Behind the O-Line: Texans’ line keys running game with zone scheme

By Nick Shook
Around The NFL writer
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The Houston Texans are one of the league’s hottest teams and are drawing deserved attention.

Houston hasn’t lost a game since September, winning in a variety of ways that were mostly by close margins. Then came Week 13 and its dominant win over the Cleveland Browns.

That victory opened the eyes of the league, as the Texans cut down a Browns team that was riding high after two straight victories. Three interceptions led the way for Houston, shutting down rookie Baker Mayfield in the first half and then managing to maintain the lead despite Mayfield throwing for 351 yards in the second half.

The defense played well again in Week 13, but what about the offense? The unit led by rookie Deshaun Watson has done its share to contribute to the winning streak, and deserve a closer look at how it’s doing so after recording victory No. 9.

Let’s go Behind the O-Line to figure out what is working for the AFC South leaders. Continue reading

Behind the O-Line: Browns’ changes at OC, tackle aiding Mayfield’s play

By Nick Shook
Around The NFL writer
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Hue Jackson’s firing has been a turning point of sorts for a Cleveland Browns team that, at 2-5-1, seemed destined for another forgettable finish and top five position in the upcoming draft.

The Browns‘ offense was stuck in first gear at best in the final days of the Jackson era, failing to get much of anything going in the passing game. It was an alarming shift after a hot start for rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield. Cleveland braced for more disappointment as the seemingly eternally gray skies in the region set in for a long winter.

But then came a ray of sunshine in the most unexpected form of running backs coach Freddie Kitchens, an NFL veteran who was promoted to offensive coordinator for the first time in his career.

Since Kitchens’ promotion, the Browns‘ offense has taken on a new look, answering prolonged calls for more involvement of running backs in the passing game and injecting life into a unit that was left on life support not too long ago. His approach has been simple: Shorten the passing game and keep defenses honest. Continue reading

Around the NFL Podcast: NFC Preview

A room filled with heroes – Dan Hanzus, Marc Sessler, Gregg Rosenthal & Nick Shook – recap all the latest news from around the NFL including the Cowboys vs. Texans game cancellation, the Browns releasing Joe Haden, and Matt Stafford getting paid. The heroes take you around the NFC in 48 minutes to preview the NFC divisions before the season.

Click here to watch the Around the NFL Podcast.

Click here to listen to the Around the NFL Podcast.

One family’s loss

By Nick Shook and Alyssa Morlacci

View video here: One family’s loss

Martin Alvord was an aspiring artist.

At a young age, he began checking out library books about famous artists. He used them to teach himself how to draw and paint, despite the fact he was born with just two fingers on each hand. While growing up in urban Akron, Martin practiced graffiti on dilapidated buildings. Once a family friend asked him to spray paint his entire basement.

Martin pursued his passion for art in college, first attending the Cleveland Institute of Art and then transferring to Kent State. Despite many successes, Martin felt pressured when figuring out how to make his art profitable. He didn’t want to sacrifice his own creative freedom for the financial pressures associated with a college education.

Martin died by suicide on Nov. 13, 2011. His friends and family remember him as a fun-loving, comical young man with a bright future that was ended too soon.

Martin’s oldest brother, Phil Alvord, and college friend Eddie Kilroy reflect on Martin’s talents, hilarious personality and sudden departure.