Category: NFL

Season Review: The Chargers have a hump to get over, and it has nothing to do with talent on the field.  AJ Smith’s roster and player mis-management has continually sabotaged this team, alienating stars like LT and Vincent Jackson.  After making the playoffs by default in the atrocious AFC west for years, the rest of the division has finally caught up with them, and an up-and-down season during which they put up massive statistics, if not wins, ended with the Chargers watching in January.

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In the last game of the 2006 season, the Detroit Lions played the Dallas Cowboys in week 17 of the regular season.  Entering the game with two wins to their credit, all they had to do was lose and they would own the #1 overall pick, and be able to draft sure-fire, etched-in-stone first overall prospect, Notre Dame QB Brady Quinn.  Defying all odds, they went out and won, 39-31.  Announcers and analysts lamented the teams drive, and the fact that they would not have a crack at their quarterback of the future.

You can bet the Lions are OK with missing out on this.

As it turned, out they did.  Oakland, who secured the #1 pick, took JaMarcus Russel instead.  The Lions again defied all and took Georgia Tech wide receiver Calvin Johnson.  You can bet no one is unhappy with either decision.  Johnson is a stud, and the franchise quarterback came a year later- and he’s much better than Brady Quinn.

In week 17 of the past season, the Seattle Seahawks faced a similar choice.  At 6-9, they played the 7-8  St Louis Rams at home, and with a win, they secured a spot in the playoffs- and at best, the #21 overall pick.  A loss and they picked #8, where they could draft someone to fill one of the numerous holes on their roster, presumably a quarterback.  Fans, commentators, analysts and more suggested they should just lose- after all, if they won, they were a joke, a laughingstock- the only playoff team ever with a losing record.  Wouldn’t you rather pick in the top 10?

After beating the Rams, Matt Hasslebeck posed the title question (the answer is ‘a doctor’).  The Seahawks were a playoff team, and proved they weren’t the ugly girl at the dance by beating the defending world champs.  Because of that, they pick at #25 overall instead of #8.  As the Lions before them, is that a bad thing?  I think not.

The Seahawks have plenty of needs (I’ll go more in depth in their Draft Needs post, but they are, in order of need: CB, SS, G, QB), all of which could certainly be filled at #8, but also can be filled at 25.  A few names that will likely be available at the tail of the first round: Florida guard Mike Pouncey (the top-rated guard in the draft), hometown-QB Jake Locker (the pre-season sure-fire #1 overall pick), Colorado CB Jimmy Smith and Texas CB Aaron Williams.  The highest rated safety, period, in the draft is Clemson’s DeAndre McDaniel, who probably will there for Seattle’s second round pick.  With the exception of LSU’s Patrick Peterson or Nebraska’s Prince Amukamara, I would be happy drafting any of those players pretty much anywhere in round one to fill a need.

Teams that succeed draft well, regardless of where they pick.  No team should apologize for winning, ever.  They should go into the draft expecting to win there, too.

Season Review: After a surprisingly solid draft last year, Oakland put together an equally surprising season.  The first four weeks of the season were business as usual- they won one game, and looked altogether unimpressive.  Then in week six, they unloaded on San Diego, dropped a game against San Francisco, and then blew out Denver and Seattle in consecutive weeks.  After that,t hey reverted to their early season form, and finished 8-8 behind the Jason Campbell/Bruce Gradkowski QB carousel.  Tom Cable was fired as head coach by Al Davis because… well, no one knows why, probably including Al Davis.  So they start over with a new head coach… again.  Whether or not that coach continues last seasons momentum remains to be seen.

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Fast Fifteen: Wide Receivers

Welcome to the First and Fifteen Fast Fifteen.  It will take in various things as the offseason and (hopefully) subsequent season roll on.  The first series will focus on five teams with the best and worst situations at each position group, plus five that could break either way.  Today we’ll take a look at the best and worst receiving corps in the NFL.  Note that this takes in tight ends, running backs and wide receivers.

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Season Review: The Jaguars had an unexpectedly good season in some ways, narrowly missing the playoffs.  The Colts stumbling for most of the year helped, but that doesn’t change the fact that Jacksonville made themselves relevant again, and this draft will go a long way to keeping them that way.  However, for the most part, 2010 was an up-and-down affair.  Convincing wins against Cleveland and Indianapolis were mired in blowout losses to inferior teams.  Still alive headed into week 15, they dropped the game at Indy and then the next two, to faltering Washington and Tennessee.

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Season Review: The last few seasons have been an up-and-down affair for Miami.  A year after winning a single game, they made the playoffs.  Last year was something of a disappointment, as they struggled to keep up with the sheer firepower of the Jets and Patriots.  In one of the more bizarre twists of any NFL season, their lone home win came against the Titans, while they came close to defeating some very good teams, both home and on the road.  The up and down season ended with questions about if Tony Sparano would return, which he will, but only after the Dolphins lost out on Jim Harbaugh.  If this team can hold it together, they are pices away.  Otherwise, they have the potential to make a return to the top of the draft.

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We are introducing a new feature today, the First and Fifteen Fast Fifteen.  It will take in various things as the offseason and (hopefully) subsequent season roll on.  The first series will focus on five teams with the best and worst situations at each position group, plus five that could break either way.  We’ll start off with the games most important position, Quarterback:

The Best:

New England Patriots: How good is their QB situation?  When their incredible starting quarterback (Tom Brady, for those of you just joining us) was injured, their backup quarterback led them to an 11 win season.  So?  That’s what backup quarterbacks are supposed to do.  Except Matt Cassell hadn’t started a game since high school.  The Patriots find talent deep in the draft and make the most of it, and that puts them at the top of this list.

New Orleans Saints: Drew Brees was supposed to be washed up following a shoulder injury, and the San Diego Chargers, with replacement Phillip Rivers in the fold, let him walk.  Only two teams had any interest in him, and he signed with New Orleans- and the rest is history.  For the first time in a long time (ever?) the Saints aren’t horrible, and much of that is thanks to Drew Brees.

Cleveland Browns: They won’t make many ‘best-of-anything’ lists, but they deserve to be on this one.  Question marks surrounded every quarterback in last years draft, including first overall pick Sam Bradford.  Colt McCoy was no exception, and despite a stellar record at Texas, he slipped to the third round.  When injuries thrust him into the starting job, he showed up despite a lot of lackluster talent around him.  The Browns are on the upswing, and should feel lucky to have gotten McCoy to settle their QB woes.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Their starting quarterback was suspended the first four games of the season, and they went to the Super Bowl.  I think that says it all.

Green Bay Packers: This Aaron Rodgers guy is pretty good, in case you hadn’t heard.  However, while he gets them on this list, their backups need work.  They were ok when he missed a game, but because of their defense, not their quarterback.  Prolonged absences from Rodgers could sink them.

The Worst:

Minnesota Vikings: Brett Favre is gone, and he wasn’t there this last year anyway.  I said it in the Vikings Draft Needs, but no one on the Vikings roster inspires any kind of confidence moving forward.  It’s full of ‘serviceable’ quarterbacks.  Not to say one of them couldn’t step it up, but right now, it’s a huge mess.

Arizona Cardinals: After the season that just happened, the Cardinals probably deserve their own category.  A mess of veteran journeymen, undrafted free agents and busts sunk their season from the start.  The worst part is that the Cradinals could be back in contention with some stability here (see Warner, Kurt).

Tennessee Titans: Up until late in the past season, they wouldn’t even be close to this list.  The last few years, when one Quarterback has been down, the other has been up, and it has worked for them.  But Kerry Collins is showing his age, and Vince Young is showing his temper.  No solution exists on their roster.

Carolina Panthers: For some reason, headed into last years draft, a lot of people thought Jimmy Clausen could be an NFL quarterback.  That is not the case.   Combined with Matt Moore- who showed some flashes of promise, but no consistency- and the departure of interception machine Jake Delhomme, there’s a reason the Panthers own the top spot in the draft.  Sadly for them, there is no sure-fire QB prospect in this draft.  Expect another year of limping along.

Washington Redskins: I know they belong here, but it’s so hard with the Redskins to know where to assign blame.  The organization as a whole is such a walking disaster, you hate to even begin to put the blame on the individual players.  However, none of that changes the fact that when Rex Grossman started a game, he became the instant favorite to be the 2012 starter.  Yeah, it’s that bad.

Those That Could Go Either Way:

Denver Broncos: This has a lot to do with coaching, but with Tim Tebow and Kyle Orton both on the roster, there has to be a fundamental scheme for which one you’re going to use.  If it’s done right, this will be a dangerous team next year, but I’m not counting on it.

Seattle Seahawks: Most people probably see the Seahawks as belonging on the ‘worst’ list, but there is considerable evidence to the contrary: Matt Hasslebeck still has gas in the tank, which he showed in the playoffs, and despite the fact that most people are ready to hang him, the jury is still out on Whitehurst.  He played well at times, and not so well at others, but it was his first chance to start since college.  There is a lot of potential at quarterback for Seattle- for good or disaster.

Jacksonville Jaguars: David Gerrard is good, but he needs to improve if the Jags will be.  They showed promise this year, but the entire future of the team is shaky.  A playoff berth would go a long way to getting fans into the stadium and keeping them in Jacksonville, and that starts with Gerrard.  If he implodes this year, look for a complete rebuild.

Indianapolis Colts: Peyton Manning is a good as it gets, but he took a beating this year, and for the first time in a long time, the Colts came close to missing the playoffs entirely, and even then, it was an early exit.  With the rest of the AFC South breathing down their necks, the Colts can’t afford another down year.

Cincinnati Bengals: Marvin Lewis returns, with a new offensive coordinator.  Owens and Ochocinco probably do not.  However, Carson Palmer says he has had enough.  He may be tempted by the chance to play without the distractions of the most petulant and arrest-prone receiving corps in the NFL, but if I am in his shoes, I never want to wear orange and black again ever, no matter what.

Draft Needs: #14 Overall, St Louis Rams

Season Review: Back-to-back former #1 overall teams have now broken out of the top ten.  Like Detroit in front of them, St Louis grabbed the franchise quarterback and is now set up for future success.  There was very little that was flashy about the Rams 2010 season- convincing wins were followed by even more convincing losses, but they showed promise for the future.  Sam Bradford shined, putting to bed injury worries and criticism for staying in school.  It all came down to a must-win game against Seattle for a playoff spot and a non-losing record, but they fell short.  Next year promises to be better, especially if they can grab players as talented as they have the last couple years.

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Draft Needs: #13 Overall, Detroit Lions

Season Review: Unlike their NFC North counterparts picking ahead of them, the Lions had an incredibly successful season- they are steadily climbing up from picking first overall two years ago after finishing 0-16.  More importantly, they are getting out from the shadow of the Matt Millen disaster, and assembling a strong team.  Detroit put up strong showing in nearly every game, weathering injuries to Matt Stafford as best they could.  They were robbed right from the start by a horrible rule that would have given them a victory over Chicago, and you have to think the whole season changed because of that non-touchdown (possibly making Green Bay the division winners and knocking Chicago out of the playoffs entirely).  At the end of it all, a 6-10 finish is great progress for the Lions, and a solid draft will go a long way for them.

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Draft Needs: #12 Overall, Minnisota Vikings

Many of the Vikings woes last year can be placed on Favres shoulders.

Season Review: While for many of the teams picking in the top half of the draft, 2010 opened with a lot of hope, the Vikings didn’t make it to week one before cruel, crushing reality set in.  Brett Favre was supposed to repeat his magical 2009 performance, and the team as a whole was expected to get over the crippling interception Favre gift-wrapped to Tracy Porter in the NFC Title game.

As it turns out, getting that far would have been a miracle.  Those expectations began to wither as Favre spent yet another offseason creating drama, away from camps and his teammates.  Other Vikings followed suit, and training camp became a joke as entitlement dominated part of the locker room and alienated the rest, all while Brad Childress stood around and did… nothing.

Then Favre- predictably- came back, and the regular season started and… nothing.  Their only two wins in the first eight week of the season came against equally woeful Detroit and Dallas.  The offense was anemic and the defense porous.  While they were still alive in the playoff race fairly late in the season, and commentators and analysts tried to spin the possibility of a winning streak to close the season, anyone watch knew- it was over.  2011 begins with a new coach, (hopefully) the conclusion of the StarCaps legal battle, the possible retirement of cornerstones of the team, and finally- the end of Brett Favre.

Needs: The biggest is obviously Quarterback.  Their options on the roster are Travaris Jackson, Joe Webb, Patrick Ramsey and Rhett Bromar.  None of those names screams ‘starting NFL quarterback’.  However, they could also be severely depleted along the defensive line- the ‘Williams Wall’ is likely breaking up through a combination of free agency, suspension and retirement, and while Jared Allen and Ray Edwards are certainly a great pair of defensive ends, their production will drop without the Williams clogging up the middle.

However, if you enter the draft in desperate need of a quarterback, you take a quarterback.  Their options at #12 are likely Cam Newton (of Auburn, but you knew that), or Blaine Gabbert of Missouri.  It depends what new head coach Leslie Frazier wants to do, but with receivers Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin, not to mention a receiving tight end in Visanthe Shiancoe, and an established running game with Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart, they have no need of a scrambling quarterback.  They need someone who can stand in the pocket and evade pressure well enough to get the ball downfield.  Gabbert can do that.  He is somewhat raw, so there will be a transition period for him- but at least there will be a real reason for optimism after 2011.