Thursday, August 31, 2017

New England Patriots 2017 Preview

The Super Bowl champs are getting ready to defend their title, with both Tom Brady and Bill Belichick looking for their sixth ring together this season. While the Patriots are overwhelming favorites to get back to the big dance, losing star wide out, Julian Edleman is going to hurt. How will the Patriots manage, and handle a tricky early season schedule? I talk with Chris Hogan of 27 Outs and iHeart radio in this season preview.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Bryce Petty suffers MCL Sprain, Should be 'Ok'

It says a lot when an injury to the presumptive third string quarterback makes headlines, but when it comes to the Jets -- nothing is normal.

During last night's 32-31 loss to the Giants, quarterback Bryce Petty was having the game of his life until one of his teammates rolled up on Petty's leg, and twisting his knee in the process. Petty left the game with staff concerned that the knee was not stable. Fortunately for Petty the injury is not severe.

An MRI on Sunday revealed that the injury was just a MCL sprain, and Petty hopes to be ready for the Jets preseason finale against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Petty might find himself in the running for the starting job, considering he had a perfect quarterback rating of 158.3 against the Big Blue, and brought the Jets back from a 29-3 deficit. He had three touchdowns in the effort, and threw for 250 yards in the second half. He has been the Jets most polished passer in in-game action this summer.

While the Jets have oddly kept presumptive starter Josh McCown on the pine for an undisclosed reason (do we smell injury), Petty is clearly leaps and bounds ahead of Christian Hackenberg for at least the back-up job.

Hackenberg Absolutely Stinks in Jets-Giants Clash

In the dress rehearsal for both the Giants and Jets, we got a pretty good indication of where both teams are heading this year, in Big Blue's 32-31 win on Saturday night. Let's take a look.

Christian Hackenberg:
In what should be his last chance to vie for the starting job in Week 1, Christian Hackenberg was putrid in the Jets 32-31 loss to the Giants on Saturday night. If that doesn't cost him the starting job, I don't know what will. Hackenberg had no command of the starting offense, and looked totally bewildered against the Giants pass rush. He threw a costly pick-six to Landon Collins who read him like a book to give the Giants a 12-0 lead. Later in the first half he threw another interception, that really wasn't his fault, considering Robbie Anderson was decked on the ball, which jarred the football loose. Still it was another pick-six as Big Blue built a 29-3 lead.

Overall, what has to concern the Jets about Hackenberg is this, before his late touchdown in the fourth quarter, the Jets had only three points in 18 possessions with Hackenberg under center this summer. That is awful! He is clearly not ready for primetime, and if the Jets are interested in winning any games this year, they shouldn't play him when it counts.

Bryce Petty:
If Petty was truly given a legit shot to be the starter of this Jets team, he would have earned it last night. Petty was brilliant, completing 15 of 18 passes for 250 yards and three touchdowns. He has clearly been the most polished quarterback out there during live game action this summer, and if anything should be the Jets number 2. It was scary to see him go down in a heap in the fourth quarter on a knee injury. Fortunately it was just a sprained MCL.

Jets offensive line:
Again, this might be the worst offensive line in the NFL. The Jets failed to protect their quarterback, as Jason Pierre Paul ate them for dinner. Hackenberg took three sacks, and they gave up a safety on a busted play in the backfield. This unit stinks, period.

Eli Manning: 
Eli didn't play very long for the Giants  in this game. He didn't need to considering the defense was doing all the work. Manning was 7-of-14 for 121 yards and a pick. He wasn't spectacular, and it was clear that he missed having both Odell Beckham and Brandon Marshall in the lineup. The Giants will score points this year, but it was kinda a downer for Big Blue that their offense wasn't dynamic against the Jets.

Giants Finally Score a TD: 
The Giants did score a touchdown in this game offensively, on Orleans Darkwa's one-yard plunge with 22 seconds to play in the first half.

G-Men's O-Line still shaky. 
Ben McAdoo was trying all kinds of different combinations last night on his offensive line. The Giants had a lot of trouble with this unit last year. There was a mix of good and bad on Saturday. They didn't do a good job holding the blitz early on leading to a Manning pick, but they did clear some lanes for the Giants to gain 9
1-yards on the ground. It was not an overwhelmingly good effort, unless you go deep into individual performances.

Giants D is sick! 
If the Giants offense is going to struggle this year, they will make it up with their defense. This is a very opportunistic unit. Put this group up against some of the more mediocre offenses in the NFL, and they could find a way to pitch a shutout. They harassed Hackenberg all night, and had the Jets on their heels for much of the game. JPP dominated with a sack and two quarterback hits. Landon Collins had another interception for a touchdown, and Damon Harrison was again productive up the middle.

Friday, August 25, 2017

New York Jets 2017 Season Preview

Extremely low expectations have surrounded the Jets all off-season, and many expect New York to have the worst team in the NFL this fall. Why not? The Jets have done everything to show they are rebuilding, shedding millions of dollars in payroll, and overhauling the roster with a bunch of young, and inexperienced players. 

Now the talk is what will happen next? Christian Hackenberg has turned out a mediocre training camp and preseason, while veteran Josh McCown is getting little reps in practice as the season fast approaches. Clearly the Jets, who have a major issue at quarterback, are still looking for that franchise guy. Will they tank the season to get that guy in next year's draft? 

Anyway I preview the season with my bud Dan Feuerstein, who is covering the Jets for Enjoy the show! 

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Open Mike NFL Training Camp Tour Continues ...

My NFL training camp tour continued this week with two more additions to the mix in the Chicago Bears and Carolina Panthers. 

The Bears are heading into 2017 with low expectations, but all eyes will be on Mitchell Trubisky's progress as the starter. I am joined by friend, Robert Villarreal, a big time Chicago sports fan to talk about the Bears 2017 season! 

Two years ago, the Panthers were 15-1 and in the Super Bowl. Then the injuries happened, and the Panthers finished 6-10 last year. A front office shake-up this summer has added to the intrigue that is the Panthers 2017 season. How will it go? I talk to SB Nation's Brian Beversluis ... 

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Jets D Dominates Titans


While many expect the New York Jets to be one of the NFL's worst teams, the players and coaches certainly aren't listening. While it is preseason, New York won its first game in a 7-3 slugfest against the Tennessee Titans, in a game where the Jets defense dominated the night with eight sacks and two forced turnovers.

The Good: 

The Jets defense was phenomenal on Saturday night. New York harassed Titan quarterbacks all night, including sacking third stringer Alex Tanney seven times. Starter Marcus Mariota was sacked once by Leonard Willams in the first quarter, which set the tone for the night. Really, this entire game was won on the back of the Jets D. They never relented against the Titans, bringing tons of pressure on Tanney who played about 90 percent of the game. The Jets secondary was also physical at the line of scrimmage against Tennessee's receivers, forcing Tanney to take the extra beat to look for an open man, which there was none.

Perhaps the biggest moments of the game came in the early stages of the fourth quarter with Tennessee knocking on the door at the Jets 26. Tanney heaved a pass into the end zone that was picked off by Ron Martin.

Later, with Tennessee again moving deep into Jets territory, Tanney was strip sacked by Anthony Johnson at the Jets 30. Nose tackle Josh Martin recovered for New York, killing the Titans momentum.

Overall the Jets held the Titans to just 11 first downs and 223 yards of offense. It was a dominant effort by a unit that must dominate all season.

Josh McCown: McCown got the start on Saturday, and even though it was only one possession, he looked sharp. McCown was 3-of-4 for 72 yards and a touchdown.  His first completion was a 15-yard screen to Jalin Marshall on first and ten at the Jets own 31. Two plays later, McCown hit a bomb to Robbie Anderson of 53-yards to the Titans two-yard line. Finally, McCown found an open Charone Peake in the flat for the touchdown to give the Jets a 7-0 lead.

The not so good, but not so bad. 

Christian Hackenberg had a mixed bag on Saturday. He wasn't awful, but didn't set the world on fire either. Overall he was 18-of-25 for 127. He didn't look overwhelmed, but never really effectively moved the offense at all on Saturday, an issue that had more to with the Jets offensive line. More on them later.

The Truly Awful: 

The Jets offensive line looks like one of the worst units in franchise history, if not in the entire NFL right now.

They didn't create enough time for Hackenberg or Bryce Petty in the pocket, not to mention, the Jets lone turnover of the line was because of a bad quarterback-center exchange. The O-line also failed to  create effective running lanes for the Jets ground attack.  Granted, the Jets were without Bilal Powell and Matt Forte on Saturday, but it probably wouldn't have made much of a difference. That is how bad this offensive line was.

The Jets were called for nine penalties on the night, and most of those came on the offensive line. Jets General Manager Mike Maccagnan has refused to address the line problems in the draft and it clearly showed.  If the Jets want to exceed expectations, either this unit is going to have to improve by leaps and bounds, or they better hope someone good gets cut in another camp that they can pick up.

Bryce Petty: Petty looked terrible. Like I wrote earlier, the offensive line didn't help him, but his footwork was off on a number of plays, and he even held the ball too long and took a couple of bad sacks. Petty, who hasn't exactly lit it up in camp, is quickly losing any hope of getting a shot to be a starter on this team.

The West Coast Offense: Never been a big fan of the West Coast. If a team doesn't have an effective offensive line or a strong armed quarterback, this offensive strategy can be incredibly stale. Hence was the case against Tennessee.

What's next? The Jets visit the Detroit Lions next Saturday night.

Open Mike: NFL Training Camp Preview Series

I have opened up my NFL Training camp series for the 2017 season. I will be covering as many teams as possible throughout the month on the Open Mike program which will be heard on the SportsTalk Nation channel on YouTube.

In the first episode I spoke with writer Michael Hernandez, who covers the Miami Dolphins, to talk about Jay Cutler's presence on the Fish in 2017.

Next I am joined by John Robert of Cover to talk about the defending NFC Champion Atlanta Falcons. We talk about how ATL can overcome last February's crushing Super Bowl loss.

Backups listless in Giants 20-12 Loss to Steelers


What did we learn from Friday night's preseason opener between the New York Giants and Pittsburgh Steelers? Not much. Not much at all.

With the starters on both teams spending much of the game on the sidelines, heck neither Ben Roethisberger nor Eli Manning took a snap in this snooze fest, the Giants backups looked the part in a 20-12 loss to the Steelers.

What Looked Good: 

The Giants did play most of their defensive starters on Friday, and they looked good, granted it was against a second team offense for Pittsburgh. Landon Collins had five tackles, including blowing up Pittsburgh running back Terrell Watson. New York also sacked quarterback Joshua Dobbs three times, and forced two interceptions. Devin Taylor and Valentino Blake both had picks in the effort for Big Blue.

Mike Nugent and Aldrick Rosas continue their kicking competition camp with perfect nights against the Steelers. Nugent's long was 45 yards, while Rosas hit one from 52 yards out.

What Didn't Look Good: 

Geno Smith. What a shock? He may have switched uniform colors, but Geno Smith was still the same old Geno Smith. He had moments of brilliance, like rolling out of the pocket and finding open receivers down field, and also had moments of buffoonery. With the Giants lead 12-10, Smith threw  a costly interception at New York's own 30 yard line. Pittsburgh turned the gaff into three points to take the lead for good at 13-12.

Smith was also sacked twice in the defeat, as it was clear he is likely behind Josh Johnson in the battle to be Eli Manning's backup.

Rookie quarterback David Webb looked the part on Friday. He had the proverbial "deer in the headlights" look in his eyes all night, but still managed to complete eight of 16 passes. He is a project that is years away from ever seeing the field.

What Didn't We Learn? 

Still not 100% sure that Josh Johnson is a solid pick to be Manning's back-up. He was underwhelming. The only thing he had going for him is he didn't make the mistakes Geno Smith made.

We didn't see the Giants high octane passing attack of Odell Beckham, Brandon Marshall and Sterling Shepherd. Relax, we'll see them together by next week's contest.

What's Next? 

The Giants face the Cleveland Browns on Monday, August 21. These aren't your typical Browns. They have a young prospect in Deshone Kizer who looked real good in Cleveland's preseason opener against New Orleans. Kizer is competing with journeyman Brock Osweiler for the starting quarterback job.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Amed Rosario to Make MLB Debut Tonight

The wait is now over. The New York Mets are looking to future on Tuesday night in Denver, when Amed Rosario makes his long anticipated major league debut at shortstop.

Call it a passing of torch if you will as veteran Jose Reyes, once the gem of the Mets minor league system all those years ago, now gives way to the man who will eventually replace him.

Like Reyes in 2004, Rosario comes with a great resume and lots of hype. The 21-year old holds a slash line of .328/.367/.466 with seven homers and 58 RBI for Triple-A Las Vegas. He also owns 19 stolen bases this season, and 60 swipes in his career.

While Rosario is hitting eighth tonight, the hope is that by the end of this year, and certainly going into 2018, Rosario will take over the lead-off spot for the Mets. That will allow Michael Conforto to hit in the middle of the order where he belongs.

The addition of Rosario comes after the Mets made some solid moves at the deadline. First they traded away Addison Reed to Boston for three minor league prospects. They also acquired a solid triple-A pitcher from Tampa Bay for Lucas Duda, and received a front line reliever who can help them right away in A.J. Ramos.

With Rosario now in fold, it only deepens the fact that the rest of the 2017 season is an audition to see who will be here in 2018.  We know Rosario, Conforto and Yoenis Cespedes are not going anywhere. But, these are likely the final days of Reyes, Curtis Granderson, Asdrubal Cabrera and Neil Walker in Mets uniforms.

In a lot of ways this is a sad occasion, as much as it is a hopeful one. Why? Because Rosario's presence at short likely means we have seen the last of Jose Reyes as an everyday shortstop. While Mets fans knew this day was inevitable, especially when he is struggling with a .226 batting average, Reyes was a face of this franchise for a long time.

It feels odd that it is now 12 years since Reyes and David Wright became the faces of the Mets future. The days of Mike Piazza, Edgardo Alfonzo and company were history, and it was time for an influx of new blood. Reyes and Wright gave the Mets the youth and energy they were hopping for then. And they came oh so close in 2006 to that World Series, before falling to St. Louis in the NLCS. Wright finally got to a World Series two years ago, but Reyes never played in the Fall Classic.

Now it is time for Reyes to pass the baton over to Rosario.

Here's to the future.

Open Mike: MLB Trade Deadline Recap Show

The trade deadline has come and gone, and I got the chance to recap it all on Open Mike last night with guest Doug Rush. Rush is a Yankees blogger, and of course the Yankees made a lot of noise this July, most notably with their acquisition of Sonny Gray.

In addition, the Dodgers made some last minute magic when they acquired Yu Darvish from the LA Dodgers.

We talk about it all, right here on Open Mike.