Roster breakdown: Assessing the Minnesota Vikings’ running backs

Over the last few years, the running back position has changed drastically. The NFL has transitioned from hard-nosed power backs like Adrian Peterson and Frank Gore to shifty, quick backs with good receiving skills. Although the days of true run-first teams are long gone, a successful running game can make or break a football team’s season. This is very evident with the Seattle Seahawks, who have struggled to make a deep playoff run since the loss of Marshawn Lynch.

This was also the case for the Minnesota Vikings prior to this season. In 2016, the Vikings ranked last in both rushing yards per game and yards per attempt, due to a porous offensive line and inconsistent running back play. The Vikings bounced back this season, thanks to the emergence of rookie running back Dalvin Cook and former offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur.

With Shurmur leaving for the New York Giants’ head coaching job, new offensive coordinator John DeFilippo will hope to build from last year’s success. Let’s look at the Minnesota Vikings’ running backs, and how they could continue to improve in 2018.

Dalvin Cook

Dalvin Cook carries the ball in the second half of the game against the New Orleans Saints (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

Dalvin Cook impressed many in the beginning of the 2017 season. The rookie from Florida State gained over 400 yards from scrimmage during his first four games. Cook also averaged over five yards per carry in three of those games, with the exception being a 169-yard performance against Tampa Bay. Cook looked like a true three-down back, showing good speed, vision, and ball skills.

Unfortunately, Cook’s promising rookie season was cut short in Week 4 by an ACL tear in his left knee. The injury sidelined Cook for the remainder of the season and may limit his availability during the Vikings’ offseason programs. However, Dalvin Cook and the Vikings are anticipating the knee to be fully healed by the start of training camp next August. Assuming he is fully healthy, Cook will be the starting running back in Minnesota and will be vital to the team’s success in 2018.

Latavius Murray

After Dalvin Cook’s season-ending injury, Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon split reps as the Vikings’ starting running back. The Minnesota Vikings signed Murray last offseason to a three-year, $15 million deal. When Murray signed with the Vikings, he was expected to be the starting running back. However, the emergence of Cook forced Murray into a backup role.

After Week 4, Murray was mainly used on first and second down as a true running back, while Jerick McKinnon was utilized on third down passing situations. As the season progressed, however, Murray slowly began to get more snaps, averaging nearly 20 carries a game in the last six games of the regular season.

In total, Murray gained 842 yards and 8 touchdowns, averaging 3.9 yards per carry. Murray will be entering his second year on his contract signed last March and is expected to make around $6.3 million, with a base salary of $5.1 million. This means the Vikings could potentially release Murray to clear up cap space, although this is unlikely.

Jerick McKinnon

In 2017, Jerick McKinnon split reps with teammate Latavius Murray as the Vikings’ starting running back after a Week 4 injury to Dalvin Cook. In that time, McKinnon enjoyed one of the most productive seasons of his career, gaining nearly 1,000 yards from scrimmage.

Jerick McKinnon runs for a first down in a game against the Green Bay Packers. Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Unfortunately, McKinnon’s production in 2017 also went through several highs and lows. McKinnon followed up 100-yard games with unproductive ones, and was eventually outperformed by Latavius Murray. By the end of the season, McKinnon was mainly used as a receiver out of the backfield on third downs. Since 2017 was the last year on McKinnon’s rookie contract and Dalvin Cook will be returning in 2018, McKinnon will most likely become an unrestricted free agent on March 14th.

C.J Ham, Bishop Sankey & Mack Brown

C.J Ham played every game for the Minnesota Vikings this season as their starting fullback. The converted running back helped pave the way for Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon in 2017, helping the Vikings rank as the NFL’s 7th-best rushing offense. Fullbacks rarely get to carry the football, and Ham only ran seven times in 2017 for 13 yards and a touchdown. Ham is currently under contract through next season and is expected to compete as the team’s starting fullback again during the offseason.

Neither Bishop Sankey or Mack Brown played during the 2017 season, and both players’ contracts expire this offseason. Sankey was a former second-round pick by the Tennessee Titans in the 2014 draft, and has not been able to live up to expectations so far in his career.

Mack Brown is a former undrafted free agent that has played in small stints for the Houston Texans and Washington Redskins. So far in his career, he has rushed for 111 yards and two touchdowns, all with the Redskins.

What to Expect

Heading into the 2018 NFL season, the priority for the Minnesota Vikings’ running backs group will be the health of Dalvin Cook. In his limited playing time in 2017, Cook was a dynamic playmaker out of the backfield as a modern three-down running back. Given that he is fully healthy and has returned to his pre-injury form, Cook will be the bona-fide starter in Minnesota.

The Vikings have several possible moves they can make in the running backs room. Releasing Latavius Murray would save the Vikings over $5 million in cap space, but this is very unlikely, since the team already has over $40 million in cap space. The Vikings may also re-sign Mack Brown to a one-year deal to allow him to compete for a backup role with the team.

 

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NFL coach hot seat

An early look at the 2018 NFL coaching hot seat

Unfortunately, the NFL offseason has arrived, but the pressure on coaches to win never ceases. It is also never too early to start looking ahead at the NFL coaching hot seat heading in to the 2018 season.

It goes without saying that established winners like Bill Belichick, Sean Payton and Mike Tomlin should feel very good about their job security at the moment. The same can be said for rising stars like Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay.

Even though it is becoming less and less unheard of for head coaches to be fired after a single season, all the guys who just took new head coaching jobs are safe unless things go sideways to an extreme extent.

Also, Marvin Lewis has done a nice job in Cincinnati to bring that franchise back to a respectable level. However, the end of last year was the time for him to go and he got another contract extension. Thus, he is excluded from any article like this until further notice.

Here are the coaches not as lucky as those mentioned in the last three paragraphs.

Hue Jackson

Jackson is well respected around the league. So, it is not all that surprising that there was not much outrage when it was announced he would be back for a third season in Cleveland.

Still, this situation is about as cut and dry as it gets. Jackson is coming off a winless season and has won a grand total of one game with the Browns. Browns management actually sticking with a coach for more than a cup of coffee is refreshing and admirable. They could greatly assist their current coach by somehow finally getting the quarterback position right this offseason.

Regardless, if there is not significant improvement in 2018, Jackson is gone.

Vance Joseph

Much like Jackson in Cleveland, Joseph’s biggest issue in Denver last year was the quarterback position. The difference is the Broncos and their fan base are not used to picking in the top five of the draft.

How John Elway will address the quarterback position for the Broncos may be the single biggest question of the entire offseason. The roster has talent. Previous head coach Gary Kubiak guided many of the same players to a 9-7 mark in 2016 a year after winning the Super Bowl.

5-11 is not good enough for this franchise. Last year was Denver’s first losing season since 2010. Joseph will need to get this team in or very close to the playoffs in 2018 to keep his job.

No matter who the quarterback is, Joseph and his staff need to limit the careless turnovers and mindless penalties that doomed the Broncos in 2017. Only Cleveland had a worse turnover margin last year.

Andy Reid

Reid is an outstanding football coach who has won almost 200 games in this league when regular and postseason stats are combined. However, his lack of postseason success is starting to catch up with him in Kansas City, similar to the way it eventually did in Philadelphia.

NFL coach hot seat

Photo from 12up.com

Even with an 18-point halftime lead at home, league rushing champion Kareem Hunt was virtually invisible in the second half of Kansas City’s playoff loss to Tennessee. Reid is not solely responsible for the play calling, but that is the kind of loss that people lose their jobs over.

Reid and the Chiefs have taken a huge gamble to start the offseason by shipping ultra-consistent quarterback Alex Smith to Washington. This means the organization is now all in on second-year quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who has infinitely more upside than Smith at this point in their careers. But turning the keys to your franchise over to a young quarterback is always a huge gamble. This is especially true if the guy being replaced has been reasonably successful like Smith.

The bottom line is this. With the way last season ended and this offseason began, heads are going to roll in Kansas City if the 2018 season does not produce another trip to the playoffs as well as a win or two once the Chiefs get there. The first guy out is almost always the head coach.

Dirk Koetter 

Lovie Smith was forced out of Tampa Bay a couple years ago so that young quarterback Jameis Winston could be polished by Koetter, whose background is on the offensive side of the ball.

Year two of the Winston-Koetter marriage was a disaster. Tampa Bay’s win total decreased by four from 2016. Moreover, two of their five wins came with journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick starting at quarterback for an injured Winston.

The two big concerns on Winston coming out of Florida State were maturity and turnovers. Neither has been adequately cured under Koetter. Winston and the Bucs likely need a playoff appearance in 2018 to keep Koetter around. Otherwise, the head coach is always going to be shuffled out of town before the young quarterback with loads of raw talent.

Honorable mentions

NFL coach hot seat

Photo from profootballtalk.com

Even though the Cowboys have not reached the conference championship game since the glory days of Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith, Jerry Jones always thinks his team is a legitimate contender. So, Jason Garrett should be nervous if the 2018 season fails to live up to expectations that are probably unrealistic.

Adam Gase is also worth keeping an eye on in Miami. He gambled on bringing Jay Cutler out of retirement to fill in for an injured Ryan Tannehill and lost. Even with a playoff appearance in 2016, Gase has not yet turned the Dolphins offense into a consistent point producer. At some point, you have to live up to your “offensive guru” label or else.

 

Featured image from Cleveland.com

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Josh Allen - via CBS Sports

2018 NFL Draft: What quarterback should the Browns take?

Even people who do not like football know, the Cleveland Browns are bad. Nearly, all of these same people know that they need a quarterback. They have drafted an absurd amount of quarterbacks who have not panned out and chose these quarterbacks over others who have been considered NFL MVP candidates and offensive rookies of the year. Though I would like to see them offer Kirk Cousins an absurd amount of money and use the two picks for other positions, lets assume that they do not real in one of the veteran quarterbacks on the free agent market. Who should they take in the draft?

Potential Candidates

There are four quarterbacks who are being considered as potential top-ten picks. These include Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Josh Allen, and Baker Mayfield. I have done film study four all four of these quarterbacks and they are all very different. In the following I will compare these candidates and come to a conclusion based on my evaluations in which I will briefly describe.

Sam Darnold

Darnold has a high ceiling and the ideal body size. His arm strength and athleticism are evident. He makes throws throughout a course of the game that will have you thinking he can compete for a MVP in three seasons. At other times, you will be wondering why he was drafted at all. Some will point to the awful offensive line that he was behind this season and say that’s why he turned over the ball too much and had accuracy issues. This is true to some extent, but his post snap reads have a bigger affect on it.

 

 

Sam Darnold

Via: LA Times

 

Several times this season Darnold tried to make throws this season that left you scratching your head. This is because he tends to look down his first receiver, rather than going through all of his reads. An example of this was a throw that he attempted to make against Western Michigan. With the Trojans running the two minute drill, they were facing a 2nd and 15 with only 22 seconds left in the half. Darnold took the ball out of the shotgun and saw his tight end running a small hitch route over the middle against the cover-2 zone that the defense was running. Rather than moving to his next read, Sam tries to force the ball over the middle where there are three linebackers hovering within the area. The ball is tipped by one linebacker and is intercepted by another.

Plays like this are avoidable and post-snap reads can be taught, but many scouts will tell you that accuracy is much harder to learn. Darnold has a lot of potential and if he can improve in these two areas he can be a starter for several years in the NFL.

Josh Rosen

I will not elaborate too much on Rosen for this particular article due to the fact that he ultimately doesn’t want to play for the Browns (Pretty Simple). According to ESPN’s Adam Shefter, Rosen doesn’t want to be drafted by Cleveland because of the inconsistency in management and the quarterback position. I have two opinions about this that are nearly the exact opposite. First: He’s got a point, I don’t know if I would want to either. Second: Cleveland is looking for someone to fill this void and bring consistency to their franchise, why not you?

Now to the brief evaluation. Rosen shows off the his arm strength and accuracy on a consistent basis, but only when the pocket is clean. For example, Josh carved up Hawaii in one half with and 88% completion percentage, 5 touchdowns, and over 300 yards and he was rarely pressured in this game. Compare this to his stat-line against Washington (yes, I know he was injured 5 minutes into the third quarter) where he had 93 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 interception, and a 57% completion percentage.

Josh Rosen

CBS Sports

In both of these games he played at most part of the third quarter and was pressured often in the Washington game. Though the offensive line didn’t fair well against Washington, it was not only their fault. Rosen has shown time and time again that he struggles to get the ball out in a quick manner and often holds on to the ball too long.

Despite this, he is the ideal quarterback on the field. The accuracy is there, arm strength is present, size, and IQ are evident. But the last concerning thing that one must take into consideration is how much he cares about the sport of football. Rosen has perked up the ears of scouts with his off-the-field conversations about the reason he wants to play football in the future. Many do not thing that he is the ideal leader or role model for a franchise, so I would not recommend a team taking him if they have a lack of leadership in the locker room.

 

Josh Allen

 The quarterback with the best potential is Josh Allen. The quarterback with the lowest floor and highest bust potential . . . yep, still Josh Allen. He has the best arm strength that I have seen out of a draftable quarterback within the last five years (at least) and his athleticism is evident. There are several reasons to compare him to Sam Darnold, but he tends to be less accurate then him, has a stronger arm, and needs to improve his footwork more. Josh is not a quarterback who I would want to draft and start in week one of the 2018 season. He is a developmental project who needs to improve his footwork and consistency of pre-snap and post-snap reads. If he can do this, along with improving his accuracy, he can be an elite NFL quarterback. There was one throw in Wyoming’s bowl game that literally (I’m using this term in it’s legitimate definition) made my jaw drop.

Josh Allen

Via: CBS Sports

 

The offense starts in a 1-2-2 set in the I-formation, on Central Michigan’s 24 yard line. Allen play-actions left and steps back to throw and begins to look left towards his receiver his is running a deep post route. Josh launches the ball (he probably required a permit to throw it) over the linebackers covering the middle of field and split two defenders. The ball was placed into the receiver’s hands without forcing him to break stride and was put in a position where the defenders had no chance to touch it. This throw is one that I would assume that only a handful of quarterbacks could actually make. The issue is that he can not consistently make plays like this.

 

Baker Mayfield

 Mayfield is perhaps the most controversial off the field when compared to these other three quarterbacks and he is often compared to Johnny Manziel. His comparison to Manziel is because of his size, mobility, and the number of issues you hear about Baker off the field. However, these two are much different players and people in life, and this comparison is ridiculous.

Baker Mayfield’s ability as a quarterback is just as good as some of the other quarterbacks I have mentioned. He is the most accurate of the quarterback group and he consistently wins games. There is a reason he won the Heisman Trophy in 2017, and the  statistical evidence backs it up. He racked up nearly 5000 total yards and 48 total touchdowns with only 6 interceptions. Mayfield has had two consecutive seasons with over a 70% completion percentage. He is not perfect of course, as his inconsistent footwork and arm strength are an issue. It has led to turnovers and he several instances where an errant pass was dropped by a defender. The Oklahoma quarterback has his issues, but the good heavily outweigh the bad.

Baker Mayfield

Via: USA Today

Not only does Baker show his off his accuracy in the pocket but he shows it off on the run too. One example of this came in the big matchup against Ohio State on the road in the second game of the season. The Sooners are 4-0-1 set with the running back to the right of Mayfield. He takes the snap and play-actions to the left and begins to roll right. The wide receiver who started the play wide to the left runs a deep crossing to the right and sneaks behind a deep safety. Mayfield finds him and releases the ball quickly and floats the ball over a defender. The ball is placed in the receiver’s hands without forcing him to break stride and it allows the receiver to gain nearly 20 yards after the catch.

Mayfield has a lot of pro level skills but these tend to be overshadowed by the other athletic and mobile quarterbacks that have failed in the past. However, he has NFL starter accuracy and his leadership on the field is something every locker room wants. His off the field antics are something to keep an eye out for, but the on the field antics are seen as competitive in many circles rather than arrogant. I am one of those people.

The Best QB for the Browns is …

The Browns are not in the position to develop a quarterback for a year and then to start him the following year (Look at Kizer). They need a quarterback that can come in and play competent enough to not bring the team down but someone who is coachable and is willing to be the leader of the team. This rules out Allen and Rosen. As interesting as it would be to see Mayfield in a Browns jersey, management and fans would be to scared to draft Mayfield at this point and the amount of potential for Mayfield is lower than the other top quarterbacks. This leaves them with one option, Sam Darnold.

I believe Darnold has enough potential to be a consistent starter for the Browns for several years and has the talent to compete right now. Though it hasn’t been evident yet, Hue Jackson is known for being a quarterbacks’ coach and he should be able to groom Sam to pro-bowl level.

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Minnesota Vikings quarterbacks

Roster breakdown: Assessing the Minnesota Vikings’ quarterbacks

In case you haven’t heard, the NFL is a quarterback league. The quarterback position is by far the most valuable across all 32 teams, and the lack of a franchise quarterback can severely handicap any team, regardless of how much talent is on either side of the ball.

The Houston Texans and Green Bay Packers are very aware of this fact. The losses of Deshaun Watson and Aaron Rodgers sent their respective teams spiraling towards losing seasons.

This is why organizations are willing to dish out big bucks for starting quarterbacks, like the San Francisco 49ers’ recent deal with Jimmy Garoppolo, which was worth a whopping $137.5 million over five years.

The Minnesota Vikings are also aware of the desperate need for a franchise quarterback. In the years after Brett Favre’s (final) retirement, the Vikings have started eight different players at the position, including an aged Donovan McNabb and draft bust Christian Ponder.

This offseason, however, the Vikings have a rather unusual situation. They have three solid quarterbacks that all deserve to be a starter, and their contracts all expire this year. This leaves the Vikings’ front office in an extremely difficult three-way choice.

Should they go with Teddy Bridgewater, the young fan-favorite coming back from a gruesome knee injury? Or should they choose Case Keenum, the underdog that led the Vikings to the NFC championship? Maybe they role with Sam Bradford, the extremely talented gunslinger who has dealt with multiple injuries.

Let’s take a look at all of the Vikings’ quarterbacks and where the team could possibly go heading into the 2018 season.

Case Keenum

Keenum was one of the greatest stories of the 2017 season, going from an unwanted free agent to a franchise hero. He helped lead the Vikings to the NFC Championship Game.

Minnesota Vikings quarterbacks

Minnesota Vikings quarterback Case Keenum runs between two defenders to earn a first down. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

In his 15 regular season games, Case Keenum threw for 3,547 yards, 22 touchdowns and only seven interceptions while posting an impressive 98.3 passer rating. After a knee injury sidelined Bradford in Week 2, Keenum took the starting job and never looked back.

Including the playoffs, Keenum led the Vikings to a 13-4 record. During that time, Keenum showed incredible poise and accuracy from the pocket, taking advantage of speedy wide receivers Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen. Despite continued controversy over losing his job to Bradford throughout the regular season, the pressure never bothered Keenum. He consistently silenced any doubts about his playing ability.

What’s possibly more impressive is that Keenum wasn’t even signed by the Vikings until the later part of free agency. Keenum signed a one-year, $2 million deal to be the team’s backup. Keenum’s rags-to-riches story of an underdog fighting his way to the top inspired football fans across the country. Now he has an opportunity to cash in.

Sam Bradford

The Sam Bradford situation is a complicated one to say the least. After an injury-plagued start to his career with the Rams, Bradford was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles, where he played a rather uninspiring single season. He was then traded again to the Minnesota Vikings with only a few weeks before the start of the 2016 season after a gruesome knee injury to former starter Teddy Bridgewater.

Bradford went on to exceed all expectations in 2016, throwing for 3,877 yards and setting a new single-season record for completion percentage at 71.6 percent. He then followed up this campaign with an outstanding season debut against the New Orleans Saints, throwing for 346 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.

Bradford appeared to be a way-too-early MVP candidate before injuries derailed yet another season, forcing him to miss the remainder of the 2017 season. Bradford’s injuries cast doubt over his ability to play an entire season, and it is uncertain if another team will be willing to give him another opportunity to start.

Teddy Bridgewater

Teddy Bridgewater is one of the biggest wildcards to watch during the 2018 offseason. The 25-year-old has not thrown a meaningful pass in two full years, and many wonder if his catastrophic knee injury before the 2016 season could severely alter his playing style in the future.

Minnesota Vikings quarterbacks

Sam Bradford looks on as Teddy Bridgewater attempts a throw during a Vikings practice. (Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports)

During his first two years as the Vikings’ starting quarterback, Bridgewater slowly improved his play by reducing his interceptions and increasing his completion percentage. Bridgewater did throw two passes this season, although one was intercepted by Cincinnati Bengals safety Shawn Williams.

Although many expect Bridgewater to become an unrestricted free agent this March, there is a scenario in which Bridgewater is retained by the Vikings without negotiating a new contract. Since Bridgewater was placed on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list until Week 6 of this season, a clause in his rookie contract may allow his rights to be “rolled over” into the 2018 season.

Although unlikely, this process would require a legal battle between the NFL and NFLPA to settle on whether this clause applies to Bridgewater’s situation.

Kyle Sloter

Kyle Sloter went undrafted in the 2017 NFL Draft before being signed by the Denver Broncos. After an impressive preseason outing, he was then signed off the Broncos’ practice squad by the Minnesota Vikings last September.

Sloter did not play at any point during the 2017 season and is expected to compete as the Vikings’ backup quarterback. In his senior year at the University of Northern Colorado, Sloter threw for 2,656 yards, 29 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

What to Expect

On the surface, it seems that Bradford is the odd man out in Minnesota. Ideally, the Vikings would like to re-sign both Bridgewater and Keenum on short-term contracts and allow them to compete for the starting quarterback position during the 2018 offseason.

However, the Vikings reportedly have interest in soon-to-be free agent Kirk Cousins. The Vikings have plenty of cap space and a solid supporting cast, making it an ideal fit for Cousins should they go that route.

If the team must choose between Keenum and Bridgewater, the best option would most likely be Bridgewater. Despite questions about his surgically-repaired knee, Bridgewater is still very young and has the most potential out of all of the quarterbacks on the Vikings’ roster. If his knee is fully recovered, Bridgewater could have a breakout season in 2018.

 

Featured image by AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King

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Deliver us from Manziel Mania

The gauge of greatness is measured in time. For the league’s most heralded superstars, their careers have been evaluated, scrutinized, criticized and praised, all in accordance of time. Some superstars find solace in individual recognition while others define their legacy along with the team’s they coveted. That success comes in waves or spurts. Some might see success fairly early in the career, cashing in on a team’s expectations on the individual. Other might be left to stay on the sideline in their anticipation for one day to sitting on that illustrious throne (ex: Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady).

But for all players that set foot into the NFL, the vast majority don’t achieve much. Some don’t ever find their rightful place to call home. Even when all arrows lead up, some players can’t just get pass the hump. For those, we wonder what if and how. For example, the spotlight of our discussion, Johnny Manziel.

Johnny Football

Johnny Manziel was one of the most electrifying college football  players in history. With a strong arm, vision, ability to move around the pocket and scrambling prowess, Manziel was a legitimate threat to defenses. What critics frowned upon either being too small to play in the league or downright reckless, his fans praised his ability to be instinctive and play with heart. Despite being only a three star recruit out of high school, with performances against heavily loaded Southeastern athletic conference bill, Manziel was able to reach heights unlike before.

Getty Images

In his first year starting as a redshirt freshman, Manziel went on to break many records in the SEC and for NCAA. He became the first freshman to pass for 3,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards in a season. After an amazing year, Manziel became the first freshman to win the Heisman trophy, the youngest in history.

After completing his third year at Texas A&M, Manziel would forgo his last two years as a college athlete and pursue a career in the NFL. But the critics came on hard about whether drafting Manziel was wise. As the success came in heaps, so did the pressure to stay on the up-up. During his stay at Texas A&M, Manziel  was center stage for a number of controversies. From suspect tweets wanting to leave College Station to Manziel being suspended for allegedly receiving payments for signing autographs. Even when before Manziel became starting quarterback at Texas A&M, the redshirt freshman at the time was arrested and charged with three misdemeanors. After pleading guilty with failure to produce identification, the other charges were dropped and Manziel was named the starting quarterback for the Aggies.

An Inevitable Downfall

(AP Photo)

Despite his size and the nature of his game on and off the field, the… Cleveland Browns selected Manziel in the first round as the 22nd pick of the 2014 NFL Draft. Unfortunately, for Manziel, the trouble didn’t stop. Honestly, it got worse. Even though Manziel proved that he was able to see playing time on the professional level, his off field antics kept him off the field. After a season that showed promise for the young quarterback, it unfortunately led to an early ending for Manziel after suffering a concussion and he would not return for the 2015 season. The day before the Browns’ final game, Manziel was seen in a Las Vegas casino. The next day, as mandatory for all concussed players, Manziel failed to appear in front of the team medic.

Ugly, Ugly, and more Ugly

Not too long after, Manziel saw a string of problems going forward. In 2016, LRMR, a marketing agency that represented Manziel, reported that they would no longer work with him. Later that year, after only two months representing him, Manziel’s new agent removed Manziel from his itinerary of represented clients. Manziel stayed in the negative light due to an ongoing investigation by the Dallas Police Department. The investigation included a claim of domestic violence against Manziel’s former girlfriend. According to the victim, Manziel had forced her in a car, pulled her hair and threatened to kill her and himself. Manziel eventually accepted a plea deal that included counseling and monitoring by the state for a year or face prosecution.

From then, Manziel spent the next year at the bottom of bottles alleging an alcohol addiction. Manziel was also on record for abusing drugs, however, which drugs were never specified. In the beginning of the 2016 season, Manziel was suspended by the league for violating the leagues substance abuse policy. Soon after, the Browns released Manziel. In addition to the death of his playing career, Manziel’s supporters had concern of his well being.

His father, Paul Manziel, told ESPN, “”He’s a druggie. It’s not a secret that he’s a druggie. Hopefully, he doesn’t die before he comes to his senses. I mean, I hate to say it, but I hope he goes to jail. I mean, that would be the best place for him. I’m doing my job, and I’m going to move on. If I have to bury him, I’ll bury him.” After a year of counseling Manziel found out that he was suffering from bipolar disorder and is now medicated.

A Bright Future

Johnny Manziel sat with reporters from ABC News discussing his new outlook on life. He talked about getting engaged, following his recovery and embracing his roots. All which see that point to a comeback. First and foremost, this article is not an advocation for Manziel’s defense. A lot can point to his downfall from his upbringing or his destination in Cleveland. Manziel came from a wealthy background, received more recognition than players that had worked harder and (or) were better, played in the NFL and threw his life away because of his sense of entitlement.

With that being said, the boy can play, which means a lot in this day and age of football. The Browns were looking for a player when Manziel needed a sense of mentorship. A franchise that is arguably the worst in NFL history didn’t have enough leaders for a kid like Manziel. From what he was in the past and his tenure with the Browns and how we see it today, no one can be surprised at the outcome.

(AP Photo | DAVE MARTIN)

What’s Important?

At the age of 25, despite not playing football for about two years, Manziel is more than able to make a comeback in this league. For the ones that see it as impossible, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Manziel had been offered with a chance to play in the Canadian Football League and for Manziel, that is a good enough platform to show his skills and the progress he made as a person during his hiatus.

Manziel is a good player that allowed his personality and behavior off the field inveigle who he was on the football field. Some might believe that that attitude gave him that star studded ability. That is for us to see going forward. The prospect of Manziel joint the NFL one day are pretty high depending on his performance in the Canadian Football League. Fortunately, Manziel is in no rush. At 25, a start in a career would be he usual for an NFL quarterback. Manziel has already seen the good, the bad, and the ugly and seems to be looking towards the right path.

Like always, only time will tell whether Manziel would be ever to step up to the plate. Fortunately, the pressure is as high at it can get for him. To being able to take care of himself and live an honest life should be enough as his top priority. Football should definitely come second unless it is paramount for his recovery. What people will say, fans and doubters, shouldn’t matter as his destiny lies in only one person’s hands. For Manziel, well, he has a lot of time, none for mistakes but much to prove his rightful spot in this league or at least his place in our universe.

 

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2018 NFL mock draft February 13

With the season being totally over, teams are looking forward to improving their teams. Free agency starts on March 14 with the 2018 NFL Draft coming a month and a half later on April 26. Here is the latest 2018 NFL mock draft.

1. Cleveland Browns- Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State

A running back number one? If Rosen doesn’t want to play for the Browns it might happen. Barkley is one of the most complete running backs to ever come out of college and might be the best player in the entire class. The Browns tried to improve the defense in last year’s class, but now need to focus on the offense. With a good offensive line and now Barkley, the offense should improve.

2. New York Giants- Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA

Yes, Rosen has voiced his displeasure over playing for the Browns, so he may fall to pick number two. Rosen had to carry UCLA and ended up having a successful season. He needed to have a good year to clear up any doubts about his shoulder injury he suffered during his sophomore season. The Giants may be without Eli Manning next year and even if he does stay, will need a quarterback of the future.

3. Indianapolis Colts- Bradley Chubb, DE/OLB, N.C. State

Josh McDaniels has decided to return to New England and the Colts countered with the hire of Eagles’ offensive coordinator Frank Reich. Reich will be looking forward to work with Andrew Luck. When he is back, the offense will figure itself out. They can improve the defense to make the team more complete when Luck comes back. Chubb is a great pass rusher who has 10 sacks in each of the past two seasons.

2018 NFL mock draft February 13

Sam Darnold (Photo by usatoday.com)

4. Cleveland Browns- Sam Darnold, QB, USC

There are rumors surrounding the Browns and Baker Mayfield, but for now Darnold is the pick. Darnold struggled this season with his decision-making which led to a lot of turnovers. He also has a flawed throwing motion. Some have Darnold as their top quarterback, but his decision-making needs to improve. The Browns have a new GM, who has no allegiances to anyone on the roster, which means DeShone Kizer is likely done as quarterback.

5. Denver Broncos- Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming

While Allen certainly has flaws in his decision-making and accuracy, he does have a strong arm and is athletic. John Elway went to Idaho to watch him in his bowl game personally. The Broncos have a solid roster, but just need a quarterback to lead the team.

6. New York Jets- Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma

Baker has defied all the critics who have mentioned his size as a reason not to draft him. He can make all the throws and is athletic to avoid pass rushers. His main calling card is his accuracy, which is the best in this draft class. The Jets did well this season for the talent they had on the roster, but need a franchise quarterback.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Minkah Fitzpatrick, S/CB, Alabama

He likely fits in best as a safety in the NFL, but can also play corner. Whichever he needs to play, he will excel at. Fitzpatrick will have to help improve a bad Bucs’ pass defense, which ranked last in the league in passing yards allowed.

8. Chicago Bears- Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State

Ward is the best cover corner in the draft. He had to really make his way this season, as he had to sit and wait his turn to get playing time for the Buckeyes. The Bears could use some help in their secondary and taking a weapon for Mitchell Trubisky would be a reach here.

9. San Francisco 49ers- Joshua Jackson, CB, Iowa

Jackson turned into an All-American corner at Iowa this season and has shown the ability to make acrobatic interceptions. The 49ers got their defensive lineman and linebacker in the first round last year and can now get a good secondary player to go along with them. The arrests of linebacker Reuben Foster are concerning, so keep an eye on that going forward, as it could change what they do with this pick.

10. Oakland Raiders- Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia

Smith is the best linebacker in college football and does a little bit of everything well. He is especially fast, which is crucial for his coverage and tracking down of ball carriers. With Jon Gruden taking over, he is going to need a Derrick Brooks-like linebacker.

2018 NFL mock draft February 12

Quenton Nelson (Photo by fansided.com)

11. Miami Dolphins- Quenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame

Adam Gase has said that Ryan Tannehill is the starting quarterback. There are other holes on the team, but they need to have better offensive line play if they are going to be successful. Nelson is one of the best players in the class and will be drafted early despite playing a position that doesn’t usually get talked about this soon.

12. Cincinnati Bengals- Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame

The Bengals were able to go 7-9 with a terrible offensive line. They need help at just about every position and can start with tackles. They have taken tackles before in the first round, but they haven’t panned out. McGlinchey would’ve been a first round pick last year and the Bengals can get good value and fill a need with this pick. If he doesn’t work out at left tackle, he has experience playing right tackle at Notre Dame.

13. Washington Redskins- Da’Ron Payne, DL, Alabama

Payne’s stats aren’t eye-popping, but he often gets double teamed. Washington’s interior of the defensive line can be improved, as they allowed the most rushing yards per game in the NFL.

14. Green Bay Packers- Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech

Edmunds does just about everything on the football field well, as a good cover linebacker, rusher and run stopper. The Packers need to make the defense better for when Aaron Rodgers gets the offense going again and he has alluded to it as much this offseason.

15. Arizona Cardinals- Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville

The Cardinals have to find a new quarterback now that Carson Palmer is retired. Some people are questioning whether Jackson can play quarterback, but he showed improved accuracy this season and is a dynamic playmaker. He should be given a shot to play the position in the NFL.

16. Baltimore Ravens- Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama

A player that went to Alabama that fills a need? Slot him to the Ravens. The Ravens won’t be getting rid of Joe Flacco, so they need to get him some better targets to throw to. Ridley is the best route-runner in the class and produced in college even without the best quarterback play.

17. Los Angeles Chargers- Derwin James, S, FSU

Derwin James has fallen down mocks after being thought of as a top ten prospect. He is athletic, but doesn’t necessarily have a set position. The Chargers can use the help at safety and James would be a great addition to help make a good defense better.

18. Seattle Seahawks- Arden Key, DE/OLB, LSU

Reports have come out that it will be tough for Cliff Avril to play football again and Michael Bennett has said that he doesn’t think he’ll be back in Seattle. Key only played eight games this season and had four sacks, but has proven in the past to be a good speed rusher.

2018 NFL Mock draft february 12

Vita Vea (Photo by seattletimes.com)

19. Dallas Cowboys- Vita Vea, DT, Washington

Vea can play both defensive tackle and nose tackle, which is valuable. He has great size at 6’5″ and 340 pounds. The Cowboys are seemingly always weak up the middle of their defense. Shutting down their opponents’ running game would allow them to control the clock like they love to do.

20. Detroit Lions- Billy Price, OG/C, Ohio State

Detroit hasn’t had a solid running game in Matthew Stafford’s tenure as quarterback. Some more balance on offense would make it even better. They may be able to achieve this if they improve the offensive line. Price has tons of experience at guard and center for Ohio State and will start right away.

21. Buffalo Bills- Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama

The Bills are thin at linebacker and this selection is an immediate upgrade. Evans is a quick, run stopping linebacker that can help out right away. While he went to the same college as other linebackers that haven’t worked out for the Bills, Reggie Ragland, Evans is a completely different player.

22. Buffalo Bills (via KC)- Carlton Davis, CB, Auburn

Davis is a lengthy corner for Auburn, who has withstood a lot of good SEC competition. The Bills took Tre’Davious White last year and will likely want to get another corner to pair with him.

23. Los Angeles Rams- Marcus Davenport, DE/OLB, UTSA

Los Angeles has good inside pressure in Aaron Donald and Michael Brockers, but need better outside pass rushers. Davenport has the build of a great pass rusher, but reports are the media like him more than NFL teams do.

24. Carolina Panthers- Harold Landry, DE/OLB, Boston College

The Panthers signed Julius Peppers, but he won’t last much longer and they aren’t very deep at defensive end. Landry had a great 2016 season that put him on the map and followed it up with a solid season this year.

25. Tennessee Titans- Justin Reid, S, Stanford

Johnathan Cyprien has been bad for the Titans this year, in one of their lone weak spots on the roster. Reid took a huge leap this season in terms of production and has put himself on the map for a first round selection.

2018 NFL mock draft February 12

Donte Jackson (Photo by theadvocate.com)

26. Atlanta Falcons- Donte Jackson, CB, LSU

Jackson has the potential to develop into a great cover corner. Atlanta needs another corner to pair with Desmond Trufant and should try to take one early.

27. New Orleans Saints- Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State

The Saints need to plan for the end of Drew Brees’ career sooner rather than later. Their defense was much improved so they can afford to look to the future. Not everyone likes Rudolph, but he has a lot of experience and quite possibly the best deep ball in the class. Sean Payton reportedly loves backup Taysom Hill, but he was more of a running quarterback in college than a thrower.

28. Pittsburgh Steelers- Ronnie Harrison, S, Alabama

Harrison is a good strong safety prospect, who plays physically. Despite being known for all of their great safeties throughout their history, the Steelers are very bad at the position right now.

29. Jacksonville Jaguars- Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M

Kirk is dynamic when he has the ball in his hands and can play in the slot or on the outside. Jacksonville really doesn’t have too many needs and have said they are sticking with Blake Bortles at quarterback. The Jaguars have a decent crop of young receivers, but they rarely stay healthy.

30. Minnesota Vikings- Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma

The Vikings’ offensive line is much better than last year, but can still be improved. With a good offense and defense, they can afford to make a good unit better. Brown has great size for an offensive tackle and his father played in the NFL.

31. New England Patriots- Taven Bryan, DT, Florida

Byan is a more agile and athletic defensive tackle than most and would help improve a below average defensive line. The Patriots need to improve their defense, as the offense wasn’t the reason they lost the Super Bowl.

32. Philadelphia Eagles- Connor Williams, OT, Texas

They just won the Super Bowl with a backup quarterback and have a very solid roster. This pick could depend a lot on the health status of left tackle Jason Peters. If he isn’t healthy they’ll need a tackle. Williams’ draft stock has been all over the place, going from early first round to third round back into the first round.

 

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Browns

Cleveland Browns: Pre-free agency needs

Season Overview

As you can imagine… this was a very easy list of needs to come up with. When you have won one game out of 32 opportunities in the last two seasons, you need help at every position. The most talented position is currently filled with a 33-year-old who played seven games this season and because it is so obvious, I will NOT be adding the need of quarterback on this list. Despite the fact that the Browns have the highest number of draft picks this season, they still can-not fulfill all of their needs in the draft, so we may see them try to sign a few young pieces. There are several stats as a team that are frightening per the graph below (ESPN).

 

Turnover Differential -28 32nd in the NFL
Points per game 14.6 ppg 32nd in the NFL
Points Allowed PG 25.6 ppg 31st in the NFL
Interceptions 7 31st in the NFL
Opponent Completion % 68.6% 32nd in the NFL

 

Yet, after studying their 16 games this season there are a few bright spots on this team that Browns’ fans should be excited about including Myles Garrett, Danny Shelton, the left side of the offensive line and Josh Gordon (if he can stay on the field). At the start of the season, Cleveland will have four offensive lineman who are in the top 15 of their respective positions in the league. The Browns were also 10th in rushing defense which should have helped their pass defense, but it was still one of the worst in the league. Even though they have these pieces, they will have to draft the best available player rather than specific position players.

Assets

Coming into the new season, the Browns will have over $110 million in cap space and are only losing one starter to free agency (Isiah Crowell). On top of the mountain of cap space, they also have 12 draft picks. Four of these picks are in the top 35 picks and eight in the first four rounds.

Biggest Need (Other than QB) – Wide Receiver

Cleveland Browns needs

Credit: Akron Beacon-Journal

When the best wide receiver on your team has played 10 games since the start of the 2014 season, you might have an issue. According to profootballfocus.com, other than Josh Gordon, the three receivers who received the most snaps are ranked 102, 110 and 114 respectively. Having such a drought at this position makes the evaluation of the quarterback much more difficult, which they have had to try and do for years. In other words, other than Josh Gordon, the other three receivers they have are not graded within the abilities of a #1, #2 or #3 receiver.

These Browns receivers were tied for 8th in the league with 21 drops this season (Washington Post) and 28th in receiving touchdowns with 15 touchdowns on the season (NFL.com). So, in order to efficiently grade the quarterbacks that they have, the Browns will need to give them competent weapons to compete against the elite defense within the division and the rest of the National Football League.

 

Second Biggest Need – Outside Linebacker

Despite being having a top-ten run defense, the linebacker position is the weakest part of this defense. Each of their outside linebackers are given the poor grade from profootballfocus.com and rated at 52, 66 and 82. The grade for each of these linebackers are this high because of their rush defense ability, but the lack of lateral speed and coverage ability creates mismatches against athletic tight ends and wide receivers. Particularly disappointing this season was Jamie Collins who is earning a base salary of over $10,000,000 a year and was still rated above 50th in pass rush defense, despite him being brought to the team for that same reason.

Though the outside linebacker position is very weak, the inside linebacker is a strength. Joe Schobert started as the middle linebacker this season and made his way to the pro bowl (the only win for him on the season) with 144 combined tackles, 3 sacks, and an interception.

 Third Biggest Need – Right Tackle

 

Credit: Akron Beacon Journal

Cleveland currently pays over $44,000,000 a year on their offensive line and they have a highly rated offensive line starting from the right guard position to the left tackle. However, the right tackle position was much lower in quality than the rest of the line and Shon Coleman was the primary right tackle in 2017. Coleman was rated the 51st best tackle in the NFL this season and after performance fall off when compared to his limited snaps in the 2016 season. Though having a below average right tackle can hinder what an offense can do and because the rest of the line is very talented, new offensive coordinator Todd Haley can scheme his offense around this hole. It is worth saying, though Coleman is not a great player, he is still competent but he’s below average.

 

Wrap-Up

The Browns are in a great position to overhaul their roster with 12 draft picks and the second-most cap space in the NFL. With new general manager John Dorsey in charge, there is hope for Browns’ fans, but I know they are sick of hearing about hope – they just want results.

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Quinton Flowers NFL Draft profile

2018 NFL Draft profile: Quinton Flowers

It is hard to demonstrate in words just how great of a career Quinton Flowers had at South Florida. During his time with the Bulls, the quarterback set 37 school records, led the team to its only two double-digit win seasons in school history, became the fourth player in NCAA history to pass for 8,000 yards and rush for 3,500 yards in his career and cemented himself as the greatest athlete in school history. All Flowers did at South Florida was win.

Putting the program on the map was something Flowers had in mind when he joined South Florida his freshman season, which was no easy task. In 2013, the year before Flowers arrived on campus, the Bulls won just two games.

In his sophomore year, his first full season as the starting quarterback, the team went 8-5. The following season, they won 11 games, the most in school history, including the Birmingham Bowl over South Carolina. In his senior year, Flowers led the Bulls to 10 wins and another win in the Birmingham Bowl.

Quinton Flowers NFL Draft profile

Flowers has had some workouts with Michael Vick. (Photo from Quinton Flowers’ Instagram @iamflowers9)

Flowers’ stats from his junior season were incredible. He passed for 2,812 yards and 24 touchdowns while rushing for another 1,530 yards and 18 touchdowns. In his senior year, he passed for 2,911 yards and 25 touchdowns and rushed for 1,078 yards and 11 touchdowns. He was one of the most entertaining, if not the most entertaining, player to watch in college football these past two seasons.

Flowers said it means a lot knowing South Florida is in a better place now.

“It just shows that you don’t have to be like everybody else and go to all the big schools,” Flowers said. “It’s a great feeling knowing that the University of South Florida will get the opportunity to play big schools. People will not overlook USF now.”

Now that his time with the Bulls is all said and done, Flowers is now getting ready for the NFL. He has been working on everything he will be doing at the NFL Combine, including throwing and his 40-yard dash. He has also worked out with former NFL star Michael Vick.

There are analysts and scouts that believe Flowers won’t succeed in the NFL due to his smaller size. Some people believe he can succeed at the next level, but at a different position due to his athletic ability. Flowers is out to prove the doubters wrong.

“My main focus is just showing people that no matter how tall you are or how short you are, you can play quarterback,” he said. “And just get opportunity. That’s my biggest thing is just getting opportunities to just go out there and showcase my talent.”

Why should an NFL team take a chance on Flowers? He believes his resume speaks for itself.

“I bring a lot to the table,” Flowers said. “You look at my wins and losses, it shows that I’m a winner. I’m a guy that likes to win and I will do whatever it takes to win.”

Flowers understands that he has a lot to work on, including his accuracy, as he completed 57.7 percent of his passes with the Bulls.

“That’s what a lot of people say,” he said. “I just try to work on everything in the offseason. So I’m working on accuracy and ball location. I’m still working on everything that people always say you can’t do. I work on that every day, day in and day out.”

That kind of attitude is what helped Flowers change the culture of the Bulls. He is a hard worker and brings a winning attitude with him.

Flowers was able to show what he can do during practices for the East-West Shrine Game. Although he ended up not playing in the game due to a death in his family, he was able to talk to some teams that are interested in him playing quarterback.

Quinton Flowers Scouting Report

Quinton Flowers NFL Draft profile

Some of Flowers’ best traits are his leadership and athletic ability. (Photo by Aaron Doster, USA TODAY Sports)

Flowers stands 6-foot, 210 pounds, which is a bit undersized for the quarterback position, but durability won’t be an issue. At USF, he started every game over his last three years. He has toughness and knows how to avoid contact, whether it’s sliding or evading pressure in the pocket.

After the snap of the ball, Flowers does a good job of recognizing the coverage and planning accordingly. His awareness and feel for pass rushers and coverage give him an edge. He has solid accuracy on short throws. Flowers has decent arm strength as well. He will have to work on his accuracy down the field for the NFL level.

While he sometimes holds the ball too long, it is likely a result of the belief that he can make plays in almost any situation. When the pocket breaks down, he can throw or run, making him hard to defend against. If he does decide to scramble, he is fast and elusive. Flowers has a great one-step juke move that puts defenders on skates. His athleticism has proven to be so good that some believe he can change positions and be successful in the NFL.

Flowers has a high football IQ, is a good leader and is very fast and athletic. With all of these good traits, an NFL team will want to take a look at the tough quarterback from USF.

You can read more about Flowers and his career at USF here.

Full interview for Quinton Flowers:

*Josh Burris interviewed Flowers, while Joe DiTullio provided the scouting report.

Featured image by Photo by Jasen Vinlove / USA TODAY Sports

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

49ers lock up Jimmy Garoppolo on record-breaking deal

The 49ers have locked up Garoppolo with a five-year, $137.5 million contract, per NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo. This is the largest contract on an average-per-year basis.

After witnessing QB Jimmy Garoppolo lead the 49ers to five straight wins to conclude the 2017 season, GM John Lynch knew he found his franchise QB.

Jimmy Garoppolo celebrates a touchdown during the 2017 season (Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP Photo

Garoppolo was originally shipped out to San Francisco, who surrendered a 2018 second round draft pick, in a trade with the New England Patriots in October 2017. Garoppolo was in the final year of his rookie contract at the time.

While Garoppolo has only started a total of seven games, two for New England and five for San Francisco, he remains undefeated. Garoppolo energized a 49er team that seemed destined for a top-five draft pick, leading them to a 5-0 record to conclude the season. This includes two fourth quarter comeback victories against the Chicago Bears and Tennessee Titans in 15-14 and 25-23 wins respectively.

During that stretch, Garoppolo completed 67.4 percent of his passing attempts for 1,560 yards. He threw seven touchdowns and five interceptions while maintaining a 96.2 QB Rating. Per NFL Network, Garoppolo has steered his team to more average points per game, 28.3, than any other QB in the NFL in the past 25 seasons, aside from his mentor, Tom Brady who has 28.3 as well.

 

 

Featured image by Kyle Terada/USA Today Sports

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

 

 

 

 

Our year of football: 2017-2018 season

NFL Predicated  Standings

2017-2018 Season

1. New England Patriots
2. Pittsburgh Steelers
3. Seattle Seahawks
4. Atlanta Falcons
5. Green Bay Packers
6. New York Giants
7. Dallas Cowboys
8. Kansas City Chiefs
9. Arizona Cardinals
10. Oakland Raiders
11. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
12. Miami Dolphins
13. Tennessee Titans
14. New Orleans Saints
15. Carolina Panthers
16. Houston Texans
17. Cincinnati Bengals
18. Washington Redskins
19. Detroit Lions
20. Baltimore Ravens
21. Philadelphia Eagles
22. Denver Broncos
23. Minnesota Vikings
24. Los Angeles Chargers
25. Los Angeles Rams
26. Jacksonville Jaguars
27. Indianapolis Colts
28. Buffalo Bills
29. San Francisco 49ers
30. Chicago Bears
31. Cleveland Browns
32. New York Jets

The Season

The 2017-2018 NFL season was anything but ordinary. It shifted from stories permeating of the last season. With those stories that molded political arguments and orchestrated the foundation to likes of humanity. This season touched hearts of survivors of this years unprecedented natural disasters and also filled the Twitter mentions of our beloved president. This year was a year to talk about not only for the sport of football but also the moral fiber of our society.

Politics…?

Simply, sports are not just sports. An argument appeared this year during the season. This year like the last, was highlighted by the many protests started by Colin Kaepernick. During a rally in Alabama, President Trump made some indecent remarks pertaining to the protest of players kneeling during the national anthem and flag. These comments created a dissolution among players and the leagues fans.

(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

Some backed up the president believing that the protest were disrespectful to our armed forces. Others felt that the players were standing up against injustices in this country that the anthem contradicts and are not true for every citizen. And even others took no position on either side but agreed that the protest were well within the rights of the players. In an attempt to preserve the notion of free speech, across the NFL, teams united in a protest by kneeling  or locking arms in unification before games or not attending the national anthem and flag bearing at all.

The Problem

While some saw the protest as an act of defiance, not only to the president of the United States but to our country as a whole, some even saw the protest as illegitimate and did not stand for what Kaepernick originally kneeled for. While Kaepernick was kneeling to bring awareness to police brutality and racial divisions, the players were kneeling for their right to protest and protection of their First Amendment rights. Unfortunately, the craze did lose its originality as the notion of Kaepernick’s arguments have yet to be discussed.

Many were critical of the NFL’s involvement in political fashions and wanted players to just play citing “football is just a sport”. The problem with that is football is not just a sport. Sports are never just seen as a collection of over sized men and women competing in gladiator like feats for a trophy. Sports have been able to bring people together. Football was never just a sport, not in America. Football itself has embodied the very grit and passion of what it is to be an American.

What football means

In the digital age, football has spread to consumers across the globe and in almost every house in our nation. Players now have platforms and are looked as icons, heroes, and even moral leaders. If you don’t believe it, ask JJ Watt. Ask Benjamin Watson. Or ask Greg Olsen about philanthropy.

Sports are part of the platform to give back, uplift individuals and inspire future generations. You want proof?  Remember when New Orleans natives watched their football time emerge from the ruins of their torn city and bring a title to avenge their will after Katrina. Or how an NBA championship can uplift a city after from a fifty year championship drought to embodied the strength of Cleveland. Or even this year, when Hurricane Harvey ravaged, displaced and destroyed lives in Texas, Houston natives were able to see their beloved baseball team bring home a championship and use the achievement as a beacon of hope.

Sports have been politicized since its very birth. The policies and rights bestowed upon each and everyone of us has given us the ability to watch, appreciate, and participate in sports and should never be questioned.

The Winner

There is no discussion that should over shadow the celebration of champions. The Philadelphia Eagles have now joined the list of 52 teams to have been able to label themselves as world champions. For a long time coming, this achievement gave the franchise its first world title and the city of Philadelphia its first championship since the 2008 World Series where the Phillies were crowned victorious.

The ups and downs in this season did not falter the Super Bowl champions even when starting quarterback Carson Wentz went out with an injury. Orchestrated by a swagger unlike any other team in the NFL, the squad welcomed Nick Foles in the starting lineup as he led them to a historic run in the playoffs. During the Super Bowl, with no surprise, the Eagles were seen as underdogs as they faced the defending Super Bowl champions. The New England Patriots, like many others, saw this matchup as a dynasty solidifying opportunity.

The Crowning

Thirteen years ago, the Patriots took the hearts of many Eagles fans as they beat them 24-21. A win that many saw to be spectacular, taking down a squad lead by Donovan McNabb, Brian Westbrook, and NFL Hall of Famer Terrell Owens. However, this team was not the 2004-2005 Eagles. This team was heralded by a forgotten star in Torrey Smith, a mid season pick up in Jay Ajayi, and a backup quarterback in Nick Foles. Pitted against a team that mirrored the leagues greatest teams assembled of all time, the Eagles never cowered from its opposition. After beating the the Patriots by a score of 41-33, the Eagles brought home their first championship in franchise history.

A team that no one predicted to even compete for a title this year, hoisted the Lombardi trophy on February 4. To spice up the pot even more, at center stage, a player that had been sidelined under the play of an MVP candidate, Nick Foles, held the Lombardi trophy in one hand and the game’s MVP in the other. Of course the Eagles are winners and truly earned it after an incredible season.

NFL Honors

AP Most Valuable Player: Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots

Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year: J.J. Watt, DE, Houston Texans

Coach of the Year: Sean McVay, Los Angeles Rams

Comeback Player of the Year: Keenan Allen, WR, Los Angeles Chargers

Offensive Player of the Year: Todd Gurley, RB, Los Angeles Rams

Defensive Player of the Year: Aaron Donald, DT, Los Angeles Rams

Offensive Rookie of the Year: Alvin Kamara, RB, New Orleans Saints

Defensive Rookie of the Year: Marshon Lattimore, CB, New Orleans Saints

Assistant Coach of the Year: Pat Shurmur, OC, Minnesota Vikings

Bridgestone Elite Performance Play of the Year: Case Keenum to Stefon Diggs “Minneapolis Miracle,” divisional round, Minnesota Vikings

FedEx Air & Ground Players of the Year: Carson Wentz, QB,

Philadelphia Eagles and Todd Gurley, RB, Los Angeles Rams

Deacon Jones Award: Chandler Jones, LB, Arizona Cardinals

Courtyard’s Greatness on the Road Award: Deshaun Watson, QB, Houston Texans

Built Ford Tough Offensive Line of the Year: Philadelphia Eagles

Salute To Service Award: Andre Roberts, WR, Atlanta Falcons

Art Rooney Sportsmanship Award: Luke Kuechly, LB, Carolina Panthers

The Losers

There is no hiding this. For the second year running, to no surprise, the Cleveland Browns are the biggest losers of the year. To be frank, 0-16 is down right deplorable. After a year prior that the team went 1-15, the make up of this season didn’t seem any better. Mid-season reports around the organization had suggested that the franchise was looking forward to upcoming draft and ending the season despite only being five games into the schedule. The Browns have a chance to change a few names and numbers on the jerseys this off season but don’t count on it holding any weight. There is no player that will magically turn the tide for the team. The culture is now stuck in conundrum that leaves their fan base with more questions of doubt than accolades to take pride in.

How the Browns are going down the road in the future, the next generation of Browns fans will be Bengals fans, not like that is any better. Changes have to be made from the top if players are going to rally and motivate themselves. Something is going to have to change in Cleveland if change for the good is to come. For a franchise that has lost so much it has to believe in something first to fight for.

NFL Final Standings

1. Philadelphia Eagles
2. New England
3. Jacksonville Jaguars
4. New Orleans Saints
5. Atlanta Falcons
6. Pittsburgh Steelers
7. Minnesota Vikings
8. Los Angeles Rams
9. Carolina Panthers
10. Green Bay Packers
11. Los Angeles Chargers
12. Houston Texans
13. Seattle Seahawks
14. San Francisco 49ers
15. Tennessee Titans
16. Kansas City Chiefs
17. Baltimore Ravens
18. Detroit Lions
19. Buffalo Bills
20. Dallas Cowboys
21. Oakland Raiders
22. Washington Redskins
23. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
24. Chicago Bears
25. Cincinnati Bengals
26. Miami Dolphins
27. New York Giants
28. Arizona Cardinals
29. Denver Broncos
30. New York Jets
31. Indianapolis Colts
32. Cleveland Browns

Class of 2018 Hall of Fame Inductees

Brian Urlacher

NFL

Ray Lewis

Terrell Owens

Randy Moss

Brian Dawkins

Robert Brazile

 

 

This year of football is in the history books. The off-season will guide us to a new year as questions mount for the future. What will come the NFL Draft? Will Colin Kaepernick play on a team next year? Will the NFL and NFLPA come to a solution to keep the league open? Fortunately, 2017 was all the glitz and glamour and also the grit and grime of our world. Despite records showing a drop in viewership for the league, those problems don’t come from the sport specifically. The NFL is a dynamic league that grows each and every year. A few policy changes and rule adjustments should get the NFL back in shape. Above all, for longtime dedicated fans, 2017 was a year to remember but also a foundation for what 2018 has to come.

 

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