I hope that you guys enjoyed our first post! I think that Sam did a great job and we are looking forward to continuing to work on the blog in the future. It is still a work in progress as we learn the intricacies of the website. I would like to take just a few moments to tell everyone how the blog will be formatted and to introduce myself. The blog will allow Sam and I to alternate between posts and responses. All posts will be entered on Monday, within which the 4 downs are written. On Thursday, a response will be written to the post.
For those of you who don’t know, my name is Levi Dunagan. I recently graduated from the University of Mississippi also known as Ole Miss, and unfortunately, sometimes the “University of Ole Miss.” I am hoping that will stop at some point sooner rather than later. I grew up with Sam in Montgomery, AL and we both share the same passion for sports.
I grew up playing golf mostly, and have a passion for collegiate football and basketball, as well as the NFL, NBA, and PGA Tour. Despite my 5’10 185 lb. frame, the NBA scouts have not called me back. I recently removed my name from the NFL Draft after less that stellar draft stock reports from Todd McShay.
Without any further explanation about the blog, or myself I will arrive at the much-awaited response to Sam’s four downs.
First Down – Johnny Manziel
I believe that Manziel will be an absolute star at the next level. The statistics are there for you to look at, but let’s not focus on the numbers just yet. When you watch the game what do you see?
I have had the privilege of watching Manziel in person and on television a number of times. I am continually impressed with the way he stresses the defense and extends plays. He has improved immensely as a passer after spending time this summer with QB guru, George Whitfield. Whitfield, who has worked with several NFL starters, mentioned on College Gameday that he believes Manziel has a bright NFL future.
The questions about height and weight seem assumptive. Manziel is currently listed at 6’1 210 lbs. on the Texas A&M website. There is no information at this point to suggest that he would measure in at anything otherwise. If in fact, Manziel gets to the combine and measures in at 6’1 all questions about his size should dissipate. After, all a number of passers in the NFL do okay for themselves at less than 6’2. You might recognize some of these names Russell Wilson, Drew Brees, Michael Vick, Aaron Rodgers.
The schemes in the NFL are gradually changing to incorporate facets of the college game. If we were debating this topic 10 years ago, Manziel would be viewed quite differently. However, with more NFL teams looking to the college systems for offensive inspiration, Manziel won’t have to change his playing style entirely to fit into something that he is not. If your plan is to run a one-back, pro-set formation the majority of the time you might want to look elsewhere. You also may not be making the playoffs since almost every team is now realized the flexibility that the shotgun formation allows it’s offense.
In regard to arm strength, I am yet to see Manziel not be able to make a throw that would be necessary at any level of the game. I understand that he is not Matthew Stafford or Jay Cutler in terms of arm strength; however, you are fooling yourselves if you think that the 32 starting quarterbacks in the NFL have the 32 strongest arms. Manziel may have average arm strength for an NFL quarterback but does that really matter? Manziel be above average at almost every other facet of the game. He has tremendous field vision, elite balance, and throws very few interceptions. In terms of his speed, he is vastly superior to many quarterbacks currently in the NFL with the exception of Vick and Robert Griffin III. However, unlike these players Manziel understands his own physical limitations and takes very few hard hits. In terms of his football mind, he makes the decisions that young quarterbacks in NFL struggle with right now as a redshirt sophomore in college.
What you have to realize about Johnny Manziel is that his draft stock can’t be determined by stereotypes of what a NFL quarterback. Manziel isn’t what he is supposed to be. He wasn’t supposed to be the most dynamic college player in recent memory, sorry Cam Newton, he broke your yardage records in 1 fewer game. He did this all in the most difficult conference in college football! He has the propensity to make big plays like Reggie Bush and evades pressure in the pocket like Michael Vick. He is incredibly accurate as a passer and is even better when under duress. If you have any questions about the deep ball, consider that Manziel delivered a ball that flew 45 yards in the air from the shadow of his own end zone with C.J. Mosley trying to take his head off. So I guess the only question remains is not whether or not he will be drafted in the first round, but just how high will he go?
Second Down – The Spread Offense
I could spend countless hours discussing the incentives a team has to run the scheme, however, in this case I will opt to go a different route. The spread can be credited for the rise of the explosive “athlete” position in college football. It made Tim Tebow a star. The spread can even equalize the playing field between 2 teams with differing talent levels. Yes, spread has had a massive impact on the game, but who wins in all of this? The fan wins.
Ticket prices are going up, concession prices are going up, merchandise prices are going up so where is the fan getting more? If even one of the teams you are going to see runs the spread then the answer is on the field! You are now able to experience more action. If you are a fan of big hits or explosive offensive plays, you will get more plays and with that comes the opportunity to see more of what it is that you want.
It is a rarity today to actually get more than you expect so, why would you want anything else? If I am spending big money for a big game, I want to see game action. I don’t want to watch huddles, I don’t want to watch 2 teams grapple for field position and I don’t want to have to look around the stadium during multiple timeouts for television or for the coach to think about going for it on 4th and 4 only to send out the punt team yet again.
The spread has allowed teams to ramp up the action in their games and make the game more enjoyable for the fan. The fan wins because the style of play will provide those of us a chance to see football. The faster a team runs its plays the more football you get to watch, isn’t that the reason why you dropped so much money on those tickets in the first place?
Third Down – The Trent Richardson Trade
I am not naïve enough to think that most people will agree with me on this, however, try to keep an open mind. Trent Richardson was a star at Alabama and he finished 3rd in Heisman voting his final collegiate season. He looks like an absolute stud; seriously, his physique seems to be cut out of granite. So why do I think that Cleveland made the right call in trading him away for a 1st round pick?
Let’s discuss the possibility that the trade shows that Cleveland learned their lesson in drafting players at a position that is not of value makes little fiscal sense. Even if they had been in love with the idea of drafting a running back, why waste the immense amount of money on Richardson? If Cleveland could go back now, I am confident that it would have taken Alfred Morris. A player drafted much later than Richardson who produced 663 more yards, 7 more rushes of 20+ yards, and 2 more rushing touchdowns than Richardson who averaged only 3.6 yards per carry (a tie for 37th in the NFL). The idea is to get 1st round production out of late round money.
They will need to make the necessary selections in the upcoming draft to capitalize on their opportunity. An upgrade at QB seems necessary or they could add another promising defensive linemen to pair with Barkevious Mingo. This might look like Jadeveon Clowney in the top 3 and follow up with a QB like Brett Hundley or Tajh Boyd in the middle of the draft. They could also opt to go with Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater then hope to add a player like WR Sammy Watkins later in the 1st round, although many feel the emergence of Jordan Cameron and the return of Josh Gordon will alleviate the need for the selection of a receiver. It is very rare to garner a 1st round selection for a running back, so Cleveland comes out of the trade in a very solid position going forward.
Fourth Down – Slow Starts in the NFL
The teams who have started out 0-3 in the NFL have a simple choice to make, to rise up or stay down. I agree with Sam that either the Redskins or Giants will make a push toward playoff contention. They simply have too much talent not to make some progress. As for the rest of the teams who find themselves winless, I may be able to provide a little clarity as to why you are what you are.
Pittsburgh’s problem is simple enough. The Steelers had too much success over a long period of time, which meant longer seasons and more injuries. The decision to keep their core together was a good one, until those players became old or ineffective. Pittsburgh would do well to take this as an opportunity to reevaluate its roster and decide who will stay going forward. Roethlisberger has had proven success and the Steeler defense has succeeded despite being put in bad situations over and over. So suck it up Steeler fans, being bad once in a while isn’t the worst thing that can happen.
Minnesota, Jacksonville, and Tampa Bay find themselves winless for a different reason. Ineptitude in the front office has plagued these teams in recent years, especially Jacksonville who selected Blaine Gabbert only 1 pick before J.J. Watt and decided to take CB Roderick Isaac only 7 picks before CB Richard Sherman. The Jaguars ineptitude aside, let’s take a look at the winning formula in the NFL today.
In recent years, the trend of elite NFL teams follows this simple formula: With a great passing game, solid offensive line, and strong pass rush then there is an opportunity to win the Super Bowl. Did you notice what wasn’t in that formula? The running game is irrelevant. In recent years we have seen Willie Parker, James Starks, and Ahmad Bradshaw all be a part of a championship team. Those teams won with solid offensive line play, great quarterback play, and enough of a pass rush to hold the opposition a reasonable number of times.
Haters might say “Well Levi, what about the Baltimore Ravens, Ray Rice is a great player!” I agree that Rice is a good player and played some role in their postseason success, however, it wasn’t Rice who cashed in on the enormous contract, was it? It was Joe Flacco’s ridiculously hot 117.2 QB rating including 1,140 yards with 11 touchdowns and 0 interceptions might have had a little more to do with that Super Bowl run than Ray. In case you want Rice’s postseason numbers, he had as many touchdowns (2) as fumbles (also, 2) and 306 yards on 84 carries.
So the following players ruin having the likes of Adrian Peterson, Doug Martin, and Maurice Jones-Drew as well as solid receiving cores: Christian Ponder, Josh Freeman, and Blaine Gabbert. Ponder is not so much bad, as remarkably average. The only thing that is not average about Ponder is his wife, Samantha Ponder (formerly Samantha Steele). Josh Freeman has talent, yet he is prone to turnovers and is unhappy in Tampa Bay. In fact, Freeman will be benched this week in favor of Mike Glennon. Blaine Gabbert is bad. I am aware that is not much of a description and yet it’s somehow totally appropriate.
So for these teams my advice is to pack it up. Lose with vigor the rest of the season. Hope that you are just bad enough to draft Teddy Bridgewater, Johnny Manziel, Brett Hundley, etc. You couldn’t do any worse than you are doing right now. Hope you are listening Jacksonville.