Behind the Seams with Blake: 5 Key NFL Contributors of 2020

Greetings readers, this will be my first post on the 2020 NFL season, discussing breakout players and which players have lived up to expectations so far.

Some of the players I will be discussing qualify as big stories because of their impressive contributions to top teams, while others are included in this post not because of their team’s overall success, but because they deserve some recognition for their unexpectedly great performances so far this season.

Tom Brady – QB Tampa Bay Buccaneers:

This was perhaps the biggest story entering the 2020 season, as everyone wondered how Brady would fare outside of a Patriots uniform and without Bill Belichick as a coach. It was a topic of discussion whether the Patriots’ success over the past 20 years should be attributed to Belichick’s masterful coaching or Brady’s fantastic quarterback play, but that question has been answered pretty clearly throughout this season. Brady has led the admittedly-stacked Bucs to a 7-3 record, while Belichick’s Patriots have a 4-5 record, relying on aging stars left on the team, as well as a, to this point, hit or miss performance by former Carolina Panthers MVP Cam Newton, who took Brady’s place as the Pats quarterback this season. Brady is enjoying his typical strong offensive output with top 5 ranks among QBs in Passing Yards and Passing TDs.

James Robinson – RB Jacksonville Jaguars:

The Jaguars are a 1-8 team heading into Week 11, but that hasn’t stopped a previously unheralded running back from showing off his talents to the league. James Robinson latched on with the Jags in the offseason with very little fanfare as an undrafted free agent, then went on to win the starting RB job for the team out of the 0 game preseason that the players convinced the NFL to have this year because of COVID. We’ll never know just how different things could have turned out had a preseason been played, or if Robinson would’ve even ended up with the starting job in the first place, but Robinson has certainly made the most of his opportunity thus far. In 9 games played for the Jaguars this season, Robinson currently sits 5th in the NFL with 689 rushing yards, along with 5 rushing TDs. He has also been proficient in the receiving game, with 29 receptions and 2 receiving TDs. These numbers, especially the rushing yards, are quite remarkable considering the Jaguars have been on the wrong side of the scoring in most games this season, and teams tend to switch to passing once they are losing in a game. Personally, I’ve become a big fan of Robinson (pictured at the top of this post), as he is a back capable of rushing and receiving, and he is a short and stocky RB, reminding me of CJ Anderson in his prime with my favorite team, the Denver Broncos.

Justin Herbert – QB Los Angeles Chargers:

The Chargers began their year with bridge-QB Tyrod Taylor leading the team, while 2020 top draft pick Herbert watched and “learned how to be an NFL QB” from the sidelines. However, a fluke injury caused Taylor to miss Week 2’s game against the Chiefs, forcing the Chargers to put their young power-armed QB into action as their starter in just the 2nd game of the season. Much to everyone’s surprise though, Herbert did rather well, and he has since run away with the starting job for the Chargers, showing that he can already put up a good fight against even the toughest teams. However, this does not mean that the team actually won the games, as the Chargers have once again found ways to lose games at the very last moment time and time again. This season can likely be crossed off the list for postseason aspirations for the Chargers, but it seems like the franchise has found a worthy successor of longtime QB Philip Rivers, who left for the Colts after the end of last season. I have watched every Chargers game this season, so I have seen a lot of Herbert’s abilities on display, and I have a feeling he has a very bright future ahead of him.

Chase Claypool – WR Pittsburgh Steelers:

The Steelers drafted Claypool in the 2nd round of the 2020 draft, and he has lived up to expectations, flashing crazy athleticism and producing boatloads of numbers for the Steelers. He did not begin the season as a starting WR, as the team also has Diontae Johnson and Juju Smith-Schuster as WRs. After the first few weeks, injuries to the WR depth chart allowed Claypool to get more targets from Big Ben Roethlisburger, and in Week 5, Claypool burst onto the scene, catching 7 passes for 110 yards and scoring 3 receiving TDs and another TD rushing. Claypool and the Steelers have dominated this season, as they are currently 9-0, and many think they have a chance at going undefeated this season.

Russell Wilson – QB Seattle Seahawks:

“Danger Russ” has been on fire this season, especially through the first 8 weeks, as he was on pace to finish with a Passing TD total in the neighborhood of Peyton Manning’s single season record 55 in 2013. After a few less than spectacular passing performances in Weeks 9, 10, and in this week’s Thursday Night Football game against the Cardinals, he is no longer on the same blistering pace. He does still have a chance to hit the 50 TD mark though, as he leads the NFL with 30 Passing TDs through 10 games played. Overall, Wilson’s splendid QB play has helped the Seahawks to a 7-3 record in a tough NFC West division, and they will hope to see Wilson return to his Week 1-8 form for the final stretch of the season to secure Seattle a playoff spot.

Written by: Blake Koziel @thek0zy1 on Instagram

Photo Source: SI JaguarReport


Album Review: 21 Savage & Metro Boomin- Savage Mode 2

21 Savage and Metro Boomin redefines what it means to be a savage in the sequel to the rapper/producer duo’s 2016 project Savage Mode.

During the rollout of 21 Savage’s previous album I Am>I Was, he says in the album’s documentary “I can grow as a person, but y’all still gonna want to hear me smoke people, **** **** and wear designer; like ‘Damn! Y’all wanna keep me in a box.” At the time, this sounded like a strange contrast from the Savage who sent threats of gunplay to his rivals using KKK-themed wordplay in My Choppa Hates ****** , rapped about shooting sprees and home invasions  in No Heart, and aptly titled his debut mixtape The Slaughter Tape. Nevertheless, the album was released to huge commercial success and acclaim from fans and critics alike with songs devoted to more introspective subject matter such as romance and tribulations before fame such as Ball w/o You and A Lot. With activities in his hometown of Atlanta such as a visit to a middle school advocating financial literacy with Congressman Hank Johnson and his annual Issa Back 2 School Drive community events for kids and their families, 21 is poised to mature as a person. Savage Mode 2 reunites the rapper with his frequent collaborator and producer Metro Boomin and revisits his hardcore roots while retaining the introspection and maturity seen in I Am>I Was.

From the start, it is already evident that 21 is ready to return to a murderous and confrontational mood. The track Runnin sets off this vibe with an eerie and ghost-like Diana Ross sample in the background while 808 and hi-hats pound with the pace of someone on a stakeout for his enemies. He raps “Called the first one Savage Mode, my mood, that’s what it was/2016, we was ridin around, beatin ****** up in the club” and “He was talking gangster, we caught him at a light/I let my young ***** do it, it was free, he wanted a stripe”, immediately echoing the nihilism of the first Savage Mode. The following track Glock In My Lap continues the onslaught with horror movie-esque strings and piano in the instrumental while Savage fires with bars like “Leave an opp cold, like December, .45 on me it’s a Kimber/AK knockin down trees like timber, Get your baby mama ‘fore we bend her”. Other tracks such as Many Men expand his tales with themes of jealousy and revenge with lines such as “Many men  wanna kill me, dawg, I feel like 50, I got small fries want my spot tryna defeat me/I got real model bitches tryna R&B me, All that cap inside your raps, I ain’t even play your CD”, keeping one foot in the streets and the other in his newfound life of higher status. There’s even a song reminiscent of 1980s and 1990’s gangsta rap in Steppin On ******, with breakbeat-heavy production and a simplified flow evoking classics like NWA’s Boyz N the Hood and Ice-T’s 6 N The Mornin.

Despite the album’s predominantly gangsta rap vibe, 21 balances the grim content with some songs reflecting themes surrounding his current life. Mr. Right Now shows off a somewhat more romantic side for females with a very sexual Drake verse and lines such as “Ayy, turn your phone off, take your clothes off, I’m a savage but I **** her to a slow song”/Turn the lights down, lay the pipe down, I ain’t Mr. Right, but I’m Mr. Right Now.” Rich ***** ****  with Young Thug celebrates the excesses of fame with its hazy mid-tempo production and  bars like “Saint Laurent the only thing I put on my back, Off-White jeans look like cooked crack/I call my Porsche stomach ‘cause the **** snatch, Gave my girl a dub now her butt fat/You might take your women to the Louis store, My ******* be askin ‘Where’s Chanel at”. On a more serious note, RIP Luv laments 21’s more personal struggles with intimate relationships. In this track, he raps “Woulda never went against you ever, I even tried to make the grudge settle/Yeah I heard you slept with a couple fellas, Still treated you like a virgin because I know you better.” Metro Boomin elevates the instrumental with guitar licks to capture its somber mood.

After the release of the original Savage Mode in 2016, one would think that 21’s definition of savage is to dominate all of his opposition in the context of the streets. With this album, he proves that being savage is to stay focused and keep fighting to be at the top of his game. Metro Boomin’s cinematic production and 21 Savage’s ever evolving perspective makes this one of the most memorable hip hop albums of 2020.

Score: 9/10

Written by: Kristian Gonzales

Picture source: Genius

Behind the Seams with Blake: 2020 MLB Season Wrap-Up/Breakout Players

Dodgers Capture First World Series Win Since 1988, Controversial Undertones Ensue.

Greetings readers, it truly is a crazy time right now politically, but you can count (pun intended) on me to bring you some insight about the latest baseball news. First and foremost, congratulations to the Los Angeles Dodgers for securing their first title in over 30 years. Teammates are happy for Kerton Clayshaw (Clayton Kershaw, but an MLB analyst called him that instead by mistake prior to a game in a recent postseason, and no one noticed) who finally got his first World Series win in his magnificent career. Dodgers fans haven’t felt this great since a hobbled Kirk Gibson did the impossible and hit a walk off homer off of Oakland A’s dominant closer Dennis Eckersley in the 1988 World Series. Unlike Gibson’s famous fist-pumping celebration, this season’s world series champions likely won’t be remembered for plays they made during the game, but events that occurred after the conclusion of the game.

Unfortunately, this long-awaited win comes with an extra side of controversy. Dodgers 3B Justin Turner left Game 6 due to a positive test for COVID-19, only to come mask-less onto the field and celebrate the win with his teammates after the game. Lucky for Turner, the league announced Friday that he will not face any discipline for his unsafe actions. Nothing like this has happened in recent memory, where something unrelated to the game itself was the biggest topic of discussion in the days following a World Series win. It was only fitting that in a season where it was such an added struggle to keep players healthy, that something would happen in the biggest game of the season and the virus would steal the show instead of the actual plays on the field.

Looking back on the season, some will say that it was less than stellar, but all things considered, we as fans are pretty lucky that we still got to watch a MLB season happen, even if it was just 60 games. We knew we wouldn’t see Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton race for 70 homers, but we still did get to see some great stat lines put up. We learned that it’s possible for players to experience breakout seasons even in less than half the length of a regular baseball season. I will now discuss some of the players who I believe fit into this category.

Breakout Players: 

Cleveland Indians RHP Shane Bieber – Bieber was largely considered the top starting pitcher in all of baseball in 2020, as he dominated batters from day 1 of the season. Bieber had the gaudy strikeout numbers in 2019, but 2020 was when he really stepped into the spotlight and solidified his case as a consensus top 3 pitcher. He was still quite unknown by most baseball fans at the start of 2020, as he was buried behind Corey Kluber in Cleveland’s starting rotation for his first few years in the major leagues, but now it’s safe to say the MLB and fans are aware of his presence at the top of the Indian’s rotation, where he will hope to remain their ace for years to come.

San Diego Padres SS Fernando Tatis Jr. – Tatis started his rookie season in 2019 with a bang, as his gifted physical tools were on full display for the Padres for the first half of the season. Unfortunately for the team and himself, he was injured on an awkward over-extension covering 2nd base, and he missed the remainder of the season as the Padres dropped out of contention. This year was a different story, as he lit up the league and led in most offensive categories through the first months of the season and looked like the obvious MVP of the National League. The final month of the regular season wasn’t the same though, as Tatis endured a lengthy slump, and it ended up allowing other top NL players like Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman, and even his infield buddy Manny Machado to match his level of offensive performance, and those three ultimately pushed Tatis out of the MVP running. Tatis and Padre Faithful will hope that he can carry his fantastic production through the entire season in 2021.

New York Yankees 1B Luke Voit – Voit came to the Yankees in a 2018 trade with the Cardinals in exchange for Relief Pitcher Giovanny Gallegos, a rare example of a trade that has worked out for both teams. Voit had shown his great raw power in prior seasons with the Yankees, but 2020 was a step above his previous production. He led the league with 22 home runs in just 56 games, which is equivalent to around 60 home runs in a full 162 game season. The fact he plays for the Yankees makes the thought of him continuing to produce at that rate in 2021 simply incredible. The Bronx Bombers already have 2 players (Judge and Stanton) capable of hitting 50+ home runs in any full season, so the addition of Voit to the annual 50+ homer threat list makes the Yankees even more of a horrifying offense to face, and should further prove that their 2021 offense will be a must-watch for all home run loving fans in the MLB.

Written by: Blake Koziel @thek0zy1 on Instagram

Photo Source: Niles West News


Remembering Alex Trebek

The news of Alex Trebek’s death on Sunday, November 9, 2020, hit hard for millions of people worldwide, as the host of the popular game show Jeopardy passed away due to pancreatic cancer at the age of 80. The Canadian-born host was a staple of American Television and entered our homes every weeknight to bring families together before bed, and Alex was part of our families. Previous Jeopardy contestant Ken Jennings tweeted out, “Alex wasn’t just the best ever at what he did. He was also a lovely and deeply decent man, and I’m grateful for every minute I got to spend with him. Thinking about his family and his Jeopardy! family-which, in a way, included millions of us.”

Photo Credit: Screenshot of Photo of Alex Trebek and Ken Jennings from @KenJennings on Twitter

When Alex announced, he had pancreatic cancer in early 2019, the last year (almost two) has made me realized that the most recent episode of Jeopardy! had produced some of the most touching moments. We saw contestants from the show support Alex, as they knew that we were not sure how long we would have Alex. Two of the most popular videos on the internet are Dhruv Gaur’s emotional response to the Final Jeopardy! Question in a Tournament of Champions episode by writing “We Love You Alex” and then-recent champion Burt Thakur’s testimony of how he learned to speak English thanks to Alex by watching Jeopardy! On Television with his grandfather.

For me, and I am sure most of you, losing Alex Trebek has been challenging. I grew up watching the beloved game show weeknights with my grandmother learning something new every night. Something unique about the beloved host is that Alex Trebek created a special memory with everyone he came across. Past contestants, celebrities, and others shared on Twitter the weekend of his death personal memories with the host while others shared brief moments that will last a lifetime. Alex left a mark on the world and millions of people. 

He shared in an interview with Good Morning America’s Michael Strahan, “It’ll be a significant moment for me,” he said. “But I’ve kind of, in my mind, rehearsed it already, and what I would do on that day is tell the director, ‘Time the show down to leave me 30 seconds at the end. That’s all I want.’ And I will say my goodbyes and I will tell people, ‘Don’t ask me who’s going to replace me because I have no say whatsoever. But I’m sure that if you give them the same love and attention and respect that you have shown me…then they will be a success and the show will continue being a success. And until we meet again, God bless you and goodbye.”

Trebek is survived by his wife of 30 years, Jean, and children Matthew, Emily, and Nicky. The family did not immediately announce plans for a service, but gifts in Trebek’s memory could go to World Vision. In July 2020, Alex completed his memoir titled “The Answer Is…Reflections on My Life,” which is available now to get books and e-books

Photo Credit: Screenshot of Alex Trebek book from Apple iBooks

Executive Producer Mike Richards announced on Monday, November 9, 2020, that the final 35 episodes of Jeopardy! will air as they were filmed as he intended in his honor, with Alex last appearance taking place on December 25, 2020. 

Alex, thank you for your kindness, hard work, dedication, and memories all these years. We will miss you.

Share your favorite memories of the Jeopardy! host with me by hitting me up on social at @MikeStarkCA on Twitter and Instagram.

Written by: Mike Stark