James Conner was like a smaller version of Jerome Bettis in the Steelers 17-13 win over the Atlanta Falcons:

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Sport Author: Jon Kuzma

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Jerome Bettis was known as the bus during his playing days in the Steel City but Pittsburgh has a short bus churning for their offense these days. James Conner looked like a smaller version of Bettis and that has to excite some fans in Pennsylvania. Conner recorded 98 yards against a good Falcons defense and it’s clear the rookie running back can run downhill with a head of steam. By absorbing the initial contact and racking up yards after, Conner has shown that the physicality of the NFL is no problem for him. Typically larger running backs do better in the NFL because the amount of punishment ball carriers take is on another level in the pros. Players like Christian McCaffrey who are primarily speed guys often have a hard time running between the tackles. James Conner is the exact opposite he should thrive on inside handoffs, the question is whether or not Conner will have the speed to turn the corner against NFL starters? So far it’s easily to believe Conner can make plays against some of the best defenders in the league. The 3rd round draft pick has shown exceptional vision and does a great job of running to daylight. When you combine that with Conner’s burst it becomes obvious the Steelers have a player that can accelerate quickly and he gets a ton of momentum going. Now if there is any downside to James Conner’s game it’s the fact that he is absolutely horrendous at catching the football out of the backfield. Conner dropped 3 passes against the Falcons and looked in complete contrast of Le’Veon Bell from pass catching stand point. The Steelers have to realize that Conner is power running back and not ask him to do too much route running. That would put James Conner in a position to succeed which is exactly what you want to help a rookie do. Right now it’s all about developing the big league confidence but so far James Conner has done enough to impress NFL insiders.

Charity of the day: The YMCA

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Broncos’ defense clamps down 49ers offense, even with 6 starters on the sidelines:

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Author: Jon Kuzma

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The Denver Broncos are known for having one of the better defenses in the National Football League and the San Francisco 49ers found that out first hand. Denver had 6 starters out of their starting line up but still managed to goose egg the 49ers for the first half of action. Eventually Kyle Shanahan was able to get a touchdown in the 3rd and 4th quarter but the fact the Broncos were able to handle the Niners so easily is a testament of their defensive talent. Everyone knows Shanahan is one of the brightest offensive minds in the league but Denver is so much more superior when it comes to the overall roster talent. A lot of the Broncos number 1 guys didn’t suit up but San Francisco couldn’t find a rhythm on the ground or through the air. When Denver gets Von Miller, Derek Wolfe, and T. Ward on the field that defensive output will significantly improve, which has to be extremely frightening for NFL offensive coordinators. It’s so hard to get in a groove offensively because it takes another level of cohesion. Typically offenses take much longer to get going than a good defense, which is exactly why defense is key to success in this league. Each team has a greater chance of being a dominant defense than being a high powered powered offense, so you better make the most of that opportunity and optimize your defensive play. The Broncos have been doing that better than most teams in the league for the past couple years and now all this franchise needs it Trevor Siemian to step up and make some magic happen. Von Miller and company will keep points off the board, we all know that. It’s up to Siemian to get the guys on the offensive ball to believe in him and Denver has to get some continuity on offense. It’s the only way they will get back to Super Bowl contention.

Charity of the day: The YMCA

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Derek Carr threw a pair of touchdown passes in the Raiders preseason game against the Rams, Carr seems to be fully recovered from his leg injury:

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Sport Author: Jon Kuzma

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The Oakland Raiders 2016 season went down the drain when Derek Carr broke his fibula in a late season match up against the Indianapolis Colts. The Raiders still made the playoffs but were no match for the Houston Texans without their star quarterback. Now just eight months later Carr is back in the starting line up for Oakland and the Raiders quarterback seems to be picking up right where he left off. Derek Carr threw for two big touchdown passes against the Rams defense and Michael Crabtree was on the receiving end of one of those TDs. The other one went to Tight End Lee Smith and it’s safe to say the Raiders aerial attack was all systems go in Oakland’s second preseason game. Amari Cooper also looked good grabbing a quick 3 receptions before exiting the game in the 2nd quarter. The combination of Crabtree, Cooper, and Carr will be explosive as always and really the only concern was if Carr could hold up health wise? That didn’t seem to be a problem at all against the Rams and Derek Carr seems to be moving around well on his surgically repaired right leg. With the defensive lineman flying around from every angle in the NFL, quarterbacks need to be able to move in the pocket and extend the play. Carr didn’t have any problems stepping up on throws and as long as he doesn’t have any setbacks the Raiders should be one of the better teams in the whole AFC. It will be exciting to see the element that Marshawn Lynch brings to this team as well, Lynch could take a lot of pressure of Carr which is great news as the fourth year quarterback gets back in the swing of things. The bottom line though is Carr is back to playing at a high level and that’s what you want to see if you’re a football fan. No one wants a gifted player like Derek Carr to be sidelined with a medial issue, he means too much to the Raiders football team.

Charity of the day: Project Concern International

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Brock Osweiler is named the starting quarterback of the Browns, it seems like Cleveland got more than just a 2nd round pick in the trade with the Texans:

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Author: Jon Kuzma

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The Cleveland Browns traded absolutely nothing for Brock Osweiler and a 2nd round pick from the Houston Texans. The reason why Houston was so adamant about making the move is because they got to dump the $16 million dollars that Osweiler was owed. Looking back at that deal now it was great acquisition for Cleveland. While the Browns had to absorb the big contract that Osweiler is tied into, this team had the caps space to do so and on top of that Brock Osweiler has won the starting quarterback job. After a tough off-season of competing against DeShone Kizer and Cody Kessler Osweiler has definitely been battle tested and Hue Jackson feels like the former Broncos / Texans QB is his best chance at success. Osweiler has a huge frame standing 6 foot 7 inches and he is known for having a ton of arm strength. The 26 year old quarterback will use his prototype size and throwing abilities to lead Cleveland this upcoming season and Osweiler could help Corey Coleman and Kenny Britt elevate their game when the time comes. It’s a very real possibility that last year could have motivated Osweiler to work harder preparation wise. That’s likely a big reason why Osweiler defeated the younger QBs on the roster and won Jackson’s trust. In the NFL you have to be able to make throws that aren’t asked of you at the collegiate and high school level. Not only that but you have to be a leader and be able to command a presence in the huddle. Osweiler has been a complete professional at Browns practices and his experience in the National Football League is definitely a big reason he has gained an edge over Kizer and Kessler. The biggest challenge for Osweiler will be playing mistake free football and cutting down on turnovers. The Browns only had one win a season ago so they can’t afford to get the Brock Osweiler that showed up for the 2016 season. The Browns new quarterback must be better than he was a season ago.

Charity of the day: Opportunity International

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Blake Bortles has developed a reputation as an inconsistent quarterback, it will be hard to shake that label moving forward:

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Author: Jon Kuzma

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The Jacksonville Jaguars have a quarterback dilemma on their hands. After drafting Blake Bortles with the 3rd overall pick back in the 2014 NFL Draft, Bortles has struggled to become an effective starter in the National Football League. Bortles has a tough time putting points on the board and that was evident in the last preseason game against the Buccaneers when Jacksonville could only score eight points. Not only that but Bortles has been a turnover machine recording 51 interceptions over his first thee seasons. There’s been a lot of speculation around the Jaguars for awhile that changes could be looming and it appears Jacksonville Head Coach Doug Marrone has opened the door for a Bortles replacement. That next player inline is former University of Michigan alum Chad Henne and while Henne has been a life time back up. The veteran quarterback does take care of the football a little bit better than Bortles does. Henne was a 2nd round draft pick back in 2008 but just like Bortles now he was eventually regulated to a back up quarterback position. Chad Henne might not have the prototype physical traits that Blake Bortles has but Henne could be a little more consistent for the Jags’ offense. Jacksonville is hoping they can exchange some of the big throws they got with Bortles for a smarter QB in Henne. Not only will Marrone’s team save a lot of money with this decision but it also sets the team up for a chance to get their next franchise quarterback. If the Jaguars put together another lackluster 3 win season you better believe they will be drafting a quarterback in the 2018 Draft. That means a rookie like Josh Allen could be in the fold at the quarterback position a year from now.

Charity of the day: Opportunity International

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Trying to blitz the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is going to be nearly impossible in 2017:

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Author: Jon Kuzma

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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are loaded on the offense side of the ball and now defensive coordinators are going to have their hands full trying to prepare for the Bucs. The smart defensive minds in the league will quickly realize the only chance of hanging with Tampa Bay is to play heavy coverage based defensive plays. What that essentially means is you have to avoid blitzing Winston and the Buccaneers. When teams blitz they get an extra player or two in the pass rush but often times that means back end defenders are hung out to dry. With how fast Winston recognizes the blitz there’s no chance of going for that play because Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson will take advantage of the open field and eat team’s alive. You can’t run any cover 0 against Evans or Jackson because the defensive backs won’t have any help over top. One player isn’t strong enough to match up with either Evans or Jackson so it’s going to take a game plan of cover 3, cover 4, and cover 2 man under to even think about slowing down Winston and this offense. When you run those heavy coverage defenses you need a good rush from only four players. So the teams in the National Football League with the best front four are going to be the only teams that can contain Tampa Bay. Now if there is a weak point of the Buccaneers offense it’s the fact that they don’t have a great running game. That forces Jameis Winston to throw more frequently but to be honest this team is at their best with the ball in Winston’s hands. It would great to have a good running back that can help the Bucs be more balanced but until then expect an all out aerial attack.

Charity of the day: PKD Foundation

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The Seahawks seem to be heading in the right direction after hanging 48 points on the Chargers:

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Author: Jon Kuzma

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The Seattle Seahawks went to two consecutive Super Bowls in 2014 and 2015 but since then Seattle has regressed a little bit. While the Seahawks were still a playoff team the last two years it was clear their roster talent had taken a dive from those championship caliber teams. Well it looks like those two down years are in the rear view mirror and Seattle is primed to be a serious Super Bowl contender again in 2017. The Seahawks absolutely throttled the Los Angeles Chargers 48-17 in their first preseason game and that contest was an impressive display of how deep Pete Carroll’s team really is. Seattle’s front office completely retooled their offensive line the last few off-seasons and they also added some significant players through the draft. Those additions are clearly having positive results for the defending NFC West champs and we all know that Carroll runs a great system that thoroughly develops his guys. Essentially that means the Seahawks can bring in players and then shape them into legitimate professionals. If you don’t think that is a valuable tool to have just look around the league at other teams who are known for wasting away good players. Teams like Detroit have run great players right out of the NFL (Barry Sanders / Calvin Johnson) but that’s not the case at all in Seattle, everyone on the Seahawks roster seem to love the environment and want to get better. By building such a good culture Pete Carroll has elevated himself back to elite contender status and when you think about how hard it is to have success in this league you realize how much of an accomplishment Carroll’s run in Seattle has truly been. There’s no doubt this team will be in the playoffs when the end of the season rolls around and don’t be surprised if they represent the NFC when the Super Bowl arrives in the winter. Expectations are definitely high in the state of Washington.

Charity of the day: PKD Foundation

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In a surprising twist the Rams could end up being the better team in Los Angeles:

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Author: Jon Kuzma

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With the Chargers recently relocating to the Los Angeles area it’s been easy to wonder whether the fans in Southern California will align with the Rams (who arrived first) or jump ship to the Chargers? After the Rams struggled for most of 2016 it felt like the Chargers were the front-runner to be the best team in LA but things have taken a tragic turn since training camp started. The Chargers lost a number of key players to injury including Forrest Lamp, Denzel Perryman, and Mike Williams. Those setbacks have definitely hurt this team and then there’s the problem with the coaching staff. Anthony Lynn seems like a disciplinarian style coach (which doesn’t work all in today’s NFL) and on top of that the Chargers got thumped 48 to 17 in their preseason opener. Taking losses like that will cause the players in the Bolts locker room to become disgruntled quickly and it’s not a good indication of what’s to come in the Lynn era. The Rams however look exactly the opposite, they have a new Head Coach Sean McVay who won his first game as coach in this league (good sign). Not only that but the Rams just put together a nice trade to acquire Sammy Watkins. Finally the Rams roster wise are much more talented than a season ago and all of those factors make this team the clear cut favorite to be the best franchise in Los Angeles. With both teams expected to share a stadium in the future it will be interesting to see how the competition between the two sides heats up? If you’re in charge of either team you definitely want to get an advantage so you can dominate the market. The Chargers had a prime opportunity to do that entering 2017 but somehow it looks like this organization has squandered that chance. Give credit to the Rams though they made the necessary moves to gain an edge heading into the upcoming season. That will likely pay dividends in the future.

Charity of the day: National Rifle Association

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Kyle Shanahan won his very first game as a head coach, that’s a good indication of what the young coach is capable of:

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Author: Jon Kuzma

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The San Francisco 49ers beat the Kansas City Chiefs 27-17 in their very first preseason game of the year and you have to like what you saw if you’re a Niners fan. While San Francisco struggled early on against a tough Chiefs defense you could tell that it was only a matter of time before the 49ers converted some big plays offensively. In the second half of the game against the Chiefs San Francisco scored two huge touchdowns and everything fell into place from there. It was obvious that Kansas City had a more talented team but the 49ers have a special gift in Shanahan’s play calling ability. The first year head coach knows how to put together the offensive x and os brilliantly and that helps Shanahan get more out of less on the offense side of the ball. San Francisco might have an inferior roster talent wise but they do have a schematic advantage due to everything Kyle Shanahan brings to the table and now this team is trending upward. It’s only a matter of time before the other players in the league acknowledge what the San Francisco 49ers are doing and when that happens Shanahan’s team will have a huge advantage. It’s one thing to mold B and C level talents into contenders but when Shanahan starts getting those A talent players there’s going to be no stopping the 49ers. The challenge for the red and gold team out of the Bay Area will be whether or not the higher ups can hold everything together. San Francisco has a long history of firing coaches prematurely and Jed York has to do everything he can to take a backseat. There’s no sense in running Kyle Shanahan out of town like York did with Jim Harbaugh. After two straight seasons of abysmal football you hope the 49ers owner has learned his lesson. The team can’t afford to mess their current situation up. Kyle Shanahan is going to bring a lot of fortune to Northern California.

Charity of the day: National Rifle Association

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The Arizona Cardinals should trade for Jimmy Garoppolo and turn the page on the Carson Palmer era:

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Author: Jon Kuzma

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The Arizona Cardinals have been overwhelmingly loyal to Quarterback Carson Palmer almost to a fault. While Palmer has shown promise at times for Arizona specifically in 2015 when he won the Fed Ex Air Player of the Year award, at other times Palmer has looked like a QB who couldn’t get it done on the big stage. The shocking thing about Palmer’s situation with the Cardinals is the fact that the veteran signal caller was already an older player when he signed with the team. After spending four seasons in the desert you’d think that Arizona’s front office would be serious about finding Palmer’s successor but the team hasn’t made any headway in that regard. That’s why it makes perfect sense for the Cardinals to strike a deal with the New England Patriots to bring Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in to replace Palmer. One player who could be dealt in that trade is Wide Receiver Larry Fitzgerald, as much as Arizona would like to keep Fitzgerald for the remainder of his career. It’s obvious that the Cardinals have peaked with Fitzgerald on their roster and to be honest the future Hall of Famer doesn’t have that many years left in him. Getting a quarterback in exchange for Fitzgerald and a draft pick could set Arizona up for their next run which is better than just fizzling out. Garoppolo is extremely sharp and would give the Cardinals a franchise player that can serve as the face of their franchise. Jimmy Garoppolo is only 25 years old so he has plenty more years than the 38 year old Palmer. Bruce Arians is going to be on the hot seat unless this team does something drastic. While initially the Cardinals would take a step back if they traded for Garoppolo, in the long run this team would have a much better chance to compete. Which ultimately makes this move the best course of action for the Arizona Cardinals they definitely need to shake things up.

Charity of the day: National Wildlife Federation

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