Our offseason Four Downs series ends with a look at the NFC West's biggest remaining holes and their most notable UDFA signings. The Rams and 49ers have to kick-start their passing games, Arizona's offense lacks a big dimension, and the Seahawks continue to rely on Russell Wilson's magic tricks.
31 Oct 2005
Each Sunday, the FO staff sends around e-mails to each other, both during and after the games. It lets us share ideas for columns and comments, and get an idea of how teams that we can't watch are playing. Last week, in an effort to get some Monday morning content going, we experimented with a notebook column featuring some of these comments. It was popular, so here we are again. Be aware that the material in this roundtable might seem a bit disjointed and un-edited. It also might still show up later in the week in other columns, or in comments in PFP 2006.
By the way, the discussion thread for this roundtable is an excellent place to suggest injuries you would like to see Will Carroll cover in this week's Black and Blue Report. And at the end we'll give you a little preview of what games we're analyzing later in the week.
Michael David Smith: Could someone please inform Dick Jauron that the quarterback he's playing is a rookie and it might be a good idea to blitz him occasionally? On most plays it's six Chicago blockers against four Detroit rushers and Orton is having all day to throw. I'm not sure how an NFL defense isn't ready for a deep ball to the No. 1 receiver on third-and-long, but the Lions weren't on the Muhsin Muhammad TD.
Jeff Garcia really needs to stop burning timeouts. Jeff, you're in a 13-10 game. You're going to need those two timeouts you've burned. A delay of game isn't the end of the world. Read a King Kaufman column once in a while. You might learn something.
Mike Tanier: Hey Mike Smith, any comment on Garcia's pitch to heaven in the 4th quarter that was almost a Bears touchdown?
Michael David Smith: My comment on Garcia is, shockingly, he's no better than Harrington. Mooch seems to think he's a smart veteran, but Mooch is wrong. Garcia goes through timeouts like they're going out of style, and he makes lots of idiotic plays, not least of which was the interception in overtime to seal the game. Stupid. When you watch this team, it's just incredibly obvious that they need to blow everything up and start from scratch, but they obviously won't because they just gave Millen a new five-year deal. I think the most amazing thing is how Scottie Vines, a receiver they cut in training camp, is their best healthy receiver right now. I would love to hear from some of the people who told me I was wrong this summer when I bashed the Lions for giving Millen the contract extension and told me there's lots of talent on this team. All of those people have been silent since the season started.
Mike Tanier: And as for Garcia, wait till he runs to the press and blames everyone else in the state for his problems.
Michael David Smith: So what's up with horse-collar tackles? Is anyone calling them? Hunter Hillenmeyer of the Bears just tackled Marcus Pollard and the announcer said, "That was a horse-collar tackle, but I like the official using his discretion and not calling it." Huh? If it's against the rules, the officials should call it. It doesn't seem like they have been, even though it was supposed to be a point of emphasis.
Aaron Schatz: Has anybody watched a lot of Jacksonville this year? I'm mostly watching NYG-WAS, but I've switched to STL-JAC occasionally, and they're running a defense that I think I saw them run against Cincy also. It looks like a 3-3-5. Maybe it is just a 3-4 with one of the linebackers far back in coverage, and I can't see it on the TV, but does anyone know what's up with this?
Ned Macey: First, I think the Jaguars usually run a 4-3 with Paul Spicer, John Henderson, Marcus Stroud, and Reggie Hayward. Spicer has been really helped by Hayward's emergence. Second, I'm waiting to see if TMQ references the Rams' fourth-and-10 blitz that forced an early throw from Leftwich (three consecutive incompletions intended for Matt Jones from second through fourth down).
Aaron Schatz: Any non-NFC West team that is scheduled to play in St. Louis should file a complaint with the league. They just have the most absurd home field advantage in the NFL. I'm not exactly sure what the Jaguars were doing wrong in this game other than letting Steven Jackson run a lot.
I know Jacksonville usually runs a 4-3, but sometimes they definitely look like they only have three guys down in the stance with three backers. Maybe I'm just not seeing it right.
You know, we were really down on the Jacksonville offense, but Ernest Wilford actually seems pretty good. Much better than Reggie Williams, anyway.
Steven Jackson was getting many of his running yards by going around right end, just like we've been seeing in previous games against Jacksonville. It seemed like they would have two, three guys up to tackle him and he still could turn the corner and get at least three.
Mike Tanier: Byron Leftwich reminds me a little of the young Steve McNair who always dumped the ball off or threw the eight-yard hitch. I know I have seen him throw and complete some bombs on highlight reels, but he seems too content to dink-and-dunk. The Jaguars always seem to need a 10-play drive to score.
And after I wrote that you would never see the Rams run a play from the inverted wishbone, I saw the Rams run a play from the inverted wishbone.
Ned Macey: I fully agree with Aaron's assessment that Wilford is better than Reggie Williams. A shame that draft position will keep Williams the starter. As for other first round wide receiver picks, Matt Jones for all his 4.3 speed seems to only make catches underneath. His touchdown today was just a completely blown coverage. He ran into the end zone and stood there. Really impressive. As for St. Louis, I'm a believer in the Joe Vitt era. A 17-0 lead over Indy before Bulger goes down and then the first two wins of Jamie Martin's 29-year career? But to prove that Martz's imprint is still on the team, Vitt threw a completely ill-advised challenge flag after Wilford's touchdown.
Mike Tanier: Close but bad game. The Bengals appear out of synch on offense. They have their big plays, but they couldn't sustain drives, and Palmer was off target several times.
I don't know what to make of Brett Favre at this point. I did see Donald Lee drop a touchdown bomb, and some other 3rd string receivers made mistakes. But defenders are just breaking on the ball too easily. Bengals defenders were reacting to passes before Packers receivers even turned around. On the one hand, I want to blame the Packers receivers. On the other hand, I think that may be "blame anyone but Favre" reasoning.
Mike Tanier: The Panthers appeared to be running up the score at the end. I don't remember off the top of my head: is there some bad blood here?
The TV guys were trying to focus on the Steve Smith vs. Fred Smoot matchup. Yeah, right. Smith is playing great football right now, and nothing the Vikings did could stop him.
Bill Moore: Here's my 75-year-old mother's view of the weekend's football activities (pre-Pats game which she will watch):
"Oh, I'm glad to see Minnesota lost ... you know, because of that sex boat thing."
Tim Gerheim: The reason the Texans are so bad, but also so tantalizing for their slowly contracting contingent of fans, is that they're wildly inconsistent. They absolutely dominated the line of scrimmage on a number of plays this week, which was out of character but nevertheless the case. Case in point today: Domanick Davis. I'm betting he comes out with a really low DPAR for the same reason Marion Barber had a poor DPAR last week, because it was a feast-or-famine kind of day. (Ed. note: Davis had -0.1 DPAR.) On a number of runs there was a perfect hole there and he got at least 6-8 yards, or busted a long one. But more often the Texans line got pushed into the backfield and had no holes, Davis bounced it outside, and the Browns linebackers were there. Andra Davis had a really big day.
Derick Armstrong, the 3rd or 4th wide receiver, gets backup quarterback treatment in Houston. I can't remember ever seeing him drop a pass, which makes him the very antithesis of Corey Bradford. But he's almost never on the field, also unlike Bradford. Texans fans can't understand this, and they have a tendency to boo when Bradford drops the ball, particularly when Armstrong's not on the field. And he usually isn't, because if he were, Carr would throw to him; according to the CBS announcers, he's the receiver with whom Carr is most comfortable. Armstrong caught one pass today, and the cheer he got was totally out of proportion to the play, even though it was a first down. If he continues to rot on the bench, and Houston starts losing again, the fans might mutiny.
Russell Levine: I'm watching the Chris Simms experience now, and it's not pretty. Tampa Bay, like most teams, usually looks terrible after a cross-country trip. Simeon Rice got sent home, allegedly for missing a team meeting. So the Bucs are altogether disheveled.
Interesting, Gruden is having Simms do a lot of seven-step drops, which were very rare with Griese. I don't know if that's because he trusts Simms' mobility more, or he wants to give him a little more time to look over the defense, or he trusts his O-line to block the SF D-line.
Cadillac is back in the lineup, but doesn't look like he has a lot of burst today.
Ned Macey: Do I have to do this game for Any Given Sunday? I mean, other than saying that Chris Simms is not an NFL quarterback at this stage of his career, what can I say about a team that scores 12 points against the #31 defense in the league (#32 pass defense)? All the glimpses I caught were Simms making bad throws and Simms being under pressure. Any good play by any part of San Francisco's defense has to be an aberration based on the rest of the season, and that's the sort of analysis I want to shy away from.
Ryan Wilson: Well, if the first half is any indication, it looks like the Redskins' seaplane is back from a seven-week vacation on Fantasy Island. Not only does the offensive game plan look like it's from last season, but now the defense is getting pushed around.
Despite Albert, Moose and Goose suggesting that the passing of Wellington Mara has much to do with the Giants' first half success, I'm more inclined to believe that former Redskins Tim Hasselbeck and Antonio Pierce played a hand in game planning too.
I don't watch a lot of Giants games, but I've noticed that Eli Manning seems to do a lot of backpedaling before throwing off balance passes (like the game-winning TD he threw to Amani Toomer is last week's Denver game). His first half interception in the end zone was of the "duck and cover" variety.
Aaron Schatz: If there has ever been a game to argue in favor of DVOA adjusting blowouts, this was it, because I feel a little embarassed to have Washington at #7 the way they played today. Holy mackerel they were bad. It seemed like they kept back six, seven guys to block on every play and the Giants would rush just four and yet Mark Brunell was under pressure on nearly every play. Nobody could hold onto the ball when Brunell actually did pass. Osi Umenyiora was awesome today.
When the Giants were on offense, well, I wrote a couple weeks ago that Washington's defense was actually giving up more yards per play this year than last year, and the run defense is clearly hurting; they kept overcommitting to blitzes and then Barber would just run past whoever was left in the secondary. That being said, Eli Manning may have had the worst game in history for the winning quarterback in a 36-0 rout. I too noticed that Eli tends to throw high or overthrow guys; he had a number of throws where a guy wasn't necessarily open but wasn't draped either, and Eli would toss it over the guy's head and five yards out of bounds.
Bill Moore: I spent the early part of the day at a kids Halloween fair and speed watching the NYG/WAS game on my DVR. Thank god for fast forward, because it would be tough to watch that live. It's ironic that Washington got smoked on the eve of Halloween, because their magic carriage may have just turned into a pumpkin.
Why do the Giants run Brandon Jacobs in goal-line situations? As others have mentioned in the past, he runs standing up, almost like he's trying to balance a book on his head.
The Giants got a ton of pressure on Brunell despite rushing only four guys each down. I don't recall seeing an at-the-line blitz package until 10 minutes to go in the third -- and Washington false started.
To Ryan's point on the announcers crediting the Giants tribute to Wellington Mara. Hey, I have as much respect for this football giant as anyone; however, calling it a big win because they wanted to make a tribute to him seems like it minimizes every other week-to-week performance.
Mike Tanier: Injuries will start to catch up with the Redskins at this point. Chris Samuels was replaced by Ray Brown, who blocked for Billy Sims. The highlight shows will surely replay Osi Umenyiora tossing the 57-year-old Brown backwards like a sack of flour.
Did the Redskins have some great turnover differential before this game? Their luck really ran out with fumbles.
I think the Giants rushed four defenders a lot and sat back in zone. Instead of stacking Portis and getting beaten by the pass, they shut down the pass and made Portis a non-factor. Like Ryan said, it looked like last week.
Aaron Schatz: Actually, I mentioned this in last week's FOX Power Rankings commentary, but the Redskins have had horrible luck this year when it comes to recovering fumbles. Including this week, the Redskins have only recovered two of nine fumbles on defense and two of eight fumbles on offense.
Ned Macey: Hopefully this game showed the national media who the best offensive player on the Giants is. Eli Manning throws a pretty ball, and while he is good, but he is far from greatness.
Michael David Smith: Wow, Philly just looks altogether really bad. Denver is absolutely pushing Philadelphia around on both sides of the ball.
Random question: What is that three-syllable chant I always hear the fans in Denver yell? Sounds something like "Let's go team" but that just seems kinda corny and 1950s-ish, so I'm guessing that's not it.
Tim Gerheim: They're chanting "Incomplete" after an incomplete pass. So they could get an absurd number of opportunities for it against Philly. I actually found this out on the Broncos website's FAQ section when I was looking up their (along with every other team's) employment opportunities. Then I went back to school.
Aaron Schatz: Please, I'm begging Denver not to kick this one away in the second half. I really want them to finally win one big so the rating will go up and I won't have to keep explaining it.
Mike Tanier: Dude, if they boot it, not only will I climb off the ledge, but the bad early rankings are totally justified.
(Denver then proceeds to almost boot it before recovering.)
Michael David Smith: I simply cannot believe how much different the Broncos are early in games compared to late in games. They looked like the best team in the league in the first quarter. Now they look terrible. Could conditioning have something to do with this?
Tim Gerheim: Is it just me, or did Denver start letting Philly back into the game when they didn't run enough in the 2nd half, and then close out the game when they ran Tatum Bell late? Ditto San Diego not running enough against the Chiefs when they were up 21-7 at halftime. Granted, this is based almost entirely on keeping an eye on the NFL.com play-by-play, but that's how it seemed to me.
Ned Macey: While the Philly offense spent a quarter-and-a-half looking terrible, the defense seems more troubling to me. Other than the third quarter, when Denver was unsure of what was going on, the Eagles looked like a very bad defense. They had very little pressure all day, and they obviously covered poorly. I noticed Trotter on the field in a lot of passing situations. Has that changed from a year ago, or were they afraid of runs on third-and-6?
As for the Broncos, I applaud their use of dual backs to save wear and tear, but they don't understand how good Bell is (and I say this not just as a Bell fantasy owner). They think they have a pounder and a big play guy, like Carolina's plan except with good backs. But, Bell is actually perfectly good enough to get the "tough yardage." He was second in success rate a season ago and through Week 6 was tenth. He should be getting 65% of the carries.
Aaron Schatz: The Eagles offense seemed completely confused in the first half. It just seemed like everyone was running the wrong pattern. At one point, Greg Lewis ran a pattern and the ball got to him, and he caught it, but of course he was three yards out of bounds at the time.
Lito Sheppard is clearly hobbled and was getting beaten like a rented mule. There was a Rod Smith one, then the Lelie pass that was originally an incomplete and overturned on review. Then again, look what Owens did to Champ Bailey.
Ryan Wilson: SAP button! SAP button! If the Three Amigos are going to slurp Bruschi and Brady all night, I would at least like to enjoy it in Spanish ... a language where I only understand three, maybe four words. Listening to these guys you get the impression that the Bills aren't even on the field. The last time Kelly Holcomb was this disrespected was earlier this season when J.P. Losman was the starter (and before that, his entire tenure in Cleveland, when he was behind Couch and Garcia).
Ned Macey: I have a great deal of respect for Bruschi, but what did he do that is so heroic? And while I have the utmost respect for Vinateri, nothing made me happier than him missing that field goal after the Sunday Night Crew joked about how absurd an idea it would be to "ice" him.
Aaron Schatz: Now, now people. Stop your complainin'. I've heard three, maybe four mentions of Roscoe Parrish, which is certainly more Roscoe Parrish than I've had all year.
Nick Kazcur is a serious problem. I've said this in other articles, right? Luis Castillo abused him. Brady Smith abused him. Aaron Schobel abused him. Dwight Freeney? Yikes.
Tuesday's Any Given Sunday: Rams over Jaguars
Thursday's Every Play Counts: The Second Annual "Every Team Counts"
121 comments, Last at 02 Nov 2005, 10:48am by JMM