Morse: Let the football follies begin

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Ken Morse
Ken Morse

The stories that come out of the NFL get more bizarre each season. This year’s tidbits have produced nothing short of the head-shaking variety.

They run the gamete from New England quarterback Tom Brady smashing his cell phone to get rid of evidence that would implicate him in the now famous Deflategate to the Giant defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul blowing his finger off in a Fourth of July mishap.

Let’s not forget about the Jets, who cleaned house after sending head coach Rex Ryan packing. Gang Green will head into the season without their starting quarterback Geno Smith, who had his jaw broken by a then teammate in a locker room fight.

You just can’t make this stuff up.

While baseball fans are checking the wild card playoff standings each morning, football fans are chomping at the bit as the NFL preseason is in full swing. Fans of our three local favorites — the Patriots, the Giants and the Jets — will be chewing their nails down to the quick this season.

The Patriots are preparing to start the season without Brady, who is facing a four-game suspension following the investigation into under-inflated footballs during last year’s AFC Championship. New England fans may get a reprieve, as Brady and league officials are discussing a settlement.

However, it’s quite obvious that Brady is not the most important guy on the team. The guy who makes the most difference doesn’t even wear a helmet. Even though head coach Bill Belichick looks like he just woke up from a nap, this guy is never caught sleeping at the wheel.

In 2008, Brady was injured on opening day and third year back-up Matt Cassel led the Pats to 11 wins before cashing in in free agency. Let’s not forget fans were calling for Brady’s head last year following a dismal 2-2 start.

Malcom Butler, the hero of last year’s Super Bowl, Rob Ninkovich, Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower will team up with Jamie Collins and Patrick Chung as last year’s fourth-best AFC defense tries to repeat as Super Bowl champs.

Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, Brandon LaFell and recently signed Reggie Wayne lead the receiving group that will attempt to give second year quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo all the help he needs. The problem is the Patriots have little traction in the running game as the top three backs gained a total of 1,143 yards last year. The Pats return running backs Jonas Gray and LaGarrette Blount.

The Giants appear to be defenseless is stopping their slide. The G-Men allowed 383 points in 2013 and finished 7-9. Things got worse last year as they allowed 400 points in falling to 6-10.

The offense has been generating enough points to be competitive with Eli Manning at the helm, but the defense was not good enough to keep the Giants from going 2-4 in the NFC East.

Therein lies the problem. With the Cowboys and Redskins providing the opposition in two of the first three games, coming out on top against division foes will be the key to their success.

Jameel McClain led the team in tackles with 116, but Antrel Rolle and Jacquian Williams have moved on to greener pastures. That leaves the nine fingered Pierre-Paul, who has yet to report to camp, as the next stop-gap in the defense. The Giants also used three of their first four draft picks to bolster the defense.

Andre Williams and Rashad Jennings have proved to be a solid one-two punch in the running game. With Odell Beckham, Rueben Randle and Larry Donnell running routes, Manning should easily surpass the 4,400 yards and 30 touchdown passes he put up last season.

After losing in the AFC Conference championship game in 2009 and 2010, the Jets have continued to back pedal and reached rock bottom last year going 4-12. It’s been eight years since the Jets posted a 4-12 campaign, and Rex Ryan didn’t show much in his seven seasons at the helm going 46-50.

The Jets didn’t just clean house, they leveled the place. First-year head coach Todd Bowles joins first-year offensive coordinator Chan Gailey and first-year defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers as they try and pick up the pieces.

With Smith nursing a broken jaw to start the season, the starting quarterback role goes to journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick. Eric Decker and Jeremy Kerley will be joined by Brandon Marshall, a trade pick-up from the Bears, to give the Jets a few stable targets in the passing game.

Former Patriot Stevan Ridley comes in to help out Chris Ivory in the running game after Chris Johnson failed to live up to expectations.

Keeping opponents off the scoreboard may be the first order of business. The Jets’ defense allowed 387 points in 2013 and 401 points last season.

For the Jets, the only way to go, seemingly, is up at this point.

Regardless of what ever wacky scenario that takes place though training camp, it appears that none of our local favorites will be around come January.

Ken Morse is a contributing writer to the Citizen’s News.