Tag Archives: Detroit Lions

NFL free agency 2017: As odd and frantic as ever

With the calendar finally turning over to March, NFL fans can celebrate the start of a new season. Well, those that like to watch the fire-sale frenzy that is free agency, at the very least.

As contracts expire and players are allowed to move freely to another team, it’s time for some smooching from GMs and coaches as they try to promise new hopefuls they’ll be big in their city. Most end with heartbreak but sometimes, they can be a match made in heaven.

Here’s a few thoughts on the first few days of free agency.

 

The best just got better

bill-belichick.vresize.1200.675.high.74

The New England Patriots didn’t need any help in being good, NFL. You didn’t have to help them strengthen a team that won the whole damn thing last year, y’know?

They’ll never learn.

Bill Belichick is an absolute master of this game and strangely enough, it was two trades that actually impressed the most. Bringing in an exciting young receiver in former New Orleans Saints man Brandin Cooks to be their new number one option out wide for draft picks was a solid move even after picking up the almost-Super Bowl 49 MVP Kony Ealy from the Carolina Panthers.

Add to that the pickup of Pro Bowl corner Stephon Gilmore, from none other than a divisional rival in the Buffalo Bills, and former Green Bay Packers tight end Jared Cook to replace Martellus Bennett and that’s a nice little mix.

The focus shifts now to keeping Malcolm Butler and Dont’a Hightower, which would be a frightening thought to the rest of the NFL. Even with all the picks they used up, they could regain almost all of them by sending Jimmy Garapolo to the Cleveland Browns.

 

The poor got a little stronger

best-nfl-coaches-hue-jackson-browns

Speaking of the Browns, they made baby steps toward climbing out of the basement.

They started with the offensive line, just in case they finally find someone to stand behind it. Kevin Zeitler weakens an opponent in the Cincinnati Bengals while adding a veteran to the group, J.C. Tretter is another solid addition and extension to Joel Bitonio finally puts this unit back to where they were before they lost Alex Mack last offseason.

Bringing in Kenny Britt was also a solid move, a relatively consistent performer over the last few seasons. Not trying to combine him with Terrell Pryor, especially when the former QB signed a reasonable deal with Washington, does seem a little odd but spend where you need to spend.

Some of that gigantic cap room was used on a blockbuster trade for Houston Texans quarterback Brock Osweiler. While it’s likely they’ll bin the lobster as soon as possible, they bought a second round pick they can add to the pile of 11 selections in each of the next two drafts.

That booty should have enough value in it to tempt the Patriots to move Jimmy G to Ohio. With the champs moving so many picks, surely it’s only a matter of time?

 

There’s money if you’re an offensive lineman

usa_today_9838846.0

If you’re a decent lineman this March, you got paid.

Along with the aforementioned dynamic duo in Cleveland, the Los Angeles Chargers slapped a big deal on former Denver Broncos left tackle Russell Okung and the Minnesota Vikings paid a pretty penny to steal Riley Reiff off their fellow NFC North side, the Detroit Lions.

Neither of those played at a particularly high level last year but with needy teams come looser purse strings. Combine that with a draft reportedly thin on the ground at tackle and guard, anyone with experience with a bit of quality was treated like a diamond in the rough.

There’s no doubt some of these players have talent but to be paid $53 million over four years for Okung? That seems a little too steep of a price.

 

But there’s not so much for wide receivers

hi-res-152308007-alshon-jeffery-of-the-chicago-bears-sits-on-the-bench_crop_north

Alshon Jeffery is a legitimate number one receiver in the NFL, yet teams looked at him like he’d kissed their wife right in front of them.

Credit to him for taking a prove-it deal with the Philadelphia Eagles, along with a “promise” to stay if he succeeds, but the PED violation hit his value harder than many expected it to. I mean, enhancing your performance is a big sin but players with worse records have earned plenty of bucks otherwise.

As it was mentioned earlier, the market for Pryor was also thinner than some anticipated. He looked a real threat since converting to a wideout but teams still stayed away from a potential one-season wonder.

Even DeSean Jackson settled for a secondary role as a deep threat in Tampa Bay, which shows there just wasn’t that much love for pass catchers this year. In fairness, the talent level was pretty thin too.

 

The quarterback market stay still, for now

636245851896601850-SW-Tony-Romo.jpg

While the players were thin on the ground at quarterback in free agency, we are really still waiting for the big moves to happen, if they will at all.

Mike Glennon joined the Chicago Bears was the only real deal that has gone down so far. That’s not counting some backups signing up but that isn’t going to change a franchise overnight.

Jay Cutler was released into the wild and had a meeting with the New York Jets but there’s been no paperwork as of yet. He may look if anyone else pops their heads up and then decide if it’s even worth lacing up over a cushy retirement.

Jimmy G can’t stop teasing us on Instagram and in fairness, that one will likely rumble on until the draft next month. New England will like to squeeze every last bit of juice from that deal until Cleveland have no option to throw in a sweetner.

The final chip to fall anywhere is Tony Romo. The Dallas Cowboys are hoping someone is willing to trade, everyone is giggling at their poker face and are waiting for him to be released and go on a Peyton Manning-esque tour.

That one could go on and on as well, but whether he ends up staying in Texas with Houston or follows in Manning’s footsteps to Denver, it will be the story of the offseason.

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

How did Jeff Fisher hang on to the St Louis Rams job?

Fisher has outstayed any welcome without much progress.  Source: theodysseyonline.com

Fisher has outstayed any welcome without much progress. Source: theodysseyonline.com

The St Louis Rams finished the 2015 regular season with a 7-9 record, their fourth season in a row under .500 with head coach Jeff Fisher at the helm yet there is not a great calling to make a change. In the modern NFL, that seems a little more than strange.

At the start of the year, they again flattered to deceive. They pulled out a gutsy performance against the Seattle Seahawks, fuelled by the young defensive tackle Aaron Donald having a monster game and showed everyone how could they could be this season.

In fact, against the two teams in their division heading to the post-season, they finished 3-1. They beat the Seahawks twice, they beat the Arizona Cardinals in their own back yard and yet again, they showed promise that they could hang with the best in their division.

However, against a relatively soft schedule, they also showed that they lacked the composure to beat the weaker teams of the NFL. Sure, they got wins against the Detroit Lions, Cleveland Browns and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers but poor losses against the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens must sting when that would take you to a much more respectable 9-7.

Even against some good teams, they allowed their standards to slip enough just to lose. They lost close games to the Pittsburgh Steelers, Green Bay Packers and the Minnesota Vikings  but were soundly beaten by the likes of the Chicago Bears, who managed to put up 37 points, and they were humbled by the Cincinnati Bengals.

Nick Foles has been beyond poor and they need a replacement swiftly.  Source: Fox Sports

Nick Foles has been beyond poor and they need a replacement swiftly. Source: Fox Sports

It’s clear that despite the positives coming from the superb rookie season of Todd Gurley, this teams needs a hell of a lot on offence. They finished last in yards on offence and last in passing yards, showing that they don’t just need a steady quarterback, they need wide receivers and tight ends.

No pass catcher went for more than 700 yards, which is poor but when only three made it over 450 yards and the next best gained 250, that’s pretty appalling. Only three wide receivers caught balls for touchdowns this year, only one tight end managed it and no running backs caught it for a score either.

The shoddy play at quarterback was clear for everyone as Nick Foles threw for just 2052 yards for seven touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Case Keenum was slightly better, with 4 TDs to 1 INT in a couple of games but when the offensive line allows a league-best 18 sacks all season and the running back goes for 1100 yards in half of a season, that play is inexcusable and the trade was a huge mistake.

Their defence is exciting but at the same time, they finished 23rd in total yards allowed and were not good against the run or the pass. They got the quarterback a fair number of times, with 41 sacks and forced 20 fumbles, with 13 recovered but they were in the middle of the road on interceptions (13) and points allowed (20.6).

However, I think it’s fair to give their defence the benefit of the doubt. They were out there much more often thanks to poor offensive play and I actually think they have done pretty well considering how tired they must have been by the end of games.

Donald is one of the only bright spots this season, he has been sensational, Source: helmet2helmet.com

Donald is one of the only bright spots this season, he has been sensational, Source: helmet2helmet.com

When you combine all of that together, especially since they haven’t had any success under Fisher, why isn’t his head on the chopping block? He’s fired five assistants, that doesn’t include the offensive co-ordinator or even the quarterback coach but does include the WR assistant, but that doesn’t seem like enough to me.

While other former basement dwellers in his division used their young talent to elevate them to beat the strong teams in their division, the Rams are consistently stuck in the middle ground searching for relevancy.

It could be that the Rams are already in a difficult division, it could be that they have some promising youngsters or it could just be that they do not want to upset the apple cart before a potential move to Los Angeles.

Despite any of that, Fisher’s seat has to be the hottest of all of them heading into 2016. Failure again, especially if they do get their move back to California, and there can be no excuses should he be fired.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The NFL needs to address poor officiating

Officiating has not been this poor since the lockout three years ago.  Source: CBS Sports

Officiating has not been this poor since the lockout three years ago. Source: CBS Sports

Back in 2012, we could take in when replacement officials got it wrong. They were inexperienced, they were thrust into a role because of a lockout that they were not expecting and while there were some questionable decisions, at least it did not last too long.

That seems like forever away when you see the standard of officiating this season.

It has been pretty bad all year long but just to add to the very poor mistakes, last night the Green Bay Packers were awarded another chance at a late game Hail Mary pass after the officials called for a facemask penalty on the Detroit Lions defence after time expired.

Aaron Rodgers got another play and wouldn’t you know it, they scored. It was a huge win for them but a monumental blow for the Lions as the defender barely brushed the quarterback and it has killed any unlikely late run for the playoffs stone dead.

But that is just the tip of the iceberg on bad officiating calls this season. The Baltimore Ravens lost the game on a similar incident against the Jacksonville Jaguars when this time, the offence had a false start with less than 10 seconds remaining in the game.

That usually incurs a 10-second run-off, something that didn’t happen, which led to a facemask penalty on the final play which advanced the Jaguars into field goal range to win the game.

KJ Wright patting the ball out of the endzone was a penalty missed.  Source: deadspin.com

KJ Wright patting the ball out of the endzone was a penalty missed. Source: deadspin.com

On another TV game on Monday night, the Seattle Seahawks beat the Lions thanks to KJ Wright knocking  Calvin Johnson’s  fumble  out of the endzone, which is illegal and should have been a Lions first down.

However, the back judge claimed that he felt it was inadvertent, despite the cameras clearly telling a different story. Wright himself admitted that he did it on purpose after the game and the NFL also revealed that it should have been a penalty.

Another Thursday night game last week had controversy that luckily did not determine the final result of the game. The New England Patriots made a big play to Danny Amendola in the second quarter, he had beaten the corner and only had one man to beat for the touchdown.

Had a referee not inadvertently blown his whistle, killing the play dead. The officials then had to fumble around and award the pass to where the receiver caught it and the drive ended in a field goal.

The excuse was that the line judge had “lost track of the football”, which was absurd as it was in Tom Brady’s hands and visible to everyone as he was throwing it as he whistled. It also, technically, meant that it should have been spotted to where the initial play was, as Amendola hadn’t caught it before the whistle, but the officials needed to do something as they had pretty much prevented a touchdown.

Some might give the quarterback the benefit of the doubt but it certainly was questionable.  Source: sfgate.com

Some might give the quarterback the benefit of the doubt but it certainly was questionable. Source: sfgate.com

But the cornerstone of the whole argument this season came in Sunday night’s fixture between the Arizona Cardinals and the San Francisco 49ers. In a tight game, there were so many missed calls or ghost calls that it became simply a joke of a game for both sides.

They called a first-and-five for the Cards as a 2nd-and-three for some reason but the real stinger was the roughing the passer call near the end of the game. The officials deemed that they hit the head of the quarterback, which the defender did not, it was just a strong play but with that penalty, the drive continued and Arizona went on to win.

To say that the standard has dropped this season is probably not harsh enough. These bad calls are costing points and in too many occasions, entire games and when one of these coaches loses their jobs because of their poor record, they can look back at things like this.

With the amount of replays available, and the absurd amount that can’t even be reviewed, it’s simply astonishing that the NFL doesn’t do something to fix this. They need to further educate their officials straight away, severely punish the groups that have been found wanting and reward those that have performed up to the high standard.

The issue now is that something needs to be done now. The playoffs start next month and if something similar happens then or, god forbid, the Super Bowl then there will be significant reproductions. Quite simply put, it has been nowhere near good enough.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,