It's impossible to watch a broadcast of a Buffalo Bills game and not hear a mention of Josh Allen's amazing, unprecedented development. And the repeated mentions are logical, because his maturation is fascinating.
Once he entered the league, Allen was ferociously dedicated to sharpening the round edges of his game via improved footwork and throwing mechanics. He knew he had to be smarter with the football without losing his natural improvisational brilliance.
The Bills aided the latter element of Allen's growth by signing two mid-level receivers in the 2019 offseason -- Cole Beasley and John Brown. The savvy route-running veterans were immediate, reliable forces for Allen, and their presence on Buffalo's roster coincided with Allen's first positive step forward before his colossal eruption in 2020.
Beasley ultimately got more headlines than Brown for many reasons -- earning a controversial All-Pro nod in 2020 being one of them -- so this week's Practice Squad Power Rankings will highlight the always-overlooked "Smoke" Brown, after the veteran was elevated from Buffalo's practice squad and was on the field last week in the team's convincing win over the Patriots.
Allen had a 98 passer rating when targeting Brown during the wideout's two seasons in Buffalo -- the second of which was marred by injury.
Brown is 32 and bounced around the league after being released by the Bills. Sure, he's probably lost a step. Maybe two. When that inevitably happens to every player, it's vital to remember the level of speed with which they were starting. Brown ran 4.34 entering the league out of Pittsburg State in 2014.
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Sure, the offense is a little different now than it was during Brown's earlier stint with the team. But Buffalo's offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey joined the Bills in 2019 too. He knows Smoke well. During a Week 13 press conference, Brown spoke about the comfy feeling he gets in Buffalo, stating "this place felt like home."
Now, Smoke didn't see a target against the Patriots, yet, signed just days before, Buffalo's coaches trusted him to run a couple of routes. Even if the Bills happen to sign Odell Beckham Jr., Brown's presence on the team feels like the trustworthy, long-lost friend is back for a critical time, just in case Allen and Co. need reinforcement down the regular-season stretch or in the playoffs.
After consecutive weeks without an elevation, The PSPR is back. LET'S GO. The Bears smartly elevated Harrison Hand for their Week 13 contest against the Green Bay Packers. No, it didn't ultimately spark a victory for Chicago, but it was a necessary move. By the way, wins over the Packers are coming for the Bears.
Oh, and by the way, we're going with a full-scale, anyone is fair game, regardless of NFL experience, week at The PSPR. Teams are taking advantage of the new, loosened practice-squad rules as they pertain to veterans. We are exercising the right to feature them too. Boom roasted.
Remember faithful PSPR patrons, don't be shy to hit me up on Twitter @ChrisTrapasso to alert me about any PSPR members getting the glorious call this weekend.
The expanded, 16-man practice squads are about the only good thing to come out of the pandemic, and they're here to stay in the NFL. Because of this, I run the Practice Squad Power Rankings parallel to the league. I write about 16 individuals every Friday, 10 officially in the rankings and six honorable mentions.
Here's to the Practice Squad Power Rankings flourishing this season and starting to cement its legacy in the hallowed halls of the internet's football-media industry.
10. Andy Isabella, WR, Ravens
Isabella was a blisteringly fast, do-everything wideout at UMass, went in the second round, and never popped in Arizona. He's not solely a gadget-type either. He has low 4.31 speed in his smaller frame. The Ravens have to do everything possible to maintain some semblance of electricity in their passing attack, especially when Lamar Jackson is on the shelf with an injury. Isabella being elevated to bring some downfield juice to Baltimore's offense would be a smart idea.
9. Brandon Williams, DT, Chiefs
Williams spent time as arguably the NFL's best pure nose tackle, from about 2014 to 2017, when he devoured running backs on a weekly basis in the middle of the Ravens vaunted defensive line. The now 33-year-old dealt with two bouts of COVID during 2020 in Baltimore and played a part-time role in 2021. He's a massive human at around 6-1 and 335 pounds.
8. Jermaine Carter, LB, Browns
Beyond Myles Garrett, the Browns defensive front seven is, yeah, it's bad. Really bad. Carter has appeared in 68 regular-season games and started 30 of them, including 17 starts for the Panthers last season. He's a chiseled, athletic second-level, and Sione Takitaki just went on IR. Call up him, Cleveland.
7. Reggie Roberson, WR, Titans
Roberson's juice was sapped by a devastating knee injury in his second-to-last season at SMU, yet I will never, ever forget how explosive Roberson was before he went down in 2020. The Titans are absolutely reeling at receiver, and they clearly have no interest in elevating former fourth-round pick Dez Fitzpatrick at the position. Give Roberson an opportunity. There's still some burst and cutting skill to his game.
6. John Hightower, WR, Chargers
The Chargers are getting healthier at receiver yet could use more downfield potential at the position for their Week 14 matchup with the Dolphins. Hightower was hardly utilized in Philadelphia before landing in Los Angeles. He did average nearly 17 yards per grab there -- on 10 catches -- and was a big-play weapon at Boise State before entering the league.
5. Solomon Kindley, OG, Giants
The Giants were reeling, then they tied the Commanders. They need to block well for Saquon Barkley and give Daniel Jones decent protection. The offensive line is banged up, and the guard play as been average at its absolute best anyway. Kindley is a compact, road-grading interior blocker who started 13 games for the Dolphins in 2020.
4. Michael Dogbe, DL, Cardinals
Dogbe was a full-time player for the Cardinals in 2021 and flashed -- albeit minimally -- as a versatile defensive linemen on Vance Joseph's defense. At 4-8 Arizona has zero room for error, and the front seven on defense has been J.J. Watt, Zach Allen then a precipitous drop-off.
3. Kemoko Turay, EDGE, 49ers
Nick Bosa is dealing with hamstring irritation, and even though he'll probably play against the Buccaneers in Week 14, it wouldn't hurt the 49ers to call up another defensive end to spell him at times so he's as fresh as possible for Week 15's prime-time showdown with the Seahawks and, of course, the playoffs. Turay is an incendiary athlete who battled through many injuries in Indianapolis but looked like a promising pass rusher when healthy.
2. Bryan Edwards, WR, Chiefs
Edwards is classic "what if?" case. What if he didn't break his foot during preparation for the 2019 combine? How high would he have been picked? Despite the ailment, he still went No. 81 overall that April after a dazzling four-year career at South Carolina. And despite not getting the opportunities normally provided to a first- or second-round selection, Edwards has proved he can ball in the NFL. Last season on the Raiders, he had 34 receptions for 571 yards (16.8 yards per grab) with three scores. Now, of course, the Chiefs are humming offensively, and on the surface, don't need receiver reinforcement. But remember, Mecole Hardman is still on IR, and JuJu Smith-Schuster suffered a concussion a few weeks ago. The 6-3, 215-pound Edwards can be a useful weapon on the outside for Mahomes.
1. John Brown, WR, Bills
Brown gives the Bills what they do kinda-sorta need offensively -- another steadfast threat on the perimeter. Stefon Diggs can certainly win near the boundary, but Buffalo has been exploiting lesser matchups for Diggs in the slot this season more than before (his target percentage in the slot is up to 28% from 16% a season ago).
Even if he's not going to be as threatening down the field, Brown has proven to be capable of winning on the outside with crisp routes, and he has a large catch radius relative to his smaller size.
Tevin Coleman, RB, 49ers
Christian McCaffrey is also a little dinged right now. Coleman feels like that late-season call-up who could turn in a quality performance for Kyle Shanahan. In his prime, Coleman was best as a one-cut run, and that's all he'd need to be in San Francisco's zone-blocking scheme.
When the Packers are running it well, they're very difficult to stop. To keep Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon -- the latter of whom hasn't been overly effective this season -- fresh, call up Goodson, who was born to run in Mike LaFleur's outside zone system and has serious juice. He ran 4.42 at the combine.
Johnson was a stat-sheet filler at Marshall with 302 tackles, seven picks and 19 pass breakups in five seasons. He can man the nickel corner spot. Free safety. Strong safety. He tackles well and plays with authority on every snap.
Earlier this season, while with the Bills, Emili had a key tipped pass that led to a Jordan Poyer interception in Buffalo's huge comeback win over the Ravens. The Penn grade is a twitchy up-the-field, no-hesitation rusher -- the exact type of player New Orleans could use on its defense right now.
Brooks was a late bloomer at Cincinnati but may boast the most dynamic purely pass-rushing three technique in the 2022 class. I mean that. On just 304 pass-rushing snaps, Brooks registered 43 pressures, thanks to an awesome blend of first-step quickness, leverage and power at the point of attack.
The Rams are essentially fielding a practice squad on offense right now -- plus Baker Mayfield! -- so why not see what you have for the future in Roberson? It's that's time. And, no, he's not related to Reggie above. Fun coincidence, though. Roberson was a productive weapon at Wake Forest the past two seasons with 133 catches and over 2,000 yards.