Le’Veon Bell continues to be the focal point of the Steelers offense whether it’s on the ground or through the air:

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Author: Jon Kuzma

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There’s not many players that embody a dual-threat running back the way Le’veon Bell does. Not only is Bell known for his ability to glide through holes with his patient running style. Number 26 for Pittsburgh is also exceptional at catching the football out of the backfield. The stats tell the real story Le’Veon Bell had 321 rushing attempts last season and caught 85 receptions. Not many players can take on that kind of workload but Bell is cut from a different cloth than most other ball carriers. As much as we rave about the 6th year pros skill set at some point we have to acknowledge just how tough Bell is? It’s takes another level of durability to endure all of those hits and that might be the most impressive thing about the former Michigan State alum. Other players would have simply wore out from all the wear and tear. Bell hasn’t skipped a beat though and he’s ready to come into 2018 and do some of his best work. Pittsburgh needs that from Le’Veon Bell if they want to get over the hump and possibly win a Super Bowl. This team has been talented enough but for some reason they haven’t been able to put it all together. One thing that has been a distraction for this ball club is all the off the field stuff. Antonio Brown has been known to cause drama from time to time and Bell is always demanding contract extensions at the wrong time. So if the Steelers want to win it all they have to find a way to real it in from a leadership standpoint. Other than that there’s a lot to be optimistic about when you’re talking about this team. Hopefully Bell can continue to put up big numbers and let his agent take care of his new deal because he’s too good to let that stuff affect his ability to do his job.

Charity of the day: Partnership for a Healthier America

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Le’Veon Bell continues to be the focal point of the Steelers offense.

Cleveland Reloaded: The Browns won’t be the laughing stock of the league anymore

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Author: Jon Kuzma

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It’s been a rough two years for the Cleveland Browns. Ever since Hue Jackson took over this team they’ve struggled going 1-31 under his command. Truthfully though it wasn’t just the coaching staff that has disappointed in Northern Ohio this roster seriously lacked talent as well. Finally after going through the worst stretch of football in NFL history the Browns have turned a corner and that’s evident when you look at the players they have now. Josh Gordon has a chance to be the best receiver in the league and he’s past all of his off the field issues. Then Cleveland lands Jarvis Landry in a trade and even though people don’t want to give the former Dolphins receiver his dues. Landry has been one of the best receivers in the NFL in terms of hauling in the football. The Tight End David Njoku is a rising star and showed a ton of promise in his rookie season last year. Those top three targets will definitely help move the chains through the air and that’s without mentioning Corey Coleman who can also contribute more than a couple touchdowns per year. So talent wise there’s much more going on for Jackson and this offense and it’s going make for an exciting brand of football. It doesn’t matter who is under center those weapons are potent enough to overpower defenses. When is the last time you could say that about the Browns? It’s beens a long time and that alone tells you things are trending upwards for this ball club. One of the other story lines to watch out for is who will solidify themselves in the alpha dog role? It’s going to come down to Josh Gordon vs Jarvis Landry. While Landry could maintain that consistency which has made him great in the past. You have to believe Josh Gordon will end up being the team’s number one wide out if he stays out of trouble. His talent is unmatched and the rumor is Gordon is in the best shape of his life. Number twelve will be back to his dominate ways and that’s going to help the Browns win several games in 2018.

Charity of the day: Marine Mammal Center

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Cleveland won’t be the laughing stock of the league anymore.

The Patriots and Packers have a lot of tension within their organizations. Both teams are already facing morale issues:

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Author: Jon Kuzma

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Two interesting story lines heading into the 2018 season is the Patriots and Packers current state of affairs. In New England we heard all throughout the end of last season that there is friction between Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. Then there was the Super Bowl when Brady threw for 500 yards and Belichick basically blew the game by benching Malcolm Butler. That situation can’t sit well with Brady and that’s why we saw the future Hall of Fame quarterback skipping any voluntary workouts. Brady is sending a message to Belichick that he’s the real reason the Patriots have had all their success. The two sides are clearly fed up with each other and New England could seriously unravel at some point.

The Packers find themselves in very similar circumstances. Aaron Rodgers is upset that the Packers have made some huge changes to their football team without consulting him first. You’d think with everything Rodgers brings to the table that Green Bay’s front office would be more inclined to involve him in the decision making process. That hasn’t been the case and it’s really a letdown because Aaron Rodgers should have a lot more pull within that organization. Trading away Jordy Nelson and letting go of Alex Van Pelt (quarterback coach) are moves which directly impact Rodgers ability to do his job. Which could end up being Mike McCarthy’s downfall once the games start being played.

So you have two different scenarios which are actually closely related in terms of where the rift has begun? The blame really seems to fall on the coaching staffs who aren’t doing their due diligence when it comes to getting feedback from their players. It’s hard to rule with an iron fist in today’s NFL because professional players feel they’re above the high school coaching mentality. If Bill Belichick and Mike McCarthy don’t evolve in terms of how they treat their players things might end up breaking down before the year is over. It’s definitely something you’ll want to keep your eye on.

Charity of the day: Marine Mammal Center

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The Patriots and Packers have morale issues.

Baltimore seems to have a good culture going on. Remember the Ravens were on the cusp of making the playoffs last year with nine wins:

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Author: Jon Kuzma

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The Baltimore Ravens seems to be firing on all cylinders at their offseason workouts. Not only has Joe Flacco elevated his play due to the emerging threats of Lamar Jackson and Robert Griffin III. Jackson has also looked exceptional and will have a legitimate role in his rookie season even if it’s just on gadget plays (wildcat offense or in a specific package). Then there’s veterans like Eric Weddle who are making sure the ship stays on the right course. Weddle is downplaying the Lamar Jackson hype and while some might not like that. It’s smart because Weddle knows Flacco is crucial to the Ravens chances of making the playoffs. Jackson is going to be a great player but he’ll have to develop a little bit before being the ace that Baltimore needs. Collectively though there’s much more talent on this roster than last season. When you talk about Michael Crabtree, Willie Snead, and Hayden Hurst those are all players who will help put points on the board. Baltimore was 29th in the league in passing yards a year ago. So it’s clear Crabtree, Snead, and Hurst will uplift that ranking to at least the low 20s. It’s all about progressing in the right direction and we know what this defense is capable of. Only five teams in the NFL gave up less points than the Ravens so this is a top 10 defense. Guys like Terrell Suggs, CJ Mosley and Weddle will do their part on that side of the ball. Then when you add in the fact that everyone is upbeat right now and morale is high. That’s going to add something special to this group and look out for the upstart Ravens. The Bills and Titans will have their hands full fighting for those last two wildcard spots they secured in this past postseason. It’s very possible the Ravens could beat one of them out.

Charity of the day: CARE USA

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The Ravens have good culture right now.

It’s too soon to question whether or not Baker Mayfield is falling behind but the Browns definitely would like to see more out of their rookie quarterback:

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Author: Jon Kuzma

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Cleveland Browns rookie Quarterback Baker Mayfield is struggling a little bit at Browns minicamp. First Head Coach Hue Jackson said “it would be ideal if Tyrod Taylor starts all of 2018” and now Todd Haley came out and stated “Mayfield has a long ways to go.” While that’s expected for a rookie QB make no mistake about it Cleveland would like to see Mayfield further along. Especially when you’re dealing with a former number one overall pick. If you take a player that high you want a guy who can step right onto the field and compete from day one. Andrew Luck is a perfect example he was selected first back in the 2012 draft and was able to give the Colts a boost from the minute he arrived in Indianapolis. Don’t let Hue Jackson and Todd Haley fool you they wanted Mayfield to push Tyrod Taylor right away. Unfortunately that doesn’t seem to be the case and it’s another negative report for the former Oklahoma Sooner. Mayfield has to be careful because if there’s too much bad momentum things could start to spiral out of control rather quickly. The other thing working against Baker Mayfield is the fact that the Browns are much improved. If this team was as bad as they were last season then Jackson would probably turn to his rookie much sooner. With the additions of Jarvis Landry, Tyrod Taylor, and Carlos Hyde though it’s less likely that Cleveland starts off 0-4 or 0-5. Which would be the perfect time to make a change at the quarterback position. So you can begin to see that Mayfield is going to have sit and learn for a little bit. It’s not exactly a spot he’s been in the last couple of years. The NFL is a different level of talent though and Baker Mayfield will have to be patient and earn his shot just like everyone else.

Charity of the day: Trout Unlimited

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Cleveland would like to see more from Baker Mayfield. Especially since he was the number 1 overall pick.

The writing on the wall says “Julio Jones doesn’t want to be in Atlanta anymore.” It will take a lot for the Falcons to part ways with their top receiver though:

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Author: Jon Kuzma

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Atlanta Falcons Wide Receiver Julio Jones is holding out of minicamp and that has to be a concern for the team’s front office. Even though Thomas Dimitroff and Dan Quinn have been adamant that they would like to keep Jones around. It’s getting to the point where it’s obvious Jones doesn’t want to be there and at what point do the Falcons explore a trade for morale reasons? If there is a player who doesn’t want to be apart of what you’re building then there’s no sense in keeping him around. That attitude will infect the other guys in their locker room and it won’t improve things for the better. Atlanta dealt five draft picks to move up and select Julio Jones back in the 2011 draft. Now it’s going to take at least two high draft picks (1st and a 2nd) to compel the Falcons to move on from one of the best receivers in the league. A team might be able to land Jones for two 2nd round picks and a 3rd rounder. Whatever the exact package is we don’t know but it’ll have to be a sweet deal that makes the agreement worthwhile for Dimitroff and this organization. So when you explore potential trade partners, it will be a team that needs a wide receiver and has the draft capital make something happen. Really there is five teams that have extra picks in the 2019 draft who could trade for Julio Jones. Those franchises are the New England Patriots, Indianapolis Colts, Kansas City Chiefs, Philadelphia Eagles, and Houston Texans. The Colts are the most desperate and pairing Jones up with T.Y Hilton would be nice. Although the thought of DeAndre Hopkins, DeShaun Watson, and Jones is very intriguing even if Will Fuller has to take a backseat. Anything could happen and ultimately it will come down to who is willing to pay the most?

Charity of the day: Trout Unlimited

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The Falcons can’t ignore the writing on the wall any longer. Julio Jones wants out of Atlanta.

Every year there is an overpriced free agent that doesn’t live up to their contract. Kirk Cousins is going be that guy in 2018:

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Author: Jon Kuzma

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If you’re a Minnesota Vikings fan then you have to be upbeat about the signing of Kirk Cousins. Cousins has thrown for three straight 4,000 yard seasons and seems like a promising signing heading into the 2018 season. The problem is Cousins doesn’t have what it takes to put the Vikings on his back and take them to the Super Bowl. Yea the stats are impressive and Minnesota’s new QB can threw the football exceptionally well. However when the pressure is on don’t expect Cousins to handle that adversity well enough to validate the three year $84 million dollar contract he inked this offseason. The Vikings aren’t ok with that either. This team brought Cousins in to get them over the hump and win a championship. Even though Mike Zimmer has a system that will be conducive to Cousins with players like Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs. It takes a quarterback who can rally the players around him when things aren’t going well to achieve this team’s goals. Cousins struggles in that regard and some players in Washington’s locker room doubted whether or not he could handle all the responsibility that came with being the face of a franchise? It feels like Kirk Cousins struggles come from a leadership standpoint more so than actually playing the game. Which might be even more frightening for the Vikings. The last thing you want to do is thrust a player into a leadership role when he doesn’t have that natural ability in him. If you’ve been watching the Vikings’ press conferences you can almost tell Cousins loves being in the spotlight but these preseason interviews aren’t going to determine if he’s successful or not? The end of the season (playoffs) is going to tell Cousins true story and it feels like he won’t be as happy when that time comes.

Charity of the day: National Audubon Society

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Kirk Cousins is the latest overpriced free agent who could wind up a bust.

Can the Chiefs turn the page on the Alex Smith era? They can if Patrick Mahomes lives up to the hype:

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Author: Jon Kuzma

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The Kansas City Chiefs find themselves in an unusual situation now that Alex Smith is no longer with the team. Smith was the face of the Chiefs franchise for the past five seasons but that torch is being passed to second year Quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Mahomes has gained a reputation as a gunslinger and that goes all the back to senior of high school when he threw for 50 touchdowns. Then at Texas Tech Mahomes eventually dethroned Davis Webb for the starting quarterback job. After assuming command the 6’3 230 pound signal caller (Mahomes) threw for over 11,000 yards and 90 touchdowns during his time in Lubbock. Those early indications tell a story of what this guy is capable of and now he takes over the reins for the Chiefs with a ton of upside. It’s highly probable that Mahomes will eventually light it up but how long will it take before he becomes an elite player? If Kansas City has to wait a whole season before that happens they might miss Alex Smith a little bit. If their new 22 year old quarterback hits the ground running though things could be even better from the get go. So there’s a lot of fluctuation there in terms of what could happen for Patrick Mahomes? We’ve already heard early on that he’s been struggling a little bit at OTAs and that has to be a concern for Andy Reid. Sammy Watkins publicly backed Mahomes to downplay the young QBs errors but the last thing you want to see is a player struggling in practice. Look everyone knows Mahomes is going to be a great leader someday because he just has a natural ability. Regardless though that development takes time and we’ve seen guys like Aaron Rodgers wait three seasons before getting their shot. The question is did Reid thrust Mahomes into the starting job before he’s ready? If he did then the Chiefs will suffer but if the first year starter pans out Kansas City will forget about Alex Smith very quickly.

Charity of the day: National Audubon Society

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Chiefs Football: Anything is possible if Patrick Mahomes lives up to the hype.

Andrew Luck threw at Colts practice today and it was a huge step for his recovery:

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Author: Jon Kuzma

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All offseason we’ve been wondering when Andrew Luck was going to comeback? We know now that Luck is at least on track to return this upcoming season. The veteran quarterback threw at Colts minicamp today and that’s a huge step in the right direction for the former number one overall pick. If Luck can shake the rust before the regular season begins it’s very likely he’ll start once week one rolls around. Obviously that’s going to completely change Indianapolis’ future for the better. This franchise didn’t stand a chance without their top QB but now things might start to shape up. It’s clear that Luck still has a ways to go when it comes to getting his arm back in game shape. Some of his passes were a little bit wobbly coming out his hand but perfection wasn’t the goal today. Really it was about getting some confidence under his belt and prepping for a full time workload. After missing most of 2017 there was a lot doubts about whether or not Andrew Luck was going to make it back this season? Now that it’s clear he will it’ll be interesting to see if the Colts can be a contender in the AFC South? The division has improved greatly with the Jaguars, Texans, and Titans all being superior than Indianapolis talent wise. It will take a sensational year from number twelve (Luck) if Frank Reich wants to have any success in his first year as head coach. Even then the competition might simply be too much. Regardless though morale has to be high in Indiana with Luck getting back out on the field. From here it’s all about making sure the other fifty two players can increase their output. The Colts can’t put it all on Andrew Luck shoulders because he needs time to adjust from his extended absence away from the game. Only time will tell whether Luck is the same player he used to be?

Charity of the day: Guttmacher Institute

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It’s looking more and more like Josh Allen will be the first rookie quarterback to start this season:

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Author: Jon Kuzma

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Josh Allen continues to impress at Buffalo Bills OTAs and even though he’s currently listed as the third quarterback on the depth charts it’s hard to believe he’ll stay there for long. Everyone has been raving about the Bills rookie QB and it’s only a matter of time before he’ll take over the reins. Especially when you consider the competition Allen has at the position. A.J McCarron was one of the better back ups in the National Football League but he’s only started three games throughout his entire career. If McCarron was a clear cut starter some team would’ve traded for him much sooner. Then there’s Nathan Peterman who threw for five interceptions when he had his chance to be the number one guy. So it’s not like there’s high expectations for him either. All of those signs lead to Allen who is much more physically gifted than McCarron and Peterman. By letting the rookie out of Wyoming orchestrate this offense there will be tons of big play potential. If the three quarterbacks are close talent wise it just makes sense to roll with Josh Allen. The Bills already see the seventh overall pick as their final solution and why delay Allen’s run in order to accommodate players who don’t give this team a better shot at winning? Nothing is set in stone yet but it feels like the rookie will take over sooner than expected. Remember Sean McDermott benched Tyrod Taylor for Nathan Peterman last season despite Peterman being a rookie 5th round selection. So what do you think is going to happen when McDermott has the chance to play one of the best quarterbacks in the entire 2018 draft? It’s not hard to connect the dots but give Josh Allen a ton of credit too. Beyond his arm strength he’s shown a great mental grasp of the game. It’s those combination of factors which should make Allen the first rookie QB to start in 2018.

Charity of the day: Guttmacher Institute

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