Official Super Bowl Prediction

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Despite the doubt of fans and media members, the New England Patriots are going to yet another Super Bowl. Personally, I believed all season that the Patriots would not win a championship this year let alone even have the opportunity to compete for one. To take things one step further, I am of the mindset that they will never win another Super Bowl in the Brady, Belichick era due to a lack of youth and talent on their roster. While they proved me wrong by defeating the Chiefs at Arrowhead, I still have no confidence in New England beating the Rams this Sunday. There are multiple factors as to why I believe the Rams will win on Sunday and most have to do with personnel and how the Rams’ coaches use that personnel.

The Rams are better than the Patriots in two glaringly obvious areas. The first area is defensive line. New England’s offensive line versus the Rams’ defensive line will be the most important matchup in this Super Bowl due to the Patriots’ need to run the football. The Rams have a generational talent in defensive end, Aaron Donald and a very good former All Pro defensive tackle, Ndamukong Suh. While the Patriots’ offensive line has been very good this season and has neutralized dangerous pass rush duos multiple times this year, they have yet to face a defensive line quite like this one. Both Suh and Donald will command double teams from the Patriots’ offensive line, but that is simply just not possible to do on every single play. This means that New England’s linemen will be forced to match up one on one with Donald or Suh on some plays. There is no doubt that this will be problematic for the Patriots. I believe that in order for New England to have a successful offense, they need to run the football and control time of possession. In their past two playoff games, as a team, the Patriots have rushed for a total of 331 yards and 8 touchdowns while in both games New England jumped out to early leads and kept them for a majority of the time. I do not believe they will be able to do this on Sunday. I believe the Rams will fully commit to stopping the Patriots running game and force Tom Brady to beat them with the pass. Brady has struggled at doing this during the regular season as well as in the postseason and in his past two playoff games, he has just two touchdowns to go along with two interceptions.

The second area the Rams are better in, is their passing game. Not only do the Rams have more talent at receiver than the Patriots, but they also have a much more explosive passing game than New England. The Rams top two wide outs, Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods, both had over 1200 receiving yards this season while New England’s receivers had no one eclipse 1000 yards. The Rams are far more explosive than New England, utilizing crossing routes, bunch formations and their speed to defeat man coverage and draw pass interference penalties. I believe Bill Belichick’s defense will be forced to play more zone coverage in this game in an effort to try and defend the speed and bunch formations of Los Angeles. Zone coverage is certainly not New England’s strength and their coaches as well as their players much prefer to play man coverage. The Patriots’ secondary is far better when they play press man coverage rather then sit back in zone coverage. Earlier this postseason, we saw New England’s Stephon Gilmore get beat badly while playing a cover three zone.  

img_1394As the play unfolds, we see New England’s two outside corners each drop into a deep third of the field while the lone safety covers the middle third of the field.

img_1396As Chargers’ receivers get into their routes, we see Patriots corner Stephon Gilmore (#24) bite on an inside move made by receiver Keenan Allen who then blows by Gilmore for an easy touchdown. If New England was in man coverage, this would not be such an egregious mistake. However, Gilmore is assigned his deep third of the field no matter what and under no circumstances should he be biting on an inside move, even if the receiver breaks his route to the inside.

img_1395This is the aftermath of Gilmore’s mistake, an easy throw and catch touchdown between Phillip Rivers and Keenan Allen. Gilmore either had a miscommunication or simply made the incorrect read. It looks to me that Gilmore just made the incorrect read in zone and it is not the first time we have seen this. Gilmore has struggled in zone coverage with New England dating all the way back to when he first joined the team last season. It greatly concerns me that Gilmore is capable of having a breakdown this bad in a divisional playoff game. That fact, combine with the speed of Los Angeles and their play designs, worries me heading into Sunday’s matchup.

Ultimately, I believe the Rams will best the Patriots this Sunday. I do not think the Patriots will be able to dominate with the run game on offense against this Rams’ defensive line. Without a strong running game, New England will not be able to control the game in the ways they did against the Chiefs and Chargers. Los Angeles is explosive offensively as well as defensively and I do not think the Patriots will be able to go toe to toe in a shootout with the Rams.

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Patriots vs. Rams Positional Breakdown

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This Sunday will mark the ninth Super Bowl that New England head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady will compete in. Heading into this game, matchups will be key in order for either team to have success. From a positional perspective, I believe these teams match up well in terms of countering each other’s strengths. In other words, where the Rams have a strong defensive line, New England has a strong offensive line. As I evaluated players on both teams, I assessed a checkmark to the team who I believe has the advantage at that certain position.

 

Quarterback: Check mark, Patriots.

Tom Brady has without a doubt showed his age this season. Not only did he have an average statistical season, but he missed throws that we are all used to seeing him make. However, Brady, as well as the Patriots as a whole, look to have finally turned the corner. This postseason, Brady and the Patriots have looked like a much better team. Brady’s elevated play is a huge reason why, he looks focused and precise this postseason and has made laser throws against both the Chargers and Chiefs. While Rams quarterback Jared Goff has had an amazing season, there is no doubt that Brady has the edge with experience in big games and in clutch moments.

Offensive Line: Check mark, Patriots.

New England has had a great offensive line all season ranking fourth overall in the league by Pro Football Focus. They have continued their strong regular season performance this postseason and left tackle Trent Brown ranks second among all postseason tackles. In addition, so far this postseason, the Patriots’ offensive line has neutralized the pass rush duos of Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa of the Chargers as well as Dee Ford and Justin Houston of the Chiefs. Both sets of pass rushers were held to zero sacks and there is no doubt that this Patriots’ offensive line is battle tested. Going into this Sunday, New England’s offensive line will need to be at the top of their game as they prepare to face Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh. Despite New England getting the check mark in this category, the Rams are not far behind. Pro Football Focus ranked Los Angeles as the sixth overall offensive line unit in 2018 and star left tackle Andrew Whitworth has been the highest graded tackle so far this postseason.

Wide Receivers: Check mark, Rams.

New England’s receivers have struggled all season and while they have seemingly found their stride a bit this postseason, they still are nowhere close to the Rams from a talent perspective. The Rams top two receivers, Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods, both eclipsed 1,200 receiving yards this season while all of New England’s receivers fell short of 1,000 yards. I am not saying that the Patriots’ passing game is ineffective, but rather pointing out just how much more explosive the Rams’ passing game is.

Tight End: Check mark, Patriots.

Although starting tight end Rob Gronkowski has seen a heavy decline in his level of play this season, he still blows the Rams tight ends out of the water. The Rams do not have any star tight ends but rather two young players, Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett, who are both used in the offense. Higbee and Everett this season combined for 612 receiving yards while Gronk alone had 682 receiving yards this season. In addition to superior stats, Gronk has proven this postseason to be a very, very good blocker. While Gronk has always been a good blocking tight end, this postseason he has been borderline as good as some tackles in the league. Gronk’s blocking has become an interval part of the Patriots’ running game, allowing them to be creative with their blocking schemes. Despite Gronk’s recent decline, he is still capable of making big plays in key moments as he proved in the AFC Championship game and I believe he still is capable of having a few big games before his retirement.

Running Backs: Check mark, Patriots.

The Rams have one of the best running backs in the league in Todd Gurley. From a talent perspective, Gurley is a rare weapon that can affect the game in many ways. He has an amazing combination of speed and power along with an ability to catch passes and impact the game from different positions. However, this postseason, Gurley has had some injury issues and was benched in the NFC Championship game in favor of CJ Anderson. Whether or not Gurley plays extensively Sunday is a concern, but even if he does play, I believe the Patriots’ can bottle up the back. Historically, New England struggles most with shiftier backs, Gurley does not fit that mold. Combine that fact with Gurley’s benching and injury, the Patriots’ backfield gives me more confidence.

New England has no “best in the league” running back, but they do have two very good options in their backfield. Rookie running back Sony Michel, has proved himself to be a very good in between the tackles runner and has rushed for 242 yards along with 5 touchdowns in the past two playoff games. Veteran runner James White is a phenomenal receiving back and this is how New England uses him. In the past two playoff games, White recorded 19 receptions out of the backfield that went for 146 total yards. White has become a huge piece of the Patriots’ offense and it seems New England is at their best when White is catching balls out of the backfield for short gains.  

Defensive Line: Check mark, Rams.

The Rams have nothing short of a dominant defensive line. Lead by all pro defensive end and generational talent, Aaron Donald. Donald is nothing short of a game wrecker and tallied 20.5 sacks this season. Rams defensive coordinator, Wade Phillips, uses Donald in a very versatile role. In addition to lining up at a traditional defensive end spot, Donald also has the ability to play on the interior of the line and create several match up issues. However, Donald’s dominance alone did not land the Rams as the third best defensive line in the league. Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh is also a huge issue for opposing offenses. Suh has a reputation as a quitter as well as a dirty player. While those seem to be facts, Suh is an absolute monster when he gives his full effort and intensity. There is no doubt in my mind that the Super Bowl stage will bring out Suh’s full effort and the Patriots will certainly need to scheme around him.

Linebackers: Check mark, Rams.

Both the Rams and Patriots have uniquely different linebacker talent and ultimately I favored the Rams linebackers due to a personal preference. All of New England’s linebackers are built to stop the opponents running game and they are pretty good at it. However, where they excel in stopping the run and blitzing, they heavily lack in pass coverage. Every linebacker on the Patriots roster is a complete liability in man coverage against tight ends or running backs out of the backfield. This has proven to be extremely problematic in recent history, especially in last season’s Super Bowl where Eagles running back Corey Clement recorded four receptions for 100 yards and one touchdown.

The Rams linebackers are far better in coverage, but lack dominance in stopping the run. In fact, the Rams starting inside backer, Mark Barron, is a former safety and weighs just 215 pounds. The Rams get the check mark in this category because in today’s NFL, passing dominates the game and I put a higher value on backers being able to cover rather than stop the run, especially considering how good the Rams’ defensive line is.

Secondary: Check mark, Rams.

This was perhaps the most difficult position evaluation I made. I chose to favor the Rams in this category over the Patriots due to the Rams’ depth at corner and better safety play. There is no doubt that Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore is the best corner in this game. Gilmore has been a stud all season and was ranked number one in the league by Pro Football Focus. However, behind Gilmore on the depth chart is Jason McCourty and J.C Jackson. McCourty has been okay this season and I believe he has been a tad overrated. J.C Jackson has shown some promise late this season but he is still a rookie and struggled with penalties in the AFC Championship game. New England has a good veteran core at Safety highlighted by Devin McCourty. McCourty is by far the best safety on New England’s roster but over the past two seasons he has lost a step or two due to age. Nevertheless, McCourty is still more than capable of being a factor in games. The Patriots’ second safety, Patrick Chung, has struggled this season. Chung has never been amazing in zone coverage and has always been better defending the run as well as playing man on tight ends. Unfortunately, this season Chung has dealt with a notable shoulder injury. That injury combined with his older age has resulted in a mediocre season highlighted by struggles in man coverage.

The Rams have no one at cornerback who is on the same level as Gilmore. However, what they do have is three good, starting level NFL cornerbacks. Both Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters are household secondary names. While both players have slipped a bit, they are still good corners that are capable of making big plays. Possibly the most interesting corner on the Rams’ roster is Nickell Robey Coleman. Coleman is a very good slot corner who has played at a high level this season. It will be interesting to see how he matches up against the Patriots’ offensive scheme as we all know that New England relies on their slot receivers. In addition to their depth at corner, the Rams have very good safeties. Star safety John Johnson is an absolute stud at the position and has been the rock this season for a Rams secondary that has struggled with injuries. Johnson is capable of changing the game with big plays and with his coverage ability. The Rams’ second safety is Lamarcus Joyner. Joyner is an undersized safety measuring at just 5’8” 195 pounds. Despite his size, Joyner is still one of the better safeties in the game. While his size effects his ability with stopping the run, he has strong speed and excellent agility that leads to quality coverage play.

 

Many of these position evaluations are extremely close and some were simply based on what player type I would personally rather have over the other. Two examples of this are, a check mark to the Rams’ linebackers due to personal preference for coverage linebackers. Also, a check mark to the Patriots at running back due to their depth over having just one star back. Sunday’s game will be a match up of scheme and how each team decides to use their strengths to cover up their weaknesses.

Patriots Dominate, Can It Continue?

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Yesturday, the New England Patriots blew out the Los Angeles Chargers by a final score of 41-28. Despite the Chargers scoring 28 total points, much of that scoring came later in the game when the contest was effectively over. With the divisional round victory, New England will advance to their eighth straight AFC Championship game and will travel to face the Kansas City Chiefs this upcoming Sunday. There are several thoughts and observations I took away from the win over the Chargers and while some are encouraging, others worry me.

My first observation is this: the Patriots’ offense looked absolutely surgical throughout the game. To start, New England won the coin toss and elected to receive the opening kickoff, a move that has almost never been used in the Belichick coaching era. In New England, three things are certain, death, taxes and Belichick deferring on a won coin flip. However, this game was different. The Patriots wanted to come out aggressive and blow the Chargers’ doors off. This they did–New England’s opening drive took almost half of the first quarter and featured 14 plays that went for 83 yards which eventually lead to a one yard Sony Michel rushing touchdown. This trend continued as the Patriots’ scored on their first four possessions and by the time the first half was over, New England had opened up a 35-7 lead over Los Angeles. The Patriots’ offense looked nothing like anything we had seen all season. They looked young, fast and tuned up against a very good Chargers’ defense. Tom Brady looked healthy, sharp and confident as he finished the day 34/44 throwing for 343 yards and one touchdown. In addition to stats, Brady was confident and stepped into every one of his throws. He did not look nearly as timid as he has at some points this season. Julian Edelman was vintage and looked to have finally gotten past his knee/ foot injuries that have been plaguing him all season. Edelman finished with nine receptions for 151 yards and moved into second all time in postseason receptions behind only Jerry Rice. Perhaps the biggest factor in yesterday’s game was that New England’s offensive line absolutely dominated the line of scrimmage in both the running game and the passing game. The Patriots’ tackles neutralized the talented Chargers’ pass rush of Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram as well as blowing the Chargers’ defensive line off the ball to open up huge holes for Patriots’ running backs. As a team, New England ran the football 34 times for a total of 155 yards and four touchdowns. Rookie first round running back, Sony Michel, accounted for 24 of those attempts, 129 of those yards and three of those touchdowns. While the Patriots’ offensive line has been elite all season, they deserve the most credit for yesterday’s offensive performance.

My second observation was how New England needed heavy blitzing to put pressure on the Chargers’ offense. The Patriots have only one game wrecker on their defensive line, defensive end/ defensive tackle Trey Flowers. The Patriots’ have shown time after time that they are unable to put effective pressure on an opposing quarterback with just a four man rush. Yesterday, New England took out all the stops. From the start of the game, the Patriots sent heavy blitzes at the Chargers and forced quarterback Philip Rivers to make quick decisions that often led to poor passes or a throw away. As the game continued, the Chargers failed to make the proper adjustments to New England’s blitzes and Patriots’ head coach Bill Belichick did not let up.

My third and final observation from yesterday’s 41-28 win was the attitude of New England. Throughout the regular season, the Patriots did not seem quite right. From rare mental mistakes, to losing to teams that are not even in the postseason now, it is certain that the Patriots had a subpar regular season compared to their standard. However, in yesterday’s game, New England demonstrated none of the qualities they showed in the regular season. Instead, they looked like a Super Bowl contender with an aggressive mindset that was determined to prove everyone wrong. That attitude and mindset had been lacking all regular season and it was the biggest reason why I had written them off. However, if the Patriots are able to capture that same mindset for the next three weeks and play at the level they played at yesterday, this Patriots team will contend for a Super Bowl this season.

Despite the hope I have for this team, a few things still very much worry me as they go into Arrowhead Stadium this weekend. The number one factor I am concerned about is the history of their play while away from Gillette this season. The Patriots were 3-5 this season on the road and looked like a complete shell of themselves whenever they were away from home. I am interested to see whether or not they can break that trend this weekend, but history is not on their side. In addition to their road struggles, I am still very concerned about Rob Gronkowski’s level of play. Without a doubt Gronk had a huge impact yesterday in the blocking game but he only had one reception. In order for the Patriots to knock off the high powered Chiefs, they will need to be perfect on both sides of the ball. They will need Gronk to be a weapon in the passing game like he has been the majority of his NFL career. My final concern about New England’s chances in Arrowhead is how their defense will be schemed. While the Patriots were able to dial up blitzes against Los Angeles, many of those blitzes came with cover zero–a coverage where there is no safety in the middle of the field and leaves defensive backs matched up one on one across the field. While this look worked yesterday, the Patriots do not have the personnel to run those same blitzes consistently against the Chiefs. Aside from Stephon Gilmore, New England has no corner or safety that I trust in a one on one man coverage situation against any of the Chiefs’ offensive weapons. The Patriots’ second corner on their depth chart, Jason McCourty, can not be trusted in man coverage. McCourty proved yesterday that he will give up completions but will be in position to make the tackle after the catch. Usually, this style of coverage is good for a number two depth level corner. However, given the fact that New England needs to blitz in order to get pressure on the quarterback, this often put McCourty on an island. Mahomes will pick on McCourty all afternoon if McCourty is left on an island this weekend. Despite my early week concerns, it is still very early and there are still many factors to consider as we get closer to Sunday. At first glance, I believe the Chiefs have the edge in this game but New England showcased what they were capable of yesterday and I have no doubt that this will be a one score game.

Draft Arrogance Killed Pats Dynasty

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As hard as it may be to imagine, since 2014 the Cleveland Browns have hit on more of their first and second round draft picks than the New England Patriots. At first read, this statement seems asinine. After all, how can such a great football dynasty that has dominated the NFL for 20 years, have a worse drafting history over the last four years than arguably the worst football team over the last twenty years. While the Browns have had new Head Coaches along with constant revamps of their front office and scouting department, the Patriots have remained consistent. Head Coach Bill Belichick has been at the head of New England’s dynasty since 2000 and has established a historical winning culture through mentality, great drafting, new schemes and of course, Hall Of Fame quarterback Tom Brady. However, perhaps the years are finally catching up to the future Hall Of Fame duo. This season, Brady has looked all of 41 and is having a very average season at best. Part of this is due to age but part of it also has to do with a lack of talented offensive players around the quarterback and a lack of a shutdown defense. Head Coach and General Manager, Bill Belichick is to blame for the lack of talent on the 2018 Patriots team. Belichick has either let talented players walk out the door, refusing to pay them, or traded them for draft picks that he has wasted away. New England’s talent problem stems from the fact that Belichick has failed to replace the talent he has let go. In fact, the job he has done trying to replace talent has been so egregious that the garbage can Cleveland Browns have done a better job at drafting talent in the last four years than New England.

Patriots’ 2014 High Round Picks:

New England took a chance with their 2014 first round pick with the selection of defensive end Dominique Easley with the 29th pick. Easley did not last long with New England and was soon shown the door after not being able to stay healthy and having little to no impact. The Patriots did however, hit on their second round pick in 2014 with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. Garoppolo looked to be the next franchise quarterback for New England, but a few cat fights later landed Jimmy G in a trade with the 49ers and he is no longer with the Patriots.

Browns’ 2014 High Round Picks:

The Browns had two first rounds picks in the 2014 draft and hit on neither of them. Cleveland took cornerback Justin Gilbert 8th overall and quarterback Johnny Manziel with the 22nd overall pick. Neither player made an impact for the Browns or for any other team in the NFL and both players were moved out of the Browns organization labeled as “busts”. Despite whiffing on both first rounders, the Browns hit on their second round pick with guard Joel Bitonio. Bitonio has been a pro bowl level player and signed a huge contract extension with the Browns guaranteeing his future in Cleveland.

Patriots’ 2015 High Round Picks:

In the first round of the 2015 draft, the Patriots selected defensive tackle Malcolm Brown out of Texas. Brown looked to be a solid pick at the time and was supposed to be the next great rock in the middle of Belichick’s defense. Four years later, the pick has been a horrendous bust. Brown has been an absolute highway this season in the middle and is borderline unplayable. While Brown is still on the Patriots’ roster, he will move on this offseason. In the second round, New England took safety Jordan Richards. Richards was a raw player out of college and proved that he did not belong in the NFL. The Patriots moved on from Richards before the start of this season.

Browns’ 2015 High Round Picks:

Like the previous year, the Browns again had two first round picks that they yet again wasted. Cleveland took defensive tackle Danny Shelton 12th overall and tackle Cameron Erving 19th overall. Shelton was okay his first two years with the Browns but was traded away last offseason to New England where he has not made any impact whatsoever. Erving was a basket case from the start and he did not last long in Cleveland. With their second round pick, the Browns selected defensive end Nate Orchard. Orchard was an okay depth piece for the Browns but he never developed well or made a true impact and was cut by the Browns before the start of this season.

Patriots’ 2016 High Round Picks:

Unfortunately, New England was stripped of their 2016 first round pick after they were caught cheating. However, their second round pick was cornerback Cyrus Jones out of Alabama. Jones was another good looking prospect out of a high powered Nick Saban defense. Jones suffered a knee injury that ended his rookie season and effectively his NFL career. Jones never made an impact on the field and had punt fumble issues. The Patriots parted ways with Jones earlier this season.

Browns’ 2016 High Round Picks:

The Browns hit on none of their 2016 high round picks. Cleveland took wide receiver Corey Coleman from Baylor 15th overall. Coleman showed flashes but never lived up to his potential and the Browns let the former first rounder go earlier this season. In the second round, the Browns took defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah. While Ogbah is still on the Browns’ never panned out as a quality NFL player.

Patriots’ 2017 High Round Picks:

In 2017, the Patriots had an interesting strategy with their draft picks. They traded away their high round draft picks for somewhat established NFL players. They sent their first round pick to New Orleans for wide receiver Brandin Cooks. While Cooks had a decent statistical year last season, he never meshed quite right and was traded to the Rams last offseason for a first round pick. Cooks goes down as a bust as he was only here for one season and did not contribute to any sort of Super Bowl title. The Patriots got lucky and were able to recoup a first rounder for Cooks, but they would have been better off simply keeping their 2017 first rounder. New England also traded away their second round pick to Carolina for defensive end Kony Ealy. Ealy was a mess in New England and did not make it out of training camp, effectively wasting yet another second round pick.

Browns’ 2017 High Round Picks:

The Browns hit on all three of their first round picks in 2017. Cleveland took defensive end Myles Garrett first overall, safety Jabrill Peppers 25th overall and tight end David Njoku 29th overall. Garrett is an absolute beast and has developed into one of the best pass rushers in the league. Peppers struggled his rookie season but has since proved that he is a quality safety in the NFL and should continue to develop further. Njoku is a freak athlete at the tight end position and looks to be one of the better up and coming tight ends in the league. Despite hitting on three first round talents, the Browns whiffed on their second round pick with quarterback DeShone Kizer. Kizer played okay during his rookie season and showed some promising potential, but he was traded to the Packers this past offseason to backup Aaron Rodgers.

Patriots’ 2018 High Round Picks:

Although it may be too early to label these picks busts, it looks as if New England only hit on one of their first round picks this year. The Patriots took tackle Isaiah Wynn 23rd overall and running back Sony Michel 31st overall. Wynn suffered a season ending injury earlier this year and New England, yet again, got no production from a high round pick. Michel has played well this season and despite his lack of athletic burst that first round backs typically have, Michel has proven to be a quality NFL runner that should develop with more experience. In the second round, the Patriots took cornerback Duke Dawson. Dawson, like Wynn, suffered an injury that sidelined the rookie for half the season. While Dawson has been promoted to the active roster, he has yet to play or make any sort of impact. As of now, Dawson is a bust.

Browns’ 2018 High Round Picks:

The Browns yet again had multiple first round picks and yet again hit on both. Cleveland took quarterback Baker Mayfield with the first overall pick and cornerback Denzel Ward 4th overall. Mayfield is in the running for offensive rookie of the year and he has looked like the next face of the NFL. Ward has been consistently good this season and is by far the best rookie corner in the league. Ward and Mayfield look to have multiple pro bowls written all over them. In the second round, the Browns took guard Austin Corbett and running back Nick Chubb. Corbett has not flashed this season and looks to be a bust so far. Chubb on the other hand has looked great since being given more snaps. Chubb shows talent in the running game as well as the passing game and will only improve further as he ages.

In total, the Patriots have had ten picks throughout the first two rounds since 2014 and have hit on just two of these selections. New England has had a whopping 20% success rate when it comes to hitting on early round talent and it is now catching up with them. Comparably, one of the worst franchises in recent NFL history has had a higher draft success rate in the first two rounds since 2014 then arguably the best football dynasty of all time. Cleveland has had sixteen picks throughout the first two rounds in the last four years and have hit on eight of them. The Browns have an impressive 50% success rate with early round picks which blows the Patriots’ success rate out of the water. The lack of young talented players on the Patriots’ roster and brash attitude of unwillingness to pay talented veterans has seemingly caught up to New England and although they made the playoffs this season, the Patriots’ Super Bowl dynasty is over.

Rosen Could Save Patriots’ Dynasty

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Earlier today, Adam Schefter and Bleacher Report broke a story that current quarterback for the Arizona Cardinals, Josh Rosen, could be on the trade block. The story was reported as this, following the Cardinals hire of new head coach Kliff Kingsbury, Rosen may be moved so Kingsbury can draft Kyler Murray number one overall this spring. Kingsbury is reported to be in love with the talented quarterback prospect out of Oklahoma and desperately wants him. This would be a very surprising as well as an extremely bold move by Kingsbury. The Cardinals selected Rosen with the tenth overall pick just one year ago and while he played a majority of this season, Rosen has yet to even crack his full potential. The Cardinals have already proved their willingness to think outside the box and do what they believe is best for their team. Kingsbury, is just 39 years old with no NFL coaching experience, far from a typical NFL head coaching candidate. The move to hire Kingsbury shocked many and I believe the Cardinals may not be done with out of the box decisions this offseason.

Rosen’s value is hazy at the moment given his mediocre rookie season and reputation for having a bold attitude but he will certainly command at least a first round pick. However, if I were Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots, I would be blowing up the Cardinals’ phone lines in hopes to get a deal done for the young quarterback no matter the price. In Rosen’s rookie season, he totalled 14 games, threw the football for 2,278 yards, 11 touchdowns, 14 interceptions and completed just over 55 percent of his passes. This is without a doubt a case where the stats do not paint the true picture of the player. Arizona was the worst team in football this season and their roster has holes everywhere on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. Rosen was somewhat doomed from the start as the players around him were never going to make a real impact. In addition to a baren roster, the Cardinals had first year head coach Steve Wilks last season. Wilks had no prior head coaching experience and is a defensive minded coach, this was hardly going to be a good enough situation for any rookie quarterback to develop or succeed in. I easily believe that with the right situation and right coaching, Rosen can develop into an all pro level quarterback.

The true picture of Rosen is this, he is an outstanding prospect who has some of the best footwork, throwing mechanics and balance that a quarterback could possibly have coming out of college. Rosen does not have the strongest arm, but in a Patriots’ offense that is centered around short routes and precision passing, arm strength is far down the list of importance. In addition to an amazing lower half, Rosen shows great pocket awareness as well as an ability to keep his eyes down field while under pressure. Many NFL scouts and coaches have suggested that Rosen’s biggest flaw is the fact that he is too smart for his own good and that it leads to Rosen challenging coaches philosophies and schemes. I could not disagree with this more. I refuse to believe that you can have a quarterback that is “too smart.” This criticism comes from lazy coaches who simply want to tell their players what to do and hear no feedback. Rosen would benefit from a coach who is willing to go in depth and explain certain schemes as well as situations with him and hear his feedback. Coaches like that are in vast supply here in New England. You can not build a winning culture without them. Despite Rosen’s clear upside, he is not ready to play yet and further exposure to NFL level defenses could damage his development and potential. This is why New England should trade for the young quarterback now and let him sit for the next two seasons behind perhaps the greatest of all time, Tom Brady. With the tutelage from a soon to be Hall Of Fame coach and a soon to be Hall Of Fame quarterback, Rosen would develop into something special and I believe there is no price that would be too high to pay in a trade for Rosen.

Breathe, McDaniels Here To Stay

NFL: Chicago Bears at New England Patriots
Oct 26, 2014; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) laughs with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels (R) prior to the game against the Chicago Bears at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

 

The NFL has yet again entered the stage of the season where non playoff teams are firing their coaches and searching for the next great head coach to bring their franchise back to prominence. Patriots’ offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is perhaps one of the hottest head coach candidates on the market. Last season, McDaniels shocked the NFL world by first accepting the Colts’ head coaching job but then at the last minute changing his mind in order to return to New England in his offensive coordinator role. The incident left a sour taste in not only the Colts’ mouth but with other executives across the league and many assumed it would affect McDaniels’ chances of getting another head coaching job. However, one year later, McDaniels is yet again the hottest head coaching candidate. To date, McDaniels has interviewed with the Packers and rumors have circulated about Cleveland being interested as well.

McDaniels has experience, he received his first head coaching chance with the Denver Broncos in 2009 where he lasted just one season. Since that time, he has returned to New England where he has been one of the best offensive coordinators and innovators in the league. McDaniels not only has a great football mind, but he also has proven to have a great relationship with quarterbacks. Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady has spoken very fondly of McDaniels in the past and the two have an excellent relationship. All these factors put together, it is easy to understand why McDaniels is always highly coveted throughout the league. However, McDaniels is no easy hire. After learning from perhaps the best head coach ever, Bill Belichick, McDaniels knows exactly what situation is right for him and what situation is built for success. Aside from the Colts’ incident, McDaniels has never seemed to quiet find the right situation for him. This season, the Packers job looked to be a perfect fit for McDaniels and many in New England assumed that the Packers would make the hire. The Packers chose a different route though. They made Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur their new head coach and passed on McDaniels. This is great news for Patriots fans and team members. If McDaniels had decided to leave, New England would have been in a difficult spot. Quarterback Tom Brady is 41 years of age and certainly has no desire to learn a new offensive system or build a new relationship with a new coordinator. If McDaniels had left, there would have been a good chance that Tom Brady considered retirement at the end of this season. There has been speculation year after year about McDaniels’ next destination and the Colts’ situation raised many eyebrows as to what McDaniels’ motives truly are. However, earlier today McDaniels came out and said “the book is closed” on interviews for this year and that “I’ll be here moving forward.” Personally, I believe that McDaniels is playing a waiting game with current Patriots head coach, Bill Belichick. I believe the reason for McDaniels’ sudden change of heart last season with the Colts job was because someone high up in the Patriots organization informed him that Belichick does not have a lot of coaching time left and McDaniels would be in line to become the next head coach for New England.

Addressing Bruin’s Secondary Scoring Issues

 

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As we near the halfway mark of the 2018-19 NHL season, the Bruins are a cool 23-14-4 and will have to heat up during the second half of the season in order to have a chance this postseason. Heating up should not be a difficult task for Boston, as they recently got both Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara back after missing extensive time with injury. In addition to health, of the Bruins’ next 16 games, 12 will be played on their home ice and should provide a huge advantage for Boston during that stretch. However, in order for the Bruins to have a shot at a Stanley Cup title this season or to even make a deep playoff push, they need to address their secondary scoring issue. Boston has long had this issue and left it either unfixed or patched together. One example being this: last season the Bruins traded their first round pick and multiple mediocre players to the New York Rangers in return for a washed up Rick Nash. Nash was certainly an upgrade at the time for Boston, but he did not re-sign this offseason and is no longer playing in the NHL. Nash was nowhere near worth a first round pick, and the Bruins now have the same issue and needs as they did before the Nash trade but now are short a first round prospect. It is time for Boston to invest in a young talented players who will be on their roster for multiple seasons.

One silver lining of the Bergeron injury this season seemed to be that the Bruins were able to see how well their prospects have developed in Providence and determine which players were ready for the NHL. Sadly, none were able to make a significant impact or even show flashes of potential. This fact highlights the reality that the Bruins need to look towards the trade market to bolster their second, third and fourth lines. Another silver lining, one that no one saw coming, was the emergence of David Krejci. Up until recently, Krejci had been seen as a washed up, aging center who was a waste of cap space. However, the real issue with Krejci proved to be the lack of talent around him. With Bergeron out, Krejci was moved up to the Bruins first line where he was playing with All Stars like David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand. The combo worked well and Krejci’s game flourished through his ability to make key passes and set up scoring opportunities. The line was not as dangerous as the “death line” made up of Pastrnak, Marchand and Bergeron, but with Krejci proving that he can still facilitate a quality NHL line, this proves even more that the Bruins are perhaps just one piece away from a deep postseason run.

The trade I believe the Bruins should pursue is with the Edmonton Oilers for former first overall center, Ryan Nugent Hopkins. While Nugent Hopkins is classified as a center, he is more than capable of also playing wing which would bring huge versatility to Boston’s lineup. Nugent Hopkins is a quality NHL player who would more than likely solve the Bruins secondary scoring issues. In addition to his talent, Nugent Hopkins is just 25 years of age with two more years on his contract after this season and only a six million dollar cap hit per year. This contract is a great deal for a talent like Nugent Hopkins. This trade would likely require Boston to give up a talented defensive player as well as a young offensive talent. Boston can easily meet these criteria by giving up defenseman Torey Krug and either winger Jake Debrusk or center Ryan Donato. Krug is a talented defenseman and has played well for Boston, while he would be missed by the Bruins, I believe they could replace him. Krug has a 5.25 million cap hit and would roughly offset Nugent Hopkins’ contract for both teams. The real question about this trade for Boston is whether or not they should be willing to give up Jake Debrusk or Ryan Donato. Personally, I would not even consider trading Jake Debrusk in a package deal for Nugent Hopkins. Debrusk has had huge flashes and is too talented and too young to consider trading at this point. He needs to develop a few more seasons in order for Boston to discover his true potential. I would, however, be in on trading Ryan Donato in a package deal for Nugent Hopkins. Donato is a high prospect with a tremendous ceiling but he has failed to be consistent and earn a bigger role for the Bruins. Despite some of Donato’s struggles in Boston, he is still thought of highly throughout the league and is a top NHL prospect that commands a lot of capital on the trade market. The deal not only makes sense for Boston as they acquire the one piece they need to make a deep playoff run, but also makes sense for Edmonton as they acquire a consistently good defenseman, who they have needed for some time now, as well as a talented young center who can be allowed to further develop in Edmonton’s talented offense. This deal is realistic, as Edmonton’s General Manager is Peter Chiarelli. Chiarelli has connections with Boston’s front office as he was the General Manager for the Bruins when they won the Stanley Cup in 2011. The bottom line is that both teams take on some risk with this deal, but there is no real reason why this trade should not be done. Both contracts balance out and both teams fill needs they have.