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The "Apology" for not being "Christian-Like" towards me... Not exactly a happy ending because she wished my death, pretty awkward.

I don't give anyone permission to post anywhere else... all that good stuff.
For anyone who didn't read at least my first story: the summary... this was years ago. DH and I have been together for over a decade now, we are VLC with her and I'm by default NC with her because she started giving me the silent treatment so I returned the favor. We've been married for a few years and we're very happy and happier for her not being in our lives. I'm not happy that this was the outcome but she dug her own grave and it's not for me to get her out. Truthfully, I wouldn't even know how because she has some serious cuts and scars to mend with me and I won't speak for DH totally, but he's been out of the FOG and refuses to tolerate her crap just to have a relationship.
So from my last little tid bit (see the bot) I explained that things with DH's (BF at the time) family was simply different. They didn't do anything together really and things were just divided for the most part. It was a lame story but it'll all be relevant as time goes on, but that's the summary. Now, his mother truly believes that they are a very close family with this inseparable bond. Over the years she has made so many comments to DH (more than I will ever know) and quite a few passive aggressive comments to me. MIL openly talks about BF being the golden child, BIL is salivating for her attention and to point out all that is wrong with BF. It's just a really unsteady boat.
The more I saw her, the more she judged me but still never got to know me. I'm a downright TERRIBLE person because I had 1 tattoo at the time (now have 3 and planning on #4 this fall/winter). She would go on and on and on about how they're disgusting and only delinquents and sinners get tattoos directly to my face. Props for saying it to my face but what exactly am I suppose to say back without being disrespectful? I really didn't want to make DH's life hell by telling off his mom so it left me in a pickle. She really tried to make me feel like shit. I mean... this one didn't work but still, wtf is your goal by saying this shit?
She would then proceed to cry to me that she didn't want BF to get one and I need to stop influencing him. WTF. How exactly do you respond to that you ask? Well you tell her to fuck off and shove it up her ass. But I didn't. I said something like, "You realize I don't have the same beliefs as you and I'm going to school to get a doctorate, right? A tattoo that you never see (it's on my ribs) just isn't a big deal anymore and I'm far from a delinquent."
But her babbbbyyyyyy might get one and she simply couldn't handle it. Guys... DH has zero desire to get a tattoo. Like none. He doesn't exactly care what I do with tattoos to my body (although I think he would formulate an opinion if I came home with a penis tattooed on my forehead) but he, himself, said he doesn't feel the need to get anything. I doubt that will change. I would bet my paycheck on it - Oh wait... I did but I would happily pay up just to see her reaction now (that's just me being petty). I ended the conversation with something along the lines of "Well you really don't know your son if you think he would get a permanent tattoo on his body just because his GF has one" ....apparently that wasn't the right response. Found out from SIL-W(Now wife of BIL) a few weeks later that she was still crying a river to them that she was just so scared he would make such a poor decision. Like this seriously kept her up at night.
Oh why else was I a bad person at this point in time?
I'm a bad person because I "constantly put down" BF. Well... I'm not really sure how to navigate this one without being painfully honest here so hang with me.... I actually started to point out all the ways she was a shitty mom to him, but she took this to be me putting down BF. Well that backfired and apples didn't fall correctly, clearly. Let me explain: DH didn't know how to use a ratchet set let alone a screwdriver. Laundry was a learning experience. He didn't know how to cook really (FF: he's an amazing cook and his homemade meatballs are out of this world). He ate like 6 foods until I literally took on this persona of a psycho girlfriend who made him try EVERYTHING and his roommates got him to try different spices and wings so now he's less of a 5 year old and has a solid adult-range diet. Stuff where it was just like.... why is he a grown adult and doesn't know this? She would make comments about BF like I was his mother as well and expect me to "fix" the issue...so I only found it fair to point out every way she sucked or encouraged him to formulate these bad habits that she now has a problem with. It's not my job to fix shit. I'm not in a relationship to "fix him" (but yes, I would like to eat more than pizza, pancakes, chicken nuggets and french fries so I did push that one for my sanity, not his). So she spun it where I talked bad about him when in reality I was judging her parenting because I was starting to landslide. Not the best approach. For anyone reading who is currently dealing with this type of shit: don't be passive aggressive. It's not worth the fucking time and energy. Just call her out or move on to laugh about it.
I'm also a bad person because I would defend DH - apparently that wasn't okay either. So back to that crap where she would complain to me about BF and then expect me to fix things... One summer when the Olympics were on and BF is really into them while subsequently losing weight and getting healthy. He spent weeks in his room watching them while on a stationary bike or elliptical or whatever which wasn't far from the norm past his workout obsession... as I've said, they don't do anything together. Well, MIL all of a sudden wanted a closer family (probably to remove my "influence" from him) and seriously complained to me about him being antisocial and asked if he's acts this way when he's away at college. All I can say is... I didn't appreciate her bashing him when this is the atmosphere she created. So, I stuck up for him. "Oh that's so funny because he's really social at college. Although it doesn't seem like he's doing anything different than any other summer home. You guys have never done anything as a family so I'm not sure why you think that's changed" Wrong. Answer.
I'm also a bad person because she didn't like that I drank and I was forcing her perfect son to drink at college. Yes - you read that correctly. She flat out blamed me for him drinking and it never crossed her mind that he chose to drink, I didn't have some magical vagina that made him fall under a spell to get fucked up. New flash bitch: he tried alcohol in high school well before he met me, but yup I'm the influence holding his mouth open to pour fireball and vodka down it.... but I couldn't say that. So I took the hit for being "that girl" again over the years.
So overall.... She kept throwing digs about me or DH and I answered them in the mildest form possible which ended up being passive aggressive, while trying to not be completely steam rolled, but it was a waste because she just treated me like shit anyway. Sometimes I threw a dig back and sometimes I brushed it off. Overall, she was just buying her time waiting for us to break up... Yup... she's still waiting. SIL told me that MIL made a ton of comments on how I'm so disrespectful and it pissed me off. So you can say whatever you want to me including openly dissing me but I'm suppose to what? Kiss your ass? Say thank you? So.... I was very aware of how she felt about me and what she says even though DH didn't directly tell me, it's not fucking rocket science here.
Side note: MIL has like.... one friend. She calls BIL and he's her sounding board for everything. Frankly, I find it really unhealthy for you to be treating your child like your therapist... just like... go to a therapist. So how things work in this family is something happens (or basically nothing) she runs to BIL and spins the entire thing to her fancy, BIL tells SIL, SIL comes running to me to get our side while BIL makes backhanded comments to DH about how he needs to be better with MIL or whatever. Both MIL and BIL operate by guilt tripping and it's just fucking annoying. It worked on DH for a few years and then it was like a switch flipped and it's yet to work again. I will say, I shut this little drama train down a few years ago and it's much nicer. Once in a while I get pissed enough to engage but it's rare. Now I just let everything go to shit, let BIL think what he wants while making ridiculous assumptions and him and MIL are little butt buddies who talk shit but have no guts to actually say it or own up to their part.. fun, right?!
So to the story of how she once again used her religious crap on me to really show that she's just a Holy Hypocrite. Welcome to her name everyone, I have a winner of a MIL.
SIL (little sister) decided she was going to go to prom with her friends and she was really excited. I truly don't know 100% if I offered or she asked me... but I'm pretty sure I offered... to do her hair and makeup. I think I offered because I was home from college so only about 2 hours away (versus 5), she was talking to me at that time for whatever reason, I worked it out with DH where he was coming home and we would drive back to college together, and if she was going to ask someone I would think she would've asked her other SIL-W (BILs wife) since they were closer; I imagine I offered. I also did SILs hair a few other times we were together - nothing fancy just some french braid based that I can do in my sleep so it's not like this would be completely out of the blue.
HH doesn't wear a lick of makeup and does nothing with her hair so that option was out, obviously. If SIL wanted to look good she had to look elsewhere. Like many of the ladies know hair and makeup is wicked expensive and I happen to be really good at both, at least for prom quality so SIL took me up on the offer.
I had her send me pictures of her dress, some different hair styles that I thought might look good on he the dress and she seemed really excited. MIL texts me and wants to "confirm" if I was really willing to put myself out to do her hair and makeup because she didn't want her daughter to get her hopes up but also wanted to see if I was charging her so she could set aside the money because this type of thing is an arm and a leg and she's a single mother. I was kind of pissed about this. She really thinks so low of me that I would be texting her daughter, in writing, that I was committing to doing all of this, and at no charge (none the less) but would just bail and ruin her one and only prom? Especially over.. what... $100? Wow. Cool. I specifically told her that I would do it for free, I was just happy to be able to make her prom everything she hoped - it was never about money. I mean really? Why would I spend all that money on traveling down to slave over her hair and makeup for $100 or whatever versus sitting at home watching HIMYM? I made it clear and it was obvious I was thrilled to be able to do something, anything for SIL to be happy - It's not about you HH.
Next Text: She says something along the lines of really underestimating me and my intentions prior and she would like to have a private conversation with me one on one to apologize for not being Christian like towards me when I come to do her hair and makeup.
GUYS, I FINALLY DID IT. IT TOOK 4.5 YEARS BUT SHE'S REALIZING I'M NOT A TERRIBLE PERSON. I'm like... fucking thrilled. I'm sitting here thinking we will finally be on the same page. She can accept me as a person rather than a walking sinner... holy shit maybe BF won't have this unknown future. Well... you read the title so you know I was naive and should've never agreed to a one-on-one talk.
So I do SILs hair and makeup... she looks... amazing. She started to tear up and said she actually looks pretty (SIL has some self confidence issues and the lack of ability to do her hair and makeup at that point in time was a big trigger IMO). My heart is ripping into two and I'm so thankful I chose to be apart of this and made a difference in her experience. (FF: her hair and makeup was the only one to make it through the night let alone into the next day so basically a "brush your shoulders off" moment for me.) HH is ecstatic that she's on cloud 9... all is right in the world. They leave to all go take pictures with friends and HH comes back.
HH signals me into the living room to have our little talk. It starts off really nice. She's telling me the Bible says XYZ and she clearly hasn't been living up to those standards in regards to me so she really wants to move forward. We talked for probably a good 30 minutes getting to know each other more and she's telling me funny stories about how BF was as a child. I'm getting all the warm and fuzzies. This is what I'm good at. I'm good at being open, no bullshit, and just finding happiness - this felt so natural and raw. Well all good things come to a fucking end.
She brings up BFs religious beliefs and she's afraid that he's pulling away from God and it's only happened because of me coming into his life. She keeps pressuring me. She brings it up again and again and again. Yes, he went off to college and became his own person... during that time he also met me. It's a pretty logical coincidence that freedom allowed him to formulate his own opinions and of of those opinions was he wanted to date me. Shocker, I know. HOW could this all happen - at once?! Nope. I'm to blame. Me and my magical vagina.
What she doesn't know and BF has never talked with her about is - he doesn't actually believe in her religion let alone her views. He openly says (to me) there were many parts of Church growing up but at the end of the day he isn't committed like she is and he doesn't plan to be. He knows she will be disappointment and he doesn't want to after being the perfect child for so long. He just doesn't feel it in his soul. He struggles with a lot of his mother's specific views and I think it left a really bad taste in his mouth overall.
I keep throwing it off saying "While I understand you feel that way this is a conversation you should have with your son, this isn't the conversation to have with me" "BF has his own views that are his to tell, I'm not going to speak for him" "It sounds like this matters a lot to you, but that's not for me to answer. You need to have this conversation with him."
After about the tenth time, I caved. I said something like "Well BF has his own reservations and he makes his own decisions. He has chosen not to go to church at college, that has nothing to do with me. He would rather watch football every Sunday and he has never once asked me to go yet I've offered half a dozen times. So maybe you need to accept that BF isn't the same person as when he left for college because that's who he is choosing to be irregardless of me."
She just about loses it and dives into every single other little time she has been disappointed in BF and how she knows it's my doing.
One example: BF got drunk at a Halloween party and accidentally sent the snap to his sister where he was clearly drunk... wouldn't you know it, that's my fault!!!! Ha. In reality: I was at work and met up with him and his roommates when he was already gone. I had nothing to do with it. But here we are again, her blaming me for him drinking alcohol like... three times a year... okay.
She finally says word for word "I pray every day that something happens to you so you can no longer be with BF" as she looked up to the sky with her hands physically praying.
Just to recap: In a conversation that she asked for to apologize to me for not being "Christian-like" towards me... she wishes I would die.
Holy. Hypocrite.
Well... that's the last time we were alone in a room together and that was over 5 years ago.

Also: I keep "flairing" No Advice Wanted because it was like... 5 years ago... but feel free to spill some tea ladies and gents.
submitted by ZeroFcksGiven14 to JUSTNOMIL [link] [comments]

The Rookie Report: Buy or Sell?

Rookie Report Special: Rookie buy or sell

Welcome back to the Rookie Report! The season is almost upon us. The NFL season kicks off Thursday, but if you’re like me you’ve likely put off most of your redraft fantasy drafts as long as possible in these uncertain COVID times. I’m guessing a large portion of fantasy leagues will be drafting over the long holiday weekend or early next week, and I wanted to give you some last minute tips on some rookies that you may not be as familiar with. The lists below are by no means a straight ranking of the rookies, rather it’s a look at which guys I am willing to reach for, which guys are a little too rich for my blood, and which guys I think are priced just about right based on FantasyPros average draft position. Let’s dive in…

Guys I’m buying:

QB Tua Tagovailoa, MIA (Average Draft Postion: QB28): Recent camp headlines have made it clear that Ryan Fitzpatrick is going to be starting for Miami week 1, but it’s only a matter of time before Tua takes over under center. If you’re in superflex or 2-quarterback leagues, Tua is a guy you can draft as a QB3 at a deep discount who has a chance to smash once he gets onto the field. He’s an efficient and accurate passer in the mold of a young Drew Brees, and he’s currently being drafted later than Derek Carr, Gardner Minshew and Teddy Bridgewater. When you’re drafting that far down, I want the upside of the rookie over the known limitations of the other options.
RB Cam Akers, LAR (ADP: RB 26): An injury to Darrell Henderson is making it clear that Akers is the Rams’ back that you want for fantasy. He’s been a star in camp so far, and the Sean McVay offense is a good one for running back production. Todd Gurley was obviously an elite talent at the position, but he finished RB1, RB1, and RB12 in his 3 years under McVay and was clearly just a shell of himself in year 3. In his 3 years as Washington’s offensive coordinator McVay also got a top-15 season out of Alfred Morris and a top-25 season out of Robert Kelley. Akers should be better than either of those players. If he takes the job and runs with it, he has true RB1 upside that you can draft outside of the top-50 overall picks.
RB JK Dobbins, BAL (ADP: RB32): Clyde Edwards-Helaire has gotten a lot of press for falling into the absolute best scheme fit possible for him, but people have been ignoring that basically the same thing happened to Dobbins. Yes Mark Ingram is still in Baltimore for this season and Dobbins true upside may be a year away, but Gus Edwards carried the ball 133 times last season and the talent gap between Ingram and Dobbins isn’t as big as the gap between Ingram and Edwards. Dobbins is going to be a factor this season. I view him as someone who is likely to finish as a top-30 back and would have borderline RB1 upside this year if anything happens to Ingram. I’d much rather leave a draft with Dobbins than the guys going right in front of him – Jordan Howard, Kareem Hunt, Ronald Jones (this was written before the Fournette news).
RB Zack Moss, BUF (ADP: RB41): It appears Moss’s master plan of greasing up every football that Devin Singletary uses in practice is working, as Singletary’s summer fumbling woes have given Moss a leg-up over the incumbent for early-down and goal line work. The Bills still project to be a run-first football team despite the addition of Stefon Diggs, and there should be ample goal-line opportunities for Moss if he can cash them in. Frank Gore carried the ball 10 times from the 3-yard line or closer last season, but totaled zero yards and scored just 2 touchdowns on those attempts. Moss should play a similar role to the one Gore did last season, and if the Bills’ offense takes a step forward double-digit scores are not out of the question for him. You should be targeting Moss as an RB3 with upside for more, especially in half- and non-PPR formats.
RB Antonio Gibson, WAS (ADP: RB50): Washington surprisingly moved on from Adrian Peterson just a week before the season kicks off, and that can’t be anything but good news for Gibson. Peyton Barber is still a threat to handle the early-down work, but Barber isn’t anything special and given Gibson’s pass-catching skills he will probably finish the year as the top fantasy running back on the team. JD McKissic has shown himself to be a capable 3rd down back, and Bryce Love was explosive in college, but all signs in camp pointed to Gibson being ahead of them both on the depth chart. New head coach Ron Rivera and new offensive coordinator Scott Turner were both in Carolina last year, and they’ve compared Gibson’s dual-threat capabilities to those of Christian McCaffrey. That’s obvious hyperbole, but I think Gibson will get every opportunity to be the lead back in this offense, and is likely to finish as a top-30 running back that you can get quite a bit later than that. Be warned though: the Peterson news is going to move that ADP up in the coming days.
RB Josh Kelley, LAC (ADP: RB68): I honestly don’t know how to explain why Josh Kelley is being drafted later than AJ Dillon and Ke’Shawn Vaughn in redraft leagues. The Chargers lost Melvin Gordon in free agency this offseason, and all reports out of camp are that Kelley is going to be the guy who picks up most of the work that he left behind. Austin Ekeler is obviously a fantasy stud who will be worth the draft capital it costs to draft him, but he shouldn’t be a 20-touch per game kind of back, and the Chargers realize that. His efficiency as a runner last year was underwhelming as he averaged more than 4 yards per carry in just 5 out of 16 games (and fewer than 3 yards per carry 7 times). Ekeler’s value comes from his work in the passing game. I expect Kelley will open the year splitting early down work with Ekeler and growing into a bigger role as the season goes on. The rookie is an above average athlete (68th percentile SPARQ-x score) who posted over 1,000 yards in both of his college seasons at UCLA. To give you a little context on just how low RB68 is, Justin Jackson finished last season with 222 scrimmage yards and zero touchdowns and was the RB71 in non-PPR scoring. Kelley is a slam dunk to outproduce his ADP, and I expect he’ll do it by a lot. You should be looking to draft him as an RB4 and reaping the rewards as his role grows.
WR Denzel Mims, NYJ (ADP: WR67): Mims had the unfortunate luck of pulling a hamstring the day before training camp started, but he returned to practice this week and expects to be healthy enough to suit up week one. It’ll likely take him a few weeks to work his way into the starting lineup after missing so much practice time, but there is almost NO wide receiver talent ahead of him on the depth chart outside of slot maven Jamison Crowder. The rest of the options to play on the outside consist of Breshad Perriman who currently is dealing with a knee injury that could keep him out a bit, journeymen Chris Hogan & Donte Moncrief, and a trio of replacement-level players who may not even make the roster (Josh Malone, Vyncint Smith and Jehu Chesson). Mims is big, fast, and has excellent hands and body control. He improved his game throughout his college career and landed on a team that projects to be throwing a ton. He’s a natural fit as a deep threat who should complement Crowder’s short game well. He’ll be a great best-ball option and is a guy you should be targeting late in drafts, especially ones that are not full PPR leagues.
WR Bryan Edwards, LVR (ADP: WR72): Edwards’ college stats don’t jump off the page at you, never reaching 900 yards in any season, but South Carolina only reached 3,000 passing yards once in his 4 seasons there. As a freshman, Edwards had 21% of the team’s receiving yards in an offense that also featured Deebo Samuel and Hayden Hurst, and in the 10 games he played last year he totaled a whopping 35% of the team receiving yards. The former Gamecock should start right away in Las Vegas and will be a better option in the intermediate part of the field than Henry Ruggs or Hunter Renfrow. He’s already drawn rave reviews from his new QB Derek Carr, who has compared Edwards to his college teammate Davante Adams and former pro teammate James Jones. Edwards has a chance to be a total package alpha receiver in his career, and although he walks into a crowded group of pass catchers (Ruggs, Renfrow, Darren Waller, Jason Witten, Jalen Richard, etc.) he should get a chance to showcase his potential this year. There is a real chance that he finishes as the top fantasy WR on the Raiders this season, and you can get him in the late rounds of your draft.
WR Laviska Shenault, JAX (ADP: WR73): Shenault was long considered to be among the best wide receiver prospects in this class and a potential top-20 overall draft pick entering the 2019 season, but lackluster production in 2019 and injury woes drove his stock down a bit. He landed on what should be a miserably bad team, but that should afford him plenty of opportunities to play. He’s built like a running back but stands 6’2” and is dangerous with the ball in the open field. He was used in a lot of different ways in college (he had 9 more college rushing attempts than Antonio Gibson), and that versatility should make him a valuable part of a Jaguars’ offense that will be desperately looking for playmakers outside of DJ Chark. He should be available in the last couple rounds in most redraft leagues and is likely to have a big role as a rookie.

Guys I’m selling:

RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire, KC (ADP: RB8): I understand the love for CEH. He landed in what seems like a dream spot, playing in the most explosive offense in the NFL that seems tailor-made for his skill set, and to top it off the returning starter at his position opted out of the 2020 season. “RB1!” “Take him in the first round!” Not so fast, I say. CEH posted just 1 productive college season and doesn’t have the freakish athletic profile of top backs like Saquon, Christian McCaffrey or Derrick Henry. He’ll certainly play right away in Kansas City, but he’s being drafted as though he’ll be an automatic workhorse back when it still remains to be seen if that’s the case. I do believe that Edwards-Helaire should be going in the top-20 picks in most drafts, but to get him in most leagues you’ll have to reach into the first round to do it. That’s a price I’m not willing to pay at this point. I’d rather take a top WR and get a player like Miles Sanders or Kenyan Drake in the 2nd or Austin Ekeler in the 3rd who can put up similar production at a lower cost.
RB Ke’Shawn Vaughn, TB (ADP: RB46): Vaughn was widely expected to compete with Ronald Jones for the starting job in Tampa this season, but that outlook has changed drastically in recent weeks with the signings of LeSean McCoy and Leonard Fournette. The Fournette signing just happened, so I would expect Vaughn’s ADP to take a significant tumble in the next few days. He’ll likely be limited to special teams for much of his rookie season barring injuries ahead of him.
RB AJ Dillon, GB (ADP: RB52): Dillon has been a popular name this summer after photos surfaced showing off his ridiculous tree trunk thighs in camp (basically the opposite of the kind of camp photos we were used to with Eddie Lacy). Despite how he looks in shorts, Dillon will be hard-pressed to make a huge impact for fantasy purposes this year. He’s likely going to eat into Jamaal Williams workload, but I don’t expect Williams to go away entirely. Aaron Jones is the Green Bay back you want, and I’d expect Dillon’s presence to make both Williams and Dillon bad bets to finish as productive fantasy backs. Williams has never finished higher than RB29 without Dillon to compete with. I’d steer clear of both.
WR Jerry Jeudy, DEN (ADP: WR41): Jeudy is an outstanding talent, but he goes to an offense that ranked 27th in passing attempts last season and is likely to lean on the run game again after adding Melvin Gordon to their backfield mix. Courtland Sutton is essentially a lock for 120+ targets, and Noah Fant should see a nice bump in volume as well. I’d expect Jeudy to wind up somewhere around 80 targets assuming health. 67 players had more than 80 targets last season, and we still aren’t certain whether or not Drew Lock is any good. I’m not too keen on drafting Jeudy at his current ADP.
WR Henry Ruggs, LVR (ADP: WR47): Ruggs was the first wide receiver taken in the NFL draft this year, but he isn’t the best one taken in the first round. He’s just the fastest. The Raiders will certainly get him involved in the offense after drafting him so high, and he is projected to open the season as a starter after Tyrell Williams had season-ending labrum surgery. The problem for Ruggs is that Derek Carr is notorious for not throwing the ball deep, and the deep ball is going to be the best opportunity for Ruggs to pile up fantasy points. Bryan Edwards is a more well-rounded wide receiver, and Hunter Renfrow and Darren Waller are better possession options in the short part of the field. Unless Carr changes his approach and starts throwing deep, or Gruden finds creative ways to scheme the ball to Ruggs, it’ll be hard for him to live up to the draft capital you’d have to spend on him.
TE Cole Kmet, CHI (ADP: TE29): Kmet is the only rookie tight end being drafted in the top-30 at the position, but I would be surprised if he finishes as the top scoring rookie tight end this year. Old man Jimmy Graham has been raved about as the best player at Bears’ camp and is likely going to be the starting tight end, and there are plenty of other tight ends on the roster who could factor in as well including Demetrius Harris and Adam Shaheen. I just don’t see an obvious path to a lot of early playing time for Kmet. The Bears should still be in win-now mode (despite the QB situation) and a rookie tight end playing a bunch doesn’t make sense with so many capable vets on the roster.

Guys that are priced correctly:

These are players that are certainly worth drafting at their current ADP and may have upside for more, but also carry enough risk that I would be hesitant to reach too far for them. If you really like a player in this group, I wouldn’t fault you for reaching a bit for them to make sure you get them.

QB Joe Burrow, CIN (ADP: QB18): In two quarterback leagues, Burrow is a good player to target as a second QB that you can get a little later who still gives you the upside you get from the QBs that would be going in the 12-15 range. He’s assuredly going to start week 1, and the Bengals do have enough weapons around him for him to succeed. There is always risk with a rookie QB, but Burrow is a gunslinger who will have a long leash and the Bengals will be throwing a lot.
RB Jonathan Taylor, IND (ADP: RB19): You don’t need me to tell you that Jonathan Taylor is good. In his *worst* college season he ran for 1,977 yards and 13 TDs. He was a monster at Wisconsin. Defenses knew he was getting the ball and still couldn’t stop him. He has monster upside in the NFL as well, but I’m going to throw a little bit of a wet blanket on that upside for this season. The Colts aren’t going to stop using Nyheim Hines on 3rd downs, so if you’re counting on much receiving production from Taylor you’re hanging your hat on Philip Rivers’ habit of heavily targeting his backs and hoping he catches a lot on early downs. Hines had 64% of the running back targets that Indy backs saw last season. A more likely scenario for Taylor is a dominant rushing season a la Derrick Henry. Derrick Henry finished last season as the RB5, but he also was the unquestioned starter from day one and handled 80% of the Titans’ non-QB rushing attempts. He was also the only top-10 back in PPR scoring that had fewer than 49 targets. Taylor will enter the year splitting the early down work with Marlon Mack, so it’s hard to envision him coming close to what Henry did last year. If you’re a big Taylor fan, I wouldn’t fault you for reaching into the mid-2nd round to make sure you get him, but know that he most likely won’t be producing what you paid for until the middle of the season.
RB D’Andre Swift, DET (ADP: RB29): Like Jonathan Taylor, Swift lands on a team that already has an established starting running back that has been solid, but not great. Kerryon Johnson’s injury history means that there is a solid chance that Swift will have some weeks as the starter, but if KJ stays healthy Swift will most likely work in tandem with him. I like Swift as a player, but Detroit hasn’t had a running back finish in the top-20 fantasy backs since Reggie Bush back in 2013, and I don’t like Swift’s chances of breaking that streak. In the last 4 seasons, 73% of Detroit’s offensive touchdowns have been scored through the air (league average is typically in the low to mid 60s). I’d rather draft Swift than Kerryon Johnson – he’s the more talented back, but I’d prefer a safer option if we’re talking about your #2 running back or a high end RB3.
WR CeeDee Lamb, DAL (ADP: WR38): Lamb is without a doubt the best wide receiver in this rookie class, but the pass-catching group in Dallas is crowded. Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup are both WR1 types who should command 120 or so targets apiece. Blake Jarwin and Zeke Elliot should combine for another 150. That still leaves room for Lamb to establish himself on the pass-happy Cowboys, but I’m not sure his breakout starts week 1. I think the best plan of attack with Lamb is to let someone else reach for him and then make a deal for him a few weeks into the season if the person who drafted him gets impatient.
WR Justin Jefferson, MIN (ADP: WR50): Jefferson was a first round draft pick in the NFL draft, but he finds himself opening the season as the WR3 behind Adam Thielen and Bisi Johnson in an offense that had more than 2 receivers on the field on just 25% of their snaps last season. No other team was below 40%. They also ranked 30th in the league in pass attempts. Offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski bolted for Cleveland, and there should be a little bit of regression to the mean when it comes to their passing volume, but the run-heavy game plan is part of who Mike Zimmer wants this team to be. Jefferson should eventually overtake Bisi Johnson for the starting role opposite Thielen, but how high do you want to reach for a guy who likely won’t be producing like a top-40 WR until the back half of the season?
WR Jalen Reagor, PHI (ADP: WR52): I would be talking about Reagor as a player to target in your drafts, but one of the biggest factors working in his favor was the expected early season absence of Alshon Jeffery giving him the opportunity to establish himself in the offense. Instead, Reagor will miss the start of the season with an injury of his own and it’ll be JJ Arcega-Whiteside and John Hightower who should see the increased early opportunity instead. This passing game is still going to run through Zach Ertz, but Reagor was picked in the first round and brings game-breaking speed that the Eagles’ offense was desperate for last season. They’re going to get him on the field when he’s healthy. Three receiver sets should be made up of Jeffery, Reagor and DeSean Jackson for much of the season, and given the health history of the other two Jalen should have plenty of chances to produce. Reagor’s ADP isn’t crazy high, and the upside that he’ll bring in the back half of the season will make him worth the price tag even if he misses the first few games.
WR Brandon Aiyuk, SF (ADP: WR65): WR65 probably feels low given Aiyuk’s likely starting role and the injuries to Deebo Samuel and Jalen Hurd, but it’s sounding more and more like Samuel will be back by week 2 at the latest and this offense doesn’t run through the wide receivers. The 49ers had the 4th-fewest pass attempts in the league and the 5th-lowest wide receiver target share in the league (51%) last season. George Kittle and the running backs should remain very involved in this low-volume passing attack. Aiyuk has forged a nice rapport with Jimmy Garoppolo in camp and has a similar skill set to Deebo’s, but he figures to be the WR2 behind him for much of the season. In this offense, that makes him more of a WR5 for your fantasy team.

Deep League Flyers:

These guys are basically going undrafted in most leagues but may be worth a flyer in really deep leagues or are at least worth monitoring in the early weeks of the season to see what kind of role they have.

RB James Robinson, JAX: Jacksonville dumping Leonard Fournette just days before the season kicks off was a bit of surprise, but it opens the door for several young backs on their roster to get a chance. Reports out of camp suggest that Devine Ozigbo may have the inside track on the early down work, but Ryquell Armstead and Robinson should factor in as well. Armstead was the backup to Fournette last season, but he was placed on the league’s COVID reserve list on Friday opening the door further for the rookie. Robinson went undrafted after running just a 4.64 40-yard dash at the Combine, but he dominated the FCS level with 1,899 rushing yards and 18 TDs last season. He’s worth a late flyer in really deep leagues and worth monitoring early in the year in shallower formats. It’s not impossible that he beats out Ozigbo for the starting job.
WR John Hightower, PHI: Injuries will leave the Eagles’ WR depth chart wide open in the early part of the season with Alshon Jeffery and Jalen Reagor each sidelined for at least the first few weeks. The rest of the depth chart includes DeSean Jackson (33 years old and played just 3 games last year), JJ Arcega-Whiteside (had an extremely disappointing rookie season in 2019), and Greg Ward (AAF star who was serviceable when the team was depleted last year). The Eagles draft strategy at the WR position was clear after they struggled mightily to stretch the field last season. They wanted to add speed, and Hightower brings that. He averaged 18.3 yards per catch at Boise State last year and ran a 4.42 40-yard dash at the Combine. He should see the field early in the year, and if he flashes, he may keep seeing the field.
WR Van Jefferson, LAR: I admittedly wasn’t very high on Jefferson coming out of the draft despite the Rams taking him in the 2nd round. He’s old for a prospect at 24-years old entering his rookie season. He isn’t a supreme athlete, and he wasn’t overly productive in college (despite playing at an advanced age). He seems like a player best suited to the slot, but that’s also where Cooper Kupp does his best work. This all added up to Van looking like a long shot to see the field much as a rookie but reports out of camp are that he is going to beat out Josh Reynolds for the WR3 role in the offense. He’s the son of former standout NFL WR Shawn Jefferson, and he has the route-running acumen and natural feel for the game of someone who grew up around it. It’s possible the Rams play more 2-tight end sets given the departure of Brandin Cooks and the breakout of Tyler Higbee last season, but only the Bengals spent more snaps in 11 personnel (3-WR) than the Rams last season. Monitor the Rams offense early in the season. If they continue to play a lot of 3-WR sets, Jefferson is going to have some value in most leagues.
TE Devin Asiasi, NE: Rookie tight ends are notoriously poor fantasy producers, and there are a plethora of upside options to target this season among the veteran tight ends, but there might not be another rookie better positioned to produce in year 1 than Asiasi. He was considered mostly a pass-catching tight end when drafted, but his blocking has also drawn raves in camp and the only thing standing between him and a starting role is Matt LaCosse. The Patriots’ offense is light on receiving weapons, and Cam Newton has always liked throwing to his tight ends. Asiasi is no Greg Olsen, but he has a legitimate chance to be a top-20 tight end as a rookie.

That’s all I’ve got for now. I’ll be back next week with a quick look at some week one rookie matchups, but feel free to hit me up on twitter (@Shawn_Foss) if you have any questions or anything you want to yell at me about that’s written above. If you’ve already done your draft, you can use this info to help you target early season trade or waiver wire candidates if another person in your league gets impatient with a slow start. If you haven’t drafted yet, good luck in your drafts and enjoy the holiday weekend. As always: Good luck, trust your gut, and have fun. It’s just a game. Original article from drinkfive.com
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Offseason Review Series: Los Angeles Rams

2019 Summary

Division: NFC West
Record: 9-7 (3rd in Division, 7th in Conference)
After a wildly successful 2019 season, the Los Angeles Rams had high hopes for 2020. It was truly Super Bowl or bust for the team, and unfortunately as high as the expectations were the end result was disappointment almost as high. Despite the shortcomings (and media doubt), the team is still in great shape to have another great year and playoff hopes are completely within shooting distance. Here's a brief summary of some of the positives and negatives on the 2019 season.
Positives
Negatives

2020 Coaching Staff/Changes

Position Name (* indicates new coach) Notes
Sean McVay Head Coach Total babe
Joe Berry Assistant Head Coach/Linebackers Coach
Thad Bogardus Assistant Defensive Line Coach/Defensive Quality Control Dope name
John Bonamego Special Teams Coordinator* Previously with the Detroit Lions
Thomas Brown Running Backs Coach* Previously with the South Carolina Gamecocks
Liam Coen Assistant Quarterbacks Coach Previously WRs coach
John Cooley Defensive Quality Control* Previously Akron CBs Coach
Andy Dickerson Assistant Offensive Line Coach
Ejiro Evero Safeties Coach Dope name
Eric Henderson Defensive Line Coach
Aaron Kromer Run Game CoordinatoOffensive Line Coach
Zak Kromer Offensive Quality Control lol nepotism
Bill Nayes Assistant to the Head Coach insert The Office joke here
Kevin O'Connell Offensive Coordinator* Previously with the Washington REDACTED
Wes Phillips Tight Ends Coach
Aubrey Pleasant Cornerbacks Coach
Zac Robinson Assistant Wide Receivers Coach Was Assistant QB coach in 2019
Chris Shula Outside Linebackers Coach
Brandon Staley Defensive Coordinator* Previously with the Denver Broncos as OLB Coach
Shane Waldron Pass Game Coordinator
Eric Yarbor Wide Receivers Coach
Key Changes

Free Agent Signings and Departures

Key Signings
Player Position Former Team Contract Details
Michael Brockers Defensive Tackle LA Rams 3 y31.5 million
Andrew Whitworth Offensive Tackle LA Rams 3 y30 million
Austin Blythe Offensive Guard/C LA Rams 1 y3.9 million
A'shawn Robinson Defensive Tackle Detroit Lions 2 y17 million
Leonard Floyd OLB/Defensive End Chicago Bears 1 y10 million
Key Departures
Player Position New Team Contract Details
Greg Zuerline Kicker Dallas Cowboys 3 y7.5 million
Todd Gurley Running Back Atlanta Falcons 1 y5.5 million
Dante Fowler Jr OLB/Defensive End Atlanta Falcons 3 y30 million
Cory Littleton Linebacker Las Vegas Raiders 3 y36 million
Marquis Christian Safety New York Jets 1 y2 million
Jojo Natson PKR Cleveland Browns 1 y1 million
Clay Matthews OLB/Defensive End Free Agent n/a
Eric Weddle Safety Free Agent n/a
Nickell Robey-Coleman Cornerback Philadelphia Eagles 1 y1.35 million
Lets start our discussion with the departures, because we lost a lot of key starters. Dante Fowler, Cory Littleton, Clay Mathew, and Eric Weddle were four starters on our defense, with NRC being our primary slot DB. Weddle was more of a leader than an anchor on defense, and did a remarkable job mentoring his replacement in rookie Taylor Rapp. Clay Mathews had a nice season but at his age is certainly replaceable. What isn't going to be replaceable is Cory Littleton, who might be one of the most underrated linebackers in the NFL. His coverage ability is going to be sorely missed and leaves the linebacker room, which was already weak, almost defunct.
The strategy regarding our free agent signings is a little mysterious. In early free agency we signed Floyd and Robinson, which filled two holes left by Fowler and Brockers, who had originally signed with the Baltimore Ravens. A few weeks afterwards Brockers offer was rescinded by the Ravens, and he resigned at a lofty amount. This effectively leaves the team with a log jam at defensive tackle, with two DTs that do virtually the same thing to be paired with Aaron Donald. I'll explain later in this post how I think our defense might look, but it's certainly a puzzling signing.
Resigning Whitworth, in what should be his final contract, is a nice bonus even if it was for another larger than anticipated deal. It gives our numerous young OL talent a wonderful vet to learn from, and despite media reports our offensive line room actually isn't bad. It's just incredibly young, and we have many sophomores who look to make jumps this year.

2020 Draft Class/Undrafted Free Agents

Round Pick Player Position College Team
2 52 Cam Akers Running Back Florida State
2 57 Van Jefferson Wide Receiver Florida
3 84 Terrell Lewis OLB/DE Alabama
3 104 Terrell Burgess Safety Utah
4 136 Brycen Hopkins Tight End Purdue
6 199 Jordan Fuller Safety Ohio State
7 234 Clay Johnston Linebacker Baylor
7 248 Sam Sloman Kicker Miami (OH)
7 250 Tremayne Anchrum Offensive Line Clemson
Cam Akers and Van Jefferson are the only players on offensive who should make an immediate impact. Akers could battle for the starting position with Gurley out, and Jefferson could battle Josh Reynolds for WR3. The intriguing pick is Terrell Lewis, who could have been a 1st rounder if healthy. He fills a major need at EDGE for the team, and if he works out will be a massive value pick.
Brycen Hopkins will battle with Johnny Mundt for the final TE spot, which may be a tall order given Mundt's proficiency on special teams. But he's a good prospect to replace Gerald Everett, who will demand a larger contract next year. Tremayne Anchrum is probably a longshot to make the team, especially with no preseason games considering we have a logjam of OL prospects with Bobby Evans, David Edwards, Joe Notebloom, among others.
For more information on the UDFA list, check out this link. The interesting choices are Easop Winston, Josh Love, and Bryce Perkins. Easop I think may have a decent shot at making the roster, while Josh Love and Bryce Perkins may be able to battle it out for the backup position. The Rams will look to shed future salary cap space where ever possible, and both players have decent ceilings and could be a cheap backup alternative for Goff, but both will have to usurp AAF legend John Wolford who is the leader in the clubhouse.

Projected Depth Chart/Scheme Changes

Offense (* indicates rookie)
Position 1st 2nd 3rd
QB Jared Goff John Wolford
RB Malcom Brown Cam Akers* Darrell Henderson
WR Cooper Kupp Van Jefferson*
WR Robert Woods Nsimba Webster
WR Josh Reynolds Easop Winston* Trishton Jackson*
TE Tyler Higbee Gerald Everett Brycen Hopkins*
LT Andrew Whitworth Bobby Evans Tremayne Anchrum
LG Joe Notebloom David Edwards
C Austin Blythe Brian Allen
RG Austin Corbett Coleman Shelton
RT Rob Havenstein Jamil Demby
The first thing that I envision changing for this Rams offensive is to break out of our traditional 11 personnel into more 11 or 22 based packages. Sean McVay has made no secret about our change to a running back by committee team, which makes sense given the different types of backs we have on the roster. Malcom Brown probably gets the start due to his veteran presence, and because he's a traditional runner of the football. But Cam Akers and Darrell Henderson are both Alvin Kamara-like backs and can open things up for McVay to get more creative.
An interesting camp battle will be to see who makes it at wide receiver. Kupp, Woods, Reynolds, Jefferson, and Webster are all locks to make the team, but we will probably carry 6-7 on the roster. I'm partial to Easop Winston and Trishton Jackson to fill those voids but other guys like JJ Koski could also impress and camp and make an impact. As the season goes on, the Rams are going to hope that at least one of these rookies can manage to impress enough to replace Josh Reynolds, as both him and Cooper Kupp are in contract years and we probably won't be able to afford to resign both.
On the offensive line front, I'm really excited to see the development that Bobby Evans, Joe Notebloom, and David Edwards show. Make no mistake, if our team is to have flexibility moving forward it is absolutely vital that one, if not all three, of these guys pan out. Luckily, due to injury Bobby Evans and David Edwards were given starting jobs and performed really well all things considered. Evans in particular was given the task to block Jadeveon Clowney and Khalil Mack and really held those guys to minimal impact.
As a quick update, the only member of the team to opt out of the 2020 season is OL Chandler Brewer, who was probably a good bet to make the team as a backup OL. In his place I slot Jamil Demby who's been a prospect on the team for what seems like a decade. In any other year, I'd slot a rookie to take over that slot but given the lack of a structured offseason I think the team stays with someone familiar for another year.
Defense (* indicates rookie)
Position 1st 2nd 3rd
DE Leonard Floyd Ogbonnia Okoronkwo
DT Aaron Donald Sebastian Joseph-Day Greg Gaines
DT Michael Brockers A'shawn Robinson
DE Samson Ebukam Justin Lawler
LB Micah Kiser Kenny Young Travin Howard
LB Terrell Lewis Clay Johnston*
CB Jalen Ramsey Darious Williams
CB Troy Hill Donte Deayon
CB David Long Jr Adonis Alexander
S John Johnson III Jordan Fuller*
S Taylor Rapp Terrell Burgess*
Our biggest change in identity is going to come from the defensive side of the ball. Losing Wade Phillips is a huge blow to the leadership of the team, but newcomer Brandon Staley may be able to provide a McVay-like spark in ingenuity that provides results. The way that the Rams targeted safeties in the draft, and avoided a massive need in linebacker, makes me believe that we are transitioning to a DB let system similar our neighbors in the LA Chargers. If you do film study on the Chargers, you can see them run a package that consists of 7 DBs occasionally, which works well when you have physical safeties like Derwin James. Luckily for us, we have two incredibly physical guys in Johnson and Rapp, and with the team clearly focusing on DBs I think its in the cards for us to roll this package out in 2020.
One area that might be a struggle for us is going to be our defensive line, and generating pressure via the pass rush. Luckily again, we have the greatest defensive player in the NFL and the greatest defensive tackle of all time on our team. Another fortunate circumstance is that we no longer will be marred by Wade Phillips conservative play calling, and in fact may be able to use DC Brandon Staley's expertise as an OLB coach to get improvement out of guys like Okoronkwo and Ebukam, In free agency we signed A'Shawn Robinson, who paired with Michael Brockers can be a force against the run, but neither player is a threat to rush the passer. Leonard Floyd, another free agent signing, is another guy who is strong against the run but struggles in pass rush. This area of defense will be key to the success of the team, and these guys are gonna have to find ways outside of relying on Aaron Donald to generate pressure.
Special Teams (* indicates rookie)
Position 1st
K Sam Sloman*
P Johnny Hekker
LS Jake McQuaide
PR Trishton Jackson*
PR Nsimba Webster*
Losing Greg Zuerline is going to hurt, and he will always have a place in Rams history for making clutch kicks in the 2018 NFC Championship game. But he grew inconsistent especially inside the 40 yard line, and struggled with injuries since 2017. We drafted Sam Sloman in 2020 but also have two decent UDFA that will compete for the starting job..

Projected Game Results

Week 1: Win (1-0)
Dallas Cowboys @ Rams - NBC Sunday Night Football
Opening the season at the new SoFi stadium, with potentially no fans is going to be an odd experience. The last time the Rams beat dem boyz was in the 2018 Divisional round of the playoffs. Both teams will struggle early to find continuity, and I'd expect a relatively low scoring, run heavy game. In the end I think the Rams will get the season off to a good start with a win. Rams 24 Cowboys 17
Week 2: Win (2-0)
Rams @ Philadelphia Eagles - FOX 10am PST
We should finally get to see Goff vs Wentz healthy in full game for the first time. The Eagles have beat the Rams both times they've played Sean McVay, and I think they get things back on track in 2020. I believe our strength at the DL and DBs will be able to effectively manage the weaknesses of the Eagles WRs and aging OL, though the key will probably be Zach Ertz. Rams 30 Eagles 28
Week 3: Loss (2-1)
Rams @ Buffalo Bills - FOX 10am PST
Our first stumble will come against an underrated team in the Bills. I think having two close games in a row to open the season will leave the team waiting for a crash, and how else to crash than by facing what might be the best defense in the NFL. I expect Tre White and the rest of the secondary to handle Goff and company in a convincing loss. Bills 23 Rams 10
Week 4: Win (3-1)
New York Giants @ Rams - FOX 1:05PST
Home sweet home, the Rams get back on track with a convincing win over a struggling Giants team. I'll predict an offensive explosion from Goff, somewhere around 400 yds and 4 TDs in a blow out win. Sorry Giants fans, nothing personal. I'm expecting an early struggle for this Giants team as it adjusts to new coach, young QB, with little prep time.Rams 42 Giants 16
Week 5: Win (4-1)
Rams @ Washington [REDACTED] - FOX 10amPST
I think this gsme is much closer than most might expect. The [REDACTED] are my surprise pick of the year, I have them winning the NFC East. An already tenacious defense led by Ron Rivera and gaining a bona-fide star in Chase Young is going to be fun to watch. I think the key to this game will be quick passes to avoid that ferocious defensive line as much as possible. Rams 24 [REDACTED] 21
Week 6: Loss (4-2)
Rams @ San Fransisco 49ers - NBC Sunday Night Football
As much as I want to win this game, I think Shanny and those fucks take this one from us. Divisional games tend to be unpredictable and chaotic, and while I do think we split the series with them, being on the road for this one isn't going to favor us. Its going to be interesting to see how DC Brandon Staley chooses to defend Kittle. I dont think shadowing him with Ramsey is the best play, perhaps it's a combination of jamming him at the LOS and covering him in zone. Either way, its a tall order for whoever gets that assignment. 49ers 31 Rams 25
Week 7: Win (5-2)
Chicago Bears @ Rams - ESPN Monday Night Football
As it stands, McVay will be 1-1 on the year in prime time games. His record as a coach is , which leads me to believe he'll have an edge in winning this one. Of course the Ram fucker Foles might be in at QB, which could spell disaster for our team. I think that our offensive prowess will shine during this long week, and we win in convincing fashion. Rams 36 Bears 20
Week 8: Win (6-2)
Rams @ Miami Dolphins - FOX 10am PST
We continue this offensive success against a team that will probably be pretty good defensively. HC Tom Flores is a Bill Belichek disciple who learned something important from his former mentor; acquire as many great DBs as you can. The improved secondary will make things tough for Goff and gang, but ultimately working with a rookie QB is going to be hard against a defense with all pros scattered around it. Rams 17 Dolphins 0 ' Week 9: BYE
Week 10: Win (7-2)
Seattle Seahawks @ Rams - FOX 1:25PST
And entering the second half of the season we have our first three game winning streak. Coming off a bye week will give McBae ample time to prepare for a Seahawks team thay frankly will have a struggling offensive line and holes on its defense. Even with Jamal Adams, I expect this team to take a step back in 2020. Rams 31 Seahawks 17
Week 11: Loss (7-3)
Rams @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers - ESPN Monday Night Football
Facing the best offensive weapons in the league is going to be a tough order for any team this season. Now that they have a QB that will make effective, eccifient decisions this Bucs team should take off. I dont think its particularly close, this is a complete team on both sides of the ball. Bucs 28 Rams 10
Week 12: Win (8-3)
San Fransisco 49ers @ Rams - FOX 1:05PST
The winning continues as the team really clicks into high gear. A brutal NFC West game will likely be a repeat of Week 6, but with a few more bounces going our way. Being at home will be a helpful factor. Rams 26 49ers 24
Week 13: Win (9-3)
Rams @ Arizona Cardinals - FOX 1:05PST
If there is any team in the league that McVay can be relied on to spank, its the Cardinals. McVay has yet to be beat by the team in his tenure with the Rams and I expect that to continue at least through this week. Despite a huge game from future MVP Kyler Murray, the Rams prevail, improving to 9-3
Week 14: Loss (9-4)
New England Patriots @ Rams - FOX/NFLN/Amazon Thursday Night Football
A short week against Belichek spells doom for almost every team, and McVay will continue his struggles against the GOAT. The Pats defense was able to throw Goff off his game on the Super Bowl a few years ago, I expect we see more of this on Thursday.
Week 15: Loss (9-5)
New York Jets @ Rams - TBD
Every team had one puzzling loss, and this matchup with the Jets is ours for the year. I dont expect the Jets to have a grest year but I do think Sam Darnold is universally underappreciated and will have a great game against us.
Week 16: Loss (9-6)
Rams @ Seattle Seahawks - CBS 1:05PST
And we are really ending the year on a slump. Losing to the Seahawks this late in the year isn't great for our playoff hopes, but its always a tall order to go into Seattle and leave with a W. This game may he one of the most important games going into the playoffs and I wont be surprised to see it get flexed.
Week 17: Win (10-6)
Arizona Cardinals @ Rams - FOX 1:25PST
Luckily for us we end the season against our little cousins, and use this opportunity to get our chakras realigned. This game will move us into the 6th seed and bounce Arizona into the 7th seed, becoming the first division in history to have every team make the playoffs.

Conclusion

I think people have forgotten that the Rams were a mkssed field goal away from making the playoffs last year, and thats with playing very sloppy through most games. The only thing holding this team back is the fact that they play in the toughest division in football. I think that Goff has a bounce back year and ends up a top 10 QB for the season. This season will be critical for McVay to really show the new coaches and players that he's capable of not only calling proficient offense but leading an entire team of players. It will be an interesting season, so make sure to wear your damn mask so it actually happens.
Thank you for reading, and bless all the knees and keep them healthy!!
Thanks for reading!! Bless all the knees and keep them healthy.
Link to hub
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Offseason Review Series: The 2020 Indianapolis Colts

Indianapolis Colts

Division: AFC South

Coaching Changes

Colts lost defensive line coach Mike Phair to the Panthers and replaced him with Brian Baker who is most recently out of Alabama. Mike Groh reunites with Frank Reich as he was hired as wide receivers coach, while Patullo moved to the role of pass game specialist to accommodate. Tyler Boyles was signed on as the assistant to the head coach to replace Parks Frazier who is moving to offensive quality control coach.

Free Agency

Players lost/cut
Name Position New Team
Adam Vinatieri K Free Agent
Clayton Geathers S Free Agent
Joe Haeg T Buccaneers
Jabaal Sheard DE Free Agent
Eric Ebron TE Steelers
Devin Funchess WR Green Bay
Pierre Desir CB New York Jets
Quincy Wilson CB New York Jets
Adam hasn’t officially announced his retirement, but I doubt he comes back to the NFL. He struggled throughout the year before going on IR. Geathers is a great character guy who began the season as the starting strong safety, but slowly lost reps to the impressive rookie Khari Willis. Haeg is the only guy the Colts probably wanted back as he’s a capable backup at all five slots on the line. Sheard is getting up there in age, Ebron seems to have made a business decision, and Funchess was the worst affected in the week one Claviclysm when injured his clavicle alongside Hill and Foles while being the only one to miss the rest of the season. Pierre Desir was an unexpected cut this offseason after playing well enough through the year despite playing through an injury. Quincy Wilson was traded to the Jets after a few disappointing seasons.
Players signed
Name Position Old Team Length Money
Philip Rivers QB Chargers 1 Yr 25 Mil
DeForest Buckner DT 49ers 5 Yr 21 Mil/Y
Sheldon Day DT 49ers 1 Yr 1.75 Mil
Xavier Rhodes CB Vikings 1 Yr 3 Mil
Trey Burton TE Bears 1 Yr .91 Mil
Roosevelt Nix RB Steelers 1 Yr .96 Mil
TJ Carrie CB Browns 1 Yr 1 Mil
Let’s start with Philip Rivers. It’s clear that Jacoby Brissett is not the guy and the Colts had to make a choice. They went with a player that both head coach Frank Reich and offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni have worked with previously, which may be quite valuable as we implement the offense during a shortened offseason. Regardless, Philip underwent a dramatic statistical drop last year. I think he’s still got juice left in him and can make a great deal of good throws if he has a decent amount of room in the pocket. If you have some time, I recommend this video by The Scouting Academy featuring former offensive coordinator turned quarterback guru Steve Fairchild.
While DeForest Buckner was not technically a free agent, he was a massive departure from the Chris Ballard modus operandi of building through the draft. The team desperately needed a 3T and they traded their first round pick for one of the best in the league. Joining him will be recent teammate Sheldon Day who will likely take over quite a few snaps at the 1T.
Xavier Rhodes was signed on almost immediately after cutting Pierre Desir. He certainly seemed physically incapable of doing what was asked of him last year. Some players have called out the scheme change as a reason that Rhodes might return to form. Personally, I don’t quite see it and think his primary value on the team might be on using his intelligence as a veteran presence in a young CB room.
Of the remaining three, Trey Burton seems like a lock at TE2 after an injury filled stint with the Bears. Roosevelt Nix is an interesting choice as I expect him to continue his heavily blocking role he played with the Steelers as well as pick up a few more rushing snaps than he did with the Steelers as we lack a true fullback. Carrie is a guy that has a chance at being the backup slot behind Kenny Moore, but I don’t think he’s secured a spot yet.

Draft

Round Pick Name Position College
2 34 Michael Pittman WR USC
2 41 Jonathan Taylor RB Wisconsin
2 85 Julian Blackmon S Utah
3 122 Jacob Eason QB QB
4 149 Danny Pinter G G
6 211 Robert Windsor DT Penn State
6 211 Isaiah Rodgers CB UMass
6 212 Dezmon Patmon WR Washington State
7 213 Jordan Glasgow LB Michigan
Michael Pittman Jr, WR, USC 2.34 Grade: A
This man just feels like a Colt. He’s a physical player and will immediately slot in as Philip River’s YOLO target. He’s got great size and uses it well both in positioning himself against a receiver to win the ball as well as using his frame and forcing his way down field. Even on truly contested catches, he has great hands with only 5 drops against 176 catchable targets in college. Lastly, his frame and hand usage make him a valuable blocker, which is particularly valued by Frank Reich as he plans to run the damn ball.
Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin 2.41 Grade: A-
This man is going to run the damn ball. Let’s start by mentioning his toughness, with nearly 1000 rushes through three years. The man’s body doesn’t show any sign that it will ever give up. He has enough cutting ability to dodge the occasional tackle, but excels at using his physique and contact balance to force his way through a tackle. If the defense fails to collapse on Taylor quickly, they’re at risk of him taking off. Taylor was the fastest running back at the combine running a 4.39 at 225 pounds. Going 1-on-1 with him nearing full speed is almost a futile prospect. As he finds lanes behind probably the best run blocking line in the league, he’ll be plenty of trouble. Not without flaws, he’s had a somewhat questionable history with fumbles that will likely lead to plenty of time with Tom Rathman. He also has limited experience in the passing game.
Julian Blackmon, S, Utah 3.85 Grade: C+
Perhaps I’m being a bit too harsh on Blackmon because I’m slightly addicted to watching Pittman embarrass the Utah defense in the Utah vs USC game. Perhaps it’s just because I’ve watched limited tape and safeties struggle with getting on tape for failing in coverage more often than being particularly good in coverage. Either way, as the heir apparent to Malik Hooker’s starting free safety position, Blackmon feels in a way like the opposite player. While both players had an eye for the ball coming out of college, Blackmon feels overall much more inconsistent in coverage, but he also feels like a much more solid tackler. Blackmon is also a recent convert to safety from corner, so perhaps what I’m seeing is simply growing pains especially because my reviewed games are from early in the season.
Jacob Eason, QB, Washington 4.122 Grade: C+
Jacob Eason was a surprise drop for many who considered him a second round prospect. His arm is an absolute cannon belonging right in that Josh Allen tier of pure arm strength. Of course, he’s a fourth round pick for a reason. He struggles to work through his progressions, he can’t consistently throw with touch, and there are some huge question marks regarding his work ethic. There’s a whole lot of potential, but I’m not going to call the future franchise QB spot secured for the Colts yet. For the time being, I’ll call him a fine backup for a team that didn’t otherwise have a QB rostered for 2021.
Danny Pinter, G, Ball State 5.149 Grade: B-
Danny Pinter is an undersized prospect that is moving in to play guard after most recently playing as a tackle. As a tight end convert from a small school, he still lacks a lot of the technique and strength and conditioning that you would hope for in an NFL O-line prospect. I’ve seen him be pretty weak with his hand placement and he’s let the defender get into his chest a couple times. The upside here is Pinter’s mobility. He ran the second fastest 40 of all offensive linemen at the combine at 4.91 seconds at 306 pounds and put up respectable numbers for the remaining footwork related drills. Altogether a fine pick for a team with a solid offensive line that will hopefully have time to develop their rookie.
Robert Windsor, DT, Penn State 6.193 Grade: C
Robert Windsor has a good first step and a motor that doesn’t stop. That’s all the good I can say about him. Windsor doesn’t have the strength, length, or technique to make an impression. With the potential of Denico Autry moving to the edge, it seems like they might be looking at Windsor as a backup for Buckner. If Tyquan Lewis continues to be a disappointment in the limited camp, Windsor might just sneak onto the roster by need alone, which is the only reason I can bump my grade to a C, though perhaps I’m a little too critical as I felt there were a couple of other players that are more roster worthy.
Isaiah Rodgers, CB, UMass 6.211 Grade: A
Isaiah Rodgers is an absolute burner. His pro-day speed was 4.28. Admittedly hand timed is always faster, but he’s clearly quick on tape. A bit undersized at 5’10”, he’ll likely be relegated to the back end of the cornerback depth chart until he can develop into an NFL level corner, but his immediate value seems very obvious on special teams. His speed makes him a threat at kick returns and he’ll likely get tried out as a backup punt returner. As a gunner, he will gladly hit you with everything he’s got. Check this hit.
Dezmon Patmon, WR, Washington State 6.212 Grade: B+
Patman is an intriguing prospect. He’s got a great combination of size and speed. While easily compared to second round pick Pittman because of his physical traits, Patmon lacks a lot of the polish. Worse hands, worse route running, and doesn’t quite play to his size like Pittman does. Regardless, I expect him to find production in his rookie year as Frank Reich was playing with the most injured wide receiver core in the league last year and has proven an ability to scheme depth players open consistently. Lastly, I think his size and River’s tendencies towards giant players is going to come into play fairly often near the redzone.
Jordan Glasgow, LB, Michigan 6.213 Grade: B+
Glasgow isn’t a guy I want to see playing a lot of defensive snaps in a game. He’s technically refined enough, but physically doesn’t seem to have a very high ceiling. During the Middle Tennessee State game that I reviewed for him, Michigan used him plenty to blitz the quarterback where he was plenty effective, but I won’t pretend that he was up against top tier opponents. Ultimately Glasgow is going to be a special teams specialist after a college career where he excelled at special teams, which at the end of the 6th round is all you can ask for.

Roster

QB: 3 Rivers, Brissett, Eason
Things are pretty straightforward for the Colts this year. There aren’t any preseason games, so nobody can retire after one. Rivers is the starter, hoping to prove that his career isn’t over after a down year last year. Brissett is a capable enough backup. Eason is the team’s insurance for 2021 when no other quarterbacks are on the roster and will hopefully not have to start during what is sure to be an odd season. First man out is $wag Kelly, who seems mainly to hold a roster spot as a favor between Frank Reich and his old friend Jim Kelly.
RB: 4 Mack, Taylor, Hines, Nix
For a while at least, Mack gets to hold the starting job. It’s certainly a competition with Taylor’s level of talent and I expect a pretty even split over the course of the year. Despite some competition at the position, Hines may have his best year considering River’s appreciation for receiving backs. Rosie Nix is the new fullback from the Steelers who might get a few touches here and there, but exists primarily for his blocking ability. First man out is Jordan Wilkins. This is a contentious cut for Colts fans. Wilkins has an unusual level of highlight type plays that lend to his 6.0 yards per attempt over 51 carries last year. Alas, roster spots are at a premium and running backs are not.
WR: 6 Hilton, Pittman, Pascal, Campbell, Marcus Johnson, Dezmon Patmon
Hilton’s the obvious choice. After two years struggling with health issues, Colts fans are hoping their WR1 remains healthy for the whole year. Pittman comes in as a fairly polished candidate from the top of the second round in a stacked receiver class. He’ll hold down the X receiver immediately. Zach Pascal was a pleasant surprise for Colts fans last year. With a list of injuries above him, Pascal did his best as WR1 for several games last year and led the Colts in receiving yards. As a WR3, he’ll get less focus and still be fairly valuable. Campbell has shown plenty of big play ability, what he needs to show is durability. He suffered four separate injuries last year including training camp. Hopefully, it was just a fluke and he can show off more of what he can do with a ball in his hands. Marcus Johnson is a fan favorite after his Tampa Bay showing last year. After starting the season on injured reserve, he returned to the practice squad and eventually made the roster last year. Colts fans are hoping his 16.3 yards per reception last year and 17 yards per reception in 2018 weren’t flukes and can be duplicated on more snaps Rivers. Dezmon Patman comes in as a somewhat unrefined option. I’ve already mentioned his physical traits. With a little bit of help from Reich’s scheming, I think he’ll find a handful of receptions this year, particularly towards the red zone. The first man out here is Daurice Fountain. After moving to the active roster in mid-2018, Reece was a training camp hit in 2019 until suffering an ankle injury in camp. While he might compete for the position, I haven’t seen enough from him in the first two years to give him right of way over Johnson and the rookie Patmon.
TE: 3 Jack Doyle, Trey Burton, Mo Alie-Cox
Jack Doyle has been a reliable pass catcher and mauling run blocker for years. He’s solid in his position as a starter. Trey Burton reunites with Frank Reich and is only two years removed from having a 569 yard season with the Bears. After struggling with injuries last season, Burton is hoping for a return to form this season. Mo Alie-Cox was a bit disappointing as many were expecting more receiving stats, but he’s still a talented run blocker with plenty of potential for next year. With Rivers having an appreciation for big bodied receivers, perhaps the 6’5.5” receiver with a 7’1” wingspan will find a few jump balls his way.
OL: 9 Castonzo, Nelson, Kelly, Glowinski, Smith, Clark, Patterson, Pinter, O’Donnell
The Colts are lucky enough to return all 5 starting offensive linemen this year. Castonzo played some of the best football of his career last year and signed on for two more years after considering retirement for a while. Quenton Nelson is coming off his second First Team All-Pro year. Kelly is a great Center coming off a fairly healthy season and going into a contract year. Glowinski is the weak point of the line, but that’s not so much an insult to Glowinski as it is a credit to the rest of the team. He’s still a very serviceable guard. Braden Smith is surpassing my wildest expectations from the day he was drafted as a guard. With early 2018 injuries to the tackle position, Smith made the shift and has been great at the position. Beyond the starting five, things get a bit more questionable with a significant loss of depth this past year. Clark returns on a one year contract and will be taking over the swing tackle position now that Joe Haeg has left. Patterson suffered a torn ACL in his rookie year, but is the only center on the roster behind Kelly and not including Nelson who only holds the position so he can keep 56. Pinter seems like the obvious option as a backup guard. O’Donnell is a Canadian football prospect that I assume the Colts found at the East-West Shrine bowl where he played fairly well. The Colts need depth at tackle and I can see O’Donnell doing that. First man out is Eldrenkamp as a backup guard.
DL: 9 Autry, Buckner, Day, Houston, Turay, Stewart, Muhammad, Lewis, Banogu
Autry has largely played DT the past couple years and done a fine job of it. With Sheard leaving in free agency, I currently have Autry slotted as the guy to move outside and take over the job. Buckner is our 3T we’ve been looking for. I hopefully don’t need to say anything else. Sheldon Day is competing with Grover Stewart for the 1T spot. I’ve got Day listed as my starter, but for a position that will see plenty of rotation I don’t think it matters either way. Turay is the “if only” story of 2019. Houston had a surprisingly healthy year and racked up 11 sacks, tied for second most in his career. Turay showed a ton of talent in his few snaps prior to injury in 2019. Over the five weeks he played, he ranked second in PFF’s pass-rushing grade and pass-rush rate with a 22.9% pressure rate. If he can build on these past two years, Turay may be a monster. Tyquan Lewis is the disappointment of Chris Ballard’s 2018 draft. He’s struggled with a couple of injuries and he’s had a few healthy scratches that I haven’t heard anything verifiable to explain away. Alas, I’m leaving him in the lineup as a guy who is flexible enough to back up Buckner, but also play outside as need be. Banogu is another guy that has shown flashes here and there. First one out is Robert Windsor, who might take that 3T spot if Lewis doesn’t shape up in camp.
LB: 6 Leonard, Walker, Okereke, Speed, Adams, Glasgow
13 games, 5 Int, 2 FF, 7 PD, 5 Sacks, 121 Tackles. Darius Leonard put up some impressive stats last year and he’s aiming for the top. If he can pull off a 16 game season with similar stats, he’ll have an argument for DPOY. Walker is a smart player, if a little limited athletically and in coverage skills. I’ll keep him as the starter, but many fans are arguing for Okereke to take over the role. Okereke was PFF’s top ranked rookie linebacker last year, particularly for his athleticism and strength in coverage. EJ Speed had some limited play last year while Leonard was dealing with a concussion. He played fine, but has yet to show anything to get excited about. Glasgow takes the final spot primarily for special teams value. Adams has played a handful of snaps here and there, but is primarily going to be a special teams player. First man out is Zaire Franklin was only getting special teams snaps anyways.
CB: 5 Rhodes, Moore, Ya-Sin, Tell, Rodgers
Rhodes is hoping for a resurgence in a different scheme. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and give the former first team all-pro the nod as CB1. Kenny Moore II has been a great slot corner for the Colts these past couple years. He struggled with injuries for a long while to end out the year last year, but I fully expect him to continue his efforts to make himself a household name this year. Rock Ya-Sin was our rookie pick last year near the top of the 2nd round. He had some common rookie CB mistakes, but showed enough talent and growth to believe he has a high chance of taking over the CB1 role. Marvell Tell is an incredible physical specimen that the Colts took last year with the expectations of moving him to CB from Safety. With injuries to the cornerback position, he got a few more snaps than we were hoping, but he flashed a great deal. If Xavier Rhodes’s physical decline last season continues, I wouldn’t be completely surprised to see Tell starting over a healthy Rhodes. Rodgers is still very developmental as a corner, but holds plenty of value for special teams. First man out is TJ Carrie who would have been a fine slot backup in case Kenny Moore went down.
S: 5 Hooker, Willis, Odum, Blackmon, Milligan
Malik Hooker is entering the last year of his contract with the Colts after having his fifth year option declined. Hooker lit up the stat sheet his rookie year, but ever since the scheme change, has struggled to prove he was worth the draft position. With an improved pass rush this year, perhaps his sixth sense in finding the ball will come into play more often. Khari Willis was a pleasant surprise last year. It was clear the Colts liked him when Ballard traded draft capital to move up, but I wouldn’t have expected him to so clearly take over the starting strong safety position. On top of that, Willis played reasonably at free safety during Hooker’s injury last year. Odum is a solid backup who can play at both strong and free safety. Julian Blackmon is the new rookie who I assume is intended to be Hooker’s successor next year. For the time being he’s coming back from an ACL injury and may not be available until midyear, but as the successor to the starting position, I think it’s important to at least give him a spot for now. Milligan is a versatile player. He’s really a free safety, but played a bit of slot corner last year when Kenny Moore went down.
ST: 3 Blankenship, Sanchez, Rhodes
Hot Rod is my guess to be kicker. While McLaughlin played well enough for the Colts. Even with a 100% hit rate on extra points, there’s plenty of room for more consistency as he ranked 22nd overall in field goal percentage last year. It’ll be a tough contest in camp, but if I’m calling my shot with Hot Rod. Sanchez hasn’t played his best football these past couple years. I’m hoping someone else takes over kickoffs and Sanchez can focus entirely on punting in hopes of returning to form.

Position Group Strengths and Weaknesses

QB
The Colts QB room seems solid. I’m expecting Rivers to return to his typical self that still throws a decent amount of interceptions. Regardless, a quarterback that doesn’t constantly hold onto the ball for 3+ seconds playing behind this line is going to have plenty of opportunities to make great plays. For this year of all years, it seems like the value in having backup quarterbacks is going to be at an all time high and I don’t feel so bad about what the Colts have. I’ll call it a fairly average group until Rivers can prove his career isn’t over.
Backfield
The Colts have a group of good backs, but lack an elite option particularly when considering that none have proved themselves a threat in both the rushing and passing game at the moment. As a group, I’ll call it borderline top 10 in large part because any one of these players could get injured without it feeling season ruining as may be true with a few of the teams with top running backs.
OL
I have no complaints about the starting offensive line, the huge question mark is about the depth. The Colts were lucky enough to start the same five men all season last year, but one injury to Anthony Castonzo and Colts fans will have flashbacks to the five game stretch he missed in 2018 where Luck suffered 10 of the 18 total sacks on the season. Alas, many teams struggle with depth and I hope I don’t have to argue too much about this being one of the best groups in the NFL.
Pass catchers
By Adjusted Games Lost, the Colts had the single most injured wide receiver room last year. The single biggest thing that needs to be proven is that we can stay healthy across the board. If they stay healthy, the Colts are a mid tier group, but under the assumption that TY’s health issues these past two years continue, I’m forced to assume they’re a bottom third group until we can trust someone to be a true WR1 in most games.
DL
The Colts starting lineup seems pretty strong, but for a position group that we want to rotate with depth players on, I’ve gotta question what kind of play we’re going to see out of guys like Tyquan Lewis and Ben Banogu. As such, I’ll call this group middling overall.
LB
It’s just a solid group all around. The fact that we can’t decide between Okereke and Walker as starters is primarily a question of which is better, not which is worse. Behind them is plenty of serviceable depth that holds an important role in special teams.
Secondary
This is the one group with question marks at basically every spot. Can Rhodes return to All-Pro form? Was the apparent growth for Ya-Sin real and can it continue? Can Moore stay healthy? Can Tell develop into a starting safety? Can Hooker stay healthy after missing significant time these past two years and can he prove he’s worth his draft position?
Special Teams
What just one year ago felt like a solid group for kicking and punting, now feels a bit questionable. I don’t want to get so down about Rigo’s down year as it was still overall decent. With the new search for a kicker, I can’t complain about either of the current options and I don’t believe either will get nearly the leash that Adam Vinatieri got last year, so I’d say the floor there is much higher. The returning seems like it’s best in years after Hines has impressed and our return team overall just seems to be getting stronger. With the addition of Isaiah Rodgers, this may be a group to beat.

Schedule Predictions

Week 1: @ Jaguars (W)
Ah yes, the Jaguars. An eternal question mark for the Colts. Generally believed to be one of the worst rosters in the league, I’d have to agree. There are plenty of question marks on their defense that they’re hoping will be filled in by rookies. I would expect them to have growing pains even without a shortened offseason. Week one, this seems to weigh heavily with the Colts who’ve added strong veteran talent in Rivers and Buckner.
Week 2: vs Vikings (W)
Despite having one of my favorite drafts of the year, the Vikings have many of the same struggles as the Jaguars. First, we must accept that moving from Diggs to Jefferson isn’t likely to be a smooth transition in Jefferson’s first year. Just as notably they’re losing their two corners that put up the most snaps for them in 2019. While neither of their 2018 corners were playing at their best, it currently looks like they’ll have two rookie starting corners with Gladney and Dantzler and I think all of reddit knows to expect cornerbacks to have rookie year struggles.
Week 3: vs Jets (W)
Can TY play corner? The Jets draft is another one of my favorites, but they’re still not quite there as a whole. Despite my love for Becton, I don’t think their list of offensive line changes have turned into a complete group. On top of that, I’m still not quite happy with their weapons. Bell looks like he’s still got mileage left in him if only he had a better line. Their tight end group is highly dubious, and their wide receiver group has really better hope Mims can actually play like a WR1. I think it’ll be a better game than some might assume based on a lot of opinions I hear on the Jets, but I’ve got the Colts with the edge.
Week 4: @ Bears (W)
As a fan of watching line play, this will be a game to remember. The Bears d-line is arguably the best run defense in the league and they’re not bad against the pass either particularly when backed by a good secondary. Unfortunately for the Bears, I’m expecting their weaker offensive line to struggle vs the Colts defensive line more than the opposite.
Week 5: @ Browns (L)
Ah, yes. I get to another one of my favorite offseasons. Just about everything the Browns did seemed like a good move. On paper, the Browns offense is scary as hell and I just don’t have any arguments for why they would be worse. Jack Conklin and Jedrick Wills are going to be great additions to fix that line, then you go and add Hooper as if you didn’t have enough weapons. With even half-decent coaching this team can be dangerous and I can’t trust the Colts secondary to handle every weapon.
Week 6: vs Bengals (W)
After five straight years of the Bengals losing their first round pick for a significant amount of time due to injury, maybe this year will be an exception. With the return of Jonah Williams, perhaps that line can actually have a half decent year, but I’m not going to bet the house on it. For the time being, the Bengals are still working on their rebuild.
Week 7: Bye
Week 8: @ Lions (W)
What little I watched of the Lions last year seemed like a decent quality team. As rarely as I like to bet on rookie corners, Okudah is as complete as any college corner I’ve seen. I’m not ready to call them a strong team, but they don’t seem weak by any means. A return from Stafford could make the NFC North one of the most internally competitive divisions to watch. Regardless, I feel like the Colts have a somewhat stronger roster.
Week 9: Ravens (L)
If only I could go to this game in person. I’d love to see how the Colts defense matches up against that Ravens offense in person. Top to bottom the Ravens have one of the strongest rosters in the league, so they get the strong edge.
Week 10: @ Titans (L)
I hate Thursday night games. The home team has a huge statistical advantage. Going into Tennessee tired after a tough Ravens game certainly isn’t going to do the Colts any favors when they’ve gotta try to tackle Derrick Henry.
Week 11: vs Packers (L)
This is just a long stretch of teams asking a lot of the Colts physically. Stopping the run week after week with the Ravens then Derrick Henry then Jones/Dillon is just going to be physically brutal. Luckily, the Colts are coming off a ten day bye at home, but the Packers are just an overall solid team all around and I think they’ll still be very competitive at every phase of the game.
Week 12: vs Titans (W)
I don’t think the Colts will be happy with their string of losses. I think they’re coming back hungry and trying to prove themselves against a divisional opponent at home.
Week 13: @Texans (W)
After the Texans split games in 2018 and 2019, the Colts are going to get the first win of 2020. For two closely matched teams in 2019, the Colts have lost nobody of any particular importance and purely added more talent, while the Texans sold off Hopkins in hopes that Cooks and Cobb will somehow elevate their offense. It’s a risky bet.
Week 14: @ Raiders (W)
Last year’s Raiders led the Colts by 7 points with just over 2 minutes to go in the half prior to Brissett’s pick 6. Looking at things from a clean slate, I’d fully expect the return of previously inactive Hilton, Leonard, and Hooker to cover the gap between the two teams and I have the Colts winning next year’s game.
Week 15: vs Texans (L)
Let’s not underrate Deshaun Watson. Having watched Luck carry a questionable offense for years, I think Deshaun’s got enough talent to pull some wins out of his ass. I’m certainly not so low on the Texans roster to believe Deshaun can’t push it to a win.
Week 16: @ Steelers (W)
Last year’s game was a 2 point Steelers victory after an Adam Vinatieri kick went awry with about a minute left in the game. So, they question is, were the Colts offseason improvements worth 2 points on the Steelers? Both of these teams are expected to improve greatly with the return and hiring of 2004 quarterback legends, but I’d have to give a slight nod to Big Ben as the greater improvement from Mason Rudolph vs Rivers replacing Brissett/Hoyer. For remaining Inactives, I’d have to credit the loss of TY Hilton as a more significant factor than that of James Connor. What I think finally takes the Colts over the top is the combination of their first round pick for DeForest Buckner as well as a stronger pair of second round additions with Pittman and Taylor vs Claypool.
Week 17: vs Jaguars (L)
If you don’t like the look of that L next to the Jaguars game, you don’t like AFC South football. The Jags always seem like a much better team about once a year. I’m looking at you 2018 Jags. At 10-5, I think the Colts have a good chance at being guaranteed a playoff berth and the Jags probably just want to prove themselves more.

Schemes

Offense
If you’re looking at last year’s team as a model for this year’s offense, you’re probably missing something. To quote Ozzurip from last year’s review, “The point is that there isn’t a specific scheme.” Frank Reich isn’t beholden to doing one thing every week. He wants to find every mismatch and exploit it to the best of his ability by using a diverse set of tools. Jacoby’s limitations as a player saw the passing offense get unnecessarily flat last year. Philip Rivers is the bet to run Frank Reich’s offense properly.
This starts by looking at your traditional West Coast offense utilizing a lot of nickel and dime throws in order to set up a rush. Of course with the Colt’s power running and more modern RPO usage, the run game is setting up this short passing game just as well. When teams are playing too close to the box, Frank will call up a play to push the ball deep where his new quarterback is more than willing to follow through. Ultimately, Reich will push whatever works. If the Colts are running over the opposing team, he won’t be afraid to lean into the run, but I personally believe the Colts will want to be a pass first offense once again. This is admittedly not a commonly agreed upon point among Colts fans. Feel free to take my opinion with a grain of salt.
The Colts have a diverse set of weapons that allow them to play just about any game they want to and will gladly lean on certain weapons to target specific weaknesses in the opponent’s defense. You want big guys? Let’s throw Doyle, Alie-Cox, Pittman, and Patmon out there. This not only puts out a selection of big bodies to have to defend against, but also a good list of run blockers for whichever running back they’re throwing out. Want speed? Hilton, Campbell, and Hines are each capable of stretching the field vertically. The last note I want to add would be a likely increase in 22 personnel. Just toss out Patmon and mix and match some running backs. Reich has mentioned seeing Mack and Taylor on the field at the same time, but I would fully expect plenty of plays with Nix holding a lead blocker role or even a more Tom Rathman-esque fullback that pulls in passes in the short game.
Defense
The Colts defense is a pretty simple scheme based on a 4-3 Tampa 2 defense. Despite some excitement after the Chiefs game where the Colts played man on 73.3% of snaps, expect for the Colts to play a vast majority of their snaps in zone coverage. Playing man for that one game was likely just taking advantage of a weakened receiving core than it was a proof of the Colts sudden willingness to move to a different scheme.
The Colts are heavily reliant on the front four to generate pressure and do so by rotating through 8-9 defensive linemen with the goal of keeping players fresh. The Colts defensive lineman with the highest snap count last year was Justin Houston who only played in 65.18% of snaps. Perhaps bringing in Buckner will cause the team to add a bit more consistency after Buckner’s 78.72% snaps on the 49ers last season. This focus on the front 4 is accentuated by the 6th lowest blitz rate in the league in 2019.
Part of what helps the defensive line be effective is their ability to focus on the passer while the linebackers work heavily to stop the run. The Colts run a lot of a concept called patterns where the play side linebacker’s goal is to control the offensive line and push the run outside where the other linebacker is meant to be athletic enough to cross the line and stop the run. For a more detailed look at the Colts implementation of this concept, read Zach Hicks’s writeup on this
Behind the linebacker group is typically a Cover-2 whose primary goal is to cover the deep zones and prevent any big plays. The idea is that forcing a team to dink and dunk down the field forces the offense to be successful on more plays to reach the end zone. More plays means more opportunities on each drive for interceptions, sacks, forced fumbles, and simply missed passes in order to set the offense back. The Colts were ultimately tied for 10th in the league at 13.1 percent of drives ending in a turnover.
Shoutouts to those who helped:
Ozzurip
Link to hub
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2020 Offseason review - Miami Dolphins


Miami Dolphins
AFC East (4th place)
2019 record - 5-11
New coaches -
Josh Boyer - DC
Chan Gailey - OC
Robby Brown - QB coach
Steve Marshall - OL coach
Austin Clark - OLB coach
Curt Kuntz - assistant DB coach.
Coaches gone -
Chad O'Shea - OC
Patrick Graham - DC
Jerry Schuplinski - Assistant QB coach
Dave DeGuglielmo - O-line coach
Free Agency
Player Acquired Position Former team
Emmanuel Ogbah DE KC
Byron Jones CB Dallas
Shaq Lawson DE Buffalo
Kyle Van Noy OLB NE
Jordan Howard RB Philadelphia
Matt Brieda RB SF
Ted Karras C NE
Ereck Flowers OG Wash FT
Clayton Fejedelem ST Cincinnati
Kamu Grugier-Hill LB/ST Philadelphia
Elandon Roberts LB NE
Adrian Colbert S Miami
Byron Jones is the big one here. He will start opposite Xavien Howard and will force teams to throw his way more often, which will lead to more picks. Howard is a ballhawk while Jones is more a lockdown guy. They should make a great duo.
Kyle Van Noy brings a lot of versatility and much needed experience to the defense. He should be a do it all type of guy under Brian Flores and should fill the Kyle Van Noy role that dolphins fans have been talking about since 2019 started. Who better?
Shaq Lawson brings much needed pass rush to Miami. They were downright pathetic in that area last season
Emmanuel Ogbah, see Shaq Lawson.
Jordan Howard, speaking of pathetic, Miami's running attack was beyond that last year. Ryan Fitzpatrick led the team in rushing. Yes, you actually read that correctly. 38 year old bearded non running QB Ryan Fitzpatrick led the dolphins in rushing for 2019. He had a very measly 243 yards. I still smh typing that out. Howard will fix that issue.
Matt Brieda is the lightning to Howards' thunder. He will take a few to the house from mid field this season.
Players cut/ lost in free agency
Player Position New team
Reshad Jones S FA
Taco Charlton DE KC
Charles Harris DE ATL
Taybor Pepper LS FA
Mike Hull LB FA
Reshad Jones was one of my favorite dolphins players of all-time so losing him hurts, but it seems it was just his time to move on. A ring of honor player and maybe the best safety to ever play in a Fins uniform. Hard hitter, makes big plays, lots of pick 6's and game sealing interceptions, great tackler, he will be missed.
2020 NFL draft selections
Round 1, pick 5 - Tua Tagovailoa
Grade - A+
After a year or more of speculation, drooling and hoping for Miami to be in position to grab him, they stayed at number 5, avoided trading up and still got the QB that 99% of Dolphins fans had been praying for. Tua Tagovailoa is a top flight quarterback coming out of college injuries or not. His accuracy and ability to hit receivers in stride in incredible. He doesn't have a huge arm but it's definitely adequate and he maintains that accuracy all over the field. He has touch and great instincts to find the open man. He avoids the sack well, which is something he's gonna have to utilize heavily due to the fact the Dolphins haven't been able to put together a respectable offensive line consistently for the past decade. It's unlikely he'll start right away due to the hip injury he suffered last November and since Ryan Fitzpatrick is in position to maintain his starting role. The covid pandemic did not help him in getting experience, but it did give him more time to rehab. Last I checked Tua had the number 1 and 2 selling jersey in the NFL. To say the least, Dolphins fans are very excited about his arrival.
Round 1, pick 18 - Austin Jackson OT USC
Grade - B+
This was a pick that sort of divided the fanbase a little bit. He has high upside but is also so young and raw that a lot of fans were justifiably worried he was a reach and wouldn't live up to being the 18th overall selection. He is very athletic and a very hard worker so that's a good sign for his future. He also gave bone marrow for his sister to save her life and somehow still came back and played college football that same year. Absolutely incredible. Personally just that makes me a huge fan of his, but watching his tape he does have some flaws. He played a bad game going against AJ Epenesa, a fellow first rounder in this year's draft. AJ is a very strong player though and even great players have certain guys that give them trouble. He should man the left tackle spot for at least 3 years. There's a good chance he will see a trial by fire season in 2020.
Round 1, pick 30 - Noah Igbinoghene DB Auburn
Grade - A-
This was the first pick that surprised Dolphins fans. Many believe that the Dolphins were targeting a different player at number 26, their original pick, but that player was gone so they traded back. Igbinoghene is an exciting player though. He is figured to man the slot CB position and seems like he has star potential there. It won't hurt having other great CB's like Xavien Howard and Byron Jones to learn from and play next to. He's fast and plays tough. He loves to jam guys and has great play speed to make pass break ups, but he is still pretty raw since he's only been playing defense for a couple years. Should have all the opportunity to snag a "starter" spot as the nickle corner. Most think Bobby McCain will stay at safety so he only needs to beat out Nik Needham who was an undrafted rookie last year. Though Needham did show promise so it isn't a cakewalk.
Round 2, pick 39 - Robert Hunt OL Louisiana- Lafeyette
Grade - B
Nobody was surprised that the dolphins would draft 2 offensive lineman out of their first four picks, but not many saw that guy being Hunt. He plays aggressively and should be a road grader in the run game, though his pass blocking needs refinement. His strength and playstyle will likely give him a leg up on his competition at either right guard or right tackle since head coach Brian Flores loves toughness on the field. He will be given a shot at beating out Jesse Davis for the right tackle spot but will likely land at right guard since he will probably need time to develop at tackle first. Fellow draftee Soloman Kindley, Danny Isidora and Michael Dieter will be competition for him to start.
Round 2, pick 56 - Raekwon Davis DL Alabama
Grade - B-
Davis is strong and plays with a high motor, but lacks great athleticism so his future is a bit murkier than the first 4 players taken by the dolphins. He has versatility and will probably play both tackle and end, allowing for others to move around.
Round 3, pick 70 - Brandon Jones S Texas
Grade - C+
Jones is projected to be more of a SS than a FS, which makes sense because Reshad Jones is no longer with the dolphins. Brandon Jones has big shoes to fill there. The athleticism and physicality are there, though the ball skills and coverage ability are not. He's gonna have to be kept clean by the coaching staff and his fellow defensive backs if he's going to be able to play a ton of snaps and succeed.
Round 4, pick 111 - Solomon Kindley OG Georgia
Grade - B
Kindley is a destroyer in the run game. He plays to not only win his rep but to shame his opponent. He should be able to find a spot on the line if his pass blocking can even be adequate. Definitely a decent pick at a position of need.
Round 5, pick 154 - Jason Strowbridge DL North Carolina
Grade - B-
Another defensive lineman. I see a theme here this offseason.
Round 5, pick 164 - Curtis Weaver DE Boise St.
Grade - A
Clearly the defensive line was an issue for the dolphins in 2019. Weaver brings some real potential but lacks explosiveness off the edge. Great pickup in the 5th.
Round 6, pick 185 - Blake Ferguson LS (longsnapper) LSU
Grade - D-
I wrote out longsnapper because I'm not sure one has ever been drafted before so maybe some don't know. He will be the only one on the team and has already led to the release of LS Taybor Pepper who was building a gym for his Miami home and posting about it when the news broke. Ouch.
Round 7, pick 246 - Malcolm Perry RB/WR
Grade - A
Perry is a very elusive player that brings a bit of excitement for being drafted so late. He caused an insane amount of missed tackles in 2019 but against bad competition. Obviously it is yet to be seen if he can keep that up against vastly better competition, either way, getting a player with actual potential this late is a steal.
UDFA
Matt Cole - WR
Jonathan Hubbard - T
Kylan Johnson - LB
Benito Jones - DT
Nick Kaltmeyer - OT
Ray Lima - DT
Kirk Merritt -WR
Tyshun Render DE
Donell Stanley - C
Bryce Sterk - TE
Offseason news
This was a blissfully peaceful offseason for Dolphins fans (2020 BS excluded). There was one minor incident with Xavien Howard that looked like it could end with a four game suspension but it did not. All charges were dropped and NFL didn't see enough to give any punishment. Maybe the biggest story was Saints WR Michael Thomas losing his damn mind when DeVante Parker tweeted out "A". It was in response to the question "Which is tougher? A. Make a catch while guarded by Stephon Gilmore, or B. Break up a pass while guarding Michael Thomas." It was a far cry from pretty much every offseason Miami has had for nearly twenty years. Pretty much the rest of the story has been Tua, Tua, Tua.
Projected starting lineup
Offense
QB - Ryan Fitzpatrick
RB - Jordan Howard
RB2 - Matt Brieda
WR1 - DeVante Parker
WR2 - Preston Williams
WR3 - Albert Wilson
TE - Mike Gesicki
LT - Austin Jackson
LG - Erick Flowers
C - Ted Karras
RG - Robert Hunt
RT - Jesse Davis
Defense
CB - Xavien Howard
CB - Byron Jones
FS - Bobby McCain
SS - Eric Rowe
OLB - Jerome Baker
MLB - Raekwon McMillan
OLB/DE - Kyle Van Noy
DE/OLB - Emmanuel Ogbah
DE - Shaq Lawson
DT - Davon Godchaux
DT/NT - Christian Wilkins
Nickle corner - Noah Igbinoghene
Disclaimer - trying to pin down assignments and starters on a defense that tries to have players play multiple positions and schemes is an exercise in futility.
Scheme
Offense - Spread offense
Chan Gailey has typically used the spread offense throughout his career so that's expected to be the case here in Miami. In the spread offense the basic idea is to force the defense to cover a lot of wideouts in order to open up the run game and pass option, or rpo. Here legendary coach Urban Meyer explains it a million times better than I can, which makes sense since he knows it a million times better.
Defense
The defense the dolphins will use is a tricky one. They will likely switch between 3-4 and 4-3 regularly and will use many different formations within each one. OLB's will also get after the QB like a DE, DE's will likely slide inside to the DT position, as well. The idea behind the defense is to always have good matchups on the field and to lockdown the receivers with great man to man coverage, allowing the defensive line to get pressure on the QB. It's quite the opposite of what Miami has done in the past, which was to try and get after the QB ASAP and pray that your DB's didn't allow a quick reception, which they usually did.
In the past Miami had such great ideas as sending the DE's around the edge quickly but playing off coverage and not trying to take the wideouts off the mark, which almost always just ended up in the QB getting rid of the ball quickly to a wide open receiver running across the middle. Most Dolphins fans found it frustrating to say the least. This new scheme is the opposite of that. They want the DB to knock the wideouts off of his route, while the DE's will play a more contain style and keep the play in front of them rather than running upfield and out of the play. I'm far from an expert on this subject though. Hopefully some of the great Dolphin fans will come on here and clear it up better than I can.
2020 schedule
Week 1 - @ New England
Week 2 - Buffalo
Week 3 - @ Jacksonville
Week 4 - Seattle
Week 5 - @ San Francisco
Week 6 - @ Denver
Week 7 - LA Chargers
Week 8 - LA Rams
Week 9 [email protected] Arizona
Week 10 - NYFTJets
Week 11 - Bye week
Week 12 - @ NYFTJets
Week 13 - Cincinnati
Week 14 - Kansas City
Week 15 - New England
Week 16 - @ Las Vegas (ew)
Week 17 - @ Buffalo
Tough schedule for 2020. Starts tough and ends tough. Not a lot of room for error if they want to remain relevant after the bye week. One good thing is there's 3 west coast teams coming to Miami this year and in the past west coast teams have not played well going east and especially going to Miami. It's gonna be tough to make a playoff push, their best bet is to win at home and try and go 4-2 in the division by splitting the Bills and Pats and trying to sweep the Jets. All four teams in the East are looking like they aren't separated by a lot so it's anyone's guess if New England does indeed slip after losing Brady. I'll believe that when I see it.
Big shoutout to guys like Kyle Crabbs and Travis Wingfield for helping teach me a lot of this stuff, I leaned heavily on Crabbs' scouting profiles for the draft section, and Wingfield taught me quite a bit about formations. Hopefully I'm not making his teaching look bad 😂. Another shoutout to all the Dolphins fans in Miami dealing with a big covid breakout in Florida. Stay safe you guys and gals!
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Welcome to South App #4: "Outside 101"

Monday, August 17th, 2020
Winston Beavers was having a very bad day.
It all began at 5 AM when his phone alarm vibrated. He rolled over on his belly and silenced it before it could wake Tai. It was the first day of class, but Winston wasn’t rising early to drink coffee and read the student newspaper. Instead, he grabbed his trusty silk tie and used it to hang his tablet from the sprinkler head. He slipped his headphones on, booted up some porn, and got straight down to business with both hands.
Now his contraption was holding on by faith and faith alone. But Winston paid no mind. He listened to Irish redheads moaning in his ear while he arched his back and curled his toes. And with each passing second, the weight of the tablet began to wear on the old, rusty sprinkler head.
So, when Winston exploded, so did that sprinkler head.
“Fuck!” Winston yelled, choking on a mouthful of rusty water. He tumbled off the top bunk, landing square on his ass. He scrambled to his feet, grabbed a binder from his desk, and rushed out the room - slipping on the puddle on his way out. Tai was already in the hallway, naked and wrapped in a wet blanket.
“What the hell, asshole?!” Tai blurted out, shivering with his laptop and backpack in each hand. “I told you not to jerk off like that!”
“Save your breath, partner,” Winston reassured him. “This here binder is the only important thing in that goddamn room.”
As water seeped into the hallway, Winston reckoned his luck had finally run out. Earlier this week, the Asheville PD had informed him that his prized Single Action Army was nowhere to be found in evidence. But he still had his precious binder, with the letters BDE inscribed on the spine. And when the water was finally shut off, Winston stuffed the binder back in his desk and made Tai pinky swear to keep it a secret.
***
A few hours later, Tai sat on the sofa in a local Asheville coffee shop with a drink and a bible in front of him.
As your wing-woman, I shall provide some friendly reminders!” Gigi cheerfully told Tai over the phone. “Make sure you’re facing the door so you can see when he comes in. Oh, and remember the order of operations: turn a page, sip your drink, make eye contact. Turn, sip, eyes!
“Uh, are you sure you know what you’re doing?” Tai whispered, as sleepy, hungover students filed in.
“I’m setting you up on an impromptu date on a Monday morning, am I not?”
“And have you run this strategy by amateur wingman extraordinaire Winston Beavers?”
Gigi paused. “Winston and I are...no longer on speaking terms. Sorry! I do not consent to any conversation about the aforementioned obnoxious brute whatsoever. Good luck!”
Gigi hung up. So Tai, who had never touched a bible, flipped to Ephesians like Gigi had coached him before. In fact, she’d planned out everything down to the last detail: the NIV version of the bible, the iced caramel macchiato, and the red and white checkerboard Vans he wore.
But Tai’s mind wandered to a more interesting book that he also had not yet read. He wanted to know what the hell was in Winston’s binder.
Suddenly, Jacky California walked into the cafe. Showtime. His 7:30 coffee break was expected. (Gigi found Jacky’s schedule on Facebook, and a quick visit to this cafe before 8 AM Intermediate Spanish just made sense.) Check. Turn, sip, eyes. Jacky waited in line, wearing a slim-fit red Abercrombie polo, bleached holy jeans, and his prized red and white checkerboard Vans. And his shoe decision, yet again, was also expected. (Gigi discovered that Jacky had only two classes on Monday, influencing his choice in that comfy pair of shoes that he wore in his profile pic). Check. Turn, sip, eyes. When Jacky stepped up to the counter, he ordered an iced caramel macchiato. And, once again, Gigi predicted this move. (Whatever the weather, Jacky’s SoCal roots virtually guaranteed an icy, watered-down coffee approach. Not to mention, nobody drinks hot coffee after sitting in the tanning bed for 30 minutes. Which, according to Gigi’s sleuthing, Jacky partook in every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.) Check. Turn, sip, eyes. Finally, while waiting for his order, Jacky pulled out his NIV study bible and flipped to the Book of Acts. (This time, Gigi was only partially off-base. His Facebook modeling photos were actually captioned with Ephesians bible verses. Nothing a quick fix couldn’t remedy). So Tai flipped straight to Acts, took a long sip of his macchiato, and made direct eye contact with Jacky as he walked over.
“Bro, this is freakin’ gnarly!” Jacky said in disbelief, pointing out their matching shoes, bible, and drink. “This is some righteous Revelation-level prophecy if I’ve ever seen it. Hey, my name’s Jacky. Is this seat ocupado?”
***
“Oh no!” Claire exclaimed, stroking Winston's fuzzy beard. “I’m, like, totally sorry about my stud’s mishap this morning!”
“Thank ya, peach pie,” Winston said, shaking his head. “I reckon they’ll move my ass to the broom closet and hang me out to dry.”
Claire and Winston were sitting in the Rec Center courtyard in athletic gear, along with several other hungover students. This was the Outdoors Adventures Seminar, AKA “Outside 101.” For many, it was a breezy way to snag the required Health and Fitness credit hour. And that's exactly why Gigi and Frank were also in this class. They sat on the opposite side of the courtyard, quietly gossipping and shooting the occasional glance their way.
“Your friends over there are, like, totally ignoring us!” Claire piped up, tugging Winston’s sleeve. “That’s, like, so rude.”
“Don’t trouble yourself, puddin’ muffin. They just ain’t ready for us yet.”
“And, like, oh my God! Ryan flat-out told me those are, like, the two people who broke into the frat house and blew up his daddy’s ashes! They are, like, total thugs. Ew!”
“Ah, my sister explained to me that it was a big misunderstanding, bundt cake,” Winston replied, feigning interest.
“Well, you should totally talk some sense to that Asian friend of yours, or else this class is gonna be, like, hella awkward,” Claire suggested. “She has, like, a salt and vinegar chip on her shoulder! It’s, like, totally not my fault that I can pull off a sports bra while she’s wearing those baggy clothes!”
True enough, Gigi and Frank had been giving them the cold shoulder ever since the frat house raid. For Frank, this was because of Winston’s affiliation with Claire Dansby and the notorious fraternity she represented. As for Gigi, it was more simple and personal: the lap dance.
“Ahoy, ladies and germs!” greeted the rugged Australian instructor, decked out in bushman’s gear. “My name is Angus, and I want to welcome ya to Outside 101. While you shop different classes, I indeed hope you’ll choose to spend your semester with us. Today is the Gauntlet Challenge, where we’ll break off into groups and compete for a mighty fine prize!”
With that, Angus hurled an ax at a target behind the students. Bullseye. Everyone stood up to clap and cheer. “Now, everybody come up front and grab yourselves a fine ole’ nametag so we know who you are!”
Winston sprung up and headed for the front of the line. Gigi stood with her back to him, her long black hair draping over her Under Armor tank top. He cleared his throat. “Howdy. Looks like we’re gonna be getting a workout in today. So hey, can I have a word with ya in private?”
She spun around, showing him a forced smile. “I’m sorry, sir. I don’t consent to this conversation.”
With that, she grabbed a nametag and wrote “Gigi.” Winston cocked his head. “So, I seem to recall Sarah telling me that you’ve got a South Korean name that only your father calls you.”
“Ah, but what’s in a name anywho?” pondered Frank, stepping forward. “Sir Winston, I wish to extend a sincere congratulations to your acceptance into the Beta Delta Epsilon Sausage Club. And to that brazen bull of a woman under your thumb. Alas, a braver man than me are you!”
Gigi narrowed her eyes at Winston. “You don’t know my real name?” she stated matter-of-factly. “Do you even know me at all?”
Frank and Gigi walked back to their seat. The hair stood up on the back of Winston’s neck. But before he could retort, two late students entered the courtyard.
“Hey, what’s up dudes and dudettes?” Jacky greeted casually. “Sorry we’re late. We couldn’t find the-"
“Hellooo everyone!” Tai greeted the class flamboyantly. “Jacky-boy, I hope you’re ready for a totally fabulous time! Ready to sweat? Oh, will you look at the sports bra on that blonde gal over here! Looks like Victoria can’t keep her secret for long. Am I right, Tai? Hey, boo-boo! Yes, you in the sports bra. You are killing it!”
Claire giggled, thanking Tai. But he and Jacky wound up sitting next to Gigi and Frank instead, introducing each other. Winston watched from afar, shaking his head. So this is how my roommate acts when he’s no longer single, he thought. Then, when no one was watching, Winston reached into his pocket and pulled out a 20-dollar bill.
“Oi, Steve Irwin,” Winston whispered to Angus, slipping him the money. “I need ya to put me and my friends together in a group.”
Winston pointed out his four friends, scribbled “BAMF” on a nametag, and walked confidently back to his seat. Then, when Gigi was watching, he gave Claire a sloppy, wet kiss.
***
“First elimination challenge is ax throwing!” Angus announced, behind the wheel of a Volkswagen VW bus. “The world’s second-oldest profession.”
Per request, Angus had formed a group out of Winston, Claire, Frank, Gigi, Tai, and Jacky. Now, he was driving them to a deserted field at the base of Mount Pisgah in the Asheville wilderness. Once they arrived, he set up a huge wooden target, then tossed Winston an ax.
“Now you look like a bloke who’s done this before!” Angus remarked.
“Hell, my daddy had to put a lock on the shed,” Winston bragged.
“Winston is, like, totally a wild man when it comes to the outdoors!” Claire chimed in. “I’m, like, super-stoked for him to totally man-handle me in the bedroom.”
The other four cringed at each other. Then, Winston reared back and hurled the ax with two hands, hitting a large ring.
“Three points!” Angus called out. “Claire, think you can conquer this beast?”
Claire stepped forward and grabbed an ax. As a former high school cheerleader, she hid some muscles under her small frame. But what surprised everybody was how she tossed hers one-handed. She hit an inner ring: a five-pointer.
“This, like, ain’t my first rodeo, cowboy!” Claire teased. She brazenly grabbed another ax and under-handed it to Gigi. She yelped, but Frank stepped in and caught it.
“My stars!” he said to Claire. “A woman so supple, yet so brazen around the edges. A fine mistress you doth make!”
Winston walked over to Gigi and gave her a puzzled look. “In the words of Richard III,” he began. “It looks Frank would trade his kingdom for a whore.”
“Um...since when have you started dabbling in Old English plays?” Gigi asked, a bit uneasy.
“Looks like you don’t know me much at all yourself.”
Gigi blushed, either enraged or embarrassed. She left him to stand next to her boyfriend. Then, Frank performed a one-handed throw, landing an inner ring.
“Five points for Shakespeare!” Angus cheered. “Let’s see if Miss Hathaway can cut the mustard.”
Before Frank handed Gigi the ax, she was already tense. He helped her hold it with two hands in a beginner’s stance. “But soft!” he said, as Gigi took aim. “Plant it straight in the heart! Just like I shall soon plant my seed in your womb.”
Flustered and distracted, she heaved the ax for an outer ring.
“Oi, only one point,” Angus declared. “Better hope our last two competitors think off target!”
Jacky grabbed an ax and faced Gigi. “Bro, your boyfriend’s a perv. And so is that chick.”
Jacky pointed straight at Claire. She giggled obnoxiously, flicking her long blonde hair. Jacky rolled his eyes. “God, please bring this lost sheep home,” he quietly prayed. He flung it from over the shoulder, missing the target completely.
“Ah, I can tell you’re fancy a boomerang by the way you throw that bugger!” Angus chuckled. “Our first elimination. Last one, come on down!”
Before Tai could grab his ax, Gigi pulled him aside. “Um, as your fellow wing-woman,” she started, “I suggest you launch the caveman hunting apparatus into the margins for the express purpose of aborting and creating a more intimate scenario with your beloved wave rider.”
Now Tai had grown a little closer with Gigi ever since she matched him up with Jacky. But all he could muster was a blank stare. Gigi leaned in closer. “Lose on purpose so you can be alone with him!” she hissed.
“Oh, got it,” Tai whispered back. “Hey, Gigi? Do ya think I can borrow your room for a bit? There’s no way Jacky can find out I live in a flooded swamp.”
Suddenly, Jacky’s ax boomerang came twirling back around, heading straight for Tai. He jumped to the side with a shriek, watching the ax fly into a tree. “Righteous!” Jacky cheered, running back to fetch it. So with that in mind, Tai took aim and tossed his ax boomerang-style. As intended, it went flying far and wide past the target.
“And Tai and Jacky have been eliminated!” Angus declared. “That means the rest of ya advance to our next challenge. And an impressive performance from the blonde bombshell and Italian stallion, I might add.”
Claire walked up to Frank and slapped his ass. “Looks like we pervs, like, totally got it going on!”
Winston and Gigi stared at each other in shock. But before they knew it, Tai’s ax boomerang came soaring back, nailing the side of Angus’ Volkswagen.
***
“FIX THE FUCKING AC,” growled Evelyn the RA in a low, demonic voice. “I WILL BURN THIS MOTHERFUCKER TO THE GROUND.”
In Sarah and Gigi’s room, Tai and Jacky had taken shelter from this emo demon, who was now stomping up and down the hallway. Sure enough, the AC was broken again. And after Tai had escorted Jacky up seven flights of stairs to “his” room, they’d found it virtually impossible to stop sweating.
“So let’s dive into Genesis 5 where we left off,” Jacky suggested, as they sat together on the futon. “It’s a little gnarly since it’s all genealogy. We’ll have to quiz each other when we’re done so we make sure we got it down pat!”
Jacky cracked open the bible, just as Evelyn screamed from the hallway. They rushed to the door and peeked out. Evelyn had let down her jet-black hair and had smeared mascara on her, sweating pale face. She locked eyes with the two young men. “WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING HERE?” the demon within her tremored.
They quickly shut the door and got back to their bible study. “Well...anyway, this is the written account of Adam’s family line,” Jacky read. “Basically, this is gonna be a righteous heck-ton of funky names to remember. My youth pastor showed me an easy way to memorize them, where-”
Death metal blared in the hallway. Over the heavy muted guitar and the rapid-fire double bass, Evelyn released a primal roar.
“So yeah, an easy way to memorize the names is word association!” the sweating Jacky yelled over the screeching guitar solo. “For example, take Adam and Seth, who-”
“EVERYBODY BREAK SHIT,” Evelyn screamed, as the deafening breakdown began. Tai rushed to the door and peeked out again. This time, she was breaking off a long fluorescent light tube from the ceiling. Several of her female hallmates observed like visitors at a zoo. Evelyn reared back and smashed the wall, shattering the light into pieces.
“All right, bro,” Jacky finally sighed, shutting the bible and standing up. “Look, let’s just go to your actual room.”
“W-what?” Tai stuttered, closing the door.
“Come on brochacho,” Jacky said, slicking back his long blonde hair. “You think I didn’t catch on? There are the female girls in the hallway with the female devil incarnate. Not to mention the…dreadful taste in bedroom decor in whoever’s room this is. Come on, man. I wanna see the real you.”
They stared into each other's' cool grey eyes. Finally, Tai nodded and reached out to shake on it. Instead, Jacky held his hand and interlocked his fingers. They sneaked out into the hallway, and Jacky led the way to Tai’s room.
“H-how do you know where we’re going?” Tai asked.
“I’m your mailman,” Jacky answered, giving his hand a squeeze. “I know a lot more about you than you think. Heck, don’t even get me started on your roommate’s male enhancement subscription.”
As they descended the stairs, a herd of female students tried to restrain the spawn of Satan in the hall.
***
“Next up is the zip-line races!” Angus announced.
He drove the four competitors deep into the Pisgah National Forest with the ax still lodged in the van. He slowed to a stop in a green, tranquil meadow where sunlight peeked through the treetops. There, two huge zip-lines ran from the tops of starting platforms, all the way to a platform on the far side of the clearing.
Angus passed out a few safety harnesses, and everyone suited up. “Mine’s, like, a little too big!” Claire whined. “Gigi, you should totally trade with me since you have a tad more cushion for the pushin’! Hey, at least your boobs are smaller than mine! That, like, must be so convenient.”
Gigi ignored her, hooking herself to the lane behind Winston. Claire attached herself to the lane behind Frank. And Angus began the long walk toward the finish line platform. Now out of earshot, both groups began climbing the long rope ladders up to their platforms. Winston purposefully took his time. Halfway up the ladder, Winston stopped and looked down at Gigi.
“Hey, I know I’m being stubborn,” Winston said. “But I really wanna talk to you, if you’ll have me. Just give me a chance to explain-"
“She’s a total bitch!” Gigi hissed, surprising even herself. “If you’re dating her, we’re no longer friends.”
Frustrated and torn, Winston sighed. “Right. I reckon actions speak louder than words anyway.” He reached into his shorts pocket and pulled out a mini can of WD-40. Then, he proceeded to spray the shit out of both of their zip-line hooks.
“W-what the hell is wrong with you?” Gigi exclaimed, choking on the fumes.
“WD-40 is God’s lubricant,” Winston explained. “Now we’ll have a little speed boost when we race ‘em. Sorry, buddy, but I need us both to win so we have some alone time to sort things out.”
“You’re being absolutely ridiculous!” Gigi said, flabbergasted.
“I realize that. So I reckon I’ll make you an offer. When it’s me versus you at the finals, I’ll let you win so you get the Lazy Basil gift card. Deal?”
Suddenly, Gigi’s big, brown eyes shot open and her countenance sang a different tune. Lazy Basil was the finest Italian restaurant in all of Asheville - maybe all of North Carolina. And Frank would not be cooking her an Italian dinner until this Friday. After tasting a little bit of chocolate every day to prepare her body for cheese, she could not wait a day longer.
“Pray tell!” Frank suddenly yelled, looking down from his platform at the stragglers. “Art thou stuck on the ladder, Sir Winston? Mayhaps we require usage of a construction crane to haul up your portly frame.”
Winston grunted, then spat on the ground. “So what was that you were saying about my girlfriend being a bitch?” Winston asked Gigi.
Reaching the top of the ladder, Winston and Gigi stepped onto the platform. A perfect view of the bright green hemlock trees of the Pisgah National Forest. From the finish line platform, Angus pumped his fist. “Let’s get these wagon wheels a’rollin’!” his voice echoed across the forest. “Fellas up first!”
Winston made the mistake of looking down at the endless ocean of treetops. Stomach lurching, he closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Then, hands trembling, he moved his greased-up zip-line hook to the starting position.
Gigi tapped his shoulder. “Are you...afraid of heights?” she asked, more like a mother than a caring friend.
A sudden breeze caused their platform to sway ever-so-slightly. Winston hunched over and vomited his morning screwdriver into a nest of endangered birds. He wiped his mouth and looked up at Frank’s shit-eating grin. Winston simultaneously flicked him off while giving Angus a thumbs up.
“Ah, we’ve got ourselves a fighter!” Angus called out. “Ready. Set. Go!”
Winston and Frank kicked off their platforms, soaring over the forest. Sure enough, his WD-40 hack gave him the extra acceleration he needed. He held a clear lead over Frank as Angus’ platform grew closer and closer. Not even Frank’s Italian expletives could stop him.
“Wiiinston wins!” Angus cheered, as Winston whizzed up to the platform. And only a split-second later, Frank came in hot, landing gracefully.
“I underestimated thy aerodynamic stature!” Frank admitted. “Mayhaps I too require an uptick in fine American cuisine, say steak and potatoes?”
Back at the starting line, Gigi grabbed her hook and slid it into a starting position. She looked up at her hands, now slick with grease.
“I’m, like, totally sorry about being so rude earlier,” Claire said, making a pouting face. “Look, if you let me win, you get to leave class early with Frank, and I can have the gift card! And not to be totally awkward, but I think you could, like, have a super-hot figure without that Italian food in your diet.”
Two minutes later.
“Gigi wins!” Angus cheered, as she came careening to the finish line. A split second later, Claire came flying by - seething.
“Like, it’s totally not fair!” Claire cried, stomping her feet. “Gigi, like, totally called me a hashtag raging thundercunt! It, like-like-like-like-like, totally distracted me from the race!” Again, more crocodile tears while Claire buried her face in Winston’s shoulder.
“Woe is me!” Frank cried out, grabbing her shoulders. “Oh, the humanity! Alas, say you did no such thing!”
“There, there,” Winston said nonchalantly, patting Claire’s head like a dog. “I’m sure it ain’t that serious.”
Angus covered his mouth. “Oi, Miss Gigi: did you in fact call Lady Claire a raging thundercunt?”
Gigi politely crossed her hands in front of her waist, her messy black hair cascading over her pale face. And then: a tell-all smile.
“Well, you know we handle potty-mouths in Australia, right?” Angus asked. “We fuckin’ celebrate ‘em! And as for sore losers? We make ‘em walk the plank!”
Angus shoved Claire and Frank off the platform. They screamed until the cable pulled taut, leaving them dangling in midair.
“Congratulations, ya raging thundercunts!” Angus said to Winston and Gigi. “Now off to the finals we go. And doncha’ worry, ya blimey losers. My teaching assistant will come get ya down and give ya a comfy ride straight back to campus!”
Winston and Gigi climbed down the ladder and followed Angus out of the woods, leaving Frank and Claire as dinner for vultures. When the two were alone, Claire kicked off her tennis shoes and stretched out, showing off her flat stomach.
“I, like, always thought I had sex in every possible position!” Claire reflected. “Well, except for the Amazon position, since my fraternity forbids it. Awwwkward! But I’ve, like, totally never had sex in midair. Should we try it, Frank?”
***
It was a manic scene in the 700 Hall of Firewater. Hesitant to get the police involved, Evelyn’s roommates were in the process of summoning a Catholic priest to perform an exorcism. But she was no longer Tai and Jacky’s concern. The muffled screams, crashes, and bangs faded in the distance as the two guys entered the 300 Hall.
“We’re actually...not supposed to be here,” Tai cautioned, placing his hand on the doorknob to his room.
“How come, brotherman?” Jacky asked.
“It’s my roommate: Winston. There’s something in there that he doesn’t want me to know about. And he made me promise to not even let any visitors in our room.”
“So did he get it in writing, with a notary standing by?” Jacky joked.
“Pinky swear,” Tai corrected.
“Far out,” Jacky marveled. “That’s some next-level serious business.” Jacky chuckled, slicking his hair back. “So let me ask this about your roommate: would he rather us be in your room, or his sister’s room?”
Tai froze. Finally, he unlocked the door. “Touché.”
The mildew hit them like a freight train. The mattresses, rug, and futon cushion were all gone. Besides that, Jacky was standing in a typical college dorm. A football schedule and Megan Fox poster on Winston’s side. Video game and anime posters on Tai’s side. A dirty microwave and a mini-fridge, probably filled with light beer and leftover Chinese takeout.
Tai sat on the metal futon frame and patted the spot next to him. “So, what if we used flashcards to memorize some of those biblical names? It’s important for me to - WHAAA-!”
Jacky was frantically searching through Winston’s drawers. “Bingo, my man!” He held up the binder and read the spine. “What’s BDE anyway? Does it stand for big...uh, big-penis energy? Sounds like your roomie has some gnarly ego issues.”
Distracting himself, Tai opened the bible in his trembling hands. “So...uh...there’s Shem...Ham...and Japeth, the three sons of-”
Jacky plopped down next to Tai and opened the binder. “Dude! Do you know what this is?”
Tai looked down at pages upon pages of driver’s licenses in card sleeves. Every race, creed, and gender under the sun. And all featured photos that could pass for any young-looking 21-year-old.
Tai and Jacky had just uncovered Beta Delta Epsilon’s secret fake ID operation. Jacky searched through a few pages, and finally pulled out an ID that could pass for Tai. He removed it from the sleeve and placed it in Tai’s shaking hand. Then, he sat on his lap and held up an ID of a tan white guy with blonde hair. “I don’t wanna talk about Shem and Ham, my dude,” Jacky declared. “I wanna talk about our new legal names: Caleb and Demitri.”
“Ah, now I have an actual black guy’s name,” Tai chuckled, forcing a smirk. Suddenly, he slipped his hand up Jacky’s shirt, feeling his rock-hard abs. “I, uh...so do you want to roleplay...Caleb?”
“Not just roleplay, my dude,” Jacky whispered into Tai’s ear, nuzzling his cheek. “I want to help other people roleplay. Dude! What if we stole these fake ID’s and sold them to every underage student on campus? Think of how freaking righteous that money would be!” Tai’s heart raced as Jacky swung his legs over Tai’s waist, straddling him. Jacky ran his lips from his collarbone to his ear.
“That’s...illegal,” Tai moaned softly. “Not to mention a little ungodly.”
“Maybe so,” Jacky said, nibbling his ear. “But I follow God, not the world. Some people don’t know the difference.
“Caleb” and “Dimitri” rolled off the futon, kissing, biting, and scratching each other until the clothes flew off. And little did they know Evelyn was scouring the 300 Hall with a chef’s knife in her hand, searching for them.
***
“The grand finale!” Angus announced. “The rock climbing wall!”
Angus led Winston and Gigi to a huge rock wall on the face of the Pisgah Mountains. This time, there was no cheat code in the world that would work in Winston’s favor. While his upper-body strength toppled that of Gigi, he was simply hauling a much larger load.
“The rumors are true!” Angus chuckled. “There is a 50-dollar Lazy Basil gift card up for grabs for the first one to reach the top.”
He strapped Winston and Gigi to the climbing cables, then took a step back. The trembling Winston glanced over at the cool, confident Gigi. “It looks like it’s just me and you, buddy,” he said. “So, do ya reckon you can tell me what I can do to make things right?”
“Go, go, go!” Angus suddenly shouted.
Gigi, quick and nimble, jumped straight up and grabbed her first hold. With ease, she began traversing the wall like an orangutan. Winston chugged along, contorting his body in awkward positions just to keep from falling.
“Look, Gigi!” Winston called out. “I hate that it’s like this between us. Man, I just wanna know what I can do. Hell, you can have my purple V-neck shirt that you accidentally stole.”
No response still. She worked swiftly and calmly as she approached the halfway point. Winston caught a lucky break, catching some easy holds as he covered a few feet. But there was no way in hell he could match Gigi’s steady pace. Plus, the higher he got, the higher the screwdriver rose in his throat.
Desperate, Winston reached around with one hand and unstrapped his vest.
“Oi, what the fuck are ya doing, mate?” Angus spat from far down below. Winston slipped out of the vest and pushed it to the side. Now, he was climbing freely. Fear coursed through his veins, but so did adrenaline. He used that stress to heave himself up much faster than before. Gigi, now past the halfway point, looked down to see Winston’s pleading eyes looking up at her.
“Gigi, I’m sorry!” Winston yelled. “Look, I...I can’t honestly tell you that I’m sorry for meeting up with Claire at the house. Because I’m not. But fuck, I’m sorry you had to walk in and see it! And...I’m plum-fuckin’ sorry I didn’t consider your feelings for me at the time. I reckon that ship has sailed. But fuck, I don’t wanna lose our friendship over it, Gigi!”
Gigi smiled at Winston for the first time that day. She shut her eyes tightly, fighting to block the tears. When she opened them again, Winston’s white knuckles curled around a tough hold.
“I’m not sure how long I can hold on, partner,” Winston groaned, smiling weakly. Slowly, piss began running down his leg, trickling a long way down to the ground below. Gigi began quickly backtracking, holding her breath.
“Winston,” Gigi consoled him calmly, now by his side. “I need you...I need you to reach out and hold me. Don’t let me go.”
He took a deep breath, then wrapped his arms around Gigi’s slim waist. His legs dangled free, supported only by her. Breathing heavily, Gigi kicked off the rock facing. Slowly, they began to descend.
“My real name is Ji-hye,” she said, as they approached solid ground.
“Ji-hye,” Winston repeated, his heart pounding as he held her in a death grip. “So, uh...why did you wanna tell me that?”
“Um...because we’re friends again!” she cheered, as they reached the bottom.
But before he could release her, Angus yanked his collar and held a hunting knife to his throat. His hair and face were drenched in Winston’s piss. “Oi, I oughta gut you like a fuckin’ fish, ya blimey bastard!”
“Wait, it’s not his fault!” Gigi interjected. “Um...a yellowjacket got caught between his shirt and vest and stung him pretty bad. He’s allergic, so he had no choice but to take it off!”
Angus cocked his head, letting her words marinate like the piss in his hair. Then, a proper belly laugh. He gave Winston a shove and put the knife away. “Yellowjackets?! Why, you Americans and bonafide pussies, that’s what ya are! Oi, you wouldn’t last a second down unda!”
Angus reached in his pocket and pulled out two 50-dollar Lazy Basil gift cards. “Fuck it, take ‘em both. After all, that was a mighty impressive showing of teamwork up there!”
Winston cleared his throat and held his hand up. “Thanks for the offer, Angus. But I’m a proud conservative. And I don’t need no goddamn participation trophies.”
Gigi socked him in the stomach. “Accept the gift card or we’re no longer friends!” she hissed, salivating over her imminent cheese dream.
***
“YOU HAVE SOMETHING I WANT,” the demon growled in the hallway.
Evelyn slowly dragged her chef’s knife across the door of Room 309 - a knife much larger than Angus’. Tai stared out the peephole, then rushed to the futon to grab his bible.
“We need to perform an exorcism ourselves!” Tai suggested, wearing nothing but bright blue boxers with coconut patterns.
“RIghteous idea, my man!” Jacky replied, donning yellow pineapple briefs. “The word of God is an indispensable weapon during the end times that we live in!”
Tai stared out the peephole again. Now, a senile Evelyn gently tapped the door with the tip of her knife. “Hey, uh, Evelyn,” Tai called out softly. “Why don’t we comb through Genesis together? I sure could use your help in memorizing the lineage of Adam!”
“NO BIBLE. I WILL STRANGLE YOU WITH YOUR INTESTINES!”
Jacky gave a thumbs up from the frame of the futon. “See, it’s working! That’s the devil in her trying to resist. But no man, woman, or spawn of Satan could possibly resist the righteous infallible word of God!”
Tai chuckled, half-nervous and half-relieved. Then, he opened the door halfway. “Welcome to our bible study, Evelyn! So if you would have a seat on our super comfy futon, we can-"
Suddenly, Tai lept behind the door as Evelyn charged through the room with her knife held high. “DIE! DIE! DIE!” she shrieked, heading straight for Jacky. He swiftly rolled under the futon frame, as Evelyn began stabbing through it, aiming for the head.
“Fuck!” Tai screamed, frantically flipping to Genesis 5. “Um, um...let the power of Christ compel you with His holy word! Enoch begat Methuselah, and Methuselah begat Lamech, and Lamech begat Noah!”
“WHY CAN’T I HAVE WHAT YOU HAVE?” Evelyn screamed. While Jacky cowered in a fetal position, she reared back and stabbed a hole in the wall.
“Oh, Evelyyyn?” Sarah Beavers called out, stepping into the room.
Evelyn spun around to face her, tears and mascara running down her face. She dropped the knife. Then, she swiveled her head around the room, dazed and confused.
“Oh...no,” Evelyn whispered in her normal voice. “Sarah, I did something bad, didn’t I?”
“Shush, it’s all gravy,” Sarah assured her, while Tai and Jacky looked at each other in shock. “Boys, let this be a lesson to you. Envy possessed Evelyn today. Not only was she envious of your AC, but also of your totally-rad same-sex relationship.”
Tai and Jacky realized they were still half-naked, and that it was too late to hide it. Evelyn, moaning softly, crawled over to Sarah and lay her head on her lap. Then, she began playing with Sarah’s dangling dreadlocks. “Now, now - no touchy-feely of the genitals,” Sarah politely warned her. “An asexual chick like myself ain’t no lamp in a corner, ya dig?”
Then, Sarah spotted the BDE binder on Tai’s desk. Cocking her head to the side, she slowly stood up to take a closer look.
“Shit,” Tai whispered to Jacky. “What do we do?”
“We can’t let her know about our operation,” Jacky whispered back.
“So, if my inner chi serves me well,” Sarah began, flipping through the pages. “You two plan on stealing Beta Delta Epsilon's fake ID collection from Winston, in a grand scheme to sell them to underage students?”
“What in the H-E-double-hockey-sticks?” Jacky whispered to Tai. “A psychic hippie? What kind of friends are you rolling with, bro?”
“I can hear you,” Sarah advised. She sat down next to Evelyn and slipped out an ID of a brunette hipster girl with straight hair. “It’s a crying shame that Winston didn’t think to include any white girls with dreadlocks. Simple-minded if you ask me. Oh! Evelyn, I found an ID just for you. See, she looks just like the chick from The Ring.”
“I will eat your soul,” Evelyn said in her normal voice. Suddenly, she pinned Sarah down and started tickling the hell out of her.
“Wait, so you’re not mad?” Tai asked Sarah, watching Evelyn win the completely non-sexual “game.”
Sarah caught her breath from her massive tickle-fit. Then, she snapped the binder shut. “Mad? Are you high? I’m a broke college student too. As a matter of fact, if you’re going to be making crazy money, I want in on it too. Evelyn and I both want in. And nobody, I mean nobody, breathes a word of this to my brother.”
***
Nine outgoing calls. Zero incoming calls.
Gigi slipped her phone back into her purse, fighting the urge to make it 10. On that windy night, she stood in downtown Asheville in front of Lazy Basil, waiting for Frank to fall from the sky. She was dressed up in a black polka-dot maxi dress with a white bow in her hair, knowing that she would be turned away for so much as thinking about blue jeans.
She grabbed a menu and read through the appetizers. Tempura Fried Calamari? Maybe. Chunky Spinach and Artichoke Dip? Eh. And then, her big brown eyes widened when she saw it. Caprese salad: fresh buffalo mozzarella topped with local organic tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, and fresh basil leaves from our herb garden.
“So he stood ya up, huh?”
Winston leaned against the streetlight in a black suit and tie. He took a final puff on his cigar, tossed it, then walked over to Gigi to read her menu. And like always, the smell of tobacco was masked by Winston’s signature sandalwood cologne.
“I can’t decide if I want the loaded macaroni and cheese,” Winston pondered, “or the fried cheese logs with marinara. Hey, ya reckon we could order one of each and share?”
Gigi wiped drool from the side of her mouth and came to her senses. “Um...wait, you’re not here for a date with Claire?”
Winston took out his phone and showed her the screen. Sixty-eight outgoing calls. Zero incoming calls. “Reckon I should try to call her one last time?” he asked with a grin. “I mean, I don’t wanna come off like a simp or nothin’.”
Fifteen minutes later, they were seated at a candlelit table for two. While they sipped on large glasses of red Moscato, Gigi explained her lactose intolerance and Frank’s plans to introduce her to cheese for the first time.
“So let me get this straight,” Winston said, leaning in. “You consider this cheating on your boyfriend, don’t you?”
“Um...well, it has nothing to do with you!” Gigi laughed nervously. “It’s...well, it’s cheating if I eat that.”
The waiter came over with a platter of Caprese salad and a refill of red wine. Winston picked up a soft, fluffy cheese disc and tore it in half. “I’m not a betting man. But I wager if your boyfriend wanted to have dinner with you, he’d be the one sitting across from ya.”
Gigi stared into Winston’s pale blue eyes, then at the mozzarella. Slowly, she reached out and placed it on her tongue. Then, she closed her eyes as the creamy, silky flavor graced her palate. She swallowed, then grabbed another, shoving the whole disc in her mouth. Satisfied, Winston pushed the plate toward her. Then, he took out his phone and turned on the camera.
“Here’s to Gigi’s first dairy experience,” he announced, taking a photo. “And, I reckon, the moment before one of her many trips to the bathroom.”
She gasped, tossing her dinner napkin at him. They laughed, garnering the attention of a couple of older, quieter patrons. But Winston and Gigi lived in their own world, sipping refill after refill of wine as she alone cleaned that plate. Before long, the waiter returned with fried mozzarella logs for Winston and loaded macaroni and cheese for Gigi.
“So, all jokes aside,” Gigi started. She leaned forward, the candlelight casting a golden glow on her grinning, pale face. “In your old YouTube days...how long would it take you to eat everything on this table?”
“Son of a bitch!” Winston laughed, dunking a log into his marinara. “I knew my sister told ya about my eating channel! How much of it did you get around to watching?”
“Oh, you don’t want to know!” Gigi giggled, taking her first-ever bite of mac and cheese.
And while the two loyal friends shared stories and cheese dishes, their other friends betrayed loyalty that night. Sarah, Tai, Evelyn, and Jacky used Winston’s fake IDs to bar crawl all over downtown Asheville. And Claire sneaked Frank into the Beta Delta Epsilon frat house, where they rolled in the sheets all night long.
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