Ezekiel Elliott will get away with his off the field antics as long as he is able to produce on the football field:

Photo credit: Ezra Shaw / Getty Images Sport

Author: jon Kuzma

Ezekiel Elliott has had a hell of a run just one year into his professional football career. Elliott led the entire NFL with 1,631 rushing yards and capped off his season by leading the Dallas Cowboys back to the playoffs. It’s no secret Elliott was the catalyst to the Cowboys success in 2016 and that’s why as long as Elliott produces he will have free range to live it up off the field. Elliott is facing scrutiny from many NFL insiders for pulling a girl’s top down during a parade. While many have suggested that the league might come down on Elliott for performing the act, don’t expect that to happen. Ezekiel Elliott is one of the brightest young stars in the National Football League and he is carrying the NFL brand like a torch. The last thing the National Football League wants to do is turn Ezekiel Elliott into a negative character because Elliott is crucial to the NFL’s marketing and because Elliott’s story will sell greatly for the league. The NFL has a lot of good momentum because of young stars like Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott. Therefore Roger Goodell will deal with Ezekiel Elliott in house and don’t expect to hear much about it publicly. Elliott knows as long as he comes out and puts up record breaking numbers, he will get a little bit of leniency as far as his ethics and morals go. The question for Ezekiell Elliott is whether or not he reels himself in before he does something that he regrets? It’s alright to live it up to the fullest and this league has seen plenty of players do so. Broadway Joe Namath owned a night club and sparred with the league on a number of occasions. Ultimately though you have to understand that playing in the National Football League is one of the greatest gifts in the world. It’s alright to have a life outside of football but you have to be careful about the decisions that you make. Ezekiel Elliott is a great player and we all love his game. To be honest he seems like a cool person too but you have keep in everything in perspective and truthfully you have to lay low in today’s era. The media will tear you apart the first chance that they get and it’s not worth the risk if you’re a pro athlete.

Charity of the day: One Acre Fund

Go donate! www.oneacrefund.org

NFL owners have no loyalty for the cities that support their teams:

Photo credit: Thomas B. Shea / Getty Images Sport

Author: Jon Kuzma

With news breaking out of California that the Raiders are officially leaving Oakland for Nevada, one has to wonder if NFL owners have any loyalty for the cities that support their teams? In the last three years we have seen the Raiders, Chargers, and Rams all skip town on cities that have hosted their football teams for decades. While the Raiders won’t officially leave Oakland until 2020 this is still a brutal move for the black hole fans who showed up every Sunday to support their team. One has to believe that all of these teams who choose to relocate are leaving a bad taste in fans mouth’s and the NFL has to be careful about allowing relocations to happen. Three relocations in three years is already too much movement happening and it’s hard to rebuild that trust once the bridges are burned relationship wise. This is the second time that the Raiders are bailing on Oakland (they also left the city in 1982) and it’s hard to believe the silver and black will ever make it back to the Bay Area. Nevada has never had a pro football franchise (the XFL doesn’t count) and that excitement will drive plenty of sales and hype around the brand itself. That means the Raiders will be in Vegas for the foreseeable future or at least until a better offer presents itself. The really scary thing is the precedent all of this relocating sets for the other teams in the league. Suddenly every single city is at risk of losing their team especially if the finances aren’t there. Could you imagine the Bills or the Bengals skipping town on Buffalo and Cincinnati because both locations present a challenge as far as recruiting talent and turning profits goes? It’s very possible with all the changes Roger Goodell has allowed but one owner is taking a stand against the NFL’s latest changes. Miami Dolphins Owner Stephen Ross has taken action to keep the Dolphins in Miami for the next 30 years. Ross has used over $500 million in private funds to revamp the Dolphins stadium and Ross has also expressed concerns over allowing too many teams to move. So with all the teams that are leaving for greener pastures it’s good to see the Dolphins doing everything they can to oppose the disloyalty these NFL owners have shown. Someone needs to hold them accountable and clearly Roger Goodell won’t.

Charity of the day: One Acre Fund

Go donate! www.oneacrefund.org

What are the odds Brock Osweiler will be the Browns starting quarterback when the regular season rolls around?

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Author: Jon Kuzma

The Cleveland Browns were expected to release Brock Osweiler after trading for the 26 year old quarterback earlier this month. Apparently the Browns traded for Osweiler just to acquire the 2nd round draft pick, and 6th round draft pick that were also part of that deal. The Browns are rumored to be shopping Osweiler for a 3rd round draft pick but so far no deal has materialized for the quarterback. The Browns announced as soon as they acquired Brock Osweiler that several teams were interested in his services. That could have been Cleveland trying to drive the price up for Osweiler because we haven’t heard any news of what will happen with the former Texans quarterback. In fact today Browns Head Coach Hue Jackson went in the completely opposite direction and stated that the Browns will treat Osweiler like all the other quarterbacks on the roster. Jackson then elaborated stating Osweiler “will have a chance to compete”, which essentially means Brock Osweiler is officially in the running for the Browns starting quarterback job in 2017. Now most football fans are going to anticipate Osweiler performing poorly like he did in Houston. However sometimes failure can be the beginning of success, and you know that terrible season isn’t sitting well with Osweiler. Right now Brock Osweiler has all the motivation in the world to come out and prove everybody wrong. That will definitely benefit the 6 foot 7 signal caller but he also has to improve in other areas as well. Osweiler struggled with his decision making in his first full season as a starter. That has to improve and Osweiler should also work on his mechanics a little bit. If Osweiler can work with a quarterback coach and make his throws more fluent that should also help him deliver the football. The final step for Brock Osweiler should be getting in the best shape of his life. Too many times quarterbacks focus solely on getting their arm in shape and neglect to improve their overall athleticism. If Brock Osweiler can get his body in peak physical shape that will help him stay health and it will also help him build some confidence too. That’s the formula for Brock Osweiler and we will see if he can beat out Cody Kessler and Kevin Hogan the two other quarterbacks on Cleveland’s roster. Out of those three guys believe or not Brock Osweiler is the most polished.

Charity of the day: Parkinson’s Disease Foundation

Go donate! www.pdf.org

Waiting Game: The best free agents that are still available

Photo credit: Jonathan Daniel / Getty Images Sport

Author: Jon Kuzma

With the NFL Draft quickly approaching it’s time to look in the rear view and see which NFL free agents are still available on the market. It’s no secret that there are several quality NFL players who still remain unsigned most notably Adrian Peterson, Tony Romo, Jay Cutler, and Colin Kaepernick. With that being said it’s pretty clear that several quality NFL quarterbacks could enter training camp without a gig but that should change as time moves forward. Every season injuries pile up and quarterback depth becomes scarce, that means teams will eventually look to sign these players to give their team a better chance to succeed. If you have to start a 3rd string quarterback or you could bring in Jay Cutler, truthfully it’s a no brainer you want Cutler leading your team. So expect the team’s struggling with quarterback play to examine all options when it comes to signing players. Even Johnny Manziel has garnered some interest from the New Orleans Saints so you have to expect that the other players will find a job at some point too. If there is any players out of the 4 guys mentioned above that could be passed over it might be Adrian Peterson and Tony Romo. Romo is being recruited by CBS to join the sports media world, that could eventually lead Tony Romo to hang it up. Especially since he has struggled with so many injuries over the course of his career. Peterson has also struggled recently with injuries and that could cause Peterson to walk away from pro football. There have been rumors that the Raiders will reach out to Adrian Peterson but so far no deal has materialized. Believe it or not Colin Kaepernick has a decent shot at getting signed because he threw for 16 touchdowns and only 4 interceptions last season. If it wasn’t for Kaepernick’s political stances he would already have a job but that’s the risk you take when you choose to be outspoken in the National Football League. As far as Cutler goes, you have to anticipate that some team will reach out to the 33 year old quarterback. The Houston Texans would get a huge lift from Cutler compared to the output they got from Brock Osweiler last season. Regardless though team’s are still reluctant to sign Cutler because he lacks toughness. You have to have grit in order to play in the NFL and Cutler’s durability and mental resilience have been questioned at times. When it all comes down to it though, eventually these players will have a real shot an NFL roster. They all have a solid track record in this league and that won’t be forgotten. It will just come on the team’s terms and when they have a need that needs to be fulfilled. It’s part of the business and inferior players go through the same challenge all the time. It’s just rare that you see marquee players going through that same process like we have this off-season.

Charity of the day: Parkinson’s Disease Foundation

Go donate! www.pdf.org

It’s safe to say that Sterling Shepard was an impact rookie:

Photo credit: Jonathan Daniel / Getty Images Sport

Author: Jon Kuzma

The New York Giants knew they were getting a good player when they drafted Sterling Shepard in the 2nd round of the 2016 NFL Draft. However it’s easy to believe that Shepard still outperformed the Giants expectations. While Shepard failed to record 1,000 yards receiving which is the standard of a quality NFL receiver. Shepard still managed to haul in 8 touchdown receptions, that stat alone is impressive as a rookie and now Shepard has a chance to improve on both totals in his 2nd NFL season. The Giants recently acquired Brandon Marshall so that will add more depth to New York’s receivers. The result could be a much more potent overall offense or Marshall could take away receptions from Shepard. It will be interesting to see how that dynamic works out but regardless you have to applaud Jerry Reese for putting together an elite roster. Reese knew he had to load up on weapons for Eli Manning and he landed a quality player when he drafted Sterling Shepard. Clearly Reese can identify talent and Shepard was another prime example of this. We haven’t even talked about Odell Beckham and the impact he has had on this offense, so it’s easy to see that the Giants are looking better than they have in a long time. Expect to see Shepard, Beckham, and Marshall terrorizing NFL defense in 2017 and it’s going to take a talented secondary to limit that group’s production. The Giants are going to be extremely competitive out of spread formations and now it will be up to the lineman and pass protection to hold up. If the Giants can block and they can compliment that with a decent running game, they will be one of the top teams in the NFC. It already feels like they are a better team than a season ago and it’s because of players like Sterling Shepard who came in and outperformed expectations. The Giants have players like that on both sides of the ball right now.

Charity of the day: Diabetes Research Institute Foundation

Go donate! www.diabetesresearch.org

Don’t believe Dave Gettleman’s smoke and mirrors:

Photo credit: George Gojkovich / Getty Images Sport

Author: Jon Kuzma

Carolina Panthers General Manager Dave Gettleman is trying to convince Panthers fans that trading Kony Ealy to move up just 8 spots in the draft was a good move. While it’s clear to see what Gettleman’s long term plan is, which is to cut down on salary cap and put himself in a better position draft wise. Gettleman is still acting as a snake oil salesman and trying to pull the sheet over our eyes a little bit. Gettleman let Josh Norman walk last season which was a salary cap move, and now Ealy slips away to New England (via Gettleman trade to the Patriots). That Ealy move only saved the Panthers less than $1 million dollars on the cap and it shipped a player who has had 10 sacks over the last 2 seasons out the door. In return the Panthers will only get a slightly better position in the draft and it’s getting to the point where Gettleman is running key pieces out of town. Gettleman has somewhat put the Panthers in a better position for the future (cap lowered) but not enough to cover up the letdowns he has had by depleting this roster of talent. Trading Kony Ealy to move up 8 spots in the draft is a failure on the Panthers behalf and don’t let anyone else tell you differently. Carolina could have used Josh Norman last season and they will undoubtedly miss Kony Ealy in 2017. Carolina hasn’t done enough to get better this off-season like the other teams in the league have either. That means the Panthers will most likely fall behind and it could be some time before we see Carolina playing winning football. The only chance Carolina has would be Cam Netwon having a career year, last we’ve heard from Newton though he is recovering from shoulder surgery. Dave Gettleman is going to regret not being more active in free agency, he is going to regret letting so many good players walk, and eventually he is going to kill Cam Newton’s energy. Signing an aging Julius Peppers isn’t enough to turn this team into a contender and Gettleman’s leash is going to be extremely short in 2017. Dave Gettleman needs to get some good momentum on his side soon because he has lost a step over the last 2 seasons.

Charity of the day: Diabetes Research Institute Foundation

Go donate! www.diabetesresearch.org

In 5 pro seasons Lavonte David has recorded 664 career tackles:

Photo credit: Joe Robbins / Getty Images Sport

Author: Jon Kuzma

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are known for Jameis Winston and Mike Evans but Lavonte David deserves all the credit in the world for his contributions to the team. Lavonte David has been sensational since entering the league back in 2012 and he has 664 career tackles. Playing the outside linebacker position David has exceptional instincts and flows laterally so well. That allows David to cover all 53.3 yards of the football field width wise. Which is the main area where linebackers are asked to scrape and make plays. When you also factor in that Lavonte David has great pursuit angles you begin to understand why he has been able to average 132 tackles per season. Stop and think about that for a second, if a player records 100 tackles in a season that is a great year for that player. David has averaged 132 tackles a year which pretty much means this guy is all over the place. If the Bucs want to improve their circumstances they need to bring in some guys that can mesh well with Lavonte David on the defensive side of the ball and expect that to happen through the draft. Tampa Bay signed Desean Jackson to sure up the offense, now expect the Bucs to go defense in the 1st round of the draft. Tampa Bay has a trio of good defensive ends that can get the job done in Robert Ayers, Noah Spence, and William Golston. They really need an interior defensive lineman that they can plug in next to Gerald McCoy (Which would also keep offensive lineman off Lavonte David). That would take this defense to new heights and a player like Caleb Brantley could be the answer. Brantley would add some interior pressure and definitely would help the Buccaneers sack more quarterbacks in 2017. Another possible option could be to draft Adoree Jackson or Jabrill Peppers. Adoree Jackson would eventually replace the aging Brent Grimes who is 33 right now. Jackson and Vernon Hargreaves would be one of the top young cornerback tandems in the entire NFL. Which would solidify the Buccaneers secondary for years to come. The last option should be to draft Jabrill Peppers. It would be a risk because Peppers is going through a position change but keep in mind his combine results jump out at you. Peppers is easily one of the best athletes in the entire draft and he could immediately be an impact player at the safety position. Those three options are the best choices for Tampa Bay in the 1st round and it will be interesting to see the choices this team makes come draft day? Any one of those three players will also make life on Lavonte David much easier and it will give the Bucs defense the chance to close out football games this upcoming season.

Charity of the day: First Candle

Go donate! www.firstcandle.org

The Carolina Panthers knew it was a no brainer to pick up Kelvin Benjamin’s 5th year option:

Photo credit: Grant Halverson / Getty Images Sport

Author: Jon Kuzma

The Carolina Panthers liked what they seen out of Kelvin Benjamin last season and now the Carolina Panthers are picking up Benjamin’s 5th year option. Benjamin was excellent as a rookie wide receiver hauling in 1,008 yards and 9 touchdowns. However Benjamin tore his ACL in 2015 and missed the whole entire season. That led to this past season where Benjamin recorded 941 receiving yards and 7 touchdowns which is a pretty outstanding season considering Benjamin was still recovering from surgery. Some athletes can bounce back faster than others from that type or procedure and don’t let anyone tell you different Benjamin was terrific last season. Most guys in the league will never have a year like that healthy, let alone coming back from an ACL tear. That’s why the Panthers knew it was an easy decision to pick up Benjamin’s option and now Cam Newton will have his top receiver in the mix for at least 2 more seasons. Benjamin is a 6 foot 5 243 pound football catching machine and he maneuvers so well despite being such a big guy. That instantly creates a match up problem against the often under size defensive backs that Benjamin faces and now the Panthers are rewarding their number 1 receiver with an $8 million dollar contract for the 2018 season. Benjamin will make slightly under $2.5 million dollars in 2017 so it was a good move to get him that pay raise in 2018 to keep him happy. Just 2 years removed from that knee injury now Kelvin Benjamin should be ready to flourish, and that should yield great results for the Panthers. Now the question mark is how healthy is Cam Newton going to be? Newton just underwent shoulder surgery and the Panthers are expecting him to be ready for training camp. Carolina is pressing the issue but really they need to be patient with Newton and give him all the time in the world to heal. Rushing Newton back could lead to further injury and could set Newton back even further.

Charity of the day: Trust for Public Land

Go donate! www.tpl.org

Comeback season: the Saints have expressed interest in signing Johnny Manziel

Photo credit: Peter G. Aiken / Getty Images Sport

Author: Jon Kuzma

New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton and Johnny Manziel had breakfast last month to discuss Manziel potentially joining the Saints. Manziel who has been out of the National Football League for one season seems to be getting his life together, Manziel recently got engaged and has been focused on making it back to pro football. That change in mindset should suit Manziel well because one year ago he seemed to completely unravel and his lifestyle clearly got the best of him. The stability Manziel has in his life now will certainly benefit him as far as the human spirit goes and hopefully that will lead Johnny Football back to the gridiron. Johnny Manziel has thrown for 1,675 passing yards and 7 touchdowns over the course of 2 year NFL career. Manziel has never suited up for all 16 games and that will be the first step he needs to take if he does land a contract with New Orleans. The Saints have Drew Brees who will serve as a great mentor for Manziel as well, so the situation could be a great fit for the former Texas A and M quarterback. Look, at one point Johnny Manziel took the world by storm with his electrifying style of play and extreme elusiveness. If athletically Manziel can get back to that top form, that would give him the best chance at success and from there it’s taking it day by day. Repetition will help mold Manziel into an NFL quarterback and that’s why it’s imperative that he keeps his hands clean and dedicates himself to being a professional. We’ve seen cases in the past in this league where both the starting quarterback and back up quarterback get hurt. In those circumstances Johnny Manziel could be back on the field quickly and he has to be a competent quarterback when he does get that chance. It takes commitment, focus, and sheer will to be a productive signal caller so we will see if the Saints give him a chance and we will if Manziel makes the most of that opportunity?

Charity of the day: First Candle

Go donate! www.firstcandle.org

Will Todd Gurley be able to get back on track in 2017?

Photo credit: Harry How / Getty Images Sport

Author: Jon Kuzma

The Los Angeles Rams were a terrible football team in 2016 and that had a negative impact on Todd Gurley’s individual production. After rushing for 1,106 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns as a rookie, Gurley only rushed for 885 rushing yards and 6 touchdowns last season. That regression stats wise was due to the fact that the Rams had one of the worst offenses in all football last year and it will be interesting to see if Gurley can get back on track? The Rams signed veteran lineman Andrew Whitworth to help make life easier on Gurley but one offensive lineman isn’t going to cure all the Rams’ offensive problems. The Rams need plenty of other lineman additions to give Todd Gurley a little daylight while running the football. That means Les Snead has to work some magic when the season rolls around and for the most part the Rams general manager has struggled to do that. Los Angeles severely handcuffed their future when they traded a boatload of draft picks for Jared Goff and because of that the Rams won’t have a 1st or 3rd round draft pick in the 2017 Draft. That makes life so much more difficult for Los Angeles because as a four win football team they have a lot of holes to fill on their roster. Todd Gurley is clearly in a bad situation and it doesn’t appear to be getting better anytime soon. The only hope for Gurley is if Jared Goff takes significant steps in his second year and if Sean McVay opens up the offensive a little bit. Goff’s evolution would cause defenders to respect the pass a little bit more, which would open running lanes for Gurley. While McVay could potentially implement a scheme that could yield better results for the lackluster Los Angeles offense. If those two things happen Todd Gurley might have a shot but keep in minds it’s a long shot for LA right now. They are in very bad spot with all the bad football moves they’ve made and it’s alarming that Les Snead got to keep his job.

Charity of the day: Human Rights Watch

Go donate! www.hrw.org

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