Thursday, September 04, 2008

Ready For Some Football?

A blog full of NFL links on the gorgeous first day of the NFL season….Have I mentioned that I love the NFL?

Todd Archer ranks the Cowboys roster …I like it….debates around water coolers are sure to break out with his #1 selection. And what about #8, #9, and #13? And, wow, Roy isn’t going to be pleased….

Rk. Pos., Player '07 +/-
1. WR Terrell Owens 7 +6
2. QB Tony Romo 1 –1
3. LB DeMarcus Ware 3 0
4. TE Jason Witten 5 +1
5. LT Flozell Adams 4 –1
6. CB Terence Newman 2 –4
7. RB Marion Barber 18 +11
8. FS Ken Hamlin 11 +3
9. RT Marc Colombo 19 +10
10. RG Leonard Davis 13 +3

Todd Archer's comment: The easy answer for the top spot would have been Tony Romo. He has been to the last two Pro Bowls and improved his fundamentals in the off-season. Romo's numbers could improve in his second year in offensive coordinator Jason Garrett's system. But that's provided Romo has a healthy Owens, which is why the receiver is No. 1. The last thing Romo has to do in his development is take the Cowboys deep into the playoffs.


Rk. Pos., Player '07 +/-
11. C Andre Gurode 12 +1
12. LB Greg Ellis 10 –2
13. NT Jay Ratliff 26 +13
14. LB Bradie James 15 +1
15. LB Zach Thomas NA NA
16. CB Anthony Henry 14 –2
17. WR Patrick Crayton 21 +4
18. S Roy Williams 9 –9
19. LG Kyle Kosier 23 +4
20. K Nick Folk 29 +9

Todd Archer's comment: Roy Williams has played in the Pro Bowl the last five seasons, but he could see his playing time dip dramatically this year, with Anthony Henry moving into the dime package as a safety covering tight ends. Considering how the Giants, Redskins and Eagles like to use multi-receiver formations, Williams could be a two-down safety in 2008. His coverage skills have improved, but the Cowboys want to get more corners on the field in passing situations.

Blue and Silver breaks down the crucial matchup on Sunday, IMO – the Cleveland Front 7 against the Cowboys OL …If Romo has all day, it is goodnight, but what about Proctor vs. Shawn Rogers?....Better help Cory, because you know Shawn will want to impress his new locale…

When Tony Romo drops back to pass, he’ll be protected by one of the best units in the game. The Browns get a lot of ink because their starting five only allowed 10 sacks last year but Dallas’ starters only gave up 11. Flozell Adams allowed a league best one sack at left tackle and Andre Gurode was stellar inside. Mark Colombo is a bit weaker on the right side, giving up 5 sacks last year, but was gritty against top rushers.

The Cowboys line is dinged, with LG Kyle Kosier out with an injured foot. After shuffling several interior linemen into the LG slot, backup C Cory Procter will get the start. There’s some concern that Procter could have trouble with massive NT Shawn Rogers, the Browns big offseason acquisition on defense.

Procter will likely get help from his center and his offensive coordinator. Last year, Jason Garrett ran a 56/44 pass/run blend. What’s more, he skewed his play calling heavily towards the pass early and the run late. This tactic was very effective at wearing out defensive lines early, as it’s taxing for 330-340 lb. DTs to run several sprints in heat, especially when they’re chasing an active QB like Tony Romo.

Garrett used this strategy to perfection in week two last year against the Dolphins, when he had Miami’s DTs worn out before the half. I expect him to try the same tactic Sunday. Rogers is very talented, but is also very overweight and wears out quickly. I think Dallas will make him rush a lot the first two to three series, and send him to the oxygen tank as quickly as possible.

Dallas will be facing a Browns front that could muster only 28 sacks last year. Kamerion Wimbley led the team with 5 sacks. Cleveland’s top four rushers combined for 17 sacks. Demarcus Ware, by comparison, had 14 all by himself. The Browns rush may be further weakened by OLB Antwaan Peek’s knee injury. Watch his status as game time approaches.

Cleveland’s weak rush may be the deciding factor in the game. The Browns were criticized last year for sitting in zones and playing it safe early on. Their rush came on down the stretch and they have the talent to be troublesome when they’re healthy, but right now they’re not at full strength. Peek appears hurt, as is safety Brodney Pool, who recently suffered a concussion. He has not been practicing and may not play.

Romeo Crennell was Bill Belichick’s DL coach and he’ll try some creative ways to get his guys to Romo. If they fail early, he may call on heavy blitzing, which is exactly what Dallas is hoping for. Cleveland has talent in its secondary, but its young and somewhat erratic. If the Cowboys can prevent leaks at left guard, Romo will get some chances for big plays.

Michael Lombardi has some good comment on the news in many directions

FROM MARY KAY CABOT OF THE CLEVELAND PLAIN DEALER… Browns linebacker Antwan Peek left Wednesday’s practice with an apparent knee injury and did not return, a source told The Plain Dealer. The extent of the injury was not known. Peek had just returned to practice Monday after undergoing arthroscopic surgery July 31 to remove loose cartilage from his right knee. He was hoping to be available for Sunday’s opener against the Cowboys. Peek also underwent a scope in the off-season to repair a torn meniscus suffered in the opener against Pittsburgh last season. He had his choice to have surgery during the season or wait it out, and he chose the latter. He said he learned from that mistake and had the scope as soon as possible this time to be ready for the opener. It was not yet known if Wednesday’s incident was a re-injury or something unrelated. If Peek misses an extended period of time, the Browns would be thin at outside linebacker. Seventh-round pick Alex Hall, the surprise of training camp, would rotate with starter Willie McGinest on the left outside. McGinest also missed the final two preseason games with a groin injury, but practiced full-go on Wednesday. The Browns waived fourth-year linebacker David McMillan Aug. 30 in anticipation of Peek’s return.

This injury really hurts the Browns ability to get pressure on the Cowboys. The Browns need as many healthy bodies as possible and playing at home with the heat and humidity. Which team is the freshest in the 4th quarter will go a long way in determining the outcome of the game. The Browns must find a way to play well in the red zone and get some pressure on the passer. Peek is their most athletic rusher, but that does not mean he is their best rusher. Still, he has the kind of skill that could give Dallas’ tackles trouble, whether Marc Colombo or Flozell Adams. The Browns cannot match the wideouts of the Cowboys with their secondary, so this means a ton of zone to limit the big plays in the game. When teams play zone, they have to tackle well and rely on their front four to get pressure. The Browns defensive front can match the physical play of the Cowboys offensive line in the run game, but they must find a way to get on the edge and force Romo to throw the ball quicker than he might prefer. The Browns must make the Cowboys work the ball down the field and force them into at least 14 third down situations. Let’s face it, the Cowboys are going to move the ball, and the key to this game is which team plays the best in the red zone. Both teams have explosive offenses, but the key element of the game will be the red zone production.

FROM LES BOWEN OF THE PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS… One minute, it was a slightly boring, back-down-to-business, first day of real preparation for the season opener. Then, suddenly, it was 2005 again. Reporters wanted to know Wednesday how Sheldon Brown felt about Drew Rosenhaus, the agent of his friend and teammate, Lito Sheppard, saying that Sheppard should be starting ahead of Brown in a video Rosenhaus disseminated last week (link here). Brown had several thoughts on the matter, starting with his view of Sheppard’s idea that changing agents, from Peter Schaffer to Rosenhaus, would somehow get the Eagles to trade him, which was the ultimate point of last week’s video. “If you know (Rosenhaus’) track record, it’s more of a disappointment to me that he enticed the guy into signing with him,” Brown said. “Thinking that he could get the deal done. Agents don’t get the deals done. The player gets the deal done. That’s what’s disappointing. “I wouldn’t say it bothered me, because I’m bigger than that, I’m a professional … Drew hasn’t been with Sheldon Brown for 7 years; I think he’s been with Lito for 2 months. He hasn’t followed by career. He hasn’t broke down any film; he probably couldn’t tell you what number (Brown wears). It’s really irrelevant … (from watching the video) you would think the guy has been scouting tape and know(ing) the statistics and following us our whole career. “A lot of times, people should just worry about their (own) jobs.” Brown said he had not spoken to Sheppard, who dresses in the next stall, about what Rosenhaus said. It’s a problem for Rosenhaus and Sheppard if Sheppard doesn’t start this season, because whenever a trade occurs, Sheppard wants a state-of-the-art contra.

I think I found my new favorite player in the NFL. Sheldon Brown just said what I have been writing the last two months. Brown knows the reality of the NFL — that a player’s performance on tape is what separates and makes their career. Trust me, Drew Rosenhaus has never watched a tape on Sheppard, he only knows what Sheppard has told him about his play. Do you think Sheppard has any objectivity about his self-evaluation? Rosenhaus does not care what the compensation the Eagles would — his only concern is that a team MADE an offer. Rosenhaus has his own agenda and it is based on what Sheppard has told him. Part of the agent’s role is to educate his client about the landscape of the league and to ensure reality is always in the mirror. Sheppard does not understand that all the other teams in the NFL are watching and reading his comments while asking themselves, “Do we want to add that kind of guy to our locker room? Do we want to pay a guy who seems to care more about money than playing well? No one in the league thinks that, based on Sheppard’s performance over the last two years, he is underpaid — no one except Lito.

FROM PAUL SCHWARTZ OF THE NEW YORK POST… Twice a season, the Giants knew what to expect when squaring off against the Redskins as long as Joe Gibbs was the head coach. Now that Gibbs is retired (again) and Jim Zorn is running the show, the Giants admit things are more complicated tonight in the season opener at Giants Stadium. “Joe Gibbs’ style of running the ball is gone, the power running game,” linebacker Antonio Pierce said. “It’s a quick rhythm passing game. Make quick reads, get the ball out of the quarterback’s hands. The first 15 plays we’ll know what their state of mind is.” Zorn has never before been a head coach or offensive coordinator and was a surprise choice to succeed Gibbs. For the past seven years, Zorn was the quarterbacks coach for the Seahawks and he’s installed a West Coast passing attack in Washington. “He was in Seattle and going back and watching some Seattle film there is some similar games and similar formations,” cornerback Sam Madison said. “That is pretty much what we have to go on right now. It’s a coin toss right now thinking about what they’re going to do.”

The Redskins better have an alternative plan after the first 15 plays. I always thought that the first 15 plays are the most overrated aspect of football. Football is a game of adjustments and the first 15 were invented to give the offense a sense of direction for the start of the game and to ensure the mental mistakes were reduced and hopefully eliminated. Now it has become a media sensation and people talk about it like it is some magic formula. The reality of the NFL is how coaches adjust to scheme and personnel. All good coaches save their best stuff for later in the game, for the second half when you need to make a play. When you unload your best stuff early you give your opponent’s offensive coaches time to make adjustments. When you are patient and save stuff, the offense does not have the half-time to fix any problems. It forces coaches to get things done on the sideline while the game is ongoing and challenges the overall communication of your opponent’s staff. Defensive coaches have their own play list and no one talks or writes enough about the defensive coordinator as a play caller. Steve Spagnuolo is an excellent good play caller. He knows that the game is not won or lost in the first drive and has a broad enough scheme to be able to make the right adjustments. Once the Giants determine how the Skins will try to attack, NY will adjust their scheme. It is never the first move, but the second and third moves that make pro football so compelling and interesting. I cannot wait to see what coach Zorn has planned for his adjustments.

By the way, I think you have to like the Giants with a reasonably big win tonight….

Tatum Bell has lost his mind

Rudi Johnson knew there'd be a little extra film work involved after signing a free-agent contract to play for the Lions on Monday.
He just couldn't have imagined it would be surveillance tape.

And his predecessor, running back Tatum Bell, can't believe he's caught up in a locker-room caper that has put his career in jeopardy.
Johnson confirmed after practice Wednesday the mystery surrounding his missing duffel bags, which he said contained a money clip with about $200, credit cards and other personal effects -- including his underwear -- really wasn't much of a mystery at all.

Bell walked off with them -- accidentally, Bell insists -- shortly after learning he was going to be released by the Lions as a result of Johnson's signing.
The Lions contacted Bell, and the bags were later returned by an unidentified woman. But Johnson, who also spoke to Bell by phone Tuesday night, said Wednesday the bags were empty. Or almost empty, he said.

"He left my money clip, but he didn't leave no money in it," said Johnson, walking off the field Wednesday following his first full practice with the team. "He could've taken the clip, too, you know what I mean? It was quite stupid, if you ask me.

"All this happened once he got released. He came in, got some stuff out of his locker. And that's when he scooped the bags up -- some real shyster, conniving stuff."

Bell tells a different story. Reached by phone late Wednesday afternoon, he vehemently denied the insinuation that he'd stolen the bags -- "First thing is, I'm no thief," he said -- and said he mistakenly picked up Johnson's bags for another teammate. Bell said defensive end Victor DeGrate, his ex-roommate who was cut by the Lions on Saturday, asked him to retrieve his bags from the locker room and deliver them to a friend.

"I took the bag, I called Vic and told him I had it, and he said, 'OK, take " Bell said. "Then (the Lions) called me it over to my lady friend's house,' yesterday and they said, 'What'd you do with those bags?' And I said, 'What bags?' I had no idea what they were talking about at first.
"It's crazy. I wouldn't just steal somebody's stuff on purpose. I'm no thief, and I'm not stupid. I know they got cameras at the facility. I mean, I parked right in the front. It wasn't like I was sneaking out of there or nothing."

Bell said he spoke to Cedric Saunders, the Lions' director of football operations, who then passed the phone to Johnson on Tuesday.

"I didn't believe nothin' he said," Johnson said. "(His excuse) was that he took it to somebody's house and he got the bags mixed up. But I don't believe that.

"He knows how I feel. He knows where I stand with it. It is what it is."

Pat Kirwan has Jared Allen on 20 sacks …and you know something? It makes sense…

Sacks aren't the most critical factor when it comes to winning in the NFL, but it is close to the top of stats when winning is broken down into production measured by numbers.

Getting the quarterback on the ground with the football in his hands stops drives, or makes the conversion of a down into another first down extremely difficult. Last year, Jared Allen missed the first two games and still led the league in sacks with 15.5, which translates to more than one a game. Now Allen plays for the Vikings, who were already No. 1 against the run, but No. 32 against the pass.

Allen is in the perfect storm to lead the NFL in sacks once again. Barring injury, he will play 16 games instead of 14. Last year, the Vikings were thrown at by opponents 646 times, while the Chiefs were subjected to defending just 462 pass attempts (and Allen missed the first 56 passes due to a two-game suspension). In fact, Allen only played against 406 pass plays, meaning he recorded one sack every 26 pass rushes. If he keeps up his ratio of 1:26, and teams throw it another 646, he could break the 20-sack line. Kevin and Pat Williams are still inside collapsing the pocket, and the same defense that stopped the run so well is back intact, so Allen looks like the odds-on favorite to lead the league in sacks with a big number.

Are there any other candidates who could challenge him for the individual title?
It usually takes a good pass rusher on the other side of the defensive line to balance up the protection, and it doesn't hurt if a guy is playing on a team that gets leads early and forces opponents into a one-dimensional pass attack. Give a defensive lineman a chance to pin his ears back and go, and the sacks will follow. Patrick Kerney of the Seahawks was the runner-up last year with 14.5 sacks, and he plays on a good team in a division that features Arizona, St. Louis and San Francisco. Last year, Kerney had nine of his 14.5 sacks within the division, and now Mike Martz is running the 49ers' offense, which means more passing. Kerney rushes from the left end position and he gets to beat right offensive tackles. He will be in the upper echelon again this year.

Right behind Kerney were a pair of young pass rushers with 14 sacks each. DeMarcus Ware plays in the Cowboys' aggressive 3-4 package, while Mario Williams is featured in the Texans' 4-3 defense. Ware will get plenty of opportunities because the Cowboys force teams to throw the ball, especially late in games when they have leads. Williams is an even more impressive story when you consider the Texans struggle to win games and the supporting cast around him is average. Williams is a marked man when teams play the Texans, yet he still gets to the quarterback. Williams didn't make the Pro Bowl last year, but he should have gone to Hawaii. This year, Williams makes the trip and he should surpass last year's sack total as he just keeps getting better each game.



i have a question for sports sturm.

how much do practice squad players get paid?


The Answer:

There is some serious negotiating going on in NFL front offices today for certain players. No, none of these players are household names to anyone but the most hardcore NFL fans. These are Practice Squad (“PS”) players, some of which are being recruited by several teams. The 2008 minimum for a PS player is $5,200 per week, which is the amount the vast majority of them – there are eight per team — will receive. However, there are several negotiations going on now to lure PS players from their incumbent team to another. The recruiting is usually about opportunity but also, of course, about money. Coming out of today, there will be a few PS players making first-year active salary. That pay is 1/17th of $295,000, or $17,353 per week, compared to $5,200 a week (all amounts count against the Cap). More than anyone knows, PS players are valuable properties for NFL teams. Today’s activity – teams started signing their Practice Squads yesterday – is proof.

Sports Scientists analysis of the final medal counts

The Shield Review of Ep 1

Jared Allen = Bad man

And now, the gold of the blog: Terrence Newman on a Roller Coaster – Good job, DMN!


Joe said...


Are you guys gonna comment on Bennett and the last Hard Knocks?
Will you praise the rookie or bash him because of what was edited last night?

P-Cat said...

Have to say, the Tatum Bell story might be the wackiest story I've heard in the sports world in quite some time. Can't imagine what the heck he was thinking.