Sunday, August 24, 2014

St. Louis Rams QB situation

After the breaking news that Sam Bradford has torn the ACL in his left knee for a second consecutive year the Rams have to be wondering who their QB will be this year. On the current roster they have Shaun Hill and Austin Davis, a smart career backup and a young gunslinger. Of course there will be the people calling for Tim Tebow or Jamarcus Russell or <insert Quarterback who wasn't given a "fair chance" here>., but to me there are only three realistic options at QB. The three options that make the most sense for the Rams are; Shaun Hill, Austin Davis, or trading for Mark Sanchez.

 If the Rams choose to roll with Shaun Hill I think they will probably be mediocre at best, much as Shaun Hill is. He has never been a great QB, but he is a savvy veteran and knows what to do and how to run an offense. To me, Shaun Hill is a spare tire, he'll get you through a rough patch, but you're not going to go very far with him. He has all of the knowledge and experience in the world, but not the ability needed to be a good QB. Ultimately Shaun Hill is the most likely option, at least to start the season, but is not necessarily the best option.

 On the flip side they could allow the job to go to Austin Davis, the young gunslinger out of Southern Mississippi. Much like his fellow Golden Eagle alum Brett Favre, Austin Davis is always exciting. Every time I've watched this kid play I'm impressed. He has all of the tools needed to run the West Coast offense, and ever since college has known how to take what the defense gives and progress through his reads. There were questions of arm strength when he came into the league, but I've never seen any issue with zip or power on the ball from him. He is deceptively athletic, able to move in the pocket and run when needed. I doubt he will be named the starter, at least not to begin the season, but he would certainly be a boom or bust type of pick and would be fun to watch.

 And last but not least, they could trade for a QB from another team. In my mind, and in the mind of others as well, the most likely candidate for a trade would be Mark "Butt Fumble" Sanchez. Despite all of the criticism that Sanchez has been subject to over the last few years, he has looked great with the Eagles this pre-season (25/31 [80.6% Completion Percentage] for 281 yards with 2 TD, and only 1 INT, a 112.5 QB rating). The connection with Rams OC Brian Schottenheimer (Sanchez's former OC in New York) is there as well, with Jeff Fisher even admitting they had interest in signing Sanchez in the off season. I'm not sure if this could actually happen, but I think it would probably be the best option for the Rams going forward. Before all of the Tim Tebow drama in New York, Sanchez went to two straight AFC Championship games, and was steadily improving as a QB. I hope the Rams go this direction, as I would personally love to see Mark Sanchez become a successful NFL QB again.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Pre Season Standouts

 After the first two weeks of the Pre Season there are a few players who have stood out to me. Although I haven't watched as many pre-season games as I would like, in the games I did see these 8 players really showed off their potential; especially considering a lot of these are young or unproven players.

1. Mark Ingram
 Starting off with a player who I had mostly written off after his first two years in the league, Mark Ingram started showing what he could do last season. Even with some strong showings last season, I was still looking to Khiry Robinson to be the Saints next feature back. 2 Games into the preseason and Mark Ingram has 13 carries for 102 yards, with a rushing TD as well as 2 catches for 28 yards and a TD. That leaves him averaging almost 10 yards a carry, with Ingram running hard and breaking tackles everytime he touches the ball. He has also developed his pass blocking and receiving abilities, making him a viable three down back for the first time since being drafted.

2. Zach Mettenberger
 Mettenberger looked very sharp in the game against the Saints, making consistently good throws, albeit with one mistake on an interception by Saints Safety Vinny Sunseri. He went 20 of 25 for 269 yards and 2 TDs, playing well over nearly three quarters of the game. Mettenberger looked like a seasoned vet once he came into the game for the injured Charlie Whitehurst in the second quarter. After what I've seen, there is no reason why Mettenberger shouldn't win the number two job in Tennessee.

3. New England Patriots Backup Quarterbacks
  While many people were questioning Ryan Mallet after his poor performance in the Pats first pre season game he came back strong in their second game. Meanwhile Jimmy Garappolo carried the momentum from his first game into this one. While Mallet has had buzz around him for awhile, Garoppolo has looked great, especially considering he is a rookie. If the Patriots are smart they should trade Mallet first chance they get and roll with Garoppolo as Tom Brady's backup.

4. Jacksonville Jaguar Quarterbacks
  Both Chad Henne and Blake Bortles have looked solid so far this preseason, neither of them are the flashiest Quarterback in the league, but they can get the job done. They both have shown good decision making, good accuracy, and pocket awareness. Despite what a lot of people are saying, I'd still start Chad Henne at the beginning of the year. This is because there hasn't been much separation between the two so far and Henne has the benefit of experience. The determining factor in this Quarterback battle will be seeing how Bortles handles playing with the first team this week against the Lions.

5. New Orleans Saints Tight Ends
 Everyone expected Jimmy Graham to look impressive as a receiver, but I didn't expect to see him developed as a blocker. He made some really good blocks in the run game against the Rams, springing Mark Ingram for a couple of big runs. Jimmy Graham isn't the only Saints Tight End to look impressive so far however, Josh Hill has also shown off his skills as a receiver. Through two games Josh Hill has made 4 catches for 80 yards, showing off great athletic ability on a 46 yard catch against the Rams. Josh Hill has speed and size comparable to Jimmy Graham, and can make plays everytime he touches the ball. I would not be surprised to see Josh Hill pass up Benjamin Watson as the Saints second Tight End.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Brandin Cooks

I'll admit it, Much like Kenny Vaccaro last year, I had no clue as to who the guy the New Orleans Saints took in the first round of the draft was. In all of my pre draft analysis this year I never saw or heard much about Brandin Cooks. It turned out, that much like with Vaccaro, I was one of the only people who had not heard of him. This was obviously because of his very promising college career and strong showing at the combine. He ran the second fastest 40 Time at the combine and in college showed time and again his ability to make a guy miss in space. Still, even with so much going for him, a lot of the "experts" said the Saints still took him much earlier than he should have been.

Nonetheless, thus far in training camp Brandin Cooks has shown the kind of potential that made him a first round pick. He has been the star of Saints camp, showing everything the Saints hoped to see and more. On top of his speed, hands, and ability to learn quickly Cooks has also shown surprising jumping ability for a 5'10'' Wide Receiver. In a play earlier this week Cooks out jumped a cornerback and managed to come down with the ball, quite a feat considering his height was one of the biggest concerns with him.

Cooks is a very versatile player that I can see being moved around the field, causing many matchup problems for the defense. He can play like a Lance Moore or Wes Welker in the slot, causing issues for slower Safeties and Nickel Corners. Or Cooks can play like Darren Sproles and line up as a Wing or in the Backfield, putting immense pressure on Linebackers or Strong Safeties trying to cover him. Or he can play on the outside to try and stretch Zone coverage and take the top off of the defense. Cooks is the kind of player who can make plays both as a receiver and as a runner on sweeps and check down passes. He is a very unique player who shows the speed, versatility, and athleticism to make plays whenever he has the ball, adding a dynamic element to the Saints already potent offense and making them even more of a nightmare for defenses to face this year.
 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

AFC South Quarterbacks

 When I read that Bill O'Brien had named Ryan Fitzpatrick the starting quarterback for the Texans I couldn't help but have a smile on my face. Fitz has always been one of my favorite quarterbacks, one of those throwback gunslinger types. The only problem I ever saw with Fitz was his tendency to sometimes make bad decisions at inopportune moments, when he was in Buffalo. Fitz actually reminds of Tony Romo a lot. Both in his ability to make plays with his mobility and strong arm, but also to ultimately make the fatal mistakes that lose games. If Bill O'Brien is praising Fitz for his accuracy and naming him as the starter then he must believe in him, and I for one am willing to defer to the noted "QB" guru on this one. Hopefully O'Brien can do the same thing for Fitz that Jim Harbaugh did for Alex Smith, and turn him into a star QB.

 Moving on to the Jaguars we have a very interesting situation with a 3rd overall pick who is apparently not going to start. With Gus Bradley going out of his way to state that Chad Henne will be the starter at least at the beginning of the season, the Jags have a very old school dynamic going on. Think about it, when was the last time you heard about a high pick rookie QB having to come in and earn his job? I love the way Gus is handling this situation, much like every situation since coming to Jacksonville. In an ideal world Chad Henne will play well enough for the defense and Toby Gerhart to carry the team to a decent record (4-4 or 5-3) and then be able to turn the reins over to Blake Bortles and keep the ball rolling all the way into the playoffs.

 Jake Locker, that is all. At this point what else needs to be said? You probably either think the kid is the savior of the Titans or another draft dud. Locker has the same kind of opinions about him that Ryan Tannehill has in Miami. I tend to be in the second camp, I really don't see much with Locker, he seems like an athlete with a good arm but I haven't seen him really do anything spectacular. If he had a proven QB guru coaching him I think he could be great, but he seems really raw to me and I'm not sure if Tennessee is the right spot for him.

 Alright, so I'll admit it, I was wrong. When Luck and RGIII came into the draft I was the biggest RGIII supporter and was sure he'd be better than Luck. And while I have a lot of confidence in RGIII and the Redskins new coaching staff, I have a very bold (perhaps foolish) prediction for Andrew Luck. Next season, Andrew Luck will be the best QB in the NFL. I think he will be in the top three in yards and TDs, and be either first or second in QBR. Whether he wins MVP or not I don't know, but he will be recognized by the media as one of the top QBs in the game with similar reverence as Aaron Rodgers. Luck's ability as a passer and a leader is well known and right up there with the Brady, Manning, and Brees' of the league, but perhaps the thing that sets him apart is his athletic ability. Depsite being the "pro-style" QB in the draft, Luck had the same 40 time as Cam Newton and has shown the ability and willingness to run with the ball when necessary

(Case in point, his Tim Tebow/Brett Favre impersonation from the playoff game against KC)
All in all the AFC South has some interesting QBs, from the superstars to the super raw. It will be fun to see how Blake Bortles and Jake Locker turn out, and Fitz will be very fascinating to watch. But, at the end of the day the Colts clearly have the best QB in the division, and are the team to beat in the AFC South. The real question is which one of the other three teams have the best shot to make the playoffs as a wild card team.