Rejoice!! Football finally comes back this week. The NFL kicks off its season Thursday night, when the Houston Texans take on the defending Super Bowl champion, the Kansas City Chiefs, at Arrowhead Stadium. After an offseason of uncertainty, it feels so good to say that.
Before the NFL season gets started, it’s time to do a little housekeeping with our NFL Cats. On Saturday, teams made their finals cuts to finish out their roster, so we will be following these guys all season long. Here is every former Cats’ situation heading into the 2020 campaign.
Kentucky’s all-time leading rusher might be playing a pivotal role in the Steel City in 2020. After a relatively quiet rookie season that saw Benny Snell show a few flashes of brilliance towards the end of the year, Benny Snell looks like he could find himself in a starting role sooner rather than later. Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin raved about Snell’s training camp, saying the second-year back “has had an awesome camp as a second-year runner and kind of has shown signs of preparedness in that way.”
According to training camp reports, Snell is slimmer and faster than he was in his rookie season and, most importantly, his hand has improved. To be a pivotal running back in the NFL in 2020, you’ve got to be able to be a threat in the passing game. With an injury-prone James Connor coming off a disappointing 2019 ahead of him, Benny Snell might just take over the starting role in 2020.
Za’Darius Smith comes into his second season in Green Bay with high expectations. In 202o, the NFL named him as the No. 48 best player in the NFL, and Sports Illustrated lists him as the second-best Packer behind future Hall of Famer Aaron Rodgers. Last season Smith had 13.5 sacks, 55 tackles, and 17 tackles for loss, all career highs en route to a Pro Bowl and a trip to the NFC Championship.
Smith will try to repeat his stellar season as the Packers look to avenge their NFC Championship loss.
Going into 2020, Josh Allen was almost unanimously the second-best rookie in his draft class, behind one Nick Bosa. In his first season, Allen has already set new standards in Jacksonville after he became the first Jaguar the make the pro bowl as a rookie with 10.5 sacks. Now, he’s trying to become the best defensive player in the league.
— #DUUUVAL (@Jaguars) August 5, 2020
It’s going to be a long season for Jacksonville in 2020, but the future is bright for Kentucky’s all-time sack leader. With Calais Campbell out of the mix, Allen is the bonafide stud for the Jaguars’ defense in 2020.
Randall Cobb enters the 2020 season in his most random, but quite possibly his most pivotal role yet. The Texans are a bit of a wild card going into this season (no pun intended), but their one certainty is Deshaun Watson. After losing Deandre Hopkins in that lopsided trade to Arizona, the Texans need to find some consistency on offense. With a less-than-stellar offensive line, an inconsistent David Johnson at running back, and injury-prone wide receivers, the one steady guy Watson can count on is Randall Cobb in the slot.
If the Texans wide receivers stay healthy, look for Cobb to be an important locker room guy with great return ability and a little less production in the slot. If not, he’s great insurance for the Texans rising star at quarterback.
Corey Peters will enter his 11th season in the NFL this year. The vet had 38 tackles last year to go along with 2.5 sacks. He is typically penciled in to be the starting DT for the Cardinals, but in his final year of a three-year deal, Peters might find himself in a teaching role.
Peters is still a productive DT in 2020, but with fourth-round draft pick Leki Fotu back, and 22-year old Miles Brown waiting in the wings, Peters’ time in Arizona might be coming to a close sooner rather than later.
As expected for almost any rookie cornerback, Lonnie Johnson had a very up and down rookie season. Last year Johnson allowed 33 receptions on 52 targets, with 33 solo tackles and no interceptions. However, the expectations are a little higher for Johnson in year two. With valuable playing time and playoff experience last year, the Texans expect Johnson to make a big jump heading into his second stint in Houston.
He showed a few flashes of brilliance towards the end of last year, so let’s hope he can put it all together for a stellar second season.
It was an inconsistent rookie campaign for Mike Edwards as well in 2019. He tallied 45 tackles, one sack, six defended passes and one fumble recovery across 15 games. He seemed to gain some ground toward the end of last year, with four of his six pass breakups coming in the last six games of the season. He will be fighting for a starting job in 2020, and he was the first cornerback to pick off Tom Brady in camp, so that’s a plus.
Lynn Bowden Jr.
Lynn Bowden enters his rookie season in Miami after a bizarre preseason trade that was just announced yesterday. It seemed like Las Vegas and Jon Gruden were all in on Bowden, but they traded the Paul Hornung Award winner for another draft pick on Saturday.
However, I think Miami is still a good spot for Bowden. He joins a Dolphins team that has low expectations, lacks depth in the wide receiver room, and has veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick slinging the rock around. This might just be the perfect place for Bowden to get his feet wet in the NFL.
Danny Trevethan has had a solid eight years in the league. In those eight years, we’ve seen him win a Super Bowl ring in Denver and rack up over 600 tackles. But after injuries set Trevathan back in 2019, his eyes are now set on joining the great legacy of Chicago linebackers. Of course, he’ll have to share some of that spotlight with Khalil Mack, but after Trevathan signed a three-year extension in March, he wants his name in the same breath as Dick Butkus and Brian Urlacher. He told reporters in training camp he wants to be remembered.
“Legacy lives on forever,” the former Cat said. “You always want to leave behind something that can be remembered of yourself. This is such a great tradition of linebackers the Bears have. I want to be up there. And to do that, I have to make plays.”
With defense being the one and only bright spot in the Windy City, Trevathan has his sights set high.
Let’s be honest, I think almost every fan is happy about no preseason games in 2020. But, there may be none happier than Avery Williamson. Last year, Williamson didn’t make it out of the preseason when he suffered a torn ACL against the Falcons in a preseason game last year. After missing the season, Williamson is in a good spot to come back to the Jets defense and make a big impact.
He has told multiple reporters his leg is feeling great, which hopefully means he can play at the level he did in 2018 when he racked up a whopping 120 tackles and two forced fumbles. Williamson steps into a bigger role this season as well after Jets linebacker CJ Mosely opted out of the 2020 season. It shapes up to be a good season for Williamson, but we will miss the weekly game day tweets.
— Avery Williamson (@AWilliamson54) December 13, 2019
It is possible Logan Stenberg sees some significant time in Detroit in his rookie season, especially after the departure of former starting right guard Graham Glasgow. The Lions have struggled on offense in the last few seasons, due to Matt Stafford injuries and a revolving door at the running back position. But with guys like Deandre Swift and the recently added Adrian Peterson joining the Lions backfield this year, Stenberg might have a pivotal run-blocking role in 2020 at right guard.
Bud Dupree has been solid in Pittsburgh. Earlier this year he signed a franchise tag tender worth $15.8 million this season, but this still might be his final season in the Steel City.
After signing that tender, Dupree filed a grievance with the NFLPA over the classification of his position. He signed as a linebacker, but by switching his classification to defensive end, Dupree would make two million more on the deal. Because of that, Dupree could not come to a long-term deal with the Steelers. If it is indeed his final season with the Steelers, I expect Bud Dupree to have one of his best seasons yet, alongside TJ Watt on the other side of the defense.
Follow along with Cats in the NFL coverage all season long with KSR.
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