Friday, September 14, 2012

NFL Picks Week 2

Missed getting the pick in for Bears Packers, thought it was a toss up, but the Packers really embarassed that overhyped Chicago offense.  The Bears have had offensive line problems since 2007. Some things don't change.

Kansas City at Buffalo: Two teams that got embarassed last week. I think Buffalo is just as bad as they looked last week and Kansas City will pound the ball at them at knock Fitzpatrick around.

Kansas City 34-28

Cleveland at Cincinnati: Conventional wisdom says the Bengals destroy the inept Browns.  But, the Browns have a pesky defense that people ignore because their offense is a joke.  Bengals win this, but its closer than you think.

Bengals: 21-17

Vikings at Colts: These teams suck. Expect a lot of points though as neither team could shut down a Big Sky conference offense. Luck will have a big day, but so will Peterson, Ponder and the gang.

Vikings 38-31

Oakland at Miami: Miami at home in September used to mean something. Oakland was a competent backup long snapper away from winning last week and the Marlins have their own park, which means no infield dirt in Miami this year.  Oh, and Tannehill sucks.

Oakland 28-10

Arizona at New England: I anticipate the Cardinals making this a low scoring affair for a quarter and a half.  Then Brady figures out the blitz heavy Cards defense and makes it into a laugher.

Patriots 31-10

Tampa Bay at New York Giants: The Giants have sat around for a whole week listening to everyone tell them they suck.  A normal Super Bowl champ would come out and destroy a middling Tampa Bay team by four touchdowns.  But the Giants never follow logic anyway.

Tampa Bay 24-21

Baltimore at Philadelphia: Vick threw four picks to the Browns, the Ravens looked damn near unbeatable against the Bengals.  I think Philly moves the ball a little, but the turnover festival continues, and Baltimore's offense continues to roll on.

Ravens 34-24

New Orleans at Carolina: I feel like this year is a massive reality check for Cam Newton and I can't imagine the Saints play much worse defensively than they did last week.

Saints 28-20

Houston at Jacksonville: Blaine Gabbert against the Texans defense? Yikes, this could get ugly.

Houston 23-7

Dallas at Seattle: The Cowboys defense is almost exactly like the Cardinals defense, but more aggressive and more talented. The Seahawks swinging gate blocking scheme resulted in Russell Wilson to run for his life. The Seahawks struggle with quick receivers that explode out of cuts.  The Cowboys receivers do exactly that. The Seahawks are playing at home, disregard all previous statements.  Calling homerism on this one.

Seahawks 17-16

Jets at Steelers: The Jets aren't as good as they looked and the Steelers aren't as bad as they looked.  Reality check time for the heartless Jets and the quarterback melodrama heats up after a week off.

Steelers 31-14

Detroit at San Francisco: I think Detroit actually moves the ball a little bit against the 49ers.  This should be a good game, but I'd take Harbaugh after Schwarz any day.

49ers 24-21

Denver at Atlanta: This is where Atlanta looks really good again and everyone talks about them being one of the best in the NFC, then the rest of the season happens.

Atlanta 38-28

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Reflections On Another Opening Day Defeat

I don't like how it seems the Seahawks offense is getting out-everythinged in the first half of games.

Russell Wilson was average at best, he's got a lot of the same problems short quarterbacks have.  The receivers needed to make plays, but he needed to get the ball in places where its easier to make those plays.

JR Sweezy starting at RG was a collossal mistake. Darnell Dockett took his lunch, knocked him on his ass and pissed in his face, the entire game.

This offense goes how the offensive line goes, and Sunday, that was nowhere.

Disappointed in the pass rush in the first half and in that last drive by Kolb. The game winning drive was embarassing, after all this talk about the defense taking the "leap", that happens. Disgusting.

Marshawn Lynch did a hell of a job, especially considering he was playing injured.

Russell Okung might be the worst September offensive tackle in the NFL, good thing the month ends.

The playcalling wasn't as bad as everyone says it is, the execution was terrible. It wasn't great, but it wasn't terrible.

Leon Washington kept the Hawks in the game.

I'd love it if we could bring it for 60 minutes, not 30. 

Lastly, the Dallas Cowboys have to be drooling, especially looking at the Seahawks offense.  But, strange things happen to visitors in Seattle.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Wednesday NFL Pick

Giants (-4) vs Cowboys:  Since the NFL started this midweek opener for the Super Bowl Champions, the champion has never lost.  And I think the NFL prefers it that way.  The game is both a celebration of the start of the NFL regular season, and a coronation of last years champions.  I think the Cowboys are going to get thumped by the Giants again.  The Cowboys will blitz, a lot, and may even get to Eli a little bit, but they were give up big plays downfield and maybe even some big plays in the running game.  Romo will most likely be without his most trusted pass catcher in Jason Witten, and the Dallas offensive line seems like its in a state of flux once again.  This game won't be very competitive, but its football, so I'm not complaining.

Giants win 28-13

Friday, August 31, 2012

College Football Predictions for the weekend

Tennessee(-3.5) vs NC State: NC State is a consistently pesky bunch and the Fighting Dooley's are stumbling into their opener.  The Vols recently lost one of their stud receivers and I think even the Tennessee faithful know that this season is Dooley's death rattle.  They've got the wrong team favored.

NC State wins 24-17

Michigan State(-7.5) over Boise State: This feels like Vegas is giving old Sparty too much credit.  Boise State is totally reloading and rebuilding but this still smacks of a game where they are in it till the end, or its like that Georgia game from seven or eight years ago when it seemed like they lost by 600. I think MSU wins a close one.

Michigan State wins 31-27

Stanford (-24) vs San Jose State:  The last three times Stanford has made the Rose Bowl they've lost to San Jose State. I don't think Stanford's making the Rose Bowl this year.

Stanford wins 49-17

California(-11.5) vs Nevada: This seems like a game where Cal blows the doors off Nevada and everyone drools over them for a couple weeks. Or they piss the goodwill of being back in their own stadium away with a patented Cal performance where they are clueless how to stop the Pistol.

California wins 35-17

Clemson (-3) vs Auburn: I don't think much of either head coach in this one.  Clemson has a new defensive coordinator who will try to shore up a defense that got lit up by WV in the Orange.  Auburn is trying to run a pro style offense with spread option players. I think Auburn is going to struggle a bit this year and Clemson might run away with this thing.

Clemson wins 41-31

USC(-42) vs Hawaii:  USC is going to look damn near invincible, because thats what Hawaii does for big time teams.

USC wins 63-20

Alabama (-13.5) vs Michigan: The big game of opening weekend has a big spread.  A mobile qb always causes a young defense problems. Denard Robinson should have a big game, but you don't undo the damage Rich Rod did to the lines at Michigan in one year. Alabama is going to win the war in the trenches, and win the game. Should be a good one though.

Alabama wins 28-20

Washington (-14.5) vs San Diego State: SDSU is hell to prepare for, plays a crazy aggressive defensive scheme, and should be a tough opponent.  UW has struggled in openers under Sarkisian, he's 1-2 with his lone win last year against Eastern Washington in a tight one. SDSU will get their share of sacks, and maybe a couple picks, but UW will get a host of big plays.  I think the UW defense might actually do OK without Nick Holt prancing around the sidelines.  Very interested to see how this game turns out.  Don't like the fact that its a late night game, I'm a firm believer that all UW home games should be played during the day.

Washington wins 35-20

Arizona (-11) vs Toledo: The Rich Rod era kicks off at Arizona with middling Toledo.  This might be the one Pac12 game I will make no effort to watch.
Arizona wins 30-24

Oregon (-37) vs Arkansas State: This has massive blowout written all over it.  The fact that Oregon is starting a freshmen at qb will mean little.  I predict offense, defense and special teams score touchdowns for Oregon.

Oregon wins 63-7

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

College Football Predictions For Thursday August 30

College football season starts tomorrow.  Which, in my opinion, is the beginning of the best four months of the year.  Every week I will make college and pro predictions.  I will pick all the NFL games, all the Pac 12 games, and the national games I care about. 

Here are the Thursday picks:

South Carolina (-6.5) vs Vanderbilt: I like Vandy's coach, but I love Steve Spurrier.  South Carolina always seems to dominate these opening weekend games.  They have a dominating defense, a powerful running game, and just enough in the passing game.  I think Vandy has the ability to hang in this game, and they will, for a half, but South Carolina will wear them down

South Carolina  31-10

UCLA (-16.5) vs Rice:  Thursday kicks off the Jim Mora era.  If you read my UCLA preview, I'm not a big Jim Mora fan.  But, I'm a lesser fan of Rice.  I think UCLA wins this game on talent alone.

UCLA 34-17

BYU (-12) vs Washington State: Mike Leach takes over after the embarassing Paul Wulff era and in his first game faces his alma mater.  There are certain rules to football, one of them is that BYU is always tough in openers, especially at home.  This will be a reasonably competitive game, but Mike Leach's offense is all about repitition and timing, and I think there will still be some kinks in the Air Raid tomorrow night.  WSU's defense lacks depth and talent in the front seven, Travis Long aside.  I anticipate BYU pounding the ball all night, keeping WSU's offense off the field and wearing down WSU in the fourth quarter.

BYU 31-21

Weekend picks coming Friday.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Preseason Seahawks Thoughts

First, a qualifier, I didn't watch the entire game on Saturday night, in fact, I watched a quarter and a half on a replay. While people were watching it live, drawing insane assumptions, I was having a delightful time at a wedding.  As a fan, preseason is largely useless, which is contrary to the fact that we anoint ourselves experts, prognosticate on who should be cut, and who shouldn't be cut, over analyze every performance and basically lose sight of any logic at all. 

Preseason is entertaining because its football dammit, and the longest offseason in pro sports mercifully comes to an end.  It also gives fans an opportunity to see the new draft picks and free agents. Other than that, you can't weigh anything that happens too much.  With that disclaimer, a few observations from the preseason game and the practice I attended last week.

I like the look of the offensive line, and by that I mean the starters. Cohesion in a zone blocking scheme is not expected out of five backup linemen. But I liked the aggressiveness and the preciseness at the point of attack by the offensive line.  I love the way they practice as well, fast paced and intense.
Matt Flynn looked much better in the game than he did in practice.  Criticism of his game performance is rooted in the love for the sexy, less polished, more athletic backup.  I think Russell Wilson will turn out better than Seneca did, but at this point, Flynn is the better quarterback.  Will this always be the case? Who knows? But it is right now.

As I argued when the Seahawks signed him, the Seahawks don't need a dual threat quarterback to win this year. They need a steady, accurate quarterback that runs the offense with good tempo and gets them in the right plays.

Bruce Irvin looked real small.

Still not sold on the new uniforms, they certainly are unique though. 

Deon Butler was a trainwreck in the practice I was at, but, given a lot of reps on Saturday, really showed an ability he didn't show in practice, the ability to catch the football.

The defense looked good and continued to make big plays. The pass rush wasn't there, but there were virtually no stunts/blitzes ect, it is what it is. Both teams ran their base stuff, offensively and defensively.
Last year I wasn't a huge fan of Darrell Bevell's offense, it seemed imprecise, which, I absolutely loathe(See:Greg Knapp). Now I realize that was more of a function of Tavaris Jackson than anything.  He was slow in and out of the huddle, didn't have a great rhythm to anything he did, and never really threw timing routes with well...timing.  Flynn had a great tempo, can't understate how much I enjoyed that.  I am fanatical about that, get the play called, get up to the line, make the sight adjustments and go.

Thats all for now.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Top Pac=12 Teams Since 1990: 5-1

5. 2010 Oregon Ducks: When inevitably, defenses catch up with the spread option and it isn't the lethal damn near unstoppable with the right talent offense it is now, historians will point to 2010 as the year the spread option, an offense born due to a fumbled snap at a small college fifteen years ago, ruled college football.  Although Oregon lost to another spread option team in Auburn in the National Championship game, I believe that Oregon's offense in 2010 was the perfect version of this offense. 

In order for the spread offense to reach its true, lethal power, you need a quarterback that understands the system(Darren Thomas), a scatback who can make cuts on a dime(Lamichael James) a deep threat on the outside(D.J. Davis) and most importantly, a fast slot receiver with toughness and great hands(Jeff Maehl).  The perfect example of Maehl's worth to this squad was in the primetime tilt against USC.  Monte Kiffin had a good idea, make Darren Thomas read the linebacker or even bring up the safety on the zone read instead of the defensive end.  In theory, the defensive end crashes, the qb keeps the ball, and a linebacker peels around the line and clobbers the quarterback.  Chip Kelly recognized this, realized that with the linebacker or safety moving up, the seam was wide open, and he had a player that could get to the open space quickly, and hold onto the ball when. 8 catches, 135 yards and 3 touchdowns later, Oregon had defeated probably the best schematic counter to the spread option for teams who didn't have an SEC defensive line.
Oregon wore down their opponents in the second half, obliterated a great Stanford team and were only challenged by Cal in one of their "Hey, let's try tonight" games.  They lost to an Auburn team that firmly held the "team of destiny" label the entire season on a questionable call.  Their defense, coached by the unheralded genius Nick Aliotti, was solid and surprising physical for their stature.  Oregon may very well have a team better than this one in a few seasons, but as it stands, this was the greatest team to ever where the arbitrary almagamation of colors that comprises Oregon's uniforms.

No 4. 2008 USC: People forget about this squad because of their third consecutive midseason hiccup against a mediocre team, but I think this is the finest USC defense Pete Carroll ever assembled.  They gave up 10 or more points in just 5 of their 13 games, had three shutouts, and had every one of their linebackers drafted in the 2009 NFL Draft.  The offense, although lacking the firepower of the 04-05 squads, was still solid. But, despite their statistical dominance, the one time they needed their quarterback to lead them back, literally the only game they faced a late deficit all season, he folded like a cheap suit, I speak, of course, of Mark Sanchez.  This was Pete Carroll's last monster squad at USC, and although they are largely forgotten in the big picture, they were one bad half against Oregon State from going undefeated.

No.3 2005 USC: Without a doubt, the most talented, explosive, unstoppable offense I've seen in the offensively powerful Pac 10. They scored 50+ points three weeks in a row, over 60 three times and hit 70 once. They buoyed a mediocre defense(which ultimately was their downfall against Texas) and massacred literally every defense they played against. Their lowest point total was against Notre Dame, a pedestrian 34 points.  Matt Leinart played as if he had been running the offense for a decade.  The offensive line opened holes literally every time they needed it(except for one), and Lendale White and Reggie Bush may have been the most lethal running combination in recent college football history.  Dwayne Jarrett and Steve Smith were brilliant.  They played in three epic, classic football games. The "Bush Push" against Notre Dame, the 50-42 game against Fresno State where Reggie Bush essentially won the Heisman, and losing to Texas in what has held up as one of the greatest college football games ever played. If the defense was half as good as the offense, this would have been the greatest team ever.

No. 2: 2004 USC: Just a solid, tough, dominating football who capped off their season by obliterating an Oklahoma team that had been hardly tested the entire season. This was back when Bob Stoops was still considered one of the best big game coaches in college football.  USC beat five bowl teams and three teams with 9+ wins, including a very good Cal team led by Aaron Rodgers. Lofa Tatupu, Shawn Cody and Mike Patterson led the defense, and the 2005 offense version 1.0 were still lethal, but not quite deserving of such glowing hyperbole.  I think this team is considered one of the best ever, which is fair, but if they are in the conversation, so is the number one team.

No. 1. 1991 Washington Huskies:  Before anyone accuses me of a Husky/Seattle leaning bias, I'd like to note that I elected not to put the 10-2 1990 Rose Bowl Winning Husky team on this list and put the 1997 WSU Cougars instead.  This was the greatest defense in the history of the Pac-10, only giving up 116 points the entire season despite playing six bowl teams.  They dispatched Nebraska, in Lincoln, back when you just didn't win in Nebraska. They handled a tough Cal team, and murdered a very talented Michigan squad in the Rose Bowl.  Steve Emtman was unstoppable this year, literally unblockable.  Youtube is filled with his exploits. This was the quintessential Jim Lambright Husky defense and the absolute peak of Don James coaching ability.  They allowed seven points or less in four of their first five games and gave up a grand total of three points over the span of three games.  The offense was considered the weakness even though it included future NFL players Napoleon Kaufman, Mark Bruener, Mark Brunell, Aaron Pierce and top 10 pick Lincoln Kennedy.  Billy Joe Hobert, who never lost as a starter, was big, mobile and confident and led an offense that made a lot of big plays.  History remembers this team for the defense, and the fact that very few of those defensive players went on to successful NFL careers was an indication of the perfect blend of scheme, talent, determination and swagger.  The Pac 10 was a pretty solid conference in 1991, comprised of teams that would peak that year(Cal) and teams that were on the rise and a year or two away(WSU, Oregon, Arizona).  The Huskies eviscerated nearly every one of their opponents in a physically dominated, overwhelming fashion.  They swarmed the quarterback, destroyed running backs, pulverized offensive lines and scored a lot of points.  For my money, one of the five best teams, regardless of conference, in the last thirty years.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Pac-12 Preview: California

No team has done less with more the last ten years than Jeff Tedford's California Golden Bears.  I would even argue that they lead the Pac-12 in the "Losing games to far inferior teams" category, ahead of even USC.  The teams have immense talent and athletic ability, the 2006-07 squads had the ability to win a national championship.  The 2006 team won 10 games, the 2007 team, the more talented of the two, went 7-6, losing six of their last seven games. 

The wins have decreased with the quarterback play.  After Aaron Rodgers left in 2004, Cal fans have suffered the indignity of watching hacks like Jeff Ayoob, lazy supertalented fratboys like Nate Longshore, short, gutty but lacking perennial backups that are forced to start for seasons on end because everyone else sucks like Kevin Reilly, and statues with no football IQ like Brock Mansion.  The current quarterback is Zack Maynard, he's a great athlete, has a decent arm, but was plagued last season by inconsistent play and an inaccurate arm.  Although he greatly improved as the season went on, I wonder how he will handle the pressure of close games against top opponents.

Iso Sofele is a solid back, but not a between the tackles runner.  They have some legit depth at running back, with some pounders that can hammer the ball up the gut. Keenan Allen is a stud at receiver, he had over 90 catches last year with erratic quarterback play.  Last year he had some other playmakers at wide receiver to draw coverage over, I don't know that the thin receiving corps will help him much this year.

The defense lost two stud linebackers but they always have talent at all positions.  It's just a matter of them playing hard consistently.  I have felt like their defense has improved the last couple years, they run an exotic, variable front, blitz happy system which can cause offenses headaches when its working but it gives up a lot of big plays when tackles aren't made.

I think this will be another 7-8 win squad this year.  Although Tedford is on the hot seat, and rightfully so given the results lately.  I believe that the program bottomed out in 2010 and are on their way back up.  But Cal has disappointed before, many times.

Sept. 1 Nevada: Win
8 Southern Utah: Win
15 @Ohio State: Loss
22 @USC: Loss
29 Arizona State: Win
Oct. 6 UCLA: Win
13 @Washington State: Win
20 Stanford:Win
27 @Utah: Loss
Nov. 2 Washington: Loss
10 Oregon: Loss
17 @Oregon State: Win

Record: 7-5

Monday, July 30, 2012

Pac 12 Preview: Washington Huskies

Back in the day, the Washington Huskies were all about defense. They were relentlessly aggressive, blitzed constantly, and played press man to man coverage on the outside.  Up until Jim Lambright was fired after the 1998 season, the Huskies had a discernable identity on defense.  The 1998 season was their worst defensive season since 1973, and Lambright, who had earned the ire of Athletic Director Barbara Hedges for having the audacity to complain about the lack of funding for the football program(He foresaw Oregon's meteoric facility driven rise before many people and fought to compete with them), was unceremoniously fired. Rick Neuheisel, hardly a guy who emphasized defense, was hired, and the precipitious decline on defense began.

In 2009, when Steve Sarkisian opened the checkbook for Nick Holt, the days of good defense seemed to be just around the corner. What Husky fans didn't expect, was that Holt would coach a tentative, read and react, conservative defense completely at odds with his screaming, hypergesticulating persona. Holt's scheme needed great players, especially great linebackers.  When Donald Butler and Mason Foster, two outstanding linebackers graduated, the defense suffered the worst defense in the entire history of Washington football in 2011.  Now comes Josh Wilcox, who fled Dooley's burning ship at Tennessee for Washington.  Wilcox has been touting a scheme of diversity, aggressiveness and more man to man coverage(Yes!). 

There is legitimate talent on defense with Josh Shirley, Desmond Trufant and Sean Parker, but there's a lot of youth as well.   Danny Shelton is a roadblock in the middle and is much better fit for the 3-4 base that Wilcox plans to implement.  I have my doubts about the linebackers, but I am of the mind that a defense works from the front to back, if the defensive line does their job, the linebackers should have an easier time doing theirs.

Offensively, the Huskies are losing Chris Polk, Jermaine Kearse and Devin Aguilar.  The receivers are replacable, as the Huskies have excellent depth at the position with Kasen Williams and James Johnson leading the way. Polk was the engine of the offense the last three years and would always raise his game when the passing game hit its annual late October/early November wall.  Bishop Sankey and Jessie Callier will share the load at running back.  Neither is a great between the tackle runner, so I anticipate Sarkisian will employ some gimmickry in the form of short passes, screens and draws.  Keith Price was very good last year for a first year starter. He was a much better fit in Sarkisian's office than Jake Locker and it showed.  He never really was healthy last year, so if he stays healthy this year, it further expands the playbook and he should have another big year.  Austin Sefarin-Jenkins will go down as the greatest tight end ever to play at Washington, partially because of the pass happy scheme he is in and partially because he's that damn good. Sarkisian knows exactly how to use him.  The offensive line is shaky, but isn't THAT much of a weakness.  Depth is an issue if injuries mount.

This should be a better Husky team than last year, I still feel they are a year away from being a real contender for the Pac 12 title.  The schedule is also brutal, so although the team is better than last year, especially on defense, it might not show on the record.  I think Huskies fans would accept a 6-7 win season again as long as the games against top flight teams are closer than in the past.  No more 60 point annihilations against Stanford, no more blowouts against Oregon(Have not lost Oregon by single digits since 2000), no more laughable beatings administered by USC, if this program is going to take that next step, they have to play with the big boys, and this schedule is littered with them.
Sept. 1 -- San Diego State: WIN
8 -- @LSU: Loss
15 -- Portland State: Win
27 -- Stanford: Loss
Oct. 6 -- @Oregon: Loss
13 -- USC: Loss
20 -- @Arizona: Win
27 -- Oregon State: Win
Nov. 2 -- @California: Win
10 -- Utah: Loss
17 -- @Colorado: Win
23 -- @Washington State: Win
Record: 7-5

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Top 10 Pac-12 Teams Since 1990 #10-6

I first remember watching college football in 1990.  Well, the 1991 Washington Iowa Rose Bowl is the first football memory I can readily call upon.  I think it would be impossible for me, and intellectually dishonest, to include teams I didn't actually watch. As you've noticed by now, or not noticed, this blog has a west coast slant to it.  These teams are on TV here, they get the coverage, and I don't feel bad about it because every other fucking blog ignores this area of the country.

I came up with this list based on a few criteria.  The dominance of the team, the strength of schedule, quality of losses and the quality of the conference. 10-2 one year might be more impressive than 10-2 in another. I came up with a list of all the very good/great teams of the last 22 years, and narrowed it down from there.
Without further adieu, in descending order, here is the top Pac-12 teams since 1990.

10. 1997 Washington State Cougars: The quintessential Mike Price WSU team with an explosive offense and a aggressive turnover forcing defense.  Their sole regular season loss was to 9-3 Arizona State in your classic, undefeated team not used to success gets outgunned by the last powerful Bruce Snyder ASU squad.  They defeated a 10 win UCLA team, quality squads in Arizona, Oregon, and the previously mentioned absurdly talented Washington squad.  Probably their most impressive game was a loss to the national champion Michigan Wolverines, a game WSU controlled and probably would have won if not for the injury to Michael Black early on(this was like taking Marshall Faulk out of those old Rams offense as far as scheme importance(Slight exaggeration).  Best WSU team ever assembled, better than 2002, without question.

9. 2011 Oregon Ducks: I put this Ducks incarnation on here because they scored, based on my general research, more points than any team in Pac 12 history(They did play 14 games).  They also became the first Ducks team in ages to win the Rose Bowl. Their two losses were to USC(10-2) and national championship runner up LSU.  Their only other competitive game was against Wisconsin (11-3) in the Rose Bowl. In time, this season may be looked at as the hiccup between the 2010 and 2012 squads.

8. 2003 USC: You could say this team was a triple overtime loss to Cal from being undefeated, and I could tell you that they still had to go to triple overtime to beat Cal.  Thats not to say this team wasn't great. The Cal game was the only game decided by less than 14 points.  They didn't annihilate, but soundly beat every squad, although they only played five teams with winning records that season.  This was supposed to be a down year, in transitioning from Palmer to Leinart. They still scored a ton of points, and their defense, especially the front four. I particularly remember Shaun Cody and Kenechi Udezi swarming the immobile John Navarre repeatedly during the Rose Bowl.

7. 1996 Arizona State: Ah, the forgotten great team of the last twenty years.  This team is often left out of discussions because their run at the top lasted only this one year.  That doesn't make this team any less exceptional.  This was the year Jake Plummer became legendary, and Pat Tillman started to  become renowned as an unbelievable badass.  In week 3 they shut out and beat up Nebraska, a team that hadn't lost a regular season game since November of 1992, and wouldn't lose another regular season game until October of 1998.  They entered the Rose Bowl undefeated, but lost to an outstanding Ohio State squad at the last second.  The Pac 10 wasn't great in 1996, but this team was.

6. 2010 Stanford Cardinal: After their Orange Bowl dismembering of Virginia Tech, I said this is one of the best Pac 10 teams I'd ever seen.  They were physically dominating, and extremely well coached. They had deceptively deep talent and lost to a team thats proven to be their kryptonite, Oregon, a team we will see later in this list.  What made this team so impressive is that while Oregon ran teams to death, Stanford beat you up mentally and physically, lesser teams fell apart in the second half and some teams simply had no interest in showing up(See the Washington, UCLA and Oregon State contests). Statistically, the 2011 squad was better, but to the trained eye, the 2010 team was better.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Pac 12 Preview: Arizona State

Last year it wouldn't have been a stretch to say Arizona State had the most talent in the Pac 12. Unfortunately, they were easily the most undiscplined and lazy team as well.  Arizona State succumbed to their annual late season malaise after a solid start, which included with a dominating trucking of powerful USC, stumbled haphazardly into a bowl game and unceremoniously annihilated by Boise State.  Luckily for everyone, except for the bars and golf courses in Tempe, Dennis Erickson was fired.  As is the norm when a coach is fired, the complete opposite of the previous coach is hired.  Well, not entirely, Todd Graham is as much of a job hopper as Dennis was, even more so. However, he is a disciplinarian who is instilling those old school buzz words, toughness, discipline, work ethic. My guess is he will run into a bit of resistance from guys who were used to the country club atmosphere of the Dennis Erickson era. Despite a lot of talent, they don't have a quarterback, and I'm not sure Graham's system is a perfect fit for the talent is there.

Here's a look at the schedule:
Sept. 1 -- Northern Arizona: Win
8 -- Illinois: Win
15 -- @Missouri: Loss
22 -- Utah: Loss
29 -- @Cal: Loss
Oct. 11 -- @Colorado: Win
18 -- Oregon: Loss
27 -- UCLA: Win
Nov. 3 -- @Oregon State: Loss
10 -- @USC: Loss
17 -- Washington State: Win
23 -- @Arizona: Win

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Pac 12 Preview: USC

After two down seasons by USC standards, it appears that USC is ready to jump back into the national title picture in 2012.  They have a legitimate stud quarterback, a four year starter who looked to have taken "the leap" at the end of last year.  They have two ridiculously good wide receivers, the standard USC running back duo and a solid offensive line.  The linebackers are young but talented, and the secondary is loaded.  Their moody, petulant head coach appears to have finally grown up.  If the Trojans remain healthy this team could win 10-12 games and compete for a national title. But what if they don't?

Lost in the late season renaissance USC experienced last season and the ensuing hype of having Barkley, Woods and McDonald return for another season is that this program is still on sanctions.  I'm a fan of history, and as, quite obviously, I'm a Seattle native, I've followed the Washington Huskies football program since my infancy. This USC team's situation reminds me of the 1997 Huskies team.  As you may or may not remember, the Huskies were stricken with similar and equally dubious sanctions at the height of their powers. Washington's sanctions took effect in 1993, and by 1997 it appeared they were rising back to their previous status as a dominant program.  The team was utterly loaded with talent, 14 of 22 starters ended up being drafted into the NFL. Due to the sanction induced scholarship restrictions, the Huskies lacked depth. Despite starting the season ranked 4th in the country and starting 7-1, the Huskies suffered injuries down the stretch and finished 8-4. 
USC, it could easily be argued, has better talent than that Washington team, but still has significant depth issues. If injuries hit, the could suffer a similar fate.

Injuries, I can't predict, therefore I will say the only other weakness I can find on this squad is potentially on the defensive line. They lost three starters, which, nine or ten games out of the year shouldn't affect a squad like USC, but given how important the defensive line will be stopping Stanford and Oregon, it could be the difference between 10-2 and 12-0.

Sept. 1 -- Hawaii: Win
8 -- Syracuse: Win
15 -- @Stanford: Win
22 -- California: Win
Oct. 4 -- @Utah: Win
13 -- @Washington:Win
20 -- Colorado:Win
27 -- @Arizona:Win
Nov. 3 -- Oregon: Loss
10 -- Arizona State: Win
17 -- @UCLA: Win
24 -- Notre Dame:Win


Monday, July 16, 2012

Previewing the Pac 12: UCLA Bruins

When I was younger, UCLA was a powerhouse.  Their offense was a finely tuned machine created by Terry Donahue, and later Bob Toledo.  Their running backs were fast and explosive, their receivers freakishly tall with great hands, and their quarterbacks efficient.  After the forgettably mediocre Karl Dorrell years, Rick Neuheisel was brought in to resurrect the program to its former heights and challenge the dominant cross town rival USC Trojans.

Neuheisel recruited solid talent, unbelievably instituted the pistol because of the ineptitude of his quarterback situation, and fielded teams that were disappointingly average.  His teams lacked discipline and toughness, the offense was only successful against the very poorest coached teams in the conference, and he was fired after four seasons.

In comes Jim Mora Jr, touting a pro style offense and maniacally raving about toughness and physical practices.  Let me get this straight, I think Jim Mora Jr is a joke.  He took over a playoff team in the Atlanta Falcons, took them to the NFC Championship, threw a tantrum on the sidelines when Andy Reid completely outcoached him, and had his team quit on him the last two seasons he was there.  He then took over the Seahawks, made more excuses than Paul Wulff, whined, bitched, complained about a myriad of things, threw his players under the bus and then acted like a child when he was fired, calling Pete Carroll a cheater and throwing veiled insults the Seahawks way all the while claiming to be "over the whole thing".  Do I think his antics will work in college? No. But, I digress, now to the more objective part of the preview.

UCLA is switching to a 3-4, honestly, I don't know why Neuheisel never did this, the talent completely fits the scheme.  They are also ditching the pistol(Thank god), and adopting a more modern spread offense look.  The Bruins have a boatload of quarterbacks on the roster, including Kevin Prince, who is a member of the Drew Neitzel All-Stars as a guy who seems like he's been in college forever. Jonathan Franklin is an outstanding running back.  At the receiver position they lost Nelson Rosario but have some legitimate playmaking talent in place in Shaq Evans. The offensive line is lacking, as is the norm at UCLA.

Defense is how Jim Mora climbed the NFL ladder, or riding his fathers coattails, depends who you ask.  But I will be curious to see how Mora transforms a typically underachieving unit.  The defensive line has solid depth and decent size and the linebackers are probably the strength of the defense.  The corners are big, which I love, but aren't exceptionally skilled at the game of football. 

The defense will be the strength of this team and I wouldn't be surprised to see the offense struggle mightily given the significant change in scheme.  I don't think Mora is a great coach and I think he will continue to run physical practices which will cause his team to wear down as the season progressed.  The Pac 12 is a brutal conference, the second best in the country.  Even if Mora improves this team as far as on the field play, Idon't think the record will show.
   Here is a look at their schedule and my predictions:

Aug. 30 -- @Rice: Win

Sept. 8 -- Nebraska: Loss

15 -- Houston: Loss

22 -- Oregon State: Win

29 -- @Colorado: Loss

Oct. 6 -- @Cal: Loss

13 -- Utah: Loss

27 -- @Arizona State: Loss

Nov. 3 -- Arizona: Win

10 -- @Washington State: Loss

17 -- USC: Loss

24 -- Stanford: Loss

Record: 3-9

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Motives of Roger Goodell

Today Roger Goodell leveled his suspensions of Saints players over the "Bounty Scandal". Jonathan Vilma will join his coach Sean Payton o the shelf for the entire year. Of course, ESPN, as the mouthpiece for the NFL, lauds this as a great and fair move.  Discipline was in order, but when discipline is exacted for the purpose of "sending a message", rather than what it should be. I have a problem.

Any well read person on the history of the NFL knows that bounties, are not new. They are not novel, and they are not even restricted to the NFL. The Miami Hurricanes in the late 80's and early 90's received cash bonuses for big hits on opponents from a rapper. The discipline? The rapper was banned from the locker room. The Philadelphia Eagles under Buddy Ryan publicized similar behavior, as did the Raiders of yore.  The game has grown faster, and with the NFL's increased admittance to the long term affects of multiple concussions, there is more awareness of "blows to the head". Other cheap shots, hitting low, or, in Trent Cole's case, a pectoral tearing bodyslam, are dealt with casually, unless, of course a high profile quarterback is hit below the waist.

This is not to say football isn't an increasingly violent game with damaging long term effects. That has been proven.  Goodell has long been championing "player safety" with a laundry list of inconsistent suspensions that seem to be more based on who the player was that made the hit, who the player was who was hit, and how the media reacted to the hit, than any kind of fair and preset rules and disciplinary measures for hits. The bounty case seems to be the same thing. There is no precedence for this, but I would argue that its up to the commissioner, under his constant guise of player safety to, to have instituted, and or institute set penalties for set offenses. The bounty suspensions seem arbitrary and severe. I also think that, and I'm not doctor, the constant pounding of colliding helmets and hard impacts might lead to more long term effects than a single cheap shot. But, Goodell can't really point to a pulling guard smacking helmets with a linebacker filling a hole, its easier to point to Kam Chancellor annihilating a receiver because the quarterback floated a ball high across the middle and say, "This is illegal and dangerous".

Football, in itself is dangerous. It has the most lasting long term affects on the body and involves higher impacts than any other sport in the country. I think, that herein lies the root of all of this. 

The more public the lasting effects of football appear to be, the less inclinded a parent will be to sign the release form for a child to play football. A parent would be more inclined to lead them toward basketball, a game vicious on the knees and back, but relatively harmless to the brain. I think Goodell realizes this, and has realized this. And is on a mission to clean up the "image" of the game.  He is hell bent on "protecting the shield". The NFL is a monster, but for how long? When the talented athletes pursue other sports, what is left? The quality of the product increases, and the NFL has lost its stranglehold on the sporting public, and more importantly, the consuming arm of it.  I hesitate to state that his actions are rooted in the best interests of the players, it seems to me that he's acting more to protect the image of his product, and the future of his product. A sound business move, but a little soulless? Perhaps.

A friend of mine emailed this to me a few years ago, after Bill Simmons and Malcolm Gladwell had a debate about the future of the NFL, and it has stuck with me ever since.

""The game is going to die from the ground up." Ominous words from Gladwell about the future of football.

This is completely true too. Mom's of today who care about their kids just a little are buying an preventing them from fun. One of these reasons is the market. Safety is selling. It is becoming an industry standard to be safe, and charge more because of it. Just how companies are profiting by being and selling 'green.' So moms will pull kids from football. Its not going to be an epidemic and happen all at once, but... it is scary when you consider the full ramifications."

Friday, April 27, 2012

Bruce Irvin: One man's opinion.

Of all the prospects I watched film on, Bruce Irvin was not one of them. I had heard his name, but as a late first, second round pick. For the second straight year, the Seahawks picked a nearly consensus second round pick, in the first round. Once again, they were criticized for it. James Carpenter, despite not having a mini camp or much of a training camp, after coming in out of shape due to his lack of OTA's, and then right before the start of the season getting moved to left guard for the opener, actually turned in a damn good season by the end of it. After that, and Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Doug Baldwin and John Moffit, I've learned to trust this regime a little bit. So when Bruce Irvin's name was announced, I didn't look around bewildered, I just shrugged, and vowed to watch some film on the kid.

I heard he was fast, so naturally i had images of him flying wildly up field, gap control be damned to get the quarterback. Yes, he flies up field, he's got incredible speed, but he's not out of control. He has a good handle on his own athleticism, and one of the most impressive tools he has is that he can literally stop on a dime and change direction. It makes the offensive tackles look hilariously pathetic, then again, I watched WV against Clemson, Maryland and Pittsburgh, so I'm not sure I needed Bruce Irvin to show me that.

He used his hands reasonably well for a speed rusher, he doesn't have a lot of moves, but he has very quick hands and is surprising strong. Teams would often turn a guard out towards him to help the tackle out and prevent him from cutting back toward the qb from the edge(looked like one of his favorite moves), and he actually got a decent push against the double teams. He positions his hands well, and is absolutely ridiculously relentless. He's assignment correct 90% of the time and he tackles well. He plays bigger than 250 pounds, which he has to.

Naturally, since he's a little light, I worry about him against the run, he uses leverage well, but I worry that against some of the more physical rushing teams like San Francisco, they may lean on him a little bit. The problem with the Seahawks scheme is that LEO position can get sealed off in the run game if the defensive tackle next to him gets washed down and the linebacker doesn't fill the hole. Atlanta has murdered the Seahawks the last two years with that running scheme.

Irvin can move around a lot, I saw WV line him up as a defensive end, a linebacker and a defensive tackle. The Seahawks can move him around a lot and his speed can cause nightmares.

I think the Hawks can get one more year out of Clemons, which means, unlike the Seahawks last couple first round picks, Irvin won't have to start immediately. Which is good, because pass rushers, Jevon Kearse the exception, rarely excel their rookie year.

I like the pick, and I trust the pick. He's the kind of guy they like, fast, relentless, smart, and can tackle well. He's another playmaker added to a very good defense.

Friday, April 20, 2012

More draft thoughts

I looked at three guys the last couple days. Two of them made me question why the hell they are considering potential first round picks in the first place, and the other, well, confirmed what I really thought about him.

First, Luke Kuechly, LB from Boston College. I've seen him projected as a potential top ten pick. I don't get it. I like him as a football player, and could be a key contributor to a football team, but he's not a top ten pick. He's very smart, and he's fast. But he seems a little small, a little light in the pants, and, what surprised me the most, is that he hits high. There were many plays where he would fly into a gap, filling it perfectly and I'd expect a huge collision to take place, instead, there would be an ordinary arm tackle. He doesn't bend, he doesn't get low and hit and drive guys. He hits them high, he's too small to do that at the NFL level, running backs will run right through him.  He's good in pass coverage and would be a good fit in nickel packages, but I really don't see what all the buzz is about. He struggles at shedding bigger blockers. I saw a Florida State LT drive him from inside the hash all the way out of bounds.

Second, Brock Osweiler, qb, ASU. The two main conferences I watch are the Pac 12 and the SEC. I've seen a lot of Osweiler, so, I was confused when the season ended and I heard the Seahawks were interested in taking him in the second round. He's big and he's athletic for a big guy. But he doesn't have the arm you'd expect, he slings the ball rather than throws it. He has major problems with his accuracy and his mechanics break down under pressure. The offense he was in was a simple one read offense so I don't know how well he moves through his progressions. I think the most telling thing I saw about him was that he had trouble fitting the ball into tight coverage. In the NFL, receivers are rarely wide open, this is not a good trait.

Lastly, I watched David DeCastro, guard from Stanford. He's a monster. He's athletic, and powerful. He consistently follows his assignment, pulls and traps perfectly and with power. The only flaw I saw was he could get bull rushed by bigger defensive tackles in pass blocking. However, if he loses leverage he recovers very quickly and rarely holds. I like him.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Seahawks Draft Thoughts: Why I don't like Quintin Coples

Alright, I'll bite, I'll go into detail why I don't think the Seahawks should, or will draft Quintin Coples in the first round. I guess I understand why so many fans want Coples, he's big, he's athletic and he dominated at the Senior Bowl. All of these things mean absolutely nothing. I watched three cut ups from UNC games against NC State, Miami, and Missouri and, naturally I noticed some things.

He wants to get to the quarterback, this, is of upmost importance to him. Gap control be damned, if he reads pass, or he's decided he wants to get to the quarterback, he will run himself clear out of a play to try and get to the quarterback. When he really wants to, he can be a smart player. Missouri ran a speed option his way multiple times and he reacted well most of the time. He, like the rest of that UNC defense, plays selfish. They have the swagger of a much better defense than they actually.

 He really does have a great first step, granted, looking at the tackles he went up against, only Miami's LT looked like an NFL tackle and he moved like his feet were chained together.  I think the fact that he has such a great first step has led to a lack of development in pass rush moves. He can beat most ACC tackles around the edge, so that is all he resorts to. He has limited inside moves and virtually no bull rush from what I saw. He's ridiculously quick, and could develop a good rush move arsenal if he actually wanted to.

There was a major difference between his effort on running plays vs passing plays and whether the game was close or not.  In the NFL, he can't take plays off. 

Another thing I noticed, he doesn't like to get in piles. If he is pursuing a running back he will let up if it looks like a collision will happen. Seems like a guy who doesn't want to get hurt and damage his draft stock. I saw this multiple times in every game I looked at.  He plays soft, Missouri's TE trapped him on a running play and drove him five yards out of his gap. Not acceptable. 

If this guy had the effort to match the talent, he would be a top 10 pick. People compare him to Von Miller, skill set wise, they are similar as far as raw, speed driven pass rushers. But Von Miller kills himself out there. Coples doesn't. I get the infatuation, he has amazing talent. But that doesn't make a great player in the NFL.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Why Seattle doubts Pete Carroll.

There is no such thing as a perfect football coach, or any coach for that matter. For our purposes here, we will focus just on football. Vince Lombardi wasn't a perfect coach, in fact, he was utterly useless during an actual game. Lombardi was great at preparation during the week, and back when coaches were only moderate control freaks, he let his quarterback call all of his own plays.  Lombardi also gave up creativity for precision with a 12 play playbook that was rarely entirely used. You take the good with the bad. The Packers ran the sweep better than any team in NFL history, if you stopped the sweep, the Packers had little else to beat you with.

With that in mind, I shift my gaze at Pete Carroll. I wasn't a fan of the fact the Seahawks hired him.  All I could think of was the fact that he'd been fired twice in the NFL and his USC teams played with an astounding degree of sloppiness against teams they didn't respect and the fact that USC had awful clock management in Carroll's time there. As a Seahawks fan, I'd already seen a successful college coach(Dennis Erickson), flounder in mediocrity upon arriving to the NFL. Erickson ran a program at Miami very similar to USC's, and was about to be hit with sanctions right before he left, much like USC was.(The sanctions USC suffered will get their due diligence in another blog).

Then I read Pete Carroll's book. You may scoff at the notion that a book can completely change a perception of someone. But it added illumination and reasoning to what people saw of Pete Carroll, the hyper-kinetic "raw raw" coach. Carroll stresses the desire to do things better than you've ever done them before. A mantra of constant improvement. He formed this philosophy after the New England Patriots fired him and he's been ridiculously successful ever since. Has he become the perfect coach? No, does he still have clock management issues? Yes. Do the Seahawks commit a lot of penalties? Yes, but they are improving in that regard. Do I like what he's doing? Yes.

In the two years he's been the Seahawks coach, he has completely rebuilt the team while still remaining competitive. That is something the Rams have been trying and failing to do since 2007. He's laid a significant foundation for what I think will become one of the best defenses in the league. He's rebuilt the offensive line into a powerful, nasty, physical unit if it can stay healthy, and he has added depth. The Seahawks are bigger,stronger, faster, younger and better than they were when he and John Schneider took over.

So why is everyone still skeptical? Why do I turn on the sports radio stations in Seattle during football seasons and constantly here digs at Pete Carroll and tons of negativity? Why, after two games of the season last season did Hugh Millen suggest Seahawks fans march to Renton at the Seahawks headquarters and demand an explanation for the max protection schemes the Seahawks used against the 49ers and Steelers elite defenses with two rookie offensive linemen who had no OTA's and virtually no training camp reps? Why did Ian Furness unceasingly bitch and moan about the lack of "leadership" the Seahawks didn't have and would never have again because they cut his beloved Lofa Tatupu?

Key questions, and a long answer. Pete Carroll isn't a "traditional" football coach. He isn't a large, intimidating presence. He doesn't scream at players on the sideline. He's not Mike Holmgren. For the record, everyone loved Mike Holmgren. He was successful, and good with the media. As in, he tricked the media into thinking he was actually telling them something insightful because he used his grandfatherly tone and smiled a lot. Pete Carroll says nothing by saying a lot of nothing. The opposite of Bill Belichick.  Belichick got fired from Cleveland because he made enemies with the media, and they turned the public against him. Same thing has been attempted by some of the Seattle media because he's late for press conferences and doesn't butter them up like Holmgren did. And he replaced one of the local good old boys Jim Mora.

Furthermore, Pete Carroll coached at USC. The rest of the old Pac-10 conference hates USC because USC has dominated from when it was the Pac-8, to 2008, with the 90's being the only time that wasn't the case. Pete Carroll murdered the Cougars and Huskies every year, only losing to the Washington schools three times, and once after he really got going in 2003. It smacks of bitterness about getting slaughtered every year by the renegade program down south.  I know for a fact that it kills some old Husky alums that they have a USC guy coaching UW as well. To me, its ridiculous, but its there.

In sum, people still have it in their mind that Pete Carroll is a flake, that he's a coward because he fled a sinking ship at USC(BS, but whatever). People hate on him because his approach is non traditional. People doubt him because they still are licking their wounds from years of USC beating UW and WSU by 30-50 points yearly. I don't doubt, he isn't perfect, he has his flaws, just like any successful coach. But I am fairly confident that this guy is going to win the Seahawks the Super Bowl. And I intend to enjoy the ride.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

My N.B.A. Conundrum

I love basketball. It's unquestionable the sport I've played the most in my life. There is a rhythm and flow to the sport that is completely unique and beautiful to itself. As kid growing up in Seattle in the 90's, I loved the Sonics. I listened to every game at night on the radio(this was before most teams had T.V. deals), and whenever the Sonics were on pay per view(TNT), I'd beg my parents to purchase the game, to no avail. I loved going to Sonics games, whether it was at the old Seattle Center Coliseum, the Tacoma Dome or Key Arena.  When the Seahawks were woeful and threatening to move to Los Angeles, and the Mariners were bitching and moaning because they wanted their own stadium or they'd move to Tampa Bay, there was always the Sonics. Consistent and successful, always.
So naturally, the Sonics leaving was an upsetting, infuriating, and sad time period, and it still pisses me off just as much as it did when the whole farce actually happened. I've never respected David Stern or the NBA, whether it's their marketing approach and idiotic business model, or their extremely suspect egotistical officials. But I love the sport played at its highest level. I'm not one of the people that scorn the N.B.A. and call the players "spoiled millionaires". I don't rant about the selfishness of the players, or the lack of defense. I have always enjoyed watching, reading, listening and discussing professional basketball and can with ease bring a counterargument to anyone criticizing the actual product on the floor.

However, the crooked way the Sonics were ripped out of this city has left a bad taste in my mouth that I don't know will ever go away. If the Mariners lose out on their ridiculous attempt to block the arena being built in SoDo, and the Sonics actually returned, I don't know how much I can support that team. Would it be great to have professional basketball back? Yes. Would it be great to heckle Lebron James in person? Absolutely.  But will it ever be the same? I honestly don't think so. When I'm sitting in the new arena, I will feel a little dirty. The money I spent on tickets is going to the very people that ripped the team out of Seattle in the first place. We aren't getting a new team, we're getting a team from a city that went through the same thing the Seattle did. Will I be able to chalk that up as a "nature of the business" and move on? Probably not.

Of course, I could say all this and it would last until I walk into the arena, sit down, and am watching professional basketball in person again. That's what the NBA is counting on at least.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Seahawks draft thoughts; LB and DT

With the inevitable departure of David Hawthorne and who really knows what's happening with Leroy Hill, the Seahawks are going to revamp the linebacking corps. K.J. Wright had a solid rookie season and may move into the middle to replace Hawthorne.  And, as always, the Seahawks are most likely looking to add depth on the defensive line. 

A linebackers success is directly related to the success of the defensive line in front of him. A porous defensive line can make even the greatest of linebacking corps look ordinary. Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs look positively pedestrian when the Bears front four is banged up or lacking in depth any given year. The defensive line doesn't eat up blockers, and offensive linemen are given a free path to the linebackers.

First guy I've looked at is Mychal Kendricks, a inside linebacker from Cal.  Cal had probably the best back seven on defense in the Pac 12, but a defensive front that was too small and not stout enough to run a 3-4 hurt them against power running teams. You could argue that Kendricks wasn't the best linebacker on the team, that being D.J. Holt, but Holt will be playing his entire NFL career in a 3-4, Kendricks will be in the 4-3. Kendricks is fast, smart, plays extremely hard and is an incredible tackler. On the downside, he's very small and can get blown clear out of plays. Pete Carroll has put an emphasis on size when he rebuilt the Seahawks laughably small defense, which makes me think that Kendricks is not the fit the Seahawks are looking for. Regardless, I loved watching his tape, because he is a 240 pound guy who plays like he's 260 and hits like his 280. Stanford, which has one of the biggest, strongest and best offensive lines in football, blew him up, a lot, in the run game though.

A couple defensive linemen to think about because YouTube just took a crap on me. Michael Brockers from LSU and Devin Still from Penn State. Devin Still is a monster. He's big and strong and really took a leap forward his senior year. He's still a little raw and needs to work on all the little things guys like him need to work on. Here's a good breakdown on Still:

In regards, to Brockers, who looks like a mid first rounder. I wasn't nearly as impressed. He is your standard LSU defensive linemen, great effort, big, fast, but benefits from a defense that resembles a tornado.  I watched him against Ole Miss, not a great team by any stretch, and nearly every time he was double teamed he was either blown off the ball, or pancaked. He resembled Colin Cole in 2009, rather than hold his own, he elected to sink and try and slide away from the blockers, and every time he tried to stick in his gap, he'd get crushed. And this was Ole Miss. Yikes.

More prospects tomorrow, maybe offensive linemen and my longstanding love affair with David Decastro.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Seahawks draft thoughts

Every year in the draft, I fall in love with a few players. Some years the players actually work out, some years, they really, hideously do not, (Aaron Curry, Fred Smoot, JaMarcus...oh nevermind that). 

This year everyone is in infatuated with the two quarterbacks who will get picked 1-2. Luck is regarded as a can't miss, once in a generation quarterback. He will struggle his first year, that doesn't mean he'll bust, but Peyton Manning is still the best qb I've ever seen entering the NFL Draft. Griffin III is a wild card, but the Redskins are a good fit scheme wise, too bad the team completely sucks.

A couple things, I will never advocate drafting a defensive player from North Carolina. Who is it this year the Kipers and Mcshay's of the world are getting their jollies to? Quintin Coples? Poor effort, undisciplined, cut and paste to any of Butch Davis's crew from UNC.

Me, my attention is focused on the Seahawks, and Courtney Upshaw. Chris Clemons is like any veteran that you acquire through FA or a trade, you get two, maybe three years out of him tops. This would be year three of Chris Clemons and last year he was already showing signs of slowing down. Is Upshaw the ideal size? No. He's a little short, but so is James Harrison. He can float between a 3-4 OLB and a 4-3 DE, which is exactly the role Pete Carrol has designated for the LEO position. While Clemons is tall, lean, and long, the Seahawks have been gashed many times on cutback runs because he gets sealed off. Upshaw holds his own a little bit better against the run Most of all, he's smart. He rarely is out of position, his fundamentals are excellent and he doesn't get out of his gaps.  He doesn't have a wide array of pass rush moves, but he's quick enough to get around the edge, and strong enough to get leverage and get good push. And he's relentless. 

The Seahawks are building a great defense. I think Upshaw would be another nice piece.

Next, I'll find a few linebackers I'm drooling over and share my infatuation.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Kentucky vs Lousville Running Diary

Here we are running diary, I'm picking Kentucky by double digits in this one.

3:17: Missed the first two minutes, Kentucky up 8-2, doing what Kentucky does best, blocking shots, snatching rebounds and running the floor. Pitino steps away from the spaghetti buffet to call timeout.

3:21: The court looks terrible, like its a St. Patty's day special. Let's count how many times Clark Kellogg says "High Octane".

3:22: Siva's a local boy, but I think this is a mismatch for him.

3:23: Kentucky getting sloppy, Louisville taking advantage. Cue the endless T.V. Timeout.

3:27: Silky smooth jump hook from Davis. 14-6 UK.

3:29: Shaky charge call against Gilchrist, the flopping epidemic continues. Terrence Jones with a transition dunk after Lousville blows their second dunk of the half.

3:31: UK foul on a three point shot. Terrence Jones needs to learn the art of the closeout.

3:33: UK is dominating inside, but the guards are jacking up jumpers. Youth.

3:37: 18-10 UK, as is the norm in these domed stadiums, the three point shots are clanging horrificly off the rim.

3:42: 22-12, sloppy game, the fighting Pitino's are fighting, but are going to have to get hot and UK is going to have to wear down for this to be a game in the second half.

3:46: Can Clark Kellogg stop calling a DQ a "Dairy Queen", it's not clever. He's obviously spending too much time with Jim Nance.

3:48: As Al Mcguire would say, "Too much french pastry for Kentucky!" Then they hit Davis on a ridiculous alley oop. Good with the bad.

3:51: Louisville starting to figure out Kentucky defensively. 26-20, time out.

3:56: You have to stop the ball, easiest layup I've seen by Kentucky.

3:59: Louisville getting all the calls right now, scrappy effort right now and with these calls, it's 31-27 UK.

4:00: Token white guy for Kentucky stymies a run with a cold blooded three and leads a fast break leading to a foul. Kentucky was losing their head a little bit. Let's see if they settle down a little now.

4:03: 35-28 Kentucky at halftime. Louisville grinded their way back into it. Should be an interesting second half.

4:26: This is not a well played game as far as fundamentals go.

4:32: It's "unsung" not "undersung" Clark. 41-32 UK. Steal, dunk. 43-32: UK.

4:41: Louisville staggering around the ring, waiting to get knocked out, and Kentucky is letting them hang around. Now they've got it down to single digits. 46-38

4:46: Terrence Jones has a little Chris Webber to him, that's not a compliment.

4:47: Louisville with a couple tip jam dunks, Kentucky can't grab a rebound, turning over the ball, down to 46-42, timeout Kentucky. Louisville has been killing Kentucky on the boards, they aren't trying to out jump Davis and Jones for rebounds, they are tipping it out and getting it to their guards. Definitely the smarter team today. Kentucky isn't anticipating the attempted shot blocks and failing to rotate to the weak side.

4:54: Kentucky is getting tired, if Louisville keeps at them, Kentucky might break around the five minute mark. 49-46. 9 min left.

4:57: Siva ties it with a three, Kentucky assaults the offensive boards, takes the lead. This is turning into one hell of a game. Kidd-Gilchrist with a spin and a dunk. 53-49. Timeout Pitino. Three times today either Calipari or Pitino have called a timeout right before the T.V. timeout.

5:04: Louisville laying some stiff picks right now. Did Kellogg just call Louisville Syracuse??

5:06: Kentucky hits a dagger from three point land. Louisville had just missed a couple layups. Bam, 58-51. Terrence Jones just realized that he was playing a game in that last sequence. Flying around and being a million times more aggressive than he was the rest of the game.

5:09: 60-51, Louisville ice cold.

5:17: 63-57, 1:29 left, another turnover by Kentucky, Louisville climbs out of the grave again! Kentucky missing free throws and Louisville is relentless.

5:18: Anthony Davis, a ridiclous one handed dunk. 65-58, Siva comes back with an airballed three. Less than a minute left. Louisville burns their last timeout.

5:21: Louisville doesn't foul, Kentucky gets a couple of easy dunks. That's the ball game, Anthony Davis, wait, Kentucky beats Louisville 69-61. Great effort by Louisville, just didn't have the firepower to beat Kentucky. Pitino coached a hell of a game.


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Want To Know Why

First of all, as a Seahawks fan, I live at If you feel likewise about the Seahawks, I recommend you visit there as well. But, to a rant, granted, I'm taking a lot of this from something I wrote a while ago, but I think it still serves its point.

The more I read about the draft or peoples views on football in general, the more I realize that the vast majority of football fans, don't actually understand the game that they love so dearly. Do I look down upon them for this? Only if they propogate these ideas as the truth, rather than a fairly uneducated opinion.  I am by no means a football expert, so hopefully you don't dub my opinion as arrogance, when its merely a call to not be ignorant.

Just like in baseball, there has been a flailing attempt at a statistical revolution in football. These statisticians use their "advanced metrics" to compare players across decades as well as current players, eschewing the changes in the game and its philosophy in the sake of "comparison". These analysts, I believe, use numbers in place of football understanding. I am not saying that fans should know the wide varieties of play calls coverages and scheme, but they should understand, if nothing else, technique.

Technique, in order to understand technique, you must first understand correct technique and the fact that certain physical attributes enable better technique than others. You want a stout center with quick hands and tremendous natural strength. You want a defensive end with strong hands. You want a tackle with long arms, thin ankles, big hands and a fat ass. Why? Because he needs to be light on his feet, good balance, have long arms to hold at bay pass rushers and strong hands to control their opponent in run blocking.
40 times are irrelevant. Acceleration is far more important. How often during the course of the game does a player run forty yards unimpeded in a straight line?
If your watching game tape on a potential prospect, ask yourself questions, "How well does the tackle move his feet?" "How often does a defensive linemen drop his arms?" On the flip side, "How well does he use his hands?" "What angles does a linebacker take to the ball? "How is his gap containment?"
Look at a quarterback, look at his release, how does it vary depending on the throw. Watch his feet. Where does he release the ball? How tight is the throwing motion?

It is one thing to know that something happened, it is an entirely different thing to know why it happened? Why are most of Drew Brees interceptions off deflections? Why is Marshawn Lynch such a stud? What makes James Harrison such a great pass rusher? (great balance, acceleration and hand technique) Why does Matt Hasslebeck struggle throwing the deep ball(It goes beyond arm strength). Figure out the answer to these questions, and talent assessment is much easier. 

If you don't honestly care about why Tavaris Jackson sails seam routes, I don't blame you. But whatever your passion may be, look closer.

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Case For Matt Flynn

It's fairly obvious that people are infatuated by the sexy idea. In football, teams without a star quarterback talk endlessly about getting a "franchise" quarterback. You ask them how, and they will say, "draft one in the first round." Easier said than done.

This offseason the Seahawks found themselves in a bit of a quandry. They weren't bad enough to have a high draft pick, one that would net a top qb prospect, and they weren't good enough to feel that they could stand pat with Tavares Jackson.  I will stand by my idea that even with Jackson starting, the Seahawks are a playoff team this year. But, to reach the next level, the Seahawks need more from that position.

You don't need an elite quarterback to win in the NFL, Trent Dilfer and Brad Johnson are two great examples, Joe Flacco is another.  The counter argument is that the previous mentioned quarterbacks were buoyed by great defenses. I'd argue that the Seahawks defense is one year from very good, and two years from great. What you DO need however, is a quarterback who doesn't make huge mistakes, no pick sixes, no turnovers on big drives, no heniously missed throws in crucial situations, and you need a quarterback that can drive you down the field in the fourth quarter of a big game and score a touchdown. In order to win a Super Bowl, this will have to happen at some point during the season.

So where does Matt Flynn fit into all of this? Quite well.  We don't have a large sample size to work with, so, let's look at what we know. He's made a couple starts for the Packers over the last couple years and performed very well.  His performance in the regular season finale against the Lions was ridiculous. Before the Lions game, the Packers offense had started to sputter, or, in their case, not ring up 40 points a game. Flynn comes in and has a record day against a below average Lions team. There was no pressure, but Tavares Jackson has never done that, against anybody, even with Adrian Peterson, Sydney Rice and the best offensive line in football at the time with the Vikings.

But, that's just one day, Rob Johnson was a stud with the Jaguars in mop up duty when the Jags were winning 12-14 games a year. So was Jay Fielder when he was in the same situation.

Flynn, at LSU, was asked to do exactly what he'll be asked to do with the Seahawks. Don't make mistakes, and get the ball to the playmakers. He did this perfectly at LSU, he was a leader on a poorly coached offense, and made some huge throws when he had to(see LSU/Auburn 2007).  It's not like the Hawks are going to be asking a guy who is used to chucking it 40 times a game to change his style. Flynn's style is the Hawks style, and vice versa.

I would feel differently about this move if the Hawks had overpaid, if they got suckered into a long contract, or the teams scouting department didn't draft the guy in Green Bay. But, I trust Green Bay's scouting, and I trust the Hawks scouting. Jackson was a placeholder in a year where the Hawks were trying to cut down on the learning curve of the offense and he played, dare I say, above expectations. He's a solid backup, but he's not going to win you the Super Bowl.  I think there's a much better chance that Flynn is.