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NFL Mailbag: Manziel’s First Start and the Coaching Carousel

What do you expect from Manziel’s first NFL start? -Paul

Johnny Manziel: Four And Out

Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images

Well Paul, being a Bengals’ fan I’ve seen this scenario more times than I would like. Rookie quarterback, all the media attention in the world and most importantly, no film against him, I expect Manziel to have a good game when the Browns play host to Cincinnati on Sunday.

No question Manziel is great using his legs to extend plays and create opportunities, which is always threatening to opposing defenses.

The big question is how much preparation do the Bengals have for Johnny Football? Look at Brian Hoyer, he tears it up his first 12 games, going 9-3. Teams get the film they need on him, start to make adjustments and he loses his job to Manziel with three games remaining in his first year as a full-time starter.

Like I previously mentioned, being a Bengals’ fan, the team can make any quarterback look like Peyton Manning. They showed that multiple times with Brandon Weeden and look how he turned out. However, Cincinnati is 7-3 since 2011 against either a rookie quarterback or a QB making his 2nd start in the NFL.

If Manziel is going to pull out a win in his first career start, it will be because of a solid running game that the Browns hope to get going when they face a Bengals defense that gave up just shy of 200 yards on the ground last week to the Steelers and rank 27th in the NFL against the run.

Who are your most impressive and most disappointing players this year so far? –Xavier

When it comes to impressive players, the obvious ones are going to stick out, such as the guys who are competing for the MVP award at the end of the season (Aaron Rodgers, Andrew Luck, DeMarco Murray, Le’Veon Bell, JJ Watt).

Those names are givens, so let’s explore the under-the-radar players who have really been impressive this season.

BAL, RB Justin Forsett- Texans offensive Gary Kubiak continues to be a running back guru as he has turned Justin Forsett from a guy who never had more than a third down running back, to a pro bowl running back in the best division in football. In 2014, Forsett has set career highs in attempts, yards, yards per carry and touchdowns. In his seventh season, Forsett has finally gotten his chance and has delivered. Here’s how he ranks.

  • 1,080 rushing yards3rd in NFL
  • 6 yards per carry1st in NFL for RB’s
  • 14 20+ yard carries1st in NFL
  • 8 rushing touchdownTied 2nd in NFL
Contender or Pretender: Pittsburgh Steelers Ben Roethlisberger


PIT, QB Ben Roethlisberger- Working with one of the best wide receivers and running backs in the NFL, Ben Roethlisberger, in his 11th season, is on pace for career best numbers. Through 13 games, Big Ben is 2nd in the NFL in yards (4,055) and yards per game (312). He is on pace for just under 5,000 yards at seasons’ end (4,991) and 36 touchdowns which would both be career highs.

However, the Steelers sit in a wild card spot now and fans will forget all about Ben’s great season if they fail to reach the playoffs for the third consecutive season.

DEN, DB Chris Harris Jr – Maybe not well known outside of Denver, but Chris Harris Jr. is arguably the best cornerback in the game. The number one rated cornerback by Pro Football Focus (PFF), Harris has intercepted ten passes, defended over 45 passes , recorded 2.5 sacks and scored a pair of touchdowns since 2011. With Richard Sherman getting all of the attention in the NFC, Harris is just south of him on the map and may reign as the best very soon.

Now to the under-performers of 2014 so far:

SF, QB Collin Kaepernick – After receiving a major contract in the off-season, Collin Kaepernick status for suiting up for the 49ers in 2015 is uncertain. With the 27th ranked passing attack and 24th rated offense in the league, the 49ers have scored less than 20 points in six of their last seven games, going 2-4 in said games. With crucial road wins against Dallas and New Orleans keeping them in the playoff race at 7-6, their loss to the Oakland Raiders last week was a turning point against Kaepernick and head coach Jim Harbaugh.

WASH, QB Robert Griffin III- Well this is obviously a given. RGIII has been maybe the worst of the worst when it comes to being mediocre in 2014. After once again getting injured, this year in week two, Griffin has been bad enough to the point to where he was benched by first-year head coach Jay Gruden. Griffin has thrown just TWO TOUCHDOWN ALL SEASON and the team has been held to less than 13 points in four of the six games he has quarterbacked. Only one time has the team scored over 13 points when he starts, which was their 29-26 loss to the Minnesota Vikings on November 2nd. Griffin will be out of Washington at seasons’ end and will be mediocre elsewhere.

Any chance the Rams upset another big team against the Cardinals this weekend? –Mike

Not only is there a chance, there is a GREAT chance the Rams will come out and spank the Cardinals. The Rams defense, which has posted back-to-back shutouts and hasn’t allowed a point since November 23rd, is licking their chops at this matchup. The Cardinals come in quarterbacked by Drew Stanton, who has thrown five interceptions in the past four games after not throwing a single pick in his first four appearances. With Cardinals’ running back Andre Ellington now placed on season-ending IR, it doesn’t help the Arizona running game which is ranked 30th in the NFL and places a turnover-prone Stanton into throwing the ball a lot against a talented Rams defense. The Cardinals offense has only scored two touchdowns in the past three games and expect them to be stifled in St. Louis where the Rams have outscored opponents 74-7 in their past two games.

And I can’t give all the credit to the Rams’ defensive unit, Shaun Hill is one goal-line interception in the last-minute against the Chargers away from being on a four game winning streak, tossing six touchdowns in that span. The Rams have also found their spark plug at running back, rookie Tre Mason is averaging 90 yards per game in the last four contests, with two 100 yard performances and a pair of touchdowns.

Prediction: Rams 24 Cardinals 9

As a Texans fan I have been surprised with this season. Is there hope for the payoffs or am i asking for too much? –Barb

Though it has been fun for the Texans beating up on the Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars in their last two games, it is a tall order for the Texans to sneak into the playoffs this season.

Currently, the Texans are the number eight seed in the AFC with three games remaining. It looks like the Texans will have to win out if they want a shot at the playoffs. They start with a tough task on the road against the Colts and then return home with another big matchup against the Ravens. It is not impossible, but as Jim Carrey would say, “So you’re telling me there’s a chance.” With the Chargers (current six seed) tough schedule remaining down the stretch, the Texans could leap-frog them, but once again they will have to win both against the Colts and Ravens.

How good is Ryan Fitzpatrick going to be after scoring seven touchdowns in the past two weeks? Texans’ fans can only hope he can put together back-to-back good performances against two teams with 17 combined wins this season. The Harvard grad is just 1-10 against teams with winning records in his tenure with Houston.

Cowboys vs Eagles – does Sunday’s winner win the NFC East? –Timothy

iAwards: 6 NFL Awards Inspired by the iPhone 6 DeMarco Murray

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

There are two different answers to this question, yes and no.

For Dallas, a win is huge, but there is still two games to go and one of them is a visit from Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts. So a win would put them up in the standings, but next week is another tough task.

For Philadelphia, a win means the division. With a victory over the Cowboys this Sunday, the Eagles will have a two game lead (with head-to-head tiebreaker) over Dallas, with two games to go. That would mean the Eagles would have to lose both of their remaining games against the Redskins and the Giants and the Cowboys would have to win their final two games for the Eagles to surrender the East. Eagles get the division with a win Sunday.

Has there ever been a worse match up than the JETS and TITANS this weekend? SHOOT ME. -Nick

This season there will not be a worse matchup then this game. If there is anything going for this matchup it is that Geno Smith said he, “showed flashes of a Pro Bowl quarterback this season.” So if anything you can watch him and see if he shows any more of these “flashes” that no one else but him has seen this year.

Any chance the Steelers are upset in Atlanta like they were in Tampa earlier this season? -William

Well no question the Steelers love to play down to their competition with three losses to under .500 teams this year. That being said, you can see an upset in the mist.

If you watched the Atlanta/Green Bay game on Monday Night last week, it was a shootout that ended in a Green Bay 43-37 victory.

The Falcons come in with the worst ranked defense in the NFL, while Pittsburgh has the second ranked offense. This game will be just like the 80 point affair we saw in Green Bay on Monday Night, with the Falcons lethal passing attack against a Steelers’ secondary that has struggled terrible this year.

This game might come down to simply who has the ball last.

In the end I think Pittsburgh’s defense does just enough more than Atlanta’s, final score:

Steelers 38 Falcons 31

Should we be worried about the Green Bay defense? -Greg

On paper, it looks like you need to worry about the Packers’ defense, ranking 26th overall (20th vs. Pass, 25th vs. Run). On Monday Night, the Packers were torched by the Falcons’ passing attack of Matt Ryan and Julio Jones (who nearly broke the Monday Night Football receiving yards record). Green Bay has definitely had their struggles on the defensive side of the ball, but whenever you have Aaron Rodgers putting up video-game like numbers on the other side of the football, you will be fine.

What will be intriguing is when the Packers host the Lions in the final week of the regular season. The Lions’ defense held the Packers to just seven points in week two, and if they can have the same success against the Packers in Lambeau, it will be up to the defense against the likes of Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson to keep the Lions in the game.

Got any predictions on the coaching carousel this offseason? Who lands where? -Larry

Possible Coaches Leaving:

New York Jets Rex Ryan

Charles Wenzelberg/NY Post

Rex Ryan: no brainer.

Jim Harbaugh: Stunning to me because of three consecutive NFC Championship appearances, but it wouldn’t shock anyone if he leaves.

Jeff Fisher: I love this coach but this looks to be his third straight sub-par season and the Rams may make a move, although I think it’s unfair because his “franchise” quarterback in Sam Bradford is always hurt.

Tony Soprano: It’s Oakland.

Mike Smith: After being one play away from a Super Bowl appearance, the Falcons are abysmal once again. The only thing keeping Smith from unemployment is the fact that the NFC South is so bad that the Falcons might actually host a playoff game in Atlanta in January.

So who will replace them?

Jets: I think the good choice for this position is Greg Roman who has shown that he can work well with quarterbacks, and boy does Geno Smith need a lot of help.

49ers: Defensive line coach Jim Tomsula looks like a good fit for the 49ers. Tomsula replaced head coach Mike Singletary after he was fired during the season, so it’s not like he hasn’t coached.

Rams: Once again, it kills me that Jeff Fisher might not be there next season. That being said, one name that could come up for the job is Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn. Like Bill O’ Brien leaving college to coach the Texans this season, Malzahn may be the next one to do so. With the Rams, he would have his old college running back Tre Mason in his backfield and he would also find ways to get the explosive Tavon Austin the ball.

Raiders: Well Jim Harbaugh, who coached for Oakland in the early 2000’s, is a likely candidate with a winning track record wherever he coaches. Other names like Jon Gruden is a name that is floating around as well as Bengals’ offensive coordinator Hue Jackson, who coached the Raiders to a 9-7 record in 2011 before being fired the next season.

Falcons: Rex Ryan. Hear me out. Mike Smith has continued to struggle on the defensive side of the ball. Rex Ryan is a defensive coach and this is the sexiest job opportunity for any head coach looking for work, with the Falcons’ offense led by Matt Ryan, whom they believe is their franchise quarterback. Ryan could help out the league’s last ranked defense while the offense continues to put up big numbers.

Does your woman date you for your writing skills or other skills???? -OU4SHO

She does love my writing skills, but it might be my above-average singing voice that won her over. I’m not quite sure, I just hope she keeps me around.


Cover Photo: Getty Images

Shelby Dermer

Shelby Dermer

Editor-in-Chief at Sports Grumble
Shelby is a junior studying Journalism at Ohio University. A graduate of Waynesville High School, Shelby did football and baseball play-by-play for Waynesville and had his own sports column in the WHS Spartacus Newspaper while also playing basketball for the Spartans. Now at Ohio, Shelby covers Ohio University Volleyball, Basketball, Baseball, and softball for Speakeasy Magazine where he is the sports' editor. He is an enormous fan of the NFL and MLB and writes Cincinnati Bengals/Reds articles as editor-in-chief of Find Shelby on, as well, where he also serves as editor-in-chief. Shelby is a frequent commentator on discussing sports-related news. Follow Shelby on Twitter @scdermer4
Shelby Dermer

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