Posts by Garry Guseltsev

Quarterback Roulette Ends In Buffalo

There are often questions that NFL teams look to answer through preseason games. In the case of the Buffalo Bills, it was the uncertainty of which quarterback would start under center when Week 1 of the regular season rolled around.

The multitude of changes within the organization and roster during the offseason gave the franchise a fresh look of renewed confidence, a

There are often questions that NFL teams look to answer through preseason games. In the case of the Buffalo Bills, it was the uncertainty of which quarterback would start under center when Week 1 of the regular season rolled around.

The multitude of changes within the organization and roster during the offseason gave the franchise a fresh look of renewed confidence, a feeling the team had not enjoyed in some time.

The hiring of head coach Rex Ryan alone changed the culture of the group, as he has a completely unique style and specializes in defense. Ryan will make sure this defensive group reaches its potential. The franchise also made a huge splash by trading for LeSean McCoy, losing Kiko Alonso, as well as signing Percy Harvin.

Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY

However, the Bills still had a major question mark at the most important position on the field: quarterback. Rex Ryan decided to enter the preseason without naming a starter, giving EJ Manuel, Tyrod Taylor and Matt Cassel a chance to win the job. 

It seemed as if EJ Manuel would be the pick to at least start the season, since he is the only one with experience in the offense along with being their first round pick from only two years ago. However, Tyrod Taylor edged towards the spot as he impressed in training camp, per reports. Matt Cassel was considered the safest option, being someone who has had success as a starter in both New England and Kansas City.

Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

The competition ensued for the first three preseason games, each QB with the opportunity to prove that he was the right choice to start the season, though Taylor and Manuel were the clear favorites. In these games, the coaching staff and fan base were given an encouraging surprise: all of them played well, as Matt Simms even threw for a touchdown in the third game.

EJ Manuel played as expected or even better, throwing for 358 yards with a 66.7 completion percentage. Taylor also played well, with 77.4% completion and 236 yards. Matt Cassel was solid, but got half the reps of the other two, showing that he was no longer legitimately being considered for the job. 

Both Manuel and Taylor have their unique upsides, with Manuel being more experienced both in the NFL and in the Bills’ offense, while Taylor shows more athletic ability and potential. EJ Manuel was also sacked 5 times during the three preseason games, while Taylor was only sacked once, adding another element to the equation. What once seemed to be a huge problem turned into a difficult decision for the coach because of the success at the position, not the deficiencies.

He had three completely different options to go with to start the season.  One choice was Cassel, the safest pick, who lacked the risk-taking and athletic ability of the others. Another was Taylor, the most mobile and daring, with a question mark when it comes to consistency. Right between them was Manuel, who is not as safe as Cassel, but is the most experienced.

With Rex Ryan at the helm, it is understandable that after the dress rehearsal he decided to name Tyrod Taylor the Week 1 starter. Ryan always seems to make “outside the box” football decisions and this is another one, but I would be encouraged if I was a Bills fan.

The coach decided to forego the more prototypical, experienced signal caller for one that has much more to offer with a larger risk. That choice indicates that he is looking to win now, as Taylor has the chance to quickly develop into a better starter than Manuel.

Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

The speedy quarterback brings the offense to another level when it comes to quickness and electrifying plays, with better ability as a runner than Manuel along with the willingness to take risks, something Ryan seemingly wanted but could not find in his other two options.

Any Rex Ryan led team is built on defense, therefore if he can make this unit elite, Taylor will have a much easier job. He will have to focus on taking care of the ball and finding some way to score points, as opposed to trying to find his way on top during a shootout. He will surely pump up the crowd and his team with his play style, but his spot atop the depth chart is not as secure as it seems.

If the Bills dominate on defense, continue to hold opponents to low point totals, and Taylor turns the ball over at a high rate, Ryan may even turn to Cassel, the safest, most consistent option to allow his defense to work and be guaranteed less turnovers instead of continuing to roll the dice with his inexperienced starter.

He has shown extreme potential in the preseason, and Rex Ryan knows that if the Bills want to get into the playoffs and succeed there, Taylor is the future. Only time will tell if he is ready to take advantage of his opportunity, but for the sake of the city and his team, Ryan hopes his quarterback is ready to adopt the “all-in” approach.

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How Two Major Receiver Injuries Will Impact The Upcoming NFL Season

Hopefully you haven't already had your fantasy draft.

There is an ongoing debate about whether the preseason should be shortened or even eliminated, and that conversation is heightened every year when meaningful injuries occur in these meaningless games. Considering the fact that it seems far-fetched at this point to think an agreement will happen that, for example,

Hopefully you haven’t already had your fantasy draft.

There is an ongoing debate about whether the preseason should be shortened or even eliminated, and that conversation is heightened every year when meaningful injuries occur in these meaningless games. Considering the fact that it seems far-fetched at this point to think an agreement will happen that, for example, lengthens the regular season but shortens the preseason, teams must deal with the battle of how to treat playing time in these games.

As it does each year, preseason injuries have already begun to wreak havoc for some NFL teams, especially the Packers and Panthers. Jordy Nelson and Kelvin Benjamin have both suffered ACL tears, with Benjamin’s injury occurring at practice.

When it comes to Green Bay, the loss of a number one receiver is always a difficult adjustment, but if it was to happen to one quarterback, the best option to sustain a productive offense would be Aaron Rodgers.

Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

In 2014, Jordy Nelson was the target for 151 of Rodgers’ 520 regular season passing attempts. In comparison, Randall Cobb had 127 targets, but it then drops heavily with Davante Adams occupying only 66.

Nelson had 98 total receptions for 1,519 yards and that is not easily replaced by any means, but having a quarterback like Rodgers gives the city and the team some hope of still having an extremely successful season. 

The 2014 MVP still has his second option in Cobb, while players like Adams and Jeff Janis have a chance to prove themselves and take advantage of a massive opportunity. The tight ends will likely also be asked to be much more involved in the passing game and the Packers have two capable TE’s in Richard Rodgers and Andrew Quarless.

Though this is a near devastating blow to the Packers, they will still retain the NFC North title, but only by a small margin as both the Lions and Vikings have improved and will be difficult opponents. 

However, the same feeling does not carry over to the playoffs since many had the Packers as their Super Bowl pick. They will win their first round matchup but get sent home in the second round, showing truly how important Nelson is to the offense.

The Carolina Panthers do not have many offensive weapons as it is, therefore losing a number one receiver is a disastrous situation for the team and quarterback Cam Newton.

Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Kelvin Benjamin earned 1,008 yards on 73 receptions, making an immediate impact in his rookie year, helping Cam Newton by giving him a big, productive target. Now that Newton again lacks that, it will be a difficult season considering the Panthers do not have an elite running game.

The team will need veterans Jerricho Cotchery and Ted Ginn, Jr. to step up, but it is a difficult proposition. Cotchery was never extremely productive and Ginn, Jr. is more of a return specialist, so Cam Newton will really have to be on his game both passing and rushing. A wild card in the situation is Devin Funchess, a 6-4 rookie that has the potential to stand out this season during the absence of Benjamin.

The Panthers are now limited on offense and with the Saints and Falcons looking to bounce back along with an improving Tampa Bay team, Carolina will miss out on the 2015 playoffs.

The conversation about preseason will happen every year, and it does not look like change is imminent. These teams will both have to adapt to these injuries as other players get an opportunity to prove their worth.

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2015 Division Preview Series: NFC East

This is part five of our eight-part division preview series. We will pose two questions per team, one about offense and one about defense, and then predict each team’s 2015 record and final standing within the division. Tune in each Sunday for a new part of the series!

Dallas Cowboys (12-4 in 2014, 1st in

This is part five of our eight-part division preview series. We will pose two questions per team, one about offense and one about defense, and then predict each team’s 2015 record and final standing within the division. Tune in each Sunday for a new part of the series!

Dallas Cowboys (12-4 in 2014, 1st in NFC East)

How much production will the backfield contribute considering the loss of DeMarco Murray?

The now Philadelphia Eagle DeMarco Murray was an integral part of the Cowboys’ offense in 2014. Running for 1,845 yards and 13 TD’s, he took pressure off of Tony Romo, which opened up the passing game, helping Dez Bryant have an extremely successful season.

In place of Murray, the Cowboys will look to take a “running back by committee” approach with Joseph Randle, Darren McFadden, and Lance Dunbar splitting carries. Randle was second fiddle to Murray in the 2014 season, not given the opportunity to show if he had the abilities to be a capable lead back. He has only 507 total yards in his first two seasons in the NFL, but has shown flashes of potential, which makes him an intriguing option in the backfield.

Dallas also brought in veteran Darren McFadden, giving them a sense of security in the event Randle does not perform. He has had success as a starter in the past, but struggled last season as he rushed for only 534 yards.

The loss of Murray will also have an impact on the passing game, as opposing defenses will not have to put as much attention on the backfield. Last season, the Cowboys had a successful passing game with Bryant and Jason Witten, among others because of the spotlight other teams put on stuffing the run. This will not be the case in 2015, so Tony Romo and his weapons will have a more challenging time and the running backs will be forced to produce if the offense is going to sustain its production.

Can the secondary hold up and allow the front line time to pressure the quarterback?

The secondary of the Dallas Cowboys has been below average in recent memory and this year does not look to be much different. Ranked 26th against the pass last season, defensive backs such as Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr struggled along with safeties J.J. Wilcox and Barry Church who collectively were unable to contain high-flying offenses. 

These below-par defensive backs will make it difficult for new additions such as Randy Gregory and Greg Hardy to get after the quarterback. If opposing offenses can make quick passes and progress up the field, it will be challenging for the front seven to gain any consistency in the rush and pressure the QB.

However, the positive aspect of the situation is that Claiborne is still a young player and has the potential to grow from his experience and become a solid corner. Also, second year man Tyler Patmon had patches of great play in his rookie year, as well as promising rookie Byron Jones giving Dallas some optimism at the CB position.

Prediction: 10-6, 2nd in NFC East

The Cowboys made some impact additions in players like Hardy and La’el Collins and have a solid chance for success this season. If the running back unit can produce and the secondary is close to solid, Dallas can look to have a strong season in 2015. They will not win the division, but will earn a Wild Card spot.


New York Giants (6-10 in 2014, 3rd in NFC East)

Will Eli Manning‘s weapons remain healthy enough for the offense to improve?

Shadowed by the spectacular athleticism of Odell Beckham Jr., Eli Manning had a career year in 2014, posting career highs in categories such as touchdowns and completion percentage, all while missing some of his best weapons for parts of the season in Beckham Jr., Victor Cruz and Rashad Jennings.

Considering his performance without those weapons, Manning will only improve if they can all stay healthy, but that is a huge if. While Odell Beckham Jr. only missed three games, Cruz missed ten and Jennings missed five, making it difficult for Manning to gain a sense of consistency.

To add some security to this situation, the Giants added Shane Vereen, a back who can provide solid production along with Jennings, as well as being able to step in as starter if Jennings goes down. The potential of this offense gives the team a chance to have a great scoring season if they remain relatively healthy.

How will the front seven fare considering the lack of production in the 2014 season and the Jason Pierre-Paul situation?

The front line is a massive concern for the Giants, especially after the JPP fireworks incident. His finger was amputated and it is unclear when or if he will return. This is devastating news to an already weak defensive line, as Cullen Jenkins is aging, and there is not much proven talent across the line. The team brought in two players in George Selvie and Kenrick Ellis who will look to improve the D-line, but it is unclear if the unit will jell and produce.

When it comes to the linebackers, it does not get much better. Outside of Jon Beason, there are no other proven commodities that can lead the front seven, making it that much more challenging for Beason. The Giants were ranked 30th in rush defense in 2014 and it does not look like they will improve much, as the unit has not gained any significant talent.

Prediction: 6-10, 3rd in NFC East

If the Giants stay healthy, they can have a phenomenal offensive season, but the defense does not seem strong enough to beat teams with high-powered offenses, along with the Eagles and Cowboys having better overall teams. The New York Giants will have a solid season, but it will not be enough to make the playoffs.

Philadelphia Eagles (10-6 in 2014, 2nd in NFC East)

Can Sam Bradford stay healthy and become the franchise quarterback despite a history of injuries?

The Eagles endured an overhaul in the 2014 offseason, but no move was more impactful than trading for Sam Bradford. Chip Kelly decided to deal a solid signal-caller in Nick Foles for one with more potential that has been unable to stay on the field. An extremely risky move, but one that could pay off.

In his most recent season in which he played 16 games, Bradford threw for 3,702 yards with the Rams, showing that he has the ability to be great at the NFL level. Even more encouraging to Philadelphia is the fact that he now has newly added DeMarco Murray in the backfield, along with Darren Sproles and Ryan Mathews, who will take pressure off of him and open up the passing game.

Chip Kelly’s system is known to be QB friendly, and with young weapons such as Jordan Matthews and Nelson Agholor, Bradford looks to have a great bounce-back season, as long as he can stay on the field with consistency.

Can the new-and-improved secondary find success with the help of an elite front seven?

In the aforementioned overhaul, Chip Kelly set out to improve the secondary by bringing in DB’s Byron Maxwell and Walter Thurmond, along with drafting Eric Rowe. Maxwell looks to be an improvement over both Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher, while Walter Thurmond has, according to reports, shined at safety throughout training camp. This is a hole the Eagles desperately needed to fill, putting someone alongside Malcolm Jenkins.

The Eagles’ secondary struggled heavily last season, ranking 31st in pass defense. The additions look to provide immediate help, with Nolan Carroll and Jaylen Watkins improving after a season in the system. The question now remains of how they will play as a unit and if they can develop success against the pass.

Prediction: 12-4, 1st in NFC East

Chip Kelly runs the team his way and with the role of player personnel director, he has shaped the roster to his liking. If Bradford can stay healthy and the secondary plays well, the Eagles can have a great season.

Washington Redskins (4-12 in 2014, 4th in NFC East)

Can Robert Griffin III rebound from a difficult year and show improvement upon the visible potential of his rookie season?

Having played in only nine games in the 2014 season, health is a major concern for RG3. His stats have mainly went downhill from his first season, forcing many to question his sustainability in the NFL. However, there has been turmoil with the coaching situation in Washington when it comes to Mike Shanahan, as well as Griffin having health problems, making it challenging for him to find momentum.

The organization moved on to Jay Gruden and the young QB has now had a year of experience with him, as well as time to connect with his new weapon in DeSean Jackson. With a now stable coaching situation and the opportunity to start the season healthy, RG3 will have the chance to show that he deserved to be a starter and has adapted to his situation, learning from a disappointing past two years in the NFL.

Will Washington have enough to be solid in pass coverage and complement the talent up front?

Washington has made many changes in the secondary, bringing in safeties Dashon Goldson and Duke Ihenacho, along with corner Chris Culliver. This gives them much more security as the young DB’s such as Bashaud Breeland continue to progress, as well as the long-time veteran presence in DeAngelo Hall.

These additions should allow the unit to improve upon the 24th ranked pass defense of last season, giving the players up front a chance to pressure the quarterback and have even more success against the run.

Prediction: 4-12, 4th in NFC East

With an improved secondary and an already consistent front seven, the success of the Washington football team lies on the shoulders of the offense, with pressure on Robert Griffin III. Although he will improve and have a decent season considering his weapons and familiarity with the system, the schedule is difficult, resulting in no more than four wins.

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Top Three Candidates for NFL Comeback Player of the Year

When it comes to predicting NFL Honors, it can be an extremely difficult proposition since there is usually a large field of players that deserve legitimate consideration. This year is no outlier, but in the class of comeback players, there are a few that stand out from the crowd:

1.

When it comes to predicting NFL Honors, it can be an extremely difficult proposition since there is usually a large field of players that deserve legitimate consideration. This year is no outlier, but in the class of comeback players, there are a few that stand out from the crowd:

1. Adrian Peterson

Thinking about players that are justifiably in the conversation for Comeback Player of the Year, AP is the clear-cut favorite. Peterson was only able to participate in one game of the 2014-15 season due to a child abuse case. After paying a $4,000 fine and completing 80 hours of community service, the Vikings’ halfback was reinstated by the NFL.

Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

Attempting only 21 carries this past regular season, Peterson is fresh from a year of rest, giving him the prime opportunity to return to his dominant form with a rejuvenated body.  In the season before his suspension, Peterson rushed for 1,266 yards and 10 TD’s. He is also just 3 years removed from a 2,000 yard rushing season, earning NFL AP MVP along the way.

Although the obvious question remains of how long it will take AP to adjust from an entire season away from the game, he remains one of the best athletes in the league. He still knows how to find holes and speed past defenders, it may just take a short amount of time for him to truly adjust to NFL contact again and gain chemistry with his progressing second year quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater. Peterson stands out above the rest in this category, but is by no means a guarantee to win the award.

2. Sam Bradford

Undoubtedly the largest question mark on the list, the Eagles’ signal caller has a chance to prove why he was the first overall pick in his draft class. Before tearing his ACL in consecutive years, Bradford performed well for the St. Louis Rams. After getting accustomed to the league and his team during his first 2 professional seasons, he had his best year during the 2012-13 campaign, throwing for 3,702 yards with a 21:13 TD to Int ratio.

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Having been unable to stay on the field consistently for two years is a huge concern, but that history, coupled with his proven talent, raises his appeal to win the award. He is also in an ideal system, with Chip Kelly’s offense being notoriously quarterback friendly. Accompanied by an elite trio of backfield weapons along with talented young receivers, Bradford has an opportunity to show his true ability to lead an offense and win games in the NFL.

3. NaVorro Bowman

Although it will be extremely difficult for a defensive player to take home this honor in 2015, Bowman has a solid shot because of his leadership and production for a now depleted 49ers defense. Starting all 16 games for San Francisco since his sophomore year, it was presumably extremely challenging for the linebacker to sit out an entire season, even more of a task for the unit to perform without him as he tore his ACL in the 2013 NFC Championship Game.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

He had his highest single-season tackle total of his career in the 2013-14 season, racking up 120 tackles, in addition to 5 sacks. As part of one of the great linebacker tandems in the NFL with Patrick Willis, he gained a massive amount of experience and is now primed to carry the load. The 49ers need Bowman to step up in a big way after losing players like Willis and Aldon Smith and he could win this award if he recovers well and leads the defense to unexpected success.

Leading up to the NFL season, there are many story lines to watch, such as the MVP race, but Comeback Player of the Year is an extremely intriguing topic of discussion. Big question marks for teams as the players hope to bounce back from a frustrating year. While gearing up for the start of the season and fantasy football, make sure to keep these players in mind.

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