Friday, December 7, 2012

NFL Coroner's Reports

The following teams have been eliminated from 2012 playoff contention, complete with analysis into their respective demises.

Arizona Cardinals
Buffalo Bills
Carolina Panthers
Chicago Bears
Cleveland Browns
Dallas Cowboys
Detroit Lions
Jacksonville Jaguars
Kansas City Chiefs
Miami Dolphins
New Orleans Saints
New York Giants
New York Jets
Oakland Raiders
Philadelphia Eagles
Pittsburgh Steelers
San Diego Chargers
St. Louis Rams
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tennessee Titans

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Chris Johnson Had Better Be CJ2K12

Trying to erase the horridness of CJ2K11
A colossal $53.5M over four years, with $30M guaranteed. That’s what Chris Johnson held out for last summer, not reporting to the Tennessee Titans until September 1, just ten days before opening Sunday.
After three spectacular years as Tennessee’s running back (and one pantheon year in 2009, where he rushed for 2,006 yards), one could argue that Johnson was worth every penny.

Despite regressing in 2010 to 1,364 yards, still good for fourth best in the league, Tennessee was right to lock down their three-time Pro Bowler to such a lucrative deal.
But was Johnson right to hold out for as long as he did?
Tennessee as a team in 2011 fell one game short of the playoffs. As a team, the Titans went 9-7 behind a decent year from Matt Hasselbeck, improved offensive line play (second in sacks allowed), and a defense that bent, but didn’t break, ranking eighth in points allowed.

To read the rest of this article at Football Nation, click here

Friday, August 10, 2012

Eagles Studs and Duds (Preseason Week 1 Edition)

Cue the "We Want Foles!" chants
STUDS: Phillip Hunt/Brandon Graham/Vinny Curry/Darryl Tapp (DE)
Between the quartet of ends not named Jason Babin or Trent Cole, there were 3.5 sacks and a forced fumble (at the hands of Hunt). That’s not even counting the amount of times Ben Roethlisberger and Byron Leftwich were flushed out of the pocket with the onslaught coming.

Most impressive of the quartet was Hunt, whose two sacks came when he blew past a graying Flozell Adams, one of which he was clearly being held.

With two sacks in the nine games he played for the Eagles last season, the former CFL player figures to be a big part of Jim Washburn’s heavy rotation at end.

And speaking of that rotation, when Cole and Babin get healthy, one can imagine just how frightening the outside attack is going to be.

DUD: The third down defense
In the first half, Pittsburgh was 4 for 7 on third down. Of the four converted plays, one was an unnecessary personal foul by Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie on third and sixteen. The other three plays, with a total of 27 yards were needed to convert, Pittsburgh would gain 38 total yards on a dump off to David Johnson, a deep throw to Emmanuel Sanders, and middle run by Chris Rainey.

To read the rest of this article at Football Nation, click here

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Kevin Kolb Still The Best Of a Pathetic 2007 QB Class

Kevin Kolb: Summer School Valedictorian
Perhaps too much is being made of Kevin Kolb’s lack of fist-bump-response toward teammate John Skelton on Sunday night.

In the moment, Kolb was riddled the double whammy of a contused rib and a lackluster performance.

I think most perfectionist professionals would have been reluctant to exchange bro-tastic salutations in that scenario.
And just because Kolb has been less than perfect as a pro doesn’t mean he isn’t a perfectionist.

He would love to make good on his No. 36 selection in the 2007 NFL Draft, but his road to success has been wrought with roadblocks and potholes aplenty.
First, he had to wait his turn behind Donovan McNabb in Philadelphia. That entailed all of two starts out of a possible 48 games from 2007-09, before the Eagles traded McNabb to Washington on Easter Sunday 2010.
Then Kolb got the keys to the Philly car, only to have a fender bender on day one. The Michael Vick Redemption Saga took over from there, and Kolb only played again when Vick was hurt.

To read the rest of this article at Football Nation, click here

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Philadelphia Eagles: Best/Worst Case Scenario

Will Asomugha bounce back in 2012?
NOTE: In writing this piece, I thought about incorporating the possible mindset of head coach Andy Reid throughout the season as a possible “worst case scenario”, given the likelihood of prolonged grief over the loss of his son, Garrett. However, I decided this would be unfair and, in a number of ways, cruel of me to speculate upon.

So, other than this space here, there will no further comment on Garrett Reid, or how his passing may affect the team going forward. Instead, as an Eagles fan, I choose to just offer my condolences to both the Reid family and those who knew Garrett well.


Best Case Scenario:
 Michael Vick displays the patience, pocket presence, and intimidation factor that reconciles a return to his 2010 comeback season.

Keeping turnovers to a minimum, while serving as master and commander of a multi-faceted offense, Vick wins more often than not, mixing crisp passing with the kind of push-button scrambling that frustrates defenses. With an offensive line that is mostly experienced together, Vick uses that protection advantageously to enhance his performance.

Worst Case Scenario: Vick is either heavy on turnovers, or prone to injury by not protecting himself (either scrambling, or waiting too long to throw). Mike Kafka and/or Nick Foles will have their inexperienced exposed with too many mistakes in Vick’s absence, coughing up games that could have otherwise been won.

To read the rest of this article at Football Nation, click here

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Madden Video Game: All-Time Best Features

*sigh* Sundays aren't the same without them

In less than four weeks time, Madden NFL, the highest-grossing franchise of sports video games will be spawning their latest offering upon an eager game-geek world.

Madden 13, the twenty-fifth incarnation of football game bearing the likeness of the portly coach-turned-announcer John Madden, will hit shelves on August 28. With Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson serving as the cover model, this year’s game will feature some intriguing options, such as a more intuitive passing game, more realistic audio, smarter AI, and, *ahem*, ‘Tebowing’.

The release will be commemorated with throngs of young men, and some women, standing outside their GameStops and other retailers in anticipation of the midnight release. Public tournaments will be held, and workplace productivity will decline sharply as week drags to its end.

You’d have to expect this level of devotion for a game from people perfectly willing to vote in a month-long, 32-man tournament to determine what player will grace the cover, and subsequently fall victim to the fabled “Madden Curse.”

To read the rest of this article at Football Nation, click here

Braylon Edwards Better Not Blow This Opportunity

The vultures may be circling the new Seahawk
On Christmas Eve 2011, Braylon Edwards and his 49ers teammates went into Seattle and held off the Seahawks, improving their record to 12-3, and enhancing their odds at getting a first round playoff bye.
Three days after the game, in which he had one catch for nine yards in the second quarter, Edwards was cut by the 49ers.
It was a meek end to an equally meek run for one of the NFL’s resident bad boys. Having only 15 catches for 181 yards and no touchdowns in the nine games he managed to play,

Edwards was deemed expendable on the verge of the 49ers’ first playoff run in nearly a decade.

Curiously, the day he was cut, fellow receivers Ted Ginn Jr. and Kyle Williams were battling injuries. That left Michael Crabtree as the only healthy receiver of note. 
That San Francisco nearly made it to the Super Bowl without him, their run ended by special teams miscues and not his absence, should speak to the diminished value that Edwards has today.
Edwards, for those that have forgotten, was the No. 3 overall pick by Cleveland in the 2005 NFL Draft.

To read the rest of this article at Football Nation, click here

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Top Five Tight End Battles

Maybe Harbaugh'll just ceremonially flip a coin
Baltimore Ravens: Ed Dickson vs. Dennis Pitta

Make no mistake, both men will get their reps if they stay healthy in 2012.

Together, they combined for 94 catches, 933 yards and 8 touchdowns last season.

Dickson had the better output by about a 1.5-to-1 ratio, but he was also the full-time starter.

That seems to show that Pitta, one of the surprises of 2011, is developing into one of Joe Flacco’s favorite targets.

Pitta’s edge will be his superior blocking skills, which will come in handy for a team that has a) Ray Rice, and b) an offensive line that’s declined from a year ago.

To read the rest of this entry at Football Nation, click here

Friday, July 27, 2012

The 100 Greatest NFL Quarterbacks, 1970-Present

No doubt they're discussing the accuracy of my list
99. Erik Kramer "On the first play he ran as the Lions’ signal caller, Kramer changed the play given to him. For his instinctive deference, the 27 year old earned the nickname “Brass”, as in “brass balls.”

79. Lynn Dickey "For all of the throwing and chucking Favre executed during his long Packers tenure, he never could break Dickey’s record of 4458 yards through the air, set in 1983"

59. Bernie Kosar "Kosar would eventually get his ring in Dallas, holding the clipboard for Troy Aikman, but he couldn’t get the job done while leading his hometown squad. Perhaps it’s a fitting penance for a gifted quarterback that bucked the system in favor of getting what he wanted."

39. Ken O’Brien "Don’t feel too bad for Ken O’Brien; at least he’s number 39. That’s more than you could say for Todd Blackledge, taken 17 picks higher in 1983, and isn’t even ranked."

19. Phil Simms "With help from his dominant defense, the Giants outscored opponents that postseason 105-23, and made Simms the first quarterback to “go to Disneyworld.”

The Top 100 QBs Since the Merger (20-1)

How did the best of the modern era fare all time?
20. Bob Griese (1967-80, Dolphins)
Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder accurately predicted that Kansas City would be a heavy underdog in Super Bowl IV against Minnesota, just because they were the AFL representative. Even after the Jets beat Baltimore one year earlier, AFL’s top warrior was viewed as highly inferior. When the merger took place in 1970, it’d be Bob Griese’s AFL squad that would shatter that view forever.

Griese held a 5-0 record as a starter in 1972 when bad luck reared its ugly head. The starter would break his leg, and the aging Earl Morrall finished the season, win nine games, before struggling against Pittsburgh in the title round. Turning back to Griese at halftime, he managed the ensuing victory, and then held off Washington in the Super Bowl, preserving the perfect season.

Griese earned six trips to the Pro Bowl as an NFL starter, to go along with his two AFL All-Star honors. Although he repeated as champion a year later with more of an output from himself, it’s that season of perfection that fills the body of Bob Griese’s incredible legacy in the game.

To read the rest of this article at Football Nation, click here

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Top 100 QBs Since the Merger (40-21)

Who heads the Class of 2004?
40. Craig Morton (1965-82, Cowboys, Giants, Broncos)
Stat-wise, Morton’s not going to hope favorable to Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman in Dallas, nor would he come anywhere close to John Elway in the Mile High City. Morton could be kindly described as erratic, but that didn’t stop Tom Landry from having faith in the California alum. What Morton lacked in football’s equivalent of sabometrics, he made up for in will to win.

Six times in his career, Morton has played a role in leading playoff expeditions, with Dallas in 1970, and Denver in 1977 (where he went 12-2). Never one to take chances throwing excessively, Morton only threw 207 times in the Dallas Super Bowl run, and 254 in 14 games through his Broncos AFC Title reign, indicating that hubris never got in the way of leading a winning charge.

With some questionable stats, Morton was once considered Staubach’s equal by Landry, and the fedora’d coach would, at least early on, swap them out for one another before going with Staubach permanently. Nonetheless, how’s that for a legendary show of faith?

To read the rest of this article at Football Nation, click here

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Top Quarterbacks of the Merger, 100-21

It's alright, Tony, you beat out a lot of people on the list! No tears!
In one convenient place, here are the bottom eighty of the Top 100 Quarterbacks, 1970-present


The Top 100 QBs Since the Merger (60-41)

Scrambled his way into the top sixty
60. Tony Romo (2003- , Cowboys)
When you get past the playoff chokes, botched snaps, irritating fawning from ESPN, and the fact that he plays for a team with enough front-running fans to populate Wyoming to its borders, Tony Romo has proven to be a fine quarterback. With the help of tutors like Sean Payton and Jason Garrett, Romo made many teams regret letting a player of his caliber go undrafted in 2003.

The fact that Romo didn’t throw a pass until October 2006 is especially astounding when you see that he’s never had a completion percentage below 61 percent and that his touchdown/interception ratio is the desire of fantasy football connoisseurs. He’d be much higher on this list if not for the albatross he wears, symbolic of his poor playoff record and fourth-quarter inconsistencies.

If stats translated to success, Dan Marino and Warren Moon would have more rings than just their wedding bands and Tony Romo would be far higher on this list. He’s a talented superstar who just hasn’t put it together when the chips are down and it matters most.

To read the rest of this entry at Football Nation, click here

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Top 100 QBs Since the Merger (80-61)

Cutler'd make that face no matter where I put him

Who were the top quarterbacks in the NFL since the merger?  Our series marches on with No. 61-80.  To see who we ranked in the 81-100 slots, click here.

80. Jon Kitna (1997-2011, Seahawks, Bengals, Lions, Cowboys)
Not everyone can say they were an undrafted quarterback that supplanted a future Hall of Famer and captured a division title in their second year, at age 26. Sometimes small school players like Donald Driver or Jason Taylor break through into NFL’s upper echelon, but it was far more startling when a Central Washington grad like Kitna managed to hit the ground running.

Kitna was necessitated to do lots of Brett Favre ‘gun slinging’ for some truly inept offenses throughout his fifteen year career, particularly in Detroit, where he topped 8000 yards over two seasons, but threw more picks than touchdowns. Indeed, Kitna’s arm was relied upon to save the day, throwing more than 400 passes in six seasons, and over 500 in four of those.

At his best, Kitna was go-getter who helped lead the likes of Seattle and Cincinnati (and almost Detroit in 2007) out of their cellars. His victory over the Seahawks as a Bengal in 2003, over coach Mike Holmgren who released him, might have been the sweetest victory of his long career.

To read the rest of this entry at Football Nation, click here

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Top 100 QBs Since The Merger (100-81)

"He wasn't here to start no trouble....."
100. Jeff Blake (1992-2005, Jets, Bengals, Saints, Ravens, Cardinals, Eagles, Bears)
Try as Blake could, the mobile whiz couldn’t exorcize the demons of the lousy defenses he was saddled with. When healthy, Blake completed a pair of sixteen game seasons for Cincinnati in 95-96, throwing 52 touchdowns against 31 picks, for nearly 7500 yards. Sadly, those would be the only two years that Jeff Blake would play full seasons during his fourteen year career.

But those who watched him on the Riverfront will always remember the way he stunned the defending champion Cowboys in 1994 with two home-run bombs to Darnay Scott in an eventual loss, or the way he, Scott, Carl Pickens, and Corey Dillon kept hope alive for the Bengals in the 1990s as the defense was the pits.

In 100 starts over his career, Blake held a record of 39-61, but also boasted a TD/INT ratio of 134 to 99, with over 21,000 yards passing and an additional fourteen rushing scores. To say Blake had some bad luck to wind up on some truly awful teams would be an understatement.

To read the rest of this entry at Football Nation, click here

Mike Patterson's Recovery Opens Door for Fletcher Cox

'Flex' may need to play like a first rounder early
As the twelfth pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, defensive tackle Fletcher Cox is being counted on to contribute to the Philadelphia Eagles’ ‘wide nine’ defense fairly early in his career.

With the news today coming out of training camp concerning Mike Patterson, incumbent starter at tackle, Cox’s contributions may need to come earlier.

Patterson, the first round pick of Philadelphia’s in 2005, had brain surgery this offseason to remove an arteriovenous malformation. Patterson collapsed at practice on August 3, 2011 with a seizure related to the condition. Bleeding from the mouth after biting his tongue, Patterson suffered through the seizure for four minutes while rookie lineman Danny Watkins, a firefighter trained in CPR, provided first response.

To read the rest of this article at Football Nation, click here

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Fantasy Football vs. "Real Football"

Corey Dillon: last of his kind?
(Writer’s Note: some of you will say, “way to state the obvious, it’s a passing league, yada yada.” I say in response, “I like statistics, so eat it.”)

Fantasy and reality; they are two philosophical states that exist as polar opposites. This is particularly true in football, as you have both fantasy football and, well, reality football.

In fantasy football, the All-Pro running back, with his dime-cutting speed, ankle-breaking juke, and unbreakable stride, is as desirable as the queen in chess: they are your best weapon in an intellectually-fueled contest where your best decisions are supplemented by a ‘sure thing’ like Arian Foster or Ray Rice.

To land a player or two like that, thoroughbreds in cleats, helmeted cheetahs, helps make all the difference as to whether or not you get to spend a grace period in January taunting your closest friends over their Waterloo in a game predicated mostly on luck and timely guesses.

In reality, running backs and league championships as one have progressively become a fantasy.

To read the rest of this article at Football Nation, click here

The Five Biggest Travesties in NFL History

"Whatever, dude; the Associated Press says I'm dreamy"
Biggest Travesty by an Owner: Daniel Snyder Exploits 9/11 (2006)

The events of September 11, 2001 will never be forgotten in this country.

3,000 people lost their lives in a terrorist attack spread over New York City, Washington DC, and Shanksville, PA, and images of that heart-ripping day are burned into the minds of those who could only watch them in horror.

Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder, a man whose thirteen-year record of overseeing the “Braves on the Warpath” could be politely described as “aggressively clueless”, probably thought he was doing the fallen civilians and civic heroes an honorable service with his offering.

On September 11, 2006, the fifth year anniversary of the attacks, Snyder and the Redskins offered Redskins ball-caps that would commemorate 9/11.

All for the low, low price of $23.99 a pop, with not a single mention of proceeds benefitting any particular charity. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather use that money buy a bouquet of flowers for laying at a memorial site. 

To read the rest of this article at Football Nation, click here

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Cedric Benson Among 25 Best NFL Free Agents Still On The Market

Ideal running back, non-ideal roommate
With teams gearing up for training camp and preseason, they’ll have some decisions to make in six weeks regarding who gets cut from their eventual 53-man roster.

While those players memorize playbooks and make the most of their August playing time, there remains a bevy of former All-Pros still looking for work, as well as otherwise once-exceptional players.

Should teams experience a costly injury at a skill position, or see weakness in the position’s depth, expect some phones to be ringing as the dog days of summer wear on.

Listed here are two dozen and one players who could find be finding new homes this August or September should prospective teams fail their self-administered litmus tests.

25. Travis LaBoy (DE/LB) (Opening Day Age: 31; Last Played With: Chargers)
LaBoy struggled in San Diego’s defense last year, with a mere 31 tackles and a sack in fourteen games started. With San Diego firing defensive coordinator Greg Manusky after just that one season, perhaps the onus doesn’t fall on LaBoy, who thrived situationally in Tennessee and San Francisco.

To read the rest of this article at Football Nation, click here

Monday, July 16, 2012

Eagles 2012 Fantasy Football Preview

Will D-Jax return to form in 2012?

Those hoping for a repeat performance from Comeback Player of the Year Michael Vick in 2011 were a tad disappointed.

After playing himself into Kevin Kolb’s starting role in 2010, leading the Eagles to their third straight playoff appearance, Vick would go 3-6 in his first nine games in 2011, throwing as many touchdowns (11) as he did interceptions. Despite averaging a shade under 60 rushing yards a game, Vick had no touchdowns on the ground to show for his scrambles.

Vick would miss three games in mid-season with broken ribs, returning on December 11 against the Dolphins. With the team now 4-8, Vick would lead the Eagles to a strong finish, winning all four games. During the stretch, which included the Jets and Cowboys, both fighting for their playoff lives, Vick threw 1110 yards, or 277.5 per game. That’s considerably up from the 243.6 average he maintained in his first nine games. His TD-to-INT ratio improved, throwing for 7 scores, against 3 picks.

The only downside from a fantasy standpoint is that Vick’s rushing numbers were dramatically reduced during that four game stretch. Either due to lingering rib pain, or a renewed sense of comfort behind a now-sturdy offensive line (the group started slow earlier in the season), Vick only ran 11 times for 54 yards, and one touchdown. That’s 13.5 yards a game. Even the total rushing yards equal less than the AVERAGE Vick had per his first nine games. 

To read the rest of this article at Football Nation, click here

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Sad Reality of the Night Joe Paterno Was Ousted

"And do what, exactly? The right thing?"

Well done, Louis Freeh. Your thorough and exhaustive report into the discommoding cover-ups at Penn State will serve to accomplish two things: commence a new spasm of sheeply Joe Paterno-backers to defend the honor of their disgraced coaching deity, and unleash a wave of guilt over many young folks at the school who found themselves defending an unsavory character.
At least those children who were sexually gulled by Jerry Sandusky over a fifteen year period will have a chance to hammer the university in civil court, which is as inevitable as a second chorus at this point. It may not be fair to the good people at Penn State, those in other positions who may have helped blow the whistle on the unspeakable acts Sandusky perpetuated, but the decision to keep the crimes hush-hush came from higher, and supposedly trustworthy, authorities.

According to Freeh’s findings, Paterno, President Graham Spanier, senior VP Gary Schultz, and athletic director Tim Curley, knew as far back as the second Clinton administration that Sandusky was molesting and sexually assaulting children on school grounds.

What a relief that, out of these four ghouls, only one of them has a seven-foot bronze statue erected in commemoration of his decades of sporting achievements.

To read the rest of this article at Football Nation, click here

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Josh Gordon Makes Tempting Supplemental Pick

Can a Baylor Bear fly like an Eagle?

Twenty-five years after the Philadelphia Eagles selected future star Cris Carter in the NFL Supplemental Draft, the Birds may be on the verge of selecting another wide receiver from the same source.

Josh Gordon is believed worthy of teams sacrificing a 2013 second or third-round pick in Thursday’s Supplemental Draft.

The 6’3, 222-pound receiver formerly of Baylor had 42 catches for 714 yards and 7 touchdowns in 2010.

In addition to the usual drills that one would run at the February Combine (which included a 4.52 on the 40-yard dash), Gordon also passed a urine test, which is crucial, given that his suspension, and undoing, at Baylor involved a failed test (Gordon says it was for marijuana).

Gordon also took the Wonderlic test, where his actual score was not revealed, but analyst Tony Pauline reported that it was “equal to a score teams want from a quarterback.”

Between Josh Gordon’s athletic capability, demonstration of cognitive aptitude, and clean bladder, the one-time target for No. 2 pick Robert Griffin III will tempt a number of teams, particularly the 21 who watched Gordon go to work on Tuesday. Come Thursday’s draft, they’ll have to decide if they’re willing to mortgage a high future pick for his services.

The Philadelphia Eagles, who were also represented at Gordon’s Pro Day, will have to make that same decision.

To read the rest of this article at Football Nation, click here

Monday, July 9, 2012

LeSean McCoy Injury Would Be Catastrophic

Eagles fans better hope he stays that strong
Two-headed running back systems have been a cauldron of frustration for fantasy owners.

If you see a football fan fling the Doritos bowl across the room, while unleashing a stream of obscenities over a game not involving his favorite team, chances are that the “wrong guy” (the “other” running back) scored a touchdown.

After all, in the first round, they drafted the speedy, elusive, graceful halfback who picked up 43 yards for them on that particular drive, including a 20-yard burst to the opponent’s four.

That’s when the resourceful coach sent the backup running back into the huddle, the 245-pounder with calves like tree stumps.

You can guess what happens next: that running back plows into the end zone like a bulldozer, earning six points for both his football team, and the guy in Dorito Man’s league who drafted him.

No wonder Dorito Man is angry. Those six points should have been HIS!

It’s a dilemma for anyone that drafts Carolina’s DeAngelo Williams or Jonathan Stewart, who split everything like treasure hunters, same as in Houston with Arian Foster and Ben Tate. This season, the twin-power theory will affect Tampa Bay (LeGarrette Blount and Doug Martin) and San Francisco (Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter, Brandon Jacobs and LaMichael James).

To read the rest of this article at Football Nation, click here

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Philadelphia Eagles All-Reid Team

You'd smile too if you had a roster like this
Andy Reid enters his 14th season in Philadelphia, which is an eternity for head coaches.

The man who led the Eagles to five NFC Title games has seen many All-Pro talents come and go during his time as head coach, and the ‘Philly phaithful’, myself included, can go on for hours listing off memorable moments in the time “Big Andy” has held the play-chart.

Just for debate’s sake, I’ve decided to compile a 53-man roster of the best Eagles during the timeframe from 1999 to present day.

The only qualification is that you had to play at least two seasons in Philadelphia under Reid. This leaves out Nnamdi Asomugha, Evan Mathis, and Cullen Jenkins, who are three men that will certainly get consideration if I choose to revise this list a year from now.

And since Philadelphia can be a proud, argumentative town, debate is always welcome. 

To read the rest of this article at Football Nation, click here

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Ryan Leaf Among Top 10 Ideal Speakers For Rookie Symposium

"With the second pick in the 1998 NFL Draft...." (Credit: USA Today)
After not having a Rookie Symposium last year due to the extensive lockout, perhaps it’s appropriate that this year’s gathering of incoming players gets considerable hype.

NFL Total Access has aired snippets of this year’s Symposium over the last couple weeks.

With speakers like Michael Vick, Pacman Jones, Michael Irvin, and Terrell Owens, the keynotes came off as a less-frightening, plain and frank version of those old Scared Straight television specials.

Among the biggest differences between the two congregations is the fact that the Symposium didn’t feature the F-bomb every four words.

But the underlying message was there.

Those mentioned as having addressed the 2012 rookie class brought upon themselves a fleet of albatrosses circling above them, having committed felonies and/or made unwise decisions regarding finances or otherwise.

To read the rest of this article at Football Nation, click here

Friday, July 6, 2012

Justin's Five Sleeper Teams for the 2012 NFL Season

The AFC South is fixing to get competitive in 2012
Here in one bundle are my five columns on the teams that will improve the most in 2012.

-St. Louis Rams
-Tampa Bay Buccaneers
-Jacksonville Jaguars
-Kansas City Chiefs
-Tennessee Titans

Tennessee Titans: Prime Sleeper in 2012

If he's this elusive again, look out
Tennessee Titans (2011 record: 9-7)

What went wrong?: Unlike the previous four entries into the sleeper category, the Titans are the only team that didn’t regress from 2010 to 2011.

Instead, they improved by three wins in their first year with Titan/Oiler-for-Life Mike Munchak as head coach, and were the only team with a winning record to miss the playoffs.

They even had the same regular season record as the Super Bowl Champion New York Giants.

Tennessee’s overall upswing under Munchak had to unfortunately coincide with the year that the Houston Texans finally assembled a playoff juggernaut.

New defensive coordinator Wade Phillips’ drastic turnaround of Houston’s D (26.7 PPG allowed in 2010, 17.4 in 2011) was coupled with a combined 2,166 rushing yards and 14 rushing TDs from Arian Foster and Ben Tate.

Even hampered by injuries, the Texans displayed enough all-around efficiency to go 10-6 (including seven straight wins at one point), capture the division in week fourteen with a sixth-round rookie quarterback in TJ Yates, and make it to the Divisional Round of the playoffs.

To read the rest of this article at Football Nation, click here

Kansas City Chiefs: Prime Sleeper for 2012

A healthy Charles lights the fuse for a big 2012 in Arrowhead
Kansas City Chiefs (2011 record: 7-9)

What went wrong?: 

After a 4-12 showing in 2009, Kansas City would surge to the top of the AFC West a year later, going 10-6. There were two key components to this turnaround: an offense that flourished under Matt Cassel, whose spectacular season was comparable to his 2008 emergence in New England, and new defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel vastly increasing production on his side of the ball.

For Cassel, his 27 touchdown passes versus 7 interceptions were a far cry from his pitiful first year in Kansas City. He also had the luxury of a two-headed running back system with veteran Thomas Jones and third-year upstart Jamaal Charles, who combined for over 2300 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns. Dwayne Bowe put up fifteen touchdowns, and rookie Dexter McCluster served as a potent punt returner (15.5 yards a return). McCluster was also a source of frustration and caution for defenses, as his speed worked in decoy situations.

In Crennel’s first year overseeing the D, he reduced the points allowed by a nearly a full touchdown (26.5 to 20.4 per game). The defense as a whole became hungrier, going from twenty-two sacks in 2009 to thirty-eight in 2010. Tamba Hali benefitted the most from Crennel’s form of attack, putting up 14.5 sacks, seven more than his previous season high. Veteran Derrick Johnson emerged into a true do-as-I-do leader, the way Roman Phifer and Tedy Bruschi were on Crennel’s Patriots. Rookie Eric Berry’s performance at safety (72 tackles, 2 sacks, 4 INT, one for a touchdown) helped anchor the defensive turnaround.

To read the rest of this article on Football Nation, click here

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Jacksonville Jaguars: Prime Sleeper for 2012

MJD shouldn't have to carry the offense in 2012
Jacksonville Jaguars (2011 record: 5-11)

What went wrong?: Jacksonville lost the final three games of the 2010 season, breaking even at 8-8, and missing the postseason. Lamentably, had the Jags beaten Indianapolis in Week 15, Jacksonville would have won the AFC South outright. Instead, the Jaguars lost 34-24, and the team from North Florida would lose out, while Indy won out.

At age 32, quarterback David Garrard had strung together one of his finest seasons. In fourteen games, Garrard posted a 64.5% completion percentage, with 23 touchdowns and a slightly unhealthy 15 interceptions. In fact, in the loss to the Colts, as well as the overtime loss a week later to Washington, Garrard put up quality numbers. It was the running game that failed Jacksonville, capped off by Maurice Jones-Drew injuring his knee against Indianapolis. He would miss his first game since 2007 the following week, an unfortunate occurrence that helped doom their playoff hopes.

Jacksonville would draft Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert in the first round the following April. Despite the pick, coach Jack Del Rio insisted that Garrard was his starter going into 2011.

Yeah, that’s not how it worked out.

Mere days before the season began, Garrard was cut by the Jaguars, just hours after being introduced as the team’s starter at a luncheon. Del Rio had apparently grown tired of Garrard’s inconsistency, and his play in preseason didn’t do anything to dissuade him.

To read the rest of this article at Football Nation, click here

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Prime Sleeper for 2012

End of the line for the non-evil Barber?
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2011 record: 4-12)

What went wrong?:

It’s like a fill-in-the-blanks movie script in which the protagonist experiences a horrific downward spiral, and isn’t quite sure how he hit rock bottom. The Buccaneers in 2010 came within striking distance of the playoffs, going 10-6 and needing other teams to lose on the last day of the regular season. Unfortunately for them, Green Bay claimed the last available wild card spot, and went on to make the most of it.

But Tampa had a lot to be happy about. They were coming of a 3-13 year in 2009, and Josh Freeman proved to be a franchise quarterback in 2010 (25 TD, 6 INT, 3,451 yards, 95.9 rating). LeGarrette Blount was a breakthrough star at running back, putting up 1000 yards and 6 touchdown rushes after going undrafted. The defense allowed less than twenty points a game, and put up three pick-sixes (including one from Aqib Talib, who had six total interceptions for the year).

In fact, things started out fine in 2011. After a close win over the Saints on October 16, the Bucs went to 4-2. The Bears upended them a week later, sending Tampa into the bye week at 4-3.

They would never recover.

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Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The NFL Supplemental Draft: Supplement or Detriment?

Terrelle Pryor still waits his turn in the Oakland offense
Hey, remember Terrelle Pryor? You know, the lanky and nimble Ohio State quarterback who could run a 4.3 in the forty, and put up an MVP performance in leading the Buckeyes to victory in the 2010 Rose Bowl over Oregon?

It seemed possible that Pryor, for all of the athletic gifts that he displayed for the screaming masses on Woody Hayes Drive, could one day be the first player selected in the draft.

Turns out, Pryor was the first player taken. But it wasn’t in the way he had hoped.

Anyone who lives and dies by ESPN’s code-red scandal coverage, as well as their stringent devotion to the top college sports programs, knows that Pryor’s time at Ohio State ended in acrimony. At the end of the 2010 season, in which he nearly captured Big Ten MVP honors, Pryor was handed a five game suspension for selling memorabilia, to be served at the start of the 2011 season.

By now, we know that Pryor didn’t make it to the 2011 season. Ohio State fell into disarray after it was discovered that ‘improper benefits’ were doled out to Buckeye players. Coach Jim Tressel resigned in disgrace.

Thirteen months ago, Pryor withdrew from Ohio State on the eve of his twenty-second birthday. Now a collegiate refugee, Pryor became eligible for the NFL Supplemental Draft, to be held that August.

To read the rest of this article at Football Nation, click here

St. Louis Rams: Prime Sleeper for 2012

Will Sam Bradford return to his 2010 form after a down year?
St. Louis Rams (2011 record: 2-14)

What went wrong? Sam Bradford did enough in 2010 to earn Offensive Rookie of the Year honors, leading the down-and-out Rams to a 7-9 record.

In fact, had the Rams beaten the Seahawks in the last game of the season, St. Louis would have claimed the NFC West, but it wasn’t meant to be.

A year later, and the offense went from scoring 18.1 points a game to bottoming out at 12.1, the worst in the league.

The biggest shake-up on offense was the exit of offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, who took the head coaching job in Cleveland. Filling Shurmur’s shoes was the exuberant, if polarizing, Josh McDaniels.

McDaniels may have been the air traffic controller for the Patriots’ record-setting offense in 2007, and the guiding light for Matt Cassel in 2008 after Tom Brady tore his ACL, but that’s about the end of the line for his positive accomplishments. After a tumultuous and controversial run as Denver’s head coach, McDaniels was brought to St. Louis to do for Bradford what he’d done for Brady and Cassel previously as coordinator.

To read the rest of this article at Football Nation, click here

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The NFL and The City of Angels: The Battle For Los Angeles

Goodell must want to party with the Kardashians

Appropriately, the city with the recycled-plastic conveyor belt that pumps out our movies and television shows would be the second largest television market in America. With 5.7 million households wired for everything from local news to late-night “As Seen on TV” infomercial murk, Los Angeles, California accounts for five percent of America’s home media spectatorship.

Only New York has a larger piece of the ‘idiot box’ pie (6.5%); only seven other metro areas can claim more than two percent each (Chicago, Philadelphia, Dallas, California’s Bay Area, Boston, Atlanta, and Washington, DC).

Those nine cities are represented by ten different NFL franchises, and yet one city listed has no team to call their own.

By now, you’ve heard that particular song, as well as its hook-wielding chorus. Since 1995, when Los Angeles lost both its NFL franchises, the Raiders and the Rams, many have wondered when La-La Land would be gifted with another 53 man squad. After all, for America’s Game to be blacked out in America’s number two city is akin to the NHL abandoning all of its Canadian franchises.

Wait, that might become a reality under Gary Bettman. Alright, bad example.

On Friday, Commissioner Roger Goodell sent out a memo to all thirty-two NFL teams that reads like a cautiously optimistic travel brochure. In light of the prospects of stadium development being “better than they have been in many years” in Los Angeles, Goodell offers a timetable and checklist of guidelines to owners who wish to follow Horace Greeley’s sage urging of “go west, young man.”

To read the rest of this article at Camel Clutch Blog, click here

A Lot of Sack: Jared Allen and DeMarcus Ware Should Learn Their History

If Jared wants to be the alpha defensive end, he should set his goal higher
Conspiracy theorists and New York Giant haters can kvetch and moan about it all they desire, but it won’t change anything.

On January 6, 2002, the last day of the 2001 regular season, Michael Strahan took possession of the NFL’s single-season sack record after a controversial sacking of Brett Favre. Needing just half a sack to tie Mark Gastineau’s 1984 record of 22 quarterback baggings, Strahan was shut out for most of the game.

As the clock was winding to its fourth quarter end, Favre mysteriously slipped while running toward Strahan, and the gap-toothed defensive end two-hand-touched his way into the record books.

Twenty two and a half sacks has stood as the “official” NFL record for over a decade. Since then, a number of All-Pros have come close to taking Strahan’s title away. Last season alone, Minnesota’s Jared Allen and Dallas’ DeMarcus Ware had, respectively, 22 and 19.5 sacks.

In fact, Allen had 3.5 sacks in the last game of the regular season, bringing him oh so close to erasing Strahan’s name off that page.

To read the rest of the article at Football Nation, click here

NFL Pre-Training Camp Power Rankings

Are the Patriots in the driver's seat to begin 2012?

Alright, so we’re not even in training camp yet. So what? You’re like me: so happy to see something debatable and NFL-related, you’ll gobble it up like a street urchin on table scraps. Debate and speculation for a forthcoming NFL season are always fun, and consider this a handy primer on certain off-season moves that you may have missed. As always, this is one man’s opinion, and one man’s opinion alone.

1. New England Patriots (2011 record: 13-3)
Las Vegas projected wins: 12
Biggest free agent move: While Brandon Lloyd and Joseph Addai are attractive additions to a highly-efficient offense, the signing of defense end Jonathan Fanene from the Bengals may be even more potent. The Patriots let 33-year old Andre Carter walk, despite having ten sacks and a Pro Bowl selection. Fanene, through an injury-plagued career, gutted out 6.5 sacks for an improved Bengals squad in 2011, despite playing mostly as a back-up on nickel downs. He is expected to start for New England.
2012 outlook: Other than Carter, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, and Gary Guyton all exiting, it’s essentially the core group from a year ago that, had Rob Gronkowski had snared that Hail Mary pass, would be defending champions. With this nucleus in place, and barring a surprise team uprising in the AFC East, there’s no reason the Patriots won’t be back in the thick of things in 2012.

To read the rest of this article at Camel Clutch Blog, click here

Is Donovan McNabb Hall of Fame Worthy?

It'd be worth it to see Koy Detmer provide the speech

Donovan McNabb is currently a free agent.

The 35-year-old Syracuse grad, and six-time NFL Pro Bowler, has spent the offseason getting back into shape after a few years of piling on stifling girth and paunch. The once-elusive 240 pound scrambler, considered a proper heir to Randall Cunningham’s physical magic in Philadelphia, was relatively bloated in his disastrous runs through Washington and Minnesota. The Washington Post reported in May that McNabb has dropped fifteen to twenty pounds in the hopes of regaining his athletic prowess.

So far, there have been no takers.

Teams are filling their ninety man preseason rosters and gearing up for training camp. Barring an injury to a major starter, or a setback in the development process of a struggling youngster, it seems likely that McNabb may be waiting in vain for his next NFL opportunity. Asking the magic eight-ball if McNabb has played his last game, the glass circle would probably reveal “signs point to yes.”
If this is indeed the end for McNabb, the #2 overall pick in 1999 by Philadelphia, then 2017 would be the first opportunity for Canton’s Board of Selectors to decide the fate of his legacy.

To read the rest of this entry at Camel Clutch Blog, click here

Bidding on Burress: Is Plaxico Worth $3 Million?

Surely someone could use a jump-ball target in the red zone

The once-bountiful free agent pool is relatively picked clean as summer kicks off. Other than the signings of veteran insurance players like OJ Atogwe and James Ihedigbo, all the contract news you hear revolves around draft picks and long-shot street free agents.
Yet there remain many veteran players without homes, a number of whom could still be productive and reliable, in spite of what their current physical state may be. Skilled running backs like Ryan Torain, Jackie Battle, and Ryan Grant are still waiting for their phones to ring, and veteran defensive stars in Andre Carter, James Farrior, and Lito Sheppard also wait idly, wondering if they’ll ever play another down in the NFL.
Then there’s Plaxico Burress.
With the subtlety of a 9.0-on-the-Richter-scale earthquake, “Plax” has voiced his desire to play once more. At the onset of the free agency period, Burress was using everything but signal flares to try and get the attention of the Philadelphia Eagles. In an interview with Brian Baldinger on ESPN Radio, he discussed wanting to win a championship with friend Michael Vick, and heaped lavish praise upon rising stars LeSean McCoy and Jeremy Maclin.
To read the rest of this article at Camel Clutch Blog, click here