New Head Coaches: Time to Judge who’ll Rhule

By Sean Tyler (@SeanTylerUK)

After disappointing campaigns, three NFC East teams – the Redskins, Cowboys and Giants –as well as the Panthers and Browns decided it was time for a new Head Coach. A fortnight after the regular season finished, four of the five had filled their hot seats, and the Browns have since found their man too. Now that the game of musical chairs has stopped, let’s take a look at who’s landed where and how they might fare.


WASHINGTON REDSKINS


Fired: Jay Gruden
Hired: 
Ron Rivera 

The switch: Washington got a two-month head-start on the rest, setting the HC conveyor belt in motion in October. After going 0-5, they decided enough was enough and fired Jay Gruden, who made the postseason just once in his five years in the capital.

A day after they closed out their 3-13 season with a 47-16 humbling by divisional rivals Dallas, long-time team president Bruce Allen was given the order of the boot, not long after he’d told the world the team’s culture was “damn good” (no laughing at the back, please). They swiftly followed that by agreeing to make Ron Rivera, let go by the Carolina Panthers, their new HC.

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The pros: Rivera is experienced, respected and no stranger to success, having led the Panthers to three consecutive NFC South titles from 2013. His hot streak culminated in a 15-1 regular season in 2015 and an appearance at Super Bowl L against the Denver Broncos. Having evolved from ultra-cautious to more progressive and forward-thinking, ‘Riverboat Ron’ could be the man to ensure Dwayne Haskins delivers on his early promise. The ‘Skins also need to sharpen up on the defensive side, but Rivera has form here too: he had five top-10 defences in Carolina. Bringing in former Raiders coach Jack Del Rio as his defensive coordinator can only help.

The cons: While his overall record stands up to scrutiny, it’s been tough going of late. Rivera’s last two seasons in Charlotte were both injury-affected and both went south after promising starts. Without Cam Newton, last year’s 5-11 saw them prop up the NFC South and the year before, they also finished with a losing record (7-9). That said, everyone to a man was complementary when he left.

The outlook: A fresh start was just what the doctor ordered and for Rivera’s sake, let’s hope the toxic Washington set-up is history. With the power to bring the crowds back to FedEx Field and reset the culture within the building, he’s already having a positive effect. Apparently, left tackle Trent Williams – who sat out last year because he lost trust in the medical staff and then the front office – has vowed to return to the fold because of the new HC and the organisational restructure.

The verdict: The pick of the bunch. He’ll have his hands full but with Allen out of the picture, there’s a distinct chance ‘Riverboat Ron’ will turn this ship around and steer the Redskins towards calmer waters.


DALLAS COWBOYS


Fired: Jason Garrett
Hired: 
Mike McCarthy

The switch: The Cowboys were the second team to make their move, eventually parting ways with Jason Garrett after nearly 10 years at the helm and an exit process that seemed to take just as long. Jerry Jones made it clear he wasn’t going to spend time bringing a college coach up to speed so they interviewed two experienced NFL guys: former Packers coach Mike McCarthy and long-time Bengals HC Marvin Lewis. Once Garrett was finally out the door, Dallas took less than 24 hours to announce McCarthy. 

Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The pros: Of our five coaches, McCarthy has the best pedigree, having led the Packers to nine playoff appearances, six NFC North division titles and a Super Bowl win (ironically at Dallas’ AT&T Stadium) in his 13 seasons. Although his relationship with quarterback Aaron Rodgers deteriorated, it was effective for much of his tenure so McCarthy should be able to strike up a good rapport with Dak Prescott.

The cons: McCarthy was fired midway through Green Bay’s 2018 season and he didn’t work during 2019 so will having a year out of the game hinder him? He has allegedly spent the time studying the latest NFL trends but equally, he might have lost some momentum.

The outlook: McCarthy has also been developing a new playbook, which will hopefully compensate for Dallas’ failures over the last decade. McCarthy needs to hit the ground running and start securing the late-postseason appearances Garrett should’ve achieved with the talent at his disposal. His credibility and reputation are high, but so are the expectations on him to bring success pretty much straight away.

The verdict: The one with everything to prove. McCarthy is a fine choice but the control he might want or expect isn’t up for grabs. In Dallas, Jerry is King: he calls the shots and makes (and breaks) the rules. Where the lines are drawn will decide whether McCarthy leads Dallas back to the heights of old or if he’s just the next guy to be stifled by the Jones dynasty.

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CAROLINA PANTHERS


Fired: Ron Rivera
Hired: 
Matt Rhule

The switch: In early December, when the wheels were falling off another Panthers’ season, Ron Rivera was released. Owner David Tepper announced that he would be targeting an offensive-minded replacement, and did exactly that in hiring Baylor coach Matt Rhule. As it happens, Rhule was supposed to meet with the Giants (where he spent a year as an assistant O-line coach) after his trip to Carolina but never made it, having been made an offer he couldn’t refuse and the Giants couldn’t match. (For the record, I wouldn’t turn down $60 million over seven years, if anyone’s offering…)

Sean Gardner/Getty Images

The pros: The size of his contract suggests Carolina are all in on their new man. Rhule is a leader and has a knack for turning struggling teams around in double-quick time. He took Baylor from 1-11 in 2017 to 11-3 just two years later and, before that, transformed Temple from a 2-11 outfit to a conference-winning one.

The cons: It’s important to remember that Rhule has no league experience at HC (a red flag to some). He will need to make the not-insignificant leap from college to the big league if he is to bring the franchise some stability and, eventually, success.

The outlook: Rhule won’t need to repeat the complete turnabouts he managed in his college programmes. He’ll have assets to work with – not least a solid defence and one of the league’s top stars in running back Christian McCaffrey – but there is also work to do, with linebacker Luke Kuechly retiring and tight end Greg Olsen joining the Seahawks. It will also be interesting to see whether he plumps for Cam Newton, Kyle Allen or someone else as his long-term QB. In the draft, he might grab a couple of guys with potential and the right character traits, and take the time to nurture them.

The verdict: The slow-burner. If Rhule can get on top of things in the pro world, the Panthers could be back in the mix again. However, I suspect, as we saw with some of last year’s rookie coaches, we shouldn’t expect results overnight. It took him a couple of years to get to grips with Temple and Baylor, and he’s been afforded ample time to set things up the right way so peg him for a successful rebuild from 2021 and beyond.


NEW YORK GIANTS


Fired: Pat Shurmur
Hired: 
Joe Judge

The switch: Despite a strong finish by Saquon Barkley and a decent showing by young QB Daniel Jones, the Giants had a disappointing 2019 under Pat Shurmur. They could ill-afford to let another season slip by with such talent in their ranks so, after Shurmur’s two underwhelming seasons ended with a 9-23 record, the Giants were next to step up to the plate (to mix my sporting metaphors).

Just minutes after the Panthers announced Rhule, the Giants revealed Joe Judge as their man. Interestingly, New York ran the rule over Rhule too, and were given the opportunity to match Carolina’s massive offer. The Giants declined.

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The pros: Judge was a special teams assistant for Nick Saban at Alabama for three seasons and then spent eight years with the Patriots as special teams and wide receivers coach. He won three Super Bowls in New England and has been plucked right off the Bill Belichick coaching tree. Being a special teams guy, he’s used to having close contact with most players on the roster, which will stand him in good stead.

The cons: Compared to the likes of Rivera and McCarthy, Judge is a relative unknown. He also hasn’t held a head coaching role at any level, which to some might make him the weakest candidate on paper.

The outlook: Judge may be a rookie but the 38-year-old is a good communicator, has high standards and a blue-collar work ethic. Judge’s initial press conference suggested that New York have a good fit. He told the media to expect an intense, aggressive, old-school team that will reflect the community in which they play.

The verdict: The left-field choice. I don’t want to judge too early but he comes across as hard-nosed and disciplined. He can certainly talk the talk, so let’s see if he can walk the walk.


CLEVELAND BROWNS


Fired: Freddie Kitchens
Hired: 
Kevin Stefanski

The switch: Armed with Baker Mayfield, Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, Nick Chubb and Myles Garrett to name but a few, the Browns were many people’s top tip for a playoff run or even a Super Bowl appearance in 2019. Even Sports Illustrated ran with “Bold prediction! Cleveland’s first division title in 30 years” on one cover. As it turned out, The Ill-Advised Freddie Kitchens Experiment was abandoned after a year, with a disappointing 6-10 season ending with a three-game losing streak. As they say, “If you can’t stand the heat, get Kitchens out” (or something) so they did, with GM John Dorsey also sent packing.

Cleveland interviewed a host of candidates – Patriots OC Josh McDaniels, Ravens OC Greg Roman, Chiefs OC Eric Bieniemy, 49ers DC Robert Saleh, Eagles DC Jim Schwartz, Uncle Tom Cobley and all – but in the end, they plumped for Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski.

Jason Miller/Getty Images

The pros: Part of the furniture in Minneapolis since 2006, Stefanski is a schemer, an analytical thinker and someone who can maximise offensive talent. The Vikes had a 10-6 season and a Wild Card win over the Saints, and their attack was largely effective under Kirk Cousins.

The cons: Initial reactions to the hire were mixed at best, not least because he wasn’t McDaniels – seemingly the fans’ preferred choice – and because of Minnesota’s poor offensive performance in their playoff loss to the 49ers. He’s untested as an HC, and was second choice when Kitchens was ultimately hired 12 months ago, which makes him feel like a consolation prize.

The outlook: Only time will tell whether this was the right move, but Cleveland seriously need an experienced, attack-minded guy to take their offence by the scruff of the neck and sort it out. But hiring an unproven Head Coach won’t give the long-suffering fans in Cleveland much confidence that they’ve got one right for a change.

The verdict: The jury’s out. How many times have the Browns been primed to turn things around at last, only to fail? They haven’t kept an HC for more than four seasons over the last 20 years. Stefanski may succeed where others before him have fallen by the wayside but he isn’t a safe bet. It’s a coin-flip for me but at least he shouldn’t be any worse than Freddie…

Full10Takeaways – Week 5

By Lawrence Vos (@NFLFanInEngland) and Shaun Blundell (@Shaun_F10Y)

Ouch!

Image Credit – Joe Sargeant / Getty Images

You could be excused for confusing the NFL redzone coverage on Sunday for an episode of casualty. Several times the electric cart was brought out onto an NFL field on Sunday as what was a day that several players saw their season come to an abrupt end.

2 of the more notable season ending ones were Colts 2nd year pass rusher Kemoko Turray, who broke his ankle in SNF. Tony Jefferson tore his ACL earlier in the day to leave a big hole in the Ravens secondary. Several players left games with varying injuries throughout the day but the scariest of the lot though without doubt was Mason Rudolph lying unconscious on the Heinz Field turf. It certainly wasn’t the worst hit you will ever see but a combination of Brandon Carr from behind and an Earl Thomas helmet to the chin had the young QB out cold.

Thankfully he regained consciousness and walked from the field which was lucky as the electric cart broke!


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16 Weeks on the Road?

Image Credit – Harry How / Getty Images

Talking of injuries, thats a nice link to arguably the most unlucky team in football the LA Chargers.

A team that seemingly gets a bigger slice of the injury pie than anyone else, actually welcomed back a player this week, as Melvin Gordon saw the field. He however was part of a predictable and conservative gameplan which was too much dink and not enough dunk. On a day that Austin Ekeler caught a career high 15 passes the Chargers couldn’t get anything going consistently offensively, as Vic Fangio tasted success for the first time in his short head coach career.

Its unsurprising that this brand of football isn’t attracting fans into watch the franchise as the move from San Diego continues to look like a mistake as the Broncos fans hugely outnumbered the fans of the supposed “home” team.


Texans Feast on Falcons

Image Credit – Troy Taorimina / USA Today Sports

DeShaun Watson is good.

DeShaun Watson when not getting pressured is superb, and that was the case on Sunday as the Texans dropped a 50 burger on the Falcons. A career high 426 yards through the air was accompanied by 5 touchdown passes and a further 47 yards rushing. His main weapon on the day was Will Fuller who caught 14 balls for 217 yards and 3 touchdowns.

Atlanta battled and had the deficit at a 1 possession game for much of the contest but the takeaway here isn’t so much how good Watson and co were offensively but just how bad this Atlanta defense is.

Tim wrote last week about Dan Quinn and his seat getting warmer, displays by the side of the ball he is supposed to be stronger in will do nothing to turn the temperature down a few degrees.


High, Wide and Not Handsome

Image Credit – James Kenney / AP Photo

Cairo Santos, dear oh dear oh dear. In a game that was the most obvious candidate ever to be decided by a small margin, it wasn’t a good night for the Titans kicker to suffer a disastrous tilt.

He left a total of 12 points off the board with field goal misses from 50, 36, 32 and 53 yards away. Missing kicks, especially from 50 plus yards is obviously not uncommon, but Santos was closer to threatening supporters sitting behind the posts as opposed to the kicking net as he kicks were way off throughout.

A strange decision by Mike Vrabel to even attempt the 53 yarder when down by 7 points and under 7 minutes left in what had proven to be the defensive slugfest that we had predicted.

Maybe he will find himself as a member of Jason Garret corner on this week’s podcast?


Super Ted

Image Credit – David Grunfeld / nola.com

Ladies and gentlemen, Teddy Bridgewater can still throw!

For the first time in nearly 4 years the signal caller threw for over 200 yards as he powered the Saints to a dominant divisional win over the Bucs. 4 touchdown passes also found the box score as on the day Teddy remembered how to air it out, Michael Thomas remembered how to dominate on the outside. He was a perfect 9/9 when lined up against press coverage on a day when the Bucs star receiver Mike Evans was held catchless.

The post game interview with Teddy was a reminder of just how far he has come since suffering what many thought to be a career ending injury. He couldn’t tie his shoelaces and now he has steadied the Saints in Drew Brees absence, a remarkable turnaround.


Tottenham triumph 

Image result for white hart lane nfl
Image credit: Pitchcare.com

All the hype about the shiny new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium is 101% justified. The stadium is situated right on the Tottenham High Road opposite some local shops such as bookies and kebab outlets.

Fans took full advantage of the road being closed, throwing balls and gathering en-mass to play NFL jersey bingo. Any fans wanting to buy any merch can expect to queue up as the store has security arches. Inside the stadium the views are awesome wherever you are sitting, and the experience is full immersive. The three rings of digital information screens, along with jumbo screens in all four corners mean you will never miss a highlight, a replay or a challenge. The sound is quality and the lights are stunning.

Fans were treated to some pyrotechnics around the roof’s inner ring on Sunday which is something you simply have to be in the stadium to experience. If the NFL plan to lure an existing team to London it won’t be a hard sell on the stadium.

England captain and World-Cup golden boot winner Harry Kane was a guest of honour on Sunday and he looked like he had a whale of a time. If he does decide to one day transition to an NFL kicker, what’s the odds that he doesn’t even need to change his parking pass? 


You’d be crackers not to like Jacobs 

Image Credit: AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth

As the top drafted rookie running back on a team in transition with a new (returning) head coach you could excuse the output to less than impressive for the Oakland Raiders Josh Jacobs. Thing is Jacobs is absorbing that pressure like a seasoned veteran.

Jacobs was voted the Tottenham game ‘man of the match’ winner even before he went airborne for the game winning score. Jacobs has been a number one back all season and is easily justifying his high pick position.

After five weeks he is 6th in the league in rushing with 430 yards and four scores. Jacobs picked up the hard yards in London both rushing and receiving, and arguably could have had three scores. Backup RB Deandre Washington was a TD vulture.

Jacobs would not be achieving such positive results without two key factors being delivered – his ability to pass block when called upon and the play of the Raiders offensive line. Khalil Mack flew home with a Union Jack fridge magnet, a six inch Beefeater and a jar of Marmite but had no sack to put them in. 


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Redskins change the locks 

Image Credit: Nick Wass/AP

Jay Gruden, when asked by the media on Sunday, after the Washington Redskins fifth consecutive loss, about his job security he said that he would carry on if his key still worked.

That was enough for owner Dan Snyder and GM Bruce Allen to dial up a locksmith and get a shiny new Chubb installed at the gates of Fed-Ex Field (no Browns fans they did not trade for Nick).

This was the most obvious firing and was inevitable after Tom Brady, in second gear, helped himself to an easy victory against a Redskins team that atrocious to say the least. Gruden was unable to overcome major injuries to stars, failed to develop and true WR talent and had zero playoff wins in his tenure.

New ‘interim’ Head Coach Bill Callahan led the Raiders to s Super Bowl in 2001, and is a true advocate of a strong running game. Gruden seemingly banged nails in his own coffin when he deactivated future Hall of Fame RB Adrian Peterson in Week 1. Trent Williams the All-Pro T is the last remaining holdout, and the defence has been as porous as Sponge Bob Square Pants.

In fact Spongebob would probably be an upgrade in the secondary.  

AFC West Breakdown

Last Season 

Kansas City Chiefs 12-4

L.A Chargers 12-4

Denver Broncos 6-10

Oakland Raiders 4-12

Kansas City Chiefs

Draft selections: 

Round 2 – Mecole Hardman, WR, Georgia & Juan Thornhill, S, Virginia 

Round 3 – Khalen Saunders, IDL, Western Illinois

Round 6 – Rashad Felton, CB, South Carolina & Nick Allegretti, IOL, Illinois

Offseason key additions:

Tyrann Mathieu – The Honey Badger came over after playing just the single season in Houston, signing a 3 year, $42m contract with the Chiefs.

Emmanuel Ogbah – The Nigerian defensive end came over in a trade that say safety, Eric Murray go in the opposite direction, to Cleveland. One of two defensive ends that came through the door to cover the loss of Dee Ford to the 49ers. The other addition was…

Alex Okafor – The veteran pass rusher will replace Dee Ford as the Chiefs primary speed rusher off the edge after signing a 3 year, $18m dollar deal to join Kansas City.

Offseason key departures:

Justin Houston – Franchise legend Houston was allowed to walk in free-agency. However, he still found his way on to a contender, signing with the Indianapolis Colts.

Eric Berry – Berry has yet to find another team since being released by the Chiefs and perhaps it’s questionable whether he will do considering he suffered a ruptured Achilles in 2017 and was subsequently diagnosed with Hugland’s deformity in his heel following the injury. 

Super Bowl odds: 8/1

Analysis:

It’s all going to be on Mahomes and the offense but are the Chiefs better on the whole than they were in 2018? I’m not certain. Fans are putting enough money on them to make them favourites for the Superbowl but how much is that off the back of the hype and media love-in that we’re seeing for Patrick Mahomes? I think that’s definitely playing a part, personally.

Bottom line is that the Chiefs will be a good team and probably pretty fun to watch if you like watching lots of points being scored.

Look out for: 

Points! I think the Chiefs will be involved in a lot of shootouts this coming season and I feel that they’re actually going to be pretty comfortable with that given the offense they have. They know they have the real deal in Patrick Mahomes under center, they have the offensive mind of Andy Reid on the sidelines and r̶i̶g̶h̶t̶l̶y̶ ̶o̶r̶ wrongly they will have Tyreek Hill suit up from week 1 and even side from him, they have one of, if not the best tight end in the game, who like all the best tight ends, is a mismatch nightmare.

Flip it over to the defense and I don’t see how this defense is much better than last year. They might be more opportunistic, with Thornhill and Mathieu on the back end and with the pass rushers that they’ve added but I strongly believe that they still won’t be a “good” defense.

However, in the modern NFL that’s more than passable when you have the firepower to go toe-to-toe with anyone. All the Chiefs need to do is put the ball back in Mahomes’ hands one more time than the opponent and that could be enough.

To sum up,as I’ve said, I think the Chiefs will be good again and will win 10 or more games but I’m reluctant to go further than that, given how lopsided their team is.

Los Angeles Chargers 

Draft selections:

Round 1 – Jerry Tillery, IDL, Notre Dame

Round 2 – Nasir Adderley, S, Delaware

Round 3 – Trey Pipkins – OT, Sioux Falls

Round 4 – Drue Tranquill – LB, Notre Dame

Round 5 – Easton Stick, QB, North Dakota State7

Round 6 – Emeke Egbule, LB, Houston

Round 7 – Cortez Broughton, IDL, Cincinnati 

Offseason key additions:

Thomas Davis – The veteran linebacker comes in from Carolina to give the Bolts some big time leadership. That said, Davis may be in his mid 30’s but he can certainly still play. Davis signed a 2 year, $10.5m contract with the Chargers to become one of only two free agency acquisitions. 

Offseason key departures:

Darius Philon – I was surprised when the team allowed Philon to walk in free agency. He’s entering his prime, the team had developed him from a 6th round flier to a very useful defensive tackle who was a key part of their rotation in 2018. Philon chipped in with 8.5 sacks over the past two seasons and brought some real energy and urgency to the defensive line. I guess what we can say is that this was a nod towards the selection of a defensive tackle in the early part of the draft – Which obviously came to fruition with the selection of Jerry Tillery, someone who should go on and become a better player than Philon if all goes well. Nevertheless, I am sad to see Philon go and wish him well in Arizona.

Super Bowl odds: 14/1

Analysis:

I feel like the Chargers are primed for a big season and to have a big run at winning a Lombardi. The team is very talented and the roster is one of the most balanced in the NFL, with young stars and top class veterans on both sides of the ball. Let’s not forget that this was a team that was a late season implosion against the Broncos away from being the #1 seed in the AFC. I feel that there’s a chance that they can get the #1 seed this year which will mean that opponents are travelling cross-country to play in L.A. and that they will get that all important week of rest before the playoffs begin; two things that the Patriots had to their advantage before the Divisional matchup in January.

Look out for: 

What happens to Melvin Gordon? The only dark cloud hanging over the Chargers at the moment in the contract dispute they have with their star running back. Will Melvin Gordon sign? Will he be traded and if he does get traded, where to and what’s the compensation going to be? Or, will he appear for the Chargers mid season (probably week 10), with a chip on his shoulder and a point to prove? Personally, I have no idea, I change my mind every time I read something about it… However, as a Chargers and Melvin Gordon fan I will say this; neither side is in the wrong here and both sides are making business decisions that they feel are the right thing to do. There’s no ill feeling towards either side on my part and that will remain the case no matter the outcome… Well unless he gets traded for a dirisory compensation, then I’ll have something to say.

Denver Broncos

Draft selections:

Round 1 – Noah Fant, TE, Iowa

Round 2 – Dalton Risner, OT, Kansas State & Drew Lock

Round 3 – Dre’Mont Jones, IDL, Ohio State

Round 5 – Justin Hollins, LB, Oregon

Round 6 – Juwann Winfree, WR, Colorado 

Offseason key additions: 

Bryce Callaghan – A lot of fans may ask who on earth is Bryce Callaghan? Well, as we all know, I’m a sucker of defense and especially defensive backs and to me, Bryce Callaghan is one of the best slot corners in the game right now. Callaghan arrives from Chicago where he worked in, now Denver Head Coach, Vic Fangio’s system, on a 3 year, $21m deal which may well turn out to be one of the most shrewd pieces of business in the league this off season.

Ja’Wuan James – Probably the best right tackle available in free agency was Ja’Wuan James and provides some insurance against growing pains that rookie tackle, Dalton Risner may experience, since we know how difficult the transition into the pros can be for young linemen. James could also start alongside Risner should Risner start his Broncos career inside at guard.

Joe Flacco – The writing was on the wall when Lamar Jackson was drafted in Baltimore – The Flacco era was coming to an end. The Broncos QB situation was in limbo so the chucked the Ravens a 4th rounder for the pleasure of having the veteran QB bridge until the Drew Lock era commences in the near future.

Offseason key departures:

Shaq Barrett – The Broncos lost a decent depth piece from their pass rush rotation when Barrett went to Tampa Bay.

Shane Ray – Ray has signed with the Ravens. See the Barrett, Shaq for the analysis.

Bradley Roby – The Broncos and the Texans switched former first round corners in free agency as Roby went to Houston and Kareem Jackson joined Denver.

Super Bowl odds: 66/1

Analysis:

Denver should get better on defense with the fantastic mind of Vic Fangio now running the show but in his 60’s, is it too late to be a first time head coach? I’m skeptical on whether there’s enough talent on the defense to be successful with Fangio’s system and whether Rich Scangarello is experienced enough to get a tune out of the Broncos offense, which like the D, has some talented players but probably not enough. I think overall, even if Fangio is a success, the Broncos are still another good draft/offseason away from being a really good team again.

Look out for: 

The development of Drew Lock. Lock is the next swing from the fences that GM, John Elway has taken in search for his QB in Denver but the signs thus far aren’t good. After the Hall of Fame game, Fangio said that he expected more from Lock but wasn’t surprised [at his lackluster performance]. That, boys and girls, ain’t good. Flacco obviously isn’t a great QB anymore, if he ever was so it’ll be interesting to see whether Fangio turns to Lock at any point during the season, especially if Denver aren’t in the playoff hunt. Subsequently, how will Lock do if he does indeed make it on to the field. If it doesn’t go well or if he sits on the shelf all season, Elway’s seat may become a little warmer.

Oakland Raiders

Draft selections: 

Round 1 – Clelin Farrell, Edge, Clemson, Josh Jacobs, RB, Alabama & Jonathan Abram, S, Mississippi State

Round 2 – Trayvon Mullen, CB, Clemson

Round 4 – Maxx Crosby, Edge, Eastern Michigan, Isaiah Johnson, CB, Houston, Foster Moreau, TE, LSU

Round 5 – Hunter Renfrow, WR, Clemson

Round 7 – Quenton Bell, Edge, Prairie View A&M 

Offseason key additions:

Mr. Big Chest – Antonio Brown was banished from Pittsburgh to Oakland. Does he still have the ability to be an excellent addition to the Raiders? Yes. Does he have the appetite? This is where it gets questionable. Yes, AB has an unbelievable work ethic but in Oakland he has no chance to win a championship whereas he did in Pittsburgh for much of his time there. I wonder how much the imminent move to Las Vegas had a bearing on this move… I’m sure AB will love the bright lights and what it could do for his personal brand.

Trent Brown – Brown is a solid tackle who had a lot of success in New England. Now, I’m not saying he’s a bad player because he’s not but how much of that was down to Dante Scarnecchia? Who is regarded as the best offensive line coach in the NFL. We’ll see… Brown got wildly overpaid so it could look like a bad signing, quickly if he doesn’t perform.

Tyrell Williams – Tyrell is a good receiver who was a WR3 in L.A. who wanted to be paid like a WR2 and deployed like a WR2. He’s gotten his wishes but I wonder about the fit. Derek Carr doesn’t go deep very often, less often than any QB in the league. Williams is best of deep routes… you see where the problem lies, don’t you?

LaMarcus Joyner – The feisty and diminutive safety comes over from the Rams since they couldn’t afford to keep him. Joyner definitely raises the level on the back end for the Raiders.

Offseason key departures:

Kelechi Osemele – Remember a few years back when Oakland had one of the better offensive lines in the NFL? Osemele was a huge part of that at the time but his play fell off recently and that unit it being rebuilt with younger bodies. He now finds himself at the Jets.

Super Bowl odds: 66/1

Analysis:

There’s been a heck of a lot of changes and there will be even more as the franchise moves cities and Gruden constructs his roster alongside Mike Mayock. All of which has resulted in me not really being sure if Oakland have actually gotten any better for it all. The Raiders are tough to call but as you’ll see in my oeductiom below, I’m siding with my doubt and my feeling that there will be some growing pains in 2019 and perhaps beyond.

Look out for: 

Drama. Gruden, Antonio Brown, Vontaze Burfict, Mike Mayock as GM and an imminent move of city. It’s going to get really, really interesting for Raiders fans and we’ll potentially get a peek into that throughout Hard Knocks. 

2019 Season Prediction:

L.A Chargers 13-3

Kansas City Chiefs 11-5

Denver Broncos 7-9

Oakland Raiders 3-13

Pick It Apart; Johnathan Abram

The Draft is in the books and the dust has settled. But how well did your team do in the first round?

We are taking a look back at every selection in the first round and giving you the lowdown on the pick; Was it a reach? Was it a steal? We’ll tell you and give you the impact for fantasy football….

Pick: #27

Player: Jonathan Abram

Drafted by: Oakland Raiders

Grade: B-

Analysis:

This pick is of course the Dallas Cowboys’ pick that was sent to Oakland for Amari Cooper midway through the 2018 season.

I’m not sure Lee would’ve been so kind on the grade on as few levels. Firstly, the player level. Surprising the Abram was taken here consideringhe was a 2 star recruit, kept transferring back and forth from Georgia to Jones County and finally Mississippi State. Secondly, the positional value. Safeties are not in vogue at the moment in the NFL. It’s all about linebackers and pass rush. The back end… not so much. It’s true in the NFL and in horse fancy dress costumes.

Abram managed to produce in his final year, with a team leading 93 tackles and made the 2018 First team All-SEC. He also had the title of the hardest hitting safety in College. We’ll see about that if he gets a chance to run towards CJ Anderson.

His qualities are more in stopping the run game and many question his abilities to cover for an extended amount of time. He has sideline to sideline abilities and pursuit speed is pretty decent, as told by his 4.45 40 yard dash at the combine. Spending a pick on someone who will want to effectively play as an extra linebacker this high is questionable but with that being said, would actually be a decent tight end match maker. He doesn’t have the greatest vision or playmaking skills, illustrated by just 2 opportunisitic interceptions in College. He also doesn’t look the most comfortable in zone coverage and will be most effective when being used in blitzes or any time he is asked to go forward. He is known also for his leadership skills, something in which Chuckie likes on his team.

Jon Gruden and Mayock obviously have plans for him, as they do Clelin Ferrell otherwise it would be nonsensical to pick him here. He’ll be an instant starter on team lacking on defensive talent (if only they had someone like Khalil Mack..). He’ll be a physical, tough and hard hitting addition to the NFL (which can bring durability concerns) and it’ll be interesting to see how he puts his mark on some opposing players.

Overall, I am not sure the pick here at 27 will be justified and probably could have waited til pick 40 at the very least.

Fantasy Football Impact:

None, absolutely none. Oakland are a poor defence, you wont be drafting them. Maybe some deep IDP league appeal.

Pick It Apart; Dwayne Haskins

Pick it Apart!

The Draft is in the books and the dust has settled. But how well did your team do in the first round?

We are taking a look back at every selection in the first round and giving you the lowdown on the pick; Was it a reach? Was it a steal? We’ll tell you and give you the impact for fantasy football….

Pick: #15

Player: Dwayne Haskins

Drafted by:  Washington Redskins

Grade: A

Analysis: Considering the rumours (which I believe were smokescreens from the Redskins fwiw)that the Redskins were looking at trading ahead of the Giants to take Haskins, this is a great value for a team in deep doodoo at the Quarterback position both in terms of quality, cap space and the future.

To not give up any draft capital at all and still come out with the 2nd best QB (arguable as to what the yardstick is though) in this year’s draft is a right result for them.

We’ll get the “open training camp battle” talk all off season and who knows when the Redskins will announce the week 1 starter, but at least Haskins fits the mould, will suit this type of offence and could easily succeed with his skills and attributes in the big boys league.

The Ohio State QB didn’t over exert himself at the combine and why should he considering the overrated QB , sorry, 1st overall pick in this year’s draft only decided to paly football a short while before it (thanks for the honour of gracing us with your presence, moron) but was 3rd in the Heisman Trophy vote, led the nation with 4831 passing yards, 50 TDs (sound familiar?) and 8 INT in his final year and had a decent 70% completion rate.

This is going to be a run first team, make no mistake about it. Look at the depth (?) they have in the backfield. They wont be asking Haskins to great a deal and the Jay Gruden system should be one to suit him. He is a QB with below average mobility, a powerful arm and has good pocket presence so there are enough credentials there to say Haskins will be an OK QB in this league. The weapons around him are questionable but 2 new faces join Haskins from the draft in McLaurin and Butler to join Jordan Reed, Trey Quinn and Josh Doctson. Excuse me one second…. *PUKING NOISES*. It’s hard to say who will be the apple of Haskins’s eye if he starts this season so keep your ears to the ground around training camp.

That being said, the defence should be decent and should carry on from where it left off last season and the offence have opportunities to be successful in terms of gamescripts barring yet another season of an injury list longer than Darren Anderton’s CV. Let’s not forget that the Redskins were in the driving seat for a poor NFC East last year until Alex Smith went down.

For me, I think Case Keenum should start under Center for the Redskins and give Haskins a bit of time to develop and learn though that is a luxury no longer afforded to rookie QBs it seems (see Lamar Jackson and Josh Rosen). But in Haskins, they have a mid tier QB who can do a job, and that;s all he may need to do with this style of offence and the strengths of the team being the running back talent and the defence.

Fantasy Football Impact:

Dwayne Haskins should only be taken as a late round dart at this point in bestball and you’ll get him late in dynasty startups. Due to the QB depth, you wont need to select him in redraft leagues but those living the stream, he will grace your lineups at some point no doubt.

On immediate first looks, he wont have the plethora of weapons that Kyler Murray has and Jay Gruden will employ a ground and pound type of approach for the Redskins, not akin to lots of fantasy points. Unless he pummels one guy with targets that he gets on well with, no WR will be viable options either, even with Jordan Reed playing a full season…*PUKING NOISES*

NFC Storylines and LateRoundQBs

In Today’s podcast, we are joined by none other than JJ Zachariason (@lateroundQB) to chat about his podcast and late round QBs but more importantly, whether he would accept work as the first person narrator if they ever brought the TV show “Scrubs” back.

Talking of scrubs, we go through every AFC team and what headlines we will be reading in the offseason and also get JJ to give us a name that will fly under the radar in the upcoming draft.

Put the mockers on it looks at fizzy drinks and Sam from Head On A Swivel podcast tackles the quiz…can they get over the 8 hump?

PLUS info on some things we’ll be freshening up in April!

Exit Interviews – AFC West

We made it to Friday folks! AFC West time and we have a great pod today which sees us take a look at the Chiefs, Chargers, Broncos and Raiders.

Plenty of talking points so we grab fans for each of those teams to take a look and break it all down.

Our thanks go to all those that contributed!

*Denver segment recorded prior to the Flacco trade…