Falcons will be a serious contender if they can nail the draft:

Photo credit: Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images Sport

Author: Jon Kuzma

The Atlanta Falcons have made some good moves this offseason and now with the draft coming up this month. They will have the opportunity to put themselves in a very good position entering the 2016 season. The team made some good upgrades to their offense in free agency by signing Alex Mack and Mohamed Sanu, Now it will be up to General Manager Thomas Dimitroff to upgrade the team via the draft process. The Falcons can do that by improving their number 16th ranked defense. The Falcons were allowing nearly 350 yards a game to opposing offenses. They also were ranked dead last in the league when it came to sacking the quarterback, with only 19 sacks in all of 2015. In order to address those needs the team will have to improve its defensive front. Andrew Billings would be a great addition to the Falcons and he would provide defensive penetration that would help generate sacks for this defense. In the second round the team should go back to defense and select a line backer like Su’a Cravens out of USC. Those two players would go a long way in solidifying Atlanta’s defensive efforts and we all know defense wins championships. In the later rounds look for the Falcons to add a few more offensive players, maybe another wide receiver for Matt Ryan to throw to. At the end of the day though it’s all about defense when it comes to the Atlanta Falcons. They have the pieces to get the job done on offense already. They just need that boost defensively to potentially snag a wildcard in the NFC. The Panthers are tough division rival but the Falcons did start the 2015 season with 5 straight wins. A few more defensive players and those 5 wins could easily turn into 8, 9, or even 10 wins. It’s all about building a football team that plays fundamental football, and fundamental football means dominating the trenches, and stacking as much talent as you can on the defensive side of the ball. Look for the Falcons to go a similar route April 28th in Chicago.

Charity of the day: Public Citizen Foundation

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Bears would be better off adding pieces around Cutler rather than drafting a QB:

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Author: Jon Kuzma

A lot of people have had problems with Jay Cutler and the way he leads the Chicago Bears. However the Bears would be much better off improving the team around Jay Cutler, rather than drafting a quarterback and having two QB’s on their roster. Right now this draft is about adding talent to the Bears roster after losing key players like Matt Forte and Martellus Bennett. This team has a lot of positions to fill to be relevant again so they have to have a good plan entering the draft this month. Landing an offensive lineman would be a good move for this team but you have to go defense first. If you can keep your opponent from scoring you can win football games. The Bears defense was ranked 22nd in the league against the run. If you can’t stop the running game you’re going to have problems in the Nation Football League. In order to improve those defensive efforts the Chicago Bears should draft the best available defense lineman at the 11th draft spot. That player looks like it will be someone like Shaq Lawson, or Sheldon Rankings. Both players would give the Bears a guy in the defensive trenches that could really come in and set the tone for the Bears defensively. In the second and third round the Bears should look to fill spots on the offensive side of the ball. An offensive lineman in the second round would be a good way for the Bears to protect Jay Cutler. Maybe a guy like Jason Spriggs will still be on the board, and a pick like that would really help the Bears get better on the line on both sides of the ball. The Bears have Jeremy Langford who can effectively run the ball for the team. So in the 3rd round the Bears should add another outside receiver that can contribute to the team’s passing game, that would be ideal. The team didn’t have a receiver that went over 1,000 yards receiving last season. Finding a receiver who is around 6 foot 3 220 pounds and can add plays to this offense would give the team a significant boost. In the later rounds defensive back and offensive line again should be addressed. If the Bears followed a format similar to this it would greatly improve their chances for success in 2016. That’s what this draft is really about, setting those wheels in motion and building for the future.

Charity of the day: Public Citizen Foundation

Go donate! www.citizen.org

Denver Broncos: Johnny on the phone?

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Author: Jon Kuzma

The Denver Broncos reached out and and had negotiations with Johnny Manziel today. No official contract was struck but the team did show interest by speaking with Manziel and entertaining the notion. John Elway has met with Colin Kaepernick in recent weeks and with that deal potentially falling through. The Broncos have to seek other means at the quarterback position. Signing Manziel could be an option for the Broncos and he would bring in a similar skill set as Colin Kaepernick does. Gary Kubiak was the member of the Broncos organization who directly spoke to Manziel and both the sides have started preliminary talks which could result in a deal in the near future. The Broncos are imminent on waiting to see if any chargers are going to come from Manziel’s latest issue in his personal life. Regardless it seems like Kubiak still believes in Manziel as a football player and would like to help him turn his life around personally. The Broncos would be a great opportunity for Manziel because if he does make a serious commitment to playing football he could beat out Mark Sanchez and seize that job. Truthfully it shouldn’t matter what Johnny Manziel does in his personal life, that is his business not ours. However when it comes to showing up and playing football. Manziel has to make a commitment during the season to his teammates and to the owner who is paying him his contract. If you can have a little fun in your personal life and still manage to show up and do your job on the field. Then by all means go out and have all the fun in the world. Once it starts to affect your ability to concentrate on football and win football games for your team, then it has to be corrected. Manziel will get another chance to be a professional player but if he drops the ball again, this will be the last chance he gets. Lets see if this deal ever materializes and if Manziel at Mile High is the answer to all his problems.

Charity of the day: Global Hunger Project

Go donate! www.thp.org

The best safety in football signed with the Oakland Raiders:

Photo credit: Joe Robbins / Getty Images Sport

Author: Jon Kuzma

The Oakland Raiders have had a tremendous offseason and it just got a little bit better. The Raiders signed Reggie Nelson to a 2 year contract and Nelson was the best safety in football in 2015. The stats don’t lie, with 8 interceptions Nelson was a phenomenal playmaker on the back end of the Cincinnati Bengals defense. Now signing with the Raiders, Nelson will look to take those ball hawk skills to California and help turn the Raiders into a serious contender. Nelson will be paired up with his former head coach Jack Del Rio. Nelson and Del Rio spent time together in Jacksonville when both individuals were part of the Jaguars organization. Now the two find themselves in as good of a situation as either of them have had in their careers. Oakland has made serious efforts to land marquee talent and to turn the Raiders organization back around. Al Davis has to be looking down on the Raiders and smiling with what the team has going on right now. It all started when they landed Derek Carr and Khalil Mack. Those moves set the franchise up to be a major player in the future and now the team is collecting the returns on the move. They did that by making Oakland a more attractive destination to play and by signing big name free agents like Bruce Irvin, Kelechi Osemele, and Sean Smith. Now adding Reggie Nelson on top of all that. This team will wreak havoc on opposing offenses and you have to think that the Raiders are a real threat to the Chiefs in 2016. The Broncos loss some key players and will take a step back. The Chiefs and the Raiders will be the teams that set the tone for this division and one of those two squads will ultimately win the AFC West in 2016.  Reggie Nelson will make 12 million dollars over the 2 year duration and congratulations to the Raiders for making another high profile acquisition.

Charity of the day: Global Hunger Project

Go donate! www.thp.org

Tyrann Mathieu’s story is a tale of courage and perseverance:

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Author: Jon Kuzma

Tyrann Mathieu will make another successful comeback from ACL surgery and get back to doing what he does best. That is helping his team win football games and continuing to be a leader for this Arizona Cardinals’ defense. Mathieu’s story doesn’t start now in his quest for rehabilitation. It started at LSU the first time in his football career he had to face adversity. After being the best player in college football and winning the Chuck Bednarik Award, Mathieu had a setback in his personal life which caused him to miss the 2012 season. The violations were minor and don’t need to be discussed, but Mathieu had to deal with these trying times by looking into himself as man, and making the necessary changes that he had to make. Clearly Mathieu has done that because when the Arizona Cardinals drafted him in the 3rd round of 2013 draft. They got a hell of a player whose mind was only on one thing, being the best football player he can be. This won’t be the first knee surgery for Mathieu either. In his rookie season Mathieu tore his ACL and LCL while returning a free kick against the St. Louis Rams. How did Mathieu respond? The very next season he was back onthe field for the Cardinals and contributing to the team’s defensive efforts. So now, again facing an ACL tear entering the 2016 season, you have to bet your money on Mathieu bouncing back and doing what he has always done. That is weather the storm through the tough times and shine on the biggest stages during the good times. More people should be familiar with Tyrann Mathieu’s story because it reflects the struggle that we see in our own personal lives. It also gives us a prime example of how to lead ourselves back into the light through those dark times. Mathieu’s story is a tale of courage and perseverance and he will endure the pain and battle back into a successful football player. No doubt about it.

Charity of the day: Chesapeake Bay Foundation

Go donate! www.cbf.org

Greg Hardy must hold himself accountable to make the necessary changes:

Photo credit: Tom Szczerbowski / Getty Images Sport

Author: Jon Kuzma

Greg Hardy is an outstanding football player but he continuously shoots himself in the foot with detrimental personal conduct. After Hardy was suspended by the league for allegedly throwing his girlfriend on loaded firearms. Hardy was then signed by the Dallas Cowboys and in his introduction conference he stated that was going to “come out guns blazing.” The remarks were a testament of how Hardy time and time again does and says the wrong things. Hardy in a recent interview with Adam Schefter stated that he does things with the mindset that he is an “entertainer”. While that was Greg Hardy’s defense it is clear that it comes off more as an excuse. It’s one thing to say inappropriate things but last year in a football game Hardy nearly fought one of his coaches on the sidelines. It was mistakes like that which caused the Dallas Cowboys to move on from Greg Hardy, and that is why Hardy wasn’t offered a contract this off-season. Now Hardy finds himself as a free agent and it appears teams are reluctant to bring him aboard because they feel he will be a distraction for their club like he was in Dallas. Hardy thought he could get away with playing by his own rules but it appears the people writing the checks are unhappy with making a commitment to a player with such bad character issues. While most of the time it’s best to measure a player based on what they can do “on the football field.” Hardy is case where you really have to take in his personality traits and pass behaviors. That is because as a General Manager, you don’t want to be endorsing a player that could potentially put you in position where you’re dealing with a public relations nightmare. If Hardy wants to move on from the bad label he has been given by NFL executives. He will have to do everything he can to keep his mouth shut and just play football. We all know the guy can play but he keeps digging himself deeper and deeper into a hole. If Hardy does indeed receive a contract to play in the 2016 season. He would be best suited to just keep his head down and let his play do the talking. If he does that don’t be surprised to see Hardy having success in the National Football League. Talent was never the issue with this guy.

Charity of the day: Center for Biological Diversity

Go donate! www.biologicaldiversity.org

The Dallas Cowboys have to get it right in the 2016 Draft:

Photo credit: Joe Robbins / Getty Images Sport

Author: Jon Kuzma

The Dallas Cowboys are coming off a very lackluster 4-12 2015 season. In order to improve their team moving forward. They opted not to re-sign Greg Hardy and they signed Alfred Morris to improve their running game. We all know the team will improve from getting Tony Romo and Dez Bryant back on the field, who were injured for the beginning of the regular season last year. Now it’s up to Cowboys Owner and General Manager Jerry Jones to step up and really deliver in the 2016 draft. How does Jones and the Cowboys do that? They stick to playing fundamental football, and that is always putting a priority on defense. With Hardy leaving, the team will be missing out on 6 sacks a year. In order to replace that production the Cowboys should trade back to a later pick in the first round, try to add another pick and then add Shaq Lawson to their roster. Lawson had a tremendous year at Clemson recording 12.5 sacks and 24.5 tackles for losses. That is exactly the type of effort the Cowboys need to impose their will defensively on opposing team’s offense units. It will also go a long way in improving the Cowboys’ when it comes to their 17th overall ranking in yards surrendered defensively. Then the team has to look at adding a quarterback that can be the successor to Tony Romo. Maybe that can be a guy like Connor Cook or Cardale Jones. Both guys could be available in the second round with the Cowboys in the 4th pick draft position. That would be a great insurance plan for Romo in case he can’t hold up health wise. Not to mention either player would be good picks for the future when Romo does indeed have to walk away. Outside of that look to see if the Cowboys try to add some secondary players that can really clamp down on opposing receivers and contribute next season. Doing so would be a cherry on the top of a good draft for Jerry Jones and would put the team in the best position to succeed in 2016.

Charity of the day: Center for Biological Diversity

Go donate! www.biologicaldiversity.org

The Raiders continue their prolific offseason:

Photo credit: Lachlan Cunningham / Getty Images Sport

Author: Jon Kuzma

The Oakland Raiders are continuing their remarkable offseason. After landing Bruce Irvin and Kelechi Osemele early on in free agency. The Raiders have now signed Aldon Smith to a deal and the move will significantly bolster the Raiders starting defense. Aldon Smith at one point was one of the league most talented pass rushers while playing with the San Francisco 49ers. That was before Smith ran into some off the field issues which resulted in Smith being suspended for a whole season. Smith who also got into some trouble last season with the league’s substance abuse policy won’t be eligible to play until November. Still the Raiders get a player who has recorded 47.5 sacks in 59 games. He is a tremendous pass rusher who can single handedly change the outcome of games for the Raider defense. With him coming back just in time for the end of the season and a playoff run. The Raiders should start to hit their stride defensively when it matters the most, entering the postseason. That isn’t the only good news coming out of Oakland either. It’s been reported the Raiders are also in negotiations with Reggie Nelson as well, who was the best safety in the league in 2015. Adding Nelson and Smith would mean that the Raider would significantly bolster their defense and put a dominant supporting cast around Khalil Mack. Mack is probably the 3rd best defender in the National Football League right now and when you put Bruce Irvin, Aldon Smith, and potentially Reggie Nelson around him. Great things are certainly destined to happened. Talent trumps all in the National Football league, it doesn’t matter how good your coaches are if there isn’t enough talent on the roster. The Raiders have a quality coach in Jack Del Rio and it appears they are going to be absolutely loaded entering the 2016 season talent wise. Early on we all thought the Jags had the best offseason but now it’s easily the Raiders. It’s been great move after great move for Oakland.

Charity of the day: Boy and Girls Club of America

Go donate! www.bgca.org

2016 will be the last ride for Michael Vick:

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Author: Jon Kuzma

Not many athletes were as explosive as Michael Vick was on the football field. Vick who grew up in Virginia has been blowing people away with his athletic prowess since Warwick High School all the way back in 1996. At Warwick High, Vick was able to throw for 4,846 passing yards and 43 touchdowns. His efforts were so impressive that Vick would eventually land a scholarship to Virginia Tech to play for Frank Beamer. Vick would eventually step on the field as a redshirt freshman at Va Tech and his football heroics were back on display for the world to see once again. Vick finished his collegiate career in Blacksburg with 3,279 passing yards and 21 passing touchdowns. He also managed to rush for 17 rushing touchdowns, showing that he was athletically superior to his collegiate peers. Those efforts at Virginia Tech were enough to help Vick get drafted number 1 overall in the 2001 NFL Draft by the Atlanta Falcons. Vick only played in 8 games his rookie season with the Falcons, instead he learned the game from the sidelines with a clipboard behind Chris Chandler. Eventually the reins were handed over to Vick and he continued to be dominant physically on the football. Often using his 4.33 40 yard dash speed to out run opposing defenders. Vick was so gifted with his feet and scrambled so much better than any quarterback we’ve ever seen before. To the point that he truly embodied the skills that make up what we know now as the mobile quarterback. He would open the door for so many future players to follow in that mold and break the traditional role of a conventional pocket passing quarterbacks. Vick has 22,474 passing yards and 133 passing touchdowns up to this point in his NFL career. He also has contributed 36 rushing touchdowns as well. Now with Vick coming out and stating that he feels he has one last season in him. We have to wonder if we will ever get the chance to see Mike Vick on a pro football field again commanding an offense? Last year he saw limited action with the Pittsburgh Steelers but managed to throw for 2 touchdowns and 1 interception in the 3 games he started. It appears his future days will be as back up, but hey it’s not a bad way to make a $970,000 dollars a year. Vick will forever be remembered as a legend and inspired many with his elusive football moves. It’s been a great run.

Charity of the day: Boy and Girls Club of America

Go donate! www.bgca.org

Andy Reid is excellent at turning football teams into contenders:

Photo credit: Peter Aiken / Getty Images Sport

Author: Jon Kuzma

For those who didn’t know, Andy Reid is an outstanding football coach. After having 14 successful seasons in Philadelphia for the Eagles. Coach Reid then moved on to coach for the Kansas City Chiefs. Since Reid has taken over in Kansas City the Chiefs have slowly progressed and just last year they made a run to the divisional playoff round. That progression is a testament to Andy Reid’s cool demeanor as a head football coach. Players just love to play for this guy and that even keeled attitude seems to mesh well with professional talent. Many times we see coaches that are overbearing on their players and that ends up alienating those players away from their coach. Andy Reid is the exact opposite, his attitude makes him a magnet for players and that is why you seen so many of the Chiefs free agents choosing to re-sign with the team. With the Chiefs trending upward that also makes Kansas City an attractive destination for future free agents as well. It’s clear to see that coach Reid clearly has this team heading in the right direction and that is why we’ve seen the positive results on the football field. With another draft under Reid’s vision it will put this team that much closer to the Super Bowl and teams in the AFC have to be wary of the Chiefs emergence. While you would think the Chiefs would continue to go defense in the draft, because defense wins championships. Expect the Chiefs to pick up a big time wide receiver at some point to help out quarterback Alex Smith. Jeremy Maclin and Travis Kelce are both good weapons, so adding another dynamic player to go along with those two would really bode well for the Chiefs offense. Outside of that getting a healthy Dontari Poe back will bring great joy to Andy Reid. Having a Pro Bowl caliber nose tackle in the middle of the defense is so essential in that 3-4 defense. That is because the nose tackle must control both A gaps and keep those opposing offensive lineman off the Chiefs linebackers. A healthy Poe significantly increases the Chiefs chances in the postseason and Poe is another great draft pick by Andy Reid. You can’t say enough good things about the old ball coach. He is well respected and an outstanding leader.

Charity of the day: Population Council

Go donate! www.popcouncil.org

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