Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Scouting the 2014 NFL Draft: Teddy Bridgewater

Today, I want to take a look at a prospect that most have had at the top of their list of quarterbacks the entire year. Teddy Bridgewater has had scouts salivating over his talents for years now, and most still view him as a top-5 pick in this upcoming draft. Still, that #1 quarterback position has been challenged recently by Blake Bortles and Johnny Manziel, so it is no longer the lock it seemed to be a couple months ago. I had watched a little bit of Louisville this season, and from what I saw, I was impressed, but I decided to dig deeper by looking at his games against Ohio, a conference game against Houston, and the bowl game against Miami.

The first thing that stands out is Bridgewater just makes things look easy. He quickly finds his receiver and fires the ball.

This play is not going to be shown on highlight videos, but I need something to warm up the audience to what they are about to see through this breakdown.

He has a lightning quick release.

I don't make much out of releases, because there are much bigger things to focus on with quarterbacks, but seeing how quickly he can fire the ball while still putting zip on it is impressive.

He is very quick at going through his progressions. On this play, it appears that he looks at four different receivers. He looks left to start, then shifts back to the right. Then he shifts back to the middle, but he takes an extra split second before dumping the ball to the running back, because he was looking at the crossing pattern beyond the running back at first, but saw the defender closing down that route.

He does this all in approximately three seconds. It comes about 15 yards short of the first down, but he gave every option a look before settling for the short gain. Outside of accurately throwing the ball, there may not be an aspect more important than being able to quickly go through the progressions when finding an open receiver.

One thing that I sadly have to clarify is that although he is a black quarterback, he's not a running quarterback in the mold of RG3 or Colin Kaepernick. Louisville did do some read option with him, but it was more as a change of pace as opposed to being the backbone of the offense. That being said, he is still very athletic, as he moves really well in the pocket, but he's more quick than fast. He has great footwork, as he can quickly adjust his feet and set to throw. That being said, there are some refinements that could make him even better in the future as shown on this play.

The positives are that he was able to avoid the pressure this time, focused his eyes back on his receivers down the field and made a positive play. However, spinning and looping backwards is a dangerous game, and it has cost him big losses at times, as his left tackle could be doing his job and still be taking the edge rusher right into him with that strategy. If he slips up into the pocket, he's got a perfectly clean throwing lane and a much easier play. On a lot of plays, Bridgewater will do a good job of stepping up, but he does try that bail out technique more than I like. The key positive is that he is not a quarterback who puts the ball down and decides to run immediately. By keeping his eyes downfield, he opens up opportunities by being able to throw or run even when his protection breaks down.

He also does a very nice job of staying in the pocket instead of panicking when there is a blitz. On this play, his protection picks up the pressure, and he is able to fire the ball right as his receiver turns around despite having a guy in his face.

It is a small thing, but his blocking pushes the blockers beyond him on the blitz, so he takes a small step up and fires the ball to his receiver. It's not a wow moment, but it does a good job of showing his pocket awareness.

He throws very well on the move. Even when rolling to his left, he is able to throw a hell of a ball down the field while on the move. That is just ridiculous.

If he's rolling to his strong side, that's still a great throw. Yes, his receiver was wide open, but that was still going to require solid coverage to not get beaten on that ball. There aren't a ton of quarterbacks who can roll to their weak side and throw a 40 yard strike. Teddy Bridgewater can.

Bridgewater shows amazing touch on balls. This is something that is rarely seen from any quarterback, especially in college, but he knows when to use his arm strength, and he also knows when to take something off of it to put the ball exactly where he wants it.

This is just a beautiful loft into the end zone that lands perfectly in his receiver's hands. You can hear the announcer laugh after the play, because it's so tough to come up with the proper words, so all a person can do is chuckle about what they are seeing.

There are some games where his deep ball is on, and there are other games where he can struggle. Against Miami, he was a little off for most of the day. Still, on these back-to-back throws, he shows the good and bad. The first ball is overthrown, but he is definitely able to redeem himself with the next throw.

He is under pressure on that first throw, and he may have put a little extra on it because of that. He more than makes up for it as he is able to throw a nice ball down the sideline that his receiver can go up and get. Against Ohio, everything was on, and he was consistently putting the ball wherever he wanted it, so I have very little concern that he won't be able to challenge teams down the field at the next level.

This is one of my favorite throws that I saw from him. He looks over the middle first, sees nothing there. Then he looks to the right, and throws the ball just as the receiver is breaking to the outside, so his receiver has room to stay in bounds. Plus he puts plenty of zip on the ball so the corner has no chance to make a play, and there is also no way for the safety to get there in time to break up the route over the top.

He is on the near hash, so if he takes even a split second longer, it is going to be very difficult for his receiver to stay in bounds on that route. He does a great job at everything on this play.

Finally, my favorite pass from Bridgewater.

The way he fires this ball and places it perfectly on the back shoulder is something to behold. I could watch this pass all day.

The first word that comes to mind when watching Bridgewater is smooth. Everything he does looks so effortless. He is doing these incredible things, but he makes it all look very easy. Nitpicking, he could handle pressure better as the bailing out technique can cause some serious losses, his deep ball consistency could use some work, and he looks a little thin which could cause injury issues. Other than that, hoo boy, I think I'm in love. I really like Blake Bortles, but Bridgewater is just better. That smoothness also makes me think his success is more easily repeatable than Bortles. That is why I give him the edge and rank him as my #1 quarterback that I have scouted so far. I think the Texans would be crazy to pass on him, even for a physical freak like Jadeveon Clowney. The quarterback position is by far the most important position in football, and that is why it would be a huge mistake to take anyone other than Teddy Bridgewater.

Here are my quarterback rankings for the prospects I have looked at so far:
1. Teddy Bridgewater - Louisville

2. Blake Bortles - Central Florida
3. Zach Mettenberger - Louisiana State
4. Logan Thomas - Virginia Tech
5. Aaron Murray - Georgia

Friday, January 24, 2014

My Predictions for the 2014 Royal Rumble

The Royal Rumble is the greatest single match of the year. Yes, a WrestleMania main event is great, and Money in the Bank is awesome, but I have been looking forward to the Royal Rumble since the last Royal Rumble. Even crappy battle royals that Zack Ryder wins excite me. The Royal Rumble is the best. Here are all of my predictions for the event.

First off, Randy Orton will beat John Cena. John Cena's match at Mania is always important, because it's John Cena. Orton needs the belt to be important, so I think he holds onto it for this match. Also, I think Cena does something with Hogan involved at Mania.

Next, Lesnar is beating The Big Show. No doubt about it.

I'm actually going to pick Bray Wyatt over Daniel Bryan. They clearly want to elevate Wyatt, and this seems like the best way to do it.

Cody Rhodes and Goldust will beat the New Age Outlaws. At least, I really hope they do. They were the team that was good enough to beat the unbeatable tag team, The Shield, so they probably shouldn't lose to two retired guys who are well past their best days.

There will be a surprise appearance from an NXT Superstar. That person will be Sami Zayn. Most of the WWE Universe will have no response. I will start cheering from my house. He will eliminate my favorite wrestler, Antonio Cesaro. They will begin a feud against each other. Everyone will watch these two wrestle and have the wonderful moment of, "Holy shit, these guys are awesome." An angel will get its wings.

Chris Jericho will be a surprise entrant, because why not. And no, I'm not going to take the time to look up Fozzy's tour schedule to see if that is even possible.

Sheamus will come back for the Rumble. He's been out for a really long time, so this seems like a good time for him to come back.

Dolph Ziggler comes back for the Rumble. At least I hope so, because that will mean that he no longer has any ill effects from his concussion.

Finally, Daniel Bryan will win the Royal Rumble. Yeah, I have him losing his singles match, but that makes it the ultimate emotional rollercoaster for Bryan supporters. And who is a better guy to face Orton at Mania? Batista? That's boring, and Mania is all about mainstream publicity. Daniel Bryan is the kind of feel good story that they can put on the national media. They can point to his famous yes chants that have taken over at sporting events. Daniel Bryan is finally done being the underdog, as he's on his way to being the big dog of the WWE.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Comprehensive History of the APA

Thanks to reader, Lukewarm Jonah, for the suggestion on writing about the APA. He mentioned that he wasn't talking about that writing shit, but when I hear APA, the Acolytes Protection Agency will always be the first thing that comes to mind. The APA is a very interesting WWE team, as they are still beloved, despite neither guy being near his peak during their time as a member of the APA. Ron Simmons/Farooq was far more influential in the WCW and during his time leading the Nation of Domination. Meanwhile, Bradshaw would become JBL and be a consistent World Heavyweight Title Champion and contender. But still, they drank beer, cussed, and gambled, and those activities will always be cool in pro wrestling. Before we get there, let's look at how these guys came together.

It all started with The Undertaker and Paul Bearer creating the Ministry of Darkness. Bradshaw and Farooq joined up as Hell's Henchmen. They quickly became The Acolytes when their manager, The Jackyl, left the WWE. Their first order of business was adding some weight behind the Ministry. 

With the help of Phineas I. Godwinn (Mideon), they abduct a 600 pound Mabel, who would later become Viscera, and be as successful in that role as he was in all of his others (not very).

The Acolytes would go on to win the tag team titles a couple times, and that's all well and good. But wrestling will never be what they were remembered for, they were the best bodyguards (sorry, Diesel) in WWE history. 

These guys split from the Ministry of Darkness to do their own thing. It gave them more time to kick ass and drink beer. Still, they valued one thing even more than beer, and that was money. But it took them a while to change from a tag team to an official protection agency. Luckily, the Mean Street Posse needed help, and they found the perfect guys for the job.

My favorite part of that video is that they are playing gin. That is the ultimate Grandma card game.

Now, as a professional protection agency, they needed to hone their skills. A lot of people may try to do this at a dojo or mixed martial arts gym, but the APA knew the kind of fights they were going to get into, so they trained where the fights were happening, the bars. 

Bradshaw doesn't care if you're the state's arm wrestling champion, and neither him or Farooq care if they are outnumbered. As long as they strike first, they are going to win the fight. Here, they beat the crap out of a bunch of posers from Rhode Island. They leave without a scratch on them. This would not be the last time that they fought in a bar, and by a bar, I mean it won't be the last time that they fought in this very bar. This would help them when the WWE had bar room brawls where they not only had to fight but drink excessively as well.

Still, business was not as booming as they had hoped, so they did what any good business would do and produce a top-notch commercial.

Not many protection agencies will be paid in beer and cigars, but that's what made the APA such great business men. They were willing to think outside the box. One of their downfalls in business was that they were sitting there but let their answering machine take the call. If you want beer, you gotta answer the phone. Also, guys, you have a drawer for Zima but not Natty Light, that's suspect planning on your part.

They did try to get clever with what APA could stand for, and, um, that didn't work out too well.
Yeah, there is no way to construe that as anything but the advertisement for a successful gay bar. The WWE could have been really progressive and made them two badass gays who did not fit into typical stereotypes, but this is the WWE, so there was no way of that happening.

Still, it was clear that these guys had their shit together, so it was no surprise that other WWE Superstars wanted to be like the APA.

Here are the six best things about that video.
6. Brian Kendrick has clearly never been around a drunk person.
5. Farooq insisting that drinking alcohol is the only way to make it.
4. Bradshaw claiming that Brian Kendrick had a malignant case of dumbass.
3. That door.
2. Bradshaw saying that Britney Spears kissing Jenna Jameson would be hot.
1. Farooq responding that Britney Spears is a virgin.

This video should be shown in schools to help future generations became awesome.

The APA also helped get over one of the simplest, yet memorable, catchphrases in WWE history.


In the end, these guys were more than hired hands to take care of dirty work. They were friends, and that is the element of the APA we can never forget. The only people they cared about were the people with the biggest paychecks. The only exceptions were each other. And if there's one thing friends know how to do, it's throw a party.

Yes, the APA may have closed their doors, but the memories, much like their friendship, will live on forever.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

I Took My Wife To A WWE NXT House Show For Date Night

The nice thing about being married is that any excuse to get out of the house and do something together can be considered a date. My wife knows that I am not a romantic, so she has very low standards for a good time out. Her low expectations have been a boon for me. We have had two great date nights in the past few weeks, as a couple weeks ago, we went to the Orange Bowl. This past weekend, I took it to a whole new level, by taking my wrestling nerdery to a whole new level, and taking my wife for a night out at a WWE NXT house show.

The event took place at the Lakeland Armory, and when I walked in, I had mixed emotions. I was pumped, because there were only about 150 seats, so I knew my GA seats would be in the third row. I was a little disappointed, because the ceiling was so low that I knew there was not going to be any high flying maneuvers that night. Anyway, there was no alcohol served, so I decided to relive my high school days and pound some Mountain Dews while watching wrestling. I am a child.

We got there about a half hour before the show, which was right in time for the pre-show autograph signing with NXT superstars Jason Jordan and Mason Ryan. But then they announced a special guest appearance with Billy Gunn. Unfortunately, I forgot my Ass Man shirt at home, and since I was unable to get that signed, I really didn't care about getting autographs.

Then, I saw him. A real-life WWE (WCW, if you want to get technical) Superstar. One of my wrestling heroes. A man that has inspired my earliest West Coast Dance moves. That's right, it was Screamin' Norman Smiley.
He was across the crowd from me, so I made the choice to wait as surely he would work his way around closer, so I could thank the man for all of his influence on me. This was a huge mistake on my part, as he only popped out from behind the curtain for that single minute, and I never saw him again the rest of the night. I'm still mad at myself, because Norman Smiley is the best.

Never forget.

Anyway, back to the NXT show. I'll quickly break it down, match by match.

Devin Taylor introduced Slate Randall as our host. He seemed pretty good on the microphone, but that may have been just because he was alongside Devin Taylor, so the bar was not exactly set high. Anyway, he's a stereotypical cocky jerk, so I'll be interested to see his character on television.

The first match of the night was Aiden English vs. Colin Cassady. It wasn't a really solid match and probably my second favorite of the night. They worked well with each other, and it's just really fun to chant S-A-W-F-T SAAAAAAAAAWFT.

The next match was Sylvester LeFort and Marcus Louis vs. Mason Ryan and Jason Jordan who are tagging up, because they are muscular and their first names' rhyme. Before the match started, I told my wife to wait for the USA chants, because they were coming, despite Mason Ryan being Welsh. About three seconds later, Jason Jordan started the chants. I proudly chanted along, because America. Anyway, LeFort and Louis had a pretty funny chant thing they were doing that I couldn't totally make out the words, but I have a feeling I will be seeing it soon on NXT.

After that, it was Baron Corbin vs. CJ Parker, and I felt bad for both guys. I don't like CJ Parker, but shit, everybody else hates CJ Parker, and it is just a constant stream of people yelling at him about how badly he sucks. There were 7-year-old kids yelling at him about how much he sucks. This is a problem with NXT shows, because it is full of Smarks. Fans who love the bad guys and hate the good guys. I fall into this group, but I still try to cheer good guys and boo the bad guys, because that's the reaction that will actually help the wrestlers. I don't really need other wrestling fans to think I'm cool, but good for the people who need that sort of affirmation. His hippy gimmick does not make sense, and my wife brought up a really good point that his bright white go-go boots don't quite fit the hippy lifestyle. He should probably get some birkenstocks. Anyway, I also felt bad for Corbin, because he tried to be a heel, but Hitler would have trouble getting heat when facing CJ Parker. I just felt bad for everyone involved.

After that, there was an appearance from Sweet T, who immediately tried to become a heel again. Then Leo Kruger came out with his new gimmick, Adam Rose, and he now has a fat manager named Humphrey. They love to dance, but his accent makes it sound like Donce, and I have been chanting donce ever since. It's starting to wear down my wife. Honestly, this was the best match of the night, as they went back and forth and put on a really fun match for the crowd. I'm now a huge Adam Rose fan and despite the cool fans continually chanting Leo Kruger, I think this gimmick has way more potential to get him on the main roster. Also, hopefully Broadus and Sweet T become heels, because they need something to switch it up.

After intermission, they kicked it off with a Divas match with some redhead named Becky Lynch against Bayley. It was a little slow, but it was fine. Bayley was definitely a fan favorite despite my wife describing her as "softball girly looking."

Then it was Corey Graves vs. Troy McClane (I didn't catch the guy's last name, but that was the only Troy I found on the roster). There was an incredibly annoying fan who would not stop yelling. Corey Graves rightfully told her that nobody wanted to hear her, and became an instant fan favorite, because that lady was seriously the worst. Troy was going through his infomercial spiel, but the lady would not shut up, so I couldn't hear half of it. Since Corey Graves talked trash to that lady, he became my wife's favorite wrestler of the night. Most people either really like or really hate him, but I'm kind of blah on him. He's perfectly fine.

Finally, it was the main event between Adrian Neville and Bo Dallas. Bo seemed to phone in this match, and with the low ceilings, there wasn't much that Neville could really do. He did some flippy stuff, and Bo Dallas put on some decent offense, but they had a cheap pin from Dallas end the match, and it was a pretty anticlimactic ending to the night.

Overall, it was a fun night. There was some solid wrestling, and for $10, it's really tough to beat that value. I was disappointed that Tyler Breeze was not there, and I didn't really expect Sami Zayn to be there, so that wasn't much of a surprise. Still, there were a lot of good wrestlers, and even my wife had a good time.

But next time I am definitely getting that picture with Norman Smiley.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Scouting the 2014 NFL Draft: Logan Thomas

After falling in love with Blake Bortles last week, I figured I would look at another guy that I am not a believer in despite not watching much tape of him. I am going with the guy that Mel Kiper fell in love with a few years ago, Logan Thomas. The physical tools have always been there for Thomas, so I decided to give him a closer look with his game against Miami.

The first thing that stands out about Thomas is that he is big and athletic. It made people like Kiper drool, because the tools are there. Athletically, he moves very well and is a tough guy to bring down.

As you can see, he's not a burner, but he is a threat in a read-option scheme and can be utilized in short yardage situations.

His footwork is rough as it doesn't match up with where his upper body is pointing. It's just a slight misalignment, but it hurts his accuracy. This pass gives three different angles, so it is a great demonstration of what I am talking about.

He completes this pass, but when you look at the end zone cameras, it looks like he is going to fire the ball directly in front of him, instead it is about 10 yards to his right. It's surprisingly accurate, but a quarterback cannot expect to maintain accuracy when the feet and shoulders are off alignment like that.

He does a good job of throwing on the run when he can just let his natural athleticism take over and get more in a rhythm.

This is an area I can personally understand from playing tennis. If somebody hits the ball at me, my mechanics are terrible, because I'm just waiting and thinking about the shot, but if somebody makes me run from side to side, my strokes are smoother and my footwork is naturally better. I'm a casual tennis player, so my footwork still sucks when people hit it at me, and I'm sure Logan Thomas has been working on his footwork for quite a while, and it's still not there.

Another issue with Thomas is that he is consistently late on throwing the ball.

He waits for his receiver to get open before throwing the ball, instead of seeing how the play is going to develop. This is the issue that I just don't see resolving itself. The throwing windows are only going to shrink in the NFL, and waiting that extra split second is going to destroy any chances he can have as a successful quarterback.

Logan Thomas is not a complete joke at quarterback. He's got a lot of things going for him. He has good arm strength and good mobility. When his mechanics are in sync, he looks good. Unfortunately, that doesn't happen nearly enough. On top of that, his hesitation in waiting for receivers to get open is simply not going to work at the next level, as it didn't work a lot of times at the college level. I can actually see what Mel Kiper was so excited about. He had limited experience as a QB, and the physical skills are something to fall in love with. Unfortunately, he just never cleaned up the mechanics, and he's still slow to make decisions. But he was originally supposed to be a tight end, and with that size and athleticism, I could definitely justify a third day pick on him. At quarterback, I would bring him as an undrafted free agent and hope for the best. I like the tools but doubt he can turn those into results.

Here are my quarterback rankings for the prospects I have looked at so far:
Blake Bortles - Central Florida
Zach Mettenberger - Louisiana State
Logan Thomas - Virginia Tech
Aaron Murray - Georgia

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Rise by Skillet Is the Worst Song Ever Made

My wife will sometimes have me get songs downloaded, so she has songs she likes on her iPod instead of just the underground country, hippy, and death metal mix that I listen to. This is totally understandable. I'm actually happy about this, because she used to casually listen to Hatebreed, and every time I would walk in, I would want to punch a hole through the wall, which is not a healthy reaction when seeing your wife.

So the other day, she had me download some songs. Mostly people I knew kind of sucked like Miley Cyrus and Drake. She also exposed me to Royals by Lorde, and that has totally become my jam, so some good did come out of it. The only song that stood out was Rise by a band called Skillet. I didn't really think anything of it, so I downloaded it on the computer and put it on her iPod as well as mine, because unchecking that little box on iTunes is way too big of a hassle. This would turn out to be a pretty big mistake.

I went for a run the other day, and the song came on. I had no idea what the hell it was at first. I guess now is as good of time as any to play the song for you.

From that initial beeping at the beginning of the song, my first thought was, "What the fuck is this?" Then the guy started singing, and I'm like, "Shit, what the hell is this?" It was at this point that I took out my iPod and found out what it was. I smiled when I saw that it was one of the crappy songs my wife had wanted. Then the lady started singing, and by that point, nothing shitty could surprise me, so I embraced that part.

Now I could have easily switched to the next song, but I'm a little sadistic, so I needed to see this song through. I'm so happy that I did.

You see, this song is really shitty for the first three minutes and 45 seconds about revolting, with the final 45 seconds of that taking it to a worse place as they have children chanting. But as bad as that is, it is followed by the final 30 seconds which blows everything out of the water. It stops being a song, and becomes a phone call, a news story, and a family argument. I doubt anybody made it to this point in the video above, so here it is for you to enjoy.

I am a very relaxed runner, but rarely do I actually laugh out loud when running. This song changed all that, as I had to keep my balance, because I was bent over laughing by the end of this audio montage.

Here is the wonderful transcript in all its glory:

[Operator:] 911?
[Woman:] There's a guy here with a gun!
[Operator:] Ma'am? Ma'am?
[Woman:] Kids, get under the table! Kids get under the table!!!

This got me to giggle a little bit. I didn't really see how this scene really tied into the song, but I was pretty happy it was there.

[News reporter:] We are getting new reports from all around the globe, showing the highest unemployment rates since the end of World War II. Many are losing their jobs, their homes, and in many cases, their hope.

Through the first part, I was just trying to keep up with all that this news reporter was saying, but I had caught up by the last sentence. And when she says, "and in many cases, their hope," I just about lost my shit. That is rich. That is just rich. God, I was so happy.

[Dispatch:] [static police call] Domestic Disturbance in progress [more static]

I was a little disappointed, as nothing special happened here. But then...

[Upset parent:] You are such a failure! What is wrong with you? You're worthless! You can't do anything right! I wish you had never been born!

It was at this point where I nearly fell down laughing. I looked like an awkward runner, because my convulsing laughter minimized my stride, and I had to do everything I could just to stay upright. That last sentence from angry parent made me oh so happy. That sentence somehow summarizes all teen angst in just seven little words.

When I confronted my wife about this song, I was very relieved. She had never heard the song before, but a friend recommended it to her. That was a huge relief, as a divorce after four months would have been awkward.

Anyway, god bless you, Skillet. This song is the worst piece of shit I have ever listened to, but thanks for the laugh. If you are looking to make real music, maybe listen to the late, great, Wesley Willis.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Scouting The 2014 NFL Draft: Blake Bortles

Now that college football has officially ended for eight months, I can take a look at any quarterback that has graduated or declared for the NFL Draft. After already taking a look at LSU's Zach Mettenberger and Georgia's Aaron Murray, I decided to get out of the SEC and take a look at Central Florida's Blake Bortles. Bortles's buzz has grown as the year has gone on, and he is currently being talked about as a top five pick. I will admit that I didn't watch a ton of Central Florida this year, but I did take the time to look at his games against Penn State, their lone loss against South Carolina, and the Fiesta Bowl against Baylor.

The first thing that stood out was the way he opened up the game against Penn State. He was able to just set and fire when he sees an open receiver. Check out the first five passes from the Penn State game.

This is partially good play calling, but he has good patience, gives his receiver a chance to run routes and hits them. It is always good when a quarterback is making it look easy out there.

Another thing I loved is his mobility within the pocket. He sees the blitz, and instead of scrambling outside, he waits for the blitzer to get close, and just steps up, sets his feet and fires the ball down the field.

This was excellent awareness from the quarterback and something that I rarely see at the college level. Guys are either unable to move within the pocket while keeping their eyes down the field, or they bail out of the pocket and cut down their options or run into more trouble. This is an essential skill for professional quarterbacks, and Bortles shows that he can handle pressure. The receiver makes a nice catch, but Bortles gives his teammate an opportunity to make that play. 

Speaking of his eyes, he also uses them to manipulate defenses, as he shows on this touchdown pass. He scans through his reads over the middle of the field, then quickly sets his feet before throwing the outlet pass to his running back who is able to make it into the end zone.

If he looks in that direction any earlier, the defense can break on the pass and has a good chance of stopping the running back from making it into the end zone. Since he keeps the coverage towards the middle of the field, it gives his back enough space to make it into the end zone. It's subtle but still incredibly important. 

He is also really good at leading his receivers and letting the make plays, as you will see here against South Carolina.

That is just a great ball that gives his receiver the opportunity to make people miss and turn it into a huge play. I also want to bring up that Central Florida was very close to making things very interesting for the last year of the BCS. They very easily could have beaten South Carolina in this game, as a bad play call of a wide receiver pass turned into a pick that set up a touchdown for South Carolina. This would later be part of the reason Bortles tried to force a ball into the end zone from the 27 that led to an interception. This offense was very good, and they very nearly went undefeated this season.

He has good mobility. I don't think it would be wise to base him in a zone-read offense, but that is an option to mix teams up and keep them honest.

He is definitely a legitimate athlete.

I am finally done (for now) gushing over his positive qualities, because it is not all perfect for Bortles. He really needs to clean up the consistency of his footwork. When it's on, his throws are great, but he has no chance of success when he gets sloppy. This is a play where he does a great job of moving his feet as he looks around the field. Unfortunately, his footwork fails him. From the end zone cam, you can see that his feet are aimed behind the receiver, and that is where the ball ends up.

When the quarterback is trying to fit things into tight windows, everything needs to be perfect. If he cleans up his footwork on this throw, this is a play that can end in six points. It usually is quite good, but finding a little more consistency will be paramount to his success.

The other big concern I had was his deep ball accuracy. This is a play you need to complete as his receiver had a step, but he badly underthrew the football.

This was also something that showed up in the Fiesta Bowl where the coverage was over the top, but he still threw it deep and it got picked off. So, if there is one major concern with him, it's his ability to attack down the field. Still, on other plays, he has shown he has the ability, and I don't believe that arm strength will be an issue, so I think he has the tools to improve in this area.

One thing that bothered me a bit was his motion. On some passes, he really throws his entire body into it. It's very busy, but he was able to still make accurate throws while doing it. He also contorted his body in weird situations when throwing the ball, but he maintained accuracy through all of this. It's not always pretty, but as long as it is effective, this is a minor issue.

One more positive note, as this is one of my favorite throws, even though it is a simple crossing pattern. It shows nearly everything good about Bortles in just one play.

He takes the snap, scans the field, makes the decision to throw the ball, squares his feet, fires a ball that splits defenders while perfectly leading his receiver across the middle. He does this all in about two seconds.

I will admit that I came in very skeptical of the talents of Blake Bortles. Then I watched him carve up three different defenses that can all be considered at least pretty good. He consistently finds the open receiver, and makes smart decisions. His ability to handle pressure while keeping his eyes down field is something that is incredibly underrated in prospects (cough Blaine Gabbert cough), and although the arm is not a cannon, it looks to be good enough to make all the throws at the next level. He's not perfect, but I think he has the potential to be a top-10 quarterback in the NFL. That sort of potential makes him worth a gamble in the top five picks of this draft. 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

How the WWE Network Could Change Television Forever

The WWE announced last night that it would be starting a streaming service for $9.99 a month. With it, they are creating exclusive content and make it possible for fans to stream a huge variety of content from the past. The biggest news about the service is that it will also stream all of WWE's PPVs. Since a PPV runs about $50 these days, a fan who buys two PPVs is nearly at the break even point, and a fan who purchases three would be crazy not to sign up for the service.

It makes a ton of sense for the WWE. Instead of sharing profits with the cable company, WWE takes home everything. Yes, there's more overhead, but I'm someone who has not bought a PPV in a while, but will strongly consider this package as it makes a lot of sense. I believe there are a lot of fans who pick and choose PPVs, especially those who only care about WrestleMania, Royal Rumble, and maybe SummerSlam or Money in the Bank. Even if they are only getting those first two, it makes sense to purchase this service.

WWE is consistently ahead of the curve when it comes to utilizing technology, and I can definitely see others following their lead in the future. The first company that comes to mind is the UFC. These are very similar companies in that they both have monthly PPVs with a fan base that will pick and choose depending on how the main events look. The UFC recently introduced an on-demand service for classic fights which is one large part of what the WWE service looks like. However, it seems like the current service only appeals to hardcore fans. They would get a huge uptick in sales if they were willing to add in the PPVs with the service. They could also up the cost of the service to make it more financially appealing, but I do think this business model has potential.

Finally, I may sound ignorant on this last part, as I am not sure how the money is split between production companies and cable providers, but on demand movies is another place where this could be an option. Instead of paying $6 a movie, a $15-$20 service that included all new movies may be financially viable to increase revenue.

If those options all follow the WWE's lead, what is PPV left with? Boxing and pornography. The porn numbers have to be down with how easy it is to stream pornography from a variety of websites. And boxing has 1-2 fights a year that actually get mainstream press coverage. I don't know how or why the PPV model exists at that point. It's something that appeals to a niche audience, and that niche may be shrinking by quite a bit.

Although I think it is a far ways down the road, this may also be the end of cable companies bundling channels. People are getting more and more comfortable with technology, and with smart TVs, it will be very easy to use your big screen TV as an internet device without having to plug in a computer. Why not just pick and choose what you want. Sure, you may pay a premium to have that option, but by not paying for hundreds of channels you never watch, many people would still come out ahead. Outside of channels that show sports, the only channels that I really need off the top of my head are FXX and Comedy Central. I'm sure there are plenty of people who have similar tastes.

Even though the WWE only appeals to a small part of the population, this was actually very big news for anyone who watches television as it cold have a domino effect that changes the way everyone consumes television.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Disappointment of the Luol Deng Trade

The Bulls traded Luol Deng to the Cavaliers for Andrew Bynum, a Sacramento Kings first round pick, and two second round picks from the Portland Trail Blazers, and the right to swap picks with the Cavaliers in 2015). Well, they kind of traded Luol Deng for that. Let's break it down piece-by-piece.

Luol Deng is going to the Cavaliers. This is indisputable and is 100% happening. Luol is a very good, yet not great small forward. Most people don't know this, but Luol has terrible hemorrhoids, so Thibodeau spares him by never resting him on the bench. Thibs is a really good guy who cares about his player's well-being, so if you see Luol only playing 36 minutes a game for the Cavaliers, it means Mike Brown hates him. In all seriousness, Luol could definitely help a contender, and his contract is up at the end of the year, so he is a very nice piece to add to a team. He's a good slasher who plays excellent defense, and outside of the teams that rely on spreading the floor as much as possible, he could have been a very nice piece for a contender. Instead, he goes to the Cavaliers, and probably adds enough to get them into the playoffs where they are dominated in the first round. 

In exchange, the Bulls got Andrew Bynum. By all accounts, they are going to waive him as soon as possible, but it made the salaries work, so whatever. The Bulls aren't contending this season, so getting any player for this year makes zero sense.

They also received two second round picks (in 2015 and 2016) from the Cavaliers, although those picks actually belong to the Portland Trail Blazers, so they are likely going to be middle of the pack (I think the Blazers are good, but I'm not buying that they are an elite team in the West). Those can get filler players, but nothing special.

They also have the option of switching first round picks with the Cavaliers in 2015, but only if Cleveland has the 15th pick or lower. This may be the piece that excites me the most, as the Cavaliers definitely have the potential to be a very low playoff seed, and if the Bulls have a good offseason and Derrick Rose finally stays healthy, they could be contenders. Going from 26 to 16 would be a nice step up if everything breaks right.

The crown jewel of the trade is the Sacramento Kings's first round pick. Unfortunately, the chances of the Bulls actually cashing in on this is 50/50. For this year, that Kings pick is Top-12 protected, so there is no way the Bulls are getting it this year. It is Top-10 protected for 2015-2017, and at that point, it becomes a second round pick. I know this draft is loaded, but the Kings are still not built well for the future. I love DeMarcus Cousins, but the guy still doesn't play defense all the time, and even with dominant offensive days from him, the Kings still usually lose. Rudy Gay is an above average player who will likely be bolting after his monstrous contract is done. Isaiah Thomas will be commanding some decent money this offseason, and he does some things very well, and other areas he struggles. Ben McLemore is the wildcard for this team. He shows flashes, and if he can fulfill his potential, they can be dangerous. But the West is stacked, and if we're ranking teams' four-year outlook, the Kings are probably only definitely ahead of the Jazz and Lakers while probably being near the same level as the Nuggets, Timberwolves, and Grizzlies. 

In the end, this could be three second round picks for the Bulls, and that is a pretty disappointing haul. It could also be two second round picks, a mid first rounder, and a trade up of about 10 spots in another first round. That sounds good on paper, but how long can the Bulls look to the future when they have a core that is built for the present? 

Having money to spend is nice, but I can't really think of a great way to spend it outside of bringing Mirotic over. That gives them a potential starting five of Noah, Gibson/Boozer, Mirotic, Butler, and Rose with plenty of money if they amnesty Boozer. But whether they can spend that money wisely on filling out a bench is questionable. 

Plus, the front office and Thibodeau do not get along, and tanking this season may give them the excuse to get a new coach. Although I disagree with how Thibs uses minutes with some players, he is an excellent coach, and they will likely be taking a step back with whoever they bring in. 

Luol Deng was a very good player for the Bulls, and although I think it was wise to not invest a ton of money in him for the future, I am still going to miss him. The assets they received in return are nice, but it still doesn't make me feel good about the Bulls in the present or the future. That's why I'm disappointed.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Scouting the 2014 NFL Draft: Aaron Murray

Since I wanted to take a look at more prospects than in the past this year, I am starting earlier. I have already looked at Zach Mettenberger, so it makes sense to take a look at the guy that beat him out for the quarterback position at the University of Gerogia, Aaron Murray. Murray suffered the same sad fate as Mettenberger as his year prematurely ended due to a torn ACL. Murray had a much more prolific college career, but will that success transfer to the next level? I took a look at his game against Clemson this year and his game against Alabama in 2012 to find out.

I like his eye discipline. He makes subtle movements to keep safeties from jumping his intended route. Too often, quarterbacks stare down receivers, but he shows the ability to scan a field. He also does a nice job of not giving up on the pass once he feels pressure. On this play, he is able to avoid the rush, find an open receiver and complete the pass.

Admittedly, the accuracy was not there on this pass, but this was actually an area where he looked good. He had nice accuracy on short-to-intermediate routes, especially in last year's Alabama game. He's not what you would consider a mobile QB, but throwing on the run was very solid.

Although it is usually not a good idea to throw across your body, Murray fires a strike that hits his receiver in stride and leads to a big gain (the touchdown was overturned).

Unfortunately, for Murray, he is not the sort of athlete that can consistently get out of the pocket, and when he is kept in the pocket, his struggles are highlighted. He just doesn't seem to have the skills necessary to be successful in the pocket. One huge issue is that his arm just does not stack up. Here is an pass where he badly misses behind his intended receiver.

I'm not even sure what that route was supposed to be. It was either an out or a fade, but either way, that was a very bad ball that not only could have been picked off but could have been returned all the way. As an Iowa fan, I saw many of those passes during the Stanzi days.

With where he is physically, he needs to be practically perfect in the intangibles. Unfortunately, that is not the case. He struggles to do a good job of anticipating pressure and avoiding the rush.

He has his running back as an outlet but never looks away from his downfield options until two guys are already on top of him.

Even his highlights have a lot of issues as a lot of the balls are underthrown and the throws that he does put on the mark down the field noticeably lack the zip to make him dangerous at the pro level.

I do think arm strength is overrated, but the less arm strength a quarterback has, the less room for error he has. A quarterback with Murray's arm strength needs to be deadly accurate, and I have not seen that from his tape.

Something that bothers me is that Clemson consistently put eight guys in the box, and there were very few chances taken down the field. Now, that could mean that his coach did not call plays for that to happen, or it means that Murray just didn't throw those balls. Either way, it's a pretty damning statement about his arm strength that one of those two did not feel enough confidence in Murray's arm to make that happen. Remember, this was the first game of the season when everyone around him was still healthy. He's a fine college quarterback, but I think that drafting him with any intentions outside of him being a solid backup is way too lofty for what he brings to the table.