Monday, September 26, 2016

2008 Movie Sneak Peeks

With 2008 just around the corner, movie buffs are already beginning to wonder what films they have to look forward to. Some movies are already in production while others have yet to be cast and could even get pushed back into 2009. However, here is the first half of a list of films slated for release sometime in 2008:

Phantom Punch, starring Ving Rhames, is a biography action drama that follows the life of fighter Sonny Liston, from his rise to fame to the “phantom punch” delivered by Muhammad Ali that supposedly ended his career. The film started production in November (2007) and will be released sometime in mid-2008.

Billy Ray Cyrus makes his big screen debut in a family-oriented film entitled Flying By. The story is about a man who risks everything – – his career, his family, and his own life – – to follow his dream to become a rock star. The film also stars veteran actors Robert Gossett and Patricia Neal.

Eva Longoria tackles another big screen topic in Lower Learning. The comedy is about the comic happenings at an elementary school. The film also stars Monica Potter.

Nothing But the Truth is a drama about Washington D.C female newspaper reporter, played by Kate Beckinsale, who outs a CIA agent and is imprisoned for refusing to reveal her source. The film has an all-star cast including Alan Alda, Edie Falco, Matt Dillon, David Schwimmer, Angela Bassett and Noah Wyle.

Morgan Freeman takes on the role of a lifetime – – that of Nelson Mandela – – in the movie The Human Factor. The film is set after the fall of apartheid while Mandela was in his first term as president of South Africa. The country, which is hosting the ’95 Rugby World Cup, is the backdrop against which he hopes to find a way to end the decades of hatred between whites and blacks.

In I Love You Philip Morris, Jim Carey brings his unique style of comedy to the role of a prisoner who falls in love with his cellmate and must subsequently makes several prison break attempts in order to join his lover.

In the movie, which is based on the fairytale that inspired the Nutcracker Suite ballet, comedian Nathan Lane gifts the Nutcracker doll to young actress Elle Fanning. The film, which is set during 1920s Vienna also stars John Turturro as the evil Mouse King. The drama will feature eight new songs that are set to Tchaikovsky’s original scores.

A remake of the science fiction classic, The Day the Earth Stood Still, is in the works. It follows the premise of the original film about aliens that land on earth to inform humans that they must learn how to get along or face ultimate destruction. The film has yet to be cast and no specifics are currently available.

Kate Hudson, Matthew McConaughey and Donald Sutherland join together for the action adventure drama entitled Fool’s Gold. In the film a couple discovers a treasure that makes them the toast of the town and lands them on the cover of National Geographic. But a few years later, a second attempt to find yet another treasure threathens to leave their marriage in shambles and the couple in a world of debt.

Long time lovers Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell join forces in Ashes to Ashes, a comedy about a woman who travels to Kathmandu in order to bury her husband’s ashes. Doesn’t sound funny? Well, the catch is that the heroine loses her husband’s ashes along the way and must relocate them in order to finish her quest.

Clive Barker brings his unique sense of suspense and drama to Midnight Meat Train, a story about a mysterious subway killer, played by Vinnie Jones, who is being chased by a photographer, played by Bradley Cooper. The film also stars Brooke Shields.

In Bedtime Stories, Adam Sandler portrays a harried real estate developer whose life is turned upside down when the bedtime stories he routinely tells his niece and nephew start to play out in real life. The comedy/fantasy comes from Walt Disney Pictures.

In The Heaven Project, an ex-con, played by Paul Walker, is sentenced to death by lethal injection. However, he wakes up in a small Oregon town, working as a groundskeeper for a mental hospital. Although he is told that God gave has given him a second chance to get his life right, the ex-con questions whether he ever really died. Linda Cardellini stars as his love interest.

The Forbidden Kingdom, which is based on the Chinese legend of the monkey king, follows a teen who finds the king’s stick in a pawnshop. He is transported back in time to ancient China, where he joins with warriors to attempt to free their king. Jet Li plays two roles-that of the monkey king and the silent monk. Jackie Chan will play monk T’sa-Ho.

In a new drama, suspense thriller by M. Night Shyamalan – – The Happening – – a family is on the run from a natural crisis that presents a large-scale threat to humanity. The movie stars Mark Wahlburg, John Leguizamo, and Zooey Deschanel.

Look for the second part of this article, which will share the remaining list of films slated for the upcoming year.

Tags:2008 Movie Sneak Peeks

2008 Members' Salon Show July 10th - July 25th 2008

On July 10th the 2008th Members’ Salon Show will open at the Downriver Council For The Arts (DCA), in Taylor, Michigan. This exhibit is open to the public and will host the opening reception at 6:30pm – 8:30pm. During this time you get to meet many of the artists that are participating in this show, and can enjoy some ice cream at the same time. The Downriver Council For The Arts Gallery is located at 20904 Northline Road, in Taylor, on the campus of Wayne County Community College District.
The spacious gallery is a restored historic building, which is pretty and comfortable to visit. There will be a lot of different types of artwork presented during this exhibit. As a fine art print photographer I utilize opportunities such as this to meet new and old friends. I am always inspired by the art that is created by others too as it gives me ideas for other creations.
You do not have to be an artist to enjoy the exhibit. What’s nice about this gallery is that it is welcoming to everyone who comes there to see various art shows. All you need is an appreciation of art and the time to go visit. Since this show only runs for two weeks, you want to make sure that you can put it in your schedule today.
All of the artists who are displaying a piece for the Members’ Salon Show are showcasing a new piece of art. If they had participated in it last year, then, they’ll be showing a new piece this year. Since this is my first year exhibiting in this show, I’m displaying my piece, “Joseph”, a fine art photography piece. As I am still using film, this is not a digital piece. I will continue to shoot pictures using a film camera! I love how my pictures turn out using film.
Usually my pieces are 8 x 10, but, “Joseph” is 11x 14 for this show.
The DCA has limited hours during the week, and is open on Saturdays for a few hours through the end of July. The DCA will be closed during the month of August, so you need to stop by tomorrow evening, or during the next two weeks to view all of the fabulous art on display!

Tags:2008 Members’ Salon Show July 10th - July 25th 2008

2008 Michigan Ballot Proposals Examined

Holland, Michigan — With a presidential election going on Michiganders seem to have little else to say about the rest of the elections taking place in the state. Senator Carl Levin is once again expected to cruise to reelection and so are most of our state’s House members. Because Michigan finds itself to be a battleground state in the presidential race yet again most of our state’s media outlets are focusing their political coverage on the battle between Senators Barack Obama and John McCain. Flying under the radar screen are two ballot proposals, neither of them drawing as much contention on the surface as 2006’s affirmative action ban or 2004’s ban on gay marriage, but important nonetheless, perhaps more important than we would expect.

The first ballot proposal deals with embryonic stem cell research and would allow couples undergoing in vitro fertilization to donate their excess embryos to scientists so that they can be utilized to find cures for disease. Though Republicans once drummed up opposition to such proposals on the grounds that fertilized cells have potential personhood, wide public support for stem cell research has led them to abandon it as yet another potential wedge issue to woo religious voters so I don’t expect it to be as contentious a debate as it would have been a few years ago. In order to placate those with ethical concerns, the proposal also intends to strengthen Michigan’s ban on human cloning and insure that it is illegal to give up embryos in exchange for money. Related proposals passed in several states during the past election cycle and I expect Michigan’s to pass as well.

Personally, I intend to vote for the stem cell research amendment. I am with the majority of the populace in thinking that it is patently silly to oppose the use of discarded single cell embryos for important medical research. Even sillier is the fact that blocking important medical research flies under the banner of “pro-life,” because I can’t think of anything more pro-death than standing in the way of potential cures for diseases that claim thousands of lives every year. In addition, I would go even further and suggest that the selling of unused embryos to research facilities ought to be legalized. For one, I think allowing people to sell their unused embryos would make them more likely to donate them in the first place.

Second, I don’t understand why it is that there is this view in our culture that something is okay until money gets involved. Why is it moral to give up embryos but immoral to do the exact same thing if you are given something in return? It’s kind of the same attitude we have with sex; we say that consenting adults can do whatever the heck they want with each other but we want to arrest them if they pay each other to do the same. Personally I think if its illegal to have sex or give up embryos in certain circumstances just because money is involved then we should just abolish money altogether and go back to a society based on bartering, if not then we need to set a less hypocritical standard for our society than we do currently.

I feel the same way about the human cloning as I do about the ban on selling embryos; to me it’s about a hundred times more ethical to clone an embryo than to abort one, yet that’s legal and polls show that around 65% of our population favors keeping it that way. I don’t understand how our society can ban human cloning on the basis that it is wrong for people to “play God” and yet they are doing the exact same thing by intervening in pregnancies to bring about their termination. Cloning is just another way of bringing about life whereas abortion terminates it.

I’m not sure where I stand on the legality of abortion itself but I can tell you that I see it and anyone who practices it as fundamentally unethical whereas I don’t see anything wrong with replicating somebody’s DNA inside of a zygote and implanting it into a woman’s uterus so that it can be born and live out its life cycle just like the rest of us. The fact that many otherwise liberal minded people who see nothing wrong with abortion squirm at the thought of bringing about life through cloning is even more lost on me. Nonetheless, I don’t expect my views on certain aspects of this proposal to outweigh my position that as a unified whole the stem cell research ballot proposal definitely deserves to be ratified.

The second ballot proposal that Michiganders will be voting on seems even less controversial on the surface than the first one, but according to some it’s just a Trojan horse for Democrats to win control of the entire state government. The said proposal would cut the salaries both legislators and statewide elected officials significantly, it would reduce the number of members in both the State House and State Senate, shave two seats off the Supreme Court and ten off the Court of Appeals, ban retired government officials from lobbying for a period of two years after leaving office, cut healthcare and retirement benefits of former elected officials to the level of all other state government employees, and strengthen the ban on illegal aliens’ ability to vote among other things. The proposal would save taxpayers a good deal of money and cut the size of government, something Republicans would usually support. Why then, are state Republican leaders complaining about this ballot proposal?

Republicans began complaining when a power point document was discovered on a labor union website that appeared to have been presented to union officials by Democratic Party surrogates in 2007. The document outlined how structural issues within the state government were preventing complete Democratic control and proposed various measures that might tip the electoral balance in the Democrats’ favor.

The goal is for Democrats to control the redistricting process in 2011 so that the districts may be drawn in such a way as to benefit Democrats for the next decade. The catch is that in order to control the redistricting process, Democrats must already control the Governor, the Senate, the House, and the Supreme Court. The document declares that Democrats must do something now in order to set the stage for the 2010 elections or else their chance will never come (or at least it won’t come again until 2021). They put forth a series of proposals that were almost identical to the ones wrapped up in the proposal on the ballot this November, the trouble was that this power point seems to have been made before the drive for the ballot proposal was really coming to fruition; in addition to this it seemed that the leaders of the allegedly non-partisan coalition backing the upcoming ballot measure are overwhelmingly Democrats. In essence they created a Democratic Party front group masquerading as a group of non-partisan populists demanding government reform.

So how exactly is it that these proposals would benefit Democrats specifically? First of all, fewer seats could force traditionally Republican rural areas constituting old seats to be split up and added to more suburban or urban districts, which would make seats either competitive or Democratic favored. Secondly, Republican backed judges currently control the Supreme Court and as a result the two justices who would be removed under the reform plan would be more likely to be Republican backed than Democrat backed.

Thirdly, the Court of Appeals is currently controlled by judges appointed by Republican Governor John Engler in the 1990s; there is no doubt cutting its size would remove several Engler appointees and tip the balance away from Republicans. Indeed, gaining control of the courts is more important than anything if the Democrats want to control the redistricting process, even more important than winning the governorship again in 2010. The recently uncovered power point document explicitly states that the proposed amendments would drastically reduce monetary costs for the Democratic Party in winning elections in the state and explicitly states that the Democrats plan to take advantage of a dissatisfied electorate to achieve their means, something they’re doing through the Reform Michigan Government Now ballot initiative.

Looking at the past one finds that what the Michigan Democratic Party is doing is nothing new, in fact the Republicans have deliberately tipped the scales in their favor in the past and according to the Democrats the scales are still tipped in their direction. Regardless of what happened in years past, the behavior of the Michigan Democrats is unjustified. If their goal was to achieve actual fairness and even out the political scales I would have more understanding, but it is quite clear that they simply desire to tip the scales in their own direction for their benefit alone.

More shamefully, they have set up an allegedly non-partisan front group and used it to cloak an unethical power grab in populist language with the sole intent of sneaking their agenda right under the voters’ noses. As a non-partisan libertarian I don’t really care who wins or loses but corruption isn’t something I tolerate so I give this proposal a strong thumbs down. However, I would oppose this proposal even if it truly were non-partisan in spite of the fact that it seems to accomplish several libertarian goals such as cutting salaries and benefits for politicians and reducing the number of positions in government. Once again I find that this proposal is not all it seems to be on the surface.

My main objection does not lie with cutting politicians’ salaries; in fact I think that all political positions should be part time and pay a great deal less than they do now. My main objection is to reducing the number of seats in the legislature, which would actually probably make government bigger in spite of what it would seem on the surface. First, reducing the number of seats in the state legislature would shift influence away from local communities and toward more centralized power bases. The less locally oriented the representation, the less locally oriented the decisions made in the legislature and as a result the more centralized the state government becomes.

Second, the more centralized the power base the more aristocratic the representation becomes. The legislature becomes more and more of an exclusive club and because the districts require a broad base it also requires a stronger political machine within them to actually win office, the legislature will ultimately become restricted to career politicians and common citizens will be restricted from the legislature because the costs of running for office will have increased and the likelihood of winning will have decreased. In addition, decreasing the size of the courts will simply increase the likelihood of judicial activism that will erode the Constitution because it will be easier for those with an ideological agenda to attain a majority with fewer justices rather the many.

All in all, this ballot proposal would be a recipe for political corruption even if it weren’t just a Trojan horse for the Democrats to gain power and as a result should be opposed by everyone regardless of party affiliation or ideology (unless of course, they are career politicians).

All in all I find the Michigan ballot proposals this year to be a mixed bag, one is relatively good and one is undeniably bad. Unfortunately, ballot proposals are often forgotten about in the context of a presidential election, especially in a toss-up state like Michigan.

Because their attentions are turned elsewhere and because they don’t fully understand how important ballot initiatives are, many Michiganders will judge their votes on the proposals simply on the text of the proposals themselves without thinking about the ramifications and as a result I expect the abominable Reform Michigan Government Now initiative to pass.

There is no doubt that if things go as expected it will simply be yet another example of the dire results of the public’s myopia. Of course, politics is politics and what we are seeing here is nothing new so we shouldn’t be surprised, I know for a fact that I’m not. I leave you only with the wisdom of H.L. Mencken, who once said, “Democracy is the pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance.” As much as many of us don’t want to believe Mr. Mencken, it seems that he is proven more and more right with each passing election cycle.

SOURCES

Text Of, “Cure Michigan Ballot Proposal,” Cure Michigan

“Wide Public Support For Stem Cell Research,” ABC News

“Attitudes On Abortion,” Polling Report

Peter Luke, “Memo Pins Reform Proposal On Dems,” Michigan Political Report

Paul Kersey, “Reform Michigan Government Now Proposal – UAW Connection,” Mackinac Center for Public Policy

Text Of, “Reform Michigan Government Now Proposal”, Reform Michigan Government Now

H.L. Mencken, “Notes On Democracy”

Tags:2008 Michigan Ballot Proposals Examined

2008 NBA Draft Preview: Derrick Rose

Derrick Rose would be thrilled to be the number one pick in the NBA Draft and play for his hometown Chicago Bulls. If the Bulls go in a different direction it is very likely the Miami Heat will select Rose. Jeff Goodman of Fox Sports states “Rose is widely regarded by NBA personnel as either the first or second pick in June’s NBA Draft.” Mike DeStefano of NBADraft.net on Fox Sports describes Derrick Rose as one of two true point guards in the 2008 draft and a “can’t miss prospect.”

Derrick Rose helped lead the Memphis Tigers to a 38-2 record this past season where they lost in an overtime thriller National Championship game. Derrick Rose scored 18 points in an effort which came so close. “The 6-foot-3 point guard averaged 14.9 points, 4.7 assists and 4.5 rebounds this past season.” A very respectable college season for a freshman campaign.

Derrick Rose is young and has the potential to play in the NBA fifteen or more years. He is a competitor who loves to win. As Mike DeStefano points out he is the best point guard available in the draft. Rose is coming off a very successful freshman season and handled the pressures of leading a team to the NCAA Championship game.

Derrick Rose is young could be a downside for him as well. The NBA will test his maturity, his physical and mental conditioning. Derrick Rose will have to adjust to the 82 game season and 48 minute game of the NBA. Derrick Rose will also have to contend with losing a lot more games in the NBA than he has in his amateur career. How would he handle being picked by the Miami Heat or other team? Andy Katz in his article on ESPN.com quotes Rose “I’ll hate it. Anybody would hate their hometown not taking you, knowing that it could happen.”

Sources:

Why not No. 1? Rose lobbies his hometown Bulls by Andy Katz, ESPN.com 6/19/2008

2008 NCAA Championship Game: Kansas Vs. Memphis by Mike Spain Associated Content, 04/07/2008

Draft Class Deep But Full of Uncertainty by Mike DeStefano, FOX Sports.com 6/20/2008

Source: Rose Plans to Declare Later This Week by Jeff Goodman, Fox Sports.com 4/16/2008

Tags:2008 NBA Draft Preview: Derrick Rose

2008 NBA Draft Preview: Chris Douglas-Roberts

The young man that many have said could quite possibly be the best player on the best team in the country will be one of those many basketball players that will be part of the 2008 NBA draft class. Chris Douglas-Roberts is the star player for the Memphis Tigers and has been a starting shooting guard for two years. This Detroit, Michigan, native has many notable accomplishments on his resume. He was a member of the 2007 NCAA Tournament All-South Region Team. For the 2006-2007 season he was named to the All Conference USA First Team and was an Associated Press All-American Honorable Mention. For his freshman season of 2005-2006 he was named to the Conference USA All-Freshman Team.

While, Chris Douglas-Roberts is a great player he has some gleaming weaknesses on the court. Chris Douglas-Roberts has a very poor assist to turnover ratio for a guard. Additionally, Chris has a low rebounding rate and his mid-range game is underdeveloped. He also does not have any form of a pull-up jumper to speak of and needs to improve his decision making on the court.

Chris Douglas-Roberts even with his flaws is one of the best college players currently. He has unmatched explosiveness and aggressiveness on the court. Strong perimeter defense, finishing ability and shot-creating skills are his main qualities that have made him the star that he has come to be.

While, it is still early to make predictions about the 2008 NBA Draft some notable sports and news sights have released mock drafts. NBC Sports has placed Chris Douglas-Roberts as No. 26 in their draft picks. NBC Sports expects Chris to be drafted by the Grizzlies. He has been shown in higher locations by some other sites, such as collegehoopsnet.com. They have placed Chris Douglas-Roberts as No. 22 and predict he will be drafted by the Utah Jazz.

Tags:2008 NBA Draft Preview: Chris Douglas-Roberts

2008 NCAA Tournament Preview: The Pittsburgh Panthers

Some teams enter their conference tournament with the goal of earning the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Others play in it hoping to earn a higher seed in the Big Dance. Pitt wasn’t on the bubble entering Championship Week but they were looking to move up in the brackets. They did just that by winning the Big East tournament. In this preview, I look at the Pitt Panthers. Are they as good as they looked in Madison Square Garden or did they just get hot during the week?

All season long, we were told about the depth of talent found in the Big East. Never was this more prevalent than during the Big East tournament. After all, the seventh best team in the conference during the regular season took home the tournament title. Pittsburgh may be able to use the conference tournament as a springboard to the Elite Eight; or better. That is, if they aren’t completely worn out.

Pitt secured an automatic birth to the NCAA Tournament by defeating top-seeded Georgetown 74-65 in the Big East tournament championship game. Pitt went 10-8 in Big East play during the regular season, five games behind Georgetown and seventh in the conference. They were most impressive during the past week of the season. In four days, the Panthers defeated Cincy, Louisville, Marquette and Georgetown.

Pitt started the season on a roll, winning eleven consecutive games. That streak included victories against tournament teams Mississippi Valley State and Duke. They were then dominated by Dayton (21-10, 8-8) en route to an 80-55 defeat. In Big East play, Pitt beat Villanova, West Virginia, Syracuse and Georgetown during the regular season.

The Panthers have plenty of talent on their roster. Junior forward Sam Young leads the team in scoring, averaging 18.3 points and 6.4 rebounds a game. Fellow forward DeJean Blair is close to a double-double per contest, averaging 11.7 points and 9.1 rebounds. Levance Fields scores about eleven points a game and is slowly coming back to full form after suffering an injury earlier in the season. Keith Benjamin and Ronald Ramon cannot be forgotten about, as well. Both players shoot 38 percent beyond the arc.

The most impressive thing about Pittsburgh is their style of play. Call it physical. Call it scrappy. You could even call it a little bit dirty. The fact is the Panthers played their style of basketball during the Big East tournament and that’s why they won four consecutive games. This type of basketball can truly intimidate opponents.

Pittsburgh’s play during Championship Week can make you quickly forget how poorly they finished the regular season. During February, the Panthers lost three straight games and went 3-4 in their last seven games. If that team shows up in the NCAA Tournament, the Panthers could find themselves upset before the Sweet 16.

I expect the Panthers to run out of gas soon. Winning four games in four days will have an affect on any team, especially one playing against the Big East. Remember what happened to Syracuse a few years ago. Because of their performance during Championship Week, Pittsburgh is quickly becoming a sexy Final Four selection. I don’t believe the hype. We all saw the best of Pitt during the week before the NCAA Tournament. They’ll easily get by Oral Roberts but I don’t believe that this team can defeat Michigan State. When it comes to Pitt, buyer beware.

All stats courtesy of ESPN.com

Tags:2008 NCAA Tournament Preview: The Pittsburgh Panthers

2008 NFC East Preview

The 2007 football season concluded with the underdog New York Giants shocking the world by beating the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl. This marked the division’s return to dominance in the NFC as three of their teams earned trips to the playoffs. The Dallas Cowboys, who came up short of expectation last year, added Adam Jones to provide a spark to the defensive unit. Philadelphia followed suit by adding the league’s best corner. And despite the head coaching change in Washington, they have the experience of being playoff contenders in two of the last three years. Who will emerge from the new black and blue division of the NFC?

1st Dallas Cowboys (Record 12-4 Division Champions)

Despite not making it to the Super Bowl last season, the Cowboys will remain the favorite by many to win not only the division but to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. Quarterback Tony Romo received criticism after the last two seasons and will need to show he can lead the Cowboys to a win in the playoffs, something that had been lacking the last few seasons. Romo passing statistics in 2007 were on par with Manning and Brady. He passed for over 4,000 yards with 36 touchdowns and 19 interceptions. Romo will need to cut down on his interceptions in 2008 to help the Cowboys succeed. Team management made the decision to go with running back Marion Barber as they number one back and release Julius Jones. Despite splitting time with Jones in 2007, Barber was able to run for 975 yards and score 10 touchdowns. In case Barber is unable to carry the entire load, the Cowboys had a solid rookie, Felix Jones, to for a change of pace. Terrell Ownes is his usual self as he had 15 touchdown catches and 1,355 receiving yards last year. Despite the fact that Owens let his mouth do a lot of talking, he is still the professional athlete on the field and will put up similar numbers this year. Patrick Crayton has emerged as the team’s number two wide receiver with the departure of Terry Glenn. Tight End Jason Witten has a monstrous statistical year in 2007, catching 96 balls for over 1,100 yards.

When the defense took a step back in 2007, owner Jerry Jones went out to find the best available player. That player turned out to be the former Titan, Adam ‘Pacman’ Jones. This was a high risk – high reward situation for the Cowboys. They received a suspended Pro Bowl caliber cornerback who excels on special teams returning the ball. All questions were answered when Jones was allowed to first practice, then return to the NFL to play for the Cowboys. His presence in the secondary will help increase the team’s takeway totals. The Cowboys added veteran leadership in the form of linebacker Zach Thomas at the linebacker position. The success of this unit will be determine if DeMarcus Ware and Greg Eillis will be able to produce 26 plus sacks likes they did in 2007. If the two can continue to pressure quarterbacks, then the Cowboys defensive unit should end 2008 near the top. Will the Cowboys be able to solve the riddle that is called the playoffs this year? If they do not reach the NFC championship game, look for Jason Garret to officially take over as head coach for 2009.

2ndPhiladelphia Eagles (Record 10-6 Wildcard)

The 2007 campaign was a letdown for the Philadelphia Eagles, who finished the season 8-8 and out of the playoff chase. This marked the second time in three years the Eagles were sent home at the end of the regular season. Part of the Eagles woes in 2008 was the health of their team, especially their quarterback, Donovan McNabb. He has missed 17 of the last 41 games. So far during the preseason, McNabb has been impressive while showing he still has the mobility despite the torn ACL in 2007. The star of the Eagles offenses is without a doubt, Brian Westbrook. The running back showed in 2007 that he could be the workhorse of the team. Last year, Westbrook led the NFC in total yards from scrimmage and became a real threat to catch the ball out of the backfield. The one concern for the Eagles running game is newly appointed fullback Tony Hunt. The former tailback from Penn State has the size for the position but needs to work on his blocking skills if he is to be effective. When it comes to the receiving corps, during 2007 Kevin Curtis became the second receiver in almost a decade to rack up over 1,000 receiving yards. On the bad side, Curtis will miss at least four of the first games as he completes rehab on a sports hernia. The number two receiver, Reggie Brown, also has a chance to miss a few games because he is nursing a hamstring injury. Until these two skilled players are back on the field, McNabb will need to rely upon rookie DeSean Jackson and tight end L.J. Smith. Expect to see Westbrook lined up out of the backfield to create mismatches for the defense.

The biggest move of the Eagles’ off season came when they were able to sign free agent cornerback Asante Samuel. His presence should immediately be seen with the team’s takeaway total. Last year, the Eagles ranked last in the league with a total of 19 takeaways; while in comparison Samuel has recorded 16 interceptions in two years with the Patriots. The revamped secondary, lead by perennial Pro Bowl safety Brian Dawkins, will need help from an inconsistent front seven and their lack of pressure on the quarterback. Though the Eagles were able to record 37 sacks in 2007, they only managed 13 sacks in the last nine games of the season. To help replace Jevon Kearse, the Eagles signed pass rush specialist Chris Clemons, who recorded eight sacks with the Oakland Raiders. A calf injury has kept Clemons out of the preseason and possibly the team’s opener. The key to the Eagles success in 2008 will be the health of the skilled positions on the offensive side of the ball. If McNabb and Westbrook miss more than two games, this could be a long season for the Eagles. Otherwise, the Eagles will advance to the playoffs and prove to be difficult thanks to the versatility of Westbrook.

3rd New York Giants (Record 9-7)

When people discussed the most over rated player in the NFL, Giants quarterback Eli Manning was near the top of the list. That was until last season when he was able to play mistake free football when it counted and helped the Giants win the Super Bowl. It will be interesting to see if Manning can repeat this feat in 2008. Last year he passed for passed for over 3,000 yards, 23 touchdowns, and 20 interceptions. The concern for Manning is that his interception rate has increase ever year since he joined the league. It has not hurt the Giants too much since they are still a run first team. Second year starter, Brandon Jacobs, will look to knock over defensive players as he tries to rush for 1,000 yards again. Derrick Ward will provide a change of pace to keep the defenders on their toes. Wide receiver, Plaxico Burress, came into his own last year when he was able to haul in 12 touchdown receptions while averaging 14.6 yards per catch. The receive production drops off after Burress, especially since the Giants traded troublesome but talent tight end Jeremy Shockey to the Saints. If, and it is a big if, Manning can get his interceptions under control, the Giants offense will be even more potent.

The formula the Giants used to win the Super Bowl was to quarterback pressure and control the ball. When the Giants lost defensive star Osi Umenyiora for the season in the preseason, they lost a player who pressure the quarterback relentlessly. This, along with the retirement of Michael Strahan, will greatly affect the pass rush of the Giants. Both men combined for 21 of the team’s 53 quarterback sacks in 2007. Until the Giants find a suitable game plan to increase the pressure, defensive end Justin Tuck will need to step up his game and become the leader of the front line. Despite the pressure the Giants were able to place on the quarterback, the makeshift secondary in 2007 was only able to manage 15 interceptions. To help solve this, the team drafted safety Kenny Phillips in the first round. The team management is excited about this pick, especially after seeing his performance during the preseason. Can the Giants catch lightening in a bottle again in 2008 or will they suffer from a Super Bowl hangover? 2008 will be a long season for the champs who will follow the trend of Super Bowl Champions failing to make the playoffs in the following season.

4th Washington Redskins (Record 7-9)

Last year was a roller coaster season for the Washington Redskins. The team was well on their way out of the playoff hunt when safety Sean Taylor was killed during a home invasion. The team rallied around the memory of their fallen player and quarterback Todd Collins when Jason Campbell went down with an injury to make the playoffs. Despite the late season heroics, the Redskin players found themselves working for a new head coach when the pre season began. Jim Zorn, the former Seattle quarterbacks coach, was surprisingly given the position to lead the Redskins. This move will benefit quarterback Jason Campbell the same way it benefited Matt Hasselbeck out in Seattle. Campbell will need to follow up the 2007 season with a productive 2008 because he can hear the footsteps of rookie Colt Brennan. Though it may take a year or two, there will be a quarterback controversy in Washington. Clinton Portis was the only back to have any success in the rushing attack as he compiled over 1,200 yards and 11 touchdowns while carrying the ball 325 times. Campbell found his favorite receiving target in the form of tight end Chris Cooley, who earned a Pro Bowl berth thanks to his 786 yards receiving and 8 touchdowns. Wide receivers Santana Moss and Antwaan Randle El will need to step up their production in 2008 is Campbell is going to have success as a quarterback.

The biggest splash the Redskins made was trading for former Dancing with the Stars Jason Taylor from the Miami Dolphins when Phillip Daniels was lost for the season. This trade almost went up in smoke when Taylor injured his knee in a preseason game, but it only ended up being a sprain. Despite being in his 12th season, Taylor still has what it takes to apply pressure to the quarterback. During the 2007 season, he was able to record 12 sacks on a lesser Dolphins defense. If he can continue his production, he will provide symmetry with Andrea Carter on the opposite end, who was able to sack the quarterback 10 times in 2007. The secondary unit of the Redskins proved to be a tough unit led by veteran Shawn Springs. Their success will be determine how second year LaRon Landry will be able to recover from his hamstring injury and take up the role of the former Pro Bowler Taylor. The Redskins season will be determined by the first five games of the season. During the span, they will meet three division opponents and will need to win two of them if they want to reach the playoffs.

Tags:2008 NFC East Preview

2008 Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade and I was lucky enough to have a front seat to all the action. The parade ran from December 17th-21st, starts at 6:30pm and ends at 9:00pm. Parking is a nightmare so you will need to get there early as there is a lot of traffic in and around Balboa Island. I included a link in the references section that shows where I parked and where I walked to get a good view of the yachts. I also included a link to a slideshow of some of the yachts I saw this year.

This was my first year at the boat parade and I plan to see it every year if I happen to be in the area. I would say there were around 100 boats, big and small, lavish and simple. There was even a boat with a single Christmas light on it. Many residents who own houses on the edge of the water come out to see the boats and I was lucky enough to have children singing Christmas songs near where I was sitting. I walked out onto one of the docks and watched the parade from there. It was very chilly so make sure to bring a heavy jacket. Boats run very close to each other, so there was never a dull moment. I would highly recommend this event to anyone who wants to get into the holiday spirit. It definitely did the trick for me.

References:

My Slideshow. Associated Content

Where I Parked. Google Maps

Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade

Tags:2008 Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade

2008 NFL Draft Top 10 Selections: A Year Later Review

1. Jake Long, Miami Dolphins – 5 years, $57.5 million ($30 million guaranteed). Everything the Dolphins were looking for out of Jake Long – reliable, tough, 16 game starts his rookie year. Pennington appreciates the protection. A great safe pick at the top spot for the next 10 years.

2. Chris Long, St. Louis Rams – 6 years, $56.5 million ($29 million guaranteed). Long showed great work ethic his rookie season (40 tackles, 4 sacks and a forced fumble) and will continue to develop. A great pedigree helps….

3. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons – 6 years, $72 million ($34 million guaranteed). Questioned last April, Ryan did nothing other than turn around a team, franchise and city to 11-5 and a playoff berth….oh, and a rookie of the year trophy.

4. Darren McFadden, Oakland Raiders – 6 years, $60 million ($26 million guaranteed). Showed flashes of extreme ability in Oakland, but struggled to stay on the field with injuries. 499 yards and 4 scores his rookie campaign. Having an underdeveloped quarterback and a mired franchise can’t help the former Razorback.

5. Glenn Dorsey, Kansas City Chiefs – 5 years, $51 million ($23 million guaranteed). Didn’t make the instant impact Kansas City was hoping for (46 tackles, 1 sack), but the team is young and Dorsey has plenty of time.

6. Vernon Gholston, N.Y. Jets – 5 years, $50 million ($21 million guaranteed). The first considered “bust” of the draft. There is hope that Rex Ryan will turn him into the next Suggs, but as of now that $21 million guaranteed is a big big number.

7. Sedrick Ellis, New Orleans Saints – 5 years, $49 million ($19.5 million guaranteed). Showed more than Dorsey in year one with good push, 30 tackles and 4 sacks as a freshman.

8. Derrick Harvey, Jacksonville Jaguars – 5 years, $33.4 million ($17.177 million guaranteed). Harvey was the biggest riser in the NFL draft wih his combine performance. After a holdout, Harvey sputtered with 19 tackles and 3.5 sacks on the year.

9. Keith Rivers, Cincinnati Bengals – 6 years, $23 million ($15.6 million guaranteed). 37 tackles, an interception and a forced fumble for Rivers in a lost season for Cincinnati.

10. Jerod Mayo, New England Patriots – 5 years, $18.9 million ($13.8 million guaranteed). Another great pick by the Patriots. 128 tackles for a stud at linebacker. The Patriots reload every year and desperately needed to get younger at linebacker – mission accomplished.

Tags:2008 NFL Draft Top 10 Selections: A Year Later Review

2008 NFL Playoff Prediction - Indianapolis Colts Versus San Diego Chargers

Before the NFL season started, this matchup had all the buzz of a championship fight. By week #8, Indianapolis had held up their end of the bargain, while the San Diego Chargers were floundering in a terrible AFC West division. Then something amazing happened. The Chargers clicked into gear, and did not look back, smoking their division and making a case that they are for real.

Head Coach Norv Turner has a ton to prove. His head coaching track record leaves a lot to be desired, but that could all change with a big win on the road, in Indy this weekend. The San Diego Chargers are a sexy pick for those who do not want to go with the conventional wisdom. They have as much talent as anyone in the NFL, save the New England Patriots. However, their woeful start to the regular season has forced them to wear their road jerseys from here on out in the AFC Playoffs.

Has there ever been a quieter 13-3 team than this year’s Indianapolis Colts. Between the 16-0 noise out of New England, and the unending chatter out of Dallas (also going 13-3), you would not have even known that the Colts existed if you were not paying careful attention. That starts at the top, with Tony Dungy and his quiet, efficient style. Do not be fooled. They are still the defending Super Bowl Champions, and a close loss against the Patriots during the regular season still does not sit well with Blue and White.

If you noticed the handshake after that game, it could not have been frostier unless Eric Mangini magically appeared in front of Bill Belichick. However, first things first. It shapes up to be a very interesting contest with a lot of star power. It will depend on the Chargers’ offense and their ability to keep up with Peyton and company.

As nice as this all looks on paper, I have to go with my gut, and my gut likes the Indy Colts to move on. Part of me just wants another Peyton-Brady showdown for all the marbles, but I think that Indianapolis at home is just too much and too methodical for the Chargers. Credit San Diego for righting their ship but they will pay for it rocking to begin with this weekend on the road. 24-7, Indy rolls on.

Tags:2008 NFL Playoff Prediction - Indianapolis Colts Versus San Diego Chargers

2008 NFL Draft: Scouting Report on Various Prospects

Ladies and gentlemen, the 2008 NFL Draft is rapidly approaching. Over the next few weeks, football fans everywhere will be bombarded with analysis of one of the most anticipated sporting events of the year. Here’s my look at a few different prospects for the draft:

WR Ryan Grice-Mullen-Jr.-Hawaii- was arguably the most decorated receiver this past season for the Hawaii Warriors, which ran the nation’s most prolific passing attack the past two college football seasons. Grice-Mullen lacks the prototypical size you look for in a receiver at 5’11, but he does more than make up for that lack of height with his ability to make the defender miss in the open field after the catch. He hauled in 106 catches for 1,372 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2007-2008 campaign. He also ranked in the top 10 in three major receiving categories in 2007-2008: receptions(6th), receiving yards per game(8th), and total receiving yards(5th). An excellent prospect who might lack elite speed, but has shown the ability to post astronomical numbers on the gridiron.

WR Davone Bess-Jr.Hawaii-yet another member of one of the nation’s most prolific receiving corps over the past few seasons on the islands. He might be a little undersized at 5’9, but Bess is blessed with a remarkably soft set of hands, excellent leaping ability and body control that remind you of a shorter version of Larry Fitzgerald. He racked up over 1,000 receiving yards during each of his three seasons at Hawaii, becoming one of Colt Brennan’s favorite targets. Led the team in catches in 2007-2008 with 108 grabs.

CB Chevis Jackson-Jr.-LSU-Chevis Jackson was arguably the top cover corner in the SEC over the past two seasons. In the Tigers’ 2007-2008 national title run, he snagged five interceptions and racked up 16 pass breakups! In 2006, he picked off two passes and tallied 14 pass breakups! Those are unreal numbers and are among the best of any cornerback in the 2008 NFL Draft class. Blessed with excellent instincts and jaw-dropping ball skills, look for Jackson to make a splash in a big way in the NFL.

CB Patrick Lee-Sr.-Auburnone of the top cover corners in the SEC over the past few seasons, Patrick Lee has excellent ball skills and great instincts as a cover corner. Tied for the team lead this past season with four interceptions and eight pass breakups. Lee also displayed his versatility, leading the Tigers with a 25.8 yard per kick return average on his kickoffs. He’s one of the top cover corners in this draft and will definitely make some serious noise in the NFL.

LB Geno Hayes-Jr.-Florida State-Florida State produces linebackers like Krispy Kreme produces donuts, and linebacker Geno Hayes has continued that legacy in a big way for the Seminoles. In the 2007-2008 season, Hayes ranked second on the team in tackles, reeling in 80 tackles on the season for FSU. Perhaps the most impressive statistic he posted was an eye-gouging 17.5 tackles for loss this season! Hayes also showed the ability to get after the quarterback with 5 sacks this season for the ‘Noles. He also displayed excellent ball skills for a linebacker with three pass breakups and one interception. Blessed with excellent lateral speed and the ability to play sideline-to-sideline, Hayes looks to be a future star at the linebacker position in the NFL!

OT Jeremy Zuttah-Sr.-Rutgers-Zuttah was the best offensive lineman on what was arguably the Big East’s top offensive line unit this season and one of the best in college football. He helped clear the way for one of the best power running backs in the country in Ray Rice. Rice churned out over 2,000 yards this past season on the ground and racked up 24 touchdowns. In 2006, the Rutgers’ offensive line unit only surrendered eight sacks all season, the fewest in the country! A very dependable college offensive lineman, Zuttah should be excellent in the trenches in the NFL.

DE Johnny Dingle-Sr.-West Virginia-Dingle teamed with fellow defensive lineman Keilen Dykes to form one of the most devastating pass rushing tandems in the Big East. Dingle was one of the biggest reasons the Mountaineer defensive unit ranked seventh in the nation in total defense for the 2007-2008 college football season. He also posted solid numbers in the Mountaineers’ Fiesta Bowl throttling of Oklahoma, two tackles and a sack. He finished the 2007-2008 campaign with 48 tackles, 19 tackles for loss, 9 sacks, 3 pass breakups, 2 forced fumbles, 1 recovered fumble! Those are simply jaw-dropping numbers folks and are a huge reason why so many NFL scouts and managers will be drooling all over him once the April 26th NFL Draft rolls around. Dingle is oozing with potential and is a top-notch defensive line prospect in this draft.

T.C. Ostrander-QB-Sr.-Stanford-While Ostrander has good size at 6’3, 215 lbs. that is about all he has. He’s one of the riskiest quarterback prospects to take in this draft. When you think of Stanford football in 2007, the first game that immediately comes to mind is their stunning upset of the USC Trojans. Ostrander wasn’t even cleared to play in that game due to a seizure he suffered at a Palo Alto restaurant on September 30th. That will be a serious concern for NFL GMs and scouts, because NFL quarterbacks take a brutal amount of punishment and they will be very concerned for Ostrander’s health, first and foremost. When breaking down Ostrander’s career at Stanford, he was a highly touted(four-star) prospect coming out of high school who never lived up to his high school hype. He played the role of backup to current Buffalo Bills quarterback Trent Edwards for most of his career, but when he got his chance to shine in 2007, his numbers were less than stellar. In eight games of competition he completed 130 of 229 passes for 1,422 yards while tossing in seven touchdowns and three interceptions. To Ostrander’s credit, his subpar performance may not have been entirely his fault. He was surrounded with inferior talent at Stanford the past few seasons and never really got the chance to showcase his talent. He was sacked a total of 51 times the past two seasons despite only seeing action in 18 games. It would be hard for any quarterback to perform at a consistently high level under those conditions. That being said, Ostrander is too much of a risk to waste a draft pick on, being picked up as a free agent is his only hope. His numbers at the Hula Bowl certainly didn’t help his draft stock. As a matter of fact, they likely made it drop like a lead filled balloon. He only completed three of eight passes for 52 yards and 2 interceptions.

Bernard Morris-QB-Sr.-Marshall-Over the past few months Bernard Morris has made his name as one of the hottest “sleepers” of the 2008 NFL Draft. In the Hula Bowl, helped lead the Aina to a 38-7 victory after he threw for 172 yards and a touchdown in the first half of action. He’s certainly one of the most intriguing quarterback prospects in this draft and he picked the best season to have a top-notch performance. In 2007 he posted impressive numbers, completing 63.6% of his passes for 3,149 yards while tossing in 17 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. This past season he also displayed dual-threat capability, he had 130 rushing attempts for 488 yards and four touchdowns. He even showed the ability to rip off the big gain, scooting his way for a 75 yard touchdown run in one game in ’07. Morris is very elusive in the open field and while he may not pile up yards like Vince Young, he has still displayed the ability to escape pressure in the open field and make things happen with his fleet feet. He has excellent quarterback fundamentals as well, with a nice compact release when he throws the football. Morris is a name I think you will only see rise up the NFL Draft boards, because this guy is blessed with a tremendous amount of athleticism and has an excellent “upside” to him. He reminds you of a poor man’s version of San Diego quarterback Josh Johnson.

Cliff Avril-DE/LB-Sr.-Purdue-Cliff Avril is one of the most athletic defensive lineman in this draft. He displayed that athletic ability in 2007 against Minnesota, when he tipped the ball in the air to himself, caught it at the 45 and outraced a few Minnesota offensive players to find the end zone. He’s excellent at putting pressure on the quarterback and batting the ball down at the line of scrimmage. He had five pass breakups in ’07. The rest of his numbers in 2007 were just as impressive: 41 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, and 3 recovered fumbles. Those numbers were good enough to land him honorable mention All-Big Ten honors. He’s shown his versatility as he has played both linebacker and defensive end for the Boilermakers, as he started four games at linebacker in 2006. He posted excellent numbers at the NFL combine recently and has been timed with a blazing sub 4.51 40 yard dash time. Scouts should be excited about Avril, because he’s one of the fastest and most athletic defensive ends/linebackers in this draft class. You won’t find too many hybrids like Avril who have experience playing both positions on the collegiate level and the athleticism to help them translate that to the next level. He’ll definitely be drafted and is one of the top defensive end/linebacker prospects in the draft. Oozing with jaw-dropping level of athleticism, speed, and talent, Cliff Avril is a name you should remember in April.

Justin King-DB-Jr.-Penn State-The first-team all Big-Ten selection made a name for himself as one of the most versatile players in college football the past few seasons, playing at cornerback, receiver, and on special teams’ units for the Nittany Lions. King is blessed with an uncanny amount of speed that makes sure that he will rarely get beat deep. He also has excellent recovery speed because of his top-notch acceleration. He has excellent instincts as a cover corner and once he was given the opportunity to focus solely on defense in ’07, he put up big numbers. In 12 starts this season, he racked up 49 tackles, 17 passes defended, and hauled in two interceptions. His ball skills rival any other corner in this draft class. Simply put, Justin King is easily in the top 5 cornerbacks in the ’08 draft class. Blessed with a eye-popping combination of speed, instincts, and ball skills, King will be a future star in the NFL. He might even be utilized as a wide receiver for certain plays, but his best position is cornerback.

Kirk Barton-OT-Ohio State-Sr.-Kirk Barton is one of the better offensive tackle prospects in the 2008 NFL Draft. He’s a tough, hard-nosed player who has helped clear the path for one of the nation’s most punishing ground attacks over the years. Ohio State loves to run the football and Barton’s powerful blocking was a big part of making that a possibility. He opened up holes for one of the nation’s most prolific running backs in sophomore Chris “Beanie” Wells. In 2007, he piled up over 1,600 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns on the ground thanks to Barton. The first-team All-Big Ten selection played in 35 of 38 games during his final three years Columbus. He played a vital role in the Buckeyes earning back-to-back BCS national championship game berths. He is one of the best pass-blocking offensive lineman in the ’08 draft class because of his ability to slide to the edge. He’s also blessed with excellent balance. Look for Barton to be an extremely solid, dependable offensive tackle prospect in the NFL.

Kevin Robinson-WR/KR/PR-Utah State-It should tell you right away just how good a prospect Kevin Robinson is when you see that he played for a school with such little exposure such as Utah State, but still managed to land first-team All-America honors from cbssportsline.com and second team All-America honors from the Walter Camp Foundation. Simply put, Robinson was one of the most dangerous and dynamic punt returners/kick returners in college football the past four years. In 2007, he led the nation in punt return average, returning 20 punts for 378 yards and one touchdown, an average of 18.9 yards per return. In 2007, he had one of the best all-purpose seasons by any player in Division 1-A college football, racking up over 2,300 all-purpose yards in just one season. He shredded opposing defenses for 640 receiving yards, 378 punt return yards, and an eye-gouging 1,260 yards on kickoff returns. He even had three kickoff returns for touchdowns as well in ’07. Throughout his career as a Utah State Aggie, he had eight total touchdowns on special teams, four on kickoffs and four on punt returns. The thing that will blow your mind even more about Robinson is that he has a soft set of hands as well, hauling in 55 passes for 640 yards and five touchdowns in ’07. Look for him to get drafted in the early rounds and if teams pass on him they will make him pay dearly. Bursting at the seams with athleticism and top-notch speed, Robinson can take the rock the distance within a flash. This man is destined to be the next “special teams’ demon” in the NFL ala Devin Hester.

Tags:2008 NFL Draft: Scouting Report on Various Prospects

2008 NFL Off-Season Preview: Cleveland Browns

The success that the Cleveland Browns enjoyed in 2007 was a pleasant surprise for everybody involved with the organization. It was also something that the most loyal fans in the NFL desperately needed. The fact remains that, despite finishing with an overall record of 10-6, the season still ended with disappointment as the Browns failed to make the playoffs. Heading into the 2008 off-season there are plenty of issues that the Browns must address. Here are the most important issues facing the Browns before kickoff of the 2008 NFL season.

First and foremost, the Browns must decide who is going to be the starting quarterback in 2008. Derek Anderson took over in week two and was the starter that almost nobody believed he could be, throwing for 29 touchdowns. Anderson is far from the only option that the Browns have at quarterback. The team has first round pick Brady Quinn waiting for his opportunity to shine.

The Browns could decide to keep Anderson and repeat 2007 all over again, sign Anderson and then trade him or give him the tender for a first and third round pick in the NFL draft, meaning that another NFL team would have to offer Anderson roughly $2.6 million and give the Browns the draft picks as well. There is little chance that, with the money the Browns gave to Quinn, Cleveland would be willing to offer Anderson a big-time contract. Reports suggest that the Browns are willing to listen to any offers for Anderson as they should. Truth be told the Browns should send Anderson to a team willing to give up those draft picks this off-season when his stock is still considerably high. Quinn is going to be the starter and I have no problem sending him into the fray in 2008.

Defense has to be the next priority for the Browns this off-season. The Browns were near the bottom of the NFL is almost every defensive stat during the 2007 regular season. There really isn’t one position that the Browns are completely solid at on defense but Cleveland could get away without drafting a linebacker with their first three draft picks. Using a 3-4 defensive scheme, the Browns must solidify their defensive line. Cleveland set the foundation of their offensive line through the 2007 NFL Draft and they can do the same with their defensive line in 2008, especially if/when the Browns receive a first and third round pick for Derek Anderson.

The Browns must also make a decision concerning running back Jamal Lewis. The Browns signed the Baltimore castoff and free agent running back to a one-year deal in 2007 and Lewis failed to disappoint, finishing the season with 1304 yards and nine touchdowns. Lewis has stated that he desires a multi-year deal but the Browns are as of yet still unsure if they want to offer the veteran of eight NFL seasons a contract of more than one year. If the Browns do indeed send Anderson off for a first round pick they’ll have to make a decision on whether they’ll name Jamal Lewis the starter for the next few years or draft a running back (McFadden, anyone?).

Then there’s the situation with head coach Romeo Crennel. Crennel has two years remaining on his contract and his currently searching for a contract extension. The Browns were very successful with their 10-6 record in 2007 but the fact still remains that Crennel has a below .500 overall record (20-28) as head coach of the Browns. To expect a contract even resembling the five-year deal Crennel’s agent is currently searching for is absurd to say the least. There are rumors that Crennel could be interested in becoming head coach of the Miami Dolphins and once again working with Bill Parcells. I don’t see those reports being anything other than a bargaining tool in order for Crennel to obtain the deal he desires with the Browns. Simply put, the Browns should do absolutely nothing concerning Crennel. Crennel has no right to ask for a contract extension after one good year and the Browns should wait this one out. If the Browns make the playoffs in 2008 the two parties can talk about a contract extension but not until that moment.

For the first time since the return of the Browns in 1999 the team is heading into the off-season with a sense of both confidence and purpose. The Browns are a few moves away from being ready to win the division and make a serious push for the AFC Championship. These next few months are crucial to the future of the Browns and whatever moves the front office makes or doesn’t make will give fans a good idea of the direction of the team.

Tags:2008 NFL Off-Season Preview: Cleveland Browns

2008 NFL Season Week 9 Preview: Atlanta Falcons at Oakland Raiders

The Raiders returned to Earth after their thrilling overtime victory against the Jets week 7, and returned to the Raiders of recent years after their 29-10 loss in Baltimore. The defense didn’t’ get a sack, the Raiders run game couldn’t get started (which is to be expected against the Ravens), and the Ravens held the ball for 13 minutes longer than the Raiders. The good news is the Raiders return to the Coliseum this week to face the Falcons.

For the second straight week, the Raiders defense will face a rookie quarterback; the difference is the Raiders will be facing the 25th ranked defense, not the 2nd. Look for the Raiders to do what they can to stop Michael “Burner” Turner and force Matt Ryan into beating them. DeAngelo Hall gets his first chance to play his former team, and you can bet they’ll look his way early and often as they shy away from Nnamdi Asomugha. How well the Raiders perform will rest on Hall’s ability to stop his former team from completing passes thrown his way.

Last week the Raiders tried to establish the run early, and this lead to their early demise. It’s nearly impossible to run against the Ravens defense, and the Raiders may have been better off trying to get Russell into a groove earlier in the game. The Raiders finished with 47 yards rushing and Russel was able to complete 15-33 for 228 yards with 1 touchdown and 1 interception. His 60 yard pass to rookie Chaz Shillens was right on the money, and the contest against the Ravens was a great learning experience for Jamarcus Russell.

Raider fans had high expectations entering the 2008 season. Fans knew that with Russell in his first full year at the helm, and with young receivers and a rookie running back that there would be a few growing pains this year. Russell hasn’t looked spectacular, but he has been very effective for only having 8 starts under his belt. Darren McFadden needs to stay healthy so he and Russell can form a relationship together. These two are the backbone of what the Raiders will be the next 7-10 years, and they need to get game experience together.

Besides McFadden being healthy, Russell also needs a receiver who can catch the ball on a consistent basis. He has a great tight end to help him develop in Zach Miller. Chaz Shillens could develop into a quality number 2 or 3 receiver, but the Raiders need a legitimate number 1 threat. Michael Crabtree, who is only a sophomore, would look great in silver & black if he decides to leave school early.

The most important key to Russell’s long-term success is a coach who will be there with him for the long-haul. Al Davis needs to find someone who fits the Oakland Raiders coaching philosophy (which for the most part is a puppet). A Dennis Green or Jim Harbaugh would be great candidates, as they both understand the Raiders, and have both expressed interest. If the Raiders continue to have a coaching carousel, Russell could end up like Alex Smith across the Bay. Russell has all the athletic ability and intangibles to succeed in the NFL; here’s to hoping Al Davis gets Russell a quality head coach and receiving threat to help him along before next season.

Tags:2008 NFL Season Week 9 Preview: Atlanta Falcons at Oakland Raiders

2008 NHL Season Preview: Carolina Hurricanes Looking for Prospects to Flourish

After winning the Stanley Cup in 2006 the Carolina Hurricanes became the first team in NHL history to miss two consecutive Stanley Cup Playoffs after winning the coveted trophy. The Hurricanes will be hoping that their crop of youngsters could provide the progress they need to make it back on top this season. The Canes have a strong group from the 2007 draft class who could make the jump to the big leagues next year. They also added depth when selecting center Zach Boychuk, wingers Zac Dalpe and Samuel Morneau, defensemen Michael Jordan and goalie Mike Murphy at the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. Let’s take a look at the other prospects that the Hurricanes have waiting to make the jump to the NHL next season.

Brandon Sutter is the first prospect who could make the move to the big leagues. The 6-foot-3 power forward was taken 11th overall by Carolina in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft and became the ninth member of the Sutter family to be drafted into the NHL. The big solid forward just finished his 3rd season with the Red Deer Rebels of the Western Hockey League where he led the team with 26 goals and 49 points. He also helped Team Canada to a World Junior Championship last season. In 2007, the versatile centerman spent time playing in the CHL’s Top Prospects Game as well. With the Sutter name on his side, as well as his skills with the puck, look for the newest Sutter to make a splash in the NHL in the seasons to come.

Selected 72nd overall in 2007, Drayson Bowman is a speedy center who entered Carolina’s training camp last season ready to play. According to Ron Francis, Bowman impressed the club and came to camp in great shape. In 2008, Bowman put up 42 goals and 82 points for Spokane of the Western Hockey League. He also was a member of the Memorial Cup All-Star team and was a Second Team WHL All-Star forward. Bowman was the only player to score points in every game during Spokane’s Championship run against the Kitchener Rangers and scored 6 goals in only 4 games. The confidence that Bowman gained this season should help him come into camp ready to challenge for an NHL spot this season.

On the defensive side of the puck, the ‘Canes drafted Casey Borer 69th overall in 2004, and Borer has had plenty of time to develop into an NHL ready defensemen. At 6-foot-2 205 pounds, Borer has the size and skill to become a shut-down defensemen in the big leagues. He plays a tough physical game and can provide that all important break out pass out of the zone. Borer proved he could play at the NHL when he had 11 appearances for the ‘Canes before suffering from a season ending knee injury. The ‘Canes will be expecting big things from Borer as the season starts.

In goal, the ‘Canes have a strong prospect in Justin Peters. Goaltending coach Tom Barrasso, known best for his playing days with the Pittsburgh Penguins, has spent most of last season working closely with Peters to develop his skills. Peters will likely spend next season with the ‘Canes minor league team in Albany as the number one goaltender after Carolina signed goaltender Michael Leighton to back up Cam Ward for the ‘Canes. Watch for Peters to continue to make strides to make the NHL in the next few seasons as his skills progress.

Tags:2008 NHL Season Preview: Carolina Hurricanes Looking for Prospects to Flourish

2008 NCAA Tournament Preview: Temple Owls

The Temple Owls of this decade have not quite been the team of the 90s. Their only NCAA Tournament appearance since the turn of the century was in 2001. All of that is about to change, though, as Temple earned an automatic bid to the 2008 NCAA Tournament. The Owls were shaky at the beginning of the season but they’re now winning when it matters. In this article, I preview the roller coaster that is Temple.

The only true way that a “bubble team” can be sure that it is getting into the NCAA Tournament is to win the conference tournament championship. By earning the automatic bid to the Big Dance, a team eliminates any and all doubt about whether or not they “belong” in the NCAA Tournament. Temple was one of those bubble teams entering Championship Week. The Owls took matters into their own hands and they are going dancing.

Temple earned an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament by defeating St. Joseph’s in the Atlantic-Ten tournament championship game 69-64. It will be the first time for Temple in the Big Dance since the Elite Eight appearance of 2001. The conference title was needed for the Owls, a team that many experts had out of the NCAA Tournament heading into Championship Week. This despite the fact that Temple went 11-5 in conference play and entered the conference tournament with an overall record of 18-12. Three wins later and the Owls knew they had a spot in the NCAA Tournament.

Things weren’t so bright for Temple at the beginning of the season as the Owls lost their first three contests. Temple went 0-3 against ranked opponents (Tennessee, Villanova and Duke) until January 16. Then, they defeated Xavier 78-59. The Owls have been on a roll as of late, winning their last seven contests.

Two guards lead Temple into the NCAA Tournament. Junior Dionte Christmas showed off his talent during the A-10 tournament and it was no fluke. During the season, Christmas has averaged 20.2 points and six rebounds a game. Mark Tyndale, a senior, scores roughly 16 points (15.9) and grabs 7.2 rebounds a contest. Guards Ryan Brooks and Chris Clark as well as forward Lavoy Allen all contribute around eight points a game for the Owls. Temple also shoots about 74 percent from the free throw line.

Temple goes into the NCAA Tournament averaging around 13 turnovers a contest. Their two best players are also the two that give the ball away the most. Tyndale turns the ball over 3.5 times a game and Christmas around three times a contest. Temple is also not phenomenal from behind the arc, shooting about 37 percent from three-point range as a team.

The Owls have been unable to put together any real winning streak until recently. A seven-game winning streak isn’t anything to jump up and down about, though, especially considering that St. Joseph’s helped them out by defeating Xavier in the A-10 tournament semi-final. Still, Temple has defeated Charlotte and St. Joseph’s, two 20-win teams, twice in the last month.

Make no mistake about the fact that Dionte Christmas is definitely a player that can carry a team in the NCAA Tournament. He made need to do so in order for the Owls to go anywhere this March. Teams that have been inconsistent during the season scare me this time of year. A single win may be the best that Temple can do in the 2008 NCAA Tournament.

All stats courtesy of ESPN.com

Tags:2008 NCAA Tournament Preview: Temple Owls

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