Tag Archives: Adrian Peterson

Lynch vs Peterson

The NFL off-season gets fans in a frenzy and for good reason.  It’s in the off-season where the draft happens and free-agency happens, and it’s because of these tools that fan-bases are given new hope.  Whether the hope is fabricated optimism or reality is to be revealed as the actual season unfolds, but until then it’s all open for debate.  This season, the Raiders went and acquired running back Marshawn Lynch and the New Orleans Saints signed free agent running back Adrian Peterson.

They are both products of the 2007 NFL draft, Lynch going number 12 to the Buffalo Bills, while Peterson went number 7 to the Vikings.   Comparing the numbers side by side, Peterson is clearly the better running back.  In some discussions, Peterson is looked upon as the best back to emerge out of college in the last decade.  His production, when healthy, is always league-best or close to it.  His last three seasons have been a sea-saw of consistency though. In 2014, he played one game and was suspended because of  child-abuse charges and in 2016 he tore his meniscus (right knee) and was limited to three games of action where he didn’t average over two yards a carry. . . 2015 though he led the NFL in rushing yards, yards per game, carries and rushing touchdowns. . .

Peterson found himself a free agent in this off-season and the only team he’s ever played for, the Minnesota Vikings were ready to let him go.  The New Orleans Saints signed Peterson to a two year, $7 million contract, with a signing bonus of two and a half million dollars. It was an interesting move for the Saints, whose running back Mark Ingram had a career high in rushing yards with 1043 and averaged over five yards a carry.  Considering the Saints, who led the NFL in passing yards last year, are team who’s offensive attack is concentrated around Drew Brees and the passing game – it was an interesting signing to say the least.  Maybe, the Saints will focus on a more “ball-control” oriented offense, to help preserve the health and stamina of their veteran quarterback?

Marshawn Lynch’s story is a bit different from Peterson’s.  Actually it’s a vastly different scenario.  After 2015, Lynch retired from the NFL altogether, sitting out the 2016 season but when the Oakland Raiders showed interest in the Oakland native, he was all about “the comeback.”  A year off might’ve been what “Beast Mode” needed as he had an injury plagued 2015 season, that saw him finish the season with a little over 400 yards at less then 4 yards a carry.  After Seattle traded his rights to the Raiders, Lynch was signed to a two-year contract worth $9 million with a $2 million signing bonus.  Lynch joins an Oakland Raiders team that some feel may be the only team to challenge the New England Patriots in the AFC.  Last season the Raiders had a very balanced offensive attack, finishing ninth in passing yards and fifth in rushing yards.  The rushing yardage total was more because of the offensive line than the actual ball-carriers though.  The Raiders worked with a running back by committee system, and it’s leading rusher was Latavius Murray who finished with less than 800 yards on the season (in a twist of irony, Murray signed with the Vikings this off-season).

So who got more bang for their buck?

Of course this is all built off of assumption, but everything points to Marshawn Lynch having more of a positive impact with the Raiders this season than Adrian Peterson will with the Saints.  Peterson, looked bad the last time we saw him – before he got hurt and he’ll be definitely splitting carries with Ingram in the backfield.  Drew Brees, might like the insurance policy that is Adrian Peterson, but the way this offense moves, and the language it uses, his comfort-level with Ingram will be hard to dethrone.  Lynch on the other hand, is on a team that truly believes with this offensive line, a well rested and newly motivated Marshawn Lynch will give them the consistency they need in the backfield.  Lynch retired from Seattle, because he wasn’t happy there anymore – let’s not get that twisted.  Lynch is looking forward to representing his hometown, especially on a team that is so focused on winning a championship like the Raiders.

For Peterson, it might be a season that we’ve seen once too many times for sports-greats.  Peterson is a lock to get into the hall of fame one day, but this might be a season that leaves his fans remembering him NOT as the dominant back he once was, but as a veteran hanging on to his glory days – and cashing out while he can.

G.W. Gras

@GeeSteelio

NFL Free Agency Hype

On Thursday, 4:PM Eastern Standard Time, the NFL’s free-agency period begins.  This is when every homeless NFL player gets wined and dined by different teams or offered a chunk of money they can’t turn down to re-locate.  OR, this is when players will take a pay-cut anywhere in the league, just to be part of the league.  There is desperation on both parts actually, and maybe that’s where the intrigue lies.

On average, there are about 2-3 players in free agency that can make an immediate positive impact on any team they are added to, a handful of players that can make a different on specific teams and the rest are just. . . guys.

The players that should be on everyone’s radar defensive end Calais Campbell, guard Kevin Zeitler and wide receiver Terrelle Pryor.  For eight straight seasons, Calais Campbell had been one of the more consistent defensive ends in the league, last years his numbers took a dive – but so did the whole Arizona Cardinals team.  Not just Campbell, the entire organization – was underwhelming.  A fresh start for Campbell is just what he needs.  A team with a need at that position and known to over-pay for veteran talent, the Redskins can be a nice landing spot for Campbell – or he can opt for life in sunny Florida and sign with the Jaguars, who will once again be packed with potential next season, and maybe need a defensive veteran like Campbell to take them to that next level. . . .

Offensive linemen are never fun to discuss, so we’ll make this one quick.  NFL.COM, pretty much nailed Kevin Zeitler when they described him as “a nasty-tempered blocker who wins with strength.”  A perfect landing spot for him would be Seattle, a team that needs to run the ball better and protect their quarterback Russell Wilson, who has been sacked at least 40 times in each of the last four seasons.

Terrelle Pryor may surprise some to be on the list of my top-three free agents, but consider what he did last year. . .on the Browns.  Every week a corner would try to talk down the competition they would face in a guy like Pryor and Pryor always showed up.  He somehow managed over 1,000 receiving yards although it was obvious he was the only source of offense the Browns had.  Rumor has it, he may stay with the Browns but – why?  So many teams – in nicer locations – can use a wide out like Pryor, like the 49ers or the Rams – or he can find himself in a better situation with a team like Carolina which would make sense from an offensive side of things considering Devin Funchess turned out to be  a let down last season.

Most people have a different player as the number one receiver, and that is Alshon Jeffrey.  Like Pryor, he may return to his original team the Bears, but there will be a lot of people vying for the services of a wide-out who has the best “locating” ability of balls in the league.  Jeffrey may want to abandon Chicago’s “rebuild” days and go to a team on the up-and-up like the Titans or even a team that lacks a true number one like the Eagles.  These are the only two teams that would become instantly improved with Jeffrey added into the mix.  He’s too sloppy for my liking in terms of route-running or running in general.  Nothing is ever really smooth with Jeffrey – let it be his play on the field or his conditioning. . . .

Tony Romo will most likely be let go by the Cowboys and let the era of Dak Prescott enter it’s second season.  Romo has been tied to two teams if that happens, the Broncos and the Texans.  Both are nice options, but the Texans just make more sense.  Tony wouldn’t have to leave the state of Texas and he’ll be part of a team with an offensive head coach, with more than enough weapons around him. Add to that, he’s got a very winnable division to make it an easy road into the playoffs.  Romo’s risk doesn’t come with talent, but injury.  If the Texans can keep him upright for a whole season though – this is a team that can make the AFC Championship game, with no problem.

Buyer beware of ANY FREE AGENT DEFENSIVE BACK.  Name ’em: Stephon Gilmore, A.J. Bouye, Tony Jefferson, Barry Church – the list goes on.  Corners are usually more a product of their system and chemistry within the entire secondary then anything else.  Even Darrelle Revis, while still in his prime, looked like a garbage signing when he was put into the Tampa Bay Bucs defensive plans.  Even if you’re running the same kind of defense, it’s always buyer-beware with secondary guys.  Too many times, we’ve seen safeties and corners, sign a huge deal and be an after thought by their second season with a team.

Don’t Touch It:  Adrian Peterson:  unless this all time great is going to play for a league minimum, don’t even bother.  Peterson was limited to only 37 carries due to injury last season and even then, he couldn’t muster even two yards a carry.

Best Buy: Pierre Garcon: He has always been a strong wide out, who blocks, runs good routes and has good hands.  He can help out a young quarterback in being that consistent piece within an offense, or he can be a deadly weapon in an already potent attack.  He’s always been under-rated because his numbers never match his talents, but he’s a guy who can really do it all.

REMEMBER THOUGH. . . this IS free-agency and quarterback Mike Glennon is a commodity who can get anywhere up to $15 million a year because of the quarterback market.

Free Agency is a time where bad teams get desperate and players get really over-paid.  Just hope that your favorite team doesn’t lose their mind come this Thursday. . .

 

G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio

NFL 2015: What We Learned and What We Can Expect

Every NFL season brings it’s own brand of drama.  It’s own brand of heroics.  And unfortunately for some of us, it’s own brand of heartbreak.  Now that the Denver Broncos have been crowned champions of the league, the ever important off-season is in effect.  Contract talks, free agent signings and rookie hype all start now and before we know it – Boom –  we’re back into a whole new swing of weekly heart-attacks.  Here are a few things we learned from the 2015 season, and a few things we can expect from teams in it’s aftermath.

What We Learned:

It didn’t matter who the Broncos had at quarterback this year.

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Let’s be honest, if the money that was spent on Manning was given to a better running back, their season would’ve had the same outcome, but without any controversy.  Broncos kept old-school traditionalist smiling by winning the Super Bowl, just so that crowd can say “Defense wins championships.”

Adrian Peterson isn’t human.

Whether he’s returning from a terrible injury or returning after being ripped apart by the media for a year – nothing can stop Adrian Peterson.  In his ninth NFL season, Peterson ran for over 1400 yards and doesn’t seem to have slowed down a bit.  One would think that his bruising style would slow him down but he seems just as fit as he did in 2012 when he ran for over 2000 yards.  Too bad the Vikings are continually in a rebuild.  They had a once in a lifetime player and came up with nuggets during his tenure there. . . so far.

The Eagles and the Browns Have No Idea What They’re Doing.

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So let me get this straight.  The Eagles fired Andy Reid, who in 14 years at Philly gave them six division titles and brought them to five NFC Championship games; to hire Chip Kelly who went 10-6 in his first two seasons and then fired him when he went 6-9; to ultimately hire Doug Peterson, who was offensive coordinator in Kansas City.  Oh, who was he the coordinator under?  None other than Andy Reid.  You can’t make this stuff up.  The term “ass-clowns” comes to mind when discussing the Eagles.  The Browns aren’t all that better.  Since 2001 they’ve had seven different head coaches and six different general managers.  They’ve whiffed on numerous first round picks, the recent being the “in the media for all the wrong reasons quarterback” Johnny Manziel.  Both of these teams have loyal fan bases who at any given moment might just rush the main offices in the same fashion as Black Friday shoppers rush a Wallmart.

The Dolphins Are Awful:

Their quarterback, Ryan Tannehill’s numbers should really be looked into because the majority of his damage is done in garbage time.  And when it comes to the Miami Dolphins, their whole season is garbage time.  They spent big money on Mike Wallace some time back – got nothing in return.  Now they spent big money on Ndamakong Suh – and they’ll get nothing in return from that as well.  They had building blocks for a good defense but had to let a lot of that go to sign Suh.  Does Marc Anthony still own a part of this team?  If so he needs to bounce on this team quicker than he bounced from J-Lo (or as quickly as he bounced on to J- ah, never mind.)

What to Expect:

Kirk Cousins gets franchised by the Redskins.

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Kirk Cousins is a free agent and after his ridiculously good second half of the season, he may have played himself into the sights of NFL teams needing a starting quarterback.  Jay Gruden has believed in him and the Skins can’t be stupid enough to let Cousins walk.  I’d hope. . .  Just to make sure it isn’t fool’s gold though, a smart move would be to pay cousins a big salary for this season and see if they can get more of the same.  It’s worth the gamble if he turns out to be their guy for the next 5 years or so.

Matt Forte Finds Life On a Contender and For A Bargain Price.

Forte is 30 and has a very flashy skill set.  He’ll continue to avoid contact to stretch out his career and he’ll have to find a system where he’s either well protected or will play in space.   The Bears have been overpaying him for years, so he’ll look less for a payday and more for a winner.   Expect  New England or Denver to be the most intriguing plays with Dallas not too far behind.

NFL Starts Losing Faith in Andrew Luck.

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It won’t be his fault either.  They re-signed arguably the worst coach in the NFL in Chuck Pagano and they continue to draft badly and sign free agents that make no sense.  The offensive line will continue to be a mess and Luck, feeling the weight of every game on his shoulders, will start to lose confidence as he’s throwing picks trying to play “catch-up” every week.

Panthers Trying To Get Cute.

The Panthers have been a gritty team under head coach Ron Rivera, but expect them to franchise or straight up re-sign cornerback Josh Norman, and expect them to sign a couple of flashy free-agents in what will appear to be an upgrade in offense.  The truth is, this is a tight knit group that works more on the chemistry around their super star Cam Newton.  Although with a healthy Cam Newton, the Panthers win this division by default it’s still not a smart move to stir this pot too much.

The Browns Will Blow Another First Round Pick:

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Poor Cleveland.  They just don’t get it.  If and when they draft either Carson Wentz or Jared Goff, it’s just a matter of time before they realized they just reached for another quarterback that will NOT lead this wretched franchise to the promised land.

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

 

 

Minnesota Vikings 2015 Preview

In his first year as head coach, Mike Zimmer was left thinking “What if?”

What if, Adrian Peterson was able to play more than one game?

What if, the Vikings started Teddy Bridgewater at quarterback from day one?

The Vikings finished the season 7-9, but four of those losses came at a point differential of three points or less.  Most Vikings fans look at the last five games the Vikings played though and consider optimism.  They went 3-2 and rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater seemed to get better every week.

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This season Bridgewater gets the help he didn’t have last year with the return of running back Adrian Peterson starting in the backfield.  Peterson has earned the right for people not to doubt his abilities, no matter the wear and tear or age of the veteran running back.   Last season Jerrick McKinnon and Matt Asiata, filled in admirably splitting carries in Peterson’s absence, but let’s be serious – Peterson can do the work of three running backs on a team.   The addition of Peterson, should only be a positive for the even-keeled Bridgewater.  Offensive coordinator Norv Turner must be thrilled because of Peterson returning and a full off-season for tight end Kyle Rudolph to recover from nagging injuries that have plagued him the last two years.

Rudolph would benefit greatly  in a well balanced Norv Turner offense, but the questions come from the threats on the outside.  The Vikings acquired Mike Wallace from Miami, who was pretty much a bust for the Dolphins.  Wallace provides a deep threat but not much else.  The Vikings seem like they got a bust in their own in Cordaralle Patterson, who currently is fourth on the depth chart.  Patterson has all the physical tools, but seemingly lacks the focus and heart (some would say) to be anything more than a big kick returner.  The Vikings return their best receiver from last year Charles Johnson, who started the season on the Cleveland Browns practice squad, so. . . there’s that. . .

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The offensive line might be a continuous work in progress during the season which should bring some cause for concern.  The younger players on the line David Yankey (left guard) and Matt Kalil (left tackle) must show that they can hang in this league or they might be rotation players at best.  Kalil came in with high hopes from USC in 2012 and was looked on as a player who can protect the blindside on this team for a decade.  This might be his last chance.

Defensively the Vikings have veterans up front, who bought into coach Mike Zimmer’s defensive scheme and by mid-season were able to put it all together.  Linval Jospeh left the bright lights of New York to come play for Minnesota at about $3.5 million a year and it worked out for both sides.  Last year the Vikings drafted linebacker  Anthony Barr out of UCLA in the first round and this season they supplied him a reunion of sorts by drafting his teammate out of UCLA Eric Kendricks.  The familiarity between the two athletic linebackers is something to keep an eye on as they both grow in Zimmer’s defense.

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There is a lot to like in the secondary of this defense.  Last year, as a rookie Antoine Exum was adamant about not wanting to convert from corner back to safety, but this year it looks like the he will be playing safety alongside Harrison Smith who has a motor that doesn’t stop.  Reports from Vikings camp has been that the staff is very pleased at the leap in maturity Exum has taken.  In front of the safeties are two first round picks at corner back.  Xavier Rhodes (2013) and Trae Waynes (this year’s eleventh pick).  Waynes will probably start at nickel corner and battle for that second spot with veteran Captain Munnerlin.  If Rhodes is a quick learner, this is the kind of secondary that can cover a lot of ground against even the best passing attacks in the league.

Everyone knew, Mike Zimmer was a great hire for Minnesota when they made the change last year.   He says all the right things publicly and has veterans and rookies buying into his philosophies.  The defense should be fine this year while the offense is going to need a lot of help from  that offensive line.  Although having Peterson back is great, Bridewater is going to need one of these receivers to become his go-to-guy.

Predicted Record: 9-7

Predicted Pro Bowlers: Xavier Rhodes, Harrison Smith, Adrian Peterson

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

Goodell and His Misplaced “Bad Guy” Title

Greg Hardy will not be the centerpiece of a pity party.  He will not be a hero, nor will he recognized as a pillar of his community.  Greg Hardy was accused of  beating up and choking his girlfriend at the time, Nicole Holder.  A settlement was reached out of court between Hardy and Holder so Hardy essentially “got away” with his acts – but the court of public opinion had found him guilty for the most part.   After week one of last season, Hardy was put on the commissioner’s Exempt List which made him ineligible to play for the remainder of the season.  This past off-season Hardy found himself in the free agent market and was signed by the Dallas Cowboys for $11.3 million (on a single year deal).  The NFL decided they weren’t done with Hardy though because on April 22nd, Hardy was suspended 10 games, without pay in the 2015 season due to his domestic abuse charges.

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The NFL makes the latter move in a way to still try to appease the masses that they let down while fumbling the Ray Rice domestic mess from last season.  Some say the NFL is just “making up rules as they go along” – but what else are they supposed to do?

NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell is somehow made out to be the “bad guy” in this and every other situations that involves players in the league performing some kind of personal misconduct off the field.  Goodell is the “bad guy” because that’s what people are used to.  People are used to banding together against the position of power.  Nobody wants to ever blame the players – ever.  When Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson went through their off the field drama – people seemed to forget that Ray Rice dragged and punched his fiance and that Adrian Peterson mercilessly disciplined his young son – the focus was on how Roger Goodell would punish these two men.  Not how the law would punish these men – but how the man who is in charge of a football league would punish them.

Goodell found himself in a situation in which these issues of domestic violence were pushed to the side forever in this league.  These stories never leaked to the news before this era of social media and camera phones.  One would have to be naive (or just plain stupid) to believe that these domestic abuse matters are something that just started happening in the NFL in 2014.  Goodell needed to act and albeit his first reaction with Ray Rice was the wrong one ( a light suspension ) he could’ve really pleaded ignorance on this one.  Does this make Goodell the smartest man in the world ? – absolutely not.  But people seem to forget that there is a distinct difference between being dumb or bad.  For lack of better english, Goodell was just dumb.

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The charges against Hardy were vile and inexcusable but in terms of Hardy “working” – he should be allowed to go back to work if someone wants his services.  Until the NFL puts a “lifetime ban” on those who are convicted (which Hardy wasn’t) of domestic/child abuse, these accused athletes have every right to go back to making their living.  Hardy essentially lost an entire season in 2014 and now the NFL wants to suspend him for more than half of the upcoming season, essentially for the same things he was suspended for prior – that’s what just doesn’t add up.

The NFL should have never publicly stated what a “right amount” of games per suspension was because they are and need to treat these things on a case by case basis and “make up the rules as they go along.” There is no way to grade the cowardice of Adrian Peterson’s acts to Greg Hardy’s acts or Ray Rice’s acts.  There is no scale that should determine which one of these men committed the more deplorable act, which is why Goodell and his team of “smarter than Roger” types need to learn with the process.

Once again though – why are people so made at Roger Goodell and the NFL for how they handle these suspensions?   Why aren’t people more outraged by the leniency of our court systems and how these athletes have gotten nothing more than a slap on a wrist?  Greg Hardy is a lot stronger than the average man – and the fact that just one toss of Miss Holder’s body one way or another, or one punch that would’ve been hard enough to kill her – is a pretty hard pill to swallow knowing that he was just offered $11 million to play football. . .

Athletes like Floyd Mayweather can says cliches like “Only God can judge me,” while another athlete says “In a court of law I was found not-guilty,” but we all aren’t as dumb as Roger Goodell.

Oh, Roger Goodell.

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People have got to believe the man is indeed trying.  His trials and errors during this time in the NFL will undoubtably set up the blueprint of how to and how not to handle these situations for future commissioners.  Then and only then, will people finally stop calling the commissioner the bad guy and appoint that title to the scum in the league who deserve it.

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

6 Destinations For Adrian Peterson

With Vikings running back Adrian Peterson now reinstated to play in the league, it’s obvious there will be many teams interested in gaining his services.  Only issue is, Peterson is still under contract with the Minnesota Vikings, a team that he feels did him wrong when he was going through his child abuse issues last season.   Whatever verdict the jury of public opinion holds on Peterson, in football terms – he has served for his crime and is now ready to play.   Peterson is thirty years old and plays a position in which 30 is considered “done.”   Peterson of course is a different kind of athlete, super-human in strength and recovery ability – he’s like the Hulk and Wolverine combined.  Here is a list of six teams that could and should be in play for Peterson’s services.

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6.  Dallas Cowboys – Jerry Jones’ crew goes here just because it’s the team linked to Peterson for some time now.  Peterson is from the state of Texas and played his college ball at Oklahoma, the alma-mater of owner Jerry Jones.   The Cowboys lost their star running back Demarco Murray to free agency and have enough money under the cap to make something happen if this is truly Peterson’s desired destination.  The problem with Dallas is that – they have other needs that need a lot more attention – mainly on defense.  Dallas has the best offensive line in football and a nice running back stable under contract as is.   To put more money into this offense really doesn’t make much sense when they have tools to make it happen on that side of the ball already.

5.  Cincinnati Bengals – Before people speak of their admiration for the dual running back threat of Giovanni Bernard and Jeremy Hill, let’s be real.  They are both nice backs but Adrian Peterson is great – even at 30.  If Adrian really plays hard ball with the Vikings, the Bengals should be willing to part with a draft pick and one of these backs (presumably Hill) – the Bengals are a team that just make the playoffs and can’t do much else.  It’s becoming a common and annoying trend in the NFL and the fact that Marvin Lewis still has a head coaching job is beyond rational thought.  Andy Dalton usually takes the blame for the team’s losses but he played pretty well in the first round loss last season with about half of his offense actually able to play.  The Bengals really need to shake up things and they have the money and tools to make a game changer like this happen for their franchise.

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4. New England Patriots –  Why wouldn’t the sneakiest team in the league give this a shot?  They are limited with cap room, but with the possibility of Peterson maybe restructuring (or the Patriots cutting ties with folks abruptly like they always do. . .) there could be a deadly deal waiting in the near future.  The Patriots have a very limited window to win another championship with Tom Brady and having a running back like Peterson, helps protect Brady for another grueling NFL season.   A player at the end of his career, like Peterson, would most likely be elated at the idea of playing for a team with a championship pedigree.   The Pats have the last pick in the first round and if the Vikings really want to hold out for a first round pick for Peterson, this might be the most realistic chance they have for that.

3.  Indianapolis Colts – The Colts are another team, much like the Cowboys that can use help on the defensive side, but his is a team that might want to make up for their past mistakes.  Remember the Colts were the ones that traded a first round pick to the Browns for Trent Richardson – yeah, that’s called “a swing and a miss.”   The Colts have been depending on Andrew Luck for every and anything that is offensively related, Peterson could ease the young man’s load by a bunch and probably help elevate Luck to his best year yet.  Pagano wants to run the ball at heart anyhow and Peterson would be in a position with an elite quarterback and a team with playoff aspirations.

2.  Oakland Raiders – When the Raiders name came up for the Peterson sweepstakes it seemed like a joke, because for the most part that’s what Raiders rumors are – terrible, terrible jokes.  The Raiders, financially are in in a position where they could “over-pay” Peterson if they wanted to.  For Peterson, this takes him to a team in the midst of rebuilding and working up a second year quarterback in Derek Carr.  If anybody knows anything about football though, it’s that historically, Oakland is where players go to die.  Big name players at the ends of their careers end up here and they usually fizzle out fast.  For the Raiders it would sell  jerseys, but they still wouldn’t be a playoff team, so this move makes little sense  –  which is the Raider way. . .

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1.  Minnesota Vikings – Although Peterson and the Vikings have a shaky relationship as of now, the easiest things for both sides would be to apologize and move on.   Peterson is quite frankly the best player in Vikings history and it would mean something for the franchise to keep him there till his career is over.  The Vikings are a team that are not in a bad spot to make a playoff run this upcoming season and from a public relations standpoint – Peterson can really do something for his image by staying with this team when they need him most.  The Vikings won 7 games last season and with Peterson in the backfield, they could very well be a team who can win 9 games this season.   Second year quarterback Teddy Bridgewater seemed to get better as the year went along and that was without elite help around him.

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

The NFL Hates Defense

When it comes to the NFL’s MVP award, the truth about the league is evident in it’s history.   Most professional football pundits label today’s game as a “quarterback’s league,” but in truth, it pretty much always has been.  The NFL’s most valuable player award has been given to the quarterback position 37 times, with running back coming in second with 18.  The other positions?  Defensive tackle, linebacker, wide receiver and believe it or not a placekicker (congrats Gino Cappelletti of the Boston Patriots)  have all won it once.

It’s no secret that the golden boys under center are the NFL’s most prized possession.  Once upon a time (not too long ago really) the running back position was the position of glory but recently that position is treated like the wide receiver position – it is common place for teams to use two or three a game.   Props must be given to running back Adrian Peterson for winning the MVP award in 2012.  It marked the first time in six years that a running back LaDainian Tomlinson had won the award.  Even then, look at what these two had to accomplish.  In 2012, Adrian Peterson was all sorts of bionic, while rushing for 2097 yards, while in 2006, Tomlinson had to rush for 1815 yards with 28 touchdowns, had 508 receiving yards and threw 2 touchdown passes.   In other words, for a running back to win the MVP award, you need to break all kinds of records to even be in the conversation.

At least most can recollect a clear memory of 2012 or 2006 – the last time a defensive player won the award was in 1986.  That means the last time a defensive player won NFL MVP the following things occurred: MIke Tyson won his first boxing title, Pee-Wee’s Playhouse premiered, Chernobyl fell prey to a nuclear power plant accident and Top Gun was the highest grossing film of the year.

Nineteen eighty six.

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So why did folks think that Houston Texans’ defensive end J.J. Watt even stood a chance to win MVP last season?  Maybe because he should’ve.   J.J. Watt’s 2014 campaign was nothing short of ridiculous: 78 tackles, 20.5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, 5 fumble recoveries, an interception and two defensive touchdowns.  Let’s also not forget his three touchdown receptions to go along with those stats.

Although those numbers are impressive, it’s what doesn’t show up on the stat sheet that separates Watt from the rest of the league.  Say what you want about Ndamukong Suh, Haloti Ngata or even Gerald McCoy – Watt embodies the phrase “one man defensive line.”  His athleticism, agility, strength and pure will makes him a double blocking assignment – and he still wrecks havoc.  His versatility allows him to line up anywhere near the line of scrimmage and not to mention coaches spend hours to days focused purely on how to stop him – and him alone.

And the award goes to. . . Aaron Rodgers. 

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Nobody is arguing whether or not Rodgers had a great year: 4,381 passing yards, 38 touchdowns with only 5 interceptions – those are video game-like numbers.  They are also numbers that fans are used to seeing.  The league is made for at least a handful of quarterbacks to throw at a high completion rate all the while netting 4000 yards and nearly 40 touchdowns.  It’s what the league wants – and the league’s best quarterbacks deliver.

It’s expected.  It’s not surprising. Yet – it’s awarded.

So what’s the NFL’s beef with defensive players?   What else could J.J. Watt have possibly done to win the MVP award?  There is an actual list of things J.J. Watt would’ve had to accomplish in order for him to win the award last season, here it goes:

1. Along with his stats from last year, Watt also would have needed to make five 40 yard field goals.

2.  He would have had to perform the surgery to repair teammate Jadeveon Clowney’s torn meniscus.

3. Won a fifth grade spelling bee.

4. Created a time machine to travel back to 1986 and single handedly stop the nuclear mishap in Chernobyl.

That’s quite the list.  It’s also evident that there was no way the NFL was going to give Watt the award, no matter what he did.  After Watt having a season like that and coming up empty – there is no way the MVP award will go to any other position but quarterback – unless of course a running back runs for 2500 yards in a season. . .

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The rules of the game have blatantly changed to favor the quarterback.   In doing so, playing defense is harder  than it’s ever been – and still – the quarterback gets the benefit of the doubt in MVP consideration.

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio