Archive for February, 2010

Thundering Blurb Interview #1

Hey guys – if you follow me on Twitter or listened to Wednesday’s show, you know I was interviewed on a St. Louis radio station (KFNS 590 The Fan) about Tim Tebow, the Combine and the Rams.

I finally threw it up for your perusal and since I was home on Friday due to inclement weather (ice and snow) did a whole show on top of it. So listen in, and you’ll get the interview, my expanded thoughts on the subjects we covered and then my five things you need to keep in mind as you watch the Scouting combine this week.

Enjoy!

ps – Did a second interview on an ESPN affiliate in Bakersfield. When I get the audio, so will you.

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The Thundering Blurb Football Show – 2/24

Click for the  2/24 Blurb here.

Had Scott Wright of Draftcountdown.com on last night – as expected, he crushed it.

Before Scott came on at the halfway point, I hit a few more talking points.

First, I relate my encounter with yet another Tebow fan who just can’t get their head around his hero’s shortcomings.

In an article I wrote on Monday about Tebow’s attempt to alter the mechanics of his throwing motion—one in which I even went so far as to praise the attempt and while not sure it will work, once again find myself not wanting to bet against him.

Which I guess means it’s time for an irrational post from a homer, right? Some dude decided he should call me out by asking ‘Andrew, whom are you Qb coach for?’

First, bonus points for using ‘whom’ correctly. It’s a lost art. But really? THAT’S what you’re coming at me with?

This is really the state of the internet and I forget it at times. If you don’t agree with someone, don’t debate them with logic – attact their credibility with straw man arguments or character attacks.

Forwhat it’s worth, I watch a lot of game film. I carefully break down what I see, form an opinion and then challenge that opinion by reading as many others as I can.

And I QB coach my kid. If that’s not enough for you, you’re reading the wrong article or listening to the wrong show.

I segue to some hockey talk (USA!USA!USA!) and NBC, then talk about the BleacherReport Featured Columnists Mock Draft, where I was up for San Francisco’s pick at 13.

I get the chatroom into a little debate about which way to go and we don’t settle on one person, though I am moved towards the direction I eventually went in.

After the break (at about 30 minutes if you want to fast forward) Scott comes on and we range all over the place. We talk about his site and how he approaches the analysis, touch on various parts of the Combine process, hit the running backs, quarterbacks (including Tebow and his mechanics) and some sleepers to watch this week.

Scott crushes it and brings a ton of great info.

I wrap it up with a few thoughts on Tebow (not his acolytes or detractors) and what the future may hold for him.

Mind you, I’m no QB coach, so take that for what it’s worth. :-)

Thanks for reading, listening and supporting.

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2010 NFL Draft: How Will Tim Tebow’s New Mechanics Affect His Draft Stock?

Tim Tebow.

If there is a more fracturing, divisive athlete entering the NFL Draft in 2010, I’ve yet to hear about him.

We haven’t even had the NFL Scouting Combine and everyone—myself included—have already made their opinion known about what chances Tebow has to make it in the NFL.

I’m not sold, I’ve never been sold. There are so many problems with the mechanics of his throwing motion, I find it hard to imagine anyone being able to change or overcome them enough to make it as a starter.

Anyone but perhaps Tebow. For as much as I have rarely seen a player overcome the technical issues Tebow faces, I’ve also rarely seen a player who worked as hard as a college player.

The biggest question is, can he be coached? Is he willing to cast aside much of what made him a success in college? Can he check his ego?

According to Adam Schefter, the answer is a resounding ‘yes’.

Today on ESPN.com, Schefter posted an article that says Tebow is not only willing to change, but actively working to change now and is planning to unveil Tebow 2.0 at Florida’s Pro Day on March 17.

Tebow has gathered some solid names around him to correct his game—among them former offensive coordinator Zeke Bratkowski, Arizona State offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone and former coach Sam Wyche.

According to the article, the things Tebow is planning on altering include how he holds the football (moving it from down at his waist to up at his shoulder), working more under center and focusing on taking three and five step drops.

Keep in mind, working out of the shotgun proved tremendously successful for Tebow. Anytime you change such an integral part of your game (as throwing mechanics are to the quarterback position) you risk destroying all that a player can do already while perhaps not even achieving the affect you were hoping for by changing things.

Many other players have done it but very few—if any—were of Tebow’s stature and fame.

It says something that Tebow dove right in and started working on making what I think are the massive and very necessary changes he needs to have a shot at succeeding in the NFL.

Of course, there is still a tremendous amount of work to be done. By no means does this rocket him up my draft board. It might not even do that when he throws at his Pro Day.

I like the work ethic. I like the determination. I like the lack of ego about his own game. I liked it all before, I like it even more now.

However we’re talking about a massive re-tooling of his fundamenal skills and mechanics. It’s always dicey when you monkey with your foundation and the possibility of making things worse as I mentioned a minute ago is tremendous.

So when we see him throw at Pro Day (not surprisingly he won’t do so at the Combine, joining a growing list of quarterbacks who aren’t) everyone needs to keep their expectations checked.

It’s likely that even by then that Tebow will look very, very raw.

However, getting in the early work now will pay off both for him and whatever team takes a chance on him in April.

It isn’t a guarantee of success, but it certainly sends a signal to scouts in the NFL.

Tebow’s willing to lay it on the line and work to do what he has to in order to make it as a quarterback in the NFL.

He’s ready, he’s willing—now he question becomes: is he able?

We’ll see on March 17th in Florida.

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The Thundering Blurb Show – 2/14

Lots of great stuff tonight and as we are just a week away from the NFL Scouting Combine, I am PUMPED.

First though, we touch on the potential NCAA Smackdown of USC. If you’ve missed it, USC is in front of the NCAA Disciplinary Committee.Will it affect the team? Will the Pac 10 suffer for losing it’s more powerful member or will Oregon or Washington emerge as a power?

Will USC even get smacked or is this all another episode in the continuing joke that has been the investigation thus far? We’ll see.

I welcomed Shawn Zobel of Draftheadquarters.com onto the program to chat players and Combine.

We cover QBs, the Suh/McCoy debate, Zobel’s Mock draft and much, much more.

It takes up pretty much the bulk of the show, including a few questions from the chat room.

I also touch on DraftDaddy as a site to watch for news as we hit Pro Days, Rutgers airing their Pro Day live online and the difference between seeing a guy on film and seeing a guy—even without pads—live and three feet from you.

Check it all out on ITunes or here.

Thanks for listening and reading as always.

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San Francisco 49ers’ Offseason Analysis: Running Backs

When last we visited our off-season analysis of the current roster for the San Francisco 49ers, we took a look at the quarterback position. Today we move to the folks who line up just off and behind the quarterback: the running back.

OVERVIEW

Including Moran Norris at fullback, there are just four players at the position on the roster.

Frank Gore, rookie Glen Coffee and special teams specialist Michael Robinson fill out the rest if the backs, with Gore/Coffee receiving the bulk of the work.

Many believed that the arrival of Offensive Coordinator Jimmy Raye meant that ground and pound would be the order of the day. However, the 49ers offense passed far more than it ran—of the 899 offensive plays the team ran, 528 were pass plays.

It’s likely that this remains the same for 2010, assuming Alex Smith continues to play well enough to keep it effective.

It also begs the question as to whether the Niners will feel they need another running back.

PLAYER ANALYSIS

Gore is the center of this group-but not the offense

Frank Gore

This has been Frank Gore’s team for four years now. While several backs have come and gone (Thomas Clayton, DeShaun Foster, Kevan Barlow) this team’s ground game is all Gore, all the time.

Despite being the lead back for a team which ran far less than it threw, Gore posted his fourth straight 1,000 plus yard season. In fact, he posted better yardage totals and scored more touchdowns on less carries than either of the previous two seasons.

All this is pretty impressive, especially when you factor in his two missed games. Three really, since he only carried the ball once against the Minnesota Vikings before he left due to injury.

Of course, this brings up a constant question which has plagued Gore off and on for his career—is he injury prone?

My thought is, no he isn’t. Does he get banged up? Yes—and so do many other backs, especially when they carry the majority load for their team.

Of course, it would help Gore if they could portion out a greater share of the carries to someone else. This year, he took about two-thirds of the the carries for the 49ers.

On the other hand, that percentage is from a lesser overall total which helps to keep his general wear and tear from being to severe.

Gore also achieved the second highest yards-per-carry rating of his career, hitting 4.9 ypc—a big improvement on the 4.3/4.2 from the previous two seasons. Sure, that was helped by several huge touchdown runs.

Keep in mind though, even those big runs were behind an inconsistent and underwhelming offensive line—one of the likely focal points for the 49ers improvements for the 2010 off-season.

Frank Gore will continue to be the lead back in this offense. While it will probably not shift much more focus onto the ground game, Offensive Coordinator Jimmy Raye and Head Coach Mike Singletary will need the run game to keep defenses honest and help likely starting quarterback Alex Smith.

If Gore can stay relatively healthy and if the team can improve it’s offensive line, he should continue to be a very productive portion of the 49ers offense. One which they can—and will—rely on.

Glen CoffeeAs I stated earlier, when the season began the thought was that the 49ers would feature the run game prominently. As that was the case, a fair amount of people assumed that rookie Glen Coffee would see a significant number of carries.

This didn’t happen and if it wasn’t for the injury to Gore, he’d have carried the ball even fewer times.

Even with the minor amount of carries Coffee got, he ended up missing just over a game due to concussion and part of the Week 15 game against the Philadelphia Eagles due to a hamstring injury.

It’s difficult to determine how effective Coffee can be based on the very insignificant amount of opportunity the rookie received.

He did show good burst, some nice open field moves and the ability to effectively block during pass plays. However, during his time as starter he failed to establish the run game, had problems breaking free of tackles and getting yards after first contact.

For the most part, Coffee looked like what he was—a rookie with a long way to go to become a consistent weapon in the offense. Still, he was effective enough as a back-up and will continue to function largely in that capacity as he improves his overall game.

Michael Robinson

Robinson has remained the number three back off and on for several seasons, never doing much when he gets the opportunity to show his ability. His chief duty is as a kick returner and honestly, he’s not terribly effective in that capacity either.

I believe Robinson’s time could be running short on the team. They desperately need a good returner and unfortunately Robinson has not been it.

Moran Norris

Norris has tooled around the league for seven years now, almost exclusively as a blocking fullback. More and more teams are moving away from utilizing the fullback in this way—often teams are moving a second tight end into formations instead.

Norris is very good at what he does though. While he isn’t a back who will ever get many carries, I feel as though a portion of the credit for Gore’s season lies with Norris. Behind an offensive line a injury-plagued and underperforming as this was, a solid run-blocking fullback like Norris is a huge asset.

It’s entirely possible the 49ers will draft a solid blocking tight end, in which case Norris’ role may become more marginalized. Until then though, Norris will remain a quietly effective part of this offense.

Diagnosis

Given that both Frank Gore and Glen Coffee were hurt at various points throughout the 2009 season, one might think that the team would be worried about adding another back for 2010.

It’s clear to me though that the 49ers feel no great need to add another player merely for running back duties. Gore is still very productive, Coffee will have another camp under his belt and in an emergency Robinson can serve.

They were able to patch the lineup to cover for the injuries pretty effectively, even if the transitions weren’t seamless.

This is not to say they won’t add a back for depth later. It’s just not a priority.

What is a priority, though, is a kick and punt returner. As I mentioned above, Micheal Robinson is not getting the job done.

According to a report on Special Teams Units by Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News (via Matt Maiocco’s Twitter feed), the 49ers rank 21st in the NFL in effectiveness.

That ranking—as middle of the road as it is—is largely because of the punt and kick coverage units though, not because of the return units.

The team ranked 23rd in kickoff returns, averaging just 28.1 yards per return. They were atrocious in punt returns—ranked dead last in the league with a woeful 4.4 yards per return.

If the team does indeed draft a running back early, it will be one with a very good set of return skills. This makes players like Clemson’s CJ Spiller, Cal’s Jahvid Best and Ole Miss’ Dexter McCluster possibilities with the team’s picks either late in the first round or second round.

It’s possible however that the team may grab a wide receiver or cornerback to fulfill the same need. They may also make a trade or sign a free agent to meet this need.

If that happens, then I don’t foresee the 49ers coming away with a running back from either the first or second round in the 2010 draft, nor via free agency.

Fans may feel a little shaky with just two real running backs on the roster (and perhaps a returning Thomas Clayton, though he never amounted to much either), but it’s clear to me the team feels it can make it with what is on staff and wait to grab an upside back later in the Draft this April. 

Coffee played like a rookie his first year—he needs to improve for year two

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QB Rankings/Analysis up at Draftguys.com

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Hey folks. Just got an email from one Sigmund Bloom that my analysis of the top 15 Quarterback Draft prospects is up at Draftguys.com!

Here’s a sample – click the above link for the whole enchilada! (Can I say enchilada now that I’m not in SoCal? Better check into that….)

Let me start off with a bit of honesty here: I don’t love this quarterback class. It’s rife with the dirtiest of words: potential. What that also means is this—there are many, many projects here. Several of these players could be true diamonds in the rough and many of them have a great deal of ability. However, they come with equal parts risk as well. The key for teams will be balancing that potential upside with the cost and picking one of these players at the right spot.



  1. 1. Jimmy Clausen, Notre Dame 6’2” 223 – I’m still not fully on board the Clausen Train, but of the QBs in this draft, he’s the one I have the least questions about. To me, Clausen is a good—not great—quarterback prospect. He has decent accuracy, pretty good arm strength and some nice moves both in and out of the pocket.

        Clausen, like the other slam-dunk first-round pick Sam Bradford, had an injury taken care of. In Clausen’s case, there was ligament damage which needed to be repaired on his toe. To me, this is a far less serious injury than the damage to Bradford’s throwing arm and on top of it, the former Notre Dame signal caller played most of the year with it hurting. It didn’t affect his performance much, as he threw for plenty of yards and 28 touchdowns to just four interceptions.   

        In Weis’ Pro-Style offense, Clausen developed from a cocky kid to a leader on his team and has shown to me he can be coached enough to improve the flaws in his game. He’s no sure thing in my mind, but he’s pretty safe overall for a team looking for a new quarterback.

  2.  

  3. 2. Sam Bradford, Oklahoma 6’4” 223 – If it wasn’t for the shoulder injury that sidelined him for most of the season, he would likely be the clear #1 quarterback on my board. As it stands, if he has a solid Pro Day and we hear good things about him at the Combine, he may yet jump Clausen and even if he doesn’t it would be a shock to nobody if he went as QB1 in April’s Draft. On the other hand, we’ve yet to see how he bounces back from surgery and if anything has been affected—motion, willingness to hang in the pocket, strength.  

        Bradford’s accuracy is uncanny, regardless of the distance of the throw. Short, medium and long—Bradford can hit them all. he doesn’t have the biggest arm but can make the deep throws and get nice zip on the shorter ones when he needs to slip a pass into a tight space. He has a good grasp of reading defenses, but can trust his arm a bit too much on occasion and sometimes doesn’t appear to sense pressure from the backside and picking up blitzing linemen.   

      Bradford is definitely the real deal. It’s just a case of seeing for our own eyes that everything is still ok.

  4.  

  5. 3. Colt McCoy, Texas 6’2” 212 – McCoy is an interesting prospect. On the surface, his numbers and the fact that he is the winningest quarterback in college football makes him seem like a slam dunk NFL prospect. But looking closer, several questions linger.

        His short passes are incredibly accurate but McCoy doesn’t throw as many deep or intermediate passes and is less accurate with those. It’s not to say he isn’t really accurate, but his completion percentage is due in part to primarily throwing short. He has a nice touch on passes, but doesn’t often thread the needle between defenders. He can read the defense pretty well and often takes what it gives him, but occasionally misses double coverage and will force throws for a big play.

        He also has some mechanical issues, including an inconsistent release point sometimes not following through enough on his motion and throwing above his receiver.  

        McCoy has good patience in the pocket, but could sometimes wait a bit longer and is only somewhat effective on the run when forced out. He is a very good leader in the huddle and is tough – I find it hard to believe it took anything but severe pain to keep him out of the BCS Championship game and while some worry about his durability due to his build, I am not as worried.

HEAD TO DRAFTGUYS FOR THE REST OF THE ARTICLE AND MANY MORE LIKE IT!

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Thundering Blurb Football Show – 2/10

SmashmouthWedFINAL[1]Didn’t get a chance to post one of these last week, but back in the saddle today. If you missed last week’s show, just check the archives on Blogtalkradio.com and check it out.

As for last night’s episode, check it out here.

Among the topics we discussed was—of course—the Saints Super Bowl victory and how despite what some have said, the Colts didn’t lose the game, it was the Saints who won it. A small but important distinction.

As I said in my NFL Late Hits column (final of the year, by the way) Saintsnfl_a_payton4_576[1] Coach Sean Payton made some bold moves. Maybe—as some people point out—had those moves failed some (many?) would be calling him an idiot.

Not me though. Even if the onside kick surprised me, I think it was a great move. Same with going on fourth down in the first half.

That was the difference between the Colts and the Saints. Caldwell, Manning or whomever is in charge called a conservative game. That might work against a team like the Jets who aren’t putting a ton of points up.

Against an explosive Saints offense? Dangerous. Sure it was the Porter interception which put the nail in the Colts’ coffin but the playcalling did it’s part.

We wrap up the Super Bowl talk by touching on Manning’s legacy post-INT (it’s still intact) and try to figure out just what Jim Caldwell does as a coach.

After some general NFL news and notes, we shift to some Draft talk. nfldraft[1]

Joe Everrett—host of The Fantasy Exchange and fellow SmashMouth Wednesday guy—calls in and we spend some time talking NFL Draft prospects until I wrap out the show.

As always, thanks to everyone for coming by the chat, and listening either via live streaming or by download. I appreciate you hanging with me every Wednesday Night at 10pm eastern.

You can always email me at thunderingblurb(a)gmail.com and follow me on Twitter here.

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DREW BREES AND SON CELEBRATE SUPER BOWL

All together now: AWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW!

All together now: AWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW!

 

Just thought I’d share a pretty sweet picture in case you haven’t seen it elsewhere. Says a lot about a guy who has his kid there for the presentation of his Super Bowl Trophy.

Bonus points for tossing a pair of super-hi-tech ear muffs on the kid. No sense in deafening a toddler, right?

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NFL LATE HITS – SUPER BOWL EDITION

 

I knew it would probably come down to one big defensive play, but I will admit I thought it’d be by the Colts, not the Saints.

Much less Tracy Porter.

Of course, the bigger play opened the second half and caught me by surprise as well – when Saints Coach Sean Payton called an onside kick. And it worked.

Bold decisions. We talked a lot about those this year—everything from Bill Belichick’s fourth down attempt against the Colts to the Colts’ decision to sit their starters.

Payton made several bold decisions last night. The onside kick. The two-point conversion attempt. The attempt to go for it on fourth down on the one yard line in the first half.

I didn’t like the called play but I did like that the Saints went for it. If they lost, there was never going to be a question as to whether they left it all out on the field. They did.

Same with the onside kick. I actually yelped in surprise when I saw it, I was so taken aback. You can ‘what if’ that call as much as you want, but it worked and set the tone for the second half.

That tone sounded a lot like a jazz band on Bourbon Street.

This game will take a long time to digest as many big things happened—most notably to the super-star quarterbacks involved.

It was a game where Drew Brees may have begun his own Hall of Fame discussion, while Manning may have ended the discussion as to whether he should be the Greatest Quarterback of All Time.

Manning’s interception—followed very shortly thereafter by another bad throw which should have been picked off in the end zone—shouldn’t really kill his over-all legacy. He’s too good for that.

I think it’s hard to argue him as the greatest quarterback ever after those two throws, though.

His career isn’t over yet, but consider this is a bit of a step back.

In the end, you have to feel good if for New Orleans and the Saints (yes, even Colts fans, though granted they can do so begrudgingly.)

1491291[1]It’s a city that is still rebuilding after Katrina. Until last night, it was a city which had never won a Super Bowl. It’s a city where people make bold moves every day.

Last night, their team made a few bold moves of their own and they paid off in spades.

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