The Carolina Panthers knew it was a no brainer to pick up Kelvin Benjamin’s 5th year option:

Photo credit: Grant Halverson / Getty Images Sport

Author: Jon Kuzma

The Carolina Panthers liked what they seen out of Kelvin Benjamin last season and now the Carolina Panthers are picking up Benjamin’s 5th year option. Benjamin was excellent as a rookie wide receiver hauling in 1,008 yards and 9 touchdowns. However Benjamin tore his ACL in 2015 and missed the whole entire season. That led to this past season where Benjamin recorded 941 receiving yards and 7 touchdowns which is a pretty outstanding season considering Benjamin was still recovering from surgery. Some athletes can bounce back faster than others from that type or procedure and don’t let anyone tell you different Benjamin was terrific last season. Most guys in the league will never have a year like that healthy, let alone coming back from an ACL tear. That’s why the Panthers knew it was an easy decision to pick up Benjamin’s option and now Cam Newton will have his top receiver in the mix for at least 2 more seasons. Benjamin is a 6 foot 5 243 pound football catching machine and he maneuvers so well despite being such a big guy. That instantly creates a match up problem against the often under size defensive backs that Benjamin faces and now the Panthers are rewarding their number 1 receiver with an $8 million dollar contract for the 2018 season. Benjamin will make slightly under $2.5 million dollars in 2017 so it was a good move to get him that pay raise in 2018 to keep him happy. Just 2 years removed from that knee injury now Kelvin Benjamin should be ready to flourish, and that should yield great results for the Panthers. Now the question mark is how healthy is Cam Newton going to be? Newton just underwent shoulder surgery and the Panthers are expecting him to be ready for training camp. Carolina is pressing the issue but really they need to be patient with Newton and give him all the time in the world to heal. Rushing Newton back could lead to further injury and could set Newton back even further.

Charity of the day: Trust for Public Land

Go donate! www.tpl.org

Comeback season: the Saints have expressed interest in signing Johnny Manziel

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Author: Jon Kuzma

New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton and Johnny Manziel had breakfast last month to discuss Manziel potentially joining the Saints. Manziel who has been out of the National Football League for one season seems to be getting his life together, Manziel recently got engaged and has been focused on making it back to pro football. That change in mindset should suit Manziel well because one year ago he seemed to completely unravel and his lifestyle clearly got the best of him. The stability Manziel has in his life now will certainly benefit him as far as the human spirit goes and hopefully that will lead Johnny Football back to the gridiron. Johnny Manziel has thrown for 1,675 passing yards and 7 touchdowns over the course of 2 year NFL career. Manziel has never suited up for all 16 games and that will be the first step he needs to take if he does land a contract with New Orleans. The Saints have Drew Brees who will serve as a great mentor for Manziel as well, so the situation could be a great fit for the former Texas A and M quarterback. Look, at one point Johnny Manziel took the world by storm with his electrifying style of play and extreme elusiveness. If athletically Manziel can get back to that top form, that would give him the best chance at success and from there it’s taking it day by day. Repetition will help mold Manziel into an NFL quarterback and that’s why it’s imperative that he keeps his hands clean and dedicates himself to being a professional. We’ve seen cases in the past in this league where both the starting quarterback and back up quarterback get hurt. In those circumstances Johnny Manziel could be back on the field quickly and he has to be a competent quarterback when he does get that chance. It takes commitment, focus, and sheer will to be a productive signal caller so we will see if the Saints give him a chance and we will if Manziel makes the most of that opportunity?

Charity of the day: First Candle

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Will Todd Gurley be able to get back on track in 2017?

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Author: Jon Kuzma

The Los Angeles Rams were a terrible football team in 2016 and that had a negative impact on Todd Gurley’s individual production. After rushing for 1,106 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns as a rookie, Gurley only rushed for 885 rushing yards and 6 touchdowns last season. That regression stats wise was due to the fact that the Rams had one of the worst offenses in all football last year and it will be interesting to see if Gurley can get back on track? The Rams signed veteran lineman Andrew Whitworth to help make life easier on Gurley but one offensive lineman isn’t going to cure all the Rams’ offensive problems. The Rams need plenty of other lineman additions to give Todd Gurley a little daylight while running the football. That means Les Snead has to work some magic when the season rolls around and for the most part the Rams general manager has struggled to do that. Los Angeles severely handcuffed their future when they traded a boatload of draft picks for Jared Goff and because of that the Rams won’t have a 1st or 3rd round draft pick in the 2017 Draft. That makes life so much more difficult for Los Angeles because as a four win football team they have a lot of holes to fill on their roster. Todd Gurley is clearly in a bad situation and it doesn’t appear to be getting better anytime soon. The only hope for Gurley is if Jared Goff takes significant steps in his second year and if Sean McVay opens up the offensive a little bit. Goff’s evolution would cause defenders to respect the pass a little bit more, which would open running lanes for Gurley. While McVay could potentially implement a scheme that could yield better results for the lackluster Los Angeles offense. If those two things happen Todd Gurley might have a shot but keep in minds it’s a long shot for LA right now. They are in very bad spot with all the bad football moves they’ve made and it’s alarming that Les Snead got to keep his job.

Charity of the day: Human Rights Watch

Go donate! www.hrw.org

Colin Kaepernick was wrong for kneeling during the national anthem but he definitely deserves to be on an NFL roster:

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Author: Jon Kuzma

Colin Kaepernick is seeing some backlash for kneeling during the national anthem last year mostly in the form of NFL teams refusing to sign him. While Kaepernick was wrong to kneel during the national anthem because we have it pretty good in America. He is still worthy of making an NFL roster and it’s really unfair that no team has brought Kaepernick on board. America is a country where we are allowed to express ourselves and that’s exactly what Colin Kaepernick was doing when he chose to kneel. So it’s unfair for team’s to pass on Kaepernick for standing up for what he believes in. Especially when Kaepernick showed some glimpses of getting back on track football wise when he was given an opportunity to play. If any other quarterback threw 16 touchdowns and only 4 interceptions teams would lining up to sign that player. Therefore you know Colin Kaepernick is getting the short end of the stick because that’s exactly the stats he put up last season. Kaepernick is 29 years old and has plenty of time produce for an NFL team and keep in mind Tom Brady is 39 years old. So we know it’s not because Kaepernick is too old, and we know it’s not because Kaepernick isn’t productive. That leaves only one reason why NFL team’s aren’t signing Kaep and that’s because they dubbed him a “distraction.” It’s amazing what can happen to you when you don’t conform and Kaepernick’s free thinking is being penalized by general managers and NFL insiders. It just goes to show that these teams really want you to just go about your business and not say too much. In this case though the teams got it wrong and Kaepernick definitely should be on an NFL roster. We will see if some team steps up and takes a risk on Colin Kaepernick? Who at the moment is doing charity work to help feed people suffering from hunger in Somalia.

Charity of the day: Rainforest Alliance

Go donate! www.rainforest-alliance.org

The Jets continued their downward spiral after inking Josh McCown to a 1 year $6 million dollar contract:

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Author: Jon Kuzma

The New York Jets are falling apart fast and they made another bad football move by signing Josh McCown. Now if a team with an outstanding starting quarterback signed McCown it wouldn’t be that bad of a move. However the Jets don’t know who their long term starting quarterback is going to be and McCown further clouds that situation. Bryce Petty started 4 games for the Jets last year, but Petty only recorded 3 touchdown passes while throwing 7 interceptions. That was a bad audition for Petty and now McCown could actually run Petty’s starting job. If McCown does end up starting for the Jets, he will be on a 1 year contract so McCown could leave after the 2017 season ends. That would leave the Jets in even more disarray and you have to wonder what is going on for Gang Green in New York? The Jets still have Christian Hackenberg on their roster who might eventually pan out but even his spot is in jeopardy with McCown on the roster. If Bryce Petty won the starting job, McCown would likely be the back up and that drops Hackenberg down the depth chart. The other awkward thing about McCown is he is making $6 million dollars a year. After the Jets were reluctant to hand Ryan Fitzpatrick starter money, they offered McCown $6 million dollars fairly quickly. So clearly the front office has high expectations for McCown and he is now the highest paid quarterback on the Jets roster. That should give you an indication of who the Jets believe their starting quarterback will be in 2017 and it just goes to show how bad the state of the Jets franchise has gotten. Now the plan of action will likely be start Josh McCown and that means Petty and Hackenberg will both miss out on a year of development. Which basically means the Jets have problems and they are unraveling quickly.

Charity of the day: Rainforest Alliance

Go donate! www.rainforest-alliance.org

Flying under the radar: Paul Posluszny has recorded over 100 tackles in 8 of the last 9 seasons

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Author: Jon Kuzma

Aliquippa Pennsylvania is known for being a football factory and nobody encapsulates the spirit of Aliquippa more than Paul Posluszny. Posluszny was born in Butler Pennsylvania back in 1984 and in time went to Hopewell High School. At Hopewell Posluszny starred as a running and line backer, ultimately leading the Vikings to a triple A state championship. Soon after Penn State University took notice of Posluszny’s talents and then recruited him to come play for Head Coach Joe Paterno. As a Nittany Lion Posluszny earned 2 Chuck Bednarik awards (2005, 2006) and he also won the Dick Butkist award (2005) which is given to the top linebacker in the nation. While every team in the 2007 NFL Draft passed on Paul Posluszny in the 1st round. At last the Buffalo Bills selected Posluszny with the 34th pick in the 2nd round. During his time with the Bills Posluszny recorded over 100 tackles in 3 out of his first 4 seasons. That streak of 100 tackles went for 6 consecutive seasons and continued over when Posluszny was acquired by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Now after spending 6 seasons in Jacksonville Paul Posluszny has recorded over 100 tackles in 8 of the last 9 NFL seasons and that’s a hell of an accomplishment. It takes such grit, toughness, and sheer will to have 1 season of over 100 tackles and Posluszny has made that look effortless by doing it year in and year out. The surprising thing about that accomplishment is the fact that Paul Posluszny still flies under the radar somewhat. If any other player did this they would be on commercials, the cover of magazines, and making a ton of headlines. Posluszny is the exact opposite, he keeps a low profile and just shows up and works hard. That is the spirit of Aliquippa built into Posluszny and it’s favored him well among the best football players in the world. With 1,153 career tackles we could be looking at a Hall of Fame career when we examine Paul Posluszny and he is certainly a Pennsylvania hero. It’s been a great run this far for the man in the middle of Jaguars defense and we will see how long he continues to play for? At this rate it looks like he could play forever.

Charity of the day: Nature Conservancy

Go donate! www.nature.org

Bob Quinn has ran laps around the other NFC North general managers in just 2 off-seasons:

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Photo credit: Mlive

Author: Jon Kuzma

The Detroit Lions are known for being a historically bad football team but Bob Quinn took Detroit to the playoffs in his first season at the helm. He did that by drafting Taylor Decker in the 1st round and A’Shawn Robinson in the 2nd round of the 2016 Draft. Those players both panned out and it’s rare that rookies can contribute the way those 2 players both did. That show’s Quinn understands how to evaluate pro talent and you have to remember Quinn was mentored by Bill Belichick during his time with the New England Patriots. Clearly that strong understanding of football has rubbed off on Bob Quinn and the Lions are trending in the right direction. Bob Quinn didn’t rest on his laurels either, he was determined to keep improving the Lions and ultimately made a splash in free agency this off-season. The Lions signed Rick Wagner and T.J Lang to solidify their offensive line and these were 2 big time football moves. Quarterback Matt Stafford will be well protected in 2017 and Detroit still has the draft to make a little bit more magic happen. Quinn has stated that the Lions could address the defensive back position early on so a guy like Adoree Jackson could be a possibility at the number 21 spot. Former University of Michigan alum Jabrill Peppers will likely still be on the board as well so he could be a possibility just because of the versatility Peppers brings to the table. Peppers could slide out to corner if needed, or he can work in the slot against receivers. Peppers could also be an immediate impact player in the kick return game adding another dimension to the Lions. The other option could be Christian McCaffrey if he is still on the board. Truthfully Dalvin Cook would be a dream come true for Bob Quinn but it’s very unlikely he will be on the board by the time the Lions pick. McCaffrey would be a decent addition just because the Lions have a fresh new offensive line to run behind. Regardless of the route Bob Quinn goes in the draft he has done a great job up to this point and deserves praise for the success he has had in just 2 seasons in Detroit. The Lions look like the favorite to win the NFC North right now.

Charity of the day: Prostate Cancer Foundation

Go donate! www.pcf.org

Outside of Myles Garrett, Solomon Thomas and Jonathan Allen are the next best thing:

Photo credit: Icon Sportswire

Author: Jon Kuzma

Myles Garrett is almost a sure lock to go number 1 in the NFL draft but there are plenty of other defensive ends in the draft that can still provide a huge impact. Two players in particular are Solomon Thomas and Jonathan Allen. Solomon Thomas was a Pack 12 stand out who earned All American status and was the Pack 12 Defensive Player of the Year in 2016. Thomas is 6’3 276 pounds and really blew away scouts at the NFL Combine. Thomas recorded 30 bench press reps, ran a 4.69 40 yard dash, and broad jumped 126 inches. Those are freak of nature results and now Thomas has significantly improved his stock. That could ultimately catapult Thomas into a top 5 pick and it just goes to show the things you can accomplish when you work hard. Solomon Thomas was clearly well prepared for the NFL Draft and the numbers really showed how much Thomas wants to be great. Many draft board now have Thomas going number 2 overall to the San Francisco 49ers. So it’s definitely been a huge trend upward for the former Stanford Defensive End Solomon Thomas.

Jonathan Allen on the other hand was a Chuck Bednarik and Bronco Nagurski award winning defender. Those honors are given to the top defender on the best defense in the entire nation and that speaks volumes about the type of player Jonathan Allen is. Allen didn’t grade out quite as impressively as Thomas did at the combine but sometimes being a “football player” is more important than combine results. The Chuck Bednarik and Bronco Nagurski honors tell you that bottom line Jonathan Allen knows how to play football and he does it very effectively. Allen is 6’3 286 pounds so he can play inside at defensive tackle or kick out and play defensive end. Allen recorded 21 bench press reps, a 5.00 second 40 yard dash, and a 108 inch broad jump. Again don’t immediately suggest that Solomon Thomas is going to be the better player here because there is a reason Allen was the top defender in all of college football last year and there is a reason Allen has went to 2 straight National Championship games. It’s because Allen consistently dominates when it comes to being on the field and in football situations. Sometimes those instincts are better than performing well in football drills.

Truthfully Solomon Thomas and Jonathan Allen are two extremely talented defenders and right now it’s too close to tell who will be the better player. It feels like Thomas might have ran Allen’s spot with a strong combine performance and that could lead to Thomas being drafted over Allen. At the end of the day though these are two great football players and they will both really help out an NFL franchise.

Charity of the day: Prostate Cancer Foundation

Go donate! www.pcf.org

Mike Williams and Corey Davis are the best wide receivers in the 2017 draft class:

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Author: Jon Kuzma

There are plenty of talented players that are going to come out of the 2017 NFL Draft but as far as wide receivers go there are none more talented than Mike Williams and Corey Davis. Most people know Mike Williams from his big game in the National Championship. In that game Williams recorded 94 receiving yards and 1 touchdown to lead Clemson past the Alabama Crimson Tide. Williams was hands down the most explosive receiver on the field that night and he has a real opportunity to be an immediate impact player in the National Football League. At 6’3 225 pounds Williams is the ideal size for an NFL receiver as well. Williams will be taller than most NFL cornerbacks and he has the skill set to make NFL defenses consistently pay. Williams proved that last season when he recorded 1,361 yards and 11 touchdowns against some of the best teams in the country. Those opponents were tougher than the opponents Corey Davis faced and that’s one thing Williams has going in his favor. However when you’re talking about Corey Davis, you have to acknowledge the production Davis has put up. Corey Davis has 5,285 receiving yards over the course of collegiate career compared to Williams 2,727. Corey Davis has averaged 1,321 yards a year ever since he stepped foot in Kalamazoo as a freshman. The only knock being, Davis did this against M.A.C opponents who are less talented than the A.C.C opponents that Williams faced. So there are definitely pros and cons for both players and right now it looks like Williams will likely go first. Make no mistake about it though Corey Davis can play too and there is a reason his stats pop out at you when you do a little research on him. Davis is 6’3 213 pounds so he is a tad smaller than Williams, regardless though either player will be a solid pick for an NFL franchise. It feels like the Titans will be the first team to take a wide receiver in the draft, keep an eye out on whether Tennessee goes with Mike Williams or if they row the boat with Corey Davis?

Charity of the day: Marine Mammal Center

Go donate! www.tmmc.org

Why the San Francisco 49ers should choose Deshaun Watson over Mitch Trubisky:

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Author: Jon Kuzma

With the NFL Draft approaching quickly teams around the league are lining up their draft boards so they can bring in top tier talent. Every team is forced with tough decisions on draft day and a good move can catapult your franchise to success for years to come. On the opposite side of that coin a bad move can set a franchise back for a number of years too (remember Jamarcus Russell?). With Myles Garrett likely the number 1 pick overall, you have to wonder what the 49ers are going to do with the 2nd overall pick? There has been discussions lately that the 49ers might draft a cornerback with the 2nd pick but anything besides a quarterback would be a letdown for the Niners. Really that limits the pick down to 2 choices, either Deshaun Watson out of Clemson or Mitch Trubisky out of North Carolina. Trubisky has received a lot of praise lately especially since he threw for 30 touchdowns and only 6 interceptions last year. Many believe Trubisky has the ability to be a franchise quarterback who is similar to Andrew Luck. That is a strong comparison for Trubisky but the former North Carolina quarterback only produced one elite season at Chapel Hill (that was last year). Watson on the other hand has thrown for over 10,000 career yards at Clemson and 90 career touchdown passes. That’s in contrast to Trubisky’s 41 career touchdown passes, so Watson has put up double the production Trubisky has. On top of that if you’ve watched college football the last couple of seasons you could see first hand what a gamer Watson is. Not only did Watson knock off the virtually unstoppable Alabama Crimson Tide, he continuously rose to the occasion for the Clemson Tigers. Dabo Swinney might have a system that elevates players but it was Watson who facilitated the offense and put together a championship push. Without Watson there is no way Clemson goes to 2 straight National Championships and that shows the poise Deshaun Watson exudes while playing the quarterback position. No player in college football has been more impressive the last 2 years and that’s why it’s a no brainer that the San Francisco 49ers should pair Watson with Kyle Shanahan. The 49ers signed Matt Barkley so they might opt to choose a player that can help in a different area. That would be a foolish decision because they would be passing on a rare talent that only comes along every so often. Keep an eye on what the 49ers do when draft day rolls around, but remember anything beside Watson is a letdown.

Charity of the day: Marine Mammal Center

Go donate! www.tmmc.org

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