Johnny Clipboard


It has been announced that Brian Hoyer will start week one for the Cleveland Browns.

Johnny Football will start his career as Johnny Clipboard. While some national media may try to paint this as a mistake it makes perfect sense. This is not about the partying, it is not about the middle finger on Monday Night Football. This is not even about ill-advised photo with Justin Bieber (really what were you thinking?). It is all about the fact that Hoyer is simply better at this point.

Johnny Manziel is shiny. As a quarterback he creates something out of nothing, no one is disputing that. That is not the problem. The improvisation is a rare trait, something that simply cannot be coached up. The concern with Manziel are the parts of the game that can be coached up.

While he had a wonderful college career, he did struggle at times. Most significantly against LSU and Missouri last season. The connection: They forced him to play from the pocket. He seemed lost, the great player we had seen was missing. Creating is great but if you cannot play from the pocket you will be in trouble.

Players are better, faster in the NFL. This is the top one percent of the top one percent of football players on the planet. What worked in college may not work here. If he cannot learn to play from the pocket he may not make that jump. Relying solely on his scrambling ability could get him killed at this level.

So it is Johnny Clipboard to begin. If he can get out of his own way and learn while he is on the sideline he may be ok.

Categories: Cleveland Browns, Football, Johnny Football, Johnny Manziel, NFL | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Miami Dolphins Training Camp Primer: Secondary

Michael Thomas

This is the last in my series looking at the position groups as we enter into preseason.

The secondary went through several changes in the offseason. Gone from the team are safety Chris Clemons along with cornerbacks Dimitri Patterson and Nolan Carroll. Taking their place are veterans Louis Delmas at safety and Cortland Finnegan at corner. There is no doubt about the talent of Delmas and Finnegan, rather can the players stay healthy.

Rather than go player by player this time I chose to look at what we know and what we don’t.

What we know:

Not a lot. We know Brent Grimes will excel at one corner position. He is one of the best in the game right now. Reshad Jones will miss the first four weeks of the season due to a suspension forcing the team to improvise at the safety position. Louis Delmas should be a solid ball hawking safety on the other side, question is will he make more plays that he gives up as the last line of defense.

What we do not know:

Will Cortland Finnegan regain his former pro bowl form, he has looked good so far in training camp so that is a plus. Who is the third corner? Last years draft picks Will Davis and Jamar Taylor look to have the first shot at the job. Jimmy Wilson seems likely to take Jones’ spot at safety, what happens when Jones is back from suspension?

Michael Thomas brings energy and enthusiasm to the secondary, will he find a home here in Miami? I believe he can be a star if given the chance. Either at safety or corner just get the man on the field.

Draft pick Walk Aikens looks promising, but I see a safety more than a corner in him.

When I look at our secondary there is a lot to like, but so many questions. The talent is there. Just put it together.



Categories: Football, Free Agency, Miami Dolphins, Miami Dolphins Training Camp, NFL | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Ray Rice Conversation


There are some columns I try not to write, some subjects I try to avoid. Often it is a simple case of asking if I am the person who should be talking about this subject. Then again sometimes an issue keeps gnawing at you and you realize that like it or not it is time to bleed at your keyboard.

The entire Ray Rice situation is one such issue. I will not go into detail about the case here. Surely you can find it written about at length elsewhere across the net. Simply put due to an incident with his fiancé (now his wife) in Atlantic City, Rice was accepted into a pretrial intervention program in May. This last week the NFL chose to suspend Rice for two games along with a fine. While a TMZ video shows Rice with his seemingly unconscious wife leaving an elevator, no one knows for sure what took place in that elevator.

Many across the nation have blasted the NFL for not taking a harder stance against Rice. There have been cries that the league showed that it does not care about domestic violence, that it does not care about women.

If they truly feel that way then where is the outrage against the court of law?

If they feel that Rice only got a slap on the wrist from the NFL then what did the criminal justice system give him?

Something on the video from the elevator convinced the justice system and the NFL to decide as they did. Frankly, thinking anything else is simply judging by facts not in evidence.

That is what I feel about the Ray Rice case. However, that is not where the story ends. Domestic violence is a terrible plague on our society. This case raises the voices of outrage over this subject. The only problem is that it is not creating a discussion as much as a lecture. Everything is fine if you agree with everyone else. Do not even think of offering up a different opinion though.

Domestic violence is not simply a man physically or emotionally abusing a woman. It goes the other way as well.

I know. I have experienced it first hand. While some may scoff at the suggestion of men suffering from abuse at the hands of their wives and girlfriends it does happen. Often times it simply is brushed under the rug. Pride is many men’s greatest sin.

What man wants to admit the woman he loves is hurting him?

Who would believe him?

A conversation about domestic violence cannot, should not only cover part of the story.

I have said over and over again: It is never ok for a man to lay his hands on the women in his life. We should be there to protect them not endanger them.

At the same time, women it is not ok for you to assault the men in your lives either.

None of this excuses whatever happened in that elevator. It just highlights that this issue is not as simple or one-sided as some may want to make it.

This issue deserves better.

We all deserve better.


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Miami Dolphins Training Camp Primer: Linebackers

koa jordantripp

The linebacker position was an issue last season that needed addressing. I wrote about it leading up to the draft. It can be found here.

It was a frustrating situation. Dannell Ellerbee and Philip Wheeler were brought in to inject youth and speed to the linebacking corps. They were expected to improve an already solid front seven. They did not.

How bad were the results? During the second half of the Tampa Bay game I suggested that one of them should be cut. Not by the end of the season, not after the game. I wanted them cut right there on the field, take their playbook and make them walk home. If nothing else that would have sent a message.

Ok. Maybe that would have been a little extreme. However, improvement must happen this offseason. As a group we need to see better angles, quicker recognition and more consistent effort. Can last years starters step up their game or is it time for the next man to step up?

Koa Misi: Misi was one of the few bright spots for the Dolphins at the linebacker position last season. He was consistently solid playing the strongside outside linebacker position. This year the five-year veteran takes on a new challenge-middle linebacker. His athleticism and motor should serve him well in the middle. The question will be is this a solution or merely a Band-Aid to the linebacking woes.

Dannell Ellerbee: When he came over from the Baltimore Ravens Ellerbee was expected to excel at middle linebacker. After all he had filled in for future Hall-of-Famer Ray Lewis during the Ravens Super Bowl run. Seemed like a no brainer. Did not work out that way. Perhaps the change from a 3-4 to the 4-3 slowed his progress. This season Ellerbee is expected to lineup on the strongside, which it is felt is a more natural position for him.

Philip Wheeler: If anyone is on a short leash this season it is Philip Wheeler. Watching him last season I saw so many bad angles and even worse at times I saw a lack of effort getting to the ball carrier. While the other two starters have switched positions, I expect Wheeler to have competition for his starting job. He may be better in a pass rushing specialist role than as a full time starter.

Jelani Jenkins: The second year player out of the University of Florida took some time to adjust to the NFL. When he finally did he started taking some snaps away from Wheeler. If he continues to progress and more importantly impress he may have an outside shot at taking the starting job. While still a little raw I see tremendous upside to Jenkins.

Jason Trunsik: Trunsik has been the break in case of emergency linebacker for the last few seasons. He is a good, solid backup at all three positions. While good I feel he simply does not have the upside necessary. Sadly someone else taking his spot may be the surest sign of progress for the position overall.

Jordan Tripp: The fifth round pick out of Montana is intriguing. He has the skills to play at all three linebacker positions. During OTAs it seemed they were training him at all positions. Whether this is to take advantage of his versatility or to simply find where he fits best remains to be seen. From my own personal scouting I see him as a future middle linebacker. Until he finds his way into the starting lineup he should find a home on special teams, where he should excel.

What little I have seen and heard so far about the linebackers has been promising. I simply hope they can step up and put the memories of 2013 far in the past.



Categories: Football, Miami Dolphins, Miami Dolphins Training Camp, NFL, NFL draft | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This is Jimmy V week.

I did not know Jim Valvano.
I never saw him play, never saw him coach. When he was cutting down the nets after winning the 1983 NCAA Basketball Tournament I was only 12 years old. I was unaware of Jim Valvano’s entire existence until this:

It is odd going from being unaware of someone to feeling a great admiration for that same someone in the span of mere minutes. That is what Jim Valvano gave us.

Sports is life. It is more important than the simple games we play and enjoy. Sometimes it can bring people together in a fellowship, a brotherhood that would not exist otherwise.

The “Jimmy V” speech is outstanding. It is inspiring. You do not need to even like sports to be touched by the words he said that night. The thoughts he shared that night transcend the sporting world.

“If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s one heck of a day.”

It is an amazing day. Here was a man dying of cancer(he would pass less than a month later) urging those in attendance to live their lives to the fullest. That night he would form the Jimmy V Foundation for Cancer Research to help others. And he has helped so many others. Not only those helped by the foundation, but those inspired by his shining example.

It inspires me every day of my life. Every time I watch that speech is like watching it for the first time. Chills go down my spine and I feel like I could run through any wall. I feel I could do anything. Time is a gift, there is only so much that we each have. So live your life.

“Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.”

To donate: 1-800-4-JIMMYV

Categories: College Basketball, ESPYs, inspirational, Journalism, Speeches, sports | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Miami Dolphins Training Camp Primer: Defensive Line

cam wake


The Miami Dolphins defensive line was a strength of this team last season and it continues to be one this year. Even with the departure of Paul Soliai and the 4-game suspension of last years first round pick Dion Jordan this unit should continue to impress.

It is not simply the talent on the field it is also the depth that promises consistent play no matter who is out there.

I will start with the Defensive Ends.

Cameron Wake: Wake is the star of this unit, maybe of the entire team. After joining the Dolphins in 2009 after a successful run in the CFL, Wake has shown that he is an elite defensive end. Providing 8.5 sacks as well as one of the plays off the year in his walk-off safety against the Cincinnati Bengals 2013 was another excellent season from him. The only question with Wake is how long can he perform at this level. He is 32 and he did miss some time last season to injury. Keeping an eye on his playing time might be a wise move by the Dolphins.

Olivier Vernon: This third year player out of the University of Miami had his coming out party last season. Posting 11.5 sacks opposite of Cameron Wake. At the beginning of last offseason he was not even expected to start, but he held off Dion Jordan to keep the job. Now it is time for Vernon to prove last season was not a fluke. After a full season starting I expect him to be more consistent and effective, elevating the performance of the entire line.

Dion Jordan: The Dolphins 2013 first round pick has an unique combination of size, speed and agility. How unique? Jason Taylor kind of unique. While he saw his playing time limited last season while recovering from injuries, he came into this season in great shape even adding some muscle to help against the run. Recently it was announced that he will serve a four-game suspension for violating the NFLs PED policy. While some make a big deal out of this, I believe everyone is entitled to a mistake. As long as Jordan learns from this and does not become an habitual offender there should be no problem. He will be back by the beginning of October adding another weapon to this defense.

Derrick Shelby: Shelby provides solid depth to this line. Still a young player with room to grow, he should be a regular part of the defensive end rotation this season.

Terrence Fede: The rookie draft pick from Marist contributed over 30 sacks during his college career. Still very raw, he has the kind of athleticism that teams covet at the defensive end position. Fede looked to be an easy choice for the practice squad this season, but with the Jordan suspension he may sneak onto the main roster at the beginning of the season.

The Defensive Tackle position will look a little different this year. Gone is space-eater Paul Soliai replaced by Earl Mitchell. It looks like defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle is looking for versatility at the position.

Randy Starks: Starks signed a two-year $12 million dollar contract to return to the Dolphins this offseason. A two-time pro bowler he is effective working at defensive tackle and also at end. At thirty he is one of the older members of the defense but still can perform as a full-time starter.

Jared Odrick: Like Starks, Odrick has the versatility to play inside or outside. The former first round pick contributed 4.5 sacks last season bringing his career total to 15.5 for the Dolphins. Entering into a contract year, expectations should be high for Odrick this season. I expect to see him excel in his second season as a full-time defensive tackle.

Earl Mitchell: Coming over from the Houston Texans, Mitchell is expected to fill the run stopping role Soliai once manned. If nothing else he should be a solid member of the defensive tackle rotation.

A.J. Francis: Francis impressed in last years preseason. Unfortunately he did not make the final 53 man roster, being picked up by the New England Patriots and spending several weeks on their roster. By the end of the season he was back on Miami’s roster. With a season of experience he has a good chance of making the roster and providing depth in the defensive tackle rotation. He also has a chance to surprise and steal snaps from the starters this year.

Even with a suspension and the ongoing threat of injury that always exists I expect this line should continue to be a strength. It is very simple. Next man up. The depth and talent are there. Each and every man simply needs to step up when his number is called and I expect nothing less.


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Chasing Excellence

As each week passes we get closer to the return of the NFL. Training camps approach, preseason beacons.

Fans start being fans. They obsess about every little bit of information they hear about their teams. Some obsess as much about what their rivals do.

One of the common complaints is that their team did not do enough to beat the Patriots, the Seahawks, the Broncos, whoever. When I see this all I can think is that they have the horse around backwards.

Yes, you can build your team to counter a particular teams strengths. In some small way you can achieve success this way. The problem lays in the fact that what it takes to beat one team may leave you vunerable to others. It is not the way to create excellence.

That is what we are after isn’t it?

As fans we want our teams to achieve excellence. Win division titles and championships. Unfortunately some teams may stand in our way. Season after season we fall to the same team. The same team prevents us from achieving our goals. Finding a way to beat them seems to be the right course of action.

But is it the only way?

Of course not. There is never only one way to achieve our goals. So if not designing the team to beat the rival how do you get over the hump?

Simple. Make your team better. Breakdown your own flaws. See what you do well and what you don’t and fix that. Do that and everything takes care of itself. Every great team has its own personality, live in that. Be yourself, do not pretend to be someone else.

When we play at being someone else we fail. Be yourself and it will all work out.


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Play to win, not draw.



This Thursday the US Men’s National Team will play the most important match of their lives. Beating Germany would make a statement. Beating Germany would declare that the US team is ready to make that next step to becoming an actual power in the soccer (or futbol if you prefer) world. So why do so many seem to want the US to play for a draw?

For me this actually started with the Germany-Ghana match. While I was cheering on Ghana(for what looked like an upset of Germany), a friend of mine tried to convince me that I should be cheering on Germany. His rationale was that it would give the US team and easier road to the knockout stage if Germany won. It would have. If Germany won all the US would have needed was a draw, which is what they got. I did not care. For me it is nice and simple. I wanted Germany to lose because Germany is one of the best teams in the entire World Cup, if there is a chance to prevent them from making the knockout stage then you take it. As far as the US team is concerned: Take Care of Business.

It is real simple win and you get in. That was true against Portugal, it is still true against Germany. Win and we are in.

I feel like I am channeling Herm Edwards here,

“You Play to Win the Game!”

It was true when he said it as a football coach, it is still true now.

Playing to win is the only way to do it.  Playing for a draw-there are too many things that can go wrong. Athletes are programmed to win, not to tie.  Trying to draw against one of the best teams in the world is courting disaster. You play to win, you may settle for the draw. But you always play to win. Come Thursday the US team will play to win and all will be good.

Take care of business.

Categories: Soccer, sports, World Cup | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Miami Dolphins Training Camp Primer: Offensive Line


San Diego Chargers v Miami Dolphins

It is rare that a teams number one need heading into the offseason is as obvious as the Miami Dolphins was headed into this offseason. Giving up 58 sacks will do that. Having a scandal hijack your season will do that. Needing to replace 3/5ths of your offensive line will do that. There is a possibility that the only returning starter for these Miami Dolphins may be Mike Pouncey. And that is just fine.

New blood can help wash away the bad memories of last season. Not all the struggles were the lines fault. The running backs could have pass blocked better. Ryan Tannehill could have gotten the ball out quicker. Mike Sherman could have done a better job calling plays. At the end of the day you have to play the hand that is dealt you and do the job in front of you.

The offensive line is the position group most dependent on working as a team. I do not believe that you need superstars on the offensive line. Having good solid players who work together and communicate is much more important. At first blush heading into the 2014 season the offensive line is already much improved.

I expect the starting unit to be as follows: Branden Albert, Shelley Smith, Mike Pouncey, Dallas Thomas and first round pick Ja’Wuan James. Of the group the biggest surprise of the offseason is the performance of Thomas. While some (myself included) did not expect much from him he seems to have improved immensely since his rookie season.

For the reserves I expect to see: Sam Brenner, Nate Garner, Jason Fox along with rookies Billy Turner and Tyler Larsen. Before the draft I would have even been happy to have Fox as our starting right guard. Fox, Brenner and Garner should do well filling in for the starters if called upon. Turner and Larsen may surprise and develop into solid reserves or even possible starters down the line.

Compared with last season I feel much better about the line headed into training camp. What was once a trouble spot now seems to be a strength of the roster. Cannot wait for preseason.



Categories: Football, Free Agency, Miami Dolphins, Miami Dolphins Training Camp, NFL, NFL draft | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Father’s Day Football.


My traditional Father’s Day post. Happy Father’s Day to all the Dad’s out there
-miss you dad.

Originally posted on 4th Down and Forever:

Once in a while an idea will find me all by itself. This Father’s Day I saw a post on Facebook of all places suggesting that Father’s Day should take place in the fall so we could spend our day with or fathers and sons watching football.

Sounds good to me.

Then I thought why does it have to be in the fall. From 1934-1976 the Chicago College All-Star Game took place between departing college players and the NFL champions. What is wrong with beginning that tradition once again. Very simple have a team of college all-americans play against NFL pro bowl athletes, have the game coached by the head coaches of the defending National Champions and Super Bowl champions. Nice and simple.

Have all procedes go for charity, I’m thinking Big Brothers.

What better celebration of fathers across the country than having a football game used to raise money…

View original 24 more words

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