The Everyday Man's Sports Blog

Follow Mike Patton aka The General as he puts his thoughts in on sports.

Worries On West End: What Is Going On With Vandy Football?

Ralph Webb running hard purposeful versus the Hilltoppers.  (photo courtesy of Anchor Ol Gold)

Ralph Webb running hard purposeful versus the Hilltoppers. (photo courtesy of Anchor Ol Gold)

Year two under Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason began on Thursday night. The Commodores and their fans were eager to get rid of the stench of last season. In Mason’s first year, the team was inconsistent on both offense and defense and the first-time head coach looked a little overwhelmed at times. But going into this season, there was some growth expected. Mason was taking over the defense and being the head coach. Mason also changed the coordinator on the offensive side of the ball, bringing in offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig from the University of Wisconsin. The changes to the staff and the potential growth of the team from year one to year two were supposed to show in the opener. But instead, the result was not the desired one for the Commodores. The Commodores came out and dropped their opening game Western Kentucky 14-12. And with that, the second season under Mason begins the same way the first season began. And looking at how the team played, 2015 could be another long season for the Commodores.

The Commodores struggled last year offensively. They were the worst offense in the SEC, averaging only 17.7 points per game. The best thing the offense had in 2014 was freshman running back Ralph Webb, who ran for 907 yards and 4 touchdowns. But the worst thing that Vandy had was its quarterback play. Part of the issue there was the constant shuffling of quarterback from Mason and his staff. Vanderbilt went with Stephen Rivers, Patton Robinette, Johnny McCrary and Wade Freebeck at different points of the season and that led to no consistency at all at the position. Heading into this season, Robinette had given up football, Rivers left and apparently McCrary was the man to take over. The sophomore quarterback showed flashes of being the guy and at other times, looked overwhelmed when he was in there his freshman season. But heading into this season, it was expected that he would show some growth early on against Western Kentucky. He did show some growth at points in the game, but the same head-scratching plays he made last season reared their ugly head again. McCrary had the team down near the goal-line twice and the least the Commodores could get was a field goal. But instead of taking what the defense gave to him, he tried to force a few passes that were not open. And as a result of him forcing those passes, Vanderbilt missed out potentially on six points. The result of those two forced passes were interceptions. And thus the Commodores missed out on scoring. McCrary is still a young quarterback, but he has to take what the defense gives him. When he went through his progressions and actually read the defense, he made some good throws and allowed players to make the play. If he does this, then Vanderbilt will have a chance at consistency offensively. But if he wants to continue to force passes into tough spots, then he may find himself sitting on the bench again. He has a lot of potential with his size and his abilities, but there comes a point when the potential he has shows consistently on the field. McCrary has to grow up and grow up fast. His team needs him to.

But McCrary was not the only issue the Vanderbilt offense had. The thing that Vandebilt is missing offensively is a playmaker from the receiver spot. The tight ends at Vandy seemed to be the best playmakers on the team. But if you look at the receivers that Vandy has, there is not one that strikes fear in an opponent. And it seems that when teams play them, they don’t respect their receivers at all. And who can blame teams for not respecting them? The receivers of Vandy have shown time and time again that they cannot get any separation from the defenders at all. And as a result of that, there are tighter windows that McCrary has to throw in often. McCrary has to be better with the football and that is known, but he has to have someone step up and make some things happen on a consistent basis. There is no Jordan Matthews in this group and it is very likely that not one receiver steps up to be that lead guy like Matthews was in his time at Vandy. And if that is the case, then offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig needs to make the adjustment. One adjustment to get his playmaking tight ends involved would be bootlegs and actually using his tight ends often as his slot receiver. At times he did so during the game versus the Hilltoppers, but at other times he went to another formation with more wide receiver and less tight ends. Doing this will get more of his consistent players on the field. Another adjustment would be to run quick hit things like wide receiver screens and things like that to get the receivers the separation they need. That screens would be a way to manufacture some offense along with allowing McCrary an easier throw than trying to fit a pass in a keyhole. Whatever Vandy does, they have to make sure and get some offense going and going soon.

Another issue is the offensive line. They were consistently getting manhandled up front in the game by Western Kentucky. The result was an uneven running game and a quarterback that was under pressure. For things to get better offensively, the line has to be better than they have been. They may not be the biggest or the strongest, but they have to at least give their skill players a fighting chance to make a play. With what they showed tonight, Vandy may want to consider going at a quicker tempo. Not saying that they need to go full-speed uptempo all the time, but any tempo would be better than the methodical tempo they go with offensively. That tempo would not only have Vanderbilt running their plays with pace and tempo, but it would throw defenses off. As a result, the offensive line would have the upper hand and could potentially be able to get a better angle on their blocks than they did in the first game.

But the offense is not the only issue going on right now in regards to this team. The Vandy defense was rock solid to start the game. They played hard and kept the team in the game. And one could argue that because the offense could not stay on the field, the defense tired out in the end. But one thing that was noticed tonight was the misdirection that fooled the defensive backfield a few times versus Western Kentucky. It seemed when Western Kentucky was running a little bit of a rollout for their quarterback, someone was running wide open in the Commodore secondary. That would lead to big plays that should not have happened. In almost every one of those instances, there was someone that blew an assignment. Vanderbilt was playing a zone everytime that happened, so that tells me that someone was watching the quarterback instead of playing their responsibilities. For Vandy defensively, they are gonna have some pressure on them until the offense gets it together. So they must all remember to only do their assigments. When a player starts trying to do another player’s job, that is when trouble happens. And that is what happened for Vandy against Western Kentucky.

The misdirection was not the only issue the defense had Thursday night. The best player on that defense is defensive lineman Caleb Azubike. He made some plays during the game that were great. But the one thing that is disappointing is he is not moved around enough to make even more plays. With his size and speed, the sky is the limit for what he can do. So why not move him around along the defensive line and even on the edge a little bit more? That would make the offense have to account for someone at all times and then free up other players to make more plays. When other players are freed up, that could lead to more turnovers and havoc placed on offenses by Vanderbilt’s defense. And by looking at the offense in their current state, they need all the help they can get. The potential field position they could gain with an attacking defense making plays could be instrumental in helping put points on the board for Vandy.

Looking at Vandy, coach Derek Mason has a lot of work to do. At this same point last year, it was evident he had work to do and the team never seemed to grow as much as some expected. Well, this year is his retake of the same test. We shall see if he learns from his mistakes or if he repeats the same ones. And even though there is a lot to repair, we all have to remember it is only one game. But this one definitely left a sour taste in the mouths of Vanderbilt fans. And if Mason cannot figure it out, that sour taste could be enough to give him the pink slip. Only time will tell what happens, but the Commodores and their fans are hoping game number one was an abboration.

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The Redskins’ Tough Week Continues With Jessica McCloughan’s Tweet

Scot and Jessica McCloughan posing for a picture. Unfortunately, he is probably not as happy as he looks in this picture right now. (photo courtesy of www.thebiglead.com)

Scot and Jessica McCloughan posing for a picture. Unfortunately, he is probably not as happy as he looks in this picture right now. (photo courtesy of http://www.thebiglead.com)

When a reporter breaks a story, there is always a chance that there could be backlash. And in that same breath, there is always a chance that a reporter is completely on point with everything. That all depends on the trustworthiness of the source they use to get their information. But what if the backlash comes from someone indirectly involved with the organization the reporter is speaking on? ESPN reporter Dianna Russini experienced this recently when she reported on the Washington Redskins. She reported that there was some dissension about whether to move on from Robert Griffin III or not. The news she reported was not something many had doubted was going on, but a certain response she received on social media was both unexpected and uncalled for. Jessica McCloughan, the wife of Washington general manager Scot McCloughan, sent out a Tweet to Russini stating the following: “Please tell us how many BJ’s you had to give to get this story. And did they laugh at you before or after?” The Tweet was deleted, but not before social media got a hold of it. The Redskins organization tried to play it off like it came from a fake account but it was all confirmed when Mrs. McCloughlan issued an apology and confirmed that she was behind the Tweet. This adds to what has been an interesting few weeks for the organization.

Russini did not deserve this treatment at all. She seems to work hard and just tries to do the best job she can do like any other reporter. But to demean her by insinuating that she had to perform sexual favors to get the story was disrespectful and derogatory. Jessica McCloughan obviously is not a member of the organization per se. But in being the wife of the general manager, she has indirectly shone a bad light on the organization and her husband. For the organization, they now have to defend comments from someone that is not even employed by them. And for her husband, now he faces some scrutiny in this matter. Although he did not say the comments, they came from his household. It may seem like a stretch, but some may wonder if he even said some of these comments around his home and she was merely repeating them. Whatever the case may be, she has now placed him under scrutiny that he did not need, especially when he is trying to help repair the image of this team that has fallen apart. This will not cost him his job nor should it. But he has to get his wife to realize that her words have an effect on him and the organization despite him not saying them.

Along with embarrassing the organization, Mrs. McCloughan embarrassed herself. This was not exactly the greatest display of how to responsibly use social media. But she is not the only one that has done things like this. Many get on social media and act a fool and forget that there is some sort of responsibility that goes along with social media. And when some forget that essential bit of information, bad consequences usually occur. For example, a person could say something derogatory and mean on social media and think that no one in the world is watching. Well, to their surprise, that Tweet could make it back to their jobs, families and friends. And along with the embarrassment the Tweet could cause, it could also mean a loss of job and alienation of family members. McCloughlan was careless and irresponsible and it gave the organization her husband works for a black eye. This should be a lesson to all that social media can be a bad thing as much as it can be a good thing. It all depends on how responsible you are with it.

Going forward, Jessica McCloughan will have this hanging over her head. And she helped orchestrate an embarrassing chapter in the Redskins most recent history. The lesson learned here is the responsibility of social media. Mrs. McCloughan definitely missed the boat on this one. She can have her opinions but she may also want to keep them off social media. Not just for her sake, but for the sake of her husband, who is trying to do his job. Distraction is something he could probably do without. And she may want to actually get her facts straight before slinging insults at someone because she does not like what it said. As your profile grows, so does your social responsibility.

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The NFL Is Wasting Time Talking About Investigating Gloves

Odell Beckham Jr's amazing catch has drawn the ire of the NFL competition committee. (photo courtesy of Al Bello/Getty Images)

Odell Beckham Jr’s amazing catch has drawn the ire of the NFL competition committee. (photo courtesy of Al Bello/Getty Images)

The NFL has been under siege for the last couple years. From the way some officials have called games to the most recent issue, Deflategate, Roger Goodell and his cohorts in New York have not been able to get away from the bad press that has followed them. It seems like sometimes they just cannot catch a break. And at other times, it seems like they run themselves right into something. Most recently, the NFL has begun to look into the gloves that players wear in the NFL. Over the years, the presence of players wearing gloves has skyrocketed to the point it is rare to see a player playing without gloves. And over that time, there have been many updates to gloves to make them better for the players. One noticeable difference is to the catching surface of the gloves. That surface has gotten stickier and stickier over the years to the point it has caught the NFL’s attention. Rich McCay, chairman of the NFL’s competition committee, thinks it’s time for the NFL to take a look into the advantage the gloves are giving. But McKay sadly is barking up the wrong tree. He may think he has good intentions, but this case investigation will go nowhere fast.

The NFL is an entertainment business. Fans love to see exciting plays happen while they are there at the games and watching them at home on their televisions. And more often than not, fans love to see exciting offensive plays. There are not many fans that will pay to see a defensive struggle. The gloves may not be something that the competition committee likes, but it helps promote the excitement for the league. To give you an example of the excitement the offense brings, Odell Beckham Jr. had the catch of the year against the Dallas Cowboys last season. If you see a picture of the actual catch, it looks like Beckham catches the ball with literally three fingers. It can be argued that he was aided by some great gloves and the substance that is on them. But what can also be said is that fans did not care whether he had those gloves or not. The fans were excited about the play that happened and it was all over the place on social media. And whether the competition committee wants to admit it or not, the NFL loved all the attention they got from it.

The other argument is that gloves help quarterbacks and wide receivers too much when they are playing. Gloves help quarterbacks get better grips in cold weather and they also help receivers to make a play in a tough situation. But the gloves are not the main reason receivers make catches and quarterbacks make great throws. Quarterbacks cannot just slip on a glove on their hands and all of a sudden be better than they were before. They have to be able to read defenses, have their timing down with the receivers they are playing with and also have to have the correct mechanics to throw the football. Sure the grip helps, but they don’t make a quarterback any better than the talents they already possess. And in regards to receivers, no matter what they have on their hands, they have to be able to see what they are catching. The biggest part of catching the football is hand-eye coordination. If you cannot see and watch the ball in when you catch it, you may as well just let the ball drop. The gloves help the wide receivers, but it is your vision that catches the football in the end. If the gloves were such an advantage for receivers, then why isn’t every receiver catching everything that is thrown in their vicinity?

The gloves and the excitement are things that come with the gloves, but the main reason this issue will not go very far is the money that is at stake. The NFL is a partner with Nike. They switched their jerseys from Reebok to Nike along with the shoes and things that they wear that Nike provides. But another thing that Nike provides is the gloves that teams issue to their players. If the NFL competition committee takes this one too far, they could cause Nike to lose some money. And if Nike loses money due to NFL equipment like gloves, the NFL will likely lose money as well. Along with losing money, the NFL and Nike would have a strained relationship going forward. In that strained relationship, money for reproduction of gloves would make Nike look bad along with the NFL. And if enough money is lost, there could be an issue where Nike is ready to leave the NFL circuit. Many can question what the NFL is about, but no one can deny that they love making money. This is the same league that charges season ticketholders full price to attend preseason games. So do you really think they will risk losing money in the investigation of gloves? A betting man will tell you the answer is no.

The gloves are an aid to football players, but they are not something that makes the game easy and gives an unfair advantage. If that is the case, then McKay is effectively telling the NFL players that the work they do in the offseason is in vain because of a substance on gloves. McKay is the president of the Atlanta Falcons, so imagine him telling his star wide receiver Julio Jones that the gloves negate the hard work he puts in during the offseason. That conversation would not go so well. McKay also may want to realize that this league is a passing league and the gloves are a small fraction of what happens in the league. And with the money and entertainment they are a part of, the gloves will not be altered to take away the substance on them anytime soon.

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The Rise And Fall Of Robert Griffin III In Washington, DC

Robert Griffin III and Jay Gruden have meshed together about as well as oil and water. (photo courtesy of CBS Sports)

Robert Griffin III and Jay Gruden have meshed together about as well as oil and water. (photo courtesy of CBS Sports)

Robert Griffin III was hailed as the savior of Washington once he arrived in town. The combination of speed, athleticism and a throwing arm had the Reskins fan base excited over what he could be. And in his first season he did not disappoint. He led the Redskins to the NFC East crown and the playoffs in his first season. But within that first season, he had some bumps and bruises. RGIII was injured before the playoffs and did not look like the same athletic guy he was when he got there. And in the playoffs, his leg, which he had injured previously, gave way. The result was a torn ACL for the second time in his career along with other injuries to his knee. And from there, Robert Griffin III has never been the same. It seems like since that time, his play has never reached the hype of what accompanied him when he arrived in 2012. The more Robert Griffin III seems to talk, the worse his play seems to have gotten. And now we have reached the point where the guy who once was on top of the world in DC has now been deemed an afterthought. The Redskins recently announced that back quarterback Kirk Cousins would be the starting quarterback for the 2015 season. Of course that decision is always subject to change due to it only being the beginning of the season, but it seemed to be almost a burial of RGIII in Washington. Many think this is the end for him in DC and deservedly so. But what even led us to this point?

There is no doubt that Griffin III is a very talented player when he is healthy. But the fact remains that he has not been healthy since he went down with injury his rookie season. Griffin III rushed back from injury to be ready for the 2013 season and that was a huge mistake. Part of the reason he made it back so quick was his burning desire to be on the field. And the mistake on the management’s part was to let him back on the field so quickly. His knee was in disarray. And if the management really cared about Griffin III, they would not have even let him get back on the field until he was fully healed. The result of him being on the field too quickly ended with not being anywhere close to the same player he was before his injury. He did not have the explosiveness he had when he would leave the pocket and it seemed like the zip he once had on the football was not the same. The result was subpar performances and a guy that looked like a shell of himself. As far as the team’s performance, they have suffered right along with RGIII. The team has not had a winning record since that 2012 season and it has also not had the same buzz and excitement.

The injuries to RGIII have slowed him down, but so has the offensive system around him. When RGIII first entered the NFL, everyone knew who he was. He was an athletic quarterback who operated out of the spread offense with efficiency. When he came into the NFL, the Redskins under Mike Shanahan adapted to his style. And with doing so, they made the playoffs. But ever since that year and with the injuries to RGIII, the Redskins have seem to forgot what RGIII is. And in the new offense, Jay Gruden has RGIII doing play-action passes and operating under center. In essence, that is not what RGIII has done and not a part of the player he is. What should have happened with the Redskins is they should have met RGIII halfway. Gruden wants a certain style offense, but he also has to realize what talent he has when it comes to RGIII. It seemed like Gruden was determined to make RGIII into what he wanted instead of accentuating what he had in him. And as a result, the offense looked disastrous when RGIII was on the field. But at the same time Gruden was forcing his offense on RGIII, it seemed like the former Baylor star was not growing at all on the field. Instead of him picking up the same nuances that other quarterbacks seem to do over time, he was not throwing it to open receivers. RGIII would instead run and try to make a play instead of throwing it to the open man. And as a result of that, defenses would track him down and the offense would go nowhere fast.

The writing seems to be on the wall that RGIII’s days as a starter in Washington are about over. The excitement to start his career was thought by some to be a prelude to his success. But in the end, it may end up being the high point of his career as the quarterback of the Redskins. The next step is undetermined at this time, but there could be a change of jerseys coming for RGIII. And for RGIII, a change of jersey will hopefully lead to an offense that fits what he can do. And for RGIII, hopefully we can see the exciting player that he was again someday instead of the shell of a player he has been since his rookie season. His time has come and gone in DC and his next chance will hopefully come with a change of scenery. This has to be a low point for RGIII and it is up to him where he goes from here.

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The Steve Sarkisian Issue At USC Reveals A Deeper Issue In College Sports

Steve Sarkisian has a lot of questions to answer after his drunken moment at a USC event. (photo courtesy of www.fansided.com)

Steve Sarkisian has a lot of questions to answer after his drunken moment at a USC event. (photo courtesy of http://www.fansided.com)

The University of Southern California once ruled the football world. Then head coach Pete Carroll had the Trojans in the running for the national title each and every year. But when he left for the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks, the team has lost its luster. Lane Kiffin was not able to live up to the standards that Carroll created. And with the scholarship reductions and sanctions that Kiffin inherited, the Trojan program just could never get back on track. But when Kiffin was fired, the Trojans made the right step towards making it back to relevance. They hired former USC assistant and University of Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian and it seemed like a different energy was around the team. The Trojans were energetic and it seemed like the buzz that left with Pete Carroll was coming back. Heading into the 2015 season, the thought was that the Trojans would be coming back into play for the championship and that the focus could go back to the team instead of all that was going on around it. But unfortunately, Sarkisian took the spotlight away. He recently had a drunken speech at a booster event that caused him to eventually get pulled off stage. He threw out some a few F bombs along with saying that Oregon, Arizona State and Notre Dame sucked. Sarksian later apologized and said that he mixed medication and alcohol and that led to his speech in front of donors, the team and their family and friends. As a result, Sarkisian has to go to a rehab program. But what if this had been a student of a fan that did this?

College kids are young and can be sometimes reckless. And that can lead to incidents of bad behavior that could embarrass themselves, their families and the school that they attend. The spotlight of what that kid does or does not do can be even bigger for a student-athlete. When they mess up, it seems like the spotlight shines a little brighter and the criticism is a little bit louder. The result for most of the infractions include a suspension more times than naught. Sarkisian really got a smack on the hand for his incident, but if this was a student that did this, there would definitely be a different outcome. At the least, the student-athlete would have been suspended. But that result would have been getting off light. The player would more than likely have been kicked off the team for even showing up to the event in that shape and for cursing at such a big event. And with their friends and family there, it would not have been a pretty response from the student-athlete’s loved ones. The fallout would have been tough for that student-athlete to come back from and more than likely the university would have acted swiftly in removing the student-athlete from the situation and from the university. But in Sarkisian’s case, it seemed like they coddled him. The university seems so stuck in trying to win that they ignored their coach showed up and showed out at the event. And instead of him receiving punishment, the university is now giving him time to get it cleaned up. The student-athlete would have had the chance to clean this one up, but it would not have been at the same college at all.

The incident that happened with Sarkisian and his lack of punishment is something that has become synonymous with coaches. For years, coaches have been able to skirt past the rules due to them winning on the universities and colleges where they coach. And as a result of the success, the schools seem to do whatever they can to keep the coach and appear to be punishing him. In the case of a college-age kid, the kid gets punishment. But along with the punishment, the kid usually gets punishment and that can sometimes lead to suspensions or being kicked off the team. But if you take a look at some things these kids have done compared to coaches, it seems the latitude is not the same. Grown men get the excuses made for them while the kids have to “learn the hard way”. In college, it is about kids learning and growing as they matriculate through school. And of course they are going to mess up because they are still learning. But a grown man should know better. The punishment should be worse for the grownup because he or she knows better. But instead, they punish the kids like they know better.

The name of the game in college is money and in the end, coaches will bring players in to make the university money and win games year after year. And continually, coaches are given wiggle room when they mess up just because they can win. All the while, players are held to a higher standard while learning. Until that is addressed along with other things about college coaches, it will always seem like each university is out for a money grab. And in the meantime, the kids get used up and spit out if they make any type of mistake. Of course some mistakes are bigger than others and there is no escaping some of the punishments. But when the punishments of coaches appear to be a slap on the wrist, there is something wrong with that. As far as Sarkisian, he can continue to deny he has a drinking problem, but when it can be said that you drink often in the coach’s locker room and you say you accidentally mixed alcohol and medication, that paints a different picture than what he is trying to paint for us. Denial is something that always comes up when someone has an issue and especially one like this. But he is yet another example of coaches getting by while players get the short end of the stick if in the same predicaments.

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Preseason Football Isn’t Going Anywhere

Maurkice Pouncey went down with an injury that will affect the Steelers this season. (photo courtesy of Jason Bridge/USA Today Sports)

Maurkice Pouncey went down with an injury that will affect the Steelers this season. (photo courtesy of Jason Bridge/USA Today Sports)

The NFL preseason is halfway through all teams so far. And with that, there have been players that have helped themselves to make teams and others that have hurt their chances. Along with that, there have been fans that have been excited to see their teams on the field. But lost in that excitement has been the injuries that some teams have had to experience. The most recent injuries were to Green Bay Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson and Pittsburgh Steelers center Maukice Pouncey. Nelson suffered a non-contract injury to his knee. The result is a torn ACL that will cost him his entire 2015 season. And with Pouncey, he got rolled up from behind and injured his ankle. He will likely need surgery and will miss a significant portion of time. The result of these latest injuries have some wondering about the preseason. There have been many on social media calling for the preseason to be terminated. Many think that will solve the early-injury bug. But for those that are calling for the preseason to end, the NFL does not hear you. The preseason will never stop being here.

Some don’t want to hear that statement but it is the truth. The preseason has been around as long as many can remember and will continue to be around. The money is something that is too good to pass up. Many fans may notice that when they purchase season tickets, that means they are also paying the full price for preseason games. And along with the fans that are paying for season tickets, there are other casual fans that will be in the stadiums watching the third, fourth and fifth-string players run around just like they were watching the starters. Essentially, instead of teams having eight home games, they have ten. And the more home games they have, the more money goes to the teams and the NFL in terms of merchandise sold and concessions. If folks have been paying attention to the NFL, they operate more for the love of money more than for the love of the game. Any chance they get to make a little more money at the expense of fans and players, they will do so. Sure, it hurts teams when players get injured in these games and the prices are too high to attend these games, but the money is something the NFL cannot pass up. And as long as people are paying, the NFL is not going to turn down the money.

But the love of money is not the only reason for the NFL preseason. A lot of times, we see a lot of players play in the preseason and do things that no one thought they could do. As a result, some unexpected players end up making it on the opening day roster. By cutting the preseason, it could take away the evaluation period to coaches in a sense. Essentially the only time the coaches would have to evaluate players would be in scrimmages against themselves and in practices. Going against the same person everyday isn’t exactly the best way to evaluate someone. You need to see how certain players play against an opponent when put in certain situations. Also, with no preseason, you may want to take a glimpse into what you could see. Imagine more penalties, sloppy football and less scoring for the first two to three weeks of the season. In a game that counts, it would be terrible to watch teams make blunder after blunder. The preseason allows the players to straighten out a few things before the season gets started. And if the preseason was cancelled, there would be many fans wanting their money back for the sloppy presentation they just witnessed.

The preseason is four games right now and admittedly needs to be shortened. Two games seems like it would be long enough for a preseason schedule. But to think the preseason is going anywhere is absurd. There is no way the NFL is going to start turning down the money it generates despite the injuries that seem to happen every year. There will be preseason football and it will be here for a long time.

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The Future Of Tennessee Titans Quarterback Zach Mettenberger

Zach Mettenberger is a hot commodity in the NFL. (photo courtesy of James Kenney/AP)

Zach Mettenberger is a hot commodity in the NFL. (photo courtesy of James Kenney/AP)

The Tennessee Titans looked sharp in their second preseason game. They played tougher, harder and seemed to be flying around the field on their way to a 27-14 win over the St. Louis Rams. Running back Bishop Sankey ran hard the entire game and that was a great sight. But what was an even better sight was the play of the quarterbacks. Rookie starter Marcus Mariota was off on a few throws, but he looked much better in the pocket and he made a great play sprinting to his right to find a wide-open Craig Stevens 35 yards down the field. Zach Mettenberger was equally impressive when he received his reps. He matched Mariota by going 7/9 passing. And he also had an impressive throw when he threaded threw a dart between two St. Louis Rams defenders for a touchdown to tight end Chase Coffman. Both had good games and drew good reviews from those who watched them. But for Mettenberger, he knows all his play is only to lock up the backup quarterback job. When Mariota was drafted, that pretty much ended any chance Mettenberger had of being a starter for the Titans this season. So with that being said, there are many that are looking at Mettenberger and having thoughts of what he would look like on their team. With many thinking he would be attractive for their teams, the Titans have to evaluate what they should do with him. They have a commodity in Mettenberger and he could definitely help them should Mariota go down. But he could also help them in another aspect as well.

The Titans are a team that is still in the building phase. Last season, it seems like they hit rock bottom. And with the drafting of Mariota, there is hope that they are on their way to rebuilding the team. Any team that wants to rebuild needs as many weapons and draft picks as possible along with smart free agent signings. Part of gaining those picks they need is recognizing is getting what they can for players that are commodities. Mettenberger’s arm has many franchises intrigued. Teams like the Jets and potentially the Bills should be giving the Titans a call and making a play for him. If the Titans are to get rid of him, they should not move him for less than a 1st round pick. It may seem like a high ransom for a quarterback that has just shown flashes of talent, but the Jets and Bills could be at the mercy of the Titans. Tennessee could realistically hold on to Mettenberger until the trade deadline and trade him if they wanted to. But the one thing the Titans want to be careful about doing is holding on to Mettenberger too long. If they allow him to languish on the bench behind Mariota, the closer the 2016 NFL Draft will be. And at that point, the Titans could open themselves up for him to drop in demand. That could potentially mean they miss out on the talent they could have acquired like a first-round offensive lineman that could help make their line better. And at that point, the Titans could be stuck with him.

Just like it would be valuable to let Mettenberger go, it could also be valuable to keep him. Mariota is going to be the starter, but what if he ends up taking some hits early on that force him to the sideline. At that point, the Titans would have Mettenberger step in and be the next option. If the Titans were to get rid of Mettenberger, they would be stuck with Charlie Whitehurst as their primary backup. Nothing against Charlie Whitehurst, but he has been a career backup for a reason. Whitehurst knows the game and he knows Coach Ken Whisenhunt’s system from his time under him in San Diego. But when it comes to making the throws to win games, Whitehurst is not the answer to that equation. In Mettenberger, he could make the bigtime throws that winning quarterbacks can make. The only question mark about him is can he get it done consistently if he has to come in to relieve Mariota should he get injured. Judging how he looks form last season to this season, Mettenberger looks more mature and ready to take on the challenge of leading a team. But of course he will have to wait his turn while Mariota is tabbed as the franchise quarterback to lead the Titans back to relevance. If he is to get his opportunities, he must come through not only for his team but for his value as a quarterback in the NFL.

The talk about Mettenberger will continue as the season goes on. If Mariota does well, the talk will get louder that the Titans need to trade him. If Mariota struggles, then some fans may call for Mettenberger to come into the game. Eventually, the Titans will have to make a choice whether they need Mettenberger here or not. But one thing is clear: this will more than likely be his last year as a member of the Titans. Some team will be hungry for a quarterback after this season. And with NFL teams always looking for the next good quarterback, they will approach the Titans for Mettenberger. The only question will be if the Titans will trade him at the right time or not.

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No Need To Panic In Green Bay Over The Loss Of Jordy Nelson

Jordy Nelson falls to the ground as he suffered a knee injury versus the Pittsburgh Steelers (photo courtesy of Charles LeClaire/USA Today Sports)

Jordy Nelson falls to the ground as he suffered a knee injury versus the Pittsburgh Steelers (photo courtesy of Charles LeClaire/USA Today Sports)

The Green Bay Packers were one of the favorites to go the Super Bowl this year. With wide receiver Randall Cobb re-signing with the team this offseason, the team had all their weapons back. Everyone was expecting this offense to be prolific with the Aaron Rodgers pulling the strings. The only thing they had to do is make it through the preseason healthy. The Green Bay Packers were healthy so far until their second preseason game. Wide receiver Jordy Nelson, a consistent veteran on the team, caught a pass and without anyone touching him, crumbled on the field. At that point, the Packers and their fans had their collective hearts in their throats. They were hoping the injury was not serious, but they knew it could be due to the nature of what happened. Earlier this week, Carolina Panthers wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin went down without contract and was grabbing his knee. The result for him was a torn ACL. Well, after hoping for the best, the Packers got the same injury news the Panthers got on Benjamin. Nelson has been confirmed to have a torn ACL and will be lost for the season. And just like that, many began to question whether the Packers still had enough in the passing game to get it done. Well, the answer is unequivocally yes.

Losing a top receiver is never easy. And quite honestly, it will be very hard for Green Bay to replace Nelson in the lineup. But the Packers do have one weapon that can cause stress on the defense with his versatility. His name is Randall Cobb. The 5th year wide receiver out of the University of Kentucky had his best year as a pro last season. His 91 catches and 1,287 yards were second to Nelson on the Packers team. Cobb isn’t the offensive deep threat that Nelson is, but he is definitely more versatile. Over his time in Green Bay, he has lined up in a multitude of spots. That ability to line up in the backfield, in the slot and potentially in the Wildcat formation at quarterback can give defenses fits. And with Nelson out, expect Mike McCarthy and crew to get the ball in Cobb’s hands as much as possible. With him involved more, look for more quick strike things like bubble screens and crossing patterns so Cobb can use his skills. And along with the offensive abilities, Cobb can also be a spark in the return game for the Packers. When he first came in the NFL, he was dynamic as a punt and kickoff returner. With those skills, they Packers need to make sure and use them as much as possible.

Cobb will definitely be utilized more and will have some huge numbers this season, but he needs someone else to help him out in the passing game. And that help will more than likely come from a man that the Packers have a tremendous amount of belief in. Second-year wide receiver Devante Adams showed flashes of brilliance last season when given the opportunity. His seven reception, 117 yard game against the Dallas Cowboys in the postseason only furthered the belief the team had in him. Heading into this season, the Packers were sold on the fact that Adams could be the third wide receiver behind Nelson and Cobb. Well, that plan has been altered for now. With Nelson out for the year, Adams now has to step into the starting lineup. He has the size at 6’2” to give defensive backs problems. And at that size with the skills he has with the ball in his hands, he could give defenses fits. Of course the biggest thing is he has to be consistent for the Packers this season. Last year, he was inconsistent when given opportunities. But the Packers could afford his inconsistencies with Nelson and Cobb on the field. This season, he will be looked at to make it happen opposite of Cobb. And with more targets from Rodgers, he will definitely have plenty of opportunities to make it happen. The big question will be can he take advantage of more opportunities. The Packers think that he can.

The Packers still have championship aspirations despite the loss of their best wide receiver. And through drafting well, the team has two weapons that can make it happen in the passing game. You couple these two with the running game of the Packers (led by Eddie Lacy) and the Surgeon, Aaron Rodgers, at quarterback, and the Packers still have a very dangerous offensive team. Nelson will be missed, but the beat goes on in Green Bay. And contrary to popular belief, the Pack still have enough to win a title offensively.

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TY Hilton Isn’t The Lead Receiver The Colts Paid For

TY Hilton is in Indianapolis to stay, but he is not a lead receiver. (AP Photo/Brent R. Smith)

TY Hilton is in Indianapolis to stay, but he is not a lead receiver. (AP Photo/Brent R. Smith)

The Indianapolis Colts are a young team that is growing with each year. Led by quarterback Andrew Luck, the Colts have been a team that has exceeded expectations. Luck definitely is one of the main reasons they have been so good so fast, but he is not the only reason. Another guy the team drafted that same season has had a great effect on that team. With their third round pick (92nd overall) of the 2012 NFL Draft, the Colts wanted to give Luck a weapon that could help him achieve success. They saw a speedy guy from Florida International University with return skills that could potentially take the top off defenses. His name was TY Hilton. And the Colts saw enough out of him that they thought he could be special. Well, three years later, Hilton has been just that and more for the Colts. He has gotten better and better each season, topping off at 1,361 yards last season. The diminutive receiver has been dynamite for the Colts and this offseason, they rewarded him for his efforts. Recently Hilton signed a five-year deal extension worth $65 million ($39 million guaranteed). That deal ranks him fourth among wide receivers behind the deals for Calvin Johnson, Dez Bryant and Demaryius Thomas. Hilton makes enough big plays to be considered for this huge pay raise, but he is definitely the guy that does not fit in this picture. All three other men in this scenario are number one receivers that have size and speed. Hilton, has only his speed working for him but not the size.

Hilton is as a very talented receiver. The amazing thing about him is that teams know he has speed and they continue to get beat by him down the field. But when teams cut down the field on him, what does he become? Checking out his games last season, there is a pattern that he formed when playing against top corners in the NFL. Hilton had a double-figure yards per catch average against everyone in the NFL last season except for three teams: the Patriots, the Titans and the Broncos. The Titans game at the end of the season can be excused because the Colts were already in the playoffs at that point and time and probably wanted to rest Hilton. But against the Patriots and the Broncos in the regular season, Hilton was non-existent. When facing top NFL cornerbacks Derrelle Revis (Patriots) and Aqib Talib (Broncos), Hilton was not as explosive. He totaled eight receptions for 65 yards and did not even touch the endzone. And to add to it these numbers, Hilton had only one catch for 36 yards in the AFC Championship game against those same Patriots. Not a great showing for a guy getting paid like a lead receiver against top competition. He has to win some of those battles against the top cornerbacks in the NFL and if he does not, then he is not a legit number one receiver.

Hilton is a productive receiver and makes things happen for the Colts, but he is not a guy that strikes fear in teams like Johnson, Bryant and Thomas can. He is a weapon that came in with Luck and that is a huge component as to why he is staying in Indianapolis. The Colts are getting ready to break the bank with an extension for Andrew Luck. He is one of the posterboys for the next wave of top quarterbacks in the NFL. Hilton has been one of his favorite targets, so it’s only right that Indianapolis signs him to stay around. But the fact remains that Hilton is a guy that will not draw double-coverage normally in a game. A headline receiver would draw that type of coverage. With Hilton’s new contract, he is taking advantage of a market that allowed him to get this type of guaranteed money. You cannot blame Hilton for taking the money at all. In a league where contracts are not guaranteed and careers can end abruptly, Hilton had to get what he could and he did. But if the Colts are thinking they are going to get a number one receiver out of Hilton, then they are sadly mistaken. He is a weapon on a good team, but he is not the lead receiver for a team that wants to win a championship. And as long as he is being billed as the number one guy, the Colts will not be winning a title.

For the Colts’ sake, they better have something else up their sleeves down the line. For one, they need a stronger defense. But for their offense, they need a lead receiver. Andre Johnson will be productive for the Colts, but he will not be the guy that he once was in Houston and he does not have a long shelf life at his age. And as far as the other receivers in Colts camp, there is not a proven one in the bunch. Hilton is their guy. For better or worse, Hilton is the man for the Colts at the receiver position. He is talented, but he is not the guy to lead their receiving corps unfortunately.

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The Titans Are Taking A Chance On Linebacker Brian Orakpo

Brian Orakpo is starting fresh with a new team, the Tennessee Titans. (photo courtesy of Mark Humphrey/AP)

Brian Orapko is starting fresh with a new team, the Tennessee Titans. (photo courtesy of Mark Humphrey/AP)

The Tennessee Titans defense was once a feared unit when they were run by defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz and had one of the best defensive line coaches in NFL history in Jim Washburn. But those days seem like eons ago. Schwartz left to be the head coach of the Detroit Lions (he since has been fired and is out of coaching currently) and Washburn is not coaching anymore as well. The players on the field aren’t the same as they used to be either. There used to be defensive ends like Jevon Kearse, Kyle Vanden Bosch and Jason Babin causing havoc for the Titans. But Kearse, Babin and Vanden Bosch all ended up leaving the team via free agency. And when Babin left, it seems like he took the pressure the Titans created with him. The team has not been the same since and they have been trying to find the formula to make themselves what they once were: a feared defense. They have tried and tried again with some different players, but none have seem to be the dominant pass rusher they needed. So this offseason, the Titans went out and signed a player they thought they needed. Along with signing back outside linebacker Derrick Morgan to a four-year deal, the Titans went out and got former Washington Redskins outside linebacker Brian Orakpo. The veteran linebacker is a guy that can make some things happen and is used to playing in the 3-4 defense the Titans now run. They signed him to a four-year deal with $10.5 million guaranteed over that time. And now the Titans feel they have what they need to make it happen. But is Orapko really the answer?

Drafted 13th overall in the 2009 NFL Draft, Orakpo was brought in to bring constant pressure for the Redskins. And in his first year, he was able to do so. He amassed 11 sacks in his first season and many were waiting on more to come. Now he only notched double-digit sacks one other year in his career (2013), but he is someone that defenses have to account for every time he is out there. The Titans only had 3-4 defensive end Jurrell Casey that teams had to really prepare for last season. And even though Morgan re-signed with the Titans, he isn’t exactly a pass rusher that teams fear. With Orakpo, it now takes some of the pressure off Casey to be the most dominant player on the front line. And the best thing about Orapko is he is used to playing in the 3-4 because he has been in that system his entire career. Morgan is still relatively new to the system because the Titans just switched to it before the 2014 season when they hired Ray Horton as their defensive coordinator. So with him being someone that is comfortable in a 3-4, expect the Titans to move him around some to give opponents different looks. By doing so, the Titans will create mismatches and hopefully more pressure along with that. Last season it seemed like they just could not get to the quarterback. And because of that, the secondary of the Titans struggled mightily. Hopefully Orakpo will help give opposing offenses less time to burn the Titans secondary. Orakpo is definitely a guy that changes the complexion of the defense for the Titans for the better, but he there is also some inherent risk in signing him.

Orakpo is a feared pass rusher when he is on the field, but injuries have been an issue as of late. Over the last three seasons, Orakpo has played in double-figure games only once. With what the Titans invested in him, they hope they are getting a guy that can resemble the durable player he was his first three years. If he is not able to stay healthy, the Titans really don’t have much to turn to after him. Morgan would go back to the being the lead pass rusher and there would really be no one to take the pressure off Morgan except for Casey. And at that point, the secondary would be in the same position of getting exposed as they were last season. The Titans added some solid pieces in their secondary with safety Da’Norris Searcy and cornerback Perrish Cox, but the pass rush is the key to anything they will be key to anything they will be able to do. For the Titans sake, they better hope he is healthy and able to provide some pressure. But along with staying healthy, the Titans need Orakpo to provide double-digit sacks. Sure, he created pressure and that helped the defenses he was a part of. But to be the leader and have the best effect on this team, he has to come through when he gets his chances to rush the quarterback. Kameron Wimbley was once a guy the Titans brought in to put pressure on quarterbacks. He brought pressure, but he did not do much besides waive at the quarterback on his way by him. And with that, he never registered double-figure sacks for the Titans. He was going to be a part of the Titans roster potentially this season and again be overpaid, but he decided to retire this season. Wasted money for a guy the Titans thought would be the answer.

With Orakpo present, the Titans hope they have given the defense more to work with. And with defensive genius and former Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau as part of the defensive staff, the Titans have just the man to help mix things up and free Orakpo to wreak havoc. The only thing Orakpo has to do is make sure to stay healthy and come through on the chances he is given to rush the quarterback and make a big play. If he does that, he will be worth every penny the Titans paid for him. If he does not, the Titans will be looking at another guy that did not live up to expectations. If should be interesting to see how this veteran pass rusher changes this defense.

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