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Major League Baseball is promoting an effort to identify the best four players in each team’s history with their "Franchise Four." We selected our choices for Mt. Rushmores a few years ago. Here are updated versions for all 30 teams. Who are the four baseball players that have risen above all others for each organization? The question sounds simple, right? Not so fast. Let the arguments begin.

 

New York Mets Mt. Rushmore
A franchise seemingly known for tough times as much as good times has 23 winning seasons in its 53-year history. Of the seven times the Mets reached the postseason, two of those experiences were simply amazing. The 1969 season, in which the Mets won 100 games en route to a World Series title, came after eight seasons of futility. Prior to 1969, the Mets escaped the cellar in the 10-team National League just twice, with a high-water mark of 73 wins. Most fans remember the unbelievable fashion in which the Mets overcame desperate odds to win the 1986 World Series. A simple Mookie Wilson ground ball to first became one of the most memorable plays in baseball history. Tom Seaver is the only clear choice for the Mets’ Mt. Rushmore. The arguments — which offer as tough decisions as any team — may begin right….now.

 

Tom Seaver
Tom Terrific was that and more for 11-plus seasons as a Met. During his first tenure, Seaver was named Rookie of the Year, won three Cy Young awards and finished second one year. He won three ERA titles, two wins titles and five strikeout titles. His 198 wins and 2.57 ERA are easily the best in Mets history.

 

Dwight Gooden
Doc is second to Seaver is most every significant pitching category for the Mets, buoyed by his magical 1985 season in which he posted a 24-4 record, a 1.53 ERA and 268 strikeouts. That was his lone Cy Young award, but he finished in the top five three other times. He finished with 157 wins, 23 shutouts and a 3.10 ERA with the Mets.

 

David Wright 
Currently the face of the franchise, Wright is first all-time in hits, runs, total bases, doubles, RBIs, extra-base hits and second in average. The third baseman has been a model professional, through good times and bad in New York.

 

Davey Johnson
New York finished last or next-to-last 15 times in the franchise’s first 22 seasons. Then manager Davey Johnson arrived and the team finished either first or second in each of his seven years at the helm. That is the only seven-year stretch of winning seasons in team history. An extremely close call with Darryl Strawberry and Mike Piazza, but years down the road — if not now — fans will be more proud to call Johnson their own.

 

Close Calls
The franchise leader in home runs and RBIs, Darryl Strawberry was Rookie of the Year and finished second and third in MVP voting during his eight-season tenure in Flushing. Tough to leave him off.

 

One of the best catchers of all-time, Mike Piazza spent seven-plus seasons in New York and hit .296 with 220 home runs in 972 games. He hit one of the most dramatic home runs in Shea Stadium history as baseball returned after the 9/11 attacks in 2001.

 

The franchise leader in hits and games played is original Met Ed Kranepool, who played in 1962 at age 17. He became the everyday first baseman in 1965 at age 20 and made the All-Star team. The Bronx native played all of his 18 seasons for the Mets, getting a pinch-hit double off Bob Forsch in his final at-bat in 1979.

 

Gil Hodges was the manager who took the Amazin’ Mets to the promised land in 1969.

 

The architect of the great teams of the 1980s, Frank Cashen, deserves credit for making the Mets relevant again after several lackluster seasons.

 

John Franco is the all-time leader with 276 saves.

 

Follow Charlie Miller on Twitter @AthlonCharlie or email him Charlie.Miller@AthlonSports.com

 

Other teams' Mt. Rushmores:

American LeagueNational League
Baltimore OriolesArizona Diamondbacks
Boston Red SoxAtlanta Braves
Chicago White SoxChicago Cubs
Cleveland IndiansCincinnati Reds
Detroit TigersColorado Rockies
Houston AstrosMiami Marlins
Kansas City RoyalsLos Angeles Dodgers
Los Angeles AngelsMilwaukee Brewers
Minnesota TwinsNew York Mets
New York YankeesPhiladelphia Phillies
Oakland A'sPittsburgh Pirates
Seattle MarinersSan Diego Padres
Tampa Bay RaysSan Francisco Giants
Texas RangersSt. Louis Cardinals
Toronto Blue JaysWashington Nationals

 

Teaser:
<p> Tom Seaver is the only clear choice for the Mets’ Mt. Rushmore. The arguments — which offer the toughest decisions of any team yet — may begin right….now.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, July 14, 2015 - 18:00
Path: /mlb/philadelphia-phillies-mt-rushmore-franchise-four
Body:

Major League Baseball is promoting an effort to identify the best four players in each team’s history with their "Franchise Four." We selected our choices for Mt. Rushmores a few years ago. Here are updated versions for all 30 teams. Who are the four baseball players that have risen above all others for each organization? The question sounds simple, right? Not so fast. Let the arguments begin.

 

Philadelphia Phillies Mt. Rushmore

For a franchise that’s been playing baseball in Philadelphia since 1883, it’s astounding that the organization can boast of only two World Series titles (1980, 2008). The Phillies have won 100 games in a season just twice, but lost that many on 14 occasions. I’m convinced there are two non-negotiable members in this honored quartet: Steve Carlton and Mike Schmidt. Beyond that, let’s roll with the discussion.

 

Mike Schmidt
The 12-time All-Star, two-time MVP, 10-time Gold Glove winner, eight-time home run leader and Hall of Fame third baseman has a .908 OPS during a non-offensive era. He’s suited up for the Phils more than anyone else — 610 times more than anyone. Needless to say — or maybe not — he leads the franchise in home runs, RBIs, hits, runs, walks and strikeouts. Of the 35 players with more than 1,500 runs and RBIs, Schmidt is one of only 17 who have done it with one team.

 

Steve Carlton
Lefty’s tops on the all-time list with 241 wins and 3,031 strikeouts. He made 499 starts for the Phillies, 39 of them shutouts on his way to four Cy Young awards. From 1972-83, the workhorse averaged 19 wins, 274 innings and 230 strikeouts.

 

Pete Alexander
Grover Cleveland (Pete) Alexander has 190 wins with the Phils and owns the best winning percentage (.676). Perhaps the first ever steal in the Rule 5 Draft as the Phillies drafted him out of the Syracuse organization in 1910. He won 190 games in seven seasons before being dealt to the Cubs for Pickles Dillhoefer, Mike Prendergast and $55,000.

 

Jimmy Rollins
Rollins is second in games and ranks in the top three in total bases, hits, runs, doubles and stolen bases. The shortstop anchored the five straight division titles from 2007-11.

 

Close Calls
Robin Roberts, a Hall of Famer who spent the first 14 of his 19 seasons toiling for the Phillies, is second to Carlton with 234 wins. From 1949-56, Roberts was 172-111, while the rest of the team was 466-483. 


Chuck Klein ranks in the top 5 in many categories including home runs, runs, RBIs and total bases. He spent parts of 15 seasons with the Phillies and had 1,705 hits, batted .326 and had more than 950 runs and RBIs.

 

Richie Ashburn, a four-time All-Star with the Phillies, had 2,217 hits — 17 behind Schmidt — and batted .311 in 12 seasons.

 

The mysterious Ed Delahanty, who had four brothers in the major leagues, collected 2,214 hits for the Phillies, but 1,848 of them were in the 1800s. That’s a long time ago for fans to really embrace someone.

 

Other teams' Mt. Rushmores:

American LeagueNational League
Baltimore OriolesArizona Diamondbacks
Boston Red SoxAtlanta Braves
Chicago White SoxChicago Cubs
Cleveland IndiansCincinnati Reds
Detroit TigersColorado Rockies
Houston AstrosMiami Marlins
Kansas City RoyalsLos Angeles Dodgers
Los Angeles AngelsMilwaukee Brewers
Minnesota TwinsNew York Mets
New York YankeesPhiladelphia Phillies
Oakland A'sPittsburgh Pirates
Seattle MarinersSan Diego Padres
Tampa Bay RaysSan Francisco Giants
Texas RangersSt. Louis Cardinals
Toronto Blue JaysWashington Nationals

 

Teaser:
<p> The question posed recently whether Derek Jeter should be considered as part of the Yankees’ Mt. Rushmore piqued my interest. Not really the Jeter-Yankees part, but the idea that teams should have their own Mt. Rushmores. Who are the four individuals that have risen above all others for each organization? The question sounds simple. Even two guys sitting in a bar can figure that out, right? Not so fast. Let the arguments begin.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, July 14, 2015 - 18:00
Path: /mlb/pittsburgh-pirates-mt-rushmore-franchise-four
Body:

Major League Baseball is promoting an effort to identify the best four players in each team’s history with their "Franchise Four." We selected our choices for Mt. Rushmores a few years ago. Here are updated versions for all 30 teams. Who are the four baseball players that have risen above all others for each organization? The question sounds simple, right? Not so fast. Let the arguments begin.

 

Pittsburgh Pirates Mt. Rushmore
The club's recent drought of 20 consecutive losing seasons seems like distant history now that the club has made a couple of postseason appearances the past two years. But overall, Pittsburgh's success has been spotty. The team made the playoffs six times in the 1970s, which was one more time than all of their previous history. I thought the Pirates’ group was fairly straightforward, but there’s certainly room for argument. It’s clear there isn’t a strong pitching history in Pittsburgh.

 

Roberto Clemente
The greatest Pirate on and off the field. Clemente doubled off Jon Matlack of the Mets for his 3,000th hit in what would be the final regular season plate appearance of his career. In addition to his MVP in 1966 and his three batting titles, he won 10 consecutive Gold Gloves and was World Series MVP in 1971.

 

Honus Wagner
The Hall of Fame shortstop was just 33 hits shy of 3,000 for the Pirates in 2,433 games. Wagner was the first baseball hero in the city of Pittsburgh starring for the Bucs from 1900 -17.

 

Paul Waner
From 1926-40, Big Poison forged a Hall of Fame career in Pittsburgh with a .340 batting average for the Pirates. He scored 1,493 runs and drove in 1,177 while with the team and amassed 2,868 of his 3,152 career hits.

 

Willie Stargell
Pops was the inspirational leader of the “We are Family” group that won the 1979 World Series, as well as the leader on the field, batting .415 with five home runs in the 10 postseason games. He also shared the NL MVP award that season with Keith Hernandez and was instrumental in the 1971 championship as well. From 1971-73 Stargell was in the top three in MVP voting and averaged .296-42-119.

 

Close Calls
Max Carey played in Pittsburgh for 17 seasons during the Dead Ball Era and had more than 2,400 hits for the Pirates with 688 stolen bases, leading the NL 10 times.

 

A well-timed home run in 1960 made Bill Mazeroski a legend as did his steady work around the bag at second. The argument over whether he truly deserves to be in the Hall of Fame will be reserved for another day.

 

For such an historic franchise, the Pirates are short on Mt. Rushmore-worthy pitchers. Wilbur Cooper, winner of 202 games with the team, is the closest pitcher — but not a serious threat to the honorees.

 

Hall of Fame shortstop Arky Vaughan played just 10 years with the Pirates, but would be a strong candidate to have his likeness carved into the mountain for many franchises. For Pittsburgh, he’s merely the second-best shortstop.

 

From 1946-52, his first seven seasons in the majors, Ralph Kiner led the NL in home runs each year (sharing the title on three occasions), averaging 42 long balls a season.

 

When Pie Traynor was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1948, All Simmons, Charlie Gehringer and Jimmie Foxx were among those not elected at that time.

 

Few current Pittsburgh fans know much about Carey, Traynor, Cooper, Vaughan and even Kiner. But all remember Dave Parker. The Cobra spent just 11 years in Pittsburgh but won the NL MVP in 1978 after finishing third in 1975 and ’77.


Center fielder Andrew McCutchen is now the face of the franchise. The perennial MVP candidate should go down in history as one of the all-time greats in the Steel City.

 

Follow Charlie Miller on Twitter @AthlonCharlie or email him Charlie.Miller@AthlonSports.com

 

Other teams' Mt. Rushmores:

American LeagueNational League
Baltimore OriolesArizona Diamondbacks
Boston Red SoxAtlanta Braves
Chicago White SoxChicago Cubs
Cleveland IndiansCincinnati Reds
Detroit TigersColorado Rockies
Houston AstrosMiami Marlins
Kansas City RoyalsLos Angeles Dodgers
Los Angeles AngelsMilwaukee Brewers
Minnesota TwinsNew York Mets
New York YankeesPhiladelphia Phillies
Oakland A'sPittsburgh Pirates
Seattle MarinersSan Diego Padres
Tampa Bay RaysSan Francisco Giants
Texas RangersSt. Louis Cardinals
Toronto Blue JaysWashington Nationals

 

Teaser:
<p> The question posed recently whether Derek Jeter should be considered as part of the Yankees’ Mt. Rushmore piqued my interest. Not really the Jeter-Yankees part, but the idea that teams should have their own Mt. Rushmores. Who are the four individuals that have risen above all others for each organization? The question sounds simple. Even two guys sitting in a bar can figure that out, right? Not so fast. Let the arguments begin.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, July 14, 2015 - 18:00
Path: /mlb/san-diego-padres-mt-rushmore-franchise-four
Body:

Major League Baseball is promoting an effort to identify the best four players in each team’s history with their "Franchise Four." We selected our choices for Mt. Rushmores a few years ago. Here are updated versions for all 30 teams. Who are the four baseball players that have risen above all others for each organization? The question sounds simple, right? Not so fast. Let the arguments begin.

San Diego Padres Mt. Rushmore
In the 46-year history of the San Diego Padres, the team has finished in the upper half of its division just 11 times, so winning is not necessarily synonymous with the Padres. It took seven years for the 1969 expansion team to win as many as 65 games. In its 10th season (1978) the Padres broke through the .500 barrier. But San Diego has been an easy team to root for throughout its history and has typically been loyal to leaders. San Diego is one of only two teams with just two managers since the beginning of the 1995 season. (Atlanta is the other.) There could never be a San Diego Mt. Rushmore without No. 19, Tony Gwynn, or Trevor Hoffman with his 552 saves for the franchise.

 

Tony Gwynn
Gwynn is no doubt known as Mr. Padre in San Diego. Perhaps, the only player so clearly honored for any franchise. One of only 17 players who spent an entire 20-year career with one team, Gwynn ranks 16th in major league history with a .338 lifetime average. He owns the nine highest season batting averages in team history.

 

Trevor Hoffman
The future Hall of Fame closer has the highest strikeout per nine innings ratio in team history and the lowest WHIP. Teams can win a lot of games when pitchers are not allowing runners on base and striking batters out regularly. Hoffman appeared in 902 games in San Diego, 527 more than any other pitcher.

 

Dave Winfield
The tall, talented outfielder is one of three players with more than 1,000 games with the club, joining Gwynn and Garry Templeton. He is second in runs and total bases and third in hits, one behind Templeton. Winfield, who also played more than 1,000 games for the Yankees, was the first player to be enshrined in Cooperstown as a Padre.

 

Randy Jones
The lefthander was the epitome of craftiness. Barely throwing hard enough to break a window, Jones was the first major award winner in San Diego, winning the Cy Young award in 1976. Jones pitched for some bad teams but is the Padres’ only two-time 20-game winner.

 

Close Calls
The only truly close call was franchise home run leader Nate Colbert, who once hit five home runs in a doubleheader.

 

Shortstop Garry Templeton ranks among the top three in most offensive categories.

 

Eric Show is the only pitcher in team history with 100 wins.

 

Follow Charlie Miller on Twitter @AthlonCharlie or email him Charlie.Miller@AthlonSports.com

Other teams' Mt. Rushmores:

American LeagueNational League
Baltimore OriolesArizona Diamondbacks
Boston Red SoxAtlanta Braves
Chicago White SoxChicago Cubs
Cleveland IndiansCincinnati Reds
Detroit TigersColorado Rockies
Houston AstrosMiami Marlins
Kansas City RoyalsLos Angeles Dodgers
Los Angeles AngelsMilwaukee Brewers
Minnesota TwinsNew York Mets
New York YankeesPhiladelphia Phillies
Oakland A'sPittsburgh Pirates
Seattle MarinersSan Diego Padres
Tampa Bay RaysSan Francisco Giants
Texas RangersSt. Louis Cardinals
Toronto Blue JaysWashington Nationals

 

Teaser:
<p> The question posed recently whether Derek Jeter should be considered as part of the Yankees’ Mt. Rushmore piqued my interest. Not really the Jeter-Yankees part, but the idea that teams should have their own Mt. Rushmores. Who are the four individuals that have risen above all others for each organization? The question sounds simple. Even two guys sitting in a bar can figure that out, right? Not so fast. Let the arguments begin.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, July 14, 2015 - 18:00
Path: /mlb/san-francisco-giants-mt-rushmore-franchise-four
Body:

Major League Baseball is promoting an effort to identify the best four players in each team’s history with their "Franchise Four." We selected our choices for Mt. Rushmores a few years ago. Here are updated versions for all 30 teams. Who are the four baseball players that have risen above all others for each organization? The question sounds simple, right? Not so fast. Let the arguments begin.

San Francisco Giants Mt. Rushmore
This organization began playing in 1883 as the New York Gothams before becoming known as the Giants in 1885. The Giants broke the hearts of many New York fans when the team moved to San Francisco in 1958. The Giants won five World Series while in New York. Attendance has always been strong for the Giants. They led the NL in attendance for most seasons prior to World War II. Upon moving to the Bay Area, they ranked in the top four in the NL in attendance the first eight seasons by the Pacific. Since 2000, the Giants have enjoyed crowds ranking among the top five in the league every season but two. There are few franchises with more difficult decisions for Mt. Rushmore. A franchise rich in tradition and success will certainly claim many worthy candidates. Tough calls all the way around here. Arguments will ensue.

 

Willie Mays
Perhaps the only player with no arguments against him would be the Say Hey Kid. Triples, stolen bases, RBIs and walks would be the only significant offensive categories in which you won’t find his name atop the list for the all-time franchise leaders. (And he’s second or third on those lists.) In fact, the Hall of Famer is widely considered among the best to ever play the game for any team at any position. He hit 646 home runs for the Giants and totaled 3,187 hits and scored 2,011 times. His career spanned both New York and San Francisco, making him a fan favorite in both cities.

 

Mel Ott
The first-ballot Hall of Famer reached base more as a Giant and drove in more runs than Mays. Only Mays has more total bases and hits. Ott made his debut with the Giants at age 17 in 1926, but didn’t become a regular until 1928. From that season through 1945, his last season as a full-time player, he averaged 28 home runs, 102 RBIs and 102 runs. Not a bad 18-year run. He walked 100 times in 10 of those seasons and had a .400 or better OBP 14 times. His OPS topped 1.000 seven times. He won six home run titles and finished in the top 11 in MVP voting eight times. As a 20-year-old in 1929, he posted career highs in home runs (42), RBIs (151) and OPS (1.084), and none of those led the National League.

 

Christy Mathewson
One of the first five players inducted into the Hall of Fame, Mathewson won 372 games with the Giants. From 1901-14 he averaged 26 wins a season. In those days it wasn’t unusual for an ace to make occasional relief appearances. Big Six, as he was called, did that a handful of times each year, notching what would now be known as a couple of saves each year to go with his 26 wins. He led the NL in wins four times, ERA five times and strikeouts five times. Mathewson is the only hurler to win 30 games four times since 1900. The New York ace perhaps did his best work in the World Series. He tossed three complete game shutouts in the 1905 World Series against the Philadelphia A’s. Over those 27 innings, he gave up 13 hits and walked one batter. He made 11 starts in the Series over his career with an ERA of 0.97.

 

Barry Bonds
Okay, let’s get the controversy out of the way up front. Did Barry Bonds use steroids or not? Most everyone believes it, but it has yet to be proven. And did MLB have a rule in place restricting or banning their use when Bonds played? No. What about HGH or other PEDs? But the numbers are what the numbers are. Bonds owns the six best on-base seasons in team history and the six best slugging seasons. His slugging percentage as a Giant is 100 points higher than Mays’. Bonds won five MVPs with the Giants (one of which was five years before his head expanded). He batted .312 with 586 home runs and 263 stolen bases in San Francisco. But the strongest argument for Bonds stems from the excitement he created at the ballpark. Just once in franchise history had the Giants drawn 2 million fans until Mr. Bonds showed up in 1993. That season, the Giants welcomed 2.6 million through the gates. And from 2000-04, the height of the Barry Bonds Era, the franchise enjoyed its five largest attendance seasons. And that doesn't count the many kayakers anxiously awaiting Bonds' home run balls in McCovey Cove.


Close Calls
With 469 home runs for the Giants, Willie McCovey ranks fourth in hits, homers, RBIs and total bases. He won the Rookie of the Year award in 1959 and an MVP 10 years later.

 

In one of the most spectacular feats in All-Star Game history, Carl Hubbell struck out five Hall of Famers in succession in 1934. Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons and Joe Cronin all went down on strikes.

 

Juan Marichal won 238 games for the Giants, tied for third behind Hubbell and Mathewson.

 

Long-time manager John McGraw led the club to 10 pennants between 1903-32 and won three World Series.

 

Bill Terry was the last player in the National League to hit .400 and ranks in the top five in hits, runs and RBIs. His .341 batting average is best in team history.

 

Follow Charlie Miller on Twitter @AthlonCharlie or email him Charlie.Miller@AthlonSports.com

 

 

Other teams' Mt. Rushmores:

American LeagueNational League
Baltimore OriolesArizona Diamondbacks
Boston Red SoxAtlanta Braves
Chicago White SoxChicago Cubs
Cleveland IndiansCincinnati Reds
Detroit TigersColorado Rockies
Houston AstrosMiami Marlins
Kansas City RoyalsLos Angeles Dodgers
Los Angeles AngelsMilwaukee Brewers
Minnesota TwinsNew York Mets
New York YankeesPhiladelphia Phillies
Oakland A'sPittsburgh Pirates
Seattle MarinersSan Diego Padres
Tampa Bay RaysSan Francisco Giants
Texas RangersSt. Louis Cardinals
Toronto Blue JaysWashington Nationals

 

Teaser:
<p> The question was posed earlier this season whether Derek Jeter should be considered as part of the Yankees’ Mt. Rushmore. That certainly piqued my interest. Not really the Jeter-Yankees part, but the idea that all MLB teams should have their own Mt. Rushmores. Who are the four individuals that have risen above all others for each organization? The question sounds simple. But it isn't as easy as it sounds. Let the arguments begin.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, July 14, 2015 - 18:00
Path: /mlb/st-louis-cardinals-mt-rushmore-franchise-four
Body:

Major League Baseball is promoting an effort to identify the best four players in each team’s history with their "Franchise Four." We selected our choices for Mt. Rushmores a few years ago. Here are updated versions for all 30 teams. Who are the four baseball players that have risen above all others for each organization? The question sounds simple, right? Not so fast. Let the arguments begin.

 

St. Louis Cardinals Mt. Rushmore
The Mt. Rushmore for the team nearest and dearest to my heart also proves to be the most difficult for me to select. There are six strong candidates — five Hall of Famers and one who will be — and a handful of others who would make most teams’ mountains. One of the most storied and tradition-laden franchises in baseball, the Cardinals have enjoyed more success than any other National League team. They won six World Series and lost three in the 21 seasons from 1926-46. Since that time, it’s been a little bit of every-other-decade success for the Redbirds. No World Series appearances in the 1950s; three in the ’60s, winning two. None in the ’70s; three in the ’80s, winning one. None in the ’90s; two in the ’00s, winning one, before winning another in 2011. With 11 titles, the Cardinals rank second all-time, a distant second behind the Yankees. The organization has been loyal to managers. Since 1965 (47 seasons), only four men — Red Schoendienst, Whitey Herzog, Joe Torre and Tony La Russa — have managed more than 91 percent of the Redbirds’ games. Obviously, the discussion begins with Stan the Man. Musial is the No. 1 name on all Cardinals fans’ lists. After that, it becomes a tough choice.

 

 

Stan Musial

Stan the Man is on the short list for MLB’s Mt. Rushmore, and no doubt would be a unanimous choice among Cardinals fans. Musial dominates the Cardinals’ all-time leaderboard, even leading in triples. He spent his entire career in St. Louis and remains an icon. He made 24 All-Star teams, was MVP three times with four runner-up finishes, won seven batting titles, is fourth all-time in the majors in hits, second in total bases, ninth in runs and sixth in RBIs. That’s quite a resume. He also was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor that can be bestowed on a civilian.

 

Bob Gibson

Gibson had as intimidating a mound presence as any pitcher ever. The menacing righthander spent his entire career with the Cardinals and was instrumental in the three pennant winners in the 1960s. There are the two Cy Young awards and 1968 MVP, but Gibson’s World Series performances were off the charts. In three Series he made nine starts with nine complete games, going 7-2 with a 1.89 ERA. He had 92 strikeouts in 81 innings and a 0.889 WHIP.

 

Lou Brock

Known for his stolen base records, Brock was much more than a one-dimensional player. Other than establishing season and career stolen base records, Brock had 3,023 hits — 2,713 of them with the Cardinals. He scored 1,427 runs for St. Louis and drove in 900 runs in his career, 640 of them from the leadoff spot. He is as beloved in St. Louis now as the day he retired.

 

Ozzie Smith

The Wizard came to St. Louis in 1982 as a .230-hitting defensive shortstop and retired as one of the greatest shortstops to play the game. During his 15 years in St. Louis, Smith made 14 All-Star teams, won 11 Gold Gloves and even a Silver Slugger in 1987 to go with his runner-up finish in MVP balloting. He had 1,944 hits, 991 runs and 433 stolen bases for the Cardinals in addition to saving more than 1,000 runs with his glove.

 

Close Calls

Had Albert Pujols re-upped with the Redbirds and finished out his career in St. Louis, there is little doubt that he would have ended up on the mountain. King Albert completed the most astonishing 11 seasons in team history in 2011.

It’s equally painful leaving off Rogers Hornsby, one of the best hitters in the game prior to 1930. From 1921-25, the Cardinals’ second baseman averaged .402 with 29 homers, 120 RBIs and 123 runs. But by most accounts he wasn’t the most popular teammate and he bounced from team to team after spending 12 years in St. Louis to start his career.

During the 1980s and ’90s, Red Schoendienst was always alongside greats Musial, Gibson and Brock donning red blazers at every major Cardinal event. In addition to his Hall of Fame career, Red managed a couple of pennant winners in the 1960s and remained an influential presence as a special coach for several years after his managerial career ended.

In terms of popularity and impact on the franchise, Whitey Herzog deserves consideration. He took over a franchise in 1980 that was drawing just over one million, had drug problems and hadn’t won in 11 years. Over the next decade, “Whiteyball” accounted for three World Series appearances, lifted attendance to three million for the first time and turned the franchise down the path it travels now.

August “Gussie” Busch Jr. bought the team in 1953, and nurtured it as an iconic franchise that became Cardinal Nation, bringing six pennants and three World Series titles in the 1960s and ’80s.

For his emotional post-9/11 speech alone, Hall of Famer Jack Buck deserves some mention as the Cardinals’ long-time broadcaster.

When Dizzy Dean was in his prime, he was right there with Babe Ruth as the biggest star in the game. It was just short-lived.


Few players have captured the hearts of fans in St. Louis the way that Yadier Molina has. Tony La Russa refered to him as the most indispensable player on the 2011 championship team, a club that included Pujols. Redbird pitchers will tell you that he deserves an MVP trophy.
 

Follow Charlie Miller on Twitter @AthlonCharlie or email him Charlie.Miller@AthlonSports.com

 

Other teams' Mt. Rushmores:

American LeagueNational League
Baltimore OriolesArizona Diamondbacks
Boston Red SoxAtlanta Braves
Chicago White SoxChicago Cubs
Cleveland IndiansCincinnati Reds
Detroit TigersColorado Rockies
Houston AstrosMiami Marlins
Kansas City RoyalsLos Angeles Dodgers
Los Angeles AngelsMilwaukee Brewers
Minnesota TwinsNew York Mets
New York YankeesPhiladelphia Phillies
Oakland A'sPittsburgh Pirates
Seattle MarinersSan Diego Padres
Tampa Bay RaysSan Francisco Giants
Texas RangersSt. Louis Cardinals
Toronto Blue JaysWashington Nationals

 

Teaser:
<p> The Mt. Rushmore for the team nearest and dearest to my heart also proves to be the most difficult for me to select. There are six strong candidates — five Hall of Famers and one who will be — and a handful of others who would make most teams’ mountains. Stan the Man Musial is the No. 1 name on all Cardinals fans’ lists. After that, it becomes a tough choice.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, July 14, 2015 - 18:00
Path: /mlb/washington-nationals-mt-rushmore-franchise-four
Body:

Major League Baseball is promoting an effort to identify the best four players in each team’s history with their "Franchise Four." We selected our choices for Mt. Rushmores a few years ago. Here are updated versions for all 30 teams. Who are the four baseball players that have risen above all others for each organization? The question sounds simple, right? Not so fast. Let the arguments begin.

 

Washington Nationals Mt. Rushmore

No other franchise suffered as much from the effects of the 1994 players strike as the Montreal Expos. One of the most tragic injustices in baseball is the fate of the 1994 Expos. On pace to win 105 games and six games ahead of the mighty Atlanta Braves, the most promising season in franchise history was erased by the strike. The team never recovered from the losses at the turnstiles or in local broadcast deals and eventually fell under the control of MLB. Ted Lerner purchased the franchise in 2006, and financial stability has been strong since. This franchise is the only one of the 30 current organizations never to win a postseason series after a full season of play. The only series this franchise can claim is the 1981 NLDS between first- and second-half NL East champions. The Montreal Expos defeated the Philadelphia Phillies is the best-of-five series, 3-2. The Expos were then beaten by the Dodgers in the NLCS. Now competing in its 47th season, the team has finished with the best record in its division twice in addition to 1994, and second eight times. Given that history, it’s surprising to find as many worthy candidates for the Expos/Nationals Mt. Rushmore.

 

Andre Dawson
Along with his friend Tim Raines, Dawson was part of the first dismantling of a contender in the late-1980s (the second coming after the 1994 strike). Reportedly, Dawson signed a blank contract to join the Chicago Cubs after no other team made strong overtures for the future Hall of Famer’s services. While a member of the Expos, the Hawk won Rookie of the Year, was MVP runner-up twice, won six Gold Gloves as a center fielder, hit 225 home runs, stole 253 bases and drove in and scored more than 800 runs in his 1,443 games. Playing all those seasons on the hard turf at Olympic Stadium took a toll on his knees, retarding his production in his later years.

 

Tim Raines
Raines is the franchise’s all-time leader in runs and stolen bases, and is second on the franchise list in average and hits. The seven-time All-Star finished in the top 7 in MVP voting three times as an Expo. He owns four stolen base titles, a batting title and led the NL in runs scored twice, once in 1987 even though he wasn’t signed by the Expos until May 1 after getting caught in the middle of the owners’ collusion in free agency bidding.

 

Vladimir Guerrero
Guerrero, who never saw a pitch he couldn’t hit, was the last real star in Montreal. He left the team via free agency prior to the 2004 season. He had three seasons of 1.000+ OPS and in 2002 he led the National League with 206 hits and was one home run shy of reaching 40-40 status. He ended his tenure in Montreal with 1,004 games, 234 home runs and a franchise-best .323 batting average.

 

Gary Carter
The Kid made a couple of Opening Day starts in right field before settling in behind the plate. His broad smile and fan appeal was a fixture in Montreal from the mid-1970s to the early 1980s. He ranks second, third or fourth in most offensive categories. The Hall of Famer made seven All-Star teams and won three Gold Gloves behind the plate. Four of his All-Star appearances were starts, and he hit three home runs and batted .400 in his All-Star starts. He led the National League in RBIs in 1984. The Expos reluctantly traded their superstar to the Mets for four established major league players prior to the 1985 season fearing they would not be able to afford him and would lose him to free agency. His final franchise tallies include 220 homers and more than 2,400 total bases in over 1,500 games.


Close Calls
Unlike the others on this list of candidates, Tim Wallach spent most of his productive seasons in Montreal. Consequently, he is high on the all-time list in most every category. But he didn’t seem to have the star impact the other players carried.

 

From 1969-76 the Expos had eight different starting pitchers on Opening Day. Steve Rogers was the eighth and made eight consecutive Opening Day starts of his nine total for the team. He leads the franchise with 158 wins and 37 shutouts.

 

Felipe Alou managed the team through some tough economic times for eight-plus seasons, leading the team to two of their best seasons in history (1993-94).

 

Le Grand Orange, aka Rusty Staub, was the first major league hero in Montreal. He was the team’s All-Star rep its first three seasons and his No. 10 is retired even though Andre Dawson wore it proudly for 10 years after Staub.

 

Surprisingly, Jose Vidro is fifth in hits and games played. He’s also the only player to start multiple All-Star Games as a member of the franchise other than the four players selected above.

 

While Ryan Zimmerman has become a fan favorite during his tenure, the player with the greatest upside and best chance to make Washington's Mt. Rushmore is outfielder Bryce Harper.

 

 

Follow Charlie Miller on Twitter @AthlonCharlie or email him Charlie.Miller@AthlonSports.com

 

Other teams' Mt. Rushmores:

American LeagueNational League
Baltimore OriolesArizona Diamondbacks
Boston Red SoxAtlanta Braves
Chicago White SoxChicago Cubs
Cleveland IndiansCincinnati Reds
Detroit TigersColorado Rockies
Houston AstrosMiami Marlins
Kansas City RoyalsLos Angeles Dodgers
Los Angeles AngelsMilwaukee Brewers
Minnesota TwinsNew York Mets
New York YankeesPhiladelphia Phillies
Oakland A'sPittsburgh Pirates
Seattle MarinersSan Diego Padres
Tampa Bay RaysSan Francisco Giants
Texas RangersSt. Louis Cardinals
Toronto Blue JaysWashington Nationals



 

Teaser:
<p> No other franchise suffered as much from the effects of the 1994 players strike as the Montreal Expos. One of the most tragic injustices in baseball is the fate of the 1994 Expos. On pace to win 105 games and six games ahead of the mighty Atlanta Braves, the most promising season in franchise history was erased by the strike. The faces on this monument played in Montreal, but some youngsters in Washington could soon replace them.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, July 14, 2015 - 18:00
All taxonomy terms: Overtime
Path: /overtime/lauren-hill-receive-her-own-special-moment-espys-caitlyn-jenner
Body:

There's no deny Lauren Hill touched many lives. The fallen hoops star got involved for a cause and stuck with it. She even drew the attention of many athletes and celebrities.

 

After ESPN started a firestorm by giving the Arthur Ashe Courage Award to Caitlyn Jenner rather than Hill, they have announced they will honor Hill with her own special moment at the ESPYs.

 

"Lauren Hill's journey inspired so many and speaks to the power of the human spirit," said Connor Schell, SVP of ESPN Films and Original Content. "Lauren's legacy will continue to transcent the sports world, and we are humbled and honored to celebrate her on the ESPYS stage."

 

In an interview with For The Win, Hill's mother Lisa explained how she's doing at this point.

 

"I'm a little better than I had been early on but some days are a struggle, it just depends on the day," Lisa said. "Some days I have really good days and some days I get really emotional but I think for Lauren she started a mission and she wanted to be the voice for the kids and I just have to keep reminding myself that we are her voice."

 

When it comes to the controversy surrounding Jenner getting the award, Lisa wants everyone to know that it merely started on its own. Lauren was only focused on contributing to her cause for a cure.

 

"I don't think [Lauren] would have had a strong opinion on [the award] either way to be honest," she said. "She was pretty down-to-earth, she respected all walks of life and people who were different, she would have never been judgmental or harsh or anything like that, that's just not who she was."

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, July 14, 2015 - 17:28
All taxonomy terms: Overtime
Path: /overtime/ronda-rousey-gets-dragon-ball-z-treatment-alexis-davis-fight
Body:

As if Ronda Rousey couldn't be any scarier.

 

Brian Hwang has made her 16-second knockout of Alexis Davis into a Dragon Ball Z animation. It's awesome and a pretty fair assessment of what happened.

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, July 14, 2015 - 16:32
Path: /nba/ty-lawson-arrested-suspicion-another-dui
Body:

Perhaps Lawless might be a better name. As Denver Nuggets’ point guard Ty Lawson seemed to be destined for a trade during the offseason, he was just arrested last night for allegedly driving under the influence. Off-the-court issues are nothing new to Lawson, who was arrested in January for an alleged DUI. In addition, he had a prior DUI, an alleged case of domestic violence, and another vehicle charge.

 

Now with this suspicion of DUI, it looks as if Lawson has lost much of his trade value. The Nuggets drafted Emmanuel Mudiay, a point guard, with the 7th pick in this year's NBA Draft. He looks to be the future point guard for the team, meaning a role for Lawson might not exist anymore.  It'll be interesting to see if any team wants him now.

See Ty Lawson in action below:

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, July 14, 2015 - 16:14
Path: /nfl/nflpa-threatening-broncos-and-cowboys-collusion
Body:

As the Broncos and Cowboys near the deadline to sign Demaryius Thomas and Dez Bryant, respectively, to long-term contracts, the NFLPA has threatened legal action. The Players’ Association, which has been vocally outspoken against with owners and NFL execs in the past, believes that there has been collusion between the two teams.

 

They will allegedly charge the teams for communicating and discussing information regarding their two potential deals or lack thereof. Collusion would provide more power to the team because of their combined interests, possibly undercutting the value of their star players. Bryant and Thomas have been among the league’s best wide receivers over the past few years, and their respective teams surely need them. Bryant has stated that he will miss regular season games if no deal is reached by tomorrow’s deadline.

See why the Broncos and Cowboys need their star wide receivers below:



Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, July 14, 2015 - 15:14
All taxonomy terms: NFL, Overtime
Path: /overtime/fan-creates-madden-covers-all-32-teams-marshawn-lynch-gronk-lions-broncos-ware
Body:

How many times have you said to yourself, "Man I wish my favorite NFL player was on the cover of Madden"? Well, now that dream is a reality.

 

NFL fan Matt Steller has created a Madden 16 cover for all 32 teams featuring their star or one of their star players. If only these were real because everyone would buy the one featuring their favorite teams.

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Source: @StellerCovers

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, July 14, 2015 - 14:39
All taxonomy terms: MLB, News
Path: /mlb/mlb-hits-home-run-modified-derby-format
Body:

The MLB listened to its fans and ratings when it realized it needed to make a change to the Home Run Derby. In its basic model, this event should naturally be exciting, given how much people enjoy watching home runs, especially towering moonshots. However, in past years, the 10 out system allowed for batters to take their time. That meant taking pitches and waiting for every single perfect one to swing at. That drags out the event, and people just wants to see the home runs.

 

Thus, whoever helped formulate this new format clearly saw the Derby’s woes and fixed those. By switching to timed rounds, there was no excessive waiting for a pitch to hit; batters had to swing at almost everything. That also makes it more realistic, as batters in games don’t get to sit back and wait for only pitches they want.

 

As rain loomed in the area and threatened the event, it only seemed to help because of the adjustment from five to four-minute rounds. Four minutes was a perfect amount: Enough time to get comfortable and not too much to completely tire out the batters. In addition, the allowance of a timeout helped batters recuperate and reset their adjustments.

 

Everybody who participated earned the 30-second bonus, but it was a great addition, proving for extra drama and a rest during one’s homer escapade. Batters needed to hit two home runs of 425+ feet to earn it, and they all got there with relative ease.

 

The stories and matchups only helped bolster this year’s reinvention of the Derby, highlighted by veterans taking on youth, and obviously Todd Frazier playing the role of the Hometown Hero. In the first round, Prince Fielder made an impressive return to the Derby with a strong showing. But the crowd was so electric for Frazier that it seemed they pushed him into the second round with 14 home runs. On the other side, Albert Pujols edged out rookie sensation Kris Bryant, as Joc Pederson looked at ease in sending homers deep into the stands.

 

The second round saw LA stars Pujols and Pederson square off, as the young star just barely beat the MLB legend. Then the crowd once again fueled Frazier against Josh Donaldson, as he soared into the finals with a home run as time expired in regulation.

 

The MLB could not have scripted a better finale, as Joc belted fourteen home runs. After two prior rounds and fatigue certainly setting in, this number seemed very strong. That is, until Todd Frazier stepped into the batter’s box and received support on par to a World Series game. He started off a little slow, but got really hot with a minute and a half left, sending the crowd into a frenzy. He tied it up with all of the bonus left. Then like a storybook finish, he belted one to left field on the first pitch of bonus time. Cincinnati had their hero. The MLB had its perfect solution.

 

Even though several key stars were missing from the event, namely Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, and Giancarlo Stanton, it didn’t seem to matter once the events got underway. There was experience, and there was youth. There were stories scattered throughout. And the fans certainly played a role. Every factor intersected almost perfectly, as the MLB hit his year’s Derby out of the park.

This format will certainly be repeated next year, but it's not easy to recreate the drama and excitement. That comes naturally. The crowd must be a part of the event, as seen last night. The stories and the matchups are very much a significant factor, but those will unfold as the season plays out.

See Todd Frazier win it below:
 

 

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, July 14, 2015 - 12:46
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/steve-spurrier-says-taking-down-confederate-flag-helps-our-state-south-carolina-gamecocks
Body:

South Carolina has taken down the Confederate flag and although there are some that weren't happy about it, Steve Spurrier couldn't be more proud.

 

The South Carolina coach says it is going to help the state immensely. He spoke about the same issue in 2007, and was saddened that it took this long. 

 

"I applaud our governor for setting the initiative ... and obviously it was received very well by just about everyone."

 

 

(h/t For The Win)

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, July 14, 2015 - 12:33
Path: /college-football/sec-only-places-three-players-preseason-jim-thorpe-award-watch-list
Body:

In an odd turn of events the SEC was snubbed on Monday when the Jim Thorpe Award watch list was released. With only three players from the top football conference in the land on the preseason list for this prestigious award the prevailing question is, has the SEC lost its way?

 

The Jim Thorpe Award has been around since 1986 honoring the top defensive back in the nation. Over the past six seasons the SEC has dominated the award with four winners: Eric Berry – 2009 (Tennessee), Patrick Peterson – 2010 (LSU), Morris Claiborne – 2011 (LSU), and Johnthan Banks – 2012 (Mississippi State).

 

When the 2015 NFL Draft had been completed 47 of the 256 players selected were defensive backs. Of the 47, five were from SEC programs. The 2014 NFL season featured 53 former SEC players on team rosters.

 

With all of this talent coming out of the SEC how could only three players be considered among the best of the best DBs in the nation?

 

The sad truth for any Power 5 Conference, per the Thorpe Award watch list, is the Mountain West Conference has the best DB talent with six representatives. The Pac-12 and ACC can lay claim to second best with five players each with the Sun Belt, MAC, and Conference USA each landing four on the list. The SEC, Big Ten and AAC each managed just three selections.

 

Preseason publications will have the public believing LSU, Florida, Ohio State and Ole Miss are the top pass-protecting and run-stopping groups in college football. LSU fans can cry foul that Jamal Adams (top photo), Tre’Davious White and Jalen Mills were each absent from the watch list. Tennessee can tout Cameron Sutton and Brian Randolph, with Arkansas bringing up Jared Collins, and Alabama with corner Cyrus Jones. The same can be said for Ohio State’s Eli Apple.

 

When the smoke clears on the 2015 season time will tell which players are truly the best of the best, but for now the SEC has to play the role of the underdog until the final votes are in on All-American teams and the winner of the Thorpe Award has been announced.

 

The Jim Thorpe Award is overseen by the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame. The list of 42 players will be narrowed down to 15 semifinalists on Nov. 2. On Nov. 23 three semifinalists will be selected the winner announced on Dec. 11.

 

Jim Thorpe Award Watch List (SEC players in bold)

 

Ishmael Adams, UCLA – Pac-12
Mackensie Alexander, Clemson – ACC
Tony Annese, Central Michigan – MAC
Budda Baker, Washington – Pac-12
Adairius Barnes, Louisiana Tech – Conference USA
Dante Barnett, Kansas State – Big 12
Vonn Bell, Ohio State – Big Ten
Quin Blanding, Virginia – ACC
Kevin Byard, MTSU – Conference USA
Michael Caputo, Wisconsin – Big Ten
Jeremy Cash, Duke - ACC
Tony Conner, Ole Miss – SEC
Donte Deayon, Boise State – Mountain West
Kendall Fuller, Virginia Tech – ACC
Vernon Hargreaves III, Florida – SEC (pictured above, right)
Nate Holley, Kent State – MAC
Adoree' Jackson, USC – Pac-12
William Jackson, Houston – AAC
Randall Jette, UMass – MAC
Jonathan Jones, Auburn – SEC
Karl Joseph, West Virginia – Big 12
Damontae Kazee, San Diego State – Mountain West
Montres Kitchens, Troy – Sun Belt
Mitch Lane, Louisiana-Monroe – Sun Belt
Richard Leonard, FIU – Conference USA
William Likely, Maryland – Big Ten
Paris Logan, Northern Illinois – Mid-American
Trent Matthews, Colorado State – Mountain West
Adrian McDonald, Houston – American Athletic
Doug Middleton, Appalachian State – Sun Belt
David Mims II, Texas State – Sun Belt
Fabian Moreau, UCLA – Pac-12
Parry Nickerson, Tulane – AAC
Kevin Peterson, Oklahoma State – Big 12
Jalen Ramsey, Florida State – ACC
Max Redfield, Notre Dame – Independent
Zack Sanchez, Oklahoma – Big 12
Jordan Simone, Arizona State – Pac-12
Weston Steelhammer, Air Force – Mountain West
Darian Thompson, Boise State – Mountain West
JJ Whittaker, San Diego State – Mountain West
Xavier Woods, Louisiana Tech – Conference USA

 

Conference Breakdown

AAC – 3

ACC – 5

Big 12 – 4

Big Ten – 3

Conference USA – 4

Independent – 1

MAC – 4

Mountain West – 6

Pac-12 – 5

SEC – 3
Sun Belt – 4

 

— Written by Ryan Wright, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and an established media professional with more than two decades' worth of experience. Over the years, Wright has written for numerous sites and publications and he recently started his own recruiting site, www.recruitingnewsguru.com. Follow him on Twitter @HogManinLA.

Teaser:
SEC Only Places Three Players on Preseason Jim Thorpe Award Watch List
Post date: Tuesday, July 14, 2015 - 12:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Tennessee Volunteers, SEC
Path: /college-football/tennessee-volunteers-secure-commitment-2018-legacy-cade-mays
Body:

Tennessee Volunteers head coach Butch Jones and his staff got a head start on its 2018 class on Monday when local (Knoxville Catholic High School) offensive lineman and Tennessee Volunteer legacy, Cade Mays, pledged a verbal commitment to play football at the University of Tennessee. Mays made the news public via his Twitter account yesterday afternoon.

 

 

 

 

The all-state high school sophomore, who is listed at 6-foot-5 and 305 pounds, has already garnered plenty of attention on the national stage, including being named to Max Prep’s 2014 Freshman High School All-American Team. He was also named to Max Prep’s Top 50 prospects for the class of 2018. While Mays has yet to be formally evaluated and assigned a star rating by recruiting services, it is widely suspected that he will be one of the top ranked offensive lineman in the nation for the class of 2018.

 

Mays picked the Volunteers over an impressive list of suitors which included such schools as Alabama, Clemson, Florida State, Ole Miss and Texas A&M, to name a few. Mays’ offer list is said to have reached well into the double digits, which serves as a glowing endorsement for any high school prospect, much less one that has yet to reach the age of 16. He becomes Tennessee’s first public commit for the class of 2018.

 

Mays’ father, Kevin, also played offensive line for the Vols, serving as team captain in 1994 in route to first team All-SEC honors that same year.

 

— Written by Rob McVey, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. McVey is a diehard Tennessee Volunteers' fan who loves singing "Rocky Top" every opportunity he gets. Follow him on Twitter @Rob_UTVOLS

Teaser:
Tennessee Volunteers Secure Commitment From 2018 Legacy Cade Mays
Post date: Tuesday, July 14, 2015 - 12:15
All taxonomy terms: Teddy Bridgewater, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/trust-teddy-bridgewater-be-top-10-fantasy-quarterback-2015
Body:

It may be difficult for me to convince anyone that Teddy Bridgewater will be a top-10 fantasy quarterback in 2015. Aside from being a sophomore in the NFL, having minimal changes in his offensive line, I also am a loyal Vikings fan.

 

That alone may be reason enough to doubt my opinions, and I can understand that. However, I typically use a combination of the good ol’ gut feeling along with data. Yep, I think statistics are cool, and most importantly I enjoy some of the lesser known, or favored statistics in football.

 

That is where my fan obsession, especially after his rookie campaign, becomes a data-driven reality.

 

I am sure I won’t convert everyone, but I hope to at least provide four big reasons why Bridgewater can break through in and emerge as a top-10 fantasy quarterback this season.

 

Note: Statistics courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

 

1) Look At His Final Four Games

Bridgewater was a top-10 fantasy quarterback in December. That is right, he has already accomplished the feat. Bridgewater dazzled. With a completion rate of 72 percent, and surpassing 1,092 yards passing in his final four games, Teddy Bridgewater let the league know he has arrived.
 

 

2) Bridgewater Was Phenomenal Under Pressure in 2014

Bridgewater was under pressure frequently in his rookie season, to the tune of just under 40 percent to be exact. Considering he was also a rookie makes his decision-making, and ability to still complete plays even more impressive.

 

Need to visualize how well Bridgewater performed under pressure? Check out this chart from ProFootballFocus.com observing Passing Under Pressure in 2014. It shouldn’t take too long to find the Vikings’ quarterback. 


Looking ahead to 2015, he has a full season under his belt, he has more familiarity with the offense, and will get a helping hand from one of the best players in the game rushing the ball in Adrian Peterson.  This season the odds of a repeat performance are very high, and most fans are hoping Bridgewater’s pressure percentage drops in 2015.

 

3) Performance on Third Downs

Bridgewater also held his own and was able to move the chains on third downs in his rookie campaign. It may not be something most fantasy owners look at but having a fantasy quarterback, one that is able to convert on third downs over half of the time, especially at longer distances is huge. They get more plays, and prolonged drives usually mean more yardage, and of course increased touchdown potential.

 

First I will let you look at Drew Brees’ numbers from 2014.

 

 

Now we will look at Bridgewater’s:

 

 

Bridgewater had comparable or better numbers than Brees. Don’t misinterpret this as stating the second-year signal-caller is on Brees’ level. That is not the point, as much as showing how much poise, and ability he showed as a rookie AND under pressure. The talent is there, and he has more offensive weapons in 2015.

 

4) Mike Wallace and Adrian Peterson Additions

We all know how much Peterson will help an offense when he is on the field. Having a legitimate running game only helps quarterbacks in occupying defenses and spreading the field.

 

Bridgewater had a running game last season, but it was largely volume-based and with inexperienced runners in Matt Asiata and fellow rookie Jerick McKinnon. With Peterson in the backfield defenses are forced to game plan. This can only help Bridgewater.

 

Wallace is a speedster and deep threat. Someone the Vikings had hoped they had (have) in Cordarelle Patterson, but with Wallace on board Bridgewater now has a legitimate downfield option along with Charles Johnson and Patterson.

 

The 2015 season is very bright for Bridgewater and the Vikings, and although they have the 12th-most difficult strength of schedule this season, his new, and somewhat new weapons should only help him develop into an even more appealing fantasy option. Perhaps even top-10-worthy.

 

— Written by Chris Meyers, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a member of the FSWA. Meyers' work appears on many other sites, including socalledfantasyexperts.com. Follow him on Twitter @FantsyChillpony.

Teaser:
Trust Teddy Bridgewater to be a top-10 Fantasy Quarterback in 2015
Post date: Tuesday, July 14, 2015 - 12:00
Path: /college-football/big-12-wild-card-players-2015
Body:

The Big 12 may have missed out on the inaugural College Football Playoff last season, but that doesn’t mean the conference lacks for impact players. While some are more household names than other, each Big 12 team has their “wild card” players that figure to play a big role in how their respective season will pan out.

 

Related: Big 12 Football 2015 Predictions

 

There are different interpretations when it comes to a “wild card” player. Sometimes it’s a do-everything, x-factor type guy that everyone is well aware of. Other times it may be a player who is flying under the radar or someone who is poised to break out this season.

 

Whatever the definition, here is “wild card” offensive and defensive player for each Big 12 team for the 2015 season:

 

Baylor Bears

 

Offense: KD Cannon, Wide Receiver

As a true freshman Cannon averaged 17.8 yards per catch last season. His speed alone makes him a nightmare matchup, forcing teams to game plan to try and slow him down. He led the nation in receptions longer than 60, 70 and 80 yards. Don’t expect anything less from him this season.

 

Defense: Shawn Oakman, Defensive End

Oakman is just scary, period. At 6-foot-9, 280 pounds Oakman is not just big but also strong and athletic. With a school-record 11 sacks and 19.5 tackles for a loss last season Oakman will lead a defense that is again stacked with talent.

 

Iowa State Cyclones

 

Offense: Quenton Bundrage, Wide Receiver

Bundrage’s performance in the spring has stirred up some optimism for  Cyclones fans. After sitting out most of last season with a torn ACL he now seems to be 100 percent. Bundrage caught 20 passes for 232 yards in 2012 and will lead a much-improved receiving corps in Ames this fall.

 

Defense: Sam E. Richardson, Cornerback

Not to be mistaken for QB Sam Richardson, Sam E. Richardson will have to take the reigns as a defensive captain this season after losing teammates to graduation and dismissals. Kamari Cotton-Moya, last season’s Defensive Freshman of the Year in the Big 12, returns as well but he has been limited since being hospitalized for a head injury sustained in the spring.

 

Kansas Jayhawks

 

Offense: Taylor Cox, Running Back

It just keeps getting worse for Kansas with the announcement that leading rusher Corey Avery has left the program. That leaves the running responsibilities to Cox, who was recently granted a sixth year of eligibility. Cox hasn’t played since rushing for 464 yards on 91 carries in 2012. Now he will be tasked with leading a Kansas offense that desperately needs some playmakers to emerge.

 

Defense: Fish Smithson, Free Safety

Smithson, who finished fifth last season in tackles, is one of the unit’s top returning contributors. Kansas is going through a large rebuilding process on defense and this unit will likely lean on Smithson for both leadership and production.

 

Kansas State Wildcats

 

Offense: Cody Whitehair, Tackle

Probably the most versatile offensive lineman in the Big 12, Whitehair has played almost every position on the line. His athleticism and size makes him a nightmare for defensive linemen. Even though he never touches the football, Whitehair is one of the Wildcats’ offensive players that must be accounted for by opposing defenses.

 

Defense: Dante Barnett, Safety

Along with Danzel McDaniel, Barrett may be part of the best secondary in the Big 12. Second on the team with 77 tackles last season, Barnett will be looked upon to lead a defense that lost most of its front seven from 2014.

 

Oklahoma Sooners

 

Offense: Samaje Perine, Running Back

Perine burst onto the scene last season when he rushed for 242 yards and four touchdowns against West Virginia in Morgantown. He topped that later by rushing for an FBS single-game record 427 yards against Kansas. Perine is no longer an “under the radar” player, as his production will be key for an onffense that’s transitioning under new coordinator Lincoln Riley.

 

Defense: Eric Striker, Linebacker

Striker is the heart and soul of the Sooners’ defense, known for his ability to excel as a pass rusher or in pass coverage. While his stats were not indicative of his play, he was disruptive presence last season whenever he was on the field. Expect more of the same this season.

 

Oklahoma State Cowboys

 

Offense: Mason Rudolph, Quarterback

Forced into action earlier than head coach Mike Gundy wanted, Rudolph proved he was the future under center for the Cowboys last season. With an improved offensive line and veterans at the receiver position everything appears in place for Rudolph to have a breakout season.

 

Defense: Emmanuel Ogbah, Defensive End

The reigning Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year, Ogbah is back looking to not only improve his stock for the 2016 NFL Draft, but also help his Cowboys win another conference title. Ogbah impressed with his 11 sacks last season, but now he must do the same against offenses that will game plan and scheme against him as the anchor of a defensive line featuring two new starting tackles.

 

TCU Horned Fogs

 

Offense: Trevone Boykin, Quarterback

Make no mistake, every defense is fully aware of who Boykin is and what he’s capable of doing. But as the early favorite to win the Heisman Trophy and the most important player on a team with College Football Playoff aspirations, Boykin’s margin for error is razor thin. The “wild card” factor lies in what happens if Boykin doesn’t match his production from last season, even if the Horned Frogs keep winning? How much do “style points” matter when it comes to Heisman voters and the Playoff selection committee? We may find out this fall.

 

Defense: Davion Pierson, Defensive Tackle

As the most experienced player for the Horned Frogs entering this season (31 career starts), Pierson will be looked upon to lead a defense that must replace six starters and several other key contribtors. He may not get the accolades he deserves but if there are linebackers getting into the backfield rest assured Pierson is helping to make that happen.

 

Texas Longhorns

 

Offense: Tyrone Swoopes, Quarterback

Many Longhorn fans probably don’t want to see this name as their offensive wild card this season but the truth is Swoopes will HAVE to perform. Texas is returning just one starter at the skill positions, so the junior signal-caller will need to take the lead on offense. He has the athletic ability to be great, but has yet to develop the consistency necessary to produce on a week in, week out basis. If he performs like he did in the bowl loss to Arkansas last season, Swoopes could lose his job to redshirt freshman Jerrod Heard.

 

Defense: Malik Jefferson, Linebacker

Jefferson hasn’t even played a down in a Longhorns uniform yet but is already expected by many to immediately make an impact. Rated the best LB recruit in the nation in the 2015 class, Jefferson enrolled early in Austin and has already impressed. With the Longhorns set to replace six starters on defense Jefferson figures to get every opportunity to play right away, and he appears to have the skill set to be a difference-maker sooner rather than later.

 

Texas Tech Red Raiders

 

Offense: DeAndre Washington, Running Back

Known for their passing attack, the Red Raiders will be young at the outside receiver position and will continue to deal with a QB situation that was unstable last season. Washington’s 1,103 yards rushing last season made him the program’s first 1,000-yard rusher since 1998. Until Texas Tech can dial in its passing attack expect to see a heavy dose of Washington.

 

Defense: Pete Robertson, Linebacker/Defensive End

Among those defenders named on the preseason watch lists for both the Bronko Nagurski Trophy and Chuck Bednarik Award, Robertson will anchor a defense that as much room for improvement this season. The Big 12’s sack leader in 2014 (12), Roberston will need to continue to make plays for new defensive coordinator David Gibbs, if the Red Raiders want turn around lasts season’s 4-8 record.

 

West Virginia Mountaineers

 

Offense: Jordan Thompson, Wide Receiver

While the Mountaineers will try and replace first-round NFL Draft pick Kevin White on the outside, look for Thompson to be a primary target out of the slot. Thompson has shown flashes of greatness while sometimes leaving fans scratching their heads. The best aspect of Thompson is that he is ready to be that impact player and fully embraces the responsibility, as West Virginia also will have a new face at quarterback.

 

Defense: Karl Joseph, Safety

Joseph is undoubtedly the most punishing safety in the Big 12 and possibly the country. He will anchor a defense that should be one of the best in the conference and has the ability to be a difference-maker whenever he is on the field. If Joseph doesn’t play up to his level, West Virginia’s defense will probably struggle.

 

— Written by Jeremy Simon, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and editor-in-chief of BlueGoldSports.com, a must visit for any and all West Virginia Mountaineer fans. Follow BlueGoldSports.com on Twitter @Blue_GoldSports.

Teaser:
Big 12 Wild Card Players in 2015
Post date: Tuesday, July 14, 2015 - 11:30
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If you've ever heard the phrase "we're short a guy," then you've probably played sports at some point.

 

Anthony Davis, Mike Trout, and Andrew Luck star in a new Nike ad that will have you feeling just a bit nostalgic.

 

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Post date: Tuesday, July 14, 2015 - 11:11
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The College Football Playoff Committee proved the general trend of tougher scheduling last fall. 

 

The Pac-12 may not get a team in the Playoff because this league might be too good and too deep to provide a one-loss champion. To top it off, the Committee can't blame the Pac-12 for taking it easy in the non-conference either.

 

Here are top 10 non-conference games in the Pac-12 in 2015.

 

 AwayHomeDate
1.Sept. 12
Two national title contenders finishing the back half of a home-and-home? Yes, please. The Spartans will be fired up at home and have revenge on their minds after the 46-27 loss in Eugene last fall. The winner will get a huge Playoff notch in its belt in what should be one of the best games of the year regardless of conference.
2.Oct. 17
The 87th meeting between USC and ND could carry a lot of Playoff weight if all goes according to plan for both. USC smoked the Irish in L.A. last season and is 5-1 in its last six trips to South Bend. However, that lone loss came in the Trojans' last visit two seasons ago.
3.Sept. 5*
The Aggies and Sun Devils have never met before and fans on both sides should be thoroughly entertained throughout the pseudo-neutral site season opener. Two great offenses should light up the Houston skyline en route to a feather-in-the-cap non-con win.
4.Nov. 28
This should be a physical, hard-hitting affair once again. And both are Playoff sleeper teams. Stanford has won three straight in the series at home and four of the last six overall. Notre Dame needed an epic fourth quarter to beat the Cardinal 14-10 last fall in South Bend.
5.Sept. 4
Chris Petersen returns to Boise in charge of a Pac-12 name brand that is in clear rebuilding mode. The blue turf won't be nearly as welcoming as the Broncos have eyes on another Mountain West title and New Year's Day bowl berth. The Huskies' major questions under center and on the D-line will have to be answered to leave Idaho with a win.
Related: Pac-12 Football Teams as Rock and Roll Bands
6.Sept. 3
These two have only met three times with all three games taking place in Ann Arbor. Utah has won two of those meetings, including a 26-10 thumping of the Wolverines last season. On a Thursday night with Jim Harbaugh leading the way, this game should be much more intriguing. 
7.Sept. 19
The Cougars and Bruins have played 10 times with UCLA claiming seven wins. However, BYU has won the last two meetings, including a 58-0 embarrassment in 2008. Jim Mora's defense will need to be on its toes early against an athlete like Taysom Hill.
8.Sept. 19
This could be a program-defining win for Sonny Dykes and Cal in Austin in Week 3. The Horns are at home and more talented (and can actually play defense) but quarterback Jared Goff is a superstar in the making and could set himself up for a nationally acclaimed season with a win in Texas. The Bears are 0-5 all-time against the Longhorns.
9.Sept. 5
Throw the SAT scores out the window in the season opener for both. The Cardinal will have to kick off the season at 9 a.m. PT in Evanston against a Wildcats team that is looking to get back into the postseason. Stanford holds a 3-1-2 series lead but hasn't faced NW since 1994.
10.Sept. 12
These in-state rivals have played 111 times with Utah holding a substantial 78-29-4 lead in the series. Only once since 1997 has Utah State pulled the upset but that was with Chuckie Keeton running the offense in 2012. Keeton posted 302 total yards in that win and has returned for his final season in Logan after missing 11 games last fall.

* - neutral site

 

Best of the Rest:

 

UCF at Stanford, Sept. 12

UCLA at Virginia, Sept. 5

Utah State at Washington, Sept. 19

Oregon State at Michigan, Sept. 12

Colorado vs. Colorado State, Sept. 19*

Washington State at Rutgers, Sept. 12

Utah at Fresno State, Sept. 19

Arizona at Nevada, Sept. 12

Eastern Washington at Oregon, Sept. 5

Teaser:
Top 10 Pac-12 Non-Conference Games of 2015
Post date: Tuesday, July 14, 2015 - 11:00
Path: /college-football/breakdown-arkansas-razorbacks-wide-receivers-entering-2015-season
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Arkansas enters the 2015 college football season with high expectations, coming off a 7-6 showing in 2014 that concluded with a 31-7 bowl win over old Southwest Conference rival Texas. The Razorbacks' offense should be the strength of the team with four offensive linemen returning, along with a pair of 1,100-yard rushers in Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins, and a third-year starting quarterback in Brandon Allen.

 

Related: Arkansas Razorbacks 2015 Preview and Prediction

 

The swing point on Bret Bielema's team contending for a SEC West title or fighting for a third or fourth bowl seed out of the conference will hinge on the play of Arkansas' wide receivers.

 

What was a 7-6 record last season for the Hogs very easily could have been 10-3. Arkansas used an old school blend of tough-nosed defense and a punishing ground game to shorten the clock and wear down opponents. The Razorbacks finished the season ranked 11th out of 14 SEC teams with 2,444 total passing yards. The passing game ranked 10th in the conference in touchdown passes with 21 and tied Georgia for the fewest interceptions in SEC play with just six.

 

The troubles for the offense happened on those few times Arkansas was stuck in a third-and-long situation. The strength of last year’s passing attack was the tight ends, and will be again in 2015, but more production is needed out of the wide receivers.

 

Senior Keon Hatcher is the top returnee in terms of receptions (43), yards (558), and touchdown catches (six). Tight end and All-American candidate Hunter Henry was second on the team with 37 catches and 513 yards. Arkansas lost backup tight end AJ Derby to the NFL. Derby, a converted quarterback, was third on the team with 22 receptions for 303 yards with three scores. Derby also missed two games due to injury.

 

Arkansas cannot take that next step with its third-leading receiver barely producing 300 yards of offense.

 

Sophomore wideout Jared Cornelius has the potential to do great things in the Arkansas offense. He had 18 receptions for 212 yards with two scores but like all the other receivers never showed breakaway speed or the ability to win a game on a five-yard slant by taking it to the house.

 

Cody Hollister (13-137-1) and Drew Morgan (10-181-1) have been more possession receivers rather than fearsome targets that require more than one SEC defender to cover.

 

The receiving unit may receive a boost in 2015 from redshirt freshman JoJo Robinson, true freshman La’Michael Pettway, and junior college transfer Dominique Reed.

 

Robinson was a 4-star recruit out of Miami Northwestern. The 5-foot-11, 190-pound speedster showed flashes of brilliance during last season's fall camp, but various injuries and some off-the-field complications kept him on the sidelines as a redshirt. His speed and playmaking ability could be just what the Hogs' receiving corps needs.

 

Pettway (6-2, 190) is an incoming freshman who could contribute immediately. Time will tell if the Nashville, Ark., native is a chain-mover or a game-changer. The big addition to the 2015 recruiting class was Reed. Reed tore it up at Coffeyville (Kan.) C.C. last season, coming up with 61 receptions for 1,157 yards, and 19 touchdowns in 11 games.

 

Reed’s presence on the field fills two much-needed gaps, a legitimate speed burner who can stretch the field and help open more running lanes for the tailbacks while giving space for underneath routes and he is also a dream red-zone target. Listed at 6-foot-4 and 185 pounds, and boasting 4.3 speed, the Camden, Ark., native could be the big piece of the puzzle that helps push the Hogs from pretender to contender in 2015.

 

Potential Difference-Makers

Another key factor in the Razorback passing attack in 2015 is new offensive coordinator Dan Enos. While many of the Arkansas spring practices were closed to the public and media, word around the water cooler is Enos intends to throw the ball more and spread out the defense. The running backs are supposed to be featured in the passing game as well, something not utilized at all under former coordinator Jim Chaney.

 

While there are plenty of questions for Arkansas at wide receiver, the Razorbacks appear rather loaded at tight end. It all starts with Henry, but Arkansas, without question, also signed the best group of tight ends in the 2015 recruiting class, landing 4-star Will Gragg, underrated 3-star Austin Cantrell, and 4-star C.J. O’Grady.

 

And there's also junior tight end Jeremy Sprinkle, who appears to have the skill set but just hasn't been able to put it together on the field. Sprinkle (6-6, 243) has showed glimpses over the past two years but has not produced consistently. The White Hall, Ark., native had a really good spring which could mean the Hogs are in business spreading out linebackers and safeties with two tight ends that can have an impact both as a receiver and run-blocker.

 

Two other players that have a shot at making some noise are wide receivers Kendrick Edwards and Deon Stewart. Edwards (6-5, 212) caught just four balls last season as a true freshman, but he averaged 17.5 yards per reception, one of those going for a touchdown. Edwards is currently suspended from the team but could return if he fulfills the obligations laid out by Bielema.

 

Stewart has nothing to lose going into his freshman season. Often overlooked despite recording 49 receptions for 1,005 yards with 11 touchdowns during his senior year, the former Highland High School star has a lot of upside without the pressure of producing from the moment he steps foot on campus. Listed at 6-1, 165, and with 4.48 speed, Stewart could be the speedy receiver in the slot that makes enough plays here or there that add up to wins by season’s end. 

 

— Written by Ryan Wright, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and an established media professional with more than two decades' worth of experience. Over the years, Wright has written for numerous sites and publications and he recently started his own recruiting site, www.recruitingnewsguru.com. Follow him on Twitter @HogManinLA.

Teaser:
Breakdown of the Arkansas Razorbacks Wide Receivers Entering the 2015 Season
Post date: Tuesday, July 14, 2015 - 10:30
All taxonomy terms: Miami Dolphins, NFL, News, Magazines
Path: /nfl/miami-dolphins-2015-team-preview-and-prediction
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Once among the perennial elite, the Dolphins have been largely irrelevant for quite a while now, without a playoff win since Dec. 30, 2000. While the fans are long past impatient, owner Stephen Ross leaned toward a youth movement in the offseason. “I wouldn’t want to be getting old veterans to win that year and then get back to where we were,” Ross says. “I want to build something that is going to be a dynasty that people want to see year in and year out.”

 

That’s not to say Ross spent the past several months sitting idle. Yes, he kept his embattled coach, Joe Philbin, and Philbin kept both of his coordinators, Bill Lazor on offense and Kevin Coyle on defense. But the front office was overhauled, with former Jets executive Mike Tannenbaum hired to oversee an operation that still includes general manager Dennis Hickey. And the team may have as many as 10 new starters, including the prize of the free-agent market, defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who signed a six-year, $114 million contract with nearly $60 million guaranteed. “This is obviously a great day,” Suh said at his introductory press conference. “And there’s obviously many more to come after that.”

 

How soon? We’ll see.

 

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OFFENSE

It got largely lost due to the team’s lack of overall progress, but the Dolphins did make gains on offense last season, with their best yardage ranking (14th) since 2008 and best points ranking (11th) since 2001, which happen to be the franchise’s last two playoff seasons.

 

They should make more strides, now that Lazor has had more than a year to implement his schemes — with some use of the read option — and increase the unit’s tempo, something that didn’t occur as planned last season. Much of that will fall on Ryan Tannehill, who seems to be a quarterback on the rise. That’s one of the reasons the Dolphins rewarded him with a six-year contract extension in May that could be worth as much as $96 million and is guaranteed to pay him no less than $45 million. “The good news is he’s gotten better every year,” Philbin says.

 

That’s supported by the statistics, as the third-year player posted his highest passer rating (92.8) largely due to a dramatic increase in completion percentage (60.4 to 66.4). And yet, his yards-per-completion continued its decline, from 11.7 as a rookie to 11.0 in his second season to 10.3 in his third. While it wise for the Dolphins to play to his strengths, Tannehill still needs to become more accurate with his deep throws to make the Dolphins a truly dynamic attack.

 

He won’t be trying to connect with Mike Wallace anymore. After two expensive and uneven seasons, Wallace was sent to Minnesota to make way for a younger, cheaper core. Miami will have three receivers in their regular rotation who are under 24 years old, including Kenny Stills, a speedy import from New Orleans who had 63 catches on 85 targets last season, compared to 67 on 115 for Wallace.

 

Stills’ presence on the outside, along with the development of first-round pick DeVante Parker, should allow Jarvis Landry and new tight end Jordan Cameron to exploit the middle. As a rookie, the hard-working Landry showed terrific instincts and good hands, catching 84 passes, albeit for just 9.0 yards per catch. That number should increase, if Tannehill can sit back in the pocket a little longer — he took 46 sacks, down 12 from the previous season but still too high. It’s remarkable that Tannehill has started every game in three straight seasons.

 

Branden Albert solidified the left tackle spot prior to a season-ending knee injury, so his return to full health is critical. With Albert, center Mike Pouncey (newly signed to a lucrative extension) and right tackle Ja’Wuan James (coming off a good rookie season), Miami appears settled at three spots. The guard spots are in flux; the Dolphins may need fourth-round rookie Jamil Douglas to step in immediately.

 

They’ll be blocking for Lamar Miller, who had some ups and downs after taking over as the primary ball carrier. Miller, however, finished strong with 270 yards in the season’s final two weeks. Now the question is whether he can handle an even greater load; he averaged 5.1 yards per carry but never had more than 19 attempts. There’s questionable depth at the position.

 

DEFENSE

Coming off a tumultuous season — with players questioning the coordinator (Coyle) — the Dolphins invested heavily in Suh to instill some fear in opposing offenses. While he’s created controversy with some of his on-field antics, there’s never been any question about Suh’s ability, not only to disrupt running and passing plays but also to make his teammates better. A few of his teammates are already pretty good, notably defensive ends Cameron Wake (57.5 sacks over the past five seasons) and Olivier Vernon (18 sacks over the past two seasons), cornerback Brent Grimes (coming off two straight Pro Bowls) and safety Reshad Jones (who had a bounce-back year). And defensive tackle Earl Mitchell should be a solid complement to Suh, holding up blockers and helping to stuff the run.

 

But plenty of others will need to exceed expectations for the Dolphins to improve from their 2014 rankings (20th in points, 12th in yardage). That starts with the entire linebacker group. Koa Misi is serviceable in the middle, and Jelani Jenkins was a positive surprise as a fourth-round pick in 2013. But there’s no clear playmaker in the group, especially after the Dion Jordan experiment failed. Jordan, the No. 3 pick in the 2013 draft, was a disappointment for two seasons and will miss the 2015 campaign due to a failed drug test.

 

In the secondary, veteran safety Louis Delmas returns after ACL surgery, and either Jamar Taylor or Will Davis will need to emerge as a consistent complement to Grimes at corner to allow newcomer Brice McCain play the nickel. Miami allowed opposing quarterbacks to compile an 89.7 passer rating last season, with 27 touchdowns and 14 interceptions — not the league’s worst, but not contender material.

 

SPECIALISTS

Two seasons into his NFL career, Caleb Sturgis still hasn’t cemented his status, not after making 77.5 percent of his field-goal attempts, including 20-of-33 from 40 yards or more. If he’s not better, he’ll likely be replaced. Brandon Fields didn’t have his best season, with his lowest percentage (36.2) of punts inside the 20-yard-line since 2009, and he was in danger of being released prior to restructuring his contract. Landry was the primary punt and kickoff returner last season and — a couple of hiccups aside — did decent work. Ideally, though, the Dolphins would like more of a burner at those spots to save Landry for his receiving duties. So that search will continue.

 

FINAL ANALYSIS

The Dolphins have been stuck in the middle, or just below, for so long that it’s hard to predict anything better than a .500 finish. But if Tannehill can make another leap, and Suh can energize what was at times a listless defense, there’s potential here to squeak out 10 wins. Philbin may need that many to retain his job, even though Ross signed the coach to an extension through 2016 to remove the perception of lame-duck status. “There has to be improvement,” Ross added, after the announcement. “I’m looking to make the playoffs, and I think Joe is looking to make the playoffs.” Otherwise, this team may look even more different in 2016.

 

Prediction: 3rd AFC East

Teaser:
Miami Dolphins 2015 Team Preview and Prediction
Post date: Tuesday, July 14, 2015 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: NFL, News, Magazines
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With a new general manager and new head coach, will the Jets look like a new team in 2015?

 

While it’s not as simple as overhauling the front office, coaching staff and secondary, the Jets this offseason made plenty of moves in the right direction as they try to put last season’s 4–12 misery behind them. New GM Mike Maccagnan was aggressive in free agency, as he upgraded the Jets’ beleaguered defensive backfield. So far, new head coach Todd Bowles has brought a more businesslike approach to the organization than his predecessor, Rex Ryan.

 

The Jets did some great things under Ryan. They made the AFC Championship Game in each of his first two seasons, 2009 and 2010. But they haven’t made the playoffs since, and they are 26–38 during this four-year slide, with zero winning records.

 

But there’s still a nagging question surrounding this team: For as promising as the Jets’ new secondary looks, their quarterback situation is still a giant question mark. Can they overcome that and be a legitimate factor in 2015?

 

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OFFENSE

The Jets should be able to run the ball. That hasn’t been an issue in recent seasons. Power running back Chris Ivory is still around. He has rushed for 833 and 821 yards, respectively, in his two seasons with the team. And the Jets added Stevan Ridley in free agency, though you have to wonder if he can return to his old form after last season’s torn ACL and MCL. The Jets still lack a back with breakaway speed.

 

A bigger issue for this team is the passing game. The past three seasons, the Jets ranked 32nd, 31st and 30th in the NFL in passing offense. Nowhere to go but up, right? In two seasons, quarterback Geno Smith has 41 turnovers, including 34 interceptions. It is time for him to take a step forward with his decision-making in 2015.

 

The Jets traded for Ryan Fitzpatrick in the offseason, and he will compete for the starting job with Smith. Fitzpatrick is competent enough, but if he beats out Smith in training camp — or replaces him during the season — the Jets will be in the market for a quarterback after this season, as they will almost certainly dump Smith.

 

Trading for Brandon Marshall this offseason gives the Jets a big-bodied wide receiver who can be a red-zone threat, even if he isn’t as effective overall as he was earlier in his career. Marshall had a streak of seven straight seasons with at least 1,000 yards receiving snapped last fall. The Jets have been pitiful in the red zone recently, ranking 32nd, 27th and 25th in the NFL the past three seasons in red-zone efficiency.

 

The Jets’ second-round draft pick, Ohio State’s Devin Smith, is a deep-threat receiver, and maybe nothing more. But he could help stretch the field and force defenses to play more honest coverage against Marshall and Eric Decker.

 

DEFENSE

The secondary was, by far, the Jets’ biggest defensive shortcoming last season. Maccagnan went out and signed two new cornerbacks — familiar faces Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie — and acquired a free safety, Marcus Gilchrist. The latter should allow second-year pro Calvin Pryor (last year’s first-round pick) to play closer to the line of scrimmage as a strong safety, where he is most comfortable. Maccagnan also signed corner Buster Skrine in free agency.

 

Between the revamped secondary and the already strong defensive line, the Jets have a chance to be one of the NFL’s top defenses. Sheldon Richardson and Muhammad Wilkerson are two of the league’s best young defensive linemen. Then the Jets saw USC defensive lineman Leonard Williams (maybe the best overall player in the draft) fall into their lap with the No. 6 pick, which creates an issue for Bowles: How does he deploy all these linemen? It’s a good problem to have, especially since Richardson is suspended the first four games for a violation of the league’s substance-abuse policy.

 

A bigger issue for the Jets comes at the edge rusher/outside linebacker spot in their 3-4 defense. Strong-side linebacker Calvin Pace turns 35 in October. Backup rush linebacker Jason Babin, a pass-rushing specialist, is already 35. The Jets would love for Quinton Coples, their 2012 first-round pick, to develop as a rush linebacker. But he has disappointed so far in his career. He has 16.5 sacks in three seasons, with a high of 6.5 last fall.

 

The Jets’ defense wasn’t terrible last season under Ryan. The unit finished sixth in the league in yards allowed but was 24th in points allowed and 26th in red-zone defense. Having a better secondary — and a dominant corner like Revis — should help improve those latter two stats.

 

SPECIALISTS 

Nick Folk is back as the Jets’ kicker and Ryan Quigley returns as the punter. This will be Folk’s sixth year with the Jets, and Quigley’s third season. Folk wasn’t as good last season (32-of-39 on field goals) as he was in 2013 (33-of-36), though three of his misses last season came on kicks of 50 yards or longer. Quigley last season ranked 14th in the NFL (45.9-yard average), after ranking 17th in 2013 (45.5).

 

Worth noting: The Jets this season will have a different special teams coach for the fourth straight year, as longtime special teams coach Bobby April arrives, following Thomas McGaughey, Ben Kotwica and Mike Westhoff, a special teams coaching pioneer. Receiver Jeremy Kerley seems likely to return punts again, though the Jets have options there, just as they do at the kickoff return spot. It will be interesting to see if they give Smith, their blazing-fast rookie receiver, a shot on kickoff returns. He dabbled in them during his time at Ohio State.

 

FINAL ANALYSIS

You can’t win in today’s NFL unless you have at least competent quarterback play. And there have been plenty of times over the past two seasons when Smith has looked totally incompetent under center. In fact, it’s been a long time since the organization has enjoyed steady, reliable play at the most important position on the field.

 

So that’s what it boils down to for these Jets: Unless Smith takes a step forward in 2015, or Fitzpatrick performs well as his replacement, it’s hard to envision this team being anything better than average.

 

Yes, the defense has a chance to be elite, with stars such as Revis and Wilkerson and Richardson. Yes, the Jets should be able to run the ball well, presuming their aging — but still not yet crumbling — offensive line holds up. But without a better passing game, the Jets will probably hover around 7–9 to 9–7. The latter wouldn’t be all that bad for a team coming off 4–12 with a rookie head coach. Either way, look for the Jets to be in the hunt for a playoff spot entering December. This team isn’t going to start 1–8 like last year’s group did.

 

Keep an eye on the final three games, though — at Dallas, home against New England and at Buffalo. With a playoff spot potentially on the line, those challenges could prove too daunting for a team in transition.

 

Prediction: 4th in AFC East

Teaser:
New York Jets 2015 Preview and Prediction
Post date: Tuesday, July 14, 2015 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: Buffalo Bills, NFL, News, Magazines
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When coach Doug Marrone up and quit on the team on New Year’s Eve, the Buffalo Bills were doing what they always do: leading the NFL in dysfunction. Marrone was on the job just two years and had led the team to a 9–7 finish, Buffalo’s best in a decade but still not good enough to end a 15-year playoff drought.

 

But just when it seemed to be business as usual, new owner Terry Pegula and second-year general manager Doug Whaley began making blockbuster moves all over the place. It began with the hiring of Rex Ryan, jettisoned by the rival New York Jets, to replace Marrone. It reached a fever pitch when a trade was swung with the Philadelphia Eagles to acquire running back LeSean McCoy.

 

“Is this thing on? Because it’s going to be on,’’ blurted the colorful Ryan into the microphone.

 

Whether Buffalo has improved on offense enough to complement one of the league’s top defenses remains to be seen. But Team Dysfunction has finally gotten its act together.

 

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OFFENSE

The Bills have lacked true star power on this side of the ball, but things are turning. The McCoy acquisition vastly upgraded the club’s moribund rushing game that fell to 25th in the NFL at 92.6 yards per game as veteran Fred Jackson and the departed C.J. Spiller (New Orleans) battled injuries. As a team, the Bills set a franchise record for fewest rushing yards in a 16-game season with 1,482.

 

McCoy, just 27, had 1,319 yards on 312 attempts all by himself for the Eagles. With 9,074 combined career yards and 54 touchdowns, he is an elite talent with workhorse stamina for whom teams will have to game-plan.

 

Without the McCoy deal, along with the signing of Pro Bowl fullback Jerome Felton, Ryan’s proclamation of “ground and pound’’ would amount to ground chuck. Now the Bills — under new coordinator Greg Roman, who rode Frank Gore with the San Francisco 49ers — can complement the quarterback with a running game that can dictate tempo.

 

Oh yes, quarterback. The Bills will hold a wide-open competition for the job among 2013 first-round pick EJ Manuel, savvy veteran Matt Cassel, picked up in a trade with Minnesota, and free agent Tyrod Taylor.

 

For Manuel, who was benched after a month in favor of the departed Kyle Orton, this is a crossroads. Unless he’s the clear-cut best player through the preseason, Ryan and Roman will be more than content to have Cassell game-manage their run-based attack. Cassell, 31, led 10-win teams in New England and Kansas City in the past, and his 96-to-70 TD-to-interception ratio for his career has to be respected.

 

But don’t get the impression Buffalo will be all run and no fun. The Bills receiving corps is young and dynamic, led by last year’s rookie sensation Sammy Watkins, who set team rookie marks for catches (65) and yards (982), and second-year man Robert Woods. The well-traveled Percy Harvin was also added to the mix, and Chris Hogan is an emerging talent. The tight end position received a huge boost as well with the signing of Miami free agent Charles Clay, who will give the Bills many matchup advantages downfield.

 

The line will remain a bit unsettled through the summer but figures to shake itself out just fine. Free agent guard Richie Incognito, who spent a year in exile after “Bullygate’’ in Miami, brings attitude and toughness to a unit that produced just seven rushing TDs and yielded 39 sacks. The other guard spot is up for grabs, but there is no shortage of candidates, including rookie John Miller. Underrated center Eric Wood will man the middle for a seventh season.

 

DEFENSE

In 2014, the Bills ranked fourth in yards allowed (312.2), behind only Seattle, Detroit and Denver. They also ranked fourth in points allowed (18.1), first in sacks (54), third in takeaways (30), third in pass defense and first in third-down efficiency.

 

That makes for a pretty tough encore for new coordinator Dennis Thurman, who came over with Ryan from the Jets. But it is one Buffalo — given its wealth of talent — is capable of.

 

It all starts up front where the Bills feature not one, not two, but three Pro Bowl linemen: Mario Williams, Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams. With Jerry Hughes, who was re-signed as a free agent, Buffalo is able to generate immense pressure on opposing quarterbacks without having to blitz much; those four combined for 39.5 of the team’s NFL-leading 54 sacks in 2014. Things are so good at this position, the backups could start for other teams, although Dareus will miss the season opener after being suspended for violating the league’s policy on substance abuse.

 

Ryan is known as a 3-4 proponent, but in truth, he matches his scheme to his personnel, so the Bills will feature a lot of four-man looks (disguised as three-man). Mario Williams and Hughes can play off the line as outside linebackers as well.

 

Depth in the front seven is one reason Buffalo was able to deal star middle linebacker Kiko Alonso, who missed last season with a knee injury, to the Eagles for McCoy. The linebacker corps features young talents in Preston Brown, who led the team in tackles as a rookie with 109, and Nigel Bradham, who had 104. Ty Powell, Randell Johnson and rookie sixth-round pick Tony Steward will battle it out for playing time.

 

In the secondary, the Bills lost starters Jairus Byrd and Da’Norris Searcy the past two years in free agency but still have plenty on hand. The corner spots are manned by former first-round picks Stephon Gilmore and Leodis McKelvin, who combined for seven interceptions last year. McKelvin was having a strong season until sitting out the final six games with a broken ankle. Stepping in superbly was veteran Corey Graham, a free-agent signee who finished with a team-high 15 passes defended.

 

Aaron Williams, a 2011 second-round pick and former corner, has blossomed at strong safety and chipped in 76 tackles and five pass breakups. Third-year man Duke Williams will get the nod to replace Searcy at the free spot. Overall depth in the secondary remains a team strength, led by the likes of Ron Brooks, Nickell Robey and Bacarri Rambo, who intercepted Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers twice in a game last year. Things got even better when Buffalo spent its top pick in the draft on Florida State cornerback Ronald Darby.

 

SPECIALISTS

Placekicker Dan Carpenter set a franchise record with 34 field goals. The former Miami Dolphin has embraced the challenging weather conditions of Ralph Wilson Stadium. With Jordan Gay handling kickoffs, Carpenter can focus solely on the uprights. Punter Colton Schmidt was an August waiver find, and the California native also found an unlikely home, averaging 42.9 yards an effort with 31 dropped inside the 20. Return specialist Marcus Thigpen returns to handle punts and kickoffs.

 

FINAL ANALYSIS

Ryan is the biggest coaching hire in Buffalo since Chuck Knox in the late 1970s, and expectations are high that the NFL’s longest playoff drought will come to an end at 15 seasons. Nobody’s toppling New England in the AFC East as long as Tom Brady is slinging passes, and landing a wild-card spot will take at least 10 wins. But the Bills got to nine last year and could finally knock down the door.

 

Prediction: 2nd in AFC East

Teaser:
Buffalo Bills 2015 Team Preview and Prediction
Post date: Tuesday, July 14, 2015 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/secs-top-players-returning-injury-2015
Body:

Injuries are a big part of any college football season. Whether it’s a starting quarterback, a No. 2 receiver or a defensive lineman part of a deep rotation, injuries will always have an impact on a team.

 

To help preview the season, Athlon is taking a look at some of the injured players from 2014 and their return in 2015.

 

Related: SEC Predictions for 2015

 

Players with a season-ending injury or ones that missed a major chunk of the 2014 campaign were considered for the article. Players that just missed a few games because of injuries and returned were not considered for this article.

 

Here’s a look at a handful of key players returning from injuries from the SEC in 2015:

 

SEC's Top Players Returning from Injury

 

Jeff Badet/Alexander Montgomery, WR, Kentucky

Badet and Montgomery combined for 38 receptions in 2013 but finished 2014 with zero catches due to injuries. Getting both players back will help improve the overall talent and depth at receiver for quarterback Patrick Towles.

 

Related: College Football's 2015 All-America Team

 

Jarrad Davis, LB, Florida

Davis is expected to push for a starting job under new coordinator Geoff Collins, but the Georgia native is recovering from a knee injury suffered against South Carolina. Prior to his injury, Davis made one start and recorded 23 tackles last year.

 

Related: College Football's Best Cornerback Tandems for 2015

 

Kenyan Drake, RB, Alabama

Drake suffered a season-ending leg injury in Alabama’s 23-17 loss to Ole Miss. Prior to the injury, Drake recorded 112 yards and four rushing scores and caught five passes for 159 yards and two touchdowns. Even though Derrick Henry is expected to be a workhorse and one of the nation’s top running backs, there’s plenty of carries for Drake as Alabama’s No. 2 option.

 

Related: SEC Predictions for 2015

 

A.J. Hilliard, LB, Texas A&M

The linebackers are under the spotlight in College Station this year, as last season’s group had its share of ups and downs. Hilliard was a starter for the Aggies in 2014 but missed 12 games after suffering a broken ankle in the opener against South Carolina. He’s expected to start in 2015.

 

Jonathan Jones, CB, Auburn

Jones emerged as one of the SEC’s top cornerbacks in 2014. In 13 games last season, Jones recorded 36 tackles, 11 pass breakups and six interceptions. The senior had offseason foot surgery and is expected to be at full strength by the opener. 

 

Related: SEC 2015 All-Conference Team

 

Alex Kozan, OG, Auburn

A back injury forced Kozan to miss all of the 2014 season, and the Colorado native’s return will be a huge addition to a solid offensive line. Kozan started all 14 games for Auburn in 2013 and earned freshman All-SEC honors. He should be among the nation’s best at guard this season.

 

Davonte Lambert, DL, Auburn

Lambert was a key pickup in the junior college ranks for coach Gus Malzahn, as the Georgia native played in 11 games and recorded 3.5 sacks last year. However, Lambert suffered a torn ACL late in the season and did not participate in the spring.

 

Related: SEC Predictions for 2015

 

Carl Lawson, DE, Auburn

Auburn’s defense has struggled under coach Gus Malzahn, but there’s plenty of optimism entering 2015. New coordinator Will Muschamp was a one of the top hires of the offseason, and Lawson’s return should bolster a pass rush that managed only 10 sacks in SEC games. The Georgia native recorded four sacks and 7.5 tackles for a loss in 2013 and is expected to be at full strength from a knee injury by the fall.

 

Related: College Football's All-Sophomore Team for 2015

 

Kendrick Market, S, Mississippi State

The Bulldogs are set at cornerback with Will Redmond and Taveze Calhoun, but concerns remain at safety for coordinator Manny Diaz. Talented freshman Jamal Peters is expected to see significant snaps, but Market’s status for the upcoming year is uncertain after a torn Achilles in the Egg Bowl. In 12 games last season, Market recorded 49 tackles and one pass breakup.

 

Keith Marshall, RB, Georgia

After a promising freshman season (759 yards and eight scores), Marshall has been limited by injuries in each of his last two years. The North Carolina native has only played in eight games since 2013 and has 270 yards and one score in that span. If he can stay healthy, Georgia will find opportunities for Marshall as a backup to Nick Chubb.

 

Related: SEC Predictions for 2015

 

Mike Matulis, OG, South Carolina

The Gamecocks have to retool their offensive line after the departures of guard A.J. Cann and tackle Corey Robinson. Matulis is expected to push for a starting job at guard, and the senior has missed a majority of snaps the last two years due to injuries. Matulis has 10 career starts.

 

Jake McGee, TE, Florida

McGee was a graduate transfer pickup from Virginia, but his 2014 season never got on track. The senior suffered a broken leg in the opener and missed the rest of the year. McGee caught 71 passes in his career with the Cavaliers.

 

Malcolm Mitchell, WR, Georgia

After catching 85 passes through his first two years, Mitchell has played in just 10 games and caught 31 passes over the last two seasons. A knee injury has limited Mitchell since 2013, but the senior hopes to finish out his career on a high note. If healthy, Mitchell is an All-SEC receiver and needs to have a big season with the departures of Chris Conley and Michael Bennett.

 

Related: College Football's 2015 All-America Team

 

Antonio Morrison, LB, Florida

Morrison was an All-SEC linebacker last season, finishing 2014 with 101 stops, one interception and one sack. However, Morrison suffered a significant knee injury in the bowl win over East Carolina. Will Morrison return to full strength by the opener?

 

Denzel Nkemdiche, LB, Ole Miss

The injury bug hit Ole Miss hard on both sides of the ball last season. Nkemdiche suffered a broken ankle in the loss at LSU and finished 2014 with 28 tackles and one sack. Getting Nkemdiche back to full strength will be a huge boost for coordinator Dave Wommack, as the senior can push for All-SEC honors in 2015.

 

Related: College Football's Top Cornerback Tandems for 2015

 

Marquez North, WR, Tennessee

A shoulder injury derailed North’s hopes of building off a solid freshman campaign. In 2013, North caught 38 passes for 496 yards and one score. However, in 10 games in 2014, North grabbed 30 receptions for 320 yards and four touchdowns. The junior is expected to be the No. 1 target for quarterback Joshua Dobbs.

 

Related: SEC 2015 All-Conference Team

 

Tee Shepard, CB, Ole Miss

Shepard has bounced around a lot in his collegiate career, signing with Notre Dame in 2012 and later playing one season with Holmes Community College. Shepard was poised to push for a starting job in the secondary last year. However, a toe injury in fall camp prevented Shepard from playing in 2014. He’s expected to start in 2015.

 

Related: SEC 2015 Predictions

 

Steven Scheu, TE, Vanderbilt

Scheu was one of Vanderbilt’s top offensive players last season, catching 39 passes for 525 yards and four scores. The Commodores need Scheu at full strength this year, but the senior suffered a leg injury in the spring and is questionable to play in the first game of 2015.

 

Dwayne Thomas/Corey Thompson, DB, LSU

Defensive backs coach Corey Raymond is getting a few reinforcements for 2015. Thomas played in only five games in 2014 due to a knee injury and finished the year with 24 tackles and one pass breakup. Thompson missed all of 2014 with a knee injury and was not at full strength in the spring. Thompson has played in 23 career games and made five starts from 2012-13.

 

Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss

The backstory on Treadwell’s leg injury has been well documented, and it was no secret the Rebels struggled without their No. 1 option. In the last three games against FBS opponents, Ole Miss scored only 34 points and was shutout against Arkansas. Treadwell’s recovery is on track, and the junior is expected to be at full strength by the opener. In nine games last season, Treadwell caught 48 passes for 632 yards and five scores.

 

Related: College Football 2015 All-America Team

 

Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss

The development of Ole Miss’ offensive line is critical after this unit allowed 31 sacks in 2014. Tunsil is the key cog in the trenches, as the junior is the SEC’s top offensive lineman. However, Tunsil is recovering from a leg injury suffered in the Peach Bowl loss against TCU. All signs point to Tunsil making a full recovery by the opener, and he will have two non-conference games to prepare before the showdown against Alabama in Week 3.

Teaser:
SEC's Top Players Returning from Injury in 2015
Post date: Tuesday, July 14, 2015 - 10:00

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