Sunday, November 18, 2018

This Week In Football

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

The end of an era took place last weekend in My Hometown of Farmington Hills, MI.

Farmington Hills Harrison High School will close down after this year. The only coach in their 49-year history John Herrington won't be roaming the sidelines in 2019.

Chelsea won the Division 4 Regional Final 21-14 and ended the Hawks last ever football season.

Herrington finishes with 443 career victories, most in MHSAA annals and 13 State Titles! You talk about the molding of kids into men, Herrington is a legend in every sense of the word!

Hope you have a great retirement coach because you deserve it! My only regret is I never had a chance to meet you.

But for all we know, who is to say that Herrington won't land at another school either on the sidelines or in another role. Stay tuned!

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New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas has been fined $30 K for using a cell phone while celebrating a TD against the LA Rams. The celebration was a tribute to Saints icon Joe Horn, who famously whipped out a cell phone after scoring a TD in 2003.

Horn was also fined $30 K. I'm surprised the fine wasn't more due to inflation attributing to bigger salaries. But there is no doubt that Thomas probably has a good accountant and will make good use of  the tax write off.

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Pittsburgh Steelers Le'Veon Bell running back kept his word and has decided to sit out the entire 2018 regular season. Bell is seeking a contract in free agency of $17 Million per-season and $45 Million Guaranteed. Sacrificing the season means that Bell's body won't have any wear and tear on it. It wouldn't have been worth it to play a handful of games late in the season.

The Saints signed free agent wide receiver Dez Bryant and it took him just two practices to land on injured reserve as he tore his Achilles Tendon which will take eight months of rehabilitation. What worked against Bryant is he wasn't in football shape. But the silver lining in all of this is the Saints are willing to bring him back as long as he recovers, plus Dez wants to return to New Orleans.

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Finally, the Miami Dolphins were fined $30 K and head coach Adam Gase was fined $15 K for the handling of QB Ryan Tannehill on the Week 6 injury report.

Tannehill was listed as a full participant on Thursday of Week 6 despite missing reps because of a shoulder injury. He should have been listed as a limited participant.

As it turned out, Tannehill was a game day scratch against the Chicago Bears. The 30-year old hasn't played since.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at www.scottsports33.com. He his a member of Detroit Sports Media and hosts The Sports Exchange on weinetwork.com on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5-7 pm. He's also the CEO of The South Florida Tribune.

Lions Brandon Powell, Sunshine State Underdog

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
PHOTOS BY CANDICE EBLING

When you look at powerful High School Football Programs in Michigan, the three that come to mind are Birmingham Brother Rice, Detroit De La Salle and Farmington Hills Harrison.

I just heard that Harrison's 49-year run, all under legendary Coach John Herrington, has come to an end as the school won't be in existence next year.

In South Florida, one of the biggest High School Football Programs is the Deerfield Beach Bucks in my backyard.

The Michigan Wolverines know this school well as former QB Denard Robinson, 28, played here.

Robinson went on to play three years as a running back for the Jacksonville Jaguars from 2013-2016.

Another prominent Buck which made Deerfield Beach High School proud is Jason Pierre-Paul.

Paul, 29, played for the New York Giants from 2010-2017.

He's currently with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Paul has won a Super Bowl and also has two Pro-Bowls on his resume. To date, he has 68 sacks.

The latest Deerfield Beach Buck in the NFL plays his home games at Ford Field.  His name is Brandon Powell, 23, who was signed as an undrafted free agent from the Florida Gators.

Scouting and player personnel staffs are not only graded on the players they draft, but whom they sign as undrafted free agents.

Do the Lions have a hidden gem on their roster?

Time will tell how many teams will regret that they should have snapped up Powell, who has a chip on his shoulder looking to prove his doubters wrong.

When the Detroit Lions came to Miami to face the Dolphins on October 21, I had an opportunity to spend time with Powell, who is 5'8" and 181 lbs.

Another former Lion wide receiver who had the same initials B.P.is Brett Perriman.

Perriman played his college ball in the state of Florida with the Miami Hurricanes.

When I asked Powell if he had ever heard of Perriman, he politely nodded his head and said no.

He came across to me as a level headed and blue collar young man.

Here is what he had to say after the Detroit Lions defeated the Miami Dolphins 32-21 at Joe Robbie Stadium.

Q:Tell me about your road to the NFL?

A: It was a long, long road and I still have a long ways to go. I'm still learning a lot from a great group of guys in the receivers room. I'm just happy to be here and living a dream since I was a kid.

Q: Being an undrafted free agent like you were, your road wasn't the easiest and conventional to get to the NFL. How much more of an effort did you put into it to make this happen?

A: I did but I always work hard and I knew I'd get a shot somewhere. Once I got here, I just had to make sure that I took full advantage of my opportunity, and every opportunity I had. I have a great group of guys who were willing to teach me everything from day one since I got here.

It's great with this group of receivers that show me the way and I just continue to work and made the team.

Q: When you played in the Tampa August pre-season game under adverse weather conditions, can you recollect about what was a critical contest to make your last push to make the squad? Obviously, your big highlight was an 80-yard punt return for a touchdown.

A: I take everyday as an interview and try to do my best every single time. It was good to be back in Florida at home to have a game like that to score a TD in front of my family. It was a good opportunity for me.  I was thankful for the opportunity the Detroit Lions gave me to play in my hometown to play in my first NFL game.

Q: Tell me what it was like to play in Deerfield Beach High School? I know they're a powerhouse in Broward County.

A: It's the best high school. There are a lot of great players which have played there like Denard Robinson and Jason Pierre Paul. It's a great high school and I wish I had time to come back there and watch them. But I have to handle some business right now. It's the best high school in South Florida to me.

Q: How much did it cost you to get tickets for your family and friends to attend the Lions vs Dolphins?

A: My family are Dolphins fans and they were out tailgating. They didn't care about watching the game. They just wanted to be out here at my first NFL game in South Florida. I wish I could have played and they had to spend a lot of money to get them all in here. They were just happy to be here and tailgate. My grandma and everyone else was watching the game. It was fun.

Q: There have been no shortage of Florida Gators that have worn the Detroit Lions colors. Lomas Brown is a Lions legend and currently a Lions color analyst. Jarrad Davis and Teez Tabor are also teammates of yours. Going back in the record books, there are a lot more former Gainesville residents that played in Metro Detroit. What is it like to be the latest Gator wearing a different color blue in the State of Michigan?

A: It's great and that shows you the Gators produce a lot of athletes. They put a lot of talent in the NFL. The Florida Gators are one of the top schools in the country and produce athletes.

Q: Tell me your thoughts about playing for the Detroit Lions, who own a deep history in the NFL?

A: It's great. I never thought of it because I was a Dolphins fan growing up. I never heard much about the Detroit Lions during the draft process coming up. Of course everybody knew who Barry Sanders was. I used to watch him in college because I went to college as a running back. I used to watch a lot of his video on You Tube. Just being here playing for the Detroit Lions and being here on this team is an honor.

Q: Tell me about the wide receivers who you like to pattern yourself around?

A: For me, I like and watch Antonio Brown, Julian Edelman, and Danny Amendola, who plays for the Dolphins. The Patriots run a similar offense as to what we ran in college that we now do in Detroit. So Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola are two receivers I model a lot.

Q: What are your thoughts about catching passes from Matthew Stafford?

A: My first ever pass catch from him, he ripped my gloves. It's great to catch a pass from a QB like that. He's one of the great QB's in the NFL. It's an honor for me to be on the same field with him.

Q: Does being an Underdog inspire you considering what it took for you to get to the NFL?

A: To me, I've always been an Underdog.

I've never had the size that everybody wanted. My work ethic is what makes me, me.

Q: Finally, Is there any other thing that you want to add to the conversation?

A: I just want to work hard, learn from these guys and when the time comes just take advantage of it.

For whatever it's worth, it was interesting when Powell mentions Barry Sanders. Brandon went to school as a running back. Like Powell, Sanders is 5-8 and he weighed 200 pounds.

Meanwhile, Darren Sproles, 5-6, 185 pounds has been used on special teams in the kickoff and punt roles. Sproles has hybrid skills being used as a running back and a slot receiver. The true definition of being a hybrid player.

It will be interesting to see if the Lions coaching staff identifies whether Powell can be used in many ways in an effort to find a new playmaker.

Brandon is indeed an Underdog and playing in the Sunshine State along with the many players who have had NFL careers because they can play year round is why there is an abundance of talent down here.

I'll be curious to monitor the developments if Brandon Powell is another Hidden Gem.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at www.scottsports33.com. He is a member of Detroit Sports Media and is Host of the Sports Exchange on weinetwork.com which can be heard on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5-7 pm.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Paul Woods' NHL Perspectives

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
PHOTOS BY CANDICE EBLING

Whenever the Detroit Red Wings travel to Sunrise, FL., there are a lot of people that I look forward to seeing.

If you can find me three nicer beat writers to work with, speaking of Helene St. James, Dana Wakiji and Ted Kulfan, then do it.

Red Wings Radio Announcers Ken Kal and Paul Woods are truly great friends!

When the Red Wings came to face the Florida Panthers on October 20, I once again spent time with Woods.

During the first intermission, Paul and I took a different approach to this conversation in what turned out to be a 4-3 Red Wings victory, the teams' first of the season.

We decided to focus on the most interesting topics in the NHL.

An 82-game regular season in the NHL is brutal.

The grind becomes even tougher in the playoffs in what turns out to be a war of attrition when chasing the most difficult championship, and that's winning the Stanley Cup Trophy.



Here are some of Woods insights of the key storylines that will unfold this season.

Q: How important is it for the NHL to have all the Original Six Teams qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs?

A: I think it's important Scott. It's a good point especially with the history of it. The Red Wings have a rich history with Gordie Howe, Ted Lindsay, Alex Delvecchio, Nicklas Lidstrom, Steve Yzerman, Sergei Federov and the list goes on and on. It's neat to be a part of that.

I know when Detroit made it to the playoffs 25 consecutive years, and missed the last two, we don't like that feeling. We want to get back there as fast as we can.

Q: The Vegas Golden Knights made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals in their inaugural season. Do you see any let down in their second campaign?

A: It was amazing. I didn't pick them to go that way. I kept looking at them and said, yeah a good start and this is a team that's running on adrenaline right now then the wheels will fall off sooner or later. But they never did.

They had former Panthers Coach Gerard Gallant, one of my former teammates, and I can't say enough good things about him. The way they played with intensity up and down the line-up was impressive. It was like "Us against the World" and lets just show them what we can do. It's an amazing story.

They've gotten off to a slow start (8-11-1) but that's going to change. They have some key players who are injured right now. I think they'll be a playoff team again in the Western Conference. General Manager George McPhee has done a fantastic job.

Q: Is Vegas the hunted and are they going to come down to earth, or are they Not going to come down to earth? I know they had an impressive 109 points in their expansion season. I have my doubts that they'll return to the playoffs.

A: We do differ on this one Scott and there is nothing wrong about that. I respect how long you've covered the sport. I really do expect Vegas to be in the playoff picture in the Western Conference and they'll do well when they get there.

Q: Finally, by the time we see each other again in the spring, Seattle could be the 32nd franchise in the NHL and this will balance the conferences out with an equal amount of teams. What are your thoughts about that?

A: This will be great. After what Vegas did, they'll expect the same thing in terms of higher expectations with better players available. I don't think they'll duplicate what was done last season. The general manager and coach they hire will be under a lot of pressure based on what Vegas accomplished last season.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at www.scottsports33.com, is a member of Detroit Sports Media. He also hosts the Sports Exchange on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5-7 pm on the weinetwork.com.

Monday, November 12, 2018

We're Talking Baseball

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

Are Joe Mauer and C.C. Sabathia future Hall of Famers and how much money will Bryce Harper earn during free agency?

These are the three individuals that we'll talk about in this story.



Minnesota Twins first baseman and catcher Joe Mauer retired Friday after 15 seasons. He played his entire career with the same team which is uncommon these days. His career is refreshing because he played for his hometown team.

Unfortunately for Mauer, his career was derailed by concussion issues.

Mauer, 35, was drafted No.1 overall in 2001.

He won an MVP in 2009, three batting titles, appeared in six All-Star Games, won five Silver Sluggers, three Gold Gloves as a catcher and had a career slash line----.306 average, 2,123 hits, 143 HR's, 428 doubles, 923 RBIs in 1,858 games.

So the question remains is Mauer a future Hall of Famer?

I'd say he's borderline because his numbers are good but are they enough to give him a plaque in Cooperstown, NY?

The Baseball Writers Association of America could take his injury situation into consideration and if they ask what if he'd been healthy would his numbers be substantially higher?

Mauer never had any off the field issues and I understand he was polite to the media.

But what do you fans think?

Please send me your comments and I'll mention them on The Sports Exchange (an Internet Radio Sport Talk Show http://www.weinetwork.com/)  which runs Tuesday's and Thursdays from 5-7 pm.

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New York Yankees Pitcher C.C. Sabathia announced that he will retire after the 2019 season.

During his 19th campaign, he'll earn $8 Million from the Yankees in what will be his 11th season playing in the Bronx.

Sabathia's other stops include seven plus years with the Cleveland Indians and he was a rental for the Milwaukee Brewers in 2008.

He won a Cy Young Award with the Indians.

Sabathia currently has a lifetime record of 246-153 with a 3.70 ERA.

He's the majors active leader in strikeouts with 2,986, walks 1,060, complete games 38 and innings pitched 3,470.

There are some milestones he's looking to reach during the upcoming season.

He's four wins away from 250.
He's 30 innings away from 3,500.
He's 14 strikeouts away from 3,000. He will be the 17th player to reach 3,000 strikeouts.

Sabathia also has 12 shutouts and has won a World Series with the Yankees.


What chance does Sabathia have to reach baseball immortality?

In an age of specialization, I would say he has an excellent chance.

Playing in the largest Media Market in the county referring to New York City will definitely enhance his chances considerably.

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Finally, where will Bryce Harper land in Free Agency?

After turning down a 10-year contract worth $300 Million to stay with the Washington Nationals, the question remains which teams would be paying the potential asking price of up to $400 Million that Super Agent Scott Boras could potentially ask for?

The only teams that I think could be possibilities would appear to be the Philadelphia Phillies, San Francisco Giants, New York Yankees or the LA Angels.

I don't think the Chicago Cubs would ante up the coin since they snapped their 108 championship drought, thus there is no desperation to make a big splash of this kind. In fact, I see the Cubs ultimately cutting payroll to stay below the luxury tax threshold.

Adding Harper to the Phillies would be an indication that Philadelphia is ready to win now and he'd sell a lot of tickets.

The Giants have an excellent history and San Francisco has treated their superstar players well. They've even endorsed the pseudo Home Run King Barry Bonds, who hit his HR's with Performance Enhancing Drugs.

It's hard to rule out the New York Yankees and pitchers would have nightmares if Harper was in the same line-up as Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton.

The LA Angels would be my dark horse if he's paired with Mike Trout in the lineup.

If teams decided the asking price was too steep, and the market dried up, then I could see the Nationals bringing Harper back to Washington.

Washington had a chance to land Yasiel Puig in a trade with the LA Dodgers but now it's inevitable they'll get nothing.

It's important to note that Harper has never played in a full season nor has he won a playoff series.

The most games Harper has played in a season is 159, at bats are 550, his career batting average is .279, has 184 HRs and 521 RBIs.

Judge for yourself and let me know on the Sports Exchange.

I wouldn't pony up that amount of coin based on seven years worth of work.

Despite being 26-years old, that seems to be too high of a risk for me.

Yet, there is always an owner that would take on such an investment.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at www.scottsports33.com.

He's a member of Detroit Sports Media and is host of the Sports Exchange which can be heard on weinetwork.com.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Job Security?

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

What have you done for me lately?

During the past week, three coaches found this out in what is indeed a cut throat
industry.

In the NHL, the Chicago Blackhawks fired their 60-year old head coach Joel Quenneville, a native of Windsor, Ontario, Canada.

Quenneville coached the Windy City squad for 10 seasons and won three Stanley Cups.

At the time of his dismissal, Quenneville was 6-6-3, but was 3-6-1 in their last 10 games, two points out of the Wild Card Spot in the Western Conference.

He was replaced by 33-year old Jeremy Collins, who is now the youngest coach in the NHL.

Quenneville turned the Blackhawks into a dynasty after being hired in 2008, winning the three titles from 2010-2015. He won three Central Division Titles along with a Presidents Trophy in 2013.

His overall mark for Chicago was 446-243-93.

But don't feel sorry for Joel because he can still feed his family. He signed a three-year contract extension in 2016. He's owed the remainder of this years salary and will pocket another $6 Million next season.

In 1,636 games coached, he's won 890, lost 532, has 77 ties and 137 overtime losses.

There is no doubt that he can afford to be patient and selective of his next opportunity as his services will be in high demand.

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Now we turn our attention to the North Side of Chicago where the Cubs reside.

Manager Joe Maddon has one-year left on his contract that runs through the end of 2019.

President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein has tabled talks for an extension until late next season or afterwards.

The 64-year old skipper has guided the Cubs to a combined 387-261 mark, been to the playoffs all four years he's been at the helm and famously ended a 108-year World Series Drought. He won The Fall Classic in 2016, his second year with the team.

The 2018 Wild Card Game loss to the Colorado Rockies last month marked the Cubs shortest post-season stint in Maddon's tenure.

I'll be curious over the course of the next year as to what roster moves are made and will the Cubs cut down on payroll, thus determining what talent he'll have to work with.

To Maddon's credit, if he can win with the low-budget Tampa Bay Rays, he can succeed anywhere under any circumstances.

If he ever becomes unemployed, he won't be out of work long.

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Finally, the next championship pink slip comes from North Of The Border in the Canadian Football League.

The CFL's Toronto Argonauts fired head coach Marc Trestman---one year after a Grey Cup victory.

Trestman was hired as the Argonauts 43rd head coach in February of 2017 and went on to lead them to a thrilling 27-24 victory over the Calgary Stampeders in the 105th Grey Cup in Ottawa after a 9-9 regular season.

The 2018 season saw Toronto slide to 4-14 and the 62-year old Minneapolis, MN., native is out of work.

In the CFL, Trestman won two Grey Cups with Montreal and another with Toronto giving him three.

I'll be curious where Trestman will land next, North or South of The Border.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at www.scottsports33.com and is a member of Detroit Sports Media. He is also the Host for the Sports Exchange on weinetwork.com.

Motown Vs South Beach

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
PHOTOS BY CANDICE EBLING

If you're looking for a weekend getaway in the sun and get away from the cooler weather in Metro Detroit, this was the time to schedule it.

On Saturday Night October 20, 2018, the Detroit Red Wings traveled to Sunrise, FL to face the Florida Panthers at 7 pm.

Sunday afternoon at Hard Rock Stadium at 1 pm, the Detroit Lions made it's every eight-year visit to face the Miami Dolphins.

This past spring, there was a similar situation which took place.

The Detroit Pistons faced the Miami Heat on a Saturday Night, while the Tigers played the Washington Nationals in West Palm Beach on Sunday.

Due to medical issues, I was limited to one contest and elected to see the Tigers game. This would be the latest Spring Training venue that we saw and that stadium was dynamite.

The common denominator with all these games is that it's nice to be able to sleep in my own bed during these occasions.

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The Red Wings entered their contest with the Florida Panthers as the only winless team in the NHL with a 0-5-2 mark with two points.

Detroit was playing a Panthers club that was also struggling with a 1-2-2 record with four points.

The Red Wings always seem to play well at the BB&T Center.

Detroit's record against the Panthers was 7-10-2-4.

There was no shortages of chants that said "Let's Go Red Wings."

As we were leaving the game, I saw a Red Wings fan wear a Harold Snepsts white jersey.

How many millennials remember this guy?

After the first period, it looked like the Red Wings were destined for yet another loss spotting the Panthers a 2-0 lead at the end of the first period

But Detroit woke up in the second period scoring three unanswered goals to take a 3-2 lead.

Florida would score a later goal in the third period to tie the game at 3-3, but Detroit and goaltender Jimmy Howard showed resilience in overtime to come away with a 4-3 triumph.


As I went down to the Red Wings locker room, I saw GM Ken Holland, and he was the most relieved man in the building when I asked him how it felt to get that first win.

When the game was over, I spoke with Dennis Cholowski, who was playing in this arena for the first time, about his thoughts about playing in front of the Metro Detroit transplants.

"It's pretty darn cool and we have a loyal fan base," Cholowski said. "They follow us everywhere through thick and thin. So it's pretty cool to see that."

Cholowski said he was relieved to see the team get that first win out of the way.

"For sure, we were yearning for it and we've wanted it for awhile now. Thankfully, we got the first one out of the way."

Coach Jeff Blashill said getting a win anywhere would have been important but also chimed in on Detroit's home away from home.

"We're fortunate we got lots of Red Wings fans throughout the country," Blashill said. "Certainly, whenever we come here there is a good number of red and white so that's a great thing. We play pretty good in this building and I thought certainly parts of tonight was real good."

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Through the years, I've covered the Lions many times on the road.

But the place which is No.1 on my list is when they face the Miami Dolphins.

When I first became a sports writer, the Miami Dolphins were the first team that I covered working with the legendary Don Shula.

Because I was young, I was a bit intimidated by him. But as I worked with him often, he used to joke around with me and I used to ask for words of wisdom, which he was great about giving me.

I covered the Dolphins when they played at the now demolished Orange Bowl.

I interviewed late Owner Joe Robbie, who built the current stadium which I've seen two Super Bowls along with Lions and Miami Hurricanes games.

I also saw a game when Nick Saban was the Dolphins coach and former Lions QB Joey Harrington faced the Green Bay Packers and legend Brett Favre.

Too many memories to document.

This brings us back to the South Florida/Detroit Showdown Weekend.

The Lions entered the Dolphins game with a 2-3 mark, while Miami is looking for its first 5-2 start since 2003.

The Dolphins are 5-2 in their past seven meeting with the Lions, but Detroit has won each of the past two, including a 34-27 win in the last meeting in South Florida on December 26, 2010.

Today's intrigue would focus on whether Lions Coach Matt Patricia, formerly of the New England Patriots, could use his divisional knowledge to gain a scouting advantage of the Dolphins enabling Detroit to climb to 3-3.

One area Patricia won't have as much knowledge about is Dolphins QB Brock Osweiler, as he will start instead of signal caller Ryan Tannehill, who is sidelined due to a shoulder injury.

On this day, Lions would defeat the Dolphins 32-21.

The Lions scored a touchdown on their first possession for the first time this season while snapping Miami's streak of 13 consecutive games without allowing an opening drive touchdown.

Detroit recorded 248 rushing yards as a team, the most since logging 249 yards vs Indianapolis on November 23, 1997.

Rookie running back Kerryon Johnson finished the day in career highs with 19 attempts for 158 yards (8.3 avg.). He added two receptions for 21 yards to finish with a career-most 179 yards from scrimmage. One of his runs was a 71-yard rush in the second quarter.

QB Matthew Stafford finished the day 18-of-22 passing for 217 yards and two touchdowns, good for a passer rating of 138.1.

The Lions left South Beach feeling good about themselves by improving their record to 3-3.

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But how indeed the fortunes have changed for both squads.

After the Red Wings left South Florida they went on a two-game losing streak.

But in their last 10 games, Detroit is 7-3 and through 17 games, the Red Wings have improved their record to 7-8-2 with 16 points.

As for the Lions, they've lost three consecutive contests and are 3-6, as they reside in last place in the NFC North Division.

With their playoff hopes diminishing and a lost season, Coach Patricia finds himself with a lot of work to do to gain the confidence of a fan base that believes his hiring was a huge mistake.

Nonetheless, if you're a Detroit Sports Fan, who was in South Florida for the weekend, going 2-0 was money well spent.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at www.scottsports33.com. He's a member of Detroit Sports Media and also hosts The Sports Exchange on the weinetwork.com.


Tuesday, October 30, 2018

A Look Back

By Candice Ebling

Scott Morganroth has been in the media business for over 40 years, and loves every minute of it.  He is the one that normally does the interview, so I decided to change it up on him and now he is the one answering all the questions. 

Q:  Out of all the sports you have covered, pro or college, which is your favorite sport to cover and why?

A:  NFL. Because you only have 16 regular season games during the year, all the games are like an event, margin of error is so small due to the window to make the playoffs with each loss.  You can spend so much time preparing, game film and all it takes is one unfortunate play to drastically change the outcome.

Q:  What is the most exciting game you covered and why?

A:  When the Detroit Lions beat the defending Super Bowl Champion Dallas Cowboys 20-17 in overtime on ABC Monday Night Football back on September 19, 1994 at Texas Stadium.  This was one of the best NFL games I've ever seen.  Going into the game, the Lions were 13 point underdogs.  Barry Sanders put on a show by rushing 40 times for 194 yards out dueling Emmit Smith, who had 29 carries for 143 yards and a touchdown.

I remember the Dallas Cowboys let writers go onto the field with 10 minutes left in regulation time, so I was on the field for the last 10 minutes and all of overtime which the Lions won with 20 seconds left in that overtime. I also enjoyed interacting with the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders while I was on the field. 

I'll never forget the night before staying at the Lions hotel that I spoke with Lions executive Chuck Schmidt and I asked him if he really thought that his team could really beat this Dallas team being such heavy underdogs.  His response was, "Scott I think you are going to be pleasantly surprised by what you see tomorrow night".  Boy was he right.

Q:  What is your favorite place to cover a game and why?

A:  The Pontiac Silverdome.  I called this place home for many Sundays in my career and got to enjoy watching Barry Sanders run all over the field, setting records, and giving defenses a headache that just wouldn't go away.  I have spent numerous Thanksgivings on that field as well.  I also had a chance to take a picture of myself with Gordie Howe in the press lounge while recovering for a shoulder injury.

Q:  Bucket list of places you haven't covered a game at and want too?

A:  Fenway Park in Boston, Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, AT&T Stadium in Dallas, Madison Square Garden in New York, and last but not least Wembly stadium in London.

Q:  When you interview players, coaches, and personnel associated with sports, do you prefer to prepare all your questions or do you think on the fly?

A:  It's a combination of both.  I like to have a basic idea and some interviewees can be so candid and they lead me down a path for me to see how far I can take some topics with them.

Q:  Who was your favorite interviewee?
A:  Tommy Lasorda, back in 1981 at the Baseball Winter Meetings in Hollywood Florida.  I had the opportunity to interview Tommy Lasorda of the World Champion Los Angeles Dodgers.  I was only 18 years old at the time and I sought guidance from New York Daily News writer Phil Pepe as to how to approach Lasorda.  He told me write a few questions down and Tommy will talk, and indeed he did.  To this day, I owe a debt of gratitude to Phil Pepe for taking the time on giving me interview pointers.

Q:  Most proud Interview?


A:  Muhammad Ali.  I had a chance to spend a week with him at Allen Park Gym in North Miami Beach back in 1982 and he was doing an exhibition fight and he just talked about his career.  I was in awe of him and he was gracious with his time.  And I would proceed to become good friends with his trainer Angelo Dundee and that would lead to more boxing stories and memories.

Q:  Interview you wish you had gotten?

A:  Dick Butkus, Chicago Bears.  For as physical of a player as you were and you loved to hit and punish players, Was Chuck Hughes passing the most gut wrenching play you were involved in?

Q:  Bucket List of Interviews you'd still like to Interview:

A:  Tony Dungy, Magic Johnson, Mike Krzyzewski, Herman Edwards, and Michael Jordan.

Q:  Name some of the greats you've interviewed:

A:  Coach John Wooden UCLA Basketball, Detroit Tigers Announcer Ernie Harwell, Larry Bird Boston Celtics, Coach Don Shula Miami Dolphins, Coach Howard Schnelllenberger FAU Football, Sugar Ray Leonard Boxing, and Chuch Wepner Boxing.

Q:  Out of all the interviewees, who surprised you and was the most down to earth player or coach?

A:  Barry Sanders

Q:  Out of the 4 major sports, I know you've covered all the teams in the NFL and in MLB, how many teams haven't you in the other sports?

A:  In NHL there 10 teams that I haven't seen, much attributed to expansion teams. As far as the NBA, I haven't seen 5 teams played

Q:  Finally, How did you get your start in the media business?

A:  My father owned a sporting good store and he employed a manager by the name of Sam Greenblatt.  One year on my birthday, Sam asked me if myself and a friend wanted to visit WXYZ Sports Talk in Detroit.  I said yes.  At that time talk show hosts was Ron Cameron and the producer was name George Eichorn.  I had a lot of fun doing it and George asked me if I wanted to come back and the rest is history.  Now 40 years later, George and I are best friends and we are still working together.

Candice Ebling is a member of the Detroit Sports Media.




Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Oakland A's Broadcaster Ray Fosse Talks Tigers

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
PHOTOS BY CANDICE EBLING

There is one position on the baseball diamond that I can relate to back during my days playing youth baseball.

It's being a catcher.

This is a position where many managers are hired.

This position, which is involved in every play, has much intrigued and is also my favorite position player to interview.

During my first two years playing, my father who managed my teams tried me at every position and I struggled.

But one day, our two starting catchers didn't show up and he asked who wanted to play the position?

I raised my hand as high as I could and I was quite loud during the 1973 season playing for the Southfield Wildcats.

He gave me a chance to play the position and I played so well that these other catchers never sat behind the dish
again. One of those catchers quit the team in the middle of the season.

Back then, I was about 4-5 and weighed around 60 pounds.

Unfortunately during that season, I lost my Grandfather Sidney Morganroth due to Cancer but our team went on to finish 21-0 and won the City Championship.

This was bitter sweet.

But I enjoyed warming up the pitchers during innings, talking to the umpires and batter, all while  getting in their head to distract them, and framing balls and turning them into strikes.

I also took a beating behind the dish getting drilled with foul balls and was in my fair share of collisions. But that was the nature of the position and I liked being involved in every play.

Over the years, some of the catchers I've interviewed were Lance Parrish, James McCann, Brad Ausmus, Jake Rogers and now Ray Fosse.

I've enjoyed everyone of these and we definitely speak the same language.

Fosse, 71 is an interesting story.

He played MLB from 1967-1979.

He appeared in two All-Star Games in 1970 and 1979.

He won a pair of World Series Championships in 1973 and 1974 with the Oakland A's.

He also won two Gold Glove Awards and had a career fielding percentage of .986.

Fosse played in 924 games and had a career average of .256 with 61 HR and 324 RBI.

His 12-year career was marked by injuries.

But Fosse was best known on the diamond for what happened during the 1970 All-Star Game at Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio. He was a member of the Cleveland Indians at this time.

On the last play of the game, he was involved in an incident with Pete Rose as he was barreled into in what was an extreme collision.

These are definitely uncommon in an exhibition game and this situation is prominently seen in MLB All-Star highlights.

Fosse has been a color commentator for the Oakland A's on NBC Sports California since 1986.

As I spoke to him in Mesa, AZ., I was amazed at how much he knew about baseball and he was very knowledgeable and candid when we spoke.

This was long before we knew that the small market Oakland A's, who are 90-60 as of this post, and barring an unlikely collapse appear to be headed to the playoffs.

We had a great conversation and I hope all of you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed talking to Ray.

Q: There is no way that I can have an interview with you without asking what it was like to be bowled over by Pete Rose in the All Star Game?

A: I was very happy to be on the All-Star Team and Earl Weaver picked me to be on the team. Bill Freehan started and I got in the game. It was very unfortunate one of those things happened. It's a changed game and that wouldn't happen today just because of a lot of situations. First of all, you can't do it. I wasn't trying to block the plate. I was going where Amos Otis had thrown the ball. As it turned out, it was up the line and the rest was history.

Q: Would you say that Miguel Cabrera's one of the best pure hitters you've ever seen?

A: I think in today's world, to see how smart of a player he is, I caught behind and tried to pitch to some of the great's
like Rod Carew, for example, one of the best hitters I've ever seen.

But you know if you think about what Cabrera does today and how he makes adjustments, I think that puts him in a category by himself.

Q: To preface what you're saying, how impressed were you when Cabrera won a triple crown and that's awfully hard to do?

A: Well especially, a triple crown you're going to have power or you're going to hit for average, but to do all of those things that's to me as great of a hitter as he is. I can't remember the pitcher of the A's had but Miguel came back from the birth of a child, he hadn't been with the club for three to four days, he came back and took early batting practice. The first at bat he hit a home run to right field and the second home run to left field. I said you've got to be kidding me! Here's a guy that hadn't of picked up a bat in three or four days.

Again, to be one of the best hitters he is, it's fun to watch him. He's a fun loving guy and I think he plays the game the right way. To have fun with the fans when he goes to the sidelines and gives them a baseball and does things. This is a game where you want fan experience. I think between being a great hitter, a great person, he exudes that when he's on the field especially with the fans.

Q: Of all the hitters you've seen over your lifetime, would you easily put Miguel Cabrera in your top five or 10?

A: Absolutely! I'd say so because again, I was behind the plate for many hitters that Harmon Killebrew for example was a big power hitter. Like I said, Rod Carew, it's hard to pitch him any particular way. But I think Cabrera, his intelligence of the game, he knows his swing, the hitters, the pitchers and he knows what he needs to do. I haven't seen a hitter as good as him.

With the new schedule the way it is with the A's facing the Tigers seven times a year, I think it's better. He's such a good hitter no matter the times they play.

Just a footnote here: The Oakland A's won the season series 7-0 this year as Cabrera missed all the contests due to injury.

Q: What are your thoughts about Jack Morris and Alan Trammell finally getting into the Baseball Hall of Fame? Was this long overdue?

A: I think these guys were long overdue. What's interesting about Alan Trammell and the Tigers starting 35-5 in 1984, with him and Lou Whitaker at the top of the batting order, they'd get on and it would be runners at first and third. Then somebody would drive them in. It seemed like they were on all the time.

But to have a double play combination like that as long as Trammell and Whitaker were, I'm happy for Alan. He's very unassuming. He doesn't tout himself so I'm sure he's ecstatic.

For Jack Morris to pitch as well as he did against the Atlanta Braves winning Game Seven for Minnesota in 1991, 1-0 in 10 innings, no body is going to do that today.

You're going to go six or seven innings max. But Morris kept going out and he was the best pitcher for that. He said, I'm going to go and he kept going. I don't think there is any doubt that both deserve to be in the Hall of Fame. But like you said, it's too bad it took so long, but eventually they did get in.

Q: Why do you think Whitaker hasn't even sniffed the Hall of Fame?

A: I think a lot of that has to do with offensive numbers unfortunately. The fact that they (Alan & Lou) played so long together, you'll never see that again as long as they did as a double play combination. But Lou was Lou. It is unfortunate but defense isn't as recognized that much anymore. It's more what you do offensively.

Even though in that particular year (1984 World Series Champions) both Lou and Alan had have tremendous seasons leading off for the Tigers. I'm sure the late Sparky Anderson is already there with both of them in. But at least Trammel is in now.

Q: Do you feel the Detroit Tigers are going about things the right way by rebuilding?

A: I think you eventually have to do that because under the late Mike Ilitch, it was different. I know for Al Avila, it's different for him because maybe the resources aren't there anymore. That's why the late Gene Autry unfortunately didn't get a World Championship and he spent a lot of money. Michael Ilitch spent a lot of money. You spend the money and it doesn't guarantee anything.

So to do it the right way, the problem speaking of Miguel Cabrera, he makes a lot of money, and nobody is going to pick up that contract even though he is the best player in the game. He makes a lot of money. I'd say he's still young enough (age 35) and you can still build around him.

When you have to eventually make that commitment to do the things you have to do to get back to respectability, and even if it means tearing it down and going to young players, so be it. The heck with the people that say you're tanking and trying to get draft choices. No you're not! You're trying to develop a good ballclub for the future.

I look at the A's right now. Everybody says low payroll. Well yes, they're young players. Those players eventually get paid. After three years arbitration and free agency after six years. You're going to get your money if you're good. But still, I can't knock the organization for doing it the right way.

In the Tigers case, you have to do it and more power to them. When you look at the past three World Series Champions, the Astros, the Cubs and the Royals, all of those clubs were bad not that long ago. And then they're World Series Champions. You have to do it the right way.

You have to think about the future and the thing is to be honest with the fans. Let them know this is the core group of guys that will be good and we're going to build. The Astros did it the right way. They lost 100, used their young guys and brought in veterans and they supplement what you have.

Q: What are your thoughts about Ron Gardenhire?

A: He loves cheeseburgers. I'm sure he still does. I think the game would be wrong to say that managers like Ron Gardenhire, Bob Melvin and even Joe Girardi, which that firing was unjustified. He was one guy that managed 10 years and one of the most successful managers in baseball.

I'm happy for Ron Gardenhire and I'm happy the Tigers realize he's a good baseball man just like Bob Melvin. I've been around baseball a long time and I've seen a lot of managers. Personally, I think Bob Melvin is one of the best in the game if not the best. The players love him, he demands things from the players even though he can be considered a players manager.

But there are a lot of analytics going on in baseball that you have to make changes and managers have to do that. But I'm happy for Gardy. He's a good man and considering what he's been through health wise, to be able to come back, I think it's great for the Tigers.

Q: What is Ron Gardenhire's biggest strength that he offers the Tigers?

A: He's been there and knows what it's like under Tom Kelly. If you look at the Minnesota Twins, they won in 1987. They disbanded than won in 1991. When you're around that type of organization, the important thing is to do that. If you win, you have to pay, and in today's world, it's a lot of money.

If you win and you have that core group of guys, you may keep those guys but you supplement. As guys retire, other guys come in and take over. But you keep a core group of guys around. In todays world, it's very expensive. But I think Gardy can communicate and understand the young players. He's also a veteran manager and knows how to manage the game.

Q: We've talked about Mike Ilitch, what are your overall thoughts about him?

A: When they wore the Mr. I on their sleeves last year, here is a man that knew Victor Martinez was injured, they realized they needed a player and they signed Prince Fielder and paid him $200 Million just because Mike Ilitch said let's do it. You don't see a lot of owners doing that. That's how great Mr. I was.

I heard some stories about the Auto Industry and how he let the cars in center field not have to pay. He was a good man. But still unfortunately he passes away and the transition for the Tigers is what it is right now. The resources maybe aren't there.

When you have those resources, you're not afraid to spend money that means you can sign somebody like Prince Fielder and give him a contract that's unheard of. But also, remember Juan Gonzalez turned down $160 Million which is the best non-sign the Tigers have ever had. We talk about that all the time because the fences supposedly were too deep in left-field. That's a $160 Million they would have been able to do a lot of things they did since then.

It's a good organization, good group of people like Al Kaline, the late Ernie Harwell, and I have so many great memories of the old Tiger Stadium, good ball clubs and you have to transition. You'd like to be a perennial winner and spend lots of money. But in today's world, it's hard to do.

During my Spring Training coverage in 2018, I really enjoyed searching for lots of fresh content with Southeastern Michigan/ Tigers connections.

Covering the Cactus League was a blast and I was amazed that I was arriving at these ballparks at 7:30 AM. You talk about a full day, those are plentiful in Arizona.

As for 2019, there are two ballparks left on the victory tour. There is Scottsdale Stadium, the home of the San Francisco Giants, and the headquarters of the Arizona Fall League which its season begins on October 9th.

There is Sloan Park in Mesa, the home of the Chicago Cubs which is one of the newer facilities.

Any trip to Arizona consists of the LA Angels to visit my friend Tim Mead.

I'll be looking forward to going back to Maryvale, where the Milwaukee Brewers will have a newly renovated stadium.

I do enjoy being on the road looking for fresh local content.

That's the objective with any sport and I'll reiterate on this story, it was great having the privilege spending time with Ray Fosse, a guy that I enjoyed following as a youngster.

I've met a lot of smart baseball people over the years and Fosse ranks up there with the best.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at www.scottsports33.com and is a member of Detroit Sports Media.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Interview With Tigers Prospect Jake Rogers In My Return To West Palm Beach

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
PHOTOS BY CANDICE EBLING

 I have been in my fair share of Spring Training ballparks, but there was a certain feeling that I have when I come to West Palm Beach, FL.

Back in the early 1980's, I used to cover Florida State League (FSL) games at the now demolished West Palm Beach Municipal Stadium. I also covered an FSL All-Star Game.

The Montreal Expos had a lot of prospects that went on to play in the major leagues.

On Sunday, March 4, 2018, I returned to this city to see the Detroit Tigers visit the Washington Nationals at FITTEAM Ballpark of The Palm Beaches.

The 2017 Season was the inaugural season for the ballpark. There were record crowds for the Houston Astros and the Washington Nationals (formerly the Montreal Expos), who share the same facility.

On this day, the attendance was 4,481 to see these two teams compete.

Until the ballpark opened, the closest drive to cover a game was about an hour in Jupiter from Deerfield Beach, where the Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals play. Roger Dean Stadium is a nice facility.

The New York Mets are about an hour and a half from Deerfield Beach in Port Saint Lucie.

For me, a 30 minute drive was great which allowed me to sleep in my own bed.

Otherwise, to see the Detroit Tigers in Lakeland is about four hours and requires me to get a hotel across the state, though I have commuted the trip from time to time if I get in my crazy driving moods where I like to meditate and do intense mental thinking.

My wheels are always turning.

To cover the Nationals was neat because it was like covering the Montreal Expos all over again. It's unfortunate that the FSL doesn't have a team yet, otherwise I'd be there a lot.

One theme stayed consistent as I returned to West Palm Beach.

I was seeking recommendations from Tigers PR Guy Chad Crunk, who is always a huge help to me about good ideas.

He suggested catching prospect Jake Rogers, who was acquired on August 31, 2017, from the Houston Astros in exchange for Justin Verlander.

To date, Rogers is going to be one of the Tigers top prospects, who will be playing for the Mesa Solar Sox in the Arizona Fall League.

During the 2018 season, he smacked 17 HR and 56 RBI while playing in 99 games with 408 At Bats.

Defensively, Rogers had 857 put outs, 102 assists, caught 50 runners stealing with a 56% caught stealing percentage.

Rogers, 23, is 6-1, 190 pounds and hails from Canyon Texas. He played college baseball for Tulane University.

He's a right-handed hitter that also throws right.

Before the Tigers 6-2 loss to the Nationals in a contest where Nationals superstar outfielder Bryce Harper hit his first HR of the Spring, Rogers and I spoke about his professional career in this exclusive interview.

Q: I understand that you were acquired in the Justin Verlander trade. What were your thoughts when you heard about it?

A: I had a lot of emotions going through. I was with a couple of buddies and I didn't know what to take at first. After it all settled down, I was real excited to come over and really happy to be a part of the new organization, the Detroit Tigers.

Q: To be in a trade involving Verlander, were there any extra feelings involved knowing this is a guy the Houston Astros organization classified as a difference maker who subsequently helped lead them to the first World Series Title in Franchise history?

A: Oh yes, for sure. Obviously, he's a great ballplayer who was a huge part of the Tigers and then the Astros when he went over there. It's an honor to be traded for him and I've been loving every second of it.

Q: Tell me what it was like growing up in the Astros farm system. What did you learn from that experience that you'll be able to bring over to Detroit?

A: I learned a lot from them. They drafted me in 2016. Throughout that 1.5 years I was with them, I tried to accumulate and learn a bunch of different things throughout the organization and kind of bring and accumulate into my game. When I came over here, I learned some of the stuff the Tigers were teaching. I was trying to mix it and make me the best baseball player I can be.

Q: Tell me some of your strengths and weaknesses?

A: Strengths, you know I'm a catcher and take pride in being a great catcher controlling the running game and getting strikes called strikes, balls called strikes, helping the pitcher out and the staff out any way I can possible. I take pride in driving runners in. That's a big part of my game. That's who I try to be.

Weaknesses, I'm trying to improve on everything, everyday any way possible. If Gardy (Manager Ron Gardenhire) says something about my catching that he thinks will be better, and puts it in a professional way, I'm going to try to do it. There's little things in my game that can be made better, and everyone can do better every single day so that's what I'm trying to do.

Q: Tell me what your experiences have been like this Spring Training working with Ron Gardenhire, a guy who has undoubtedly been around baseball for the longest of times?

A: It's been awesome man. Gardy is a great dude and he's a players manager. He's great to be around and I've been trying to soak up as much knowledge any way I can along with his entire staff. Like I said, I'm trying to get better everyday. What, and ever they say, I'm going to try to go out there and do the best I can, then get out there and do it.

Q: No Rogers interview would be complete when I mention a Kenny Rogers reference. I see you smiling a bit. Do you follow his country music at all and how do you like having the same last name?

A: It's good. He's got some great music. I don't listen to him personally, but he has some great songs. I couldn't honestly name one. But I know he has some great music out there and a lot of people like him. So it's kind of cool.

Q: Finally, what about Miguel Cabrera. Have you had much of any opportunity to interact with him?

A: Yes. he's a great guy, man and he's fun to be around. He's a fun guy and loves the game and that's the guys I like to be around.
                      
To this date, the Tigers have won 61 games and have used a lot of players in a rebuilding season.

Do the Tigers have their catcher of the future on their existing roster?

I doubt it but time will tell.

It will be interesting to see how Rogers performs in the Arizona Fall League.

But it was neat to return to West Palm Beach, FL and it felt like old times seeing if there is another
prospect that will be a future major league player.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at www.scottsports33.com and is a member of the Detroit Sports Media.


These Cats Are Hungry!

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
PHOTOS BY CANDICE EBLING

If this was a horse race, the results wouldn't even be close amongst the Florida NFL teams.

On August 24, we traveled up to Tampa and saw the Detroit Lions defeat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 33-30 at Raymond James Stadium.


The Buccaneers entered the 2018 season without QB Jameis Winston, who will serve a three game suspension as a result of the personal conduct policy.

There is one word that describes the Miami Dolphins.

Dysfunctional.

During the off-season, Miami parted ways with Pro Bowl Defensive Tackle Ndamukong Suh.

QB Ryan Tannehill has been unable to stay healthy the past couple of years while running back Jay Ajayi was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles last season and played a key role in them winning the Super Bowl.

Let's talk about the Jacksonville Jaguars.

This is a team which finished 3-13 in 2016 and had tarps in certain levels of the stadium to hide empty seats.

Gus Bradley was fired 14 games into the 2016 season and was replaced by Doug Marrone.

In his interim stint, Marrone compiled a 1-1 record and the team just looked much better.

Owner Shad Khan made his next big move hiring franchise icon Tom Coughlin to run the football operations.

Coughlin proceeded to remove the interim tag from Marrone and that move paid big dividends as the team finished 10-6 and advanced all the way to the AFC Championship Game on January 21, 2018.

New England trailed 20-10 when they began their rally.

It started when Tom Brady connected with Danny Amendola for nine-yards and a score with 8:44 left in the fourth quarter to cut the deficit to 20-17.

The Jags were 2:48 away from reaching the Super Bowl losing to the Patriots 24-20 as Brady threw a four-yard TD pass to Amendola for the winning score.

Jacksonville led New England in total yards 374-344 as well as time of possession 35:08-24:52.

During the playoffs, QB Blake Bortles was making smarter decisions using his legs to avoid negative plays and also proved he could win shootouts as well.



I saw the Jaguars win an ugly 10-3 playoff game at home versus the Buffalo Bills.

Jacksonville did the unthinkable by not only beating the Pittsburgh Steelers 30-9 in Steel Town during the regular season, they pulled the trick again winning in the Division Playoff Round  45-42 also in Western Pennsylvania.

During the 2017 season, the Jaguars possessed an excellent defense and they were aided by the standout play of running back Leonard Fournette.

When you have a standout cornerback Jalen Ramsey shutting down opposing playmakers, this is an excellent foundation.

On Saturday, August 25, 2018 during Jacksonville's third preseason game, the Jaguars defeated the Atlanta Falcons 17-6.

The defense chased Falcons QB Matt Ryan all over the gridiron and the offense did what it needed to do to record the triumph.

Unfortunately for Jags wide receiver Marquis Lee, he suffered a season ending knee injury as a result of a low hit and was carted off the field.

In three of Jacksonville's four pre-season games, the Jags limited their opponents to 10 points or less and they won all those contests.

In week two, Jacksonville defeated the Minnesota Vikings on the road 14-10, I just mentioned the Atlanta game and in the finale against Tampa Bay on the road, they won 25-10.

What does pre-season mean?

In some cases nothing.
In 2008, the Detroit Lions finished with a 4-0 mark then went on to be the first 0-16 team in NFL History.

The Jaguars finished this pre-season 3-1 and based on what I've seen from this team thus far, this team will be playing like One Angry Cat prowling to get to a place where they nearly tasted "The Super Bowl."

During the off-season they gave Bortles a contract extension since he recorded two playoff wins.

In my opinion after seeing him for three years, all Bortles has to do is simply to a better job protecting the football and not committing the deflating costly turnover.

After the Falcons game, I asked Marrone what it was like to be the hunted instead of the hunter?

"I don't think this team has a different mindset. I think the stuff on the outside may be different," Marrone said. "Our mindset isn't different. I think this team has an edge about them. They're real close. One of the things I'm happy with is we do play complimentary football.

"They understand that we play as one and they have each others backs. They understand it takes a long time in this league before people believe you're a really good football team in my opinion when you're consistently good. Our players understand that. They push each other and we push them as coaches. They push us as coaches. When you have that, you have a chance.

"When you talk individually to a lot of guys on the team, the majority of them have a chip on their shoulder.

"I don't think that's bad at all."

The Jags defense once again proved why it's one of the best in the league in the teams' opener in the Big Apple during it's week one win against the New York Giants on September 9.

Jacksonville defeated the Giants 20-15.

Just like pre-season, the Jags held its opponent to a low point total.

Fournette left the game early due to a minor hamstring issue.

During the week, the team was cautious about his workload not taking any chances of any long term issues.

He will be a game time decision in Jacksonville's home opening rematch against the New England Patriots today at 4:25 pm in Northern Florida on CBS.

I expect Jacksonville's defense to play an important role in deciding the outcome of this contest.

For the record, Patriots QB Tom Brady is 8-0 all-time against the Jags.

The road to the Super Bowl for Jacksonville leads through New England.

This team knows that so Marrone, who I think is one of the most underrated coaches in the NFL, won't need any motivational speeches to get his players psyched up.

As I look at the Jaguars, this team reminds me of the Detroit Pistons during the Bad Boys Era during the mid 1980's and early 1990's.

The Pistons road to winning a pair of championships went through the Boston Celtics taking their lumps in the playoffs.

Jacksonville is dealing with the New England Patriots.

While Marrone is no Chuck Daly, the thing these men have in common is they worked with losing franchises before landing in good spots.

Marrone left a tough situation with the Buffalo Bills while Daly departed an awful situation with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

How can I not mention that Patriots Coach Bill Belichick bolted the Cleveland Browns for a second chance and he's made the most of it winning Super Bowls.

But as you cover a team for a couple years and see the progression during the past two years, it's safe to say that These Cats Are Hungry!

The Jags will get some National Television exposure as well.

I'm looking forward to seeing the Jaguars later this year after having left shoulder surgery which is slated for the first week of November.

But for now, it's safe to say that if their regular season performance mirrors their pre-season performance, then offensive coordinators from around the league will have to buy tons of Tylenol to figure out how to solve this potent defense.

As I mentioned before, as long as Bortles and Fournette are healthy and productive, this team has a punchers chance to be Super Bowl contenders and take that next elusive step.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at www.scottsports33.com and is a member of Detroit Sports Media.

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