Brandin Cooks is ready to become a superstar in his 3rd professional football season:

Photo credit: Sean Gardner / Getty Images Sport

Author: Jon Kuzma

Brandin Cooks was a good choice for the Saints when they drafted him in the 1st round of the 2014 Draft. Cooks was a former Biletnikoff award winner as a college receiver and it was easy to see that this guy was going to be a great football player someday. While Cooks was a 550 receiving yards and 3 touchdowns caliber player in his first season. He quickly elevated his game to become a 1,138 receiving yards receiver with 9 touchdowns to go along with that. That jump is already elite but now Cooks has the ability to be even better. New Orleans had visions of what Cooks was going to be someday and now number 10 is living up to all of those expectations. When you plug in Cooks’s film and watch him operate in this offense. You quickly notice that he is slightly undersized standing just 5 feet 10 inches. However Cooks has the ability to have a big impact for his team because he is a pure football player when it’s all said and done. Despite Cooks’ size he has no fear of going over the middle and truthfully he does some of his best work there. He can run a drag route or a slant route make a defender miss and then get up field quickly. On film you will even see Cooks hurdle a defender or two so he also has that kind of athleticism going for him. Finally Cooks has enough speed to blow away any defender who isn’t in the same class as him sprinting wise. To get an idea of how fast that class is you have to look at Cooks’s 40 yard dash time which was a blistering 4.33. If a linebacker or slower safety line up on Cooks it’s almost automatically bad news. So this is a player who is really making the transition into a marquee player and look for him to be even better in 2016.

Charity of the day: Friends of Animals

Go donate! www.friendsofanimals.org

Geno Smith has been receiving high praise for his improvement as a football player:

Photo credit: Tom Szczerbowski / Getty Images Sport

Author: Jon Kuzma

The New York Jets were hoping to get their quarterback of the future when they drafted Geno Smith in 2nd round of the 2013 Draft. Since then Smith has done very little to live up to the New York Jets expectations and many people around the league gave up on Smith. Especially when Ryan Fitzpatrick came to the Jets last year and really seized the Jets started quarterback job. Well apparently things are looking much brighter these day for Geno Smith and rumors coming out of New York are Smith is looking much improved heading into his fourth season. Two notable people to praise Smith for his improvement are former Jets quarterback Joe Namath and Head Coach Todd Bowles. Namath stated that he believes Smith will be the starting quarterback regardless if Fitzpatrick comes back or not. Joe Namath also believes that Smith’s maturity and stronger frame will be the big factors in his growth as a quarterback. Meaning Geno Smith has put on some muscle and understands what it takes to be success in the NFL much more this year than he did in the past. Players tend to become more aware of the game as they get more experience and apparently you can really see Geno Smith’s progression. Todd Bowles told the media “it’s like night and day” when comparing Smith this year to just a year ago. With all of the positive feedback Smith’s confidence will likely grow and we will see if he can really make a push for the starting job as time moves forward. You’d have to think if Fitzpatrick signs with the Jets he could easily beat out Smith, however with all of this hype about Smith being a whole lot better. It will be interesting to see Fitz and Smith compete and the best player will emerge from that position battle. Whatever the outcome Smith deserves praise for taking the job more seriously and doing whatever he can to work towards his goals. You can’t hate a guy for giving effort.

Charity of the day: American Bird Conservancy

Go donate! www.abcbirds.org

Ron Rivera is rewarded for his contributions to the Carolina Panthers:

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Author: Jon Kuzma

The Carolina Panthers decided that they were going to reward Head Coach Ron Rivera with a new 3 year contract extension worth $19.5 million dollars. Rivera has been outstanding for Carolina and because of his efforts the Panthers have been able to clinch 3 straight NFC South titles. With talented players like Cam Newton and Luke Kuechly on the roster, some might say Rivera is benefiting from has those marquee talents. However the consistency the Panthers have shown is a testament of the team’s good leadership and a lot of that comes from the head coach and the way he approaches the game. Rivera was a talented player before he got into coaching. He was drafted by the Chicago Bears in the 1984 Draft. He played linebacker for Chicago and was part of the 1985 defense. Which is often regarded as the best defense to ever play in the NFL. So this is a guy who learned the ins and outs of the game as a player and that set him up to one day be a great coach. Rivera then polished himself as a coach by coaching for the Bears, Eagles, and Chargers which ultimately set him up for the Panthers head coaching gig. At every level of his life Rivera has put in the work and really developed himself. That has allowed him to elevate to the position he is in today and now Rivera will make $19.5 million dollars for his next contract. That isn’t a bad income at all and you have to be happy for Riverboat Ron. This is a guy who has worked hard his whole life and he did it the right way. With honesty, and transparency with his players and the Carolina Panthers certainly took notice. The front office felt comfortable making the 3 year commitment and now we will be seeing more of Rivera since he will be under contract till the end of 2018. A good move for the Panthers.

Charity of the day: American Bird Conservancy

Go donate! www.abcbirds.org

Darius Slay is the best thing the Detroit Lions have going for them right now:

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Author: Jon Kuzma

The Detroit Lions have a big time player in Darius Slay. The Lions drafted Slay in the 2nd round of the 2013 Draft and he has had tremendous growth in his transition into a professional football player. Slay started off slow as a rookie but he was on the field a lot. That led him to eventually understanding the pace of the game and now Slay is looking fluent in defensive coverage. This is a player who can really do it all when it comes to defensive back. He has the speed and skill to stick on your hip and run with you in man coverage. He  also can press and be physical in cover 2 or bail and play a deep third in cover 3. When you have a corner that has that kind of range it really opens things up for you defensively because you can trust Slay to do his job in any coverage. If the Lions choose to blitz Slay will handle the opposites team’s to[ wideout man to man , if defensive coordinator Teryl Austin wants to zone blitz Slay can handle any responsibility given to him. Expect this guy to be all over the football field and always the opposite of some of the biggest receiver names the league has to offer. Right now the Lions are down a little bit talent wise and Slay is really bringing some light to Detroit’s football team. The Lions are hoping that they can replace the loss of Calvin Johnson with players like Marvin Jones and Taylor Decker. However it was the defense that really let the team down last season and that was because the team lost so much on that defensive front the past off-season. Now with A’shawn Robinson coming in the mix the team should be a little better there and that should make Slay’s life much easier. Good defensive pressure upfront results in plays being made on the back end and look for Slay to have his best year yet in 2016. His confidence is clearly high and the guy is really coming to his own in this league.

Charity of the day: World Resources Institute

Go donate! www.wri.org

Joey Bosa is being a prima donna and holding out of Chargers minicamp:

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Author: Jon Kuzma

The San Diego Chargers had high expectations when they drafted Joey Bosa in the first round of the 2016 Draft. However Bosa still hasn’t signed with the Chargers and it appears a holdout could be on the horizon. That would be terrible for San Diego and the team has to do everything they can to get this guy to sign on the dotted line. By addressing a deal with Bosa quickly the team can prevent these negotiations from spiraling out of control. If both sides are too patient then Bosa could end up sitting out longer than he would like to. We’ve seen Michael Crabtree in a similar situation back in 2009 when he was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers. Crabtree had no contract when training camp rolled around in July and Crabtree’s agent Eugene Parker threatened that Crabtree would sit out the entire season and reenter the draft the following year in 2010. Eventually Crabtree and the 49ers were able to come together and strike a deal in late August but that example shows you just what could happen if the Chargers and Bosa don’t iron this thing out as quickly as possible. Bosa’s pass rush efforts were supposed to propel the Chargers in 2016 and the team desperately needs this guy on the field. Chargers General Manager Tom Telesco stated he is “disappointed that he’s not here” when referring to Bosa. Showing that the G.M believes Bosa is missing out on crucial reps and losing opportunities to elevate himself as a football player. If Bosa wants to be the second coming of JJ Watt he will have to take advantage of training camp and use that time to perfect his craft. It doesn’t appear Bosa is understanding these underlining factors and keep an eye on whether a deal materializes anytime soon. If it doesn’t this could get really ugly for the Chargers.

Charity of the day: Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors

Go donate! www.taps.org

Darren McFadden will be out of action a couple months after elbow surgery:

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Author: Jon Kuzma

Darren McFadden will be sidelined at least a couple of months with an elbow injury after falling while trying to catch his cell phone. The story seems kind of unusual but that is the report coming out of Dallas and now McFadden will be sidelined for an extended period of time. McFadden is hurt the most in the fact that he will miss out on repetitions during training camp and those reps could of been the difference in holding off Ezekiel Elliott for the starting running back job for the Cowboys. McFadden was the number 1 back on the roster according to the Cowboys coaching staff and now that certainly could be up for grabs. Darren McFadden has a past of being somewhat injury prone and this time McFadden takes a hit off the football field. It’s just very strange that this would happen and above all it’s very bad timing for McFadden. The former Arkansas running back had a 1,000 yards last year for the Cowboys and we were all really rooting for him to keep up that pace. Now it appears he will have an uphill battle this season coming back from this injury and getting back to the form he was playing with during the 2015 season. It won’t be easy to do and now he could miss the season opener which is September 11th. Meaning he will have to work on getting in game shape just as the season starts which is another huge setback. People don’t understand how important training camp is and going through those team activities prepare you for the games. You have to think that McFadden is trending downward, and Elliott will step up and seize that job but he still will have to battle with Alfred Morris who is a competitor himself. It’s a sad day for McFadden we wish him the best and hope he bounces back. For the other guys, the next guy in line for the Cowboys has to step up.

Charity of the day: Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors

Go donate! www.taps.org

Fletcher Cox strikes a mega-deal with the Eagles:

Photo credit: Mitchell Leff / Getty Images Sport

Author: Jon Kuzma

The Philadelphia Eagles signed standout defensive lineman Fletcher Cox to a 6 year $103 million dollar contract extension today. The move will keep Cox in Philly until at least 2022 and will give the Eagles a long term plan with their best pass rusher. Cox will get $63 million dollars in guaranteed money and he also will receive a $26 million dollar signing bonus. Not bad for a player who is entering his 5th season of NFL action. It’s clear Cox’s 9.5 sacks in 2015 were enough promise to get the Eagles to buy into a future with Cox. Now Fletcher Cox will be tasked with dominating the trenches for Jim Schwartz’s new defense. As long Cox stays around 10 sacks a season, he will live up to expectations in Philadelphia. That shouldn’t be a problem for the newly compensated Cox because he has continuously progressed since coming into the league in 2012 and now he is an elite level football player. That is why Philly was so reluctant to let him go and when it’s all said and done this is a good move for the this football team. Defense wins championships and the Eagles paid their best defender. Putting that emphasis on defense is the smartest move this front office could make and life post Chip Kelly might not be that bad if the team keeps making moves like this. The team will have to get past all the bad moves they made at the quarterback position this off-season but hopefully now they will at least have a motivated Fletcher Cox to get stops on the defensive side of the ball. Finally it should be noted that the Eagles are putting an emphasis on running backs by committee entering the 2016 as well. By playing fundamental football, and running the ball and trusting the team’s defense. The Eagles could philosophically  be in a much better place than they’ve been of recent. That is because they got back to playing traditional football and doing the things that makes teams successful in the pros. Paying Fletcher Cox was just another step of that process.

Charity of the day: Environmental Defense Fund

Go donate! www.edf.org

Making a case for Bruce Smith as the best defender of all time:

Photo credit: Rick Stewart / Getty Images sports

Author: Jon Kuzma

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When you look up who has the most sacks ever you will see Bruce Smith’s name at the top of the list. That is because Smith left his mark on the NFL after dominating for 19 seasons in the league. Not only did Bruce Smith have the longevity of 19 seasons in him athletically. He also had nearly the best technique of all time which allowed him to record 200 career sacks. That is 10.5 sacks a year and now in today’s era we go crazy when a player has more than 10 sacks in a season. Bruce Smith put up those numbers consistently year in and year out which is why he is the greatest sack master that has ever lived. Reggie White and Lawrence Taylor are often highly praised and treated as the best pass rushers which in some respects is fair. However every time we praise those guys we are doing an injustice to Bruce Smith. Smith could beat you in so many ways whether it was coming down the line of scrimmage and KOing a running back in the offensive backfield. Smith was also known for putting a nasty spin move on opposing offensive tackles and sacking the quarterback for huge defensive stops. This is a player whose motor was always running at a high level and he was a relentless force for the Bills and Redskins defenses. Smith’s best year was in 1990 when he recorded 19 sacks and 101 tackles. That is a defensive end making a 100 tackles a year which hasn’t been done in a very long time. Defensive ends don’t make a 100 tackles in a season anymore and Bruce Smith did while he played. That shows you how much this guy was a dominant force on the football field and he deserves at least someone praising him as the best defender of all time. Bruce Smith was a rare breed of athlete that we still haven’t seen again at that position.

Charity of the day: Environmental Defense Fund

Go donate! www.edf.org

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Philip Rivers is still competing at a high level despite being 34 years old:

Photo credit: Thearon W. Henderson/ Getty Images Sport

Author: Jon Kuzma

The San Diego Chargers have been blessed with one of the most competitive quarterbacks in the league in Philip Rivers. Rivers is entering his 13th season of professional football and last year he was as good as anyone in the league. Rivers threw for 4,792 passing yards and 29 touchdowns last season. Those numbers were very impressive and Rivers finished 2nd in the league in passing yards with only Drew Brees throwing more. Now part of that was because the Chargers running game was non existent last year and San Diego had to throw the ball. The other part was the fact that Rivers is exceptional at quarterback and his awareness of the game at this point is outstanding. Having your best player on your team be a quarterback is always a good thing but the Chargers need to upgrade other positions to give Rivers a fair chance. The team drafted Joey Bosa to boost the defense, while signing Travis Benjamin to give the Chargers another receiving threat. Those are two big moves but the team needs to get their running game going so all the pressure isn’t on Rivers. If Melvin Gordon can become even a fraction of the player he was at the University of Wisconsin that would be huge for San Diego. The rest of the rushing efforts will fall on Danny Woodhead. Ultimately becoming a more balanced football team will be a huge factor for this team and hopefully the defense can produce much more than they did in 2015. If all of those little things can come together then Rivers can go out there and keep the Chargers in games. If not then they will continue to struggle like they did last year and it will be another season of Rivers’s talents being wasted. We will see if they’ve progressed once the season rolls around and we also get to see if Rivers and company can survive in the much improved AFC West. It certainly won’t be easy.

Charity of the day: Common Cause Education Fund

Go donate! www.commoncause.org

Eli Manning is the only Manning we have left:

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Author: Jon Kuzma

The New York Giants have to be ecstatic with all of the success that Eli Manning has brought to their football team. Under Manning the Giants have won two Super Bowls (XLII and XLVI) and the team is always a threat in the passing game. That is because Manning has thrown for 44,187 passing yards and 294 touchdowns over the course of 12 season career. Those numbers are extremely impressive and the Giants finally have a talented cast of receivers around Manning to help him become more effective. Odell Beckham Jr. is flourishing entering his 3rd season which takes a lot of pressure of Manning. Beckham can consistently make plays and that allows Manning to trust the Giants number 1 receiver. Then the team drafted Sterling Shepard in the 2nd round to give the Giants another receiver who can contribute in the aerial attack. Shepard is an undersized receiver who plays like he is 7 feet tall. This is a player who had 26 receiving touchdowns during his four years at Oklahoma. So Shepard can certainly come in and add a boost to everything Eli Manning is doing with this offense. Finally when you add in the fact that Victor Cruz should be a step closer to being healthy. You begin to see why the Giants could be in better shape in 2016. Now it will it will be up to Manning to come out and be poised. He has to eliminate turnovers and do his best to be efficient while throwing the football. Manning has never finished a season with less than 9 interceptions. One goal you’d like to see Manning set for himself would be to throw the least amount of interceptions possible. 3 times in his career he has thrown 20 or more interceptions in a season and when the turnover total gets that high for one player bad things tend to happen to that player’s team. It will be up to Manning to understand in order for the Giants to win football games he has to take care of the football first and foremost. That would go a long way in the Giants chances for success and it will certainly please the fans in New York. At the end of the day Eli Manning is the last Manning we have left in this league and we all would like to see him go out on a high note. You never know how many years he has left.

Charity of the day: Common Cause Education Fund

Go donate! www.commoncause.org

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