Friday, August 10, 2012

Immediate reaction to the Dwight Howard to the Lakers deal

by John Huffstetler

LA Lakers acquire Dwight Howard

Denver Nuggets acquire Andre Iguodala

Philadelphia 76ers acquire Andrew Bynum and Jason Richardson

Orlando Magic acquire Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington, Moe Harkless, Nikola Vucevic, and 3 PROTECTED (key word) 1st round picks (One from each team)

Reaction: 3 winners and 1 one big loser in this trade.

LA Lakers: Big Winner. When you have the opportunity to acquire a player the caliber of Dwight Howard, you get the trade done. Credit the Lakers for having the persistence to make this beneficial trade work. Earlier this past season when speculation grew that Howard might be traded, I speculated about where Howard might land, arguing that the Lakers and Bulls had the best chance to get him. The Lakers seemed likely then because they had the best trade-able asset among all the potential teams at the time in Andrew Bynum. As it turns out, Bynum was a huge part of this trade (even though the Magic somehow found it unnecessary themselves to acquire him). The Lakers saw how much better Howard makes them than Bynum and they only had to give up Bynum in order to acquire him. They are now the CLEAR team to beat in the NBA because they added the best Center and Point Guard in the league this offseason to an already solid playoff team. Brilliant move. Grade: A+

Philadelphia 76ers: Another winner. The Sixers squeaked into the playoffs last year after a terrible second half of the season only to benefit from injuries to Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah and steal a first round win over a far superior Bulls team. Their offseason had been quiet and puzzling so far. They let Louis Williams walk but sign Nick Young and Kwame Brown? There was a definite hole in the middle as well after they amnestied Elton Brand, but this move immediately upgrades their lineup. Iguodala was a strong player for the Sixers (and will continue to be for the Nuggets), but the Sixers have players to give minutes in the backcourt that can defend and rebound near Iguodala's level. They did not, however, have a decent second option in the post opposite Spencer Hawes. They lost some production at SF, but gain huge production in the post, as they now have two legitimate seven-footers to start night in and night out. Jason Richardson is not worth mentioning because he is an overpaid, inefficient player. He alone drops this grade down from an A. Grade: B+

Denver Nuggets: Another winner. This was a savvy move by the Nuggets and GM Kiki Vandeweghe. It was inarguable last year that the Nuggets had the deepest team in the NBA; however, that depth hurt them late in the season after Wilson Chandler returned from China because there simply weren't enough minutes for everyone. A team with depth like the Nuggets needs to use that depth to upgrade the caliber of players in the starting lineup. Afflalo is a fine player, but Iguodala is an obvious upgrade. He will start at the SG spot and Gallinari will continue to play the SF position. The only other player that the Nuggets had to give up is the black hole, Al Harrington. He is overpaid, shoots poor shots, and rebounds terribly for a Power Forward. Plus, the Nuggets are anxious to give more minutes in the post to Kenneth Faried, JaVale McGee, and Timofey Mozgov. His departure is a great example of addition by subtraction. Back to Iguodala, he fits well with this squad Nuggets in several important ways: 1) He runs the floor well and likes to play in transition, which matches perfectly with the Nuggets up and down style, 2) He offers them versatility in being able to start at the 2 or the play the 3 when Gallinari sits or is injured (which seems to be happening frequently), and 3) He is an elite defender who can cover the litany of Western Conference two guards that can light up the scoreboard. Denver is not a top 3 team out West, but they're not far off after this trade. Grade: A

Orlando Magic: Disgraceful. You have to protect your assets as a professional sports franchise. If you're lucky enough to get a player of Dwight Howard's ability, do whatever it takes to keep him. If you can't keep him, get as close to EQUAL VALUE in return as possible. The Magic gave up a top 5 player and in return get Afflalo (granted, he is a decent player), 3 protected draft picks (as in not lottery picks), 2 nobodies, and one of the worst well-known players in the league in Al Harrington. THAT'S NOT EVEN CLOSE TO EQUAL VALUE. They could have just traded for Andrew Bynum. The Lakers were obviously willing to let him go. They didn't want him (but they wanted Al Harrington?). They could have just waited. They had the best player in the trade. Why not just wait and try to build a bigger market for Howard? Why rush if you're going to get NOTHING in return? They have just made themselves irrelevant for at least the next 5 years, and they didn't have to. Just look at the Nuggets who I just praised for their part in the deal. They had to trade Carmelo Anthony in 2011, and it was clear that Melo wanted out of Denver. In return, they received Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Timofey Mozgov, Raymond Felton and a few draft picks; as a result, they didn't miss a beat. Their team was probably even stronger after the trade. Newsflash, Carmelo isn't even good! Howard is ten times the player that Melo is. To get so little in return for such a dynamic player is a complete and utter disgrace, and a slap in the face to every Magic fan. Grade: F-------------------

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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

College Football Week One Marquee Matchups- Part Two

by John Huffstetler

Saturday September 1st

Auburn vs. Clemson (in Atlanta, GA)

This rematch of last year’s 38-24 Clemson victory at home in week 3 pits two teams hoping and expecting improved play on the defensive side of the ball this season. Last season, Auburn struggled to stop the run against a litany of strong SEC rushing squads allowing 189 yards rushing per game (up from 109 ypg in their National Championship season). In their first 3 games last season, they allowed 227 to Utah St., 333 to Miss St., and 238 to Clemson in three rather poor outings as they were fortunate to beat both Utah St and Miss St. at home before travelling to Clemson and losing by two td’s. As the season wore on, their defense did show improvements stopping the run, including limiting Florida to just 66 yards on the ground. They will look to continue this improvement with 9 defensive starters returning this season, including their entire defensive line.

Clemson’s major issue last year (as was witnessed in their bowl game thrashing against a mediocre West Virgina squad) was their inability to make stops on defense as well. They allowed almost 30 points per game and 177 yards per game rushing on the ground including a laughable (against ACC competition) 4.4 yards per carry allowed (their worst total by far under Sweeney). Although they lose 3 starters along the defensive line, their rushing stats should improve dramatically. In fact, the loss of three underperforming lineman could pave the way for some younger, hungrier players to jump in and key a turnaround. Clemson’s rush defense should also improve because of their elite, national-caliber linebacking corps littered with depth and young talent (watch out for OLB Tony Steward this year as a potential sleeper defensive POY in the ACC).

Even with potential improvement on the defensive side for both teams, look for some fireworks in the first game of the season, as both Sweeney and Chizik will have several trick plays and gimmicks ready. This matchup will come down to QB play, with Tahj Boyd leading Clemson against an inexperienced Auburn group most likely lead by highly touted but completely unproven Kiehl Frazier (pictured above) at the helm. Clemson should be able to bring pressure from the LB’s and force Frazier (or Moseley or both) into some poor decisions leading to some cheap Clemson points. Boyd, on the other hand, will play a steady game and find his WR’s consistently throughout the game. The suspension of WR Sammy Watkins (pictured to the left) will certainly hurt Clemson's chances, but they still have enough firepower to win this opening game. Clemson 31 Auburn 27

Michigan vs. Alabama (in Dallas, TX)

The problem for any team hoping to challenge the top two teams from last year in Alabama and LSU is that they're both still loaded with talent. Even worse, they both return 4 starters on the offensive line (Alabama- 95 career starts and LSU- 104), historically a strong indicator for success from one year to the next. Alabama's offense should be stronger this year with the only major losses coming at RB in Trent Richardson and WR in Marquis Maze, both of which will be easily replaced with young, talented players to spare at both positions. The questions arise this year defensively for the Crimson Tide with 5 elite players making the jump to the NFL. Undoubtedly, there is still talent on the defensive side and several new players will showcase their NFL-caliber talent, but will they match last years 3.3 yards per play allowed? No. Impossible. There will be a major drop from the clear #1 defense statistically to a well-above average defense. With 3 starters to replace in the secondary, look for the drop defensively to occur with certain teams able to pass the ball with success that just wasn't possible last year.

Michigan enters this season with a remarkably similar team to last year in terms of make-up. The difference this time around for the Wolverines is that this is the second year under Head Coach Brady Hoke, which is traditionally a sign for improvement. They have several skill position players returning who can make game-changing plays, led by Heisman-caliber QB Denard Robinson. The offensive line returns largely in tact with the major exception of Rimington Award winning C David Molk, who keyed the success of the line last season. Ricky Barnum is expected to fill his large shoes in 2012 and his production will go a long way to determining the line's success as a whole this year. Defensively, the LB corps and DB's should be stronger than last year with basically every key component back. The largest question mark for the 2012 Wolverines is on the defensive line. They must replace 3 starters on the D-line including DE Ryan Van Bergen and all-everything DT Mike Martin. Michigan must find some bigs who can stop the run and free up their athletic LB's to make plays if they want to match last season's defensive numbers. Now a Senior, formerly very highly-touted DT Will Campbell is a major candidate to finally emerge and replace Martin's heavy production.

Consequently, this matchup will come down to how well Michigan will be able to stop the Alabama rushing attack. If Bama can control the ground and, as a result, the clock, Michigan has shown the penchant under Denard Robinson for pressing and trying to make plays that aren't there when they've been off the field for extended periods of time. If Michigan can stop new RB Eddie Lacy and the rest of the Bama rushing attack and find success against this young Bama secondary, they have a chance to pull the upset. Alabama has too much talent for this Michigan squad, however, and Denard isn't the type of QB that can find success vertically to exploit this young Bama secondary (watch Bama week 3 at Arkansas for that issue to emerge in a potential Ark upset). Expect a tighter game than the 12-point line would indicate but a Bama win. Alabama 27 Michigan 20

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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Redskins Release First Depth Chart

The Redskins released their first depth chart yesterday with less than 72 hours until the RGIII era begins against the Bills in the first preseason game.  Not too many surprises, but glaring holes in the OL.  Don't get me wrong, I'm excited about most of this roster, but I have always believed that behind quarterback, offensive and defensive line are the most important positions in football. Control the line of scrimmage like the Patriots and Giants do and you will consistently be contenders.

Here's the depth chart with commentary to follow:

WR - Santana Moss - Leonard Hankerson, Josh Morgan
LT - Trent Williams - Tom Compton, Jordan Black
LG - Kory Lichtensteiger - Maurice Hurt, Josh LeRibeus
C - Will Montgomery - Eric Cook
RG - Chris Chester - Adam Gettis
RT - Jammal Brown - Tyler Polumbus, Willie Smith
TE - Fred Davis - Chris Cooley, Niles Paul, Logan Paulsen
WR - Pierre Garcon - Anthony Armstrong, Brandon Banks
FB - Darrel Young - Chris Cooley
RB - Tim Hightower - Evan Royster, Roy Helu, Alfred Morris
QB - Robert Griffin III - Rex Grossman, Kirk Cousins

DE - Adam Carriker - Kedrick Golston, Doug Worthington
NT - Barry Cofield - Chris Neild, Chris Baker, Delvin Johnson
DE - Stephen Bowen - Jarvis Jenkins, Darrion Scott
OLB - Ryan Kerrigan - Chris Wilson, Markus White
ILB - London Fletcher - Lorenzo Alexander, Donnell Holt
ILB - Perry Riley - Bryan Kehl, Keenan Robinson
OLB - Brian Orakpo - Rob Jackson, Brian McNally
CB - DeAngelo Hall - Cedric Griffin, Richard Crawford
S - Brandon Meriwether - Reed Doughty
S - Madieu Williams - DeJon Gomes, Tanard Jackson
CB - Josh Wilson - Kevin Barnes, Brandyn Thompson

K - Graham Gano - Neil Rackers
P - Sav Rocca
KR - Brandon Banks - Aldrick Robinson, Anthony Armstrong
PR - Brandon Banks - Aldrick Robinson, Anthony Armstrong

1) Let's start with the wide receivers. I love everything I've read about Santana Moss this offseason. EVERYTHING. One of my all-time favorite Redskins came back rejuvenated.  The early word towards the end of last season was that he was at risk of being cut, and then the Redskins go out and sign two receivers in free agency. But look who's at the top of the depth chart.  I'm very excited to see a 33 year old Santana Moss this year. My personal opinion is that he has a lot left in the tank.

Pierre Garcon, from everything I've heard has looked great; reports indicate that Hankerson has shown tremendous growth from last year; Anthony Armostrong showing up on the second string is, I believe, a result of Morgan not having too much camp time so far.  By the start of the season, we will see Hankerson and Morgan battling for 3/4.  We will often see Moss playing out of the slot in 3 and 4 receiver packages too.

I like the receivers, but am not head over heels for this group; however, if Hankerson really has improved as much as I'm reading, and Garcon plays up to his dollar amount then this is a scary group of receivers that will really ease RGIII into his first year.

2) The TE's. Fred Davis was a stud until he and Williams decided to be Cheech and Chong last year1.  With Davis back to form and the help of a rejuvenated receiving corps, his productivity should only increase. Maybe he'll get less touches and targets, but he'll have more space and get less attention.

Add a healthy Chris Cooley to the mix - Shanahan confirms this - who has slimmed down like Santana moss and converted receiver Niles Paul, and it looks like the Redskins have some serious pass-catching options at TE.  Logan Paulsen is a good run-blocker, but not good enough and probably gets cut.

I'm worried they may still cut Cooley because of his cap number.  I understand it's a lot to pay for a number 2 tight end, but he's been a pro-bowler, is a fan-favorite, and we've seen what he can do when healthy.  Multiple TE's can work very well (see: Patriots, New England) and I see TE as a huge strength for this offense, and generally as a great friend to QBs.

3) The OL is not exciting me whatsoever. It's the same group that was dismal last year, allowing 41 sacks, 108 QB hits, and paving the way for a measly 100 ypg.  Granted, Trent Williams was suspended 4 games, but they were lackluster before that (and he wasn't looking top-5 pick caliber either). Two guards were drafted, and with Chester being carted off today and Lichtensteiger hurt, they'll see a lot of time on Thursday.  I've read that Gettis looks pretty good (Big Ten lineman, go figure) and LeRibeus is consistently being pushed into the backfield (but at least he's funny!).

Jammal Brown, a former pro-bowler has been hurt since he came to the Skins.  He's hurt now.

I want to give Shanahan the benefit of the doubt and say, "He does it with a different kind of lineman and a different scheme.  These guys aren't prototypical NFLers, but they're prototypical Shanahan lineman."  I want to say that, but I really don't have the confidence in this group.  They haven't proven they can protect the quarterback, they haven't proven they can block the zone scheme, they haven't proven they can stay healthy, and they new guys haven't been showing too much in practice.  I hope I'm wrong, but if this group doesn't perform than RGIII won't even have an opportunity to get the ball to his playmaker TE's and WR's.

4) RGII. The. Second. Coming. Can't wait to watch this man play at a high level for 15 years and hoist several Lombardi Trophies in the B&G.  BUT, for now he's a rookie. We'll see on Thursday how well he's grasping the playbook so far.  This will be our first indication of what he's capable of this year. Cam Newton was great all preseason last year.

5) I personally think that this running back group is awesome. Three guys who have proven they can run the ball over 100 yards.  Roy Helu was an animal last year, has looked great in the preseason, and starts the year as the third guy.  Hightower looked great in the preseason last year, and it was unfortunate that he didn't get to finish out the year.  Evan Royster was a treat last year - there were no expectations, and he really performed at a high level. A guy I really like is the rookie, Alfred Morris.  I love how he runs, and he's a great change up from the other guys.  Will we keep 4 tailbacks? I doubt it, but I hope so.

I hope the unit can stay healthy.  If so, it's the NFL's best trio of tailbacks. Shanahan certainly has a way with backs, so I consider the RB position a potent strength on offense for the Skins.


1) The DL was OK last year, but they get another year in the system and Jarvis Jenkins. I like the 6-man rotation we have at the DE and NT positions.  I think they will perform better than last year and that Jenkins will add a dynamic level that was missing last year.

2) I love the Linebackers on this team.  I love Perry Riley inside. He only started 8 games last year, but he wound up with 66 tackles. Now he's got a full offseason to prepare for a full season. He will shine this year next to the unwavering and ageless London Fletcher. Both were steals, Riley in the draft and Fletcher in free agency.

Kerrigan, stud. Orakpo, Stud. Kerrigan will only get stronger in year two. Orakpo has been named to multiple pro-bowls and calls tons of attention, but I'd frankly like to see him wreak a lot more havoc.  That said, I think this is one of the strongest pass-rushing duos in the league, and they will be for a long time. The reserves here are all great spot contributors. Markus White, Chris Wilson, and Rob Jackson are assets when they're on the field.  Great starters with very solid depth at linebacker. Inside reserve Lorenzo Alexander can do no wrong in my book, and is a stellar special teamer.

3) The concern for this defense is the Defensive Backfield. Raheem Morris has a challenge in front of him. If this unit is successful, it will really be a testament to him.  Josh Wilson and DeAngelo Hall are back at the corner spots.  Your guess is as good as mine as to whether or not Kevin Barnes shows up this year after a tough season last year, or Cedric Griffin is a good fit in the Nickel or Dime.

The safeties are completely retooled. Landry and Otogwe never played, so I do consider this unit upgraded from last year's Daughty and Gomes combo.  Gomes was very solid in his rookie season, though. And, statistically, Doughty was great against the run.  The new faces are former pro-bowler Brandon Meriweather, veteran Madieu Williams, and local bad-boy Tanard Jackson.  It looks like a band of misfits, but they have all performed at very high-levels in this league...and not too long ago either.  This could work out great, but it could fail miserably. It's on Raheem and my fingers are crossed. Worst case scenario: the safeties are upgraded from last year.

One thing on defense that the Redskins have to do better is force turnovers.  3-4 defenses are designed to get to the quarterback and force turnovers. The Redskins got to the Quarterback, but they weren't abel to take the ball away. If they are able to do that this year, then they will be a completely different animal.

Special Teams

1) Graham Gano has been winning the kicking battle against Neil Rackers thus far.  This is so frustrating as a Redskins fan.  Gano's been terrible for us.  He'll occasionally make an incredible kick, but then he misses easy ones and game winners.

There's no doubt he has the leg and raw talent, but Rackers has a track record for being consistent and effective.  The flip side is that the Redskins keep getting kickers who suck for us and then end up being great with other teams: David Akers, Shaun Suisham, Nick Novak.

That said, Rackers has always kicked in a dome, and 5 of Gano's 10 misses last year were blocks.  We'll see.


I'm very excited to see this team hit the field for the first time.  RGIII is electric and he has weapons. It's a matter of that o-line coming together and keeping his jersey clean while opening holes for the backs. They are the lynchpin of this offense. Which sucks, because I'm not that confident in this unit, though I'm hopeful.

The defense is ready to make the jump from solid to great this year.  They can get to the quarterback, and the front seven is top ten in the NFL.  The Linebackers are insanely good, and Jarvis Jenkins is a welcome addition to the front seven.  No matter how you look at it, the safeties are improved this year, and the third corner will be better (better play from Barnes and/or Cedric Griffin stepping into that role).  Wilson and Hall were good, and with help they'll be better.  The big difference for this defense will be taking the ball away.  If they can do that effectively, they will be a force to be reckoned with.

The Skins have a fighting chance in a lot of divisions, but the NFC East has 3 Super Bowl contenders in it.  The Skins are going to finish last in the East with anywhere from 6-8 wins.  The future, however, is promising.  Though this season won't result in a championship run, it's an important developmental season. A lot of the pieces are in place. Two more years and Shanahan and Bruce will have built a perenial contender.  Now let's hope Snyder can see that and have some patience to let the whole thing come together.

Follow me on Twitter: @HuffStetLer


1 That's a whole different topic, but guys, if you're lucky you have a 10 year career, can you at least show a little bit of restraint and hold off that long?  It's pathetic how pro athletes can get arrested, fail drug tests, and drive drunk and keep their jobs unlike anyone else in America. Michael Vick was in prison for committing a serious federal offense, and now he's a redemption story and one of the highest-paid players in the league. Kenny Britt has been arrested EIGHT TIMES since joining the NFL. How is that possible??