Thursday, July 30, 2009

NFL SWOT Analysis: AFC East

Buffalo Bills

Strengths – Leave it to T.O. to possibly be an Addition-by-Subtraction for one team, while also being a nice addition to another. Owens should be the best thing that could have happened to Lee Evans. While Evans has somewhat come into his own, he’s always lacked that running mate who can free him of the double-teams. Behind the line, Marshawn Lynch should have less pressure as he now has two backups that can step in at any time. Fred Jackson was there, but adding Dominic Rhodes could be a big win. The defensive line is underrated and goes deeper than most would realize. The fresh legs will be a huge help in the 4th Quarter.

Weaknesses – The offensive line has completely re-shuffled. Gone is All-Pro LT Jason Peters. Langston Walker moves from the right side to fill in. Brad Butler slides over from guard to RT. There will be battles at both guard spots. Finally, free agent Geoff Hangartner will be making the line calls from the middle. The defensive backfield has a lot of question marks. Donte Whitner is on the verge of losing his job. Bryan Scott has a ceiling, and it’s not high. Terrence McGee plays with heart, but isn’t built to take on #1’s like Moss, Fitz and Andre Johnson.

Opportunities – Langston Walker takes on some really big shoes, that may not be as big as they seem. If Walker stays away from giving up double-digit sacks, he’s already outdone Peters, because Walker is just as good (if not better) at run blocking. On the other side of the ball, after watching Dominique Rogers-Cromartie’s success in Arizona last year, it’s time for Leodis McKelvin to step into the starting role and show why he was drafted ahead of DRC.

Threats – For a team that made moves that a team makes to put themselves over the top (e.g. Terrell Owens), they have a lot of rookies vying for significant playing time. Aaron Maybin could be a mainstay on passing downs. Both guards, Eric Wood and Andy Levitre are challenging a couple of journeymen. Shawn Nelson has the most potential at TE. Jairus Byrd could push Whitner to start at FS.

Passing/Receiving the Torch – Trent Edwards takes the reigns as the unquestioned QB of this team. He didn’t really receive the torch from anyone other than the shell of himself who was constantly looking over his shoulder.

Position Battle
– Both OG spots where Eric Wood will battle Kirk Chambers on the left side and Andy Levitre will battle Seth McKinney on the right. There will also be a battle at FS where Whitner will fend off Ko Simpson and Jairus Byrd.

Rookie Contributor – Several, due to good drafting. Wood, Levitre, Nelson, Maybin and Byrd have been mentioned. However, keep an eye on LB Nic Harris, who will mostly be a special teamer. He has “Ian Gold” written all over him.

Miami Dolphins

– One of the strengths that I always stress is continuity. With the Dolphins returning 20 starters (one will switch positions), this is almost as good as it gets. With C and FS the two new faces, the Dolphins can build on last year’s success without having to re-invent the wheel. At QB, they have the comeback player of the year. Pennington is one of the highest football IQs and is a great game manager. The running game should once again be a strength, running behind a line that was built for smash mouth football.

Weaknesses – Why did they choose to ignore upgrading at WR again? Sure, Ted Ginn is a flyer and Davone Bess and Greg Camarillo are big targets, but are any of these guys turning into Go-To receivers? The DBs have a lot of question marks as well. Yeremiah Bell has been an asset, but how confident can you be in Gibril Wilson when the Raiders gave up on him? The Allen duo at CB isn’t awe inspiring either. Will Allen needs to scour Florida for the fountain of youth while Jason Allen needs to tap into some of that potential that made him a first round pick.

Opportunities – Back to the running game. A healthy Ronnie Brown, who claims that he is 100%, and a rejuvenated Ricky Williams, who claims that he feels younger than he’s ever felt, could do some major damage behind that offensive line. Before Brown went down to a season ending injury two years ago, he was the top performing back in the league at the time. Now that they have the running game, and the comeback QB in place together, this team could be a contender.

Threats – Here’s where the Dolphins should worry. They have one of the worst kinds of threats to have. They are not a very deep team. Holes created by injuries to starters won’t easily be patched up. If the team can stay healthy, they will do well. If the injury bug hits, it will be a long season.

Passing/Receiving the Torch – This is a team where many of the players are caught in the middle. Not many are ready to pass the torch. Not many are ready to receive it. Is that a good thing? Is it bad? Hard to tell this early.

Position Battle - QB2: Pat White vs. Chad Henne. With Pennington’s injury history, the backup QB is extra important in Miami.

Rookie Contributor – Pat White will probably take the Wildcat snaps. While there are three DBs that have potential, don’t expect to see them much this season. WR Patrick Turner could get a look or two as well.

New England Patriots

Strengths – When you have Tom Brady throwing passes to this veteran receiving corps, there isn’t much to worry about. Randy Moss and Wes Welker will catch the lion’s share of passes. Joey Galloway and Greg Lewis are the wild cards. Galloway, who plays younger than his age, could be a diamond in the rough for this team. This offensive line is completely intact and has Super Bowl experience. Oh…and…let’s not forget, they’re the Patriots. (Ok…that almost made me sick…but the truth does ring there)

Weaknesses – While the CBs are deep, they have a lot to prove. Two of the three potential top contributors had the Lions and the Redskins give up on them (Leigh Bodden & Shawn Springs respectively). Couple that with the fact that the OLB spot is a weakness outside of Audalius Thomas, and you have a formula for disaster. If there is a lack of pressure on the opposing QB, these CBs will be spending too much time in coverage, and will be exploited.

Opportunities – Fred Taylor could step up and be what Corey Dillon was to the Patriots a few years back. Taylor could be the workhorse that opens things up for Kevin Faulk to do his damage. This is a deep, versatile set of backs that the team can do a lot with. From a coaching standpoint, Belichick has taken full control of the offense once again. Can he prove that he is the reason this team dominates on offense, or will he prove that Weis and McDanials were the geniuses?

Threats – Will Tom Brady start to hear footsteps? An injury like that has changed some careers for the worse, regardless of what condition the player comes back in. If Brady goes down to another injury, there isn’t another Matt Cassel type to take over again. This offense also thrives on the play of its TEs in the red zone. If nobody steps up, things could clam up pretty quick on the red zone offense.

Passing/Receiving the Torch – Ty Warren from Richard Seymour as the dominant 3-4 DE on the team. Warren was an absolute beast last year (coming off a down year). Another will be Gary Guyton from Tedy Bruschi (unless Paris Lenon beats him out). Guyton was a great college free agent find last year.

Position Battle
– LOLB: Pierre Woods vs. Tully Banta-Cain. Woods is penciled in to start, but Banta-Cain is in his second stint with the club, and could use that experience to help win the job. RT: Nick Kaczur vs. Sebastian Vollmer. Kaczur is in the dog house with his legal troubles. That is why they drafted Vollmer, who is a great pick.

Rookie Contributor
– Minor contribution at best, unless Vollmer beats out Kaczur. Darius Butler could get some looks if the CB injury bug hits the Patriots for the umpteenth season in a row. Ron Brace should get some time, spelling Vince Wilfork.

New York Jets

Strengths – The defense is the major strength of this team, especially with Rex Ryan aboard. This is an underrated defense that could find themselves ranked highly by the end of the season. The defense is led by talented set of DBs. Kerry Rhodes and Jim Leonhard will roam the center fields, while a foursome of CBs led by Darrelle Revis keeps receivers in check. An offensive line with a lot of potential returns this season completely intact (yet another team that will benefit from this “phenomena”).

Weaknesses – Any time you start a rookie QB (unless it’s Peyton Manning), it’s a weakness. Mark Sanchez will hit bumps in the road. The question is: Can the rest of the team step up when he needs them? If there is one spot on defense that I would focus on as a weakness, it’s the most important component of a 3-4 defense: The OLBs. Bryan Thomas and Calvin Pace are serviceable, but not dominant, like a James Harrison, Shawne Merriman or DeMarcus Ware. Both OLBs combined for 11 sacks last year. A pitiful number when you consider this defense is designed for those players to rack up the sacks. Also, with Pace suspended for the first four games, the team turns to 2008 6th overall pick Vernon Gholston, who was non-existent last season.

Opportunities – Chansi Stuckey could pick up where Laveranues Coles left off. Stuckey is no stranger to making a big catch. Now all he has to do is build chemistry with Sanchez as the #2 receiver. Dustin Keller, on the other hand, needs to become the safety-valve that will be extremely valuable to Sanchez. On the other side, Bart Scott and David Harris have the opportunity to be the next Ray Lewis and Bart Scott. Scott steps into the limelight, in a position meant to make plays, as David Harris will play an equally important, yet less spectacular role of taking on the blockers.

Threats – Age comes into question here. How old are Thomas Jones’s wheels? While he is in great condition, and Leon Washington’s presence eases the load, Jones is getting up there in years and in RB years, he’s ancient. Will contract woes for Jones and Washington cause drama? For a relatively elderly defensive line, there are too few backups to speak highly of. Maybe the Kareem Brown to TE project won’t last that long. When Kris Jenkins went down last year, it was nearly as devastating as losing Favre.

Passing/Receiving the Torch – This one is obvious. This went from Chad Pennington’s team, to Brett Favre’s team, and now it’s Mark Sanchez’s team. Maybe Sanchez can prove that just being a USC QB gives you the credentials to be an NFL starter.

Position Battle
– WR: While Stuckey should win the WR2 spot, he’ll get pushed by Brad Smith and David Clowney. If you could take the strengths of each player and put them into one player, you would have your ideal WR. The two that lose out on the WR2 battle will end up entrenched in a battle for WR3. Not too shabby, considering this team will probably put more Three WR Sets out there.

Rookie Contributor – Obviously Sanchez, but don’t be surprised if Shonn Greene steals some goal line carries from Jones and Washington.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

NFL SWOT Analysis: NFC East

The NFL is heating up. Training camps have either started already or are starting over the next week. Once again we're back with the Team-by-Team SWOT Analyses. We're taking a close look at the upsides and downsides of each team, and what they look like going into training camp. Check back every couple of days as a new division will be posted. As always, looking forward to the comments.

Dallas Cowboys

Strengths – Many teams would love to have a tandem of backs like Marion Barber and Felix Jones. If Jones is 100%, expect an even split on carries, allowing Barber to step back into a role he dominated in when splitting carries with another Jones. The QB’s best friend is a great TE. The Cowboys have arguably the best in the league with Jason Witten. However, don’t sleep on Martellus Bennett. If D-Coordinators think they can put a LB on him, expect some nasty exploitation. Together, they will cause mismatches that will move the chains. The Defensive Front Seven, led by DeMarcus Ware and Jay Ratliff, is one of the best in the league.

Weaknesses – Was losing T.O. addition by subtraction? Roy Williams will have some big shoes to fill. Outside of the TEs, he doesn’t have much help. The secondary will need all the help they can get from the front seven. Mike Jenkins steps in as a full-time starter. Team him up with Terence Newman, and you have two CBs who don’t like to make tackles. Gerald Sensabaugh should not have a hard time making the team forget about the other Roy Williams at safety. But, if he does, it’ll be a long year for the Dallas D.

Opportunities – As a team, the Cowboys need to use last year’s debacle to fuel their fire for this season. They cannot be an embarrassment again. At the nickel corner, Orlando Scandrick has the kind of physical build and game that the team desperately needs. If he can prove himself during training camp and the preseason, we could see the 2008 fifth rounder a lot.

Threats – Can Jerrah Jones stick with Wade Phillips throughout the season if the team hits some bumps? While I’m not a fan of Phillips, replacing him mid-season would be disastrous to this team, regardless of Jason Garrett’s presence. This is also the toughest division in the league (until another division proves otherwise). For the Cowboys to succeed, they must best the Giants and Eagles, who are the class of this division at this point in time.

Passing/Receiving the Torch – Anthony Spencer, from Greg Ellis. Spencer has the type of pass rushing skills to make Dallas fans forget about Ellis. Spencer could have Shaun Phillips-like production because of the luxury of who he has as a bookend.

Position BattleWR: Patrick Crayton, Miles Austin, Isaiah Stanback. At least one of these three has to step up and be as good as Jerrah claims they are. Once that happens, the Cowboys could be tough to stop on offense.

Rookie Contributor – Not likely to be any. I did like Robert Brewster. He might have had the best chance in the preseason, to show that he’s going to be the eventual replacement for Hotel Adams. But, this morning I got news that he's out for the season. I guess most of the rookie contribution will have to come from all four drafted LBs. They need to show that they can spell the starting four. A deep set of LBs is the strength of any 3-4 defense.

New York Giants

Strengths – This team lived and died by Eli Manning’s arm for the last few years. With the receiving corps taking a new shape, the running game becomes an even bigger focus than last year. Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw will pick up most of the slack left by Derrick Ward. This job is always made easier by one of the best functioning offensive lines in the league.

Weaknesses – It is very easy to point out the receiving corps. Losing Plaxico is huge. A pistol-packing, self-shooting individual off the field, he was heavy artillery on it. On the other side of the ball, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that their defense is a weakness. While there is some talent, Steve Spagnuolo is gone.

Opportunities – This is Eli’s chance to prove how good a QB he is if he can produce with what looks like a mediocre set of WRs (on paper, that is). Kevin Boss should end up with a bigger role in the passing game. He has a lot to prove.

Threats – The D-Line will be tested early this season. They are a smallish group flanked by a linebacking crew that isn’t impressive outside of Antonio Pierce (Boley will miss nearly half of the season due to injury). A power running team could have a field day.

Passing/Receiving the Torch – Bill Shridan from Spags. Will Sheridan keep the same defensive philosophy intact, or will he add his own signature? Either way, will he be able to hold this defense together as masterfully as Spags did.

Position BattleDT: While newcomers Chris Canty and Rocky Bernard are penciled in as the starters, holdovers Fred Robbins and Barry Coefield won’t give up their spots without a fight. This is also the formula for a strong DT rotation.

Rookie Contributor – Potentially a few with such a strong draft. Hakeem Nicks and Ramses Barden are big receivers that this team lacks without Plaxico around. Clint Sintim could fill in for Michael Boley early.

Philadelphia Eagles

StrengthsMcNabb is this team’s MVP. Last year’s benching was a fluke, and Reid knows (whether he likes it or not), this team goes where McNabb takes them. They arguably have the best WRs in the division and arguably the best McNabb has had since joining the team. This is the QB that took his team to several NFC Championships with James Thrash, Todd Pinkston and LJ Smith as his targets. The defensive line and linebackers may be one of the more underrated in the league. The DTs started getting some love last year, but LBs like Stewart Bradley and Chris Gocong could be the next breakout players.

Weaknesses – How do you recover from losing Brian Dawkins and Jim Johnson? These were the on and off field leaders of this defensive team. Team Quintin at safety (Mikell and Demps) leave a lot to be desired. Mikell is one-dimensional, in the form of Roy Williams. His strength is to stop the run, but he leaves something to be desired in pass coverage (which is why Sean Jones is around), and Demps is stepping into some HUGE shoes.

Opportunities – On paper, the Eagles are the talent of the division. However, any football fan should know that it means nothing until you produce on the field. Look for Andy Reid and the coaching staff to tap into that potential and maybe land back in the NFC Championship. Brent Celek has an opportunity to show if he is the TE that caught 12 balls in one game, or if he’s a one game wonder.

Threats – Biggest question of the year: Can Westbrook stay healthy? The offensive line has question marks as well. You have Jason Peters coming off a season where he gave up a rack of sacks. Stacy and Shawn Andrews will flip-flop from the positions they played last year. It also doesn’t help that Jamaal Jackson never lived up to his hype when he signed his deal, and should get a push from Nick Cole. While Peters and the Andrews brothers are great linemen, can the line gel as a whole this season? Could McNabb be running for his life again (much like some of his most frustrating years)?

Passing/Receiving the TorchDemps from Dawkins. Taking over for a legend, will Demps be Steve Young or Quincy Carter? Can the Eagles fans go easy on him early? I guess the other question is, could Sean Jones swing over as the deep safety and take the spot from Demps?

Position Battle – RB: LeSean McCoy and Lorenzo Booker. Who will have the opportunity to be Brian Westbrook’s #1 caddy?

Rookie Contributors – Jeremy Maclin as a returner and a home run threat. LeSean McCoy as a potential RB2. Clint Ingram, if Celek turns out to be a one game wonder.

Washington Redskins

Strengths – There are not many to speak of on offense other than Chris Cooley. On the other side of the ball, they strengthened their DTs with the addition of the $100 Million Dollar Man, Albert Haynesworth. The linebackers, led by tackling machine, London Fletcher, look good. Rocky McIntosh proved to be a student of the game last season and broke out.

Weaknesses – The WRs are either too short for the offensive scheme, or they are unproven. The offensive line, even with the addition of Derrick Dockery, is in need of an overhaul. However, the biggest issue for this team last season was the instability in the play calling. The team dominated the first half of the season as a power running team. However, they turned into a pass-happy team in the second half and stunk things up.

Opportunities – Jason Campbell’s stage has been set. He’s finally going into his 2nd year in the same offense (a feat unrealized since high school), and he’s got a boulder on his shoulder (forget a chip). Outside of the upgrades, the rest of the starting roster stayed intact. This team has the makings of a surprise waiting to happen.

Threats – This is the downside of the Jason Campbell situation. He could end up folding under the pressure (like a lawn-chair) and the consequences will be heavy. This is also an old team that somehow lacks stability. They will beat a great team one week, and give a winless team their first win the next week. If that roller coaster starts hitting it’s peaks and valleys early, it’s going to be a long season.

Passing/Receiving the Torch – Many passers. Few takers. This may be Snyderrato’s last shot at doing anything before the inevitable dismantling and re-building.

Position BattleWR3: Roydell Williams, Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly. It’s too bad they’re not vying for the WR2 spot, as Antwaan Randle El would probably make a better WR3 than he does a WR2.

Rookie Contributor – Bryan Orakpo will play the hybrid LB/DE role. He will play LB on running downs and DE on obvious passing downs.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

THE PER: July 23, 2009

After a long hiatus, I am returning to the blogosphere with a long overdue edition of THE PER, otherwise known to the cool kids as "Point - Evidence - Relevance".

It's not an original idea, but it's pragmatic. I'll offer a point, provide the evidence and say why it matters. In some cases, there's less evidence out there, and in others, one may not initially grasp the relevance.

Instead of a normal case where I discuss one issue, I'll be discussing a few across many sports.

#1 Who cares if LeBron smoked weed in high school? You may think, "here's another LeBron apologist," but you're dead wrong. What I care about is that the guy who cannot take a loss like a man and congratulate the team that soundly defeated his team in a 7-game series. What I care about is that the guy gets away with more traveling no-calls than any other player in NBA history. What I care about is that the guy straight up lost confidence in his teammates and tried to overcompensate as a result. What I care about is that the guy and his representation concealed a potentially embarrassing posterization by a college player. So, who cares if LeBron smoked weed in high school? I'm more concerned about his cowardice and his escapability from accountability.

#2 ESPN should have reported the accusation about Ben Roethlisberger well before today. Why they did not report the allegations when everyone else seemed to is beyond me. It feeds into the growing belief that ESPN does not report stories unless they are able to take credit for it. From a customer service perspective, that's an embarrassment. My thoughts? I don't trust Ben Roethlisberger, or his mole. But seriously, it has to be frustrating to work for ESPN, have knowledge of the story, and not be able to report for whatever reason.

#3 If he doesn't play in the NFL this year ... or ever again, Brett Favre has a future on Broadway. His prior addiction to painkillers makes him an even better fit. This could be one of the more seamless transitions in history. Now that John Madden is retired, the two can finally stage their love story. This will require as much as acting as a movie in which Nicholas Cage is playing Elvis or a guy who steals cars.

#4 A very scant number of our readers care about European football, but Manchester City's (yes, City) strike force is borderline intoxicating. Robinho, Tevez, Adebayor, Santa Cruz, Bellamy ... and that's excluding Bojinov, Mwaruwari and Caicedo. All are top choice strikers for their international squads. I will laugh if and when they do not crack the top 4.

#5 Who cares if some SEC coach did not vote Tim Tebow as the top pre-season QB in the conference? Tebow will torch your team and make you pray with him after the game. Forget his awkward throwing motion, the fact that he is a lefty, and his love of Jesus. Tebow is a winner. When the chips were down last year, he was accountable and he amassed the team's stack en route to a national championship in which Florida took down all comers (or, as many as possible given the flawed postseason system). I hated typing that, but it's true.

#6 Who doesn't love the baseball trade deadline? That's all. Many eyes will be on the St. Louis - Philadelphia series. If the Cardinals play teeball against the Phillies' starting pitchers, you had better believe that they will cave and include Kyle Drabek in a package for Roy Hallday. Meanwhile, if St. Louis continues to sputter (let's hope for this because I am obligated to hate them ... and the World Series as a Cubs fan), they will up the chase for Matt Holliday and obtain some veteran arms.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

InClement Weather: Dog Days of Summer

Sports is coasting right now on fumes. Frankly, many of us are bored to tears with it altogether.

College football, the NFL, MLB playoffs, and final majors for tennis and golf still linger...but they are all still way too far out there. At least the Premier League's 2009-2010 season is upon us...even if it's Newcastle-less (sigh).

While I'd love to deliver something inciteful, it isn't happening in this climate.
Baseball banter can be found all over and anything revolutionary won't be offered up by someone who hardly ever embarks outside the AL East (go Yanks!).

Nevertheless, here are 4 stories on my mind. How about you?

1) The Erin Andrew story is not as joyous as I expected one with her naked could be.

This is a much as Erin Andrews planned on exposing to America.
Which was f-i-n-e for me.


Erin Andrews is the hottest thing in sports today. If you disagree, I want visual evidence. It doesn't hurt she's competent, unafraid to call out players, and doesn't hide behind her beauty (or run away from it). However, the story of a tape being released - in which she was allegedly videotaped naked in her hotel room unbeknowingst to her - is deeply depressing. What it means for female sportscasters, Andrews herself, and the privacy we don't have in this Twitter/blog/YouTube/MySpace world is more apparent than ever.

Words well spoken from Yahoo's Maggie Hendricks are HERE.
Ditto for David Hinckley at the New York Daily News HERE.

I feel for Andrews and her family right now. There's a major difference between posing for a magazine, an SI Swimsuit shoot, and this. Unfortunately, our society continues its foray into the infinite darkness...

2) NBA Free Agency Hot Stove = Overkill

Does Odom really elevate the Heat any higher than 5th in the East (where they were last season)? You tell me.

Shoot me now. Seriously. The waters are so silent in sports right now that multiple sites are grading performances in the NBA Summer Leagues. ROAR! Ever since Gordon and Villenueva signed in MoTown, the NBA Free Agent Summer of 2009 (just wait for 2010) won't calm down...or at least the news media won't let it. While most of the big names have landed, there's still plenty of talk to be had about the mediocre remains. Do you really care where Ike Diogu lands? DO YOU!?!? Perhaps the biggest story remaining is that of Lamar Odom. Don't get me wrong, he plays a potentially pivotal role in the landscape of the NBA (especially for the champion Lakers); yet, I don't exactly believe this is front page or lead-story news. Or maybe I just don't want it to be. Especially when it's, "Miami interested in Odom". I just wish a decision would be made and we could move on from the former Rhode Island Ram. Maybe that offer sheet the Cavs gave to Jamario Moon will hold us over until training camp opens in the NFL. BOO YA! (Sigh)

3) Is ESPN afraid?
Note: PLEASE don't put anything "extra" into my words either. The claim is just a claim and thedetails are far too hazy for me to even try and speculate.

Why ESPN isn't reporting the allegations, alleged of course, against Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger is beyond me. It may turn out to be untrue. It may be dismissed by the time I post this article. Nevertheless, is it not relevant news?

Posted by Mike Florio, so buyer beware...
A media source tells us that, late last night, ESPN issued a "do not report" memo to all of its outlets and reporters. The directive came without explanation. "Even some of the reporters are wondering why," the source said, "but haven't been told." This time around, ESPN can't claim that the report of a civil suit alleging sexual assault isn't true. Clearly, it is; Roethlisberger has hired attorney David Cornwell, who has denied the allegations in a statement initially sent to us, and then sent to other media outlets. And we've seen, and reported on, the contents of the complaint.

What is true and what isn't may take some time. Seems a little like "All the President's Men" with the controversy about reporting the controversy though.

4) Jason Campbell's status

The future of these two men are totally dependent on each other.

I bet Washington Redskins QB Jason Campbell doesn't put much stock into all the rumors - for better or worse - surrounding his status with the team. All I know is this: his contract is up after the end of this season and the team may have already made their decision by not offering him a new contract (when you think the price might be far cheaper).

People are on different sides of the Campbell argument and I can see why. He has an impressive physical skill set and the right attitude. Contrastingly, he doesn't have every throw in the book other QBs seem to possess and often seems to hesitate a little too much in the pocket, often checking down too regularly.

Personally, I think he's an above average quarterback, but nowhere near the superstar QB the city demands. He might lead a team to the playoffs; however, he isn't a top 10 NFL talent. I felt going after Cutler was wise and avoiding Favre was wiser. Don't even get me started on the potential Vick-storylines in the nation's capital.

Do I think Campbell win end up in DC after this season? No. While looking at the schedule I see another strong start for the Skins only to be undone in the closing campaign due to durability of Portis/the wide receiving corps "talent"/overall talent of the NFC East/Campbell's limitations in Zorn's system. Time will tell though, as always.

That's all I got...for now. Feel free to comment. In fact, I demand it!!!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

InClement Weather: All-Star Night Rambling

5 thoughts as I watch the last All-Star Game I can tolerate (barely) these days...

1) The President is c-o-o-l

I don't feel like he had to force one second of the time he spent in the booth with Joe Buck and Tim McCarver. In fact, Obama was easily the most likable person in that booth. Wait, is that a compliment? I also liked the ChiSox jacket (take THAT North side!), FOX's "friendly" camera angle on the first pitch (which wasn't bad at all, btw), and the "First Fan's" ability to actually talk sports and sound competent.

2) Taco Bell Commercial

It's all about the Roosevelts. Seriously. Seriously? Seriously!?!?! Whomever came up with thing ridiculous idea should be dragged out into public spare, humiliated like Mussolini, and be (insert further degrading punishment). I can't begin to describe how BAD that commercial truly is; especially it's corny-a** slogan and that everyone involved with it should be banned from television forever. Sadly, I already have spent way too much time talking about it. If you like this commercial...never speak to me again.

Here it is. As stupid as anything EVER.
I also can't wait for the comments. "I love this!" Please...don't.

3) Hometown All-Stars

Must be pretty cool to be mentioned in such a positive light by guys like these 5, right?

Okay, if you saw might've had a similar reactio
n. It sounded corny at first, but it ended up being classy. Very classy. In fact, it tugged on the heartstrings more than I thought it would. Great job by MLB (shocker), the current and former Presidents (yes, all of them), and, most importantly, those everyday heroes involved in making this country and world a better place. Cheesy...yes. Incredibly good for our betcha.

4) Carl Crawford > Brad Hawpe

Good luck scoring this game at home.
Would it come as any surprise that a Padres reliever loses this game? Not me.

Credit: Yahoo! Sports

I'll be the first to say it. Carl Crawford's home run-saving catch might have secured homefield advantage for Jonathan Papelbon (who was pitching at the time) and the Boston Red Sox. Gotta love that stoopid stipulation, don't ya?

5) The Pro Bowl sucks

I'd rather watch the NBA Vegas Summer League than the Pro Bowl.
I'd rather clean the sweat off the floor at the NBA Vegas Summer League than watch the Pro Bowl.
In fact, I can't think of anything I'd rather do than the Pro Bowl.
Credit: Yahoo! Sports

Seriously, who cares about this game? They should scrap it. Memo to the NFL: name an All-Pro team and no Pro Bowlers. I'm sick and tired of this game altogether. They could play it on the fourth moon of Jupiter and I still won't watch it. Just look how many of the 9-7 choking dog J-E-T-S made the team last year. 'Nuff said.

Check out some of the past "work". Tweet tweet, as always.
1) McNair Remembered
2) NBA OffSeason: Toronto Raptors
3) NBA OffSeason: Portlant Trailblazers

See you soon...

Saturday, July 11, 2009

NBA Off-Season Report: 5 Teams to Watch [Installment #2]

Steve McNair thoughts here.
Plenty of talk this weekend and all week on the Twitter feed.
Tweet tweet.

Installment #1: Toronto Raptors

I've decided to take a look, in depth, at a few NBA teams that have me rather intrigued this off-season. Don't be surprised if the year 2010, specifically the free agents available, come up a time or two (or two dozen!).

I'll tackle 3 important issues for each team, make a bold prediction, and focus on the most important factor towards this team having a successful window of opportunity in the next 2-3 seasons.

I'll try my best to avoid the "easy and sexy" selections (ala Los Angeles, Cleveland, Orlando, Boston and San Antonio) and challenge myself.

Installment #1 focuses on the Portland Trailblazers.
Record: 54-28 (2nd in Northwest Division)

This smiling face will be in Toronto, not Portland, next season.
Not the best news for Kevin Pritchard.


Issue #1: The Point Guard Position
Healmed mainly by Steve Blake last season, immediate questions in 2009 arise as the Blazers took a late lottery selection on Arizona point guard Jerryd Bayless in 2008, who spent the majority of the season watching and learning from the bench. Another summer league campaign should help, although questions will continue to linger until Bayless proves he can effectively handle the point guard position. This offseason, rumors had Portland acquiring Chicago Bull Kirk Heinrich, only for them to be quashed as they were unwilling to part so soon with the aformentioned Bayless.

Sergio Rodriguez, firmly in Nate McMillan's doghouse (MISTAKE!!!), was shipped off the SacTown for draft leverage (#38 to #31), and nobody thinks that (recently injured) Patty Mills will be the head of this team in the near-future. That leaves a lot of questions for a crucial position. While superstar 2-guard Brandon Roy all but demands, and deserves, the ball in the closing moments of games, playmaking ability out of the 1-spot is essential for this team's continued ascension up the Western Conference heirarchy. I highly doubt Bayless' abilities as a pass-first, distributing point guard; meanwhile, teams can often lax on Blake on the offensive side of the ball in order to focus in on his backcourt mate. Whether via a trade or free agency, Portland doesn't have the money for an elite PG, so some savvy spending is a MUST. Speaking of which...

Issue #2: General Management
Woj over at Yahoo! Sports sums up league sentiment quite well for the eccentric GM in Rip City: As the rejections and criticisms mounted lately, NBA executives and agents described Portland Trail Blazers general manager Kevin Pritchard as “agitated” and “panicked” and even “desperate.” He kept returning to teams with the same proposals, only to be dismissed again and again. All his plans had imploded. Pritchard has long liked to talk about never laying up on the golf course and burning through cell batteries and the way that the Blazers had outworked and outsmarted the NBA. Few have been terribly impressed with how Pritchard handled the highs of the job, and now there are doubts about how he’s handling its lows.

Despite success in the past, specifically 3 years ago with Roy and Aldridge, it seems Pritchard can't win in the summer of 2009. I already questioned 2008 heavily, especially giving an extension to Martell Webster AFTER he suffered a foot fracture that ultimately kept him off the court all of last season. As for this summer, admitedly, Hedo Turkoglu did spurn the Blazers when a contract seemed all but finalized. That left the 3-spot, a glaring weakness, even further entrenched as Trevor Ariza was Houston-bound, David Lee's contract situation in New York a bit of an enigma, Lamar Odom never given much consideration, and the trade market somewhat stiffled as the Blazers had cap space, not necessarily players, as their major offer.

An offer sheet was recently offered to restricted Utah Jazz power forward Paul Millsap, but it doesn't seem the right fit. Why? Milsapp would likely back up talented four-man LaMarcus Aldridge, much as he does currently for All-Star Carlos Boozer. Millsap isn't at all a fit in the 3-position and doesn't offer this team up the dynamic talent Turkoglu assuredly would have. Nicholas Batum has shown flashes, but isn't ready - on either side of the ball - for the talent at that position league-wide and Webster is coming off of injury and only 22. Travis Outlaw has been rumored to be a bargaining chip for the past two-plus seasons, which leads many to believe he isn't the long-term solution at the small forward position. Recovering from the snub from Turkoglu may last longer than an offseason for Pritchard and the Blazer brass, especially its GM.

Suiting up in a uniform, not his suit, is the first step towards Oden impacting the Blazer lineup consistently. Question is: can that actually happen?

Issue #3: Brandon Roy and ???
this also serves as this post's "Most Important Factor"
Is Lamarcus Aldridge a legit #2 in the NBA? Is Jerryd Bayless a high-caliber starting point guard in this league? Is Greg Oden more than a walking stiff? Will Travis Outlaw remain on this roster for the long-term? Will Martell Webster return from injury and continue to show promise, as he did in 2007? Those are just a sampling of questions Portland, like every team, is facing. One sticks out more than most though: who will become Brandon Roy's sidekick? While a few may disagree, I firmly believe Roy is starting to enter elite status in the NBA echelon of talent. He possessess everything necessary to dominant in this league for, at least, the next half-dozen years. However, as Kobe Bryant knows and LeBron James is learning, it can't be done alone.

As talented as this youthful roster has become, their first round series against Houston proved that, for now, it isn't enough. Again, Turkoglu likely would've likely been one of the pieces necessary to help this team step out of the upper-half of the Western Conference and into the top 2 or 3. Since Turkoglu will now be in Toronto, Portland must either hope their #2 is on their roster or can be acquired next offseason. Despite a spend-happy owner (Paul Allen) and an impressive crop available next offseason, Portland's cap situation may force them to look to their own roster first. Enter LaMarcus Aldridge and Greg Oden. Both incredible talented, Aldridge appears headed towards the All-Star level, much more so than Oden at least, and will be an interesting player to watch come contract time. Both Aldridge and Roy are free agents in 2011 and it'll be very interesting how much interest Aldridge will be able to accumulate from now until then (it's very likely Roy gets a max-level extension). Especially if Aldridge's post-game can continue to improve and Oden, a story much larger than one offseason article could address, adds stability - especially on defense - inside the paint.

Is this the best young coach in the NBA? I think so.

Bold Prediction: Nate McMillian will be the coach of the Portland Trailblazers in 2012. Why? First off, any NBA coach - not named Jerry Sloan - keeping his job past their current contract would be surprising to most. Second, rumor has McMillan's desire to have a series of 1-year extensions is a ploy to escape Portland if things go array. While that might be a little much, I believe Portland's success is due equally to the leadership and stability of McMillan as well as the development of a youth-oriented talented roster. If Portland wishes to keep this team on the up and up, McMillan must be at the healm.

Surprised how little I mentioned Mr. Oden? Me too.

Next up: Miami Heat

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

NBA Off-Season Report: 5 Teams to Watch [Installment #1]

Steve McNair thoughts here.
Plenty of talk this past weekend and all week on the Twitter feed.
Tweet tweet.

I've decided to take a look, in depth, at a few NBA teams that have me rather intrigued this off-season. Don't be surprised if the year 2010, specifically the free agents available, come up a time or two (or two dozen!).

I'll tackle 3 important issues for each team, make a bold prediction, and focus on the most important factor towards this team having a successful window of opportunity in the next 2-3 seasons.

I'll try my best to avoid the "easy and sexy" selections (ala Los Angeles, Cleveland, Orlando, Boston and San Antonio) and challenge myself.

Installment #1 focuses on the Toronto Raptors.
Record: 33-49 (4th in Atlantic Division)

If LeBron and D-Wade re-ink, this smiling face might be the biggest fish in the free agent market of 2010.

Issue #1: The Future of Chris Bosh
this also serves as this post's "Most Important Factor"
Hedo Turkoglu ditching Portland and signing with Toronto at the last second was an amazing free agent acquisition; however, he can't lead a team deep into the NBA Playoffs by himself. Without Dwight Howard, Orlando wouldn't have ridden the trio of Turkoglu/Lewis/even a health Nelson past the Eastern Conference semi-finals, no less the NBA Finals. In fact, Philly fans may justifibly argue they wouldn't have gotten outside the 1st round. Point is, Turkoglu needs Bosh and Toronto needs its big man alongside Turkoglu, which I've said over and over and over (and over) this post, for its future to look its rosiest. Orlando may regret the Vinsanity move, Boston is only getting older, and Cleveland must nervously wait out the potential LeBron Sweepstakes in...wait for it...2010. As for Mr. Bosh, 23 and 10 isn't easy to find in the NBA these days, especially for a kid who just turned 25. His defense clealy isn't close to dominant (no less Superman); nevertheless, Bosh will see a stark improvement in the number of open shots - especially in the closing minutes of a game - due to Turkoglu's creativity with the ball in his hands in the closing minutes games. Bosh's ability to attack the hoop in the paint in traffic, something Dwight Howard struggled with mightily in the Playoffs, will really shine next season. It'll be tough, but re-signing the Georgia Tech-product MUST be Toronto's #1-focus from now on. Just to be fun though, if they lost Bosh, don't be surprised if they made a huge play for Amare Stoudemire. I'm just sayin'.

Potential is a scary scary word. A fun one too, though.

Issue #2: The "Development" of Demar Derozan
Swingman with top-flight athleticism and a high motor. (
Jaw dropping athletic specimen. At a chiseled 6'6 220 with large wingspan. Possesses the prototypical frame for an NBA wing. NBA Comparison: Vince Carter (

While only two sources, those are just a few of the upside-laden comments that made Derozan, despite one somewhat quiet season at USC, a top 10 pick.

However, might hit the nail on the head best:
A freak athlete, DeRozan has some natural offensive talent, but he’s essentially a blank canvas in terms of what kind of player he can be in the long run. Whoever picks him will obviously need to be patient, although he may more upside that arguably any wing player in this draft.

Derozan doesn't need to be great, or even that good, immediately. He won't start (likely) thiat any point this season and won't be ask to shoulder too much of an offensive load. Where he can most make his presence known is on the defensive side of the ball. Using his physical attributes, especially his impressive wingspan, will open up opportunities for increased minutes AND THEN increased looks at the basket. If he can develop an attack-the-hoop mentality, the kid could live at the free throw line. If he falls in love with his shot, for better or worse, he will be restricting the impact he can have on offense. Funny how much that has always pertained to Vince Carter, a likely comparison to Derozan. If I were Chris Bosh, I'd take a real good look at this kid and envision playing next to him for the next several years. He might be as good a 4th or 5th option the league has in a few seasons, if he's prepared to put in the work. In a few years, don't forget that I was the first to coin the nickname the "5th Element" (more below) for Derozan.

Shipping off Jason Kapono to Philly might've been a little overhyped, especially if Evans is the glue this team needs off the bench. The extra cap space didn't hurt either.

Issue #3: The Role Players
It's fairly obvious the nucleus of this team, assuming Bosh re-inks (big assumption!), has a core of four high quality players: the aforementioned (again and again) Chris Bosh, Hedo Turkoglu, Andrea Bargnani, and Jose Calderon. Derozan will likely be the "5th Element" (catchy, right?) of this roster, or maybe even more, but I don't want to automatically assume too much with him (yet). After signing Turkoglu, salaries were dumped (notably Shawn Marion and Anthony Parker), yet there was still enough left in the bank to re-ink Bargnani (aka "The Magician) to a deal in the neighborhood of 5 years at $50-million. However, something pressing starts to show. The bench. Or lack thereof. Names like Reggie Evans (a strong rebounder and glue guy), Marcus Banks, and Quincy Douby don't exactly illicit confidence when you're looking for solid reserves and role players. Remember, sharpshooter Jason Kapono is now in Philly. Although sometimes I wonder if All-Star Weekend overhyped this guy just a bit? Evans may be a little underrated by some (or just me), yet this team appears to lack a consisent scoring option off the bench, as well as a defensive stopper. Not to mention depth in the blocks. Perhaps everyone is looking for a James Posey in 2008-clone these days; unfortunately, there's not one on this roster. If Bosh can be kept, money will be tight as ever, which means rock solid drafting and savvy trades are at the utmost importance north of the border.
Note: Toronto had no 2nd-round selection this season.

Bold Prediction: Chris Bosh will NOT be in Toronto for the 2010-2011 season. Why? I believe LeBron and Wade, clearly the two biggest prizes of the 2010 Summer of Free Agency, are staying put. Ditto for veterans like Dirk, Pierce, Yao (injury be darned), and CP3 (who we likely re-ink mid-way through this season). That leaves Bosh, alongside names like Amare/Joe Johnson/Boozer/Ginobli/Nash as the biggest prizes in the free agency market. While a few people question Bosh's status as an elite #1-guy, I don't. His defense will improve and his potential (aka stock) is still growing. That means New York, who clearly is eyeing LeBron and Wade as options 1a and 1b, may be calling on Bosh to join (Nash???) in what Donnie Walsh should be calling Plan B.

Wait and see is all we can do from here.

Next up: Portland Trailblazers

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Remembering Steve McNair...

In case you haven't heard the news, tragedy struck today in Nashville, Tennessee.

Former NFL QB Steve McNair was killed in a shooting in Nashville, Tennessee, authorities said Saturday. Police said they found McNair and a woman shot to death in a Nashville residence.

McNair will be remembered for who he was on and off the field and not by how his life was ended abruptly.

There is, unfortunately, plenty of speculation out there already on the circumstances of his death and those potentially involved; however, fortunately, far more has come out speaking on the character of McNair both on and off the field.

While we here at PHSports were all stunned and saddened by the news, I'm sure we all have fond memories of McNair's collegiate and professional career to remember.

Below is how I will always remember McNair. It seems a little cheesy to quote myself, yet I spoke about McNair just two days ago when discussing collegiate quarterbacks.

"As talented as guys like (Charlie) Ward and (Michael) Vick were from an athletic standpoint at the quarterback position, I'll never forget seeing highlights of McNair on ESPN. Guy would've dominated in Division 1 or any football field at that point. Seriously, how many D2 guys end up finalists for the Heisman?"

1Rashaan SalaamColoradoJr.RB400229851,743
2Ki-Jana CarterPenn StateJr.RB115205146901
3Steve McNairAlcorn StateSr.QB11185152655
4Kerry CollinsPenn StateSr.QB101117102639
5Jay BarkerAlabamaSr.QB365871295
6Warren SappMiami (Florida)Jr.DT173767192
7Eric ZeierGeorgiaSr.QB7153283
8Lawrence PhillipsNebraskaSo.RB182140
9Napoleon KaufmanWashingtonSr.RB331227
10Zach WiegertNebraskaSr.OT171027

If anything sticks out about the list above, it's Alcorn State. But that only displays McNair's talent and ability to overcome any and all obstacles and expectations, even those of his own. Nobody expects quarterbacks from Division II to contend for the Heisman trophy. No less being a top NFL draft pick, star in the league for 13 seasons, become a three-time Pro Bowler, and share an MVP-award (with Peyton Manning).

Yahoo's Chris Chase has an excellent article you should check out.
He titled it, "Definition of Toughness".
Well said, well said.

Friday, July 03, 2009

InClement Weather: 5 NBA Free Agency Stories

While most of the talk has been about the soon-to-be-fabled free agent summer of 2010, there has been plenty of action in the summer of 2009.

A lot of talk about LeBron, Wade, Amare, Dirk, and Bosh in 2010.
Don't sleep on some of the other talent though, especially Joe Johnson (above).


Sure, a few of the 2010 names include: Joe Johnson, Ray Allen, Manu Ginobili, Marcus Camby, Tracey McGrady, Shaquille O'Neal, Yao Ming, Amare Stoudamire, LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, Dirk Nowitzki, Josh Howard, Mike Redd, Steve Nash, and Carlos Boozer...not to mention another name that might wait out a contract extension to the last second, CP3.

Fortunately, for the present, there's still plenty to speculate about this summer.

After a rather pedestrian draft-class (or so the hype seems to say), plenty of sparks have been flying.

Detroit made the earliest splash in free agency, but was it the wisest?

I've already touched on a few issues via the blog and Twitter:
-San Antonio reviving their title candidacy by acquiring swingman Richard Jefferson for a box of Rasinets and a few veteran big men.
-Orlando all but giving up on re-inking the opted-out Turkoglu by trading Courtney Lee and Skip to my Lou (Alston) for Vinsanity. Seems like a mistake, doesn't it? Carter is often (truthfully) viewed as a black hole with the basketball, despite being able to put up 25 on a daily basis. Carter's often more than a liability towards a team's chemistry (or so it seems), which is an odd acquisition for a team who just made the NBA Finals.
-What happens to Detroit's backcourt with the addition of Ben Gordon? Is Rodney Stuckey the future point guard of this team? Is Rip Hamilton the odd man out? How will Joe Dumars handle rebuilding his storied franchise and its overloaded backcourt?

Now let's dive head-first into five of the biggest issues of the this off-season.

Story #1: The Shaqtus ships out to Cleveland
Shaquille O'Neal is seeking a 5th title, this time by protecting the King and his men. While it's far too soon to speculate on 2010 and Shaq v. Kobe (in fairness, it'd be LeBron v. Kobe), it is juicy stuff, right? My question is, with LeBron demanding open access to the paint, doesn't the Diesel hinder that a bit? Not to mention, can Shaq remain healthy away from the positive sunshine vibes of Phoenix? I suppose it's an even trade off to risk such problems with KG (supposedly) healthy next season and Superman the dominant big man in the Eastern Conference. Fortunately for the Cavs, Turkoglu offered more matchup nightmares than anyone on the Magic roster...and he's in Toronto now and not Orlando.

Story #2: Hedo heads out to Portland...whoops...I mean Toronto
You can't blame the Raptors if Chris Bosh bolts next season. Signing Turkoglu away from the Blazers was a huge coup for Brian Colangelo. He is the perfect compliment to Bosh on a roster than has talent at key positions (don't sleep on Calderon at the point) and perhaps the draft's biggest make-or-break superstar, USC's DeMar Derozan. The Eastern Conference could see a major power tilt after next season, especially with LeBron, Wade, and nearly the entire nucleus of the Celtics' roster up in the air. Well played north of the border. As for Portland, it might not be as terrible as it seems. Both Turkoglu and Brandon Roy demand the ball in their hands in the closing minutes. The Blazers have a talented young roster (trading Rodriguez for so little was a MIS-take) and have that money to spend still. They'll survive.

Story #3: Zach Randolph takes his 20 and 10 act to Memphis
Score 20 and board 10 for an entire season and team's can wait to get rid of you, if you're name is Zach Randolph anyways. Randolph has only himself to blame though, never considered a team-first guy and always one to find himself in trouble. Nevertheless, Memphis traded Q Richardson (recently acquired from New York for Darko) for the big man. What this move means in Memphis perplexes me just a bit. A lot of ball-hungry guys (Gay, Mayo, and now Randolph) on one roster is going to be a challenge. Especially considering just how young the nucleus of this team is. Not to mention what they're going to do at the point guard position (is Conley the answer?). Will they soon become the Clippers of the midwest? Wait and see, I suppose.

Story #4: Ron Artest heads to LaLa land, Ariza packs it up and heads off to Houston
This story has gotten plenty of pub, so I won't bludgeon any of you with details. Instead, I'm wondering if the Lakers think that Ariza's 2009 postseason was a bit of an aberration. Do they feel they know something that nobody else did? As for Houston, they had to make a move, especially since Artest didn't take Yao's recent medical diagnosis so well, and Ariza (all of 24 years old) might very well be part of the Rockets' nucleus of the future. How? T-Mac's health is never certain, ditto for Yao, and Aaron Brooks can only do so much. 2010 in Houston will be a potential search for a new superstar, but with Ariza in tow (a potential new-age Scottie Pippen?), it just got a little easier.

Story #5: The Plight of Allen Iverson
How the mighty seem to have fallen. Detroit imploded more due to the loss of Chauncey Billups than the addition of AI. Joe Dumars made the move in large part, in fact 100% of the reason, to free up cap space for moves in 2009 (and 2010 likely). Now rumors have AI contacting Memphis (not the right fit), ending back up with Larry Brown (now in Charlotte), or potentially joining D-Wade in South Beach for a season. Point is, one of the NBA's top talents and fan favorites has flown completely under the radar in an offseason where some felt he would've been a centerpiece. Question is: will AI rise back to prominence or continue to sink into relative obscurity?

Reunited and it feels so good?

All food for thought. The offseason is still quite young and plenty of moves will be made. Finding those gems (2010's Ariza perhaps?), role players off the bench, and dumping contracts for 2010 has just begun. Especially in New York.

Enjoy the ride...especially since it's not even practice time yet.