NFL Hash Marks: Off-Season & Regulations

It’s unfortunate that Paul Tagliabue retired and handed the reigns to Roger Goodell. The commissioner is changing the game, in my opinion, in the worst way. Taking away celebrations (no dunking on goal posts is ridiculous), focusing so much on injuries that he had to put out his own fire and settle on the concussion lawsuit, and ending the lock out with officials has resulted in mediocre results at best. The greed is at an all time high, from wanting a team in London to expanding the playoffs. It’s already enough that a second wildcard team has an opportunity to win the Super Bowl, let alone adding more teams. This deflates the meaning of regular season games to another level.

Mark Cuban isn’t the first person to voice an opinion about the NFL heading towards a dead end, and he won’t be the last. The saying goes, all good things come to an end, even if they are so “powerful” at this point in time. You can Google for other examples, there’s plenty and it can happen, better hope Goodell starts caring about the product on the field. This is supposed to be a game, fun to play, fun watch, the die-hards will tell you how painful all these negative changes have been.

Where’s the common sense? It takes several serious injuries for the league and officials to get something right (Rob Gronkowski, Navarro Bowman, and those occurred near the end of last year). Comparable to the real world in the workforce, the ugly truth is that things are managed and run by dinosaurs that want to regulate on things just because they can. Just like companies with negative reputations or that have failed, it really does start at the top or else there’s nothing that can be done to save it.

Thursday Night Football is tough for teams to recover and prepare for, from the previous Sunday. Performances on short weeks remind me of watching preseason action, all season long. As usual follow the money, it gives fans an excuse to do something on a weeknight, even if we’re only partially paying attention while half don’t even listen to the commentary.

I don’t buy into the Eagles trying to get rid of  DeSean Jackson. Sure, listening to offers, but not attempting to trade the Pro Bowler. When you have a top shelf receiver on his second contract, of course he’s going to want a third one very soon, especially after coming off the best receiving season of his career.

It’s not always sunny in Philadelphia, guard Evan Mathis has evolved into an All-Pro since he came to town. He was well-known backup in Cincinnati around the league several years ago, now he’s on the elite level. I understand that he’s 32 years old, but offensive linemen can play well into their 30’s at a high level. Plus, Mathis has less mileage on him because he wasn’t a starter from the jump.

Chip Kelly has a different system and belief than Andy Reid his predecessor, so don’t be surprised if he wants to draft players to replace the guys he inherited.

Malcolm Jennings fits exactly what the Eagles are trying to mirror from the likes of Seattle, a lengthy safety that can play both positions.

Chicago scooped Ryan Mundy and M.D. Jennings, the tandem is projected to be the new starters in a cover-2. These guys covering the big play while “Peanut” Tillman (re-signed) and Tim Jennings excel on the outside. Secondary improved.

Defensive End Jared Allen made his rounds, including a pair of meetings with the champion Seahawks. He winds up signing with the Bears that he met with before, staying in the NFC North. He will get to face the Vikings twice.

As will Julius Peppers for the Cheese Heads. Chicago parted ways with him and the rival Packers quickly picked him up. The off and on motor is being counted on by his new team, finally getting to play outside linebacker just like he’s been hoping for.

DeMarcus Ware joining the Broncos, opposite of Von Miller will have quarterbacks on the swivel. Don’t look at your linemen, anybody on Denver’s schedule next year, your tight ends and running backs have to chime in on that assignment.

Any move that adds a pass rusher is a plus, regardless of age and what he has left in the tank. A guy that had success getting to the QB is worth the money, whereas most high draft picks don’t pan out.

So apparently Mike Wallace is another receiver “on the block.” The offseason is for teams to test the market, possibly even seeing how opponents value their players. Miami had a lot of controversy to overcome, if he wasn’t a distraction behind closed doors then the offense should give it another go with an O-line that actually plays. Acquiring tackle Brandon Albert will help that cause.

Speaking of receivers, Baltimore has a nice tandem of Steve Smith and Torrie Smith. The Smith Bros will expose the AFC North secondaries. I’m not counting out Ray Rice from bouncing back, they do need to invest in the hogs up front this offseason because well, let’s just say Joe Flacco isn’t even a top-20 QB in my book.

Eric Decker signed on with the Jets, he will be catching passes from Michael Vick or Geno Smith. Picking up Decker and Vick are actually good moves for Rex Ryan and company, these are experienced players from playoff teams. Although Smith started last year in his rookie season, I do expect Vick to get the nod. A defensive team with a mobile quarterback, the recipe has worked well for the Seahawks and 49ers. Snagging guard Breno Giacomini from the champs will pay unsung dividends as well. I’d consider them a favorite to land a wildcard spot if Maurice Jones-Drew is paired in the backfield with Vick.

New England, the rich got richer. Replacing Aqib Talib with not only Darrelle Revis, but Brandon Browner too. The Vince Wilfork situation looks is likely to result in a divorce, making nose tackle a high priority come draft day.

Cleveland got serious with under-the-radar trio of signings: Karlos Dansby, Donte Whitner, and Ben Tate.

Oakland has rid themselves of bigger contracts the past two offseasons, as G.M. Reggie McKenzie is building through the draft like he did with Green Bay. Trading for Matt Schaub, I’m all for that, a veteran guy that’s made a pair of Pro Bowls. Coming off a season of struggle, in reflection it appears to have been a team issue rather than just Schaub’s. Not sure how big of a jump they’ll take but don’t be surprised to see them in the wildcard hunt after Thanksgiving.

Another rebuilding team, Jacksonville, continues to rebuild overnight. Coach Gus Bradley got himself a few defensive linemen: Ziggy Hood, Chris Clemons, and Red Bryant. The defensive guru is trying to shore up the defense with veterans in a weak division.

The G-Men have a new returner in Trinton Holliday, he brings an element that Big Blue’s been missing.

The same can be said for Devin Hester’s role in Atlanta, maybe he can take advantage of some slot opportunities with those playmaking receivers healthy.

Detroit decided to move on from Nate Burleson (often injured), insert Golden Tate. Adding more speed to a dynamic offense that already has “Megatron” and Reggie Bush. Don’t sleep on running back Joique Bell, and we did see some breakout performances from tight end Joseph Fauria.

Without a doubt, Jairus Byrd makes the Saints defense a lot better.

Gotta love the Buccaneers offseason so far: DE Michael Johnson, CB Alterraun Verner, CB Mike Jenkins, QB Josh McCown. I’m throwing McCown’s name in the hat as an early “Comeback Player of the Year” candidate. Why? Look no further than last year’s recipient, Chargers QB Philip Rivers. McCown filled in admirably in the Windy City when Jay Cutler was sidelined, arguably better in his short stint.

Now that Antonio Cromartie signed on with the Cardinals, and when a rehabbing Tyrann Mathieu, who’s going to throw on Patrick Peterson and that secondary?

San Francisco upgraded at safety with the addition of Antoine Bethea. Even in free agent chatter, the Pro Bowler is underrated and overlooked.