Ranking Lite: NFL’14 Training Camps

4 Aug

The ranking: It’s all the rage in online sports.

Not the statistical rankings on players and teams, like QB comp % or team defense. Very popular and helpful to all sorts of sport minded individuals.

I’m referring to the writer’s rank, as in, listing.

For the content editor who loathes history, humor and crabby old commentary, the rank, alongside celebrity sound-bites, bikini blaze and sabermetric syntax helps to fill the bill for their fantasy fixated, target-audience, ages 8 – 18.

Examples:

Weekly best team ranking

The trouble here, once you get outside, oh, say, top 10, the ranks get a bit hard to justify. Kinda’ like picking best head of lettuce in the produce isle: not…much…difference.

Best players ranking

NFL.com’s “Top 100 Players” list. The inclusion, exclusion, the ranking, all of it smacks of a presumptuous panel with too much time on their hands, too little or flimsy justification and an air of uppish.

MVP – awards ranking

Seems never too soon for the award spec. I used to object, like most readers, for the first installment always comes a tad early (1st month in). But I now find it a quick & easy way to catch-up on a new season I’ve been a little slow to follow.

Pre-Draft ranking (mock and fantasy)

These are the biggies, so we’re told, for the Xbox set. I’ll start following the ponies before I put much stock in draft doings. For GMs and coaches it’s part of the job, for fans of the real game, not many endeavors are quite as fruitless.

Esoteric rank

CFB AM: Ranking the Top 5 Summer Videos from Alabama Players,“ courtesy of Foxsports (7-30 / T.Mitrosilis). Who’d a’ thunk?

All-time greats ranking

A personal favorite, reading and composing, though recency, not history, is the prevailing mind-set. If NBA, just ink-in Jordan #1. They always do, “guar-own-teed (D.Heffernan).”

Negative ranking, the “Gloomy Gus” report, as it were: the worst and over-rated lists.

Over-rated player list: “Boomer: NFL’s 5 Most Overrated Players (SI.com / 7-30 / Esiason).” Advice: stick with the ‘under,’ you’ll feel better afterwards.

Worst rankings are too many to tally. Some examples:

Worst fielding error or penalty in each season;
Worst coaching hires;
Worst trade or draft pick of all-time (trade NOT made is more curious), and
The worst interview or presser ever given (Dick Sherman (NFCT-14)?).

Not much goes unnoticed or unassailed by today’s media wonks.

So it only stands to reason that some joker with pen (moi) ventures forth into believed uncharted territory (internet ‘s a vast sea), plant the flag and undertake the first official ranking of NFL training camps.

Be aware, this is not an awesomely epic listing, with statistical fat, roster predictions, Twitter feuds, contractual updates or the latest wire-news on injuries & maybe-trades.

This is ranking-lite: less filling of statistics & teams and tasty short-takes on NFL topicality.

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1) Cleveland Browns

Some hope he turns the NFL on its head, others expect he’ll flop. Love or hate him, Jon Manziel is Camp 2014’s hottest commodity, though, if you ask the kids, Sherman rules (See; Madden15). All the hoopla in Berea makes Jon’s QB rival Hoyer’s status, come kick-off, that much more curious. But given the rookie’s apparent disdain for making new bookish friends (“me vs. the playbook”), the nod may go to the 6-year guy.

2) Seattle Seahawks

It’s Sherman-mania in Renton. For a man who made just 3 tackles in SB48 and got carted off in Fred Williamson fashion (SB1), he sure gets the love. That gift of gab can build empires (See; Napoleon). There’s an aura that surrounds a champion in TC but that can disappear quick as a cool summer breeze (See; Ravens‘13). What Seattle has that may get ‘em back-to-back super-jack is a coach (Pete) – QB (Russ) symbiosis, a defensive core (Kam / Bob / Earl) that sticks like nobody’s business and some dubious opposition.

3) New England Patriots

Belichick & Brady: they go together like Scotch & soda, Rodgers & Hammerstein, Woodrow & Wilson. No wonder the camera loves these guys. It won’t last forever and Pats inability to part ways with egg-shell Gronk may be keeping them from another Super. But as long as Bill & Tom are both healthy & happy, Mr. Kraft’s Patriots will be serious contenders.

4) New Orleans Saints

My pre-season #1 and best bet to hoist in February. Brees is stoked, run-by-cmte in tact and the defense bolstering. Sean Payton has a laser focus and points his beam to another ring, but he best get lavishly paid TE Jim Graham on same team page or his habitual, me-first, NFL banned goal-post dunks, re-appearing in camp as some kind of pointless statement to the League, will prove ridiculous.

5) Denver Broncos

Other teams have bounced back from Super Bowl funk admirably (Bills / Redskins / Vikes), some to become champions, others suffered same fate. Peyton’s the difference maker and likely won’t go down like the greatest Johnny Unitas (SD). To take in this legendary QB for what may be his last campy hurrah would be well worth the visit.

......NFL.tc.RG3.wc.cca.7.31.12.K.Allison.2.7m

6) Washington Redskins

It’s the most talked about knee since Broadway Joe’s (‘70) and makes Redskins camp a major curiosity this summer 2014. Will RG3 hold up? New coach Gruden says it’s not a concern. We all know it is, as does Rob and everyone else in DC who follows football, which excludes the President, Senate Majority leader, House Minority and female White House aspirant with initials HRC. Rob has a new top target in D-Jax. Question is, can he get him the ball? When he can’t he’s got motor-man Al Morris to pass on the pigskin.

7) Green Bay Packers

Had Aaron Rodgers not gone down in Wk-9 (bone break – CHI), GB’s season and playoff dalliance (20-23 SF) would’ve likely played-out different. Anticipation for ‘14 runs high at St. Norbert. The offense, in QB, corps (Nelson) and run (Lacey-Starks) seems settled, OL is close (Tretter(C)?) while the defense, stalwarts aside (Hawk / Burnett), hopes hard that the Swiss cheese state is a thing of the past. Packers’ return to glory depends on it.

8) Dallas Cowboys

In normal times, Cowboys camp would be #1, no matter the rookie class. But these ain’t normal times in Big D. Jerry Jones has just about milked what little remains of Cowboys cachet (America’s Team) from his cash cow by making event planning (AT&T) his top priority. Fans and NFL cufflinks cannot be happy with that business tack taken by its flagship franchise, but that’s free enterprise, eh? So why top 10? It’s the Cowboys.

9) Chicago Bears

New-ish coach Trestman still intrigues, Forte keeps churning and Cutler’s one tough cookie. But Jay crumbles w/ regularity and fine back-up McCown is gone. Like their northern arch-rival in the Fox, Chicago’s switched from their traditional premium stoppage-brand to defensive-lite. Halas is spinning. The presence of All Pro and former Vikings great Jared Allen in Bourbonnais (IL) is alone worth price (?) of admission.

10) Kansas City Chiefs

No team left fans scratching heads more than the Chiefs, pre-SB (DEN). Andy Reid was top COY candidate and his crew, offense, anyway, played with gusto in playoff loss to an equally porous Colts squad (44-45). Injuries happen (Hali & Houston) but KC dropped like a rock in 2nd-half of ‘13. With J. Charles & A. Smith, optimism runs high.

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11) New York Jets

Jets are only marginal playoff contenders but Rex Ryan knows defense and always gives good interviews. With Sanchez in Philly the “butt-fumble” media kids can slither slightly West. Mr. Dungy’s recent proselytizing (Sam) left foot squarely stuck in his mouth but he was right about one thing: foul mouth is poor form. Sometimes a curse feels right (toe stub), but only a dim-bulb makes it common practice. Keep it bright in Cortland, Rex.

12) New York Giants

This abbreviated training camp tour wouldn’t be complete w/out mention of New York’s senior club. I just won’t believe the Coughlin and Eli Manning era is ready to peter-out. “Not gunna’ do it (Carvey).” News of RB Wilson’s “neck burner” is troubling for an already thin run game. But like their cross-town rivals, defense will remain stout.

13) Indianapolis Colts

Training camp’s many things, to many people. Some flock to support the team, some for curiosity, for others it’s cult of personality. Case in point, Andy Luck. What a fine start to a career the Stanfordite has had so far. But Indy’s run-game and defense are sore spots. Chiefs ran wild (WC’14) and Pats laid a whoopin’ on Pagano’s bunch (22-43) in ‘14 AFCD. But hope abounds, even as key cog Mathis (LB) serves 4G suspn for PEDs.

14) San Diego Chargers

Under the radar as 2014 kicked-off, SD played like they meant business, losing AFCD to Broncos, 17-24. Live-wire P. Rivers had one of his best (69.5 C%) while RB Mathews stayed healthy and excelled (1255y). McCoy’s 1st year pleased and synergy w/ his QB is a key. If draft dice roll can expand on a solid core at defense, Bolts figure in.

15) Arizona Cardinals

Only a flawed post-season birthing system kept late charging Cards out and division ‘champ’ Green Bay in, last season’s title tourney. AZ’s last loss to SF, at home no less, didn’t help. Arians was one of a slew of COY candies but has hands full in TC14: filling holes in decimated defense, molding OL to protect aged Palmer, finding a run attack and safely managing body temperatures in August in hotter-than-Hades Glendale, AZ.

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Top training camp tips: 1) drink plenty of water (in place of sugar liquid); 2) find periodic shade,; 3) don’t over-do-it, and 4) hit the sack early.

Steven Keys
Brass Tacks
Photo Credits: A.Morris / 8.1.12 / VA – NFL.TC / wc.cca / K.Allison / 1.9; NFL – wikiproject – NFL design; J.Gordon / 7.28.12 / wc.cca / E.Drost / OH / NFL.TC / 1.9m; M.Ryan / 7.26.13 / wc.cca / Thompson20192 / NFL.TC / GA / 909k; RG3 / 7.31.12 / NFL.TC / VA / wc.cca / K.Allison / 2.7m

Edit: 8/4 @ 12:11am

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