What you need to know about the players battling for the Lombardi Trophy

By Andy Benoit
February 02, 2014


The Super Bowl XLVIII roman numerals in Hoboken, N.J., overlook the Manhattan skyline. (Elsa/Getty Images) (Elsa/Getty Images)



So, there’s a football game tonight? You don’t want to be like this guy and pick the Patriots to win; there might not be a faster way to get kicked out of your Super Bowl party! Here’s a cheat sheet to help get your through XLVIII. (Across the board: jersey number, name, position, age, height, weight, years in the NFL and college.)




Points: 8th (league rank)

Yards: 17th

Turnovers: 4th


3               Russell Wilson   QB           25            5-11        206         2               Wisconsin


A caretaker with explosive big-play abilities. That’s an oxymoron that, so far, has worked for the Seahawks.


24            Marshawn Lynch                RB            27            5-11        215         7               California


Tenacity and power are touted keys to his game. Less touted but equally important is his lateral agility.


22            Robert Turbin    RB            24            5-10        222         2               Utah State


Only around because Beast Mode, at least for a few snaps per game, goes into Rest Mode.


26            Michael Robinson             FB             30            6-1           240         8               Penn State


You’d think a former college quarterback would be more of a ball-handling fullback, like Mike Tolbert. Instead, he’s just a sound zone lead-blocker.


89            Doug Baldwin     WR          25            5-10        189         3               Stanford


System player, but part of being in Seattle’s system is knowing what to do when the quarterback extends the play, which this slashing receiver has a great feel for.


11            Percy Harvin       WR          25            5-11        184         5               Florida


Not since Rod Woodson in January 1996 has a star player missed essentially the entire season only to return for the Super Bowl. Brings new dimensions to this offense (including vertical lethality). The Broncos don’t have much film on him to study.


15            Jermaine Kearse                WR          23            6-1           209         2               Washington


Has the ability to make plays over the top within the confines of a play design. That’s critical in this offensive system and for playing with Russell Wilson, who has the best downfield touch in football.


81            Golden Tate        WR          25            5-10        202         4               Notre Dame


Good shifty catch-and-run weapon, but must be a little more consistent to justify the chip on his shoulder.


86            Zach Miller          TE             28            6-5           255         7               Arizona State


As average as a Tuesday afternoon. (That’s neither good nor bad.)


82            Luke Willson       TE             24            6-5           252         R               Rice


Effective on crossing routes in play-action, and will occasionally come out of the backfield.


60            Max Unger           C               27            6-5           305         5               Oregon


Classic upper-tier zone scheme center; so-so when facing powerful bulls in a phone booth, but outstanding in open space and on the move.


77            James Carpenter                G               24            6-5           321         3               Alabama


Remember when cameras caught Nick Saban showing palpable surprise upon hearing his former lineman’s name called in the first round on draft night? Three years later, Saban’s reaction makes more and more sense.


67            Paul McQuistan                  G               30            6-6           315         8               Weber State


As a utility backup, he grades as a B. As a starter, he’s a C-. (Or D- if asked to play left tackle.)


64            J.R. Sweezy          G               24            6-5           298         2               North Carolina State


Can sometimes get exposed against quality opponents in one-on-one scenarios, but is a solid cog when operating as part of a group.


73            Michael Bowie  OT            22            6-4           332         R               Northeastern State (Okla.)


Started at left guard in divisional round and was a healthy scratch in the NFC Championship. Tells you how the Seahawks feel about him and their left guard position as a whole.


68            Breno Giacomini                OT            28            6-7           318         6               Louisville


Prototypical right tackle: heavy feet (bad) and heavy hands (good).


76            Russell Okung     OT            25            6-5           310         4               Oklahoma State


Not quite elite, but is as physically gifted as any left tackle in the league. Is capable of playing that way, too.




Points: 22nd

Yards: 19th

Turnovers: 16th


91            Robert Ayers      DE            28            6-3           274         5               Tennessee


He’s versatile and quietly fills in a lot of blanks for Denver’s defensive front.


97            Malik Jackson     DE            24            6-5           293         2               Tennessee


Good movement skills for his size; capable of making a flash play or two as a sub-package interior pass rusher.


90            Shaun Phillips    DE            32            6-3           255         10            Purdue


Hard to understand why everyone was so surprised by his 10 sacks this year. He had 9.5 sacks for the Chargers last year.


94            Terrance Knighton            DT            27            6-3           335         5               Temple


Has blossomed into Denver’s most important run-defender; has uncommon short-area change-of-direction skills for his size.


96            Mitch Unrein     DT            26            6-4           306         3               Wyoming


Solid run-plugger who effectively doubles as a short-yardage fullback on offense.


92            Sylvester Williams            DT            25            6-2           313         R               North Carolina


Not a lot of defensive tackles get better each week in the latter part of their rookie season. He has, and that’s allowed this D to survive season-ending injuries of Kevin Vickerson and Derek Wolfe.


57            Jeremy Mincey                   DL            30            6-4           265         6               Florida


Has assumed a supporting role at outside linebacker and defensive end this postseason, showing flashes of the guy who once had an eight-sack campaign in Jacksonville.


56            Nate Irving           LB             25            6-1           245         3               North Carolina State


A good day at work is one where he just blends in.


51            Paris Lenon          LB             36            6-2           240         12            Richmond


Has spent his career stabilizing front sevens by winning starting inside linebacking jobs that weren’t supposed to be his. Coaches will tell you he’s as smart as any player.


59            Danny Trevathan                LB             23            6-1           240         2               Kentucky


Denver’s most valuable linebacker. Brings speed and pursuit skills to the outside of the base 4-3 and good coverage ability to the nickel and dime packages.


52            Wesley Woodyard            LB             27            6-0           233         6               Kentucky


Was Denver’s most valuable linebacker until his lack of size and physicality proved too great of hindrance against the run.


24            Champ Bailey     CB            35            6-0           192         15            Georgia


His dependability at an all-new slot position only adds to his Hall of Fame résumé.


32            Tony Carter          CB            27            5-9           175         5               Florida State


Dubbed the team’s most gifted raw cover artist early in John Fox’s tenure, but has struggled this season. Was brought up from the bottom of the depth chart two weeks ago only to get picked on by Tom Brady and the Patriots.


23            Quentin Jammer               CB            34            6-0           204         12            Texas


At this point in his career, offers everything that Tony Carter does—only minus the athleticism.


45            Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie  CB            27            6-2           193         6               Tennessee State


His retirement talk illustrates why the ceaseless Super Bowl press conferences are nonsensical exercises in killing time and brain cells. No chance one of the league’s 10 best man-to-man defenders calls it quits with an eight-figure signing bonus all but assured to him this upcoming offseason.


36            Kayvon Webster                 CB            22            5-11        198         R               South Florida


Played just 11 snaps in the AFC Championship Game and one snap in the divisional round as he worked his way back from late December thumb surgery. If at full strength, he’ll be the nickel outside corner.


20            Mike Adams        S                32            5-11        200         10            Delaware


Smart, multidimensional player with limited raw tools.


31            Omar Bolden      S                25            5-10        195         2               Arizona State


Converted cornerback who has taken over at free safety in the nickel package. Nothing special, but more reliable in coverage than Duke Ihenacho.


29            Michael Huff       S                30            6-0           211         8               Texas


Late-season addition who has joined in the nickel and dime safety rotation. Hasn’t lit the world on fire, but the rotation as a whole worked well two weeks ago versus New England.


33            Duke Ihenacho  S                24            6-1           207         2               San Jose State


Plays much bigger than his 207-pound size suggests. Has a chance to prosper long-term as an Adrian Wilson-type box safety.




Points: 1st

Yards: 1st

Turnovers: 17th


18            Peyton Manning                QB           37            6-5           230         16            Tennessee


A win on Sunday puts him at the forefront of “G.O.A.T.” discussion.


28            Montee Ball        RB            23            5-10        215         R               Wisconsin


Denver’s best pure runner; will spend this offseason honing his receiving and pass-blocking skills, and will likely take over as the every down back next September.


27            Knowshon Moreno          RB            26            5-11        220         5               Georgia


Currently Denver’s best all-around back; a big performance on Sunday will net him an overpriced free agent contract (probably somewhere else).


12            Andre Caldwell                   WR          28            6-0           200         6               Florida


Still hard to understand how someone so wiry can obtain the nickname “Bubba.” He’ll catch what you throw him, but barring an injury to one of the three starters, he won’t see more than about five snaps.


87            Eric Decker          WR          26            6-3           214         4               Minnesota


Has morphed into one of the league’s most precise route runners under Manning.


88            Demaryius Thomas           WR          26            6-3           229         4               Georgia Tech


Deserves to be recognized as one of the league’s best all-around wideouts. A legitimate deep threat who can also get open along the sideline or over the middle, and a superb run-after-catch artist, including on receiver screens.


83            Wes Welker        WR          32            5-9           185         10            Texas Tech


He didn’t have a crucial drop in his last Super Bowl appearance because he choked; he had a crucial drop because, for all his greatness in the slot, he has a tendency to drop passes. In fact, he’s second only to Brandon Marshall in this department over the last six years.


85            Virgil Green        TE             25            6-5           255         3               Nevada


Raw athleticism and versatility allowed him to sneakily blossom into the No. 2 tight end this year.


80            Julius Thomas     TE             25            6-5           250         3               Portland State


Far and away the most significant X-factor in Super Bowl XLVIII. Click here to read why.


66            Manny Ramirez                   C               30            6-3           320         7               Texas Tech


Aptitude as a run-blocker and in getting out in front on screens has made him the NFL’s most improved center (and maybe player) in 2013.


68            Zane Beadles      G               27            6-4           305         4               Utah


Outstanding at delivering point-of-attack double-teams in the running game.


65            Louis Vasquez    G               26            6-5           335         5               Texas Tech


Dependable pass protector who has fit perfectly in this O-line.


75            Chris Clark            OT            28            6-5           305         5               Southern Mississippi


No Ryan Clady, but with Manning’s awareness and pocket maneuverability, he doesn’t need to be.


74            Orlando Franklin                OT            26            6-7           320         3               Miami (Fla.)


Another vastly improved lineman, mainly in pass pro.




Points: 1st

Yards: 1st

Turnovers: 1st


56            Cliff Avril               DE            27            6-3           260         6               Purdue


Only thing more astounding than the fact that GM John Schneider got Avril for just $6.5 million a year (on average) is…


72            Michael Bennett               DE            28            6-4           274         5               Texas A&M


The fact that Schneider got this guy for just $4.8 million.


79            Red Bryant           DE            29            6-4           323         6               Texas A&M


Tremendous playside run-stopper who has light enough feet to thrive on the weak side.


91            Chris Clemons    DE            32            6-3           254         10            Georgia


Sack numbers are down (4.5 this year) but has flashed the same burst and pliability that he had before blowing out his knee last January.


99            Tony McDaniel  DT            29            6-7           305         8               Tennessee


Is quietly a very disruptive run-defender. Can also win against one-on-one pass-blocking.


69            Clinton McDonald            DT            27            6-2           297         5               Memphis


If you haven’t confused him with McDaniel at least once this season, then you haven’t watched many Seahawks games.


92            Brandon Mebane              DT            29            6-1           311         7               California


Easily a top-five noseguard. Plays low and moves left and right with aplomb.


51            Bruce Irvin           LB             26            6-3           248         2               West Virginia


Has performed well at his new strongside linebacker spot (even in coverage) but isn’t it a little peculiar that he hasn’t been used more as a pass rusher? No one on the roster has a quicker first step.


53            Malcolm Smith LB             24            6-0           226         3               USC


A smaller, poor man’s version of K.J. Wright—which means he could start for a lot of teams.


54            Bobby Wagner   LB             23            6-0           241         2               Utah State


As effective in space as any Mike linebacker backer in football. And that’s not to say he isn’t good in traffic.


50            K.J. Wright           LB             24            6-4           246         3               Mississippi State


This game very well could be decided by him in pass defense.


20            Jeremy Lane       CB            23            6-0           190         2               Northwestern State-Louisiana


If someone gets hurt and he has to play every snap, his team will be fine. That’s not true with most No. 4 corners.


41            Byron Maxwell  CB            25            6-1           207         3               Clemson


If he continues to develop next year at the rate that he developed over the second half of this season, then he’ll challenge his loquacious teammate for “best outside corner in the game.”


25            Richard Sherman               CB            25            6-3           195         3               Stanford


The aforementioned loquacious teammate.


28            Walter Thurmond             CB            26            5-11        190         4               Oregon


How come we haven’t encountered very many stories this week about Walter Thurmond’s comeback? After missing essentially the last two years with leg injuries, he unexpectedly resumed his march toward being the NFL’s top pure slot corner.


31            Kam Chancellor                  S                25            6-3           232         4               Virginia Tech


Has essentially served as a fourth linebacker in Seattle’s scheme, though his ability to cover tight ends man-to-man is what put this defense over the top. (Can he apply those skills to Julius Thomas at an X-iso receiver spot?)


29            Earl Thomas         S                24            5-10        202         4               Texas


Far and away the rangiest centerfielder in football. The rangiest one since a young Ed Reed, in fact.


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