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Successful Next Man Up Means Next Round in NFL

This season in the NFL seems to carry a constant theme. Press conferences, media commentary, play on the field and even front office success carries the theme “Next Man Up.” A simple three word phrase when broken down further can explain the NFL and the teams able to rise above. When you apply this phrase to individual teams it’s more evident a team’s success is based on this motto.

The Denver Broncos are no exception. Their reaction to injuries can explain their success AND the hole that could be their downfall


The quarterback situation is THE biggest “Next Man Up” example for the Denver Broncos. When an aging first ballot hall of famer come up lame and your back up not only contributes BUT advances your division and playoff seeding that is the best case of “Next Man Up” available. The Dallas Cowboys similar situation ended in a completely different way. Tony Romo went down and Brandon Weeden, Matt Cassel and Kellen Moore were disastrous. The defense was the anchor of the Broncos but Brock Osweiler steered the ship well.

Defensive Replacements

This defense will lead the Broncos where they are going to end up. Their success with “Next Man Up” was a big part of this. Whether it was Shaq Barrett or Shane Ray filling in for Demarcus Ware or Bradley Roby stepping in for Chris Harris Jr in the AFC Divisional game this side of the ball had an answer for fallen teammates. An example of how poorly this could have gone would be the Baltimore Ravens. A Super Bowl pick by some but losses of Chris Canty, Terrell Suggs and Matt Elam hurt them tremendously. They are now picking 6th in the upcoming draft.

Offensive Line

This is where “Next Man Up” falters with the Broncos. It was and still remains the main weakness looming, ready to haunt a promising team. Injuries to two left tackles, a left guard and having only one right guard on the depth chart is the main culprit of this ghost. It has posed challenges for an average offense. Throwing the ball down the field, opening running lanes and sustaining long drives are issues impeding the offensive success of this team. All issues stem from poor offensive line play and not enough talent for “Next Man Up” to be successful. It will also be the issue that determines how far this team can go in the playoffs.

“Next Man Up” is a rousing phrase for fans and players alike to be ready and know their number could be called at any time. It is inspiring and simple but if the player coming into the game is Matt Cassel or Brandon Weeden the phrase means high draft picks are in your future. A team has to acquire the right players to make “Next Man Up” work. Depth is huge in the NFL. If you don’t have quality depth you will not maintain high performance on the field. The Broncos capable fill-ins are a direct cause of the front office drafting and signing the right players. Brock Osweiler, Shane Ray, Shaq Barrett, Darrien Stewart and Bradley Roby all filled in well AND even excelled. They were also drafted and signed by the Broncos. A strong organization from the front office down makes “Next Man Up” effective. The void of capable offensive linemen ready to step in and maintain is also the front office’s fault. This lack of depth could lead to an earlier than hoped exit from the 2016 playoffs.

Ohio State’s Secondary Question

ohio state secondary
Ohio State’s Secondary looks to improve after a dismal 2013 season.
source: buckeyebattlecry.com

With the 2014 season just a few short months away — what can I say, I’m an optimist — one of the biggest concerns facing the Buckeye faithful is what to make of the secondary. While  Ohio State’s secondary hasn’t necessarily garnered praise since Chris Gamble and Mike Doss left — save for a few reliable standouts — last year’s group was historically bad. When 3rd and 15’s are just as easy to convert for opposing teams as 3rd and 2, you know it’s about time to make a change which is exactly what Urban Meyer did. Everett Withers was pushed out took a head coaching job with James Madison, and Meyer brought in Chris Ash from Arkansas to help fix this maligned defense. Buckeye fans can expect to see a lot of different looks this fall, with the idea being that the secondary should not be the passive, “how do we play this game,” group that they appeared to be last season.

The Press is On

This fall the Buckeye secondary will be abandoning its “bend-don’t-break” philosophy that has been utilized since the beginning of the Tressel era. While this defensive philosophy worked wonders for some of those teams, it hasn’t meshed with Urban Meyer’s aggressive style of play. With the corners in press coverage, they should be jamming receivers off the line of scrimmage. This type of play should work wonders, especially when coupled with an Ohio States defensive line that will be doing their best imitation of Gregor Clegane.


Doran Grant
Doran Grant looks to be the anchor of Ohio State’s 2014 secondary.
source: The Columbus Dispatch

The Trade Off

What Ohio State will lose by aggressively pressing is protection against the big play. While this should be a big issue, it’s hard to argue this point against implementing a press defense. The Buckeye’s lack of tackling-ability often allowed for big plays regardless of the action occurring in-front of the defense (I still have nightmares of Sammy Watkins bubble screening his way to 200+ yards). If Ohio State can play aggressively and not get burned then the press should pay off, however if poor tackling and undisciplined play continue, the results could be similar to the 2013 defense that made an unimpressive Michigan Offense look like the Human Torch.


Runnin’ Young

Another factor in this whole defensive experiment should be the youth that will be filling the secondary this year. Gone are seniors Christian Bryant and C.J. Barnett, and veteran Bradley Roby has taken his talents to the Denver Broncos. means that the secondary is going to have to break in three new starters, and also another new corner back when they’re in a nickel package. While Doran Grant will most likely be the anchor, the new secondary is not only green, but the group will also heavily rely on underclassmen. Armani Reeves was heavily criticized last year for shoddy play, and the only other player with any sort of experience is Vonn Bell (who did have a pretty freak-show play in the Orange Bowl).  Others getting in the mix should be Gareon Conley, Eli Apple, Tyvis Powell and Cam Burrows. The good news is that except for Doran Grant — who has already proven he belongs on the field — all of these players were recruited by Meyer, and have been deemed “worthy of play” by the head ball coach.

Development is going to have to occur quickly. Luckily enough, the defensive line is the deepest and most talented it’s been since the 2002-03 season, and it may even surpass that group. Hopefully that keeps enough pressure off the secondary until they are able to find their identity. Until that happens, the secondary needs to find a way to not become the sieve that was the 2013 defense.

If I Was Ray Farmer – A Cleveland Browns Draft Guide

With the NFL Draft getting closer and closer the rumors and speculation about what the Cleveland Browns will do continues to be debated, especially with the fourth overall pick. The Browns did a nice job supplementing and adding key pieces in free agency but obviously there are still holes on the roster, holes that (hopefully) will be filled starting on May 8th. With that being said, consider the following Cleveland Browns Draft Guide for what I’d like to see them walk away with at the conclusion of the NFL Draft.

Round One, Pick 4- Teddy Bridgewater QB Louisville

If Jadeveon Clowney somehow manages to fall here I may reconsider this pick, however I’m not going out on a limb here by saying the Browns need a quarterback who can both play immediately (or at least compete to play immediately) and be a part of their long term plans. Teddy Bridgewater has the skill set to be an effective starter for an NFL team from the start. He can read defenses, he’s accurate, can extend plays and pickup first downs on his own, and has enough of an arm to succeed in the NFL. Bortles, in my eyes, is more of a project than what the Browns need (although I wouldn’t hate having him either) and Manziel has red flags all around him (and not just for his size or off the field “issues”). That’s not to say Bridgewater comes without risks, but he was the looked at as the best of the bunch throughout the 2013 season and, unless I missed something major (a pro day is not major), nothing has changed this in my eyes.

Round One, Pick 26 – Marqise Lee WR USC

This pick could’ve also been an offensive lineman or a cornerback, but Marqise Lee will more than likely be available to the Browns at number 26 and they would be wise to jump at him. Lee is a dynamic receiver who runs very good routes and has a reliable set of hands. He has enough speed to get downfield for the big play and he shows good vision with the ball in his hands (averaged 26.1 kickoff return yards on 50 attempts at USC). There are some durability concerns with Lee, but landing a receiver of his caliber at pick number 26 would be a major win for the Browns.

Round Two, Pick 35 – Bradley Roby CB Ohio State University

There is a chance Bradley Roby is gone by the time the Browns pick at 35, but should be available the Browns land a fantastic compliment player to Pro Bowler Joe Haden. Roby came off of a down year for Ohio State, but part of that was due to the defensive scheme. Don’t let 2013 fool you, Roby is talented. He has the strait line speed to stay with virtually any NFL receiver and help close the gap should he need to. Roby also has good ball skills, intercepting 8 passes and breaking up 41 in his career. Should the Browns land Roby, he and Haden would make a formidable duo for the Browns defensive backfield.

Round Three, Pick 71 – Shayne Skov ILB Stanford

Despite adding Karlos Dansby in free agency, the Browns desperately need to upgrade the other starting linebacker position. Shayne Skov would be an excellent fit. While he does have some coverage issues it’s be hard to believe he’d be any worse than current starter Craig Robertson. And Skov’s upside is huge. He is an instinctive player and a very sure tackler who can stop the rush at the line of scrimmage. Skov also rushes the passer very well. Many times at Stanford Skov would time the snap and be in the backfield before the quarterback completed his three step drop. He’s a leader on the field and his intensity is second to nobody. Skov would compete for a starting spot immediately and having Dansby as a veteran presence would help him develop.

Round Three, Pick 83 – Terrance West RB Towson

Despite signing Ben Tate to a two year contract, the Browns still have a need at running back. Tate has never been “the guy” in an offense before and does have a history of injuries. Even if Tate does succeed as the main back for the Browns, having depth at the running back position is not a bad thing, and something the Browns don’t have much of. Enter Terrance West. West ended up at Towson mainly because he didn’t qualify academically out of high school and wasn’t able to walk on other places (Clemson most notably). That shouldn’t discourage the Browns, however. West rewrote the record books at Towson, leaving the school with a record setting 4,854 career rushing yards. He set FCS single season records in 2013, rushing for 2,509 yards and 41 touchdowns (yes, 41 in a single season). He also showed he was able to catch the ball out of the backfield, notching 26 receptions for 258 yards and a touchdown in 2013. West has good speed, can make defenders miss and has the power to run over a would-be tackler. There may be some concerns over his use at Towson (802 carries in three years, including 413 last season) but West has the talent to at worst add quality depth to the position and can more than likely shoulder a load if needed.

Round Four, Pick 106 – E.J. Gaines CB Missouri

Let’s get the negatives for E.J. Gaines out of the way right first. He’s a smaller corner (5’10” 190 pounds) and at times struggles to tackle because of this. That’s about it. Gaines has 4.4 speed and agility, always staying with his assignments all over the field. He has good hands, intercepting five passes last season, and can play both press and zone coverage. Despite his tackling struggles, Gaines doesn’t shy away from making a tackle. E.J. Gaines in the fourth round is a steal.

Round Four, Pick 127 – Aaron Murray QB Georgia

The Browns take a page out of the Washington Redskins book, drafting two quarterbacks in one draft. Those thinking Alex Tanney will remain on the Browns roster are delusional and, while a veteran quarterback may make more sense than a second rookie, Brian Hoyer has been in the league long enough to help fill that void. Not that Aaron Murray is inexperienced. The Georgia signal caller appeared in 52 games in his four year career with the Bulldogs. While his 2013 season was considered a disappointment (before he tore his ACL), he was forced to play without his top two running backs and receivers as they suffered injuries throughout the course of the season. Despite that, he still completed just under 65% of his passes for 3,075 yards, 26 touchdowns and only 9 interceptions. The ACL injury is obviously a concern, but it’s also the only reason he’s fallen this far as he is smart, athletic and has enough of an arm to succeed in the NFL.

Round Five, Pick 145 – Brandon Coleman WR Rutgers

Cleveland takes advantage of an extremely deep wide receiver class this year, landing the 6’6″ 225 pound Rutgers receiver. Brandon Coleman doesn’t come without issues. He doesn’t accelerate all that well and he sometimes struggles to separate from defenders. Coleman will drop an occasional pass, however his massive frame creates obvious mismatches and he could be a tremendous asset in the red zone. Coleman probably wouldn’t see the field right away, giving him a chance to polish his routes and overall game. The potential is there however, as at one time in his early college career scouts thought of him as a sure fire first round pick.

Round Six, Pick 180 – Russell Bodine OG North Carolina

There’s a good chance the Browns don’t wait this long to pull the trigger on an offensive lineman, but adding Russell Bodine wouldn’t be a bad thing. He played a lot of center for the Tar Heels but saw some time at guard, so his ability to play multiple positions is an asset. Bodine plays tough, is extremely strong and also moves well for an interior lineman. He might not have ideal size and will struggle against some of the larger DT/NT in the NFL but Bodine is a reliable blocker who flashes some athleticism.

Round Seven, Pick 218 – Vinnie Sunseri SS Alabama

It may be unlikely that the Browns take two players with torn ACLs (Vinnie Sunseri and Murray) but in the final round of the draft the Alabama safety is worth rolling the dice on. Despite bringing Donte Whitner in this off-season Cleveland needs to at least create some depth at the safety position. Sunseri might not be starter material in the NFL (for sure not right away) but he could be a very reliable backup and a special teams contributor. He isn’t very athletic but he is very intelligent and can quickly recognize what the offense is doing before the snap. He is a willing tackler and tracks the football very well in the air. He isn’t the fastest defensive back out there, but he plays with a lot of heart.

In the interest of full disclosure I don’t fully expect the draft to fall this way, however this plan fills several key needs for the Browns while also adding some quality depth. As mentioned earlier, Farmer and company may pull the trigger on an offensive lineman earlier than the sixth round (especially if Alabama OT Cyrus Kouandjio is still on the board at 26/35) and if Clowney somehow manages to fall all the way to number four it would be nearly impossible for them to pass on that kind of talent. However, if Ray Farmer follows this blueprint the Cleveland Browns draft will be a successful one.

Why Helmet-to-Helmet Rules Exist and Why You Don’t Care

Last week in college football there were at least three players ejected under the NCAA’s new targeting rule, and at least as many helmet-to-helmet penalties flagged

in the NFL. These are important rules for both players and the

sanctioning bodies at both levels of football. The NCAA and NFL are both driven by money, as are the players. The players want to make as much as humanly possible (which I support) and the owners and NCAA want to spend as little as possible (which I support).

Here’s the fundamental problem: both sides cannot win. In their zeal to reduce the amount of concussion-like injuries in the NFL, the league turned itself into what many call the ‘No Fun League.’ Teasing names aside, at the end of the day the change is best for the players, but not the fans. Allow me to expand on this – as fans, we generally only care about two things: wins/losses and fantasy sports. For the most part, fans feel no direct impact on whether a player is injured or concussed, and the only real impact we feel is if a player isn’t playing because of injury or suspension.

Bell: Expanding helmet rule could be NFL’s next step

The owners in the NFL and administrators in the NCAA have a much bigger stake in the game than we do. No, I won’t say the owners have all the liability, but honestly they have most of it. The game cannot be played without the players, but it also cannot be played without the owners who finance the teams we watch or the stadiums we sit in. For the record, I don’t have an extra $2 billion dollars laying around to buy an NFL franchise.

What everything boils down to is the owners want to make money and protect their investments. In fact, their investments are really no different than your retirement account, except for the fact that they’re a lot larger.

Players, on the other hand, want to play and they aren’t interested in protecting themselves, but they should be. One can only play football so long before life kicks in. The average NFL career is less than seven years. What about college football players who never make it to the NFL? What’s their post-football career outlook?

I’m not suggesting players stop playing football, because for some that simply isn’t an option, but consider this: after you play football, what are you going to do with your life? Owners won’t care about you unless you’re suing them, and fans will forget about you six months after you leave school or retire.

Uni Watch: Impact of helmet policy

As fans, we live in the here and now, but owners and NCAA administrators have to think about the long-term effects of how violent football has become. If that fundamentally changes the way football is played, so be it.

What would you think of football if one of your sons, brothers, or husbands had played football only to retire and not remember his name in 10 or 15 years? At that point is his playing career more important than his life?

The easy answer is no, and the rules aren’t going to revert back to where they were 10 years ago. That’s a continuing adjustment for fans. Game officials will rightly err on the side of caution to protect players from themselves.

The simple fact is that fans have no skin in the game, other than maybe a few hundred dollars here or there, while owners are gambling with billions and players are risking their lives. Think about that the next time a player is ejected or fined for helmet-to-helmet contact.

Buckeyes Beat Hawkeyes In Unconvincing Fashion

     With a 34-24 win on Saturday over the Iowa Hawkeyes the buckeyes improved to 7-0 on the season and won their 19th straight game. This one was ugly and extremely frustrating at times but in the end the Urban Meyer led buckeyes did what they’ve done in the previous 18 games he was the head coach and that is simply win. I have a few thoughts I would like to share from this game.

     Carlos Hyde is a monster, I am actually shocked when he gets stopped for 1-2 yards. He hits the hole with power and deceptive speed. He is in my opinion the best back in college football. When the Buckeyes went in to the half where the defense had struggled and the offense was barely on the field they simply went to Hyde in the 2nd half to give the defense a rest and control the ball themselves. Hyde had what is one of the most impressive runs I’ve ever seen in the 2nd half when he literally bounced off multiple defenders and was knocked back a few yards only to regain his balance and make his way in to the endzone.

     The buckeye defense still has a lot of work to do, for the better part of the game and all of the first half the ohio state front seven was dominated by a much more physical Iowa team. They looked overpowered and did not impress at all. Obviously the ejection of Bradley Roby on a very questionable call didn’t help the secondary when Armani Reeves got beat for an 85 yard TD pass to a tight end. To be fair to the defense they looked like a different squad in the 2nd half once they adjusted to the physicality and started to play with some intensity themselves. Going forward though this defense will have to improve if the buckeyes are going to impress the way they need to coming down the stretch.

      My last and final thought and I’ll make it a positive one is that the buckeyes without a doubt have an elite offense. Braxton Miller looked like an actual quarterback yesterday who aside from one overthrow in the endzone was extremely accurate and made good decisions all day. As stated Carlos Hyde is a freak of nature and the buckeyes dominated the Iowa defense all day long not having to punt once. This offense can score against anyone in the nation and if Miller continues to improve passing the football they can be extremely scary for any team in the nation!

      Overall a sloppy game and a tale of two halves but at the end of the day the buckeyes did what they always seem to do and that’s win a football game. A better than advertised Penn State comes in to the Horseshoe next week to challenge the Buckeyes and try to prevent them from their 20th straight win!