The Shield

Loved that TV show.  Banged out all 7 seasons last spring on DVD.  Sweet!

But this is no recap of that.  Who wants to talk more Ray Rice?!  OK, most have had enough of it.  As have I.  But the sad thing is that even though Rice is a scumbag, could the NFL and its “leadership” have come across as ever worse in this whole thing?  Hard to believe, but it’s quite possible.  But more importantly, should we be surprised at all of this?

What Rice did was certainly reprehensible.  And the Ravens can certainly exercise their right to release him, which they did.  The NFL can suspend him, which they did.  But he will be back…if he can still play of course.  His 2013 was nothing to write home about, so maybe he can’t.  But some team will likely take a chance on him down the road.  I’m ok with that.  After all Michael Vick, Pacman Jones and various others have gotten second chances.  Everyone deserves a second chance.  People make mistakes (though admittedly, throwing a heavy left cross and then dragging your girlfriend around like a carcass might be stretching it to be called a “mistake”, but…).

But it’s surprising to me that this has blown up as far as it has.  Part of it is the NFL’s role in it, more on that later.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that it should be swept under the rug (again, more on the NFL later).  But Ray Rice is far from the first domestic abuser in the NFL…or professional sports for that matter.  I think the available video has really pushed this into the public eye more.  But where was the outcry when Greg Hardy was found guilty for assaulting his ex-girlfriend in July?  Or when Ray McDonald was arrested in August for allegedly assaulting his PREGNANT fiancee?  Is it because of the video?  But this kind of stuff has been going on since Christian Peter was beating up women at Nebraska and Robert Kraft tried to pull a fast one by drafting him 3 rounds after he was projected.  If it wasn’t for his wife Myra, who essentially made the Pats never sign him, business would have gone on as usual.  Jeez, do we all forget Lawrence Phillips, who was firing women down stairwells with some regularity (among many other despicable acts)?  And countless cases before that most assuredly.

Just surprises me that Rice is the case that is being singled out.  When the league is full of these jokers.  And full of criminals in general.  What does the public expect from the people that play this sport?  Full of domestic abusers, drug addicts, guys that are part of drug rings, juicers, gang bangers, even murderers, etc.  The Rice thing is just another day at the office.  I don’t mean to minimize the situation.  But the league has a bigger problem than Ray Rice.  And I’m not entirely sure it is fixable.  Maybe it’s all the hits to the head and other general violence.  Not sure.  But doesn’t look like things will change.

What’s exacerbating the whole issue is the whole NFL bungle job on the Rice case in particular.  Roger Goodell certainly lied through his teeth.  As anyone else involved with the league and the Ravens most assuredly did as well.  They all wanted to bury it because they know the last paragraph is true.  A lot of bad dudes in the NFL.  So let’s just fire out a suspension and move on.  Suppose I can’t blame them…especially with the money at stake.  “Protect the Shield”.  Something bad goes down, act swiftly and then move on.  Don’t jeopardize all the dough flowing in.

Anyway, the NFL certainly doesn’t handle everything perfectly.  This just looks worse because of the blatant lying.  They should have just got ahead of it and dealt with it then.  Video is everywhere.  How did they not figure someone like TMZ would get a hold of the tape?

So Goodell may lose his 44 million dollar job.  But who cares?  Another figurehead will take his seat.  And what really changes?  Also, if the same type of players keep coming into the league, what really changes there too?

Like I said, just another day at the office…nothing to see here.  Oh look, Adrian Peterson just got deactivated for Week 2.  He is facing charges for allegedly beating his kid…carry on…



Just unacceptable

Just like after the first preseason game, had to give myself some time to digest that pathetic performance by our supposed Super Bowl contenders, the New England Patriots.  Don’t get me wrong.  I am not jumping off the bandwagon for sure.  This team will still win the division, despite these clowns that are saying the Pats have sole possession of last place right now.  The cliche “it’s only one game” does certainly apply.  But it is a disheartening way to start the season, I will allow.  Anyway…some observations:

*What the hell happened to this “revamped” defense we have been hearing about?  “Darrelle Revis will shut down his guy and allow for others to help out elsewhere”.  “Chandler Jones will have a huge breakout year”.  “Patriots have too many good corners”.  “Having Big Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo back will stiffen up the run defense”.  Etc.  Ok again, so some of this stuff may well happen over the long haul.  But it’s a little concerning that NONE of this happened yesterday.  I will grant that the Dolphins had more than a few short fields to work with on their drives, but still…Matt Patricia and his crew did nothing to inspire confidence.  Patricia hasn’t done anything to inspire confidence for me since he’s been around actually.  But that’s a story for a different day…

*Of particular concern on D was the alarming lack of pass rush.  Especially since we were all told that the Miami offensive line is “in shambles”. What doesn’t help is when you only play your 2nd best pass rusher from last year half of the game.  Yes, Rob Ninkovich may be better off as kind of a “3rd pass rusher”, but the fact remains that he was the Pats 2nd best one last year.  And he does seem to have a nose for the ball, as he always seems to force fumbles.  Yet he played half the snaps yesterday.  One thing I did like that I saw a bit…love to see it more, but at least it was way more than last year…was that Dont’a Hightower was utilized more as a pass rusher.  Not that he had a lot of success.  But he appears to be better rushing instead of covering.  So we will see where that goes.  So if losing snaps to Hightower as a pass rusher is the plan, it’s ok with me.  But Ninkovich losing snaps to Sealver Siliga or Joe Vellano or even Dominique Easley (now anyway)…not ok…because…

*…the middle of the D-Line got gashed by the running backs.  Continuing story from last year.  I don’t know what game analyst Trent Green was watching.  But I didn’t see Vince Wilfork as being “light on his feet” and “a difference maker”.  He had one nice rush.  And then couldn’t stop anyone else coming through.  Part of it is the stiff he has to play next to (see above).  But folks, Vince ain’t the same guy, simple as that.  Is it still the torn Achilles recovery?  Old age?  Just being fat?  Not sure…probably a combination of the above.  But either way, Chris Jones ain’t gonna be the answer when he comes back from his injury.  Maybe Tommy Kelly would’ve helped.  But these guys all sucked yesterday.  No other way to put it.

*The pass defense was supposed to be a major upgrade, due mainly to Revis.  But the schemes being played had me a little confused.  Now I am far from an “X’s and O’s” guy.  But seeing Jamie Collins covering Mike Wallace in crunch time was something that was more than a little shocking to me.  And seeing Tavon Wilson on the field at all was mystifying.  I guess when the alternatives are Patrick Chung and Duron Harmon and I suppose Malcolm Butler, then…but maybe Kyle Arrington or Logan Ryan could have played more in some capacity?  Revis was also not Revis.  But he is the least of my worries at this point.

*We don’t even need to talk about the blocked punt/bad snap.

*Now let’s get to the offense.  Josh McDaniels has a better rep than Patricia.  Because of this, he may take less heat.  But he needs to get some heat here.  Along with the Offensive Line coach…GOOOOGE, or whoever he is.  Now before everyone lays the blame on the Logan Mankins trade, ALL of the lineman sucked yesterday.  ESPECIALLY the tackles.  Would Mankins have made a difference?  Maybe.  But the other guys were terrible.  They seemed to rotate a bit, but the snap counts showed that was not the case.  Ryan Wendell got a handful of snaps in place of Jordan Devey, but the other 4 played all game (though Dan Connolly rotated between center and right guard).  Not a big deal.  Bottom line is that Mankins or no Mankins…didn’t matter.

*Going back to McDaniels, the Patriots have a worrisome pattern of completely abandoning the run.  Not that their running backs were tearing it up.  And we’ve already been through the lines’ struggles.  But they just completely went away from it.  Making them of course one-dimensional and therefore easier to defend.  Think they should have stuck with it longer.  Also, Miami was down their top 3 linebackers at some point.  Couldn’t he/they have made some adjustments to exploit that a little more?

*No no-huddle offense either.  Part of their package for years.  Was it the heat, being it was September in Miami?  Maybe.  But didn’t they just have training camp, two-a-day practices, exhibition games, etc., in July and August?  Seems to me the heat shouldn’t have affected them as much as some people have claimed it may have.

*Last, but not least, Mr. Tom Brady.  Not very good.  Yes, again time to throw was an issue.  But looks like he zoned in on Gronk too much.  Gronk was in on limited snaps, but Brady was always looking for him.  Brady also stopped throwing to Edelman in the 2nd half…well, except the deep pass he fired over his head…then seemed to blame Edelman.  Maybe Julian should have kept running under the ball, we won’t ever know.  But he was open.  I don’t know what the story is with Danny Amendola either.  Both training camps we hear about how Brady is working on good chemistry with Amendola.  Danny got hurt last year and then Brady also clearly lost confidence in him.  This year was supposed to be different.  But we never saw him out there really until the 2nd half.  Did Amendola just not get open?  Does Brady still lack confidence in him?  Jeez, he threw to Brandon LaFell more and that was a disaster.  Was Aaron Dobson not physically ready?  Seemed like he would have been a better choice at WR instead of LaFell…but I guess hindsight is 20/20.  But the bottom line was that Brady was off his game yesterday.  Let’s hope we can chalk it up to him being always bad in Miami.

*This didn’t matter in this particular game, but I thought it was interesting to see Patrick Chung returning kicks.  Yikes!  If they aren’t going to throw to Amendola, why not put him back there?  Just a thought…

To sum it all up?  Ugly!  There are areas of concern.  But if the AFC East is as bad as it is supposed to be, there is no long-term issue…divisionally anyway.  A trip to the playoffs is still surely in order.  But if these things don’t get completely fixed, they will probably face a road game in the playoffs and an early exit.  Let’s cross that bridge when we get to it though.

Changing of the guard

Hope that title wasn’t used yet in any publications or anything relating to the Logan Mankins trade.  I’m sure it has been, but I haven’t seen it.  So I am just going to consider myself clever for coming up with it and leave it at that.  I’ll let everyone else form their own opinions about it.

Sssssoooo…after processing this trade for a day and a half, my initial inclination still stands.  I don’t love it, but can see why it happened.  And I don’t think it makes the Patriots a better team right this second.  But I don’t think it will kill them either.

Logan was a leader on this team, no question.  Carried a lot of weight in that locker room.  Captain.  Long-time veteran.  Perennial All-Pro.  Etc.  But made a lot of money for an offensive guard.  Was aging, though guards seem to play longer than most other positions, I will allow.  And his play had slipped a bit, though I will also allow he was still pretty damn good.  Or seemed to be anyway, I don’t have tangible proof of that, based on the fact that I watch zero game tape like Jaws does and therefore really don’t analyze all the offensive line play.  Maybe he really wasn’t an All-Pro anymore, but still seemed to be reliable, at the absolute worst.  Notice how I am not mentioning how he has all these Pro Bowls to his credit…talk about a joke selection process, especially for offensive linemen.  They can get in every year based on reputation.  So let’s leave that talk alone.

I always thought the salary thing would get in the way after this upcoming season.  I mean, the Patriots had the cap room this year to cover him.  Shoot, they may have even had the cap room to cover him next year, with Brady’s salary going down and the cap rising, among other factors.  But if you factor in Brady probably renegotiating to a higher cap figure, guys like Devin McCourty needing to be re-signed, and of course the whole Darelle Revis most assuredly needing to get paid to stay next year and beyond…then Mankins cap hit in 2015 would likely be a problem.

But now?  Should’ve been able to carry him.  Especially when the offensive line has a huge amount of question marks already.  I think the retirement of Dante Scarnecchia is way overplayed in these parts, but the fact does remain that the offensive line coach is new.  Because of that, there will be an adjustment with that transition, no avoiding it.  Brady ain’t getting any younger, so having the best linemen up front is kinda important.  We want the best players, right?  They’d still be able to carry some kids for the future, have Mankins for another year as a reliable lineman and be able to absorb the cap hit.

But that’s the beauty of the Pats sometimes.  They don’t get bogged down in sentimentality…someone that was great for the franchise for several years, even coming up through the system, can be jettisoned at any given time for any given reason, but primarily because they think it will be the best move for the franchise going forward.  They have been known to move on from players “one year too early, instead of one year too late”, correct?  Now, you can debate some of the dudes they have let go and more specifically, the timing of when they were traded/released.  Like in the cases of Deion Branch, Lawyer Milloy and Richard Seymour most notably.  The timing of those three moves crushed the locker room.  They were exactly as stated above, longtime Patriot stars that were drafted by the team and developed into superstars (or at least very good, key players) and then were unexpectedly pushed out of town by trade.  Either on the eve of the season, or soon after it started.  But once the players realized they had to move on, did it affect the team?  You could argue Branch’s exit may have, since their WR’s that year were putrid.  But I am not sure the latter two moves affected the team at all.  The Pats weren’t that great the year Seymour was ushered out.  But I’m not sure that had much to do with him personally.

I wonder if the Patriots would have released Logan if a trade wasn’t agreed upon?  Sources were coming out today saying that Tim Wright would have been released by the Bucs by the end of the week.  I’m not sure I buy that, even if he wasn’t exactly fitting into the new system over there.  But it would seem that maybe both guys were on the hot seat, and the partners were a good match.  After all, the Bucs were looking at Richie Incognito!  And Timmy Wright is the new Aaron Hernandez!  Ummmm…ok, I don’t want to hear that comparison again, that goes for on or off the field.  Wright may be a “move” tight end, but let’s pump the brakes on saying he will be A-Hern…slam the brakes actually.  I suppose the return is ok for someone that may have been on the way out anyway.  But that remains to be seen.  Either way, adding another weapon for Brady in the passing game and another draft pick can’t hurt.  They also should be able to replace Mankins on the line, even if it may take a bit.  We are not talking about replacing Brady here folks, it shouldn’t be that bad.

So as stunning as it may have been.  As poor as the timing was.  As pissed off as the players are.  I feel that the Patriots will survive.  Understatement, I know.  But come back to me if the line sucks in Week 13.

Beyond all of this though…and it has been in the back of all of our minds for a while I know…it makes you wonder even more what will happen when the organization one day decides that SOMEONE will be a better quarterback for the New England Patriots than one Tom Brady.  Could it be Jimmy Football as soon as next year?  Especially if Brady squawks at his low base salary at age 38?  Or someone else that comes along (er…not you Ryan Mallett)?  We’re gonna find out soon enough folks.  But you think Branch/Milloy/Seymour/Mankins/etc. were “situations”?  That’ll be a whooooooole new ballgame.





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