Long Time Gone: 1 Week And It Is Already Love

I recently made the decision to go ahead and be a professional about my reporting, so I decided to drop $20 for the NFL preseason live season pass. Money well spent. All preseason games in HD streamed to your computer without commercials and halftime shows. The only problem is, you have to wait 24 hours after the game ends to watch it. Which means that in my attempt to cover all the preseason games I have successfully written about two. I have four more on the way. It is a start.

The first, and the funniest, was the Patriots vs. Jaguars game. It was a screamer. If you are a Patriots fan, you will undoubtedly get that warm tingly feeling you always do before you get smacked out of the playoffs. 2007 is a long time ago. Aaron Hernandez can, and probably will go to the Pro Bowl this year. He has the size and the good hands. He also has Tom Brady throwing him the ball, which is why Chad Johnson, that’s right, Chad Johnson, will go to the Pro Bowl too.

The backups for New England are like two mutant children of Tom Brady, with Brian Hoyer having the “don’t throw a pick” mentality and Bradyesque sense of timing in the pocket. Ryan Mallett however, has an arm that puts most Pro bowl quarterbacks to shame. If he can comprehend the Patriots system, he has the physical traits to even outsling Brady.

Steven Ridley. LSU. SEC running backs go through things every Saturday that would make grown men beg for mercy. If you can run in the SEC, you can run in the NFL. It helps that Ridley has good hands. The scary thing about adding a guy like Ridley is that the Patriots have finally acquired the power running game that teams like the Jets and the Steelers live on.

You begin to notice things about the Patriots when you watch their preseason game. You begin to notice how good the system is, how exact the routes are, how their quarterbacks rarely have pockets or plays that break down.

Turning to the Jaguars: if Gabbert is going to survive in the NFL, that offensive line is going to have to hold up. With a third round rookie from Lehigh (Editor Note, I graduated from Lehigh and don’t appreciate this comment) on the line, that may not be possible. There is not that much depth and Gabbert is going to have to live off checkdowns to Mercedes Lewis and Maurice Jones Drew breaking 10 yard runs.

Realistically the Jaguars can go 8-8. The Jaguars have two rookie DB’s, and a lack of superstar talent anywhere. This may be the year that Maurice Jones Drew doesn’t make the Pro Bowl. There seems also to be a lack of discipline and or superstar talent throughout the linebacking core, which is odd considering Jack Del Rio was a star linebacker at USC.

EAGLES vs. RAVENS.: YING YANG TWINS

The Eagles and Ravens are stacked. Each team has 10 Pro Bowlers spread out on both sides of the ball. The Eagles, however, are not quite as substantive as their on paper wealth. Watching these teams matchup is like watching two equally strong men arm wrestle for 60 minutes. The Eagles have the pass. The Ravens have the run. The Ravens have the blitz. The Eagles have the zone.

Philadelphia will run the ball this year. The Eagles will make absurdly long pass plays off the success of the run. The only thing that scares me about the Eagles is their strange move to put their offensive line coach in a new role as the defensive coordinator. Even the announcers were questioning the move. I understand he’s got passion, but it takes years to understand the intricacies of an NFL defense. It’s no surprise that Rex Ryan’s success with the Jets took 10 years of assistant coaching jobs to create a number one defense. Mixing zone corners and man corners, pass rushers and run blockers, is not something that can be done with great success in the first year.

Oh yeah, and Casey Matthews is going to run the defense on the field. That’s right, a rookie linebacker. I understand the Matthews family has some sort of strange Thorlike knowledge and success in football but rookies don’t have the experience to run an NFL defense. The Eagles have the best corner trio in the league, the best D line, but they also have 3 rookie linebackers.

The changing of the guard is finally occuring for the Ravens. The secondary has 1st and 5th round rookies working alongside Ed Reed, who is probably on his last year as a Pro Bowl safety. The linebackers are getting up there and the D line has to live off the big plays of Haloti Ngata. If all goes well, the Ravens will march into the playoffs at 11 and 5.

CARDINALS VS. RAIDERS: WITHOUT HOPE, THERE IS NOTHING

Watching this game was not easy. The Raiders are a shell of their former psychopathic selves, though they have a D line that is respectable (and aging) by Oakland standards. Luckily their linebackers are young enough to make up for the age of the big men up front. Jason Campbell has enough pieces around him to run a balanced attack between Darren McFadden, Darius Heyward Bey and two rookie tight ends.

Apparently Kevin Kolb went out and made a few Pro Bowls, because that’s how people like to treat him nowadays. Big Andy can’t be wrong. No way. That mustache is truth incarnate.

I have a feeling Andy Reid pulled a fast one on Arizona. Kolb will not make the Pro Bowl, and Larry Fitzgerald will be the most underutilized great receiver of the last 10 years. The Cardinals are going to attempt to run the ball but Beanie Wells is not a top 10 running back and he will be out catching passes in the flat more than he will be running off tackle.

If the Cardinals attempt to win the NFC West, they will need big plays from their defense. Sam Acho will have to step up in his rookie year and David Carter will have to give relief to Darnell Dockett and Dan Williams.

I am not a betting man, but if I was, I would say the Cardinals would be lucky if they stole a wildcard slot for the playoffs, because the NFC West has a few teams on the rise. I’m talking to you Sam Bradford. I will not yet speak of Tarvaris Jackson.

The game itself was somewhat balanced, though if they were to meet in the regular season, I would take the Raiders by 10. They are the cool new team to root for. Especially because I never had the opportunity to see Al Davis pre electroshock therapy. Raiders go 9 and 7 and the doldrums set in once again.

BRONCOS VS COWBOYS: REDNECKS, TYCOONS, SKIERS AND HIPPIES

I am an unabashed fan of the Ryan brothers. I will watch them coach peewee football. I will even watch them eat. So will the Ryan defense be successful in Dallas?

Rob Ryan, as could be expected with two weeks of practice, had very little to show in his first preseason game. A Ryan defense takes months to build, experiment with and run properly. It’s the football equivalent of SKUNKWORKS. Luckily, Jerry Jones did not get all hot and bothered by the highly ranked offensive weapons in this year’s draft and gave Ryan a 5th round DB and a 2nd round linebacker. The real trick to this Dallas defense will be the pressure created by Marcus Spears and Jay Ratliff. The Cowboys do not have the corner talent to leave Jenkins and Newman on an island at all times, so Ryan will occasionally have rush two, three or four to keep their corners out of trouble against big time receivers.

The Broncos have somehow become the soap opera of the NFL. People HATE Tim Tebow. Merril Hoge must have been snuffed by Tebow at some point because he is on a mission to destroy any Tebow momentum. Perhaps Orton sent him a check. I always say a quarterback needs two full years in the NFL to be judged, so let’s see where we stand at the end of the season. This was one of the few games that went down to the wire. It had the feel of a rivalry begun anew, but it probably wont be, as the Cowboys seem to have genuine rivalries with the Redskins, Eagles and Giants. There is only so much rivalry hand. The Broncos have no hand.

Pre-Season Review: Two Franchises Trying To Make A Statement

After the shockingly well played game by the Seahawks against the always efficient Chargers , we as fans got spoiled, hoping for some sort of serious showdown between the Chiefs and Buccaneers. It was not to be. Five minutes into the game, you could see that Todd Haley had no concern about how many points his team put up against the youngest team in the NFL. It was a practice.

It was a beatdown, with the Buccaneers showing that age matters not when you’ve got two years of head coaching and quarterback experience in the second hardest division in the NFL. Playing Drew Brees, and Matt Ryan will age you rather quickly.

The Chiefs will live by their defense, with Glenn Dorsey and Tyson Jackson getting a new line-mate in Allen Bailey (1st round), the front 4 will be their source of success, not to mention they have one of the best safeties in the league with Eric Berry, who will scoop up many a rushed throw.

Though I like Dwayne Bowe and Jamaal Charles, I still don’t think they’ve got enough of a supporting cast to get the Chiefs into the playoffs this year. They are in a complete overhaul, with this year’s draft picks spreading all over the field (4 on defense/3 on offense).

Jonathan Baldwin, thankfully, was not picked in the first round by the Jets. He looked decent, but clearly not Julio Jones. Julio Jones, (see my draft article) will make defenses look slow and weak. Oh yes, and remember Mark Ingram? He had a touchdown. The NFC South will be the SEC this year. The NFC East and West will all have their mettle tested in the South.

There are things you don’t get to see in preseason, like the Buccaneers (eventual) starting D line. Gerald Mccoy, Adrian Clayborn, Michael Bennett and Daquan Bowers. That’s serious. That is not fun to run against. That is a nickel and dime package that smothers opposing offenses.

Josh Freeman may in fact become a Pro Bowler in his third year. He is the size of Roethlisberger, as patient as Ryan, and as athletic as Vick. Redskins beat the Steelers? Dolphins beat the Falcons? Ndamukong Suh beheadings? 49ers playing like a CFL team? Shocking, unexpected, and um…..expected.

Thanks Todd Haley for giving cynics ammunition.

Tears Of Joy: Football Is Back (Pre-Season That Is)

It took a few minutes to set in. It was real. It was Monday Night Football, on Thursday….you could hear men breaking down, praising Jesus by the light of the moon.

The battle of the West Coast, the Beach Boys of the South vs The Fisherman of the North, What entails below is a series of brief thoughts, notes, ramblings, and musings on last night’s Seahawks vs. Chargers preseason game.

Philip Rivers is a machine. He will find receivers you’ve never heard of for long periods of time, and then hit Vincent Jackson for 40 yards while slinging it in that horrible to watch, high school throwing motion. It is hideous, but puts up numbers, like watching a Jonas Brothers concert in 3D.

The Seahawks offensive line will come to be one of the top 10 in the league. They will make the Raiders look like a cheap joke. Many people did not understand what Pete Carroll was trying to do in his last two drafts, (except he was very excited) and yet, Russell Okung goes down in the first half. If healthy, this offensive line is half rookies (1st and 3rd round) and half former first round picks (Gallery/Okung). With Tom Cable as the offensive line coach, I have faith this team will be able to run power sets and and play action with great success.

Tarvaris Jackson looks like things have not improved greatly since his days in Minnesota. Call it nerves, call it high expectations, but he never seemed comfortable at all. Give him a preseason under his belt and he will understand that his run game is going to shoulder the load.

Big corners. Big receivers. Pete Carroll is trying to make a mix of Alabama and Wisconsin. There will be no greatest show on turf in Seattle. Keep the opposing quarterback on the bench. Anyone can be beat. Except the Falcons.

Jordan Todman. Attack of the microbacks. Mike Tolbert, Ryan Matthews, San Diego likes small backs and giant receivers. To make up for the loss of Darren Sproles, the backs will need to be checkdown ready. Did anyone notice how stout Mike Tolbert is? He’s going to be a big part of the offense this year, because despite Ryan Matthews first round pick status, he will come to be a wash. Book it. Fresno State is not the gold standard of running backs.

What do the Seahawks have going forward? Two pro bowl running backs, and a pro bowl tight end. three first round DB’s. They will win 8 games, and probably make the playoffs.

Chargers? Best tight end in the league. Two first round D lineman. Takeo Spikes on his last legs. Bob Sanders trying to prove a point.

It was a better game than I expected. On to Friday Night.

NFL Is Back!

I never use exclamation points in articles, as part of my belief that men should never use emoticons or exclamation points when typing or texting…but I have to break that belief because the NFL is back and I, like all of you, couldn’t be more excited.

The reported timeline for the upcoming week is still a bit up in the air, but I will update this post when the finalized version is released. It is expected that teams can begin negotiating with free agents tomorrow, with all contracts becoming official on August 2nd. The Jets are expected to report to camp this Sunday, with their pre-season opener set for August 15th at Houston.

The road to the Super Bowl finally begins…

Top 10 National TV Sports Theme Songs

TOJ would like to welcome our second new writer in as many days, Chris Celletti, who is also featured at SB Nation NY and can be followed on Twitter. Welcome aboard! – JC

For this blogger who cares way too much about the useless things in sports (announcers, uniforms, stadiums, etc.) nothing gets me more amped up than a great TV sports theme song. I thought I’d take the time to rank some of the current (keyword current) National TV sports themes:

1. NFL on CBS

How can I put this ahead of the NFL on Fox theme song? Because I’m a Jet fan, that’s why. No song gets me more pumped up for watching a sporting event on TV than this one, especially when they play it right after kickoff as they’re going over starting lineups and Greg Gumbel runs down the stats for Mark San-CHEZ (I’ll never
understand why anyone pronounces his name this way).

2. NFL on FOX

This song has been around for so long now. I don’t really have any memories tied to it, since every time the Giants trudge through a riveting 13-9 win I’m usually fast asleep by mid-first quarter, yet it belongs up here because of its longevity and popularity.

3. NCAA Basketball on CBS

Definitely a classic; the problem is that it’s just so underused since the college hoops season is so short. Although, for those three weeks in March, there isn’t any other song that gets stuck in your head so easily. Anytime I hear it, (and every now and then I’ll just YouTube it for the hell of it) it brings me back to scratching away at my bracket after getting every 8/9 and 7/10 game wrong – yes, this has happened to me before.

4. NBA on TNT

The NBA always has good TV theme songs. Nothing will ever, ever be as good as the NBA on NBC theme (the absolute hands down best TV sports theme of all time as we’ll get to later), but TNT’s is solid. It is usually followed, unfortunately, by the voice of Ernie Johnson, but it is a classy tune.

5. NBA on ABC/ESPN

There’s actually two versions of this theme, the faster one that they play when opening a show, or the slower one that’s used when going to or coming back from a break. I particularly like the slower one, especially late in the fourth quarter of a playoff game.

6. NHL on NBC

Something very hockey about this one. Just works well with clips of guys smashing into the boards and Alex Ovechkin having a heart attack celebrating a goal in Feburary against the Bruins. But it has a classic sports sound to it, with a pretty recognizable hook.

7. MLB on ESPN

This is basically the Sunday Night Baseball theme song, and it ranks lower because who the hell watches Sunday Night Baseball unless your team is playing? It’s not a bad song by any means and is a classic at this point. Beyond that, since they dumped Joe Morgan, Sunday Night Baseball is definitely a better place.

8. Golf on CBS

This is the perfect golf theme song, and I don’t know why. It sets the tone for Jim Nantz coming on air and painting the scene of a terrible tournament – “Here live from picturesque TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Connecticut, it’s the third round of the Travelers Championship. Steve Marino is leading the way with Nick Watney and Brandt Jobe right on his heels…” – Strap in for three-plus hours of
awesomeness!

9. NHL on Versus

This is the worst damn theme song in the history of American professional sports. Their older one from 2008 was pretty good, but this past year it is just a repeating, awful tune that has zero pump-up factor for a big game. Thank goodness NBC is taking over operations over there – they’ll probably just use their standard
hockey theme.

10. Monday Night Football

Iconic, yes. But also incredibly lame.

Let’s also not forget to pay homage to the gift that John Tesh brought the world, the NBA on NBC theme…Best sports theme of all time.

NFL Free Agent Primer

A quick look around the league at a few intriguing unrestricted free agents at each position, if the 4th year players will be UFAs as expected in the new labor deal —

Quarterback

  • Alex Smith – It sounds like the 49ers will bring him back for another year but the former number one pick should attract some interest.
  • Bruce Gradkowski – Good backup, even though they won’t pursue him, I’d feel much better if he was the Jets number two quarterback than Mark Brunell.
  • Matt Moore – There are rumors the Dolphins could sign him to compete with Chad Henne…yikes.

Running Back

  • Ahmad Bradshaw – It will be interesting to see how much money the Giants will be willing to throw at him. He is an explosive player but has a tough time staying healthy.
  • Ricky Williams/Ronnie Brown – What will the Dolphins backfield look like in 2011?
  • Cedric Benson – Hard to see the Bengals letting him go anywhere, especially since they will likely be starting a rookie quarterback.
  • DeAngelo Williams – A proven big play back who should command a hefty contract on the open market.

Wide Receiver

  • Santonio Holmes/Braylon Edwards/Brad Smith – Mike Tannenbaum just shakes his head.
  • James Jones – Very talented player who could really thrive with a bigger role.
  • Lance Moore – Productive slot receiver with a knack for making big plays.
  • Steve Smith (NYG) – Hard to see the Giants letting him go anywhere.
  • Plaxico Burress – I would guess the Eagles, Rams, or Jets.
  • Randy Moss – Somebody will give him a shot.
  • Sidney Rice – The Vikings will probably give him the money necessary to keep him.
  • Terrell Owens – Still TO…but coming off a very productive season.
  • Steve Breaston – Under the radar a little bit on this FA market but has potential to be a very good number two receiver somewhere.

Tight End

  • Kevin Boss – He had injury issues last year but has been consistently good since becoming a starter.
  • Bo Scaife – Should be able to catch on somewhere outside of Tennessee where he will get more opportunities.
  • Daniel Graham – Good blocking option.

Offensive Line

  • Doug Free – Hard to see Dallas letting him walk after a better than expected year.
  • Jared Gaither – Should be one of the most sought after offensive lineman on the market, as he isn’t expected to re-sign with Baltimore.
  • Jermon Bushrod – He has stated he wants to return to New Orleans but it remains to be seen if the Saints will pay to keep him.

Defensive Line

  • Cullen Jenkins – Brother of Kris…most people don’t expect him back in Green Bay next year.
  • Mathias Kiwanuka – Good pass rushers are always hard to find.
  • Ray Edwards – He isn’t expected back in Minnesota and could provide a solid pass rush to many teams. Cleveland is reportedly very interested in him.

Linebacker

  • Paul Posluszny – He has struggled with injuries but has the potential to be a key part of a young and improving Bills defense.
  • Matt Roth – Don’t be surprised to see the Jets make a run at him.
  • Stephen Tulloch – Had a good year in Tennessee and should be heavily pursued by multiple teams including Detroit and Buffalo.

Secondary

  • Nnamdi Asomugha – He will command a monster contract. Expect the Texans, Redskins, and Eagles all to be in the mix.
  • Antonio Cromartie – Considering how much Rex Ryan loves corners and their defensive system, there is a pretty good chance he will be back despite the high cost.
  • Jonathan Joseph – A quality starter who should get decent money in this market.
  • Carlos Rogers – He could be a good fallback option for the teams who can’t sign Asomugha or Cromartie.

Specials

  • David Akers – The long time Eagle could be testing the market.
  • Ryan Longwell – Another veteran who should find a home somewhere, if not immediately than when training camp starts.

Why Are You Shaking? Continued Coverage Of The NFL Lockout

America needs football. Why? When you are away from football, you start taking up causes that you don’t have the foresight to know are going to ruin you. Like David Tyree, NY Giant headcatcher who recently came out against gay marriage, something that will have him torn apart in almost every NY tabloid from the Daily News to the New York Times.

Then you have Plaxico Burress, who is fresh out of jail and looking like he’s trying to hide his aging body, recently tore apart Tom Coughlin. He may be mean and old, but the guy knows how to win. Oh yes, and then you have LeSean Mccoy, who claimed that Osi Umenyora (who also happens to be suing the NY Giants), is “soft and overrated”. Have fun trying to run the ball next year.

So what news do we have about the Jets. Well…they have been working out…that is good. What I like more is the fact that Darrelle Revis took Kyle Wilson under his wing, probably under pressure from Rex and Mike Tannenbaum, who uttered something like “listen man, we can’t have this blow up in our face…I’m still having nightmares about the Gholston deal”

I also like to see Vladimir Ducasse putting the work in. They’re going to need him at multiple position s,so they probably needed his rookie year to bench him (somewhat demeaning for a second round pick) to see if he was mentally tough enough to make it at either tackle or guard.

Looking at free agency, you can’t assume though, that Plaxico Burress, Randy Moss or Terrell Owens will actually fit in with the system that Brian Schottenheimer runs. Especially because they won’t be the prime receivers. Sometimes the Jets play long, sometimes they play short. The Holmes/Edwards combination is perfect because one is a short burster, and one is a long strider. Edwards on the vertical, and Holmes on the stick. Why change something that is vital to Mark Sanchez’s development when you can just shrug off a few DB’s?

There’s a good chance Holmes and Edwards will take a pay cut if they sign, and Cromartie will get more money than he deserves, but hopefully it is a short term, two year deal in case his head gets too big. Which it will if the Jets ever win a Super Bowl.

What else is there to hope for? The best running game in the league? Greene, McKnight, Powell and Tomlinson? Sounds like all points covered. Greene power running. Tomlinson 3rd down. Powell the Thomas Jones replacement, McKnight the Reggie Bush type to keep the linebackers on their toes.

Is it possible to have rookies unused for 2 years in a row? We all know how useful Kyle Wilson, Joe Mcknight and Vladimir Ducasse were their rookie season. Remember, Buddy Ryan hated rookies, and Rex probably does as well. Too much to learn, especially this year. Good thing is, there are going to be a few rookie players and coaches on the Jets schedule, which will be a whole bunch of fun for all the Jets DB’s, none of whom are rookies.

In other news the Yankees pitching is doomed, the Knicks future is doomed, and the Rangers and Islanders arouse little to no of my interest. I meant to say something nice about soccer but I lost the paper I scribbled it on. Off to the Casey Anthony trial, this stuff is better than Days of Our Lives. God bless Long Island, where you can barely hear the shrieks of madness from the inferno of Manhattan.

TOJ’s 32 Thoughts On 32 Teams

A quick thought on each team in the NFL, as the lockout hopefully nears a conclusion —

New England Patriots – I’ll go with this picture

Miami Dolphins – You aren’t confident in your quarterback if there are rumors of signing Matt Moore to compete with him.

Buffalo Bills – I think they will improve to around a .500 team this season, with a decent collection of young talent on both sides of the ball.

Pittsburgh Steelers – If only Antonio Brown would have dropped that pass on third down..

Baltimore Ravens – I think Jimmy Smith has a good chance to be Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Cincinnati Bengals – Apparently, Carson Palmer doesn’t want to play for them…in case you haven’t heard. I would guess Andy Dalton starts week one.

Cleveland Browns – There whole season is already cursed by having Peyton Hillis end up on the Madden Cover.

Houston Texans – I have an irrational hate for them because of all the hype they receive every year and how they never live up to it.

Tennessee Titans – Somewhere Kenny Britt was just arrested again…

Indiannapolis Colts – 1 reception for 1 yard by Reggie Wayne in the playoffs against the Jets last year.

Jacksonville Jaguars – I wonder if the Blaine Gabbert era will start by week two when they play the Jets?

Oakland Raiders – The division is wide open this year, so maybe they finally get over the hump.

Kansas City Chiefs – There is no way I see them back in the playoffs this year.

San Diego Chargers – If they can stay healthy, they will be handful as usual…looking forward to LaDainian Tomlinson getting a shot at them.

Denver Broncos – You have to start Tebow, right?

Philadelphia Eagles – It sounds like they are going to do some major damage in free agency.

New York Giants – Whoops…

Dallas Cowboys – Can’t wait to see Rex Ryan blitz the hell out of Tony Romo in week one.

Washington Redskins – How much did they pay Albert Haynesworth again?

Green Bay Packers – They have enough young talent to have a great shot at defending the belt.

Chicago Bears – How the hell did this team make it to the NFC Championship Game?

Detriot Lions – For once, they seem to be moving in the right direction.

Minnesota Vikings – Still can’t believe how high they selected Christian Ponder.

Atlanta Falcons – I am not sure if they have a draft pick for another five years…let’s see if Julio Jones is worth it.

Carolina Panthers – Can you blame Steve Smith for wanting to leave town?

New Orleans Saints – Marshawn Lynch is still breaking tackles…

Tampa Bay Bucs – Raheem Morris is the man

San Francisco 49ers – I am going to miss Mike Singletary press conferences.

Seattle Seahawks – Sounds like they aren’t going to bring Matt Hasselbeck back…not sure why.

St. Louis Rams – Ask Will…

Arizona Cardinals – Can we find somebody to throw Larry Fitzgerald the ball?

New York Jets – Look up, down, left and right.