From Maddening to Madden

From Cover Corner to Coverman

From Cover Corner to Coverman

It’s official Richard Sherman will grace the cover of Madden 15. After weeks of fan voting, Sherman beat out Cam Newton to win the prestigious honor of Madden cover player. Madden curse? If anything Sherman would dismiss this and probably go in a rant about how the a sorry curse couldn’t beat him. After proving he was the best cover corner in the NFL and winning a Super Bowl Ring, this is just the cherry on top of an amazing year for the Seattle cornerback. Can Sherman beat the curse? Will he back this up too? How dominant will he be when I try to throw a go route against my buddy on Xbox One? We will have to wait till later this year to find out.

Girl Power: College Football’s First Female DB

Shelby Osborne will look to be a trendsetter as the first female defensive back in college football

Shelby Osborne will look to be a trendsetter as the first female defensive back in college football

Football. The macho sport in America. When we hear the word football muttered most of us conjure images of large behemoths of men slamming into each other like battering rams. Men with battle scars, weather-beaten faces, and who have a nasty demeanor. Many believe Michael Sam will be a trendsetter in football in 2014 for being the first openly gay player in the NFL. However, he won’t be the only one changing the perception of football in 2014.

We’ve all been on the playground before. A group of boys standing around about to play a game when a female classmate comes up and wants to join. Almost out of instinct the boys will say girls don’t play (insert sport here). However, this might not be the case for long. Women have been defying masculine stereotypes and have become great athletes in their own right in sports across the board. One sport that women have yet to conquer was football, until now.

Shelby signs here letter of intent

Shelby signs here letter of intent

Meet Shelby Osborne, college football’s first defensive back to be recruited. Shelby has agreed to play for the NAIA Campbellsville University in 2014. While most of her friends maybe cheerleaders on the sidelines, Osborne decided to strap on a helmet and play. This all started when Shelby, frustrated by Jeffersonville High’s football team, yelled during a game “Come on I can play better than that”! This thought out of frustration turned into a roster spot and now into a chance to play in college. Osborne plans on studying to be a physical therapist in order to be around sports, why she adamantly says is here biggest passion. That way she can be around the sport she loves the most, football.

Shelby Osborne is a trailblazer. With this signing, it could be the beginning of women getting more involved in college football. Who knows? Maybe we will look forward into the future and ask when not if a female player will play not only in top college football competition, but also in the NFL.

Kings Vs. Rangers: Stanley Cup Preview

Kings Vs. The King

Kings Vs. The King

It’s finally here! The Stanley Cup Final is upon us. From the Western Conference, the Los Angeles Kings have battled through the defending Cup champions and look for their second championship in three years. From the Eastern conference, the New York Rangers have been the perennial underdogs who find themselves in the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in twenty years. With talented rosters and very different roads to reach the Cup Finals, the question is who has the edge? Both teams have been up and down this postseason and have been on the brink of elimination. Now we have the battle between Los Angeles and New York City to see who will be the Cup City. Let’s see how these two teams matchup.

Offense: The Rangers have relied on their speed and aggressiveness to manufacture goals this postseason. With clutch goal scoring at crucial times, the New York offense has scored when it needs it the most. However, despite their speed and ability to use their defense as a fourth forward in the zone, the Rangers still do not have the Kings fire power. The Rangers may distribute the scoring, but scoring leader Martin St. Louis has six goals while LA has four players with more than six goals. The Rangers have also struggled mightily on the power play while the Kings have been one of the best teams on the power play this postseason. The Rangers have been clutch, but with LA’s firepower including Marian Gaborik’s team leading 12 goals, the Kings are the better offensive team. Edge: Kings

Defense: Defense can win championships. LA has some of the most physical defensemen in the NHL. LA will have the physical edge over New York, but the Rangers defense is one of its biggest strengths. Not only does the Rangers defense have incredible speed, but their ability to block shots this postseason is a major reason why they are here. This defense has been great taking the pressure off of Lundqvist when it counts. In game six they held the Canadiens offense, one of the best in the league, to eighteen shots on goal for the whole game. With the fewest goals allowed this postseason the Rangers are hoping that the old saying that “defense wins championships” will work for them. Edge: Rangers

Goaltending: This is what will make or break the series for either team. . There is no question that both Quick and Lundqvist are two of the best if not the two best goaltenders in the NHL. With this being such a close call it is in my opinion that whoever has the best goaltending in this series will win the Cup. With that said, I am giving just the slightest edge in this competition to the Rangers. What? Is probably what most of you are saying. It’s understandable you’ll argue that Quick is younger, has a better post season record, and oh by the way a championship ring already. So why does Lundqvist get the edge? One word, consistency. When Quick is on he is the best goalie in hockey, no question. The problem? He has been maddeningly inconsistent. His 2.86 GAA and .906 save percentage is still far behind Lundqvist’s 2.03 GAA and .928 save percentage. Lundqvist did have that terrible game 5 in Montreal, but when the Rangers have needed him most, he has answered the call. Quick has also played his best hockey when the Kings have been backed into a corner too, but part of the reason for that is his poor play in the beginning of some of those series. Jonathan Quick has given up more than four goals in a game five times this postseason. compared to Lundqvist’s four times. This battle is neck and neck and if Quick plays his best, he is better than Lundqvist. However, Lundqvist has more at stake than Quick and is more reliable than Quick this year. Edge: Rangers (Slight)

Conclusion: Rangers in Seven

This will be a close series. One lucky bounce or bad penalty could decide the who will be champ. The Kings do have home ice advantage, but the Rangers have played well on the road with a 6-4 away record. This will be a great series that will go at least six or seven games. While I won’t be surprised if the Kings win, especially with their experience and if Quick is on, the Rangers are my pick. With their clutch scoring, defense, and Lundqvist in the net I believe the Rangers have the slightest edge and will bring back the cup to New York for the first time in twenty years.

Rangers need the king to win the ring

Henrik will be the key for the blue shirts

Henrik will be the key for the blue shirts

You could feel the tension at Madison Square Garden in-game six of the Eastern Conference Finals. After an embarrassing loss in-game five with the possibility of a game seven in Montreal was now looming over the Rangers and their fans. The man with the most pressure took his place between the iron pipes and for sixty minutes proved once again why he is the backbone to the Rangers playoff success.

After being pulled after 4 goals on 16 shots in Montreal in-game five, it was understandable that Rangers nation was uneasy when Henrik Lundqvist took his place in net for game six. However, as the Rangers now head to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in twenty years, the Rangers know they have Lundqvist on the right track. True, there have been some hiccup games with poor performances during these playoffs, but when the Rangers have needed him most in crunch time Lundqvist has come through. For the New York Rangers to hoist the Cup, Lundqvist will need to be in top form.

Big saves, like this one the the second period, have propelled Rangers this postseason

Big saves, like this one in the second period, have propelled Rangers this postseason

There is no question that Henrik Lundqvist is one of the best goaltenders in the NHL. With the victory over the Canadiens he now has the most wins for a Rangers goaltender in the playoffs with 42. Unfortunately, when you’re the king you need a ring. If Lundqvist wants to be a Hall of Famer or one of the best goaltenders in NHL history he needs to win a championship. These playoffs Lundqvist has been great with a 2.03 GAA and .928 save percentage.  Still, Lundqvist is 42-44 in the postseason. Not exactly a great record for one of the games best. While Lundqvist needs the Cup to cement his legacy, the Rangers need him to be in top form. With an aggressively fast offense that gambles and doesn’t feature a great deal of firepower in terms of goal scorers, strong goaltending is key. Whether it’s Chicago’s explosive offense or facing the Kings Jonathan Quick, no matter who the Rangers play they will need Lundqvist at his peak. While game five might have been a fluke, if Henrik Lundqvist can build on his game six performance, the question won’t be if but when the Rangers hoist the cup!

America’s Grade: Dallas Cowboys Draft Grade

Round 1: Zach Martin 

Protecting Tony Romo

Protecting Tony Romo

With the first pick, much to the dismay of Cowboys fans, Dallas selected offensive lineman Zach Martin. Despite the pleas to draft Johnny Football, the Cowboys made the right pick. Trust me, it would have been entertaining to see Jerry World have Manziel in the center ring, but with the enormous contract of Tony Romo that would never happen. In order to protect their muli-million dollar man at quarterback, the Cowboys made the smart selection of Martin. He started every game in college and can play every position on the line. He will be a day one starter at tackle or guard and was the safest pick for Dallas at this point. Could become staple on their offensive line for next decade.

Grade: A

Round 2: Demarcus Lawrence 

Demarcus Ware's Replacement?

Demarcus Ware’s Replacement?

Without question the Cowboys defense was abysmal last season. Not only did the team struggle on the field, but with arguably their best playmaker in Demarcus Ware heading to Denver, this defense has problems everywhere. To address the rebuilding, the Cowboys are relying on Lawrence to be the foundation. An outside pass rusher who can play standing up or with his hand in the dirt, his flexibility means that he can moved all round in the Cowboys defense. He maybe lacking in run defense, there is no question that Lawrence can get to the quarterback. He has some big shoes to fill in Ware’s absence, but could be a consistent double-digit sack artist if utilized correctly. Dallas needs to get after the quarterback and believe that Lawrence will be happy to oblige.

Grade: A

Round 4: Anthony Hitchens

A big reach

A big reach

With 5 picks in the seventh round, it’s puzzling why the Cowboys would pick a player who projected to be there. Hitchens was a productive player in college but at 6’0 and 240 pounds Hitchens will at best be a backup in the Cowboys new 4-3 defense. He fits the mold for an outside backer, but with Bruce Carter already at the weak linebacker position, Hitchens will probably be just a backup and only see a few snaps this season. With other needs and talent still available, the Cowboys stretched for a backup next season.

Grade: D+

Round 5: Devin Street 

Another weapon for Romo

Another weapon for Romo

The Cowboys made a nice pick with Street here in the fifth round. Despite lacking elite speed, Street’s 6’3 size and great hands make him a nice red zone target for Tony Romo. With Dez Bryant the clear number one receiver on the depth chart, Street could work his way up into the number two or three spot by the end of the season. Terrance Williams will be opposite Bryant opening day, but don’t be surprised if Street becomes a solid third receiver for Cowboys. A good pick, but the Cowboys offense is not the problem. Would have been better off improving their terrible defense but at least they get a nice offensive piece.

Grade: B

Round 7: Ben Gardner 

Building up D-Line

Building up D-Line

A puzzling pick. Despite their needs on the defensive line the main problem for the Cowboys is rushing the passer. Gardner is an above average run stuffer who struggles rushing the passer. If anything the only reason this pick makes sense is if the Cowboys still are unsure about what base defense to use. While they are transitioning to a 4-3, Gardner would be a solid 3-4 end and could be a backup plan if the 4-3 does not pan out. Either way, if the Cowboys do decide to stick with the 4-3 the 264 pound Gardner can’t play inside. Will have to play well on special teams or could be cut be end of training camp. Could be the case of square peg trying to fit into round hole.

Grade: D+

Round 7: Will Smith 

Not that Will Smith

Not that Will Smith

No, not Will Smith the actor, although you never know with Jerry Jones in his constant quest to be in the spotlight. Smith is a better prospect here in the seventh round then Hitchens was in round four. Good size and speed has the tools to develop into a versatile outside linebacker. Fits 4-3 mold and despite average run stopping skills and raw pass rushing ability, Smith is great in coverage. If he develops could be a nice role player on defense and special teams. Has more upside then Hitchens and could be a dark horse to be a late season starter and compete for a starting job next season.

Grade: B

Round 7: Ahmad Dixon 

Cowboys finally address woeful secondary

Cowboys finally address woeful secondary

Is it just me or is Jerry Jones sticking to Texas prospects? Maybe trying to make up for not drafting Johnny Manziel by drafting players his fellow Texans will know. The safety position was a disaster in Dallas last season. While the team could have addressed this in round one, Dallas waited to the seventh to add depth to the safety position. Dixon is a stout run stopping safety, whose limitations in pass coverage mean he is better suited for strong safety position. Wilcox and Heath maybe in front on the depth chart right now, but if Dixon can learn the playbook and work on his coverage, then he maybe a backup for 2014. Unlikely to start this year, but could be a nice project in two to three years if given time to develop.

Grade: B –

Round 7: Ken Bishop

ct-spt-1113-niu-football-20131113-001

Run stopper

Cowboys could see Bishop developing into a future run stopper in their 4-3 scheme. Small school prospect who will be better off in rotational role, will have to prove his worth to make 53 man roster. Could be destined to make practice squad in order to develop or could be a training camp casualty. Despite drafting two linebacker already, Yawin Smallwood was available and could have been a steal here. Missed opportunity for the boys.

Grade: C

Round 7: Terrance Mitchell 

Steal in seventh round

Steal in seventh round

How Mitchell was available in the seventh round I will never know. Good size makes up for lack of explosive speed and burst. Very raw player with a decent ceiling. Could make a strong case to be third cornerback on the depth chart next season or at very least fourth corner. Provides very good depth and young prospect. Left school too early, but if developed correctly could become a very good corner.

Grade: A –

Overall Grade: B – 

Some hits and missed, but overall a solid draft considering lack of picks

Some hits and missed, but overall a solid draft considering lack of picks

With only four picks in the first sixth rounds, the Cowboys were under a lot of pressure to get it right. While it would have benefitted them to probably move up by trading some of their five seventh round picks, the Cowboys were limited in the top end of this draft. Zack Martin may not have been the pick Cowboys fans wanted but he was the pick they needed. A safe pick that will shore up the offensive line and help Demarco Murray and Tomy Romo instantly. The loss of Demarcus Ware is a big one on an already depleted defense but Lawrence will be a nice addition and whose pass rushing ability will fit either the 4-3 or 3-4 scheme. After two great picks, the Cowboys whiffed in round four. The problem? Not only did they select better linebacking prospects in the seventh round, but also missed out on some good receivers and safeties available. Street is a nice edition in round five, but receiver wasn’t a primary need for this team. Despite eventually filling all of their needs, Dallas waited until the very end of the seventh round to it. There were some nice developmental picks in the seventh round, but it’s hard to imagine all five making the fifty-three man roster or even the practice. The good news is that the Cowboys did not completely screw up this draft and take Manziel in round one. The bad news is, their will be minimal impact by these prospects this year as these players will probably make their impact down the road after some development. They may have a lot of holes, especially on defense, but the silver lining is the Cowboys are still in the NFC East. No team significantly improved in the draft or free agency in this division and I still believe Dallas is the second best team in the division. I predict 8-8 in 2014, but at least this draft is keeping the Cowboys heading in the right direction instead of heading for a complete disaster.

 

 

 

 

 

Report Card: Jets 2014 NFL Draft Grades

  • Calvin Pryor: Round 1
    Jets went defense in round one? Is anyone really surprised

    Jets went defense in round one? Is anyone really surprised

    And with the 18th pick in the 2014 NFL Draft the New York Jets select…. Calvin Pryor, Safety, University of Louisville. While people may not like this pick because it did not fit the biggest needs on the team, the Jets still needed help in their depleted secondary. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix maybe the more polished prospect at this point, but Pryor’s upside and ability to be a thumper in the run game makes him a perfect fit for Rex’s defense. With the best wideouts and corners off the board, it’s better that the Jets took one of the better players available rather than reaching. Also, this pick helps the cornerback issue because Pryor’s range will help the corners with his coverage over the top. Plus, receivers may think twice coming over the middle knowing the Louisville slugger is patrolling center field. Hey, we’ve seen the Seattle blueprint for big hitting safeties and that’s worked out pretty well for them.  Grade: A

  • Jace Amaro: Round 2
    Big target for Geno or Michael

    Big target for Geno or Michael

    Looks like Geno Smith will finally have a security blanket in 2014. A potential first round prospect picked up in round two, Amaro is a versatile weapon who can lineup all over the field. What he lacks in run blocking, Amaro makes up for with great hands and the ability to get open in space. With tight ends becoming more utilized in passing games anyways, this pick gives the Jets another legitimate weapon on offense and a big target in the middle of the field. Whenever a player is compared to Gronkowski, that usually is a good indication that he makes plays on offense. This could be a steal for the Jets based on Amaro’s versatility. Grade A+

  • Dexter McDougle: Round 3
    Guess third time is not the charm

    Guess third time is not the charm

    With two great picks, the Jets stumbled with their third selection. McDougle is the biggest stretch for the Jets in this draft and the big question is why they picked him so early? With a good receiver in Donte Moncrief on the board and a possible starting guard in Gabe Jackson, McDougle looked like a player who would be available later where the Jets had a plethora of late round picks. There were also some other great corner prospects like Pierre Desir that they could have gotten down the line. While he did run a 4.4 40 at his pro day, the problem I have with this pick is the fit. True, he has the speed to play slot corner, but McDougle is better in a zone defensive scheme. His struggles in man coverage in college make it a head scratcher why the Jets wanted him in a defense where corners need to play great man coverage. While I hope to be proven wrong, this pick seems like a mistake. Grade: D+

  • Jalen Sanders: Round 4
    Another head scratcher

    Another head scratcher

    Finally, the Jets took a receiver! Problem is it didn’t make a lot of sense. At 5’9 with very good speed, Sanders seems to be destined for special teams and a slot receiver. Problem? Jeremy Kerley has already established himself as a very good slot receiver. With Kerley ahead on the depth chart the only reason this pick makes some sense is because Kerley is an upcoming free agent and the Jets wanted a backup plan. While that’s all well and good, Sanders still figures to be at best a fourth receiver this season. He has upside, but this seemed like a stretch where the Jets could have addressed other needs. Grade: C –

  • Shaq Evans: Round 4  
    Loading up at receiver

    Loading up at receiver

    This may be my favorite receiver pick in the draft. Evans is just a solid football player. While he doesn’t have a particular attribute that sets him apart, he is just a consistent receiver who makes catches. He reminds me of another very good Jets wide out, Jerricho Cotchery. He might not be a game changer, but has the upside to be a great number 2 possession receiver who moves the chains and makes critical catches. Evans could be a dark horse to be the Jets #2 receiver for opening day. Grade: A- 

  • Dakota Dozier: Round 4 
    Small school, big potential

    Small school, big potential

    It’s almost appropriate that an offensive linemen has the name Dozier. While he was a very good left tackle at Furman Southern, Dozier has the potential to be a very good guard in the NFL. There’s no question, this guy is a road grater. While he still is a raw player, with the right coaching Dozier could be a starter on the line this season or be groomed into a full-time starter within three years. Worst case scenario for 2014, is that Dozier provides the interior line with depth. With tremendous upside and great run blocking ability, this looks like a match made in heaven for the Jets ground and pound philosophy. At least this means that Vlad Ducasse era is officially over. Jets fans rejoice! Grade:B+

 

  • Jeremiah George: Round 5 
    More depth in the middle

    More depth in the middle

    This pick adds some depth to the middle linebackers. If things go right George could be third on the depth chart by the end of camp. While he is undersized, George is a solid run defender. While at times he may get overwhelmed, Ryan is known for either coaching his players up or putting them in the right fit for the defense. It may not be an impact pick, but it still provides depth to a position where the Jets were thin. Grade: B

 

  • Brandon Dixon Round 6: 
    Another piece in the "Seattle Blueprint"

    Another piece in the “Seattle Blueprint”

    Seattle in New York anyone? This pick just screams Seattle blueprint for a defense. A small school prospect from Northwest Missouri St., Dixon has the size at 5’11 that teams are now looking for. A raw player with huge upside, he may see limited time this season but could eventually be a starter if coached properly down the road. If training camp goes well, Dixon may even push to be the third corner on the depth chart. A pick with a lot of potential, this could be a diamond in the rough that also addresses the woeful depth at corner. Grade B+

  • Quincy Enunwa: Round 6
    More targets more success?

    More targets more success?

    Another receiver? Must be the Jets. Though he may be a sixth round pick, Enunwa maybe pushing not only for a spot on the roster, but pushing Stephen Hill out-of-town. At 6’2 and 225, Enunwa is a great fit in the Jets west coast offense as a Z or X receiver. If he can work on his hands, Enunwa is a good route runner and can be another reliable target. While he lacks the elite speed as a wideout, like Evans he could be a solid possession receiver that at least provides depth. However, as a sixth round pick on a team now filled with receivers, Enunwa will have to have a strong camp to avoid the practice squad or worse the unemployment line. Grade: B

  • Round 6: Ik Enemkpali 
    Dark horse pass rusher?

    Dark horse pass rusher?

    It’s almost amazing that it took this long for Ryan to draft a defensive lineman. As a defensive end in college, Enemkpali figures to transition to a 3-4 outside linebacker in Ryan’s scheme. While he was a successful bull rusher in college it remains to be seen whether or not he can develop into a standup pass rusher. With Calvin Pace still on the team, it could give Enemkpali time to develop. However, I do not see him making the roster this year and he must perform well enough to make practice squad. With their scheme, Michael Sam would have been a better fit here. Grade: C

  • Tajh Boyd: Round 6 
    From son to father

    From son to father

    You just knew that the Jets would draft someone from Clemson. With Rex’s son on the team, you just knew that Ryan would find at least one or two players he liked. With the quarterback battle between Smith and Vick, the Jets will now have a battle for the third quarterback spot between Simms and Boyd. Boyd was a dynamic playmaking quarterback in college but the question was could he be consistent enough in the pros? Hopefully he can develop and become the backup after Michael Vick leaves. It will be interesting if the will use him as an offensive weapon and possible try him out as a receiver Good pick for depth, but think Daniel McCullers could have been a steal to beef up the interior D-line. Grade: B-

  • Trevor Reiley: Round 7 
    The Diamond in the rough for the Jets

    The Diamond in the rough for the Jets

    This maybe my favorite pick in the draft. I love this kid. The Jets stole Reiley in the seventh round and have a player who not only could make the opening day roster, but could become a very good starter in a short time. While he maybe 26, Reiley is a solid football player with a motor that does not quit. While he can be a pass rushing 3-4 outside linebacker, Reiley has the versatility to lineup all over the field. A competitive and hard as nails linebacker, he just screams Rex Ryan football player. He may not be the most athletic player on the field, but with his motor and football savvy Reiley could be a player teams will look back at and say why the heck did we not draft this kid? A player with versatility and who can impact special teams, this could be a great steal that the Jets have made. Grade A- 

  • Final grade: B+: While the Jets may not have come away with an elite corner or big time receiver in this draft, they did get solid football players and provided much-needed depth to a roster that was incredibly thin. While I would have liked to see the Jets move up a few times to get a receiver or corner, they had a solid draft and clearly have a plan going forward. Despite the McDougle reach and waiting to the fourth round to address the wide out position, the Jets had a great draft and grabbed players in the later rounds with tremendous upside. While Pryor and Amaro will make instant impacts, this could be a draft where the impact will not be fully realized until 2 or 3 years down the road. Some people may not agree, but the Jets made the most selections in 2014. More picks, more chances for diamonds in the rough.