August 23, 2019
Lucky for the Pittsburgh Steelers that they will go into the forthcoming season without any question as to who is the starting quarterback will be. It’s been Ben Roethlisberger since 2004 but some teams still aren’t sure who will be under center.
There are several quarterback controversies brewing in the National Football League and ahead I’ll give my opinion on those attracting the most attention.
New York Giants
This is probably the most talked about quarterback battle among NFL fans everywhere but primarily in New York. Eyebrows were raised this year when the ‘Gints drafted Daniel Jones in the first round as he was not considered one of the higher rated prospects. Expected to sit this entire 2019 season while he learns from two-time Super Bowl winning QB Eli Manning, Jones’s performance in the preseason thus far is making it a very difficult decision for Head Coach Pat Shurmur as to who starts the season opener.
In the first week of preseason, Eli Manning threw one pass and it was a three yard completion. In relief Jones tossed five passes and finished with 67 yards passing including a touchdown toss. The following week Manning played a bit more completing all of his four pass attempts this time for a total of 42 yards. Jones played more and missed on only three of 14 passes while connecting for 161 yards. Another touchdown, but he fumbled twice. Rookie jitters? Perhaps.
Last night the Giants won again for their third win in three exhibition games this time beating the Bengals. Eli Manning got more playing time but only went four-for-eight with 41 yards passing. In comes Daniel Jones who proceeds to hit on nine of 11 pass attempts finishing this time with 141 yards including a nice 35-yard completion.
So who starts in week one? On ESPN Radio this morning it was said that no matter what Daniel Jones does in the final preseason game, Eli Manning will be the starter. I say this…what do the Giants have to lose? They are coming off a poor season and there is no doubt Daniel Jones is the future at quarterback. Why wait? I say they start Daniel Jones from the get-go just as Baltimore did last year during the season to Joe Flacco.
Speaking of Joe Flacco, Lamar Jackson forced his exit from the Ravens so Flacco headed west and is now a Bronco. He probably thought there would be no competition for his position. But hold the phone…in the second round of this year’s draft Denver chose a backup to Flacco in Drew Lock. Coming out of the University of Missouri, Lock was certainly no lock at quarterback and not is expected to unseat Flacco, at least not this season.
So in the preseason opener, Lock went 7/11 but for just 34 yards and was sacked twice. His QB rating was a low 68 and Flacco needed not to wipe away any sweat. Flacco was on the field for the first time in orange the following week and he also went seven-for-11 but with just a few more yards (59). Lock nearly repeated his first performance with another night of 7-for-12 and 40 yards with one sack.
Tomorrow night Denver plays its third preseason game in Los Angeles against the Rams. I don’t see new head coach Vic Fangio giving the nod to the rookie over a seasoned veteran and a man who has won a Super Bowl in Joe Flacco. But if he doesn’t have a good start to the 2019 campaign, Flacco could find the bench for the second consecutive season.
With Ryan Tannehill in Tennessee, the Dolphins obtained Josh Rosen from Arizona and brought in crafty Ryan Fitzpatrick. This is one battle that will go down to the wire. Fitzpatrick threw five passes in game one of the preseason completing just two and only for 10 yards. Rosen? 13/20, 191, one pick, two sacks.
Game 2: Fitz: 3/9, 20 yards, one sack. Rosen: 10/18, 102, three sacks.
Game 3: Last night in Miami against the Jags, Fitzpatrick got most of the playing time and threw one touchdown while completing 12 of 18 passes for 126 yards. Rosen went 5-for-7 with 59 yards.
My guess here is that given his experience and how he played last night, Ryan Fitzpatrick starts at quarterback for the Miami Dolphins in the season opener.
The NFL’s #1 pick overall was Kyler Murray this year. There were rave reviews regarding this kid before the draft and while considered small by skeptics, everytime there was that discussion the name Drew Brees was mentioned. In his pro debut, Murray hit on all but one of seven pass attempts for 44 yards and he took one sack. But onlookers were impressed for a first start ever. Then there was challenger Brett Hundley who on 104 yards passing completed 10 of 14. He also had a touchdown pass and was sacked once.
The next time out Hundley was solid again with a 118.5 QB rating based on a night of 10/15, 139 yards and another touchdown. The rookie was just three of eight for only 12 yards and was sacked twice. Not good. Murray will get a real test on Saturday when his team plays in Minnesota.
While Murray has been up and down, I think his high draft selection makes him a no-brainer and rookie head coach Kliff Kingsbury should have him under center on opening day. Kingsbury comes directly out of a career as a college coach having led the Texas Tech Red Raiders to a record of 35-40 in six seasons before he was fired. USC hired him as their offensive coordinator but the Cardinals wanted him to go pro and he did.
The word is that Dwayne Haskins drafted in the first round by the Redskins out of Ohio State felt disrespected that he was not selected higher. Haskins did go to Washington with the 15th pick but he feels he has something to prove. He will have to beat out veteran Case Keenum to win the starting job.
In his debut, Haskins completed eight of 14 passes for 117 yards but threw two interceptions. His quarterback rating was just 44.9 and he was sacked twice. Not a good start. Case Keenum in that same game was four of nine for 60 yards and threw a touchdown. Advantage Keenum.
The next time out the Buckeye rookie was better completing half of his 14 passes for 114 yards including a touchdown toss but he was sacked three times however, his QB rating vastly improved to 101.5. For Keenum, he made just seven pass attempts and completed just three for only 52 yards while his rating dropped to 68.8. Advantage Haskins.
Last night as Washington defeated Atlanta, Case Keenum got the start and hit on nine of 14 for 101 yards with one sack. In came Haskins who had one less pass and two less completions for just 74 yards. Advantage Keenum.
This QB race here reminds me of the one in Denver. If Case Keenum fairs poorly in early 2019, then look for Haskins to become the starter.
Marcus Mariota is supposed to be the Titans’ franchise quarterback. However, his career has been plagued with injuries. Ryan Tannehill is a pretty good quarterback just having the unfortunate circumstance of playing for a sub-par team in Miami. Now he comes to Tennessee who in 2018 were 9-7 and narrowly missed winning the division.
In his Tennessee debut, Tannehill was impressive. 12 completions on 16 attempts, two touchdowns. A 138 rating and Mariota countered with a 4/8, 24 yards and QB rating of 56.3. Uh oh.
Preseason #2 sees Tannehill with another strong performance going 7-11 and 84 yards and a touchdown. A 117.2 rating and the pressure was on Mariota who was solid with a 6-for-9, 63 yards, a touchdown and a rating of 123.8. Now head coach Mike Vrabel will two exhibition games remaining to decide. The next one is at home and it’s with my Pittsburgh Steelers. The Titans will prep for the season opener with a final preseason game in Chicago.
Given his injury background and quality of play versus Tannehill’s career, if I were Vrabel, it would be Tannehill. The incumbent Mariotta has been in the NFL four years whereas the challenger Tannehill is two seasons ahead. In comparison, let’s take quarterback rating first. Tannehill’s career mark is 87.0. Mariotta, 89.4. Average-per-season marks?
One key stat to consider is completion percentage. Ryan Tannehill’s career mark is 62.8 whereas Mariotta posts a mark of 63.2. Another factor to consider is win/losses. Tannehill and Mariotta are close on this one too. The former Dolphins quarterback went 42-46 in his six years to the south while Marcus Mariotta in four years is 27-28. So the question becomes, who starts? Mariotta may be better on his feet whereas Tannehill has the better arm, perhaps not by much. In two weeks we will know for sure.
In Pittsburgh Steelers camp if you have not yet heard, Ray Sherman has taken over as wide receivers coach after the untimely death of former coach Darryl Drake. For some in Steelers Nation, the thought of Sherman brings back bad memories as he was an awful offensive coordinator for the one season he held the job with the Steelers in 1998.
Let’s talk a bit of hockey and the NHL…
Top 10 entry-level players of the salary cap era
Matt Teague, theScore.com
With a ton of restricted free-agent chatter around the league - but little action - we thought it would be interesting to review which players performed the best while on their entry-level deals since the salary cap era began in 2005-06. Our list summarizes the 10 most productive players of the cap era during their first three NHL seasons along with the subsequent contract they earned for their efforts. But before we begin, let's go over a few ground rules. Players on the list require a minimum of 200 games played over their entry-level deals. Being in the lineup consistently matters, and this also helps avoid inflated per-game averages for players who weren't regulars.
The contracts must be three-year, entry-level deals, which excludes players like Artemi Panarin, who signed a two-year ELC with the Chicago Blackhawks. He was on his first big-money contract by his third NHL season, and therefore doesn't qualify. All cap-hit shares are relative to the cap for the year each player signed their respective deal.
#3. Evgeni Malkin
The Pittsburgh Penguins marksman holds the modern-day record by scoring in each of his first six NHL contests as a rookie, tallying seven goals and 11 points over that span. That early brilliance was just a sample of what was to come, as Malkin recorded 85 points in his first campaign to take home the 2006-07 Calder Trophy. The 6-foot-3 sniper went on to record back-to-back 100-plus-point seasons in his second and third NHL campaigns, and he ranks eighth all time in points over a player's first three seasons. He's also the second player on this list, along with Kane, to capture a Stanley Cup during his entry-level contract.
Another night at PNC Park for the Pittsburgh Pirates and another sparse 10,587 fans who suffered through another blowout loss as the Bucs lose again to the Nationals this time by a tally of 7-1.
MMA has an event tomorrow night and it is in Bellator with “Bellator 225: Mitrione vs. Kharitonov 2.” The main event is a rematch between Matt Mitrione and Sergei Kharitonov. The first fight took place last February 15 and ended in a no contest because in the very first round Mitrione the former NFL player landed a kick directly to Kharitonov’s goods.
Prior to that fight, Mitrione lost miserably to Ryan Bader in Bellator’s Heavyweight Grand Prix semifinal completely dominated by the champion Bader. For Sergei, he had knocked out Roy “Big Country” Nelson last October and then was in another no contest with Anton Vyazigin because of an accidental eye poke in May of 2018. Kharitonov’s career record is 28-6 with 10 submissions and 16 knockouts while he has been KO’d three times and submitted twice in his six losses. He has not lost since November 4, 2016 when Javy Ayala scored a first round knockout.
Since losing to former champion Josh Barnett by an arm triangle choke in 2001, Kharitonov has won 10 of 11 fights including those two no contests. Mitrione on the other hand has the same number of losses but only 13 wins since turning pro in 2009 when he won The Ultimate Fighter finale knocking out Marcus Jones in the second round. Mitrione began his career with five straight victories all but one by knockout. Then he dropped his next two to Cheick Kongo by decision and Roy Nelson by TKO in TUF’s Team Carwin vs. Team Nelson finale.
Mitrione’s other losses were to Brendan Schaub (D’Arce choke), Ben Rothwell (guillotine choke), Travis Browne (TKO) and that loss to Bader. For the record, Matt Mitrione played just one season in the NFL and it was with the New York Giants in 2002 when he played in nine games, made four tackles as a defensive tackle, two which were solo. He was an undrafted free agent rookie signee.
The remainder of the card for Saturday has plenty of fights but none of major significance and the card appears below.
A few final MMA words and the first come by way of an interview ESPN’s Ariel Helwani conducted with Conor McGregor. This after McGregor had issued the following apology for his punching of a bar patron in Ireland last April:
“I was in the wrong. That man deserved to enjoy his time in the pub without having it end the way it did. ... I tried to make amends and I made amends back then. But it doesn't matter. I was in the wrong. I must come here before you and take accountability and take responsibility. I owe it to the people that have been supporting me. I owe it to my mother, my father, my family. I owe it to the people who trained me in martial arts. That's not who I am. That's not the reason why I got into martial arts or studying combat sports. The reason I got into it was to defend against that type of scenario.”
This is a classic case of “damage control.” In the interview, McGregor makes all kinds of excuses for his loss to Khabib Nurmagomedov and insists he wants a rematch. He also said he would fight anyone and that the fight game is in his blood and he is going nowhere. As for his supposed comeback?
“Mine is gonna be the greatest one of all.”
I still contend that he will NOT be coming back AT ALL. I don’t believe him and won’t until he actually steps through the doors of the Octagon. When and if he does, I don’t care who he is fighting, I don’t believe he wins. Khabib will give him a worse beat down if they fight again. Another fight with Nate Diaz will result in Diaz more determined to win in a more convincing manner and if that trilogy goes down, Diaz wins inside of three rounds.
Max Holloway would destroy Conor McGregor. So would Tony Ferguson. Dustin Poirier would dust McGregor. If you are thinking Jorge Masvidal…please. Conor McGregor wants nothing to do with Masvidal. Donald Cerrone? Too much talent and heart to lose to the Irish fool.
Speaking of Dustin Poirier, he fights Khabib to unify that division’s title next weekend and after watching some documentaries on Nurmagomedov, I’m more convinced that he is unbeatable for the moment. The man is a grappling and mauling machine. He is going to submit Dustin Poirier in my estimation but I have to give it to the interim champ who is supremely confident:
“I keep going back and forth. I feel like I can submit Khabib, but feel like I’m going to stop him. I don’t know how it’s going to happen, but I’m either going to knock him out or I’m going to submit him. I’m going to finish Khabib Nurmagomedov.”
Good luck with that.