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27.04.2016
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Report supplied by Oxford Saints On Sunday 24th April the Oxford Saints claimed their 2nd win of the 2016 season, with a comprehensive victory over division favourites, the Bristol Apache. Following two thrilling fixtures between Oxford and Bristol in the 2015 season, the re-match last weekend on Bristol's home turf was no different. Photo courtesy of Chris Janes The Saints returned from a 0-13 deficit at half time to claim a 26-15 win, with an exceptional performance from both the offense and the defense, which the Apache were unable to match. Bristol began with the ball and on the first play, quarterback Simon Marris completed a deep pass over the middle for a 19 yard gain, with the receiver being brought down by free safety Bilal Redd. Linebacker Spencer Duffy asserted his position on the field and made back to back tackles for a loss of yards to end Bristol’s opening drive, including a sack on quarterback Harris. With Oxford beginning their first drive under the leadership of new quarterback Destin Maulding, the Saints struggled to make progress against the Apache defense, with running back Kev Brooks being stopped for minimal gains. A fumbled ball (recovered by Oxford) set the Saints back 16 yards and forced them to punt the ball away. With Bristol back in possession, Oxford made another strong stand with middle linebacker Sam Stancombe leading the defense. The Apache put the ball in the capable hands of running back Jon Walters. Despite picking up yards on the ground, a penalty against Bristol set them back and tight coverage from defender Misha Brooks prevented Harris from connecting with his targeted receiver. With both teams probing for weaknesses, The Saints began to move the ball in the form of running back Rob Johnson, who picked up 18 yards and a first down on the drive. Coming up short on 4th down, Destin Maulding attempted to convert for another first down himself but was tackled for a 2 yard loss. Harris went to the air and found progress against the Saints defense. Further strong running from Jon Walters saw him charging into the end zone for a 14 yard gain to open the scoring for the day. Christopher Jones kicked the extra point and the host team took a 7-0 lead. Throughout the 2nd quarter, both teams attempted to find the end zone but defiant defenses by Oxford and Bristol dominated the proceedings. Combinations of runs from Rob Johnson and Antonios Athanasiou picked up yards on the ground but the Apache defense prevented any meaningful gains. Oxford's defense remained strong across the board with more tackles Spencer Duffy and Dean Bryan. With the Saints offense knocking on the door, Maulding and his crew were in scoring distance and only needed a few more yards to cross into the end zone and find the equalizing score. Disaster struck and the ball was stripped away from the offense by Bristol defender Dariusz Wiercioch who then raced the length of the field and across the Oxford goal-line.  The extra point kick was no good and the Apache took a 13-0 lead. Late in the 2nd quarter, the Oxford offense found its usual fire when James Walter was switched from tight end to running back before being unleashed on the Bristol defense. Walter picked up 6 yards on his first carry before breaking out for a 30 yard gain the play after. Further running from Walter was accompanied by a 24 yard gain from team-mate Grant Tebb, he eluded several defenders as he charged up the field. With the end zone in sight again, a pass from Maulding was intercepted by an Apache defender and Bristol once again stopped the Saints from getting onto the scoreboard. With Bristol looking to add another score before half time, they were moving the ball on the ground well with more tough running from Jon Walters who was supported by an offensive line clearing a path for him. Although With tackles being made by Bilal Redd, Eric Mendoza and Duffy, Bristol continued to pick up yards with each play. Duffy fired up the Saints sideline when he landed a big hit on quarterback Simon Harris for a 10 yard sack, which also forced the ball to come loose. Defensive end Adam Baker reacted immediately and dived on the loose ball to to claim possession for Oxford. Despite an 18 yard carry by Walter, the Saints ran out of time in the first half to add points onto the board. At the half time interval, Head Coach Andrew Day and Defensive Coordinator Nick Wykes addressed the team and made several adjustments. Coming into the 2nd half ready to go, Oxford began with possession and it was all James Walter as he charged across the field, picking up 47 yards on 5 carries before crossing the goal-line from 3 yards out to score a touchdown. Kicker Sam Fielden attempted the extra point kick but it was no good, but the Saints made it a one-score game narrowed the deficit to just 13-6 in favour of Bristol. With quarterback Mike Hindmarsh taking over duties for the Apache in the 2nd half, Oxford strong safety Chris Fox dealt a blow early on with a 7 yard sack on Hindmarsh as he attempted to scramble and find space. Hindmarsh and the Bristol offense were able to keep the drive alive and continued to progress up field until Bilal Redd claimed his first interception with the Oxford Saints, leaping high in the air to snatch the pass from Hindmarsh. Walter continued to have a break out game as he continued to wreak havoc against the tiring Apache defense, running for 49 yards in a single play before being brought down. In Bristol territory, Maulding completed a deep 21 yard throw to Grant Tebb in the corner of the end zone, who managed to reel in the touchdown pass despite close coverage by Apache defenders. Head Coach Andrew Day made the decision to take the lead and instead of kicking the extra point, he kept Maulding on the field. The quarterback rolled out and threw a pass to tight end Richard Bloomer who was uncovered in the corner of the end zone, giving the Saints an additional 2 points. 14-13 Oxford. Oxford's defense closed the 3rd quarter on a high note with a further sack on the Bristol quarterback, this time forcing a 7 yard loss at the hands of linebackers Graeme Taylor and Dean Bryan. The defense continued to put pressure on the Apache with further tackles from Baker, Bryan, Mendoza and Stancombe. The relentless James Walter continued to be an unstoppable force and was on track for a record breaking performance, with a run for 26 yards and then a touchdown run for 49 yards into the end zone. The kick was no good but the Saints moved to a more comfortable 20-13 lead. Oxford's brutal defense continued to over power the Apache and the next drive saw defensive end Conor Whitehouse land a 7 yard sack on Hindmarsh, followed by a 9 yard sack from Stancombe on the next play, forcing Bristol to punt. The Saints marched down the field again with running from Walter and Athanasiou, before Maulding handed the ball to full back Luke Fry who charged untouched into the end zone for a 28 yard score, marking his first career touchdown with Oxford. Fielden attempted the extra point kick but it was deflected and a Bristol defender scooped up the loose ball and returned it to the Oxford end zone, awarding them 2 points. 26-15 Oxford. As the final whistle was blown, the Saints celebrated their victory over the division favourites in what Oxford considered a must-win game.  Walter ended the game with a remarkable achievement and personal record of 270 rushing yards, the majority of which were earned in just the 2nd half of the game. An average of 10.8 yards per carry. He also contributed two touchdowns and was named Team MVP (most valued player) for his standout performance. These kind of stats and his ability to create momentum for his team reaffirms the logic behind Walter being called up to the GB Squad, with his first game against an international team coming up in September against Russia. The game was also the first for new player David Anthony who filled in occasionally at nose tackle. It was noted by the defensive coaches that he had a very strong first game and his stand out performance was driving the Bristol centre deep into the backfield and taking him to the ground. James Walter added: “I’m extremely proud of the team this weekend; for not getting disheartened despite being down by two scores at half time. The decision of the HC to move myself to running back at the start of the second half proved crucial as we managed to drive the majority of the field and score, thus providing the spark to turn the game around. Inspiring players all over the field such as Rich Christian’s sterling performance as part of a revitalised offensive line against a heavy blitzing Bristol defense; combined with some outstanding plays from all over our own defense. It's always amazing to hit new records, 270 personal rushing yards almost exclusively in the second half is phenomenal. Our offense is going from strength to strength with playmakers all over and I don't see why both the team and I cannot go on to set more records this season." Head Coach Andrew Day commented after the game: “The heart and desire shown by the lads was something else. Not only coming from a 2 score deficit at the half, but to totally dominate the second half scoring 26 points to Bristol's 2 and in the end running out as comfortable winners. I'm really pleased with this win but we won’t rest. We know that only continued hard work on the practice ground will keep us going in the direction we want." Defensive Coordinator Nick Wykes added his thoughts on the defensive performance: “We had playmakers right across the unit and Sunday was a disciplined, focused and very promising performance. A lot of things we need to go away and tidy up, but today the Defense showed real character and played their part in a very imposing team performance."
26.04.2016
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Game report supplied by William Clark - Glasgow The Tigers started quickly and recovered a fumbled punt return by Northumberland, and this set up some nice field position. A run from Kris Krol followed by a pass reception from Pete McNaughton and then full back Yoann Hubert was able to run in his first Tigers touchdown. The Lightning stopped the conversion but the Tigers soon doubled their lead when Liam Baird recovered another Lightning fumble. This time it was McNaughton who bulldozed his way in for a touchdown. Tigers QB Paddy O’Donnell then ran right across to the sideline and dived for the pylon to secure the two point conversion. As the second quarter progressed the Glasgow team added another score when Robb Renyi intercepted a Lightning pass and ran the ball into the end zone. The Lightning defence stopped the conversion but the Tigers had a 20 - 0 lead. On Northumberland’s next drive, Linebacker Stevie Munro intercepted another wayward pass to give the Tigers the ball but time expired on this drive for the half. In the third quarter Northumberland came out with a good drive and tried a field goal. Tigers Lineman Mark Chalmers forced his way into the line and blocked the kick. Midway through the fourth quarter and another Tigers touchdown, this time Krol ran it in, after a big pass reception from O’Donnell to Robert Morrison. As the Lightning tried to get something going on the back of a big Jordan Nellis run, another pass was tipped by Thompson Sunerton and then intercepted by Ben Filmer who ran it back 15 yards. With further fumble recoveries from Dean Jardine and Munro, the Northumberland offence were having a tough day. The Tigers next fixture is on the 08th May when they host the Newcastle Vikings.
26.04.2016
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Report supplied by Bury Saints Images courtesy of William G Watson The Bury Saints American Football club moved to 2-0 after a hard fought win over the Southampton based Solent Thrashers running out a 19-6 score line at Thetford Rugby Club. The Saints received the opening kick-off and struggled to move the ball. Bury had to punt but Solent didn't fare much better on their opening drive and did likewise. This continued through the next 2 series and Solent was forced to punt a 2nd time - that’s when the fireworks exploded as RB Cory Jenkins caught the punt and weaved through defenders for a 40 yard TD to give the Saints an early 6-0 lead. Rob Giles added the Point after TD to push the score to 7-0. The Thrashers were forced to punt again on the next drive, but a fumble on the punt gave the Thrashers great field position at midfield and they drove down to the Bury 6 yard line, but the Saints Defense carrying on from the shutout vs Sussex stiffened and forced a FG attempt that was botched on the snap and the Saints took over on downs. The Punting and field position game carried on till the middle of the 2nd quarter when Bury mounted an 11 play 57 yard drive capped off by a 29 yard TD pass from QB Derek White to WR Joe Hill. The PAT was wide right so the score stood at 13-0 in favour of Bury. Solent continued to threaten on drives but were stalled by punts and an interception by DB Dmont Herring to seal the score at 13-0 going into the halftime intermission. Both teams were busy making adjustments during halftime, and Solent seemed to get the upper hand in the adjustments department after their own 11 play drive, but LB Chris Smith picked off a Solent pass to quash the threat. The Thrashers did get a quick strike after Bury fumble inside its own 10 yard line to close the gap at 13-6, but failed to convert the 2 point conversion. The game then became a series of defensive stands, punts, turnovers and field position battles until late in the 4th quarter when Bury recovered a fumbled punt catch by Solent inside their own 10 yard line with White running in the 7 yard TD to make the score 19-6. The PAT was missed and the Thrashers ran out of time to mount any further comeback. Standout Defensive performances were had by Herring with 6 tackles along with his INT, Smith with 5 Tackles, a Pass Defensed and his interception. Jack Hewett also chipped in with 2 tackles for losses, a sack and also 5 tackles. The Offensive side saw Joe Hill post a 3 for 56 receiving line and Don Ray Washington also had a great game with 4 catches for 38 yards. As a team the Defensive unit has now only allowed 6 points through 8 quarters of play, wreaking havoc in the red zone, bending but not breaking. Newly appointed Head Coach Christian Cantrill had heaps of praise for his team, but also cautioned getting too far ahead of the next opponent - the Hertfordshire Cheetahs: "Today was a great game vs an excellent opponent. They were the SFC1 bowl finalists last year and we knew they would be a very dynamic offense and gritty tough defense. I'm proud of the Saints for stepping up when needed and staying focused to bring the Saints Nation a 2nd win out of 2 tries this young season. Our next opponent is yet another massive matchup and we will be busy making improvements and putting in the work to face them in 2 weeks’ time." The Saints host the Cheetahs on Sunday 8 May with a 2PM Kick-off at Thetford Rugby Club. Off of the field there have been some changes too, with Bobby Coffman having been appointed as the clubs new chairman going forward. The organisation continues to maintain a solid base with a number of exciting new ventures in the pipeline going forward including the clubs very own Apple and Smartphone App going live very soon.

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The UKFD Power Rankings use real game stats and not opinions. After leading the way for 14 of the 17 weeks of action the Cardinals were beaten to first place by the Panthers. Is this a precedent for the playoffs? Where did your team end up? Its all here after the last week of regular season play.

 

 

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AFC Articles and News

15.04.2016
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Article by Gordon Dedman I don’t pay much attention to the build up to the Draft as there are too many imponderables to provide any realism to project which player will go to what team except for the first few, but even then there can be twists with trades. The NFL Draft is big business, even big show business. There will be blanket coverage for the league in the news and social media at the end of this month. “A three-day outdoor football festival for families and fans of all ages,” is how the NFL describes the extravaganza that will take over Chicago. The teams have been evaluating players throughout the college season climaxing with the NFL Scouting Combine at the beginning of the year. Take a look at each team’s front office listing the personnel in their scouting unit. There’s a lot of depth and investment in the department, because it can provide some outstanding rewards. But, all the research and analysis in the world isn’t guaranteed to pick a winner and there are many occasions when teams overlook future stars. Tom Brady wasn’t selected until the sixth round of the 2000 draft, but six other quarterbacks were picked before he was taken by New England. For nearly forty years, the Steelers were perennial losers, but when they hired Chuck Noll in 1969 he built a Super Bowl winning team through the draft. His first ever pick Joe Greene turned into a legend and the Hall of Fame is filled with many more of Noll’s draft choices. I was fortunate once to visit the Steelers “war room.” It was during the season and on one wall were several columns of cards with players’ names arranged in slots so they could be moved up or down as the individual’s stock rose or dipped. The pro season was still in flight, but the Steelers were already evaluating players they might draft in six months’ time. Steelers General Manager Kevin has stated the Steelers will focus this year on the defensive side of the ball. Steeler fans have been complaining about the team’s secondary for years so they will be hoping Pittsburgh uses its first round pick on a cornerback for the first time since 1997 when they selected Chad Scott. The Steelers won’t be the only team in the division adding depth to their defense. The Bengals eleventh ranked defense took a hit when their Pro Bowler safety Reggie Nelson agreed a two year deal with Oakland. Cincinnati did pick up linebacker Karlos Dansby from Cleveland, but they need to do more on that side of the ball. The Bengals lost two receivers to free agency so replacements should also figure in their draft. After their 5-11 season, the Ravens find themselves in the unusual position of having a high pick that should provide them with a great opportunity to select a solid player to strengthen their defense. Now the Browns have RG3 onboard and with experts projecting them to select a quarterback with their overall second pick, it appears that Josh McCown could find himself redundant in Cleveland. Maybe new head coach Hue Jackson thinks differently about using that top pick on a quarterback. He enthused about Josh McCown, “You don’t play in this league for 15 years having not been very good at what you do. He provides us with a really good quarterback, obviously a veteran presence and I am just excited to work with him.” With the loss of Travis Benjamin to free agency, whoever leads the Browns at quarterback may not have anyone to throw to unless they address the deficit in the draft. One player who may not find work is Browns receiver Josh Gordon, who was forced to sit out last season for drugs violation. It appears he has failed another drugs test so has to wait until August for the NFL’s decision on whether he can play. Stories are now circulating that Gordon is living with Johnny Manziel. You just couldn’t make it up, but it is the Browns we are talking about so we don’t have to.
25.03.2016
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Article by Gordon Dedman Robert Lee Griffin III is now with Cleveland Foolhardy or genius? The Browns signing of RG III may give Cleveland the franchise quarterback they have been seeking, but there’s a good chance it will prove yet another mistake. The franchise never appears to learn any lessons. As the Pittsburgh sports reporter said, look up “incompetence” in the dictionary and you will find the Browns logo. Griffin was an outstanding player, both in college and his first year as a pro. His performances at Baylor were good enough to earn him the 2011 Heisman Trophy and impress the Redskins sufficiently to for the team to trade up to select him in 2012. He missed a large part of Baylor’s 2009 season with a torn ACL.  On his return after surgery, he led the Bears to a 7-6 record. The following season’s 10-3 took the team to their first bowl appearance for seventeen years and earned him the Heisman. Stanford’s Andrew Luck had been pencilled in as that year’s Heisman winner before Griffin’s exploits brought him the honour. He was the nation’s most efficient passer, throwing for 3,998 yards with 36 touchdowns and only six interceptions. He added 644 yards rushing with nine more touchdowns. Griffin decided to forsake his senior college year to enter the 2012 draft. The Browns general manager Tom Heckerts called Griffin a “special athlete” and with their overall third pick were favoured to select him if still available. But it was the Redskins who made the move, trading up with the Rams to second spot while Cleveland took Trent Richardson with the next selection. Both players have failed to live up to expectations although Griffin had a spectacular first year in Washington. He finished that season with a quarterback rating of 102.4 (a record for a rookie) and was the NFC Offensive Rookie of the Year after turning the franchise around from losers to the NFC West division champions. Injuries then affected his playing ability and last season he did not play a snap after falling out of favour with Coach Gruden. The Browns have gone through 24 quarterbacks since returning to the league and while seeking the Holy Grail of a franchise quarterback have wasted a lot of money and effort. If they had succeeded in their quest, the cupboard would be bare of supporting players and the same old Browns would still have a skeleton of a team. Will it be any different with RG III? Cleveland’s coach Hue Jackson believes it will describing Griffin as “a tremendous talent and a great man.” With the talented quarterbacks the other teams in the AFC North enjoy, they won’t lose any sleep over the signing. Jackson also raved about Cal quarterback Jared Goff and indicated the Browns may select a quarterback in the draft with their second overall pick. Does that indicate an attempt to put more than one wheel back on the wagon or perhaps the Browns have come up with a cunning plan to change the course of their history?
20.03.2016
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Article by Gordon Dedman Baltimore’s Tray Walker was tragically killed in a dirt bike accident last week. “We are grieving the loss of a special young man,” tweeted the team. Walker was drafted last year and played eight games. AFC North Free Agency Moves As everyone suspected and predicted, Johnny Manziel is currently team less after the Browns let him go. Manziel still wants to play in the NFL, but with the pictures of him partying that continuously appear in Social Media just mean the teams prepared to take a risk with the enigma are diminishing. With a potential domestic violence case hanging over him, Manziel will find enthusiasm to sign him fading. Cleveland was not the only team to face player problems after Pittsburgh discovered they will lose Martavis Bryant for the year for his second substance abuse violation. Bryant will be remembered for the unbelievable head over heels reception he made in the playoffs against Cincinnati. Bryant is another talented player that feels the need to self-destruct. The Steelers also lost Heath Miller, but for the right reasons with his decision to retire. Miller missed only eight games in eleven seasons and is the team’s all-time leader for tight ends in receptions (592), receiving yards (6,569) and receiving touchdowns (45). Image courtesy of Gordon Dedman Ben Roethlisberger often referred to Miller as his greatest teammate and he will be difficult to replace. The Steelers wasted little time in an attempt to address the loss by signing Ladarius Green, a free agent who spent four years in San Diego. Another San Diego player moving east is safety Eric Weddle. “I couldn’t be more excited and pumped to be a part of a championship organisation who wanted me from day one,” said Weddle about joining the Ravens. He left his nine-year career with the Chargers in not so friendly terms which explain his enthusiasm for Baltimore. Former Steeler Mike Wallace was also signed by the Ravens after spending two years in Miami and last season with the Vikings. The Bengals took a knock with the loss of two able receivers from their offense. Marvin Jones went to Detroit and Mohamed Sanu was signed by Atlanta. Sanu saw less playing time last season so his $32 million five year contract was a great incentive to switch to the Falcons. Jones signed with the Lions on similar terms.  Safety Taylor Mays will be returning to the Bengals after spending a year in Oakland where he played in 14 games. Mays is suspended for the first four games of this season for substance abuse. Players moving to the AFC North Eric Weddle FS from San Diego to Baltimore Mike Wallace WR from Minnesota to Baltimore Benjamin Watson TE from New Orleans to Baltimore Taylor Mays S from Oakland to Cincinnati Demario Davis ILB from New York Jets to Cleveland Justin Tuggle ILB from Houston to Cleveland Rahim Moore FS from Houston to Cleveland Alvin Bailey G from Seattle to Cleveland Ladarius Green TE from San Diego to Pittsburgh Ryan Harris T from Denver to Pittsburgh AFC North compensatory draft picks: Baltimore 4th round – 132 overall. Baltimore 4th round – 134 overall. Baltimore 6th round – 209 overall. Cleveland 4th round – 138 overall. Cleveland 5th round – 172 overall. Cleveland 5th round – 173 overall. Pittsburgh 6th round – 220 overall.

NFC Articles and News

20.04.2016
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Article by Rob Newell Not anymore but until recently the NFC West has stoically remained out of the news headlines, following the Rams return to the City of Angels the most controversial thing coming out of the NFC West was Seattle QB Russell Wilson and his engagement, no 49ers drinking and driving, no domestic violence reported, but then the NFL decided to release the 2016 schedule and the proverbial damn was broken. Last year the Rams front office duo of Jeff Fisher and Les Snead were adamant all the way up to and through the combine that Sam Bradford was their man no matter what, only to trade him to Philadelphia for Nick Foles.  So when they tried the same tactic this year singing the apparent many virtues of Case Keenum, not many of us were buying.  Having said that, and with the knowledge that the Rams needed a Quarterback, something that the move to Los Angeles only highlights, to trade up from number 15 to number 1 was a surprise. Tennessee Titans GM Jon Robinson made sure that everyone knew the possibility of a trade was on the table, but with the cost of moving up just a few spaces in the draft order (measured ironically enough by what the Rams received from Washington for Robert Griffin III) seemingly so high, no one was really looking much below Dallas Cowboys or at a push the Philadelphia Eagles as the lowest lying trade partners.  That is now blown out of the water with the Rams passing over in total two first round, two second rounds and two third rounds over the next few seasons for this year’s first pick and a couple of lower round selections.  You would be forgiven for thinking there was some sort of cosmic balancing act at work for the Rams to be the one who gave up the picks for this deal. The reason everyone was considering a deal with the Titans was of course to get above Cleveland whom everyone believed was odds on to take a QB at number two, however they have picked up Griffin III of all QB’s which in some ways closes some of these draft loops in the narrative, and now the Browns may not be going the QB route.  Everyone assumed correctly as it seems that the Titans with Marcus Mariota were set at that position, and if GM’s around the league are going to overpay, it will be for a perceived franchise QB.   Laremy Tunsil - Ole Miss The Rams are of course now in full spin mode, saying that there are many players they are considering with their newly acquired number one pick, but once again, pay little credence to this storyline. The Rams haven’t moved up from Number 15 to take a Left Tackle no matter how good a player Laremy Tunsil may be, the simple truth is that either Carson Wentz or Jared Goff are moving to Hollywood and all the pressure the LA spotlight brings will be on them.  They will be backed up by a premier running game spearheaded of course by Todd Gurley and a top level defence featuring Aaron Donald and Robert Quinn. Whichever one it is, will struggle with the passing game though.  The Rams air attack woes were not all on the QB last year, it is not the most inspiring group of receivers outside Tavon Austin whom they are still identifying how to use, and with so many picks gone in acquiring the QB there is not much help coming on the Receiver front anytime soon, unless they have a deal in the offing for a current star.  No doubt you will have seen the rumors that Wentz is the man the Rams are leaning towards, and this seems to be more smoke and mirrors to me.  My belief is that in the year Pro Football returns to Los Angeles it will be the local boy, college star Goff who the Rams select.  It would be a media dream and a story that sells, box office in the most commercial city in the world. So what does this mean for the draft now?  The acknowledged number one contenders Tunsil, Jalen Ramsey are all moving down the order with the first QB off the board at number one.  The other QB should now be selected at number two I would wager, but not guaranteed to be the Browns anymore.  All those teams that wanted a QB and thought they might have had a chance in the initial order, Dallas, San Francisco and Philadelphia will now have their resolve tested. How highly do they rate the other QB deemed to be a first round talent are they willing to trade with Cleveland to get him?  That will be a steep price too as the Browns could quite conceivably be happy to take him themselves if nobody bites. The rest of the top 7 picking teams are all very happy in the sense that Tunsil, Ramsey, Myles Jack, DeForest Buckner and Ezekiel Elliott are all going to be there and if your picking 3 to 7 you are guaranteed one of these unless someone jumps up again.  The Titans and maybe the Browns are going to be sitting on a lot of picks and I expect them to move further in the draft and look to package something to get back in the first round for more first round players. The other player all this could impact in the West of course is 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick.  After one of the more protracted and tedious will he won’t he games in history this saga must surely draw to a close soon.  As the first round QB talents go off the board the availability of Kaepernick will once again seem attractive to some teams and the 49ers who so far have been resolute about the need for a third round pick in return, may also be willing to budge,  There is a chance of a pre-draft deal with the Jets for Kaepernick and Mo Wilkerson to swap coasts, but come the start of 2016 I think Kaepernick will finally be on the bench for another team whilst Blaine Gabbert starts in San Francisco backed up by a mid-round draft selection, one of the many picks the 49ers have this year. Meanwhile up in the North West the original Legion of Boom has been reunited as Brandon Browner has returned to Seattle.  Based on the last few seasons expect a barrage of yellow flags to accompany him as he may just be one of the first to test the referee’s under the new personal conduct policy.
Article by Rob Newell Following the Super Bowl and before the combine and the opening of Free Agency is as close as the NFL will get to an off season, yet even in this apparent lull the NFL still throws up some stories, some of which will have a large impact for fans of the NFC West.  Below I bring you this news from the end of the 2015 season to date. Firstly the biggest change facing the division is geographical and you could argue that the NFC West is now a lot more Western that it was previously.  The worst kept secret in the last 12 months was that the Rams were the team to kick-start the NFL relaunch of a Los Angeles franchise and after a 30-2 owners vote at the league meeting the LA Rams are once again appearing on the schedule.  For those NFL fans who remember the 1980’s and beyond this is a move that brings back a feeling of familiarity.   For Rams fans who are sticking with the team following the move from St Louis, it turns out not everything is going to be familiar.  This past week the Rams have announced the release of Chris Long, James Laurinaitis and Jared Cook, news that came as quite a shock for fans and also to the players themselves.  Since the relocation to LA was confirmed, Long and Laurinaitis in particular have been used to sell the Rams to the LA populous so it is a little strange that these two players in particular will not be suiting it up in September.  The release of Cook is not as big a surprise, his time in St Louis did not set the league on fire and although you can point to the obvious QB issues as a contributing factor, there were many drops and disappointments that were a source of frustration to many Rams fans. Meanwhile up in the Pacific North West, the Seattle Seahawks found themselves for the first time in a few years not required to play football in early February, for one Seahawk in particular this lull proved to be too much.  With just about 10 minutes remaining in Super Bowl a picture was tweeted of a pair of cleats hanging from a phone line, a simple image perhaps that says 1000 words.  Then again when have we ever known Marshawn Lynch to use actual words, what we do know is that the Beast Quake era is officially over and all the responsibility will now fall squarely on the shoulders of QB Russell Wilson. The Seahawks had better do a better job of protecting him going forward, as last year the sight of Wilson scrambling, not through choice but because the opposing DL was coming swarming through the middle of the Seahawks OL was commonplace.  Wilson has the talent and in Christine Michael and Thomas Rawls there are some good Running Backs still on this team, but Marshawn these last few years when healthy has been arguably the most productive in the league and that is a large hole to fill on a permanent basis. Now on to the team that has cause to the busiest in the West, the San Francisco 49ers, who have announced that their new head coach is Chip Kelly, after Jim Tomsula was one and done in San Fran.  This was not a surprise to anyone and it's hard not to feel that Tomsula was a patsy who was a buffer to enable the team to move from Jim Harbaugh to another recognised coach who news doesn't have the pressure of having to directly replace the success that Harbaugh enjoyed.  Mind you $14million will make most people happy to be a patsy. Right from the press conference though you could sense that the Niners had a coach who knew what he was about, in direct contrast to Tomsula last year.  Kelly is also it seems on a mission to make nice as much as possible, after many accusations of possible racism to lack of emotional intelligence whilst in Philadelphia.  Kelly handled the many questions regarding the 49ers QB situation by ensuring whenever one was mentioned he included the other in his answer.  Several stories have linked Kaepernick to Kelly but many observers feel that Blaine Gabbert might be the better fit for Kelly’s offensive schemes. The Niners do have 12 picks in the upcoming draft including the number 7 overall, as well as a ton of salary cap space which may make Free Agency exciting so despite all the bluster, there may be a rookie QB coming to San Francisco to compete for the starting job yet.  Whoever is under centre they will have a new toy at a Wide Receiver as Eric Rodgers has been signed from the Canadian Football League where he was the leading receiver last year.  At 6ft 2 and fast, Rodgers could be a welcome addition to what was a largely unproductive unit last time around. As for the Arizona Cardinals, they have been mainly quiet since the NFC Championship game beating by the Panthers, but under coach Arians you can be sure they will be back to compete next year.  Rookie David Johnson could be set to breakthrough to real star status to complement one of the most aggressive passing attacks in the league.  They have just recently signed an option for a former Aussie Rules player to try out as a Centre, so mane the land Down Under is the next resource for these Western teams.
15.02.2016
UKFirstdown
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Article by Sam Beresford Late last week it was announced that star running back of the Chicago Bears, Matt Forte, will not be re-joining the team next season. Forte was informed by General Manager Ryan Pace that he was not a part of the team’s future plans. Forte wrote on Instagram “Despite my wishes, my days as a member of the Chicago Bears have sadly come to an end…. I will remain grateful for my time spent in Chicago and being able to play for an organization with such a rich history”. You can clearly see Forte’s gratitude towards Chicago for his 8,602 yard, 8-year career. However, with this news, we have to ask the question, where will Forte be playing in 2016. Teams should be wary of signing an aging running back, just ask the Philadelphia Eagles!   1.       New England Patriots A popular choice for Forte would be the Patriots. New England are desperate for a lead back after having to be led by an aging Steven Jackson in the play-offs. Forte could complement up and coming rusher Dion Lewis, who missed the end of last year through injury. Lewis and Forte are both great pass catchers and can give opponents something else to worry about. All-time great coach Bill Belichick would be able to create a game plan around Forte and Lewis, helping to take the pressure off Tom Brady. On Forte’s Instagram account he states that he is “trying to win a championship”, New England may give him the best chance of achieving his goal. The Pats could have the most dynamic back-field in the league, not that they need any more help!   2.       New York Jets With Chris Ivory unlikely to re-sign with gang green, and Bilal Powell’s future in doubt, could the Jets be in the mix for signing Forte? They have always been based off their running game, with the ability to play action and hit aerial duo Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker. Last season, New York looked impressive when Ivory was thundering through defenders, easing the pressure off Ryan Fitzpatrick. On the other hand, they struggled without the ground and pound Ivory, this was shown in the loss to the Oakland Raiders, where the missing Ivory was apparent.   3.       Dallas Cowboys This is the obvious choice. With the All-Pro offensive line that the Cowboys boast, Forte would surely be able to carve up defences. Last season, that line made mediocre Darren McFadden look like an above average starter, running for over 1000 yards in just 10 starts. Forte may not be able to win a championship in Dallas but he would be the lead back, allowing him to rack up some yards, helping to solidify his chances of getting into Canton. This move would scream Jerry Jones, who loves to make a splash in free agency.   4.       Tennessee Titans Maybe an odd choice for Forte, but not for the Titans. The Titans now believe they have a franchise quarterback under centre, in Marcus Mariota, now all the need is a franchise running back. Many experts believe that the Titans will improve their offensive line in this year’s draft, with Tunsil being the favourite. Should the receivers continue to improve, especially Green-Beckham, Forte, partnered with David Cobb and this new and improved offensive line, could make the Titans offence something to look forward to next year. They definitely have the cap room to facilitate bringing in Forte, which could help bring the Titans out of the NFL abyss. Overall, it all depends on what Forte really wants, money or a ring? Should it be the latter, unfortunately for most, I could definitely see Forte take a pay cut to sign with the Patriots. Although, most would love to see Forte bring hope to a sorry franchise such as the Titans.
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