Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Mike Vrabel: The forgotten Super Bowl 38 hero

February 17, 2015

In Super Bowl 38 everyone talks about Brady, Vinatieri, Jake Delhomme, John Kasay and others. No one talks about Mike Vrabel.

Mike Vrabel had an excellent game against the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 38. He had 6 tackles, 2 sacks, a forced fumble, and a TD catch.
Now you might be saying "Sure. Anyone can have 6 tackles in the Super Bowl." However Vrabel had 2 sacks, the most by any Patriot since Super Bowl 31, where Tedy Bruschi sacked Packers QB Brett Favre 2 times. He also switched sides and came in as an eligible receiver on the Carolina goal line in the 4th Quarter. His 1 yard TD catch and RB Kevin Faulk's 2 point conversion forced the Panthers to score a TD to TIE, not WIN. Then Brady let the Pats down the field for a last second Vinatieri field goal.

Stat of the Day

Friday, February 13, 2015

Extension for Marshal Yanda would be win-win

The Ravens could get at least $2 million in salary-cap room by giving Marshal Yanda an extension.

February 11, 2015

By Jamison Hensley |

Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata isn't the only Baltimore Ravens player who should get approached about a contract extension. Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda should get a multi-year deal that will allow him to retire with the team.

Like Ngata, Yanda is in the final year of his contract. Unlike Ngata, there's no chance of the Ravens cutting Yanda. That shouldn't lessen the importance of getting an extension with Yanda. In fact, it makes too much sense for it not to happen.

The Ravens can get much-needed salary cap room (at least $2 million), and Yanda can double what he would earn this year. The Ravens can make sure they'll have one of the NFL's best offensive linemen for the next four to five years, and Yanda can get the opportunity to be a Raven for life.

Entering the final year of his five-year, $32 million contract, Yanda has a salary-cap number of $8.45 million, which is the fourth highest on the Ravens and the fourth highest among NFL guards. But the Ravens aren't going to release him even though it would create $5.5 million in cap space. Yanda's $5.5 million base salary is a relative bargain when you consider four guards are making over $6 million in 2015.

Yanda is playing as well as he's ever played in his eight-season NFL career. He's a mauling run blocker and steady pass protector. Yanda is a leader by example and is one of the most respected players on the team because of his toughness.

In 2014, he was named a first-team All Pro by the Associated Press and was the highest-graded offensive lineman by Pro Football Focus. Former Ravens offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak called Yanda the best lineman he’s ever been around.

“I'm so impressed with the technician that he is, how hard he plays, how tough he is, the things he plays through,” Kubiak said. “He's a consistent body of work."

A contract extension really is a win-win situation for Yanda as well as the Ravens. Given that the average salary of the top five guards is $7.67 million, the Ravens could offer Yanda a four-year extension worth $30 million (an average of $7.5 million per year). A signing bonus around $12 million would more than double what Yanda would earn in the final year of his deal ($5.5 million). The Ravens would reduce Yanda's cap number by at least $2 million.

Even though Yanda will turn 31 a couple of weeks into the regular season, there is little concern of Yanda wearing down. He is among the most dependable players on the Ravens, and he's played 99.4 percent of the Ravens' snaps the past two seasons. Getting an extension done would be a smart decision for the Ravens as well as Yanda.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Avery Williamson named to All-AFC South team, AFC South Rookie of the Year

By Tania Ganguli |

January 27, 2015 All-AFC South Team

QB: Andrew Luck, Colts
RB: Arian Foster, Texans
TE: Delanie Walker, Titans
TE Coby Fleener, Colts
WR: T.Y. Hilton, Colts
WR DeAndre Hopkins, Texans
LT Anthony Castonzo, Colts
LG vacant
C Chris Myers, Texans
RG Brandon Brooks, Texans
RT Derek Newton, Texans

DE: J.J. Watt, Texans
NT: Sen'Derrick Marks, Jaguars
DE: Jurrell Casey, Titans
OLB: Erik Walden, Colts
ILB: D'Qwell Jackson, Colts
ILB: Avery Williamson, Titans
OLB: Whitney Mercilus, Texans
CB: Vontae Davis, Colts
CB: Kareem Jackson, Texans
S: Kendrick Lewis, Texans
S: Mike Adams, Colts

P: Pat McAfee, Colts
K: Adam Vinatieri, Colts

Watt revisited stories familiar from this season -- Googling what rich people buy, buying his mom a car upon signing his new contract, and that time he did a five-foot box jump from a standing start. Watt simulated that jump live on the show, with Kimmel playfully quivering underneath the table upon which Watt was to jump. He did it safely, with no injury -- to Kimmel or himself.

The offseason is a lighter time for Watt, but in-season he focuses singularly on his game. That focus meant a historic season in which Watt counted 20.5 sacks, 10 batted passes, three touchdown catches, two defensive touchdowns among his accomplishments.

Selecting Watt to this team was probably the easiest decision we had to make as we selected our All-AFC South team this season. Tennessee Titans reporter Paul Kuharsky, Jacksonville Jaguars reporter Mike DiRocco and Indianapolis Colts reporter Mike Wells joined me in selecting a divisional All-Star team. The division wasn't strong -- perhaps only stronger than the NFC South, which had no teams with winning records. But at most positions we had at least one, maybe a few players who stood out.

Watt and Colts quarterback Andrew Luck aside, the division was particularly strong at receiver. There was little debate that Colts receiver T.Y. Hilton and Texans receiver DeAndre Hopkins deserved the nods there. We pondered whether to include three receivers and one tight end (which would have gotten Texans receiver Andre Johnson onto the team) or two receivers and two tight ends, and went with the latter.

One point of contention came with the offensive line, especially at left tackle. Texans left tackle Duane Brown and Colts left tackle Anthony Castonzo were the subject of significant debate. Initially we had a tie between the two. What some thought gave Castonzo the nod was the Colts' success in keeping Luck clean and also the fact Castonzo had played his best season.

I fought for Brown. While I do believe Brown has had better seasons, and I also believe Castonzo has steadily improved, in 2014, Brown was the better player. A year from now, this could change, but in 2014 I maintain Brown was the AFC South's best left tackle.

We had fewer arguments defensively. Ultimately the division wound up with 10 Colts, nine Texans, three Titans and one Jaguar. Given the teams' individual records, I'd say that makes sense.

All-AFC South superlatives announced

January 28, 2015

By Michael DiRocco |

The All-AFC South team was released on Tuesday and now it’s time to give out some superlatives within the division for the 2014 season. The awards were determined by a panel of the NFL Nation writers from the division: Michael DiRocco (Jacksonville), Tania Ganguli (Houston), Paul Kuharsky (Tennessee) and Mike Wells (Indianapolis)

Offensive Player of the Year: QB Andrew Luck, Indianapolis

Luck led the NFL with 40 touchdown passes and was third in passing yards (4,761). He had 11 games (including playoffs) in which he threw for at least 300 yards. He led the Colts to an upset of Denver in the divisional round and into the AFC Championship Game.

Defensive Player of the Year: J.J. Watt, Houston

Gee, let’s see: 78 tackles, 20.5 sacks, 10 pass breakups, four forced fumbles, one safety, one interception (which he returned for a TD) and for good measure, three catches for 4 yards and three touchdowns. Watt has just as good of a case for league MVP honors as any other player.

Rookie of the Year: Avery Williamson, Tennessee

The fifth-round draft pick cracked the starting lineup in Week 5 and never left. He finished with 51 tackles (third on the team), four pass breakups, 3.0 sacks and was one of the Titans’ top defensive players.

Coach of the Year: Bill O’Brien, Houston

The Texans had a shaky quarterback situation and the No. 1 overall pick in the draft (Jadeveon Clowney) played in just four games, but O’Brien led the Texans to a 9-7 mark and kept them in the playoff hunt until the final week of the season. Remember, this team was 2-14 in 2013.

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