Nottingham’s Derrick Gore went from unwanted to Super Bowl contender: ‘This is one of the better stories in America’
Derrick Gore’s road from Nottingham High School to one of the favorites to win this year’s Super Bowl took him from running staircases on Euclid Avenue to sandpits in the middle of campus at Coffeyville Community College in Kansas.
It took him to four different college programs, including a pair of remote outposts. It required him to serve as a practice squad player with three different NFL teams and overcome being released five times.
“This is one of the better stories in America,” Coffeyville running backs coach Dickie Rolls said. “That someone could have that much faith in themselves. We all know, all of us, that we walk around all day with doubt in ourselves. But I don’t know if he has any doubt in him.”
“I used to tell that team in the weight room, ‘No one is working as hard as you guys,’ ” said Marty Clanton Sr., Nottingham’s current head coach and Gore’s former offensive coordinator and strength coach. “And he was the hardest worker of them all. He would get up at 5:30 a.m. to run. He’d run hills. He’d run the stairs at Euclid. You don’t get that from kids. He’d call me in the morning asking to run or work out, and then he’d come to the second weight session that night.”
In 2020, the Commanders defense excelled, and the next summer, several players seemed certain they’d stay dominant. Most notably, defensive ends Chase Young and Montez Sweat told reporters they wanted to break the sack record for a duo (39). Coach Ron Rivera, meanwhile, worried about his team’s “maturity” — and his concerns were validated when the defense took a big step back in 2021.
Now, after a resurgent 2022, many of the same defenders — including Sweat, Young and Curl — find themselves in a familiar position. But Rivera believes this time will be different.
“They’re a little more mature,” he explained Monday, adding, “It’s a group of guys now that’ve been together for four years. There’s a lot of confidence in what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. I think certain guys in key positions have matured. … It’s okay to be confident. But … you still got to go out and do the work.”
Ron Rivera knows he has a good problem on his hands.
He was asked Monday about Montez Sweat and Chase Young both being in a contract year.
When Young went down in November 2021 with a torn ACL, Rivera said it was difficult last season because they wanted Young to be able to play, but they also understood Young had to be ready.
“(It was) very, very, very tough…I mean, the truth of the matter is when the guy goes through an ACL, very few guys can do what Adrian Peterson did. So it’s just going to be a matter of time.”
Rivera is feeling good about his defense as the new training camp season began last week. He commented he thinks he sees more confidence in understanding the scheme and that some guys have matured as well.
When asked where he saw maturity in the defense, Rivera responded,
“The little things are important. It’s when they’re in meetings, when they’re in the walkthrough, and when they’re in practice. It’s like watching some of the guys right now…As I walk through and I see seven, eight, nine, 10 guys still out there working together, on their own, without coaches around them; that’s impressive. That’s what you want from your guys, and they’re doing it on a voluntary basis because they think they need to work together and continue to do that. That, to me, is just showing maturity.”
One thing a quarterback can’t do at any level is miss late and behind. That’s a recipe for disaster.
This is probably the worst throw of the day. If you're throwing this ball it needs to be out earlier and you can't miss inside.— Nick Akridge (@PFF_NickAkridge) August 18, 2022
He's a tad bit late and the ball floats inside giving the DB a really good chance to make a play on the ball and a better DB picks this off pic.twitter.com/GgppODPzJW
However, there were a couple of plays that showed how much progress Howell made in a very limited time. Being able to work through full-field progressions and hitting the backside concept on time never materialized for Howell at North Carolina because the coaching didn’t ask him to do it.
This is his best throw/play of the game.— Nick Akridge (@PFF_NickAkridge) August 18, 2022
Sail concept to the field with a dig from the backside against quarters coverage. I love how he reads this out. He gets through all his options and he does it on time hitting the backside dig. This is beautiful. pic.twitter.com/y1mWGuQqWJ
The Commanders are in a unique position. Head coach Ron Rivera and the front office have constructed a relatively respectable roster. Their defense has consistently been among the best in the NFL. They have a good group of offensive weapons. They just hired a highly respected offensive coordinator in Eric Bienemy. Add to that the potential change in ownership and Rivera possibly being on the hot seat, and you have your answer as to why Sam Howell could be the guy in 2023.
He’s the Hail Mary shot that could elevate this team into not only contending for the playoffs but making some noise in a rather weak NFC.
Bullock’s Film Room
Breaking down a clip from Commanders training camp and examining how the offense can use QB rollouts.
You all seem to be enjoying the breakdowns of clips from Commanders training camp, so let’s do another one. Today’s training camp clip comes from Commanders fan Rio Robinson via his Youtube channel where he posted a vlog with some clips from practice. There were a number of good clips so go check that one, but the one I wanted to focus on came midway through the video at about the 3 minute mark.
This short clip from that video shows a scheme that I think will be used a lot by the Commanders this season to help not only Sam Howell, but also the offensive line. This scheme is a quarterback movement scheme known as “Sprint Right/Left”. Essentially, as soon as the ball is snapped the quarterback rolls out to the side of the call and looks to get the ball out quickly to one of two receivers working to that side of the field. Here’s what that specific example looks like drawn up.
We can see here that the Commanders are working out of 12 personnel, with one running back, two tight ends and two receivers. Both tight ends align to the left of the formation while both the receivers align to the right. Just before the snap, receiver Terry McLaurin is sent in a short motion from the outside to join fellow receiver Jahan Dotson in a stacked set. The ball is then snapped and the pair of receivers execute a basic stick concept with Dotson running the stick route and McLaurin working underneath him to the flat.
There is some hard work ahead for these players at Commanders training camp.
Dax Milne - Commanders WR/KR
This has nothing to do with Dax Milne’s production at training camp so far. The wide receiver looks to have taken on coaching once again and seems far more assured in terms of consistency, which is making people think differently about a player that’s been primarily used as a kick returner more often than not.
Milne is clearly playing with an added sense of urgency after the Washington Commanders picked up Kazmeir Allen in undrafted free agency. Marcus Kemp was also acquired as a special teams ace and close associate of Eric Bieniemy, with the team also scooping up Byron Pringle at the start of training camp to further bolster their pass-catching options.
These new additions might have pushed Milne down the depth chart almost by default. However, the former BYU standout is fighting with everything he has to stick around in some capacity.
Whether that’ll be enough remains to be seen. Bieniemy clearly loves Pringle and Kemp, with head coach Ron Rivera’s comments surrounding Allen this offseason something else of note that cannot be ignored.
Legendary NFL writer Peter King of NBC Sports likened fans returning to training camp post-Snyder to the classic movie, “Field of Dreams” in his latest Football Morning in America column.
I think watching the fans streaming into Washington training camp is reminiscent of the final moments in “Field of Dreams,” with the cars lined up in Dyersville, Iowa to recapture what they loved so much and what they thought was lost forever. Good luck to the Josh Harris group in making the team what I remember from the late eighties and early nineties. Games at RFK Stadium were almost religious revivals. The ground shook and the press box swayed with the game on the line in the fourth quarter of so many of those games. May it happen again.
King covered a lot of games during Washington’s glory years from RFK Stadium. Recapturing that past glory seems much more attainable in the post-Snyder era.
DC Sports King
Sweat received a question about Young returning from the injury. His reply was interesting, to say the least.
“One thing I can say is he started to be more of a pro,” Sweat said, per John Keim of ESPN. “Ever since the injury, the cold tub and pre-practice and treatment after practice. That’s where he helped his game a lot.”
Sweat later clarified he felt Young has always been a pro, but he’s elevated his approach in the injury’s aftermath.
Podcasts & Videos
Ref the District - Commanders Training Camp Day 5- Last day w/o pads Jamin Davis legal trouble Terry McLaurin excelling
Episode 623 - Terry McLaurin on Monday opened up about Sam Howell, the QB instability Terry has dealt w/, the sale & more. Lotsa good stuff. I discuss.— Al Galdi (@AlGaldi) August 1, 2023
I also talk Jamin Davis, Montez Sweat, Chase Young & #Nats' & #Orioles' wins & trades.#MLBTradeDeadline https://t.co/046y54hgH3
Locked on Commanders - Washington Commanders Training Camp: Linebacker Focus, Howell Watch, David Mayo and Jahan Dotson
Exciting but sad day. @PeteHaileyNBCS got a great new gig and is moving. Thrilled for him and I know he will crush it. Pod will continue, as it always has, and more exciting pod news soon. But for today? It’s Pete’s day (and 1st day of pads). Listen here. https://t.co/CUFmk8I4e8— JP Finlay (@JPFinlayNBCS) August 1, 2023
The offense showed out on the first day of pads— Washington Commanders (@Commanders) August 1, 2023
Pads today so let's highlight some stories about those in the trenches.— Ben Standig (@BenStandig) August 1, 2023
Chase Young, Montez Sweat and the Commanders DE dilemma. https://t.co/nhTbeEB495
Chase Young, healed and hungry (@davidaldridgedc)https://t.co/1F1ImGjEIf
LG option Chris Paul https://t.co/4q72cbs2SN
A roundup of highlights and notes from those in attendance at Day 6 of Commanders training camp. https://t.co/hyv2ObgN5X— Commanders Wire (@Washington_Wire) August 2, 2023
NFC East links
Big Blue View
The Giants ended a playoff drought after a nine-win season in 2022. With Saquon Barkley back in the fold and additions like Darren Waller, they could be right back in the postseason in 2023.
The Giants improved their roster from last season. Schoen retained, and added, several explosive playmakers who should allow the offense to mix and match their personnel, while attacking defenses vertically, which could open up softer boxes for the rushing attack.
Beefing up the defensive line was a necessity not only to stop the run, which linebacker Bobby Okereke will significantly help achieve, but to keep Dexter Lawrence and Leonard Williams fresh down the stretch of games, and well into the season.
Big Blue targeted two priority areas on each side of the football and made savvy investments to improve the offense and defense, while also absorbing all $ 14.7 million of Kenny Golladay’s dead cap hit this season. That’s a positive for the long-term health of the cap but could hamper the Giants’ flexibility if injuries befall the franchise as they’ve already experienced with linebacker Jarrad Davis.
Daniel Jones has several playmakers including, arguably, the most athletic tight end in the league. The defense improved its starters and its overall depth. Saquon Barkley signing his one-year deal answers the biggest question that was facing the team. The Giants, obviously, are much better off in 2023 with Barkley toting the rock.
After winning Coach of the Year in 2022, Brian Daboll will look to earn back-to-back playoff appearances for the first time since Super Bowl XLII and the subsequent season. It won’t be easy, the schedule is difficult, but I’m sure the Giants will be a well-coached, prepared, and hungry team every week.
Bleeding Green Nation
The NFC Champs have reloaded and they’re ready to bounce back from a heartbreaking Super Bowl LVII loss.
For the regular season, we can expect the Eagles to take a step back from their 14-3 record. Don’t freak out. In the previous 10 seasons, 23 teams have won 13+ games. The next year they won, on average, 10 games, and 12 of them won at least 11 games.
The defense will take a step back. There is only one way to go after recording 70 sacks last season, and that is down. Additionally, they have a brutal four-game stretch in November and December. After their bye in Week 10 they play at the Chiefs, host the Bills and then the 49ers, then play at the Cowboys. There will be despair after a loss and elation after a win during this four-week span. Again, don’t freak out.
Is the QB good? Is the team relatively healthy? If both those answers are yes, the team will be fine.
NFL league links
Jalen Hurts Set His Lock Screen To Him Losing The Super Bowl As Motivation And Unfortunately I Don’t See Him Changing It Any Time Soon
Jalen Hurts was shown in this video during a team meeting that his lock screen is him losing the Super Bowl. I never understand why people do this because it isn’t hard to remember you lost the Super Bowl. The Eagles also aren’t going to win the Super Bowl for a long time, so does he never change his lock screen ever again? And why do you need your lock screen to remind you? Just make it your dog like everyone else.
A Nickelodeon Super Bowl: The NFL will have its first Super Bowl alternate telecast this season, as Nickelodeon will broadcast the game with a production tailored to kids, per @Ourand_SBJ.https://t.co/HGCeWj263L pic.twitter.com/DfMpVqXi9n— Ari Meirov (@MySportsUpdate) August 1, 2023
It’s the most important position in sports.— Alec Lewis (@alec_lewis) August 1, 2023
And yet for so long, QB development was so devoid of answers.
I spent time with Anthony Richardson, Will Hewlett and Tom Gormely and learned the decades-long arc of ego and evolution, technology and change:https://t.co/yQesBCRdni
Suspended Bronco Eyioma Uwazurike is accused in a criminal probe of betting on NFL and college games he played in and tampering with records to hide his gambling activities. https://t.co/Nl0ex6WGNx— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) August 2, 2023