Fantasy Football News

Friday, August 31, 2012

Friday Update: Teams Must Cutdown Roster to 53

The fourth and final week of the 2012 preseason is officially in the books as of last night, and we are now just a mere five days away from the start of the regular season.

That can only mean one thing: teams will need to cut down their rosters to the official 53-man depth chart prior to tonight's 9 p.m. eastern time.

Rookies and long-time journeymen alike have been fighting for a spot on the roster all summer long, and it all comes down to tonight. There have already been numerous well-known and former stars that have been cut by their respective team, and we still have more than four hours to go.

Two-time Super Bowl champion and Super Bowl MVP Deion Branch, and running back Tim Hightower (Redskins), were among the eyebrow-raising cuts to occur earlier today. In addition to Branch, the Patriots also cut ties with veteran center Dan Koppen, safety James Ihedigbo and backup quarterback Brian Hoyer.
Additional Headlines, News:

Cardinals name John Skelton Week 1 starter against Seattle; Kevin Kolb to be second-string QB for the start of the season

Jets finally got into the end zone in Wednesday night's preseason finale against Philadelphia. They, however, fell to 0-4 after the 28-10 defeat. Funny thing about this, is that it was actually third-string quarterback Greg McElroy that got New York into the end zone for the team's lone touchdown of the preseason. Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow have struggled all summer long, and will likely continue to struggle to start the season.

Colt McCoy earned the backup role in Cleveland after Seneca Wallace was sent walking. It will be interesting to see how rookie Brandon Weeden fares in his debut next weekend.

Pittsburgh's injuries woes have continued after learning that third-round pick ILB Sean Spence has torn ligaments in his knee and will miss the entire 2012 season. First-round pick David DeCastro also suffered a serious knee injury and will miss significant time. Between the two rookies, Rashard Mendenhall, Isaac Redman and James Harrison, the Steelers haven't been able to catch a break all off-season.


More cuts:

Vernon Gholston, STL
Mike Kafka, PHI
Danny Ware, NYG
O.J. Atogwe, PHI
Jerrod Johnson, PIT
Trai Essex, PIT
Rock Cartwright, SF

With less than a week to go until the start of the season, I will need to be getting my bold predictions, division winner predictions, division-by-division preview, season awards and Super Bowl picks posted as soon as I can. So look out for it this weekend, considering it's a three-day Labor Day weekend starting in 3...2...1...now!

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

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Age-less Holliday: A Look into Vonnie's 14-year Career

While I was sitting in my apartment watching the Cardinals/Titans Week 3 preseason matchup last night, I made a very interesting discovery: Vonnie Holliday is still in the NFL.

In the league since 1998, the 36-year old Holliday has played with the likes of Reggie White, LeRoy Butler, Hardy Nickerson, Scott Fujita, Jared Allen, Zach Thomas, Jason Taylor, Elvis Dumbervil, Champ Bailey and London Fletcher over the last 14 seasons.

While I was aware that Holliday had been involved in the Tim Hightower trade that sent him from Washington to Arizona last summer, I was surprised to see that Holliday was in uniform last night after recording just 16 total tackles in his first season with the Cards last year.

Playing for four different teams since 2008 (Dolphins, Broncos, Redskins, Cardinals), it's clear that Holliday no longer makes the impact on defense that he used to. But there's no doubt it was still nice to see him on the football field for his second season as a Cardinal.
The 6-foot-5, 285 pound defensive lineman has not played a full season since 2008, starting 15 of his 16 games in his final season with Miami. Recording 45 tackles and 3.5 sacks at defensive end, Holliday finished the season with the third-most sacks on the team behind Joey Porter (17.5) and Matt Roth (5).

Coming in to the league as the No. 19 overall selection by the Green Bay Packers in 1998, hailing from the University of North Carolina, Holliday recorded 52 tackles and set a franchise rookie record with eight sacks in 12 starts. He never surpassed the eight sack total throughout his career, coming close with seven on two separate occasions ('01 with GB and '06 with MIA).

Playing with six different teams, Holliday's longest tenure was the five seasons he spent in Green Bay from 1998-2002. He started a full 16 games just twice over that five year span, yet he managed to record 252 total tackles, 32 sacks, 5 forced fumbles and 2 interceptions in 63 starts (50 tackles, 6.5 sacks per average season).

Holliday signed a five-year, $21.3 million deal with Kansas City as a free agent in 2003, spending two seasons with the Chiefs before numerous injuries forced his release at the end of the 2004 season.
Signing with Miami a few weeks later, Holliday made the switch to defensive tackle where he helped clog up the middle of the line for four seasons. Holliday was one of the best up the middle for several seasons, in addition to his ability to get to opposing quarterbacks. Holliday was most effective with Miami in his first two seasons with the team (2005 and 2006), combining for 12 sacks in two complete seasons.

More injuries slowed down his production in 2007 and '08, and he failed to produce once he left Miami. Three starts with Denver in 2009, two starts with Washington in 2010 and zero starts last season with Arizona. And that brings us to today.

Last night, he did see the field, though it was minimal and did not have much of an impact. He's a longshot to make the final roster, in my opinion, but it's a nice story at least.

I think Holliday, who will be 37 in December, is heading towards the end of the road in the National Football League. And I think the All-Out Blitz is one of the few sites out there dedicating an entire post to Holliday and his NFL career. Someone's gotta do it, right?

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

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Mike Wallace Tells Teammates he Plans to Report and Sign Tender

According to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com/NFL Network, wideout Mike Wallace has informed his Steeler teammates that his plan is to report to team facilities this weekend and sign his free agent tender.

Two sources, Ian reports, have confirmed this. He will show up and sign the tender, ending his current holdout. Despite missing the entire training camp, we can expect Wallace to pick up right where he left off last season.

When (or if, because things could obviously still change) Wallace signs his one-year tender, he would be lined up to make $2.742 million this season.

While Wallace was holding out during camp in search of a new long-term deal, Pittsburgh went ahead and signed his teammate, wide receiver Antonio Brown, to a five-year, $42.5 million extension. I was expecting this to make a larger impact on the Wallace situation, but it appears as though Wallace just wants to concentrate on playing football for now.

Later on down the road, however, Wallace's contract issue is sure to come back into the light. But, for now, I believe both sides are just glad that he will likely be in a black and gold uniform this season.

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

Monday, August 20, 2012

Monday Headlines: Two Quarterback Battles Resolved

Despite just one game being played this evening, today was a big day in the National Football League. Plenty of news to go around.

As the quarterback battles wind down in the next two weeks or so, we have had two resolved today alone. Two young, semi-inexperienced head coaches have made bold decisions in announcing his team's opening day starter with two games still to play this preseason.

Down south in Miami, Joe Philbin–former Green Bay offensive coordinator from 2007-11–makes the decision to start No. 8 overall pick Ryan Tannehill as the starter for Miami's September 9 matchup with the Houston Texans and its stingy defense. Philbin is entering his first season as an NFL head coach.

In Tennessee, Mike Munchak, in his second season at the helm of the Titans after going 9-7 last season, names second-year quarterback Jake Locker as Tennessee's starter for a Week 1 matchup with Bill Belichick's New England Patriots.
Tannehill beats out veterans Matt Moore and David Garrard to become the first Dolphins quarterback to ever start his very first game as a rookie. Moore, 6-6 in 12 starts for Miami last season, has struggled early on this preseason, completing just 44% of his 27 pass attempts for 136 yards and an interception.

With Garrard out for at least the first month of the season due to injury, Tannehill has out-shined the remainder of Miami's QB depth chart, completing 25 of his 44 pass attempts for 267 yards and a TD. Despite missing part of camp due to his holdout, Tannehill has jumped right in and impressed Miami's coaching staff early on.

The Tannehill decision, in my opinion, doesn't really come as much of a surprise. The decision in Tennessee, however, has come as a bit of a surprise to me.

Locker impressed in his rookie campaign last season, when he saw playing time of course. But it was Hasselbeck who did the heavy lifting. Locker appeared in five games, throwing for 542 yards and 4 TDs with zero interceptions. But it was the 36-year old veteran Hasselbeck that threw for 3,571 yards and 18 TDs in 16 starts, falling just short of the playoffs.

This preseason Locker has been a bit inconsistent, turning in an impressive debut in a 27-17 losing effort to Seattle the first week but then merely passing for 4/11 with 21 yards and an INT this past weekend. Hasselbeck has been his normal self in both games (other than two INTs vs. SEA).
The Munchak decision is clearly a look into the future, as Hasselbeck only has so much left in his tank. Matt will serve as a mentor for the 24-year old signal caller, and be available should Locker suffer an injury or underperform. Rusty Smith will serve as a solid third-stringer to Locker and Hasselbeck in Tennessee.

Tannehill will join Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Brandon Weeden as the fourth rookie quarterback to start for his respective team for the regular season opener. All of the aforementioned, minus Cleveland's Weeden, of course, were top 10 picks this past year.

What's next for NFL in terms of quarterback battles? Will it be Matt Flynn finally beating out Russell Wilson for the Seattle starting job? John Skelton de-throning the expensive Kevin Kolb in the desert? Dare I say it, but will the quarterbacks in New York finally start performing? Still a lot of questions to be answered before we get underway in September.

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

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Colts at Steelers Live Blog: Primetime Preseason Action

It's only Week 2 of the preseason, I know. But it's primetime football and rookie quarterback Andrew Luck will be making his road debut, in Pittsburgh's Heinz Field of all places.

It'll be quite the test for the young signal caller, but I'm sure he's well-prepared for it. This will be the second chance for fans to get a look at Pittsburgh offensive coordinator Todd Haley's reinvented offense.

Running back continues to be the position that has haunted Pittsburgh early on, with Isaac Redman suffering a hip injury. The injury will not require surgery, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter, and he will likely be able to return to the practice field early this week, but he will not be available for tonight's game.

Rashard Mendenhall was just activated from the PUP list this week, but clearly he still may not be able to play the entire month of September.

What exactly does this mean? Well, until we figure out how serious the Redman injury is, it appears as though the rest of the Pittsburgh running backs will be under the microscope tonight (and for the rest of the preseason).

Baron Batch, John Clay, Jonathan Dwyer and rookie Chris Rainey will be battling it out tonight and the last two weeks.

As for the Colts, the big headline for tonight–and every other time the Colts are even mentioned–will be Andrew Luck, the No. 1 overall pick in April. He made a very impressive debut last weekend, and will look to add on to that in tonight's matchup with Pittsburgh's hard-nosed defense.

Here's the live-blog feed for tonight's game, I will be making edits and adding on to this as the night goes on...

6:57 PM eastern time: We are now just over an hour until kickoff in Heinz Field, here's a look at the field.

Found a couple of pre-game photos (from SNF on NBC's twitter page):


*If you would like updates straight from NBC, just follow their Twitter account @SNFonNBC

*Two great Twitter accounts to follow for Steelers and Colts news/updates: @Steelersdepot and @nflcolts

*Steelers: No Redman and Mendenhall tonight (as stated above), so I would expect for Dwyer to get the start. Roethlisberger, Charlie Batch and Jerrod Johnson is the QB rotation. Byron Leftwich will not play, according to head coach Mike Tomlin. No tackle Max Starks tonight, either.

Tomlin: "I'd like for them to play about as twice as long as they did last time out. That's always a general reference but I always reserve the right to change it based on circumstance, performance, time of possession and things of that nature." (as told to Steelers.com earlier this week)

*Indy's offensive coordinator Bruce Arians will be facing his old team. It's only preseason, but you know Arians will want to stick it to his old employers after the awkward exit in Pittsburgh this offseason. Should be interesting to watch tonight.

*Former St. Louis Rams wideout Donnie Avery will likely miss his second preseason game in a row for the Colts tonight. According to reports, he could end up being Indy's slot receiver this season if he can stay healthy.

Former Pittsburgh wideout Hines Ward joined the NBC Sunday Night Football coverage team this offseason after his retirement from the game. The long-time Steeler will be making his debut as an analyst in the city he played for over the last 14 seasons (pictured below w/ sportscaster Dan Hicks from @SNFonNBC))

8 PM ET: NBC's coverage is kicking off as we speak. Meaning kick-off will come in about five minutes. Dan Hicks and Cris Collinsworth will be calling the game in the booth.

*Protection for Roethlisberger (with two rookies on the O-line) will be very key for Pittsburgh this season. For Indianapolis? A potent running game to take pressure off Luck.

*It will be interesting to see how Andrew fares under pressure. St. Louis didn't stand a chance against Indy last week, falling 38-3. Pittsburgh will be a different story as Dick LeBeau is sure to bring the heat tonight. This will be the first real test for Luck.

Tomlin to Michelle Tafoya prior to game:

"He's got a passion for winning" on new OC Todd Haley.

"We're taking it day-to-day" on Redman injury.

"It was good. Not good for a rookie, good for any quarterback" on Luck's debut last Sunday.

First Quarter

8:07 ET: Colts kickoff to Steelers. Kick sails over rookie Rainey's head for a touchback. Here comes Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh O.

8:10 ET: Dwyer does, in fact, get the start as expected and takes the first two plays of the game for a first down. He'll get a lot of playing time tonight according to Collinsworth.

Rainey is down after being popped by Jerraud Powers on an end-around (third play of game). Rainey fumbled the ball on the play after a solid gain, however wideout Emmanuel Sanders did recover. Timeout taken for Rainey injury (appears to be his head), and updates on the extent of his injury will be on the way.

Personal thought: I always love NBC's football teasers/commercials. Just saw the one for the Sunday Night Week 1 matchup of Denver and Pittsburgh. Just gets you even more pumped for the start of the season in September.

8:13 ET: Cory Redding just limped off the field for the Colts. Not even three minutes in and we've already seen two players leave due to injury. Bad news.

Will be interesting to see how Indy's transition from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 defense will go this season. Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney, former d-ends, will be playing outside linebacker.

8:15 ET: Roethlisberger is picked off on this opening drive by Antoine Bethea, intended for Antonio Brown. We will get our first look at Luck in just a few minutes.

*Pagano and Arians are showing us that they would like to keep it safe with Luck so far...first three pass attempts are under five yards, just one of them completed. Three & out for Indy as Roethlisberger will come out for his second possession with 10:45 remaining in the opening quarter.

*It's been reported that Pittsburgh inside linebacker Stephen Sylvester will be out for 3-4 weeks with a torn MCL in his left knee. Along with RB, linebacker is one of Pittsburgh's thinnest positions at the moment due to injuries (James Harrison, Jason Worilds).

Mike Wallace to return this week? Who knows, but that's been the word on the street.

Injury update: Rainey being evaluated in the locker room for concussion symptoms. Indy's Redding being evaluated after injuring knee.

8:26 ET: Roethlisberger to Antonio Brown for a 57-yard touchdown reception. Caught a short pass and turned it into a long run on 3rd and 4. The extra point makes it 7-0 Steelers.

*Austin Collie, who's already had a history of concussions, has left the game after that hit.

*Indianapolis sure does have quite a few young, quick receivers. They'll see their fare share of playing time this preseason, too.

8:40 ET: So far Pitt's defense has been giving Luck the jitters, it appears. Has made some errant passes (2/7, 16 yards) and hasn't done much of anything in Indy's first 2 possessions. Acceptable for a youngster.

*Shoulder strain for Colts' Mathis. He's done for the night. No word on Collie yet.

8:43 ET: Steeles' Ike Taylor just picked off Luck and took it to the house. Luck pretty much handed him that one as he stared down the receiver. The 49-yard return and extra point puts Pittsburgh up 14-0 late in the first quarter of play.

8:49 ET: End of the first quarter, Pittsburgh 14-0. But following that INT TD, and a sack to start the current drive, Luck is driving this Indy offense down the field. Despite early struggles, Luck is keeping his head up and, as a quick learner, I'd say he bounces back from the vital mistake on the previous drive.

*PIT first quarter stats: 7 passes/8 runs...Dwyer 4 attempts, Batch 2, Rainey 1, Roethlisberger 1. Pittsburgh needs to spread the ball around to all backs and see who rises to the occasion.

*IND first quarter stats: 12 passes/4 runs. Luck is 6/12, 76 yards, 1 INT. Clearly Pagano wants to put the ball in Luck's hands early and often to see what he can do against this defense.

Second quarter

8:56 ET: Luck drives the Colts down the field after his INT and puts the ball into the end zone. 14-7 early in the second. Donald Brown capped the drive off with a one-yard run on third down. Drive went for 80 yards and took 10 plays. That's the kind of drive you'd like to see your franchise quarterback complete, even if it is only preseason. Did it with ease.

Photo from Brown's TD catch in first quarter (borrowed from NFL.com's Facebook page):
Injury update: Collie being treated for concussion symptoms. Mathis will not return with a strained left knee.

9:07 ET: Luck's second pick of the night. This one wasn't even his fault. Receiver juggled it, knocked it into the air and it was picked off by Pittsburgh's Cortez Allen.

9:10 ET: Veteran Charlie Batch is now in for Roethlisberger with about 9 minutes to play in the second quarter.

*Pittsburgh's nose tackle Steve McLendon started out at 280 lbs., now apparently up to 320 as he has gained 10 pounds of muscle with each season he's been with the team. Casey Hampton was just activated off the PUP list, but McLendon has certainly made his case for the starting job this summer.

9:30 ET: Andrew Luck slides in from the one yard line to cap off his second scoring drive of the night at the two minute warning. Watching the replay, the ball clearly was not across the line (in my opinion), but the replay officials said it was. No official review took place, and the touchdown was counted. Knotted up at 14 with 1:56 in the opening half.

*The drive went 80 yards on 11 plays. Batch is back out for Pittsburgh (both QB Charlie and RB Baron).

Wow, had Charlie Batch really been with the Steelers for 11 years now? I certainly did not realize it's been that long. Seems like just yesterday he was Detroit's starter...Batch is 5-2 as Pittsburgh's starter.

9:36 ET: With :42 to play in the half, it appears Luck will come out for his final drive of the game. So, naturally, the Colts will run a couple of pass plays before he exits the game for good tonight.

Four time Super Bowl champ Adam Vinatieri just drilled a 53-yard field goal attempt as time expires in the half. Pittsburgh gets out to a 14-0 first quarter lead, but 17 unanswered points from Indy gives them a 17-14 halftime lead.

Halftime stats: Colts 17, Steelers 14...Luck: 16/25, 175 yards, 0 TD, 2 INT (3 scoring drives), Roethlisberger: 5/9, 81 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT.

Total plays: IND 41, PIT 25...1st downs: IND 13, PIT 5...total yards: IND 229, PIT 151...pass yards: IND 170, PIT 96...rush yards: IND 59, PIT 55...T.O.P.: IND 18:19, PIT 11:41.

Can't imagine being Luck, and realizing that, "hey, the Colts just gave up one of the franchise's greatest quarterbacks of all-time in order to draft me with the first pick." That's a lot of pressure placed on the shoulders of a 22-year old. Clearly, of all guys, Andrew is the perfect person/player to replace a legend though.

Luck during pre-game warm-ups (via Colts' Facebook page) below:
*Ward just made his television debut, talking with Collinsworth during halftime. Didn't really say anything that caught my attention, but yet I still think I already like him more than Collinsworth. They should let Hicks call the game with Ward instead. Am I right??

Pagano at halftime: "Luck is unflappable"
Tomlin at halftime: "Looking for more physical play"

I agree, Luck doesn't seem to let mistakes both him for very long, as displayed this evening. As for Tomlin's comment, it's scary to think he wants them to be even more physical this evening. It's already been a hard-hitting first half. Should be interesting to see how backup Drew Stanton fares in the third.

Third quarter

9:56 ET: Stanton's first drive of tonight, early on in the third, ends with a punt by Pat Macafee, which is BLOCKED by Pittsburgh, setting Batch up with a 1st and goal at the IND 10-yard line.

*Pittsburgh's first round pick, right guard David DeCastro, is still in the game.

Score alert (10:01 ET): Tie game, 17-17. Daniel Hrapmann, undrafted free agent and backup to Shaun Suisham, hits a 25-yard field goal w/ just over 11 minutes to play in the third.

10:07 ET: T.Y. Hilton, the receiver that bobbled a Luck pass in the first half which resulted in his second INT of the game, just caught his second pass of the game. Play went for 29 yards on a pass from Stanton.

*Stanton started just four games (2-2 record) in his four seasons with the Detroit Lions from 2008-11. At 28, he signed a contract with the Jets in March, but after the Tebow acquisition he requested a release or trade. He ended up being traded to Indy (along with a 7th rd pick) for a sixth rounder two days after the request.

....And here he is throwing a four-yard TD pass to undrafted free agent rookie Griff Whalen. Caps off a 9-play, 74-yard drive in which Stanton went 4/7 for 69 yards. 24-17 Indy.

*Okay, DeCastro is now out at right guard. John Malecki replaces the rookie for Pittsburgh.

10:18 ET: Steelers Depot just tweeted that PIT's O-line is now Adams, Beachum, Legursky, Malecki and Essex here in the third quarter. Meaning rookie second round selection Mike Adams is still in the game at left tackle.

10:28 ET: David Gilreath is really showing us he wants a spot on this Pittsburgh roster. That's his second first down catch of the drive. First one went for 41 yards, this one for seven from Batch.

*Lots of great backstories from the young guys on this field tonight.

Score alert: Hrapmann with his second field goal of the night to pull the Steelers within four points, 24-20, after a 39-yarder.

Starks/Adams battle for left tackle position for Steelers is starting to get interesting. It's the only offensive line position that is questionable for the start of the season. Most other O-line positions seem to be set for Tomlin's Steelers.

It's 10:35 eastern time here, and the third quarter has come to a close with the score 24-20. I am expecting to see Jerrod Johnson at the QB position for the Steelers once they get the ball back. As for Indy, I think Stanton will at least finish out this current drive.

*Hines Ward will join the guys in the booth when the fourth quarter gets underway in a couple of minutes.

*Batch and Batch: Charlie went 7/10, 84 yards in third qtr; Baron ran for 19 yards on eight carries (only 2.4 YPC).

*Stanton threw for 69 yards on his four completions in his quarter of play. Made some incredible passes, but he's made some errant ones as well. A bit erratic, in my opinion.

Fourth quarter

10:40 ET: Twitter is blowing up right now, as it usually does when sporting events are taking place. Andrew Luck, Austin Collie, Charlie Batch, Colts and SNF are all trending in the United States at the current moment.

Oh hey, look at that. I was right about Johnson coming in for the fourth...well, duh, Tomlin said he wanted to see a lot of Johnson. But still, I'm going to pretend like I was way ahead of everyone else watching.

*Rookie Chris Rainey just called for a 15-yard chop block penalty, but it wasn't even a chop block. Mike Adams wasn't already engaged with the defender, so it shouldn't have been called on Rainey. It'll be 2nd and 22, nonetheless.

Cris Collinsworth, to no surprise, is sucking up to Hines Ward right now. I'm not sure I like this. Actually, I know I don't like this. It's a little too weird, Cris...

*Big fan of the mobility of Johnson, it's a different kind of mobility than Roethlisberger. Ben uses his strength to overpower defenders, Johnson just straight up outruns them. Nice change of pace.

Score alert: Hrapmann has continued to make a case for the starting role as PIT's placekicker, hitting a 43-yarder to make the game 24-23 with approximately 10 minutes to play in the game. At least this one's a close game.

Love the Eli Manning/DeMarcus Ware fantasy football commercial. I may be alone when I say this, but I think I enjoy Eli's commercials more than Peyton (in particular, his DirecTV commercials with Deion Sanders).

With the pace of the game slowing down quite a bit at this stage of the game, I've decided to post some action photos (from Colts official website, I do not own any of the images):
Not the best photos (^^^), but it's tough to find photos of games when the game is still being played. Soooo, this is what I was able to come up with.

*Again, I was right with an earlier statement. Stanton finished out the drive from the third quarter that carried over into the fourth before Chandler Harnish took over at QB. Harnish was this season's "Mr. Irrelevant," being picked with the final pick in this past April's draft.

Harnish, 24, was a four-year starter while playing his college ball at North Illinois University.

He threw for over 3,000 yards and 28 TDs (only 6 INTs) as a senior at NIU last season.

11:00 ET: Harnish has had a couple of connections over the middle with Griff Whalen, who now has three catches for 39 yards.

Well, I was just giving you all this positive vibe about Harnish, but then he goes and throws Indy's third pick of the night. Jerrod Johnson will get the chance to put PIT ahead again as we approach the five minute mark. Josh Victorian makes the pick.

*Gilreath has been making plays all over the place tonight. Made a great second effort after reaching up high for a Johnson pass. Evaded one tackler and got the first down. Now has four catches for 78 yards.

Wow, gotta be kidding me. Wearing Mewelde Moore's #21 jersey, rookie Jason Ford has ran for a couple of back-to-back first downs before being hit from behind and suffering an apparent injury–he has left the game for now. His 56 yards on six carries leads the Steelers tonight.

*Rainey showing he can make an impact this season, and I've really liked the guy so far this preseason. Showing some potential in this offense. Excited to see his versatility.

11:11 ET: Colts have used two timeouts just before the two minute warning. Clearly trying to save some time on the clock for them to come back and score if Pittsburgh takes the lead on this drive.

*Two minute warning and Johnson has the Steelers inside the five yard line after rushing for a first down on a play-action bootleg. What a play by the young guy.

When we return from the commercial break the Steelers will have a first and goal inside the five, as they are down by one. 24-23. Ford has returned to the game, fortunately for Pittsburgh. Likely just a cramp. I mean, it is late in the game.

*Johnson is 4-for-5 for 65 yards in this quarter.

Ford has been nicknamed "Mini Bus" by Collinsworth and Ward tonight. The 251 pounder was just stopped for a loss by Indy's front line on first down.

...And stopped for another loss on second. Three straight running plays (last one by Rainey) gets Pittsburgh nowhere, as they will have to settled for a fourth Hrapmann field goal after a 15-play drive. His attempt was blocked, but it still just barely split the uprights for a 26-24 score. Harnish has :20 to re-take the lead for a victory.

11:23 ET: Colts fall short on the final drive, failing to convert on 4th and 10.

Final: Steelers 26, Colts 24

Final thoughts: Well, not bad for my first live blog of the season, I'd say. Right? Am I right? Let me know what you thought of it in the comments section. Was it too short, too long? Too boring, not informative enough? You tell me!

As for the game, it was a pretty exciting game for a mid-preseason matchup, in my opinion. Primetime is always fun to watch and we did learn one thing: Andrew Luck has amnesia when it comes to making mistakes, and he didn't look much like a rookie in his 175-yard performance. He's obviously got some things to work on (like staring down that receiver), but a nice road debut against a stingy defense.

Well, it's about time for me to sign out for the night. Thanks for reading and be sure to come back for my thoughts on position battles and preseason matchups, among other things, this week.

Cousins Impresses with 264-yard, 3 TD performance; Skins' Comeback Attempt Falls Short

Wherever the Washington Redskins travel this season, rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III will steal the spotlight and receive all the media attention. That, however, was certainly not the case once the second half of Washington's preseason Week 2 matchup with the Chicago Bears got underway.

Down 20-10 at the break and a struggling RGIII done for the day, another rookie signal caller for the Skins entered the game and stole the limelight from the hyped No. 2 overall pick in April's draft.

Kirk Cousins, Washington's fourth round selection in April and a Chicago , entered the game and led Washington's reserves to three fourth quarter touchdown drives, bringing them all the way back from a 30-10 deficit. Though Chicago eventually re-took the lead for good following a late 57-yard field goal off the foot of veteran kicker Robbie Gould, Cousins still looked very impressive.
Griffin, finishing the first half with five completions and 49 yards on eight pass attempts, ran for his life in Washington's backfield for much of the first thirty minutes of clock time. Griffin was sacked a couple of times and lost a fumble during one of those sacks, leading to a Chicago touchdown a few plays later.

Griffin simply didn't look comfortable in the pocket and really only had one drive that didn't sputter (9-play, 80-yard drive that ended with a Neil Rackers field goal and ate up 4:30 of the clock).

Washington's questionable selection of Cousins–Michigan State's quarterback who is turning 24 years old today–is starting to look like an ingenious selection on Mike Shanahan's part. Personally, I did not like the selection and thought it was a silly move given how much they are putting into Griffin, but since, at any point in time, RGIII could suffer a season-ending injury, it's nice to have Cousins as insurance.

And I will admit, Cousins' performance last night may have won over a few more supporters in the D.C. area.
The battle for second-string quarterback is a heated one between Cousins and former Chicago quarterback Rex Grossman. But with Cousins playing the entire second half of last night's game, and performing as well as he did, I think he may have the upper hand over Rex at this point in the preseason.

Clearly, whether he struggles or performs well in the last two weeks of August, Griffin is 100% the opening day quarterback for Washington. But Cousins can further solidify himself as his backup and even tighten the gap between him and RGIII if he keeps this up in the coming weeks.

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Monday, August 13, 2012

The Darren McFadden Effect: RunDMC Gives Oakland Best Shot at Winning Games

Tonight is the night we will get to see Oakland's Darren McFadden back in action during the Raiders' preseason opener against the Dallas Cowboys. With Michael Bush departing for Chicago, it appears as though RunDMC (McFadden's nickname) will need to be as healthy as ever in 2012.

Mike Goodson, Carolina's former third stringer who filled in for the injured Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams two seasons ago by running for 452 yards and 3 TDs in three 2010 starts, was brought in to replace Bush as McFadden's backup.

Goodson played in all 16 games two seasons ago while filling in briefly, but last season very rarely saw the field (1 reception, 11 kick returns all season). He was hit hard during practice about a week ago and was carted off the field with an injured neck, but is expected to be ready for the opening of the regular season.

McFadden's NFL career has certainly gotten off to a rocky start. The fourth overall pick in the 2008 draft, McFadden has yet to play a complete season as he now enters his fifth year in the Raiders organization.

Running for 1,157 yards and seven TDs two seasons ago while averaging 5.2 yards per carry or better for two straight campaigns, McFadden has certainly shown ability and potential. It's inconsistency, however, that has made it tough for Oakland's fan base, and fantasy owners everywhere, to watch.
A guy who was once regarded as a true No. 1 back and a lock to break 1,000 rushing yards and close to double digit TDs totals yearly, is now seen as an injury prone risk. His best season by far was 2010 when he ran for over 1,000 yards the only time of his career yet still only started 13 games due to a hamstring injury suffered on October 3.

Over his career, RunDMC has averaged 657 yards and four touchdowns a season. Those are the types of numbers you'd see a second-string, possibly even a third-string running back putting up. But in just 32 starts over four season, it appears as though he's seen about as much playing time as a backup would. If he were to start every game, he would have exactly doubled his start count, to 64, which would have led to double the production.

No matter how much, or how little, of the field he's seen over the years due to the numerous injuries he's been battling, there's no doubting the idea that the Oakland Raiders are a far more dangerous team when he is carrying the football.

Numbers never lie, and this is certainly the case for McFadden and the struggling Oakland organization.

Since coming into the league in 2008, the Raiders have put up a combined record of 26-38 under three different head coaches. Two 5-11 campaigns in '08 and '09, then two mediocre 8-8 campaigns in '10 and '11.

Inconsistent quarterback play and less-than-average coaching could be to blame for the disappointing seasons. Or, you could say McFadden hasn't lived up to expectations. Either way, lets take a closer look at the Raiders with and effective Darren running the football, and an ineffective Darren running the football (or no Darren at all). The numbers tell it all.

Overall, the Raiders have a losing record in games that McFadden has appeared in since his 2008 rookie campaign (19-26), but in games that he ran for either 100 yards or a TD the Raiders have been much more successful with a 9-3 record. In multi-TD games for McFadden, Oakland is 3-1.
Those three records in comparison show that when McFadden is in the zone, Oakland has a much higher percent chance of winning the game.

We can dig a little deeper and take a closer look at when McFadden receives 10 or more carries as well. In 18 of McFadden's 45 games, he received less than 10 carries throughout the game. Now, clearly if you aren't touching the ball for at least 10 plays, you aren't making a huge impact on the outcome.

In those 27 games in which he did carry the ball for 10 or more times, the Raiders went 15-12. In games in which he ran 20 or more times, the Raiders went 6-2. The only time McFadden received 30 carries in a single game was on September 19, 2010 against the St. Louis Rams, and the outcome was 145 rushing yards and a 16-14 victory.

Moral of the story? Get McFadden the ball early and often to put your team in position to win. McFadden has struggled mightily to stay healthy enough for 20-25 touches a game, but he has shown over his career that good things happen when he gets a lot of touches each game.

The 24-year old has run for 150 or more yards throughout his 32 starts just four times (164, 165, 150, 171), including his second career game and most recently twice last September, but the Raiders have proven unbeatable during that occurrence. They are a perfect 4-0 in those games, including a 59-14 romping of division rival Denver two Octobers ago. In that game McFadden set a personal-best 3 TDs as it took him just 16 attempts to run for 165 yards (10.3 YPC).

Clearly, when McFadden is healthy and gets his fair share of touches, he doesn't go easy on opponents. On 12 separate occasions RunDMC posted a 5.0 yards/carry average in a game in which he received 10 or more rushing attempts. Seven of those went for 100+ yards and three more fell just short of that mark.

Are any of these McFadden facts impressing you yet? No? Well, okay, here's one more piece of information to digest before you make up your mind and decide whether or not to jump on the McFadden bandwagon: his injury history.
Staying healthy is the most important thing that NFL running backs deal with, and it's one of the biggest downsides to McFadden's game. Throughout his NFL career he's dealt with many different injuries to his body which caused him to miss nine starts in 2011 and 2009 and three starts in 2010.

*In his 2008 rookie campaign, McFadden suffered a toe injury against Kansas City in Week 2 which limited him for the rest of the season (finished season w/ 499 yards, 4 TD on 113 attempts in 5 starts/13 games).

*In 2009 McFadden battled numerous injuries, including a knee injury that kept him out for four games (finished season w/ 357 yards, 1 TD on 104 attempts...7 starts/12 games).

*In 2010, McFadden's breakout season, he ran for a career-best 1,157 yards and 7 TDs on 223 attempts. He missed just three starts due to a hamstring injury. This season was the only time McFadden ran the ball for 200+ times in his career.

*In 2011, McFadden was back to his beat-up self, missing the last nine games of the season due to a foot injury suffered in October. He finished his seven-start season with 614 yards and four TDs on, again, just 113 carries.

This year is vital for McFadden to be fully healthy and in the lineup each week, especially considering Bush is gone and current backup Mike Goodson, who basically had last season off, is already dinged up in camp and doesn't appear to be fully ready to be a complete backup to McFadden in Oakland, though he was effective in Carolina when he saw the field.

Carson Palmer will be heading in to his first full season under center for Oakland, and with Dennis Allen heading in to his first season as the franchise's head coach, the Raiders should be excited about getting the 2012 season underway.

At the young age of 24, McFadden still has yet to hit his full potential and has plenty left to offer for the Oakland offense. Darren finally has a true No. 1 quarterback at the helm in the 32-year old Palmer, meaning this offense could finally see some balance this season.

I see the Pro Bowl and a couple of All Pro selections in McFadden's future.

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Andrew Luck Takes Control of Offense in Pro Debut

One day after the best debut of Week 1 of the preseason, possibly even one of the best rookie quarterback debuts we've seen in years, there seems to be more talk about the release of Miami Dolphins wideout Chad Johnson.

It's a shame, really. Sure, the Johnson arrest (head-butted his wife, Evelyn) came as a bit of a surprise, therefore leading to the surprise release of the veteran wideout. But why is it that we are more obsessed with discussing his future, rather than the future of the No. 1 overall pick in this year's draft: Andrew Luck.

Yesterday afternoon was the long-awaited debut of former Stanford Cardinal quarterback Andrew Luck, who is taking over the reins from Colt legend Peyton Manning–now a Denver Bronco.
His first ever pass? A 63-yard touchdown completion to running back Donald Brown. It was only a little dump-off to Brown, who did the rest of the work as he followed his blocking and took it to the house. Luck simply stood in there long enough for Brown to bounce off his block and took off down the field after the catch.

The rest of the game for Luck went just as smoothly, as he played a majority of the first half and left the game with a 21-3 lead over the St. Louis Rams. Luck's stat-line at the end: 10/16, 188 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT.

Luck orchestrated three near-perfect scoring drives on four total possessions, one being just the one play for 63 yards. The other two–7 plays, 53 yards and 13 plays, 80 yards–took a little bit more time off the game clock.

Throughout Indy's 13 play, 80-yard scoring drive that was capped off with a Delonte Carter one-yard TD run, Luck was in the no-huddle offense and lined his offense up in the shotgun for nine of those plays. Eight of the 10 completions went for 10+ yards (63, 10, 12, 5, 23, 9, 12, 12, 10, 32).

Luck displayed poise and had complete control over his offense. Obviously this is only the first preseason game of 2012, but if his performance against St. Louis' first team defense is any indication, Luck could have a solid rookie season.
His predecessor, Peyton, threw for a TD on his first professional pass with Indianapolis as well, so could Luck just be following in his footsteps?

No. 2 overall pick Robert Griffin III had a solid debut for the Washington Redskins this past weekend in a 7-6 victory over the Buffalo Bills, too. Griffin played a lot less than Luck did, going 4/6 for 70 yards and a touchdown pass to Pierre Garcon from 20 yards out.

It's a much smaller sample size in Washington, but either way both young guns impressed in their first couple snaps as professional players. I'm thinking there's still plenty from where that came from.

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Friday, August 10, 2012

With Mathews Out 4-6 Weeks, Brinkley and Brown Must Step up

Following last night's 21-13 preseason-opening victory over the reigning Most Valuable Player Aaron Rodgers and his Green Bay Packers, the San Diego Chargers received some very bad news.

Starting running back Ryan Mathews, 25, suffered an injury on his very first carry of the game. It was later revealed that he sustained a broken clavicle (collarbone) and was scheduled to undergo surgery at some point today. His recovery time is 4-6 weeks.

Being as it is August 10, Mathews isn't expected to return until at least September 10 and that is a very optimistic way of looking at San Diego's situation.

The way I see it is that the Chargers will now have a position battle to be Mathews' replacement, for the time being. It appears to be a battle between 30-year old proven veteran Ronnie Brown and the 26-year old unproven and inexperienced Curtis Brinkley.
Brown, entering his first season with the Bolts, is clearly past his prime and was brought in as merely a third-down or an insurance back while Brinkley wasn't expected to make much of a splash at all behind Mathews.

Brinkley has just 32 career attempts between 2010 and 2011 after being signed by the Chargers as an undrafted free agent. But last night he showed he could step in and help out a team in need, showing off his speed on his way to a 42 yard, 1 TD performance on his 11 carries against Pack's defense.

With Mathews out until Week 3 or 4 of this season, the Chargers will need to rely on a combination of Brinkley (1st and 2nd downs) and Ronnie Browns (3rd down) if they want the running game to hold its ground while Mathews recovers.

Given Mathews was supposed to breakout this season after his 1,091 yard, 6 TD in just 13 starts during his sophomore campaign last season, the Chargers will certainly miss him for the first few weeks no matter who steps it up for coach Norv Turner.
Brinkley's senior year at Syracuse was way, way back in 2008 but his NFL career got off to a slow start after he was shot three times during the summer of 2009. Recovery has been gradual, but if last night was any indication then it appears as though Brinkley is completely focused and geared towards his performance on the football field.

With Mathews out, Brinkley (shown above in a 2011 game vs. Kansas City) looks poised to step up and take the reins for a couple of weeks...with a little help and leadership from the veteran Brown, of course.

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Thursday, August 9, 2012

Preseason Kick-off: 47 Reasons to Tune in Tonight

Sure, the NFL season technically got underway with the Saints defeating the Cardinals 17-10 last Sunday in the 2012 Hall of Fame game. But that doesn't even officially count as a preseason game, it's just a simple exhibition game.

Tonight–Thursday August 9–is the official official start to the preseason, and I can barely contain my excitement as we are just under an hour away from the first kickoff.

Most fair-weather fans or occasional fans will tune out as soon as the starters are out of the game, which will likely come before the first quarter is in the books. But there are plenty of reasons to continue watching.

With six games on tonight's slate, there is no shortage of reasons to watch your beloved team in an exhibition-type atmosphere. Below I've created a cheat-sheet for you to follow as you flip through channels:

Washington @ Buffalo–7 PM ET

*Do you really need me to spell it out for you? No. 2 overall pick Robert Griffin III makes his NFL debut at quarterback for the rebuilding Skins.

*Aside from RGIII, Mike Shanahan's offense will be displaying its new weapon Pierre Garcon, who signed a five-year deal with the team in March

*We'll get a closer look at the running back position battle for WAS. Evan Royster, the sixth rounder out of Penn State in the 2011 draft (328 yards on 56 carries as a rookie), will get the nod as starter against Buffalo but Tim Hightower and Roy Helu are jostling with Royster for the opening day starting role.

*RGIII's fellow rookie signal caller, Kirk Cousins from Michigan State (third round selection), will get plenty of playing time as well.
*Is Ryan Fitzpatrick the long-term answer in Buffalo? They sure gave him the money last season.

*Fred Jackson vs. C.J. Spiller. Will Spiller bounce-back and win the starting role? Doubtful, but he will be battling it out with Jackson all preseason anyways.

*First look at DE/LB Mario Williams in the Bills' debut, likely forcing RGIII out of the pocket a couple of times.

*Vince Young era in Buffalo officially begins! If Fitzpatrick struggles early on this season, VY could get the nod from Coach Gailey, so all eyes will be on Young tonight.

Baltimore @ Atlanta–7:30 PM ET

*It's time for Flacco to back up his big talk this offseason. Obviously he will be out of the game after a series or two, but it'll be interesting to see if he's ready for the season already.

*I'm interested to see how Jacoby Jones' debut goes. I, personally, loved the addition of Jones, who will be a viable deep threat and a play a huge role on special teams.

*Dean Pees takes over as defensive coordinator for Chuck Pagano, who left the team to take over as Indy's head coach. Will there be major changes made this offseason?

*No Suggs for at least half of the season, probably more. So who will step up this season? Rookie Courtney Upshaw, Paul Kruger, Sergio Kindle? Someone's gotta take over in Suggs' absence and this is our first chance to take a closer look.
*Reed says he'll play this season, but Christian Thompson (rookie fourth rounder) will need to be prepared just in case, giving Thompson the spotlight tonight.

*Much like Flacco, Matt Ryan is looking to step his game up and take the Falcons to the next level. I expect Ryan to look sharp in his lone series tonight.

*With Michael Turner slowly aging, I would love to see Jacquizz Rodgers with an elevated role. Earlier today I actually learned he's expected to take some kicks. The speedster should excel as a return man in this game.

*Kelvin Hayden and Curtis Loften have departed this offseason on defense, but the incoming veterans Lofa Tatupu and Asante Samuel will be interesting to watch fill voids at linebacker and cornerback.

New Orleans @ New England–7:30 PM ET

*Drew Brees looked spectacular in the HOF game, of course. Look for him to lead just a single series again tonight though.

*Love watching the dynamic duo of little guys in the backfield–Darren Sproles and Pierre Thomas.

*Former Baltimore guard Ben Grubbs will replace the departed Carl Nicks, making it an interesting transition on the offensive line in New Orleans.

*Mark Ingram, last season's first rounder who ran for 474 yards and five TDs, will be looking to have a breakout season alongside Sproles and Thomas as they create a three-headed monster coming out of the backfield for Brees.
*Tom Brady and Brees will always steal the show, despite it being just a preseason opener. But, seeing Gronk and Hernandez back in action is sure to excite Patriots' fans.

*Belichick has added three new vertical weapons for Brady on offense in veteran receivers Brandon Lloyd, Jabar Gaffney and Donte' Stallworth.

*The most exciting thing about this New England team this year, to me, would have to be the added youth on the defensive side of the ball via the draft. Showing age last season, we will get to see the debuts of d-end Chandler Jones (first rounder), linebacker Dont'a Hightower (first rounder) and safety Tavon Wilson (second rounder). Excited for tonight yet?

Pittsburgh @ Philadelphia–7:30 PM ET

*Ben Roethlisberger is already beat up, so I wouldn't expect to see much of him tonight against Philly. That leaves the door open for vets Charlie Batch and Byron Leftwich to see plenty of the field.

*Will he play, or won't he? The Mike Wallace contract negotiations are continuing to swirl around the league, but I believe he will be playing for Pittsburgh this season. Unfortunately he likely wont be around during preseason, I just don't see his holdout ending before the end of the month.

*Not one, but TWO rookie offensive lineman will be starting tonight (G David DeCastro, T Mike Adams). How will the line hold up in their debuts?

*The Todd Haley makeover officially begins tonight, as the new offensive coordinator looks to begin his rebuilding and re-furnishing of the Roethlisberger-led offense.

*With Mendenhall out, Isaac Redman will kickoff "Redzone Redman" tonight as he looks prepared to carry the load for Pittsburgh this season.
*With Aaron Smith, Chris Hoke, James Farrior and William Gay out of the picture on defense and James Harrison banged up, it appears as though we could see a much younger defense on the field tonight.

*Philadelphia lost a few pieces on offense, but overall it's basically the same unit as the disappointing 2011 campaign. Can Mike Vick lead his Eagles back to the playoffs? The road starts tonight.

*Fletcher Cox, 12th overall pick this season, will be added to an arsenal of pass rushers (Jason Babin, Trent Cole, etc.) and looks to make an immediate impact.

*To tell you the truth, that's all the headlines I really have for Philly tonight. Most of the headliners will be on Pittsburgh's side of the field.

Green Bay @ San Diego–8 PM ET

*Wont be seeing much of reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers, but just seeing him step foot onto the football field is bound to be a glorious sight.

*Ryan Grant wasn't brought back this season, but there's a reason for that: James Starks is expected to take over and thrive running the football out of the backfield for Rodgers. We'll get to see a little of him tonight donning the 44 jersey.

*Remember how Jeff Saturday has spent the last 13 seasons with Peyton Manning in Indianapolis? Yeah, well, tonight he makes the green and gold his new uni and snaps the ball to another All Pro quarterback.
*Nick Perry, rookie outside linebacker, will make his debut alongside fellow Trojan Clay Matthews III. Speaking of which, wouldn't it be great to see Matthews' luscious locks peering out from under his helmet, flowing in the wind. Even if for just a series or two?

*Quarterback Philip Rivers may have lost Vincent Jackson, but he has some new toys this season: Robert Meachem and Eddie Royal. Both will make viable options down the field for a quarterback with something to prove.

*Newcomer Le'Ron McClain, fullback, will block for Ryan Mathews, who is hoping to finally have a breakout campaign this season in San Diego.

*First time on the field for San Diego since losing former linebacker Junior Seau this offseason to suicide. It's bound to be an emotional night for the Bolts in San Diego, unfortunately.

Denver @ Chicago–8:30 PM ET

*FINALLY! After 19 months, Peyton Manning, the Broncos' newest quarterback and likely the best one to put on the Bronco uni since John Elway announced his retirement, will make his long-awaited return. He'll play one series at most, but it will be a feel-good moment seeing Manning with a helmet on his head for the first time since the 2011 Pro Bowl.

*Former target of Mannings' in Indy, tight end Jacob Tamme will make his Bronco debut tonight as well. He is looking to breakout out as an every down target in the passing game.

*Rookie Brock Osweiler will make his debut with Denver once Peyton leaves the field for Denver. Should be interesting.

*Von Miller, reigning AP Defensive Rookie of the Year winner, will attempt to add on to his incredibly impressive rookie campaign.
*Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall are reunited and it feels so good! Oh, and plus Matt Forte has his new deal, meaning he's as happy as he's ever been while repping the Chicago Bear uniform.

*The newly-signed Michael Bush gives Chicago an interesting option at running back on third downs this season. He's likely to see plenty of playing time tonight.

*Rookie Alshon Jeffrey, selecting in the second round, will look to prove himself as a satisfying second option for Cutler behind Marshall. Expect him to burst out of the gates in tonight's matchup.

*Once veterans such as Peppers, Urlacher, Briggs and Tillman put in their time, expect to see plenty of the young guns such as first round pick Shea McClellin and late-round corners Isaiah Frey and Greg McCoy.

Luckily for me, there is not one, not two, but THREE televised games on tonight in my area–Was/Buf, Bal/Atl and GB/SD on ESPN. Unfortunately I have not signed up for preseason live due to lack of cash for the time being. But I'm sure everyone else will enjoy the Manning debut while I'm watching the highlights.

Enjoy tonight's games!

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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Mendenhall Expected to Miss First Six Games; "Redzone Redman" Time in Pittsburgh

Still in the recovery process of a torn ACL, suffered during Pittsburgh's Week 17 matchup with the Cleveland Browns on January 1.

Typically the recovery process of a torn knee ligament is between eight and 12 months, so the Steelers placed Mendenhall on the physically unable to perform list (PUP list) this summer as he continues his rehabbing following the surgery last winter.

Yesterday it was announced by General Manager Kevin Colbert that Mendenhall would likely miss the first six games of the season. Yesterday's news does not come as much of a surprise as I was already expecting Mendenhall to begin the regular season on the PUP list.

This hands the undrafted, 27-year old Isaac Redman a golden opportunity. Without Mendenhall in the picture for the first portion of the season, Redman will be handed the reins as Pittsburgh's No. 1 running back.
The bruising, 6'/230 pounder out of Bowie State University, entering his fourth season in the National Football League, has never ran the ball more than 110 times in a season. It's going to be quite a transition for both Redman and new offensive coordinator Todd Haley, who is attempting to install a new offense with inexperienced backs and possibly two rookies on the offensive line.

Appropriately nicknamed, "Redzone Redman" has been primarily used as a short-distance or third down running back. His sample size is very small–just 163 attempts over his three year span–but he's shown flashes of brilliance throughout his 2011 campaign.

Stepping in for the injured Mendenhall in January against Cleveland, Redman fell just shy of posting his first career 100-yard game, totaling 92 rushing yards and a TD on 19 attempts. Ineffective during the Steelers' Super Bowl run in 2010, Redman showed off his bruising running style in Pittsburgh's Wild Card matchup with Denver.

On his 17 carries, he average 7.1 yards per carry with his 121 yards in a 29-23 overtime loss.
It will be interesting to see how Redman adjusts to being an every down back, with the help of fellow backup running backs Jonathan Dwyer, John Clay, Baron Batch and rookie Chris Rainey, who are all battling for the second string spot.

The news throughout training camp this month from Latrobe, PA is that Redman is looking quite impressive and he is ready to shoulder the majority of the load for the reinvented Pittsburgh offense early on this season.

In my personal opinion, I'm rather excited that Redman will be taking over as the guy for Pittsburgh, and it wouldn't surprise me one bit to see him carry an elevated role even once Mendenhall is back and healthy. I'm starting to think that "Redzone Redman" posters and banners will be displayed all over Heinz Field this season, and be prepared to see T-shirts all over the state of Pennsylvania as well.

Isaac Redman is ready for action, and he's not going anywhere any time soon.

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

Monday, August 6, 2012

Hall of Fame Game: Saints Win, Kolb Suffers Setback

The 2012 season officially got underway last night in Canton, OH as the first exhibition game was played at Fawcett Stadium.

Fresh off signing his big-time contract extension, Drew Brees led his Saints–in the process of recovering from the Bounty Scandal–to victory over the Arizona Cardinals, 17-10.

Brees stepped right in and appeared to pick up where he left off in 2011, when he broke the single-season passing record with 5,476 yards. Brees completed four of his five attempts for 41 yards in his only series of the game, leading New Orleans down the field on a 77-yard scoring drive. Running back Mark Ingram ended the drive by running in from one yard out.

Chase Daniel took a majority of the snaps for New Orleans, attempting 20 passes, completing 15 of them for 203 yards, a TD and a pick.

There were replacement officials officiating the game, in the midst of the current battle going on between the regular officials and the league over a new contract (owners have locked out the officials). While it appears there were a couple of no-calls that should have been called, I'd like to think they did an overall decent job, considering they aren't quite ready for action, according to veteran official Tom Barnes.

Just like the replacements officials, it's clear that the preseason is for tune-ups and getting comfortable, meaning the winner and the score of these exhibition games does not mean a thing. However, it is vital for guys who are in position battles to look in tip-top shape throughout the preseason. Its often the preseason games that they are judged and analyzed by the coaching staff, rather than during practice.

This is why I believe that Arizona quarterback Kevin Kolb is on the hot seat after last night's dismal performance. First off, his first pass of the game was an off-balance, across-his-body interception by Malcolm Jenkins. Kolb left the game with a rib contusion after being tackled by Sedrick Ellis and landing on his shoulder.
Kolb went 1-for-4 with four yards and the interception to Jenkins, and he narrowly escaped being sacked in the end zone for a safety on two separate occasions.

Lets face it, Kolb took a huge step backwards in his battle for the starting quarterback position, especially when you consider that John Skelton, who went 5-2 in seven starts last season, jumped in for Kolb and looked impressive.

Skelton was taken out of the game prior to halftime, in favor of the 29-year old Richard Bartel, but he did manage to lead the Cards down the field on a 10 play, 69-yard scoring drive, capped off with an Alfonso Smith 4-yard rushing touchdown to knot the game up at seven.

Skelton left the game going 4-for-6 for 32 yards, methodically leading Arizona to seven of its 10 points on the night. What did Kolb do? Well, all he did was continue his trend of under-performing and then, once again, suffering an injury. He started just nine games last season (3-6 record, 1,955 yards, 9 TD, 8 INT, 57.7%), his season hampered by numerous injuries.

First it was turf toe, then it was a concussion. Now it's a rib contusion. While his contusion isn't expected to be a serious injury, it is still not the type of news he, or Arizona's organization/fan base, would have liked to hear.
It's only a preseason exhibition game, yes. But there's no doubt that this will play a huge role in how the position battle turns out once the preseason wraps up in Arizona. In fact, I'm going to go ahead and make a bold prediction: John Skelton wins the starting job for Week 1 of the regular season.

You heard it here first, the 27-year old Kolb, who is under contract until the end of the 2016 season, will start the year on the Cardinal bench. It's almost Skelton's job to lose at this point.

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Saturday, August 4, 2012

Hall of Fame Induction: Curtis Martin's Acceptance Speech Steals the Show

Six new members have officially been ushered in to the Pro Football Hall of Fame following Saturday night's ceremonies. All six were well-deserved, including former Steelers' cornerback Jack Butler, who played in the 1950s and has been waiting 53 years to receive his call from the Hall.

Dermontti Dawson, Chris Doleman, Cortez Kennedy, Willie Roaf and Curtis Martin were the remaining five to be celebrated and embraced in Canton, Ohio this evening.

As always, the speeches and stories of the former NFL players were touching and emotional, but there was one in particular that caught my attention and had all the components of a tear-jerker. It was former New England Patriots and New York Jets running back Curtis Martin.

In his second year of eligibility, the fourth leading rusher of all-time got his chance at eternal glory. Martin's former head coach in both New England and New York, Bill Parcells, awaiting his own call to the HOF, was in attendance and was Martin's presenter.

With 14,101 rushing yards, 90 rushing TDs, five Pro Bowls and 10 consecutive 1,000 yard seasons in his 11 years in the league, Martin was the main attraction at the ceremonies, therefore making him the last speaker of the evening. And, boy, was it quite the finale.
I was well-aware of his antics and accomplishments on the football field, of course, growing up watching him play. He was, in my opinion, one of the most underrated runners of his time despite his career marks.

But what I wasn't aware of was his rough childhood and all of the things he was forced to overcome, doing so successfully as we can all see.

He gave a tremendous tribute to his mother, as he told anecdotes of stories from growing up with her, who was faced with beatings and what Martin described as "torture" from his father. She dealt with numerous family deaths, which were often gruesome homicides. He gave full credit to his mother for raising him the way she did and, as he choked up a bit, he poured his heart out for everyone as his mother tried to fight the tears away herself.

I think I can personally say that Martin delivered one of the most touching HOF acceptance speeches I have seen in quite a while, and I would even rank it ahead of Michael Irvin's in 2007 which was also tear-filled, maybe a little more so than the norm.

Giving credit to his former coaches, recognizing all his position coaches over his career and personally recognizing his former high school football coach, Martin showed how classy he is. He and Parcells have a very personal relationship and, "Wonder Boy," as Parcells used to refer to him as, Martin embraced and cherished that relationship throughout his career, as reflected in his speech.

Martin instructed for all of his former teammates at Pittsburgh (where he played his college ball), New England and New York that were in attendance that night to stand up so he could give them credit, as well.

The quote I liked the best out of everything he said during his speech came when he stated that earlier in the week a reporter asked him if he'd let his kid play football. At first, he said he'd probably be reluctant to do so (referring to the dangers of the sport). But he then responded with: "If my kid can learn what I learned from this game, I'd probably let him play. It's worth the risk."

Going from a kid, with a rough childhood, who didn't even like football and thought he was a better baseball player, to a 39-year old inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Quite a turn-around for Mr. Curtis Martin, I'd say.

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

Additional note: As soon as a decent video of his speech is uploaded to Youtube I will post it for your viewing pleasure.