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Written by Sam Durant | 24 August 2016

NFL preseason games might not mean much, but they're more useful for evaluating draft picks than the endless conjecture that comes right after the picks are made in the spring.  Seeing players actually perform on the field can give you a better sense of which teams to wager on when looking at NFL odds.

The 2016 preseason is at the halfway point. We now have more than just scouting reports to go on. We've seen most of the rookies in pads against opposing players, and these five rookies look like draft steals.

No. 5: Blake Martinez, ILB, Packers

The Packers might have found a Week 1 starter in the fourth round.

Because of injuries to inside linebackers Jake Ryan and Sam Barrington, Blake Martinez practiced with the starters throughout offseason workouts. He's taken advantage of that opportunity. In the Packers' preseason opener, he knocked down Browns quarterback Robert Griffin III. In the Packers' Week 2 preseason win over the Raiders, Martinez registered two tackles and did a lot that didn't show up on the stat sheet.

What stood out in the 1st half:
Blake Martinez all over the field.
GB w/3 straight good punts.
Rip
Starting OL & Lacy.
Hundley looked good.

— Brennen Rupp (@brennen_james) August 19, 2016

Had the Hall of Fame Game against the Colts not been cancelled, according to the team website, Martinez would have been wearing the helmet with the speaker inside so he could relay defensive coordinator Dom Capers' play calls. That shows how highly the Packers think of the rookie.

No. 4: Matt Judon, OLB, Ravens

Two preseason games, two sacks for Matt Judon.

It's impressive enough that this kind of production is coming from a fifth-round pick. It's even more impressive considering Judon is making the leap from Division II to the NFL.

The 6'3", 275-pound Judon led the nation at the Division II level with 20 sacks last year for Grand Valley State. He also had 23.5 tackles for loss and forced three fumbles.

Against the Colts, Judon made this play to blow up a two-point conversion in a game the Ravens eventually won 19-18.

Former Division 2 standout Matt Judon comes unblock to prevent the 2pt conversion! D2NFL pic.twitter.com/3f9rByrfhL

— CGRecruiting (@Coach_Gerrard) August 21, 2016

Judon could eventually take the franchise's pass-rushing torch from Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil.

No. 3: Dak Prescott, QB, Cowboys

There might be life after Tony Romo in Dallas.

The Cowboys drafted Dak Prescott out of Mississippi State in the fourth round after failed attempts to trade for Paxton Lynch and Connor Cook. In two preseason games, Prescott has completed 22 of 27 passes with four touchdowns and no interceptions. He's also run for two touchdowns.

Dak Prescott just threw the ball 63 yards in the air on a dime.

— Gregg Rosenthal (@greggrosenthal) August 20, 2016

Even before Prescott went 12-of-15 for 199 yards in last week's 41-14 win over the Dolphins, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said that the Cowboys aren't likely look for a veteran quarterback before the season, according to NFL.com.

Veteran quarterbacks didn't help the Cowboys very much when Romo missed 12 games last season. If a backup is needed at any point in 2016, it's looking more and more like it will be Prescott and not some retread.

No. 2: Paul Turner, WR, Eagles

Technically, Paul Turner isn't a draft steal because he was undrafted.

He would have to be considered some kind of grand heist, then, because according to Rueben Frank of CSN Philly, Turner has been the Eagles' second-best receiver in the preseason behind Jordan Matthews.

Turner has caught nine passes for 78 yards in two preseason games, including this eye-popping, 23-yard grab against the Steelers that set up a touchdown.

Welcome to the NFL, Paul Turner.

We see you, rookie. #PHIvsPIThttps://t.co/0ANRGgMemO

— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) August 19, 2016

Turner played at Louisiana Tech after he transferred from LSU. He was teammates with Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry. Those guys caught 96 and 110 passes, respectively, last season. Perhaps they rubbed off on Turner a little.

No. 1: Tajae Sharpe, WR, Titans

Don't be surprised if Tajae Sharpe, a fifth-round pick from unheralded University of Massachusetts, is the Titans' No. 1 receiver when the games start to count.

Sharpe caught all six passes thrown his way for 68 yards, leading the team in both categories, against the Panthers in Week 2 of the preseason.

Even before that breakout performance, Sharpe impressed the Titans so much in offseason workouts and training camp that Dorial Green-Beckham, last year's second-round pick, became expendable and was traded to the Eagles for offensive lineman Dennis Kelly.

Then in the preseason opener Sharpe caught a 31-yard pass from Marcus Mariota on the second play from scrimmage.

Sharpe led the nation with 111 receptions last season. He provides one more reason to be excited about Mariota and the Titans' up-and-coming offense.

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Written by Joe Tetreault | 23 September 2011

MY NAME IS PITT, AND I'M NOT BUYING YOUR [EXCREMENT]

Pardon the paraphrase of Jules from Pulp Fiction. I'll readily acknowledge that turn of phrase did not spring forth first when I read Jason Whitlock's anti-statistics musings. It came as I watched The X Factor last night with Mrs. TetreaultVision. The final Dallas contestant came out spouting attitude and proceeded to sing just well enough that his pomposity earned him a cluster of no votes and a dejected march backstage.

I quipped at first, people buy from those they like, a reality driven home as I work to become a successful salesman of enterprise software. But then the thought coalesced into the title of this post, and I've tried applying it to the stories I've read this morning.

Per Whitlock, statistics are ruining sports. Well no, they aren't. They just make a less informed world view increasingly untenable. Need proof? Come and see how readily Whitlock's intellectual bankruptcy shines through by the end of the piece:

I don't know the answer. But I want to discuss and debate it. And I don't want to do it with people who simply want to quote stats. The answers and the questions that make sports special, unique, our collective national pastime, can't be found on a stat sheet. They're in our imaginations and our individual interpretation of what we witness.

When the "Moneyball" movie hysteria subsides, I hope the sabermeticians [sic] STFU.

Of course. All good debates should center around one faction Sierra Tango Foxtrot Uniforming, amirite? Makes it much easier for the ideological opponents on the other side. Because when one group Sierra Tango Foxtrot Uniforms all the debate ceases in a grand crashing halt. Add in your own screeching tire sound effects. Go ahead. Your cubemates will laugh at you, but that's okay.

Debate is the clarification of ideas in open competition. Thus debate is at minimum a dialogue, which etymologists tell us stems from the Greek words dia, which means through, and logos, which means discourse. So through discourse we arrive at agreement. And whether that agreement is the agreement to disagree or at some point of commonality upon which both parties can agree matters not. Debate begins with discussion and ends with clarity.

Sports engender passionate feelings among its many followers. We love our teams. We love the thrilling plays and many of us love a deeper understanding of those contests.

Find yourself in coherent congruence with any of my ideals, I bet you do. All of them, not likely at all. Report writers (and really most every database user) understand this inherently. If I join search terms with OR I get everything that matches at least one, and a big crowd. Couple them together with AND and you get a radically smaller subset. Thus debate is natural and needed among sports fans, and no matter of jargon laced monologues will silence those discussions.

The idea that Whitlock's desire is for those he disdains to Shut The Uck Fup suggests his claims of statistics chilling debate are more projective than steeped in any actual event of sabermetricians telling the other side that they need to zip it. Debate ends either when the moderator declares time is up or one side presents an argument so clear and compelling that it convinces the other side of its wrongness. You cannot silence others with your perspective, unless you convince and convert them to your way of thinking.

Whitlock's disconnect comes from the ignorance of the press about which they cover. Media types tend to align themselves ideologically and philosophically with the sources they cultivate. We buy a line of reasoning from those with which we agree. In the case of folks like the "olde tyme sports writers", these notions of analysis are as incomprehensible to them as they are to the people within the game to whom they speak. 

Because the people who help inform his worldview of sports are not espousing a sabermetric viewpoint, there is no effective check on his assumption that statistical analysis is bad. Using that echo chamber to define your point as correct is lazy and incurious. Much like the stat head who regurgitates numbers without adequate observation or context is equally lazy and incurious. Only in combining our powers of observation, concrete data and adequate unseeable context can we best understand the world around us. Including the games about which we are passionate.

We choose to ignore that truth at our own peril. I'll leave you with this quote from F.A. Hayek, which strikes me as entirely relevant:

The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design.

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Written by Joe Tetreault | 28 January 2011

OMBUDSFOLKS: BITING THE HAND THAT FEEDS is a job requirement if one wishes to be a successful ombudsperson. Unless it doesn't. In which case you clam up and then split. ESPN should just do away with the position.

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Written by Joe Tetreault | 27 January 2011

NELSON MUNTZ SAYS: HA HA Are they officially the LOLeafs, now?

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Written by Joe Tetreault | 27 January 2011

INFOGRAPHIC FUN You can't tell the players without a scorecard and you can't tell the glitterati without an infographic. Of course the Lakers have one.

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