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Sunday, February 23, 2014

Manziel Preaches New Approach

By Brian DeLucia

It has been encouraging to see Johnny Manziel establish a professional approach at the NFL combine. However, the question many organizations will ask themselves is whether this is the maturation of becoming a professional or is he playing up to the process until he gets paid?

Over the next couple months, these organizations will have representatives interviewing people throughout his high school and hometown to understand the fabric of this Manziel’s upbringing and character throughout his formidable years. They also will be talking to former coaches and trainers to get an accurate picture on Manziel’s focus on how he acts around the training room, his daily habits studying the game, and how he interacts with teammates.

On the field, Manziel is one of the most complex evaluations for any scout and organization. Manziel brings an unquestionably strong level of competitiveness and confidence onto the field. Although he doesn’t have much of a physical presence and awkward build, Manziel has a way of showing he belongs on the field.

In terms of his style of play, it is going to take an organization from the scouting department down to the coaching staff to become all-in and committed to building around Johnny Manziel. Manziel is not Drew Brees when it comes to fitting into a disciplined offensive scheme. He is a little more in the Fran Tarkenton or Doug Flutie type of mold. The coaching staff will need the flexibility to build the offense around a strong run game, excellent offensive line, and big receivers who can fit for the ball rather than miscast Manziel in a passing game that requires accurate timing and ball placement.

Michael Sam – The Football Player

By Brian DeLucia

Michael Sam is comfortable within himself and displayed a very personable side during his press conference at the NFL Combine. He could not have handled his press conference any better and he should be an asset to any organization.

As for Michael Sam the football player – while he lacks ideal size and elite movement skills on the field, he has an opportunity to become an effective upfield player in the National Football League.

I believe Sam is a 4-3 rush defensive end. He does not have the instincts or movement skills to play in space at linebacker. While Sam does not possess elite upfield speed or close on the quarterback, he displays a good feel rushing the passer. Sam has a knack for getting under blockers and is not afraid to take the inside route to the quarterback. Based on his feel and effort as an upfield player, Sam has an opportunity to become an effective pass rusher in the National Football League.

Sam is not quite the level of longtime Philadelphia Eagle pass rusher Trent Cole, he would be most effective playing in a similar role and around similar talent that Cole experienced in his earlier years under the late Jim Johnson and respected defensive line coach Tommy Brasher in Philadelphia.

Rams Move Forward with Bradford

By Brian DeLucia

There is continuing debates throughout the National Football League about whether Sam Bradford is a bust or still has an opportunity to win with the St. Louis Rams.

I believe the Rams have very little choice in moving forward for another season with Bradford under center. Bradford’s contract plays a role in this decision, but the Rams do not have any other favorable options. I do believe the Rams should consider drafting a quarterback at some point in this upcoming draft if they are sold on one in the middle rounds. It is important to add some young talent into the long-term pipeline at quarterback in St. Louis, especially as insurance. I agree with the Rams deciding not to pull that trigger in the first round in 2014. There is not a clear cut franchise quarterback that you can pound the table and say this guy will have a better career than Bradford, let alone transform the organization as a franchise quarterback.

While Bradford has not inspired much confidence on the field that he will be a winner in St. Louis, he has not been a bust in the mold of other high first round picks over the past couple decades in the National Football League. Bradford has little support from his offensive line and has not exactly had targets in the passing game that consistently make plays. However, Bradford must prove durability in the upcoming 2014 season.

With the Rams committed to Bradford for another season, there is an opportunity to continue adding strong building blocks to this franchise. I like the direction they are trending on the defensive side of the football. They have a lot of young talent to continue building around and the addition of coordinator Gregg Williams, but Jedevon Clowney, who reminds Williams and Jeff Fisher of Jevon Kearse, intrigues the Rams despite the presence of Robert Quinn and Chris Long already coming off the perimeter.

On the offensive side of the ball, there is an opportunity to add a core player to give Bradford more opportunities to succeed. They have had a lot of issues for several years along the offensive line – especially on the edges. Jake Matthews is one of the surest bets to anchor an offensive line for the next several years. He has the maturity to become a leader in the locker room and is a fundamental sound player on the field. And in the passing game, while the Rams have added a lot of athletes at the wide receiver and tight end positions in recent years, they still lack a target on the outside that can create matchup problems throughout the field on a consistent basis. Sammy Watkins could be that piece to the equation alongside Tavon Austin and Jared Cook.