How do you follow-up the Hurricanes boat racing Savannah State in the season opener? You try to nurse yourself back to health by spending the day watching even more football. The NFL makes its glorious return to Sundays now that the calendar has turned over to the autumn. For another year, State of the U has you covered on games taking place today and Monday as week one of the 2018 season gets underway.
If you’re new to this, the focus — as you can imagine — will be on the Hurricanes a.k.a. ProCanes who litter NFL rosters. Miami does not get recognized as the U if they’re not producing highly regarded commodities at the game’s highest level. We’ll give you game analysis for the upcoming week, some decent fantasy advice and, of course, reactions from the pros in regards to how the current Canes are fairing.
Enough with the preamble; here’s a look at your week one Game Previews… after we take care of some business first.
As noted by UM’s official twitter account for the football team, there are about 39 University of Miami alumni currently on an NFL roster on opening week. However, there are some guys who are either free agents or signed to work on the practice roster. Here’s a list of the players who were placed on practice roster after last week’s cuts:
DT Kendrick Norton — Carolina Panthers
CB Dee Delaney — Jacksonville Jaguars
OL KC McDermott — Jacksonville Jaguars
DL Trent Harris — New England Patriots
Note * Practice roster personnel do not count towards a team’s 53-man roster.
In other roster news, after former Miami defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad was waived by the Saints, he was quickly picked up by the Indianapolis Colts. According to Pro Football Focus, AQM saw just 24 snaps in three games last year.
Week One Game Previews
Jacksonville Jaguars vs. New York Giants 1PM EDT
DUVAL is back in the building! The reigning AFC South champs are on a mission to squeeze respect out of the rest of the league. After falling oh-so-painfully short against the Patriots in last year’s AFC Championship game, the Jaguars are forced to pillage and plunder their way to squeeze respect once again from the rest of the league.. Jacksonville will need to center their focus when they travel to Gotham to take on the New York Giants.
ProCane center Brandon Linder is dealing with a knee injury that Jacksonville has given little information about since Linder went down in a preseason game against the Vikings. Linder has missed the past couple weeks of practice trying to rehab the injury and his availability is doubtful for today.
There’s no question surrounding DE Calais Campbell for Sunday. After putting together a career-making year with 14.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and a touchdown, the ‘Mayor of Sacksonville’ is going to make it a long afternoon for the Giants’ offense.
You can make the case that no one on the Giants’ offense has as much pressure heaped on them as Ereck Flowers. The fourth-year tackle has endured enormous criticism throughout his early career. Flowers has reportedly been chided about his playing style, effort and genuine love for the game. With the addition of Nate Solder in free agency, Flowers was moved to right tackle in hopes the position would be a better fit. So far it’s been good, but we’ll get a better picture of just how far the big man has progressed when he plays against Jacksonville’s defensive onslaught.
Procane DE Olivier Vernon is dealing with an ankle sprain, initially thought to be a deep bone bruise. The injury occurred at a Giant’s practice; Vernon needed to be carted off the field. It’s another tough blow for the American Senior High School alum, who dealt with a foot issue for a majority of the 2017 season.
Houston Texans vs. New England Patriots 1PM EDT
Forget that DE JJ Watt makes his much-hyped-about return to a football field. ProCane RB Lamar Miller looks to put a dismal 2017 season behind him. His 3.7 yards-per-carry in the regular season were abysmal, though part of the blame goes to a porous offensive line. The Texans likely won’t have RB D’Onta Foreman for the first six games of the year due to injury. RB Alfred Blue has proven that he works best as a complementary back than the workhorse of Houston’s running game. That leaves Miller with the stage all to himself, with a premium opportunity to re-establish himself as a quality NFL back. With tweaks across the offensive line and the return of QB Deshaun Watson, the running lanes might open up a little wider and longer for Miller this time around.
After playing for both the Colts and the Patriots, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Phillip Dorsett has been in the NFL longer than three seasons. We’ve caught flashes of Dorsett making an impact on offense, but the Fort Lauderdale, Florida, native is projected to be a staple on the Pats’ offense — at least to start the regular season. QB Tom Brady’s most reliable receiver, Julian Edelman, is suspended for the first four games of the season. New England released Malcolm Mitchell and Danny Amendola who had their moments last season. Dorsett will be the third WR for Brady, with a legitimate opportunity to finally be a featured on offense since his arrival to the league.
That’s a similar situation Braxton Berrios this season. The sixth round selection fought for the final spot on New England’s receiving depth chart. The Canes’ leading receiver in 2017 will primarily work as a special team member, the season provides an excellent opportunity for Berrios to figure out the differences of life as pro as opposed to a student athlete.
San Francisco 49ers vs. Minnesota Vikings 1PM EDT
One of the more intriguing games from this afternoon is the shootout in Minnesota. Perhaps the term shootout is a bit too optimistic given the prowess of the defenses in this game. While the Vikings are the more established unit, the Niners are a blend of old and new. The additions of veterans CB Richard Sherman and LB Jerry Attaochu to go along with young thumper LB Reuben Foster and ProCane S Adrian Colbert. As a rookie, Colbert definitely made waves with his jarring blows upon contact. What didn’t get much mention was his two fumbles forced and a Pro Football Focus coverage grade of 72.9. The grading factors in number of targets per game, yards allowed after reception, as well as his five pass break ups and just one touchdown allowed a season ago.
On the other side of the line of scrimmage will be G Danny Isidora. Filling a need of depth for the the Vikings a season ago, Isidora was pressed into the starting offensive line rotation a couple of times. However, he was unable to earn anything but a spot start. Currently pegged as the backup right guard, if problems do arise on the right side of the offensive line, there could be an opening for the big guard.
Tennessee Titans vs. Miami Dolphins 1PM EDT
Frank Gore’s illustrious career has taken him from San Francisco to Indianapolis and is now back to his roots in South Florida. This afternoon will mark Gore’s first home game as a member of the Dolphins. As we highlighted in the preseason primer, it won’t take long for Gore to climb to number four on the NFL’s all-time rushing list. Standing in his way is a revamped Titans defense that, under new head coach Mike Vrabel, will force Phins QB Ryan Tannehill to win the game with his arm.
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Cleveland Browns 1PM EDT
Will the Browns be able to deliver the hard knocks or will their hard luck continue? The positive momentum from HBO’s Hard Knocks docu-series has folks around the league talking about the Browns being one of the most improved teams in the league. That’s easy to say after Cleveland went 0-17 a season ago. Armed with a squadron of ProCane talent: TE David Njoku, RB Duke Johnson, DE Chad Thomas, P Justin Vogel and LB Jermaine Grave, a win over defending AFC North champs, Pittsburgh, would be the biggest statement to happen in opening week for any franchise.
For CB Artie Burns and the Steelers’ defense, this has to be a year where making it to the playoffs doesn’t simply cut it anymore. Pittsburgh has one of the more talented rosters in the league, yet have been unable to make it back to the Super Bowl for quite some time despite all the blessings on the roster. This could be the first time head coach Mike Tomlin actually feels the heat to make it to the Super Bowl or face the unemployment line. With plenty of scrutiny directed towards the defense in the offseason, Burns, who accounted for 10 pass break ups and one interception, will be expected to improve on his discipline from last season. Burns’ seven penalties led all Steeler defenders. Combine that with his poor tackling and you understand why Steeler Nation has mixed emotions when it comes to Miami’s Northwestern product.
Fantasy Cane of the Week
We talked about the tenuous situation in Pittsburgh’s secondary. The concern extends to the middle of the defense as well. With the Steelers traditional playing zone defense, this should be the ideal week to start UM’s former star TE.
The U is loaded with NFL talent, which is common to the program more seasons than not. So the shock meter won’t fluctuate too much when you read that scouts are very high on several of Miami’s upperclassmen. In his most recent mock draft — yeah, mock drafts are year-round — Bleacher Report NFL Draft analyst Matt Miller projects three Canes to have somewhere near a first-round grade for the 2019 NFL Draft.
S Jaquan Johnson
Miami’s Jaquan Johnson might not be built like a traditional strong safety—he’s listed at 5’11” and 190 pounds—but he’s a thumper who excels at all levels of the game. He’s a lot like former Florida safety Marcus Maye, now with the New York Jets, in that he can easily play free or strong and matches up well across the board in the defensive backfield.
As long as Johnson stays healthy, he’ll be my top safety prospect in this class for the foreseeable future.
DE Joe Jackson
The Miami Hurricanes are loaded defensively for the 2019 draft, and one player who is poised for a breakout is edge-rusher Joe Jackson.
Jackson was overshadowed by teammates Chad Thomas and Kendrick Norton last year, but he still added 6.5 sacks on his own while showing the raw talent to become a dangerous pass-rusher at the pro level. His 6’5”, 258-pound frame is perfect for a 3-4 or 4-3 scheme, and outside of Nick Bosa, he’s the best of the true edge-rushers in this class at standing up and getting after the quarterback.
CB Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson was one of the ACC’s best defenders in 2017, grabbing four interceptions and breaking up four more passes. His size (6’1”, 200 lbs) and experience coming out of Miami make Jackson one of the best corners in the upcoming class.
IT’S ALWAYS ABOUT THE U!