Friday, August 31, 2007

NFL Preview: Titans

Tennessee Titans:

Cheers: Vince Young won rookie of the year. The Offensive Line isn’t that bad, and Bo Scaife made that one nice catch last year. Kyle Vanden Bosch isn’t a bad end and Chris Hope was great in the secondary last year. Bironas made that one long kick.

Jeers: They overachieved to reach mediocrity last year and then they got worse in the offseason. They downgraded an already weak offense and their defense wasn’t that good in the first place. Vince Young might as well be Nelson Muntz in that one Simpsons episode where he played Quarterback.

On second thought… I’m not quite sure what direction Tennessee was planning on going in this offseason. It’s puzzling. It’s like they were targeting a couple specific free agents and then missed out on them. They didn’t have a backup plan and they end up with Eric Moulds. Vince Young showed he could carry an offense for a little bit, but he can only do so much.

New guy who won’t meet expectations: Ryan Fowler. The Cowboys pulled a dick move here so I don’t like this guy.

New guy who will meet expectations: He’s not a bad corner, and he’ll help out an average secondary a little bit. As long as he’s not being tackled by his shoestrings by QBs in key spots in games, he’ll be an upgrade and provide help for the pass defense.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

NFL Preview: Dolphins and Redskins

Miami Dolphins:

Cheers: Jason Taylor had an awesome season last year, and he should still be a great player again this year. Ronnie Brown is a pretty complete back, even though he’s yet to really put it all together. They have some other solid contributors on defense as well, including veteran Zach Thomas.

Jeers: After a bad year in which they were almost preseason favorites to win the Super Bowl, Miami isn’t horrendously overrated heading into this year. Trent Green is running on empty and the price of oil is too high to refill his tank. Chambers is inconsistent and they don’t have much going for them in the passing game, O-Line included. The secondary still needs some work as well.

On second thought… the Dolphins haven’t been able to figure it out for a while now. They’ve wasted the careers of Jason Taylor and Zach Thomas and they’ve never been able to build a complete team around them. There’s no consistency; cutting Culpepper and trading for Green just screams quick fix, and it’s not going to work. Again.

New guy who won’t meet expectations: Trent Green. He’s not the same player he was a few years ago. Even before he even stepped on the field the day he got the concussion, he was on the decline. The injury only sped things up a bit. I have no idea why Miami thought this was a solution.

New guy who will meet expectations: Cory Schlesinger. He’s only a FB, but he’s a pretty underrated player. He’ll help out their running game a bit and he’ll provide an outlet, which Trent Green will desperately need a lot this year. I know he’s just a FB, but I wasn’t exactly enamored with their draft.

Washington Redskins:

Cheers: They should actually have a pretty explosive offense. Maybe I shouldn’t call it explosive, but it’ll still be pretty good. Portis is an elite back when he’s healthy, and Betts is one of the best backups in the league, who could probably be a starter in a lot of places. Jason Campbell looks like he’s coming into his own, and he has a couple weapons to throw to in Santana Moss and Chris Cooley.

Jeers: It’s unlike Gregg Williams, but the defense isn’t very good. Their pass rush is abysmal, and the run defense and secondary don’t make up for it. London Fletcher leads a pretty good group of Linebackers and they have a couple good corners, if Shaun Springs is healthy. And that’s not likely.

On second thought… Sean Taylor might be the most overrated player in the league.

They might end up around .500 at the end of the year. The defense isn’t as good as it was a couple years ago, but if their offense can put up points, the defense should be adequate enough for them to play spoiler. Someone has to step up on the DL and generate some pressure this year. It’ll make the whole defense better.

New guy who won’t meet expectations: As far as I’m concerned, Tyler Ecker. He’s buried so low on the depth chart he won’t have the chance to make bad plays costing his team the game.

New guy who will meet expectations: LaRon Landry. He hasn’t taken the field yet and he’s already the best safety on the team. He’s going to be a good one.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

NFL Preview: Raiders

Oakland Raiders:

Cheers: Well, they have a good defense. One of the best ones in the league, in fact. Derrick Burgess and a resurgent Warren Sapp were nightmares for QBs last year, and that allowed the secondary, particularly Nmandi Asomugha, to break out. Thomas Howard and Kirk Morrison are developing into very good Linebackers.

Jeers: If I had to choose a word to describe their offense, I would say incompetent. Lane Kiffin’s a good coach, but coaching can only do so much. Their Offensive Line is weak, they didn’t do much to improve it, and not only that, they’re not blocking for anyone. The running game is weak and the QB situation is unsettled.

On second thought… they stink again, that doesn’t require another thought. They had to make wholesale changes offensively, and they got a #1 overall pick who’s MIA.

New guy who won’t meet expectations: JaMarcus Russell. If you expect him to take the field, he’s not meeting expectations. He has to end the holdout now and get into practice.

New guy who will meet expectations: Mike Williams. Yeah, I went there. Maybe back in CA under a coach he knows he’ll wise up and improve. I loved the guy at USC, I hope he does.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

NFL Preview: Steelers and Patriots

Pittsburgh Steelers:

Cheers: Dick LeBeau is the youngest looking 70 year old ever. He’s also a great coordinator, who despite losing an (oft-injured) Joey Porter, will be able to put together a great defense. They have some good skill position players, including Willie Parker leading another great Pittsburgh running game, and Hines Ward, Santonio Holmes and Heath Miller providing a lot of targets in the passing game.

Jeers: They need to cut down on the mistakes, especially Big Ben. He was a weak link for their team last season, and he has to make better choices and throw fewer picks. Some players on the Offensive Line will also have to step up. After Jeff Hartings retired, they’re making some changes along the Offensive Line, so the new guys will need to step in and do a good job right away.

On second thought… don’t sleep on this team because they finished strong last year and they still have a lot of talent. If Big Ben cuts down on the picks, there will be a good passing game to compliment the run. As long as the secondary can hold up, their defense should be pretty good again.

New guy who won’t meet expectations: William Gay. If you expect him to make plays, the only play you should expect is him to line up offsides on crucial field goal attempts.

New guy who will meet expectations: Lamarr Woodley. He’s a great fit for the OLB position in Pitsburgh’s 3-4 defense. He’s a big, athletic player who has the ability to get to the QB.

New England Patriots:

Cheers: With Bill Belichick, you know you’re going to have a well coached team. Tom Brady is one of the best QBs in the league, and he has a lot more weapons than last year, if everyone can stay healthy. They have one of the best D-lines in baseball and two dangerous pass rushing Linebackers in Thomas and Colvin. They came close to returning to the Super Bowl last year, and they really worked hard to improve the team in the offseason.

Jeers: I would’ve liked to see them bring in another guy to compliment Maroney. I think he could’ve used another year of having a bigger back spell him for a bit, like Dillon did last year. Drafting Brandon Merriweather will help the secondary, but they still could’ve used a little more depth, and I think they dodged a bullet with Samuel agreeing to end his hold out.

On second thought… these guys are probably Super Bowl favorites. They’ve got great talent on both sides of the ball, and after coming just short last year, they reloaded in the offseason. If the receivers can stay healthy, the passing game could be more explosive than ever.

New guy who won’t meet expectations: Donte Stallworth. He’s already hurt, hasn’t even practiced much, and he’s going to lose his snaps with all the receivers New England has. He’s essentially working on a one year deal, so his start in New England doesn’t bode well for his future there.

New guy who will meet expectations: Adalius Thomas. This is so obvious because he was a marquee free agent going to a system that’s almost exactly like the one he came from, but he’s going to be good. Tully Banta-Cain was okay, but Thomas is going to generate enormous pressure on opposing QBs.

Monday, August 27, 2007

NFL Preview: Chiefs

Kansas City Chiefs:

Cheers: They have a great running game with Larry Johnson. His YPC wasn’t great last year, but he was as reliable as they come. He’s a bruising RB with quick feet who can really finish runs. The Chiefs also feature a pretty good pass rush, with veteran Jared Allen and a young up and comer in Tamba Hali. If they can stave off aging for one more year, Ty Law and Patrick Surtain should manage to stop a lot of receivers.

Jeers: They’ve always had a bad defense, and they didn’t do much to get better. They’re porous against the run, and a bit less against the pass. All of a sudden, their offense isn’t complete either. Trent Green wasn’t good even when he was healthy last year, but they have no passing game to speak of with Brodie Croyle taking over at QB. Their line is falling apart and they haven’t been able to plug in guys for retiring hall of famers.

On second thought… it was pretty lucky that they were able to sneak into the playoffs last year. I don’t see it happening again. Their offense is on the decline and the defense is moving laterally. I expected Herm Edwards to be doing a better job with these guys, but I look at the Chiefs and see a team that’s falling apart and has no direction.

New guy who won’t meet expectations: Dwayne Bowe. He was a pretty good player in college, but with as bad as the Chiefs’ receiver situation has been, he’s not going to provide an immediate answer. Besides Antonio Bryant, Kennison might be the worst 1000 yard receiver ever.

New guy who will meet expectations: Donnie Edwards. The Don will dominate again back in KC. He’s been underrated his entire career, and now he’ll have a chance to make plays alongside a rising star in Derrick Johnson. He’s changing systems, but Donnie’s ability will allow him to make a seamless transition.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

NFL Preview: Bengals

Cincinnati Bengals:

Cheers: Here’s another team with a powerful offense and weak defense. Even after suffering a major knee injury, Carson Palmer came back to prove he’s the same great player he was before. Throwing to another deep and talented group of receivers again this year, Palmer will continue to kill opposing defenses. Let’s not forget about their running game; Rudi Johnson puts up good numbers year after year, and he really completes the Bengals’ balanced offense.

Jeers: They’re one of the most incompetent defenses in the league. They have a pretty good pass rush, but that’s where the positives end. Their Linebackers have potential, but they need experience to get better. For someone who was a defensive coach before getting the head job in Cincy, you’d expect Marvin Lewis to do a better job with these guys.

On second thought… in an average division, the Bengals should be there right to the end. Their offense is good enough to score on anybody, and in some weeks, their defense might be able to make some plays. They have to have some young guys step up and play well defensively for the Bengals to get back into the playoffs after falling short last year. The offense is a lock to be there and lighting up the scoreboard every game.

New guy who won’t meet expectations: Ed Hartwell. They brought him in to bring experience to the Linebackers, but I’m not sure how much he has left in the tank. He was a heralded free agent out of Baltimore, but he got banged up a bit and struggled after signing in Atlanta. He can stop the run, but he’s a liability in pass coverage.

New guy who will meet expectations: Leon Hall. He inexplicably fell into their laps on draft day, and the Bengals came away with a good corner. He had a great career at Michigan, and he’ll provide depth to a secondary that’s lacking it. He’ll eventually unseat veteran Deltha O’Neal and form one of the better younger corner duos in the league with Johnathan Joseph.

NFL Preview: Saints

New Orleans Saints

Cheers: After a rough 2005 season for obvious reasons, the Saints committed to bringing football back to New Orleans, and they did so in a big way. With Deuce McAllister and Reggie Bush providing a great running game and Drew Brees leading the aerial attack, the Saints have one of the best offenses in football. Surprise performances from Marques Colston and Jahri Evans helped catapult the Saints from second to worst to almost first.

Jeers: Their defense, save a pretty good pass rush, stunk, and they sat on their hands a bit too much in the offseason. They got pretty fluky performances up the middle from Hollis Thomas and Mark Simoneau, and leaving those positions un-upgraded is asking for trouble. Their secondary got hurt by big plays last year, and they didn’t do enough to help them out either.

On second thought… they’re still one of the best teams in the NFC and a definite Super Bowl contender. The offense is so good, the defense only has to be marginal for the Saints to win games. They have a good coaching staff and they know how to get the most out of otherwise scrap heap players.

New guy who won’t meet expectations: Jason David. This was their big splash or whatever to improve the secondary, and he’s an average player. He’s not going to repair a bad patchwork secondary. He’s a fresh face, and after last year, that might be something to be excited about, but I don’t see the Saints defensive backfield being any better next year.

New guy who will meet expectations: Eric Johnson. If he can stay healthy, he’s a really good, underrated player. If there was one weak spot on the Saints’ offense last year, it was their lack of production from the TE position. Johnson is a legitimate receiving threat and he occasionally showed that before being shown the door.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Eagles @ Steelers Preview

The Eagles will have their dress rehearsal preseason game, in which the starters get the most playing time. Next week against the Jets, you probably won’t see any starters, and the backups will get their last shot to prove they deserve to make the cut. After the game in which the starters play a whole half or even more, you want to come away confident that they’re ready for the regular season. If these three matchups turn out successful, I’m confident the Eagles are ready to go.

Donovan McNabb vs. Pittsburgh pass rush- He did a good job in the game against Carolina, and it would be great to see a similar effort from McNabb again. He was sharp throwing the ball, his mobility wasn’t limited and he took a couple hits and bounced right up. The 3-4 can bring some interesting blitzes, so McNabb has to be ready for anything. I don’t know how much Pittsburgh will bring pressure in a preseason game, but it’s something to keep an eye on.

Jamaal Jackson vs. Casey Hampton- Jackson struggled a bit against Haloti Ngata in Baltimore’s sometimes 3-4 defense in the first game, and blocking the nose tackle is the key to success against the 3-4. This has been an Achilles heel of the Eagles of recent year, and Jackson has to be the guy to step up and help fix the problem.

Eagles’ front seven vs. Pittsburgh running game- Obviously it’s going to be interesting to see how the Eagles do without Trotter. Pittsburgh has, always has and always will have a great running game. Willie Parker is a complete back that can hurt you in a lot of ways, so the Eagles need to show that we’re watching the same movie from last year, and we didn’t like how that one ended. Omar Gaither is going to need to show the fans that he’s capable of doing the job because a lot of people are upset at letting go of Trotter.

Three more players to watch:

Nick Cole- In the replace Shawn Andrews roulette, everything’s coming up Cole this week. It’s his turn to start with the 1’s after a strong game against Carolina. He played RG very well, despite Pat McCoy making it look like he wasn’t doing a very good job. He blew guys off the ball and showed he’s a pretty good run blocker. He deserves the chance to show what he can do.

Ian Scott- If he plays, with the exception of Ramsey, who wasn’t going to be dressed on game day anyway, the Eagles will have all of the DTs for the first time in the preseason. We signed him with the intention of him playing pretty well against the run. He’s a bit bigger than our other tackles, and he’s going to have to show he can hang tough and improve the middle of the defense.

Brian Dawkins- He’s finally expected to play after dealing with a leg injury for much of camp. I don’t know how much he’ll play, but hopefully he shows he can move around and won’t be affected by the injury. Hopefully he was being held out for a while as a precaution and this won’t be something that lingers throughout the season.

NFL Preview: Jaguars

Jacksonville Jaguars:

Cheers: If you believe in a strong running game and defense winning you championships, then the Jaguars are contenders to you. Maurice Drew and Fred Taylor provide one of the best running duos in the league, and they have a pretty good line to open holes for them. They have a great defense with Rashean Mathis and Brian Williams being one of the better corner pairs in the league. In addition to them, they can get a good pass rush from the outside and their tackles are huge run stuffers.

Jeers: They have to stay healthy and they have to get something out of their passing game. Between taking sacks and getting hurt, Byron Leftwich hasn’t developed into the player everyone thought he could be. His receivers haven’t helped much, but with Dennis Northcutt in the fold, the passing game has no excuse to not get better. It’s time for them to make the leap and become a good playoff team. They’ve been a fringe playoff team for a few years now, and they need to get over the hump.

On second thought… I sit here looking at the numbers from last year, and I can’t figure out why they weren’t a playoff team. They had one of the best defenses in the league and a pretty strong running game. I find it hard to believe that David Garrard was that detrimental, but I guess he had to have been. Although Dennis Northcutt obviously isn’t an upper echelon player, his speed compliments Leftwich’s ability more than the other, maybe more talented receivers do, and he’ll help out a lot.

New guy who won’t meet expectations: Tony Pashos. I am absolutely baffled that this guy is getting a starting job after he was nothing but mediocre in Baltimore. Baltimore thought so little of him that they got rid of him, and they don’t have a world beating line themselves. I don’t see them getting much of an upgrade at tackle here.

New guy who will meet expectations: Dennis Northcutt. I’ve already talked about him twice, and it’s getting to the point where I’m giving him too much credit. He’s a speedy receiver who will do well with the starting job and Leftwich’s strong arm. He could be the guy that helps the slumbering pass offense wake up.

Friday, August 24, 2007

NFL Preview: Colts

Indianapolis Colts:

Cheers: They’re the defending Super Bowl champs. They have probably the best offense in the league with future Hall of Famers Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison, as well as the very skilled Reggie Wayne, Joseph Addai and Dallas Clark and a very good Offensive Line. These guys can put up so many points in so many ways, it’s almost unfair to line up a defense against them.

Jeers: Their run defense is still awful, and losing Cato June isn’t going to help. It didn’t stop them last year, but I don’t know if lightning is going to strike twice. They have to do something to play consistently against the run and actually stop a team or two if they want to repeat as champs.

On second thought… they’re still the top dog in an average division. Peyton’s going to score his points and the Colts will almost certainly have 11 or 12 wins. The difference between playing on Wild Card Weekend and getting a bye rests in the hands of Tony Dungy and what he can do to improve the bad defense.

New guy who won’t meet expectations: Rick DeMulling. This one’s tough because I like all of their offseason acquisitions, but DeMulling won’t be the same player he was in his last stint with the team. After being a late round pick by the Colts, he blossomed into being a pretty good guard. He struggled a bit in Detroit and came back, but he has to compete for a job and I’m not sure he’ll win it.

New guy who will meet expectations: Daymeion Hughes. He was another guy who fell because of his 40 yard dash time, which is a shame because he was one of the best corners in the country in his Cal career. He’s an aggressive playmaker who could bring a spark to Indy’s pass defense and make some big plays.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

NFL Preview: Texans

Houston Texans:

Cheers: With veteran Ahman Green in the picture now, Houston’s running game will be a bit better and they’ll be able to control the clock. With Andre Johnson and the underrated Owen Daniels catching passes, Matt Schaub will have a chance to break out and prove he was worth the draft picks and big contract. The defense has a few young players that could provide a spark. Their return game should be set with hopefully healty Jerome Mathis.

Jeers: They’re getting younger and better on the Offensive Line, but they still have some work to do. The Charles Spencer injury was a rough blow for him and the team because in his first few games, he looked like he was going to become a great player. I don’t think Matt Schaub is all he’s cracked up to be either. Their defense still won’t be anything more than mediocre, even though Dunta Robinson is a pretty good corner and they have the reigning Defensive Rookie of the Year in DeMeco Ryans.

On second thought… it’s going to be back to the drawing board again for Houston. I don’t get why they refuse to make more upgrades on the Offensive Line. They’ve had four years to figure it out and they still haven’t. You can’t win with a mediocre unit, and even though Eric Winston is going to be very good and Flanagan is a leader at center, you need more than two players. Their secondary isn’t very good either.

New guy who won’t meet expectations: Amobe Okoye. He was a top 10 pick, but he’s still very young and raw. He has the potential to be a good player, and that’s why he was drafted. The Texans were looking a few years down the road with this pick and not about 2007. They should start thinking of a way to get to a few years down the road before they make plans for it.

New guy who will meet expectations: Ahman Green. He’s an underrated veteran with experience in the offense, and he’s going to pay dividends for Houston’s running game. He’s a multi talented back who can catch the ball as well, so he’ll provide a safety valve for Schaub in addition to running for over 1000 yards.

NFL Preview: Chargers

San Diego Chargers:

Cheers: Any time you have someone like LT in your backfield, you have a chance to win games. Antonio Gates is a great playmaker from TE, and Philip Rivers is an efficient QB with a lot of room to grow. They feature a pretty good Offensive Line led by the super underrated Mike Goff, and we haven’t even looked at their defense yet. They have a strong line anchored by nose tackle Jamal Williams and end Luis Castillo (who probably hits better with runners in scoring position than his baseball counterpart.) Shawne Merriman is a nightmare for opposing QBs and they have a decent secondary. You don’t win as many games as they did without having a lot of talent.

Jeers: Norv Turner has never had success as a head coach. This team fired Marty Schottenheimer because of a petty dispute with GM A.J. Smith, and although he had some serious play calling problems in the playoffs, he got them to 14-2! He obviously had to do something right, and the Chargers really downgraded their staff. They also got rid of Charger defensive mainstay Donnie Edwards. Merriman was the flashier player, but Edwards made that defense go, and they’re not going to be as good as they were last year.

On second thought… these guys are a Super Bowl contender. They have a balanced offense led by an all time great in the backfield (two, if you count the guy blocking for him) and an aggressive defense that can get after the QB. I have no confidence in Norv Turner doing a good job, but there’s too much talent for anyone to waste there, right?

New guy who won’t meet expectations: Craig Davis. It was an absolute reach to take him in the first round, and even though San Diego isn’t exactly synonymous with receiver talent and depth, I don’t foresee him getting that much playing time.

New guy who will meet expectations: Paul Oliver. This is a cheap pick because he was a supplemental draft guy, but I’m surprised the Chargers were the ones who ended up landing him. Maybe there’s something we don’t know, but I don’t get why more teams wouldn’t want to spend a 3rd or 4th rounder on this guy. He’s got serious talent.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Trotter Released

As you all probably found out by now, Jeremiah Trotter was cut by the Eagles after seven years and two stints with the Eagles. He was a four time Pro Bowler and in his prime, he was one of the best Linebackers in the league. In 2004, he was a big part of why the Eagles were able to make it over the hump and finally get to the Super Bowl. Remember, the Eagles were starting Simoneau and getting killed against the run. Trotter comes in and the defense improves. He made some pretty big plays against Minnesota and Atlanta, and he’ll definitely be missed.

From an on the field standpoint, this is a good move. Although he’s only 30 and that isn’t the doomsday year it used to be, Trotter was worn down. His aggressive, downhill style saw him receive more than his fair share of contact over the years. Combined with his serious knee injury he suffered in Washington, he just couldn’t move around well enough to be an effective player anymore.

The Eagles struggled against the run for a lot of reasons, but Trotter was one of them. I’m not going to criticize him because he was unhappy with the size of the guys lining up in front of him. He has a lot of pride and he’s not the kind of guy that’s going to take the blame when an entire team is doing something wrong. Trotter was a big believer in manning up against the other team and playing tough. That’s exactly what he did, so in his mind, he wasn’t doing anything wrong.

However, while he was playing tough, he wasn’t playing smart. While he was banging into the center “disrupting” plays, he wasn’t penetrating the gaps he needed to to stop the run. He made some key stops and made a lot of backs bounce the play outside when they didn’t want to in his day, but his style wasn’t getting it done anymore. It was time to move in a different direction.

Now, Omar Gaither will step in as the starter at MIKE. Gaither is obviously smaller than Trotter is, and a lot of people like to have a MLB that’s big. Size isn’t the only quality a MLB should have, and you don’t even need to be big to be good at the position. The MIKE has to be athletic because in the 4-3, it’s his job to cover two gaps. MLB is more than banging bodies in the middle. There’s a lot of responsibility and ability that’s required to play the position. Trotter didn’t have the athletic ability to do that anymore.

Hopefully Gaither can step up and handle the role. He’s a relatively unproven player who only started a handful of games at WIL last year. He was pretty impressive then, and the Eagles need that to translate to the middle now. We don’t know how he’ll hold up against the run, but we do know that he’s an upgrade in pass defense. He has experience playing all three Linebacker positions, and he can play both man and zone coverage. One of the problems with Trotter was he couldn’t be in the game on passing downs. When he was only in on the so-called running downs, teams could make appropriate adjustments and exploit him in the passing game. Gaither can play all three downs.

Where Trot’s really going to be missed is his emotional leadership ability. Every Sunday, you knew you were getting a guy who loves football and was excited to play every day. Teammates looked to this guy to get fired up. When you turned on an Eagles game, saw him leading the team out of the tunnel carrying an Eagles flag, saw him feeding off Dawk making big plays and getting the fans pumped, you knew the game was in good hands. Takeo Spikes should be able to bring the same fiery leadership, but the fans are going to miss Trotter on game days.

It was tough listening to that press conference. When Trotter tells you that both he and Andy Reid cried over the decision to do this, you’re reminded how tough the business can be. He was so upset; the man wanted to play football here. He loved the city, the team and the fans. Dawkins sounded drained. He couldn’t believe it. It’s tough to lose a fan favorite when it still looks like he could play a little bit. It’s something that had to be done, and I think we need to trust the Eagles’ judgment here, because their track record shows they know what they’re doing in situations like this.

Thank you, Jeremiah. You’ve done a lot for the Eagles and their fans, and this has to be one of the hardest things Reid has ever done. I really wish we could’ve won a title with you, but I bet you’ll feel like you’re there when our guys finally lift the Lombardi Trophy.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Panthers @ Eagles Review

I wanted to see improvement and I got a face full of it. Let’s review the notes I talked about in my preview, and then I’ll get to my thoughts on the rest of the game.

Tony Hunt- He did what we asked him to do, and he did a good job in short yardage situations. He pounded the ball on the goal line and scored a couple of times. He really didn’t get a chance to do much else because Nate Ilaoa was getting a lot of looks in the second half.

Max Jean-Gilles- I didn’t actually see Scott Young play at all, so I’m glad that Jean-Gilles got all of the snaps with the first team. He didn’t seem to blow guys off the ball like you would like to see and expect from him, but he maintained contact to help open up holes. If Andrews is out for a significant amount of time, this is the guy I want in. He’s a big body with big potential.

Mike Patterson- He got some nice pressure on the QB in his time in the game, and it resulted in at least one sack. As long as he keeps working hard to stay low and get off the ball, he’ll be fine when he’s getting his rest.

Takeo Spikes- Spikes showed improvement in his second game. He was careful to not overrun a play when he had the opportunity to make a good tackle, and he did a great job of fighting through traffic to get to the ball. That’s what we brought him in here to do, and hopefully he can bust up screens the same way he did on Friday.

William James- He didn’t completely suck, so that’s an improvement. Dropped an easy pick, but the deflected pass is nice too.

Dirk Johnson- He had another pretty good game, but again, he was outclassed by Rocca. Dirk is doing enough to win the job in most years, but he doesn’t stand a chance against Rocca. You have to respect him for going out there and doing his job even though the writing is on the wall.

Running game- This still needs a lot of work. Either the starters are mailing home the preseason, which I guess they have the right to do, or Shawn Andrews means much more to this team than we know. Westbrook didn’t even average 3 yards a carry and they couldn’t sustain anything on the ground all night. The Offensive Line was a huge strength and advantage last year, and it’s been nothing so far.

Penetration- The Defensive Line played a lot better. The tackles had a much better game and even without Kearse, the ends weren’t bad either. Except for a couple long runs, Carolina’s ground game was stifled and the line had a lot to do with that. As Kearse and Ian Scott work their way back, things will get better.

Pass rush- I don’t know if it was Carolina’s line or Delhomme’s indecisiveness, but even just a four man rush was suffocating. Pressure came from the tackles just as much as the ends, and the Panthers’ QBs were forced into mistakes. Getting good contributions from a lot of guys is going to do wonders for the Eagles defense.

I don’t know if it was McNabb’s return or playing in front of the home fans, but the team just seemed more energized. The game was a complete 180 from what we sat through on Monday night.

McNabb looked sharp. Some of his throws were even better than what we’ve seen from him ever. He had no problem planting and throwing strikes right on the numbers. He made an awesome touch pass to Schobel between two defenders. He took a couple of hits and bounced right back up. You couldn’t have asked for a better debut. Kolb took more chances downfield and looked alright again.

NFL Preview: Bears

Chicago Bears:
One of the league’s most dangerous defenses remained largely untouched, and Lance Briggs remains in the fold. When the front four was healthy, they were able to put immense pressure on the QB and allow their defensive backs to make plays. They were strong against the run when Tommie Harris was healthy and having a great year at DT. Brian Urlacher is a great Linebacker, and as long as Briggs stays motivated in another contract year, he’ll form one of the best LB duos in the league. No one even knows who the third guy is though.

Jeers: They really didn’t do much to upgrade the offense, and it might’ve even gotten worse. They drafted Greg Olsen in the first round, but you have to wonder how much he’ll impact the passing game early in his career. Mushin Muhammad is on the decline, and although Bernard Berrian provided a spark last year, they don’t have much beyond them. After trading Thomas Jones in the offseason, they’re relying heavily on the unproven Cedric Benson, who should be playing with a chip on his shoulder for two bad years. Rex Grossman.

On second thought… they’ll probably be able to roll over the weak division again because as much crap as they take for their poor Super Bowl showing, they’re still a good team. You kind of get the feeling that they sat on their hands a bit too much in the offseason though. Rex Grossman is going to have to play more consistently for these guys to get back to where they were, because he really hurt them in some games last year.

New guy who won’t meet expectations: Greg Olsen. He became overrated because he looked good without a shirt on in Indianapolis. This guy didn’t play well in big games, dropped passes and can’t block. He’s an average prospect who won’t be anything more than an average player.

New guy who will meet expectations: No one. They had the worst offseason to date in doing these, and I don’t see a single guy that I can say “you know, this guy will be pretty good.”

Saturday, August 18, 2007

NFL Preview: Your Philadelphia Eagles

Philadelphia Eagles:

Cheers: The guys at the top take a lot of heat for not winning a championship yet, but like the Colts, if the Eagles keeping plugging away and keep retooling, it will come. The Eagles have one of the most explosive offenses in the league, no matter who is at QB. Lead by a strong Offensive Line, skill players like Brian Westbrook, Reggie Brown and L.J. Smith put up a lot of points in a hurry. Great players on defense like Brian Dawkins and Lito Sheppard lead a good defense that can force turnovers and keep the team in the game just about every week.

Jeers: A.J. Feeley is a good backup, but McNabb needs to stay healthy this year. Some other injuries are a concern as well, including Dawkins, Smith and Shawn Andrews. The defense got gouged by the run last year, and they didn’t do that much to improve it. Takeo Spikes isn’t the player he used to be, and they didn’t really beef up the middle of the defense at all.

On second thought… it looks like the Eagles won’t have a problem making the playoffs again. They have a complete team, and they’re no worse than a couple other teams in the NFC competing for the Super Bowl. They were a couple games away last year, and if they can stay healthy, they’ll be able to get back over the hump with the new pieces in place.

New guy who won’t meet expectations: Takeo Spikes. Don’t get me wrong, he’s going to be a good addition, but people need to dampen their excitement. This isn’t the same Takeo Spikes you remember reading about in Cincinnati. Injuries have slowed him down a bit, and he isn’t quite the explosive playmaker he used to be. He still represents an upgrade over what the Eagles had, but he’s not going to be a Pro Bowl player.

New guy who will meet expectations: Montae Reagor. I hope picking a deep sleeper here doesn’t come back to bite me in the ass, but Eagles fans are going to be surprised by this guy. He’s got a quick first step and he can get great penetration. If he’s kept fresh and can stay healthy, he’ll be a great situational pass rusher and get to a lot of QBs.

Friday, August 17, 2007

NFL Preview: Rams and Lions

St. Louis Rams:

Cheers: The Rams will once again have a great, balanced offense. Stephen Jackson has emerged as an elite back and he could be producing Tomlinson-like numbers very soon. As always, they’ll have a dominant passing attack led by QB Marc Bulger. Torry Holt is Torry Holt, and although Isaac Bruce is aging, he’s still a pretty good player and Drew Bennett provides good depth. Jim Haslett will do what he can to get the most out of the defense, which is still retooling.

Jeers: They just don’t have the players on defense to get the job done yet. Tye Hill is developing into a decent corner, but they still have a weak secondary. Their Linebackers are solid and some bad picks and moves on the D-Line have set them back a bit there. Their Offensive Line is going to have to be more disciplined this year. They commit too many penalties and they have to cut down on their mistakes.

On second thought… they’re definitely contenders in a watered-down NFC West. No team has an elite roster, and the Rams should be right up there with the 49ers and Seahawks. They have a great offense and enough playmakers on defense that could swing the division balance back into their favor for the first time in a few years.

New guy who won’t meet expectations: Randy McMichael. He’s probably already hit his peak, and he’s not as good of a player as he used to be. He’s not much of an upgrade over Joe Klopfenstein or Dominique Byrd, who they drafted just last year.

New guy who will meet expectations: Brian Leonard. It’s kind of puzzling that they drafted a RB this high in the draft, but they should be able to get good use out of him. He’s a versatile player that can block and catch, and he could become a valuable weapon spelling Steven Jackson.

Detroit Lions

Cheers: Jon Kitna may not throw for 50 TDs, but they still have an explosive offense. Roy Williams is emerging as an elite playmaker at receiver, and even though they don’t have Charles Rogers and Mike Williams anymore, they have good depth with Mike Furrey and top draft pick Calvin Johnson. Without Kevin Jones, they’re going to have to make due without their very good back, but Tatum Bell should be a decent fit for them.

Jeers: Although Rod Marinelli is a defensive coach, he’s going to have a tough time getting something out of his unit this year. They have a solid line that can get to the QB, but besides Ernie Sims, their LBs are lacking. After trading Dre Bly, they’re also missing a playmaker in the secondary. Their Offensive Line has to grow and get better to help make the offense work again.

On second thought… Jon Kitna’s prediction of 10 wins is probably off base. The Lions still have some work to do, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. They have the playmakers on offense, but now they need to put everything together and execute on a consistent basis. Marinelli needs to continue to bring in new defensive personnel until they get 11 guys who can play.

New guy who won’t meet expectations: Calvin Johnson. I know he has better physical attributes than any other receiver since maybe Moss, but he’s going to be the slot receiver this year. Rookie receivers tend to struggle, and as good as Johnson will probably be, I don’t see him busting out and having a huge year like a lot of people think.

New guy who will meet expectations: Dewayne White. I have no choice but to say this, I couldn’t pick out any other of their new additions. He was a pretty good pass rusher in TampaBay, and Marinelli thought enough of him to coach him again in Detroit.

Panthers @ Eagles Preview

Because the first game was bad and we’re inching closer and closer to the regular season, we should be looking for improvement. Let’s take a look at some players and items that need to improve against Carolina.


Tony Hunt- He’s getting carries with the first team on Friday, so he obviously has to step up his game. I don’t know how much blocking he’ll have to do on the goal line, but his overall performance was mediocre.

Max Jean-Gilles- He wasn’t that impressive against Baltimore, and he has to step up his game because he’s filling in for Andrews against Carolina. He has a similar body, so hopefully he learns to play in a similar way.

Mike Patterson- While Bunkley was hurting Baltimore’s timing on just about every play, Patterson was being neutralized at the line of scrimmage. He needs to get a push. His asset is his ability to get off the ball fast and get quick penetration, so he has to do it. A stalemate isn’t good enough.

Takeo Spikes- He made a lackluster preseason debut, and in front of the home fans, he’ll want to make an impression. He has to show the ability to fight off blocks and make the tackle. He’s a big guy, he should be able to handle it. We need him to.

William James- He absolutely deserves to be ragged on every chance anyone gets. I’m kind of worried about our depth at corner if this guy can’t get better. He looked awful against Baltimore, and although he was covering a quick guy in Mark Clayton, there’s no excuse for being beat as bad as he was.

Dirk Johnson- Normally his punting against Baltimore wouldn’t be cause for concern, but if he wants to remain an NFL player, he has to out-punt Rocca at this point. Rocca may be inconsistent, but I’ll take the inconsistency going from 40 to 60 yard punts instead of 25 to 40 like we have with Dirk.


Running game- It was absolutely dreadful against the Ravens. Two Quarterbacks were in the top 3 on our team in rushing. It starts from the coaching and it goes down to both the backs and the line. We have to try and establish the running game as a threat. We passed a lot in Baltimore and there was no reason for the Ravens to sit on the run. The backs have to get going north and south, and the Offensive Line has to execute their assignments. I wouldn’t mind seeing more two back sets and Thomas Tapeh. He was a key in the running game last year and he didn’t play much on Monday.

Penetration- Bunkley isn’t the only Defensive Tackle on the roster, right? Patterson was outplayed by Jeremy Clark. The middle of our defense was awful last year, and I know we’re missing a couple guys due to injury that hurt our depth, but Patterson has to be better. We’re going to go as far as Bunkley, Patterson, Scott, Reagor and whoever else take us.

Pass rush- I’m going after the D-Line again. McNair had too much time on a lot of passes, and I know we didn’t blitz a lot, but the front four has to be able to get the job done itself sometime. This killed us in 03 and 05. Kearse is working his way back to health and I’m confident in him for the most part, but Darren Howard was a bust last year, and Trent Cole is a situational player. Mike Patterson was drafted to get sacks and he has to do it.

Let’s look for these things in 5’s return to the field on Friday night against Carolina.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

NFL Preview: Falcons, Cardinals, Seahawks and Panthers

Atlanta Falcons

Cheers: Even though veteran Warrick Dunn may be slowing down, they’ll still have a pretty good running game with Jerious Norwood backing him up. Their Offensive Line can’t protect the passer very well, but they’ve done a good job of opening up holes in the running game for a while now. If their defense manages to stay kind of healthy, they should have one of the better ones in the league with a pretty good pass rush.

Jeers: Vick is no top tier QB, but they’re still downgrading to Joey Harrington. They’ve never had a strong passing game for a number of reasons. One, Vick can’t pass. Two, they can’t block long enough for him to pass. Three, their receivers were as bad as the Eagles pre-TO days. They’ve put a band-aid over the receiver problem with Joe Horn, but with his injuries, you have to wonder how much relief he can bring. Their secondary is no more than mediocre, led by DeAngelo Hall, who has to be on of the most overrated players in the league.

On second thought… here’s another mediocre team. Their strong running game will be weakened without Vick, and it’s going to be interesting to see how the offense responds without the threat of a running QB. Injuries have banged up their defense in recent years so it’s tough to get a read on how good they are, but without Patrick Kerney, who was a difference maker when healthy, they’re not going to be as good. DeAngelo Hall needs to step up and finally live up to expectations to lead the secondary.

New guy who won’t meet expectations: Joey Harrington? They really don’t have any guys that have huge bust potential, but as of right now, Harrington is their starting QB. I say he won’t meet expectations because he won’t be by the end of the season.

New guy who will meet expectations: Ovie Mughelli. The Falcons have gotten decent play out of the FB position as of late, and when they had to bring in a new guy, they grabbed one of the most underrated players in the league. He’s an okay blocker and he has good ball skills. He’ll help out the Falcons a lot.

Arizona Cardinals

Cheers: They have great skill position players that can put up a lot of points in not a lot of time. Their young receivers are possibly the best duo in the league, and Bryant Johnson stepped up a bit in Fitz’ absence last year, even though he was previously a pretty big bust. Matt Leinart will continue to come into his own this year and help the passing game take the next step. Edge is better than he showed last year, and with Ken Whisenhunt in the fold, the toughness this team needs on both sides of the ball should be there.

Jeers: Their Offensive Line moved laterally in the offseason. Although they improved late in the year with some personnel changes, at this point, Levi Brown isn’t any better than Leonard Davis yet. Whisenhunt’s experience will help some. Their defense is also transitioning into a 3-4, and I don’t know if they have the personnel to do it. Of course, I also said that about the Chargers when they made the switch a few years ago, and look at what they did. I looked like an idiot.

On second thought… this may be the year the Cardinals finally break out, but I wouldn’t count on it. They’re going to put up a lot of points and be one of the best offenses in the league, but they’ll be closer to Cincinnati last year than Indianapolis the past few years. They still need to work out the players on their defense to figure out what works and who they need to bring in.

New guy who won’t meet expectations: Rod Hood. When Lito Sheppard was hurt in 2005, he did a pretty good job of filling in. Last year, he became overrated. He’s a decent nickel back and okay if you need a guy to start for a game or two, but he’s not good enough to be a full time starter. The Cardinals will be relying on him for that, and that’s bad news.

New guy who will meet expectations: Levi Brown. The Cardinals had problems running the ball last year, and Brown is a guy who’s going to help with that. At Penn State, he worked in a system that relied heavily on a power running game with Tony Hunt, and his big body is going to be great for Edge too. He’s not the greatest pass protector yet, but with Matt Leinart at QB, Brown won’t be protecting his blind side.

Seattle Seahawks

Cheers: They’ve been one of the more consistent teams in the league the past few seasons, and despite several injuries that would’ve sunk a lot of teams, they made the playoffs anyway. A healthy Shaun Alexander will be huge for them, and he should be better than he was last year. Hasselbeck is still one of the better QBs in the league, and they don’t have a bad defense.

Jeers: Losing players and not adequately replacing them has to catch up to them sometime, right? They traded Darrell Jackson for a draft pick a year after losing guard Steve Hutchinson, who they visibly missed in 2006. They just never seem to do what it takes to retool and make sure they stay on top, but it’s worked out so far. They return a pretty solid defense with Pat Kerney hopefully providing an upgrade over Grant Wistrom, a free agent bust.

On second thought… They’re the leaders of a mediocre division top to bottom, but they remained stagnant while everyone else got better. It took until the final couple weeks to claim the division again, and it’s going to be another battle this year. They have to stay healthy, or someone is going to step up and take it from them.

New guy who won’t meet expectations: Brian Russell. After starting to play a bit better in Cleveland, he was brought in by the Seahawks to compete to replace Ken Hamlin. He’s not Ken Hamlin, even though Ken has missed his fair share of games recently.

New guy who will meet expectations: Don’t see any that stand out, so I’ll say Deon Grant takes the FS job from Russell and does okay.

Carolina Panthers:

Cheers: They’re preseason favorites every year, and after September, we always wonder what we were thinking. Obviously when you think Carolina, you think defense, and this year is no different. They return Julius Peppers and a good cast of characters on the line as well as some pretty good players in the secondary, even though Chris Gamble took a step back last year. Steve Smith is one of the best playmakers in the game and DeAngelo Williams will come into his own and become one of the better backs in the league.

Jeers: Jake Delhomme has to play 100% better than he did last year, or he’s going to lose his job. He’s always been a bit aggressive and turned the ball over a bit, but he had a really rough year last year, in part due to injuries to him and the guys around him. David Carr is breathing down his neck and could step in at any time. The defense can’t blow late leads like they did all of last year. That’s really a luck thing and a trend I don’t expect to continue in 2007.

On second thought… after 2006 dampened people’s excitement for this team, they could sneak up on some people this year. They don’t have a bad core, but they need to stay healthy and get some good contributions from young guys and role players. Their Linebacker play has to be better and the offense’s success could hinge on Carolina finally getting a running game with DeAngelo Williams.

New guy who won’t meet expectations: Jon Beason. He’s going to have to fight for his playing time and unless Dan Morgan gets hurt, he’s not going to get it. So in other words, he will get playing time. Very quickly. Hopefully he fares better than the last Miami LB they drafted.

New guy who will meet expectations: Dwayne Jarrett. He slipped because of his 40 time. His stinking 40 yard dash. He was a great player at USC and he’ll be a great player in Carolina. He’s a pretty big guy with good hands, kind of in the mold of Anquan Boldin. He should be able to get playing time right away and develop into a good player. One of the better steals of the draft for Carolina.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Eagles @ Ravens Review

The Eagles had a pretty rough go of things, so this is going to be more critical than positive. I’m just going to throw my thoughts down the way I put them down on the piece of paper I had.

Jeremy Bloom’s night started off poorly. I didn’t like his first return because he cut outside right into a coverage guy when it looked like he had a lane inside. He calmed down and made nice returns after that. He got upfield fast and showed explosiveness not seen in the Eagles return game in forever. What interested me most was what he showed at receiver. He caught the ball with his hands and quickly turned upfield to get yards after the catch. He has potential there, and that’s going to make his value skyrocket.

I was a bit worried about the play calling again this year when we got a delay of game on the first series, but that didn’t develop into a problem over the game. Nevertheless; get the play in on time.

Chris Gocong had a nice start to the game, and I think the first play is a preview of what we’ll see a lot of this season. The Eagles lined him up on a classic high school lightning blitz and turned him loose against McNair. He didn’t get the sack, but he was explosive. I’m going to be using that word a few more times, because it’s something I was impressed with and will get to later. He had a great burst and good closing speed and nearly chased down McNair, who was rolling the other way. He got crossed up in coverage, but he’s learning a new position. He’ll get better.

William James, for all the trash talking you did over the offseason, you’ve disappointed me so far. I haven’t heard good things about you in training camp, and seeing you against Baltimore You were very clearly a step behind your man all night, and it didn’t look like you were up to the task of handling fast receivers. This isn’t good for someone who declared himself a starter. didn’t help.

They need to find the ball better. The Ravens ran two naked bootlegs and Jevon Kearse was the only player to catch on to either of them. The Eagles went with the flow of the play and didn’t find the ball, allowing for easy yards for the Ravens. Teams can do that up and down the field all game long, they need to pay attention.

I wasn’t a Sean Considine fan last season, but it’s clear he worked hard to get bigger and improve against the run. He made a nice hit early in the game and was good in run support. However, it looks like his man caught the TD on Baltimore’s early long drive. The D-Line didn’t get a great push so he had to cover for a long time, but it’s still not something you want to do. Being good against the run and bad against the pass is an upgrade over being bad against both last year. If he can be Michael Lewis this season, I’ll take it.

It would’ve been nice to see Takeo Spikes make a better debut. He struggled a bit fighting off blockers, and that was our problem last year. It has to be fixed. That’s why he was brought in here. He flies to the ball, but on one play, he just completely overran Todd Heap and missed a tackle. He has to play under control and make the plays.

The second team Offensive Line was dreadful. I’m pretty sure the talent is there. I even said last week four of our second string linemen could start on some teams, but they certainly didn’t show it. To me, it looked like they just showed up five minutes before the game, put on the pads and took the field. Like they never played with each other before. They played as individuals and not as a unit. That’s more important than having one standout talent. If they don’t play as a group, things fall apart, and that’s exactly what happened. Guys didn’t know their assignments and there were missed blocks. On one running play, two defensive linemen were double teamed. I’m not an expert on the Eagles’ blocking schemes and playbook, but that can’t be right. Several players came free and clogged the hole. In pass protection, blitzers came free with regularity. The tackle has to be able to trust the guard to get a guy so he can handle someone else. They just needs reps working together.

Whether or not the Ravens blitzed more than everyone expected or what the Eagles game planned for, they have to be better on Friday. Have to be.

The QBs were sharp. Holcomb did a good job of completing passes and for the most part, he got rid of the ball fast. That’s one thing I noticed all three of them did; they dropped back, made their reads and threw the ball. A couple problems I noticed with Holcomb; he stares down receivers, and he turns into Drew Bledsoe when someone isn’t open. He’ll hold onto the ball and just get pummeled. I know some guys can’t run, but you have to try.

While I’m on the QBs, Kevin Kolb impressed me. This was the first time I’ve been able to see him play, and he did a good job meeting expectations, despite the lackluster stat line. He showed a lot of confidence and poise. If I didn’t know better, I would’ve said he was a 5 year vet. He stepped up and fired bullets to his receivers regardless of tight coverage. He could get into trouble with that sometime, but you have to love seeing that from a rookie.

Omar Gaither had an on and off night. On some running plays, he did a great job of filling the gaps, which is what you want to see from your MIKE. On a scramble by Kyle Boller, Gaither ran him down on the sideline and just kind of stopped expecting Boller to run out of bounds. You have to play to the whistle.

Another backup Linebacker, Tank Daniels, probably won’t make the roster this year, if this game was any indication. He played a bit in the Atlanta game last year and did well. However, he looked bad in all facets of defense. He wasn’t good in coverage and missed tackles. You can’t do that when you’re one of the guys competing for the last spot on the roster.

Rashad Barksdale might’ve been the player of the night, at least defensively. The second day draft pick might’ve been a longshot to make the roster when we first heard about him, but he was impressive. He reminded me of Sheldon Brown. He was aggressive and did a great job coming up and supporting the run. His one play early on when he ran step for step with his receiver into the endzone and knocked the ball down showed good coverage ability. He’s only played football for a year or two, and it’s a possibility that the Eagles uncovered a real gem here.

If Barksdale was the defensive player of the game, Brent Celek was the player of the game on the offensive side of the ball. His college highlight was his 80+ yard catch and rumble to help knock Rutgers off, and he showed some of that ability against Baltimore. He made a lot of catches and if I remember correctly, only missed one ball. After he caught the ball was when he really shined, which is a good quality for tight ends, obviously. He broke tackles and showed some shifty moves. L.J. Smith shouldn’t be watching his back quite yet, but Brent Celek could make the Eagles’ decision on Smith easier depending on how he plays. I don’t really advocate letting Smith go unless we plan on making a splash with Cooley though.

Matt McCoy. Probably should’ve talked about him with the other linebackers a few blocks of text ago, but here we go. He’s the same player as last year, except going into this season, we have that bad taste in our mouths because of him while he was fresh last year. He didn’t bulk up at all and he still gets manhandled by blockers. He can fly to the ball and he’s a great athlete, but he can’t stand up to blockers and stop the run.

Stewart Bradley saw his share of playing time at SAM and MIKE and he did okay. On one play, he made a nice read and fought through traffic to make a tackle on a play to the weak side. On another, he took an awful angle and helped contribute to a big gain. He’ll learn. I don’t think he gained any ground on Gocong in the battle for SAM though.

The backup RBs, and the running game in general, were bad. It’s a shame Moats got hurt, but now he can be on IR for a year and not get cut. Nate Ilaoa attempted to get running north and south quickly which he should. Hopefully next time he touches the ball, there isn’t instant penetration knocking him back. Tony Hunt was pretty smooth catching the ball and suffered from the same O-Line problem as Ilaoa, so it’s tough to get a read on him. He needs to block better or he’s not going to play. Period.

Remaining in the backfield, Reid didn’t show his hand related to the FB battle. Tapeh hardly played. The first team offense didn’t run many two back sets, so if there is a fight for the job, Tapeh wasn’t given a fair shot. Jason Davis got his money’s worth and played pretty well.

I’ll say it right now. Give Sav Rocca the job. Dirk’s been alright and he’s had his moments, but you know what you’re going to get for him. He’ll generally give you some okay punts and then occasionally a huge dud that hurts you in the field position battle. Rocca nailed some great punts, took a big hit and showed his potential. I don’t see how NFL teams don’t get this. Aussie players can kick the football better than everyone else. I don’t know why there aren’t more of them in the league. Dorenbos can’t be taking points off the board, and I really hope he doesn’t make us miss Bartrum.

I was more impressed with individuals rather than the unit. Some guys had some good performances. Lately, we’ve drafted some good athletes and guys that can make plays, and I mentioned that with Bloom and Gocong. Those guys just have abilities you don’t normally see from their positions and they can really be weapons.

Carolina preview will be up later today, and I’ll try to continue my NFL previews. I have some ready to go, I just need to post them.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Pardon the Interruption...

ESPN, but I made arrangements to tune into your network on Sunday night, and I didn’t get what I expected.

I looked at my TV Guide on Saturday, and written into the program at 8 PM was “Fresh Pizza” with Jon Miller and Joe Morgan: hard hitting analysis, news updates and exclusive interviews. I can’t believe you guys try to squeeze this into just three hours, they need a huge block for their insight.

Compounding the problem is your desire to cut into their show with a baseball game. I believe the Phillies and Braves were playing. I didn’t tune in to see America’s pastime tonight. The NL East had little to do with the topics at hand, it’s inexcusable to cut away from Joe Morgan’s thoughts to show Buddy Carlyle throw a curveball.

The John Smoltz interview ended far too soon. This guy does it all: he talks about Pedro Martinez, and he even has a bet with Tiger Woods! What’s that poorly executed double play attempt by Atlanta got to do with the PGA Championship? When I see Martin Prado hitting the links with Woody Austin, then show him botch a one hopper. You’re lucky you had the time to talk with John. He’s a busy man, especially on a day like today when he’s doing his rigorous workouts in the dugout to stay in top shape. Couldn’t you have chatted with him just a little bit more?

In case you haven’t noticed, ESPN, but Barry Bonds made history this week. He hit his 756th career home run, which made him the all-time leader in dingers. He passed the legendary Hammerin’ Hank Aaron, who although didn’t want to attend the game in which Bonds set the new bar for taters, was able to film a moving congratulatory tribute speech. Frankly, your lack of coverage to the tribute was deplorable. Next take Aaron takes his own time to put together a video, you better show the entire thing. Not only that, I want fan reaction and the democratic rebuttal.

Ryan Howard? He’s had his moments, and he’s knocked a few out of the park, but come on. We’re talking about two incredible players here. I don’t need to be bothered to see Howard put one in the 5th row of a small stadium. You saw Bonds’ record breaker; he destroyed it into the gap in right center. Once Ryan Howard hits 755, then we can show his bombs.

Run scoring plays? Who cares? I need Sports Center 30 and 30 updates from an anchor that’s so good, he’s not available at a set time like prima donnas such as Stu Scott. Scott shows up at the studio at the same time every night and does the same show at the same time. Not 30 and 30. He needs to be ready to go at a moment’s notice, whether it’s 8:29 or even the unfathomable 9:31. This guy deserves all the air time he can get, not meaningless RBI doubles in the 7th inning.

Joe Morgan, there’s a guy you want on your TV. He knows the game inside and out, the ups and downs and any other cliché you can use. Why should his commentating prowess be contained to just one thing? Why are Jon Miller and Joe Morgan just talking about a single baseball game when they know so much about stuff off the field? Did you know that Hank Aaron is a good citizen? No one would have had this team not brought it to light.

So ESPN, I hope you reconfigure your Sunday night lineup after tonight’s abomination. You have three prime hours on Sunday night that could be put to much better use than pennant race baseball.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

NFL Preview: Buccaneers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers:

Cheers: For as long as anyone can remember, they’ve had a good defense. With mainstays such as Derrick Brooks and Ronde Barber, they’ve always had some pieces to make them a dominating group. They’re aging a bit and they’ve lost some guys over the years, but they’ve always managed to be solid. They have a young-ish O-Line that’s developing, and they can always count on Matt Bryant to pull a long field goal out of his ass.

Jeers: They can’t pass the ball and they have a tough time running it. Jeff Garcia isn’t the answer, Jake Plummer isn’t the answer and no one else Gruden brought in or attempted or bring in would be either. Gruden pulled a rabbit out of his hat once with Brad Johnson, and I don’t think he can do it again with any of these guys. Cadillac Williams really struggled in his sophomore year, but his technically sound game should lead him to a little more success. Joey Galloway can’t keep it up and Mike Clayton forgot how to play football.

On second thought… it’ll be more of the same for the Bucs in 2007. They just don’t have any standout area on the team that you can hang your hat on. Their offense has potential to be mediocre and that’s it. Their defense will be alright, but they’re not the group they used to be. The NFC South isn’t the competitive division it’s cracked up to be, so they still might have a shot to win a few games against their rivals.

New guy who won’t meet expectations: Jeff Garcia. If this guy is being counted on to get the Bucs back to the playoffs, there are going to be some pretty disappointed people. He’s good in the WCO, but the talent isn’t there like it was in Philadelphia. He could really lean on Westbrook and he had some good receivers to throw to, and those luxuries aren’t in Tampa. He’s going to be counted on to make plays, and he can’t do that anymore. That’s of course if he wins the starting job.

New guy who will meet expectations: Cato June. What a great fit for TB. They had a hole at Linebacker, and they went out and got a guy who’s played his entire NFL career in the system they run and succeeded at it. He may be small, but in the Tampa 2, he can fly around and make plays. He was one of the best players on Indy’s defense, and even though that doesn’t say much, he’ll be athleticism and experience the Bucs could use.

Preseason Preview at Baltimore

These won’t be as elaborate as my regular season previews, but I’ll still talk about the preseason games. I’ll list some players and things to look out for. With all the injuries, some younger guys and backups are going to have the chance to show what they can do, for better or worse.

Draft picks: Obviously, Kevin Kolb is going to get quite a bit of playing time, probably about a whole half. It’ll be his first real game action in his career, and against a team with a deep defense like Baltimore, he might not play so well. Cooler heads should prevail and realize that he’s not a bust yet. Victor Abiamiri will get plenty of time to play, especially if Howard’s groin pull keeps him out of the game. He’ll get a chance to rotate in with the 2’s with McDougle, so he’ll be playing on and off for much of the game. Tony Hunt, C.J. Gaddis and Rashad Barksdale should see a lot of time, especially if Westbrook and Dawkins don’t play.

Second year players: Last year’s draft has potential to be one of Reid’s best, but certain guys need to step up this year. Brodrick Bunkley, Chris Gocong and Jeremy Bloom figure to play pretty big roles in this team’s success, and the rest of the guys provide depth. Winston Justice and Max Jean-Gilles are one snap away from playing, and Avant, Gaither and Ramsey all saw their share of snaps last year. These inexperienced guys all have to be ready because the Eagles are counting on them to help get back to the Super Bowl.

Position battles: Baskett and Avant will be on the field at the same time for much of the game on Monday, but whoever plays better will be the guy on the field when opening week rolls around. They’re battling each other for the slot receiver position. Baskett has more upside, so I expect him to get the job again. The FB job is apparently up for grabs again, which kind of surprises me because Tapeh did a good job last year. On the D-Line, a bunch of guys are battling to get snaps, including the new DTs Ian Scott and Monte Reagor, as well as former draft picks Mike Patterson and Brodrick Bunkley. No spot is secure inside. Two spots at Linebacker aren’t decided yet; Chris Gocong and Jeremiah Trotter currently get the starting nods, but Stewart Bradley and Omar Gaither will be challenging them. Dirk is battling Rocca to be the starting punter.

Guys fighting to make it onto the roster: We have more RBs than we can carry, so guys like Nate Ilaoa and Ryan Moats are playing for their jobs. Greg Lewis leads the large pack of receivers trying to stay on the roster, and there have been a number of impressive young guys catching passes in camp. There’s a bit of a logjam at TE. Fortunately (for the backups, not the Eagles,) LJ Smith is hurt, so there are plenty of snaps available for them to prove themselves. Matt Schobel’s job is probably safe, but with Brent Celek and Lee Vickers, he still has to work hard. Jerome McDougle is probably out of time, but he’s been good in practice so far, and he needs to translate that into games without committing several penalties on every play.

Offensive Line depth: Almost every guy on our second team line could start for several teams in the league, and it’s fun to watch these guys block. With Andrews most likely out, Max Jean-Gilles will get a good chance to prove that he will be a starting lineman in this league. Winston Justice and Nick Cole will get a lot of time at LT and C respectively, and Pat McCoy is another good backup at RT. The running game shouldn’t miss a beat when the backups enter the game.

There are a few things to watch. I’ll breakdown and talk about some of the action on Tuesday after the game.