Arizona Cardinals: 2016 Training Camp is Underway

usa-today-8590744.0By: Matthew McCaughan

Well, ladies and gentleman the new season is upon us. The long wait is over as NFL camps get under way. For the Arizona Cardinals however a few players will have to wait a bit longer to get out on the practice field. As they open camp, Tyrann Mathieu, Justin Bethal, Robert Nkemdiche and Frostee Rucker all were sidelined with different injury situations.

Tyrann Mathieu is only 8 months removed from a right ACL tear he suffered last season.Head coach Bruce Arians has decided to be cautious for obvious reasons as Mathieu is a big piece of that secondary and is going to need to be 100% if the Cardinals expect to be a legitimate defense again. It’s expected that Mathieu will most likely get some jogging and conditioning work going forward.

Justin Bethal is dealing with a nagging foot injury that had a setback and will come down to pain tolerance going forward in camp. Nkemdiche is listed as day to day with an ankle injury and Rucker was put on PUP list to start camp. Not exactly the way you want to start camp but plenty of time to get healed up and get ready for some preseason games to work out any rust that comes with not being able to work out in camp.

The Cardinals will be looking to build on last season, that resulted in a NFC West division title with a record of 13-3. They will also look to rebound from a tough playoff loss to the Carolina Panthers in 2015. They shouldn’t feel too concerned however because they pretty much cruised right into those 2015 Playoffs. I’m sure they will look to keep quarterback  Carson Palmer upright and healthy as he was a major contributor to the offensive success. They will also look to get the ball in the hands of young rookie phenome running back David Johnson who last year showed he can certainly carry the load.

One thing Arizona won’t be worried about is that dominant defense. They just added more depth to the defensive line with the rookie addition of Nkemdiche who I think will make an immediate impact especially with the current players surrounding him on that line. They will look to get a bit more pressure to make it even easier for the secondary who don’t need much introduction as it is. With Freeney leaving they will need to replace his 8 sacks which is very possible for Nkemdiche even though the past has shown rookie lineman don’t fair very well in their rookie year when it comes to sacks.

The Cardinals will have to deal with the Seattle Seahawks and the Los Angeles Rams most likely as their major competition heading into this season. The San Francisco 49ers look like a team that is in full rebuild mode and I expect them to stay at the bottom of the division.  Cardinals finished 4-2 in the division last year which nobody would complain about considering how good some of the defenses are in this division. They also were able to be very good on the road with a 7-1 record which they will look to repeat this year.
I’m sure Arians will have them back on top with the roster he currently has. With Larry Fitzgerald returning and Palmer at quarterback the  leadership circle between those 3 should be enough to carry the offensive side of things and get enough points on the board so the defense can contain these offenses in the west.

Each team did improve in the west however and it won’t be easy to follow up a 13-3 record. Getting everyone healthy and playing through preseason without major injuries, the Cardinals in my opinion should be the favorites to win the division yet again this year. Arians will most likely be involved in the coach of the year argument again as he has done a great job with this current unit. Palmer, Fitzgerald and David Johnson will look to continue dominance on the offensive side of the ball, while Peterson, Mathieu and Daryl Washington look to anchor that defense

Should be another fun ride in 2016 and I’m sure this roster can’t wait to get out there and follow up last year’s division win except this time taking it to the Super Bowl. But as we know it won’t be easy and nobody expects it to be. But this is where it starts! The blood, sweat and tears begin now as the Cardinals look to trim the roster and build a champion in 2016.

Follow us on our Facebook Group

2016 San Francisco 49ers Season Preview

By Brian Jones

2015 record: 5-11 (under former head coach Jim Tomsula)

Head Coach: Chip Kelly (26-21 in 3 seasons with Philadelphia; 0-1 playoff record)

Notable Additions: Zane Beadles, Anthony Davis

Notable Subtractions: Jim Tomsula, Anquan Boldin

Notable Draft Picks: DeForest Buckner, Joshua Garnett, Jeff Driskel

Offseason: Obviously, the big offseason story surrounding the Niners was the hiring of former Eagles head coach Chip Kelly. Kelly replaces Jim Tomsula, who was fired after one season at the helm. Kelly is thought to be an offensive mastermind but struggled at times in Philadelphia offensively. Kelly is thought to bring his genius to San Francisco to revive both the offensive and defensive units. He has his work cut out for him this season as he inherits one of the most talent-poor rosters in the league.

Key Training Camp Battle(s): QB and RT: Obviously, the quarterback position sticks out as an important one to watch. Colin Kaepernick and Blaine Gabbert will battle it out to see who will be named the starter for this season. That doesn’t mean that the loser of this battle won’t see playing time this season, however. In Kelly’s offensive scheme it calls for a multifunctional quarterback to play in it and both fit the profile needed for the offense to succeed. With Kaepernick recovering from offseason surgeries it wouldn’t all be a surprise if Gabbert took the reins to start the season until Kaepernick fully recovers and is ready to roll.

Another battle to pay attention to is the tackle position. Former first round pick Anthony Davis came out of retirement this offseason and has reported to training camp. It is currently unknown if Davis will become the presumed starter, even with all his time away from football. Davis’ replacement Erik Pears started 14 games a season ago and comes into camp as the presumed starter at right tackle but backup Trent Brown did enough in 2 starts late last season (Pears started at guard for those 2 games) to garner consideration for this season. Brown has had conditioning issues during OTAs and the early stretches of training camp, opening the door for 2016 5th round pick John Theus to possibly slide in and take Brown’s spot. Davis is the wild card in all of this. If he can come back and show the form that made him one of the best offensive linemen in football, then this competition will be over before it starts. If he is unable to do so then that opens the door for Theus and Pears to take snaps and possibly a roster spot away from Davis.

Both position battles are fluid and are worth keeping an eye on as the season approaches.

Schedule: Not a particularly easy one in 2016. Carolina, Dallas, New England and the New York Jets are on the slate along with the divisional matchups against Arizona, Seattle and Los Angeles. Wins will be hard to come by this season.

Best Case Scenario: The QB position gets resolved one way or another, Carlos Hyde has a career year, the offensive line shows some solidarity and the defense plays to an acceptable level as the team acclimates to Kelly and his style of play.

Worst Case Scenario: The QB position remains a game of musical chairs, the running game continues to be non-existent, the offensive line remains a work in progress, the defense regresses from last season and Kelly continues not to live up to his hype.

Season Prediction: There don’t appear to be a lot of bright spots for San Francisco this season, especially with the quarterback position up in the air. There isn’t a lot of overall talent on the roster and that’s needed to make Kelly’s scheme work. Add in a hard schedule and a 2-14 or 3-13 record isn’t hard to fathom for them this season. This team is a work in progress and it’ll take a lot of work to compete and to win games in 2016 for the Niners.

Follow Sports Elite on Facebook

Defense is Key for the Chicago Bears

1200By Christopher Lindenmier

The Chicago Bears are looking for the famous “Fox Magic” coming into year two of his regime Coach John Fox is known for his stifling defenses and over the course of the off season general manager, Ryan Pace has brought in key players to attribute to Fox and Vic Fangios style of defense.

 

Akiem Hicks is a player to watch for coming to the Bears on a two-year deal from the Patriots.  So far in camp Hicks has applied steady pressure on quarterback Jay Cutler, both in and out of pads.  Akiem was brought in partly to keep blockers off of newly acquired inside linebackers Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman, showing Fangio his pass rushing abilities is a plus and should allow the defensive coordinator to be more open with his play calling.  This should allow the Bears to be a suddenly interesting linebacking corps and shine this year.

 

Lamarr Houston has shown up looking to earn a bigger role on this defense.  In camp, thus far, he has sacked Cutler and shown he is no stranger to defending the run, ultimately shutting down a number of run plays.  Look for Houston to make an impact this season both on passing downs as well as a run stuffer on first down.

 

Leonard Floyd was sidelined Thursday with an illness, but we saw him in full pads Saturday.  The ninth overall pick was limited by coaches and mostly played with the third team defense. Saturday was streaky for Floyd, common to rookies. He has shown explosiveness while rushing the passer, but we saw a mental breakdown in pass coverage.  All in all, while undersized he is, he is a very athletic football player and John Fox, along with the rest of us are eager to watch the young man progress.

 

The Bears defense last year was ranked 14th overall in yards and was bottom of the league in takeaways.  With new additions all over their front seven, I expect them to not only jump into the top ten in yards allowed, I also see their takeaways and impact plays making a huge jump from last year.  While the offense is getting the most attention with Adam Gase and Matt Forte leaving, as well as the return of last years’ seventh overall pick Kevin White, the defense will be what makes or breaks the Bears in 2016.

Follow Sports Elite on Facebook

 

Key To The Packers Offensive Success: Jordy Nelson

sportselite1

rog-nel1202

Written by Micheal Hester

Usually when Aaron Rodgers is healthy, you can expect the Packers’ offense to break the scoreboard. Right? In 2013 and 2014, yes. In 2015?Green Bay’s offense has the reputation of being a point-scoring juggernaut, especially when All-Pro, Super Bowl champion quarterback Aaron Rodgers is healthy and running hot. In 2015 though, that wasn’t the case. After losing All-Pro receiver Jordy Nelson to an ACL tear during a preseason match-up against the Steelers, the Packers’ offense went on to struggle as a whole for the majority of the season and post season.

The value of Jordy seemed to fly below the value of Aaron Rodgers for Green Bay. Both Rodgers and Nelson are equally important to the team. The Packers were forced to roll with Randall Cobb, fan-favorite James Jones, Ty Montgomery, Jeff Janis and Richard Rodgers to get the passing game going. Of the aforementioned the…

View original post 294 more words

Key To The Packers Offensive Success: Jordy Nelson

rog-nel1202

Written by Micheal Hester

Usually when Aaron Rodgers is healthy, you can expect the Packers’ offense to break the scoreboard. Right? In 2013 and 2014, yes. In 2015? Green Bay’s offense has the reputation of being a point-scoring juggernaut, especially when All-Pro, Super Bowl champion quarterback Aaron Rodgers is healthy and running hot. In 2015 though, that wasn’t the case. After losing All-Pro receiver Jordy Nelson to an ACL tear during a preseason match-up against the Steelers, the Packers’ offense went on to struggle as a whole for the majority of the season and post season. 

The value of Jordy seemed to fly below the value of Aaron Rodgers for Green Bay. Both Rodgers and Nelson are equally important to the team. The Packers were forced to roll with Randall Cobb, fan-favorite James Jones, Ty Montgomery, Jeff Janis and Richard Rodgers to get the passing game going. Of the aforementioned the one that had the biggest season, statistically, was veteran wideout James Jones with 50 receptions, 890 yards and 8 touchdowns. 

The Packers offense as a whole took a dive in Nelson’s absence. They finished the season averaging 334.6 total yards per game, ranking them 23rd overall in the NFL. In the air, they averaged 218 yards per game which ranked them 26th overall. The run game was decent, averaging 115.6 yards per game, ranking them 12th overall. These numbers are a decline from previous seasons, where the Pack’s offense ranked atop the league in some of those same categories. 

All fingers point to Nelson’s absence being the reason for Green Bay’s offensive slump. Packers fans watched receivers like Davante Adams and Ty Montgomery struggle to beat press coverage and Randall Cobb’s inability to get open when lined up outside. And yes, James Jones was a spark in the passing game, given his past with Aaron Rodgers, but none of them had the explosiveness of Jordy. It was evident that he is the one weapon that secondary’s have to put multiple bodies on when he’s lined up on the field. The offense clearly missed the guy that put up 1,519 yards on 98 receptions and 12 touchdowns in 2014. 

As of now, it’s unknown whether Jordy will return to Green Bay in his old form. It was announced on July, 26 that he would enter training camp on the P.U.P. List

At 31 years old, it’s unknown whether Jordy Nelson will return to old form and once again make the Packers’ offense a top 5 again or not. We’ll see, in due time. But if the old Jordy shows up during the 2016 season, get ready for another scoreboard explosion. 

Follow Sports Elite on Facebook

Don’t Sleep On Stefon Diggs

By LaDonna Williams

The Vikings 2016 season is upon us. Last season it was the Adrian Peterson show. He had over 1000-yards in rushing, over 200-yards in receiving and he had 11 touchdowns. While he was doing his thing, there was a rookie wide receiver showing the world why he should have been drafted higher than he was. His name is Stefon Diggs. He played for Maryland was drafted in 2015 in the 5th round. Last season, Diggs led the wide receivers with 720 yards and he had 4 touchdowns. He did all this and he didn’t even play until week four. Imagine what he could do playing every game.

Minnesota Vikings v Denver Broncos

This season the Vikings did add Laquon Treadwell in this year’s draft. Which I think is a great addition to the team, but Diggs will still be the number one receiver on the team. He became a leader on the team in his first year. Everyone thought that Mike Wallace was going to be the main target last season, but with Diggs speed and great hands it became a no brainer who was number one on the team.

“The Vikings’ offense… led by Teddy Bridgewater… should finally become a unit that shouldn’t be taken lightly and able to put up points on the board. And with their already stout defense on the opposite side of the ball, Minnesota could repeat as NFC North champions”.

Check out our Facebook group here.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Shape Up or Ship Out!

sportselite1

18631242-mmmain

By Kim Dunning

The Pittsburgh Steelers have a big decision to make this upcoming year. Two of their all-star players have been consistently having off-the-field problems that could and are resulting in suspensions.

This is not new territory for the Steelers as former wide receivers Mike Wallace andSantonioHolmes both had similar problems. The organizationhasmoved from those two players and have begungoing with younger players who can keep themselves out of trouble.

Le’Veon Bell is returning from a knee injury that sidelined him for half of the 2015 season. Now the fourth year player isin his final contract year with the Steelers and could be facing a four game suspension for missing a drug test. This is not how Pittsburghwants to be going into their first quarter of the season. This is not Bell’s first suspension to start off the season as he was suspended for the first four…

View original post 421 more words