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.
20 Aug 2007
compiled by Doug Farrar
Ryan Wilson: I wonder if either the Dolphins or Chiefs have pass plays that are designed to go for more than four yards. Of course, both offensive lines look dreadful, so that might have something to do with it. Also, I wonder if we should somehow adjust the 370 rule to account for "hits a running back takes per run," because a typical Ronnie Brown run tonight "costs" about three or four average runs. That said, he looks pretty good. I just hope he can make it out of the preseason healthy.
Doug Farrar: Based on preseason quotes I've seen from Brown himself regarding his workload, I have him as my 370 Curse Favorite for 2007. The Dolphins threw the ball almost 200 more times than they ran it in 2006. No way that happens again. Brown will bring it back to Miami for the first time since 2003, when Ricky Williams ran 392 times for 3.5 yards per carry. Curtis Martin, Shaun Alexander, Larry Johnson, Ronnie Brown ... yep, sounds about right.
Vince Verhei: Can someone please explain to me why Ronnie Brown was running back kicks for the Dolphins? Especially in a preseason game? Isn't that why they drafted Ted Ginn?
Mike Tanier: Jaws just diagrammed an overloaded offensive line -- two tackles to one side, Miami TE Justin Peelle playing tackle on the other -- and I got all tingly. Actual information from the Monday Night crew. Amazing.
Herm, throw the f***ing ball. You have to evaluate your quarterbacks. Throw the f***ing ball. I am guessing they can hand off just fine. Delays on second-and-15? C'mon. It's the preseason. You can clamp the lid back on the pass offense in September when L.J. is back. For now, you have to learn if Huard or Croyle can throw the f***ing ball. The only way to find out is to make them throw the f***ing ball.
Screw it. I am taping this and playing Madden 08.
Bill Moore: Have you seen HBO's Hard Knocks? I'm not sure any of them can throw. They may set a record for fewest passes of all time, behind even the 1950s Giants.
Doug Farrar: Well, Brodie Croyle finally threw the f***ing ball in the second quarter -- and one of the guys he threw it to was Michael Allan, the tight end from tiny Division III Whitworth College in Spokane, the alma mater of ESPN reporter (and friend to FO) Mike Sando. Allan lit it up against less than stellar competition in college, but he really came into focus as a combine star. Gaines Adams probably helped himself there more than any first-day player, but Allan went from off the map to seventh-round draft pick in Indianapolis. Not a bad little journey. He did well in all the measurables, and Mike Mayock mentioned him by name during his press conference as a player who really raised his stock.
Ben Riley: Resolved: Sean Salisbury is an idiot, Exhibit no. 6,822 ...
I'm watching Salisbury and Booyah Scott analyze the Chiefs' quarterback battle based on their performance tonight's game. He just criticized Huard for throwing an incomplete dump-off to Michael Bennett, calling it "something a veteran can't do." Uh, Sean, perhaps you missed the unblocked, blitzing defensive end with his arms raised in the air who was about to paste Huard unless he got rid of the ball? Huard actually made exactly the right play: He tossed the ball over the blitzing defensive end's head toward a wide-open Bennett; if the pass is caught, Bennett goes for a big gain, and if dropped, it's a harmless incomplete pass.
What makes Salisbury's stupidity all the more egregious is that just prior to offering this "analysis" he criticized Huard for taking an unnecessary hit in the preseason.
It's interesting to watch the Chiefs after seeing the Hard Knocks documentary. It's clear the coaching staff is bending over backwards to give Croyle the job -- Herm Edwards was effusive in his praise tonight on SportsCenter, and the fact that Huard got fewer reps passing suggests that he'll get to reprise his role as career backup sooner rather than later.
Doug Farrar: If FO ever decides to give out the football equivalent to the Clint Hartung Award, naming it after Salisbury would be a good move.
It's funny how certain quarterbacks make the doghouse for whatever reason, isn't it? Last year, the Seahawks had NFLE hero Gibran Hamdan (who got some garbage-time reps in this game for Miami) and David Greene competing for the third-string quarterback spot. Though Hamdan looked far better in training camp, Greene got most of the preseason reps, especially in the finale against Oakland. Hamdan never had a chance because the Seahawks were enamored with Greene's "upside."
A year later, Mike Holmgren's saying that there isn't much Greene can do to slide up the depth chart so that Seneca Wallace can get some time at receiver or returner. I wouldn't generally be inclined to argue with Holmgren about quarterbacks, but I never understood the Hamdan thing, just as I never understood why the Chiefs didn't get Huard in there when Trent Green was basically throwing up all over himself in the wild card playoff loss to the Colts.
Doug Farrar: Mike Tanier had some good things to say about Bills rookie middle linebacker Paul Posluszny last week, and I'll add a few here. He was all over the place on Atlanta's opening drive. When the Falcons got down to the Buffalo one-yard line, Posluszny was right in the middle of the successful stops on third and fourth down. While I like his ability to play side-to-side, it's his instinct for the correct angle, and his ability to wrap up and stop the play, that really impresses me. It's a bit early to say that I'm reminded of the rookie version of Lofa Tatupu, but there's definitely something to watch here.
Mike Tanier: The Eagles were refreshingly competent on Friday. Donovan McNabb played a couple of series and threw the ball very well. He didn't exactly look bouncy and spry on those knees, and they were wrapped in ice in the second half. He probably won't be all that mobile this year, but he looked good.
The surprise rookie around here is tight end Brent Celek, who has now had two very fine games. He has soft hands and knows how to get open against zones. With L.J. Smith hurt, he could play a role this year. Also, fantasy types should note that Tony Hunt was in the goal-line package with the first-team offense last night.
Jake Delhomme won't be the Panthers starter by Halloween. He will either hold the ball too long and take a hit that injures him, or Fox will get tired of him "Bledsoe-ing" around the pocket waiting for a bomb to develop, then fumbling or throwing a pick. David Carr didn't look that great, but Delhomme seems to be regressing.
Aaron Schatz: Everyone was upgrading their projections for McNabb based on this game, but we were already so high on him, I actually went into KUBIAK and downgraded the projection -- just for his rushing numbers. It's tough to figure these things out, because we're still in the middle of this transition period in the history of ACL recovery, where it's very hard to say just how mobile a guy will be after he returns from that surgery.
Ben Riley: I'm a big fan of Chad Pennington, despite the fact that I'm pretty sure I could beat him in arm wrestling. But if you're going to play the "cerebral quarterback who does all the little things right" role in the NFL, you shouldn't be forcing throws to a clearly covered Jerricho Cotchery over the middle -- particularly when Darren Sharper is standing directly in front of him.
Vince Verhei: I found myself focusing on D'Brickashaw Ferguson during the Vikings-Jets game. He had a rough night. On Darren Sharper's interception return for a touchdown, Ferguson was leveled by a block by Kevin Williams. Shortly thereafter, Ferguson was beaten badly by Ray Edwards, who pressured Chad Pennington, who threw an INT to Chad Greenway, who ran that ball back for a touchdown. Ferguson also whiffed badly on a few running plays, though when he did get his hands on a guy, he often drove them deep off the line.
Michael David Smith: I concur on Ferguson. I wouldn't call him a bad player, but when he was in the draft last year he looked like a sure thing future Pro Bowler, and now he looks like a sure thing future average player.
Sean McCormick: I always had trouble envisioning how Adrian Peterson's game would translate to the NFL, but if tonight is any indication, the answer is very well. He ran with tremendous speed and power, and he actively sought out contact. On his 57-yard run, Peterson had the choice of going out of bounds untouched, but instead he turned in and absolutely walloped David Barrett. Yes, it was a bad run defense he was up against, but the Eric Dickerson comparisons seemed spot-on. Minnesota looks like they might get a real boost from their draft class, especially if you throw Chad Greenway into the mix, as Greenway was borderline dominant when he was out on the field.
Michael David Smith: Yeah, I thought Peterson was pretty awesome, and what I liked best was he really looked like a physical runner, not just a guy with breakaway speed. Of course, maybe a guy with injury issues shouldn't be too physical a runner.
Sean McCormick: When the starters were on the field, the Jets passing game was almost exclusively directed at Cedric Griffin. Laveranues Coles, Jerricho Cotchery, Brad Smith and Justin McCareins all took turns lining up against Griffin and all had throws go their way, and both Chad Pennington and Kellen Clemens looked almost exclusively left when they threw the ball. It was blatant enough that Troy Aikman suggested the Jets might have been game-planning, which is very unusual for a preseason game. Griffin struggled early, rebounded to stop a fade pass to Smith in the end zone and force a field goal, and then finally broke when he missed a tackle on McCareins that resulted in a 35-yard touchdown.
Pete Kendall might finally have landed the technical knockout in his fight to get released from the Jets. In response to the Jets playing him as a second-string center, he mangled not one but two shotgun snaps, sending the first one flying over Clemens' head and the second one dribbling past Brad Smith's feet. I'm not normally one for reading into player body language, but watching him, I couldn't help but think that those were deliberate. You have to be pretty confident of your ability to pick up another job when you start tanking like that.
Patrick Laverty: Glad to see the cameramen in preseason form. Tough time following the ball, missing catches and sacks.
Doug Farrar: The guys in charge of the Raiders-49ers game were in rare form as well. First time I've ever seen a slo-mo replay of a clock-killing quarterback spike.
Aaron Schatz: The TD interception that Tom Brady threw to Cortland Finnegan had nothing to do with Brady, it was a breakdown in communication on the offensive line. Kyle Vanden Bosch stunted and came in to hit Brady in motion untouched while left tackle Matt Light and left guard Logan Mankins both took on Albert Haynesworth.
The Titans offense looks really sloppy, especially rookie running back Chris Henry.
Among the stupid things that announcers say in the preseason: "Wes Welker gets his first touchdown as a Patriot." Of course, what will they say when Welker gets his first regular-season touchdown? They'll say "Wes Welker gets his first touchdown as a Patriot." Preseason DOES NOT COUNT, people. Either stop pretending that it counts, or stop pretending during the regular season that the preseason did not count. Pick a side, we're at war.
Doug Farrar: Remember last week, when we said that it was a bad year for commercials? Coors Light has a new spot -- one of their mock press conference things, like they did with Dick Vermeil and so on -- with Dennis Green. And there is not one second of the "crown their ass" press conference. The single greatest NFL coach's press conference of all time (non-Mora division), and it's unusable? The only thing I can think is that Green didn't want it used ... and in that case, why cut a deal with him at all? He was horrid in Arizona, he isn't even coaching now, and it's not like there are millions of people who specifically and fondly recall his tenure in Minnesota. He'll be remembered more for "crown their asses" than anything else.
Ryan Wilson: Holy crap. Good to see Ken Whisenhunt is going deep into the playbook on the very first play of the second preseason game. Leinart toss-sweeps to Edge, Edge hands off to Boldin on the reverse, and Boldin throws a 50-yarder downfield to Fitzgerald. Unsurprisingly, the Texans were called for pass interference on the play, but I'm not sure why the Cards are showcasing this play now.
Stuart Fraser: Does Brady Quinn hit a single receiver in stride? He looks pretty poised (not that there's much of a pass rush in evidence) and sets himself well before most throws, but the accuracy isn't great. Fortunately Detroit's third-string secondary is rarely on the same screen as any of Cleveland's receivers at this point. That said, the same was true of the Lions secondary when they intercepted Charlie Frye, so I suppose it's an improvement.
Doug Farrar: Sean Payton is not happy about his team's ability to pass protect. The Bengals sacked Saints quarterbacks five times, Jamie Martin lost three fumbles, and Marvin Lewis' staff was sending all-out blitzes late in the game, daring someone to make them stop. After Matt Baker was sacked twice in a three-and-out series with about 11 minutes left in the game, Payton absolutely laid into rookie running back Antonio Pittman on the sidelines, and I'd bet that blitz pickup was the subject.
Russell Levine: After watching the second week of the Jeff Garcia Experience in Tampa Bay, I'm at least happy that he can move out of the pocket and make some plays on the run. He does seem like an excellent fit for Tampa's offense, where the quarterback is often running for his life and most of the pass patterns are 10 yards or less.
Tampa's first team defense looked pretty good -- or maybe Jacksonville's first-team offense is just really bad. Byron Leftwich may be in the best shape of his life, but he still has the slowest release in the history of football. To quote Mr. T: "My prediction? Pain."
Doug Farrar: The Broncos and Cowboys practiced against each other four times this week. Makes a lot of sense, and this is something I think every team should do every year. You get different looks than your own coaches would draw up, maybe something a little closer to game speed, break up the monotony of training camp, and the intensity ramps up a bit. Mike Shanahan said that he liked having his team face Dallas in practice because the Broncos will go up against 3-4 defenses in each of their first three preseason games (San Francisco, Dallas, Cleveland), and there's always San Diego to deal with twice a year. As much as you adjust your blocking to whatever version of the 3-4 your 4-3 defense can put together in practice -- or vice versa for Dallas' benefit -- certainly it's better to get the real thing. The coaches and players definitely seem to appreciate the difference. Hey, maybe if the Seahawks had practiced against the Packers, Mike Holmgren could have put Tom Ashworth on a plane right away.
I'm still wrapping my head around the idea that Leonard Davis signed one of those $49 million specials that so many offensive linemen received in the off-season. He's not a tackle anymore, he put up horrific blown block and penalty numbers when he was, he's not protecting anyone's blind side, but there he is -- making what was left tackle money two years ago. The general managers for the Ravens, Rams and Seahawks must be very grateful that Jonathan Ogden, Orlando Pace and Walter Jones have already signed their once-in-a-career contracts. One can only imagine what THOSE guys would be worth if they were now in their prime. At this rate, Marcus McNeill is a financial time bomb.
Davis looked good in this game, getting solid push on Sam Adams, but ... gaaah! More than $18 million guaranteed for a right guard! It's like giving Nate Clements' contract to a nickel back. On Marion Barber's first-quarter touchdown, Davis just ran into the end zone unimpeded because there was nobody for him to block. Looked like he was breaking tape at the end of a race. On Julius Jones' first-quarter touchdown, Davis fell on his man a yard or so ahead of the line of scrimmage, which seemed to be effective. Now that he's moved inside, you can definitely see that he was miscast as a tackle in Arizona.
Doug Farrar: Note to Tom Ashworth: When you replaced Walter Jones at left tackle for this game, the Seahawks were asking you to replace the 2005 Walter as best you could, not the 2006 Walter who played all year on a sprained ankle and had nine blown blocks. Ashworth gave up two sacks in the first half -- one to Cullen Jenkins, and one to KGB. The second sack caused a Seneca Wallace fumble, which Nick Barnett returned for a touchdown.
Ashworth's pass pro is bad enough, but he kept getting blown up on run plays as well. I have to assume that Dante Scarnecchia somehow coached this guy up something fierce in New England, because he'd have to improve to reach Arena League level right now.
D.J. Hackett got hit with a delay of game penalty in the second quarter based on the new rule which states that any post-play spike is considered unsportsmanlike and a speed bump in the flow of the game, which is something that Roger Goodell seems very concerned about. All Hackett did was drop the ball to the ground after a short catch. Maybe there was a bit of frustration showing -- the Seahawks were getting clowned 31-10 at the time -- but this is the sort of ticky-tack call that will take three years and the same number of competition committee meetings to get right.
As I was typing the Hackett thing, safety Atari Bigby sacked Wallace unimpeded, Wallace fumbled again, and former Seahawks linebacker Tracy White ran it in for the TD. Bigby blew right by running back Marquis Weeks, who was heading out for a pass. Could have been a blown blitz read on Wallace's part. Ashworth had a bead on Bigby after the fumble, but he was more concerned with tackling Bigby than noticing that the ball was loose. I think it's time to get third-stringer David Greene in there before Wallace gets killed. Green Bay 38, Seattle 10.
On the subsequent Josh Wilson kick return, THREE DIFFERENT SEAHAWKS were called for holding. There's three minutes left in the first half, and I might not make it that far.
Addendum #1: The Seahawks brought Greene in early, and he immediately threw an interception. I'm getting a vision of me watching the second half of the Chargers-Rams game.
Addendum #2: Phil Simms is calling the Chargers-Rams game. I'd rather watch the Seahawks lay a brontosaurus egg. I'd also like to apologize to Packers fans who are reading this and thinking that because we didn't write a word about your team, we don't think they played well. It's not that; it's just that Seattle's suckitude was the far more remarkable factor. We liked your defense last season, we liked it in the book, and we like it now.
Vince Verhei: I echo everything Doug said. Ashworth was horrible tonight. Coincidentally, I just got to the Green Bay Chapter in PFP 2K7, so I understand that Green Bay's linemen are very good. But every single play, even when Ashworth avoided disaster, he looked like a guy literally out of his league.
Also, last week I noted how well Leonard Weaver played. Well, never mind. Twice tonight, he was in the backfield for pass plays, identified blitzers and got into perfect blocking position -- and just got run over. A.J. Hawk and Atari Bigby (the new greatest name in the NFL) both barreled through Weaver for sacks. This wasn't a guy who reacted late or was out of position. This looked like a guy who simply can't block.
Ben Riley: This just in: Tom Ashworth is bad. He looked horrible last year, and he looks horrible tonight. From everything I've read, he keeps his roster spot because of his "versatility," but I'm not sure what value there is in keeping a lineman who gets beaten at every position he plays.
Rumors of Bubba Franks' death (or impending release) may have been greatly exaggerated. He seems to be getting open consistently and I just watched him seal off Lofa Tatupu to clear a hole in the red zone.
A.J. Hawk just destroyed Ray Willis and sacked Seneca Wallace for a big loss. There were rumors that Willis would replace Chris Gray at right guard this year. They, too, may have been greatly exaggerated.
Russell Levine: I normally don't mind Phil Simms, but in discussing Marc Bulger's contract situation during the Chargers-Rams game, he went off on a tangent about how Bulger's off-season was ruined by waiting on his contract extension. OK, no problem there. Then Simms said something about sometimes in this league you have to have some personal success, then you have to get paid, THEN you can think about Super Bowls and such. Umm, really? You have to get paid before you can think about winning a championship? Why exactly is that?
I'm all for players getting paid and I understand it could weigh on a guy's mind, but are we honestly supposed to believe that the lack of a big money contract was what separated Bulger from the Super Bowl in years past?
Michael David Smith: Looking at Adam Carriker early in the game, I wasn't nearly as impressed with him as I expected to be.
Doug Farrar: I've got Mike Patrick and Joe Theismann on the Redskins Broadcast Network. Is that going to be the weekly crew? If so, my heart goes out the other Washington. Jason Campbell bruised his left knee in the first quarter (or so the initial reports say), which led to the following Theismann-ism: "It's a good sign that he's walking around." That, of course, was followed by the inevitable, "When I was visiting yesterday with Joe Gibbs, and we talked about Todd Collins ..."
Sean McCormick: I'm glad to see it wasn't a serious injury, as Campbell was throwing the ball with real authority. He looks poised to take a big step this year.
Doug Farrar: Daunte Culpepper is sharing goat horns in a game that (literally) slipped through Oakland's grasp, but his two fumbled snaps should be taken in context -- Andrew Walter bobbled a horrible shotgun snap on the Raiders' first drive, and had two fumbles himself. What's that we say about turnovers and their recoveries being random, while the ability to cause turnovers is the real skill? The Raiders fumbled four times and recovered every one.
It should be noted that longtime FO whipping boy Alvis Whitted -- I have noticed that Aaron has a particular predilection for dropping his name into conversations with a severely sarcastic tone! -- dropped the late touchdown catch that would have given the Raiders the game. Looks like there might have been some uncalled contact from defensive back Sammy Joseph before the play, though I had an inconclusive camera angle and only saw the end of the contact, but the ball was right in Whitted's hands in the end zone. Oakland's officiating conspiracy theorists will have fun this week.
One thing I'm definitely noticing from San Francisco's revamped defense is an inability to stop the run. LaMont Jordan gained 67 yards on only eight carries, and he did it predominantly against the first team. This a week after the 49ers gave up 182 yards and a 5.2 yards per carry average to the Broncos. They'll have to work that out if they're going to compete in the NFC West -- which, for all its foibles, does have some fairly solid running backs.
Hey, speaking of running backs -- does near-Super Bowl MVP Dominic Rhodes win the 2007 "Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it" award? After Edgerrin James left the safety of the Colts' offensive line and wound up on milk cartons all over the greater Phoenix area, Rhodes signs with the Raiders ... who ranked 29th in Adjusted Line Yards last year. So far, Rhodes has carried the ball 13 times for 28 yards as a Raider. His longest run is 13 yards. That's a lot of stuffs, people.
Aaron Schatz: I realize this is preseason, and even the best offensive lines have trouble with the Ravens' defense, but this David Diehl thing is not going to work. Terrell Suggs just abused him on play after play. Pass, rush, it didn't matter. Honestly, is Diehl going over to clean Suggs' house when the game is over? Maybe polish his cars, bathe his feet or something? Suggs just owned the guy tonight.
Mike Anderson looked like the Mike Anderson from Denver, not that guy from last year in Baltimore. Very nice block by Mike Flynn on Antonio Pierce on Anderson's second big run.
John Madden has definitely gotten his fastball back the last couple years, but he said some things tonight that just made me shake my head. He was talking about the Ravens' defense, saying that they can run all those complicated schemes because of two excellent corners who you can just leave on an island. Did he watch the Ravens last year? Regular commentators had to notice how much Samari Rolle has lost it, right? It isn't just us and K.C. Joyner, right?
Bill Barnwell: The Giants' second-string offensive line looked pretty good, actually. There was one play where the Ravens had three defensive linemen and then brought two defensive backs up on Jared Lorenzen's weak side as the play clock was winding down, and while Lorenzen called them out (in a way where, honestly, I think he tried to scare them off with a sneer), halfback Ryan Grant blew his pickup responsibility, which left the inside defensive back double-teamed (as the right guard picked him up) and the outside rusher running free to hit Lorenzen.
Later on, the line sprung Ahmad Bradshaw for 43 yards when great pulls by right guard Matt Lentz and right tackle Jon Dunn created mass hysteria in the second level of the Ravens defense. Unfortunately, on the next play, Bradshaw got totally lost on a blitz pickup and Tim Hasselbeck nearly got killed. Madden said that after watching backup left tackle Guy Whimper on film, Whimper looked ready to start immediately. The Giants coaches think otherwise, but they also have David Diehl at left tackle.
The Giants second string overpursues even worse than the first string. Oh, will there be yardage to be had on counters this year. I'm pretty sure we can already credit Brian Westbrook with 160 yards on counter plays alone.
I don't know why William Joseph is playing with the second defensive team. He sure looked fine to me. Adrian Awasom, a 52nd/53rd guy at defensive end, looked really good as a pass rusher and while he's not exactly Michael Strahan, he'll make the team as a depth guy and should see more snaps in their defensive line rotation. He pulled off a really nice rip move to blow up a play.
Jared Lorenzen is not an NFL quarterback. I want him to be, desperately, but he's not. He's basically 85 percent of the athlete Michael Vick is -- he can improvise and he's got a great arm, but there's no touch on his throws and I'm pretty sure the overhead camera flushed him out of the pocket at some point.
Anthony Nix also looked good as a poor man's Plaxico Burress -- tall, lanky dude who has good speed and is an excellent blocker. He helped clear a nice hole on a sweep along with tight end Michael Matthews, who got underneath a Ravens defensive lineman and pushed him for several yards horizontally to clear the hole behind him.
The Giants brought in Ohio State kicker Josh Huston to compete with Lawrence Tynes, who hasn't looked particularly impressive, and at least for tonight, Huston looked like the real deal to me. He made two absolutely flawless kicks, including one from 50 with room to spare, and had a decent leg on kickoffs. But, hey, they didn't trade a draft pick for him, so he won't make the team.
Northeastern sighting! Ravens tight end Kendrick Ballantyne caught a swing pass and immediately ran out of bounds. Speaking of our favorite universities, there was a detailed feature on Zak DeOssie, with Madden complimenting him for being a long snapper as well as the first guy down the field as a gunner.
As we returned from commercial, Madden and Michaels were talking about "cankles" in a way that sounded like one of them was explaining the term to the other. That is a conversation we, the listeners, did not need to hear.
53 comments, Last at 25 Aug 2007, 3:26pm by Parker W.