In San Francisco, the NFL’s Next Great Defensive Force Emerges

When we were rolling it was an environment for pure competitors. When it becomes something else, then it’s more difficult to thrive in, and I think that’s what was tough on Earl, that’s what was tough on a lot of guys. But I think as it kind of progressed, you start seeing the writing on the wall. You’re like, ‘Not only are they probably moving in a different direction,’ but it’s like, ‘Ah, well, I kind of want to move in a different direction, too.’ So it happens like that. All great things must come to an end, I guess.

The first big reveal for Clemson’s vaunted defensive line, which could produce a handful of first-round draft picks. In Albert Breer’s mock, he had three Tigers—Clelin Ferrell, Dexter Lawrence and Christian Wilkins—all going in the top 10. The Aggies have a serviceable enough offensive line, at least the best Clemson will face over the first month of the season. The buzz will only build from here.

DeMarco Murray retires at 30 years old, having given us the 17th-best rushing performance in a season in NFL history, and the second-best since 2010—his 1,845 yards for the Cowboys in 2014. One thing I remember clearly about that 2014 campaign, in which he never rushed for fewer than 70 yards in a game: Murray never shied away from contact. If there was an extra yard to be gained by running through a linebacker at the sideline, he took it. I’d have to imagine it was brutal for opponents, and for Murray, too.

The Patriot Way is already taking hold in Detroit, where players are appropriately terrified to speak to the media. At Stanford I asked Darius Slay if we could switch gears from discussing the cornerback gathering to talk about the Lions under former Belichick coordinator Matt Patricia. His response, in a perfect southeast Georgia drawl: Lawd Jesus, not the Lions. I ain’t fin to have Patricia calling me. He already done warned us man! They’re strict.

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