Category Archives: Sports

Time to Take The Bell Down

Image result for leveon bell poster free useI’m done.

We all should be.

There’s only so much nonsense you can take before the phrase “I’ve had it up to here” should be utilized.

Le’Veon Bell has reached that point.

On the off-chance you’re still living under a rock in 2018, Le’Veon Bell is a professional football player, specifically, a running back, in the National Football League who plays for the Pittsburgh Steelers. He’s very accomplished, carries superior talent and has become possibly the best in the world at what he does and so has asked to be paid as such. So far so good.

I, as well as most, completely sympathize with someone’s efforts being rewarded. We want to see our work and time appreciated and for us to be compensated as such. That is perfectly reasonable.

If you haven’t followed Bell’s saga because you’ve been under that rock, here’s a synopsis:

  • Bell is drafted in the second round of the 2013 NFL draft, the second back taken off the board.
  • Bell suffers a mid-foot sprain in his second preseason game, missing the first three weeks of the season. Despite that, Bell breaks legend Franco Harris’ rookie franchise record for yards from scrimmage (1,259).
  • Bell has a stellar 2014, finishing second in rushing yards and scrimmage yards behind DeMarco Murray, leads all backs in receiving and earns his first Pro-Bowl nod. Bell hyperextends his knee in the final contest of the regular season, missing the playoffs.
  • Bell is arrested with then-teammate LeGarrette Blount on DUI and marijuana possession charges. He’s suspended two games.
  • Bell’s 2015 season ends after suffering a torn MCL.
  • Bell sleeps through an alarm and misses a third drug test, which ends in another suspension, this time for three games.
  • Bell suffers a groin injury late in divisional round, leaving him mostly inactive for the Steelers’ championship loss against New England.
  • In 2017, Bell is named to his third Pro Bowl and amasses nearly 2,000 scrimmage yards.
  • Days before the team’s playoff match with Jacksonville, Bell says he would consider retiring if the Steelers placed the franchise tag on him for a second consecutive campaign. The previous offseason, Bell turned down a five-year contract that would have paid him an annual average value, or AAV, of 12. It included 30 million for his first two seasons and 42 for his first three, an unprecedented evaluation for a running back. Even Adrian Peterson’s extension back in 2011, a first-ballot Hall of Famer, had an AAV of 9.6. Bell turned down 12.

There are a couple of things you should take note of in the above section:

  1. Le’Veon Bell is good at running back.
  2. Le’Veon Bell has disciplinary issues.
  3. Le’Veon Bell has an injury history.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s take a look at some headlines:





I wish I could say I laughed when I saw these. I really do.

I didn’t.

You see, reader from under the rock, Le’Veon Bell has an ego.

That’s fine. He’s Le’Veon Bell. He’s really good at running back.

However, I’m talking about Le’Veon Bell’s ego. Le’Veon Bell’s ego is huge. Le’Veon Bell has been surrounded by people who tell him he’s God’s gift to the world.

This is also fine. Parents tell this to their children every day before they send them off to school, usually to try to give them a much-needed boost of confidence but ostensibly because they have no idea how to parent. They figure if they make them confident, everything will fall into place.

Bell is a product of what happens when this parenting technique goes horribly wrong. Le’Veon believes himself to be so talented that he rationalizes he should be paid as two different people, both a top running back and a two-spot receiver, but also believes he’s worth as much as the league’s best pass catcher, Antonio Brown. Now, reader under a rock, feel free to google Antonio Brown on YouTube to get to know the guy a little bit. I actually talked about him in my One Team, One Jersey series, where I talk about each football team and decided what jersey I would want from that team. (Insert shameless plug here).

Despite the fact that one more slip-up in the drug department could warrant a long-term suspension and Bell’s struggle to play a full 16-game spread, both of which are rather large red flags, Bell thinks he’s worth $17 million a year.


Rather than mock Bell for another couple paragraphs, I’m gonna give him the benefit of the doubt. It’s what any sportswriter or fan should do. Let’s take a look at the evidence and give the guy a fair trial, shall we?

Let’s take a look at salary cap figures, just to get an idea of how good Le’Veon thinks he is.

Prior to this offseason, the largest cap hit for any running back in the league was LeSean McCoy at 8.95. Even after all of the signings this spring, Jerick McKinnon’s 2018 cap hit is 10.5 after signing a four-year, $30 million deal to become the starting tailback of San Francisco. His AAV? 7.5. A reminder that Bell is asking for 17.

The highest AAV for a running back is 8.25. That number belongs to Devonta Freeman, who in August signed a five-year extension for $41.25.

A reminder: Bell wants an AAV of 17.

In 2018, only two backs will have an AAV of 8 or more: Freeman and standout LeSean McCoy. Add McKinnon and you get the only three who are making more than 7 per. Le’Veon Bell will play on the franchise tag and will make $14.5, meaning he’s making more than double the pay of almost every running back in professional football. If he had signed that extension, that five-year, $60 million offer, Bell would be making more than double what every running back in the league is making with the exception of the three above plus Leonard Fournette, Ezekiel Elliott and Lamar Miller. (Fournette and Elliott are still on their rookie deals.)

For context, learner under the rock, the running back market has not increased over the last few seasons. It is cemented in stone at this point that only the very best running backs see close to no depreciation once they hit 30. Backs touch the ball more than any player other than a quarterback and take a lot of punishment because of it. Due to that, most backs are out of the league once they near or surpass 30 years of age. Only the gridiron gods can keep their game together and even then, sometimes those generational talents begin to fade away.

This is why Bell wants paid so much. He knows what we all do: his career will end before most other athletes from his draft class because of the position he plays.

With that said, Bell wants double the next guy. His latest evaluation of $17 million AAV means he believes he’s worth double any back in the NFL. It takes an extraordinary amount of arrogance to make that claim, but it’s only arrogance if it’s not true. So let’s find out if it is.


In five seasons, Bell has amassed 5,336 yards rushing and 2,660 yards receiving for a net total of 7,996. He’s accomplished this in 62 games for a per game average of 128.96 yards, a statistic that Bell has paraded around a number of times to prove his worth. That 128.96 is one of the best numbers in NFL history, currently at the top of the list, though many, including me, doubt that number’s sustainability. Hall of Fame players have seen similar numbers in their early years before seeing their numbers teeter off on the back-end. The great Jim Brown is right behind Bell at 125.5 and not only did he play in a less organized era when football was still very rudimentary, Brown retired at 29. We never got to see his play diminish. Even Barry Sanders, who retired at 30, posted 118.9 in his career, an incredible achievement that hasn’t come close to being duplicated. The closest are Terrell Davis and Adrian Peterson, who posted 113.9 and 112 respectively.

It is hard for any analyst to look at the players on this list, all of the greats, and believe the argument that Bell is greater than all of them.

Let’s pretend for a moment he is. Let’s compare him to some of the other younger talents in the NFL.

Taking a look at a player’s first few years, the same as Bell’s career length at this juncture, should give us an idea of how comparable or incomparable he is.


Le’Veon Bell 62 games, 62 started 5,336/2,660/7,996/128.96/128.96 (rushing/receiving/total/yards per game/yards per game started)

Devonta Freeman 61 games, 43 started 3,248/1,582/4,830/79.18/112.33

LeSean McCoy 74 games, 60 started 5,473/2,127/7,600/102.73/126.66

Frank Gore 73 games, 60 started 5,561/1,841/7,402/101.40/123.37


Adrian Peterson 73 games, 66 started 6,752/1,170/7,922/108.52/120.03

LaDainian Tomlinson 79 games, 79 started 7,361/2,292/9,653/122.19/122.19

Edgerrin James 65 games, 65 started 6,172/2,019/8,191/126.02/126.02


If we look at three comparable players from his current era, we see Bell’s numbers are comparable to even someone like Frank Gore, who during his early years played in the garbage fire that was San Francisco. While Bell’s receiving numbers are higher than any player’s on this list, there have been players who have done more on the ground in recent years and some by a wide margin. An additional five to ten yards simply doesn’t make you worth double the next guy. It’s just basic economics.

I also compiled a list of three Hall of Famers (James should get in sooner rather than later) and you’ll see his numbers are comparable.

“Wait, how can even Devonta Freeman, who hasn’t done anything crazy special in his career, still be putting up numbers in the same ballpark as LT? And how did Frank Gore average a little under five yards less in his first five years than Le’Veon Bell?”

Honestly, it’s because the difference between a very good and great running back often aren’t chasms apart. While the game has evolved away from the run game, the best backs in the league can still get it done. Look no further than LeSean McCoy, who has made a great career into a possible Canton trip. Look no further than Edgerrin James, who put up Bell-level production while Peyton Manning was performing surgery on NFL defenses. Look no further than Frank Gore, who played with a new offensive coordinator literally every season and still put up Pro-Bowl level numbers.

Le’Veon Bell has been gifted a top-five offensive line, Hall of Fame quarterback and the best receiver in football.

Frank Gore played with Antonio Bryant and pre-resurrection Alex Smith.

Hell, if we take out Gore’s rookie year, when he started only one game and show just his second through fifth seasons, when he started every game he played in, his stat line looks like this:

Frank Gore 59 games, 59 started 4,953/1,700/6,653/112.76/112.76

112 yards per game behind the San Francisco 49ers line of the mid 2000’s is incredible value. A player of Bell’s talent is almost expected to mimic those numbers behind a great offensive line.

For transparency’s sake, what if we needle some of these stats down to make a more accurate sample size.

LeSean McCoy 58 games, 56 started 4856/1819/6,675/115.09/119.20

At 115 yards per game, McCoy was at a per game average slightly behind Barry Sanders, yet was only paid $8 million in AAV. Why is that? Let’s take a closer look.


McCoy, in 2017, put up 1,586 yards from scrimmage. That means McCoy was paid $4,886.51 per yard by cap hit. Not a bad pay-day.

Todd Gurley won Offensive Player of the Year last season, accruing 2,093 yards. Still on his rookie deal, that means Gurley was paid…$808.24 per yard?

This, lad under the rock, is called the salary cap.

You see, to make the playing field fair, the suits instituted a salary cap, meaning there was a limit put in place to what a team could spend on its players. This led to a more competitive board and to new philosophies regarding team building. One of those philosophies is not spending a bazillion dollars on one player.

When it became apparent how difficult it was to find an excellent passer, teams assigned higher value to that position, the same way that teams starting pouring money into the left tackle spot after Lawrence Taylor killed Joe Theismann. (You probably don’t get that reference. Sorry. Here’s a link.)

So when teams started to find their running backs slowing down and coupled that with the evolution of pass-happy offenses, executives, and therefore the market, determined the running back position was less valuable.

In the 2016 season, Aaron Rodgers piled a total of 4,797 yards during a year in which he was paid $12.6 million, which means $2,626.64 per yard. By cap hit? $4065.04. For those who struggle with math, $4,065 is less than $4,886. Don’t worry. Bell’s number figures to be a lot higher than that.


A base salary of $17 million in 2018 would put him sixth in the NFL in AAV behind Kirk Cousins’ new deal, Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan, DeMarcus Lawrence and Ezekiel Ansah. (It’s worth noting that Lawrence and Ansah are also playing on the franchise tag this upcoming season.)

Not only that, if Bell made $17 million in cash in 2018, that would put him one spot outside the top 25 highest-paid players in the NFL, a majority of which came from this most recent offseason. (If you don’t know, human under the rock, the offseason is when teams pay exorbitant prices to get players to join their team). McKinnon’s new signing will earn him $12 in 2018, good for 62nd in the league in total net earnings. To get to the next back, you have to scroll for half of your lifespan all the way down to 246, where LeSean McCoy’s $6.325 sits.

Which means, using our math skills, that Bell is looking to make nearly triple what LeSean McCoy is making despite averaging about ten more yards a game on a far better offensive unit.

I guess you have to ask yourself: Is ten more yards worth an additional $11 million?

No. No, it’s not.

Is it worth the additional $9 million in AAV Bell is looking for?

No. No, it’s not.

At 1,946 scrimmage yards last year at the figure Bell wants, he would have been paid $8,735.87 a yard by cap hit. Why would anyone pay nearly $9,000 a yard when they can get the same production for less than $5?

Yes, third-down yards carry more value. Yes, fourth-quarter yards carry more value. Sadly, I don’t have the resources to look at those numbers. Given the numbers at our disposal, is it possible Bell is worth that much more than the next guy?

No. No, it is not.

This isn’t rocket science, my new friend. It’s basic math.

It’s now come to my attention that you probably don’t understand that expression. My apologies. Will have to get to that later.

To make matters worse, Bell has picked up a shovel and started digging his own grave with social media, accusing fans and the media of painting him as a villain. It was one of the most tone-deaf uses of social media yet displayed in 2018. No one was bashing Bell’s performance. They were tortured by his unabated greed. As one media member commented, “Look down, Le’Veon. You’re the one holding the paintbrush.”

Le’Veon has not only made his tenure with the Steelers continuing beyond this season as improbable as a lottery winner, he’s also tarnished his reputation and image by decrying those who believe his numbers to be inaccurate, even if they are, factually, inaccurate. General annoyance with his antics has turned into the type of frustration a parent has when they’re forced to watch their child ignore their advice and run their head into a wall. I’m completely done with Le’Veon and so is much of this city. Annoyance has transformed to rage and now dissolved into complete apathy. I don’t care about Bell and I can’t wait when he’s off this roster.

I hope you’ve enjoyed escaping from under the rock, my new friend. The only one that’s still under there now is Le’Veon.

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Tom Wilson: The Mask the NHL Refuses to Take Off

In 2018, nearly all of professional sports is dealing with a crisis. The NFL has a domestic violence culture that continues to persist, a general ambivalence to head trauma and then there’s the whole restricting the players’ rights thing (see anthem protests circa 2017). FIFA has been drowning in corruption for years and only now appears to be gasping for air. Major League Baseball has got past the steroid era but now is dealing with fans not being present in the stands and commissioner Rob Manfred is desperate to speed up the game. The NBA has done a great job marketing itself and has no PR problems of note. Bravo, NBA.

The NHL’s problem has been an ongoing one. They, too, have a concerning lack of interest regarding head trauma, but there’s might be even more lethal than the NFL’s.

The year is now 2018. None can say they don’t know the full implications of repeated head trauma. The safety of the athletes is far more important than it once was. The game is quicker. The audience has become more attuned to the sport. They know good hockey when they see it and they know garbage hockey when they see it as well (looking at you, Buffalo and Edmonton).

As the audience has grown in intellect and stature, the league has sought to meet the demands of its audience, installing 3-on-3 overtime to make for a more exciting spectacle.

Audiences have agreed the days of thug hockey are over. The days when people saw value in a dude elbowing another dude in the chops is over. It’s not safe. It’s dangerous.

The league, like every other organization run by rich white men, has dragged their feet on changing. They would just prefer the world continue as it were and the steady stream of green continue its way into their vaults. That’s not how life works. It evolves and that evolution is one of the most sacred things about life. You can adapt with it or be left behind.

The enforcers, those once idolized brawlers, have slowly been pushed out of the sport but some linger.

Tom Wilson, likely the dirtiest player in professional hockey, is a prime example. His penchant for headshots is well-known. Yet, Mr. Wilson remains.

In Game 2 of the Pens-Capitals playoff series, Wilson delivered one of those trademarks to the skull of Brian Dumoulin, who crumbled to the ice. Wilson was not penalized and did not even receive a phone call from the NHL’s department of player safety.

Despite his history, the NHL decided to let Wilson go on bail. Wilson was eager to repay them.

In Game 3, Wilson left his feet and drove his shoulder into the face of Penguins’ forward Zach Ashton-Reese, who suffered a broken jaw and a concussion. The referees got together and decided it was a clean check. Wilson returned to the bench with a smile.

In what world is that type of result legal? Why, the NHL, of course.

The NHL has a problem, a large problem, if its umpires and executives in Toronto watch a guy get decapitated on national television and don’t think it should be penalized. There is a grave danger in allowing that type of behavior to persist and the result of letting that behavior live was on full display Tuesday night. Blood was on the ice and Ashton-Reese had a caved-in skull.

The NHL’s current disciplinary rule dictates that the league cannot take a player’s history into effect when viewing whether or not a hit was illegal or not. In the case of Tom Wilson, he simply has a history of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, that place specifically being with a part of his body driven into another man’s brain center. To not take his past into account would be like giving a chronic abuser bail after allegedly committing another act of domestic assault. It is your job to decide, not if he’s guilty, but to decide if the public is at risk if you let him leave your supervision. The NHL decided Tom Wilson, a man with his own film roll of headshots, wasn’t a danger to society. We all got to see the result of their mistake.

In addition to making a common sense change to the way they view disciplinary action, it might be a good idea if the department of player safety wasn’t run by someone who didn’t give a fluff about player safety during his career. Making George Parros the head of the department of player safety is like making a renowned Soviet spy the head of the FBI. It is exactly that type of person that you don’t want in that room.

Lastly, might want to look at how four referees on the ice witness a hit like that and think that’s a legal play.

At the same time, I don’t know if I can fully blame the refs. They don’t know what mask the NHL is wearing anymore.

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One Team, One Jersey: Kansas City Chiefs

With the beginning of a new year comes the beginning of a new series. I’ve spent hundreds of hours (not an exaggeration) enthralled in game film sessions, reading player profiles, scrounging through stat sheets and scanning the histories of all the NFL franchises. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have. Welcome to One Team, One Jersey.

As a jersey collector and connoisseur, I am constantly expanding my repertoire and so I thought I should probably expand my search to all the teams of pro football. Buying every jersey I want would be too expensive though. Picking one for each team is reasonable and so became the idea that is One Team, One Jersey.

If you could only have one jersey from each NFL team, who would it be? There are a few ground rules:

The player you choose must have played for that team more than any other AND must have been on that team’s roster during the 2017 season.

Aside from that, it’s up to you what you prioritize: character, statistical production, championships, a combination of the three. Your call.

Who will you choose?

While not eligible for this series, Jamaal Charles was one of the best running backs in the NFL during the early 2010’s. Behind a stout defense, Jamaal Charles was essentially a one-man offense while Kansas City went through a carousel of quarterbacks ranging from Matt Cassel to Kyle Orton to Brady Quinn. The team also struggled at the receiving position during that time frame. Charles was it, which sadly meant a heavier workload that no doubt led to his injuries.

I’ve always been a fan of long-tenured players and Charles was a mainstay in Kansas City for nine seasons. The ninth running back taken in a strong running back class in 2008 (Darren McFadden, Jonathan Stewart, Felix Jones, Rashard Mendenhall, Chris Johnson, Matt Forte, Ray Rice, Kevin Smith), Charles became a four-time Pro Bowler in Kansas City and currently owns the league record for yards per carry at 5.4. I can respect a Charles jersey.

Linebacker Derrick Johnson, the man in the middle of those trench wars on defense, was a key contributor to the unit that kept the Chiefs from falling into complete obscurity and irrelevance. Another franchise staple, Johnson spent 12 seasons with Kansas City, earning four trips to Hawaii himself and amassing nearly 1,100 tackles.

Recently departed Marcus Peters won Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2015 and since entering the league, has led the NFL in interceptions. He’s one of the game’s most prominent young corners and will look to add to that legacy in Los Angeles alongside perennial Pro Bowler Aqib Talib.

I’m sure some will ask why Tyreek Hill wasn’t near the top of this list. He certainly meets the definition of playmaker and Kansas City showed he could be a regular contributor on offense in 2017 as they moved him to the top receiver spot.

Hill is still a raw talent when it comes to his route tree and release but his speed is unmatched. He’s an energizing player to watch in that sense because he can dominate opponents in a way football fans are not used to seeing. Usually, players are outmatched because of a player’s perfection of their craft (see Brady). There are also times though where an athlete is leaps and bounds ahead of their peers and is manipulating them physically (see my comments on Antonio Gates in my last chapter). It’s hard to be on the same playing field when your opponent has reached an athletic bar you simply can’t ascend to. Hill’s speed is one of those bars that few players attain.

If Hill is molded by his coaches and graduates to another level when it comes to the fine details of his position, such as his route tree, release, situational awareness and play recognition, he could become an elite receiver. Until then, he’s on the edge of brilliance but carries with him a lethal combination of big-play ability and momentum shift prowess.

As for a jersey consideration, the reason he fell to the fifth round was because he punched his pregnant girlfriend in the belly and proceeded to put her in a chokehold.

That’s just not someone I’m gonna support. This country, in 2018, still has a significant domestic violence problem and while I always hope those who fall into that hole become better people, it’s not a name I’m gonna wear on my back and parade around.

Speaking of better people, Eric Berry is an inspiration not just to the gridiron faithful but to those who’ve battled and continue to battle cancer. Just like James Conner battled at the University of Pittsburgh and became the best-selling jersey in the NFL during his rookie year with the Steelers, Eric Berry is someone you can fight alongside.

Berry has had three seasons cut short due to injury (torn ACL, cancer diagnosis, Achilles tear) but made the Pro Bowl in all five of his complete seasons.

Travis Kelce was taken in the third round in a strong tight end class (Tyler Eifert, Zach Ertz, Jordan Reed). In the same way that the Chiefs never had an offense outside of Charles during his early years, KC never had a legitimate receiving threat until Kelce arrived. In 2014, his first full season, he was surrounded by Dwayne Bowe, Donnie Avery, Albert Wilson and Jason Avant. Jeremy Maclin and draft pick Chris Conley came the following season but defenses knew who the number one target was.

This gave Kelce more targets and no doubt turned him into the elite tight end we know today. He’s made three Pro Bowls and has had over 80 receptions and 1,000 yards receiving in his last two expeditions. He’s right up there with Gronk and Greg Olsen.

Alex Smith, the leader of this tribe, had a strong 2017 to finish his career in Kansas City, compiling career highs in passing yards (4,042), touchdowns (26) and passer rating (104.7). For many years, it looked like Alex Smith, a first overall pick in 2005, was going to be a draft bust. In the toxic and ever-changing environment of San Francisco, Smith saw a new coordinator on a yearly basis and struggled to stay afloat as other quarterbacks, such as Aaron Rodgers in that same draft, put up historic production. After five seasons of bottom-of-the-league efficiency, Smith fell in sync with coach Jim Harbaugh and put together two playoff runs, helping his team to a Super Bowl appearance.

After the emergence of Colin Kaepernick, Smith was traded to Kansas City where he has spent the last five seasons. While not eligible for this series, I could understand why a sports fan could get behind a redemption story like Smith: someone who was viewed as a franchise savior, was slaughtered by mismanagement and opposing defenses ruthlessly for years but stuck with it, showed promise, and finally became the quarterback he was expected to be.

For me, Smith has always been a game manager, and I mean in that in the most complimentary way possible. He’s played safe with the ball, made logical decisions and won games by playing games like chess. That is not the most entertaining way to play quarterback. He’s not an exemplary athlete who can do things like Rodgers nor is he a master strategist like Brady or a stat-piling monster like Brees. He’s never been an elite quarterback and has never been a player who can put his team over the top by himself. He’ll have the chance to prove me wrong in Washington, who doesn’t have a great supporting cast and hasn’t found a consistent starter at running back since they let Alfred Morris walk, but for me, a quarterback that will live on in the history of professional football is one that could carry teams and Alex Smith is not in that category.

Kareem Hunt and one of the most impressive running back classes in recent memory (Fournette, McCaffrey, Cook, Mixon, Kamara) lit up NFL highlight reels.

Justin Houston had a 22-sack scorched earth campaign in 2014. Since coming out of Georgia in 2011, Houston has become one of the league’s most-feared pass rushers. In his first four seasons, including that 22 monstrosity, Houston registered 48.5 sacks. Since signing his contract, Houston has struggled with injuries but we know what the man can do when healthy.

There are a lot of big names on this team but Eric Berry, at his current pace, is a Hall of Fame safety. That potential, coupled with his cancer battle and the adversity he’s faced in battling injury, leaves me thrilled at the idea of a Berry jersey. #BerryStrong

My pick: Eric Berry. My jersey: Home Red.

Image result for eric berry home jersey free use


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One Team, One Jersey: Los Angeles Chargers

With the beginning of a new year comes the beginning of a new series. I’ve spent hundreds of hours (not an exaggeration) enthralled in game film sessions, reading player profiles, scrounging through stat sheets and scanning the histories of all the NFL franchises. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have. Welcome to One Team, One Jersey.

As a jersey collector and connoisseur, I am constantly expanding my repertoire and so I thought I should probably expand my search to all the teams of pro football. Buying every jersey I want would be too expensive though. Picking one for each team is reasonable and so became the idea that is One Team, One Jersey.

If you could only have one jersey from each NFL team, who would it be? There are a few ground rules:

The player you choose must have played for that team more than any other AND must have been on that team’s roster during the 2017 season.

Aside from that, it’s up to you what you prioritize: character, statistical production, championships, a combination of the three. Your call.

Who will you choose?

The 2004 quarterback class was one for the ages as franchise stalwarts Eli Manning, Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger all went in the first round. (Poor J.P. Losman was also taken in the first round by the Bills.)

All three have aged well and Rivers has been no different. Over his 14-year NFL career, Rivers, along with Eli and Ben, has thrown for over 50,000 yards and 300 touchdowns, putting all three in the top ten of each category. All three have the chance to be Hall of Famers but there’s a notable difference between them: Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning have each won two Super Bowls. Philip Rivers hasn’t been to one.

That monkey has been on Rivers’ back for a long time and will be for the rest of his life. That’s what happens when you’re drafted alongside talented stars that also play your position. You will always be compared to them, no matter how unfair it is that you are judged by someone else’s merits rather than your own.

Roethlisberger is a probable HOFer for moments like the final drive in Super Bowl 43 or the back-to-back games he threw six touchdown passes or the multiple playoff wins he has. Eli is a possible HOFer for moments like the Tyree helmet catch that dethroned the undefeated Patriots. Rivers is unlikely to get into Canton because he doesn’t have that moment.

That’s not to say the guy isn’t a good player. He’s breached 4,000 yards nine times in his career and owns nearly every Charger passing record.

But it’s also difficult to overlook the 2006 season, when the then San Diego Chargers went 14-2 with Hall of Fame running back LaDainian Tomlinson in the backfield and couldn’t win even one playoff game with home-field advantage. Also, Tomlinson won MVP and Offensive Player of the Year during that run, just as a friendly reminder.

It’s hard to overlook the Chargers falling short in the AFC Championship the following year to New England, although I do give Rivers a ton of credit (Rivers played the game with a torn ACL).

In the 2008 season, Rivers led the Bolts to their third consecutive AFC West title before dropping yet another contest in the divisional round, this time to the Steelers.

In 2009, after a 13-3 campaign, Rivers and San Diego left defeated in their first playoff game again, this time to the Mark Sanchez-led Jets.

Rivers has spent six of the last seven years on the couch come playoff time and don’t worry, the one game he did get to, he lost.

Look, I have nothing against Rivers. He’s a talented quarterback and still one of the better ones in the NFL. The Chargers haven’t made it to the playoffs solely because of Rivers. There are plenty of other factors at play.

The fact remains: 4-5 in the playoffs. Zero AFC Championship wins.

That just doesn’t scream Hall of Fame.

Is there a chance he gets in? Sure. He’s still been one of the most prolific passers of his generation, but he’s not Ben, Brady, Brees, Peyton, Rodgers or even Eli. He’s just not a good bet.

He’s still fun to watch. He’s still a gunslinger. He’s still elite. He’s just not tier one, top-of-the-game elite.

Neither is his number one receiver, Keenan Allen. After a strong rookie season (Fun fact: At the time, only five receivers in NFL history had more receiving yards their rookie year than Allen’s 1,046), Allen suffered a broken collarbone, lacerated kidney and torn ACL in back-to-back-to-back years. He performed great this past campaign, winning Comeback Player of the Year. He’s a constant target for Rivers who will pad his stat sheet with receptions (one of five players with over 100 catches last year), run a full route tree (His 13.7 ypc was in the upper third for receivers) and has the vision to make plays in the open field (His 458 yards after catch ranked him fifth among wideouts).

Remove this past year and the game to game consistency that you look for number one receivers to produce isn’t there. He’s a capable route runner but ran a 4.7 at the combine. He was recovering from a knee sprain that year and admitted he wasn’t 100% for Indy, but ran a 4.56 dash his senior year of high school, which isn’t out of this world speed for a receiver. While he’s 6’2″ and can make vertical plays, he doesn’t play an aggressive style like Demaryius or, more appropriately, like DeAndre Hopkins does. He prefers to out-finesse defenders than out-muscle them. He’s got the cut ability to do that.

He is athletic enough to torture defenses who don’t have either agile corners or experienced defenders (12 recs vs BUF, 11 vs DAL, 10 vs CLE). When he has to play top-end corners, such as Aqib Talib in division-foe Denver, he struggles to take over games the way we are used to seeing top end flights do. In two games against Denver this season, Allen compiled 5 catches for 35 yards and 3 for 41.

There are a lot of other factors at play. Unfortunately, I don’t have the time or funding needed to go over additional game tape and count his matchups against man versus zone and do even more stat-crunching than I’ve already done. You also have to consider the team’s game plan that week and the in-game situation at that moment.

Overall, Allen is a great receiver in fantasy football. He’s a reliable option for an experienced and still physically-gifted quarterback and is in a scheme that allows him a high volume of targets. For that reason alone, he can be counted on for five receptions a game and a solid yards after catch bonus on a week-to-week basis. As a receiver, Allen is an above average talent that has never seen his potential fully nurtured due to injury and it’s prevented him from joining the ranks of AB, Julio, Green and Odell.

Melvin Gordon, the stud from Wisconsin, still has the breakout speed that commands respect. Even now, defenses are still trying to force him to the inside and still he is able to make it work. You saw it in college, you saw it in 2016 and you saw it this past schedule. He hasn’t peaked yet though and I want to see what the next stage of his progression looks like before I buy in, which leaves me to discuss the player I just can’t pass up.

Antonio Gates is one of the best tight ends in NFL history and when you consider he never played a down of college football, well, that just speaks to the amount of athleticism this guy has. Imagine being so physically gifted that you could pick up something at the last possible second and be better than people who had been doing that thing for their whole lives. Everyone around you has spent countless hours perfecting their craft and you’ve made them look like boys among a behemoth who just learned the rules of the game. That’s frightening.

When you say the phrase “red zone threat,” I think Antonio Gates. Dude is too big and too strong. You could make the argument he was the one that started bringing basketball stars to the game of football.

He’s one of only ten players in NFL history to amass 100 touchdown catches and he’s currently 30th in receiving yards.

Melvin Ingram is a solid edge rusher. Joey Bosa is a technically-refined player that has some more hurdles to go through. Jason Verrett is a capable corner.

Antonio Gates? He’s a freak and worth my jersey spot for the Chargers.

My pick: Antonio Gates. My jersey: Home Blue.


Image result for antonio gates home jersey free use

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One Team, One Jersey: Denver Broncos

With the beginning of a new year comes the beginning of a new series. I’ve spent hundreds of hours (not an exaggeration) enthralled in game film sessions, reading player profiles, scrounging through stat sheets and scanning the histories of all the NFL franchises. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have. Welcome to One Team, One Jersey.

As a jersey collector and connoisseur, I am constantly expanding my repertoire and so I thought I should probably expand my search to all the teams of pro football. Buying every jersey I want would be too expensive though. Picking one for each team is reasonable and so became the idea that is One Team, One Jersey.

If you could only have one jersey from each NFL team, who would it be? There are a few ground rules:

The player you choose must have played for that team more than any other AND must have been on that team’s roster during the 2017 season.

Aside from that, it’s up to you what you prioritize: character, statistical production, championships, a combination of the three. Your call.

Who will you choose?

The Most Valuable Player of Super Bowl 50 is the obvious choice for this list. Texas A&M’s Von Miller is one of the elite pass rushers in the NFL. As we saw in that historic game, Miller has tremendous speed off the edge. In that spectacle, he was on another gear, it seemed. He could not be stopped. It was one of the most impressive postseason performances I’d ever seen. The game was in his hands and everyone else was just a piece in what seemed destined to happen.

Not to be cliché, but Miller was a man amongst boys. Carolina boasted what analysts were calling a supreme offense and the Denver defense, despite being excellent for much of the season, was not given much respect going into the game. That quickly changed. Cam Newton wasn’t just flustered. He was a man in a box for most of the game and Von Miller made the box, glued the box and supervised the box to make sure it stayed shut.

I started watching Super Bowls when I was 7. The event that was watching Tom Brady and the Patriots upset the 14-point favorite St. Louis Rams was the first one I got to witness. Since then, I’ve seen offensive studs take over games and I’ve witnessed defensive units save games but up until Super Bowl 50, I never saw a defensive player manipulate a contest to such an absurd extent. Von Miller seemed to have the game under lock and key. That’s not to say the game was out of reach for Carolina from the start, but as the game progressed, a simple fact became more and more apparent: Von Miller was too fast. Von Miller was more super than anyone else on that field and he was coming for his ring.

Following a surreal experience like that, Miller signed a long-term deal that handed him $70 million guaranteed, a deal he more than earned. In 2018, Miller would have had a cap hit of $22.4, the second-highest cap hit among defensive players (Suh had the third overall highest cap hit in the league at $26.1 before getting cut by the Dolphins) and the ninth-highest in the league (The Broncos and Miller agreed to restructure his contract and backload his deal, dropping his cap hit to a more manageable 9.7). He has the talent level to make even this mammoth deal look team friendly but he hasn’t shown it the last two years. The Broncos haven’t been the same since that Lombardi ceremony and Miller has been unable to make many highlight reel plays to take over games the way I’ve seen he can. That stutter in production leaves me a tad concerned with how much of an overall impact he can consistently make.

Still, Miller is a six-time Pro Bowler and has 83.5 sacks only seven years into his career. In the history of the NFL, only 32 players have 100 career sacks and Miller should join the exclusive list sooner rather than later.

Denver sports perhaps the best corner duo in the league in Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr. Talib isn’t eligible for One Team, One Jersey, as he has played most of his career with Tampa Bay. He’s made a career of being a corner for hire and while certainly talented, off the field issues leave me distancing myself from him anyway. I have a hard time putting on a jersey of a man who found a way to accidentally shoot himself, among other things.

Chris Harris Jr. is the other half of the equation and is good enough to be a number one corner himself. For a span of over two seasons, Harris didn’t allow a touchdown. Talk about a shutdown corner. In my eyes, he’s one of the most underrated defensive players in the league. I don’t think people realize how good he is. A lot of that is the defensive bubble he’s in. As long as Denver sports a significant pass rush and employs Talib, people will overlook Chris Harris Jr. I’d gladly start him as a number one corner without any hesitation and maybe in the future we’ll get to see his resume expand to being “the guy” for an NFL franchise. Until then, Chris Harris Jr. is the best number two corner in professional football. (Talib was traded to the Rams in free agency, meaning Harris Jr. will get his shot.)

Since we’re talking about the Broncos, we need to talk about Tim Tebow. Tebowmania took the world by storm in 2011, creating the Tebowing gesture and an incredibly loyal fan base. Was Tebow a great quarterback? No. Tebow’s throwing motion had been severely maligned by his baseball career. His ability to read defenses was average at best. Compared to the other guys on the field, Tebow sometimes looked out of place, like a regular joe trying to hold it together next to professionals.

There was some otherworldly element that seemed to surround him though, something that couldn’t be quantified by science or rationalized by statistics. He could be dreadful for most of the game but when the game came down to the wire, something magical would happen. You never felt out of it with Tebow. He was an underdog despite two college championships and a Heisman at Florida. He was doubted despite his passion, criticized without attention paid to his will to win. He had an aura about him that simply made him mesmerizing, almost magnetic to the sport’s followers. Even those who weren’t devoted to the sport of football began to follow the quest of Tebow.

It was so easy to buy in, to root for the underdog. Tebow had six fourth quarter comebacks that year. Despite all the evidence that told you it shouldn’t, you knew it was gonna happen again. You could feel the momentum swing and man, was it strong.

Tebow wasn’t a prima donna, nor was he an exceptional athlete, but he was insanely entertaining to watch without ever doing anything uncharacteristic to become so. It was the way he kept fighting on. Tebow showed the world, more than anything, how far will and heart can get you. Evidently, pretty far.

Every general manager in America would love someone who played an entire game like Tebow played in the fourth quarter. It wasn’t the clutch gene. I still don’t know what it was. It was a mystical force, some element we haven’t discovered perhaps. All the cards just seemed to fall his way.

Truthfully, despite all of the talent still on Denver’s roster, I’d rather have a Tebow jersey than any other, even Von Miller. In addition to his performance on the field, Tebow is a helluva role model, which pretty much seals the deal for me. It would be a rare jersey that would carry nostalgia into my collection.

However, Tebow doesn’t meet the rules so we’re gonna have to pick someone else.

Going off the feel-good story angle, Demaryius Thomas.

Thomas’ mother and grandmother were sent to prison for crack distribution when he was a kid. He was dealt a bad hand. He overcame it. I admire that.

Demaryius Thomas was one of the key contributors to the highest-scoring offense in NFL history and has demonstrated his skillset in the years following that record year. After beginning his career at Georgia Tech, who ran the triple option and never fully realized the talent they had on the outside, Thomas’ first two seasons were beset by injuries. Then Peyton came to town and Demaryius reached his final form. While Demaryius isn’t in the conversation for top five receivers in the NFL, he is an all-around receiver who can play physical at the line or play off the corner and go speed for speed. In that way, Georgia Tech helped mold Thomas’ playing style.

As explosive a player as Von Miller is, he was suspended for violating the substance abuse policy in 2013 for reportedly trying to cheat a drug test. Especially since that was at the beginning of his career, that’s always stuck with me and put a stain on his performance, at least for me. That’s why I’m going Demaryius.

My pick: Demaryius Thomas. My jersey: Bronco Orange.

Image result for demaryius thomas orange jersey free use

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One Team, One Jersey: Pittsburgh Steelers

With the beginning of a new year comes the beginning of a new series. I’ve spent hundreds of hours (not an exaggeration) enthralled in game film sessions, reading player profiles, scrounging through stat sheets and scanning the histories of all the NFL franchises. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have. Welcome to One Team, One Jersey.

As a jersey collector and connoisseur, I am constantly expanding my repertoire and so I thought I should probably expand my search to all the teams of pro football. Buying every jersey I want would be too expensive though. Picking one for each team is reasonable and so became the idea that is One Team, One Jersey.

If you could only have one jersey from each NFL team, who would it be? There are a few ground rules:

The player you choose must have played for that team more than any other AND must have been on that team’s roster during the 2017 season.

Aside from that, it’s up to you what you prioritize: character, statistical production, championships, a combination of the three. Your call.

Who will you choose?

The Pittsburgh Steelers have always been known for their stellar defense and in the middle of those defenses were exceptional linebackers: Jack Lambert, Jack Ham, Greg Lloyd, James Farrior, Joey Porter. In recent years, the Steelers have spent a couple first round draft choices trying to find their next star in the middle. Ryan Shazier looked to be one of them before suffering a scary injury. If Shazier is ever brave enough to step on a football field, there’s no guarantee he’ll ever be the same. He was one of the fastest linebackers I’d seen in quite a while and showed enough promise that he deserved a nod on this list.

Bud Dupree has yet to do anything spectacular for me, although he did kill a guy in a playoff game. Rest in peace, Matt Moore.

T.J. Watt, brother of infamous J.J. Watt, had a promising rookie season, though I’d like to see more before taking his jersey under serious consideration.

As good as T.J. was this year, he was not the rookie that impressed me the most. USC product JuJu Smith-Schuster has big play ability and is an absolute blast of entertainment. He’s had quite a few enjoyable touchdown celebrations and has become a town favorite, interacting with fans in the heart of the city and creating his own YouTube platform. His Twitter is hilarious (if you don’t follow him, strongly recommend) and as the youngest player in the NFL, he reminds us how fun football is supposed to be. He’s still a kid but carries himself well, something I hold a lot of respect for. I’ve never purchased a rookie jersey. I often wait to see how an athlete’s career progresses before I fully get behind them but JuJu has a lot of character. It’s easy to want to root for someone like that.

There is one other linebacker we haven’t discussed yet. While his tenure with the Steelers is likely over, James Harrison was on the Steelers roster in 2017. Harrison has become one of the greatest undrafted athletes to ever play professional football. He won Defensive Player of the Year in 2008, the first undrafted player to ever win DPOY. That season he registered 101 tackles and a franchise-record 16 sacks, though his most memorable play of the year didn’t come until the postseason. He built a reputation for an incredible motor, his workout regimen and disciplinary issues. During his career, Harrison accrued hundreds of thousands in fines for helmet to helmet shots and late hits. Despite it, Harrison was a Pittsburgh favorite because like the Grim Reaper or the Terminator, Harrison was a bad man on the turf, one that could be truly terrorizing. People loved him for it. In addition to five Pro Bowls and two Super Bowl rings, Harrison also owns the franchise sack record. He’s been on the decline these last few years but his legacy is one worth remembering. Sometimes you buy a jersey for what that player is then. Sometimes you buy a jersey for what that player was and James Harrison was one of the best edge rushers in the NFL for a time.

Of all the players on the Pittsburgh defense the last few seasons, one player has more value than any other. Cam Heyward, since entering the league out of Ohio State, has been a regular figurehead for the black and gold. In four full seasons as a starter, Heyward has recorded 31.5 sacks, including 12 this past season, earning him his first Pro Bowl nod.

The Steelers also have the killer B’s to consider: Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown.

Bell is a literal bell cow for Pittsburgh. He’s a playmaker in the backfield and his patient style of running paired with superior field vision leads to quite the highlight reel. At times, he looks like the best back in the NFL. He might be.

He has a unique style that analysts can’t help but gush over and his versatility is one of his greatest assets.

He also has off the field issues, such as drug suspensions and talking about getting a new max contract or retiring hours before a playoff game, to pair with a history of season-ending knee injuries. He values himself at 15 million a year, more than twice what the current highest-paid running back makes (LeSean McCoy had the highest cap hit among tailbacks in 2018 at 8.9. DeMarco Murray had the highest base salary at 6.25) and yet he reportedly turned down a two-year, $30 million contract extension last year. He also turned down a three-year, $43 million offer. Given his injuries and disciplinary history, 13-15 million a year is a boatfull for Bell, but Bell thinks he’s worth quarterback money, an offer no team in the NFL will pay him. That isn’t what the market is for running backs. Devonta Freeman’s new contract came with a base salary of 8.25. Between Bell’s irrational contract demands and a propensity for poor decision making off the field, I have a hard time picking that jersey. As talented as he is, I will be thrilled when he’s out of Pittsburgh.

Antonio Brown, a sixth-round selection out of Central Michigan, is a straight-up superstar. He’s one of the fastest receivers I’ve ever seen and has the field vision of a returner. Asking any corner to execute man coverage against him is simply unfair. The best in the game struggle with Antonio. Sometimes double coverage even looks insufficient. He’s the best route runner in the league, makes crisp cuts and has the elusiveness of a Barry Sanders. He’s had more than 100 receptions in each of the last five years and a minimum 1,284 yards in all five as well. In 2015, Brown caught 136 passes, the second most receptions in a single season behind Marvin Harrison’s 143 in 2002. He’s currently the highest-paid receiver in the NFL and he should be. He’s on pace to surpass Lynn Swann, John Stallworth and Hines Ward as the best receiver in Steelers history and routinely accomplishes athletic feats that leave you questioning if you should be in awe or shock. For much of 2017, Brown was in the running for MVP.

Finally, Big Ben Roethlisberger has made a career in the black and gold and will likely get a chance to pair that with a trip to Canton. Over the years, gridiron fans have gotten to see a player evolve. Early in his career, Ben took a lot of punishment but also had the ability to shuck some of those sacks and extend plays. Following that turn came the age of a vertical offense with Bruce Arians, exploiting the advantage that is Ben’s deep ball. Over these last few years, we’ve gotten to see Ben settle into a pocket passer role. Watching him evolve and progress through each stage of his career has been something.

He’s likely better than Terry Bradshaw, making him the greatest center man in the franchise’s history.

He’s had some moments that will live on in football lore, like this and this.

However, Roethlisberger was accused multiple times of sexual assault early in his career, something I can’t ignore.

James Harrison would be a great pick. He personifies the grit and toughness of Steelers football. I really am a big fan of JuJu these days. What a kid.

That said, the choice is easy.

Antonio Brown is one of the most talented athletes I’ve ever witnessed and has always been a privilege to behold. Teammates constantly describe him as the hardest worker on the team. He’s a true competitor first. When he does stuff like this, it’s hard not to get hyped. At his current pace, it’s likely we’re watching a Hall of Fame player. He’s got charisma, flair and a great sense of humor. He loves the camera and can’t help but be theatrical in front of it. He plays the game like a kid. He’s having fun and it’s impossible for me not to want to sign up for that.

My pick: Antonio Brown. My jersey: Home Black.

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One Team, One Jersey: Baltimore Ravens

With the beginning of a new year comes the beginning of a new series. I’ve spent hundreds of hours (not an exaggeration) enthralled in game film sessions, reading player profiles, scrounging through stat sheets and scanning the histories of all the NFL franchises. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have. Welcome to One Team, One Jersey.

As a jersey collector and connoisseur, I am constantly expanding my repertoire and so I thought I should probably expand my search to all the teams of pro football. Buying every jersey I want would be too expensive though. Picking one for each team is reasonable and so became the idea that is One Team, One Jersey.

If you could only have one jersey from each NFL team, who would it be? There are a few ground rules:

The player you choose must have played for that team more than any other AND must have been on that team’s roster during the 2017 season.

Aside from that, it’s up to you what you prioritize: character, statistical production, championships, a combination of the three. Your call.

Who will you choose?

The NFL was introduced to the Baltimore Ravens in 1996 when Art Modell decided to move the Cleveland Browns to Baltimore. All Browns records and their history was left behind in Cleveland and the Ravens were considered an expansion team. With that categorization, the Ravens became one of the most successful expansion teams in sports history. Their first ever draft picks were left tackle Jonathan Ogden and linebacker Ray Lewis. The two Hall of Famers had 24 Pro Bowl seasons combined, giving Baltimore the framework from the beginning of a contender.

Since the Ravens’ induction into the NFL, Baltimore has won two Super Bowls and 15 playoff games. It takes some expansions teams five or six years just to be competitive. Baltimore has achieved these heights in 22 seasons. They may be one of the younger franchises in the league, but Baltimore has come to play more often than not and their youth has put a chip on the team’s shoulder, the type of motor that attracts fans.

It was difficult to pick a jersey for Cincinnati and Cleveland. There are plenty of options in the stronghold of Maryland.

For example, it would be unfair to make this list and not include Marshall Yanda, who made six consecutive Pro Bowls beginning in 2011. He was named the top guard by Pro Football Focus in ’14, ’15 and ’16. If that doesn’t demonstrate how dominate he’s been in the trenches, I’m not sure what does.

The team is lacking on offense, but a 2008 first-rounder from Delaware is still behind center. Joe Flacco had one of the greatest playoff runs in NFL history in 2012, tying Montana’s record with 11 touchdowns and zero interceptions in the same postseason. He’s played in some rather large postseason contests. He’s gathered playoff victories on the road.

The argument goes, and I believe it to be the right one, that many of those playoff victories came on the back of an elite defense, not on the shoulder of a quarterback named Joe. He’s made big throws in big moments, but the Ravens did not beat the Patriots because Flacco outdueled Brady.

In his ten-year career, Flacco has thrown for 25 touchdowns only twice and broached the 4,000 yard plateau once. He’s the best quarterback Baltimore has ever had and that earns him sentimentality points and a spot in Ravens lore, but in actuality, he was never elite, nor extraordinary. Not the type of player you buy a jersey for.

For years, he’s been one of the game’s most overrated signal callers and one historic postseason doesn’t diminish that argument the same way Josh Gordon leading the league in receiving yards doesn’t mean he’s an otherworldly talent. Success is temporary and professional athletes are expected to reach it from time to time. Those who reach it regularly are elite and they reach these heights on their own merits. Brady never won MVPs because his defense was top-five. Peyton didn’t set passing records because Ray Lewis was phenomenal at playing middle linebacker. Joe Flacco isn’t in the same realm as these two legends and you can argue it if you want, but he’s not. He’s had a passer rating above 90 twice. He’s serviceable for the most part, although these past three seasons have been difficult to watch considering his Zeppelin of a contract. Ten years after his career is over, Ravens fans will remember the name with pride but football fans will remember the Mile High Miracle and the 2012 Super Bowl and think of that one great year he had. There’s a reason that’s the case.

Besides, Baltimore has always been known for its staunch defense and so it only feels right to pick a player on that side of the field.

Brandon Williams is quite the presence at defensive tackle.

CJ Mosley has proven to be a fine successor to new HOFer Ray Lewis in the middle, making three Pro Bowl rosters.

Jimmy Smith has been close to a top-ten corner for a majority of his career. He’s not quite a tier one star, but is a reliable player that can go one-v-one against most receivers.

There’s still one big name we haven’t mentioned, one of the most dominant edge rushers of the last 20 years.

There were three elite players on the Ravens’ defenses of the 2000s: Ed Reed, Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs. In my eyes, Suggs should be in the Hall. He played with a ferocity and aggression that personified the Ravens grit and tenacity and plays with that same motor today.

Suggs is one of only 37 players to win Defensive Player of the Year, a true honor for a terrorizing player. He also holds the Ravens franchise records for sacks (125.5) and forced fumbles (29) by wide margins. Those 125.5 sacks put him 17th on the all-time quarterback takedown list.

He was unanimously named Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2003 after setting a franchise rookie record with 12 sacks. He’s a seven-time Pro Bowler and a Super Bowl champion.

Routinely voted as one of the most hated players in the NFL, Suggs also carries the charisma of a performer, often putting opponents on edge with sack dances. Maybe he’s dirty, maybe he’s passionate. Maybe he just shows no mercy. Whatever it is, ain’t no one ever doubt his effort or his compete level. No one looks forward to playing that guy. That hostility, that grit, personifies the Ravens.

My pick: Terrell Suggs. My jersey: Home Purple.

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One Team, One Jersey: Cleveland Browns

With the beginning of a new year comes the beginning of a new series. I’ve spent hundreds of hours (not an exaggeration) enthralled in game film sessions, reading player profiles, scrounging through stat sheets and scanning the histories of all the NFL franchises. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have. Welcome to One Team, One Jersey.

As a jersey collector and connoisseur, I am constantly expanding my repertoire and so I thought I should probably expand my search to all the teams of pro football. Buying every jersey I want would be too expensive though. Picking one for each team is reasonable and so became the idea that is One Team, One Jersey.

If you could only have one jersey from each NFL team, who would it be? There are a few ground rules:

The player you choose must have played for that team more than any other AND must have been on that team’s roster during the 2017 season.

Aside from that, it’s up to you what you prioritize: character, statistical production, championships, a combination of the three. Your call.

Who will you choose?

The Cleveland Browns are the biggest joke in the NFL. I actually wrote a piece detailing how they might be the worst franchise in professional sports. A champion in complete incompetence, Cleveland just finished the 2017 season 0-16, bringing Hue Jackson’s career record as a head coach to 1-31. All logical signs point to him losing his job, especially given he had three first-rounders on his roster this year, but Cleveland and logic simply don’t go together. He will be at the helm for 2018.

People spend their whole childhood playing football with the hope they make it to the NFL. When you’re drafted by the Cleveland Browns, your dreams die pretty fast. Football is supposed to be fun. That’s the whole point of playing it. Playing for the Cleveland Browns is downright depressing. It’s laughable. Just watching the Browns would make me want to quit playing.

You pity them initially but once you realize the team is digging its own holes, that pity quickly turns to unabated hatred. You hate the management that has no idea how to perform the bare necessities of their position (consider the amount of draft picks this team has had over these last few years) and the owner that refuses to sign a marquee free agent. Whether that results in an overpay or not should be of little consequence given the team’s desolate landscape.

Their ability to draft quarterbacks is legendary. Only the Browns could miss that many times. DeShone Kizer is painful to watch, regularly overthrows his receivers and makes mind-numbingly awful reads. Despite his mobile ability, he has little pocket awareness and perhaps less composure under pressure. Kizer ended the season with a completion percentage of 53, 22 interceptions to only 11 touchdowns and a sack percentage of 7.4 (38 sacks). It’s hard to tell at this point if the Browns are that bad at picking players or if there’s a psychological block that comes into play when an athlete dons the Cleveland gridiron colors.

Picking a jersey from this hellhole is very difficult. No one stays in Cleveland long enough to make an impression, leaving us with a lot of unproven youth to choose from.

Yes, perhaps we should consider Myles Garrett, one of only 82 players to ever be drafted first overall. Garrett has yet to show the talent that shot him to the top of draft boards, with a rookie campaign that was beset by injury and didn’t produce much flair from the edge rusher.

Duke Johnson Jr is one of the best third-down backs in the NFL. He, at times, shows the abilities of a starter. He’s predominantly a screen back and is good in the open field but I have a hard time seeing him in a starting role and you just don’t buy jerseys of third-down backs.

Christian Kirksey is one cocoon that could become a butterfly. 

He signed a four-year contract extension with Cleveland so if you get his jersey, he should be around for a while, but that’s the only draw you’re really getting out of it. He’s a backer in a weak defense who doesn’t make a lot of high value plays.

“Tim, if you’re looking for high value plays, why don’t you take Josh Gordon?”

Was Josh Gordon the first player in NFL history to record back-to-back 200-yard receiving games? Yes.

Is Josh Gordon also a complete idiot? Yes.

After leading the league in receiving while playing for the CLEVELAND BROWNS in 2013 (in a shortened season after failing a drug test), Gordon was arrested for driving impaired, suspended ten games for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy again, suspended a game by the Browns for violating team rules, suspended the entire 2015 season for failing to follow the substance-abuse policy a third time, applied for reinstatement only to fail yet another drug test (that’s four times for those counting at home) and got suspended the first four games of the 2016 season before coming to the decision to leave football and try to get his life back. He was activated off the Exempt List in November of 2017.

Gordon has set a couple of franchise records, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that Josh Gordon is a horrible role model and toxic personality to have in a locker room. He’s completely unreliable and it’s a virtual certainty that he will get suspended a sixth time. That’s not someone I want to support or associate myself with.

When it comes to Cleveland, you have to look at folk heroes. For example, Peyton Hillis is a legitimate selection. While he doesn’t meet either of the requirements for this series, a Peyton Hillis jersey is one I can respect. While he only had one great year in the league, there was a lot of hype surrounding him that season and it was well-deserved. He gathered 1,177 yards and 11 TDs on the ground after starting only 14 games. He added nearly 500 receiving. It seemed like everyone was rooting for him, so much so that he won the Madden cover vote after the season. There’s a good chance he’s the last Browns player to ever show up on the cover of Madden and it’s probably for the better honestly. Not a lot of folk heroes pass through Cleveland and certainly not many good players, which leaves us with only one true choice.

One of the best offensive lineman for nearly a decade, Joe Thomas is a 10-time Pro Bowler and has been first-team All-Pro seven times in his career. His streak of 10,363 consecutive snaps is the longest streak in NFL history, a streak that ended this past season due to a torn triceps. He’s regularly been in the conversation for best offensive lineman in the league and he’s done all this while playing for a franchise that certainly doesn’t deserve him. There’s a chance he retires this offseason, which would be a great loss for professional football and the Cleveland Browns. Joe Thomas is the only thing that fan base has to look forward to.

My pick: Joe Thomas. My jersey: Away White.

Image result for joe thomas away jersey free use


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One Team, One Jersey: Cincinnati Bengals

With the beginning of a new year comes the beginning of a new series. I’ve spent hundreds of hours (not an exaggeration) enthralled in game film sessions, reading player profiles, scrounging through stat sheets and scanning the histories of all the NFL franchises. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have. Welcome to One Team, One Jersey.

As a jersey collector and connoisseur, I am constantly expanding my repertoire and so I thought I should probably expand my search to all the teams of pro football. Buying every jersey I want would be too expensive though. Picking one for each team is reasonable and so became the idea that is One Team, One Jersey.

If you could only have one jersey from each NFL team, who would it be? There are a few ground rules:

The player you choose must have played for that team more than any other AND must have been on that team’s roster during the 2017 season.

Aside from that, it’s up to you what you prioritize: character, statistical production, championships, a combination of the three. Your call.

Who will you choose?

The Cincinnati Bengals have been on the struggle train for a while now, with seemingly no end in sight. A roster that at times has shown promise has been unable to pop out a playoff win. The team hasn’t won one of those since 1990, stifled by a host of draft busts such as Ki-Jana Carter and Akili Smith. With Marvin Lewis at the head for another few years fresh off a contract extension, that doesn’t look to change. A culture has been created in Cincinnati for dirty play, from notable players such as Vontaze Burfict, quite possibly the league’s dirtiest player, and Adam Jones. That culture cost them a playoff win in 2015, one of the weirdest endings to a football game you’ll ever see. With the game all but over, running back Jeremy Hill got stripped by young talent Ryan Shazier, giving Pittsburgh another chance. Vontaze Burfict went headhunting in the most crucial moment of the contest and Adam Jones just couldn’t help himself when it came to doing something stupid.

The Bengals have only seemed to embrace those with character issues by drafting Josh Shaw, who did this, and Joe Mixon, who did this. This is not to say the Bengals are the only team to do this. Plenty of teams have decided to give players with flawed histories a second chance, but they have done little to prevent this aggressive mindset from festering.

You can make an argument that Andy Dalton, the Red Rifle, is a jersey worth having, but the TCU product has yet to win a playoff game. He has made a career of chucking 50-50 balls to one A.J. Green and there are rumors Cincinnati may let him test free agency. If I buy a jersey, I want it to be one that will stay relevant and I don’t see Dalton staying relevant in Cincy or anywhere for that matter. He’s barely stayed relevant during his time there. He’s had a QBR over 60 once in his seven-year career and is coming off his worst campaign since his rookie season, completing a slice under 60 percent of his passes. In fact, you can make the argument the less you use him, the better he plays. In his best statistical season, he threw for only 3200 yards in 13 games. He had 386 attempts in those games, an average of about 30 per. The more he throws, the worse he performs. He’s not a play caller that can take over a game, which is what you look for your quarterback to do. I’ll pass on this misfire.

I’m sure someone out there wants to see Tyler Eifert’s name on this list, but the Notre Dame star has dimmed quite a bit in recent years. Coming off his third back surgery, his career highlights are likely behind him and the time when he was in the conversation as one of the best tight ends in football has passed. He had 13 touchdowns in 2015, quite an accomplishment for a tight end, but has played in only ten games since. In total, he has missed about two and half seasons worth of time because of injuries.

One of the best defensive lineman in the league, Geno Atkins has big moment potential. He has the impact of a game-changer. He has a high motor, a bull rush than can overpower a lineman of any caliber and a swim that can finesse nearly any double team. He’s also one of the best values you can find on the defensive line at a $9.5 million cap hit. Cincinnati grabbed him in the 2010 draft in the fourth round out of Georgia. He was the 13th defensive tackle taken. To get a player with the ceiling he has at that round is a steal for a franchise. He’s already set a franchise record in sacks with 12.5 (2012) and has had at least nine sacks in each of the past three seasons. He’s the player to fear on that defense.

But Atkins isn’t the only Georgia stud on the Bengals. One Adriel Jeremiah Green, drafted with the fourth overall pick in the 2011 draft, began his career with five consecutive 1,000-yard seasons and has yet to miss a Pro Bowl since coming into the league and this despite a lingering injury history.

And look, maybe they should have taken Julio Jones, who wasn’t taken until the sixth pick that year, but A.J. Green might be the third best receiver in the game. He’s got the hands and leap made for the deep ball and no matter the coverage, A.J. Green always seems to be a safe bet. He has excellent sideline awareness and the type of vertical presence one associates with Calvin Johnson. Goal line fades were made for athletes like Green, someone who can simply outmuscle you and go over top of you, mano-a-mano. Green also has speed that defenses have to respect (recorded a 4.47 at the combine). Only making it more impressive is that Cincinnati has never given Green a solid number two. Marvin Jones hadn’t yet come into his peak when Cincy let him walk and just when they found a talent in Mohammed Sanu, who showed the potential of a one when Green missed time, Cincy let him go, too. The lack of weapons on offense has hurt this team and if it weren’t for Mr. Green, they’d have been bottom feeders long before now. Where A.J. goes, the team goes.

It’s possible Green might be on his way out, too. 2018 is the final year of his four-year, $60 million extension and he’ll be 29, but it’s also true that he’s been one of the most dominant players at his position for five plus years now. To be honest, Cincinnati doesn’t have much else going for them.

My pick: A.J. Green. My jersey: Home Black.

Image result for aj green home jersey free use


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2017-2018 NFL Power Rankings: Week 2

1. Chiefs (+0)

Kansas City follows a dominant win against New England with an impressive home finish against Philadelphia, who’s playing like a playoff team right now.

2. Raiders (+0)

Derek Carr lights up the Jets with Michael Crabtree hauling in three touchdowns.

3. Broncos (+10)

They looked very good in week one against the Chargers and followed it up with a dominant performance against the Cowboys. Was arguably the best game on Sunday. Trevor Siemian looks like more than a game manager and the No Fly Zone is alive and well.

4. Eagles (+0)

Hard for me to fault the Eagles when they played a competitive game against the Chiefs. Carson Wentz is far superior to Jared Goff and looks like a young franchise staple, though we shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves just yet.

5. Patriots (+0)

I’m reluctant to move them after a concerning start last week, but the Saints gave the Patriots a chance to sure up their secondary. They were up to the task. Brady looked like himself.

6. Cowboys (-3)

Dallas got throttled. The best offensive line in football could not contain the Denver pass rush. Prescott played well despite a lack of a running game. Not well enough that he can beat a team like Denver by himself, but well. Cowboys defense looked out of sorts.

7. Lions (+0)

Stafford beats a dismal Giants team. Not much news here.

8. Falcons (+2)

After a head-turning score against Buffalo, Atlanta beats Rodgers at home.

9. Packers (-3)

They played Seattle and Atlanta in their first two games, easily the toughest slate thus far. Winning one of those games is still a good start to the season.

10. Steelers (-1)

Offense got some consistency against Minnesota but nowhere near the production of last season. Ben looks like the wheels are slowing down, though not enough to hit the panic button. Offensive line played much better against a top-ten front seven. Unsure how good Steelers defense is given their lack of competition (Kizer, Keenum).

11. Titans (+1)

Clearly the frontrunners in the South right now, Tennessee pulled away from the Jaguars in the second half. Neither Murray or Mariota are in fourth gear right now and they still put up 37 against Jacksonville.

12. Ravens (-4)

Offense is still unsteady. Capable defense has played weak competition (Browns, Bengals).

13. Seahawks (-2)

This team better find an offensive line fast. Right now, looks like Russell Wilson and the opposing team’s entire defensive line is playing a game of tag. Seattle is at risk of not making the playoffs despite the Legion of Boom, which would be a genuine travesty.

14. Vikings (+0)

Without Bradford and against a better team, the Minnesota offense was contained. Defense played admirably against a top-five O-line.

15. Buccaneers (+3)

Winston has all the tools he requires to have a top-ten offense. Doug Martin isn’t even back yet.

16. Jaguars (-1)

The Jaguars’ run, run, run tactic waned against Tennessee, who caught on as quickly as expected. Jaguars desperately need quarterback help. This issue will likely leave them out of the playoff race for the umpteenth time.

17. Chargers (-1)

The Chargers choke more than any team in football. Getting that monkey off their back will lead to a lot of wins. Rivers can lead this team.

18. Rams (-1)

Got straight run over by Washington, who had 229 yards on the ground. Wade Phillips is the coordinator in Los Angeles. Need to bounce back against San Fran.

19. Panthers (+1)

Carolina might be the least interesting undefeated team remaining. Wins against the 9ers and Bills don’t tell us much about the Panthers.

20. Redskins (+3)

Ground game looked great. Cousins looks like he misses McVay’s play calls.

21. Saints (+0)

Saints had trouble in the red zone in week one. Waiting for them to utilize Adrian Peterson in some meaningful way. Defense is still set for historic numbers.

22. Dolphins (+2)

Not getting excited about Cutler. Ajayi has to prove he’s for real this year.

23. Bears (-1)

After a strong showing against Atlanta, a meh one against the Bucs.

24. Cardinals (-5)

We’re learning how important David Johnson is to this football team. Defense will earn them wins but they got lightly carved by Jacoby Brissett.

25. Bills (+2)

Buffalo hung with Carolina. Let’s get Shady going, shall we?

26. Texans (+2)

Houston really needed this one. Deshaun Watson will have some growing pains but had a connection with Hopkins on Thursday. Watt stepped up.

27. Browns (-2)

Cleveland’s team is young. They will win games and should win against the Colts next week.

28. 49ers (+1)

Held Seattle in check, lost 12-9. Score a touchdown and that’s a W.

29. Giants (-3)

The line is a mess and McAdoo’s scheme might be worse. A team with as talented a receiving corps as the Giants have to suck this much is inexcusable. McAdoo and general manager Jerry Reese need canned. They have a top-ten defense that likely won’t see the playoffs.

30. Jets (+1)

They hung with Oakland for a bit there.

31. Colts (+1)

Brissett showed us how truly awful Scott Tolzien is. This team could use some Luck right now.

32. Bengals (-2)

Andy Dalton is likely seeing his last year in Cincy. The offensive coordinator was fired following Thursday’s game. Marvin Lewis still has a job in the NFL, for some reason.

Biggest Climb: Broncos (+10)

Biggest Fall: Cardinals (-5)

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