Hello world,

Coming off the back of Deshaun Watson’s first three starts for the Texans. A win versus the Bengals, a strong performance against the Patriots and a huge win against the Titans. This question has been kept low but I am still wondering, how did Bill O’Brien decide that Tom Savage should have been the starting quarterback ahead of Watson? With hindsight looks like a bad decision as the Texans were obliterated in their opening game 29-7. In O’Brian’s defence, this is a debate that if you were to interchange the names has been plaguing head coaches for years. I am going to examine a few examples that have been successful for the players, coaches and organisations involved, as well more often than not in these situations the examples that didn’t go well.

Sometimes, it doesn’t take till halftime of the opening game to change your quarterback like O’Brien did. In 1970, Steelers head coach Chuck Noll, a future Hall of Famer, played number one pick and rookie Terry Bradshaw for 8 games. Those other 6 games were played by, yes you guessed correctly. Terry Hanratty… This was a decision that caused opinions to swirl about the reliability of Noll as a coach. In his first game of his career, Bradshaw threw an interception and conceded a safety as they lost 19-7. Bradshaw was so embarrassed to be the starting quarterback when he lost. As told in one of my favourite books,

“Noll yanked him, and backup Hanratty finished up. After the game Bradshaw sat in his truck in the players’ parking lot, weeping.” – The Last Headbangers by Kevin Cook.

The amazing description of the situation by Cook, whose book beautifully analyses the NFL between 1972 and 1982, shows just how much Bradshaw wanted to succeed not only for himself but also Noll and the team. This is something rarely seen in young quarterbacks today, an example of this being Johnny Manziel who sat out the last game of the 2015 season due to a concussion, however, a video was found of him partying in Las Vegas seemingly fit and well. This lack of commitment, amongst other things is why Manziel is out of the NFL and why Bradshaw is in the Hall of Fame.

Despite what it looked like after that opening game and that 1970 season, Terry Bradshaw’s stats read as follows: 38% completion, 1410 yards, 6 touchdowns and 24 interceptions. Reading those stats is harder than watching a Jeff Fisher press conference. But with hindsight, Noll made the right decision, because the Steelers improved from being the worst team in the league with a 1-13 record the year before to a 5-9 record in 1970. Only 4 years later, the Steelers won their first of 4 Super Bowl titles in the 1970s. These four championships made the pair the most successful coach and quarterback duo till last season when Brady and Belichick won their fifth title. So, in this case, it helped the coach when deciding who to play to already have Hanratty there as the starter. It provided competition for Bradshaw to improve and a player to compare Bradshaw against for Noll.

However, this isn’t the case for every coach and rookie quarterback. Instead of having a veteran already there some quarterbacks can be thrown into the fire from the start. Now their failure can, I believe, be attributed to many things such as a lack of coaching, contract holdouts, lack of surrounding talent and lack of effort. The primary instance of a team starting a rookie quarterback and it going all down in flames is with #1 all-time draft bust: Ryan Leaf pictured here being drafted in 1998.

In 1998, he was selected number two overall by the Los Angeles Chargers formerly of San Diego. He was the epitome of a disgrace, he constantly didn’t study film, workout or practice with teammates. Reports suggest that he flew to Las Vegas the night he was drafted, partied all night and yawned all through the introductory press conference the next day. Leaf signed the largest rookie contract ever at the time. A 4 year $31.25 million with a guaranteed $11.25 million signing bonus. His stats for his rookie season were: 10 games played, 1,289 yards, 45.3% completion passes, 2 touchdowns, a staggering 15 interceptions and an anaemic QBR of 39. His go-to move was to blame his teammates for his poor play. As you can guess this did not endear him very well to his teammates or fans. This lack of friendship and vulgarity wasn’t new to Leaf; in an interview he did with the San Diego Tribune he said “There was a joke going around campus when I was at Washington State.

It went,”What’s the difference between God and Ryan Leaf?” The punchline was, “God doesn’t think he’s Ryan Leaf.”

Add this to his incomprehensible amount of arrogance, a lack of commitment, a litany of injuries, fickle temper and overall dismal play. All of this has made him the poster child of NFL bust and in my eyes the owner of the worst rookie season by a quarterback ever.

Having watched Watson for his last two games, he has made incredible strides as a quarterback. A normal rookie would be hidden behind a running game, using play-action passes to find open receivers to get him settled in the game. But Watson has been able to find and sense pressure in the pocket, he’s moving defences with his eyes and is making great intermediate throws. Not to make a direct comparison, but both Watson and O’Brien can take advice from Hall of Famer and twice Super Bowl champion John Elway who said about his rookie season “I needed that year it made me a better player rather than sitting it out”. Watson has a strong defence and cast of offensive weapons surrounding him to make his transition into an NFL starter an easier one than most. His swift rise as a quarterback makes this conundrum much easier for O’Brien to stomach especially as he realised his mistake only 30 minutes into the season. As long as Watson plays well, then all of the noise surrounding O’Brien and his decision to start Savage will disappear into the ether. If the Texans fall away then expect it to all explode again but don’t expect this to happen anytime soon. I think Watson is here to stay.

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AFC, American Football, Blog, NFL, NFL UK, Rookies

My award predictions for the 2017 NFL season

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Hello world,

The NFL season kicks off today and I’m more excited than a Browns fan seeing their team win a game. It means that normal, real and important football is within our grasp. We don’t have to wade through any more of these weak, trivial and frankly boring preseason games, but are instead let back sweetly into the world of excitement that is regular season football. So here are my predictions for NFL awards; now last season I got 1 out of 7 correct, let’s hope this year goes a bit better.

MVP – Aaron Rodgers

Last season, Aaron Rodgers had a slower start than a snail trying to ride a bike. It was a poor start that left the Packers at 4-6 which held Rodgers back from the MVP award. His last 6 games of the regular season were incredible, with 16 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. The hardest defence he will face this season is Seattle’s; last year against them he had 246 yards and 3 touchdowns, so expect them and every other defence he faces to fall by the wayside on his way to MVP. This will happen because Aaron Rodgers is the best quarterback in the NFL. Period. As well as that, the cast of players surrounding Rodgers has improved since last season, with Martellus Bennett being the main addition at tight end as well as Ty Montgomery in the backfield because you know what? The NFL needs more stars from position changes. It adds to the “Joie de vive” of the league.  I mean it’s done absolute wonders for Tyrelle Pryor, why not the same for Montgomery? Rodgers will throw over 5,000 yards and for 45 touchdowns cementing his status as one of the best ever when he collects his third MVP trophy next February.

Offensive Player of the Year – David Johnson

David Johnson last season had one of the best seasons ever by a running back till he got injured. He had 1,249 rushing yards and 879 receiving yards, a 15 game span of at least 100 yards from scrimmage which matched Hall of Famer Barry Sanders’ record from 1997. I believe that Johnson will continue this scintillating form into this season, as he looks to only get better and better on an improving Arizona team. On Arizona’s schedule, only the Giants and Texans have any form of a top 10 defence, so expect him to tear up everyone else this season. Johnson this season will push himself into the upper tier of NFL talent, becoming a household name although the Cardinals won’t make the playoffs. He will become the first back with at least 1,000 rushing yards and receiving yards in one season since Marshall Faulk in 1999 (guess what? he’s in the Hall of Fame as well). By doing this he will be propelled to the offensive player of the year this season.

Defensive Player of the Year – J.J Watt

J.J Watt is now injury free, having only played 3 games last season after having had back surgery. I see no reason why this award should be going in any other direction than back to the three-time winner. He is the best defensive player in the NFL till proven otherwise. The Texans have one of the best defensive lines in football, especially with the progression Jadeveon Clowney made without Watt last year. By combining both of them, it will result in Watt showboating through offensive lines for 18 sacks and defensive player of the year. No other player in the NFL causes offensive coordinators as many problems as Watt does. It’s not just his power, technique, speed, size but his versatility and ability to line up anywhere along the defensive line that causes them problems. He is the most destructive defensive player in the league.

Offensive Rookie of the Year – Dalvin Cook

Dalvin Cook will thrive this year, as he becomes the centre piece to a Vikings offence afraid to concede turnovers. He will set a new NFL record for the number of carries for a rookie in a season; such is the paranoia surrounding Sam Bradford with his almost innate ability to throw interceptions. He makes it look easier than tying a shoelace. Cook will show us his talent by managing to win this award despite Minnesota’s leaky offensive line. He will shine with his combination of speed and power, making it easy for Vikings fans to accept the decision to let Adrian Peterson head down to the New Orleans Saints this offseason. Cook will lead all rookie running backs in both yards and touchdowns with 1350 yards and 8 touchdowns. He will just pip Christian McCaffrey to the award, expect big things from this FSU star this season.

Defensive Rookie of the Year – Solomon Thomas

The 6ft 3in, 273lbs defensive end has performed well through training camp and into the preseason. Thomas can show off the skills he showcased during his time at Stanford on a defence that will be making a few heads turn this season. Expect Thomas to cause havoc alongside fellow rookie Reuben Foster. The defensive coordinator for the 49ers, Robert Salah has talked about his defence being “fast, physical [and] everything being about the ball.” For Thomas these are his main skills; it’s his speed and aggression that causes the most problems, the opposition simply doesn’t think a man of his stature can be so dynamic. If you need proof, I insist you go and watch the game between UNC and Stanford last season, Solomon Thomas was the best player on the field by far. Thomas will use this speed to cause mayhem at defensive end, he will land over 13 sacks and garner the defensive rookie of the year. If he wins the award, Thomas will be the first 49ers player to win the award since Patrick Willis did in 2007.

Comeback Player of the Year – Tyrain Mathieu

Now I should be placing JJ Watt here, considering he will win defensive player of the year and is coming back from surgery. But at the NFL awards, they like to spread the love with the winners so I’m predicting that Cardinals safety Tyran Mathieu will win this award. Last season he only played 10 games after sustaining a shoulder injury against the Panthers. With the Cardinals developing and drafting new players, Mathieu will go back to safety. From his preseason play, he is back to 100%, making him one of the top defensive players in the NFL, desperately giving the Cardinals defence some power and aggression. He will have 6 interceptions and 110 tackles to take the award.

Coach of the year – Bill Belichick

This is easy, he is the best coach in the league. So why not have this be the season where the voters remove their cataracts and give him the award. I will predict for him to win this award every year till he retires from coaching.

 

 

 

Super Bowl LI Preview

AFC, American Football, Blog, Championship, NFC, NFL, NFLUK, Playoffs, Postseason, preview, Super Bowl, Super Bowl 51, Uncategorized

Hello World,

It’s Super Bowl week, Atlanta vs New England, Falcons vs Patriots, Quinn vs Belichick and Ryan vs Brady. This is the 7th Super Bowl since 2000 for Belichick and Brady, whereas it is Atlanta’s second ever with their first coming in 1998 where they were dismantled by John Elway and the Broncos. Super Bowl 50 averaged 111.9 million viewers so even more this year, even if Lady Gaga is performing at halftime. Here is my preview for THE game of the year.

The Atlanta Falcons have been an offensive superpower this season. It has been incredible to watch, they have put up over 40 points in 6 different games this season, scoring a mesmeric 540 points tied for the 2000 Rams lead by now Hall of Famer Kurt Warner. Their quarterback, Matt Ryan was 1st team All-Pro and both Offensive Player of the year as well as league MVP. He has been the best quarterback to play every game this season. He has the number one quarterback rating in the league with 83.3, he has the second most touchdowns with 38 and passing yards with 4,944 and the third highest completion percentage with 69.9%. You feel like this type of season has been a long time coming for Ryan who came into the league in 2008 taken with the 3rd overall pick from Boston College. In his first season he lead the Falcons to an 11-5 record winning offensive rookie of the year then in 2012 they got all the way to the NFC Championship game but choked away a 17 point lead against the 49ers, so see him now reach the Super Bowl is reward for not only Atlanta fans but for the neutrals as well.

Ryan has powered the most explosive offensive this season due to the shrewd free agency work of Thomas Dimitroff and Scott Pioli such as Alex Mack at centre (second team All-Pro), Mohammed Sanu and Taylor Gabriel both with 6 touchdowns each this year. As well as the explosion of both Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman the best running back duo in the league with a combined 2,482 yards from scrimmage (rushing and receiving) this year the best in the league. Now by having all of these players it has given Ryan more time and more option to spread the ball around and take the pressure off Julio Jones one of the best wide receivers in the league. He has been incredible this year with another Pro Bowl and first-team All-Pro selection, 1,452 yards and 6 touchdowns. He added another record to his collection with 300 yards receiving in ONE game. That is one game that shows everyone what an extraordinary talent he is.

Atlanta has also benefited hugely from a very successful couple of drafts with rookie players this year such as Deion Jones, Keanu Neil, Austin Hooper and DeVondre Campbell all making significant impacts on both sides of the ball. Linebacker Deion Jones was nominated for Defensive Rookie of the Year with 108 tackles and safety Keanu Neil with 106 tackles as well. Vic Beasley jr seemed like a shadow of his college self in hiss rookie campaign with only 4 sacks but into his second year he has exploded to 15.5 sacks to win the Deacon Jones award and he reached his first All-Pro and Pro Bowl selection. With Ryan’s astounding offensive season it has given Atlanta very fast and big leads in games which have forced the opposing team to completely scrap their running game and be forced to throw on the Falcons. This has allowed them to play much more deep zone coverage as they don’t have to stack the box to stop the run. This has allowed the defence to get to the ball and force turnovers, something they will need in order to beat the Patriots.

The New England Patriots started this season without their starting quarterback Tom Brady and went 3-1 with a shutout of the Texans put in there for good measure. Since Brady returned from his suspension of the first four games of the season for his part in Deflategate. Brady returned in week 5 and the Patriots have only lost one game since this is down to Brady throwing 28 touchdowns to only 2 interceptions for 3,554 yards and owning an 112.2 passer rating. He has been incredible this season especially with the injury to Tight End Rob Gronkowski in the middle of the season eliminating Brady’s only All-Pro receiver. Brady has been unstoppable this year aged 39, he has much better pocket awareness than he did about 4 years ago and his arm doesn’t seem to be wilting like Peyton Manning’s did last season. Like Manning did last year, Brady is hoping to win the Super Bowl and if he does it will put him in my eyes as the greatest quarterback of all time because he will have 5 super bowl rings compared to Montana and Bradshaw’s 4 rings. We know that this is familiar territory for Brady as this is his 7th Super Bowl so you can expect a calm man stepping out onto that field looking for his chance to become immortal in Super Bowl history.

As I mentioned earlier the Falcons have also built their success around their joy in free agency and trades, so have the Patriots with such players as Chris Hogan, Martellus Bennett and Chris Long all becoming major factors for this New England team. The Patriots have statistically the number one ranked defence in the entire league. With such players as Dont’a Hightower, Malcolm Butler and Devin McCourtey providing Belichick with the backbone of a team, with a difficult task in the Super Bowl to stop the plethora of offensive weapons that Atlanta possesses. Now they did this very well against the Steelers in the AFC Championship game, where they double teamed Antonio Brown for large proportions of the game and forced Ben Roethlisberger to let his other receivers like Eli Rogers and Cobi Hamilton try to make a play, which they couldn’t. Now obviously the Patriots were helped out by a Le’Veon Bell injury in the game which limited him to 54 yards rushing. I feel like this Falcons team has too many weapons to enforce the same strategy again so it will be interesting to see how Belichick and defensive coordinator Matt Patrica try to slow down this offensive powerhouse.

In conclusion, I believe that this will be a high-scoring affair in Hoston with each team going over 30 points. But the experience and the combination of Brady and Belichick will find a way to get a win for their 5th super bowl as a duo. Also, bear in mind, the last player to win league MVP and the Super Bowl was Kurt Warner in 1999! As well as that with the Falcons owning the number one scoring offence and the Patriots the number one scoring defence. This has happened 6 times in Super Bowl history and the top-ranked scoring defence has a 5-1 record.

Final Score: Atlanta Falcons 31 – 38 New England Patriots

 

Pro Bowl Snubs

AFC, American Football, Blog, NFC, NFL, NFLUK, Pro Bowl

Hello World,

With the regular season at its denouement, the Pro Bowl squads have been released for the NFC and the AFC. The Pro Bowl is voted for the best players at every position throughout the league. Now obviously they can’t have all your favourite players, so here are my best Pro Bowl snubs. 
The Pro Bowl Squads: http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap3000000760503/article/nfl-announces-2017-pro-bowl-rosters 
Drew Brees/Quarterback/New Orleans Saints – Brees has played out of his skin this year, he still leads the league in passing, on a Saints team that will hit only 8 wins. They haven’t appeared much on Primetime so won’t have been seen by many people. He is making the reach for 5000 yards seem easy and has 35 touchdowns his most since 2013, all with a new receiving core ( Michael Thomas & Willie Snead ) and a tough schedule for the Saints. Brees should have been a shoein for the Pro Bowl.
LeGarrette Blount/Running Back/New England Patriots – Blount has gone largely unnoticed throughout the NFL this year, with his Patriots again commanding most of the NFL Media with Brady and Gronkowski. But at the moment Blount has over 1100 yards on the ground and leads the league in rushing touchdowns with 17. He is just the sort of hard nosed, downhill, north-south runner that very few teams have and all teams want when they are in the playoffs. He’ll cause havoc for opposing teams in January proving he should have got a place in the Pro Bowl. 
Jordy Nelson/Wide Receiver/Green Bay Packers – Jordy Nelson missed the entire of last season with a torn ACL and the Packers offence was stagnant at best. He has returned this season with aplomb, being Aaron Rodgers’ favourite target. His 14 touchdowns lead all receivers in the league, whilst transforming this Green Bay’s offence into its old self with Rodgers back to getting MVP consideration, it just shows how much of a great player he is and that should have made a place in the Pro Bowl. 
Danielle Hunter/Defensive End/Minnesota Vikings – Hunter is in his second season in the NFL. But you wouldn’t know it. He has doubled his sacks so far this season with 12 sacks. He also has 51 tackles, a forced fumble and a safety. Although the Vikings have fallen off a cliff after a 5-0 start to now 7-8. Hunter’s play has been so consistent over both the run and the pass along a stellar defence line with Everson Griffin and Linvel Joseph. Showing he can stand out from the crowd with his excellent ability to crash a pocket and stuff the run, I believe he should be in the Pro Bowl. 

Sean Lee/Outside Linebacker/Dallas Cowboys – Lee has been the lifeblood of this reinvigorated Cowboys defence. Lee has had 55 total stops, the most for any linebacker in the NFL, and has only missed 11 tackles in 143 attempts with 145 to his name. He’s been the leader on the Dallas defence as their captain who sets the tone. Lee might also be in the realm of Comeback Player of the Year, as he tore his ACL and has comeback to imperious form. 

Mid Season All-Pro Team

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Hello World,

We have made to the middle point of the season (Week 8) all too quickly. We have had some nail biting games such as Raiders vs Saints Week  1, Chargers vs Raiders Week  5 and Titans vs Colts Week 2 just to name a few. Narratives have exploded out of nowhere like Minnesota’s crushing defence, Atlanta’s explosive offence and who on earth is Ben McAdoo’s hairdresser, I cringed his haircut every time they panned to him at Wembley.  This is my All-Pro team, for the first half of the season.

QB – Matt Ryan (Atlanta Falcons)

Through all 8 games he leads the league in yards with 2,636, Quarterback Rating 115.8, and what I find astonishing he has 13 plays of 40 yards or more. He has been a revelation in his second year of Kyle Shanahan’s offence mainly down to improvement of the scheme and the main benefit being the emergence of more surrounding talent such as Mohammed Sanu, Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman all become dynamic receiving threats alongside all-pro Julio Jones. This gives Ryan a lot more options and not just throws up to Julio, which is making their offence and his play the best in the league.

RB – Ezekiel Elliot (Dallas Cowboys)

This rookie picked 4th overall by the Cowboys has been a revelation so far this season. Everything seems so easy for him. So far he leads the league in rushing with 799 yards and is averaging 117.2 yards per game. He is patient behind the best offensive line in the league to find the hole, but then he has the burst to explode out the other side a great example of this would be his 85 yards run against Cincinnati in week 6, he hits the secondary and just flies past them all. He has all the traits and the talent around him to keep this going for the rest of the season.

WR – AJ Green (Cincinnati Bengals)

Despite the Bengals record being 3-4-1, it hasn’t been anything to do with Green’s play. He has been torching cornerbacks from the off, with a mesmerising performance to start the season against the Jets where he had 180 yards and 1 touchdown. He has been attracting double teams since his rookie year but this season with the loss of all of Cincinnati’s other weapons e.g. Sanu, Jones, the injury to Eifert and the regression of their running game. He has been practically their only weapon on offence, which is leading to more targets, receptions and yards, giving him a place on this team.

TE – Rob Gronkowski (New England Patriots)

This season without Brady, Gronk was still the go to man in New England, and since Brady’s return in Week 5. Gronk has gone back to doing Gronk like things. He has averaged 118 yards per game and yards per catch with a giant 22 yards. He now owns the most receiving touchdowns by any Patriot in history with 69 and with the way he is playing, New England lookslike the team to be stopped in the AFC.

LT – Tyrone Smith (Dallas Cowboys)

He is the marquee player at this position. Is there anything else I need to say? He is the best at what he does. He play this season has allowed for rookie sensations Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliot to transition so well into the NFL, because of his wide open gapes for Elliot’s running and the clean pocket and lack of pressure on Prescott. He has been part of the best line in football that allows the Cowboys to sit atop of the NFC East, and in prime position to make a deep playoff run.

LG – Kelchi Osemilie (Oakland Raiders)

He like Mack has been a great free agent signing for the Raiders from the Ravens. He backs up his talk “They call me KO for a reason” with his play. This is a man who plays violent and angry on every play, this isn’t that every other Left Guard in the league doesn’t play angry. You just see it with his performances this half, for example, watch his game against the Saints Week 1 where the Raiders nearly doubled the Saints rushing because of the lanes KO was creating. This is a good sign for a promising Oakland team that need his play to stay well.

C – Alex Mack (Atlanta Falcons)

This might have been one of the crudest free agent signings of the off-season. He has provided stability and leadership for an offensive line that has been lacking that for far too long. One of the reasons behind Matt Ryan’s inclusion on this list as well would be that he’s getting a cleaner pocket for longer meaning it’s easier for him to read the coverage and make a completion. That’s all down to Mack & Co, in Georgia buying into Shanahan’s scheme. Due to this Mack is playing the best football of his career.

RG –  Richie Incognito (Buffalo Bills)

He has been a mailing for his time in Miami and the scandal surrounding it and rightly so. But since he has joined the Bills, Incognito has blossomed into one of the best guards in the league. He is a frightening presence on the Buffalo line for opposing players. He is sneakily mobile for a man of his size and stature. The Bills fired their offensive coordinator Greg Roman 2 weeks into the season and since then Anthony Lynn has established The Buffalo ground game as one of the best in the league, his coaching has lead to the resurgence of Incognito & co on the offensive line and Buffalo’s main form of attack this season. If Incognito can keep this form up he could be headed back to the Pro-Bowl.

RT – Jack Conklin (Tennesse Titans)

Here is another rookie to make the list, Conklin was picked 8th overall out of Michigan State by the Titans. So far this se\son he has lived up to thst high pick, he has beenone of the main reasons behind the rejuvinantion of Tennesse’s running game this season with DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry. If he keeps playing the way he has then Tennesse will be rising up in O-Line credentials within the league with Conklin and Lewan at the Tackle Spots.

Here is the defensive side of the team.

DE – Cliff Avril (Seattle Seahawks)

Cliff Avril is a name, not necessarily mentioned as much outside of Seattle as he would like. I find this hard to imagine as he has been in the top 10 of defensive ends in the league for the past few seasons, so far he has 2 tackles and a crazy 7.5 sacks. He is a star lost amongst many others on Seattle’s famous ‘legion of boom’ defence but that doesn’t stop him from making his presence known.

MLB – Zach Brown (Buffalo Bills)

This has been a breakout season for Brown who at the midpoint of the season leads the lead in tackles with 82. He also has 3 forced fumbles, with injuries ravaging Buffalo before the season started with their 1st and 2nd round draft picks going down. Brown has stepped up and gone far and beyond anyone’s expectations for this season. Brown produced one of the performances of the season with a whopping 17 tackle display against the Patriots in Week 4, which saw him named AFC Defensive Player Of The Week for that. It’s performances like this that will make Brown a mainstay in the team for a long time yet.

OLB – Von Miller (Denver Broncos)

He has been an animal coming off the edge this season. He’s kept up his Super Bowl 50 performance; he owns the fastest first step in the league bar none. If you need proof of his amazing play this season just watch his dismantling of the double teams the Tampa Bay Buccaneers placed on him in week 6 as the base of his work. Miller possesses the talent and ability to win games, so often he comes up with sacks or fumbles in the 4th quarter. It doesn’t matter if it’s the first drive or the last drive Miller has been the best at his position so far.

DT – Aaron Donald (Los Angeles Rams)

Donald is a player that comes around very often. He has won defensive rookie of the year and would be up for MVP if he got more of a spotlight on him. He simply just wrecks plays, opponents and the opposing team’s offensive gameplan. At the midpoint of the season, he has 23 tackles, 3 sacks and a forced fumble. That’s down on his numbers from the year before, only because teams have realised what a threat he is and are doing everything they can to slow him down.

CB – Patrick Peterson (Arizona Cardinals)

Peterson this season hasn’t missed a beat. He’s been playing majestically with the lowest QBR rating throwing his way so far this season. I think his best performance was vs the Buccaneers when he held Mike Evans to 3 catches for 17 yards on 12 targets. Despite Arizona’s slow start to the season, he has been a great player and leader for the rest of the defence to try and copy then Arizona will be back where they want to be, deep in the playoffs.

FS – Harrison Smith (Minnesota Vikings)

Smith has been the best free safety in the league so far. No question. He is a dynamic safety who plays close to the line of scrimmage where he can affect the ball with 49 total tackles so far he is showing his worth. Albeit that Smith has failed to intercept the ball so far doesn’t mean he’s not swarming the ball, it’s just other teammates are reaping the rewards from his imposing aura in the back end on receivers.

SS – Malcolm Jenkins (Philadelphia Eagles)

For the 7 games, Jenkins has played he has been at a tremendously high level. He has 31 tackles and 1 INT for a touchdown. That great play came against the Redskins in a loss but it wasn’t for Jenkins lack of trying who had his best came with 6 tackles, a pass defended and that INT for a touchdown. If he and Fletcher Cox up front can lead this Eagles to more success expect wins to be flowing from Philadelphia.

2016 NFL Awards Predictions

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Hello World,

It has been a while but with the start  of the regular season only hours away. Here are my predictions for who will end the season as the individual award winners.

Most Valuable Player

Aaron Rodgers – QB Green Bay Packers

I believe that Rodgers will be back to his electric 2014-MVP-caliber form this season, due to the return of his favorite receiver, Jordy Nelson from an ACL injury that kept him out for all of the last season. Nelson will be back to form in that offence so they can move a healthy Randall Cobb back to the second spot, all whilst having a slimmer, faster and more productive Eddie Lacy in the backfield to keep defences guessing by putting another man in the box. Also, in an under-the-radar free agency move the Packer acquired Jarod Cook from the Rams; he may have been a bit inconsistent in St Loius but then he didn’t have Rodgers throwing him the ball so expect a lot of red zone targets for him.

 

Offensive Player of the Year

Antonio Brown – WR Pittsburgh Steelers

Last season Brown had 1,834 yards, 136 receptions, and 10 touchdowns. That is one of the best seasons in recent memory, so now consider that he did that with Landry Jones and Michael Vick starting 5 games. We know that he is good enough to escape the double teams that he will now face because Martavious Bryant is suspended for the season, it’s just if Ben Roethlisberger can stay healthy for their entire season then his numbers will explode and he might break the 2000 yard mark and 15 TDs, making him a shoe-in for this award.

Defensive Player of the Year

Kahlil Mack – DE Oakland Raiders

Mack had an unbelievable season last year, racking up +15 sacks and becoming the first player to be named All-Pro at 2 positions (DE & OLB). This season, because JJ Watt is having to have back surgery which will keep him out for a while, Mack will take home the sacks title ahead of the likes of Von Miller and Justin Houston. Mack’s younger age and his cleaner injury history make him a more consistent threat every week for at least 2 sacks. If you need any proof of Mack’s talent and threat to take home this award for many years to come, take a look at his highlights from Oakland’s week 14 matchup against the Denver Broncos where he had an astonishing 5 sacks.

Offensive Rookie of the Year

Ezekiel Elliot – RB Dallas Cowboys

With the recent injury to Tony Romo keeping him out for the season, Dallas has placed rookie Dak Prescott as their starter for the season. Now, because he is a rookie and Dallas has one of the league’s best offensive lines at its disposal, they will be running the ball in order to keep Prescott from making as few mistakes as possible. With this increased workload and the pedigree of the talent around him, I believe that Elliot will reach 1200 yards as the shining light of Dallas’s offence.

Defensive Rookie of the Year

Vernon Hargreaves – CB Tampa Bay Buccaneers

With both Eli Apple and Jalen Ramsey being selected ahead of him,  I feel that Hargreaves is in the best system to succeed this season. With Mike Mayock saying when he was drafted “Hargreaves has the best corner feet in the draft I’ve seen in the past 2 or 3 years”. On Tampa’s depth chart he is sharing his cornerback spot with Alteraaun Verner and they will be opposite Brent Grimes, meaning that he will be targeted a lot but Hargreaves, as he has already shown in the preseason, has the ability to have multiple interception games. I think that he will not reach the heights of Marcus Peters last season but 5 Interceptions and 20 passes defended will take it home for this University of Florida product.

Coach of the Year

Bill Belicheck – New England Patriots

He could win this award practically any year but when the Patriots go 2-2 without Tom Brady to start the season and then go 11-3 to finish, taking them back into the playoffs for the 14th time in 16 years, it will be virtually impossible to ignore Belicheck for this award because he seems to do something unprecedented every year whether it’s wins, records or playoff appearances and this season would be no different.

Comeback Player of the Year

Jamaal Charles – RB Kansas City Chiefs

He only played 5 games last season till he tore his ACL  putting him on Injured Reserve for the rest of the season. Charles has come back from ACL injuries before when he then proceeded to rush for over 1500 yards in 2012.  Now I’m not saying he will hit 1500 yards again because he is older and the history of running backs coming off ACL injuries is slightly hot and cold,  but he will top 1200 yards on his way to winning Comeback Player of the Year and getting the Chiefs back into the playoffs.

Breakout Rookie Sensations

AFC, American Football, Fan, NFC, NFL, NFL UK, Rookies, Uncategorized

 

Hello World,

With the combine and draft over and now the free agency period just simmering away, I will be looking at the most promising rookies for the 2016 season. These are the players I feel will be instant contributors to their team and might be reaching the Pro Bowl. Recent examples of this would be Zac Martin for the Cowboys, Tyler Lockett for the Seahawks and Marcus Peters for the Chiefs. This isn’t a ranking for each of these players, just a list.

My first player is Ezekiel Elliott who went 4th overall to the Cowboys from Ohio State. He is in line for a promising rookie season mainly due to the supporting cast around him in Dallas. There has been a long string of failed running backs drafted in the first round recently eg Trent Richardson, David Wilson and Jahvid Best, to name a few, but this to me doesn’t seem like a gamble by Jerry Jones because, during his time at Ohio State, Elliot had total 4410 yards and 44 touchdowns, and was labeled as the best,most complete back to enter the draft since Adrian Peterson. So drafting him with a supporting cast ofTony Romo, Dez Bryant, Jason Witten and the best offensive line in the NFL I believe can only lead to success for Elliot, who can show people that he can break the recent curse of 1st round running backs.

Another player with a promising rookie season ahead of him is Offensive Tackle Laremy Tunsil from Ole Miss, who went 13th overall to the Miami Dolphins. Before the draft and the trades, Tunsil was the best player on many people’s boards. So after the Rams and the Eagles moved up, many people assumed he would go 3rd overall as he was the best player in the draft. But literally minutes before the Draft, a video on Twitter was posted of him smoking marijuana through a gas mask. It went viral, causing his draft stock to crash going from a top 5 pick down to 13.  I feel this will give Tunsil much-needed motivation this season to prove those 12 other teams that they were missing out on a star when they didn’t pick him. He will be working on a line with such notable names as Branden Albert, Jermon Bushrod, and Mike Pouncey, who between them have 7 Pro Bowl appearances, so he will be in good hands to show us all his potential this season.

A defensive rookie I believe will have a breakout season is Defensive Tackle Robert Nkemdiche from Ole Miss. He, like former teammate Tunsil, slid down draft boards, but this was due to an incident where in December 2015, Nkemdiche fell from a 4th-floor window, walked 15 feet and climbed over a wall then fell 15 feet. He was conscious and in a stable condition but the police found marijuana in his room and charged him with drug possession. It was this horror show that caused teams to flee from the 6’3, 296lbs defensive tackle until the Cardinals selected him with the 29th overall pick. He will have a breakout season due to his incredible speed and strength combo with Head Coach Bruce Arians saying “ He was killing people in the walkthrough and I had to slow him down,” “It’s walkthrough and he’s bench-pressing linemen already.” With that in mind, look out for him and Chandler Jones to be causing havoc down in Arizona.

And finally, in order to balance it out, another defensive player to have a breakout rookie season will be Vernon Hargreaves Cornerback who was taken 11th overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from the university of Florida. During his time in Florida, Hargreaves had 10 interceptions, 121 tackles and 17 passes defended. He was named 2x All-American and 3x All-SEC as a Gator, so coming onto a team with only Brent Grimes seen as a starter, Hargreaves will be getting plenty of snaps and seeing a lot of the ball with Grimes on the opposite side. Due to his excellent reading of the game and NFL Draft Analyst Mike Mayock saying “ He’s got the best feet of any cornerback coming out if the draft in the past 2 or 3 years”.  Look out for him to be making plays this season in Tampa.