AFC East West quarterbacks

Quarterback questions loom largest in AFC East and West

We now have a pretty good idea of what NFL rosters will look like come September. Predicting team records is still very difficult to do in May. However, it is now easier to understand the factors that will lead to success or failure for certain teams. Thus, here are the biggest questions in a couple of AFC divisions. One that is wide open now, and another that could be before long.

AFC West: Is Patrick Mahomes any good?

AFC East West quarterbacks

(Photo from 610sports.com)

This might be the biggest question in the entire NFL. Kansas City has taken control of this division over the last two years as Denver has struggled to transition away from Peyton Manning.

Despite a few playoff failures, Alex Smith never posted a losing record as the starting quarterback for the Chiefs. So replacing him with Patrick Mahomes is pretty bold.

Mahomes is headed into his second year with just one career start. Young quarterbacks have to get handed the keys at some point, but was Smith really what was holding the Chiefs back? His career-high passer rating of 104.7 last year would suggest otherwise.

No quarterback does it alone. Kansas City has an average defense and an offense littered with playmakers, but bad quarterback play can drag a very good roster downward. Last year’s Broncos are a prime example. That was not going to be a concern with Smith. There has to be at least a little bit of doubt when it comes to Mahomes.

One start is nowhere near enough to determine whether any player can be successful in this league, and Mahomes may come out and play very well. If he does, Kansas City will win this division again.

Still, the Broncos upgraded at quarterback, the Chargers improved the middle of their defense, and Oakland is once again being coached by Jon Gruden, the last guy that made and kept that franchise relevant. If Mahomes struggles, at least one of those teams will be right there to pounce, and one of the most consistent teams in the NFL over the last half decade will quickly turn into a non-factor.

AFC East: When do we see the rookie quarterbacks?

As long as Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are around, the Patriots will win this division. They have done so for nine consecutive years. The drama in the division this year is going to be when we see Sam Darnold in New York and Josh Allen in Buffalo. In a perfect world, both guys would probably benefit from a year on the bench.

Particularly in Darnold’s case, that does not seem to be feasible. This is a franchise that has won five or fewer games in three of the last four seasons. It needs a sign of hope and fast. When the inevitable losses start to mount under veteran quarterbacks Teddy Bridgewater and Josh McCown, the Jets will need to get a glimpse at what they hope is a bright future.

The Jets do have a workable schedule for the first month of the season and could get off to a decent start. So it would not be shocking to see one of the veterans last as the starter until the Week 11 bye. Of course, there is always a chance that the rookie could impress enough in training camp and the preseason to start the season opener.

Either way, the Jets know Brady and Belichick won’t be around forever, and New England does not seem to be ready for life after either one. With Darnold, the Jets have a chance to be the kings of this division in a few years. The first step to helping make that happen is making him the starter at the right time.

Josh Allen is a little more tricky. The Bills made the playoffs last year, but were anemic on offense at times and scored just a field goal in their playoff loss. AJ McCarron replaces Tyrod Taylor as the veteran presence at the quarterback position. Allen was drafted more on measurables than college production and clearly needs time to develop.

However, it is hard to imagine him being afforded that luxury if Buffalo gets off to a bad start under McCarron, who is basically a career backup except for a handful of mediocre performances filling in for an injured Andy Dalton late in the 2015 season.

The Dolphins are just sort of existing in this division at the moment. They regressed last year with Jay Cutler taking the place of Ryan Tannehill at quarterback. Even though Tannehill is coming off an injury, Miami was linked to several of the top quarterback prospects in the draft. This could be a make or break year for him as well as head coach Adam Gase.

AFC East West quarterbacks

(Photo from presnapreads.com)

These two divisions are interesting in their own way for 2018. The AFC West is intriguing right now because it is impossible to know what to expect from the team that has dominated it for the last two years. Meanwhile, the AFC East could look very different in a couple years.

This year might provide us with at least some answers in that regard. It all comes down to changes that already have and will eventually need to be made at the most important position in all of American sports, quarterback.

 

Featured image from nydailynews.com

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The 2018 Drafted New England Patriots

The 2018 NFL draft kicked its first round off on Thursday night. The New England Patriots sat in a position to draft two players on both the first round (Thursday) and the second round (Friday).

The Patriots ended up gaining draft picks through the last year or so. The two picks they inherited were the #23 overall pick that was the Los Angeles Rams, and the 43rd overall pick from the 49ers. Those two draft picks were landed in the business transactions that saw Jimmy Garoppolo as well as Brandin Cooks depart from Foxboro.

The Patriots sought out what seemed to be an annual list of “needs”. The usual Offensive Lineman, Cover Linebacker and Cornerback all made appearances in another draft portfolio. That same portfolio that has “quarterback” probably in bold by now. For all of these four picks, it seemed as though the Patriots would attempt to fill the needs with suitable players. Let’s be honest here, if you thought that’s what they were going to do then you’ve never watched Bill Belichick.

The First Round:

#23

Many rumors circulated about the Patriots potentially taking Lamar Jackson at their 23rd selection. After all the smoke cleared the Patriots passed on Lamar not once but twice. The 23rd pick resulted in the University of Georgia Offensive lineman, Isaiah Wynn.

This pick proved to be a very smart move being that they lost Nate Solder this offseason. Wynn proved to be a very solid run blocker as Georgia’s two-back rushing attack was one of the best in the country and showed that he could hold up in pass protection as well. Wynn will be the immediate plug and play to replace Nate Solder and I don’t think too many New England fans are disappointed with that.

#31

This pick was the Patriots original draft selection, and one that surprised most people. After an offseason where they lost one of their lead backs in Dion Lewis, then turned around and signed former Cincinnati Bengal standout in Jeremy Hill, they turned to the draft to pick another back to be in an already crowded backfield. The Patriots shocked some people by taking Sony Michel with the 31st pick. Sony Michel is another Georgia Bulldog and a very good one at that.

Despite being in a dual backfield at Georgia, Michel was one of the stars of college football. He especially seemed to shine in the College Football Playoffs. Against Oklahoma and their subpar defense, Michel managed to get 222 yards on 16 carries. In the National Championship, basically on the opposite side of the spectrum, he got 98 yards on 14 carries against the nations toughest defense in the Alabama Crimson Tide. Michel took over the backfield and outshined Nick Chubb. He could be a possible Jeremy Hill but younger. He joins a backfield that doesn’t have a true running back but has a bunch of pass catching backs.

James White and Rex Burkhead have shown that they are the two heavy load backs, but the Patriots have lacked a true runner. Mike Gillislee is the closest thing the Patriots have to a true running back and he’s the same weight and height as the unproven Michel. Gillislee has proven to not be the guy for the Patriots, so Michel could get the opportunity to shine behind a very solid offensive line and in a great offense.

Second Round:

#56

New England Patriots

Duke Dawson Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

What was originally two picks heading into the second round then turned to one. The Patriots, rather classically, traded out of their selection and managed to drop further back into another draft. They did, however, manage to take care of one of the glaring holes on their defense. Duke Dawson is a corner that played for the Florida Gators (Ah yes, SEC defenders). He is coming in trying to be the complement to Stephon Gilmore. He will come in looking to be a solid cover corner to fill in for Malcolm Butler who the Patriots let go this offseason.

Summary:

The Patriots have done a very nice job in the earlier rounds of filling some of the voids they have. Year in and year out it seems like people are worried about who is going to take over for Tom Brady. This season was no different, many people were expecting Lamar Jackson to come off the boards and go with the Patriots. Instead, they are stocking up their assets for Brady to exploit and stashing some picks later in the draft to take a chance on a quarterback for the future. The Patriots have yet again done another solid job on building a roster back up after it seemed to be depleted this offseason.

 

Featured image from The Boston Herald.

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2018 NFL Draft recap

4 things we know after the 2018 NFL Draft

The 2018 NFL Draft is in the books. It takes a couple years to really know which teams nailed it and which teams whiffed. Thus, the concept of giving out nothing more than simple draft grades in the days immediately following it is fun, but somewhat foolish.

However, we now have a better idea of how teams view themselves and how they will fare in the fall. Here are a few things we learned over the three day extravaganza.

Denver does not view Case Keenum as a stopgap 

After scouting every elite quarterback in the draft, Denver passed on drafting a quarterback altogether. Instead, the Broncos bolstered an already loaded pass rush after Bradley Chubb fell into their lap. Then, John Elway spent five of his remaining picks on running backs, wide receivers and tight ends.

Incoming rookie receivers Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton in particular could be asked to make an impact right away. A consistent third pass catcher to take the heat off of Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders has been lacking for a few years now.

2018 NFL Draft recap

(Photo from wralsportsfan.com)

The Broncos clearly think Case Keenum can lead them right back into contention in 2018 and beyond. He has almost everything a quarterback needs to succeed, much like he did in Minnesota. Defense was the centerpiece of the Vikings last year and it will be for the Broncos this year.

It is a little bit surprising that Denver spent only one draft pick on offensive line. The decision-makers there are putting their faith in Garett Bolles to make a huge leap forward in his second year and veterans Ronald Leary and Jared Veldheer to stay healthy and stabilize a unit that has needed help for a long time.

Still, it is now apparent that the Broncos think they can win now and are reloading, not rebuilding.

Cleveland did not learn from history, but also hopes not to repeat it 

Baker Mayfield and Johnny Manziel are different people, but the comparison really does write itself. They are both undersized quarterbacks who won the Heisman Trophy after dominating college football for a very short period of time. Moreover, the Browns ignored significant off-the-field concerns in hopes that they could resurrect a dead franchise.

Manziel failed spectacularly, and that is largely on him. But Cleveland has been the worst culture for young quarterbacks to develop in the last 20 years. Manziel had no chance to succeed there. Tyrod Taylor is a solid quarterback that is more than capable of getting the Browns at least four wins this year. That should lessen the immediate pressure on Mayfield. This, combined with the fact that Mayfield’s rough edges are a little smoother than Manziel’s give him a better chance to do well in Cleveland.

Still, the Browns going with Mayfield after the Manziel experience straddles the line between gutsy and stupid. No one would argue that Sam Darnold is not a safer prospect, even the temperamental Josh Rosen would have raised a few less eyebrows.

The Patriots are not concerned about Tom Brady’s age 

Whether it is Robert Kraft or Bill Belichick calling the shots in Patriot land nowadays, this is the only conclusion that can be drawn. Jimmy Garoppolo is in San Francisco, Tom Brady is 40 and New England passed on taking Lamar Jackson and Mason Rudolph.

New England did take a quarterback in the seventh round, but LSU’s Danny Etling was not on most radars as a draftable prospect. The Patriots have outsmarted everyone with quarterbacks in the late rounds of the draft before, but it is hard to imagine Etling was drafted with the idea of being Brady’s successor. We know that 32-year-old Brian Hoyer certainly is not Brady’s successor either.

Regardless of how dedicated Brady is, quarterbacks fall off a cliff quickly in the NFL. The most recent example of this is Peyton Manning, who was younger than Brady is now when he played his final season, which was also his worst statistically. The lack of a long-term plan at quarterback is slowly putting New England’s position as the NFL’s gold standard in more and more jeopardy.

Russell Wilson is going to run for his life again in 2018 

When the awesome story of the Griffin brothers is put aside, Seattle’s draft as a whole is worrisome. They reached by as much as two rounds for running back Rashaad Penny and tight end Will Dissly, but that is not all.

2018 NFL Draft recap

(Photo from nocoastbias.com)

Seattle’s offensive line was atrocious last year. At its worst, there were games where Russell Wilson was pressured on a third of his drop backs. The only reason Wilson lived to tell about it is because he is one of the most mobile quarterbacks on the planet. His arm and legs created all but one of Seattle’s offensive touchdowns last year. Wilson was able to keep Seattle relevant until the very end of the regular season.

Wilson will need a repeat performance to do the same this year. The Seahawks continued their long standing reputation of refusing to invest in the offensive line. They only took one and waited until the fifth round to do so. They even traded up to take a punter before paying any attention to their biggest need.

This was a very deep draft for offensive lineman. Thus, it feels like the Seahawks missed a big chance to improve. With the “Legion of Boom” pretty much a memory, Wilson really is the only thing this franchise has going for it. After this draft, the weight of the world remains on his shoulders.

 

Featured image from tylermorningtelegraph.com

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New England Patriots 2018 NFL Draft profile

The 2018 NFL Draft is now under a week away, which means that Draftmas is back. Draftmas will take a look at each NFL team heading into the NFL Draft, what their needs are and who they could be targeting. You will find it here. Draftmas will continue with the New England Patriots 2018 NFL Draft profile. 

Summary

New England Patriots 2018 NFL Draft profile

Tom Brady (Photo by bleacherreport.com)

New England made it to the Super Bowl again last season but were unable to keep up with the Philadelphia Eagles. They had a good season, but losing in the biggest game of the year created an offseason that has been far from normal.

The Patriots averaged the second most points in the league at 28.6 points per game. They ranked in the top 10 in both passing (second) and rushing (10th). Tom Brady is expected to be back for next season, even though reports have come out this week that he hasn’t committed to it yet. Brian Hoyer is his backup and is in his second stint in New England, meaning he should be able to run the offense decently well if Brady gets hurt, or opts for retirement.

Brandin Cooks was traded to the Rams and Danny Amendola signed with the Dolphins, meaning new wideouts will be needed. Chris Hogan and Julian Edelman return, although Edelman will have to prove he is back from his torn ACL. Jordan Matthews was signed to help bolster the receiving core, but they will likely need to add more in the draft.

Rob Gronkowski has been in headlines all offseason for contemplating retirement and for possibly being on the trading block. Odds are he returns. The offensive line will look a lot different next season as Nate Solder and Cameron Flemming are no longer Patriots.

The running backs are mostly the same, but Dion Lewis left for the Titans. Jeremy Hill was added to the crew in which no one knows who will produce on any given game.

While the defense struggled early in the season, they recovered to finish fifth in the league in points allowed. Adrian Clayborne and Danny Shelton were acquired to bolster the defensive line that was notably pretty weak in 2017. They now have turned it into a solid unit that even has a little bit of depth.

The linebackers did not perform well last season, but there is some talent at the position in Donta’ Hightower and Kyle Van Noy. Malcolm Butler was signed by the Titans, so Jason McCourty was acquired, but they still need a few good young corners. Patrick Chung and Devin McCourty are solid safeties, but they aren’t among the best in the NFL.

There has been a lot of change to the roster this offseason, but with the right moves in the 2018 NFL Draft, the Patriots could make it to another Super Bowl.

Picks and Needs

The Patriots have eight picks in the 2018 NFL Draft, five of which are in the first three rounds. This is a luxury they haven’t had in a while.

First round (2 picks): 23, 31

Second round (2): 43, 63

Third round (1): 95

Fourth round (0):

Fifth round (0):

Sixth round (2): 198, 210

Seventh round (1): 219

Offensive needs:

Quarterback- Who knows how long Brady can play for? Hoyer is a good backup, but after trading Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett a new young quarterback to develop is needed.

Offensive Tackle- With both Solder and Flemming gone, the Patriots need to get a tackle who they can trust to protect Brady for the rest of his career. There aren’t a lot of great tackle prospects in this draft class, so they will need to strike gold.

Wide Receiver- The Patriots have a few solid wide receivers in Edelman, Hogan and Matthews, but should add more to the roster. A young target who could develop into a number one would be a nice addition to the roster.

Defensive needs:

Defensive Tackle- Shelton and Malcolm Brown make a decent tandem, but depth is needed. They will also need a player to rush on passing downs.

Linebacker- Hightower and Van Noy had down years and they’ll, at the very least, want to get a third linebacker.

Cornerback- McCourty is a solid replacement for Butler, but he isn’t the youngest. With so many picks early in the draft, they should use one on a corner.

Targets

New England Patriots 2018 NFL Draft profile

Lamar Jackson (Photo by cincyjungle.com)

First round:

Pick No. 23: Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville

The going rumor for the first round is that the Patriots love Lamar Jackson. With Brady’s career winding down, they do need to add a plan for the future. With Bill Belichick’s genius, they could use Jackson before ever making him the starting quarterback. Sitting and learning behind one of the best quarterbacks of all time is a great way to start a career.

Pick No. 31: Connor Williams, OT, Texas

To address the losses on the offensive line, the Patriots can select a tackle at the end of the first round. Williams is athletic, but has short arms and isn’t the strongest. New England will have to develop him, like any other tackle in the class, but could turn him into a great lineman.

Second round:

Pick No. 43: Isaiah Oliver, CB, Colorado

With the departure of Malcolm Butler, Oliver can be the new young corner on the Patriots. He is lengthy, but slight and will need to add length to his frame. With time he can grow into a shutdown corner.

Pick No. 63: Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas

Jefferson has good athletic ability and speed, but could never seemingly put it all together at Texas. New England’s coaching staff should be able to get the most out of him.

Third round: 

Pick No. 95: Equanimeous St. Brown, WR, Notre Dame

St. Brown is tall and fast, but needs improved route-running. Playing with Brady will immediately help him out and make him a good pro.

 

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2018 NFL Draft quarterbacks

Best fits for top 2018 NFL quarterback prospects: Part II

Welcome to the second of a two part series examining the best fits for the top six quarterback prospects in the 2018 NFL Draft. You can check out the first part here. Baker Mayfield, Lamar Jackson and Mason Rudolph go under the microscope this time around.

Playing matchmaker is a little tougher with these three. They are likely to go later in the first round, or perhaps even early in the second, but trades are always possible, especially in that part of the draft.

Baker Mayfield: Arizona Cardinals 

Carson Palmer is retired. No one is mistaking Mike Glennon for a franchise quarterback. Sadly, it is not a matter of if Sam Bradford will get hurt again, but when. Arizona is the most quarterback needy team in the entire draft.

Mayfield’s roughness around the edges is well documented on and off the field. Being drafted to a locker room with veterans like Larry Fitzgerald would go a long way towards smoothing out Mayfield’s character flaws.

On the field, the Cardinals have no long-term quarterback plan, even if Bradford makes it through 2018 healthy. They need one. Mayfield is a legitimate duel threat, but the numbers say he would much rather throw. He never averaged more than 3.2 yards per carry in college. Defense in the Big 12 is bad, but it is not hard to see why there is great intrigue around the reigning Heisman Trophy winner at the next level. He threw 81 touchdowns to just 13 interceptions in his last two years of college.

Other than being a tick too short, He has all the stats and physical attributes NFL people look for. There is more than enough there to ignore the concerns over his arrest and less than sportsmanlike behavior on the field. His ability to ad lib when plays break down should also serve him well if he is thrown on the field as a rookie.

Picking at No. 15, Arizona’s quarterback options are somewhat limited without a trade, but there is some talent on the roster. Mayfield’s upside in a situation like the Cardinals is endless.

Lamar Jackson: Buffalo Bills 

This was the toughest prospect to pair with a team. Any quarterback who weighs just over 200 pounds and has 655 rushing attempts in three years of college football is going to have a short and painful NFL career, unless their game is retooled through coaching. Concerns about size and running too much aside, Jackson’s college numbers and pure athleticism are going to earn him a long look in the NFL.

In Buffalo, AJ McCarron is there on a two-year deal to keep the team competitive while it searches for long-term quarterback. Early returns on the Nathan Peterman experiment have been disastrous. Even though Buffalo could not wait to get rid of him, Tyrod Taylor did lead Buffalo to the playoffs last year. Taylor is a decent pro comparison for Jackson, so the coaching staff would be well-suited to coach him.

The former Heisman Trophy winner going to Buffalo makes sense in terms of both need and draft position. Jackson’s college production shows that he is capable of learning how to become an NFL pocket passer.

Mason Rudolph: New England Patriots

Whether he realizes it or not, Tom Brady is 40 years old. With Jimmy Garoppolo in San Francisco, the Patriots have no plan for Brady’s successor. Recent reports have New England taking a shine to Jackson. However, it is hard to imagine Bill Belichick taking a chance on an undersized quarterback who some would argue is a better runner than thrower.

2018 NFL Draft quarterbacks

(Photo from zambio.com)

Rudolph is the all-time leading passer at Oklahoma State. He specializes in the vertical passing game that dominates the NFL landscape today. 10 percent of his dropbacks in college resulted in at least a 25-yard completion. Rudolph needs a little polishing to go from Oklahoma State’s gun-slinging offense to the NFL.

New England is the perfect place for him to get that. He can learn from Brady for a while. Then he can either succeed him or get a big payday somewhere else like other Patriot backup quarterbacks have done. Regardless of which quarterback ends up there, New England is an ideal spot. Rudolph is the best fit.

More than just the six teams mentioned in these two articles could be in the quarterback market early in the draft. New Orleans, Denver and Miami could all be additional players in the market for rookie signal callers. With so many teams potentially needing quarterbacks, some of the prospects ranked seventh and lower in the quarterback class will eventually be asked to make an impact as well.

 

Featured image from clutchpoints.com

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The departure of Danny Amendola

A few days have passed now since former New England Patriot, Danny Amendola, signed a contract with the Miami Dolphins. One things for sure, he doesn’t leave New England without massive amounts of gratitude from fans and from the organization themselves. Danny Amendola was and still is exactly what the definition of the Patriot way meant.

A guy who came into the league undrafted, worked for everything he had and then was released time and time again, battled injuries and then one of his last stops was to get scooped up by Bill Belichick and company and turned into a two time Super Bowl champion. In his time in New England he took three separate pay cuts in the prime of his career to continue to play with a team that he thrived with.

The NFL has always proven to be a business first and friendships second league. As Tuesday afternoon came and went the New England Patriots and Danny Amendola found out just how true that was.

Background:

Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

In 2013, Danny Amendola found his way to New England. His job? Replacing one of, if not the best slot receiver(s) of all-time in Wes Welker.

What’s funny is in the greater Boston area there isn’t a transition period for athletes. There’s no time for them to get settled in. A player is expected to produce and Amendola had a bumpy start with the New England Patriots.

What’s even funnier is the guy that replaced Wes Welker wasn’t Amendola, it was Julian Edelman. The same guy that has grown so close to Danny Amendola and is undoubtedly his best friend to this day.

Amendola never let minor setbacks at the very beginning keep him from succeeding in New England. He just settled into a role that wasn’t exactly what Patriot fans painted him to be. Instead, he carved out his role and went to work.

Playoff ‘Dola:

Amendola, (USA Today).

There are few words to describe just how clutch a 5-foot-11 slot receiver can be. So let me bounce some statistics off of you instead.

Amendola had never reached the playoffs before coming to New England. In his 13 playoff games in five seasons, Amendola had 57 catches on 81 targets.

He racked up 709 total receiving yards in those 13 games, giving him a 55 yard average per game and a 12.44 yard per catch average. In the 2017 postseason alone, he accounted for 348 receiving yards, (49.1 percent of his total playoff receiving yards), picking up the slack for injured teammates Julian Edelman and Malcolm Mitchell.

He also accounted for six touchdowns and 35 first downs made all by himself in that five year playoff span. The point is Danny Amendola got better when the game got tougher. He constantly made big play after big play for a Patriots offense that needed him.

He was reliable and trustworthy, and when Tom Brady needed a reception over the middle of the field, Amendola was there, calmly shaking countless defenders off him.

What the Future holds:

There is no doubt in my mind that Danny Amendola will thrive in his new role with the Miami Dolphins. Now that he can help compliment a guy like DeVante Parker, his new role could be even more of a fit for him than a crowded wide receiving core he leaves behind in New England.

The truth is, Amendola is one of the players that you never want to see walk out the door. He is an excellent personality and a hard worker who has cared about winning more than money his entire career. As maybe his last payday has come and gone, it makes the most sense for Amendola to take his last contract and go down to the warmth and out of the frigid Foxboro winters.

One things for sure, ‘Dola leaves a hole in Patriots fans hearts as he walks out. Regardless of what the future holds and what the end of Danny Amendola’s career looks like, he will always be remembered in New England for his receiving and passing touchdowns and his incredible playoff performances.

He will be remembered for his toe tapping touchdown to beat the Jaguars in the 2018 AFC Championship and his bubble screen goal line grab to score the two point conversion that effectively brought the Patriots all the way back to even the score in SuperBowl LI. He made most of his memories in the post season just like it should be. I mean come on, he is playoff ‘Dola.

Featured image from USA Today.

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Detroit Lions coaches

Detroit Lions: Coaches breakdown 2018

Does coaching matter? Pose that question to Detroit Lions fans.

The Lions have been around the coaching carousel more times than their fans care to count. Since the team’s previous championship in 1957, Wayne Fontes is the longest tenured coach.

No offense to Fontes, but his performance in Detroit would not earn him a spot in the debate of greatest coach in team history for most teams in professional sports.  The fans in Detroit have long been waiting for a great group of coaches. Time will tell if Matt Patricia is the answer to Detroit’s prayers.

Wayne Fontes

Detroit Lions coaches

Wayne Fontes (Photo by Jeff Kowlasky, Associated Press)

After taking over for Darryl Rogers 11 games into the 1988 season (4-12 overall, 2-3 under Fontes), Fontes led the Lions to a 12-4 record by 1991. He also won a division title and achieved the only playoff win since the Beatles came to America in 1964. This is still the only playoff win to date.

Fontes departed in 1996 with a 67-71 record (1-4 playoff record). This firmly plants him in the top spot as the greatest coach in the Super Bowl era of Detroit Lions football.

Coaching Turmoil

In the last 20 seasons, the Lions have been through eight head coaches, compiling a combined 127–209 record with zero division titles or playoff wins.

To say it has been a rough 20 years would be a major understatement. It goes without saying, Lions fans are dying for a winner and a team to help bring the fan base and the city back to its feet. That starts and ends with coaching.

Coordinators

Offensive Coordinator 

Detroit Lions coaches

Jim Bob Cooter (right) with Matthew Stafford (left). (Photo by Mike Mulholland, mlive.com)

The news of Jim Bob Cooter being retained as the offensive coordinator has had mixed reactions among fans as some viewed his play-calling as too inconsistent and predictable while others believe Jim Caldwell was the reason for this.

Nevertheless, the possibility of molding Cooter’s coaching prowess with a New England mentality breeds a high level of optimism and intrigue in Detroit. Remember, not too long ago, Cooter was one of the hottest names on the coaching carousel and many dubbed him as a great coach of the future.

Prior to last season, he was put into the same class as Sean McVay of the Los Angeles Rams.

Defensive Coordinator 

Detroit Lions coaches

Paul Pasqualoni during his head coaching tenure at UConn. (Photo from CBSsports.com)

Paul Pasqualoni has been hired by Patricia to call the defense. He has amassed 46 years of coaching experience and previously hired Patricia as an offensive assistant at Syracuse in 2001.

Pasqualoni was the head coach at Syracuse from 1991-2004, with a 107-59-1 record. He has coached in a myriad of positions and for many teams in the NFL since he left Syracuse.

In Dallas, he coached the tight ends, linebackers and defensive line. He stayed in the role of defensive line coach in Chicago and Houston. He was the defensive coordinator for a year in Miami before returning back to college as the head coach at UConn.

When asked about what his relationship with Pasqualoni would bring to Detroit, Patricia stated in a press conference, “…there’s a lot of common ground from what we believe in, how defense should be played, how it should be run, the fundamentals behind it… a huge comfort level for me to have him on board and to be able to entrust him to handle.”

Notable Assistants

Other assistants hired by Patricia include Brian Stewart (defensive backs), David Corrao (director of football research), Chris White (tight ends) and Jeff Davidson (offensive line).

Arguably, the most important of those is Davidson. He takes over a group that led an offense to a ranking of 32nd in rushing and allowed 47 sacks in 2017. Davidson previously worked with New England until 2004 (one year with Patricia). Most recently he was the offensive line coach for the Denver Broncos.

PROMISING FUTURE UNDER PATRICIA

Detroit Lions coaches

New head coach of the Detroit Lions, Matt Patricia. (Photo by Mike Mulholland, mlive.com)

The Detroit Lions are in a great spot as I am sure many teams are envious of quarterback Matthew Stafford. The promising front office, combined with the character and experience of Patricia, bodes well for Detroit.

When building from the ground up, why not copy a dynastic legend? See the New England Patriots. Short of coaxing Bill Belichick and Tom Brady to the Motor City, the Lions have made strong moves to bring men over who can begin to build “The Lions Way.”

With Bob Quinn in the general manager’s office and Patricia on the sidelines, one can only wonder how many players may see Detroit as a viable option in free agency. There have been rumors among hopeful fans of Malcolm Butler following Patricia. Imagine him across from Darius Slay and/or Dion Lewis lining up in the backfield with Stafford.

No one can predict how this hire will play out for the Lions. However, one thing is for sure: Matt Patricia and his big-bearded, pencil-behind-the-ear, backwards hat wearing persona will fit in perfectly within the state of Michigan.

 

Featured image from USA Today Sports

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Roger Federer Tom Brady

Federer and Brady: The two ageless wonders of our time

Tom Brady is about to be the centerpiece of yet another Super Bowl, and Roger Federer is fresh off his 20th major victory in Australia. We are witnessing two of the greatest athletes ever still at the peak of their powers.

Comparing individual sport athletes to team sport athletes is difficult. However, these two are running out of suitable comparisons in their respective sports. So, here it goes.

What makes them similar?

Unprecedented longevity

The Swiss icon and the former sixth-round draft pick are in uncharted territory for their age brackets in their sports. At age 40, Brady will become the oldest non-kicker to take part in a Super Bowl. This makes the fact that he is still playing quarterback at an MVP level all the more impressive.

The closest thing Brady has ever had to a consistent rival was Peyton Manning. Despite winning the Super Bowl in his final game at age 39, Manning was a shell of himself in his last year. He missed a handful of games due to injury and accounted for more turnovers than touchdowns. Yet, Brady just keeps rolling.

So does Federer. With his win in Australia, he joined Ken Rosewall as the only men to win multiple majors after the age of 35. Rosewall did it in the early 70s. The game is infinitely more physical now and has much more depth. Also, the 36-year-old has six Australian Open titles. Every player he beat to win his first in 2004 is now retired.

We keep waiting for these two to slow down. They seem intent on keeping us waiting a little while longer.

The ability to stay healthy

There is an old saying in football that availability is your best ability. The same is true in tennis or any other sport.

Whether you look at Federer’s younger challengers in tennis or Brady’s in football, almost every one of them has dealt with major injuries as their careers have worn on. Brady missed the 2008 season after a knee injury in the opener. Federer’s knee kept him off the tour from the summer of 2016 to January of last year. Other than that, neither have missed extended time due to injury.

Brady’s commitment to keeping his body fresh is well publicized. Other than very smart scheduling, Federer’s is less so, but clearly just as effective. To be a living legend at any sport, you have to almost obsess over your craft. These two have always had that covered.

A second run of dominance 

It would be a stretch to say either of these incredible athletes was ever an afterthought in their sport, but not much of one. Following a third Super Bowl in four years after the 2004 season, Brady’s Patriots were always in the mix for more titles, but were dealt a string of tough playoff and Super Bowl losses.

Had he walked away from the game without more Super Bowl wins, his legacy as the greatest quarterback ever would not be as secure as it is. This is especially true once we all learned of the Spygate and Deflategate scandals.

Minus the scandals, everything above can be said of Federer had he not won more majors following his win at Wimbledon in 2012. He already had the greatest of all time title in hand in 2012. Still, he was in danger of becoming something we see all too often in sports. A legend who held on too long.

Now, three more majors for Federer and another chance for Brady to win three titles in four years has us in awe of both of them. No matter what happens for the rest of their careers, they each have cemented their legacies as the best to ever undertake their respective crafts.

What makes them different?

Brady is a little more clutch

In football, history judges the best of the best based on the playoffs and the Super Bowl. In tennis, it is about major finals and head-to-head rivalries. Federer has contested 30 major finals and Brady has played 36 playoff games. Despite Brady’s teams having six more chances to lose on the biggest stages, they still have only nine playoff losses while Federer has 10 losses in major finals.

Moreover, Brady’s head-to-head edge over other great quarterbacks like Peyton Manning and Ben Roethlisberger has long been established.

Conversely, Federer’s chief rivals have been Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray. When you take into account all meetings, Federer only has the edge against Murray. There is much more to be said about Federer’s competition later.

You don’t get as good as these two without being clutch, but Brady has the advantage in this area.

Brady has had better help 

At its core, tennis is obviously an individual sport. Despite that, it is also more of a team sport than people realize. There are many coaches and trainers that put a ton of work into getting a player on the court and in a position to be successful.

Roger Federer Tom Brady

Photo: si.com

Federer has had some legends like Paul Annacone and Tony Roche in the coaching box over the years. Even so, Switzerland did not have a rich tennis history prior to Federer. So, he likely didn’t have access to great facilities growing up.

Meanwhile, Brady was drafted to what many people feel is the greatest coach and owner ever. He would have been very good no matter where he ended up. Still, he would not be what he is today had he ended up in a place like Cleveland or Cincinnati. Brady has made the careers of several castoffs. However, he has also been surrounded by his fair share of all-time great talent like Bill Belichick, Randy Moss and Rob Gronkowski just to name a few.

Federer has had stiffer competition

This is the most glaring difference between the two. Brady and New England have to beat great teams in the playoffs every year. However, the best way to ensure playoff success is playing at home.

Roger Federer Tom Brady

Photo: talktennis.com.

The best way to make that happen is winning your division. New England shares a division with Miami, Buffalo and the Jets. For the vast majority of the last 20 years, these organizations have not been able to get out of their own way. New England has failed to win the division just twice since 2001. You only need two hands to count the total number of playoff wins to count the rest of the division has combined for during the Brady-Belichick era.

On the other hand, Federer has had to deal directly with Nadal, Djokovic and Murray for 11 months a year for the past decade plus. All three of those guys will likely join Federer in the greatest of all time discussion when their careers are over. The only question mark is Murray. The other two are already well into double-digits as far as major titles.

As noted earlier, Federer’s record against his chief rivals is not all that convincing. Still, the fact that he has been able to rack up 96 total titles and 20 majors in an era of such great players speaks for itself.

Who is better

Tennis people are going to say Federer and football people are going to say Brady. I am a rarity in that I am both. I say who cares? They are both awe inspiring. Whether you tune in to see them win or to hope they lose, enjoy greatness while it lasts, because it does not last forever.

 

Featured image from SI.com

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5 things to watch for in Super Bowl LII

The Super Bowl is fast approaching and will feature an underdog team going against the best franchise of the 21st century. With every game in the NFL there are a lot of things to watch for, but with the Super Bowl there are even more things to be aware of. Here are the top five things to watch for in Super Bowl LII.

1. Brady And Belichick could cement their statuses as the best

Last season Tom Brady won his fifth Super Bowl, with a dramatic comeback win over the Falcons. At this point he has proven all of his doubters wrong and has claimed his spot among the all-time greats. With the win last season, Brady has the most Super Bowl wins ever by a quarterback. He is currently tied with Charles Haley for the most Super Bowl wins by a player regardless of position. A win this year puts him in a class all by himself.

Belichick has had a great 20 year run that ranks him among the best coaches of all time in any way you measure it. His five Super Bowls are the most by a head coach and a win in this Super Bowl will put him in a tie for second with six NFL Championships with George Halas and Curly Lambeau. Only Paul Brown has more with seven. Belichick is only behind Halas in winning percentage of the four coaches named, sitting .3 percent behind him at .679.

2. Chris Long and Legarrette Blount against their former team

5 things to watch for in Super Bowl LII

LeGarrette Blount and Chris Long (Photo by usatoday.com)

There is a short list of players who have won consecutive Super Bowls with different teams. No one significant has won a Super Bowl one year and then beaten that team while a member of an opposing team the next.

Long was cut from the Rams in 2016, mulled retirement and then joined the Patriots before last season. He recorded four sacks in the regular season for New England that season and got his first Super Bowl ring. After the season he signed with the Philadelphia Eagles and has now helped lead them to their first title game since 2005.

Blount started his career with the Bucs, but then landed with the Patriots, which led him to more success. After a short stint in Pittsburgh, Blount returned to New England for another stint. He too was on the Super Bowl team last year, but also was on the team that beat the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX.

Both Long and Blount say it’s all business when they hit the field against their former friends, but it should be fun to watch.

3. The commercials

Almost every Super Bowl party has some non-sports fans that are just there for the party atmosphere and the chance to watch some new, highly-funded commercials. Last year advertisers paid $160,000 per second on average for commercials.

While the commercials aren’t a part of the game, they are a huge part of the event that is the Super Bowl. Some of the most memorable ads have come from the Super Bowl. Whether it’s the Apple 1984 commercial or the Budweiser “Wassup” commercial, fans often relate to the ads for years after their completion.

This year, there are many possibilities, but most fans are probably waiting to see what Bud Light does with their “Dilly Dilly” commercial series.

4. Betting

The Super Bowl is a time where fans of all ages like to gamble. Whether it is a cool board at the Super Bowl party that allows people to put a dollar on the total number of points in the game or betting the over/under, it has a place in a lot of peoples’ lives.

There are many different types of NFL bets that can be placed and that includes prop bets.. Virtually everything in the Super Bowl is bet on. These bets include: what color liquid is dumped on the winning coach, heads or tails on the coin toss, who scores the first touchdown etc.

Casual fans should place some prop bets to make the game a little more interesting, while avid fans can really dive into the more traditional bets.

5. The holding of the Lombari Trophy

5 things to watch for in Super Bowl LII

Tom Brady (Photo by yahoo.com)

Every year after winning the championship, there are some magical moments of watching players celebrate their great accomplishment. When the clock hits zero the confetti starts to come down and the looks of joy start to appear on the faces of the winning team.

Once that settles down, a temporary stage is put on the field to officially award the trophy. Once players and staff get a chance to hold the trophy, it signifies a validation of their life’s work. It also signifies the end of another great season of football and the start of the offseason.

 

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5 Reasons why Romo had the best rookie year

 

The Patriots Vs. Jaguars AFC Championship game was a great matchup with many great things to offer. There was the greatest QB of all time. A young, exciting, up-and-coming Jacksonville team, an exciting fourth quarter comeback, but as viewers watching from home, all of those things were greatly enhanced by something else- the commentary of Tony Romo.

The AFC championship game marked the end of Romo’s first season in the booth after being the franchise leader for the Dallas Cowboys for many years. After many questioned why CBS would give the number one job to a player with no previous experience in the booth, we now see what those CBS executives saw last summer.

Romo has been a polarizing figure throughout his entire professional career. His tenure with the Dallas Cowboys will not be remembered for having one of the highest career passer ratings of all time. Nor will he be remembered for all the fourth quarter come-backs he created contrary to the “chocker” label he carried throughout his career.

What Romo will be remembered for is for never bringing a Lombardi Trophy to Dallas where the expectations are always Super Bowl or bust, even if they’ve only won two playoff games in the last 20 years.

Regardless of how you feel about Tony Romo as a player though, you have to admit he is one hell of an analyst. Or you don’t. Some people hate his style. They hate the enthusiasm with which he announces the happenings on the field. They hate that he can explain how and why things are about to happen on the field. They hate the fact that he found so much success so early on. Most of these people are the same ones who think that Tony was a sub-par Quarterback in the league.

We call these people “haters”. It doesn’t matter how good Romo is or can become as an analyst, they refuse to relinquish their hate of the superstar QB. Let’s go over some reasons why Romo may already be a top five announcer in the NFL.

 

Reason #1

Romo brings a wealth of knowledge rivaled by very few, but along with that he also brings recent on the field experience. He know’s most of the players, coaches and schemes in the league very well, but even that may not be his greatest asset.

Reason #2

The reason why America has fallen in love with Romo this season is because he brings unrivaled enthusiasm to his play call! He brings the best energy and passion along with professionalism to his broadcast.

Reason #3

Romo is excellent at being able to combine all these things into his commentary like no one else in the sport. Does he tell you what’s going to happen before it happens? Sometimes. Does it rub some people the wrong way? yes.

Overall though, most of us enjoy it because it shows us what to look for and why. He’s also eager to tell us, as his audience about it, his boy-ish spirit comes out with every play and is very refreshing. There’s not many other commentators out there with commentary highlight videos on youtube, especially not rookie commentators.

Reason #4

Romo has already earned the respect of most of the NFL community, including the New England Patriots head coach, one Bill Belichick.

During an interview with Henry McKenna from Patriots Wire, the living legend head coach had this to say: “Very inquisitive guy with a good history of the game,” Belichick said. “He asks a lot of questions about when I was with Giants or the 70s or the 80s or Tom Landry and so forth. He’s pretty knowledgeable for a player that wasn’t in that era. He knows a lot about it. He’s obviously read and studied itHe sees a lot of things, a lot of fine points of defensive scheme or a play that I’d say a lot of guys that I talk to don’t. And (he) asks about those: ‘What was that guy reading on this? And why’d he do that? What was this guy’s job on this play?’ Something that was kind of subtle. He picks up on those things. He asks a lot of detailed, coaching, technical questions that you don’t get from a lot of those meetings. He’s good. I’ve enjoyed working with him.”

Any player or former player would be honored to be spoken so highly of from such a prominent figure in the league.

Reason #5

No matter how you feel about him, Romo is going to get better with time. The longer he spends in the booth, the more he’ll grow accustomed to the job and learn the small things that have made the great commentators so great. So here’s to Romo’s first season as an NFL commentator, may his voice stay high-pitched, his passion strong, his knowledge vast, and may we get a Romo commentated Super Bowl in the near future, because no matter what the haters say, that would be a win for everyone.

 

 

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