Archive for September, 2013

CFB Week 2 storylines, NFL kick off predictions

Friday, September 6th, 2013

Florida @ Miami
Loucheiz Purifoy (CB, Florida) makes his debut after serving a suspension last week. He divides opinion among the draft community, but very few teams threw at him last year. He’s not a huge Seattle-type corner, but he’s an athlete who can stick. Stephen Morris (QB, Miami) will be trying to avoid Purifoy, but should have a long day against the Gators defense anyway. Some have touted Morris as a possible early pick in 2014. I think there’s next to no chance of that happening. He makes too many basic errors. If I’m going to be proven wrong, let’s see it against Florida.

Oregon @ Virginia
The Ducks got their pre-season game out of the way last week, but this won’t be much of a challenge either. I want to see Colt Lyerla (TE, Oregon) used more often. Despite his obvious physical talent, if he’s going to crack the first round he needs to show basic pass-catching qualities and production. Very few tight ends go in round one these days. Lyerla needs the chance to shine. I’m still trying to work out how De’Anthony Thomas (WR, Oregon) fits into the NFL. Now that he’s eligible, it’s time to really focus on his game. Ifo Ekpre-Olomu (CB, Oregon) is another one to watch. And hey, Marcus Mariota (QB, Oregon) is eligible too, so why not?

South Carolina @ Georgia
Get ready for endless shots of Jadeveon Clowney (DE, South Carolina), constant commentary on every little thing he does and the wreaking stench of over-analysis. If he gets tired again, expect a whole heap of criticism. Clowney’s best football will come in the NFL. It’s inevitable he’ll have an impact here. I wouldn’t want to be Aaron Murray (QB, Georgia), who showed against Clemson he has a very limited NFL future (weak arm, no supreme accuracy to compensate). Damian Swann (CB, Georgia) also had a rough outing against the Tigers and purely for the sake of my ego, hopefully he rebounds after I built him up.

Texas @ BYU
I’m intrigued by this game. Mostly because yet again Texas appears set for a season of flattering to deceive. They do that so well these days. But it’s also a chance to get a first 2013 glimpse of Kyle Van Noy (DE, BYU). He just finds ways to impact a game and I want to compare his athleticism and speed to the athletes playing for the Longhorns. I’ll take a first look at Cody Hoffman (WR, BYU) tomorrow if he’s healthy. It’s also a chance to check on Jackson Jeffcoat (DE, Texas) — a player who kind of defines Texas football in recent years. Amazing upside, but so often disappoints.

Notre Dame @ Michigan
There’s a cluster of talent on defense to watch, such as Louis Nix (DT, Notre Dame) and Stephon Tuitt (DE, Notre Dame). Zack Martin (T, Notre Dame) is also being tipped as a potential first round pick. I want to see how Devin Gardner (QB, Michigan) gets on against a good defense. He looked quite sharp against Central Michigan last week. But is he a capable passer, or is he just another athlete playing quarterback for the Wolverines? My main focus will be Nix, who looks every bit a future NFL nose tackle who can clog up the middle and make plays.

NFL predictions ahead of kick off weekend…

Team that will do better than expected… Cleveland Browns
Cleveland actually has a fair amount of talent, and now they have an excellent coaching staff. Rob Chudzinski was an inspired choice and the fact he added Norv Turner and Ray Horton as coordinators is almost unfair. Brandon Weeden isn’t elite, but he suites Turner’s offensive scheme perfectly. Horton will create pressure. They still need another draft or two to max out their potential, but it wouldn’t surprise me if in a year or so we’re faced with the bizarre prospect of Cleveland and Cincinnati being the two dominant teams in the AFC North.

Team who will struggle more than people expect… Arizona Cardinals
Bruce Arians is a media darling for everything that happened in Indianapolis last year. And that’s fair enough. But let’s not forget two things. 1. He has his quarterbacks throw a ton, perhaps too much. 2. His quarterbacks get hit way too much. In Arizona, he has an ageing Carson Palmer to work with. An ageing Carson Palmer who is going to be destroyed unless Arians pulls off a miracle with that offensive line. The loss of Ray Horton as defensive coordinator will also be felt. And they also play in the toughest division in football. This’ll be a long year.

Break out player
Randall Cobb (WR, Green Bay) — Aaron Rodgers has lost Greg Jennings and Donald Driver, while Jordy Nelson can’t stay healthy. Cobb could become Rodgers’ go-to receiver this season and a star to boot.

Break wind player
Christian Ponder (QB, Minnesota) — He should’ve never been a first round pick, he regularly throws less than 100 yards in a game and consistently holds his team back. The Vikings are an average quarterback away from being a force. It’s just a shame their quarterback is way below average.

Random prediction
Oakland to go 0-16

Khalil Mack (DE, Buffalo) vs Ohio State

Wednesday, September 4th, 2013

Brandon Coleman underwhelming in week one

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

I’m a big fan of Brandon Coleman. Not many 6-6 receivers run with his fluidity and he’s flashed a playmaking quality to break off big runs after the catch.

Having said that, his nine catch, 94 yard and two touchdown performance against Fresno State might be one of the least impressive nine catch, 94 yard and two touchdown performances I’ve seen in a while.

Coleman will be blighted by bad quarterback play at Rutgers. With the greatest respect, Gary Nova is incredibly limited as a passer. Yet there are also instances where Coleman lets down his quarterback. And it’s those instances that’ll hold back his draft stock, no matter how much upside he has.

A good example of Nova’s limitations come at 1:05 in the video above. Coleman pulls off a superb double move on the cornerback, creating separation down the far sideline and opening up a potential big play. Nova throws the ball out of bounds. It was an easy 30-40 yard gain wasted.

On a simple underneath route at 2:06, Nova throws a pass I could’ve completed at the knees of Coleman. You could argue that maybe he should still make this catch and complete an easy first down. But look at the pass. It’s simple. Nova turned a routine completion into a chore. He followed it up with a rotten fade attempt, again to Coleman.

Then at 2:38 it’s almost like the frustrated receiver decides to have some revenge. Nova, for once, throws pretty much on the money downfield on a play action. Coleman has separation. You think it’s going to be a huge gain — possibly a touchdown. And the ball goes straight through his hands. At no point does Coleman locate the ball in the air. It’s ugly. He’s waving his arms around, he knows it’s coming. And before he sees the football it’s bouncing off the turf. You have to make that catch. You just have to.

There’s perhaps an uglier play at 5:27. He’s wide open. It’s in his basket. And he drops it. In fact this play is worse than the jugglers arms earlier. A key first down wasted after good work from the quarterback to keep the play alive. Coleman has to make that catch if he wants to be a first round pick.

He makes up for it at 3:42 with his first touchdown — Coleman does well to get open here and Nova hits him for a simple score. His second touchdown at the end of the game shows good positioning and body control to shield the corner away from the football.

There are other positive highlights — his first reception of the night, the play at 1:27 coming back to the receiver and the difficult grab at 5:13.

But the game ends with a pretty tepid attempt to catch a winning two point conversion. It’s not a great throw from Nova, but it’s catchable. He’s under a lot of pressure, he could get drilled. Yet the game is on the line here. Make the difficult grab, be the hero and have everyone talking about you this week. Instead he fails and it’s a bad defeat for Rutgers at Fresno State in week one.

Coleman is still a tremendous talent with limitless upside but despite the stat line this isn’t a great start. We’ve seen with Stephen Williams this pre-season what a big bodied receiver can do. Make tough downfield grabs, use height to your advantage and snatch the ball away. You can throw it up there and feel confident your guy wins the 50-50. Coleman isn’t doing that and he is making basic errors. Time is on his side, but he needs to improve as the season progresses to max out his potential.

College football week 1 observations

Monday, September 2nd, 2013

Firstly, a note on my current situation. For the last five years I’ve had access in the UK to college football. I was able to watch as many as 6-7 games per week. That has now changed. As things stand I have zero access to college football unless I’m willing to pay an extra monthly sum, which I don’t intend to.

The new broadcaster currently has no plans to feature CBS games like they did in the past. which means no SEC teams/games unless they’re on ESPN/ABC. I’m not paying more money for a weaker service — as a point of principle if nothing else.

Another option is to purchase an expensive ESPN College Pass account. Again, that wouldn’t include the CBS games. And with a baby on the way this month, times are tight in the Staton household.

This is going to create a major challenge going into the 2014 draft. I don’t think we provide the best analysis, or the most accurate. I don’t think I have any kind of great insight or ‘eye for talent’, at least no more so than any other college football fan. But we do work our asses off and have been able to watch a ton of games to form opinions — whether they prove to be informed or not over time.

Thanks to the Draft Breakdown guys, we get a lot of great access to tape on Youtube. They really do a fantastic job and have helped educate thousands of people who all share a passion for the draft. However, it’s impossible to watch multiple players without seeing a game in its entirety. You miss the hidden gem who just catches your eye, or the player that screams ‘Seahawks’ purely due to his physical characteristics. We only get access to the players they painstakingly target for our enjoyment.

So this year is going to be a challenge, no doubt about it. I’d ask you guys to stick with us for now until I can come up with a solution. There are ways to watch certain games (I won’t spell it out) and I managed to catch two, albeit in the worst possible quality, on Saturday. So here’s my thoughts…

Georgia @ Clemson
Here’s a name to watch right off the bat — Vic Beasley (DE, Clemson). He’s listed at 6-3 and 225lbs but on tape he looks bigger than that — more like 245lbs. And he’s lightning fast. Possibly the quickest edge rusher in college football since Bruce Irvin. Beasley had two sacks against the Bulldogs, including one where he just exploded off the ball and rounded the edge like a track athlete. If he can stay healthy, he’s one to put on your radar. Last year he had eight sacks in seven games. He’s off to a great start in 2013. He’s a Seahawks-type prospect. A potential LEO or SAM linebacker type.

Sammy Watkins also had a big game. Last year he lived in the shadow of DeAndre Hopkins (it was supposed to be the other way round) but there’s no doubting who will be Tajh Boyd’s #1 target this year, especially after a disappointing showing by Martavis Bryant. Watkins flashed elite speed on a long touchdown score in the first quarter. After breaking a weak arm tackle, he outran Georgia’s defense for the score. Not many players will do that this year. If his character checks out, the sky’s the limit for Watkins in next years draft.

In the battle of the two quarterbacks — one guy looked like he had a NFL future (Boyd), the other looked like he’d be lucky to get drafted (Aaron Murray). Boyd has the mobility, arm strength, mechanics and improvisation skills to get a lot of teams interested. He wasn’t as sharp in this game as he was against LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, but he’s carved up big yardage and multiple scores against two SEC powerhouses in back-to-back games. There’s no reason why he can’t be a first or second round pick. Murray struggled to have anything like the same impact. He’s physically weaker than Boyd, not the same kind of athlete and isn’t brilliantly accurate. He’s a solid college quarterback but nothing more. I’ve seen enough in three years to feel like he’ll never start at the next level. So unless you’re the type of person who spends big on a backup you never want to start, does he get drafted?

Alabama vs Virginia Tech
This was a great chance for Logan Thomas to show he meant business. Last year was a mess. For me, he took his eye off the ball. Looked too far ahead. His team drifted into mediocrity and he couldn’t drag them out of it. He went from a first round projection to oblivion in the space of a season. I’m not really sure what I think after this game. For starters, Virginia Tech are a million miles behind Alabama when it comes to overall talent. A.J. McCarron has everything — pass protection, an elite receiver, a brilliant running back. What does Thomas have? Nothing. Nada. Zilch.

His first interception was all down to one of the all-time laziest efforts you’ll see by a receiver. There were a few drops. They couldn’t sustain a drive if their lives depended on it. The play calling was a little odd (a Virginia Tech speciality in recent years). And at no point did Alabama come under any pressure. For those reasons I’m willing to give Thomas a pass, even if he wasn’t able to make the kind of statement performance needed to put him back on the draft map. At the same time, even small school quarterbacks in Bama’s patsy games manage better stat lines than Thomas’ paltry 5/26 passing, 59 yards and zero touchdowns. He’s lost some weight and still has the complete skill set teams are looking for. But this wasn’t the start he hoped for.

Elsewhere, VT’s true freshman cornerback Kyle Fuller is a star in the making. I haven’t seen a defensive back cover Amari Cooper as well as Fuller did in this game — and it was his first start. Sensational. Defensive end James Gayle also shone despite failing to trouble the stat sheet. Linebacker Tariq Edwards also had a nice game. A.J. McCarron will get his chance in the NFL but it’s hard to project much more than a third round grade for his skill set. He’s mobile but not exactly what you’d call an athlete. He doesn’t have the big arm and he tends to stare down receivers. But he also has the occasional play that gets you out of your seat. You can see his game tape below.

49ers troll Seahawks, take Chris Harper

Monday, September 2nd, 2013

Carroll & Schneider challenge NFL’s ego-driven mentality

Sunday, September 1st, 2013

Drafting Chris Harper wasn't as dumb as stashing two full backs

Every NFL decision maker has pride and an ego. Pete Carroll and John Schneider are no different. The way they went about cutting their roster yesterday almost suggested otherwise.

Most GM’s in the league won’t cut a fourth round pick after a matter of weeks. Not unless something seriously goes wrong, like they get arrested or regularly turn up late for practise.

Chris Harper did neither of these things. Yet today he’s hoping someone else will give him a shot on an active roster in the National Football League.

Harper was the highest pick in the 2013 draft to get cut on Saturday (Tyler Wilson, taken 11 places earlier, was released by Oakland on Sunday). He had an uneventful camp, with reports suggesting he failed to flash in practise. He was virtually invisible in pre-season until the Raiders game.

He was also trying to master one of the more difficult positions in the sport. A position where traditionally rookies are given time to work on their routes, learn the playbook and hone their technique.

Not Chris Harper. Not unless he makes it to the practise squad.

The Seahawks wasted no time in cutting their fourth round pick. I guarantee virtually every other team in the NFL would’ve stashed Harper on the roster and given him time. Not the Seahawks.

Ego. Pride. That’s why most other teams wouldn’t have quit on a young receiver so quickly.

GM’s and coaches hate to admit they got something wrong. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an interview with a front office executive where they admitted, “Yep — we messed up.”

It just doesn’t happen.

Some players get far too many chances. The higher the pick, the more opportunities you’ll get. Frequently that’s to the detriment of the whole team.

Conventional wisdom says you stand by Harper. I argued many times on this blog that he’d make the 53 and be given the opportunity, like Jaye Howard a year ago, to develop and learn in a ‘red-shirt’ season. Yesterday, both Harper and Howard were ruthlessly cut.

People like me should stop trying to predict Carroll and Schneider. We won’t, because it’s fun to guess. But we should know not to speak with authority or assurance on what they’ll do. The fact is nobody knows. And it’s damn interesting to follow.

The rest of the NFL will no doubt catch on if the Seahawks continue their upward curve. If they succeed in 2013, I wouldn’t want to be a fourth round pick next year.

(well, actually I would because, you know, the cash)

For now most teams will continue to do things the way they’ve always been done. Which is why on Saturday Oakland were carrying four quarterbacks on their 53 man roster and two punters. They aren’t alone. There are multiple franchises today carrying players for the wrong reasons.

It’s why the Tim Ruskell Seahawks held onto two full backs one year and two kickers another. Ruskell probably wasn’t the first and maybe won’t be the last to stash a ‘kicker of the future’ on his roster. A laughable move in hindsight.

If you want another example of ego/pride vs reality, you only have to look at Ruskell’s cutting of Michael Bennett in 2009. He lit up pre-season and made the 53-man roster, only to be waived for Kyle Williams in October during an injury crisis on the offensive line. You can bet anything had he been a draft pick he would’ve stuck around to justify the investment. Because he was merely an UDFA, he was sent packing and quickly signed for Tampa Bay.

The rest is history.

Here’s a list of players who also made it onto Seattle’s 2009 roster but survived the distance:

Mike Teel — a sixth round pick and #3 quarterback who would almost certainly have made the practise squad yet was retained. We’ll never know the reason why. Unless the Seahawks truly believed Teel could be a quarterback for the future and would be snatched up on waivers, maintaining him over a player like Bennett was completely futile.

Justin Griffith and Owen Schmitt — yes, Seattle carried two full backs in 2009. Griffith was a veteran free agent addition familiar with offensive coordinator Greg Knapp and Schmitt a 5th round pick in his second year with the team. Which begs the question, if Schmitt wasn’t ready to start in year two — why was he still on the roster after the addition of Griffith?

Nick Reed — an undersized pass rushing 7th round pick who also had a successful pre-season yet lacked the obvious physical qualities to translate into regular season production. Reed lasted the whole season while Bennett was cut. That’s what being a 7th rounder vs an UDFA will do for you. Although it should’ve never been a Reed vs Bennett battle to survive.

It is mind blowing to think Seattle kept a pointless third quarterback nobody else would’ve wanted and two full backs instead of Michael Bennett. Mind. Blowing.

And it’s the kind of decision the current front office would never make. Not in a million years. Thankfully. Other teams still do stuff like this though.

The weekends events also validate Carroll’s “always compete” mantra. Although certain players will get more time than others (James Carpenter a good example), for the most part anything goes. Which is why Antoine Winfield has retired this weekend and Michael Robinson has been cut.

If you’re going to preach a philosophy, you have to be prepared to back it up. And now the Seahawks have two great examples to do just that — this years aggressive cuts and the decision to start Russell Wilson last season because he was simply the right man for the job.

Whether the Seahawks deliver on all the expectation in 2013 and beyond remains to be seen. This is still a regime with the conviction to follow through with its vision.

Of course, you’re not going to be challenged too often when you find a franchise quarterback in round three, a shutdown corner in round five, an elite pass rusher in the bargain bin and steal Marshawn Lynch away from Buffalo. A lot of other front office personnel haven’t bought enough stock to be able to cut mid round picks after a few weeks. But still…

While cutting a fourth round pick will sting, releasing Chris Harper is still a long way away from the kind of abject decision making witnessed during the Ruskell days.

For that, they should be applauded.