Bortles looks to catch NFL defenders in his crosshairs this time around:

Jaguars at Ravens 12/14/14

Photo credit: Keith Allison

Author: Jon Kuzma

When the Jacksonville Jaguars drafted Blake Bortles with the 3rd pick overall in the 2014 draft they were hoping to land an instant stand out quarterback. They didn’t necessarily get that with Bortles. While he starred as a quarterback in college at the University of Central Florida, Bortles didn’t find immediate success in his rookie season. He struggled in terms of touchdown pass to interception ratio for the Jags. Throwing just 11 touchdowns and 17 interceptions all of last year. While Bortles might have struggled last year, it may be too soon to write him off. Peyton Manning is another promising quarterback who struggled in his rookie season. However it must be noted that Manning still threw for 26 touchdowns that year. That is what has to be so frightening for the front office in Jacksonville, the fact that Bortles only threw for 11 touchdowns all last season. A number that is very low even though the former Knights quarterback only played in 14 games. This time around Blake Bortles will try to take that large step in sophomore progression. He looked alright in the preseason this far, but only time will tell if he is going to be the player that the Jaguars expected him to be. Anytime someone is drafted in the top 5 they are highly depended on by their teams to make a significant impact. It’s starting to feel like maybe the Jags reached for Bortles by drafting him so high. All that could change though if he comes out and has a big season. His quest for success will start at home vs the Carolina Panthers. A team that will be tough for the Jaguars to beat due to the fact that they have strong players like Cam Newton,and Luke Kuechly. If Bortles wants to be the best player he can be and we are sure he does. He must take that first step at home, and start the season off on the right foot. Look out for this match up and how Bortles performance pans out.

Charity of the day: Homes for Our Troops

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Steelers offense will be fine when Bryant, and Bell return:


Photo credit: Jeffrey Beall

Author: Jon Kuzma

The Steelers offense looked good in the regular season opener against the New England Patriots. They put up 21 points and very easily could have had 6 more if Josh Scobee didn’t miss a pair of field goals early on. Roethlisberger and company looked promising on several drives. The connection of Roethlisberger to Antonio Brown was on full display for all the fans in Foxborough to see. Brown finished with 9 catches for 133 yards through the air. Deangelo Williams also showed the world that he can still be a productive player. The former Panthers running back contributed 127 yards rushing on 21 rushing attempts. Clearly showing that the change of scenery was exactly what Williams needed to resurrect his career. All of this Steelers offensive success came without star players Le’Veon Bell and Martavis Bryant. Bell was suspended because of substance abuse issues that were stemming from an incident that occurred in 2014 when Bell was arrested for a D.U.I and marijuana possession. Returning one of the NFL’s best young running backs to the mix, will be a huge benefit for the Steelers. Bell rushed for 1,361 rushing yards in 2014, and that combination of him and DeAngelo Williams will be one of the better tandems in the league. It will be interesting to see how the Steelers mix up the backfield touches when Bell returns, especially since Williams is playing at such a high level. As far a Martavis Bryant goes, the Steelers really missed him against the Patriots in the opener. He was suspended for 4 games because of a fail drug test for marijuana. Bryant gives the Steelers a chance to take the top off the defense. That big play capability he brings to the table can easily turn into six points for the Steelers on any pass play. That was something the offense was clearly missing that night and to have that advantage back would add another dimension for this team. Just imagine how lethal this team could be if they could get their kicker Josh Scobee to clean up his game. And if they get Le’Veon Bell and Martavis Bryant back. It could be scary for opposing teams in the future.

Charity of the day: Homes for Our Troops

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Man on fire: Rob Gronkowkski


Photo credit: Angie Six

Author: Jon Kuzma

Fantasy football owners who drafted Rob Gronkowski got to pop champagne after Gronkowski dominated against the Steelers in the regular season opener. Gronkowski finished the game with 3 touchdowns and looked untouchable for opposing defenders. The first thing that stands out when watching Gronkowski on the field is the fact that his size overwhelms defenses. Standing 6 feet tall and 6 inches Gronkowksi or “Gronk” as those close to him call him, is nearly the largest player on the field. That frame he boast creates a match up problem for defensive backs and linebackers that try to match up with the sixth year tight end. Having the best quarterback ever passing him the ball also adds a lot to the mix. Brady was able to locate Gronkowski unguarded several times during the game by hurrying the snap before the Steelers could adjust. Nearly every time Gronkowski made the Steelers pay, whether it was a pass up the sideline or a post route down the middle of the field. The Patriots also showed an interesting new two tight end personnel combination by pairing Scott Chandler with Gronk. The two ran a pick route with Gronk clearing Chandlers defender allowing Chandler to catch a touchdown pass for the Patriots. The play showed how even Gronk’s influence on the field can shift a defense and open up opportunities for other players. The defense is always sliding and adjusting coverage to Rob Gronkowski and that causes them to overcompensate at times. The final part of Gronkowski’s game that should be noted is his ability to go up above defenders and make the catch. Tom Brady knows he has to lob his passes to Gronkowki and use elevation and touch to help his tight end make plays. Gronk clearly did all night and that is why he brought home three touchdown receptions. A sign of what is to come this season for the best tight end in football.

Charity of the day: Veterans Support Organization

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10 things to look out for this upcoming season:


Photo credit: Jeffrey Beall

Author: Jon Kuzma

10. Will Jadeveon Clowney become the pro football player we all expect him to be?

Clowney missed most of last year and only registered 7 combined tackles. The guy is a freak of nature but can he truly put it all together and become an effective pro? Only time will tell.

9. Will Jaboo win?

Jameis Winston aka Jaboo has a lot of weight on his shoulders after being selected with the first overall pick. Will he live up to expectations with the Bucs? After a shaky preseason this is defintely something to keep an eye on.

8. Which team will end up securing a Los Angles bid?

The Rams, Chargers, and Raiders all hope to relocate in the mega Los Angeles market. What team will actually solidify that right though? While it’s almost certain that a team will be in L.A shortly, it will be interesting to see which of the three makes the most compelling push.

7. Can Drew Brees throw for his fifth 5,000 yard season?

It’s no secret that Drew Brees has been one of the league’s most prolific passers. Will he be able to do the unimaginable and throw for his 5th 5,000 yard season. With the Saints seeing a return of investment from promising young receivers like Brandin Cooks anything is possible.

6. After a one year hiatus how will Adrian Peterson fair?

Adrian Peterson has been one of the best running back’s the league has ever seen. Will he be able to keep up that high level of play after a year away from the game due to legal issues? The Minnesota Vikings sure hope so.

5. Will Peyton Manning regress into a shell of what he used to be?

Peyton Manning has struggled in the later half of his last few seasons. The veteran quarterback seems to be feeling the effects of three neck operations and variety of NFL hits. Manning might be on his last ride for the Broncos, does he go out on top (or at least in a respectable manner) or does he continue to regress into a less than serviceable player.

4. Did the Packers do enough to get to the next level?

The lost of Jordy Nelson is already going to set this team back. However there is always hope with Aaron Rodgers at the helm. Can the team figure out how to put the puzzle together without the key piece of Nelson? This will be an interesting topic to watch down the stretch.

3. Can the Seahawks keep the band together?

The Seahawks are already prepared to enter the season without standout safety Kam Chancellor. The team seems to be having some issues with its cohesion and keeping everyone happy. How will this effect the team’s morale? More importantly will they return to their third straight Super Bowl?

2. Will Roger Goodell finally get what is coming to him?

With the mess that Roger Goodell has made of pro football, one has to ask will he ever get what is coming to him? Maybe not from spygate however it’s almost guaranteed that Mr. Goodell will have another slip up. I mean he has had several during his tenure. Will the league finally pull the plug on the outlandish commissioner if he has another?

  1. Will Tom Brady achieve the great feat of winning his 5th Super Bowl Ring?

It’s no secret Tom Brady is the arguably the best quarterback ever. Since Tom terrific took over for Drew Bledsoe during his second season, he has been nothing short of outstanding. Amassing 4 Super Bowl wins, 3 Super Bowl Most Valuable Player awards, 2 league Most Valuable Player awards, and 10 Pro Bowl selections. Not too bad.

Charity of the day: American Institute for Cancer Research

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What to expect from the Regular Season Opener

New England Patriots at Washington Redskins 08/28/09

Photo credit: Keith Allison

Author: Joey Carr

For nearly 6 months, the fans of the NFL have waited desperately for the talks of Deflategate and free agency to come to a halt. We’ve endured numerous preseason injuries, holdouts, and arrests and now all we’re looking for is some real, genuine, exhilarating football to be played. And now, at long last, that wait has come to an end. The Patriots play host to the Steelers tomorrow night on the biggest stage since the Super Bowl, and the energy is going to be like nothing we’ve seen before.

Tomorrow, in most people’s minds, is going to be more than a game. It’s going to be a celebration for Patriots Nation, who gets to see their team raise its 4th Super Bowl banner in 15 years. The New England faithful also get to see their quarterback, Tom Brady, play with more fire and anger than ever before. Fresh off a win in court against Roger Goodell and the NFL, expect to see an entirely different Tom Terrific. However, this game isn’t just about Brady. The Pittsburgh Steelers have been one of the more consistent teams in the league since the early 2000’s, and plan to keep that persona alive with a stacked offense led by Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, and Le’veon Bell. Bell is suspended for tomorrow’s game unfortunately for Pittsburgh, making newly acquired running back DeAngelo Williams the prime starter for the Steelers. The Terrible Towel’s also don’t have the services of their starting center, Maurkice Pouncey, which is a fairly significant loss up front since the last time the team lost him they went 8-8. Also, the Pittsburgh defense is something to keep a close eye on tomorrow night. Long-time defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau left for Tennessee, leaving the Steelers D with a big question mark on it. It’ll be interesting to see how Belichick and the Pats take advantage of the weaknesses of Pittsburgh’s defense and which part of it they will target the most. However, Steel City isn’t the only defense with questions surrounding it. New England lost some key members on defense this past offseason-Darrelle Revis, Vince Wilfork, and Brandon Browner- and even though people within the Patriots organization feel like they’ve gained enough pieces to help minimize those losses, it’ll be fascinating to see if New England did indeed get their defense to where it was last year. Malcolm Brown, drafted 32nd overall, will try to fill the enormous shoes of longtime Patriot Vince Wilfork, which won’t be an easy task by any means. Malcolm Butler and Tarell Brown will attempt to keep the Pats secondary a strong point, also not an easy task with Antonio Brown on the field. But an extremely strong linebacker corps could help overcome some of the defense’s weaknesses.

A key matchup that many people are going to be looking forward to watching is Antonio Brown vs. Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler. Brown is debatably the best receiver in the NFL, boasting lightning quick speed and terrific hands. Butler is a somewhat proven player who is being thrust into the Patriots number one cornerback spot, previously filled by Darrelle Revis. Last year, Butler proved himself to be a reliable defensive back but can he be the player the Pats need him to be? Antonio Brown will determine that when they line up across from each other tomorrow at Gillette Stadium. Brown is definitely one of the hardest players in the

league to cover, and Butler’s skills will be pushed to the absolute max tomorrow night when he tries to defend him.

All in all, tomorrow could turn out to be one of the best games of the season. Two AFC powerhouses battling it out under the lights on Primetime television promise a hard fought and intense game. Big Ben and Antonio Brown are not an easy tandem to stop, but it seems like the Patriots D is up for the challenge. Tom Brady takes the field as the starter for New England for the 14th straight time and never has he had a bigger chip on his shoulder. With versatile weapons Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski, and a trio of pass-catching running backs, the Steelers D should expect to have their hands full. This game should go down to the wire with both teams matching up nicely, making for an epic and memorable season opener.

Prediction: New England 27 Pittsburgh 20

Charity of the day: American Institute for Cancer Research

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Rams would be smart to be patient with Todd Gurley:

Screen Shot 2015-09-09 at 1.56.24 AM

Photo credit: Ken Thomson

Author: Jon Kuzma

Todd Gurley was one of the most electrifying players in all college football last year. He is clearly a big part of the St. Louis Rams future and that is why they chose to go with Gurley with the 10th overall pick in the 2015 draft. At the time Gurley was selected he was still recovering from a an ACL tear that he had sustained during his time at the University of Georgia. While a running back hadn’t been selected in the first round since the 2012 draft, the Rams selected Gurley despite the fact he was recovering from that knee injury. The commitment showed their beliefs in Gurley as a player. It also was a sign of how far medicine has advanced in sports. Since just two decades ago an ACL tear meant the end of a player’s career. In the preseason the Rams suited Gurley up before a few games but didn’t play him in the actual games. When watching him take hand offs in pre game warm ups in full pads vs the Colts. Gurley looked tense in and out of his cuts. His knee didn’t seem to have the strength to give him that fluent motion as a runner when planting and accelerating. In order for Gurley to be anywhere near the player that he was in college football last year. He will have to be playing at optimal health. That is why the Rams should be patient with Gurley and make sure he is indeed 100% healthy before putting him back on the field. Clearly he is going to want to get back on the field as soon as possible, so he can get back to what he does best. It’s up to the Rams medical staff to do their due diligence and make sure that is at the proper time. Gurley will have to play at an even higher level than what he was playing at last year to have success at the pro level. Sometimes rehab can push athletes to new heights in terms of their athletic abilities. So maybe Gurley will benefit from those rehabilitation sessions, and be able to regain that speed and quickness which made him so effective last season. Regardless it’s in the Rams best interest to be patient with the rookie.

Charity of the day: Action Against Hunger-USA

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Teams Ready To Be In The 2015 Playoff Hunt:


Photo credit: Joe Bielawa

Author: Joey Carr

Going into the 2015 regular season, a good majority of the teams that muddled in mediocrity in 2014 are ready to dive into the playoff race this time around. Whether it was acquiring big names in free agency or filling some glaring roster holes, several teams that finished around .500 are now set to threaten the division leaders and throw a cog into the 2015 playoff picture.

When talking about .500 teams, the first team that usually comes to mind is the squad down in South Beach, the Miami Dolphins. They have always been a somewhat dangerous team to play, home or away, but have not been able to solidify themselves as real threats in years past. Enter Ndamukong Suh and a revitalized and richer Ryan Tannehill. Suh has the ability, alongside Cameron Wake, to transform the Miami run defense, which ranked 24th in the league in 2014. A quarterback’s worst nightmare is someone as quick and powerful as Wake coming from the outside with someone as forceful and aggressive as Suh attacking the inside. With the pass defense already solidly established, ranking 6th in the league last year, the Miami defense looks like a force to be reckoned with. The Dolphins also boast Ryan Tannehill, a quarterback that put up impressive numbers a year ago, throwing for over 4,000 yards and tossing 27 touchdowns. However, a quarterback needs receivers, and Miami once again, like in 2013, brought in new targets instead of keeping the old ones (with the exception of Jarvis Landry). They traded Mike Wallace, a downfield threat, but brought in Greg Jennings, an older player who looks to revive his career. They also traded for Kenny Stills, a true speedster and proven pass catcher. With a new crop of receivers, a shiny new defense, and a stable running game, the Dolphins are primed to turn some heads this year in the AFC.

Switching conferences, the team in the NFC that seems equipped to be in the hunt for a playoff spot is the Minnesota Vikings. The Purple and Gold suffered a tough loss last season losing Adrian Peterson due to child abuse charges, which blew any chance they had at the playoffs. However, AP is back and he has a new quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater. The second year man out of Louisville took over for Matt Cassel early in the season last year and never looked back, leading the Vikings to a 7-9 record. He struggled at times, as most rookies do, but put up respectable numbers, throwing for just under 3,000 yards and tossing 14 touchdowns. However, he also threw 12 interceptions, but that number should go down with a deadly run game, which Adrian Peterson brings back for the Vikes. Rushing for over 2,000 yards just a couple years ago, Peterson looks to be fully healthy this year and has a chip on his shoulder, which should make him even tougher to bring down, presenting a bona fide problem for the opposing defense. With a stingy defense led by linebacker Anthony Barr and defensive back Xavier Rhodes, the Mike Zimmer led Vikings are itching to climb up the NFC ladder.

Another notable team that made a big splash in free agency and the draft is the St. Louis Rams. In years past, a great defense has been wasted due to the mediocrity and instability at quarterback. Sam Bradford was supposed to be the guy to lead the Rams to the promise land when he was drafted first overall back in 2010. However, several injuries later, St. Louis and Philadelphia swapped quarterbacks, landing the Rams Nick Foles and shipping Bradford up to Philly. Foles is a proven reliable QB, earning himself a trip to the Pro Bowl in 2013 after posting a 27-2 touchdown to interception ratio. With Foles at the helm, the Rams really needed a stable and dynamic running back, which they got with Todd Gurley in the draft. The true definition of a workhorse at Georgia, the Rams got just what they needed to transform the St. Louis offense. Although he was out for most of the preseason, Gurley looks ready to go by Week 2, and should present a problem for defenses that stand in his way. The one part of the Rams team that is established is the formidable run defense that is headed by Robert Quinn. The former first round pick is one of the best defensive ends in the league, and can singlehandedly change the outcome of a game. After acquiring proven QB Nick Foles and obtaining Todd Gurley in the draft, the Rams might finally be ready to make some noise in a crowded NFC West.

Charity of the day: Scholarship America

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Eric Fisher is demoted by the Chiefs:


Photo credit: Jason Craven

The 2013 1st overall draft pick taken in the first round Eric Fisher was demoted recently by the Kansas City Chiefs. Fisher who was the most promising prospect in the whole 2013 draft had sputtered out of the gate in his first 2 years of NFL action. After signing a 22.1 million dollar guaranteed contract with a 14.5 million dollar signing bonus Fisher seemed to underachieve time and time again for the Chiefs. The team was looking for a franchise cornerstone type left tackle when they drafted him. Instead they got a player who in just three seasons was demoted to the right tackle position. People in the Chiefs organization can’t be happy that they are paying an under producing player that much money. Also Fisher just doesn’t seem to fit into Andy Reid’s system. Reid even made Fisher switch positions last season and play right tackle instead of left as well. The Left Tackle position being more notable for an offense because it is typically protecting the backside or “blind side” of right handed NFL quarterbacks. The switch showed Reid’s lack of confidence in Eric Fisher’s ability to protect Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith. With more talent coming to Kansas City such as Jeremy Maclin, and Ben Grubbs the Chiefs wanted to have more cohesion offensively. This clearly meant that the former Central Michigan standout Eric Fisher had to be dropped from the starting left tackle position. With the NFL being a win now or you’re fired type of league, Reid’s success couldn’t be left in a player’s hands that he couldn’t trust. It will be interesting to see what the future holds for Eric Fisher. Will he be eventually left go by the Chiefs? Or will the team just keep him as a right tackle for the remainder of his contract which runs until 2016? The other possibility could be that Fisher learns from this and makes the necessary adjustments to become an effective left tackle. Maybe someday he will be able to regain his starting spot. For the time being however, he will have to make do with the team’s other tackle position.

Charity of the day: Defenders of Wildlife

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Terrelle Pryor makes the Browns and completes transition to WR:


Photo credit: Erik Drost

Author: Jon Kuzma

Terrelle Pryor has been a big name athlete for much of his life. There were reports coming out about him when he was a teenager at Jeannette high school in Pennsylvania. That high profile reputation followed him to thee Ohio State University where Pryor would star for Jim Tressel and the Buckeyes. After a Rose Bowl M.V.P type career at Ohio State Pryor would go take on the National Football League. With the confidence of being a big-time athlete his entire life, Pryor would surely tackle his next task of being an NFL quarterback. That’s where things got a little bit rocky for Pryor. The throws and mental aspect of the game are very very tough in pro football. Defenders are bigger, stronger, and faster than they ever were in the past. Guy’s also put a target on high profile athletes almost wanting to knock them down a notch as well. Pryor ended up struggling, and while most people struggle in life at one point or another. Pryor did the thing anyone with strong character would do. He never gave up. After realizing he couldn’t make a roster as a quarterback. Pryor decided to offer his talents in other ways to NFL teams. At 6’4 240 pounds Pryor had the perfect height to make the transition to N.F.L wide receiver. He also boasted at 4.38 forty yard dash which seemed even more promising. However there are many skills that go into becoming an N.F.L receiver. Reading the defense, sitting in soft spots of the coverage, or even high pointing the football are all examples of skills in that position. Apparently Terrelle Pryor showed enough promise in those attributes to impress the Cleveland Browns. They announced their roster today and Terelle Pryor is indeed a member of their football team. Showing with perseverance nearly anything is possible. He should be an exciting story for the dog pound all seasons.

Charity of the day: National Veterans Services Fund

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A toast to Jarryd Hayne: A pro football player



Photo credit: Tim Napazzi

Jarryd Hayne overcame all of the obstacles that prevented him from making the transition from the world of rugby to pro football. The San Francisco 49ers notified Hanye today that he would indeed be apart of the Niners 53 man roster. A move that was expected by many around the league but you never know with these type of situations at the end of the day. Hayne apparently did enough in his preseason efforts to win over first year head coach Jim Tomsula. Anyone who observed those preseason matches acknowledged that Hayne was outstanding in those four games. Putting up a combined 175 rushing yards on 25 carries over four games. What stands out most in Haynes highlights are the ability to make defenders miss on tackles. Hayne usually uses a jab step one way to set up a defender and then uses his superior running vision to cut the other way pass the defender. Almost Barry Sanders esque although it’s not quite fair to use those two names in the same sentence just yet. Hayne will have to continue this success in the regular season to keep pushing the envelope for his career. While he is still likely behind Reggie Bush, and Carlos Hyde. It’s hard for a coach to allow a guy with this kind of big play capability to sit on the bench for a long time. Maybe at first his role will be limited to just punt returning and a 3rd down running back role. Or maybe Hayne will do the unthinkable again and supplant the other Niners running backs. At this point there is no ruling this guy out of anything. The two time rugby player of the year made an NFL football team without ever playing football. If anything deserves a toast that is it. Congrats Jarryd Hayne you deserve it.


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