Archive for April, 2017

Can this man earn an NFL linebacker’s friendship with breakfast tacos?

Posted by    |    April 30th, 2017 at 10:13 pm

Jordan Hicks meets a total stranger who knows way, way too much about him.

At this point in my life, I go through most days without making a new friend. Sure, an acquaintance or associate here and there, but fewer opportunities to connect with individuals in meaningful, emotional ways. So when I was presented with the chance to build a special friendship with Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Jordan Hicks, I jumped in my car and set forth on a journey neither of us will soon forget.

Jordan exemplifies strength, and not just with those muscles of his. He’s an inspiration because of how he’s been there for everyone in his life, no matter the circumstance. Combine that with his generosity and genuineness and you’ve got yourself the foundation for a good friend. I guess you could say it was just my lucky day.

How could I ever prove myself worthy, though? How do I show him what we have in common and what he would get from our friendship? How do I tell him who “Will” is? It may be tough, but if there’s a friend at the end of the tunnel, I’ll do whatever it takes.

So what do you say, Jordan Hicks: Will you be my friend?

How do the headsets in quarterback helmets work?

Posted by    |    April 30th, 2017 at 9:04 pm

The QB helmet radio exists thanks to two Browns fans with a top-secret plan

Whenever Mitch Trubisky, Deshaun Watson, and Patrick Mahomes take their first snap in a professional game, there won’t be any of those big signboards used to send in plays from the sidelines. You know, the ones with weird logos and emojis and photos of cats on them. They don’t exist in the NFL for one reason: the quarterback helmet radio. While it was invented in the 1950s by two Cleveland Browns fans — secretly, in the woods, at the request of the head coach — the sideline communications system we’re all familiar with was banned by the NFL for almost 40 years.

Warren Moon, Brian Billick, and Trent Dilfer were all part of the 1994 NFL season, and the first to use the QB radio system league-wide. They told us about the advantages and challenges the technology presented at the time. Helmet radios have changed the game for offenses and defenses (thanks, Spygate!) alike. This is the story of how they were born, forgotten, reintroduced, and evolved.

Four Longhorns Will Try the UDFA route

Posted by    |    April 30th, 2017 at 7:18 pm

D’onta Foreman was the only Longhorn drafted this weekend. Big 12 disease. Obviously, Tom Herman will be looking to correct that trend quickly – there’s no reason that West Virginia should be outpacing the Texas Longhorns in the NFL Draft over the last four years.

Or Utah. Or Temple.

Meanwhile, Paul Boyette (Raiders), Kent Perkins (Bengals), Tyrone Swoopes (Seahawks) and Caleb Bluiett (Jags) all inked UDFA contracts and will try their hand at earning their spot on a NFL roster the hard way. It can be done and all four players are headed to teams with some needs at their position. Recall that former Longhorn OL Trey Hopkins went this route three years ago and is still drawing a paycheck with the Bengals.

And going a bit further back, former Longhorn Priest Holmes turned out to be one of the most productive free agents in NFL history. 11 years, 94 touchdowns and 3 NFL All Pro teams isn’t shabby.

Good luck.

Clippers lost Game 7 to the Jazz and may never be the same again

Posted by    |    April 30th, 2017 at 5:16 pm

With looming free agency for the Clippers’ biggest names, the Lob City era could have ended on Sunday.

The Los Angeles Clippers were eliminated from the playoffs on Sunday when they lost at home to the Utah Jazz in Game 7, 104-91. The crushing defeat marks yet another chapter in the book of disappointing Clippers playoff finishes in the Lob City era.

Utah won in part due to its ability to limit J.J. Redick all game. He scored his only points at the 3:28 mark in the fourth quarter. Los Angeles lost despite only 13 minutes from Jazz center Rudy Gobert, who played only five minutes in the first half due to foul trouble.

The Clippers and Jazz were tied after one quarter at 24 apiece, but Utah pulled away and never looked back. The Jazz outscored Los Angeles, 55-39, in the second and third quarters. The Clippers attempted a late-game rally, but could not come up with timely stops and scores necessary to erase the double-digit deficit.

The Clippers looked strong in the series against a tough Jazz opponent. But the positive post-season outlook was crushed when Blake Griffin suffered a season-ending toe injury in Game 3.

Now, Los Angeles finds itself in a particularly murky situation moving forward.

That’s because three of the Clippers’ biggest names become free agents this summer.

No player is more important to the Los Angeles franchise right now than Chris Paul, who can exercise the player option of his contract to opt out and test free agency. If he opts in, Paul could make more than $24 million next season. He could also opt-out to sign a more lucrative, long-term deal in Los Angeles.

But he’s not the only free agent. Blake Griffin is in a similar scenario, with a player option and the ability to test the waters over the summer. Griffin has missed consecutive playoffs with devastating injuries and has had his fair share of setbacks over the course of his career. But he is also 28 years old in the prime of his playing career.

Redick is also a free agent at the end of this season, and at 32 years old, the prospect of winning a championship weighs heaviest at this point of his career.

Combined, it could cost the Los Angeles more than $200 million to retain their core going forward.

NFL draft grades 2017: Falcons’ picks could keep them atop of the NFC South

Posted by    |    April 30th, 2017 at 4:14 pm

All four teams made great selections, but some picks were questionable.

The 2017 NFL Draft came to a close yesterday, and all four teams from the NFC South selected solid prospects who could one day morph into NFL superstars.

The Atlanta Falcons, last year’s Super Bowl runner-ups, already have a first-rate offense led by quarterback Matt Ryan and receiver Julio Jones. So, Atlanta didn’t need to draft offensive players. However, its defense needed some major upgrades at linebacker and in the secondary.

The Carolina Panthers need help in the secondary. Last season, opposing offenses shredded Carolina’s defense with ease, as the Panthers finished with the 29th-ranked pass defense. While the Panthers’ front seven, led by linebacker Luke Kuechly, is still one of the best in the league, the secondary is holding this defense back from returning to its 2015 form.

After signing DeSean Jackson in the offseason, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL. Mike Evans and Jackson should be able to wreak havoc on opposing secondaries. Speaking of secondaries, the Buccaneers need playmakers in theirs. Tampa Bay surrendered 250.8 pass yards per game in 2016.

Lastly, as long as Drew Brees is lining up under center in the Big Easy, the New Orleans Saints will light up scoreboards. The only question concerning New Orleans is can it stop opposing offenses from lighting up the scoreboard. The team cut ties with safety Jairus Byrd over the offseason, which left a huge whole in the Saints’ secondary.

Did each team address their needs in the 2017 NFL Draft? Let’s take a look.

Atlanta Falcons

Overall, analysts thought the Falcons performed well in the draft. Atlanta used the No. 26 pick on UCLA defense end Takkarist McKinley, who is a lethal pass rusher with size and speed. The Falcons strengthened their linebacker corps on Day 2 by drafting LSU linebacker Duke Riley in the third round. On Day 3, Atlanta drafted guard Sean Harlow, a solid corner in Damonte Kazee, and tight end Eric Saubert.

Dan Kadar, SB Nation: B-

Mel Kiper, ESPN: B-

Pete Prisco, CBS Sports: B+

Chris Burke, SI: B

Nate Davis, USA Today: B-

Chad Reuter, NFL.com: A-

Carolina Panthers

Carolina used the No. 8 pick in the first round on Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey, who is a versatile player with speed and reliable hands as a pass-catcher. Carolina followed up that big-time selection on Day 2 by drafting receiver Curtis Samuel and offensive tackle Taylor Moton in the second round. The Panthers also added pass-rusher Daeshon Hall in the third. On Day 3, Carolina drafted cornerback Corn Elder, fullback Alex Arma, and kicker Harrison Butker. Carolina failed to draft a top-notch corner to help boost the secondary.

Dan Kadar, SB Nation: C+

Mel Kiper, ESPN: C+

Pete Prisco, CBS Sports: B-

Chris Burke, SI: B+

Nate Davis, USA Today: A-

Chad Reuter, NFL.com: A-

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Just when you though Tampa Bay’s offense couldn’t get better, it certainly did. The Buccaneers used a first-round selection on O.J. Howard, who was considered the best tight end in the draft. Tampa Bay bolstered its secondary by selecting safety Justin Evans in the second round. Evans isn’t a sure tackler, but he is great in coverage. Third-round pick Chris Godwin is an exciting receiver, but it didn’t make sense because Tampa Bay had more pressing needs, especially at cornerback. The Buccaneers’ final picks were linebacker Kendell Beckwith, running back Jeremy McNichols, and defensive tackle Stevie Tu’ikolovatu.

Dan Kadar, SB Nation: C+

Mel Kiper, ESPN: A-

Pete Prisco, CBS Sports: B+

Chris Burke, SI: B+

Nate Davis, USA Today: B

Chad Reuter, NFL.com: B+

New Orleans Saints

The Saints did a good job of addressing their needs early. They used the No. 11 pick on cornerback Marshon Lattimore, a shutdown corner who loves to get physical with receivers. Later in the first round, New Orleans beefed up its offensive line by drafting tackle Ryan Ramczyk at No. 32. Drafting Marcus Williams on Day 2 was a smart move by the Saints because he is a hard-hitting safety who can defend the pass. New Orleans also selected running back Alvin Kamara, linebacker Alex Anzalone, and defensive end Trey Hendrickson on Day 2. The Saints only had one Day 3 pick, and they used that on pass rusher Al-Quadin Muhammad.

Dan Kadar, SB Nation: B

Mel Kiper, ESPN: B

Pete Prisco, CBS Sports: B

Chris Burke, SI: B+

Nate Davis, USA Today: C+

Chad Reuter, NFL.com: A-