Photo credit: Ezra Shaw / Getty Images Sport
Author: Jon Kuzma
With the 2014 season in the books it’s always fun to look back and reflect on what players stood out the most in their rookie season. Two players that really come to mind are Tampa Bay’s Mike Evan’s and Oakland’s Khalil Mack. Both players came in as rookies and had an immediate impact for their teams. Looking at times more like five year veterans opposed to first year players. Evans put up 1,051 yards receiving and an eye turning 12 touchdowns. When you add in the mix that he will be catching passes from Jameis Winston this season it looks like the sky is limit for Mike Evans in 2015. As long as he stays injury free he should have a legitimate shot at topping that already high 12 touchdown mark from last year. If you’re a fantasy football owner you’re making a smart decision by buying Mike Evan’s stock in 2015. Khalil Mack a defensive player for the Oakland Raiders was nearly as impressive. Mack was one of the most coveted players in the 2014 draft and lived up to all expectations registering 77 tackles, 4 sacks, and a forced fumble. Those numbers will likely improve as well in Mack’s second year, due to the fact that it is often stated that the biggest jump a player will make skill wise is typically from his first year to his second year in the NFL. This is because the speed of the game is typically beyond a first year player’s experience, and players will usually make great strides in their sophomore year in terms of awareness. Look for Mack to be the cornerstone of the Raider’s defense for the next several years. He will also likely be a perennial pro bowler and one of the best players at his position.
Football players: Khalil Mack and Mike Evans
Charity of the day: Trust for Public Land
Go donate! www.tpl.org
Khalil Mack and Mike Evans are two of the top performing players from the 2014 draft class. They headline that group
Photo credit: Tom Pennington / Getty Images Sport
Author: Jon Kuzma
The Green Bay Packers are one of the National Football League’s most prestigious teams. Even the Super Bowl trophy itself is named after former great Packers coach Vince Lombardi. With the cheese heads always expecting greatness from their team, there is very little room for let downs in the city of Green Bay which is home too one hundred four thousand residents. All whom are likely familiar with the rich tradition of football which was started by Curley Lambeau back in 1919. Nothing keeps that tradition alive more than winning. Brett Favre won, and they hailed him. Aaron Rodgers has since took over the quarterback helm and has delivered another Lombardi trophy to Green Bay as well. With last years Packers season coming down to the wire in the NFC championship game against the Seahawks nothing could express the disappoint of the let down more than Rodgers face after the game. A game in which the Packers were winning 19-7 with three minutes left in the game. That was until beast mode and company stole the show which led to a Seahawks victory in overtime. That last play of Jermaine Kersey beating Tramon Williams on a post route likely stuck in Packers General Manager Ted Thompson’s head. In the draft the Packers selected a defensive back with their first two picks. An action that shows their commitment to the back end of the defense and more so things from a coverage stand point. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix showed much promise in his rookie season and the Pack were looking to add a few more playmakers around him in the secondary. The selection of Damarious Randall with their first round pick will be a good addition to the mix. Randall was very impressive during his two years at Arizona State. He was productive enough to elevate himself too first round status a feat that is very impressive. The Packers even discussed using Randall at corner back instead of safety, the position he played in college. A move that the Packers felt was okay because his coverage skills are “just that good” as one Packers executive put it. Quinten Rollins a corner back out of the University of Miami (Ohio) was selected with the teams second round pick. Rollins was an outstanding Ball Hawk at Miami registering a seven interception season in 2014. Those unique ball skills are what lured the Packers to Rollins and they hope the two acquisitions can help the team take away opposing receivers space. They also did a great job in retaining Randall Cobb’s services, a player who had great production last year for the team and is one of Rodgers’ favorite targets. The team seems to want to build through the draft which has been their mission objective since Thompson has been there. They’ve had success this way in the past so why change things now? However you would like to see the team make a push for a few more free agents to really ensure they get past the NFC championship this time around.
Truthfully if you ask me if they made enough moves this off-season to get over that hump. I would say no.
Charity of the day: Food and Water Watch
Go donate! www.foodandwaterwatch.org
Photo credit: Brian Bahr / Getty Images Sport
Author: Jon Kuzma
Derek Carr had a tremendous rookie season for the silver and black and fans around The Bay area are very excited about the future. It’s been a long time since the team that Al Davis built has seen success and with a 21 touchdown and 12 interception rookie season performance, it’s very likely Carr will continue that success in 2015. The Raiders clearly understood the magnitude of the situation and doubled down on the young passer by bringing in the top wide receiver in college football last year Amari Cooper out of Alabama. They also added Michael Crabtree a player when healthy we all know can play. Crabtree has accumulated 26 touchdowns and 4,327 yards in his career and is another big outside target for the young and promising Carr. With the addition of the two playmakers at the wide receiver position it really will open up the offense for the Raiders in many ways. These are hands down the best players Derek Carr has ever thrown to in a live game. The results should be big for the Raiders, and all three players should see a spike in fantasy football value. Cooper is one player that deserves to be discussed in greater depth. He amassed 3463 yards and 31 touchdowns during his three years at the University of Alabama, looking nearly untouchable at times for opposing defenses. At 6’1 210 pounds Carr has really praised Cooper not only for his body control, and physical abilities. Also for his mental toughness stating that “Cooper is second to none in work ethic”. High praise from a player who is the cornerstone of the Raiders franchise. The chemistry between the two will have a drastic effect on the outcome of the Raiders upcoming season. If all three players can stay healthy and play at an optimal level, the Raiders should have their best season they’ve had in years. Will it be enough to get them to the post season? Who knows the AFC west division is still tough with the Broncos and the Chargers. The gap has certainly closed though and it’s only a matter of time before Derek Carr elevates this franchise to the next level.
Football predictions: Raiders
Charity of the day: Mental Health America
Article on the additions of Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper and how it effects the Raiders offense.
Photo credit: Ronald Martinez / Getty Images Sport
Author: Jon Kuzma
With Melvin Gordon coming off a phenomenal collegiate year last fall in Madison, he seems like a sure lock for success in his first year of professional action. Many players must go through a transition period from the college level to the pro’s but Gordon is a rare specimen. A superior athlete Gordon accumulated 2587 rushing yards last fall, looking many times much like a man amongst boys. Gordon will give the Chargers a much needed boost on the ground while Phillip Rivers will brush opposing defenses back through the air. The combination will likely pay great dividends for the Chargers in 2015 as they look to compete for the AFC West title a division that the Denver Broncos have dominated of recent. One thing is for certain most football analyst have praised the Chargers in their move of drafting Gordon. With running backs being a little more accessible lately in the National Football League, many teams have opted to fill other positions come draft time. In fact in the past we have seen past running backs like Willy Parker go undrafted and then get picked up in free agency and have success. Yet when you have a talent like Melvin Gordon sitting there and you have a guy that is clearly the most promising running back prospect since Adrian Peterson. You take that chance, and in the end it is very likely that chance is going to be the right one for San Diego. The passing game will now be able to feed off the rushing game. Meaning opposing defenses will try to crouch up closer to the line after a few good Gordon rushes. Leaving the defense more vulnerable to the Rivers pass. At the same time after a few good passes from Rivers the defense will back off and leave more running spaces for Gordon on the ground. A win-win scenario for the Chargers which gives their offense a significant boost and also helped the team move up three spots in the power rankings now sitting at #13 overall. Football should be interesting in southern Cal this fall.
Football players; Melvin Gordon
Charity of the day: Salvation Army
Go donate! www.salvationarmy.org
Photo credit: Rich Schultz / Getty Images Sport
Author: Jon Kuzma
With all the moves going on in Philly it’s time to see how much substance there is in Philly? With Chip Kelly at the helm wheeling and dealing the Eagles have made some good moves in giving the team more cap space for the future. They also have made some bad moves like trading Nick Foles who at this time last year was coming off a pro bowl season. With Sam Bradford, Mark Sanchez, Matt Barkley, and Tim Tebow on roster for the Eagles, it seems most likely that Bradford or Sanchez will win the job. Coincidently Kelly’s success will be strapped to the success of likely those two players. While Bradford seems like the candidate at the forefront, his track record of questionable health is definitely a red flag for Eagles fans. When he is on Bradford could potentially be a very good player for the birds. Maybe a change of scenery and being placed in a high power system like Kelly’s is just what Bradford needs to live up to the reputation he earned at Oklahoma. Or maybe Sanchez’s continuous growth over his career will be enough to finally get him back to being a number 1 quarterback. Sanchez who was once the man for the New York Jets has been mostly a back up ever since. He has seen some success in the past two years as the back up for the Eagles and maybe his cumulative efforts help him supplant Bradford. Who ever wins the job will have to play at a high enough level to get the Eagles back to the playoffs and win them a playoff game. While that is possible, it will be tough to bet on one of these Quarterbacks rising to the challenge and leading the team there. If the Eagles do win a playoff game it will likely be due to the fact that the team collectively has improved. Maybe from moves like adding Kiko Alonzo and getting better on defensive. Maybe it will be because Demarco Murray fits phenomenally in the offense. Whatever it is that gets the Eagles there, one thing is for certain they need to get to the playoffs and they need to win a playoff game to give the Eagles higher ups more validation in their hire of Kelly. If he didn’t trade Foles the off-season drama and chaos wouldn’t have put as much pressure on Kelly. Yet by making that move Kelly will have to show results this year. This is a business where owners turn the page quickly on coaches. If the Eagles regress this year there will be many questions about Kelly and the moves he has chose to make. It’s safe to say it’s make or break time for Chip Kelly.
Football predictions: Eagles will regress this season. If the Eagles choose to keep backing Kelly they might have a bright future due to salary cap space they have added. Allowing them to bring better players into the fold in the future.
Charity of the day: Make a Wish Foundation
Go donate! www.wish.org
Photo Credit: Peter G. Aiken / Getty Images Sport
Author: Jon Kuzma
When the Cleveland Browns drafted Johnny Football Manziel last season one thing was apparent from watching the process play out. The Browns organization seemed mixed on Manziel from the get go. Never have we seen a quarterback taken in the first round and not have the red carpet rolled out for him. It seemed like from day one head coach Mike Pettine was trying to put a limit on Manziel’s growth and that was the first time I’ve ever seen that happen to a first round pick personally. The right move was clearly to cut the chain off Manziel and let him take his lumps his rookie year and grow. Yet here we are in year two and coach Pettine is already stating that “it’s fair to say McCown is the favorite to be the starter”. Despite that if I were a betting man, I’d bet on Manziel this season. There has already been whispers around Browns training camp that Manziel’s performance thus far has been night and day compared to last years as one Brown put it. Manziel might not have all the tangibles that translate to a typical pocket passing quarterback in the NFL, but he is a fierce competitor and has the moxie to lead when he is on. While who knows if Manziel really needed help in his personal life or he just wanted to make a good public relations move. Going to rehab shows either way that he is willing to put in the effort to become a better man. That step could prove to be on the field, especially in terms of his focus. Often time last year it was said that Manziel was underachieving in terms of running and directing the offense. A Manziel with clarity will be a dangerous one for opposing offenses.
One question still remans though? Why did Cleveland draft Manziel in the first round if Pettine was never going to embrace him?
Football players: Johnny Manziel
Charity of the day: African Wildlife Foundation
Go donate! www.awf.org
Photo Credit: Chris Graythen / Getty Images Sport
Author: Jon Kuzma
The Seattle Seahawks were big winners this off-season landing a deal with the New Orleans Saints who sent arguably the best tight end in the game (outside Gronkowski) to the Hawks. With the acquisition Russell Wilson will have a superstar threat to throw to when things break down. Anyone who has been around the game of football knows that tight ends can be a quarterbacks best friend because the distance of throws to a tight end is relatively shorter than to a wide receiver. Making the pass to the tight end a much more high percentage play for success. Another thing that stands out when watching great tight ends is they have a bigger frame typically. Antonio Gates, Tony Gonzales, Jason Witten, Rob Gronkowski, and Kellen Winslow Sr. are all outstanding tight end’s in their own rights and all of them also come in around the 6’5 250 lbs range. Jimmy Graham has this same similar size, and he is exceptionally athletic despite that size. You could see that athleticism last year against the 49ers when he nearly stole the show completing a hail mary reception over Perrish Cox. The play would go on to eventually get over turned but it was scary to see how well Graham could elevate over defense backs. A position that is typically more athletic then tight ends.
The next thing that will be big for Graham is the system that he plays in. The Seahawks run many zone read concepts. Where Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch combine to really incorporate to plays in one. The run to Lynch and the quarterback keeper to Wilson. It will be interesting to see how the superstar tight end meshes into that whole process. With so much emphasize needed to be committed to the run, the middle of the field might be wide open where the linebackers just left from to fill the run. It seems to be an ideal situation for Graham and a betting man would bet on an up year from Jimmy Graham.
Projection: 12 touchdowns. Football players; Jimmy Graham.
Charity of the day: National Urban League
Go donate! www.nul.org
Photo credit: Harry How / Getty Images Sport
Author: Jon Kuzma
With the NFL combine finishing up and reviews of just about every big time college player taking place. I would like to state that I’m not a big fan of this years quarterback draft class. While it’s usually best to choose a quarterback who is slightly oversized, it’s hard to be convinced Jameis Winston is that guy. Yes has everything I want in a quarterback. Great size, a big arm, and played at a big time college program. However it’s his decision making on and off the field that worry me. If you could take away the bone headed mistakes Winston has made off the field, I would be a hundred percent a supporter of his and draft him without second thought number one overall. The fact is though Winston hasn’t shown the maturity to hand him the reigns of a whole NFL franchise. When looking at him it seems very much like the pick the Buccaneers used on Josh Freeman out of Kansas State. A very talented quarterback coming out of college standing similar in stature to Winston. Freeman was slightly bigger being 6’6 240 while Winston is 6’4 230. The difference there being Winston was a much more accomplished passer during his time in the colligate ranks. Putting up about twenty touchdowns more than Freeman in a year less of time at the helm. The good news for Winston is scouts were amped about his football I.Q at the combine many saying “he has the best football I.Q we have ever seen”. I wonder how Peyton Manning feels about that?
The Buc’s will undoubtedly have a tough decision to make with the number 1 pick. It’s always tough when you’re in the position that the Buc’s are in coming off a two win season. They need a franchise savior and usually when you have the number 1 pick a quarterback just makes sense. Every team can take a step in the right direction by landing a big name quarterback. I’m actually surprised more teams don’t move back(trade down), and honestly if I didn’t take a Q.B I would most likely draft a defensive tackle to solidify the defense. In the Buc’s case though they already have that piece in Gerald McCoy. Also with the emerging star wide receiver in Mike Williams it just makes sense to get a guy who can get him the ball. Don’t expect that to be anyone but Jameis Winston and truthfully that is the right pick for this franchise.
After that time will only tell if he is Jameis the savior or similar to the likes of Josh Freeman and Jamarcus Russell, NFL failures with a similar mold.
Charity of the day: American Humane Association
Go donate! www.americanhumane.org
Photo credit: Icon Sportswire
Author: Jon Kuzma
While the fact that Suh is still hanging around the Detroit area could be a non-factor on whether or not he resigns with the Detroit Lions. It does say one thing. He wasn’t repulsed enough during his time here in Detroit that he felt like he had to skip town as soon as the season was over. Which is a good thing to hear if you’re a Detroit Lions fan. In fact just a few days ago Suh updated his Facebook status saying “Beautiful morning in Detroit for an indoor workout”. With the season being over Suh has no responsibilities at the moment as far as team activities go. He very easily could have spent the off-season back around the Portland Orgeon area where his family has ties. Yet the player who has been often been called “selfish” by some Lions fans is still around the area of the team that drafted and calling Detroit “beautiful”. Enough to make some fans think “hey, maybe he is coming back”? Another thing that stands out about Suh is the fact that the Lions brass has continuously made announcements remaining optimistic about retaining the pro bowl defensive lineman. Mayhew has publicly stated that he believe “a deal is close with Suh”. The most coveted free agent will surely be courted by other teams but Suh is a smart guy. He has to know his opportunity in Detroit is special. He is the hero of a rebuilding city that was once a precious piece to the American puzzle. His importance and impact go beyond just the playing field, he is a symbol for the community. A symbol that if the Lions who were often the doormat team of the NFL can turn it around. So can the city itself. Look for Suh to remain a Lion.
Charity of the day: Breast Cancer Research Foundation
Go donate! www.bcrfcure.org
Photo credit: Bob Levey / Getty Images Sport
Author: Jon Kuzma
35 Million dollars. That was how much Roger Goodell made in 2013 and while that number was down from the 44.2 million that Goodell brought in during the 2012 season. He is now the highest paid commissioner of all the major sports leagues. He was once only surpassed by Major League Baseball’s commissioner Bud Selig. However since 2011 Goodell’s pay has substantially increased while Selig’s salary capped out around 22 million (before his retirement). Keep in mind the NFL is the highest grossing and most prestigious of all of the American sports leagues. So yes he should indeed be the highest paid commissioner because he is working for the league that offers the best product. Yet when you factor in all of the blunders and mishaps Goodell has had, he doesn’t hardly seem worth the steep price that he is getting paid. A guy known for his stern approach and his disciplinarian style, Goodell gives off the vibe that he is arrogant but does so very subtly. Anyone with any competence in judging ones character can see that the commish is pompous, and a not very likable guy. In fact in a poll held by ESPN in 2014 the people of the United States voted that 37.8% of people disliked Goodell, that was the majority. In another poll held by CBS Sports 60% of players of the league didn’t support Roger Goodell as their commissioner. While sometimes being likable can be overrated, other times being unlikeable can be a measure of ones poor efforts. The fact is the NFL was going to strive with whoever was at the helm because it is the greatest sport in our country. The question remains how much of a cap did Goodell put on the leagues growth? With the Ray Rice case under his belt, the inconsistency on punishments, and the over glorifying of himself through the punishment of his players. One would have to say enough to make an impact and not in a good way. So while the great owners of the league like Arthur Blank will be politically correct and endorse Goodell. Hopefully you will be smart enough to make your own decision.
Charity of the day: Homes for Our Troops
Go donate! www.hfotusa.org
Roger Goodell is struggling as commissioner of the NFL. He’s overpaid and under-producing.