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Lions preseason Week 3 ultimate recap: We may have found a Mungro Moment

Five plays into the game Rodney Austin goes around bitch slapping Patriots

Five plays into the game Rodney Austin goes around bitch slapping Patriots

We went two full games and three full quarters without a potential “Mungro Moment”©, then one sprung up on Thursday and spawned so quixotically that most people missed it.

That’s part of the charm of these plays. They’re so beautiful and sad and chaotic and stupid and so James Mungro and so not that those who see remember it and those who don’t never go back to look.

Four hundred and eighty players will be cut across the league by 4 p.m. tomorrow as team go from 90 players to 75. The Lions got started early, releasing Mike Thomas early last week, cutting five on Friday, and four more on Sunday. None were current candidates for the James Mungro Memorial Award presented by (sponsor pending), and none got close to being one, but it’s a sign: this is getting serious.

After getting to 75 on Tuesday, every team plays Thursday and has to cut down to 53 by Saturday. On Sunday, teams can sign players to their practice squad.

It will be a week of pandemonium, a week of former JMMA candidates changing teams, a week of reminders that it’s a rude world on the end of the roster and week where not even the JMMA winner is safe.

That is, if we find one. Before scrutinizing each of the remaining candidates, though, we need to check in with Brother Jacques, because he could be on the next flight to the real-life Cut City.

McClendon McCheck-in

By halftime, I thought McClendon wouldn’t get in at all. The Falcons’ starters played more than a half and I figured backup Joe Hawley would finish it out at center. But when the Titans broadcast came back from it’s commercial break to begin the fourth quarter, No. 65′s big ol’ butt was centered on the screen.

He leaned in on the huddle, the offense clapped and the offensive linemen began to line up. That’s when I saw it: Hawley was still in the game. For the first time this preseason the Falcons used McClendon at guard.

It’s tough to read the thought process here.

The Falcons are shallow on the interior line.* Maybe they liked what they saw of McClendon at center and put him at guard to see how versatile a player he could be while on the 53-man roster. Or maybe the Falcons realized he sucked at center and decided to test him at his natural just to make sure they weren’t missing anything before they cut him.

No matter the scenario, McClendon didn’t help himself on Saturday. A Dominique Davis interception and an 11-play Titans drive left him with just 12 offensive snaps. On two he got embarrassed, on another he just got beat, and on another he lost his man in the mayhem but it didn’t cost the Falcons. I don’t know if there’s something wrong with his technique or with his attitude, but a 324-pound man like Big Jacques should not be getting pushed into his quarterback multiple times while pass blocking.

Step it up, man. You’re not going to get to pull and blindside a linebacker on every play.

If there’s good news from Saturday’s Falcons game it’s that the rest of Atlanta’s offensive as horrible, if not more so, as McClendon. Maybe the Falcons keep him around, just for that. 

McClendon should survive this round of cuts because Atlanta needs bodies at his position to play in the fourth preseason game, but the surf will likely break during when rosters are pared to 53.

*(How do I know this? I’ve watched three of their preseason games and read numerous articles looking for any brief mention of McClendon’s name.)

The Contenders

I can’t protect anybody anymore. I can’t keep guys because of their potential or because I think if I ever met them we would be best friends.

We knew that all but one contender would join the plebes in Cut City. It’s time to send some of our best there now.

No. 16 WR Terrence Austin. Austin got 10 offensive snaps and one special teams snap. His name was never called, his quarterback never targeted him and he never did anything even remotely interesting. It’s the most disappointing performance of the JMMA season. Goodbye Terrence, and I’m taking the “Tyrannous” nickname with me.

No. 95 DT Ogemdi Nwagbuo. Nwagbuo got more reps than I thought he would, playing 16 defensive snaps, and his play fell somewhere in-between I’m-King-Kong-and-you-are-the-lowly-Jets level and I’m-even-scrubbier-than-the-Cleveland-Browns level. He was good, just not unblockable.

On one play he ran down a screen after initially misreading it and made a tackle. He then celebrated for a full minute on the sideline. On another play he got blatantly held with no consequences. He added a couple of QB pressures, but he also disappeared for long stretches.

Jimmy Sadder-McQueen outplayed him. How can Nwagbuo beat Saddler-McQueen in the JMMA when he can’t beat him on the field? Goodbye O.G. It was time.

No. 63 DT Jimmy Saddler-McQueen. Saddler-McQueen checks all the boxes. I had never heard of him before this preaseason. He has an outside chance at making the team, even if it is a very very outside chance at this point. He’s not a prospect. His name is ridiculous for a man his age. (If it isn’t three characters from the next Pixar movie, it’s reserved for a scrawny red head who enjoys physics.) He has two distinct characteristics: he’s the shortest guy on the line and he has a number usually reserved for offensive linemen. No one’s paid any attention to him this training camp, not even his mother. But, perhaps most importantly, he’s good.

I’m sure on this, despite the roster situation. On Thursday he fought off multiple blocks and helped make a tackle on his first play. He threw a lineman to the side and got into the backfield just as a running back was taking a handoff on one of his last plays. He would’ve made a huge tackle for a loss had a blitzing safety not beat him to it. In-between those two he made inside moves on a few plays to create pressure up the middle.

My problem with Jimmy is his intangibles. He doesn’t feel like a JMMA winner, especially when compared to this next guy.

No. 74 G/C/Possible Pyscho Rodney Austin. OK, back to that that potential “Mungro Moment”©, that moment that explains the dichotomy of the James Mungro Memorial Award presented by (sponsor pending). Fourth quarter. three plays in. The Lions run a screen pass. Austin pancakes a Patriot.

Rodney Austin pancake

The move knocks one Patriot into another and renders them both useless. Now it’s time to get the big fella to the open field.

Rodney Austin in space

THE BIG FELLA IS IN THE OPEN FIELD.

Look at all that room. Out of the picture Matt Willis is locking down the corner. Scrub No. 52 on the Patriots and a safety is all that’s left. Two men for two blockers.

Rodney AustinOh God.

Rodney Austin

Real quote: “Beautifully executed play by the Lions offense” — Matt Shepard

……

Ah— No—  S— …..

……

OK. We’ll work on that. We’ll work on not running into our own guy on screen passes and letting the two guys we should have blocked get their hands on the ball carrier. Fortunately for Austin, Joique Bell made those two guys miss and gained an extra 31 yards.

On a macro level, it was a pretty good game for Austin. He got 40 percent of the team’s offensive snaps (29 total) and most of those were runs, his specialty. The man knows how to go downhill and open a hole and knows how to seal off a defender to open up a cutback lane. The lane Theo Riddick ran through on his 2-yard touchdown was open because Austin walled off two guys.

A few plays before the touchdown, Austin logged his second pancake of the game, then hopped up and yelled THEY CALL ME MR. BUTTERWORTH!

OK, I made that last part up. But he’s capable of doing that. He’s capable of anything. He might be a pyscho.

Austin’s problem is he’s not very quick. He got beat to the inside and caused Kellen Moore to get crushed after the releasing the ball on one play. On another a quick outside-inside move by a defensive lineman had him getting discarded and the Lions’ run getting stuffed.

Can I give the JMMA to a guy I know is so flawed? Austin has the attitude and the traits to be a champion that Saddler-McQueen lacks. But I still think Saddler-McQueen is a better player.

Why not them go head-to-head in the fourth preseason game to determine a winner? I mean, what else is there to watch in that game?

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