Welcome to this weekly National Football League column named the "Birden Bomb" in reference to my infatuation with the play in the video game Madden '96 which was known as the, as you can probably guess, the "Birden Bomb". I will provide a few thoughts on the week that was. Enjoy!
-Giovani Bernard and the Cincinnati Bengals have had a very unique relationship. The normal plight of most players that come and go in the NFL is a player slowly works their way to stardom and once stardom hits, like it did in the case of Bernard, the player will begin demanding certain workloads to solidify their incline in the league. In Bernard's case, he came out like a house on fire as in his rookie season he tallied 1,209 total yards which got the rest of the league talking and the expectation, at least from my perspective was that Bernard had just established himself as the long term Bengals back. 2014 wasn't as smooth as 2013 was and the little known Jeremy Hill came in and eventually supplanted Bernard for the majority of the carries. Given what I was implying earlier, this sudden demotion from an established back would've set off fireworks and likely ended in a mutual release or agreed upon trade but I want to hand the highest level of gratitude to Giovani for sticking with it and not enlisting in the typical diva behavior. The hard work and perseverance has paid off as now in 2015, specifically week four against the Kansas City Chiefs he was instrumental in leading his Bengals to a W!
-When the Miami Dolphins made Ndamukong Suh a 100 million + asset, one could assume they thought they had signed an individual who was going to anchor their defence for a long time to come. Judging from their anemic start, which in all likelihood has cost coach Joe Philbin his job. Reports have already come in that Suh, along with a few other members of the Dolphins defensive core have been blowing off calls. If you're someone established with multiple championships, then you can MAYBE get away with that entitlement but not many, if not none of the Dolphins can stake to that claim so this type of tomfoolery is unacceptable. I grant you that today's opponent the New York Jets have exceeded even my greatest expectations but these efforts are laughable and it's up to the leader Suh to turn things around and create a better defensive environment.
-I completely respect the fact that rookie Jameis Winston of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers needs time to adapt to the NFL surroundings, and Lovie Smith and co will certainly oblige. It's the game planning and strategy of the Buccaneers that I find appalling. You have a stud in Mike Evans that is being ignored when mapping out a premise on how to beat X opponent, and they're 1-3! If this was a 3-1 team and finding ways to win by utilizing Evans as a decoy then all is good in the hood but the fact they are indeed a sub 500 organization has me scratching my head why Evans isn't getting more deep/red zone looks. Winston adapting limits the creativity in the playbook, but throwing the ball and letting Evans leap for it by using his tall frame requires no creativity and needs to be employed urgently for the Bucs.
-Another Redskins castoff making a name for himself in a different locale? Seems like a story too often told as the Redskins program, at least in the modern era is not contusive to team success. Case in point Atlanta Falcons receiver Leonard Hankerson. Hankerson has found a home as the Falcons number two receiver as new Head Coach Dan Quinn has instilled a better team balance pertaining to play calling and Hankerson, and Devante Freeman particularly have benefited. Even though a lot of players that leave Washington to greater success somewhere else a lot of times can be correlated to the incompetence of the Redskins hierarchy, in Hankerson's specific case, injuries constantly mounted which caused to Leonard's D.C demise. Hankerson's size has stood out as Matt Ryan has a found a target that can curl inside and outmuscle the smaller defensive backs. Along with the freak natured athleticism that is Julio Jones, himself and Hankerson have formed a dynamic duo in Atlanta not seen since the days of one my heroes J.J Birden and Terance Mathis.
-As a disclaimer I don't watch a lot of college ball but I did happen to check out a couple Georgia Bulldog games last year and there was no doubt that Todd Gurley was going to cut it in the National Football League. My concern with him coming into the year is I didn't believe the St.Louis Rams were the best fit for his services and I internally scuttled that a trade may be best for both parties as the Rams already had an underrated Tre Mason and Benny Cunningham. Gurley absolutely went off today against a superior Arizona Cardinals defence making it look like he was being opposed by a CIS defence. One hundred and forty six yards on nineteen carries is Madden like and the hard truth is, this is no statistical anomaly, the more acclimatized he becomes the more dangerous he is. So essentially take back everything I just penned about Gurley and the Rams being a bad fit, the Rams just did something the Blue Jays hope to accomplish on Thursday by hitting a walk off home run.
-This next critique is something I could've griped about long ago, but since I didn't, I'll gladly now. This not only applies to the NFL, but also to their neighbours north of the border in the CFL. This extra point rule change is gimmicky, and an insult to the way football is meant to be played. Who cares if extra points were automatic, the tradition of football has carried the "automatic" extra point for years, so why did they feel the need to change it now? I think Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said it best by explaining that their team's philosophy was to continually go for two points because the percentages were in favour of doing this. Tomlin's a smart guy unlike his close friend former Saskatchewan Roughriders Head Coach Corey Chamblin, originally I thought his reasoning was sound but after further consideration I have to entertain the idea that Tomlin was scared to throw Josh Scobee out on the field.......and can we blame him?? Back to my gripe, a newsflash has to be received by the NFL, speaking on behalf of all NFL fans, watching kickers have a more difficult time kicking a 32 yard field goal compared to a chip shot does not improve the entertainment level of the product.
-Here's my thought from the Sunday nighter featuring the New Orleans Saints and Dallas Cowboys. "Why do I keep shooting myself in the foot starting players like Willie Snead in my fantasy football lineup". Let's allow facts to be facts and I'm self deprecating enough to realize that it when it comes to fantasy football expertise I'm virtually a guaranteed loss. I'm the guy who you want to play each week although it drives me bonkers how for the life of me I can't find a receiver that can reach the endzone. Snead's part of the young nucleus that will be primetime ready for duty for Drew Brees successor, whenever that day is but what I learned today is that he's not ready for suitable action in 2015.
- The snakebitten Detroit Lions continue to find ways to lose, and now I will officially throw coach Jim Caldwell on the hot seat. Losing Ndamukong Suh in the off-season was naturally going to be a devastating loss, but where has this high potent offence from 2014 went? Matt Stafford is a southern gunslinger that has the deserved mantra of taking chances, but the play calling is sucking the life out of a player that strives on aggressiveness. Also, the Legion of Boom has re-inserted themselves in a mammoth way with Kam Chancellor back and he made his presence known by stripping Calvin Johnson of the ball at the goal line which would've been the game winning drive. Lucky to be good, good to be lucky, and unfortunately the Detroit Lions are neither.