Colts Sign Kerry Collins By Jason King

Colts owner Jim Irsay tweeted on Wednesday morning that the Indianapolis Colts have signed veteran quarterback Kerry Collins. This is definite confirmation that the status of Peyton Manning is up in the air — not only for the season opener at Houston — but for some time into the regular season.

Colts veteran QB Peyton Manning has almost been robotic-like by starting in every one of his franchise’s games since he was drafted with the first overall pick in the 1998 NFL Draft.  RoboQuarterback, as some members of the media have dubbed Manning, has started an incredible 208 consecutive regular season games and 19 consecutive postseason games, which would bring his incredible streak to an amazing 227 consecutive games started.   Continue reading
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Huddle Up: The Year of the Lions? By Jason King

 The Detroit Lions haven’t been to the playoffs since 1999.  Since then all three of Detroit ’s other professional teams have won championships. We have seen two United States Presidents since the Lions last played into January.  The average price for a gallon of gas was $1.13 in 1999.  I don’t want to go as far as saying hell will freeze over before the Lions get to the playoffs again, but I’m sure it feels that way to Lions fans.The Lions won the NFL championship in 1957.  In the 54 years since then,  Detroit has been to the playoffs only nine times.  The Arizona Cardinals own the longest drought in the NFL, not winning a championship in 64 years.  Still, the Lions are one of only four teams never to appear in a Super Bowl.  The other three are: Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Cleveland Browns.

Few fans have suffered like Lions fans.

This could be the year their fortunes change.  The NFC is stacked.  Seven teams won 10 or more games and 14 of the 16 teams in the conference won at least six games last year. The Lions were 6-10 and won their last 4 games.  They gained a lot of momentum at the end of last season and seemed to buy into what Jim Schwartz was teaching.  It looks like the Lions could be ready to take that next step.

They looked razor sharp in their preseason rout of the Cincinnati Bengals 34-3.  Matthew Stafford looked healthy as he led the Lions to touchdowns on his only two series.  He was 6-7 with 71 yards and 2 TD passes.  The 26-yard TD pass to Calvin Johnson made Lions fans everywhere feel good.  Johnson ran an out route and Stafford threw a pin-point pass right at the pylon where only Johnson could catch it.  If they stay healthy this could be one of the most dynamic quarterback/wide receiver combinations in the NFL over the next 10 years.

The defense is a work in progress.  They looked good in the game against the Bengals, even intercepting rookie QB Andy Dalton on his first pass attempt.  Once again, they were playing the Bengals, nonetheless they looked impressive.

It’s only one preseason game but if the Lions can overcome some early injuries (DT Nick Fairley, RB Michael Leshoure, and LT Jeff Backus being the most prominent) and address their issues in the defensive secondary they could compete in a tough NFC.  One thing is for sure, the Lions are finally headed in the right direction.

Huddle Up

1. Cam Newton could make a big impact on the Carolina Panthers franchise:  The ovation Newton got when he came in the game was astounding for a preseason game.  Panthers fans are excited to see what Newton can do.  It will be interesting to see what effect he will have on that community.  He looked pretty good in the game.  He made some good throws and already looks like he has the respect of his teammates.

 2. The Bears don’t play by the same rules as everybody else.  They apparently didn’t get the memo that the new kickoff rules state that ALL kickoffs are at the 35.  They disregarded this and kicked their first two kickoffs from the 30.  Roger Godell please fine them heavily, especially since this was a premeditated act of disobedience.

3. Mario Williams needs time to adjust to his new role.  Slow up before calling him the next DeMarcus Ware.  Wade Phillips will have that defense a lot better than it was last year.  He got off to a good start, as they set a franchise preseason record with seven sacks in their preseason opener against the Jets. How quickly Williams finds his place could be a key to the Texans season.

4. The 49ers need a quarterback.  Jim Harbough must have been kicking himself watching the 49ers preseason opener on Friday night.  He probably thought “I should have stayed at Stanford because Andrew Luck is 10 times better than any quarterback I have on this roster.”  Seriously, Alex Smith looked horrible and Colin Kaepernick looked worse.  I expect Alex Smith to play better once he learns the system, but that could take a while.  There is hope, as 7 wins could win the NFC West again.

5. The Patriots put up 47 points in a preseason game which is a franchise record.  15 Patriot regulars sat out the game including Tom Brady, Wes Welker, Jerrod Mayo, Albert Haynesworth, and Chad Ochocinco.  Bill Bellichick really is a mad scientist.  He’ll run up the score in the preseason!!!

6. I get the feeling that a lot of teams will regret passing on Ryan Mallett in the April draft.  I don’t know if he will make his mark in New England , but we could look back at this draft 15 years from now and say Mallett was the best quarterback.

7.  Boy, the Colts need Peyton Manning to be healthy.  He is the most valuable player to his team PERIOD.  And nobody else is even close.  The Colts not having Manning would be just like the Cavaliers without LeBron James, from first to worst.  They would struggle to win 3 games.  It’s just another reason for Colts fans to be grateful for No. 18.

8.  First preseason games are meaningless.

9.  Greed is ruining college football.  These greedy bastards don’t give a damn about the integrity of student-athletes or collegiate athletics.  All they care about is money.  All we hear about are: scandals, recruiting violations, conference realignment, or adding more meaningless bowl games.  The play on the field is secondary.  Texas A&M president R. Bowen Loftin said, “We’ve made no decision about terminating our relationship with the Big 12.” “This is all about what is best for Texas A&M, along with … visibility for us and our athletes and financial resources. That’s what it’s all about. I think anybody in my shoes would have exactly the same kinds of concerns.”  Key words are “visibility for us…and financial resources.”  Now we hear about the scandal at the University of Miami .  The landscape in college sports has to change.

10.  Its only one game, but the new kickoff rule is going to change the NFL.  Yes it will prevent scary injuries seen in recent years on kickoffs, but it will also result in more touchbacks.  Who this helps and hurts most are still to be determined and I think judgments on this matter need to be reserved for a season or two at least.

 

Jason King is a contributing writer at Taking It to the House and can be reached at jdk2032@yahoo.com

Eagles Shake Off Rust to Beat Ravens 13-6 In Pre-Season Opener By Matt Lombardo

After a four and a half month layoff with a roster that was revamped in the span of ten days, the Philadelphia Eagles opened the pre-season with an up-and-down 13-6 win over the Baltimore Ravens at Lincoln Financial Field.

Throughout training camp the Eagles have been the most hyped team in the National Football league thanks in large part to their overhaul on defense. It became clear on Thursday that it takes more than a week’s worth of off-season tinkering and ten days of a truncated training camp session to rebuild a defense that ranked last in red zone efficiency and surrendered 31 passing touchdowns last season.

Granted first impressions in first pre-season games carry little weight when judging the makeup of a football team. Overall there was enough to be satisfied in the final product, a 13-6 Eagles win. Overall though, the Eagles defense looked aggressive up front on the defensive line but had the feel of a bend but don’t break type of defense.

In their lone series the defense stood tall in the red zone but appeared vulnerable from 20-yard line to 20-yard line, especiallyon underneath and short intermediate passing routes. On a first series 3rd down play, Ray Rice slinked towards the sidelines hauling in a Joe Flacco swing pass and bolting up field for a 21-yard gain with no Eagles’ linebackers in sight.

Ordinarily, it’s easy to overlook such a coverage lapse. But with a rookie middle linebacker in Casey Matthews (4th rd pick out of Oregon) and a combined three years NFL experience between the other two starters, alarms might have sounded when there wasn’t even a linebacker close enough to pin the blown coverage on.

To the Birds’ credit Rice’s scamper was the only noticeable blunder from the first team. The Eagles Defense later recovered by forcing a Trent Cole sack thanks mainly in large part to new free agent CB Nnamdi Asomugha’s blanket tight coverage.  The NFL’s arguably top corner on the play,  forced Flacco right into the Cole’s grasp, as the still developing young quarterback from nearby Audubon, NJ, stepped up in the pocket trying to buy extra time.

“It was a lot of effort put in by a lot of guys on the d-line [on that play],” Cole said of his third down sack. “A lot of guys pressured [Flacco] to get him to move like that. That’s what we want, a lot of pressure back there. The defensive line did a great job getting pressure on the quarterback, getting him off the field and the secondary did a heck of a job covering.”

Overall there are a lot of positives to take away from the play of the first-team defensive line. Besides Cole’s sack, Cullen Jenkins did a nice job getting into the backfield and on two plays Jason Babin forced Flacco from the pocket collapsing it around him. All told the Eagles first unit held the Ravens starters to just 3 points on a Billy Cundiff 53-yard field goal that bounced off the uprights and over the cross bar.

“It definitely makes it easier for [us linebackers] with all of the penetration those guys get up front, they had great penetration today with a couple sacks,” Matthews said. The promising rookie —  nicknamed “Bloodlines” due to his family’s lengthy NFL pedigree — added “With those guys having such a quick first step off the ball it makes the rest of the defense’s job that much easier.”

On the offensive side of the ball,  QB Michael Vick executed a fluid scoring drive on his only series. The “Michael Vick Experience” circa 2011 opened the pre-season 4-7 for 74 yards and a TE Brent Celek touchdown on his lone series of action.  Celek’s three-yard touchdown catch was set up by a beautiful throw and catch by Vick to 2nd-year WR Riley Cooper for a 45-yard.  On the big- gain play, Cooper sprung free with a nice juke move along the sideline before making a leaping athletic grab over future Hall-of-Famer and  veteran Ravens safety Ed Reed. After the big grab by the Birds’ Ed McCaffrey clone, three plays later the Eagles gave their faithful something to high-five about by producing a 7-3 lead.

Among the reserves, veteran RB Ronnie Brown — the NFL’s first ‘Wildcat” — stood out from the rest of the 2’s, 3’s, and 4’s on the roster with better than advertised hard-running between the tackles. Brown (30), recently signed on as an unrestircted free agent coming over from the Miami Dolphins, finished his workman evening with nine carries for 22 yards.

Along the offensive line, rookie center Jason Kelce (6th Rd pick out of Cincinnati) looked inconsistent to put it nicely. Kelce was tossed aside by larger Ravens defensive tackles, several times which forced Eagles backup QB Vince Young from the pocket.  However the ever-learning Kelce did throw a thumping block that sprung Brown for a nice gain on a second-down swing pass.

Young — not known for being a practice player — looked vastly improved from his dreadful training camp performance going 3-5 for 45 yards and added a six yard scamper.  Taking It to the House thinks that though V.Y’s head is probably spinning from Andy Reid’s extensive playbook that will be a good understudy for to starter MV7.

As far as first impressions go, this Eagles team is about what everyone expected it to be…. a work in progress. Though there wasn’t much of a glimpse of the starters, there were no glaring weaknesses that came to the forefront in the pre-season’s first week.

Next up in Week 2 of the always “thrilling” NFL preseason,  the Eagles will be matched up with the defending AFC Champion Pittsburgh Steelers next Thursday night at Heinz Field in their usual preseason “Keystone State Battle”  .

 

Matt Lombardo is a reporter and host for 97.3 ESPN in Atlantic City, NJ. Matt can be reached on Twitter @MattLombardoPHL

Taking It to the House – Editor Lloyd Vance also contributed to this article