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ProCanes NFL Preview: The 2019 Pro Bowl

A trio of UM stars take center stage this afternoon.

NFL: Pro Bowl AFC/NFC Practice Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Super Bowl LII is now just seven days away! In the meantime, there’s still some NFL football to be played. Well, if you consider the Pro Bowl a competitive football game, that is. Regardless, there’s some Hurricane content to be found in today’s game in Orlando. While the Hurricanes have some many months to go before they grace the field at Camping World Stadium, some ProCanes look to make their mark in this exhibition contest.

State of the U also has some news from the week that was for the Hurricanes’ 2019 NFL Draft eligibles. We’ll recap yesterday’s Reese’s Senior Bowl and preview what’s next on the road to the 2019 NFL Draft for your Hurricane prospects.

Pro Bowl Overview

To be honest, the Pro Bowl has been reinvented numerous times over the last decade to drum up attention for the NFL all-star game. The league has played with furthering financial incentives and rules and moved the game from Hawaii to a few different venues in recent memory. With players trying to not go all-out in this exhibition contest for fear of injury, the game is not the spectacle that it has been in past iterations. However, with the amount of consumable football available down into the single digits, the league figures that a contest that is now less than it was is better than nothing at all.

NFL: Pro Bowl AFC/NFC Practice
It’s all peace and smiles for ProCane RB Lamar Miller this weekend.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Regardless of your opinion of the Pro Bowl game itself, it’s still an honor to be named to the roster. You’re lining up with the preeminent names of the sport — well, the ones that won’t be playing in Super Bowl LIII. For Houston Texans’ RB Lamar Miller and LB Olivier Vernon, the 2019 Pro Bowl marks their first ever appearance in the all-star format. For Jacksonville Jaguars DL Calais Campbell this will be his fourth appearance in the all-star game.

Miller rushed for 973 rushing yards, five touchdowns and caught 25 passes for the Texans in 2018. The former Canes tailback spearheaded a Texans’ rushing attack that ranked eighth in the league and averaged 4.3 yards-per-carry. Behind an average or worse offensive line, the lead back of the Texans was able to produce four 100+ rushing yard performances in the regular season.

Olivier Vernon’s spot on the Pro Bowl roster is one of improbability. After missing the first five games of the 2018 regular season with an injury, Vernon returned to a hapless Giants’ defense and turned in one of the most productive seasons of his career. In just 11 games, Vernon compiled 30 tackles, seven sacks, five tackles-for-loss, 21 QB hits, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. While there’s speculation regarding whether the Giants will be willing to have Vernon’s contract count against their salary cap in 2019, Vernon should be pleased with his production from last season when he takes the field this afternoon.

NFL: Pro Bowl-NFC Practice
Oliver Vernon (right) took a moment to pose for a pic with some NFC East foes at the 2019 Pro Bowl.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

For the second consecutive season, DE Calais Campbell will be taking part of the Pro Bowl festivities. Added to the AFC roster earlier this week, Campbell takes the place of Houston Texans star JJ Watt. Calais finished the 2018 season with 72 tackles, 20 TFLs and 10.5 sacks. The eleven-year vet acknowledged the honor of attending another Pro Bowl (his fourth) with a statement. “I am grateful for the opportunity to represent my family, the Jaguars organization, my teammates, my coaches and all of our incredible fans at this year’s Pro Bowl.”

A few ProCane Moments From Pro Bowls of the Past

The Pro Bowl often leaves you desiring more from a contest that features the game’s best on either sideline. However, there are still moments that make the Pro Bowl experience one to remember. Here are some of our favorite memories featuring ProCanes, past and present:

Sean Taylor Destroying Brian Moorman

Jimmy Graham Being Selected by Team Irvin

Andre Johnson 2007 Best Hands Competition (Color commentary from Ed Reed)

NFL Video Link

News and Notes

Senior Bowl Recap

Safeties Jaquan Johnson and Sheldrick Redwine participated in the Reese’s Senior Bowl. The collegiate all-star showcase serves as an opportunity for players to improve their draft stock ahead of the NFL Scouting Combine and Pro Day to follow. The former Canes’ safeties had a solid week of practice leading up to Satuday’s game.

It was a successful day for Jaquan Johnson. The senior strong safety displayed his versatility from the opening snap to his final series. ‘The Franchise’ made more than a few impressive tackles in open space and illustrated his range in coverage. Johnson definitely left the Senior Bowl with some positive momentum, which should only continue to motivate him forward as he prepares for the combine.

Lining up in the deepest part of the field, Sheldrick Redwine did not see as much action in his direction as Jaquan received. However, Redwine come up with a key pass breakup, followed by a tackle at the line of scrimmage to halt a North Team drive in the South redzone. The week in Mobile, Alabama has provided the UM free safety with feedback on improving his game entering a crucial stretch of draft season.

Scouts Impressed with MJ

CB Michael Jackson was unable to participate in last weekend’s East-West Shrine Game due to an undisclosed injury. However, Jackson has drummed up some positive momentum in the early portion of the draft season. Matt Miller of Bleacher Report said, “NFL scouts are attracted to versatility, and one of the better defensive backs through Shrine practices has been one who could line up at safety or cornerback in the NFL.”

Miller goes on to list that the primary concern for MJ is his speed through transition. A lack of which could facilitate a move to safety in the NFL. So if there wasn’t enough pressure on the former Hurricane corner, the heat just got turned up in what will be an important 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine in March. Expect Jackson to workout at cornerback and alongside the safeties at UM’s Pro Day this spring.

Jackson has been reported to have spoken with team officials for the Baltimore Ravens last week.

RT Seantrel Henderson Staying in H-Town

In news that we missed from last week, the Houston Texans have decided to retain the services of ProCane tackle Seantrel Henderson. The fifth-year pro was lost for the season in the Texans season opener with an ankle injury. The one year extension is reportedly worth $4.5 million. The former Hurricane offensive tackle also celebrated his birthday earlier in the week.

2019 Unrestricted Free Agents

Kansas City Chiefs DE Allen Bailey

Pittsburgh Steelers LB Anthony Chickillo

Los Angeles Chargers LB Denzel Perryman

Miami Dolphins RB Frank Gore

Los Angeles Rams CB Sam Shields

Cleveland Browns LB Ray-Ray Armstrong

Jacksonville Jaguars T Ereck Flowers

New York Jets TE Clive Walford

Arizona Cardinals DT Olsen Pierre

Indianapolis Colts QB Brad Kaaya