Jeremy Pruitt's new Bulldog defense is the big topic, as Georgia kicks-off spring football this week. It's a completely new staff on defense, so don't you know Pruitt, Rocker, Sherrer and Eckler are anxious to get out on the field and see what they've got.
Pruitt has got to find some answers in the secondary. The Bulldogs safety play last season was weak. Not that the cornerback play was outstanding either. Both J.J. Green and Tramel Terry have been moved over from offense to help save the day. Both need to deliver.
The 'Dogs have to find a monster at D-Tackle too. Garrison Smith is gone. Who steps up? Mayes? Taylor? Somebody needs to Hunker Down inside.
Over on offense, Coach Bobo has encouraged star running back Todd Gurley to come out, work, and help lead. Are you concerned about Gurley slacking off? No worries. Gurley will be fine, when the season rolls around. No need to get him hit this spring, but he does need to work.
The big concern on Georgia's offense is the interior O-Line. Boss Andrews is solid at center, but the 'Dogs need to replace both guards. Mark Beard slides down from tackle and appears poised to grab one guard spot. Brandon Koblano appears ready to step up. Or maybe Watts Dantzler takes over. Need to get these two spots solidified this spring.
Seriously. Why? Because this fall Bobo wants to pound the run game with Gurley and throw it from the pocket with Hutson Mason. Can't do either, if the inside of the O-Line is questionable.
It's time for our Falcons to make some serious personnel decisions. Free agency is upon us. The draft is not far away. And the Falcons need some impact players! Mr. Blank wants this team back in the playoffs this season. The pressure is on.
Obviously, this team is need of some "difference-makers." Impact guys to plug in, especially on the line of scrimmage. Also, need to find a tight-end and a free safety.
First look: the D-Line. Looks like the Falcons could get Clowney, if the Texans pass on him up top. So, if that happens, Dimitroff could move up to Rams-2, or Jaguars-3 to get Clowney. Thomas has former associates in both places. If they stay at #6, Barr and Mack would be alternatives. Both can rush the QB. D-Tackle is a huge need. Got to resign Babs, right? Jerry and Peters aren't impact guys. Babineaux deserves an extension. Give the man some money and then, go get another tackle in the draft and/or free agency.
Glad to hear that the Falcons would consider moving Baker over to right tackle, on the O-Line. Can't see how the Falcons could pass on the elite OT's, with that #6 selection. If Matthews is there, I'd take him. If he's gone and Taylor Lewan is on the board...move back a couple spots and take him. Grab a FA OG. I'd be feeling a lot better about this Falcons O-Line, with a couple additions.
Jarius Byrd getting plugged in at Free Safety would be nice. A big receiver, with a 4-5 round pick might be in order. Drafting a physical, run-blocking tight-end would be a big lift too. Maybe Arthur Lynch?
One thing is obvious. The Falcons have to hit on a few guys to get this car back on the road. Can't be missing this off-season, bro.
Pretty soon, we'll be hearing the sound of "Play Ball!" Spring training is underway for the Braves and this sets up for another very interesting season. Can we get back to the Postseason? And can our team finally win in the Postseason? The journey begins now.
Looks like the Nationals will be the competition, in the NL East. The Mets, Marlins and Phillies don't appear to be ready to win big this season. Guess that could change, but for now the Nationals look like the team to beat for Atlanta.
The Braves are busy investing in this young, talented core. Sure like to see Freeman & Teheran getting locked down for long-term. And Heyward got a multi-year extension. Those are 3 key players! Great to see them get taken care of by the organization.
Obviously, the Braves need both Uggla & BJ Upton to step back up, after the disaster last season. Pressure in on both of these dudes to bounce back with some kind of positive impact. Can't wait to see them and speak with them next week.
Gattis is under the spotlight too. Replacing McCann. The guess here says Evan will be solid, but we'll see. He can hit it. Looked strong framing pitches behind the plate last season too.
Looking for Alex Wood to have a breakout season, after getting some experience last season. Great stuff. Funky delivery. Smart. Competitive. Should be getting the ball more too, as the 2nd lefty out of the bullpen. O'Flaherty is gone to Oakland. Need Wood to step it up in 2014. Sure like his chances.
Biggest concern for me is this: Can the bullpen deliver another awesome season? Kimbrel will be lights out, but can Avilan, Walden & Carpenter be dominate? Stay tuned.
And join B&K all next week from Orlando and Braves Spring Training!
Super Bowl 48 is going to be special! And no, not because it's in New York City. What's special is seeing the NFL's best offense take on the top defense. It'll be the 5th time since 1970 and the defense leads 3-1. Wonder how it will turn out this time?
That one time the best offense beat the top defense was when the 49ers ko'd the Broncos, 55-10. Joe Montana threw a Super Bowl record 5 touchdown passes. Can Peyton do something like that?
Manning's Broncos offense has punted just once in the playoffs. Think about that one. Peyton carved up that Belicheck Patriots defensive scheme last weekend. His next TD toss will be his 60th of the season. He's got 5 big-play weapons surrounding him and a good O-Line. Seahawks better bring it!
The Seattle defense is allowing 14.4 points a game, which is tops in the NFL. The Seahawks 30 interceptions lead the league. Opponents 3rd down conversion rate: Seahawks #3 in the NFL at 35.2%. And they lead the NFL in forced turnovers. Sounds like Peyton and the Broncos offense better bring it!
Can't wait to see this. Offense versus defense. Peyton Manning and all those weapons facing Richard Sherman and the Legion of Boom. Sign me up. Looks like it could be a classic.
Now this was the change most Georgia fans were looking for! They wanted Grantham out. And they wanted some big splash hire. Boom! Grantham gets overpaid by Louisville. And boom! Richt lures in FSU's Jeremy Pruitt. Impressive!
Pruitt is one of CF's rising star defensive coaches. Disciple of Nick Saban. Runs an aggressive 3-4 scheme, which turns into a heavy dose of a 3-3-5 set against these spread offenses. His reputation is that he does an awesome job of teaching his players WHY they are playing a certain scheme. Sounds good to me.
Jeremy also has the reputation of being an oustanding recruiter. Can go get the difference-makers! That's huge too. And a big part of the job.
Coach Richt sold him quick on Tuesday. Rolled out the red carpet! Offered him a big raise. Got him to sign the dotted line. One report stated that Richt was surprised at Coach Pruitt's knowledge of the Bulldogs defensive depth chart.
Pruitt must have been impressed with the idea of developing Leonard Floyd and hopefully Josh Harvey-Clemons. The Bulldogs return almost everyone on defense. Seminoles lost a lot of players on defense.
Anyway, huge hire for Richt! Great get! Pruitt looks like a great fit. Can coach & recruit! Georgia fans must be thrilled! Welcome to the Bulldawg Nation, Coach Pruitt! Let's get this defense back to Hunkering Down!
Georgia Bulldog fans everywhere must be thrilled. The change most of these fans were looking for was Coach Grantham leaving. But like this? Shocker.
Todd was aware of the heavy criticism raining down on his defense. The contract extension was down to one year. Probably not going to be renewed, because of the performance level the last two seasons. And suddenly, Bobby Petrino comes calling with a huge offer. Reports of the deal being 5-years & $5M guaranteed are accurate.
Boom! Grantham is gone.
Coach Richt has a shot to make a real impact with this hire. Got to get the best candidate possible. Up top of the A-List? Kirby Smart. Go back to him and see if the timing is right to make the jump back home. Maybe it is. Some things have changed, since he turned down the job 4 years ago. Offer him the job. Blow him away with the offer. Roll out the red carpet! Kirby remains Candidate #1.
Who does Richt turn to, if Smart turns them down? Jeremy Pruitt looks like a great fit too. The first-year FSU defensive coordinator is a Saban disciple. Teaches an aggressive, attacking scheme. Right now, he's working on a deal paying him $540,000. Coach Pruitt would be Candidate #1A.
Heard Mizzu DC Dave Steckel wanted the job. Would Gene Chizik be a B-List Candidate? Michigan State's DC Pat Narduzzi won The Broyles Award, for the nation's top assistant this year, but I doubt he's a real candidate at Georgia. Randy Shannon has those Miami ties (Richt played there). Looks like Vandy DC Bob Shoop is off to Penn State with James Franklin, so he's not a candidate.
Keep an eye on Bulldogs ILB Coach Kirk Olivadotti. Great reputation. NFL background. Football lifer (Dad longtime coach). If Smart and Pruitt stay put, Olivadotti could get a shot.
But the "Big Splash" would be luring Kirby Smart back home. Start there.
The final push in recruiting begins on Thursday. Need a DC in place by the end of the weekend to make this work. Time to make it happen, for Coach Richt.
Coach Jimbo Fisher believed this Seminoles team was special and it certainly turned out that way. They loved each other. Cared about each other. Played for each other. Auburn provided the season's biggest challenge and the Seminoles refused to lose. Didn't crack under the early & late game adversity. Impressive.
The Tigers came to win too. The D-Line was knocking Jameis around. The secondary was covering up FSU's talented receivers. Coach Ellis Johnson put together a nice plan. Had the Tigers front moving around pre-snap and bringing heat a lot of the time. Still hard to believe that the 'Noles went 2-12 on 3rd down and won.
Jimbo should have attacked that Tiger scheme with the run game. Want to stand up and move around pre-snap? Well, here comes some downhill running plays. The FSU trio at running back only got it 19 times, but averaged 6.2 yards a carry.
Seminoles defense had a nice plan ready too. The plan was to take away the edge runs, where Marshall could hurt them. Or that speed sweep could hurt them. Tre Mason did some damage inside, but it didn't come easy.
In the end, it came down to Kelvin Benjamin making a play. Big play. He went up high and brought down Florida State a 3rd National Championship. Auburn didn't give away the game. FSU came back and took it.
The 4th quarter was a blast! Lavonte Whitfield took it to the house (what wasn't parkey booming those kick-offs out of the end zone?). Mason went boom, with a 37-yard TD gallop. Back came the Seminoles in the final seconds to win it. Amazing stuff.
Already looking forward to next year, when we will celebrate a 4-game playoff!
The Auburn Tigers have a shot to win 2 BCS Titles in 4 years. That's outstanding. Win or lose, Tiger fans should be proud on their team. What a great ride it's been this season. Worst to first is an amazing magic carpet ride. Malzahn and staff coached these guys up.
The challenge appears LARGE. The Seminoles are loaded, on both sides of the ball. And coached up too.
How do the Tigers pull off the upset? Force some turnovers would help, but the way the Tigers run the ball gives them a decent shot, right? Can the FSU defense slow it down? Look for FSU to play aggressively and man up out wide. Crowd the box on 1st down. Try and force some bad plays and get Nick Marshall dealing with a lot of 3rd & Long situations. Tigers aren't built to throw it 40 times from the pocket. Keep an eye on this...
I believe Auburn's D-Line and Front-7 have to play big. Win the battle up front. Pressure and hit Jameis Winston. Coach Garner is rolling a lot of guys in, up front...still Ford, Egua, Wright and Adams need to win individual battles. Because if Coach Ellis Johnson has to put an 8th man in the box to defend the run, Auburn is in serious trouble.
Don't believe that Mincy and Therezie can hold up. Chris Davis on Kelvin Benjamin should be a great match-up. Keep an eye on that one.
Tigers could use a couple big plays in their return game.
My best guess? FSU 48-31. Seminoles run the ball effectively and hit explosion plays in passing attack. FSU defense does enough to help a winning effort. SEC domination comes to an end. And so does the BCS 1-game formula.
This time next year, we'll be in the middle of a 4-game playoff!
Hope everyone gets what they really want this Christmas! Talked about this on the show this week and got some interesting calls. Did you hear some of this?
One dude wants the Braves to drop some big cash on an "Ace." Get a load of this: word on the street says the Cubs wanted Justin Upton or Jason Heyward in a deal for Jeff Samardzjia. Seriously. Can't be giving those guys up.
In fact, I'm all for investing in this group of young guys...Heyward, Kimbrel, Freeman and Simmons. Keep this young core together.
Another guy wants the Falcons to draft a big, tough & talented offensive tackle, in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft. Good news to report: Looks like an abundance of talented tackles will be available. Jake Matthews will probably be off the board, but guys like Cyrus Kouandjio, Morgan Moses, Cameron Erving, Antonio Richardson and Taylor Lewan will be there for the taking. Good year to be searching for a big, young tackle. And Matt Ryan will love this investment.
The Bulldogs are off to Jacksonville for the Taxslayer.Com Gator Bowl experience. The rematch with Nebraska. The advice here says hit the "First Coast" twice this season. Tee it up. Walk on the beach. Hit that favorite spot for dinner. It'll be fun. Plus, you get to see Todd Gurley play ball and check out Hutson Mason again.
What do I want for Christmas this year? Well, I want my 3 children to have a memorable Christmas. And Kelley too. We'll hit the Lake Lanier's "Magical Nights of Lights." Get the annual shot of Audrey, Braden & Rhett with Santa. Maybe hit our favorite Kani House. Relax. And watch some football.
Take care and make some special memories.
One of the best times of the year, isn't it? Thanksgiving is such a wonderful time. Families gather for an awesome meal and there is plenty of football to go around. Saturday should be outstanding. Rivalry games are lined up all day long.
Georgia Tech's lost 4 in a row to the 'Dogs. Jackets haven't beaten Georgia at home since '99. But could the Bulldogs be vulnerable, with Aaron Murray out? Might appear that way, but the guess here says Hutson Mason plays a strong game. Don't you just know that Todd Gurley's getting a full load in this game. Give it to him early and often!
Tech's best shot at an upset might be turning pass-rusher Jeremiah Attaochu loose on Hutson Mason. Gates and Theus have their hands full in this match-up. Might be a good reason to run Gurley early. Attaochu looks too quick for those Georgia tackles to handle in pass-pro.
Bet Coach Paul Johnson targets the Georgia safeties, in the option game. That group has been a step slow reacting all season. Harvey-Clemons, Moore and Matthews are in the spotlight against this Tech option scheme. Can they react and tackle? They'll be tested. Show up late and Robert Godhigh might be gone...
I've got Georgia winning 24-16. Also, in the 78th Iron Bowl, I've got Alabama slamming Auburn, 31-13. Look for the Tide defense to do a solid job against the Tiger rushing game. Wonder if Malzahn will be aggressive early and take some shots downfield against these Alabama DB's. Sammie Coates needs some big-play opportunities.
South Carolina looks to make it a record 5 in a row against Clemson. Tigers better step up on the line of scrimmage! Boyd and the gang better convert some 3rd downs too. Should be a good one.
Probably not going to be much fun, down in the Florida Swamp. Seminoles are poised to lay a big number on the Gators. Muschamp is trying to survive. Jimbo might feel for him, but FSU is trying to advance to the BCS title game. No mercy!
Have a great Thanksgiving everyone. We appreciate you all!
Grantham's Georgia defense is now halfway through the season. All those young pups have had time to get coached up. So, when do they elevate the performance level? Or is this how it's going to be the rest of the season?
Appears as though safety Josh Harvey-Clemons is improving with each game. Leonard Floyd also has the ability to grow into a difference-maker. Cornerback Shaq Wiggins has flashed some playmaking ability. Need all 3 of these guys to play ball the rest of the season, for this defense to improve.
The secondary seems to be a step or two slow reacting a lot. Not enough plays being made at safety and corner. Got to get that cleaned up. Might be past time to simplify the scheme.
With all of the injuries suffered on offense, it's unfair to ask those guys to pick it up. Got to be a little drop-off on that side of the ball, right? No Gurley or Marshall. No Mitchell, Scott-Wesley or Bennett. That hurts.
Coach Grantham is under fire right now. Lot of folks out there criticizing his defense. The 3rd down scheme is particularly bad. Can't force turnovers. The fight and effort are solid. But the results are disappoointing.
The SEC East is up for grabs. Missouri's schedule is killer. The Gators are struggling to score. The Gamecocks might run the table, so the 'Dogs need to step it up. Still time to earn a spot in Atlanta and play for a title.
Only way that happens is if the defense starts Hunkerin' Down. The time is now.
Hope to see you baseball fans down at Turner Field this week, as the NLDS gets underway. Braves & Dodgers! Sounds good to me. If you want to be the best, you've got to beat the best. So, bring on the Los Angeles Dodgers!
Dodgers just got some bad news on star outfielder Matt Kemp. He's out for the postseason, because of an ankle injury. And Andre Ethier's ankle is hurting too. They might have to go with Van Slyke in right and Puig in center. The Dodgers are quick to point out this trend: Dodgers were 42-8 without Kemp in line-up this season.
The Los Angeles line-up included only 2 guys that finished up the regular season with a strong month at the plate. Michael Young (acquired from Phillies) hit .314 & Juan Uribe hit .308 in September. Puig struggled in the final month, hitting .214.
One other trend to take note of: Dodgers went 12-15 in September, going 7-9 on the road. It's not like they hit the postseason on a big hot streak.
The Braves line-up has to find a way to score a few runs off Kershaw & Greinke, in Games #1 & #2. Clutch hits are huge in the postseason, obviously. Got to cash in, when there are opportunities.
Maybe it'll be Freeman at the plate, when the scoring opportunity comes. Freeman hit .443 (58-131) with runners in scoring position during the regular season. Gattis has come up huge too. Chris Johnson has delivered. Would love to see McCann deliver a big hit, in what could be his last opportunity in a Braves uniform. Talk about huge.
Medlen isn't scared to face Clayton Kershaw. And Minor won't be intimidated by Greinke. Bring it on, boys!
Can't wait to see this series. See you at Turner Field.
Should be a great atmosphere at Sanford Stadium Saturday. The LSU Bengal Tigers invade Athens along with ESPN GameDay. And why not? Two Top-10 teams will be knocking heads.
The big storyline is this: Both teams have experienced, balanced offenses...and both teams are trying to grow up on defense quickly. This could develop into a high-scoring battle.
Grantham's defense has rapidly improved, since Clemson. However, this looks like the toughest test they'll face this season. The LSU O-Line is big, tough and physical. The fullback is a monster. The Tigers WR duo is the best in CF. The running back (Hill) is a beast. And obviously, Mettenberger can sling it.
Time to Hunker Down!
What makes LSU offense so difficult to stop is the balance. They can line up and run it downhill and they can spread you out and make you defend the entire field. That's a tough combination for any defense.
Somehow Grantham has to figure out how to load up against the physical running game, without leaving themselves vulnerable against the deep shots. And get ready for Cam Cameron (LSU OC) to come after freshman CB Brendan Langley.
Can the 'Dogs slow down Hill? Can they get pressure on Mettenberger? Will they force a few turnovers? Tune in Saturday. And hope Murray and the offense has a great day.
Mr. Blank might need to get these guys in front of a shrink. This New Orleans Saints curse has gone too far. Seriously. This one really hurts. Now Brees is 12-3 against us.
If only had Steven Jackson had caught the ball. That would have been the game-winner. Simple as that. Got to catch that one. Koetter dialed that one up for him. Had Steven involved with Julio, on a combination route, working on Saints LB Ramon Humber. Play was there to be made. Catch the ball, man.
The Saints came up big on the 4th down play. It was the same play the Falcons ran earlier, on Julio's TD catch, to take a 17-13 lead. This time, the Saints covered it up. Tony moves left to form a "Trips" set, with Julio & Douglas. Roddy is isolated on the right side. No one was open. Plus, the Saints got pressure, with a 3-man rush (Baker got beat by Lofton).
William Moore also had an opportunity to come up big, but missed out on back-to-back plays in the 3rd quarter. Got beat on a big 3rd down play and then, dropped an interception. That was a big swing, where the Falcons could have gone up two scores, instead they went down 20-17.
Went back and watched Lamar Holmes in the 2nd half, when Matt's protection went bad. He got beat a few times, after a good start to the game. He also finished the game strong. Can't blame the loss on this guy.
Saturday's showdown with South Carolina appears to be the "Game of the Year" for Georgia. Got to have this one. Got to go get it. Can't start the season 0-2.
The Coaches Handbook has always stated that a team can't let a loss beat them twice. It also says that a team should improve the most, between the first and second game. Seriously.
Tip your hat to Clemson, if you're a Georgia man. The Tigers got the job done, in front of their home crowd. Real impressed with how they performed in the trenches. Of course, Boyd & Watkins were spectacular too.
So, how do the 'Dawgs improve? I've got a few thoughts.
Coach Friend needs to decide on who his Top 5 offensive linemen are this week and go with them on Saturday. Can't be asking Kolton Houston to play 3 different positions. And how is John Theus now a 2nd team guy? Best I can tell, Chris Burnette still hasn't returned to 100%, after his shoulder procedure. Shouldn't the right side be Houston and Theus? At least until Burnette is fully recovered?
Coach Wilson's D-Line concerns me to. Garrison Smith is legit inside, but who else is capable to pushing people around? We look undersized, with Josh Dawson & Sterling Bailey at D-End. Not sure the D-Line can hold up against a Gamecock Offense that will run straight at us. Can we play physical football?
Murray will miss playmaker Malcolm Mitchell the rest of this season, but Chris Conley and Justin Scott-Wesley are primed to play ball right now. That takes some of the sting away. Bennett is back on top of his game. Wooten can make plays. Rumph should be in the mix too.
Josh Harvey-Clemons returns for Carolina. That should help defend on passing downs. He can run, cover and hit. Got to turn him loose Saturday.
The Bulldog fans need to show up big at Sanford Stadium on Saturday too. Rock the place. Just like the Tiger fans did in Clemson. And just like the Gamecock fans did last season in Columbia. That would give this team a huge boost.
Spurrier's guys are going for a record 4th straight win over Georgia. Can't let that happen. Got to turn the season around on Saturday. Need a win in the worst way. Time to Hunker Down!
Time to tee it up and go get it. What's it? A big win to start the season, with the nation watching. Can't wait to see this match-up. Should be entertaining.
Clemson's up-tempo, spread offense is supposed to be operating at an even faster pace this season. Plus, OC Chad Morris has challenged his players to play more physical this season. That means he wants to be able to knock D-Lines off the ball some and convert some 3rd downs by running the ball between the tackles. Wow. Don't see many spread teams playing physical.
Obviously, Boyd is one of the top quarterbacks in CF. And he's got the most talented playmaker in Sammy Watkins to throw it to. Doesn't appear the 'Dogs have anyone that match up with him in coverage. So, that's a dangerous issue for Todd Grantham.
The most intriguing storyline of the game is how Grantham will play it. Will Grantham's plan be blitz/man? Or will he simplify the plan for his young, inexperienced secondary and play mostly zone?
The educated guess here says Coach Grantham brings the heat on Boyd and will roll the dice on covering Watkins. There is a passage out of the CF Coaches handbook that says, "the QB can't find open receivers, when he's laying on his back."
Got to figure Coach Bobo will test the Clemson run defense early. Feed the beast: Todd Gurley. Give Marshall some opportunities to break off some long runs. This Georgia duo at running back looks like one of the top 1-2 punches in CF. Pencil in 20-25 touches for Gurley.
If the 'Dogs get the run game cranked up, then that keeps Boyd, Watkins and the young 'Dogs defense on the sideline a lot. Sounds like a good plan to me.
There are a lot of unknowns in the opener, especially under the bright lights of a nationally televised showdown like this. However, one factor remains a constant...turnovers will get you beat. Got to hold on to the ball. Limit turnovers.
Falcons Live Action Against Bengals
So, the Falcons came out of that Bengals game in good shape, uh? Starters won the 1st quarter 3-0 and nobody got hurt! Not real concerned about how the rest of the game went. You shouldn’t be either!
Big Lamar Holmes looked like he’s capable of holding on to that right tackle spot. Big body and a big base. Good feet. Long arms. His technique was strong. Watched him block down in the run game a few times and he got some movement. Pass blocking was good. Holmes might make it.
Thought Peter Konz looked comfortable at center. He’s a big, strong dude. Got some push on a few run plays. Konz is a player. The center position is still in good hands.
Both of the rookie corners are talented, obviously. Trufant and Alford both have ball-skills. Can turn and run with receivers. Des got KO’d by the Bengals tight-end, so he got that “Welcome to the NFL” moment out of the way. Robert was aggressive against the run. And Alford has some big-play ability on punt returns, if he gets that shot.
Linebacker Paul Warrilow (Delaware) led the team in tackles, but the dude that stood out to me was LB Joplo Bartu (Texas State). Bartu is a tough, physical tackler. And the Falcons need some back-ups at LB that can play tough. Keep an eye on these two guys.
Need to see more out of the defensive end group. Osi still has some game left. Biermann’s versatility fits the Nolan system. Not sure about the rest of them. Massaquoi had a sack, but looked too aggressive with that outside speed rush. Maponga hit the QB once and looks like he can help with the pass rush. Goodman had trouble getting off blocks. Matthews looks like a run-down option to me.
Best I can tell, the Falcons will be better this season. Might not have a 13-3 record at seasons end, but they should be stronger come playoff time. Of course, that’s just a first impression. Stay tuned.
The Braves need to pick it up, into the All-Star break. That 6-game lead isn’t real comfortable, from my seat. Our team could have buried the Nationals by now.
The line-up has me concerned. In June, the Braves are 12th in runs scored (15 teams in N.L.). Justin Upton has gone from slugger to invisible. McCann has had a tough month, even though the grand slam saved us in Milwaukee. Gattis had to be put on the shelf. Scoring enough runs has been tough this month.
We should be encouraged with what we’ve seen out of Jason Heyward, B.J. Upton and Dan Uggla. Into Kansas City, Jason has hit .287 this month. B.J. has been resuscitated. Check out his June average: .246! And I watched Uggla shorten up his swing and put the ball in play, on the right side of the infield, which scored a run, on this road trip.
Simmons has his average up to .247, but appears to be still pulling off the ball, a lot of the time (trying to pull it). Wish he would quit that. Not that it’s easy…hitting major league pitching.
Freeman has just carried us lately. Freddie deserves a serious look as the All-Star game approaches. He’s one of the toughest outs in the league, with runners in scoring position. He also picks it at 1st base. Again, Freeman has been “The Man” lately.
Must admit, I’m just a little frustrated right now. I expected more from this line-up. Also, expected this team to break the Braves out of this postseason funk we’re in right now. Our Braves haven’t won a postseason series, since 2001. That’s 12 long years. And this team has to be better than it has been to get us to the top of the mountain.
Sure hope they have it in them.
What needs to happen? Need to get some of these bats going. Heyward needs a big summer. So does B.J. Younger brother Justin has got to put it back together. Need Gattis back doing damage. And can we get Andrelton Simmons to hit the ball to the right side of 2nd base some. Got to get this line-up back on track!
Our Braves are getting slammed a little right now. Critics are all over the strikeout thing. And after getting shutout, again in Phoenix, the critics are also ripping the Braves for those 6 shutout losses. Bunch of bums, right? Oh, please.
When Kincade checks the standings later this month (Memorial Day), he's going to see his Phillies floundering around the .500 mark & the Braves up front, battling the Nationals. Anyway, this start to the season for the Braves has been anything but easy.
No MLB team has played more road games. At the conclusion of the recent road trip, the Braves will have played 26 road games. Two of the trips have been of the 10-day variety. This team is road weary. The Upton's have forgotten where their new pads are. Seriously.
So, if you're down on the Braves. Relax. This marathon is just getting started. The first month and a half have been challenging, with so much time spent on the road. It can be exhausting out there on the road.
Bet we'll see this team get it going offensively heading into the summer. Jason Heyward will be back in this homestand and that'll be the first time all season the top guys will be all together in the batting order. McCann is back busting the ball. Heyward gets to restart his season. I envision a boost in production.
Hope to see you out at the ballpark. Stop by and see the Braves Pre-Game Show live. Hope to be talking about this team going on another hot streak.
Kiper, Jr. gave the Falcons & Thomas Dimitroff a draft grade of B. Can't say I disagree.
Moving up to grab a top CB ---before the run on cover guys went down--- was smart. Desmond Trufant looks like he's worth a late 3rd round pick. Talented and confident. Go ahead and plug the rookie CB in as a starter. Dimitroff watched the 2nd CB come off the board at 12 and decided it was a good time to pull the trigger on a deal to move up. Stay put at #30 and 5 CB's may be off the board.
In today's NFL, the base defense has 3 corners on the field. And that is played more than half the time. Quality teams have got to have 3-4 solid options at CB. Or they can't cover. So, the "Dimitroff Double-Down" was needed.
2nd round pick Robert Alford is a CB with ball skills, but doesn't appear to be as polished as Trufant. Need to get him coached up quick. He also looks like a great option as the Falcons return man. That would be a big boost. The Falcons return game has been disappointing.
4th round selection DE Malliciah Goodman (Clemson) will compete with Massaquoi & Matthews. Dude was strong against the run in college and only flashed his pass-rush skills a few times. Hope for a hit here.
Tight-end Levin Toilolo beat out Zach Ertz & Coby Fleener at Stanford a few years ago. But then, he suffered a knee injury. This target is 6'7" in cleats, with good hands. Good red zone weapon. fact of the matter is this: Falcons were desperate for another TE. Got to have 2, right?
Simply don't know much about Stansly Maponga (TCU DE) or Kemal Ishmael (Safety UCF). Need a pronunciation guide though.
Zeke Motta (Notre Dame safety) is a smart, tough guy. Impacts special teams cover units. Dimitroff passed on Rambo (Georgia) and Lester (Alabama) to take him.
By the way, the Falcons were one of 3 teams who did not draft a player out of the SEC. Find that strange. The SEC had 63 players selected (most ever). Almost 25% of the players drafted came from the SEC.
NFL Draft is one week and counting...and we all wonder what the Falcons draft plan will be? But you can bet Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff is looking to move on his targets! Dimitroff has made a move in every draft, here in Atlanta.
Peter King's reporting that Dimitroff is looking to move up from #30, in the 1st round. D. Orlando Ledbetter has pointed out the potential trade partners: Jaguars (2), Lions (5) and Rams (16 & 22). Those spots have former Falcons executives in place.
So, who is the Falcons target? Alabama CB Dee Milliner? He's being described as the missing piece on the Falcons defense. Got to move into the Top 5 to get this guy. That's pricey. But check the Julio Jones deal. It was worth it.
If corner is the target in the 1st round, it makes sense to move ahead of both New England and Denver (both need to add a quality CB). So, doing a deal with Les Snead & the Rams could be the move. The Rams have two 1st round picks (16 & 22). If the Falcons get one of those spots, then they can maybe take the other top-rated CB prospects Marcus Trufant or Xavier Rhodes.
But maybe the target is talented TE Tyler Eifert. Or OLB Jarvis Jones? Or maybe one of those beast offensive guards (Warmack or Cooper)?
Stay tuned. Sure love the way Dimitroff aggressively pursues his targets in the draft. None of this staying put and taking the best guy available.
Also, just released is the news that Deion Sanders will announce the Falcons 2nd round pick... is that a clue that the Falcons will take CB/PR Tyrann Mathieu? Prime Time is all in with Tyrann. The guess here: Don't look for that.
No time to waste on defense. Todd Grantham needs to find out who is ready to play, so he can start planning on how to defend a dangerous Clemson offense in the opener. That process started to play out this spring.
Up front, there is a new coach and there will be 2 new starters. Garrison Smith is the only returning starter, but Ray Drew and Sterling Bailey came on strong this spring, at D-End. Drew was at times unblockable. Mike Thornton is in the mix inside, at the nose.
At linebacker, Amarlo Herrera and Jordan Jenkins return. They both played a lot of good football last season. Now they need to be leaders on this young defense. Jenkins is expected to replace Jarvis Jones and be a playmaker. The new faces coming on strong are ILB Ramik Wilson and OLB James DeLoach. Wilson moves inside this season. DeLoach is a run stuffer.
The secondary will have 3 new starters, only corner Damian Swann returns. Sheldon Dawson made some plays at CB this spring and heads to summer camp as a favorite to win that job. Devin Bowman is after some playing time too. Or maybe one of these freshmen CB's will step up.
At safety, the 'Dogs lost two quality players, in Rambo & Willliams. Two young players are busy impressing this spring: Josh Harvery-Clemons & Tray Matthews. J-H-C is a hybrid SS/OLB and he could be in for a busy season. Matthews is a early enrollee freshman, who is locking down the top job at free safety.
Worried about a freshman free safety? Tray is advanced. Way ahead of most freshmen, with his understanding of concepts. He's shown off some open field tackling ability this spring.
Over on offense, Coach Bobo's group is deep with experience. The O-Line is back. "Gurshall" returns. Aaron Murray runs the show for the 4th season. There is a lot to feel good about on this side of the ball.
Chris Conley has had a good spring at WR and looks to be the 2nd weapon (Malcolm Mitchell is go-to guy). Freshman J.J. Green has shown off his playmaking ability. TE Jay Rome has had a good spring too.
Clemson stares Georgia in the face this summer. Huge opener. Awesome offense...Grantham's got to get this defense ready to go.
When McCann gets back a couple weeks into the season, this Braves line-up will be deep with quality. Think about it for a moment...Chris Johnson & Juan Francisco will be hitting 8th. So, 2-7 is going to be a tough road for opposing pitchers.
Andrelton Simmons is up top and looks ready to have a breakout season. Seriously. This dude is on the fast track to scoring 100 runs. Heyward hits 2nd and we're talking 30-30, right? Can't wait to see Jason Heyward run the bases. It's special. And the ball jumps off his bat. We are strong up top.
The middle of the line-up looks dangerous. Upton-Freeman-Upton, at 3-4-5. Justin's swing is in a good place. Freeman is primed for a 100 RBI season, in the clean-up spot. B.J. looks like a 40 double dude. Let it rip.
McCann and Uggla follow those guys. Brian's swing looks good this spring. Watched him drill some balls opposite field in BP, when last year he couldn't extend without pain. "Mac" is playing for a contract, so he's got an edge to him. Dan is determined to bounce back too.
The Braves are going to score some more runs. It should be fun this season. More athletic. Faster. More pop. Let's play ball.
And I hope you're not freaking out over the starting pitching! Medlen and Minor will be strong. Teheran is a new man. Hudson and Maholm will be dependable. By the way, the Braves rotation had the NL's best ERA this spring, entering Minor's start today.
See you at the ballpark next week. Get there early, for those BP homeruns!
It's almost time to get the show on the road. The Braves are winding down spring training and about to head north for Atlanta. They appear to be ready to roll.
Not many roster decisions to make. Who is the back-up shortstop (until Janish is ready)? Ramiro Pena is a nice option. Who is the 5th outfielder? Schafer looks like the guy (he's out of options). Who grabs the final spot in the bullpen? Varvaro or Gearrin. The back-up catcher is probably Evan Gattis, right? Dude is a rock star and has earned a spot on that 25-man roster, until McCann is ready.
Can't wait to see what kind of damage this new line-up can do. More speed. More athletic. More right-handed pop. And when Brian McCann gets back in there, it's going to be a deep line-up. Uggla is probably hitting 7th. Francisco & Johnson are probably hitting 8th. This should be fun. Bet Simmons and Heyward both score 100 runs.
Sounds like Tim Hudson will get the opening day assignment. It'll be the 3rd time for Hudson, with the Braves. Yes, it's an honor on most teams. One of the special days of any baseball season. Medlen deserves the honor too. Little surprised that he won't get the ball. But it's not a big deal, as far as how the season goes. Glad to have both these right-handers in the rotation.
Julio Teheran looks ready to win a lot of games, as the 5th starter in this rotation. Dude looks like a different guy this year. All grown up. That new 2-seam fastball is now a weapon against left-handers. Breaking balls look solid. Change up is good. Really impressed with Teheran. He looks like a weapon.
After spending two weeks with the Braves at spring training, I'm encouraged. Upton's look like a good fit. Lot of the guys are swinging the bat. Pitching looks solid. Let's get behind this team!
Thanks for helping make the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame induction so special. The 680 The Fan team stepped up big, which I appreciated very much. Not sure how the suits got some of those pictures that made it up on 680thefan.com, but that was cool.
The event was fun. Kincade did a nice job at the induction ceremony, although he did keep me to that 5:00 limit on the speech. Barely had time to talk about the big impact Coach Nick Hyder & Herschel Walker had in my career. Seriously. Coach Hyder was the first coach to embrace me.
Proud to have Coach Mike Cavan and Coach Butch Brooks sitting at our table! Cavan was the big brother I never had and he passed along some great advice to me back at Georgia. Brooks was everything I thought a coach could be in high school. Tough. Big heart. Competitive. Cared.
Coach Dooley hosted a UGA table and it was great to see Barbara there, along with Coach Greer and Coach Whittemore. I thanked Vince for being straight with me. I could trust him. He was tough on us. I respect that. Steve and Charlie were special too. Both were coaches that cared.
Had some former teammates there. Butler & Buckler showed up. That's special. Got to mention Lindsay and Lastinger.
I just know this: I believed that I could help my team win. I trusted that in high school and college that I would get a good fastball to hit. And that the ball needed to go LIndsay Scott's way in big situations. I treasured the competition and loved to win.
It's an honor to now be in there with Cobb, Aaron and Tarkenton. Just wish my Father could have lived to see it.