Monday, February 27, 2012

The future of the NFL shines while the past tries to comeback

Andrew Luck (Stanford QB) may be the favorite to be the first pick of this year’s NFL Draft, but Robert Griffin III (Baylor QB), known as RG3, stole the show at the combine over the weekend.  He did not participate in throwing drills, but he ran a very impressive 40-yard dash and showed his professionalism in his interviews.  His official time of 4.41 in the 40 is the fastest time for a quarterback since 2006 when Reggie McNeal ran a 4.35.  We will have to wait until his college pro day on March 21 to check out his arm.

While college players were showing off their talent in Indianapolis to in hopes to begin their NFL career, there was news around retired wide receiver Randy Moss making his comeback.

Moss retired after the 2010 season and did not play at all during the 2011 season.  Not surprisingly, he announced a few weeks ago that he missed playing and was ready to come back to the game.  At 35, he is one of the best receivers that the game has seen.  He is tied for second all-time in touchdowns (153), ranks fifth in yards (14,858) and his 10 seasons of at least 1,000 yards are second only to Jerry Rice's 14.  If it is true that he recently ran a 4.3 40-yard dash, he could definitely help some teams out this.

Rumor is that Jeff Fisher, the new head coach at St. Louis, has good things to say about the short time he spent working with Randy in 2010.  St. Louis is still rebuilding with their young quarterback, Sam Bradford.  A veteran like Moss could help out their offense.

Moss is not under contract, so he does not have to wait until the new league to begin visiting teams.  He has expressed a strong affection for Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, so we’ll see if New England invites him back.

Heels & Helmets®

Monday, February 20, 2012

Road to the NFL Draft starts this week

Football isn’t over.  The 2011 playing season is behind us, but it is now time to focus on building for the next season.  We have the NFL Scouting Combine, college pro days and free agency all before we even get to the NFL’s big spring event – NFL Draft.  Hello… 2012! 

Now the NFL league year does not officially start until March 12 the day that the new salary cap is set, but front offices are already having conversations about their 2012 rosters and who should be on them.  NFL personnel will head to Indianapolis this week for the annual combine at Lucas Oil Stadium from February 22 – 28.

Only 300 players will be at the combine.  I describe the weeklong process as an intense, invitation-only interview for the best college football players to get a job in the NFL.  Over 600 NFL personnel will analyze prospective NFL players as they participate in physical and psychological exams, interviews, tests and drills.  The athletes work hard to show all of the coaches, general managers and scouts from all 32 NFL teams that they are tough enough mentally and physically to handle a job in the NFL. 

Here are the physical drills that players will participate in.

1. 40-yard Dash – Known as “the 40,” this is the most popular event at the Combine.  Players are timed running 40 yards.  Like track sprinting events, this drill is all about speed. 
2. Bench Press – This test is for strength and endurance.  Players bench 225 pounds as many reps as they can.  This will show who really spent time in the weight room in college.
3. Vertical Jump – Players stand straight up and stretch their hand to the sky.  The measurement of this point is the reach.  The player then jumps to hit a flag.  He must jump without running or rocking.  The difference between the reach and the flag is the measurement for “the vertical.”  This will show scouts the strength of the lower body.
4. Broad Jump – This is like a long jump without running.  Players stand and jump frontward as far as they can.  This is not only about the distance. The key is landing and not falling.  Scouts are looking for good balance.
5. 3 Cone Drill – Players run around 3 cones in an L shape and back.  This is to test an athlete's ability to change directions at a high speed.
6. 5-10-5 – The actual name is the Shuttle Run.  Basically the player has to run 5 yards to his right and touch the yard line, run 10 yards to his left and touch the yard line, then run a final 5 yards to the right to finish.

When someone brings up a wide receiver or running back entering the draft, ask them how they think that player will do in “the 40” at the combine.  Otherwise, you can start the conversation by asking, “Who do you think will have the fastest 40 this year?”  Now if the talk about is about linemen, switch it up and ask about the bench press.  

Heels & Helmets®

Monday, February 13, 2012

African-Americans in professional football

With more than 75% of NFL rosters being filled with African-Americans, it is hard to imagine professional football without them.  However, this was not always the case.  The NFL did not draft its first African-American player until the Chicago Bears in the 13th round of the 1949 draft selected George Taliaferro, a halfback from Indiana University.  He elected to sign with the Los Angeles Dons of the All-America Football Conference (AAFC).  He played with the Dons 1949; New York Yanks 1950-51; Dallas Texans 1952; Baltimore Colts 1953-54; and Philadelphia Eagles 1955.

A couple of months ago, I saw Third and Long.  It is an interesting documentary on the journey and triumphs of African-Americans in professional football.  It explored how the Great Depression and World War II impacted African-Americans in professional football.  I was shocked to learn that African-Americans played professional football during the 20’s and 30’s but were dismissed and barred from 1933 – 1946.

The documentary also highlighted the contributions of African-Americans and how they changed the sport.  As a marketing professional, my favorite story was of David “Deacon” Jones coining the term “sack.”  He was a starting defensive end and revolutionized the position.  Jones explained that he started using the term sack because he knew that journalists would not write a headline that read, “Jones tackles a quarterback.”  I agree, sack is much more impactful.  The new terminology affected salary negotiations for defensive players and became a recorded statistic.

Learn more about African-American pioneers in professional football and check out the NFL’s photo gallery of Firsts by African-Americans in the NFL Modern Era.

Heels & Helmets®

Monday, February 6, 2012

Let’s hear it for New York!

Congratulations to the New York Giants they are the Super Bowl XLVI champs!  The game was amazing with a lot of twists, turns and surprises.  Some were exciting and some were awful.   It was exciting to see the Giants special teams do such a great job kicking that Tom Brady had to start two drives in the Patriots’ end zone.  It was awful to see both teams get penalized for having 12 men of the field.  (There should only be 11.)

The Giants led the game early on and by the second quarter they were up 9 – 0.  Then Brady came back and showed that he is the man.  He led the Patriots on three drives that yielded a field goal and two touchdowns.  New England was up 17 – 9.  After that the Patriots never scored again.

In the third quarter, New York’s offense went to work.  Eli Manning kept his cool and mixed using his receivers and running back.  Mario Manningham made a crucial catch in the fourth that started the Giant’s game winning drive.  It led to a touchdown that put the Giants up 21 – 17 for good.

Tom Coughlin out-coached Bill Belichick.  Belichick’s poor decision started on the eve of Super Bowl.  He decided to cut wide receiver Tiquan Underwood and add defensive end Alex Silvestro to the roster.  I don’t know why he would make a change to lose a receiver when Rob Gronkowski was not 100%.  He needed the extra help at that position.  Not to mention, he sent out some bad karma.

The Giants played a better game.  The offense was on.  Eli completed 30 of 40 passes, running back Ahmad Bradshaw had more than 70 rushing yards and receivers Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham combined for close to 200 yards.  The defense had a good night as well.  With one interception and two sacks, they limited the Patriots to converting only half of their third downs.

The NFL selects a MVP for the Super Bowl game.  Heels & Helmets awards the Super Bowl REAL GAME CHANGER AWARD.  This year the award goes to Mario Manningham.  He made a 38-yard catch in the fourth quarter and ensured that both of his feet were in bounds.  This catch demonstrated talent and focus at the end of a close game.   It energized the offense and led to the touchdown that sealed the Giants Super Bowl victory.  Congrats Manningham!

Heels & Helmets®

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Lombardi goes to…

It is finally game day!  I am torn between our Super Bowl teams this year.  The Patriots have Tom Brady leading their offense, but the Giants ended the season strong and have a nice defensive line.  Eli Manning and the Giants offense are not shabby either. 

Brady is the man, but I think that the Giants defense will be able to put some pressure on him.  I also think that their secondary will be able to stop his key targets Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski. 

On the other side of the ball, I believe that New York’s trio of wide receivers will get a lot of action.  The Patriots defense will not be successful slowing down Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks or Mario Manningham.  So, I am picking the Giants to win Super Bowl XLVI.

Enjoy watching the game!

Heels & Helmets®

Friday, February 3, 2012

Super Bowl XLVI: Special Teams

OK, we know the strengths and weaknesses of both the Giants’ and Patriots’ offense and defense.  Now we will review both of their special teams.  (Go back to “special men will make or break you” to review why they are so special.) 

Ironically, both teams are in Indy right now because of special teams.  The Giants made a field a goal in overtime to win the NFC Championship.  Thanks to the Ravens missing a field goal at the end of the AFC championship game, the Patriots are back in the Super Bowl. 

The last time these two teams met in a Super Bowl, the Giants won by just three points.  This game will be close.  Neither team has a great return specialist, so we probably will not see an unforgettable return that changes the game.  The difference will come from the guys kicking the ball. 

Here are the crucial players for both the Giants and Patriots on special teams. 

New York Giants
Lawrence Tynes (#9 Kicker) – No problem under a pressure.  He made an overtime kick in the NFC championship game for the trip to Super Bowl XLVI.

Steve Weatherford (#5 Punter) – Very reliable.  Averaged 45.7 yards this season.

New England Patriots
Stephen Gostkowski (#3 Kicker) - Third in the NFL in scoring and only missed five field goals this season.

Zoltan Mesko, (#14 Punter) – Averaged 46.5 yards this season. 

Heels & Helmets®

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Super Bowl XLVI: Giants on defense

The Giants defense has one goal: stop Patriots quarterback, Tom Brady.  Giants defensive end Justin Tuck summed it up at media day when he said, "I think it starts with hitting him [Tom Brady], even when you don't actually get sacks, just keeping people around him so he can't step up.”  That is exactly what the Giants’ defensive line must do.  In Super Bowl XLII, they were able to sack Brady FIVE times and still only won by a field goal.

The Giants secondary has to cover and tackle the Patriots tight ends, Ron Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.  Tight ends are bigger than receivers and generally catch shorter passes, so they are more difficult to take down and Brady does not need a lot of time to get the ball to them.  The Giants linebackers will have to help.

Probable starters and key players on the Giants defense:

Tackles and Ends
Linval Joseph (#97 Defense Tackle) – Continued to improve throughout the season.

Chris Canty (#99 Defense Tackle) – Good against the run.

Jason Pierre-Paul (#90 Defense End) – Strong ability to rush the passer.  

Justin Tuck (#91 Defensive End) – Played well this season despite injuries. 

Mathias Kiwanuka (#94 Outside Linebacker) - He used to be a defensive end, so he can help rush the passer. 

Chase Blackburn (#93 Middle Linebacker) - Joined the Giants in the middle of the season. 

Michael Boley (#59 Outside Linebacker) -  Runs well, should help the secondary cover the tight ends. 

Corey Webster (#23) – Best player on the Giants secondary. 

Aaron Ross (#31) – Started in Super Bowl XLII as a rookie.

Kenny Phillips (#21 ) – Had a personal career high of four interceptions this season.

Antrel Rolle (#26) – Talented, but inconsistent. 

Heels & Helmets®

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Super Bowl XLVI: Patriots on offense

The only name you need to know about the Patriots offense is Tom Brady.  He is the best quarterback in the NFL right now.  He is a fierce competitor who annoys defenses with his view of the field and passing accuracy.  As a 12-year veteran, he is not showing any signs of slowing down.  He ranked 2nd in passing yards this season. 

When the Patriots played the Giants in Super Bowl XLII, Brady had Randy Moss, one of greatest receivers ever.  With Moss’ speed and athleticism Brady could throw deep passes.  He has not had that luxury since Moss was traded to Minnesota in 2010.  For the last two seasons, Brady has put up big numbers with shorter passes to tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.

Potential starters and key players on the Patriot offense:


Tom Brady (#12) – 7-time Pro Bowler, 2-time Super Bowl MVP and Patriots all-time passing touchdown leader are a few of his accolades.  He is flawless as long as he is in the pocket. 


Dan Connolly (#63) – Playing for Dan Koppen who is injured.

Guards and Tackles – Need to block and help Brady stay in the pocket.

Matt Light (#72, Left Tackle) – Has been protecting Brady his entire professional career.

Logan Mankins (#70, Left Guard) – Strong, but almost lost his job to Waters.

Brian Waters (#54, Right Guard) – Veteran playing his first season with the Patriots.

Nate Solder (#77, Right Tackle) – Rookie who has been starting because Sebastian Vollmer was injured.

Tight Ends

Rob Gronkowski (#87) – Best tight end in the league.

Aaron Hernandez (#81) – Strong blocker and receiver.  Can lineup to run.

Wide Receivers

Deion Branch (#84) – Former Super Bowl MVP.  His speed has diminished, but he can still catch.

Wes Welker (#83) – Led the league in receptions.

Chad Ochocinco (#85) – First year as a Patriot has been very quiet year.  Not the “go-to” receiver, but an experienced option.

Running Back

BenJarvus Green-Ellis (#42) – Not a breakout runner, but runs hard and does not fumble.

Up next is the Giants' defense.

Heels & Helmets®