Big Ben: Young QBs need to keep “playing hard” to build success
Coming off an NFL season where we had a trio of stud rookie quarterbacks in Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, and Russell Wilson along with the emergence of Colin Kaepernick — Pittsburgh Steelers veteran quarterback Ben Roethlisberger answered it best when asked regarding the great play by these young signal callers early on their NFL careers.
“People ask me all the time about these young quarterbacks,” said Roethlisberger after am OTA session on Thursday. “Let’s wait. One year does not mean a lot in this league. Let’s see what happens in two, three years. I’m not trying to take anything away from them… But you don’t want people to jump on their bandwagon so fast and put so much pressure on them to live up to those expectations. My advice to them is to keep doing what you’re doing, playing as hard as you can because people will keep trying to build you up and it could get tough.”
Coming from someone who also had a success during his rookie season when he quarterbacked a Steelers team, with the help of a solid running game and stout defense, to a 14-1 record after previous starter Tommy Maddox was lost for the majority of the season due to injury. Roethlisberger went on the win a Super Bowl during the following season in 2005. Prior to the 2006 season, he was involved in a serious motorcycle crash that had Steelers brass and fans shaking their heads following the news that he did not wear a helmet. Not what a general manager wants to hear regarding their franchise quarterback.
Then later on in the summer of 2009 he was accused of rape — more than once actually when it was made public that police were looking into a case, back in March 2010. Both of these allegations then cast character concerns regarding Roethlisberger’s demeanor.
The crash and the rape allegations were reflections of very poor judgment in Roethlisberger’s decisions. In order for these young QBs to maintain success, it is going to require all-around judgment calls no matter where one is. Although Roethlisberger was not referring to himself as an example, everything these guys do will be under a microscope and there is nothing that can control media speculation no matter what decisions they make. However, they need to do what is best for them. Need some extra reps? Show up an hour early and/or stay an hour late. Of course the media will say one is overworked or tired when success does not happen. But only these guys know what they are capable of.
My point is that these guys need to do what is best for them and not worry about what we think. Cam Newton really opened some eyes during his rookie season. Remember him throwing for over 4,000 yards and rushing for another 700? Then in year two he sort of took a backseat to these new guys lighting up the place. I think Newton got too caught up in being the media darling and trying to impress writers. C’mon, stay tough. You do not want to look like this:
NESN announces Brian Urlacher retires as a Packer
Sports Pickle, a site notorious for pumping out sarcastic sports news humor, apparently has tricked some of those who are staffed at NESN (New England Sports Network) into thinking that Bears-great linebacker Brian Urlacher actually retired as a Green Bay Packer so he can “go out a winner”.
For those at NESN who work in a journalism field for a living, they clearly have done a horrible job when it comes to understanding their media outlets, while failing to grasp that sports satire has become a media giants of its own (The Onion sports section, Kissing Suzy Kolber, Deadspin, Barstool Sports… I think that is enough plugs…).
Those with common sense would simply laugh if one were told about Urlacher signing with the Packers to retire as “a winner” after playing for the rival Bears for the entire duration of an NFL career. Maybe even if Urlacher signed with the franchise in general would be worth a laugh or a scratch on the head given his closeness with the city of Chicago (… yeah right, the NFL is business in the end).
Jersey’s top recruit to announce chosen college this Sunday
Cornerback and wide receiver standout Jabrill Peppers is the Garden State’s top recruit and is arguably the top recruit in the nation. Rivals.com ranked him at number two, while other services do have him at the top of the 2014 class. The 6’1”, 210-pound athlete will announce his chosen school come this Sunday, May 26 during the early evening. The six schools that are considered to be finalists are Michigan (the assumed favorite), LSU, Notre Dame, Penn State, Rutgers, and Stanford.
Michigan officials spent an entire day at Paramus Catholic to visit with Peppers during last week. Peppers does have aspirations of working in the music industry and staying closing to his father, and the coaching staff at Rutgers has made him feel very welcomed to the program — a sign of respect to the staff. Peppers also cancelled a visit to Penn State last week but it is unclear as to why whether it was regarding his involvement with Michigan officials or seeking another trip to Piscataway.
“Jabrill is an extremely valuable in terms of on and off the field things,” said Chris Partridge, head coach of Paramus Catholic. “He’s a hard worker, he’s an unselfish player, he’s really smart and he’s a good leader. So he has all the intangibles that make you a great player, not just his skills. He’s extremely valuable to us in all aspects.”
Peppers still has his senior year to play out come this fall, but evaluators are trying to figure out where this dynamic athlete will play. Many see him as a cornerback given his immense talent. But he is also a big-time playmaker with the ball in his hands so wide receiver is a possibility. Wherever he plays he is expected to be a five-star recruit regardless.
Hakeem Nicks Holding Out?
The World Wide Web blew up in regards to Giants fans and their reaction to Hakeem Nicks not showing up for voluntary organized team activities. As many know the team is stuck in limbo in the negotiations to re-sign Victor Cruz long-term. Now Nicks is letting the team know that he also is due for a new contract so of course why not make this offseason even more interesting for outsiders and more of a hassle on general manager Jerry Reese.
I just want to say that I do not expect Nicks to get a long-term deal prior to this season. I understand that both Nicks and Cruz are entering lame-duck seasons (pending Cruz signing his tender sheet) but Nicks has no leverage here as he is already under agreement as being signed through 2013 with the team. He also has something to prove despite being in the league a few years longer than Cruz — durability. After Nicks’ 2012 season in which he virtually played hurt during all season and was a non-factor, there is no self-assurance for general manager Jerry Reese rewarding him based on that.
Victor Cruz missed his rookie season in 2010 with a hamstring injury (that the NFL investigated the legitimacy of since it caused him to miss the whole season) but has gone on to play in all 32 games over the last couple of seasons. I am trying my best to dodge the whole argument of whether Cruz is regarded as a slot receiver or not — but let’s say that it may be true that the Giants value taking the top off of a defense with a split end, that does not mean that they value Nicks over Cruz at least right now. Cruz has proven better durability than Nicks over the last couple of seasons.
The only legitimate reason why I see both these receivers getting their long-term deals in the same offseason is to get under the salary cap even more and the Giants seem to be in no rush to do that right now, especially at this point in the offseason. This story is just developing and all this could just be an overreaction. Remember, Hakeem Nicks is coming of a broken ankle that he suffered during mini-camp last year along with the later-developed knee injury that he suffered during a fall back in week 2 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The knee injury would really go on the haunt him during the rest of the season. I am sure Jerry Reese will use his leverage against Nicks to play out this standoff into not being rushed.
LVH Superbook releases NFL-season win totals
Las Vegas Hotel & Casino have released their win totals that gambling junkies can now place bets on.
Of course, the first thing I did was look how they measured the defending champion Baltimore Ravens as they have their total wins set at 8.5 which is definitely telling about how the boys in the desert view the team after the losses of Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Paul Kruger, Dannell Ellerbe, and Anquan Boldin. The team figures to now be more on the offensive after locking up Joe Flacco as this team is truly his now. But the team has lost a lot of veteran leadership on that defense — a unit that has carried the team for over a decade.
While I do not intend to offer significant insight as to how one should bet their money — Cincinnati at 8.5 wins intrigues me. Like mentioned above, Baltimore will be nowhere the team they were last year as they are now in transition. I am not saying Baltimore will be bad but they bring uncertainty. The Pittsburgh Steelers have not done much to get better, as they arguably are a team on the decline with James Harrison being cut due to his lack of production of late and the secondary getting up there in age. It is funny I say that because LVH Superbook has them pegged at nine wins which is tops in the AFC North.
- The Green Bay Packers at 10 wins is where I am a little sketchy. They did a great job by drafting two of the more talented running backs in the draft with Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin. But the team is a pass-first team under the gun of Aaron Rodgers. The loss of Greg Jennings may not hurt them as much as one would think given that James Jones and Randall Cobb had productive 2012 seasons when Jennings missed time due to injury. Their defense is still very suspect but drafting Datone Jones should help restore the pass rush that had the team win Super Bowl XLV. I still view the team as a one-trick pony with Rodgers simply trying to outscore opposing teams.
- Ten wins for the Houston Texans seems low. The team is still loaded. I do not think signing a safety, in this case Ed Reed, will particularly push any team to the next level, which in Houston’s case is getting to a Super Bowl, but I really like how they were able to draft another receiver in DeAndre Hopkins to groom behind Andre Johnson. Vegas must think the Indianapolis Colts will make even more noise this year with Andrew Luck going into year two with a healthy head coach in Chuck Pagano.
- LVH Superbook has the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at 7.5 wins despite their overhaul to their pass defense with the additions of Darrelle Revis and Dashon Goldson. The team will also get Davin Joseph back along the interior offensive line after missing him for all of last season, along with a healthy All-Pro in Carl Nicks. This is assuming those guys can stay healthy.
- The Washington Redskins are at eight wins despite RG3 taking over the NFL. The team will also get Brian Orakpo back to pair him back with Ryan Kerrigan — two very underrated pass rushers. It sounds like Vegas is banking on Griffin III to miss some due to his wreckless style of play and they clearly do not think much of backup Kirk Cousins, who made some good appearances during last season in Griffin III’s absence.
Click here for the win totals.
Josh Freeman has to produce now as Bucs look to contend
Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Greg Schiano stresses competition at every position, even at quarterback, but still maintains the notion that he has his starting quarterback in Josh Freeman. The Kansas State product became the first Bucs QB to throw for 4,000 in a season. He also tossed 27 touchdowns while throwing a 17 picks.
Although those are good numbers to post, ESPN’s QBR system had him rated at 53.1 which is just barely about average. You can treat the QBR rating as you wish but there was definitely some inconsistency throughout Freeman’s 2012 campaign.
Tampa Bay finished the season 1-5 and during that stretch he threw a 3:5 TD/INT ratio along the way. Granted they had to play the top NFC-seeded Atlanta Falcons twice and the top AFC-seeded Denver Broncos at Denver — but losing to the lowly Philadelphia Eagles at home and then following that up by getting blown out 41-0 by the rival New Orleans Saints, who were terri-bad all-around outside of Drew Brees, is just a “face-palm” waiting to happen by Bucs-faithful (keeping it nicely).
“But we have our starting quarterback. It’s Josh Freeman,” Schiano said. “I’m not looking to find a new one, but I do like to have quality depth at every position. When you get that, just naturally these are the most competitive guys on the planet, and it raises everybody’s level.”
The jury is still out on Freeman. He had a surprising 2010 season where he posted a 3,451/25/6 line when the Bucs posted a 10-6 record to finish just short of making the playoffs in a then-deep NFC conference during that season. But in 2011 he burned out by throwing 22 interceptions — bringing pundits back to questioning him. The Bucs even drafted NC State quarterback Mike Glennon in the third round of the 2013 NFL Draft.
Glennon, prior to the senior bowl, was sniffing first-round hype and was even possibly being talked about as the first QB taken off the board. But post-senior bowl, it opened many eyes to NFL evaluators that this was nothing but a mediocre QB class all-around. I am not saying Glennon will be a starter in this league and I am not saying that he will not — but with Glennon now in Tampa Bay, he will put more heat on Freeman to produce. The only way I see Glennon playing is if Freeman totally bombs in 2013. Freeman has played in 47 of 48 games over the past three seasons, showing durability.
“No question, you want the best possible option behind you,” said Freeman. “You look at it as if down the road something happens to me, you want a guy who can come in and keep it going, win some games… We’re competitors. We’re going to work as hard as we can trying to find a way to get more wins.”
With the Buccaneers loading up in the secondary with the acquisitions of Darrelle Revis and Dashon Goldson, to help repair the league’s worst pass defense in 2012, their defense could possibly be one of the best in the NFL. Schiano has always preached winning the battle at the line-of-scrimmage which has always been the more conservative approach in Football 101. The Bucs boasted the league’s best run defense last season and then-rookie Doug Martin, dubbed the “Muscle Hamster”, ripped off 1,454 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground. And this was without all-pro Carl Nicks for nine games and underrated Davin Joseph, who missed all of last season with a knee injury that he suffered in the Bucs’ third preseason game against the New England Patriots.
With both of these interior lineman back, it will allow Jeremy Zuttah to resume his duties at center. The ground-game should resume its dominating presence. Wide receiver Vincent Jackson will be in his second year with the team. The time for Josh Freeman to produce is now as the Buccaneers appear to be contenders, on paper at least. But that is why we play the games. They will definitely be a team to watch out for given their appeared balance in all phases of the game.
Moore improves to 8-0, Rays red hot; Longoria early MVP consideration?
Today Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Matt Moore bumped his record up to 8-0 during a 3-1 win over the Baltimore Orioles. He became the first left-handed pitcher to start 8-0, while being 23 or younger, since 1917 when Babe Ruth had done so. Moore is only 23 and has been a part of the next wave of young pitchers that the Rays have had a habit of churning out from their farm system.
Rays P Matt Moore improves to 8-0 in 3-1 win over BAL. (via @mlb) He’s 1st AL lefty 23 or younger w/8-0 start since BABE RUTH (1917 Red Sox)— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter)
I was reading ESPN The Magazine’s 2013 MLB season preview and there was a piece about the Rays being what they are to pitchers just like Google is to algorithms. The Rays have the most intense shoulder strengthening program that they require their pitchers to go through (do not ask me what it is exactly, it was not and has not been revealed). Fellow starter and defending American League Cy Young winner said that he was sore for a year during the program, but was stronger and more accurate than he has ever been - benefiting from the regime. Tampa Bay coaches stress that their starters get the count to 1-2 since there is a big difference regarding a batter’s on-base percentage during 1-2 count versus a 2-1 count. I believe it was just about a hundred-point difference.
Moore has made nine starts this season — where he had eight wins and one no-decision. The no-decision came at the Colorado Rockies where he went five innings and gave up four earned runs.
Although the Rays have been modeled as a pitching factory in the MLB, the team is still 24th in earned run average and 17th in WHIP so far this season. Ace David Price is currently shelved on the disabled list and another youngin in Jeremy Hellickson sports a 5.82 ERA after averaging 2.96 over the last couple of seasons. Roberto Hernandez, previously Fausto Carmona, has really not held his own with his 5.24 ERA and 1.37 WHIP.
Despite all of this, Tampa Bay is 8-2 in their last 10 games and are winning while ranking sixth in runs scored and fourth in on-base percentage. The team has been mashing the ball with their slugging percentage ranking sixth in the league — thanks to third baseman Evan Longoria hitting .329/.396/.584 with nine home runs and 27 runs batted in.
I do not think it would be farfetched at all to give Longoria early AL MVP consideration given that the Rays are winning with the bats more than with the arms (which has previously been the case). He currently leads the AL with a 2.5 WAR, second in the majors to Carlos Gomez of the Milwaukee Brewers. Usually a team’s success factors into a player’s MVP consideration and although it is way too early to pick the divisional winner in the AL East, the division is the toughest in the MLB. Four games currently separate the division leader from fourth place.
Hoyer & Epstein still committed to Rizzo though struggle, agree long-term
Last week the Chicago Cubs and Anthony Rizzo agreed on a long-term deal that came out to be seven years worth $41 million with $14.5 million of that total being tied into club options. The contract contains escalators that can bring the total deal up to $73 million. The raise will begin to take affect this season where he previously was making $498,000. The deal was an answer to the one that the Arizona Diamondbacks gave Paul Goldschmidt just prior to this season. Under the new agreement, the Cubs will avoid Rizzo’s four arbitrary-eligible years.
“The last couple of days have been so nice to play baseball,” said Rizzo. “I feel like I’m playing little league now. There is nothing else in the way. It’s about the team and nothing else. This day has come so fast and when looking back at it when I was a young kid dreaming about this day, it’s a surreal moment.”
Rizzo is only 23 and is batting .282/.350/.540 with 10 home runs and 30 runs batted in through 42 games this season. In 87 games last season, after being called up for the latter part of the season, he hit .285/.342/.463 with 15 home runs (which was one short of being second-most on the team at the time) and 49 runs batted in. Rizzo brings much needed power to a Cubs lineup.
What is interesting is that general manager Jed Hoyer and team president Theo Epstein drafted Rizzo back when both front office men were with the Boston Red Sox. Hoyer eventually left to take on the GM job with the San Diego Padres in 2009, where he would also later re-acquire Rizzo in the deal that sent first baseman Adrian Gonzalez from San Diego to Boston during December 2010. Now Rizzo is in the north side of Chicago ever since 2012 where he has been reunited with the two men.
“The front office here has basically seen me grow up. They’ve been watching me since I was 17,” said Rizzo. “Last year at this time I was in Triple-A, wondering when that call was going to come.”
Rizzo said that he was taking “a little bit of a discount now” about the deal but the financial security is a huge load off his plate. Hoyer had said that deals in this case to a player with only about a year’s worth of experience are rare under his management.
“It’s pretty unusual, but I think it’s pretty unusual to have a situation like this,” said Hoyer. “When you have the president, the GM, the guy that runs scouting, [we’ve] all known Anthony a long time. We felt like we were in a good position to make that kind of investment.”
Hoyer also went on to say that Rizzo’s MLB action while with the Padres was a premature call up. Rizzo admitted to doubting himself during those times where he hit .141/.281/.242 in 153 plate-appearances. What made Rizzo turn it around in Chicago was the reaffirmed commitment by the Cubs organization that happens to be under the same men that brought him into the league. Even after being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2008 and then beating it, the chance that Hoyer and Epstein are taking with Rizzo again shows that Rizzo will be one of the centerpieces for a rebuilding franchise.
“Ultimately, you want to build your team around people you trust,” said Hoyer. “We believe in Anthony. We think he’s going to be a very big part of our future here in Chicago.”