Houston Texans

Predicting the 2017 NFL quarterback battles

If you do not have a quarterback, you don’t have anything in the NFL. Like any other year, quarterback battles are sprinkled throughout training camps. Here is a look at the top battles to keep an eye on during the preseason.

Houston Texans

The players: Tom Savage and Deshaun Watson

Context: These first two situations are different from most quarterback battles. Whoever wins them will be inheriting a team that has realistic aspirations of playing meaningful games when the weather gets cold.

2017 nfl quarterback battles

Photo: Houston Chronicle

Houston’s top-ranked defense carried them to the playoffs last year, but quarterback play was perhaps the only real weakness all year long. Brock Osweiler was the main source of that and is now in Cleveland.

Tom Savage was pretty ordinary in spot duty last year. In three games played, he completed just 46 of 73 passes while not throwing a touchdown. He was forced back to the bench for the playoffs due to injury.

Meanwhile, Watson comes in with all the hype and the glitzy college numbers. The first-round pick led Clemson to consecutive national title games and was named the MVP of last year’s comeback win over Alabama.

While back to back seasons of double digit interceptions scare me, the winning is hard to ignore. Throw in his mobility and the recent success we have seen by other NFL rookie quarterbacks, and his upside becomes very intriguing. The roster in Houston is loaded with talent. Thus, Watson presents the highest risk, but also the highest reward and may be able to take this team to the next level.

Winner: Watson

Denver Broncos

The players: Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch

Context: Even though the players themselves are saying as much, the notion that the Broncos had some kind of massive Super Bowl hangover last year is simply not accurate. They went 9-7, meaning a couple different bounces of the ball would have resulted in at least a return to the playoffs.

2017 nfl quarterback battles

Photo: denverpoast.com

Surprise starter Trevor Siemian was by no means a disappointment in 2016. Throwing for 3,400 yards and eight more touchdowns than interceptions is nothing to sneeze at. Siemian also dealt with a shoulder injury for most of the year that required offseason surgery.

Despite winning one, Lynch was pretty bad as he started two games for an injured Siemian. He posted just 327 combined passing yards and struggled to complete half his throws. His numbers are somewhat skewed due to playing well in garbage time.

Lynch was drafted in the first round to be the franchise quarterback, but it is no secret that he was a project coming out of Memphis where he simply let it fly and never lined up under center.

Quite frankly, the project is probably coming along slower than the Broncos would like. Even so, whoever wins the job will have the benefit of playing behind a revamped offensive line, two top-notch wide receivers, a crowded but talented backfield and a defense that remains one of the best in football.

New head coach Vance Joseph has spoken very highly of Lynch this offseason, but Siemian has done nothing to lose the job. Until that happens, he is the present, even if Lynch or late-round draft pick Chad Kelly end up being the future.

Winner: Siemian

New York Jets

The players: Josh McCown, Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg

Context: The Jets seemingly endless search for a franchise quarterback rolls on. McCown is what he is. That is a 38-year-old journeyman who has never been healthy (or good) enough to start for an entire 16-game season. He was clearly brought in to be a one-year bridge to one of the younger guys.

2017 nfl quarterback battles

Photo: nydailynews.com

A brief late-season glimpse of Bryce Petty last year was nothing to write home about. Hackenberg is where all the intrigue lies here. The former Penn State star did not see the field in his rookie year. However, he is the only guy on the current roster who could be the future at quarterback.

No matter how little offensive talent they have around him, the Jets have to explore that possibility.

Winner: Hackenberg

Cleveland Browns

The players: Brock Osweiler, Cody Kessler and DeShone Kizer

Context: Hue Jackson and company have done an outstanding job adding talent to a roster that won just a single game last year. Additions like Kenny Britt, Kevin Zietler and Myles Garrett, among others have set the table for vast improvement in 2017.

2017 nfl quarterback battles

Photo: cleveland.com

Quarterback remains a major question mark though. Cody Kessler went winless in eight starts last year. DeShone Kizer was given the project label coming out of Notre Dame. The Browns say he is ahead of schedule, but it would be a surprise for him to start a game this year. Even so, his long-term upside has some folks salivating.

Despite posting a winning record as a starter in Houston, Brock Osweiler struggled in a big way after signing the big contract last year, completing just 59 percent of his throws and accounting for more turnovers than touchdowns.

Osweiler was just a bad fit from the start in Houston. He spent most of his time in the shotgun, which was not a strong point when he held down the fort quite well for the 2015 Broncos.

It has never been a work of art, but there is something to be said for going 13-8 as a starting quarterback in the NFL. Supporting casts are not created equal, but no other quarterback in this competition has ever won an NFL game. If Osweiler has anything to give, Jackson is the kind of offensive mind that will get it out of him.

Winner: Osweiler

Chicago and San Francisco

Two other shaky quarterback situations reside in Chicago and San Francisco. However, those organizations continue to articulate their commitment to Mike Glennon and Brian Hoyer respectively. As much as we all like to speculate this time of year, a quarterback competition can only exist if management says there is one.

 

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Cleveland Browns 2017 NFL Draft Profile

Welcome to the first day and piece of this years TGH Draftmas! A merry time where we will be breaking down the draft profiles for every team for the next 32 days until draft day! So buckle up because we are starting with a fun one in the Cleveland Browns!

Summary

In case you were living under a rock, let me shock you by saying the Browns went 1-15 last year. Hue Jackson is a good coach that has been given a team that needs a lot of work. One can only hope that he will be able to stick around long enough to see his project all the way through to the end. The Browns have trade away many players and traded for (Brock Osweiler) draft picks in order to stock pile them to try and get the best values they can from young players. They are doing what teams like the 76ers and Cubs have done most recently in the NBA and MLB respectively.

For the first time in many years the Browns have been very active in trying to grab Free Agents that they value. This includes Kenny Britt, Kevin Zietler, JC Tretter and more. These are major improvements for a team that has struggled for a long time, but they are starting in the right spots. Grabbing a deep threat in Britt was much needed with the departure of last years biggest surprise in Terrelle Pryor. Also building in the trenches at guard and center with Zietler and Tretter are the start to what should be a solid line for the Browns.

Alas, their biggest problem is they have no one to captain the ship at Quarterback. While Cody Kessler showed flashes many do not believe he is a franchise Quarterback. They also trade for Brock Osweiler. The rumor has been that they are trying to flip him, I honestly do not know if he has even flown up to Cleveland yet or ever plans to.

The defense also has seen improvements in their recent draft picks. Danny Shelton, Emmanuel Ogbah and Carl Nassib were all nice pieces added in recent years. Also do not forget about Jamie Collins. Joe Hayden is slowing down but is still solid.

Picks and Needs

Next we will look into the 11 draft picks the Browns have stock piled.

First round: (2) No. 1, No. 12

Second round: (2) No. 33, No. 52

Third round: (1) No. 65

Fourth round: (1) No. 108.

Fifth round: (3) No. 145, No. 175 No. 181

Sixth round: (2) No. 185, No. 188

Seventh round: No picks.

As one can see, they have a lot of picks in the first 5 rounds, 8 to be exact. This is generally a good sign for rebuilding teams, IF, they are able to hit on their picks.

In my opinion there are many needs for the team overall but, definitely less than last year. I will start with the Offense.

I see the major needs in no particular order as:

Quarterback

Wide Receiver (Preferably one with great hands)

Tackle

Tight End

Now on to the Defense:

Edge Rusher at Defensive End or Linebacker

Linebackers in General (Specifically Outside)

Cornerback

Both Safety Positions 

Targets and Thoughts

I will pick who I believe the Browns will be targeting in their first three rounds. This will be without trades since they are so unpredictable although, I will say that I think the Browns trade the first overall pick.

First Round:

Pick #1: Myles Garrett DE, Texas A&M

Myles Garrett (Photo courtesy: 12thman.com)

If they do make this pick I believe it will be Garrett along with basically everyone else. Do you really need me to go into why? Everyone else has so I will spare you.

Pick #12: Marshon Lattimore CB, Ohio State

While I do think they will end up picking a Quarterback in the real draft, I personally would pick Lattimore if he’s still available. He is an explosive athlete and in a passing league I believe the Browns need to target DB’s early and often in this draft. I also am not a huge fan of this Quarterback class and believe that the Browns are much more than a Quarterback away from contending.

Second Round:

Pick #33: JuJu Smith-Schuster WR, USC

While Kenny Britt and Corey Coleman are great options they can be a little inconsistent. Terrelle Pryor was a major contributor to the team last year due to his size and play-making ability. JuJu is a similar player. He will body up smaller DBs and make them work to make a play on the ball. He may not be the flashiest pick but, at 33 I think hes the best WR still available.

Pick #52: Josh Jones SS, NC State

Safety was another position the Browns got little production out of last season. They need an upgrade and Jones should be a solid answer for that. He is a tough kid with great closing speed and can tackle well in the open field.

Third Round:

Pick #65: Brad Kaaya QB, Miami (FL)

Yes, I am finally addressing the elephant in the room. Again I am not a huge fan of any of the Quarterbacks in this class mostly due to their draft value. I do not believe any of them can start day one. I believe this is true of Kaaya but, Kessler will need a back up and at this point I think Kaaya might be worth it. He has the arm and is the all-time passing leader at a storied program like Miami. He has things to work on but, if given time (which the Browns have) I believe he could develop into something special.

Conclusion

The Browns have an opportunity to really have an incredible draft. This is one that they can pass on the Quarterbacks and get great value in their first two rounds of picks. I believe that this team is on the up and drafting for the best talent at positions they desperately need it at is the smartest decision.

Thank you for joining us on our first day of Draftmas! Please make sure to check back tomorrow for our look at the San Francisco 49ers!

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NFL Free Agency

Early NFL Free Agency: Sneaky Good Moves

The game of quarterback musical chairs is snagging the headlines early in NFL free agency like every year. If you do not have a quarterback who is at least competent, you have no chance in this league. However, every position matters. Here is a look at some sneaky good moves in the beginnings of the free agent frenzy.

Phil Dawson: Arizona Cardinals

Phil Dawson

Photo: sportsoutwest.com

Yes folks, a kicker. Arizona lost five games by one possession and tied another during last year’s seven-win campaign. Kicker Chandler Catanzaro missed 11 combined field goals and extra points. These things are not entirely unrelated.

Meanwhile, 42-year-old Phil Dawson missed just four total kicks for the 49ers. As crazy as it sounds, this may be a pivotal move in Arizona’s quest to return to the postseason in 2017.

 

 

 

Ronald Leary: Denver Broncos

Ronald Leary

Photo: hngn.com

Whoever winds up taking snaps for the Broncos next year will have much more protection. This is a heck of a start. Leary did not allow a sack while starting 13 games in Dallas last year. He has been a stalwart on the best offensive line in football since 2014.

Denver’s ability to sack the opposing quarterback in recent years is well documented. In 2016, the Broncos had just two more total sacks than their opponents. That is crazy considering the Broncos have both Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware.

Poor offensive line play is also one of the reasons Denver struggled to break 50 rushing yards in a game for parts of 2016. Do not be surprised if center Matt Paradis is the only starting offensive lineman that returns in 2017. Last year’s free agent offensive line signings of Donald Stephenson and Russell Okung proved to be disastrous for Denver.

To become legitimate Super Bowl contenders again, the Leary signing needs to be the first step in another massive offensive line overhaul in Denver. The Broncos have also added former Raiders offensive tackle Menelik Watson to the fold.

A.J. Klein: New Orleans Saints

A.J .Klein

Photo: zambio.com

As long as Drew Brees is in town, the Saints will always be able to score. However, they have finished outside the top 25 in total defense for three straight years. While a single player will not change that, Klein is a step in the right direction.

Playing behind Luke Kuechly limited Klein’s snaps in Carolina. When he did see the field, he was reasonably productive. Klein took part in 137 tackles in Carolina despite starting just 23 games in four seasons. Additionally, three years and $15 million is a fairly cheap price to pay a 25-year-old contributor from a division rival.

           

 

Kevin Zietler: Cleveland Browns

Kevin Zeitler

Photo: stripehype.com

It is no secret that the Browns need work everywhere, and the offensive line is no exception. Zietler was one of three early moves the Browns made up front. The former Bengal is now the highest-paid guard in NFL history.

While the contract numbers are eye-popping and the Browns have an alarming tendency to screw things up, signing a guard from a division rival who has given up just 11 total sacks in five seasons is never a bad move.

March is all about basketball. However, the NFL’s version of March Madness is certainly worth continuing to keep an eye on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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