Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Orginal "Black Mamba"

The“ Black Mamba” and no I am not talking about Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers, I’m talking about arguably one of the most exciting players in all of college football and his name is De’ Anthony Thomas of the #3 ranked Oregon Ducks. What is a “Black Mamba”and whats the significance of this nickname? By definition a black mamba is “A highly venomous, slender, olive-brown to dark gray snake that moves with great speed and agility. Native to eastern and southern Africa, it is the largest poisonous snake on the continent”               

                                                                                                                                                                     A Little Glimpse if you haven't seen him play before...Now back to the story...
                                                                                                                                                                 These characteristics and attributes applied to Thomas his entire life, a native of Crenshaw California Thomas used his mental and physical abilities to stray away from the temptations of the gang affiliated area where he was raised. At the age of 12 Thomas played for the Crenshaw Bears in Snoop Dogg’s youth football league, it was there where it was said the story of the “Black Mamba” begun. A human joystick zig zagging through defenders, breaking ankles whit his peers seeming to have an ice cubes chance in a sauna to bring him down or even contain him. The D O double G aka Snoop Dogg credits himself for giving him the nickname while announcing one of his games but Sports Illustrated reported that is was actually another coach in the league who originally anointed him the “Black Mamba”. I would tend to believe it was the quick witted rapper who came up with the name but that’s another argument. Thomas actually prefers it spelled “Momba” which is the solo difference between him and Bryant’s spelling of the nickname. Nevertheless, both of these athletes are game breakers and game changers, and even though Thomas received the name first, I don’t think he has a problem sharing it with one of the greatest athlete’s in his own respective sport. Standing merely 5’9 and 175lbs soaking wet Thomas is a threat to strike and go the distance each and every time he touches the ball. With his fastest 40 time being clocked at a 4.2,5 his lightning speed and ability lead him to being the number 1 recruit in the class of 2011, a year where he led Crenshaw High to its second of consecutive city championships. At the next level there hasn’t been a drop off, since he chose to attend the University of Oregon over the closer to hometown USC. Think about these stats for a second, as a true freshman at Oregon he racked up 2,235 all-purpose yards, if that isn’t eye popping he added 18 touchdowns which set the school record for the number of touchdowns by a true freshman. For a kid in his first year with all the hype and expectations to have an impact right out the gate with the number of options Oregon has at its disposal year in and out is needless to say, impressive. In a recent interview on ESPN Thomas considers his role with the Ducks similar to the NBA’s James Harden of the Oklahoma City Thunder, a 6th man who comes off the bench to provide a spark, and more times then not that spark leads to an outright fire that the defense can’t put out. Thomas who you will not see on the field every snap has a role which would very accurately be defined as such a comparison, a spark in the offense who takes advantage of his opportunities, and boy does he. Oregon takes on Pac-12 rival Arizona St. who is also undefeated in the conference at 3-0 and 6-1 overall. Oregon has had their number as of recent but they may pose some challenges for the Ducks as they have proven to be solid and maybe somewhat underrated on both sides of the ball in the early season, if not for their one loss coming in a close game against Missouri. Will this be an early statement game in the Pac-12 where the Ducks prove are fore real? Or will this be that one trap game which cut short another perfect season for the team with the best uniforms in all of college football. I will tell you one thing when #6 is on the field, make sure you don’t blink because you might miss the “Black Momba” strike. 

 Enjoy some more highlights #3 Oregon vs Arizona St. 9:00 pm ESPN



Thursday, October 11, 2012

"Inspiration" Indy wins one for Chuck

"Don't think you're not here." Was the text message sent from interim head coach Bruce Arians to Coach Pagano before the Colts took the field against the Packers Sunday afternoon.Head coach Chuck Pagano who we know by now was diagnosed with a treatable form of Leukemia and will not be with the team and remain in the hospital for at least six weeks, even after there are still questions as to if he will be able to resume his head coaching duties this season. Emotions were high at Lucas Oil stadium with players and coaches of both teams wearing shirts reading “ChuckStrong” recognizing and supporting the cause of Indy’s ailing head coach. A new look Colts team at that, 1-2 before Sunday with uncertainty in the present for sure but a promising future with number one overall pick Andrew Luck as the new field general and the face of the franchise. But on this Sunday with the pretentious powerhouse Green Bay Packers in town what were the realistic expectations to have for this game? As a Colts fan since they had Edgerrin James at running back I was eager for a positive outcome but I’d be blowing smoke if I told you I had any insinuation of what was yet to come. No clue these group of men would rally and fight in honor of a man who was only three games into his first head coaching gig. With his presence felt throughout the stadium, it's maybe by coincidence or request to think he is sitting in a hospital bed which is only two miles away. But even in that passion filled stadium at halftime the score read Packers 21-3 with the game seemingly headed towards a blow out. Let’s rewind for a second though, who is this Chuck Pagano guy? I’ll give you some quick history, his coaching career started in 1984 as a graduate assistant at USC, with a unwavering passion for coaching it lead him to a few other stops in the college ranks even the former powerhouse Miami aka “The U” from1995-2000 where he coached special teams and the defensive backs, there he also recruited a young receiver by the name of Reggie Wayne. Pagano finally got his break in the NFL in 2001 coaching for the Browns, Raiders secondary and his last stop in Baltimore as the defensive coordinator before he received the head coaching call from the Colts. Pagano’s coaching journey is one that would be defined by the patience climbing the ladder of progression. A model of consistency and hard work is what comes up when Pagano’s name is brought up around the league. So I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise when I read In a column on by Peter King where he stated “All week, even though Pagano was supposed to be in his second week of an arduous chemotherapy regimen to attempt to blast the leukemia out of his bloodstream, his mind was with his team. Every day he'd watch the practice tape sent to his iPad, sending out suggestions to individual coaches”. A man fighting a battle with his health and lively hood that still has the passion to contribute to what he loves to do, coach football. And with one final message sent to his team before the game inn a power point e-mail his only request for his guys not to be worried about him but to focus on being .500 by the time 4:30 came games end. It took them a half to settle down but they sure did deliver on that message as they turned a 17 point halftime deficit into a 30-27 victory in a one of the most inspirational TEAM performances I’ve seen. Sack after sack of the reigning MVP, every catch by Reggie Wayne in traffic seeming to more grueling then the next, especially game winner where was able to stretch the ball out for the touchdown with defenders draped all over him. In his 12 year of his career, 10 playing with the great Peyton Manning, Wayne has a career day of 212 yards catching passes from a rookie quarterback? Nevertheless it was a stimulating performance inspired by the man who believed in a high school kid from New Orleans and recruited him to “The U”and the rest is now history...4th quater...The clock winding...the Packer get into field goal range for one last play.... With maybe a little help from the man upstairs the Packers line up for a game tying kick from the sure footed Mason Crosby ... a knot in the chest of all Colt faithfuls .….wide left!......the stadium erupts! ….a kneel down by Luck….the Colts win one for Chuck. What a game, what a win, and it's only right who received the game ball...

Determination can produce what seems like miracles. But maybe it's about the effort we put forth to be apart of something bigger then ourselves when we are rewarded. 

This post is not just about Chuck Pagano, its about anyone that you know who is going through a battle with cancer. For the strength they need to get through it, we as loved ones must continue to let them know they are not alone in this battle.Cancer may have started the fight, but through constant love, faith, payer and family we are more then equipped to punch back! Giving up will never be considered an option. Through every dark avenue, that light, that victory is right around the corner!

                                                     Dedicated to my brother Tracey Hudson

Thursday, October 4, 2012

NFC West Power Rankings

Coming into the 2012 season it was well known that the 49ers are top dogs in the NFC West. After 4 games into the year season, all viewers outside of the Seahawk, Cardinal and Ram Faithfull’s of course, have been front row and center to the surprise divisions in the entire NFL. The Cardinals 4-0? The Seahawks and Rams both at 2-2 with quality wins? It hard to tell if it's just early season success, help from the replacement officials or maybe this is now a division that is not a doormat to the 9ers. As of right now I would compare the NFC West as a whole to a Nikki Minaj hairstyle, you just don’t know what’s real it looks funky but  some how it ends up working out in its own kind of weird unique way, take the Seahawks uniforms for example.. although I am personally a fan. One thing we must take serious, is the fact that these teams have made it a point to improve their defenses. In a copy cat league and with a blueprint from San Fran all four teams rank top 15 in the league in total defense and although still early that is one way you continue to keep yourself in football games. Offensively the 9ers are the most well rounded but each team has their own identity whether it is on the ground with Steven Jackson, Marshawn Lynch, Frank Gore or in the air with Larry Fitzgerald. The NFC West features a Rookie qb, a former backup, and two former number one overall picks as the men under center and not one of them are deemed to be elite as of yet. We are far removed from the high powered St. Louis Rams of the early 00’s and the 9ers of the late 80’s early 90’s that won Super-Bowls with great offenses. Or even more recently unpredictable Cardinals and Seahawks teams that represented the NFC in the Super Bowl within the last 10 seasons. This is a new look division with head coaches that have focused on a more well rounded approaches. Will this be the year we see more then one team from the NFC West enter the playoffs? Will the 9ers who were a fumble lost away from going to the Super Bowl get their chance once again?  I believe it’s a general consensus that the 9ers are legit, but we’ll have to wait and see if that stands true for the rest of the division. One things for sure, I will be tuned in tonight for an important early season division showdown between the Rams and the Cardinals. This should be 5-0 start for the birds out in Arizona right?

Here are my Power Rankings for the NFC West:

San Francisco 49ers: Last Season (13-3) -2012 (3-1)

Key Losses: WR Joshua Morgan

Key Additions: WR Randy Moss, WR Mario Manningham, WR A.J. Jenkins, RB LaMichael James, RB Brandon Jacobs

A team with the best defense in the NFL as well as arguably the best balance overall. The 9ers are expected to win this division and are expected to return back to the playoffs for another run at the Super Bowl. We saw this team go through an early blip in the schedule after loosing to the Vikings who have seemed to do that to a few teams already to come back a week later to embarrass the Jets 34-0 on the road. Jim Harbaugh has changed the mentality of this 9ers team, he has given Alex Smith a new found confidence to lead and win games. We see one of the best ground attacks in the league with Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter who has emerged as an explosive backup. We’ve also seen a wrinkle of the wildcat with second year quarterback Colin Kaepernick proving to be another explosive weapon which opposing defenses will have to prepare for. To add they have future Hall Of Famer Randy Moss patiently waiting to make his impact in the red zone which was the one area as well as 3rd down conversion percentage where the offense seemed to stall last season. So I will chalk that Vikings loss to one they were caught sleeping, the 9ers are legit and this is their division to lose. And a scary thought it the fact that the more efficient that offense gets?? Watch Out.

2. Arizona Cardinals Last Season (8-8) 2012- (4-0)

Key Losses: CB Richard Marshall

Key Additions: WR Michael Floyd, CB William Gay

Kevin Kolb or John Skelton, the Cardinals were the last team to announce their starting quarterback coming into the season and we all sat back thought it’s the Cardinals who cares??!.. right?.. Well they had us all fooled, dating back to last season Arizona has won 8 strait at home and 11 out of their last 13 games. Those type of numbers don’t happen by accident. With the emergence of young players RB Ryan Williams 3rd year wide out Andre Roberts on offense, and on the defensive side CB Patrick Peterson and 3rd year linebacker Daryl Washington who leads the team in tackles, the Cardinals early success can be attributed to consistent play, mainly on defense as well as late game composure from Kolb. I mentioned the young guys but Safeties Adrain Wilson, Kerry Rhodes, DT Darnell Docket are still playing at a high level. Arizona has guys stepping up by committee on the other side of the ball, and lets not forget they still have a top three wide-out in the game in all-pro Larry Fitzgerald. Wins against the Patriots and Eagles two teams we mostly see as playoff contenders coming into the season, the Cardinals are a team you must bring you’re A game against. I did not rank them 1st in the division because they still have to go through the 9ers who won this division a year ago as well as barley escaping a near scare against the Dolphins last week which I believe brought them back down to earth. They’ve found a way to get it done thus far and I am curious to see how legit they are as the season continues.

3. St. Louis Rams Last Season (2-14) 2012- (2-2)

Key Losses: WR Brandon Lloyd

Key Additions: CB Cortland Finnegan, DT Michael Brockers, WR Brian Quick, CB Janoris Jenkins, RB Isaiah Pead, WR Chris Givens, CB Janoris Jenkins, Head Coach Jeff Fisher

Kurt Warner, Issac Bruce and Marshal Faulk aren’t walking out the tunnel anytime soon, this is a different looking Rams Squad. They now have the head coach from the opposing team of their one Super Bowl victory in recent history, who is already changing the identity of this 2 win squad fro a year ago. Well they have as many wins as a year ago so far so there goes one accomplishment in itself. Joking aside with the few additions they made to the defensive side of the ball, mainly CB’s Cortland Finnegan and rookie Janoris Jenkins this has become a scrappy unit that’s is ranked top 15 in total defense. LB James Laurinaitis has continued to come into his own as the leader of that defense now in his 4th year out of Ohio St as he leads the team in tackles. Offensively is where this team needs to pick it up, former number 1 overall pick Sam Bradford has played solid but has yet to live up to the hype of his draft stock. This could be a result of the lack of weapons he has around him so I don’t give him all the blame. 5’11 3rd year receiver Danny Amendola has emerged as the teams leading receiver and Sam’s go to target, other then Brandon Gibson there fails to be another wide out with over 10 catches on the year. Relying on the run game with all-pro running back Steven Jackson is a must but on the down side is his health remains to be an issue. We will see who if anyone steps up for this offense as this remains to be a team that will rely on their defense and special teams.

4. Seattle Seahawks Last Season (7-9) 2012 (2-2)

Key Losses : MLB David Hawthorne

Key Additions: QB Russell Wilson, QB Matt Flynn, DE Bruce Irvin

I rank the Seahawks last in the division for now due the fact of the controversial “Touchercption” against the Packers and last weeks loss to in division Rams. But on the positive side this Seattle team has one of the best overall defenses from top t bottom in early season play. We saw the 8 first half sack performance and explosive D-Line play from Chis Clemons and rookie Bruce Irvin against Aaron Rogers. We continue to see one of the best secondary groups in all of football with Safeties Cam Chanecllor, Earl Thomas ,Corners Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman. The problem is clearly not on the defensive side of the ball. The problem is they have a rookie quarterback who although shows a lot of promise has not passed for over 160 yards in a game yet. And in a passing league this is a problem which needs to be fixed in order for the Seahawks to take the next step. They seem to have the names to be more potent in that facet with names like Sidney Rice, Golden Tate, Braylon Edwards or even a Doug Baldwin who has not been fully healthy but came on strong in the 2nd half of the season last year as a rookie. This is another team who like the Rams must rely on their all-pro running back, and although Marshawn Lynch embraces his role to the fullest, defenses know what to expect as well. If they some how can find a way to put up points with that defense this is a team that will challenge for years to come in the NFC West, but as it stand now they don’t have the cohesion on offense to get it done, this is why they are currently in last place.