The NFL got it right when they decided to relax punishment on excessive celebration penalties:

Photo credit: Icon Sports Wire

Author: Jon Kuzma

The NFL took a step in the right direction when it comes to shedding their “No Fun League” persona that they’ve developed over the years. The league recently has decided that they will now allow players to celebrate their athletic achievements after scoring touchdowns. If you remember in the past players were very limited in what they could do during their touchdown dances. For example group celebrations were banned and if you’ve ever seen old football footage before 1984 you will know teams like the Washington Redskins Fun Bunch brought a lot of enjoyment to the game. Of course the league put all that to an end in 1984 when they decided to clean the game up a bit. Over the years players expressed their frustrations with the lack of touchdown celebration freedom and eventually the fans begun to have the same feelings. While Roger Goodell has put a lot of effort into protecting the game’s positive image, the league itself was starting to suffer from coming off as stiff and almost robotic. With the other professional leagues allowing more relaxed policies on a number of different issues, eventually Goodell knew he could win over some popularity by allowing the NFL to have some “fun” again. That led the commissioner to ultimately relaxing penalties on touchdown celebrations and now players will be able to dance, use the football as a prop, or coordinate a team celebration. The creativity that these unique dances are composed of really spices the game up because they are so authentic to the emotions that are going through a scoring player’s head. Trying to restrict that expression of feelings is almost like taking away a player’s art form and to be honest making the change is a great move for the National Football League. Touchdown celebrations make fans feel closer to the players and that will help sell the league to new audiences. It’s good to see Mr. Goodell easing up his authority and doing what’s best for the league. These new rules should make for a very entertaining 2017 season.

Charity of the day: Keep America Beautiful

Go donate! www.kab.org

David Johnson is easily one of the best running backs in the entire league:

Photo credit: Mike Ehrmann / Getty Images Sport

Author: Jon Kuzma

The Arizona Cardinals know they have a special player in David Johnson and expect Cardinals Head Coach Bruce Arians to trust Johnson early and often in 2017. By leaning on Johnson’s running abilities the Cardinals can alleviate pressure from Quarterback Carson Palmer and develop a balanced offense. That will make the Cardinals much less predictable on the offensive side of ball which should help Arizona produce more points. With Larry Fitzgerald and Palmer both aging, the Cardinals need to trust their younger players to carry the torch. Johnson is only 25 years old and he is coming off a year where he put up over 2,000 combined rushing and receiving yards. That’s an amazing feat and Johnson was also able to record 20 total touchdowns. Truthfully David Johnson’s efforts were worthy of Most Value Player recognition but with Arizona only winning 7 games in 2016 Johnson stood no chance at winning the award because his team struggled. Make no mistake about it though David Johnson is an exceptional football player and he has overachieved since entering the league back in 2015. In just two seasons Johnson has amassed 32 total touchdowns, so clearly this guy is a rare talent and the Cardinals are fortunate to have him on their roster. Arizona didn’t have the best off-season so they are really lacking the talent they need to compete in the NFC West. That could mean Johnson is ever more productive in 2017 because the Cardinals are limited when it comes to offensive weapons. Larry Fitzgerald is aging and is starting to lose a step. While the other role players on Arizona’s offense haven’t lived up to expectations. Although these other players aren’t getting the job done for the Cardinals, Johnson continuously outperforms expectations and now he deserves praise as one of the best backs in the entire league. David Johnson earned that respect and it’s not very easy to do when you’re competing against the best football players in the world. Despite that David Johnson still has emerged as the cream of the crop at the running back position. This guy is flat out untouchable right now.

Andrew Luck had his most accurate year as a passer in 2016:

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Author: Jon Kuzma

Andrew Luck has always been a highly praised quarterback but after a lackluster 2015 season, Luck needed to rebound in 2016 to give the Colts a chance to compete. Luck responded with 31 touchdowns, 4,240 passing yards, and his highest completion percentage ever (63.5%). Those stats let you know that Luck was locked in and that’s exactly what the Colts need moving forward to make a push in the AFC South. If you’re not familiar with the division the Texans and Titans are currently the front runners. However Andrew Luck is the best quarterback in the AFC South and that’s always a huge advantage for a team. When your quarterback can out perform the other guys in the division that allows that team’s offense to be much more prolific than the others. It’s very hard to score points in the National Football League with how good the defenses are, so having a quarterback who can put up points on the board gives you a competitive edge. Unfortunately for the Colts they finished 8-8 in 2016 and missed the postseason. If Indianapolis didn’t have Andrew Luck though, that win total would have been much lower. The Colts problems stem from the fact that Indianapolis is suffering from a depleted roster. The Colts are particularly bad on the defensive side of the ball where they finished 30th in the league last season. So the front office really needed to make some adjustments on the defensive side of the ball and add some players who can give Luck a better chance to win some football games. If the Colts can hold opponents to just 20 points per game, that would allow Andrew Luck to work his magic and try to out score opposing teams. The Colts added some key defensive players in Malik Hooker, Jonathan Hankins, and Jabaal Sheard this off-season so that will definitely improve their defensive situation. The rest will be on Luck’s shoulders and keep an eye on whether or not he can put together a record breaking type of year? If that happens the Colts will be right there with the Texans and Titans when the end of the season rolls around.

Charity of the day: Leukemia & Lymphoma Society

Go donate! www.lls.org

Jay Ajayi will look to follow his 2016 break out season with another big year:

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Author: Jon Kuzma

The Miami Dolphins have an emerging star in Running Back Jay Ajayi. Ajayi hit the ground running in year one of Adam Gase’s offensive system and that led to 1,272 rushing yards for the former Boise State Bronco. Jay Ajayi was selected in the fifth round of the 2015 NFL Draft and is only entering his third season. So Ajayi has plenty of football left in front of him (23 years old) and he ended up being a late round steal for this organization. The zone running concepts that the Dolphins employ offensively are a great fit for Ajayi’s running style and he does a great job of running to daylight. That means Ajayi uses his vision to look for open green in front of him and it’s that reaction to the defense’s pursuit that makes Ajayi execute the system so well. When you also factor in that Jay Ajayi is 220 pounds and exceptionally strong you can see why he excels at the running back position. Ajayi is a very powerful runner and he very rarely goes down from the initial contact. On any given play Jay Ajayi can break two or three tackles so opposing defenses have to be very cautious about how they game plan for the Dolphins. If you don’t make Jay Ajayi the top priority of your defensive strategy, then there is a good chance you’re going to get burned by the English-Nigerian Ajayi. The results are in and this guy is as good as they come at the moment and when you go over the 1,000 yards rushing mark that’s when the league starts to take you seriously. Ajayi has a chance to put together back to back 1,000 yard seasons in 2017 and expect Adam Gase to unleash his secret weapon early and often in games. That gives Miami the best chance to win and a brilliant offensive play caller like Gase certainly knows that. The Dolphins will give teams a heavy does of number 23 and it’s time the NFL recognizes just how effective Jay Ajayi truly is running the football.

Charity of the day: Give Kids the World

Go donate! www.gktw.org

DeAndre Hopkins has the most to gain from the Texans drafting Deshaun Watson:

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Author: Jon Kuzma

The Houston Texans selected Deshaun Watson in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft and DeAndre Hopkins has to be especially ecstatic about that decision. After Hopkins fell short of 1,000 yards receiving last season, which was largely due to Brock Osweiler’s inconsistent play. Hopkins now gets the chance to redeem himself with the electric Watson throwing him the ball. If you watched college football at all during the last two years you know how dynamic Deshaun Watson truly is and expect a big spike in Hopkins receiving totals. The lack of cohesion that plagued Osweiler and Hopkins in 2016 will now be replaced by an emerging rookie in Watson who should hit the ground running in the NFL. The Texans were a playoff team last season and while most of their talent is on the defensive side of the ball. It has been clear the quarterback position has held this franchise back for the last two years. Now this franchise effectively found their savior in Deshaun Watson and don’t listen to the NFL scouts who knocked Watson’s draft stock. Deshaun Watson is a game breaker and he will make the throws to the outside effortlessly, which will be like music to DeAndre Hopkins’ ears. Hopkins is easily one of the best fade route receivers in the entire NFL and Watson throws that route particularly well. That’s opposed to last year when Brock Osweiler struggled with his placement and often had miscommunication with his receivers. If Will Fuller and Braxton Miller also continue their progression, Watson will have a group of receivers that can consistently move the chains for the Texans offense. Putting the rookie quarterback in such a positive situation should bring out the best in him and ultimately that confidence is going to put Hopkins over the 1,000 yards receiving mark again in 2017. If you’re a fantasy football owner this will be the year to get back on the DeAndre Hopkins bandwagon and as long as Hopkins and Watson stay health expect the Texans to be a contender in the AFC South. They’ll have to fend off the up and coming Tennessee Titans.

Charity of the day: Give Kids the World

Go donate! www.gktw.org

J.J Watt has recorded two seasons of at least twenty sacks, will he ever achieve that feat again?

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Author: Jon Kuzma

As J.J Watt recovers from back surgery that sidelined him for most of the 2016 season, you have to wonder if Watt will ever get back to the elite player he once was? Watt is entering his 7th pro season and he is currently twenty eight years old. Twenty eight might seem young but keep in mind J.J Watt has endured a number of injuries during his pro career including torn core muscles, a broken hand, and even a staff infection. When you add those injuries along with the back surgery Watt had last year, you being to notice that the medical problems are starting to pile up for the league’s three time Defensive Player of the Year award winner. J.J Watt has been exception in the past recording at least twenty sacks in a season two different times but will Watt ever be able to crack that mark again? It’s easy to see how critics would argue against the most dominant defensive player in the league but keep in mind not many players are motivated like J.J Watt. This guy understands what it takes to play at an upper echelon type of level but there definitely are some concerns. Pro Football is a young man’s game and guys in their early twenties will always have the advantage on the gridiron. Those days are in Watt’s rearview mirror and that will eventually cause the defensive end to lose step. Regardless though Watt’s mind will be on a whole different level. He still understands alignment and technique better than most guys do. Watt also knows how to prepare better than most players who ever played in the league, that’s why’s he has had at least ten sacks in a season four different times and really that should be the goal in Watt’s comeback. If J.J Watt can go out and register ten or eleven sacks that would help him gets his confidence back and he would also contribute significantly to the Texans’ defense. Then the following year Watt can aim for the the big goal of recording twenty sacks in a season. That’s the approach Watt’s team and trainers should be taking that way he sets achievable and realistic goals. The bottom line though is Houston will get a huge uplift from getting number 99 back on the field and expect J.J Watt to be terrorizing NFL offenses again soon.

Charity of the day: Defenders of Wildlife

Go donate! www.defenders.org

Ryan Fitzpatrick signs with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he will be Jameis Winston’s back up for the 2017 season:

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Author: Jon Kuzma

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers needed an insurance policy for Jameis Winston and the Bucs found that in veteran Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick signed with the Buccaneers on a one year $3 million dollar contact and it’s a smart move considering the other quarterbacks on Tampa’s roster had virtually no NFL experience. Fitzpatrick can come in and help Winston with his own develop and should the Buccaneers starting quarterback go down with an injury, Fitzpatrick at least gives this franchise a chance to stay afloat. Tampa Bay lost former back up Mike Glennon to the Chicago Bears this off-season, that led to a vacancy on their roster and we know now that Ryan Fitzpatrick will be that guy. Fitzpatrick struggled last year as the starting quarterback for the New York Jets and eventually lost the job to Bryce Petty. Fitzpatrick ended up finishing the 2016 season with 12 touchdowns and 17 interceptions so it was definitely a downhill for the 34 year old QB. In 2015 though Fitzpatrick threw for 31 touchdown passes and just 15 interceptions. So Fitz is really only one year removed from a good season and that was compelling enough evidence for the Buccaneers front office. Tampa Bay revamped their offense this off-season by signing DeSean Jackson and drafting O.J Howard. The Bucs should be in the playoff hunt with those additions and General Manager Jason Licht didn’t want to risk coming up short should Winston get banged up during the season. Signing Ryan Fitzpatrick effectively gives the Buccaneers a plan B and this team is much better because of that acquisition. You can never have enough good quarterbacks on your roster in this league and we’ve all seen how fast a team falls apart when their quarterback goes down. Now the Buccaneers whole season won’t go down the tubes if that does happen.

Charity of the day: Defenders of Wildlife

Go donate! www.defenders.org

All signs point to Ziggy Ansah rebounding in 2017:

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Author: Jon Kuzma

The Detroit Lions went to the playoffs last year but one key player in particular had a down year for Detroit and that player is Ziggy Ansah. Ansah played in thirteen contests last year for Detroit but he only recorded two sacks for the whole season. That was a huge drop from the fourteen and a half sacks that Ansah recorded in 2015 and make no mistake about it the Lions really missed Ansah’s pass rush efforts all season long. The reason Ziggy Ansah missed three games and had such a terrible output is because he suffered a high ankle sprain in a week two match up against the Tennessee Titans. That injury hampered Ansah’s ability to plant his left foot and accelerate like he would normally be able to do if he were healthy, which in the end was the Lions misfortune for all of 2016. The good news for Detroit is it appears Ansah is completely healthy for this upcoming season and he is training with a chip on his shoulder. Ziggy Ansah told the Detroit press that he “has to earn his paycheck” and that comment lets you know that Ansah is taking accountability for his down year and he plans on rebounding. A healthy Ziggy Ansah in peak physical shape will yield great returns for the Lions and expect this guy to be right up there with the Von Millers and Vic Beasleys of the world. Ansah is definitely in that elite class of pass rushers and that’s mostly due to the fact that he is physically superior than most offensive lineman he goes up against. Ziggy Ansah is a 6 foot 5 270 pound edge rusher who runs a 4.63 40 yard dash. Players that size aren’t supposed to move that quickly and that’s why Detroit selected Ziggy Ansah in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft. Ansah did record two sacks in Detroit’s playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks. That is a good indicator that Ansah should be able to get back to playing at a high level and 2017 will be the perfect time for the 27 year old Ansah to showcase his talents once again. There’s no doubt Detroit will get a huge booth from having a healthy Ziggy Ansah on the field.

Charity of the day: HIAS

Go donate! www.hias.org

The Browns gamble on Caleb Brantley pays off, Brantley’s battery charges have been dismissed:

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Author: Jon Kuzma

Caleb Brantley was projected to go as high as the first round in the 2017 NFL Draft but that was before news of a battery charge came out against the former Florida Gator defensive lineman. That caused Brantley to slip all the way to the 6th round and Cleveland felt like that was the right spot to take a chance on the 22 year old out of Crescent City Florida. Well now it looks like the Browns gamble has paid off, the Florida State Attorney dismissed Brantley’s charges due to a Stand Your Ground law in the Sunshine State. Apparently Brantley was attacked by a woman and that led the 307 pounder to push the perpetrator away. In Florida that isn’t a crime because it a self defense act by Brantley which in the end is great news for Cleveland. Now that Caleb Brantley is in the clear the Browns have added four first round talents to their roster in one off-season. Except one of those first round talents was acquired in the 6th round and to be honest Brantley should end up being a vital piece to Cleveland’s puzzle as time goes on. By adding both Myles Garrett and Caleb Brantley to their defensive front the Browns have effectively revamped one of the worst pass rushes in all of football during the 2016 season. That will help Cleveland get more pressure on  opposing quarterbacks and everyone who watches the NFL knows that’s the key to success in this league. Brantley will be asked to control the line of scrimmage and get as much penetration into the offensive backfield as possible. There’s not many 6th round talents that are going to do that as effectively as Caleb Brantley does and you just have to be happy that the guy isn’t going through any legal trouble. No one deserves to go through that especially if they are innocent. Give the Browns credit for taking a risk on this guy and ultimately coming up big.

Charity of the day: National Hemophilia Foundation

Go donate! www.hemophilia.org

LeGarrette Blount had to accept a low ball offer from the Philadelphia Eagles:

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Author: Jon Kuzma

The Philadelphia Eagles continued their stellar off-season when they signed Legarrette Blount to a one year $2.8 million dollar contract yesterday. While it’s a good thing that Legarrette Blount eventually found a home, the price he signed for was a little bit low for the amount of production Blount put up last season. LeGarrette Blount led the entire National Football League last year with 18 rushing touchdowns, that should have helped the 30 year old running back earn at least $5 million dollars but due to the urgency to sign with a team immediately Blount signed for a little bit more than half of what he is worth. The real reason this happened is because the New England Patriots used a tender on Blount last week that would have kept him in New England for $1.1 million dollars in 2017. Also if Blount didn’t sign with a team by July 22nd he would have had to sit out until at least week 10 of the regular season before he could have signed with another team besides New England. LeGarrette Blount clearly didn’t want to play for a million dollars and he didn’t want to miss the majority of the season, that led him to Philadelphia and now the Eagles offense has significantly improved around Carson Wentz. Philadelphia also signed Torrey Smith and Alshon Jeffery in free agency, those two players along with Blount will give this team a much more potent offensive attack. Philadelphia ranked 22nd in total offense in 2016 with 337 yards per game however you have to believe that ranking will significantly improve this upcoming season. Nothing improves a team like adding talent to the roster and you have to give the Eagles front office credit for going after marquee players. Signing LeGarrette Blount for under $3 million dollars is an absolute steal and expect the Eagles to finish in the top 10 when it comes to running the ball in the 2017. Philadelphia finished 11th last year without Blount on their roster and now that the birds got this guy they are definitely trending upward.

Charity of the day: National Hemophilia Foundation

Go donate! www.hemophilia.org

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