Miami Heat: What do the Heat have to do to repeat?
• Matt: I think the better question here is what do the Heat have to do to not repeat as champions, because right now, they’re the clear cut favorite. LeBron is coming off one of the greatest seasons in NBA history, and the guy still has room to improve. Wade and Bosh are still solid, and though health concerns will always be an issue, the two will still be steady contributors come playoff time. Added bench depth means a continued reliance on small ball with the acquisitions of Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis, which isn’t a bad thing. The Heat proved last season they can match up with any team despite the lack of traditional low post depth, and now that that monkey is off LeBron’s back, it wouldn’t surprise me to see this team top the 60-win mark.
• Brett: There is a very simple answer to this question: they just have to play basketball. Seriously. They are still the best team in the league after rampaging through it last year and still have the best player on the planet in LeBron James. The bench is much improved with the additions of Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis and oh yeah, they still have Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. The NBA needs to be on lookout again because the Heat are more dangerous than last season.
Orlando Magic: Who is the most important player on the Magic now that Dwight Howard is gone?
• Matt: Last season, the Magic were an early favorite for playoff success before Dwightmares and Dwight injuries bogged down what could have been a relatively successful season. If their first-round loss to Pacers was any indication what the Magic could do without Dwight Howard, this season is already shaping up to be a long one. Right now, the most important player on this Magic squad has to be Arron Afflalo. The biggest get in the Dwight Howard trade, Afflalo has the ability to score the ball and defend either guard position, which is invaluable in a league full of defensive switch-ups and faster play on the wing. Sure, having guys like Hedo Turkoglu and Jameer Nelson will take some of the pressure off their new Magic teammates, but in the end, it might be weird to say this, but I’d argue Afflalo is the team’s best player now, and needs to play like one.
• Brett: The Magic’s roster looks so bad on paper. Like, No. 1 overall pick worthy. That’s why it’s so hard to pinpoint the player who is most important to the Magic now that Dwight Howard is in LA-LA Land. I guess if I had to choose one, it would be their point guard, Jameer Nelson. He’s a seasoned veteran who has been with the team for a long time, and the only guy that exudes any type of leadership qualities on a consistent basis. There are other names on the roster that could fit, such as Al Harrington or Hedo Turkoglu, but realistically, Nelson is the de facto leader of this team, despite the anonymity. (more…)
With the NBA season upon us, many are already jumping to predict the next champion. Will the Heat repeat? Will the Thunder look to take it one step further and win the organization’s first championship? Or will a retooled Lakers or Celtics squad step up to the plate and show that savvy veterans have what it takes to compete with the young dogs?
But just because the end goal (to win it all) remains firmly in sight, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a Sacramento Kings/Cleveland Cavaliers game, right? There are 30 teams to break down, which is why Matt Vinsko and Brett Murdock (with a little help from their friends) are here to answer the biggest questions from all around the league. So sit back, relax, and enjoy an in-depth breakdown of the NBA season prior to opening tip.
Phoenix Suns: What is the biggest challenge for the Suns in the first year of the post-Nash era?
• Brett: Looking ahead, the Suns biggest concern is their chemistry and how they will mesh. There are some pretty good pieces to this puzzle now, both in the starting line-up and on the bench. Acquisitions like Goran Dragic, Michael Beasley and Luis Scola bring talent and namesake to the starters to go along with fan favorite (and possible face of the franchise?!) Jared Dudley and Marcin Gortat. Off the bench, Wesley Johnson has impressed so far for his new team, but the rest of the back-ups have been underwhelming, including first-round pick Kendall Marshall. As it stands, there is no real floor general like Nash was, and it will take some time to find that cohesiveness that coach Alvin Gentry needs for this team to get back to the playoffs.
L.A. Lakers: Does the Dwight Howard trade put the Los Angeles Lakers back into title contention?
• Matt: If you would have asked me this question prior to last season, I would have immediately told you what a benefit Dwight Howard would be. But now, coming off a season filled with off-the-court drama and a number of injuries (compared to Andrew Bynum’s career year), it’s hard to be ecstatic. Sure, Dwight will help defensively, which is what the Lakers needed last year in the playoffs against a much-younger Oklahoma City squad. And even though defense isn’t his specialty, Steve Nash is set to rejuvenate a somewhat stagnate offense. But still, it’s hard to be excited knowing Superman can walk out the door at the end of the season if contract negotiations fall flat. With the Lakers, it always feels like a championship or bust mentality, and unless Nash, Pau Gasol, and even Kobe Bryant can channel their youth, it’s hard to see the Lakers competing night in and night out for 48 minutes. (more…)
BY Couchsideshow.com staff
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Couch Side pays its homage to the World Champion San Francisco Giants in this week’s episode with hosts Wade McMillin ans Craig Paul and special guest Sean Schoonover. Our panel also looks at the highlights of Week 8 of the NFL and gives out some Fantasy Football advice. Click below to start streaming, downloading or subscribing to the Couch Side Show podcast:
As a hardcore Atlanta Braves fan, I would truly be remiss if I didn’t write a tribute blog to Chipper Jones one day after the 2012 season ended.
The 19-year-pro may have hung up his cleats earlier than he wanted to as his beloved Braves were ousted of the playoffs in the inaugural Wild Card round of the MLB playoffs, but I bet this season was everything he wanted it to be. Although it must’ve been a saddening experience, every single MLB ballpark that Jones played in during this final run bid him their own farewell in some very unique ways. Every club gave the 40-year old their park’s third base while others threw promotional nights for baseball fans to say their goodbyes to one of the best players who has ever graced the diamond.
In times of darkness with things like performance enhancing drugs and “chicken and beer” incidents, Jones’ final season showed us all how classy baseball can be. Jones won’t go down as the best third baseman who ever walked or perhaps even a top 50 player, but he was treated like a true titan of the game in each contest he played this season. I even made a trip from Northwest, Wyoming to Coors Field in Denver just to see No. 10 one last time and I made that very special trip my bachelor party, two months before my wedding.
Jones has clearly earned his respect. He may not have done it with his numbers, but rather his heart. I truly believe he was so well respected for more than his talent. And although he could certainly be recognized on talent alone, there was just something different about Chipper. Maybe it’s because he spent his entire 19-year-career in the same uniform. Maybe he is so highly regarded because he was never within a 10 foot pole’s reach of any sort of steroid conversation. Above all, I believe most baseball fans honored Chipper because he is that sort of “Mr. Baseball” kind of guy.
He has the neat nickname. Chipper plays the hot corner and did it despite bad knees. He was a World Series champ and the poster boy of Bobby Cox’s run at 19-consecutive N.L. East division titles. While some just watched the Braves for their pitching, they always knew No. 10 was the one hitter you always had to watch out for. While some players will earn their honors in the stat sheets, Chipper took the hearts of MLB fans by being himself — a grown man that played the game for the simple joys of it and the people who looked up to him.
So thanks for 19 years Chipper. I hope retirement is all that you want it to be. Although I will be looking for your name in next year’s starting lineup, I’m truly proud to have been a baseball fan during your career.
Jay Cutler is a hard guy to like.
Sure he’s the quarterback of the most popular team in the Chicago area, and a “franchise” guy, but Jay Cutler’s attitude is making it really hard to root for the Chicago Bears and enjoy their success.
The Blackhawks have Jonathan Toews who balances out Patrick Kane‘s so-so antics. But at least Kane loves Hawks fans and never shuts them or the media out. The Bulls have Derrick Rose, perhaps the most likable guy in the NBA and the Sox, as brutal as that clubhouse can get, have guys that fans love.
Cutler is as polarizing as it gets, and it seems each week we’re not only watching to see what he does on the field but what he does on the sidelines as well.
We got another “Cutler being Cutler” moment on his way to the locker room, trailing at halftime. As boos reigned down in Chicago, FOX cameras followed Cutler and caught him giving a condescending look to the Bears faithful at Soldier Field and mouthing something that is open to interpretation — but it didn’t seem like he was thanking them for coming.
Dan Bernstein from CBS Chicago suggested that Cutler was saying “You fuc#!ing fans, you guys…”. The GIF above seems to also suggest that, or at least Cutler is saying words to that effect. (more…)
Defense wins championships, still.
The first thing that came to mind when assessing these teams was not the stellar starting pitching on either sides, or the high end offensive quality, but the defense.
If you watched the NLCS, you could tell which team was more fundamentally sound, or at the very least executed better with the glove. The Cardinals repeatedly shot themselves in the foot in games 6 and 7, while the play of the Giants only seemed to get better with each opportunity. Angel Pagan and Gregor Blanco are fantastic outfielders who have shown off great range; Brandon Crawford is one of the best defensive shortstops in the league (lead the NL in range factor), Marco Scutaro has shown off some nifty glove work, and Pablo Sandoval is not a complete liability at third. Contrast this with the Tigers defense and we get an entirely different story.
Austin Jackson aside, the Tigers defense is and has been sorely lacking all season. Miguel Cabrera is not an adequate third basemen, he’s actually better at first, but Prince Fielder is over there and he should be a DH. However, the Tigers have to play games in the NL Park where there are no designated hitters, which means the god emperor of outfield suck Delmon Young has to play Left, which he hasn’t done in a while. Remember Vladimir Guerrero in the 2010 World Series? We could see gaffes of epic proportions.
The ALCS MVP had a few good games against the Yankees, but the former #1 draft pick has no skills other than popping a few home runs, and maybe a few cheeseburgers. He’s a big guy, and I don’t see the move to the outfield as a positive. But of course, Jim Leyland has to play him because it’s what he’s doing throughout the season, but I can’t help but wonder if old Jim will replace him for an Andy Dirks or Don Kelly late in games against a Santiago Cassia or Sergio Romo.
Defense Edge: Giants (more…)
BY Couchsideshow.com staff
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In this week’s episode, Couch Side co-hosts Wade McMillin and Craig Paul bring back special guest Sean Schoonover to preview the upcoming NFL season and dish out some Fantasy Football advice. Craig and Wade also discuss Week Seven of the NFL and handle a question about the Lance Armstrong turmoil. Click below to start steaming, downloading or subscribing to the Couch Side Podcast:
BY ZACK KELBERMAN, Feedcrossing.com syndication
When the Steelers tabbed Todd Haley as offensive coordinator, replacing the oft-criticized Bruce Arians, it was thought he’d bring along with him a pass-happy, downfield attack, utilizing quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s big arm and the troika of weapons surrounding him.
But it hasn’t been the case. Pittsburgh currently employs the No. 17-ranked offense and has failed to establish a consistent rhythm, much to the chagrin of a frustrated Big Ben.
“Haley’s offense is not a big-play offense,” Roethlisberger said, via the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “It’s kind of a dink-and-dunk offense.”
One reporter asked Roethlisberger why the offense shies away from quick strike passes, especially after receiver Mike Wallace broke loose for an 82-yard touchdown last week.
Ben’s response was telling.
“There’s a guy calling the plays. That’s on him,” he said. “Sometimes, we’ll call something long, and it’s just not there. For us, the big thing is that when we get into the red zone, we don’t get complicated. We need to finish drives.” (more…)
I don’t know what’s it like to be an Oakland Athletics fan, but I can imagine it would be full of guessing and second guessing every decision general manager Billy Beane makes. The best part is that you can never get comfortable and settle down with the roster because he’s always making a deal with someone somewhere for unknown utility infielders, undervalued relief pitchers, and Manny Ramirez.
Beane gets a lot of criticism for the way he’s always changing the look of his team, but it’s the hand he’s been dealt with since day one i.e. a small market team trying to compete with the big boys. I don’t need to rehash Moneyball or anything, but his forward thinking has helped further statistical analysis of the game and I like GMs who never settle for what they have and always tweak with their team’s roster.
Of course it’s easy to praise Beane from afar which might be because I’m not a casualty of his wheelings and dealings, and other fans might feel the same way about Kenny Williams (who I love) and Kevin Towers.
Towers is a hard one for me to fairly judge because he is after all the GM of my Arizona Diamondbacks, and fans scrutinize their own harder than others do. One of the first things he did when he took over in 2011 was sign a veteran group of players like Willie Bloomquist, Geoff Blum, J.J. Putz, and Russell Branyan, with only Putz being a worthwhile investment. Right away that told the fan base that he wasn’t F-in around and wasn’t afraid to make a polarizing moves. (more…)
The New York Yankees season ended, but they came away from the postseason different than other years. The Bronx Bombers looked old, slow and flat-out bad. Derek Jeter was injured, and surgery will sideline for several months. Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano seemed impatient at the plate. And it is safe to say plenty of players on the postseason roster will not be apart of the team come spring training. While most of the sports world is laughing at Yankee fans and the pain they currently feel, because they’re the Yankees, they’ll most likely have the last laugh. Lets not forget, it could be worse, I’m sure Boston Red Sox fans will agree. Here are five things Yankee fans can look forward to in the next couple of months.
1. The possible dismissal of A-Rod: Just so I can get this out of the way, Alex Rodriguez has probably seen his last days wearing pinstripes. Well, in a Yankee uniform at least, who knows what that dude will wear. A-Rod has looked pathetic this season. Since coming back from injury Sept. 3, Rodriguez ranks 170 of 173 in OPS vs. right-handers. The guy cannot hit a low-ball fastball pitcher. Check that, A-Roid can’t hit the fastball, or righties. But, the Yankees could be saved. The Miami Marlins, a team looking for anything and anyone to help the organization in some way, may want Rodriguez. A-Rod, a native of Miami, has a full no-trade clause and would have to waive it for a trade to any team. After hearing A-Rod in his closing interviews of the season, it sounds like he wants to stay in New York. He could just be saying that for PR reasons, but there is no way he wants to be somewhere he is no wanted any longer. Here’s a guy who is signed through 2017 and is still owed over $100 million and it is safe to say he probably won’t hit more than 20 home runs in a season for the remainder of his career. If the Yankees are able to dump him off to a team wanting to make a splash (if not Marlins, perhaps the Diamondbacks, Dodgers or Angels) then it’s a huge victory, no matter how much money the Yankees wind up paying. While there are plenty of obstacles for an A-Rod deal, the Yankees can get it done. (more…)
When Alex Rodriguez was traded by the Texas Rangers about eight years ago, I wasn’t surprised one bit that the New York Yankees were the team to pick up the most expensive price tag in baseball history.
The Yankees are known for spending big cash for premiere players. It’s no secret. However, usually those high-dollar investments yield tons in return. Players know they must earn their paycheck, especially when it has so many zeros in it. So did A-Rod live up to the hype when he put on the pinstripes? Did the Yankees actually get $112 million back in terms of production from the guy who many of us thought would end up as the best baseball player who ever walked?
Rodriguez did earn two MVP awards and helped New York win a World Series ring during his time in pinstripes, which one could argue is worth such a financial gamble. But there’s no doubt A-Rod came with some headaches, too. There was the opt out controversy of 2007, several injuries, unwanted off field publicity, and of course, steroids. While Rodriguez has always played a major part in the Yankees success since he was traded to New York in 2004, like any other “superstar” athlete, his baggage was heavy.
So the end of the A-Rod era may be coming to a close, especially since Rodriguez has been benched and had many fingers pointed at him this offseason. It seems the 12-time All-Star’s skills are depleting and New York isn’t even sure if they would like him in pinstripes next year. And before the playoffs have even ended, trade rumors are starting to come up about how he could be dealt to the Miami Marlins. Yanks General Manager Brian Cashman has written such claims off, but team President Randy Levine has been quoted telling Marlins President Jeffrey Loria that “you can have him.”
Loria has more or less let it be known that he has high interest in Rodriguez coming to Miami. After all, it’s the city where super-hyped athletes go to prove something like LeBron James did when he joined the Miami Heat. However, Rodriguez has said he would to end his career as a Yankee. The question now is, do the Yankees want him to?
New York would be crazy not to go in another direction. It’s obvious Rodriguez is somewhat washed up. Yes, he can still produce, but that production is not even close to what it used to be. And yes, I might be being hard on a player who is well past his prime at the veteran’s age of 37, yet that should be just another reason why the Yankees need to give Rodriguez the boot. And to think the Marlins would actually be able to get a lot out of a 37-year-old third baseman is just plain whacky.
I honestly think the Marlins are crazy enough to pull off some sort of deal to land Rodriguez. But it would make more sense for A-Rod to go to a team that can actually use him. New York may just use him as a Designated Hitter next year and that will be that. Who knows when it comes to such a overly hyped player? The facts are right there in front of everyone’s eyes, though. A-Rod isn’t a feared hitter anymore; his stats have plummeted; and the only thing he is good for is grabbing a headline from time to time.
The Yankees need to forget about the A-Rod era. It’s seriously time to move on and it’s time to forget about what once was. The Yankees don’t owe Rodriguez anything. And if they think they do, they’re just as bonkers as whatever team ends up with this fading star.
BY Couchsideshow.com staff
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After one week off, the Couch Side gang is back. This week host Wade McMillin is on the phone with usual co-host Craig Paul and good friend Sean Schoonover joined the show for this week’s Head to Head Honchos. This week’s topics include: a review of Week 6 of the NFL, a look at Week 7, the MLB playoffs and even more Fantasy Football advice. Click below to get started!
NLCS preview: Cardinals v. Giants – After another improbable playoff comeback, the St. Louis Cardinals are at it again, defying odds and expectations to be in the championship series against the other most recent World Series winner. San Francisco survived the Division round against Cincinnati by winning three straight games on the road, and now open at home to the cardiac Cardinals, so who will win?
The starting pitching matchups for the first few games should look like this.
• Game 1: Lance Lynn v. Madison Bumgarner
• Game 2: Chris Carpenter v. Ryan Vogelsong
• Game 3: Matt Cain v. Kyle Lohse
• Game 4: Barry Zito/Tim Lincecum v. Adam Wainwright
Lance Lynn last pitched to Jayson Werth in NLDS game 4, when Werth deposited a center cut Lynn fastball into the Nationals bullpen. He didn’t start a game last series, after spending the entire season in the rotation, so manager Mike Matheny may treat this as a pseudo bullpen by committee game. If Lynn struggles early, he won’t hesitate to bring in the flamethrower Trevor Rosenthal or Mitchell Boggs. From the Giants perspective, they get the home/road advantage with Vogelsong pitching in AT&T Park.
Like most of the Giants pitching staff, they benefit from a big outfield in San Francisco, which most importantly affects home run to fly ball ratios. Vogelsong and Bumgarner should have a slight edge, and it helps that they have some fantastic outfield defense with Gregor Blanco and Angel Pagan to assist. (more…)
Is it possible for the LCS to top what transpired in the LDS? I inaccurately predicted 2 of the 4 division series, and I would have gotten them all right if not for those deadly due of Raul Ibanez and Pete Kozma. What will the next round offer? Let’s list off what it’s going up against in terms of drama and intrigue:
I dare the Tigers/Yankees and Giants/Cardinals series to match what was an incredible week of baseball, now onto the next round of wholly inaccurate predictions. ALCS: Tigers v. Yankees- Detroit could be at a slight disadvantage because of the forced travel in the wee hours of Friday night following the Yankee victory.
Kudos to MLB for being constrained by the television contracts and not guaranteeing an off day, unlike the NLCS. The game 1 matchup is Doug Fister v. Andy Pettitte, and it should be a good one.
One thing about Pettitte I find interesting is that Yankee fans love to tout his postseason success, as if he transforms into Cy Young during October. What I find more interesting is that his playoff ERA (3.83) is nearly identical to his career ERA (3.86), so it would be accurate to say he remains a consistently good Andy Pettitte regardless of the situation. He has almost a reverse platoon split against left handed hitters, which is peculiar considering righties should have an advantage right? (more…)
• Reds vs. Giants - San Francisco should have the edge here based on the quality of pitching with Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner starting games 1 and 2 at home. Cincinnati is countering with Johnny Cueto and Bronson, saving Mat Latos for game 3 against Lincecum. The lineups both have plenty of holes, but the Giants overall is a bit better, and I could easily see future NL MVP Buster Posey just going crazy. Dusty Baker and Bruce Bochy are both unimpressive managers based on their tactical prowess, but Bochy has fewer opportunities to makes mistakes because his team has better pitching. This, like the other series this round should prove to be highly entertaining, and will provide good fodder for the blogosphere and twitter verse.
Giants in 4
• Yankees vs. Orioles - Orioles magic will never die; I’d argue that it’s never been stronger. Going into Arlington and eliminating the Rangers is legitimate, and now they have a delicious matchup against the rival Yankees. Camden Yards is going to rocking on Sunday, and you can throw postseason experience and every other cliché out the window, Baltimore is simply on a roll. It’s likely that the Yankees could outslug them and CC takes advantage of the free swinging O’s. Baltimore’s offense is not big on drawing a lot of walks and using patience, they just hit home runs and utilize a very effective bullpen. Manager Buck Showalter is a stronger with in-game tactics, and it showed against Ron Washington, and should exploit whatever Girardi throws at them. Of course, the talents of Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, Jeter, and Ichiro could be too much and the Yankees roll on, but who am I to root for the Yankees? (more…)
BY BRANDON J. SMITH & WADE MCMILLIN, Couchsideshow.com bloggers
With the postseason kicking off tomorrow night, Couchside’s official MLB playoff preview will look at the MLB’s new extended wildcard round and offer predictions of who will win each one-game series.
Cardinals at Braves
• Brandon: Kris Medlen has been fantastic, sporting a 1.57 ERA to boot. He’s faced St. Louis once this season, and it was a long relief appearance on May 28th in an 8-2 loss. He allowed 2 runs on 4 hits in 2 2/3 innings. It’s hardly a large enough sample to extrapolate from, but he’s been great against righties and the Cardinals strength is their RH group of Molina, Holliday, Craig, and Freese. Kyle Lohse, the Cardinals starter, has pitched to contact all season, but kept the walks down and the strikeouts at a respectable 6 per 9 innings. For Kyle Lohse, pitching 211 innings with a 2.86 ERA on those peripherals is a really great Kyle Lohse season. He allowed 5 runs to the Braves in a start on May 30th; he gave up 9 hits and 2 home runs. Will fortunes reverse? I’m going to go ahead and say yes, you can never predict these one game affairs, so I’ll go with the likely underdog.
Prediction: Cardinals win 5-4 in dramatic fashion.
• Wade: Oh Brandon, first you’re going to rank the L.A. Angels than the Detroit Tigers in your power rankings and now you’re hating on my beloved Braves? I don’t think the Cardinals have a chance for the simple reason that Brandon had to use Kris Medlen’s name in his first sentence. I see the 26-year-old master of the zone dominating the Red Birds on Friday night. Medlen wasn’t pitcher perfect in the first half of the season, but now, he’s playing like he is the Mike Trout (or Migueld Cabrera) of the mound in the major leagues. Medlen just has too much momentum on his side, winning nine of his 13 starts this season and posting a 1.26 ERA with four wins this month. Medlen isn’t the only Brave to catch fire, either. Atlanta went 20-9 to wrap up the season, closing the gap between them and the Washington Nationals (who the Braves swept in September) in the N.L. East to just four games by the time it was all said and done. This truly is one of the hottest teams in baseball right now and although Friday’s contest against St. Louis won’t be an easy win. I believe that my Braves will hang on in a low-scoring tight one. There’s no way Craig Kimbrel blows this one.
Prediction: Braves win 2-0 with an outstanding performance by Kris Medlen
Orioles at Rangers
• Brandon: I have no elite analysis here, all I’m going to say is never turn your back on Orioles magic. (more…)
BY Couchsideshow.com staff
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After a week of some of the highest scoring college football games on record, Couch Side hosts Wade McMillin and Craig Paul examine what these high-powered offense means for Division I football. The gang also chat about 3-1 teams in the NFL and dish out even more Fantasy Football advice.
In four straight games, the three-year pro is already inching toward a personal best for his most receiving yards in single season. And Hartline has not only looked good doing it, but he is starting to emerge as one of the most dominant receivers in this young season. He’s not the only budding star at the wide out, either.
Players like Danny Amendola of the St. Louis Rams, Ramses Barden of the New York Giants and even perhaps Andre Roberts of the Arizona Cardinals have also turned some heads that otherwise wouldn’t have been turned on their names alone. And although those three young wideouts are making their way up the NFL totem poll, they’re not doing it quite at the pace as Hartline.
The Ohio State product is clearly emerging as Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill‘s favorite target and making the first-rounder look good in his rookie season under center. I really didn’t buy into Tannehill making it in this league whatsoever.
However, if he can keep his report with Hartline like it is now, we could have ourselves another Dan Marino-O.J. McDuffie or John Elway-Ed McCaffrey relationship starting to bloom in Miami. (more…)