Fantasy Football News

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Irsay: Colts to Prepare to Begin Season without Manning

Yesterday it has been revealed that Indianapolis may be without All Pro, future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning for week one of the regular season.

Manning himself–freshly re-signed to a new five-year, $90 million contract–has ruled out the possibility of playing in the two remaining preseason games, and Colts' owner Jim Irsay tweeted that the team must prepare to play the first game of the season without him.

Of course, this doesn't necessarily mean he will not be suiting up for his 209th consecutive regular season start come September 11, but with Manning still in the rehab process after his neck surgery, things certainly aren't looking too great in Indy.

Manning, 35, was just locked up for another five years, and it doesn't even look like he will be 100 percent for this coming season.

The end of the road is near for the four-time league MVP, and Indy was forced to spend a fortune on keeping him in a blue and white uni for the rest of his career, rather than spend that extra cash on adding offensive weapons and defensive firepower to improve the overall team.
It's an ugly situation for the franchise, and a lose-lose for Irsay and his employees. Irsay owed this money to Manning after all he did for the franchise, but I think they are giving it to him just a bit too late.

What makes the Manning neck surgery worse? Probably the rest of the quarterback depth chart, which consists of veteran Dan Orlovsky (former Detroit Lions quarterback) and Curtis Painter. Of the two reserves, only Orlovsky has made an NFL start at quarterback.

Obviously experience is a huge weakness in Indy's depth chart, Painter has played in just two career games (went 8/28 for 83 yards and two INTs with a 9.8 QB rating during 2009 season), and Orlovsky hasn't made a start since the 2008 season with the Lions.

Six days ago the team waived 24-year old Nate Davis, who was drafted by the 49ers in the fifth round of the 2009 NFL draft, and was later waived. Painter is the No. 2 guy as of right now, but if I were Irsay, I would go after a veteran free agent in case they need a Peyton replacement.

Irsay has been active on twitter trying to ask for advice from his fans. Why he's doing this, I'm not so sure but one thing he said a couple of days ago hinted towards the idea that he may go after a vet, like I just proposed:

"Not taking Pryor....what VET QB would u vote 4 to sign that's out there? If sum1 has 2 hold the fort early season,who u going with?"

Even if Manning does decide before the two weeks of the preseason are up, signing a capable backup would benefit the Colts greatly. Neck surgery is a big deal and if Manning gets hit hard enough he could miss some time with a more serious injury.

Available Free Agent QBs:

*Jake Delhomme...he's seen better days, and embarrassed himself in Cleveland, but would be a very cheap option.

*Chad Pennington...I would love to see Indy sign Pennington. He's the same age as Manning and has a career rating of 90.1, not a bad rep if you ask me.

*Troy Smith....if Irsay happens to be interested in adding some speed at the position, something they obviously haven't had in years, then Smith would be another cheap option and an upgrade over Painter.

*JaMarcus Russell....just kidding, I don't think anyone will sign Russell anytime soon.

The only other option for the Colts would be to acquire a solid reserve from another team via trade. They can't afford to give too much up, though. We'll have to wait and see if Irsay decides to make a move or not in the coming weeks. If I were running this franchise, I would act as quickly as possible, but maybe that's just me.

Photo found on Google, no copyright infringement intended

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Cleveland Browns Update: Colt McCoy is the Future

Cleveland has been on the search for its franchise quarterback ever since the departure of its third all-time leading passer, Bernie Kosar, in 1993. For the 14 seasons since then (Cleveland was without a franchise from 1996-98), Cleveland has tried, tried again to find the one. Failing each and every time.

Vinny Testaverde: 16-15 record as starter, 80.9 QB rating, one playoff appearance in three seasons under center from 1993-95.

Tim Couch: First overall selection in 1999 draft. He then proceeded to post a 22-37 record as Cleveland's starter before his release in 2004. With the Browns, he was sacked 166 times, posted a career 75.1 rating and threw 67 interceptions (64 touchdowns). Remains in the top five for biggest busts in NFL history.

Kelly Holcomb, Jeff Garica, Trent Dilfer, Charlie Frye: Cleveland's leading passers over the next four seasons (2003-06). It's clear that Cleveland struggled mightily over these seasons, considering they did not have a consistent starter and went from year-to-year.

The Browns went a combined 19-45 over these four seasons, going through two different head coaches at the time–Butch Davis and Romeo Crennel.
Derek Anderson: FINALLY! A winning season came in 2007, though they barely missed the playoffs due to the Steelers owning the tiebreaker. Anderson, who made his only career Pro Bowl this same season, showed great promise, leading the Browns to its first 10-win season since they went 11-5 in 1993.

Unfortunately this success did not last as Anderson struggled the next year and placing them back at the bottom of the AFC North with a 4-12 campaign.

Brady Quinn: Another first round selection goes to waste on a quarterback bust. Quinn was taken 22nd overall in the '07 draft, but in his most complete season with the Browns in '09 (nine starts), Quinn completed just over 50 percent of his passes and led them to a second consecutive five-win season.

Jake Delhomme: The former Carolina Panthers Pro Bowl-caliber signal caller was brought in just before the 2010 regular season began as a temporary fix at the quarterback position. With an 18-interception campaign in his final hoorah with Carolina, not much was expected from Delhomme, other than to mentor the younger quarterbacks. Delhomme made four starts, posting a 63.4 rating and throwing seven interceptions (just two TDs) as Cleveland went 2-2 over those games.
This leads us to today...

In last April's draft, the Browns front office focused on improving the defense, selecting Florida cornerback Joe Haden with the seventh overall pick. Big improvement was evident when he produced 64 tackles, one sack and six interceptions as a rookie.

But I think the most important selection came in third round (85th overall), when they snagged University of Texas' quarterback Colt McCoy to add to the offensive arsenal.

As a rookie, Colt McCoy was asked to step up for Delhomme, who was battling an ankle sprain throughout the season. In eight starts in his first season, McCoy's stats were not eye-popping, but he sure did get the job done when he needed to, despite his 2-6 record.

His eight game stat-line (60.8 comp%, 1,576 yards, 6 TD, 9 INT, 74.5 rating, 23 sacks, rushing TD) does not tell the entire story. What it does not show you, is that his first three career starts–weeks six, seven and eight–came against playoff teams.

In his first regular season action in mid-October, McCoy threw for 281 yards and a touchdown against last year's No. 1 rated defense (Pittsburgh). His two interceptions proved costly in the 28-10 defeat, but you'd expect that from a young'n such as McCoy. Especially against that defense.

One thing surely impressed me with McCoy's debut, and that was his relentlessness. He never gave up and kept getting up after being sacked six times with nonstop pressure up the middle. He didn't receive much help from his bruising running back Peyton Hillis, either, as he ran for just 41 yards on 12 carries without a touchdown.

The following two weeks McCoy caught the attention of every player, coach and NFL follower by shocking the defending champion New Orleans Saints, 30-17, and the Super Bowl favorite New England Patriots, 34-14, in back-to-back games (he did get a bye week in between them, however).

He managed the game very well, combining for 23/35 and 248 yards in the two outings. He wasn't able to put a passing touchdown up on the stat-sheet in either game, but didn't throw any interceptions against the two top 10 defenses at the same time.
There's no doubt he did an amazing job, leading the Browns offense down the field on scoring drives and putting up 30 points in both games in a total team effort.

McCoy ended the season with two straight three-interception games against division rival, and playoff-bound, Baltimore and Pittsburgh. He struggled to complete passes against those two defenses but, again, wouldn't you expect games like that from a rookie quarterback against, not only two inter-division playoff teams, but also two of the top five defenses in the game?

If I've noticed one thing this off-season, it's that Colt McCoy, though a smaller guy behind center (6'1''/216 pounds), knows nothing is going to just be handed to him. He has worked extremely hard this off-season in learning the offense and improving on his game.

I can guarantee you he is not the same guy who, some claim, "gave up" in the 2009-10 BCS Championship game. First of all, I believe him when he said he could not feel his arm and didn't think he could return to the game. And second of all, McCoy knows what it takes to win and he will be a successful NFL quarterback as long as he continues to improve and has the right pieces around him.

Derek Anderson is gone, Brady Quinn is gone, Jake Delhomme is gone. This leaves only Seneca Wallace and Jarrett Brown to potentially steal his job away. Yeah, not going to happen.

It's McCoy's time in Cleveland, and he's here to stay.

(One last sidenote: I feel it is appropriate to add the fact that, much like Delhomme, McCoy suffered an ankle sprain during the '10 campaign as well. And that may have had an affect on the outcome of his final three starts of the season.)

**Photos found on Google, no copyright infringement intended**

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

'The U' in Some Trouble, Reportedly Violated NCAA Rules

The most recent news story in the college football world that has surfaced is a Yahoo! Sports report that has listed several former football players at the University of Miami (Fl.) that allegedly received illegal benefits while playing football at the institute.

Now, I'm not going to go in great detail, because frankly I don't really care all that much. But I am going to give my brief–and I mean brief–opinion on the entire ordeal.

First, the list..

Former players: Vince Wilfork, Devin Hester, Sean Taylor, Jon Beason, Antrel Rolle, Jonathan Vilma, Kellen Winslow Jr., Andre Johnson, Clinton Portis, among others.

Current players: Jacory Harris, Travis Benjamin, Sean Spence, Marcus Forston, Vaughn Telemaque, Dyron Dye, Ray Ray Armstrong, Aldarius Johnson, Olivier Vernon, Robert Marve (now at Purdue), among others.
No current players named above have been handed suspensions yet, but unfortunately the suspensions are likely to be handed out pretty soon as long as convict Nevin Shapiro's information is 100 percent correct (Nevin is a former Miami booster, currently serving a 20-year jail sentence taking part in a ponzi scheme, who claims he gave these players the benefits).

Normally, since this does not affect the NFL (there's nothing the university can do about the players that are now in the NFL, other than maybe take away school records), I wouldn't cover this or even think about talking about it. But since this is something that bothers me in the college game, I decided I would take a few minutes to acknowledge it.

This report has resulted in ESPN trying to come up with 4,394 different ways of fixing this conflict in the collegiate game (exaggeration of course). But the truth is, there's no way for the NCAA to stop players from accepting these "illegal benefits" from boosters.

First of all, yes most of these players are on scholarship and do not have to put much money towards their education, but the reason they are there in the first place is because many of them don't exactly have gobs of money in their pockets and are trying to make it big in this profession.

There are those role players that are at college for primarily an education, then football. But for the star players, they are doing all they can to make it past the college level and make a living for themselves. So yes they are coveted prizes in the recruiting business, and people will be throwing money their way in an attempt to get them to come play for them.

What the NCAA needs to do is place themselves in the shoes of these players. If you were a 20-year old college student who was offered, I don't know, say $200,000 and a car to play for a historic football powerhouse (U. of Miami), I don't think they would pass up the opportunity either.

If you're going to blame someone, blame the people taking advantage of these young men and offering big money as a bribe. These "adults" that are offering money know they are breaking the rules, so punish them not the players simply doing what's best for themselves and their families.

Considering it is simply the NCAA's rules that are being broken, and not the state or federal law, I believe the NCAA would be better off just discarding these silly rules and let the recruiters have a free-for-all when it comes time to bring in top High School prospects.

As unfair as that sounds, I believe it is the only way to completely rid the NCAA of the problem. Have fun in trying to fix this mess, NCAA.

**Photo found on Google, no copyright infringement intended**

Monday, August 15, 2011

Brooks Reed Drawing Clay Matthews Comparisons in Several Different Ways

Okay, so maybe it's just me that has already begun comparing Houston's second round (42nd overall) selection in this year's draft to the Pro Bowl/Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packer Clay Matthews III.

You've got to admit, though, while watching the Arizona State standout in his NFL debut with the Houston Texans tonight, Reed's flowing, luscious locks look eerily similar to those of Matthews.

With similar size and speed as Matthews at the outside linebacking position, Reed is more than just a carbon-copy in terms of looks–if you don't agree that the two have a similar physical appearance then take a gander at the below photos.

In his two seasons roaming the defensive backfield at the Frozen Tundra, Matthews racked up 90 tackles, 23.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, one interception and 11 passes defensed in 28 starts on his way to two Pro Bowl appearances and an All Pro team.

But more importantly, Matthews III has already established himself as an NFL workhorse and is one of the most well-known outside 'backers in the game. Even the casual football fans know that Matthews has the ability to run sideline-to-sideline and make big plays.

What was Reed's rep at Arizona State like? Oddly similar to that of Matthews. Playing all four years at Univ. of Arizona, Reed recorded 114 tackles and 17 sacks in 34 career collegiate starts. Though he played end a lot in Arizona, Reed is versatile and has the ability to play both DE and OLB.

With 4.6 speed, Reed, too, has a wide range and can cover both sides of the field. Watching video from his Arizona career it looks as though he was in on a majority of the plays and had a knack for finding the ball-carrier. Though I would categorize him as more of a pass-rusher, obviously, I do think he can contribute to stopping the run in Houston as well.

Considering he hasn't even played a full game in the NFL yet–and it's week one of the preseason for crying out loud–one could say this is all a bit premature. But the potential for a Matthews-type 'backer is certainly there for Houston. Especially when you consider he will be playing alongside the likes of Mario Williams, Brian Cushing, DeMeco Ryans and fellow rookie (first round pick) J.J. Watt in Wade Phillips' new-look defense.

Houston's 29th overall defense from a year ago has nowhere to go but up in 2011, and with a revamped defense and high-flying offense led by Schaub, Foster and Johnson, Houston may be the team to beat in the South this season. Not Indianapolis.

My, oh my are the tables turning.

**Photos found on Google, no copyright infringement intended**

If it 'Aint Broke, Don't Fix it!

Commissioner Roger Goodell and the National Football League believe that moving kickoffs from the 30-yard up to the 35-yard line will help in assuring player's safety.

While that may be so, in the case that it will clearly eliminate some kickoffs, I really think this was an unnecessary rule change.

This past Friday I went to the Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Washington Redskins preseason opener at Fedex Field, and the first thing I noticed was that every single kickoff went in to the end zone, and about 95 percent of them were either too deep to return or sailed out of the ball of the end zone. One even came close to splitting the uprights.

Eliminating some kickoffs would have been a boost in player safety, because that way there would be less plays where 11 players are running full speed down the field hitting anything and everything in his path. But eliminating the element of the kickoff altogether is pretty much what this has turned in to.

Washington's kick returner Brandon Banks did make a very nice play on a kick that was five yards deep in the end zone, returning the ball to midfield for the Skins. But other than that, most kicks turned in to touchbacks.
Banks' lone kick return Friday night against Pittsburgh. This return, taken from deep in the end zone, went for 58 yards and was the only KO return of the game (from either team). The rest were touchbacks.

Of course this was the whole plan for Goodell, which is slowly but surely taking away from the game of football. I'm all for player safety, because that is what prolongs player's careers. But this isn't the answer. Taking away the running start that the kicking team (used) to be allowed, and making them line up five yards from the kicking tee was a good move. But creating more touchbacks? No way. And I'm sure kick returners are outraged by the change as well.

You've got to give Chicago Bears head coach (Lovie Smith) a hand for what he did in his team's preseason opener in Buffalo. The league wasn't happy, but I'm sure the other five teams that voted against the rule change were stoked to hear that Smith took a stand against the rule change.

League officials, of course, weren't too happy that Mr. Smith ignored the rule change and kicked from the 30-yard line on Saturday night. The officials didn't seem to catch on right away.

They were eventually simply told to stop doing it, by League officials, during the game, but I would like to point out that Lovie had a legitimate reason for doing it and wasn't just trying to show them up.

Smith was later quoted, saying "we weren't really getting a good evaluation on what we can do coverage-wise on some of our players. That's what we were trying to do with it" according to an NFL.com story.
Lovie Smith backs his return-man Hester when it comes to the league's rule change, moving the kickoffs up five yards to the 35-yard line.

It's clear teams are not in favor of the change, and I think what Smith did is the best way of protesting the new rule. No matter how wrong Smith was, I support his decision and hope the league gets the message. If there's enough protesting by teams, maybe the league will change the rule back for 2012...we could only hope.

I personally can't wait to hear Devin Hester speak out about this issue, should be interesting.

**Photos found on Google, no copyright infringement intended**

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Fantasy Preview: Top 5 by Position

Nearly midway through the month of August, the first week of preseason will be in the books once the Jets and Texans face-off on ESPN this Monday.

What does this mean, exactly? Well, this is usually about the time that us fans hold our annual Fantasy Football drafts. Here is a look at the top five fantasy players, sorted by position of course.

Quarterback

1. Tom Brady, New England Patriots

An off-year for Brady? Nearly 4,000 yards passing and a league-leading 36 touchdown tosses. The 11-year veteran threw just four interceptions a year ago, posting an NFL-high 111.0 QB rating in 16 starts.

The addition of veteran wideout Chad Ochocinco only adds a deep-threat and will continue to allow Brady to open up the vertical passing game for Belichick's Pats. If you're in a keeper league and you had Brady last year, don't hesitate to assign him as a keeper.

2. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints

Brees threw a career-high 22 interceptions in 2010, but his efficiency did not take a hit as he led the league with a second-straight league-leading completion percentage (68.1).

Despite dual-threat running back Reggie Bush leaving town for Miami this off-season, Brees will have plenty of options to spread the ball to, meaning Brees' disappointing campaign last year, which ended with an early playoff exit, very well may have been just a freak incident.

3. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers

Rodgers has a target on his back this year as defending champion, but his offensive production isn't likely to take a hit as a result. With the return of Jermichael Finley, a top 10 TE, and Ryan Grant, a top 20 running back, Rodgers' offense has more options than ever. With two of the game's top receivers (Driver and Jennings) to his disposal, in addition to the underrated Jordy Nelson, I would expect to see Rodgers toss 30 touchdowns for the second time in his professional career.
If he's healthy this season, he has the potential to take over the No. 1 spot as top fantasy quarterback after the year is complete.

4. Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles

Vick's career turnaround was miraculous in several different ways, but I think the biggest surprise of his 2010 season was his sudden spike in passing accuracy and efficiency. Before his jail sentence, Vick never completed more than 56.4 percent of his passes. In his 11 starts last season he completed a career-high 62.6 percent of his 372 attempts.

Both his 3,018 yards and 21 touchdowns were career-highs as well. Vick isn't just a threat to run the ball anymore, he's a threat to pass the ball with great precision. With new weapons in Philly–veteran RB Ronnie Brown and former Giant receiver Steve Smith–Vick will continue to flourish as a passer.

5. Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts

Peyton's neck surgery this off-season really worries me, especially considering he has yet to practice for the Colts. It wont be enough to knock him out of the top five in fantasy quarterbacks, but the fact that Indianapolis hasn't done much to help Manning out in terms of adding offensive weapons also worries me.

The return of Pro Bowl tight end Dallas Clark will surely benefit Manning, but past that this appears to be the same old offense in Indy. There must be others out there that are concerned for the 35-year old Manning, right?

Just missed: Tony Romo, Phillip Rivers, Matt Schaub

Running back

1. Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings

I don't think there's any question that AP is still the top dog when it comes to fantasy backs. In fact, I would still call him the No. 1 overall fantasy player. The only guy close to knocking him off the thrown is Tennessee's Chris Johnson, who is two years removed from becoming the sixth player in history to break 2,000 rushing yards.

But Peterson is the definition of a workhorse, breaking 1,200 yards and double-digit touchdown totals in all four of his NFL seasons. His career-low in yards (1,298) was this past season, but he did happen to miss a game. Nearly 6,000 yards and 52 touchdowns over four seasons is more than enough for him to keep his spot atop the rankings.

2. Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans

Johnson continues his training camp holdout, still vying for that big-time contract, which is overdue. He is lined up to make just $800,000 this season and still has two years left on his current contract. With Tennessee holding strong, it looks like this situation could get a little messy.

Johnson has a reputation as one of the most electrifying players in the game and a threat to score every time he touches the ball, whether that's running the ball or catching a pass out of the backfield. The three-time Pro Bowler has averaged 5.0 yards per carry and put up 34 rushing touchdowns in his three seasons. Expect a 1,500-plus yard season with 10-12 touchdowns this year–if he hits the field, of course.

3. Arian Foster, Houston Texans

Foster broke out on to the scene in week one of last season after setting a Houston franchise record 231 yard game, his three rushing touchdowns against the Colts that game was also a team record. The All Pro finished his second year with a league-leading 1,616 yards and 16 touchdowns.

With a top-tier passing attack to complement the team's ground game, I would expect another top five performance out of him in 2011 though he may not top last season in terms of yardage.
4. Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs

In addition to Johnson in Tennessee, Charles is one of the fastest players in the league and is also a well-known overall electrifying player. He ran for 1,467 yards in '10, good enough for second-most in the NFL, with a 6.4 yards per carry average on his 230 attempts.

His five rushing touchdowns are not so impressive, but to his defense veteran running back Thomas Jones took six of those away from him. Once Jones is gone, Charles will get a heavier workload and the touchdown total will likely surpass 10 for the first time in his three-year career. Charles is only just getting started in this league.

5. Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville Jaguars

Lately it has looked like MJD's production has been slowly dropping, and while that may be so (went from 12 and 15 TDs in '08 and '09 to just five last year), I don't think his lack of touchdowns will stay down for long.

The injury and questions surrounding veteran quarterback David Garrard may actually benefit the two-time Pro Bowler. If head coach Jack Del Rio has to rely on rookie Blaine Gabbert, Jones-Drew's use and production–particularly in the red zone–will undoubtably rise this season.

Just missed: Steven Jackson, Rashard Mendenhall, Michael Turner

Wide receiver

1. Roddy White, Atlanta Falcons

The drafting of former Alabama wideout Julio Jones in this year's draft may take some targets away from Matty Ice's favorite receiver, but it has the potential to increase his production at the same time. Before, White received all the attention from defensive backs, but now defensive coordinators will have to pay attention to Jones as well, which may allow White to get open more often.

He already led the league in receptions (115) last year, racking up nearly 1,400 yards and 10 touchdowns. Turning 30 in November, White is the most talented wideout in the game and will have yet another productive season with Atlanta in 2011.

2. Andre Johnson, Houston Texans

Johnson has one of the league's best combinations: size, speed and athleticism. He's a freak of nature. Once one of the league's most underrated and under-appreciated wideouts, Johnson now attracts the attention of opposing defenses, and leaves defensive backs shaking in their cleats. With a top 10 quarterback throwing him passes, and a top three running back keeping defenses honest, Johnson is a scoring threat every time a pass is thrown his way.

He has yet to break out of the single digits when it comes to hauling in touchdowns, but I think all that will change this season.

3. Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals

Any rumors that were once surrounding Fitzgerald's unhappiness in Arizona have officially been shattered upon the arrival of quarterback Kevin Kolb. Fitz seems happier than he was when the Cards had borderline Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner under center a couple years back.

Fitz, the five-time Pro Bowler, saw his touchdown total in 2010 drop below double-digts (six) for the first time since the 2006 season due to a lack of consistent quarterback play. Now that he has a true No. 1 quarterback, expect his acrobatic touchdown receptions to return as he will likely be in his 2008 form (96 Rec., 1,431 yards, 12 TDs).

4. Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis Colts

Much like CJ2K (Chris Johnson), Wayne is currently battling the Colts for a new contract. The only difference is that Wayne is a proven vet who opted not to holdout and reported to camp. Wayne was one of two wideouts to rack in over 100 receptions last season (111) as he converted those catches in to nearly 1,400 yards.

His touchdown total took a hit (six), but as long as Indianapolis gets a solid campaign from Hall of Fame quarterback Manning, Wayne's numbers will be top five in the league once again.
5. Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions

Calvin, A.K.A. Megatron caught just 77 balls for 1,120 yards last season, but if Matthew Stafford can stay healthy for the entire season we could see more targets coming Johnson's way–especially in the red zone.

Johnson has an extraordinary combination of size and speed, which makes him very tough to cover. His great hands in traffic allows him to catch passes over the middle and turn them in to big gains. I think this is the year C.J. breaks out for 15 touchdown catches and goes to the Pro Bowl for the second consecutive season.

Just missed: Dwayne Bowe, Mike Wallace, Greg Jennings

Tight end

1. Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys

Witten was 2010's most productive tight end with 94 receptions (most among tight ends, third-most among all receivers) as he topped 1,000 yards for the third time in his career. His career-high nine touchdown catches put the 29-year old on the NFC Pro Bowl roster for the seventh consecutive season (received the honor seven of his eight seasons).

Witten is one tough cookie, catching balls over the middle and barreling over defenders is the norm for the 257-pound end. The return of top 10 quarterback Tony Romo may turn Witten in to a 100-catch player this season.

2. Antonio Gates, San Diego Chargers

Gates battled a nagging toe injury throughout most of the 2010 season, missing six games total (most in his eight-year career). As a result, Gates caught just 50 passes, though his production was still up. For the third time in his career, Gates caught 10 touchdowns and averaged 15.6 yards per catch (782 yards).

A healthy Gates is a dangerous weapon, especially when he has a guy of Phillip Rivers caliber throwing him passes. Wideouts Vincent Jackson and Malcom Floyd will return to the team, benefiting Gates' overall production (defenses will not be keying in on just Gates).

3. Vernon Davis, San Francisco 49ers

I don't necessarily agree with San Fran's decision to bring back quarterback Alex Smith, but this will allow Colin Kaepernick to develop in to the quarterback that Jim Harbuagh and the Niners' front office are looking for.

This may not benefit Davis too much in 2011, but it will have an effect on his production in the long run. For now, expect Davis' production to continue at a steady pace. Davis hasn't missed a game in three years, and I would like to believe that this is the year he finally breaks 1,000 yards receiving and could possibly catch 10 touchdowns as well.

4. Dallas Clark, Indianapolis Colts

Clark is back! After sustaining a wrist injury last October and undergoing season-ending surgery to repair it, Clark will be back in Indy's lineup and as healthy as ever this coming season. Clark racked up 347 yards and three touchdowns in his six 2010 games, putting up a career-low 9.4 yards per catch average.

The only thing that could possibly slow Clark's 2011 production is the questions that continue to swirl around Colts camp involving Manning. We'll see how it all plays out in the South this year.
5. Jermichael Finley, Green Bay Packers

Finley is yet another tight end that sustained an injury in 2010 and missed a majority of the season. Finley was projected for a breakout season last year, but managed just 21 receptions for 301 yards and one touchdown in his five games.

Aaron Rodgers will welcome Finley back in to Green Bay's lineup with open arms this year as everyone expects to finally see a breakout year from Finley in his fourth professional season.

Just missed: Owen Daniels, Chris Cooley, Marcedes Lewis

Kickers

1. Stephen Gostkowski, Pats
2. Robbie Gould, Bears
3. Nate Kaeding, Chargers
4. Mason Crosby, Packers
5. Neil Rackers, Texans

Just missed: Nick Folk, Matt Bryant, Josh Brown

Defense/ST

1. Green Bay Packers
2. New York Jets
3. Philadelphia Eagles
4. Pittsburgh Steelers
5. Baltimore Ravens

Just missed: Patriots, Bears, Giants

**Photos borrowed from Google, no copyright infringement intended**

Detroit's Stafford Impressed in his Return to Action

The much anticipated return of 2009's first overall draft pick, quarterback Matthew Stafford, was a huge success last night in Detroit.

Stafford, 23, enters his third professional season for the Detroit Lions, but has started just 13 games under center.

The young gun out of the University of Georgia beat out Daunte Culpepper for the starting job his rookie season, but missed six games that season due to two separate injuries. He missed week's five and six after sustaining a knee injury while being sacked by a Chicago defender. Stafford sustained a separated shoulder later in the season and was placed on Detroit's injured reserve on December 24, ending his rookie campaign.

In his 10 starts, the rookie signal caller threw for 2,267 yards and 13 touchdowns, but led his team with 20 interceptions thrown and a rating of 61.0.

Stafford had high hopes entering his sophomore year in Detroit, but, again, battled shoulder problems. He injured his throwing shoulder during the first game of the season, against Chicago, and didn't return until Halloween night. A week later, his shoulder was re-injured and was lost for the season after Dr. James Andrews performed surgery.
In his three 2010 starts, Stafford impressed with 535 passing yards, six touchdowns, 91.3 rating and just one interception despite his 1-2 record over that span.

With key additions via the draft in April, and free agency, the Detroit Lions have high hopes in the NFC wild card picture this season. It appears as though those hopes may be even higher after Stafford's impressive preseason debut last night against the Cincinnati Bengals.

It's only preseason, and yes it's only the rebuilding Cincinnati Bengals. But if Stafford's healthy play is any indication as to how this season will unfold for Detroit, there is certainly no where to go but up.

Stafford was in the game for two drives, each of which ended with a Stafford touchdown pass–one to Calvin "Megatron" Johnson and the other to Nate Burelson. Stafford was one incompletion away from perfect (6/7, 71 yards, 2 TD), averaging 10.1 YPA.

During preseason play, wins aren't exactly what coaches are looking for. Rather, they are more worried with how the rookies, newcomers and even star players perform. Preseason play allows them to figure out what they have down, and what they need to work on in practice. Not to mention it gives them fresh tape to review in film sessions.

But head coach Jim Schwartz–8-24 record since taking over job in 2009–was able to experience both of these in last night's 34-3 victory. Stafford's 2011 debut was a huge success considering the staff was just looking for a solid, injury-free performance out of him. They got just that and more, as he looked quite comfortable in the pocket and was able to rocket two touchdowns to his favorite targets.

Detroit's revamped defense looked great as well, hitting Cincy's rookie quarterback Andy Dalton and forcing an interception on his first career pass attempt. Dalton gradually looked more and more comfortable as the game went along (11/15, 69 yards, 1 INT, 1 sack), but Detroit's aggressiveness on defense was easy to see.
Last year's Defensive Rookie of the Year, DT Ndamukong Suh, showed once again why he is already considered one of the most feared d-lineman in the league after slamming a helmet-less Dalton to the ground (as the above video clearly shows). While the hit was borderline dirty, there's no doubt that Suh has come in to camp prepared to battle it out inside the trenches this season.

If last night is any indication of how this season will go for the Lions, we could be in store for a great division race in the NFC North.

Photo: Andrew Weber/US Presswire

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Six Players and Story-lines to Watch on Thursday

Tomorrow is the day we (football fanatics) have all been waiting for: the first night of preseason action.

The casual fan may find preseason games too slow, or too boring. But if you're a true fan of the league, you would be willing to stick around for a full game of preseason football just to get a look at the league's future.

Rookies are the main event of every team's set of four games, but as we near the regular season, the superstars will start to see more playing time. Tomorrow night will feature five games, giving us a first look at rookies and long-time journeymen of 10 different teams. Here are six guys (or overall story-lines) that you should keep an eye on while watching the action unfold.

Blaine Gabbert, Jacksonville Jaguars

Blaine, Jacksonville's first round pick in this year's April draft, will get the nod under center for the team's game in New England. The veteran David Garrard left practice yesterday due to an apparent back injury.

Head coach Jack Del Rio and the Jags' front office have made it clear that they are preparing for life after Garrard, who turned 33 in February, after spending the 10th overall pick on Gabbert.

I would expect Garrard to recover and make the start come week one of the regular season, but don't be surprised if Gabbert overtakes the starting role once again.
Chad Ochocinco and Albert Haynesworth, New England Patriots

Come on, whether you're a Patriots lover or a Patriots hater, who isn't excited to see these two newcomers suit up for Belichick's squad?

Tom Brady will likely play a quarter or less of the game, but those first two series with Brady and Ochocinco lining up together will grab the attention of everyone in the stadium. Not to mention ESPN will cover every angle of the story.

So whether or not you decide you're excited to see these two in action for the first time this year, you will  see the highlights over and over again. Oh joy, we just can't wait..

Seattle's revamped offense––Good? Bad?

No more Matt Hasselbeck under center for Seattle. Instead we will see former Vikings Tarvaris Jackson and wideout Sidney Rice lining up together. When you throw in the Pro Bowl tight end Zach Miller, another recent signing, you have an extreme makeover on the offensive side of the ball for the 'Hawks.

If you ask me, I think Pete Carroll has the recipe for disaster out west. Get ready to see Sam Bradford and his Rams take over division dominance in 2011.

Kevin Kolb to Larry Fitzgerald connection

One of my favorite storylines for tomorrow night, personally.

Larry Fitzgerald finally has an established quarterback since the departure of Kurt Warner two seasons ago. Arizona had a rocky campaign in 2010, with plenty of underachieving at the quarterback position. With a happy Fitzgerald catching passes, I think Arizona's passing offense has a lot to look forward to this year. Especially with the addition of Pro Bowl tight end Todd Heap, too.

St. Louis is still the team to beat, but Kolb has finally found his home with the Cardinals.

Quarterback Position Battle in Denver

We already know the winner of this so-called quarterback battle in the Rocky's. With the Kyle Orton trade rumors finally settling down, all signs point toward Orton being the guy for the Broncos.

All that has done is spark a little bit of motivation out of the second-year quarterback Tim Tebow. I would expect him to get a substantial amount of playing time against Dallas tomorrow night, so prepare for a great game out of Tebow.

Can't wait.
Baltimore receivers vs. Philadelphia secondary

Baltimore attempted to save some money and get under the salary cap by releasing veterans Derrick Mason and Todd Heap. Philadelphia, on the other hand, landed the coveted cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha via free agency and Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie in the Kevin Kolb trade.

Joe Flacco will be looking to create some chemistry with young guns Torrey Smith (rookie WR) and second-year tight end Ed Dickson, while Philly DBs Asomugha and DRC attempt to impress Eagles fans in their team debuts.

Should be a great match-up to watch whether or not you're a fan of either team.

Honorable Mentions:
Romo's return for Dallas
Ricky Williams makes B-more debut
When will Steve Smith hit the field for Philly?

Photo credit
Gabbert/Garrard: jaguars.com
Vick/VY/Asomugha: mcall.com

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Seven More to be Enshrined in to Football Immortality Tonight

Today is a good day.

Another year, another class of former football players enter the football afterlife, A.K.A. the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio–also signals the official start to the season.

This year there will be seven new members of the Hall of Fame (induction ceremonies set to begin on ESPN at 7 P.M. E.T.; if you watch NFL Network they will be airing a Hall of Fame Pre-Enshrinement Ceremony at 4 P.M. E.T.).

The 2011 class is highlighted by a few modern-day players such as Deion Sanders, Shannon Sharpe and Marshall Faulk. Chicago Bears defensive end Richard Dent, Washington Redskins linebacker Chris Hanburger, Los Angeles Rams linebacker Les Richter and NFL Films founder Ed Sabol are the other four to put on the yellow jacket tonight.

Despite the canceling of the annual Hall of Fame game (as a result of the lockout), which would have been played Sunday night, this weekends festivities should be a lot of fun. In honor of tonight's enshrinement, I have put together a little tribute to each inductee's career, as seen below:

Marshall Faulk; Colts, Rams running back 1994-2005
-Seven Pro Bowls, three-time First Team All Pro, Super Bowl Champion (two appearances)
-12,279 rushing yards, 100 TDs; 767 receptions, 6,875 yards, 36 TDs
-Fourth on all-time yards from scrimmage list (19,154)

Faulk, selected second overall in the 1994 draft behind Cincinnati's Dan Wilkinson, was the key piece in St. Louis' Greatest Show on Turf in the late '90s to early '00s. With quarterback Kurt Warner and receivers Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt, Faulk's Rams won the 1999 Super Bowl and fell just short of capturing a second after falling to New England in 2001.

Marshall is by far the best dual threat running back in league history. Faulk's 767 receptions are most all-time among running backs (Larry Centers finished his career with 827, but he played fullback).
Deion Sanders; Falcons, 49ers, Cowboys, Redskins, Ravens cornerback/returner 1989-2005
-Eight Pro Bowls, eight-time All Pro, Two-time Super Bowl champ
-492 tackles, 53 interceptions, 10 FF, 6 PR TD/3 KR TD
-T-4th all-time on INT return TDs (9)

Sanders, A.K.A. "Primetime," revolutionized the way defensive backs covered receivers. His critics bashed him because he wasn't the best tackler, but he was just as physical on the line as anyone else out there.

Fans loved him because of his flashiness and trash-talk on the field, but he never failed to back up that talk when it came to making plays. He was the most electrifying player to watch in his time, and was still exciting to watch when he finished his career with two seasons in Baltimore at age 38.

Shannon Sharpe; Broncos, Ravens tight end 1990-2003
-Eight Pro Bowls, four-time First Team All Pro, Three-time Super Bowl champ
-815 career receptions, 62 receiving touchdowns
-Three seasons with 1,000+ receiving yards

Before Kansas City's Tony Gonzalez came around and surpassed him, Sharpe was the league's greatest receiving tight end in terms of numbers (815 receptions, 10,060 yards, 62 touchdowns). After ending his first of two stints with the Broncos, Sharpe left for Baltimore where he put up two solid receiving seasons en route to his third Super Bowl ring in 2000.

After two years of waiting, Sharpe has finally received his "Call to the Hall," becoming the eighth modern-era tight end to be enshrined.
Richard Dent, Bears, 49ers, Colts, Eagles defensive end 1983-1997
-Four Pro Bowls, Five-time All Pro (one First-Team), Two-time Super Bowl champ
-671 tackles, 137.5 sacks, 37 FF
-Super Bowl XX MVP

Dent is the most underrated inductee in this year's class, in my opinion. People seem to forget that he was a part of one of the toughest defenses in NFL history (1985 Chicago Bears), and that he was the MVP of the Super Bowl that season after recording 1.5 sacks against the Patriots.

Dent, t-sixth on the all-time sack list (with HOFer John Randle), came up with sacks in big games, recording 10.5 sacks in six career playoff games with the Bears (Chicago was 4-2 in those games). Dent was a Hall of Fame finalist for six years before finally getting the call this year. Congrats, Dent.

Ed Sabol, 94 years old
-Founder of NFL Films

Without the company he founded, NFL Films, there is no way we would have the amount of NFL content, and quality of the content, in terms of photographs and footage of the game. In fact, the NFL Network may not have even existed without Sabol, considering NFL Films produces a majority of the commericals, features and films for the Network.

There's no doubt that Sabol's company revolutionized the way the NFL has been covered over the last few decades. Kudos to you, Mr. Sabol. Good to see you inducted before you kick the bucket.

Chris Hanburger; Redskins linebacker 1965-1978 (*Senior Candidate*)
-Nine Pro Bowls, four-time First Team All Pro
-19 INTs, 17 FR in 149 career starts
-Selected by WAS in 18th and final round of 1965 draft

Hanburger played back in the day before tackles and sacks were recorded, but that does not take away from his resume. His nine Pro Bowl appearances are a Redskins franchise record, and he was the team's defensive "quarterback" in the '70s, acting as team leader and navigating his teammates on the field.

Hanburger's career was well over and done with before I was born, but from the looks of it, Hanburger was well respected by his peers (HOFer John Hannah referred to him as "the smartest player in the league at the time" according to Redskins Encyclopedia). As one of the 70 greatest Redskins, this election was well-deserved on Hanburger's part.
Les Richter; Rams linebacker/guard/kicker 1954-1962 (*Senior Candidate*)
-Eight Pro Bowls, two-time First Team All Pro, three-time Second Team All Pro
-16 INT, 12 FR, 193 career points, 52.7 FG%
-Second overall pick in 1952 NFL Draft

Richter played long before Hanburger and, just like Hanburger, Richter played his entire career–nine seasons–with the same team after being traded to the Rams by the Dallas Texans. In Los Angeles, Richter was one of those players who could play multiple positions (most players in this era did this actually), and made the Pro Bowl in all but one of his seasons.

Richter made his mark at the linebacker position, primarily, making four of his eight Pro Bowlers as LA's middle linebacker from 1958-1961.

**All photos found on Google, no copyright infringement intended**

Friday, August 5, 2011

Photo of the Day (8/5/11): New CBA Finalized in Front of HOF


As of this morning, the new 10-year Collective Bargaining Agreement has officially been finalized after Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith signed the deal.

What better way to finalize the deal than to sign it while sitting in front of the league's most coveted site: the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

The two are in Canton this weekend for the HOF enshrinement of seven players–Richard Dent, Marshall Faulk, Chris Hanburger, Les Richter, Ed Sabol, Deion Sanders and Shannon Sharpe.

Photo: Michael Loccisano, Getty Images

Most Deserving of a New Contract: Jackson, Johnson or Wayne?

San Francisco 49ers' running back Frank Gore recently ended his training camp holdout, but there are still three big-time veterans out there campaigning for a new contract from his respective team.

Out of Tennessee's All Pro running back Chris Johnson, Philadelphia's speedy wideout DeSean Jackson and Indianapolis' veteran receiver Reggie Wayne, who do you feel is most deserving of a new contract?

While Jackson and Johnson are both currently holding out of camp, Wayne has opted not to. But that doesn't mean he isn't pushing the Colts for a new deal.
In my personal opinion, I really don't think there's any question about who is most deserving. It's Tennessee's Chris Johnson.

Wayne, 32, is the most proven of the three and isn't after a large contract at this point in his career. Jackson and Johnson are both young risers looking for their due, which translates to multi-year, multi-million deals. But that doesn't mean they don't deserve to be paid like an elite player. If Philly and Tennessee do not step up to the plate, they could see these guys walk at the end of 2011.

All signs point towards Jackson ending his holdout by Tuesday–the deadline for players under contract to report if they plan on being an unrestricted free agent after this season.

Jackson, 24, is entering his fourth season, coming off back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons, but a new deal is unlikely to come Jackson's way before Tuesday, so it is very possible he will test the free agent market next off-season.

As for Chris Johnson, no one really seems to have any idea what will happen with this dispute. According to profootballweekly.com, General Manager Mike Reinfeldt has stated that Johnson must report to camp before the two sides can talk business.

I read that article (posted by PFW's staff) three days ago, and still no Johnson at camp. This may get very interesting.
All indications leave me believing that Wayne will be the one most likely to get a deal first. He has yet to show signs of slowing down (two straight seasons with 100+ receptions) and I highly doubt he will until future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning hangs his cleats up. A two or three year deal should be coming Wayne's way at season's end.

My prediction for Jackson is that he will end his holdout and report on Tuesday, and the two sides will come up with a new deal at the end of 2011 as well.

It's Johnson's contract situation that is most intriguing. Both sides are pretty set on their intentions, and Johnson–one of the most talented backs in the league–knows he's worth big bucks. Whether or not Tennessee will be willing to satisfy his demands is a whole different story.

Johnson is set to make just $1.5 million this season, so it's rather obvious why he's holding out for a new deal. Johnson–being underpaid by a long-shot–has run for a total of 4,598 yards and 34 touchdowns in his first three professional seasons. He is one of six players in league history to break 2,000 yards in a season.
For the casual fan, $1.5 million may be a huge number, so let me give you a little comparison:

According to sportscity.com, Johnson's 2010 salary was $800,000...Minnesota's star running back Adrian Peterson (ran for less yards than C.J. in '10) made $7,720,000.

Now I don't know about you, but I would like to think a guy who runs for 2,000 yards in one season deserves to be paid like a superstar. Running backs have a short lifespan in the NFL, so that could slow down Tennessee in making a decision. Carolina reached a five-year deal with 28 year old DeAngelo Williams at the end of July, therefore there's no question Johnson will not be happy until he gets at least as much as Williams' five-year, $43 million ($21 million guaranteed) deal.

Most likely to happen first: Reggie Wayne
Most deserving: Chris Johnson

**Photos found on Google, no copyright infringement intended**

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Randy Moss Retirement: The Rice/Moss Debate Continues..

Yesterday's announcement of four-time First Team All Pro wideout Randy Moss was seemingly shocking to the entire NFL world.

The 34-year old Moss spent the 2010 season on three different teams (New England, Minnesota and Tennessee), setting career-lows in receptions (28) and yards (393) with five touchdown catches. It was just the third time in his 13-year professional career that The Freak failed to reach 1,000 receiving yards in a single season.

While many still believe his "retirement" from the game will be brief and that he will get the urge to return to the field with a contender and work towards earning that coveted Super Bowl championship, I am set to believe that Moss will never step foot on a field again.

Throughout his career, the supernatural talent of Moss has drawn comparisons to Hall of Fame receiver Jerry Rice, who is without a doubt the best wide receiver in NFL history–possibly even the best player in NFL history.

The Rice/Moss comparisons have surely been abundant amongst fans and "experts." And although a majority say Rice wins in a landslide, there's plenty of evidence that Moss isn't as far behind Rice as we think.
First off, let's take a look at what the Hall of Fame voters will be looking at first and foremost: career numbers..

Note: all-time rank in parenthesis

Rice–SF, OAK, SEA: 1,549 receptions (1), 22,895 yards (1), 197 TDs (1), 14.8 YPC, 10 rushing TDs in 21 seasons

Moss–MIN, OAK, NE, TEN: 954 receptions (t-8), 14,858 yards (5), 153 TDs (t-2), 15.6 YPC in 13 seasons

It's obvious Rice's numbers trump Moss's by a longshot, and that his numbers are clearly the best of any other receiver to step foot on an NFL field. But what people don't understand is that Rice played for over two decades. Of course his career stats are going to stack up extremely well against the rest of the competition, he played for a long time.

The other top receivers in history? Cris Carter (Moss' teammates in Minnesota), Tim Brown, Terrell Owens, Marvin Harrison, Isaac Bruce, Art Monk, Steve Largent, Rod Smith, James Lofton. NONE, and I mean none of the receivers named in the previous sentence played for as long as Rice did.

That's what made Rice so great, though, is that he was able to stay in shape and was even a huge asset to the Oakland Raiders' AFC Champion squad in 2002. At age 40, Rice's stateline was a Pro Bowl-worthy 92 receptions 1,211 yards and seven touchdowns for Rich Gannon's offense.

Rice's prime produced him three Super Bowl championships under Hall of Fame quarterbacks Joe Montana and Steve Young in San Francisco. Rice's approach to the game–calm, collective and very non-diva-like–paved the way for the receiving position. In his day, circus catches were the norm, and crying and complaining about his team were not.

Rice gave 110% in every game, and was a total team player.

Moss? Not quite so much. In fact, he usually just "did him," as hip-hop artists in today's society often like to call it. Meaning he did what he wanted, when he wanted, and didn't really care about anyone else. If he didn't like the situation he was in, he would throw a hissy fit and sometimes even not make a full attempt while on the football field.

This attitude gave Moss a bad rep, and may hurt his chances at reaching the Hall of Fame on first ballot. Which is a silly claim to make.

His bad attitude should not hurt his chances, because whether fans like it or not, Moss's production–and circus catches–are up to par with Rice's.

Before you try and call B.S. on me, take a gander at Rice and Moss's season averages (Note: Rice made 284 starts in 21 seasons while Moss made 191 starts in 13 seasons)..

Rice: 73.8 Rec., 1,090 yards, 9.4 TD in 14 starts

Moss: 73.4 Rec., 1,142 yards, 11.8 TD in 15 starts

It's a pretty tough comparison. Moss did more with his receptions, meaning he had a much better YPC average, yet Rice was thrown to more often. Let's just say, Moss played along side future HOF wideout Cris Carter part of his career and played with future HOF quarterback (Tom Brady) for another part of it. While Rice played with two Hall of Fame signal callers in Montana and Young.

They both received assistance in putting up astounding career numbers, both made numerous highlight-reel circus catches on the norm, and both changed the way defensive coordinators went about in weekly game-planning.
Overall, I do agree with the masses in that Rice will still go down as the best receiver the game has ever seen, but there's no doubt that Moss is right behind him. One of the league's first divas, Moss did more with less in Minnesota, while Rice was pampered in San Francisco's west coast offense with Walsh and Montana.

After all of this back-and-forth debating of the two's careers, I really don't think it's fair for Rice and Moss to be compared. Rice revolutionized the passing game with his big plays and clutch Super Bowl performances, not to mention his continual burning of opposing defensive backs. But at the same time Moss shouldn't be punished for his attitude towards his teammates.

Football is the ultimate team game, and a better attitude from Mr. Moss would have, no doubt, helped his career out quite a bit. But nevertheless his production was there, and it was up to the same level as Rice. 

Well, except for all those accolades Rice earned in his two decades as a player: 13 Pro Bowl selections, 12 First Team All Pro selections, three Super Bowl championships, Super Bowl MVP, Pro Bowl MVP, PFWA MVP, two-time AP NFL Offensive Player of the Year, NFL 75th Anniversary All-time Team, 1980s All-Decade Team, 1990s All-Decade Team, Pro Football Hall of Fame. His #80 jersey is retired in San Francisco and, of course, he still holds several NFL receiving records.

Gotta love Rice's love and approach to the game, and he trumps Moss in personal accolades. But Moss is a close No. 2 to Jerry.

**Photos found on Google, no copyright infringement intended**

Monday, August 1, 2011

Why Philadelphia Should not be Referred to as the "Dream Team"

Ever since the Philadelphia Eagles' starting quarterback Michael Vick revived his career last season, the Philly Phans have found hope in their football team.

That newfound hope has gone off the charts after the start of free agency period began last week.

The Vick-led Eagles went 10-6, winning the NFC East by way of a tiebreaker over the New York Giants. But a late interception for Green Bay in the first round of the playoffs sent the Eagles home a bit earlier than they had expected.

There's no question that it was the offense that got the Eagles to the playoffs, but Philadelphia's defense–pass defense to be more precise–ended up costing them in the long run. The front seven failed to get much pressure on Super Bowl MVP Aaron Rodgers, and the weak secondary failed to force any interceptions and gave up three Rodgers touchdown tosses.

Throughout the regular season Philadelphia was ranked 22nd in overall defense, and was in the bottom half when it came to points allowed. What they were able to do is pick off a lot of passes (except in the postseason of course) as they had the third-most in the league with 23, but the secondary also gave up a lot of big plays (31 passing TDs allowed, third-most in league as well).

There's only one thing better than having as high-powered an offense as Philadelphia has, and that's having both a high-powered offense and a stout defense.

So what does head coach Andy Reid (118-73 RS record; 10-9 PS record in 12 seasons) and the front office go out and do?

Well, it's simple really. They focused on stacking up on the defensive side with loads of young talent. In fact, three of the team's first four picks in the April draft consisted of two DBs and a linebacker. Very smart.

And, finally, that brings us to now. The free agency period began near the end of July and the Eagles have made some solid editions not only to the defensive side of the ball, but they added some depth at the quarterback position as well.

After dumping young backup quarterback Kevin Kolb off to Arizona (received CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a second round pick in exchange), Philadelphia went out and took a risk in signing troubled Tennessee Titan Vince Young to a one-year contract to back up Vick.
These two deals, however, weren't nearly as big as the moves they made on defense. On Friday, about 10 minutes after the New York Jets and Dallas Cowboys were both reportedly out of the running for coveted free agent cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, the Eagles made a move and signed him to a mega five-year, $60 million contract.

Before the headliner took place, Philly made a huge addition in the front seven, adding (also a former Titan like Young) defensive end Jason Babin. Babin is a shifty pass rusher that would be a huge help to the Eagle's scheme. Although he was a late-bloomer (career-high 12.5 sacks with Tennessee last season), Babin, 31, was also locked up for five years.

As a result of the additions on defense, Philadelphia has been pushed in to the center of attention in not only the NFC East, but the NFL.

Seemingly overnight the Eagles have gone from division favorites to Super Bowl favorites, and rightly so. The talent was there last year, and almost all of it plus some will be back for this season.

But the fans of Philadelphia, and NFL fans and experts in general–hell, even some of the players–have crossed the line in comparisons to the Eagles 2011 squad being a "Dream Team" throughout the league.

Okay, I'm sorry but there is no such thing as a "Dream Team" when it comes to the sport of American Football. It is the ultimate team game and a couple of high-profile free agents cannot turn a team in to a Dream Team. It just does not exist in this league.

If the New England Patriots' 2007 team–undefeated before losing to New York in the Super Bowl and Miami's undefeated squad in '72 are not referred to as a Dream Team, then Philadelphia has no right to even be in the same sentence.
Haven't they learned something from the NBA? It's not a smart idea to hand out a crown before they actually do the dirty work to earn that crown. That's exactly what the NBA world did with the Miami Heat's "Dream Team" or "Big Three" with LeBron, Wade and Bosh signing big-time contracts last season. In a tweet Babin actually even compared his new team to the Miami Heat, saying he feels like they are "the Miami Heat of the NFL."

No. No, you aren't Jason.

I am not saying the Eagles aren't Super Bowl contenders–because you would have to be blind to not realize this team has talent. But there are other teams, such as Baltimore, New England, Green Bay, Pittsburgh and the New York Jets who could all keep up with this Eagles team.

Moral of the Story: Please stop crowning and comparing these Philadelphia Eagles. They are not my pick to win it all, and they will be known to me as the winners of the free agency period of 2011 until proven otherwise. Check back with me in February.

Photo credit
Nnamdi Asomugha: ESPN.com
VY/DRC/Babin: phillysportsdaily.com