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Richard Sherman surprised many around the NFL in 2018 when he elected to join the 49ers in free agency, a team he had been archrivals with for his entire career as a member of the Seattle Seahawks.

The four-time Pro Bowl cornerback was asked to take a discount to return to Seattle after battling injury, and Sherman elected instead to bet on himself.

In a recent interview with Bleacher Report, Sherman opened up about the thought process that went into picking San Francisco as his free-agent destination. From Tyler Dunne:

He knew the scheme. Coordinator Robert Saleh was a quality control coach in Seattle. And Sherman believed in the personnel—could tell there was talent when he watched film from the previous few years, even though the defense operated in “awful schemes.”

Sherman, in particular, was not a fan of the defense during the very forgettable (and brief) Jim Tomsula era.

“I don’t know what the f–k they were running when [Jim] Tomsula was there,” Sherman said.

Since Sherman joined the 49ers secondary, San Francisco has gone from being in the bottom 10 in points allowed and total yardage allowed, to currently being fifth in points allowed and second in total yards.

[RELATED: Kwon has ‘outside chance’ of 49ers return, Shanahan says]

While the Stanford product can’t take all of the credit for San Francisco’s defensive turnaround, having an All-Pro caliber player as your No. 1 cornerback certainly hasn’t hurt.

Sherman missed the 49ers’ Week 15 loss against Atlanta, and hopes to return to the lineup before Saturday’s showdown with the Los Angeles Rams at Levi’s Stadium.

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The 49ers might have an advantage in the kicking game against the Rams on Saturday, and they could use it. Through the first 14 games of the current season, San Francisco hasn’t had the best luck when it has come to kicks.

The timing has been painful enough, as two-thirds of the 49ers’ losses have come by way of last-second kicks, including one in which San Francisco missed a would-be game-winner. In fact, the 49ers have missed a kick of some kind in each one of their losses. But as Meadowlands Media Group’s Michael Salfino pointed out Monday, their unluckiness in the kicking game extends beyond those heartbreaking occurrences.

The 49ers are BY FAR the unluckiest team in football. Not only have they lost all three games at (basically) the final gun but they are minus-7 in missed field goals (missed seven more than their opponents). That’s like seven turnovers @mlombardiNFL

— Michael Salfino (@MichaelSalfino) December 16, 2019
That’s right, the 49ers have missed a total of seven more field goals than their opponents so far this season. Between Robbie Gould and Chase McLaughlin, the two placekickers San Francisco has used this season have converted only 26 of their 35 combined field-goal attempts and all but one of their 44 extra-point opportunities. The sole point-after that went awry, of course, came in the fourth quarter of the 49ers’ last-second loss to the Falcons on Sunday.

Gould entered the season as the second-most accurate field-goal kicker in NFL history at 87.7 percent, but after holding out during training camp, he missed seven field-goal attempts over the first seven games of the season. Gould then sat out Weeks 10-12 with an injured quad and missed a field-goal attempt in the 49ers’ three-point loss in Week 13, but has been a perfect 5-of-5 over the last two games. Still, surely San Francisco was hoping for better production from the kicking game after giving Gould a four-year, $19 million contract with $15 million guaranteed back in July.

[RELATED: Where 49ers sit in NFC playoff picture with two weeks left]

Only the first two years of that contract are fully guaranteed, however, as the last two are team options. Considering the 49ers have two very important regular-season games remaining for what they hope to be a long playoff run, Gould should have ample opportunities to redeem himself — or put himself on thinner ice.

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San Francisco 49ers defensive back K’Waun Williams (24) is helped up after being hurt in the first half an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints in New Orleans, Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Brett Duke)
San Francisco 49ers defensive back K’Waun Williams (24) is helped up after being hurt in the first half an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints in New Orleans, Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Brett Duke)
Photo: Brett Duke / Associated Press
The 49ers’ second-ranked defense didn’t look even half as good Sunday in a 48-46 win over the Saints in which it surrendered its most points and yards of the season.

This Sunday? The 49ers might not have about half of their starting defense from Week 1.

Their uncharacteristically charitable performance in New Orleans didn’t cost the 49ers a win, but there was a cost. A slew of additional injuries to defensive players means the 49ers could be without five season-opening starters, along with first-string nickel cornerback K’Waun Williams, when they host the Falcons on Sunday at Levi’s Stadium.

Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh doesn’t expect the rest of the league to shed a tear for the 49ers (11-2).

“The NFL doesn’t really care about who’s playing,” Saleh said. “The train’s going to keep on moving.”

Four defensive players didn’t finish the game in New Orleans: edge rusher Dee Ford (hamstring), cornerback Richard Sherman (hamstring), nose tackle D.J. Jones (ankle) and Williams (concussion).

On Thursday, head coach Kyle Shanahan said on KNBR that Jones will be placed on injured reserve with a severe high ankle sprain. Meanwhile, Ford will miss at least the final three regular-season games, and Sherman will be sidelined Sunday. He said Thursday that he’ll return to play against the Rams on Dec. 21.

Safety Jaquiski Tartt and Williams have yet to practice this week for a defense that lost starting inside linebacker Kwon Alexander (torn pectoral) for the season in October.

The attrition partly explained Sunday’s performance in New Orleans.

San Francisco 49ers

49ERS
BY ERIC BRANCH
49ers’ Richard Sherman expects to return vs. Rams next week

49ERS
BY ERIC BRANCH
Richard Sherman 49ers’ nominee for Walter Payton award
Safety Marcell Harris, subbing for Tartt, whiffed on a tackle on tight end Jared Cook’s 38-yard touchdown in the first quarter and failed to cover tight end Josh Hill on a 3-yard score in the second quarter.

“The expectation is that there should be no drop-off,” Saleh said of the injuries. “We’ve got to coach them accordingly. And there’s going to be a little rust. With Marcell, you saw in the first quarter a little bit of rust as a starter to come back in there. There’s an adjustment. …

“So the expectation for him and all those guys is that you keep working your tail off to get better every single day so there is no drop-off. That’s the mind-set.”

Jones will join fellow defensive linemen Ronald Blair (knee) and Damontre Moore (forearm) on injured reserve, and reserve defensive tackle Jullian Taylor (elbow) remains sidelined.

The injuries up front explain why Jeremiah Valoaga, who recently was promoted from the practice squad, played nine snaps against the Saints.

And the attrition also explains why rookie edge rusher Nick Bosa has been playing far more. Bosa played a season-high 94% of the defensive snaps (68 of 72) at New Orleans. He has played at least 80% of the snaps in four of his past five games; he played 80% of the snaps in just three of the first eight games.

“He’s been doing a good job with it,” Saleh said. “He’s one of the more relentless human beings in terms of taking care of his body. … You’d like to limit his reps, obviously. We want to make sure that he’s not taking too much of a load.

“A lot of things have been happening, especially over the second half of the season, where it’s kind of forcing our hand. But credit to him: He does a great job getting himself ready to play on Sunday so he can handle it.”

On Thursday, the 49ers had linebacker Mark Nzeocha play on the defensive line to get through practice. And they are expected to activate defensive tackle Kentavius Street off injured reserve before Sunday’s game.

Street, a 2018 fourth-round pick, hasn’t played a regular-season snap in his career because of knee issues, but he could make his NFL debut as the 49ers play critical late-season games.

The injury situation might not be dire, but is it becoming slightly daunting?

Sherman dismissed that notion.

“We’ve got 11 (players) out there, I would expect us to uphold that standard,” Sherman said. “I think we have a tremendous amount of depth. … I think we can weather any storm with the guys that we have.”

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BRADENTON, Fla. – Marcell Harris on Sunday will be back where he ended his rookie season with the 49ers.

Harris will take over as the 49ers’ starter at strong safety with Jaquiski Tartt out for at least one game after sustaining cracked ribs in the team’s 20-17 loss to the Baltimore Ravens in Week 13.

Tartt and backup defensive tackle Jullian Taylor (elbow) have been ruled out for the 49ers’ game Sunday against the New Orleans Saints.

Two of the 49ers’ seldom-used wide receivers, Marquise Goodwin and Dante Pettis, are listed as questionable, along with left tackle Joe Staley. Goodwin has knee and foot issues, according to the team, while Pettis has already missed one game with a knee injury.

Staley has missed three games after surgery to repair a fractured and dislocated finger. He is expected to play Sunday.

All other 49ers players, including Dee Ford and Richard Sherman, will be available for Sunday’s game.

Harris started the final five games of his rookie season after being a sixth-round draft pick from Florida in 2018. He did not earn a spot on the team’s 53-man roster at the beginning of this season. Harris was promoted from the practice squad in October and has appeared in nine games this season.

“I’m real happy for Marcell,” coach Kyle Shanahan said on “49ers Game Plan,” which airs Saturday at 7 p.m. on NBC Bay Area (Ch. 3). “He’s gone come a long way, in that he was a very good college player, tore his Achilles his senior year, which really hurt him. That’s why we were able to get him in the draft. It affected him his whole rookie year.

“He’s been able to string together about eight months where he has been healthy, and when you’re made of the right stuff, you have the talent and you can stay healthy, you usually just need the time.”

Harris took over for Tartt on Sunday and made one of the top plays in the game when he took the ball away from Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson on a running play to create a turnover.

[RELATED: Sanders has been valuable resource for 49ers’ young WRs]

49ers injury report
Out
S Jaquiski Tartt (ribs)
DT Jullian Taylor (elbow)

Questionable
WR Marquise Goodwin (knee, foot)
WR Dante Pettis (knee)
T Joe Staley (finger)

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Injuries are a big part of every NFL team’s season, and San Francisco has dealt with plenty. In the 49ers’ first game since their last-second victory over the New Orleans Saints, they will need to overcome injuries to three of their five starting defensive backs.

San Francisco’s defense is coming off its worst performance of the season. Future Hall of Famer Drew Brees and MVP-candidate wide receiver Michael Thomas torched the 49ers for a season-high 46 points. To make things worse, the 49ers could potentially be without safety Jaquiski Tartt (ribs), cornerback Richard Sherman (hamstring) and nickel K’Waun Williams (concussion), who are all questionable for Sunday.

In their place would be Marcell Harris (six career starts), Emmanuel Moseley (eight career starts) and D.J. Reed (two career starts). Although Moseley has proved to be a quality starter this season (73.6 Pro Football Focus grade), Reed and Harris are rather unproven commodities. The 49ers must rely on their young defenders to not only earn a key-late season victory, but also clinch a spot in the postseason.

Normally, a receiver corps would be licking their chops at a short-handed defensive backfield like this, but the Falcons could be equally slim. Calvin Ridley, the team leader in touchdowns with seven, was placed on Injured Reserve this week and leading-receiver Julio Jones is questionable for Sunday.

If Jones, Sherman, Tartt and Williams are all inactive, expect a lot of experimenting by Atlanta’s offense, and a lot of safe zone coverages by the 49ers’ defense. Yet, just because both teams could be without some of their best talent, doesn’t mean they have no direction.

Atlanta still has quarterback Matt Ryan and tight end Austin Hooper. Hooper was one of the NFL’s best tight ends to start the season, but was sidelined for three games with an injury of his own. Doing most of his damage in the red zone, Hooper has six touchdowns and 640 receiving yards.

Despite possibly being without his best two receivers, Ryan won’t shy away from throwing the ball, especially downfield. Ryan has thrown under 30 passes just once this season, and that was when he was injured in the fourth quarter with 27 pass attempts. The gunslinger averages 40 attempts a game and has a 66.7 completion percentage. That, however, is mostly with Hooper, Jones and Ridley.

On Sunday, Hooper will be accompanied by Russell Gage (32 catches, 302 yards and a touchdown), Justin Hardy (16 catches for 155 yards), Christian Blake (11 catches for 91 yards) and Olamide Zaccheaus (one catch, 93 yards and a touchdown).

Defending those receivers should not be too difficult for a healthy San Francisco, but even if all three defensive backs are inactive, the 49ers should still be able to take control of the game.

San Francisco will still have middle linebacker Fred Warner, safety Jimmie Ward and cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon to defend the Atlanta pass-catchers, while also boasting one of the league’s best pass-rushes. One of the reasons San Francisco’s pass-defense has been so strong this season (first in the NFL in passing yards allowed per game) is its ability to get to the quarterback before he has a chance to find the open receiver.

This defensive game plan bodes well for the 49ers. Atlanta has surrendered the eighth most sacks in the NFL this season. San Francisco’s defense has the third most sacks. If those rankings stay true this Sunday, the 49ers’ defensive backs would only need to guard Atlanta’s receivers for so long, giving a vital advantage to San Francisco.

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SANTA CLARA — Tarvarius Moore is in the NFL’s concussion protocol after the 49ers’ backup safety and special-teams player injured his head in the fourth quarter of the 49ers’ 34-31 win over the Los Angeles Rams on Saturday night.

Moore was injured while making a big hit on Rams punt returner Nsimba Webster early in the fourth quarter of the 49ers’ victory at Levi’s Stadium.

Webster fielded Mitch Wishnowsky’s punt on one bounce and Moore, running at full speed from his spot as the gunner on the left side, immediately hit Webster after a 1-yard return.

Moore was evaluated for a concussion, and he now goes into the concussion protocol. He will not be eligible to play in the 49ers’ regular-season finale against the Seattle Seahawks until he clears the necessary steps in order to return to play.

Moore started the 49ers’ first three games of the season at free safety in place of Jimmie Ward. He has turned into one of the team’s best special-teams performers, and Moore had one of the plays of the season in the team’s victory over the New Orleans Saints.

The 23-year-old is one of four players with injury concerns as the 49ers head into the important Week 17 game, which will decide the NFC West champion. If the 49ers win, they will earn home-field advantage in the NFC playoffs. A Seahawks victory would drop the 49ers to the No. 5 seed, and they would open the playoffs with an opening-weekend game at the winner of the NFC East.

[RELATED: Huge 49ers-Seahawks Week 17 game flexed to Sunday night]

Defensive end Dee Ford is not expected to be available for Sunday’s game due to hamstring and quadriceps injuries. But the club expects Ford to be available for the playoffs, a source told NBC Sports Bay Area.

Safety Jaquiski Tartt (ribs) and defensive tackle Julian Taylor (elbow) have missed multiple games with their injuries. Each player is considered day-today. The statuses of both players will be determined later in the week.

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SANTA CLARA — Near the back corner of the 49ers’ locker room, a defensive back opened his backpack to retrieve his latest pay stub. He tore open the envelope to confirm what he already knew.

Antone Exum Jr., who makes his living as a professional football player, worked for free last week.

Pay to the order of Antone Exum Jr. in the amount of zero dollars, zero cents.

For the vast majority of NFL players, their salaries aren’t guaranteed. They receive 1/17th of their pay weekly during the regular season. Exum, a fifth-year pro, makes $705,000. Before taxes, that comes out to $41,470 weekly.

But the 49ers defensive back played for free last week while making his sixth start of the season because the NFL fined him $53,472 for a hit on Denver Broncos wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton in Week 14. Exum also was penalized 15 yards on the play, so he was punished twice for the same foul.

It looked — and felt to Exum — like a clean hit.

“It was a pretty clean shot,” he said. “ It just looked like … that much? For that?”

Hamilton caught an 18-yard pass on a post pattern, and Exum stepped up from his free safety position in the deep middle of the field to hit him. Exum clearly turned his left shoulder into Hamilton and did not lead with his helmet.

“They are trying to protect guys,” Exum said. “I understand, but I hope they thoroughly review the film and fairly review the case that we presented at the appeal when they think about reducing it.”

NFL appeals officer Derrick Brooks, the Hall of Fame linebacker, heard Exum’s appeal last week. Exum expects to hear to the result of his appeal in the coming days.

Exum was treated as a second-time offender after the NFL fined him $26,739 earlier this season for a hit away from the ball on Kansas City Chiefs receiver Sammy Watkins in Week 3.

Exum said he knew as part of the 49ers’ preparation — personnel, formation, and down and distance — that quarterback Patrick Mahomes would look to get the ball to Watkins across the middle. Exum jumped the route and hit Watkins, as Mahomes went to his second read to throw to Chris Conley. Exum was penalized for unnecessary roughness.

[RELATED: Why playoff-bound Rams won’t rest their starters Sunday vs. 49ers]

Brooks also heard Exum’s appeal on that infraction. The fine was reduced to $5,000.

“I’m not going to complain about that,” Exum said. “I know my intent. I don’t have any bad intent going to the head or neck area. I’m not that type of player to be targeting. It hurts me as much as it would hurt the guy I’m hitting. And it hurts the team.”

The fine money was reimbursed later. Exum hopes another successful appeal will show up in his final paycheck of the season.

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It was not a good day for 49ers wide receivers on Sunday.

Emmanuel Sanders, Deebo Samuel and Kendrick Bourne combined for just four receptions for 49 yards in the 49ers’ lackluster 29-22 loss to the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.

Contrast that to the Atlanta Falcons’ Julio Jones, who caught 13 passes for 134 yards and two touchdowns on the day at Levi’s Stadium.

The 49ers relied heavily on tight end George Kittle, who matched Jones’ numbers – minus the touchdown receptions. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo targeted Kittle on half of his 34 pass attempts.

Coach Kyle Shanahan said he did not believe the 49ers relied excessively on Kittle because Garoppolo did not force anything into double coverage.

“You don’t just call plays that say ‘Go to Kittle,’ ” Shanahan said. “You might want to start there and if they don’t double him, he usually gets it because he usually wins, and if not you progress. There are a number of plays we try to get to other people, but Kittle got the majority of it.”

[RELATED: 49ers report card: Grades on offense, defense in 29-22 loss to Falcons]

The 49ers had five receivers in uniform for Sunday’s game, but two were complete non-factors. Richie James played just three offensive snaps and did not have a pass thrown his way. Dante Pettis, a second-round draft pick in 2018, never even entered the game.

Here is a look at how much everyone on the 49ers played Sunday on offense, defense and special teams:

Offense
Total offensive snaps: 64
Quarterback – Jimmy Garoppolo 64
Running back – Raheem Mostert 34, Kyle Juszczyk 25, Tevin Coleman 19, Matt Breida 12
Wide receiver – Emmanuel Sanders 61, Deebo Samuel 57, Kendrick Bourne 34, Richie James 3
Tight end – George Kittle 61, Levine Toilolo 11, Ross Dwelley 9
Offensive line – Laken Tomlinson 64, Mike Person 64, Mike McGlinchey 64, Joe Staley 64, Ben Garland 64
Did not play – QB Nick Mullens, WR Dante Pettis, TE Daniel Helm

Defense
Total defensive snaps: 67
Defensive line – Nick Bosa 63, Arik Armstead 60, DeForest Buckner 60, Solomon Thomas 40, Sheldon Day 24, Jeremiah Valoaga 12, Kentavius Street 11
Linebacker – Fred Warner 67, Dre Greenlaw 65, Azeez Al-Shaair 18, Mark Nzeocha 1
Defensive back – Jimmie Ward 67, Marcell Harris 67, Emmanuel Moseley 66, Ahkello Witherspoon 66, D.J. Reed 49, Tarvarius Moore 1

Special teams
Total special teams plays: 30
Moore 25, Elijah Lee 24, Nzeocha 24, Dontae Johnson 22, James 20, Antone Exum 17, Mitch Wishnowsky 15, A-Shaair 15, Dwelley 13, Mostert 12, Bourne 11, Ward 11, Breida 10, Toilolo 10, Kyle Nelson 9, Armstead 9, Buckner 9, Day 8, Harris 7, Reed 6, Justin Skule 5, Robbie Gould 5, Daniel Brunskill 5, Jeff Wilson 5, McGlinchey 5, Garland 5, Tomlinson 5, Juszczyk 4, Thomas 4, Coleman 3, Moseley 3, Bosa 1, Greenlaw 1, Samuel 1, Warner 1

Not active
QB C.J. Beathard
WR Jordan Matthews
CB K’Waun Williams (concussion)
CB Richard Sherman (hamstring)
S Jaquiski Tartt (ribs)
DE Dee Ford (hamstring)
DT Jullian Taylor (elbow)

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The last decade of football at Kansas State has been rather exciting for fans, players and coaches alike. Between a Big 12 Championship, a few major upsets and some bowl wins, there has been a lot to cheer about as a Wildcat fan.

Bill Snyder 2.0 led the Wildcats through the majority of this decade, and then Chris Klieman came in for the final year of the decade. Between the two coaches, K-State compiled an 81-47 record and reached nine bowl games, including this year’s Liberty Bowl appearance, which is just a few days away. There has been tons to cheer for as K-State fans. And that’s largely because of the players on the field.

We cracked open the history books, looked back at some of the best careers for players over the last ten years of K-State football and decided which players have left the biggest impact on the K-State football program.

With the decade ending in just a few days, here is a look back at the all-time starting defense over the last decade at K-State:

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DEFENSIVE END — JORDAN WILLIS
Jordan Willis
Former defensive end Jordan Willis
(Photo: Peter G. Aiken, Getty)
Jordan Willis goes down as one of the toughest forces to stop on a K-State defensive line in history. At 6-foot-4 and 255 pounds, Willis finished his career with 113 tackles, 39.5 for loss, and 25.5 sacks to push for the top of the list in school history. Willis was named a Second Team All-American, a First Team All-Big 12 player and the Big 12 Defensive Player and Defensive Lineman of the year.

DEFENSIVE END — RYAN MUELLER

Ryan Mueller
(Photo: Scott Sewell)
Throughout his career in Manhattan, Ryan Mueller caused headaches for opposing offensive linemen. He had 116 tackles in his career (60 of which came in 2013 alone), 28.5 for loss and 16.5 sacks. Mueller was a First Team All-Big 12 selection in 2013 and 2014, a Second Team All-American in 2013, the Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year in 2013 and Honorable Mention Defensive Lineman of the Year in the Big 12 in 2014.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE — TRAVIS BRITZ

Former defensive tackle Travis Britz
(Photo: Scout.com)
For three consecutive years, Travis Britz found a way to blow up plays from his defensive tackle spot. He steadily improved over his career, finishing with 111 tackles, 24.5 for loss and 10 sacks. As a sophomore and junior, Britz was an Honorable Mention All-Big 12 pick, and then a Second Team All-Big 12 pick in 2015. He is now back in Manhattan as a graduate assistant on Chris Klieman’s staff.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE — WILL GEARY

Will Geary was a handful for opposing lines
(Photo: Steve Adelson, 247Sports)
Nobody expected a walk-on from Topeka to make as much of an impact as Will Geary did, but for four years, Geary proved people wrong. A four-year starter, Geary totaled 164 tackles, 25.5 for loss and 11 sacks. Throughout his career, he was First Team All-Big 12 three times, First Team All-American in 2017 and an Honorable Mention pick for Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year in 2017.

LINEBACKER — ARTHUR BROWN
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Former linebacker Arthur Brown
(Photo: Kevin Hoffman)
Although he was only at K-State for two seasons, Arthur Brown might be in the mix for the best defensive player of the decade in Manhattan. Over just two seasons, Brown had 201 tackles, 16.5 for loss and three sacks. Brown was the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, First Team All-American and First Team All-Big 12 in 2012, as well as First Team All-Big 12 and Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year in 2011.

LINEBACKER — ELIJAH LEE
Title/Alt Text
Elijah Lee was one of the better recruits in the 2014 class for K-State
(Photo: Scott Sewell, USA TODAY Sports)
Perhaps no defensive player bust onto the scene faster than Elijah Lee did. Taking the field as a true freshman in 2014, he went from 19 tackles, to 80, to 110 in his three-year career before going to the NFL. Lee finished with 209 tackles, 18.5 for loss and 11 sacks. He was Honorable Mention Big 12 Freshman of the Year in 2014, First Team All-Big 12 and Honorable Mention Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year in 2016.

NICKELBACK — RANDALL EVANS

Former defensive back Randall Evans
(Photo: Scott Sewell, USA TODAY Sports)
As Randall Evans got older, nobody wanted to throw his way. He went from no interceptions as a freshman, to one as a sophomore, two as a junior and then four his senior year. Evans also recorded 210 tackles, 10.5 for loss, and two sacks. He was a First Team All-Big 12 selection in 2014 and then picked in the sixth round of the NFL Draft.

CORNERBACK — NIGEL MALONE

Nigel Malone came to Kansas State from the junior college ranks and logged back-to-back significant numbers for interceptions.
(Photo: 247Sports)
After transferring in from junior college, Nigel Malone had a stellar career, even if it was just two years in Manhattan. He totaled 109 tackles and 12 interceptions, seven in 2011 and then five in 2012. Malone was a First Team All-Big 12 pick and Third Team All-American in 2011, and then was named Second Team All-Big 12 and was an Honorable Mention All-American in 2012.

CORNERBACK — D.J. REED

Former cornerback D.J. Reed
(Photo: Emily Starkey, 247Sports)
Another junior college transfer, D.J. Reed was nothing short of a lockdown defender in his career. He had seven interceptions over his two-year career, while also recording 125 tackles, five of which were for loss. Reed was First Team All-Big 12 and the Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the year in 2016. As a junior in 2017, He was a First Team All-Big 12 and Second Team All-American pick, as a defensive back alone. That doesn’t count his multiple special teams awards.

SAFETY — DANTE BARNETT
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Former safety Dante Barnett
(Photo: k-statefans.com)
After being forced onto the field at a young age because of injuries to other players, Dante Barnett blossomed into a special defensive back at K-State. He finished with eight interceptions, four of which came in 2013 alone. He also had 242 tackles, 10.5 for loss, and one sack. Barnett was the Defensive MVP of the 2013 Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, Second Team All-Big 12 in 2014 and Third Team All-Big 12 in 2016.

SAFETY — TY ZIMMERMAN

Ty Zimmerman
(Photo: Scout.com)
From the start of his career until the end of it, Ty Zimmerman was always a force to be reckoned with. He had 13 interceptions in his career, two of which were returned for scores. He recorded 257 tackles, 11 of which were for loss. Zimmerman was an All-Big 12 selection all four years, including twice as a First Team pick, Second Team All-American twice and an Honorable Mention Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year pick.

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Raiders head coach Jon Gruden.

Unless the Oakland Raiders do a miracle and make it to the playoffs, there is another football week for the team. With such little time left in the season, Oakland kicked the tires on some young players. The trend continued Tuesday as the Raiders claimed former San Francisco defensive line Jeremiah Valoago among the eliminators.

On the move, the team sent defensive lineman Nick Nelson to the injured reserve. Nelson was recently promoted from the practice squad but was injured early in the game against the Los Angeles Charger on Sunday.

Valoago was a late-season addition for the 49ers and was recently waived by the team. He played in four games for them and compiled two tackles. He was originally signed with the Detriot Lions as an undrafted free agent in 2017 where he played nine games and notched a sack. He later walked the Miami Dolphins where he was a member of their practice squad for the 2018 season.

He had a long, five-year college career at UNLV, so he was familiar with the future home of the Raiders.

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JOHNATHAN HANKINS RESTRUCTURES IS ENGAGING WITH THE RAIDER
One of the unsung heroes in the Raiders’ defensive line was Johnathan Hankins. He is one of the best running backs on the team of all time but does not get a ton of fans because he is not a quarterback and only has one season. That should not discount his impact on defense this season. Thanks to his strong play, the Raiders converted his roster bonus into a sign bonus, according to ESPN’s Field Yates.

The Raiders changed the $ 1.75M roster bonus since DT Johnathan Hankins this offseason as a signing bonus, per source. Not only does it offer a bonus for two years, but it is often a reflection of a player who fits into the team’s future plans. He will be solid in 2019.

– Field Yates (@FieldYates) December 24, 2019

As Yates mentioned, this move is a good sign for Hankins’ future on the team. His roster spot doesn’t have to be given, but he looks like he’ll be joining the Raiders in Las Vegas. It’s not all that surprising considering the praise Jon Gruden gave the veteran in the offseason.

(Hankins) is probably our most improved player and most impacted defensive lineman to date, “Gruden said in August.” He has better durability, he can play hash on hash. I really like where he is, a lot. “