News & Analysis

5 things you need to know for Thursday

By Alejandro Chavez
Aug 10, 2017

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OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 24: Amari Cooper #89 of the Oakland Raiders catches a pass against the Indianapolis Colts during the second quarter of their NFL football game at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on December 24, 2016 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Hey there football fans! Here are five pieces of important news you need to know to start off your Thursdays:

There is still no timetable for Andrew Luck’s return. The Colts quarterback is still recovering from a shoulder surgery.

Luck produced the best season of his career so far in 2016, grading at 91.6 which ranked fourth among quarterbacks in the NFL. Over the course of his five year career so far, Luck has graded below 81.4 just once.

What doesn’t help with Luck being dinged up, is that the Colts offensive line have allowed him to be under pressure so often. Luck was under pressure on 279 of his dropbacks in 2016, 16 more than Russell Wilson, who ranked second. Luck has delivered when under pressure, with his 5,602 passing yards under pressure ranking fifth among quarterbacks since 2012.

The Chargers’ Mike Williams began running routes. The No. 7 overall pick in the draft has been missing practice time since the opening day of rookie minicamp, but has recently made progress in his return.

Williams proved elusive with the ball in his hands last season, his 22 broken tackles were the second most by a Power 5 receiver last season. He was also one of the more efficient wide receivers running routes, his 3.34 yards per route run was the seventh highest mark by a receiver with at least 108 targets.

Williams was a real deep threat at Clemson last season, his catch rate of 53.8 percent on deep passes (a pass targeted 20 or more yards downfield) was the seventh best catch rate among draft-eligible receivers with at least 12 deep targets.

The Falcons signed Devonta Freeman to an extension. The star running back signed a five-year deal with the team.

Freeman posted the eighth highest overall grade among running backs in 2016 with a grade of 83.3, while fellow teammate Tevin Coleman was 16th with a grade of 79.2. Coleman bested Freeman, however, in breakaway percentage, which shows a runner’s percentage of yards gained on big plays (any runs of 15 yards or more). Coleman ranked fifth with 40.5 percent of his yards coming on big runs, while Freeman ranked eighth among 53 qualifying running backs at 37.5 percent.

Freeman also ranked third among NFC running backs in yards per route run at 1.59. That ranked him only behind Cardinals RB David Johnsonand teammate Coleman.

Chad Wheeler got reps with the Giants’ first team offensive line. Wheeler may be an option to protect Eli Manning’s blind side this season.

Wheeler allowed just one sack in 2016 on 492 pass blocking snaps as USC’s starting left tackle. He was just one of 13 tackles to allow one or fewer sacks on over 450 pass blocking snaps.

While he is a strong pass blocker, Wheeler was much less successful with run blocking in 2016. His run blocking grade of 49.2 ranked 233rd out of 283 qualifying FBS tackles.

Flowers struggled as the Giants’ left tackle last season. His overall grade of 50.2 ranked 63rd out of 77 qualifying tackles. He allowed a total of 59 pressures last season, second-most among all tackles.

Amari Cooper has recently missed several practices. The Raiders receiver has missed time recently due to a leg injury.

Cooper took a sizable step forward this year after an impressive rookie season. Cooper improved on his 73.5 overall grade from his rookie year earning an 82.2 overall grade in 2016 which ranked 23rd out of 115 qualifying receivers. A big contributor for his improvement was his ability to cut his drop rate down from 20.0 in 2015 (18 drops on 90 catchable targets) to 4.60 in 2016 (4 drops on 87 catchable targets).

Cooper was very productive as a deep receiver in 2016. His 386 receiving yards on passes that travel at least 20 yards downfield ranked eight among receivers. Quarterbacks had a passer rating of 133.8 when targeting Cooper on go routes, significantly higher than the average of 84.8.

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