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Brock Purdy Will Have To Find Balance To Beat the Eagles in the Playoffs



The Brock Purdy story has been fantastic to follow. A late-arriving entrant into the Offensive Rookie of the Year race, Purdy will likely win the award despite playing half the season. His explosive entry onto the scene has been made all the more unbelievable given his position on the roster and position in the draft.

The San Francisco 49ers Offense is Perfectly Designed for Brock Purdy

It’s well known now that Purdy was the final player selected in the 2022 draft, earning the title of “Mr. Irrelevant,” given the low impact of players selected there. Even more surprising is that Purdy made the roster at quarterback above Lions quarterback Nate Sudfeld, who was given a guaranteed contract that offseason to be Trey Lance’s backup.

Despite Purdy only earning one or two reps early on in camp as the third arm — Jimmy Garoppolo sat out while the San Francisco 49ers attempted to trade him — the small windows into his talent were enticing enough to encourage head coach Kyle Shanahan to keep Purdy above Sudfeld.

As Shanahan said, “Every time [Purdy] got his one or two reps in practice, just how decisive he was and got the ball to the right spot and did it aggressively. Never seemed unsure of anything and so he kept earning more reps, and the more reps we gave him, the more he continued to look the same and didn’t take any steps back.

“Then he carried it over to some of the preseason games,” added Shanahan. “So by the end of that, it was pretty easy to see how Brock was coming, and we knew we wanted to keep him on the roster and not risk him going to practice squad, so it was a decision we had to make.”

The problem is that the Purdy we’re seeing in the postseason is not the one that Shanahan signed onto the roster, and it’s not just because of the normal process of rookie development.

There have been two Brock Purdys.

The one in the regular season who was getting rid of the ball on time within the structure of the offense and relying on his after-catch receivers and the one in the playoffs that has been a no-holds-barred scrambler willing to throw deep. If either of them shows up, it could be a big problem for the 49ers.

MORE: 3 San Francisco 49ers Keys to Victory vs. the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Championship Game

The Shanahan playbook is both small and large. The number of plays that Purdy is being asked to run is relatively small compared to the inventory of plays around the NFL, but that’s not a knock on Purdy.

The two best quarterbacks of the 2000s, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, had completely opposite approaches. Brady would have a large array of plays at his disposal, sometimes going entire games without calling the same passing play twice. Manning would sometimes enter games with a play count smaller than his jersey number.

These approaches had different advantages and disadvantages. Manning needed to make sure that everyone on the offense was highly-tuned and executing at a high level. The advantage is that the Colts knew those plays better than anyone else.

Defenses would encounter those plays only one week of the year, while the Colts would run them all 17 weeks. In order for that advantage to mean anything, they would have to execute them inch-perfect. Defenses knew what was coming, so Indianapolis simply had to be better than their opponents.

The Brady playbook was notoriously difficult for receivers to learn, and New England had a difficult time finding receivers in the draft and free agency that had the bandwidth to learn the playbook every week and combine the various option routes, route concepts, hot reads, and audibles in it along with Brady’s preferences for how to attack each coverage given the route pattern on each side of the ball.

But with answers to every test defenses could throw at them, it was hard to stop.

In this instance, is Purdy out-executing opposing defenses with precise timing, technique, pre-snap diagnosis, and accuracy? Not really. He’s been fantastic, but his approach has been very rough around the edges.

That makes sense for a rookie regardless of where he was selected in the draft, but especially one from Matt Campbell’s offense at Iowa State — one that emphasized RPO concepts in a spread-heavy offense that made reads remarkably easy for the quarterback but limited opportunities to adjust plays or read the full field.

That doesn’t mean it was easy to pick up the playbook. But it was relatively easier than some of the more voluminous playbooks around the NFL. And making it simple for the offense doesn’t mean making it simple for the defense.

Shanahan’s approach has been described by a number of his disciples as “the illusion of complexity,” where things look complex to opposing defenses but, in reality, are quite simple. And the 49ers have more tools in their toolbox to muddy up the view for those defenses.

With players like Kyle Juszczyk, George Kittle, Deebo Samuel, Christian McCaffrey, and Brandon Aiyuk, the 49ers have the ability to move pieces around more than any other team in the NFL. Samuel can play running back and has been an excellent chipper on the line of scrimmage as a “tight end,” while also lead blocking well for Aiyuk on his big plays.

McCaffrey can run any route in the receiver route tree from any position on the field, whether that’s in line, in the slot, or on the outside. Juszczyk and Kittle trade off positions constantly at fullback, wingback, and tight end. Kittle also has the ability to run receiver routes on the outside.

This ability to move players around can dizzy defenses, especially when paired with truly positionless football that allows the team to run the same play out of dozens of formations, making it easy for the quarterback — whose reads are the same — but difficult for the defense.

That’s why Shanahan’s receivers are more open than almost any other group in the NFL. Purdy, according to NFL’s Next Gen Stats, threw the second-fewest percentage of his attempts to receivers within a yard of the defender.

It also explains his relatively short targets. Next Gen Stats records him as having the third-shortest depth of target from the line of scrimmage and fourth-shortest depth of target when measured against the first-down marker.

No offense in the NFL is more dependent on after-catch production than the 49ers’, with and without Purdy.

He knows it, too. After his win against Arizona in Week 18, he said, “I’ve got so many playmakers around me I don’t feel I have all the weight of the world on my shoulders to make something up.”

“[Shanahan] calls a great game plan,” said Purdy. “I just go through my progression, throw checkdowns to guys like Christian [McCaffrey] and Deebo [Samuel], and they make guys miss. I’ve just got to distribute it to guys, and they come up with all the yards.”

In an entirely different offense than the one he ran in college, Purdy plays with a similar style. Of all FBS quarterbacks with at least 300 attempts in 2021, he had the third-shortest depth of target.

Playoff Purdy Is College Purdy

There is one element of play that runs counter to the style he’s demonstrating right now — a long time to throw and a tendency to scramble. His average dropback took three seconds, 15th longest among FBS quarterbacks in 2021.

Purdy’s time to throw is down in the NFL, and in the regular season, it matches the league average of 2.73 seconds. It’s not quite as systematic as Garoppolo, a quarterback with a snap-and-throw process that saw him get rid of the ball faster than almost anyone else in the NFL, but it’s much faster than his college tendency.

The issue is that Purdy naturally wants to make plays. He doesn’t have the arm strength of many of the league’s best scrambling playmakers, which means his throws demand more precision.

As the weeks have gone on, he’s become more audacious with his playmaking. In his two postseason games, Purdy’s average time to throw jumped up to 3.21 seconds from his 2.73-second regular-season average.

MORE: Kyle Shanahan Is a Wizard, But His Game-Management Issues Could Cost 49ers in NFC Title Game

While this has led to some of his best moments with some incredible throws, it also put him in trouble. In the first half of both of his postseason games, Purdy struggled. He made some dangerous throws and threw further downfield than he had during the regular season without much success.

After the Seattle game, Shanahan was asked about Purdy’s college free-wheeling tendencies and how well he’s tamped that down in the NFL. “I think he’s done a real good job,” said Shanahan. “He’s extended a number of plays. I think he’s made a few mistakes. There’s a fine line between all of that, but when there’s no play there, you always want guys to extend plays.”

He added, “I think guys get in trouble when they start relying on extending plays before making the play that’s there. I think that’s sometimes things you have to be careful of, especially when you have some playmaking ability like that. And I think that’s stuff that Brock has learned, and he’s done a pretty good job of. There were a couple of times he extended the play last week where he almost got in trouble, and he was able to survive it.”

Against the Raiders, Purdy had a fourth-quarter opportunity to Tyler Kroft, the intended read on the play, for a touchdown. He threw it to a covered Aiyuk instead. A better decision could have avoided overtime.

“I would say the one to Kroft, yes, I rolled out I was trying to hold the defender with my eyes and then come back to hit B.A. on that shallow,” said Purdy after the game. “Obviously, Kroft was there. In the moment, I was just trying to make a play to B.A., but right as I threw it, I look back, and I see Kroft, and I’m like, man, I already know that’s going to be one of the plays and it was.”

This theme came up again after his Seahawks performance. Shanahan said of Purdy’s spotty first half, “Yeah, there were a couple of open guys that he just missed.”

But later, Shanahan added, “When you just have a couple misses, you really don’t want to panic. Brock’s an accurate thrower, he has been doing that all year and playing well. He missed a few, and I don’t think there was really much of an explanation for it. We had to settle down a little bit and give him a few more opportunities, and he got those in the second half and was pretty lethal with them.”

Some of the best throws in the playoffs — from any quarterback, not just Purdy — have come off these scrambles. The deep shot to Kittle that took a few friendly bobbles to reel in was off-schedule; Kittle wasn’t in the progression. So too with his touchdown in the red zone to Elijah Mitchell in the fourth quarter against Seattle.

Purdy Will Have To Find Balance To Beat the Eagles

Against the Eagles, he’ll have to combine those tendencies. Philadelphia invites short passes perhaps better than any other defense in the league and feast on turnover production on the few deep throws they see. On top of that, they have the second-best pressure rate in the league and convert pressures into sacks better than any other team in the NFL.

All of that is to say that Purdy likely won’t be able to play a completely free-wheeling form of football with all the pressure bearing down on him and needs to be careful with how he improvises or throws deep. But he can’t rely solely on a short, methodical passing game.

On passes longer than 2.75 seconds, the Eagles perform better than any other team in the league. They allow -2.95 expected points per passing dropback, by far the best rate in the NFL.

Brock Purdy

That’s a concern, and Purdy will need to be more diligent about picking his spots than he was against the Seahawks or Cowboys.

“What’s been cool about Brock when he does get surprised, he’s got the quickness to sometimes be able to get out of it,” said Shanahan after the Raiders game, where they needed overtime to pull out a win. “He did that and was able to save it not being a bad play, but you can’t always count on making that guy miss.”

Purdy’s scrambles have put him in enormous trouble, but he’s been able to dig out of it so far. But the reliability of that tactic is minimal. Against a better closing team like Philadelphia, he’ll have to play in structure more often.

The problem is that the Eagles also do a good job closing down on short throws and aren’t extraordinarily susceptible to yards after catch. If San Francisco relies exclusively on the short game, there won’t be much there in terms of scoring, even if they can be confident that they are somewhat consistent in their passing game.

So Purdy will need to combine his regular-season play with his postseason play if he’s ever going to have a chance of advancing to the Super Bowl and becoming the first rookie to start at quarterback in the game. In essence, the two Purdys will have to become one.

The further teams advance in the playoffs, the smaller their margin for error. And as Shanahan said of Purdy’s freelancing, there’s a fine line.

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Brock Purdy ‘Leader in the Clubhouse’ for 49ers QB Job




The San Francisco 49ers will hold an open competition at quarterback, but according to general manager John Lynch, the presumed starter will be Brock Purdy. At the NFL owners meetings in Arizona, Lynch said that Purdy — when healthy — will be the “leader in the clubhouse” between he, Sam Darnold, and Trey Lance.

Brock Purdy Is the Presumed QB Starter for 49ers

This is a change from early February when head coach Kyle Shanahan wouldn’t commit to a plan at quarterback. When asked if Purdy would be the presumed starter next year, Shanahan said, “Those are things I haven’t even thought about at all, so right now we’re just working on coaches, and I think that stuff will play itself out by training camp.”

Purdy finished the season strong for San Francisco after replacing Jimmy Garoppolo, who replaced Trey Lance — both out due to injury. Had he enough passes to qualify, Purdy would have ranked fourth in adjusted net yards per attempt and sixth in expected points per play among all NFL quarterbacks.

Purdy’s play allowed him and the 49ers’ defense to make their way to the NFC Championship Game against the Philadelphia Eagles — a game that they might have won if Purdy had not been injured early on. His UCL, a ligament in his elbow, was torn after contact with Eagles pass rusher Haason Reddick.

MORE: 100% Free Mock Draft Simulator

In Week 2 last season, Lance suffered a season-ending ankle injury, while Garoppolo suffered a season-ending ankle injury in Week 8. This offseason, Garoppolo left for the Las Vegas Raiders in free agency. He is expected to be at full health throughout the offseason and was nearly healthy enough to play in the NFC Championship Game as the primary backup.

Lance is still under contract, but his recovery has been slower than Garoppolo’s. However, Shanahan indicated that Lance is expected to be available for the full offseason workout schedule, and in early February, was just a few weeks away from full recovery. Meanwhile, to add to their quarterback room, the 49ers signed Sam Darnold, who also finished the season strong.

Purdy’s timeline is a bit longer, and at the owner’s meeting, Lynch indicated that the plan –for now — is for Purdy to be ready to throw in early June, 12 weeks after his surgery. Lynch said, “Our hope is he is ready to go in training camp.”

Lance and Darnold are both first-round picks; Lance was selected at third overall by the 49ers in 2021, while Darnold was selected by the New York Jets third overall in 2018 before he was traded to the Carolina Panthers. Purdy, as is well known, was drafted at 262nd overall, the final pick in the draft, in 2022.

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Meek Mill Told Me Lamar Jackson Wants To Play for New England Patriots




PHOENIX — The preceding headline bears repeating just for the sheer awesomeness involved: Last week, Rapper Meek Mill texted Robert Kraft to give the New England Patriots owner a heads-up that former MVP quarterback Lamar Jackson wants to play for the six-time Super Bowl champions.

Kraft shared that incredible tidbit late in his news conference at the NFL owners meetings here Monday. Could it happen?

“That’s Bill’s decision,” Kraft said, per the Boston Globe. Bill refers to Bill Belichick, of course.

Could Lamar Jackson Play for New England Patriots?

The news came just hours after Jackson shook up the NFL universe by going public with a trade request that would get him out of Baltimore after five seasons.

Jackson, who without a new deal is on track to play this year under the non-exclusive franchise tag (for $32.4 million), tweeted what was essentially a farewell message to the city of Baltimore and released it to coincide with John Harbaugh’s previously scheduled news conference.

Jackson wrote: “As of March 2nd I requested a trade from the Ravens organization for which the Ravens has not been interested in meeting my value, any and everyone that’s has met me or been around me know I love the game of football and my dream is to help a team win the super bowl.

“You all are great but I had to make a business decision that was best for my family and I. No matter how far I go or where my career takes me, I’ll continue to be close to my fans of Baltimore Flock nation and the entire State of Maryland. You’ll See me again.”

MORE: FREE Mock Draft Simulator With Trades

Could the next time he sees them be in Patriots red, white, and blue? Kraft and Mill are friends through former Philadelphia 76ers owner Michael Rubin, and the Pats owner was among the most prominent voices to call for Mill’s release from prison in early 2018.

It was announced early Monday that Mill will be the leading voice in Kraft’s $25 million antisemitism campaign.

How Patriots Could Acquire Lamar Jackson

Just because Jackson wants to play in New England doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. For starters, the Patriots already have a starting quarterback — Mac Jones, who’s entering Year 3 of his NFL career.

The Patriots shook up their coaching staff this offseason in an attempt to improve Jones’ play after an up-and-down 2022.

Bill O’Brien has been brought back to again serve as Belichick’s offensive coordinator, and Kraft spoke optimistically about the impact that move will have on Jones’ game.

MORE: NFL Owners Meetings News and Rumors — Mike McDaniel, Derrick Henry, Russell Wilson, and Colts’ QB Decision

“I was very disappointed the way our season went,” Kraft said, per the Boston Globe. “My objective for our team is we make the playoffs. … We finished under .500 for the first time in a long time, so I thought changes had to be made.”

Any trade for Jackson would surely include a significant increase in pay. The Ravens won’t give him away. The asking price begins at two first-round picks, per the franchise tag rules. It’s conceivable the Ravens could tag and trade him, but why would they do any favors to one of their biggest rivals?

Plus, New England is just $14 million under the cap despite having a mere $5.3 million in quarterback salary cap charges.

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Darnell Wright, OT, Tennessee | NFL Draft Scouting Report




Viewed as a sleeper in the summer of 2022, Tennessee OT Darnell Wright has vaulted up boards and is now a potential first-round pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. Is the hype warranted, and how does Wright project to the next level? As his five-star pedigree implies, Wright can be an impact starter at his maximum potential.

Darnell Wright NFL Draft Profile

  • Position: Offensive tackle
  • School: Tennessee
  • Current Year: Senior
  • Height/Weight: 6’5″, 333 pounds
  • Length: 33 3/4″
  • Hand: 9″

Ever since he put on a helmet, Wright has been on a collision course with the NFL draft. He was a five-star prospect and a top-five overall recruit coming out of high school in 2019. He had scholarship offers from all of the blue bloods — Alabama, Georgia, Ohio State, Clemson — but instead chose to play for the University of Tennessee.

Since arriving at Tennessee, Wright has only kept climbing. He started seven games and played in 11 as a true freshman, earning Freshman All-SEC honors. He then became a full-time starter at right tackle in 2020. And in 2021, he moved to the blind side, starting all 13 games at the left tackle spot.

MORE: FREE Mock Draft Simulator With Trades

Wright showed a lot of promise early in his time at Tennessee. He displayed versatility, reliability, and high-end physical talent. But 2022 was the first season he put it all together and showcased his potential as a high-level NFL starter.

Settling in at right tackle in 2022, Wright locked down his end of the line for quarterback Hendon Hooker, staving off opponents like Alabama’s Will Anderson Jr. and Florida’s Brenton Cox Jr. Wright earned first-team All-SEC honors for his play. And as the draft process has progressed, he’s made his way into the highest ranks at his position.

Darnell Wright Scouting Report

In the NFL, where nearly every edge rusher is one of the best athletes on the planet, offensive tackles have to have enough in their toolbox to match. Not just size, length, and athleticism, but also proper technique, hands, and leverage. It’s an equation of the unteachable and the intangibles. How does it all add up for Wright?

Wright’s Positives

As you’d expect from a former consensus five-star recruit, Wright passes the eye test. At 6’5″, 333 pounds, he has excellent height and weight, with a massive frame that stores ample amounts of power. He also has great length, which he frequently puts to use in his game.

For his size, Wright shows off impressive athleticism. He’s quick out of his stance and showcases exceptional lateral explosion off the snap. He can quickly snap into position when responding to opponents and is an amped-up mover for his size.

Wright owns impressive initial burst heading to the second level and features impressive short-area athleticism. He can get great depth on his kick and glide across the edge with smooth lateral shuffles. Moreover, he has enough corrective athleticism to recover after initial losses.

Wright’s NFL Combine performance reaffirmed his athletic ability. At his size, he ran a stellar 5.01 40-yard dash with a strong 1.81 10-yard split. He also had a 29″ vertical and a 9’6″ broad jump. Wright’s broad jump figure, in particular, put him near the 98th percentile among offensive tackles. All of this is to say: Wright has the goods.

Wright can cover ground fairly efficiently in short ranges with long strides, and he’s also nimble and fleet-footed for his frame. He’s shown he has the requisite range to make blocks as a puller. But beyond that, Wright brings elite overall power capacity.

Wright stores devastating potential energy and knock-back power and can shock even larger defenders at contact, stonewalling opponents and halting momentum instantly with strikes. Going further, Wright can reload his arms and re-exert power with impressive suddenness and force.

Wright has the ability to channel power through leg drive and move defenders off their spot. He effectively drives power up through his base at the contact point but can also generate incredible power with hip rotation and upper-body torque. Wright can lock out defenders with ruthless torque on run plays and control pass protection reps with that rotation.

Additionally, Wright possesses excellent grip strength. He can lock down rip moves with impressive consistency — especially against smaller defenders — and maintain his anchor even against resistance. Wright has the core strength to keep defenders within his frame and control reps, and he can redirect momentum when opponents lose their balance. Furthermore, Wright’s able to latch and tug down opponents with great force.

MORE: 2023 NFL Draft Big Board

Balance and leverage can be an issue at times, but for his size, Wright is very comfortable leaning and playing beyond his center of gravity. He can create controlled leverage to channel force into blocks. He appears to have good knee bend capacity as well. He can naturally lower himself and manage leverage.

Another impressive trait for Wright, considering his size, is his hip flexibility. He’s able to adjust his initial angle of engagement and flip his hips to redirect defenders in space. Moreover, the Tennessee OT experiences little delay when flipping his hips at the apex to wall off defenders.

Wright still has room to maximize both his hand usage and footwork, but he showed immense growth in 2022. Wright can effectively use independent hands and is active when gathering rushers. He’s very violent in resetting his hands and can actively combat sequential rushing moves in rapid succession.

He has a brutal snatch-and-trap with his upper-body quickness and power capacity, but he’s also shown he can punch and latch inside the defender’s frame, using his core strength to siphon control from his opponent.

For the most part, Wright has good upper-lower synergy and can use his hands and feet in conjunction to neutralize rushers. With his wide frame, he can consistently keep opponents in front of him and tightly extend inside the torso.

He has a solid sense of timing and can flash his hands and bait linemen into extending before swatting down extensions and latching with force. He leverages his frame well and has a strong outside hand to keep rushers from prying past.

With his footwork, Wright shows the capacity to use leverage steps off the snap to achieve the proper angle when blocking rushers. He also displays discretion and awareness with his set angle based on defender alignment and play call. Wright is fairly patient and disciplined with his positioning. The Tennessee OT can control reps by carefully managing depth, and he actively tempos his footwork to match rushers.

Going further, Wright can continually reset his base to absorb power. He’s an assignment-sound player who’s always alert and is very smooth and consistent at picking up stunts. Among other things, Wright actively works to exert physicality and dominate opponents. If opponents give up leverage, he’ll bury them into the turf. And as a draft prospect, his starting experience at left and right tackle, as well as right guard, will be valuable.

Wright’s Areas for Improvement

While Wright has great functional mobility for his size, he’s not elite in that department. He can’t always recollect his feet quickly after blocking in space. He also lacks elite range and change-of-direction ability. And in space, it can be difficult for him to manage his pad level. With his size, he naturally plays too tall at times. He can’t always sustain blocks with a taller pad level, and defenders can exploit his frame with superior leverage.

Wright’s length is exceptional, but that’s not quite an elite feature, either. Longer opponents can work past his arms to latch, rip, and wrench him off balance. They can also goad Wright into leaning too far and bending at the waist, which can impact his ability to keep his leverage and sustain blocks.

Going further, Wright’s hands can be too wide and high at times. Thus, defenders can get under his pads and slip free. Especially on moving blocks, he can be too wide with his grip. Although Wright has good knee bend capacity, he can stand to bend his knees more at times. His tendency to occasionally bend his waist detracts from leverage and restricts him from drawing power up through his base.

Wright has great hands, but there are times when he fails to strike cleanly. This, along with his width, can open up his torso to opposing power. Wright employed more independent hand usage in 2022, which is promising, but his two-hand extensions can still be too wide. He sometimes gets too grabby and bear-hugs his opponents. He’s also prone to occasional false starts.

Even after improvement in 2022, Wright’s footwork can still be a bit more controlled. He’s gotten better at maintaining balance through weight transfers, but he does occasionally plant too early and lurch past his center of gravity. Additionally, when defenders get a good first step, he sometimes panics and will turn his hips too early, allowing angles inside.

Current Draft Projection for Tennessee OT Darnell Wright

On my board, Wright is a top-three OT prospect in the 2023 NFL Draft, a top-25 overall talent, and a natural right tackle worthy of mid-to-late Round 1 consideration. He had a Day 2 grade coming into the 2022 season, and he effectively delivered on his five-star pedigree, morphing into a high-level performer.

The potential was always visible with Wright, who has a five-star pedigree and visible talent on tape. At 6’5″, 333 pounds, with near-34″ arms, he has dominating size and power, and he also has impressive explosiveness and short-area athleticism for his size. With his burst, he gets off the snap quickly, and with his micro-mobility, he can match rushers, recover, and tempo his footwork off the line.

MORE: Top 10 OTs in the 2023 NFL Draft

As a run blocker, Wright can still improve at managing his leverage and keeping his hands tight, but his power capacity gives him road-grader potential. Meanwhile, he’s one of the class’ best pass protectors at the tackle spot. He’s synergetic with his hands and feet, can demolish rushers with precise, violent snatch-and-traps, and has the anchor to absorb power.

Even with his occasional leverage issues, Wright has shown he can play beyond his center of gravity, bend his knees, and lower himself. And with his hands, Wright has shown he can reload and re-exert with ruthless efficiency and force. He has tremendous potential as a pass protector in the modern NFL, and at his maximum, he can be an impact starter — well worth the price of a first-round pick.

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