Behind The Sticks
Shots With MZE
Behind The Sticks
Shots With MZE
We've Got Some Big News
Every once in a while, in football, everything seems to work out perfectly. All eleven guys line up correctly, make the right adjustments and reads, run precise routes and execute a perfect play. It's rare, but when it happens, it feels like watching poetry in motion.
And that's how we feel right now after our agreement to join the Big Play Sports Network. It just seems like the perfect fit. They like football, we like football. They drink beer, we drink beer. I mean how much more perfect a union is there?
In all seriousness though, we are thrilled to be teaming up with this rapidly growing network of writers, podcasters and sports lunatics, who for some reason, think Coach, Rookie and Stats Guy have some talent.
So get your beer chilled and make sure you tune in on August 12 at 8 pm ET for our LIVE Premiere Video Episode of Blitzed Football, where we'll show the guys at Big Play Sports what a terrible mistake they've made in signing us. Then all future episodes of Blitzed Football will be broadcast LIVE on Mondays at 8 pm ET.
Our regular audio podcast will still be available too on Tuesdays around 3 pm ET. Our video shows will also be archived on BigPlay.com and on Big Play's YouTube channel.
And for those of you who haven't heard us before, here's a little sample of what to expect on August 12th.
Big shout out to Big Play Dave and Sam Maddy for making this partnership happen. We can't wait to disappoint them.
Trade Deadline Edition
NFL teams are trading players at a higher rate than ever before. While trades still don’t happen as often as they do in other professional sports, NFL general managers are starting to warm up to the idea of rebuilding their rosters despite the high risk of “losing” the trade.
This season’s trade deadline is fast approaching. All trades must be submitted by 4 p.m. ET on October 30.
We’ve already seen some trades go down well before the deadline. Some pretty good players like Damon “Snacks” Harrison, Carlos Hyde, and Amari Cooper have already been dealt. Such early action is a good indication that teams have accepted their places as “buyers” or “sellers” this season.
Some really big names have been circulating in the Twitter-sphere of trade gossip as well. Superstars like Patrick Peterson, Le’Veon Bell, and Demaryius Thomas have been heavily rumored to be dealt by next week’s deadline.
Please go find a chair if you are not near one already. I want to make sure you’re sitting for this next part because it truly is shocking: not everything you read on Twitter is true. The Cardinals, Steelers, and Broncos have all shot down these rumors and there is nothing credible to suggest that any Blockbuster trades (are they called Netflix trades now?) will include these three players.
So, what trades might happen?
Here are five trades that my opposite-of-expert scouting brain has come up with that are realistic, fair, and mutually beneficial to both teams involved.
5. Shane Ray, Broncos Edge Rusher, to the L.A. Rams
Broncos edge rushers Von Miller and rookie Bradley Chubb have respectively gotten the 2nd and 6th most sacks in the NFL this season. That leaves their teammate Shane Ray on the bench for most of the game, despite him being a good enough to be a starter for many other teams. Because of the vast depth at the position, the Broncos won’t extend Ray’s contract. It seems like their 2015 1st round pick is playing out his last season with the team.
The Rams defense is loaded with All-Pros like Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh in the trenches and Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib up top. However, their guys in the middle are pretty average. Before he was traded to the Bears, the Rams offered a 1st round pick for Khalil Mack even though they did NOT want to sign him for a long-term deal. Giving up a 1st round pick for ONE SEASON of an elite pass rusher.
So how much would they give up for one season of a good, albeit not elite, pass rusher? Not a ton, but even a late-round draft pick makes sense for both teams. It would be an upgrade in the Rams pass rushing department and the Broncos are going to lose Ray regardless, so they may as well get some value for him.
Ray’s best seasons were with current Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips at the helm of Denver’s defense. Phillips definitely knows how to maximize his talent. How about this 7-0 Rams getting better at rushing the passer? YIKES.
4. DeVante Parker, Miami Dolphins Wide Receiver, to the Philadelphia Eagles
Let’s start with a quick summary of the Devante Parker drama going on in Miami:
Parker didn’t play last week and Dolphins coach Adam Gase blamed Parker’s health as the reason. Parker’s agent disagreed that his client was injured—to say the least. Parker’s agent said “Coach Gase is incompetent—period—and not telling the truth when it comes to DeVante…” in regard to his health.
Parker did say that his agent is his own man and he disagreed with his statement but…sheesh. It has to be quite awkward in that locker room at the moment.
Parker hasn’t really lived up to the billing of a former 1st round pick since being drafted by Miami in 2015. So far, he’s put up average statistics with about 55 catches, 700 yards, and 3-4 touchdowns per year. That’s not bad, he just hasn’t lived up to the elevated expectations of a 1st rounder. He’s still a 25-year-old freak athlete with a 6’3” 209lbs frame, a 36.5 inch vertical, and 4.45 second (!) 40-yard dash.
The Eagles offense hasn’t fully clicked since Carson Wentz came back from his ACL injury. They need some speed and playmakers if they want to repeat as Super Bowl champs and Parker might be a perfect fit. His speed and athleticism with Wentz’s strong arm and Doug Pederson’s creativity seems like a win-win for both parties.
The Eagles offered a 2nd round pick for Amari Cooper so they are staying aggressive enough to give up future pieces for an instant impact play maker.
3. Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals Wide Receiver, to the Carolina Panthers
Larry frickin’ Legend. The nicest and most likeable guy in football is stuck in the desert playing for the worst team in the NFL. At 35 years young, Fitzgerald might not have much time left to win his first ring before retiring.
However, Fitzgerald might be beating father time as well as he’s beaten every NFL cornerback for the past 15 years. His last three seasons—as a 32 through 34-year-old—Fitz has averaged 108 catches, 1,130 yards, 7 touchdowns, and made the Pro Bowl each year. That’s remarkable high-level consistency for any wide receiver, let alone somebody his age.
Panthers are legit contenders when Cam Newton plays as well as he has been this year. Their offense never replaced Kelvin Benjamin (don’t laugh, Bills Mafia, he was good there) and Fitz is the perfect big and reliable target for Cam’s arsenal.
Please, Arizona, Fitz is too nice to ever ask for a trade, but that doesn’t mean you should let him burn in your dumpster fire.
2. Nick Foles, Philadelphia Eagles Quarterback, to the Jacksonville Jaguars
I defended Blake Bortles and thought he was a franchise quarterback. I was wrong. It takes a big man to admit a mistake and today I am that big man. Credit to me.
However, the Jags can’t just quit. They upgraded at running back by getting Carlos Hyde and now have to upgrade at QB. They have to try their best to capitalize on the most talented defense they’ve ever had.
They have to move on from Bortles. Just because he led the team to the AFC Championship game last year doesn’t excuse his horrible play. Mark Sanchez led the Jets to two AFCCGs and I’m sure every Jets fan wishes they moved on from Mr. Butt Fumble earlier.
It pains me to say this because I’ve always thought of Bortles as the Tom Brady antithesis. He is relaxed, funny, not yelling at everybody, and enjoys being a simple guy who cracks open beers and eats too much pizza. Unfortunately, he also can’t win five Super Bowls.
The Jags need to replace the Tom Brady antithesis with the Tom Brady killer: Nick Foles.
Our good friend Brandon Perna awards a “Big Dick Player of the Week.” That’s probably why Foles’ teammates call him “Big Dick Nick.” Foles won another big award—Super Bowl MVP—just eight months ago by defying the odds as a backup quarterback and leading the Eagles to a shootout victory over some team from Massachusetts.
While his career has had some ups and downs, he’s always played well under the right circumstances. In 2013 he put up a ridiculous 27 touchdowns and just two interceptions in ten starts before getting hurt. That potential plus a Super Bowl MVP is one hell of an upgrade for the Jaguars in their fight for a very winnable AFC South Division.
1. Derek Carr, Raiders QB, in exchange for Eli Manning, New York Giants QB
As you read on Shots with MZE, the excellent @GMFB_MZE broke down Jon Gruden’s strategy of having three 1st round draft picks.
Chucky might be able to get another 1st round pick by trading away quarterback Derek Carr. Carr is a young player who’s made multiple Pro Bowls and led the Raiders to a 12-4 record just two years ago. Naturally, this type of résumé has no place in Gruden’s plans. Like Amari Cooper and Khalil Mack, Gruden is itching to ship off his proven young talent in exchange for the possibility of drafting somebody who might be talented.
Eli Manning is well past his prime and is too slow to play quarterback in the modern NFL. Or, as Gruden (likely) thinks, he’s perfect. Eli could join recent Raiders acquisitions Jordy Nelson, Doug Martin, and Reggie Nelson in a team that would have been really good when Gruden stopped paying attention in the Monday Night Football booth in 2014.
The Giants defied expert opinion (and basic common sense) by drafting running back Saquon Barkley with the 2nd pick in last year’s draft. Their reasoning did make a little bit of sense: if Eli is still a franchise quarterback, surrounding him with elite weapons like Barkley and OBJ is their best chance at winning a ring in what could be Eli’s last season. In hindsight to them, and foresight to everybody else, that reasoning was wrong.
Eli’s decline this season has been pretty sad to watch. The Giants are now forced to replace him and are widely projected to draft a rookie quarterback in next year’s 1st round. Carr may just be the perfect solution for them instead. Even though it would cost a 1st round pick and a franchise legend in Manning, it seems well worth the risk. That 1st round pick would be used on a quarterback regardless.
The Scout is a Broncos fan and a #TeamBlitzed All Pro. You can follow the Scout on Twitter here.
Scouting Report Awards
On this week’s Blitzed NFL podcast, you heard great ideas for some awards that the NFL should implement. A Cy Young for quarterbacks, an award to honor great defensive minds like Luke Kuechly, and an award to honor the guys in the trenches like Joe Thomas or Travis Frederick..
So, let’s make awards that assign real value (or lack thereof) to players and also make it easier for casual fans to appreciate the nuances of the game. Only six weeks into the season is a bit premature to hand out awards, but let’s take a look at the early candidates for the prestigious, historic, and first annual Scouting Report Awards.
The "Stats are for losers" Award
The first award comes to us from a fellow NFL scout, Mel Kiper Jr. When defending Josh Allen’s alarmingly low 56.2% completion percentage, Kiper simply stated “stats are for losers.”
To some extent, Kiper is right. Like the guys said on the podcast, players like Kuechly and Joe Thomas affect the game as much as anybody on the field. It’s simply a product of their respective positions that they don’t put up stats to make it easy for casual football fans to follow and appreciate their greatness.
The NFL’s MVP award confuses stats with true value.
Here is the watchlist for the award that crowns the most valuable NFL player who won’t receive any MVP consideration:
1. David Bakhtiari, Green Bay Packers Left Tackle
Aaron Rodgers can see every field part of the field except one: his blindside. Remember when Rodgers got hurt last year? It was ugly, and the Packers season immediately ended. Bakhtiari, as a left tackle, protects Rodgers from blindside sacks. He also does a damn good job. Pro Football Focus rates Bakhtiari as the #1 left tackle in the NFL. With Khalil Mack in the division now, Bakhtiari is as valuable to Rodgers’ health, and the Packers success, as anybody.
2. Byron Jones, Dallas Cowboys Cornerback
It’s easy to judge cornerbacks on interceptions and pass break ups. So how do you judge a cornerback who is so good he never even gets a chance to intercept the ball? Despite always covering the best receivers, Jones has only been targeted roughly three times per game. He’s covering receivers so well that quarterbacks won’t even look at him. No stats to show for it, but Byron Jones has been the best corner in the NFL so far.
3. Joe Jones, Denver Broncos Special Teams Specialist
Seeing the punter come onto the field is a great time for fans to grab a beer and hit the bathroom. But for the teams on the field, it’s no break in action. Great special teams are the difference in your offense needing to gain 90 yards or only 50 yards. Joe Jones is the NFL’s #1 special teams player according to Pro Football Focus. He’s always the first guy down the field and he blocked a punt this season, a rarity in the NFL.
The Matt Flynn Award
Trivia: who is the only quarterback in Packers history with 480 yards and 6 touchdowns in one game? Farve? Nope. Rodgers? Nope. Only Matthew Clayton Flynn has accomplished such a feat in the green and yellow.
In his first career start during a meaningless Week 17 game against backups, Flynn shattered the loaded Packers record books to end the regular season. Despite playing only one (1) good game in his career, Flynn signed a three-year, $26 million contract with the Seattle Seahawks the following season.
Flynn is just one of many guys in a quarterback-desperate league to leverage a small sample size into a large contract.
Do NOT let your brain get tricked into thinking these guys are legit QBs, no matter how big the contract will be:
1. Brock Osweiler, Miami Dolphins Quarterback
Brock Lobster stunned the world in Week 6 by passing for 380 yards and three touchdowns en route to upsetting Da Bears. Although Brock has routinely proven to stink, NFL GMs have the memory of a goldfish. This summer, Brock will only be seen as a 6’7”, 27-year-old quarterback who beat Khalil Mack and the NFL’s best defense.
2. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tampa Bay Buccaneers Quarterback
Fitzmagic (seen here asking a fan if he knew he went to Harvard) lit the league on fire while starting in place of the suspended Jameis Winston the first month of the season. As always, he shines just enough to go get a new contract somewhere else. He’s old, he’s past his prime, and he was never that good to begin with—Jon Gruden cannot wait to overpay him.
The Copycat Award
“The NFL is a copycat league” is both the most used and most accurate cliché in the NFL. When a team has success using an innovative method, every other NFL team will copy them.
Some trends are so widely adapted that it changes the sport of football forever, such as Bill Walsh’s west coast offense. Some trends are gimmicky and get snuffed out by smart coaches in a hurry, like the wildcat offense.
Here’s the watchlist for the NFL’s next big trendsetter:
1. The Next Sean McVay
There used to be a mold for how NFL head coaches were hired. “Rookie” head coaches were usually guys in their late 40s or early 50s with lots of experience and success as a defensive coordinator for a good team. Defense wins championships.
McVay never fit that mold. The Rams hired him as a 31-year-old (younger than a lot of his players) after two pretty average years as an offensive coordinator for a pretty average Redskins team. Breaking the mold worked. McVay won NFL Coach of the Year in his first season and now the Rams are the only undefeated team in the NFL this season. He’s a young, offensive minded coach who wants to incorporate the spacing and pace of the college game into the NFL.
Next offseason, due to the Rams success, there will be lots of brand-new head coaches who still get carded at bars.
2. Not Valuing Running Backs
The Steelers are playing without one of the best running backs in the NFL, Le’Veon Bell, due to a contract holdout. Bell wants $17 million per year and the Steelers don’t want to pay a running back that much money.
Long story short, the Steelers are right. James Conner, Bell’s backup, not only has more yards and touchdowns through six games than Bell did last season, but he’s also only costing the Steelers $529k this year.
It’s not that Bell isn’t great, he is. He’s unquestionably better than Conner even. But running backs simply aren’t worth anywhere near $17 million or high draft picks.
Last year, Christian McCaffrey and Leonard Fournette were drafted in the top ten. Alvin Kamara and Kareem Hunt were drafted in the third round. This year, Saquon Barkley was drafted #2 overall. Phillip Lindsay was undrafted and has more yards than Barkley.
These running backs are elite players, but NFL teams (besides the Giants) are starting to realize that you can come close to matching elite running back talent through only a fraction of the price.
3. Pay. Your. Pass. Rushers.
Otherwise known as the Jon Gruden for Mayor Award in Chicago. Contrary to running backs, the pass heavy NFL is making pass rushers more valuable than ever. Khalil Mack looks like he’s worth every penny now that the Bears have the best defense in the NFL and the lowly Raiders can’t put a pinky on the quarterback.
The Survivor Award
Survivor isn’t just the most popular reality show in television history because fans care about who wins. It’s about the journey, not the destination. The fear of being sent home early creates a dramatic environment that pushes contestants to the edge.
The NFL is no different. The high stakes of chasing a Super Bowl ring, getting the next big contract, or just fighting to stay on the roster brings football players to the edge. We don’t just care about who wins—we are obsessed with the NFL because it’s the greatest reality show in the world.
Here’s the watchlist of who can win the reality contestant of the year:
1. Jon Gruden
Every reality TV show has a character whose self-destructive personality causes an epic meltdown for the whole world to see. What truly makes the NFL the greatest reality TV show is that Jon Gruden is the only such character who’s contractually obligated to remain with the program for 10 seasons. The details of the Raiders season were perfectly chronicled on the Blitzed podcast.
For now, I just want to say thank you, Jon Gruden. The Raiders train wreck has been a beautifully entertaining disaster.
2. The Cleveland Browns
There is always a loveable loser. Browns head coach Hue Jackson went into the season with a career 1-31 record with the team, the worst two-year span in NFL history.
The Browns were so bad that Bud Light scattered locked refrigerators full of beer around Cleveland, only to be opened upon a Browns win. The Browns were truly so bad, yet so lovable, that a massive corporation set aside its usual goal of appeasing shareholders just to be a part of the celebration if (not necessarily when) the Browns win a single game.
The Browns started the season with a tie. The 0-0-1 record was their best start since 2004. On September 20th, against the mighty New York Jets, the lovable losers were finally able to crack open the free Bud Light.
3. The Buffalo Bills
The battle to stay alive in both Survivor and the NFL separates the strong from the weak. Those who truly want it from those who don’t. The fiercest competitors on the planet going at each other’s necks just for a chance to stay alive.
The Bills also exist. Their season so far doesn’t quite align with the competitive intensity we’re used to in the NFL. The results, however, are hilarious:
So there they are, the first annual Scouting Report Awards. Who are the winners, you ask? I dunno. These are just fake awards I came up with while putting away a six pack last night. But that's the beauty of the NFL, no matter what happens, it's always entertaining for us fans.
The Scout. You can follow the Scout on Twitter.
We Love A Long Shot
As unpredictable as the NFL is on a weekly basis, Week 3 was as random, improbable, and shocking as we’ve ever seen. You heard from @thefatjack on our latest episode that six underdogs won outright and how rare that actually is in the NFL. If you’re the “average moron” like I am, you might have thought that you had the NFL all figured out after the first two weeks of the season. Here’s a quick recap of the most surprising results:
While The Fat Jack provided you with real gambling advice that is smart and based in reason, I’m here to suggest some long shots based on nothing in particular except my designation as, what Fat Jack likes to call, an average moron.
Betting the NFL Long Shots
These six bets are far from sure things but having some skin in the game will make rooting for these potential outcomes far more fun. At the end of the day, isn’t it about the journey, and not the destination?
Cleveland Browns to win the AFC North: +600
Alllllllllll aboard the Baker Mayfield express!!!
The city of Cleveland partied like it’s 2016 on Thursday night after Baker Mayfield made his NFL debut and led a second half comeback against the Jets on national television. After getting their first win since the Obama administration, the Browns finally have some life and optimism.
Baker is a baller and has been a winner at every level of football. The Steelers are a circus, the Bengals collapse every December, and the Ravens are a picture of mediocrity. Place a 6/1 bet on the Browns to win the division, put your faith in Baker, and party hard with the good people of Cleveland after every single win. Bud Light for everyone!
San Francisco 49ers to win the Super Bowl: +8,000
While you’re drinking along to this Scouting Report, pour some out to pay respect to 49ers quarterback Jimmy G. Nothing worse than seeing a young, budding superstar tear his ACL and have to miss the rest of the season like Garopollo did last Sunday.
The 49ers had high hopes for 2018 success with coach Kyle Shanahan and Jimmy G having a full offseason to work with. From the outside looking in, it looks like the 49ers season is all but finished.
So why should you bet on them to win the Super Bowl? Well, they were heavily picked to make the playoffs because their team is solid and deep, and their division is weaker than ever. With Jimmy G missing the rest of the season, the 49ers Super Bowl odds dropped from 25/1 to 80/1.
CJ Beathard is coming in to start at QB and he might just shock the world. Last year’s NFC Championship game was a battle of backups with Nick Foles vs. Case Keenum. Who’s to say Beathard can’t be as good as those guys?
Most importantly, Shanahan is a great coach. As an offensive coordinator, he once made the Cleveland Browns look competent with Brian Hoyer as the starting quarterback. Pretty damn good. Betting on the 49ers long-shot success would be a fun way to get invested in Shanahan’s creative play calling.
Josh Gordon will Spark It Up in the Endzone: +400
We still don’t definitively know whether Gordon is a mature player who has moved on from all his issues. Here, you can bet for or against his maturity. If you like the 4/1 odds of Flash Gordon pulling off this celebration, try to parlay it with “Will Bill Belichick decapitate Josh Gordon on live television?” (6/1 odds).
Clay Matthews Will Punch a Referee This Season: +10,000
Speaking of the possibility of seeing a murder during an NFL game, Packers Linebacker Clay Matthews might go postal on the zebras at some point. Clay was hit with a bullshit roughing the passer penalty for the third straight week.
My sympathy for Matthews is low for two reasons:
The NFL Will Change its New Rules to Protect Non-QBs: +0
Think Clay Matthews has had it rough? He hasn’t suffered nearly as much from the roughing the passer rules as Dolphins defensive end William Hayes has. Hayes tore his ACL last Sunday while awkwardly shifting his body in an attempt to avoid being flagged for putting his weight on quarterback Derek Carr.
So, the NFL, always prioritizing player safety, will certainly change the rules to protect defensive players like they do to protect quarterbacks? Nope. Not a snowball's chance in Tom Brady's afterlife. Never waste a penny betting on the NFL to address this issue. Betting on a possible rule change here is such a long shot you may as well stick to the Powerball.
Taysom Hill to win NFL MVP: +8,000
Saints Swiss-Army knife Taysom Hill plays QB, wideout, tight end, special teams gunner, as well as punt and kick returner. He’s a dynamic stud who is athletic and skilled enough to be plugged into almost any position on the field.
While you can’t actually find a place to bet on him yet (Spoiler Alert: I made up the Clay Matthews odds also) you should place a long shot on Hill winning MVP if ever given the opportunity.
What could possibly be more valuable than a guy who can play FIVE different positions?? The Arizona Cardinals don’t even have five players who competently play one position. Taysom Hill is an absolute beast and rooting for him to fill up the stat sheet sounds like a blast.
The Scout. You can follow the Scout on Twitter.
How to Hit An NFL QB
Welcome back to the Scouting Report, Team Blitzed! Week 2 of the NFL season is in the books and it was one of the most entertaining NFL Sundays in recent memory.
A quick recap:
Week 2 was the week of the wild finishes, as you already know from listening to the latest and greatest episode of Blitzed NFL Radio. The wildest finish of the them all goes to the most exciting ending in sports: the tie.
The Packers and Vikings made it two straight weeks of NFL games ending in participation trophies as the league is being slowly overrun by millennials. After Kirk Cousins threw what should have been a game ending interception late in the 4th quarter, a yellow flag changed the course of the entire game. Clay Matthews was called for roughing the passer after he…gently brought Cousins to the ground.
Every human with a functioning brain agreed that the call was horrible. The NFL, however, decided the catch rule isn’t pissing us off enough and we need to be dumbfounded by roughing the passer calls as well. Here’s how the NFL doubled down after the game:
Yep… That incredibly perplexing call at the end of the game, that nobody understood, will now literally become the blueprint for roughing the passer penalties in the NFL.
Fear not, Blitzed Fam. The Scout is here to un-muddy the waters and teach you how to rush the quarterback in 2018.
How to hit a modern day