Yeah, I think it's about time...
Despite what regular readers of this blog (hi, Mom!) might think, I am actually interested in things other than LOST and American Idol. This blog actually started as more of a sports blog, and believe me....when football season cranks up, it will be again.
So...what's been going on?
Springtime in DawgNation:
- I am cautiously optimistic about the defense based on the reports out of spring practice. I love the change in mindset, and the energy that seemed to have been pumped into the program and the fanbase by our new coaches. And, Lord knows, I love hearing the word "fundamentals" being preached every single day, especially by our new LB Coach Belin.
As I have mentioned before, I think our personnel may actually be better suited to the 3-4 than a 4-3. Looking at the depth chart released yesterday, there are TONS of athletes across the board, and I think they are going to be much better utilized than they have been the last few years.
Having said that, it's very difficult to completely revamp an entire defensive philosophy in just one season...there are going to be some growing pains this year. So while I expect to see more plays being made by a more aggressive and fundamentally sound defense (more turnovers, more plays made in the backfield), I also fully expect there to be times when receivers are running around uncovered because somebody didn't know where they were supposed to be.
Hopefully, it will sort of balance out this year...but, worst case scenario, we may have some games where we give up 35-40 points. Which is what we were doing already, but at least now I have hope for the future.
- I take absolutely nothing from G-Day even in a "normal" year, but this year especially. We didn't run anything close to what our actual defensive scheme is going to look like, and we did absolutely nothing on offense other than run some basic plays.
G-Day is just a practice, and for that matter it's the least relevant practice of the entire spring from a scheme standpoint. Yeah, it's nice to see what they do in front of a "crowd", but is there really any comparison between 25-30K very quiet fans on G-Day and 92K going crazy on a game day? Or 108K inbred hillbillies who want to kill you in Neyland?
Fans should treat it for what it is...a nice little taste of some live football before the long dark days of summer.
Which is why I didn't get all that worked up over Zach Mettenberger outplaying Aaron Murray on G-Day, which leads me to my next point...
- Aaron Murray was ALWAYS going to be the starter at QB for 2010. ALWAYS. Losing Mettenberger certainly hurts from a depth standpoint, as we are now one injury away from a QB 2-deep of Logan Gray and Hutson Mason (::shudder::). But Mett was not going to be the starter on this team, despite having a really good day of practice on April 10.
As for the Mettenberger situation itself...what a maroon. If the accounts that most of us have read by now are true, this guy took jackass to a whole new level (pardon the language, but there is no better word for it), and was still probably going to get away from it relatively unscathed if he had just SHUT UP to the police...but he was having none of that, choosing instead to keep arguing with the police even after the young ladies and restaurant employees had declined to press charges. Then, apparently, when he met with the coaches he lied to them about it and showed little to no remorse. So, basically, he threw away a scholarship to play QB at the University of Georgia by being a gigantic buffoon. Stupid is as stupid does, I guess.
I think that Coach Richt has proven over the years that if you do show contrition and true remorse over your dumb decisions, you will get another chance...that's why I think that his attitude about the situation probably played as much into the ultimate decision as anything else.
(the previous paragraph is strictly my own opinion, and are not based on any inside knowledge of the situation AT ALL...just knowledge of human behavior and how we have seen Coach Richt handle these situations in the past)
- On offense, no matter who the quarterback is, I think the philosophy has to be a HEAVY dose of King/Ealy, with the passing game being predicated on play-action, bootleg type plays to the playmakers (Green, Charles, Wootentheballcarrier, etc). I think that fits our personnel and, fortunately, I think it fits what Bobo wants to do anyway.
I love our offensive line, I love our playmakers...if we can just get adequate QB play and, most importantly, CUT DOWN ON TURNOVERS AND STUPID PENALTIES, I think our offense has a chance to be even better than it was last year...and last year's offense was pretty darn good, for the most part.
The biggest problem with this team right now, based on the last couple of seasons, is that they play dumb football. Hopefully, the changes that have been made will result in a fresh energy and renewed focus on fundamentals, as well as increased accountability on both sides of the ball, and this team will start playing up their talent level.
Oh, and....NO MORE DIRECTIONAL KICKOFFS!!! WOOHOO!!!
Will the Braves be good enough to hold my interest until fall camp starts?
I don't ask much from the Braves anymore...just be good enough so that I have something to pay attention to until early August, when the beginning of fall camp effectively ends the baseball season for me.
So far, results are mixed....
- The starting pitching is very good...it would be great if Derek Lowe could start earning that $15M salary. The way things are going right now, I think this rotation would be better with Kawakami as the number 4, with Lowe as the number 5 starter/long relief guy. Not that this could ever happen, because of the monetary investment the team has in Lowe.
Jurrjens has been sharp other than one horrid outing, Hanson continues to develop, and Hudson seems to be fully recovered. Lowe is just the fly in the punch bowl.
- Bullpen has been excellent so far...I just hope that Wagner and Saito (combined age: 378) can make it through an entire season.
- I consider myself lucky to be able to watch Jason Heyward. So much has been said about him that I can't add much...he's a superstar, he's going to be a Hall of Famer, and we're getting to watch the first green shoots of his career on a nightly basis.
- TERRIBLE offseason for Frank Wren. We traded Vasquez (arguably our best pitcher last year) for Melky Cabrera, who is just atrocious. Yes, I am aware that either Vasquez or Lowe were going to be moved, and teams were understandably reluctant to take on Lowe and his $15M salary (see above)...but the best we could get was Melky Cabrera, for one of the best pitchers in the NL?
(SIDE NOTE: You know how some trades just work out perfectly, in that both teams are getting exactly what they need even though they are both giving up something of value? The Smoltz - Doyle Alexander trade comes to mind...this was like the exact opposite of that. Vasquez had already proven that A) he is much better suited to the National League; and B) he can't pitch in New York. So the Yankees give up what had been a pretty good 4th outfielder for them for someone who is predestined to be a disaster, and we give up our best starter for a guy who is at best a 4th outfielder, but expect him to be an everyday outfielder and leadoff hitter. Both sides lose.)
"Oh, but wait!" says Frank Wren. "We're not done yet! I know we need a big bat for this lineup, a guy you can count on for HR and run production! Don't judge this move until you see what ELSE we have planned!".
I say, "OK....awesome! Maybe this means we are getting in on the Matt Holliday/Jason Bay discussions? Somebody like that?"
Um...no. Instead we sign Troy Glaus. The same Troy Glaus who missed all of 2009 with an elbow injury, and hasn't been nearly the same player ever since the Mitchell Report was published.
I don't think I have ever yelled at my radio with as much fury as I did the day that Frank Wren was interviewed during spring training and he went on and on about how tall the middle of our lineup had the potential to be. "Man, look at us...Chipper is 6'4, Glaus is 6'6, Heyward is 6'5. That's got to be intimidating for a pitcher!"
Look, if you are in any way intimidated by the sight of Troy Glaus coming to the plate, you have no business being a major league pitcher. Any pitcher worth his salt has to be SALIVATING at watching this automatic rally killer come up in a key spot. His line so far? .170 Avg, .524 OPS, 16 strikeouts and 8 RBI in 53 AB. Yeah....twice as many strikeouts as RBI. That's not good for a #5 hitter, right?
I say we put Eric Hinske in the lineup every single day, and let Troy Glaus do what he does best. Be really tall.
Anyway...this team would fit in really well in the mid-80's National League. Great pitching, solid defense, and an offense that is going to put up maybe 3-4 runs a game. In today's baseball, that's just not enough.
Hey, did you know the Hawks are in the playoffs?
The Hawks are currently manhandling the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round of the playoffs. Without Andrew Bogut, the Bucks have absolutely no answer for Al Horford and Josh Smith inside, and they are wreaking havoc.
Josh, in particular, has been a joy to watch this season. He seems to have finally come to grips with the fact that he is never going to be a three-point shooter and is instead doing...everything else. He fills the box score up like Scottie Pippen, and also includes the whining to officials like Pippen, but without the bad hair (seriously...what was UP with that guy's scalp? It looked like it had been PLOWED or something). A typical night from him is like 16 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals, 3 blocks, and 4 thunderous dunks that fire the whole team up and keeps them involved in the game.
Here's the down side...this team isn't getting out of the 2nd round, and it's all because of their head coach. The Hawks have two glaring weaknesses...inconsistent effort on defense and an utter lack of a halfcourt offense. These are the two things that kill a team in the playoffs, especially once they get out of the first round and start facing really good teams, and they can both be attributed to poor coaching, in my opinion.
Mike Woodson has been very lucky in that he has been the coach during a time when a very young team has grown up together, so he gets credit for the win totals increasing every year. And I don't think Woodson is a TERRIBLE head coach...I just think his specific deficiencies are the ones most likely to be exploited in the postseason.
Hopefully, I'm wrong...Atlanta certainly has the talent to match up with the Magic in the second round. If we can get past them, maybe we can win one or two games against Lebron and the Cavs. That's probably the absolute ceiling for this team.
OK...that was fun! Turns out I had more to say than I thought I did...maybe I should do this more often?