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Apple pie baking in the oven. Turkey roasting in the oven. Fresh cut grass. New-fallen snow on a crisp winter morning.

These are a some of my favorite smells. Smells that I can recall vividly and instantaneously. Scents that make me sigh… make me smile… make me long for the experience it implies.

Dog poo. Vomit. Rotting potatoes (trust me; if you haven’t experienced the odor, it is horrific.) These are also burned into my conscience as some of the most distasteful, repulsive odors I have had to endure.

Kind of like the memory of Miami’s offense in the Bengals’ game last Thursday.

I have not trusted myself to participate in the boards on the Phinfever forum much since that travesty. I try to present myself as a “cup-half-full” kind of guy and I didn’t want to spill that half-cup of optimism by posting what I was really feeling after that game. It was that bad.

So here I am, trying (again) to find a way to find hope in the midst of the perfect storm of bad football we’ve been subjected to. Like trying to sense a whiff of apple pie while standing in a sewer. What I am left with is this. Building blocks.

We have some solid pieces of the puzzle on our roster right now. Pieces that are young, talented and show room for growth. Other pieces that are still early enough in their careers to build around but seasoned enough to consider building blocks. Pieces to give us hope.

OFFENSE

  • Jarvis Landry. Let’s start with the obvious. Any discussion of young, talented and proven players on offense starts with Jarvis Landry. He’s young, strong, durable, driven and seemingly getting even better. Landry is a stud.
  • Devante Parker. He’s uber-talented. He’s capable of being the kind of WR that just shredded us this past week IF he can stay healthy (big, fat, ugly IF) and IF we can utilize him properly (big, fat… you get the idea.)
  • Mike Pouncey. OK, go ahead. Remind me how he misses games every year. Yes. Remind me of his poor judgment on some issues in the past. True again. BUT. He remains one of the league’s best centers, especially in run blocking. He’s relatively young and is certainly worth hanging onto.
  • Laremy Tunsil. Stud. Yes, he’s a rookie making rookie mistakes. He’s been asked to learn a new position and still has graded out significantly better than most of the vets he goes to battle with on the line. He is the definition of a building block.
  • Players to be named later. I’m hopeful that among this crop of pups including Jay Ajayi, Kenyan Drake, Jakeem Grant and Leonte Caroo, we will find one or more players to build around.
  • DEFENSE

  • Ndamukong Suh. Overpriced? Maybe. Underperforming? Possibly, though I don’t buy into that argument. Worth it? There is the question. Whatever you say about his contract, the dude brings a presence to each game that no other player on the line does at this point. He is a player that is in his prime that MUST be accounted for by the opposing team every game. He commands double teams and still manages to be disruptive on the lilne.
  • Kiko Alonso. Can he stay healthy? Can he make big plays? The jury remains out on these valid questions. What we do know is that he is active. He hasn’t made every play available to him (who has on this team?) but he has shown enough of his old range and burst to make him a keeper, in my opinion. He’s all over the field, and more often than not makes the tackle.
  • Reshad Jones. Duh. He’s a no-brainer. ABSOLUTELY MUST give this man a new contract before we lose him ala Lamar Miller. He is among the best at his position in the game, and to lose him to free agency would be a monumental mistake in my opinion.
  • Xavien Howard. This may be premature, but I’ve seen enough from the kid to think he might be the real deal. He’s got the build, the mentality and the football sense to become an outstanding #1 cornerback. He needs coaching and experience, but so far, he seems to possess everything else needed. He’s a building block.
  • Players to be named later. I’m hopeful that guys like Isa Abdul-Quddus, Jordan Phillips and Bobby McCain can step up and establish themselves as consistent, reliable players. They’ve all shown flashes, but like most of the team have not been consistent.
  • SPECIAL TEAMS

  • Matt Darr. I believe that at the end of this season Darr will be recognized as one of the leagues’ best at his position. I think he will deserve, if not earn, a pro-bowl berth. Maybe I’m wrong and maybe it’s fool’s gold so far, but to this point in the season he’s probably the team MVP. Isn’t that telling?
  • Andrew Franks. He’s worth hanging onto. He’s got a good long leg and been reliable as kickers go. Only a few kickers are the type of guys that stay with their teams for years on end. Franks is worth keeping until his contract makes it untenable.
  • Jakeem Grant. Wherever he ends up being used on offense, he brings an element in the return game that is not to be overlooked. He should be used more on offense in my opinion, but for SURE he should be used as much as possible as a returner. He is fast, elusive, fast, and oh yeah… he’s fast. But he shows flashes of being more than just track-fast. He’s FOOTBALL fast. That matters.
  • Four offensive players plus a handful of question marks, and the same on defense. Special teams appears to be in good shape, but I haven’t even addressed special teams coverage units and the needs implied therein.

Lots of questions, on all sides of the ball. Here’s hoping we begin to see legitimate answers as the season progresses. Let’s start this week, against Tennessee. Let’s start to see some answers. Let’s catch a whiff of hope.

 

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