The Panic Room
While NFC West powerhouse teams San Francisco Forty Niners and Seattle Seahawks have made bold moves to boost their roster for the upcoming season, the Saint Louis Rams find themselves relying heavily on young raw talent, which made Day 1 of the 2013 NFL Draft crucial for the rising team. In a Sports Illustrated exclusive in this week’s magazine, Senior Writer Peter King gives a behind the scenes look at how the Rams managed the franchises most important day of the year with a little gambling and a lucky golden coin.
Included in this draft day timeline is:
- The Rams desperate deal making that ensured their acquisition of the No. 8 pick in the draft and the subsequent drafting of West Virginia receiver-returner Tevon Austin, “a durable lightning bug and the most dangerous player on the board,” (PAGE 50) writes King.
- The dramatic decision making process that led to the Rams trading their No. 22 overall pick in the first round for the No. 30 pick, a move that potentially put securing their favorite prospect, Alec Ogletree, in jeopardy. Ogletree’s agent Pat Dye warned, “you better not get cute or you’ll lose him.” (PAGE 51) The Rams got him at No. 30 still.
- A breakdown of the sweat-educing stressful environment that was the climax of a nine month scouting process, an environment that “felt like Wall Street,” (PAGE 54) said Les Snead, the Rams General Manager.
In this week’s SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, Peter King reports from the NFL Combine in Indianapolis (PAGES 24-27), where he scouted the new kinds of players at critical positions that executives are looking for in this year’s draft. King believes the following evolving positions are the most essential:
- The athletic offensive tackle: With quarterbacks varying between pocket and mobile in today’s NFL, an athletic offensive tackle that can fend off both heavier ends and speed-rushers is needed in an offense. Think Luke Joeckel of Texas A&M, who could very well be the #1 pick to Kansas City.
- The three-down middle linebacker: Even with Ray Lewis departing the NFL, his style of linebacker play (sideline-to-sideline, every down playmaker) is as important as ever in the league. Alec Ogletree of Georgia best fits the mold, as he can rush the quarterback, chase down receivers and easily latch on to running backs.
- The physical corner who can run with speed guys: Corners that can bump at the line are in demand in the NFL as quarterbacks sit in the pocket longer, waiting for the play to develop. They still have to hang with speed receivers once the play opens up, however, and Xavier Rhodes of Florida State, who bumps “like a five-year NFL vet” is the guy in this year’s draft.
Baltimore Ravens’ wide receiver and kick returner Jacoby Jones, who opened the second half of the Ravens Super Bowl XLVII victory over the 49ers with a postseason record 108-yard kickoff return for a TD, is on the cover of the Feb. 11, 2013, issue of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, on newsstands Wednesday.
This is the first time that Jones, who appears above the headline: “Fear the Bird. Revere the Bird”, has appeared on the SI cover and the 12th time that a member of the Ravens has appeared on the SI cover. You can purchase this week’s cover here.
Jones, a New Orleans native who also caught a 56 yard touchdown pass from Joe Flacco in the first half, set a number of Super Bowl records in Baltimore’s 34-31 victory over San Francisco, including most combined yards in a game (290) and longest play (his 108-yard kickoff return). Jones also tied a record with two plays of 50-or-more yards. Senior writer Peter King (@SI_PeterKing) writes:
“In the span of two game minutes, Jones had touched the ball twice, gained 164 yards, and scored two touchdowns.” (PAGE 31)
Anchored by Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, the new crop of NFL starting quarterbacks are changing the belief that signal callers need time on the sidelines before taking control of the team. SPORTS ILLUSTRATED Senior Writer Peter King (@SI_PeterKing) writes that the recent surge of young quarterbacks making an impact instead of the “carry-a-clipboard-for-years credo” shows a distinct change in the NFL game. King writes:
“Learning curve? They don’t need no stinkin’ learning curve (PAGE 40).”
In addition to rolling right away with young quarterbacks, teams have embraced a variety of changes, such as implementing schemes from the college game, embracing the no-huddle, pistol, and option offenses, and taking a chance on short quarterbacks (Wilson stands at 5’10 7/8”.) King says: “As running threats with great arms force defenses to change on the fly, Sunday’s game looks an awful lot like Saturday’s.” (PAGE 40)
Seattle head coach Pete Carroll, who took a chance on starting the short, young Wilson this season, is one of the examples of the new forward-thinking NFL.
“When we gave Russell the job, I thought, Well, buckle up: it’s gonna be a Disney ride. It wasn’t conventional thinking. But conventional thinking, that’s not always what wins. (PAGE 43).”
Harbaugh Brothers, Frank Gore, Ray Lewis and Joe Flacco Featured on Special Four-Cover Series of This Week’s Sports IllustratedPosted: January 22, 2013
Brothers Jim and John Harbaugh, San Francisco 49ers running back Frank Gore; Ravens linebacker and emotional leader Ray Lewis, and Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco are featured on a special 4-cover series of the Jan. 28, 2013 Sports Illustrated, on newsstands Wednesday.
The first three covers feature the headlines: “There Will Be Blood”, “There Will be Gore”, and “There Will be a Valiant Last Stand”. They lead up to the final cover, which predicts “There Will Be a Parade in Baltimore”. This is the 3rd time that both Lewis and Flacco have appeared on the cover and the 2nd time Gore has appeared on the cover.
This week’s Sports Illustrated includes12 pages of Super Bowl XLVII coverage, featuring “10 Things We Thing we Think”. Highlights include:
Senior writer Peter King (@SI_PeterKing) says that you must expect the unexpected from the unpredictable 49ers offense, as they have proven they can beat you in multiple ways (PAGE 40). However, King still picks the Ravens to defeat the 49ers, 27-23. King says: “I’ve doubted Flacco one too many times this winter, and I won’t make that mistake a third time (PAGE 49).”
Ray Lewis and the reinvigorated Ravens defense will contest the 49ers explosive offensive attack writes senior writer Austin Murphy (@si_austinmurphy). Murphy says: “Galvanized by hardships earlier in the season and rallying around spiritual leader Lewis, they are headed to the Big Easy brimming with the confidence that comes from confounding the doubters three weeks in a row (PAGE 42).”
They may share the same last name, but Jim and John Harbaugh have taken different journeys and approaches en route to leading their teams to the Super Bowl. Senior writer Michael Rosenberg (@Rosenberg_Mike) writes that while most Super Bowl storylines tend to overwhelm the game itself, this story—the HarBowl—is a worthy one will certainly live up to the hype. Rosenberg writes: “Two brothers, who were born 15 months apart and spent much of their childhoods sharing a room, will be coaching against one another on the biggest stage in American sports (PAGE 47).”
Download a high res image of the covers here