Wake the Beast

Why have the Dolphins suddenly won back to back games since the bye after starting the season 1-3? 

Some will tell you it has to do with an easy stretch of the schedule, the fact that Ryan Tannehill has finally found his rhythm, or a change at Head Coach.

All of these factors may have helped, but the truth is, Cameron Wake is finally feeling good. 

After being held without a sack in the first 5 games of 2015 while fighting a hamstring issue, the veteran pass rusher has 6 in the last two games.

It might just be a coincidence, but his resurgence has come right in time for the team’s biggest game of the year against the Patriots at Foxboro. 

With 2 sacks against Brady in the Dolphins upset of the Patriots in the  season opener last year, and at least one sack against him  in each of his first 6 seasons in the NFL for a total of 8.5, Wake has always been a problem for the Patriots. 

He’s such an explosive player off the edge, and he’s just a ball hawk,” Brady said. “Last year, that was a big turning point in the game when he strip-sacked me and they got the ball on a short field, and he’s done that again the last couple of weeks. So not only can he get the edge and sack the quarterback, but usually he can create turnovers for their defense. So he’s just, he’s a dominant player. He’s been to the Pro Bowl I don’t how many times. It’s been a lot. Playing against him, he’s got the respect of everybody on our team, our coaches, and he’s just, he’s a force and it’s hard to slow him down.”

Now with the Patriots down to their 3rd stringer at tackle, things could get ugly quick for Brady, and Wake should continue his reign of terror!

In the the beginning of the season there was confusion and conflict on the defensive side of the ball for the Dolphins. Now with their leader back in the grove, and ten total sacks in their last two games, the sky is the limit for this rambunctious squad.

Todd Gurley: Running Wild

Todd Gurley is on pace to rush for 1686 yards this year.  

After missing the first two games of the season, and only rushing for 9 yards on six carries in the third. Gurley busted loose for 146 yards against the Arizona Cardinals, and 159 yards against the Green Bay Packers in weeks 4 and 5 respectively.

 The young phenom is averaging almost 6 yards a carry, and even though he hasn’t  made his first visit to the end zone yet, he seems like he’s becoming a serious threat to go the distance every time he touches the ball.

The best season for a running back is 1808 by the great Eric Dickerson. If Gurley stays healthy and continues to improve, he could easily threaten this record which was set over 16 games. 


He may only be 3 games into his career, but he’s not intimidated by anyone, as he showed when Clay Matthews tried to go over him, and Gurley threw the veteran linebacker to the ground.

It is that kind of mental and physical strength that seem to be propelling the youngster to sudden success.

One things that stands out is that after he bursts through the line, and into the open field, he runs with a confident and upright style reminiscent of Adrian Peterson.

  

It may be too soon to anoint the rookie as anything more than just a talented prospect, but in a league that seems to be rapidly turning their running games to committees, Gurley is making a solid case that he will be be the next great workhorse.

Arizona Cardinals Offense: Just Like Old Times

If I told you that Carson Palmer, Larry Fitzgerald, and Chris Johnson were each one of the top players at their respective positions, you might have to wonder what decade it is.

Someone must have located the fountain of youth out in the desert, because these guys are playing at the top of their respective games just like back in the day.

They  all had giant question marks surrounding them at the beginning of the year. After missing a large portion of last season, Palmer was thought to be a major injury concern. Fitzgerald had lost a step and been resigned to a complimentary role, and the man once known as CJ2k seemed headed out of the league. 

The rest of the football world seemed to have given up on them, but these young souls dressed in the body’s of experienced veterans, seem to have at least one encore left in them.

  

Carson Palmer

The wily veteran is back to his old form,  leading his team with confidence and challenging defenses. He ranks 4th in the league with 22 attempts of 20 yards or more. His 1155 yards are good enough for 4th in the league, a passer rating of 106.4 and 289 ypg both have him at 7th, and his 10 TDs trail only Aaron Rodgers.

With a plethora of weapons around him, Palmer seems headed for great things this season.  
 
Larry Fitzgerald 

The rest of the league seems to have forgotten about Fitz, but he’s once again playing like one of the best receivers in the league. His ability to stretch the field, and his red zone presence have both proven valuable as his 10 receptions of over 20+ and 5 TDs both lead the league.

He may not be as fast as he once was, but his experience and leadership have made him a great asset to this team on the rise.
   

 Chris Johnson

He seems a bit more humble than he was after turning in one of the best rushing seasons in history just a few years ago, but somehow Johnson has gotten some of his old swagger back.

As the oldest pair of legs in a stable full of young talented  running backs, he has stepped up when needed, showing enough burst to average 4.4 ypc with a long of 30.
If they can all keep up their current paces and stay healthy. Not only will they all have impressive individual seasons, but they will put themselves in prime position to contend for the ring that has eluded them to this point.

Andy Dalton: Let Them Laugh

Only three quarterbacks have led their teams to the playoffs in each of the last 4 seasons; Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Andy Dalton.

The difference between these three players is that Andy Dalton has only been in the league for four years. 

As a matter of fact, Dalton is the only quarterback in NFL history besides Joe Flacco to have led his team to the postseason in each of his first four seasons in the league.

Despite his name being mentioned with elite company, his critics are not impressed. The fact that he has failed to win a playoff game has earned him the “choker” title in their eyes.

He has been labeled “inconsistent and inaccurate” even though his 14,758 passing yards, and 99 passing TDs over his first 4 years, edge out the 13,919 passing yards, and 97 TDs from Tom Brady’s first 4 years as a starter.

Aside from a slight decline last season, when his top two receivers, and tight end missed a total of 23 games between the 3 of them, Dalton has been the poster child of consistency. Yet his detractors have somehow managed to make him a laughingstock.

However, instead of making him bitter, it only seemed to spur him on. While they were mocking him, the “Red Rifle” set out improve on an already successful young career.
  

That’s why Dalton met with quarterback guru Tom House for two weeks before offseason team activities even began to start working on his throwing mechanics.

“It’s helped me out where I have an understanding to make throws easier for me,” Dalton said. “It’s just trying to fine-tune certain things to have everything working for me. I’ve got a better understanding of where I am mechanically and how things feel when things don’t go right, and how to be able to make a quick fix.”

That fix is proving to have worked as Dalton has led his team to a perfect 4-0 record in 2015, and is off to a hot start himself. The QB who everyone else was pointing at with disdain,  has completed 67.2 % of his passes on the way to 1187 yards, 9 touchdowns, just 1 interception and a quarterback rating of 123.0.

“I feel like I’m the right kind of strong right now,” Dalton said about House’s training program which aims to strengthen the specific muscles used to make throws.

Due to his dedicated training, not only does Dalton look stronger physically, but he appears to be in complete control of his offense.

“He’s done a good job. He really has,” Offensive Coordinator Hue Jackson said of Dalton. “I see an improved player. I see an improved leader. I see an improved guy within the offense.”

His critics will counter with the fact that Dalton has been here before. The Bengals started 4-0 last year and he still failed to win even a single playoff game.

“We see a quarterback who is emerging, who has been through a lot,” said Jackson. “He did everything a quarterback needed to do in the off-season, both physically and mentally, and we have created an environment for him to be as successful as a quarterback can be. I hear what people have said about him. But I see what is on the other side. There are things about him that people do not see. They say he doesn’t have passion. They say he doesn’t have the work ethic. All totally untrue. He has the burning desire to be the best. I see it every day.
You have to love a kid who already signed his dream contract, a 6 year, 96 million pact with 17 mil guaranteed, but is still playing like a rookie fighting for a roster spot.

Others may count him out, but as long as he remains focused, Andy Dalton will have the last laugh.

Jordy Nelson: Terrible Twist of Fate

There is no doubt that Jordy Nelson has inspired a whole new generation of Green Bay Packer fans. He’s bigger, faster and smarter than most others at his position, and consistently lights up any stadium with ridiculous backshoulder catches and a dynamic smile.
For the last few years, he’s been Aaron Rodger’s best friend on the field, and a definite fan favorite ever since taking over in Super Bowl 45, when Donald Driver went down with an injury.
Now just months after watching the Packers make Randall Cobb the highest paid receiver on the team, Nelson can’t do much more than sit by and watch his teammates succeed without him, ever since he tore his ACL in the team’s first preseason game this year.
“It’s difficult to lose a guy like that in a meaningless game,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said after the game in which Nelson was injured.
On the other hand, opposing team’s fans couldn’t help but rejoice when it was announced that Nelson was done for the year. To them, itspelled the end of the Packers season.
However, any true fan of the NFL knows that as long as Aaron Rodgers takes the field for the Packers offense, they have a great chance of coming out on top. It doesn’t matter if you’re a star, a backup, a practice squad player, or even a waiver wire pick up (who two other teams let go), if you even appear to be open, the reigning MVP will put the ball where you can catch it.
“Life in the NFL sometimes is who’s the next man up. That’s what we’ll start focusing on,” Packers General Manager Ted Thompson said when asked about his star receiver’s injury. “Certainly, we’re not in any position where we think we can necessarily replace Jordy. Jordy is a wonderful player, wonderful person in the community and everything else. He’ll continue to do that, but maybe we find two or three guys who can fill the role that he played.”
As it turns out, those two or three guys have stepped up quite well so far, and for that reason, even though Nelson has to be thrilled at his team’s current successes, there has to be some doubt in his mind as to his own job security.
Next time he steps onto the field, he will be a thirty one year old who is recovering from a season ending injury, and trying to justify his worth against younger and less costly players who are proving they can win without him.
What makes the situation more real for Nelson, is that only a few short years ago, he was on the opposite side of the spectrum, trying to prove himself against veterans like, Donald Driver, Greg Jennings and even James Jones, (who ironically after losing his job to Nelson, is now his replacement).
If the past is any form of predictor, the Packers front office wouldn’t hesitate to move on from Nelson in the upcoming offseason, and continue to groom the younger receivers. They, along with Rodgers, have a very solid history of turning relative no names, like Nelson himself once was, into stars.
Despite the injury, Nelson’s value is as high as ever, and it would seem very easy for the Packers to trade him for draft picks, or a younger player with upside.
Even though at this point, it seems like that could be the best case scenario for the team’s future, it’s hard to imagine the fan base being okay with letting one of their favorite heroes go that easily.
For now they will just have to keep their fingers crossed , and hope that their team’s continued winning, doesn’t bring them a devastating loss.