Maziel Readying, Favre Returning, Peyton fading

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  • What a weekend it was in the NFL. Plenty of playoff implications twisted and story-lines created after several top teams left the field Sunday in utter disappointment. None more so than the Cleveland Browns, who, in spite Brian Hoyer’s best efforts, were actually beating the league’s top scoring team in Indianapolis for the first 59 minutes. This on the heels of a Johnny Manziel siting a week earlier and reports throughout the week that Hoyer’s job was his to lose… for the time being. Except Andrew Luck did his Andrew Luck things by conducting a masterful drive to take the lead with less than a minute left… And, of course, Manziel had to do his Manziel things…. and now we have a great win by the Colts and a tough loss by the Browns overshadowed by Johnny “I would’ve f***ing hit him” Football. Now I’m not an NFL scout, I don’t pretend to know what’s best for each team but what I can tell you is this: with a 7-6 record, the Browns hold the short end of the stick in the surprisingly strong AFC North. Currently sitting in the cellar with slim to none playoff chances, Cleveland has a ticket to attention in Manziel. With LeBron in town with the Cavs, the Browns need to retain as much of the spotlight into December as they can and the only way to do that is to insert Mr. Football. As for the experts, even legendary NFL scout Gil Brandt believe Manziel should start this week.

  • The gunslinger of all gunslingers touched down in Green Bay today and it wasn’t Aaron Rodgers. Brett Favre return to the land of cheese this afternoon with Bart Starr and there are several reports that he will NOT make an appearance at the Packers game tonight:

Not sure exactly Favre plans on doing but it would seem awfully strange to be in Green Bay on the night of a big Monday Night game and not be looking on from a suite inside Lambeau. Then again, this is Brett Favre we’re talking about… (insert retirement/racy pic/jean commercial joke here).

  • Peyton Manning threw not one, not two, not three touchdown passes yesterday… he threw… none. First time in 51 games he came up with a goose egg in that department and it makes me wonder if the recent string of lackluster performances is either a sign of wear on his arm or a shift in offense philosophy to prevent what happened a season ago in the Super Bowl. The Broncos backfield continues to thrive when anyone but Montee Ball has the ball and it’s working. In three of his last four games Manning has essentially turned himself into Kyle Orton and aside from a vintage-Peyton performance again Miami, he has been a game manager, leaning on the rush and a very stingy defense. However, in all honesty, I have no doubt in my mind this is simply a measure being taken by John Fox and Peyton to give opposing teams more tape to look at and more facets to prepare for. If and when the Broncos need Manning to go bonkers, he’ll certainly be ready to step it up.
  • Quick three and out:
  1. Jeff Fisher is the man, trolling the crap out of Washington and RGIII.
  2. Speaking of Washington, the hits keep on coming, this time from the retired and immeasurably respected linebacker London Fletcher on the subject of Jim Haslett’s inferiority. Wowwaweewa… gotta love the candid remarks.
  3. Refs fist bumping, Bills head shake.

Ray Rice, the NFL and another case of society’s ignorance

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Video footage of Ray Rice stone cold KOing his then-fiancee, now-wife Janay Palmer in an elevator finally came out, reassuring what we already knew: Rice punched Palmer, Palmer was knocked unconscious and Rice dragged Palmer’s limp body off the elevator floor and partially into the lobby.

Or rather, it should have reassured what we already knew.

Somehow when I woke up this morning a curious thing was happening: everyone was outraged. As the TMZ video was passing through social media like a brush fire, more and more people were acting like they believed Palmer had knocked herself out. For those of us with a pulse who have been following the story, one thing was clear, that Rice had hit her with enough blunt force to have caused the loss of consciousness and it was as simple as a case of domestic abuse and straight up battery.

What’s disturbing is that society, and also seemingly the NFL, is either oblivious to the reality and gravity of the situation, or, collectively decided to remain ignorant to the fact that ‘A’ never directly equals “C’, and that there is always a ‘B’ component to the equation. In this case it was Rice’s left fist. It’s equally appalling to know that in this day and age, with the amount of information readily available at the push of a button, that people can blissfully continue living in constant contradiction between their internal and external beliefs. Externally most condemn domestic abuse, offering faint, empty words and promises that carry no weight or meaning, effectively keeping up with society’s trending status quo. Yet, internally, few desire enough details about a specific case, Rice’s in particular, that could potentially lower the belief in the goodness of man.

It’s why today’s viral video has hit so hard: it filled in a gap we didn’t want filled. We can’t look away anymore. We can’t pretend that she just drunkenly fell down. The truth is ugly and it was there all along but today it is unavoidable.

Yet, while today seems so negative with the release of this video, there are positives emerging. Those in positions of power, i.e. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Baltimore Raven Owner Stephen J. Bisciotti, now appear even more cowardly and rightfully on the wrong side of history. They undoubtedly had seen the footage we are all now seeing and yet had done the minimum, only maneuvering to try and save face. Now any and all actions moving forward will be made from a public relations standpoint and should be viewed as such. To me, the NFL and Ravens have lost all credibility when it comes to hard hitting issues. But the sad thing is: will society commend them for their impending actions, continuing the vicious cycle of contradiction and ignorance or stand up and demand better?

UPDATE (1:50 PM CST): The Baltimore Ravens have now cut Ray Rice and the NFL has indefinitely suspended him, leaving Rice to apply for reinstatement. Again, these are PR measures that should have taken a long time ago.

Opinions? Leave a comment below or tweet me @Kevin_Jackman16

Rose, Deng and the Future of the Bulls

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Had to see this coming: Derrick Rose is reportedly unhappy with the potential direction the Bulls are heading in following his knee surgery. This news comes amid the team’s continued plummeting to the basement of an awful Eastern Conference. With a tentative, speculated plan in place to rebuild and revamp the roster, the look and feel of this team could be dramatically different come next September.

While Rose may see this as a waste of his time, if done correctly, it may serve to be the proverbial ‘one step back, two steps forward.’  The Bulls have pieces, expensive ones, that have become incredible expendable. They also have some young, unproven players brimming with potential (maybe not star potential, but potential nonetheless).

Jimmy Butler’s development has hit a snag in December, but that’s what turf toe and a twisted ankle will do to you. I still think Butler is more of a small forward than a two guard, which may come to fruition if the team parts with Deng for the right price. Regardless of Deng’s status, Butler has undoubtedly become a crucial cog in the looming rebuild. His skill set is akin to a young Scottie Pippen, now it’s a matter of refining the shooting stroke and staying healthy.

Tony Snell is very intriguing to me, mostly because of the physical tools he possesses. He is insanely lanky and may turn out to be a fantastic, versatile defender, but his offensive game is lagging to far behind. He appears uncomfortable and apprehensive of the offensive end. He’s tentative to put up shots, and the shots he does take look awkward and off-balance. The NBA however is a league where if you have the physical gifts, the shooting stroke can come later, and hopefully that’s the case with Snell.

Carlos Boozer is always on the amnesty radar for the Bulls, but with the lack of offensive development from Taj Gibson, the front office has no reason to rid themselves of the Booze Cruise, especially since they have to pay him either way. However, with a draft class stacked with power forwards far more athletic than Boozer, the time to pull the trigger on the escape clause may be this off-season.

Speaking of that dream draft class, there were reports that surfaced around draft time this past summer that linked Luol Deng to the third pick in the draft… straight up. Obviously that wouldn’t happen again with Parker, Wiggins and Co. coming out of the college ranks, but a top-10, maybe 15 pick may be plausible. Deng was boosting his already high stock prior to his achilles problem, which he should be back from early next week. He’s been a consistent second option throughout his ten-year career and could really bolster a team’s roster week at the 3-position. 

If they Bulls do decide to exchange Deng for a ticket stub to the 2014 NBA draft, it could give them three first round draft picks in the strongest class since the 2003 Lebron James-led class. Remember that trade made with the Bobcats that gave the Bulls a conditional first round draft pick, well this may finally be the year they use it. If the Bobcats finish outside the top ten, the Bulls have the option to claim the pick as their own. Considering the Cats are 12-14 this season and currently sit in front of the Bulls, this may be a very realistic possibility.

When you add three first round picks with an abundance of cap space from unloading Boozer and Deng, the Bulls might find themselves retooling on the run. Maybe the will find the flexibility to bring another marque player to play alongside Rose, Butler, and Noah.

Things aren’t as desperate as Rose is reportedly making them out to be. It may get a whole lot worse before it gets better, but this is a city that has endured the Cubs for over a century and still clings to the “next year” mantra. The Bulls will be fine, so long as the front office does a sufficient job with the options in front of them. As far as Rose should be concerned, heal up, get strong and keep your nose out of the business side of the game, you’ll have a chance at a ring sooner or later.

Saying Goodbye to the Pre-Season

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Just like that, Fendi Onobun went from bad to worse in the pass catching department right when everyone thought he was gaining momentum. In addition to Kyle Adams not playing much, an indication that he may have already made the team, Onobun crashed and burned with two holding calls and a deflections leading to a touchdown. It’s too bad, his physical tools say superstar, his production says otherwise.

Steve Maneri has played a large portion of the game despite my previous belief that he was on solid ground to make the squad.

Marquess Wilson, Eben Britton and James Brown, on the other hand, were given the night off. Wilson is a big surprise, though maybe it shouldn’t be since GM Phil Emery drafted him just months ago in the sixth round.

Brandin Hardin, like Onobun, failed to capitalize on his extended playing time tonight, looking more like a player who was afraid to fail, than the free flying, hard hitting safety the Bears thought they drafted a year ago. Maybe that’s just what happens after a season-ending neck injury.

Jordan Palmer looked crisp, even when taking into consideration the defense he was tangoing with. Trent Edwards looked hesitant, failing to make an impact in the passing game. Then again, his running back was Harvey Unga…

Gould continues his perfect pre-season, booting a 52 and 45 yard field goals.

Demontre Hurst had a very impress performance, but was it a little to late to break the bubble?

Cuts come before Sunday, quite possibly tomorrow, and I’m extremely intrigued in who stays and who goes. Check back this weekend for final roster evaluations.

Thoughts throughout the battle

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  • Brandon Hardin got beat BAD on the first play, was extremely late on a 9-route down the sideline. He then slipped on a route stemmed directly at him on the Browns’ second drive.
  • J’Marcus Webb had his third pre-snap penalty of the pre-season, a false start on the opening drive.
  • Palmer converted a handful of third downs from varying distances, impressive accuracy and poise. That includes the back shoulder touchdown throw to Joe Anderson on third and five.
  • Fendi Onobun has been praised for his blocking but gets a holding call prior to the conclusion of the first quarter. However, he did make two grabs!
  • Joe Anderson looked like a man on a mission with the third unit. He’s already a lock for the roster and is trying to prove he is a legitimate option behind Earl Bennett.
  • Demontre Hurst had a few good, hard wrap ups in addition to his forced intentional grounding on Hoyer.

Bears Pre-Season: Final Audition

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Between now and Sunday, 22 players will no longer be on the active roster for the Chicago Bears. While a large majority of those already have their fates decided, a number of players go into tonight’s showdown with real NFL aspirations. Here are the 22 players, broken down by chances and circumstances, who will more than likely by cut:

Foregone conclusion:

  • #11 Josh Lenz- never really had a shot at catching on, unless he became the next Wes Welker, which clearly didn’t happen.
  • #18 Trent Edwards- He was brought in a day after Jordan Palmer, who had previously worked out with the team. Unless Palmer implodes, Edwards is expected to be back on the couch next week.
  • #45 Harvey Unga- The Bears ay not carry any fullbacks, but if they do, it most certainly won’t be Unga, it’ll be Tony Fiammetta.
  • #46 Tom Nelson- With Anthony Walters and Brandon Hardin battling it out, Nelson is simply a body to spare in the pre-season.
  • #64o Derek Dennis- Honestly, have you heard his name once, even with the injuries and inconsistencies up front?
  • #72 Josh Williams- After being brought in after the rash of injuries along the defensive line, it was a mild surprise he lasted longer than Kyle Moore.
  • #82 Brittan Golden- With battles ahead of him between Marquess Wilson, Eric Weems and Terrence Toliver, the odds of him earning a spot are nil.

Close, but no cigar

  • #25 Armando Allen- Michael Ford is forcing the Bears to make a tough decision picking between the two backs, but at this point, my gut tells me Ford is their man.
  • #30 Demontre Hurst- He had a chance if Isaiah Frey had slipped up, but Frey has impressed being expectations. The undrafted rookie has shown flashes of potential.
  • #39 CJ Wilson- Coaches wanted to see him be more physical and he answered the call with a mega hit in the Oakland game. Unfortunately, consistency is key in the NFL.
  • #53 Jerry Franklin- He practiced well, he played well, but his natural talents do not exceed the rookie Khaseem Greene or Jonathan Bostic, and he surely isn’t as keen on teams as Blake Costanzo.
  • #64 Christian Tupou- Big body, bigger hair, but not enough big plays. Could be brought back if Henry Melton relapses plus another injury upfront.
  • #71 Aston Whiteside- Physical, fast, agile, but he’s playing at a position of strength for the Bears.
  • #76o Cory Brandon- His versatility has kept him around, but ultimately it’s either him or J’Marcus Webb, and Webb has more “potential”.

Could, maybe, possibly, but probably not

  • Brandon Hardin
  • Brandon Hartson
  • Taylor Boggs
  • Corey Irvin
  • Terrence Toliver
  • Kyle Adams
  • Cheta Ozougwu
  • JT Thomas

Bears Post Game: Quick Hits

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Winner winner, but let’s hold off on the chicken dinner. Yes, the offense put up points, but all five of Jay Cutler’s throws went to Brandon Marshall, and he had two turnovers. Matt Forte ran the ball well and the offensive line held it’s own, but the Chargers’ defense hardly looks like the one it once was when Shawn Merriman was roaming on the outside.

The defense was once again a major bright spot, at least the first unit. In all, three sacks, a forced fumble and an interception for the first unit. It was Phillip Rivers however.

Incredibly, the guys I wanted to watch made minimal, if any, impact in the game. Marquess Wilson and Fendi Onobun were not targeted with a single pass (only 12 were actually thrown) and Zack Minter didn’t show up in the box sheet either. It doesn’t mean they won’t grade out well, but to the stat box observer, they were no shows.

Michael Bush had an electrifying kick return but ran out of gas about six yards short. It’s good to see that from Ford, who could end up making the squad on the back of Armando Allen’s injury and a strong pre-season performance.

Jonathan Bostic had a mega hit on WR Mike Willie that got the fans on their feet. Completely legal hit and a great instinctual play.

That’s about it. I’ll write more tomorrow.

Kevin