Photo credit: Keith Allison
Kelvin Benjamin started off the preseason just like he did last year, effectively. The star receiver for the Carolina Panthers grabbed 3 receptions for 36 yards and showcased his great body control on a 2 yard touchdown pass from Cam Newton. On that play Benjamin drove Bills rookie cornerback Ronald Darby upfield and then did a comeback easily out jumping the defender for six points. The rhythm and timing between Newton and Benjamin looked good and it might be an indicator that Benjamin is going to improve beyond that already outstanding 1,008 receiving yards that he put up in 2014. At 6’5 245 pounds Benjamin is also a match up problem for most cornerbacks in the NFL. He is bigger than just about anyone he lines up against. Now on the speed side of things running a 4.61 Benjamin is step slower than most defenders. Yet he has improved in route running and overall awareness in terms of the game. Those two factors should help him get even better in 2015. Another thing that stands out when you watch film on Kelvin Benjamin is his ability to also go up above defenders and use his height to his advantage. Several plays in 2014 he was able to go up and out jump two defenders and make a big play for his team. That combination of all those abilities make Kelvin Benjamin one of the best receivers in the NFC south and a great choice for fantasy football owners in 2015. Look for this guy to have another big year.
Charity of the day: Action on Smoking and Health
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Photo credit: Instagram @ameerguapo
With the preseason on its way like every year there is a few athletes who stand out and make us wonder. Will this success translate to the regular season? As most football fans know the preseason is a time when a team’s bottom end players get more playing time. The exhibition matches in preseason are essentially used as a measuring stick for some guys who will or will not make a team. So when a player does have success in the preseason you always have to ask. Is this the result of playing against lesser competition? Fortunately for the Detroit Lions it appears they may have found a rising star in rookie Ameer Abdullah. Abdullah out of the University of Nebraska showed exceptional skills in college and those skills seem to be making the transition over to the pro level. Abdullah had a strong showing against the New York Jets in the Detroit Lions first preseason game racking up 67 rushing yards on 7 rushing attempts. On one particular counter run play to the right Abdullah was able to slip inside of the contain man for the Jets defense and take the run an additional 45 yards up field. The play greatly captured Abdullah’s burst, vision, and ability to evade tacklers on the field. If he is able to put up this kind of production with only 7 rushing attempts, imagine what he could do if he was given 20? The prospect of that production has to please the Lions front office and they aren’t the only one’s who have been keeping their eyes on Abdullah. He has been receiving much praise from executives around the league and has even landed himself on the front page of NFL.com. The performance surely will help him gain popularity and look for him to make a push for the starting job over Joique Bell for the Detroit Lions. A task that will not come easy, but will happen if Abdullah keeps exceeding expectations like this.
Charity of the day: Africa-America Institute
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Photo credit: Keith Allison
The National Football League and in particular Roger Goodell have officially gotten out of control. Their latest blunder the “Deflategate” case which involved Tom Brady and the New England Patriots revolved around whether or not the Patriots deflated footballs that were used in games. The infraction should have been a matter that was handled in-house and should have been only a five minute disciplinary hearing. Yet here we are nearly a year later still plagued by the Deflategate case in media headlines and now we are even witnessing the exploitation of Tom Brady just to bring him down. We understand now why Brady was reluctant to give up his cell phone to investigators. A number of Brady’s emails, texts, and personal information were leaked to the public after the NFL and the Wells Report did a botch job of obtaining and securing that data. Now we must sit and watch as additional pressure is added to Brady’s work and personal life, far more than deflating footballs warrants. The league has went to great depths to tarnish Brady’s personal legacy over something so trivial as deflating footballs. When you step back and think about it, we’re not talking about Ray Rice’s situation where he struck his wife. We aren’t talking about Dan Kilgore’s situation where he was involved in a public intoxication case. We are talking about deflated footballs. Something that is not even a criminal penalty in the world outside of football unlike those other players mentioned. For the NFL to go to such great lengths to bring a man down for such a petty crime is a testament of how Goodell has gained too much power, and how the NFL discipline system is faulty. Yes if there is a serious matter that needs to be addressed then by all means it has to be addressed. But attacking any man to this magnitude for deflating a football is injustice regardless whether or not he did do it. NFL fans weren’t even allowed the luxury of being able to celebrate the Patriots as a champion before this scandal hit the air waves. It was if they were crowned and then stripped of that right to be champion. Now like I said if it is a major scandal then by all means it has to be addressed, but any time there is a winner someone is going to accuse them of cheating. If you want to come up with an accusation and defame the champ over it then at least let it be something a little bit more heinous than deflating footballs. The NFL showed their true colors in this case and while Brady might have deserved the four game suspension if he did do it, he certainly didn’t deserve to be betrayed by the league he helped build. He certainly didn’t deserve to have his personal life on display for the world, and shame on the NFL for allowing that to happen.
Charity of the day: Feed Our Veterans
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Photo credit: Al Pereira / Getty Images Sport
Author: Jon Kuzma
The New York Jets were looking to turn a new leaf when they let go of head coach Rex Ryan this off-season. While Ryan wasn’t a bad guy by any means, his laid back and sometimes outlandish approach was clearly wearing thin on owner Woody Johnson. The Jets went out and hired Todd Bowles in hopes of providing new leadership, and essentially a new culture for the Jets. With the preseason just getting on its way the Jets have already fumbled on the goal line this year. Linebacker IK Enemkpali punched and broke quarterback Geno Smith’s jaw earlier this week. The punch was apparently the result of Smith owing Enemkpali $600 for a charity event that Smith no call, no showed on. Enemkpali had paid Smith’s way, hoping the young quarterback would be there. The situation is clearly a black eye for the organization and owner Woody Johnson who were desperately looking to take that next step in the right direction. The set back has the Jets right back in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. One thing surprisingly that might happen from the altercation is the Jets could actually become better. Smith’s actions might have been a simple misunderstanding, or maybe he just didn’t take the teammate code serious enough? When you’re the quarterback of a football team you have to go the extra mile in terms of leadership. Causing any issue that might be detrimental to the team shows Smith’s poor choice of leadership. The Jets will likely be better off with Ryan Fitzpatrick who has been a journeyman in the NFL, but is a smart guy and knows how to have success in this league. Another testament of Geno Smith’s character is the fact that Rex Ryan and the Buffalo Bills picked up IK Enemkpali off free agency just days after the Jets released him for striking the quarterback. If Ryan and Smith were close Ryan would have likely frowned upon Enemkpali for striking Smith. Yet Ryan gave a twelve minute interview discussing the Bills choice to sign Enemkpali. So Geno Smith might have done the Jets a favor in weeding himself out of the starting job now that he is injured 6-10 weeks. Regardless though this team needs to get it’s act together and become the team it truly could be. Fitzpatrick will give this team the best chance. But for now the turbulent times continue.
Football online: Jets are still a circus
Charity of the day: United Way Worldwide
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Photo credit: Ezra Shaw
Author: Jon Kuzma
We’ve watched the Tony Romo led Dallas Cowboys grow right before our eyes. They started out a contender when Bill Parcells was in town back when Romo was botching extra point snaps in the playoffs. Since that set back the Cowboys have had a maturation experience where they had to grow back into contenders over the next several years. Which they’ve finally done the last couple of seasons having a legitimate shot to make a deep playoff run. Yet when push comes to shove this team has always found a way to come up just short. Despite Romo being an outstanding regular season performer, he still doesn’t show up on the level an elite quarterback should in the playoffs. A crucial time when guys like Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers really set themselves apart from the pack. In order for the Cowboys to be able to take that next step, Romo first must be able to take that step. As he goes, so will the Cowboys. One thing in the Cowboys favor is the the fact that they’ve managed to put together a tremendously talented team. They were praised by many football analyst for their draft choices this spring. Landing a talented cornerback in Byron Jones, and one of the best young pass rushers in the draft in Randy Gregory. It was clear the Cowboys felt they needed to get better on the defensive side of the ball in order to make that Super Bowl push. One noticeable lost that will be interesting to keep an eye on is the loss of Demarco Murray. Murray was just emerging into a bona fide superstar registering an 1800 yard rushing season last year. While the Cowboys do have an outstanding offensive line they are going to miss that downhill runner in Murray and someone will have to step up and fill the void. Look for Joseph Randle to be the guy the team leans on. He was second on the team last year in rushing yards. He also was a gifted player at Oklahoma State in his collegiate days and should be at least serviceable in the role. At the end of the day with all of the additions the team has made their success will still fall on Tony Romo’s shoulders. As he goes, so do the Cowboys.
Football predictions: Dallas Cowboys
Charity of the day: Make-A-Wish Foundation
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Photo credit: Joe Robbins / Getty Images Sports
Author: Jon Kuzma
Teddy Bridgewater the young Quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings had a decent rookie year compiling 14 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in his rookie year. While he was only +2 in his touchdown to interception ratio he still showed much promise in his first season of NFL action. Bridgewater was highly praised coming out of Louisville but there were concerns with him as a prospect when he scored a 20 on the Wonderlic mental aptitude test ( a score considered low for quarterbacks). Yet when you watch Bridgewater on the field he seems made of anything but inferior intelligence. Bridgewater makes quick decisions, commands the team at the line of scrimmage, and seems like a good leader overall. Proving that his football intelligence is much higher than his 20 Wonderlic score reflects. In fact after watching several games films on the young passer the one knock on him seems to be that the spiral on his passes aren’t as tight as other quarterbacks in the league. Yet Bridgewater’s passes are always to the right read and seem to always make it to the receiver. So while his passes coming from his hand don’t look as nice as maybe a more polished passer, he still always connects on his throws. Meaning that it doesn’t seem to hinder his performance on the field all that much. Believe it or not his strengths appear to be all those things that were supposed to be his weakness; his poise, his composure, the way his leadership causes the team to gel. All of these talents Bridgewater has brought to the table have allowed the Vikings to become relevant again. When you add into the situation the wealth of other young talent they’ve accumulated such Jarius Wright, and Jerick Mckinnnon you begin to understand why the Vikings were able to see things get brighter last season. The return of Adrian Peterson will also add another dynamic to the Vikings this season. And with Peterson having all last season off due to a suspension he should be well rested and ready to run wild in 2015. Watch out for this team in the NFC North, they might make a little bit more noise than expected.
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Charity of the day: Salvation Army-Central Territory
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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
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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
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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
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