The 2018 Taylor Blitz Times Defensive Player of the Year Preview: Aaron Donald

When the Rams left St Louis to return to Tinseltown it was hard to think of a defensive team or dominant defensive player to rise from the ranks as one of the league’s best. Yet the reigning Taylor Blitz Times Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald is leading the league in sacks with 16.5 and has been the only consistent Ram defender this year.

Donald tracks down Russell Wilson

With all the high profile signings of DT Ndamukong Suh, Aquib Talib and Marcus Peters this defense was supposed to sprint to Super Bowl LIII with the balance of a potent offense. At times Suh has been handled by rival lines and not the force he’s been in years past. Talib has missed 8 games due to injury and Peters has been scorched over the last 7 weeks.

Even DE Dante Fowler’s play (2 sacks) has cooled after his mid-season trade from Jacksonville.

Although Donald was held at bay against Philadelphia and Chicago, he wreaked havoc against Detroit in the Rams last win 3 weeks back. Donald terrorized the Lion’s front line for 4 hits on Matthew Stafford, another 4 tackles for loss and 2 sacks and a forced fumble. That performance in a 30-16 win propelled the Rams to 11-1 and a 2nd straight NFC West championship.

The most disruptive DT since John Randle or Warren Sapp.

As Donald goes so go the Rams. One glaring stat that pops up is of his league leading 19.5 sacks, none have come in the 3 losses to New Orleans, Philadelphia, and Chicago. He did hit Drew Brees 4 times in a 45-35 loss however not enough to slow the Saints down.

Yesterday he set the single season team record after a 3 sack performance in a 31-9 win over the Cardinals. He left a lasting impression on rookie QB Josh Rosen. Yet will he show up to dominate the big game come playoff time??

He is the leader of an underachieving defense that began the season with Super Bowl aspirations. He has his sights on breaking Hall of Famer Michael Strahan’s sack record of 22.5. All that stands in his way is a 49ers front line that Donald killed garnering 4 sacks, 8 tackles and another 5 hits on QB C. .J. Beathard.

If Donald gets the record it’s going to be hard to not give it to him. He’ll be the first to win our Taylor Blitz Times Defensive Player of the Year in back to back seasons. Stay tuned.

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The 2018 Taylor Blitz Times Offensive MVP Preview: Patrick Mahomes

Up until two weeks ago, the Kansas City Chiefs were sailing into uncharted waters. They were scoring at a rate of 37 points per game as they raced out to a gaudy 10-1 record. Patrick Mahomes was leading the most dynamic offense in the NFL that could score from anywhere. We hadn’t seen this lethal speed since “The Greatest Show on Turf” Rams earlier this century. Now what will happen as play calling will change as Kareem Hunt’s departure allows defenses to descend upon the young QB??

Before we made it to last week’s 40-33 win over the Oakland Raiders and last week’s 27-24 escape of the Ravens, the NFL’s biggest controversy saw the Chiefs release Kareem Hunt amid domestic violence allegations.

Of course Mahomes was masterful completing 23 of 38 for 295 yards and another “ho-hum” 4 touchdown performance against the moribund Raiders. But that is Jon Gruden’s tanking organization. Against the Ravens #1 ranked defense, Mahomes had to put in a little more work connecting on 35 of 53 aerials for 377 yards, 2 scores and an interception.

However the next 2 weeks provide a daunting task as Mahomes faces the L.A. Chargers (8th in defense) in an important AFC rubber match before taking a trip to the Pacific Northwest for a rugged game with the streaking Seahawks. Each of these present formidable challenges for the first year starter although he’s really had a season for the ages.

Aside from Hall of Fame legend Kurt Warner, no 1st year quarterback in NFL history can match Mahomes performance. With 3 games to go he already broke Warner’s single season record of 41 TDs for a 1st year starter with 43. With 4,300 yards he has a legitimate chance at 5,000 yards. Something Dan Marino didn’t do until his 2nd season as a starter.

Yes I know the rules have been relaxed but you have to give credit where it’s due. Look at Blake Bortles, Paxton Lynch, or even Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota…. have they shown this type of promise or command??

Mahomes has benefitted greatly learning from “The Quarterback Whisperer” in Head Coach Andy Reid. Keep in mind Brett Favre’s MVP seasons happened under his tutelage. Reid also drafted and developed Donovan McNabb where they went to 5 conference championships together and resurrected Michael Vick’s career.

The Chancellor and Andy Reid at The Gold Jacket Dinner 2018.

Outside of Kansas City many of us worried Coach Reid had over-invested in turning the franchise over to Mahomes. Yet he has shown maturity even in prime time games with the 352 yard 4 touchdown performance in a 43-40 loss to Tom Brady and New England. He starred again on the national stage with a 478 yard 6TD performance in a 54-51 loss in Los Angeles. Sure he threw 3 interceptions but only 1 other time in history can you find a 1st year starter tossing 6TDs in an NFL game.

However he does get the rubber match with the LA Chargers and the winner is in line for homefield advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. Mahomes gets this game at home however defenses are adjusting to the Chiefs without Kareem Hunt.

How will he perform in these last 3 games as a marked man?? As for Taylor Blitz Times Offensive Player of the Year he is definitely in the running and is one of the players who has clearly defined this season.

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The 2018 Taylor Blitz Times Offensive MVP Preview: The Case for Drew Brees

With only 5 weeks to go in the 2018 NFL campaign, its time to discuss the best offensive players who have helped shape this season. This year seems like a changing of the guard as new faces have emerged to lead the next crop of superstars beyond the NFL’s 100th season. However a few holdovers aren’t ready to relinquish their stature atop the pro football landscape. So let’s take a look at a few:

Drew Brees – New Orleans Saints: One of the few accolades that has alluded record setting quarterback Drew Brees is that of league MVP. At the advanced age of 39 he benefits greatly from the rule changes which greatly reduces the punishment quarterbacks take, however he is completing a whopping 76.4% of his passes. He has already thrown for 3,135 yards 29 touchdowns to just 2 picks yet it’s a little bit more.

Think of how he threw for just 171 yards yet connected for 4TDs as the Saints completed a season sweep (31-17) over the desperate 4-7 Falcons. Practically ending their season. How about the 30 points put up while only completing 18 passes in a 30-20 triumph against the Vikings #3 ranked defense??

What about the ease with which he scorched the world champion Eagles 48-7 finishing 22 of 30 for 363 yards and another 4 touchdowns. It was the worst beating a defending champion has taken in the Super Bowl era. All this before the 45-35 drubbing that knocked the Rams down a peg and from the ranks of the unbeaten.

When he faced the NFL’s 32nd ranked defense, on the road no less, he put up a 22 of 25 for 265 yards and 3 scores in a 51-14 pasting of the Cincinnati Bengals. The next day the Bengals fired their Defensive Coordinator. Not only has he not thrown an interception in any of the games mentioned, he’s shown his growth as a quarterback. He will audible and lean on his running game. Something he didn’t do in previous seasons.

Do you realize Brees is on pace to throw for just 4,560 yards this season?? Yet the Saints are 10-1 and streaking toward the playoffs. That was never the case in all of his 5,000 yard seasons and if you go back to when he won Super Bowl XLIX, he only threw for 4,338 yards. His 2nd lowest over the last 10 seasons.

Either Coach Sean Payton’s play calling has matured or Drew Brees is having a season for the ages. The Chancellor thinks it’s a little of both.

However….out in San Diego where Brees used to call home… (to be continued)

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The NFL’s Best Team is in L.A. But It Isn’t The Rams

As the games in the NFL are starting to heat up many teams are starting to gain notice that weren’t the early favorites. Now of course you look around and the 8-1 Kansas City Chiefs playing the 8-1 Rams jump out at you. The only team that has played both actually has the longest winning streak in the AFC at 6 straight… and that is the Chargers.

Gordon has been the most electrifying back in the AFC.

Keep in mind we haven’t seen the Chargers at full potential yet as DE Joey Bosa hasn’t hit the field in 2018. Without him the Chargers are still 8th in sacks (26) with 5 1/2 by Melvin Engram III and a respectable 14th overall. Yet the loss of ILB Denzel Perryman, lost to IR this week, could come back to haunt.

On offense Phillip Rivers is enjoying an MVP level season completing 67.2% of his passes for 2,459 yards and 21 TDs. The fact he has matured and has only 4 interceptions shows he has turned the corner. He isn’t having the late game meltdowns as he had earlier in his career or mind numbing interceptions to derail the Chargers when they play inferior competition. His career has been plagued by that.

In all actuality he is playing for his legacy. This is his 15th season and he is in no man’s land with history connecting him to Drew Brees (NFL’s leading passer) and fellow draft alums Eli Manning, and Ben Roethlisberger. These men have 5 Super Bowl championships and 9 conference championship appearances between them. All this before bringing up Tom Brady who won 3 more titles during his era and defeating him in the only AFC Championship he appeared in back in 2007.

Even now he sees the future in a young Patrick Mahomes and what he is doing with the AFC West leading Kansas City Chiefs. What will history say about Rivers once his playing days are over?? He is stuck in this twilight and needs a Super Bowl championship to escape this purgatory.

Aiding him in the NFL’s 8th ranked offense is the tremendous play of 4th year back Melvin Gordon. Not only is he on pace for a 1,300 yard season on the ground (672 yards rushing/361 yards receiving) he has 11 combined touchdowns. Not bad for a guy who’s mother wouldn’t wear his jersey when he didn’t score as a rookie. He now has 35 in 2 1/2 seasons. Yet all he hears about is the Chiefs Kareem Hunt, who led the league in rushing last year, and fellow L.A. running back Todd Gurley.

This forgotten team out in Los Angeles is dangerous and has no obvious weaknesses. The one thing they could work on is getting more turnovers.

Which brings us to the elephant in the room… the chip on the shoulder of every one of these LA Chargers. Not only are they vagabonds in LA, ushered away and playing in a soccer stadium in Carson, but they’re complete afterthoughts nationally. They have to drive by billboards touting the Rams and the press has all but anointed them Super Bowl champions. Even in their own division the Chiefs are running away with the AFC West… if you listen to pundits.

Yet when it comes to championship competition like the NFL playoffs, keep your eye on the team that feels they have something to prove. The Chargers are 6-2 with their only losses coming to the Chiefs and Rams. They have a rubber match with Kansas City in 5 weeks where AFC home field advantage could be at stake.

The Rams?? Well… keep in mind the Chargers are to be tennants in their stadium being built in Hollywood Park. It’s been more than difficult for this team to gain traction in Los Angeles where they’re not wanted. What better way for Coach Anthony Lynn’s bunch to get back at all that ails them then to go to Atlanta and pound LA’s favorite team in Super Bowl LIII?? You know… that team that abandoned L.A. back in 1980 for the friendly confines of Anaheim.

We’re getting ahead of ourselves here but talk about some juicy plot-lines… and do not sleep on these Chargers.

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Return of The Over The Hill Gang

One of the most interesting 1st place teams during this opening stanza of the 2018 season is the Washington Redskins. In the Nation’s Capital this team has foraged out to a 4-2 record and first place in the NFC East.  On Sunday they knocked off Dallas 20-17 one week after the upset of the Carolina Panthers 23-17 as CB Josh Norman gained a measure of revenge against his former team and nemesis Cam Newton.

You’ll remember these two were teammates on the 2015 NFC Champions that went 15-1 before losing to Denver in Super Bowl L. That season began with a heated fight between Norman and Newton in the preseason. Now everyone said the right things after it was over however you could tell from some of the taunting and talking on field Sunday, time hasn’t healed all wounds.

The spirit Norman played with in an emotional 23-17 victory where he picked Newton off once and forced another fumble, helped thwart the favored Panthers. Cam Newton’s bunch believes they are back among the league’s elite. A perch they haven’t sat since Norman took his talents to DC after signing a 5 year $75 million deal.

Peterson is one of history’s finest runners and ran for 99 yards Sunday v Dallas.

Now off the win over Dallas this team is gaining notice nationally as they have thoroughly outperformed what prognosticators, including yours truly, thought at the outset of this season.

Yet look around this roster. Its not necessarily the group George Allen put together in the early 1970’s but this team has retreads off the scrapheap leading the charge.

Peterson is running as though it’s 2008.

Adrian Peterson (438 yds / 3TDs), who was signed after losing 2 RBs to injured reserve and he runs as though he has found the fountain of youth. Good for 9th in rushing although he was signed in week 3. At 33 he’s averaging 109 yards per game. Not bad after a lackluster season in Arizona after being released by the Saints.

What about 34 year old QB Alex Smith?? Twice shown the door in Kansas City and San Francisco, has been the safe/cautious QB (1,373 yards 7 TDs v 2 ints) that may get you in trouble in the playoffs, however he never leaves the NFL’s 5th best defense with a short field to defend.

Do you realize Alex Smith has ridden this formula to the NFL playoffs 6 of the last 7 years??

Along with Pro Bowl TE Jordan Reed he has 34 year old former 49er Vernon Davis to make a clutch catch when needed. Remember it was Smith to Davis, The Catch III, with :09 to go to beat New Orleans 36-32 in the playoffs to advance to the NFC Championship Game.  Although he isn’t as explosive as he was then, he’s able to take over for 4 or 5 games should Reed get injured. However if Reed can stay healthy its hard to focus and account for a 2nd TE on a ‘backer in pass coverage from a run heavy offensive set of 2 TEs.

This team is coming downhill and gain a measure of physicality on their opponents behind Peterson running the football. It fires up and gets the Offensive Line in a nasty mood and does so to their top 5 defense. They held the big bad Dallas front 5 and Ezekiel Elliott to 33 yards on 15 carries after holding Christian McCaffrey to 20 yards on 8 carries in subsequent weeks.

Scheduling brings the Giants (18th in Defense), Falcons (30th), Bucs (29th), Texans (9th), before a rubber match with the improving Cowboys. It’s plausible this team could be 7-2 or 8-3 going into this encounter.

In 6 weeks, this team takes on the reeling World Champion Eagles with supremacy of the division at stake. If this team can continue to lay physical dominance over their opponents and Peterson keeps running like a man possessed, they could wrap up the division right after Thanksgiving. He is already the runaway winner of “Comback Player of The Year” as he is on pace to rush for more than 1,400 yards despite missing the first 2 games.

Aside from injuries it is hard to derail a veteran laden team playing with something to prove. When it’s fueled by a series of veterans playing with something to prove, the sky is the limit.

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New Roughing The Passer Emphasis is Ruining The Game

Roughing the quarterback where you cant land on them is going to lead to really hard hits on the quarterback. Defenders are going to speed into the collision so the hit knocks them down instead. This will lead to plays that cause concussions not lessen them.

Matthews flagged again under the new bogus “roughing the passer” emphasis.

This isn’t about fantasy football… this about the game of football. Defense, hitting, and tackling are the essence of the game. What is ironic is they keep flagging Clay Matthews for the take down tactics that Anthony Barr injured Aaron Rodgers with last year when he got hurt. The NFL in a knee jerk reaction made a stupid rule change and doesn’t want to admit they were wrong.

Every former NFL player is talking about how idiotic the rule is and only those who haven’t played the game could come up with something so impossible to do.

The act of a tackle that has been taught for nearly 100 years is a simple one. Make contact with your shoulder with your torso lowered into the offensive player. Your head is to be in front to impede the ball carrier or quarterback’s progress. Then take them down with your weight on the ball carrier. It doesn’t matter what position the offensive player is deployed…take the man down with some force.

No one wants to see injuries however they are a part of the game. Its a tough sport and the corporate soft men at the top who never played have too much sway. They don’t understand the visceral side of the game that many of us love and why we played the sport and appreciate NFL players who took their craft further.

Make the game safer? Yes.

Make the game softer? No! Do you remember when former President Theodore Roosevelt saved football at the turn of the 20th century??

After a string of deaths during games in 1905, President Roosevelt met with elite coaches in a closed door meeting at The White House to save college football. It was there that Roosevelt revealed that collegiate men had become soft and a gladiator game like football was needed to keep men hardened. In fact he went on to reveal his “Rough Riders”, the first voluntary cavalry in the Spanish American War of 1898 were made up of football players.

Instead of the game being abolished new rules were made to make the game safer. Of those who met with President Roosevelt that day, Walter Camp went on to father the forward pass as an offensive tactic. The 10 yards needed to gain a first down was another rule change. So the game remained a rough tough  sport however fatalities were reduced.

The men who President Roosevelt summoned for that closed door meeting in the White House went on to found the NCAA. Pro Football was in its infancy and took it’s cues from college football at the time. It would be another 15 years before the NFL began play in 1920.

In the game of football either you want to hit or get hit, if not go play lacrosse or one of those sports Roosevelt was talking about that was making American men soft. If you want to watch a man fling a ball all over the field and not get hit go watch lacrosse. All these roughing the passer penalties are ruining the game and giving teams cheap first downs. It’s a sport first not a television show. So every week your favorite actor (QBs) won’t be in each episode because there are injuries in a game.

So we have to wait all year with this dumbass rule because they won’t pay players in the concussion settlement. They are trying to act as though its about player safety. Its about limiting potential legal litigants later when this group currently playing retires. It’s about protecting the shield. Then also to water down the product where quarterbacks don’t leave the field after being hit….however

If Don Majkowski doesn’t get hurt in 1992 we wouldn’t know who Brett Favre was…

If Trent Green didn’t get injured in 1999 we wouldn’t know who Kurt Warner was…

If Drew Bledsoe didn’t get hurt in 2001 we wouldn’t know who Tom Brady was…

Be careful what you wish for. It was injuries that led to each of these Hall of Fame quarterbacks to emerge in a sport and not a television show.

You cant have a gladiator game without gladiators.

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