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News » Exploiting matchups: Week 4


Exploiting matchups: Week 4


Exploiting matchups: Week 4

Atlanta Falcons at Carolina Panthers


Falcons RB Michael Turner vs. Panthers LB Jon Beason

The Burner is leading the league in rushing with 368 yards. The Panthers held the Minnesota Vikings' Adrian Peterson to 77 yards rushing on 17 carries last week, although his hamstring was ailing a bit. Turner will have to get past the hard-hitting Beason, who had seven stops against the Vikings. The Falcons are determined to establish the run and have shown that they will stay patient until something breaks. Turner has run with power and speed in two home victories.

Panthers WRs Steve Smith vs. Falcons CBs Chris Houston and Brent Grimes

In his return after serving a team-imposed two-game suspension, Smith caught four passes for 70 yards, including a 29-yarder, against the Vikings. You can bet he is itching to get into the end zone. Smith typically plays pretty well against the Falcons. Houston is coming off his best game as pro. After he was benched in practice in favor of Domonique Foxworth, Houston came out and man-handled Kansas City chiefs wideout Dwayne Bowe. With DeAngelo Hall gone, Houston wants to step into that roll as the top corner, and he'll get that chance to show his worth against Smith. Grimes had his first interception last week. The Falcons don't flip-flop corners, so these two will take whichever receiver shows up on their side of the field.

Panthers OTs Jordan Gross and Jeff Otah vs. Falcons DE John Abraham

Abraham jumps around and is always looking for a mismatch. He has six sacks this season. Two have come over right tackles, and four over left tackles. Abraham worked out Kansas City tackle Damion McIntosh with an inside spin move on the first play of the game to get his first sack. He registered another sack and his 29th career stripped fumble on the last play of the third quarter. Abraham has had some strong games against Carolina's Trevelle Wharton (knee), who's now playing left guard.

Cleveland Browns at Cincinnati Bengals

Browns RB Jamal Lewis vs. Bengals run defense

Browns coach Romeo Crennel has taken a lot of heat for the play calling at the start of the second half against the Baltimore Ravens. With a 10-7 lead at halftime, the Browns threw on five of their first six plays. Two of quarterback Derek Anderson's passes were intercepted, including one that was returned 32 yards for a touchdown. Lewis had run nine times for 40 yards in the first half. He was fuming afterward because he finished with 12 carries despite averaging 4.7 yards. For the year, he has 44 carries for 156 yards and no touchdowns. Crennel should make sure Lewis gets the ball Sunday. In 13 career games versus the Bengals, Lewis has averaged 119.3 yards per game. The Bengals are 28th against the run (174.3 yards per game). If Lewis can't get going this week, the Browns are in serious trouble.

Bengals QB Carson Palmer vs. Browns pass defense

The Browns have collected just three sacks this season; Palmer was brought down six times last week at the New York Giants. In four career starts at home against the Browns, Palmer is 4-0 and 70-for-117 passing for 811 yards, eight touchdowns and eight interceptions. Brandon McDonald is playing better than Eric Wright at cornerback in terms of coverage and run support. Mike Adams has been forced to play strong safety in place of the injured Sean Jones (knee). The Browns have picked off three passes.

Bengals WR Chad Ocho Cinco vs. Browns CB Eric Wright

Ocho Cinco is due for a big game. He has just eight catches for 88 yards and no touchdowns this year. The Browns seem like a good opponent to break out against; Ocho Cinco has 73 catches for 1,043 yards and eight touchdowns in 14 career games against the in-state rival. In Week 2 last year, he had 11 catches for 209 yards and two scores against Cleveland. Wright is in a bit of a sophomore slump and has been picked on by opposing quarterbacks. He has one interception and two pass breakups this year.

Houston Texans at Jacksonville Jaguars

Texans QB Matt Schaub vs. Jaguars DE Reggie Hayward

The veteran end will be lining up against rookie left tackle Duane Brown and targeting a quarterback who has been under fire since the season started. Schaub has already been sacked eight times and hit a number of others. The key to rattling Schaub will be simply rushing him - something other teams haven't had a hard time doing. He has to get rid of the ball more quickly and be prepared to throw it away if needed.

Texans RB Steve Slaton vs. Jaguars LB Mike Peterson

Slaton had a great first start against the good run defense of the Tennessee Titans. Now, he must prove he can provide similar results week after week. Peterson is a good tackler who will do all he can to keep Slaton out of the secondary and prevent him from making any big runs. Slaton is best at bouncing off defenders and getting outside. He will be expected to take the bulk of carries - around 20 is likely.

Texans WR Andre Johnson vs. Jaguars CB Rashean Mathis

Johnson has taken a liking to playing against the Jaguars, with an average of six receptions for 75 yards in the nine games he has played against them. That includes five games in which he has had seven or more catches; he has gained more than 90 yards in four of those contests. He has caught 72 passes for 992 yards and eight scores in his last 11 games played. Johnson needs just 58 yards this week to reach 5,000 for his career. Mathis will likely be assigned to Johnson much of the game. Mathis turned in a strong effort last week, with an interception returned 61 yards for a touchdown; the return ranks as the second longest in team history. Mathis has played every defensive down for the Jaguars this season.

Jaguars RBs Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew vs. Texans LB DeMeco Ryans

Just look at the numbers and you'll realize that the Jaguars will be heavy on the rush again this week. Taylor and Jones-Drew broke free for 121 and 107 rushing yards, respectively, last week against the Indianapolis Colts; as a team the Jaguars ran for 236 yards, the fourth highest total in team history. The Texans have had trouble stopping the run, allowing 183 and 154 yards in their first two games. In the first meeting between the two teams last year, the Jaguars tied their second highest rushing total ever with 244 rushing yards. Ryans has recorded double-digit tackles in his first two games this year. Taylor has rushed for 765 yards in 10 games against Houston, the second most yards by a Texans opponent in franchise history.

Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs

Broncos RBs Selvin Young and Andre Hall vs. Chiefs run defense

Kansas City has some issues, including a run defense that ranks 31st in the NFL. Although the Broncos have become a passing team and have a great matchup there, don't be surprised if they rely more heavily on the run. Head coach Mike Shanahan is confident in his running game. This might be an opportunity to make the offense more run heavy than it has been in the last couple of weeks.

Broncos WR Brandon Marshall vs. Chiefs CB Brandon Flowers

No matter which rookie corner, Flowers or Brandon Carr, covers Marshall, the league's hottest receiver, he will be a big part of the game plan. He had two big games against the Chiefs last year, catching 16 passes for 200 yards and two TDs. Marshall has already had a big game against Pro Bowl cornerback Antonio Cromartie of the San Diego Chargers, and this will be an even better matchup. Look for the Broncos to try to get Marshall singled up. If the Chiefs double him, the Broncos will take advantage of mismatches elsewhere. Flowers is a feisty player, though, and he won't back down. He has yielded little so far.

Chiefs TE Tony Gonzalez vs. Broncos SS Marquand Manuel

The Broncos generally defend Gonzalez better than any of the Chiefs' other regular opponents. Gonzalez had seven receptions for 76 yards and a touchdown in a December game between the teams last year. Otherwise, he has totaled 20 catches and a single touchdown in his previous seven games against Denver. Manuel, however, is generally regarded as a liability in coverage. If the Chiefs can get this matchup, they should look to take advantage.

San Francisco 49ers at New Orleans Saints

49ers RB Frank Gore vs. Saints run defense

Gore leads the NFL with 412 yards from scrimmage. He has 287 yards rushing and 125 yards receiving through the first three games. He is clearly the focal point of the offense. The Saints have struggled with their run defense. The opposition has gained 400 yards rushing, with a 5.3-yard average. The 49ers will want to run the ball at the heart of the Saints defense to stay out of third-and-long situations. That's when the crowd noise can be an issue at the Superdome.

49ers WR Isaac Bruce vs. Saints CB Mike McKenzie

Bruce has been up and down in his three games with the 49ers. He had a 153-yard performance in a victory over the Seattle Seahawks, but in his other two games, Bruce caught just two passes for 19 yards. He will be matched for a good portion of the game against McKenzie, who has enjoyed some good games in the past against the 49ers.

Saints RB Reggie Bush vs. 49ers LB Patrick Willis

Bush is making a big impression during his junior NFL season; he has rushed for 152 yards and a touchdown on 42 carries and caught 26 passes for 250 yards and two more scores. The 49ers will always be cognizant of where Bush lines up. The cornerbacks are spending a lot of time this week studying film of Bush as a receiver. Considering his tackling prowess, Willis will be the likely spy on Bush, at least in the running game. He has great speed, but it's doubtful he will be able to run sideline to sideline with Bush. Still, Willis must play a huge role in keeping Bush contained. Willis has 30 tackles in three games.

Saints WR Lance Moore vs. 49ers CB Nate Clements

With so many injuries to the Saints' wide receiver corps, Moore figures to be the steadiest set of hands remaining for quarterback Drew Brees. At the Denver Broncos last week, Moore caught seven passes for 76 yards - a career high in both aspects. The Pro Bowler Clements will look to shut down the Saints' 5-foot-9, 190-pound target; the high-priced corner picked off four passes in his first season by the Bay.

Arizona Cardinals at New York Jets

Cardinals OT Levi Brown vs. Jets LB Calvin Pace

It's one of the Cards' most recent No. 1 picks (Brown) against a No. 1 pick from 2003 (Pace) for the Cards. You know that Pace is going to want to create havoc against his old team and thinks he can cause problems against quarterback Kurt Warner. Brown, who did a very good job against Washington Redskins defensive end Jason Taylor a week ago, will have an idea of Pace's strengths and weaknesses. Keeping Pace contained will mean a lot to the Cards, both on the field and in the locker room.

Jets RB Thomas Jones vs. Cardinals SS Adrian Wilson and FS Antrel Rolle

Wilson had been off to a good start but struggled a bit against Washington, as did Rolle. Both need to change that, Wilson especially. They must help contain Jones and force quarterback Brett Favre to pass, because there is a feeling that Favre will make mistakes if you make him throw enough. The Cards did a good job against Washington's running game, and Jones could find yards difficult.

Green Bay Packers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Packers WR Greg Jennings vs. Buccaneers CBs Ronde Barber and Phillip Buchanon

Jennings has become the Packers' best offensive player. He's a threat both for turning a short pass into a big gain and getting downfield and winning a battle for the ball. If the Bucs play a lot of the Tampa 2 zone, Jennings will be a threat to catch a short slant and get past the 33-year-old Barber for a big gain. Buchanon's quickness might allow him to stay with Jennings better, but Buchanon also takes risks, which could allow Jennings to make a long gain or two.

Buccaneers WRs Antonio Bryant and Michael Clayton vs. Packers CBs Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams

Bryant is coming off a breakout game against the Bears in which he caught 10 passes for 138 yards. He'll be one of the top targets again this week, even if Joey Galloway (ankle) makes it back into the lineup. The Packers play a lot of man-to-man coverages, but Bryant has the ability to beat any defender in those situations because he runs good routes and explodes after he catches the ball. He could be good for another half-dozen receptions in this one. Williams will be starting in place of the injured Al Harris (spleen) for the next several weeks and perhaps the rest of the season. Williams is a second-year pro, and this will be his first NFL start. Look for teams to attack him, beginning this week. Williams is a good athlete with long arms and a tough streak, but at 5-foot-11 and 185 pounds, he's a tad on the small side. Bryant (6-foot-1, 205 pounds) and Clayton (6-foot-2 1/2, 215 pounds) both have a decent size advantage.

Buccaneers TE Jerramy Stevens vs. Packers LB Brandon Chillar

Stevens has the speed to get down the seams and enough size to make it hard for teams to bring him down one on one. If he can get off the line cleanly and gain separation from Chillar, he should get a lot of good looks in this game. Stevens figures to be a regular target in the red zone for the Bucs, so the Packers may have to put a double team on him at that point to keep him from hurting them where it counts most.

Minnesota Vikings at Tennessee Titans

Vikings RB Adrian Peterson vs. Titans linebackers

Peterson puts a strain on all levels of the defense. He'll keep outside linebackers David Thornton and Keith Bulluck busy. They are both speedy, sideline-to-sideline players. The Titans have announced that Stephen Tulloch will start at middle linebacker in place of Ryan Fowler, in large part because the Titans believe Tulloch is a better matchup for Peterson. Peterson had a season-low 77 yards rushing on 17 carries last week in part because he was nursing a sore hamstring. It's not certain how many rushing attempts he will get Sunday, but there is little doubt he will be a primary focus of the Titans whenever he is on the field. In four games versus opponents from the AFC, Peterson has rushed for 594 yards (148.5 average) and four touchdowns. He has an NFL-best 98.9-yard average since entering the NFL last year.

Vikings OT Artis Hicks vs. Titans DE Kyle Vanden Bosch

This matchup could prove to be a key one. Hicks will be playing his fourth and final game in place of Bryant McKinnie, who was suspended for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy. Hicks did a nice job against Green Bay Packers defensive end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, the Indianapolis Colts' Dwight Freeney and the Carolina Panthers' Julius Peppers. Now he will get perhaps his toughest test in Vanden Bosch. Vanden Bosch had 12 sacks last season and already has 2.5 in three games this year. Hicks will likely get some help from a running back or tight end with protection on the blind side of immobile veteran quarterback Gus Frerotte.

Titans OT Michael Roos vs. Vikings DE Jared Allen

Roos did a solid job with Houston Texans defensive end Mario Williams last week, but Sunday he will have a bigger challenge in Minnesota's Allen. The mission is the same: Protect a less mobile quarterback in Kerry Collins. Since 2004, Allen has 45 sacks, the second most in the NFL in that time. Roos is a good athlete who has good feet and hands, which will be needed against Allen.

San Diego Chargers at Oakland Raiders

Chargers QB Philip Rivers vs. Raiders pass defense

Rivers is off to a fantastic start and playing better football than at any time during his career; he leads the NFL with nine touchdown passes and a quarterback rating of 124.8. He has been hooking up consistently with wideouts Chris Chambers (four touchdowns) and Vincent Jackson (12 catches, 194 yards). Oakland added DeAngelo Hall in the offseason to pair with Nnamdi Asomugha in hopes of having one of the top cornerback combos in football. This is the type of game in which the duo will be tested. Asomugha had eight interceptions in 2006 but has had just one since then. Hall has one interception this season after picking off 15 passes over the past three seasons for the Atlanta Falcons.

Chargers WR Chris Chambers vs. Raiders CB DeAngelo Hall

Hall has been victimized repeatedly when playing in soft coverages designed to allow completions for short gains, giving too much cushion and allowing free yardage. When playing aggressively, as he did against the Kansas City Chiefs and much of the game against the Buffalo Bills, he has played much better. He continues to get much of the work as opponents avoid Asomugha on the right side. Chambers has had touchdown receptions in his last five games. For his career against the Raiders, he averages 17.3 yards per catch (20 catches for 375 yards).

Raiders RB Darren McFadden vs. Chargers run defense

It will be interesting to see how the No. 4 overall pick in last April's draft fares in his first game against the Chargers. A year ago, the Minnesota Vikings' Adrian Peterson had no problem rushing against the Chargers; he rushed for an NFL-record 296 yards. Chargers defensive lineman Jamal Williams has been hampered by his tender knees and hasn't yet been the force he normally is in the trenches. The Chargers have been getting less penetration on running plays without Pro Bowl linebacker Shawne Merriman on the field. McFadden (252 yards) is averaging 5.7 yards per carry, while the Chargers are allowing 5.0 yards per attempt.

Raiders TE Zach Miller vs. Chargers SS Clinton Hart

Hart is coming off his best season, with nine passes defensed and five interceptions. He has started off slowly, with eight tackles in three games. He was on the field last year when Miller caught eight passes against San Diego in the regular season finale. Miller, the Raiders' most sure-handed receiver, has just six catches in three games and is coming off a no-reception game for just the second time in his 19-game career. If recently signed tight end Ben Troupe is ready to play, look for the Raiders to line up Miller in the backfield on occasion or on a short split to try and create matchups where he can get the ball.

Buffalo Bills at St. Louis Rams

Bills RB Marshawn Lynch vs. Rams LB Will Witherspoon

The Rams gave up 245 rushing yards to the Seattle Seahawks last week and rank 29th in the league in rushing yards allowed. Prospects look good for Lynch, whose numbers so far are not awesome. Nevertheless, he is off to a good start this year. He has four touchdowns and has produced 275 combined yards in three games. The Rams' tendency to fall behind quickly has given opponents the chance to grind out rushing yards in the second half. Witherspoon is a good tackler, but he is flanked by marginal talents at outside linebacker.

Bills WR Lee Evans vs. Rams CB Ron Bartell

The Rams rank 30th in the league in passing yards allowed and 30th in sacks. Last week, Evans was held in check by a great corner (the Oakland Raiders' Nnamdi Asomugha). Bartell is not in Asomugha's class. He's fourth-year guy, a former second-round draft pick. The Bills could also move Evans around to match him up with smallish Tye Hill, who has struggled in his third season. Evans typically starts seasons slowly, but he has 244 yards in three games. He has no touchdown catches yet, though. This could be a week for him to find the end zone.

Rams WR Donnie Avery vs. Bills CB Terrence McGee

After seeing his most extensive action of the season last week in Seattle, the rookie Avery will see even more playing time this week against Buffalo; he is expected to start. The Rams need his speed and acceleration to keep defenses honest. McGee is emerging as one of the league's better corners; he is smart and physical but plays a lot of "off" coverage. He may be susceptible to short stuff and quick slants.

Rams OG Richie Incognito vs. Bills DT Marcus Stroud

Stroud has been a beast on run defense this season for Buffalo, and he has been a key to their defensive resurgence. He will line up over Incognito most of the time. If the Rams are going to establish any kind of running game with Steven Jackson, Incognito - who has been inconsistent this season - must keep Stroud from dominating.

Washington Redskins at Dallas Cowboys

Redskins WR Santana Moss vs. Cowboys CB Terence Newman

Moss had two 100-yard games last season, and both came against the Cowboys. His speed has given Dallas trouble over the years. Newman is healthy and played the entire game versus the Green Bay Packers last week. The Cowboys used more man coverage last week, and it resulted in five sacks. For Newman, he needs to get his hands on Moss and slow him off the line of scrimmage to be effective.

Redskins TE Chris Cooley vs. Cowboys FS Ken Hamlin

Cooley won't get to torment strong safety Roy Williams (forearm). Cooley would usually work the middle of the field against Williams for big games. He has 30 catches and five touchdowns in his career versus Dallas. Hamlin is third on the team with 20 tackles, and Patrick Watkins, who's filling in for Williams, has eight. The Cowboys usually use a safety on Cooley, with help from a linebacker. Still, it shapes up for a big game for Cooley.

Cowboys WR Terrell Owens vs. Redskins CB Shawn Springs

Owens and Springs have been battling each other since both played in the NFC West, for the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks, respectively. Springs effectively shut down Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Anquan Boldin last week. He remains the Redskins' best cover corner and has done a good job against Owens in the past. However, Owens' one game versus the Redskins in 2007 was a big one. He had eight catches for 173 yards and four touchdowns at Texas Stadium. He has just two catches for 17 yards in his last six quarters, which came against the Philadelphia Eagles and Green Bay Packers. Those teams used a lot of safety help over the top. If the Redskins want to do that, then quarterback Tony Romo will gladly go to his other weapons, like tight Jason Witten and wideouts Miles Austin, Patrick Crayton and Sam Hurd.

Philadelphia Eagles at Chicago Bears

Eagles QB Donovan McNabb vs. Bears pass defense

Chicago ranks fourth against the run but 28th against the pass. McNabb is off to a strong start; the Eagles are tied for third in the league in passing offense. But McNabb is expected to be hindered by a chest contusion suffered in last week's victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers. The ankle injury that will either limit running back Brian Westbrook or keep him out of the game altogether is no help, either. McNabb is still missing his top 2007 receiver, Kevin Curtis (hernia). He'll probably have to lean on wideouts Hank Baskett and DeSean Jackson this week. Receiver Reggie Brown, just back from a prolonged absence because of a hamstring injury, could have a bigger role.

Eagles WR DeSean Jackson vs. Bears CB Nathan Vasher

While most figured McNabb would struggle from the beginning with Curtis sidelined, the rookie Jackson has stepped forward in a big way. Vasher, who missed 12 games last season with a torn groin muscle, hasn't been the same player so far this season. His quickness hasn't been there, and his hips have been a little stiff. Look for Philly offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg to seek ways to match Jackson up with Vasher.

Bears RB Matt Forte vs. Eagles run defense

Forte, the first Bears rookie back to start a regular season opener since Walter Payton in 1975, is second in the NFL in yards from scrimmage (304 rushing, 105 receiving). He leads the league in carries. Head coach Lovie Smith said there are no plans to reduce his workload and get veteran Kevin Jones involved. Smith says the Bears are at their best with Forte on the field. Forte will have his work cut out for him. The Eagles possess the league's best run defense (45.7 yards per game), and a lot of it is a function of a retooled linebacking corps led by Stewart Bradley in the middle. The Eagles have young linebackers who all can run, and they swarm to the ball. They're sparked by the solid play of defensive tackles Mike Patterson and Brodrick Bunkley, too. With their passing game so inconsistent, the Bears need to establish some rhythm on the ground with the hope they can chip away at Philadelphia in the second half.

Bears WR Brandon Lloyd vs. Eagles CB Asante Samuel

The Eagles were big spenders in free agency for Samuel's services for matchups like this one. Last week versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Lloyd became just the ninth wideout in the Lovie Smith era to have a 100-yard game. Lloyd has showcased his ability to make acrobatic plays downfield. He is best outside the numbers and will have to work to get open against Samuel, one of the better cover men in the conference. The Bears can help Lloyd, of course, if they can get a complementary target going, but so far that hasn't happened.

Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers

Ravens QB Joe Flacco vs. Steelers secondary

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin refused make any predictions about what his fertile defensive mind, combined with that of premier defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, could do to a rookie in his third NFL start. The Steelers are playing as well as any defense in the league. Part of the reason is strong safety Troy Polamalu, who has three interceptions and is as athletic and disruptive as he was before his injury-plagued 2007 season. The Philadelphia Eagles scored 37 points against the Dallas Cowboys, but their offense had only 13 against the Steelers, who are tied for fourth in the NFL with 10 sacks and second with six interceptions.

Ravens WR Derrick Mason vs. Steelers cornerbacks

Mason has been nonexistent the past few seasons against the Steelers. Since he posted 91 yards receiving at Pittsburgh in 2005, he has combined for eight catches for 45 yards in his past two trips to Heinz Field. Expect Mason to have more of an impact this time, though. Flacco often targets Mason, the team's leader in receptions. Receivers have had success against the Steelers this season. The Houston Texans' Andre Johnson (10 catches for 112 yards) and Philadelphia's Hank Baskett (eight receptions for 85) have made a dent in the Pittsburgh secondary.

Steelers RB Rashard Mendenhall vs. Ravens run defense

The Ravens haven't allowed a Steelers running back to gain more than 42 yards in the past four meetings. The trend should continue against Mendenhall, who is replacing injured starter Willie Parker (knee). The foundation of the Ravens defense is stopping the run. Baltimore hasn't given up 100 yards to a running back in 21 straight games, the longest current streak in the NFL. Its run defense has dominated the first two games. The Ravens have held teams to two yards or less on 41 percent of their rush attempts.

Steelers OT Marvel Smith vs. Ravens LB Terrell Suggs

The Steelers' offensive line showed itself to be big and slow against the active Eagles pass rushers, who recorded nine sacks after getting only four in the first two games. Even Smith struggled, and he is the best player on the line. Suggs, who has two sacks in two games, has been one of the more vicious pass rushers in the NFL for several years and can come from a variety of angles in the Ravens' 3-4 defense. The NFL is a copycat league, and the Eagles' success with their relentless blitz package should invite the Ravens to be just as aggressive. The Steelers may need to leave a blocking back next to quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. He is dealing with shoulder and hand injuries and may have trouble throwing the deep ball. That might improve pass protection, but it further limits the passing game and helps the Ravens' secondary.



Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: September 27, 2008

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Jarret Johnson Name: Jarret Johnson
#95
Position: DE
Age: 26
Experience: 6 years
College: Alabama
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