Covering the Bases: OBJ, Rookie Linemen, EIU QBs, McCloughan’s Mouth, and the Playmaker’s Prediction

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Cover This

When you make video game-like catches it is only fitting that you appear on the cover of the NFL’s most coveted hand-eye coordination product played by the majority of those who still live in mom’s basement.

Odell Beckham Jr. beat out Rob Gronkowski to be the Madden 2016 cover boy.  The Offensive Rookie of the Year, who probably made the most impossible catch ever witnessed in a nationally televised football game, will aim to start this season healthy and with the return of Victor Cruz we could see No. 13 re-write the record books.

Oh yeah I guess we have to mention the Madden Curse.  Most of those guys that were “cursed” happened to be running backs that flamed out after so many carries which happens to plenty of guys that have never been on the box of the popular EA Sports game.  OBJ isn’t going anywhere unless it is further up the ladder of NFL stardom.

Divided Lines

What if tragedy had not taken place and La’el Collins was drafted in the first round?  Brandon Scherff was ranked as the highest lineman on most big boards, but would the Redskins have been more inclined to trade the pick knowing that they could still land either Scherff or Collins with a later selection?  And what about the Giants?  They likely land a better player in Collins as opposed to having to reach for Ereck Flowers.

Instead Collins joins the Dallas Cowboys, a team that already has the best offensive line in football.  Jerry Jones signed this man at a discount price which also adds insult to injury.  Either way you slice it the top three rookie prospects on the offensive line are playing in the NFC East. Of the three who will have the better career?  Collins probably has the best chance to be a Pro Bowl player, not because Scherff and Flowers are necessarily less talented, but more due to the fact of who he is playing alongside with.

Alumni Weekend

If Tom Brady’s four game suspension stands after the appeal process it will mark the first time in NFL history that two quarterbacks from Eastern Illinois University will square off against one another.  Tony Romo and Jimmy Garoppolo are separated by 11 years from their time at their alma matter, but you could make the case that they are already forever linked.  Romo’s success as an undrafted free agent put EIU on the map and gave Garoppolo additional exposure that automatically enhanced his draft status.

Outside of the Panther faithful in Charleston, IL there probably aren’t too many people eager see this match-up which was supposed to be Brady’s first and maybe only appearance at AT&T Stadium.  Saints head coach Sean Payton is the only other EIU quarterback to play in the NFL and that was with the Bears in 1987 as a replacement player during the strike.   Former Redskins, Broncos, and Raiders head coach Mike Shanahan also played under center for the Panthers, but his playing career was cut short due to injury.  Former Minnesota Vikings head coach and current Kansas City Chiefs offensive assistant Brad Childress is also a graduate of the school.

Great Scot!

Redskins general manager Scot McCloughan is pumping some life back into the front office and he is doing so without making outlandish free agent signings attached to bad contracts that Washington was previously known for under Daniel Snyder’s regime.

Yes McCloughan has made some very solid off-season moves, but when I say he is pumping life back into the front office I’m referring to his passion and humor.  Snyder, vilified in the nation’s capital, has about as much personality as a dead fish.  Bruce Allen the former GM and current team president is hardly the man his father George Sr. was who talked more trash about the Dallas Cowboys than any modern day fan when he coached the Skins in the 1970s.

McCloughan attend a Washington Capitals playoff game praising their “out of control” fans.  He’s already comparing draft pick Matt Jones to Beastmode and he was recently quoted saying that outfielder Bryce Harper would make a better safety than cornerback given the fact that he’s white.  With the exception of Jerry Jones what other GMs do this?  I can’t wait to hear what this man says next!  Hopefully this is McCloughan’s normal behavior and not the bottle talking (he’s a recovering alcoholic) because with these type of statements he should be a media darling and a fan favorite if he can turn the tide in DC.

Unlike Mike

We are only halfway through May and already Philly fans are annoyed with Cowboy nation ranting and raving over their high profile rookie acquisitions.  While there is some uncertainty in the City of Brotherly Love as to where the Eagles might finish this year a familiar enemy thinks they will take back the division.

The Playmaker, Michael Irvin, the biggest homer when it comes to his former team, is rolling with Philadelphia to beat out his beloved Cowboys in the NFC East.  The man whose career ended at Veterans Stadium while Eagles fans cheered him being carted off in an ambulance cites the decision by Dallas not to bring back DeMarco Murray leaving him to sign with Philly as the main reason why Big D won’t retain their division crown.

Irvin was very critical of the organization he spent 12 seasons with for not forking over the dough to re-sign the NFL’s leading rusher.  He felt it sent a bad message throughout the locker room that someone went out and performed at the highest level only for the team to think that the performance wasn’t worthy of being rewarded.  Even with the Cowboys offensive line that features three Pro Bowlers, the Playmaker agrees with others that “you can’t just put anybody back there”.

The more I think about it it isn’t that surprising to see Irvin feel this way.  After all he didn’t have a winning season in Dallas until Emmitt Smith was the featured back.  The Cowboys of the 1990s also had a great offensive of line, but in 1993 the games Smith didn’t suit up for because of a holdout or injury they lost.  When he was on the field they won every contest including the Super Bowl confirming Irvin’s reluctance to embrace running back by committee.  If the Cowboys get off to a fast start or Philly stumbles out the gate no one will be shocked if Irvin changes his tune.

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Shady Behavior: What Chip Kelly isn’t doing to take Eagles to a Championship Level

Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly (C) pats running back LeSean McCoy on the back late in the fourth quarter against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver on September 29, 2013.  Denver (4-0) beat Philadelphia (1-3) 52-20 to remain undefeated.     UPI/Gary C. Caskey

No one may be more ahead of the curve when it comes to play innovation and the physical science of athletes than Chip Kelly. Since he has arrived in the league the former University of Oregon coach has shaken things up to say the least much like he did in the world of college football.

Despite making head scratching moves this off-season there are many analysts, fellow coaches, players, and fans that believe in Kelly and his methods.

Of course not everyone shares those same sentiments particularly LeSean “Shady” McCoy, Kelly’s former All-Pro running back who he shipped to Buffalo in March. Last week McCoy made it a point to mention that Kelly got rid of “all the good black players”.

Does McCoy have a point? Is there something more to why Kelly got rid of him and guys like DeSean Jackson who were elite performers? Or is this just McCoy’s bitterness talking? Perhaps animosity as he sees Kelly replacing him as the new face of the franchise?

I will answer the latter first and say there is no doubt that McCoy is upset about leaving Philadelphia. He played his whole football career in the state of Pennsylvania and he was active in the local community.  That being said, I do not think his comments should be easily dismissed as just someone with a bone to pick. There is something very transparent going on in Philadelphia despite Kelly, a very private person to begin with, not wanting to talk about it.  Keep in mind this is the same guy that gave Riley Cooper an extension after his N-word video went viral.

Kelly wants his type of guys on this roster and that is one of the reasons he is purging Andy Reid’s players.  He also has gotten rid of some big contracts to free up cap room and yes he did bring in a lot of new black players.

So what is the issue?  Let’s go back to Kelly bringing in his type of guys.  There is nothing wrong with acquiring personnel that are great locker room guys, who maintain a high level of character on and off the field, that don’t command a lot of attention, and play good sound fundamental football.  Yes you don’t need a team full of players who are flashy, household name superstars that may or may not bring extra or unwanted attention away from the team’s facilities.  But you do need some of those guys.

The great thing about football is that it diffuses culture.  A black kid from the projects in Detroit can catch a pass from a white farm boy that originates from Iowa.  Two totally different walks of life who likely would have never crossed paths if it weren’t for football.  The same goes for fans.  In the stands the only colors you are judged by are the ones you wear to support your team.

The NFC East’s history is a perfect example of coaches who took a chance with players who displayed unorthodox styles or had a rough upbringing and turned it into a success story.  Take Bill Parcells, who had Lawrence Taylor, a trainwreck away from football, but he was able to use LT’s wreckless behavior to his advantage on the field, making him arguably the greatest defensive player to ever step on the gridiron. Currently we see Parcells’ protege, Bill Belichick using this same method of player psychology giving him the ability to bring in NFL stars with baggage and in most cases it has paid big dividends.  How about Jimmy Johnson?  When he was at the University of Miami he took a lot of underprivileged youths whose only chance of getting off the streets was football. Under his tutelage a number of these young men became quality players at the next level.  When Johnson got to that next level he continued to embrace these talented individuals enabling him to taste glory.  Even though Buddy Ryan never got the Eagles to a championship he did build some of the best defenses in NFL history and was one of only two coaches who was playing a black quarterback at the time.  This controversial, stocky white-haired man from Oklahoma was loved by most of his team, especially his black players, some of which who followed him to Arizona when he coached the Cardinals.  10 years after Buddy left Philly they hired another coach and to call him stocky would be an understatement.  Andy Reid, a west coast BYU alum and practicing Mormon, also drafted a black kid from Chicago named Donovan McNabb to be the leader of his franchise.  Although he never won the big one Reid had the Eagles in the conversation almost every year.  Like Ryan, he wasn’t afraid to take chances with personnel and his players adored him.

We can even go back to guys like Tom Landry and Joe Gibbs.  Devout Christian, mild-mannered white men who might not have had a close bond with the guys they coached, however if one of their players was having a problem they would be the first to get them some help.

Kelly has a particular issue accepting players who may still have connections to their troubled roots.  He strongly prefers a reserved, businesslike focus from his guys and has less tolerance for fame and flair.  Most of these players in question are black.  Does this mean Kelly is racist?  It would be unfair to put that label on Kelly considering this current society is still trying to define what racism is in today’s world.  Is it prejudice against skin color?  Culture and religion?  The dialect in which we speak?  The clothes we wear?  How we vote?  Our income and family situations? The way we carry ourselves?  No one really knows because nobody discusses it.  Sure we point and blame and scream and call people out, but we never talk about it in a civil manner.  People often criticize ESPN’s First Take, but at least they have the guts to bring up this controversial topic without slandering each other in the process.

As I alluded to earlier Kelly won’t address this.  By doing so he could squash this notion and make a positive statement that could resonate with his team, the rest of the league, and maybe even beyond that.  Why doesn’t he?

Football is a game of emotions.  It is a game of expression.  You can come up with all the formations in the world, but it can’t account for the intangibles that these athletes posses needed to take a team over the top.

I’m not saying Kelly can’t evolve on this matter, but he better do it quickly.  His radical moves have built very lofty expectations in Philadelphia. Last year his team had a 9-3 record only to finish 10-6 and miss the playoffs.  Is Kelly the type of coach a team can rally around in the face of adversity?  We have yet to see it.

Kelly will eventually come to the realization that he will have to take a risk on a player that doesn’t fit his current mold in order to win a Super Bowl.  The real question is when he finally does will it be too late?

Brady, Shady and a Big Bargin in Big D

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Inflated Chances

Deflate Gate is alive and well.  The release of the Wells Report has revived this thought to have been dead story claiming Tom Brady likely had prior knowledge about the under-inflated footballs used in last year’s AFC title game.  There is now even talk of Brady being suspended.  If that were the case it could have a positive impact on NFC East teams pending the length of the suspension.

Personally I’m tired of the outcry on this issue.  Brady may or may not have known about the air pressure in some footballs, yet people are acting like the man set an orphanage on fire.  It’s ridiculous!  That being said this could potentially be big for Dallas if it is a four game suspension as they wouldn’t have to face Brady for their October match-up with the Patriots.  If it’s an eight game suspension Washington would avoid facing No. 12 as well.  As for the Giants and Eagles?  They need to hope for a Sean Payton type suspension.  They have the Pats Week 10 and Week 13 respectively.

Reduced Rookies

Last week the Cowboys made headlines by drafting talented, but troubled defensive end Randy Gregory.  They landed him at pick No. 60 which many experts dubbed easily the “biggest steal of the draft”.  Less than a week later Dallas may have made an even bigger one.

La’El Collins, arguably the best offensive lineman entering the draft, had to leave Chicago prior to the event due to the murder of his ex-girlfriend.  Collins was never believed to be a suspect, however given what transpired with Aaron Hernandez no team wanted to touch him and he went undrafted.

He was questioned by authorities and once it became clear Collins had nothing to do with the tragic incident he instantly became the most coveted rookie free agent.  His decision to take Jerry Jones’ offer means that the Cowboys basically got three first-rounders and out of the three the two most talented ones came at a huge discount.

A Chip on his Shoulder

LeSean “Shady” McCoy was the face of the franchise for the Philadelphia Eagles so it came as a shock to many when he was traded to Buffalo in March.  It’s no secret that there is no love loss between McCoy and Chip Kelly, however the comments made recently by McCoy regarding his former head coach raises a new issue.

McCoy claimed that Kelly wants “full control” which is no secret, but he also emphasized that Kelly got rid of “all the good black players”.  So does the man they call Shady have a legit argument or is it just a case of him having bitter ax to grind?

Yes Kelly did sign and draft other black players, but he also gave an extension to mediocre receiver Riley Cooper last season who a year earlier was recorded dropping an N-bomb.  Philly’s best receiver DeSean Jackson was let go the same off-season that Cooper signed his deal.

Kelly has yet to address McCoy’s comments.  Are they worth acknowledging?  Stay tuned as I’ll have more to say when it comes to Shady’s feelings towards Kelly.  Circle your calendars for December 13th when the Eagles host the Bills.

NFC EAST TEAMS MAKE NOISE FOR HEADLINE SELECTIONS AND MISSED OPPORTUNITIES


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Another NFL draft has concluded.  While grades were posted immediately after the card for Mr. Irrelevant was handed in, a draft truly can’t be evaluated until 2-3 years later when we really find out whether these former college stars will sink or swim in this league.

Here is a quick look at some of the big takeaways from this weekend.

A New Scherff in D.C.

A lot of people were surprised that the Washington Redskins went with Iowa’s Brandon Scherff with the No. 5 overall pick.  Leonard Williams was still on the board and while he might not be the best fit Washington’s 3-4 scheme, it could have been a good trade opportunity with another team.

In retrospect this pick looks great.  The Skins have added a guy to their roster that can play multiple positions on the offensive line.  This move also says a lot about Scot McCloughan’s philosophy when it comes to team building.  When he was with San Francisco and Seattle he was part of front offices that put heavy emphasis on putting together powerful offensive and defensive lines.  McCloughan addressed much of the needs on the defensive line via free agency this off-season.  His selection of Scherff confirms his commitment to upgrading the big boys on the other side of the ball.

Byron Jones Gives Cowboys Breathing Room with Uncertainty at Corner

Even though Dallas has three potential starters at corner under contract the reality is a lot different than it is on paper.  It is still unknown if Brandon Carr will take a pay cut and if he won’t his days in Big D might be numbered.  Morris Claiborne (in the last year of his rookie deal) is coming back from injury and his play thus far for his career has been nothing short of disappointing considering where the Cowboys traded up to get him in the 2012 draft.  The Cowboys best corner Orlando Scandrick, is scheduled to make chump change this season and has chosen to skip team voluntary workouts displaying his displeasure when it comes to his earnings.

Combine workout wonder Byron Jones could be a big sigh of relief for the front office and coaching staff.  The consensus is Dallas made a solid selection with the No. 27 overall pick which could light a fire under the veteran corners with contract quandaries.  The former UConn Husky’s  unique athleticism also gives him the ability to play safety as well.

Oh Yeah that Randy Gregory Guy 

Randy Gregory became a household name Friday night not because where he was drafted, but because of where he wasn’t drafted.  Gregory’s bad timing of off the field issues took a huge toll on his draft status.  The likely otherwise top 10 selection dropped to No. 60 overall when Dallas scooped him up.

The Cowboys got a gift and a lot of fans on social media were stunned that he wasn’t taken any earlier in second round.  Gregory was a ferocious pass rusher at Nebraska, but fans and spectators need to be patient because this product still needs some polishing.  Gregory is 6’6″, but only weighs 235 lbs.  That is 20 lbs below the league’s average defensive end.  This kid probably needs a little time to really grow into his body.  He did put up 24 reps on the bench press at the combine and when you consider his long arms and low weight that is pretty impressive.  Can you imagine the power gains he could accumulate if he is able to bulk up?

Running Back Not Selected by Cowboys Despite Deep Class

Jerry Jones said running back wasn’t a “must” for the Cowboys heading into the draft.  He wasn’t bluffing as Dallas did not feel it was a huge area of concern despite losing the league’s leading rusher DeMarco Murray via free agency to the rival Eagles.

There are a couple of theories as to why the Boys did not draft a running back.  For one it could be they like the running backs they have.  Even if they don’t have one that can be the workhorse Murray was they have guys that do different things well and possibly think they can replace the production with multiple backs instead of finding a Murray clone.  The second reason being is that the Cowboys are truly sticking to their draft board and found more pressing needs with offensive line depth and defense.  Many of the players selected on Saturday they will likely count on to improve their special teams units which played below expectations last season.

No Mariota for Philly

It’s no secret that Chip Kelly wanted Marcus Mariota so bad he would have almost traded the Liberty Bell for him.  Keyword “almost”.  Kelly offered a lot, but at the end of the day he stuck to his word saying he would not mortgage the organization’s future which is what the Titans wanted him to do for that No. 2 pick.

Many names of veteran players were rumored to be part of a possible trade package in order to acquire Mariota.  With these players staying on the roster it makes one wonder if there will be any kind of repercussions for this?  Perhaps a rift between Kelly and these guys?  The mysteries of Chip Kelly’s master plan continue.

Finally a Receiver for the Birds

DeSean Jackson was let go and Jeremy Maclin opted for Kansas City meaning the Eagles lost two Pro Bowl receivers in back to back years.  Chip Kelly has taken some criticism for letting so much production walk out the door with no sense of urgency for a suitable replacement.

Unable to land Mariota, Eagle fans got an answer at wide out with the selection of Nelson Agholor.  Agholor was the fourth receiver in selected in the first round Thursday night.  He might not have the superstar potential that the three taken before him do, but he could turn out to be a solid No. 1 receiver for years to come in a system in which Jackson, Maclin, and Riley Cooper all experienced career highs in receiving yards.

Kelly Stocking the Pantry for Defense

We’ve seen offensive minded head coaches, especially those with strong philosophies (or big egos) invest heavy on that particular side of the ball.  After selecting USC’s Nelson Agholor, the remaining five of the Eagles draft picks all were used on defensive players.  As crazy as we think that mad offensive scientist of a coach Chip Kelly might be, at least he is not ignoring the defense in his new role as GM.  Kelly knows he can’t afford to have his defense give up the plays they did last season down the stretch that cost them a playoff spot.

Giants Had No Choice but to Reach for Flowers

When the Giants drafted University Miami OT Ereck Flowers with the ninth overall pick many experts considered it somewhat of a desperation move.  Well it was.  But can you blame them?  The Giants offensive line was putrid last year and former first round selection Justin Pugh has yet to live up to where he was selected a couple years ago.

Flowers has all the tools to be a very good tackle in this league.  If he his coachable at the next level then he could very well be worthy of his selection after all.  His presence may also give the Giants the luxury of moving Pugh inside to guard.  Is Flowers the next Tyron Smith or Alex Barron?  Bet that he’ll never be as good as Smith, but never as bad as Barron.  If he can at least be an adequate starter in his rookie season the Giants will be satisfied.

G-Men’s Day 2 Picks Already Reminiscent of Championship Stars

When the Giants did not re-sign two-time All-Pro safety Antrel Rolle it made an already suspect secondary that much weaker.  The Giants took an aggressive approach in finding Rolle’s replacement by trading up to the first spot of the second round to grab Landon Collins.  Collins is the same height as Rolle and unlike other Alabama safeties he’s got incredible ball instincts.  Collins also outweighs Rolle by about 20 lbs which means he has the potential to be a much more physical player that can be an immediate impact starter.

Collins isn’t the only Giants draft pick drawing similarities to a former Big Blue All-Pro.  UCLA’s Owamagbe Odighizuwa name may be harder to pronounce than Osi Umenyiora, but he is already being compared to Justin Tuck who was also a third round selection.  Like Tuck, Odighizuwa also has the size to play both defensive end and defensive tackle.  Steve Spagnuolo, who was the defensive coordinator during Tuck’s best seasons, is back with the Giants in the same role.  Think he didn’t have any influence on that pick?