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Archive for the month “August, 2015”

The Rise And Fall Of Robert Griffin III In Washington, DC

Robert Griffin III and Jay Gruden have meshed together about as well as oil and water. (photo courtesy of CBS Sports)

Robert Griffin III and Jay Gruden have meshed together about as well as oil and water. (photo courtesy of CBS Sports)

Robert Griffin III was hailed as the savior of Washington once he arrived in town. The combination of speed, athleticism and a throwing arm had the Reskins fan base excited over what he could be. And in his first season he did not disappoint. He led the Redskins to the NFC East crown and the playoffs in his first season. But within that first season, he had some bumps and bruises. RGIII was injured before the playoffs and did not look like the same athletic guy he was when he got there. And in the playoffs, his leg, which he had injured previously, gave way. The result was a torn ACL for the second time in his career along with other injuries to his knee. And from there, Robert Griffin III has never been the same. It seems like since that time, his play has never reached the hype of what accompanied him when he arrived in 2012. The more Robert Griffin III seems to talk, the worse his play seems to have gotten. And now we have reached the point where the guy who once was on top of the world in DC has now been deemed an afterthought. The Redskins recently announced that back quarterback Kirk Cousins would be the starting quarterback for the 2015 season. Of course that decision is always subject to change due to it only being the beginning of the season, but it seemed to be almost a burial of RGIII in Washington. Many think this is the end for him in DC and deservedly so. But what even led us to this point?

There is no doubt that Griffin III is a very talented player when he is healthy. But the fact remains that he has not been healthy since he went down with injury his rookie season. Griffin III rushed back from injury to be ready for the 2013 season and that was a huge mistake. Part of the reason he made it back so quick was his burning desire to be on the field. And the mistake on the management’s part was to let him back on the field so quickly. His knee was in disarray. And if the management really cared about Griffin III, they would not have even let him get back on the field until he was fully healed. The result of him being on the field too quickly ended with not being anywhere close to the same player he was before his injury. He did not have the explosiveness he had when he would leave the pocket and it seemed like the zip he once had on the football was not the same. The result was subpar performances and a guy that looked like a shell of himself. As far as the team’s performance, they have suffered right along with RGIII. The team has not had a winning record since that 2012 season and it has also not had the same buzz and excitement.

The injuries to RGIII have slowed him down, but so has the offensive system around him. When RGIII first entered the NFL, everyone knew who he was. He was an athletic quarterback who operated out of the spread offense with efficiency. When he came into the NFL, the Redskins under Mike Shanahan adapted to his style. And with doing so, they made the playoffs. But ever since that year and with the injuries to RGIII, the Redskins have seem to forgot what RGIII is. And in the new offense, Jay Gruden has RGIII doing play-action passes and operating under center. In essence, that is not what RGIII has done and not a part of the player he is. What should have happened with the Redskins is they should have met RGIII halfway. Gruden wants a certain style offense, but he also has to realize what talent he has when it comes to RGIII. It seemed like Gruden was determined to make RGIII into what he wanted instead of accentuating what he had in him. And as a result, the offense looked disastrous when RGIII was on the field. But at the same time Gruden was forcing his offense on RGIII, it seemed like the former Baylor star was not growing at all on the field. Instead of him picking up the same nuances that other quarterbacks seem to do over time, he was not throwing it to open receivers. RGIII would instead run and try to make a play instead of throwing it to the open man. And as a result of that, defenses would track him down and the offense would go nowhere fast.

The writing seems to be on the wall that RGIII’s days as a starter in Washington are about over. The excitement to start his career was thought by some to be a prelude to his success. But in the end, it may end up being the high point of his career as the quarterback of the Redskins. The next step is undetermined at this time, but there could be a change of jerseys coming for RGIII. And for RGIII, a change of jersey will hopefully lead to an offense that fits what he can do. And for RGIII, hopefully we can see the exciting player that he was again someday instead of the shell of a player he has been since his rookie season. His time has come and gone in DC and his next chance will hopefully come with a change of scenery. This has to be a low point for RGIII and it is up to him where he goes from here.

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The Steve Sarkisian Issue At USC Reveals A Deeper Issue In College Sports

Steve Sarkisian has a lot of questions to answer after his drunken moment at a USC event. (photo courtesy of www.fansided.com)

Steve Sarkisian has a lot of questions to answer after his drunken moment at a USC event. (photo courtesy of http://www.fansided.com)

The University of Southern California once ruled the football world. Then head coach Pete Carroll had the Trojans in the running for the national title each and every year. But when he left for the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks, the team has lost its luster. Lane Kiffin was not able to live up to the standards that Carroll created. And with the scholarship reductions and sanctions that Kiffin inherited, the Trojan program just could never get back on track. But when Kiffin was fired, the Trojans made the right step towards making it back to relevance. They hired former USC assistant and University of Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian and it seemed like a different energy was around the team. The Trojans were energetic and it seemed like the buzz that left with Pete Carroll was coming back. Heading into the 2015 season, the thought was that the Trojans would be coming back into play for the championship and that the focus could go back to the team instead of all that was going on around it. But unfortunately, Sarkisian took the spotlight away. He recently had a drunken speech at a booster event that caused him to eventually get pulled off stage. He threw out some a few F bombs along with saying that Oregon, Arizona State and Notre Dame sucked. Sarksian later apologized and said that he mixed medication and alcohol and that led to his speech in front of donors, the team and their family and friends. As a result, Sarkisian has to go to a rehab program. But what if this had been a student of a fan that did this?

College kids are young and can be sometimes reckless. And that can lead to incidents of bad behavior that could embarrass themselves, their families and the school that they attend. The spotlight of what that kid does or does not do can be even bigger for a student-athlete. When they mess up, it seems like the spotlight shines a little brighter and the criticism is a little bit louder. The result for most of the infractions include a suspension more times than naught. Sarkisian really got a smack on the hand for his incident, but if this was a student that did this, there would definitely be a different outcome. At the least, the student-athlete would have been suspended. But that result would have been getting off light. The player would more than likely have been kicked off the team for even showing up to the event in that shape and for cursing at such a big event. And with their friends and family there, it would not have been a pretty response from the student-athlete’s loved ones. The fallout would have been tough for that student-athlete to come back from and more than likely the university would have acted swiftly in removing the student-athlete from the situation and from the university. But in Sarkisian’s case, it seemed like they coddled him. The university seems so stuck in trying to win that they ignored their coach showed up and showed out at the event. And instead of him receiving punishment, the university is now giving him time to get it cleaned up. The student-athlete would have had the chance to clean this one up, but it would not have been at the same college at all.

The incident that happened with Sarkisian and his lack of punishment is something that has become synonymous with coaches. For years, coaches have been able to skirt past the rules due to them winning on the universities and colleges where they coach. And as a result of the success, the schools seem to do whatever they can to keep the coach and appear to be punishing him. In the case of a college-age kid, the kid gets punishment. But along with the punishment, the kid usually gets punishment and that can sometimes lead to suspensions or being kicked off the team. But if you take a look at some things these kids have done compared to coaches, it seems the latitude is not the same. Grown men get the excuses made for them while the kids have to “learn the hard way”. In college, it is about kids learning and growing as they matriculate through school. And of course they are going to mess up because they are still learning. But a grown man should know better. The punishment should be worse for the grownup because he or she knows better. But instead, they punish the kids like they know better.

The name of the game in college is money and in the end, coaches will bring players in to make the university money and win games year after year. And continually, coaches are given wiggle room when they mess up just because they can win. All the while, players are held to a higher standard while learning. Until that is addressed along with other things about college coaches, it will always seem like each university is out for a money grab. And in the meantime, the kids get used up and spit out if they make any type of mistake. Of course some mistakes are bigger than others and there is no escaping some of the punishments. But when the punishments of coaches appear to be a slap on the wrist, there is something wrong with that. As far as Sarkisian, he can continue to deny he has a drinking problem, but when it can be said that you drink often in the coach’s locker room and you say you accidentally mixed alcohol and medication, that paints a different picture than what he is trying to paint for us. Denial is something that always comes up when someone has an issue and especially one like this. But he is yet another example of coaches getting by while players get the short end of the stick if in the same predicaments.

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Preseason Football Isn’t Going Anywhere

Maurkice Pouncey went down with an injury that will affect the Steelers this season. (photo courtesy of Jason Bridge/USA Today Sports)

Maurkice Pouncey went down with an injury that will affect the Steelers this season. (photo courtesy of Jason Bridge/USA Today Sports)

The NFL preseason is halfway through all teams so far. And with that, there have been players that have helped themselves to make teams and others that have hurt their chances. Along with that, there have been fans that have been excited to see their teams on the field. But lost in that excitement has been the injuries that some teams have had to experience. The most recent injuries were to Green Bay Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson and Pittsburgh Steelers center Maukice Pouncey. Nelson suffered a non-contract injury to his knee. The result is a torn ACL that will cost him his entire 2015 season. And with Pouncey, he got rolled up from behind and injured his ankle. He will likely need surgery and will miss a significant portion of time. The result of these latest injuries have some wondering about the preseason. There have been many on social media calling for the preseason to be terminated. Many think that will solve the early-injury bug. But for those that are calling for the preseason to end, the NFL does not hear you. The preseason will never stop being here.

Some don’t want to hear that statement but it is the truth. The preseason has been around as long as many can remember and will continue to be around. The money is something that is too good to pass up. Many fans may notice that when they purchase season tickets, that means they are also paying the full price for preseason games. And along with the fans that are paying for season tickets, there are other casual fans that will be in the stadiums watching the third, fourth and fifth-string players run around just like they were watching the starters. Essentially, instead of teams having eight home games, they have ten. And the more home games they have, the more money goes to the teams and the NFL in terms of merchandise sold and concessions. If folks have been paying attention to the NFL, they operate more for the love of money more than for the love of the game. Any chance they get to make a little more money at the expense of fans and players, they will do so. Sure, it hurts teams when players get injured in these games and the prices are too high to attend these games, but the money is something the NFL cannot pass up. And as long as people are paying, the NFL is not going to turn down the money.

But the love of money is not the only reason for the NFL preseason. A lot of times, we see a lot of players play in the preseason and do things that no one thought they could do. As a result, some unexpected players end up making it on the opening day roster. By cutting the preseason, it could take away the evaluation period to coaches in a sense. Essentially the only time the coaches would have to evaluate players would be in scrimmages against themselves and in practices. Going against the same person everyday isn’t exactly the best way to evaluate someone. You need to see how certain players play against an opponent when put in certain situations. Also, with no preseason, you may want to take a glimpse into what you could see. Imagine more penalties, sloppy football and less scoring for the first two to three weeks of the season. In a game that counts, it would be terrible to watch teams make blunder after blunder. The preseason allows the players to straighten out a few things before the season gets started. And if the preseason was cancelled, there would be many fans wanting their money back for the sloppy presentation they just witnessed.

The preseason is four games right now and admittedly needs to be shortened. Two games seems like it would be long enough for a preseason schedule. But to think the preseason is going anywhere is absurd. There is no way the NFL is going to start turning down the money it generates despite the injuries that seem to happen every year. There will be preseason football and it will be here for a long time.

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The Future Of Tennessee Titans Quarterback Zach Mettenberger

Zach Mettenberger is a hot commodity in the NFL. (photo courtesy of James Kenney/AP)

Zach Mettenberger is a hot commodity in the NFL. (photo courtesy of James Kenney/AP)

The Tennessee Titans looked sharp in their second preseason game. They played tougher, harder and seemed to be flying around the field on their way to a 27-14 win over the St. Louis Rams. Running back Bishop Sankey ran hard the entire game and that was a great sight. But what was an even better sight was the play of the quarterbacks. Rookie starter Marcus Mariota was off on a few throws, but he looked much better in the pocket and he made a great play sprinting to his right to find a wide-open Craig Stevens 35 yards down the field. Zach Mettenberger was equally impressive when he received his reps. He matched Mariota by going 7/9 passing. And he also had an impressive throw when he threaded threw a dart between two St. Louis Rams defenders for a touchdown to tight end Chase Coffman. Both had good games and drew good reviews from those who watched them. But for Mettenberger, he knows all his play is only to lock up the backup quarterback job. When Mariota was drafted, that pretty much ended any chance Mettenberger had of being a starter for the Titans this season. So with that being said, there are many that are looking at Mettenberger and having thoughts of what he would look like on their team. With many thinking he would be attractive for their teams, the Titans have to evaluate what they should do with him. They have a commodity in Mettenberger and he could definitely help them should Mariota go down. But he could also help them in another aspect as well.

The Titans are a team that is still in the building phase. Last season, it seems like they hit rock bottom. And with the drafting of Mariota, there is hope that they are on their way to rebuilding the team. Any team that wants to rebuild needs as many weapons and draft picks as possible along with smart free agent signings. Part of gaining those picks they need is recognizing is getting what they can for players that are commodities. Mettenberger’s arm has many franchises intrigued. Teams like the Jets and potentially the Bills should be giving the Titans a call and making a play for him. If the Titans are to get rid of him, they should not move him for less than a 1st round pick. It may seem like a high ransom for a quarterback that has just shown flashes of talent, but the Jets and Bills could be at the mercy of the Titans. Tennessee could realistically hold on to Mettenberger until the trade deadline and trade him if they wanted to. But the one thing the Titans want to be careful about doing is holding on to Mettenberger too long. If they allow him to languish on the bench behind Mariota, the closer the 2016 NFL Draft will be. And at that point, the Titans could open themselves up for him to drop in demand. That could potentially mean they miss out on the talent they could have acquired like a first-round offensive lineman that could help make their line better. And at that point, the Titans could be stuck with him.

Just like it would be valuable to let Mettenberger go, it could also be valuable to keep him. Mariota is going to be the starter, but what if he ends up taking some hits early on that force him to the sideline. At that point, the Titans would have Mettenberger step in and be the next option. If the Titans were to get rid of Mettenberger, they would be stuck with Charlie Whitehurst as their primary backup. Nothing against Charlie Whitehurst, but he has been a career backup for a reason. Whitehurst knows the game and he knows Coach Ken Whisenhunt’s system from his time under him in San Diego. But when it comes to making the throws to win games, Whitehurst is not the answer to that equation. In Mettenberger, he could make the bigtime throws that winning quarterbacks can make. The only question mark about him is can he get it done consistently if he has to come in to relieve Mariota should he get injured. Judging how he looks form last season to this season, Mettenberger looks more mature and ready to take on the challenge of leading a team. But of course he will have to wait his turn while Mariota is tabbed as the franchise quarterback to lead the Titans back to relevance. If he is to get his opportunities, he must come through not only for his team but for his value as a quarterback in the NFL.

The talk about Mettenberger will continue as the season goes on. If Mariota does well, the talk will get louder that the Titans need to trade him. If Mariota struggles, then some fans may call for Mettenberger to come into the game. Eventually, the Titans will have to make a choice whether they need Mettenberger here or not. But one thing is clear: this will more than likely be his last year as a member of the Titans. Some team will be hungry for a quarterback after this season. And with NFL teams always looking for the next good quarterback, they will approach the Titans for Mettenberger. The only question will be if the Titans will trade him at the right time or not.

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No Need To Panic In Green Bay Over The Loss Of Jordy Nelson

Jordy Nelson falls to the ground as he suffered a knee injury versus the Pittsburgh Steelers (photo courtesy of Charles LeClaire/USA Today Sports)

Jordy Nelson falls to the ground as he suffered a knee injury versus the Pittsburgh Steelers (photo courtesy of Charles LeClaire/USA Today Sports)

The Green Bay Packers were one of the favorites to go the Super Bowl this year. With wide receiver Randall Cobb re-signing with the team this offseason, the team had all their weapons back. Everyone was expecting this offense to be prolific with the Aaron Rodgers pulling the strings. The only thing they had to do is make it through the preseason healthy. The Green Bay Packers were healthy so far until their second preseason game. Wide receiver Jordy Nelson, a consistent veteran on the team, caught a pass and without anyone touching him, crumbled on the field. At that point, the Packers and their fans had their collective hearts in their throats. They were hoping the injury was not serious, but they knew it could be due to the nature of what happened. Earlier this week, Carolina Panthers wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin went down without contract and was grabbing his knee. The result for him was a torn ACL. Well, after hoping for the best, the Packers got the same injury news the Panthers got on Benjamin. Nelson has been confirmed to have a torn ACL and will be lost for the season. And just like that, many began to question whether the Packers still had enough in the passing game to get it done. Well, the answer is unequivocally yes.

Losing a top receiver is never easy. And quite honestly, it will be very hard for Green Bay to replace Nelson in the lineup. But the Packers do have one weapon that can cause stress on the defense with his versatility. His name is Randall Cobb. The 5th year wide receiver out of the University of Kentucky had his best year as a pro last season. His 91 catches and 1,287 yards were second to Nelson on the Packers team. Cobb isn’t the offensive deep threat that Nelson is, but he is definitely more versatile. Over his time in Green Bay, he has lined up in a multitude of spots. That ability to line up in the backfield, in the slot and potentially in the Wildcat formation at quarterback can give defenses fits. And with Nelson out, expect Mike McCarthy and crew to get the ball in Cobb’s hands as much as possible. With him involved more, look for more quick strike things like bubble screens and crossing patterns so Cobb can use his skills. And along with the offensive abilities, Cobb can also be a spark in the return game for the Packers. When he first came in the NFL, he was dynamic as a punt and kickoff returner. With those skills, they Packers need to make sure and use them as much as possible.

Cobb will definitely be utilized more and will have some huge numbers this season, but he needs someone else to help him out in the passing game. And that help will more than likely come from a man that the Packers have a tremendous amount of belief in. Second-year wide receiver Devante Adams showed flashes of brilliance last season when given the opportunity. His seven reception, 117 yard game against the Dallas Cowboys in the postseason only furthered the belief the team had in him. Heading into this season, the Packers were sold on the fact that Adams could be the third wide receiver behind Nelson and Cobb. Well, that plan has been altered for now. With Nelson out for the year, Adams now has to step into the starting lineup. He has the size at 6’2” to give defensive backs problems. And at that size with the skills he has with the ball in his hands, he could give defenses fits. Of course the biggest thing is he has to be consistent for the Packers this season. Last year, he was inconsistent when given opportunities. But the Packers could afford his inconsistencies with Nelson and Cobb on the field. This season, he will be looked at to make it happen opposite of Cobb. And with more targets from Rodgers, he will definitely have plenty of opportunities to make it happen. The big question will be can he take advantage of more opportunities. The Packers think that he can.

The Packers still have championship aspirations despite the loss of their best wide receiver. And through drafting well, the team has two weapons that can make it happen in the passing game. You couple these two with the running game of the Packers (led by Eddie Lacy) and the Surgeon, Aaron Rodgers, at quarterback, and the Packers still have a very dangerous offensive team. Nelson will be missed, but the beat goes on in Green Bay. And contrary to popular belief, the Pack still have enough to win a title offensively.

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TY Hilton Isn’t The Lead Receiver The Colts Paid For

TY Hilton is in Indianapolis to stay, but he is not a lead receiver. (AP Photo/Brent R. Smith)

TY Hilton is in Indianapolis to stay, but he is not a lead receiver. (AP Photo/Brent R. Smith)

The Indianapolis Colts are a young team that is growing with each year. Led by quarterback Andrew Luck, the Colts have been a team that has exceeded expectations. Luck definitely is one of the main reasons they have been so good so fast, but he is not the only reason. Another guy the team drafted that same season has had a great effect on that team. With their third round pick (92nd overall) of the 2012 NFL Draft, the Colts wanted to give Luck a weapon that could help him achieve success. They saw a speedy guy from Florida International University with return skills that could potentially take the top off defenses. His name was TY Hilton. And the Colts saw enough out of him that they thought he could be special. Well, three years later, Hilton has been just that and more for the Colts. He has gotten better and better each season, topping off at 1,361 yards last season. The diminutive receiver has been dynamite for the Colts and this offseason, they rewarded him for his efforts. Recently Hilton signed a five-year deal extension worth $65 million ($39 million guaranteed). That deal ranks him fourth among wide receivers behind the deals for Calvin Johnson, Dez Bryant and Demaryius Thomas. Hilton makes enough big plays to be considered for this huge pay raise, but he is definitely the guy that does not fit in this picture. All three other men in this scenario are number one receivers that have size and speed. Hilton, has only his speed working for him but not the size.

Hilton is as a very talented receiver. The amazing thing about him is that teams know he has speed and they continue to get beat by him down the field. But when teams cut down the field on him, what does he become? Checking out his games last season, there is a pattern that he formed when playing against top corners in the NFL. Hilton had a double-figure yards per catch average against everyone in the NFL last season except for three teams: the Patriots, the Titans and the Broncos. The Titans game at the end of the season can be excused because the Colts were already in the playoffs at that point and time and probably wanted to rest Hilton. But against the Patriots and the Broncos in the regular season, Hilton was non-existent. When facing top NFL cornerbacks Derrelle Revis (Patriots) and Aqib Talib (Broncos), Hilton was not as explosive. He totaled eight receptions for 65 yards and did not even touch the endzone. And to add to it these numbers, Hilton had only one catch for 36 yards in the AFC Championship game against those same Patriots. Not a great showing for a guy getting paid like a lead receiver against top competition. He has to win some of those battles against the top cornerbacks in the NFL and if he does not, then he is not a legit number one receiver.

Hilton is a productive receiver and makes things happen for the Colts, but he is not a guy that strikes fear in teams like Johnson, Bryant and Thomas can. He is a weapon that came in with Luck and that is a huge component as to why he is staying in Indianapolis. The Colts are getting ready to break the bank with an extension for Andrew Luck. He is one of the posterboys for the next wave of top quarterbacks in the NFL. Hilton has been one of his favorite targets, so it’s only right that Indianapolis signs him to stay around. But the fact remains that Hilton is a guy that will not draw double-coverage normally in a game. A headline receiver would draw that type of coverage. With Hilton’s new contract, he is taking advantage of a market that allowed him to get this type of guaranteed money. You cannot blame Hilton for taking the money at all. In a league where contracts are not guaranteed and careers can end abruptly, Hilton had to get what he could and he did. But if the Colts are thinking they are going to get a number one receiver out of Hilton, then they are sadly mistaken. He is a weapon on a good team, but he is not the lead receiver for a team that wants to win a championship. And as long as he is being billed as the number one guy, the Colts will not be winning a title.

For the Colts’ sake, they better have something else up their sleeves down the line. For one, they need a stronger defense. But for their offense, they need a lead receiver. Andre Johnson will be productive for the Colts, but he will not be the guy that he once was in Houston and he does not have a long shelf life at his age. And as far as the other receivers in Colts camp, there is not a proven one in the bunch. Hilton is their guy. For better or worse, Hilton is the man for the Colts at the receiver position. He is talented, but he is not the guy to lead their receiving corps unfortunately.

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The Titans Are Taking A Chance On Linebacker Brian Orakpo

Brian Orakpo is starting fresh with a new team, the Tennessee Titans. (photo courtesy of Mark Humphrey/AP)

Brian Orapko is starting fresh with a new team, the Tennessee Titans. (photo courtesy of Mark Humphrey/AP)

The Tennessee Titans defense was once a feared unit when they were run by defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz and had one of the best defensive line coaches in NFL history in Jim Washburn. But those days seem like eons ago. Schwartz left to be the head coach of the Detroit Lions (he since has been fired and is out of coaching currently) and Washburn is not coaching anymore as well. The players on the field aren’t the same as they used to be either. There used to be defensive ends like Jevon Kearse, Kyle Vanden Bosch and Jason Babin causing havoc for the Titans. But Kearse, Babin and Vanden Bosch all ended up leaving the team via free agency. And when Babin left, it seems like he took the pressure the Titans created with him. The team has not been the same since and they have been trying to find the formula to make themselves what they once were: a feared defense. They have tried and tried again with some different players, but none have seem to be the dominant pass rusher they needed. So this offseason, the Titans went out and signed a player they thought they needed. Along with signing back outside linebacker Derrick Morgan to a four-year deal, the Titans went out and got former Washington Redskins outside linebacker Brian Orakpo. The veteran linebacker is a guy that can make some things happen and is used to playing in the 3-4 defense the Titans now run. They signed him to a four-year deal with $10.5 million guaranteed over that time. And now the Titans feel they have what they need to make it happen. But is Orapko really the answer?

Drafted 13th overall in the 2009 NFL Draft, Orakpo was brought in to bring constant pressure for the Redskins. And in his first year, he was able to do so. He amassed 11 sacks in his first season and many were waiting on more to come. Now he only notched double-digit sacks one other year in his career (2013), but he is someone that defenses have to account for every time he is out there. The Titans only had 3-4 defensive end Jurrell Casey that teams had to really prepare for last season. And even though Morgan re-signed with the Titans, he isn’t exactly a pass rusher that teams fear. With Orakpo, it now takes some of the pressure off Casey to be the most dominant player on the front line. And the best thing about Orapko is he is used to playing in the 3-4 because he has been in that system his entire career. Morgan is still relatively new to the system because the Titans just switched to it before the 2014 season when they hired Ray Horton as their defensive coordinator. So with him being someone that is comfortable in a 3-4, expect the Titans to move him around some to give opponents different looks. By doing so, the Titans will create mismatches and hopefully more pressure along with that. Last season it seemed like they just could not get to the quarterback. And because of that, the secondary of the Titans struggled mightily. Hopefully Orakpo will help give opposing offenses less time to burn the Titans secondary. Orakpo is definitely a guy that changes the complexion of the defense for the Titans for the better, but he there is also some inherent risk in signing him.

Orakpo is a feared pass rusher when he is on the field, but injuries have been an issue as of late. Over the last three seasons, Orakpo has played in double-figure games only once. With what the Titans invested in him, they hope they are getting a guy that can resemble the durable player he was his first three years. If he is not able to stay healthy, the Titans really don’t have much to turn to after him. Morgan would go back to the being the lead pass rusher and there would really be no one to take the pressure off Morgan except for Casey. And at that point, the secondary would be in the same position of getting exposed as they were last season. The Titans added some solid pieces in their secondary with safety Da’Norris Searcy and cornerback Perrish Cox, but the pass rush is the key to anything they will be key to anything they will be able to do. For the Titans sake, they better hope he is healthy and able to provide some pressure. But along with staying healthy, the Titans need Orakpo to provide double-digit sacks. Sure, he created pressure and that helped the defenses he was a part of. But to be the leader and have the best effect on this team, he has to come through when he gets his chances to rush the quarterback. Kameron Wimbley was once a guy the Titans brought in to put pressure on quarterbacks. He brought pressure, but he did not do much besides waive at the quarterback on his way by him. And with that, he never registered double-figure sacks for the Titans. He was going to be a part of the Titans roster potentially this season and again be overpaid, but he decided to retire this season. Wasted money for a guy the Titans thought would be the answer.

With Orakpo present, the Titans hope they have given the defense more to work with. And with defensive genius and former Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau as part of the defensive staff, the Titans have just the man to help mix things up and free Orakpo to wreak havoc. The only thing Orakpo has to do is make sure to stay healthy and come through on the chances he is given to rush the quarterback and make a big play. If he does that, he will be worth every penny the Titans paid for him. If he does not, the Titans will be looking at another guy that did not live up to expectations. If should be interesting to see how this veteran pass rusher changes this defense.

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Robert Griffin III Is Feeling Himself

Robert Griffin III is beaming with confidence after his proclamation of being the best quarterback in the NFL. (photo courtesy of John McDonnell/Washington Post)

Robert Griffin III is beaming with confidence after his proclamation of being the best quarterback in the NFL. (photo courtesy of John McDonnell/Washington Post)

The Washington Redskins had a disastrous 2014 season under first-year head coach Jay Gruden. But what was even more disastrous for their 4-12 record last season is their quarterback play. The Redskins had three quarterbacks play last season in Robert Griffin III, Kirk Cousins and Colt McCoy. All three were inconsistent and could not give Gruden what he wanted for his offense. And as a result, the offense sputtered all season long and was not exactly aesthetically pleasing. Their performance did nothing to help their defense, who was trying to keep them in football games. Heading into this year, there were thoughts of “could it get worse” among other things when it came to this offense. Back at the front of the line stands Robert Griffin III again. He is first in line for his shot at being the starter. In the grand scheme of things, it looks like his job to lose. The Redskins invested a lot of money in him to be their guy when they drafted him 2nd overall in 2012. And in this season, the time has come for him to step up to the plate. And heading into this season, Griffin was recently quoted as saying the following: “ I feel like I’m the best quarterback in the league, and I have to go out and show that.” Indeed Robert Griffin III was bold in his statement, but what should his focus really be on at this time?

Griffin was electrifying as a rookie quarterback in the NFL. He was fearless when he ran the football and he appeared to lay it all on the line for his teammates, leading them to the playoffs in his first year. And even though he suffered an injury to his leg near the end of the regular season, he was thought to be ready for the playoffs. The intensity was high for both teams as the Seattle Seahawks were trying to make it to the National League Conference Title game. But unfortunately, the time off for Griffin did not help make his knee and leg feel any better. Griffin looked to be dragging his leg by the end of the game until he was eventually tackled and put out for the rest of the playoffs. Griffin suffered a knee injury that caused him to opt for surgery to repair the ligaments and other damage done. Ever since that moment, RGIII has not been the same. He has had his moments where he has tried to get it going, but the extra gear just does not seem to be there for Griffin. Instead of focusing on if he is the best quarterback in the NFL, Griffin may want to focus on staying healthy. Take one step at a time to get it going. Once you start stringing things together, it makes things easier to do in regards to your job.

There is one side of the statement that we can look at, meaning Griffin was focusing on the wrong thing. He clearly needs to focus on being healthy. But when you are a competitor, you have to believe that you are the best at what you do. Even though fans may not think he is the best, it does not matter in the grand scheme of things. The self-confidence within makes players who they are. Many times players are the only ones that believe in their abilities. Some fans may laugh at players who make these statements, but what else are they supposed to believe? Are they supposed to say that they are the second best player in the world or that they are the 13th best player on the field? There is no way any team would want a player on their team that believes in that way of thinking. And there is definitely no way a player would survive in the NFL with that train of thinking. So essentially the statement Griffin said is something that a lot of players think already. He just said it out loud. Sure, it sounds funny when you hear it. But it is a tribute to his state of mind more than his state of play.

Griffin is crazy in saying what he said and that is a good and bad thing. But ultimately, he has to prove how good or bad he is between the white lines on the football field. Provided he stays healthy, maybe we get to see the RGIII we saw his rookie season. But only time will tell what we will see. And with the punishment he has taken mentally and physically the past two years, it will be interesting to see if he can help revive the Redskins franchise one more time like he did his first season in the NFL. Confidence is an interesting thing.

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The General’s Breakdown Of WR Dorial Green-Beckham

Dorial Green-Beckham has a bunch of potential. But what does that mean for Year One with the Titans? (photo courtesy of www.titansonline.com)

Dorial Green-Beckham has a bunch of potential. But what does that mean for Year One with the Titans? (photo courtesy of http://www.titansonline.com)

Dorial Green-Beckham was one of the most talented wide receivers in the country when he was heading into his senior season in high school. And he shocked many when he decided to stay in state and play for the University of Missouri. Many pegged him as the next star wide receiver to hit college football. But unfortunately, things did not work out that way. After two marijuana arrests and one arrest involving forcible entry and allegedly pushing a woman down the stairs, the university had enough. In two years, Green-Beckham had gone from a promising young receiver to someone that NFL teams may want to stay away from when he entered the NFL. Beckham would transfer to the University of Oklahoma and apply for a waiver to apply immediately, but that was denied by the NCAA. He then decided to enter the NFL Draft after sitting out the entire season and many were skeptical of him. With his checkered collegiate past, the risk versus reward dynamic was in play. He was viewed as a talented, young receiver, but many wondered could he put his past issues behind to make a career for himself. When the draft came around, there were some fans that wanted their favorite teams to draft him and others that were not sure what to make of him. Well, the Titans saw enough of him that they decided to take a chance and draft the big receiver in the second round (40th overall). And now the clock has started on what he can or cannot be.

The potential is there. At Titans camp, Green-Beckham is easy to spot. He is the 6’6”, 237 pound wide receiver that can be seen splitting out wide. He is physically imposing lining up out there and could make some things happen with his speed and his size. But there are a few things he may want to refine first. Green-Beckham is a big man, but that is not enough in the NFL. Beckham missed a lot of time when he was out at Oklahoma. And unfortunately, the time he had off does not mean he was able to refine everything at the level he needs to. An example is when he was running a fade pattern during Sunday’s practice. He has all kinds of ability, but there were some technique things he needed work on like his release on the fade pattern. Free-agent acquisition Harry Douglas could be seen at practice showing Green-Beckham a better technique to release off the line of scrimmage. Green-Beckham was listening to Douglas and hopefully he will be able to put those tips into play on the field, but these are part of the growing pains of a rookie wide receiver. And with Green-Beckham, he will be a little bit behind the curve because of sitting out the season last year. The fade patter is not the only thing he needs technique work on and that will all come with practice and time on the field and in practice.

Another issue that Green-Beckham may have is adjustments on routes. In the NFL, coverages are constantly disguised to confuse offenses. Many think the disguises are just for the quarterbacks, but that could not be further from the case. Wide receivers also have to read where the coverage is as well. If the wide receiver is able to read that, then that will tell them what depth to run a route, if a route needs to be changed or what kind of release the receiver needs to take. Dorial Green-Beckham played against some good defenses in the Southeastern Conference, but that does not compare to the defenses he will see every week in the NFL. Green-Beckham ran a few routes that looked like they were not at the correct depth for the coverage on Sunday. At game speed, that would have been a problem for him because he was not able to get open for his quarterback. But that is what they have practice for. Over time, he will have to learn to make those adjustments as he is playing the game and not just to run what the team calls for him to run. The more he learns to read defenses, the better he will be as a route-runner. And when Green-Beckham and the quarterback are both on the same page, the magic will happen for him on the field when the games really count.

Green-Beckham has some things that he has to learn, but his physical skills are something that you cannot teach. He can sky for the football, as witnessed here:

Beckham has some amazing physical abilities.

Beckham has some amazing physical abilities.

Looking at the Titans wide receivers, they only have one that has height other than him in Justin Hunter. And with Hunter potentially facing suspension because of an incident in Virginia, Green-Beckham may end up being the only size they have at wide receiver to start the season. If this is the case, why not use Green-Beckham in the redzone? The young wide receiver can contribute in that way while learning the nuances of playing wide receiver. And for a team that needs to take advantage of all their weapons, Green-Beckham would help them be able to finish drives instead of their usual way of finishing; field goals. You could just imagine him catching the football in the back of the endzone over the top of a smaller defensive back. And with his hands, it would not surprise me if he came down with the catch if the football is anywhere in his area. Another way he can help contribute to start the season at wide receiver is using his physical nature to help spring running backs. Plenty talk about how the running game has to do with the linemen up front, but it has just as much to do with the wide receivers. The safeties and the cornerbacks are the last line of defense when a running back is coming at them. Usually they are the ones that stand in the way of a 5-10 yard gain and a potentially game-breaking play. With Green-Beckham out there, he can definitely use his size to push defensive backs wherever he wants them to go. By doing that, guys like quarterback Marcus Mariota and running back Bishop Sankey will appreciate him even more for the long runs he will help spring. And the blocking on run plays will also help the Titans in play-action situations when receivers, like Green-Beckham, are looking to make big plays.

Dorial Green-Beckham has all the tools to be a very good wide receiver in the NFL. His size, speed and hands are something many receivers would die to have. But like all wide receivers, he has to learn the nuances of the game along with getting up to speed on the offense. Once he is able to do so, he and Marcus Mariota could be one dangerous quarterback/wide receiver combo. And if that happens, that gives the Titans two solid young blocks to help build their organization.

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The General’s Breakdown Of Titans QB Marcus Mariota

Marcus Mariota has one game under his belt. But what was seen at practice can tell you what else we can expect or should see from him this season. (photo courtesy of Samuel M. Simpkins/The Tennessean)

Marcus Mariota has one game under his belt. But what was seen at practice can tell you what else we can expect or should see from him this season. (photo courtesy of Samuel M. Simpkins/The Tennessean)

Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota were the top two quarterbacks taken in 2015 NFL Draft. Both were compared and contrasted leading all the way up to the draft in Chicago. The Tennessee Titans had an interest in both quarterbacks, but Tampa Bay helped them decide which one they were taking. The Bucs picked Winston 1st overall and that left Mariota going to the Titans. Despite having other needs besides quarterback, the Titans felt he was the best selection for him. And with Titans head coach Ken Whisenhunt basically handing the reigns over to him when he was drafted, the speculation began on how Mariota would perform. After Week 1 of the preseason, the NFL got its first look at Mariota and the results are mixed so far. He was intercepted on a screen pass and was stripped while throwing a pass (result was a touchdown for the Atlanta Falcons) during his first moments in the NFL. But after those two events, he bounced back to lead the Titans to a score before exiting the game. All in all, there are some that are taking a lot of value out of what happened and others that think the sky is falling due to the miscues he was a part of. It’s still early to say what a quarterback will be, but there are some concerns when it comes to Mariota early.

When checking out Titans practice live today, you could tell that Mariota is a very good athlete. He was the best athlete to play the quarterback position at Oregon. Even though we did not get to see it much today, he is definitely one that strikes fear in opponents already with his speed. But in the NFL, you have to be able to pass in the pocket. Those skills may come in time for Mariota. But as far as Mariota presently, he still needs some refinement of his footwork. He has improved over the time he was in college to this very point, but it almost seems as if he is still adjusting to coming from under center and going through his progressions while doing his footwork. The footwork was something that was to be expected, but it is also something that could get him in trouble as well. Over time it will get to the level it needs to be, but for right now, it is subpar. His footwork is a direct reflection of his accuracy. And as seem by some of his passes at training camp today, he was not on point with it and it affected some of his throws. For example, he missed tight end Delanie Walker when he was wide open in 11-on-11 drills. That cannot happen in the game. He has to complete that pass because that is what starting NFL quarterbacks do. Eventually he will get it, but he just does not have the consistency in doing so right now. And as a result of him not having the consistent footwork, he did not look all the way comfortable in the pocket as a quarterback.

Another issue he will have is one that no one is really talking about. Mariota was throwing a deep bomb today in practice, but there was one problem: no one could see him. Mariota is listed at 6’4” and 222 pounds in the program. But seeing him in person, he is closer to 6’2” than 6’4”. Just to give you an example, take a look at this picture:

Marcus Mariota and Zach Mettenberger relax during a break in the action.

Marcus Mariota and Zach Mettenberger relax during a break in the action.

The quarterback next to Mariota in this picture with his helmet halfway off is Zach Mettenberger. He is listed at 6’5” and 224 pounds. That is Mariota to the right of him in the picture. Now no one can tell me that he is the same size at Mettenberger or even close. The issue with Mariota’s size comes into play when he is dropping back like he did today. Mariota cannot see where he is throwing the football at all in that instance. And because of that, there may be more issues like what we saw today: a pass to wide receiver Harry Douglas that was not in his radius to catch. On the other hand, Mettenberger threw a deep pass and you could see him looking over his linemen and completing a long bomb to his receiver in stride. Size is something that cannot be taught and is only given in the genetics the player has. Unless Mariota has a growth spurt to meet 6’4”, there is not a way he is going to see over his line to complete a pass. And he effectively will be hoping a receiver finds it more than him having confidence he is throwing the pass on the money in these types of situations.

Even though there are certain issues short and long-term there with Mariota, all hope is not lost. There are ways the Titans can help mask the deficiencies of Mariota at this time in his career. Mariota may not have the best accuracy in the pocket, but he is actually very solid when throwing on the run. At the University of Oregon, he was used to throwing on the run and making things happen with his feet and arm. By designing some plays that allow him to throw on the run and put pressure on defenses, it will allow Mariota to be effective while he develops his pocket passing over time. And as far as his size, the best thing the Titans can do is create throwing lanes. Saints quarterback Drew Brees has been a master of maneuvering throwing lanes ever since he has been in the NFL. Mariota is not as short as Drew Brees, but the throwing lanes would allow for him to see things a little more clearly and also allow for him to see his progressions better. Mariota is a smart quarterback and you can already see him going through his progressions in 7-on-7 drills, but when the game action is there, he must be able to see all his weapons with all 22 players on the field.

Mariota is a hard worker and was seen by fans and media doing some conditioning and working on fade routes after practice with his fellow quarterbacks. And over time and with hard work, Mariota may get the footwork and other tools necessary to be a very good quarterback in the NFL one day. But in the meantime, the Titans need to help him out offensively by adjusting a few things to help him be as effective as he can be right now. And if they do so, then maybe the Titans can surprise some people. Only time will tell what happens.

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