Thursday, October 20, 2016

2007 NFL Season Preview - Cincinnati Bengals

Unfortunately for head coach Marvin Lewis and the Cincinnati Bengals organization, they have been known these past few seasons for their problems off the field as much as for their abilities on the field. Lewis and Co. try to change that perception once again this year as the Bengals look to take the AFC North by storm and get to the threshold of NFL greatness by winning a Super Bowl. Their offense has been the focal point with their numerous weapons and ability to put up points on the board. Their defense, however, has been up-and-down and really inconsistent. To put it all together would allow this team the ability to really make a statement in a tough conference.

Cincinnati Bengals
2006 Record (Standing): 8-8
2006 Postseason (If app.): n/a
Head Coach (Career Record): Marvin Lewis (35-29, 5th season)
Key Additions: CB Leon Hall (draft; 1st round, 18th pick), LB Edgerton Hartwell (FA; Atlanta), DT Michael Myers (FA; Denver)
Key Losses: WR Chris Henry (NFL suspension – 8 games), CB Tory James (FA; New England), OG Eric Steinbach (FA: Cleveland Browns), S Kevin Kaesviharn (FA; New Orleans), LB Odell Thurman (NFL Suspension – entire season)

Positives: The top pick in the NFL has been something of a hit or miss prospect in the NFL through recent years. The jury is still out on picks like Mario Williams, Alex Smith, and Eli Manning. However, the pick right before then saw the Cincinnati Bengals strike gold with Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Carson Palmer. All he has done since becoming the Bengals starting quarterback is lead the team through the past two seasons as their quarterback. He helped lead them to an AFC North title in 2005. Like most teams with dynamic quarterbacks, the Bengals live and die on the field with Palmer. He’s shown the ability to get it downfield, make the tough throws in coverage, and rarely makes a bad decision with the ball. His maturity and intelligence are vital to the success of the Bengals. 2007 will mark another opportunity for him to lead this team into the playoffs and get through the AFC. Palmer is easily the third best quarterback in the AFC, and that is saying something considering the top two are future Hall of Famers in Peyton Manning and Tom Brady.

Palmer is a great quarterback, but his backs and receivers make it possible for him to put up those gaudy numbers. Rudi Johnson is a plain workhorse at running back. Johnson has had over 300 carries in each of the past three seasons and there is nothing that would hint that he couldn’t do that again this season. Johnson is a powerful back that hits the hole with authority and makes one cut before heading downfield. A lot of times defenders are unsure how to attack him because of his compact style and powerful force. The receivers are great weapons, too. Chad Johnson is arguably the most dynamic receiver in the NFL; he definitely is the most entertaining. While his antics have gotten him in trouble with the league on numerous occasions, he backs it up on the field and claims it’s all in good fun. Meanwhile, while Johnson gets the attention, T.J. Houshmandzadeh has developed into a dynamic target as well. The pair makes one of the most dangerous 1-2 combinations in the NFL. Tab Perry will fill in as the third receiver while Chris Henry serves a suspension, but when Henry is there he’s another game-breaking receiver.

For the past four years, Cincinnati has been among the top teams in the AFC in terms of turnover ratio and has been a good unit when it comes to forcing turnovers through the past few years. They really embody the spirit of their head coach, Marvin Lewis, on defense when it comes to being ball hawks and going after every loose ball. In Baltimore as the defensive coordinator, Lewis preached that every play was an opportunity to get the ball from their opponents. It’s easy to see that his philosophy has been translated over to the Bengals. They put pressure on teams and know how to force mistakes.

Question Marks: Cornerback could be a real cause of concern for the Bengals. Tory James, a starter last season, has left for the Pats in free agency and Jonathon Joseph recovering from a foot injury, the corner spot could be trouble. Deltha O’Neal is a good corner, but he’s sometimes inconsistent with his play. Take a look at the drop from 2005 to 2006, where O’Neal, albeit hampered with injuries, at times seemed disillusioned with the game itself. With James gone, Joseph is expected to step in and be the starter, but who knows how he’ll perform. The other option would be to get extended reps for first-round pick Leon Hall from Michigan to try and work him into NFL ready status. Hall is a good coverage corner, but two bad games against fellow 2007 draft picks Ted Ginn Jr. and Dwayne Jarrett could show some weaknesses in his armor. Either way, the Bengals will need to address this sooner rather than later.

What about the Bengals defense up the middle? They have serious questions as to who will replace the departed Sam Adams and who exactly will be playing middle linebacker in 2007. To address the latter, it seems as though Ahmad Brooks is going to get the first shot at starting seeing as how Odell Thurman was not re-instated by the NFL after last season’s suspension. But the Bengals might be hard-pressed to find three linebackers at all for their starting unit, let alone a middle linebacker. It should be a bit of competition to see who can get what done in terms of the defensive tackle positions Cincinnati will most likely rotate the men until they can find the guys that will be the top guys. Even then, they should see a steady rotation. Can they get the job done?

There could be some areas of concern along the offensive line as well. They had a lot of injuries to deal with last season and now have lost two important members of their unit (Eric Steinbach and Rich Braham). Levi Jones has always been a bit suspect in run-blocking and now has to deal with recovering from injury and surgery. Willie Anderson is not getting any younger and has suffered some small injuries through the past few seasons. Will he begin to regress? Can they gel as a unit and protect Palmer and open holes for the running game?

Offensive Grade: This offense is another one of those offenses that you always have to be concerned about because of their explosiveness. With Carson Palmer at the head of the offense, they should be able to get points on the board more often than not. They have a convenient problem with an over-crowded backfield, although a lot of the pressure was alleviated when rookie Kenny Irons from Auburn was injured, as he will miss the 2007 season. Whether it’s Rudi Johnson, Chris Perry, or Kenny Watson, they’ve got backs that run hard and will produce for the team. Then there are the receivers; two monstrous targets in Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh give the Bengals two threats to put it in the end zone. Chris Henry has been a dangerous receiver as well, but he will miss half the season and someone else will need to step up in his absence. Their offensive line is in the middle of some big changes, but if they can get together and get on the same page quickly then there should be little transition time needed for them to succeed. There should be big numbers expected of this offense barring catastrophic injury.
Grade: A-

Defensive Grade: 2007 will see some changes on defense that the Bengals have to get through in order to stay among some of the top teams in the conference. Their line is missing big Sam Adams, and they will more than likely use a rotation to try and replicate the production they used to get from Adams. Their ends are solid; Robert Geathers goes into the new season with a brand new extension and Justin Smith played very well, too. They combined for 18 sacks, a very good number off the ends. At linebacker, the Bengals may face their biggest dilemma. They lost Brian Simmons in free agency and Odell Thurman has not be reinstated by the NFL, so coach Lewis will have to pick three linebackers. Ahmad Brooks will more than likely be the middle linebacker, with the two outside jobs being contested as the preseason and early season goes along. The secondary could be an issue with injuries and departures. Deltha O’Neal looked to be out of it at times last season and Tory James has left for New England. Can Leon Hall, the team’s first round pick, step in immediately and have an impact. Jonathan Joseph is coming off an injury and he’s still a question mark at corner as well. The safeties could also be interesting; Madieu Williams has been disappointing ever since a solid rookie campaign, and Dexter Jackson has been injury prone for a few years. This defense will need to prove solid in spots where they might not be, or this could be a long season.
Grade: B-

Special Teams: Shayne Graham has been one of the better kickers in the NFL for the past few seasons. Graham has scored over 100 points in each of his four seasons with the Bengals and there is nothing that suggests he will not be able to repeat that in 2007. Graham has hit over 86% of his attempts with the Bengals and should be at or near that level again in ’07. Kyle Larson is not among the elite, but he is one of the more solid punters in the NFL and remains very low-key. As a punter, if they are not talking about you, then you are probably doing a decent job. Larson’s career net average of 39.2 yards keeps his job secure. Both return positions should be open competitions heading into camp. It’s tough to say who has the upper hand, but they should have it all sorted out. Special teams coach Darrin Simmons has built a pretty good unit so they should be okay on returns.
Grade: A-

Coaching Staff: Marvin Lewis has proven himself to be the real deal when it comes to the football side of things. People have long since questioned his ability to keep the peace and make sure that this team stays disciplined, but there is only so much a coach controls. For his part regarding the on the field things, Lewis has done a good job in motivating those players around him that are looking to be positive and help this organization be successful. Offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski has been with the offense, working with them and making them into the top unit that they are now. He’s been one of the key components of the no-huddle that the Bengals sometimes utilize. Meanwhile, their defensive coordinator, Chuck Bresnahan, has mentored a ball-hawking system that suits the team. They have been the top team in the conference in takeaways since Bresnahan became the defensive coordinator two seasons ago. He gets the most out of the talent he has to work with.
Grade: A-

Bold Predictions
Record: 10-6
Offensive MVP: Carson Palmer
Defensive MVP: Justin Smith
Notes: It’s hard to try to figure out where this team is headed. They have an offense that can put up points and match other teams’ output on them consistently, but where does the defense sit? Will they be able to hold teams down long enough to outscore them? Their defense may have problems putting out the kind of performance they will need to survive. They can win the majority of their games, but it still will be a lot harder than they expect.

Tags:2007 NFL Season Preview - Cincinnati Bengals

2007 Gift Guide for Girls Ages 5-7

Getting the perfect gift for a little girl around this age can be both easy and hard. Finding the perfect gift that you know will please her can be a little hard. Using a gift guide can help you when trying to find the perfect gift.


Bratz Adventures in Learning Laptop
$43

Using this computer will make your child happier and smarter. That gives you the best of both worlds. This computer comes with a back lit LCD screen and over 100 games programmed in. It features Bratz all over to make your child love it even more. Features: 11 game categories, 101 activities, 200 levels of game play, emphases on foreign language, large high resolution screen, full sized keyboard, mouse, multi channel sound and music, headphone jack, built in handle and a bratz screen saver. This computer is very lightweight and portable.


LeapFrog Leapster Learning System
$60

This toy is an award winning toy. It has a full color screen and its just like a hand held game system that the older children have. The exception is it will teach your children math, reading, creative thinking skills and many more. This is a great learning tool that your children will think it more fun then actual work. Children control this game system using a multi directional control pad and they can also use the touch screen. Features six learning games programmed into the learning system, full color, back lit screen, headphone jack and game controls. You can purchase many additional cartridges for this system to add many hours of learning and playing. A must have for all children.


Barbie PomPom Divas Electronic Diary
$18

Back in the day little girls loved keeping diaries. They could write down their very most secrets and no one would know them. That is until someone like a little brother went snooping around to find her diary. In today’s age everything is electronic. Why should a diary be any different. Out comes the electronic diary that girls can use. This diary is unlike the rest. It plays music and includes a playback feature along with two secret compartments. Your little girl can lock this with a code to keep away prying eyes.


Furreal Friends Squawkers Mccaw Animtronic Parrot
$50

Has your little girl just been dying for a bird, so she can have someone mimic her and copy what she says? Most parents don’t tend to want birds in their home for what ever the reason may be. This year surprise her with a cool plush plumed bird that will respond to your daughter like a real bird. This bird can be trained to say more then 45 words, phrases and sound effects. You can also record many more sounds and words and then teach the bird to say them. The parrot also sings and dances. Comes with a toy cracker, remote control, perch and instructions.

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2007 Hurricane Season Expected to See at Least Six Storms Hit U.S. Mainland

According to the Associated Press, 2007 is going to be a busy hurricane season.

While last year wasn’t nearly as active as predicted, or as busy as 2005’s season, coastal cities can expect a few storms this season. Two leading storm experts claim this season will be a busy one with six or seven storms to touch the U.S. coast. A likely 13 to 14 storms are predicted in total for this year.

Philip Klotzbach, and Joe Bastardim, leading storm experts, were quoted by the Associated Press as saying they anticipate a more active storm cycle this year. The first named storm of the year was spotted off the southeast coast, and labeled Andrea. Seeking to prove what experts are calling for, this storm comes well before the June 1st beginning of hurricane season, with the season ending November 30th. In 2005, however the season pushed on into late December. Not only did ’05s season last longer but storm watchers ran out of alphabetical names to place with the storms. They had to revert to using the Greek alphabet to continue naming the storms.

El Nino plays a large part in helping to have a calm hurricane season. El Nino is a warming of the Pacific Ocean, which affects wind patters. This helps calm some of the more violent winds coming in off the ocean. Now that El Nino has ended it looks to be a more severe year for the Gulf and East Coast. The Associated Press reports that Bastardim claims that Texas is twice as likely to be hit and Florida four times as likely then in an average year.

With a very mild season last year, only 10 storms formed in the Atlantic Ocean. This gave a break to the previous year’s massive hurricanes Katrina and Rita. With an estimated $80 billion in damages, Katrina far surpassed the previous record holder Andrews which hit off the coast of Florida. Katrina also ranked third in the country as being the most deadly. It was passed only by two other storms from the early 1900’s, one hitting Galveston and the other Florida.

Sources:

Associated Press, “Forecasters caution of a busy hurricane season.” MSNBC. URL: (http://ift.tt/2exzOtq)

Tags:2007 Hurricane Season Expected to See at Least Six Storms Hit U.S. Mainland

2007 Gift Guide for Girls Ages 8-10

Girls around this age are getting to the point where they are two young for a lot of things and they are two old for a lot of things. That makes finding the perfect gift very hard to do. Using this gift guide will help you decided whats a great gift for these almost pre teen girls who are growing out of the doll faze and into the boy faze.

Ripstick Castor Board, Pink $78

This is two toys combined in one with extra features. You can use this board in the snow and on the pavement. It features in lined castor trucks and a pivoting deck that makes it great for snowboarding and skating. The concave desk provides increased foot control and has poly urethane wheels for a smooth ride all year round. It has a unique design that allows acceleration and turning with out pushing on the ground. A great board for kids who are learning and pros. A bright pink color for your little girl.

Razor Electric Scooter $100

A great product for kids who are not old enough for a mopad, but what something automatic. The razor scooter is the perfect choice. Its lightweight and you cant beat the price. This scooter reaches speeds to 10 miles per hour. Fun for them and a nice speed for parents to feel better. With a full charge you can be on the go for 40 minutes. Features: chain driven motor, twist grip throttle, thumb trigger acceleration and a hand operated front brake. Includes: two 12V batteries and a UL approved battery charger with tools. The battery takes eight hours to charge . Supports weights up to 120 pounds.

Disney Princess Mix Max Flowers 3 Digital Music Player $90

This awesome media player lets you watch movies and play music. Has a color LCD screen for easy viewing. Can hold up to 240 songs or 6 hours of video. Features: 512MB built in memory, ability to accept WMV-WMA-MP3-JPEG files, expandable to 2GB via SD card slot, Stereo ear buds and a built in rechargeable battery. The theme is Disney princess so your little girl is sure to love this one.

Eyeclops Bionic Eye $50

A great toy for any kid who is fascinated by science or anything else. This handheld bionic eye plugs right into the TV , and everything will display on the screen. It magnifies 200 times. This makes even the smallest things look huge. Includes: eyeclops ship, viewing dish, viewing tube and base for easy hands free use. Your kids will be exploring everything in the house.

Tags:2007 Gift Guide for Girls Ages 8-10

2007 Maine Wetlands

The state of Maine measures in excess of 35,000 square miles located in the northeastern United States. This measurement of size places Maine 39th among the states. This measurement can be broken down to 30,862 square miles of land plus 4,523 square miles of water, or 19.64 million acres of land and 2.89 million acres of water in Maine. The 2007 National Wetlands Inventory, published by the United States Department of the Interior and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, identified over 2 million acres of this total to be wetlands, which would cover approximately 10.3% of Maine’s total land area.

The 2007 National Wetlands Inventory results states that Maine’s wetlands, which total over 2 million acres, can be identified as Palustrine wetlands, Estuarine wetlands, Marine wetlands, Lacustrine wetlands and Riverine wetlands. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service defines wetlands as “lands where saturation with water is the dominant factor determining the nature of soil development and the types of plant an animal communities living in the soil and on it surface”. These different types of wetlands are found throughout the state.

Palustrine wetlands, which total 1.9 million acres or 94% of Maine’s total wetland area, are defined by the United States Fish and Wildlife Services as “all non-tidal wetlands that are substantially covered with emergent vegetation- trees, shrubs, moss, etc”. This would include swamps, bogs, marshes, floodplains, mud flats, salt pans, playas and other small bodies of water that are less than 20 acres in size. The Palustrine wetlands in Maine consists of 1.13 million acres of forested wetlands, 541,108 acres of scrub-shrub wetlands, 179,496 acres of emergent wetlands and 220 acres of aquatic beds or ponds. There are also 53,737 acres of unconsolidated bottom wetlands and 736 acres of unconsolidated shore figured into the total number of Palustrine wetland acres in Maine. This type of wetland has water chemistry that is generally fresh but in semi-arid or arid climates, this water chemistry can range to brackish and even saline.

The United States Fish and Wildlife Service define estuarine wetlands, which total 69,843 acres or 3% of Maine’s total wetland area as “deepwater tidal habitats with a range of fresh-brackish-marine water chemistry and daily tidal cycles”. This would include mangrove swamps, sounds, coastal rivers, intertidal mud flats, salt and brackish marshes as well as bays and drowned coasts that lack enough river sediment to “infill estuary basins”. The Estuarine wetlands in Maine consist of 19,653 acres of emergent wetlands, 9 acres of scrub-shrub, 607 acres of rocky shore, 6641 acres of aquatic beds and 42.933 acres of unconsolidated shore.

Marine wetlands, which total 40,382 acres of Maine’s total wetland area is defined by the United States Fish and Wildlife Services as “open ocean, continental shelf, including beaches, rocky shores, lagoons and shallow coral reefs”. The Marine wetlands in Maine consist of 18,950 acres of aquatic bed wetlands, 3200 acres of rocky shores, 15 acres of reef and 18,217 acres of unconsolidated shores. This type of wetland has water chemistry that can range from normal marine salinity to hyper-saline, has minimal influence from estuaries and rivers and is usually located in an area where wave energy is low. There may be playas, mud flats or mangroves present in this wetland area.

Lacustrine wetlands, which total 15,707 acres of Maine’s total wetland area, is defined by the United States Fish and Wildlife Services as “this system includes inland water bodies that are situated in topographic depressions lack emergent trees and shrubs, have less than 30% vegetation cover and occupy at least 20 acres.” This includes but is not limited sloughs, bayous, lakes, ponds greater than 20 acres, lochs. The Lacustrine wetlands in Maine consist of 131 acres of emergent wetlands, 94 acres of aquatic bed wetlands, 7,948 acres of rocky shores as well as 7,446 acres of unconsolidated shore wetlands and 188 acres of unconsolidated bottom wetlands.

The United States Fish and Wildlife Services define riverine wetlands, which total 2,767 acres of Maine’s total wetland area, as “freshwater, perennial streams compromised of deepwater habitat contained within a channel.” This does not include flood plains that are adjacent to the channel or habitats with more than 0.5% salinity. The Riverine wetlands in Maine consist of 10 acres of aquatic wetlands, 4 acres of tidal rocky shore wetlands, 42 acres of rocky shore wetlands, 475 acres of tidal unconsolidated shore wetlands and 2,236 acres of unconsolidated shore wetlands.

Tags:2007 Maine Wetlands

2007 NBA Season Preview - Denver Nuggets

Denver Nuggets
’06-’07 Record/Standing: 45-37 (.622), 2nd in Northwest Conference
’06-’07 Postseason (if applicable): Lost in Western Conference Quarterfinals (4-1 to San Antonio)
Coach (Record): George Karl, 4th season with Denver (121-83); 20th season overall
Key Additions: PG Chucky Atkins (FA; Memphis); F/C Steven Hunter (trade; Philadelphia)
Key Losses: F Reggie Evans (trade; Philadelphia); G Steve Blake (FA; Portland)

The NBA was given a glimpse of how two of their bigger superstars would look running the court together in the thin air of Colorado last season when the Nuggets and the Philadelphia 76ers completed a trade that sent former league MVP Allen Iverson to Denver. Now, with an entire offseason under their belt and the prospects of an entire season together, Iverson and young superstar Carmelo Anthony look to make some noise in a rather noisy conference. They ran into a steam roller last season in San Antonio, but the Nuggets are definitely talented enough to challenge Utah in their division and be one of the top teams in the West.

It’s going to be on the shoulders of Anthony and Iverson; whether or not these two superstars can stand up and be heard, or whether they are just screaming onto deaf ears. Will the Nuggets get to the next plateau and contend for an NBA title? Does the long-term prospect of Iverson and Anthony together work? Where will the Nuggets get added support; these two cannot carry the load alone. Is it time for a little Rocky Mountain fun, or are the Nuggets just fool’s gold?

Projected Starting Lineup (’06-’07 Stats)
PG: Allen Iverson (65 games; 50 w/Denver, 15 w/Philadelphia: 24.8 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 7.2 apg)
SG: J.R. Smith (63 games, 13.0 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 1.4 apg)
SF: Carmelo Anthony (65 games, 28.9 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 3.8 apg)
PF: Nene Hilario (64 games, 12.2 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 1.2 apg)
C: Marcus Camby (70 games, 11.2 ppg, 11.7 rpg, 3.2 apg)

Backcourt: It will be interesting for the Nuggets now that they have had the ability to work with Iverson through an offseason and the preseason. He will be the player that head coach George Karl will expect to run the offense. There is little doubt that he can do it; he did it in the past. However, later in his career in Philly Iverson was expected to be more of a shooting guard. It will be a return to his roots to go back to having the ball in his hands and making plays. Iverson can put 25 points a game on the board and has been able through his career to be a rather underrated playmaker. Even though some people believe that he’s lost a step, he is still quick with the ball in his hands and can cover most point guards defensively. If you fall asleep, you won’t wake up until Iverson is headed towards the other basket. He’ll pair with J.R. Smith, if he’s ready to get back onto the court after some legal issues. Smith came out and had a solid season, but the playoffs were a different story. Karl will expect him to mature and get into the flow with the rest of the team; it may not show on the stats, but Smith is vital to the development of this team.

The team has added some parts to the team. Chucky Atkins was signed to be a backup to Iverson, but he could actually get placed in the starting point guard role if the Nuggets cannot have Smith as the shooting guard for the team. Atkins is a veteran point guard that knows the game and can run the offense. He can hit big shots when needed and give the Nuggets a ballhandler to get Iverson shots off the ball. In the case that Smith cannot play, the backup job goes to Anthony Carter. Carter is not the kind of point guard that Atkins is, but he can fill in admirably in case they need it.
Grade: A-

Frontcourt: While LeBron James and Dwyane Wade have received more attention lately out of that famed 2003 draft class, Carmelo Anthony has quietly shaped a nice career thus far in the NBA. Wade has won a championship, while James has been to the NBA Finals. Anthony is one of the league’s better scorers. Whether it’s creating a shot for himself or working off the ball, he’s very good at getting the ball in the basket. His playmaking abilities are underrated, but Anthony does find his teammates and gives them some good opportunities to score. Anthony does an excellent job of rebounding as well for his position. Brazilian Nene covers the power forward position. He’s quietly becoming a solid NBA forward; he cleans up a lot of the offensive rebounding opportunities and he has a lot of strength defensively. Teams are actually affected by his presence in the middle. Between him and starting center Marcus Camby, a lot of shots get thrown back in the faces of the opposing teams. Camby, incidentally, has become one of the premier shot-blockers in the NBA today. He’s always had good instincts, but he’s taken it to another level. Camby averaged 3.3 blocks per game last year. Don’t sleep on him because he can get down the court and hit a 10-12 foot jumper when needed as well.

The bench is comprised of a number of solid forwards. Former starter and number one pick Kenyon Martin returns after playing only 2 games last season due to injury. It’s almost like they are adding a veteran power forward to the team; a piece they did not have with the team last season. Martin can score on the break, something that will be matched up perfectly with Iverson and Anthony on the break. Martin is also a good weak-side defender, like Camby and Nene. Martin’s antithesis, Eduardo Najera, plays as the backup small forward. He can play the power forward position when the team goes small but his main value is at the small forward position. He is hard-nosed defensively and he will hit the boards harder than most. He can score occasionally, but the hustle is where he earns his contract. Late in the season Linus Kleiza got more time on the court and showcased genuine basketball talent. He will get some more minutes as well.
Grade: A-

Coach: George Karl has done this for a very long time, and he’s doing another great job with this Denver Nuggets team. The next step will be taking the team from the lower seeds of the playoff picture and making them a contender. Karl did a great job mixing in Allen Iverson to the rotation, but it will be even more of a challenge now that the expectations are growing. He did not have his full arsenal for much of last year, but that will not be the case barring any serious injuries. Playing time and offensive touches will be one of the keys. Is Iverson the top scorer, or is Anthony the top? Are we playing with a strict first and second option, or are Iverson and Anthony 1 and 1a? If Karl can get through those questions, the team will be very successful.
Grade: A

Bold Predictions
Record: 52-30
Team MVP: Carmelo Anthony
Overall Grade: B+
Notes: In no other team game does the presence of two superstars on the same playing field mean so much as in basketball. Kobe and Shaq and Jordan and Pippen made that argument very clear over the past fifteen years. But the recent teams are looking more towards the team aspect of the game, and this is where the questions for the Nuggets arise. We know what Iverson and Anthony give you, but can someone else help this team and regularly contribute to the party? It was heartening for Nuggets’ fans to see Anthony take a leadership role on Team USA during Olympic qualifying, but they want to see that translate in the NBA. No more debacles like the one at Madison Square Garden last year. The Nuggets cannot afford for Anthony to miss any time, whether it’s for injury or an incident like that one. That being said, the Nuggets should be in good shape to be in the postseason. Whether or not they can contend for an NBA title; get back to me in May 2008.

Tags:2007 NBA Season Preview - Denver Nuggets

2007 NBA Mock Draft Take 3 Picks 21-30

21. Milwaukee Bucks – Morris Almond, 6’6″ SG Rice
Morris Almond was a star at Rice and his game might make him a star in the NBA. Almond is ready to play in the NBA right away and will add some offense to one of the lowest ranked offensive teams in the league last year. Almond will be a great player.

22. Charlotte Bobcats – Marco Belinelli, 6’6″ SG Italy
The Bobcats will get their shooter now. They could afford to wait since the teams before them would not take him. Belinelli is NBA ready right now and he has a great shot. He can be what Adam Morrison was supposed to be for them. Belinelli will be a steal. If he goes to the Bucks, the Bobcats will take Almond.

23. New York Knicks – Sean Williams, 6’10 PF Boston College
Reports are that the Knicks are interested in moving up in the draft to get Williams. They could trade for the Warriors 18th pick, but I think that won’t happen since the Warriors could trade that pick to the Bobcats. I think Williams will still be around if New Jersey doesn’t take him since a lot of teams are scared off by his off the court issues. He would be great as a defensive compliment to Eddy Curry.

24. Phoenix Suns – Tiago Splitter, 7’0 PF Brazil
Tiago Splitter likely won’t have his contract bought out until 2008 and that is alright with Phoenix. Phoenix does not need him right away, but he could be very useful down the road to Phoenix. Since Phoenix’s roster is stacked and they have two first-round picks, this does make sense. Splitter is also a fellow countryman of Leandro Barbosa.

25. Utah Jazz – Daequan Cook, 6’5″ SG Ohio State
Some experts think Daequan Cook could slip to the second round, but I see him as too perfect for the Jazz for them not to get him. He is a great shooter and if they pair him next to Deron WIlliams they could make one of the best backcourts in the NBA.

26. Houston Rockets – Derrick Byars, 6’7″ SF Vanderbilt
Derrick Byars would be a direct replacement for Juwan Howard. Byars really helped his draft stock with a great performance in the NCAA tournament last year.

27. Detroit Pistons – Wilson Chandler, 6’8″ SF DePaul
Wilson Chandler has been rumored to have been promised a spot in the first round. I think Phoenix may have made him this promise, but I think the Pistons will grab him before they have a chance. The Pistons may be shopping Rasheed Wallace and Wilson Chandler has some Rasheed in him, especially on the defensive end. Chandler could really add to the Pistons defense and his hype may seem him sneak in here.

28. San Antonio Spurs – Petteri Koponen, 6’4″ PG Finland
The Spurs will probably look for either a center, to replace Uberto, or a point guard to be a backup for Tony Parker, as they are said to be unhappy with the current backup. With picks so close, 28 and 33, I see either Marc Gasol or much hyped Euro-prospect Koponen. Koponen is said to have wowed the Suns and Spurs in workouts and the Spurs like the international players.

29. Phoenix Suns – Rudy Fernandez, 6’6″ SG Spain
Fernandez is said to be dropping because of concerns over his contract in Spain. He may be in Spain longer than originally thought and he could go to the second round. I think the Suns will take him here, since they don’t need immediate help, and they will hope he comes over sooner, 2 years, rather than later, 3. His skills are worth a shot by the Suns in a low-risk spot.

30. Philadelphia 76ers – Glen Davis, 6’9″ PF Louisiana State
Glen Davis is going to hold onto the first round. There were many concerns about his weight, but his skills make it hard for him to go to the second round. Davis is undersized and big and reminds some of a shorter Shaq. He could be good in the league, but probably not an all-star. Would have been a higher pick if he came out with Tyrus Thomas last year.

Tags:2007 NBA Mock Draft Take 3 Picks 21-30

2007 NFL DRAFT BREAKDOWN: ROUND 1: PICKS 1-5

Okay, so the dust has settled from the 2007 NFL Draft. It was a day of great anticipation and buildup across the country. The NFL Draft has become one of the biggest sporting events in America, which really shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, because football is king is this country and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Football is a sport that is purely American in nearly every way, shape, and form. The football stadium is the modern-day version of the arena, where hundreds of thousands of fans flock to watch their teams perform every fall. Perhaps the most fitting quote of why there is so much attention given to the NFL Draft came from ESPN’s popular sports anchor, Stuart Scott. In his most recent two-way column in ESPN The Magazine, Scott responds to Garth by saying, “Garth, it’s football. It’s king, ruler, and czar. It’s master, emperor, president and chief. You know-football.” Football has always been my favorite sport since I was a little kid and my passion for the game has only grown over the years. I truly love the game of football. It is the greatest game ever. Anyways, it’s time for me to break down the 2007 NFL Draft selections, pick-by-pick. Most people do a team-by-team analysis, but for now I’m just going to breakdown the picks in the order they came. There will probably be a team-by-team grading to come eventually, so stay tuned. I plan on doing a pretty thorough and in-depth breakdown of each player, pick-by-pick, so look for me to release picks 5-10 pretty soon and we’ll keep rolling down the countdown. Let’s get down to it!

1. Oakland Raiders-JaMarcus Russell-QB-LSU
The breakdown: In a draft full of surprising twists and turns, Russell was perhaps the surest bet to go number one to the Raiders. I like JaMarcus Russell a lot and like many other analysts, I think he’s absolutely oozing with potential. He reminds me of Jacksonville quarterback Byron Leftwich, except with a stronger, more accurate arm. The kid is 6’6, 263 pounds, can throw the ball to the moon and place it there accurately. He has perhaps the best combination of strength and accuracy of any quarterback in this draft. He can throw the ball 65 yards off his knees and completed over 67% of his passes in 2006 against some ferocious SEC defenses. Did I mention that he also threw for over 3,000 yards in ’06 as well with a phenomenal TD-INT ratio(28 touchdowns:8 interceptions)? He is also deceptively fast for somebody his size and can get away from pressure when he needs to since he runs a 4.72-40 yard dash. He can throw the ball from pretty much every awkward position imaginable. If you need proof, just check out the highlight on YouTube, where Russell spins away from not one but two Ole Miss defenders and completes a pass 53 yards down the field off his back foot. He makes ridiculous throw after ridiculous throw and has probably become a YouTube legend by now. The deep ball he had against Notre Dame off his back foot was pretty absurd too. He’s going to desperately need to summon throws like those in Oakland because he’s going to be running for his life behind that atrocious offensive line. Note to Russell: The Raiders’ o-line allowed an eye-gouging 72 sacks last season! Yikes. Lucky for Oakland fans, their signal-caller is strong enough and big enough to absorb pretty much any kind of punishment.

It’s one thing to be a physical specimen, but when you combine that with an amazing amount of productivity on the Division 1 level in the toughest conference in college football(SEC), well that is where you have a once in a generation type of player. He’s still a little raw in certain spots, but I think Russell is going to be a phenomenal pro for the Oakland Raiders. Al Davis simply cannot go wrong placing the franchise in the hands of LSU’s second all-time leading passer. First, the offensive line has to be fixed. Then he will actually have enough time to throw the ball to speed merchants like Johnnie Lee Higgins of UTEP and the ultra-versatile Michael Bush of Louisville.

Pick Rating: 10/10

2. Detroit Lions-Calvin Johnson-WR-Georgia Tech
The breakdown: Calvin Johnson is the most physically gifted player in this draft, regardless of position. If you were going to create a robot in a factory and turn him into a wide receiver, Calvin Johnson would be it. I’m convinced the kid was sent from Mars to snatch pigskin from the sky. I’ve never seen a receiver combine a blend of size, speed, and leaping ability in the uncanny fashion that Calvin Johnson does. He’s 6’5, 235 lbs. runs a 4.35-40 yard dash, and even has a 45 inch vertical leap! This guy is a freak. Johnson has got to be doing back flips now that he has Jon Kitna throwing him the pigskin instead of Reggie Ball. Don’t get me wrong, Reggie Ball was always one of my favorite quarterbacks in college football, but his inability to see Johnson down the field hurt the Yellow Jackets in numerous games. I’ll admit I thought the Lions were going to take this pick and trade down to get Gaines Adams, but it never happened. I was wondering why Detroit would ever keep Mike Williams if they selected Johnson, but Williams was quickly dealt to Oakland. Johnson will help to take pressure off the sure-handed Roy Williams. If you’re going to take a receiver in this draft, you certainly cannot go wrong with either Calvin Johnson or Dwayne Jarrett. They are the best receivers in this class and are head and shoulders above any other receiver in the NCAA. Johnson’s stats from 2006 are almost as just as impressive as his physical ability. He snatched 76 balls for over 1,200 yards and 15 touchdowns. That’s not even taking into account the fact that Reggie Ball couldn’t find him open down field half the time! If the Lions decided that Calvin Johnson was their receiver of the future instead of Mike Williams, I think for once in his life, Lions GM Matt Millen actually made a good decision. Jon Kitna could put on a blind fold and throw it up to Johnson, because if it’s anywhere near the same zip code as Johnson, this kid is coming down with the rock. Detroit fans say goodbye to Mike Williams and say hello to the receiver from outer space, the immensely gifted Calvin Johnson. He’ll create a new highlight reel, just in different colors.

Pick Rating: 10/10

3. Cleveland Browns-Joe Thomas-OT-Wisconsin
The breakdown: Most people crowned Joe Thomas as the best offensive lineman in this class, just ahead of Penn State’s Levi Brown. I am higher on Levi Brown than Joe Thomas, but that is more of a credit to Brown than it is a discredit to Thomas. That’s not to say that I don’t think Joe Thomas is going to be good, I am just not sure if he can become the franchise type of tackle that warrants a top 5 pick. The biggest problem I have with Thomas is something that he cannot control; he lacks one of the physical traits that you look for in a tackle, more specifically long arms: his arms are only 32 inches long. That being said, Cleveland desperately needed help on the offensive line and if Phil Savage feels like Joe Thomas is his guy, then I agree with the pick. Thomas is remarkably athletic for somebody his size and runs a 5.0-40 yard dash time. Wisconsin even used him as a tight end in goal-line situations and as a defensive lineman early on in his career. The Badgers are a school that is very tradition rich in producing some of the best offensive linemen in college football and people have said that Thomas is the most dominant blocker to wear a Wisconsin uniform since Paul Gruber(’85-87). I think Thomas’s versatility and athleticism will help him tremendously on the next level and I think he’ll be solid, but certainly not all-pro. It was a good pick for the Browns, but I would’ve picked Levi Brown instead of Joe Thomas.

Pick rating: 7/10

4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers-Gaines Adams-DE-Clemson
Listed at an imposing 6’4, 265 pounds with 4.65 speed, Gaines Adams is perhaps the best pure-pass rusher in this NFL Draft class. He and Jarvis Moss are in a league of their own when it comes to dominating the edge in pass rush situations. Adams exploded onto the college football scene during his last two seasons at Clemson, where his numbers and physical ability eventually catapulted him into the top 5 of nearly every major draft list. The Fork Union Military Academy product has tremendous speed off the edge and is remarkably good at using his long arms to rip past opposing tackles. He has the ability to beat the tackle to the outside edge or he can use his excellent change of direction to beat them to the inside. He has jaw-dropping athleticism and showed that against Wake Forest in 2006, when he tipped Riley Skinner’s pass in the air, intercepted it, and raced down the field untouched for a 55-yard touchdown return. If you don’t believe me, then just check out his highlights on YouTube.( I know this is starting to sound like an advertisement for YouTube, but the site shows highlights of pretty much every athlete imaginable and I can never get enough.) Adams has phenomenal closing speed and can chase down quarterbacks from just about any position on the football field. He was named ACC Defensive Player of the Year in 2006 after leading the league in sacks(12.5) and he also earned unamimous All-America honors. Adams also happens to be the proud owner of the Clemson school record in quarterback hurries(29) in a season. His non-stop motor and his excellent ability to use his hands effectively will serve him well in the pros. I envision him being a nightmare for opposing tackles to block, and I think Adams could eventually be an all-pro defensive end for the Bucs. After watching his highlights and studying his film, I have no doubt that Gaines Adams will be a phenomenal pro. He’ll be a terror in opposing backfields for years to come.

Pick rating: 10/10

5. Arizona Cardinals-Levi Brown-OT-I am extremely high on Levi Brown. He’s definitely my favorite offensive line prospect in this draft. After watching him in the Senior Bowl, I fell in love with him. One announcer at the Senior Bowl said it best when he said Brown has the “size of a sumo and the feet of a ballerina.” His bio on Penn State’s athletics website lists him as “Penn State’s best offensive lineman in the past 10 years.” He started 45 of the last 48 games of his career and earned second-team All-America honors from The Sporting News and the Walter Camp Foundation. Brown only allowed 2 sacks during the 2006 season. He plays much faster than his 5.3-40 yard dash time and many critics were all over him about his slow 40-time at the combine. I’m not a huge fan of using the combine numbers and I never will be. I would much rather take a prospect if he was productive on the collegiate level and had a poor showing at the combine than the other way around.
Brown is extremely good at sliding out to the edge and has a great knack for changing the direction of opposing defensive linemen. The Norfolk, Virginia native is very explosive off the ball and is also very good at accelerating to the block point. The Cardinals drafted Brown to protect Leinart’s blind side and I think Cardinals’ fans should be more than happy with this pick. Levi Brown will be a franchise tackle in the NFL and I think he’ll be an all-pro really soon. Matt Leinart’s blind side will be safe for years to come with this stud protecting him.

Pick rating: 10/10

Check back sometime on Friday or Saturday for the breakdown of picks 6-10. I’ll go in-depth like I always like to do. Until then…stay classy football fans.

Tags:2007 NFL DRAFT BREAKDOWN: ROUND 1: PICKS 1-5

2007 NBA Season Preview - Utah Jazz

Utah Jazz
’06-’07 Record/Standing: 51-31 (.622); Northwest Division Champs
’06-’07 Postseason (if applicable): Lost in Western Conference Finals (4-1 to San Antonio)
Coach (Record): Jerry Sloan, 23rd season overall (1035-689)
Key Additions: SG Morris Almond (draft; 1st round, 25th overall)
Key Losses: PG Derek Fisher (FA; Los Angeles Lakers)

Although it was a nice run, the Utah Jazz ran into reality in the Western Conference Finals. More accurately, they ran into a San Antonio Spurs team that was simply better and more talented than the Jazz. Of course, that is not to discount their run last season through the Conference, winning the Northwest Division and going through both the Houston Rockets and last season’s darlings the Golden State Warriors to get that far. They followed up a miserable 2005-2006 season by winning their division and showing that they are growing up quickly and ready to compete in the top-heavy Western Conference. When you think of Utah, they are in the same breath as some of the top Western Conference contenders, teams like Phoenix and San Antonio and Dallas. They play the same style they always have, which is to say tough inside and disciplined when it counts. Their journey is not complete; veteran head coach Jerry Sloan is eyeing that elusive NBA title.

Can this Utah team compete with the better teams in the NBA? Not just in the Western Conference, but also in the improving East where contenders seemingly are being re-built overnight. Deron Williams has proven himself to be a good point guard, but does he have what it takes to consistently do it and give the Jazz their best point guard since John Stockton retired? Can their interior players rise to the occasion again when it matters and dominate? What of Andrei Kirilenko? He was unhappy and demanded a trade before the season. He has since retracted, but is he a malcontent that could doom their chances? Let’s take a look at the 2007-2008 Utah Jazz.

Projected Starting Lineup (’06-’07 Stats)
PG: Deron Williams (80 games, 16.2 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 9.3 apg)
SG: Gordon Giricek (61 games, 7.8 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 1.0 apg)
SF: Andrei Kirilenko (70 games, 8.3 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 2.9 apg)
PF: Carlos Boozer (74 games, 20.9 ppg, 11.7 rpg, 3.0 apg)
C: Mehmet Okur (80 games, 17.6 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 2.0 apg)

Backcourt: Their point guard position has been covered by the enormous shadow of future Hall-of-Famer John Stockton since he retired from the NBA. Others have seemingly tried, but none could do the job he did. Then, the Jazz drafted Deron Williams and it was evident that this kid has what it takes to lead this team. He’s not a player in the same mold as Stockton, but he gets the job done nonetheless. He’s a big body, someone that can play strong against the smaller point guards but have enough to stand up to the bigger guys. He is fearless heading to the basket; there is no one that is going to stop him without a fight once he’s committed to getting into the lane. People are beginning to look at his time with Team USA during the summer and behind Jason Kidd as a good experience, but let’s wait and see if it translates on the court. I have Gordon Giricek penciled in as the starter, so we’ll go with that. However, Ronnie Brewer has been amazing as the training camps and the preseason games have gone, so we have to wonder whether or not Brewer will get the nod once the season starts. If the Jazz go with Giricek, then they get a player that is going to give you solid minutes. However, it seems as though Giricek is as mistake prone as he is efficient. Sometimes, you want to shake your head and scream at him because you don’t know why he made the extra pass, or what he was thinking heaving up a terrible shot with more than 10 seconds on the shot clock. He’s good, but the up and down nature might get him demoted.

Losing Derek Fisher in the rotation hurts a lot, both on and off the court. He was a solid player on the court; someone that led the team like a leader does and provided a strong presence in the locker room. Assuming, like I said previously, that Ronnie Brewer could be in line for the starting job, his value goes up exponentially. However, even now, his value could not be higher. He’s an athletic guy that added muscle to his frame in hopes of being able to battle more consistently on a nightly basis. He can shoot the ball and likes to run the floor. Pairing him with Deron Williams would be a great combination. Jason Hart and Ronnie Price will backup Williams at point, at least until one or the other can grab a hold on the backup position. Watch for rookie Morris Almond. He’s a player that just does the job, efficiently and with little fanfare.
Grade: A-

Frontcourt: Their frontcourt could very well be one of the best in the entire NBA. They feature two All-Stars and another player that was a former All-Star and could be one of the better shot-blockers in the NBA. At center the Jazz have Mehmet Okur. Some might question whether or not he was truly an All-Star last year, but regardless Okur had a good year. He struggled a bit down the stretch, but he came up big when he needed to. What you have to like about Okur is that while he likes to take a lot of outside shots, he’s a physical player that mixes it up on defense and occasionally on offense. No one could be more thankful than power forward Carlos Boozer. He was the beneficiary of Okur’s strength inside. It meant that while Okur did a lot more of the banging, Boozer would be left with the scoring and the rebounding. Boozer did a lot of both last year, averaging 20.9 points and 11.7 rebounds per contest. He’s a strong scorer in the post and many teams don’t have someone to contend with him physically. Of course, the question remains whether or not Boozer has two consecutive healthy seasons in him of if he could once again be put on the shelf with an injury. At small forward, the talk all offseason has been about Andrei Kirilenko’s trade demands and his ensuing retraction. People worry as to whether or not he’s truly happy there. The fact remains that Kirilenko is still one of the more valuable players on the team. He can play up at the top with the big guys, but he’s also very effective on the wings. Although his numbers have begun to decline, he still is one of the better shot blockers in the NBA and will be an above-average defender. If he’s not accounted for, he can be dangerous on offense, too. Eventually, the Jazz might trade him, but he is a valuable piece to be had on the trade market.

Their depth is amazing as well. Matt Harpring has been one of the quietest contributors to this team on offense. You never hear about him in the midst of the stars on the team, nor does he make a point to get himself noticed too often. All he does in go into games and give the team good minutes on offense. The problem, of course, lies in defense. He’s not the fleetest of foot and another offseason surgery could limit him movement even more. Can the Jazz rely on him to give them the same minutes on offense without him being too much of a liability on defense? If not, then the Jazz might have to think twice about trading Kirilenko. As a rookie, Paul Millsap was a true beast inside. The guy has incredible instincts on the glass and on defense; you have to like that he’s not afraid to get up and down the court and run when it’s needed. He could have been a starter with a team that did not have as much frontcourt depth as the Jazz do. At center, the Jazz have two big bodies there to clog the inside. Both Jarron Collins and Kyrylo Fesenko are not going to score many points, but they are there to be trees, planted in the middle when they need some more big bodies or to rest the starters.
Grade: A-

Coach: There are few coaches that stick with their jobs for more than a few seasons. I’ve seen some runs of 6 or 7 years, but when you think that Jerry Sloan has been the coach of the Utah Jazz for 22 seasons, heading into his 23rd, then you know that he’s probably done something right. It’s been amazing watching him go from the Karl Malone-John Stockton pick-and-roll era right into the new team and keep this ship afloat for all these years. You see the maturation of young players like Carlos Boozer and Deron Williams and you have to realize that Sloan has had as much to do with that than anyone else in that franchise. With Sloan, you know you’ll have a competitive team looking to play the game the right way.
Grade: A

Bold Predictions
Record: 54-28
Team MVP: Carlos Boozer
Overall Grade: A-
Notes: There seems to be a lot going for this team, but it could all unravel in an instant. If the Jazz cannot make Andrei Kirilenko happy, then they will have to trade him. Of course, will it even be possible to get value for him anywhere when they all know he wants out? Meanwhile, can Carlos Boozer stay healthy? Was Mehmet Okur’s year a fluke or is he really a contender to be a perennial All-Star. I believe that the Jazz are in fact the real deal, but they could be more reliant on the breaks and bounces of the game than other teams. If you walk about the Spurs and the Sun and the Mavericks being the “1’s” in the NBA, then the Jazz are more like the “1B’s.”

Tags:2007 NBA Season Preview - Utah Jazz

2007 NFL Draft Profile: BYU QB John Beck

SCOUTING REPORT: Quarterback John Beck-#12
School: Brigham Young University Cougars
Height: 6’2″
Weight: 216 lbs.
40-yard dash time: 4.70 seconds( his fastest time at the combine)

2006 Season Stats: Other than Colt Brennan, perhaps no signal-caller in college football had as good of a season as John Beck. In terms of pure statistics, he is nearly unmatched. He ranked second in the country to Hawaii’s Colt Brennan in passing efficiency with a rating of 169.1. Beck ranked in the top five quarterbacks in the NCAA in nearly every major offensive category: points responsible for(19 ppg.), total passing yardage(3,885 yards), and passing yards per game(323.75 ypg.). That is not even mentioning Beck tossed an eye gouging touchdown to interception ratio(32 touchdowns: 8 interceptions) and a hair-raising completion percentage of 69.3 percent. The guy nearly averaged a first down every time he completed a pass this season(9.3 yards per completion)! It shouldn’t be a surprise with those statistics that Beck reeled in 2006 Mountain West Conference Offensive Player of the Year honors en route to leading his team to a MWC title this past season. Beck was also instrumental in the Cougars blowout victory over Oregon in the Las Vegas Bowl. He torched the Ducks’ secondary for 375 yards and two touchdowns as the Cougars coasted to a 38-8 victory. After losing two of their first three games, Beck and the Cougars rattled off 10 straight victories, including their first bowl win since 1996. Beck forever etched himself in the hearts of Cougar fans everywhere when he tossed a game-winning touchdown pass against Utah at the buzzer, lifting BYU to a heart-stopping 33-31 victory over their rival. It should be noted that Beck played in 12 of 13 games this season for Brigham Young, missing only the Utah State game due to an injured ankle. He injured his ankle late in the overtime loss against Boston College. One of his most impressive stats is that he completed over 60 percent of his passes in every single game he started in 2006. The closest he came to missing the mark was against Oregon in the Las Vegas Bowl(60.9 percent), when he had several receivers drop balls early in the contest. Perhaps even more impressive is the fact that he completed over 70 percent of his passes in six of his games in 2006. That is downright dazzling. He led his team to an 11-2 overall record in 2006 and a top 15 ranking in the USA Today Coaches poll.

Legacy at BYU: He peppered his name all over the Brigham Young record books en route to become the second-all time leading passer in BYU school history. That truly could end up being one of John Beck’s most impressive feats at BYU, becoming the second-all time leading passer at a school that is so tradition rich at the quarterback position. The likes of Steve Young, Ty Detmer, and Jim McMahon all have suited up for the Cougars in Provo and John Beck is lucky enough to say, in terms of total passing yardage, he’s second only to Ty Detmer. He also finished second in BYU history in total offense with 11,059 yards over his career in Provo. He plastered his name all over the Mountain West Conference record books, becoming the MWC career record holder in nearly every major passing category: total offense(11,059 yards), passing attempts(1,418), completions(885), passing yards(11,021 yards), and touchdown completions(79 touchdowns). Those are very impressive feats because legendary quarterbacks like Utah’s Alex Smith have recently come through the MWC ranks. BYU offensive coordinator Robert Anae said, “I can link him right up there with some of the best that have ever come through this place, and I think his play on the field has shown that, as well.” No matter what he does professionally, clearly John Beck established himself among not only one of the greatest quarterbacks at Brigham Young, but in college football history as well.

ViewingHighlights of John Beck: YouTube has immediately become one of my favorite websites of all-time. You can watch highlights of so many different players just with the click of a few buttons. There are a ridiculous amount of BYU highlights on YouTube, but these two are highlight packages that I’ve watched numerous times and I will refer to them in this report. If my writing doesn’t convince you how good John Beck truly is, then just watch the highlights. If you need an example of the “natural born leader” inside of John Beck just watch the BYU-Utah highlights from the 2006 contest season in which Beck throws the game-winning touchdown pass after time expires. Just click here for a full-screen view

Fast forward to around 23 seconds where the real highlights start if you do not wish to view the video game introduction. If those highlights are not an extensive enough look at the signal-caller from Mesa, Arizona then you should take a peak at the BYU 2006 Season in Review:

There is also another link to the BYU vs. SDSU highlights on YouTube below. If you wish to see more highlights of BYU and John Beck, then I suggest you either go to YouTube or purchase the 2006 BYU Football Highlights DVD from the BYU bookstore online. I’ve already viewed it and trust me, it did nothing but make me like John Beck that much more.

Strengths about John Beck:
Beck is armed with a lightning quick release and has remarkably good footwork in the pocket. He’s extremely good at shuffling his feet around the pocket to make sure his body is well-balanced to make the proper throws down the field. Good footwork is one of the most overlooked fundamentals of great quarterbacking and John Beck has some of the best footwork you will see of any prospect in this draft. The best example of Beck’s footwork comes at 5:11 into the video of the BYU 2006 Season in Review highlights. With his team down by four with three seconds left in the game, Beck dropped back in the pocket and couldn’t find any open receivers. So he shuffled from the right side of the field to his left, smoothly gliding his feet together and then back apart. If you look at his footwork, you’ll notice that he’s also very good about not taking very big strides, which is crucial in helping him keep good balance. Once a Utah defender chased after him, Beck raced back to the ride side of the field, jumped in the air and threw a beautifully lofted ball across his body to a wide open Johnny Harline(pronounced Har-leen) in the end zone to win the game. This throw also displays his tremendous arm strength, because Beck threw the ball while he was being tackled by a defender in the air and he was forced to throw across his body. The throw was only about 18 yards, but clearly it wasn’t your average throw. Not only did Beck demonstrate his arm strength, but his tremendous amount of patience and confidence in the pocket. He had to sit back in the pocket for 12 seconds to allow his receivers to finally get open. Even though there were no open receivers at first glance, he patiently waited for one of them to get open and believed he was going to make the play. The ability to perform in the clutch is what separates the great signal-callers from the good ones and Beck demonstrated that in lifting his team to victory.

He has a tremendous amount of zip on his balls and if anybody wants to question that, just talk to the BYU receivers, he’s jammed several of their fingers over the years. He fires a hissing spiral nearly every time the ball is released from his hand. He recorded the 2nd highest velocity of any quarterback at the 2007 combine, whistling the pigskin at 61.1 miles per hour. Good velocity can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on if you have good ball placement and Beck’s ball placement is the best in college football. One example of his beautiful ball placement came against Wyoming, when Beck dropped back to the 40-yard line and hurled a deep ball into double coverage, splitting the safety and the corner. BYU receiver Michael Reed acrobatically tipped the ball to himself where only he could catch it while he was falling backwards into the end zone. At 4:29 of the BYU 2006 Season Highlights, you’ll see perhaps the best placed ball in all of John Beck’s highlights. He beautifully lofts a ball into the outstretched right hand of tight end Johnny Harline. It was placed so well that even though the corner had excellent coverage on Harline, the ball floated right over Harline’s outside shoulder to where the corner had no chance in touching the ball. The deep ball he tosses against Colorado State at 2:40 of the same highlight reel also demonstrates his excellent ball placement. He tosses the ball and hits his receiver right around chest level in stride. Deseret Morning News writer Dick Harmon talked about how BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall talked about how good Beck’s ball placement was in an October article. Harmon wrote, “After BYU’s 47-17 win in LaVell Edwards Stadium on Saturday, head coach Bronco Mendenhall told reporters of an imaginary target window around a receiver and said that Beck appears to have control over his passes at the right time and at the right place and speed.” Let’s just say if John Beck were an archer, his nickname would be Robin Hood because there is nobody better at hitting the bullseye on his receivers.

Beck also makes some tremendous throws in the 2006 San Diego State contest. View these highlights.

He’s also shown the ability to withstand pressure, step forward and make the throw in the pocket. At 3:16 of the BYU vs. San Diego State highlights, Beck is drilled by an Aztec defender, but still steps up into the throw a delivers a beautifully placed deep ball to Zac Collie. “That was as good a throw as I’ve ever seen,” BYU quarterback coach Brandon Doman said. I wouldn’t go that far, but the throw clearly displays Beck’s ability to still put the ball where he wants to even when he’s under pressure. The highlights of this game also show Beck’s ability to put nice touch on his screen passes and some of the shorter routes.

In their 2006 contest against Air Force, Beck also demonstrated the ability to improvise when he danced around a defender, spun to his left and pitched the ball to running back Fui Vakapuna. Beck certainly won’t rush for over 100 yards in a game anytime soon, but he’s shown he can dance around the field for a few yards when he needs to with his 4.7 speed. He even rushed for a 13-yard touchdown in the Las Vegas Bowl against Oregon.

Beck not only has the physical tools that make him an elite field general, but perhaps the most important part of being a great quarterback is being a “natural born leader.” He was blessed with an immense amount of football talent that allows him to lead by example on the football field and he is a great person off-the-field. Coupled together, those two ideals form one of the best types of leadership you can find in any sport. The quarterback will always be looked at as a leader on any football team, simply because they touch the pigskin more than anybody else and they have the greatest chance to impact the outcome of the game. I’ve never met John Beck personally but if you watch the 2006 BYU Season Highlights DVD, you’ll see that John Beck does all the little things that great leaders do. When he comes off the field after a drive, he’s always giving everybody fives and making sure that his team sustains a high energy level. In his interviews he is always quick to deflect credit to his teammates. He has great respect for the game and the quarterbacks that have come before him at Brigham Young.

It is pretty funny because this kid was truly just a “natural born football player”. He began throwing spirals with a football at age two! So many members of the media and fans love talking about JaMarcus Russell’s arm strength, well here’s a tidbit for you, sitting on his knees from the 47 yard-line John Beck once tossed a ball through the uprights in BYU’s indoor practice facility! If that doesn’t demonstrate his freakish arm, then maybe the fact that he can throw the ball 75 yards regularly while standing on two feet does! His wrists must be made of iron, because he flicks the ball effortlessly across the field, placing it right where it should be, where only the receiver can make a play with the ball.

I could write a novel about John Beck and his immense football talent, but I’ll let him do the talking on the field after he surprises the so-called “experts” in the next few years. I have seen more people jump on the John Beck bandwagon lately, but trust me, I don’t think it is enough because this guy is much better than many people in the media are giving him credit for.

Weaknesses about John Beck: Everybody has a weakness and for John Beck, these are two weaknesses that he cannot control. Perhaps the biggest two knocks on John Beck will be that he is a product of the spread offense at BYU and that he’s too old(25 years old.) You will never hear me say these two things will prevent Beck from being a legend in the NFL, but many NFL scouts will definitely tell you about it. Most quarterbacks who have been successful in the spread scheme on the collegiate level don’t turn out to be the greatest of pros. One example that comes to mind is Florida’s Danny Wuerffel, who won the Heisman Trophy, but went on to be a less-than-stellar pro. The biggest thing I can say to those who believe that Beck is a product of the spread offensive scheme is to go back and watch the tape. Look at his ball velocity. Watch his beautifully spun spirals as they hiss through the skies and land in ridiculous target windows. Watch his leadership ability and ability to perform in the clutch. I would also like to remind the people that claim he’s a system quarterback to remember this fact: John Beck has learned from two different offensive coordinators while at BYU, Gary Crowton and Robert Anae.

The other biggest knock on John Beck is that he’s going to be much older than your average rookie QB in the National Football League. He is currently 25 years old. Many feel that if you’re going to make an investment on a quarterback, then you should draft one who will have more longevity. John Beck will make an instant-impact in the NFL if he gets drafted into the right situation. That makes his age less of a factor, because there are plenty of quarterbacks in this draft that I don’t think will be ready for a few more years. Beck has all of the physical and mental tools to craft together a superb offense for whatever team is willing to take a chance on him.

Some people also might not like his low release point and the fact that he’s not prototypical size, (6’2, 216). The biggest legitimate concern here would be Beck’s low release point. He’s going to have to adjust his throwing motion to work on throwing the ball more over the top. Vince Young of the Tennessee Titans has a very low release point, but then again he is 6’5 so he can afford to release the ball at a lower point. At 6’2, I’m not so sure John Beck could continue to have his release point that low, but I’ll don’t think he’ll have any problems adjusting his motion. That is a decision that will be between him and the quarterbacks coach of the NFL team he lands on. My advice would be to keep his motion how it currently is, then if he experiences problems to adjust accordingly. You know what they say, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

The height issue is not as big of a concern, simply because there are plenty of NFL quarterbacks around 6 feet tall, most notably Drew Brees. The biggest reason Brees doesn’t have a problem at his height is because he utilizes his over-the-top motion to give himself a high release point.

The bottom line is if Beck’s height and release point were going to cause him serious problems I think we would’ve seen more teams shut him down. That never happened for Beck and I think what overcomes his height is the fact that he can fit a ball in such a tight window because of his ball speed and his quick release. His vision of the passing lanes is very good too. When you have such incredibly deft control over the placement of the pigskin like John Beck, life becomes much easier in terms of throwing the ball over the defensive line. His quick release and ball velocity will make it that much tougher for defenders to swat the ball down at the line of scrimmage.

Others might say that he operated out of the shotgun too much in college, and that he didn’t have to work on his drop back motion into the center of the pocket. I’ve seen enough of John Beck’s highlights that I feel confident he has a very fluid, balanced drop back motion that won’t cause him any problems in the NFL. He wastes very little motion when he drops back in the pocket and always makes sure that he keeps his throwing elbow(right) parallel to the ground. He shows excellent form in his drop backs, always keeping his head downfield and making the proper reads. That is textbook form folks and every good quarterback coach in the country will tell you the same thing.

Some people might point out the fact that Beck hasn’t been tested playing in a weak conference such as the Mountain West. I would just tell those people to look at the schedule and see that he took a blowtorch to a Wyoming pass defense that ranked 8th in the NCAA this past season. He completed 20 of his 26 passes for 313 yards and two touchdowns. Those are dazzling numbers folks and if you look at the fact that it was against a pass defense that was ranked in the top 10 in the country, then it becomes even more impressive.

When looking for a weakness in John Beck, it’s nearly impossible to find, simply because I think he’s got the total package. When you’re talking with a person who thinks John Beck is a better overall prospect than JaMarcus Russell or Brady Quinn or any other quarterback prospect in the draft, you shouldn’t be surprised to see that I don’t think he has any true weaknesses. He became a legend at BYU and I think years down the road we’re going to be discussing how John Beck became a legend in the NFL. His mechanics are nearly flawless, his leadership ability is unmatched, his ball velocity is top-notch, his ball placement is incredible, and his footwork is unrivaled. I think he’s going to do great things for whoever drafts him in the 2007 NFL Draft.

Where John Beck is projected to be drafted: More people have been hopping on the John Beck bandwagon lately, my man Rob Rang of nfldraftscout.com is one of them. I’m surprised that more people aren’t writing glowing reports about him after he dazzled scouts at the combine in Indianapolis a few weeks ago.

The highest ranked I’ve seen John Beck in this draft is as the 3rd or 4th best QB in the draft and that would place him at around a 5th round selection, which is where I think he will go. He’ll be a steal if he goes that late, simply because I believe Beck is a “natural born leader” that can lead an NFL team to the “promised land”. When I write of the promised land, I’m writing about a world of championships, banners, rings, and a world where the players carry their coach off the field after he’s just been soaked in a bath of Gatorade. That’s what I’m talking about when I say John Beck will take some team to the promised land.

Where I think John Beck should be drafted: The NFL Draft, as well as any other draft in sports, is as much of a crap shoot as anything else. There will be well-known prospects that don’t pan out, much like Ryan Leaf did and there will be unheralded prospects that will become legends like Tom Brady.
John Beck is one football player that will be the latter. Despite posting gaudy statistics for the past two seasons, he’s not very well-known across the country because the conference he played in(Mountain West Conference) doesn’t have very good visibility. Simply not enough college football fans on the east coast could tell you who the heck John Beck is. The ultra accurate signal-caller is without question my favorite player in the 2007 NFL Draft, regardless of position. I say without hesitation and with the utmost of confidence that I believe we’re all going to be talking about John Beck and what a phenomenal career he had in the National Football League 10-12 years down the road. If I had the number 1 pick in the 2007 NFL Draft, I needed a quarterback, and I ran the right offensive system,(West Coast), then I would choose John Beck. He is pretty much the perfect quarterback and has footwork and physical tools that would make any offensive coordinator or quarterbacks coach in America downright giddy.

Tags:2007 NFL Draft Profile: BYU QB John Beck

2007 NFL Season Preview - Green Bay Packers

With each passing season, the Hall of Fame career of Brett Favre comes closer to an end. To his credit, he still wants to win and wanted the Packers to make so additions to be competitive in 2007. There would be no playing for another team for Favre, so his only shot would be to see the Packers improve and give him a chance to win one last time. Have the Packers done enough for them to at least be competitive, or have they regressed this offseason?

Green Bay Packers
2006 Record (Standing): 8-8 (2nd in NFC North)
2006 Postseason (If app.): n/a
Head Coach (Career Record): Mike McCarthy, 2nd season (8-8)
Key Additions: DT Justin Harrell (draft; 1st round, 16th pick)
Key Losses: FB William Henderson (Cut; unsigned), RB Ahman Green (FA; Houston)

Positives: The offensive line is not necessarily a unit of great strength, but they are above-average and still growing up. In 2006 two rookies started and now had a whole year under their belts. Both Daryn Colledge and Jason Spitz performed well in 2006 at the guard positions and they should be better in 2007.

Add to that the returning veterans like Chad Clifton and this line could surprise some people and keep them in check for the 2007 season. They will need to be consistent in protecting Favre and allowing him time to find his receivers. The young guys, along with those established veterans, should be solid for the Pack.

Even though he struggled a bit with turnovers in 2006, a team with Brett Favre at the helm can never be full counted out, especially in a conference like the NFC where anything can happen and most of the teams are fairly close to each other in terms of talent.

It’s not a bad thing to have a future Hall of Famer leading the charge. This is his 17th season in the league and he’s got a lot of experience and knows how to motivate people. With the youth on the team, Favre’s motivational tactics could have a profound impact on getting them to play over their heads.

Their linebackers have the potential to rise up to be one of the better units in the NFL. A.J. Hawk played well in his rookie season and should show some big improvement as the year progressed. Going into year 2 he should be even better. Combine that with the fact that Nick Barnett is one of the more underrated linebackers in the NFL and they really could be good players for the pack in 2007.

Question Marks: Who is going to step up and take over the running game now that the productive Ahman Green is off to greener pastures in Houston? The Packers really are in need of someone to take over and provide them with some consistent production as a running back. The Packers seem to be resting on either the rookie from Nebraska Brandon Jackson or Vernand Morency.

Morency is probably the favorite to get the majority of the snaps considering he has the NFL experience and is a decent enough athlete, but watch out for the compact, yet powerful Jackson. Jackson intrigues a lot of people because of his power. Either way, one of these guys will need to step up and contribute efficiently for this offense to work out.

After Donald Driver, the Packers a re a little thin at receiver, and that’s if Driver is healthy enough to play the entire season without injury concerns. After that, there are a few concerns about the receivers. The second receiver should be Greg Jennings, but some people are not convinced he will get through his second season without struggling a little more against the NFL. Meanwhile, the depth behind those two guys drops over a lot. They will have guys out there who have never seen real NFL experience, rookies from college, and who have yet to prove themselves in the NFL. And, if they decide that they want him back, Koren Robinson will be ready to go back in November. This unit is looking a bit raggedy right now.

A general defensive worry that can be brought up is the lack of rest they will have. This offense looks like it might have some trouble moving the ball up and down the field; that could hurt their defense just as much as their offense. In the NFL today, you want your offense ideally to control the tempo of the game to allow your defensive unit time to recuperate from the last series. Should the Packers have sustained difficulties on offense, you have to wonder how long it is before the defense begins to wear down. Even the best defenses cannot stand being on the field for more than 35-40 minutes of the game through an entire season. This defense could wear down quickly if Favre and the offense cannot take care of the ball.

Offensive Grade: A lot of people do not know where to stand regarding Brett Favre and his decision to once again come back for another season with the Packers. Some would venture to say that he played pretty well last season, but the telling stat is the 29 interceptions Favre threw in 2006. At what point do you really say that Favre sticking around for a lost cause is helping the development of this team, particularly third-year quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

But Favre is back, and he could very well lead this team to another overachieving season. He will have to do it without much of a proven running game. There is potential, but there really is no proof of NFL production for any of the backs in Packers camp. The top receivers are good, but there could be issues with depth in case of injury. Donald Driver is a great receiver, but there really is not much else there.

Bubba Franks, the tight end, has seen his best days pass him. The offensive line could show some improvement after some young players got to see time last season and gain experience. It won’t be much help if the offense still stalls when trying to move the ball, which looks like it could happen a lot in 2007.
Grade: C+

Defensive Grade: For as bad as the offense is, the defense has some good players that can make plays and keep this team in games. That could be the source of all the misguided expectations in Green Bay for this season. The defensive line is solid, but they will need almost instant contribution from 2007 first-round pick Justin Harrell at defensive tackle, at least in a rotation to keep people fresh. The ends, Aaron Kampman and Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, are both solid ends that can contribute for the team and make plays, but the line has to stay fresh.

The strength could be at linebacker, where A.J. Hawk showed exactly why he was highly touted out of college with a huge season. Nick Barnett is a playmaker as well; he’s one of the most underrated linebackers in the league. The third spot could be contested, but rookie Brady Poppinga could be the front runner for the job. The secondary remains solid, especially with the veteran corners they have: Charles Woodson and Al Harris. They are slowing down a bit from their primes, but they still perform pretty well most of the time. Safety could be an issue; only Marquand Manuel is solid. The other safety position could be a battle.
Grade: B

Special Teams: After longtime Packer Ryan Longwell moved on to Minnesota, the Packers had to scramble to replace him for the 2006 season. His eventual replacement, Dave Rayner, came in for the Packers and played fairly well. They are leaning on him to improve from his first full season in the NFL. The Packers went with the youth movement for the entire special teams, at least from a kicking standpoint.

Jon Ryan was also in his first NFL season. He looked good last season with a 44.3 yard gross average. The return duties are up in the air; the Packers could go with any of the backup running backs or wide receivers to take these duties. Greg Jennings and Vernand Morency will most likely see their return duties scaled back because of growing roles in the offense.
Grade: B

Coaching Staff: It was puzzling to many people that the Packers went and hired Mike McCarthy as the coach after only one rather tumultuous season as the offensive coordinator in San Francisco. However, after the first season it looked as though McCarthy was a little more prepared than most people thought. He led the Packers, a team that many people did not expect to do well, and they posted a respectable 8-8 record. Known as a West Coast guru, he will have to get more out of this offense than he has ever needed to get out of any offense he’s worked with in the past.

He’ll have to work with new offensive coordinator Joe Philbin, who worked previously as the offensive line coach. Meanwhile, Bob Sanders goes into his second season with the defense as the coordinator and he has got some pieces to work with. Sanders’ main job will be keeping morale up because the defense might see some frustrations early in the season.
Grade: B

Bold Predictions
Record: 6-10
Offensive MVP: Brett Favre
Defensive MVP: Nick Barnett
Notes: The defense can keep them in games, but the offense does not have the weapons that they’ve traditionally had in years past. Brett Favre will have to play extremely well, and with 29 INTs last season, it does not seem viable that he can carry this team on his back.

Tags:2007 NFL Season Preview - Green Bay Packers

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