David Ambrozejczyk’s American sports column: Volume 5
LeBron keeps his cool for the Heat, Spurs lead the pack
LeBron James managed to get the better of the boo-boys as he turned in an unstoppable performance on his return to Cleveland, scoring 38 points as the Heat cruised to a 118-90 win over the Cavaliers. Once a hometown hero before “taking his talents to South Beach”, James was the subject of a torrent of abuse in a match watched by 7.1m people, but he rubbed salt into the wounds by scoring 24 third quarter points before sitting out in fourth. Arrogant? Almost certainly, but Miami (13-8) and LeBron might be starting to deliver. The Heat still have a way to go if they are to catch the NBA leading San Antonio Spurs (17-3) who rolled the New Orleans Hornets with a dominant all round performance, 109-84, including a team high 19 points for the evergreen Tony Parker.
Nationals strike first, show their Werth
Free Agent Season came early for the MLB as the Washington Nationals surprised everyone by acquiring Phillies right fielder Jason Werth on a 7-year $126million Dollar deal. Werth leaves the National League leaders for a team who sit bottom of the East in a move that will have many scratching their heads – why would Werth leave the Phillies where he was an All-Star for a team who have little chance of competing? His agent, Scott Boras, has worked his magic for a player turning 32 next season who will be their best player, but will have little or no supporting cast. The Nationals need to acquire more talent for the bumper deal for Werth to come to fruition.
Steelers dig deep, edge Baltimore
The Pittsburgh Steelers won 13-10 against arch-rivals the Baltimore Ravens in a bruising encounter which saw Steelers Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger make most Premier League footballers look like a ballet dancers, playing the majority of the game with a broken nose after a vicious hit by Terrell Suggs in the first quarter. In game where both defences stood firm, Roethlisberger tossed a nine yard strike to Isaac Redman with three minutes remaining to score Pitts only touchdown of the day and improve to 9-3. Baltimore (8-4) lost at home for the first time this year and go to second place in the AFC North.
Good Week For….
Jason Campbell (Oakland Raiders)
Jason Campbell hasn’t had the best of luck through his career. Four offensive co-ordinators in as many years at Washington before being shipped to Oakland, he then had to endure being benched in favour of Bruce Gradkowski. How times change – Campbell looked every bit the franchise quarterback as he made a mockery of one the NFL’s best Defensive units, throwing for one touchdown and running for another despite only throwing the ball seventeen times. Campbell was particularly good when running the play action – if Campbell can stay injury free, Oakland might finally have their guy under centre.
Bad Week for….
Peyton Manning (Indianapolis Colts)
Something has got to give in Indy. Peyton Manning look distinctly average, even bad as he threw four interceptions for the second consecutive game as the Colts fell to a 38-35 OT loss against Dallas. While Manning is still capable of winning games on his own, he is approaching the twilight of career and is slowing down. The Colts are beaten up at receiver too, but their non-existent running game (ranked dead last in the NFL) is now becoming a serious hindrance to them and is a big reason why Manning is struggling – while their passing yards lead the NFL, it is the only thing the Colts are doing and Manning is feeling the effect of opposing teams setting up to prevent the pass.
The Colts are not out of the play-off race completely, but another repeat performance next week against Tennessee could put the first nails in the coffin for 2010.
NFL DRAFT 2011 – PLAYER WATCH
This Heisman Trophy winner will be a significant pick up for someone, but who will pull get in there first?
5. Mark Ingram – Running Back – Alabama
Elite Running Backs are always at a premium in a draft but 2011 is turning out to be a particularly skinny year. While the 2009 Heisman Trophy Winner leaves Alabama as one of the most decorated players in school history, Ingram could land anywhere from around pick five to the bottom of the first round, such is the shortage of running backs this year. Add that to this draft being seemingly loaded with defensive talent and deep on Quarterbacks with a possible four going inside the top half of the first round, the places for specialist players are going to be limited. However, it only takes one team to make a shaky pick above them for teams to clamour for Ingram, who is a complete running back (in comparison to say, C.J Spiller who will see a lot of time as a receiver and on third down). Ingram is likely to be the number one guy on at least four teams (draft) boards and legitimate number two on many others.
In analysing his skills and production, Ingram is again proving to an enigma, His production has dropped significantly since his Heisman year, where he rushed for 1,658 yards and 17 touchdowns but he has suffered with injuries and has been forced to split time with Trent Richardson, who will be the featured runner on his departure, while others argue he is playing in a supremely talented team so his stats were padded. In my opinion, winning a Heisman, awarded to the best college footballer in the nation, should be proof enough of his elite talent – he simply carried Alabama single handedly in 2009.
Durability concerns could play a factor too for Ingram but NFL teams should take note; many thought Adrian Peterson had durability concerns before the 2007 NFL Draft – Arizona and Washington notoriously passed on him – the ‘Skins taking what many believed to be Minnesota’s prime target in Safety LaRon Landry the pick before, only for Minnesota to pick AP. Needless to say, the rest is history.
While Ingram is not in the same bracket as Peterson, he is still going to be a valued commodity and teams might be willing to trade up if their first choice target is taken early. As of December 6th, Washington will take a big look at him at number #9, considering the issues in their backfield, but they have bigger issues at receiver to address first.
If the draft were to happen tomorrow, there would be a fight, this writer thinks that New England (number #17 via Oakland), Miami (number #18) and Indianapolis (number #19) will be fighting for him. All three teams have question marks at running back; New England seems content doing it by committee with no names Benjarvis Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead (Ingram would be a huge upgrade on both), while Miami need to replace injury prone Ronnie Brown and the aging Ricky Williams.
If I were Indianapolis’ General Manager, I would be sacrificing a third rounder and trading my first rounder with it, making the jump in front of both these teams to grab Ingram; Donald Brown and Joseph Addai can’t get it done and Peyton Manning is 35 next season. If they want to preserve Manning for another three to four years and make a Superbowl run again, they need to re-establish the run in a balanced offense – drafting Mark Ingram will do that and be a throwback to when Manning was handing off to Edgerrin James.