Jarryd Hayne: the second time around:

Photo credit: Michael Zagaris

Author: Jon Kuzma

With former rugby star Jarryd Hayne coming back for his second season of action expect him to see a growth in his play. While some might say Hayne was a letdown last season, the fact that he even made an NFL roster is a testament of his athletic prowess. This is a guy who has never played football before at any level and he came out and played his first football game ever at the professional level. You don’t do that unless you are a highly gifted athlete and don’t be surprised if you see Jarryd Hayne taking the next step in his second year. Hayne finished 2015 with 17 carries for 52 yards and 8 punts for 76 yards however the thing that stood out the most was the fact that Hayne had an elusiveness and ball carrier’s vision that was clearly higher than a lot of players already in the National Football League. If Hayne can get the other parts of the game down most notably the “ball security” aspect of the game. Then things are definitely going to get brighter for Jarryd Hayne and he will almost certainly be on the 53 man roster. Now Hayne did get cut last year by the 49ers but the team signed him to their practice squad. Then they eventually brought him back to the active game roster, so that ability to withstand those setbacks and battle back onto the roster is another good sign for Hayne. This guy is a world class competitor before he is a rugby player or football player. That drive to push pass failures and letdowns is what got Jarryd Hayne to the pros and eventually what will drive Jarryd Hayne to NFL success. It’s hard not to root for a guy like Jarryd Hayne because he works so hard at his craft to be able to compete. The 49ers might of landed a special talent when they inked Hayne and 2016 will be a great way to measure what this guy can truly do on the gridiron.

Charity of the day: Cystic Fibrosis Foundation

Go donate! www.cff.org

Lions trade for Bostic in hopes of bolstering defense:

Photo credit: Jonathan Daniel

Author: Jon Kuzma

The Detroit Lions made another move today under new General Manager Bob Quinn. The Lions traded a 7th round draft pick for linebacker Jonathan Bostic in an exchange with the New England Patriots. The move is a low risk move for Detroit because they only give up a 7th round pick and the team is hoping to add a little depth at the linebacker position by acquiring Bostic. Bostic has been shipped out by the Bears and the Patriots in the last year, so the Lions are hoping he can find a home in the Motor City. Bostic only recorded 2 tackles all of last year so the Lions are really hoping that he meshes well with their system and can elevate this football team. On paper it doesn’t seem like a great move because Bostic has been poor stats wise recently and he has been traded from his last two teams. However sometimes it takes situations like Bostic has faced to realize the opportunity at stake. Bostic is still young enough at 25 years old to turn it around and get back to playing at that high level that he was playing at during his time at the University of Florida. It will take some serious discipline though and a lot of hard work. Bostic now finds himself in a situation where he is running out of opportunities in the National Football League. If he doesn’t produce in Detroit there might not be any other teams knocking at the door and looking to sign Jonathan Bostic. There clearly has to be a reason why the Bears and Patriots chose to move him, and that is why Lions fans shouldn’t get too excited about this trade. On the positive side though it’s good to see Bob Quinn taking action, that is what this football team has lacked for so long. A guy at the general manager position who has a vision for this football team. If he can keep taking low risk moves like this that pan out for the Lions, the future might be brighter sooner than expected for Detroit fans. Still this organization needs to be unconventional and shake things up a bit, they are already facing an uphill battle being the Lions (a historically bad franchise) and it will take much more than one trade to make them relevant again.

Charity of the day: Huntington’s Disease Society of America

Go donate! www.hdsa.org

The Jets success all starts with their defensive front:

Photo credit: Al Pereira / Getty Images Sport

Author: Jon Kuzma

The New York Jets had a great  season under first year head coach Todd Bowles but much of that success can be credited to the team’s defensive line. The Jets are outstanding at getting pressure on the quarterback and much of that production comes from Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson, and Leonard Williams. Those 3 players produced 20 total sacks and often times flushed the quarterback out of the pocket and allowed other Jets defenders to finish the play. Now with Williams entering his second season you’d have to think that his number will greatly increase and that should really improve the Jets defensively. Williams showed glimpses of just how dominant he could truly be in the National Football League, but like most rookies his play was too inconsistent. Having Leonard Williams take that next step for the Jets will make everyone else’s job on the New York defense much easier and will also result in a better team effort. Sheldon Richardson also needs to continue to play at a high level in order for the Jets to take that next step and get back to the postseason. Richardson is a very talented player and had 5 sacks in 2015. In a 3-4 defense 5 sacks is pretty impressive for a defensive lineman but it would still be nice to see Richardson get up around the 8 sack mark. That would be a great goal for Richardson entering the 2016 season and would go a long way in elevating the Jets pass rushing efforts. Finally the best player on the Jets defensive line is hands down Muhammed Wilkerson. Wilkerson suffered a broken leg in the Jets final game last year so he will have to make a full recovery before being the player he once was. However when healthy Wilkerson is a force to be reckoned with and he can flat out dominate in the trenches. Overall these three players are where it all starts for Gang Green and if the Jets want to be successful in 2016 it will be done by optimizing these three players talents. Expect New York to be extremely stout upfront again next season and keep an eye all threes players production levels, they should have direct correlation on the Jets success.

Charity of the day: Huntington’s Disease Society of America

Go donate! www.hdsa.org

Robert Nkemdiche: high risk, high reward?

Photo credit: Jon Durr

Author: Jon Kuzma

When the Arizona Cardinals selected Robert Nkemdiche in the 1st round of the 2016 Draft there were some critics who had concerns about Nkemdiche’s character. The Arizona Cardinals saw something different though, they saw a player who had a big personality and was a highly competitive football player. That gamble and willing to bet on Nkemdiche as a football player seems to have paid off for the Arizona Cardinals. Nkemdiche was an absolute monster at rookie camp often beating double teams and pressuring the quarterback. Nkemdiche will help bolster the Cardinals defense along with new comer Chandler Jones. If the Cardinals can get Dwight Freeney back in the mix as well, the Cardinals could be one of the best pass rushing teams in football. Defense wins championships and you have to think that Cardinals have made enough moves to advance another round in the playoffs. Having Nkemdiche’s production on the defensive line will certainly help and you have to remember this is a guy who put up 28 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press at the combine. So he can overwhelm opposing offensive lineman and consistently put pressure on the quarterback. That is the reason why he played himself into the first round of the 2016 Draft and also why the Cardinals thought there was enough upside to take a shot on the former Rebel defensive lineman. Bruce Arians does a terrific job of mentoring and looking over the younger players on the Cardinals roster. That is a big reason why Nkemdiche and the Cardinals are such a great fit for each other and they should mesh well in 2016. There are a lot of people around the Arizona Cardinals training camp facility right now who think the Cardinals got it right with this draft pick and football fans should excited to see Nkemdiche’s story play out.

Charity of the day: American Civil Liberties Union Foundation

Go donate! www.aclu.org

The Titans reward Delanie Walker’s breakout season with a 2 year contract extension:

Photo credit: Kent Nishimura / Getty Images Sport

Author: Jon Kuzma

Delanie Walker had his best season as a pro last year and the Tennessee Titans are rewarding Walker for his efforts. The Titans and Walker reached a deal yesterday that will keep Walker in a Titans uniform until at least 2019. The crazy thing about Walker’s story is this is his 10th season in the league, and players usually have their best season as a pro earlier in their career. However Walker is an example of a guy who hung around the league long enough to develop into a successful football player. Now after recording 6 touchdowns and 1,088 receiving yards this season, Walker will cash in on his contributions and earn $14.7 million over the next two seasons with $8.2 million of that money being guaranteed. It just goes to show that if you work hard and stick with it good things can happen. Walker now will come into the 2016 season coming off his best year looking to have an encore performance. You have to think with the Titans drafting Jack Conklin in the 1st round and giving Mariota more protection upfront. That will result in greater production from Delanie Walker. So things are certainly looking up for Delanie Walker personally and at 31 years old he still has a lot of gas in the tank professionally as well. The Titans have made some great moves this off-season and they will definitely be a better team than they were in 2015. With the AFC South being one of the most wide open conferences in football they will have a chance to complete. However they will need a little magic to overcome what the Jags and Texans have done this off-season. Still you have to like that things are improving in Nashville and that will make it a more desirable location for other players in the league. Give credit to Titans General Manger Jon Robinson and the rest of the Titans front office for having a good plan of action, and being able to execute it when the time came.

Charity of the day: Coalition for the Homeless

Go donate! www.coalitionforthehomeless.org

Josh Norman has his franchise tag pulled by Carolina Panthers: Josh Norman has his franchise tag pulled by Carolina Panthers:

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Photo credit: Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images Sport

Author: Jon Kuzma

Josh Norman was one of the top cornerbacks in the National Football League last year while playing for the Carolina Panthers. Norman finished the 2015 season with 4 interceptions and did a great job of shutting down the most elite receivers the league has to offer. This off-season the Panthers and Norman were trying to strike a deal that would keep Norman in Carolina for the long haul, however the Panthers seemed reluctant to finalize that deal. Finally the Panthers decided to franchise tag Norman to at least keep him around for the 2016 season. Yet when it came time to sign the contract, Norman opted not to sign and effectively began a mini-holdout from Carolina. That must not have sat well with upper management in Carolina because the team has rescinded their franchise tag offer. That move made Josh Norman a free agent at around 2:30 P.M today and he has the choice to sign with any team in the league that he chooses. Rumors around the league are Norman would like to play in California, and we’ll see shortly what teams emerge as the likely candidate to land Josh Norman. You’d have to think Norman is somewhat happy with the decision because he will sign the big contract that he desires. The downside of the situation is the fact that Norman now will be leaving the Panthers and a team he helped guide to the Super Bowl last season. The departure is a surprise but the NFL is a business and the show must go on. Some team out there will get an excellent player and a guy who can come in and cut off half of the field in the passing game. Carolina will now have to look at filling that defensive back spot at some point in the draft, and right now Carolina is a worse football team defensively than they were a day ago.

Charity of the day: Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America

Go donate! www.bbbs.org

 

 

 

Paxton Lynch will beat out Mark Sanchez to be the Broncos starter in week 1:

Photo credit: John Leyba / Denver Post

Author: Jon Kuzma

With rookie camps taking place all over the NFL today plenty of teams got a look at their incoming players. One player who stood out big time is Denver Broncos rookie quarterback Paxton Lynch. Lynch looked great for the Broncos and you could almost see coach Gary Kubiak realizing what events are going to transpire in the future for the Broncos. That is the fact that Lynch looked absolutely fantastic throwing the football today and the fact that he is clearly the best option for the Broncos moving forward. That means at some point Coach Kubiak is going to have to notify Mark Sanchez that the team intends to go with Lynch as the opening day starter. Truthfully Lynch is just a better player even as rookie. His 6’6 frame allows him to see over the line much better than Mark Sanchez ever could. Lynch also looks exceptionally fluent in his drop backs and throws. On one particular play Lynch did a playaction fake and delivered a perfect strike to one of his receivers. On that play it was obvious that the Broncos got an absolute steal by drafting Lynch in the 1st round and it also became clear that this guy wasn’t going to be on the sidelines for very long. If the Broncos want to repeat as Super Bowl champions it will be very tough to do with Mark Sanchez at the helm but it’s possible if Lynch starts from day 1. That will allow the rookie to take his licks early on in the season and hopefully he will be much improved come playoff time. The Broncos aren’t a stupid organization they understand this and that is why it’s very likely you will see Paxton Lynch as the week 1 starter. It’s very hard to fake the poise that Lynch showed at rookie camp and this guy looks like he is all business. When it’s all said and done this will be one of the best off-season moves General Manger John Elway made. Lynch looks like he could be a superstar sooner rather than later.

Charity of the day: Waterkeeper Alliance

Go donate! www.waterkeeper.org

Jason Witten has been productive for a very long time:

Photo credit: Stacy Revere / Getty Images Sport

Author: Jon Kuzma

Today Cowboys Tight End Jason Witten celebrates his 34th birthday and in honor of all his accomplishments we will reflect on his football career. Witten went to high school at Elizabethton High School and that is really where his football career began. His grandfather was the coach of the team and Witten started as both a linebacker and a tight end. Witten finished his playing days at Elizabethton High with the most tackles ever in a players career (450 career tackles). He also earned recognition as an All-American, All State, and USA Today player of the year for Tennessee. That led to Witten being recruited by the University of Tennessee and he eventually accepted a scholarship to play in Knoxville. When Jason Witten got to Tennessee he was adamant with the coaching staff that he played defensive end. However with the Volunteers struggling with depth at the tight end position. They needed Witten to fill in at that position and even though he was reluctant to do so, Witten would eventually develop into an effective tight end. Jason Witten finished his time with the Vols by earning All-Sec honors and that caught the Dallas Cowboy’s eye. The Cowboys decided to draft Witten in the 3rd round of the 2003 Draft which was the beginning of his professional reign. As a pro Jason Witten continued to raise the bar, he is a 10x Pro Bowler and one of the best tight ends to ever play the game. He already is the Dallas Cowboy’s all time career leader in receptions and now after 13 seasons it will be an enjoyment to watch him finish out his career. This is a guy who gave football so much, and has always worked hard and did the right thing. So Jason Witten is certainly a guy you can root for and he has been a factor on the field every single year he has played. Now the Cowboys will look to bounce back after their struggles last season and expect Witten to be right in the middle of those efforts. He will continue to be a staple in this offense for as long as he decides to play. Happy birthday Jason Witten and thank you for your contributions to professional football.

Charity of the day: Waterkeeper Alliance

Go donate! www.waterkeeper.org

Can Julio Jones defend his title as the receiving champion in 2016?

Photo credit: Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images Sport

Author: Jon Kuzma

Julio Jones was the best receiver in all of football in 2015. His 1,871 receiving yards were the most in the National Football League during the 2015 season and now Jones will look to repeat as the most prolific receiver in the league. Jones has been everything the Falcons had hoped for when they gave 5 picks to move up in the Draft and select the former Alabama wide receiver. Now moving forward you have to ask yourself “can Julio Jones repeat as the receiving yards champion in 2016?” That answer lies in some of the moves the Falcons have made this off-season. For example the Falcons signed former Browns Pro Bowl Center Alex Mack. Mack will make Matt Ryan’s life much easier and that should result in more production from Atlanta’s quarterback. That means the receivers statistics will improve as well and Jones will benefit greatly from the addition of Alex Mack and the improvement in Ryan’s comfort. The other big move the team made was signing Mohamed Sanu which could go either way for Jones. Sanu could help Jones see less double teams or he could cut into some of Jones’s receptions? So that addition is really a toss up in how it will affect Julio Jones. When it’s all said and done though, you have to expect Jones to rise above the expectations and continue to deliver. This guy is marquee player and one of the best in the business. As long as Matt Ryan doesn’t get hurt Jones will definitely be in the running for most yards obtained by a receiver and his main threat to dethrone him has to be Antonio Brown from the Steelers. Brown is also playing at an absurdly high level right now, and those two should be right there in the running when the year is over. So there is no doubt Julio Jones can repeat as the receiving champion, the question is can he be even better in 2016? Could he actually go over the 1,871 yard mark? Jones absolutely could because he is that physically gifted and he also has veteran’s awareness now as well. There’s nothing this guy can’t do on a football field.

Charity of the day: Animal Welfare Institute

Go donate! www.awionline.org

Jordan Reed deserves every penny of the $50 million dollar extension he signed today:

Photo credit: Rob Carr / Getty Images Sport

Author: Jon Kuzma

The Washington Redskins knew they had a special talent with Jordan Reed and today the team extended Reed’s contract for 5 more years and for $50 million more dollars. Reed had the best year a Redskins tight end has ever had in 2015 recording 952 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns. Those efforts were enough to impress the front office and that is why we should see Reed in Washington for plenty of years to come. Everyone in the D.C area who has watched a Redskins game recently knew this guy was a flat out “gamer”. Week in and week out Reed showed up and toasted some of the league’s best defenses. Now with the Redskins being the closest they’ve been in a long time to winning a Super Bowl. The team knew they had to do everything in their power to ensure Jordan Reed was in the mix for the long haul and that is why this deal was finalized today. Reed also does a great job of helping Kirk Cousins out at the quarterback position. Reed can work the middle of the field on post and seam routes and find windows in the opposing team’s defense. That makes life on Cousins much easier and adds another dimension to this Redskins offense. There is a reason Reed scored 11 touchdowns last season, it’s because the guy has a knack for getting open and making big time plays. Both sides have to happy about striking the deal and the Redskins continue their outstanding off-season which also includes the addition of Josh Norman to the mix. So you know the Redskins are going to be a quality team entering the 2016 season and it will be a lot of fun to watch Jordan Reed continue to grow within his role. Don’t surprised if this kid shapes up to be the best tight end in the league someday. All of the tools are there and he should only get better with age and awareness. Overall this was great move for the Redskins and give their front office credit for making the extension happen.

Charity of the day: Animal Welfare Institute

Go donate! www.awionline.org

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