Archive for the ‘NFL statistics’ Category

IMG_1124[1]I am an optimist, someone who will always see the glass half-full.

It’s the reason every few months I will do a random search on Ebay for rare NFL merchandise, especially items from the 70s or 80s.

It’s the reason I love browsing in second-hand bookshops, the reason I like going to bric-a-brac stalls at Summer Fetes and the reason I always look for an NFL treasure.

As recently as yesterday I was at work, in a new office in Birmingham, England, when I found out there was a book exchange in the ground floor foyer opposite the staff canteen.

Not sure if other companies do it, but this is where people bring second hand books for you to read, keep or give back, and then donate to.

I made a comment to my manager that it would be amazing to find any sort of sports book, hoping for something like a former Premier League football player or manager biography.

As I cast my eye over an eclectic range of second-hand books, from a text book about AIDS to the usual heavily thumbed Danielle Steele novels, I almost fell over when sitting on the bottom shelf was the book I have pictured in this post.

Yep I had willed a book about the greatest sport on the earth to be there on the metal shelf.

I snatched it up and found it to be the American Football Annual 2 by Ken Thomas. I immediately realised that the Minnesota Vikings player on the cover, number 81, was someone I actually didn’t recognise, so the book must have been published in the early 80s.

I was right, this annual was published in 1984, and to put me out of my misery I checked on page  and found out the Vikings  cover star was Joe Senser, a 5th year tight-end from West Chester State.

Having looked up Mr Senser he went to the Pro-Bowl in 1981, but it all went downhill after that. It looks like he suffered a similar fate to those NFL players who were cover stars on the Madden game.

Firstly he had only 15 more catches and zero touchdowns in his NFL career after featuring on the cover, with a career that ended at the conclusion of the 1984 season. Coming into the recent past Senser’s wife is currently in jail  having been found guilty of killing someone in a hit and run in 2011.

Senser also owns a chain of self-named restaurants he started in 1988. For those of you who want to have a heart-attack you could try his special – The Beast – a 2.5lb burger on a 10 inch bun, served with 1.5lb of chips (yes that is what we call fries in England!).

Senser is one of only eight players from his college, the West Chester University Golden Rams, to have played in the NFL, the most recent, former two-time Pro-Bowl linebacker Lee Woodall, a Superbowl winner with the 1994 San Francisco 49ers.

Back to my recently acquired annual I browsed the full 1984 Vikings roster and perhaps the most remarkable name I came across was that of a 14 year veteran quarterback, number 4, Archie Manning. Yes the same Archie Manning who is now the father of two Superbowl winning sons.

Another standout name was another tight-end named Mike Mularkey. Yep the same Mike Mularkey that was head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars before he was sacked at the end of the 2012 NFL season.

So somehow I have managed to link an NFL book published in the UK 1984 with the fact that the Jacksonville Jaguars are playing at Wembley Stadium, England in October.

On top of my fortune of finding the book I also had a much anticipated email from the NFLUK offices confirming that I have two tickets to meet five NFL stars who are visiting Birmingham (England) next week.

One of them had to be a Minnesota Vikings player, and I will have the pleasure of meeting the mullet stubble beast with the 69 on his chest – none other than defensive end Jared Allen.

Can’t wait….and it’s only July.

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#83 Brandon Myers - some shrewd business for the New York Giants

#83 Brandon Myers – some shrewd business for the New York Giants

With NFL Free Agency 2013 calming down somewhat (unless you are the Baltimore Ravens) it’s time to reflect on some of the key moves.

Now most pundits will focus on the impact of Wes Welker moving from the New England Patriots to the Denver Broncos or the ‘Fax-Gate’ scandal that saw the Baltimore Ravens snag Elvis Dumervil.

Myself, having played a season in England for the Crawley Raiders II as a tight-end, I want to spend some time looking at some of the Free Agency movement involving this position, and look at some very early projections for those who have moved and those who have inked deals in the past month to remain with their current team.

Before looking at some of the deck shuffling it’s worth reflecting on the rise of the importance of the tight-end.

We have witnessed the evolution of a two tight-end set from the old-school two tight-end set of five or so years ago when the Kansas City Chiefs would deploy Tony Gonzales as a real weapon and Jason Dunn as essentially a sixth offensive lineman to the almost unstoppable combination of New England Patriots duo Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez (when both are fit).

I’m unable to do more than guess here but it sure feels that proportionally the number of catches made by the tight-end position on all 32 NFL teams has risen over the past five years. The majority of NFL teams have factored in the tight-end as a core offensive weapon and not a secondary or dump-off target for a quarterback looking for a cheap completion on a busted play.

So here are my top five tight-end free agency moves (in no particular order):

#1 – Brandon Myers – Oakland Raiders to New York Giants

I had the privilege of seeing Myers play live against the Dolphins just six months ago and despite not being anywhere near a household name he was the most reliable target for Carson Palmer. Myers deserves a bigger, brighter stage and there is no better place than the Big Apple to show what you are made of. After 32 catches in his first three seasons Myers pretty much exploded onto the scene in 2012 with 79 catches for 806 yards. Big Blue fans love a hard working reliable tight-end – names like Mark Bavaro and Jeremy Shockey are pretty hard to live up to, but Myers has the skills to settle in immediately. Eli Manning will be happy that he has a safe pair of hands to throw to as he looks to get the Giants back into the postseason.

2013 prediction – 75 catches for 750 yards and 7 tds

#2 – James Casey – Houston Texans to Philadelphia Eagles

Casey was woefully misused by the Houston Texans as a hybrid fullback and despite only 66 career catches, and similar to Myers, he enters his fifth NFL season with a huge opportunity to make a big impact with his new team. That team, the Philadelphia Eagles has a new coach, a new philosophy and a quarterback who is returning for his fifth season in the home of Rocky Balboa. this equates to the ‘land of opportunity’ for Casey, much like the ‘line’ given to Rocky by that greasy haired promoter.

2013 prediction – 57 catches 520 yards and 5 tds

#3 – Delanie Walker – San Francisco 49ers to Tennessee Titans

Without doubt an unsung hero on his old team, Walker had a habit of coming up with big catches in big situations. Having spent seven seasons on the West Coast, Walker never had a real chance to shine, providing a support role to Vernon Davies over every one of the past seven seasons. With Jared Cook’s locker not even emptied Walker will be hoping to slot in as a starter. It’s quite a rare situation to be a backup tight-end for seven seasons before moving into a starting role. Walker is the kind of player you root for, but Jake Locker is a significant downgrade on Colin Kaepernick. Walker will not be going back to a Super Bowl anytime soon with the Titans, but he should have his best career statistical output in 2013.

2013 prediction – 48 catches for 580 yards and 3 tds

#4 – Dustin Keller – New York Jets to Miami Dolphins

When you are being targeted by Mark Sanchez, and have a backup who is better known for kneeling down than throwing a forward pass then being able to escape that situation must be like a breath of sweet Florida sunshine air. Talking of Florida sunshine that is exactly where Keller is now plying his trade as a Miami Dolphins starter. Keller will replace, and upgrade the play of Anthony Fasano. Now Keller was injured for half of 2012, but he is not known as injury prone. He has averaged 48 catches a season over five years, but he has been held back by average to poor quarterback play. In Miami Ryan Tannehill was the forgotten man as other 2012 rookie quarterbacks such as Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck commanded the headlines. Keller and Tannehill need to set up a strong bond in camp, and if they do it could mean very good news for Fish fans.

2013 prediction – 66 catches for 670 yards and 5 tds

#5 – Jared Cook – Tennessee Titans to St Louis Rams 

Potential is a funny old word. To me its a way of saying expectations being unfulfilled. A bit like the career so far of Jared Cook, all 6 ft 5 inches of him. Cook has again been let down by some average quarterback play and some bad play-calling. In St Louis he will need to work alongside Lance Kendricks. Both had almost identical stats in 2012, so something will have to give. I think Cook will get around 65% to 70% of the tight end targets from Sam Bradford. The Rams are going to be intriguing to watch in 2013 with a new look backfield and the marauding Cook exploiting any safety coverage mismatches.

2013 prediction – 65 catches for 740 yards and 4 touchdowns

Other notable moves include Tony Gonzales remaining at the Atlanta Falcons for one more shot at a Super Bowl, and Martellus Bennett (Giants to Chicago Bears) which could work if Jay Cutler realises that there is actually another offensive target aside Brandon Marshall.

There is also the rather low-key saga of where current Washington Redskins tight-end Fred Davis will end up in 2013 – Buffalo, New York or back in D.C being the three main contenders.

How do you rate your teams tight-end depth and would you have liked to have seen one of my top five free-agent tight-ends joining your team?

Please - no more doubt(hy) in the Redskins secondary

Please – no more doubt(hy) in the Redskins secondary

Drafting the saviour of your team, winning your division and having three players in the same defensive position play in the Pro Bowl, all in the same season, should be cause for celebration for Washington Redskins fans.

But scratch under the surface and you have yourself a team that has its anointed deity currently recovering from major surgery, last actually won a playoff game in 2006, and has already lost one of its Pro Bowl linebackers to Free Agency (special teams ace Lorenzo Alexander, picked up by the Arizona Cardinals).

The Redskins 10-6 record was a lot to do with leading the entire NFL in team rushing, and a lot to do with an extremely underrated offensive line, especially center Will Montgomery and Guard Kory Lichtensteiger – hardly household names, but without their consistency there is no way Alfred Morris gains a remarkable 1,613 yards as a rookie.

Robert Griffin III (RG3) – the other rookie Redskins sensation – well to put it bluntly, the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year, was a complete sensation, some of his performances transcending that of any mortal NFL rookie. Problem was, after a nasty but not malicious hit by eventual Super Bowl winning Baltimore Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, it turned out that Griffin’s  mythological status was not going to perpetuate into the playoffs.

Talking of playoffs if the Redskins have a post-season bogey team, well more like a mutated Fungus the Bogeyman the size of a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade balloon, it is the Seattle Seahawks. With only six playoff performances in the past twenty seasons, and two wins in that span, three of four Redskins post-season dismissals en-route to the big dance have been courtesy of the Seahawks.

The most recent playoff loss to the Seahawks will forever be remembered for the ‘questionable’ decision made by Redskins two-time Super Bowl winning (with the Denver Broncos) head coach Mike Shanahan to start an unhealthy RG3. The fact of the matter was that even if RG3 lasted a full 60 minutes the Washington defense would have remained porous. Conceding 380 yards of offense against a team led by another rookie quarterback (Russell Wilson) will never get you to a conference championship game.

This is where the Redskins need to draft wisely and draft defense. This is how I would like the Redskins to draft with their seven picks, minus of course a first round pick which they gave to the St Louis Rams for the honour of grabbing RG3 as the second overall pick last year.

Redskins 2013 NFL Draft slots (as it stands March 26 2013) and positions of need

Round 2 – No. 21 – 51 overall – Cornerback or safety – a day 1 rookie starter
Round 3 – No. 32 – 85 overall – Cornerback or safety – a day 1 rookie backup
Round 4 – No. 22 – Wide receiver – a slot WR to take over from Santana Moss in 2014
Round 5 – No. 21 – Outside linebacker – special teams ace and hard hitter not necessarily a pass rusher
Round 5 – No. 29 (from New England) – tight end/h-back who could get playing time as a rookie
Round 6 – No. 23 – Cornerback prospect with return skills
Round 7 – No. 22 – Defensive lineman prospect with tentacle arms

The Skins may well bring back veteran cornerback DeAngelo Hall at a reduced salary cost, but this is only papering over the cracks. When you enter a season with safety Reed Doughty as your longest tenured defensive back (8 seasons with the team) then you know you are in big trouble.

Doughty may be a D.C fan favourite for his pluckiness, call it the Charlie Brown factor (not to be confused with former Redskins Super Bowl winning wide receiver who also went by the name Charlie Brown) but this is a player who has two career interceptions in 92 NFL games played, one every 46 games.

With Josh Wilson regularly burnt in the second half of the season the Redskins have not had anything near a defensive backfield wow factor since Sean Taylor was laying wood harder than a lumberjack on crack. Taylor (R.I.P) has been gone from the Washington secondary over five years now, but there has not been anyone to even come close to shining his shoes in terms of quality.

Yes former Redskins safety Laron Landry was a very high pick and did a decent job, but the fact of the matter was he did not make the Pro Bowl in five seasons in Washington, and he is now on his third team in three seasons, having just signed with the Indianapolis Colts. It grinds my gears to think that he somehow became a Pro Bowl player in 2012 with the New York Jets, but the validity of those selected to the Pro Bowl is a giant joke as we all know (how else is Jeff Saturday chosen).

The Redskins have had their hands tied behind their backs in 2013 Free agency because of supposedly abusing the way they managed contract signings during the ‘non-cap’ 2010 season. This is a team that has learnt that big names does not equate to big amounts of wins, but their signings so far have been primarily looking after their own (with the regretful exception of losing Lorenzo Alexander and likely Fred Davis the team’s top tight-end) and some relatively low-key pickups – Jeremy Trueblood the monster sized offensive tackle, fellow tackle Tony Pashos (a 32-year-old former Clevaland Brown – yuk) and E.J Biggers the cornerback.

At the time of writing Biggers is penciled in as a starting cornerback,  a guy who has never started more than 75% of games in his four seasons in Tampa Bay and has 0, yes 0 career interception return yards in his NFL career.

The Redskins need a corner and a safety that can start as rookies, but with no first round pick this will be a pretty steep hill to climb to make happen in 2013.

This situation with an inexperienced backfield does sound scary, but I am reminded of the 1981 San Francisco 49ers, a team that started three of four defensive backs as rookies (cornerbacks Ronnie Lott, Carlton Williamson and safety Eric Wright).

Now I am not saying the Redskins will find the next Ronnie Lott in the second or third round of the 2013 NFL draft, but any situation that removes Reed Doughty from the Washington secondary has to be a positive one.

Who do you think the Redskins should target early in the draft?

kaep Cast your mind back to April 29 2011, the day the San Francisco 49ers introduced their rookie quarterback to the national media.

Asked if he was the Niners quarterback of the future Colin Kaepernick said: ““Well, I think I’m going to come in and just work as hard as I can and try to compete for that starting spot.

“When it comes down to it, that’s going to be Coach Harbaugh’s decision whether her feels I’m ready and he feels I’m the best quarterback for that. For me, I’m just going to try to do my part and work hard.”

Well barely 19 months later and all that hard work must have paid off as Kaepernick is not only the 49ers starting quarterback, he is also 60 minutes from an appearance in Super Bowl XLVII and is just about the hottest quarterback in the entire United States of America.

Kaepernick not only beat the Green Bay Packers last Sunday in the divisional playoffs he made them roll over and beg for a bone. Passing for 263 yards and two touchdowns in is playoff debut is enough for any mortal, but it appears Kaepernick is more Zeus that Perseus after he ALSO rushed for 181 yards, not only a playoff rushing record for a quarterback, but the greatest rushing performance by a quarterback in NFL history.

Just pause for a minute to suck that one in to your statistics filled male brain (sorry to all female NFL stats geeks) the most rushing yards by a quarterback in NFL history. More the Michael Vick, more than Randall Cunningham, more than Steve Young.

Talking of Steve Young, he was the last 49ers quarterback to lift a Vince Lombardi Trophy, way back in 1995.

Kaepernick will be hoping his bionic inked arms will be wrapped around a Super Bowl in early February, but first to the business of getting there, against an Atlanta Falcons team that finally won a big playoff game (as I correctly predicted last week).

The Falcons managed to blow a 20 point lead in a home playoff game against a rookie quarterback. I know Kaepernick has actually had less starts than the aforementioned rookie Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, but second year man Colin is currently the hottest property since T-Boz burnt down Andre Rison’s house back in the day. And yes I do remember Rison was playing for none other than the Falcons at the time.

Kaepernick is arguably even more mobile than Wilson, and has a supporting cast that is arguably better than the Seahawks.

The Falcons may be the home team, but it was the 49ers who were at this stage a year ago only to blow it against the Giants. I’m confident that Kaepernick is the missing link (no not a hairy cave beast) in enabling San Francisco to return to their holy land.

Nobody is seriously expecting Kaepernick to rush for another 150 yards, but with confidence sky high I am going to make the call now that I predict the 49ers to be representing the National Football Conference in the Super Bowl.

All we need to do now is get a catchy name for Colin Kaepernick. The Falcons have ‘Matty Ice’, the 49ers need something even better for Kaepernick. How about a having a Colinick ? Sounds painful for the Falcons this Sunday.

 

luckk Wild Card weekend is akin to being let loose in a Belgian chocolate factory. You get to taste the quality (8 of the NFL’s top 12 teams)and get to gorge (on four NFL games over two-days) but the bonus ball is that you don’t count the calories.

That’s not strictly true as I can pretty much guarantee that any NFL fan watching all 240 minutes of live playoff football will likely dine out on pizza and crisps and a few litres of suds.

All four games this weekend have great story lines  from what maybe Ray Lewis’s final NFL contest against a coach who has fought Leukemia to two of the most efficient rookie quarterbacks in NFL history facing each other in a venue that has not hosted a playoff game for 13 seasons.

Let me get straight into it and offer my predictions – with a soupson of insight.

Bengals @ Texans

The Texans sure know how to walk backwards dragging their bruised and battered limbs into the playoffs, having suffered a late regular season collapse, and instead of having a week off, have to face a very respectable Bengals team that have quietly returned to the post-season for a second consecutive year. Arian Foster will want to impress in what is Matt Schaub’s first ever playoff game. Talk is that the Bengals defense has done a very good job, but this game will come down to Houston’s defense shining on a national stage. J.J. Watt is an absolute beast and will get a couple of sacks and a forced fumble.

Texans to win 19-13

Vikings @ Packers

Weird one as the teams only met last week in Minny, with Adrian Petersen running so hard the Packers wished they had gone to a three-day New Year party starting on 29 December. I absolutely loved it when Packers WR Greg Jennings was asked this week if he enjoyed playing at Freezing Lambeau Field and he said that he would rather play in a dome – at last someone who is honest. This game will be heavily influenced by the fact it will be played in Green Bay, that and Aaron Rodgers will be hellbent on making a playoff run after last season’s debacle. Keys here will be Packs ability to establish a running game and Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder’s ability to stay upright. I say this gets ugly as AP fails to establish himself and is held under 100 yards rushing.

Packers to win 37-14

Colts @ Ravens

Forget all the emotional crap about Ray Lewis coming back from an injury to inspire the Ravens to a playoff run. This is not the time for a Ravens revival. People have forgotten how devastating the loss of cornerback Lardarius Webb was earlier in the season. The Colts have defied all the odds, going from 2-14 to 11-5. Andrew Luck (see pic) has slotted into the Indy QB position like a seasoned veteran, and done what other great quarterback have done – performed alchemy to turn the rest of the team from base metal into gold. An old Reggie Wayne and a young T.Y Hilton should not be enough to get a team 11 wins, but that is why the guy went #1 in the draft in 2012. Look for the Ravens to hold a lead for the majority of the game only for Luck to get the winning td or final drive that leads to the sealing field goal.

Colts to win 24-20

Seahawks @ Redskins – see my preview here

Stat Attack – my predictions for Wild Card stats leaders

Passing yards – Andrew Luck – Colts

Rushing yards – Alfred Morris – Redskins

Receiving yards – Andre Johnson – Texans

 

 

 

Calvin Johnson is simply not human

Calvin Johnson is simply not human

Not sure I can adequately put into words the effort that Calvin Johnson the Detroit Lions wide receiver has put into the 2012 season.

First though I have to stand up and take it like a man as I predicted the Motown Blue to make it all the way to the Super Bowl, on the back of Matthew Stafford, Calvin and a small series of miracles.

I wasn’t drinking or smoking the herb when I made this failed prophesy. I have witnessed the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the New Orleans Saints win a Super Bowl, as well as the Arizona Cardinals be just one play from winning their own Vince Lombardi Trophy, so the Lions making it wasn’t exactly the fairy story of all fairy stories.

What transpired this season was a pretty abysmal failure by the Lions defense to stop anything or anyone from rushing, passing and scoring.

With one game left the Lions are a pitiful 4-11 with a league leading 7 game losing streak. After making the playoffs in 2011 I thought the days of a top 5 draft pick were all over for the boys in blue – what did I know.

The only redeeming feature in such a shameful season has been the NFL’s single greatest receiving season (by yards) by the quite literally unstoppable force they call Megatron  – the man so dangerous they named him after a giant robot baddie.

Calving Johnson is no baddie though, he is one of the good guys, a player who does not shoot his mouth off or taunt opponents, he simply torches them silently with his giant eagle wingspan, panhandle sized fingers and arms and legs that look like they come from a heroic plastic action figure and not a mortal human being.

I stayed up until 1.30am last Saturday night to be able to record live onto my DVD recorder the Lions v Falcons on the BBC’s interactive service, because the NFL, NFLUK and BBC are that stupid they have not managed to work out a deal to actually broadcast the games on a recordable Sky channel.

Whilst it annoyed the hell out of me to wait up so late, I did indeed, somewhat blurry eyed, watch the game about six hours later and witnessed Calvin Johnson simply shred the Falcons single-handed, with a stupendous 11 catches for 225 yards.

This game would be special for any NFL wide-out, but for Johnson he not only had his 8th consecutive 100+ yard game (setting an NFL record) and his 11th 100+ yard game (tied an NFL record) he then went onto to break the all time NFL receiving yardage record with his tenth grab.

What makes this feat even more astounding is that he still has a whole sixty minutes of football on Sunday to obliterate the record that was previously held by Jerry Rice.

Johnson has 1892 yards in 15 games and can reach the ridiculous mark of a 2000 yard season with just an everyday 108 yards at home in Detroit against a fading Chicago Bears team who have lost three out of their last four games.

Everyone who loves the NFL and wallows like a happy pig in the mud of statistics will be hoping Calvin reaches 2000 yards.

Madden curse – what a load of old cobblers !!!