In this week’s Around the Dorm, the “Ref,” Otto Gomez, asks our panel of experts three questions: What team had the biggest changes in the NFL offseason, who in the MLB is due for a breakout season and can Rory McIlroy complete the grand slam with a major win this year?
1. What has been the biggest move of the offseason in the NFL, and what impact will it have?
Kevin: There have been a lot of big moves this offseason, but I’ll say the biggest deal was the rich getting richer in Seattle. The biggest question mark with the Seahawks these past two seasons has been the weapons around Russell Wilson. That question was answered in a big way this offseason when they traded for Jimmy Graham. Graham is arguably the second-best tight end in the league (behind Gronk). He’ll be great as a red zone target and security blanket this year, and he’s the best receiver Wilson has played with in the NFL. How is anyone going to stop Seattle in the red zone this season (unless they choose to run a quick slant on the one-yard line)?
Matt: The biggest move of the offseason is one that comes in the front office, not on the field. The Philadelphia Eagles have given head coach Chip Kelly complete control of personnel decisions, effectively making him the team’s general manager, head coach, life guru and czar of Philly. Kelly has wasted no time taking advantage of his new power by shipping away his top three playmakers in favor of injury-prone or underachieving players. This experiment will end one of two ways: with a division title in Philly, or the more likely option of Bradford, Murray, Mathews and Alsonso all tearing their ACLs on the same play two games into the season as Kelly runs back to college. This would effectively leave the Eagles franchise in shambles for years to come.
Chris: The biggest offseason move would have to be the running back swap performed by the Philadelphia Eagles. Not only did they take LeSean McCoy and turn him into a young, stud linebacker by the name of Kiko Alonso, but they then went out and signed DeMarco Murray to be the running back of the future. Murray is coming off the best season of his career and has proven to be a durable workhorse that can carry an NFL offense. While I do not think Chip Kelly will use Murray as often as he was used in Dallas, Murray will be able to provide the fast-paced Eagles offense with tough yards and a nice change of pace when needed. The combination of bringing in a Pro Bowl caliber middle linebacker while keeping an All-Pro running back could spell a Super Bowl run for the Eagles.
Kevin gets 3 points for his jab at Carroll. Matt gets 2 points for pointing out the problems with Kelly’s dictatorship and Chris gets 1 point for comparing Murray’s worth.
2. Which baseball player is due for a breakout season in 2015?
Kevin: My breakout player for 2015 is Christian Yelich, outfielder for the Miami Marlins. The 23-year-old Yelich had a very good 2014 season where he won a Gold Glove while hitting .284 with 21 stolen bases and 94 runs scored (fifth in the NL) in the leadoff spot for Miami. This offseason, Miami traded for Dee Gordon, who is expected to be their new leadoff man. This will allow Yelich to move back to second or third in the everyday lineup where he will have more opportunities to drive in runs while getting fantastic lineup protection with Stanton behind him. One of the problems many young players have is that they are impatient at the plate and swing at too many bad pitches. This is absolutely not the case for Yelich. He was 10th in the NL in walks last year with 70. Overall, I expect Yelich to become a household name this season and get out of Stanton’s shadow in the Marlins outfield.
Matt: Kris Bryant of the Chicago Cubs will have a breakout season and cruise to the NL Rookie-of-the-Year award. Bryant, the Cubs’ top prospect, has been lighting the field on fire this spring. He’s been hitting an astounding .435 with eight of his 10 hits being for extra bases, and six of those have been home runs. This is unheard of for a prospect. He has played nine spring training games and is already being compared to Mike Schmidt, the best third basemen in MLB history. I fully expect Bryant to spark the Cubs’ rebuilt franchise — along with their other top prospects expected to make the leap to the big leagues this season. This could catapult that franchise from the laughing stock of the league to a legitimate World Series contender.
Chris: A guy I would love to see break out this year is Milwaukee Brewers shortstop Jean Segura. After a scorching start to his 2013 season, Segura earned an All-Star Game invitation thanks to a .322 batting average and 26 stolen bases. Ever since his visit to the mid-summer classic, it has been a rough patch for the young shortstop. In 2014 alone, Segura had to deal with getting hit in the eye by a Ryan Braun practice swing, and he also suffered through the unexpected passing of his 9-month-old son. That could cause anyone to go through an incredible slump. But now, heading into 2015, Segura is back and ready to break out. A decreased workload in the offseason along with some tweaks to his batting stance and swing has Milwaukee excited for a big season from their former All-Star.
3. With the Masters coming up in April, can Rory McIlroy win his third-straight major and complete the career grand slam?
Kevin: I think Rory can definitely win the Masters. He’s had some struggles recently, but he plays his best in the big tournaments, as he won the last two majors in 2014. Some people might think he’s cursed and haunted at the Masters after his horrid performance four years ago when leading after three rounds. However, if that performance was really going to affect him, he would’ve fallen off the golf map. The complete opposite has happened, and he’s grown a lot as a golfer and become one of the best in the world. He won these last two majors after breaking off his engagement with tennis star Caroline Wozniacki. Clearly, he was going through some conflicts in his personal life and that might’ve been affecting his golf game, which is such a mental sport as is.
Matt: While McIlroy is the number-one golfer in the world right now, he may also be the most inconsistent. It seems like every time Rory gets on a roll and wins a few tournaments, he collapses, shoots a +6 and misses the final cut. I expect McIlroy to compete this year but not in the Masters. Augusta is a course that demands patience and restraint, something that Rory has not been known for in his young career. Rory never plays his best golf early in the year. He excels in the summer when he has had time to shake off the rust. In his three tournaments this year, McIlroy has only made the cut once, proving he is off to a yet another slow start.
Chris: Rory McIlory is the best player in the world of golf right now. He has drawn comparisons to Tiger Woods as the next face of the sport. However, in a McIlory vs. the field situation, I have to take the field on this one. Augusta National has never been an easy course for Rory to play, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him struggle yet again. Although he has taken the last two majors, he has not been the dominant force as of recently. A guy whom I would really like to see give McIlroy a run for his money is Jordan Spieth. Spieth is a young force to be reckoned with, coming off a nice win at the Valspar Championship just a few weeks ago. While McIlory is the world’s number one, he will come up short.
Kevin gets 3 points for talking about the importance of life outside golf. Chris gets 2 points for picking the field and Matt gets 1 point for noting Rory’s inconsistencies.
Kevin wins Around the Dorm 7-6-5.