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Programs have a certain magic power over littluns, sending them into a trance-like state and then having them beg for merchandise afterwards. The perpetual tinkerers over at Adafruit don’t expect you to catch ‘em all, though, and have debuted their own show called Circuit Playground — an educational YouTube series teaching kids about electronics. In the first episode, we learn all about Amperes and are introduced to our hosts: a free-willed human and ADABOT, a charming puppet presenter (just don’t tell them that). Following the letters of the alphabet, expect 25 more installments and, if the intro sequence is any indication, a bunch of component-based characters to keep the sprogs interested. If you need 3 minutes and 50 seconds of peace and quiet, or just want to brush up on the basics yourself, head past the break for the first episode. Next time on Circuit Playground: “B is for Battery.”
Apparently, some people were not impressed at the methods by which Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o shaved a tenth of a second off his 40-yard dash time from the scouting combine to his pro day a month later. The 4.71 40-yard dash he burned at the Fighting Irish’s indoor facility on Tuesday, Te’o said, was just a function of getting out of his own way after more distractions than most people have to deal with.
“Don’t think — you’ve been doing it your whole life. Just go out there and run,” Te’o told the NFL Network in an interview that was replayed on the network’s “NFL AM” program on Wednesday morning. “We tend to think too much, and psyche ourselves out, thinking that bad things will happen. I just went out there and said, ‘Hey — just run. Run as fast as you can. Whatever the time says, that’s what it says.’”
Former NFL offensive lineman Jamie Dukes, who now functions as the NFL Network’s prerequisite Guy Who Yells A Lot About Nothing Important (every sports morning show has to have at least one, you see), had a different theory. After contributing his own rather stale efforts at the same kind of catfishing jokes everyone else has already gone with, Dukes went down a stranger path with the whole thing.
“Here’s the deal,” Dukes said, while comparative pictures of Te’o at the combine and his pro day were shown on the screen. “Since nobody else will say this, I’m just gonna show you this. I don’t know who the guy was at the combine — the pudgy body/soft body guy who couldn’t run. All of a sudden, I see this yoked-up behemoth of a guy. Nobody’s gonna say anything, and I’m not accusing anybody, but we just had a huge HGH conversation … I’m not saying he’s on anything. I’m not saying, I’m just saying. I think somebody saw what I saw, and that didn’t look right. That just didn’t look right to me. I just want to be on record as saying — it’s a little off.”
The “I’m not saying, I’m just saying” gambit is, of course, an interesting example of conversational cowardice. One can put one’s accusations out there in a public forum without appearing to take any actual responsibility for one’s statements. Dukes presented no actual evidence that Te’o was taking performance-enhancing drugs. He cited no sources. He did, however, go on a national television show on the league’s own network and insinuate that a high-profile draft prospect was doing something fishy. Of course, if anyone calls him on it, Dukes can say that he was just having a conversation — it’s not his fault if people read it wrong. Even if he went on the record, in his own words.
But in his own way, and certainly without specific intent, Dukes presented one of the most compelling arguments for the benefit of reliable HGH testing at the NFL level. Such testing would have reduced Dukes’ own hyperbole to dust before it even started, and the fact that players can have their names blackened by such nebulous accusations is a problem that needs to be fixed.
On that same program, Seattle Seahawks fullback Michael Robinson talked about where the NFL and NFLPA are with the HGH drama.
“I’m Seattle’s player rep, and I’m going to tell you right now — yes, we want a clean playing field,” Robinson said. “We want HGH out of football, but we want it done the right way. We don’t know how many guys are using it, or how prevalent it is. Guys’ HGH levels are going to be different, and we have to find a reliable way to test each guy, and have a third-party arbitrator we can appeal to if there’s a false test. There is HGH in our game, and people have to understand — [players] aren’t going to come back as quickly, because they’re not going to be taking the supplements they’re used to taking. But I can’t say it enough — it has to be an even playing field. There has to be a safe way to do it where it can be a reliable test.”
The test the NFL wants is the WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) isoform test, but the NFLPA has had concerns about that test for years. So, though HGH testing was collectively bargained into the most recent CBA, the method is still up in the air. Believe it or not, the recent fate of an Estonian cross-country skier has severely complicated the issue.
On Tuesday, the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled that Andrus Veerpalu (the Estonian skier in question) should have his three-year suspension overturned after the panel decided that the sample size was not strong enough for WADA’s advertised reliability. As a result, the NFLPA issued this statement:
An independent arbitration panel’s decision found that the WADA isoform hGH test is unreliable. The suspension of an Olympic champion was overturned after findings that the hGH test administered by WADA is not scientifically verifiable. For almost two years, the NFL players have fought the NFL and certain members of Congress who have publicly referred to the players’ insistence on scientific validity and fairness as “stalling” and “posturing.”
Today’s decision validates the players’ demand for scientific validity, full due process rights, and a transparent system.
Just as certainly, WADA rose to its own defense.
”I would expect the players association to take a stance which is extremist,” WADA director general David Howman told The Associated Press. ”What we’ve got to do is get to reality and not to a position that is an extremist position … What we have to do is actually look at the decision in a very calculated, objective fashion. CAS has decided is that the test is OK and what they want is for there to be a bigger population-based study in terms of the impact of it. We’ll take that on board and we’ll go further.”
The problem there is that the NFL has gone on record praising a test method that is still in question, if not fundamentally flawed at its core.
“There is a proper test,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said last September. “WADA is implementing it in the Olympics. It is being used in Minor League Baseball. It is being used in sports throughout the world, obviously cycling where it has gotten a lot of attention. The test is developed to such a point where the technology is such that the window of detection has expanded to a point where it is more reasonable to detect the use of HGH.
“As that technology evolves, we have to evolve and so does the policy. It is appropriate and I think the Players Association agrees that it is appropriate to implement that. I hope we can get that done quickly.”
But the lags in the technology have delayed this process far too long already. The NFL is right in that there needs to be comprehensive and viable HGH testing sooner than later. and the NFLPA is right in their defense of the correct protocol.
The reason this all feels so wrong is that the use of HGH continues in the meantime — affecting the game in ways it shouldn’t, and allowing people like Jamie Dukes to make unfounded allegations without fear of legitimate rebuttal.
Fisher Price Apptivity Case is your baby’s gateway to the iPhone. I want my 2-year-old to be smart and healthy and well-adjusted. I don’t know how smartphones and tablets fit into that. Worse, it seems like there is simply no …
Do you like Android? You should, it’s amazing. iOS? Wow, what a great platform, no wonder it started a revolution. Windows Phone? Seriously, it’s got a remarkable and beautiful interface. BlackBerry? There are plenty of great reasons people love it. …
Lately, there hasn’t been a lot of certainty about Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski’s injury. The All-Pro tight end has had three surgeries on his right forearm over the past four months, one of them to clean an infection.
Gronkowski has broken the forearm two times. Mixing along with the uncertainty, is head coach Bill Belichick’s uncertainty of Gronkowski’s progression to getting ready for the 2013 NFL season. One thing that is certain, that when healthy, Gronkowski is a dangerous target on the gridiron. In his three seasons in the league, “Gronk” has had double-digit receiving touchdowns each year.
However, when Belichick was asked about Gronkowski on Tuesday, it seemed that the three time Super Bowl winning head coach answered with uncertainty and an occasional pause. Some pauses being rather long.
The first question about Gronkowski’s injury was asking Belichick if he believes his tight end is on a good track for training camp.
Belichick replied with: “Well, that’s a long way away,” Belichick said. “A lot of players have a lot of things to do between now and then. Coaches, for that matter, in terms of just getting ready for the season. I’m sure, hopefully, everyone will be working hard at it. We’ll see how it comes out.”
Belichick was then asked if he was happy with Gronkowski’s rehab. Belichick gave a long pause, and finally said: “With his rehab? I mean, again, I think every player has a process they go through to get ready for the offseason program and training camp.
Every player, or most every player, has to deal with some aspect of it, including the normal things like conditioning, overall training relative to their physical abilities and their position.” Another pause. “The program hasn’t started yet. When the program starts on April 15, we’ll have a lot better evaluation of where everybody is.” Another pause.
“There’s some limited information now, but I wouldn’t put too much on that at this point. I’d say in most cases, it’s pretty incomplete.”
At this time, no one really knows how the rehab is going for Gronkowski’s broken forearm. However, he was in New England last week getting his arm checked by the Patriots’ medical staff. When April 15th comes around, we will see how ready the three-year tight end is to being his effective self.
(Credit: CBS News)
Gentlemen, what’s the first thing people notice about you? Your bulging biceps? Your self-assured swagger? Your Nokia Lumia 920?
If you chose option No. 3, you’re in line with the results of a new global survey from mobile video startup Vuclip. Sixty-one percent of men, it indicates, say the first thing people notice about them is the type of phone they have. That’s compared with 38 percent of women who think people’s eyes go straight to their Droid Razr Maxx HD above all else.
The poll — one of many recent surveys examining technology attitudes and habits — culled the responses of 120,000 consumers from around the world over the course of four days last month. Participants in the poll identified themselves as coming from 15 countries, with India, Canada, and Saudi Arabia getting the most representation. (Only 5,000 respondents came from the U.S.)
Samsung’s Galaxy S4 finally made its debut Thursday night, and not a single thing about the phone was surprising. Every feature and every spec shown off was leaked in a rumor leading up to the S4′s unveiling. But that doesn’t …
The NFL draft is only six weeks away. It’s the time of year when we all discuss the top prospects, and how they best transition and project to the NFL. It’s particularly fascinating on the defensive side of the ball, where two seemingly competing philosophies, the 4-3 and the 3-4, often determine the value and utility of specific players.
There are many misconceptions about defensive fronts in the NFL, and those false impressions frequently arise from a very simple component. When most see 3 players with one hand on the ground, in three-point stances, and four players standing up, in two-point stances, they automatically assume it’s a 3-4 defense. It’s a logical conclusion, yet it’s not always the right one. In fact, more often than not in today’s NFL, it’s the wrong assumption. The number of players in two- and three-point stances is not the defining feature of defensive fronts.
What is the foundation of defensive fronts, you ask? Gap concepts. That’s the basis of all fronts. You often hear the terms “1-gap” and “2-gap”. The supposition with 3-4 fronts has always been it’s a “2-gap” scheme, with the two defensive ends aligned directly over the offensive tackles, and the nose tackle head up on the center. The term “2-gap” derives from their responsibilities as run defenders. All three of those defensive linemen are responsible for two gaps along the line of scrimmage. They do not penetrate through a single gap at the snap of the ball; rather, they stalemate the blocker in front of them, at the same time reading where the back is going. They are accountable for the gap to each side of their respective offensive lineman. Once the back declares, the defensive linemen ideally shed their blockers and get to the ball.
That’s the overriding principle of the “2-gap” 3-4. The 3-4 goes all the way back to the 1960s. Does the name Joe Collier stir any memories? Most remember Collier as the defensive coordinator of the Denver Broncos from 1972-88. His “Orange Crush” defense helped the Broncos reach three Super Bowls. But before Denver, Collier was an assistant coach, and then head coach of the Buffalo Bills in the old AFL. He initially used the 3-4 in 1964, and then quite a bit against San Diego in the AFL Championship in 1965. Its genesis: 33 man rosters. With only four linebackers on the roster, injuries forced Collier to deploy defensive ends Ron McDole and Tom Day at outside linebacker. He was fortunate they were versatile enough to do that.
Hall of Fame coach Hank Stram of the AFL’s Kansas City Chiefs, one of the game’s great innovators, also utilized the 3-4 defense. He had one of the most athletic outside linebackers of any era in Bobby Bell. Bell was 6-foot-4 and 228 pounds, yet he played at a time when linebackers were rarely asked to blitz. The 3-4 trend continued in the 1970s, with Chuck Fairbanks in New England, Bill Arnsparger in Miami and Bum Phillips in Houston among its devotees.
It was in Houston that the 3-4 began its evolution, incorporating more of the “1-gap” concepts that expanded the thought process of defense and are now prevalent today. The Oilers’ defensive line coach was Wade Phillips; it was his first NFL job. (I guess he knew someone). Remember, linebackers were not seen at the time as blitzers, so it was incumbent upon the defensive ends to “2-gap” versus the run, then transition to pass rushers when the quarterback dropped back. That was hard to accomplish, no matter how good the ends were.
The Oilers had a very good one in Elvin Bethea. They realized Bethea’s abilities were not being maximized in the traditional 3-4. So instead of remaining tethered to the standard and accepted approach of the era, they were creative and imaginative. They shifted the alignments of the 3 down linemen, moving them into gaps; they even stunted their defensive linemen, another tactic to capitalize on the skills of Bethea and his line mates. In terms of personnel, it was still a 3-4, but it was a new kind of 3-4, with “1-gap” principles more widely employed.
When Phillips later became the defensive coordinator and head coach of the Bills, he did the same thing with DE Bruce Smith, like Bethea a future Hall of Famer. The superseding principle seemed simple – take full advantage of your best players – but Phillips aggressively stepped outside of convention.
Another coach who was not beholden to custom was Bill Parcells. He was the Giants’ linebackers coach in 1981 when they drafted Lawrence Taylor with the second overall pick in the draft. Up to that point, no one had utilized 3-4 outside linebackers predominantly as pass rushers. It was Parcells who recognized the special qualities of Taylor and featured him primarily as a rusher. Taylor, of course, changed the role of outside linebackers in the 3-4 defense. Before him, outside linebacker was not seen as a premium pass rush position. Taylor, with his remarkable skill set and the way in which he was deployed by Parcells, forever altered the thinking of coaches who believed in the 3-4. From that point forward, the number one attribute for outside linebackers in a 3-4 front was the ability to rush the quarterback.
Yet there was another element of the Giants “3-4” that was universally overlooked. It was not a 3-4 in the strict “2-gap” sense. This returns us to the opening thesis about gap concepts. The Giants aligned in what was essentially a 4-3 “under” front with Taylor almost always positioned on the open side of the offensive formation, away from the tight end. A 4-3 “under” features a “three-technique” defensive tackle, a “one-technique” tackle and a strong-side defensive end. Taylor was simply the weak side defensive end; all he did was stand up in a two-point stance rather than put his hand on the ground. But that change in alignment demanded a different kind of athlete, and that marked a demarcation point in the defensive evolution of the NFL.
Essentially, a new position was created: the pass rush outside linebacker who was both quick and agile to beat offensive tackles of the edge, and strong and powerful to bull rush with power and leverage. It required a multi-dimensional skill set that was not easy to find in many players.
This brings us back to Phillips. He applied the same front principles when he was the defensive coordinator in San Diego in 2005 and 2006. He utilized Shawne Merriman (a player who exhibited those multifaceted traits early in his career)) as the stand up weak side defensive end in what was truly a 4-3 front. In 2006, Merriman led the NFL in quarterback sacks with 17. Then in Dallas from 2007-10, he again employed the 4-3 gap rules with a 3-4 look. DeMarcus Ware filled the Lawrence Taylor role. I would argue strongly that no one since Taylor has filled the role as well as Ware. Under Phillips’ guidance, Ware twice led the league in sacks, including 20 in 2008, only the seventh time in NFL history that number had been reached.
Phillips is now doing it again in Houston. There, he’s able to go back to the future with JJ Watt. Like Bethea and Smith, Watt is an end in the base defense. He aligns on the strong side, the same side as the tight end. The difference from the days of Bethea and Smith is a function of the evolution of defense, and the proliferation of nickel and dime personnel. Watt moves inside to tackle in the Texans dime sub-package, and he predominantly aligns in a “three-technique” position, which puts him in a gap and maximizes his pass rush ability. In fact, in 2012, the majority of Watt’s sack came out of the dime, with Watt positioned inside at defensive tackle.
Are there still 3-4 fronts that utilize “2-gap” concepts? The Patriots at times, and the Steelers in their base front, are 2 teams that come to mind. But in a passing league that places a defensive premium on pressuring the quarterback, the reality is, you have far greater pass rush flexibility and versatility out of 4-3 principles, but with 3-4 personnel. You want more athletic defenders, and you want them aligned in gaps so that they can penetrate more effectively. That’s the key. It’s a tactical combination of personnel and concept.
The weakside defensive end/linebacker is the most critical player in the scheme. He’s the one that’s most difficult to find because of the multiple skill set demanded to play the position well. As already acknowledged, it starts with pass rush. There were seasons under Phillips in which Ware rushed more than 90% of all quarterback drops. But it also necessitates the ability to play the run, and the overall athleticism to play in space as a coverage defender.
Who in the 2013 draft fits that profile? Georgia’s Jarvis Jones has the attributes to play that position, as does LSU’s Barkevious Mingo. Jones is the better prospect at this point. Others who may transition effectively into that role are Oregon’s Dion Jordan, Florida State’s Tank Carradine, Texas A&M’s Damontre Moore, Texas’ Alex Okafor, Illinois’ Michael Buchanan, and Auburn’s Corey Lemonier. It’s a process that takes time. Keep in mind that Ware only had 8 sacks as a rookie in 2005, and he started all 16 games.
Certainly in this era of multiple defensive fronts and coverages, there are many ways to align with different personnel groupings. This was by no means a complete and thorough breakdown of front alignments. Rather, it was an historical snapshot of the evolution of the “1-gap” 3-4, or more correctly, 4-3 with a more athletic linebacker in the role of defensive end. It’s a more adaptable and resourceful defense, and it puts a premium on one of the most difficult positions to find in the NFL draft: the edge pass rusher who can win one-on-one versus offensive tackles.
Minnesota Vikings fans aren’t alone in their disappointment over Percy Harvin being traded to the Seattle Seahawks. Also feeling a bit bitter? Why, none other than Adrian Peterson. The star running back and reigning NFL MVP had this to tweet about the swap on Monday:
The best all around player I ever seen or you’ll ever see! Goes to Seattle! I feel like I just got kicked in the stomach. Several times!!!
— Adrian Peterson (@AdrianPeterson) March 11, 2013
Given the often-awkward situation that existed between Harvin and the Vikings, Monday’s trade could not have come as a complete surprise to Peterson. The writing was pretty much on the wall with Harvin asking for a big contract and the Vikings unwilling to pay the price for a player who has struggled with injuries during his career.
But while the crop of draft picks the Vikings received can help Minnesota build a winner, you can still understand Peterson’s frustration. Minnesota’s not any closer to building on 2012′s playoff appearance and how much longer can A.D. really wait for a chance at that ring?
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