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Sunday, August 9, 2015

Why I have no sympathy for (most) Browns fans

Living in Cleveland, Ohio and being a fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers, I expect to get some trash talk my way. I expect to get some crap. It comes with the territory, I am living with the enemy.

However, most Cleveland Browns fans seem to be complete idiots. You would think that being fans of a team that has been dominated by the Steelers since their return in 1999, they would learn to keep it fun and friendly, seeing how they really have nothing that they can say that truly makes sense.

But not only do many of them get very, very personal with their verbal attacks, many fans don't even know the history of the team they root for.

You wouldn't believe how many times that I have heard a Browns fan tell me that the six Super Bowls the Steelers have won don't mean a thing because the Browns have eight NFL Championships.

No. The Browns won four NFL Championships (1950, 1954, 1955, 1964). Those other four championships are All-American Football Conference, a defunct league that was mostly bad teams that when the NFL took them in they only kept the San Francisco 49ers and the Cleveland Browns. Those four AAFC Championships don't mean a thing to anyone outside of the Cleveland Browns fanbase, and they don't count as NFL Championships because they are NOT NFL Championships. But explaining this to a fan of the Browns, is much like talking to a brick wall. It's not going to get through.

So sometimes I am nice and I give them their four NFL Championships. I tell them that they're legitimate and I'll recognize them, but that still leaves the Steelers with two more. You would think that I just assaulted their grandmother with a sock full of pennies. How dare I not recognize those AAFC Championships, you know the league the Steelers weren't in, when comparing the Browns to the Steelers? But God forbid I bring up that the Browns have never even been to a single Super Bowl, you know the game that marks the new era of professional football. Hell, many Browns fans even refer to their NFL Championships as Super Bowls.

The Browns had to buy their own trophy for the 1964 NFL Championship they won, the last major professional sports Championship that has been won by a Cleveland team.

I've had Browns fans say to me, out of nowhere, that they wish they could go back and kill my mother while she was pregnant with me to avoid another Steelers fan being born. That's not just a very horrible personal attack, it's a sign that someone has deep mental issues if they're taking a football game that serious.

I have been shopping for groceries, just minding my own business, and I have had Browns fans yell "Fuck the Steelers" (with children nearby) and then even grab stuff out of my cart and toss it on a shelf or crush whatever product they grabbed (they love to do this to potato chips). I mean seriously, is it that much of a personal slight that I live here and don't cheer for the local football team that you take to destroying the stuff that I have in my cart?

Then, there's the physical assaults. I've been punched, kicked, shoved, and spit on. I once had a Browns fan in the municipal parking lot where Clevelanders do most of their pre-game tailgating whip out his junk in front of me and tell me to suck it because that's where a Steelers fan belongs is on his knees.

And yes, I know that every team has their asshole fans. I have a good friend who went to culinary school in Pittsburgh and hates Pittsburghers because some of them told her that the Browns suck and that Cleveland sucks and made fun of Cleveland. I've told her that's nothing compared to what I have dealt with living here.

There is also the "every Steelers fan is a bandwagoner" argument I hear all season long.

Not every Browns fan is an asshole. But most of them seem to be. Am I generalizing an entire fanbase? Maybe...but is it generalizing when it's what you've actually experienced?

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Final 2015 First Round Mock

1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Jameis Winston, QB Florida State: The Buccaneers have the first overall pick for multiple reasons, but one of the biggest is that they didn't and don't have a quarterback on the roster who can take them to respectability, much less the playoffs. Unless the Buccaneers are completely turned off by Winston's off-the-field issues while he was at FSU, I don't see them passing on the most NFL ready quarterback in the draft.

2. Tennessee Titans - Leonard Williams, DL USC: In the end, after much mental debate over this pick, I just don't see the Titans taking Mariota unless they know they can/will trade him afterwards. Williams would be a playmaker on the defensive line for Tennessee, and with two first round picks at QB in his division (Andrew Luck and Blake Bortles), a guy who can play multiple positions in multiple fronts and make plays is someone you really need. He might be the best overall player in the draft, so I have the Titans taking him.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars - Kevin White, WR West Virginia: The Jaguars might be fielding offers for this pick with Mariota not going second overall. But I don't predict trades in my mock drafts, so I have the Jaguars selecting the Mountaineer receiver whose draft stock has skyrocketed with this pick. They've got a QB they feel can lead this team to the playoffs and maybe even a Super Bowl, but if you don't give that guy weapons then the Bortles pick is useless. I have the Jags giving Borltes one heck of a target.

4. Oakland Raiders - Amari Cooper, WR Alabama: The Oakland Raiders have a lot of holes on this team, and could go in a number of directions with this pick because of that. But Cooper is not only the best player available, he fills a big need for the Raiders. They took Derek Carr in the second round last year and he showed promise. Giving him a receiver as polished as Amari Cooper would only help him get better, and help the team get better.

5. Washington Redskins - Dante Flower, OLB Florida: The Redskins I think are going to give RG3 one more crack at being their long-term QB. Also, I don't think they want to take another QB in the same mold as RG3. Instead, I have them taking Fowler, who would line up opposite Kerrigan and get back to what the Redskins once had before injuries to Kerrigan and the now departed Brian Orakpo, an OLB tandem to terrorize quarterbacks.

6. New York Jets - Marcus Mariota, QB Oregon: The Jets have been a disaster at QB for a while now. And while Mariota doesn't have the experience you would probably want in a QB as far as reading defenses and playing under center in a top ten pick...he's extremely smart and has talent. And honestly, he can't be worse than Geno Smith has been. New head coach and a new GM, they want to put their stamp on this team, and Mariota does that. And the Jets don't even have to trade up to get him.

7. Chicago Bears - Danny Shelton, DT Washington: Now the Bears are left with some choices to make. John Fox is the new head coach, and he's transitioning into a 3-4 defense. They could go with one of the stud edge rushers available to play OLB, or they could get a true nose tackle, which would be the lynchpin of the defense. I have then going with the NT, and the best one available in Shelton. When in the base, he can take up two blockers leaving room for linebackers to make plays, and he can collapse the pocket and help stuff the run. If you're going to properly run a 3-4 defense, you need a true NT. If you don't have one and can get a guy who will anchor your defense for 10 or so years, do it.

8. Atlanta Falcons - Vic Beasley, DE Clemson: The Falcons pass rush was putrid last season, and has been bad for a while. In a division with Drew Brees, Cam Newton, and possibly Jameis Winston at QB you want to be able to harass the quarterback. Beasley has a motor that doesn't quit and can consistently get to the quarterback. With new head coach Dan Quinn coming over from the win-with-defense Seattle Seahawks, I think the Falcons go with his forte with this pick.

9. New York Giants - Brandon Scherff, OG Iowa: He is being predicted as a guard in the NFL, but can also possibly play right tackle. Either way, he's one of the top offensive linemen available and if the Giants want to get Eli Manning back to a playoff caliber QB, they'll need to protect him better so he can take advantage of the talents of Odell Beckham, Jr, and Victor Cruz. Scherff would also benefit the RB's on the Giants as he would create nice holes for them to run through.

10. St. Louis Rams - Ereeck Flowers, OT Miami: The Rams need help on the offensive line. Flowers is a great pick for them because they've let Jake Long go after his injury, leaving Greg Robinson to move over to left tackle. Flowers can play either tackle position, so if they had to move Robinson back to the right side, Flowers would just move to the left. Either way it works out, the potential is there for two bookend tackles to protect the QB they traded for, Nick Foles.

11. Minnesota Vikings - Trae Waynes, CB Michigan State: The Vikings could go a few different places here with offensive line, defensive end, or wide receiver. I have them going with Waynes, the best corner prospect in this draft. You face Aaron Rogers, Matthew Stafford, and even Jay Cutler can sling it and have some good games twice a year. Waynes across from Xavier Rhodes would give them two very good corners to help with the air assault of those quarterbacks. They want a starting corner and a 2nd rounder for Peterson, if they don't get that offer by the time their pick is due, Waynes could become a Viking.

12. Cleveland Browns - Devante Parker, WR Louisville: The Browns don't have a #1 receiver, Yeah, maybe they use one or both of their first round draft picks as trade to move up and get Mariota, but that would mean in three of the last four NFL drafts they used a first round pick on a QB, I don't see them moving up to do that. Instead, they see if Manziel has indeed rededicated himself to being a QB and not a guy who parties most nights. To see that, he needs weapons. Bowe and Hartline are not #1 receivers, and Josh Gordon is gone for at least the season, and the Browns may choose to part ways with the troubled receiver after his suspension. Parker gives you a #1 receiver who doesn't come with the baggage of Gordon. Not to mention a guy who could play for you this year and help you figure out if Johnny Football can become your franchise QB.

13. New Orleans Saints - Alvin Dupree, DE/OLB Kentucky: The Saints defensive unit hasn't been very good in a while, and last year the bottom fell out. Dupree would help then pass rush, something the Saints could damn sure use in a division that's likely going to have three top-three picks at QB in the division. A guy who can get to the QB and cause some bad throws is what this defense needs if it wants to get back to winning the division and in the playoffs.

14. Miami Dolphins - Andrus Peat, OT Stanford: The Dolphins have done a lot of work to this team already in the offseason. Adding Suh was huge for the defense, bringing in a guy who is going to intimidate. While they could go CB here, and probably would if Waynes makes it to them, I don't have that happening. Instead I have them taking Peat, a guy who could help bookend the offensive line that was decimated after the bullying scandal from two years ago. Andrus Peat should be able to help give Tannehill the time to take advantage of the weapons that the 'Phins acquired for him this offseason.

15. San Francisco 49ers - Arik Armstead, DE Oregon : The 49ers had a few big losses this offseason. Patrick Willis retired, followed by budding rookie Chris Borland. There was also the firing/mutual parting of ways with head coach Jim Harbaugh, I have the 49ers taking Armstead here, a guy who is perfect to play the run stuffing/take up linemen end position in the 49ers defense. Darnell Docket and Justin Smith are both getting up there in age, along with Smith being hurt more often than not lately. Armstead not only would be insurance for if either get hurt, he could help keep them both healthy by rotating in to keep everyone fresh and be the eventual replacement for Smith when he hangs up the cleats.

16. Houston Texans - Todd Gurley, RB Georgia: The Texans don't have a guy who I believe can be a franchise quarterback in this league. The Texans, if they want to win, are going to have to pound the rock. And even when they eventually do get that QB, having a top notch running game will only help that guy along. Arian Foster, when healthy, is one hell of a back. The problem is, he's not often healthy. Gurley can help not only take the load off of Foster, but eventually replace him.

17. San Diego Chargers - Melvin Gordon, RB Wisconsin: The Chargers lost former first round pick Ryan Matthews to Philadelphia, and I don't think the Chargers were ever all that serious about bringing the often injured RB back on a new deal. Instead, they can replace him with Gordon, a workhorse running back who can come in and take pressure off of Rivers (or whoever their QB ends up being if they trade Rivers) to help this team compete with the Broncos and the Chiefs.

18. Kansas City Chiefs - La'el Collins, OG/OT LSU: Andy Reid loves drafting linemen, and Collins has a lot of potential at both positions. The Chiefs had pass protection problems last season, and signing Ben Grubbs helps, adding Collins to help could make the offensive line a strength. Opening up holes for the speedy Jamal Charles to run through while keeping Alex Smith upright so he could possibly throw a touchdown pass to a receiver this season.

19. Cleveland Browns - Malcom Brown, DT Texas: The Browns went offensive weapon with their first pick, with this one they go defense. Brown can play the nose on this 3-4 defense, Yeah, they get Phil Taylor back, but he has missed big chunks of two out of four seasons with injuries. Brown would not only be insurance against another Taylor injury, he could also end up playing end in the defense. Brown and Taylor next to each other, they could both easily take up two linemen a piece allowing the linebackers to come through the line untouched.

20. Philadephia Eagles - Landon Collins, S Alabama: The Eagles had pass protection problems last year. Bringing in Byron Maxwell could help that a lot, adding Collins to the secondary could help even more. Collins is a hard hitting safety who can stuff the run, intimidate receivers over the middle, and nab a few picks. He's not a sit back in coverage safety, but a roamer who has the speed needed to make plays on the ball once it's in the air, The Eagles could use his talents.

21. Cincinnati Bengals - Randy Gregory, DE/OLB Nebraska: The Bengals haven't taken a player with a troubled past recently, and Gregory's failed drug test for marijuana at the combine is a red flag. However, the Bengals can't get out of the first round of the playoffs, so they take the chance with the best player available. Gregory can help bolster the pass rush, and they could play him at DE or move him to OLB where the have a bit of a need with Emmanuel Lamur manning one of the OLB spots.

22. Pittsburgh Steelers - Marcus Peters, CB Washington: Here the Steelers do something a bit unexpected, they take a player who has some baggage. Did they not learn from the LeGarrette Blount mistake last year? Two different situations, and I think the whole issue at Washington was overblown by the coaches. If the Steelers believe Peters has grown from that experience and moved past whatever the problem was, they get a player at 22 who is a top ten talent, and without the baggage would have been considered by many the top corner in the draft. Ike Taylor has retired, and the team didn't want to re-sign him. Cortez Allen fell flat on his face last year after getting a nice contract extension based on hoped improvement. This makes Willie "Pick Six" Gay the best corner on the team, and he's worked hard to improve, and he has. But he is also now 30, and most guys don't have that breakout season at 30. Peters could start opposite Gay or Allen, or play nickel back. Either way, he would see a lot of playing time right away, and he has the talent to be a star from day one. 

23. Detroit Lions - Eddie Goldman, DT Florida State: The Lions lost both Suh and Fairley in free agency, and while trading for Haloti Ngata helps with those two losses, Goldman would help keep the defensive tackle position a strength of the defense. The defense thrived on pressure up the middle, and a combo of Ngata and Goldman might not be the same as Suh and Fairley, but it would still be pretty darn good,

24. Arizona Cardinals - Kevin Johnson, CB Wake Forest: The Cardinals lost Antonio Cromartie in free agency, and while they have a few needs the best player to fit any of those needs is Johnson. He would play opposite Patrick Peterson and could help the Cardinals linebackers get some coverage sacks.

25. Carolina Panthers -DJ Humphries, OT Florida: The Panthers need to upgrade at tackle, and Humphries would be a major upgrade at right tackle. He could help protect Cam Newton, and would help open holes on the right side of the line for Stewart. Not to mention with the Falcons and the Saints upgrading their pass rush in this draft, Newton will probably need the line help.

26. Baltimore Ravens - Devin Smith, WR Ohio State: The Ravens lost Torrey Smith in free agency, and need to replace their deep threat. In steps another Smith, this one the deep ball target from Ohio State. Smith led all of D1 FBS football in yards per reception last year, and everyone knows how much Joe Flacco loves to chuck the ball deep and have his receiver can make a play on the ball. Smith made some catches for the Buckeyes that were eye popping, and he could do the same thing in Baltimore.

27. Dallas Cowboys - Jalen Collins, CB LSU: The Cowboys really need to fix their defense. They have needs at defensive end and cornerback, here I have them fixing the back end of their defense with no DE prosepct that stands out over Collins for me here, Claiborne has been a massive bust, Carr is overpaid, and Scandrick is the best of them but isn't a #1. Collins may be the most raw of the corners that can go in the first round, but he also has the highest ceiling.

28. Denver Broncos - Cameron Erving, OL, Florida State: Erving could play any of the three positions on the offensive line. He would serve as an upgrade at C, G, and RT. Wherever they feel he would be the biggest upgrade would work just fine for the Broncos, not to mention his ability to change positions if need be due to injury or upgrading a position in future free agency or drafts.

29. Indianapolis Colts - TJ Clemmings, OT Pittsburgh: The Colts have some holes on the defensive side of the ball, but they have a franchise QB who often has shown to be very capable of going toe-to-toe scoring points. Clemmings could provide protection for Andrew Luck, and help new running back Frank Gore take some of that pressure off of Luck.

30. Green Bay Packers - Byron Jones, CB UConn: The Packers offense is not the problem, they lost the NFC Championship Game because their defense failed to hold a big lead, and then let the Seahawks throw a long touchdown pass in overtime to take the win. I have the Packers taking Jones, a corner who's draft stock has jumped and he sneaks into the end of the first round. The Packers can fix their defensive tackle and/or inside linebacker hole in the second round. Here they get a guy who can become a shutdown corner in a division with Stafford and Bridgewater.

31. New Orleans Saints - Phillip Dorsett, WR Miami: Sean Payton has reportedly gushed over the receiver from The U and loves how he would fit in the offense. With the trade of Jimmy Graham that got them this pick, the Saints get another weapon for Drew Brees to throw the ball to. Dorsett could be a nightmare for defenses in the slot while Cooks and Colston work the outside.

32. New England Patriots - :Jaelen Strong, WR Arizona State: The Patriots offense isn’t anywhere near bad, but adding a receiver like Strong would be a big upgrade for Tom Brady in the receiving corps. Strong is a big, physical receiver who doesn’t have elite speed but is fast enough to get separation. His size (6’3”, 212 lbs.) also makes him a nice red zone scoring threat. Edleman and LaFell, neither are #1 receivers.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

The retirement of Troy Polamalu and why you won't see his jersey number retired anytime soon

Thursday night news came down that Steelers Strong Safety, Troy Polamalu, has decided to retire after 12 seasons in the National Football League...all of those seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The first thing that I did was shed a tear, because it was one of my all-time favorite players walking away from the game.

The second thing I did was breath a sigh of relief, because it was time...and the right decision to make. The Steelers had already planned on moving away from Troy Polamalu. He could still lay bone crunching hits. He still had the instincts and the ability to read a play pre-snap and know where the ball was going before anyone else on the defense. However, he no longer had the speed or athleticism to make plays off of those instincts and reads. He was still a good defender against the run, but had become at least somewhat of a liability in pass coverage because he could no longer get to where he needed to be.

If he hadn't retired, the Steelers were going to release Polamalu according to many reports that came out when free agency began. And I believe that to be true, the team was at some point this offseason going to release him if he chose to keep playing.

However, the team did the right thing. They kept his cap hit until he made a decision that could have forced their hand. Polamalu said that he's retiring for family. Because he wants to spend more time with his wife and kids, that this was the first time he has really gotten to do that since the family has now permanently moved to Pittsburgh. Also, he retired because he realized that he had to think about if he really wanted to keep playing, and he felt that if you even have to think about it, then it's time to walk away.

Some will say he played a season or two too long. I don't think that's true, I think it would have been true if he played in 2015.

In 2013, he played all 16 games and had: 69 total tackles/2 sacks/5 forced fumbles/1 fumble recovery/2 interceptions/1 defensive touchdown/11 passes defended.

In 2014 the bottom dropped out on the play making. He also once again missed some games due to injury. He looked slower. It was the season that told most people, including the Steelers front office, that he was no longer a starter in the National Football League.

It's sad to see such a great player go. He was truly the heart of this defense, if not the entire team. He wasn't the most vocal leader, but if you wanted to learn how to be a Pittsburgh Steeler, you watched Troy Polamalu. Not only did he work hard at the football stuff...workouts, film study, practice...he worked hard in the community. And the best part about it is, you really never heard about it. He didn't promote the work he did in the community of Pittsburgh because he did it unselfishly for the community, not for the recognition.

This is how kind of a player Polamalu was:

I remember a game against the Cincinnati Bengals many years ago. I think Chad Ochocinco might have still be Chad Johnson at the time. A Steelers player layed Johnson out with a really hard hit. Johnson was know for wearing gold fronts (teeth) during games, they were removable. He was hit so hard, his gold fronts got knocked out of his mouth. Troy picked them up and ran over to Johnson to give them back to him.

They didn't go to the same school. Never played on the same team. Many players wouldn't have touched the gold fronts. But Polamalu did the sportsmanlike thing and picked them up and gave them back to him. And he did this against a division rival.

Also, there were often times where after Polamalu would lay out a player with a bone crunching hit, he would tell the guy "sorry." Why? Because Polamalu wasn't a violent person, he just happened to play a violent sport that required it. I am sure David Carr still wakes up in the middle of the night from nightmares of Troy Polamalu after his three sack game against Carr in 2005.

Polamalu was to this defense what Joe Greene was to the Steel Curtain. Yeah, there's all this talk about outside linebackers. Joey Porter, James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley, and even Jason Worilds all had success (okay, the first three had a lot of success) at that position for the Steelers. And yes, they were a big, big part of the success of this defense for many years.

But Polamalu was the X-Factor on the defense. He was allowed to play outside of the scheme. He was the only player allowed to play outside of the scheme at all times. That's how much Dick LeBeau and Bill Cowher/Mike Tomlin trusted him. Sometimes he would lineup at a deep safety spot, the QB would read him as playing there, and then the ball is snapped and Polamalu was in the QB's face getting a sack or forcing a bad pass. Or he would line up at the line of scrimmage and the QB would read him as blitzing, he would snap the ball and Polamalu would be thirty yards downfield intercepting the pass because he wasn't accounted for as a pass defender on that play.

And the crazy thing is, on many of those plays, he did the opposite of what the defensive call had his position doing.

So for a player that meant that much to the team and community, you'd be expecting to hear an announcement before the season for Polamalu's #43 to be retired during a halftime ceremony at Heinz Field, probably during a game against the Ravens who he loved to torture in his career. I think the announcement that Polamalu retired might have been the happiest day of Joe Flacco's life.

However, for any fan that thinks that day is coming if not this season then next, don't hold your breath.

The Steelers don't just retire numbers. They've only retired two numbers officially in the history of the team: #70 (Ernie Stautner) and #75 (Joe Greene). Joe Greene is regarded as one of the best defensive players in NFL history, was the cornerstone of the Steel Curtain defense of the 1970's, and his number wasn't retired officially until last season.

Instead, at the decision of the equipment manager (yes literally, the equipment manager is the one who makes the decision), numbers are taken out of circulation. The following numbers are currently not options for players when they join the Steelers:

#1 (Gary Anderson)
#12 (Terry Bradshaw)
#31 (Donnie Shell)
#32 (Franco Harris)
#36 (Jerome Bettis)
#47 (Mel Blount)
#52 (Mike Webster)
#58 (Jack Lambert)
#59 (Jack Hamm)
#63 (Dermontti Dawson)
#86 (Hines Ward)
#88 (Lynn Swann)

Unless the Steelers start officially retiring the numbers of these guys, most of which are in the Hall of Fame, then you won't see Polamalu's number officially retired likely in your lifetime. Not that he's not deserving of such an honor, just because the Steelers don't grant that honor very often.It was 50 years between official jersey number retirements. I wouldn't be shocked if we waited 50 more years for another.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

2015 First Round Mock Draft - After Free Agency Edition

Free Agency went and did what it does to everyone's initial mock draft, makes you throw a good chunk of it in the trash bin. Between the Saints getting rid of Kenny Stills and Jimmy Graham and getting an extra first round pick, to teams filling needs I had them filling in the draft...it was time for a re-do.

2015 NFL Mock Draft v2.0

1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jameis Winston, QB Florida State – The Buccaneers need a franchise quarterback, and there is no better place to get one that the draft. Winston’s off-the-field problems make you wonder if he can mentally make it in the NFL, but I think he has all the physical tools to be at the least a pretty darn good QB in the league.

2. Tennessee Titans: Marcus Mariota, QB Oregon – Normally when you’re picking this high in the draft, your biggest need is quarterback.  Reportedly, the Titans are all-in with Zach Mettenberger this season. The coaching staff is going to want to back the player currently on their roster in case something happens and they don’t draft a QB in the first round. Also, Mariota is going to be likely to sit and learn his first year coming from Oregon’s spread scheme to a pro-style scheme that Whisenhut runs in Tennessee.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Kevin White, WR West Virginia – White has shot up to the number one receiver available in the draft in my mind. And while this might be a bit of a reach, the Jaguars need to give Blake Bortles some more weapons in the passing game. They signed the talented tight end Julius Thomas from Denver, but they don’t really have a dynamic weapon on the outside for Bortles to take advantage of. Lee and Robinson could eventually develop into nice receivers, but neither of them will ever be the talent that White is currently.

4. Oakland Raiders: Leonard Williams, DE/DT USC – Williams falls to the Raiders, which works out great for them because they have holes on both sides of the ball. Williams can play both DE and DT, so they can move him around the line to create mismatches.  Him with Khalil Mack at linebacker looks like a good combo of havoc wreaking defenders.

5. Wahsington Redskins: Dante Flowler, DE/OLB Florida – Brian Orakpo hit free agency and is now a Titan. The Redskins could plug Fowler in at OLB and go back to what they thought they would have with Orakpo and Kerrigan before injuries happened to both players, a pass rushing duo to terrorize quarterbacks.

6. New York Jets: Randy Gregory, DE/OLB Nebraska – The Jets filled their hole at WR by trading for Brandon Marshall. There is no quarterback worth taking at this pick. With Bowles being a defensive minded head coach, I have him taking Gregory to help the pass rush of their 3-4 defense, seeing how the pass rush has been inconsistent at best the past few years for the Jets.
7. Chicago Bears: Danny Shelton, NT Washington – The Bears are moving away from the 4-3 “Tampa Two” defense that they’ve seemingly ran ages and are going with a 3-4 under new coordinator Vic Fangio. The Bears don’t have someone who can play that lynchpin nose tackle position, so they take the best NT available in Shelton, who should clog up running lanes and collapse the pocket for years as a Bear.

8. Atlanta Falcons: Shane Ray, DE/OLB Missouri – The Falcons offense SHOULD be good, their defense needs lots of work though. They need a guy who can get to the quarterback in a division with Drew Brees, Cam Newton, and most likely a new first-overall pick at quarterback in Tampa Bay. Shane Ray is the best pass rusher on the board, and the Falcons should have no second thoughts about making this pick.

9. New York Giants: Ereck Flowers, OT Miami – The Giants could use some help on the offensive line, and drafting Flowers does a lot for them. It allows Justin Pugh to move inside to guard, upgrading the interior line. It gives them a new young right tackle, and someone who can slide over to the blind side once William Beatty retires or is released due to how much he is owed on his contract. If the Giants are going to compete for the division again anytime soon, they need to keep Eli Manning’s jersey clean.

10. St. Louis Rams: Brandon Schreff, OT Iowa – Jake Long has been cut, so Greg Robinson moves over to left tackle permanently. The Rams traded oft-injured Sam Bradford away for Nick Foles, so they better protect Foles if they want anything close to his 27 TD/2 INT season of 2013.

11. Minnesota Vikings: Andrus Peat, OT Stanford – The Vikings need help on the line, and even though Matt Kalil has been disappointing I don’t think the Vikings would hold that against Peat. Peat could take over left tackle duties allowing Kalil to kick over to right tackle, where he wouldn’t see as many stud pass rushers. This would help create bigger holes for Adrian Peterson (if he returns to the Vikings) and would give Teddy Bridgewater better protection to use his arsenal of receiving weapons.

12. Cleveland Browns: Malcolm Brown, DT/DE Texas – The Browns were horrible against the run to end the season, and with an offense that currently doesn’t look like it’ll score many points they’ll need to be able to stop the run in a division with Le’veon Bell and an underrated Jeremy Hill. Brown can slide inside on sub packages too.

13. New Orleans Saints: Amari Cooper, WR Alabama – The Saints take a first round receiver for the second straight year, but a position that was once a strength has now become a need with Kenny Stills gone and Jimmy Graham traded to Seattle. The Saints might not throw it quite as much as they have in the past, Drew Brees is still going to sling it around and he will need reliable pass catching targets.

14. Miami Dolphins: DeVante Parker, WR Louisville – The Dolphins traded Mike Wallace away to Minnesota, and acquired Kenny Stills. They don’t have a #1 receiver, so I have them now drafting Parker who could be that guy, giving Ryan Tannehill some reliable pass catchers who the Dolphins hope can help get them over the hump and into the playoffs.

15. San Francisco 49ers: Trae Waynes, CB Michigan State – The 49ers have had a rough offseason losing star inside linebacker Patrick Willis and his backup and budding rookie Chirs Borland to retirement, along with head coach Jim Harbaugh being booted. The 49ers defense has some holes, one of them being cornerback. Waynes can come in and help fill the hole of having no #1 corner, essentially locking down one side of the field. The 49ers can find inside linebacker depth in the second or third rounds.

16. Houston Texans: Todd Gurley, RB Georgia – Yeah, the Texans have Arian Foster…but he seems to never be able to last a season. The Texans are going to be a team that runs the ball a lot, and Gurley can split carries with Foster to take some of the load off of the oft-injured back. I can’t see the Texans passing on probably the most talented back in the draft, who could be good to go by the end of training camp.

17. San Diego Chargers: Melvin Gordan, RB Wisconsin – Ryan Matthews has teased Chargers fans since being drafted. When healthy, he’s a dynamic player who adds another level of excitement to the Chargers offense, but the problem is he’s often not healthy. That’s why I have the Chargers taking Wisconsin’s workhorse running back with this selection, giving the Chargers some much needed peace of mind they haven’t had at the position in a while. He isn’t Ladanian Tomlinson in his prime, but Gordon can take pressure off of Rivers in the passing game.

18. Kansas City Chiefs: La’el Collins, OT/G LSU – The Chiefs signed Jeremy Maclin away from the Eagles, taking away their huge need for a WR. They need to protect Alex Smith so he can get the ball to Maclin down the field. Reid was known for not having a problem drafting linemen in Philadelphia, so I have him taking one here to help improve the passing and running game.

19. Cleveland Browns: Vic Beasley, OLB Clemson – The Browns could use a tone setter at OLB, as they don’t currently have one on the team. Barkevious Mingo hasn’t shown much of anything since being drafted sixth overall, and Paul Kruger had a good season with 11 sacks last year, but that’s the only season he has ever had double-digit sacks so I don’t think it will be a trend. Beasley can come in and become the defensive enforcer at OLB that the Browns defense desperately needs if they want to reach the next level.

20. Philadelphia Eagles: Landon Collins, S Alabama – The Eagles need help in the defensive secondary, and here comes some reinforcements with Landon Collins. Collins isn’t the greatest in coverage, but he’s not bad and fits best as a hard hitting strong safety in the NFL, evidenced by his 103 tackles, 7 passes defensed, and 3 interceptions last season for Alabama. Collins can hit receivers/backs/tight ends coming over the middle, break up some passes, and get his hands on a couple for picks if he’s allowed to play some roaming zone coverage.

21. Cincinnati Bengals: D.J. Humphries, OT Florida – The Bengals need for a pass rushing defensive end is gone with them signing Michael Johnson back after he was cut after only one year in Tampa Bay. This allows the Bengals to draft Humphries who can come in and take over the left tackle position, allowing the 33 year old Andrew Whitworth to move inside to guard, filling a need there.

22. Pittsburgh Steelers: Kevin Johnson, CB Wake Forest – The Steelers FINALLY take a cornerback in the first round of the NFL Draft! Last year’s pass defense was just horrible. Cortez Allen was so bad against the Colts he got benched and never regained his starting job. Johnson can come in and compete with Allen and Gay for a starting corner job, the loser becoming the nickel corner. If Williams doesn’t become a starter in camp/preseason, he could get the chance as the season goes on. If Cortez Allen gets his confidence back and plays with the talent we know he has, a Johnson/Allen duo at corner could be a very good thing for future Steelers’ defenses. Johnson has the athleticism and the length to cover big receivers down the sideline.

23. Detroit Lions:  Eddie Goldman, DT/DE Florida State – The Lions lost both Suh and Fairley in free agency, making the strength of their defense more of a weakness. They traded for Baltimore’s Haloti Ngata to fill one of the two holes. Goldman can come in and start next to Ngata and be a disruptive force up the middle for the Lions, keeping this part of their defense a strength.

24. Arizona Cardinals: Maxx Williams, TE Minnesota – The Cardinals could use upgrades at a couple of positions. I think in the first round, they upgrade the tight end position with a big body tight end with natural pass catching ability in Maxx Williams, who will be a mismatch for most linebackers and defensive backs.

25. Carolina Panthers: T.J. Clemmings, OT Pittsburgh – The Panthers couldn’t block for Cam Newton at all early in the season last year. And while the offensive line gelled later in the season, they could upgrade both tackle spots and Clemmings would be a very good pick here to help ensure the health of their franchise quarterback.

26. Baltimore Ravens: Devin Smith, WR Ohio State – The Ravens lost Torrey Smith in free agency, and need to replace their deep threat. In steps another Smith, this one the deep ball target from Ohio State. Smith led all of D1 FBS football in yards per reception last year, and everyone knows how much Joe Flacco loves to chuck the ball deep and he his receiver can make a play on the ball. Smith made some catches for the Buckeyes that were eye popping, and he could do the same thing in Baltimore.

27. Dallas Cowboys: Alvin Dupree, DE Kentucky – The Cowboys pass rush in some of their biggest games/most embarrassing losses last year. Enter Dupree, a fast and physical defensive end who can come in and get the pressure the Cowboys need to defend the pass.

28. Denver Broncos: Jordan Phillips, NT Oklahoma – The Broncos are switching to a 3-4 defense under defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, and the NT out of Oklahoma would provide the Broncos with what a 3-4 defense needs at that position…a big body who can collapse the pocket and take up at least two blockers.

29. Indianapolis Colts: Cameron Erving, C Florida State – The Colts now have a RB to help take some pressure off of superstar QB Andrew Luck in Frank Gore. They replaced Reggie Wayne with Andre Johnson. Now they need to protect Luck a little bit better. Erving can come in and play either center or guard, either way he would be an upgrade on the offensive line which is the only weakness on the Colts offense.

30. Green Bay Packers: Denzel Perryman, ILB Miami– The Packers just cut AJ Hawk, and now have a big hole in the middle of their starting linebacker corps. Perryman can come in and start right away for the Packers on defense. Perryman is a thumping linebacker who can stop the run and plays well in zone coverage against the pass. If their defense could have held a sizeable lead against the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Championship, the Packers would have been in the Super Bowl. This pick could help get them back there.

31. New Orleans Saints (from Seattle Seahawks): Markus Golden, DE /OLB Missouri – The Saints got this pick in the Jimmy Graham trade, and they should use it to bolster what was one of the worst defenses in the league last season. Some of their players couldn’t tackle at all. Their pass rush was non-existent most of the time. Golden would be a big upgrade, getting pressure on quarterbacks in the division.


32. New England Patriots: Jaelen Strong, WR Arizona State – The Patriots offense isn’t anywhere near bad, but adding a receiver like Strong would be a big upgrade for Tom Brady in the receiving corps. Strong is a big, physical receiver who doesn’t have elite speed but is fast enough to get separation. His size (6’3”, 212 lbs.) also makes him a nice red zone scoring threat. 

Sunday, March 1, 2015

2015 NFL First Round Mock Draft 1.0

Here is my first 1st round mock draft for the 2015 NFL Draft

1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jameis Winston, QB Florida State – The Buccaneers need a franchise quarterback, and there is no better place to get one that the draft. Winston’s off-the-field problems make you wonder if he can mentally make it in the NFL, but I think he has all the physical tools to be at the least a pretty darn good QB in the league.

2. Tennessee Titans: Marcus Mariota, QB Oregon – Normally when you’re picking this high in the draft, your biggest need is quarterback.  Reportedly, the Titans are all-in with Zach Mettenberger this season. The coaching staff is going to want to back the player currently on their roster in case something happens and they don’t draft a QB in the first round. Also, Mariota is going to be likely to sit and learn his first year coming from Oregon’s spread scheme to a pro-style scheme that Whisenhut runs in Tennessee.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Amari Cooper, WR Alabama – The Jaguars may have their QB of the future in Blake Bortles, but he lacks weapons to throw to on offense. Amari Cooper is a big-play threat who can take advantage of Bortles arm. If the Jaguars are going to ever compete in the AFC South, they’ll need to be able to score some points.

4. Oakland Raiders: Leonard Williams, DE/DT USC – Williams falls to the Raiders, which works out great for them because they have holes on both sides of the ball. Williams can play both DE and DT, so they can move him around the line to create mismatches.

5. Wahsington Redskins: Randy Gregory, DE/OLB Nebraska –While not a huge need for the Redskins, their defense is predicated on getting to the QB. Brian Orakpo is headed to free agency and has been injured more than healthy in his career. Pairing Gregory with Ryan Kerrigan would give the Redskins what they’ve needed on defense, a pass rushing duo.

6. New York Jets: Kevin White, WR West Virginia – The Jets need a QB in the worst way, but they didn’t lose enough games to land one of the top two and there isn’t one worth taking at sixth overall. Kevin White’s game film should have been enough to put him in the top ten, but his combine numbers make sure he’s taken in that span. In this mock draft, Amari Cooper is gone so I have the Jets taking this big, physical, and fast receiver out of the Mountaineer State who I think is the second best receiver in the draft.

7. Chicago Bears: Danny Shelton, NT Washington – The Bears are moving away from the 4-3 “Tampa Two” defense that they’ve seemingly ran for ages and are going with a 3-4 under new coordinator Vic Fangio. The Bears don’t have someone who can play that linchpin nose tackle position, so they take the best NT available in Shelton, who should clog up running lanes and collapse the pocket for years as a Bear.

8. Atlanta Falcons: Shane Ray, DE/OLB Missouri – The Falcons offense SHOULD be good, their defense needs lots of work though. They need a guy who can get to the quarterback in a division with Drew Brees, Cam Newton, and most likely a new first-overall pick at quarterback in Tampa Bay. Shane Ray is the best pass rusher on the board, and the Falcons should have no second thoughts about making this pick.

9. New York Giants: Ereck Flowers, OT Miami – The Giants could use some help on the offensive line, and drafting Flowers does a lot for them. It allows Justin Pugh to move inside to guard, upgrading the interior line. It gives them a new young right tackle, and someone who can slide over to the blind side once William Beatty retires or is released due to how much he is owed on his contract. If the Giants are going to compete for the division again anytime soon, they need to keep Eli Manning’s jersey clean.

10. St. Louis Rams: Brandon Schreff, OT Iowa – The Rams don’t know if Jake Long can come back and be the same player after tearing the same ACL that ended his 2013 season, and Roger Saffold has been nothing but injured his entire career. Drafting Schreff would give them another tackle to book end the line with last year’s #2 overall pick Greg Robinson.

11. Minnesota Vikings: Andrus Peat, OT Stanford – The Vikings need help on the line, and even though Matt Kalil has been disappointing I don’t think the Vikings would hold that against Peat. Peat could take over left tackle duties allowing Kalil to kick over to right tackle, where he wouldn’t see as many stud pass rushers. This would help create bigger holes for Adrian Peterson (if he returns to the Vikings) and would give Teddy Bridgewater better protection.

12. Cleveland Browns: DeVante Parker, WR Louisville – The offense in Cleveland is devoid of playmakers, and no matter who plays QB in Cleveland in 2015, they’ll need a guy who can make some plays at wideout. Josh Gordon is suspended for the entire season, and there is no guarantee that he will ever be on the field consistently with his off-the-field problems. Either way, this is the right pick because it gives their QB the best chance to succeed this season and in the future, because pairing him with Gordon if he can get back to his 2013 self could be one of the best receiving duos in the league.

13. New Orleans Saints: Dante Fowler, DE/OLB Florida – The Saints major malfunction last season was on defense. I sometimes wondered if their defensive players were really holograms when I watched them play, because they couldn’t seem to stop anything at times. Fowler can come in and make an immediate impact rushing the passer, which would help the Saints defense get the turnovers that they thrive on.

14. Miami Dolphins: Trae Waynes, CB Michigan State – The Dolphins are thin at CB with just Brent Grimes as a true starting option. Waynes could come in and be a starter right away for the Dolphins.

15. San Francisco 49ers: Sammie Coats, WR Auburn – The 49ers will be targeting a wideout with this pick. Crabtree was disappointing last season and may leave as a free agent. Anquan Boldin is getting up there in age and his production dipped some this last season, and could fall off even more. Stevie Johnson proved to not be the weapon they hoped for when they traded for him. Coates is a bit raw, but would have put up much better numbers if he were in a better passing offense.

16. Houston Texans: Todd Gurley, RB Georgia – Yeah, the Texans have Arian Foster…but he seems to never be able to last a season. The Texans are going to be a team that runs the ball a lot, and Gurley can split carries with Foster to take some of the load off of the oft-injured back. I can’t see the Texans passing on probably the most talented back in the draft, who could be good to go by the end of training camp.

17. San Diego Chargers: Melvin Gordan, RB Wisconsin – Ryan Matthews has teased Chargers fans since being drafted. When healthy, he’s a dynamic player who adds another level of excitement to the Chargers offense, but the problem is he’s often not healthy. That’s why I have the Chargers taking Wisconsin’s workhorse running back with this selection, giving the Chargers some much needed peace of mind they haven’t had at the position in a while. He isn’t Ladanian Tomlinson in his prime, but Gordon can take pressure off of Rivers in the passing game.

18. Kansas City Chiefs: Devin Smith, WR Ohio State – Last year the Chiefs’ receivers were atrocious, they didn’t catch a single touchdown pass last season. As a group, they had fewer receiving yards than the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Antonio Brown notched all by himself. Devin Smith is a big-play threat who can blow the top off of a defense, and as Buckeye fans said last season “all he does is catch big touchdowns!”  The threat of a quick score that you get with Smith is also something the Chiefs could use. Also, in games where Smith caught a TD pass, the Buckeyes never lost.

19. Cleveland Browns: Vic Beasley, OLB Clemson – The Browns could use a tone setter at OLB, as they don’t currently have one on the team. Barkevious Mingo hasn’t shown much of anything since being drafted sixth overall, and Paul Kruger had a good season with 11 sacks last year, but that’s the only season he has ever had double-digit sacks so I don’t think it will be a trend. Beasley can come in and become the defensive enforcer at OLB that the Browns defense desperately needs if they want to reach the next level.

20. Philadelphia Eagles: Landon Collins, S Alabama – The Eagles need help in the defensive secondary, and here comes some reinforcements with Landon Collins. Collins isn’t the greatest in coverage, but he’s not bad and fits best as a hard hitting strong safety in the NFL, evidenced by his 103 tackles, 7 passes defensed, and 3 interceptions last season for Alabama. Collins can hit receivers/backs/tight ends coming over the middle, break up some passes, and get his hands on a couple picks if he’s allowed to play some roaming zone coverage.

21. Cincinnati Bengals: Alvin Dupree, DE/OLB Kentucky – Dupree’s stat line wasn’t as impressive as it could have been because he faced a total of eight read-option teams last season. The Bengals missed DE Michael Johnson’s disruptive force last season. Dupree can come in and make an impact quickly for the Cincinnati defense.

22. Pittsburgh Steelers: Kevin Johnson, CB Wake Forest – The Steelers FINALLY take a cornerback in the first round of the NFL Draft! Last year’s pass defense was just horrible. Cortez Allen was so bad against the Colts he got benched and never regained his starting job. Johnson can come in and compete with Allen and Gay for a starting corner job, the loser becoming the nickel corner. If Johnson doesn’t become a starter in camp/preseason, he could get the chance as the season goes on. If Cortez Allen gets his confidence back and plays with the talent we know he has, a Johnson/Allen duo at corner could be a very good thing for future Steelers’ defenses. Johnson has the athleticism and the length to cover big receivers down the sideline.

23. Detroit Lions: Malcom Brown, DT Texas - The Lions are going to need a defensive tackle with their top three hitting free agency. If they tag or resign Suh, they’ll have to let Nick Fairley walk and probably top backup CJ Mosley as well. If they resign Fairley, they will have to let Suh leave and while they might be able to bring back Mosley, they’ll still need a DT to rotate in. If they resign Mosley and lose both Suh and Fairley, they’ll be in desperate need for a second starting caliber DT. I just don’t see the Lions going with any other position with this pick.

24. Arizona Cardinals: Maxx Williams, TE Minnesota – The Cardinals could use upgrades at a couple of positions. I think in the first round, they upgrade the tight end position with a big body tight end with natural pass catching ability in Maxx Williams, who will be a mismatch for most linebackers and defensive backs.

25. Carolina Panthers: T.J. Clemmings, OT Pittsburgh – The Panthers couldn’t block for Cam Newton at all early in the season last year. And while the offensive line gelled later in the season, they could upgrade both tackle spots and Clemmings would be a very good pick here to help ensure the health of their franchise quarterback.

26. Baltimore Ravens: Jalen Collins, CB LSU – The Ravens secondary was a weakness last season with Jimmy Smith missing a good chunk of it and nobody behind him able to really take over that #1 CB role. A pairing of Smith and Collins would possibly give the Ravens one of their best CB combos in the history of the club.

27. Dallas Cowboys: Nate Orchard, DE Utah – The Cowboys need to upgrade their defense, especially their pass rush, if they want to contend for the Super Bowl. They got no pressure on Colt McCoy in an embarrassing MNF loss to the Redskins, Mark Sanchez had a clean pocket on Thanksgiving, and Aaron Rodgers wasn’t pressured whatsoever in the Divisional Playoff loss to the Packers. Orchard was a pass rushing monster for the Utes and could bring a much needed pass rush to the Cowboys.

28. Denver Broncos: La’el Collins, OT LSU – Collins is being projected as either a guard or a right tackle in the NFL. The offensive line was a big issue for the Broncos last season, and Collins would upgrade at either position. Peyton Manning is a statue in the pocket, and needs a clean pocket to be effective. The only way the Broncos don’t take an offensive lineman with this pick is if there isn’t one available worth taking, which is doubtful.

29. Indianapolis Colts: Markus Golden, DE/OLB Missouri – The Colts got steamrolled by the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game. They could use help along the offensive line, but their defense stood no chance against the New England Patriots, and part of that is because they couldn’t get a pass rush, which was an issue for them all season long. Golden can come in and bring a pass rush to the Colts, who are lucky to be in a QB weak division (at the moment) but when they face the other teams with top tier quarterbacks their defense gets kicked around.

30. Green Bay Packers: Denzel Perryman, ILB Miami – The Packers just cut AJ Hawk, and now have a big hole in the middle of their starting linebacker corps. Perryman can come in and start right away for the Packers on defense. Perryman is a thumping linebacker who can stop the run and plays well in zone coverage against the pass. If their defense could have held a sizeable lead against the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Championship, the Packers would have been in the Super Bowl. This pick could help get them back there.

31. Seattle Seahawks: Michael Bennett, DT Ohio State – The Seahawks have far from a weak defense, but they get a major upgrade here at tackle with Ohio State behind the line-of-scrimmage playmaker Michael Bennett. Bennett is a fast gap-shooter who showed that he can defend the run in last year’s postseason. Adding Bennett to this defense is just taking a major team strength and making it even stronger.


32. New England Patriots: Jaelen Strong, WR Arizona State – The Patriots offense isn’t anywhere near bad, but adding a receiver like Strong would be a big upgrade for Tom Brady in the receiving corps. Strong is a big, physical receiver who doesn’t have elite speed but is fast enough to get separation. His size (6’3”, 212 lbs.) also makes him a nice redzone scoring threat. 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Pittsburgh Steelers 2015 NFL Draft Needs

Defense, defense, defense! The Steelers need help on that side of the ball if they want to get back to the AFC Championship Game much less the Super Bowl!

The offense seems to be pretty set for the moment. Ben, Bell, Brown, Bryant, Heath as the main offensive weapons, and the offensive line is probably now one of the best we have ever put in front of Big Ben.

The Steelers defensive secondary is in shambles. Ike Taylor is likely gone, which isn't a bad thing with his play last year. Cortez Allen has talent, but he needs to show he can harness that talent and make plays on the field. William Gay is probably the best corner on the roster, and that's really not a good thing. He played well last season, and had six interception returns for a touchdown, but I don't expect a repeat of that to be honest.

Troy Polamalu needs to retire, in my opinion. He no longer has the speed or the range to be the impact player that he once was. If we are going to use a roving safety in the backfield, let Mike Mitchell do that...it's what he did in Carolina which is what got him his big contract. He came here and the Steelers wanted him to play "center field" which was the opposite of what made him a damn good player before.

I am not sure that Shamarko Thomas is going to be a starting caliber safety in the NFL. He's been hurt too much and I just haven't really seen any flashes from him. Good backup, good special teams player. I'd rather see Will Allen cover the back end next year while Mitchell roams around to be honest.

If the Steelers are honest with themselves, this should be their plan in the first three rounds of the NFL Draft:

1/2: CB or S - whichever one they don't take in the first round take the best available in the second round.
3. OLB - because even if we hit Worilds with the transition tag again (which would be stupid, he isn't worth that much money), I don't think he sticks around after next season. He's not going to suddenly produce 13+ sacks to be worth the money, but he likely won't want to sign with Pittsburgh for less than that either.

Here are some players that could be on the Steelers board from those positions.

Corner:

P,J. Williams, Florida State
Trae Waynes, Michigan State
Alex Carter, Stanford
Jalen Collins, LSU
Kevin Johnson, Wake Forest
Ronald Darby. Florida State
Jacoby Glenn, Central Florida
Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Oregon

Safety:

Landon Collins, Alabama
Gerod Holliman, Louisville
Kurtis Drummond, Michigan State

Outside Linebacker:

Markus Golden, Missouri
Jordan Jenkins, Georgia


Sunday, August 3, 2014

The Josh Gordon Situation

Cleveland Browns Wide Receiver, Josh Gordon, had his appeal on a year-long suspension for a third violation of the National Football League's policy against recreational drugs last Friday, August 1st.

Now I know this is a Steelers blog, but I want to talk about Josh Gordon. First, I am sure the Steelers (and the Browns) want to know if Gordon is going to be on the field for the season opener in Pittsburgh. Second, a lot of people have been talking about the "hypocrisy" of Gordon's possible one-year suspension over recreational drug use and Ray Rice's two-game suspension for cold-clocking his then fiance (now wife).

The difference is in the policies.

Ray Rice's suspension us under the Player Conduct Policy. Under this policy, either the Commissioner or a panel chosen by him dole out punishments on player behavior off of the field. Now, I am in no way condoning the actions of Ray Rice. Personally, I think he should have been suspended at least four games. However this was his first ever Conduct Policy offense, he avoided jail time, is in counseling, and I think I read that his wife requested leniency because she did speak with whoever was handling his punishment. Now if he's involved in another off-the-field incident, there won't be the leniency that he just received.

Josh Gordon's suspension us under the National Football League Policy and Program for Substances of Abuse. This policy is a step policy, which means that you have to be in violation of the policy multiple times to get a certain punishment.

First violation, you enter step one. You get drug tested many more times than a player not in the policy. Your name is not released to the public. There is no suspension or fine (as these have to be put to public record.)

Second violation, you enter step two. You get a four game suspension, and you're name is released as being in the program. Last year, Gordon entered step two. He tested positive for codeine which he claimed was in his prescription cough syrup and he didn't know. The NFL says that you and you alone are responsible for what enters your body, whether you knew you were taking it or not. NFL players have easy access to the list of banned substances, and he could have asked his doctor if any were in his medication. I am also fairly certain that you can apply for a waiver when it comes to medication, which are normally granted so if you test positive for that banned substance while it's prescribed to you, you don't get knocked for it. Gordon did neither. However, the NFL did compromise with him on his punishment. Instead of a four-game suspension without pay, he was suspended two without pay and then fined two game checks but was allowed to play.

For a player like Gordon, playing was worth more than the money. He's on a rookie contract after being selected in the second round of the supplemental draft. He had a huge season, setting himself up for a big contract with another big season. That's why he was willing to play two games for free. From and NFL standpoint, they felt like he was taught a valuable lesson in this regard.

The thing is, he didn't completely learn his lesson. It came out during the NFL Draft that he failed another drug test, this time for marijuana. This time, he is facing that year-long suspension. This is a drug that Gordon has a history with. It got him kicked our of Baylor. It's the reason he never saw the field at Utah and entered the supplemental draft. It's what got him in the NFL Substance Abuse Program in the first place.

According to NFL policy, a test above 15 nano grams per milliliter is a positive drug test. Gordon tested at 16 nano grams. His defense in his appeal is second hand smoke, which the NFL has said they do not suspend for. For most workplaces, that is also the threshold for a positive drug test. Anything over that and you don't get hired for the job, or you get punished (either a suspension or fired) if you already work for the company. The NFL didn't throw a number at a dart board and say "that's the threshold!" Also, this number has been collectively bargained, it's part of the CBA, so the NFL Player's Union agreed that this threshold was reasonable.

Some people, mostly Browns fans, have said that it's up to the NFL to prove that it was not second hand smoke. This is not true. This isn't a court of law. It's up to Gordon and his lawyer to prove, or at the least convince the NFL that Gordon's test was the result of second hand smoke and not actually smoking marijuana. With Gordon's history, I think that's a hard sell. Even if it was second hand smoke, there's no way to absolutely prove it. Not to mention, knowing that another failed drug test carried not just a year's suspension but taking a lot less money on his next contract, he should have never put himself in a situation where he could have gotten enough second hand smoke to test higher than the threshold. He has a person responsibility for what enters his body. Maybe the second hand smoke argument would fly if this was his first failed drug test in the NFL and he had no history of marijuana use in college, but that isn't the case.

If the NFL dismisses this failed drug test, I feel they set a precedent. They say that their threshold isn't a line drawn. If that turns out to be the case, where do they draw the line? Twenty nano grams, 30, 40, 50? It takes a line that has been collectively bargained and blurs it, which is not good. It's going to tell not just players, but the kids playing in Pop Warner, Middle School, High School, and College that it's okay to use recreational drugs to a very fine line.

Some people have brought up his 70 consecutive passed drug tests. That's great! I commend Josh Gordon on passing all those consecutive drug tests. But guess what, those tests don't mean a thing when you do fail one. It's not about how many he passed, it's about how many he has failed. This makes three failed tests, which earns you a very long suspension.

Once you're in step three of the program, you never get out of it. You're in this stage for the remainder of your career, which means that any failed test can land you either a year-long or undetermined amount of time suspension. Jaguars Wide Receiver, Justin Blackmon, is under a indefinite suspension under the third stage of this policy. Jacksonville does not know if he will be available at all this season.

In the end, the only fair way to end this is to punish Gordon in some way. I don't think he should get away with no suspension. He tested high enough for it to register a positive test. Maybe an entire season is what he needs to get rid of the dead weight around him. Maybe a shorter suspension will do that. I don't have the answer.

What I do know is that I don't have any sympathy for Josh Gordon. He's put himself in this position by failing multiple drug tests already in his short NFL career. You and you alone are responsible for what enters your body. You'd think he had learned that after the codeine related suspension, but I guess not. He shouldn't have been around marijuana in the first place.