Card: Sage 2014 (212/250)
Acquired: 2016, Box Breaker
Ross Cockrell played collegially at Duke where he was a starter as a true Freshman. In 49 games playing for the Blue Devils, Ross had 233 total tackles, 7 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 1 forced fumble, and 12 interceptions for 80 yards and a TD. A solid special teamer, Ross also holds the school record for the longest blocked field goal return for a TD with a 75-yard gallop against FIU in 2012. Ross performed well at the combine, and improved upon his numbers at his pro day.
Cockrell was selected in the 4th round by the Buffalo Bills, but after seeing limited action his rookie year, he’d be cut a year later. The Bills hoped to bring him back to the practice squad, but he’d jump to the Pittsburgh Steelers instead. He quickly assimilated the defensive game plan and started 7 games in 2015. He posted 2 interceptions, 11 pass deflections, a forced fumble, and 33 tackles. During 2016, Cockrell started the entire slate of games, and had 47 tackles, 14 pass deflections, and a fumble recovery. He’d be traded to the New York Giants in 2017 after the arrival of Joe Haden in Pittsburgh. Over 9 starts, Ross recorded 3 interceptions, 11 pass deflections, and 37 tackles.
Always flying under the radar, I had hoped the Texans would make a move for Ross, who is a pretty good slot man, however they had their fill of DBs bringing in Aaron Colvin and Honey Badger.
Ross took his talent to another defensive minded franchise instead for 2018- The Carolina Panthers. Ross had a pretty solid camp ongoing, and was expected to start, until he broke his leg. He spent the entire season on IR.
Card: Sage 2014
Acquired: 2016, Box Breaker
Dominique Easley played college ball for the Florida Gators from 2010 to 2013. An impressive defensive line talent Easley posted 72 total tackles, 18 tackles for loss, and 5.5 sacks, but has been plagued by injuries (most troubling) to his ACL. He’d be selected by the New England Patriots with the 29th pick of the 2014 NFL draft to be groomed as Big Vince Wilfork’s eventual replacement on the line. After playing sparingly, he’d be placed on IR to end his rookie season with 9 tackles, a sack, and a pick. In 2015, Wilfork departed for greener pastures leaving Easley squarely in the rotation, but once again Easley frustratingly finished the season on IR, after just 15 tackles and 2 sacks. He’d be cut by the team in 2016.
Passing through waivers, Dominique signed a contract with the Los Angeles Rams. The bet paid off as he had a solid season worked into the defensive line rotation. He’d post a career high 35 tackles, 3.5 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles. Easley resigned with the Rams in 2017, but tore his ACL again in camp ending his season before it began.
Cards: Sage 2014 (72/250), SP 2014, Crown Royale 2014
Acquired: 2016,2017 Ebay
Failure: 2014, C/o The Houston Texans
Alfred Blue has always been an interesting diamond in the rough. Originally a 6th round pick out of LSU, Blue compiled 209 carries for 1253 yards and 11 TDs over his college career. Primarily coming in off the bench and oft-injured, Alfred only technically made 7 starts for the Tigers. While he’d probably be considered the #1 back at many other schools, it really tanked his draft stock as LSU keeps a solid stable of backs. Coaches also felt that Alfred was weak in pass protection and overall physicality. It was surprising to see Blue drop so far into the 2014 NFL Draft, but the Texans were fine picking him up there in the 6th round.
Houston was rebuilding its runningback depth chart. With Arian Foster oft-injured and Ben Tate realizing his dream of being a #1 back in Cleveland, the Texans needed to revitalize the position. Blue has been an O’Brien favorite since claiming a spot on the Texans roster. He rushed for 528 yards and 2 TDs in his rookie season.
In 2015, Blue helped the Texans reach the playoffs stepping in for Foster for 9 games, rushing for 698 yards on 183 carries and 2 TDs. He ran a career high 31 times for 139 yards and a TD against the Buccaneers in a 19-9 win during week 3. 2016 saw the arrival of free agent Lamar Miller for the Texans, essentially replacing Arian Foster as the lead dog. Blue would become more of a change of pace back to Miller, and while Alfred was more efficient, his carries dropped.
It appeared that 2017 was the year that Alfred was going to be on the way out, as the Texans drafted Doak Award Winner D’Onta Foreman in the 3rd round. Foreman impressed and climbed the depth chart, but tore his Achilles ending his season. Blue stepped in near the end of the season and chipped in 108 yards on 16 carries in a loss to the Steelers. He finished the year with 262 yards on 71 carries and a TD. He also had 7 catches for 54 yards. Houston didn’t really do anything with their RB depth for the 2018 season. Blue found no suitors in the open FA market worth signing with and re-upped with the Texans. A valued special teams contributor, Alfred will find competition this season from Tyler Ervin, but it remains to be seen what will happen before opening day.
I had tried to get Blue during his rookie season on a card or two as well as a great photo of him diving over a pile to score a TD but disappointingly he didn’t respond. Eventually I gave up and during the low point of the season in 2016 and 2017 I bought a few of his cards.