“It’s a very interesting game. They have big bears up front and little rabbits in the back. The idea is for the bears to protect the rabbits.”

– Vickor Tikhonov (Coach of the Soviet Hockey team on seeing American Football for the first time)

The Dallas Cowboys were projected to be a team capable of winning a handful of games at best before the 2014 season because of their suspect defense.  Obviously, Dallas was one of the surprise teams this year, falling a few plays short of the NFC title game.  The defensive turnaround was unprecedented, but the success of the offense was predicated on the success of a truly dominant offensive line.  The casual football fan knows less about the offensive line than other, more “glamorous” positions and cares even less than that.  But an interesting thing has started to happen with the success of Dallas; The cowboys have made offensive lines everywhere sexy again.  Are they an all time great group of guys? Probably not at this point. Are they THAT much dramatically better than any other group in the league? I wouldn’t say so. But it was a perfect season at the perfect time to make people care again.  The offensive line will always be an unheralded group of me who won’t get much attention, but at least most people understand the importance of a capable group of blockers to spearhead the offense in today’s NFL. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the state of offensive lines in the NFL.

  1. Dallas Cowboys All hail.  As stated above, the Cowboys have built a superpower in the trenches and should be commended for it.  Dallas was a top 10 offense all year, notably 2nd in rushing. Demarco Murray no doubt had a lot to do with this success, but it’s important to give credit where credit is due. 100-million-dollar-man Tyron Smith is one of the great ascending players in the NFL today and viewed by some as the most capable lineman in the game.  Smith took on the best pass rushers could throw at him week in and week out and was rarely ever in trouble, disarming the fiercest of defenders with amazing feet and technique.  His supporting cast was just as impressive, with great showings from a top 5 center in Travis Frederick in his second year and last years first round pick Zack Martin, who accomplished the almost inconceivable feat of making All Pro in his rookie campaign.  Doug Free and Ronald Leary, while not elite talents, gel together wonderfully. Dallas lost probably the best swing tackles in the league in Jeremy Parnell in the offseason, but this is a corps that should be together for a long time. Oh, and not to mention they won the La’el Collins sweepstakes after the draft. Collins was a dominant tackle for LSU the past two years who could project as a guard in the NFL but could still be a great RT. The rich got richer.
  2. Baltimore Ravens –The Ravens treated us to one of the best playoff showdowns in recent memory against the Patriots last year but fell just short.  Look for the Ravens to be title contender yet again thanks to performances by some of the best lineman in the NFL. Marshal Yanda is the best guard in the NFL and Kelechi Osemele is another fantastic player opposite him to form the best guard tandem in the NFL by far. Together they blocked out the sun and allowed Justin Forsett to revive his career in style, running though rush lanes you could drive a car through. Forsett, who was previously a journeyman RB led a run game good for 9th in the NFL with over 2000 yards accumulated thanks to the men up front. Baltimore feasted on less talented defensive lines and had strong outings against great ones too. Eugene Monroe has been one of the sneaky great signings in FA over the past few years protecting Joe Flacco’s blind side and allowing him to power an effective vertical passing game in addition to a punishing ground game. Jeremy Zuttah is a capable center capable of getting to the next level to complete an almost impenetrable interior pocket. RT is somewhat of a concern but not enough to keep Baltimore from the number two spot. Gary Kubiak brought his great zone blocking scheme to Denver with him, so it’s possible the Ravens take a step back this year but that could be speculation.  With Marc Trestman at the controls, we may see the Ravens roll out a new style of offense and dominate in whole new way.
  3. Green Bay Packers

    The Packers are an interesting film study.  Aaron Rodgers, the unanimous best QB in the NFL dissected all defenses last year, but a testament to his great skill was how he was on the move when protection broke down.  That’s not to say that the line isn’t that good, but it is somewhat inflated by Rodgers talent.  Josh Sitton is sill one of the best guards in the league and Bulaga and Bakthiari form a pair of good book end tackles, and Corey Linsley is an absolute mauler in the middle.  They never really get in the way of Rodgers too much, and watching them clear the way for Lacy is a thing of beauty.  A lot of old school traditionalists of the NFL will get a kick out of watching Green Bay in the trenches.  They’re a perfect group for a perfect quarterback.  I fully expect Green Bay to be the number one offense next year and are my front-runner for SB champs. When looking at the depth chart, depth is a bit more of a concern than other teams here, but it’s not enough to knock them down.

  4. Cleveland Browns

    Cleveland has quietly assembled a very capable group.  Joe Tomas is the top OT in the league year in and year out and last year was no exception.  The future Hall Of Famer has toiled away on some bad football teams for the Browns, but none of them were bad because the QB was getting killed from the blind side. Joel Bitonio was one of the surprise dominant rookies last year who came in and solidified a LG spot previously thought to be a question mark. Alex Mack is one of the top centers in football, who unfortunately missed much of last season.  The tea leaves say Mack wants out of Cleveland, so the Browns made the curious decision to draft Cameron Erving, a center out of Florida State. Erving doesn’t offer much versatility on paper, best suited as a pure center but could see time at guard as an experiment in preseason. With Mitchel Scwartz holding it down on the right side, the Browns could be a line capable of going toe to toe with the best of them.

  5. Pittsburgh Steelers
  6. Arizona
  7. Texans
  8. Patriots
  9. Chargers
  10. Lions
  11. Bengals
  12. Broncos
  13. Saints
  14. Eagles
  15. Seahawks
  16. Bears
  17. Colts
  18. Titans
  19. Rams
  20. Dolphins
  21. Jets
  22. Jaguars
  23. Bills
  24. Giants
  25. Chiefs
  26. Raiders
  27. 49ers
  28. Falcons

Photo challenge

2015 NFL Mock draft

In the final hours before the biggest moment in many of these players lives, speculation and chaos is commonplace.  Before the big day, it’s only right to try and predict the madness.

This mock draft will not feature trades, but trade value of notable picks will be discussed. I base this off only what I think the team should do as I have no sources not available to everyone else. Let’s get things started!

  1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Jameis Winston – QB – Florida State: There’s very little doubt about the pick here.  It goes without saying Tampa thinks they are a few pieces from contending in a very weak NFC South.  Jamies is one of the better QB prospects to come out of college in recent memory, and the Buccs will be happy to put him in a situation where he can win immediately with reliable pass catchers in Vincent Jackson and star in the making Mike Evans.  The Buccaneers have spent the past few months talking to his former coaches, his family, his friends, teammates, everyone he’s ever bought a hot pretzel from.  Any talk that the Buccaneers might trade out of this pick is simply not rooted in reality. One of the few locks of this whole draft. 
  2. Tennessee Titans – Marcus Mariota – QB – Oregon: If you don’t have a QB, you don’t have anything.  The disappointing stint with Jake Locker has come to an end, leaving Nashville in a pit of a predicament.  There’s no doubt the team has an affinity for second year QB Zach Mettenberger whom they drafted last year.  However, there’s also no doubt that he isn’t a long term answer.  The Titans could potentially take Leonard Williams here and try to build their defense to respectability, but trading back is not likely.  The Titans have a longer road than many to reach relevance.  Another year of Mettenberger with a player like Beasley would be nice, but he wouldn’t add what Williams would.  What is probably the worst roster on paper in the NFL needs to commit to starting the rebuilding now.  Tennessee has a chance to draft a very talented player in the reigning Heisman Trophy winner in Mariota to be the face of a franchise that hasn’t had someone to be excited about since 2009 in Chris Johnson.  Mariota, with a limited receiving corps should be able to settle into a comfortable groove in his first couple starts by running a simple offense based on the short throw, similar to what Oakland did with Carr last year. While not a fit for what Whisenhunt likes in his field general, Mariota should be a starter day one and while he probably won’t contribute to the win total immediately, the Titans will be happy they pulled the trigger.
  3. Jacksonville Jaguars – Dante Fowler – EDGE – Florida – It’s time for Gus Bradley to finally take that heat off the edge he hasn’t had since leaving Seattle.  When looking at the Jaguars defense, there’s not much to get excited about in any one given area.  The secondary is currently very weak, but taking a DB here or trading back would be very ill advised. DT Sen’Derrick Marks enjoyed a productive season before ending near the finish line in one of the more depressing injuries of 2014.  Even though the Jags signed Oderick from the Dolphins this offseason, they still lack pressure off the edge. Jacksonville has players that can get pressure from the inside without help from the outside, but not vice versa.  Dante Fowler is one of the best players in this class, and a perfect fit in Gus Bradley’s defense.  Fowler played all around the line and off it at times for Florida, and will demand attention whenever he’s on the field.  Fowler won over coaches at the Combine with his attractive personality and work ethic in addition to being some kind of mutant athletically.  Look for the Jaguars to have that draft card filled out awfully quickly on draft day
  4. Oakland Raiders – Leonard Williams – DT – USC- Often regarded as far and away the best player in this draft, Oakland has a real shot at developing a top 5 front 7 in the NFL in a year or two, and it starts now.  Last year, the Raiders took SUNY school hopeful (Go Lakers) and bona fide stud Khalil Mack.  Mack enjoyed a devastating rookie campaign despite not racking up numbers in the sack collum.  While disruption does equal production, what an opportunity it would be for the Raiders to just lay it on.  Williams was far and away the best defender in college football, making a living in opponents backfield.  He’s an elite 3 technique and can rush the passer on third downs as well as frustrate opponents to no end by disrupting running plays. So Oakland’s drafted what very well could be a top 3 player at his position in Mack, and now can add his running mate. Interior pressure is inherently more valuable in the NFL because it’s harder to find and it doesn’t allot a QB to climb the pocket to escape pressure. In a division with weak offensive lines, the Raiders are on their way to making great strides to returning to relevance again. This is a no brainer pick if he’s available.

  5. Washington – Brandon Scherff – OT/OG – Iowa: Washington is in a very strange place as far as QB play.  Will we ever see the old Robert Griffin III again?  We’ll certainly never know if he’s playing through bumps and bruises if he can even play at all. You might remember last year RGIII was flattened by the pass rush and not one offensive lineman stopped to peel their QB off the turf.  This is concerning for several reasons.  You want an offensive lineman who will go to war for your QB, and you also have a group of five guys who were just unable to do their job right.  Trent Williams, one of the better LT’s in the league has been holding it down from his spot on the blindside, but he needs help.  If Washington is serious about the development of RGIII, they need to invest some talent in that offensive line. Some people may mock a pass rusher here, but they have stated they feel good about their D line depth, still retaining Ryan Kerrigan, Jason Hatcher and Trent Murphy who was drafted last year. Scherff is a big, mean mammoth of a man who anchored Iowa for the past few years.  A workout warrior, Scherff has incredible measurables and strength.  He played tackle in college but he projects as an all pro guard in the pros. And if that doesn’t work, he can always switch to RT. Scherff is one of the safest picks in this years NFL draft, something Washington could use in space: Safety (In more ways than one)

Social Media Madness

With the emergence of new media outlets sprouting up all the time, content becomes abundant and can come in many forms from many different sources.  As a general rule, the more of something there is, the more likely an error is going to occur.  With that in mind, it’s not difficult to understand why there are just so man “Digital identity fails”.  Many people are simply unaware of the influence everything they do can have.  So why exactly does it happen? Why are so many people suffer from a complete lack of consciousness when it comes to the digital world? The answer may not be as simple as one tangible factor.

Why is it happening?

When word gets out about the latest social media faux-pas, the first thing people take notice of is the perpetrator and supposed victim.  When people try to decipher why a phenomena like the digital blunder might take place, they look for a common denomination of people.  What they discover, is that there is none.  For every group of oblivious college students singing a racist song, there is an old politician who underestimated the weight of a private text message.  The argument that older people are more prone to social media errors just doesn’t hold water.  However, the notion that young people are sending out questionable tweets wild and fast at a higher rate than older people is similarly weak.  So denomination isn’t the cause.  So what is?  Though it may be too vague, the center of the problem may simply be chalked up as absentmindedness.  Anthony Weiner was notoriously involved in the 2011 sexting scandal that caused him to resign as congressman.  Though they were private messages, Weiner severely overestimated the security those texts granted and were subsequently leaked.  Absentmindedness can come from posting things to the social media world as well.  An Oklahoma fraternity was recently shut down because a video of it’s members singing a racist song presumably decades old was filmed on a students phone.  In a time where over-sharing anything of note is rampant, you would think the members of Sigma Alpha Epsilon would have known better than to post such an incriminating video. According to this study, people are treating social media almost like an “Extra reality” where they don’t need to play by the rules and conventions of everyday life.

Assessing the situation

Although it may not feel like it sometimes, social media globalization is still a relatively new thing.  People are still joining late, as it’s certainly not a standard yet.  Couple this with the fact that many new services are popping up every week, it’s easy to be overwhelmed.  First people only had to account for text messages being saved or shared between people in person.  Soon, video sharing services like Youtube made events go viral. It wasn’t before long Facebook picked up steam and people started networking on a global scale. All of this took place within a few years of each other, so people are still being caught off guard by a new advancement in technology to expose a blunder.  Soon, livestreaming will be as easy as simply recording something on your phone, further reducing the time for something to go viral while simultaneously making a clearer, more updated picture for people sharing content than a video or tweeting about it.  So a definite contributor to social media blunders is the rapid advancement of technology. My advice to someone trying to reduce errors is just to play everything safe, you never know what’s around the corner to capture every move you make.  But don’t fall for the existing social media traps.  Don’t tweet wildly, take the time to review your posts before posting and look at things from different angles.  I’m certainly not one to ignore any constructive criticism.  Though I have a personal and professional twitter account, that doesn’t give me a free pass to post whatever I want.

Hokie Gajan

Calling my first basketball game as color commentator on Friday. Need to channel my all time favorite color guy, Hokie Gajan, the former FB and current broadcaster of New Orleans Saints games for WWL.  Gonna be interesting. I’m excited!