August, 2011:

Heirarchy of the NFC – Week 0

Throughout the season, we’ll be updating this, and adding the “obituary” section as well for those teams whose seasons are pretty much over.  We got the first installment on record back in June, pre free agency.  We’ll do one every week of the season, but since all the 3rd preseason games (the dress rehearsals) are in the books, I figured we’d update prior to the start of the actual season.  Here we go:

Panthers – NKOTB.

They kept their best free agents (DeAngelo Williams, Charles Johnson, and Ryan Kalil), and hung onto Steve Smith.  It looks like Cam Newton is the starter from Day 1, as he should be.  Let the kid take his lumps.  And you know what?  He’s going to make a lot of plays.  This team won’t be anywhere close to as bad as they were in 2010, but they still won’t be good.

Can anybody name a major strength on this team?

I can’t.  It looked like the Seahawks were going to be able to create mismatches with their size in the passing game:

- Sidney Rice – 6’4, 202

- Mike Williams – 6’6, 235

- Zach Miller – 6’5, 255

- John Carlson – 6’5, 251

Unfortunately, they lost John Carlson for the season with a torn labrum.  Even more unfortunately, their QB this season is Tarvaris Jackson.  Don’t get me wrong – I like Tarvaris Jackson.  I just like him as a backup.  When in doubt, throw it high, Tarvaris.

By the way, the NFC West has 3 weeks to produce a winning record.  If they’re all 1-2 or worse after Week 3, I’m not even going to waste my time (or yours) with them – They’ll all be lumped together.

Redskins – Defense will be waaaay better.

I count 5 upgrades, 6 if you factor in that Brian Orakpo keeps getting better.  I’m kinda bullish on the Skins lately.

2010 2011
LDE Adam Carriker Adam Carriker
DT Ma’ake Kemoeatu Barry Cofield
RDE Kedric Golston Stephen Bowen
LOLB Lorenzo Alexander Ryan Kerrigan
LILB London Fletcher London Fletcher
RILB Rocky McIntosh Rocky McIntosh
ROLB Brian Orakpo Brian Orakpo
LCB DeAngelo Hall DeAngelo Hall
SS LaRon Landry LaRon Landry
FS Kareem Moore OJ Atogwe
RCB Carlos Rogers Josh Wilson

But still… John Beck.

Rams – The blind love for Sam Bradford is already getting annoying.

Sam Bradford’s rookie season can be broken up into 3 different stretches – Early struggles, excellent progression, and disappointing finish.  Here’s what I mean:

Sam Bradford Comp Att Yards TD INT Rating
Games 1-5 115 203 1159 6 8 66.51
Games 6-11 135 210 1307 11 1 97.06
Games 12-16 104 177 1046 1 6 63.43

It’s been so long since there’s been a great rookie QB that legitimately played really well for a full season, and I think some people go a little overboard in proclaiming a guy “the next great QB” as so many have done with Sam Bradford.  Bradford is no doubt on the right track.  I like his arm, I like his intangibles, he seems to be a good kid, yada yada yada.  Most importantly, he’s shown unmistakable flashes of great QB play… But is it premature to have him earmarked as a sure-fire Top 5 QB someday?  Very.  Matt Ryan already has an completely (and comically) undeserved nickname that he didn’t bring upon himself, but is now scoffed for.  Don’t do the same to Sam Bradford – Let the kid play and see how he pans out before creating ridiculous expectations.

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MegaLinky – August 31, 2011 – How can the Eagles give Michael Vick $100 million (rabble rabble)?!?!? Well, they didn’t.

Rebuilders?

Cowboys get younger, lighter on offensive line – Tom Orsborn, chron.com

The age of this unit has been covered at length already here, but Tom throws out this interesting nugget as well:

The average size of last year’s unit was 6-6, 324 pounds. This season, it’s 6-4, 309.

Sensabaugh back helping Cowboys – Jaime Aron, AP

Sensi was looking for a monster payday this offseason.  He didn’t get it, and he only got a 1-year deal, which must have been a humbling experience.  Might be a chip on his shoulder this season.

5 kickers. Jerry Jones.

Not happy with 4 kickers on roster, Dallas flies in (Dave) Rayner – NFL.com

David Buehler, Shayne Graham, Kai Forbath, Dan Bailey, and now Dave Rayner.  Oof.

Gosselin: Young OL will be good for the Cowboys – SportsDay DFW

On the decision to rely on youth this season:

You have no choice. If you stay with Davis and Columbo (sic) and Gurode and Brooking and Newman, you’re looking at 7-9 or 8-8 again this year, and then you’re pushing two years further down the road. By starting it now, at least they see the back end of Romo’s window has a shot at winning a Super Bowl and being a Super Bowl contender. If you try to tread water with the older guys this season, you’re just getting older and you’re getting worse. So whenever you start rebuilding, add two years, and I think that’s where Tony Romo sits. And at 33 or 34, they think he can still win for them.

I think that sums up my thoughts perfectly.

Dre deserved better exit than that – Nick Eatman, Cowboys Mothership

Wow, some rare criticism for the front office from the mothership – you don’t see that very often.  And oddly enough, I disagree with Nick’s point:

To take him to the Minnesota game and then tell him as he’s getting on the bus to go to the stadium that he won’t be playing, and subsequently, that his future with the team is now in question, was not the way it should’ve been handled, in my opinion. I just don’t see the need to embarrass him like that.

The NFL is a business.  The Cowboys, I’d have to imagine, were trying to recoup a draft pick in return for Gurode, and so they hung onto him for their trip to Minny.  Meanwhile, they knew they were cutting him if they couldn’t work out a deal, so why would they play him?  If you play him, for one, you take away snaps from all these really young guys that desperately need the reps, and worse, from a business perspective, you run the risk of Gurode getting hurt and having to pay him an injury settlement.  I get it – It sucks.  Sometimes decisions in business aren’t easy, and often times cruel.  I’m sure they didn’t set out to inconvenience or embarrass Gurode, but what else could they do?

Deal with it — Cowboys are rebuilding – Jean Jacques-Taylor, ESPN

As of Monday, those of you with delusions of grandeur can stop dreaming about the Dallas Cowboys playing in the Super Bowl.

The playoffs? Nope. Not this season.

Your Dallas Cowboys are in full-fledged rebuilding mode just like the Buffalo Bills and Cleveland Browns.

Seems like click-baiting to me here.  I can buy the point that the Cowboys are rebuilding, as they should be, but let’s tap the breaks on the comparison to the Bills.

(Redskins, Eagles, and Giants news after the jump)…

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50 random NFC East thoughts/predictions for the 2011 season

1 – Anthony Spencer will have one awesome game early in the season, which will inspire Jerry Jones to give him a contract extension in which he wildly overpays.  Spencer will be released less than 3 years later.

2 – The Giants won’t lead the league in giveaways this season like they did in 2010.  They also won’t lead the league in takeaways like they did last season.

3 – Kurt Coleman will lead the Eagles in tackles, partly because he’s really good, but also because he’ll have to.

4 – This could be London Fletcher’s last season.  He probably won’t be headed to Canton, but he should be.

5 – Jason Pierre-Paul is suddenly expected to have a monster year.  I think he’ll be good, but people need to calm down a little bit there.

6 – If Keith Brooking isn’t a starter, will he still do his dumb pregame thing?  I mean… After yelling “We’re gonna hit them in the mouth, we’re gonna bloody their nose, we’re gonna eat their babies,” etc, you can’t really cap it off by saying “Alright guys, I’ll see you in the locker room after the game. 1-2-3 WIN!”

7 – For the past year or so, I’ve been killing the Redskins for changing from a 4-3 to a 3-4 when they had players that perfectly fit their 4-3 scheme.  The Redskins basically said to their players “You adjust to what we want to do,” rather than adjusting their scheme to fit their players’ strengths.  It would almost be hypocritical to not criticize Eagles OL coach Howard Mudd for trying to do the same.

8 – What’s the best 1WR-2WR-TE combo in the NFC East?  Gotta go with the Cowboys there on the shoulders of Jason Witten.  But the Cowboys have absolutely no depth at WR behind those guys, and TE depth, once thought to be a strength, really isn’t anymore.

9 – Tim Hightower will have 1,400+ yards from scrimmage.  What the hell are the Cardinals thinking?  Hightower for Vonnie Holliday and a late 2012 pick?  Seriously?  And I’m as big a believer in Kevin Kolb as you’ll find, but Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a 2?  Really?  The NFC East is treating Arizona like that guy in your fantasy football league that doesn’t have a clue.

10 – With an OL that includes 2 rookies and a 2nd year guy with just 109 NFL snaps under his belt, Tony Romo better beef up his life insurance.  Ditto that for Michael Vick and the two rookies at C and RG that he’ll be playing behind.

11 – The Redskins will not finish last in the division.

12 – Is Jay Ratliff still an awesome player?  I’m not sure I saw it in 2010.  He’s a guy I’ll be watching closely the first few weeks of the season.

13 – The Redskins’ defense, at least on paper, looks pretty good to me.  They’ll be in the Top 20 this year, statistically.  That may not sound like a big deal, but it is considering they were 31st last season.

14 – The Cowboys’ “3 bullies” will combine for 5 sacks or less.  Departed Cowboy Stephen Bowen will have at least 4 on his own.

15 – Giants LT William Beatty, assuming he doesn’t get hurt, will lead the division in penalties.

16 – Redskins fans will complain excessively about Brian Orakpo being held by opposing offenses, when Trent Cole, DeMarcus Ware and Osi Umenyiora are held just as much.

17 – Marion Barber.  Marc Colombo.  Leonard Davis.  Roy Williams.  And now Andre Gurode.  Terence Newman, you might be next.

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Eagles also going super young along the OL, perhaps foolishly

Just like the Cowboys, it appears the Eagles are going ultra young along the OL by naming Jason Kelce the starter at center.  However, unlike the Cowboys, I think it’s a major mistake for the Eagles to go with 2 rookies, right next to each other no less, protecting Michael Vick.  They did the right thing by sliding Todd Herremans to right tackle and filling in Evan Mathis at LG, but starting two rookies that looked so horrific in the 3rd preseason game against the Browns makes little sense.  Why not start Jamaal Jackson for the first few weeks, and let Kelce take over when he’s ready?  This is not a typical offseason.  Rookies have only been in camp for about a month.

- 2010 NFL MVP runner-up behind center? Check.

- Two fast, dynamic playmakers on the outside? Check.

- Veteran, savvy, professional chain movers as the 3 and 4 receivers? Check.

- An emerging star at the RB position? Check.

- Two rookies protecting the middle of the line… that have not looked good at all in the preseason?

Oof.  The Eagles are playing with fire.

Cowboys cut Andre Gurode: 3 projected starters have 109 career NFL snaps

WOW!  They really did it.  Ballsy.  OK, that’s the third straight post I wrote “ballsy’” as its own sentence.  Phil Costa, I hope you’re ready.

The new Cowboys OL, per my earlier post, will likely look like this:

LT LG C RG RT
Doug Free Bill Nagy Phil Costa Kyle Kosier Tyron Smith

And also as I noted earlier, Costa, Nagy, and Smith have a combined 109 snaps in the NFL.  The Cowboys could also start Montrae Holland at center, or perhaps sign a player or two once teams cut down to 53, but for now, Tony Romo has to be a little unsettled by this development. As it stands, the Cowboys depth along the OL consists of Holland, Sam Young, David Arkin, Kevin Kowalski, Jermey Parnell, and Pepa Letuli.

Holland aside, wanna guess how many career NFL snaps the Cowboys’ current backups have?  If you guessed 0, you win.

All that said, I like it.  The Cowboys don’t look anything remotely like a serious Super Bowl contender right now, so what the hell?  Go young, get some growing pains out of the way, and see what the young guys can do.  Very un-Cowboy-like, but they’ll be better for it in the long run.

The Giants are set at C with David Bass, and the Redskins seem to have a good thing going so far in the preseason with their interior OL, but I wonder if the Eagles would have any interest in Gurode. I doubt it, but it’s intriguing.

The age of the Cowboys OL: From one extreme to the other

While doing research for this article, I learned that Phil Costa attended the same high school in South Jersey that I did.

Last year, the Dallas Cowboys had the oldest offensive line in the NFL (They also had the oldest OL in 2009). They had three starters (Kyle Kosier, Leonard Davis, and Marc Colombo) that were going to be 32 years of age by the end of the 2010 season, and a fourth (Andre Gurode) that recently turned 32 this March. Kosier and Gurode mostly held up, but the Cowboys got burned badly by the play of two of the four “30-somethings,” Colombo and Davis, who both had terrible seasons. At one point in the season, Davis was benched, and Colombo was nothing short of a disaster at RT. Unfortunately for the Cowboys, they also didn’t have any adequate depth (Alex Barron anyone?), and the OL hampered the offense all season long.

The running game tailed off sharply from 2009 to 2010. Felix Jones went from 5.9 yards per carry in ’09 to 4.3 in ’10. Marion Barber went from 4.4 to a paltry 3.3. Tashard Choice went from 5.5 to 3.7. That’s on the OL. In the passing game, Jason Garrett routinely called short drops and quick passes because he didn’t trust the OL to be able to sustain blocks long enough to give Tony Romo and Jon Kitna enough time to let longer routes develop. The 2010 Cowboys OL (with an assist from a surprisingly bad defense) played a huge part of their miserable season.

That was the fallout from misses in previous drafts, or just ignoring the OL altogether. In the span from 2008 to 2010, the Cowboys had 24 draft picks. They used just 2 of those picks on offensive linemen (Sam Young, a 6th round pick, and Robert Brewster, a 3rd rounder), despite having the oldest OL in the league. That was just insanely poor vision by the front office.

This draft, the Cowboys finally addressed the OL with the addition of Tyron Smith with the 9th overall selection. Smith will immediately replace Colombo, and should provide an instant upgrade, even as a rookie. It’s an enormous step in the right direction for the Cowboys and the future of their offense. They also cut Leonard Davis, and inserted in Montrae Holland. Holland has since been hampered by injuries, and appears to have possibly lost the starting job to rookie Bill Nagy.

Then came news that Jerry Jones is essentially forcing Andre Gurode to take a pay cut or pack his bags. Ballsy. Whatever option Gurode chooses, it’s very possible the Cowboys will go with another 2nd year pro, Phil Costa at center anyway.

If so, your 2010 Cowboys OL will look like this:

Doug Free – Bill Nagy – Phil Costa – Kyle Kosier (moves over from LG) – Tyron Smith

Here are the age differences from 2009 to 2011, if in fact the above 2011 starter projections are correct:

2009 2010 2011
LT Flozell Adams Doug Free Doug Free
  34 years, 3 months, 24 days 26 years, 8 months, 5 days 27 years, 8 months, 5 days
LG Kyle Kosier Kyle Kosier Bill Nagy
  30 years, 9 months, 15 days 31 years, 9 months, 15 days 23 years, 10 months, 16 days
C Andre Gurode Andre Gurode Phil Costa
  30 years, 6 months, 5 days 31 years, 6 months, 5 days 24 years, 2 months
RG Leonard Davis Leonard Davis Kyle Kosier
  31 years, 6 days 32 years, 6 days 32 years, 9 months, 15 days
RT Marc Colombo Marc Colombo Tyron Smith
  30 years, 11 months, 3 days 31 years, 11 months, 3 days 20 years, 8 months, 30 days
       
  Average Age Average Age Average Age
  31 years, 6 months, 6 days 30 years, 9 months, 8 days 25 years, 10 months, 8 days

Nagy, Costa, and Smith have taken a combined 109 NFL snaps. Going so drastically young would very much be a move that sacrifices immediate results for future gains. Frankly, I don’t think the Cowboys are legitimate contenders this year, so I think I kinda like the move. There’s little question this unit would face some serious struggles, but by Jerry Jones letting the OL get so old for so long, Jason Garrett would be wise to go very young, make the best out of a crappy situation, and look toward the future instead of the Jerry Jones way of constantly playing for right now.

Screw you, Irene.

Apologies for the lack of updates this weekend.  I place 100% of the blame on this:

I live in North Jersey, and with the hurricane not really even all that close at 11pm on Saturday night, our power went out.  Just got it back late last night.  Every time our power goes out I swear to myself that we’re going to buy a generator, and then I never do.  That same pattern will probably continue. Anyway, for us, there wasn’t any real damage. My wife’s car had a flat tire, although I doubt that was hurricane related. So that’s good. But Hurricane Irene was very much a major nuisance. Screw you, Irene.

I have a little catch-up to do on the bEast. Andre Gurode being shopped? Are the Cowboys really going into the 2011 super young along the OL? Ballsy. I think I like it.

Right side of OL is quite clearly the soft underbelly of the Eagles

If you saw the Eagles preseason game last night against the Browns, you saw Michael Vick pressured and hit, early and often.  The Eagles started rookie 6th round pick Jason Kelce at center, and rookie 1st round pick Danny Watkins at guard.  King Dunlap started at right tackle.  While Dunlap played what I’ll classify as “acceptable” football, the two rookies were downright bad, particularly in pass protection.  I’ll have to watch the game replay to evaluate the gory details, but I think Vick summed it up best:

You can’t expect a guy to come in and be, you know, a Pro Bowl type of player in two games.  I mean, that’s just not the way this thing works.  And you know, you got so many responsibilities on offense as a center, so many things you have to learn, so many defenses and different looks that you’re gonna see, and that’s just part of the growing pains that we all have to go through in this league.  You can’t expect somebody to come out and perform at a high level when they only had two or three games under their belt.  It’s going to take time, it’s going to take reps, it’s going to take mistakes.

Vick was trying to have his teammates’ backs with those statements, but they revealed what he really thinks – that they’re not playing well.  And, obviously, he’s right.  It’s going to take time.  It’s going to take reps.  It’s going to take mistakes.  Unfortunately, with the shortened offseason, Kelce and Watkins didn’t have a full offseason of OTA’s, minicamps, and film study.  They had a few weeks up at Lehigh University and a couple preseason games.  That’s it.  There’s a reason teams have OTA’s and minicamps – They’re certainly not having them just for shits and giggles. Even more unfortunately, the Eagles have neither the time nor the available reps to give their young offensive linemen, and too many mistakes are going to get Vick killed.  A quick rundown of the problem areas:

C – Obviously, the Eagles can’t trust Jason Kelce to start the season at center.  That job will (or rather should) go to Jamaal Jackson, a legitimate NFL center.  Frankly, the Eagles may have just wanted to get a look at Kelce with the 1s in a meaningless game.  If so, they have their answer, at least to start the season.

RG – From the second Danny Watkins was drafted, everyone and their mother had him penciled in as the Week 1 starter at RG.  But as I already noted, even with Watkins being a smart, mature, 26-year-old rookie, he just hasn’t had adequate time this offseason to be NFL ready.  I firmly believe that the Eagles can’t go into this season with either rookie starting.  Some might call that panicking.  I’d call it being realistic.  In a move that barely moved the needle amid the Eagles major free agency signings, they were able to bring in Evan Mathis from Cincinnati.  Per Pro Football Focus, Mathis hasn’t given up a single sack in 724 snaps over the past 2 years.  I think Mathis could be an option until Watkins is ready to play, or rather play well.

RT – King Dunlap appears to be a solid swing tackle, but he’s not an answer as a starter.  There’s really nothing the Eagles can do here.  They just have to cross their fingers and hope that either Winston Justice or Ryan Harris feels better soon, and that they can continue to feel healthy once they’re ready to go.  Not ideal.

As it stands, the Eagles are essentially parking their Lamborghini under a bunch of unsturdy trees as Hurricane Irene approaches.

Tony Romo’s wedding video returns

I posted this once before, but it was quickly yanked off of youtube, so many of you never got to see it.  Well, it’s back!  I could spend an hour or two making jokes, but I don’t think it’s even necessary.  Just enjoy.

The Orlando Scandrick contract: Jerry Jones never learns

Thanks JJ!

Yesterday, the Cowboys signed Orlando Scandrick to a 5 year extension worth a very surprising $27 million, $10 million of which is guaranteed.  Wow.

Before I continue, I’d like to make it clear that I like Orlando Scandrick as a player, especially considering he’s still so young, at 24 years of age.  He reminds me a little bit of a less talented Cortland Finnegan.  Similar size – Finnegan is 5’10, 188, Scandrick is 5’10, 193.  Both aren’t afraid to stick their nose in and make a tough tackle on a big RB that has 50 lbs. on them, and they both play with sort of a chippy attitude (Finnegan to an extreme detrimental level, Scandrick more controlled).  Finnegan, however, has shown that he has excellent ball skills, something that Scandrick has not shown 3 years into his career.  There’s no doubt that Scandrick is one of the better nickle corners in the game, but there are certainly plenty that are better.

The Cowboys are coming off a free agency period in which they dumped the contracts of four players that were making far more than what they were worth – Marion Barber, Marc Colombo, Leonard Davis, and legendary mistake, Roy Williams – just to get under the cap this season.  While they were able to retain their top priority, Doug Free, they lost promising DE Stephen Bowen to the Redskins, and were unable to bring in any real impact players in an enormously deep and talented free agent pool.  Those cuts, oh by the way, will cost the Cowboys $23 million in dead money toward the 2012 salary cap.

ESPN’s Todd Archer noted that if Scandrick pans out, he’d be a bargain much like Jay Ratliff is now after the Cowboys re-upped him to a 5 year extension worth $20.5 million back in December of 2007.  Archer also noted that Ratliff “only” had 5.5 sacks in 12 starts at NT when they did that deal.  However, Ratliff’s deal was reasonable.  3-4 NTs don’t grow on trees, and if I may, can I please note that “only” 5.5 sacks in 12 games at that position is really impressive?  So that’s an example of a good extension – I’ll give Archer that one.  But what about the bad ones?  Let’s look at some other players that Jerry Jones re-upped (overpaid) early:

Year Player Contract How’d that work out?
Mar-06 Terry Glenn 5 year, $20 million extension Released July 25, 2008
Aug-06 Roy Williams (the safety) 4 year, 25.2 million extension Released March 5, 2009
Sep-06 Bradie James 5 year, $20 million extension Still with team – Avg starting ILB
Feb-08 Ken Hamlin 6 year $38 million Released April 2, 2010
May-08 Marion Barber As a RFA, signed a 7 year, $45 million deal Released July 28, 2011
Jun-08 Terrell Owens 3 year, $27 million extension Released March 4, 2009
Dec-08 Marc Colombo 4 year, $22 million extension Released July 28, 2011

Giving players contract extensions before they make it to free agency is a great strategy.  However, what Jerry Jones doesn’t seem to understand is that if you re-up a player early, you’re supposed to be able to get the player at a more reasonable deal.  The player knows that he’s “set for life financially,” which protects him against a career threatening injury (see Terrell Thomas), but the tradeoff is that you get less than what you probably would on the open market.  Instead, Jerry Jones is paying these guys as if he’s bidding against 31 other teams.  If Orlando Scandrick were a free agent a few weeks ago, would a team out there give him a 5 year, $27 million deal?  Maybe, although I have my doubts.  So why pay him that kind of money when you retain his rights for an entire season?  It makes no sense.

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