Category Archives: NFL

Press Your Luck: The 2014 NFL Draft

On Thursday the NFL will promote it’s newest class from amateur sports into professionalism, and maybe, stardom. This is always a stressful time of year. How could it not be? Drafting the wrong player could be more than detrimental to a franchise, setting it back years and years (see the Cleveland Browns and Washington Redskins since 1999).

The level of angst involved in each team’s pick, exceeds and is reminiscent  of, the 80s game show Press Your Luck. The game show consisted of 18 squares that lit up randomly and a button contestants had to push to stop the light on a square. In the squares were cash prizes, vacations, boats and other game show stuff.  There was also a character called the Whammy that would basically erase any prizes the contestants had earned to that point. This of course caused contestants to rock back and forth muttering “no Whammy, no Whammy, no Whammy”, and looking crazier than the Joker in Arkham Asylum. As a kid I watch the cardiac arrest inducing reruns with the same shear glee, I assume, the rest of America did back in 1983. That is until some guy figured out the sequence wasn’t random, won a ton of money and then more or less killed the show.

Pssst...Hey. Houston. Don't mess up.

Pssst…Hey. Houston. Don’t mess up.

There is a similar feeling around the NFL draft. The choices feel very random, and one wrong decisions can screw up everything a team has worked this hard to achieve. With the stakes this high, this is the pinnacle of drama. This year’s draft is set to be the most dramatic of them all. There are a lot of teams in need, and there are question marks all over the place. Thursday the questions, and the games, will begin.

“No Whammy, no Whammy, no Whammy.”

Will The Real Jadeveon Clowney Please Stand Up?

With Jadeveon Clowney, the talent is already there. He’s got the speed strength and size to be dominant at the pro level. There should be no question marks around him. None. Yet here we are wondering if he’ll pan out. The reason, of course, has to do with his effort. Clowney has been accused by numerous (albeit anonymous) sources of taking plays off. While his coaches come to his defense, the criticisms still hang in the air like the remnants of a smelly fart. After all, if the Houston Texans do take Clowney at number 1, can they expect a guy who gives his all every down? Should they expect the guy who allegedly saved himself for the NFL? It’s pretty unclear. Think about it this way, if a guy puts in less effort to keep himself injury free for the NFL it stands to reason that he would do the same thing in a contract year. He might do the same thing if his team looks like it might not make the playoffs, or if they’re getting blown out. This is not to say that Clowney is that kind of guy but once the questions are raised, they just kind of stay there.

Which Jadeveon will we get? The one who (allegedly) takes plays off? Or the Clowney who, all but erased a man from the pages of human history?

In Johnny Football We Trust?

Johnny Manziel needs no introduction. He was college football’s most electric offensive player by far. If you want to talk about a human highlight reel, Johnny Manziel is your guy. He’s also the guy that has been riddled with the biggest questions. He is after all, no stranger to controversy. Johnny is a star and isn’t shy about wanting to live the life style. His parents are affluent and as a result he’s had money to spend. This is important because we’ve seen how he spends it before he’s gotten his own multi-million dollar deal. He hasn’t been really reckless but, ever since Ryan Leaf, going to Vegas with your money is going to give any GM pause (this is before his height and risky play style are referenced).  Johnny is the super athletic and hyper talented guy who, as of this moment, may or may not have his head screwed on right. Manziel earned the nickname Johnny Football, and with good reason, he can flat out ball. My opinion is that football won’t be the thing that gets Johnny off track.

Teddy Bridgewater And The Great Divide.

In his games he demonstrates the savvy, poise, and knowledge of a pro. At his pro day he looked bafflingly terrible. He’s Teddy Bridgewater, the most NFL ready prospect of all the quarterbacks. The pro-style offensive at Louisville prepared him for this. He had full autonomy of the offense. Not known for having the strongest arm, Bridgewater was a brains over brawn kind of guy. He uses his eyes to manipulate the defense, he’s incredibly intelligent showing an understanding of football concepts beyond his years. One pro day should not undermine these qualities. It just seems so strange to see a guy like Bridgewater look that off. Even in his episode of QB camp with Jon Gruden, his throws looked off. His poise and intelligence were there but the throws looks so…average. So the question with Bridgewater is the same as Jadeveon Clowney. Which one is the real one? Usually in these situations you go back to the tape. The tape doesn’t lie (usually) but, that pro day is the little red flag that could. It’s a red flag that’s not going to go anywhere until week 1 of the season.

2014 may prove to be the NFL’s gut check draft. It hardly seems like teams know what they want, even though most of that is the usual misdirection and gamesmanship that has come to define the biggest offseason event in sports. It’s the obsessing about hand size and 40 times, that define this moment. GMs and other front office executives are trying to show some clairvoyance by trying to see and know the very thing they can’t see and can’t know. We sit at home watching it like some sadistic game of Press Your Luck, which says a lot more about us more than it says anything else.

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NFL Week 1 Observations. The Better Late Than Never Edition.

Overreactions.

That basic sums up week 1 in the NFL. The teams that lost Sunday looked inept and hope, to quote the great Jim Mora “that they can even win a game.” The teams that won meanwhile, are on top of their divisions and are very much going to win the Super Bowl. That’s how it feels anyway. That’s because with just 16 games in a season and a media that has 24 hours to fill, hyperbole is necessity. The media needs it like Miley Cyrus and attention, and boy does she need attention. But I digress.

Peyton Manning? I Heard He’s Really Good.

It appears that you heard correctly bold subtitle thing. It also appears as though you haven’t been living under a rock. Last Thursday, in the season opener that featured Manning’s Broncos and the defending champion Ravens, Peyton Manning gave a master class in quarterbacking. He got out to a bit of a shaky start and then proceeded to toss an NFL record 7 touchdown passes, a feat that hasn’t been accomplished since Joe Kapp with the Vikings back in 1969. The last time someone did without throwing an interception, like Manning did that night, was Y.A. Tittle in 1962. I think the interesting thing here is that Manning appeared to know this off the top of his head. That’s some real student of the game stuff right there.

Also The Ravens Are Full Of Holes, And It Shows.

The defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens start the season on the ropes. I promise you, this is not an overreaction. Joe Flacco seemed to have chemistry with exactly none of his receivers, except maybe Dallas Clark but his hands appeared to be made of bricks, and Joe never found his rhythm. Jacoby Jones who is not only an important part of the offense but special teams as well, was taken out by one of his own players in what can only be described as sheer ineptitude. Jacoby sprained his knee and will be out 2-3 weeks. Baltimore could really use Anquan Boldin at receiver right now but, unfortunately he’s too busy being awesome in San Francisco. Where the Ravens traded him for reasons no one can begin to fathom. Add to that a nonsensical limit to Ray Rice’s touches (adequately screwing over my fantasy team) and I’ll be the first person to tell you I haven’t the foggiest idea what the Ravens are doing.

The defense has holes. They’ve got more holes than swiss cheese, a sieve and Miley Cyrus’s personality put together (zing!). They don’t look bad so much as they looked lost and inept. They made a star out of Julius Thomas who no one had ever heard of, even I presume, Julius Thomas. The NBC analysts Chris Collinsworth and Al Michaels were at a  loss with anything to actually say about the guy, except that he played basketball. Which, to be fair, is more than any of us knew. Especially the Raven’s defense.

The Bills, Cardinals And Raiders Will Be Better Than Everyone Thought.

Everyone believed that the Patriots beat the Bills simply by arriving in Buffalo. Instead Tom Brady & co. won but with way more effort than anyone imagined. It was a nail biter that ended with Tom Brady driving his team down the field to set up the go ahead field goal. But the Bills gave their fans something to be optimistic about this decade. Rookie quarterback E.J. Manuel looked sharp throwing for 150 yards and 2 touchdowns. Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller both looked shifty and hard to hit, both of them using their combined 30 carries to pick up 108 yards.

The Cardinals look like a for real NFL offense for the first time in years. Literally years. Larry Fitzgerald proves that he can be a dynamic player if there is a halfway competent quarterback passing him the ball. Enter Carson Palmer, our friendly neighborhood halfway decent quarterback. He looked impressive throwing for 327 yards and 2 touchdowns, hitting 8 different receivers along the way. Rashard Mendenhall added a bit of a running game and all of a sudden the Cardinals look like they can give any team in the league a run for their money.

Terrelle Pryor a.k.a. Al Davis’ last draft pick proved that the old man could still smell talent. Pryor had a decent outing Sunday. He threw a couple of interceptions but, he passed for 217 yards and a touchdown. Pryor made plays with his feet, specifically he made 112 yards worth of plays with his feet. He kept the Raiders offense on track and gave them a chance to win late. Unfortunately, Andrew Luck is Captain Clutch and stole a victory late for the Colts. Apparently Pryor cried after the game, but honestly, he’s got nothing to cry about he gave the Raiders a chance to win. The Raiders. I would’ve have been shocked if they won more than two games this season. Now, I’d be shocked if they didn’t.

The Philadelphia Eagles Look Fast On Field, Chip Kelly Says They’re “Too Slow.”

The Philadelphia Eagles are going to break a lot of records this season, and they’re all going to be for the most plays run. Under rookie head coach Chip Kelly, the Eagles have adopted a frantic playing style. The Washington Redskins thought they were prepared for this. The were in fact, not prepared for this. Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett (the poor guy) was studying college film in an attempt to prepare for Kelly’s blazing offensive production. It seemed for naught. The Redskins hung in there early but once the Eagles got in the end zone, it seemed like they couldn’t stop scoring. Lesean McCoy and Michael Vick worked together like partners in crime. Two really fast partners in crime, shredding the Redskins tired defense for 24 first half points, while running 53 plays (which is a disturbingly high number of plays). After the game Chip Kelly said to NFL Network’s Aditi Kinkhabwala with a straight face, “I felt like it was slow, to be honest with you.”

Michael Vick said he felt like he played an entire half of football in one quarter. That’s because you did Mike. That’s because you did.

RG3 Looked Like A Rust Bucket For Most Of The Game.

To say Robert Griffin III looked rusty, would be the understatement of the century. He looked like the tin man, if the tin man decided to take frequent baths in the ocean. Griffin was the definition of rust for three quarters of this game. His actions appeared stiff and unsure. His timing with his receivers was off. Passes hilariously overthrown and comically under thrown. He looked like a shell of himself. The only thing about this game that gave Skins any hope for this season was the fourth quarter. Robert was able to find a rhythm and when he did find it, the Eagles seemed unable to stop him. So that’s good.

Packers Try To Stop Kaepernick From Rushing, Ironically Get Picked Apart In The Air.

Well, it’s not like the Packers didn’t succeed in a manner of speaking. Colin Kaepernick only rushed for 22 yards. Unfortunately for the Pack, their defense failed in every other sense of the word. The 49ers quarterback took whatever yardage he wanted from the Packers defense, which turned out to be 412 yards and 3 touchdowns. Clay Matthews got his hit on Colin Kaepernick but may have cost his team the game. There were offsetting penalties, and the officials mistakenly awarded the 49ers another 3rd down instead of the fourth down they were supposed to get. Some people might blame the officials for this. I blame Clay Matthews. His hit on Kaep as he was running out of bounds was stupid, unnecessary and a tad dirty. If he doesn’t to that there isn’t even a mistake for the officials to make.

Anquan Boldin formerly of Ravens fame proved that the Ravens made a mistake in trading him to the 49ers. Joe Flacco’s former favorite target became Colin Kaepernick’s favorite tartget, grabbing 13 passes for a grand total of 208 yards and a touchdown. Boldin had a monstrous difference in the game because when the Packers broke out of their zone a bit to guard him, he still burned them.

Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense put up a very good fight. Rodgers had 333 yards and 3 touchdowns, along with one interception, but the punch that Eddie Lacy was supposed to add to the running game, never came, and Rodgers was up a creek with Jordy Nelson and no paddle. Amazingly, it was almost good enough as the Packers fell 34-28.

Tony Romo’s Has An Offensive Line?

Why, yes he does. In fact, they were quite good. They looked like a cohesive unit for the first time in about 15 years (I’m exaggerating but only mildly). No longer do opposing defensive linemen look like the Juggernaut running through paper maché. They have to actually work  to get to Tony Romo. This provides Romo with more time to look down field than he’s ever had in his life. If you thought he was good before (Romo haters, not one word) wait until you see him have time. The Giants have a pretty good secondary and they couldn’t stop Tony at all. He was slinging the ball all over the yard as he and the Cowboys staved off a late game comeback by the Giants.

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An Open Letter To RGIII: Please Stop Talking.

I need to preface this by stating that I’m a Redskins fan. I have been since 1999, which is more than half of my life at this point. I should also mention that because of this fact, I really like Robert Griffin III. He’s the best player on my favorite team. So that makes sense. What I’m about to say, given my fandom, will not. You don’t bash the guy who gave your favorite team it’s first divisional title in 13 years (which is my entire time as a Redskins fan). However, I don’t feel like I would be doing my job if I ignored this.

(redskins.com)

Dear Robert,

Shut up. Please. I understand that you have recovered from your knee injury faster than anyone could have anticipated. Which is great for all of us because we get to see one of the league’s exciting young players back in action. That’s great. What’s not great though is the incessant whining that the coaches aren’t letting you do enough, sooner.

We get it. You’re an uber-competitor, with the will to win and we all applaud that…sort of. What you fail to understand is that the coaching staff is under a lot of pressure to get this right. So going to the media and telling them that you want to move from 7 on 7 team drills to the full 11 on 11, is neither the time nor the place. When you do things like that, you put them in a bit of a catch-22. If they start you and (God forbid) something bad happens they get blamed, if they don’t and something bad happens they get blamed. This is why you do not air your dirty laundry to the media.

The coaching staff will be extra careful in bringing you along because you’re the franchise. In the city of Washington, that’s everything. The Redskins are everything. Your knees are the most important knees in that entire city. Yes, even more important than President Obama’s knees.

While one would think that you are best qualified to speak on the subject of your own knee, I respectfully disagree. If memory serves correctly, the last time we listened to you say you were ready to play, you were collapsed in a depressing heap at FedEx Field with Redskins fans the world over holding their collective breaths. Present company included. We already look forward to seeing you week 1 against the Eagles. It is going to be the first of 16 games that I will watch all year in which my heart is firmly planted in my throat.

So, what’s the rush? Let the coaches do their job. Don’t add any more pressure than there has to be. I think that’s what everybody wants.

-Keon R., Sports Cloud

P.S.- Have a good season and keep beating the Cowboys. That never gets old.

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A Tale Of Two Cities: Examining Derrick Rose and Robert Griffin III

In two different cities, two young leaders of two burgeoning franchises, playing two different sports suffered two separate ACL injuries. These young men, both possessing the most important knees in their respective cities have one more thing in common. A single question that haunts them, and their fan bases.

When do I return?

The Season Derrick Rose, the Bulls point guard, is known for his quickness and devastating crossover. He tasked himself with carrying the offensive load of his team in his fourth season. He also became a solid defender as well. In the 2011-12 NBA season, Rose led his Bulls to the league’s best record and the number 1 seed in the eastern conference. That season, Rose 21.8 points per game and 7.9 assists per game. While not career highs, these are extremely impressive numbers all the same.

The Injury When the playoffs began, the Bulls faced the surging Philadelphia 76ers. Philadelphia was inconsistent all season but, had won four out of their last five games heading into the post season. Still, the Bulls were heavy favorites going into the matchup with the upstart eighth seed 76ers. Then it, happened.

With 1:22 left in the game, Derrick Rose jumped off his left in the lane as he attacked the basket. This is a routine move for Rose but, this time, he didn’t finish the play. Lacking elevation, he fell to the ground and crumpled in a heap. He attempted to stand but simply could not. Rose had torn his ACL.

The Return Without Derrick Rose, the Bulls in the 2012-13 season, are playing playoff caliber basketball. Not quite at the level that they were a season ago, when they were considered championship contenders. With a current record of 39-31, the Bulls sans Rose are more than capable of holding their own. They displayed their mettle when they ended the Miami Heat’s historic winning streak at 27. The Heat with the best player in basketball, playing the best basketball of his career are all but a shoe in to return to the finals. The kicker? They did it without the team’s second best player, Joakim Noah.

There are obvious downsides to Derrick Rose missing games. Prior to the injury, Derrick Rose was the focal point of the offense. Since then, his Bulls have had to find ways to win in his absence. There will definitely be chemistry issues when he returns. However, by not playing, Derrick Rose and the Bulls staff are hoping to  prevent further injury. This is a great decision. It hurts the Bulls now, but if Derrick Rose is the player that everyone believes he can be, and reaches the heights that fans believe that he can reach, Chicago has everything to gain.

Which brings us to Robert Griffin III.

The Season Fresh off of his Heisman winning season at the University of Baylor, the second overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft was ready to take the league by storm. He did exactly that. Griffin passed for 3,200 yards and completed 65.6% of his passes. He threw 20 touchdowns and accounted for 7 touchdowns on the ground. He threw 5 interceptions, all season. The Redskins began the season an underwhelming 3-6 but, won 7 straight games to win the NFC East title for the first time since 1999 and make the playoffs for the first time since 2007.

The Injury The week 15 matchup between the Redskins and eventual Superbowl champion Baltimore Ravens marks the beginning of a two part tale. In order to get a first down Robert rolled out of the pocket and scrambled upfield. As he attempted to get down he was hit by Raven’s tackle, Haloti Ngata. The weight of the 330 lb Ngata hit the leg of Griffin causing his knee to bend momentarily in the opposite direction.

Griffin led the Redskins down the field twice in the first quarter of the playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks. Twice they scored but, on the second drive, Robert’s knee buckled in an attempt to elude defenders. It is at this point that Robert Griffin III should not have been in the game. Whether the coach, staff or player is at fault is the question that still needs to be answered.

The Seahawks rallied and climbed back into the game. The Redskins were deep in their own territory with 6:15 to go in the 4th quarter, and they needed a drive to hold off the Seahawks. The ball was snapped low and as Griffin reached to pick it up, his knee gave out. The Seahawks recovered the ball and scored.

The Return Orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews, who is overseeing the recovery of Griffin had only great things to say about his recovery so far.

He wants his recovery to be fairly private, but I can tell you he’s way ahead of schedule. His recovery has been unbelievable so far.

– Dr. James Andrews

This statement and the an interesting Adidas ad almost make it seem like Robert is trying to come back for week 1 of next. This is not smart. When a team trades two first round picks and a second round pick to take a guy, they expect to build around that guy for the next ten years. Robert is that guy. He’s got to be smart and learn from Derrick Rose. Comeback 100%. If that’s week 1, which is unlikely, then it’s week 1. If it’s week 7 then so be it. However, if  Griffin needs to miss the whole season, he needs to accept that that’s just how it’s got to be. Everyone is wondering if he, and the Redskins will make the same mistake twice. If the Redskins make the wrong decision and set him back, then it won’t matter if he’s superhuman or not.

Two young players, two big decisions, and two very bright futures on the line.

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Lights Out! Or How The Ravens Survived the Surging 49ers to win Superbowl 47

A Super Bowl review four days after the big game?! Unthinkable. I thought so too but, now I get to cram all the delicious post-Super Bowl action into here. No body has to lose any sleep over this. Even if (disappointingly) this my first post since the “fail mary” that lifted the Seahawks past the Packers and made Aaron Rodgers angrier than Rich Eisen covering a Brett Favre comeback.

So, without further ado, the notable moments of Super Bowl 47 and it’s after math.

The San Francisco 49ers Start Slow and Pay For It.

In my opinion, San Francisco was too conservative in the first half. This hurt Colin Kaepernick’s rhythm , because San Francisco did not line up very often in the pistol formation nor did they use the read option very much. This is odd because the Ravens’ defense showed a susceptibility to it against the Redskins earlier in the season, and later in the game. The Ravens respect for the run game makes the read option effective against them by opening up holes in their secondary. A weakness the 49ers did not exploit until the second half.

Kaepernick was often times indecisive with his throws early in the game, which led to a 1 interception and no touchdown half for the second year quarterback.

On defense, San Francisco was determined not be beaten by Baltimore’s speedy receiver Torrey Smith. They double teamed him on nearly every play he was in the game, though the Ravens took shots in his direction anyway ( I assume in an effort to keep the defense honest). This allowed slant passes and other underneath routes to be highly effective against them. Torrey Smith didn’t do nearly as much damage Anquon Boldin and tight ends Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson did. This was eventually their undoing on the defensive side because the Ravens picked up a number of crucial third and longs by winning those routes.

The Baltimore Ravens Soared Early and Held On Late.

The  much maligned Joe Flacco ended his post season with 11 TDs and no interceptions, including his 3 TD first half performance that netted him the game’s MVP award. Flacco, in a contract year, played like a franchise player deserving of his self glossed elite status.

There was however, more to this game than Joe Flacco. Wide receiver Jacoby Jones turned in his own MVP-worthy performance as well, receiving 1 TD pass and returning a record setting 108 yard kick return at the beginning of the second half to keep the Ravens in the driver’s seat.

Despite Flacco’s stellar first half, he came to earth and was pretty human in the second. The power outage may have had something to do with this, stymieing the Ravens momentum but, regardless Flacco was not playing at his first half level in the second half as far as red zone play is concerned. The Ravens were still moving the ball well but settled for field goals inside the 20 yard line on a couple of possessions that may have iced the game.

The Ravens game plan was very balanced. Offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell deserves credit for that. Running backs Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce shared 32 carries between the two of them. Flacco threw the ball 33 times. The Ravens disproportionately racked up yards in the air with 287 passing yards as compared to their meager 92 rushing yards. However Flacco was hot for most of the game and the 49ers have an especially stout run defense. 49ers linebackers Navarro Bowman and Patrick Willis made sure that life on the ground was going to be tough for Baltimore.

On the other side of the ball, the Ravens played smart and out witted Kaepernick for much of the game. Especially on Colin’s first half interception. This was a typical Ed Reed performance where, he made deep passes a dangerous option for the opposing quarterback. Reed tracked the play from beginning to end, and as he often does, found himself in the perfect position to make a play on the football.

After the power outage the Ravens had trouble with the mobility of Colin Kaepernick. However, on crucial plays the found ways to hold firm.

Officiating

The referees let the players play in the big game. There were only 7 penalties committed on Sunday by either team.

The most notable officiating moment is the no call on Ravens defensive back Jimmy Smith who made contact with receiver Michael Crabtree at the end of the game. A no-call, that in my opinion, was a good one. Both Smith and Crabtree made contact prior to the ball being thrown and Crabtree pushed off after the ball was thrown.

The Aftermath 

After the Super Bowl 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh (obviously) took offense to the game ending no-call.

Joe Flacco called himself “a Raven for life” which is important because this is the end of his contract. The Ravens can re-sign him or slap him with the franchise tag. He also learned that the MVP of the Super Bowl wins a car.

Colin Kaepernick took blame for his teams’ loss, citing early mistakes as a reason.

John Harbaugh said his brother was the best coach in football as he won a brotherly rivalry for big brothers everywhere.

Ray Lewis did one last squirrel dance after the parade for all of the Baltimore fans, and it was as epic as you thought.

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What We Learned: NFL Week 2 (Better Late Than Never)

Week 3 of the NFL starts in a few hours so a review of Week 2 of the NFL is way overdue. Here’s a look at week 2 in the NFL season, and what we learned.

Alex Smith takes a shot to the face in the 49ers victory over the Lions on Sunday Night.

Steve Sabol, president of NFL Films, dies at the age of 69.

Steve Sabol passed away this passed week of brain cancer. Sabol was the son of NFL Films founder Ed Sabol, and a true visionary like his father was. Ed wanted to bring fans closer to the game. What Steve did, was take that idea and run with it. He brought fans to the game by telling a story. His use of visuals, music, as well as on-field sound served to provide football fans with a cinematic experience. Steve Sabol’s ideas have since been used in other sports. The NBA’s The Association and the MLB’s The Franchise both use techniques that Sabol invented that are now an industry standard. With his ability to take games beyond the scoreboard and turn them into stories, Steve Sabol forever changed the NFL and sports.

We Need The Real Officials Back

Steve Young said earlier this week that the NFL doesn’t care about good officiating or player safety. He couldn’t be more right. As each week passes, NFL defenses begin to test their boundaries with these replacement officials. I watched the Redskins play the Rams last week and that game was a mess from the very beginning. The real officials would know how to take control, especially of a game like that, which was an intense game from beginning to end. Their was a helmet-to-helmet collisions by Janoris Jenkins on Fred Davis that went uncalled, a couple of touchdowns for the Rams that should have been touchdowns but weren’t, and a lot of extracurricular activities after the whistle by both teams.

The replacement refs seemed out of their element. Out of their league. The speed of the game was too much for them to handle and it showed. Division III referees are simply not going to cut it. Young is right the fans will watch even when their team gets screwed out of a game or worse, if a player gets seriously injured because of a game that got out of control.

Peyton Manning Is Still A Work In Progress

Peyton Manning started his first 3 series against the Falcons on Monday Night Football, with three interceptions. This put his Broncos in a hole early. A hole that despite a pretty good game from Manning, after the early INTs, the Broncos would never fully recover.

Peyton Manning missed an entire season of NFL football. He’s going to have his ups and downs as he attempts to return to the form that we know him for. And while I don’t believe he’ll ever get back there, he can get very close. It’s just going to take some time. Knee jerk reactions will leave many looking foolish in regard to Manning. He’ll have some great games but, guess what? There are going to be some stinkers in there as well.

The 2012 NFL Rookie Class Will Be One of the Most Amazing We’ve Seen

Trent Richardson tee’d off on the Bengals last week and with that added support, Brandon Weeded showed what he was capable of. The Bengals still beat the Browns but Cleveland looked a whole lot better offensively than before, thanks to it’s two new rookies.

Andrew Luck was able to play a much, shall we say, nicer defense in week 2 in that matchup against the Minnesota Vikings. Reggie Wayne helped out. Luck’s arm is pretty monstrous regardless of what the critics say. He also showed that he can use his mobility to extend plays and pick up first downs when necessary. Remember Andrew Luck’s 40 yard dash is right up there with Cam Newton’s.

Robert Griffin III looked less impressive than he did in week 1 against the Saints. The Rams are a tougher defense than New Orleans, though. They did slow down the high powered Detroit Lions offense in week 1, picking off Matthew Stafford 3 times. Griffin was intercepted once but he accounted for 3 touchdowns. He had one in the air and 2 rushing TDs.

Ryan Tannehill bounced back after a rough outing in week 1. He like Luck, faced a weaker defense than the one they played a week prior. Tannehill threw for a touchdown and ran for another. He had no turnovers. He looked good and showed poise most likely because he didn’t have to bear the offensive load. Let’s say he received a bit of assistance from Reggie Bush, in the form of 172 yards and two touchdowns.

There’s the recap. What will we learn in week 3?

 

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What We Learned: NFL Week 1

Week 1 of the NFL season is in the books. There are lots of things to look at this week; the five rookies that started, the return of some prominent running backs, and more. Let’s jump in it!

The Giants Need Receivers and The Cowboys Have a Secondary.

Tony Romo and Kevin Ogletree after their victory over the Giants last Wednesday.

The Dallas Cowboys helped kickoff the NFL season last Wednesday with a 24-17 drubbing of the New York Giants. Tony Romo looked electric, as threw the ball all over the yard. Romo offset his one interception by throwing 309 yards and 3 touchdowns. Dez Bryant ran rampant, showing the elite playmaking ability that Dalas was looking for when they drafted him. Kevin Ogletree stepped up in a big way with 8 receptions for 114 yards and 2 touchdowns.

I don’t know if the Cowboys secondary is permanently cured of the knuckle headed play that has plagued it in the past but, defensive coordinator Rob Ryan has the Cowboys disrupting Eli’s rhythm all night. The pass rush played a part of course gathering 3 sacks and making Eli Manning uncomfortable.

The Giants struggled offensively. It’s pretty clear that losing Mario Manningham to the San Francisco 49ers this offseason has hurt them. They tried running the ball, which they were worst in the league last season in doing, and they failed miserably at it. They were unable to stretch the field. Both Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks received special attention from the Dallas defense. Nicks was pretty much shut down with 4 receptions for just 38 yards. Victor Cruz had opportunities but dropped a number of passes. While this isn’t a sign of things to come, the Giants need a third option to emerge for Eli or they’ll be in a lot of trouble.

Quarterback Nightmares

What do Michael Vick, Brandon Weeden, Matthew Stafford, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Andrew Luck, and Ryan Tannehill have in common? A metric crap ton of interceptions between them. All of these quarterbacks threw three interceptions on Sunday. Noteworthy: 3 of the 5 rookies starting at quarterback are here. 

Michael Vick and Brandon Weeden were apparently playing to see who could throw the most interceptions. They both tied at 4, I suppose. However what’s interesting about the Eagles is that Michael Vick threw the ball 56 times. 56 times! What kind of game plan is that? This simply adds another chapter the play calling blunders in the book that is Andy Reid. Does Andy Reid know who LeSean McCoy is? Apparently not because McCoy  had just 20 carries.  When you ask a quarterback to throw that many passes some of them are going to get taken away.

Brandon Weeden looked about as lost and confused as a man can get. Beginning with him getting trapped under the American Flag at the start of the game and continuing into the game.

Weeden had some good plays but he threw no touchdowns to go along with is 4 picks and he overthrew a number of open receivers  including what would have been a touchdown to Alex Smith who was wide open in the end zone.

Matthew Stafford was able to help the Lions escape with a victory after throwing 3 interceptions. He threw all of the interceptions in the first half. Then became captain clutch in the waning moments of the game to help his team top the Rams 27-23.

Adrian Peterson looks glorious in his return, Blaine Gabbert looks good.

Vikings running back Adrian Peterson had 84 yards and 2 touchdowns on 17 carries as the Vikings beat the Jaguars in overtime 26-23. Peterson looked like the same dominant player he was when he left. He tore his ACL only 8 months ago. That’s pretty impressive stuff. He was making all of the sharp moves and cuts as always. Furthermore, he was able to take some pretty big hits and keep rolling like we know him to do so well.

Last season, I called for the Jaguars to start Gabbert. Almost as soon as the Gabbert era began, I ate those words. They were very bad tasting words and I can honestly say that Gabbert was the worst quarterback in the league last season. He looked terrified in the pocket and inaccurate out of it. He got his season off to a good start, despite the loss; by completing 26 of 39 passes and throwing for 260 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Shock! 

The Jets shocked the media, and not me,  by scoring points this Sunday. Lots of them. 48 points to be specific. In this age of overanalysis, the media saw the Jets unable to score points of any kind in the preseason and assumed it would carry over to the regular season. That’s not how this works. Mark Sanchez looked golden and Stephen Hill looked great as well, as the Jets steam rolled the revamped Bills offense.

The Redskins shocked the media, and me, by scoring 40 points on the New Orleans Saints in New Orleans. Led by rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III who threw 320 yards and 2 touchdowns, on 19 of 26 passing. Griffin had a perfect quarterback rating at halftime and ended with the best quarterback rating in the league by the end of week 1, with a rating of 139.9. The rookie running back Alfred Morris out of Florida Atlantic contributed another 2 touchdowns. The defense was tenacious and harassed Drew Brees all day long. On a side note: Griffin handles press conferences like veteran. 

The Oakland Raiders had a ton of penalties. Just kidding. The Raiders are still as undisciplined as they always have been and racked up the penalties, including two offsides penalties by Tommy Kelly which kept San Diego’s drives alive, in a 22-14 loss to the Chargers, shocking absolutely no one. Even the media.

I can tell already, this is going to be a great season. This is going to be a great season.

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5 Things To Wonder About This NFL Season.

The Dallas Cowboys beat the New York Giants 24-17 to start the season. The first half of that game was a snooze fest. During that time I started thinking ahead to the rest of the NFL season. Here are some things that might be in store for us.

5. Russell Wilson Beats Matt Flynn For The Starting Job

I don’t know what this is a bigger indication of. The skill of Russell Wilson. The suck-itude (yeah I just made that word up) of Matt Flynn who was payed $26 million for 3 years with the Seahawks, and still couldn’t beat his undersized rookie competition. Or how crazy general manager John Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll are for paying a man $26 million and then starting a rookie instead.

If this works for Seattle, Carroll and Schneider, will look like geniuses. If not they’ll look insane, which of course, they totally are.

4. Is Kevin Ogletree the next Victor Cruz?

The Dallas Cowboys under achieving wide receiver Kevin Ogletree had his coming out party against the Giants Wednesday night. He hauled in 8 receptions for 114 yards and 2 touchdowns. He ran his routes perfectly and used some very crafty moves to beat his man off the line. He also displayed speed down the field and was generally a nuisance to the Giants defense as a whole. The Cowboys always believed that Ogletree had skills but he had never displayed them consistently. He may be in line for a break out season, just like Victor Cruz was last season.

Bonus Question: Can Victor Cruz be Victor Cruz?

That same night was an off night for the previously mention Giants receiver. Cruz was targeted 11 times and only caught 6 of the passes. Many of the drops were in his hands, especially in situations where he could have done more damage to the Dallas defense with runs after the catch. The loss of Manningham seems to be hurting Cruz as he is now more heavily relied upon in the offense, and of course more heavily guarded as a result.

3. Can Mark Sanchez keep his job?

If it were up to me he would. Under no circumstances would I put Tim Tebow in for Mark Sanchez. I would not be pressured by the fans and media into doing something so silly. Tim Tebow is an awful quarterback and until that changes I wouldn’t think twice about sticking with Marky Mark to lead the funky bunch. A quarterback that can’t complete more than half of the passes he throws is hardly a quarterback at all. It’s not up to me though.

If Rex Ryan was serious about returning to the “ground and pound” then Sanchez is in luck. He can manage the game. Which he’s very good at. If Rex was just joking then, it was a cruel joke indeed, and it’s not all that funny. Mark hasn’t proven he can go out and win a game. He’ll need run support.

2. Who will win the NFC North?

The NFL’s toughest division is the NFC North. No doubt about it. Aaron Rodgers is a monster and seems to dominate any game he wants to, which is most of them. The Bears have Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall a tandem that will do more than it’s fair share of damage. Chicago also has it’s stifling defense. The Lions have a combo of their own in Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson. The Vikings are going to look better this season. Jared Allen is a sack master. Christian Ponder looks poised to take the next step and if Adrian Peterson a.k.a. the best running back in football is healthy, any Sunday is going to be the wrong Sunday to mess with Minnesota.

I think Chicago wins it though. They are the most well-rounded team in the division. They depth at every position. Matt Forte and Michael Bush on the ground, Brandon Marshall and the very impressive rookie Alshon Jeffery at receivers, and Devin Hester can still change the game in special teams.

1. Rise of the rookies quarterbacks?

In addition to the previously mentioned Russell Wilson, Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck, Ryan Tannehill, and Brandon “old man” Weeden will be starting week 1 for their respective teams. This seems to be the trend that NFL teams are leaning towards. However, every year there is a dud. Last year was Blaine Gabbert. He looked ready up until he wasn’t. He looked lost bewildered and confused. Here’s where the current class stands:

Success from RGIII and Andrew Luck are expected, no matter how unfair that is. Too many gaffes from them may have their fans worrying. Especially, Redskins fans.

Ryan Tannehill has no receivers or defense to rely on so most losses won’t be just his fault. However he does know the offense and should be ahead of the curve.

Russell Wilson is in a position to keep something that wasn’t going to be his the first place, the starting job.

Brandon Weeden has the most to lose. He’s on a terrible team, he’s old (at least in football years), and the guy who’s behind him is a serviceable NFL quarterback. Yet he’ll still be expected to perform decently well. Because of his age he won’t have as much time to make mistakes as other quarterbacks.

If most these quarterbacks don’t succeed they may set future rookie QBs  back a bit. Coaches will still take risks on them, but start them? We’ll see.

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Too Much Stock In The Preseason?

There’s a saying that goes like this; “America has two favorite sports. Football, and waiting for football to come back.”

So it makes sense that in our football crazed society that as soon as we see anything that looks like professional football we go nuts. It’s easy to forget that; these games don’t have any meaning so far as score is concerned and there are a lot of mismatches. By mismatches I mean starters against second stringers, as well as the typical tradition that coaches have of saving their real schemes for the regular season.

While there are some indicators that we can take from the preseason, it is in no way itself, an indicator of  regular season success. It is important to not fall prey to this misconception after watching your favorite team lead a solid drive into the endzone. It is similarly important not to be chicken little and exclaim that the sky is falling based on exhibition matches.

For instance, the Jets whose offensive woes can simply number as many, cannot simply be written off for struggling in the preseason. The 20 snaps that starters get during the preseason is not nearly enough to determine how a team will perform during the flow of a game. It can’t tell us how good the Jets may be at bouncing back from rough starts. Both Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow are late game performers (in the case of Tebow, very late).

Another example of preseason overreaction is how we view rookies. The comparisons to Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck seemingly never end. If one of them looks like a rookie at any point, everyone gets worried. Both ESPN and the NFL network talk about both guys scoring their “first NFL touchdowns” as if that were a thing that could happen in the preseason. It can’t. These stats count for nothing. If we all recall Cam Newton had a preseason to forget last year but, took flight during the NFL season. Conversely, Ryan Leaf looked better than Peyton Manning in the preseason and one source even called Peyton Manning “ordinary.” We all know how those careers went.

What does a fan in the preseason look for? We don’t get the view that the coaches and players get when they watch film. Very true but there are things to really look for without firing up the hype machine.

Look for each players skills. By this I mean look for shiftiness in running backs and just general speed. Quarterbacks need to make reads and go through progressions. If you look at where the quarterback is looking you can see him go through his progressions as his head moves from one part of the field to another. Also look at ball location. How much time does the quarterback have to throw? Oppositely, check the pass rush and see where their strong points are.

Try not to look at the score so much. In the preseason it can be misleading and is rarely a good indicator of how the team is actually doing. At this point you’re just better off chilling out. The regular season is only ten days away.

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