Tony Romo

For Some Teams, Not Signing Romo is a Bigger Risk Than Doing So

Despite Cowboys owner Jerry Jones not sounding fully ready to move on, reports emerged earlier this week that quarterback Tony Romo will be released. Assuming these reports are true, the market for the often injured 36-year-old quarterback is not being viewed correctly. For three teams in particular, he would not be a risk, but rather a lifeline.

Before we get there, let’s trim the field a little bit. By his own admission, Romo only has two or three years left. Thus, being part of a total rebuild in Cleveland or San Francisco is out of the question. Carson Palmer is coming back in 2017 for another season with the Cardinals. The Broncos continue to articulate their commitment to Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch.

The Jets and Bills are hoarding young quarterbacks in the hopes that one might stick. Adding a veteran like Romo just does not seem to be on their radar, but perhaps it should be.

All these teams seem poised to either stand pat, add a quarterback through the draft, or look for a longer-term solution in free agency. If he is released and not traded, the teams that should be beating down Romo’s door are as follows.

Bears: Chicago is not as far away as last year’s 3-13 record suggests. They lost six games by one possession. Despite not being highly thought of by fans, John Fox is actually a heck of a coach. He got to a Super Bowl with Jake Delhomme and won a division title with Tim Tebow.

Jay Cutler John Fox

Photo: twitimes.com

The organization seems poised to move on from the temperamental enigma that is Jay Cutler. Romo is the kind of upgrade Fox needs to improve upon his 9-23 mark with the Bears and keep his job beyond this year.

 

Pair Romo with emerging running back Jordan Howard and an improving defense that ranked seventh against the pass last year, and the playoffs are not a stretch. Romo has roots in Illinois. The same can be said of Jimmy Garoppolo, who could be a fallback option for the Bears. Regardless, Chicago will likely add a quarterback at some point in the draft as well.

Texans: These next two teams would be tricky from a financial perspective, but I am not an accountant. It took winning a playoff game with Brock Osweiler for Texans head coach Bill O’Brien to receive confirmation from ownership that he would return in 2017.

O’Brien is a fine coach who had nothing to do with the ridiculous $72 million contract Osweiler was given. Rest assured though, O’Brien will take the fall if quarterback play continues to hold the rest of this championship caliber roster back. A completion percentage under 60 and more interceptions than touchdowns should be enough to give up on Osweiler after one year, despite his contract.

Romo would bring quarterback stability to Houston, something the franchise has never had. If he gets hurt, the Texans would be right back where they are now. However, at least he would offer a potential off-ramp from the path to nowhere they are on with their current quarterback options.

Vikings: I am on an island here, but Minnesota is loaded. With guys like Anthony Barr, Everson Griffen and Xavier Rhodes on defense, the Vikings are a notch below the 2015 Broncos. The defense cannot win a title by itself, but a slightly more balanced Vikings team would be lethal.

After his devastating training camp injury last year, questions continue to linger about Teddy Bridgewater’s future. Mike Zimmer seems strangely stubborn about sticking with Sam Bradford. Granted, the Vikings did give up a lot to bring him in. As good as his record completion percentage and four to one touchdown to interception ratio made him look last year, there is one very important thing Bradford has never done all that well: win games.

sam bradford

Photo: foxnews.com

In 78 career starts for three different franchises, Bradford has posted a winning percentage of 41 percent and has never lead a team to the playoffs. In the words of a very wise Canadian songstress, “that don’t impress me much.” Yes, football is the ultimate team sport. However, the blame has to start going on the quarterback and not the supporting cast.

After fading down the stretch behind Bradford last year and putting up only nine points in a home playoff loss with Bidgewater the year before, Zimmer needs to start winning big quick or whispers will start about his job security. With the talent on this roster, a healthy Romo makes the Vikings instant Super Bowl contenders. Sticking with Bradford makes Zimmer being unemployed within two years a virtual certainty.

Understandably, there is real skepticism about Romo’s ability to stay healthy for an entire season. He has not done so since 2014. Even so, for these three coaching staffs under varying degrees of pressure to win now, his career winning percentage (61 percent) makes him a chance worth taking. In fact, recycling average veteran or unseasoned young quarterbacks that will get them nowhere is a much bigger risk.

 

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“From Our Haus To Yours”

2017 NFL Mock Draft February 16

2017 NFL Mock Draft

1. Cleveland Browns- Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M

The Browns reportedly have a very high grade on Garrett and are not targeting a quarterback with their first pick. Garrett is the premier pass rusher in college football, but has also proven to be a good run defender as well. Cleveland has to acquire talent all over their roster, so they need to take the best player available, who is Garrett.

2. San Francisco 49ers- DeShone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame

San Francisco has a lot of needs, including a new coach. Kizer has the size and arm strength to be a franchise quarterback. He has some issues with being consistent with the accuracy of his passes, but for the most part is decent. If he wants to be successful he should work on putting passes in areas for wide receivers to run after the catch.

3. Chicago Bears- Mitch Trubisky, QB, North Carolina

Matt Barkley has played better than expected, but the Bears will still need a new quarterback. Trubisky has protected the football very well, with the exception of a couple of games. Issues that scouts will find with him are that he has only started one season of college football and a lot of his stats come from screen passes where receivers run after the catch.

4. Jacksonville Jaguars- Jonathan Allen, DL, Alabama

Allen is the best prospect available and fills a need. Malik Jackson was the only defensive lineman who played well for the Jaguars. At six feet three inches tall and 291 pounds, Allen can play any position on the defensive line and can fit into any system.

5. Tennessee Titans- Jamal Adams, S, LSU

Adams is the most complete safety in the class. He stops the run, covers well and even hits hard. Against Ole Miss he showed he can cover good tight ends when he was matched up against Evan Engram. The Titans need to improve the pass defense if they want to make the playoffs next season, making Adams the pick.

6. New York Jets- Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU

It is obvious that Matt Forte isn’t the same player that he once was. The Jets need to get a play-maker and although running back isn’t their biggest need, shouldn’t pass on Fournette. Fournette can do everything required as a running back and help take some carries away from Newton. Their offense can be dynamic with the combination of the two.

7. San Diego Chargers- Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama

Phillip Rivers deserves the most credit in the league for keeping his team competitive with all of his skill position players hurt and a bad offensive line. Robinson can slide right in and start protecting the aging Rivers and give him more time to make plays.

8. Carolina Panthers- Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State

The Panthers may not have had the season they wanted, but they don’t have too many needs to fill. One position they do need to upgrade is corner after not fairing so well without Josh Norman. Lattimore is a shut-down corner, who has good ball skills.

9. Cincinnati Bengals- Solomon Thomas, DE/DT, Stanford

When Cincinnati was at their best, they rushed the passer well. Michael Johnson no longer does that well, so he needs to be upgraded. Thomas is a well rounded defensive end, who is as good at stopping the run as he is rushing the passer.

10. Buffalo Bills- Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State

Malik Hooker

The Bills have a lot of uncertainty at safety with Aaron Williams, but Adams could be the pick anyways. Hooker is a ball-hawk who has great coverage skills, but needs to provide more run support.

11. New Orleans Saints- Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee

The Saints need defensive help wherever they can get it. Improving the pass rush will be an easy decision if they see Derek Barnett on the board. Barnett is one of the best pass rushers in the class and can also help stop the run at an average level.

12. Cleveland Browns- Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama

Foster was the best player for Alabama in the National Championship Game. He was all over the field and showed great closing speed on ball carriers. In addition to that, he was a very effective when blitzing, knocking down Deshaun Watson plenty of times. He is also good in coverage, which doesn’t leave many holes in his game.

13. Arizona Cardinals- Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama

This is a great value pick for the Cardinals, as Humphrey is a top ten talent. The pick also fills a need with Arizona’s secondary not playing as well as in previous seasons.

14. Indianapolis Colts- Adoree Jackson, CB, USC

Indianapolis needs to start playing better defense to give Andrew Luck a chance to win games. Jackson is one of the fastest players in the entire class and almost qualified for the track and field team in the Olympics this summer. He is a shut down corner, who plays like Deion Sanders. The most impressive thing he does is slow down to bait the quarterback into throwing a pass and then speed up to intercept it.

15. Philadelphia Eagles- Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State

Cook and Fournette are really close in terms of who is the better running back. Cook is elusive and quick. He provides a real weapon out of the backfield as a receiver. The Eagles need a running back, and help elsewhere, in order to enhance Carson Wentz’s development.

16. Baltimore Ravens- Quincy Wilson, CB Florida

Quincy Wilson

The Ravens have a lot of options with this pick, but taking a corner will help shut down receivers in the AFC North like A.J. Green and Antonio Brown. Wilson is a tall corner, who has good speed. He isn’t the best in run support and is suseptible to pass interference calls.

17. Washington Redskins- Malik McDowell, DT, Michigan State

Washington has other needs, but McDowell could really bolster their defensive line and be a great value pick. McDowell can rush the passer, but his main impact will be helping out a bad Washington run defense.

18. Tennessee Titans- Mike Williams, WR, Clemson

In the National Championship Game, Mike Williams was the difference maker for Clemson. Williams is the best red zone threat in college football from the wide receiver position. He is tall and lanky, but athletic enough to make great catches. Mariota needs a go to receiver to throw to and the Titans ma have to take one earlier than expected.

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Jalen Tabor, CB, Florida

Secondary play is where the Bucs fall short. Fortunately for them this class has a lot of good secondary players. Tabor has fallen down draft boards, which may have come at the expense of teammate Quincy Wilson’s improved stock. Lock down coverage is Tabor’s best asset, but he also has good ball skills once passes come his way.

20. Denver Broncos- Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame

John Elway has to find a new right tackle as Donald Stephenson isn’t the answer. McGlinchey played left tackle this season, but was more successful as a right tackle during his college career.

21. Detroit Lions- Chris Wormley, DE/DT, Michigan

Chris Wormley

Detroit defied the odds to make the playoffs, but their defense needs a lot of work. Interior defensive line play was bad. Wormley can play defensive tackle in their scheme and be an absolute force in the middle of the defensive line.

22. Miami Dolphins- Sidney Jones, CB, Washington

The Dolphins need to spend some picks on their secondary and their defensive line this year and Jones can compete for a starting job. He is a great cover corner, who grew a lot his last year in college and has the potential to grow even more at the next level

23. New York Giants- Zach Cunningham, LB, Vanderbilt

It seems like every year the Giants need linebackers, but they hardly address those issues. Cunningham is tall and lanky, but makes plays. He is a tackle machine that can vastly improve the run defense.

24. Oakland Raiders- Jabrill Peppers, CB/LB/S, Michigan

The Raiders’ defense wasn’t good this season. They have to get better to help Derek Carr and the high-powered offense win games. Peppers can be successful at any position in the back seven of the defense and will give the Raiders a lot of flexibility and a good player behind Khalil Mack.

25. Houston Texans- Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin

Quarterback play has been an issue, so they may go for one here, but the offensive line hasn’t performed either. If they want to build a good offense, it starts in the trenches. Ramczyk is a good run blocker, but needs to improve his pass blocking. He can fit in at right tackle for the Texans.

26. Seattle Seahawks- Quenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame

It is the same story, but a different day for Seattle. Their offensive line is atrocious. Quenton Nelson is a solid prospect who can help out on the interior of the offensive line. He will be the selection if there aren’t any tackles good enough to get drafted in this range.

27. Kansas City Chiefs- Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan

Davis is a premier talent at wide receiver. He is big, at 6 feet 3 inches, but his skills match that of a smaller receiver, making him a unique prospect. The Chiefs can draft the receivers, but ultimately Alex Smith has to throw it to them to make this pick worthwhile.

28. Dallas Cowboys- John Ross, WR, Washington

John Ross

The Cowboys’ defense needs to be addressed, but they could also find a good target to go on the opposite side of the field of Dez Bryant. Terrance Williams could be upgraded and has yet to sign a deal for next season. Ross is really fast and can stretch the field for the offense.

29. Green Bay Packers- Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio State

Aaron Rodgers will always have the offense rolling, so the defense needs to start getting more stops. The secondary was awful. Conley is one of many talented corners in this class that can have an immediate impact.

30. Pittsburgh Steelers- Charles Harris, DE/OLB, Missouri

The Steeler pass rush hasn’t been the same recently. Jarvis Jones is a bust and James Harrison can’t play forever. Harris is a good edge rusher that can, at the very least, push the veterans with some competition and provide depth.

31. Atlanta Falcons- O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama

Jacob Tamme is a decent tight end, but he isn’t great. Levine Toilolo hasn’t proven that he can be the starter. Matt Ryan would love the addition of Howard, who would just add to the number of targets he has. The Falcons could, and probably should go defense here, but Howard may be too good to pass up.

32. New England Patriots- Caleb Brantley, DE, Florida

New England’s front seven has been depleted the past couple of seasons. They will need to make up for players traded and ones that are still on the team, but aging. Brantley can help provide depth on the interior of the defensive line.

For more mock drafts: DC Pro Sports Report

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Buffalo Needs Stability

Buffalo Needs Stability

Buffalo needs stability to end their longtime playoff drought. 1999. What is the significance of 1999? It was the last year the Buffalo Bills made the playoffs. 17 NFL seasons have passed without the Bills having a chance at the Lombardi Trophy. The Bills were one of the greatest teams in the 90’s. From 1990 to 1999 the Bills made the playoffs eight out of 10 seasons.

Buffalo Needs Stability

(Photo: nfl.com)

They also appeared in four straight Super Bowls and even though they didn’t win any, it is a phenomenal accomplishment. Since the new century started, there hasn’t been much to cheer for. The franchise went from glory and one of the most successful, to a team who could be in the same category as the Jaguars, Browns or Lions.

Since their last playoff appearance in 1999, the Bills have had eight head coaches in 17 seasons. On average that is a new head coach every 2.1 years. Stability is on of the biggest keys to success. The proof is in the pudding. Look at the most successful franchise in the NFL.

New England has had Bill Belichick for 16 seasons. Green Bay has had Mike McCarthy 11 seasons. Pittsburgh has had three coaches in the last 50 years. All three of these examples are teams with a shot every year to win the Super Bowl. All three of these franchise have also won a Super Bowl in this time. This proves that stability and longevity mean success. The Bills are giving up too easily on their coaching hires.

Coaching Roulette

Wade Phillips was the head coach the last time the Bills made the playoffs. He lasted three seasons but made the playoffs in his first two years with the team. Phillips was fired after a subpar 8-8 season in 2000. Rumors say he was fired for failing to dismiss his special team’s coordinator.

Buffalo Needs Stability

(Photo: buffalobills,com)

Then came the Gregg Williams era and that lasted only three seasons. Williams went 17-31 in his time as the head coach. Three years is considered enough time to turn a franchise around, but this is where the Bills became impatient because at this point they have gone four straight seasons without a playoff appearance. Gregg Williams eventually went on to win a Super Bowl as the defensive coordinator for the Saints. There was controversy about his coaching and was suspended from the NFL for his role in bounty gate.

The Bills brought in Mike Mularkey for the 2004 season. Mularkey would only last two seasons going 9-7 in his first season and 5-11 in his second season. Yes, he had a less successful second season, but two years is not enough time to evaluate a coach’s ability to improve a franchise. Mularkey is now the head coach of the Tennessee Titans where he went 2-7 as the interim coach but followed it up with a 9-7 season this past year. The future in Tennessee looks bright with Mularkey at the helm and had the Bills rode it out they might have become a playoff team by now.

So after a two-year experiment with Mularkey, the Bills hired Dick Jauron. Jauron was the coach they were the most patient with but still could have tried him out a little longer. Dick Jauron finished three consecutive seasons with a 7-9 record. In his fourth season, he started 3-6 and was fired midseason. Interim coach Perry Fewell went 3-4 but was not hired to replace Jauron.

Chan Gailey was hired as the Bills coach in 2010 and he also got a three-year trial period. He went 16-32 in those three years. Now after allowing two coaches to have three years to prove they could do the job the Bills went back to a two-year window. At this point, it had been 13 seasons without a playoff appearance.

Buffalo Needs Stability

(http://giphy.com/search/rex-ryan)

In 2013 the Bills took a chance on Doug Marrone who went 6-10 in his first season. He followed that 6-10 season with a nine-win season. He had shown signs of improvement from year one to year two and there was a chance that he would lead the Bills to the playoffs in his third year. Marrone unexpectedly opted out of his contract and left Buffalo.

This time the Bills were searching for a new head coach after one left them before they cut him loose. That coach was none other than Rex Ryan. Rex didn’t even get to coach the end of his second season and was fired after compiling a 15-16 record with the team. Impatient management means failure and the struggling Bills franchise will need to give their new head coach, Sean McDermott, at least four years to build the team. They need a coach who can create stability within the franchise. If they cut him loose early Buffalo will continue to miss the playoffs and the drought will continue to grow.

A Franchise Quarterback

Buffalo Needs Stability

(http://www.buffalobillsalumni.com/Jim_Kelly_Buffalo_Bills_s/73.htm)

The success of a franchise is directly connected to having a franchise quarterback. The Bills haven’t had a franchise quarterback since Jim Kelly. Buffalo have started 16 different quarterbacks since Kelly was the man. They have had no luck finding a quarterback to lead the team and now that they have, they aren’t fully committed to him.

Some will argue that Doug Flutie could have been a franchise quarterback but the truth is that Flutie was a bit of a journeyman. He played for five teams in 11 NFL seasons. He had some talent and was the last Bills quarterback to lead them to the playoffs, but there is a reason he didn’t stay with teams longer.

As mentioned above, the Bills have had 16 different starting quarterbacks before they stumbled upon Tyrod Taylor. Taylor spent his first four seasons in the NFL as a backup to Super Bowl Champion quarterback Joe Flacco. He learned the ropes from the sideline. It allowed him to develop and grow before throwing him to the wolves like most young quarterbacks in today’s day and age.

Taylor finally got his opportunity to start when he won the job in 2015. In his first season as an NFL starter, Tyrod Taylor played 14 games and went 7-6. Taylor completed 63.7 percent of his passes while throwing for 3,035 yards, 20 touchdowns, and just six interceptions. He also added 568 yards and four touchdowns on the ground.

In his second season, he started 15 games and went 7-8. In two seasons as a starter he has thrown for 6,257 yards, 37 touchdowns, and just 12 interceptions. He ran for 1,148 yards and 10 touchdowns. These are great numbers but the best thing is that he has gone 14-14. He is still growing and just about to enter his prime.

Buffalo Needs Stability

(http://onsmash.com/sports/sammy-watkins-44-yard-touchdown-bomb-from-tyrod-taylor/)

These numbers and wins are much better than the other quarterbacks the Bills have had recently. He has won 50 percent of his games while quarterbacks E.J. Manuel (6-11 won 36%), Thad Lewis (2-4 won 33%), Ryan Fitzpatrick (20-33 won 38%), Trent Edwards (14-18 won 44%), and J.P. Losman (10-23 won 30%) have all done much worse.

The Buffalo Bills have a franchise quarterback sitting in their lap and they need to stick with him. 17 seasons is a long time to not make the playoffs. The way to end that is to stick with McDermott for longer than three years to allow him enough time to build the program. They also need to stick by Tyrod Taylor. Finding a franchise quarterback is difficult and giving up on Tyrod Taylor will spell doom for Buffalo. If they move on from Taylor, McDermott will be fired after two years and the Bills will continue down the path they have been stuck on the past 17 seasons. It isn’t difficult Buffalo, let Tyrod Taylor lead you to the promised land.

 

 

John Lynch

Lynch Trying not to Join Infamous List of NFL Head Scratchers

The San Francisco 49ers raised more than a few eyebrows at the end of last month when they hired John Lynch as their new general manager. Despite a borderline Hall of Fame playing career, Lynch has no relevant front office experience to speak of. In fact, he is coming straight out of the television broadcast booth.

While it is much too early to pass judgment on Lynch’s hiring, there have been a few other peculiar NFL coaching and front office hires in recent years. For the most part, they have not worked out.

Art Shell: Raiders head coach (2006)

Art Shell

Photo courtesy of USA today

Raiders fans will not enjoy the first part of this article. Up until very recently, Oakland spent almost a decade as the NFL’s top dumpster fire. For some reason, late owner Al Davis thought it would be a good idea to bring Art Shell back as head coach after a 13-year hiatus.

The game changes in 13 years and it left Shell behind. Shell was a Hall of Fame offensive lineman for the Raiders, but his second tenure as head coach is best left forgotten.

His first big hire to his staff was offensive coordinator Tom Walsh. Walsh had been out of football for six years and was running a bed and breakfast.

Walsh is also infamous for saying that the skills of wide receiver Randy Moss were “diminishing.” After being traded to the Patriots, Moss had a record-breaking season in 2007.

Unsurprisingly, Shell’s Raiders stumbled to a 2-14 finish and he was let go after a single season. Somehow, Oakland’s next head coaching hire was even worse.

Lane Kiffin: Raiders head coach (2007-2008)

Lane Kiffin

Photo courtesy of sfgate.com

Lane Kiffin is well known to football fans now. When Davis first hired him to resurrect the Raiders in 2007, Kiffin was a 31-year-old who had never been a head coach at any level of football.

The friction between Davis and Kiffin was almost immediate. The Raiders still had virtually no talent on the roster. To make matters worse, they drafted quarterback JaMarcus Russell who went down as one of the most spectacular draft flops in NFL history.

Davis fired Kiffin during the 2008 season in an epic press conference that resulted in Kiffin taking legal action against the Raiders. He posted a record of just 5-15 and has since bounced around the college ranks.

Matt Millen: Lions President and General Manager (2001-2008)

Matt Millen

Photo Courtesy of Seattle Times

This is the story that makes 49er fans most nervous. Much like Lynch, Millen was hired straight from broadcasting after a really good playing career in 2001. The result was disastrous. Under Millen’s direction, the Lions best single season record was 6-10.

While no one in the NFL fails all on their own, Millen’s biggest gaffe was using a first-round pick on a wide receiver three straight years. Moreover, the Lions passed on guys like DeMarcus Ware to draft Roy Williams, Mike Williams, and Charles Rogers.

After years of losing and fan protests, Millen was put out of his misery in September 2008. The Lions had just begun what would become the only 0-16 season in NFL history. Millen has since returned to broadcasting.

Paul DePodesta: Browns Chief Strategy Officer (2016-present)

Admittedly, the jury is still out on this one. However, that does not make hiring a former MLB analytics guru for a major executive role in the NFL any less odd. The Browns have been a laughing stock since returning to the league in 1999. Maybe they know something the rest of the world does not, but I doubt it.

A 1-15 debut was not encouraging for DePodesta and the rest of the Browns revamped front office, but next year will tell the tale. The Browns have five of the first 65 picks in the 2017 NFL draft and are among the league leaders in salary cap space. That should mean a significant improvement. If not, it may well be back to the drawing board yet again in Cleveland.

What you do not see in this article is as important as what you do see. Generally, the teams who make these type of moves are bad for a decade or longer. Teams like the Patriots, Packers, Steelers, Seahawks and Broncos do not go outside the box very often. Those are the teams in contention year in and year out.

Given the current state of the 49ers, Lynch will be fighting the odds not to join the likes of Millen, DePodesta, Kiffin and Shell.

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Franchise Analysis – New Orleans Saints

For almost half the teams in the NFL, they are approaching 2017 with one question: do we have a championship caliber quarterback? Thankfully, the New Orleans Saints don’t have to answer that question. But how does a team with Drew Brees and Sean Payton go three years without making the playoffs?

As both are nearing the end of their tenure in New Orleans, what needs to happen in 2017 to have Saints fans celebrating next February?

2016 Evaluation – Offense

There’s not much to say. When Sean Payton calls the plays and Drew Brees is the field general, this offense will always be prolific. This offense finished second in points and first in yards in 2016. Brees and company finished first in passing yards and second in passing attempts. This team also took an important step for its rushing attack this season.

New Orleans Saints

Drew Brees and Sean Payton are a historically great duo, but will it translate into a playoff birth in 2017? (Courtesy of: Sporting News)

Since 2013, the Saints have made a concerted effort to run the ball on first down. Since 2013, while they only attempted 87 rushes on first down, they have run the ball on first down at least 98 times. Sean Payton is trying to put this offense in the best position possible and is not falling in love with throwing the football.

The Saints routinely finish as one of the most efficient third down offenses and have gotten better when they run the ball more on first down. Since 2013, the Saints third down conversion rate is above 48 percent.

What the Saints are doing is incredibly effective and should be continued, especially as Drew Brees continues to age. However, this unit is not without flaws.

You’ll find play makers all over this offense except at one position: tight end. No matter who was playing, the production was still poor. Using Pro Football Focus player ratings, every Saints tight end was more effective as a pass blocker than they were a receiver.

While these ratings don’t tell the whole truth, it’s clear that Coby Fleener struggled this season. To be fair, it was his first season in Payton’s offense. This position could absolutely use in upgrade via the 2017 NFL Draft if Fleener continues to be incompetent.

2016 Evaluation – Defense

You could answer my initial question with one word, defense. Perennially weak defense is why this team continues to miss the playoffs and 2016 was no different.

New Orleans Saints

Delvin Breaux will look to bounce back in 2017 after missing 8 games this year. (Courtesy of: Alchetron)

The Saints defense finished 31st in points and 27th in yards. Specifically, this unit was horrible against the pass. What’s really troubling was the fact that this defense gave up the most passing yards on the 19th most attempts. This means that offenses, even if they were marginal, were incredibly efficient against this defense through the air.

What makes a team operate more efficiently? In the passing game, it happens when quarterbacks have more time than usual to make decisions and throw. The Saints lacked a consistent pass rush all season as they finished 27th in the NFL with 30 sacks. Cameron Jordan is a great player, but he alone is not enough.

They could also look to upgrade the linebacker position given how much they blitz. However, if you’re blitzing more than 40 percent of the time and still can’t apply pressure, a scheme change may be necessary. While either option could be effective, the best decision is likely a combination of the two.

Of course, there is also the option to upgrade players in the secondary. I don’t think this is as pressing as establishing a pass rush. Delvin Breaux, apart from having a great last name, is a talented player who struggled. He missed half the season, so it’s reasonable to think missing that many snaps would impact his performance. Breaux, along with Sterling Moore and potentially a talented free agent or rookie, could take this defense out of incompetency.

Divisional Analysis

I still maintain that this is the best division in football in terms of quarterback play. To combat these great quarterbacks, you have to keep them off the field and apply pressure. Offensively, the Saints are phenomenal. Aside from adding depth at a few positions and upgrading others, they don’t have pressing needs.

On defense, the Saints will have plenty of opportunities to accumulate talent. Secondary players like Marshon Lattimore, Adoree Jackson and Malik Hooker could absolutely improve this pass defense. There are also great free agents like A.J. Bouye and Trumaine Johnson available at the corner position that the Saints could target.

On the other hand, they could go a different route and address their weak pass rush. Derek Barnett seems like the right decision at the number eleven slot if he’s available. There are other defensive options like Reuben Foster, Solomon Thomas and Taco Charlton, but they may not be right in their scheme or warrant selection at the Saints position.

I know I claimed the offense doesn’t need to be a focus of the offseason, but, there’s always the idea of finding an eventual successor to Brees. I’m not saying spend a first-round pick on Deshaun Watson or Mitch Trubisky, if they are even available. I am saying that the sooner the Saints plan for the future, the smoother the transition will be.

Postseason Prospects

While there are seemingly endless amounts of stats to comb through, some are more important than others. Here is where the Saints stack up in the following offensive and defensive categories.

New Orleans Saints

As we’ve outlined, the Saints offense is incredibly productive. It’s almost unprecedented to have an offense finish in the top six in every category and not make the playoffs. If the defense is able to improve in 2017, it is likely that their yards per attempt will decrease because they won’t be playing in as many shootouts.

New Orleans Saints

Conversely, the Saints defense needs to improve in every category. Thankfully, they don’t need to be top five or even top ten in every category to make the postseason. They just have to stop being totally inept. If the Saints are able to apply more pressure to opposing quarterbacks in 2017, look for improvements in sacks, third down percentage and turnovers.

2017 Prediction

While they have major defensive flaws, the Saints are prime to break their playoff drought. In 2016, the Saints lost four games by three points or less and another game by five points. If they won two of those five games against the right teams, they could have made the playoffs. I believe the Saints will find a way to win those close games in 2017 and make the playoffs as a Wild Card team at 10-6.

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DII players with a shot at the NFL

DII Players With A Shot at the NFL

It’s that time of year again in the NFL. Teams are in full scout mode looking for the best players in the country. The NFL combine will begin later this month on February 28. Most people focus on the top prospects from the big schools. There is a lot of talk on who will go number one overall. All the hype comes from rounds one through three but those players are not guaranteed to be good, some don’t even last three seasons.

The numbers prove that it isn’t just about who gets drafted, but who you can find that goes undrafted. At the start of last season, Adam Schefter tweeted that there were more undrafted players (481) than first and second rounders (480) on an NFL roster. This is very telling and the teams that can find players who will make an impact after the draft ends are the teams who find the real gems of the game.

Division I football gets all the love but in the lower divisions, there are still a lot of talented players, many of which could make an NFL roster. Here are seven players from DII that could make an NFL roster and also have a chance to become stars in the NFL.

Antonio Pipkin QB: 6’3″ 225 LBS: Tiffin University

Put on the film of Antonio Pipkin and you see pure athleticism. Pipkin is clearly a duel threat quarterback with a strong arm. He has breakaway speed and if he gets into the open field there is no catching him. One of his most underrated skills is his ability to accurately place touch on the ball. He threw his receivers open in many situations and in the NFL that is a trait all the greats have. The windows are extremely tight in the NFL and under a few years of development Pipkin could eventually be a starter. Pipkin finished his senior season with 2,534 yards passing and 25 touchdowns. He also added 757 yards on the ground with seven touchdowns.

A perfect fit for Pipkin would be a situation like Pittsburgh. Two to three years behind a veteran who will soon retire before he steps onto the field to lead a franchise. Teams would be wise to take a shot at Pipkin whether it is late in the draft or as an undrafted free agent.

Jordan Morgan OG: 6’4″ 320 LBS: Kutztown University

DII players with a shot at the NFL

(https://www.kutztown.edu/choose-ku-choose-the-world/jordan-morgan.htm)

Jordan Morgan may have NFL scouts drooling when they look at his measurables. 6-foot-4 and 320 pounds in a great size for a guard in the NFL. There is a lot of good film on Jordan Morgan. Morgan is a great run blocker who bulldozes defenders with ease often. He knows how to use his size to punish defenders. An area that he needs to work on is pass blocking. The NFL has much bigger and faster defensive lineman than he has blocked and he isn’t great at pass blocking. Morgan could be a good undrafted lineman if a team can develop his pass blocking ability.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Connor Harris MLB: 6-Foot-0 243 LBS: Lindenwood University

Connor Harris will be the biggest surprise in the 2017 class. Harris is going to be a starting middle linebacker in the NFL without question. The film on this guy is just insane. Harris has a high football I.Q. and there is nothing he can’t do on the field. He is great at play recognition and when he makes a read he’s flat out gone.

 

His pass coverage skills are highly developed as well. Harris is the all-time tackle leader in NCAA history at any level amassing an astonishing 633 tackles. He also had eight and a half sacks, six interceptions and one defensive touchdown in his career. The team that takes a chance on Harris will get a steal and a linebacker who could be a future pro bowler.

 

Jordan Herdman lB: 6-Foot-0 235 LBS: Simon Fraser University

DII players with a shot at the NFL

(http://theprovince.com/sports/university/simon-fraser-clan-quartet-plays-it-near-perfect-grade-points-in-sports-and-study-hardly-average)

Jordan Herman is an interesting player. He played a lot of middle linebacker at Simon Frazer University but was sent to attack the quarterback quite often. It allowed him the opportunity to develop pass rushing skills. If Herdman gets a shot in the NFL it will be as a 3-4 outside linebacker or as a defensive end. One thing that may hurt his chances of playing defensive end is his size. He isn’t tall and doesn’t have enough weight to be an every-down defensive end. Ultimately, he must become a 3-4 linebacker but if a team with that scheme takes a chance then the sky is the limit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Garry Brown WR: 6-Foot-1 200 LBS: California (PA)

DII players with a shot at the NFL

(http://monvalleyindependent.com/2016/09/keir-throws-6-tds-win/)

If you need a punt or kick returner, call Garry Brown. If you need a receiver to embarrass defensive backs, call Garry Brown. Does your team need a playmaker, you guessed it, call Garry Brown. It is somewhat remarkable that Brown wasn’t playing division I football. He has speed and explosion that belongs in the NFL. Brown is best at catching the ball at its highest point. When the ball is in the air, even at just 6-foot-1, he makes sure it ends up as a catch. Brown will most likely go undrafted but can make an NFL roster as a returner if nothing else.

 

 

 

Billy Brown WR: 6-Foot-4 240 LBS: Shepard

DII players with a Shot at the NFL

(http://www.timesdaily.com/sports/una_sports/lions-one-win-from-title-game/article_d93af849-af6e-5361-a09d-30728620fb9e.html)

Watching Billy Brown was like watching the Super Bowl commercial of Cam Newton playing pee wee football. Brown is just bigger than everyone on the field. Countless times Brown made a catch and was bulldozing over the players that were just too small to tackle him. Brown could be a dangerous red-zone threat in the NFL. At 6-foot-4, not many defensive backs would be able to jump with Brown. Brown will go undrafted but could have the same impact Victor Cruz had with the Giants.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adam Shaheen TE: 6-Foot-7 277 LBS: Ashland College

Adam Shaheen is a huge guy and is not lacking in confidence. Shaheen may be the craziest player on this list because he is the only player listed who is a junior. Not many players outside division I are willing to declare early but Shaheen believes he is ready. His confidence shows on the tape. Almost everytime he catches the ball he is jawing with defenders.

He plays the game with fire and knows he is better than the defenders he dominates. His latest season at Ashland College he caught 70 passes for 803 yards and a DII record, 10 touchdowns. Shaheen will need a crash course in run blocking but can be a dangerous pass catcher if given a chance.

 

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

Terrell Davis

The Right Terrell is Going to Canton This Year

There is not much more that can be said about Super Bowl LI. For every epic comeback, there is an equally epic meltdown on the other side. Prior to the game itself, the 2017 Pro Football Hall of Fame class was a big source of debate. Lots of controversy has surrounded Terrell Owens being “snubbed” again, but there is a Terrell being enshrined this year, and it is the right one.

While there is certainly a case to be made that Owens is more worthy than Terrell Davis, if you look beyond raw numbers, the reverse of that argument is not the least bit crazy and here is why.

First, this was a crowded year for the Hall of Fame. With the maximum of five “modern era players” going in this year, three were stone cold lead pipe locks. Pass rusher Jason Taylor, quarterback Kurt Warner and running back LaDainian Tomlinson.

That leaves two spots. As much as we all like to make fun of kickers, the most important thing in the NFL is scoring points, and Morten Andersen has done that more than anybody else. Thus, he is worthy of a spot after having to wait a few years. It is reasonable to speculate that many voters came down to Davis and Owens for the final spot.

Before making the majority of my argument, it was necessary to point out the strength of the class as a whole. You would be hard-pressed to take one of the other four inductees out to make room for both Owens and Davis in the same class.

 It is virtually impossible to overstate the impact of Terrell Davis on the Broncos organization. Prior to his arrival in the mid-90s, the Broncos were a slightly better version of what the Colts are now. They had a truly great quarterback who was not surrounded by much additional talent.

John Elway led Denver to three Super Bowl appearances in the 80s. The closest the Broncos got to winning one of those games was a 19 point defeat against the Giants. As Elway entered the twilight of his career, a Super Bowl ring looked like a pipe dream.

Denver Broncos

Photo Courtesy of Denver Post

Broncos coach Mike Shanahan plucked Davis from obscurity and made him the starting running back as a rookie in 1995. By 1997, Davis had posted consecutive seasons of well over 1000 yards rushing to start his career. However, the Broncos and their aging quarterback had not found postseason success.

Davis had another stellar year as Denver won the AFC West. In four playoff games that year, Davis rushed for over 100 yards in each and tallied eight touchdowns. The Broncos upset the Packers to win Super Bowl XXXII. Davis scored three touchdowns and was named Super Bowl MVP.

In 1998, Davis was again the centerpiece of the Broncos offense. He rushed for over 2000 yards. There have been only seven such seasons in NFL history. Davis was named league MVP as the Broncos coasted to a second straight Super Bowl victory. He rushed for a total 1049 yards in the 97 and 98 postseasons combined.

Starting in 1999, Davis was haunted by knee trouble that started when he attempted to make a tackle on an interception return against the Jets. He would appear in just 17 more games after 1998. He retired during the 2002 preseason.

His lack of longevity certainly hurt his Hall of Fame chances, he had to wait a decade. However, when he was at his best Davis was as good as the game has ever seen. The injuries prevented him from being near the top of numerous rushing record lists. Even so, fellow Hall of Famer and teammate Shannon Sharpe summed it up best in Davis’ A Football Life documentary on the NFL Network. He was quoted as saying “Without T.D. we don’t win Super Bowls”

Terrell Owens

Photo Courtesy of foxsports.com

Similarly, think about how differently John Elway’s career would be viewed if not for the two Super Bowl wins Davis spearheaded in the last two years of Elway’s career.

As for Terrell Owens, he ranks second all-time in receiving yards and third in touchdowns. On that alone, he is certainly Hall of Fame worthy. Unfortunately for Owens, players do not exist in a vacuum nor should they.

As productive as he was, Owens never made a team he was on better. The 49ers were perennial contenders before Owens arrived. Philadelphia was already on a string of runs to the NFC championship game.

In 2004, the Eagles finally reached the Super Bowl, but Owens was injured for the playoffs and did not return until the Super Bowl, which Philadelphia lost. He turned in an admirable performance despite not having fully recovered from a broken ankle.

The only thing having Owens on your team guaranteed was not winning many big games and him throwing whoever his quarterback was under the bus for not getting him the ball enough, despite those Hall of Fame numbers. This always led to more ridiculousness like him being sent home then holding press conferences and doing sit-ups in his driveway.

San Francisco 49ers

Photo Courtesy of si.com

Owens played for five franchises in his career. With his numbers, it is very telling that T.O. bounced around so much. In his first three stops, Owens eventually became a cancer to the team he was on. Jeff Garcia and Donovan McNabb have said as much, Tony Romo has always been more tight-lipped about the controversial wideout.

In his final two years in Buffalo and Cincinnati, Owens was simply irrelevant. Your reputation follows you everywhere. In the case of Owens, that includes the Hall of Fame ballot. He has no one to blame but himself. He will forever be more known for his dancing and politicking than his on field work. Any other player with those numbers have already taken their rightful place in Canton.

The good news for T.O. is that he will absolutely be inducted in the not too distant future. For now, there is no issue with a guy whose teams won Super Bowls because of him going in before a guy whose teams often imploded around him.

 

 

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We Just Witnessed the Greatest Sports Year Ever

Sports are cool, and they’re even cooler when a season ends with fireworks. Thankfully, in the last cycle of season championships, we were able to witness the greatest sports year ever.

From the 2016 college basketball National Championship, to the latest Super Bowl, none of the championships have disappointed. Each of them saw incredible comebacks or last-second scores. As fans, we are blessed to be able to watch all of these games unfold.

That said, let’s take a stroll down memory lane and reminisce in the previous year’s amazing culminations.

*Of the four major sports in the United States, and the two major college sports, only one doesn’t make the list. Sorry, NHL fans, the 2016 Stanley Cup was good, but not great enough to be mentioned on the list.*

Super Bowl LI

It seemed as though the states to the most northeast in the U.S. were rooting for New England, and the rest of the population became Falcons fans for one day.

Maybe it’s because Atlanta was foreign to the big stage. It seemed so weird seeing a team like Atlanta playing in the Super Bowl since we had become accustomed to seeing either Seattle, Green Bay, or New York represent the NFC for more than half of the Super Bowls played since 2006.

Greatest Sports Year

In Super Bowl LI, Tom Brady did what Tom Brady does- win Super Bowls. (Photo: Getty Images)

Maybe Atlanta became America’s team for one day simply because of the hatred spewed towards New England. The Patriots have made seven Super Bowls since 2001, and won five. New England has also been to the AFC Conference Championship game 11 times since 2001. Picking New England to make it to the Super Bowl has become routine for many NFL pundits because that’s just what they do.

Nevertheless, this Super Bowl just felt different. New England was the heavyweight that everyone had seen win before. Atlanta was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, and the popular vote was in favor of the newbies.

No one saw Atlanta jumping out to a 21-3 lead at the half and a 28-3 lead as the third quarter waned. At this point, many fans just wanted to see a close game.

We should be careful what we wish for.

The Patriots scored a touchdown late in the third, and continued to mount a comeback in the fourth.

The final quarter was the equivalent to slowly watching a bottle of soda being shaken. The game continued to feel closer and closer, and before long, New England put so much pressure back into the game that the contest exploded to help make the greatest sports year we’ve seen.

In overtime, it was inevitable. Not only did the Patriots have momentum, but they also had history. It felt impossible for New England to lose the game. Coming back from a 25-point deficit and pushing the game into the Super Bowl’s first ever overtime? That’s just not a game New England loses.

Because of the incredible comeback by those darn Patriots, Super Bowl LI capped what was the greatest sports year of all time.

2017 College Football National Championship

In a narrative much the same as the Super Bowl, Alabama took on Clemson to be called college football’s undisputed champion. In this game’s case, there was no insurmountable lead that ended up being toppled. The game was tight the whole way, and was never separated by more than two possessions.

Clemson found itself down by two possessions twice, and each time it seemed like Bama was gonna keep Bama-ing. At one point, ESPN’s Football Power Index gave Alabama over a 90 percent chance to win the game.

But this is the greatest sports year we’ve ever seen, so hopefully you’re sensing a theme.

Clemson came back, led by crisp drives from Deshaun Watson. Watson may not have won the Heisman, but at least he got himself a ring. Watson completed a two-yard pass to Hunter Renfrow with one second left in the game to clinch a victory for the Tigers.

2016 World Series

Where do we start in this event? So many storylines developed by the time the series was all finished. The Cleveland Cavaliers won the NBA Finals after being down 3-1. Once the Cleveland Indians went up 3-1 on the Cubs, there was no way that would be blown, right?

Maybe Cleveland fans got what they deserved for making fun of the Warriors. #WellActually when a city has to root for the Browns, it deserves no other bad omens. The Indians didn’t catch that vibe.

Greatest Sports Year

Rajai Davis hit the most memorable home run in recent years. (Photo: FX Tribune)

Sure, our very own Matt Hagan knew the Cubs would win it all. However, since no one else did, the 3-1 series lead all but wrapped up the World Series.

The Cubs almost lost it. They had a 6-3 lead with less than two innings left to play. With the lead cut to two, Rajai Davis sent the world into hysteria with the craziest turn of events the World Series had ever seen.

Chicago had it all but won, yet in two seconds Cleveland was right back in it. A ball traveled faster than offseason Rob Gronkowski on the way to the club into the left field seats, while it seemed like it was in slow motion, even as slow as Tom Brady running the 40-yard dash in fashionable yet exotic khaki shorts.

Every baseball kid dreams of coming to bat in the tenth inning of the World Series game seven, and the Cubs had that chance. Chicago scored two, and took an 8-6 lead to end the top half of the inning.

Rajai Davis came back up in the tenth, and even delivered an RBI. The Indians didn’t have enough in them, as they fell short, 8-7. However, it still was one of the greatest World Series of all time.

2016 NBA Finals

The Warriors blew a 3-1 lead, and that remains a joke on social media to this day. When you think of Steph Curry, you think of triples galore, an outspoken wife and the fact that he was the MVP on a team that for the first time ever blew a 3-1 lead.

LeBron James put on the greatest performance of all time in a Finals series in the most historically-charged Finals series of all time. Kyrie Irving hit the most clutch shot of his life to clinch the win for Cleveland- in Golden State.

The 2016 NBA Finals will be a landmark for the NBA’s modern era. With super teams becoming more and more evident, this series will forever be known as the time the NBA’s Goliath was taken out.

2016 College Basketball National Championship

Marcus Paige was supposed to be the hero. He hit one of the greatest three-pointers you will ever see. Double-clutch layups are hard enough, but a double-clutch three is just stupid good.

With Paige’s shot, North Carolina tied Villanova, 74-74, with 4.7 seconds left. At that point, viewers of the game had to pick their jaws up from the floor. The shot was incredible.

But what Kris Jenkins did carried more water. A deep triple as time expired sent Villanova into absolute elation.

The Greatest Sports Year

Who knew that game would turn into the precursor to what was to come? With all the great games that happened in the past year, college basketball’s National Championship was my favorite. Everyone has their own favorite, and the games are probably split pretty evenly across the board.

This was a year that we will tell our children and grandchildren about. It was a year that probably will never be topped. We should all feel fortunate that we were alive to take it all in.

If anyone can make a DVD of all these games in it’s entirety, I will throw my money at you. So someone please do that.

 

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

Franchise Analysis – Carolina Panthers

It’s safe to say the Panthers Super Bowl hangover was real, as 2016 was not kind to this franchise. Coming off their appearance in Super Bowl 50, expectations were higher than ever. How did a team with the defending NFL MVP go from first to worst in their own division?

2016 Evaluation – Offense

With any team, a quarterback will get all of the credit, and all of the blame as well. It looked like Cam Newton finally realizd his potential and established himself as one of the next great quarterbacks. It was evident this season that something wasn’t right with the 2015 NFL MVP.

Overall, this offense finished 15th in points and 19th in yards. That’s a drastic drop off from finishing first and 11th in those respective categories in 2015. Was Cam Newton really to blame for this sharp decline in production? The answer: not entirely.

The 2015 Panthers ran the ball 526 times, which was more than any other team. Next season they only attempted 453 runs, good for seventh in that category. Many factors contributed to this decline. First, Jonathan Stewart missed three games. The Panthers averaged less than 100 yards rushing and three turnovers per game during that stretch.

Panthers Super Bowl hangover

Will Cam Newton try to reincorporate running the ball as part of his game for the 2017 season? (Courtesy of; ABC News Radio)

Second, Cam Newton failed to run the ball effectively. At times, he even seemed unwilling to run. Compared to his MVP season, he rushed the ball 42 fewer times and scored five fewer rushing touchdowns. This could be the result of the punishment he continually took this season. It’s smart for Newton to run less, but he’s always been more effective as a threat to run.

In the last two seasons, the Panthers are 14-5 when Newton has at least seven rushing attempts and are 6-2 when Newton runs at least 10 times. Double-digit rushing attempts is probably too much, even for Newton. He has to find a medium between running too much, and not at all. Since his completion percentage has never been above 60 in consecutive seasons, running the ball must be a part of his game.

Third and finally, the Panthers offensive line did not produce to the same level as they did in 2015. Michael Oher, Mike Remmers and Dan France couldn’t stay healthy enough or play well enough to maintain the run game.

Entering 2017, this offense needs to focus on rebuilding their running attack in order to shake off the Panthers Super Bowl hangover.

2016 Evaluation – Defense

If the 2016 Panther’s offense took a step back, then the defense fell off a cliff. This defense finished 26th in points and 21st in yards after being top 10 in those categories a year ago. Specifically, this team could not stop anyone through the air.

In 2016, opponents on average had three less passing attempts against the Panthers per game, but had more success. They gave up 34 more passing yards per game on average. That may not seem like much, but 34 yards equates to three more first downs per game. That impacts field position and scoring.

It’s evident that this unit missed Josh Norman. He’s not the sole reason for this decline. However, when this defense is still top 10 against the run and is decidedly worse against the pass, his absence played a role in contributing to the Panthers Super Bowl hangover.

Apart from inconsistent play from young but talented players, the Panthers’ defensive scheme needs tuning. This defense would routinely ask linebackers and defensive linemen to play an active role in coverage. Using less athletic defenders to cover tight ends and slot receivers should be used sparingly, not featured. If this defense can adjust their scheme to minimize the impact linebackers and defensive linemen have in coverage, they will undoubtedly improve.

Panthers Super Bowl hangover

Luke Kuechly’s return in 2017 will no doubt have a positive impact on this lackluster Panthers defense. (Courtesy of; Deadspin)

The Panthers also suffered from one of the most heartbreaking injuries of the season. It was painful to see Luke Kuechly miss the last six games as a result of a concussion. Kuechly is always one of the best linebackers against the run and is incredibly versatile in coverage. The Panthers will no doubt improve with a healthy Luke Keuchly back in the lineup.

What’s incredibly frustrating about this defense is that they finished second in sacks and 10th in third down defense and teams could still pass against them. This team needs more consistent play from all of their players. It’s clear they are capable of top defensive play, but they must become more consistent if they wish to return to the Super Bowl.

 

Divisional Analysis

Unfortunately, the Panthers reside in the NFC South. This division is the best in terms of quarterback play from top to bottom. What other division has a first ballot Hall of Fame quarterback, two MVP’s, and a rising star all at the quarterback position? Thus, the Panthers have to build their team to combat such players.

The Panthers are already capable of rushing the passer. They must upgrade their secondary to get more consistency against the pass. There are a plethora of good defensive backs in the 2017 NFL Draft. With the eighth overall pick, the Panthers will be able to address this need, should they make it a priority.

With players like Marlon Humphrey, Quincy Wilson, Marshon Lattimore, and Adoree’ Jackson available, the Panthers will have plenty of good options. Because there are so many good defensive backs, they could look to trade back and still be able to select one of these top prospects.

They could also use this pick to address their diminished rushing attack. The Panthers could make a splash and select Leonard Fournette. Infusing a talent like Fournette in this offense could allow the Panthers to return to their 2015 dominance.

The Panthers could also use this opportunity to address their left tackle position. If Cam Robinson is not on the board when the Panthers pick, I don’t see them selecting a tackle. There isn’t a player, besides Robinson, worthy of a top 10 selection at this point.

The point is, the Panthers were dominant when their offense was effective running the football. They were able to keep the opposing teams’ quarterback off the field, and thus limit their impact on the game.

Postseason Prospects

Clearly, the Panthers have certain strengths that give them the potential to be a playoff team. Here are the Panthers’ ranks in the following offensive and defensive metrics that can indicate postseason success.

Panthers Super Bowl hangover

It’s nearly impossible for an NFL team to be great in every facet of the game. Often, teams are very good at a few things, and are at least competent at the rest. For Carolina’s offense, they weren’t particularly good at any one part of the game. Yes, they finished top 10 in time of possession. Outside of that metric, they were mediocre in all other categories.

This doesn’t mean they can’t or won’t improve next season. However, the Panthers need to re-establish their identity as a run first team. If they are successful, they will have increased time of possession, third down conversion rate, and allow less sacks.

Panthers Super Bowl hangover

While the drop off for the defense was significant, they still show flashes of greatness. Finishing in the top 10 in three of these categories is great. However, they failed to even be average in terms of points and yards allowed. If they could have just been top 20 in both of these statistics, this team would have had a chance to make the playoffs.

Hopefully the Panthers will continue to build upon the defensive success that made them conference champions in 2015.

2017 Predictions

I see improvement in the Panthers future. They will be returning key players who missed time from injury, as well as acquiring new talent through the draft and free agency.

The only question is, will the coaching staff and quarterback be willing to regain their run first mentality? I think the answer is yes. However, with ascending teams like Tampa Bay and Atlanta, the Panthers Super Bowl hangover will remain. I like Carolina to improve to 9-7, but miss the playoffs.

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

Green Bay Packers and Pittsburg Steelers: What Went Wrong?

Packers and Steelers: What Went Wrong?

Today is Super Bowl Sunday and there has been plenty of talk about the Falcons and the Patriots. They have fought hard to get to this magnificent day. The game will be entertaining and a champion will be crowned. Since there has been so much talk about the Super Bowl, it is permitting to look at the two teams who came up just a game short and ask, what went wrong?

 

Green Bay Packers

Aaron Rodgers is the best player in the Packers organization. Because of that, he causes the most problems for the Packers. Rodgers is both a blessing and a curse. Before diving into the player personnel for the Packers, let’s look at the front office.

Packers and Steelers: What Went Wrong?

(MARK HOFFMAN)

Ted Thompson has been the general manager for the Packers since 2005 and has done an outstanding job. His philosophy of building through the draft, rather than through free agency, has created a team capable of contending every year. Thompson has provided plenty of consistency and longevity, both of which are required to be considered one of the best franchises.

Thanks to Thompson, head coach Mike McCarthy has also been able to maintain longevity. Thompson hired McCarthy in 2006 and has remained comfortable in his position as the head coach of the Green Bay Packers. In his 11 seasons as the Packers head coach, he has gone 114-61-1 with nine playoff appearances.

McCarthy’s career playoff record is 10-8. He has led the Packers to four NFC Championship games and won Super Bowl XLV. There are few coaches who have had the amount of success McCarthy has had with the Packers.

When one looks at the Packers’ roster, the problems can be found. Pro Football Focus ranked the Packers offensive line as the fifth best in the NFL. They have few holes along the line and don’t need to improve there.

They have one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, but the Packers need playmakers. In the backfield, the Packers had to settle for moving former wide receiver Ty Montgomery to running back. The Packers must find a running back in the draft or in free agency if they want to take another step.

Aside from Jordy Nelson, the Packers are inconsistent in their receiving corp. A solid and consistent number two receiver could take this offense to new heights. On offense, the answer to improving the team is to add more playmakers.

Packers and Steelers: What Went Wrong?

(http://deadspin.com/tag/nfl-playoffs)

Defensively is where the biggest problems lie. As a unit, the Packers ranked near the bottom of all major defensive categories. They were 21st in points allowed (24.2 ppg) and 22nd in yards given up (363.9 ypg). The Packers could use players at every level on their defense, but their secondary needs the most work. If the Packers can improve their secondary, they will become a much better defense.

To simplify, the Packers need to develop a running game to take pressure off of Aaron Rodgers. Defensively, they need to beef up every level of their defense. If the Packers can fix those issues, they could be heading to a Super Bowl berth as soon as next season.

 

Pittsburgh Steelers

The list of problems the Steelers face is much smaller than the Packers’. They have done a great job in the front office with the draft and head coach Mike Tomlin has also been outstanding.

Packers and Steelers: What Went Wrong?

(http://nesn.com/2013/11/steelers-coach-mike-tomlin-nearly-collides-with-ravens-jacoby-jones-during-73-yard-kickoff-return-gif/)

Mike Tomlin has been the head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers for 10 seasons. In those 10 seasons, Tomlin has a 103-57 record. Tomlin has made the playoffs seven times in those 10 seasons.

He also has a playoff record of 8-6, made it to the AFC Conference Championship three times, and won Super Bowl XLIII. Just as McCarthy has been one of the best coaches in the NFL, so has Tomlin. Coaching is not an issue that needs to be addressed.

Offensively the Steelers are absolutely loaded. Their offensive line was ranked third by pro football focus. There were no weaknesses on the line. With guards David DeCastro and Ramon Foster, the Steelers will continue to have one of the best offensive lines in the game.

Continuing on offense, Le’Veon Bell is the best running back in the NFL. He is not just a great runner, he is a great receiver as well. In the past, the league has seen similar running backs like Marshall Faulk and LaDainian Tomlinson. That is the path Bell is on and will be an all-time great barring injury.

The Steelers receiving corp is extremely versatile and full of playmakers. Antonio Brown is virtually unguardable and has put up gaudy numbers throughout his career. There is no indication that will stop anytime soon.

Along with Antonio Brown, Sammie Coats, and Eli Rogers provide big play ability. Rogers showed flashes of greatness this season and if he develops further he could become a dangerous weapon. Don’t forget that Martavis Bryant, who is one of the best number two options in the NFL, should be coming back. If he can stay out of trouble off the field, the Steelers will have one of the best sets of receivers in the NFL.

That leaves one position to talk about on offense: the quarterback. Ben Roethlisberger is contemplating retirement. Few believe he will actually retire and why would he? Big Ben threw for 3,819 yards while completing 64.4 percent of his passes. He added 29 touchdowns and threw just 13 interceptions. He is still playing at a high level and the Steelers shouldn’t be majorly concerned at the quarterback position.

One thing the Steelers must do this offseason, and moving forward into next season, is find the replacement for Big Ben. If he is thinking about retirement now, he will be thinking about it next season as well and the franchise must be prepared for that.

Big Ben also has had plenty of injuries in his career. If he goes down, Landry Jones is not the answer. Age is also an issue for Big Ben and his play may start to diminish. For all these reasons, the Steelers need to use a third or fourth-round pick on a future franchise quarterback.

Defensively is where the Steelers could use the most help. In the game against the Patriots, the Steelers weakness showed upfront. They did a good job in the regular season getting sacks, but in the postseason they didn’t have that guy who could get a sack. Tom Brady sat in the pocket and picked apart the young secondary. If the Steelers want to take that next step, they need a dominant pass rusher.

Packers and Steelers: What Went Wrong?

(AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Pittsburgh’s linebacking corp is extremely solid. Ryan Shazier can flat out fly all across the field. Bud Dupree is also a stud. He has a lot of speed to make plays all over the field, similar to Shazier.

The secondary is probably Pittsburgh’s weakest area on the entire team. The secondary had a total of six interceptions. Part of the problem is they are young and inexperienced. Signing a free agent corner or drafting one is the biggest priority for the Steelers’ offseason. If they get a pass rusher and beef up the secondary, the Steelers will make the Super Bowl next season.

 

 

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