The Denver Broncos kept their ground game intact by retaining Ronnie Hillman:

Photo credit: Sean M. Haffey

Author: Jon Kuzma

The Denver Broncos did two things great during their 2015 Super Bowl run, and that was run the ball effectively and play outstanding defense. Broncos General Manager John Elway did everything he could this off-season to keep that formula intact. After retaining as many people as he could on the defensive side of the ball. Elway then started focusing on the offense by making sure that CJ Anderson doesn’t skip town for Miami and now Elway has struck a deal with Anderson’s backfield partner Ronnie Hillman. Anderson and Hillman were the primary options in Denver’s offense a season ago and having that one two punch backfield in the mix for 2016 should make life on Mark Sanchez much easier. Ronnie Hillman rushed for 863 yards and 7 touchdowns in 2015 and that was just too big of a chunk of production to let walk out the door for Broncos. Hillman signed a one year deal for roughly $2 million dollars, and having him back in the fold will give Denver a huge competitive edge in their rushing attack. The best part is both Anderson and Hillman can play at a high level, so as soon as Hillman gets tired you can just spell him with Anderson and vice versa. That allows the Broncos to essentially run wild on opposing defenses and establishing the run is one of the most basic fundamentals in football. During the Elway Super Bowl runs in Denver, the team had Terrell Davis to rely on. Having a player that talented must of left an impression on Elway because he made sure neither of his talented running backs departed this off-season. It was hard to understand the team’s vision early on when Osweiler, and Jackson were moving on. Now it’s clear the Broncos are doing everything they can to use the same recipe they used last year to get to the Super Bowl. That is let the defense suffocate opposing offenses and control the tempo of the game by running the football. Last year that formula ended in a Lombardi Trophy, we’ll see how it pans out in 2016?

harity of the day: World Resources Institute

Go donate! www.wri.org

What’s happening around the league? Off-season edition 3.0

Photo credit: Sean Gardner / Getty Images Sport

Author: Jon Kuzma

Trent Richardson is back in the league:

Trent Richardson will get another crack at establishing himself as a successful professional player. Richardson signed a deal to play for the Baltimore Ravens and will look to rewrite his past NFL letdowns. After being drafted by the Cleveland Browns, Richardson never lived up to expectations he set at the University of Alabama by running for 35 career touchdowns. That prompted the Browns to trade Richardson to the Indianapolis Colts, where Richardson soon began to fizzle out. Now Richardson heads to Baltimore with a refreshed mindset looking to embark on a new path. Hopefully he learned a lot from those trying times and will be able to rise to the occasion this time around.

Brian Hoyer is released by the Houston Texans:

Brian Hoyer has been released from the Houston Texans and while the move might be somewhat of a surprise. The team did just add Brock Osweiler to their roster and that is ultimately why Hoyer was let go. Head Coach Bill O’Brien gave Brian Hoyer a lot of praise during the 2015 season, so you figured that O’Brien would keep Hoyer in a back up role. However that playoff game against the Chiefs likely swayed O’Brien away from Hoyer since he threw 4 interceptions and looked completely incompetent. The Jets expressed interest in Hoyer and we will see where the former Michigan State quarterback ends up next.

Brandon Browner heading back to Seattle:

The Seattle Seahawks are getting the band back together. The team announced that they are re-signing former Seahawks cornerback Brandon Browner to a 1 year deal. Browner struggled last year with the Saints and is hoping that returning back to Pete Carroll’s system will spike his personal performance on the field. Browner recorded 10 interceptions during his time with the Seahawks, but only managed to make 2 interceptions in his time away from Seattle. One of those seasons was with the New England Patriots and the other was with the New Orleans Saints. Now Browner will look continue right where he left off with Seattle, and the Seahawks are hoping Browner will bring back that physical element the team has lacked since his departure. It should be a good fit for both parties.

Charity of the day: World Resources Institute

Go donate!  www.wri.org

Richard Rodgers is the Packers latest weapon to emerge:

Photo credit: Al Bello / Getty Images Sport

Author: Jon Kuzma

The Green Bay Packers are known for their strong football tradition, so when you have a player that stands out playing there. It’s only a matter of time before that player gains significant recognition. For the Packers that player right now is Tight End Richard Rodgers. Rodgers has proven that he is a valuable piece to the Packers’ puzzle with his big time receiver capabilities. Rodgers was so good during the 2015 season that he finished the year with 8 touchdowns and 510 receiving yards. Eight touchdowns is a significant amount of production from the Tight End position and you have to imagine Rodgers’ role increasing as time moves forward. Aaron Rodgers is one of the better quarterbacks in the league and when you pair those talents with Richard Rodgers. A guy who can work the seam, and finish plays for this offense. It just bodes well for the Packers offense in 2016. On top of that you’d have to expect that Richard Rodgers and Aaron Rodgers connection will get better with time as well. The more repetitions that they put in developing that receiver / quarterback chemistry should also mean better results for Richard Rodgers receiving stats next season as well. It’s clear, the Packers made the right choice when they drafted Richard Rodgers in the 3rd round of the 2014 draft. The guy has grown into the player that Ted Thompson envisioned when he drafted Rodgers out of the University of California. Now Richard Rodgers will wreak havoc on NFL defenses for years to come.

There are a lot of quality Tight Ends that are establishing themselves in the league right now. Jordan Reed and Travis Kelce are just a few to mention. Right behind them though, you have to like Richard Rodgers and everything he brings to the table. He has a bright future in this league.

Charity of the day: Performing Animal Welfare Society

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Why Jared Goff is undoubtedly the number 1 pick in the 2016 draft:

Photo credit: Tom Pennington / Getty Images Sport

Author: Jon Kuzma

With speculation building up about who will be the number pick in the draft later on this month. It must be noted that most analysts are suggesting that Carson Wentz should be the number 1 pick in the draft. While Wentz will likely be a phenomenal player in the NFL someday, It’s Goff who should get the number 1 selection April 28th in Chicago. Goff threw for 43 touchdowns and 4,719 passing yards in 2015 at the division 1 FBS level. When you compare that to Wentz’s 17 touchdowns and 1,651 passing yards at the Division 1 FCS level (formerly Division 1 double-AA) the true tale of the tape begins to unfold. Goff was playing against talented Pac 12 opponents, while Wentz was taking on less talented Missouri Valley Football Conference opponents. Goff still managed to put up double the production that Wentz put up and when you compare those factors you begin to see why the Los Angeles Rams should go with Jared Goff number 1 overall. Every spring we have a few players that blow us away at the combine beyond their actually skills on the football field. As good as Carson Wentz has looked at the combine, it just feels like when the pads are on and we’re actually playing contact football. Goff will be the guy who rises to the occasion and handles himself the best. The guy (Goff) has been a better quarterback than Wentz his entire football career if you go back and trace the steps. At the high school level, Jared Goff holds every single passing record that Marin Catholic high school has. Goff threw for 40 touchdowns his senior year of high school and was a stellar quarterback. Wentz didn’t finish his high school career with any school records, his brother Zach Wentz held all of those. So when you go back and you see that Goff was better in high school, and Goff was better in college. What makes you think that Carson Wentz would emerge and be better as a pro? It’s very unlikely that will happen and it’s really quite easy to see that Goff is the best quarterback on the board.

*Note- Wentz was injured last year and that lead to his poor 2015 stats. Still injuries are a part of the game and a scout should consider that another knock against Wentz.

Charity of the day: National Park Trust

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Picking up the option on DeAndre Hopkins’ contract was a no brainer for the Texans:

Photo credit: Ronald C. Modra / Sports Imagery

Author: Jon Kuzma

The Houston Texans decided that they would pick up the 5th year option on star receiver DeAndre Hopkins contract. The choice was a no brainer for the Texans because Hopkins was one of the most dynamic wide receivers in all of football in 2015. Hopkins finished last season with 1,521 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns. That kind of production was something the Texans organization couldn’t afford to lose and that is why we seen the team make sure Hopkins is in a Texans uniform until at least 2017. Hopkins has made a routine out of catching fade route passes on opposing defenders and the former Clemson receiver has really evolved into one of the premier receivers in the National Football League. Now with Brock Osweiler coming to Houston, you’d have to think that Hopkins will be even better in 2016. The Texans alternated between Brian Hoyer and Brandon Weeden at the quarterback position last year and Osweiler will be an upgrade over both of those players. Solidifying the quarterback position means Hopkins will be even more versatile on the field because Osweiler can deliver the ball to Hopkins in wider variety of ways than Brian Hoyer can. That will be crucial in the postseason and now the Texans have the chance to take the next step and maybe knock off a few AFC teams later on in the year. The option to pick the tab up on Hopkins contract also helps the team avoid any distraction on whether or not Hopkins is going to leave the team after the season. It also bodes well for the Texans in retaining Hopkins when his contract does expire as well because the team has properly communicated to Hopkins that they appreciate his efforts and will do everything they can to keep him in the fold. There was really no question at all when it came to this decision, and give credit to the Texans for making it happen.

Charity of the day: World Concern

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The Titans set themselves up for years to come by trading down:

Photo credit: Alex Goodlett / Getty Images Sport

Author: Jon Kuzma

The Tennessee Titans made the right move when it was all said and done. They traded the 1st overall pick in the draft for 5 draft picks. Those picks include a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd round of this years draft and a 1st and 3rd rounder in the 2017 draft. That trade sets the franchise up to be a serious contender because it gives the team so many extra picks to add to their roster. On top of that, all of those 5 picks are in the top 3 rounds or better. So the Titans are going to be landing a lot more of the most talented players coming out of the draft. Lets be honest drafting Laremy Tunsil was not going to give the Titans enough to be competitive in 2016. Tunsil is an outstanding player but the Titans have more problems than 1 player can fix. Now Tennessee should be able to draft either Taylor Decker out of Ohio State or Jack Conklin out of Michigan State. Either move would help Mariota from taking as much abuse as he did in 2015. Then the Titans will have 2 picks in the next 2 rounds to take the draft any direction they would like. You can almost be certain that 1 of those 4 picks will be a wide receiver, and don’t be surprised if another one of those picks is an offensive lineman. The Titans gave up 54 sacks in 2015 and that doesn’t bode well for Marcus Mariota. Taking 2 top tier offensive lineman will really protect the team’s investment in Mariota and put the team in great position to succeed. Not to mention the team landed Demarco Murray this off-season and drafting those offensive lineman will make Murray much more effective in the running game. Next year the Titans will have 2 1st round draft picks as well. This was really just a great move for the Titans and you have to applaud their front office. Their stock arrow is pointing up and the team has made themselves relevant again.

Charity of the day: World Concern

Go donate! www.worldconcern.org

The Rams paid a steep price for the number 1 overall pick:

Photo credit: Thearon W. Henderson

Author: Jon Kuzma

The Los Angeles Rams were determined to acquire the number 1 spot in the draft and that is exactly what they did today when they made an exchange with the Tennessee Titans. The Rams gave up a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd round draft pick in the 2016 draft this year. Along with a 1st and 3rd round pick in next year’s draft. In return the Rams picked up the 1st overall pick, a 4th round pick, and a 6th round pick all in this year’s draft. While the Rams get the option to choose any player that they like in the draft. 5 early round draft picks (which includes 2 1st round picks) for 3 picks doesn’t seem like the best deal in the world for the Rams. Clearly with the team moving to Los Angeles the Rams wanted to make some noise and start off their time in California with some good momentum. However throwing away your future just so you can land Carson Wentz or Jared Goff is certainly a risky move for Jeff Fisher and company. The team could of potentially did a deal with the Browns or Chargers, saved a few picks and still landed either Goff or Wentz. At the end of the day this move told us one thing, and that is Coach Fisher bluffed us with his “I believe in Case Keenum” rhetoric. The Rams will without a doubt draft a quarterback with the 1st overall pick, and you’d have to think they would start that quarterback from day 1. Either Goff or Wentz would be able to develop on the fly while handing the ball off to talented running back Todd Gurley for much of their rookie season. Then it will be up to either one of those quarterbacks to adjust and take the next step should the Rams make the postseason. Landing one of these marquee quarterbacks this year will be a great move for the Rams. However this organization just put all their eggs into the “right now” basket. They will be hand cuffed in the next two drafts, so hopefully the team will be able to make up for that setback by landing free agents in the offseason. It’s a bold move for the Rams but often times fortune favors the bold. We’ll see how the move pans out for Los Angeles.

Charity of the day: Coalition for the homeless

Go donate! www.coalitionforthehomeless.org

Chargers need playmakers to help turn their team around:

Photo Credit: Don Juan Moore / Getty Images Sport

Author: Jon Kuzma

The San Diego Chargers struggled in 2015 with a record of 4 wins and 12 losses. The team seems to have problems at a few different positions and in order to get some good momentum the team has to have a great draft at the end of the month. A good draft for the San Diego Charger would start off by landing Jalen Ramsey. While the Chargers desperately need another wide receiver to throw to. Ramsey is a great choice at the number 3 pick assuming that Tunsil goes to the Titans and either Wentz or Goff goes to Cleveland. Ramsey would give the Chargers the best defensive back in the whole draft and an elite level talent that could eliminate opposing receivers. When the Arizona Cardinals landed Patrick Peterson in the 2011 draft. Things really started to pick up for them. The Chargers are hoping the same thing will happen for them when they pick Jalen Ramsey out of Florida State. Some people will wonder how this move helps an aging Philip Rivers? The answer is very simple, having Ramsey will allow the team to get more stops defensively. Which means in 2016 the Chargers should have more offensive snaps than they did in 2015 if they draft Jalen Ramsey. San Diego was so desperate to get off the field last season defensively that drafting Ramsey is really a no brainer. The next round is really quite simple for the Chargers as well. The team needs to select a wide receiver to help put points on the board. Michael Thomas out of Ohio State would certainly fill that void. Thomas was spectacular in 2015 for the Buckeyes recording 781 receiving yards and 9 touchdowns. That type of big play capability would go a long way when paired with Philip Rivers excellence. One other option in the second round for the Chargers might be going after Kenny Clark out of UCLA. Adding Ramsey and Clark would give the Chargers defense such a boost that the team would be able to compete for a long time. It’s really up to what the front office wants to do and what their preference is in strategy. In the middle rounds expect the Chargers to address their offensive line and get Rivers some protection. That would be the cherry on top of a great draft for San Diego. We’ll see if they get it right April 28th.

Charity of the day: Coalition for the homeless

Go donate! www.coalitionforthehomeless.org

Tampa Bay would be best off going defense in the 2016 draft:

Photo credit: Streeter Lecka / Getty Images Sport

Author: Jon Kuzma

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are a in much better spot than they were one off-season ago. After drafting Jameis Winston the team finished the 2015 season with a 6-10 record. That was a huge improvement over their 2014 record of 2-14. Now with a new Head Coach in place (Dirk Koetter) and most of the major pieces in place on offense. It will be up to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to put the final touches on their defense and do their best as an organization to take that next step, which would be to make the playoffs. The team was in the NFC Wildcard hunt at the end of last season, only to come up short when it was all said and done. In order to prevent that from happening again the Bucs should do their best to put another talented defensive lineman around Gerald McCoy. If Deforest Buckner is still there at the number 9 draft spot, that would be a huge steal for the Buccaneers. Buckner is a player that could come in and really set the tone opposite of McCoy. That would make it very tough for opposing offenses when going against Tampa’s defense and ultimately would give the team the best shot to succeed. Now it gets a little bit tougher if Buckner isn’ there. You could look at Shaq Lawson or Kevin Dodd to fill your need around McCoy. Or the team could hope that Vernon Hargreaves falls in their lap and instead choose to fill their corner need first. Hargreaves recorded 4 interceptions last season for the Florida Gators and really did a great job of showing why he is one of the top cover guys in the nation. A player like that would really help out the Buccaneers on the backend of their defense, but the bottom line is Tampa should look to dominate the line of scrimmage first. You do that by drafting lineman on both sides of the ball and by winning the games in the trenches. Tampa should shoot for Buckner as their first choice, and work down the evaluated list. That is the best option for the Buccaneers at the moment.

Charity of the day: American Red Cross

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Luke Kuechly is a tackling machine:

Photo credit: Streeter Lecka / Getty Images Sport

Author: Jon Kuzma

When the Carolina Panthers selected Luke Kuechly in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft. The Panthers knew exactly what they were getting. The former Boston College linebacker led the nation in tackles in both 2010, and 2011 so there was no arguing what kind of player Kuechly was entering the pro ranks. Once Kuechly got to Carolina he never lost a step either. Kuechly has been a pro for 4 seasons and has recorded an impressive 591 career tackles. When you average 147 tackles per year, you’re usually in the running for the best defensive player in the league. Kuechly has already won that award once back in 2013, and he year in and year out continues to contribute amazing defensive statistics for the Panthers football team. Now entering his fifth season Luke Kuechly will try to lead the Panthers back to the Super Bowl and this time hopefully take the Lombardi Trophy back to Charlotte. The Panthers are a dynamic young team and are led by Cam Newton offensively. If the team can put enough talent on offense around Newton the team will always be able to compete. That is because Kuechly is going to elevate everyone around him on defense, and he patches up any holes or weaknesses that the team might have defensively. When you have one guy that is as dominant as Kuechly has been for the Carolina Panthers. It makes everyone else’s job around him easier because he is going so far beyond his responsibilities. For example Luke Kuechly has 11 interceptions over his 4 year career. So those safeties behind him feel comfortable allowing those wide receiver under routes to be handled by their middle linebacker (Kuechly) in the passing game. So essentially Luke Kuechly is a true 2 way player. He can play the run, and he play the pass. So no matter what option the opposing offense chooses they are still going against tough odds when they see number 59 on the Carolina Panthers.

Charity of the day: United States Fund for UNICEF

Go donate! www.unicefusa.org

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