Friday, June 29, 2012

2012: Year of the 600-point offense?

The 2011 regular season was dubbed "Year of the Quarterback" by analysts, football writers and experts everywhere.

Finishing the season with three 5,000 yard passers, bringing the all-time total from two (Dan Marino and Drew Brees) to five (Marino, Tom Brady, Matt Stafford and Drew Brees twice), the quarterbacks ruled the National Football League.

Add in the fact that the top two picks of the draft in April were premier college passers, including the "best QB prospect of all-time" (Indy's Andrew Luck) as stated by numerous scouts, and you have a recipe for another record-breaking offensive season.

Two seasons ago we witnessed the New England Patriots' offense top 500 points. Last season the Patriots topped 500 again, but so did the Saints (13-3 record w/ 547 points) and the league-leading Packers (15-1 record w/ 560 points).

No team has ever scored 600 points in a single-season, in fact the 2007 Patriots hold the record with 589. But I'm going out on a limb and making this statement: there will be a team to put up 600 in 16 games this season.
It's a bold statement, I know. But offenses are passing more than ever, and if we can see three 5,000 yard passers in a single-season, who says a team can't put up 600? The emergence of rookies Luck and Robert Griffin III, arguably two of the top quarterback prospects this game has seen, gives us an even better shot at witnessing a stunt such as this.

Luck and RGIII are not a sure-thing of course, despite the statements that say they are. But if they live up to expectations, we could see another incline in passing stats as a whole this season. Defenses are continuing to be a smaller factor, especially after the BountyGate investigations on the Saints' defense this season.

With the opposing defenses under an even larger microscope, I am expecting another offensive production increase.

The NFL is a copycat league, so there is bound to be a couple more two-tight end systems around the league. We all saw what the Pats did with Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez as Gronk put up the single most effective tight end season of all-time (90 catchers, 1,327 yards, 17 TDs).

A top five scoring offense came just a couple of points from a Super Bowl championship despite a 31st-ranked defense. Defense wins championships? Yeah, that may be true. But we're quickly making a transition from defensive domination to the idea that a pass-happy offense trumps any defense that lines up in front of you.

In total, teams averaged 229.7 yards through the air per game last season. In 2002, 12 years ago, we saw an average of 212.2 per game. Doesn't appear to be a large difference (17.5 yards), but it really is.
There's damning evidence that shows the offensive takeover throughout the last 10 seasons. In 2011 just five of the top 10 overall ranked defenses were playoff teams. In 2002? Seven. In 1992? Nine. With each passing season, passers appear to dominate just a tad more than the previous season.

The "trench warfare" of the '60s, '70s and '80s appears to be over and the 21st century of the League has been quite a change of pace in terms of offensive production. Apparently now it's possible to achieve greatness without a top rusher, as New England and New York both found themselves in the bottom half of rushing production–New York was actually 32nd in rushing yards.

If Brees is able to sign a new contract by the time July 16 rolls around, then we could see him pass for his third career 5,000 yard season. Hell, even if he doesn't and he's playing this season under his Franchise Tag salary (still a huge sum of money) he still shouldn't have much trouble surpassing 5,000. Brady and Stafford could repeat, and we may even see guys such as NFL Network's No. 1 player Aaron Rodgers, Denver's Peyton Manning and Dallas' Tony Romo come close to the mark.

The only three teams in the top 10 passing offense that failed to make the playoffs were Philadelphia, Dallas and San Diego. All three teams finished at 8-8, just missing the postseason.

San Francisco ranked 29th in passing offense yet came just shy of a Super Bowl appearance. They are the lone exception, however, because of the simple fact that they were a devastating defensive team (2nd in scoring defense) and saw a career-year from quarterback Alex Smith, who was previously dubbed a draft bust.

On offense San Fran turned the ball over the least (10 times, just five INTs), which is a huge factor in an effective offense. So they weren't flashy, but Smith did what he could to lead the Niners to victory with the help from a smash-mouth defense. Expect Smith to throw the ball another 450 times this season, especially given his new targets.

* * * * *

I don't expect Luck and RGIII to step in and be the savior that their respective franchise has been searching for...right away, at least. But wouldn't it be a great story if they each broke Cam Newton's rookie passing record of 4,051 yards. A record he just set this past season.
Moral of the story? A prolific scoring offense is almost a necessity for success in today's game, and it's a fact that we are now seeing more complex offensive systems. Defensive coordinators will need to find a way to effectively slow down the 2-TE system, because whether they like it or not, that sort of thing is totally in right now.

Stopping the run? Who cares. You will need a strong pass-rushing front seven and a shutdown corner in order to get your defense off the field in 2012.

Editor's Note: I do not own any of the above images. No copyright infringement intended

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Jared Allen, DeMarcus Ware: Is a 25-sack Season Possible?

Business in the front, party in the back. That's just how Minnesota's Jared Allen likes it.

And although he no longer sports his stylish mullet, he still lives by that motto while on the football field. He's all fun and games until it's time to get down to business, and he's in the business of sacking quarterbacks.

While these same quarterbacks he's been sacking were out making headlines by passing for 5,000 yards (three accomplished this rare feat in 2011), he quietly came just one sack away from breaking the single-season sack record.

Personally, I just like to believe that the record is 22–not 22.5 like the record books say. Michael Strahan, the actual sack king according to the books, earned his record-breaking sack back in his 2001 All Pro season. The final game of the regular season, a 34-25 loss to the Packers, Strahan surpassed Mark Gastineau in the record books when Strahan's good buddy Brett Favre practically fell at his feet.
In my own personal NFL record books I would like to say I'd place an asterisk next to Strahan's name, meaning the Jets' Gastineau (22 sacks in 1984) still holds the single-season record. That is, until this season of course. In a season he failed to win the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year award (Baltimore's Terrell Suggs won the honor instead), Allen recorded a personal-best 22 sacks on his way to his fourth career Pro Bowl.

Why have I brought this to everyone's attention today? Well, first off because not too many people really gave him much recognition for it during the season because it appeared to fly under the radar, but also because Allen has opened up about his eye-popping, yet disappointing season.

The mullet-less Allen spoke to Minnesota media today and discussed the possibility of someone one day hitting 25 sacks. Now, considering that's not only beyond the single-season record by 2.5 sacks but also the fact that no one player has ever had two 20+ sack seasons in history (as Allen points out), it seems a bit of an outrageous claim.

But, hey, if the workhorse Jared Allen thinks it can be done, it can be done, right?

“Before you get that close, you’re not really sure if it’s attainable. You think it is, because you always think if someone did it, I could do it. But being right there and actually leaving some stuff on the field — they took the one away in Green Bay, they gave it a team sack — and there were a couple in my arms that I didn’t get it. Or the ones that I was that close. The ones at the end of the year… It was kinda like, ‘Ah, bummed out. Now I’m 23 away again, versus one away.’ But when you start working out again, it’s motivation. How can I push myself just a little further?
I think 25 is possible. I think someone will eventually get it. Look at some of the athletes, the DeMarcus Ware's of the league and the matchups he creates as a 3-4 guy on a running back or something. I think it’s possible. Then again, no one’s ever had two 20-sack seasons in their career in the history of the NFL. So, someone’s gotta do that first. Like I said, I believe 25 is a number that will get hit one year. But when, I don’t know?”
First of all, I love the fact that he acknowledges DeMarcus Ware's presence in Dallas. I always ranked Ware above Allen in the pass-rushing category, perhaps because of his versatility at the outside linebacker position. Ware poses a problem to each offense he lines up against and has a rare combination of size and speed coming from the outside.
Allen, too, is a freak of nature, but lets not forget that this season Ware was just a half a sack shy of becoming the first player to accomplish two 20-sack seasons. The six-time Pro Bowler has averaged 14.2 sacks/season over his seven professional seasons in Dallas and has failed to reach double-digits just once. 

So there's no doubt I completely agree with Allen that a 25 sack season is very possible, and almost sure to happen in the future. But, then again, I don't believe it will be Allen that accomplishes this feat. If anyone, DeMarcus Ware will beat Allen to the punch in Dallas.

Who knows, maybe you will find this on my BOLD predictions list in August: Ware breaks Strahan's 11-year old sack record.

Note: I do not own the above images, and the quotes were found and borrowed from (Ian Rapoport). No copyright infringement intended.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Blog Remodeling Update: Changes and Improvements for 2012 Season!

BLOG UPDATE (please read):

Okay, so I've been making a couple of additions to the blog as of recently. I have just now discovered the cool feature that allows you to add pages to your site, which I was unaware of before now.

So off-season I will be adding a few tabs to the top (you can see that I've already added a couple).

If you notice at the very top of the page, below the title and description, there are tabs that say "home," "off-season," "standings," "fantasy" and "game simulations." Well, those are a couple of tabs I have been working on so far. If you click on them it will take you to another page. Obviously to return to my posts you simply just click on the Home tab.

It's a pretty cool feature and will make it feel as though I actually have a website, and not just a blogspot address.

Over the next couple of weeks I will be editing these further, and likely adding a few more to the mix. Also, as you can tell, I've been posting a little more often––five posts in the last week. I hope to continue my frequent posting.

Normally during the offseason I would wait until a big story comes up and then write a decent-length article about it. But I've decided I would like to post several times a week and maybe make the posts a little shorter in length. This way I get the feeling that readers will be more likely to read the entire post and wont get bored with it. People these days seem to have short attention spans (I would know, because I don't particularly enjoy reading extremely lengthy articles on the internet).

Notice I did two posts on who I believe will come out on top of their respective division this season (Panthers, Texans features so far). I will continue to do this over the next week or two until all eight divisions are completed, so keep with me here, and check back often.

If you are a regular reader and do not "follow" the blog on, please do so now! It makes me feel like I actually have regular followers who check back often, and am not just talking to myself. Because, you know, that would make me feel a little crazy. And lets face it, I already have enough things in life that make me feel like I'm a little crazy.

If you are like me and are antsy for football to return, I suggest you search "NFL" on and watch some of the shows/"Game of the Week" segments they have on there. It's been helping me get through the boring, football-free days. Once I start watching too much baseball, that's when I get my computer out and go to Hulu.

Okay, well I can't really think of anything else to rant (talk to myself) about, so I'm going to end this post with a photo that will hopefully make you laugh (out yourself...).


Ben Heck
All-Out Blitz

Is There Anything More Intimidating on the Football Field than A Bloody Face?

If that's not the face of intimidation, then I'm not so sure what is.

Brian Cushing, the leader of Houston's fourth-ranked defense in 2011, knows a thing or two about being bloodied on the football field. Back on November 6, against the Cleveland Browns, Cushing found himself in the middle of a post-play tussle with a Browns lineman. Right after being pushed from behind by the player while walking away, Cushing took off his helmet as he turned around to face the said Brown player, guard Shawn Lauvao. Unfortunately for Cushing, Lauvao head-butted him (looked unintentional as Lauvao simply got in Cushing's face).

The picture above was the end result: An angry, bloody Cushing. Houston went on to easily win the game, 30-12, to improve to 6-3 on their way to a franchise-best 10-6 season, a division title and the first playoff appearance in Texans' history.

Despite losing All Pro defensive end/outside linebacker Mario Williams, who signed elsewhere (Buffalo) this offseason, the Cushing-led Texans will be on the prowl once again in 2012. I expect even bigger things as this defense continues to mature and add depth.

A couple of days ago I expressed how confident I am in the Carolina Panthers as the favorites in the NFC South, and now I am expressing how much confidence I have in Houston capturing a second consecutive AFC South division title.

I do not own the above image. No copyright infringement intended.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Legendary Tomlinson to Officially Retire a Charger

It was announced earlier this morning that the soon-to-be 33-year old running back LaDainian Tomlinson will retire as a San Diego Charger. He will hold a press conference to make the official announcement on Monday.
Tomlinson, a.k.a. "LT," was drafted fifth overall by San Diego in the 2001 NFL draft after rushing for over 5,000 yards and 54 touchdowns in four seasons at Texas Christian University. The TCU Horned Frogs eventually retired his No. 5 jersey after his stellar career which included 2,158 yards and 22 TDs on the ground as a senior in 2000.
Tomlinson didn't win Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2001 (Anthony Thomas of the Bears was the winner), but he did, however, put up 1,200 yards and 10 TDs on the ground and left his mark on the league as a young 22-year old.
Over the next eight seasons with the Chargers, Tomlinson was the definition of a workhorse and every down back. He rarely missed a game (missed just three regular season starts while in SD) and posted at least 1,100 yards and 10 touchdowns in each of his nine seasons with the team.
Reaching five Pro Bowls and being named to four First Team All Pros solidified LaDainian as his era's most dangerous back. Using his combination of speed and agility, Tomlinson shredded opposing defenses similarly to the way Barry Sanders and Walter "Sweetness" Payton did throughout their respective Hall of Fame careers.
His signature TD celebration became a widespread phenomena as fellow players and fans alike attempted to emulate it.
He retires as the league’s fifth-leading rusher in history with 13,684 yards and third on the all-time touchdowns list (145 rushing, 17 receiving) behind only Jerry Rice (208 total) and Emmitt Smith (175 total).
The NFL MVP (2006) and two-time rushing leader ('06 and '07) also still holds the single-season record for total touchdowns, with 31 back in 2006 (28 rushing, three receiving). It’s a record that may not be broken again, in my opinion.
If there's any doubt that LT isn't a first ballot HOFer, then clearly you need to begin to do a little extra research.
The only thing Hall of Fame voters may hold against Tomlinson is his lack of postseason success and Super Bowl ring. In 10 playoff games, Tomlinson has just one 100-yard game and seven career TDs and a record of 5-5.
Fortunately for LaDainian, running backs are not judged by Super Bowl championships and postseason records. That's more of a career-maker (or breaker) for quarterbacks. As for Tomlinson's career lackluster 3.6 yards/carry average on 131 postseason rushing attempts, that wont slow him down either.
The best running back in NFL history (in my opinion) Barry Sanders has just a 4.2 Y/C average, 1 TD and a 1-5 record in six postseason starts with Detroit. The fact that his respective team has struggled in the postseason, along with Tomlinson's, doesn't take away from his accomplishments that got the team there.
Because, lets face it, Sanders is the sole reason Detroit made it that far. And much like him, Tomlinson was the main reason San Diego made five playoff appearances throughout his career.
Tomlinson's stellar career was slowed by a rocky finish in New York, as he spent two sub-par seasons with the Jets after showing signs of age with San Diego in 2009 (ran for under 1,000 yards in his career while missing two starts).
In New York, Tomlinson combined for 1,194 yards and 7 TDs in 14 starts. In the postseason, Tomlinson contributed 141 yards and two TDs on the Jets' way to an AFC Championship loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2010.
If it weren't for Jerry Rice and Emmitt Smith's outlandish careers, Tomlinson would be the league's TD king. Especially considering in addition to his 162 combined rushing/receiving TDs, he also threw for seven, yes seven, TDs in his 11 seasons.
Tomlinson's rare combination of speed, agility and elusiveness will allow him to go down as a top-5 running back in league history. In fact, here is my list of top running backs (in order): 1) Barry Sanders, 2) Walter Payton, 3) Jim Brown, 4) Emmitt Smith, 5) LaDainian Tomlinson.
That's right, another legend will officially retire tomorrow, and he will be dearly missed by the league. Maybe not by opposing defenses and D-Coordinators, but undoubtedly by everyone else.
Note: I do not own any of the above images. No copyright infringement intended.
Of course you know I had to include a highlight video, too (below)..

Friday, June 15, 2012

NFC South: Carolina the Favorites?

Ok, let's be real here for a couple minutes. Should anyone truly be shocked if the Carolina Panthers capture its first division title since 2008 this year?

Finishing at 6-10 with a rookie signal caller under center this past season, Carolina was seven games behind the first place New Orleans Saints and four behind the second place Atlanta Falcons. Sounds like a hefty task at hand for second-year head coach Ron Rivera, but it's really not as far off as you may think.

Taking a closer look at the 2011 campaign and it's clear that Carolina could have been a playoff team if they had caught just a couple of extra breaks. A little bit of luck, and the Panthers are in the thick of things down South.

First off, it's tough when you're forced to throw a rookie quarterback in a pool of sharks. That's pretty much what Rivera had to do in 2011, starting the No. 1 overall draft pick from day one against the Arizona Cardinals.

Carolina began the season at 2-6 heading in to the Week 9 off week, but the scoring was not lacking. Newton and his offense put up 20+ points in six of those eight games with wins over Jacksonville and Washington. In the second half of the season, Carolina went an even 4-4 with victories over teams such as division rival Tampa Bay (twice) and Houston.
Now, I will admit that the team's six victories weren't against the strongest teams (Tampa Bay, Washington, Jacksonville, Indianapolis and Houston), with a combined record of 26-54 and just one playoff team, but a majority of the 10 losses could have easily been wins as well.

The combined opposition record appears to diminish any value to the victories, but it really doesn't in my opinion. The Panthers were very much alive in all of its losses and, in fact, Newton came really close to leading the team over the defending champion Green Bay Packers in just his second career start (they lost 30-23).

Six of Carolina's 10 losses were by eight points or less, and they were blown out of the water just one time all season (30-3 Week 10 loss to Tennessee). Within the division, Carolina put up just a 2-4 record, defeating Tampa Bay handily on two separate occasions, but being defeated by New Orleans (30-27, 45-17) and Atlanta (31-17, 31-23) twice apiece.

Taking an even closer look and you can see that, despite some key injuries, the offense was very productive all season. Offensive Rookie of the Year winner Cam Newton did throw a decent amount of interceptions (16) but also set single-season rookie records for passing yards (4,051; previously held by none other than Peyton Manning himself) and rushing touchdowns by a quarterback (14).

One of the game's most dangerous rushing tandems–DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart–battled injuries throughout the season and each failed to break 1,000 yards for the second season in a row. During their most productive seasons, each of the two would run the ball 200+ times for over 1,000 yards and nearly 10 TDs.

Unfortunately Stewart saw 142 carries (761 yards, 4 TDs) while Williams got 155 (836 yards, 7 TDs). This, of course, still proved pretty productive as they both finished with 5.4 yards/carry averages, but didn't trump Newton's performance of 706 yards for 14 TDs (5.6 Y/C).

There have been numerous Stewart trade rumors spreading throughout the league for the past year or so, but none have been serious. This leads me to believe that he will once again don the Panther #28 jersey and shred through defenses come September. If the two can continue this success, stay healthy and possibly get closer to 200 carries in 2012 who knows if the offense will be stopped.

As a team, the Panthers put up 25.4 points per game in 2011, good enough for fifth in the league. In the running department, they ranked third in yards, first in TDs and first in Y/C...the passing game ranked in the middle of the pack, showing they have room for improvement and that will come with maturity (from Newton).

The defensive side of the ball was the achilles heel for the 2011 Panthers, as you can tell from looking at the offensive production.

The first and largest blow to the defense came before the season really got going. In July, middle linebacker and team leader Jon Beason was made the league's highest-paid MLB in history, signing a $50 million contract over five years ($25 million in guaranteed money). By September 14, he was placed on the season-ending injured reserve with a left achilles injury (total coincidence).

After that, things spiraled down from there.

Without his leadership, James Anderson (144 total tackles, 1.5 sacks, 2 INT, 8 PD, 3 FR in 16 starts) was forced to step up, and he did. But past Anderson, they really didn't get much production from the linebacking position and failed because of that. A great defense needs to force turnovers to give their offense a shot, but they ranked in the bottom half in turnovers in addition to allowing nearly 27 points per game.

Ranking in the bottom five defensively in points, yards allowed, rushing TDs and the bottom 10 in passing yards, passing TDs and rushing yards isn't exactly something you'd want on a resume. Injuries haunted Carolina all season long and the results mirror that.

The defensive line wasn't consistently anchored by the same guy, as Ron Edwards, Terrell McClain and Sione Fua all ended up on the IR at some point in the season.

The good news for Carolina? The defense can only get better from here. In the April draft, the front office added a great talent at linebacker in Boston College's Luke Kuechly at the No. 9 spot. Later in the draft they added some depth at D-End (Frank Alexander in the 3rd Rd) and secondary (CB Josh Norman in 5th, FS D.J. Campbell in 7th).

If Newton continues to improve at quarterback and he receives a repeat season from All Pro wideout Steve Smith (who has publicly stated he wants to play another 3-4 years), in addition to the stout run game continuing its success, then maybe Carolina can win this division without even playing lights out D.

I mean, come on. The Saints are still facing consequences from the BountyGate Scandal, which means no head coach and middle linebacker for 2012, and the Falcons have continued to underachieve when it matters most.

I stand by my statement: Carolina is my NFC South winner for the 2012 season. Just wait, football fans.

Note: I do not own any of the above images. No copyright infringement intended.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Early 2012 Preview: Top 5 Draft Picks

Having a top five draft pick in the NFL is a huge deal and can play a huge role in how the next 4-5 years pans out for your respective franchise.

Obviously landing a top five pick means you were at the bottom of the NFL standings the season before, or you traded up to select a player that you've had your eyes on for the last couple of months. Either way, making the correct decision is vital in both success and team chemistry.

This year's draft has been one of the most top-heavy first rounds we've seen in quite some years. Atop the first round we have two top-tier quarterbacks who are NFL-ready and are going to QB-thirsty teams. One (Stanford's Andrew Luck) will be replacing a franchise's icon and the other (Baylor's Robert Griffin III) will be going to a team that has lacked a play-making quarterback since Doug Williams left Washington in 1989.

It's the first time two quarterbacks have gone No. 1 and No. 2 overall since 1999, when Tim Couch (Browns) and Donovan McNabb (Eagles) were selected in back-to-back picks to start the draft. This could either be a history-making draft with Luck/RGIII putting up stellar careers over the next 10+ years, or it will be a huge letdown. I happen to be a firm believer that these two will have decent rookie seasons, both happen to be starting the season under center.

Here's a preview of what we should expect from Luck, RGIII and the other three top five picks in the draft that was completed at the end of April..

Note from the author: Reading this may overly-excite you for the start of the 2012 season. Unfortunately there is still just under three months until the season will kick-off, so beware..

Luck, Colts QB: No. 1 overall

The built tough and smart Stanford signal caller has a huge task at hand...replacing a legend in Peyton Manning. But, just completing his education at Stanford Luck has just re-joined the team for Mini Camps and has already impressed his teammates. Reading various tweets from his fellow Colts, I think it's safe to say he has the support of his peers already.

Being a Stanford guy, you know he's smart and I expect him to have Indy's playbook down pat by the time pre-season rolls around. With All Pro wideout Reggie Wayne re-signing with the team, the Colts have a proven target for him and plan on building the rest of the offense around Luck. Once the rebuilding process is complete, Indy could be Super Bowl contenders once again.
Griffin III, Redskins QB: No. 2 overall

The No. 2 overall pick by the Skins, who gave up everything but the kitchen sink to get him via a trade with the St. Louis Rams prior to the draft, has impressed many already as well. His wideouts have expressed how impressed they are with his arm strength via Twitter as well. The Skins have done what they can to place the pieces around Griffin as well, bringing in free agent WR Pierre Garcon out of Indy, WR Joshua Morgan. Retaining running back Tim Hightower for insurance was another move that I thought was a good idea.

His weapons aren't A+ grade, of course. But it's a good start. Drafting quarterback Kirk Cousins in the third round this year seems a little silly to me, especially after giving up so many picks just to land Griffin. But Cousins will manage to give RGIII a little added motivation throughout training camp. Perhaps that was the purpose of the move? We may never know.

This will surely be an interesting summer in D.C., wouldn't you agree?

Trent Richardson, Browns RB: No. 3 overall

Cleveland chose not to make a move for RGIII and instead snagged the top running back off the board. Given a very limited backs to choose from, the Browns didn't waste any time grabbing Richardson. With the selection of top five quarterback Brandon Weeden later in the first round (22 overall pick), it appears as though Cleveland is on the five-year plan and is looking to re-build the offense.

The loss of Peyton Hillis (signed with Kansas City on March 14) and the unreliability of additional running backs Montario Hardesty and Chris Ogbonnaya led to the drafting of Richardson, who has a great combination of speed and power. He has the ability to break long runs once he gets through the first level of opposing defenses.

Hardesty, a former second round pick in 2010, has been a huge letdown after missing all of 2010 and putting up just a 3.0 yards/carry average and zero TDs on 88 rushing attempts in 2011. The front office has high hopes that Richardson can bring an effective run game back to Cleveland, which is almost a requirement to have success within the AFC North.
Matt Kalil, Vikings LT: No. 4 overall

The least exciting pick of the top five, but that doesn't mean it isn't a huge pick. Trading down to the No. 4 spot, Minnesota snagged the top offensive line prospect in the draft, replacing last year's left tackle Charlie Johnson (70 starts in six seasons w/ IND and MIN). I don't think there's anyone I'd rather have protecting the young Christian Ponder's blindside than the 6'7"/306 pound, 22-year old Kalil.

With Adrian Peterson's recovery (ACL) still in question for the start of the season, the passing game will have to be more reliable and keeping Ponder, Donovan McNabb and Joe Webb off the ground was a huge issue last season. The Vikings allowed the fifth-most sacks in 2011 (49; tied with Chicago), which contributed to its 26 offensive turnovers.

A reliable LT is becoming more and more a requirement for a successful passing offense, and Minnesota certainly took a huge step forward in selecting Kalil, who has a brother (Ryan Kalil, current Panthers center) and father (Frank Kalil, former NFL/USFL OL) with professional football experience.

Justin Blackmon, Jaguars WR: No. 5 overall

This, by far, will be the most interesting first round selection to watch. Just over a week ago Blackmon was arrested for driving under the influence (his second DUI arrest since 2010) and there will likely be a suspension coming his way. Well, at least there should be. He hasn't even played a down in the NFL yet and he's already getting himself in trouble. Commissioner Goodell needs to set him straight and sit down and talk with him about his issues.

Anyway, if he does face suspension in 2012 it will be interesting to see how he copes with that and responds once he returns to the field. He's a play-maker and, if Blaine Gabbert can stay upright long enough to get him the ball, he will make plenty of plays for the Jaguars. He's an exciting guy to watch.

If all of this potential NFL drama heading in to training camps at the end of July doesn't excite you, then I'm not real sure what will. Maybe you should get your pulse checked.

Note: I do not own any of the above images. No copyright infringement intended.

Taking a Closer Look at Miami's Ochocinco Signing

Four days after being released by the New England Patriots following his lone season with the team, 34-year old Chad Ochocinco announced via Twitter on Monday that he had signed with the Miami Dolphins.

Sadly for the 'Phins, the 11-year old veteran wideout may have immediately climbed atop the depth chart.

Last season's leading receiver Brandon Marshall (81 receptions, 1,214 yards, 6 TDs) was traded to Chicago to reunite with former quarterback Jay Cutler on March 13 in exchange for two third round draft picks, leaving Davone Bess (51 receptions, 537 yards, 3 TDs) Miami's top wideout left on the roster.

Clearing Marshall off the roster was a puzzling move to me––and many others––especially considering all they received for the hefty three-time Pro Bowler was two third rounders. Two rookies, selected in the sixth and seventh rounds, are heading in to camp for Miami and may find the experience of Ochocinco helpful.
What I'm trying to say here is that Miami's receiving corps is incredibly inexperienced and, even with the addition of Ochocinco, lacks leadership. Legedu Naanee, 28, signed a one-year deal with the team in April and will provide an elusive presence for the offense.

Running back Reggie Bush, finally breaking out for a 1,000 yard season on the ground in 2011, has always been a threat out of the backfield (43 receptions, 296 yards, 1 TD) and will continue to do so throughout the 2012 campaign.

In 2011 Miami was 20th in total offense and 23rd in the passing game, using two different quarterbacks in Matt Moore (12 starts) and Chad Henne (four starts). The two combined for a 6-10 record and, surprisingly, just 13 interceptions.

With the eighth pick in the draft this past April, the front office took a chance on the questionable 6'4"/221 pound quarterback out of Texas A&M, Ryan Tannehill. Projected to go much later in the draft (late first rd/early second) this was a risky selection.

Henne is no longer on the 'Phins roster, which means Tannehill will duel it out with Matt Moore for the starting position starting at training camp towards the end of July. Tannehill is the darkhorse to win the starting roll––in my opinion, at least––but I wouldn't be surprised to see him the starter by mid-season should Moore struggle early on.

Given all of the above information, I think the only reasonable conclusion as to why Ochocinco (15 receptions, 276 yards, 1 TD) chose to head down to Miami was simply because he can head back to his hometown and play the game he loves. Or, perhaps he finds that this could be one of the last opportunities he gets to prove he can still play with the big dogs.

Luckily for both parties, the Dolphins' offensive system should be a little easier to grasp than their division counterpart and Ocho's former team New England. Despite his aging body, I expect Ocho to be a difference-maker for this offense, catching 50+ balls for over 500 yards.

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