Tag Archives: Carolina Panthers

Newton should not change, the NFL should

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Newton may look like a Batman villain but he speaks the truth everyone needs to hear. Source: Twitter @Panthers

You know what, whenever I write about this topic, it feels like I am banging my head against a brick wall. However, every time I do, it’s something that needs to be addressed.

Last week, Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton met with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to chat about the lack of protection he has been receiving from referees for illegal hits. Then on Sunday, he was hit with a jarring shot to the head by Los Angeles Rams safety Mark Barron, which the referees did not throw a flag.

Another sack from Aaron Donald was borderline high on the quarterback in the pocket and this comes a week after Arizona Cardinals defender Calais Campbell hit Newton in the knees. The referees did not call a penalty on that play but Campbell was retrospectively punished by the league.

Let us put the record straight, there have clearly been a few pretty heinous hits on Newton this season. Some are while he is a runner and players taking a shot while it’s legal, when it really shouldn’t be to any player, and others have been whilst he’s been in the pocket, where every other quarterback is protected even if someone brushes their helmet with a hand.

Many of the players that saw him complain about this issue have simply told him to get on with the game. Repeated statements of “it’s a man’s game” and “it’s his fault for being a runner” are continuously sprouted out as bulletins hiding as insidious remarks about someone who has rubbed them up the wrong way.

Mark Barron

Mark Barron’s hit was dangerous, it should have been flagged. Source: The Rams

They then say that he’s a six-foot-five machine that should be able to handle smaller men with ease. That comes from when players are hurtling at him without applying the brakes, throwing their entire bodyweight into their hit and concentrating it to his cranium.

Size doesn’t factor in that as much, other than it’ll hurt even more from the bigger boys. It’s a silly comment, I’m certain that even The Mountain from Game of Thrones would moan if you shot Tyrion at his head from a cannon.

Cam Newton isn’t a wuss or a softie. Cam Newton is a man acutely aware of what numerous, damaging hits to the head can do to a person and would kindly like to be able to live a normal life once his footballing career comes to an end.

The lack of protection in the pocket by the officials on the Barron hit was astonishing. Newton was clearly in the pocket preparing to throw and the safety made no attempt not to hit him in the head, even when most defensive players know if they do that, even on a legal hit, they will be flagged.

Yet no yellow rained down on that play.

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Goodell has made his own mess, again, and he needs to fix it for good. Source: The Ledge

To anyone watching back that doesn’t have any sense of bias or longing for “the good ol’ days” knows that should have been called. If that was Peyton Manning, there would have been outcry but since it’s the dancing, smiling man that speaks his mind, it’s fine for him to get his clocks cleaned.

There should not be any head-to-head contact in the NFL period. It’s a dangerous move on both parties that has led to severe health problems for ex-professionals and the fact it still happens to anyone is shocking.

Newton said in a press conference last week that the game was becoming less fun for him. The 2015 MVP, in a season full of average play and declining ratings, simply put exactly what everyone else was thinking into perspective.

The NFL needs something to change. If this year, with all its oddities and embarrassments, isn’t enough then it may never do so.

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Thoughts on Super Bowl 50

Manning may ride off into the sunset on the back of a Hall of Fame career with a happy ending. Source: CNN

Manning may ride off into the sunset on the back of a Hall of Fame career with a happy ending. Source: CNN

I learned a valuable lesson the other night, never go back on what you stick your faith in. Defence wins championships, it’s been proven more often than not and that logic abandoned many as they felt the Panthers were just too good on both sides of the ball.

However, we had all forgotten that this Denver Broncos defence is very, very good. Last night, they proved they are possibly even greater than that and will go down on record as one of the best in history.

It carried them through a season, through the post-season and eventually in the big dance. They made the big plays they needed, getting to the quarterback and stifling receivers on all kinds of teams which then allowed them to win a championship under Gary Kubiak.

Peyton Manning looks now like he has that fairytale ending should he bow out, which he really should on evidence from this season. The new face of the team, Von Miller, shone as he has all season long and really lead a front seven that caused havoc in their two most important games of the season, which was so impressive.

Von Miller is a stud and dominated the game. Source: USA Today

Von Miller is a stud and dominated the game. Source: USA Today

The Panthers just never clicked into gear on offence, which killed them. The running game never got going, despite their insistence on giving the running back the ball on every first down to start a drive, which in turn gave them long distances on second and third down, which meant feeding time for the Denver pass rush.

Cam Newton couldn’t pull out his own heroics either, over-throwing early before finally settling into a rhythm, only to see his passes dropped. Greg Olsen was blanketed all game long, which hurt them the most, but praise to their stellar defence which kept them in the hunt right until the end, especially the breakout performance from Kony Ealy.

It always felt like one moment for Ron Rivera’s team would do it but Wade Phillip’s defence would never, ever allow that opportunity. They were stout, they were aggressive and they got everything they wanted, when they wanted it.

With every new Super Bowl champion, there’s talk of whether a dynasty could be built but in Denver, it’s a little tricky. They maximised what they had within Manning’s championship window and they now may have a few decisions to make.

Kuechly and the Panthers will be back. Source: Bleacher Report

Kuechly and the Panthers will be back. Source: Bleacher Report

Miller will rightfully get a monster deal, Brock Osweiler will have a lot of swing should Manning go through with retirement and then they still might need some space to shore up the depth chart. If none of the older players drop their level, they will contend again but their time will close quicker than the team they faced on Sunday.

As for Carolina, they should have the ability to bounce back, even though the NFC arguably has more depth of top teams to contend with. They have an excellent defence, a good offence with one of it’s best playmakers in Kelvin Benjamin coming back and they only have Josh Norman to worry about in free agency.

If they can find another little piece in the draft, keep the players fit and firing they will be a dangerous team again next year. They have a great coaching staff along with a good attitude and this won’t be the last time we see the Panthers as contenders.

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Cam Newton, the punching bag

The Dabbing machine was more drab after Sunday, and for good reason.  Source: USA Today

The Dabbing machine was more drab after Sunday, and for good reason. Source: USA Today

It seems every time someone makes a slight misstep, people want to take a swing at them. In the NFL, no one has personified that ideal more than Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton and his haters have only been given more reason to jab at him after Super Bowl 50.

The league MVP walked out of his post-match press conference in a huff, with many pointing the finger at him being able to hear the Denver Broncos defensive back Chris Harris Jr. discussing his game on the other side of the curtain.

Even before that, Newton was giving short answers to relatively repetitive questions and seemed dejected, like many would losing possibly their only chance at the Lombardi Trophy.

Some call it being a sore loser, but the demeanour reminded me of another consistent winner in Tom Brady. The New England Patriots quarterback was clearly not happy about being at the Super Bowl being presented as an MVP, he wanted to be in the dressing room preparing for the game.

His attitude was sour, but most people would be after a loss like that.  Source: bet.com

His attitude was sour, but most people would be after a loss like that. Source: bet.com

The best hate winning and while some can mask it, there are a few who simply can’t hide their anger and disappointment at defeat. This shouldn’t be an attribute we should appreciate but neither should we condemn it, it’s difficult for anyone to speak about something they have dreamed about for so long, go in a moment.

What also irks some is that he’s unapologetic about being upset and you know what is strange about that? He’s allowed to be. You’re allowed to not want to answer questions if you’re not in the mood, there’s plenty of other players to talk to and many got their column inches from the things he didn’t say anyway.

Then others say he folded, which is a serious accusation to make. That he should have jumped on the fumble, when we don’t exactly know why he didn’t, is presuming that he’s weak and adding more to the fire of pressure on a player.

It’s the latest in barbs that people seem to keep throwing at him. The fact that he celebrates and has a good time when winning gets on people’s nerves and the antidote to that is stopping him winning. When they did, he sulked, and they moaned about him doing that.

Ron Rivera supports Cam's attitude, saying it proves he has passion.  Source: panthers.com

Ron Rivera supports Cam’s attitude, saying it proves he has passion. Source: panthers.com

When he tore down visiting fans’ signs, which was disrespectful, but when the fans should know they aren’t allowed in the stadium then it’s their own fault. He wanted to create an atmosphere in there, he was also sending a key statement to everyone else. Newton wanted it as his team against the world.

Trying to imagine the reaction to hi celebrating if they had won will boggle the mind forever. People are consistently looking for errors in his game, in which he proved this season that he has the consistent quality to compete with the best.

In the end, Newton will never convince everyone. He doesn’t have to, he has to convince his teammates that he’s good enough to lead them to victory, and he’s succeeded. The fact that his attitude has taken all the media attention away from even the Broncos win to an extent, shows how much of a circus is consistently following him.

This is why some athletes are run into the ground. Hopefully for Cam, he will have that day in the sun to prove his doubters wrong.

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NFL Honors Award Show 2016 predicitons

As we head towards Super Bowl 50, I thought it would be ideal to look at the night before the big event and predict the potential winners for the NFL’s Honors Award Show.

Most Valuable Player – Cam Newton

Woah, Cam. Dab away sir, dab away.  Source: USA Today

Woah, Cam. Dab away sir, dab away. Source: USA Today

Although there are a few names in the hat in this one, Cam Newton is the clear front-runner. Having led his team to a 15-1 regular season record and the Super Bowl, Cam has really matured into the leader on this team and into a very good quarterback capable of carrying his team across the line.

This season, he recorded 35 passing touchdowns to just 10 interceptions, throwing for 3,837 yards with a 59.8% pass accuracy. Add onto that his 10 rushing touchdowns, as he himself added 636 yards on the ground as he lost just four fumbles.

It’s been a sensational year for the former Heismann trophy winner and he, along with Russell Wilson, are making the duel-threat quarterback a legitimate option. He’s inspired comebacks, he’s danced a lot and given some young kids moments they will never forget, this one is an easy call.

Coach of the Year – Ron Rivera

Riverboat Ron has had a masterclass of a season.  Source: panthers.com

Riverboat Ron has had a masterclass of a season. Source: panthers.com

This is a very close award between two-time winner Bruce Arians and Panthers coach Ron Rivera and by a slight margin, Rivera comes out on top. He helped his team continue the excellent work from the end of last season and really attack the 2015 campaign.

A superb 15-1 record, where he kept everyone in check and then added to that two superlative playoff wins against two strong teams really puts him above everyone.

Rivera has bread an atmosphere in Carolina that his players clearly both enjoy and thrive within. They have a superb team, credit to the general manager Dave Gettleman there too, and Riverboat Ron has continued ploughing away as his team only gets better and better.

Offensive Player of the Year – Carson Palmer

Palmer is an MVP candidate but will gladly accept this award.  Source: Fox Sports

Palmer is an MVP candidate but will gladly accept this award. Source: Fox Sports

There is a number of names that could quite easily win this award, Tom Brady being one of them, but the NFL should recognise how good the Arizona Cardinals were in some way and this will be how they will do it.

Carson Palmer threw for 4,671 yards with a 63.7% pass completion percentage, notching 35 touchdowns and just 11 interceptions. He had a QB rating average of 104.6 and added a rushing touchdown as the 36-year-old came back healthy to lead the Cardinals to a 13-3 record.

Despite playoff disappointments, Palmer had a very strong year and just came up short against the best team in the NFL. If he can stay healthy, along with the entire team, they’ll be a force to be reckoned with again next year.

Defensive Player of the Year – Luke Kuechly

Kuechly is a tackling machine.  Source: Bleacher Report

Kuechly is a tackling machine. Source: Bleacher Report

The preview I had a month ago saw JJ Watt, Aaron Donald and Tyrann Mathieu ahead of this man but when it came to the business end, Luke Kuechly stepped up and showed why he absolutely should win this award.

In 13 games, he notched 118 combined tackles, a sack, 10 passes defended and a career-equalling four interceptions, including his first touchdown. In the post-season, he has 19 combined tackles, a fumble recovery, two interceptions returned for touchdowns and three passes defended.

He has been the heartbeat of the superb Carolina Panthers defence and if he was fit all season, he would have won this award with his eyes closed. His two tempo-setting interceptions in the playoffs should seal the deal, the middle linebacker changes games.

Rookie of the Year – Todd Gurley

More of this next season, just in LA. Source: USA Today

More of this next season, just in LA. Source: USA Today

It’s hard to predict this award as no-one really separated themselves from the crowd but Todd Gurley might have just done enough to win this one.

The first-round running back rushed for 1,106 yards in 13 games, averaging nine yards a carry and scoring 10 touchdowns. He did lose a few fumbles, three to be exact, but  he still flashed explosive talent that could torment the NFL for years to come.

Many thought he may struggle after missing his final year in college through injury but Gurley proved doubters wrong very swiftly. He’ll be the face of the Rams as they move to Los Angeles and they need to build around him and that strong defence to push forward.

Offensive Rookie of the Year – Amari Cooper

Cooper shined and will have a big future in the Black Hole.  Source: sacbee.com

Cooper shined and will have a big future in the Black Hole. Source: sacbee.com

He may have won the above award had he not slowed down towards the end of the season but Amari Cooper has shown people enough to let them know he’ll be a success in the NFL.

The Alabama alumni caught 72 balls for 1,070 yards, scoring six touchdowns and fumbling just once. He was used sporadically and only caught three balls in his final two games that may have hurt his cause but there’s no doubt that the rookie deserves at least one of the awards.

Cooper will just lose out to the running back who carried a sorry offence but make no mistake, he is one to keep an eye out for in the future. The Oakland Raiders are building again and the young wideout will be a big part of their next few seasons at least.

Defensive Rookie of the Year – Marcus Peters

Peters has settled in nicely with the Chiefs.  Source: thescore.com

Peters has settled in nicely with the Chiefs. Source: thescore.com

A rightful Pro Bowler in his first year, Marcus Peters has really impressed since he was drafted in the first round by the Kansas City Chiefs.

The young cornerback has had 60 tackles in 16 games, 26 passes defended and eight interceptions, with two returned for a touchdown. He also forced a fumble in a terrific year that has been a position of need at the Chiefs and has been duly filled by Peters.

The former Washington standout has a really bright future within a solid defence. Some may have had questions about him starting before the start of the season, now he’s even starting in Honolulu, it’s been a meteoric rise.

Comeback Player of the Year – Eric Berry

Berry's story is one of real triumph. Source: Kansas City Chiefs website

Berry’s story is one of real triumph. Source: Kansas City Chiefs website

Absolutely no questions about this one, Eric Berry will be the Comeback Player of the Year. He absolutely deserves it and no one will argue with it, his comeback this year has been monumental.

Berry was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in December 2014, ending his season and he began treatment straight away. He was cleared for action nine months later and despite not starting one game, he has been sensational yet again.

61 combined tackles, 10 passes defended and two interceptions as he became a key cog in the Kansas City Chiefs defence again and was selected to the Pro Bowl. To come back so quickly and at such a high level, you can only admire the terrific resolve of a real quality football player.

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Who should win the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year?

Watt deserved it last year, who's getting it this year?  Source: Houston Chronicle

Watt deserved it last year, who’s getting it this year? Source: Houston Chronicle

In one of the more difficult to predict awards that will take place just before the Super Bowl, usually the Defensive Player of the Year is more obvious by now. Realistically, there are at least five players that could arguably win the accolade so here’s a look at the contenders.

Special mentions to two players that would have been close, Charles Woodson has had a fantastic year but hasn’t maintained the success and Josh Norman might have courted too much controversy to be chosen.

 

JJ Watt

Watt has been great again but has his previous amazingness shadowed this season?  Source: NFL

Watt has been great again but has his previous amazingness shadowed this season? Source: NFL

Last year’s winner is unsurprisingly a front-runner again, as he was before the season even started. A real once-in-a-generation kind of player, JJ Watt is someone you have to gameplan for and then gameplan again when he ruins it.

This year, he has 66 tackles, 13.5 sacks, five pass defences and a forced fumble, which is a little down from last year. They are still pretty damn good numbers but the knock will be that it’s not Watt numbers, maybe we expect a little too much from the genetic freak.

The face of the franchise, the spiritual leader of the team and the fans, Watt is an example every young player should follow. Dedicated, humble and someone who puts everything into every game, it’s very hard not to admire his ability on the field.

Even a cast can’t stop this monster, who will finally help his side potentially sneak into the playoffs. If he does, it will be difficult not to back him again this season.

 

Aaron Donald

Donald has been an absolute machine for the St Louis Rams.  Source: helmet2helmet.com

Donald has been an absolute machine for the St Louis Rams. Source: helmet2helmet.com

After winning the Rookie Defensive Player of the Year, everyone would take notice of Aaron Donald in his second year. A defensive tackle that can cut right through offensive linemen, he’s a dangerous man indeed.

The St Louis Ram has 64 tackles this season, 11 sacks and a fumble recovery. His numbers don’t really jump off the page like some others, but when you watch him play, it’s easy to see just how big of an impact he has on the game.

In the first game of the season against the Seattle Seahawks, he wrecked their running game. He had nine tackles, two sacks and two stuffs and essentially won the game when he denied Marshawn Lynch stone dead on fourth down in mid-field.

Donald has established himself as a big name and someone we will need to keep an eye on in the future. In a Rams unit that looks likely to be a potential juggernaut, he is the real centrepiece.

 

Khalil Mack

Mack is a stud and a young piece Oakland will build around for years.  Source: sportsworldreport.com

Mack is a stud and a young piece Oakland will build around for years. Source: sportsworldreport.com

What a breakout year for Khalil Mack, who was pretty damn good already, now he’s beginning to look special. The Oakland Raiders needed some new names and they certainly have one in the linebacker.

Mack has 60 combined tackles, 14 sacks and two forced fumbles, really impressive numbers as he has taken to Jack Del Rio’s schemes like a duck to water. A nightmare for any tackle, the youngster has been a real difference maker on a team that could barely create any pressure two years ago.

Against the Denver Broncos, Mack took over and dominated unlike anyone else has this season. Seven tackles, five sacks, a stuff and a forced fumble in a game where he created pressure on every play, it was a game that should be watched over and over again.

The fact that Oakland will miss out on the post-season might just hurt him a little, like it will others, but he is just as deserving as the others. The Black Hole will be a team to watch next season and Mack will be the one for teams to fear next year.

 

Tyrann Mathieu

Mathieu would have been so good to watch in the playoffs.  Source: azcental.com

Mathieu would have been so good to watch in the playoffs. Source: azcental.com

A real beast in the secondary and a nightmare for every quarterback in the league, the versatile Tyrann Mathieu has been spectacular on a great defence

In 14 games, he has made 89 tackles, 16 pass defences, five interceptions with one returned for a touchdown and a forced fumble. He has been used in the slot, he has covered tight ends, he has a sack because he can blitz, he’s a real all-rounder.

He’s a key cog in a really impressive secondary with Patrick Paterson, Jerraud Powers and Rashad Johnson. Mathieu helps glue it all together, he is able to play anywhere they need him and he can really wreck offensive gameplans.

A torn MCL knocks Mathieu out of the rest of the season and the post-season, which is a real shame. That may hurt not just his chances of DPOTY but also the Cardinals’ Super Bowl aspirations.

 

Luke Kuechly

Kuechly is a tackling machine.  Source: Bleacher Report

Kuechly is a tackling machine. Source: Bleacher Report

Not many would deny that Luke Kuechly is the finest inside linebacker of this generation and yet again, the 2014 DPOTY should be under consideration again.

On Sunday, the Carolina Panther recorded 15 tackles, with 10 being individual efforts and it was the fourth time he crossed double digits this season. Kuechly has 101 tackles in 11 games, with him missing some of the early part of the season due to injury.

Because of that, his numbers are down with just one sack but surprisingly, his four interceptions is a joint-career high with two games to go, he’s scored his first touchdown on a return and has forced two fumbles, a career high.

He just keeps getting better and better and is a leader on what can be a very good defence. If he was showing this form without missing any games, he might be ahead of the entire pack.

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