Chris Simms' All-22 Team, Pre-Regular-Season Kickoff

Chris Simms@@CSimmsQBNFL Lead AnalystSeptember 6, 2016

Chris Simms' All-22 Team, Pre-Regular-Season Kickoff

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    It's been a fun four weeks of exhibition ball. But if you're like me—or any player who's laced 'em up, past or present—you're looking forward to seeing who steps in when the games start counting. 

    Luckily, you've found this list: the NFL's All-22 Team for Week 1. I've watched all 32 teams and hours and hours of preseason film this summer. My findings? A 22-man roster comprised of guys who are ready to reach new heights in 2016.

    This isn't your typical All-Star team filled with big names only. It's a collection of guys I saw on tape who stood out above the rest. Some will surprise you. Some won't. But trust me: If you don't know them already, you will after Week 1.

    Let's get into it.

QB: Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys

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    Two things really impress me about this kid out of Mississippi State.

    First, he has Ben Roethlisberger/Cam Newton balance. That just means he can take contact around his legs without letting it affect the throw up top. Want an example? Look at the go route he connected on a few weeks back in Los Angeles. Rams defenders forced a throw off his back foot, but Dak Prescott still hit Terrance Williams with a perfect ball.

    Second—and more importantly—he's poised. That's something everyone overlooked in their evaluations, me included. There's no telling how a kid is going to react when he's forced into duty on the road in a hostile environment such as Seattle. It was another ho-hum stellar outing for Prescott, though.

    Add it all up, and you have a country-strong kid (physically and mentally) who's ready to be Tony Romo's sub.

RB: Christine Michael, Seattle Seahawks

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    Christine Michael had a serious case of Reggie Bush-itis over his first few seasons. It looks like he's been cured; the Seahawks' breakout back is simply trying to hit his hole and gain three, four or five yards.

    The funny part? Those runs loosen the defense up for big gains without bouncing it to the sideline. It's the sign of a mature ball-carrier.

    Listen, sometimes it takes a while for the work ethic to click. Texas A&M is the Wild West, and maybe he skated by in his college years. It looks like he's turned everything around.

RB: DeMarco Murray, Tennessee Titans

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    It's amazing what a former NFL rushing champion can do when you take him out of shotgun.

    DeMarco Murray's turnaround is as simple as that. The Titans are wise to plug him into single-back or double-back formations just like the Cowboys did during his breakout 2014.

    Take a look at his 71-yard burst against the Chargers this past preseason. Head coach Mike Mularkey isn't reinventing the wheel; he's just putting Murray in a position to go north-south, unlike Chip Kelly's sweep-heavy scheme. It's working.

    Murray is far from done. He'll split carries with Derrick Henry in 2016, but as he's proved in exhibition play, he can make the most of them.

WR: Eli Rogers, Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Early on in the preseason, Pittsburgh tried handing the ball off to Antonio Brown.

    …Or at least, that's what I thought. The ball-carrier was actually Eli Rogers—and I might be justified in confusing the two by the time this season is over.

    Rogers is a poor-man's AB84. He's as good a route-runner, minus the otherworldly speed that sets Brown apart. Minus Martavis Bryant, he's going to be the Steelers' third option. Trust me on this: He's going to make a lot of nickel defensive backs look bad.

WR: Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Remember the guy who torched defenses with Josh McCown getting him the ball a few seasons ago?

    He's back. And this time around, Mike Evans has one of the best downfield throwers—Jameis Winston—at his disposal as he mounts a comeback campaign.

    Evans left scorch marks in Cleveland this preseason. It's no surprise; he's 6'5", impressively fast and physical enough to out-leap defenders. If he recommits to catching the ball cleanly (which, let's face it, has been his Achilles' heel), no defensive back can match him up.

WR: Terrelle Pryor, Cleveland Browns

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    Some quarterbacks can sit behind a starter and remain content. Terrelle Pryor was not one of those quarterbacks.

    So he tried a move only the freakiest athletes in the country can pull off. Now, at wide receiver, he's been reborn as Robert Griffin III's big downfield target.

    Let's dial it back to preseason Week 2 against the Atlanta Falcons. Pryor ran a 9-route straight down the field. A Pro Bowl cornerback, Desmond Trufant, picked him up in coverage. And Pryor left him in his dust for a 50-yard touchdown. It's clear he's established himself as a trusted target. When Josh Gordon returns? Oh man.

    Here's a case of a guy realizing that playing backup quarterback won't make him money—and doing something about it. He's a big reason why I'll have fun watching the Browns again.

WR: Braxton Miller, Houston Texans

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    The Houston Texans deploy a scheme that's basically New England Patriots South. You need to start thinking of Braxton Miller's role like the ones previously held by Wes Welker or Kevin Faulk.

    This is the perfect blend of team and player. Miller will do everything: reverses, draws, screen passes, gadget plays. He proved versus the 49ers that he's able to catch a little, too. Most of the balls thrown his way were contested, and most of them ended up in No. 13's hands.

    When Bill O'Brien deploys two wide receivers, it's DeAndre Hopkins and Miller. That should tell you everything you need to know about where the Ohio State product stands before Week 1.

OL: Ronnie Stanley, Baltimore Ravens

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    You'll start watching Ronnie Stanley for his sheer size (6'6", 312 lbs). He's an absolute mammoth of a man who's already penciled in as Joe Flacco's left tackle. I don't think there's an NFL player right now who can overpower him.

    You'll keep watching him for his speed (5.20 40-yard dash). The Notre Dame product has already answered the major predraft question I had about him. His feet are deceptively quick, and he was able to corral guys such as Kony Ealy and Ezekiel Ansah. 

    Punch-you-in-the-mouth football is back in Baltimore. It coincides directly with Stanley's arrival.

OL: Germain Ifedi, Seattle Seahawks

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    Germain Ifedi's college tape was jaw-droppingly physical. Despite his raw technique, it seemed unfair that Texas A&M had him and others didn't.

    Enter Tom Cable, one of the best line coaches in the game. He plugged Ifedi inside at guard, where the team can still benefit from his nasty run-blocking. He'll learn the finer points of pass protection there with a chance to move outside once he's a finished product.

    There was no better spot for Ifedi to land; Cable's scheme isn't overly complicated. The rookie lineman can pick it up with ease and get to work keeping defenders off Russell Wilson.

OL: Ben Jones, Tennessee Titans

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    When I say that offensive linemen lead the cattle, I'm talking about guys such as Ben Jones.

    His signing was one of the sneakiest pickups of the offseason. The Titans get a locker room leader for younger guys such as Jack Conklin and Taylor Lewan, a cerebral center to point out the "Mike" and coordinate the run game and just one physical guy.

    Behind left tackle, center is the most important spot on a line. The Titans got themselves a hell of a starter here—all while keeping him away from division-rival Houston.

TE: Jared Cook, Green Bay Packers

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    The Packers rattled off 15 wins the last season Aaron Rodgers had a tight end worth throwing to.

    Mark it down. Aaron Rodgers will come to appreciate the new guy, Jared Cook, as much as he once appreciated Jermichael Finley.

    I look at the 49ers game as a sign of things to come. Cook attacked the defense in a direction few tight ends can: vertically. Cook might not set career highs in catches, but by stretching the field, he'll demand respect.

    That's one less safety Jordy Nelson will have to contend with as he works his way back from injury.

DL: Geno Atkins, Cincinnati Bengals

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    Imagine you could create the dream defensive tackle in a laboratory. He'd probably be 6'5" with long, gangly arms to knock down passes and a ripped upper body to drive blockers back.

    In other words, he'd look nothing like Geno Atkins. The Bengals' all-everything defender is short (6'1"), squatty and…an absolute terror for O-lines to handle (see: Luke Joeckel or the start of the Bengals-Vikings game). He's around 300 pounds but possesses the quickness of a top-tier pass-rusher. That makes him a rare human being.

    Here's another thing: Atkins is now two years removed from his ACL injury. Apologies to blocking schemes across the NFL in 2016.

DL: Owa Odighizuwa, New York Giants

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    Justin Tuck did it. Malik Jackson did it just last season. Now, it's Owa Odighizuwa's turn to play the Swiss Army D-lineman role so necessary in a successful defense.

    Need speed one week? Odighizuwa can line up on the inside and push the pocket at D-tackle. Need power another week? Odighizuwa's your man too—just pop him outside at end and watch him hold his edge. He's a situational ass-kicker.

    Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo didn't have the luxury of rotating fresh bodies in last year. With Jason Pierre-Paul on one end and Olivier Vernon on the other, he can finally get creative with his front-four alignments.

DL: Chris Jones, Kansas City Chiefs

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    I see a lot of Albert Haynesworth in the Chiefs' top pick—and I'm talking Titans-era, top-of-his-game Haynesworth. 

    They're both huge athletic freaks. Haynesworth never played with another stud up front, though; Chris Jones will line up next to some guy named Dontari Poe. Those two alone might command four linemen to block 'em.

    You saw what this kid could do at Mississippi State. The Chiefs figure they can plug him right into their lineup and not have to worry about some smashmouth teams on their schedule. I think they're right.

DL: Fletcher Cox, Philadelphia Eagles

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    Make room, J.J. Watt and Aaron Donald. Fletcher Cox is poised to join the Elite D-lineman's Club in 2016.

    You know about his first step. You know about the attention he commands from an opposing offense. But I think Cox could reach new heights this year for two reasons: scheme and coaching.

    The guy was built to be a 4-3 defensive tackle, and that's where he'll line up this year. Moreover, he'll play under defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, who knows how to put big guys in big situations. Just ask Marcell Dareus, Haynesworth (in his prime) and Ndamukong Suh.

LB: Jadeveon Clowney, Houston Texans

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    I'm still not sure Jadeveon Clowney can turn the corner and beat blockers with speed. This preseason has erased so many question marks, though.

    He plays extremely hard. That was a knock on him coming out of South Carolina, but he's a worker. His bull rush might be better than Watt's, and it popped against the Saints and Cardinals already. He's working on a few other moves, too.

    Microfracture surgery can be the kiss of death for a normal pass-rusher. Clowney is not a normal pass-rusher; he's a guy who'll do a lot of different things for a premier defense in 2016.

LB: Jamie Collins, New England Patriots

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    The Jamie Collins bandwagon will be over capacity after 2016. It's best to hop on right now.

    Let's review what he can bring to the table up in New England. He's an inside 'backer who can bang it inside versus the run. He's an outside 'backer who can stick with tight ends and running backs in coverage. And he's an edge-rusher who can turn up the heat on QBs.

    All those skills free the Patriots up to try some crazy stuff scheme-wise. They know they have Collins back there to read a guy's eyes and jump on a play—like he did against the Saints in preseason Week 1. He'll produce like that all year.

LB: Emmanuel Ogbah, Cleveland Browns

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    Cleveland could afford to jettison Barkevious Mingo and Paul Kruger. A second-round pick can handle both their jobs—and he might do it better.

    Emmanuel Ogbah's game is all about versatility. He can play a traditional 4-3 end role. Or he can play 3-4 outside linebacker, which is why he's listed here. He might even surprise some people at a 5-technique spot. 

    The guy had 35.5 tackles for loss at Oklahoma State, folks. He knows how to make plays no matter where he lines up, and defensive coordinator Ray Horton knows it.

CB: Vernon Hargreaves III, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    I thought Vernon Hargreaves III was the best pure cover corner in the draft. And I've seen nothing to convince me otherwise through four preseason weeks.

    He's aggressive and strong as hell. He's quick out of a break and as explosive as any young corner in the NFL right now. When that quickness fades, he'll switch back to safety and keep balling because he's a Charles Woodson-like tackler. 

    The Jaguars and Browns both tested this guy in preseason. It didn't turn out so well; Hargreaves III looks like a top-tier guy for the next five to 10 seasons.

CB: Mackensie Alexander, Minnesota Vikings

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    Mike Zimmer loves him some in-your-face, press cornerbacks. It's no surprise he swooped on Mackensie Alexander—he's an ideal scheme fit. 

    It's been interesting to watch Zimmer push his second-round rookie this preseason. He's been playing a lot of slot corner—something that's easy for quick cornerbacks but maybe not for strong press ones. Credit the Clemson product for holding his own.

    The Vikings don't need Alexander in 2016. They have Trae Waynes, Terence Newman and Xavier Rhodes, and they rarely throw their cornerbacks into the fire right away. But don't be surprised to see Alexander push for immediate playing time.

S: Reggie Nelson, Oakland Raiders

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    Safety was such a huge positional need for this Raiders team. It filled it with one of the better free agents at his position in football. I'd say that's a win.

    On the field, Reggie Nelson's amazing recovery speed will complete the Silver and Black's secondary. Keep in mind: Every second their coverage holds up is another second Khalil Mack or Bruce Irvin has to crash in on quarterbacks. There's not a real weakness in his game, and he's as sure a tackler as they come.

    Off the field, he's just as valuable. General manager Reggie McKenzie invested the 14th overall pick in Karl Joseph. Who better to learn how to read quarterbacks or play the run than a guy who did it for so long in Jacksonville and Cincinnati?

S: Calvin Pryor, New York Jets

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    Here's a scary thought: Calvin Pryor knows where he's going and what he's doing on defense now. The Jets safety doesn't need to think about his assignments. All the athletic ability he had at Louisville can flow freely, and it really shows up on tape. 

    Todd Bowles once coached Deone Bucannon in Arizona. Pryor's game is like that—he can blitz, play inside linebacker, cover slot receivers, play deep center fielder. That's so huge for Gang Green.

    We know he'll make passers think twice before throwing to the sidelines. But Pryor's game has rounded out, and he looks the part in preseason.

Final All 22-Team for Week 1

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    Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

    QB: Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys

    RB: Christine Michael, Seattle Seahawks

    RB: DeMarco Murray, Tennessee Titans

    WR: Eli Rogers, Pittsburgh Steelers

    WR: Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

    WR: Terrelle Pryor, Cleveland Browns

    WR: Braxton Miller, Houston Texans

    OL: Ronnie Stanley, Baltimore Ravens

    OL: Germain Ifedi, Seattle Seahawks

    OL: Ben Jones, Tennessee Titans

    TE: Jared Cook, Green Bay Packers

               

    DL: Geno Atkins, Cincinnati Bengals

    DL: Owa Odighizuwa, New York Giants

    DL: Chris Jones, Kansas City Chiefs

    DL: Fletcher Cox, Philadelphia Eagles

    LB: Emmanuel Ogbah, Cleveland Browns

    LB: Jadeveon Clowney, Houston Texans

    LB: Jamie Collins, New England Patriots

    CB: Vernon Hargreaves III, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

    CB: Mackensie Alexander, Minnesota Vikings

    S: Reggie Nelson, Oakland Raiders

    S: Calvin Pryor, New York Jets

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