Generally, on Friday’s I will give you a quick thought or two on Sunday’s game. I am somewhat distracted by the events of last night at Giant’s Stadium, but allow me to focus for a moment of the main event of almost everybody’s weekend (assuming you aren’t amazed at the lackluster Big 12 schedule, excited about the Iceman teeing off on Rashad Evans, or counting down the moments for Favre v. Pennington in Miami):
Dallas at Cleveland, Fox, 3:15 Sunday
The Browns are coming off as season of plenty of promise, and have plenty of quality around their roster. They have added some interesting elements to the squad since they last played, and the biggest addition is the biggest cause for concern for the Cowboys: Shawn Rogers.
Rogers is in my estimation one of the very best players in football…when he cares. Too often in Detroit, he demonstrated that he didn’t care enough and that the Lions had beaten the spirit right out of him. But, now, in a new locale, expect a newly interested Rogers (think Moss when he left Oakland for New England) and that spells trouble for the man lined up across from him Sunday, Cory Procter. The Cowboys will need to help Procter all day, lest Rogers destroys any plans for a running game.
The entire Browns defense is based on Rogers being disruptive. If he is, the Browns can get Robaire Smith or Corey Williams loose, with help from the edges and guys like Kamerion Wimbley getting in Romo’s face.
Expect a fairly safe game plan early, with the occasional shot deep to Owens. I would expect a steady diet of MB3 to the edges, and Witten short for the lion’s share of the 1st half. Then, I expect the Cowboys mammoth OL to begin to wear down the Browns.
Meanwhile, when Derek Anderson has the ball, I have to believe they will test the Cowboys front with Jamal Lewis. Surely, very early in the game, it will be SE and FL to one side, and Winslow to the other to see how the Cowboys matchup with him. If Anderson sees a safety, they pass to Winslow – and if he sees a corner, they run Lewis right to that direction.
If I am the Browns, I need to slow the pace of the game way down. I need to make this a 20-17 game or Romo, Owens, and the gang will be too much for my defense.
Overall, this is a mismatch. The Browns at home should be considered as the Browns were 7-1 in the pound. But, fields don’t win games. Teams do:
COWBOYS 28, Browns 17
Burress dominates with Jacobs to give the Giants a pretty easy headstart on the East …
New York Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress had resigned himself Thursday afternoon to not getting a new contract done before the regular season, which seemed like a safe bet since kickoff was four hours away. But when he pulled into the players' parking lot at Giants Stadium, agent Drew Rosenhaus was waiting for him.
In between shooting Youtube videos for other clients, Rosenhaus flew into New York and made a final push for a new contract. He and Burress walked up to Giants GM Jerry Reese's office and finalized a five-year, $35 million contract, which gives him $11 million in the first year. The agreement was barely reached in time for the contract to take effect before Thursday's game.
By 4:30 p.m., Burress was on the field with quarterback Eli Manning, and by halftime, they'd pretty much carved up a Redskins defense that reportedly included Jason Taylor.
When I stopped by Manning's locker moments after the Giants defeated the Redskins 16-7, he said Burress' contract was news to him.
"I didn't know anything about it," he said. "He got a new contract?"
Manning had been frustrated by Burress' extended absence during training camp because he thought they needed to work together, but Thursday they picked up right where they left off in Super Bowl XLII. On the first drive, Manning completed throws of 30, 19 and 11 yards to Burress, who said he never felt any pain in his ankle.
After spending part of training camp working on throwing the deep ball, Manning completed the 30-yard pass to Burress on the fifth play of the game. It helped that Redskins safety LaRon Landry somehow misplaced Burress, but it was still a good sign for the Giants.
Burress finished with 10 catches for 133 yards. Who knows what he could do if he mixed in
a practice or two during the regular season.
Burress said after the game that he would've had the same performance whether or not he received a new contract, but just to be safe, the Giants consummated the deal. You might recall that Burress joined his former teammate and close friend Jeremy Shockey in sitting out a mandatory minicamp, although the receiver at least showed his face on the sideline. Rosenhaus, who represents both players, said the situations were completely different.
"If the team is making a good-faith effort, a good agent has to get it done," Rosenhaus said while watching the second half in the media lounge. "Those two situations were completely unrelated. I always thought we could get a deal done with Plaxico. And it looks like the Giants made a good decision."
Another key matchup – From Gil Brandt …
Dallas LB DeMarcus Ware vs. Cleveland LT Joe Thomas
This is the marquee matchup of the week. Both players have game-changing ability -- Ware as a pass rusher, Thomas as a pass protector.
In the two years prior to Thomas joining the Browns as the third overall pick in the 2007 draft, Cleveland had allowed a total of 100 sacks. Last year, they allowed just 19 sacks, with a mere 1.5 coming against Thomas. The result of that increased protection: The Browns averaged 351 yards per game, eighth in the NFL in 2007.
Thomas has long arms, strong hands and is very athletic.
Also a first-round pick, Ware is starting his fourth season with Dallas. He has started 48 consecutive games and has 33.5 sacks in three years, including 14 last year. Ware is a dominating player with great speed for his position. His unbelievable quickness prevents offensive tackles from getting their hands on him, which is obviously what Thomas needs to do here if QB Derek Anderson is going to have time to make plays against Dallas.
Tim McMahon with Football Outsiders …
You mentioned in the first edition of Five Downs With Football Outsiders that the Cowboys had a ton of success running behind right tackle and to the outside on the right side. Where were the Cowboys most and least successful running the ball last season?
Dallas was actually incredibly boom-and-bust last year depending upon the location of their runs. They were first in the league at running to right end and second running at right tackle, but they were 27th in the league at running in the middle and 31st at running to left end. I'm not sure why that's the case, but I wouldn't be surprised if it had something to do with Flozell Adams slipping some in his ability to absorb opposing linemen at the point of attack. The Cowboys were 21st in the league at running behind left end the year before.
The Cowboys will go to Cleveland with only two healthy receivers. How often did Tony Romo throw to his No. 3 WR last season, and how effective was Sam Hurd with those opportunities?
It was interesting to see how Dallas changed up their offense in 2007 with a full year of Tony Romo and Jason Garrett, but whilst missing Terry Glenn for the entire regular season. In 2006, the pass distribution -- attempts, not completions -- among significant receivers went as follows:
- Terrell Owens 36.8%
- Terry Glenn 26.9%
- Patrick Crayton 11.6%
- Sam Hurd 2.6%
- Jason Witten 22.1%
In this scheme, as the third wideout/fourth receiving option, Crayton put up remarkable numbers -- he caught 75% of the passes thrown in his direction, and put up a 38.8% DVOA, which was the best of any wide receiver in football.
In 2007, those roles shifted as follows:
- Terrell Owens 34.3%
- Patrick Crayton 19.8%
- Sam Hurd 9.0%
- Miles Austin 2.4%
- Jason Witten 34.3%
Witten and Owens were both targeted 141 times, making them co-#1 receivers. The injury to Glenn forced the Cowboys to change responsibilities some; Owens ran deeper routes in 2007, with Crayton and Witten excelling in underneath roles as possession receivers.
To answer the question, though, Hurd wasn't a match for Crayton. He was targeted less frequently, caught the ball less of the time, and did less with it; his 9.0% DVOA was acceptable, but nothing that indicates future success the way that Crayton's performance did.
html> Wonderlic IQ’s for QBs …
oke-the-story-of-culp/#cont> ESPN is Evil …and then I continue to watch…
Without fail, the ESPN anchor in Bristol will say that Culpepper retired and then add, "Now, to the man who broke the story, ESPN.com's John Clayton."
Except that Clayton didn't "break the story" at all.
Culpepper e-mailed a number of NFL writers this morning to tell them he was retiring. At least two of them -- Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk and Adam Schefter of NFL Network -- reported the contents of the e-mail before Clayton did. And neither Florio nor Schefter tried to pass off their reports as scoops, because they realized that simply passing along an e-mail does not constitute "breaking a story."
In fairness to Clayton, I haven't heard him personally claim that he "broke the story" of Culpepper's retirement. But I have heard other ESPN on-air employees make that claim, and they should stop. Because it isn't true.
Rangers put down Kinsler …again…
Decision 2008 came Thursday for Ian Kinsler, the Texas Rangers’ second baseman who enjoyed an All-Star season before it was derailed by the dreaded sports hernia.
That’s not the kind injury that can be treated by throwing a little dirt on it. Surgery is the only way to get one right, and Kinsler will be on a Dallas operating table in six days.
He tried, and badly wanted, to return to the lineup, but with 2008 now a loss for the Rangers, 2009 became Kinsler’s focus.
"As far as the playoffs go, I don’t think we’re going to be able to get in there," he said late Thursday. "It just seemed like the right decision to make sure I’m ready for off-season workouts without this thing ever bothering me."
Now, the Rangers need David Murphy to follow suit.
His sprained right knee has taken him through ups and downs the past 10 days, and lately it hasn’t responded as well as he and team doctors would prefer.
The outfielder doesn’t want to shut down his first full season in the major leagues, but the risk of returning isn’t worth the reward.
Games remain on the schedule, but the final 21 of 2008 have nowhere near the importance of the first 21 of 2009.
"Say we get to the middle of September, and they’re still not ready to go," Rangers manager Ron Washington said Wednesday of Kinsler and Murphy. "What good is taking a bigger chance on getting them hurt? We’re not going to rush it."
As long as Murphy continues working to free himself from the disabled list, he jeopardizes his effectiveness at the start of spring training and the 2009 regular season.
A bone bruise has complicated Murphy’s return, and there are concerns that he could make the injury worse by coming back.
"If they were going to tell me that shutting it down for the season would definitely assure my health, then I have to trust them," Murphy said of the Rangers’ medical team, headed by Dr. Keith Meister. "The key is to make sure I don’t do anything worse."
Each time Meister tells him to come back tomorrow, his fate for the rest of the season becomes clear.
"We need him next year, and we need him in our future," said Kinsler, who should be fully healed six to eight weeks after surgery. "He needs … to make sure he’s 100 percent healthy going into this off-season. I’d tell him just be happy with the season, there’s a lot to look forward to, and get ready for next year."
Murphy hasn’t been as valuable as Kinsler, Josh Hamilton or Milton Bradley this season, but the Rangers lost 11 of the first 13 games they played without him and are 9-18 since he sprained the posterior cruciate ligament in a collision at home plate with Ivan Rodriguez.
The Rangers went 1-5 in the first six games after Kinsler went down and are 7-9 without both of them. The club was averaging 5.68 runs with Murphy and Kinsler, but has slipped to 4.625 runs without them.
Here’s why: Kinsler hit .319 and still leads the team with 102 runs and 26 steals, and Murphy swatted 15 homers and drove in 74 runs.
Murphy also cemented his place as an everyday player next season.
Playing again in 2008, at the chance of hampering his readiness in 2009, seems like the wrong move.
Genius Jayhawks …
Details of the scandal involving Mario Chalmers and Darrell Arthur are beginning to emerge as the NBA and the players' association investigate the events that led to their expulsion from the league's rookie transition program Wednesday.
Several sources said Thursday that NBA commissioner David Stern was so angered by the two former Kansas players' alleged involvement with marijuana and women at the program that he made the call to remove them from their rooms at the Doral Arrowwood resort in Rye Brook, N.Y.
Chalmers and Arthur, who just months ago helped lead the Jayhawks to the 2008 NCAA championship, were dismissed from the four-day program after women -- a violation of the program's no-visitors rule -- and signs of marijuana usage were found in their hotel room.
According to sources, Chalmers and Arthur were caught in Arthur's room at the Doral Arrowwood resort in Rye Brook when a smoke alarm went off Wednesday at about 2 a.m. Hotel management went to the room, but the players refused to allow them in.
Management then left to get security, which used its own key to enter the room minutes later. Once inside, security found Chalmers, Arthur and at least two women. There was a strong stench of marijuana in the room, and one person was in the bathroom with the door locked, repeatedly flushing the toilet, sources said.
The police were called to the room, which they searched, but neither marijuana nor drug paraphernalia was found. Representatives from the players' association were
also on the scene by that time.
Chalmers and Arthur were allowed to spend the night at the resort and were seemingly planning to attend a kickoff address by Stern later Wednesday morning. But after being told of the violations shortly before beginning his speech, Stern immediately had the players removed from their rooms.
Several sources described Stern as being furious.