We are almost there folks. We have almost made it through the two weeks of the endless drivel of a sports media grasping at stories that are in no way interesting. We have endured the endless updates on Gronk’s head, Brady’s legacy and Nick Foles’ leadership qualities. We have sat through countless articles on dog masks, cheese steaks and lobster rolls. We have watched Justin Timberlake interviewed on who he is rooting for and why. We have debated the length of father-son kisses. We have ranked all 106 players playing in the Super Bowl. Despite being a Patriots fan the Super Bowl media week in full swing is enough to make me want to blow my brains out. I can’t even imagine what it’s like for the neutral NFL fan. Oh well, guess I’ll always have to wonder.
But with that being said, let’s get right into my Super Bowl preview. At this point I am positive everything that could have been written or said about the game already has. Instead, I will try to highlight 3 players from each team that might be flying under the radar to keep an eye out for:
Corey Clement (RB): My college roommate is from Philadelphia so I figured who better to give me the scoop on underrated Eagles players than a native battery thrower himself. According to my buddy, Clement is a sneaky MVP pick that Vegas has at 100/1 odds right now (Brady is 4/5 for comparison). Patriots’ fans are familiar with what starters LeGarrette Blount and Jay Ajayi can do but Clement is somewhat of an unknown. He is an undrafted rookie out of Wisconsin that played high school ball 30 mins outside of Philly. By all accounts, his role in the crowded Eagles backfield seems to be the home run hitter of the group. He averaged only a shade over 6 offensive touches a game in the regular season but shined when he got the chance averaging 4.3 yards per carry, 10.2 yards per reception and scoring 6 touchdowns.
Corey Grant had some success for Jacksonville last week in the third back role so I wouldn’t be surprised if Philly tries to use him in a similar fashion. They love to run screens (14 catches behind the line of scrimmage in postseason) which could be dangerous with Clement’s speed:
Note: Speaking of my college roommate, if you are ever in the Poconos Mountains for a bachelor party I suggest the “Pleasure Dome” stripclub in West Haven, PA. It is BYOB and they had no issue with me wearing a Brady jersey and sweatpants. I didn’t even know BYOB strip clubs existed but its right there in their website URL: www.pleasuredomebyob.com
Jake Elliot (K) - Early in the year, Eagles kicker Caleb Sturgis was placed on IR so they signed a fairly unknown Jake Elliot off the Bengals practice squad. All he did in his pro debut was BOOT a 61 yard field goal as time expired to beat the Giants in week 2. It was the 7th longest field goal in NFL history (according to Wikipedia). It was the kind of moment that Hollywood might have scripted. An unknown kicker the hero in front of one of the toughest crowds in sports. It all felt strangely familiar to me though, like I had seen this play before.
He may have gone 26/31 on the season but I don’t care, he will never live up to the legacy of Barney Gorman (Tony Danza). And at the end of the day he is still a kicker. He is still a dork, a loser and a cake eater (h/t to Minnesota). Let’s just hope the fame doesn’t go to his head like it did with Barney.
Lane Johnson (RT) – As far as offensive linemen go, Lane Johnson is about as entertaining as it gets. You may remember him as the guy who called Tom Brady a “pretty boy” or who started the underdog mask sensation:
Personally, I think the dog mask thing is dumb but I’ll give it pass because I like Chris Long and I don’t want anyone from Philadelphia to shank me or puke on me. There is more to Johnson than the mask though. Here are just a couple of noteworthy items from his career so far:
- He was the 4th overall pick by the Eagles in the 2013 NFL draft despite not playing OT until his junior year of college (according to Wikipedia). Makes me wonder if there is still time for me.
- It appears that he LOVES steroids. He was suspended in 2014 (4 games) and 2016 (10 games) for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy for PEDs.
- And by all accounts the steroids appear to be working. This season was a career year for Johnson. He started 15 games and was elected to the Pro Bowl and graded as the best RT in football according to Pro Football Focus. Can’t argue with results.
And just so you are aware of what to prepare for in the dog days of football-less summer, I thought I would share this headline I stumbled across while reading up on Johnson. If this doesn’t scream July 28 NFL coverage, then I don’t know what does:
Duron Harmon (S) – In my opinion Harmon is one of the more underrated players on the Patriots roster. The general consensus when he was drafted in the 3rd round in of the 2013 draft was that Belichick was stretching just to get his Rutgers rocks off. While I don’t deny that Bill has a weird fixation with the Scarlet Knights, you can’t argue that Harmon hasn’t lived up to his draft position. Since he was drafter he has played in 79/80 regular season games and seems to be a player that the coaching staff thinks they can rely on.
More interestingly, he has also developed into the “closer” for this defense. He has 13 career INTs of which 8 have come in the last 4 minutes of the game. The Patriots are 13-0 in games when he has an INT. He is second to only Richard Sherman in 4th quarter INTs since he entered the league. Here are just a couple of note:
- 2014 Division Round vs Baltimore: Sealed the game with INT in endzone with 1:46 left in 35-31 game.
- 2016 Week 2 vs Miami: Brady suspended, Jimmy G injured and Harmon ends it by intercepting Tannehill at the Patriots 9 yard line with 10 second left in a 31-24 game.
- 2017 Week 15 vs. Pittsburgh: The infamous Big Ben fake-spike throw that Rowe deflected into Harmon’s hands with 9 seconds left in a 24-21 game.
So let’s talk nicknames. Some of the better ones I have seen thrown around; Duron “Fat Lady” Harmon, Duron “Curtain Call” Harmon, or my favorite the Grim Reapahhhhh.
Dante Scarnecchia (Offensive Line Coach) – That’s right, only at patriotsdynasty.info do you get positional coach analysis. Dante has been an assistant coach in NE (primarily the OL) since 1982. Let that year sink in for a second. The internet wasn’t even invented until 1990. He was coaching the Patriots using chalk boards and trapper keeper. He has coached the Patriots for twice as many years (35) as Belichick has (17). There are only two players on the roster (Brady and James Harrison) that were even born when he started coaching in New England. He certainly looks the part of a football lifer too:
So why is he so important? Well, if history has taught us anything it is that the keeping Brady on his feet in the Super Bowl should be priority #1. The only proven theory for slowing down the Patriots offense is to get pressure in Tom’s face (besides his son) with the front four. In the two SB losses and the first half of SB51 Brady was sacked 9 times (10 quarters). In the four SB wins and second half of SB 51 he was sacked 8 times (18 quarters).
And the Eagles certainly have the big boys up front to make things tough. They have pro bowlers (Fletcher Cox), pass rush specialists (Brandon Graham), veterans (Chris Long) and 1st round rookie talent (Derek Barnett) on a deep defensive roster. They will have to figure out a way to get to Brady without blitzing though:
Note: I am going to assume that “under pressure” means blitzed. Otherwise, this image completely contradicts the point I am trying to make.
Thomas Edward Patrick Brady Junior (QB) – Yah, this is supposed to be about players (and coaches?) that might be flying under the radar but I refuse to write a preview without mentioning him. I mean, it’s Tommy Tape Job. Jesus in Cleats. The Sultan of Sling. The Greatest Living American. Dad of the Year. Tom. Fucking. Brady. Whatever accolades they give him aren’t enough. He will forever be underrated. He has baffled scientists and theologians alike. He is what scholars would describe as “beyond reproach”. The only satisfying way to describe him is to just look at the raw numbers:
Sometimes people ask me what my favorite Tom Brady Super Bowl performance is. I just tell them “the next one.”
The patriotsdynasty.info official predictions:
Greg: Pats win 65-0, Nick Foles released at halftime, Philadelphia burns to the ground.
Andy: “Alright, I’m going with a 24-21 Patriots win, since that’s basically the average score of all their Super Bowls. Their statistics support me.”
Oh, and in case you didn't click on the link above, I wanted to make sure everyone was aware of this:
Written by Greg Brown
1 December 2017
Written by Greg Brown
19 February 2018
Written by Greg Brown
15 December 2017