Three Bridge Sports » Mikey Hlebasko http://www.threebridgesports.com Bay Area Sports: All Day, Every Day Wed, 09 Oct 2013 02:08:12 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.6 Could Josh Gordon Be The Answer For Our Passing Game? http://www.threebridgesports.com/2013/10/08/could-josh-gordon-be-the-answer-for-our-passing-game/ http://www.threebridgesports.com/2013/10/08/could-josh-gordon-be-the-answer-for-our-passing-game/#comments Tue, 08 Oct 2013 14:53:33 +0000 Jim Turvey http://www.threebridgesports.com/?p=979 7663980968_5822020059_z

(Photo Courtesy of Erik Daniel Drost)
Josh Gordon showed flashes of excellence in Cleveland, what could he bring to the 49ers?

by Mikey Hlebasko

 

 

The 49ers seem to have their mojo back. They dominated Houston from start to finish last night, and the running game has gotten back on track. The scoreline last night masked an uncomfortable truth, however, and that was the passing game was not exactly a well-oiled machine. Anquan Boldin has been excellent, but it is probably unfair to expect him to keep up his potentially historic level of production. Equally worrisome is counting on a guy in Michael Crabtree coming off a torn Achilles tendon to be your #1 target. Mario Manningham will return as well, but he only had 450 yards all of last season and has played in just 12 games the last two years. Coming off an ACL injury, he is tough to count on as well. Vernon Davis has been excellent, completely putting to rest the myth that he can’t coexist with Kaepernick, so that is a plus for the 49ers.

The passing game isn’t broken, and reinforcements are on the way, but for a team with one of the best rosters in the NFL, you have to look for the few opportunities you have to truly upgrade your roster. Josh Gordon represents such an opportunity. With the Browns clearly willing to move their best talent, Gordon is available. Rumors indicate that it will likely take a second round pick to get him. Due to the intense wear and tear of playing in the NFL, teams place a premium on draft picks that often seems too high when they are traded for established players. I believe that Gordon is worth a pick in this scenario.

At just 22 years old, Josh Gordon is not much older than whomever the 49ers would take with a second rounder, and his marijuana troubles in college that kept him off the field prevented his body from tacking on as much mileage as a player of comparable age. Further, he has put up great numbers while playing in a cesspool of a quarterback situation in Cleveland (Even if Kaepernick isn’t John Elway 2.0, he’s a helluva lot better than Brandon Weeden). He also was considered raw coming out of college and is believed to have improved since he got to the league while still having room to improve more. On top of all of these plusses, the 49ers will have two second-round picks if the Kansas City Chiefs win three more games, which looks like a lock. I understand not wanting to rock the boat of a successful team. I also understand if the 49ers want to see what they have in Crabtree and Manningham and aren’t willing to risk a second-round pick for a possibly unnecessary upgrade. But I also believe Gordon is a significant upgrade over Manningham, and a second-round pick may be all that stands between the 49ers and the best offense in the NFC. Josh Gordon could very plausibly be the acquisition that makes the difference between coming up just short for the third straight year and winning. Without trivializing the importance of a second round pick (they are hugely important), such an acquisition will always come at a cost, and in this case would be worth the cost.

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These Sleeved Jerseys Must Be Stopped http://www.threebridgesports.com/2013/10/02/these-sleeved-jerseys-must-be-stopped/ http://www.threebridgesports.com/2013/10/02/these-sleeved-jerseys-must-be-stopped/#comments Wed, 02 Oct 2013 17:13:24 +0000 James http://www.threebridgesports.com/?p=914 by Mikey Hlebasko

I advocated earlier on this website for the Warriors to be pioneers of offensive basketball. They have indeed done this, but not with the right meaning of offensive. You see, the Warriors were the first NBA team to make the switch to a sleeved alternate uniform, and the rest of the league is quickly following suit.

The Lakers and Clippers have both recently unveiled sleeved alternates, and the Warriors have unveiled their second design. The Warriors’ design is just a sleeved version of their home whites, but the Clippers’ new jerseys are new entirely, and would actually be a gorgeous design if it didn’t make them look like Louisana Tech Woman’s Basketball circa 1982. Add in that the shorts feature one of the few truly innovative uniform design elements in recent years (nautical flags spelling out LAC) on the shorts, and sleeves have gone from being just an annoyance to depriving us of unique and beautiful basketball uniforms. The worst part of this is that the NBA is pitching it as some great innovation, when the aforementioned Lady Techsters were doing it 30 years ago, and Evansville wore sleeved throwbacks from the 1960’s as recently as 5 years ago.

Because this is America, I usually hate to begrudge a company doing their best to make money. But the sleeved jersey cash grab by the NBA has caused too much damage for me to stand idly by. So, I propose we all sign this petition and give the government something they can agree on amidst all the fighting that has led to the government shutdown. Sign the petition here and prevent the NBA from ruining basketball jerseys forever.

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All Hail Anquan http://www.threebridgesports.com/2013/09/27/all-hail-anquan/ http://www.threebridgesports.com/2013/09/27/all-hail-anquan/#comments Fri, 27 Sep 2013 18:27:39 +0000 Jim Turvey http://www.threebridgesports.com/?p=883 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

(Photo Courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org)
Boldin has become Kaepernick’s favorite target since coming over from the Ravens

by Mikey Hlebasko

 

Anquan Boldin wasn’t supposed to be an elite receiver this season. Despite a big postseason during the Ravens’ run to the Super Bowl, he was well on the wrong side of 30 and coming off a relatively quiet 2012 regular season that most pundits felt was indicative of his level moving forward. The Ravens didn’t want him on the roster unless he would take a $2 Million pay cut. Anquan has made all those who doubted him look real silly so far. He has been the Niners only threat at wide receiver, and without his steady contributions through four weeks they would likely be in serious trouble. Further, he is on pace for a truly historic season statistically.

If Boldin’s stats hold he will have 96 receptions for 1,488 yards and 8 touchdowns. Here is the list of players 32 or older with more than 1,488 yards in a season: Jerry Rice in 1994 and 1995. That’s it. Boldin is in a position to do something at this age that has only been done by the unquestioned greatest receiver of all time. Those 1,488 yards would also represent the highest total of Boldin’s career. Further, with the Niners struggling in the run game and on defense, there is reason to believe the passing offense can get better moving forward when the whole team is functioning more efficiently. Boldin must have found the fountain of youth somewhere along the coast in San Francisco, because as of now he is having one of the greatest seasons ever for a receiver his age.

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How Bad Could It Get For Cal This Weekend? http://www.threebridgesports.com/2013/09/24/how-bad-could-it-get-for-cal-this-weekend/ http://www.threebridgesports.com/2013/09/24/how-bad-could-it-get-for-cal-this-weekend/#comments Tue, 24 Sep 2013 20:24:39 +0000 James http://www.threebridgesports.com/?p=837 by Mikey Hlebasko

 

 

The Cal defense has been regularly victimized already this season, giving up an average of 42 points per game on their way to a 1-2 record. To make matters worse, they are now heading to Autzen stadium, home to an Oregon team that has averaged over 60 points per game thus far, while taking their foot off the gas in the second half of all three games. Add in the fact that among Cal’s high scoring opponents has been a Northwestern team that is good but not particularly explosive, and Portland State, and we could be seeing some seriously high numbers on the scoreboard in Eugene on Saturday.

Oregon put up 59 points on Cal in Berkeley last year including 395 yards through the air, but Cal was successful against the Ducks’ rushing attack, limiting them to just 3.8 yards per carry. Well, that Cal defense lost three players to the NFL, and Oregon looks even better on offense this year than last year, especially in the passing game. Oregon seems to have finally found the perfect quarterback to lead their attack in Marcus Mariota. He has the shiftiness that Jeremiah Masoli lacked, and is just a better passer than Darron Thomas and Dennis Dixon were during their stints starting for the Ducks. All of this adds up to an unfortunate truth: the Bears are in big trouble this weekend.

Oregon boasts the #2 scoring offense in the FBS, and Cal’s scoring defense has been better than just 4 other FBS teams. That is about as close as it gets to the best offense in the country matching up with the worst defense, and to make matters worse Cal is starting a true freshman making his first road appearance in the Autzen Zoo. If Oregon doesn’t take it easy on the Bears at some point, the Ducks could push towards 70 or more points on Saturday. It’s a doom and gloom prophecy, but I believe it to be true: it will be a victory for Cal this week if they keep the game closer than 40 points.

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Kaepernick Should Run Wild On Sunday http://www.threebridgesports.com/2013/09/20/kaepernick-should-run-wild-on-sunday/ http://www.threebridgesports.com/2013/09/20/kaepernick-should-run-wild-on-sunday/#comments Fri, 20 Sep 2013 18:59:18 +0000 James http://www.threebridgesports.com/?p=781 Colin_Kaepernick_Au Kirk

(Photo Courtesy of Au Kirk)
Kap should go bananzas against the Colts’ defense.

 

by Mikey Hlebasko

In the Niners’ first two games, we haven’t seen much of Colin Kaepernick: Read Option God. Now, after he ran wild on the Packers in last year’s playoffs, the read-option was overblown as Kaepernick’s main weapon. He was always going to look to be a more traditional quarterback and mix the read option in.  We saw this against Green Bay in Week 1, and it ‘s tough to judge Week 2 because the Niners really couldn’t do anything. That being said, against certain opponents it makes sense to unleash Kaepernick’s prodigious running ability.

The Colts are one of those teams. Terrelle Pryor dominated, and almost beat, the Colts in Indianapolis largely with his feet. And, with all due respect to Terrelle Pryor who is likely better than anyone gave him credit for before the season, he is not as good as Colin Kaepernick in any phase of the game. The 49ers surely feel they have a lot to prove at Candlestick this weekend, Kaepernick most of all. The Colts do not have a particularly good run defense, and complicating that is the possible absence of last year’s leading tackler Pat Angerer and safety Laron Landry. The Niners should be looking to get their mojo back in the run game this weekend. That usually means primarily Frank Gore, but he is on the wrong side of 30 and may or may not still be himself. We know that Kaepernick can still do game-changing damage with his legs (he has already created 6 first downs with his legs this season). While we don’t want to risk Kaepernick turning into a primarily running quarterback and taking too many hits or failing to continue his rapid development in the pocket, the Niners could really use a statement win this weekend. Unleashing Kaepernick in the read option and on roll-out plays should allow them to not just win, but blow the Colts out.

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Japanese Home Run King A Good Fit For The Giants http://www.threebridgesports.com/2013/09/19/japanese-home-run-king-a-good-fit-for-the-giants/ http://www.threebridgesports.com/2013/09/19/japanese-home-run-king-a-good-fit-for-the-giants/#comments Thu, 19 Sep 2013 15:37:45 +0000 Jim Turvey http://www.threebridgesports.com/?p=744 by Mikey Hlebasko

 

 

While the A’s make their playoff push, the Giants are beginning to think about next season. Former MLB player Wladimir Balentien, who just broke the single season home run record in Japan, has reportedly become a major target for the Giants this offseason. Balentien was once a top prospect (he played in the Futures Game when it was in AT&T Park), but after a two-run double at Yankee Stadium started his Major League career with a bang in 2007, he quickly faded and was out of the MLB by 2009. He batted .221 with 15 home runs and 52 RBIs 511 at-bats. Balentien has since had a renaissance for the Tokyo Yakult Swallows, with 31 home runs in each of his first two seasons before his record-breaking output this year of 58 and counting. Balentien is a former top prospect that flamed out and bounced to the Far East to rediscover his mojo – sound familiar? It should to Giants fans, who have seen Ryan Vogelsong follow the same trajectory. Signing Vogelsong was a huge coup for the Giants, and while it would be unwise to expect Balentien to turn into an MLB All-Star like Vogey did, Balentien is certainly worth the gamble at the right price. He also has a very good relationship with Giants hitting coach Hensley Meulens, who managed him on Team Netherlands at the 2013 World Baseball Classic and maintains regular contact with him during the baseball season. The Giants are desperately in need of power, and Balentien has plenty of it. Even if he can’t dominate Major League pitching as he has in Japan, he could add a power surge as a fourth outfielder for the Giants. Sabean would do well to take another chance like he did with Vogelsong.

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Davis and Kaepernick Build on Postseason Connection http://www.threebridgesports.com/2013/09/09/davis-and-kaepernick-build-on-postseason-connection/ http://www.threebridgesports.com/2013/09/09/davis-and-kaepernick-build-on-postseason-connection/#comments Mon, 09 Sep 2013 18:39:25 +0000 Jim Turvey http://www.threebridgesports.com/?p=609 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

(Photo Courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org)
The Kaepernick-Davis connection was one that some critics feared would not be a favorable one; Week 1 proved them wrong

by Mikey Hlebasko

 

 

Coming into this season, there were plenty of NFL experts who were still espousing the notion that Vernon Davis and Colin Kaepernick could not coexist within the same offense. There was some evidence: After catching 6 balls in Kap’s first start against Chicago, Davis had just six receptions in the next six games. The playoffs were a different story, where although he caught just one ball against Green Bay, he had at least 5 catches and 100 yards in both the NFC Championship and Super Bowl. This end of the season performance, along with their first training camp together, should have dispelled the silly notion that Davis wasn’t going to be a major part of the San Francisco offense.

Although the outside world persisted with the non-story about Davis’s disappearance, San Francisco obviously planned to use their weapon from the start. He was targeted on the second play of the game, and caught two passes for 32 yards and a touchdown on the 49ers second drive. Davis was used as both a deep threat- his first touchdown was a 20-yarder caught in the end zone, he had a 37-yard reception in the 3rd quarter with just 5 yards after the catch, and had an unfortunate drop on a pass deep down the field late in the first half- and as a short yardage option- his second touchdown was just two yards. Davis was targeted more than any San Francisco player besides the dominant Anquan Boldin. All of the season previews for the 49ers seemed to assume that we would be seeing the Vernon Davis of the last six weeks of last season rather than the Vernon Davis of the preceding 3 seasons. It is clear now that we will get the full Vernon Davis experience. That is fantastic news for the 49ers, and horrible news for the rest of the NFL.

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What To Expect From Heath Hembree http://www.threebridgesports.com/2013/09/03/what-to-expect-from-heath-hembree/ http://www.threebridgesports.com/2013/09/03/what-to-expect-from-heath-hembree/#comments Tue, 03 Sep 2013 23:08:14 +0000 James http://www.threebridgesports.com/?p=529 by Mikey Hlebasko

 

 

 

The lack of big-time prospects in the Giants’ farm system has been well-documented. Although Kyle Crick has emerged as a possible future star this season, there is still little to be excited about in the rest of the organization. This is why Giants fans have resorted to being excited about a relief pitcher whose ERA at AAA Fresno is 4.07. This doesn’t tell the whole story about Heath Hembree, but it should create tempered expectations for the Giants’ only truly notable September call-up.

Hembree’s ticket to the big leagues is his fastball. He sits in the mid-90s and can dial it up even higher at times. By all accounts, he has a fastball that can rival just about any reliever in baseball. It is primarily this pitch that has seen him register 63 strikeouts in 55 1/3 innings in Fresno this season. The explosive velocity has not been paired with particularly good command, as Hembree averaged 4.7 walks per nine innings in 2012, and although he has it down it to 2.6 this season, his command will have to improve against big league hitters.

Hembree’s high ERA is largely a product of a June where his ERA was 7.84. Since then, he has largely been lights out, with an ERA of 2.49. He has saved 31 games for the Grizzlies, a record for the franchise. Part of this is an increased confidence in his slider, as up to this point in his career Hembree hasn’t really had a reliable second pitch to spell his dynamic fastball. It remains to be seen whether hitters with more exposure to Hembree can figure out his slider, and whether or not it will be reliable against better hitters. Giants’ fans shouldn’t expect a ton from Hembree this September, although we should all want to see a healthy dose of him. What we need to look for is signs of potential going forward- if his command and slider are at least average, and the fastball is as good as advertised, we can start to think that Hembree will at least be a quality middle reliever moving forward into 2014, even if the results are shaky at times. Anything more than that would be a bonus and all but clinch Hembree a place on next year’s roster. If the fastball doesn’t look so great against elite hitters and Hembree’s secondary stuff does him no favors, it may be time to readjust expectations and accept that the one-time presumptive future Giants closer may be no better than replacement level. With the team out of the race, at least September will allow us to figure out if Hembree fits into the bullpen next season and beyond.

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It’s Knuckle Punt Time! http://www.threebridgesports.com/2013/08/30/its-knuckle-punt-time/ http://www.threebridgesports.com/2013/08/30/its-knuckle-punt-time/#comments Fri, 30 Aug 2013 18:29:37 +0000 James http://www.threebridgesports.com/?p=495 andy lee

(Photo Courtesy of John Martinez Pavliga)
Joe Nedney advising Andy Lee on the proper usage of the Knuckle Punt.

by Mikey Hlebasko

 

 

 

 

Preseason football is something I tend to avoid. I don’t think anyone who watches it is a loser (I’m the guy who watched the live draw for the UEFA Champions League group stage yesterday. The whole thing) but it just isn’t for me. That being said, I actually tuned in to a bit of the Niners game last night for one reason: Knuckle Punt. As discussed here, 49ers punter Andy Lee may have created the first legitimate punting weapon. Lee, who has been selected to 3 Pro Bowls and 4 All-Pro teams in the last 6 seasons, reportedly learned the technique from Joe Nedney, who learned it from Craig Hentrich. As far as I can tell, there is no evidence either used the novelty in an actual game. Here’s hoping that Lee does, because according to Kyle Williams (who admittedly may not be the best person to ask regarding ball security) the Knuckle Punt would be an effective weapon if Lee can get it down. What we need to figure out is, if Lee unleashes the Knuckle Punt, will it be more like the Gyroball or the Knuckle Puck?

Before Daisuke Matsuzaka failed spectacularly to live up to his promise coming into the MLB and, more tragically, to arouse the fire dormant in the inner recesses of Ichiro’s soul, we were all told he threw a magical pitch. The Gyroball was supposed to be like a hybrid of a slider and a sinker, only better. It supposedly broke very late in its flight and had something like straight sideways break. Add in that it came from the far-East and the hype was out of control. Then Daisuke showed up, was horrible, and it turns out the whole Gyroball thing was a hoax and it’s just a run-of-the-mill slider variant. Too bad.

D2: The Mighty Ducks remains the greatest sports documentary of all-time. The ragtag bunch of Americans who won hockey gold at the 1994 Junior Goodwill Games had talent and camaraderie, sure, but we all know why they won: Russ Tyler’s Knuckle Puck. Without the incredible shot, the Americans wouldn’t have gotten past Russia or beaten Iceland in the finals. I mean, just look at this thing. If Russ Tyler had been a good enough skater to make it to the NHL, or been willing to teach his technique to the American hockey players that followed, we surely would have taken down Canada at the 2010 Winter Olympics, along with winning a few other Golds since the 1980 Miracle on Ice. The only mystery greater than just how to shoot a Knuckle Puck is how none of Coach Bombay’s charges went on to hockey stardom.

I suspect we may never actually see the Knuckle Punt, and that is a shame because I have already decided in my head that it is the football equivalent of the Knuckle Puck and that it will make the gyroball look like a batting practice fastball. Andy Lee is already among the very best punters in football, but he could go from being field position weapon to turnover creator. I’m envisioning the ball dancing around in the air like a Backyard Baseball power-up. I’m picturing Patrick Peterson trying to field it, only to curl up in the fetal position after his third fumble of the half as the Niners steamroll the Cardinals. I have visions of Andy Lee, NFL MVP and one-man turnover machine. Do the right thing Andy, unleash your unholy Knuckle Punt and watch the rest of the NFL cower in fear. 

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Going All-In On Quinton Patton http://www.threebridgesports.com/2013/08/28/going-all-in-on-quinton-patton/ http://www.threebridgesports.com/2013/08/28/going-all-in-on-quinton-patton/#comments Wed, 28 Aug 2013 17:19:51 +0000 James http://www.threebridgesports.com/?p=472 (Photo Courtesy of Westside Shooter) Quinton Patton won't be running routes in front of the Red-and-Blue of LA Tech anymore.

(Photo Courtesy of Westside Shooter)
Quinton Patton won’t be running routes in front of the Red-and-Blue of LA Tech anymore.

by Mikey Hlebasko

 

 

 

Coming into the Draft, Quinton Patton was ranked as the #58 overall prospect by ESPN, and was picked by with the 128th overall selection by the San Francisco 49ers. Still, the selection received nothing more than muted praise from any draft pundits. Now that Patton had a minor breakout in the third preseason game of the year for the 49ers (4 catches, 35 yards and a touchdown), there has been talk that he could be a major piece for a team desperately in need of pass catching options in the absence of Michael Crabtree. Will he be a legitimate weapon for the 49ers this season, or is just that very desperation leading to fans reaching at straws looking for a difference maker? I believe it is the former, and that the 49ers have a major steal on their hands.

The discussion of draft picks tends to obsess over the nebulous concept of “upside.” What a player is going to be, or what a player could be if he maximized all of his physical abilities. What San Francisco has in Quinton Patton is a player who has already maximized his relatively modest physical abilities and turned himself into an NFL Wide Receiver. Patton has decent size for his position at 6’0’ and average speed with a 40-yard dash of 4.49. It is this lack of breakaway speed that dominates most of the scouting reports you can find on Patton from the lead-up to the 2013 NFL Draft. This deficiency seemed to blind evaluators to the rest of Patton’s game: he is a polished route-runner and reliable pass-catcher who only makes drops in heavy traffic. For lack of a more nuanced description, the guy is a football player. The sort who finds a way to make plays and contribute (he punted while playing in junior college and also returned kicks at Louisiana Tech).

Here is Colin Kaepernick echoing these sentiments in comments after the Minnesota game, ““He is a great player. He is someone who just knows football. He knows how to get open. He knows how to make plays. I am looking forward to seeing what he can do for us.” First-round picks need to be spent on guys with star potential, any pick after that in the draft that nets a legitimate NFL player is a good one. Quinton Patton was the #1 option in a pass-happy attack at Louisiana Tech and performed spectacularly, but he will never have to be that #1 option for San Francisco. He will be matched up against second and third corners and have the opportunity to use his savvy and reliable hands to run crisp short and medium routes and help the 49ers move the chains and set up their superstars to make big plays.

The only substantive knock of Patton seems to be the aforementioned lack of top-end speed, but here are some numbers to consider: 4.65, 4.58, 4.49, 4.46. Those are the combine 40 yard dashes of Wes Welker, Danny Amendola, Victor Cruz, and Randall Cobb, considered 4 of the very best slot receivers in the NFL. Quinton Patton has the tools to be a major contributor out of the slot for the 49ers right now, and makes the team’s wide receiver situation feel much more comfortable.

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