1. Did you hear Tom Brady is going to be a minority owner of the Las Vegas Raiders? Odd that his former OC Josh McDaniel is the current head coach, but okay. Other former New England Patriots involved are GM Dave Ziegler and QB Jimmy Garoppolo. Brady is already a minority owner with Raiders owner Mark Davis with the WNBA Las Vegas Aces.
Raiders’ fans have forever considered the “tuck rule” play in the 2002 playoff game to be a farce. That win catapulted the Patriots into the beginning of their dynasty. Wonder if Brady will admit that the referees got it wrong now being one of the bosses. Brady makes only the third former player to own an NFL franchise. The others were Jerry Richardson (Panthers) and George Halas (Bears).
2. The NFL hierarchy is obsessed with the kickoff. Touchback to the 20, then the 25, no wedges allowed, out of bounds to the 40, live ball in the end zone, now no live ball but automatic touchback if not caught, kicking team can’t start until the ball is kicked. Are there any more changes I missed? Oh yeah, now they want to use the college rule where the return man can fair catch any kick. The reason for the change is probably Bill Belichick. When the owners changed the rule to an automatic touchback to the 25, Belichick had his kicker lay the ball down at the plus-2 mark, thus forcing a run back. Belichick is a former special teams coach of the New York Football Giants and so this unit is important to him. Usually, the Patriots would cover and the opposing team would lose yardage often inside the 20. Wonder what strategy BB has in store for this new rule?
The XFL kickoff is a good variant, but the AAF probably got it right. They just placed the ball on the 25-yard line and eliminated the kickoff altogether. Purists probably hate that, but the kickoff was merely a copy from soccer. When rugby was born from soccer, they simply installed it into their game. When American Football was birthed from rugby, you got it, they copied it. Historically, between 1974 and 2011, the NFL moved the kickoff line three times from the 40 to the 35 to the 30, then back to the 35 in 2011.
3. Did you hear the one about the Washington Commanders not getting a full approval for their new name and then......Yeh, it’s not a joke. Okay, it’s Washington so it is a joke. The franchise’s attempt to trademark “Commanders” was denied by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Seriously. They cited two reasons listed here in this tweet:
The USPTO has denied the trademark application for the NFL's Washington Commanders.— Josh Gerben (@JoshGerben) May 24, 2023
On May 18th, the USPTO issued the denial citing two reasons.
1⃣ An existing trademark for "Commanders' Classic."
2⃣ Pending applications filed by a DC-area man.
A thread #HTTC pic.twitter.com/wLsI0J6ZuI
Are you serious? It begs the question of why did they “officially” change their name to “Commanders” if they didn’t have the trademark rights secured? Anyone? I guess somebody is scrambling right now to trademark “Washington Football Team” because that was their last name and maybe will decide to stick with it for eternity. How about the Washington Knuckleheads? Hope former owner Daniel Snyder has already cashed his check.
4. Lamar Jackson has come out and stated he expects to run less and throw more. Whew! I second that! He kills the Cleveland Browns with his pocket escapes for big yardage. The Baltimore Ravens have installed a new offense that is designed to give him more freedom but less reliance on his running abilities. If you watched the University of Georgia play the past two seasons, it’s that offense. Other than Michael Vick, who punishes a defense with his legs better than Jackson? In the past five seasons, he has gained more rushing yards as a QB (4,437) than anyone. He does have the best receiver group he has ever had this year, so there may be some truth to this: OBJ, Devin Duvernay, Rashod Bateman, Nelson Agholor, and the rookie Zay Flowers, plus the talented TE Mark Andrews.
5. Newly-minted DE Za’Darius Smith will wear #99 for the Browns instead of his usual #55. That is center Ethan Pocic’s number, and with the sensational season he had last year he doesn’t want to jinx it with anything new. ZDS wore 55 with both the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings but wore #90 with the Ravens. Maybe he didn’t want those Jadeveon Clowney references. Other jersey number news: rookie DE Isaiah McGuire will wear #57, S Rodney McLeod his familiar #26, CB Chris Westry #49, DE Alex Wright will change from #94 to #91, S Juan Thornhill #1, S Ronnie Hickman #33, WR Elijah Moore his New York Jets #8, rookie C Luke Wypler #56, DT Siaki Ika #62, OT Dawand Jones his Ohio State #74, QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson #17, WR Cedric Tillman #89, and DE Ogbo Okoronkwo #54. Cleveland may lead the league in abbreviated letter player designations with DPJ, DTR, ZDS, MJE, MW3, APU, and JOK. That’s AOK.
6. Adrian Peterson says he is not retired, he just hasn’t played in a while. But hey, give him a call and he will be ready. For one, he is 38 years old playing the running back position. Is it a paycheck he is looking for? Bored having not played all last year? My thoughts are he is just 82 yards shy of hitting the 15,000-yard plateau. He also needs just 351 rushing yards to supplant Barry Sanders for fourth place on the all-time career rushing list. That has to be his motivation. It certainly wasn’t Sanders’ need because if he didn’t quit he would have had the most all-time. I am sure Emmitt Smith sent Sanders a thank you card when he abruptly retired since that paved his way for the top nod eventually.
7. If you play fantasy football, when do you draft your QB? Second round? Third? For me, I would take Patrick Mahomes, Joe Burrow, or Josh Allen right off and worry about getting that stud WR or RB in the next two rounds. A great quarterback is going to get you 20+ or even into the 30s every week.
I realize the forever trend is to get a stud running back early. I get that. This year’s best is Christian McCaffrey, Austin Ekeler, and maybe the rookie Bijan Robinson who will be the featured back in a horrible Atlanta Falcons offense so beware. And kicker? I know the final two rounds is devoted to kickers, but I take mine in Round 7 where I have my choice. I select one from an offensive powerhouse. Stephen Gostkowski in the heyday of that Pats dynasty was money each week with nearly double-digit scores like clockwork. The Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles scored the most offensive touchdowns in 2022. One of those dudes is my kicker.
8. Pro Football Focus (PFF) came out with their QB rankings, and Cleveland’s Deshaun Watson is #13. Despite his three Pro Bowl nods, last year in six games he was rated at just 55.3 overall and struggled mightily. In his final year with the Houston Texans, his rating was 92.5 and he threw for 4,823 yards with 33 TDs to just seven picks. PFF concluded their analysis of Watson with: “(We) have no earthly idea how good Watson will be in 2023, and neither does anybody else.” Pretty fair assessment at this point.
Seven of the Top-8 are AFC quarterbacks which does not surprise anyone. Former Browns’ signalcaller Baker Mayfield is listed at #28 just ahead of another former Brown and now journeyman Colt McCoy, new starter Desmond Ridder and two rookies: C.J. Stroud and Anthony Richardson.
9. Eliminating the rookies, which veteran is set to have a breakout season for the Browns? My money is on CB M.J. Emerson. He had a terrific rookie season and eventually grabbed that right cornerback starting job over Greg Newsome and Greedy Williams. PFF graded him at 72.5 which is impressive for a first-year guy. Had the 9th best incompletion rate in the league. And now that DC Jim Schwartz is in the house, I expect Emerson to flourish in Schwartz’s mandated man coverage. Was fifth on the team in total tackles with 63 but led with 15 pass defenses. My second breakout player? S Grant Delpit. This may shock you because early in the 2022 season I dumped on Delpit pretty hard with his “shoulder pad riding” tackling style, But after the bye week, someone showed him how to tackle legs and he ended up the team’s leading tackler. If you missed that article, click this and you can catch up.
10. I fully expect DT Siaki Ika to be a Day 1 starter alongside Dalvin Tomlinson. He is a beast against the run. Ika is a hard-nosed defensive tackle who is best occupying gaps and blockers. While he shows some ability to make plays against the run, he is a bit one-dimensional. Ika is scheme-specific. Schwartz wants guys to be as big as they possibly can, without sacrificing movement and Ika has some lateral speed. I believe the team will keep Jordan Elliott on a rotational basis, but sadly Tommy Togiai will be gone. The fourth DT spot will be a competition between Perrion Winfrey, Trysten Hill, and Maurice Hurst.