NFL Q&A with Allen and The Ace is a weekly Thursday column featured on TJRsports.com. Allen and The Ace are big time NFL junkies and are Falcon and Packer fans, respectively. Each week the guys will ask questions and discuss the previous week’s games along with picking the Top 5 Games of the Week!
Ace: Do you smell it? Inhale and take it all in. Football season is back! Sure, we’re exactly three weeks from kickoff at Mile High Stadium where the Denver Broncos will host the Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens, but that doesn’t mean we can’t start speculating and discussing our favorite sport. Allen has been busy the last few months writing like a maniac and he’s done an awesome job. The NFL is my true love. I follow it on a daily basis and I’m so happy to be back writing on a regular basis.
Let me just give you a rundown of how this will look during the regular season. Allen and I will each talk about the previous week, what we liked or didn’t like, things that stood out and other noteworthy NFL tidbits. We will each ask and answer a question for each other and really pick apart specific stories in the NFL. We will also pick the Top 5 Games of the week. Feel free to tweet us or email us your thoughts or NFL Questions. If we start to get regular feedback, we will start to feature it each week.
These first three preseason articles we will discuss just that, the preseason. Our September 5th edition will be our NFL Preview. We’ll each make our divisional picks, playoff picks and annual awards. Allen and I will have to figure out if we will take a three-week hiatus or if we will have someone fill in for me when I get married and take my honeymoon at the end of September.
Allen: We are back, after a long hiatus from writing our weekly article. It’s a shame that the best sport in the world has to be hampered by such a long off-season. Then again, the satisfaction of knowing that football season is back is very gratifying. Even though I really enjoy writing about MMA, I’ve missed writing about football greatly.
I’ve gotten back on the football grind for the past few weeks writing about the best games of 2013, the new-look Patriots, and how people are severely underestimating the Dallas Cowboys. Now I’ll be mostly featuring my NFL writing on here with The Ace. I’m frequently writing about MMA, so my time is somewhat limited. I can guarantee that I’ll be writing here on a weekly basis, while possibly writing a separate solo NFL article on occasions.
Anyway it’s good to be back and it’s time to dig into some questions.
Ace: We’re heading into the sophomore season of some guys who had a tremendous rookie seasons. Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson, Robert Griffin III, Doug Martin, Alfred Morris and Trent Richardson are the crop of second year players who are looking to improve on their first season in the league.
Who do you see outdoing their production from last season and who do you see falling short of last year’s production?
Allen: It still amazes me that the rookie class from last year was filled with so much great offensive talent. The rookie classes have been lacking of offensive talent in recent years. That totally changed last year with so much new talent coming in and making a huge impact.
Even though Doug Martin is due for an even bigger year, this is from a production standpoint. Trent Richardson will be a lock to outdo his production of just 950 rushing yards from last year. Cleveland will improve this year and be more competitive in games this year. That will give Richardson even more opportunities to shine and carry more of the load rather than Cleveland being constantly behind by two or more touchdowns. If Percy Harvin were healthy, Russell Wilson would have been my pick. He is still going to have a good season, but there will be some shaky moments without Harvin.
I’m expecting Alfred Morris to drop off a bit this season. He is a tremendous running back, who is so physically imposing and deceptively quick for his size. The issue is that he carried the ball 336 times last year, which is absurd for a rookie running back. I’m expecting them to ease off the load a bit with him. He’ll still be a top back and be very productive, but don’t expect him to have another 1600 yard season.
None of these players are going to deal with a sophomore slump. I’m still expecting huge seasons out of everyone that was listed. This is from a product standpoint and some rookies overachieved. Morris was that rookie and I’m expecting defenses to make him the focal point on whom to stop in the Redskins’ offense. Griffin III may be the “superstar’, but you rather take your chances stopping the Redskins’ passing attack rather than their rushing attack.
Ace: One of the biggest stories of the offseason is the situation in New England with tight end Aaron Hernandez. Obviously it’s more than a football story. It’s a very tragic story where someone lost their life in a situation where it was not warranted. Even though Hernandez is innocent until proven guilty, his guilt looks to outweigh his innocence.
The football side of the story is the Patriots cut Hernandez who was their 3rd leading receiver over the last two years. In two seasons, he played in 24 games, had 130 receptions for 1,393 yards and 12 touchdowns. Hernandez was a talented tight end with loads of potential that is now gone. Also gone from the Patriots is their leading receiver over the last five season, Wes Welker. Welker had 118 receptions for 1,354 yards and 6 touchdowns. Not just Welker, but Brandon Lloyd, Danny Woodhead, Deion Branch and Donte Stallworth are gone from the team.
In a matter of one offseason, the Patriots lost players that contributed to 303 of the 402 receptions, 3,425 of the 4,844 receiving yards and 19 of the 34 touchdown receptions. If you take away tight end Rob Gronkowski (55 receptions, 790 yards and 11 TD’s in 11 games played) you leave 44 receptions for 629 yards and 4 touchdowns by players on the Patriots roster from last season. It’s an immense drop off and might be reason for concern.
New England addressed this concern by bringing in free agent Danny Amendola who, for his career, has underperformed due to injuries. They also used two draft picks this past draft on Aaron Dobson from Marshall in the 2nd round and Josh Boyce from TCU in the 4th round. Will Tom Brady and the Patriots bounce back this season with a brand new receiving corps? I believe so.
When you take a look back at their Championship Season in 2001, Brady came in for an injured Drew Bledsoe and went 11-3. His leading receivers were Troy Brown (101-1,199-5) and David Patten (51-749-4) with the next leading receiver being Terry Glenn with 204 yards in four games played. They had 17 different receivers over the course of the season to catch passes (including Brady to himself for 23 yards).
If Tom Brady can be thrown in as the starting quarterback in only his 2nd season with no prior starts and can go 11-3, including three straight playoff wins to defeat the heavily favored St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI, I believe that 36 year old, two-time MVP Tom Brady will be able to do the same with this young inexperienced group of wide receivers. Brady is a guy that makes people better around him, and I firmly believe he will throw for 4,000 yards again this season.
What are your thoughts on this situation in New England?
Allen: I wrote a pretty huge article about this a few weeks ago. What it comes down to is that the Patriots’ need to run the ball more this year. Steven Ridley is coming off a terrific year running over 1,200 yards. As long as he stays healthy this year, Shane Vereen should be used more in the offense. Then they have Leon Washington, who could be their version of Kevin Faulk. That is a dynamic trio of running backs.
Tom Brady will put up great numbers and will still throw for 4,000 yards. The difference is that they need to become more balanced this year rather than forcing Brady to make tough passes to receivers, who can’t get open on a consistent basis. They have a lot of depth at running back and it will benefit them, if they use them properly.
Tom Brady knows how to get the best out of average talent, which will be huge for the Patriots’ success this season. Danny Amendola remains to be a major question mark due to his injury past of being too reckless for a player of his size. The same can be said for Rob Gronkowski, who has dealt with a whirlwind of injuries.
If they can run the ball effectively on a consistent basis, which they finally started to do last year. Then you’ll see the Patriots still be able to succeed offensively. They won’t be scoring 30 points a game because the landscape of the offense has changed. It’ll be more conservative, which is best for them unless Dobson and Boyce prove to be quick learners and can contribute right away. New England isn’t in panic mode, but they need to realize their identity and know who they are offensively.
Allen: The Miami Dolphins’ made a lot of headlines this off-season with several additions in free agency. They signed Mike Wallace, Darnell Ellerbe, Phillip Wheeler, and Brent Grimes among other players.
Do you see the Dolphins earning a wild card spot this year or even challenging the Patriots for the division title?
Ace: Short answer: Yes I do. This team was 7-9 last year in Ryan Tannehill’s rookie campaign. Those three guys you mentioned along with trading up to draft rookie defensive end/linebacker Dion Jordan will vastly help improve their defense and the team as a whole.
They have become a trendy pick to sneak in as a Wild Card and some people even think they’ll dethrone the Patriots atop the AFC East. I’ll pump the breaks on that statement, but I do think a Wild Card is a strong possibility. They are by far in the top half of the AFC East, they’ve made the strides to compete with the Patriots for the top spot but will they achieve the top spot?
Here’s what concerns me about the Dolphins, the lack of a star running back. Sure, they don’t need a star to succeed at the position, but I believe that with out a major player lining up behind Ryan Tannehill they will be a one dimensional offense. It’s not a knock on Lamar Miller or Daniel Thomas, they just need to prove themselves.
I did a pre-ranking of all the NFL teams by predicting their schedule for 2013 and I have them sitting at 9 wins. If they were in the NFC it might be tough to make the playoffs with 9 wins, but I think with two weaker divisions in the AFC, they can definitely get in there.
I’m glad we’re back talking NFL on a weekly basis, we’re three weeks away from kicking off and I’m stoked that we’ve put the band back together to do this for a second year. We’ll talk next week!
Allen: It was great to be back, even though there will be much more content come September. I’m already working on my season predictions by going through each game of every team’s schedule. I’ve finished the AFC so far and I’m stumped on the wild card choices. When you pick every game on every team’s schedule, it makes your predictions much more legitimate rather than just putting together a record for a team. I’ll continue to work on them for the next few weeks before posting them come September. Thanks for reading; we’ll be posting every Thursday from here on out.
You can hear The Ace on Macho Men Radio with C-Mac every Tuesday night on BlogTalkRadio at blogtalkradio.com/machomenradio