KAZ’S KORNER:All 32 NFL Teams open training camps this week
By the time this weekend gets here, all 32 National Football League teams will be at their respective training sites getting ready for the rapidly-approaching 2014 season.
The Dallas Cowboys will be at their training facility at the City of Oxnard Field at the California complex, the Houston Texans will be at the Methodist Training Center in Houston while the New Orleans Saints will be at their location called The Greenbriar in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va.
The Buffalo Bills and the New York Giants began their training camp last week because they will be playing in the NFL’s first preseason game at the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game on Aug. 3.
The league is experimenting with lengthening the automatic extra-point kick with the snap coming from the 15-yard line instead of from the two for the first two exhibition games (three for the Giants and Bills) because Commissioner Roger Goodell suggests that the extra-point conversions need more excitement.
Also the goal posts will be extended another five feet in height in an attempt to making it easier to judge what’s good from the narrow misses.
When a loose ball in the field of play occurs, the recovery will now be looked at by video review by the game officials.
Also, when a referee uses video review, there will be consultation with the league’s officiating department in New York. However, the game official still has the final say.
Another new rule being tested is that whenever a sack occurs outside of two minutes remaining in the half, the clock will continue to run. Also dunking the football over the crossbar after a touchdown will not be allowed any more.
In addition to famous rookies like Cleveland’s quarterback Johnny Manziel, the Houston Texans’ No. 1 draft pick Jadevon Clowney and the St. Louis Rams’ gay player Michael Sam, several new coaches will also greet their players this week.
The one pro football fans from our area are most concerned with is Bill O’Brien, new head coach of our Houston Texans who is expected to straighten out a team that lost its final 14 games last season. He also must deal with the potential holdout of his top veteran wide receiver Andre Johnson.
Other new coaches reporting for work this week include Jay Gruden with the Washington Redskins, Mike Zimmer at the Minnesota Vikings, Mike Pettine at Cleveland, Lovie Smith at Tampa Bay, Ken Whisenhunt in Tennessee and Jim Caldwell at Detroit. Smith and Whisenhunt had been head coaches before at the Chicago Bears and Arizona Cardinals, respectively.
All eyes will be on the Houston Texans’ training camp this week to see if Johnson is really going to hold out like he has threatened to do all spring and summer.
If Johnson does hold out during training camp and even the first regular-season game, history shows he will be sorely missed. The Texans are 67-91 in games in which he has played and in the last two seasons he averaged 105 receptions for 1,500 yards.
O’Brien was quite adamant in his choosing of Ryan Fitzpatrick as Houston’s No. 1 quarterback. What he saw was a 31-year old veteran who had replaced injured Jake Locker at Tennessee and finished third in the NFL in red-zone passing with an amazing 110.5 rating.
While at Tennessee last season Fitzpatrick threw eight touchdown passes without an interception and ran for three red-zone touchdowns.
Fitzpatrick ranked fourth in the league on third-down conversions with a 103.4 rating by completing 60.8 per cent of his passes, throwing seven touchdowns and two interceptions. He averaged 8.43 yards per attempt.
Texan fans also are excited about the defense under Romeo Crennel, who 3-4 scheme is quite different than the 3-4 utilized last season by Wade Phillips, who claimed his 3-4 was closer to a 4-3 than the traditional two-gap 3-4 that Crennel uses.
Phillips’ philosophy was about getting off the ball, getting up the field and trying to create chaos. The defensive linemen were responsible for one gap most of the time. Phillips’ linemen were lighter because it was all about quickness. Crennel prefers linemen to be heavier because they must handle two gaps most of the time.
The Dallas Cowboys’ goal this season is to end a four-year playoff drought. Quarterback Tony Romo appears healthy and ready for the task, but must do it with Scott Linehan, the passing coordinator and third play caller in four years for Romo.
Romo has his same primary offensive weapons in running back DeMarco Murray, wide receiver Dez Bryant and tight end Jason Witten, but the big question mark this season appears to be the defense that has to replace often-injured linebacker Sean Lee, who is lost for the season, plus departed sacks specialists DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher.
If the Cowboys don’t improve on their 8-8 record they seem to attain every season, it could very well be the last season for Head Coach Jason Garrett.
The world champion Seattle Seahawks will have a hard time successfully defending their title after losing 10 players from last year’s team, including six starters. And star running back Marshawn Lynch is having a problem with his contract, which could blossom into an unpleasant situation.
No Super Bowl champ has repeated since the New England Patriots in 2003-2004. Ironically, the 2005 Patriots were the last defending NFL champion to even win a playoff game.
Luckily, Head Coach Pete Carroll has a knack for finding ways to keep his team constantly motivated, according to a column written last weekend by Larry Stone of the Seattle Times.
He needs to come up with something that will help the 2014 Seattle Seahawks avoid that dreaded “Super Bowl jinx.”
KWICKIES…This year’s annual Texas High School Coaches Association and Coaching School being held this week in San Antonio has a new twist. For the first time ever the high school coaches will not be able to hear lectures by prominent NCAA Division I coaches thanks to a new rule. The NCAA, in its infinite wisdom, passed legislation in October prohibiting such staff members from attending an all-star game or any activities associated with any contests. The NCAA is afraid a college coach might try to recruit one of these high school all-star football or basketball players who were selected to play during the coaching school. Fortunately this year the high school coaches will hear from some prominent speakers, two of which—former Texas A&M head coach R.C. Slocum and former Houston Texans’ defensive coordinator Wade Phillips—are native Orangeites. Also slated to speak were Hal Mumme, the coach at NAIA Belhaven University, plus former head coaches Spike Dykes (Texas Tech) and Jerry Moore (Appalachian State).
Former Lufkin Hudson High School and Texas University star Brandon Belt is having a tough time this season with the injury bug. The lanky San Francisco Giants’ first baseman just returned after missing nearly two months of the season with a broken finger. Now he’s headed for either a seven-day absence or a 15-day trip on the disabled list after suffering a concussion when he was struck in the face while fielding grounders during batting practice Saturday.
The Houston Astros’ all-star second baseman Jose Altuve continues to amaze. He went into Tuesday’s game at Oakland with a .336 batting average and leads the major leagues with his .417 average (45-for-108) against left-handers.
JUST BETWEEN US…It looks to this Korner that the golfing world has a new star who is emerging quite rapidly on the Pro Golf Tour in 25-year-old Rory McIlroy from Northern Ireland. McIlroy became the third youngest golfer in history (Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods were younger) to win three majors when he won last weekend’s British Open. McIlroy is only the seventh player in golf history to lead wire-to-wire in the event. The last player to do it in the British Open was Tom Weiskopf in 1973. He also is only the second player from Northern Ireland to win the British Open at Royal Liverpool, long after Fred Daly won in 1947. The victory not only increased young Rory’s bank account by $1,665,788, but it also was very lucrative for his dad, Gerry, and three of Gerry’s friends who placed a combined bet of 400 pounds (now $680) in 2004 on McIlroy winning the British Open before he turned 26. The odds against winning were 500-1, so Gerry and his buddies look to collect 200,000 pounds ($340,000) or $85,000 each.