Tebow Time hits the AFC East

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Tebow Time hits the AFC East

Yesterday afternoon, Tim Tebow was traded to the Jets.

Then he was untraded.

Then late last night, after a brief refractory period, the Broncos were ready to go again. This time, they asked Where's it going to be, Tim: New York or Jacksonville? And because thats an insanely easy question, he picked New York.

So now it's official: Tim Tebow plays for the Jets.

Im not going to say that its weirder than Peyton Manning playing for the Broncos, because thats just about as weird as it gets. Manning spent 14 years in Indianapolis. To quote the great Wong and Owens, "That's all we know!" Meanwhile, Tebows run in Denver spanned only 14 regular season starts.

Still, in two years, Tebow generated enough hype and attention to last two lifetimes. Love him or hate him, Tim Tebow became legend. And the idea of him making the move to the Meadowlands, and thanking his Lord and Savior from underneath that green and white striped helmet doesn't quite make sense. It's unnatural. Like if AC Green had joined the Jail Blazers. Or the Pope enlisted in the Hell Angels.

To this point, there's been some back and forth on exactly why the Jets brought Tebow into town.

Some believe that New York was motivated entirely by the PR side of things. As if all the good vibrations that surround Tebow will erase the negativity that's running rampant through that franchise. But that seems like a failed premise.

Remember when you were a kid, and your Mom would yell at you to make your bed?

When I was growing up, I was the king of trying to fool her with the old "comforter over the messy sheets" move. You know, you'd leave the sheets and blankets all crumpled up, but perfectly lay the comforter on top so it it looked like nothing was wrong?

Yeah, it never worked. And if that's what the Jets are trying to do with Tebow to drape his crystal clean image over the franchise and just hope that no one notices all the other crap then they'll fail too. But instead of being yelled at by their mothers, Mike Tannenbaum and Rex Ryan will lose their jobs.

On the other end of the spectrum there are some people who believe that this move was actually fueled by football.

After all, it's been reported that the reason Tebow picked the Jets to begin with is because they were the team most interested in Tebow the player, as opposed to Tebow the Holy Man. That they revealed plans for option and Wildcat formations and sold him on the idea of being a legitimate part of New York's offensive attack.

How will this work? Well, read this interesting post from ESPN Stats & Info, and you'll see that developing a quirky role for Tebow doesn't make a ton of statistical sense for the Jets. At the very least, it will thoroughly confuse things.

This for a team that's already more confused than David after the dentist.

So in the end, what do we make of this move here in New England? How do we react to the fact that Tim Tebow and every bit of the unprecedented absurdity that comes with him has been suddenly injected into the AFC East; into the fiercest, most storied and complex rivalry in Patriots history.

Personally, I love it. If for anything, because it just serves as another reminder of how quickly things are spiraling out of control down there.

I mean, let's face it: This time last year, the Jets were the toast of the AFC East. They'd just embarrassed the Pats in the postseason, made back-to-back AFC title games (while the Pats hadn't won a playoff game in years) and only appeared to be getting better.

As a Patriots fan, as much as it sucked to admit it, you feared the New York Jets.

These days, you barely recognize them.

Bart Scott is on his way out. Mark Sanchez is a mental mess, and can't get along with his train wreck of a No. 1 wide receiver. Shonn Greene's all right, but he's hardly the frightening every-down back that we feared he'd become. Dustin Keller is consistent and still improving, but he'll also be 28 years old in September. The time for him to make the leap is quickly running out.

In 2009, the Jets ranked first in points allowed. In 2010, they ranked sixth.

Last season, the defense ranked 20th in the NFL, and they've failed miserably in trying to get back on track. Most notably, they whiffed on signing safeties Reggie Nelson and Jarred Bush and had to settle on Laron Landry who appears to have lost his mind, and was recently cut by the Redskins to make room for Brandon Meriweather.

Read that last part again.

Brandon Meriweather.

On the sidelines, Rex Ryan doesn't know what hit him. In the aftermath of last year's disaster, he's tried changing his tune to that of a more humble, less outspoken coach. But he is who he is. It's too late to change his approach. At least as long as he's in New York. Up in the front office, Tannenbaum is strapped for cash, and running out of time and the means to turn the ship around. He and Ryan are both feeling the pressure. They know that something has to happen. You get the sense that they're starting to panic. That they're suddenly just grasping at straws

Case in point: They just traded for Tim Tebow!

Will he make the Jets any better? Probably not. In fact, chances are that the whole situation will just makes things worse. But for now, all we can say is that Tebow's arrival in New York has taken what was already going to be a bizarro NFL season, flipped it on its head and thrown it into a blender. Not that the NFL's ever lacked in the drama department, but next year's going to be wild. Peyton in Denver? Tebow on the Jets? It's hard to believe it's real.

But you better believe the Pats will be ready. And thanks to their own relatively well-known QB, now with an extra seven million dollars of cap space.

Maybe the Jets want to borrow some cash?

Then then could finally afford what this team really needs:

A few hundred sessions with Dr. Drew.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Trip to minors gives E-Rod opportunity to work on delivery consistency

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Trip to minors gives E-Rod opportunity to work on delivery consistency

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Red Sox pitching coach Carl Willis didn't say that Eduardo Rodriguez was tipping his pitches again Monday.

Then again, he didn't have to.

The results -- nine runs on 11 hits in 2 1/3 innings against the Tampa Bay Rays -- offered a hint. And, just for good measure, Willis all but said so Tuesday afternoon.

"It really goes back to consistency in (his) delivery,'' said Willis, "because with the inconsistencies -- I know it's no secret -- hitters know what's coming. He's worked on it extensively in bullpen sessions, dry work periods. He makes progress, shows the abilities to make those adjustments. However, when the game begins and his focus gears more toward attacking the hitter, the old habits resurface.

"It's not from lack of effort on his part. It's just a bit much to accomplish at the major league level, where hitters can look for inconsistencies and make adjustments more so that in the minors.''

Rodriguez knows what has to be done. But as recent history suggests, it's not an easy fix.

"It takes a lot of work. It does,'' said Willis. "Obviously, he's gone back to his old delivery that he's more accustomed to and comfortable with. I think there's a possibility that we're going to have to make an adjustment with his hands -- where he sets them and keeps them throughout his delivery, maybe eliminate some movement. And that's going to be something that would definitely be difficult to take place here.

"It's not easy, but certainly not impossible. He's a good athlete. He's an intelligent kid. He's aware. But it's the ability to maintain to make it a new habit so he doesn't have to think about it.''

How long Rodriguez takes to correct the flaws is unknown, making it difficult to estimate when he might return to the Red Sox rotation.

"I don't have an exact answer for that,'' said John Farrell. "That's going to be a start-by-start situation and (depends on) how he solidifies the adjustments that are requires. I don't have a timetable for how long it's going to be. . . But to suggest that this is going to be a one-start situation (at Pawtucket) would be a little aggressive.''

 

Flashback: Belichick breaks down lasting impact of Buddy Ryan's '46' defense

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Flashback: Belichick breaks down lasting impact of Buddy Ryan's '46' defense

When news broke on Tuesday of Buddy Ryan's passing, it wasn't very long before the NFL community at large paid tribute to one of the most well-respected defensive minds in the history of the league. 

Ryan, a longtime coordinator and head coach, leaves a legacy that includes two sons -- Rex and Rob -- who have carved out length careers spent on NFL sidelines. His legacy also includes a defensive scheme that confounded offenses, particularly in 1985, when the Bears '46' defense dominated all comers. With eight men in the box and just three defensive backs, Ryan's defense could be as confusing for quarterbacks as it was intimidating.

On the day of Ryan's passing, we can add to the list of Ryan rememberances a long quote from a Bill Belichick press conference back in 2012. The Patriots were getting ready to play Rex Ryan's Jets, but as the topic of conversation shifted away from the game itself and toward football philosophies, Belichick explained how Ryan's '46' defense changed the game, and where it can still be seen today. 

(To see the video of the press conference, you can head here. It's a bit slow for the first six or seven minutes, but when Belichick is asked about the idea behind being a "game-plan offense" and which coaches inspired him to take that mindset into his own career, things start rolling. Belichick rattles off the names of those who influenced him, including Annapolis High coach Al Laramore, Phillips Andover's Steve Sorota, Navy coach Wayne Hardin, Baltimore Colts coach Ted Marchibroda and several others. He calls the list of coaches who educated him -- including his father, of course -- a "menagerie." If you're into those types of Belichick responses about football philosophy and his own personal football upbringing, it's a video that's worth your time.)

Here is Belichick's response to a question from Sports Illustrated's Greg Bedard, then of the Boston Globe, concerning Ryan and his '46' scheme. A tip of the hat to Chris B. Brown of Smart Football for pointing out the quote on Twitter early Tuesday. 

Q: You mentioned Buddy Ryan earlier. How come we don’t see more 46 defense? I’m not talking about for a full season – not everybody is the ’85 Bears, but in a one-game situation. Is it because of the quarterbacks and the shotgun?

BB: "A lot of the success that Buddy had with the 46 defense came in the ‘80s when there was a lot of two-back offense. It was one of the things that probably drove the two-back offense out. If you remember back in the ‘80s when Buddy was in Philadelphia, he had a lot of trouble with the Redskins and their one-back offense, a lot of trouble. There were a lot of mismatches of Art Monk and Gary Clark on the middle linebacker and stuff like that.

"I think the 46 was really originally built for two-back offenses, whether it be the red, brown, blue and the flat-back type offenses and eventually even the I-formation. I think it still has a lot of good application; a lot of teams use it in goal-line situations. They either use a version of it like a 5-3 or cover the guards and the center and however you want to quite fit the rest of it, but that principle you see a lot in goal-line, short yardage situations. You see it and some teams have it as part of their two-back defensive package.

"As it has gone to one-back and it’s gotten more spread out, if you’re playing that, it kind of forces you defensively to be in a one-linebacker set. You lose that second linebacker and depending on where the back lines up and what coverage you’re playing, then there’s some issues with that. If you’re in a one linebacker defense and you move the back over and the linebacker moves over then you’re kind of out-leveraged to the back side. If you don’t move him over, then you’re kind of out-leveraged when the back releases and that kind of thing.

"There are some issues there that, I’m not saying you can’t do it, but you have to work them out. In a two-back set, I’d say it was probably a lot cleaner and it always gave you an extra blitzer that was hard for the offense. Even if they seven-man protected on play-action, there was always an eighth guy there somewhere. You didn’t have to bring all eight; if you just brought the right one and they didn’t have him or somebody would have to have two guys and that creates some problems.

"I think that’s what Buddy, really, where the genius of that was. He had by formation a different combination and group of blitzes so depending on what formation you were in, then he ran a blitz that would attack that formation and then when you changed formations, then he would change blitzes. Now, plus the fact [he] had Dan Hampton, Richard Dent, Mike Singletary, [Otis] Wilson, [Wilbur] Marshall, that was a pretty good group there. You could have probably played a lot of things and that defense would have looked pretty good, especially when they put Hampton on the nose. That was pretty unblockable."

Bruins go for size, defensive presence at center with Koppanen

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Bruins go for size, defensive presence at center with Koppanen

While the Bruins fourth round pick might sound eerily like Finnish fourth line center Joonas Kemppainen, the Black and Gold are hoping for much more from fifth round pick (135th overall) Joona Koppanen. The 6-foot-5, 194-pound Finnish center is obviously a big body in the middle of the ice, and already plays a responsible, smart game on the defensive side of the ice.

In keeping with the parallels to Kemppainen, Koppanen is a bit less developed on the offensive side of the game at this point in his young career as an 18-year-old.  

“I think that the draft was awesome and I’m really excited for the draft to Boston,” said Koppanen, who added “Tuukka Rask plays there” when asked what he knows about the Bruins. “My strength is to skating and I’m a good two-way forward.”

The Big Finn had nine goals and 26 points in 40 games for the junior team in Finland last season, and was shut out in seven games for Team Finland at the World Junior U-18 Championships. So he’s got some work to do developing his offensive game and getting both bigger and stronger, but the Bruins see size, strength and the work ethic to improve in Koppanen.

“He’s a big guy, and for a big guy he can really move around. He’s very good defensively and smart with his positioning. He plays hard,” said Bruins head scout Keith Gretzky. “The skill is the one area that needs to develop, and we think it’s going to do that. He was a guy that we targeted because he’s a big guy that can skate, and is good in his own end.”

One thing the Bruins focused on heading into the draft was acquiring some size at the center position, and they’ve clearly done that with 6-foot-2, 200-pound Trent Frederic and the 6-foot-5, 198-pound Koppanen.

It just remains to be seen what kind of offensive upside these gritty, tough competitors will have once they reach the pro ranks a few years from now, and that will go a long way to determining how good these picks end up being.

One thing is for sure: they must be projecting that Koppanen is better than Kemppainen, who was an absolute bust in the offensive zone.