One of them concerns teams making the playoffs. Every year - as in every single year without exception - since the NFL playoff format increased from 10 to 12 teams in 1990 there have been at least 4 teams to make the playoffs that didn't make the playoffs the preceding season. That's right, beginning in 1991 and ongoing over the next 25 years there have been at least 4 new teams in the playoffs. So chew on this. This season's playoff teams were the Patriots, Bengals, Steelers, Texans, Broncos, Chiefs, Redskins, Vikings, Packers, Panthers, Cardinals, and Seahawks. If history continues to repeat itself, at least four of those will fail to make the playoffs in the 2016 season. Good luck trying to figure out which four; but just know for sure there will be four. It's gonna happen. Because history says so.
The other item regards the NFL's Final 4, a.k.a. the conference championship games. In the two title games for the 1995 season the Cowboys beat the Packers 38-27, and the Steelers edged the Colts 20-16. All four of those teams made the playoffs again in 1996. But ever since then, in every year at least one of the final 4 has failed to make the playoffs the following season. I repeat, failed to make the playoffs the following season. When I first heard that, I couldn't believe it; but I checked it myself and it's true. In fact, more often than not (10 times out of 19) at least two of the final 4 didn't get back to the playoffs the next year - most recently in 2013, when the Falcons went 4-12 and the Ravens went 8-8 after playing in the 2012 conference championships. So what this all means, of course, is that if history repeats for a 20th straight season in 2016, either the Patriots, Broncos, Cardinals, or Panthers will miss the playoffs next season. Wow. I can't even imagine that happening; but get ready; it's going to. So if any of those teams are your favorites, beware!
The 2016 version of NFL free agent frenzy has hit full force in the house of dread. Just in the first week of free agency (which began on March 10) there were 15 players with dreads signing with new teams; and currently the number stands at 32, with a few more still to come before training camp starts. I don't know; maybe that many isn't anything unusual. But it seems like this is the largest number of players with dreads ever to switch teams in a single offseason. A few of the changes: Danny Trevathan and Omar Bolden left the Super Bowl champs to reunite with Coach Fox in Chicago; Damon Harrison changed teams but not cities, going from the Jets to the Giants (left photo above); Chris Ivory also left the Jets, signing with the Jaguars; the Chargers were worst in the league at returning punts in 2015, but that figures to change (it better change) after Travis Benjamin (right photo above) signed with them; and Reggie Nelson traded in the orange and black of the Bengals for the silver and black of the Raiders.
The only game on the schedule for Week 21 was, as usual, the Pro Bowl, the NFL's oft-criticized annual All-Star Game. Of course, with all players on the two Super Bowl participants ineligible to play and most of the players from the losers of the conference championship games not in the mood to play, it can be argued that this season's Pro Bowl wasn't exactly an all-star game. Stars or not, though, there were 86 players in uniform in Honolulu for the game on Jan. 31. At first I wasn't planning to watch it; but once I saw how many players with dreads there were on the rosters of the two teams, I couldn't resist, and I ended up watching the entire game.
The very existence of the Pro Bowl disgusts a lot of people, but that's because those people just don't get it. Those people want to see a real, fiercely-fought battle between the league's best players and are unhappy that that's not what they get to see. To them I say that the Pro Bowl is what it is - a friendly game in which the intensity level rarely rises above the level of an OTA practice in the summer. And if that's not your thing, just don't watch it; and you can stop wasting your breath whining about it too because it's not going to change. Certainly we'd all like it to be a competitive game. But I can still enjoy it for what it is - an exhibition game in which the players can relax and have a little fun and where the only thing that really matters is that nobody gets injured.
One thing I would liked to have enjoyed seeing for a final time this season but didn't was Reggie Nelson's awesome dreads. It was supposed to be the 1st Pro Bowl appearance of Nelson's 9-year career; but unfortunately and apparently the ankle injury he suffered in the Bengals' playoff loss in Week 18 prevented him from playing. Dolphins C Mike Pouncey also missed the game due to injury, while Larry Fitzgerald and Jamie Collins were among the 9 (out of 11) members of the Cardinals and Patriots who said, "Thanks, but no thanks; somebody else can take my place." Even without those four, there were still 12 players with dreads among the 86 in uniform. That total got a boost when the Panthers and Broncos made it to the Super Bowl, as CBs Chris Harris, Aqib Talib, and Josh Norman all were replaced by CBs with dreads - Desmond Trufant, Jason Verrett, and Adam Jones.
Hilton beat Sherman for what appeared to be a 51-yard TD catch (photo below) - until the catch was nullified by a replay review; but Team Rice got the TD anyway 5 plays later to close within 21-14. And it looked like they would tie it up on their next drive; but on the next play after Ivory picked up 16 yards (on his first and only rushing attempt in the game) to the 10-yard line, the Team Irvin D came up with their 3rd INT of the game to end the threat. The Team Irvin offense then promptly went 80 yards in 7 plays to make it 28-14 at halftime.
Best player with dreads: Demarcus Lawrence
Player with best dreads: Dwayne Harris
Perhaps if DeSean Jackson hadn't missed 6 games due to injury, I would have picked him; but instead it's Demarcus Lawrence who gets the nod as the best player with dreads in the NFC East. In his 2nd NFL season - and his 1st with dreads - Lawrence (top photo on right) played all 16 games and had 55 tackles, including a team-leading 8 sacks. Unfortunately there's no way he's playing 16 games again next season because he's suspended for the first 4 ..... Cowboys had two other players with dreads in their starting lineup - mediocre DBs J.J. Wilcox and Brandon Carr. Wilcox (left photo below) was a starter in 13 of the 16 games he played and recorded 48 tackles, 1 INT, 2 PBU, and 1 FR; and he also put 2 points on the board for Cowboys in their Week 17 loss to Washington, as his 1st career TFL resulted in a safety.
CB BRANDON CARR
DE DEMARCUS LAWRENCE
S Danny McCray
WR Lucky Whitehead
S J.J. WILCOX
NEW YORK GIANTS
Times sure do change, don't they? Once upon a time (I assume this story, which I heard years ago, is true, but I never bothered to verify it - it sure sounds true) Coach Coughlin - obviously not a fan of having players with long hair on his team - told a player (probably a rookie) desperate to make the team during training camp (in Jacksonville) that he would be released unless he got a haircut; and then went on and released him anyway the next day, after he had gotten that haircut. (It was dirty tricks like that, no doubt, that prompted the players union to want to alter their collective bargaining agreement with the owners, leading to the rule now in effect today that players cannot be disciplined for the length and/or the style of their hair.) How ironic it was then that it was Coughlin, of all people, in the final season of his illustrious, who was the coach of the team with the best dreads in the NFC East.
Until now Giants had always been among the teams with the fewest dreads in the league. In fact, I graded them at D- and F in my 2013 and 2012 dreads focuses. But things got a little better in 2014, and they took a giant step forward this season, thanks mainly to the addition of Dwayne Harris (top photo on right). After playing his first 4 seasons with the Cowboys, Harris left Dallas, electing to sign the Giants' offer of $17.5 million for 5 years. A lot of people thought the Giants overspent with that contract, and that includes the writer of this article on the Newark Star-Ledger website: http://www.nj.com/giants/index.ssf/2015/03/why_a_free_agent_kick_returner_might_not_be_a_wise.html
If you haven't already, be sure to read the first reader comment posted (by Charles S), because it sets the record straight on Harris, accurately pointing out that just because he didn't produce much on offense with the Cowboys didn't necessarily mean that he wasn't capable of producing. Anyway, his 1st season in a Giants uniform no doubt silenced a lot of the doubters, as he made major contributions on both special teams and offense. With some of the longest dreads in the league coming out of his helmet, Harris racked up 1,380 all-purpose yards and scored 6 TD - all 6 of which came at key
WR Geremy Davis
G Adam Gettis
WR Dwayne Harris
DT Montori Hughes
S BRANDON MERIWEATHER
LB J.T. THOMAS (IR)
After Eagles got an 'F' in my 2013 dreads focus, I'm pleased to report things are much better now, but there's still a whole lot more room for improvement. In his 4th season on the team and his 1st with dreads, Cedric Thornton (left photo below) missed 3 games due to injury and started the other 13, finishing with 32 tackles and 1 sack ..... Despite starting only 3 games, E.J. Biggers got a lot of playing time in the secondary in his 1st season on the team (after the previous 2 seasons with Washington and 3 with Tampa Bay before that), finishing with 7 PBU but 0 INT. Sadly and as I have mentioned before, Biggers (right photo below) is one of those players who keeps his dreads reduced all the time, denying us the chance to see something really special.
CB E.J. Biggers
LB Najee Goode
DE Steven Means
CB Denzel Rice
DE CEDRIC THORNTON
Ricky Jean Francois (photo on right, tackling Rams RB Tre Mason in Week 2) was a key reserve in his 1st season on the team after signing as a free agent. The 2nd edition of his dreads (he cut off the first shortly after he got drafted in 2009 and immediately started re-growing his hair, getting it long enough to put back into dreads in time for the start of the 2010 season) are easily visible - that is, they were visible in the few games he didn't have them reduced ..... DeSean Jackson was not one of the 4 NFC East players with dreads I expected to score touchdowns. Oh, I expected him to score; I just didn't expect him to still have dreads when the season was over. But surprise, surprise - he kept his dreads all season (!), although after starting the season with a full head of dreads (left photo below, congratulating WR Pierre Garcon on his last-minute, game-winning TD catch vs. Eagles in Week 4), eventually he decided he should look like everybody else and finished the season with partial dreads (right photo below, telling the Philly fans to shut up during Redskins' division-clinching win over Eagles in Week 16). After injuring his hamstring in the 1st quarter of the season opener and missing the next 6 games too, Jackson - always a dangerous deep threat - averaged 17.6 yards on the 30 catches he made in the final 9 games, including 4 TD. Had he been healthy all year, he likely would have done well enough for me to pick him as the division's best player with dreads. He had four 1,000-yard receiving seasons in the first 7 years of his career but a career-low 528 yards this season.
http://www.redskins.com/media-gallery/videos/CSN-Rashad-Ross-talks-about-his-KR-TD/83266654-2996-4647-b1e4-527e218a3792 ..... For a few weeks in October and November CB Bashaud Breeland had his hair in partial dreads but then changed his mind and went back to normal hair ..... The 4th Redskin with dreads - and there's no doubt about these being dreads - to take one to the house is Andre Roberts (photo below and in background of photo of Jackson and Garcon above), who scored on a kickoff return at Carolina in Week 9 but did little else in 9 games before missing the last 6 weeks with a knee injury, officially going on IR in Week 15. Andre won't be back next season. He was released on May 17 and is currently still looking for a new home ..... After being cut at end of Buccaneers training camp, rookie DE Ryan Delaire signed to Redskins practice squad but was there for only 3 weeks before signing with Panthers.
LB Mason Foster
WR DeSEAN JACKSON
DT Ricky Jean Francois
RB Matt Jones
OT Ty Nsekhe
WR Andre Roberts
WR Rashad Ross
Best player with dreads: Todd Gurley
Player with best dreads: DuJuan Harris
G JONATHAN COOPER
RB Andre Ellington
WR LARRY FITZGERALD
LB Markus Golden
FB Robert Hughes (PS)
RB CHRIS JOHNSON (IR)
S Brandon Person (IR)
DT Ed Stinson
S D.J. Swearinger
LB Sean Weatherspoon
DT Xavier Williams
ST. LOUIS RAMS
With all due respect to Richard Sherman, I decided to go with rookie Todd Gurley (top photo on right) as the division's best player with dreads. I was feeling kind of down after a suspension and then an injury ruined Gurley's junior season in college (Georgia). I really wanted to see him win the Heisman. But 2015 went much better for the 225-pound speedster, and I couldn't be more thrilled for him. The Rams didn't really need another RB, but they took Gurley anyway with the 10th pick in the 1st round of the draft - mostly because of his special talent but also because they were afraid that if they didn't take him, either the Cardinals or Seahawks would. After missing the first 2 games of the season to make sure he was 100% recovered from the ACL surgery he had done in November 2014, Gurley went out and performed the way Rams fans hoped he would - spectacularly. He finished 3rd in the league in rushing, averaged an excellent 4.8 yards per carry,
LB MARK BARRON
LB Daren Bates
DT MICHAEL BROCKERS
TE Justice Cunningham (PS)
RB TODD GURLEY
CB JANORIS JENKINS
WR Bradley Marquez
RB Tre Mason
C Demetrius Rhaney
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
Thank goodness for a couple of late-season additions to the roster, otherwise this would have been a total washout. Actually not a total washout, as Ian Williams (right photo below) finally was able to stay healthy, playing all 16 games for the first time in his career and becoming one of the league's best DTs with dreads. But his dreads don't seem to be getting any longer. They look like they're the same length as they were when he first came into the league.
For the 1st half of the season Williams was 49ers' only player with dreads. Then RB Travaris Cadet was signed after Week 9 and played 4 games (7 carries for 16 yards, 7 catches for 66 yards) before being let go 3 days before Christmas ..... In came DuJuan Harris, who proved to be an upgrade, both talent-wise and with his dreads, which are spectacular (left photo above). After signing with Vikings during the offseason and being cut at the end of their training camp, Harris made a couple of other brief stops before arriving in San Francisco for the final 2 games of the season. He played so well in those 2 games (237 total yards on 36 touches) that 49ers re-signed him for next season ..... After being released by Raiders, Ray-Ray Armstrong (photo below) was signed the day before Thanksgiving and played the last 5 games, entirely on special teams ..... WR Chuck Jacobs and LB Philip Wheeler cut near end of training camp, with Wheeler eventually landing in ATL.
LB Ray-Ray Armstrong
RB DuJuan Harris
DT IAN WILLIAMS
The two-time defending NFC champs began the season with only 3 players with dreads on the roster, and it remained that way almost all season. 2 of the 3 just happen to be among the very best players with dreads in the league - Marshawn Lynch and Richard Sherman, of course - but neither was as successful in 2015 as they had been the previous few seasons. Lynch (top photo on right) began the season by getting tackled for a 1-yard loss on 4th and 1 with the Seahawks trailing by 3 in overtime in the season opener at St. Louis, and things didn't get any better after that. He was on the weekly injury report every week for the last 15 weeks of the season and missed 9 games, with the worst injury being the sports hernia that caused him to miss the last 7 games of the regular season and the 1st round playoff game. In the 7 games he played he made the dread stars list only twice. Running behind a mediocre O-line, Lynch rushed for a career low 417 yards, and his 3.8 average per carry was his worst since his first season in Seattle in 2010. With his running style, Lynch takes a lot of punishment; and a lot of people were surprised he was able to last as long as he has. But after playing for 9 seasons, he's not coming back for a 10th .....
RB MARSHAWN LYNCH
OT Terry Poole (PS,IR)
CB Trovon Reed (PS)
CB RICHARD SHERMAN
S Tye Smith
Best player with dreads: Danny Trevathan
Player with best dreads: Ricardo Mathews
Week 5 injury to Jamaal Charles put race for division's best player with dreads up for grabs, and it was Danny Trevathan who won it with his outstanding season. The Broncos' only starter with dreads didn't have any sacks but did lead the team in tackles and had 4 PBU and 2 INT, one of which was a pick six. While the 6th round draft choice (2012) has turned into an excellent player, the same cannot be said about his dreads. At first I thought he wasn't letting his dreads get any longer, but as you can see in this shot of him in Week 1 (left photo below), that's not true. They're long enough to be easily seen outside the helmet. But for some reason he never has them hanging outside the helmet. In every other game he had them either reduced or stifled somehow so much that when you saw him on the field, you wouldn't even know he has dreads. And this isn't anything new. He's been doing it this way for at least the past 3 seasons. Yo Danny, why you keep hiding your dreads like that? You're killing me, man ..... Playing his 7th season, David Bruton changed things up, adding some color to his dreads - the team's colors, that is - first going with orange tips (right photo below) for most of the season before changing to blue by the end of the season. Very quietly Bruton had a nice season, finishing with a career high 43 tackles, 1 sack, 2 FF, 5 PBU, and 2 INT in 13 games before going on IR after breaking his leg in Week 15, causing him to miss the playoffs.
During his time in college at Missouri Shane Ray gave no indication he was interested in growing dreads; so it was a pleasant surprise to be able to welcome him to the house. I didn't know he was growing dreads until the season already was underway; but apparently he got them started just before training camp. From where they were then to where they were by the end of the season (top photo on right) is evidence that they're growing very quickly. Drafted in the 1st round, Ray didn't play much (averaging 24 snaps per game) because there were two outstanding outside LBs ahead of him on the depth chart; but he produced when given the chance, finishing with 4 sacks, and could turn into a Pro Bowl caliber player soon ..... Although nobody with dreads touched the ball on offense for the 5th straight season (I'm not counting the 2 times Bruton carried the ball on fake punts, which are special teams plays even though the stats count for the offense), 3 of their 38 TD in the regular season were scored by players with dreads. The first of those was by Bradley Roby, who scooped and scored in the final minute for the winning points in an improbable win at Kansas City in Week 2 (he celebrates the TD in bottom photo on right, where you can also see Trevathan's reduced dreads barely coming out of his helmet). Like Ray, the only reason Roby wasn't in the starting lineup was the two great players ahead of him on the depth chart. Literally he'd be a starter on any other team. In his limited playing time Roby was outstanding, finishing with 40 tackles, 9 PBU, and 1 TD, and coming up with several huge, important plays. As for those dreads? Well, just add him to the list of players whose dreads would look really cool if they weren't reduced every week. Omar Bolden (photo below), limited to 9 games due to 2 different injuries and then put on IR after being injured again in the playoff win over Pittsburgh, played mostly on special teams, with the best highlight of his season coming in Week 9 at Indianapolis, when he took a punt return 83 yards to the house - something I wouldn't mind him doing again next season since he'll be wearing a different shade of blue and orange ..... LB Reggie Walker cut near end of training camp.
CB Omar Bolden (IR)
S David Bruton (IR)
LB Shane Ray
CB Bradley Roby
LB DANNY TREVATHAN
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
Ron Parker started all 16 games and was good but not great, finishing with 78 tackles, 5 sacks, 9 PBU, and 3 INT (he celebrates the 2nd of those INTs, vs. Broncos in Week 10, in right photo above) ..... Chiefs had 4 players with dreads that scored TD - Charles, Poe, and the two players from Georgia they took in the 2015 draft. Playing behind star WR Jeremy Maclin, 3rd round pick Chris Conley (left photo above) didn't see much action, but his confidence grew as the season went along; so I'm still expecting big things from him after he he had only 17 catches for 199 yards this season ..... 4th round pick Ramik Wilson recovered a Jay Cutler fumble in the end zone for his 1st career TD in Week 5 and finished his rookie season with 20 tackles in 11 games. He
RB JAMAAL CHARLES (IR)
WR Chris Conley
CB Jamell Fleming
OT Laurence Gibson (PS)
S RON PARKER
DT DONTARI POE
G Jarrod Pughsley
DE Nick Williams
LB Ramik Wilson
Three starters with dreads for the Raiders, and all are linemen. 6 of Denico Autry's 22 tackles were TFL, including 3 sacks - one of which came in the end zone for a safety in the Christmas Eve win over Chargers ..... 2nd round draft pick Mario Edwards had a good rookie season, recording 41 tackles and 2.5 sacks in 14 games before going on IR with a neck injury. Edwards didn't give the first edition of his dreads (which he had during his sophomore season at Florida State in 2013) any chance at all to get longer, cutting them off after one season. He started his 2nd edition right after being drafted, turning them into the unusual look that everyone could see loud and clear in Week 11 at Detroit when his helmet came off at the same time Autry was sacking Matthew Stafford (top photo on right). Unusual or not, let's hope he keeps them growing for a while this time .....
DE DENICO AUTRY (IR)
LB Neiron Ball
DE MARIO EDWARDS (IR)
OT DONALD PENN
WR Seth Roberts
SAN DIEGO CHARGERS
It seemed like Jahleel Addae and Jason Verrett (both in photo on right) were having a weekly competition among DBs to see whose dreads were more fabulous. It was hard to pick the winner. Staying healthy has been the only concern about Verrett (left photo below, getting an INT vs. Broncos in Week 13) since he was picked in the 1st round of the 2014 draft. He played in only 6 games as a rookie due to a shoulder injury but this season, despite being injured twice, was on the field for 14 games (all starts) and played in his 1st Pro Bowl. It likely won't be his last, because the quality of his play matches the quality of his dreads ..... In his 3rd NFL season Addae (right photo below) moved into the starting lineup for the first time, and he was mediocre. In 13 games he finished with 64 tackles, 1 sack, 1 FR, 4 PBU, and 0 INT. But the coaching staff seems satisfied, and hopefully he'll continue to improve. No need to improve those dreads though. Just let them keep growing the way they are.
Playing his 1st season with dreads, Melvin Ingram was only other starter on Chargers' D. Slowed by injuries the previous two seasons, Ingram (top photo on right, walking off after the last-second loss to Ravens in Week 8) - the team's 2012 1st round draft choice - stayed healthy, starting all 16 games, and had his best season, playing well enough to earn one of the LB spots on my soon-to-be-released Pro Bowl with dreads team ..... "It was terrible. I was terrible." That's what Melvin Gordon had to say about his rookie season, and you'd have a hard time finding anybody who would disagree. There were 9 players with dreads picked in the 1st round of the 2015 draft; and of the 7 who saw action Gordon was the runaway winner for the most disappointing. Yes, it's true that the Chargers' O-line was one of the worst in the league (if not the worst) and that on many of his carries there were defenders already in the backfield when he took the handoff; but by no means was he blameless. He ended up leading the team in rushing but had only 641 yards, averaged just 3.5 yards per carry, had a whopping 6 fumbles (only two RBs had more), and his longest run was just 27 yards.
http://www.chargers.com/news/2016/04/20/melvin-gordon-2016-oh-i-have-something-prove ... I thought Gordon would be OK when the Chargers drafted him. I didn't realize the O-line would be so lousy. If had better get better though, or else Melvin's not going to come close to reaching his potential ..... Despite playing all 16 games, David Johnson touched the ball only 3 times all season. Whether lined up at TE or FB, his main job was to block for Gordon (bottom photo on right) ..... Joe Barkdale, a 16-game starter, was the best of the bunch on the O-line ..... 6th round draft pick Darius Philon, who missed 7 games during the middle of the season due to an injured hip, had only 5 tackles; but he showed some promise and at 21 years old is bound to improve ..... Ricardo Mathews already had very long dreads when he first came into the league. So it's no surprise that 6 years later those dreads are in the running for longest in the league (photo below). In his 2nd and final season in San Diego Mathews played all 16 games, starting 7, and finished with 22 tackles, 3 TFL, and 1 sack ..... Adding to Chargers' embarrassment of riches in sick dreads, Matt Daniels was added to roster for final game of season, challenging Verrett and Addae for best dreads in the secondary, after spending 2nd half of season being on and off practice squad ..... Craig Watts was cut 3 times during season and brought back to practice squad each time ..... DT Luther Robinson cut at end of training camp.
S JAHLEEL ADDAE
OT JOE BARKSDALE
S Matt Daniels
RB MELVIN GORDON (IR)
LB MELVIN INGRAM
TE David Johnson
DT Ricardo Mathews
DE Darius Philon
CB JASON VERRETT
G Craig Watts (PS)
2 days later, on Jan. 31 at Honolulu, it's game time.
Verrett finished with no stats in the game.
As for Carr's pass .....
14. It comes down perfectly on target and in the hands of Hilton, who has gotten behind both Sherman and Smith, for what appears to be and what at first was ruled a 51-yard TD .....
If you stop the video exactly at the :50 mark, you'll notice what the replay official did - that when Hilton hit the ground, he momentarily lost control of the ball; and although the ball never touched the ground, by the time he regained control he was out of bounds. So after the replay review, it was no TD, just an incomplete pass. Too bad. Team Rice did score a TD 6 plays later, but it wasn't by Hilton. T.Y. finished the game with 1 catch for 20 yards.
This turned out to be Ivory's only rushing attempt of the day. He also caught 3 passes for 55 yards to finish with 71 total yards - the most by anyone with dreads for Team Rice.
Team Rice converted on a fake punt on 4th and 2 on the next play and scored a TD 3 plays later to close within 28-21. But they went INT, INT, and end of quarter not yet in FG range on their next 3 drives, allowing Team Irvin to up their lead to 42-21 heading into 4th quarter.
The video of the play is included in this article from the Seahawks website: http://www.seahawks.com/news/2016/01/31/bobby-wagner-tackles-richard-sherman-big-loss-pro-bowl-trash-talk-predictably-ensues
When he stuck to defense, Sherman did OK in the game, finishing with 2 tackles (1-1) and 3 PBU.
22. I couldn't find any photos of Team Irvin's final TD of the game, just of the celebration after the TD, as DeAndre Hopkins goes up and tries to dunk the ball over the goal post after his 7-yard reception of a pass from Winston on 3rd and 2 finished a 12-play, 75-yard drive that ate up the first 7:10 of 4th quarter and made the score 49-21. It was the 3rd and final TD of the game by a player with dreads. Hopkins finished with 3 catches for 71 yards - the most total yards by any Team Irvin player with dreads.
This article from the Texans website includes a video of Hopkins' TD and an interview after the game along with a couple of other goodies: http://www.houstontexans.com/news/article-2/DeAndre-Hopkins-gets-attention-all-over-at-Pro-Bowl/f9ef6e31-491c-4108-9a0c-06dea4a5de35#start
If you're a Saints fan, I'd be disappointed if you didn't know.
Of course, a little earlier in their careers, they were all teammates with the Saints, playing together in the 2011 and 2012 seasons.
With Jordan's dreads too short to escape his helmet and being reduced on top of that, it was pointless showing any action shots of him from the game. He finished with 1 tackle (1-0).
Peppers, named to the Pro Bowl for the 9th time, was credited with 1 tackle (1-0).
In what likely will be the last ever Team Irvin vs. Team Rice Pro Bowl (it's back to AFC vs. NFC next year) and what possibly will be the last Pro Bowl in Hawaii (it better not be), the final score was Team Irvin 49 Team Irvin 27. Aloha.
Now that we've seen how the real Pro Bowl turned out, let's drift off to the land of make believe. Let's pretend the captain of Team Rice was Sidney Rice instead of Jerry Rice, and he would be coaching a team made up entirely of players with dreads in the Pro Bowl. And who would be the players on the team of the league's best players with dreads? Well, check out the rest of the photos in this dread gallery section, because I'm going to introduce them - the 2015 Pro Bowl with dreads team.
Maybe you'd have a different opinion than me (if so, feel free to express yourself), but for the most part the selections are obvious and pretty easy to make. The same as with the real Pro Bowl, there will be 43 players on the team and will be determined only by how they played during the 2015 season. Unlike the real Pro Bowl, I'm going to cheat and make a couple of changes.
Here is the position-by-position number of players for the teams in the real Pro Bowl:
OFFENSE DEFENSE SPECIAL TEAMS
OT (3) DE (3) P (1)
G (3) DT (3) K (1)
C (2) OLB (3) KR (1)
TE (2) ILB (2) Specialist (1)
WR (4) CB (4)
RB (3) S (3)
There are no kickers with dreads currently in the NFL, so I'll be putting those 2 roster spots to better use. But while you can find anybody to kick, not just anybody can play QB. Hmm. What to do about QB? There aren't any QBs with dreads either. But you can't play without one, so I'll have to come up with something. So with no kickers and only one QB, here's the number of players by position for the 43 players on the Pro Bowl with dreads team:
OFFENSE DEFENSE SPECIAL TEAMS
OT (3) DE (3) KR (2)
G (3) DT (3)
C (2) OLB (5)
TE (1) ILB (2)
WR (5) CB (5)
RB (4) S (3)
To be eligible for team, you have to have had dreads for the whole season. So you won't be seeing photos of Juluis Peppers or Jamie Collins or Julio Jones or Ted Ginn. Sorry about that. And the only other rule is that you couldn't have been on the IR list when the season ended.
25. Ezekiel "Ziggy" Ansah (left photo), sacking QB Sam Bradford in Lions' 45-14 win over Eagles on Thanksgiving - one of the 3.5 sacks he had in the game) and Cameron Jordan of Saints (right photo), in his 1st season with dreads, are the starting DEs. Both 94's.
ANSAH (DET): 3rd season, 16 games, 47 tackles (39-8), 15 TFL, 14.5 sacks, 1 PBU, 4 FF, 2 FR
JORDAN (NO): 5th season, 16 games, 45 tackles (32-13), 15 TFL, 10 sacks, 5 PBU, 1 FF, 2 FR
26. At a combined weight of 696 pounds, Dontari Poe of Chiefs (left photo) and Damon Harrison of Jets (right photo) are the starting DTs.
HARRISON (NYJ): 4th season, 16 games, 72 tackles (39-33), 5 TFL, 0,5 sack, 1 FF
POE (KC): 4th season, 15 games, 39 tackles (29-10), 3 TFL, 1 sack, 1 FF, 1 FR; also had 1 carry on offense for 1-yard TD
SHEARD (NE): 5th season, 13 games, 38 tackles (28-10), 9 TFL, 8 sacks, 2 PBU, 4 FF
WILLIAMS (SF): 5th season, 16 games, 65 tackles (45-20), 2 TFL, 1 sack, 1 PBU, 1 FF, 1 FR
29. The starting outside LBs are Vontaze Burfict (left photo, tackling QB Blaine Gabbert for his only sack of the season in Bengals' 24-14 win over 49ers in Week 15) and Dont'a Hightower of Patriots (right photo).
BURFICT (CIN): 4th season, 10 games, 74 tackles (57-17), 6 TFL, 1 sack, 2 INT, 3 PBU
HIGHTOWER (NE): 4th season, 12 games, 61 tackles (51-10), 5 TFL, 3.5 sacks, 2 PBU, 1 FR
30. You can't go wrong with having either of these inside LBs on the field - both of whom I picked as the best player with dreads in their respective decisions. I decided to give Danny Trevathan of Broncos (left photo) the starting nod over C.J. Mosley of Ravens (right photo), who was in his 1st season with dreads.
MOSLEY (BAL): 2nd season, 16 games, 116 tackles (76-40), 13 TFL, 4 sacks, 7 PBU, 1 FF, 2 FR, 1 TD
TREVATHAN (DEN): 4th season, 15 games, 109 tackles (73-36), 3 TFL, 2 INT, 4 PBU, 1 TD
INGRAM (SD): 4th season, 16 games, 65 tackles (52-13), 14 TFL, 10.5 sacks, 6 PBU, 3 FF, 1 FR
McPHEE (CHI): 5th season, 14 games, 53 tackles (42-11), 9 TFL, 6 sacks, 1 INT, 2 PBU, 1 FF
BARRON (STL): 4th season, 16 games, 113 tackles (76-37), 16 TFL, 1 sack, 5 PBU, 3 FF
SHERMAN (SEA): 5th season, 16 games, 50 tackles (33-17), 1 TFL, 2 INT, 12 PBU
JONES (CIN): 9th season, 14 games, 62 tackles (53-9), 1 sack, 3 INT, 9 PBU, 1 FF
TRUFANT (ATL): 3rd season, 16 games, 42 tackles (35-7), 1 sack, 1 INT, 10 PBU, 2 FR, 1 TD
VERRETT (SD): 2nd season, 14 games, 46 tackles (41-5), 2 TFL, 3 INT, 9 PBU, 1 TD
DARBY (BUF): rookie, 15 games, 68 tackles (61-7), 3 TFL, 2 INT, 19 PBU
If you've been watching the NFL Network's countdown of the league's Top 100 players (they do 10 players every Wednesday night), you may have seen the segment on Nelson, who was ranked as the 60th best player. If you haven't, or would like to see it again, here it is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DntNJUTvdo8
NELSON (CIN): 9th season, 16 games, 72 tackles (50-22), 2 TFL, 8 INT, 6 PBU, 2 FR
SEARCY (TEN): 5th season, 15 games, 55 tackles (42-13), 0.5 sack, 1 INT, 3 PBU
LOWERY (IND): 8th season, 16 games, 76 tackles (56-200, 2 TFL, 1 sack, 4 INT, 4 PBU, 1 TD
41. It's a good thing I was able to welcome Donald Penn (right) to the house this season, because there aren't many other good O-lineman with dreads. Penn has not missed a single game in his 9-year career, and has started every game for the last 8 seasons. Another #72 from the AFC West joins Penn in the starting lineup as the OTs. Despite Chargers' O-line woes, I heard that Joe Barksdale (left photo) actually played OK during his 1st season in San Diego. He started all 16 games.
42. A couple of 1st round draft picks are the starting guards, with James Carpenter (right photo) having a better season in 2015 than Jonathan Cooper (left photo). In his 1st season with the Jets (after playing his first 4 seasons in Seattle) Carpenter started all 16 games for the first time in his career. As I mentioned earlier, Cooper's career hasn't gone as well as he had hoped, starting with breaking his leg during training camp in his rookie season in 2013 and missing the entire season. Maybe he'll do better next season with the change of scenery he got after being traded to New England.
45. Hopefully some day before their careers are over Derek Newton of Texans (left photo) and A.J. Cann of Jaguars (right photo) will be good enough to play in the real Pro Bowl. But that day wasn't this season. Just as with Rhaney, Newton, who started all 16 games for the 3rd straight year for Texans, and Cann, who started 13 games in his rookie season, are reserve O-linemen more by default than anything else.
JOHNSON (SD): 6th season, 16 games, 2 carries for 4 yards rushing, 1 reception for 4 yards, 1 fumble (1 lost)
HOPKINS (HOU): 3rd season, 16 games, 111 receptions for 1,521 yards (13.7), 83 1st downs, 11 TD, 1 fumble (1 lost)
FITZGERALD (ARIZ): 12th season, 16 games, 109 receptions for 1,215 yards (11.1), 65 1st downs, 9 TD, 2 fumbles (2 lost)
49. The three reserve WRs all hail from the state of Florida. Representing the 239 (southwest Florida) is Sammy Watkins (left photo, making a 44-yard TD catch vs. Dolphins in Week 9), who managed his 1st career 1,000-yard season despite being targeted on only 96 passes (7 per game). And on the right, from the 561 (Palm Beach County, including Muck City), Travis Benjamin runs in his 42-yard TD reception to tie game with Ravens at 27 with 1:47 to play in 4th quarter on Monday night in Week 12. Always a standout punt returner throughout his career, Benjamin finally became a regular part of Browns' offense this season after gaining a total of just 717 yards receiving in his first 3 seasons.
BENJAMIN (CLEV): 4th season, 16 games, 68 receptions for 966 yards (14.2), 39 1st downs, 5 TD, 3 fumbles (2 lost)
WATKINS (BUF): 2nd season, 13 games, 60 receptions for 1,047 yards (17.5), 41 1st downs, 9 TD, 0 fumbles
HILTON (IND): 4th season, 16 games, 69 receptions for 1,124 yards (16.3), 49 1st downs, 5 TD, 1 fumble (0 lost)
51. As mentioned earlier, Todd Gurley's rookie season with the Rams was a smashing success. Even though he missed 3 games he still led all RBs with dreads in yards rushing, including a 146-yard game in his 1st career start vs. Cardinals (right photo) in Week 4. Joining Gurley in the starting backfield is FB Boobie Dixon (left photo), who has maintained perfect attendance throughout his career (96 games in 6 seasons) since being drafted in the 6th round by 49ers in 2010.
DIXON (BUF): 6th season, 16 games, 21 carries for 44 yards rushing (2.1), 5 1st downs, 1 TD; 6 receptions for 44 yards (7.3), 1 1st down, 0 TD; 0 fumbles
GURLEY (STL): rookie, 13 games, 229 carries for 1,106 yards rushing (4.8), 45 1st downs, 10 TD; 21 receptions for 188 yards (9.0), 8 1st downs, 0 TD, 3 fumbles, 1 lost
52. As mentioned earlier, reserve RBs Devonta Freeman (left photo) and Chris Ivory (right photo) had an unusual encounter in the Pro Bowl. But let's forget about that and focus on the fact that they played well enough to be in the Pro Bowl, both establishing career highs in yards and TD and both topping 1,000 yards for the first time.
FREEMAN (ATL): 2nd season, 15 games, 265 carries for 1,056 yards rushing (4.0), 67 1st downs, 11 TD; 73 receptions for 578 yards (7.9), 21 1st downs, 3 TD, 3 fumbles (2 lost)
IVORY (NYJ): 6th season, 15 games, 247 carries for 1,070 yards rushing (4.3), 50 1st downs, 7 TD; 30 receptions for 217 yards (7.2), 9 1st downs, 1 TD, 4 fumbles (2 lost)
WILLIAMS (PIT): 10th season, 16 games, 200 carries for 907 yards rushing (4.5), 51 1st downs, 11 TD; 40 receptions for 367 yards (9.2), 15 1st downs, 0 TD, 3 fumbles (1 lost)
PATTERSON (MIN): 3rd season, 16 games, 32 KR for 1,019 yards (31.8), 2 TD, 1 fumble (1 lost)
HARRIS (NYG): 5th season, 15 games, 22 KR for 631 yards (28.7), 1 TD; 34 punt returns for 341 yards (10.0), 1 TD, 3 fumbles (0 lost)
And finally, that brings us to QB. This is the point where I was hoping to be including rookie Phillip Sims on the team. In 4 games with Cardinals during the preseason he went 28 for 51 (54.9%) for 261 yards, 3 TD, 0 INT, passer rating 88.8. After he was cut at the end of the preseason, I thought for sure he'd be on somebody's practice squad. But that didn't happen. At last check he's going to try to play in the CFL for the 2016 season.
With Sims not an option, I was going to pick Denard Robinson as the QB, but then .....
56. ..... I remembered that MarQueis Gray was a QB in college too - and a better passer than Robinson, at that. So I'm going to cheat and active Gray off of IR to be the QB. He suffered a broken arm in the Bills' Week 4 loss to the Giants and had surgery 3 days later on Oct. 7. It's almost 5 months from then until the date of the Pro Bowl (Jan. 31), so there's a chance he would have been healthy enough to play by then.
Gray worked out as a QB at the 2013 Combine (left photo) but was not drafted. The 49ers signed him right after the draft and decided his size (6-foot-4, 242 pounds) and athletic ability could be put to better use at TE, and that's been his position ever since - although he did take a few snaps at QB when he was with the Browns in 2013 (rushing for 43 yards but attempting no passes). After spending the 1st half of 2014 with the Vikings, he was released and immediately picked up by the Bills. But after catching 8 passes for 118 yards in the final 5 games of the season, he didn't get a chance to build on that thanks to his injury this season. The photo on right is of him running after a catch during a preseason game on Aug. 29.
I don't know; I didn't see a lot of him in college, but he seemed like a decent enough passer. Put him on this team, give him some practice time to get the rust off, and he might not be half bad as a QB.
So here once again are the 43 players on my Pro Bowl with dreads team, with the starters in all CAPS.
DE EZEKIEL ANSAH (DET)
DE CAMERON JORDAN (NO)
DE Jabaal Sheard (NE)
DT DAMON HARRISON (NYJ)
DT DONTARI POE (KC)
DT Ian Williams (SF)
OLB VONTAZE BURFICT (CIN)
OLB DONT'A HIGHTOWER (NE)
OLB Mark Barron (STL)
OLB Melvin Ingram (SD)
OLB Pernell McPhee (CHI)
ILB DANNY TREVATHAN (DEN)
ILB C.J. Mosley (BAL)
CB ADAM JONES (CIN)
CB RICHARD SHERMAN (SEA)
CB Ronald Darby (BUF)
CB Desmond Trufant (ATL)
CB Jason Verrett (SD)
S REGGIE NELSON (CIN)
S DA'NORRIS SEARCY (TEN)
S Dwight Lowery (IND)
OT JOE BARKSDALE (SD)
OT DONALD PENN (OAK)
OT Derek Newton (HOU)
G JAMES CARPENTER (NYJ)
G JONATHAN COOPER (ARIZ)
G A.J. Cann (JAC)
C MIKE POUNCEY (MIA)
C Demetrius Rhaney (STL)
TE DAVID JOHNSON (SD)
WR LARRY FITZGERALD (ARIZ)
WR DeANDRE HOPKINS (HOU)
WR Travis Benjamin (CLEV)
WR T.Y. Hilton (IND)
WR Sammy Watkins (BUF)
RB TODD GURLEY (STL)
RB Devonta Freeman (ATL)
RB Chris Ivory (NYJ)
RB DeAngelo Williams (PIT)
FB BOOBIE DIXON (BUF)
QB MarQUEIS GRAY (BUF)
KR/PR Dwayne Harris (NYG)
KR Cordarrelle Patterson (MIN)