During the 2015 Pro Bowl, Indianapolis Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri, who is a possible Hall of Famer, missed a pair of 35-yard PATs and a 38-yard field on smaller goalposts. The goalposts were shrunken down from 18’6″ to 14’6″.
The Carolina Panthers currently lead the NFC South with a 3-2 record, followed by the Atlanta Falcons (2-3), New Orleans Saints (2-3), and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-4).
However, the complexity of the division is more intricate than the records reveal. The Falcons beat the Bucs 56-14 in Week 3, and edged the Saints 37-34 in Week 1. However, Atlanta lost to the 2-3 Minnesota Vikings (41-28) and the 3-2 New York Giants (30-20). The Buccaneers nearly beat the Saints, but ultimately fell 37-31 in overtime.
That leaves the Panthers, who have impressive wins against teams like the Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions, but lost 38-10 to the Baltimore Ravens.
At the moment, all four teams have disappointed. The Saints’ offense was supposed to be more explosive, the Falcons’ defense is struggling, the Panthers have not lived up to expectations, and the Buccaneers don’t appear as reenergized as many thought.
There is no clear-cut frontrunner heading into Week 6. A frontrunner will emerge if the team can string together consistent wins against strong opponents.
Franchises who draft first round quarterbacks face this glaring question.
At the moment, the Jacksonville Jaguars (quarterback Blake Bortles), Cleveland Browns (QB Johnny Manziel), and Minnesota Vikings (QB Teddy Bridgewater) aren’t starting their rookie signal callers.
Jags general manager David Caldwell stated that “[QB] Chad [Henne] is going to be the guy.” Browns head coach Mike Pettine noted that QB Brian Hoyer “is securely ahead of him right now,” as of June 12. And last but not least, on June 14, Minnesota Vikings backup QB Christian Ponder said, “[QB Matt] Cassel’s the starter right now.”
Oftentimes, however, second- and third-string QB’s are relegated to scout duty—simulating opposing offenses. On the flip-side, rookie quarterbacks spend a bulk of their first offseason prepping for the 40-yard dash and non-QB related drills. A full offseason of technique and strength work could have great upside.
If rookie QB’s are thrown onto the field too early, their development is prone to being stunted. Let’s just see how New York Jets QB Geno Smith plays in his sophomore season.
After trading a 2014 sixth-round draft pick in exchange for QB Matt Schaub (per the Raiders’ official Twitter), the Oakland Raiders have seemingly found their next starting signal caller.
Schaub, who is entering his 11th season in the NFL, could be joined by a first round quarterback. HC Dennis Allen stated “I still think when we get ready to pick, we’re going to take the best player available.”
The Texans have a growing need for a quarterback, and Blake Bortles appears to be their guy after a strong Scouting Combine and Pro Day.
However, QB prospects Johnny Manziel and/or Teddy Bridgewater could be on the board at the time. These players won’t be the best player available when the Raiders select at fifth overall.
The Raiders should undoubtedly draft Bortles if he is still available. If not, they should draft at another position. The 2015 QB draft class is already looking very bright.
In less than one month, free agents will begin to sign with franchises.
When free agents are given the nod to sign with teams (March 11), the NFL world goes abuzz. Here are the five most underrated free agents this offseason.
Oakland Raiders DE Lamarr Houston: The 26-year old tallied 56 total tackles, 6.0 sacks, and two fumbles in 2013, respectively. Houston is a fantastic defensive linemen and is extremely durable in the trenches.
Cleveland Browns OC Alex Mack: Like Houston, Mack is exceptionally durable. Since entering the NFL is 2009, the 28-year old has startedall 80 regular season games. Mack is a talented center, a position which is in high demand.
Denver Broncos DE Shaun Phillips: The 32-year old racked up 10.0 sacks, two forced fumbles, and an interception, respectively, in his first year with Denver. Phillips is a productive pass rusher.
Green Bay Packers CB Sam Shields: Shields intercepted four passes and made 51 total tackles in 2013, respectively. The 26-year old is one of the top young cornerbacks in the NFL.
Seattle Seahawks CB Walter Thurmond III: Thurmond won the Super Bowl earlier in February, and was a key foundation of Seattle’s Legion of Boom. The 26-year old was suspended for violating the NFL Policy and Program for Substances of Abuse during the regular season, notably.