The Bills' signing of IK Enemkpali, and some team's eventual signing of Aldon Smith, go to show that ability always wins out. Plus, which QB stat needs to change pronto and why Vince Wilfork shouldn't quit his day job
1. I think I was surprised by the Bills’ signing of IK Enemkpali ... until I looked closer at their depth chart. Along the second string, they have next to nothing at outside linebacker. Rex Ryan drafted Enemkpali and saw the former Louisiana Tech star go to work hundreds of times and not punch out his quarterback. The head coach felt comfortable taking a flier there. Par for the course; in the NFL, talent is king.
2. Along a similar line, I would sign Aldon Smith. Huge risk, sure, but his talent is too immense to be discarded. Word in private circles is that Smith is not an entitled, out-of-control menace, but rather a guy with longstanding demons who has chosen very poor methods for trying to help himself. Unfortunately, those methods have put him, and others, at serious risk—and for that Smith deserves a substantial and (hopefully) life-changing punishment, not just from the NFL, but also the judicial system. Eventually the lessons can be learned (if Smith is lucky). And when that happens, Smith will still be a long-armed, violent-handed edge rusher with an explosive first step. That kind of commodity can redefine a defense. I’d sign Smith right now for multiple years under a very team-friendly contract and count on having him in 2016, not 2015.
3. I think I’ve never understood why we have courtroom renderings instead of, in the very at least, still photography allowed for a portion of every hearing. Courtroom renderings originate back to the Salem Witch Trials. The 1600s, in other words. The one of Tom Brady’s just set the all-time lowest bar.
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4. I think if you want to get a feel for how a team will look in 2015, wait until after Labor Day. Preseason games only skew the picture. I understand people scratching their football itch and watching the exhibition contests, but under no condition should judgments about a team—or even a player—be made from this. Teams have varying agendas going into these games. Even the almighty third preseason game—the “big dress rehearsal”—should be ignored. Far too often there’s no correlation between how a team looks at any point in the preseason and how they look come Week 1. So don’t say “I know it’s only the preseason,” and then follow that with a “but.” You had it right the first time—it’s only the preseason.
5. I think training camp reports also need to be taken with a grain of salt, depending on what camp they’re coming from. What fans don’t think about is that beat writers for one team don’t get the same training camp access as beat writers from another. At some training camps, writers are gathered in an area where the field is hard to see, coaches and players are hard to hear and the action is therefore nearly impossible to follow. And there are plenty of camps where writers simply seek out a spot in the shade, keep an eye on things from afar but actually spend the whole time making small talk with one another. They’re not really paying attention. In fact, this is the case at most training camps. Quality camp reports therefore lean heavily on what the head coach says in his daily press conference. And at that point, you cease to have a quality camp report because a head coach—as he should—will only put out the message he wants to put out.
6. I think scrambling yards need to be counted as passing yards. This has occurred to me more and more as I’ve read back through my 2014 film notes to write the team-by-team previews for this site. Most scrambles come on passing downs, out of a passing formation, against a pass defense and on a called pass play. The play just happens to end with the quarterback running. Counting scrambles as rushing yards is not unlike counting run-after-catch yards as rushing yards. And if a quarterback runs and gets tackled behind the line of scrimmage, it goes down as a sack. Sack yards get subtracted from passing yards. But if the quarterback runs and crosses the line of scrimmage, the yards get tacked onto the rushing total. It’s a backwards system, leaving stats that paint an inaccurate picture of a game. This directly contradicts the sole purpose of stats. Along the same vein, stop counting kneel downs as rushing attempts. A kneel down is the opposite of an attempt.
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7. I think Hard Knocks is an excellent show with some of the best editing you’ll ever see. The editing is so good, in fact, that viewers can’t tell how much of it there really is. Trust me, there’s a lot. You think all player-coach meetings last less than five minutes?
8. I think Vince Wilfork, of all the 6-0 and taller men I’ve come across, including the sweatiest of hairy-backed men at the YMCA, is the worst-looking rebounder I’ve seen. I understand a 325-pounder can’t be expected to play above the rim—or even anywhere near it—but at least stretch your arms out and go after the ball, don’t just let it fall into your gut. And what’s bizarre is that in this video, Wilfork appears to be a very smooth jump shooter and deft passer. Most likely, he’s spent his amateur basketball career running from three-point-line to three-point-line. Understandable given his build.
9. I think the Browns have the right idea by making unique practice jerseys. I’m not necessarily a fan of the orange-and-brown camo that they came up with, but hey, the more merchandise you can create, the more merchandise you have a chance to sell. That’s the game.
10. I think Raiders undrafted rookie running back Michael Dyer has a real chance to make an impact in 2015. My guess is he’ll make Oakland’s roster, but if he doesn’t, someone else should sign him. Dyer is a shifty 5-8, 218-pounder with the lateral burst to create his own space. I haven’t been at camp to see him this past week, but last week on the three days that I was there, he stood out repeatedly. I’ve thought about Dyer a lot since then and have felt bad for not working his name into my Raiders training camp report.
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