We’ve made it to the midway point of the 2020 NFL season, and rosters continue to shuffle from week to week due to injuries and the COVID-19 pandemic. After connecting with my sources across the league and digging into All-22 Coaches Film, I’m giving scouting reports on 11 players who could take on bigger roles in Week 9.
Replacing: Marlon Humphrey (Reserve/COVID-19 list)
Bonds was one of seven Ravens players added to the Reserve/COVID-19 list on Wednesday after having either social or game-day contact with Humphrey. NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported that this group, including Bonds, will not practice this week but is expected to be cleared by Sunday. The second-year undrafted free agent played 15 defensive snaps vs. Pittsburgh, recording two tackles in the loss, and could see more playing time this weekend in Indianapolis. More quick than fast, Bonds has a high football IQ and good instincts but can lose concentration at times. He is aggressive and isn’t afraid to tackle, a key trait in a cornerback. He’s undersized (5-foot-8, 182 pounds) but a natural nickel corner who knows how to play every position in the back end.
If Bonds isn’t cleared to play Sunday, look for Khalil Dorsey, a primarily special teams player, to step in. When watching the All-22 Coaches Film, Dorsey is a smart, quick cornerback who shows burst to the receiver and the ball, but lacks top long speed to cover a speedster downfield. He plays tough against the run, but is often engulfed by blockers due to his small stature (5-9, 170). His limited wing span also causes him to miss some tackles. Dorsey would be best suited as a nickel corner.
Replacing: Ronnie Stanley (ankle)
When Stanley exited last week’s game, Orlando Brown slid from right to left tackle and Fluker took over on the right side. In 29 pass-blocking snaps vs. Pittsburgh’s vaunted defense, Fluker allowed two hits, two hurries and four pressures, according to Pro Football Focus. When watching the film, Fluker looks quicker than he did last year after losing some weight in the offseason. As a physical player with size (6-5, 342 pounds) and strength, he’s a better run blocker than pass blocker, as he has good balance against linebackers and stays on his feet very well. His problem area in pass protection is when he faces speed — evidenced by last week’s stat sheet — because he has some stiffness as a blocker. His size and strength do help him against pass rushers who aren’t quick. Unfortunately, Justin Houston brings a lot of speed off the edge for the Colts’ No. 2-ranked defense.
Replacing: Mitch Morse (concussion)
Morse exited Sunday’s game during Buffalo’s first offensive drive after suffering his fifth career concussion, and the center has yet to practice this week. Both Bates and Feliciano got playing time in Morse’s absence vs. the Patriots, and will be in the mix this Sunday against Seattle if Morse isn’t cleared. Bates has played on a limited basis in 2020 as a center, tackle and blocking tight end. He’s a very good athlete with quickness and shows the ability to execute the hook block. However, he lacks strength and it often shows up in his attempt to anchor vs. strong pass rushers.
The recently activated Feliciano is a strong, short-area blocker with quickness off the ball and the ability to pull on short pulls. A mauler in the run game, he won’t knock the defender off the ball but will engage him and is better than average in sustaining blocks. Feliciano’s limitations show up in pass protection, where he has a tendency to lose his man late due to stiffness. This happens on run plays, too, at times.
Replacing: Andy Dalton (Reserve/COVID-19 list)
Rookie quarterback Ben DiNucci looked overwhelmed in his first career start last week, a loss to division-rival Philadelphia. Consequently, the seventh-rounder won’t start Sunday against Pittsburgh. Mike McCarthy said Wednesday he wants “more experience at the position.” So the start will be made by either Rush, a third-year player recently signed to the practice squad, or Gilbert, a veteran without much game experience (but one who is already on the active roster).
Rush has been in the system, but not during McCarthy’s tenure. He is viewed as a smart player who can manage an offense, though his accuracy is inconsistent. With an adequate arm, Rush is a backup quarterback at best. Gilbert improved a lot during his time in Cleveland last season. A smart player who knows where to go with the ball, he has some athletic ability that allows him to escape the rush and make off-schedule plays. Gilbert, a quiet leader, doesn’t have top arm talent, but has the potential to play well with talent around him. With limited practice time ahead of Sunday’s game, Rush has a big advantage of knowing the system.
Green Bay Packers
Replacing: A.J. Dillon (Reserve/COVID-19 list), Jamaal Williams (close contact to Dillon), Aaron Jones (calf)
The Packers could be without their top three running backs against San Francisco, so Ervin and Dexter Williams might be tasked with carrying the load out of the backfield. Ervin has been a pass catcher/returner for the Packers and provides the offense with an athletic weapon in space. He often gets the ball on the move in screens or jet sweeps, and his best routes are in the flats and on short passes. Ervin (5-10, 192) won’t be a major factor as an inside runner because of his size and fumbling issues. Pass protection will likely be a problem for him, too, so I would use a tight end or fullback in the backfield on pass plays to better protect Aaron Rodgers.
Williams, a 2019 sixth-round pick, was promoted off the practice squad two weeks ago and earned playing time on special teams in the win over Houston. He has size and strength to go with his downhill running style. The Notre Dame product has average vision and instincts as a runner, but struggles as a pass catcher. Williams seems like the obvious choice on first and second downs.
Replacing: Gardner Minshew (thumb)
There’s a lot of praise for the rookie quarterback, who was viewed as a developmental player during the draft process, coming out of Jacksonville. When watching his college tape, Luton has good size (6-6, 224), arm strength and a quick release, which lends me to believe there is some upside. At Oregon State, Luton made some great plays, but lacked consistency when it came to decision-making and accuracy. The sixth-round pick doesn’t threaten defenses with his running ability, so I’d expect the Jaguars to lean on James Robinson and the ground game and use play action off it vs. Houston.
San Francisco 49ers
Replacing: George Kittle (foot)
Dwelley has seen the field a fair amount in his three seasons with the 49ers, making nine starts over the last two seasons. Last week against the Seattle Seahawks, Dwelley scored his first receiving TD of the season and the third of his career. His strengths are his hands and instincts as a receiver to find holes in zone defenses. Dwelley, who isn’t much of a deep threat, is quick not fast and struggles to get separation on his routes vs. man coverage. As a blocker, he competes but lacks strength. There is an obvious drop-off from Kittle on all fronts.
Washington Football Team
Replacing: Landon Collins (Achilles)
Curl has played at least 14 defensive snaps in six of Washington’s seven games this season. The seventh-round rookie shows potential as an athletic, aggressive defender who can play a variety of positions. On film, the 6-1, 206-pound Arkansas product is quick in direction changes and as a reactor vs. in the run and in zone defense. Look for Washington to use Curl, who often plays as a linebacker/defensive back close to the line of scrimmage, at strong safety against the New York Giants.
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