It's been a long, strange journey for the 2011 Cincinnati Reds. The team's first 92 games have seen injuries, lengthy slumps, poor starting pitching and more close losses than a team with such a good bullpen should statistically endure. Still, with 70 regular-season games remaining, the Reds sit 2 games below .500 and just 4 out of the division lead, which puts the organization's executives in a tough spot.
I can't go on writing "The Reds should sign (insert free agent's name here)” blogs much longer. Pitchers and catchers report soon enough, and who the Reds sign, if anyone, isn't likely to be a very big-time move.
The destruction of the Jets two weeks ago by the Bengals saw not only the largest margin of victory for our football team in many years, but also the emergence of second-year wide receiver Marvin Jones.
The Bengals brought Jones aboard in 2012, but not until the fifth round of the draft — much to Jones' disappointment. He assumed he was going to be drafted in the second round, and many scouts agreed, also thinking he would go in the second or third round. Looking at his college stats, it’s easy to see why.
Jones played at University of California, Berkeley, and scored 13 touchdowns throughout his four seasons with the team.
As a wide-receiver, he averaged 14.6 yards with the team with 156 receptions for a total of 2,270 yards. This includes a freshmen year when Jones only made one reception for eight yards.
With these stats, it’s no wonder he was predicted for the second round.
In his rookie season with the Bengals, though, Jones didn’t see much play time. He started in five of 11 games, but this season Jones has exploded on the scene.
When the Bengals and Jets played on Oct. 27, Jones set a franchise record of four touchdowns in a single game, with a total of 122 receiving yards.
If the Bengals had not called off the hounds with 17 minutes left in the game, it is safe to say Jones very well could have tied the record for receiving touchdowns in one game.
This record is currently held by Hall of Fame players Kellen Winslow and Jerry Rice, as well as Bob Shaw, all of whom scored five receiving touchdowns in one game.
One comparison we can draw from Jones to an active NFL wide-receiver is the Broncos’ Wes Welker.
Welker, who gained mass popularity as one of Tom Brady’s favorite targets for the Patriots, sports impressive stats with close to 10,000 career receiving yards in regular season play.
As an established receiver, Welker currently holds the most red zone touchdowns for this season at eight, followed closely by Jones’ seven in the red zone.
What really made this possible for Jones was not only his superb skill set and hands these past few weeks, but also quarterback Andy Dalton’s trust in his many receivers.
Dalton has not played favorites with receivers since the loss against the Browns where he threw the ball to A.J. Green 15 times.
Jones, in an interview with Coley Harvey for ESPN.com, said Dalton is spending extra time in film and practice with the other receivers, making the relationship between the QB and his many targets stronger than ever.
With the second half of the regular season upon us, this level of cooperation in the backfield will be vital, and if Jones’ professional career is anything like his college career, we can expect him to continue to grow and improve alongside the team.
Last week’s win over Louisville has gone a long way toward
moving the Bearcats off the NCAA Tournament bubble and into the 10-seed area of
most projections. A win at South Florida last Sunday would have all-but-secured
the invitation, but the dudes lost by a point on the road, 46-45.
[UPDATE: The Bearcats whooped on Marquette, 72-61; here's the AP recap: Cincinnati halts No. 7 Marquette to pad resume.]
Tonight UC will welcome No. 7 Marquette to Fifth Third Arena under a bunch of weird circumstances: Marquette kicked the crap out of the Bearcats 95-78 on Feb. 11, and it’s Senior Night for a couple of UC players who aren’t used to being trampled so badly (at least not in recent years).
Here’s what Yancy and Dion told The Enquirer’s Bill Koch yesterday.
“You know that it’s Senior Night and we feel it,” Gates said, “but I think we’ll feel it more when we get on the court tomorrow. Right now, our focus is so much on we need this win that we really don’t have time to sit back and think, ‘Oh, tomorrow’s Senior Night.’ ”
“I don’t know how I’ll feel tomorrow,” Dixon said. “We’re just trying to focus on getting this win. That’s the main thing.”
After tonight, the Bearcats have one remaining regular-season game, at Villanova on Saturday. Assuming they can’t handle the rematch with Marquette, they’ll really need to beat Villanova to avoid entering the Big East tournament on a three-game losing streak. If they were to drop their first tournament game after that, they’d be sitting at 20-12 on Selection Sunday with a real ugly RPI.
One win out of UC’s remaining regular-season schedule or in the Big East tournament should be enough to earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament for the second straight season. But a win over South Florida last Sunday probably would have assured it as well.
It is under such circumstances that two of Mick Cronin’s most influential recruits take the court tonight for their final home game. Gates is a hometown player who chose UC over Ohio State, West Virginia and Xavier, among others, and has traveled a fairly up-and-down road during his four years. Gates surely wants to end his senior season on a high note after the Crosstown Shootout fiasco, which threatens to overshadow his years of hard work and importance to Mick Cronin’s rebuilding effort at UC. Gates currently ranks 17th on UC’s career scoring list and is the only Bearcat to ever lead his team in rebounding four straight seasons.
Dixon came to UC from a Chicago public school where he used to jam on a bunch of high schoolers. He’s contributed every year, as his 1,183 career points show — good for 27th all-time at UC. Dixon’s versatility has been a huge help to Cronin, who has used Dion as a shooting guard and point guard during various parts of his career. And Dion tries to thump it on people even though he’s just a little too small to do it all the time. We still really appreciate that.
After everything this year’s team — and these two seniors, specifically — has been through, tonight is surely going to be an energetic and emotional night down at The Shoe. Hopefully the ’Cats can hang with Marquette — securing an NCAA Tournament-securing win on Senior Night would be a beautiful way for the careers of these two players to end.
Upon hearing that the Eagles signed Michael Vick, I thought a few different things. Then I tried to put a filter on those thoughts, since I’m a Giants fan and might just think things because I've never liked the Eagles and never will.
Despite this, Donovan McNabb is one of those Derek Jeter types: a solid leader both off and on the field who still seems to be as much of a student of the game as he was during his first few years in the league. Even though you may hate the team he plays for, it is done begrudgingly because you know that the McNabbs and Jeters are the best of the best.
St. John's needs to get some new uniforms. Nobody's trying to act like UC's tri-colored Adidas triangle theme is super cool, but the Red Storm dudes look like they’re wearing the high school JV jerseys handed down by the 1988 state championship team.
The Johnnies got handled like a JV team for most of Wednesday night’s game, a 71-61 UC win that wasn’t as close as a 10-point difference would suggest.
Politicians love to lend their support to organizations that make people happy. Our country's leaders and those in our own community often take time out of their busy leader schedules to cut ribbons, shake hands, rename streets in honor of individuals and generally grub on the pride we have for those among us who succeed.
Let us recall Mayor Mallory's Opening Day wild pitch or his steadfast support of the Bengals during a meaningless late season game against the Steelers. It is good for a sports team to be recognized by the community, especially a college program that needs an increase in attendance and some private donor help in order to reach the level that will allow it to succeed regularly. But it’s kind of awkward when the politicians come out and try to be a part of the celebration. Remember when City Council invited UC Coach Brian Kelly down to council chambers for some official recognition, only to make him wait around for 45 minutes and almost miss practice?
Do we really care what happens in the American League outside of individual players’ impact on our fantasy baseball teams? Probably not. But in the name of being thorough, the following is CityBeat’s prediction of the entire softball-style AL. We even looked up a couple guys who play for the Royals, just to be fair.
Since writing about Jeff Keppinger and the Reds is growing tiresome with so little new happening these days in Reds-fan land, I'm going to take a moment to lament another franchise that's seen a decade pass since its championship-caliber days.
The New York Knicks lost to Philly the other night, preventing New York from achieving its first four-game winning streak in more than three years.