It's that time of year everyone! Training camp! In what has been a long off-season, with lots of moves, we have taken a big step towards our journey back to football. So with that being said, lets go over four intriguing teams to watch.
1. San Francisco 49ers
Last year, we were strongly anticipating quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo's impact from 2017 to carry over to a playoff appearance last season. Unfortunately, he went down with an ACL tear in week 3 which ended his season as well as the 49ers season. Despite this, it didn't stop others from contributing to the team. Tight end George Kittle had arguably the best season for a tight end in NFL history. He caught 88 passes for 1,377 yards which is a record for all tight ends, and 5 touchdowns. Three of them were 43 yards or longer. On defense, DeForest Buckner also turned in a successful season with 12 sacks which was good enough for a pro bowl appearance. Coach Kyle Shanahan was able to make the most out of Garoppolo’s injury by turning undrafted quarterback Nick Mullins into a quality passer. As a team, the 49ers entered this year’s offseason as a favorite to get Antonio Brown while Odell Beckham Jr. and Le’Veon Bell were dark horses. However, they whiffed on all 3 of those players. They did refurbish their front 7 on defense with the acquisitions of Kwon Alexander and Dee Ford along with the selection of Nick Bosa. All of those players will have something to prove for this upcoming season. Alexander has to become a better tackler unlike his years in Tampa Bay. He is a play maker who has a knack for takeaways, but last year he missed 78 tackles in only 6 games! If he's going to live up to his big contract, he has to improve that flaw. Dee Ford had a quiet start to his career. but made a big jump last season recording 13.5 sacks. Like Alexander, Ford was given a big contract from the 49ers once he was traded so his ability to follow up his breakout year will be tested in the Bay Area. Nick Bosa will be tasked with not only making a full recovery after sitting out his final season at Ohio St., but he also has to adapt to the NFL immediately given the value pass rushers have in today's game. If all of those new players along with Buckner are able to play together, San Francisco will have a dominant front 7 in the years to come. But if they want to return to the players, their season will hinge on the player starting at the most important position in all sports. Garoppolo. His health will determine 2019 for the 49ers, so as long as he stays healthy, they can make a run in the playoffs.
2. New York Jets
New York did a lot of work this off-season from the moment their season ended. They fired head coach Todd Bowles and hired Adam Gase to take over the sidelines. The hire of a drill Sargent in defensive coordinator Gregg Williams is considered the best assistant coach hire of the off-season. As for players, they acquired pro bowl guard Kelechi Osemele in a trade with the Oakland Raiders and signed linebacker C.J. Mosley who is already building up an impressive resume in his 5 seasons that could get him to Canton if he keeps up his accolades. They were also able to draft defensive tackle Quinnen Williams who has the attributes to be the Aaron Donald of the AFC. But the biggest ,one of the off-season, was the free agent signing of all pro running back Le’Veon Bell. Bell is easily one of the top running backs in the last 5 years, but he sat out all of last season because of a contract dispute with the Pittsburgh Steelers. However, he has kept himself in shape and will likely be a major part in helping quarterback Sam Darnold take a big step forward in his sophomore season. That has become a common theme for quarterbacks to take a major step forward in their second year. Guys like Patrick Mahomes, Jared Goff, Carson Wentz, and Mitchell Trubisky have experienced that kind of success. Given the improvement Darnold had at the end of the season and the new weapons the Jets got on offense, a big jump should be likely. However, it would be a surprise to think that the Jets could have an entire offseason without making any negative headlines. About a month after the draft, G.M. Mike Maccagnan was fired in a shocking move. All of a sudden, what seemed like a perfect offseason was going to be a disaster with Adam Gase possibly flexing his powers as the interim G.M. in a bad way. Fortunately, the Jets instead went after one of the leagues top executives on the market in Joe Douglas. Douglas played a big part in forming the Eagles’ Super Bowl roster and when he turned it down, the Jets doubled up their offer which was enough to lure him to the Big Apple. And just like that, all of the concerns within the front office can now be washed away for the rest of the offseason and hopefully beyond that. Now the only question, is if all of the new guys on the team from the players to the front office can jell together with last year’s core players like Darnold, receivers Robby Anderson and Quincy Enunwa, tight end Chris Herndon IV, pro bowl safety Jamal Adams, and defensive lineman Leonard Williams. If they can, Jets fans will finally be able to see a year of playoff football. Something that they’d like to be in after missing it for 8 straight seasons.
3. Cleveland Browns
I didn’t rank this team higher because they have all the reasons to dominate 2019. On offense they got quarterback Baker Mayfield who delivered one of the best rookie seasons for a quarterback in NFL history and looks like the answer to the Browns long hunt for a quarterback. His weapons included pro bowl receiver Jarvis Landry, and running back Nick Chubb. On the defensive side of the ball, they got pro bowlers in defensive end Myles Garrett, linebacker Joe Schobert, and cornerback Denzel Ward. Coach Freddie Kitchens showed a lot of promise when he took over offensive coordinator duties last season and could possibly form a long lasting QB/coach duo with Mayfield. What was the G.M. John Dorsey able to do? Sign star running back Kareem Hunt off waivers and trade for Odell Backham Jr. from the New York Giants. Once Hunt returns from his 8 game suspension, he and Nick Chubb will have a great chance of forming one of the best running back duos in the league. Odell gives Mayfield a big target as well as a one two punch with him and Landry. In the draft, they might’ve got a big steal with the selection of cornerback “Greddy” Williams which gives Cleveland a strong possibility of having 2 lockdown cornerbacks. However, there is one word that stands in the way of all of the hype. Egos. Cleveland has a lot of big personalities that are contained by most of their top players. Mayfield probably is the most outspoken quarterbacks in the league and veterans of the team expressed their disapproval in his cockiness. Backham Jr. is one of the most outspoken receivers in the league. Temper tantrums were no rare thing in New York and in Cleveland, lots of people will be closely analyzing that next season. Hunt was only picked up from the Browns because Dorsey drafted him when he was in Kansas City and he’ll have to prove that he has rebounded from his horrific incident in February last year where he hit a woman in a hotel room which landed him a spot on the exempt list before being released by the Chiefs once TMZ released a video in late November. Egos can also be created when there’s lots of hype surrounding a team which will give Cleveland one simple task. Downplay the hype, put egos to rest, and just play football. As long as they follow that simple formula, lots of playoff games will come very soon.
4. Houston Texans
Last year, we finally saw the damage that this team was able to do with a healthy roster. After starting 0-3, they reeled off 9 straight wins en route to finishing the season atop their division with an 11-5 record. The offense which featured arguably the best QB WR duo of Deshaun Watson and DeAndre Hopkins is the best in the league along with young receivers Will Fuller IV, Keke Coutee, and running back Lamar Miller, gave Houston a potent unit. On defense, end J.J. Watt returned to his old form after missing the last two years with injuries by recording 16 sacks while Jadaveon Clowney served as the perfect pass rusher to compliment Watt. In the secondary, pro bowl safety Tyrann Mathieu, Kareem Jackson, Justin Reid, and Johnathan Joseph produced a solid secondary. This helped Houston have a defense that was solid throughout the season. Overall, their offense and defense made them arguably the league’s most balanced teams. But it all came crashing down when they got outplayed and out coached in their wild card defeat to the rival Indianapolis Colts. Their offseason was average. For the pros, they gave out smart contracts to veteran starters Tashaun Gipson and Bradley Roby who should contribute to the secondary. For the cons, they let Mathieu walk in free agency in which he signed with the Kansas City Chiefs, they didn’t make much adjustments to their offensive line, and they’re in a really sticky situation with negotiating a new deal for Clowney. What will also be interesting, is if Houston will still possess the ability to win in close games. Last season, they’re young core showed the ability to win close games down the stretch. This will either continue this year or set the Texans up for even greater success in the future. But there’s also wear and tear that comes along in close games in victory or defeat and given the injury prone roster that Houston has even though it didn’t affect them this year, it could take its toll. Chances are that this team will still remain a playoff team that can definitely achieve greater heights within a few years, but they have more question marks going into the season than any other team that made last year’s playoffs which is why I included them on this list.
Every year, there are those teams that enter the season with lots of question marks. Sometimes those question marks could be about how good, bad, or average they’re going to be. That’s what leads to an interesting team to keep an eye on.
Yesterday was a day that will be one of the most confusing days in not just New York Jets history, but in NFL history. General manager Mike Maccagnan was fired. But you are probably wondering why it shows a lot of dysfunction and disagreement. Let's explain.
If you're going to fire a general manager, you have to do it when the season ends. The Jets thought differently. They decided to go in a backwards direction because that's what they seem to do all the time. It started with the firing of Todd Bowles where owner Christopher Johnson trusted Maccagnan to find a coach in Adam Gase, sign top free agents, and draft players. And yet 3 weeks after the draft, they fired Maccagnan. To make matters worse, Adam Gase has had a different perspective on some of Maccagnan's offseason moves.
Let's take it from the beginning.
The Jets offseason started off strong. They traded for all pro guard Kelechi Osemele and signed pro bowl linebackers C.J. Mosley and Anthony Barr. The only problem, was that on the next day, Barr decided to go resign with the Vikings. It was looked at as a soft move by most fans, but what wasn't noticed, was the fact that Gase and Maccagnan had lost trust in each other. Nonetheless, Maccagnan made up for the loss of Barr by signing all pro running back Le'Veon Bell. It was considered a steal for New York considering that they only have to pay Bell 52 million. But another problem rose from the organization, Gase didn't want Bell at that price. He already knows how good a player Bell is dating back to his 167 yards and 2 touchdowns against Gase's Dolphins in the 2016 playoffs. $52 million isn't a lot either for not only one of the best running backs, but for one of the best players in the league. It was probably the 35 million guaranteed money that Gase didn't like in his contract. So while all these feelings remained, the Jets' offseason was already viewed as a success. The draft also got good results. With Quinnen Williams, some think that the Jets picked the best defensive player in the draft.
Then rumors about a possible rift came out.
It happened two days after the first round of the draft. The reports talked about the rift starting due to disagreements over their free agency strategy. This was actually a surprising reason considering that the biggest controversial move in their offseason at the time was not trading down to get more picks in the draft. Fortunately, both Gase and Maccagnan both said that there wasn't any rift between them and that there's no reason to think that there was a rift considering how successful their offseason was. Everyone believed them and just like that, everything was fine. Right? Well you're wrong.
On May 15, the Jets fired him in what was a shocking move. Maccagnan was always in the hot seat, but if the Jets were to fire him, it should've been after the season along with Todd Bowles. But no. They decided to fire him after doing all of the offseason responsibilities. Now Adam Gase is the interim GM even though there's a strong possibility that they'll hire Joe Douglas who's a part of one of football's most respected front offices in the Philadelphia Eagles. As the Jets currently stand, Gase is the general manager and key players like Bell and Leonard Williams' aren't a lock to be on this team for the long term even though I personally think they'll both remain long term.
But New York now is in a lot of dysfunction at a alarming rate that hasn't been seen in football before. Even if they have a solid season which I think will still happen, they got to replace the chaos that's going on right now.
As we all know, this is the time to keep tabs on football. All of the trades and free agent signings are passed us. It is time to see how every NFL team completes their offseason. Through the draft.
This year's draft brought excitement, disappointment, and curiosity about every pick. In the end, we don't know whether the #1 pick will be going to Canton, or end up as a huge draft bust. However, it doesn't mean that we can't give our own opinion's about what we have learned from this year's first round.
Like always, a good amount of quarterbacks were selected. This year, 3 of them were selected. They were Kyler Murray, Daniel Jones, Dwayne Haskins. What was surprising, was that they were selected at unexpected spots. Murray went 1 to the Cardinals which was expected, but not guaranteed since they had Josh Rosen who had just completed his rookie season. Nonetheless, I think Murray will thrive in Kliff Kingsbury's pass happy offense better than Josh Rosen would, and he'll make a positive impact on the Cardinals. I have a problem with Daniel Jones. I don't think he did enough at a small football program in Duke to be selected at 6. The Giants could've waited on him and select another talented player in the draft with more potential. The Redskins hit a home run in Haskins. In what was a season that showed a lot of dysfunction within the organization, Washington needed to get a quarterback and they got it in Haskins, a guy who threw for 50 touchdown passes and ran for 4 scores while only throwing for 8 interceptions. If there's someone that can turn around this franchise, he'd be the one to do it.
The star unit of players selected in this draft however, were defensive lineman. A total of 11 defensive linemen were selected in this year's draft. Five of them were in the top 10. Most notably, was Nick Bosa, Quinnen Williams, Clelin Ferrell, Josh Allen, and Ed Oliver. Those who are most likely to succeed are Bosa, Williams, Allen, and Oliver. Despite putting up decent numbers, Bosa is seen as an impact player for the 49ers with lots of potential for a successful translation to the NFL. Williams, who was selected by the Jets, is seen as the best defensive player in this draft thanks to his size on the interior and his quickness on the edge. Both of those factors will be essential to Gregg Williams' defense in the years to come. Allen, who progressed in his career at Kentucky, will be going to a Jaguars team with a really good defensive line in Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue. If he can impact the team's fortunes like Kentucky, he'll have an amazing career. Oliver will be another piece to a young and already effective Bills defense. It'll be a question if Oliver can adapt to the NFL as well as the cold weather, but if he can, Buffalo will have a defense to be reckoned with in the years to come.
The final thing that we learned from this draft, was that there were lots of surprising and statement picks. Some teams reached on players that they could've drafted with their other first round picks. The first surprise was that the Jets, who traded away 2 second round picks to the Colts so they could draft quarterback Sam Darnold, would trade down for more overall draft picks. But New York had other ideas. They decided to use the 3rd pick to get Williams, who has all of the skills for a really good career. Raiders had the 4th pick in the draft and they needed a pass rusher to fill in the void of Khalil Mack. With the Jets' selection of Williams, it appeared likely that Oakland would select Allen, but they instead went with Ferrell. I don't think that Ferrell will be bad, but I don't think he's a top 5 pick in the draft. The Giants raised the most eyebrows with their pick. Needing a quarterback to succeed Eli Manning, they selected Daniel Jones who in my opinion, won't be the savior the Giants think he'll be. The final pick that raised my eyebrows at least, was the Ravens' selection of Marquise Brown. Last year, they made the playoffs because of the improvement from their offense while their defense remained amongst the best in the league. But in the offseason, they lost 4 major contributors in Eric Weddle, C.J. Mosley, Terrell Suggs, and Za'Darius Smith. So it was expected that they'd select a defender in this draft. But with linebacker Devin Bush taken by the Steelers, the Ravens decided to upgrade their offense with Brown. Since he now gives Lamar Jackson a go to receiver and is the final piece for a potential triplets duo along with the newly acquired running back Mark Ingram, Baltimore's offense will be exciting in the years to come.
There's nothing like a draft in which we can have lots of takeaways based on the selections that happened. There were some surprises such as Jones going before Haskins. Unsurprising were the 11 selections of defensive linemen, proving that it is now one of the most valued positions in today's NFL. The bottom line is that while we never officially know who's going to be good or bad, we can still learn from every draft class, and here's my analysis of this year's draft.
On Wednesday, March 13, former Pittsburg Steelers running back and all pro Le'Veon Bell signed a 4 year, $52.5 million contract with the New York Jets. It was a surprising amount of money for a guy that sat out for all of 2018, but nevertheless, it was a good contract for the Jets since many people expected a bigger deal. What the Jets also got was a lot more positives out of his contract. Here's why.
One reason this deal should be great for everyone involved, is that Bell is an amazing talent. From 2014-2017, Bell has averaged 1,119 rushing yards, 565 receiving yards, and 7 touchdowns. He has continuously shown an amazing ability which is to make plays with all of the patience he has. Bell knows when to strategically wait from 3-5 seconds before making a play. Most importantly, Bell's all around skills as a running back have contributed to wins. In 3 out of Bell's 5 seasons in the NFL, he rushed for 1,000 yards. In those 3 seasons, the Steelers won their division. Bell will most likely bring all of those qualities to the Jets.
Bell is the kind of player who will make the other players on the offense around him better. He is someone who, despite being the great player he is individually, can also improve certain areas of the offense, Throughout his career in Pittsburgh, Bell has improved their running game, passing attack, and pass protection. For a Jets offense that already has a young core of talent in quarterback Sam Darnold, running back Elijah McGuire, wide receivers Quincy Enunwa and Robby Anderson, and tight end Chris Herndon IV, this is a major improvement regarding talent and reliability.
The final reason is because Le'Veon was a polarizing figure in Pittsburgh, he's in need of a fresh start in New York. In his final 2 seasons with the Steelers, everyone knew that besides playing for individual and team success, Bell was also playing for a new contract. After 2016, he rejected a 5 year contract extension which forced the Steelers to place the franchise tag on him to prevent him from entering free agency. After 2017, the Steelers had to tag him again. However, his agent reported that 2018 will be Bell's last season as a Steeler. What Bell also did surprised lots of players, fans, and analysts: he sat out for the entire season. Now that Bell has a fresh start with a team with lots of potential, his team placement won't be as stressful as it was in Pittsburgh.
So not only did the Jets simply get a great player in Le'Veon Bell, but they got a guy who makes others around him better, knows how to win, and will be in a better situation than he was earlier in his career. Jets defensive tackle and Bell's former teammate in Pittsburgh Steve McLendon perfectly summed up Bell's qualities back in December saying, "If you get him in here, I know one thing about him. When he steps foot in this building, you're going to get 100 percent from this guy." He continued by saying that people should, "just know that he's going to bring out the best out of so many people. Just imagine: He'd be the Jamal Adams on offense. Loud. Energetic. Confident. And you know he's going to make plays." As things stand now, we know the fantasy has become a reality and hopefully, that reality will translate into one of greatest moves ever made by the Jets.