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Archive for the month “March, 2014”

Which Defensive Component Is More Important: A Shutdown Corner Or A Dominant Pass Rusher?

Over the years, the NFL has changed. Gone are the days of a physical brand of football and in are the passing attacks that invade our television screens each and every Sunday, Monday and Thursday. And with that, more teams are trying to build defenses to stop these high-powered offenses. And going forward, many may look at the model of the Seattle Seahawks, who shut down the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl. But what component is most needed for a good defense: a dominant pass rusher or a shutdown corner?

richard sherman posing

Richard Sherman is considered by many the best cornerback in the NFL. He has size, smarts and competes on every single play against whoever lines up in front of him. He is considered a shutdown corner in the NFL. More often, teams tend to avoid the elite corners and by doing so, they eliminate the amount of field the rest of the defense has to cover. And with the quarterback having a smaller field to work with, that creates smaller windows for the quarterback to throw the football into. Because of those smaller windows, opportunities are created for other players to make plays. Another benefit of having a shutdown corner is it gives the defense a free defender to roam the field. That free player could be used in a couple of different ways. He could be used as a blitzer to put additional pressure on the quarterback. And even by bringing an extra man on the blitz, your coverage is still sure because of the elite defender manning one side of the field. Another use of that extra defender is as additional help for the other defensive backs. If that elite defender needs no help, then you can rotate the defense towards the weaker side to provide additional help. And with more defenders in a smaller space, those small windows become microscopic.

robert mathis

But not to be outdone, dominant pass rushers definitely have a huge effect on the game. A lot of them come with the rare combination of size, speed and power all wrapped up in one. Guys like Robert Mathis of the Colts and Demarcus Ware of the Broncos wreak havoc on opposing offenses each and every game with their myriad of moves. Of course if an elite pass rusher is present, there is always a game plan to try and make him less effective. Those plans usually include a running back, tight end of another offensive lineman going over to help another player block him. When running backs and tight ends help offensive linemen block, that makes for less weapons the offense has to take advantage of the defense. It also allows for linebackers to get more depth in their coverage, making for tougher windows to throw through. If an additional offensive linemen is helping out, then other defensive lineman get more favorable matchups, making for even more problems for an offense. But not all offenses like to double pass rushers. And when single coverage happens, most pass rushers can take full advantage of the offensive lineman. When that happens, the quarterback has less time to get the football out to his playmakers. An elite pass rush takes the pressure off defensive backs because of the lessening of time. You could argue that some pass rushers make defensive backs look better than they are because of the pressure they create.

Both dominant pass rushers and shutdown corners have a huge effect in the NFL by today’s standards. More offenses are passing at higher clips and defenses have to have a chip on their side as well. Deciding which chip you want on your side is what makes it so hard. So, which one are you taking to start your defense?

Feel free to follow me on Twitter @General_MP or check me out on Facebook at Mike Patton-The General .

Denver Bolstered Their Defense, But Is It Enough?

The Denver Broncos were completely embarrassed when they lost in the Super Bowl to the Seattle Seahawks 43-8. After that bad a beatdown, many thought the window for a second Super Bowl was rapidly closing on Peyton Manning. But within 24 hours, the Broncos pumped life back into a fan base that was still down in the dumps. The signings of safety TJ Ward from the Browns, cornerback Aqib Talib from the Patriots and recently released defensive end Demarcus Ware from the Cowboys have once again positioned themselves have as Super Bowl favorites for next year. But with each signing, there are pluses and minuses abound.

aqib talib

Aqib Talib has long been one of the most talented cornerbacks in the NFL. Standing at 6’1, he is big enough to take on big receivers and is swift enough to take on the more shifty ones. The infusion of Talib as the top corner in Denver is a definite upgrade over anything the Broncos put on the field last year at cornerback. And when healthy, Talib can affect a whole game and take out a top receiver. But when has Talib been healthy when it counts? The last few playoff runs in New England have been forgettable for Talib. He was hurt two seasons ago in the playoffs and he also was injured in the AFC Championship game on this play:
The hit may or may not be deemed dirty in your eyes, but the fact remains that in big games, Talib has been seen more exiting the field then commanding it in big games. Committing $26 million guaranteed (highest ever for a cornerback in NFL history) to Talib was definitely overpaying for his services a little bit. But for their sake, he better make it through the season.

demarcus ware

Ware was an unexpected bonus on the Broncos’ free agent spending spree. The big-time pass rusher from Dallas was cut loose after not agreeing to restructuring of his contract. It was thought that he was going to be bid on by every competitive team out there needing an additional boost. But Ware made it known who his main choice was pretty quickly. Ware said he wanted to speak to Denver first and and the rest was history. Ware signed a three-year, $30 million ($20 million guaranteed) deal with the Broncos. Ware’s presence brings one of the top active pass-rushers in the NFL to a defense that did not even have ten total sacks in 2013. His pressure will cause havoc on teams when he is out there. But like Talib, he has suffered through some injuries. The difference between Ware and Talib is that Ware missed the playoffs along with a few games. And in the games he played in last year, he was still not as effective as he has been his entire career. At 31 years old, you cannot expect Ware to all of a sudden start to get healed from his prior injuries. The best use they could get out of him would be to have him in there for 60%-70% of the snaps so he can stay out of harm’s way and be ready for the playoffs. Ware is a talented man, but he is starting to show wear and tear that happens when a guy is starting the backside of his career. It should be interesting to see how they use his talents and how his health holds up.

tj ward

But Ware and Talib were not the only ones to fill a need for the Broncos. Denver had some serious issues at safety last season. Their issues were so bad that they were still trying to zoom in on a starting safety heading into the last weeks of the regular season. By signing safety TJ Ward to a four-year,$23 million($14 million guaranteed) contact, that gives Denver a hard-hitting safety that knows what he’s doing in the defensive backfield. He is a tone-setter with his energy and his hard hits. But the same aggression that helps him may hurt him. Ward is known to lay the lumber and draw a flag or two based on the NFL rules on player safety. He could get a personal foul at the wrong time and cost them a game. Another issue with Ward is his coverage skills. He can hit people, but in space he can get himself in a little trouble. Ward can cover some people, but he definitely is at a disadvantage when he has to cover a receiver out in space. He will benefit from the presence of Talib out there and will handle business in stopping the run for the Broncos. But it will be interesting to see what scenarios he finds himself in during the 2014 season.

All three signings bolstered a defense that needed more difference-makers. Now the challenge is to see if these three can take the Denver defense to another level and help them win their third Super Bowl. By all accounts, they seem to be up for the challenge. But we will shall see what happens as the 2014 season starts and progresses.

For sports, follow me on Twitter @General_MP or check me out on Facebook at Mike Patton-The General .

The Other Side Of The NFL

Steve Smith

Steve Smith has been an overachiever in his NFL career. After being selected in the 3rd round of the 2001 NFL Draft, Smith was considered too small to be a big-time receiver and many thought he could be a slot receiver/return man for his career. Well, someone forgot to tell Steve Smith what he was supposed to do in his career. Smith currently holds the records for most receiving yards, total touchdowns and receptions in Carolina Panthers history. He has also been a one-man wrecking crew for most of his career as a Panther. But unfortunately, the business of sports is about to claim him. Smith is set to make $7 million this season and because of that, the Panthers have decided to try to rid themselves of their most successful receiver. And what was even more shocking was the way Smith found out the news. Smith said that he found out via media and the team never gave him a heads up about them shopping him. It is expected that no one will trade for him and he will be released to sign with another team. As bad as this seems, such is life in the NFL. Unfortunately, some find out the hard way.

During this offseason, many fans have yelled and screamed about the money that players make. Some say certain players should take a pay cut while others are upset over teams paying players. But there is also another side to these stories. Many players do not get to go out on their own terms. They lay it all on the line each and every day for a career that does not last that long in the grand scheme of things. And for some, they end up with the results of Smith, who felt like this team was not forthright with him. This is a part of the game that many look over a lot. They see the big contracts and signing bonuses but they always miss the guys getting jettisoned after a team signed them to a big deal with a signing bonus. And it is because of these types of things, some may want to check the feelings they have for players being worth certain amounts at the door.

What fans fail to realize is that many of these players have trained their whole lives to get to the points they have gotten to. Sure, their jobs are not the same as the average man’s job, but you have to take into account the longevity of the career. Regular jobs for most last longer than NFL careers. It’s almost like they have a year-to-year contract in the NFL. They could be released or asked to take a paycut at any time due to a dip in production or the owners wanting to cut a player to get out from underneath a contract they signed them to. Imagine having your employer constantly contact you about restructuring a deal and taking less money to stay at a certain job. Does not sound that easy when someone is making $30,000 and is asked to do the same job for $24,000 does it? So imagine the situations these players have to go through living these situations year to year and add to the fact that some of them have to uproot their families during these contract situations too.

In the end, I don’t fault Steve Smith for feeling a certain kind of way about how the Panthers are treating him. I don’t fault these players for not taking paycuts, signing big deals or even retiring in the middle of some deals. Instead, I ask why the owners sign players to contracts they know they eventually are going to ask them to redo. After all, they knew what they were doing when they offered the contract. The owners are still going to make money either way, so they should be responsible for the decisions they made when they signed these players. Players, get all that you can when you can. Because you never know what can
happen, as shown by the situation Smith is in.

Snith staring off in space

For more sports talk, feel free to follow me on Twitter @General_MP or check me out on Facebook at Mike Patton-The General .

NFL Free Agency Is About More Than Just Money

The NFL free agency period is upon us again. Plenty of players have some big decisions on their hands as they decide where they want to play next season. Of course money is a big determining factor for a lot of players. After all, the NFL stands for Not For Long and you definitely have to get all the money you can. While money can sway decisions, it cannot be the only factor in signing a contract. And for some, they may want to look at a two separate free agency decisions that were made in the last two free agency bonanzas.

Michael Bennett

Free agent defensive lineman Michael Bennett very quietly signed during 2013’s free agency frenzy. He signed a one-year deal worth $4.8 million with Seattle. And in one season, Bennett went from a player that was quiet to a player everyone could not miss. Bennett ended up having a team-high 8.5 sacks as he, along with veteran defensive end Cliff Avril, spear-headed the pressure the Seahawks put on opposing quarterbacks. In a league where pass-rushers are worth their weight in gold, Bennett was considered to be one of the top free agent pass-rushers available. And he had plenty of teams that were willing to give him big money to sign with their franchises. The biggest threat of those teams was the Chicago Bears. They were in dire need of a pass rush and it would have also been a chance for Bennett to play with his brother, Beats tight end Martellus Bennett. But despite Chicago offering more money, Bennett decided to return to Seattle with a brand-new four year contract that offered him $16 million in guaranteed money. Of course Bennett could have taken another deal for more money, but he valued a couple things more: happiness and winning.

Mike Wallace

In 2013, Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Mike Wallace was considered one of the big gets in free agency. The speedy receiver and the Steelers could never come to an agreement on a deal in the years leading up to him being a free agent. And because of that, Wallace hit the free agent market. His speed was always excellent, but his hands were always questionable. But even with that knowledge, the Miami Dolphins inked Wallace to a five-year, $60 million deal ($30 million guaranteed with an $11 million signing bonus). Wallace got the money he wanted, but he also left the consistent success that he once had with Pittsburgh. He tallied 73 receptions, 930 yards and five touchdowns, but he also had a ton of keep drops. Another byproduct of Wallace not taking everything into account was the team’s pattern of losing. It looks like Wallace the pressures of being paid like a top receiver are starting to wear on Wallace and the Miami fans as a whole. He got the money he wanted, but with more money more problems can arise. And Wallace is witnessing that right now. Money didn’t buy Wallace him peace of mind and joy.

Mike Wallace frustrated

Decisions can be the difference between happiness and misery. These two players are very good examples of that. Going forward, I hope these players begin to see the whole picture instead of seeing just bits and pieces of the screen. Making the right decision includes more than just going for the money.

For more sports talk, feel free to follow me on Twitter @General_MP or check me out on Facebook at Mike Patton-The General .

Phil Jackson To The Knicks: A Perfect Marriage?

Phil Jackson

Phil Jackson is considered one of the greatest coaches of all-time. The Zen Master has coached both the Bulls and Lakers organizations to 11 titles overall while using a rarely used offense called The Triangle. And it is because of his stellar coaching career that many wish he join their favorite teams. Over the years, many teams have made a run at Jackson only to fail. But recently, it has been rumored that Phil may again be back in the NBA. As reported by numerous media outlets, New York Knicks GM Steve Mills met with Jackson about joining their organization. Although Jackson’s potential role in the organization will be a front office position, many seem to think his influence will be the thing to turn the Knicks around. It is also expected that if Jackson is hired, he would have so much power that he would not have to answer to owner James Dolan. Although it sounds like a good thing, there may be some issues with Jackson coming to the Knicks.

Knicks team huddle

The first issue is the salary cap the Knicks and Jackson would have available. Looking at their roster, they have Tyson Chandler, Amar’e Stoudemire and Andrea Bargnani all signed to high-priced contracts. Those three alone are tying up $49 million of the Knicks cap space next season. Add the additional $13 million the Knicks have committed to players on their roster and the Knicks have no cap flexibility to even improve their roster this offseason. The only asset they had been trying to trade all season long, guard Iman Shumpert, has done little to bolster his value this season. In fact, his points per game totals have declined every year he has been in the NBA. Include in the Knicks predicaments the lack of a first-round pick this upcoming draft (thanks to the trade for Carmelo Anthony a few years back) and the Knicks are in serious trouble. At the worst, they could be looking at a Carmelo-less Knicks team that could be really offensive to watch. Now that would really hurt Knicks fans watching that team. Jackson would be handcuffed immediately in this situation.

Another issue is Jackson has never been a front office person. He has coached many a team to titles, but he has never picked the players to add to a team nor hired a coaching to coach a team (the Knicks are expected to be looking for a new head coach this offseason). Adding someone with winning pedigree is a good thing for your organization, but when you add Jackson to the current Knicks situation, there is no guarantee that he will be able to figure it out due to his inexperience in that role. If Jackson is smart, he will look to former Celtics star and current Pacers front office guy Larry Bird as a guide. Bird, in both his front office and head coaching jobs, had little to no experience. But his greatest move was recognizing that and hiring people around him that were well-versed in coaching and front office work respectively. And those smart decisions have made for a successful career in the Pacers organization. But for every Larry Bird, there is also an Isaiah Thomas. The former Detroit Pistons star had an eye for talent, but he could never make it work as a coach or a GM. His Raptors teams never were successful despite the talent he brought there (Tracy McGrady and Vince Carter) and his Knicks teams were just a collection of bad contracts (Steve Francis, Stephon Marbury and many others). Thomas was eventually jettisoned by the Knicks, even though he still hovers around the organization and even was involved in trying to bring LeBron to New York four years ago. Jackson is a good basketball mind, but the jury is out on what he can do in the front office.

James Dolan

In the end, the Knicks will go as far as Dolan stays away no matter if Jackson comes to New York or not. The meddlesome owner did not listen to then-GM Donnie Walsh when he traded a ton of talent and picks for the services of a player that was going to be a free agent that offseason (Carmelo Anthony) and expressed interest in coming to New York. If Dolan had listened at that point and time, maybe he would have had a better situation and Walsh would still be in New York instead of back in Indiana making a contender. Dolan has to be true to his word if he hires Jackson and allow him to do his job. But the track record of Dolan tells us he will again stick his nose in basketball business he has no idea about at all. And because of that, Jackson could have a very difficult job turning the Knicks around. Realistically, all Knicks fans should take a look at 2015 for the potential turn of the franchise if Jackson joins the franchise or not. Phil, for all his greatness, has to weigh his options here very carefully. As a player, Phil was an essential piece for the Knicks organization and he could potentially bring the Knicks back, but the Midas touch may take longer than possible if he signs up for this daunting task.

For more sports talk follow me on Twitter @General_MP or check me out on Facebook at Mike Patton-The General .

Colin Kaepernick: Well Worth The Money

colin kaepernick

NFL free agency is about to get in full swing. Teams are looking for that additional piece to put them over the top. But along with the free agency period, it’s also extension time. Plenty of players are going into their last year of their contracts and are looking for that payday they believed they have earned. And of course, the quarterback position is still in the spotlight in these talks. The Boston Globe is reporting that San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick is seeking $18 million a year in his newest deal. Immediately, fans began to weigh in on whether or not he was worth that amount of money. Some believe that he is worth it. While others believe his value is way less than the monies he is looking for. But if you look at the different factors that go into his newest contract, Kaepernick is well worth the money.

Colin running

Colin is definitely not the prototypical quarterback. He is big, fast and has a rocket for an arm. But of course, he has some things to improve on. But that is to be expected from a quarterback who just completed his first full year as a starting quarterback in the NFL. Even though he is still growing as a quarterback and improving still, Colin has had a lot of success early on. Kaepernick has led his team to the Super Bowl and to the NFC title game in successive seasons. And what has been even more impressive is the numbers he put up in his first full season (2013) despite not having his full complement of weapons the entire season. He posted 3,197 yards, 21 TDs and only 8 interceptions. Colin also added 524 yards rushing with 4 rushing TD’s. If you put his first year numbers alongside Russell Wilson and Cam Newton’s, they are not far off in all actuality. In fact, he actually had a better first year as a starter than Cam Newton in terms of interceptions (Cam had 17 interceptions in his first year as a starter). Cam and Russell are expected to get huge deals when their time comes. So if Colin has numbers comparable to them, then why shouldn’t he be able to get the same type of pay?

Also, the thing that people forget is the market was not set by Kaepernick as to what quarterbacks should get. That honor belongs to quarterbacks Jay Cutler and Tony Romo. Both veteran quarterbacks were awarded new deals that set their salaries around $18 million a year at the time they were signed. But both have one thing in common: they have never won anything other than a regular season division championship. In fact, Cutler is the only one that has even been to a conference championship game out of the two. But according to the stats, both Chicago and Dallas felt their quarterbacks were worthy of getting 18 million a season. Honestly, both are pretty good regular season quarterbacks, but they do not come through in the playoffs at all (combined 2-4 in the postseason). Compare their postseason win/loss record and Colin is far and away better then both of them in the postseason (4-2 record) and has appeared in each NFC Championship game. You can make the argument that Colin is more essential to winning than these two quarterbacks. So if that is the case, shouldn’t he get paid like both of these quarterbacks then?

Essentially, the payment of Cutler and Romo on their new deals has caused the market to balloon to the current price Colin is asking for. And with the salary cap expected to be $150 million per team in 2016, look for more young successful quarterbacks to go for $18 million a year or more. Colin’s success has been on par with Luck, Newton and Wilson and he should be paid accordingly.

colin smiling

For more sports talk, feel free to follow me on Twitter @General_MP or check me out on Facebook at Mike Patton-The General .

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