Photo credit: Jeffrey Beall
Just one game into the preseason and several snaps for him personally, Ndamukong Suh is already making an impact for the Miami Dolphins. The highly sought after free agent who signed with the Dolphins after leaving Detroit has already been the talk of Dolphins mini-camp and he finally got to showcase those talents in a live game against the Chicago Bears. Just as he always has done in the past, Suh terrorized the opposing offensive line causing panic and frustration. The Bears even had a false start during that set of plays because opposing offensive lineman are simply intimidated by Suh upfront. Suh was able to sack the opposing quarterback 8 and half times in 2014 with the Detroit Lions. Based on the fact that he is entering into his prime now in Miami, those numbers might be even better. The guy has been a force throughout his entire career, and doesn’t show any signs of slowing down anytime soon. While his time will be limited the rest of the preseason, he rarely comes off the field in the regular season. He also plays a position which puts him in the middle of the action every single play. A good situation for the Miami Dolphins. The defense will surely be better in Miami this season and most of that will start upfront with Suh.
Charity of the day: Livestrong Foundation
Go donate! www.livestrong.org
Photo credit: SteelCityHobbies
Ben Roethlisberger completed 3 passes out of 3 attempts in the Steelers preseason game which included a 45 yard bomb to Martavis Bryant. The Steelers quarterback looked poised and the offensive line did a great job of giving Roethlisberger time. The offense seems to be picking up right where it left off from last year where the team posted 33 combined passing touchdowns and a 1300 yard rusher in Le’Veon Bell. With another year under all of those players belts that offense should be even more potent, and even more dynamic this time around. Back up quarterback Landry Jones even looked good in his preseason action, throwing for 328 yards in both games combined. A sign that the whole unit collectively is strong. Even the players down the depth chart are playing their role and contributing to this team. This is why the offensive ceiling has been so high for this team over the last two years. They’re playing with cohesion and that has led to them firing on all cylinders. You also can’t fail to mention that they still have Antonio Brown who was flat out electrifying last year on the football field, posting 13 receiving touchdowns. Brown has been an x factor for the Steelers ever since he got there from Central Michigan University. Markus Wheaton is another player that is notable of mentioning for this offense. He contributed 53 receptions and 644 receiving yards last year for Pittsburg. He is a player that can clearly help out Ben Roethlisberger when he is in a jam, and is another vital piece of that puzzle in the Steel City. Look for this team to be clicking in the regular season, this is despite the fact that they struggled in these preseasons games in terms of wins and losses. In the regular season those starters will be on the field longer and will be able to make that impact that is needed. This team should be a lot of fun to watch on sundays once week one rolls around.
Charity of the day: Action on Smoking and Health
Go donate! www.ash.org.
Photo credit: Keith Allison
Kelvin Benjamin started off the preseason just like he did last year, effectively. The star receiver for the Carolina Panthers grabbed 3 receptions for 36 yards and showcased his great body control on a 2 yard touchdown pass from Cam Newton. On that play Benjamin drove Bills rookie cornerback Ronald Darby upfield and then did a comeback easily out jumping the defender for six points. The rhythm and timing between Newton and Benjamin looked good and it might be an indicator that Benjamin is going to improve beyond that already outstanding 1,008 receiving yards that he put up in 2014. At 6’5 245 pounds Benjamin is also a match up problem for most cornerbacks in the NFL. He is bigger than just about anyone he lines up against. Now on the speed side of things running a 4.61 Benjamin is step slower than most defenders. Yet he has improved in route running and overall awareness in terms of the game. Those two factors should help him get even better in 2015. Another thing that stands out when you watch film on Kelvin Benjamin is his ability to also go up above defenders and use his height to his advantage. Several plays in 2014 he was able to go up and out jump two defenders and make a big play for his team. That combination of all those abilities make Kelvin Benjamin one of the best receivers in the NFC south and a great choice for fantasy football owners in 2015. Look for this guy to have another big year.
Charity of the day: Action on Smoking and Health
Go donate! www.ash.org.
Photo credit: Instagram @ameerguapo
With the preseason on its way like every year there is a few athletes who stand out and make us wonder. Will this success translate to the regular season? As most football fans know the preseason is a time when a team’s bottom end players get more playing time. The exhibition matches in preseason are essentially used as a measuring stick for some guys who will or will not make a team. So when a player does have success in the preseason you always have to ask. Is this the result of playing against lesser competition? Fortunately for the Detroit Lions it appears they may have found a rising star in rookie Ameer Abdullah. Abdullah out of the University of Nebraska showed exceptional skills in college and those skills seem to be making the transition over to the pro level. Abdullah had a strong showing against the New York Jets in the Detroit Lions first preseason game racking up 67 rushing yards on 7 rushing attempts. On one particular counter run play to the right Abdullah was able to slip inside of the contain man for the Jets defense and take the run an additional 45 yards up field. The play greatly captured Abdullah’s burst, vision, and ability to evade tacklers on the field. If he is able to put up this kind of production with only 7 rushing attempts, imagine what he could do if he was given 20? The prospect of that production has to please the Lions front office and they aren’t the only one’s who have been keeping their eyes on Abdullah. He has been receiving much praise from executives around the league and has even landed himself on the front page of NFL.com. The performance surely will help him gain popularity and look for him to make a push for the starting job over Joique Bell for the Detroit Lions. A task that will not come easy, but will happen if Abdullah keeps exceeding expectations like this.
Charity of the day: Africa-America Institute
Go donate! www.aaionline.org.
Photo credit: Keith Allison
The National Football League and in particular Roger Goodell have officially gotten out of control. Their latest blunder the “Deflategate” case which involved Tom Brady and the New England Patriots revolved around whether or not the Patriots deflated footballs that were used in games. The infraction should have been a matter that was handled in-house and should have been only a five minute disciplinary hearing. Yet here we are nearly a year later still plagued by the Deflategate case in media headlines and now we are even witnessing the exploitation of Tom Brady just to bring him down. We understand now why Brady was reluctant to give up his cell phone to investigators. A number of Brady’s emails, texts, and personal information were leaked to the public after the NFL and the Wells Report did a botch job of obtaining and securing that data. Now we must sit and watch as additional pressure is added to Brady’s work and personal life, far more than deflating footballs warrants. The league has went to great depths to tarnish Brady’s personal legacy over something so trivial as deflating footballs. When you step back and think about it, we’re not talking about Ray Rice’s situation where he struck his wife. We aren’t talking about Dan Kilgore’s situation where he was involved in a public intoxication case. We are talking about deflated footballs. Something that is not even a criminal penalty in the world outside of football unlike those other players mentioned. For the NFL to go to such great lengths to bring a man down for such a petty crime is a testament of how Goodell has gained too much power, and how the NFL discipline system is faulty. Yes if there is a serious matter that needs to be addressed then by all means it has to be addressed. But attacking any man to this magnitude for deflating a football is injustice regardless whether or not he did do it. NFL fans weren’t even allowed the luxury of being able to celebrate the Patriots as a champion before this scandal hit the air waves. It was if they were crowned and then stripped of that right to be champion. Now like I said if it is a major scandal then by all means it has to be addressed, but any time there is a winner someone is going to accuse them of cheating. If you want to come up with an accusation and defame the champ over it then at least let it be something a little bit more heinous than deflating footballs. The NFL showed their true colors in this case and while Brady might have deserved the four game suspension if he did do it, he certainly didn’t deserve to be betrayed by the league he helped build. He certainly didn’t deserve to have his personal life on display for the world, and shame on the NFL for allowing that to happen.
Charity of the day: Feed Our Veterans
Go donate: www.feedourvets.org
Photo credit: Al Pereira / Getty Images Sport
Author: Jon Kuzma
The New York Jets were looking to turn a new leaf when they let go of head coach Rex Ryan this off-season. While Ryan wasn’t a bad guy by any means, his laid back and sometimes outlandish approach was clearly wearing thin on owner Woody Johnson. The Jets went out and hired Todd Bowles in hopes of providing new leadership, and essentially a new culture for the Jets. With the preseason just getting on its way the Jets have already fumbled on the goal line this year. Linebacker IK Enemkpali punched and broke quarterback Geno Smith’s jaw earlier this week. The punch was apparently the result of Smith owing Enemkpali $600 for a charity event that Smith no call, no showed on. Enemkpali had paid Smith’s way, hoping the young quarterback would be there. The situation is clearly a black eye for the organization and owner Woody Johnson who were desperately looking to take that next step in the right direction. The set back has the Jets right back in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. One thing surprisingly that might happen from the altercation is the Jets could actually become better. Smith’s actions might have been a simple misunderstanding, or maybe he just didn’t take the teammate code serious enough? When you’re the quarterback of a football team you have to go the extra mile in terms of leadership. Causing any issue that might be detrimental to the team shows Smith’s poor choice of leadership. The Jets will likely be better off with Ryan Fitzpatrick who has been a journeyman in the NFL, but is a smart guy and knows how to have success in this league. Another testament of Geno Smith’s character is the fact that Rex Ryan and the Buffalo Bills picked up IK Enemkpali off free agency just days after the Jets released him for striking the quarterback. If Ryan and Smith were close Ryan would have likely frowned upon Enemkpali for striking Smith. Yet Ryan gave a twelve minute interview discussing the Bills choice to sign Enemkpali. So Geno Smith might have done the Jets a favor in weeding himself out of the starting job now that he is injured 6-10 weeks. Regardless though this team needs to get it’s act together and become the team it truly could be. Fitzpatrick will give this team the best chance. But for now the turbulent times continue.
Football online: Jets are still a circus
Charity of the day: United Way Worldwide
Go donate! www.unitedway.org/
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
Go donate! www.wish.org
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
Go donate! www.usc.salvationarmy.org
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
Go donate! www.tpl.org