Friday, September 24, 2010

Shove This In Your Ear (It's a Podcast)

Two podcasts this week. One is just our fantasy league blabber, and the other is our Week 3 picks and lines. Listen up, get down.

You can do it here on the podcast player on the right. It's somewhere over there just look closely.

Or you can listen at our Podbean site, The Chirp Show. Click on the blue words, obviously. Although I did just have to explain it to you. What are you, stupid or something?

I think I gave up on Ray Rice too quick. OR DID I?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Professor Football: Inside the Red Zone with Drew Brees, Sean Payton, and the New Orleans Saints

On Monday, the New Orleans Saints and San Francisco 49ers matched wits in a game that concluded with a last-second field goal. The Saints' 25-22 win wasn't just decided on Monday though; the contours of the game, especially the New Orleans' red zone offense, were sculpted a week earlier

Some prologue first, beginning with San Francisco's defense. It's legitimate. The 49ers against the run are downright belittling. In 2009, they allowed only 3.6 yards per carry. This season, including the game against the Saints, they've allowed only 2.7 yards per carry. Running the ball against them can be difficult, is what you'd say if you wanted a nice smack to the forehead.

What makes San Francisco so great on defense is a combination of a bend-don't-break mentality, instilled by coaches Mike Singletary and Greg Manusky, and the players they put on the field.

Patrick Willis is the best linebacker in the game, and probably the most physically gifted one too. Anyone who saw his pregame chat with Jon Gruden was quickly alerted to how hard Willis studies tape and prepares for games as well.

Lining up around the game's best linebacker is a very good defensive corps. Takeo Spikes plays the other inside linebacker in the 3-4. He's not as young as spry as he once was (a knee contusion suffered during Monday night doesn't help), but he still manages to raise a ruckus against offenses. Justin Smith makes a ton of tackles from defensive end. Nate Clements has made a career out of being a solid cover corner who is excellent playing the run.

But the defense's anchor is Aubrayo Franklin. Like Pittsburgh's Casey Hampton, he's a shorter defensive linemen, but that's what makes him perfectly suited to play nosetackle. At 6'1'' and 317 pounds, it takes a lot to get under his pads and get him moving anywhere but where he wants to go.

Franklin was a hold out this training camp. To know exactly how much he's worth to the 49ers, just look at what they paid to get him playing again: $7 million. That's a lot to pay for a 30 year old linemen, and by paying it the 49ers are showing he's worth it.

Against the pass, San Francisco is slightly worse off. It doesn't make them terrible, they're just not as good as they are against the run. In Week 1 at Seattle, the Seahawks rushed for just 13 yards in the first half and still lead by eight via a combination of passes, playaction, and turnovers. They'd still finish the game averaging just 3.3 yards a rush though.

The first Seattle touchdown came on a playaction pass that turned into Matt Hasselbeck sprinting for the corner pylon. He got there and put the Seahawks up 7-6. It would be all they needed to win the game, but it was just part of what New Orleans needed.

In the third quarter, up 21-6, Seattle smashed their way to the 49ers' 3-yard line. Instead of trying to run the ball, they aired it out, trying to circumvent San Francisco's run defense. Two incompletions had them staring at 3rd-and-goal. Their next play looked like this (for clarity I'm not showing the defense, but check the video out to see how they line up):

Video here.

Seattle has Matt Hasselbeck step back into Shotgun. The offense then uses a Bunch formation right while isolating Deion Branch wide left. Hasselbeck throws the fade into the corner of the endzone; Branch makes the catch and Seattle goes up 28-6. By now the Niners are cooked, but someone else is watching.

Cut to Monday night (first quarter), and the Saints have arrived in San Francisco's red zone. Already up 2-0 from the errant snap-turned-safety, New Orleans hands off to Pierre Thomas who goes for three yards to the 49ers' six. On second down, they line up in something resembling Seattle's red zone plan:

Video here.

It looks similar to Seattle's iso play, but with a few wrinkles. The running back is moved to the other side, and more importantly, since it's Reggie Bush, he's running a choice route instead of a flare to the sideline. Finally, the tight end comes in to block.

What happens is that the 49ers react the exact same way they did against Seattle, but do a much better job of covering the iso receiver. During the play he (the lone receiver split wide) finds himself double covered, and Drew Brees checks down. In the video you can actually see Brees' eyes switch from the right receiver to Bush as he comes open.

The intention was to hit the fade in the endzone like the Seahawks did, but when he's covered Brees improvises. He sees Reggie Bush cut back inside, scorching Patrick Willis, and hits him in stride for the score. 9-0 Saints.

Now here comes the devious part.

In the third quarter, down 14-9, New Orleans found itself back in San Fran's red zone. Their game plan doesn't change much. Instead of trying to run the ball (they were on the three-yard line), they go right back into their Shotgun Bunch formation. Except now, Reggie Bush motions from his spot beside the quarterback and widens out past the iso receiver before the snap. After having been touched up by Bush last time, Patrick Willis follows him.

Video here.

The iso receiver runs his usually route, as do two of the receivers in the bunch. David Thomas though, at tight end, hesitates like he's going to stay in and block, like he did last time. Then he chips off the defensive end and runs the same choice route Bush ran in the first quarter. This play though, it's all deliberate. Brees feints a little by looking to Bush and the iso receiver, but then turns and drills Thomas for the touchdown.

Sean Payton isn't a stupid guy. He knows all about the 49ers defense and what they do well. That's why he followed Seattle's lead and spread them out in the red zone. And, when the Saints tried to get tough with them and grind out a touchdown in the fourth quarter, Heath Evans got stuffed on the goal line. New Orleans realized why they'd avoided trying to run the ball in the first place.

Using what Seattle had shown them previously, the Saints found ways to score against San Francisco. It's a little look into the intricacies that win football games. Or, a very good coincidence.

Either way, Matt Cassell and the Kansas City Chiefs might want to think about copying this coincidence.

Fantasy Stock Market and Accompanying Recession: Week Two


-Me out of my league.

-Alex Smith. When he was at Utah with Urban Meyer, Smith was used to run the football consistently. If you watched any of Tim Tebow's starts at Florida, it had to remind you a little of Alex Smith with the Utes. Last night against New Orleans, Smith got mobile and it nearly won the game for San Francisco. Arguably, playing quarterback well is part being comfortable. In the pocket, or on the field. It doesn't matter. Smith looked twitchy early, but as he led the 49ers back from the brink, things looked promising. Even more important, for the two-point conversion, San Fran, instead of handing off to Frank Gore, who was KILLING it, chose to pass. With the game on the line, they told Alex Smith to come through. And he did. Hot snow is falling up.

-Jay Cutler. You don't have to like him, but you will respect him from now until he sulks once more. The Cowboys are good against the pass, both at rushing the passer and in the secondary. They diced up the Redskins' passing attack, the same one that made Houston look like garbage as Donovan McNabb put on a show. Cutler, despite running for his life and fighting off the urge to yell at small children, played excellently. With Mike Martz in charge, this team will throw the ball a lot and successfully. Get in on some of that sweet.

-Jason Snelling. Turner was hurt for a good chunk of last year and he's hurt now. Pick up Snelling and pray that a groin injury is just as uncomfortable as it sounds.

-Dustin Keller. Those that know me realize I'm slowly describing my team to you, but I swear this is an impartial pick. Braylon Edwards and his vitriol for institutions like M.A.D.D. may have him suspended. Not only that, but Keller is the real deal. The Jets promised he'd play a Dallas Clark type of role for them, and I believe it. They moved him into the slot at times and used Ben Hartsock at tight end when they planned on running.

-Michael Vick. The people who spout off the Kolb has played a single half of football as rationale for starting him are ignorant themselves. In the same breath that Kolb hasn't had time to prove himself, Vick has. He's played years of football at an elite level. Kevin Kolb can't say that about himself. That this incarnation of Vick has smartened up and been forced to do crazy things like "watch film" doesn't bode well for opponents.


-Jay Cutler. If you don't believe in the Chicago renaissance, now is the time to dump Sulky McInterception and call it a day. That nickname is patent pending.

-Josh Freeman. He's not as good as advertised, and neither are the Bucs. They've played two games against the Browns and the Panthers. Neither of those teams had a quarterback, and both of them have had a hard time stopping the pass. Tampa hasn't played a team that can rush the passer effectively, and Josh Freeman's sideburns aren't conducive to continued success.

-Shonn Greene. LaDainian Tomlinson wants to prove us all wrong. On Sunday, he looked capable of doing so. Rex Ryan just wants to win, so if Greene doesn't start contributing he'll see his carries slip away.

-Joseph Addai & Donald Brown. I don't know exactly how Indianapolis ran the ball so well, but I'm pretty sure they won't be able to do it again. When given the option of being beaten by the run or by the pass, most defenses would choose the latter.


-Mike Sims-Walker. The Human Hyphen had the best game of his career Sunday. His 10 catch, 105 yard, one touchdown, performance isn't likely to repeat itself. Maurice Jones-Drew hasn't been touching the ball nearly enough, and that's going to change because the Jags aren't stupid. Wait, is that Mike Tice on the sidelines? Er, just trust me on this one.


-A trade that saw Cedric Benson swapped for Reggie Bush and Dez Bryant. Bush's knee was wrecked last night, and Dez Bryant is still a No. 2 receiver. If we had a fantasy jail, you'd be sent there and forced to sleep in a cell that has only a queen-size bed and no HBO on the flatscreen. You monster.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Podcast, She Is Back

On this edition of The Chirp Show we go behind the scenes of our fantasy league, break down this week's games, and harbour unrequited hatred for Tyson Alualu. Listen to it here on the podcast player, or at where you can also subscribe to it on iTunes.

A fantasy article comes tomorrow.

Be afraid.

UPDATE: Yeah, or just listen to it here.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Professor Football: How To Beat The New York Jets

The Baltimore-New York Monday nighter was putrid, but at least provided some insight into both teams. In a 10-9 barnburner, the Ravens showed off their fancy new acquisitions; and the Jets showed that their defense is so good it can win games by itself.

It's no secret that the Jets want to blitz teams. They mix up their personnel flagrantly and dare opponents to respond to their attack instead of attacking themselves. Pitching instead of catching, if Rex Ryan will permit me without cackling like a little kid. At times last night, they had but one defensive linemen in the game and blitzed with a variety of linebackers and defensive backs.

Baltimore won the game, but it was equal parts luck, circumstance, and skill. The refs were seemingly always in place to flag defensive holding and pass interference, and at times the Jets were willing to bail out the Ravens' offense. Kyle Wilson's defensive holding against a five yard waggle route (on 3rd-and-28!) comes to mind. Baltimore also had the resources at receiver to maroon one of their own on Revis Island and not lose their venom on offense. Revis could and did erase Derrick Mason all game, but Anquan Boldin picked up the slack and saved Baltimore on third down a few times.

For other teams though, they may not be afforded the same luxuries as Baltimore. Maybe the refs ease up and let the Jets play more physically in the defensive backfield. Or maybe they just don't have the firepower to survive on 3rd-and-long against New York. Baltimore is a Super Bowl fave and they won by a single point. If the Jets' offense had been something resembling competent it might have been a completely different ballgame.

So, how does Generic Team X beat someone like New York? Let's look at the Jets' objectives on defense:




Though Rex Ryan plays guru, that's his defense when you reduce it to its basest parts. All the Jets want to do is to stop a team from running the ball on first and second down, produce a third-and-long, and then blitz quarterbacks so they'll make a mistake. How they stop the run is by using their speed and unique match-ups to confuse blockers and penetrate into opposing backfields.

Quick stats: The Jets allowed only 3.8 yards per rushing attempt last season. Also, the Jets' third-down defense allowed teams to convert only 31.5 percent of their tries. When you can stop the run and you have players like Darrelle Revis roaming your secondary, you're free to get after teams on passing downs.

The best way to negate the Jets' advantages is to get positive yards on first and second down. Teams that did so against New York beat them. It sounds like a given, you want to be gaining yards on any down hopefully, but the difference between 3rd-and-10 and 3rd-and-5 against New York is monumental.

Take Baltimore's offenses most successful drive of the night: a 9 play, 85 yard march at the beginning of the third quarter which resulted in a field goal.*

The Ravens take over on their own 8-yard line at 11:37 in the third. On first downs they get 3, 4, and 5 yards. On second, they get zero, 27, and 3 yards. They finish the drive kicking a field goal that turns out to be the game winner.

While on first down they experienced some success, Flacco still had to be bailed out by Anquan Boldin on third-and-long (resulting in a 38-yard reception) once after throwing an incompletion to him on a second down. Still, the Ravens mananged to ease their workload on third down by shortening getting positive yards on first and second.

How does a team get those positive yards early though?

Any offensive coordinator worth his salt can take what the defense gives him and run with it. What the Jets give any offense though is a healthful spoonful of blitzes and excellent man-to-man coverage. And, again, to make it easier on oneself against the blitz, you need to shorten the time and distance it takes a quarterback to release the ball or for a running back to reach the first down marker.

The Jets blitz package is essential to stopping opponents' running games. And, using their "Creep" nickel packages and unorthodox personnel they work in linebackers and defensive backs to slow down teams. But what those players add in speed, they lack in size, strength, and in the DB's case, experience playing the run at the line of scrimmage. So instead of just pounding the ball inside and accepting the Jets' blitzes, why not get outside and take the initiative?

At times the Ravens used an unbalanced offensive line, lining up their backside tackle on the playside and trying to create mismatches. But what really worked were quick hitting outside runs (NOT zone stretch plays. When they tried to work inside-out the flow of the Jets' D smothered them) that got the offensive linemen out and on the defensive backs being used to blitz. An example (Note: I'm drawing this from memory):

It's just a little quick toss that now puts an offensive guard onto an unsuspecting New York safety. A double team by the tight end and playside tackle to the inside linebacker cuts off pursuit and the fullback is man on man with whatever linebacker attempts to fill. The Jets, even though they've brought eight into the box, don't have the match-up they want and maybe more importantly, you've taken the initiative against a defense that seeks to control it. If the linebacker and safety switch sides, a 300-pound guard still presents a considerable roadblock. I drew that up on what I think is the base Jets formation, the playside defensive end could become another stand-up linebacker, but that would still favor a strong double team at the point of attack.

Ray Rice's longest run of the day was seven yards, coming off tackle. His second longest was six yards, on a toss similar to this one. The Jets' blitzes try to root quarterbacks and offenses within the box, so that gang-tackling and mistakes can occur. But by sealing the edge and getting outside, which is admittedly much easier than it sounds, a team can give itself a fighting chance against a lethal New York defense.

Other tactics that Baltimore used were bringing in their running backs to block and then having them leak out as receivers. Flacco would dump the ball off to McClain, McGahee, or Rice and it would act as a run essentially. Mix in some quick posts and off-tackle runs and you've managed to assert yourself against a tough defense. In the end though, execution trumps anything a defense can throw at you.

How do you beat the Jets? By making it easy for yourself on third down. How do you do that? By using safe, efficient, and quick-hitting plays that exploit New York's penchant for using different sorts of personnel groupings. Until next week, I'm Professor Football.

*I'm disqualifying their touchdown drive for the smattering of penalties that occurred on it. AND I'M NOT SORRY AT ALL AHAHAHA. Sorry.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Sunday, Sunday, SUNDAY!: The Casualty Report

What did we learn today children?

You read and watch and inhale the offseason's offerings. You absorb opinion and speculate on players sight unseen. Then one Sunday all the talk is replaced with the genuine article. Motherfucking football, people. It is glorious and horrible at the same time, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

So what did we learn? What players leapt off the page of your greasy fingerprinted preview magazine? Here lies the Sunday casualty report.

Miami Dolphins 15
Buffalo Bills 10- Most of my personal focus was devoted to this game, ugly as it was. Brandon Marshall looked good for a half, and then the Bills secondary/Chad Henne hiccups barricaded him from making an impact in the last half. For what it's worth, and that's counting the change in my pocket, I thought Marshall was as good as advertised. It looked like he and Henne had a little rapport with each other, which is encouraging. Other than Marshall, a positive was Miami's stinginess on defense. Cameron Wake was implanted in Buffalo's backfield the entire day and caused considerable chaos. The other big offseason acquisition for Miami, Karlos Dansby, racked up a sack and made plays across the field. Things were looking up. Compared to some of the other performances today though, like New England's romp over Cincy, a five-point win over Buffalo isn't exactly getting put on the fridge. It'll take some more polish if the Fins want to swim with the big fish. Oh well. They could have lost the game and I could be taste-testing what sleeping pills I'd choose to OD on.

As for Buffalo, I don't know. Their offense looked very meh; Roscoe Parrish's touchdown came off a blown coverage that left him more open than the gals at Theta Theta Theta after a box of wine. Trent Edwards got hit a lot. I can't understate that. The guy might have been running for his life if the world hadn't already pronounced the Bills DOA. Buffalo flashed a few wrinkles with a Wildcat formation in order to free up their standard scheme, but it looked very stiff and ended up making little difference.

A quick note: Miami's kicker, Dan Carpenter, looks like a young Swayze.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 17
Cleveland Browns 14- Despite having a broken thumb that had him tossing ducks in practice, Josh Freeman still hucked two TDs. Despite having spent an entire season being derided for throwing interceptions, Jake Delhomme still threw a pick that Ronde Barber returned back to Cleveland's 3-yard line.

Shrug and move along.

New England Patriots 38
Cincinnati Bengals 24- Tom Brady and Wes Welker proved that the laws of man just don't apply to them. Brady can crash his car into the peasants willy-nilly and escape unscathed. Welker can have his knee explode and then show up a few months later and catch two touchdowns. The Patriots (and accompanying dynastic implications) refuse to go quietly into the night, instead choosing to beat the shit out of Cincy in broad daylight.

Don't read too much into Cincy's air attack. They were behind from the get-go and had to air it out if they hoped to even force the Pats to break a sweat. That isn't the kind of football the Bengals will win if forced to play. Ochocinco's thunder=stolen.

Houston Texans 34
Indianapolis Colts 24- Arian Foster eviscerated the Colts' D for 231 yards rushing, ostensibly also yanking the AFC South torch from Indy's chubby fingers in the process. Or at least that will be the angle you'll be beaten to death with tomorrow. They'll bury you next to Peyton Manning's rotator cuff (57 pass attempts!).

Jacksonville Jaguars 24
Denver Broncos 17- They had to pause this one on account of lightning, but Zeus himself couldn't stop David Garrard from having himself a nice 3-touchdown day. Even the Greek God of Thunder couldn't force the Jaguar faithful to not pine for Tebow though.

Yep, that's Scrawn Football: A free hack theology class in every recap.

Pittsburgh Steelers 15
Atlanta Falcons 9- That the Steelers won this game is just proof that the system doesn't work. You're supposed to lose with Dennis Dixon you jerks. Why not just start Roethlisberger and hand him a bottle of Patron then?

Tennessee Titans 38
Oakland Raiders 13- Chris Johnson tore a strip off of Oakland, going for 142 yards in a blowout. The Titans are making the playoffs this year. It's still the same team that went 13-3 two years ago, except that Chris Johnson refuses to accept expectations. He just gets better and better. And now Vince Young is proving to be a competent pivot, which makes Tennessee just that much more dangerous. They'll make the postseason, the only question is whether Houston chokes once more, or if Indy can't shake off the Super Bowl hangover in time to contend.

New York Giants 31
Carolina Panthers 18- The G-men broke in their new stadium with a win, AND:
-Hakeem Nicks caught three touchdown passes.
-Kevin Boss got injured.
-Jonathan Stewart didn't do squat.
-Eli Manning didn't bleed once.

Chicago Bears 19
Detroit Lions 14- I'll let my furious comrade explain the outcome to you:

Arizona Cardinals 17
St. Louis Rams 13- A last-ditch toss into the endzone couldn't save the day for the Rams. Bradford was called on to make plays early and often in his debut, throwing 55 passes in the game. Unfortunately, you don't get points for boyish good looks and old-timey charm.

Green Bay Packers 27
Philadelphia Eagles 20- Kevin Kolb got a concussion. Stewart Bradley got a concussion. Ryan Grant hurt his leg, somewhere. Leonard Weaver managed to rip up his knee and disgust Eagles fans in one fell swoop. Michael Vick? Looked pretty good actually. He even ripped off a vintage Vick run-and-dive play that reminded viewers that he was once poised to do great things.

Seattle Seahawks 31
San Francisco 49ers 6- And then the world remembered why they had dismissed Alex Smith in the first place.

Washington Redskins 13
Dallas Cowboys 7- I bet a group of friends a million dollar the Cowboys wouldn't throw to Roy Williams on the last play of the game. To my chagrin, Romo floated a perfect pass that landed in Williams' arms in the back of the endzone. Touchdown. I owed a million dollars despite being a bum. Then, the hold was called and the play was stricken from the record. My fictional millions are safe once more.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Chirp Show Rides Again (Our Podcast)

Real football starts tomorrow. That means fantasy teams must be cared for, bets must be placed, and jokes must be written and cocked for cracking. To aid in this, here's The Chirp Show. It's our podcast and it has two lovely gentlemen being snarky and obvious at the same time. Quite a feat, I know. You can listen at our player on the side, or at our podcast's website: The Chirp Show.

You can also subscribe to the show on iTunes via Podbean, or find our RSS feed somewhere. Toodles.


Friday, August 27, 2010

Fantasy Friday: Draught Rules

Having just completed one fantasy football draft and now gearing up for another, let me impart some advice to you. No, not on how to make good picks or work the waiver wire, but etiquette. In particular, drinking etiquette.

A draft can be a hostile place. You may be playing with friends, but if you look hard enough, they're actually trolls trying to gut you and play double dutch with your insides. One wrong move by you and you'll be emasculated and left to die in a puddle of your own filth. It's a tension-filled situation, and one that often incorporates alcohol.

There's plenty of sites and people that do the fantasy thing for a living, and they are called pricks. They've successfully attained their and many others dream. Often their draft stories will have them turning up their noses at the loud drunkards they play with and happen to inhabit most of the Earth. Don't listen to them. No one likes being sober (destructive alcoholics excluded), and if you want to have a good time while playing fantasy football you'll drink a beer or several.

Some inherent benefits include:

-All your insults become twice as cutting and intelligent.

-A built-in excuse for when you accidentally draft Matt Leinart in the fifth round.
Friend: Why did you do that?
Friend: Of course.

-Something to do with your hands while waiting with your pick. There's nothing better than stuffing a red Dixie cup into your face while others are shuffling papers trying to find the next Miles Austin.

-If you get drunk enough, you can dial ex-girlfriends and beg them for sex. That's a proactive way of seeking post-draft entertainment.

-When you pass out, your friends will select hilarious players like Yao Ming or Tom Tupa for you.

And so on.


Whaaaaaa? A Browns player?

Even though Watson washed out of New England, and that's never a good way to start explaining, I know, he's got some value with Cleveland. While with the Pats, Watson had to fight off Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Julian Edelman, and Kevin Faulk for catches; in Cleveland he has no such competition.

The Browns have but Mohamed Massquoi (34 catches), rookie Brian Robiskie, and Josh Cribbs (20 catches) as receivers. There's no catch vacuum cleaner like Welker, and Delhomme may prove himself more capable than Brady Quinn.

Am I saying go and draft Watson in the eighth? Would you even do it if I asked? Hell naw. I'm saying that as you come into the last round and you're unhappy with your tight end selections: Ben Watson. He had five touchdowns last season and is poised to grab a few more.

And with that, I must away. Sweet lady weekend, she calls to me.

2010 Season Preview of...THE OAKLAND RAIDERS

Just grin, baby.


-With Darrelle Revis continuing to be left wanting, the Raiders have the league's best corner in Nnamdi Asomugha. He's so good that teams just stop throwing to his side at all. This season Asomugha will be exclusively tailing opponent's No.1 receivers, so bad times abound to those destined to play the man.

-Jason Campbell isn't Jim Plunkett reincarnate, but he's ten-times the quarterback JaMarcus Russell was. He's not going blow teams away, but he won't spend every waking minute plotting Vegas trips or raiding (eh?) local pharmacies. Oakland now has a bonafide quarterback, one who actually is serious about playing the position. That is the saddest thing I have ever had to type about football.

-Tight end Zach Miller's 66 catches led the team last year. Campbell likes to throw to his tight ends (see: Cooley, Chris) and Miller has been taking hot, stinky, garbage and making lemonade with it for a few seasons now. It's a match made in heaven, yet set in hell. Who-da thunk it?

-Tyvon Branch is on the cusp of becoming one of the league's best at strong safety. His 123 tackles were tops at the position and the team is high on his future. You might even say that they're going out on a limb for Branch?

-Richard Seymour was re-signed in the offseason. After being traded from New England last season, he kept the low profile that all Oakland acquisitions usually assume, but he played well. The team needs his seniority and leadership now that they're switching to a 4-3 defense, and are asking Seymour to play inside at tackle. With rookie Rolando McClain slotted to start at middle linebacker, having Seymour playing in front of him isn't the worst thing in the world.


-The team is rife with potential busts (sans Robert Gallery, who's made a successful transition to guard)*. Michael Huff is one more terrible season from being shown the door, as he's had but four interceptions in four seasons. Asomugha can only do so much for the secondary, Huff has to assume some playmaking responsibilities if there's to be any improvement.

-Darrius Heyward-Bey was abysmal last season. Now he's being accused of "over-training" himself in offseason and had to rest for four days of training camp. And yet, Al Davis looks like he hasn't slept since 1980.

-If Darren McFadden can't find a way to stay healthy then he's superfluous. Michael Bush has shown promise as the No.1 option at running back and Run DMC may find himself without a job. Oakland though, desperately needs McFadden to justify his high expectations. With him healthy, their offense takes on a whole new dimension. The kind that requires special glasses.

-Management is dysfunctional, and that's putting it kindly. Tom Cable's violent encounters make you wonder how he kept his job (is he hitting you, Al? You can tell me). Though it is the Raiders, it's not really an example you want set in front of the players. Maybe worse, if my information is correct, Al Davis is still in charge of the team.


*If you don't count spending a No.2 draft pick on a guard bust-worthy.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Broken News: People Getting Broken


-Joseph Addai received a concussion tonight in the game against the Packers. Not only that, but starting linebacker Gary Brackett suffered a hand injury. AND NOT ONLY THAT, but left tackle Tony Ugoh left the game with a toe injury. He was filling in for the starter Charlie Johnson, who is also hurt.[IndyStar]

-St. Louis' leading receiver from last season, Donnie Avery, was carted off the field with a "serious" knee injury. [FOX Sports]

-The Bengals are getting close to cutting ties with Antonio Bryant. If they do, it looks like they'll be on the hook still for his $7 million signing bonus. [Fanhouse]

-Though not a physical injury, Matt Leinart has apparently sucked thoroughly enough to put his job in jeopardy. [Twitter]

2010 Season Preview of...THE KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

Convenient AND offensive!


-The Chiefs have two good running backs in Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones. Charles exploded last season down the stretch, finishing the season averaging almost six yards a carry. Jones had his best season in the NFL, 1,402 yards rushing, at the ripe age of 31. The two have taken vastly different routes to their success, but what's important is that they've arrived. Head Coach Todd Haley continues to play games and rank Jones first on the depth chart, but for his sake and Jones' the ratio of Charles/Jones rushes should be at least 65/35. Someone like Jones only defies the odds for so long, and asking him to shoulder a heavy burden while blatantly ignoring a superior talent is just asking for trouble. Like a swift backhand from fantasy owners worldwide.

-Speaking of Todd Haley, the coach surrounded himself with a couple of decent coordinators in the offseason: Romeo Crennel and Charlie Weis. Though both failed as head coaches, their reps as coordinators are still intact. Until Haley fires them days before the season.

-First-round draft pick Eric Berry has already assumed the free safety spot, which is exactly what any team wants to see from their first-rounder. At the University of Tennessee he was all over the field making tackles, and KC is banking on those skills transferring over to the pro game. Berry will team up with a returning Brandon Flowers at corner to breathe some athleticism into the secondary.

-Outside linebacker Tamba Hali had nine sacks last season, a career-high. He's the team's best pass rusher and is tough against the run. There's no reason not to expect more from him in his second year playing the 3-4.

-Big things are expected from wide receiver, Dwayne Bowe, but KC's smartest move was re-signing Chris Chambers. Even though his personal life has taken a strange turn, he wound up being a primo target for Matt Cassel. The Chiefs can't really afford another lackluster effort from Bowe, but without Chambers they'd be broke at the position.


-Aside from Hali, the Chiefs' front seven is underwhelming. A rotation of Shaun Smith and Ron Edwards at nose tackle isn't going to frighten many run games. But compared to average human being, yes, they are still very terrifying.

-At linebacker there remains more questions, and Haley has taken a disliking to Derrick Johnson. That leaves Demorrio Williams and Corey Mays to take over inside. The other outside linebacker is Mike Vrabel, who is 35.

-Last year's first-rounder, defensive end Tyson Jackson, is quickly falling into 'bust' territory. The reports coming out of training camp aren't good, and to be blunt, neither is he really. Jackson and Glenn Dorsey make up the rest of the defensive line, which was the league's worst. GET EXCITED.

-If Matt Cassel puts together another clunker in 2010, all efforts will be for naught. At times in '09 he looked calm and confident, like he did spelling Tom Brady in New England. At other times, he looked like he'd been plucked from the stands at halftime and told to play quarterback. His DYAR at was only higher than two starting quarterbacks: Matt Stafford and, gulp, JaMarcus Russell.

There's more than a few reasons to like the Chiefs. An easy division and a dangerous offense are among them. They can taste that sweet mediocrity!


A Quick Look at Futures

Future bets mean you're betting on future outcomes of certain teams. Mindboggling right? Here's the team wins totals AND odds to win the Super Bowl (courtesy of VegasInsider):

BUFFALO- 5, 100/1
DETROIT- 5, 80/1 The Lions' schedule is tough. Four games against the Packers and Vikings, plus a Bears team that everyone is pretty high on. They also have the Eagles, Giants, Jets, Cowboys, Patriots, and Dolphins. The under looks pretty good. But the 80/1 Super Bowl odds is there just in case Stafford and co. take the leap this season.
ST. LOUIS- 5, 150/1
CLEVELAND- 5.5, 60/1 Has Vegas bought into the Jake Delhomme Era so quickly? At 60/1 for the Super Bowl, the bookmakers look to be insulating themselves against Jake's resurgence. The win total is pretty doable actually. In yesterday's preview I pointed out they have Bucs, Chiefs, and a possible Roethlisberger-less Pittsburgh in the first six weeks. They also have Jags, Panthers, and Buffalo down the home stretch of the season. If Carson Palmer continues to erode, this is a no-doubter!*
TAMPA BAY- 6, 125/1
OAKLAND- 6, 125/1
KANSAS CITY- 6.5, 125/1 The saving grace of betting on the Chiefs is that their division looks pretty weak. The Chargers look like they're losing Vincent Jackson and Marcus McNeill. Ryan Mathews is an unproven commodity at running back and Shawne Merriman and the defense look like they're in decline. The Raiders are always good for a win or two and the Broncos seem weaker than ever. The Chiefs also have games against the Browns, Bills, and Rams. Seven wins isn't out of the realm of possibility.
CAROLINA- 7, 60/1 Just leave it alone.
DENVER- 7.5, 45/1
SEATTLE- 7.5, 80/1 Two games against the Rams. They also see the Raiders, Panthers, Chiefs, and Bucs. It all depends on how you feel about Pete Carroll's crew, and the prospects of the 49ers and Cards. San Francisco could always sink back into mediocrity, and the Cards appear more in disarray with every Matt Leinart outing. Plus, Larry FitzGerald is still MIA. The Seahwaks are getting Lofa Tatupu back, Earl Thomas has impressed in the preseason, and Russell Okung will be protecting Matt Hasselbeck's blind side. I don't hate their chances of winning eight.
ARIZONA- 7.5, 40/1
CHICAGO- 8, 28/1 Like with Detroit, four tough games against the Pack and Minnesota. Then there's a game away against the Cowboys, and more toughies against the Jets, Patriots, Dolphins, Eagles, and depending on how they evolve, the Redskins. They might be able to pull off nine wins, but has Jay Cutler ever won nine games at any level?
HOUSTON- 8, 30/1 It's been the Texans year for a couple seasons now, but the schedule could get bumpy. Games against the Cowboys, Chargers, Jets, and Ravens bar the way. But the Colts have to have a losing season sometime. Just make sure when you bet, it's the right time. Which is an utterly useless statement.
TENNESSEE- 8, 22/1
NY GIANTS- 8.5, 15/1
SAN FRANCISCO- 8.5, 45/1
MIAMI- 8.5, 30/1 A pretty tough schedule.
ATLANTA- 9.0, 20/1
PITTSBURGH- 9, 12/1 A push if I ever saw one. And I've seen (none) plenty!
NY JETS- 9.5, 14/1 I already don't like the Jets chances of even making the playoffs. They play out of conference games against the Ravens, Packers, Vikings, Texans, and Bengals. New York lost both games to Miami last season and New England will be competitive until Bill Belichick keels over during (stolen practice) game film.
MINNESOTA- 9.5, 11/1
NEW ENGLAND- 9.5, 17/2
GREEN BAY- 9.5, 19/2
BALTIMORE- 10, 24/1
DALLAS- 10, 15/2
NEW ORLEANS- 10.5, 7/1
SAN DIEGO- 11, 17/2

*That's full of doubt.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The NFL's Proposed 2012 Schedule a Game of Give and Take

Watch and tremble as I tackle the NFL's looming eighteen-game season, AND COME TO NO CONCLUSION.

via Bleacher Report

A meeting of NFL owners brought forth the possibility of adding two extra games to the regular season. It looks to be one of the defining issues in the NFL moving forward.

The problem with changing the current NFL schedule is with give and take. Give something to one area, and you take from another.

More games means more money for owners. And, assuming that the players negotiate favorable terms in the next round of CBA talks, their payscale will rise with that of the NFL's revenues. Everybody likes money.

But more games also means that the longevity of players will be reduced. Those who are on teams in the playoff hunt will play much more in the two extra regular season games than they would have in preseason ones. That's already with having played an entire regular NFL season, which provokes its fair share of injuries.

This could increase injuries for older players and wear down younger ones, shortening careers at both ends of the spectrum. Unless they're compensated accordingly (with the general sentiment among the owners that they're losing money already) it's poison for the players.

If the players manage to secure those favorable terms it also takes away from the quality of player and salary cap flexibility of teams. And to accept an eighteen-game season, the players need to be taken care of with better contracts.

Then the teams are saddled with contracts that handcuff them to players who could be injured or slacking. Part of the NFL's high quality play comes from its cutthroat style of management. Either you're performing and producing or you're handed your walking papers. If teams signed Player X to a big deal as part of CBA compromises, they'll have to eat the dollars and subsequent loss of salary cap mobility that comes with long-term contracts. The revenue from the extra regular season games then just go to paying off bad roster moves.

And if the players are forced to accept smaller salaries and a longer season, look out. Then you have embittered employees who are making less for a game that is earning more. It opens up a world of underhanded possibilities for anyone disgruntled enough. There's also the question of worker's rights, as in how many hoops can NFL ownership make their players jump through before it becomes demeaning.

The quality of the games in an extended season would also increase and decrease. On one hand, two extra regular season games would keep teams vying for Wild Card spots in prolonged dogfights. A little more drama would ensue.

Then again, there are teams who sit starters at the end of the season when they've clinched their division. The games they'd play against teams out of the playoff race would have no meaning and generate less interest (like a preseason game). The games they would play against fringe contenders would bolster that team's playoff hopes while sabotaging those of another team forced to play someone still in contention (and playing their starters).

Fans don't like preseason games, but that's just because they want the season to come faster. Around this time of year the faithful grow stircrazy knowing another season is almost among us. The desperate would be willing to sacrifice preseason games for a taste of the genuine article.

Players on the bubble enjoy preseason games, because it's just one more opportunity to prove themselves. The NFL is an intimidating place, sometimes it takes a few swings by the players before they connect with their squad. By cutting someone too soon a team weakens itself without knowing.

But contrary to that, the extended season would allow for teams to play little used reserves in more regular season games in order to see their worth. They may even take snaps against stronger competition than they would see in preseason games, making their value more evident. The circular logic continues.

So if you're giving and taking from various aspects of the game, why not just keep things the same?

The owners are pressing, trying to squeeze more games from players while enjoying a larger slice of the money the games bring in. That won't stand with players, especially the ones left out in the cold of 2010's Uncapped Gold Rush.

So the players will strike, and the owners will stand pat. Players will see their savings dwindle and owners will be forced to keep paying the bills on mammoth stadiums. No one is making money until the other blinks. And whoever is left to pick up the tab will have a tremendous amount of contempt for the other side.

The real question, I guess, is are both sides willing to destroy the best game in town?

Until they actually turn thought into action, it's just a dangerous game of speculation, and chicken.

More football talk @ Scrawn Football.

2010 Season Preview of...THE CLEVELAND BROWNS

I don't mind Cleveland's prospects this year. They took a few chances and shook up their management situation. It's just that the team is stuck in the quagmire that is the Cleveland sports scene right now. The whole town is toxic, but there's still the off-chance that the Browns surprise people (especially early, when they play the Bucs and Chiefs, with the possibility of a Roethlisberger-less Pittsburgh in Week Six).


I really like everything-back Peyton Hillis. Since his days at Arkansas he's shown a diverse set of skills that have cottoned to me in a weird, bronery way. He can run (five yards a carry back in 2008) and block (just take my word for it), and the Browns need to find a way to get him the ball, lest I call them chumps. And the fact that Cleveland pried him away for Brady Quinn is the icing on the cake. Not to take away anything from Jerome Harrison, of course, whose 286 yard masterpiece against KC is still fresh in the minds of many.

-Joe Thomas is one of the best left tackles in the NFL. That's just a fact. Also, the interior of the offensive line received a boost when center Alex Mack proved he was a top-tier player at the position in his first season.

-Jake Delhomme may have choked his way out of Carolina, but he's an improvement over the walking dead the Browns have had taking snaps for them. And, he's been having a sharp preseason! CASE CLOSED. Jake Delhomme WILL be good. For the sake of Cleveland's populace, you just have to believe.

-Josh Cribbs remains an interesting asset for Cleveland. His use in the Browns' Wildcat formation is the closest thing to surprise the team has, unless Delhomme is actually a ball machine in a trenchcoat. Cribbs is also part of the reason why Cleveland wound up as one of the league's best on special teams.

-Eric Mangini is no longer running unchecked at the helm of the Browns. Mike Holmgren will probably rein in the Mangenius when he starts trying to put Colt McCoy into unpadded hitting drills. That the Browns went out and got Tom Heckert to take care of personnel is even better. Holmgren got canned as the GM in Seattle, and it wasn't until his focus was completely on coaching that the Seahawks made the Super Bowl. Heckert comes from Philadelphia, and his five trips to the NFC Championship game prove that maybe he has some gift for finding talent (but not the kind of talent that wins you that game. SNIP SNAP).


-Shaun Rogers' leg broke, he's facing a suspension for a gun charge, and he was never Johnny Go-Hard in the first place. He's supposed to be the headliner for the defense, but the man has some problems. Except at crime fighting.

-Inside linebacker D'Qwell Jackson isn't due back in practice for another month. In his stead, a motley crew of linebackers take over, including Matt Roth, Scott Fujita, and Chris Gocong.

-Despite what I said earlier, you don't want to have a quarterback who had a touchdown/interception ratio of 8/18 managing your offense. And not to pour salt in the wound, but his completion percentage of 55.5 last year was his worst since his rookie season. Unless Jake the Snake shakes off his two-year hangover, things will get real very quickly. If he falters, Seneca Wallace is next on the docket.

-The situation at wide receiver is thin and hinges on improvement. There's Mohamed Massaquoi, who is the number one option, but had only 34 catches and a 36% catch rate when thrown to. Rookie Brian Robiskie projects to be the X. Cribbs will be the third guy, but his 20 catches last season were a career-high. All three need to progress quickly and get on the same page with Jake Delhomme if the offense is going to be successful.


Broken News

-Stan Kroenke bought the rest of the St. Louis Rams. He previously owned forty percent of the team, but hey, that Sam Bradford smile is priceless. [USA Today]

-Greg Camarillo was traded to the Vikings for Benny Sapp. Miami needs depth at corner with two sophs and the oft-injured Will Allen playing nickelback. Minnesota needed a receiver to fill in for Sidney Rice who had surgery on his hip. I liked Camarillo in Miami, but he was just one possession receiver too many... [ESPN]

-Ochocino got fined for tweeting from the sidelines. Somewhere, Charlie Villanueva is nodding his head in approval. [ESPN]

-Darrelle Revis is still MIA. But you already knew that didn't you? Here's a link to the New York Times' Freakonomics blog, where one of the Football Outsiders guys has an alternate universe quarterback Revis passing for 5,000 yards. [NYT]

-Here's something obscure: Tatum Bell was cut by the Florida Tuskers of the UFL. What I didn't know was that he was once accused of swiping Rudi Johnson's bags after being cut from the Lions. Now he might join Mike Shanahan in Washington. Yeah. [PFT]

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

2010 Season Preview of...THE CINCINNATI BENGALS

Together at last?

-Cedric Benson has found himself in Cincinnati, which, granted, would be the last place someone would usually look (scratch that-Cleveland would be the last, now). He rushed for 1,251 yards and seven touchdowns and managed to get punched only once in the offseason. Either Benson has the worst luck when he's drinking, or he's just a bad drunk. Whichever it is, there's never a dull moment when you're with the man (unless you notice his 4.2 YPC, which was the lowest among rushers with over a thousand yards).

-Rey Mauluaga won't be suspended for his offseason DUI. With Michael Johnson breathing down his neck on the strong side, he'll likely supplant Dhani Jones at middle linebacker. Of course, you know, he wouldn't be able to do anything for the team if he'd been suspended. It's the little things, people.

-Shayne Graham is gone and with him the ghosts of kicker's past. Mike Nugent or Dave Rayner will take over the position.

-Even with Andre Smith's bloated self and Carson Palmer's fear of being killed on the football field, the offensive line still did a pretty good job. They allowed only 29 sacks, and by re-signing Bobbie Williams they've kept their nucleus pretty much intact.

-The interior defensive line has some promise. Domata Peko has had time to heal, and he's a beast against the run. Without him, the linebackers behind him are open to harassment from opposing linemen. Nick Mangold would just not stop ordering pizzas to Dhani Jones' house in the playoffs. Tank Johnson will play the other tackle spot, and that's just interesting.


-Carson Palmer might be washed up. He just doesn't have the same confidence or strength that saw him put together two straight 4,000 yard seasons. Palmer has already been put into a secondary role to the run game; and when asked to pass in his preseason displays, his arm strength has looked suspect. Balls have been fluttering, and not in a euphemistically good way. He's probably the third-best quarterback in the division behind Ben and Flacco now.

-Offseason acquisition Antonio Bryant banged up his knee before playing a game for the Bengals, and looks like he'll be released soon. He was Cincy's third receiver, and constituted most of their depth. Without him, Jordan Shipley or Andre Caldwell will take over.

-Both of the Bengals' defensive ends have been hurt in the preseason. Antwan Odom aggravated his meniscus, and Robert Geathers has been walking around in a protective boot. They should be back for Week One, but...OMINOUS.

-Marvin Lewis needs to win something of note soon. If not for years of depression, this team would have normal expectations instead of breaking out the champagne for making the Wild Card game. Two winning season out of seven isn't a stunning success. In a vacuum, Lewis would probably have been fired by now.

Listen, you've got Terrell Owens, Chad Ochocinco, Pacman Jones, Tank Johnson, Cedric Benson, and MAYBE Matt Jones all commiserating under one banner. It's mesmerizing. If Dos Equis has the most interesting man, this is the most interesting team by far. Will they win games though?


Monday, August 23, 2010

2010 Season Preview of...THE PITTSBURGH STEELERS

Welcome to Scrawn Football's (completely biased) series of previews for the 2010 NFL season, one team at a time. Today's profile is on the Pittsburgh Steelers, which I like to call, "Big Ben's Besmirching".


-Troy Polamalu is back and aiming to be in fine form by Week One. The safety kinda flops back and forth between being hurt and not, and the pattern has him staying healthy for this season. That's good, because without him the Steelers' secondary is pretty blase. Polamalu has a set of playmaking skills that few in the NFL can match. Assuming he doesn't have another joint explode, then they're totally matchable.

-Casey Hampton remains the team's rock at nosetackle. He's a human cannonball of sorts, being fired into opponent's O-Lines with lethal force.

-Rashard Mendenhall racked up his first 1,000 yard season and is projected to become the team's everydown back. Willie Parker has been dismissed, putting the onus on Mendenhall to take possession of an offense that will have to run a lot more with 4-6 weeks of Byron Leftwich/Dennis Dixon.

-The receiving corps is still pretty good, due to the fact that the Steelers have become a pass heavy team (or at least heavier than one would expect from Pittsburgh) in recent years. Hines Ward leads the group, and Mike Wallace's 19.4 yards per catch is promising at the X. Antwaan Randle-El is back in the fold, and the team will probably work in some trickery with him. Heath Miller is also an excellent tight end, whose 78% catch rate was tops among his peers.


-Dennis Dixon and Byron Leftwich, either one, will be the Opening Day quarterback. But hey, if they fail spectacularly the team always has Charlie Batch to fall back on.

Those first six games could be just enough to stop Pittsburgh from mounting a playoff run later in the season.

-Roethlisberger's impact on the team is at an impasse. If he returns and wins games, HURRAY BEN. If he loses, the fans and team will have to contemplate the fact that their quarterback may be scum. Nobody likes thinking.

-The offensive line is terrible. Only Green Bay allowed more sacks than the Steelers did, 51 to 50. If ever there was a reason to justify Big Ben's Big Mistakes, it would be the fact that he makes a living being hunted and stalked by angry, musclebound types in thick helmets.

-Everyone in their division is better. The Ravens added Boldin. The Browns have a competent supervisor in Mike Holmgren. Even the Bengals managed to bring in Terrell Owens. Er, he might be good. Last season the Steelers didn't make the playoffs, and I think the same happens again.


Darrelle Revis Wants Baseball Money

Darrelle Revis wants $162 million over ten years. While the payscale of that kind of contract would be similar to what Nnamdi Asomugha is making as part of the Oakland Raiders, the length of Revis' deal would have him making bank until he's 35. Now, it can't all be guaranteed, but that's still huge.

Will the Jets pay it though? If they do, it'll be regarded on par in New York with Bobby Bonilla's deferred contract options. And, every cornerback who can shut down Ochocinco will be sticking their hands out or into their employer's pockets. [Newsday]
Nick Mangold and the Jets just reached an agreement on a new contract for seven years at $55 million. Coincidence? Or a jab at Revis' manhood? I say no, but our producer says yes. []

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Broken News: Vincent Jackson Talking to Seahawks

It's Saturday, but I never sleep on such non-stories as this. The Seattle Seahawks have been given permission from the Chargers to talk to Vincent Jackson, everyone's favorite holdout (move over Revis!).

The Chargers have talented receivers coming out the wazoo (Gates, Floyd, Naanee), so this rough-and-tumble course of action they're taking with Jackson is par for the course. San Diego isn't budging on Marcus McNeill though. Jackson wants a contract topping that of Brandon Marshall's, and the Bolts want a second rounder in return.[NC Times]

Friday, August 20, 2010

2010 Season Preview of...THE BALTIMORE RAVENS

Welcome to Scrawn Football's (completely biased) series of previews for the 2010 NFL season, one team at a time. Today's profile is on the Baltimore Ravens, which I like to call,
"A Dilfer-Free Zone".

GRATUITOUS WIRE REFERENCE. Let's make this snappy.


-When I'm not busy confusing him for Ozzie Smith, I'm applauding Ozzie Newsome for finally landing his ten-point buck in Anquan Boldin. While Boldin is seemingly in a state of perpetual surliness, he sure plays a mean football. He's big, physical, and makes catches all over the field. Finally, the Ravens have their premium wideout to couple with whatever stiff they've got playing quarterback.

-With Joe Flacco at quarterback, the Ravens are obviously set. He's no stiff, despite what bloggers may say about him. They're not asking him to reinvent the position, and with a talented backfield behind him all he needs to do is keep the ball out of the opposing secondary's hands. He only threw eleven interceptions last season, which was two less than the only other first-round quarterback drafted in 2008, Matt Ryan. And, with his completion rate over sixty percent, Flacco is on track for a torrid love affair with Boldin.

-Yes, it did take me this long to get to Ray Rice. That's just because I rank players by height though. Diminutive stature and delicious surname aside, Rice is no sidedish. He rushed for over 1,300 yards last season while making room for 78 receptions as well. The man is a wrecking ball, who apparently can now bench more than 400 pounds. Neat.

-Those were three pluses for the Baltimore Ravens offense, a unit traditionally used to rag the ball while the defense rinsed the other team's blood off. What do you really need to know about the squad though? They're still good. Ray Lewis is forever young. Terrell Suggs dropped some weight. Kelly Gregg, Haloti Ngata, and Terrence Cody are fitting to demolish unsuspecting offensive linemen. Ed Reed is Batman (I'm assuming his hip heals up real nice). Jarrett Johnson is tough as nails. People will be bludgeoned.


-The cornerbacks are suspect. There's no Chris McAllister like in 2001 to lock down opposing receivers while the goon squad lights teams up. There's Fabian Washington, who's bouncing back from a torn ACL; and LaDarius Webb is next on the depth chart and he's also rebounding from a knee injury.

-While Suggs has one of the defensive end spots sewn up, the other end is up for grabs. Dwan Edwards fled to Buffalo, and his possible successors look to be a step down.

-Baltimore spent a boatload on backup quarterback Marc Bulger. Though the Ravens (and many others) believe that this is the year, isn't $3.8 million a bit much for a guy you never want to see play? Also, various media outlets are questioning Bulger's commitment to football in general, which Bulger denied.

-If you hadn't noticed, I'm starting to reach a bit here, the team is pretty good. Now watch as I question Baltimore's kicking situation: Shayne Graham is shaky. That is all.


Hot Routes

-Brian Cushing's four-game suspension has NOT been overturned. The Texans' linebacker will serve his entire sentence. Great. Do you know how much 'roids it will take for him to make up his stats for those games? Like a bucketful.

-Sweet Tap Dancing Tebow. Kyle Orton was given a one-year extension by the Broncos, which can be worth up to $9 million. So in case you were wondering, Brady Quinn DOES suck that much.

-San Diego met with left tackle Marcus McNeill, to no avail.

-According to Adam Schefter, Percy Harvin is doing okay, or at least better than he was.

-With this run, CJ Spiller manages to make even the saddest Bills fan smile.
-Wes Welker caught two passes last night.
-Owen Daniels is getting an MRI on his knee.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Ricky Williams Redemption

Via Bleacher Report

There was a time when Ricky Williams was considered the NFL's premier disappointment, twice actually.

Mike Ditka handed over an entire draft for Williams' services. For the New Orleans Saints, their new running back ended up being a reclusive underperformer. When the team picked him out of Texas in 1999, it was naturally assumed they had someone who was serious about football and who had 400 carry, 2,000 yard seasons in him.

They assumed they had a workhorse. But if there's one thing Ricky Williams is, it's his own man, and nobody's to be pigeonholed. In New Orleans he flashed promise, but ultimately didn't deliver.

So Williams was packaged for a series of Miami Dolphins draft picks, and began life anew in South Beach. The initial outlook was favorable.

Arguably, his high tide came in 2002, rushing for over 1,800 yards and 16 touchdowns. That was just his first season with Miami. There was no telling what kind of production the team could expect moving forward.

But you know the story. He got hurt. He smoked a lot of marijuana. He retired. He played in the CFL. It was the second time he employed a scorched earth policy on a team that had hedged its future on his motivation.

Now it's 2010. Williams has inserted himself back into the Dolphins' good books (or at least stayed off the bad ones). The team has massaged him into a running game that ranks among the league's best, and Williams is poised to do big things.

Selected in front of Williams in 1999, was Edgerrin James. James was the consummate professional Indianapolis expected when they drafted him in front of Williams. He played hard and produced immediately.

Where is he now? Stuck on the NFL's scrap heap. James is burnt out and been tossed aside. This raises the question: How is Ricky Williams still playing?

At 33, Williams is still a running back under NFL employ, which is a rarity in this era. His preservation is due to his own machinations, whether planned or not. Williams' retirement and subsequent odyssey was the Ziploc baggie that has kept him fresh into the new decade.

James had 3,028 rushing attempts in his ten seasons. Williams has only 2,164. The numbers point to Williams' relative youth.

Another running back in danger of flameout is LaDanian Tomlinson. For years, LDT set the pace for the San Diego Chargers. He was there everything, for lack of a better word. Now? He's a fringe back who will fight for playing time with the New York Jets. And he's two years younger than Williams is right now. Who would you rather draft for your fantasy team? Tomlinson has 2,880 rushing attempts in his career.

Williams is also fortunate enough to be behind one of the most potent offensive lines the Dolphins have had in recent years. There's some transitioning going on between the tackles, but the team just completed a season that saw them rush for a cumulative 2,231 yards.

With Jake Long and Vernon Carey leading the way, the Dolphins are grinders, to Williams' benefit. The offensive line is among the league's strongest when it comes to moving the ball (the second-highest power ranking on Football Outsiders). They'll keep Williams from absorbing more punishment than absolutely necessary.

Another factor increasing Williams' value is Ronnie Brown's mercurial career. The sixth-year man from Auburn has only one thousand yard season to his credit, and last season's injury was exacerbated by his offseason DUI. Though it's irrelevant to his health issues, the optics of the situation make Williams appear to have the inside track on the number one spot.

Then there's Miami's shiniest acquisition, Brandon Marshall. With him in the fold, Miami will look to pass more to justify their investment. Chad Henne is growing up quick, and his new target will insure that he'll have a home for wayward passes. Not only does this keep Williams' leg fresh, but it adds an element of unexpectedness that only the Wildcat really provided last season.

Finally, most of the credit for Williams' effectiveness this late in the game, is himself. If he's lost a step, it's a small one, because last season's production equalled anything he did six years ago. Though the sheer numbers aren't present, the ones he does put up are economical and exactly what the team needs from him. He's also the only back since Emmit Smith, Walter Payton, and OJ Anderson to have a thousand yard rushing season after turning 32.

Now he wants to stay in Miami another season. The NFL's mores would normally have Williams left wanting, but there's nothing really normal about Ricky Williams. That we're even having this discussion is baffling.

But considering the long, strange trip it's been, isn't there room for another season of Ricky?