Aaron Donald: dominant in the trenches

Photo credit: Michael Thomas

Author: Jon Kuzma

The Los Angeles Rams got a terrific player when they drafted Aaron Donald in the first round of the 2014 Draft. Donald was a an All-American for the University of Pittsburgh before his pro career and widely considered one of the best defensive tackles in the country. No one could of predicted just how good Aaron Donald would be at the pro level though. Donald has recorded 20 sacks in his 2 year professional career and averaging 10 sacks a season will earn you a reputation quickly in the National Football League. Donald has so many ways to beat opposing offensive lineman, it seems like on every snap he is in the offensive backfield. He also has an unusually quick spin move for an interior defensive lineman that he uses to punish blockers with. It’s that awareness on the field combined with Donald’s superior athletic ability that makes him one of the premier defensive tackles in the league. Now with the Rams moving to Los Angeles it will be up to Donald to take his act to Hollywood and continue to do what he has always done on the field, simply dominate. An example of how good Aaron Donald can be when he dominates is the game he played against the Detroit Lions last season. Donald finished that game with 5 tackles and 3 sacks. When you get that kind of production upfront from one player, it makes everyone else’s job easier around Donald. The Rams head to LA without James Laurinaitis, or Chris Long so it will be up to Donald to have his best year of football to ensure the Rams start off on the right foot LA. Jeff Fisher knows he has a special player in Aaron Donald and his leadership will also be essential to the Rams success. If this guy can come out and set the tone for the Rams, it will set a good precedent for this football team. Expect him to do so because Aaron Donald is one of the best in the business.

Charity of the day: American Brain Tumor Association

Go donate! www.abta.org

Gronkowski’s dominance earned him the 2017 Madden cover:

Photo credit: Doug Pensinger

Author: Jon Kuzma

Rob Gronkowski has been absolutely dominant on the football field over the duration of his 6 season career. So dominant that the people at Electronic Arts decided that Gronkowski should be on the cover of the 2017 edition of Madden. Gronkowski has been stellar on the football field recording 5,555 career receiving yards and 65 career touchdowns. Those statics put Gronkowski on pace to be one of the best tight ends to ever play the game of football and don’t be surprised if he ends up in the Hall of Fame someday. Gronkowski’s 2015 performance which included 1,176 receiving yards and 11 touchdown receptions is what actually notched Gronk the video game cover though. He was great in 2015 and the Madden franchise wanted to capitalize on Gronkowski’s marketability. It’s reported that Gronkowski will earn a little less than $500,000 for being on the cover and Electronic Arts is hoping that Gronkowski can put together one of his best seasons ever in 2016 to help optimize sales. Betting on Gronkowski is a good move because he has only had less than 10 touchdown receptions once in his 6 seasons and he is about as automatic of a player that you’re going to find. Gronkowski will have to overcome the loss of Tom Brady for four games but you have to think that he will still be able to put up a touchdown every other game in Brady’s absence. That will give Gronkowski 12 games with Brady to get 8 touchdowns and post yet another season of 10 touchdown receptions. That should be enough to please E.A Sports and continue Madden’s legacy as the best sports video game to ever exist. Football fans have to be happy for Rob Gronkowski and if there is a guy who will defy the “Madden curse” it’s certainly Rob Gronkowski. Gronk very well might end up as the best tight end to ever play the game and the cover is an award Gronkowski certainly deserves. When it’s all said and done it’s just another accolade for the Patriots tight end.

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

Go donate! www.hdsa.org

Can the Chiefs take the next step in the postseason?

Photo credit: Jamie Squire

Author: Jon Kuzma

The Kansas City Chiefs overachieved last season making it all the way to the AFC divisional round. Now with another off-season under Head Coach Andy Reid’s belt the team will try to take that next step and do whatever they can to get to that Lombardi Trophy. The Chiefs signed Travis Kelce to a contract extension to make sure their key tight end doesn’t skip town. The team also franchise tagged Eric Berry to keep one of their better defenders in the mix. There weren’t any marquee free agent signings from other teams, but that is always how Reid does business. He prefers to build through the draft and promote from within. That is why Reid’s players respect him so much because ultimately Coach Reid does a great job of looking out for his players best interest. The result of that philosophy is Reid’s teams always have great team morale and outstanding team chemistry. Which is why the Chiefs overachieved last season and ultimately why Andy Reid has continuously overachieved as a head coach. In the draft the Chiefs traded out of the first round in exchange for 3 draft picks (2nd, 4th, and 6th). That allowed the team to get a couple extra players during the draft which will help contribute in 2016. As far as player selection goes, the Chiefs continued to address the trenches like Reid always does. The team took a defensive tackle with their first pick in the draft (2nd round, 6th pick) and that player was Chris Jones out of Mississippi State. Smith can come in and add a boost to that Chiefs defensive line and will certainly result in more pressure for the team’s defense. The team also selected 3 cornerbacks in the draft hoping that one player can be paired along with Marcus Peters. Clearly the Chiefs’ front office thought the position was a serious need for the team and that is why we seen them take a shot at the cornerback position in the 2nd, 4th, and 6th round. Overall it’s clear the team is trying to take that next step by adding a surge of youth to their team. The Chiefs believe they can take young talents and mold them into effective football players and that strategy allows Kansas City to avoid taking any gambles on overpriced free agent. It’s worked this far but it’s hard to say how much ground the Chiefs have gained in the AFC playoff picture. You have to take a “wait and see” approach with the Chiefs because nobody thought they’d be as good as they were last year. They easily could be better or they easily could regress. A lot of factors go into those final results and really the thing that is most key is whether or not the team can stay healthy. Still you have to like this team’s chances in the AFC West. The Raiders are much improved, but you still have to give the edge to the Chiefs or Broncos. With the Broncos losing some key players though it might be the Chiefs division for the taking.

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

Go donate! www.hdsa.org

Marcus Mariota must become tougher in order to thrive in the National Football League:

Photo credit: Al Pereira/ Getty Images Sport

Photo credit: Jon Kuzma

The Tennessee Titans did a great job of landing their franchise quarterback when they drafted Marcus Mariota 2nd overall in the 2015 Draft. The former Ducks quarterback was a big time player at Oregon and his efforts led him to receiving the Heisman Trophy which is given out to the best player in college football. Those past accomplishments put him all over the Titans radar and they wasted no time when it came to selecting a player off the board in that 2015 Draft. Now after one season in the league and reflecting back on Mariota’s play, it’s clear Marcus Mariota has to make a few adjustments moving forward to ensure he can become a successful football player at the professional level. The main weakness Mariota has to address is simply getting tougher. Mariota was very effective as a passer throwing for 19 touchdowns and 91.5 passer rating. However Mariota only played in 12 games and was often sidelined by injuries he sustained while playing for Tennessee. Part of the reason Mariota was injured and out of action for 4 games was the fact that he was sacked 38 times last season. It seemed like every time Marcus Mariota dropped back last season he was being hit or a defender was in his face. That really made it difficult for him to have success and the Titans addressed that problem by drafting Jack Conklin out of Michigan State in the 1st round of the 2016 draft. That protection upfront will certainly help Mariota and the Titans also added two running backs this off-season to take pressure of their quarterback as well. With all of these pieces in place the last thing that needs to happen is Mariota has to simply get tougher. He has to understand that he will take some punishment playing in this league and sometimes being a leader in the NFL means having some grit and playing through those physical setbacks. The guy is good at being a vocal leader and rallying the troops verbally but he now needs to step up and show he can do it physically. That means being on the field for every snap, and understanding he is going to take bumps and bruises along the way. If Mariota can do that then there are no limits on the things he can achieve in the National Football League. If not he will continue to be a flashy player who is brittle and can’t stay on the field. 2016 will be a great way to assess Mariota’s durability and see if he can withstand the grind of being a pro football player. 16 games is the goal for Mariota.

Charity of the day: International Peace Institute

Go donate! www.ipinst.org

Romo is making good progress in his recovery:

Photo credit: Tom Pennington / Getty Images Sport

Author: Jon Kuzma

Tony Romo has looked good at Dallas Cowboys camp this off-season throwing the football. Romo was sidelined for most of the 2015 season with a clavicle injury before trying to rush back to the football field. That resulted in Romo breaking his clavicle twice in one season last year, and people around the Cowboys organization were certainly nervous about the status of Tony Romo. Now rumors leaking out of Dallas are Romo has been throwing for about a month or so and has had good velocity on most of his throws. That is good news for the Cowboys who finished 4-12 last season, and the team is hoping to get all of their key pieces back on the field playing at the same time. The team also lost Dez Bryant last year early on and that really set the team back. Now having both of those players healthy and in the mix. The Cowboys will have a much better shot at claiming the NFC East title. The team will also get a significant boost from Ezekiel Elliott coming into the fold. Elliott has been one of the best running backs in all of college football the last couple seasons. He is a dynamic playmaker that will mesh well with what the Cowboys want to do. The Cowboys have a good offensive line as well so the team will get a good boost from their now loaded backfield. Those moves are great for the Cowboys because it gives Tony Romo a chance to hand the ball off early on and rely on the team’s running game. That will give Romo the opportunity to get back into game form and hopefully by the end of the season he will be playing at a high level again. The Cowboys have to get past the Redskins to get back on top of the division and Romo is a key piece of that puzzle. If he can come out and put up big numbers anything is possible for the Cowboys. If he goes down to injury again it will put the Cowboys back in the gutter and Romo’s career will be in question moving forward. It’s safe to say it’s a make or break year for Tony Romo personally.

Charity of the day: Cystic Fibrosis Foundation

Go donate! www.cff.org

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

1 209 210 211 212 213 260