Each week, from now until the end of the season, I’ll review the leading Heisman candidates and their “Heisman Stock”. Week four in College Football offered unbelievable opportunities for some Heisman candidates to catapult themselves into the top few spots, or to plummet to the bottom of the pack.
Ryan Mallett: With perhaps the biggest stage of the week for any Heisman hopeful, Ryan Mallett and the Arkansas Razorbacks faced off with the defending National Champions and #1 ranked Alabama Crimson Tide. Through the first few weeks of the young season, Ryan Mallett had been, well…. incredible. He lead the nation in passing yards/game with a 360 yard average and proved to be a QB that could be relied upon in the clutch, leading his team to a game winning drive in the closing seconds against Georgia. What better stage for Mallett to show the world (and NFL scouts) what he’s made of than against the #1 ranked Crimson Tide.
There were some questions about the Tide defense coming in as they had 9 new starters this year. No one can deny the ‘Bama athleticism and talent on the defense or Nick Saban’s complex defensive schemes, but the youth and inexperience offered Mallett a tremendous opportunity to shine. For the first 3 quarters yesterday, this inexperience was painfully apparent as Mallett absolutely carved up the ‘Tide defense. Through the first 3 quarters, Mallett looked like an eventual invite to New York for the presentation of the Heisman was all but guaranteed. He completed 75% of his passes for 313 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, and a passer rating of 173.5. His size, arm strength, command of the offense, touch, and poise were in full display.
As the 3rd quarter started winding down, however, and into the 4th quarter, the ‘Bama defense looked to be gaining confidence, momentum and were becoming more aggressive. I’m not quite sure if they just became more confident and comfortable with the Arkansas offense as the game went on, or if Nick Saban made some incredible adjustments, or both. Either way, however, the 4th quarter would prove to be disastrous for Ryan Mallett and his Heisman hopes (at least for now). The final 4th quarter stats would read as follows: 40% completion for 44 yards, 2 INT, no TD, and a passer rating of 37. Perhaps more damning than the statline in crunch time, is the timing of some of the poor plays and decisions. As ‘Bama started to gain more and more momentum and started to take control of the game with their tremendous ground game, it was clear that Mallett would need to be outstanding in order for the Razorbacks to hold on. Each time Arkansas needed to make a play, however, Mallett answered with an ill-timed interception, the final of which lead to ‘Bama running out the clock with a 4 point comeback win. Including the Alabama game, he has passed for 1,438 yards, 10 TD’s, 5 INT’s and has a passer rating of 173.
Mark Ingram: On the other side from Ryan Mallet, was 2009 Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram and the Crimson Tide. Ingram’s early season injury dampened his chances at joining Buckeyes RB Archie Griffin as the only two-time Heisman Trophy winner as he was forced to sit out the first two games of the season. With an extremely impressive debut to the 2010 season against Duke last week, Ingram appeared to be in mid-season form. There were already questions about Ingram’s ability to repeat as Heisman winner before the injury, due to the very talented Trent Richardson who he splits carries with. With Ingram missing for the first two games of the season, Richardson filled in and the offense didn’t miss a beat. Some argue that this diminished Ingram’s importance to the team and therefore his ability to repeat.
Ingram and Richardson were definitely a handful for the Arkansas defense as they continually broke tackle after tackle. It’s still a concern though, that Richardson will take too many touches away from Ingram for him to be able to repeat. In a huge SEC game, where McElroy was struggling, the defense was struggling, and #1 ranked Alabama was behind for much of the game, I think we got our answer. Ingram finished the game with 24 carries for 157 yards and 2 TD’s which included a 54 yard TD run as well as 2 catches for 27 yards. The more impressive aspect, in my opinion, however, had nothing to do with statistics. When the chips were down, and when ‘Bama needed a tough first down, they turned to Ingram. Time and time again, when everyone in the stadium knew Ingram was getting the ball, they either handed it off to him or snapped it directly to him in the wildcat and Ingram was unstoppable. I don’t think I saw the first man bring him down all day as he broke countless tackles and converted on key 3rd down conversions. Saban and Alabama were basically carried to victory on Mark Ingram’s shoulders. I think it’s safe to say that he recovered from the slow start of the 2010 season. In two games, he has 33 carries for 308 yards, 10 TD’s and a 9.3 yard/carry average.
With a strong performance earlier in the season against Miami (FL), Pryor kept his name in the mix for Heisman consideration. Although the competition other than Miami has been inferior, Pryor has shown improved pocket presence, decision making, and poise in leading the offense. As the fastest player on the team, running an electronically timed 4.3 40 yard dash, and at 6’6″ 235 lbs., Pryor is a threat on any snap. This week against the overmatched Eastern Michigan program, Pryor did what he is supposed to do against a team like that. Dominate. He finished 20-26 for 224 yards and 4 passing TD’s, 7 rushing attempts for 104 yards including a 53 yard TD run, and 1 TD reception. The Junior phenom has passed for 939 yards, 10 TD’s, 2 INT and has a passer rating of just over 167. He has also rushed for 269 yards and 3 TD’s. While I love the Buckeyes, at this point, Pryor has done enough to stay in the Heisman discussion, but has not been “Heisman Good”. He’ll need strong performances against the stronger in-conference competition to stay relevant in the discussion.
Denard Robinson: With ridiculous, xbox type stats in the first 3 games for Michigan against porous, and overmatched defenses, the biggest question coming into the game against Bowling Green was just how many yards Robinson could rack up. Robinson was again impressive, but had a shortened work day due to a minor knee injury. In less than a quarter of work, Robinson went 4-4 for 60 yards with 0 TD’s and 0 INT’s and had 5 carries for 129 yards and 2 TD’s. He looked to be the fastest player on the field and in his abbreviated play, made Bowling Green defenders look silly on more than one occasion. The biggest question for Michigan and Robinson as we enter Big 10 play is whether he can keep up his incredible play against much bigger, faster, athletic, and better defenses. Another concern for this Heisman hopeful is whether he can hold up to the beating of Big 10 play for an entire season as Michigan has few other weapons and he has essentially carried the team through their first 4 games. Robinson has 731 passing yards with 4 TD’s and 1 INT with a 162 passer rating. More impressively, he has 79 carries for 688 yards and 6 TD’s on the year. If he can continue to rack up these incredible numbers, he will stay in the Heisman conversation up until the very end.
Kellen Moore: Standout QB from #3 ranked and apparent ESPN darling Boise St. is on my list for two reasons:
- He’s the star QB on a top 5 team that has a good chance to go undefeated now that they’ve made it through their early season gauntlet including games against Virginia Tech and Oregon St. A common formula including Heisman winners includes an undefeated team or one that is in real contention to play in the BCS Title game, a QB, and someone that the “Bristol Brainwashers” are in love with.
- Which brings me to my second point. If it wasn’t obvious enough thus far through the season that ESPN has an obviously intense man-crush on Boise St. and Kellen Moore, then it became crystal clear listening to the telecast last night by Brent Musburger and Kirk Herbstreit. For anyone who doesn’t know, the force-feeding marketing conglomerate that is Disney, owns ABC and ESPN. ESPN has long since lost its credibility and independence as a reputable member of the media in my opinion, but it has become even worse since they were acquired by Disney. For those who were able to listen closely in between smurf turf induced seizures last night, the broadcast team was openly GUSHING over Boise St. and Kellen Moore and they were overtly disappointed any time Oregon St. made a good play. This, coming from Herby the Hypocrite who abstains from making his weekly picks on College GameDay for the games in which he calls. Sure, Herby, wouldn’t want you to appear biased or anything!
I’m not overly impressed with Boise St. or Kellen Moore for that matter, especially after their struggles to beat Oregon St. last night. Boise St. should be very thankful that the Beavers play NO DEFENSE whatsoever or they would’ve been in some serious trouble. But given the points above, and that Boise St. will likely be undefeated this season, Kellen Moore will probably at least get an invite to New York for the Heisman presentation. For the year, Moore has thrown for 873 yards and 8 TD’s with 1 INT and has a passer rating of 168. Against Oregon St., their second and only real test of the season, he threw for 288 yards and 3 TD’s with 0 INT and had a passer rating of 197. Good numbers, against a PAC 10 team with a ridiculously awful defense. Either way, he is sure to stay in the conversation.
- Cam Newton, Auburn (5 TD’s against a good South Carolina defense)
- LaMichael James, Oregon (Averaging 9 yds/carry with 4 TD’s on the year against weak opponents)
- Andrew Luck, Stanford (He’s the trendy choice for best NFL prospect but had a less than stellar performance against a poor Notre Dame defense throwing for 238 yards with 1 TD and 2 INT’s)
- Taylor Martinez, Nebraska (He has passed for over 500 yards with 2 TD’s and 3 INT’s and more impressively he has run for 497 yards and 8 TD’s. This week against South Dakota St. however, his production was significantly down.
As an avid Ohio State and Cleveland Browns fan, I have had a front row seat to the first 5 years of Braylon Edwards‘NFL career and his college career at The University of Michigan. There is no doubt, Braylon is a physical specimen.He’s 6’3″ and around 220 lbs., he can stretch the field with speed, he can out-jump just about anyone, and he’s good with the ball in the air as far as locating, adjusting, and positioning himself to out-jump the DB.
Reflecting on his career at Michigan, it’s really a microcosm of his entire NFL career thus far (minus the arrests). Superior talent, being often times the best player on the field, making catches that only a handful of other players in the world can make, and dropping the catches that you or I could make!
As a fan of the game, ignoring my personal feelings toward him, it is so frustrating for me to see someone that supremely talented be that terribly inconsistent! For me, it’s as if Braylon has partially wasted his incredible talents for the first 5 years of his NFL career. So the obvious question when an ultra-talented athlete fails to play up to their potential is why?
I’m not going to pretend to be a sports psychologist, but there are certainly some things that I’ve picked up on when observing Braylon for the past 9 years.
During his college and NFL career, Braylon has been consistently…. INCONSISTENT. At the University of Michigan, Braylon set a variety of Michigan and Big 10 receiving records and routinely demonstrated his superior athletic ability. During his senior season, Braylon set Michigan single season records for receptions (97) and yards (1,330) and set career marks for 252 receptions and 3,541 yards as well as 39 TD’s representing a new Big 10 record. Edwards also set the Michigan record for most 100 yard receiving games at 17 and in his senior season won the Fred Biletnikoff award given the nation’s most outstanding receiver as well as the Big 10 MVP award.
Edwards is the only wide receiver in Big Ten history and the third in NCAA Division I-A (now FBS) history to gain 1,000 or more receiving yards in three consecutive years. Edwards concluded his college career by recording three touchdown catches in the 2005 Rose Bowl against Texas, tying a record for that game. Edwards also demonstrated his raw speed an athletic ability competing on Michigan’s track team. He ran the 3rd fastest 200M in school history at 21.81 seconds.
As you can see, Edwards’ career at the University of Michigan was incredibly successful and productive. A recurring theme in my posts and a philosophical belief of mine, is that the stats rarely tell the entire story. On paper, Edwards was one of the school’s and the Big 10′s best receivers ever. Athletically, this also rings true. Braylon caused much frustration to everyone during his college career including opposing defenses, opposing coaches, opposing fans, HIS coach, HIS teammates, HIS fans, and HIS school. How can one of the best WR’s in school and conference history cause so much frustration to his own team? INCONSISTENCY, ATTITUDE, SELFISHNESS.
Braylon routinely made the most difficult and seemingly impossible catches look easy. He often made catches that only few in the NFL could dream of making. He just as frequently, however, dropped passes that hit him directly in the hands, the numbers, or the facemask. How in the world can such an ultra-talented player, who makes these ridiculous catches, continue to drop the easy passes? I’ll get to that later, I promise.
Edwards also routinely butted heads with his coaching staff demonstrating an aura of entitlement, superiority, and an overall selfishness. At the time, I thought it was my Buckeye hate showing through, but over the course of the next 9 years, it’s clear that these thoughts were accurate. Braylon continually showed a complete disregard for his University, his teammates, his coaches, and the fraternity that is NCAA Football. Edwards continually argued with the coaching staff, and committed ridiculously stupid penalties (i.e., ‘Doin the Dougie against the Patriots and drawing a taunting penalty).
It’s only my opinion, but my belief is the sense of entitlement comes from two factors. 1. His father played at Michigan as well so he felt entitled to play and to be given preferential treatment. 2. He is an incredibly gifted athlete. He is not the only one to use this as an excuse to feel entitled to preferential treatment, to his place on the team, to playing time, etc.
Despite the lack of consistency and dedication to the game leading to way too many dropped passes, and questionable character, his talent and athletic ability were undeniable. In the 2005 NFL draft, the Cleveland Browns found this athletic ability and upside to be too tempting as they were in desperate need of a game-breaking WR and they selected him 3rd overall. In essentially a lost rookie season, due to a training camp hold-out, a staph infection, and a season ending knee injury, Edwards compiled 32 receptions for 512 yards and 3 TD’s. He did show flashes of his incredible upside, however, with an 80 yard TD reception and a 16 yard/catch average for the season.
In his second year, coming off the blown knee in 2005, Edwards appeared average. I’m not going to put this all on Braylon as it sometimes takes more than a year to fully recover from that type of knee injury and he was playing for the Browns. Since coming back to the NFL in 1999, the Browns have been one of the most inept and dysfunctional teams in the NFL. They have had a revolving door of QB’s lacking true NFL talent, and have had almost no continuity in the front office and coaching staff.
But there were whispers that Braylon didn’t train and prepare quite as hard after receiving his first lucrative contract and the feeling of entitlement carried forward from Michigan. Edwards knew that he was one of the most talented players on the team, and being a 3rd overall draft pick, the Browns would surely start him regardless of his preparation or dedication.
In 2007, Edwards’ third NFL season proved to be a breakout year for the young WR. Braylon appeared motivated to hush the critics and it’s my belief that he single-handedly earned a huge contract extension for Browns QB Derek Anderson. Edwards continually lit up opposing defenses and made some of the most incredible catches I’ve ever seen.
Edwards started and played in 16 games and tallied 80 catches for 1,289 yards and 16 TD’s!!!. He showed incredible explosion, speed, and leaping ability throughout the season, often times soaring over opposing DB’s and bringing down countless jump-balls.
For those unaware, Derek Anderson (D.A.) is a big, strong-armed QB who is severely deficient in the areas of accuracy and decision making. In the 2007 season, however, Edwards made the most of D.A.’s strong suits allowing him to use his big arm to air it up and Braylon used his superior abilities to go up and get inaccurate passes.
Following the 2007 season, both Edwards and DA were elected to their first Pro-Bowl and Edwards was voted 2nd team All-Pro. It was directly after this season, that DA was given a ridiculous extension after the Browns went 10-6 and missed the playoffs by one game.
Entering the 2008 season, there were incredible expectations placed on the Cleveland Browns and Braylon Edwards. He publicly made a bet with fellow Wolverine Michael Phelps that he would catch at least 17 TD’s and Braylon was clearly feeling confident. It would, however, be a season he would like to forget. Edwards followed up his All-Pro season with 55 catches for 873 yards and 3 TD’s.
The most impressive stat for Edwards in 2008 was his league leading 16 dropped passes. His diminished play lead to the demise of Derek Anderson, and the great plays from last year were not made, but the routine plays that any WR in the NFL can make were not made by his All-Pro WR. The entire team struggled to a 4-12 season, which led to the firing of Head Coach Romeo Crennel. It was clear to local fans that Braylon’s successful 2007 season only worsened his selfishness and poor attitude.
In 2009, as new Head Coach Eric Mangini started to get his feet wet with his new team, Braylon continually butted heads with his new coaching staff. Braylon regularly got into visible altercations with Mangini and other Browns coaches. His sense of entitlement, narcissism, and selfishness were, by this time, in full force. Braylon was ultimately traded to the New York Jets following an altercation with a friend of then Cleveland Hero LeBron James in which Edwards was ultimately charged with assault. Braylon went on to show flashes of his brilliance with the Jets but let them down in huge, clutch situations with dropped pass after dropped pass.
So, why with such incredible talent, would this player have such inconsistent and frustrating performances?
Off the Field:
We all know about Edwards’ legal problems and I’ll detail those later, but there are some more subtle occurrences that might help to paint the picture. Since at least his time at Michigan, Braylon was an arrogant, narcissistic, self-entitled, and selfish individual. The only consistent thing Braylon ever did was put himself ahead of others. It’s always been about him, not the team. HIS stats, recognition, and attention always came before the team’s goals.
Once in the NFL, Braylon had almost an obsession with the thought that he was a model. He tried countless times to get this aspect of his off the field persona off the ground. There is a little known fact that tells you exactly who Braylon Edwards is and what he is about.
During a game against the Ravens, Braylon was lined up against safety Will Demps. Braylon knew that Demps was involved in various modeling engagements. DURING THE GAME, before the ball was snapped, Braylon was engaged in several conversations with Demps asking him about advice about how to get involved in modeling.
Now ask yourself this. Do you want your star player discussing off the field opportunities with the opponent pre-snap? You’re supposed to be focused on your assignment, reading the pre-snap look of the defense, and listening to any audibles given by your QB. ARE YOU KIDDING ME!?
This borderline obsession and delusional belief that he was a model can be seen in several photo shoots Edwards participated in once he entered the NFL. He is also known to have discussed celebrity parties or events with the opponent during the game as he tried to make plans for after the game.
Along with the discussion of the parties, he’s been known to routinely discuss the outfit he plans on wearing to these events during the games. Does this sound like someone who loves the game, is dedicated to his team, and that you want on your team?
Countless players and coaches of the Browns have repeatedly insisted that Braylon is more concerned with how he looks, what party or event he’s going to attend, what marketing or modeling opportunities he can position himself for, than the game itself, or his career, or his team.
Well respected leader and Super Bowl winning QB Trent Dilfer, played for one season with the Browns. It is documented that upon his exit with the team, he had a conversation with the front office and the coaching staff to warn them of Edwards. He is quoted in saying that Edwards is “more concerned with what the game can bring to him than with the game itself” and that “Edwards just isn’t wired the right way”.
What he means is Braylon plays the game not because he loves or even respects the game, his teammates, or his team, but because he just happens to be good at it. He plays because he is talented and because it can bring him fame, money, and off the field opportunities like modeling that he is more excited about than playing football.
Edwards has had his share of relatively minor legal troubles. Since his arrival in Cleveland in 2005, he has been guilty of several speeding violations. The most recent in 2008 when he was clocked going 120 MPH in a Cleveland Suburb. In October 2009, Braylon assaulted the friend of LeBron James and later plead no contest to assault which landed him on probation. Then, as we all know, this week Braylon was arrested for DWI in Manhattan where he was 2 times the legal limit.
It’s clear that Edwards not only has no regard for his teammates or the NFL, but that he no regard for anyone but himself. His narcissism and self-entitled attitude has lead him to continually break the law on minor offenses because it’s my belief that he feels his superiority will allow him to get away with it. After-all, he hasn’t received anything more than a slap on the wrist.
He has served no jail time and he’s never been suspended by the NFL or his team. In addition to knowing he will get away with it, he doesn’t actually care about the game, so he’s not all that concerned with the consequences as long as it doesn’t affect his long-term ability to get money, endorsements, and special treatment.
Up until now, the offenses have been fairly minor. This week’s DWI, while some national media outlets insist that it’s a minor violation, I will not. Braylon acted selfishly, recklessly, and stupidly in endangering countless innocent lives including those of 2 of his teammates.
Edwards was seen with AT LEAST 2 DRINKS in front of him for the entire 3 hours he attended teammate Jericho Cotchery’s charity event. He then apparently partied for the next 8 hours and thought that it would be a good idea to drive home. I’m not even going to touch on the stupidity of driving in NY (WHO THE HELL DRIVES IN NYC!?), but there are several very troubling things about this night.
First of all, the NYJ have the Player Protect Program in place, funded entirely by owner Woody Johnson where he provides a luxury car service with an armed ex-law enforcement agent that can be used at any time at any place, free of charge. The team recently reminded ALL players of this program and several players are quoted in saying that there is no way that Edwards was unaware of the program. He just chose to ignore it.
The worst part, however, is Braylon’s involvement in Donte Stallworth’s horrendous and tragic accident in Miami. The story goes that Edwards was out partying and Stallworth was at asleep in his hotel room. Edwards called Stallworth to try to convince him to come out and meet him at the club. Stallworth agreed, took several shots ordered by Edwards and returned to his room after a few hours of “fun”. Stallworth woke up, had nothing to quench his thirst, and went out to get some Gatorade. It is at this time, that he struck and killed pedestrian Mario Reyes. Stallworth cooperated with Police and was arrested for DUI.
So despite Braylon having a front row seat to the horrors of drunk driving, he decided to drink all night and get behind the wheel. He endangered innocent lives and the lives of his teammates. This is undoubtedly not the first time Braylon got behind the wheel after drinking. I mean, c’mon… he’s Braylon Edwards. He’s a star. He’s too good to use the Player Protect Program and leave his Range Rover downtown. He can get away with anything because he’s Braylon. Well, unfortunately, he may be right. It appears the Jets will give him a slap on the wrist and that the current NFL CBA will not allow any real punishment. He’ll likely plead out in court and receive probation and community service.
His talent is undeniable. Unfortunately, it’s been largely wasted during his NFL career thus far, and unless something dramatically changes, he will remain a Pro-Bowl talent with the heart of the Tin Man.
The question is easy…. who’s the best running back in the NFL today? I think we can all agree that they are the #1 and #2 RB in the NFL. But which is which?
Tale of the Tape:
Experience- 3rd season (2 full seasons in the books, 2010 represents 3rd season)
Combine 40- 4.24
Career Rushing- 652 attempts for 3,410 yards and 25 TD’s (5.2 yards/carry)
Longest run- 91 yards
Career Receiving- 102 receptions for 790 yards and 3 TD’s (7.75 yards/catch)
Longest reception- 69 yards
*Career stats are represented through 2 games of the 2010 season.
Averaging over 1,600 yards and 10+ TD’s per year
Experience- 4th season (3 full seasons in the books, 2010 represents 4th season)
Combine 40- 4.38
Career Rushing- 962 attempts for 4,716 yards and 41 TD’s (4.9 yards/carry)
Longest run- 73 yards
Career Receiving- 91 receptions for 884 yards and 1 TD (9.7 yards/catch)
Longest reception- 63 yards
*Career stats are represented through 2 games of the 2010 season.
Averaging 1,500 yards and 13+ TD/year
Obviously anyone would be ecstatic with either RB whether it be a coach, an owner, a fantasy owner, a fan, whatever. But I’m going to compare each RB according to several criteria and TRY to arrive at a winner (I’m conflicted). There is some degree of subjectivity because they are such different players and have vastly different running styles. AD is a big, physical, strong back with speed and is quite honestly one of the most violent and punishing runners I’ve ever seen. CJ is so elusive and just has a different type of speed. He blows by EVERYONE.
Given the subjectivity involved, I try to eliminate as much as possible and objectively evaluate the following areas:
Speed: While AD is one of the fastest backs in the league and is certainly the fastest power back in the NFL and maybe in NFL history, like I said above, CJ just has a different kind of speed. You can’t put too much stock in combine results, but comparing CJ’s 4.24 to AD’s 4.38, CJ just destroys him. .14 seconds is a HUGE difference in the 40 and it translates on the field. I recently saw a Sports Science special where they analyzed CJ’s 70+ yard TD run against Oakland in week 1 this year. According to their analysis, with full pads, helmet, and carrying a football, CJ was clocked at over 22 MPH. When asked about the stat, CJ said that wasn’t quite running full speed. For some context, I’ll compare this to Usain Bolt who has been clocked at 28 MPH in the 100 M sprint. Yes, 6 MPH is a big difference, but for a football player, in pads, 22 MPH is an incredible feat!
Ball security: This one is pretty easy as well. We all know AD has a fumbling issue. When looking at the numbers, though, the difference between the two backs is actually pretty amazing. In his 3 full seasons and thus far this year, AD has had 20 FUMBLES! Compare that to CJ, who in his 2 full seasons and thus far this year, has had 5 fumbles.
Strength: Just as speed is a no-brainer for CJ, Strength is a no-brainer for AD. He is a physically imposing specimen and is an intimidating force for opposing defenses. At 6’1″ and around 220 lbs., he is a BEAST! It’s not just his size and strength, but his attitude and running style. I’ve heard it said before, and its 100% true, he looks like he runs mad. He is such a violent runner and runs with such an attitude that it just makes his strength that much more of a factor. You rarely see one man bring him down and he has a ridiculous amount of yards after contact. AD had over 900 yards after first contact in 2009 and 65% of his total yards was after first contact. Surprisingly, CJ also has quite a bit of yards after contact and lead AD in 2009 with 1,000 yards after contact and about 50% of his yards were earned after contact. If that were the category we would have a debate. But its not, so in the category of the strength….
Vision: This is a pretty subjective category as there are no stats that you can use to draw a direct correlation. Let me start by saying, both CJ and AD have tremendous vision. I’ve watched both very closely in their careers and I’m always impressed by their ability to press the hole, anticipate the movements of the defense, and cutback against the grain to take advantage of an over-pursuing defense. Both have an innate ability to slip through the tiniest of creases (despite AD’s size) or just bust through a crease. I’ve gone over this a few times and I honestly cannot give the edge to anyone on this one.
Receiving: As with just about every category, both RB’s are extremely gifted. While you don’t typically think of AD as a great receiving back, he’s actually very good. He had 43 receptions last year and averages about 28/year for his career. As you can see he had a dramatic increase last year and for 2010, without Chester Taylor, he is sure to get even more catches. To put this in perspective, the league leader for RB’s last year was Ray Rice with 78 receptions. CJ, being a more elusive and speed back, you would think would be a more viable option out of the backfield. In 2009, he had 50 receptions and averages about the same for his career. In my opinion, CJ has slightly more natural hands and we’re evaluating them as of right now, not in relation to what they may do in the future, so AD’s increased receptions without Taylor is irrelevant for this point. With that being said…
Agility/Elusiveness: AD is extremely fast, agile, and elusive for his size and power. In terms of the best combination of size, power, speed, and agility, AD is one of the most complete specimens in NFL history. He is matched up with, however, one of the fastest players in NFL history. Speed doesn’t always come with agility and elusiveness, but in this case, it does. CJ is able to stop on a dime and change directions and his incredible acceleration and top end speed allows him to appear as if he barely slows down.
Production: We all know AD is a workhorse. He is a physical runner who can wear defenses down and he can literally carry his team to victory. In his 3 full seasons, AD has averaged 305 carries/year and just under 20 carries/game. In his 2 full seasons, CJ has averaged 305 carries/year as well, and just over 20 carries/game. Most people, myself included, look at AD as the workhorse type back and CJ as the elusive back who can’t handle as many carries. Looking at the statistics on this, I was actually a little surprised to see just how closely CJ matches up with AD in this category.
Durability: This is a tricky one. AD was labelled as “Injury-Prone” coming out of Oklahoma and CJ is considered a smaller, speed back who can’t run between the tackles or handle a ton of carries. Both are actually false. Surprisingly, AD has missed only TWO GAMES in his 3 full seasons. CJ has missed 1 game in his 2 full seasons. For the purpose of this debate, I’m considering where they stand right now. If I were evaluating them for future production, this would sway my grade in this category only due to the running style. AD runs so violently and with so much power, I find it hard to believe that he’ll be able to continue to hold up with that type of punishment. On the other hand, CJ is so elusive and he’s so good at avoiding a big hit, that I see him much in the same light as Barry Sanders in that he should hold up fairly well because he takes less overall punishment. As of today however….
Like I said, there are several subjective criteria that can be taken into account when you’re making this pick. The exact question you’re asking can also change the answer. For instance, is the question “Who has had the better career?” “Who would you pick in fantasy?” “Who would you start a franchise with?” “Who do you want on 4th and goal from the 1 (ignoring last week LOL)?” or “Who would you take right now, for 1 game or 1 year?” To me, it can vary a little bit because of the punishment AD takes and if you’re starting a franchise you might want to go with CJ regardless of the rest of your analysis because he will probably hold up better. For this discussion though, I’m going with where they stand right now. When I look at the objective categories above, CJ wins 4-1-3. Obviously, things change and if AD corrects his fumbling issue, that would close the gap and if he continues to catch more balls out of the backfield that could also close the gap. But as of right now, the objective analysis, for me, points to CJ.
Now comes the hard part. It’s my belief that stats are important, but cannot be solely relied upon. Stats can be spun and presented in ways that are deceiving. So while I think they’re a good measuring stick, it’s important to also conduct the “Eye Test”. When evaluating players or teams, you really have to watch them and look at certain key areas when you’re analyzing them. This is obviously subjective and non-scientific, but it’s ultimately the deciding factor in this type of analysis. For example, either one of these backs could be on the Browns and their stats wouldn’t do their talent any kind of justice. A lesser talent could be on a team with an incredible offensive line with a running philosophy and that RB could have ridiculous stats. It doesn’t mean that this RB is BETTER than several others. For me, looking at the stats, and looking at the film, I give the slight edge to CJ. I also discount AD’s stats JUST A LITTLE because he has an incredible run blocking offensive line headed up by Steve Hutchinson. I’m not saying CJ’s line isn’t good, AD’s has just been better.
In addition to the “Eye Test”, personal preference also comes into play. If someone prefers a bigger, power back, that will sway their opinion. If someone prefers an elusive, speed back, that will obviously sway their opinion as well. For me, it’s not so much that I prefer one back over the other. When making my choice, CJ leads in most of the above categories and has done more with less, but AD is such a great back that it ultimately came down to one thing. Who is the biggest game changer? AD has great speed, but not CJ speed. On ANY SNAP, with the smallest crease, when defenders think they have the angle, CJ can blow by them and change the complexion of a game. In a game of inches, and with CJ’s speed just being on a completely different level, CJ is my pick. He’s so dynamic, so elusive, and such a natural runner that I just have to give the slight nod to CJ2K.
“The Big Show”, aka Mike Holmgren has had time to get his feet wet, and oversaw his first draft with the Cleveland Browns. 2 weeks into the 2010 NFL season though, the team has left much to be desired for Browns fans. With a break in the early season schedule, most fans and analysts though the first two games would be very “winnable” for the Browns and at the very least, they would split. Opening up against a 3-13 Tampa Bay team from a year ago, followed by a home opener against the 4-12 Chiefs, this gave the Browns a great opportunity to get some early momentum. HOWEVA (Stephen A. Smith voice)…. Browns fans were welcomed into the 2010 season with the same old Browns. Poor quarterback play, inconsistent and inexplicable play calling offensively, ridiculous fumbles and turnovers, too many penalties, an undisciplined team and a turnover laden offense.
As we all know, after jumping out to an early lead against Tampa, Jake Delhomme made some of the worst decisions I’ve ever seen from a quarterback. Let alone a veteran QB who was brought in to add stability and leadership. From the point that Jake threw the interception at the end of the first half that lead to a TB touchdown, it was all downhill. The play calling became oddly inconsistent, Brian Daboll (Browns Offensive Coordinator) suddenly stopped running the ball and allowed TB to stack the box and squat on short and intermediate routes by not challenging them deep and stretching the field. Now this is partially not his fault. The Browns have one the WORST WR corps in the NFL and have ZERO deep threat outside of Josh Cribbs or younger WR’s that they’re not ready to play. For whatever reason, Cribbs is rarely used in this manner (shockingly he was used this way against KC). But even with a lack of playmakers, its the responsibility of the play caller to punish the defense if they’re continually stacking 8, 9 and 10 players in the box and their DBs are squatting on the short passes. It may not be successful, but it will stretch the field and cause the defense to play honest.
Against KC, another winnable game, the offense, again was PUTRID. Too many turnovers, ineffective running attack, and inconsistent and predictable play calling. The only bright spot in my mind offensively was the one deep ball to Cribbs. Even though he’s a raw talent at WR, he’s our only WR with NFL speed. It’s my opinion that we need to use him consistently to stretch the field and keep opposing defenses honest. This will open up underneath passing routes and soften up the defense for the running game. The Browns had multiple chances to win this game, with a pretty strong showing from the young defense, but they were just so awful on offense that they never took advantage. If you look at the upcoming schedule, the Browns first win is hard to find. After throwing away 2 great opportunities at wins in the first 2 weeks, the first win might not come until around Thanksgiving.
So just how bad are the Browns?
Unfortunately, on paper… the Browns are going to be pretty awful. Like I mentioned before, unless they sneak up on a much better team and pull off an upset like they did last year against Pittsburgh, the first win isn’t even conceivable until around Thanksgiving against Jacksonville. Two straight years opening up 0-11? Seriously!? Recall the heat and pressure assigned to Eric Mangini last year, in his first year, going 0-11. Can you even IMAGINE the heat he’s going to face if they go 0-11 (or even 0-10) for two years in a row? I honestly hope, this doesn’t cost him his job and given Holmgren’s history of being patient and not making knee-jerk reactions, he may give Mangini the rest of the year. But honestly, in my opinion, its not even Mangini’s fault. Paul Brown, Bill Walsh, Vince Lombardi, Bill Parcells, you name the coach. No one could win consistently with the talent that’s in place and with the inconsistency that has plagued the organization for more than a decade.
I truly believe Mangini has done at least an “ok” job in his first two years. Obviously it doesn’t show in the record books, but there are more subtle things that I’ll point to that tells me that Mangini isn’t a bad coach. If you look at the most historically successful organizations they all have a few things in common:
-Consistent and Credible Leadership
-Continuity in the Head Coach and system
-Building through the draft/Talent evaluation
Unfortunately for Browns fans, perhaps the model franchise in the NFL is the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Rooneys are arguably the best owners in all of sports. Since 1969, they’ve had THREE head coaches (Chuck Knoll, Bill Cowher, and Mike Tomlin). If you look at their drafts, they continually find incredible, difference making players that fit their system and their organizational culture. Especially on defense. Just look to recent drafts to find James Harrison (Kent State), Lamar Woodley (The school up north), Troy Polamalu, Lawrence Timmons, Casey Hampton, Aaron Smith, the list goes on and on. And while there have been some surprisingly questionable character issues by some recent draft picks, you can’t deny the talent they’ve accrued on the offensive side of the ball as well. Ben Roethlisberger, Santonio Holmes, Heath Miller, Mike Wallace, Hines Ward. Sure they’ve had their share of misses on both sides of the ball, but the hits far outweigh the misses. And its vitally important to minimize your misses high in the draft. There are few high round picks aren’t still with the organization (Holmes being the one of note).
Turn that around to the Browns, and there are very few high round picks are still with the organization. You just can’t build a team when your high round picks are misses and/or are no longer with the team. Just reference Tim Couch, Courtney Brown, Gerard Warren, William Green, Quincy Morgan, Travis Wilson, Braylon Edwards (post coming soon explaining why he didn’t work out), Kellen Winslow, Kamerion Wimbley, and Brady Quinn. I could probably write for days about the massive fail that is Brady Quinn, but its clear to me that he cares more about working out and how he looks than being an NFL QB. The few that have been hits include Joe Thomas, Alex Mack, Eric Wright, and several TBD. There are several lower round or undrafted players that have been hits for the team as well obviously including Josh Cribbs.
Keeping this in mind, I would rather err on the side of consistency, than make a quick decision on Mangini and let him go during the year or in the offseason. It is my belief that a coach needs at least 3 years to get enough of a body of work to make a determination on the coach. However, there is one coaching change that I think is imminent and necessary. Brian Daboll must go. The sooner the better, assuming you have a viable option to fill in during the season. We consistently have one of the worst offenses in the NFL. The Browns continually have stalled drives due to inconsistent and predictable play calling, too many penalties, and are a perennial bottom feeder in the offensive statistical categories.
While I’m mostly pleased with the leadership and decision making of Holmgren and Heckert, there are a few glaring questions on the offensive side of the ball. It was their decision to bring in Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace and to draft Colt McCoy. While no one can question Delhomme’s leadership, his play has been questionable at best. Part of the reason to bring him in was veteran stability in leading the offense. I haven’t seen it. I saw several rookie mistakes and poor decision making that flat out cost the team a game. Seneca Wallace is probably one of the better backups in the league and under that assumption, I’m pleased with the move. Colt McCoy? Irrelevant for this year, but I don’t see him being an NFL QB. I have to question the lack of effort to bring in a legit #1 WR. Massaquoi is a solid WR but not a #1 and Robiskie is a #3 or #4 WR AT BEST. Cribbs is still developing but has raw ability. So how do you expect our QB’s to succeed with this WR corps? The inaction as it relates to either drafting or signing a free agent WR is puzzling to me.
On the other side of the ball, Holmgren, Heckert, Mangini, and Ryan have done a solid job in my opinion of evaluating talent, building through the draft, filling holes via free agency, and building a defensive scheme that will bring success. Its too early to give a final grade, but looking at the 2010 draft, the Browns got some real difference makers on the defensive side of the ball. Joe Haden looks to be a nice pickup (although at #7 it was a bit of a reach). He has dispelled the myth of lacking speed in my opinion after watching him throughout camp, preseason and the first two games. Whatever his 40 time, this guy has field speed and game speed and he has great instincts. With any rookie, there are tons of things he needs to improve upon, but I’m pleased with what I’ve seen. TJ Ward also seems to be a difference making safety that the Browns have lacked for years. He has delivered countless bone jarring hits and provides the physical presence we need in the middle of the field. Again, he needs to improve on ball skills, coverage, reading the offense and route combinations, but for a rookie, he looks great.
Defense: There are a lot of positives on the defensive side of the ball. Rob Ryan is a good Defensive Coordinator and given the proper personnel, I think he can create havoc for opposing offenses. We have a very underrated defensive line in Rubin, Smith, and Rogers. If Rogers can get motivated, he’s a FORCE. The Browns have a good mix of young and veteran linebackers. Roth and Benard are very promising and continue to grow under Ryan each week. Fujita offers great veteran leadership and stability and once D’Qwell is back it will only solidify the LB Corps. The secondary is also very promising. I love the move to bring Sheldon Brown in as he provides much needed veteran leadership and he can still make plays. Eric Wright is a top notch corner and is continuing to get better and Joe Haden is going to be a solid NFL CB at the least and a pro bowler at the best. TJ Ward is a THUMPER at the safety position and what a pick up by Holmgren/Heckert. The other safety position leaves much to be desired and in time, I’d personally rather see Sheldon Brown move back to safety and allow Joe Haden to fill in at the other CB position.
Long story short, there are tons of bright spots on the defense and they’ve performed very well thus far this year. They should continue to grow throughout the season, but they’ll likely be placed in many difficult positions due to the inept offense. Statistically, they will probably appear to be worse than they are, but make no mistake, this is a good, young defense!
Offense: *SIGH*…. there are ALOT of holes on the offense starting with the Offensive Coordinator and the QB which are the most integral parts to an offense. Starting with the assumption that the coaching situation will take its course and Holmgren will bring in a competent coordinator, we’ll deal with the QB’s. As discussed earlier, Holmgren and Heckert made the decision not to draft a QB in the high rounds of the 2010 draft. Instead he took a flyer on Colt McCoy and brought in Seneca Walace (a more than competent backup) and journeyman veteran QB Jake Delhomme. This could be because they weren’t enamored with any of the high round QB prospects and didn’t think the acquisition of any of them would make the team markedly better, because they were/are confident in Jake and Seneca or both. Colt McCoy, though, I do NOT see as a viable NFL QB, but I don’t mind the flyer given we got him in the 3rd round and he has a manageable contract. Sorry, I’m holding out hope that I’m wrong and he’ll develop and thrive. I just don’t see it. Bottom line…. there is no long-term solution in sight for the Browns at the QB position. I’m holding out hope for the 2011 draft as there are a number of potential NFL prospects in next year’s draft.
The next most important aspect of an offense has to be the offensive line and the Browns actually are in pretty good shape here. They hit an absolute home run with Joe Thomas where they found a perennial Pro Bowl left tackle and they have an anchor on the line for the next decade. Steinbach and Mack are viable options at LG and C respectively giving the Browns an extremely solid left side of the line. However, there is room for improvement on the right side of the line. If they can shore up the right side through the draft and/or free agency, the Browns will have one of the better offensive lines in the league which will position them for success in the future.
Aside from the QB, the most glaring hole on the offense is the WR corps. As mentioned before, Massaquoi is a solid NFL WR, but not a legit #1 WR. Robiskie is a nice situational WR and the jury is still out on him. He has size and good hands and he’s a smart kid. But he lacks speed and quickness and struggles greatly in getting any kind of separation from NFL DB’s. As he develops he has the chance of becoming a viable #3 WR to be used similarly to Joe Jurevicius. Cribbs obviously is still very raw and is trying to develop into an NFL WR. He certainly has the speed that we lack outside and hopefully we’ll see his role increased and at a minimum, he can be used to stretch the field. There is a nice prospect in Carlton Mitchell, but he is extremely raw and likely wont contribute in 2010. It’s troubling to me that Holmgren and Heckert made no moves to bring in a legit #1 WR for several reasons. First, it’s hard to expect any QB to succeed with no legitimate weapons. Second, this offense lacks playmakers and game changers. We need someone to stretch the field to keep the defense honest and someone who can get separation. Any offense also needs someone who can consistently move the chains and we may have that in Massaquoi. This position must be substantially upgraded going in to the 2011 season.
Running backs are certainly solid, and we don’t really know what we have. Jerome Harrison is at the least, a solid back, and has the potential to grow. Peyton Hillis was an incredible pick up for Holmgren/Heckert. They traded a useless QB in Brady Quinn and got back a BEAST on wheels in Hillis. Unfortunately due to injuries, we don’t really know much about Hardesty and James Davis, but they’ve both shown flashes. TE’s are also a solid position for the Browns with the addition of Ben Watson and the solid play of Evan Moore.
So, in conclusion…. If/when the Browns start of the season 0-8, 0-9, 0-10, 0-11 or worse, are they REALLY that bad? The short answer is no. There are massive holes on the team starting with the most important position in all of sports, the QB. The team threw away wins in its first two, and only real winnable games for quite a while, and the schedule for the next 7 or 8 weeks is BRUTAL. This part of the schedule looks like that of a returning Super Bowl champ, not a 5-11 team. There is a stable and credible leadership foundation in place and I believe we have a good coaching staff in place (with the exception of the Offensive Coordinator). There are some very solid areas of the team including defense, offensive line, running backs, and tight ends. The holes are mostly fixable in a short period of time with the exception of the QB. Holmgren and Heckert certainly have their work cut out for them, but the team is FINALLY heading in the right direction. There is tremendous pressure on them to earn their money and live up to their reputation to identify and develop a long-term viable solution at the QB position and to continue to accrue talent and depth on this team in order to make the Browns a contender.
Mo Williams, the starting PG for the Cleveland Cavaliers recently commented that after the ‘Decision’, he lost the love for the game and actually seriously considered retirement at the age of 27. These comments, when considered from an outside perspective might seem a bit dramatic and over the top given the actual circumstances. A superstar teammate left his team in Free Agency to join 2 other stars. Mo has drawn incredible ridicule by several NBA players and media outlets. Namely, Chris Douglas Roberts of the Nets openly criticized Mo and laughed at Mo’s personal situation via Twitter. Brandon Jennings, who also has little room to criticize anyone, openly mocked Mo via Twitter.
I have several thoughts about Chris Douglas Roberts’ comments and others who have criticized Mo. First, Chris Douglass Roberts has absolutely NO right to comment on another man’s personal situation. CDR is a complete BUST after being drafted by the Nets in the 2nd round in 2008 averaging less than 8 points per game. Due to his poor performance and apparently poor character and work ethic, the Nets benched him in the second half of the season and traded him to Milwaukee this summer. CDR has also been linked to LeBron James where he admitted that when he 17 and being recruited to Memphis, that LeBron flew him on a private jet for a Minnesota vs. Denver playoff game. Obviously, this would have created significant NCAA issues, but it also explains the link between the two and why CDR might be so openly critical of Mo Williams for his reaction to LeBron leaving.
So, first of all, CDR is a SCRUB and has no right to be critical of anyone given his career performance. Second, it’s my opinion that no man should criticize another man’s personal situation if you’re not directly involved. Finally, CDR has no idea what happened in Cleveland, the true cause for Mo’s retirement contemplation, and the things Mo has gone through personally with his family. This applies to CDR, Brandon Jennings, and anyone else who criticizes and/or mocks Mo Williams for his personal situation.
Aside from the general belief that people from the outside looking in, have no right to comment or criticize on someone’s personal issues, it is also clear that those criticizing Mo have NO clue what actually happened over the years. For Cleveland fans, this is not new information, but Mo Williams and LeBron James were very close friends. LeBron lobbied for the trade to bring Mo to Cleveland, they were very close and LeBron ‘appeared’ to consider just about everyone on the team a true friend. The team routinely went out together to dinner, movies, various outings. LeBron’s words and actions lead everyone to believe that the team was extremely tight and had incredible chemistry. From hanging out outside of the facility, to joking around in the locker room and on the court, to the pre-game routines spearheaded by LeBron where he would have the team pose for mock pictures, to the personalized handshakes, LeBron appeared to everyone to be a true friend.
There were several Cavs that were by all accounts extremely close with LeBron including J.J. Hickson, Jawad Williams, Boobie Gibson, and Mo Williams. Perhaps none appeared to be as close to LeBron as Mo. They worked out together in the off-season, met each other’s families, and shared personal information, just like friends do. LeBron’s pull as to the playing time and/or acquisition of his friends cannot be ignored. It was clear that coach Brown wasn’t ready to give J.J. big minutes as he was still developing and we had an abundance of experience on the team. It was also clear that Coach Brown wasn’t ready to give Jawad significant minutes for the same reasons. Due to LeBron’s “Friendship” with these guys, they were suddenly given an increased role and played more minutes. One odd item of note, is the acquisition of Shaq. LeBron publicly insisted that he was ecstatic about the acquisition and welcomed Shaq. However, given his history, if this were true, LeBron would have openly lobbied for his signing and he would have been in touch with Shaq recruiting him to the organization. At Shaq’s welcome conference, he indicated that he had not heard from LeBron. It crossed my mind at the time, but I was still blinded by LeBron and shook it off, but it’s clear now that LeBron clearly did not want Shaq but yet again fooled everyone as he publicly welcomed Shaq and embraced him as a teammate and a leader.
With all the “Friendship” talk, with all the “chemistry” talk, with all the pre-game antics and events outside of the facility, with all the BS of meeting each other’s family, and working out and visiting each other in the off-season, it’s no wonder Mo felt the way he did. Mo and the other Cavs were actually betrayed on a greater level than any of us fans. If you think about it, very few of us, if any, knew LeBron personally. Yes, it’s clear that LeBron took a personal shot at the organization, the fans, and the City by going on TV and dubbing the debacle as “The Decision”. This was a purposeful and premeditated act to directly coincide with the other Cleveland disasters.
Mo and the other Cavs, however, DID personally know LeBron and he purposely fooled them into thinking he was a true friend to them. A true friend would not have planned his exit so far in advance while leading everyone (including his teammates) to believe that he was happy, that he was fighting for a championship, and that the team was like a “Family”. A true friend wouldn’t have sabotaged many player’s only chance at a title by tanking the playoff series against Boston. It was clear even before game 5, that his teammates were busting their ass trying to beat the Celtics but they just weren’t good enough without full effort from their superstar. For whatever reason (Whether it was because of Gloria, or his planned exit, or both), he was unwilling to give it, then completely gave up in game 5 and lost the series. This was an incredible act of betrayal to the fans, to his “FRIENDS” ,to the city, to Dan Gilbert, to Coach Brown, and the entire organization.
So with all this taken into account, it’s pretty easy to understand the thought process and level of hurt that Mo went through this offseason. Someone who he trusted, who he considered to be a true friend, purposely sabotaged his best chance at a championship, shut him out in the weeks leading up to “The Decision”, and clearly carried out his exit plan that had been set for what appears to be several years. Think about it, how would you feel if someone you had grown to be “close friends” with ruined your chance at your dream, shut you out, and basically said that “you’re not good enough to play with me, I’m going to play with my real friends”?
#19 Miami vs. Pitt: Ohio St. fans should be watching closely as a strong showing by Miami this week and the weeks to follow will bolster the Buckeyes national perception. On the flip side, if Miami tanks like its ACC counterpart Virginia Tech against lesser opponents, this will surely discount the big win in the Shoe over the U. With the ACC taking much heat for its subpar performances this year, Miami needs to win handily against Pitt. This game will also serve as a measuring stick for Pitt as we currently have no idea what kind of team they have. They lost in OT to Utah and then beat New Hampshire. This game will give us a better idea of how good or bad the Panthers will be this year.
#21 Michigan vs. Bowling Green: With what seems like their 3rd JV opponent, and 4th terrible defense, the only at question for Michigan in this matchup is if Denard ‘Shoelace’ Robinson can rack up 700 yards in offense. The sophomore quarterback came out of nowhere this year after backing up Tate Forcier last year to jump into the Heisman conversation after only a few weeks. While no one can deny his athletic ability (this guy flies!), I’m curious to see if he continues to put up xbox type numbers once he faces better competition. D-Rob currently leads the nation in rushing yards with 559 yards which as a QB is insane! With another weak opponent, another week of D-Rob for Heisman talk will likely continue (see what I did there?).
Virginia Tech vs. Boston College: This battle of ACC “Powers” isn’t all that intriguing except for the indirect effect Virginia Tech has on Boise St. If you objectively look at Boise St. on film, they’re a great team. I don’t know that they could hold up in the SEC for an entire season, but on a one game basis, I honestly believe they can hang with just about anyone. They took a hit, however, by some national outlets when their marquee win against Virginia Tech was severely discounted when Virginia Tech lost to James Madison. If Virginia Tech rebounds and has a successful in conference season, it could bode well for Boise St. If Virginia Tech continues to struggle, it just adds fuel to the anti-Boise fire.
#1 Alabama vs. #10 Arkansas: This is a pretty intriguing matchup and is probably the #1 or #2 matchup this week for me. You have the machine that is Alabama who has looked incredible thus far. ‘Bama is just running over people with the 2009 Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram and the best backup running back in the country in Trent Richardson. Richardson looked great filling in for the injured Ingram in the first two games and Ingram came back with a vengeance last week, returning to his Heisman form. This is the most dynamic backfield in the country by far and I’m not sure if ANYONE can slow them down. In the past, Alabama relied solely on the running game and defense and won despite the QB. McElroy, however, is playing great this year, leading the nation in passing efficiency. With the ability to now beat you in the air, the Alabama offense is more dynamic than ever.
On the other sideline, you have another early Heisman contender in Ryan Mallet. The former QB for the University of Michigan transferred after Rich Rodriguez installed the spread option offense. Mallet is a 6’7″ pocket passer with an NFL arm. He obviously didn’t fit the Rich Rod offense and transferred to Arkansas. So far in 2010, Mallet has absolutely lit up opposing defenses, leading the nation in just over 360 yards per game and is in the top 5 for passing efficiency. However, Mallet has not faced a defense with the size, speed, athleticism, and coaching that he will face this week. A strong performance, win or lose, will give him a boost in both draft and Heisman discussions.
#2 Ohio State vs. Eastern Michigan: Similar to Michigan’s JV opponents thus far in the 2010 season, 3 of the first 4 opponents for the Buckeyes are against much lesser competition. The only item of note in this matchup is the performance of Heisman hopeful, Terrell Pryor. Pryor has received national acclaim and has been placed in the Heisman conversation, but Buckeye fans and football analysts who look closely at Pryor can see that there is still much room for improvement. Pryor is an athletic freak at 6’6″ and over 230 lbs, he is the fastest player on the team running a legit 4.3 40 yard dash. Pryor beat Ohio sprint champion Brandon Saine in the 40 yard dash this spring. While his speed is impressive, he often appears to be running much much slower than he actually is due to his huge strides. This often catches defenders off balance as they think they have the angle on him and he continually runs right by and gets the edge. At over 230 lbs, he is also deceptively strong as he is a LOAD to bring down whether in the pocket or in the open field, one man rarely brings him down.
So, on paper, he should be a 2 time Heisman Trophy winner and the #1 overall draft pick, right? Yea… about that… Pryor has been a physical specimen since he first stepped foot onto the field as a true freshman. He has struggled with maturity, preparation, accuracy and reading defenses. By all accounts, over the past year he has made great strides in his maturity level, becoming one of the leaders of the team and one of the hardest workers in the weight room and more importantly, the film room. Most Buckeye fans will give him great acclaim for his performance thus far in 2010. To me, he has performed well, but not on the level of a Heisman Trophy winner. His pure athleticism shined through against Miami (FL) and even though the Buckeyes dominated the game, special teams made it much closer and Ohio St. wouldn’t have won without Pryor. For those making the MVP argument for the Heisman, this is a plus for Pryor. However, Pryor struggled to read the defense at times, making poor reads and decisions. He got away with it against an overmatched Miami squad, but if the Buckeyes make it to the BCS title game, he will need to improve to beat the likes of Alabama and other top defenses.
Another area to watch is the buckeyes special teams. They have allowed 3 touchdowns on kick or punt returns in 3 games (and Ohio U had a return called back, so it’s really been 4). Ohio St. ranks among the worst in the country in kick returns and in tight games in conference and in bowl games, this will come to be very costly if not corrected. The Buckeyes have also struggled this year in converting red zone possessions into touchdowns. For me, this is nothing new. The Buckeyes traditionally struggle in this area due to the ultra-conservative play calling by “The Vest”. You can point out several key games where this ended up costing the Buckeyes, the most memorable in my mind was the game against Vince Young and the Longhorns at The Shoe. In my opinion, Tressel is one of the best coaches in the country, he’s a great leader, and a great recruiter. But he is NOT the right man to call plays. He is more often than not, too conservative, predictable, and lacks the willingness or ability to make adjustments. While most times their superior talent allows them to win DESPITE the play calling of the “The Vest”, it has long been my belief that in order for the Buckeyes to compete consistently with great teams from the SEC, BIG 12, and PAC 10, he needs to assign play calling duties to a true offensive coordinator.
#16 Stanford vs. Notre Dame: After two heartbreaking losses to Michigan and Michigan St., I’ll be curious to see how Notre Dame bounces back. While Brian Kelly has at least fielded a competitive team and is making progress, it is clear that Notre Dame is a long way away from competing for a BCS bid. One thing is for sure though, Notre Dame games have been a blast to watch this year, providing the most exciting games of the week more often than not. They have their hands full though with a good Stanford team lead by Coach Harbaugh (who I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t join his brother as a coach in the NFL soon) and NFL prospect QB Andrew Luck. The PAC 10 is full of QB prospects and is wide open with USC’s grip loosened on the conference due to NCAA infractions. It should be an exciting race in the PAC 10 this year and Stanford has as good of a chance as anyone.
#12 South Carolina vs. #17 Auburn: This is an interesting matchup for me. While Florida is currently getting historical benefit from pollsters, ranked #9, they are very overrated in my opinion after watching them so far this year. They are still very well coached, they still have great speed and talent, but they do NOT look like a top 10 team to me. Demps bailed them out of the first 2 games with great individual plays and they played much better last week against Tennessee. While the scoreboard wont show it, they actually struggled against these lesser opponents. Brantley doesn’t look like the improved, pure passer that a Gator WR proclaimed in the offseason and they seem to struggle running the ball. Granted, Brantley played better against Tennessee, and maybe he’ll get going. But the winner of this matchup can put themselves in great position to knock off Florida as SEC East champion for the first time in a long time.
Surprisingly, the ‘Ol Ball Coach, the offensive guru, has had very good defenses at South Carolina and this year is no different. Consistent with SEC teams, they have incredible speed and athleticism on defense and Stephen Garcia seems to be stepping up on offense. If they make it by a good Auburn team, they could make some noise in the SEC East.
#24 Oregon St. vs. #3 Boise St.: Every game is critical for each BCS contender, but perhaps none more so than for Boise St. Despite their success against BCS conference teams and perennial domination of the WAC, many national media members refuse to give them credit as a true contender. This thought was intensified as the Broncos’ early season marquee win over ACC power Virginia Tech was dampened with a Hokie loss to James Madison.
This game represents the Broncos’ only other test against a BCS conference team and a top 25 opponent. Needless to say, if Boise St. is knocked off by Oregon St., they can kiss their BCS title hopes goodbye. If they win against a good PAC 10 team, it will add further credibility to the Boise St. program and put them in a position to play in the BCS title game with a couple conditions. First, the Broncos will need to win out and run the table. 2. They will need Alabama or Ohio St. to lose at least 1 game. Time will tell, but this STILL may not be enough to get them into the title game. I view Boise St. as a very good team who can compete with almost any team in the county on a one game, neutral site basis. That being said, I think Alabama is just too talented, too deep, and too athletic for Boise should this matchup occur. I just can’t see the Boise St. defense slowing down Ingram and Richardson for 4 quarters.
#22 West Virginia vs. #15 LSU: This is an interesting matchup. I’ll be looking to see if West Virginia can compete with top competition in the post Rich Rod era. LSU struggled to beat a severely depleted North Carolina team so while they are still a very good team, but they are not an elite team at this point. It looks like West Virginia will be outmatched by an SEC power, but I’m curious to see how they hold up.
#5 Oregon vs. Arizona St.: Oregon has quickly become a media favorite with strong early season performances sans Masoli. I guess when your starting QB isn’t smoking weed all the time you can be pretty successful. However, they haven’t played very stiff competition. They did smack Tennessee around and it’s never a bad thing to dominate an SEC team, but Tennessee is not a great team this year. Arizona St. has also played pretty weak competition with the exception of last week’s close loss to Wisconsin. Oregon should roll and it’s important for them to get off to a good start in conference play.
Feel free to comment and criticize. I have thick skin and if you disagree with me or if I missed a key point, please point it out. Follow me on twitter @CONCEDE and also look for regular contributions on http://www.helmetandpadsrequired.com
I, and just about every Cavs fan or basketball fan for that matter, have been asking the question since the Cavs got bounced from the playoffs. What happened? The team that won 60+ games in back to back seasons, the team with the ‘Best Player in the NBA’, and the team who appeared poised for a title run lost in such a puzzling way in the SECOND round of the playoffs.
Even more shocking than the fact that the Cavs lost in the 2nd round, was the WAY they lost. Its been questioned and analyzed to death, but there are a few insights that local fans have heard whispers about, but they’ve been covered up by the main stream local & national media. I’m not going to rehash the details of the season & series, but I would like to take the opportunity to point some of the things that have been whispered for months and that some of you may or may not be aware of.
Game 2: The Cavs obviously looked very flat, unenthused, and had little to no intensity. While it hasn’t been reported by local or national media, it is a fact, that LeBron took the team out after the MVP ceremony in Akron (the night before game 2). While LeBron doesn’t typically drink much, if at all, being out until 5AM the night before a game certainly wouldn’t be the organization’s, coach’s or fan’s ideal situation for preparation for a playoff game. Unfortunately, this seems to be a fairly common occurrence in the NBA. Other NBA ‘Stars’ have been known to go out to various clubs the night before games (Amare Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony, and countless others). Who knows how often this happened with the Cavs in the LeBron years and what impact it had on their performance in game 2, but it is certainly a potential answer for such a flat performance in such a critical game.
Gloria: We all know the rumors that LeBron found out about Gloria’s sexual relationship with Delonte West. For what it’s worth, I have a source who is a long-time sportswriter. Over the years, he came to be personal friends with a current Cavs player. He didnt go public with this information, so its not like he’s saying this for his own benefit. According to a conversation he had with the Cavs player, the rumors are 100% true. He says LeBron brought some food up to Gloria’s hotel room to surprise her and Delonte, in a towel, opened the door. LeBron and Gloria argued over it and ultimately Gloria said ‘I’m grown, I can do what I want and this doesnt concern you’. Understandably, LeBron was upset. But what is unacceptable to me, and most Cavs fans is the way he handled it on the court. Even before the infamous game 5, after his ridiculous performance in game 3, he seemed completely flat & disinterested. In Game 4, he was deferring way too many shots as his teammates struggled to keep the game close. The Cavs pulled within striking range and waited for their ‘King’ to take over in the 4th Quarter and close the game like he’d done so many times. He kept deferring and then….
Game 5: Ok, no details here. Its disgusting to Cavs fans and completely unacceptable. But a little more info from the sports writer source. The rumors of Shaq confronting LeBron are according to him, also true. At halftime after LeBron appeared completely disinterested, and with the entire team knowing about Gloria/Delonte, Shaq is said to have grabbed LeBron by his jersey and threw him up against the wall saying ‘don’t you dare fuck this up for us’. Obviously, Shaq’s attempt to be the leader that LeBron couldn’t be failed as the ‘King’ went on to have one of the worst playoff performances by an NBA ‘superstar’ in the history of the league. It seems to some that LeBron wasn’t just hurt and upset about his mom, but it was more of a ‘fuck the Cavs, I’m leaving, you betrayed me, and I’ll make sure we don’t win’ attitude.
Obviously, there are other questions that we need answered, but will probably never get those answers. Such as, why did the team quit playing late in game 6, why did Mike Brown quit coaching in game 6, when did LeBron decide to leave, etc.? But for those who haven’t heard some of these whispers, hopefully this will provide you with at least some insight as to the massive failure that was the Cav’s 2010 playoff run.
So, since I’m apparently the only person on the planet that actually agrees with the rule and thinks that this is NOT a catch… I’m going to lay out the reasons why the NFL competition committee and referees actually got this 100% correct.
For ALL catches, in the middle of the field, on the sideline going out of bounds, in the end zone, and in the end zone going out of bounds, there are two primary things that must be demonstrated. First, the receiver must demonstrate possession. Second, the receiver must get two feet or one knee in bounds while maintaining possession. I’ve heard people complain about the rules being different for the middle of the field and in the end zone. They are NOT different. It’s the exact same standard that must be met. Possession must be demonstrated and MAINTAINED throughout the catch. Which includes going down to the ground whether in the field of play or out of bounds.
1. For those who reference the inequities involving a runner merely needing to break the plane of the endzone and then fumbling the ball… This is a completely different circumstance and has NOTHING to do with a receiver establishing possession. In this instance, the runner has already established possession whether they took a handoff or caught the ball in the field of play well before they got to the endzone. For instances where the player has already established possession, they must only break the plane and once the plane is broken the play is over and possession or fumbling is irrelevant.
2. For those who say ‘the ground cant cause a fumble’…. again, this is invalid. With the Calvin Johnson play, the issue is possession and you cannot fumble without having first established possession. Calvin controlled the ball, got two feet down, but then lost control of the ball and so he didn’t maintain possession throughout the catch. It’s the same thing as a receiver diving to catch the ball in the middle of the field and the ground jarring the ball loose. No one in their right mind would consider this a catch and Calvin’s shouldnt be considered a catch either.
For those who don’t reference either of these arguments, the most common argument is ‘it just looked like a catch’. I honestly don’t know how you can say this when you look at the facts. A receiver has to establish possession, get two feet down, and maintain possession throughout the catch. If they go to the ground, they have to maintain control and possession as they hit the ground. Without this black and white ruling, how could you possibly apply consistent ruling to catches? This one LOOKED like a catch but the play in the other game didn’t LOOK like a catch? Cmon… you must have substantive rules that can be objectively and consistently applied. Otherwise, you’ll have many more controversial calls that come down the referee’s judgement as to whether a specific play LOOKED like a catch or not. Or you’ll instances where a receiver who catches the ball, gets 2 feet down, and then a DB knocks the ball out and people will want to call that a catch. No one would consider that a catch and if the receiver loses the ball because they hit the ground that shouldnt be considered a catch either.
Look, I agree that Calvin SHOULD have made the catch and had the opportunity to maintain possession. He’s an outstanding receiver. In my opinion, he’s top 3 right behind Andre Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald. It would be foolish of me to think that he didn’t make the catch because he doesn’t have the ability or it was too hard of a play for him to make. He did the hard part. He went up over the DB and snatched the ball and got his feet down. But just because a player SHOULD have made the play, doesn’t mean they should be given a break or cut any slack. If Kobe Bryant has a breakaway layup with no one around him and misses the layup because he lazily threw it up is anyone going to argue that it was a made basket? No! The fact that it was an easy play and the player was in possession to make the play is completely irrelevant.
The reality is, whether it’s because he didn’t know the rule or because he got lazy, he didn’t maintain possession through the catch. He tried to break his fall with the hand that controlled the ball and the result is he lost control of the ball and therefore didn’t maintain possession and didn’t score a touchdown. Period. It’s black and white. Its an open and shut case. Any attempt to justify it being a catch or changing the rule will only lead to more headaches and controversy down the road.