Archive for May, 2006

Shoot Him Up

Friday, 26 May, 2006

Having the body to take a pounding in the NFL is one of the most overused instant evaluations of an athlete. Well, we do not believe such and such a player will be able to have the physical capability of withstanding a full sixteen games. Maybe toning down his carries would be the wise move. No. All of that jumbo non sense talk is just that. Injuries occur in football because that’s the nature of the sport. What has been proven to be a myth, especially over the last few years, is that the little backs can not be a force consistently.

It is their time in the NFL, and they have made fantasy owners extremely happy. Who will be that guy next year?

Tiki Barber, Ahman Green, and Warrick Dunn have been the stud “scat backs” over the last five years. Barber has now emerged to the cream of the top, and is arguably one of the top three backs to be drafted in fantasy drafts. Let’s just say that’s premature prediction of Barber being a breakout fantasy athlete of 2003 was easily foreseeable. The guy is one of the hardest working athletes in the NFL, and had built the trust of the Giants organization. His status is not dropping anytime soon.

What amazes us about Warrick Dunn is his development. Over the last few seasons, he has turned more and more into a guy that takes the ball straight up the field. In Tampa Bay, it was always to the edges and that’s where a long run would happen. Now, being that he is so small and quick, he has realized the yardage can be even more just running right up the gut behind his lineman.

Some of his runs of last season were unreal with the twisting, spinning, and Barry Sanders like cuts. Just watching Dunn in high definition makes any Sunday enjoyable for an NFL fan. What is even more remarkable about Dunn is how he fills his stats columns with moderate carries week to week. In 2005, he had a career year that will be hard seeing him duplicate. Though he should make up for it with a median amount of touchdowns from his 2004 (9) and 2005 (3) achievements.

The injury bug and numerous other problems hit Green Bay last season. People like to surround major hoopla about the quarterback returning in Green Bay. Well, the Pack won’t be back, unless Ahman Green returns to his elite status following last seasons injury. In all likelihood that should not be a problem as even Sam Gado was able to run the ball well in Green’s absence. Still, Green can not be counted on as a top ten running back anymore. That will make him a steal in most drafts, as his value as a rated twelve to fifteen back will exceed that of any back in that area of rating; especially leagues without a penalty for fumbles.

Out of all the scat backs there is one that is poised to put his name a top that list. Brian Westbrook out in Philadelphia has been under used for the majority of his Eagles career. That has been partly due to himself pouting about contract issues and going through some injury problems. When he has been on the field touching the football, he is a dazzling performer. For that matter, his touches need to boost up dramatically, and that seems to be the emphasis heading into 2006. Andy Reid has admitted that last year they ignored the running game too much.

Improvement from Westbrook is going to soar and likely lead to him being a Pro Bowler. The Eagles already use him well with their screening offense. Now if Westbrook can get to the 200 carry mark for the first time in his career, we would be seeing a fantasy stud. His value has only been holding as a steady second back for this long because of the Eagles plans. Scratch that, and change your fantasy rankings. Westbrook should easily be considered a second round pick, and a heck of a steal if you can land him anywhere after that.

Moldy Moulds

Friday, 19 May, 2006

Questioning the Houston Texans off-season movements is about as easy as making fun of Maurice Clarett’s attempts to come back to the NFL. Before people jump on the current rant on the Texans bypassing Reggie Bush, just forget about that for a second, and flip back to an earlier off-season signing.

The Texans brought in Eric Moulds to be a complement receiver to Andre Johnson. Any doubts about a receiver that has struggled the last three years, and could not complement Lee Evans? Ah, yeah. Then why sign him for a four year deal for $14 million? He is thirty three years old now and picturing a turnaround at this point would be a shocker.

Eric Moulds was a definite great fantasy wide receiver five years ago, but those days are long gone. Just over the past few years he has had nothing but nagging injuries. Foreseeing a season complete with Moulds playing in all contests, is a fantasy that will never come true. If he possibly could do it, he would likely be out their playing hurt.

Maybe playing opposite Andre Johnson will create the mismatches Moulds needs. Because catching the football is something Moulds can do. The problem is his ability to separate from defenders and run after the catch. Last year and even the previous year he ranked in the top twenty in the league for caught footballs amongst receivers. Yet, his yards per catch were horrible because he did not have the legs anymore.

When a receiver loses his ability to be a dangerous threat with his legs, it is not long before injuries occur commonly. If a receiver goes his whole career as a deep threat and then has to change to a possession receiver, it is something the body is not ready for. Moulds may get his body to adjust by working out more and finally realizing what he is going to need to do as a veteran receiver.

The good thing for Moulds is that Andre Johnson is and will be a huge deep threat on every play. The bad thing for Moulds is that he played with one of the better deep threats in the league in Lee Evans, and could not handle Evans taking all the big plays. Maybe it was because Moulds was the household name for a receiver in Buffalo for so long. That can be hard for any athlete to take. But you would have expected Moulds to handle himself better, instead of being bitter about balls thrown his way. This led to Moulds being suspended last season, and eventually his exit from the team when he refused to take a pay cut during the off-season.

Moulds could have fit in well with a majority of NFL teams, but we just do not see it as a Texan. They have too much youth moving forward, that has been gelling for quite some time now. David Carr, Andre Johnson, and Domanick Davis have been a great force offensively, but the reason they have not continued to improve is because of the offensive line. That was the reason last year that Johnson’s numbers slipped and Carr continued to pace the NFL as the top quarterback being sacked.
By the Texans not addressing the offensive line, that bodes even worse for Moulds. Since he can not get separation well anymore he is just going to make it harder for David Carr, which will lead to plenty of errant throws.

If the Texans would have been smart they would have brought in a wide receiver like Nate Burelson. Who is a speedster that would stretch the field and make it extremely hard for any secondary, with Andre Johnson out there as well.

The only way Moulds can be a factor is if the Texans get a more mature Jerome Mathis entering the 2006 season. Anyone who watched the Texans last year saw the electrifying blazing speed by Mathis on kick returns. In a three wide receiver set, Mathis will be able to spread the defense out and that could help Moulds get some red zone touchdowns.

Do not expect Moulds to even come close to 1,000 yards receiving though. A destined spot for Moulds in fantasy drafts at this point would be the eighth or ninth round. Do keep your ears open for training camp reports, and if there is anything floating about Moulds looking better than he has in years, than consider him a potential sleeper. But do not get caught on his prior big name statistics and think he is a sleeper now. At best he is a deep sleeper, but just think of old receivers that try to reclaim their old fashion on new squads. It never works.

Average Joe

Wednesday, 17 May, 2006

It was obvious the Detroit Lions wanted to part ways with Joey Harrington. They repeatedly gave Harrington chances to succeed, and even brought in three supposed young standout wide receivers. They even want as far as trying to supplant Harrington by expecting Jeff Garcia to win the job over, and that did not pan out either. All of us knew that something was wrong when the Lions benched Harrington on Thanksgiving Day for Garcia, who was playing and played much worse than Harrington the entire season.

A chance to turn around Harrington’s career seems dim. At least he is in a new environment where he steps in for the immediate future as the Dolphins starting quarterback. Of course that door to start will only last as long as it takes Daunte Culpepper to recover from his serious knee injuries.

Miami knows that Culpepper’s return could be an upgrade or a downgrade away from being pushed back into late October or plans for a week one return. Regardless of Culpepper’s health concerns, Harrington will be the one that takes the snaps and gets the starters reps all off-season. By Miami trading away a meaningless fifth round pick, it is a trade off of little risk for Miami. Putting Harrington in a less stressful environment with a stronger team camaraderie and nucleus is only going to boost his confidence. Nick Saban has had a tremendous effect on almost any player he has been around and Harrington should be another.

While at Detroit there were just too many torturous events for a quarterback to blossom. Every year there was either a coaching change or a new system to learn. On top of that Harrington was thrust right in to starting quarterback duties as a rookie in 2002. People think automatically that a quarterback can be like a Ben Roethlisberger, but the learning curve is essential for most quarterbacks. Harrington did not have that and it showed each year as he kept looking like a rookie.

That led to week to week inconsistency from Harrington. One week he could be an extremely patient quarterback that had the big play or two to give the Lions the win. The next he could be a flustered quarterback, and when that happened it would overlap into the upcoming weeks. It just seemed that too much emphasis was on what Harrington had to do with the football, instead of building the offense around him. Whether that be by establishing the run, or even helping Harrington with short dump offs or quick outs to the receiver. The Lions just threw Harrington into the fire every week and let him burn.

Having the tools to play quarterback has always been there for Harrington. He has a great arm and solid enough arm strength and accuracy to deliver a football wherever he wants. Dissecting Harrington’s miscues are as obvious as watching a Jake Plummer or Brett Favre. At times he just has horrible football IQ and awareness on the football field. Poor throws in tremendous coverage have plagued him from launching his career into a positive direction. Maybe he needs to get his eyes reexamined because sometimes he just looks like a blind quarterback throwing into a sea of players.

Nick Saban and the Miami Dolphins will know how to turn Harrington around and steer him in the direction the Lions should have done several years ago. Harrington’s future is still bright as he is only entering his sixth season in the NFL. Bravo to Miami for sacrificing a draft pick to acquire Harrington even though he would have been available in four weeks; as he was all but guaranteed to be cut by the Lions before June 15th.

Picturing a successful campaign from Harrington’s view would be by signifying a change in his dangerous throws that are unneeded. All that would require is the growth from a shuffling worried young rookie type quarterback, to a veteran that has learned from his past and can stand in the pocket for that extra second or two and deliver his throws.

If Harrington can play within Nick Saban’s system he will not have to be a huge quarterback play maker. Jay Fiedler never had to do it and neither did Gus Frerotte last season. Miami is the perfect fit for Harrington and a smart move by Miami’s front office for a cheap expense.

Will there be a quarterback controversy this season or next off-season in Miami?

Instant Banner

Tuesday, 16 May, 2006

Not often are there athletes that can take over on the football field and sustain that quality of play for over ten years. If it does happen more times than less it is by a player with great notoriety and expectancy to achieve well. For Jimmy Smith, there would not be a person that would have believed his story; which came to an uneventful off-season retirement conclusion.

Most great athletes have their last hooray known for by fans at seasons end or by poor play that runs them out. Jimmy Smith capped off his career in odd fashion by deciding to walk away from the game. This comes from an athlete that has been nothing but an exceptionally different athlete.

Over the last ten years we have seen plenty of receiver greats. Tim Brown, Jerry Rice, and Cris Carter are just a few names that jump out as banner hall of fame names. Yet they all had horrible transitions to leaving the game of football. Tim Brown was a cast off to Tampa Bay, Jerry Rice was practically dealt his retirement by the Broncos in training camp last season, and Cris Carter was a Dolphin for no reason.

So why and how has the media treated Jimmy Smith’s retirement as basic as possible? This guy posted 1,000 yard seasons for practically every year that he was a Jaguar. He was a cornerstone of the inaugural Jacksonville Jaguars team that featured Keenan McCardell, Mark Brunell, and Natrone Means. If the Jaguars do not have an illustrious ceremony out the gate of their 2006 season than something definitely is not right. Smith was as unique a receiver as they get and deserves instant banner and jersey retirement recognition before anyone even has a chance to don number 82. Hang it up in Gillette Stadium and even keep his locker untouched as a representation of how much he has meant and done for the Jaguars organization.

Approaching the age of forty is never a good sign as an NFL athlete, especially as a wide receiver. While the Jaguars were more than willing to have Jimmy Smith back in 2006, it was definitely for a short term commitment. This would have been Jimmy Smith’s last year under contract with the Jaguars, and we all know the ugly situation that would have unraveled after the 2006 season. Smith would have been forced into retirement and likely that move would have been preceded by lesser and less action on the football field as the NFL weeks went by.

So the decision by Smith to retire was all a preparation move to avoid the “I’m better than the franchise” treatment (cough Favre) a year from now. Or better yet to avoid being so vent up with frustration from your team that you set out to prove them wrong by signing with another team. It is a move that never works and just makes the athlete look older and an inch away to retirement.

Things really fell into place for Jimmy Smith by the NFL giving a franchise to the city of Jacksonville in 1995. Let’s not forget that Smith was a member of the Dallas Cowboys from 1992 through 1995 and was looking like a future XFL candidate. He was cut by the Cowboys and would have likely strung along on some teams as a fifth receiver before fading out of the NFL completely. But by the impressive skills of his mother with a book of clippings on Jimmy Smith, he was giving a golden opportunity with the Jaguars.

Smith stepped in right away as a staple for the Jaguars, and was part of one of the best tandem receivers for several years. He was a fantasy football yardage king that racked up over 1,000 yards nine out of ten seasons from 1996 through last season. A true valued pick as every year was expected to be the season that his numbers would slip. They never did, and we tip our hats to probably the best receiver over the last ten years besides Marvin Harrison.

Prove Yourself

Thursday, 4 May, 2006

Athletes love voicing their mouths when it comes to money. They are already getting paid millions of dollars, but yet they deserve more money. It may be understandable if you’ve put together a couple of outstanding seasons and were getting raped on your contract. But Denver Broncos wide receiver, Ashley Lelie, isn’t one that should be talking.

With one year remaining on his contract Ashley Lelie is considering holding out until he gets one of two things. A contract as fat as newly acquired wide receiver Javon Walker or a trade out of Denver. Neither will likely happen before the start of the season, and in the end Lelie will look like a big whining athlete. If he would have performed up to the standards the Broncos expected him to last season, than a trade for Walker would have been a no go. Instead, he dropped several passes and was out done once again by aging great wide receiver in Rod Smith.

The hints the Broncos organization has sent him should be a motivator for Lelie to get his act together. The deep threat skills he possesses are a rarity in the league, but he needs to hold onto the football. Once your main talents are found at, especially at wide receiver, they’re going to be taken away by opposing teams. That’s why Lelie had an awful last season as far as individual games. He only had one game where he reached over 100 receiving yards, and one touchdown catch. Appalling fantasy numbers from the expectancy from his previous breakout season.

Lelie has never been a receiver to catch many balls on a season, but he does rank near the top of the league in yards per catch. In order to improve on the number of catches he gets, he needs to become more than a home run receiver. He is not Randy Moss. Lelie likes to complain at being demoted to the third receiver in the Broncos system, but that’s often where the special threat receivers go. His hands and every down play have not been representable of a starting receiver.

It is good to hear that Lelie has fired his agent and is training with Javon Walker in Arizona. Maybe he will get it through his head that he has to earn a contract. Since he will be a free agent after this season, he can either wow some teams this year or be looking for another contract worthy of an average receiver.

Taking notes from stud receiver Rod Smith may also be a smart idea. Lelie is too talented to not change his attitude and reshape his game to his 2004 form.

Bid Well

Thursday, 4 May, 2006

A goal as a franchise is always to progress in all areas. In the NFL that’s easier said than done. The steps taken forward can back track double time with the simplest of wrong moves. Having poor drafts, letting a key free agent go or not addressing veteran players have all been catastrophic problems for the past Cardinals. In the last few seasons though, they have remarkably made a turn around in those same departments. How long can they keep it up or will it continue?

The Cardinals possess likely the best trio of young receivers in the league in Anquan Boldin, Larry Fitzgerald, and Bryant Johnson. While many teams like to go after wide receivers in free agency, not too many of those receivers do well with the big dollar contracts. So Arizona decided to attack that area in two drafts, and wound up with all three as steals. That can not be completely said yet for Bryant Johnson, but he is a receiver that can hold his own. The only problem for Arizona is how long will they be able to keep this unit together and happy?

The Cardinals three big play receivers should be grinning with the addition Edgerrin James. If winning becomes a factor next season maybe one of the receivers will be willing to take a pay cut so the Cardinals can sign a couple of extra free agents. After all the state of Arizona does have the benefit of hosting the 2008 Super Bowl.

A year ago the Cardinals had the smarts to bring in two time MVP Kurt Warner for a last shot in his career. He managed the team well throughout last season only to go down to a season ending injury. His play was enough for the Cardinals to bring him back this upcoming season, but not for a long term status. With the drafting of Matt Leinart, Warner is almost in as bad a situation as he was with the Giants when they took Eli Manning. Unless Warner carries the Arizona Cardinals to an unprecedented start, he’ll likely be seated on the bench at some point in October or November.

Nonetheless having Warner around Matt Leinart will only benefit Leinart. He has the luxury of learning and being tutored from Warner, and not being thrown right into the fire as a quarterback. Many people think Leinart took a huge hit in his wallet by not leaving his junior season, but trust us he didn’t. That extra year in college added more big game experience on his shoulders, and now he’ll gain more mentally on the sidelines.

Addressing the Cardinals offensive line issues may not be as bad as it seems. They were horrific as a run blocking team but decently adequate as a pass blocking unit. Dennis Green believes that the team just needs extra time as a unit to develop as a solid run blocking unit. Perhaps the addition of an All Pro running back will get that line to improve its tenacity.

The defense is an area where the Cardinals have already been flourishing. The young unit was great last season and should only soar to the top ten in the NFL. Antrell Rolle missed a big portion of last season due to injury, and will be ready at 100 percent. Also, don’t forget about linebacker Karlos Dansby who is the NFL’s best kept secret at that position. He is a top five linebacker that doesn’t get his credit due to the overall poor display of the Cardinals in the past.

Bill Bidwell always used to get nagged for the poor moves that the Cardinals would constantly do; boy has he turned it around. In less than three years he has brought in Dennis Green, and retooled both sides of the football into a red hot optimistic arrow. The perfect timing for a team that is moving into a brand new state of the art facility and playing its first Monday Night game since 1999.