By: Barry Barnes, Founder
In the NFL, every achievement is earned and no one knows that better than the athletes who toil through the NFL Regional Combine. Excellence is not represented just by donning an NFL jersey, but what is accomplished when it’s worn.
Out of the 71 standouts from the RC, 42 active players continuously demonstrate their hunger week in and week out.
This season is special, in terms of the breakdown as there are more offensive players involved than ever before. Of the 71, 33 play offense, and 21 are active. The pass catchers lead the way with 10 active players, followed by nine offensive linemen.
At one point in the careers of these once NFL hopefuls, they filled minor roles. All of them are taking advantage of their opportunities, but some are accomplishing excellence either as a part of the game plan or as targets.
Minnesota Vikings Adam Thielen is clearly targeted by opposing teams’ defenses and is a part of the team’s game plan.
The once special teams ace Thielen has finally separated himself as the best receiving threat for the NFC North leader. Entering Week 11, Thielen is second in the NFL in receiving yards with 916 and is tied fifth in receptions (62).
While Thielen made plays on special teams, he worked diligently on his route running and refined his catching skills to become one of the league’s best. Nevertheless, Thielen is only concerned about one number each week – another win in the win column.
“I’m not even thinking about it,” said Thielen, according to twincities.com. “Honestly, I’ve got way too much to think about for this week and I’m just trying to play my best football and help this team win games … So, I can’t even think about yards.”
Thielen journeyed through the Chicago-held RC workouts in 2013 and followed up with a solid Pro Day at Minnesota. From there, history continues to be made – including this season.
In Week 12, Thielen made history for the NFL Regional Combine and broke the Vikings’ eight-year drought of not having a 1,000 receiver (1,005). The last Viking to eclipse a 1,000 yards was Sidney Rice in 2009.
What a great story of feeding one’s hunger.
“It’s a great story, coming from Mankato State,” said Hall of Fame wide receiver and Vikings’ legend Cris Carter. “It’s nice to see local kids that really have a chance to have their dream come true. …He’s played his best football. He’s been able to be injury free, and he’s also now coming into the prime of his career. He’s definitely one of the (NFL’s) best receivers.”
Oakland Raiders wide receiver Seth Roberts is having a quiet season, comparably to last year this time when he had five touchdowns. This campaign, Roberts crossed the goal line once, which came in Week One. Down the stretch during the Raiders’ playoff push, they will look to get Roberts more involved.
Indianapolis Colts tight end Brandon Williams is having his best season of his pro career, for which he is well overdue.
Williams started in seven contests and registered nine catches for 102 yards, averaging 11.3 a grab. After spending time with the Carolina Panthers, Miami Dolphins and Seattle Seahawks, the 2013 RC attendee may have finally found a home.
Marvin Hall is seeing action on reserved basis for the Atlanta Falcons as he was promoted to the active roster in preparation for Week 6 and caught his first and only pass of the season, which became his first career touchdown spanning for 40 yards.
With 2:01 left in the first quarter from the Miami Dolphins’ 40-yard line, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan took the ball from under center, faked a hand off and a reverse to launch a deep pass down the middle of the field to Hall, who had Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard beaten by five yards, for the 40 yard score.
Rookie wide receiver Keelan Cole is slowly turning the corner for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Cole is third on the team in receiving yards (243) and second in yards per catch (14.3). He dropped some huge passes along the season, however, he came through on some unexpected key plays. Against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 9, the Jaguars faced a third-and-12 from the Bengals’ 45-yard line in the first quarter with 4:13 left.
Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles received the snap from shotgun and a high pass to Cole. Cole leaped with his right hand in the air, snatched the ball down and went up the field for a 38 yards.
Cole excelled at the Minnesota-held RC trials, and his skill set is taking shape in the league.
Among the offensive linemen, Pittsburgh Steelers left tackle Alejandro Villanueva may be having a Pro Bowl season as he is keeping quarterback Ben Roethlisberger upright and creating holes for the NFL rushing leader Le’Veon Bell.
Denver Broncos rookie tackle Elijah Wilkerson earned his first taste of NFL action in Week 10 against the New England Patriots. In the third quarter with 10:54 remaining, Broncos rookie tackle Garett Bolles sat out for a couple of plays because he was shaken up. Wilkerson stepped in and played solidly.
After starting for the Indianapolis Colts in Week One, tackle Denzelle Good returned to the starting line up in Week 12. Good was out for the majority of the season due to an undisclosed injury.
The NFL Regional Combine is thin on ball carriers. Jaguars full back Tommy Bohanan, who attended the Pro Player Combine, is primarily used as a battering ram for rookie running back Leonard Fournette, who is second among rookies in rushing yards at 765 – seventh overall.
Nevertheless, Bohanon continues to be active in the offense, especially in receiving as he registered six catches for 43 yards, including a one-yard touchdown pass which he garnered in Week One.
- Los Angeles Chargers tight end Sean McGrath – two catches for 20 yards.
- Cardinals tight end Ifeanyi Momah – one reception, 46 yards.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Alan Cross – two receptions for 11 yards.
- Cardinals running back Elijhaa Penny – one carry, one yard.
- Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Mike Thomas – one carry, 12 yards.
- Green Bay Packers wide receiver Trevor Davis – two receptions for 14 yards. Davis had a couple carries as well as he posted 13 yards on two attempts. The second-year receiver from California is solid in the return game as well.
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