NFL Camp Report + Baseball Update

THE NFL CAMP REPORT:

WHAT’S UP WITH LAST YEAR’S SUPER BOWL SQUADS? WE CHECK IN ON THE BRONCOS AND THE SEAHAWKS AND SOME NEW PERSONNEL ON BOTH SIDES…
THE BASEBALL UPDATE: WHAT TO WATCH THIS WEEKEND AS DODGERS-GIANTS AND TIGERS-ANGELS ARE THE MARQUEE MATCHUPS ON TAP

Remember back last summer when the Super Bowl Odds came out?

The Denver Broncos (at 4-to-1) and the Seattle Seattle Seahawks (at 7-to-1) were among the NFL’s shortest favorites—along with New England (5.5-to-1) and San Francisco (4.7-to-1)—and they zoomed to their rightful place alongside one another in Super Bowl 48.

No Cinderellas there, my friends!

Now, just mere months removed from Seattle’s lopsided 43-8 win against Denver in the New Jersey swamplands—both clubs are looking to stick their proverbial best foot forward in the summer of 2014 and again both are among the betting favorites to win Super Bowl 49.

In today’s jam-packed Jim Sez weekend column, we bring you some of the new personnel that figures to contribute to last year’s Super Bowl squads and so let’s get it on:

DENVER— It’s already been a rather difficult week in Bronco-land with the news that long-time owner Pat Bowlen has stepped away from his duties because of a long-running bout with a Alzheimer’s disease.

Now team president Joe Ellis will take over as the club’s CEO and so—in essence—it’s the end of a glorious era for the Broncos and their fans.
Ellis and GM John Elway have been strategizing and planning for months now as a partnership and remember that Denver’s been active this whole off season in bringing new bodies aboard, including former Dallas Cowboys star pass rusher DE DeMarcus Ware, who has slimmed down to the 250-pound range and claims he feels better than ever.

Then there’s new WR Emmanuel Sanders, late of the Pittsburgh Steelers. The ultra-quick Sanders not only is expected to fill in the statistical blanks for New York Jets-bound WR Eric Decker, but the Broncos also believe he can serve as an effective slot receiver if/when Wes Welker needs a blow.

Then there’s top draftees CB Bradley Roby (Ohio State) and WR Cody Latimer (Indiana), who were two of the NFL Draft’s top 56 players selected in May.

Note that Roby plays with major aggression and he started all but one game the past three seasons for the mighty Buckeyes. The Broncos are hoping some off-the-field hijinxs that bogged down Roby’s draft status last spring is a thing of the past —he certainly appears to be one of the five or six-best defensive players to enter the latest draft and the Broncos will welcome a big hitter and long-armed defender into this year’s secondary.

As far as Latimer—this former Big 10 star is a big dude at 6-foot-3, 215 pounds and so QB Peyton Manning has yet another tall target at his disposal and note last year the former IU Hoosiers star had 1,096 receiving yards for the 2012 Indiana team that scored 35-or-more points on eight different occasions in its 5-7 SU (straight-up) season.

SEATTLE— The defending Super Bowl champion Seahawks didn’t make a whole lot of noise during the draft as this NFC West crew grabbed WR Paul Richardson (Colorado) in Round II with the 45th overall selection and then later in the second round the ‘Hawks nabbed OT Justin Britt (Missouri) and all of a sudden both draftees are considered important “gets” considering what’s gone down in the off season.

Richardson— a 6-foot, 175-pounder -- has bounced back nicely from a 2012 torn ACL and last year finished with 79 receptions for 1,280 yards and 10 TDs and remember he comes from good bloodline as his dad Paul, Sr. played with Philadelphia, Oakland, Green Bay and the New York Jets.

With the announcement this week that WR Sidney Rice has officially retired, Richardson becomes that much more important in the scheme of things for this Seattle squad.

Then there’s Britt who’s engaged in a battle for the starting RT spot following the free agency departure of Breno Giacomini.

At press time, it’s believed Michael Bowie has the edge on Britt for starter’s minutes but it’s early this summer and the former Mizzou star could win the battle or possibly split time at the possession as Seattle did a year ago at left guard.

One other “newbie” on the Seahawks roster is former Canadian Football League WR Chris Matthews, who was limited by injuries last year in the CFL but is considered a real “sleeper” at one of the starting wide-out positions.

Matthews is 6-foot-5, 218 pounds and he figures to add some real physicality to this group for QB Russell Wilson.

Extra, extra …

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It’s all part of the summertime action—can’t wait!

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THE BASEBALL REPORT
Here’s the top series in the National and American Leagues this weekend:

IN THE NL…
LOS ANGELES DODGERS (56-47) at SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS (57-45)—Fri, Sat & Sun
The Dodgers have drifted to 1 ½ games back of the NL West-leading Giants after the events of the past few days:

Los Angeles lost two-of-three in Pittsburgh while San Fran snagged three-of-four in Philadelphia but note these long-time rivals head into this late July weekend set separated by two runs in the run differential category—the Dodgers are a plus 41 and the Giants are plus 39—and the Dodgers continue to be a better road team at 31-23 but let’s see if Don Mattingly’s club will be at or close to full strength here as OF Yasiel Puig has missed LA’s last four starts after getting hit on the hand by a pitch. Meanwhile, veteran Dodgers SS Hanley Ramirez has yet to swing a bat after being drilled twice in last Sunday’s comeback 4-3 win in St. Louis.

Ramirez is not expected to be placed on the DL just yet but he might sit out this series-opening tilt between Dodgers’ RHP Zack Greinke (11-6, 2.90) and Giants’ righty Tim Lincecum (9-6, 3.65). Getting his team full strength has been an ongoing problem for Mr. Mattingly lately.

The Dodgers have dropped seven of their first 10 head-to-head games against the Giants this season.

In the AL, it’s…
DETROIT (56-42) at LOS ANGELES ANGELS (60-40)—Fri, Sat & Sun—This four-game set started last night in Anaheim with the all-aces duel of Tigers CY Young winner Max Scherzer battling Angeles RHP Garrett Richards and the truth is this series is packed with great matchups:

Lefties Drew Smyly of Detroit (6-8, 3.80) battles Angels Tyler Skaggs (5-5, 4.65) in tonight’s tilt followed this weekend by Detroit’s Justin Verlander (9-8, 4.84 against LAA’s Matt Shoemaker (7-3, 4.54 ERA) and then the Sunday finale features RHP Rick Porcello (versus lefty Hector Santiago (2-7, 4.02).

No doubt if either side can swipe three-of-four it’ll be “mission accomplished” but odds are this will be one of those knock-‘em-down, drag-‘em-out fights that results in a four game split but all eyes will be on those back-to-back AL MVP one-two finishers as Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera comes off that iconic home run at-bat in Arizona the other day while Angels CF Mike Trout enters tonight with some pretty dandy numbers including 24 HRs, 76 RBI and a .309 batting average with 115 hits.

Back in April, the then-host Tigers snagged two-of-three wins against the Angels including wins by 5-2 and 2-1 where Scherzer and Porcello earned wins and the Halos won that series opener 11-6 behind righthander Jered Weaver.

NOTE: There’s more NFL Camp News & Notes plus there’s NCAA Football and MLB action in the coming days/weeks right here at Jim Sez.

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