Thursday, November 29, 2012

Johnny Football to Johnny Heisman

In what seems to be one of the weakest Heisman Trophy races in recent memory, because that is all I have left, redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel seems to be the only candidate.  In a ESPN "Expert's Poll" dated November 27th, they have Manziel running away with the coveted award, with the impressive Notre Dame senior linebacker Monti Te'o, fresh off his team's goalline stand against USC that earned the Fighting Irish a title shot a distant second.  Kansas State senior quarterback Collin Klein comes in third after taking his team to the number one spot in the land before falling hard a couple weeks back.
The first, second and third place finish seem very appropriate and will make Manziel the first freshman to ever win college football's most prestigious award.  Tim Tebow was the first sophomore to win it and Manziel broke Tebow's offensive yardage records in the process of leading Texas A & M in their first year in the SEC.  The Aggies lost to top 10 Florida in their first game of the season by 3 points and the only other blemish was against LSU, where Johnny Football was reduced to simply a freshman QB, but his accomplishments over the course of the year were the most impressive of all players this year.
Te'o was the most inspirational, but Manziel was the best and deserves the hardware.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Josh Freeman Keeps Bucs Rolling

A couple of years ago I was being interviewed on local Tampa radio and I said I wouldn't trade Josh Freeman for anyone in the league, which caused a bit of scoffing laughter back in the studio.  The radio host asked again the question again and threw in names like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning (prior to his neck injury) and I reiterated that no, I wouldn't trade Freeman for those awesome QB's.  My reasoning wasn't that Freeman was better than either of those future Hall-of-Famers, but where the Buccaneers were in building a franchise for the next decade, those other quarterbacks were on the back half of their careers.
Josh Freeman is a young fourth year QB, coming out of Kansas State early and his physical potential is beyond either Brady or Manning, especially for the coming decade!
Following the 2011 disaster season, the Bucs punted Raheem Morris to the Washington Redskins and brought in the no-nonsense Greg Schiano from Rutgers.  His attention to detail may be unmatched, although I'm sure many would like to dispute that, but he has taken a completely unprepared (physically and mentally) Bucs team and reshaped it into a hard-nosed tough football team that has prepared itself for situations before they happen and the success has already shown itself on a number of occasions.
Last Sunday the Bucs didn't play very well, giving up two scoring chances in the red zone, including a TD run by rookie of the year candidate Doug Martin, that should have been called a touchdown, but his fumble came too close to the line, was ruled a fumble and not overturned on video review.
In Josh Freeman's short career, even dating back to 2010 under Morris, he has shown a knack for bringing his team from behind to win.  The team didn't play well, didn't get any big plays from the defense or special teams, which it had in previous weeks, but Freeman led the Bucs back against the Carolina Panthers Sunday with a TD pass and a two point conversion to tie and force overtime.
The Bucs drove the field in overtime and Freeman found Dallas Clark (yes, that Dallas Clark) on a "wheel" route up the left sideline.  The call was great, the catch was fabulous, but the throw was mediocre.  While Josh Freeman has shown he can throw the deep ball well and has both Mike Williams and Vincent Jackson making great catches down the field, Freeman's weakest point as a QB is his medium range accuracy.
It is easier to criticize him on a game-winning OT throw now than after a loss on an interception when lots of people like to pile on.
The 2012 version of Josh Freeman is still not in Brady's or Manning's league and he will not join that league unless he becomes more efficient and accurate on medium range throws.  This improvement will have to come through improved mechanics and I am using this magnificent game-winning play to show my point.  Watch the video and watch what direction Freeman's front (left) leg steps to make his throw to the end zone.  His step goes directly towards the sideline instead of towards the pylon at the front of the end zone.  Before he releases the football his entire body is directed to where Dallas Clark IS, not where he is GOING TO BE!  Without watching the finish of the throw, alignment mechanics guarantee that the ball will be behind the receiver.  The result?  An awesome spinning backward catch by Dallas Clark to win the game!! 
Brady and Manning have had receivers make great catches on poorly thrown balls, but far less often, because they are more precise in their mechanics, Brady being signifcantly better than Manning.  Freeman would do well to study Brady's ALIGNMENT before the ball comes out and he will take a big step closer to joining their league of Elite QB's.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Weeden (Anyone) Needs More Evaluation Than Rookie Year

Laying on my couch Thursday night watching Fox News as usual and clicking over during the commercials to another average NFL Network game, I read the scroll at the bottom of the page.  It read something like, "Brandon Weeden will be evaluated in last 7 games to see if he is QB of future", says coach Brad Childress.
My immediate thought was this is why the Cleveland Browns aren't very good.  Maybe the scroll should have read, "Browns coaches will evaluate everything they are doing to help Brandon Weeden succeed over the next 7 weeks to see if they should return as coaches next year."
If Troy Aikman was evaluated on his rookie season, we wouldn't even remember his name today.  If Steve Young was evaluated on his rookie year with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, even with a nice professional apprenticeship in the USFL, he wouldn't be a Hall-of-Famer.  The quote by Childress is unfair and ridiculous to say the least.
Try what the Cowboys did after Aikman went winless as a rookie and build around Weeden to see what he can become.  From watching him play, I think he can be pretty good--that is if he had a decent coach.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Concussion Weekend For QB's

Heisman Trophy front-runner Collin Klein of Kansas State didn't finish Saturday's victory due to an undisclosed injury, thought to be a mild concussion.  Sunday followed with multiple NFL QB's getting knocked out of their games with concussions, inlcuding Michael Vick's "significant" one. 
Alex Smith of the San Fransisco 49ers didn't make it to the finish line of his team's tie, the first tie in the NFL in a few years.  And Jay Cutler was also done early due to a concussion.
Vick has been on top of the list for starting QB's getting replaced each week, alongside Mark Sanchez of the Jets.  Vick's replacement Nick Foles looked pretty good in his stead and the Eagles need something to change, so this may give Andy Reid the breathing room to make the switch.
The Bears don't seem to be in as good a position on back-up QB, so they will be hoping Cutler gets back quickly.  On the 49ers watch, even though Alex Smith has resurrected his career with Jim Harbaugh and generally played well and kept his team at the top of the division, his huge back-up Collin Kaepernick is one to watch out for taking over that franchise in the near future!  Kaepernick seems to have it all, so even a small slip-up by Smith may give the feisty and firey Harbaugh a much quicker hook than would otherwise be warranted.  The NFL--Not For Long.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Vick Vexed and Flummoxed

Michael Vick has been getting his butt kicked so far this season.  It has looked bad on many weeks, but probably none more so than on Monday Night Football against the less than stellar defense of the New Orleans Saints. 
It sure looked like there was blame to go around for everyone, from the offensive line to coaching and to Vick himself, as the blocking schemes used allowed defensive linemen to come unblocked.  These situations are either huge mistakes by the linemen blocking the wrong guys or the protection being set incorrectly by Michael Vick.  Usually the rule is for the guys up front to block "Big On Big", meaning you wouldn't have your offensive tackle "slide-protect" away from a defensive end, leaving a running back to block a much bigger player, but not only did the Eagles slide-protect away, they didn't have a back come and block, so they allowed free rushers at Vick, leaving him in unwinnable situations too many times. 
Jon Gruden made the observation that the Eagles had been victimized in the "A" gap (the open spaces on either side of the center) in their previous game, but still left this gap open for Jonathan Vilma to come untouched on his way to blowing up Vick.
The Philadelphia Eagles look like they are in complete disarray right now, unable to even slow down the rush at Vick and the lowlights that they have been showing throughout the season, show Vick getting rag-dolled and hit by multiple players in very awkward situations.  So far he has continued to answer the bell and keeps getting up for more punishment, but that can only last so long, after all, even though he is playing in the same city as the fictitous character Rocky Balboa, who got knocked down and got back up more times than bowling pins.
The blame goes to everyone because it is obvious that they are not prepared to handle pressure from any team in the NFL, so instead of making Vick play from the pocket, they are going to have to move him on each and every passing play or very soon he will be watching from the sideline on crutches or a hospital bed.