Thursday, March 27, 2014

Johnny Manziel

  As I watch film from "Johnny Football" at his pro day, I can't help but be amazed. He trots onto the field in shoulder pads and a helmet, already setting a different tone for his pro day. He shows his huge arm and accuracy early, and as he goes on, his mechanics look very crisp. Even his interview is impressive, as he says some of the common sense things that sports analysts try to make sound like hidden Illuminati texts. I'm truly impressed by this little dude in camo shorts, and now more than ever think that Houston should take him number one overall.
  First of all, the helmet and shoulder pads are a purely genius idea. I think all NFL prospects should take a queue from Johnny and show up in their gameday armor. Analysts are constantly saying football isn't played in shorts, and that's why Manziel wearing his pads and helmet is the perfect PR scheme. Johnny even says in his interview following the pro day that "I've never seen an NFL QB trot onto the field wearing shorts and a T-shirt."
 Watching his mechanics, they have improved greatly and should get Ron Jaworski off of his back, and to quit saying that he should be a 4th round pick. Despite Mr. Jaworski's constant labelling of Johnny's "bad" technique, the plays he chooses to highlight on ESPN's NFL Live have Johnny putting the ball where it needed to be. On the first play Johnny makes a good deep throw, and the receiver loses track of the ball, resulting in an incompletion. The second play, a defensive back simply makes a great play to knock the ball away.
  Now there are two areas where I will give Jaworski and the ESPN analysts credit, the first is durability concerns. Johnny is very undersized for the position and likes to operate in the open a lot. If Johnny is going to make it in the NFL he will have to learn to play like fellow short stack Russell Wilson. Wilson doesn't have many designed running plays, and knows how to get down and save himself when possible. If Johnny can learn when to slide, and when to duck out of bounds, he will have an opportunity to have a very long and successful career. Johnny himself acknowledged this in a post pro day interview, even directly saying that Russell Wilson is the kind of guy he has to play like to stay healthy. The second issue is Johnny passing up open receivers and struggling within the structure of an offense. Despite his amazing playmaking ability, Johnny can sometimes pass up open receivers to try and make a big play instead of taking what the defense gives him. This could lead to Johnny having some struggles early on if he does not adjust to this.
  Aside from durability concerns, Manziel has the ability and intangibles to be an all time great Quarterback. Manziel has the arm strength to make all the throws in the NFL, even from awkward angles outside of the pocket. Johnny has the competitive fire and the desire to be great, and inspires others to follow him on the football field. He has the mobility to get out of trouble, extend plays, and make huge plays out of potential losses. His best attribute is his quickness and acceleration, as well as his ability to see the entire field as a runner. I look at him as a combination of Fran Tarkenton, Brett Favre, and Ken Stabler. He has the gunslinger mentality of Brett Favre, never being afraid to make any throw or attempt any play. Johnny has the improvisational skills of both Favre and Tarkenton, being able to make something out of nothing while throwing off of his back foot and fighting off a 300 lbs Nose Guard. He also has the swagger and confidence as only Ken Stabler has previously shown in the NFL.
  I would love to see Johnny go to the Jaguars at 3 and give them something to be excited about in Jacksonville. My ideal draft scenario would be for Houston to take either Bortles or Jadeveon Clowney, Cleveland to take Jake Matthews and give Brian Hoyer the chance to start, and for Manziel to land in Jacksonville. This would give Gus Bradley similar offensive pieces to what he had in Seattle, to go along with his rebuilt defense. Ultimately, I believe Manziel should be the number one overall pick, but I hope he falls to Jacksonville.

Friday, March 21, 2014

On John Idzik and The Jets Playoff Hopes

We all heard the talk prior to last season about Rex Ryan being a lame duck coach with, what many considered, the most dysfunctional and undisciplined team in the NFL. Despite all of this talk, the Jets still won 8 games last year. They were able to win largely because of the strength of Sexy Rexy's defense.  The fact is that no matter what pieces he has on defense, Rex's defensive players always give 110% for him because he is just the kind of coach that gets that extra 10% out of his players. The biggest weakness for the Jets is their offense, it has been ever since Mark Sanchez inexplicably turned into a turnover machine in his third year. Jets GM John Idzik's "controversial" idea to not try and win the NFL's version of March Madness will only help the Jets in the long run. The methodical approach Idzik has taken to free agency also gives the Jets a very good chance to have short term success as well. Idzik's moves put them in position to win 10 games this year, and possibly even compete for a wild card berth. With the late breaking news of Michael Vick's decision to sign with the Jets, it's suddenly very believable that the Jets could be a 10 win team. Even if Vick misses half the season he should still be good for at least 4 wins by himself; throw in the Jets' defense and the they don't look half bad as a dark horse candidate for the playoffs. Reports are the Jets are not done with big moves on offense, with a lot of people believing they will end up being the landing spot for Desean Jackson. Desean Jackson would give Vick a receiver he is familiar throwing to, and give the Jets a strong compliment to Eric Decker and Stephen Hill. Vick and Desean also both have experience in Marty Monhinweg's offense, and with two very underrated receivers in Stephen Hill and Eric Decker this group could be very hard to defend. Don't sleep on the Jets Tight End Jeff Cumberland either, he has shown flashes of great potential when healthy. Even without Desean Jackson the Jets have enough firepower in the passing game to keep defenses honest while pounding them into the dirt with Bilal Powell and Chris Ivory. I honestly believe the Jets are making the kind of moves to put them in direct competition with the Patriots, and right now they are leaps and bounds ahead of the Bills and Dolphins in the AFC East. The big concern on defense is their lack of big name corners, but I really don't see that as a problem. They have Dee Milliner, who has all of the talent to succeed and a year of NFL experience under his belt, and as I said I trust Rex to get every ounce of production possible out his defense; that goes double for his defensive backs. Going forward, the Jets are my dark horse playoff pick for this upcoming season, and I cannot wait to see what Idzik does in the draft this year.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Free Agency Week 1

One week into Free Agency there have been many big moves, both by contenders and by teams trying to become contenders. One of the trends I noticed was the sheer amount of small moves teams were making from the start. Every year teams seem to get more savvy, going after unheralded role players, rather than the big name free agents who are looking for their retirement fund. Some teams have fully rebuilt aspects of their team (such as Oakland) while others have added one or two key pieces in the hopes of dethroning the Seahawks (such as Denver).

Here are what I consider the three best moves made in week 1 of free agency.
New Orleans Free Safety Shuffle
      Somehow, despite having no cap room to speak of, having to cut many veterans, and having a Tight End looking for a big pay day, the Saints were able to sign one of the best free agents on the market. The Saints were able to sign Free Safety Jarius Byrd from Buffalo on the first day of free agency; this was clearly their plan all along as they allowed Malcolm Jenkins to walk and sign with the Eagles without so much as offering him lip service, much less a contract. Adding Byrd will give Rob Ryan the freedom to let Kenny Vaccaro run wild even more on defense, while using Byrd as a deep safety in the middle of the field. Byrd's propensity for creating turnovers will go a long way towards helping the Saints improve upon their 19 takeaways from a year ago. (16th in the NFL).

Denver goes "All In"
      Ever since the Fax fiasco of last year, the Broncos have been looking for a way to replace Elvis Dumervil. Despite Shawn Phillips having a good year, he was not quite the dynamic playmaker they were looking for. Phillips' free agency combined with Von Miller having a lackluster performance of only 5 sack s during an injury plagued year, lead the Broncos into the move of improving their pass rush. Luckily for them Jerry Jones decided to actually try and manage the cap this year, unfortunately for Cowboys fans Jerry's idea of cap management was cutting DeMarcus Ware. However the Cowboys loss was the Broncos gain, delivering them an excellent Defensive End in the form of the 10 year vet from Troy. The Broncos also signed TJ Ward on day 1 of free agency. TJ is an unheralded Strong Safety who has spent his first 4 years in exile in Cleveland. Despite his relative anonymity Ward is a huge improvement to the Broncos secondary, and I predict he will be a household name by this time next year. The Broncos then made the move that kicked off an arms race with the Patriots. This move of course was the signing of free agent Cornerback Aqib Talib. Aqib Talib gives them a shut down corner to replace Dominique Rodgers Cromartie who is likely to be lost in free agency. The Talib signing also helps them by stealing an excellent player away from the Patriots.

Arms Race
      After losing Aqib Talib to Denver, the Patriots made a big splash of their own by signing Darrelle Revis after he was cut by the Buccaneers for cap reasons. This is an overall upgrade for the Patriots, as Darrelle Revis is still one of the best Corner's in the NFL. They weren't done yet however, in a move that I can only take as a move to keep up with Denver, the Patriots also signed former Seattle Seahawks pothead/ Cornerback Brandon Browner, who if he can stay off the weed, is one of the best Corners in the NFL. He will have to miss the first 4 games of next season, but with talent like his, he is well worth the risk. The only problem I have with either of these signings is that Revis can walk after this season, as he was only signed to a 1 year deal.

Honorable Mentions

Oakland helped to solidify their defense by signing LaMarr Woodley and Justin Tuck to add some extra oomph to their 18th ranked pass rush (44 sacks). They also were able to re-sign Darren McFadden to a one year deal, putting him in a boom or bust contract year. I believe they should add another Running Back to their roster as insurance should McFadden get injured and have to miss any time.

The New York Jets added Eric Decker, giving them the closest thing they've had in a while to a number 1 wide receiver. There are also reports that Maurice Jones-Drew and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Aside from the revenue boost the company that sells Nike the letters for their jerseys will get, both of these would be very good moves by Gang Green. The three headed monster of MJD, Bilal Bowell, and Chris Ivory could be a truly formidable force behind Nick Mangold and D'Brickashaw Ferguson's blocking. An improved run game would also give Geno Smith his best shot to develop as a pro Quarterback. DRC is merely a replacement for Antonio Cromartie, and as replacements go is a pretty good one. I don't consider DRC to be an upgrade or step back of any notable amount and should be able to lock down an opponents number 1 Wide Receiver just as well as Cromartie could.

Finally the Jacksonville Jaguars have added the 2012 Seahawks Defensive End tandem of Chris Clemons and Red Bryant. These two are clear improvements over Jason Babin and Tyson Alualu and are perfect fits for Gus Bradley's defense. As Bradley coached both of them just 1 season ago, they will come in on even footing with Jaguars players who will be in their second year under Bradley. The Jaguars also added Toby Gerhart from the Vikings, giving them a young running back with a lot of potential and very little tread off the tires. Gerhart should be able to replace Maurice Jones-Drew as the Jaguars new feature back.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

NFL Predictions

Here are my annual predictions for the start of the NFL Regular Season.

1. Kenny Vaccaro will win the Defensive Rookie of The Year award.
Looking at the Pre-Season Vaccaro really impressed me with his tenacity and nose for the ball. His knowledge of the Game and his good instincts are what really set him apart from the rest of the rookie defenders out there. While there are some really good athletes in this draft, Vaccaro seems like the player who knows what he is doing the most. Defenders who were taken at the top of the draft like Dion Jordan and Ziggy Ansah are very raw as football players. Even Dee M illiner, who by all accounts is a very polished corner back, doesn't have the type of instincts Vaccaro does. He Is not the ridiculous physical freak that some defenders are, but he has the kind of instincts it takes to be an elite defensive back, and because of this will be the defensive rookie of the year.

2. The New Orleans Saints Defense will finish in the top 10 in points allowed and in turnovers this season
With Rob Ryan's aggressive and bloodthirsty 34 defense in place the Saints are primed to have the kind of success they had in 2009 when they won the super bowl. Despite the loss of Will Smith for the season (which I do not believe to be that big of a blow) The Saints have some really good players on defense. They have a stud defensive end in Cameron Jordan and a very good run stopping defensive end in Akiem Hicks. Along with two promising rookies (John Jenkins and Kenny vaccaro) the saints also have yound outside linebackers junior gallete and martez wilson. With a rebuilt secondary and a retooled defense, the saints should be able to make the plays they couldn't last year and finish the year as a top 10 defense in terms of turnovers and points


3. The Colts will beat the 49ers in The New Meadowlands and win super bowl XLVIII.

Division Winners NFC
NFC South: New Orleans Saints 2nd seed
NFC East: Washington Redskins 4th seed
NFC WEST: San Fransisco 49ers 1st seed
NFC North: Green Bay Packers 3rd seed
Wildcard Teams NFC
Atlanta Falcons 5th seed
Seattle Seahawks 6th Seed

Division Winners AFC
AFC South: Indianapolis Colts 2nd seed
AFC East: New England Patriots 3rd seed
AFC West: Denver Broncos 1st seed
AFC North: Cincinnati Bengals 4th seed

Wildcard Teams AFC
Houston Texans 5th seed
Baltimore Ravens 6th seed

NFC Playoff Bracket

Atlanta @Washington -------> Washington @New Orleans
Winner: Washington winner: New Orleans
Seattle @Green Bay -----------> Seattle @San Francisco
Winner: Seattle Winner: San Francisco

NFC Championship game
New Orleans @San Francisco
Winner: San Francisco
AFC Playoff Bracket

Baltimore @New England-------------> New England @Indianapolis
Winner: New England Winner: Indianapolis
Houston @ Cincinnati-----------------> Cincinnati @Denver
Winner: Cincinnati Winner: Denver

AFC CHAmpionship
Indianapolis @Denver
Winner: Indianapolis

Super Bowl
Indianapolis Colts VS San Francisco 49ers
Winner: Colts
After a regular season in which Andrew Luck and the colts come up just short to Peyton Manning and the Broncos, getting the number 2 seed, the Colts come out swinging by sending the Patriots home in the divisional round. This leads to a showdown in which Luck  defeats Peyton Manning and goes, doing in his second year what Peyton Manning couldn't do until his seventh Season. They go on to face the 49ers, who just edge out the Saints in the NFC Championship to make it to the Super Bowl. Despite a strong showing by Colin Kaepernick and an M V P worthy performance by Anquan Boldin Luck manages to pull the game out on a last second touchdown to win the game 27-24.