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
Go donate! www.scholarshipamerica.org
Photo credit: Mike Morbeck
Jason Pierre Paul is a promising defensive end for the New York Giants. After five seasons of successfully wreaking havoc on opposing team’s quarterbacks, Paul was met with a new challenge in life. The pass rusher was enjoying his fourth of July like most American’s do. Lighting off fireworks and celebrating our nation’s independence. That is when everything took a strange twist for Pierre Paul. One of the fireworks that Pierre Paul was lighting off, exploded in his hand causing the player to sustain serious injuries to his hand. The explosion would leave J.P.P with major damage to his thumb and index finger. The injury was so bad that doctors had to amputate Pierre Paul’s right index finger. While personally it was a major set back for the former University of South Florida alum, professionally it doesn’t seem like the end for his career. He returned to the Giants today and took a physical with the team. Doctors stated that he might be able to get by this season by wearing a cast while playing. A good sign that Pierre will have a legitimate shot at getting back on the field and contributing to the G-Men. Believe it or not when the accident happened the New York Giants withdrew a 50 million dollar contract offer they had presented to Pierre Paul. Now that he will likely be back with the team there is no telling how substantial Pierre Pauls next contract will be. Yet you have to expect he is just happy to be continuing his football career. When a life altering event like this happens many times players will come out more grateful than they entered that moment. Similar to how Chris Johnson being involved in that horrible shooting a couple year ago gave him more perspective on life. The fact is J.P.P is probably coming back, and ready to put this horrible off-season behind him. While the offer the Giants submit this time around will almost certainly be less. Pierre Paul will still be a great addition on the field performance wise. He also will be one NFL’s best comeback stories this year if he can have success.
Charity of the day: Scholarship America
Go donate! www.scholarshipamerica.org
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
Go donate! www.defenders.org
Photo credit: Todd Shoemake
Author: Joey Carr
If you go to Google and type in the letter T, the third result that pops up on the search bar might surprise you, or it might not. The name that pops up is current free agent quarterback Tim Tebow, who was unexpectedly cut by the Philadelphia Eagles on September 5th. The former Florida Gator quarterback has been making headlines ever since he led Florida to a 13-1 record and won the 2009 National Championship, where his Gators defeated Sam Bradford’s Oklahoma Sooners. He then entered the NFL Draft in 2010, getting selected by the Denver Broncos with the 25th overall pick. He took over for the team after the 6th game of his second season, leading them to their first AFC West Title and playoff win since 2005, often needing late game heroics to accomplish his victories. At the time it seemed like Tebow might actually be on the fast track to being a starter in the NFL. Fast-forward to today, and Tim Tebow’s once bright future in football is now in question for the third time.
There aren’t many more polarizing figures in sports than Tim Tebow himself. Whether it’s people commenting on his outspoken religious beliefs, his throwing motion, or the infamous “Tebowing” celebration, there is never a dull moment when talking about the former Gator. However, he has always kept a positive attitude about everything that happens to him. From his glorious college days to jumping around from team to team in the NFL, his persona has not changed. But after being cut for a third time and having this stint with the Eagles go fairly well, where does Tim take his career now? Many have suggested that he go to the Canadian Football League, where he can showcase his athleticism a lot better than he could being a backup quarterback. The only problem with this route is that Tebow has stated numerous times that he wants to keep chasing his dream of playing in the NFL. Not to be negative, but that dream hasn’t worked out thus far for Tim. He started off pretty successful with the Broncos, going 8-5 (including playoffs) as the starting QB. And no one can forget the overtime thriller that saw Tebow complete a pass to Demaryius Thomas on the first play and having Thomas take it to the house 80 yards, winning Tebow his first playoff game. However, “Tebowmania” took a major blow after being demolished by the Patriots in the AFC Divisional game a week later. He was subsequently traded to the Jets after the Broncos acquired Peyton Manning in free agency, and after one turbulent season with New York was released. He then signed with the Patriots the next year for a brief preseason stint but was again let go as they trimmed their roster down to 53. After realizing he needed to step away, the former Heisman trophy winner took on a new challenge in the TV broadcasting world, becoming an anchor for the SEC Network. Getting ready for his third year as a broadcaster, the pearly gates opened and Chip Kelly came beckoning and gave Tebow the chance he had been waiting 2 years for: a chance to play in the NFL once again. Many thought that the Eagle’s high-tempo and unconventional offense would be a perfect fit for the non-traditional quarterback that Tebow is, and for a while it seemed like the stars were aligning for the former Florida standout. Third string quarterback Matt Barkley was traded to Arizona, leaving Tebow and Mark Sanchez as backups to Sam Bradford. It was almost certain he would now make the cut. However, Tebow was once again cut, and this time it had to sting.
Being cut is never easy, especially for someone who had such high hopes entering training camp and the preseason. But this is the National Football League, and coaches can’t keep someone on the 53-man roster because of their history and background. Tim Tebow is again a free agent and for now, his football career remains in jeopardy. Will he go to the CFL? Will he get another shot next season? Will he get picked up during the week before the season begins? These questions are unclear but one thing is clear: being cut will not deter Tim Tebow from chasing his dream.
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
Go donate! www.nvsf.org