The Andrew Luck Contract: Good or Bad?

 

Andrew Luck signed the biggest contract in pro football this offseason, which in and of itself isn’t terribly surprising. What IS surprising is the debate it spurred on whether it was a good contract for him, the team, and both parties. I’ve heard people argue that he didn’t get paid enough, I’ve heard people say that he got paid too much, and pretty much every opinion in between the two.

For me, the answer is pretty simple, with one caveat; it is a great contract as long as they can afford to put a serviceable offensive line in front of him. Andrew Luck deserves every penny of that deal; he is a rare talent at the most important position in the league. Yes, he’s thrown too many interceptions. That is as much a product of poor protection and a lack of talented skill players surrounding him as anything else. With a quality line, Luck rushes fewer throws, likely leading to fewer interceptions. In addition, with even the semblance of a running game, defenses will be forced to respect that aspect of the offense. And if Frank Gore has a bounce back year, it might even force them to commit another defender to the box. This would open up options in the passing game for Luck. Even if they do neither, Luck still deserves that payday. He is a strong, smart quarterback with a rocket arm and better speed than people give him credit for.

Enjoy that payday, Mr. Luck. You earned it.

 

Keith Shaffer, Easy Streak Contributor

Do Preseason Records Matter?

 

Preseason football is back; in fact, I have it on in the background as I write this. While it’s a welcome sight, it begs the question: do preseason records actually mean anything? Or is its only value to help coaches decide who gets the last few roster spots? After all, the starters hardly play, the teams keep their offensive schemes extremely vanilla, largely play out of their base defenses, and try above all to make sure no one important picks up an injury. To try to determine if preseason success has any impact on the regular season, I looked up teams who had winning preseason records and then checked what their regular season record for the corresponding season was.

First up was the Seattle Seahawks. In both 2012 and 2013, the Seahawks had a perfect preseason record. In 2012, they went 11-5 and reached the divisional round of the playoffs. In 2013, they went 13-3 and won the Super Bowl. Clearly preseason success indicates regular season success, right? Not so fast. In 2009, they went 4-0 in the preseason and won all of 5 games in the regular season.  In 2010, they went 1-3 in preseason, and 7-9 in the regular season, winning the atrocious NFC West. Take away? Inconclusive.

From here, we have the Washington Redskins. They had a perfect preseason in 2013, 2-14 in the regular season. In 2014, 3-1 preseason, 4-12 regular season. In 2011, it was 3-1 in the preseason, and a whopping 5 wins during the regular season. Conclusion? A good preseason means nothing in Washington.

Perhaps my favorite example is the 2008 Detroit Lions. A perfect 4-0 in the preseason. This was the team that featured Dan Orlovsky running out of the back of his own end zone for a safety en route to a gag inducing 0-16 season. The following season, they went 3-1 in the preseason and 2-14 in the regular season. The year after that it was 3-1 on their way to 6-10. They went 4-0 in 2011 and managed a 10-6 season with a playoff berth. Conclusion? For every 4 good preseasons the Lions have, they might get 1 good regular season out of it.

The lesson here is that playing well or playing poorly in the preseason most likely has very little effect on how a team performs in the regular season. Often times preseason wins go to whichever team leaves their starters in the longest, which are generally teams that haven’t performed well in recent years or who have a lot of roster questions. So, while you should by all means enjoy the glorious return of football, you shouldn’t get too excited if your favorite team does well in the preseason.

 

Keith Shaffer, Easy Streak Contributor

What to Make of the Oakland Raiders

 

The Raiders have been everybody’s off-season darling this year, and it’s easy to see why. They have some legitimate talent on offense, with Derek Carr developing nicely at the quarterback position. It helps that he has some excellent talent at receiver to throw to, with Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree providing a nice 1-2 punch in the receiving corps. In addition, their defense signed some solid talent in the offense to bolster what was a fairly mediocre unit in 2015. Reggie Nelson, while hardly in his prime, should lend some maturity to the secondary. Closer to the line of scrimmage, Bruce Irvin has proven to be a solid pass rusher whose coverage skills are actually fairly underrated. One would think that with these additions, plus an extra year together for the Triple C’s (Carr, Cooper and Crabtree), would mean the team would make the next step and get into the playoffs. So, will they?

In a word, no. This is due to a variety of factors, the first being the division they play in. Questions at quarterback or not, Denver’s defense is still a horrible matchup for this Raiders team. The Raiders’ offensive line is less than stellar, and Denver’s D-line might be the best in the league. Denver’s secondary is also excellent, which means they can drag Oakland into a low scoring slugfest. This is not the kind of game the Raiders were built to win. Then you have the Chiefs. Arrowhead is one of the most difficult venues to play in, so you can chalk that game up as a loss already. The Chiefs’ offense is actually good enough to keep pace with Oakland’s, and their defense is better. Finally, you have San Diego, which hasn’t been very good the past few years. In spite of that, I actually think San Diego will have a bounce-back year and be competitive in the division. Philip Rivers is still going to put up numbers, and the defense shouldn’t suffer nearly as many injuries as they did a year ago.

The Raiders may actually be a better football team this year than they were last year, but don’t expect the record to show it.

 

Keith Shaffer, Easy Streak Contributor

Breakout Candidates for the 2016 NFL Season

 

Preseason football is almost upon us!

Here are some breakout candidates on the offensive side of the ball (in no particular order) for the upcoming season.

  • Tyler Lockett: Lockett had a pretty strong rookie year, catching 51 balls for 664 yards and 6 TDs, to go with both a punt and kickoff return for touchdowns, but he still somehow flew under the radar. This was due to a couple of factors; first, the Seahawks offense hasn’t been a pass-heavy offense for the majority of Pete Carroll’s tenure, and secondly, Doug Baldwin’s ridiculous second half season number overshadowed everyone. Baldwin will remain the first option in the passing game, but that will only serve to take attention away from Lockett, opening up opportunities for big plays. That, coupled with an extra year in the system, means Lockett should improve on his rookie numbers.

 

  • Ezekiel Elliott: Elliott should transition seamlessly from the college game to the NFL (legal troubles aside). The Dallas offensive line is hands down the best in the league, meaning Elliott will have plenty of holes to run through. He has the combination of size and speed to take full advantage and, as long as Tony Romo stays upright, the passing game will do its job to keep defenses honest. Expect him to put up big numbers in his rookie campaign.

 

  • Josh Doctson: Having watched Doctson a fair amount during his time at TCU, I am sold on his skill set. He highpoints the ball extremely well, has pretty good size, and has a knack for getting open. He has the necessary receivers in Washington to keep attention off of him while he adjusts to the pro game. Expect him to come on strong over the second half of the season.

 

  • Kevin White: Forced to sit out last season due to injury, I expect White to make up for lost time quickly. He’s big, he’s fast, and he’s strong. The image of him destroying Alabama’s secondary during his final season at WVU is still burned in my mind. A perfect complement for Alshon Jeffrey, the Bears will have one of the better receiving corps in the NFL this year. That should help Jay Cutler, the consummate “throw it up and let them go get it” QB. White is a good bet to have the best season stats-wise of anyone on this list.

 

  • Dorial Green-Beckham: An absolute athletic freak, Green-Beckham’s most formidable opponent thus far has been his awful decision-making. Despite his penchant for finding trouble and his inability to live up to his hype in college, I think he’s poised to break out this year. He showed glimpses of being an excellent red zone threat last year in spot duty for the Titans. This year I expect him to make the leap. He may not be a 1,000-yard receiver, but I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if he hit double-digit touchdowns this season.

 

 

Keith Shaffer, Easy Streak Contributor

Is Gus Bradley a Good Coach?

 

I’m going to let you in on a long-held theory of mine – Gus Bradley is a lousy defensive coach. That may seem counter-intuitive considering he was Seattle’s defensive coordinator during the Legion of Boom’s rise to prominence, but I am fully convinced it is true. For one, Seattle’s defensive scheme is Pete Carroll’s and no one else’s. The defensive coordinator in Seattle may be able to suggest tweaks and wrinkles, but it is Pete who comes up with the overall scheme and approves what gets put into the game plan each Sunday. In addition, Seattle’s defense actually improved the year after Bradley left, with the Hawks going to back-to-back Super Bowls in the two years immediately following his departure. In Bradley’s final season as defensive coordinator, the Hawks had the 6th ranked defense in the league. The following year, under Dan Quinn, they were the no. 1 ranked defense in the league, a feat they repeated the following year.

Since taking over as Jacksonville’s head coach, Bradley has presided over some pretty awful defenses. That isn’t completely his fault; he inherited a roster riddled with holes and with a severe shortage of talent on that side of the ball. Despite efforts to shore up these holes, the Jacksonville defense has shown no noticeable progress during his tenure, going from 28th in 2013, to 26th in 2014, and 24th in 2015. Their pass defense has actually regressed during that time. Their offense has improved, but it would be a hard sell to attribute that to Bradley. It’s probably more due to the fact that they have a serviceable quarterback and they play from behind consistently, meaning they’re throwing the ball more often than many teams.

This season is probably make-or-break for Bradley; they’ve drafted defensive players in the first round the past couple of drafts and he has had enough time to mold the defense in his image. So will his squad finally make a leap to respectability this season? Something tells me they won’t.

 

Keith Shaffer, Easy Streak Contributor