I will never again question the intensity of the Great Lakes Classic. At least on the Browns’ side.
They played Thursday’s game like their trophy, which may or may not be imaginary, would be removed from their locked closet and given to the winner of Thursday’s game. They trash talked. They pushed after the whistle. They threw deep balls. They scored touchdowns.
The Lions, meanwhile, started “vanilla”, as Jim Schwartz said they would, and quickly fell into the pool of “barely trying.” Their offense consisted of running up the middle, throwing swing passes to the left and throwing swing passes to the right.
As the starters left and those vying for the James Mungro Memorial Award presented by whoever that streaker was* came in, the urgency level picked up slightly, but the dominance from the Browns remained in place throughout the game.
That was bad news for the JMMA candidates. None of the top tier did enough to snatch the award outright and, aside from one legendary performance, none of the lower tier candidates did much of anything.
The JMMA search continues for another week.
The Lions have made five transactions since we last met. The deadline to join the JMMA watchlist has passed, but one particular move may have major effects on the eventual winner. It’s not the releasing of either Conroy Black or Adrian Moten. Both were headed for Cut City anyway.
It’s the signing of defensive tackle Justin Bannon, who played in all 16 games and started all but one of them for the Broncos last year. Bannon will make the 53-man roster, and in doing so may take the final defensive tackle spot away from last week’s JMMA favorites, Jimmy Saddler-McQueen and Ogemdi Nwagbuo. More on this later. We need to make a pit stop in Cut City first.
Another six competitors have settled in Cut City:
DB Tyrell Johnson, CB Myron Lewis, CB DeQuan Menzie, LB Jon Morgan, S Martavius Neloms, T LaAdrian Waddle.
Most of these player didn’t follow the guidelines I set for them before the game.
Tyrell Johnson failed to deliver another forearm shiver, and failed to do anything, really. I enjoyed you Tyrell, but it’s goodbye for now and forever.
Myron Lewis actually played pretty well. He made a special teams tackle, had one pass breakup, and the only pass completion he allowed — at least the only one of note — came when the Browns ran a well-designed play that left Lewis in a zone covering two people. But he didn’t have three interceptions and didn’t moon the crowd. Therefore, he must go. Bye Myron.
DeQuan Menzie didn’t have a chance to unleash another fumble point but did have a sack on a corner blitz. Unfortunately, he ran in untouched. Havard Rugland could have done the same thing.
Still, after the game, I thought I had overlooked his greatness. I barely heard his named announced or saw him at all, but corners are supposed to be anonymous. They’re supposed to be locking down receivers and forcing quarterbacks to throw somewhere else. Maybe Menzie had done that. Then I looked at the snap counts. He got eight snaps on defense. I didn’t hear or see him because he was on the bench busy not making plays. Goodbye DeQuan. Keep up that name though. It’s fun to say.
Jon Morgan was the second man in on a tackle once and ran into the backfield untouched to make a tackle once. No celebration on either play. Morgan may turn out to be a decent player, but he’s no James Mungro Memorial Award winner. Bye Jon.
I made one note on Martavius Neloms from Thursday’s game. It came on the Browns’ last drive. “Neloms terrible coverage. He’s getting cut.” I can predict the future. Bye Martavius.
LaAdrian Waddle allegedly played 15 snaps. I didn’t notice him on any, and I was looking. While that means he didn’t give up any sacks or get any personal fouls, it also means he’s boring. Plus, I’m still salty about how much pub he received during training camp. Peter King even gave him a shout out (bottom right). You had a good run LaAdrian, but it’s time to say goodbye.
There are no tiers because we don’t need them. There are no rankings because there’s not much distinction between the combatants. There are just four men, on the cusp of winning the second most prestigious fake award on the internet.
Here are your final contenders:
No. 74 G/C/? Rodney Austin, No. 16 WR Terrence Austin, No. 95 DT Ogemdi Nwagbuo, No. 63 DT Jimmy Saddler-McQueen
Rodney Austin was the only Tier 2 player to make the jump into a legitimate contender. He has got me (and you) considering back-to-back guards for the Lions JMMA because of his hustle, helping, and ability to sit on people.
Austin played guard this week after playing center in Week 1 and got 34 offensive snaps, the second most on the team. On none of those did he go pyscho. But he did hustle on most of them. Austin often ran down the field looking to make an extra block, oftentimes after the play was already over. Take, for example, this flying block in the back he delivered well after the whistle.
Austin also became the leader in pushing opposing players away and helping his guys up. He did it six times on Thursday. That’s one every five snaps.
His greatest moment came in the third quarter. Kellen Moore had scrambled for one yard and been tackled by two Browns. Austin didn’t like the Browns laying on Moore after the whistle, so he barged in there and pushed one player off while he sat on another.
Austin failed to realize he added 311 pounds to the already very large man who was crushing Moore’s legs, but hey, nobody’s perfect.
The problem with Austin is that I’m not sure if he’s good. As a backup guard/center he’s likely to make the team, but last week he was between average and below average and this week he had one good block on a run, and then wasn’t much of a factor one way or another until he gave up a sack and a QB pressure to somebody named Armonty Bryant at the end of the game. I’ll give him a break and say the two negative plays came because he was tired, but it can’t happen again. James Mungro never got tired.
Terrence Austin is now Tyrannous Austin just in case he does enough to win the award. The Dinosaur caught just two balls for 13 yards on Thursday and wasn’t targeted with many more passes, if any. He also went even on holding penalties during returns, drawing one and committing one.
That performance by itself would have been just enough to prevent a trip to Cut City, but what Tyrannous did after his first catch vaulted him back into serious contention.
I like the idea of the JMMA winner having a signature move. It could turn into a sort of secret handshake for all of us. Everytime you see another Charlie Hustler give him the double-fist land ho move. He’ll know what’s up.
On Nwagbuo’s first play he drove through the center and forced the running back to make a cutback into a Lions tackler. The next play he talked trash to a Browns lineman after the whistle. The importance of the Great Lakes Classic wasn’t lost on him.
But his stellar start faded. He was a non-factor most of the game. At one point he was blown up and the Browns ran straight through the hole he was occupying. He did end on a good note, though, bulling into the backfield on one of the final plays.
Nwagbuo’s good, but with the Bannon signing I’m not sure he fits Rule 2: “He has to have at least an outside chance at making the team” anymore. Best-case scenario right now is he’s the sixth defensive tackle, jumping Andre Fluellen. There’s a very slim chance the Lions take five defensive tackles and no way they take six, so does he really have an outside chance at making the team? The same goes for Saddler-McQueen, but he’s occupying the fifth sport right now. His situation is a little more justifiable.
This is why I need another game. I need to see if Nwagbuo is such a rare talent that he transcends one of the Sacred Seven rules.
Saddler-McQueen was a lot like Nwagbuo: not much of a factor. He made a significant impact on exactly one play, when he pushed the lineman back and then disengaged to help tackle the running back for a loss. The rest of his 17 snaps he played about even with the lineman, not getting penetration, but not getting pancaked or thrown out of holes either.
I’m not sure what I have in Saddler-McQueen yet and, judging by the Bannon signing, neither do the Lions.
Brother Jacques may be in for some bad news.
He’s the third ‘ third center behind Peter Konz and Joe Hawley and didn’t get into Thursday’s game until there were 14 seconds left in the third quarter.
If Atlanta was interested in using McClendon this season they would test him at guard during one of the games, like the Lions did with Rodney Austin. The more versatile a backup lineman, the better. The Falcons haven’t, making McClendon likely headed for free agency.
He could be put on Atlanta’s practice squad, but both Konz and Hawley are 24, a year younger than McClendon. All the team would be doing is grooming McClendon for someone else.
The good thing is McClendon’s performance on Thursday should help his standing with the 31 other teams. He played 26 snaps and played well for more than 20 of them.
His only horrible play came on snap 20, when he got beat off the ball on a run play. There were other borderline bad plays, like when his man made a tackle, but those happened after McClendon had pushed his man three yards past the line of scrimmage.
McClendon is a good third stringer. Teams can use a good third stringer. Given the Lions’ penchant for signing people over the past five days, don’t rule out an tear-filled reunion between McClendon and Detroit. He understands the intensity of the Great Lakes Classic better than anyone.
*(He gets a free one-day sponsorship of the award. If you haven’t seen it, Deadspin has a nice cutup of it. Be warned it contains bare, pale, old-man butt. I also recommend this YouTube video of his entrance. That one is SFW)