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.
06 Jan 2008
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. 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 2008.
For the next two weeks, we'll be splitting Audibles in two, one for each conference. This edition discusses only the two NFC Wild Card games. Click here to read about the two AFC Wild Card games.
Doug Farrar: Sigh. Deion Branch is inactive (calf). When Tim Ruskell's history is written, he's going to want the details of the Branch trade redacted. Branch is like that really expensive piece of exercise equipment you spend an obscene amount of money on in a fit of resolute desperation. It sits in its area, used occasionally at first, but it eventually becomes a shelf/storage area for other things.
Sean McCormick: It's amazing -- who would have thought Bobby Engram was the best player on that undefeated Penn State 1994 team? Anyone?
Doug Farrar: It's interesting that Jamie Moyer raised the 12th Man flag before the game, because I've always thought of Engram as the Seahawks' Moyer. A guy who came from another team in a relatively unheralded move, hung around every year without any overwhelming physical gifts â€“- just an absolute commitment to consistency â€“- and you look up after a few years and he's setting team records.
Bill Barnwell: Weird blitz when the Seahawks overloaded right, then had the two standing defenders run a twist despite the outside blitzer having a free lane to the quarterback. Seemed excessively cute. Fortunately, Todd Collins threw an out about six yards over his receiver. Speaking of Seahawks blitzes, I can't believe that you would blitz a corner on the Redskins.
Doug Farrar: Yeah, John Marshall will do that -â€“ run weird stuff when he has the players to just get the job done. "Excessively cute" is a good way of putting it.
Huh. The Redskins double-teamed Patrick Kerney on one early play with right tackle Stephon Heyer and defensive tackle Lorenzo Alexander. They're really ramping it up for him. Early on, Clinton Portis gets nothing from the Seattle defense.
Ah, and there's the first obligatory, "Hey, we're in Seattle -- let's play grunge on the cuts to commercial" moment.
That Leonard Weaver first quarter touchdown on the draw play was kind of a "wow" moment. Gregg Williams had a pass defense on that play with one or two guys in the parking lot. That Holmgren felt comfortable calling a draw with four wide may say something about a new faith in the offensive line. On the other side, Kerney's playing out of his mind today. They'd better not put one man on him too often. And Chris Cooley as the second man isn't going to be the answer.
Bill Barnwell: Does anyone else see the Seahawks wearing green shoes and think, "No fair! They get to use turbo!"? Just me?
I love how people have said that Jason Campbell's release is Leftwich-like. It's patent racism. Campbell's release is significantly faster than Collins'.
I think you're going to see more Todd Yoder on the next drive, lining up next to Stephon Heyer, which limits what the Redskins can do offensively. They're going to probably bust out more 2-TE, 2-RB sets, and Santana Moss simply hasn't been good enough this year to beat a good secondary all by himself.
Doug Farrar: We were certainly expecting more of Yoder on the right side than we've seen so far.
And with Matt Hasselbeck checking off to a shotgun formation at the end of the first quarter, we'll reveal that the Seahawks have the fourth-best DVOA from the shotgun (Jacksonville, Indianapolis and New England are better), despite the fact that Mike Holmgren inherited Bill Walsh's distaste for the formation. Seattle ran shotgun plays only 80 times in the regular season on 590 pass attempts, the lowest percentage in the NFL.
Stuart Fraser: I often wonder if small sample size/high DVOA splits like that are just caused by "the defense didn't prepare for it because the offense never does that" rather than anything intrinsically good about the team's execution. I have no idea how we'd be able to tell the difference, of course.
Doug Farrar: It's entirely possible. The sight of a Holmgren team running the shotgun could shock defenders into submission.
Michael David Smith: Howard Green just made the play of the day so far by drilling Todd Collins just as he threw a pass that probably would have gone for a touchdown.
Doug Farrar: Oh. I don't think there was any question. Marcus Trufant was watching for UFOs or something on that play.
Aaron Schatz: I maintain what I wrote in the FO Wild Card Preview and the Baseball Prospectus chat: I think the Seattle secondary is overrated. I'm not saying they suck, but they look better than they really are because the front seven is so good, and Marcus Trufant doesn't really seem like a Pro Bowl corner to me. (What is Roderick Hood doing that weekend?)
Doug Farrar: Well, that's what we don't know -- just how much having to be on an island (Trufant is also benefiting from much better safety help) and having to cover longer due to an inefficient pass rush affects cornerback play. We know it does, but how much? I don't think Trufant is quite as good as he's been this year, if that makes any sense, nor was he as bad as he was last year when Seattle's safety play was a joke. Other factors can contribute. In 2006, Walt Harris had a "career year" by picking off a bunch of backups and the 137-year-old Brad Johnson.
Near the end of the first half, Leroy Hill sacked Todd Collins by pushing Ladell Betts into him. THAT was impressive.
Mike Tanier: The Redskins used a lot of cute motion and fake reverses in their first few drives, then they simplified things. I have a funny feeling that they realized "hey, the Seahawks don't really care where Lorenzo Alexander and Mike Sellers are lined up, and we are only confusing ourselves."
Miscommunication seems like a big problem for the Redskins offense. You had the "Hike, HIKE, HIIIIIIIIKE!" delay of game penalty, which might have been crowd noise, but then you had the Peterson sack, where Jason Fabini passed Peterson off to Clinton Portis, who had no idea that he would have someone passed off to him.
By the way, in terms of "quick release," the backup quarterback who wins a few games always has a quicker release than the starter. He's also always a "better fit" and "plays within the system." If its a white/black thing, those points are just made more loudly. Release speed is one of those eye-of-the-beholder things if you haven't been coaching or scouting for 15 years. It's pretty much a B.S. dump for quarterback arguments, unless we are talking about Byron Leftwich, who really does have a slow release.
Bill Barnwell: It's one thing if it's just the wrist snap of the release, but Collins actually winds up. And he has the Pennington out going on, too.
Doug Farrar: I don't think Collins has a perceptibly quicker or slower release than anyone else -â€“ he's just smart enough to know when to dump the ball off, as opposed to Trent "Stickum" Green or Matt Hasselbeck on the first-half sack, when the guy who got to him had time to run out to F.X. McRory's and get a sandwich and return for the quarterback takedown. Or Ben Roethlisberger, for goodness' sake. Get rid of the ball, dude! Actual quick release, like Marino or Namath had, is a rare gift, right?
Bill Barnwell: I don't know. I will say this, though: One thing both Campbell and Collins do really well is sell the pass on running plays. A lot of quarterbacks will make cursory glances down the field, but the Redskins obviously drill on it and really do create confusion.
Will Carroll: Can't this be measured? Hasn't Jaws done something on this?
Mike Tanier: You could time the release, just like you can put a quarterback's passes on a radar gun to see how fast they are. Then, Ingle Martin wins the radar gun test and suddenly he's supposed to have the best arm in history. Time the release in a Combine setting and you have no idea what will really happen when the kid is trying to process information. Time it a hundred times for 20 different throws in game situations, take the mean and the standard deviation, and you get ... a big mess. And the quickest release in the world doesn't matter if the kid never decides to throw.
Will Carroll: Right, which is why I'd be more interested in doing it with game film. Pair it up with hurries/pressure and it could be pretty telling.
Ryan Wilson: Every week, I wonder why teams choose not to cover Chris Cooley. The Seahawks are the first team in a while who are doing a great job of shutting him down. Antwaan Randle El and Santana Moss are making plays -- nothing big, but a few completions each -- but given that both are coming off injuries, I think Cooley's the most dangerous of the bunch. And the Seahawks are right to key on the tight end. Of course, a dominating pass rush helps with such things.
Vince Verhei: Cris Collinsworth says right before halftime that the Redskins need to run the ball. Cris, I'm afraid they've tried, and that's not working either.
Bill Moore: I listened to some of the first half on the radio. Boomer Esiason donates a dollar amount for every sack to his foundation. Does anyone else find it ironic that Boomer donates money for sacks?
Stuart Fraser: I wonder if that comes as a result of Boomer saying to a bunch of inept offensive linemen "If I had a dollar for every time I'd been sacked..."
Doug Farrar: Great play call by Al Saunders to go with the play-action to Sellers on fourth-and one at the end of the third quarter. Brian Russell got flagged for pass interference, but that might have been a touchdown otherwise.
Aaron Schatz: Which is stranger: Rambo returning after something like 10 years, or Todd Collins returning after something like 10 years?
Vince Verhei: Rambo. Collins was a backup plan born out of desperation. Rambo was made by design.
Mike Tanier: The first Todd Collins movie was actually pretty good. Richard Crenna played Jim Kelly.
Vince Verhei: At the end of three quarters, it seems like the worst player on the Seahawks has actually been Matt Hasselbeck. He's missed a number of open receivers, often on third down. I find this all a little shocking.
Doug Farrar: I'd have to agree. Hasselbeck's interception at the start of the fourth quarter was thrown into a triangle of Redskins, with Engram incidentally in the play.
Mike Tanier: I dunno, Alexander is pretty bad. I've never seen a guy with his size and reputation hit the line of scrimmage and just stop. The guy finished maybe two or three runs tonight. Overall, though, Hasselbeck has not been himself.
Stuart Fraser: So which of the four guys who tried to cover the fade to Moss in the corner of the end zone was supposed to be on Randle El, do you think?
Doug Farrar: Don't know. I was blinded by Todd Collins' perfect quarterback rating.
Here's what's interesting to me: The Redskins clawed their way back into this game in the fourth quarter by doing what the Seahawks do. They're taking away the blitz by sending out more receivers, and the Seahawks capitulate by playing base coverage, or at least a coverage with far less pressure up front. Then, Collins just singes the zone like Hasselbeck does. I'm thinking to myself, "Seattle's getting beaten by what they see in practice."
However, to get no points off the botched kickoff return (and I just know that some half-assed talking head will have the "Sean Taylor stopped that ball in the air" thing going) when Shaun Suisham missed a 30-yarder is a huge break for the Seahawks. Down 14-13 with 10 minutes left, if they don't mix up their defensive fronts a little more, they will lose this game.
Stuart Fraser: I will just confirm that the UK SKY analysts suggested that Sean Taylor stopped the ball in the air.
Aaron Schatz: Did Holmgren stop blitzing linebackers because the Redskins were suddenly sending out more receivers? Or did he suddenly get conservative on defense with a lead, and the Redskins reacted by sending out more receivers?
Vince Verhei: To answer Aaron's chicken-or-egg question, it looked to me like the Seahawks called off the dogs first, then Washington started flooding the field with receivers. Collinsworth suggested that Seattle couldn't blitz because of all the receivers ... well, why not? You can still rush five once in a while, can't you?
Doug Farrar: The second Hasselbeck interception to Landry was inexcusable. You're out of the pocket, your fourth receiver is covered, throw the damn ball away. That's not his wrist. That's his brain. Just a horrible throw.
Vince Verhei: Yeah, right after I noted how lousy Hasselbeck was, he actually got worse. His accuracy got better, but he started making horrible decisions. Throughout the game, he held the ball too long several times.
Doug Farrar: Nate Burleson's catch with seven minutes left in the game on third-and-6 saved Seattle's season. Wonderful pitch-and-catch with Springs right on him. And for those Seattle fans complaining about officiating, Nate got away with a full-on Michael Irvin push-off there.
Bill Barnwell: So, whose fault is the subsequent Seattle touchdown? Pierson Prioleau? I can't imagine that he was so mesmerized by the play-fake that he decided to let Hackett run right by him, so I would assume he thought he had safety help behind him?
Aaron Schatz: Uh, Prioleauis the safety help. Well, the safety anyway. Do they give safety help to a safety who is in man coverage?
Vince Verhei:NFL Gameday broke down the Hackett touchdown. Remember earlier in the quarter, when LaRon Landry twice broke on Hasselbeck's passes to the right for interceptions? Well, Hasselbeck remembered too. He pump-faked to the right, and Landry abandoned ship and went sailing to that side of the field, leaving Hackett wide-open. It wasn't clear live, but it was a great example of chess-match football.
Bill Barnwell: Well, the first Collins interception was one of the uglier plays you'll ever see. Moss runs a bad route. Collins throws it anyway and overthrows Moss. Moss gives up on the ball. Trufant runs right down the field and picks up an extra $3 million in free agency. Just embarrassing.
Doug Farrar: Marcus Trufant had the denouement to our cornerback discussion with the late Collins pick, but that interception should be scored as a punt return after Collins' pocket collapsed. Santana Moss was in a different zip code. Hasselbeck will be sending Collins a "Thank you for taking me off the hook" card.
Aaron Schatz: That Todd Collins interception came from Rocky Bernard bumping the offensive lineman back into Collins while he was in motion. I don't know if it was the wisest throw, but it isn't like he just launched it. I can't tell if Santana Moss was coming back on a curl and the ball just went too far because Collins was hit, or if he gave up on the play entirely, cause he was just standing there slack-jawed.
Doug Farrar: As the game was winding down, Cris Collinsworth said that Trufant should be the game's MVP. Trufant had a very good game, but I'll take Patrick Kerney. He had Washington's offense on a string all the way through the first half. Also, I think that Leroy Hill's further development this season makes him an equal third in what I believe to be the NFL's best 4-3 linebacker corps. What Tim Ruskell has made Seattle's defense into over the last three years is something to behold. A Holmgren team led by its defense? Hasn't happened in over a decade. Last time it did happen was in Green Bay, which is where the Seahawks head next.
Bill Barnwell: One of the major issues with the Giants defense in the preseason and early in the year was overpursuit. They got better during the year, but there was a Graham run in the first quarter that showed the huge cutback lanes available to a back with the vision to exploit them.
We were right and wrong about David Diehl, by the way. Wrong in that he hasn't been a sieve at left tackle, and he's a pretty good run blocker. Right in that as a pass protector, he's pretty weak, especially with bigger right ends, who just get underneath him and bull rush him all the way back into Eli.
Aaron Schatz: I'm watching with Ian Dembsky (ex-Scramble writer), who has a good point: When the Giants brought in the super tight formation on third-and-1 in the first quarter, why leave Plaxico Burress on the sidelines? Why not at least bring him in, split him wide, and force the Bucs to put one (and maybe two) defenders on him? If they only stick one guy out there, and you don't feel the run is there, you can audible to the quick hitch and pretty much get the first down.
Russell Levine: An honest-to-goodness Michael Clayton sighting! That's like seeing a bald eagle in the wild.
Stuart Fraser: What the...? Brandon Jacobs' "celebration" after scoring the Giants' first touchdown seemed kinda, um, bats**t.
The Giants are running outside a lot. This does not, subjectively, sound like the smart play against a Monte Kiffin defense. Is there any reason to suggest one should actually do this?
Vince Verhei: Twice on that drive -- the first pass to Amani Toomer and the touchdown to Jacobs -- the Bucs had defenders in position to make tackles after short gains. Both times, Brian Kelly and Derrick Brooks gambled and played for the ball, and when they missed, the receivers gained a lot of yards on the ground.
Russell Levine: Jeff Garcia is hitting the ground on every dropback and Tampa Bay is really scuffling for every yard now. They have to stick with the run game as long as the game is close.
I'm very impressed with Eli Manning's patience. He is very much taking what the Bucs give him, which is the key against this defense.
Sean McCormick: Speaking of impressive, Corey Webster is doing a terrific job against Joey Galloway. Webster is such a bad tackler that it's hard to remember he does anything well, but he's been step-for-step with Galloway on just about every throw.
Bill Barnwell: This means Corey Webster gets to make the team next year. Ugh.
Aaron Schatz: Will somebody please tell Tampa Bay that they cannot block the New York front four with just their five offensive linemen?
Question about forward progress: Ike Hilliard caught a ball at the sideline, but the momentum of the catch is backwards. Where was the ball spotted? Where he landed at the end of the catch, or the farthest forward he was when he began the dive?
Michael David Smith: When your own momentum carries you back, you do not get the benefit of forward progress.
Doug Farrar: I liked the screen Eli threw to Brandon Jacobs in the red zone on the first drive of the second half. He saw where the defense wasn't and made the smart play. Showed me that he will, as Russell said, take what is given.
It seemed to me that the Bucs went to more straight coverage and less stack-the-box as the second half began, and that was a good move. You have to be able to trust your front seven to deal with Jacobs as opposed to making your Cover-2 corners go one-on-one too often. I think that's what gave New York three points instead of seven on that drive.
(Jeff Garcia throws a laser right to Corey Webster in the end zone, after Webster leads Galloway outside on the route and has the jump on the play.)
Bill Barnwell: Where was this Corey Webster all season?
Russell Levine: I'm not sure Galloway's problem is just his shoulder. He can't seem to run at all. Still, that was an awful decision by Garcia.
Doug Farrar: That was a CFL-quality decision by Garcia, because Webster literally had the inside track all the way on that route. Garcia doesn't have the arm to make that throw. You need a freakin' rainbow to make that happen.
When Aaron went on Bill Simmons' podcast earlier this week, Simmons was talking about how the Pats didn't blitz Eli and how that made it so much easier for him to do what he did. That's probably true in that case, but I'm seeing something really different here. I wondered at the time about the decision to play the run so much before, and Eli seems to be flummoxed by Tampa Bay's more standard coverage -â€“ like he's going through his options and the processing isn't happening. Previously, he could just identify the receiver who was beating single coverage. He adjusted to it later, because he had a lot of time in the pocket. The Bucs played the run and they played the pass, but they weren't aggressive in their pass rush.
Russell Levine: Tampa seems content to stick with the plan, not to change things up on defense. They need to start blitzing Manning and try to force him into one of those back-foot throws.
Bill Barnwell: They need to do something different. The Giants are marching down the field on them and the Buccaneers aren't playing disciplined football. Guys are being irresponsible trying to make a big play.
Ahmad Bradshaw looks really nice. He's being patient with his cuts and he has the speed to accelerate once he finds the hole.
Aaron Schatz: I definitely think Tampa Bay is giving up a couple extra yards on each run by trying to get in there with a strip instead of just tackling guys. I'm also not so sure why the comments in Audibles have been mainly anti-Manning today. Since the first quarter, he's looked pretty damn good for the second straight week. Grey Reugamer has done an excellent job filling in for Shaun O'Hara. The Bucs just look bad all around, except for Earnest Graham, who keeps fighting and fighting for extra yardage. Has anybody noticed that Garcia isn't scrambling at all?
Russell Levine: 24-7, ballgame. Score one for the "played meaningful snaps down the stretch" crowd. Garcia has played his worst game of the year, the Tampa defensive line can't get off the ball, and the defense has missed tackles and made stupid plays. I'd almost like to see Luke McCown.
Aaron Schatz: I'm not sure how much this has to do with rest/no rest at the end of the year. In the first quarter, Tampa Bay did not come out flat. They came out very strong, then slowed down in the second quarter. I'm sure a lot of Giants fans will say, "See, we knew the Giants were this good all along," but seriously, how can anybody say that the Giants were playing like this before the second half of the Week 16 Buffalo game? They looked nothing like this for a long stretch of the season.
Bill Barnwell: Oh no, Manning's been very good today. Of course, he's human, he's had a couple of bad throws, but like I said last week about command and control, Manning's had both today -- the back-shoulder throw to Burress comes to mind. If he was this guy all the time, there wouldn't be a reason to criticize him.
Doug Farrar: I think he adjusted well to what he saw early, took a bit of a header at the start of the second half, but adjusted well again. If you talk about Now Value, he's been one of the better playoff quarterbacks so far.
Has Garcia even had time to scramble? He's had Giants on him from the snap just about all day.
Aaron Schatz: Ian and I are trying to figure out what changed at halftime of Week 16 to turn the Giants into a strong team. Ian: "The only thing that has changed is that they have more injuries. Maybe their backups were better than their starters all along." You know what, it has meant more Ahmad Bradshaw and Gerris Wilkinson, and Corey Webster looks pretty darn good today. (I'm not saying Bradshaw is better than Jacobs, just better than Droughns and Ward.)
Mike Tanier: This looks like the same Giants team I saw most of the year. If the front four can trump your front five and you don't have great receivers, they can shut you out (or close to it) and set their offense up with good field position. The running game is strong, and Eli is good enough to win if he isn't forced to be a hero. Take Galloway out of the Bucs offense and this is what you will get: average passes going about 2.5 yards down the field, and throws to Galloway becoming interceptions because Galloway cannot break free.
That eight-minute touchdown drive at the end of the third and start of the fourth quarter was just the symptom of a defense that had been beaten up and thought it has to create a turnover to give the offense any chance.
Aaron Schatz: I disagree, I don't think the Giants have been this good all year. The pass rush, yes, but not the defensive coverage in the secondary and not Eli Manning. How many times this year have you seen Corey Webster -- or Sam Madison or Kevin Dockery -- step for step with someone as fast as Joey Galloway?
The Giants offense had a turnover in every game during the regular season. Thirty teams had at least one game without any offensive turnovers. The only teams that did not were the Giants and Texans. Tampa Bay only had two or more offensive turnovers in five games out of 16. So yeah, this game went a little bit against the standards set by previous performance.
Ned Macey: I believe we're asking the wrong question. The question is not, were the Giants always this good? The question is, were the Bucs actually really this bad? I think the answer to this game may lie there more than the other way. A Bucs team without a healthy and/or effective Galloway is a joke.
As for the Giants consistency, they beat who they should beat and lost to who they should lose to. Everybody played the Pats well down the stretch, and I think that game gets a bit of an asterisk -- remember when we were pimping Kyle Boller? I think maybe the Giants are the league's 10th best team instead of 16th, but the win today, to me, just proved that Tampa Bay isn't really that good.
I'd also note that Cato June was out, and the Bucs a) were very stout against Brandon Jacobs and b) gave up 200 receptions over the middle. I think those things are all related.
This game definitely will be seen as striking a blow for playing through Week 17. I think it is silly to make any judgment based on one game, and I would rest my players. As a fan, however, I think it is great if playing through Week 17 will be much more interesting to watch.
Stuart Fraser: The Steelers didn't play the Patriots (or anybody else) well down the stretch, and I don't remember pimping Kyle Boller, I remember wondering what the hell had happened to Willis McGahee.
Mike Tanier: I will grant you the secondary in terms of play-in, play-out quality (not just jumping in and picking off a pass after the front four killed the quarterback). But Manning looked pretty good at times early in the year, like against the Cowboys. This just looks like this year's caliber Giants team: They were overvalued when they were playing the Falcons every week, then I prematurely wrote them off then the Redskins beat them and Shockey got hurt. They are better than the Bucs but not in the same league as the Cowboys.
As for Garcia, well, this is Garcia without weapons and facing a good defense.
Michael David Smith: This was the Detroit Lions version of Jeff Garcia.
Doug Farrar: I wrote something elsewhere this week about the fact that in college, the phrase "system quarterback" is pejorative, but in the NFL, where survival is more important than potential, it's much less so. Garcia is a system quarterback. He can run a specific type of West Coast offense template very well if he has help. That's not a slam, because there are quarterbacks in his league who couldn't run a Holmgren/Reid/Gruden offense at all, just as Todd Collins was useful this year for Washington because he knew Al Saunders' system so well. Garcia isn't going to invent things. He's a curator, not an architect.
The Tampa Bay line is the youngest in the NFL and it will take time to develop. But they are simply overwhelmed against lines with speed rushers. In the season opener against Seattle, Patrick Kerney went nuts and Garcia was knocked out of the game. Mobile quarterbacks can be mobile in and around the pocket if a part of the line breaks down and they have an opening to exploit. It's a bit tougher when the protection is getting decimated as a unit, over and over again. He couldn't do that rollout stuff because there was nowhere to roll out.
Vince Verhei: I think a lot of the praise for Eli Manning and the Giants offense has been overblown. They played good, not great. I give them credit for not turning the ball over, and I don't think any balls were even close to intercepted. That's good. But most of their big plays on offense, both on rushes and passes, came after missed tackles by Tampa Bay. It's not like they turned into the Air Coryell Chargers.
The biggest reason they won was because their defensive line absolutely, utterly dominated the Bucs' offensive line. Garcia never had time to get comfortable in the pocket, never had time to find running lanes. Like everyone else, I'm not sure how they controlled Joey Galloway -- it looked like they were playing single coverage on him most of the time. Those corners did do a good job of taking away the inside part of the field and forcing him to the sideline. Maybe Galloway's weaker on sideline routes than he is on post patterns? Regardless, they pulled it off, and Tampa Bay at this point has no other dangerous weapons.
Russell Levine: I certainly don't have anything negative to say about Manning. He played exactly how you have to against Tampa Bay. You're not going to pile up huge numbers, but you have to stay patient and take the checkdown.
Galloway not being able to run was huge. He's the only guy on that team who can threaten a defense downfield. Webster played very well on the ball, but I have to believe that his ability to run step-for-step with Galloway had a lot to do with Galloway being hurt.
This was still a positive year for the Bucs. As Doug pointed out, the line is very young and made great strides today. They have to figure out what to do at quarterback, although Garcia can probably give them another year, and they need some more weapons at receiver. It was nice to see a bit more of Clayton the last couple weeks, but he'll never be more than a possession guy.
The defense also got a lot younger this year, and things look positive with Jovan Haye, Greg White, and Gaines Adams, who looked like a bust the first month but really came on the second half. Tanard Jackson looks like he'll make a terrific safety, and Barrett Ruud had a great first year at middle linebacker. They'll have to figure out what to do with Brooks and June, who basically play the same position. I think they both have huge balloon years in their contracts next year, so I wouldn't expect both to be back.
I think the Giants certainly have a chance at Dallas, especially if they can get after Tony Romo the way they did Garcia today.
81 comments, Last at 09 Jan 2008, 10:51pm by Chris