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


Behind the Seams with Blake: Postseason Preview

Hello readers, my name is Blake Koziel, and I will be coming at you with new insight about the baseball and football world in this non fan-friendly, crazy 2020 sports year.

Before we get started, allow me to catch you up on how I got here. I have been following baseball frighteningly closely since about age ten, and I quickly found myself obsessed with baseball statistics, while watching my local team, the San Diego Padres. My favorite player on the Padres was, understandably, Adrian Gonzalez, and I remember how amazed I was the first time I saw his statline of 40 home runs way back in 2009. I continued to be a huge fan of Age, as I called him, all the way through his post-Padres teams until he retired in 2018. You will find that I tend to follow and know how certain players are doing more than the teams they are playing for, and my love for certain players centers around the stats they put up.

In case you are wondering, I also played baseball myself. My main positions were centerfielder, first baseman, and pitcher, and I played up until sophomore year of high school, when I made the curious transition from JV baseball to D1 varsity tennis within a span of two weeks. However, my heart was still with baseball even as I aced 100mph serves past nationally-ranked tennis players (It didn’t go in quite that often, but hey, I had the velocity). I stopped playing tennis competitively after high school, but it was definitely a fun experience. I then moved on to just focusing my attention on studying baseball.

In future posts I will also be writing about football, a sport that I didn’t really follow at all until 2014, when my uncle got me to join a fantasy football league with him, and my study of the game and its players began. I adopted the Denver Broncos as my favorite football team, as they had my favorite player, running back CJ Anderson, to go with an amazing crop of wide receivers Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, and redzone monster tight end Julius Thomas. And who can forget living legend, quarterback Peyton Manning, whose forehead is as big as his accomplishments (I say it out of love, Peyton). I was not yet following football when the Broncos were in the Super Bowl to conclude the 2013 season, and I always wish I had seen that season, because Peyton threw a single season record 55 touchdowns that season, but I did get to watch my Broncos win against the Panthers in the 2015 Super Bowl, and it was simply wonderful. The Broncos have had a rough stretch of seasons since then as they’ve struggled to find an answer at quarterback after Peyton retired, but I believe in Drew Lock, and I hope he will finally provide the Broncos with some stability at the position once again.

Now for the present-day sports discussion. In this first post, I will be sticking to baseball, giving a quick rundown of the journey that the Padres have made to get to the postseason in this 60 game season. 

Major League Baseball decided to raise the number of postseason teams from 10 to 16 for this season, and Commissioner Rob Manfred says that he will consider making the change permanent for future seasons too. To be truthful, I do not like that idea, as I believe that the best of the best teams should be in the postseason, so a smaller number than 16 teams would be better in terms of the “they earned their postseason spot” argument.

As of this post, 11 of 16 spots for the postseason have been clinched, those 11 teams being the Dodgers, Rays, Twins, Padres, Athletics, Braves, White Sox, Indians, Cubs, Yankees, and Blue Jays. I will now break down some key players for the Padres that have helped them get there.

The San Diego Padres are one of four teams tied for the 4th best record in the league with 34 wins. I must admit I’ve spent 1000% more time watching the Padres this season than any other team, as I can count on one hand the number of their games I didn’t watch this season. The story of the Padres season has centered around 21 year old phenom shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr., as he was pretty much the biggest story of baseball for the first month or two of the season prior to the cold stretch he is currently in. Even with his current cold streak factored in, Fernando has still hit .278 with 15 home runs, 11 stolen bases, and a .561 SLG% through 55 games this season. Third baseman Manny Machado has turned in quite the performance as of late, and is really starting to look like he’s worth the 10 year, $300m deal he was given prior to the 2019 season, as he has hit .313 with 16 home runs and a .603 SLG%. Other honorable mentions for this team are OF Wil Myers, 1B/2B/SS Jake Cronenworth, and Cy Young award candidate SP Dinelson Lamet, who have all turned in fantastic performances this season after coming into the season with perhaps much different expectations of them. On a different note, Mike Clevinger, one of the many players whom the team acquired during their busy trade deadline, has been diagnosed with a sprained right elbow, and it’s still unknown how long he will be out for. Fingers crossed he will be able to contribute for the Padres in the postseason this year. Optimism is high in San Diego for a team that hasn’t reached the playoffs since 2006.

Written By: Blake Koziel

Photo By: Denis Poroy

SDSU Wins Old Oil Can 17-7 Over Fresno State Bulldogs

Fresno State traveled down California to obtain the “Old Oil Can” trophy, but the Aztecs weren’t having it. 

If you took San Diego State University -1 and the under, congratulations. SDSU won 17-7 on Friday. 

As usual, SDSU was stout defensively. The Aztecs held the Bulldogs to only 70 rushing yards and only allowed them to convert 13 first downs. In fact, the Bulldogs were a porous 3-12 on third down (25%).

“We deserved to win the game,” Head coach Rocky Long said, “It’s a really very good win for our team, program and puts us one step closer to where we want to be.”

SDSU controlled the ball for 12 minutes longer than Fresno State did, and ran 30 more plays. 

“If you keep their offense off the field, they cant score points.” Senior quarterback Ryan Agnew said. “We have to get more points on the board so then the defense isn’t stressing.”

However, the Bulldogs claimed an early lead. Running back Ronnie Rivers was able to find the end zone and give Fresno State a 7-0 lead.

A big interception by SDSU’s Tariq Thompson set up the Aztecs inside the Fresno State 25-yard line. Two plays later, the Aztecs benefitted from a defensive pass interference and Chase Jasmin scored from the two yard line to tie the game. 

The Aztecs’ defense remained the story, as junior Luq Barcoo intercepted the Bulldogs. The junior college product has seven interceptions this season, which is tied for second in the nation. 

“We make it a competition of us getting plays,” Barcoo said, “So it’s kinda cool to see other guys make those plays and we’re just trying to make those plays.”

Meanwhile, SDSU has 85 interceptions since the start of the 2015 campaign, which is most in the entire nation during that span.

Safety Dwayne Johnson Jr. made it known he’s currently in last place for the team’s friendly competition.

“I got to get one, I got to get one.” Johnson Jr said, I’m in last place right now, but we’re always trying to make to plays to help us win.”

The Aztecs ran into some bad luck toward the end of half one. Senior quarterback Ryan Agnew was intercepted by Fresno State, but the Aztecs defense held tight and forced a Bulldogs punt.

Not too much later, Agnew found tight end Parker Houston for what looked like a touchdown, but it was overturned and SDSU settled for three points.

Right before the first half ended, the Aztecs had a field goal blocked, which kept the lead 10-7 at halftime. 

The Aztecs were marching to start the third quarter, but Chance Bell fumbled inside the three-yard line, which gave the Bulldogs possession again. It was the first time the Aztecs lost a fumble this season; the score remained 10-7.

At the very beginning of the fourth quarter, the Aztecs decided to go for it on fourth down from the Bulldogs two-yard line.

Agnew rolled out of the pocket and found Jasmine for an easy touchdown, which pushed their lead to 10. It was the first time Jasmine scored multiple touchdowns in one game.

The senior quarterback finished with a career high in completions (33) and passing yards (323). He finished with a quarterback rating of 130.7.

After the Bulldogs found some momentum halfway through the fourth quarter, they had a touchdown called back, then Barcoo intercepted Jorge Reyna once again to seal the deal.

It was the third turnover the Aztecs caused on Friday, they are 22-0 when forcing three or more turnovers. 

“This year we’re doing a much better job of taking the ball away,” Long said

The Aztecs are now (8-2; 5-2 Mountain West). They travel to Hawaii next week, kickoff will be 3 p.m. PST. 

Written by: Daniel Farr

SDSU PULLS OFF DRAMATIC COMEBACK AGAINST WYOMING 26-22

San Diego State University improved to 5-1 after a stunning come from behind victory over the University of Wyoming 26-22 at SDCCU stadium.

Down three points late in the fourth quarter, SDSU quarterback Ryan Agnew avoided a sack and found tight end Daniel Bellinger for a touchdown that gave the Aztecs a 26-22 lead with just over two minutes remaining.

“Everyday at practice we go out and work as hard as we can,” Bellinger said, “When it comes down to that, we try to get open and that’s exactly what happened.”

The Aztecs defense stood tall and sealed the four point victory with an interception by cornerback Luq Barcoo. 

After a late hit out of bounds penalty was called on the Aztecs’ Dwyane Johnson Jr, the Cowboys took advantage of the mistake and scored a touchdown, which gave them a 22-19 lead after converting a two point conversion. 

“I didn’t agree with the call,” Rocky Long said, “I don’t think Dwyane did anything that would’ve caused a flag, but they threw it.”

Run plays and designed quarterback keepers nearly beat the Aztecs on Saturday night. Sean Chambers, the Cowboys quarterback had two rushing touchdowns and ran in a two-point conversion on 13 rushing attempts.

He had 14 passing attempts and only completed five of them, but threw for 94 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Wyoming tallied 39 rushing attempts and had three rushers combined for 157 yards.

“We missed two tackles that added up to over 100 yards rushing.” Long said, “So you miss tackles, you give up rushing yards. In the second half, we didn’t miss tackles.”

The Aztecs’ offense had a hard time scoring for the first half of the game, even trailing 14-3 at one point and continually settling for field goals. However, in the middle of the third quarter, the Aztecs seemed to establish their run game and rolled the dice twice on fourth down.

On a fourth-and-one, the Aztecs converted and set up a Juwaun Washington touchdown. Then, on a fourth-and-three late in the third, Agnew found Jesse Matthews for a first down, which set up a go-ahead touchdown run by Washington that gave the Aztecs a five-point lead.

“Anytime we have two teams with the same philosophy, you want to pound the rock and be physical.” Washington said, “It’s going to take some time to get going. We just have to keep doing what we’re doing.”

In the fourth quarter down by a score, the University of Wyoming had a chance to retake the lead, but the Cowboys fumbled the ball during a punt return and the Aztecs took over deep in Cowboys territory.

Kicker Matt Araiza had already made two field goals on Saturday, but missed a kick that would’ve pushed the lead to eight. His streak of seven straight made kicks was snapped, Arazia is now 9-for-12 on field goals this season.

The Aztecs will face San Jose State on the road next Saturday.

Written by: Daniel Farr
Photo by: Justin Neeley