Detroit Lions defensive line

Detroit Lions defensive line breakdown 2018

In the NFL, getting to and disrupting the quarterback often equates to contending for a championship. The defensive line is a great place to build a defense around.

The Detroit Lions defensive line is an area of need. Expect the team to add to the defensive line during free agency and the draft. The Lions have been searching for a dominant interior presence since the departure of Ndamukong Suh.

Coaching

The Lions filled this coaching position with 24-year coaching veteran Bo Davis. Davis played for the LSU Tigers (1990-92) and the majority of his coaching career has been at the collegiate level. He has coached the defensive line at Alabama (2007-10, 2014-15) and Texas (2011-13). Last season, he coached the defensive line at the University of Texas San Antonio (UTSA).

Davis brings a new face to a group that needs an infusion of excitement and enthusiasm. The time he spent at Alabama and Texas produced some great NFL defensive linemen. Thus, the hope is he can bring that prestigious reputation and production to Detroit.

Notable defensive linemen on the Roster

Ezekiel Ansah

Detroit Lions defensive line

Ezekiel Ansah celebrates one of his three sacks against Green Bay in Week 17, a 35-11 victory. (Photo by Jose Juarez, AP)

Ansah is the leader of the defensive line. His production on the field has been up and down throughout his career. He continually is double-teamed, and the opposing offenses gameplan to minimize his effectiveness.

It will be interesting to see how new coach, Matt Patricia, uses him. Fans should expect to see Ansah with his hand off the ground as an edge rusher at a higher rate. This will allow him to get loose and keep offensive linemen’s hands off him.

With his combination of length, strength and quickness, it makes sense to allow him to create plays in space.

Kerry Hyder

Hyder had a breakout season in 2016. Unfortunately, an injury ended his 2017 season before it could get started. He looks to bounce back in 2018 and continue to build on his 2016 season.

General manager Bob Quinn and the Lions’ new coaching staff showed their support by re-signing Hyder to a one-year deal in hopes he can quickly recover from the injury.

A’Shawn Robinson

Robinson had an opportunity to step up and prove his worth with Haloti Ngata’s season-ending injury. He stepped up and showed he was well worth the second-round pick in the 2016 draft.

Whether it was the interception return for a touchdown or his ability to be a stopgap in the run defense, he seems to have laid the foundation as a potential centerpiece for years to come.

Anthony Zettel

Detroit Lions defensive line

Anthony Zettel sacks Minnesota Vikings quarterback Case Keenum. (Photo by AP Photo/Jim Mone)

Zettel is a local product out of Northern Michigan and has quickly become a fan favorite. The Penn State product came to the Lions in the 2016 NFL draft as a sixth-round pick.

After playing in only 13 games as a rookie in 2016 and recording only one sack, Zettel started all 16 games in 2017. He put together a respectable sophomore campaign, tallying 6.5 sacks. He played a big part in the win against the division champions, Minnesota Vikings, posting two sacks.

Zettel showed a lot of promise, and the organization is hoping he can continue to grow from his 2017 season. Thus, there is much love from fans for the Ogemaw Heights High School product out of West Branch, Michigan.

Free Agency and draft

Free agency

The Lions have been farily quiet across the board in free agency. They have not pursued the top-flight free agents as many fans had hoped. However, signing veteran players with Super Bowl experience could pay off more than an expensive, big-name player.

Ultimately, the Lions seem to be seeking veteran experience rather than pure talent. So far, the Lions have added defensive tackle Sylvester Williams and have plans to meet with Alan Branch and Johnathan Hankins. Along with Branch, the New England connection appears to be in full effect with the potential signing of defensive tackle Ricky Jean-Francois. Hankins and Branch also have ties to the Detroit area.

Furthermore, Branch played at the University of Michigan and has ties to Patricia as he was in New England for the past four seasons. Also, Hankins is from Dearborn Heights, Michigan and played at Southeastern High School in Detroit.

Draft

There were a few big names in free agency, such as Suh and Dontari Poe, that the Lions did not actively pursue. This supports the idea they must like their chances at landing their man in the draft. Based on value and likelihood of availability, there are five defensive linemen they could take in the first two rounds.

Detroit Lions defensive line

(Photo by Glenn Andrews, AP Photo)

  1. Da’Ron Payne (DT) – Alabama
  2. Taven Bryan (DT) – Florida
  3. Marcus Davenport (DE) – University of Texas San Antonio
  4. Maurice Hurst (DT) – Michigan
  5. Harrison Phillips (DT) – Stanford

Payne, Bryan and Davenport could all likely be first-round selections with the 20th pick. However, if the Lions go a different direction in the first round, such as offensive line or defensive back, they could find a steal in Hurst or Phillips if they happen to be available in the second round.

Hurst could very well fall to them due to his heart condition that prevented him from performing at the combine. Davenport could be a real possibility with the Lions first pick as he was coached by Bo Davis at UTSA last season and is considered a great athlete.

outlook

The Detroit Lions’ season will hinge on the play of the defensive line, as is the case with most teams. The new scheme is still somewhat unknown, although we can speculate it will be a multi-defensive system that focuses on getting after the quarterback.

Moreover, it will be intriguing to see how the new staff can mold the roster into a much-needed and deserving championship contender.

 

Featured image by AP Photo

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2018 NFL Draft: Potential first round wide receivers

If any team is looking for a wide receiver early in this draft, they may be taking them too early. The NFL has been blessed with several high-quality wide receiver classes over the last five years.

Because of these classes, there seems to be a stigma on this one, due to the lower quality of players. However, there are a few players that can make an impact for teams next season.

Calvin Ridley, Alabama

Calvin Ridley

Photo from foxsports.com

Ridley has stood out amongst the rest of the pack in terms of draftable receivers. The 6-foot-1 receiver from Alabama does not have the stats that are going to jump off of the page, but that is mostly due to the lack of quarterback talent and a heavy run game.

After starting for three years, Ridley has received a lot of praise for his solid hands, quick feet, long speed and great route-running ability. He has the size to play on the outside, while having the shiftiness and speed to play in the slot.

Though he is a late first-round talent, he will probably go anywhere within the top 15 picks.

Courtland Sutton, SMU

Sutton NDT Scouting

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If there is a wide receiver that might be better than Ridley, it may be Courtland Sutton. Sutton racked up over 1,000 yards for his second straight season while totaling 22 touchdowns during that span.

Sutton doesn’t have the versatility of Ridley, but he is more of a threat in the red zone with his great body control. His body control allows him to high point the ball and make great catches over defensive backs. Sutton’s size and hands make him a great red zone guy and a matchup nightmare because he is still relatively quick for his size.

Sutton will be picked anywhere between late in the first round to the beginning of the third.

 

Christian Kirk, Texas A&M

Christian Kirk

Kirk may be the only other potential first round pick at the receiver position. He has been a big part of the Aggies’ offense for the last three seasons where he has totaled 234 catches and nearly 3,000 yards.

However, not only is he a great wide receiver, but he is a dangerous returner too. In his career at Texas A&M, Kirk has scored seven special teams touchdowns, six of them from punt returns.

At 5-foot-11, he will mostly play in the slot and on special teams because of his speed and quickness. One thing that many have questions about is the consistency of route running and his catching ability.

Final thoughts

There are several talented wide receivers in this draft, but these three are the only ones that have the opportunity to be taken in the first round. This can change depending on how the draft process goes for each of these players.

Some receivers just missed the cut. That includes James Washington (Oklahoma State), Deon Cain (Clemson), Jordan Lasley (UCLA) and Deontay Burnett (USC).

 

Featured image by Brett Deering from Bleacher Report

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Auburn ready to silence doubters

The No. 11 Auburn Tigers have not captured a victory at the Pavilion in nearly ten years. After a strong second half from junior guard Bryce Brown, the Tigers stormed out of Oxford, Mississippi with a 79-70 comeback win over rival Ole Miss. Coach Bruce Pearl’s team now sits at 8-1 in SEC conference play, holding a two game lead over second place Kentucky. Let’s take a look at why the Tigers have defied expectations this season, and why they are equipped to continue to defy doubters come March.

 

Second Half Dominance

 

Mustapha Heron soars in for a basket (Crystal LoGiudice/Associated Press).

A common theme for Pearl’s Tigers this season has been breaking away from inferior competition in the second half of games. In Auburn’s 79-65 victory over Georgia, the Bulldogs jumped out to a 40-26 lead at halftime, holding Auburn to 25 percent shooting from the field. Pearl, as he has done all season, engineered the necessary adjustments on both offense and defense during the break. This led to an offensive explosion by the Tigers, with Brown pouring in 25 of his 28 points in the second half and sophomore guard Mustapha Heron adding 14 points.

Auburn has scored 50 points in the second half eight times this season with five of them coming against SEC opponents. Pearl has credited his players for having the willpower and resiliency to close out games. Brown has consistently shown the ability to turn on a second gear on both ends of the floor at will this season. Auburn has the unique blend of calmness, intensity and belief in one another which allows them to climb out of significant deficits in any situation and slam the door on any comeback it faces.

 

Nine Man Rotation

Unlike some of the other top contenders in the nation, Pearl has the ability to roll out a nine man rotation every game. This depth allows Pearl to create mismatches against any line-up. All nine players average at least 13 minutes per game and this allows Pearl to wear down opponents as each game progresses. It also allows Auburn to ramp up the on and off ball pressure on defense, understanding that they can withstand foul trouble to any certain player.

 

Come postseason play, teams that roll out primarily six or seven man rotations feel the effect of tired legs. Pearl is unafraid to ride the players who produce for him on a game-by-game basis. This depth provides Pearl with versatility in both creating game plans and adjusting match-ups mid-game.

 

The Emergence of Bryce Brown 

 

 

Bryce Brown silences the crowd (Samantha Baker/AP Photo)

After Auburn suspended both Austin Wiley, a former five-star recruit, and Danjel Purifoy indefinitely for their potential involvement in a federal court investigation against former Auburn assistant coach Chuck Person. Most pundits wrote off Pearl’s squad as both Wiley and Purifoy were potential starters for Auburn this season. In order to have a successful season, Pearl needed one of his upperclassmen to step up and lead his team.

Brown has averaged 16.6 points per game, more than double than his average last season. He has been lethal from behind the arc as well, shooting 40.3 percent from three point range this season. In addition to his dominance of the stat sheet, Brown has been the heart and soul of this Tiger team, sparking second half runs with his play-making ability on and off the ball.

 

Defense Wins Championships

Perhaps Pearl’s most impressive accomplishment on the season is the turnaround of Auburn’s defense. According to KenPom rankings, Auburn’s adjusted defensive efficiency ranks 25th in the nation. Pearl’s defense is predicated on heavy on ball pressure with the intention of forcing turnovers. This style of play allows Auburn to rattle its opponents while slowly burning out their energy.

This is where Auburn’s depth plays to its advantage. Pearl can utilize all nine of his rotational players to maintain this intensity for all 40 minutes of playing time. He can continually send in fresh legs to stabilize the pressure as Auburn’s opponents slowly burn out.

Verdict

Auburn has defied expectations all season long by taking care of business against inferior opposition. However, with games against Kentucky, Alabama, and at Florida remaining, the Tigers must figure out how to consistently show up for all 40 minutes. Pearl’s squad has a chance to solidify a number two seed in the big dance if they continue to manhandle SEC competition. Based on the way the Tigers have rallied around each other this season, anything is possible.

 

Featured image by Rogelio V. Solis/AP

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College basketball All-Star roster

Creating college basketball All-Star starting lineups

As the NBA, NHL and NFL All-Star weekends are all upon us, we look to fill a college basketball roster of Division I players deserving of falling under an “All-Star” title.

Steph Curry and LeBron James had an NBA All-Star draft, so now it’s our turn. Time to break down the best college basketball players as of Jan. 29.

Team Trae

College basketball All-Star roster

Trae Young (Photo from Sports Inquirer)

The captain of this team and starting point guard has to be Oklahoma’s Trae Young. Young is leading all of college basketball with 29.6 points and 9.6 assists per game. He may be the most exciting player in college basketball and has taken the league by storm.

Angel Delgado, Seton Hall: Trae Young’s biggest assets are people who can score around the rim. Who better to have on his team than a walking double-double?

Delgado is averaging 13.4 points and 11.7 rebounds per game. He dominates the paint and seemingly grabs every miss on the defensive end. His rebounding ranks fourth in Division I basketball.

Allonzo Trier, Arizona: Trier has been one of the most consistent guards in the country this season. He is averaging 19.7 points, 3.0 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game. Trier has benefited from having Deandre Ayton on his team, but he is scoring at a high rate and has been extremely important to the Arizona Wildcats’ success.

Devonte’ Graham, Kansas: Team Trae needed a strong off-guard, and Graham is exactly that. Graham is shooting over 41 percent from three and is averaging 17.3 points and 7.3 assists. Obviously Graham is more of a point guard, but he seems to shoot it better off the catch while Young shoots it better off the dribble. Graham is the leader of this nationally ranked Jayhawks team and has been the go-to scorer when they need it most.

Jock Landale, Saint Mary’s: The final member of Team Trae is Jock Landale, who has been unbelievably consistent. He is averaging 22.1 points per game and grabbing 10.4 rebounds as well. He is shooting over 65 percent from the field and has helped the Gaels get off to a 21-2 start this season. Landale is a big reason why the Gaels are nationally ranked and has 15 games with at least 20 points this season.

Team Marvin

College basketball All-Star roster

Marvin Bagley III (Photo by Dennis Wierzbicki)

At this point, you have to stay with the trend. Marvin Bagley III of the Duke Blue Devils will be the captain of the other team. Bagley is quite possibly the future No. 1 pick in this year’s NBA draft. He has a ton of athleticism and has the numbers to back that up. He is averaging a double-double like many others on these rosters.

Bagley is averaging 22.0 points per game this season along with 11.6 rebounds. He is shooting over 61 percent from the field and over 33 percent from three. Bagley is impressing and therefore is deserving of this captain position.

Deandre Ayton, Arizona: We obviously couldn’t put Ayton and Trier on the same team, that wouldn’t be right.

Deandre Ayton is another one of those athletic freaks at 7-foot-1 with a 44-inch vertical. Him and Bagley in the same frontcourt would be something we all would like to see. Ayton is averaging 19.5 points and 10.7 rebounds per game. He is also averaging just under two assists and two blocks as well. Ayton shoots nearly 62 percent from the field and over 34 percent from three.

Jevon Carter, West Virginia: Jevon Carter is the leader of West Virginia. He scores 17.3 points, dishes out 6.5 assists and grabs 5.1 rebounds per game. He is a guard that does just about everything for a very good Mountaineer team. Carter is a senior and has shown his experience throughout this season.

Trevon Bluiett, Xavier: Bluiett has been one of the more exciting players to watch throughout his career. His ability to hit contested shots and be a streaky and consistent shooter put him on this All-Star roster. Bluiett averages 18.9 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game. He is shooting a scorching 43 percent from three and 46.2 percent from the field overall.

Collin Sexton, Alabama: Sexton is a freshman who would go against Trae Young. He is averaging 18.5 points, 3.4 rebounds and 3.3 assists. He shoots almost 36 percent from three and has turned Alabama into an SEC contender. Sexton is a tremendous ball handler who has the ball on a string, can finish in traffic and shoot both off the dribble and spotting up.

These are 10 of the best college basketball players so far this season. They all have performed at a high level, which earned them all a spot on these All-Star roster.

 

Featured image from PickandRoll.com

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We need baseball back

We need baseball back ASAP

Alabama football just won its fifth National Championship in nine years. The New England Patriots have been to seven straight AFC Championship games and are favored to win its third Super Bowl in four years.

In 20 of the last 21 seasons, Mike Krzyzewski and his Duke Blue Devils have earned a four seed or better in the NCAA Tournament. This season, they are off to an 18-2 start, and when it comes to next year, the Blue Devils will have the nation’s top three recruits all wearing blue and white. That’s right, R.J. Barrett, Zion Williamson and Cameron Reddish, the three highest recruited players in the country, have all committed to Duke. UConn women’s basketball has been to 10 straight Final Four’s and have won four out of the last five NCAA Tournaments.

We need baseball back

In the last three Finals, we have seen these two square up. (Photo from slamonline.com)

Barring an epic collapse, the Golden State Warriors will win its third championship in four years. Despite what the media says, LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, in all likelihood, will face the Warriors in the NBA Finals for the fourth consecutive season. This would mark LeBron’s eighth straight Finals appearance.

In October, the Warriors opened as a -240 favorite to win the title. The best odds given to any 2018 MLB team to win the World Series is +525.

In 2016, the Minnesota Twins went 59-103, which was good for the worst record in baseball. A year later, with virtually the same roster, they were competing against the New York Yankees in the AL Wild Card game. From 2011-13, the Houston Astros averaged 54 wins per year. In 2017, they won 101 games and were World Series Champions.

Translation: baseball is the most competitively balanced sport, and it’s not even close. Sure, dominance like Brady and Belichick, Nick Saban, LeBron, the Warriors, Coach K and Geno Auriemma is awesome to see, but as a fan, isn’t it better to have more parody and uncertainty when it comes to sports?

Systems

Not only is baseball the most competitively balanced sport, but it is also the only sport in which we can accurately critique someone’s skill level on a yearly basis. We know college is all about recruiting. The best coaches recruit the best players.

Last season, in the NFL, we saw the Rams finish 4-12 under coach Jeff Fisher (4-9) and John Fassel (0-3). Quarterback Jared Goff went 0-7 as a starter, and Todd Gurley rushed for under 890 yards and averaged just 3.2 yards per carry.

Now was this because these players were bad? Of course not. They were just in a garbage system, and an offense that, according to Gurley, “looked like a middle school offense.”

We need baseball back

Gurley averaged less than four yards per carry a season ago. (Photo from CBS Sports)

This season, with head coach Sean McVay, the Rams looked like a completely different team. They beefed up the line, and Goff threw 28 touchdowns and only seven interceptions. Gurley had 19 total touchdowns and over 2,000 yards from scrimmage in 15 games. He became one of 11 running backs in the history of the sport to accomplish these two feats in the same season.

Tom Brady is widely considered as the greatest quarterback of all time, but have you ever seen Aaron Rodgers throw a football? Do you know how many top-10 defenses, in regards to scoring, Aaron Rodgers has played with in his 10 seasons as a starter? Only two. One of them being the time Rodgers helped them win the Super Bowl, and another when they won 11 games.

Since Brady took over as the starter in New England, the Patriots have had 12 top-10 defenses. If Rodgers played with a better coach and personnel, we would probably be telling a different story in regards to the best quarterback.

Case Keenum and Blake Bortles just brought their respected teams into Championship weekend. They were behind center for two of the final four teams, and now the sports media is questioning if any team should pay them “starter” money next season. You know why? Because they are both in good systems with top defenses, and coaches who did a great job hiding their flaws.

Basketball too?

In the 2016-17 season, Victor Oladipo was a solid player for the Oklahoma City Thunder. He averaged about 16 points and four rebounds per game.

After being dealt to the Indiana Pacers in the Paul George deal, Oladipo is now an All-Star. He is averaging 24.2 points, 5.2 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game. He is also shooting a career-best field goal percentage, as well as 3-point percentage. Oladipo is playing the same minutes he did last year, except on the Pacers, he does not have to play alongside Russell Westbrook, a ball-dominant player.

As a member of the Minnesota Timberwolves, Kevin Love was a monster. He was a three-time All-Star, and averaged 19.2 points and 12.2 rebounds per game over six seasons. He is the only player in NBA history to have multiple seasons with averages of at least 26 points and 12 rebounds, while shooting over 80 percent from the free-throw line. In 2010-11, he became the only player to ever average 20 points and 15 rebounds, while shooting 85 percent from the free-throw line.

Since being traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers, Love has made just one All-Star game (soon to be two) and averages less points and rebounds. Of course, this is because he has been the third option in the offense for essentially all of his four seasons in Cleveland.

America’s Pastime

In 57 games as a member of the Detroit Tigers in 2017, J.D. Martinez hit .305 with an OPS of 1.018. In the last 62 games of the season after being traded to the Diamondbacks, Martinez hit .302 with an OPS of 1.107.

Justin Verlander was dealt to the Houston Astros, and he continued to be the same old Justin Verlander. In fact, he was even better than we expected.

Even though they joined new teams, which meant new coaches and new teammates, these players continued to excel. This is because baseball is the purest sport, and the only sport we can examine someone’s statistics, and without hesitation, declare if they had a good season or not.

We need baseball back

No matter the coach, teammates or system, good MLB players produce. (Photo from Over The Monster)

The point is this. In the NBA and NFL, blaming the system, coaches and teammates can all be valid excuses, to an extent, as to why your production is not where it could be. In the MLB, this is not the case. As a starter, you are given the same amount of chance to succeed as any other starter in the league.

A player cannot blame his batting average on the coach, or his teammates. A pitcher can’t tell the media that “the system” is the reason he walked all those batters. As an MLB player, you are either good or you are not. You had a good hitting season, or you didn’t. You either pitched well, or you didn’t.

Luckily, we are a month away from Cactus League and Grapefruit League games. 2018 will be another unpredictable season. The New York Yankees picked up Giancarlo Stanton, which means they have arguably two of the best four right fielders in baseball.

Once Kevin Durant moved to the Warriors, it was obvious they would win the title. In the MLB, big moves like this do not guarantee anything. Baseball will always be America’s pastime, due to its batter vs. pitcher, “You vs. Me” style of play.

 

Featured image from Grantland

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Cincinnati Bengals

Toothless Tiger: Perspective on the state of the Bengals

As we prepare for the second full Sunday of NFL action, everyone is definitely hoping there are lots of highlights to help erase Thursday night’s eyesore of a game from our collective memory. The position the Bengals now find themselves in is also worth a closer look.

It is no secret that their start has been comically bad. It also must be incredibly frustrating for everyone involved not just because they have lost consecutive home games to start the year, but also because they have scored a grand total of nine points.

One of the better kept secrets of the young NFL season is how well the Bengals defense has played. They have only allowed 33 total points in two games. Also, a decent chunk of those points have been given up due to short fields after turnovers by the offense. Translation: any sort of production from the offense would have meant a 2-0 start as opposed to 0-2. More than anything, that has to be what is keeping the players, coaches and fans up at night.

The familiar and often accurate narrative in regards to the Bengals lack of success is that the ownership of Mike Brown is the problem. Brown is not going to fire himself. Thus, the head coach and quarterback are once again taking most of the heat.

Marvin Lewis

As a native of Cincinnati, the opinion that Marvin Lewis has done a great job during his 15-year tenure as Bengals head coach is not a popular one right now, but it is the truth.

Atrocious does not even begin to accurately describe this franchise prior to his 2003 arrival. From 1991-2002, the Bengals had a .500 record just once and eight seasons of double-digit losses. Fan morale was lower than low and many kids from my generation became fans of other teams, myself included.

Cincinnati Bengals

Photo: cincyjungle.com

With Lewis at the helm, the Bengals have notched four division titles, seven playoff berths and just four losing seasons. The revitalization of football in Cincinnati during the early years of the Lewis era was incredible to see. Games were suddenly fun to go to because of the Bengals rather than the opponent, and gear was being sold on street corners during the week.

Starting with Cincinnati’s return to the playoffs after the 2005 season, the city was caught up in “Bengalmania.” It had not started to slow down until very recently. Lewis’ 0-7 playoff record is well documented. Has he been employed in one spot too long for a guy who has never won a playoff game? Probably. Is it time to move on? Probably.

Even so, if this season turns out to be his last in Cincy, it is shaping up to be a cruel ending for the man who played a key role in bringing this franchise back from the dead. The fact is the ending for most NFL coaches is cruel. The goal of any NFL head coach should be to leave the franchise in better shape than when he was hired. Lewis has done that in Cincinnati.

Andy Dalton

The same winless playoff record that follows Lewis around also follows Andy Dalton around, even though he has only been around for just over half of the losses.

After guiding his team to the playoffs in each of his first four seasons, Dalton appeared to reach the next level in 2015. He was a legitimate MVP candidate until a season ending thumb injury. Since then, his decline has been swift and dramatic. He is 6-11-1 as a starter and responsible for just one more touchdown pass than turnover.

Backup AJ McCarron has been adequate in spot duty throughout his career. Every time Dalton struggles, calls for the former Alabama standout and soon to be free agent only get louder. While this is understandable, Dalton’s career is still filled with much more good than bad. Fixing him is top priority for this franchise right now.

Looking ahead

Cincinnati Bengals

Photo: upi.com

Dalton’s struggles correlate with the promotion of Ken Zampese to offensive coordinator in 2016. Zampese was let go Friday. While it is virtually impossible that Zampese was the entire problem, it is a logical place to start.

However, the reality is the Bengals already have two losses on the board. The upcoming schedule includes Green Bay, two games with the Steelers, another date with Baltimore and Tennessee. This season is probably going to get a whole lot worse. Thus, there is almost no conceivable way this organization does not look a whole lot different come 2018.

 

Featured image from cincyjungle.com

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Johnny Manziel deserves another chance

After being seen doing passing drills with Odell Beckham Jr., Johnny Manziel is ready for a comeback and absolutely deserves a shot. Let’s take a quick trip back through his recent years.

Freshman Season

In Aug. of 2012, to much surprise, Johnny Manziel beat out Jameill Showers, Matt Joeckel and Matt Davis, to win the Texas A&M starting quarterback job. On Oct. 13, Manziel goes for 576 total yards against Louisiana Tech, becoming the first player in SEC history to have multiple 500-yard games in one season.

Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M knock off No. 1 Alabama on Nov. 10, 2012 (Bleacher Report)

Manziel and A&M were off to a quick 6-2 start going into November. On Halloween, as Johnny was climbing up the Heisman watch list, Manziel went out in an incredible Scooby-Doo costume. Why? Because he is a legend.

On Nov. 10, 2012, Johnny Manziel shocked the world. Throwing for 253 yards and two touchdowns and 92 yards on the ground, Johnny Football and Texas A&M knocked off No. 1 Alabama, 29-24, in Tuscaloosa.

About a month later, Manziel was the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy. Leading the Aggies to a 10-2 record with over 3,400 passing yards, 24 passing touchdowns, 19 rushing touchdowns, and later a 41-13 romping over the Oklahoma Sooners in the Cotton Bowl, Manziel was on top of the world.

The day after the Cotton Bowl, Manziel posted a photo to Instagram in which he held a wad full of cash at a casino.

Ballers do baller things.

Stuff kids dream about

Johnny Manziel

Manziel enjoying life with NBA superstar Kevin Durant, and music icon Drake (USA Today)

After winning the Heisman, Manziel went on a run. He was seen sitting courtside at Rockets games and posting pictures with James Harden. Manziel also took part in the Super Bowl week festivities by partying with celebs like Jessica Biel, Rob Gronkowski and Justin Timberlake.

He then followed this up in March of 2013 by going to Toronto and partying with the GOAT in the music game, Drake. Johnny even showed up at the NBA Finals and hung out with LeBron James. A few first pitches and parties later, Manziel ran into some trouble at the Manning Passing Academy.

In the summer of 2013, after being sick and dehydrated, Manziel left the Manning Passing Academy early. He was faced with serious criticism from the media. The day after he left, Manziel was seen out at a club.

Then there was the NCAA investigation in which it was said that Manziel had accepted money to sign hundreds of items for autograph brokers. He was hit with a first half suspension against Rice.

His sophomore season stats were even better than the previous season’s. He would go on to throw for over 4,000 yards with 41 total touchdowns. Manziel left college in style with 455 total yards and five total touchdowns in a come-from-behind win against Duke in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.

DRAFT DAY, JOHNNY MANZIEL

With the 22nd pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, the Cleveland Browns selected Manziel. Arguably the worst franchise in sports, the Browns are as dysfunctional as it gets. The constant hire and fire strategy has yet to work.

Since 1999, they have had 26 different quarterbacks behind center. To make matters worse, the Browns have been terrible in the draft. Of the last five year’s picks, none of the Browns selected have made a Pro Bowl. With all that said, Manziel was walking into a losing situation.

Professional Career

In two seasons, Manziel went 2-6 as a starter. Is his record an appropriate way to judge his ability? Absolutely not. In his first season, the Browns ranked 32nd in rushing yards allowed per game. Luckily, in his second season, they moved all the way up to 30th, and finished 27th in total yards allowed per game.

Think that is irrelevant for someone who controls the offense? Of the 10 teams that finished in the bottom for total yards allowed per game, only one of them, the Washington Redskins, made the playoffs. The Browns gave Manziel no shot to succeed.

Johnny Manziel

Money Manziel. (cnn.com)

In his sophomore campaign, Manziel was one of only four quarterbacks to throw for at least 160 yards and rush for at least 100 yards in a single game. He was one of only two quarterbacks to throw for at least 160 yards and rush for at least 30 yards versus the Bengals defense.

Manziel was also one of the toughest quarterbacks the Titans had faced all year, posting the second-highest passing rater against their defense. The only qualified quarterback who had a higher passing rating against Tennessee was Blake Bortles.

In his 15 career games, Manziel has seven passing touchdowns, one rushing touchdown and seven interceptions. His career passer rating of 74.4 ranks ahead of Mark Sanchez and Derek Anderson, who both serve as backups. In eight starts, Manziel threw six touchdowns and five interceptions.

Let’s take a look at the two best quarterbacks of this generation: Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. In Manning’s first eight starts, the soon-to-be Hall of Famer threw 16 interceptions and had the Colts sitting at 1-7. Tom Brady threw seven interceptions within his first eight games as a starter.

 #LOST IN THE SAUCE

After rehab, a tough breakup that involved a domestic violence case, and partying with endless celebs, Manziel was officially lost in the sauce. He was waived by the Browns on March 11, 2016.

After being waived, Manziel fluttered down a tough path in which he was followed by TMZ Sports, who would constantly catch him outside of nightclubs.

After getting more tattoos, hanging with Justin Bieber and Leonardo DiCaprio, being allegedly the passenger in multiple hit-and-run accidents, having to pay thousands of dollars in damage to a multi-million-dollar home, going to Coachella with Josh Gordon and watching the NFL Draft at a bar, Manziel was ready for a change.

Comeback Season

Johnny Manziel

Sporting a Josh Gordon jersey, Manziel clearly enjoying the view in Cabo (Larry Brown Sports)

I believe in Johnny Manziel, and you should too. This past March, Manziel proposed to model girlfriend Bre Tiesi. You may have seen her on MTV’s “Wild’n Out”. Tiesi is in full support of Johnny’s comeback and is exactly what he needed.

A stable girlfriend who can keep him focused, Tiesi could be the piece that Manziel needed. With Tiesi and support from friends, the sky is the limit for Manziel.

The talent has never been the problem. The 24-year-old has been training and working out hard, hoping for another shot at the sport he loves.

Not only is he working on his own game, but Manziel has also been working out with Wyoming’s quarterback, Josh Allen. Allen is projected to be a top pick in next year’s draft and claims Manziel has been “very informative” to him. Manziel has taught Allen the importance of “staying out of the spotlight, and doing the right things.” This is a clear sign of maturity from Manziel.

In a recent interview, former teammate Travis Benjamin spoke about Manziel and explained how the former college star is “ready to comeback”. Manziel is a “more determined man now” said Benjamin. Manziel is ready to prove himself, and prove to the doubters that he can succeed in the NFL.

Now, happy, healthy, and sober, Johnny Football is back and deserves another chance in the NFL.

 

Featured image by nike.com

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“From our Haus to Yours”

Arizona Cardinals 2017 NFL Draft

Arizona Cardinals 2017 NFL Draft Profile

On the 12th day of Draftmas The Game Haus gave to me, the Arizona Cardinals 2017 NFL Draft profile.

Summary

Arizona Cardinals 2017 NFL Draft

(Photo Credit: http://www.azcardinals.com)

It is safe to say that the 2016 season was a major disappointment for the Cardinals. After losing in the NFC Championship the year before, they then went 7-8-1. Their offense and defense can both take blame for their significant drop-off.

The Cardinals went from averaging 30.6 points per game two years ago to just 26.1 last year. Defensively, the amount of points they allowed went up from 19.6 points per game to 22.6.

The Cardinals need to improve on both sides of the ball if they want to get back into the playoffs.

One of the first big moves the Cardinals made was moving running back Andre Ellington to wide receiver. Ellington is an explosive playmaker who won’t be on the field much at running back due to the emergence of David Johnson. The position change gives Ellington more opportunities to use his skills to help the team.

Arizona signed Antoine Bethea and Jarvis Jones to the defensive end of the ball. The Cardinals will be able to split their picks between offense and defense due to these two big signings on defense.

Picks and Needs

Arizona has eight picks in the draft and must use at least one to find the heir to Carson Palmer. They have one pick in each of the seven rounds.

First Round: (1) No.13

Second Round: (1) No. 45

Third Round: (1) No. 77

Fourth Round: (1) No. 119

Fifth Round: (2) No. 157, 179 (compensatory selection)

Sixth Round: (1) No. 197

Seventh Round: (1) No. 231

Offensive Needs:

Wide Receiver: Larry Fitzgerald is close to retirement. Outside of him, they have no true number one receiver.

Quarterback: Carson Palmer is aging and got beat up last year behind a weak offensive line.

Right Tackle: DJ Humphries was a weak spot on their line and they should try and find a replacement.

Right Guard: Palmer was hit often and much of the pressure came from the right side of the line.

Tight End: Jermaine Gresham is a solid tight end, but the Cardinals could use a second option.

Defensive Needs:

Defensive Tackle: Arizona’s rush defense got worse from 2015 to 2016. Fixing that starts upfront.

Outside Linebacker: An upgrade could be used on the weak side of the second level.

Cornerback: Patrick Peterson is a top five corner but they need someone to help him on the other side.

Targets and Thoughts

Arizona Cardinals 2017 NFL Draft

(Photo Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports)

Here are the predictions of the first three rounds barring no trades.

First Round, Pick 13: Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan 

Corey Davis could become one of the best receivers in the NFL. He has the intangibles and performed well against tough competition.

Davis had 701 yards and five touchdowns against Big Ten teams. He also broke the career receiving yards record in the FBS with 5,285 yards. Most impressively he had 52 touchdowns in 50 career starts. Davis could learn under Fitzgerald while on his way to becoming, dare I say, the next Terrell Owens.

Second Round, Pick 45: TJ Watt, LB, Wisconsin

Watt would be a perfect fit in Arizona’s 3-4 scheme. He can rush the passer with the best of them from the second level. Watt is also phenomenal at taking on blockers and shedding them to make the tackle. Watt could become a Pro Bowler one day.

Picking him in the second round would be a huge steal. Some say he lacks size and explosiveness, but as he develops, he will make people forget about his size.

Third Round, Pick 77: Dalvin Tomlinson, DT, Alabama

Arizona needs help at the defensive tackle position to become better at stopping the run. Tomlinson brings a 6-foot-3, 310 pound frame that can really create havoc.

Tomlinson gets off blocks quickly and has a high football IQ. His awareness is one of his best strengths. The main concern is the amount of playing time he had at Alabama. He played under 50 percent of the defensive snaps, but some attribute that to the amount of talent Alabama has to keep their defensive line as fresh as possible.

Conclusion

The Cardinals must find a quarterback at some point in the draft to learn under Palmer so they have a seamless transition when he retires. If the team improves defensively and keeps teams under 20 points per game, the Cardinals can find their way into the playoffs again.

Building around David Johnson is also key. Johnson is the emerging face of the franchise since Fitzgerald is entering his final years.

Thank you for joining us on our twelfth day of TGH Draftmas! Check back tomorrow where we will be bringing you the Draft Profile of the Philadelphia Eagles!

Draftmas Day 11: New Orleans Saints

Draftmas Day 10: Buffalo Bills

 

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

Jacksonville Jaguars 2017 NFL Draft

Jacksonville Jaguars 2017 NFL Draft Profile

Day four of TGH’s Draftmas takes a look at the Jacksonville Jaguars. What will the Jacksonville Jaguars 2017 NFL Draft look like?

Summary

Jacksonville Jaguars 2017 NFL Draft

(Photo Credit: Brian Bahr/Getty Images)

The Jaguars went 3-13 last season and have had a very busy offseason within the front office. Tom Coughlin was hired to serve as the Executive Vice President of football operations. Coughlin was the first ever head coach in Jacksonville Jaguars history and led them to the AFC Championship Game in just their second season.

Coughlin went 68-60 in Jacksonville. His 68 wins and 53 percent winning percentage are both the best in franchise history. Coughlin will be looking to bring that success back to Jacksonville this time from the front office.

Jaguars general manager David Caldwell received a two-year extension in January. One of his recent moves was letting go of head coach Gus Bradley who went 14-48 as the Jaguars head coach. When Bradley was fired Doug Marrone was named the interim head coach. Marrone went 1-1 and his interim label was removed.

The Jaguars haven’t made the playoffs since 2007 and haven’t won more than five games in a season since 2011. Jacksonville had a good free agency period signing defensive tackle Calais Campbell, cornerback A.J. Bouye, and safety Barry Church. These moves were solid and building a strong defense will be the key to winning more than five games and getting to the playoffs.

Picks and Needs

The Jaguars have eight picks in the draft. That is a solid amount of picks to try and build this franchise into a playoff contender. There is room to maneuver around for more picks by trading down or if there is a player they want they have the pieces to move up to acquire that player.

First Round: (1) No. 4

Second Round: (1) No. 35

Third Round: (1) No. 68

Fourth Round: (1) No. 110

Fifth Round: (1) No. 148

Sixth Round: (1) No. 187

Seventh Round: (2) No. 222, No. 240

Having eight picks can really help this team build depth. The Jaguars have shown in free agency over the past few seasons they want to build an elite defense. The expectation is that this will be an offensive heavy draft but they still have needs on both sides of the ball.

Offensive Needs:

Tight End

Center

Left Guard

Left Tackle

Quarterback

Defensive Needs:

Outside Linebacker

Defensive Tackle

Nickel Cornerback

Targets and Thoughts

Assuming there are no trades, these are the players the Jaguars should target in the first three rounds of the 2017 NFL draft.

First Round:

Pick #4: Jonathan Allen DT, Alabama

Jacksonville Jaguars 2017 NBA Draft

(Photo Credit: http://www.washingtontimes.com)

When Tom Coughlin was leading the Giants to Super Bowl victories over the New England Patriots it was because of the depth on the defensive line. Jonathan Allen is a franchise changing lineman, similar to Warren Sapp and Aaron Donald. Drafting Allen would allow Coughlin to build something similar in Jacksonville.

Second Round:

Pick #35: Pat Elflein C, Ohio State

Building the offensive line is important to the success of an NFL franchise. Jacksonville needs help up front in multiple positions. The strength of the offensive line starts with the center and Pat Elflein is a perfect fit in Jacksonville to be the quarterback of the line.

Third Round:

Pick #68: Brad Kaaya, Miami

Drafting Blake Bortles third overall was a major reach. Bortles is still relatively young but has the same amount of wins as he does of interceptions for touchdowns. Brad Kaaya needs time to develop and sitting behind Bortles while he struggles could be the perfect fit.

Conclusion

The Jaguars are not far from contending in the weak AFC South. Adding depth to the defense will really turn Jacksonville into a team nobody wants to face. On offense, if they shore up the offensive line and help Bortles stay away from turnovers, then Jacksonville will win more the five games and compete for the division’s crown.

Thank you for joining us on our fourth day of TGH Draftmas! Check back tomorrow where we will be bringing you the Draft Profile of the Tennessee Titans!

Here are the last two days of TGH Draftmas:

Draftmas Day 2: San Francisco 49ers

Draftmas Day 3: Chicago Bears

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

Cleveland Can't Pass on Watson

Cleveland Can’t Pass on Watson

Cleveland can’t pass on Deshaun Watson. It is that simple. We all know the sad story that is the current Cleveland Browns. Their history is littered with unfortunate events and bad decisions. Their biggest success came in 1964 when they won the NFL Championship. Since then, there has been little to cheer about in Cleveland.

Cleveland Can't Pass on Watson

(Photo Credit: http://www.ramweb.org)

Cleveland came close to glory twice in the 1980s. The first unfortunate event was later called “The Drive” that took place in the 1986 AFC Championship game. With just a little over five minutes left in the game, the Browns led the Denver Broncos 20-13.

The Broncos had the ball at their own two-yard line. John Elway proceeded to lead the Broncos on a 15-play 98-yard drive to tie the game at 20 with only 37 seconds remaining. The wind had been sucked out of Cleveland and the Broncos won in overtime 23-20.

The second unfortunate event is labeled “The Fumble” and took place the following year in a rematch with the Broncos in the AFC Championship game again. The Broncos jumped out on the Browns early with a 21-3 halftime lead.

Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar threw four second-half touchdowns, but the game was tied 31-31 in the third quarter. With six minutes remaining in the game, John Elway threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to give the Broncos a 38-31 lead.

Cleveland Can't Pass on Watson

(Photo Credit: http://www.elacommoncorelessonplans.com)

With only 1:12 remaining in the game, the Browns had driven down to the eight-yard line. Earnest Byner took a handoff and looked like he was about to tie the game when he was stripped at the 1-yard line and the Broncos took an intentional safety and won the game 38-33. For the second season in a row, the Browns were devastated in the game prior to the Super Bowl.

One of the last major unfortunate events for the Browns franchise was “The Move.” Browns owner Art Modell announced in 1995 that he was moving the franchise to Baltimore and thus, the Baltimore Ravens were born.

The history of the franchise would remain in Cleveland, but what hurt the most for the city is that the Ravens would go on to win the Super Bowl just five seasons later. Cleveland fans have always felt that that championship should have been theirs.

The Browns returned to Cleveland in 1999 and have had 28 different starting quarterbacks. 28 is a ridiculous amount of quarterbacks in just an 18-year span. There has been zero stability at the position and they need a franchise quarterback badly.

The Franchise Savior

It is laughable that Deshaun Watson is getting such little respect in the draft. So-called experts say he lacks accuracy and good decision making for a quarterback. What tape or games are they watching of Watson?

Cleveland Can't Pass on Watson

(Photo Credit: http://www.bleedinggreennation.com)

Watson had a legendary college career. He was the first player in college football history to throw for 4,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards in the same season. He went 32-3 as a starter and led Clemson to two straight national championship games. Both were against Alabama and the legendary Nick Saban.

In his entire career at Clemson, Watson threw for 10,168 yards, 90 touchdowns and only 32 interceptions. Where people go wrong in analyzing Watson is saying he runs too much, or that he is a run-first quarterback. That is absolutely false. Yes, he did rush for 1,934 yards and 26 touchdowns in his career, but Watson only runs when he needs to. He keeps his eyes down field while extending plays.

One thing Watson must work on is his down field accuracy. At his young age, he has time to develop that aspect of his game. Where Watson excels most is when the game is on the line. If there are less than four minutes in the game and you need a touchdown, Deshaun Watson delivers.

Cleveland Can't Pass on Watson

(Photo Credit: https://me.me/t/deshaun-watson)

He is the most clutch quarterback in college football history. He has proven it time and time again and his latest example was against one of the greatest defenses in college football history on the biggest stage. This is one of the greatest traits a quarterback can have, and it can’t be taught.

For so long, the Browns have been stuck at the bottom of the barrel. Their franchise has made so many head-scratching moves. They have overthought decisions and jumped at quarterbacks that had no business leading a franchise. Cleveland has had a lot of bad luck in the process as well. They can end all that by getting a franchise quarterback.

This one is right in front of their face. Do not make the mistake that the Houston Rockets and Portland Trailblazers made. Dabo Sweeny is absolutely correct, any team that passes on Deshaun Watson is passing on Michael Jordan.

 

 

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