To sit or to start? The conundrum surrounding rookie quarterbacks.

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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Rookies to watch

Hello world long time no see,

It’s been a long time since I last posted due to being in my final year of school and having exams. But mercifully just like Jeff Fisher’s tenure as Head Coach of the Rams they are over which means I can hopefully make these more regular.

Gloriously, the NFL season waits tantalisingly like a star atop a Christmas Tree less than 9 weeks away. The Free Agency period as always provides us with some surprises; whether it’s players moving teams, retiring or even returning! But teams mainly look to the NFL Draft as the best way to improve. I believe that these rookies will be the most exciting to watch in 2017. For depth, I will choose 2 rookies from each of the first 3 rounds on the draft. I hope you enjoy! 

Corey Davis WR – Tennessee Titans


One reason why Corey Davis will be an exciting player this season is because of the quality of the roster he has entered. Davis is the prime candidate to become the Titans WR1. He will be catching passes alongside Eric Decker, Rishard Matthews from Marcus Mariota, as well as blocking for Derrick Henry and DeMarco Murray. The quality of these players will only help Davis as they will allow him to settle into the offence and not be forced to carry it like Atlas and the world. 

He was taken 5th overall from Western Michigan. The 6ft 3, 209lbs wide receiver during his time as a Bronco, became the all time leader in NCAA career receiving yards. This is no mean feat; he averaged 16 yards a catch and scored 52 TDs in 4 seasons. His aggressive style but soft hands will translate well into Offensive Co-Ordinator’s Jeff Robiskie’s offence, giving Mariota the number 1 receiver he needs for the Titans to become contenders. 

Christian McCaffery RB – Carolina Panthers


Christian McCaffery was taken 8th overall by the Panthers due to his astonishing ability as a runner as well as his versitlilty across the field.  He is as versatile a player as Daniel Day Lewis is to acting. This is a player that was 2nd in the Heisman voting in 2015 and holds the NCAA record for all purpose yards with 3,864. He will be exciting as a runner because of his combination of  patience and agility; he will be difficult to stop for opposing defensive co-ordinators. McCafferry’s ability to catch passes out of the backfield, as well as return kicks and punts means that luckily for us we will be seeing this talent a lot more than usual this season.

Teez Tabor CB – Detroit Lions


I thought it was criminal for Tabor to fall to the 2nd round. This is a man with 1st round talent written all over him. The University of Florida Cornerback fell to the 53rd pick for the Detroit Lions. He will be an exciting player this season because he is an aggressive cover corner who walks a thin line between penalties and interceptions. He is a strong open field tackler; at Florida he was twice All-SEC first team. He will bring class to a Detroit secondary that apart from Darius Slay is severely lacking it, making him an exciting player to watch.

Dalvin Cook RB – Minnesota Vikings


Cook was an amazing talent at Florida State; he became their all-time leading rusher and a force to be reckoned with throughout college football. This was shown by his ranking as the best college running back in the draft by both Pro Football Focus and Sports Illustrated. However, off the field issues such as being charged for battery saw him fall into the second round. Now, don’t kid yourself Latavius Murray fans (if you exist?) but Dalvin Cook WILL be the starting running back for the Vikings. With this comes huge expectations as former MVP and Vikings legend Adrian Peterson was their last RB. But he left to join the New Orleans Saints in the offseason, so he has some big shoes to fill. But Cook has already said when talking to CBS Sports “So the only thing you can do is come in and be yourself.” With this humble attitude as well as astonishing talent, Cook will be very exciting to watch. 

Chris Wormley DE – Baltimore Ravens


Wormley was a standout Defensive End at the University of Michigan. He played 4 years, having torn his ACL as a freshman and in 2016 was named First team all-big 10 and Second Team All-American. As he had 39 tackles (9 for loss) and 6 sacks. His character and leadership were surely recognised as he was made a team captain by his fellow players. Despite being a 3rd round pick, going to Baltimore will be good for both Wormley and ourselves. As their combination of a lack of defensive talent but good coaches means we will see him a lot this season, showing us and the Ravens why he was such a star at Michigan.  

Tarrell Bashem OLB – Indianapolis Colts


Bashem was an good talent at Ohio, playing 4 years and racking up a school record 29.5 sacks. He played OLB for Ohio having been taken by the Colts. He will most likely move from a 4-3 defensive end where he played in college to a 3-4 outside linebacker. This transition will be difficult to make especially for a rookie but having veterans such as Akeem Ayers and Barkivious Minho to learn under will help him grow through the season. We will see the 2016 MAC defensive player of the year on the field this season, so expect some big things, perhaps not as many sacks but a strong defensive impact the Colts have been missing for a number of years. 

Hope you have enjoyed! Much love 💚

Mid Season All-Pro Team

 

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.

Breakout Rookie Sensations

 

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.