A Playmaker’s Mentality

I’m Ryan.

Just Ryan. Like Jeezy when he dropped the “Young”, or Prince. Ronaldinho. You get where I’m going with this.

As this is my first piece (yikes), I thought it’d only be polite to give my Internet friends a quick background on myself, in order to give you an idea of what kind of #content you’ll be getting from me.

Before I get into all that, and if you’re lucky, a football take or two, a quick disclaimer:

I’m not a writer.

Twitter really made a lot of sense for someone like me because of the 140 character limit. Within those 140 characters, you were able to share your thoughts, but were forced to work in certain boundaries. I really respect that formatting; make your point and keep it moving. The thought of writing for one site about a single subject made me anxious, honestly. There was nothing fun about that. The time or two I was asked in the past to pen some thoughts, I balked. I didn’t want to back myself into a corner. I wanted to talk about music, different sports, culture, and how it all connects. That’s what I’m looking forward to the most here at PM: it’s the perfect outlet to get all those thoughts, opinions, and emotions down, while also bridging that gap.

Buckle up, friends.

I’m 26. I work a full-time office or “desk” job (whatever sounds cooler) and essentially live the dream for 50+ hours a week. Truth be told, I really enjoy what I do. Coworkers are great, the company is solid, and at the end of the day, I’m just happy to be employed, and doing something that I don’t hate.

Now, while I don’t have aspirations of working in some NFL front office or for some other league somewhere, I, like many other 20-somethings, am consumed by all-things sports. Tennis, golf, rugby – you name it, I’ll watch it. No matter the sport, however, my takes remain fairly poor across the board. This is science at this point.

Most of my tweets come early in the morning as I’m getting ready to go into the office, when I’m in the bathroom (my two or three good tweets a year definitely come from the bathroom), if I’m in between meetings, or at the gym. My girl doesn’t understand my obsession for simply “talking about sports”, but the dopest part about Twitter is being able to link up and discuss with like-minded individuals. Nothing is more painful than listening to your ignorant and uninformed family members talk about why they hate Cam’s dancing, why he’s being a jerk, why he needs to “show more class”, etc.

When I’m talking sports, chances are, it’s football. I’m a big fan of the Master’s, and the coverage that gets, as well as March Madness and college hoops in general. My first passion was soccer, and I’m stoked to see it discussed more frequently State-side, but nothing comes close to college football or anything NFL-related in my humble opinion.

For those who have been following me for a bit (thank you, and sorry), y’all know I fancy myself a Raiders fan. I try and avoid this fact in conversation. No matter how hard I try, I just can’t help myself. Something about love, I guess…

I’ve been following this franchise for as long as I can remember. Growing up, my pops would reminisce about the “Madden teams”. While he aligns himself with the Giants, I was always told that everyone’s a Raider fan, even if they’re not. Madden, Old Man Willie, Tatum, Howie, Biletnikoff, Stabler, the list goes on and on. I didn’t know anything else, which was weird, because I grew up in Connecticut.

Nevertheless, as I grew up, I fell in love with guys like Charles Woodson, Touchdown Timmy, and the MVP, Rich Gannon. Al Davis was a God to me. I spent more time reading about his greatness than the players themselves. I was fascinated by the history, the fan base, everything that was the “Silver and Black”. The seasons leading up to the 2002 Super Bowl, man, nobody could tell me shit. Little did I know, I peaked way too early, and the next 10+ years of my football life would be a joke.

So, that more or less leads to me where I am now. Like I mentioned earlier, I’ve always been interested in other sports (thankfully, for my own sanity), but the genuine sadness that was the Oakland Raiders drove me to put more time into other areas of the sport I loved. Whether that was fantasy football, the draft, or even recruiting from the high school level, I looked to greener pastures.

When it comes to watching film and digging deep into prospects, I do what I can. There are dozens and dozens of folk’s #onhere with ridiculous drive and putting in equally ridiculous hours — breaking down tape, examining, evaluating, reevaluating. I look up to those people (I’m sure you know who I’m talking about). For me, I simply don’t have the time, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have a favorite player or two, or the hottest takes.

I’ve always gravitated toward watching DB or WR tape. My favorite player of all-time is Ed Reed, followed by some familiar names in Sean Taylor, Rod Woodson, and Deion Sanders. I love the way current players like Marcus Peters, Eric Berry, and Kam Chancellor play the game. Florida State has a couple of DB’s that I just can’t get enough of (more on that some other time).

As far as wide receivers are concerned, whether it’s Randy Moss or Calvin Johnson, or watching guys like Josh Gordon and Odell Beckham Jr. absolutely dominant the league right out of the gate. The driveway interviews with Terrell Owens and the quiet greatness of Marvin Harrison, it’s hard not to enjoy watching a truly great wideout operate.

Outside of those positions, I find myself drawn toward quarterback play. While I’ll leave a majority of that discussion to DK (@QBKlass) and others who are more qualified, I certainly have a type. Like any young football fan growing up in the 2000’s, I loved Michael Vick. I have nothing against the “pocket passers”, but I really want my quarterback flying around and making as many plays as possible. I want that greatness. We’re blessed with players like Cam Newton and Russy Wilson. Tyrod Taylor sat since 2011 but finds himself having fun in Buffalo nowadays. There are a couple young, dynamic kids in the college ranks who I have my eye on. That’s not to say they’ll be as good or better than those aforementioned names, but I think they’re playmakers, and that’s a good start for me.

Currently, there’s not a player I like in the country more than Deshaun Watson. I had a similar fascination with Marcus Mariota during his time at Oregon, but what I feel for Wat may be stronger (let me get into my feelings a bit here). I’ve followed him as he smashed various state records in Georgia, won top recruit honors, all of that. I knew he’d be good, but I didn’t think he’d be doing what he’s doing at Clemson (post-injury, at that). Despite the loss in the National Championship to Alabama, I think he really backed up and emphasized what a lot of us already thought about of him, and opened some eyes otherwise. This kid is the real deal. We’re watching the future with this young man and for me, he embodies the word “fun”.

I find myself going back to that game vs. Alabama. A lot. Perhaps I’m a little bit biased, and maybe just a bit too enamored – or maybe it’s the fact that it came in a losing effort – but I don’t think Watson’s getting enough credit for his performance. That Saban defense was really, really good. Historically good. How did the true sophomore do? Just over 400 yards in the air, accounting for 478 yards of total offense. Light work.

Those are just nutty numbers – fun numbers – in my opinion. Let’s put things into perspective, allowing us to measure this greatness more accurately. When Vince Young levitated in the 2006 Rose Bowl, a game many consider the single greatest performance by a college football player in one the best college football games ever played, Young walked away with “only” 467 yards of total offense. I can keep rattling off stats, various box scores, and my favorite plays, but we must pace ourselves, my pals. We have an entire junior year still to come.

Now that y’all are fully aware of the crush I have on Deshaun, I’m a little embarrassed, and I don’t want to talk about him anymore. Instead, let’s talk about another athletic quarterback. If Watson’s at the top, the next name I’m looking at is Louisville’s young dual-threat Lamar Jackson.

In the same class as the Gatorade Football Player of the Year Kyler Murray and stud Jarrett Stidham, Jackson found himself outside of the top ten in the country as far as dual-threat quarterbacks were concerned. You couldn’t tell by the show he put on against Texas A&M in the Music City Bowl. While this is my “hello world”, that was definitely his.

I think D summed it up best:

For those unfamiliar, Lamar Jackson is a true freshman with some wheels listed at 6’3”, 195, and he had a pretty decent day in Nashville:


Leaving the box score alone, a few clips may help us paint a better picture. In fact, studying just two series will allow us to illustrate both the “awesome” and “reckless shit” alluded to above.

About 3 minutes into the contest, Jackson finds himself in 2nd and Goal. He then goes on to make one defender miss, and some nifty footwork does the rest:

May I present Exhibit A:


Here we have QB #8 hitting the dab, as kids like to say, to the joy of his teammates. In the middle of the screen, we have the defender with his hands on his hips. This is the universal sign for “I just got flexed on”, I believe.

We might have to get used to this. While Jackson’s not quite as built as Cam Newton, he’s no small task around the goal line either. Imagine if he comes into his sophomore year with another 10 pounds of muscle? Goodness.

The “recklessness” can be found in the clip below. Jackson takes off – you see the speed – and he’s got one thing on his mind. Give the defender some credit here, that’s a heck of a pop (upends Lamar), and it leads to a fumble:

I bring this up because he fumbled again (at least one other time) in this game. Jackson found himself a bit luckier on the second lost ball, as it was hit out of bounds. But this is what you get with Jackson, at least at this stage of his game. You take the good with the bad (I imagine the good will far outweigh the bad). Despite throwing for 2 scores, it always felt as though Jackson wanted to run first. If he can reel that in, and build on that arm, we’re really in for a treat.

One more clip on the ground. This was his 2nd touchdown run, this time a 61-yarder…

…and if you guessed that he was going to run by two more defenders on his way to 6, you were right:

With Jackson’s 226 yards on the ground, he became the third quarterback to run and throw for at least 200 yards in a bowl game (Vince Young, 2006 and Johnny Manziel, 2012). Pretty decent company, I think.

We have a pretty good idea of what Jackson is capable of as far as his feet are concerned. Actually, he had A&M so concerned, that even the slightest step or two outside of the pocket caused a reaction, which lead to some delicate dimes:

I really look forward to watching Lamar Jackson more in 2016, as I think there’s a lot to work with here. The arm definitely intrigues me. He’s a cool customer; just rocks back, and the flick of the wrist seems effortless. Check the pretty touch over the middle:

Now, again, Jackson’s only a freshman, so the story’s just begun. I’m over here still pretty enamored by his efforts in this bowl game, honestly. I know it’s way too early to crown anyone anything, but he’s definitely a name to watch for in 2016 (and beyond hopefully). I think you all will enjoy the ride as much as me – even outside of a vacuum – there’s a lot to like with Lamar Jackson.

Keep tabs on these two kids as the highlights keep coming.


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