Day: August 23, 2010

Gridiron Blitz: San Diego Chargers Season Preview

The next team up on our Gridiron Blitz is the San Diego Chargers

Music to listen to: Obsession (No Es Amor) by Frankie J featuring Baby Bash

When I started this, I was thinking about having P.O.D., who I’m a fan of, but I decided to go with Frankie J. I don’t understand why he isn’t a bigger artist. He can sing, dance, play the guitar and other talents. The music industry confuses me sometimes.

Current State: Another excellent regular season, another home playoff loss. The Chargers are becoming the Groundhog Day team of the NFL.

When looking at San Diego its about good news against bad news. For example:

Good news: The Chargers have made the playoffs each of the past five years

Bad news: They haven’t even made a Super Bowl in that period

Good news: They have had several 12-win seasons and had home-field advantage in playoff games.

Bad news: They have lost three home playoff contests, including last year to the Jets

Good news: They have been able to keep most of its core players over the five years.

Bad news: San Diego has become holdout central with up to three top-line players missing various periods of training camp this year.

Good news: Norv Turner has been the head coach for the past five years

Bad news: Norv Turner has been the head coach for the past five years

Biggest Offseason Change: The Chargers lost arguably its most productive player in franchise history when LaDanian Tomlinson decided to take his talents to the New York Jets. While you may look at this as an addition by subtraction because of Tomlinson’s diminishing skills, he was still a running back that could gain yards and was reliable as a pro.

Tomlinson’s exit may be the first of many over the next two years for San Diego as players such as Marcus McNeill, Shawne Merriman, Darren Sproles and Vincent Jackson are all trying to negotiate long-term contracts with the team.

This may be the last big run that the Chargers have before they regress with the loss of major talent.

Uniform Grade: Not to get all Chris Berman on you but the Chargers do have the best uniforms in football. Whether they go with the older uniforms with the powder blur and gold or to the current edition of navy blue, they all look great. Grade: A+

Best Player: This honor has been three different players over the five year period discussed earlier in the post. At first it was Tomlinson, than Merriman had it for a while but clearly the distinction has been made to Philip Rivers.

He has all of the tools to be the top quarterback in the league. He can make every throw, has tremendous accuracy, has toughness and the trust of his teammates.

I must admit that I didn’t see this development taking place when Philips was drafted out of North Carolina State. I saw the funky throwing motion and thought that he wouldn’t make a good pro. I overlooked two things. First, he was accurate and that’s the most important physical tool for a quarterback. Second, he won all of his bowl games and excelled in them, meaning that he was a winner who played his best in the top games of the year.

Now, outside of Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees, he may be best quarterback in the league. I would throw Aaron Rodgers in there and that’s the top-five for me right there.

Most Important Player: San Diego is going to score plenty of points with Rivers, Jackson, Antonio Gates, Sproles and the entire offense.

However if the Chargers want to finally make the Super Bowl with this regime, the defense has to return to a top-five unit and the men for that task are Merriman and defensive tackle Luis Castillo.

Merriman has diminished significantly as a player the past two years and while injuries have played a part in it, distractions such as his off the field incidents, the positive steroid test and unhappy contract status have all played a part in his ineffectiveness. He has to get his act together for the Chargers.

Castillo has also been pinched for steroids but his issues have been more about injuries as well.

Both men came into the league at the same time in 2005 and were Pro Bowlers their first two years but since then have been below their standards.

Best Case: Win the AFC West. Win the AFC. Finally make the Super Bowl

Worst Case: The past five years

Coaching: I’m going to include A.J. Smith, the general manager, in this discussion along with head coach Norv Turner.

They have done most of the things you can hope for as a fan. They’ve developed a consistent unit of players that have been in the best position to win playoff games.

The losses in the playoffs aren’t completely Turner’s fault. He could have probably made some better play calls or had better game plans but you can say that for any football loss.

I look at Turner and am uninspired. However, I don’t know who you can replace him with to take the team to another level.

Sometimes it just comes down to the players.

First memory of team: I remember the 1994 team winning the AFC Championship game over the Steelers in Pittsburgh and realizing that the San Francisco 49ers were going to kick the crap out of them in the Super Bowl. Sure enough, that’s exactly what happened.

I did like the running back on that team, Natrone Means. He had a cool name.

Didn’t like Junior Seau. Seemed too smug to me.

Schedule: The Titans will have to deal with Denver, Oakland and Kansas City in the division.

The home games are against Jacksonville, Arizona, New England, Tennessee and San Francisco. The away games are at Seattle, St. Louis, Houston, Indianapolis and Cincinnati.

City Nicknames: The only one that I could find was “America’s Finest City.” That’s terrible.

Fantasy Focus: Every skill position on offense should be looked at. They can average close to 30 points a game this season.

Overall Outlook: The Chargers are going to win the AFC West, that’s a given. They have an offense that’s good enough to win a Super Bowl. They have a defense that’s good enough to win a division. Combine those two together and it may be year six of the unsuccessful attempt to reach the Super Bowl era.

Final Record: 12-4

Gridiron Blitz 2010 Season Previews:

AFC East:

Buffalo Bills

New England Patriots

New York Jets

Miami Dolphins

AFC North:

Cincinnati Bengals

Cleveland Browns

Baltimore Ravens

Pittsbirgh Steelers

AFC South:

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

Houston Texans

Tennessee Titans

AFC West

Denver Broncos

Advertisements

Triple Option Attack: #13 Miami Football Preview

Next up on the Triple Option Attack is #13 Miami

Music to listen to: Me So Horny by 2 Live Crew

When I did my Miami Dolphins post two weeks ago, I picked music from Gloria Estefan. That was good and I paid respect to the queen of the city for music. I will now show love to the king of Miami hip-hop and unabashed Hurricanes fan, Luke.

The Story: Since 1983, the Miami Hurricanes have won five national titles. The school has produced numerous legends that have been some of the best players ever in their positions during their various eras of action. Miami’s approach to college football has become so transcendent that it would be take several posts to explain the significant impact the program has had on the sport. When you give yourselves a nickname like “The U” and every sports fan knows what you’re talking about, you’ve reached a higher level of consciousness.

However, for all of the bravado and swagger that Miami has had over the years, the past few seasons have placed a temperament on its previously brazen attitude. With another set of talented players, coveted by nearly every other program in the nation, and stability in the coaching position help Miami rise back to a top-five program and possibly another national title?

Last Season: Finished the season with a record of 9-4, including disappointing losses to North Carolina, Clemson and to Wisconsin in the Champs Sports Bowl.

Offense: If he is completely healthy, junior quarterback Jacory Harris has the chance to not only be the top player in the ACC this season but also find himself in New York as a finalist for the Heisman Trophy. However, he’s currently recovering from thumb injury on his throwing hand that has prevented him from having full preparations for this upcoming season. Harris is a dynamic talent that can lead the offense to a high level of performance, but turnover problems, especially interceptions have hindered him. He threw four interceptions in last season’s loss to North Carolina and three in another defeat to Clemson.

The good news is that Harris will have arguably the best receiving corp in college football to throw, led by Leonard Hankerson, LaRon Byrd and Travis Benjamin.

The bad news is that the Hurricanes can use more production from its running backs, especially Damien Berry. Furthermore, Miami will have to replace the center and both tackles from the offensive line.

Defense: The defensive units was usually the strength of the elite Miami teams of the past and this current edition has the potential to become another one. Eight starters return including All-ACC selections from last year, junior cornerback Brandon Harris and defensive end Allen Bailey.

If there is a potential weakness on the defense, it’s at the linebacker position. The Hurricanes do return some players at the position including senior Colin McCarthy and junior Sean Spence but they have been underwhelming when pressed into duty.

The Schedule

Sept. 2 Florida A&M

Sept. 11 at Ohio State

Sept. 23 at Pittsburgh

Oct. 2 at Clemson

Oct. 9 Florida State

Oct. 16 at Duke

Oct. 23 North Carolina

Oct. 30 at Virginia

Nov. 6 Maryland

Nov. 13 at Georgia Tech

Nov. 20 Virginia Tech

Nov. 27 USF

Miami may have the toughest schedule in the country, especially after the season opener. Whoever scheduled the three straight road games at Ohio State, Pitt and Clemson should seriously reconsider not making the slate again.

The only guarantee wins on the schedule besides FAMU are probably Duke, Virginia and Maryland. Every other game can be a loss and shouldn’t be considered a major upset.

Most Famous Sports Alum: The football list is sick. Jim Kelly, Bernie Kosar, Michael Irvin, Jerome Brown, Warren Sapp, Clinton Portis, Andre Johnson, Michael Barrow, Jeremy Shockey, etc.

However, the most famous sports alum the school has ever produced is Dwayne Johnson aka The Rock. He may be the most famous wrestler ever besides Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair and Andre the Giant.

So congrats The Rock

Celebrity Alum “Crush:” Miami produces plenty of “talented” women to choose from in this category but I’m going to go with Suzy Kolber in an upset. I’m a fan in more ways than one, big whup, want to fight about it?

Prediction: 10-2

Maybe I’m drinking the Kool-Aid and being too optimistic but I think Miami has the talent to be a ten-win team. The games at Ohio State and Pitt are tough as well as the contest at Georgia Tech and home against Virginia Tech. I think the only given loss will be at Ohio State but if the Hurricanes find a way to emerge from Columbus, Ohio with a victory, look out.

Sports Inquirer Top-25 Preseason College Football Poll:

#25 West Virginia

#24 South Carolina

#23 Auburn

#22 Oregon State

#21 Arkansas

#20 Florida State

#19 Georgia

#18 North Carolina

#17 Georgia Tech

#16 LSU

#15 Pittsburgh

#14 Penn State

Gridiron Blitz: Denver Broncos Season Preview

The next team up on our Gridiron Blitz is the Denver Broncos

Music to listen to: Fantasy by Earth, Wind & Fire

One of the lead singers for the group, Philip Bailey, was born in Denver. EWF is an amazing group that doesn’t get enough credit for its musical diversity. Much love to them.

Current State: It was a tale of two seasons for the Broncos last year. The team started 6-0, including a dramatic home victory over the Dallas Cowboys on national TV, prompted some to consider them the favorite to win the AFC around the halfway point. However, reality set in and Denver finished the year 8-8 and missed the playoffs. Which brings me to the next section of the post…

Biggest Offseason Change: The entire Denver philosophy of the past two seasons. Prior to current head coach Josh McDaniel’s arrival prior to the 2009 season, Denver was known as a team that scored many points behind quarterback Jay Cutler, wide receiver Brandon Marshall and the schemes of former head coach Mike Shannahan. None of those three guys are in the Denver organization anymore.

This has truly turned into McDaniel’s organization. The West Coast offense and 4-3 defense as been replaced with a more spread attack and a 3-4 defense. However, you can see the negative effect during the 2-8 slide in the record last season. The offense became more predictable and easier to stop while the defense allowed nearly 30 points a game.

Uniform Grade: I’ve always been a fan of the orange and blue color scheme, especially the orange jersey. Some many find the color obnoxious, but it’s a welcome change from many teams in the rest of the league embracing dark colors, especially black. I’m not a fan of the all-blue uniforms that they sometimes wear at home though. Grade: B+

Best Player: The best player on the roster is linebacker Elvis Dumervil, who led the NFL in sacks last season with 17. However, he’s probably out until at least November and most likely for the rest of the season with a torn pectoral.

Since he’s out, a case can be made for left tackle Ryan Clady but I’ll get to the entire offense during the most important player portion of the post.

I’ll take Champ Bailey, the elite cornerback who has continued to play at a high level, even after he turned 30 years old.

Most Important Player: The entire quarterback situation in Denver is intriguing and deserves the distinction in this category because there are up to three guys who may see significant time at the spot.

Denver was wise to resign Kyle Orton to a new contract that extends him through next season. He may lack the physical abilities to be an elite quarterback like his contemporaries but understands the Denver offense and can execute it well.

The presumed backup, Brady Quinn, is a below-average quarterback but may see time because of an injury to Orton. If Quinn sees significant time this season, Denver may finish in last place in the AFC West.

Finally, we get to first-round pick, Tim Tebow. For those of you new to my articles, I’m going to admit that I’m not a fan of Tebow. I think that his football skills have been overvalued significantly by the sports media and fans. He had a stellar college career but that’s over and now we have to look at his game translating to the pro level.

Tebow has to make major improvements in every aspect of quarterbacking, particularly his overall mechanics and reading defenses. He’s a long-term project but given the place he was drafted, the Broncos must play Tebow in every game to gain his worth.

The Broncos may want to use Tebow in some “wildcat” situations but if he’s designated as the third quarterback, the only way he can play is in an emergency situation. If you make Tebow your backup QB and Orton gets hurt, do you trust Tebow to run the entire offense for a game? I wouldn’t at this stage and that’s the dilemma that the Broncos find themselves in.

The reality s that if the Broncos want any shot of making the playoffs or even having a winning record, the quarterback must produce at a high level.

Best Case: Orton plays like he did during the first half of 2009. The defense finds a way to improve and compensate for Dumervil’s loss. Broncos uses its home-field advantage to win some games it shouldn’t. Sweeps Kansas City and Oakland, splits with San Diego, finishes second in the AFC West and sneaks into the playoffs.

Worst Case: The quarterback situation becomes bad and no one emerges as the top guy. The defense’s lack of pass rush allows opposing offenses to score points easily, putting pressure on an already weak Broncos offense. Drops games to KC and Oakland, gets swept by San Diego and doesn’t finish with a winning record.

Coaching: When a new coach comes to a team, he tends to clean house. He may eliminate a coordinator, draft some new players, maybe even cut some players from the old regime who aren’t compliant to the new systems in place.

Than there’s what McDaniels has done in two years at Denver.

In two successive off-seasons, he has managed to get rid of a Pro-Bowl quarterback, receiver, tight end, change the entire offensive and defensive schemes, chose a reject from another team as his quarterback, drafted an underdeveloped quarterback in the first round of a draft and many other things.

Last season, many adjectives described McDaniels from arrogant, sly, intelligent, wily, seasoned, young, etc. This offseason he has been surprisingly quiet by his standards and maybe taken a page out of his mentor‘s mentality towards coaching, Bill Belicheck. Keep a quiet front and go about your business.

One thing is for sure. The failures or success of Denver lie completely in the hands of McDaniels and that’s probably what he has wanted from the beginning.

First memory of team: Growing up, one of my favorite non-New York Giants was John Elway like many other people in my neighborhood. His style of play was always exciting for a non-partisan fan. He probably had the strongest arm in the league and he could scramble as well. You never knew what to expect and if the Broncos were even within range of winning a game in the fourth quarter, you knew they had a chance to win the game.

I also remember the crappy teammates that he had. I would see teams like the Bills and 49ers have darn all-star squads on their rosters and look at the Broncos and say that besides Elway, I wouldn’t take any of their other players. This was in the early 1990’s before Shanahan got there and brought in the championship squads of the later part of the decade.

I don’t get into the sentiment of wanting to see players win titles because they’ve been in the league a long time and they deserve it. You earn what you get. However, when the Broncos won its first Super Bowl, I was happy for Elway.

Schedule: The Titans will have to deal with San Diego, Oakland and Kansas City in the division.

The home games are Seattle, Indianapolis, New York Jets, St Louis and Houston. Tall five of those are winnable contests. The away games are at Jacksonville, Tennessee, Baltimore, Arizona and against San Francisco in London. The overall schedule isn’t impossible but there are some easy wins for those guys as well.

City Nicknames: We can all agree on the Mile High City.

Fantasy Focus: This is a tricky team to look at on offense. I wouldn’t feel comfortable taking Orton because I don’t think he’s going to put up good fantasy numbers. They rotate running backs and receivers so it may be best to avoid this team at all costs.

Overall Outlook: The Broncos can be a surprise team this season. We saw their max in the early part of 2009 and even than they needed some luck to win games. They will have some good moments like beating San Diego but also look bad in games like at Tennessee. That sounds like an average season to me.

Final Record: 8-8

Gridiron Blitz 2010 Season Previews:

AFC East:

Buffalo Bills

New England Patriots

New York Jets

Miami Dolphins

AFC North:

Cincinnati Bengals

Cleveland Browns

Baltimore Ravens

Pittsbirgh Steelers

AFC South:

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

Houston Texans

Tennessee Titans