Short-yardage passing had a good year, except at the end of the Super Bowl. We look at the return of quarterback runs, the rise in pass-happy strategy, and 2014 success rates for offense and defense.
25 Nov 2008
by Will Carroll
On Thanksgiving week, let me first thank you for reading. Your feedback, questions, and just coolness make this the best column ever. I'll also take another opportunity to thank Aaron and the FO crew for giving this column a home. And finally, while the iPhones and Blackberries of the world make a column like this possible, let's all turn them off once in a while and just be in the moment.
OK, let's talk about big sweaty men who broke or tore something:
The Cardinals weren't happy that Brandon Jacobs was a late scratch, but let's look back at what I wrote on Thursday at SI.com:
"The early word this week was that he was fine, but by Thursday, Jacobs was saying he could play 'if needed.' That points to the Giants going with Derrick Ward and Ahmad Bradshaw, using their depth to make sure that Jacobs is fully healthy and doesn't spiral down as the Giants fight for playoff position. A three-game cushion in the standings and depth means the conservative play with Jacobs is to keep him out."
That's almost exactly what happened, which isn't me tooting my own horn, just noting that the Cardinals should have known what was likely to happen despite some mild shenanigans. What it means now is that the Giants made the smart play and that Jacobs and his knee should be better going forward. I'd expect this to go much like last week, where Jacobs doesn't practice until late in the week and is a game-time decision. The Giants aren't just good this year, they're smart.
Early reports on Steven Jackson are good, but Jim Haslett has to feel a bit like Phil Connors when it comes to his star running back. Every week, Jackson's quad/knee injury loosens and tightens with seemingly no rhyme or reason, based on his reaction to treatment and ... well, maybe the tides, or his horoscope. There's really no way of telling whether or not Jackson will play at this point in the week and it's not much easier at the end of the week. Keep an eye on the practice reports and remember that even when he is back, the Rams are very likely to use Jackson and Antonio Pittman as a RBBC. With Marc Bulger's availability in question, it's tough to say how Jackson will affect the game plan, in or out.
The Saints didn't need Reggie Bush to beat the Packers, but where does Bush fit in their plan? With the team fighting to stay in the playoff picture, getting back a weapon like Bush would seem a plus. Still, it's easy to notice that the team functions well without him. The team is questioning whether they're better off, at least with the mythical chemistry, when Bush isn't on the field. The latest questions about his commitment to football -- Bush found time to talk about his relationship with Kim Kardashian last week with no less than five "Insider" style TV shows, but wasn't able to make all his scheduled therapy sessions -- continue to color the fact that Bush is a phenomenal talent. What the Saints haven't done is found a way to use him that keeps him healthy, if one even exists. As with Bob Sanders for the Colts, a much different player to be sure, the balance of talent and availability is one that is one most teams aren't equipped to make.
Besides the "atomic wedgie," Brian Westbrook is actually pretty good. He didn't get much in the way of yardage, but he came out relatively unscathed after facing the Ravens defense. He's certainly healthier than Correll Buckhalter, who has an MCL sprain that could keep him out as long as the rest of the regular season. As we saw with Willie Parker, trying to come back before the MCL is fully healed can create issues, and even once a running back can play effectively, he's not out of the danger area. With the quarterback situation in flux, the running game is going to be key in keeping the Eagles afloat. Look for Westbrook to sit out some practices but be ready to go on Thursday. The short week is a double-edged sword; if they make it through the game, the long week after it will be a big help.
I still have no idea why Gary Kubiak thinks that Ahman Green is a valid NFL running back. Yes, I realize that Steve Slaton is hurting with rib and chest issues, but there are times over the last two weeks where Kubiak would sub in Green in key situations. A change-of-pace back is designed to not only give defenses a different look, but to give the top runner a rest. That's really the only reasonable explanation for Kubiak's substitution patterns. One of my best sources in Houston tells me that it's not the case; Slaton is used more like a committee back than the stud he's shown himself to be in the Gibbs scheme. Slaton is not asking out and he's experiencing very little discomfort during games (or at least isn't complaining.) The usage is likely to continue like this as long as Kubiak is in charge, but Green's body might fix the issue. He's headed for an MRI on what the team expects is an MCL sprain, which could end Green's season.
Brady Quinn was pulled due to ineffectiveness, though the team insists that he'll be back in the starting role next week and that the broken index finger wasn't the problem. Again, we have semantics leading the way with the Browns. As Peter King reported over the weekend, Quinn also has a tendon issue that's preventing him from spinning the ball, and given the way his passes looked, this does look to be the issue. Worse, it's not going to go away in a matter of days, making it unlikely Quinn will be substantially different than he was on Sunday. He's headed to Birmingham to check with Dr. James Andrews, so we should know more soon.
There's a risk for player and team alike when any player in the NFL signs a long-term deal. In the case of Greg Camarillo, both sides get hit. Just after signing a relatively cheap long-term deal, Camarillo has torn his ACL and is done for the season. Given modern techniques, Camarillo could be back for the start of next season without significant issues. It does give the Fins a chance to look at a guy like Davone Bess to see if he can play with Camarillo next year, but that's small comfort.
The Bengals announced that Carson Palmer will start a throwing program on December 7. Whether that day lives in infamy for Bengals fans remains to be seen, though I've been having some baseball flashbacks with this one. A torn UCL -- the ligament that is replaced in Tommy John surgery -- is an all too common injury in baseball, and when it tears even a small fraction, things often go downhill. Top doc Timothy Kremchek helped develop an "overlay T.J." procedure that came into use when the UCL was intact but damaged, and that appears to be the downside here. Of course, you might not know the story of Pat Neshek, the Twins reliever who tried to rehab and ended up needing T.J. Neshek's tear was similar to Palmer's, so there's no guarantee of anything. The Bengals still want to get Palmer into a game, even if it's just a cameo in the last game, but this is a story we'll be following all off-season.
There's no issue with LenDale White or his hand. He just didn't play much. I think Jeff Fisher was compromised by one of my fantasy football opponents ... Selvin Young looks like he'll be in the mix for the Broncos on Sunday, but only as part of a committee ... Marc Bulger is expected to play after a concussion, but as always, this should be watched closely ... Add "strained intracostal" to Clinton Portis' list of injuries. He's still expected to play ... Jonathan Stewart was in a walking boot after Sunday's game, but it was done as a precaution. Stewart's fragile feet are his one weakness, though it's unclear how serious this latest issue is ... Ryan Lilja will stay on the PUP, so the Colts offensive line is what it is ... Kevin Smith injured his shoulder in Sunday's game, but there are still no details. He did return to the game after the injury, so it doesn't look too serious.
7 comments, Last at 26 Nov 2008, 8:45am by fyo