In my second column of the season for sportcitychefs.com, I thought I’d bring up a few topics that have had me thinking a little this past week. In last weeks column I talked about a few rookies that impressed and also a few that struggled. I’ll get back to my rookie watch later but wanted to start this week by writing about a few things that have had me bothered a little and have had me struggling to live a happy and peaceful life here in the South Wales valley’s.
The replacement Officials
When the NFL asks it’s players to go out and jeopardize their well-being and even their lives for our entertainment they owe it to the player to have these games officiated to the best possible degree. Even the regular officials are prone to making mistakes but their not going to lose control of the games the way the replacement officials have done over these first few weekends. We’ve seen stuff going un-checked, Leading to fights. We’ve seen players and coaches do things they know they wouldn’t get away with usually and it’s effecting the game. That whatever it takes to win attitude will remain regardless of who is officiating. The coaches will use anything they can to get the win. Even if it’s effecting the NFL as a product.
I think when we see a regular official make a mistake we do get angry and wonder how they make some calls but we don’t fear for the players safety. Looking back over last weekend I saw things getting really out of control, To the point where I thought someone is going to get carted off because the officials were letting them get away with too much. I think the players found out after week 1 that they can do things after the whistle. That they can hit guys late and get away with it.
In the Detroit v San Francisco game we saw players going after sliding quarterbacks. Hitting Alex Smith in the face, We saw the blood on his nose. We saw elbows flying into face mask’s. They just can’t protect the players as well. It’s like they just have so much more on their minds. Like their fantasy teams and so on. It’s becoming embarrassing.
Fellow sports writer Bomani Jones made a great point, liking the situation to having substitute teachers at school and when I think back to my days at Ysgol gyfun Gwynllyw, I remember when a substitute teacher would take our class and how some of my fellow students ( not me ) would start fights and mis-behave more because they knew they wasn’t going to get punished as bad as they would have with the regular teacher. I think that’s what we’re seeing with the replacement officials but my only concern is how bad someone is going to get hurt before something is done about it.
Another thing that came to mind was all the talk the NFL has given towards player safety over the last year or so. I wonder if they really care as much as they make out. Would we be heading into week 3 with replacement officials if they cared that much about it ?
I don’t think they care. I know what they do care about though. They really care about money and business. And that’s great for them but the problem as far as I can see is that it’s starting to hurt the game we all love. Sponsors are complaining. Network partners are saying their putting a sub-standard product on the air and I just know a good few owners are getting embarrassed. Just imagine owners like Robert Kraft, Jerry Jones, Dan Rooney or Steve Tisch and John Mara in New York to name just a few. All these guys live for this game. Imagine the thing’s’ their being asked. I bet their embarrassed by this. I also think it’s hurting commissioner Roger Goodell’s legacy in this league. I wonder if it gets done now his legacy is at stake. I really hope this is the last week. I’d hate it if a player got badly injured due to this. I think the league can count itself really lucky that nobody has been badly hurt to this point.
What’s most impressive to me is that Josh Morgan actually spoke to sports writer Mark Maske of the Washington post about Finnegan during the week leading up to the game.
” You don’t want to be the second guy because the second guy is going to get caught,” Morgan said. “He’s going to come at you and he’s going to be the first, second and third guy. You’ve got to remind yourself not to be that fourth and fifth guy, and throw your hands up and walk back to the huddle. “
Oh, Josh Morgan. If only you had listened to yourself. You could have been a player with a decent five-catch game instead of this guy. I can’t express enough how the current officiating situation is playing into the hands of a guy like Courtland Finnegan. He always tries to get in extras after the play but is usually warned about it before he puts his cleats on. Now he’s not told at all. Last week against the Lions. Finnegan and Jenoris Jenkins did a great job getting to Detroit receiver Titus Young, Who was ejected for re-acting. Can’t wait to see how Brandon Marshall and the Bears receivers react this week. I find Finnegan really entertaining to watch. I want to see him go against Andre Johnson again. I know Johnson nearly killed him but Finnegan actually told his own bench to be ready for the reaction off Johnson before the play. It’s not like he’s a thug and that’s what his game is all about though. He’s actually a top-notch corner in the league. He can man up against any receiver one on one and do a job. For me it was he who won that game for the Rams last week more than it was Josh Morgan who lost it for the Redskins.
All that being said about Josh Morgan, I was sickened a little this week whilst hearing he had death threats through his twitter account and that he was having threats towards his first-born child. What kind of sad human being would go this far ? These people don’t even deserve to watch the game of football. These people are the lowest of the low and deserve to be pointed out and punished. Some people go too far. We’ve seen it many times over the years. Most recently with guys like 49ers wide receiver Kyle Williams after his fumble during the Championship game loss to the Giants. And a few seasons ago when Bills corner Leodis McKelvin had his house trashed after he fumbled a kickoff return against the Patriots, giving them the ball to come back to win the game 25-24. I think it’s ok to be passionate about the game but threats and vandalism is crossing a huge line. These people are not fans.
To the college game for a minute as I have to mention a rule the NCAA has enforced this season that to me isn’t working at the moment. For those not familiar with the new rule. Basically, When a players helmet comes off during a play, That player has to then make his way to the sideline and sit the next play out. It’s been set to increase safety to the game and although I think it’s a good idea in theory, unfortunately, In practice, it isn’t going as well as planned.
3 weeks into the season and teams are accusing each other of purposely ripping off players lids to get them on the sideline for the next play. When I first heard of the new rule my initial thought was what’s going to happen when a quarterback is down at the goal line and he has his helmet is ripped off ?.
I’m sure the last thing the NCAA wants to have happen is to affect an outcome of a game by the rule change. But it’s going to happen sooner or later.
Can you imagine your team sitting third and goal with under two minutes left and your quarterback is on the sideline because a defender ripped off his helmet during the last play?
It’s going to cost a team or two a game at some point in the season I think. I saw it happen twice to Missouri’s James Franklin during their 41-20 loss against 7th ranked Georgia and then learned that it was happening all around the country. The rule is good because it’s player safety oriented and I have no problem with that but the NCAA has to find a way to punish the guys ripping the helmets off on purpose. I think instant replay is an option but I don’t like the idea of bringing too much of that into the college game.
At the beginning of the season I thought the new kickoff rule was going to be the most talked rule brought into the college game but so far I’ve not heard it being mentioned a great deal. I think this is the rule that everyone is talking about to this point. The officials have to find a way to penalize the players purposely ripping them off. Maybe an ejection to set an example or a harsh penalty. It will be interesting to see how it plays out from here.
Going to stay with college for this one and With USC losing last weekend, Many people in the media have said this week that Quarterback Matt Barkley made a mistake by not entering last April’s NFL draft and instead returning to the Southern California Trojans.
I don’t think he should regret his decision to return at all. Even after the loss against pac 12 rival, Stanford, I think he can still benefit from returning.
What I was impressed with was the way he responded when USC head coach Lane Kiffin called him out to the media after the game.
“He’s going to be real, you know?, Barkley said of Kiffin. “He is going to defend me when he has to and he’s going to be real when he has to. I’m glad he’s not hiding me behind a curtain or anything like that.
“I know what I did. It’s not like he’s making fun of me or something to the public.”
When making the decision to return he must have thought of the possibility of losing at least one game and he might still win the national championship and Heisman trophy even having done that. I think he showed with the mistakes he made last week that he isn’t as ready as most think and even if he had decided to turn pro, I don’t think he would have been drafted ahead of Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III. Maybe not even ahead of Ryan Tannehill based on how much the Dolphins liked him during his workout’s with them and the link with former college coach Mike Sherman who’s now the offensive coordinator in Miami.
I think he has a good chance of being the first Quarterback selected this year and in head coach, Lane Kiffin, he has a great mind to learn under and he has a great couple of receivers around him. He should make the most of the college life and learn from mistakes made by guys like Matt Leinart, Who I thought left USC at the wrong time. I’d also say the jury is still out on Mark Sanchez who left the school after only starting 16 games under Pete Carroll. Barkley is only taking one class on campus so he has lots of time to develop his skills for the next level and I won’t be surprised to see them go the rest of the way un-defeated. He’s a great player and he made the right decision to return I think.
ROOKIE WATCH : WEEK 2
Last week I was a bit inspired by a few things being talked about by great presenters and good buddy’s Nat Coombs and Mike Carlson on the Channel 4, Sunday night football show here in the United Kingdom and after watching, I decided to base my Rookie watch column on some of the things they were talking about. We have great fun with the game here in the UK and with all the talk of Spaghetti westerns and Weeden’s 5.1 passer rating on the show, I thought I’d put Brandon Weeden in the ugly category of my , The good, The bad and Brandon Weeden column. He must have read my column though because last Sunday he made a massive improvement on his week 1 performance. Let’s break the rookie performances of week 2 down by position.
Brandon Weeden, Quarterback, Cleveland Browns, 26/37 322yds, 2td’s – 0 int’s – Passing
Had to start with this one. I think if you ask any quarterback who’s ever played, what attributes you must have to play in this league, I think he’ll tell you the ability to get up after you’ve been knocked down is way up there with arm strength and accuracy and so on.
To see Brandon Weeden get knocked over by the huge pre-game national flag and then have that horrific game last week was tough to watch and it was easy to look at the issues about age and coming out of a spread offense into a west coast style offense and the fact that he didn’t call plays in college, Instead, looking to the sideline between each play and then looking at his wrist to get the play in to his offense at Oklahoma state.
I know there are many questions surrounding the Bengals pass defense but to see Weeden respond the way he did was great. I think he made a huge statement and I was proud of him. I love anyone who can overcome adversity and he did just that. He looked calm and very much in charge of the huddle. I pointed out last week that he had some great players on the offensive line in Alex Mack and Joe Thomas and those along with a few others on that line were great. It was also great to see a few of the receivers make plays for him with Mohamed Massaquoi and Greg Little getting 5 receptions each. Even though they fell short of the win it was so valuable for his team mates to see him stand up from his week 1 knock down and just showing he can move the ball successfully down the field was great. After after throwing 4 interceptions last week, to come in and throw none this week was impressive. Hats off to him.
As far as the rest of the rookie quarterbacks go, I have to say I was very impressed all around and I’m on board with Ryan Tannehill being the best behind RG3 and Andrew Luck. He was impressive also and deserved to be highlighted here as much as Weeden by beating the Oakland Raiders and throwing and running for touchdowns. I think the people of Miami will love him as much as they currently love his wife pretty soon and if Reggie Bush keeps playing like he’s back in USC then things will be great. I love the toughness of that offensive line. Tannehill finished the day 18/30, 200 yards 1 td – Passing and ran for 14 yards on 3 attempts and a touchdown.
I was very impressed with Seattle’s quarterback Russell Wilson also. Wilson had a 73 % completion percentage and looked more like he did in the pre-season by knocking off the Dallas Cowboys in their great win. Seems like a gutsy little playmaker in the mould of Doug Flutie or Steve McNair to me. Very impressed with him. Has a nice arm and regardless of his height, He see’s over the line very well. He’s brought a fantastic attitude and work ethic to that franchise in the pacific north-west. A good leader of men. He finished the day. 15/20, 151 yards, 1 td 0 Int and ran for 28 yards on 4 attempts.
Golden boy Andrew Luck was much better than he was in week 1. Luck managed to get his first win as a pro and showed flashes of greatness again and went all day without throwing an interception. When he gets it all together it’s going to be amazing. Wide receiver Donnie Avery seems to have had a resurgence in his career in Indy and he’s becoming a good target for Luck. The offensive line played much better. Luck finished the day 20/31, 224 yards and 2 touchdowns – Passing. He also ran for 21 yards on 4 attempts.
Robert Griffin III did enough to get the Redskins a shot at a 47 yard field goal to win the game and go 2-0 in the standings but it wasn’t to be thanks to Josh Morgan’s brain. The former Baylor student was very impressive again though and Mike Shannahan who once played in a wish bone offense had a nice game plan for him again. He had 82 rushing yards on the day and 2 rushing touchdowns He threw 20/29, 206 yards and had 1 td and 1 Int.
Trent Richardson, Running back, Cleveland Browns – 19att 109 yds 1td / 4 rec 36 yds, 1 td.
So happy to be writing Trent Richardson into this category as he was my favourite player coming out of college last season. Trent became the first Browns rookie to run for 100 yards and score on a run and a pass in the same game. For me Trent’s style is everything you would want in a running back. He has great hands, Great balance and runs really well behind his pads. He’s a freak of nature in the weight room and he’s very flexable for a big back. The browns have had the greatest running back ever in Jim Brown in my opinion and if he can stay healthy I don’t see any reason why Trent Richardson can’t beat all of his records. I’ve watched and read lot of stuff about Ernie ‘The express’ Davis over the last 20 years and I’ve been waiting for the Browns to draft the next great back so when Richardson’s name was called to them last April I was so excited. It’s a shame he didn’t go to Syracuse like Brown and Davis but I think he’d settle for the two National championships at Alabama and a couple of seasons playing under Nick Saban. He won the Doak Walker award last year and was third in the Heisman race behind Andrew Luck and RG3. The sky’s the limit for this guy. I was asked to compare him to a former player a few months ago and I think he’s sort of cross between Emmitt Smith and Earl Campbell. He’s surprisingly elusive for his size, He’s very powerful and he has very good hands as I’ve already said. He’s the real deal. So excited about his potential and I think the comments made by Jim Brown this off-season about Trent will light a fire under him. He’s overcome so much adversity in his life and he’s a fighter, who thrives on negativity. He’s a great person.
Around the league I saw a couple of nice performances from rookies at the running back position. Doug Martin had a decent game again for the Buccs against the Giants , running the ball 20 times for 66 yards and a score. I featured Martin in my column last week.
The Miami offensive line was awesome in the run game last week, Allowing Reggie bush to look like he did at USC during his non Heisman, Heisman trophy winning year. I would have made the NCAA come to get that trophy off my mantle piece if I was him but all that is in the past now and he’s playing angry by the look of things. It’s great to see. To the rookie in the Miami backfield though and former University of Miami (The U) rookie, Lamar Miller, He had 10 carries for 65 yards and a score. He looked very sharp. They have a nice stable of backs in Miami with Daniel Thomas, Reggie Bush and Lamar Miller. Full back Javorsky Lane has done a great job losing a few pounds this off-season. He was a pringle away from 300 pounds a few months ago but I think the addition of former Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman as offensive coordinator in Miami lit a fire under him. I know Sherman was a huge fan of his abilities and he’ll be great at attacking the line of scrimmage either as a blocker or short yardage ball carrier.
Redskins rookie back Alfred Morris continues to impress in Shanahan’s run friendly system with a 16 carry 89 yard day and in the same game Rams rookie running back Daryl Richardson had a nice day spotting Stephen Jackson for a 15 carry 83 yard day and a couple of catches out of the back field for 19 yards. He looked very well-balanced and I look forward to seeing how he progresses in that system under Brian Schottenheimer.
Wide receiver / Tight end / Offensive line
Michael Harris, Left Tackle, San Diego Chargers.
With Jared Gaither injured for the San Diego Chargers, I feel I have to mention the decent job UCLA undrafted rookie Mike Harris has done with protecting Phillip Rivers’ blind side. In what’s probably the second most important position on the field I have to say I think Harris has done well. He’s had a little help at times but he’s been solid enough that no one has noticed he’s there. Trust me, An offensive lineman will be happy if his name isn’t mentioned all season. Gaither is set to return soon and Jeromey Clary is doing a decent job on the right side but it will be interesting to see what they do with Harris. He can play guard also and at 6ft, 5″ , 318 lbs , He’s pretty good on his feet also at that size. Chargers new offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Hal Hunter is doing a great job getting these guys on the roster and ready to go in the system.
Hunter helped stabilize a unit beset by injury in 2011 as 13 different players saw time along the line, including 11 starters. Despite the near constant change, the line helped the Chargers rush for more than 1,800 yards and 16 touchdowns for the second straight season, while allowing the eighth-fewest sacks.
It was a very quiet week 2 elsewhere on offense for rookies. Tennessee wide receiver Kendall Wright managed to get a touchdown and there was a few other notable performances along the offensive lines around the league. I’m very impressed in-particular with Baltimore Ravens right tackle Kelechi Osemele out of Iowa state and also Cincinnati Bengals guard Kevin Zeitler coming from that great offensive line factory in Madison, Wisconsin.
John Hughes, Defensive tackle, Cleveland Browns, 6 tackles, 1 sack, 1 tfl
Out of Cincinnati university, It was a big game for John Hughes last Sunday going up against the Bengals and in his first start as a Brown he did really well. With Phil Taylor out injured their going to need Hughes to have the same impact Taylor did last year as a rookie. It was important for Hughes to prove he had the skill set to match his 6ft,2″ 320 lb frame during the pre draft build up and I think he did well in the process to go in the 3rd round. He has a very quick first step and possesses good power. He’s added a few pounds since he’s come into the league but he still looks quick. I think he will have a good season for the Browns. It says a lot of the Browns talent that I already have three of their rookies on this column and I like the talent they have building on defense and with young defenders like TJ Ward, Jaabal Sheard, Ahtyba Rubin, Buster Skrine, Craig Robertson, Phil Taylor and Joe Haden on the roster. I think things are looking good for the future there. D’Qwell Jackson is an amazing linebacker. He’s turning 29 next week but he’s Very underrated. I’m interested to see how Eric Hagg and Trevin Wade develop in that secondary also.
Around the league, In the Bears v Packers rivalry game we saw a couple of good rookie defensive linemen. I thought Packers five technique defensive end Jarrel Worthy had a good game and got good pressure and with 3 tackles and a sack he got a nice little stat line too. In the same game, Chicago first round pick, Defensive end Shea McClellin notched up 4 tackles and 1.5 sacks so a couple of good ones there in the NFC North.
Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox has had a decent start to his career. He’s showed already that he can provide that inside presence that was much-needed in Philadelphia and he’s teaming with Cullen Jenkins, Trent Cole and co on that line to bring defense back to Philly. With the offense under performing so far this season, It’s the defense that has them at 2-0. I hope the official has Shady McCoy in his fantasy team this week.
Mychal Kendricks, Linebacker, Philadelphia Eagles, 5 tackles, 1 tfl, 2 passes defended.
Like rookie defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, Rookie linebacker Mychal Kendricks has made an impact on the Eagles defense in the first 2 weeks of the season. I thought the addition of DeMeco Ryans to the Eagles from the Texans was the best defensive pick up of this off-season along with maybe Brandon Carr in Dallas.
The linebacker position has been a problem area fo the Eagles for some time now. I think Jeramiah Trotter was the last really good one they had. Not anymore though. With the addition of Ryans and the selection of Kendricks in the second round. The position seems to look more of a strength now. Well, it’s looked that way so far. Kendricks compiled 258 total tackles in his four years at California, where he played outside linebacker during his first three years, before moving to inside linebacker his senior year. I think he’s going to have a great season along side Ryans.
Around the league, Zack Brown of the Tennessee Titans put up good numbers with 10 tackles and a sack but that was more to do with how often the Titans defense was on the field in their game against San Diego. Their leading tackler was safety Michael Griffin who made a total of 18 tackles / 16 solo. That doesn’t speak well of your run defense when your safety is making nearly 20 tackles. That’s a season’s worth of tackles to some players on the roster.
Patriots rookies Chandler Jones and Donta Hightower were impressive again and both put up 5 tackles each. Jones plays more as a defensive end but does stand up on some plays as you can imagine in the defensive scheme under Mike Patricia and Bill Belichick. Very impressed with those two in the first two weeks.
Others that impressed were – LaVonte David, Buccaneers (8 tackles, 2 tfl,) – Courtney Upshaw, Ravens (6, tackles, 1 tfl ) – Luke Kuechly, Panthers (5 tackles) – Bobby Wagner, Seahawks (4 tackles, 1tfl) and Craig Robertson, Browns (6 tackles ), They were all flying around the ball and making plays in week 2. This has the potential to be a good linebacker class with the standard of play and the numbers that are being put up so far.
Stephon Gilmore, Cornerback, Buffalo Bills, 7 solo tackles, 3 passes defended.
Buffalo’s 10th overall pick in last April’s draft had a good game last Sunday. He’s a great corner that can be a shutdown kind of player with his skill set and I think he’s going to improve game by game as the season progresses. He’s coming into the league out of Steve Spurrier’s programme at South Carolina and off the same defense as Melvin Ingram and company. He had a fantastic scouting combine prior to the draft that sent him sky rocketing up draft boards. He’s made a couple of mistakes in the first two weeks but overall you can see that he’s going to be a great one. Chan Gailey has thrown him in the deep end and so far he’s swimming.
Last Sunday, Matt Cassell threw his way often but he did well overall. He broke up a few passes and tackled well. As I said, I think he’ll get better as the season goes on and I think eventually he’s going to be a shutdown corner for the Bills.
Tampa Bay Safety and 7th overall pick Mark Barron had a good game given that Eli Manning could have had a BBQ in the backfield with the pressure he had on him from the Buccs defensive line. Manning threw for 510 yards on 51 pass attempts. It was great to see Barron compete though. He didn’t give up on one play even when the defense around him came apart a little in the second half. He and linebacker, LaVonte David were great pick ups for the Buccs and both are playing at a really high standard already.
Other defensive backs that impressed were – Markelle Martin, Safety, Tennessee Titans ( 4 tackles, 1 sack, 1 tfl ) – Jayron Hosley corner, NY Giants ( 6 tackles ) – Harrison Smith, Safety, Minnesota Vikings ( 7 tackles, 1 pd ) – Josh Norman, Corner, Carolina Panthers ( 8 tackles) – Jenoris Jenkins, Corner, St Louis Rams ( 5 tackles, 1 pd )
Justin Tucker, Kicker, Baltimore Ravens, 3/3 field goals 56 yard longest. 6/6 on the season.
I have to give mention to a couple of rookie kickers that have come in and been perfect in the first two weeks of the season. I mentioned Justin Tucker last week as he had a perfect game with 3 field goals. He was very clutch in college and he’s seemed to have brought his kicking shoes to the pro’s. It’s a shame the Ravens didn’t have him in the championship game last season against New England but maybe he’ll get his chance to beat them with a game winner this week on Sunday night football. It will be interesting to see how he copes in the national spot light. He’s been solid so far, Dropping kicks over from 45 to 56 yards with ease. Very impressed with him.
Minnesota kicker Blair Walsh and St Louis kicker Greg Zuerlein are also perfect at 6/6 on the season and have also been very impressive.
Punters Johnny Hakker, St Louis, – Brad Nortman, Carolina, – Drew Butler, Pittsburgh and Bryan Anger, Jacksonville are all looking solid in the first 2 weeks.
Looking back on the championship games last season, I thought the kicking game turned out to be the difference and from that weekend I promised myself I would never underestimate the role of a kicker or punter in the league again. If you think back to the NFC championship game and Giant’s punter, Steve Weatherford’s performance with the boot, Pinning the 49ers back into bad field position and actually making the difference in the game as far as I was concerned towards the end with some incredible kicks and then to the AFC championship game and Billy Cundiff’s missed field goal that stopped the Ravens from tying the game up, sending New England to the superbowl. Just so valuable to have someone who you can count on in the kicking game.
Thanks for reading my latest column for sportcitychefs.com
Please feel free to leave any feedback or question’s for me at the bottom of the page.
Enjoy the week of football and please check back for my next column
Thank you !!
By Rhodri Jones
@rhodrijones32 – twitter
Rhodri Jones – Facebook
firstname.lastname@example.org – Email