Michigan Football Preview 2015

2015 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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Page 146 of 163

THE WOLVERINE 2015 FOOTBALL PREVIEW ■ 145 1. Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots Terrific Tom lived up to his nickname last season and was at his best on the biggest stage. The Patriots trailed the Seattle Seahawks and their No. 1 defense by 10 points in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl, and Brady found a way to lead the largest final-frame comeback ever in the big game. In the final 15 minutes, the signal-caller was 13 of 15 for 124 yards with two touchdowns. He three-yard touchdown pass to Julian Edelman with 2:02 left ended up being the difference, and his passer rating for the quarter was 140.7 (158.3 is perfect). He finished the contest with a Super Bowl-record 37 completions, and despite throwing a pair of interceptions, he also tallied 328 passing yards and four scores. The 28-24 win not only cemented his legacy with a record-tying fourth Super Bowl ring, but also gave him the league record for most postseason comebacks with six — breaking a tie with boyhood idol Joe Montana — and added on to his NFL record for postseason game-winning drives in the fourth quarter, which now sits at nine. He also tied Montana for the most Super Bowl MVP awards ever, with three, in his sixth Super Sunday appearance, which is tied for the most of any player in league history. He now holds the career records for pass attempts, completions, passing yards and passing touchdowns in the big game. Brady was his typical dominant self during the regular season, ranking fifth in the league with a 97.4 quarterback rating and tying for fifth with 33 touchdowns. His 4,109 yards passing ranked 10th in the league, while he led all playoff passers with 93 completions, 135 attempts, a 68.9 completion percentage and 10 touchdowns, and ranked third with a passer rating of 100.3. His six conference championships are more than any quarterback ever, and he also stands as the league's all- time leading postseason passer. He was named to his 10th Pro Bowl in 2014, which established a franchise record. 2. David Harris, LB, New York Jets The veteran linebacker has been a true iron man for the Jets, starting all 16 games each of the last six seasons. His 100 consecutive regular-season starts is the longest active streak by any linebacker, and he has been incredibly pro - ductive during that time, totaling a remarkable 682 stops. Last season was business as usual, and "the Hitman" posted 123 tackles, breaking into the triple digits for the third straight season and ranking 11th in the NFL. He also tied career highs with 5.5 sacks and two forced fumbles, while leading his team in stops for the third consecutive campaign. Harris recorded his 1,000th tackle in 2014, with a sack of fellow former U-M star Tom Brady. The ninth-year profes - sional became an unrestricted free agent after the season, but the Jets rewarded him with three-year deal, which should keep the anchor of their defense in New York for the foreseeable future. 3. Charles Woodson, S, Oakland Raiders Father Time is usually an athlete's biggest adversary, but Woodson continues to defy him. In his 17th professional campaign, the 38-year-old defensive back started every game and set career highs with 113 tackles and 83 solo stops. He also posted four interceptions, eight passes broken up, one sack and one fumble recovery, while be - coming the first player in league history with at least 50 interceptions and 20 sacks in his career. After leading his squad in tackles and interceptions, the Raiders signed the veteran to a one-year extension, which will keep him with the organization that drafted him fourth overall in 1998. Woodson ranked 64th in the NFL Network's ranking of the top 100 players in 2015 after not making the cut the previous year. 4. Brandon Graham, LB, Philadelphia Eagles Although Graham started only once last year, he played an integral role in the Eagles' 10-6 campaign and was named one of the league's top edge rushers based on advanced statistics. He matched a career best with 5.5 sacks, tied for third in the NFL with a career-high four forced fumbles and was among his team's leaders with 13.5 tackles for loss and 18 quarterback hurries, which ranked second and third, respectively. Pro Football Focus said the linebacker accumulated the highest ranking in their pass rushing productivity formula (17.32) last year — it factors sacks, hits and hurries relative to pass rushing attempts. In the last three seasons, he's listed as their top edge defender per 100 snaps, based on the metric. After starting outside linebacker Trent Cole left for the Colts this offseason, the Eagles made it a priority to keep Graham on the roster. He inked a four-year deal and should slide in to Cole's starting spot. 5. Ryan Mundy, S, Chicago Bears What a debut he had with the Chicago Bears, building off of the career year he enjoyed in 2013 with the Giants. Mundy started all 16 games and set career bests with 103 tackles, 75 solo stops, four interceptions, six passes broken up and one sack. He returned one interception for a touch - down — on Monday Night Football — and tied for 36th in the NFL in tackles, but ranked 10th among defensive backs. 6. Denard Robinson, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars After playing sparingly in the first six games, he broke out with 127 yards and his first NFL touchdown in a 24-6 win over the Cleveland Browns. That contest was his third as the starter, and only a season-ending injury suffered in week 14 could take Robinson out of the lineup after that. The speedster followed his breakout performance with another 100-yard rushing day, and also eclipsed 100 yards from scrimmage the week after that (94 rushing and 10 receiving). He finished the campaign with 582 yards and four touchdowns on 135 attempts (4.3-yard average), and also hauled in 23 receptions for 124 yards. 7. Larry Foote, LB, Arizona Cardinals The 13-year veteran started all 15 games he played in and totaled 83 stops, six tackles for loss, two sacks, one fumble recovery and an interception for the 11-5 Cardinals. It was a nice bounce-back after being limited to one game in 2013 due to injury. After the season, he was released so that he could be - come Arizona's inside linebackers coach, although head coach Bruce Arians said in February, "He still could play. We had to go through some different things with the league — there is no such thing as a player-coach — but we'll add him to the staff to get his coaching career started, but his playing career might not be over." 8. Leon Hall, CB, Cincinnati Bengals Returned from an Achilles tear that limited him to five games in 2013 to lead a pass defense that statistically ranked among the league's top 10 in several categories and led the 10-5-1 Bengals to the playoffs. He finished with 15 starts, 67 tackles, one interception and eight passes broken up. 9. Patrick Omameh, OG, Tampa Bay Buccaneers Despite entering the league as an undrafted free agent in 2013 and having never played a snap in an official game before the 2014 campaign, Omameh opened every game at right guard for the 2-14 Buccaneers. He is expected to play tackle this year. 10. Jonathan Goodwin, C, New Orleans Saints The veteran was a free agent until June 3 of last year, when he signed with the New Orleans Saints. He was not only familiar with the club that he played for from 2006-10, but it was also the site of his greatest triumphs — he won Super Bowl XLIV with the franchise and was named to the Pro Bowl in 2009. Goodwin quickly won the starting center job. He missed two games in the middle of the year, but started all 14 contests he appeared in. However, he is currently a free agent still looking for a team. Top 10 NFL Seasons In 2014 Last year, Eagles linebacker Brandon Graham matched his career high with 5.5 sacks and tied for third in the NFL with a personal-best four forced fumbles. PHOTO COURTESY PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

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