Photo credit: Kevin Thomson
Author: Jon Kuzma
Jameis Winston looked shaky as a passer in preseason action for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers looking much more comfortable with his feet. The rookie quarterback out of Florida State often relied on his running skills when the play broke down in preseason action, which is not a good sign for him in terms of his progression as a quarterback. Quarterbacks at the NFL level must be able to trust their reads and have a quick release before the defensive pressure gets to them. Jamies was evading the pressure by rolling out and buying time, or scrambling to the edge during plays. The first thing he must further develop is that ability to sit in the pocket and deliver all of the throws downfield. He never had a problem like this at the collegiate level and it was odd to see him developing these habits now as a pro. Despite all of that criticism, he did score two touchdowns rushing so you can’t completely knock him for those efforts. It’s just that 0 touchdowns and 2 interceptions passing wise over those 4 preseason games is not the production that will elevate the Buc’s in the regular season. The team is depending on Winston to step up and live up to that role as franchise savior. He has big time weapons in Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson that depend on an adequate quarterback to deliver the ball to them. Winston has all the tools as far as size, accuracy, and arm strength go. Now he has to put it all together on the field. To be fair he is still a rookie, but the Buc’s need him to grow up right now in order for them to have the success they’d like. If Winston can become that player they will be a force in the NFC South for years to come.
Charity of the day: American Forests
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Photo credit: Ken Thomson
Author: Jon Kuzma
Todd Gurley was one of the most electrifying players in all college football last year. He is clearly a big part of the St. Louis Rams future and that is why they chose to go with Gurley with the 10th overall pick in the 2015 draft. At the time Gurley was selected he was still recovering from a an ACL tear that he had sustained during his time at the University of Georgia. While a running back hadn’t been selected in the first round since the 2012 draft, the Rams selected Gurley despite the fact he was recovering from that knee injury. The commitment showed their beliefs in Gurley as a player. It also was a sign of how far medicine has advanced in sports. Since just two decades ago an ACL tear meant the end of a player’s career. In the preseason the Rams suited Gurley up before a few games but didn’t play him in the actual games. When watching him take hand offs in pre game warm ups in full pads vs the Colts. Gurley looked tense in and out of his cuts. His knee didn’t seem to have the strength to give him that fluent motion as a runner when planting and accelerating. In order for Gurley to be anywhere near the player that he was in college football last year. He will have to be playing at optimal health. That is why the Rams should be patient with Gurley and make sure he is indeed 100% healthy before putting him back on the field. Clearly he is going to want to get back on the field as soon as possible, so he can get back to what he does best. It’s up to the Rams medical staff to do their due diligence and make sure that is at the proper time. Gurley will have to play at an even higher level than what he was playing at last year to have success at the pro level. Sometimes rehab can push athletes to new heights in terms of their athletic abilities. So maybe Gurley will benefit from those rehabilitation sessions, and be able to regain that speed and quickness which made him so effective last season. Regardless it’s in the Rams best interest to be patient with the rookie.
Charity of the day: Action Against Hunger-USA
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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.
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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
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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
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