Photo credit: Ezra Shaw
Author: Jon Kuzma
We’ve watched the Tony Romo led Dallas Cowboys grow right before our eyes. They started out a contender when Bill Parcells was in town back when Romo was botching extra point snaps in the playoffs. Since that set back the Cowboys have had a maturation experience where they had to grow back into contenders over the next several years. Which they’ve finally done the last couple of seasons having a legitimate shot to make a deep playoff run. Yet when push comes to shove this team has always found a way to come up just short. Despite Romo being an outstanding regular season performer, he still doesn’t show up on the level an elite quarterback should in the playoffs. A crucial time when guys like Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers really set themselves apart from the pack. In order for the Cowboys to be able to take that next step, Romo first must be able to take that step. As he goes, so will the Cowboys. One thing in the Cowboys favor is the the fact that they’ve managed to put together a tremendously talented team. They were praised by many football analyst for their draft choices this spring. Landing a talented cornerback in Byron Jones, and one of the best young pass rushers in the draft in Randy Gregory. It was clear the Cowboys felt they needed to get better on the defensive side of the ball in order to make that Super Bowl push. One noticeable lost that will be interesting to keep an eye on is the loss of Demarco Murray. Murray was just emerging into a bona fide superstar registering an 1800 yard rushing season last year. While the Cowboys do have an outstanding offensive line they are going to miss that downhill runner in Murray and someone will have to step up and fill the void. Look for Joseph Randle to be the guy the team leans on. He was second on the team last year in rushing yards. He also was a gifted player at Oklahoma State in his collegiate days and should be at least serviceable in the role. At the end of the day with all of the additions the team has made their success will still fall on Tony Romo’s shoulders. As he goes, so do the Cowboys.
Football predictions: Dallas Cowboys
Charity of the day: Make-A-Wish Foundation
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Photo credit: Joe Robbins / Getty Images Sports
Author: Jon Kuzma
Teddy Bridgewater the young Quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings had a decent rookie year compiling 14 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in his rookie year. While he was only +2 in his touchdown to interception ratio he still showed much promise in his first season of NFL action. Bridgewater was highly praised coming out of Louisville but there were concerns with him as a prospect when he scored a 20 on the Wonderlic mental aptitude test ( a score considered low for quarterbacks). Yet when you watch Bridgewater on the field he seems made of anything but inferior intelligence. Bridgewater makes quick decisions, commands the team at the line of scrimmage, and seems like a good leader overall. Proving that his football intelligence is much higher than his 20 Wonderlic score reflects. In fact after watching several games films on the young passer the one knock on him seems to be that the spiral on his passes aren’t as tight as other quarterbacks in the league. Yet Bridgewater’s passes are always to the right read and seem to always make it to the receiver. So while his passes coming from his hand don’t look as nice as maybe a more polished passer, he still always connects on his throws. Meaning that it doesn’t seem to hinder his performance on the field all that much. Believe it or not his strengths appear to be all those things that were supposed to be his weakness; his poise, his composure, the way his leadership causes the team to gel. All of these talents Bridgewater has brought to the table have allowed the Vikings to become relevant again. When you add into the situation the wealth of other young talent they’ve accumulated such Jarius Wright, and Jerick Mckinnnon you begin to understand why the Vikings were able to see things get brighter last season. The return of Adrian Peterson will also add another dynamic to the Vikings this season. And with Peterson having all last season off due to a suspension he should be well rested and ready to run wild in 2015. Watch out for this team in the NFC North, they might make a little bit more noise than expected.
Charity of the day: Salvation Army-Central Territory
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Photo credit: Ezra Shaw / Getty Images Sport
Author: Jon Kuzma
With the 2014 season in the books it’s always fun to look back and reflect on what players stood out the most in their rookie season. Two players that really come to mind are Tampa Bay’s Mike Evan’s and Oakland’s Khalil Mack. Both players came in as rookies and had an immediate impact for their teams. Looking at times more like five year veterans opposed to first year players. Evans put up 1,051 yards receiving and an eye turning 12 touchdowns. When you add in the mix that he will be catching passes from Jameis Winston this season it looks like the sky is limit for Mike Evans in 2015. As long as he stays injury free he should have a legitimate shot at topping that already high 12 touchdown mark from last year. If you’re a fantasy football owner you’re making a smart decision by buying Mike Evan’s stock in 2015. Khalil Mack a defensive player for the Oakland Raiders was nearly as impressive. Mack was one of the most coveted players in the 2014 draft and lived up to all expectations registering 77 tackles, 4 sacks, and a forced fumble. Those numbers will likely improve as well in Mack’s second year, due to the fact that it is often stated that the biggest jump a player will make skill wise is typically from his first year to his second year in the NFL. This is because the speed of the game is typically beyond a first year player’s experience, and players will usually make great strides in their sophomore year in terms of awareness. Look for Mack to be the cornerstone of the Raider’s defense for the next several years. He will also likely be a perennial pro bowler and one of the best players at his position.
Football players: Khalil Mack and Mike Evans
Charity of the day: Trust for Public Land
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Photo credit: Tom Pennington / Getty Images Sport
Author: Jon Kuzma
The Green Bay Packers are one of the National Football League’s most prestigious teams. Even the Super Bowl trophy itself is named after former great Packers coach Vince Lombardi. With the cheese heads always expecting greatness from their team, there is very little room for let downs in the city of Green Bay which is home too one hundred four thousand residents. All whom are likely familiar with the rich tradition of football which was started by Curley Lambeau back in 1919. Nothing keeps that tradition alive more than winning. Brett Favre won, and they hailed him. Aaron Rodgers has since took over the quarterback helm and has delivered another Lombardi trophy to Green Bay as well. With last years Packers season coming down to the wire in the NFC championship game against the Seahawks nothing could express the disappoint of the let down more than Rodgers face after the game. A game in which the Packers were winning 19-7 with three minutes left in the game. That was until beast mode and company stole the show which led to a Seahawks victory in overtime. That last play of Jermaine Kersey beating Tramon Williams on a post route likely stuck in Packers General Manager Ted Thompson’s head. In the draft the Packers selected a defensive back with their first two picks. An action that shows their commitment to the back end of the defense and more so things from a coverage stand point. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix showed much promise in his rookie season and the Pack were looking to add a few more playmakers around him in the secondary. The selection of Damarious Randall with their first round pick will be a good addition to the mix. Randall was very impressive during his two years at Arizona State. He was productive enough to elevate himself too first round status a feat that is very impressive. The Packers even discussed using Randall at corner back instead of safety, the position he played in college. A move that the Packers felt was okay because his coverage skills are “just that good” as one Packers executive put it. Quinten Rollins a corner back out of the University of Miami (Ohio) was selected with the teams second round pick. Rollins was an outstanding Ball Hawk at Miami registering a seven interception season in 2014. Those unique ball skills are what lured the Packers to Rollins and they hope the two acquisitions can help the team take away opposing receivers space. They also did a great job in retaining Randall Cobb’s services, a player who had great production last year for the team and is one of Rodgers’ favorite targets. The team seems to want to build through the draft which has been their mission objective since Thompson has been there. They’ve had success this way in the past so why change things now? However you would like to see the team make a push for a few more free agents to really ensure they get past the NFC championship this time around.
Truthfully if you ask me if they made enough moves this off-season to get over that hump. I would say no.
Charity of the day: Food and Water Watch
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Photo credit: Brian Bahr / Getty Images Sport
Author: Jon Kuzma
Derek Carr had a tremendous rookie season for the silver and black and fans around The Bay area are very excited about the future. It’s been a long time since the team that Al Davis built has seen success and with a 21 touchdown and 12 interception rookie season performance, it’s very likely Carr will continue that success in 2015. The Raiders clearly understood the magnitude of the situation and doubled down on the young passer by bringing in the top wide receiver in college football last year Amari Cooper out of Alabama. They also added Michael Crabtree a player when healthy we all know can play. Crabtree has accumulated 26 touchdowns and 4,327 yards in his career and is another big outside target for the young and promising Carr. With the addition of the two playmakers at the wide receiver position it really will open up the offense for the Raiders in many ways. These are hands down the best players Derek Carr has ever thrown to in a live game. The results should be big for the Raiders, and all three players should see a spike in fantasy football value. Cooper is one player that deserves to be discussed in greater depth. He amassed 3463 yards and 31 touchdowns during his three years at the University of Alabama, looking nearly untouchable at times for opposing defenses. At 6’1 210 pounds Carr has really praised Cooper not only for his body control, and physical abilities. Also for his mental toughness stating that “Cooper is second to none in work ethic”. High praise from a player who is the cornerstone of the Raiders franchise. The chemistry between the two will have a drastic effect on the outcome of the Raiders upcoming season. If all three players can stay healthy and play at an optimal level, the Raiders should have their best season they’ve had in years. Will it be enough to get them to the post season? Who knows the AFC west division is still tough with the Broncos and the Chargers. The gap has certainly closed though and it’s only a matter of time before Derek Carr elevates this franchise to the next level.
Football predictions: Raiders
Charity of the day: Mental Health America
Photo credit: Ronald Martinez / Getty Images Sport
Author: Jon Kuzma
With Melvin Gordon coming off a phenomenal collegiate year last fall in Madison, he seems like a sure lock for success in his first year of professional action. Many players must go through a transition period from the college level to the pro’s but Gordon is a rare specimen. A superior athlete Gordon accumulated 2587 rushing yards last fall, looking many times much like a man amongst boys. Gordon will give the Chargers a much needed boost on the ground while Phillip Rivers will brush opposing defenses back through the air. The combination will likely pay great dividends for the Chargers in 2015 as they look to compete for the AFC West title a division that the Denver Broncos have dominated of recent. One thing is for certain most football analyst have praised the Chargers in their move of drafting Gordon. With running backs being a little more accessible lately in the National Football League, many teams have opted to fill other positions come draft time. In fact in the past we have seen past running backs like Willy Parker go undrafted and then get picked up in free agency and have success. Yet when you have a talent like Melvin Gordon sitting there and you have a guy that is clearly the most promising running back prospect since Adrian Peterson. You take that chance, and in the end it is very likely that chance is going to be the right one for San Diego. The passing game will now be able to feed off the rushing game. Meaning opposing defenses will try to crouch up closer to the line after a few good Gordon rushes. Leaving the defense more vulnerable to the Rivers pass. At the same time after a few good passes from Rivers the defense will back off and leave more running spaces for Gordon on the ground. A win-win scenario for the Chargers which gives their offense a significant boost and also helped the team move up three spots in the power rankings now sitting at #13 overall. Football should be interesting in southern Cal this fall.
Football players; Melvin Gordon
Charity of the day: Salvation Army
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Photo credit: Rich Schultz / Getty Images Sport
Author: Jon Kuzma
With all the moves going on in Philly it’s time to see how much substance there is in Philly? With Chip Kelly at the helm wheeling and dealing the Eagles have made some good moves in giving the team more cap space for the future. They also have made some bad moves like trading Nick Foles who at this time last year was coming off a pro bowl season. With Sam Bradford, Mark Sanchez, Matt Barkley, and Tim Tebow on roster for the Eagles, it seems most likely that Bradford or Sanchez will win the job. Coincidently Kelly’s success will be strapped to the success of likely those two players. While Bradford seems like the candidate at the forefront, his track record of questionable health is definitely a red flag for Eagles fans. When he is on Bradford could potentially be a very good player for the birds. Maybe a change of scenery and being placed in a high power system like Kelly’s is just what Bradford needs to live up to the reputation he earned at Oklahoma. Or maybe Sanchez’s continuous growth over his career will be enough to finally get him back to being a number 1 quarterback. Sanchez who was once the man for the New York Jets has been mostly a back up ever since. He has seen some success in the past two years as the back up for the Eagles and maybe his cumulative efforts help him supplant Bradford. Who ever wins the job will have to play at a high enough level to get the Eagles back to the playoffs and win them a playoff game. While that is possible, it will be tough to bet on one of these Quarterbacks rising to the challenge and leading the team there. If the Eagles do win a playoff game it will likely be due to the fact that the team collectively has improved. Maybe from moves like adding Kiko Alonzo and getting better on defensive. Maybe it will be because Demarco Murray fits phenomenally in the offense. Whatever it is that gets the Eagles there, one thing is for certain they need to get to the playoffs and they need to win a playoff game to give the Eagles higher ups more validation in their hire of Kelly. If he didn’t trade Foles the off-season drama and chaos wouldn’t have put as much pressure on Kelly. Yet by making that move Kelly will have to show results this year. This is a business where owners turn the page quickly on coaches. If the Eagles regress this year there will be many questions about Kelly and the moves he has chose to make. It’s safe to say it’s make or break time for Chip Kelly.
Football predictions: Eagles will regress this season. If the Eagles choose to keep backing Kelly they might have a bright future due to salary cap space they have added. Allowing them to bring better players into the fold in the future.
Charity of the day: Make a Wish Foundation
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Photo Credit: Peter G. Aiken / Getty Images Sport
Author: Jon Kuzma
When the Cleveland Browns drafted Johnny Football Manziel last season one thing was apparent from watching the process play out. The Browns organization seemed mixed on Manziel from the get go. Never have we seen a quarterback taken in the first round and not have the red carpet rolled out for him. It seemed like from day one head coach Mike Pettine was trying to put a limit on Manziel’s growth and that was the first time I’ve ever seen that happen to a first round pick personally. The right move was clearly to cut the chain off Manziel and let him take his lumps his rookie year and grow. Yet here we are in year two and coach Pettine is already stating that “it’s fair to say McCown is the favorite to be the starter”. Despite that if I were a betting man, I’d bet on Manziel this season. There has already been whispers around Browns training camp that Manziel’s performance thus far has been night and day compared to last years as one Brown put it. Manziel might not have all the tangibles that translate to a typical pocket passing quarterback in the NFL, but he is a fierce competitor and has the moxie to lead when he is on. While who knows if Manziel really needed help in his personal life or he just wanted to make a good public relations move. Going to rehab shows either way that he is willing to put in the effort to become a better man. That step could prove to be on the field, especially in terms of his focus. Often time last year it was said that Manziel was underachieving in terms of running and directing the offense. A Manziel with clarity will be a dangerous one for opposing offenses.
One question still remans though? Why did Cleveland draft Manziel in the first round if Pettine was never going to embrace him?
Football players: Johnny Manziel
Charity of the day: African Wildlife Foundation
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