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July 2009

Chicago Bears: QB Jay Cutler Comes Out Firing

Published on: 31st July, 2009

Chicago Bears: QB Jay Cutler Comes Out Firing   | read this item

It’s difficult to measure success and failure when it comes to football players running around in shorts and helmets without tackling or blocking.

When the Bears debuted new quarterback Jay Cutler in Thursday’s first training camp practice in Bourbonnais, however, no one could have interpreted it as anything but a resounding success.

“I thought it was a good first day,” coach Lovie Smith said. “We have a long ways to go; our entire team does. But you need to get that first day under your belt. He was able to do that and hopefully we can just continue to make progress from here.”

It was more than the laser-like precision Cutler showed by hitting on nine of his first 12 passes in seven-on-seven drills, before going on to hit Devin Hester and Greg Olsen for gains of 35 to 40 yards on sideline routes in full squad work.

Cutler’s ability to handle the offense and command the huddle both spoke volumes about why general manager Jerry Angelo traded for him.

“I think he’s in total control,” Smith said. “He has a track record. Guys realize that, so they’re going to listen to what he tells them. He has a way about telling them.”

“You won’t see him scream or yelling at guys, but he’ll get his point across, and with his personality, it allows the guys to really gravitate to him.”

The man who made the trade for Cutler was equally impressed.

“He’s got talent,” Angelo said. “We saw that in the (June organized workouts). He looked good.

“Just working with the receivers and working within the framework of the offense it will take a little time before everything starts really clicking like we like. Right now was a good day.”

Cutler had about a dozen team activities in June to work with receivers and also said he worked with them on his own to help him get ready for training camp. He still couldn’t wait to start.

“I was anxious if anything,” he said.

The two big plays along the sidelines stood out, in addition to a bullet Cutler drilled over the middle to Rashied Davis, who had slipped but had the presence of mind to get back up and make the catch.

“Yeah, you know, Greg looked good,” Cutler said. “Devin looked good, fell down a few times but we’re getting there.

“It’s a good sign to be hitting some of those early that we did, some of those big plays, because those are hard to come by.”

Even Bears defenders who tried to stop Cutler were impressed.

“He’s giving the wide receiver just enough room to maneuver and it’s good to see out of our offense,” cornerback Nate Vasher said.

A crowd estimated at 7,000 by Olivet Nazarene University school officials roared with every completion. Fans started lining up three hours before practice to be part of Cutler’s first workout.

The crowd fueled Cutler, too—except possibly the man who stood up and screamed during a lull: “marry me Jay Cutler!”

“I think it’s a fun atmosphere,” Cutler said. “It adds to the practice a little bit.

“But once we get locked in I don’t hear them at all.”

 

Fat farm for Harrison

The news wasn’t all good. Second-year defensive tackle Marcus Harrison weighed in Thursday around 325 pounds and because he failed to make weight, he went on the non-football injury list. The Bears athletic trainers put him through individual paces on the sidelines to try and get him in shape.

“Disappointed that Marcus isn’t out there with his teammates right now, but don’t know exactly how long,” Smith said.

“This wasn’t a part of the plan for him to be on the sideline, but he’ll do his work, and as you can see, he’s working hard to get back in shape. I know he’ll do it.

“But in the meantime our team has to move on. (Defensive tackles) Anthony Adams, Dusty Dvoracek are good football players, and when he comes we’ll welcome him back then.”

 

Injury front

Danieal Manning had the only real injury of the first day. He said he suffered from calf cramps and had a tender hamstring, so Craig Steltz played free safety with starters and Kevin Payne strong safety.

 

Also on Day 1

Free agent acquisition Pisa Tinoisamoa took most of the snaps with the first team at strong side linebacker, with Nick Roach getting some, as well. Veteran Hunter Hillenmeyer was limited to backup duties at the spot and also a backup middle linebacker role.
Free agent acquisition Frank Omiyale did not play with starters at left guard. Instead, Josh Beekman did. Last year Beekman was the starter at that spot.
Backup quarterback Caleb Hanie had a miserable first day of practice. He fumbled his first snap from backup center Tyler Reed. Then he threw well behind running back Kevin Jones in the flat on a short pass.
After that, Nate Vasher and Zack Bowman both intercepted Hanie passes. Hanie did get a measure of revenge with one touchdown bomb to Brandon Rideau.

Broncos Training Camp Notes: Marshall Holds Out, Jordan Running With First Team

Published on: 31st July, 2009

Broncos Training Camp Notes: Marshall Holds Out, Jordan Running With First Team  | read this item

News and notes from observations at Friday night’s session of Day One of training camp:

– Brandon Marshall didn’t practice in the night session after a good (reported) earlier session.

– LaMont Jordan is running with first team, Correll Buckhalter with second team and Ryan Torain with third team. Remember, Knowshon Moreno is not in camp yet as he waits to get a contract deal done.

– First-team WRs for most of night session were Eddie Royal and Jabar Gaffney. Brandon Stokley played in the slot with Daniel Graham at TE.

– Team ran a lot of group drills after going through stretching exercises.

– Offense ran a number of short five- and 10-yard in-and-out patterns, including a nice catch by rookie Kenny McKinley.

– Passing game looked rough when it went up against the secondarya lot of deflections and near interceptions.

– Kenny McKinley made a couple of nice long catches from Chris Simms.

– Team threw a number of swing passes to the left flat to Peyton Hills.

– Correll Buckhalter had one nice inside handoff run.

– Brian Dawkins nearly picked off one of Simms’ passes.

– WR C.J. Jones got rocked on one offensive play. Left practice, but came back later.

– DE Tim Crowder would’ve had a sure sack on rookie QB Tom Brandstater on one play. QBs are wearing non-contact red jerseys.

– Rookies Alphonso Smith and Kenny McKinley were working on kickoff returns along with Eddie Royal.

Is Darrius Heyward-Bey The Next Cliff Branch?

Published on: 31st July, 2009

Is Darrius Heyward-Bey The Next Cliff Branch?  | read this item

When Al Davis first selected Darrius Heyward-Bey, it really threw me for a loop for about a minute.

I live in Texas so I have to deal with the rivalries between Texas Tech, Texas, and Texas A&M Universities.

One of the most amazing players to watch was Michael Crabtree of Texas Tech. He had been the only receiver that really got any Heisman Trophy thought to him. It was amazing because only one receiver ever won the Heisman Trophy was Tim Brown.

Who drafted Tim Brown? Al Davis, that’s who.

I was with my semi-pro football team going to a playoff game around five hours away. We were huddling around our phones waiting for the big news.

When Oakland selected Heyward-Bey, I was immediately confused until my buddy J.D. told me that Heyward-Bey had the fastest 40 time at the combine.

I snapped my fingers and realized that Al Davis was going after one thing; speed.

Darrius Heyward-Bey ran a 4.30 40-time at the combine. That was the best time out of all the receivers.

Who does that sound like? Sounds like Cliff Branch to me.

“Branch committed highway robbery without a gun!”

Branch was the fastest guy on the field when it came to the Raiders. No one in the league could consistently run with the guy on a regular basis.

Pat Haden: “Everytime you think about Cliff Branch, did he ever go short? No, he was always going for 80 yards.”

There were signs at the stadium that said, “SPEED KILLS! 21″

Heyward-Bey did not have great statistics in college, but he did not really have a supporting cast at Maryland.

The Raiders needed a receiver on the field. Their number one receiver was Zach Miller with 778 yards. The receiver in second was Johnnie Lee Higgins with 366 yards.

The Raiders threw only 13 passing touchdowns the entire season. They ranked 32nd in pass offense. That is last place people.

The Raiders need a deep threat to have on the field. It adds a dimension to the team and the more dimensions a team has, the more effective that team is.

The Raiders desperately need a receiver that will require double coverage threat and Heyward-Bey is the guy they are banking on with his speed.

He’s the guy they want to run down the field to take pressure off the run game or the short pass game.

Is Darrius Heyward-Bey the next Cliff Branch? I don’t know, but for Al Davis’s sake, let’s hope he is.

 

The Dallas Cowboys Will Regret Releasing Terrell Owens

Published on: 31st July, 2009

The Dallas Cowboys Will Regret Releasing Terrell Owens  | read this item

We have all heard that he is the team obliterator, a menace in the locker room, poison to team chemistry, a loud mouth, and simply an arrogant individual.

Who cares about any of that if Owen’s delivers on the field! He is still a great player who defenses have to account for. Sometimes teams are putting a corner and a safety on him just to cover his deep threat ability.

Yes, he drops a lot of short passes but he catches the big 60-yard throws that count the most.

While statistically his numbers have gone down, he still opened up the field for Jason Witten, Marion the barbarian, and Roy Williams

No more deep threat now defenses can put eight men in the box and dismantle Barber when he touches the football.

All that drama you know dang well the media loved it. The Cowboys are a soap opera, it’s their job to entertain us with those things being “America’s team.”

Do you remember how the Giants did very well until Burress had that incident in the night club and could not play? Eli Manning was in tears and was calling Plaxico to come back as he was getting sacked every minute without a deep threat.

Well, the same thing is going to happen to the cowboys.

Mark my words Jerry Jones, you will regret this come playoff time. You need a big time receiver. Let’s see if the two draft picks you wasted on Roy Williams will pay off…

I doubt it.

How The Patirots Will Go 19-0 and Win Super Bowl XLIV

Published on: 31st July, 2009

How The Patirots Will Go 19-0 and Win Super Bowl XLIV  | read this item

During the 2007 season, while the Pats where beating team after team, we all knew this could not continue. Someone was going to beat the mighty New England Patriots, and experts looked for any weaknesses in this seemingly flawless team.

I’m going to address a few things the Pats need to shore up if they hope to go 19-0 and win the super bowl in 2010.

 

The Running Game

Lawrence Maroney is a solid running back but can’t seem to avoid nagging injuries. If he can stay healthy, it would take a lot of pressure off the Pats’ pass-first attack. Also, Sammy Morris and the big acquisition of Fred Taylor should really anchor the running game.

 

The Offensive Line

Get some big offensive linemen to protect Brady—you know what happened when he got injured (bye-bye Super Bowl and playoff hopes).

 

The Defense

The Patriots defense is not getting any younger. While it is a solid core, this is the only real flaw. If they keep the opponent’s points to a minimum—let’s say, under 21—as we know the offense can score 50 on any given night, wins will come easily. They need to address their issues at safety and corner. Asante Samuel and Rodney Harrisson were big losses.

 

Wide Receivers

With Moss’s speed and Brady’s arm, we have the aerial assault that was deadly for most teams in 2007. Add in joey Galloway and Wes Welker, and we have a historic Pats season ahead.

 

Top 10 NFL Prospects Coming Out of the SEC in 2010

Published on: 31st July, 2009

Top 10 NFL Prospects Coming Out of the SEC in 2010  | read this item

This is a list of the top-10 NFL prospects coming out of the SEC this year. Not necessarily the best 10 players in the conference.

This list indicates who will be the highest rated prospects by the time the 2010 NFL Draft rolls around next year.

The SEC is a conference known for their defense, so of course, defensive players highlight most of the list.

Honorable Mentions include:

Jermaine Cunningham, Carlos Dunlap, Chad Jones and Geno Atkins

If you think I left someone off or I have anyone ranked higher or lower than they should be, leave a comment and let me know.

Thanks.

BR EXCLUSIVE: Deveny’s Experience, Abilities Win Him Job Over Vickers

Published on: 31st July, 2009

BR EXCLUSIVE: Deveny's Experience, Abilities Win Him Job Over Vickers  | read this item

FLOWERY BRANCH—The final roster spot for towel boy of the Atlanta Falcons was secured Friday by Andrew Deveny of Atlanta according to an anonymous source within the Falcons’ organization.

As was previously reported exclusively on Bleacher Report, Deveny, 27 years old, was in a neck-and-neck battle with Jeff Vickers, 17, of Roswell, Ga., for the position.

Deveny, an experienced towel boy who, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, holds the NFL record for towels distributed to a player without hitting the ground, was elated upon hearing the Falcons’ decision.

“I had a feeling I’d get the job,” Deveny said. “But I wasn’t sure. I’m looking forward to working with the Falcons this season and handing them towels.”

Vickers, who is off to a promising start in the field of “toweling,” made a splash in his rookie season last year by motivating a high school quarterback to orchestrate a game-winning drive.

Vickers, who on Friday was seen crying after learning of the news, fetched a towel for himself to wipe the tears away. 

“It will take some time for Jeff to heal,” Vickers’ mother, Julie, said. “He told me he never wants to pick up a towel again.”

Deveny is expected to report to the first day of Falcons training camp Saturday, Aug. 1.

 

Generations of Fans Can’t Be Wrong: Notre Dame Stadium Is Special

Published on: 31st July, 2009

Generations of Fans Can't Be Wrong: Notre Dame Stadium Is Special  | read this item

With kickoff a mere 35 days a way, legions of fans will soon be flocking once again to a little town in Indiana known as South Bend. But this small town is nothing like the hundreds of small towns you’ll find while aimlessly driving through Indiana.

South Bend is home to the University of Notre Dame.

It’s not worth the time to argue that Notre Dame is one of the most prestigious universities in our country, and it is just as foolish to try and validate the impact its athletic programs have had as well.

Of course, one athletic program stands out and it’s probably not the fencing team.

Notre Dame football, loved or hated by millions, is an undeniable force in the NCAA and the college football world. Their stadium is as legendary as the teams and games it has hosted.

I’d like to cover what makes Notre Dame Stadium so amazing. It has been a very special place for my family and I since I was a little kid, wearing an over-sized No. 3 jersey to home games.

Back then, just walking into the stadium told me that something very unique was happening; the air was so dense with history, I could breath it in.

Heisman Trophy winners played there. NFL legends played there. Now I was there. 

Though I was only watching twenty-something athletes play, I felt like I was witnessing a Super Bowl—the atmosphere, the fans, the scenery.

The smile on my face was brighter than the Golden Dome in the sun. I’ve made at least one game every year since I was seven, and I can honestly say the experience gets better and better each time.

To highlight all the reasons Notre Dame Stadium is special is a tough task, but I will give it my best effort.

In no particular order, my favorite aspects of Notre Dame Stadium.

 

The Golden Dome

Seeing this from the highway is often the first indication that you’re nearing South Bend. And what a way to start your ND experience.

The Golden Dome, when hit by sunlight, will take your breath away. 

It sits atop the Administration Building on Notre Dame’s campus and is painted with actual fragments of gold. 

The Dome is technically not part of the stadium, but it is viewable from just about anywhere inside the stadium. 

It gives the backdrop of any game a beautiful feel.

 

Touchdown Jesus

The Hesburgh Library is home to the most impressive mural any college campus can offer.

The image of Jesus with his arms raised, as if to signify a touchdown, can be seen from the south end zone at Notre Dame Stadium. 

This is another sight that you have to experience with your own eyes. 

 

Officer McCarthy’s 4th-quarter Joke

Before the fourth-quarter begins, the stadium grows eerily quiet; the first time you experience this, you’ll likely think something is wrong.

All is well, and Sheriff McCarthy is there to offer a reassuring, humorous joke. 

He is with the Indiana State Police Department, and he uses corny jokes to remind people to be safe while driving.

The jokes always draw a laugh from the crowd of 80,795. What’s amazing about this special tradition is that, according to what I have been told, McCarthy has never repeated a joke in his dozens of years as the fourth-quarter joke man.

 

The Marching Band

Most say the Notre Dame Marching Band is among the greatest in the nation, but surely everyone will at least say it is among the top two or three.

The band flows together as one and plays a variety of music that will please everyone’s interests.

One song that always pleases the crowd is the most famous of all victory marches, the Notre Dame Fight Song.

When the song is played, it is your duty as a fan to stand and clap along with your fellow Irish fans.

One of the greatest events happens a half hour before kickoff, when the band marches through the campus and into the stadium, drawing thousands to watch.

The band is known for their Irish jig, played throughout the game, and a piece by Beethoven, which is played at the beginning of the fourth quarter.

 

The Irish Guard

Accompanied with the band, the Irish Guard is a 10-member unit comprised of university students.

The members are donned in a traditional Scottish kilt and a shako, or long hat.

When in full uniform, the members of the Irish Guard stand about eight-feet tall—to even be considered for the Guard one must be at least 6’2″.

The Irish Guard is a stoic, mentally-tough unit that adds to the pageantry of college football and the Fighting Irish. 

Among their many responsibilities, the Irish Guard raises the American Flag during the national anthem.

 

The Chants

Hearing 80,795 fans chanting in unison can give you the chills, and it often does for me. 

Chants of “N…D” or “Here come the Irish” make the atmosphere take on a life of its own during the game.

My favorite chant involves all four corners of the stadium, when fans in one corner will say “we”, followed by “are…N…D.”

Hearing this, it is impossible not to get revved up and ready to back the boys in blue and gold.

 

The Student Body

One of the more colorful student bodies in all of college football, Notre Dame students do not sit during the game…ever.

Whether up for 40 or down by 40, students remain standing for the duration.  It is that kind of support that often gives the team that little edge that is the difference in a win or a loss.

The student body can be quite creative with their chants, and are never too shy to join in push-ups to help everyone count how many points the Fighting Irish have.

The Irish jig will then play, and students are literally dancing in the aisles and celebrating what is hopefully another Irish win.

 

The Gold Helmets

The gold helmets shine like the Golden Dome as the players exit the tunnel and take the field.

These helmets are painted with real gold as well, and theirs is truly one of the most unique helmets in all of sports.

 

The Alma-Mater

It is fitting that I save this for last, because this is the last impression one gets from a game at Notre Dame Stadium.

After the game has ended, the team will join the student body and together sway to the rhythm of the school’s alma-mater song, as it is performed by the band.

It is a peaceful, calming song that is a perfect time to savor one last image of the stadium, the fans, and the team.

The players all sing as they rock back and forth, the outcome of the game of little importance.

At the very end of the song comes its most famous line, “and our hearts will always…Love Thee Notre Dame!”

An exclamation point on a song that is an exclamation point on a beautiful, passionate experience at Notre Dame Stadium.

 

The previous nine aspects of Notre Dame Stadium all add up to my No. 10 favorite part of Notre Dame Stadium: the experience as a whole.

Though I certainly have not witnessed all of college football’s stadiums and their gameday traditions, I can say with confidence that Notre Dame Stadium is a place like no other.

I hold and cherish many wonderful memories from the stadium, and I truly feel that I have grown with each encounter. Through the wins and losses, I have gained a profound sense of respect and admiration for “The House That Rockne Built.”

In no other stadium in the country can a player truly “play like a champion today.”

Uh-Oh: Roddy White Fined for No-Showing at Atlanta Falcons Camp

Published on: 31st July, 2009

Uh-Oh: Roddy White Fined for No-Showing at Atlanta Falcons Camp  | read this item

All-pro WR Roddy White was a no-show Friday when players reported to the Atlanta Falcons training camp. He was scheduled to report by 6:30 p.m., but didn’t show up. He’ll be fined $17,000 per day, as determined by the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement.

The Falcons have been in discussions with White’s agent, Jonathan Feinsod, about a contract extension. He confirmed that White wasn’t at the meeting but said “no comment” when asked to elaborate.

This is White’s second training camp holdout. White held out for six days during his rookie season after being drafted out of UAB.

Early in his career, White was known more for dropping passes than catching them. He only developed into a 1,000-yard receiver in Year Three.

Last season, White caught 88 passes for 1,382 yards and seven touchdowns and was selected to the Pro Bowl for the first time. In 2007, he caught 83 passes for 1,202 yards and six touchdowns.

White is set to make $2.28 million in the final year of his five-year contract.

In his previous holdout, White missed the first six days of training camp. He signed a five-year contract worth $7.35 million (an escalator clause in the fifth year could take it over $10 million) with guaranteed bonuses totaling $4.470 million.

My take: Coach Mike Smith, GM Thomas Dimitroff, and owner Arthur Blank have too much momentum going to let White hold out for very long.

He was hugely instrumental in QB Matt Ryan’s development last year, and any prolonged absence is only going to hurt the team. Look for this to get resolved, one way or the other, very quickly.

Fantasy RBs: What to Look For (Best Receiving RBs)

Published on: 31st July, 2009

Fantasy RBs: What to Look For (Best Receiving RBs)  | read this item

Running backs are going to be your most consistent players throughout your fantasy season. That is why it is imperative that you spend much of your draft preparation focusing on them.

If you’re in a PPR league, every reception counts. So, while debating between players with similar rushing statistics, you can make the best pick by asking the following three questions:

1) How many targets did this RB receive in 2008 (or 3 year average if you think 2008 was an aberration)?
2) What kind of offense does this RB play in?
3) What is his competition like? Who is in on 3rd downs?

————————————————————-

1. You all know that Brian Westbrook and Reggie Bush are huge in the passing attack. But who are three other guys to look at in your draft that may receive a good amount of looks based on previous history?

Frank Gore (San Francisco 49ers)

In a down receiving year in 2008, he had 43 catches on 66 targets.  It was obvious that Gore was not utilized like he should have been in Mike Martz’s offense; so expect a few more dump-offs in this much more conservative, Jimmy Raye offense.

Perhaps bump Frank Gore up a spot ahead of the likes of Clinton Portis or DeAngelo Williams.

Projection: 57 catches, 562 yards

 

Derrick Ward (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)

Ward’s 55 targets ranked just outside of the top 15 in 2008, in semi-limited time. Well-known for having secure hands, Ward moves into a platoon where he expects to see more than half the carries for the Bucs.

The best part about his platoon with Earnest Graham is that Ward may stay in for a good amount of 3rd downs because of his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield.

Whether Freeman or Leftwich wins the QB spot, they will be relying on Ward to make plays for what I believe will be an otherwise stagnant offense.

Projection: 48 catches, 492 yards

 

Leon Washington (New York Jets)

Granted, he does not see the bulk of the carries; but even in limited time, he produced. Unlike Ward, Washington was in the top 15 in targets in 2008, and caught 47 passes.

Leon’s got breakaway speed and can be a lethal threat in the offense that figures to be a more conservative, run-heavy offense because of new Head Coach Rex Ryan.

If Mark Sanchez wins the QB job, Washington will play an important role in his development.

Projection: 49 catches, 423 yards

————————————————————-

2. The offense that a RB plays in can be just as important as the player’s ability. In Indianapolis, Edgerrin James was always a threat to catch passes out of the backfield. In fact, he averaged over 50 catches per year through seven seasons (including an injury-plagued 2001).

In Arizona, he averaged 25 catches from 2006-08. Here are three RBs whose offense could generate a great amount of catches:

 

Ronnie Brown (Miami Dolphins)

Perhaps he wasn’t underutilized in the passing game in 2008, but he does figure to be on the field more often with Ricky Williams being less active.

With the weak-armed Chad Pennington as his QB, Ronnie Brown could see his catches increase substantially.

Projection: 51 catches, 631 yards

 

Rookies LeSean McCoy (Philadelphia Eagles) and Donald Brown (Indianapolis Colts)

McCoy’s hands may have been the best in the 2009 draft (even better than WR Darrius Heyward-Bey). Donald Brown is not far behind. Both of these RB’s could generate a lot of targets through the air based on their offenses (Philly-WCO, Indy-PMO [Peyton Manning offense]).

Projections: McCoy: 35 catches, 310 yards. Brown: 27 catches, 246 yards

————————————————————-

3. Competition is inevitable at the position. Most teams have third down backs to replace their starters. The third down back is either a better receiving option (3rd and medium-longs) or a short-distance banger.

Here, though, are teams who don’t have a “third down back” to steal receptions away from the studs:

- San Francisco 49ers (Gore will handle most third downs; better receiving threat than Glenn Coffee)

- St. Louis Rams (Steven Jackson ditto, better receiver than Michael Pittman or Kenneth Darby)

- Jacksonville Jaguars (At least for the time being, Jones-Drew is their one and only)

- Houston Texans (Slaton is the man. Expect a huge receiving year)

- Detroit Lions (Kevin Smith handles all duties…though, will the offense be on the field long enough to record receptions and carries with any consistency?)

While I feel that it may be worthwhile to stretch a few picks for these RBs, keep in mind not to go crazy. In standard leagues, I would take these guys over players with similar rushing statistics. However, in PPR leagues, these are the real steals of the draft.

Remember, if at all possible, get your hands on the running backs with hands.

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*The above article was written by Bruno Boys Guest Columnist, Jacob Lerman. Jacob is the owner of his own fantasy sports blog, Fantasy Free Stylin’ in which he covers all fantasy sports. Please leave your feedback for Jacob in the comment section below.*

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