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Classic Team Logo of The Day

27 Jan

Logo of a Division II college football team that plays in the South Atlantic Conference, the Catawba College Indians. The NCAA cited the school for it’s “abusive” nickname, but after appealing to continue to use the name, citing the approval of the Catawba Indian Nation, the NCAA relented. Catawba alumni who have gone on to pro football careers include Bucky Pope, a Rams’ receiver who was nicknamed “The Catawba Claw”, Ike Hill, Dave Taylor and Drew Buie.

 

 
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Classic Sports Card of The Day

27 Jan

1976 Topps football card of former pro football defensive lineman Earl Edwards, who played 11 seasons in the NFL for 4 different teams. After playing 2 years with Edmonton of the CFL, he joined the San Francisco 49ers in 1969 and finished second in the voting for Defensive Rookie of The Year to Pittsburgh legend Mean Joe Greene. He helped the Niners win the NFC West from 1970 to 1972, then was traded to Buffalo. He finished up his NFL career with stops in Cleveland and Green Bay. Edwards is currently a substitute teacher in Arizona.

 
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NFL – Buffalo Bills’ Season Review – Part 2

26 Jan

Part 2 of our annual Buffalo Bills’ season review will focus on the offensive side of the ball. Surprisingly, the offense was the strength of the team all year, mainly due to the play of quarterback Josh Allen. Here’s a position-by-position critique of the Bills’ offense:

 

Quarterbacks

 

Josh Allen’s play in his third season drew rave reviews around the NFL due to an improvement level rarely, if ever, seen before at the game’s most important position. He solidified his spot as a franchise QB by leading a dominant passing attack that thrived despite the lack of a consistent run game. Allen has established himself as one of the game’s rising stars. Veteran Matt Barkley was the backup again in 2020 but rarely saw action due to Allen’s durability. He did impress in the club’s final regular season game against Miami in which they rested their starters. His contract is up now, so the question is, will he be back or will Buffalo turn to a younger option. They have 2 of those on the roster. Davis Webb and 2020 draft pick Jake Fromm. Since the pandemic wiped out the NFL’s preseason, neither Webb or Fromm has truly been evaluated yet.

 

Running backs

 

This is a spot that is in need of an upgrade if the Bills hope to take the jump to championship level. Devin Singletary was average at best as the starting back, and is not an explosive runner. Rookie Zach Moss, in my opinion, surpassed him as the lead back before a late-season injury ended his season. The Bills could be looking at a feature back early in the draft if one turns out to be the “best player available” when they get their turn at pick 30. Veteran T.J. Yeldon has served strictly as an insurance policy since he joined the team. He’s flashed some brilliance when he’s gotten a chance to play, but the fact that he’s almost always inactive and his contract is up leads me to believe that his days are numbered here, probably by his own choice. There are a couple of other interesting options on the roster. Undrafted rookie Antonio Williams became a fan favorite and a realistic possibility to make the regular roster when he was recalled from the practice squad for the finale against the Dolphins and played great. Former rugby player Christian Wade will get his final shot at making the team in 2021. He has also shined in limited preseason showings and has gotten to learn the nuances of the game the last 2 years. Taiwan Jones is on the roster strictly for special teams. Veteran Devonta Freeman was added to the practice squad after Moss was hurt. Was he just season-ending insurance or will he be back in 2021?

 

Receivers

 

The receiving corps was a major strength of the Buffalo attack in 2020. After adding veteran free agents John Brown and Cole Beasley in 2019, GM Brandon Beane made a bold trade to acquire Stefon Diggs from the Vikings to round out the starting 3 wideouts. He then proceeded to add another valuable receiving weapon in the fourth round of the draft when he “stole” Gabriel Davis. Beasley had a career year working out of the slot, while Brown’s production dropped, partly due to Diggs’ arrival as the main target of the passing attack. Isaiah McKenzie is a Swiss Army knife of a player who adds versatility to the unit, and is also the backup kick returner. He is due to be a free agent, and is one name the Bills should pursue, given his value in different areas. Andre Roberts, also an impending free agent, makes minimal contributions as a receiver but is an All Pro kick returner. The Bills also have some interesting prospects for the wideout position on their injured reserve/practice squad lists. Isaiah Hodgins, a 2020 sixth round draft pick, never got a chance to show his worth as he wound up on IR at the final cutdown. He is a rangy 6’4 receiver who is said to have excellent hands. Beane loaded up with extra insurance on the practice squad near season’s end. Kenny Stills is a veteran speedster known for his ability to go deep. Jake “Touchdown Jesus” Kumerow got some game action at Denver and scored a touchdown to put his name on the map. Duke Williams has been on the PS for 2 seasons now and has occasionally gotten a shot to play, but hasn’t cracked the full roster yet. Another interesting late season signee was Tanner Gentry, Josh Allen’s favorite target in their college days at Wyoming. Kumerow and Gentry have already been signed to future contracts for next season, while it remains to be seen if Stills is considered an option for 2021 or was merely a 2020 insurance policy.

The Bills carried 4 tight ends on their roster in 2020. Dawson Knox emerged as the undisputed starter during the season after battling injury and Covid issues early on. In his absence, Tyler Kroft filled in admirably but as the season progressed he was inexplicably relegated to inactive status on game day each week. Lee Smith, who is basically a tackle playing tight end, was used more often, mainly to help a rushing attack that never really meshed all year. The fourth tight end is undrafted rookie Reggie Gilliam. He contributed on special teams and was used as a blocking back on short yardage plays. Like Duke Williams, Nate Becker has been a practice squad regular for 2 seasons but seems to have not much of a future with the club. Speaking of future, Tommy Sweeney’s is a question mark going forward. He contracted Covid-19 and then developed a heart issue from it that could jeopardize his career going forward.

 

Offensive Line

 

The Bills solidified the offensive line as the season went on after some early shuffling, but after a disappointing finish at Kansas City in the title game and with some free agency pending, there may be some reshuffling going on in the offseason. The only spot set in stone at this point is left tackle, where Dion Dawkins is the man, freshly signed to an extension. Two starters, Jon Feliciano and Darryl Williams, are free agents. Williams was solid most of the year but played poorly against the Chiefs so his return is no sure thing, especially with Cody Ford returning from injury. There is speculation that the Bills could part with center Mitch Morse to save cap money. He was benched for a short time during the season so that speculation might have some truth to it. If Morse is let go, signing Feliciano becomes a priority since he would be the player to slide into the position. Ike Boettger quietly took over the left guard spot as the season progressed, and was decent, but with Beane always looking to upgrade the roster, his starting position is tenuous. As for the depth, there is versatile Ryan Bates, who can play any position, a skill the coaches value. Swing tackle Ty Nsekhe is a fine backup, but he’s also 35 years old. Brian Winters is an impending free agent. He had multiple chances to move into the starting lineup and couldn’t stay there, so I don’t see him being a priority to resign. Jordan Devey, a late season insurance add to the roster, is 33 and not a long term prospect either. The practice squad has a couple of interesting prospects. Jonotthan Harrison was a “protected” PS player most of the year, so the Bills must see some value there. Trey Adams is a big tackle prospect who was highly rated coming out of college until injuries hampered him. There is certainly room for improvement and an infusion of youth along the O line.

 

 

 
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Classic Team Logo of The Day

26 Jan

Logo of a scholastic football team from northern California, the Firebaugh High School Eagles. The school is located in Fresno County and has a majority of Hispanic students enrolled in it. It’s most famous athletic alumnus is current Buffalo Bills’ quarterback Josh Allen.

 
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Classic Sports Card of The Day

26 Jan

2019 Score football card of one of the bright young stars of today’s NFL, Buffalo Bills’ quarterback Josh Allen. Drafted in the first round out of Wyoming in 2018, he has improved vastly in his 3 years in the NFL, to the point where he was considered a serious MVP candidate in 2020. His family owns a cantelope farm in the rural northern California town of Firebaugh.

 
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NFL – Buffalo Bills’ Season Review – Part 1

25 Jan

The 2020 Buffalo Bills’ season extended quite a ways past where it usually has in other years, yet came 2 weeks short of where fans hoped it would end. Nevertheless, it’s time to publish our annual four part season review of the team. Part 1 deals with the Bills’ management and coaching staff. General Manager Brandon Beane deserves an A+ for the job he’s done in constructing a playoff caliber roster, and he’s been rewarded with several Executive of The Year honors. He purged the roster of selfish players who were deemed to be not buying in to “the process”, drafted a sure-fire franchise quarterback in Josh Allen and then surrounded him with the talent to help him succeed. In the last off-season Beane did some of his best work. He sacrificed the club’s top draft choice in a trade that yielded a player who turned out to be the top wide receiver in the NFL in Stefon Diggs. His work with the remainder of his 2020 draft picks left the team with players who either contributed on some level to the winning year or have the  potential to be part of the Bills’ future success. Beane’s next challenge will be his toughest – raising the team to championship level by continuing to add depth pieces and recognize where he needs to freshen the roster with young talent that can improve a club that won 15 games this season but still came up short of the ultimate goal. The Bills lost a rather one-sided AFC Championship game to Kansas City to end the season, so there’s now a clear barometer of where they need to get to in order to climb the final mountain.

Head coach Sean McDermott has established much more than just a winning culture in Buffalo. His players have banded together into a brotherhood where they all play unselfishly for each other and for the team’s die-hard fans. There’s a lot of love in the locker room, and that has been noticed around the league, as the Bills are now respected as a winning organization that other players will be willing to come and join. That helps Beane do his job. One of my criticisms of McDermott in past reviews was that at 0-6 against Bill Belichick he had yet to beat the AFC East’s dominant team. He slayed that dragon in 2020 by sweeping the Pats, including a convincing win in Foxborough near the end of the regular season. His assistant coaches have become hot properties around the league as both coordinators, Brian Daboll and Leslie Frazier, have gotten interviews for head coaching openings, and quarterback coach Ken Dorsey has been rumored to be a candidate for offensive coordinator jobs. McDermott, a serious candidate for Coach of The Year for his work, hasn’t been perfect. His challenge decisions haven’t always worked, and his team overall looked overmatched and outcoached in the title game against the defending champion Chiefs.

With 3 playoff appearances in 4 seasons, the Bills’ management and coaching is in a solid and stable position for years of future success. There still needs to be improvement as standing pat usually leads to staleness and regression, but the Beane/McDermott partnership is well equipped to accomplish that.

 
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Classic Team Logo of The Day

25 Jan

Logo of a college football team that plays in the  American Conference, the University of Central Florida Golden Knights. The school’s football program began play in 1979, and formerly played in the Mid-America Conference and Conference USA. They have won 6 conference titles, and their home stadium is known as “The Bounce House”. Former Knights who have gone on to play pro football include Brandon Marshall, Kamar Aiken, Leger Douzable, Daunte Culpepper, Shawn Jefferson, Asante Samuel, Josh Sitton and current players Matt Prater, A.J. Bouye, Gabriel Davis, Latavius Murray, Blake Bortles, and Shaquill and Shaquem Griffin.

 
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Classic Sports Card of The Day

25 Jan

1995 Topps football card of former pro football defensive end Mark Pike, who enjoyed a 13 year career in the NFL, all with the Buffalo Bills. Despite his longevity, he was never a full time starter for the Bills, but like his teammate Steve Tasker was a valuable member of the special teams units. The “bomb squads” were a point of emphasis for Bills’ coach Marv Levy, and he valued players who helped the team in that third phase of the game. Pike has served as an instructor at Jim Kelly’s football camps, and helped his son Zeke open a sober living home for recovering addicts.

 
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NFL – Throwback Thursday: Breaking The Moulds

31 Dec

The NFL regular season of 2020 wraps up this weekend, and a pair of old AFC East rivals, the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins, square off with both having positive seasons. Both made the playoffs in 1998 also, and our final Throwback Thursday feature will go back to that season, and a wild card playoff game held at Miami’s Pro Player Stadium on January 2, 1999. The teams had identical 10-6 records for the year but the Dolphins won the division based on tiebreakers. The Bills were already a couple of years removed from the Jim Kelly era, and were quarterbacked by Doug Flutie, who they signed after he had an illustrious career in the Canadian League. Dan Marino was still leading the Dolphins’ passing attack, but was past his prime and nearing the end of his long career.

The first half was relatively quiet offensively as far as scoring went. Olindo Mare kicked a pair of field goals for an early Miami lead, then Flutie led a drive that culminated in a 1 yard rushing touchdown by veteran Thurman Thomas to put the Bills up 7-6. In the third quarter the Dolphins regained the lead at 14-7 when Karim Abdul-Jabbar scored on a short run and Stanley Pritchett ran in for a successful 2 point conversion. Throughout the game, Flutie enjoyed tremendous success hooking up with his favorite target, wide receiver Eric Moulds, to highlight Buffalo’s offensive attack. Moulds, who had a record-setting day with 9 receptions for 240 yards, hauled in a Flutie aerial and turned it into a 32 yard touchdown to tie the game after 3 quarters. Miami took control in the final stanza by scoring twice, on another Mare field goal and a 12 yard touchdown toss from Marino to Lamar Thomas. The Bills could only muster a late Steve Christie field goal and fell to their AFC East rivals, 24-17. Buffalo was done in by their own mistakes in the contest. Despite the success with Moulds and throwing for 360 yards overall, Flutie had 3 turnovers, an interception and a pair of fumbles. Moulds also had a black mark on his day as he fumbled once, as did long-time Bills’ legend and future Hall of Famer Andre Reed. Those 5 turnovers were the death knell for Buffalo in the game.

In some ways this game was the beginning of the end of the Bills’ dominant run in the AFC in the 1990s. After one more season of playing together, on February 10, 2000, Buffalo released 3 of their star performers from that era, all on the same day – Thurman Thomas, Andre Reed and Bruce Smith. The franchise was about to enter a 17 year drought of missing the playoffs after the 1999 season.

 

Bills’ WR Eric Moulds has a record-setting day in a losing cause

 
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Classic Team Logo of The Day

31 Dec

Logo of a college football team that plays in the West Division of the  Mountain West Conference, the University of Nevada-Las Vegas Rebels. The school played their first season in 1968. Former Rebels who have enjoyed pro football careers include Randall Cunningham, Ickey Woods, Eric Wright, Keenan McCardell and Charles Dimry. Besides pro football players, former UNLV alumni include ESPN SportsCenter  anchor Kenny Mayne and CEO and co-founder of Death Row Records Suge Knight.

 
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