavier Thomas and edge rusher K.J. Henry have NFL potential. Thomas, in particular, is poised to showcase his talent this season.

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The buzz surrounding Nelson began early in the process. He has great size for the position and long arms to dictate competition in the trenches. If the technique matches in 2022, there is an opportunity to rise significantly in an offensive tackle class that appears wide open. A wealth of talent at the position has flooded the NFL in recent years with Rashawn Slater, Tristan Wirfs, Penei Sewell and others chief among them.

8. Zay Flowers, WR, Boston College

Flowers has been on the NFL’s radar for a few years now. An injury to quarterback Phil Jurkovec impacted the receiver, as there were a lot of missed opportunities during which Flowers had slithered behind coverage. He ranked No. 23 in yards per reception (16.95) among wide receivers with at least 40 receptions in 2021. With a healthy Jurkovec, the Pittsburgh native will have a good chance to remind talent evaluators of his potential. 

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The nation’s No. 1 overall high school recruit in 2020 missed most of last season with a torn ACL. The talent is evident, but it is unknown what to reasonably expect from Bresee coming off the injury this season. The Maryland native carries his weight really well and is just a natural athlete. He does a good job of stacking blockers while peering into the backfield and has good top end speed.

Connecticut quarterbacks are having a bit of a moment as both Kentucky’s Will Levis and Van Dyke are considered potential early draft choices. The latter throws with touch and does not panic when pressured. However, there is at least one moment each game where he unnecessarily throws into coverage. Experience can resolve some of those frustrations. 

While his ability to make plays with his legs may fall short relative to other quarterback prospects, he is capable of making accurate throws off-platform. He ranked No. 11 in passer efficiency last season, according to TruMedia. Players above him include Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud, Alabama’s Bryce Young and Pittsburgh’s Kenny Pickett.

It could be easy to take Bergeron for granted because nothing he does is overwhelming, but he is consistent. Similar to Virginia Tech’s Christian Darrisaw, it just looks easy for the Quebec native at times. He plays with good leverage and balance and has an even-keeled style of play. Active eyes allow him to pick up stunts into his gap. 

Cornerback Garrett Garrett Williams is another prospect who has the talent to join this list by season’s end.

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4. Josh Downs, WR, North Carolina

The NFL has shown a willingness of late to add wide receivers who are traditionally undersized: Wan’Dale Robinson, Tutu Atwell, Jahan Dotson, etc. Downs was one of the most productive wide receivers in college football a year ago, and that had a lot to do with his ability to create chances for himself. He does a good job of creating leverage with body mannerisms and precision into his breaks. Downs finished third in yards after the catch (757) last season, according to TruMedia, behind Western Kentucky’s Jerreth Sterns (1,135) and Ohio State’s Jaxon Smith-Njigba (791).

3. Tony Grimes, CB, North Carolina

Grimes has good size and great speed for the position. He profiles as an NFL man coverage cornerback, but the ball production has just not been there yet. With so much talent in that Tar Heels secondary, it should create more opportunities for the Virginia Beach native to compile statistics. If he puts it all together, there is a good chance that he is one of the first cornerbacks off the board next April. 

Grimes was one of the rare football reclassifications who moved from the 2021 recruiting class to 2020. As a result, he should be one of the younger cornerback prospects available.

Simpson is one of the most versatile defenders in this potential NFL Draft class. He is not Micah Parsons but could excel in a similar role allowing him to play in the box, rush the passer and cloud passing lanes. The Charlotte native finds himself around the ball often because of his quick key and trigger. First-year defensive coordinator Wes Goodwin has a lot to work with this season.

When comparing size, Murphy stacks up to last year’s No. 1 overall selection — Travon Walker. Murphy is a good athlete but is realistically not going to match Walker’s historic NFL Combine performance. Murphy does have more exposure to what would be considered a traditional edge rusher role than Walker at the same point in his career. The former shows active hands and an ability to turn speed to power. When attempting to identify the likely first-round selections in the preseason, Murphy jumps out.

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KD to Nets: 'Trade me or fire Steve Nash, Sean Marks' | FIRST THINGS FIRST

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Kevin Durant is not budging on his desire to leave Brooklyn. In fact, Shams Charania reports that during his meeting with Joe Tsai, KD submitted that the only way he would stay with the Nets is if the owner fires head coach Steve Nash and general manager Sean Marks. Nick Wright lays out why Durant basically all but ensured he would be traded with this move, and why he’s calling KD’s ultimatum a checkmate.



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An inside look at South Carolina’s ‘Final Four Fridays’: How a workout program has transformed the team

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The distance between Columbia, S.C. and Dallas, the site for the 2023 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament, is 995.6 miles. The South Carolina Gamecocks are already getting a head start with four bicycles and weekly missions.

Every Friday before the season begins, sports performance coach Molly Binetti holds one-hour workouts she calls “Final Four Fridays.” Each week is different, but every session has a mission requiring the players to work as a team and visualize challenges they will face throughout the upcoming season.

One of the challenges is biking the number of miles it will take to travel from Columbia to whichever city the Final Four will be held next. Binetti sets up four bicycles, and the players take turns to register the specific amount of miles needed. Sometimes the miles relate to the number of games they’ll play in a season. Other times, the challenge is based on the opponents, which means the difficulty is based on teams they will be playing. 

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Another challenge is a scavenger hunt in which the players have to complete certain tasks before time runs out. Binetti gives them envelopes with the challenges they need to accomplish on their way to the finish line, which is known as the “Final Four.”

“It really started from this concept of, I want a way for us to compete as a team, have some fun and be exposed to some really hard situations in order for them to grow,” Binetti said. “Every year we’ve just kind of evolved. It’s my chance to give our players leadership opportunities.”

Senior guard Brea Beal said that although the sessions are challenging, they help her and the rest of the team focus on their end goal. The end goal is obvious: to repeat as national champions.

The Gamecocks made it to the Final Four in 2021. Once there, they lost to Stanford. One season later, South Carolina pushed past its struggles from the season prior to win the national championship.

Beal said a big part of that step forward after falling in the 2021 Final Four was becoming mentally stronger. 

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“Every Friday we come in with the mindset of chipping away to get there,” Beal said. “Two years ago we got there, and we were shut down with that Final Four game we lost. To get back there, we had to get over that obstacle.”

Binetti got to South Carolina in 2018 and has been conducting the “Final Four Friday” sessions since. The sessions were initially called “Fun Fridays,” but Binetti changed the name during her second year to match the perennial goal coach Dawn Staley sets of reaching the final weekend of the NCAA Women’s Tournament. 

“I think it’s really about leadership strength, being able to get over that hard obstacle that’s in our way,” Beal said. “Every workout we have feels so uncomfortable, but we still got through it so it does relate to the Final Four.” 

While planning her sessions, Binetti takes into account the workouts the players went through during the week, as well as how as they performed. She chooses one or two leaders each week, starting with the veteran players. As the summer progresses, Binetti might pick someone who the coaches are trying to get more out of. 

“I throw people into the fire as I see fit,” Binetti said. “I’m going to throw that person in that week and put them in a situation where they are uncomfortable.”

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These leaders are the only ones allowed to ask Binetti questions during the session, and therefore need to display strong communication skills for their team to succeed. In the last five minutes of the workout, the entire team takes time to talk about what went right and where improvements could be made.

It’s not an easy job, but the leadership task is key to developing character. Aliyah Boston is currently the face of the program and has demonstrated her leadership ability since Day 1. Binetti said Boston was one of the loudest players right away, but Staley sometimes described her as “too nice.”

Binetti said Boston is still her sweet self, but has learned to be more confident and assertive when talking to her teammates. 


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Other players have required a little bit more of a push — and have seen more noticeable changes. When Victaria Saxton first joined the Gamecocks, Binetti said she was shy and quiet. Through “Final Four Fridays,” though, the senior has become a confident, vocal leader. 

“I think it’s a big deal to be a person like that on the team. I feel like it takes a lot of heart and a steady mind to be that person, to know what your role is,” Saxton said. “You might not be the leading scorer, the leading rebounder, but you go out there and still do everything you need to do to help everybody else out.”

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That is the mentality Binetti tries to instill into the entire team with her sessions. Every “Final Four Friday” task requires team effort, and everyone plays a role whether they are the leader or not. Since reaching the Final Four is their goal every year, Binetti said she wants the players to understand exactly how tough it will be to get there, both physically and mentally. 

“They have to possess leadership qualities and communication skills to get the mission accomplished. It’s really just putting them in situations where they are responsible for the outcomes.” Binetti said. “Ultimately, when they play and they are on the court, they are the ones who have to make decisions, communicate and get the job done.” 



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