National Football Authority

The Detroit Lions released fullback Jerome Felton Tuesday according to NFL Network’s Jason La Canfora.

Felton was the biggest back left on the roster for Detroit and the only fullback. Felton’s release comes as a bit of surprise considering he could have been a key contributor for the Lions in short yardage situations, especially after the release of Mike Bell.

But Detroit apparently released the fourth-year man out of Furman because they wanted to keep more tight ends, which makes sense considering who they have at the tight end position.

Brandon Pettigrew, Tony Scheffler and Will Heller are all quality tight ends and Heller will likely serve as a fullback/tight end hybrid as he did last season. With Heller the Lions need not worry about the fullback position and probably will run a lot of one-back sets with Jahvid Best, likely more than they would have had Felton remained on the roster.

The real loss here is something the Lions may have never had since losing Mikel LeShoure for the season, a runner who can pound out extra yards on goaline, short yardage and clock burning situations. Best is an explosive back and can make plenty of plays in a variety of different ways but he is not the type of back who can impose his will and fight for extra yards after contact on a consistent basis.

Jerome Harrison and Aaron Brown are similar backs to Best. Although Harrison is a bit more powerful than Best and Brown, he doesn’t exactly fit the power back mold at 5-9 and 205 pounds. The only runner that comes close to fitting that mold on Detroit’s roster is Maurice Morris, who at 5-11 and 216 pounds can provide somewhat consistent production between the tackles. Morris is still recovering from a fractured hand but did begin practicing again on Aug. 21, so it should only be a matter of time before he sees some in-game action.

The No. 2 running back on the depth chart is still up for grabs between Harrison, Brown and Morris, but the role of short yardage back likely only belongs to one man. Whether Morris maintains his role from 2010 as the second back in the rotation as well, largely depends on his health and production once he gets on the field.

Morris will have every opportunity considering Harrison’s inconsistency thus far this preseason and Brown’s inability to run between the tackles. He may not be LeShoure but he’s the best option for Detroit, heck, he may be the only option.

August 30th, 2011

Posted In: NFL

Will next season be the one in which the Cleveland Browns end their playoff drought? The franchise sure hopes so.

Cleveland hasn’t clinched a playoff berth since 2002. And while they’ve entered many past years with little to no hope, they proceed into their next training camp with actual expectations.

Here are the most pressing questions they face en route to returning to the postseason.

Can They Improve the Offensive Line?

People weren’t impressed by quarterback Baker Mayfield in his second season. They had a right to be. Cleveland surrounded him with Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry and Nick Chubb, and Mayfield piloted them to a passing offense that ranked 17th in net yards per attempt, 19th in touchdowns and 30th in interceptions.

Mayfield clearly needs to be better, but the onus of failure isn’t all on him. The Browns’ offensive line is missing at least two critical pieces: a tackle and an inferior offensive guard. Mayfield needs more protection, and Chubb needs bigger holes to run through.

Are OBJ and Landry Still with the Team?

This seems like an absurd question, given that the Browns acquired each of them only a year ago. But the stench of losing last season lingers.

People around the NFL have speculated that OBJ already wants out, and Landry hasn’t appeared too happy either. To make matters even more complicated, both star wide receivers are coming off surgeries.

Did They Add Another Pass-Catcher

With OBJ and Landry working their way back from surgery, and with Mayfield still more of an unknown, the Browns could use another reliable pass-catching option. But will they get it?

That player probably isn’t coming in the draft. Most expect the Browns to burn their top picks on shoring up the offensive line and secondary. The free agency market is where they’ll be looking.

Tight end is a natural spot for them to upgrade, with Landry and OBJ presumably soaking up most of the reps at wide receiver. The TE pool isn’t especially deep, but Cleveland does have the flexibility to throw money at Austin Hooper from the Atlanta Falcons or Hunter Henry of the Los Angeles Chargers. They could also roll the dice on more injury-prone studs like Tyler Eifert.

Failing that, the Browns could use some extra high-end insurance at wide receiver, just in case OBJ or Landry isn’t fully healthy. Chasing players who will command superstar money doesn’t make much sense, but options like Demaryius Thomas of the New York Jets and Travis Benjamin of the Chargers could make some sense. Their dare-to-be-great scenario includes ponying up the cash it would take to afford A.J. Green and form perhaps the league’s scariest one-two-three receiving punch.

August 24th, 2011

Posted In: NFL

Leave a Comment

2010 Results: 8–5 (5–4 Pac-10)

Head Coach: Lane Kiffin (2nd Year @ USC 8-5, Overall – 15-11)

Home Venue: Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum (93,607), Los Angeles, CA

Although posting a respectable 8-5 record, the USC Trojans are coming off of an underwhelming and unfulfilling 2010 campaign. A home thrashing by the Ducks, an Oregon State beatdown, back-to-back one-point losses, plus a heart-breaker to the hated Irish, all coupled with the NCAA imposed sanctions left the Trojans with many things to ponder, contemplate and rethink.

Head coach Lane Kiffin enters his second season at the Trojan helm with a potentially explosive team. Fielding a dominant defensive line, receiving corps and running back unit, Kiffin will find much success and wins in the inaugural Pac-12 season.

Can the Trojans ride their Heisman hopeful quarterback to the top of the Pac-12 or will the looming post-season ban deflate their motivation and play?  

OFFENSE 

The offense will be centered on junior quarterback Matt Barkley and sophomore sensation, wide receiver Robert Woods. This pitch-and-catch combo will provide plenty of highlights and will no doubt be one of the best in the country. Woods impressed everyone to the tune of a Pac-10 Offensive Freshman of the Year nod, as he was among the league leaders in receptions and receiving yards, while scoring six touchdowns. His combination of size and speed proved too much for cornerbacks to overcome, as he will again, have his way with them, as he did last year.

Woods will be hauling in touchdown passes from Heisman candidate Barkley. Steadily improving to posting impressive numbers last season (2,800 passing yards, 26 TDs, 63 percent completion rate), Barkley seems to have quickly mastered Kiffin’s offense and now looks to use that big arm of his lead the offense and team to the top of the Pac-12.

In classic Kiffin style, he will be employing a carousel of running backs. The speedy and dynamic freshman, Amir Carlisle will make the most plays while sharing snaps with Marc Tyler, after Tyler’s one game suspension, of course. The backs will be looking to improve their 2010 game average of 190 yards per game, third best in the conference.

The offense’s biggest question mark will be the offensive line. After losing three starting linemen from an already thin line, 2012 first-round NFL Draft hopeful Mat Kalil will anchor a young and inexperienced unit. Redshirt junior Khaled Holmes moves from guard to center and the rest is anyone’s guess. This is the part of the squad that definitely needs two or more guys to step up.  

DEFENSE 

The defensive line will be the Trojan’s best weapon. The ends are dynamic, athletic and quick pass rushers in juniors Nick Perry and Wes Horton, with a tenacious Kevin Green in waiting. The interior is housing caged beasts. Redshirt freshman George Uko is the most athletic 300-pounder you’ll see and is paired with the ultra-talented senior Christian Tupou. If Armond Armstead stays healthy in his final season, this unit will wreak havoc on QBs and running games all season.

The linebackers will return two starters, the experienced Junior middle linebacker Devon Kennard and senior outside linebacker Chris Galippo and will be surrounded by young, highly touted talent. Freshmen Dion Bailey will back up sophomore Marquis Simmons and Hayes Pullard will do the same on the weakside.

Last year, the Trojans got lit up for 260 yards and 60 percent passing completion per game. Yet, this porous secondary has improved. Only losing one starter, the remaining is experienced, young and very fast. They will be led by First Team all Pac-10 free safety TJ McDonald, whose 89 tackles led the team.

Sophomore cornerback Nickell Robey led the Trojans with four interceptions and returns with higher expectations. Former USC track star Tony Burnett who moved from safety to corner and the experienced senior Marshall Jones will bring more stability to the secondary.

Though the Trojans won’t have a ton of experience overall, this team could be much improved over last season.  

SCHEDULE

The Trojans will look to gain momentum early in the season, as the middle portion of their very tough 2011 schedule will make or break their season. Three consecutive home games may ease USC, but after the opener against Minnesota, things get tougher with Pac-12 newcomer, Utah and the Big East’s Syracuse.

The Utes have this game circled because without playing Stanford or Oregon, knocking off the Trojans and Sun Devils will guarantee a post-season birth for Utah. The Orangemen will bring a much-improved bowl game winner to the Coliseum.

The two top-ranked Pac-12 South teams will battle in Tempe as Arizona State will look to take down the Trojans and seemingly clinch the division. A physical running game that will take the rowdy ASU fans out of the game and attacking an inexperienced quarterback, will be USC’s game plan in this definite barn-burner.

The ‘trap’ portion of the Trojans schedule follows. The next two teams, combined to lose nine of the last ten games of 2010, including ones against the Cardinal and Gold. These are games that cannot be overlooked, as Arizona played Southern Cal tough, yet found a way to lose in the game’s final minutes and Cal’s past disinterest may lull the Trojans to sleep.

Scheduling a possible blowout game at Cal seems genius, especially when the Trojans will be tested four out of the next five weeks.

Traveling to South Bend to take on rivals, Notre Dame has always been both unpredictable and a slugfest. This odd 7:30 pm EST game is always seen as a bowl-type game to Trojan fans, and will be seen as just that, considering there are none in their immediate future. USC will not repeat last year’s disappointing performance, as they need to stay sharp for the nationally-ranked Stanford Cardinal the next week.

USC will be fired up to take on Stanford’s Heisman hopeful quarterback Andrew Luck, as they will start their own. Also fresh in their minds will be the “Clock Fiasco of 2010” that allowed the Cardinals to kick a last minute field goal in front of their roaring fans. This will be “Must See TV” that will feature two of the country’s top NFL Draft prospect quarterbacks.

Two new starting corners will be easy pickings for Pac-12 signal-callers, so Colorado’s secondary will be quite banged up by the time they host the Trojans. Good ol’ ESPN had the game moved up to Friday, giving USC a day less to recoup from Stanford and almost ensuring that the Trojan faithful would not be able to attend.

Oddly enough, the Washington game will be dubbed the “Payback Game.” After dropping the past two games to the lowly Huskies, the Trojans will definitely defend the Coliseum better. They will need to be sharp for the next week’s tilt against the Ducks.

A November meeting in Eugene to meet a Ducks team that has won three out of the last four meetings, will be USC’s toughest game. Oregon will be patching up an offensive line that was the key to their lightning fast offense and replacing a go-to receiver Jeff Maehl.By the time to the two powerhouses face each other, the Ducks will have had all season to iron these issues out. You can expect another high scoring slugfest.

The Trojans end the season against the cross-town rivals, the Bruins. UCLA’s horrific recruiting and coaching upheaval will have them field an uncompetitive team, that won’t be able to muster the energy to duke it out with the Trojans.  

OUTLOOK

An average season is not what any Trojan coach, player or fan will tolerate. The 2010 season may have been acceptable to some teams and fans, but not at Southern Cal.

Barkley may finally get the recognition USC fans feel he deserves on his way to leading a talented offense back into the national spotlight. He stands ready to do so even without a bowl game.

To live up to expectations, the team must fight hard against some formidable foes in the new Pac-12. The defensive is capable of putting up staggering numbers as well as a star receiver and freshman running back.

This writer predicts USC will be much improved in 2011 and could even reach an 11-1 mark. The offensive line will be problematic, but probably not to the tune of 2-3 additional losses. The offense will score a ton of points, thus forcing opposing offenses to take more chances (think 2010 Oregon Ducks), something that they won’t be able to afford against such a talented Trojan defensive line.

USC hardly lacks motivation, but will excel in playing with as much talent that is on this 2011 team. Southern Cal has the potential that, if not for the bowl sanctions, could have seen them play on New Years’ Day.

Despite this writer’s belief that a first-place finish is possible, National Football Authority predicts USC will win the Pac-12 South in 2011, however they will have to defer to the South’s second best team since the Trojans are not be eligible to play in the conference championship game.

PREDICTED RECORD: 9-3 (7-2 PAC-12)

August 22nd, 2011

Posted In: CFB

As has become the norm, the Cleveland Browns have a host of needs and holes to the hill before they begin a new season.

Nearly every part of their roster could use an upgrade. Even the quarterback and wide receiver rotation aren’t entirely set. They have Baker Mayfield under center, but he’s still toting the burden of proof, and star wideouts Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry are both coming off surgeries.

Running back is really the only position at which the Browns are totally, completely, unequivocally set. Gone are the days when losing someone like Brandon Jackson to injury is an actual problem, as it was in 2012. The Browns are more stable in the backfield, anchored by a 1-2 punch of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt.

Chubb is by far and away from the star among this duo. He might even be the Browns’ most valuable player. Last year, his age 24 seasons, he rushed for nearly 100 yards per game while averaging almost five yards per carrying. He also established himself as more of a passing threat off play actions and screens.

Hunt is the same age as his backfield running mate but still relatively new to Cleveland. He spent his first two seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs, during which time he emerged as their top rusher and a potential star.

However, midway through the 2018 season, the Chiefs released him after he was caught on video assaulting a woman. He didn’t play for the rest of the year and was also suspended for the first eight games of the 2019 season.

Many teams justifiably steered clear of him, what with his off-field trouble and the fact that he was set to miss half of the year. While the Browns’ decision to sign him at all is questionable, they were afforded a luxury other teams did not have: Chubb. They didn’t need a top rusher. They were just looking for the thunder to their lightning. Now they’ve found him.

Expect this duo to be a huge part of what the Browns do moving forward. Despite having so many recognizable names on the offensive side of the ball, including Mayfield, OBJ, and Landry, the Browns still only ranked 19th in passing touchdowns and 30th interceptions thrown last season.

Everything they do, until further notice, will come down to how they perform on the ground. Fortunately for the Browns, when you have Chubb and Hunt in the same backfield, that figures to be a good thing.

August 21st, 2011

Posted In: NFL

Leave a Comment

Houston Texans running back Chris Ogbonnaya made a big impression against the New York Jets Monday night, as he rolled through the Jets’ defense after a head injury ended Derrick Ward’s night. Ogbonnaya racked up 104 yards, including 67 through the air with 37 yards on the ground, and two touchdowns in both areas.

The first touchdown came in the second quarter, as quarterback Matt Leinart found him in the endzone with a four-yard pass. Two quarters later, Ogbonnaya punched the ball into the endzone in a goal-line formation, the recipient of a block from new Texan fullback, Lawrence Vickers.

Everyone knows that the Jets have now heard of Ogbonnaya, but has he made a name for himself enough to crack the Houston Texans active roster?

Coming out of the University of Texas, the now 25-year old boasted solid measures of 6 foot, 220 pounds, and was expected to be taken in the 2009 draft higher. During the combine, he clocked a 4.57 time in the 40 yard dash.

Instead, Ogbonnaya broke into the National Football League after waiting to be selected at pick No. 211 of the seventh-round by the St. Louis Rams.

While at Texas, Ogbonnaya was a jack-of-all-trades, playing wide receiver, tailback and fullback; which would come as no surprise that his contributions were hard to pin down.

Statistically, his career totals were 140 carries for 597 yards, with a 4.3 yard per carry average and eight touchdowns. He also brought down 75 receptions for 792 yards and three visits to the endzone.

A 2005 NCAA National Championship winner, Ogbonnaya is looking to help his home-state Texans establish a tradition of winning as well, but if he does not survive the finals cuts–countless teams would love to have him on their roster instead.

August 16th, 2011

Posted In: NFL

The Cleveland Browns took the field this afternoon to accommodate new player additions and re-signed players, but they still were not all practicing with the rest of the team.

At least for the first hour of practice, that is.

Then all players put on their helmets—it was a helmet practice only, no pads—and began playing with the rest of their teammates.

While live tweeting at camp today, the following are my observations on a few players.

Jayme Mitchell, DE

-A giant among the defensive unit, in height. Mitchell was playing with the first team defense at left end along with rookie Phil Taylor to his right, then Ahtyba Rubin and finally rookie Jabaal Sheard on the other end.

-Right away I could see Mitchell’s explsoiveness off the snap as he was creating pressure on the quarterbacks—regardless of who was at right tackle or trying to defend him. He will be heavily watched at Friday morning’s practice session.

Evan Moore, TE

-During red zone 7-on-7 drills, against the much smaller cornerback rookie Buster Skrine, Moore had a spectacular grab at the back of the endzone. Moore was able to one-hand the pass directly over the top of Skrine, due to the height mis-match (Moore is 6’6″ and Skrine is 5’10”).


Buster Skirne, CB

-Speaking of Skrine, he was mis-matched on more than the play described above against Moore. His smaller size seemed to come into play several times when he was participating in bump-and-run drills, getting dominated by the bigger receivers.

-Otherwise, Skrine looked fast and was playing the nickelback with the 1st team for much of the practice and until Dimitri Patterson took over the role later in practice.

-Skrine was also returning kickoffs because Josh Cribbs was still ailing from a leg injury.

Brandon Jackson, RB

-Once again Montario Hardesty was not taking reps this afternoon and I will be the first to admit it is starting to scare me a bit. Anyway, Jackson looked quick and agile, while showing off his speed on several reps during 11-on-11 drills.

-Jackson’s calves are huge too. They are like the size of Peyton Hillis’s biceps—literally.

Carlton Mitchell, WR

-Right away I could see Mitchell had a hop in his step and seemed very eager to get out on the field to run routes—in a receiver group which is getting more and more competitive each day.

-He showed off his speed on several pass routes, but also showed some signs of rust due to not being able to participate in the past few sessions (shoulder injury). I will be monitoring him on Friday as well.

Misc. Observations

-Receiver Jordan Norwood was still making plays in the slot, but the coaching staff sit back to chill for the last hour of practice. Head coach Pat Shurmur said Norwood injured his hip but it is nothing serious.

-Receiver Johnathan Haggerty was getting a ton of reps today and made the most of them by running crisp routes, getting open consistently and catching a lot of passes from the quarterbacks. Keep your eyes on him.

-Quarterback Colt McCoy looked more accurate than he did during Tuesday’s practice, completing more passes than he had incompletions.

-Quarterback Jarrett Brown still has a cannon on his shoulder and it is really fun to watch the ball launch—every time he throws it.

-Cornerback Joe Haden was still locking down his assigned receivers all session long. He made several great pass break ups showing tremendous closing speed.

August 4th, 2011

Posted In: NFL