This is the part of pro sports that you hate. Why one would feel reluctant to fall in love with a player or purchase a jersey. Days like Monday, when a man who ran through a wall for a franchise is just tossed aside like the evening paper. Fred Jackson, the undrafted RB out of Coe College was among 14 players cut by the Buffalo Bills. Jackson at age 34 just didn’t fit into Rex Ryan and Doug Whaley’s plan.

When the Bills traded away Kiko Alonzo for All-Pro RB LeSean McCoy it was evident that Jackson’s days as a Buffalo Bill could be numbered. Buffalo had also acquired Bryce Brown a season earlier and have seen the emergence of Boobie Dixon and Karlos Williams at the tailback position. It simply came down to numbers. The decision today still struck a sensitive nerve with Bills fans across the nation.

What could Jackson bring to the table this season? Heart, determination, character? Those three virtues don’t win Super Bowl’s. Guys like Richie Incognito and Ikemefuna Enemkpali have character written all over them. Those are the guys that were brought in to help get Buffalo back into the playoffs. Guys like Jackson were holding them back.

It’s a pitiful world, the arena of pro sports. We as fans will do whatever it takes to win, sell our souls, run off the hard-working, honest-effort athletes for the cheaters. I’d rather lose with guys like Fred then win with Richie and Ik. Sorry, that’s just me.

Jackson is everything you want in a player. Here’s a guy who didn’t receive one college scholarship to play football. He was a 3rd string RB for his high-school team his senior season! He went onto become an All-American in 2002. His NFL tryouts didn’t go well either, Chicago, Denver and Green Bay said “no thanks”.

Jackson had to ride it out in the National Indoor Football League with the Sioux City Bandits (2005 MVP) and then with the NFL Europe’s Rhein Fire before being invited to Bills training camp.

He leaves Buffalo ranked as the 3rd all-time leading rusher in franchise history. His final appearance came last Saturday in a preseason game at home versus the Pittsburgh Steelers. Jackson finished with 43 yards and a score.

They say that cutting Jackson now will give him a better opportunity to catch on with a team before the season starts. Like many I hope he lands with a winner.

Buffalo not only lost a tremendous on-field talent, a big brother to a lot of the players in the locker room and a tremendous role model for many in the community. We’ve truly lost more than a running back. Monday felt like somebody ripped your beating heart out of your chest. A total sucker punch by the Bills brass.  Get used to it, this is Ryan’s team now. Rex’s formula for winning better work. He wanted to build a bully. There wasn’t any room for a guy like Fred.

wolfFrank Wolf

@wolf3328

fromthe300level

 

When Vin Scully began calling the action for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1950, Branch Rickey was the team’s GM. Jackie Robinson was the reigning NL MVP, and Harry Truman was President of the United States.

67 years later, the Dodgers are now in Los Angeles, 11 more Presidents have held the office, and Vin Scully is still doing his job. Scully is the longest tenured sportscaster with a single team in the history of North American professional sports. Only Tommy LaSorda has served the Dodgers Franchise longer.

On Friday, the 87-year-old Scully announced that he will return for the Dodgers’ 2016 season. Scully will be 88 when the Dodgers play next year, but he has every intention of still being the voice of the team.

“God willing,” said Scully to David Brown of CBS Sports.

However, a tweet from the Dodgers also quoted Scully strongly hinting that it will be his last.

“Realistically, next year will be my last year [with the Dodgers],” the tweet read.

The traditional American stereotype of elderly citizens is that they are decrepit, senile, and just plain out of it. Scully defies this to a T. Even at nearly 90 years of age, the voice of the Dodgers still knows nearly every player’s statistics and history by heart, and is as lively and energetic as ever. He continues to make games fun to listen to, whether the Dodgers be up by one or losing by 10.

It’s sad to think that the end of Scully’s magnificent career is now not far. But, baseball fans everywhere will surely continue to enjoy him until the last Dodger game of 2016.

After he retires, will the Ford Frick Award be renamed the Vin Scully Award? You never know.

morrisMatt Morris

@Flat_Manigen74

fromthe300level.com

 

Leading up to the MLB trading deadline, I could have opened up a 1-800 number for depressed Mets fans. All over Twitter and on my Podcasts, Mets fans were distraught, angry and filled with panic. I stole Aaron Rodgers quote from last year and I told Mets fans to “R-E-L-A-X. My philosophy was simple, “The Mets should do whatever they can to acquire talent, but under no circumstances should they trade away one of their four young arms. Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Zack Wheeler.

For once the Mets did not mortgage their future to for a short term fix. The Mets acquired power hitter Yoenis Cespedes, Kelly Johnson, Juan Uribe and relief pitcher Tyler Clippard. On Sept 1, the Mets will call up another young, talented pitcher, named Steven Matz. The 24 year old Matz, has a 2-0 record with 14 strikeouts and an ERA of 1.32. The Mets also called up talented outfielder, Michael Conforto. In 25 games Conforto is batting .273 with 3 homeruns and 13 RBIs. He has been a welcomed addition in the outfield with his speed and glove. Conforto is 4th on the team with a .493 slugging percentage.

The Mets have won 7 in a row and they are 71-56. New York has a 6.5 game lead over the Washington Nationals and they are 42-21 at home. This is not a fluke. The Mets pitching staff is one of the most dominant of all time.

The Mets pitchers have thrown 1300 more fastballs than any other pitching staff (Cleveland is second)

The Mets starters are first in the MLB in pitching 7 innings or more.

The Mets have the highest strike out to walk ratio in the history of Major League Baseball.

We know the Mets can beat teams 1-0 in pitchers dual but since the trade deadline… they can also beat opponents in a high scoring affair. Since July 25th the Mets are first in the National league scoring 6.3 runs per game and 1st in homeruns. With David Wright in the lineup the Mets have 4 players in Cespedes (26 HR’s) Curtis Granderson (22 HR’s) and Lucas Duda (21 HR’s) who can all hit 25 -30 home runs.

The Mets have a ton of chemistry going right now and confidence and manager Terry Collins has the deepest bench in the league. On any given night players like Michael Cuddyer, Travis d’Arnaud and Wilmer Flores can carry the team. The Mets are built for now and built for long term.

Michael Conforto 22 yrs. old

Noah Syndergaard 22 yrs. old

Steven Matz 24 yrs. old

Zach Wheeler 25 yrs. old

Wilmer Flores 24 yrs. old

Matt Harvey 26 yrs. old

Jacob deGrom 27 yrs. old

Travis d’Arnaud 26 yrs. old

Juan Lagares 26 yrs. old

Yoenis Cespedes 29 yrs. old

The only negative going into the post-season would be the Mets record against the NL Central. New York is 3-17 against the Saint Louis Cardinals, Pittsburgh Pirates and Chicago Cubs. Including 0-13 against the Pirates and Cubs. The good news is the Mets will only wind up playing one of those teams during the playoffs.

Mets fans you have been waiting a long time to be playing meaningful games in September. Well, you got it! Over the next 10 years this team will have a run much like the 1990 Atlanta Braves. They are built for long-term success.

My MVP this year is Daniel Murphy. The 30 year old has proven to be the spark plug for the Mets. He is leading the team in batting average .287, and plays almost every position in the infield. New York can bat him 1-8 in the lineup. Murphy is a utility man but plays every day and is starting to thrive with other hitters around him.

Don’t look now Mets fans… but… This is the first year of a dynasty.

monteFollow the Sports Whisperer on twitter: Montetjwiter11 and also look for my Sports Talk Radio Show, Starting Thursday September 10th at 7pm on WRNJ Radio in Hackettstown. It is called the Monte Cristo Sports Thing. http://wrnjradio.com/

Getting no-hit can’t be a very fun experience for the losing team. The Los Angeles Dodgers were no-no’d by Houston’s Mike Fiers on the 21st. Just 9 days later, they were again, this time in their own stadium at the hands of the Cubs’ Jake Arrieta.

Arrieta, who is making a very strong case for the National League Cy Young Award this year, was downright dominant from the outset on Sunday night, striking out 12 and walking only one. Enrique Hernandez reached on an error by SS Starlin Castro in the 3rd. Arrieta needed 116 pitches, 80 for strikes. A Kris Bryant 2-run homer in the top of the 1st was all the support the 29-year-old would need. Chase Utley made the final out of a no-hitter for the second time in his career (ironically enough, the first was against the Dodgers).

The feat is the 6th of the season in the MLB and the Cubs’ first since Carlos Zambrano’s on September 14, 2008. In the process the Dodgers became the first team to be no-hit twice in one season since the Tampa Bay Rays in 2010 (by Oakland and Arizona, respectively). The Cubs themselves also were no-hit this year by Cole Hamels on July 25th.

The Cubs could turn a lot of heads this season if they can make one of the two NL Wild Cards. The energy boost they will receive from Arrieta’s dominance will only improve their chances.

morrisMatt Morris

@Flat_Manigen74

fromthe300level

 

BlueDevilThe Kenmore West Blue Devils came off to a slow start in 2014 but came back and were in it until the very end. The Blue Devils won the Class AA North Division Title, made it to the semifinals and finished with a record of 5-4.

The Blue Devils had a strong campaign with a junior lead squad in 2014. After losing the first two games of the season against Williamsville South and Orchard Park, Ken-West ran their league schedule and won the Class AA North Title. Kenmore West won their quarter-final game against Lancaster, and stayed with Orchard Park in the semi-finals until the very end. West has been to 7 semifinal games the past in 10 years but has not been able to get over the hump. “It’s been a tough pill to swallow” says Head Coach Rich Harris. But Coach believes that will make his team hungrier in 2015, “to build off of it we have a lot of seniors coming back, those guys walked off the field with a very bitter feeling…they’ve work hard all year to redeem themselves”.

In 2015, Kenmore West returns 8 starters on both sides of the ball lead by Utility man, 4-year Varsity Starter, and sought after Division I recruit Terrell Ford. As a junior, Ford had almost 2,000 all-purpose yards for the Blue Devils which earned him numerous awards and recognitions including being a Connolly Cup Finalist. But Ford isn’t the only one who can make plays for Ken-West. Blue Devil Quarterback DeAngelo Walker-Johnson had to have minor knee surgery last August and did not play until week 3 of the 2014 season, but he still managed to throw for 567 yards and run for 358 yards. Jamir Lynch stepped in as a sophomore for Walker-Johnson at the QB spot to begin the season. Lynch had 414 yards in the air and 166 on the ground, he takes over at Wide Receiver for his junior year, “Great receiver…very fast, runs great patterns, has very good hands”, Harris says. Ken-West’s second 4-year Varsity Starter is the hard-hitting 200+ pound Jayson Taylor who plays fullback and linebacker. Taylor had 61 tackles in 2014. Taylor is just apart of the 4-man strong Linebacker core that returns. The core is led by Charlie Milks who had 90 tackles last year and now holds the School single-season sack record. Senior Mark Taylor will be a key contributor at Wide Receiver and Defensive Back this year for West. The Blue Devils have the trenches covered as well with 4 of last year’s starting offensive lineman and 3 of last year’s starting defensive lineman returning.

Kenmore West was heavily favored to beat rival Kenmore East last season, but the Bulldogs upset the Blue Devils and shocked WNY. “We had come off two big victories…one to Williamsville North for the (Division) title, a team that had gone to the state finals, and then we came back home and throttled Niagara Wheatfield, I think both of those things allowed for a huge let down” said Harris about his team heading into that game. However, he believes it wasn’t the Blue Devils who lost the game but East who won it, “I give Kenmore East a lot of credit, they played hard in that football game, that team showed a lot of guts, a lot of heart in that football game”. Harris believes that the tough loss not only helped the Blue Devils in 2014 but the lessons learned from that game will be carried over to 2015, “The good thing that’s gonna come out of that game for us is that this team knows now that on any given day they can be knocked off”.

Coach Harris believes that 2015 can be the year that Kenmore West finally gets over the hump of the semifinal game. “At a minimum win the AA North that’s goal number 1, goal number 2 is to finally get over that hurdle win that semi-final and get on the floor of Ralph Wilson Stadium” says Coach Harris. The Head Coach says this team will go down in history, “31 years I’ve been here this is definitely some of the most talent I’ve had at skilled positions.”

Kenmore West, just as they finished the 2014 season, will begin the 2015 season with the Quakers. “The guys are very excited to redeem themselves”, Coach Harris says about starting off with Orchard Park. Coach Harris believes that it’s exactly what his players need, “(Orchard Park) couldn’t have been a more fitting team for them”. In week 3 Sweet Home comes to Crosby Field for what is likely to be a fun shootout with great athletes on both sides. “It gives us a real opportunity to make a name for ourselves in WNY” according to Coach Harris.

The Kenmore West Varsity Football Blue Devils will go just a few blocks over to St. Joe’s to scrimmage the Marauders at 9 AM for Scrimmage Saturday this weekend. The season kicks off on September 4th at 7 PM for the Blue Devils as they will head to down to Orchard Park to face the Quakers.

 

Justin Verlander has had a noticeably rough August for the Detroit Tigers. He proved everyone wrong with his 1-hit complete game shutout masterpiece on Wednesday night. Verlander coming into the game had an 0-3 record with an ERA of 2.00 in the month of August before his start at Comerica Park against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

Verlander carried his 6th career no-hit bid after six innings in the last 5 seasons, but couldn’t muster his third career no-hitter. His last no-hitter came against the Toronto Blue Jays on May 7, 2011 in Toronto.

Going into the 9th inning, Verlander had allowed only two walks, as he also fanned eight batters. Angels catcher Chris Iannetta ripped a 2-2 fastball down the left field line, which picked up chalk from the baseline, for a double to eliminate Verlander’s potential of a no-hitter.

The 32-year old right-handed pitcher by way of Manakin-Sabot, VA., only allowed the double to Iannetta, while walking two, and striking out nine Angels batters.

Verlander has not been his usual self this season, as he now holds a 2-6 record with a 3.45 ERA. His complete game one-hit shutout tonight, this makes his first complete game since July 31, 2012 at Boston. It’s his first complete game shutout since he blanked the Pirates, 2 months prior to his previous complete game, on May 18.

This win against also marks his first victory against the Angels since July 31, 2011 in Detroit. In that game, Verlander went 8 innings, also allowing one hit, two runs (none of them earned), walking two and striking out nine. Most of those numbers sound quite familiar…

Detroit will play one more game against the Angels in their series at Comerica Park before they travel to Toronto to face the 1st place Blue Jays in a three-game series at Rogers Centre. Verlander will pitch on six days rest, as his next projected start will be on Tuesday, September 1st, when the Tigers will play the Kansas City Royals at Kauffmann Stadium

– @mhaim1934

When we think about the history of the NFC North, individual teams have been on top of the division, for decades at a time.

  • In the 1960’s the Green Bay Packers dominated. Under Vince Lombardi and Bart Starr the Packers won Super Bowl I and II in 1966 and 1967.
  • In the 1970’s the Minnesota Vikings took were the cream of the crop. From 1968 to 1980 The Vikings won the Division 10 times. Led by Fran Tarkenton and the Purple People Eaters, Minnesota appeared in four Super Bowls (1969, 1973,1974 and 1976)
  • Under Mike Ditka, Jim McMahon and Walter Payton, the Chicago Bears Won the Super Bowl in 1985. Chicago had one of the most dominating defenses in the history of the NFL that year. Many historians feel that the Bears underachieved, by only winning one Super Bowl ring.
  • Since 1995 the Packers have won 11 Division titles including 4 in a row (2011, 2012, 2113 and 2014).
  • The only team that has never had long term success in this division has been the Detroit Lions. They have only won 2 division titles, 1991 &1993. They are also the only team from the NFC North to not make a Super Bowl appearance.

The NFC North has a plethora of talented players on each roster. There has been big changes with a lot of teams and subtle changes within the organizations. Below is my NFC North Preview. 

Green Bay Packers (Last season 12-4… This year… 12-4)

The Green Bay Packers have been one of the premier franchises in the history of the NFL. Even though they are in a small market, the Packers have had constant success. The average NFL team has 16 free agents on their roster, The Packers have averaged 3. This is an amazing stat because it shows that when the Packers draft someone, they stay on their team for most of their career. They rarely replace a player with a free agent. They replace them with the draft. They build the organization the right way, from the bottom up.

Last season, the Packers, with an injured quarterback made it to the NFC Championship game. They were up 16-0 at halftime before their coaching staff went into a conservative shell. They lost to Seattle in overtime, 28-22 and now Mike McCarthy will no longer be calling the plays on offense. I think this is a good move on his part. Let the head coach manage the game and let his coordinators do their jobs.

Green Bay lost their star wide receiver, Jordy Nelson, to a knee injury in pre-season. This is a huge loss for the Packers. In 2014 Nelson was one of the NFL’s best offensive players.

98 receptions (Ranked 7th)

1,519 receiving yards (Ranked 4th)

13 receiving touchdowns (Ranked 2nd)

If you are a Packers fan this injury is a huge negative. On the positive side, if there is one quarterback who can make up for a lost wide receiver, its last year’s reigning MVP, Aaron Rodgers. Running back Eddie Lacy (1,139 rushing yards) and wide receiver Randall Cobb (91 receptions) will be asked to carry even more of a load with Nelson out.

The Packers don’t have an elite defensive but in today’s NFL you just have to be good situationally. Green Bay should be able to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks with LB Clay Mathews and DL Julius Peppers. In the secondary, rookies Quinton Rollins and Demarious Randall figure to see playing time after the Packers lost two starters in Tramon Williams and Davon House to free agency. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix should still be solid as the Packers safety.

This is a team that can contend for a Super Bowl. As long as Rodgers is running the offense they are dangerous. The Packers were 8-0 at home last year and I expect them to win this division by at least two games. Don’t be surprised if Randy Moss or Reggie Wayne, wind up playing for the Packers.

Minnesota Vikings (Last season 7-9… This season 10-6)

After losing Adrian Peterson last season, the Vikings should have imploded. They lost the most dominant running back in the league and had an unproven rookie quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater. The Vikings didn’t, the Finished 7-9 and Bridgewater proved to be a great late round draft pick. Bridgewater started 12 times (had a 6-6) record and completed 64.4% of his passes. That 64.4 completion percentage was the third highest for any rookie in the history of the NFL.

The Offensive line had major issues last year, they gave up 41 sacks. The addition of WR Mike Wallace and former Pro Bowl MVP, TE Kyle Anderson, will be a great safety valve for Bridgewater. Tom Brady is going to come back after his suspension and play angry and with a mission. I fully expect Peterson to do the same. He already has a reputation to run with an attitude. Peterson should get at least 1,800 yards this season.

The Vikings got younger on defense. They weren’t great last year, but not terrible. The ranked in the top 15 in almost every category without a legitimate superstar. The Vikings drafted all areas that they needed to improve. They got secondary help with Trae Waynes, LB help with Eric Kendricks and Danielle Hunter should help the defensive line.

I like Bridgewater’s maturity and the additions on offense. Defenses are going to try and test that offensive line early on. I fully expect the Vikings to contend for a wildcard spot. They will play meaningful games in December. This is a franchise this is trending upward.

The Detroit Lions (Last season 11-5… this season 9-7)

When the Lions hired Jim Caldwell last season I thought it was a horrible decision. As the head coach of Wake Forrest, Caldwell had a record of 26-63. He went 1-7 in the conference 4 times and his best conference record was 3-5. Caldwell took over a talented Colts team. In his first season, Indianapolis lost to the Saints in the Super Bowl. He was 14-2, 10-6, and 2-14 before he was fired. The Lions were 11-5 last season, and that is the best Caldwell will do. His teams erode over time and he will be exposed game by game year after year.

Quarterback Mathew Stafford and WR Calvin Johnson continue to lead the Lions on offense. I think both are trending downward. Johnson had some injuries last year, he missed 3 games and his production was the lowest since 2009. Stafford continues to be that second tier quarterback. Can you win with him? Yes… But does anyone trust him to win a playoff game if needed?

Ndamukong Suh left via free agency for the Miami Dolphins. Suh, is the best run stopper, pass rusher combo lineman in the league. He demands double teams and makes the job of the other defensive lineman a lot easier because they get one on one match ups. Suh will be replaced by former Raven Haloti Ngata. He should help fill the void but the Lions defense will take a step back. The Lions will be looking for rookie TE Eric Ebron and rookie RB Ameer Abdullah to contribute early and often.

As long as Caldwell is running the sidelines Detroit will never be a legitimate contender. They peaked last season and they will take a step back in 2015.

Chicago Bears (Last season…5-11… This season 5-11)

Quarterback Jay Cutler signed a 7 year, $126M contract in 2014. $54M is guaranteed but I would be shocked if Cutler was still in Bears uniform in 2021. The Bears have a lot of problems on both sides of the ball but Cutler’s contract is an albatross that is sinking the Chicago football team. Cutler appears to be ambivalent at times and his nonchalant attitude does not inspire confidence with Bears fans.

Over the past few years the Bears have been one of the worst defensive teams in the NFL. They have been at the bottom of the league in points per game, yards given up and 3rd down conversions. Jared Allen and Antrel Rolle should add a veteran leadership but they are both in their 30’s and are not in the prime of their careers.

Chicago lost WR Brandon Marshall to the Jets. For the Bears to be effective, new offensive coordinator Adam Gase, must utilize versatile RB Matt Forte. In order for Cutler to have success they will need to establish a running game. Forte fits the mold and can be a dual threat out of the backfield.

There are too many holes and not enough talent on this roster. As long as Cutler is under center this team will never have long term success. Bears repeat last year’s record and miss the playoffs again.

Follow The Sports Whisperer on Twitter!

monteMonte Perez

@Montetjwitter11

fromthe300level.com

The New York Mets currently have a very high chance of winning their first National League East crown in 9 years. 5 games up on 2nd place Washington as of 8/24, the Mets are playing very consistently. And, with the return of their All-Star Captain David Wright, the team’s chances are suddenly looking very very good.

Wright’s return couldn’t have come a better time for the Mets. Back in May, the third baseman’s future in the MLB was looking highly improbable when he was diagnosed with spinal stenosis after he had been experiencing back pain. However, Wright refused to be sidelined by the condition and his health improved enough to allow his return, and he did so with a bang.

On Monday, Terry Collins inserted Wright into a Mets’ lineup for the first time since April 14. In his first at-bat, Wright rewarded his Manager with a skyscraping home run to the second deck of Citizen’s Bank Park. The rest of the Amazin’s were evidently fired up by the captain’s display, as the team hit 8 homers and scored 14 un-answered runs in a comeback rout of the Phillies.

The one question mark surrounding the Mets’ in regard to their postseason chances is their offense. The team has gotten terrific all-around production from its entire lineup, but hasn’t had a real standout all year. Their pitching has been excellent, sophomore Jacob deGrom is tied for second in the NL with a 2.29 ERA, and Matt Harvey is in 7th with a 2.57. Although rookie Noah Syndergaard has been shaky on the road, he’s been a force to be reckoned with at Citi Field. 42-year-old Bartolo Colon has also been getting the job done despite his age. The team’s lack of a super-threat in the batter’s box has been the one uncertainty.

Lately however, the team’s offense has been sizzling. Over their last 5 games dating back to 8/19, the Mets have scored 53 runs. Daniel Murphy is batting .368 with 16 RBI over his last 15 games. Deadline acquisition Yoenis Cespedes has gelled magnificently since coming to Queens, hitting 18 RBI since his arrival (including 7 with 3 homers in a blowout of Colorado). Wright returning now when the team’s bats are hot as ever can only make the Mets more formidable.

The Metropolitans haven’t appeared in the postseason since 2006, their last NL East championship. They were defeated in the NLCS by eventual World Champion St. Louis in 7 games. This year could be very well be their return to October.

morrisMatt Morris

@Flat_Manigen74

fromthe300level.com

 

Entering his first year as the head coach of the Buffalo Bills, Rex Ryan is faced with a tough decision; who is going to be under center when the Bills open their 2015 season on September 13th , at the Ralph against Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts? Is it going to be Matt Cassel? Or what about Tyrod Taylor? EJ Manuel? Who knows because Rex has not given any answers other than he doesn’t plan to name a starter until week 1. So, who is it going to be?       

        Matt Cassel

The Buffalo Bills acquired the former 2005 5th round pick (University of Southern California/ New England Patriots) from the Minnesota Vikings on March 4th in exchange for a pair of draft picks. Cassel is entering his 11th season in the NFL playing for his 4th team. Not everyone can say that they started their career behind and learned from Tom Brady. During the 2008 season Cassel made a name for himself, taking over the starring role when Brady went down with a torn ACL in the first quarter of the season opener against the Kansas City Chiefs. Cassel went on to finish the season going 10-5, completing 327 passes on 516 attempts, throwing for 3,693 yards with 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He also added 270 yards on the ground with 2 rushing scores. After the 2008 season, Cassel was traded to the Kansas City Chiefs where he played his next four seasons, winning 19 games while losing 28 games. In his 4 seasons with the Chiefs, Cassel threw for 9,549 yards, 59 touchdowns (throwing a career high 27 in 2010) and 44 interceptions.

Cassel spent the last two seasons with the Minnesota Vikings after signing with the team as a free agent in 2013. During his short time in Minnesota, Cassel only played in 12 games starting in 9 of them. He went 4-5, throwing for 2,232 yards, 14 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Cassel comes to the Buffalo Bills looking for a new start and looking to bring back the 2008 Cassel. During training camp, Cassel has shown signs of hope according to Rex Ryan leading to him being named the starter for the preseason opener against the Panthers. Cassel went 7-of-8 with 45 yards on 2 drives. Cassel continued to receive 1st team reps during training camp but did not play in the second preseason game. With 2 games remaining until the Bills kick off their regular season, Cassel is still fighting to show why he deserves the starting role.

https://youtu.be/7cfE5FCqaBM

Tyrod Taylor

Another first year Bill is in the running for the starting position and he goes by the name of Tyrod Taylor. Taylor is entering his 5th season in the NFL after being drafted in the 6th round of the 2011 draft by the Baltimore Ravens. Taylor hasn’t started a regular season game in his NFL career simply for the fact that he was backing up Joe Flacco. In the 14 games he has appeared, Taylor has thrown for 199 yards with 2 interceptions and rushed for 136 yards with 1 rushing touchdown. Taylor is ready to take the next step and become a starter in the NFL to prove what he can do. Taylor took over for Matt Cassel in the first preseason game against the Carolina Panthers after two drives. In the game Taylor went 5-of-8 with 49 yards and ran for 47 yards on 6 rushes including a 21 yard run. Taylor went on to start the second preseason game against the Cleveland Browns, in a game which he went 7-of10 for 65 yards and ran for 41 yards on 4 rushes. Taylor has impressed the coaches throughout training camp and the preseason thus far. Fans are also following along with the Tyrod sensation. Taylor gives something the Bills have never had, a dual-threat QB being able to pass and run. Is Tyrod Taylor the Bills next starting QB?

https://youtu.be/iZ4Lnt9-C4A

        EJ Manuel

The Buffalo Bills traded down in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft to select the man they believed would be their guy at QB. EJ Manuel was the taken 16th overall out of Florida State to take over the starting position that was previously held by Ryan Fitzpatrick. Manuel had an up and down rookie season posting a 4-6 record in 10 games played, missing 6 games because of injuries. Manuel threw for 1,972 yards with 11 touchdowns and 9 interceptions as a rookie. Despite being inconsistent,

former head coach Doug Marone named Manuel the starter for the 2014 season. Manuel would be benched in week 5 for Kyle Orton after posting a 2-2 record. Orton would go on to lead the Bills to a 7-5 record, giving the Bills their first winning record since 2004. In the 4 games that EJ started during the season, he threw for 838 yards with 5 touchdowns and 3 interceptions picking up wins against the Chicago Bears in the season opener and the Miami Dolphins in week 2 before losing 2 straight. Manuel is looking to prove to the front office that he was not a waste of a draft pick and there is no better time than now to do it. Manuel is entering the 3rd year of his 4 year rookie deal and if he does not show any hope that he is the quarterback that the Bills have been longing for, Doug Whaley will not waste any time on sending him packing after the season ends. Just like the other 2 quarterbacks Manuel is competing with, he his making his claim for why he should reclaim the starting role. In the 2 preseason games thus far, EJ has gone 4-of-8 for 77 yards and a touchdown against the Carolina Panthers and 9-of-14 for 111 yards and a touchdown against the Cleveland Browns. His lone touchdown of the game came in the final seconds of the game and proved to be the game winner. Look for EJ to start the Bills 3rd preseason game at home this Saturday against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

https://youtu.be/VBDqyq_6Oc0

So BillsMafia who is it going to be? Who’s going to be the one that steps up to hopefully take the Bills back to the playoffs? EJ? Cassel? Tyrod? You tell us.

Ryan Dickman

@ryandickman

fromthe300level.com

East_Logo_gold_3The Kenmore East Bulldogs Varsity Boys Soccer team got off to a great start in 2014 but ended up losing in the second round of the playoffs to eventual Section VI Class A Champs Williamsville South by a score of 5-1, giving them an overall record of 7-10-1.

The Bulldogs had an experienced core with 10 seniors on the squad.  Forward Fenesse Henry hopes that the young guys on the team were able to learn from them. “(Last Season) was a learning experience for all of us, it was an end to era, a lot of seniors had to go and we brought in some fresh talent”.

Fenesse Henry had a fantastic year as a junior, he lead the Dogs in scoring with 12 goals and 5 assists, earning him All-NFL 1st team. The now senior forward was pleased with the honors but expects more from himself this season. Fellow Senior Gage Holler, who got All-NFL 3rd team, said “it’s more about winning games then me getting honors”. Junior Dylan Guarino immediately got the job between the pipes last year after transferring to Kenmore East for his sophomore year thanks to his play with Empire United. As the season played out, Guarino certainly proved he earned that nod with a 2.2 GAA and 4 shutouts for the Dogs. Like his teammates he has high expectations for himself too, “One of my goals I have with (Coach) is to break the shutout record at East”. Young Star Kyle Hofschneider also comes back this year. He played on the Varsity last year as an 8th grader picking up 5 assists, Kenmore East will expect more from him this year.

As for the West game the Dogs won’t do anything special for the Blue Devils. “They’re just like any other games” says Henry. Guarino knows that people really care about the West game but its not worth much more than any other game, “There’s always a lot of of hype going into it…but besides that its just a normal league game”. However, Holler says that he’s always excited when the crosstown rivals meet, “It’s always more exciting to play them, you wanna come out and play a lot harder…it’s gonna be a physical game”.

Kenmore East has high hopes for 2015. Fenesse Henry not only has great expectations for himself but his team too, “We wanna be at the top of the league (NFL)…then become Sectional Champions and make a run at States”. Guarino wants a strong regular season that will give the Bulldogs a good chance to make a run in the playoffs. Gage Holler made it clear that Sectionals are a must for Ken-East, “I think at the very least a Sectional title is what we are going for, nothing less than that”.

The Kenmore East Varsity Boys Soccer team will begin their season this weekend at the Coaches V Cancer ECIC/NFL Challenge at Niagara Falls High School. On Friday they will play the Frontier Falcons at 2 PM and on Saturday they will go up against the Sweet Home Panthers at 4 PM. The Dogs will host Niagara Falls to open up their league schedule on September 3rd.