Thursday, March 5, 2015

Suh Will Have Many Suitors

By Travis Stahl

I want to take you back to the swinging 90's.  It was 20 years ago when the greatest defensive player in the NFL at the time, Reggie White, entered free agency and left the Philadelphia Eagles.  It was clear wherever White choose to play was going to significantly change the landscape of the NFL and everyone expected the defensive end to sign with one of the more popular teams in the league.  Instead, White signed with Green Bay which shocked everyone and help give the Packers a Super Bowl.  We are on the verge of another momentous decision from free agent defensive tackle Ndomakong Suh.

The Detroit Lions could no longer afford to keep Suh at an annual salary between $22 and $26 million.  It wasn't feasible with other top players already making large sums of money so the team decided to let Suh test the waters of free agency.  You know what team in the NFL wants to sign Suh to a huge pay day?  All of them.  Teams are currently shedding salary left and right to clear the cap space to sign Suh, a player who would instantly transform any defense in the league into a significant force.  Suh wants to be the highest paid defensive player in the NFL but that does not mean he is going to sign with a lowly rebuilding team.  He's been on that ride already.

The two teams in the league right now with the most cap space are the Raiders and the Jaguars.  Neither one of those dysfunctional garbage fires seems like a logical choice.  Suh is going to sign with a team that has legitimate playoff chances.  And he isn't going to sign with a team and play out of position which eliminates the Colts and every other team that runs a 3-4 defense.  When you factor in the teams looking to spend with the teams that would fit Suh's style of play it narrows down the land spots a bit.  Remember, Suh wants to get paid but he doesn't want to go through another train wreck like he had to endure in Detroit.

So who are the teams most likely to get Suh to sign on the dotted line?  For starters, how about the a fore mentioned Eagles.  Philly just cleared up a lot of cap space and the team now has $40 million to spend in free agency.  Adding Suh would eliminate some other options for the team but it could be well worth it.  The Dolphins are another team with some free cap space.  Miami isn't the contender some of the other teams are but on the bright side he gets to live in South Beach.  Can't rule out that option.  You know who else could potentially have a whole bunch of cash laying around to spend in free agency?  Your Super Bowl champion New England Patriots.  In order for New England to have that much cap space though it would mean letting Darrell Reavis and Devin McCourty walk.  Stranger things have happened.

Of course, Suh could still re-sign with the Lions but he would have to leave a lot of money on the table to do so.  Suh could shock all of us and decide to join a team that isn't even on the radar right now the way White did 20 years ago.  This is one of those rare free agent decisions that changes the entire landscape of the league.  And, if Suh drags out his decision there will be a lot of teams scrambling at the end of free agency to try to scrape together any players they can. I don't think anybody can sit here right now and even guess what Suh will do.  All we know is he is going to get paid a lot of money.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Philly Outsmarts Us All

By Travis Stahl

We don't like things that are different from the norm.  Different is bad, it's Frankenstein.  We just can't fathom why somebody would try something different.  Remember when Pete Carroll and John Schneider out in Seattle were drafting people like James Carpenter and Bruce Irvin and we all laughed about "those crazy Seahawks up there trying to re-invent the wheel."  How'd that work out?  That is exactly why I'm not ready to call Chip Kelly crazy with the Philadelphia Eagles.  Sometimes crazy works out just fine.

Yesterday Kelly traded away Eagles running back LeSean McCoy who is arguably the second or third best back in the entire NFL.  Moreover, Philly traded McCoy to Buffalo for linebacker Kiko Alonzo who did not play at all last year due to a knee injury.  For those of you who don't know who Alonzo is, he played for Kelly at the University of Oregon.  In his rookie year in Buffalo all he did was have the most prolific season a linebacker has recorded since Ray Lewis.  So yeah, he is really good.  What people don't understand is why would Kelly trade away his best offensive player.  It's simple really.  Money.

McCoy is due to make a lot of money over the next two years of his contract at a position that has been severely devalued in the league.  No team in the league would be willing to pay a running back what McCoy will make except one, the Buffalo Bills.  In getting rid of McCoy the Eagles not only land a defensive cornerstone for the next decade but they also free up $10 million in cap space in which they can re-sign receiver Jeremy Maclin and go out and add one or two running backs to the roster to play along side Darren Sproles next season.  Could the Eagles have asked for and received more in compensation from Buffalo as part of the trade?  Probably.  But they didn't need to.

Kelly has now traded away his two best offensive weapons in consecutive seasons.  Last year remember the Eagles got rid of receiver DeSean Jackson.  There were critics then that said Kelly was out of his mind.  Philly still went on to win 10 games and just missed the playoffs and that was with Mark Sanchez at quarterback.  That's two years in a row the Eagles have won 10 games and been in the mix for a playoff spot.  There are a lot of teams in the league that would gladly be able to say that about themselves.

When moves like this McCoy trade happen we can't believe our eyes.  It makes no sense on the surface.  But the Eagles are always going to be able to move the ball and put points on the board with their offense, regardless of personnel.  In order to take the next step this team needs to drastically improve it's defense and that is what Kelly is doing.  I have a very bad feeling as a Cowboys fan that the Eagles are going to continue to be very good under Kelly.  I also don't think it will take long for all of us to realize that Kelly isn't as crazy as we all think he might be now.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

I Hate Class Basketball

By Travis Stahl

OK, completely hypothetical situation.  You've got eight girls who all grew up playing basketball together.  They all has differing talents that mesh well together and they know exactly what their teammates are going to do on the court.  This group of girls have been all playing on the same team for seven years now and they can defeat nearly any team they meet on the high school basketball court.  Here is the curve ball.  They are not allowed to win "The" championship instead they have to play for "A" championship because in Indiana we're all winners.  Sarcastic thank you Class Basketball.

Newsflash people, not everyone in life is a winner.  I lose all the time.  That's the way the world works.  We don't need five winners, we need one.  But there are times teams with a legitimate chance to show the rest of the state how special they are don't get that opportunity.  Instead, they have to try to win within their class.  How insulting is that?  It's like saying the small teams aren't good enough to even be on the floor with the larger schools.  Give them the chance.

 Remember how special the boys basketball tournament used to be when it was held at Columbia City?  At that time I was too young to really appreciate what was going on.  All I knew was the Donald S. Weeks Gymnasium was packed to the rafters every night.  Getting a ticket to the sectional tournament was liking finding gold.  When was the last time a sectional was that special?  That is what the game is supposed to be.  Not that it's horrible now ... it's just different.

Shouldn't we give a team like the one mentioned above an opportunity to play.  If you take a good group of kids that have some real talent and have been together for seven or eight years they have the potential to develop into a team that can beat nearly anyone.  Let them play for the state title.  That's the ultimate goal.  No kid dreams of being the Class 2A State Champion.  They want to win "The" state championship.  The one and only.

Of all the moronic things we do as a society to devalue winning the switch to class basketball has been the worst.  You want to know why kids aren't tough today?  Class basketball.  Why don't kids compete as hard as they used to when we were younger?  Class Basketball.  Who killed Kennedy?  Class basketball.  Yeah, I may have made that last one up but you get the picture.  If we want our kids to strive for excellence than we shouldn't be lowering the standards just to bow down to a bunch of whiners who don't think life is unfair.

Monday, March 2, 2015

2015 NFL Mock Draft 1.0

By Travis Stahl

OK, here we go.  We are now post-combine and pre-free agency.  Some NFL veterans have already been cut and we are starting to get a more clear idea of the directions some teams are heading.  The draft is a little bit later this year, in May instead of April, which gives teams more times to prepare.  Preparation for the NFL draft though does not equate for success.  Good teams will continue to draft well and poor teams will continue to get fleeced by the Patriots, Eagles and Packers.  Here is our first full mock draft for the upcoming 2015 draft.

1. Tampa Bay Bucannears - Jameis Winston, Quarterback, Florida State - This is almost a no-brainer at this point.  Tampa needs a quarterback for the future and Winston gets to stay in-state.
2. Tennessee Titans - Leonard Williams, Defensive Tackle, USC - Maybe the Titans could use a quarterback and they may trade down out of this pick.  If they stay it's hard to pass up a guy as disruptive as Williams.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars - Dante Fowler, Linebacker, Florida - If you want to win in the AFC South you better be able to get a pass rush on Andrew Luck.  Fowler can flat-out get after the quarterback.
4. Oakland Raiders - Kevin White, Wide Receiver, West Virginia - You know how every year there is a player drafted who ends up being a total bust and nobody can figure out why they were drafted so high?  This is that pick.
5. Washington Redskins - Brandon Sherff, Guard, Iowa - There are better players on the board than Sherff at this piont.  But the Redskins have learned without a solid offensive line this team is going nowhere.
6. New York Jets - Randy Gregory, Linebacker, Nebraska - The Jets resist the urge for a quarterback and take the best guy on the board.  Gregory and Fowler are nearly identical.
7. Chicago Bears - Danny Shelton, Defensive Tackle, Washington - The Bears are switching to a 3-4 defense.  There are few players who would be better to build around than Shelton.
8. Atlanta Falcons - Shane Ray, Defensive End, Missouri - Atlanta continues its constant search for a pass rush.  At some point you would think they would get it right.
9. New York Giants - Amari Cooper, Wide Receiver, Alabama - Even if Victor Cruz doesn't come back healthy the Giants get a huge weapon here.  Imagine Cooper and Odell Beckham Jr. on the field together.
10. St. Louis Rams - La'El Collins, Offensive Tackle, LSU - To win in the NFC West you have to be physical along the lines.  Collins is a road grader who can block out the sun.
11. Minnesota Vikings - Trae Waynes, Cornberback, Michigan State - The Vikings defense is on the verge of being epic.  At some point though this team needs to get it right on offense.
12. Cleveland Browns - Davonte Parker, Wide Receiver, Louisville - Parker is big, fast and strong.  Whoever plays quarterback in Cleveland needs a guy like this to go up and get the ball.
13. New Orleans Saints - Vic Beasly, Linebacker, Clemson - We continue to see the run on guys who can rush the quarterback.  You can never have too many guys like Beasly.
14. Miami Dolphins - Landon Collins, Safety, Alabama - Collins can play near the line in run support and patrol the secondary.  The Dolphins have been missing a leader in the secondary.
15. San Francisco 49ers - Arik Armstead, Defensive Tackle, Oregon - The 49ers defense took a step back last season.  Another disruptor like Armstead is sure to help.
16. Houston Texans - Marcus Mariota, Quarterback, Oregon - All Houston had to do was sit and wait and they got their quarterback of the future.  This is a huge steal at this point in the draft.
17. San Diego Chargers - Andrus Peat, Offensive Tackle, Stanford - Noting fancy hear, just another quality offensive lineman for the Chargers.
18. Kansas City Chiefs - Malcolm Brown, Defensive Tackle, Texas - Defense continues to rule the draft.  The Chiefs, like others, realize you have to be able to stop teams and get off the field.
19. Cleveland Browns - Bud Dupree, Linebacker, Kentucky - All the Browns have to do is take the best guy on the board and they add another big play maker on defense.
20. Philadelphia Eagles - Jalen Collins, Cornerback, LSU - If the Eagles had anybody who could cover a wide receiver last year they would have been in the playoffs.
21. Cincinnati Bengals - TJ Cummings, Offensive Tackle, Pittsburgh - The Bengals continue to be right on the edge of being very good.  Cummings give Cincy another guy to keep the offense moving on the ground.
22. Pittsburgh Steelers - Byron Jones, Cornerback, Connecticut - Pittsburgh's defensive transformation continues.  The Steelers desperately need new blood on that side of the ball.
23. Detroit Lions - Marcus Peters, Cornerback, Washington - This is a risky move.  If  Peters has all his immaturity behind him this pick could be the steal of the draft.
24. Arizona Cardinals - Erik Flowers, Offensive Tackle, Miami - The Cardinals offensive line was good but not great.  Flowers lets Arizona continue to be physical up front.
25. Carolina Panthers - Melvin Gordon, Running Back, Wisconsin - Exit DeAngelo Williams, enter Gordon.
26. Baltimore Ravens - Cedric Ogbuehi, Offensive Tackle, Texas - You know the Ravens aren't doing anything flashy.  This team is always all about playing it safe in the draft.
27. Dallas Cowboys - Shaq Thompson, Linebacker, Washington - Dallas still needs somebody to rush the passer.  Not replacing Demarcus Ware was noticeable.
28. Denver Broncos - Maxx Williams, Tight-end, Minnesota - Just what Peyton Manning needs, another weapon to make Denver more dangerous.
29. Indianapolis Colts - Todd Gurley, Running Back, Georgia - Trent Richardson stinks and Ahmad Bradshaw can't stay healthy.  This team needs somebody to run the ball.
30. Green Bay Packers - Benardrick McKinney, Linebacker, Mississippi State - The Packers are in the middle of rebuilding the linebacking corp.  McKinney is a good player to add to the new mix.
31. Seattle Seahawks - Michael Bennett, Defensive Tackle, Ohio State - Seattle prides itself on adding guys other people have overlooked.  Here is another one.
32. New England Patriots - Devin Funchess, Wide Receiver, Michigan - Funchess is a wide receiver/tight-end hybrid.  Defenses will have a hard time matching up with his flexibility.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Every Rose Has It's Thorn

By Travis Stahl

Every rose has it's thorn.  Just like every night has it's dawn.  Those words by Poison ring so true don't they?  No matter how beautiful something is it can always give you a little bit of pain.  Am I right Chicago Bulls fans?  Derrick Rose has a few thorns, through no fault of his own.  But as was stated here before it's time for the Bulls to start planning for life after Rose.

Rose tore the meniscus in his knee earlier in the week.  He had successful surgery today and is expected back in the line-up for Chicago within four to six weeks.  Then what?  Then Rose sits out for eight weeks because he isn't mentally ready to play yet?  Then coach Tom Thibodaeu starts to throw around half veiled accusations?  Chicago has been through this already several times with Rose.  It's unfortunate when injuries rob a player of the potential they could have had.  Move on.

The fact of the matter is Rose is never going to be the MVP of the NBA again.  When he was healthy this season he was relegated to picking his spots to attack the rim.  Otherwise he was a poor jump shooter who was playing below average defense.  The Bulls can't win a title that way.  It's not fair to Joakim Noah, Jimmy Butler and the other Bulls who are seeing the prime of their careers wasted while Chicago waits around for Rose to be healthy.

Right now in the NBA point guard is the most over-valued position in the sport.  Owners and general managers would be falling over themselves this summer if Chicago offered up Rose in a trade.  If the Bulls could get back two quality players or picks in return they could then make a free agent to be Goran Dragic in the off season.  Would you rather have 40 games of Rose or 82 of Dragic?  I thought so.

There is another factor at play here in the Rose recovery that nobody has yet touched on.  Thibodaeu is a task-master.  He is notorious for riding his players hard in practice and in games.  By the end of the season Bulls players are exhausted.  Not to mention it takes a lot of energy for the rest of the players on the team when they have to make up for Rose not being in the line-up.  By ridding themselves of Rose Chicago could add vital depth to be able to rest players in the Thibodaeu season-long gauntlet.

I like Rose.  I feel badly for him, the Bulls and their fans.  Especially since Rose is from Chicago.  But at some point enough is enough and you have to move on to alternate plans.  There is a world of point guard depth out there in the NBA, the Bulls would be smart to start trying to find somebody else now.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

What Did Dez Do?

By Travis Stahl

Think back to some of the things you did when you were a kid.  I don't know about you guys, but I did some pretty awful things.  Funny ... yes.  But still awful.  And of course there were things I did that I'm not proud of now.  Thank goodness (hopefully) none of those crazy things I did were captured on video.  More importantly, thank goodness I'm not a Dallas Cowboys wide receiver who committed some kind of unspeakable act that was captured on video.  Welcome to the mess that is the Dez Bryant video fiasco.

Rumors have been floating around for weeks that there is a video of Dez Bryant doing something that is referred to as "five times worse than what Ray Rice did."  I can't even imagine what that would be.  All along the Cowboys have maintained there is no video.  Dez says there is no video.  But Adam Shefter let slip yesterday that there is a video and he has seen it and he has been working on it since the beginning of the NFL season.  So, if Shefter has known about this video for six months, the Cowboys darn well know about it, Dez knows about it and more importantly the NFL knows about it.

What is actually on said video will determine just how horribly this ticking time bomb blows up.  If the video shows Dez doing something absolutely atrocious and the NFL has known about it since August commissioner Roger Goodell is going to be crucified.  That will surely be the last straw in the Goodell tenure.  Dez is currently trying to negotiate a new long term contract in Dallas.  The Cowboys have been extremely hesitant and there has been no progress made since the end of the season.  That in itself tells me Dallas does know about the video.  More importantly they know what's on the video and what's going to happen to Dez when it comes out.

This is Dallas though and Jerry Jones has never been that forthcoming in the past.  As Cam Lickey pointed out yesterday Michael Irvin was found in a hotel room in Dallas with a large quantity of cocaine and some hookers.  Irvin is still one of the most revered former players at Valley Ranch.  But times have changed.  Depending on what's on that video we might not be laughing about this situation ten years down the road.  We may have reached the point where we can no longer accept Dez being Dez, especially if criminal charges are to follow.

Nobody can be too surprised by all of this right?  We all thought this was coming sooner or later.  Bryant is blindly loyal to the Cowboys and extremely competitive which is why some of his sideline antics are excusable.  But there have been far too many times when Jason Witten had to step in and tell Dez to shut his mouth.  Bryant has all the talent in the world but in today's NFL off-field character matters and with cameras everywhere there is no way to hide what kind of person you are off the field.

If/when this video comes out there could be a lot of collateral damage depending on who knew about what and when they knew it.  Shefter said nothing has come out from him at this point because he has been doing a lot of digging to ensure that anything he reports is 100 % accurate.  Good for him.  The fact that the video does exist and Shefter is working this hard on it doesn't sound good though.  Now that it has been so built up I want it all to just come out.  Let's get it over with like ripping off a band-aid.  As Cowboys fans we are used to being kicked in the gut by adversity.  The waiting is the hardest part.  There's always the chance this is all for nothing but it doesn't sound like that is going to turn out to be the case.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Sectional Time is Almost Here

By Travis Stahl

So I got to go watch the Columbia City boys basketball team play at Manchester the other night.  I thought it would be a close game.  The only thing Manchester does really well is handle the ball with several good guards.  The Eagles have really only shown one weakness this year and that has come against teams with good guards.  Logically, it could have been a close game.  Then, and I think this happened without anybody noticing, Columbia City took a two point lead to a 14 point lead in just minutes.  It was the system.

The Columbia City system works.  It works at the high school level and it works in seventh grade.  It's like the force from Star Wars.  Run the offense, believe in the system and good things will happen.  Just ask Manchester.  It wasn't fancy.  The ball moved quickly and precisely from player to player and eventually Mason Coverstone would bomb a three pointer or Brachen or Parker Hazen would get the ball down low for an easy basket or Justin Bachelder would knock down an open jumper.

I'm not sure Manchester ever saw it coming.  Most teams don't.  So when Columbia City plays host to the sectional tournament this year and the Eagles open up against Mississinewa we shouldn't expect anything different.  The Eagles will run the system.  Matt Benedict will play classy basketball and direct the offense, the Hazens will dominate in the paint and Coverstone will keep knocking down wide open three pointers.

If you go to Columbia City games often you understand what I'm talking about.  It's about precision, doing your job and trusting in one another.  That is what makes the Eagles special.  Columbia City used to be host to one of the  most historic sectionals in the state when the first round was played there every year.  It would seem fitting if the Eagles earned a sectional crown on their home court.