Cut Day Surprises

Every year, right before the season, each NFL team has to cut down from 75 to 53 players on the roster.  This is one of the saddest days of the year as an NFL hopeful, but it’s also the time of year when fans can get a real look at what their favorite team’s roster is going to look like entering the season.

Every season, there are several players who get cut that suprises me.  This year, there are only a few real surprises, but some nonetheless.  Below, I’ve outlined the surprise cuts at each position.

QB – Matt Leinart and Thaddeus Lewis, Buffalo; Vince Young, Green Bay; Tim Tebow, New England; David Carr, New York Giants; Tyler Wilson, Oakland

Leinart and Thad Lewis were only signed to fill in for the Bills, who only had Jeff Tuel healthy after Kevin Kolb went on IR.  It was surprising that the Bills didn’t hang on to one of them, particularly because Lewis looked pretty good in his final season, and it seemed reasonable to think that he might fit in the offense behind the mobile E.J. Manuel.  Vince Young was a surprise until the Packers brought in Seneca Wallace, who is definitely an upgrade at the backup position.  Tim Tebow isn’t really a surprise, but I have to wonder what the Patriots were hoping to get out of him with the top two QB spots already set before they brought him in.  David Carr has been there a long time, so it’s telling that the rookie Ryan Nassib beat him out at the backup spot.  Tyler Wilson was a fourth round pick who looked good early in the off-season and it seems premature to give up on him so early.

RB/FB – Ryan Torain, New York Giants; Jonathan Dwyer, Pittsburgh; Alexander Green, Green Bay; Shaun Draughn, Kansas City; Evan Rodriguez, Miami

Torain was on a last chance effort to make a squad, vying for time behind David Wilson while Andre Brown is out with a broken leg.  The Giants went with youth over Torain.  Dwyer fell out of favor with the Steelers, but has looked good at times.  It’ll be surprising if nobody picks him up.  Green and Draughn both were contributors last year and I thought they were sure to make the roster.  Rodriguez was the closest thing to a fullback Miami had before signing Tyler Clutts, and his versatility looked like it might save him.

WR/TE – Tandon Doss, Baltimore; Jordan Shipley, Jacksonville; Chris Harper, Seattle

Doss was a guy I was really high on coming out of college, thinking he had a little T.O. kind of ability to him.  Clearly, he was outplayed by other youngsters in Baltimore, but it was surprising that he was cut.  Shipley has been bouncing around the league but it’s surprising he can’t stick on a roster at least as a chain mover.  Harper was a fourth round pick, and it’s rare to see someone that highly drafted fail to make a roster his rookie year.  He was outplayed by Jermaine Kearse in the offseason.  No TE cuts surprised me.

OL – Senio Kelemete, Arizona; Zebrie Sanders, Buffalo

Kelemete and Sanders are both players that had a tremendous amount of talent and development potential coming into the draft last year.  This year, they’ve been cut by their respective teams.  While neither player had good rookie seasons, and neither was particularly highly drafted, it’s still surprising to me that these two young talents find themselves without jobs this week.  It’ll be interesting to see who picks them up and whether or not someone else can turn them into NFL starters.

Admittedly, there really weren’t any surprising cuts on the defensive side of the ball.  Most of the defensive players that were cut were expected to be cut.

 

Madden 25

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I love Madden.  The game franchise has been in my life ever since I first purchased a Playstation 1 in 1999 and I haven't looked back since. 

Sure, there was some mild flirting with NFL Blitz, some drunken evening bashing into each other on perhaps football's fastest paced game.  NFL 2K game me a quick reprieve as well, and there was and always will be the nostalgic factor of Tecmo Bowl (and Tecmo Super  Bowl for that matter).  

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However, it ultimately always went back to Madden, the love of my life, the grain in my coffee, the only way the Dolphins have won a Super Bowl since long before the game's inception.  Plus, in Madden world, Ryan Tannehill is without a doubt good enough to be a franchise quarterback for the Dolphins.

This year I'm pumped about Madden 2014 (named Madden 25 for it's anniversary addition).  Featuring Barry Sanders on the cover, one of my all-time favorite players, the game promises to provide revolutionary running control.  Also, after a quick demo in my nearest GameStop this past weekend, I was able to see that the Connected Careers mode has been modified to add an Owner option, something that I think was lacking from the 2013 version, which added Connected Careers, replacing the long-time Franchise mode that we fans have grown accustomed to.

One day in, I'm hooked.  While not dramatically different and I'm still getting the hang of running the ball, the new rendition of Madden seems to have fixed the pesky franchise mode (aka connected careers) issues that bothered me with last year's model.  The owner mode even allowed me to selfishly move the Dolphins to Portland and become the Portland River Hogs (no offense to Miami, but fictional worlds where I am supreme commander of everything can be cruel).  Now my pretend season tickets to the Blazers can hang out with my pretend season tickets to my pretend football team in my pretend Portland residence!

While I haven't gotten too far in the game yet, the owner option for the "franchise" mode is enough to get me excited over last year's model which was less than perfect in my opinion.  I also think the trading interface is cool, and I'm intrigued by the special things you can unlock for this version.  Other than the Jaguars new uniform being ugly (yes, I mean in real life too) , this game is visually pleasing and shows that the franchise continues its claim as the gold standard in football gaming.

Now, back to the Portland River Hogs beating the Patriots...

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Super Bowl Teams Need An Elite QB

One of the things that makes the NFL such a popular sport is, in part, at the beginning fans of essentially every team believes their team has a chance to at least make the playoffs.  And with good reason. In the past 10 years the only team that hasn't made the playoffs is the Buffalo Bills and about two-thirds of the league have made the playoffs at least 3 times.

This makes rooting for a team not seem like a hopeless exercise. With some good management, hard work and a break or two, most teams have a legitimate shot at the post season. Winning a Super Bowl, however requires more than a little luck.  It requires an elite Quarterback. 

Consider this; Of the last 20 super bowl winners, only the Baltimore Ravens (2001) and Tampa Bay Bucs (2003) won the Super Bowl without an elite level quarterback. Really punches holes in the whole defense wins championships mantra. No, solid defense and elite QB play wins championships.

So knowing that, does every NFL fanbase have a reason to think their team should win the Super Bowl? The answer is a resounding now.  In fact, there aren't very many teams that have an elite level QB capable of leading their team to a Super Bowl.  Below, I break down the teams that legitimately have reason to believe, and those that will still be outside looking in when the season ends:

Teams with a Super Bowl Winning QB: Denver (Peyton Manning), New England (Tom Brady), New York Giants (Eli Manning), Pittsburgh Steelers (Ben Roethlisberger), Green Bay Packers (Aaron Rogers), New Orleans Saints (Drew Brees), Baltimore Ravens (Joe Flacco)

Teams with Elite Level QB's Ready To Take the Step: Atlanta Falcons (Matt Ryan) , Dallas Cowboys (Tony Romo)

Teams With (Supposed) Elite QB's on Really Good Teams: Chicago Bears (Jay Cutler), Houston Texans (Matt Schaub), Tampa Bay (Josh Freeman), Philadelphia Eagles (Michael Vick)

 Teams with Young Gun QBs: Washington Redskins (RGIII), San Francisco 49ers (Colin Kaepernick), Indy Colts (Andrew Luck), Seattle Seahawks (Russell Wilson), Cincinatti Bengals (Andy Dalton), Carolina Panthers (Cam Newton)

Teams with QB's I don't know what to Make of: Kansas City Chiefs (Alex Smith), San Diego Chargers (Philip Rivers), Arizona Cardinals (Carson Palmer), Detroit Lions (Matt Stafford), St. Louis Rams (Sam Bradford).

This leaves 8 Teams: Buffalo Bills, NY Jets, Miami Dolphins, Oakland Raiders, Minnesota Vikings, Cleveland Browns, Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans. Based on the QB situation alone, I don't think the Super Bowl is legitimately in play for these teams. That leaves 75% of the teams in the league that have at least an outside hope of making the Super Bowl.

 Outside of the Vikings and Dolphins, these teams will also be very bad. So, kick back fans of these teams.  It's gonna be a long season for you. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel for these teams. And that light's name is Jadeveon Clowney.

 

Von Miller Suspended

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Von Miller, the electrifying outside linebacker/pass rusher extraordinaire for the Denver Broncos will be serving a six game suspension to start the 2013 season due to a violation of the league’s substance abuse policy. 

Miller has 30 sacks over the past two years.  30!!!  With only two years in the league, Miller has already entered discussions about the best defensive players in football, and his tenacity clearly has positioned him as a player to fear for opposing quarterbacks.

The Denver defense will struggle without him.  Already down Elvis Dumerville after his bizarre departure to Baltimore, the Broncos will spend the first six weeks of the season without an established pass rusher.  Robert Ayers will need to take a big step forward, and Denver will need to rely on an inside pass rush from Kevin Vickerson and rookie Sylvester Williams.

The Broncos will hope that Shaun Phillips, former long-time Charger, will have the ability to help fill in for the suspended Miller, but the defensive problems could put the Broncos in trouble early on, with a hungry and improved Kansas City Chiefs team chomping at the bit to take over on top of the AFC West.

Ultimately, I think the Broncos weather the six week storm, but they’re going to have to to lean a little more on offense than they’d like to.  They’re lucky they have Peyton Manning and one of the league’s best groups of receivers to help them make up for the points they’ll likely give up the first few weeks.