Before we go any further, the respect I have for Michael Sam is endless. What he did by coming out and proclaiming his homosexuality to the world took much courage and strength. The sports world is still way behind the rest of society in terms of accepting gays in their bubble so what Sam did opened the eyes of many in his world.
To those who say Sam would be a distraction in an NFL locker room, I say Ray Lewis was a much bigger distraction in the Baltimore Ravens room. And they won 2 Super Bowls despite the fact he was found guilty of obstruction of justice in the deaths of Jacinth Baker and Richard Lollar. (I still believe Lewis murdered those two men in Atlanta back in 2000.) Or how about Michael Vick and his dog fighting ring that led him to the big house for 23 months. Or Riley Cooper’s racist rant at a concert that saw the Eagles tight end drop more N bombs than a Ku Klux Klan member. All three and many more players were welcomed back with open arms by their teammates and the league. If the players or the team can’t handle the fact that Michael Sam is gay, that is their problem, not Michael Sam’s.
But this is a sports blog for the most part. I try to stray from political and social commentary on this blog page. (Just a note, I should rule the world. I follow the Stewie Griffin philosophy. Victory is mine. Thus end my political rant.) I am here to talk about Michael Sam the football player.
The 6-3, 265 pound defensive end enjoyed an outstanding 2013 campaign at the University of Missouri, where he recorded 11.5 sacks and 19 tackles for a loss, which topped the mighty SEC. Yes the SEC. You know, that conference that features powerhouse teams like Alabama, Auburn, LSU and Georgia. Well, Sam from underrated and under-appreciated Mizzou, outdid the giants from the longstanding giants of the conference with his performance on the field. Sam was named SEC co-defensive player of the year along with Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley. On top of that, Sam was voted as a first team All-American by the Sporting News and the Walter Camp Football Foundation. He is projected to go between the third and fifth round of the 2014 NFL draft.
Sam is a speed rusher, who likes to come off the edge to bring pressure to the quarterback. His first step is superb and he can get by the offensive tackle without being touched. His speed forced teams to keep a running back in the backfield in protection for the quarterback. Because the running back has to stay back in protection, it takes away an option in the flat as the quarterback has no safety valve to throw too, if he’s under duress. Sam can disrupt offenses with his explosive speed. There is a similarity between Sam and Cliff Avril. The Seattle Seahawks defensive end used his speed off the edge to make life miserable for Peyton Manning in the Super Bowl. Avril spent most of the game in the Broncos backfield, harassing Manning, which led to sacks, or forced Manning to throw the ball when he didn’t want to. One of those forced passes led to the turning point of Super Bowl XLVIII, Malcolm Smith’s 69-yard interception return for a touchdown, that put the Seahawks in complete control, and well on their way to their first Super Bowl championship.
There are aspects of Sam’s game that will need to be worked on. At 265 pounds, Sam will be on the lighter side of defensive ends, and he will probably need to gain 15-20 pounds of muscle, while not losing any of his speed. Offensive tackles are much quicker and bigger in the NFL than they are in college. Sam will find out very quickly that an explosive first step, won’t be enough in the show.
Sam isn’t that strong against the run either. NFL defenses tend to run more complicated schemes than their college brethren, which will include stunts and different blitz packages. If a stunt is called defensively, Sam will be forced to go into the middle and perhaps make the key tackle in the running game. Which also means fighting off interior linemen who may outweigh him by 100 pounds. If those linemen push forward, Sam could be vulnerable to a strong ground game if the defense he’s on runs various stunt formations. Sam will have to read and react very quickly, which isn’t his style of game. It will be a learning curve for the young man.
While there is work to be done, I do believe Sam can produce in the NFL. He will bulk up and it sounds like he has a strong work ethic. It will take the right team that can handle the media frenzy that will surely follow Sam. I can see Sam fitting in well with New England, Seattle Baltimore, New Orleans or Pittsburgh. Teams that have dealt with adversity over the years and have passed with flying colours. I will be cheering for Sam, no matter the team that either drafts him, or signs him as a free agent. He deserves the opportunity to prove himself in an NFL environment.
Finally if you care about who Michael Sam is sleeping with, it says more about you than about him.
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