Here are some good strong links for you on this Thursday. I trust you are not goofy enough to come here for World Series analysis or links…
Rafa looks at the Bucs …
So far in 2008, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are two different teams on the road, at least when it comes to their defense. Here’s how four opposing quarterbacks have done in the surroundings of hostile (“Nobody Loves”) Raymond James Stadium:
Matt Ryan: 33-13-158, 0 TDs, 2 Int., Tampa Bay won
Aaron Rodgers: 27-13-165, 2 TDs, 3 Int., Tampa Bay won
Jake Delhomme: 39-20-247, 0 TDs, 2 Int., Tampa Bay won
Seneca Wallace: 23-12-73, 1 TD, 1 Int., Tampa Bay won
Total: 121-58-643, 3 TDs, 8 Int.
When opposing QB’s visit Tampa, they are a combined 0-4, are completing 47% of their passes, have thrown 5 more interceptions than touchdowns, and are averaging a wretched 5.31 yards per attempt. They’ve also been sacked seven times in those four games.
Three of these visiting QB’s have hardly any starting experience (Ryan was in his second career start, Aaron Rodgers his 4th career start and Seneca Wallace in his 5th career start). Rodgers was injured midway through the Green Bay game and Wallace’s top receivers were out with injuries.
On the other hand, Delhomme is a grizzled veteran, but Tampa’s defense should be starting to figure him out by now, having played him eight times since 2003. And Steve Smith did drop at least one long TD pass against Tampa.
Tampa’s defense also has shut down decent runners in the comfy confines of home as well, including Atlanta’s Michael Turner, Green Bay’s Ryan Grant, Carolina’s tandem of DeAngelo Willams and Jonathan Stewart, and our old friend in Seattle, Julius Jones. In fact, in four home games their defense is allowing 69 rushing yards per game at 3.3 yards per clip.
Now let’s looks at the three “away” games on the Buccaneers schedule so far; specifically, how the “home” quarterbacks have performed against Monte Kiffin’s defense:
Drew Brees: 32-23-343, 3 TDs, 1 Int., New Orleans won
Kyle Orton: 34-22-268, 2 TDs, 2 Int., Tampa Bay won
Jay Cutler: 34-23-227, 1 TD, 0 Int., Denver won
Total: 100-68-828, 6 TDs, 4 Int.
It’s a small sample so far, but the evidence bears out that Tampa’s defense – when playing “away” games - allows opposing QB’s to complete 68% of their passes, for 8.28 yards per attempt, and a couple more touchdowns than interceptions.
These opposing QB’s have been sacked four times in those three games.
Meanwhile, Tampa’s defense has allowed 123 yards per game (and 100+ in all three) and 4.0 yards per carry when playing in another team’s stadium. Per contest, Tampa’s defense is allowing 10 more carries for 54 more yards when playing away games.
No doubt a successful passing game feeds off a successful running attack, or vice versa. The fact is that the statistics show so far in 2008 that Tampa Bay’s defense is playing much better at home than away, against less experienced QB’s for the most part. Over the four home games, Tampa’s defense has allowed just under 220 total yards and just nine points (I’m not counting Green Bay’s interception return for a TD) per contest. During their three visiting match-ups, Tampa’s defense has allowed over 380 yards and 23 points per game. The stats don’t lie, nor are they even really just misleading – the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have thus far been playing much better in home games than away games.
Whether the Dallas Cowboys, playing at home and led by a grizzled veteran QB of their own (and who Tampa’s defense should have some background info on), can take advantage of this recent trend remains to be seen.
Wade will call the defense now …which will really surprise those of us who thought he has always called the defense…
Coach Wade Phillips will take over the bulk of the defensive play-calling from defensive coordinator Brian Stewart in Sunday's game against Tampa Bay, according to multiple sources.
The decision was made because of the defense's recent struggles. The unit gave up 34 points to a Rams offense that had scored four offensive touchdowns in the team's first five games
Phillips said he will take a more active role in all phases of the defense. He denied that owner and general manager Jerry Jones told him to do so.
"I don't want to get into who does what really," Phillips said. "We have a game plan, and we're going to try to execute that game plan defensively, offensively and special teams wise."
Stewart, who will not lose his title, called the defensive plays last season and so far this season with input from Phillips. Stewart, who was not available for comment, will still have a heavy role in the defensive game planning.
It was a difficult decision for Phillips because the coaches are very close. Stewart coached with Phillips in San Diego from 2004 to 2006. And Stewart was one of Phillips' first hires when he became the Cowboys' coach in 2007.
"It's not on him, it's not anything on him. He does exactly what I want done and he's done that the whole time," Phillips said. "I'm just trying to help more, that's all I'm doing. Nothing has changed except I'm going to be helping more and be more involved than I had been."
Dallas' defense has problems.
The secondary has just two interceptions, tied for 29th in the league, and none from the cornerbacks. The defense is tied for 28th in turnover ratio at minus-6.
Dallas ranks 16th against the pass and 13th against the run. Opposing quarterbacks are completing 62.6 percent of their passes this year compared to 58 percent through seven games last season.
The Stars are in a really bad spot right now. They took a pretty big beating in New Jersey last night …which reminded us of the beatings they took in St Louis and Nashville…
It didn't take the Dallas Stars long to fritter away any momentum gained on their three-game East Coast swing.
Coming off their best game of the season Monday in a win against the Rangers, the Stars played maybe their worst game Wednesday in a 5-0 loss to the Devils at Prudential Center.
And the worst game in this Stars season is saying something.
"We're just not playing good hockey," Stars coach Dave Tippett said after his team fell to 2-4-1. "We're not getting the job done. ... We expect a much higher level of play than what we're getting."
While the Devils moved to 5-1-0 and Martin Brodeur drew closer to Terry Sawchuk's 103 career shutouts with his 98th whitewashing, the Devils shouldn't be confused with an offensive powerhouse. New Jersey scored nine total goals in its previous five games.
"We have to play better team defense; that's who we are," captain Brenden Morrow said. "We come off a 2-1 win where we play pretty well as a team, and then we have this. It's frustrating."
"They weren't great shots, and it [stinks] when they go through you," Turco said. "I have to be able to clean those up."
Still, Turco wasn't the only problem. Backup Tobias Stephan came in and allowed two goals on nine shots in the third period. Even the normally conservative Devils were flying up ice and creating all sorts of scoring chances against a Stars team that is missing both cohesion and emotion.
The flat play was particularly disconcerting because the Devils and their fans were geared up for the return of hated rival Sean Avery.
"They worked for their breaks, and we just aren't working hard enough to make the bounces go our way," Morrow said. "We all need to sacrifice, win battles and take the hesitation out of our game."
Check out more insanity from our favorite insane coach, Mike Leach ..
Texas Tech's situation at place-kicker has evolved from a concern to a source of frustration. Now, it seems as if it has taken an unexpected, crazy twist.
Having already gone through two kickers - who have combined to miss six PATs and half of their field-goal attempts - the sixth-ranked Red Raiders are now seriously considering giving Matt Williams a shot against No. 18 Kansas this weekend.
Williams is a Tarleton State transfer student who won a month of free rent at the Tech/UMass game several weeks ago by kicking a 30-yard field goal. After his successful try, Williams was walking back to his seat when he was flagged down.
"They relayed a message to me saying that Coach [Mike] Leach wanted to talk to me," Williams told RedRaiderSports.com the next day. "He told me to come into his office on Tuesday and talk to him, and then Coach [Clay] McGuire told me to come and speak with him on Monday."
Initially, it was thought that Williams was ineligible this season due to transfer rules. However, according to McGuire - who heads up the Red Raiders' special teams unit, Williams has been cleared to play.
"That is the way I understand it, yeah," confirmed McGuire on Tuesday. "He's got a real good shot. Only Mike Leach could bring a guy out of the stands and make it work."
This wouldn't be the first time that Tech has relied on a non-scholarship kicker, although not quite under such unconventional circumstances.
"We have a tradition of walk-on kickers rising to the top," commented Leach after the UMass game. "[Robert] Treece and [Alex] Trlica both were walk-on kickers that eventually ended up getting to play significantly. We're always looking for guys. We're excited to see what [Williams]'s got to offer if he's interested."
What Williams offers, compared to Donnie Carona and Cory Fowler, is something that is absolutely necessary for PATs: trajectory.
"I've seen that guy try one kick," added Leach. "But the difference between his and the others is that they barely got off the ground. His got up right away."
Matchup of the week
Oklahoma State at Texas: Expect the Longhorns to be pushed in this battle of unbeaten teams. But expect them to push back harder, led by a strong pass rush and the nation’s most accurate passer. Texas 44, Oklahoma State 31.
Kansas 35, Texas Tech 30: Tech is on the road against a quality team, with top-ranked Texas up next. Sounds like a trap game to me.
Texas A&M 31, Iowa State 20: The Aggies’ offense showed a pulse last week, which is more than Iowa State showed.
Oklahoma 49, Kansas State 21: Sam Bradford and the Sooners’ passing game should not be slowed by the Wildcats’ secondary.
Nebraska 34, Baylor 23: The Bears keep it interesting before falling in the fourth quarter.
Missouri 56, Colorado 24: Colorado discovers it’s no fun to face an explosive offense seeking to rebound from consecutive losses.
Here, Mike Hindman talks to Daniels …
MJH: Have you made a decision about whether or not you will attempt to sign Milton Bradley to a multi-year deal?
JD: We know what we want to do but haven't had a chance to talk to his agent yet. I can't say right now specifically what we're hoping to get done. I'm hoping to talk with them later today.
MJH: If Bradley doesn't return for one reason or another, do you feel like you'll have to go outside the organization to obtain some right-handed power? Would Nelson Cruz be the top in-house candidate to bat behind Hamilton next year?
JD: Well, there aren't a lot of options out there for right handed power at a reasonable price. It's likely that we'll stay inside the organization to fill that need.
MJH: Have you made a decision about whether or not you'll exercise Hank Blalock's option?
JD: I expect that we will, but we'll make a formal decision on that shortly.
MJH: Is Davis at first, Metcalf at third and Hank at DH an option for opening day, 2009? Or Hank at first, Davis at third and someone else at DH more likely?
JD: We've whiteboarded both scenarios. We certainly want to upgrade our defense, so you can read into that what you want.
MJH: Have you contemplated how you'd deal with the very likely scenario that Justin Smoak is ready for the big leagues on opening day 2010? Isn't it in the club's best interest to see if Davis can hold down third base in 2009 so that you can pencil both into the lineup for years to come?
JD: Well, we are in the American League, so that gives us more flexibility on something like that. But that's always part of the evaluation for what we do at the big league level: who's coming? Where do we need to make long-term commitments? And there is some element of planning around a guy like that who you think could come very quickly. Sometimes you have to make evaluations, commit to a plan and go forward before everything has played out -- that's what we're charged with.
MJH: Do you think that, more likely than not, you'll end up trading at least one of your four catchers this winter?
JD: Depends on the market. It's too early to say for sure, but I think that there is certainly a good possibility that something could develop there.
MJH: There was a report out of Boston the other day that the Red Sox have zeroed in on Texas as the likely source of their next franchise catcher. There was even a claim that they had attempted to acquire Teagarden at the deadline. Can you confirm that Boston made an offer for Teagarden in July and have you had any conversations with them in the past couple of weeks about trading one of your catchers?
JD: I won't get into specifics. Yes, they have inquired about catching. I can't say when or what sort of discussions were had.
MJH: Let's assume that you get an offer you really like for Gerald Laird today and then another one you really like for Jarrod Saltalamacchia next week. Could you do both? If so, is the organization prepared to go forward with Taylor Teagarden and Max Ramirez as it's catchers in 2009 and beyond or would that scenario leave you looking for a veteran to start or back up the position?
JD: That's a really good question. Assuming the deals made sense for us, I wouldn't be opposed to that [going forward with Teagarden and Ramirez] and we've thought about that scenario possibly developing. If it did, we'd explore the catcher market but it wouldn't necessarily be the top priority.
Here is some email, that appears to be Texas Tech and Cowboys heavy:
Thanks for the love you tried to show Harrell unfortunately Donovan has the general (mis) conception of TECH's offense
Here's Harrell Stats: 318 att 222 comp for 69.8% for 2761 yds 23 TD that's almost 12.5 yds per completion
McCOY: 197 att 160 comp for 81.2% for 1894 yds 19 TD that's about 12 yds per completion.
Oh but Red Raider Bob, TECH doesn't run the football
Brian Batch (who flies under the radar) is 5th in the Big 12 at 65 att and 491 yds that's 7.6 yds a carry
Shannon Sharp is 10th at 78 att and 402 for 5.1 yds/carry.
If you morphed these guys into one player TECH would have the 2nd leading rusher in the Big 12.
No sips in the top 11
Now everyone says ut is ball carriers by committee but I like our committee more!
Actually, Bradford is having a HELL of a year.. 238 att 170 comp 71.4% 2520 yds 26 TDs that’s almost 15 yds a throw.
Sadly, someday TECH will put a decent defense on the field (cause our program is getting better) and we'll actually get off the field now and then. So can you imagine the numbers if Leach's boys get the ball maybe 2 or 3 more times a ball game?? Man, we'll really have a system THEN!
Thank you for your defense of Graham Harrell, your "Everyone is now running the spread" point makes a lot of sense. And for Donnie who thinks we throw 70 times a game... here are Graham Harrells games this year.
43-58 2 TD
19-46 1 TD
31-48 5 TD
27-34 4 TD
38-51 6 TD
20-25 2 TD 1 Rush TD
44-56 3 TD 2 Rush TD
Total Yds = 2761 (Leads Nation)
Can any of you guys tell me what the hell the difference is between Jerry Jones and Matt Millen as GMs. I can't find a difference. If you say Jerry has three super bowl rings then I'd have to say you're wrong. That was all Jimmy, everyone knows that. We all laughed a Matt Millen's stint as GM in Detroit. I can't understand why we don't give Jerry the same criticism.
I wonder how the Cowboy brain trust feels about trying to sneak Matt Moore on to the practice squad last year. I know that you guys at The Ticket thought that it was a dopey idea. My guess is that a young backup would have been real handy right now. I love Jerry as an owner, but sometimes as a GM he is too smart by half. Bill Wollard
Wade Phillips has been head coach for 6 complete season with 3 teams (Denver, Buffalo & Dallas). In those 6 complete seasons, his kickoff and punt return teams have finished:
1993 - 19
1994 - 3
1998 - 25
1999 - 31
2000 - 12
2007 - 28
If you throw out the high (3) and low (31), his mean ranges from 12-28 in the league. In other words Phillips' special teams, historically, have been, at best, fair and, at worst, poor. The stereotype of a defensive coach is there is an added emphasis on special teams for field position, but not so with Phillips. Therefore, based on history, there is no reason to believe the Cowboys of 2008 will have anything other than poor special teams play. As with Buffalo in 1999, this could end up costing Dallas a playoff game.
Interestingly in 2006, the year before Phillips became head coach, the Cowboys finished 15th in the league. In other words -- average. In Phillips' first year, the team fell to 28th. In other words -- poor (and very nearly worst in the league). Based on his history, there is no reason to believe the special teams will improve or even be average.
Why do you think Phillips' special teams over 3 different teams, have been so poor? And why do you think Phillips puts so little emphasis on special teams?
I appreciate your thoughts.
From what I could find, the official deemed that Leonard must have premeditated the celebration. According to the 2008 Official Playing Rules of the NFL, Rule 12, Article 3, Section 1; there shall be no unsportsmanlike conduct where such acts specifically include, among others:
(d) Individual players involved in prolong or excessive celebrations. Players are prohibited from engaging in any celebrations while on the ground. A celebration shall be deemed excessive or prolonged if a player continues to celebrate after a warning from an official. (I did not see an official warning. Leonard ran up, picked up the ball and spiked it. There was no time for a warning. Therefore, his actions could not be perceived as prolonged or excessive)
(e) Two-or-more players engage in prolonged, excessive, premeditated, or choreographed celebrations. (It was already deemed as not prolonged or excessive. It was not choreographed. Therefore, it only could be deemed as premeditated. But who were the other players? Did the official deem that Leonard had already conspired with whoever scores a TD for them to drop the ball and then he would spike it? Doubtful.)
(f) Possession or use of foreign or extraneous object(s) that are not part of the uniform during the game on the field or the sideline, or using the ball as a prop. (There was no foreign or extraneous object. Did the official deem that Leonard used the ball as a prop when he spiked it? Again doubtful. If that were the case, every time a player spiked the ball after a TD, there would be an unsportsmanlike penalty.)
In short, somewhat, I can’t find a plausible reason why Leonard Davis was penalized for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for spiking the ball. If anything, it could have been a delay of game penalty.
P1 from FW
WR Roy Williams on Draft Day