ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown host Chris Berman and analysts Cris Carter, Mike Ditka, Tom Jackson and Keyshawn Johnson previewed today’s NFL action with insiders Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter – the first show from its new state-of-the-art 9,000 square foot NFL studio on ESPN’s Bristol, Conn., campus.
In addition to Sunday NFL Countdown, the new Studio W, located in Digital Center 2, will be the new home for all other ESPN NFL studio programs – NFL Insiders, NFL Live, NFL PrimeTime and Monday Night Countdown.
Some excerpts from today’s show:
Inside Slant: Concerns about suspensions in the league?
Jackson: “These are separate and different things: One is PED, substance abuse, guys trying to enhance their performance on the field. I think you are always going to have some of that. There’ll always be guys willing to cheat. Am I overly concered about it? Not a lot because there are 1,800 players in the National Football League, 39 is not a big number.
“But some of the violent activity – when you start talking about domestic violence, when you start talking about issues that we’ve had over the last couple years … I think that some of these players are finding it very difficult to take the violence that you need in-between the lines and leave it in-between the lines when they leave the stadium and they go home to their personal lives. For some of them, it is very difficult. I know the league does a lot of preemptive things to try to help them. Maybe, they need to do more.”
Johnson: “I am concerned about all three phases, whether it is street drugs, whether it is domestic violence, whether it is executives getting into trouble at Denver Broncos or Jim Irsay, or whoever the case maybe. It simply states in the bylaws what you can and cannot do. People will go so far to break rules to win football games, to make the money.”
Is Cleveland Browns’ Brian Hoyer on a short leash?
Jackson: “He cannot survive this. I can give you an example today, as you watch this show, we’ve seen Johnny Manziel come out to the stadium. We’ve seen Johnny Manziel warming up. We’ve seen Johnny Manziel selling snickers. He’s not even scheduled to play. When I think about what Brian Hoyer is up against, the most polarizing figure in the National Football League, I reflect back on Kyle Orton and Tim Tebow, and Tim Tebow couldn’t even throw. Yet, you knew at some point, he was going to have the starting job. Brian Hoyer has been around this league to know that at some point – I don’t know whether it will come week 4, the bye week, or some week after that, or maybe next week – the job will belong to Johnny Manziel and everybody knows it.”
Carter: “Regardless of how long the leash is or not, we know when they draft you in the first round you are going to play. They are paying you, you are going to eventually play. Johnny Football has to make this determination right now – do I want to be famous or do I want to be unforgettable? There is a difference. There are a lot of people that are famous in life. In the National Football League, … the expectation is an average 3.5 years for your career over the last 25 years. That’s your career. Now, can he concentrate over that and work at his craft, and be a great football player. He can be a good player in this league. You can’t be a celebrity quarterback anymore.
Ron Jaworski reflects on Brian Hoyer as the Browns’ starting quarterback:
“What we saw is that Brian Hoyer is a system quarterback. He depends on other people to help him do his job. So, for him to do his job, Ben Tate (RB) has to show up, Terrance West (RB) has to show up, Jordan Cameron (TE) has to show up, Miles Austin (WR) has to show up, and they have to run the football and stay out of the known passing situations.
“If Brian Hoyer wins, he will keep the job. If he loses, then here comes Johnny Manziel.”
Resurgence for RGIII?
Jackson: “Availability is everything in this league. It is about staying healthy and being able to line up every week … He just needs to learn to protect himself, then he’ll have the chance to be a great football player.”
Johnson: “I want to see a better guy than I saw in the pre-season. I want to see a guy who embraces this offense, who wants to do the right things for this system and not rely on running the football. Sit in the pocket. Deliver it on a three-step drop. You have some wonderful toys there, play with them.”
Ditka: “He (RGIII) wants to do that. There’s one problem, this is not the ‘Hogs’ of the 80s. This offensive line, he can sue them for non-support.”
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo vs. the San Francisco 49ers defense:
Johnson: “If they can run the ball with (DeMarco) Murray, and play-action pass, then they can become effective and take charge of this football game. That’s one thing Tony is capable of doing. When he has a running game, he is a totally different quarterback. Prior to back surgery last year, he was playing phenomenal.”
Carter: “To wrap up the Tony Romo situation, (Cowboys Owner/GM) Jerry Jones has not put Super Bowl caliber personnel around him. So, all the pressure is on him to play perfect. He can play a great game and they still lose. All the blame will be placed on Tony Romo. He cannot carry the load by himself … The teammates he has, they are not up to Tony Romo’s standard of playing.”
On Andy Dalton and the Cincinnati Bengals at AFC Central rivals Baltimore Ravens:
Johnson: “When you look at these quarterbacks that sign these big deals … you are looking for him (Andy Dalton) to take a step forward. We know what they (the Bengals) have on defense. Now is the time for you to be the leader on offense and get your team beyond one game in the playoffs.”
Carter: “Look for Hue Jackson, who is taking over the offensive coordinator role from Jay Gruden. Watch the new wrinkles. They’ve been successful on offense, every new coordinator puts in a couple wrinkles, let’s see how he adds that to Dalton’s game.”
Ditka: “These guys are being paid as top quarterbacks, they have to become consistently good, not bad.”
Jackson: “This defense was the only one, top-5 across the board in every category – the Cincinnati Bengals.”
Tom Jackson on the Carolina Panthers:
“When you start talking about the Carolina Panthers, they have the formula for ultimate success – a strong running game with DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart and they have the reigning defensive MVP … Not Richard Sherman. Not J.J. Watt. Best defensive player in the league, Luke Kuechly. Play defense like they do, get your quarterback to throw a couple hundred yards, you have a chance of playing in Arizona.”