Cleat Geeks

2017 College Football MWC (Mountain Division) Preview

Every College Football season, each team from each conference has a major question that circles around the preseason progress of their potential success. Outside of the former Big East/current American conference, the Mountain West is one of the most successful non-AQ conferences in College Football. Through multiple years of the BCS system (1998-2013), the Mountain West had the highest win percentage among non-automatic conferences. They have had 3 wins and 1 loss but this was with Utah (2-0) now in the PAC-12 and TCU (1-1) now in the Big 12. The Mountain division did include the Boise State Broncos (2-0 in BCS games) in 2011, previously from the WAC. Since the introduction of the College Football Playoff system and the New Year’s Six Bowl Games starting in 2014, the MWC has not had a team playing in a highly prestigious bowl game. Boise State and Wyoming are the two likely teams to win the conference and possibly go to a New Year’s Six Bowl Game. Among the biggest storylines in the Mountain division is Wyoming Quarterback Josh Allen being a potential high-valued 1st round NFL Draft pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. There are predicted to be 5 of the 6 teams from the Mountain division expected to go to a bowl game this season.

Here are the biggest questions that each team will be facing in the upcoming 2017 College Football season.

 

Air Force Falcons“How exposed are the Falcons with their depleted defense?”
10-3; 5-3 in MWC in 2016

For multiple years with Tony Calhoun as Head Coach, the Air Force Falcons’ offense was very potent and a consistent scoring team for being a Triple-Option offense. They return their 2nd leading rusher last season in yards (708 yards) but 1st in rushing touchdowns (10) and 3 senior Offensive Linemen. While their offense is expecting to score consistently, the Falcons defense, on the other hand, is not as stable. The Falcons only return 1 returner from last season in ILB Grant Ross as he is also only 1 of their top 13 tacklers returning from last season. 5th-year Defensive Coordinator Steve Russ will need to not only find potential talented starters for his defense but enable a proper scheme that eases the transitioning of them in their roles.

Boise State Broncos “Is another perfect conference season within their grasps?”
10-3; 6-2 in MWC in 2016

Year four for Head Coach Bryan Harsin will come with some heavy expectations for a Mountain West Conference Championship and possibly a perfect conference record. The Broncos have not had an undefeated conference since 2009 when they were in the WAC (Western Athletic Conference). Behind their success in high-win seasons is a great Quarterback. The Broncos have one in junior Brett Rypien, who passed for 3,646 yards and 24 touchdowns last year. Last season, the Broncos were ranked 15th in the nation in passing yards per game (298.3 yards). The returning leader in receptions yards is Cedrick Wilson, who caught 56 receptions for 1,129 yards and 11 touchdowns. He will transition to be a full-time starter for the Broncos in 2017.

Colorado State Rams“How dangerous will the Rams offense be this season with Nick Stevens in full support?”
7-6; 5-3 in MWC in 2016

Despite losing his job after a stellar 2015 College Football season to a true Freshman in the beginning of last year’s season, Quarterback Nick Stevens kept his hopes high. It worked out for him in the end when he retook his starting position when Collin Hill went down with an ACL tear. Through only 10 games played last season, Stevens accounted for 1,936 yards and 19 touchdowns. Now Stevens has the team’s full support of the starting Quarterback position. Outside of Stevens, the Rams return 5 offensive starters from last year on an offense that was ranked 28th in the nation in points per game (35.3). If the Rams can stay healthy, they can be an offense that is one of the most dangerous to face against in the MWC conference.

Thursday September 7th will be here before you know it and CleatGeeks has partnered up with Pony Keg Sports to help you #OWN YOUR DRAFT Keep coming back to us for tons of NFL and college football articles and always listen to our friends at Pony Keg Sports to make you the smartest fan possible. Click here to listen to the NFC Season Predictor on the Pony Keg Sports Podcast!

New Mexico Lobos“Will a lack of defense take away any chance of a conference title?”
9-4; 6-2 in MWC in 2016

The Lobos come out strong later on throughout the end of the season by finishing with 7 wins out of the last 8 games including a 9-point win over Air Force in Dallas and a regular season finale 21-point win over Wyoming. Their defense gave less than 28 points five times in those final 8 games. This season, defensive coordinator Kevin Cosgrove has his work cut out for him as he has to replace 8 starters for 2017. The lack of experience could be a big downfall for a defense that has done well to reduce the average total yards allowed per game each season at a time. The Lobos do return one of the most talented 3-technique Defensive Tackles in the nation in Garrett Hughes, who accounted for 7.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks last season.

Utah State Aggies “Is another downfall likely for the Utah State Aggies?”
3-9; 1-7 in MWC in 2016

Of all the teams in the Mountain division of the Mountain West Conference, the Utah State Aggies were the only team that did not go to a bowl game this past season. This is surprising due to the fact that they went to five consecutive before this past season. The Aggies couldn’t finish games especially close ones to conference opponents. This is a coaching issue that must be changed through discipline and proper preparation. To make matters worse, the Aggies only return 4 starters on offense and 4 on defense from last season. Utah State’s offense is too talented to be ranked 108th in points per game (23.9). A rebound is possible for the Aggies but a tough and strong objective driven off-season is needed to fix their issues on contending for a bowl game this season.

Wyoming Cowboys “Is Quarterback Josh Allen ready for a big-time spotlight?”
8-6; 6-2 in MWC in 2016

The main focus around this Wyoming Cowboys football season is the development and potential of hopeful 1st round NFL Draft pick in Quarterback Josh Allen. Since the end of the 2017 NFL Draft, scouts and analysts have been drawing their eyes towards Allen, who has a solid arm. Allen threw for 3,203 yards and 28 touchdowns last season. The Cowboys offense was ranked 25th in the nation in points per game (35.9) but 67th in passing yards per game (229.1). Wyoming will need to use Josh Allen’s NFL Draft potential as an advantage to not only boost his stock but to make themselves a more explosive offense. If Allen has another great year, he could be the first QB from a non-AQ school to be drafted at least in the 2nd round since Carson Wentz from North Dakota State in the 2016 Draft (2nd pick).

The Roar: What to Watch for in Detroit Between Lions/Jets

The Lions return home to Ford Field in Detroit following a 24-10 win over the Indianapolis Colts during week one of the preseason.

They’ll host the New York Jets Saturday evening.

Again, don’t expect the Lions or Jets to feature many of their top guns for more than a series or two.

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Although, a couple of impact guys did get a good chunk of playing time last weekend. Safety Miles Killebrew and wide receiver Kenny Golladay.

Killebrew has shown nothing but growth as a player since he threw on his Detroit uniform last summer. He played well down the stretch last season and has been a bit more impressive so far in 2017. It’s likely that his role will continue to grow this season.

Golladay stormed into the National Football League last weekend with a two touchdown performance. The rookie took first-team reps throughout practice this week in Allen Park. The Lions will probably allow for Golladay to get in a similar amount of action against the Jets as they want to continue to get looks at their third-rounder.

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As for the defensive front, expect to see the Lions work in Cornelius Washington and Anthony Zettel early on at defensive end. Those two probably won’t remain in action for long as the Lions can’t afford to dig deeper into their depth chart with more injuries.

Alex Barrett, Jeremiah Valoaga and Pat O’Connor should get quite a bit of looks in this one.

Kickoff from Ford Field will take place at 7:30pm.

Tomahawks and Touchdowns: Preseason Week #2 Preview

The Chiefs played their first preseason game last week against the San Francisco 49ers. The Chiefs lost the game 27-17. The first team started the game off strong with an opening drive touchdown but the Chiefs lost because of an 18-point fourth quarter by the 49ers. The first preseason game was an opportunity for all players to get game time experience this season.

 

Alex Smith only played one series in the preseason game against the 49ers. He went 4/6 for 48 yards. He looked strong throwing down field to receivers, an area he struggled in 2016. Alex Smith will be the Chiefs starter in 2017 and he looked good in his first game situation of the season.

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Patrick Mahomes had a great performance in his first NFL preseason game. He went 7/9 for 49 yards and one touchdown. Mahomes made his first appearance midway through the second quarter and played through the third quarter. This week Mahomes was named the second string quarterback for the Chiefs replacing Tyler Bray. Patrick Mahomes will need to build on his success this week when he faces better players as the second string quarterback.

 

Tyreek Hill played his first game as the #1 wide receiver last week. Hill proved that he will help the Chiefs stretch the field with his speed. He had one reception for 32 yards in the first preseason game. Last season Hill had 593 receiving yards and six receiving touchdowns. The Chiefs will need Tyreek Hill to develop into a reliable #1 wide receiver for the offense to be successful this season. The second preseason game will be another opportunity for him to get more experience as the primary receiver.

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The Chiefs traded for Kevin Pierre-Louis in late July and he already has made a big impact on the Chiefs special teams unit. Pierre-Louis had a blocked punt in the game last week against the 49ers. The Chiefs traded with the Seattle Seahawks to acquire Pierre-Louis for linebacker D.J. Alexander. They made the move to improve the special teams unit and based on the performance of Kevin Pierre-Louis last week the trade was beneficial.

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The Chiefs will play their second preseason game on Saturday against the Cincinnati Bengals. It will be the Chiefs first road game this preseason. Last week the Bengals played the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and won 23-12. The second preseason game will likely look a lot like the first one with the emphasis being on second and third string players.

Achilles Injury Ruptures Hyder’s Season

Every team in the league shares one common goal heading into the preseason and that is to stay healthy. There is nothing worse than losing an impact player, especially in a preseason game.

Well, the Lions took a blow during the first quarter of their first preseason game on Sunday.

Defensive end Kerry Hyder was caught up in a one-on-one battle as he was storming the pocket and eventually crashed down. The play ended and Hyder made an attempt to get up, but couldn’t do so. Hyder had to be carted off as he couldn’t put any pressure on his left leg.

After the game, head coach Jim Caldwell said, “He has a significant Achilles injury. The doctors will take a look at it further. It doesn’t look good.”

Right around 12:30pm, NFL Insider Ian Rapoport tweeted out an update on Hyder:

“#Lions DE Kerry Hyder, one of their breakout players from 2016 with 8 sacks, is out for 2017. Source said he tore his Achilles. Brutal.”

Hyder is expected to have surgery this week and be on pace to return for the 2018 season.

For now, Hyder’s presence on the defensive front will be missed. He broke out in 2016 and was Detroit’s sacks leader.

The Lions are already banged up on the defensive front. Ziggy Ansah hasn’t been healthy in a year and remains on the PUP list. Armonty Bryant is suspended for the first four games of the season. Cornelius Washington hasn’t participated a whole lot in the past week for Detroit as he’s dealing with an injury.

What an ugly picture.

The Lions will more than likely give Anthony Zettel — who has been steadily improving — more reps as he’s entering his second year in the league. Zettel racked up 13 tackles and a sack last season.

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After the game, Zettel said, “I know I have a bigger role now, and I just want to play for these guys, and play for Kerry.”

Keep an eye out for Alex Barrett, Jeremiah Valoaga and Pat O’Connor. Barrett stands at 6’5″, 255 pounds and is an undrafted rookie out of San Diego State. Valoaga stands at 6’6″, 275 pounds and is an undrafted rookie out of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Barrett and Valoaga have done well in camp and each recorded 6 tackles in their first preseason game.

O’Connor stands at 6’5″, 277 pounds and was drafted in the seventh-round of the 2017 draft out of Eastern Michigan.

Don’t rule out any trades, either.

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The Lions have three weeks or so to figure out what they’re going to do and who they can count on the most on that defensive front.

During that time frame, they’ll have to find the quickest, most painless route to the regular season.

Dawg Pound Scoop: We’re on the Rise!

The Browns will not go 0-4 this preseason! What a sigh of relief. The 2017 Cleveland Browns took to the field on Thursday night in their first preseason match-up with the New Orleans Saints. The Browns were projected to win, mostly because Drew Brees and Adrian Peterson would not play, but they played a great game nonetheless.

The Saints got on the board first with a chip shot field goal to finish off a nice drive led by QB Chase Daniel. But the Browns would come right back and march most of field as Brock Osweiler led the 1st team offense into the red zone, and rookie running back Matthew Dayes punched it in from 1 yard out to put them up 7-3.

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The Browns defense held up well the whole night, not allowing many points or long drives. New Orleans, however, found a way to sneak in another field goal as a short drive led by QB Garrett Grayson closed out the first half.

As more 3rd and 4th teamers were put in during the second half, the intensity rose, as all of these guys are fighting for a job with one of these teams. This opportunity gave players like Browns CB Briean Boddy-Calhoun a chance to step up, especially when he put an end to a goal line stand on 4th down.

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Despite losing the battle near the end zone, the Saints came back and punched in a TD with a pass from Ryan Nassib to Tommylee Lewis, which knotted the score at 13-7.

Then the show everyone came to see was on display. Browns rookie QB DeShone Kizer was finally given the nod to go in, and he took full advantage.  He scanned the defense all over the field, and put passes in only places his wideouts could catch them. Kizer’s two big highlights were when he threw a 52 yard bomb to WR Richard Mullaney that set up a Terrence Magee 1 yard TD run, and then winning the game with another 50 yard slinger to Jordan Payton to put the Browns up 20-14. DeShone showed great maturity for a rookie QB and he proved he has great potential as he puts up the first win for the Browns.

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With Kizer’s great day acknowledged, there were other parts that stuck out for the Browns in Game 1.  #1 overall pick Myles Garrett proved to be a force to be reckoned with, as he was getting to the QB’s with ease and drawing multiple double teams. CB Joe Haden also had a solid first start of the year, as he came up with some big hits and played tight coverage for his limited time on the field. And finally, one of the new fan favorites, running back Matthew Dayes has shown exceptional ability and potential as he has developed into a great player in such a short time.

Overall, the Browns made significant progress from last year, and things look to be on the rise with Coach Jackson at the helm. The team looks to have a solid season in the near futures, with the pieces of the puzzle finally starting to come together.

The Roar: What To Watch For In Indianapolis

Earlier this week, the Lions made their way to Indianapolis to go through a pair of joint practices with the Colts prior to their first preseason game of the campaign.

What the Lions didn’t want to have happen is lose another offensive lineman to injury.

It happened.

Image result for ricky wagner detroit lions

Newly acquired right tackle Ricky Wagner exited on Thursday with an undisclosed injury. When asked about Wagner’s status, head coach Jim Caldwell said that it’s “Just a little issue, so he’ll be alright. He’s just out for a little bit, but he should be alright.”

Yes, Jim Caldwell is back to his ways of not handing out any legitimate injury updates, allowing for minds to wonder what is going on.

Well, Wagner did return to practice on Friday.

Still, don’t expect to see much of Wagner on Sunday if at all. Most regulars don’t see much action during the first week of preseason, but with a long-term injury to Taylor Decker and with T.J. Lang not at 100%, expect the team to play it extra safe.

A lot of talk through the first two weeks of camp has been of the Lions’ second-round pick of cornerback Teez Tabor. Many people doubt his speed is efficient enough to perform well in the National Football League.

Image result for teez tabor detroit lions

So far, Tabor has struggled a bit as he has been burned on several routes, but is showing positive signs. During Thursday’s joint practice, Tabor made a few plays with the second-team defense, showing that he can hang.

Wide receiver Kenny Golladay, Detroit’s third-round pick, has forced the eyes open on many people to this point of camp. He is expected to see quite a lot of action this fall.

Wide receiver Marvin Jones got off to a hot start for Detroit last season, but cooled as the season went on. During the off-season, Jones put a focus on lower-body strength. He also went to Randy Moss for help. Those two worked out together throughout the off-season. Jones said, “I was getting a lot of insight in terms of what I wanted to focus on and that includes this, the lower-body strength, and the yards after the catch.”

Image result for marvin jones lions

Expect a more explosive Marvin Jones this fall.

According to those in attendance, the Lions receivers didn’t reel in the ball very well over the past couple of days. That shouldn’t be a problem going forward, but you never know, we’ve definitely witnessed the problem before.

Two of Detroit’s top guns are obviously Matthew Stafford and Ameer Abdullah, who clipped knees with one another during practice yesterday and both hobbled off. Both players returned to action a little later.

Eric Ebron suffered a hamstring injury on the first day of training camp, but returned to practice for a little bit on Friday. “He’ll probably be back next week for us rolling along,” said Caldwell.

Don’t put too much stock into what happens this weekend or in the next three preseason games. Take everything you see, good and or bad, with a grain of salt.

The Lions and Colts will kickoff from Lucas Oil Stadium at 1:30pm on Sunday afternoon.

 

Draft Smarter, Not Harder

 

As the 2017 Fantasy Football season approaches, nearly every potential team owner is studying one way or another. Everyone is trying to develop a strategy that they think will put them above the rest of the other players during the draft. The most famous buzzword in all of sports, “sleeper,” is thrown around in casual conversations with friends as they make bold predictions about players they are targeting, but no one pays enough attention to the already well established (and consistently healthy) players enough. As you get ready for your draft, remember, no one will win a league based on the upside of their draft. Winning a league comes from health and consistency, and of course, a little luck. Here is a quick rundown, by position, of healthy and consistent players that you should not pass up for potential breakouts.

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Quarterback

We all know it is a passing league these days, and the fact that there were 13 QB’s that threw for over 4,000 yards in 2016 will prove that. Reaching for a QB early in a draft never really made much sense to me unless you absolutely nail your first 2-3 picks. Players like Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees are elite talents, but you don’t need them to win. The difference between the 4th highest scoring QB last year and the 10th was right around 30 points for the season. That means that when you reached for that QB in the 4th or 5th round, you still only got less than 2 points per week more than someone you could have drafted a few rounds later. That is not enough of a difference to warrant a mid-round pick, in my opinion. That is why I will be targeting players like Matthew Stafford in my leagues. He is in a pass-heavy offense and proved that he can still put up very solid numbers even without Megatron. He is a lock for 4,000 yards passing every year and you can bank on him throwing 23-26 TD’s. He will be readily available for you in the much later rounds, and even if there is for some reason a QB run you should feel confident knowing he will be there after you fill out the rest of your starting lineup. Another player I don’t mind waiting for is Russel Wilson. His overall numbers were down, mostly due to injuries that lead to his lack of mobility, but he comes into 2017 healthy and ready to bounce back. He will most certainly fly off the draft board before Matthew Stafford, but he will still probably be there in the later rounds when you begin to draft players who will be spending most of the season on your bench.

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Running Backs

Outside of the top 3 (Johnson, Bell, Zeke), it will be hard to predict who is the next best back because nearly every team has a third down back. There are very few 3-down backs in the league, so you need to look for someone who has the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. Many people will look to Jay Ajayi, but Ajayi has a very rusty and out of shape Jay Cutler as his QB and will likely face defenses that are focused solely on stopping him instead of the Miami passing game. Melvin Gordon is another option here, especially with the departure of Danny Woodhead, but he is coming off knee and hip surgery and is too risky for me at his current first round price. Running backs after the big 3 that I like are Devonta Freeman and LeSean McCoy. Freeman does lose touches to Tevin Coleman, but that didn’t stop him from surpassing 1,500 total yards for the second season in a row. Even though he lost some time to Coleman, Freeman was still one of the better pass catchers out of the backfield, hauling in 54 catches for 462 yards and 2 TDs. LeSean McCoy on the other hand is a three-down back with potential for 300 touches in 2017. Even though he missed one game, McCoy still caught 50 passes in 2016 and scored 14 total TDs. For whatever reason people I talk to seem to forget his age (he is only 28) and say he is over the hill. In my opinion, I think he is one of the safer bets at the RB position.

 

Wide Receivers

TY Hilton was a big surprise to everyone last year and was an absolute gift to the people who drafted him. Setting a career high with 91 catches and led the NFL with 1,448 yards, Hilton took a huge step forward and showed everyone that he is the real deal. Playing in every game over the past two seasons, TY has averaged over 130 targets over the past three years, and his volume and ability to stay on the field make him a bankable fantasy option. He is a great late second round pick and seems to be falling there right into some lucky owners lap. Two other players I see at the WR position having another strong year are Doug Baldwin and Demaryius Thomas. Neither has missed a game in the last three years and are very low-risk players. These two might be available in the third round, and if they are, you better not pass them up unless you already have two wide outs on your roster. Honorable mention here goes to Julian Edelman who will get grossly overlooked this year because of the addition of Brandon Cooks. It would not surprise me if he outplays Cooks or at the very least is on par with him even though Cooks is going 2-3 rounds earlier.

Thursday September 7th will be here before you know it and CleatGeeks has partnered up with Pony Keg Sports to help you #OWN YOUR DRAFT Keep coming back to us for tons of NFL and college football articles and always listen to our friends at Pony Keg Sports to make you the smartest fan possible. Click here to listen to all the big training camp happenings on the Pony Keg Sports Podcast!

Tight End

Tight end is another position where if you don’t get an elite talent you should not waste a mid-round pick on. The top three names that usually come off the board are Gronk, Travis Kelce, and Jordan Reed, and each of them comes with a lot of risk. A full 16 games from these players can lead to something special, but I find it hard to reach for players like that early in a draft. I would much rather wait on Jimmy Graham or Greg Olsen if I am planning on filling that spot a little earlier than usual, but two players I like this year are Kyle Rudolph and Martellus Bennett. Bennett is a brand new tool for superstar Aaron Rodgers and has the ability to put up very good numbers. He can be kind of an upside pick, but he is a very safe one at the least. Green Bay will be throwing the ball constantly once again, especially with Ty Montgomery and his inexperience in the backfield. Kyle Rudolph, on the other hand, is no superstar, but he hasn’t missed a game in two years and amassed a whopping 132 targets last season, more than any tight end in the league. He is another forgotten name because of the possibility of greatness at the top and could end up being a great value pick later in your draft. Like Bennett, he is a high floor pick.

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In closing, no matter who you draft, no matter how much upside and talent they have, they still need to stay on the field. This list of players can be used as fallback guys if you like. Miss out on Amari Cooper? Look for Baldwin and Thomas. Have a late first round pick? Nab Freeman or McCoy. Forget about drafting a tight end? Hope for Rudolph, wait for Bennett, and remember, you would rather have 4 starting WR/RB players on your roster than 3 and a QB in the 4th.

Get Larry Into Ring of Honor!

With Kurt Warner becoming the 266th player to enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame this past weekend, it’s a fitting time to look ahead to Jim Hart becoming the 17th member of the Arizona Cardinal Ring of Honor during the 2017 season, in addition to who needs to be the 18th member of the ROH as early as 2018.

During halftime of the Cardinals game against the Los Angeles Rams, the former St. Louis Cardinal quarterback, Jim Hart will be the 4th member in the last 4 years to be inducted into the ROH. Following the likes of Warner (’14), Adrian Wilson (’15) and Roy Green (’16) to be selected as an elitist to the longest standing professional football club in North America (roots date back to 1898). Hart played 17 of his 18 seasons (1966-1983) with a Cardinal decal on both sides of his white helmet. The now 70-year-old Hart, played with Washington his last NFL season, though he only attempted 7 passes, none of which were caught for a touchdown. The newest member of the Cardinal fraternity was a 4-time consecutive Pro-Bowler in the mid 1970’s (’74-’77) and is still the franchises all-time leader in career passing yards with 34,639 yards, as well as touchdowns with a total of 209. For perspective, Niel Lomax is 2nd in team history in both passing yards, with nearly 12,000 less (22,771) than Hart, and only 136 touchdowns, compared to Hart’s 209. While longevity and health led Hart to lapping the field when it comes to individual statistics, it should be known that the Evanston, IL native actually ended his career with 38 more interceptions (247) than touchdowns. Nevertheless, while he’s no Kurt Warner it’s safe to say that the history of the Cardinals can not be told without one Jim Hart.

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While the Cardinals franchise has only been in Arizona for what will now be their 30th season, which is not even 1/3 of their NFL existence (founding member in 1922), the next ROH member should be a one who was drafted by the team after their arrival from St. Louis in 1988, is considered one of the greatest pass catchers in the history of the game, and is named Larry.

There were 3 constants while being a Cardinals fan in the 1990’s: Non-winning seasons (finishing only once with over a .500 record), Aeneas Williams and Larry Centers. Aeneas Williams, considered the greatest cornerback to play for the franchise (sorry Peterson), is in both the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the Cardinals Ring of Honor. If only the same could be said about greatest pass-catching running back in the history of the game. The fact that the NFL’s current career leader in receptions by a running back, was drafted by and spent the first 9 of his 14 seasons as a member of the Phoenix/Arizona Cardinals – before being released after the 1998 season, even though he chose to sign a 3-year contract extension before the 1997 season – is not already in the teams ROH is something that fans from those ’90s teams would expect from then owner Bill Bidwill, not by his beloved son and current team owner Michael.

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Even though Centers was labeled as a fullback, he was nothing like the prototypical blocking fullback, as his 827 receptions are not only the most by anyone out of the backfield, they are more than hall of fame wide receivers Steve Largent and Michael Irvin, in addition to tight end Shannon Sharpe and of course running back Marshall Faulk. Centers was the first running back to ever top 100 catches in a season, when he hauled in 101 passes in 1995. While all Cardinal fans would say David Johnson is the best pass catching running back in the game today, he still pales in comparison to the pass-catching phenomenon that Larry Centers was. While he was a Cardinal, Centers caught 81% of the passes that were thrown in his direction compared to Johnson’s current 66% catch rate. While it’s still very early into DJ’s career, it’s probably safe to say that Larry’s record of 827 receptions is in no great threat to be challenged, as David would need to average 80 catches a season for 11 more full seasons to surpass the standing record that is held by the Cardinals 5th round pick in the 1990 draft.

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Why Larry Centers doesn’t have a Gold jacket like the one that Warner received over the weekend, is in large part because he didn’t run the ball very often, nor was he greatly effective when given the opportunity to do so. In his 14 NFL seasons, the Stephen F. Austin standout averaged 3.6 yards a carry and totaled only 2,188 yards on the ground. Only 368 more yards than David Johnson, whose entering his 3rd season in the league. That being said, Centers currently sits at 28th all-time in NFL history in receptions by any player at any position, whether it be running back, tight end or wide receiver. Although both Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald eventual passed him, at the time of his release in 1998 Larry Centers was the all-time franchise leader in receptions with 535 catches, passing last seasons ROH inductee Roy Green. Not only does he have the accolades, Centers was also an integral part of the Valleys first taste of the NFL playoffs in 1998 when he was 2nd on the team with 69 catches in 12 regular season games. Oh yeah, he also added 9 catches in that playoff game loss to the Cowboys in Dallas. That would be the last time he would done the red and white jerseys of the Cardinals. While it took the Cardinals over 30 years to induct their all-time leader in passing yards and touchdowns, hopefully the same won’t be said about the greatest pass catching running back in NFL history. So great, that when he retired after walking off the field a Super Bowl Champion in 2003 for the New England Patriots, Larry Centers was 7th on the NFL’s all-time receptions list.

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Without Larry Centers and Aeneas Williams, the oldest Bidwill would’ve seen much less than the 25,000 or so die-hard fans that ritually attended the home games to see a poorly ran NFL team that was plopped in the middle of the desert to survive in an outdoor college stadium. Because of his fathers failures to ever seemingly try to produce a consistent winner or winning culture of professional football in the Valley, those loyal, die-hard Cardinal fanatics that supported the team in some of the darkest moments, are the ones that Michael Bidwill owe it to, to have Larry Centers grace Cardinal lore forever. 

 

Tomahawks and Touchdowns: Preseason Week #1 Preview

The Chiefs will play their first preseason game on Friday against the San Francisco 49ers. It will be the first time players will see game action this season. In the first preseason game starters will not see a lot of playing time. The focus of the game will be on second and third string players.

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Alex Smith will start the game at quarterback for the Chiefs. He is expected to play the entire first quarter. Smith will be the Chiefs starter this season and the first preseason game will give him some game preparation. Tyler Bray will play the second quarter at quarterback. Bray was the Chiefs third string quarterback last season and he will compete for the backup job this season. Patrick Mahomes will play the third quarter for the Chiefs. It will be the rookie’s first NFL game experience. Joel Stave will finish the game at quarterback. Stave spent time on the Minnesota Vikings and Seattle Seahawks practice squads last season. He was signed to the Chiefs practice squad last November. Stave could potentially compete for the third string job but will likely spend this season on the practice squad. The Quarterback competition will be an important battle in the first preseason game.

Image result for Alex Smith, Tyler Bray, Patrick Mahomes, Joel Stave

Tyreek Hill was taken off kickoff return duties during training camp to focus on being the Chiefs primary wide receiver. Despite giving up the kickoff returner role he will still return punts. Friday will be his first game as a #1 receiver for the Chiefs. Last season as a rookie, Hill had a breakout performance with 12 total touchdowns and 593 receiving yards. Tyreek Hill will be a player to watch in the first preseason game because his adjustment to the primary receiver role will have a big impact on the offensive performance.

Image result for Tyreek Hill training camp

Running back Kareem Hunt will be another player to watch in the game Friday. Hunt was a third-round pick by the Chiefs in the 2017 NFL Draft. He has spent time with the first-team in training camp and may see some playing time this season. Kareem Hunt has been impressive in the passing game and could be a valuable option for Alex Smith.

Thursday September 7th will be here before you know it and CleatGeeks has partnered up with Pony Keg Sports to help you #OWN YOUR DRAFT Keep coming back to us for tons of NFL and college football articles and always listen to our friends at Pony Keg Sports to make you the smartest fan possible. Click here to listen to all the big training camp happenings on the Pony Keg Sports Podcast!

The first preseason game is an opportunity to see the team on the field for the first time. The starters will see a limited playing time and the focus will be on sorting out backup players. Overall, it should be an interesting game with some key position battles.

 

 

 

Dawg Pound Scoop: Scrimmage Update

On Friday, the Cleveland Browns held their annual Brown and White Scrimmage, this time at FirstEnergy Stadium instead of in Columbus. It was the first time that we got a look at all the rookies and veterans mixed together in a game like scenario. Hue Jackson and company tried to make the scrimmage as game-like as possible, with 4 quarters, 10 minutes each, and referees officiating every aspect.

The game got started off in a hurry when Mario Alford returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown. No extra point was attempted, for which we are still not sure as to why, but Hue Jackson said no and the game started off at 6-0.

Image result for Brown and White Scrimmage

The run game was pounded early, as none of the quarterbacks had much of an opportunity to prove anything. Matthew Dayes, a 7th rounder this past year out of North Carolina State, had a nice all around day in running, pass blocking, and catching the ball out of the backfield.

The defense was solid as well, as neither offense was able to move the ball very far throughout, which defensive coordinator Gregg Williams is thrilled about.  

Rookie kicker Zane Gonzalez punched in a 38 yard field goal to end the 1st half on a great note for the White team, which sent them into the locker room with a 9-0 lead.

A strong drive right out of the gate in the 2nd half by the White team led to another Zane Gonzalez field goal that created the final score of 12-0.

Despite a low scoring game, there were lots of bright spots on both sides of the ball. On offense, DeShone Kizer and Brock Osweiler played well for their respective teams in the limited amount of chances they had. Wide receiver Jordan Leslie also came to play, racking up over 50 yard receiving, including 3 consecutive catches to set up Gonzalez’s first field goal.

Image result for jordan leslie

On defense, MLB Christian Kirksey went down on his first play from scrimmage with a leg injury that looked to be serious, but according to head coach Hue Jackson, “Christian is fine. He could’ve gone back in.” So with Kirksey taking a seat for the rest of day, Joe Schobert checked into his spot and made a solid effort throughout. He dropped 15 pounds this off-season, and it surely showed today as he was flying all around the field. Former All-Pro CB Joe Haden also had a great day, locking up the young receivers and giving us flashes of what he used to be. And finally, the #1 overall pick of this years draft, Myles Garrett, put on a show, racking up 2 sacks and becoming a monster presence all across the field.

Thursday September 7th will be here before you know it and CleatGeeks has partnered up with Pony Keg Sports to help you #OWN YOUR DRAFT Keep coming back to us for tons of NFL and college football articles and always listen to our friends at Pony Keg Sports to make you the smartest fan possible. Click here to listen to Wide Receiver Rankings on the Pony Keg Sports Podcast!

Overall, there are obviously many things for the Browns to work on as the pre-season nears, but there were some very bright spots throughout today’s scrimmage. The Browns are looking to be in great shape for what’s ahead, and us fans can only be excited for what is to come.

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