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Tuesday, July 29, 2014 @ 10:30am

John Brown is like…

By: Ron Wolfley
Watching John Brown have a stellar practice at University of Phoenix Stadium is starting to become redundant. He stands out by making plays but there has been something else, an itch I have not been able to scratch: who does this guy remind me of?

From a body type and skill set perspective, John Brown is Marvin Harrison. Watching him run, move and cut, watching him catch the ball effortlessly, makes me think of the longtime Colt that tormented the league with Peyton Manning.

Brown is small at 5-10, 179 pounds, just like Harrison (6', 180). He jogs back to the huddle like Marvin Harrison; he dead legs like Marvin Harrison; he accelerates out of the break like Marvin Harrison; he's quiet and soft spoken like Marvin Harrison; after all this time it finally hit me like bricks: he's like Marvin Harrison.

This was bothering me so much that I went up to Bruce Arians after practice and asked him if he thought Brown reminded him of Marvin Harrison.

Without hesitation he said, "absolutely." And then he said, "There are some people that compare him to T.Y. Hilton...and I looked at Tom Moore and said who does he remind you of, Tom? And he said, ‘Marvin.'"

I felt better…now we need him to play like Marvin Harrison.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014 @ 8:41am

Arizona Cardinals training camp -- Monday observations

By: Doug Franz
1) DEONE BUCANNON

The guy hits anything that moves. He never plays the game slow. Completely a downhill safety. There has to be a concern about flags for some of the hits that he'll bring to the party, but right now it's fun.

2) KEVIN MINTER

Got completely blown up in one of the blitz drills but that was the exception. Not nearly as explosive as Daryl Washington, but much more of a hammer. There are other things he does do better than Washington, so the world isn't ending.

3) DARREN FELLS

The guy has no chance to make the team. A 28 year-old tight end with one year of NFL experience and a ton to learn. If he was six years younger, I would dump an established player for the promise I see in Fells. At his age, though, I think it's more of a case where you say "what might have been."

4) BOBBY MASSIE

I don't know if the light bulb has completely gone on but the maturity and desire appear to be a bonfire.

Monday, July 28, 2014 @ 10:52am

Personnel and penumbras

By: Ron Wolfley
Personnel groups in the game of football represent the shadow world of the NFL. The chess match that football is tends to focus defenders on formation recognition and down and distance. Offenses try to confuse defenses with personnel groups while running the same plays.

Personnel does matter. Should an offense get into Pair Personnel, 2-Backs, 2-TEs and 1-WR, it tells the defense to expect run, especially if in run down situations (1st & 10, 2nd & 1-6). This is why it can be one of the most effective personnel groups to use play-action and throw the ball downfield.

Personnel is not pitch dark nor is it pure light; personnel is a penumbra in the game of football, the shade between darkness and light.

And the Cards may use two personnel groups more this year with the idea of misleading defenses: Regular (2-Backs, 1-TE and 2-WRs) and 10 Personnel (1-Back, 0-TEs and 4-WRs).

Bruce Arians runs a TE-centric offense and does not have a fullback. But Robert Hughes may change that. Hughes is stout, can be a good lead blocker and can catch the ball. He will most likely be the fourth and final running back on the team. This means we will actually see BA use two-back sets.

With all due respect to Mike Tyson, 10 Personnel is NICE! Imagine getting Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Ted Ginn, Jr. and rookie sensation John Brown on the field at the same time. The combination of speed and power is tantalizing. Also, it should be noted, it doesn't mean the Cards are just going to throw the ball from that grouping. Penumbras are fascinating because they're not easily identified and running the ball from 10 Personnel will be much more prevalent than most people (and defenses) think.

Andre Ellington will get the ball in space out of this grouping but he may not be the only back we see. Jonathan Dwyer could be an excellent option to be the "third-down back." He's big enough to pick up blitzers and he's capable of doing it again and again without getting nicked up. He catches the ball well and runs it well enough between the tackles to be the kind of back that could make 10 effective -- even in run down situations.

Where BA takes this offense will be one of the better stories of the preseason. I think a night and day difference is coming in 2014. You just have to know where to look.

Thursday, July 24, 2014 @ 12:47pm

P.J. Tucker and cash deserved

By: Doug Franz
It may not be popular in our culture but let's celebrate a new millionaire.

Gambo reported it a few weeks ago, but the signing of P.J. Tucker became official Wednesday. He is the perfect example of what it is about the relationship between players and fans that so many players simply do not understand.

Although not a majority, many players look down on us as fans. You can't blame them entirely when you read the tweets some fans send to athletes, but it's egotistical for athletes to assume one "hater" or one annoying autograph seeker represents all of us.

The salary cap forces all of us in the media and you as fans to judge the production versus the price. When we talk about a player's value, we're not talking about his value to his family or to planet earth. It's a fair conversation to agree or disagree with an organization for the cap value a team has placed on one individual. That's the nature of present day sports.

Some players don't realize that the vast majority of fans don't sit around getting angry at the income of an athlete. We get angry at the attitude of a wealthy athlete just like we would the attitude of a wealthy stockbroker or real estate mogul.

Compare P.J. Tucker to the famous statement from Latrell Sprewell. Sprewell rejected a $28 million offer from Minnesota saying, "Why would I want to go out and win a championship for them? They're not doing anything for me. I'm at risk. I have a lot of risk here. I got my family to feed." When he received the offer, it was an offer for an extension. Sprewell still had a year and $14 million left on his contract.

With the quote from Sprewell on your mind, look at P.J. Tucker. He was cut by the Toronto Raptors and for five years played for teams in Colorado, Israel, Ukraine, back to Israel, Greece, Italy, Puerto Rico and Germany. Eight years after getting drafted, he finally signs a big money deal. He's getting the money not because of supreme athleticism. The money is due to his work ethic, leadership and heart. His attitude towards life is that he's blessed but will never stop working hard. That's all we've ever asked for from athletes.

P.J. Tucker has earned every dollar of that contract. I guarantee true basketball fans are thrilled for P.J. to see him come as far as he has. I hope all athletes understand that if you carry yourself like Tucker, we root for you on the court and in life. We don't begrudge you for the financial opportunity the game has provided when you give all that you have every night. We judge desire before productivity.

From one man who will never see two percent of your yearly salary, I salute you.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014 @ 2:05pm

For the Arizona Diamondbacks, does stability sell?

By: Doug Franz
From the time that Tony La Russa was hired as chief baseball officer of the of the Arizona Diamondbacks, the "if" question seemed to become a "when." Why hire La Russa if you're satisfied with the job being done by Kevin Towers and Kirk Gibson? His hiring alone makes it obvious the plan was to fire Towers and Gibson. Let me stress WAS.

It still may happen but it's impossible to not read into the last two days of comments from the Diamondbacks' front office. At a press conference to allow local media to speak to La Russa about his upcoming Hall of Fame induction, he made the joke that he wants to fire Gibby because of the 1988 World Series homer, alone. Bosses don't joke about firing people with questionable job security.

Kevin Towers told us at the time of La Russa's hiring, he wouldn't stay on if he was a de facto GM. Last week, La Russa said that Towers had complete autonomy in making the Brandon McCarthy trade. Wednesday, Towers said he feels like he has complete power to carry out his plan for the upcoming trade deadline. Bosses don't let soon-to-be-fired GMs completely run the ship.

A lot of D-backs fans were excited for the addition of Tony La Russa because it suggested upcoming upheaval. What if it doesn't? What if a Hall-of-Fame manager that is respected by everyone in baseball decides the best course of action is stability? Fans would never have accepted that two months ago. Would they now? Would you?

La Russa's joke about his manager and hands-off approach to his GM means only one thing. The decision still has not been made. The future is still being evaluated. The results of future games and trades are still part of the process.

Managers are fired because teams quit on them. The D-backs are 35-35 since the end of April. No, you can't ignore April. You can assume, though, the players are still playing for Gibby or, at least, so professional that April results don't affect individual preparation. Minus April, that's three straight seasons of .500 baseball. It certainly isn't good, but it's not a disaster, either.

General managers are fired for any number of reasons. To be .500 with the massive injuries this year is a testament to the backups that the GM has acquired. None of Kevin Towers' big moves have worked. However, none of Towers' moves have been proven to be embarrassing to the family name. Only recently have Justin Upton and Trevor Bauer started to tip the scales against him.

It's easy to compile a list of 500 pieces of evidence to prove Towers and/or Gibson should be fired. Believe it or not, it's easy to do the same to prove they shouldn't. Obviously, that's exactly why this is a .500 team, which could be reason enough to bring in a new staff.

The big lesson learned this week, Towers and Gibson are still fighting for their jobs instead of facing a long, slow walk to the guillotine.

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