The NFC South is ghastly right now. Perfect for Halloween weekend. All four clubs are under .500, and the Buccaneers sit a half game back in the division at 3-5, fresh of the most embarrassing defeat of Tampa Bay's Tom Brady era against the Panthers followed by Thursday night's loss to the Ravens. Plus, they've lost five of their last six games.
As is the case with many struggling clubs around the league, injuries have hampered the NFC South in a major way at the beginning of this season. The Saints have been rolling with mostly a second-string offense of late, and the secondary, which has been without Marshon Lattimore for the past two weeks, just lost Bradley Roby to the IR list. Yikes.
Meanwhile, the other team that plays in a Mercedes-Benz stadium -- the Falcons -- is dealing with severe secondary injuries, too. And in Week 7, Joe Burrow and the Bengals reminded us what can happen to that pass defense when A.J. Terrell is dinged. Just a regular old 537-yard offensive explosive is all.
And, believe it or not, the Buccaneers could use more downfield weaponry, which I've been screaming from the rooftops for weeks now.
In an attempt to clean up the extraordinarily messy NFC South, I've offered practice-squad options who can play a part in fixing some of the leaky areas of rosters in that division. Take note, Jason Licht, Scott Fitterer, Mickey Loomis and Terry Fontenot. Let's get the NFC South playing quality football again -- 2019 was the last year this division didn't have two teams with double-digit regular-season victories. It needs to get back on track. Now.
The PSPR Call-Up Tally (The CUT) is at 14 call-ups after seven weeks of regular-season action. Two per week. Solid. But, you know me. I never settle. We need more. Here's to a MONSTROUS Practice Squad Elevation on Saturday. Remember don't be shy to hit me up on Twitter @ChrisTrapasso to alert me about any PSPR members getting the glorious call.
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The expanded, 16-man practice squads are about the only good thing to come out of the pandemic, and they're here to stay in the NFL. Because of this, I run the Practice Squad Power Rankings parallel to the league. I write about 16 individuals every Friday, 10 officially in the rankings and six honorable mentions.
But I'll always stay true to the origins of the PSPR, which were to highlight young players. That means I won't be featuring "veterans" this season. Selecting someone like Nickell Robey-Coleman -- currently on the Raiders practice squad -- would not embody the fundamental intention of the PSPR. So for the sake of the Practice Squad Power Rankings' dignity, I'll only be including practice-squaders who are rookies, second-year players, third-year players, or fourth-year pros. Players drafted from 2019 on. That's it.
Here's to the Practice Squad Power Rankings flourishing this season, emerging as a legitimate superstar, earning a massive payday and starting to cement its legacy in the hallowed halls of the internet's football-media industry.
10. Jalen Camp, WR, Texans
With Nico Collins injured, it'd be perfectly logical for Houston to call on Camp, another tall, chiseled, vertical option on the outside. Now, he is considerably more raw than Collins, yet the Georgia Tech alum doesn't need to run intricate routes or worry about getting separation across the field. He's 6-foot-2 with 4.48 speed and a 39.5-inch vertical. Get downfield! Davis Mills will chuck it.
9. Verone McKinley, S, Dolphins
The Dolphins are still 26th in pass defense DVOA. That's not good -- particularly for a team with playoff aspirations. Given all the health-related issues the club has had in its last three games at quarterback, Miami has needed its defense to hold its own, and it hasn't.
McKinley's film at Oregon wasn't quite as good as his tremendous production -- 11 interceptions and 10 pass breakups in his final three seasons for the Ducks -- yet clearly he has a knack to find the football down the field.
8. Gerrit Prince, TE, Jaguars
This UAB product went nutso in 2021 with 699 yards on just 36 receptions -- 19.4 yards per catch -- with 10 scores. He legitimately looked like a bulky receiver getting down the seam, and he can create after the catch. The Jaguars have gotten good return on investment with Evan Engram -- currently third on the team with 28 catches -- yet the TE2 position is essentially nonexistent. Dan Arnold has four receptions on the year to date.
7. Zyon Gilbert, CB, Giants
Gilbert hummed under the radar at around 6-0 and 193 pounds with 4.49 speed, a 40-inch vertical and a spectacular 138-inch broad jump. He was good at Florida Atlantic, too, with five interceptions and 23 pass breakups in his final three seasons with the Owls. The Giants, despite starting 5-1, are 30th in Football Outsiders' defensive DVOA, the site's all-encompassing efficiency metric. They're 21st in pass defensive DVOA. Gilbert can provide the explosive jolt the secondary needs.
6. Matt Hankins, CB, Falcons
Hankins didn't test through the roof at the Iowa Pro Day. Far from it. But this is your classic Hawkeye secondary member. Super instinctive, well-coached in college, and despite his lacking athleticism, always around the football. In his final three seasons at Iowa -- six interceptions and 21 pass breakups. The Falcons are reeling at cornerback right now. It's time to get Hankins an opportunity.
5. Vincent Gray, CB, Saints
Gray is 6-2 with arms nearly 33 inches long. He's monstrous for the cornerback spot. While he never intercepted a pass at Michigan, he had 15 pass breakups in his three seasons for the Wolverines and got more active against the run as he career progressed in Ann Arbor. The Saints secondary is extremely banged up, so let's get Gray onto the field.
4. Cameron Goode, EDGE/LB, Dolphins
All Goode did to pop squarely onto the draft radar after his productive career at Cal was jump 39 inches in the vertical along with a 6.91 three-cone time at his pro-day workout. In 2021 for the Bears, as a hybrid, kind of old school stand-up outside linebacker, Goode had 6.5 sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss along with 45 tackles and four pass breakups. The Dolphins unit needs an explosive boost up front to help the secondary.
3. Ar'Darius Washington, DB, Ravens
Washington can be the Ravens' multi-dimensional weapon in the secondary, and Baltimore's scheme asks a lot of its defensive backs. Cover the slot one play, range deep down the field the next. He can do it. Baltimore gave Washington his shot in Week 6, and he looked like he belonged, with an assisted tackle and no big plays allowed in coverage. Do it again, Ravens.
2. Thomas Graham Jr., CB, Browns
Late addition here with Graham. He's back on the Browns practice squad. Cleveland has to call up him. Immediately. The Browns are 16th in pass defense DVOA and have two interceptions through five contests. Graham is a former PSPR cover guy who had the best debut performance from a PSPR alum, when he defended three passes in late December against the Vikings.
1. Deven Thompkins, WR, Buccaneers
Thompkins had five catches for 53 yards -- including two contested-catch wins! -- during the 2022 preseason. He's also a Brady-type, too, in that he was a 0-star recruit when he joined the Utah State program in 2018. Brady loves an underdog's underdog, and that's precisely what Thompkins is. Lastly, Tampa Bay could use more juice at receiver, especially given how pedestrian the offense has been of late. He has 4.44 speed, had a 38.5-inch vertical and a 132-inch broad jump at his pro day.
Johnson was a stat-sheet filler at Marshall with 302 tackles, seven picks and 19 pass breakups in five seasons. He can man the nickel corner spot. Free safety. Strong safety. He tackles well and plays with authority on every snap.
White was the No. 1 junior-college running back recruit in the class of 2020. On 88 totes for South Carolina last season, he averaged 6.6 yards per carry. And, on film, his juice jumps off the screen. Dynamic cuts, Tesla-like acceleration, power through contact. It's still a shock he went undrafted. I guess teams like to see more of a workload in college for a runner? I love the minimal wear on his body. The Dolphins have Raheem Mostert and Chase Edmonds in their backfield. White can step in and contribute in Year 1. He's very talented.
We have Mercer on the PSPR board! Poe, a Mercer alum, was a wrecking ball in college, and he tested like a high-caliber athlete at the Georgia Pro Day. Yeah, the Bulldogs gave him the opportunity to showcase his skills, and he thoroughly impressed. Poe feels like an athletic brawler of a guard Kyle Shanahan will eventually get the most out of in San Francisco.
The Commanders are averaging 4.0 yards per carry through six contests. No idea is a bad idea when it comes to how to fix the run game. Now, of course, a running back himself cannot single-handedly fix an NFL team's rushing attack. But it won't hurt to incorporate the small, ultra-shifty Patterson into this offense, although the inspiring return of Brian Robinson Jr. to the lineup has certainly helped boost the run game.
Brooks was a late-bloomer at Cincinnati but may have boast the most dynamic purely pass-rushing three technique in the 2022 class. I mean that. On just 304 pass-rushing snaps, Brooks registered 43 pressures, thanks to an awesome blend of first-step quickness, leverage and power at the point of attack.
Winston was a stud in Seattle's neck of the woods at Washington State, where he caught 137 passes for 1,624 yards and 19 touchdowns in two seasons for the Cougars. His speciality is route suddenness on intricate, underneath routes. He'd be a fun addition to this fun offense in Seattle.