Archive for March, 2005

Multiple Positions

Thursday, 31 March, 2005

A versatile athlete is usually a term categorized for an athlete, but is only applied to the different abilities he brings to the game. With the improved quality of players and depth on most franchises, the ratio of dual athletes has dwindled down to almost nothing on the professional level. In the high school and college game there are still plenty of athletes that play on defense and offense, but Champ Bailey is trying to bring a new element to the game next season.

The Denver Broncos offense already has a great dynamic duo, with the young up and coming receiver in Ashley Lelie and veteran Rod Smith. Champ Bailey has said many times that he?d like to get a shot at wide receiver again, and looks like his wish will finally be granted. The Broncos are currently working on some plays and different packages for him to come into the game in. Obviously he would probably only get eight to ten offensive plays a game. Still his decoy factor and guarding him brings up a very tough challenge for opposing defenses.

Here is an athlete that basically verbally committed to Georgia as an eighth grader. He possesses some of the rawest skills with his size and speed. Bailey can change direction and speed at the drop of a dime, and has incredible recovery speed. He can be left on an island on one side of the field, and play more like a safety than a cornerback because of his speed. Mike Shanahan has never been the type to make a blockbuster trade, but he did just that to acquire Bailey. He didn?t have a spectacular season last year, but it was enough for another Pro Bowl selection.

Troy Brown showed last year that a receiver can switch to a defensive back and be effective. Well, that was acceptable because the Patriots secondary was depleted and Brown was a bench warmer as a receiver. He volunteered to help his team, and it paid off. Bailey though will be playing a 100 percent on defense, and the endurance factor would come to attest as a receiver. Deion Sanders was able to do it for a minimal amount of years as a Cowboy, but never really flourished in the position like he was hyped up to do.

With the tightness of the AFC, the Broncos are going to need every advantage they can get. The Chargers, Raiders, and Chiefs are all solid teams that will be hard to knock out the picture until late in the season. Bailey has a fat contract, and if he can perform well the Broncos may want to add an extra incentive for a receiver bonus. His natural ability shouldn?t hurt his performance as a cornerback, but the Broncos will need to address the third receiver position regardless if Bailey is going to play receiver. The Broncos don?t have anyone respectable behind Lelie and Smith, and if one gets hurt could pose huge problems for Jake Plummer and Mike Shanahan?s offense. Look for the Broncos to draft a young receiver or two, and keep the talks of Bailey playing at receiver low until training camp.

Bills Holding Up Deal

Saturday, 26 March, 2005

Its been a long time since a trade rumor has swayed in no direction except stagnant talk and still be alive, but that is exactly what is occurring between the Buffalo Bills and Arizona Cardinals. The rumor is still fresh yet dead, and may end up being a draft day trade.

According to reports, the Cardinals may see if the back they want in the draft is on the board for the first or second round. If the back they want is there than they will take him. If not, the Cardinals will agree with the Bills to swap their second round picks, so the Bills can move ahead eleven spots. It?s a neck and neck game, and the Bills aren?t budging a smidgen until they feel they?ve got the proper deal.

If this trade doesn?t happen, things could get real ugly. No other team has expressed attentive interest as the Cardinals, and that means Travis Henry may be stuck in Buffalo for the final year of his contract. Henry has already stated he will not play in a Buffalo uniform, as he feels his job was taken away without fair comprehension. Basically he went down with an injury, and that resulted in his departure and relinquishing of his starting job.

Just imagine how Henry feels, as he has been in Buffalo his entire five year career, and has been an elite back. Yet, Buffalo opted a long time ago to give McGahee the job, which could prove to be a golden move.

Dennis Green is a strong minded coach, and he?ll do whatever it takes to get what he wants done. He seems open to the idea of having an explosive back like Henry to complement with Marcel Shipp. With the nucleus of receivers and maybe a flashback 2000 Kurt Warner, the Cardinals shockingly would head into 2005 as the top team in the NFC West.

On Buffalo?s side, LJ Shelton is a raw big man that has had his ups and downs with Arizona while struggling with injuries. His size and youth alone make him a plus to any offensive line, and his strength is parallel with the likes of Orlando Pace and Jonathan Ogden.

For more on this report, here is a link to the East Valley Tribune?s latest story on the delay of this trade.

Second Thoughts?

Monday, 21 March, 2005

It?s said that being away from a profession that you love, is hard to stay away from. From famous athletes like Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan, to schoolteachers across the country, it?s a situation that does occur. The drive and passion they have for their profession never goes away, and in the back of their mind they always are contemplating on returning. The only problem is that age has caught up with them, so they have to find another avenue to still utilize their devotion to their passion.

So what happens if an athlete suddenly retired out of nowhere and now all of the sudden has a change of heart? For Ricky Williams the rumors swirling about his departure last August left Miami in a frenzy they never were able to dig out of. But with a new coach, quarterback, and offensive lineman adjustments, Ricky has all of the sudden rethought about playing football.

New Dolphins head coach, Nick Saban had been trying to contact Ricky for several weeks, and just recently received a phone call from the former back saying that he has interests in returning and has stopped smoking marijuana. Both are good signs from the Dolphins, but the slow pace of Williams making decisions isn?t. Anyone can have interest in doing something, but until they declare or set out to do it there is really no direction to take with them.

Nick Saban and the Dolphins organization will need to know Williams decision soon. If he plans on returning, Miami could use the second overall pick in another area of concern, which would be like having an additional first round pick. If not, than Miami will likely go after one of the top-flight running backs from Auburn.

Even if Williams comes back, he?ll have a lot to prove to the Miami Dolphins fans and left over teammates from prior years. It?ll be hard to do, since a lot of them feel that the sole reason for the Dolphins abomination season was from Williams. More than likely the Dolphins were in for a let down year, based on their quarterback, offensive line, and defensive run stopping struggles.

A bright outlook on the entire situation, is that Williams will be fresh. Williams was being overworked as a Dolphin, and that would have been catching up to him rather quickly. In fact, most top tier backs start to deteriorate at the crossroads of their careers because of multiple reasons, but mainly because of being worked hard on a weekly basis. It?ll be reverse for Williams, as he should have that extra burst and juice in his legs to keep his level of play top notch. It may take a preseason and a few games to get back in football shape, but from then on he should be fine. Just because he hasn?t played contact football in a year and a half, doesn?t mean he forgot. It?s like riding a bike, a person may not ride one for five years, but if someone came along with a bike, they?d be able to do it.

Most people figured Williams would end up back in the NFL eventually, as he is going to need the money. But one thing that?ll always be cast over him, is his true love for the game. Does he love the game enough to end on a good note when he is ready to leave, or will he abruptly walk away because he has millions in his pockets?

Mexico City?

Monday, 21 March, 2005

If there is a market to make money in, businesses will expand. It?s a logical concept, and the NFL is one of the top businesses in the world. It may be based in the United States, but plenty of countries follow it, and every Super Bowl almost every country is covering it. Basketball, has struggled with its teams above the border, and even had to relocate the Vancouver Grizzlies to Memphis. Baseball, on the other hand has had prominent success, but still not up to par with the fans in America. Football though has never expanded beyond either border, but plans may be in the works.

Every preseason the NFL usually does a game in a few different global markets, including Mexico and Tokyo. For that one game, the crowd in attendance makes it look like a hyped up Super Bowl. Basically every year the NFL has been monitoring the situation, and sees a potential boost from pursuing an international franchise.

It?s almost a done deal for the Arizona Cardinals to host a home game in Mexico City to face the San Francisco 49ers. That has to be tough on Dennis Green and the Cardinals, because most of the fans across the border are Cowboys or Raiders fans. It shouldn?t make a difference, as the Cardinals fan support at their own stadium is minimal.

Expect the game to be packed to capacity, and then for the NFL to schedule more games down there and maybe even in Canada. It?s amazing the NFL hasn?t done this sooner. With every other sport, their schedules can get rough with road trips because their schedules are scattered. At least in the NFL, a team can prepare moderately for the same routine based on one game a week.

Don?t expect another franchise to be determined for quite some time, as the NFL is still adjusting to the new division realignment and trying to configure a new playoff system with additional teams.

Buccaneers Prepared At Quarterback

Monday, 14 March, 2005

Not even two years ago, Brad Johnson was at the epitome of where a quarterback should be at in his career. He was a traveled veteran that stepped in and fulfilled what the Buccaneers asked from him and more. It was a Pro Bowl year for him, capped off with an impressive Super Bowl win over the Oakland Raiders. It looked as if the Buccaneers had the recipe for success to carry over for a good two to three more years. Instead though, age and contracts ultimately got in the way for any thoughts of repeating. For Brad Johnson he watched the veterans of that Super Bowl team be dealt or cut, and the pieces just didn?t fit for him anymore. He struggled, and Jon Gruden had no choice but to bench him in 2004. Johnson was just recently cut, and the reason why is because the Buccaneers are loaded at the quarterback position with a combination of quarterbacks.

The Buccaneers just extended Brian Griese?s contract to show him that they want him to lead this team. Griese really came on late in the season, and should be primed for a solid season with the return of Joey Galloway and standout stud Michael Clayton. He has always possessed the quarterback savvy that you?d expect him to have, but his indecisiveness is what drove him out in Denver. He just made too many mistakes and Shanahan has absolutely no patience for setbacks in progression.

Down in Miami, it just wasn?t the right place for him. He had a hard time learning the new system, and clearly can?t function in an offense that is snail pace. He is at his best when the offense is moving at free will, and not playing ball control style. Either way, Griese needs to show his worth this season, or he?ll be a salary cap cut next season.

Right behind Griese, our two youthful quarterbacks. One is third string quarterback, Akili Smith who might get a shot down the road to refute everyone?s thoughts of him as a bust. It?ll take a complete overhaul on Smith?s part, but he is showing that he is willing to take that path. Unlike, Cade McNown he is roughing it out by playing in NFL Europe right now. Even if he doesn?t get a chance in Tampa Bay, he may gain interest from another team. By being the number two draft pick in 1999, obviously plenty of scouts saw the same talent that Smith still has. He just needs to learn the game more and bring out those same skills and utilize them.

The true predecessor in Tampa Bay will likely be Chris Simms. Simms, as we all know is the son of Phil Simms, but Jon Gruden made a distinct statement that he wasn?t ready to hand the team to Simms just yet. During his few opportunities last season he struggled, and with Griese?s play well above his, it was an easy decision for Gruden to make. Griese has shown glimpses of being an All-Pro quarterback before, and then folded, so it?ll be interesting to see which Griese steps forth in 2005. If he struggles significantly, Gruden will have no choice than to give Simms another shot to get a head start on the 2006 season.

Where It Began

Monday, 14 March, 2005

When any athlete gets drafted by a franchise, they automatically think this is the city and team they want to spend their entire career. That could have been a logical thought ten or twenty years ago, especially if you were a high draft pick. Nowadays though, an agent or NFL personnel would laugh at a rookie making such an insane assumption. Truthfully, no athlete is safe anymore and will be interesting to see how some great athletes choose where to have their jerseys retire, after playing on three or four teams.

Franchises cutting athletes has risen to a high point this year to get under the salary cap, and it?s made a very interesting start to the free agency period. Still, the chaos of letting athletes leave starts back in 1999 in Buffalo. The Bills glory days from the early 90?s were fading out in the mid to late 90?s, but still had the same nucleus of veterans. With a change of direction in mind, the Bills turned away the thoughts of keeping Thurman Thomas, Andre Reed, and Bruce Smith. It had to have been a tough decision for the organization, but for two of the three athletes it proved to be the right one.

Andre Reed went on to the Washington Redskins in 2000, where he was a non factor, and then failed to make the Denver Broncos final roster a year later. It was the way a Hall of Famer shouldn?t leave the league, but it happened. For Thurman Thomas, he signed to the ultimate Buffalo rival in the Miami Dolphins, and had a career ending injury after being a minimal part of the Dolphins offense. Added to that, Thomas was once again put in the spotlight on a negative note when he was arrested for drug possession in 2004.

Bruce Smith, was the only athlete of the three that deserved an extension as he went on to Washington and still posed as a strong defensive end.

With Jerry Rice still trying to continue his career, the examples of Reed and Thomas should be a factor for Rice this time around. He is too great of an athlete, to let his mind get in the way of his body. He has his titles and legacy, and has no more to give to the game of football.

For Thurman Thomas, Andre Reed, and Bruce Smith the latter parts of their hall of fame careers will be an after thought, as they?ll always be remembered as Buffalo Bills.