Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

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» Scramble for the Ball: The DVOA Schism

Mike and Tom try to figure out what kind of secret sauce Arizona is feeding the media to sit at the top of the power rankings and in the middle of our DVOA rankings.

25 Aug 2008

Every Play Doesn't Count: Week 3

by Doug Farrar

Whither Rusher McFumbles?

So, we can guess that Matt Gutierrez now has the inside track over Matt Cassel as Tom Brady's backup, but how did he get it? Against the Eagles, Cassel showed mobility on a first-quarter blitz, scrambling for a 22-yard gain on New England's first drive. But at the end of that drive, we saw the first ding in the armor. Pressured on third-and-10 from his own 47, Cassel double-clutched and underthrew Randy Moss deep. First pass of the next drive came on third-and-1 after two runs by Laurence Maroney. Cassel was off on an out route to Moss, and the ball was almost picked off by Lito Sheppard. The Patriots run a lot of shotgun, but Cassel doesn't look comfortable in it at all. On the second throw to Moss, he was trying to use a touch that he clearly doesn't have.

On the third drive, with the Eagles up 10-0 and the Pats more dependent on the passing game, Cassel started with a play-action throw over the middle to Jabar Gaffney, who was pretty well covered and couldn't bring it in. A nice little lob to Ben Watson two plays later was the first productive passing play ... or it would have been, had left tackle Wesley Britt not been called for holding. Watson's 12-yard gain was negated, and so were the Pats after a 4-yard reception by Kevin Faulk on third-and-20. It was at this point that the boos started cascading down at Gillette Stadium.

Cassel's final drive of the first half started out with a bang, as he went play-action again and heaved the ball downfield to Moss. Asante Samuel and Sean Considine were doing the Hack-a-Shaq on Moss, and Considine was flagged for a 47-yard pass interference penalty. This put the ball on the Eagles' 33-yard line, but the Patriots couldn't convert. Cassel made a nice throw on the run to tight end David Thomas for 20 yards two plays later. On the next play, Moss made a sideline catch that would have set New England up at the 5, but it was called back on Moss's own illegal motion penalty. One incompletion to Chad Jackson later (this was actually the second near-pick by Lito Sheppard), New England had to settle for a field goal.

Cassel got one drive in the third quarter -- he threw four passes, completing three for 17 yards. On the drive, New England had two penalties for 15 yards. One Chris Hanson punt later, Cassel's day was done. I haven't seen as much of Cassel as most Patriots fans have, and I'm generally loath to pass judgment on quarterbacks before their time, but the thing that stands out about Cassel to me is that in this point in his career, he makes this ruthlessly efficient offense look clunky and slow.

So, was that slow clunkiness on Cassel, or just the inevitable adjustment to anyone not named Tom Brady? Matt Gutierrez could answer that question with his performance, and he took over on the Patriots' second drive in the third quarter. The Patriots were down, 27-3, and Gutierrez was not going to be facing the Eagles' first-line defense or playing with his own team's first-line offense (this, above all else, complicates the evaluation of different quarterbacks in the preseason). Still, this was a chance to show what he could do. His first pass was a neat 24-yard rainbow to C.J. Jones on the left sideline, a play that showed more skill, touch and timing, than Cassel had displayed all night. Then, a little pass over the middle to Heath Evans after Gutierrez' first read was eliminated. Then, an overthrow to tight end Johnathan Stupar over the middle, compounded by an offensive interference penalty on Stupar. Gutierrez was faced with second-and-23, but converted with outlet throws to Kelly Washington and Chad Jackson, and the drive kept going. A coverage near-sack by Jerome McDougle was followed by three straight completions, the last of them to Chad Jackson for New England's first touchdown of the day.

Gutierrez followed this with two more drives. The first, from his own three-yard line to the Philadelphia 46, ended with a sack. But the second, which started at the New England 1 (!), was the breaking point that may have Gutierrez starting against the Giants next week. Gutierrez took his team 99 yards in nine plays for a touchdown, beginning with a long crossing route to Tyson DeVree in which the quarterback stood unflappable in the pocket in his own end zone, waiting for the play to develop,

Overall, my impression was that Gutierrez looked far more comfortable in command of the New England offense. It will be interesting to see what he can do with a few more preseason snaps, and with rookie Kevin O'Connell in the mix as well, Matt Cassel might be fighting in vain for a roster spot that has already been decided.

Steve Slaton's Second-Quarter Drive

In an interview for the PFP 2008 essay "The College Spread Offense: Bridging the Evaluation Gap," Greg Cosell of NFL Films and ESPN/State Farm NFL Matchup told me that running backs operating out of the spread are tough to evaluate when it comes to their physicality. Since those backs are often running out of shotgun sets through wider seams, it's difficult to know how they'll adapt to defensive personnel at the NFL level. Houston Texans running back Steve Slaton had these question marks attached to him after three years in Rich Rodriguez's spread offense at West Virginia. Drafted in the third round by Houston, Slaton now looks to prove that he can succeed in the NFL despite the systemic stigma.

What I saw of Slaton when he lined up against the Cowboys' first-team defense last Saturday was a back with surprising power for his size (5-foot-9, 201 pounds). On the first play of the Texans' opening second-quarter drive, he was able to extend the play two yards after initial contact by DeMarcus Ware. On his next run, he blew through a hole set up by impressive blocking, shot between Ware and Chris Canty, and picked up five yards before Ware and Zach Thomas took him down. That play must have reminded him of the wider splits he saw when working with Patrick White in the Mountaineers' backfield, but what impressed from an NFL potential standpoint were his runs later in that drive.

With 10:57 left in the half, Slaton took the ball left and showed good patience waiting for the play to open. He stayed on guard Kasey Studdard's left hip while tackle Duane Brown (another promising rookie) took end Stephen Bowen out of the play to the left and fullback Vonta Leach assisted with the seam inside. Greg Ellis and Bradie James were pinched inside, and Slaton knew when to hit the next gear. The result? A 20-yard gain, and evidence that Slaton isn't just a guy who blasts through wide seams.

Slaton ran right for four yards on the next play behind Leach's blocking, showing his propensity for running with power. He ran left on the next play with nice inside speed. On the following play, he did a nice little cutback inside and bounced off Zach Thomas for extra yardage. The cutback was what I was watching for. As Cosell said in the essay, it's speed through the hole, not speed to the hole, that determines success for backs in the NFL. Slaton appears to have what it takes.

Last Friday, Cosell told Adam Caplan of SIRIUS NFL Radio that Slaton has impressed him through the preseason. While running backs in spread offenses are indeed difficult to evaluate, the consensus is that Slaton runs with more of a physical presence than expected, but with enough quickness to avoid hit after hit. With Ahman Green and Chris Brown looking like serious injury risks, Slaton's a good back to keep in mind.

Sam Baker's Big Challenge

The word on left tackle Sam Baker coming out of USC was that he might be moved inside to guard on some teams, but Atlanta's grave need along the offensive line had them taking the former USC standout 21st overall and installing him at left tackle immediately. Set aside the jokes about the Trojans being the NFL's 33rd team; the leap in scheme and complexity from the NCAA to the NFL is daunting no matter where you played. Baker would be challenged to master one of the game's toughest positions right out of the box with a team that's going to struggle to put an offense together in the short term. In theory, he's a great fit for Atlanta's new power game. Baker was regarded as a top draft prospect, but more as an overall player with less than elite agility mitigated by intelligence and in-line power.

Baker began his pro career fighting off Jacksonville's Paul Spicer (and others) in a 20-17 loss to the Jaguars. He looked solid against the Colts in the follow-up, but his sternest test to date came in Week 3 against the Titans. Across the line was Kyle Vanden Bosch, the end who put up 12 sacks in 2007 and has been a featured player on one of the NFL's best defensive lines. Vanden Bosch also led the league in Adjusted Quarterback Hits last year with 21, and finished seventh in Adjusted Hurries with 17.5. How would Baker, regarded as a very good combo pass/run blocker, but not specifically elite against speed rushers, fare?

My impression was overwhelmingly positive. On the Falcons' first pass play of the game, a trips left with Michael Turner in the backfield, Baker fanned Vanden Bosch out of the perimeter and away from Matt Ryan with great technique and no help as Ryan completed a quick sideline pass to Michael Jenkins. Baker also works well with left guard Justin Blalock, who's starting his second NFL season. On the next pass play, an incompletion to tight end Ben Hartsock, Vanden Bosch went inside to the guard at the snap. Instead of teaming up and losing linebacker Stephen Tulloch on the blitz, Baker let Blalock handle Vanden Bosch and dealt with Tulloch outside. Good teamwork there.

On running plays, Baker displays agility in getting to the second level and dealing with linebackers. He's also good at the line in power situations. On the first play of the Falcons' second drive, a draw to Turner, Baker took Vanden Bosch's initial pursuit, led him upfield, and then blocked him away from the play as Turner headed left, right where Vanden Bosch had been. On the next play, another handoff to Turner, Baker chipped Vanden Bosch, who wound up with a personal foul after a late hit on Turner downfield. I don't excuse cutting at all, and I was surprised to see it from Baker, given his ability to handle Vanden Bosch through the first quarter. Some would call it a veteran move. I call it unnecessary. Vanden Bosch pushed Baker back on the next play and got his first hit on Ryan. Baker got his revenge on the next play when he just poleaxed Vanden Bosch as Ryan threw a screen to Jenkins. Baker knocked Vanden Bosch right on his butt with a great power move. Not something you see every day.

I think that Baker will be an incredibly valuable addition to a line that finished 32nd in Adjusted Line yards last year. The days of the Petrino misfit schemes are over, and new line coach Paul Boudreau has two young, talented players on the left side in Baker and Blalock. As the Falcons crawl back to credibility, they seem to know that they'll only go as far as their lines take them.

Could Usain Bolt?

Since Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt took the Olympics by storm, there have been several articles speculating that with his size (6-5, 190 pounds) and the incredible speed that allowed him to break the world records in the 100- and 200-meter races, Bolt could be transformed into a receiving and return threat the likes of which the NFL has never seen. Ex-NFL scout Tom Marino, who currently provides coverage for Scout.com and whose career spans three decades with the WFL, USFL, Dallas Cowboys, and St. Louis Rams, told me that before people anoint Bolt with the "Next Bob Hayes" label, a big, fat reality check might be in order.

"I think the people who are speculating that Bolt could succeed as a wide receiver, or even a return man in the NFL, need to take a step back and really appreciate the skillsets that NFL players bring to the game," Marino said. "I'm a little surprised at all the speculation. The guys who do this (play pro football with track speed) all played college, all played in high school -- they all go all the way back. A guy like Bolt, no matter how impressive he was on that track ... you'd have to take everything down to basic fundamentals. Has he even seen a football game? Can he catch a ball standing still, never mind on the run? And of course, it's like Mike Tyson used to say: 'Everyone has a plan until they get hit.' What happens when he's trying to judge ball flight on a punt and he has guys bearing down on him? Forget about trying to catch a ball on a 7 or 9 route with a safety on him. That's when your straight-line speed tends to go out the window unless you know what you're doing.

"All the guys who have succeeded at track and football -- all of them -- were football players first. Going back to Bob Hayes in Dallas and Homer Jones of the Giants in the 1960s, through Warren Wells and Cliff Branch in Oakland in the '70s, to the modern day. Anyone who has done both was excellent at football and very good at track -- maybe not Olympic level -- but at a certain point, you have to make a choice.

"In my first year scouting with the Rams, I talked to a track guy about coming out and maybe getting on with the team as either a wideout or defensive back. He was a football player as well. Problem was, he had offers to run on the European summer circuit, and instead of the $300 to $400 per week we were going to offer him through training camp, he was going to make a quarter of a million dollars over there. I talked to (former director of player personnel) Charley Armey and Mike Martz about it, and Mike said that there was no way a guy was going to miss training camp and then make the team with no prior experience. In Bolt's case, he's going to make millions if he wants to run in Europe on top of his endorsements. Would an NFL team make him their highest-paid receiver to compete when he may never take a hit?

"Really, you're talking about two different disciplines, and that's why the success rate is so low for track stars making it in football. It was that way 30 years ago, when there were more deep routes and guys beating more man coverage or simple zones, and it's certainly that way now, when he'd be facing far more complex defenses and be expected to be more precise in his timing and ability to cut and be quick in space.

"Honestly, I'd say that Usain Bolt's chances of playing in the NFL would be about as good as yours or mine."

Posted by: Doug Farrar on 25 Aug 2008

111 comments, Last at 31 Aug 2008, 9:57pm by NotQuite

Comments

1
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 08/25/2008 - 10:46am

"Overall, my impression was that Gutierrez looked far more comfortable in command of the New England offense."

I've been saying that since preseason last year. Cassel just takes way too long to make decisions, he looks like Bledsoe at the very end, but doesn't have nearly the talent that Bledsoe had. Gutierez, on the other hand, reacts quickly, and moves well.

2
by drobviousso (not verified) :: Mon, 08/25/2008 - 11:13am

Anyone who has done both was excellent at football and very good at track — maybe not Olympic level — but at a certain point, you have to make a choice.
Rod Woodson was almost an olympian track guy. I'm not sure of the whole story, but I think he went to qualifiers and didn't make it.

3
by Cosmos (not verified) :: Mon, 08/25/2008 - 11:24am

Slaton did look sharp against the Cowboys, though the mention of the “The College Spread Offense: Bridging the Evaluation Gap,” from the PFP 08 book made me cringe. It has to be, up to this point, my least favorite FO article ever written.

I struggled with it mainly because it's so opinion-centric as opposed to factually based. While I would like to trust Cosell's and Sabols opinion I found myself questioning weather or not either one had really accepted the change in college trends towards the spread and choose instead to go down the path that "spread" football isnt "real" football. I think general commentary on the spread often skews toward the idea that some how running a spread offense doesn't involve "real football" skills, that the "system" trumps ability and therefore it some how makes it harder to gauge players. My case is this: LaDainian Tomlinson. Coming from a Spread/Veer run system at TCU, some draft pundits said his game wouldn't work on the pro level and some said he was no better than a third round draft pick. Obviously real NFL evaluators (San Diego) looked passed such things and saw enough to take him 5th overall in the draft.

My point in this is, I think good talent evaluators know that looking at a guy on film is only one part of the process and those who cant project a players skill from one offense or defense to the next shouldn't be evaluating players period. It's like whining that suddenly it's too hard to gauge talent because everyone doesn't run the same two back system. It's like judging trees solely by the forest they are in more so than looking at the trees individually.

4
by RickD (not verified) :: Mon, 08/25/2008 - 11:35am

Usain Bolt could be the next Renaldo Nehemiah!

5
by Tom D (not verified) :: Mon, 08/25/2008 - 11:35am

Re 3:

The whole spread option offense as far as I can tell is based on the fact that either linebackers aren't fast enough to do their job, or defensive backs aren't big enough to stop the run. In the NFL linebackers are fast enough. The problem is that everyone looks good with huge holes to run through or get open in. Just look at the recent USC draftees. Leinart, Reggie Bush, Mike Williams, none of them are as good as advertised. In this case it's because USC simply outclasses every one with talent, but using the spread can do a similar thing.

6
by MJK (not verified) :: Mon, 08/25/2008 - 11:46am

My impression of Cassel is that he simply lacks the physical tools to succeed, and he hasn't figured that out for himself yet. He thinks he can squeeze the ball in like Tom Brady, be Michael Vick with his scrambles, and is unsackable in the pocket, and so he holds the ball too long and makes poor looking throws.

Gutierrez, on the other hand, started out as an undrafted rookie, and has worked his butt off to get better. He's not amazingly physically talented, but he works so hard that it wouldn't surprise me to see him turn into a decent backup, and maybe even a guy that could win a few games if Brady went down, if the OC knows how to re-tune the offense to cover his weaknesses. He's less mobile than Cassel, but maybe that works to his advantage, because he knows that he doesn't have all day in the pocket and needs to throw the ball.

7
by MJK (not verified) :: Mon, 08/25/2008 - 11:48am

I'm a little worried about the Patriots' penchant for penalties, of late, though. Cassel wasn't getting much help from his teammates. I suspect that Brady and Co last year were so good that they got a little sloppy and lazy--a holding penalty or illegal motion penalty matters a lot less when your offense is so good that they can convert at will. Now with Brady not playing, they're more mortal and those penalties hurt a lot more.

8
by langsty (not verified) :: Mon, 08/25/2008 - 11:57am

Baker's a guy I was really high on before the draft, and I really thought we were lucky to get him. I see him as a left tackle in the Chad Clifton mold, a steady, capable pro with solid upside.

Blalock's clearly progressed a lot from last year (where he held his own anyway) and the left side of that line should be locked down now for years to come.

9
by Russ (not verified) :: Mon, 08/25/2008 - 11:58am

What was the name of the sprinter that played for the 49ers back in the '80s? Renaldo Nehemia? I don't remember him doing too well on the field but that was a long time ago and my memory has....um, wait, what was I saying?

10
by Purds (not verified) :: Mon, 08/25/2008 - 11:59am

Marino is dead-on about Usain Bolt, and about most track/football conversions. I say this as a track coach who loves football. Specifically for Bolt, not only is the incredible pay-day in European appearance fees waiting for him, but he's also not a real "burst" sprinter. He excels after 50 meters, when his long stride takes over (he's really the first tall -- 6' 5" -- sprinter able to keep up with world class sprinters out of the blocks). Remember, he started as a 200 meter guy, and he ran away from the field at about 60 meters, not a very valuable asset on a football field.

Fun speculation for the novice fan, but no real potential for Bolt as a football player (see "Carter, Xavier" as reference A for a track guy with blazing speed -- won NCAA 10m and 400m in same year -- who couldn't translate that into football stardom even though he played through high school and college at LSU).

11
by Russ (not verified) :: Mon, 08/25/2008 - 12:03pm

Re #3
Guess I should refresh before posting in the future....:-)
Thanks!

12
by Russ (not verified) :: Mon, 08/25/2008 - 12:05pm

ARGH!!!

Sorry, actually should be thanking poster #4

Going to reboot brain now.

13
by Vlad (not verified) :: Mon, 08/25/2008 - 12:25pm

Re #2:

He was at the Olympic trials for 100m hurdles in 1984.

Once in a while, you could see that background in his play on the gridiron. I remember one time on a punt return against the Jets, where he had everyone but the punter beat, and when the punter went to tackle low he tried to hurdle the guy. Didn't make it, but didn't miss by much, either.

14
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 08/25/2008 - 12:46pm

"’m a little worried about the Patriots’ penchant for penalties, of late, though."

Part of that, I suspect, is players who are getting beat. When you've got your third string RT playing starting LT, your bound to have some holding.

15
by Cosmos (not verified) :: Mon, 08/25/2008 - 1:01pm

#5 My comments really centered around evaluating playing coming out of a spread system more so than the value of the system it's self, we could argue the merits of the spread but more than anything, the article is really more about evaluating the players coming out of the spread. I think talent evaluators will just have to accept that this trend will continue for as along as it takes for someone to figure out to stop them on a regular basis and no amount of grumbling is going to change that.

16
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 08/25/2008 - 1:24pm

The Patriots were down, 27-3, and Gutierrez was not going to be facing the Eagles’ first-line defense or playing with his own team’s first-line offense

Important note: regardless of what the Patriots Network announcers said, the Eagles did not play their starters in the third quarter. Which means that Matt Cassel's drive in the third quarter wasn't against the Eagles first-string defense, either. Gutierrez looked miles better against the exact same guys.

17
by Yaguar (not verified) :: Mon, 08/25/2008 - 1:34pm

Cassel should definitely not make the Patriots roster this year. He was an interesting experiment, and probably had a better chance of being useful than most 7th rounders do, but he's just not capable of playing pro football.

Neither is Usain Bolt. He probably would have been able to do it pretty easily if he played in high school and college, though.

On the other hand, what skills does Troy Williamson have that Usain Bolt doesn't? That might say more about Williamson than it does about Bolt, though.

18
by mawbrew (not verified) :: Mon, 08/25/2008 - 1:39pm

I've seen the last two Lions preseason games and there have a FA wide receiver from Purdue (John Standeford) that has looked really good. The guy seems to be buried on the Lions depth chart so he may not make the 53 man roster (which would seem like a mistake). He's old for a rookie (26) but the Lions might try to keep him on the practice squad anyway. If they do they it, I doubt he'll stay there. Somebody will sign this guy to the active roster.

19
by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Mon, 08/25/2008 - 1:53pm

Re #18
John Standeford's not a rookie-he was on the Colts. They cut him because he was terrible.

20
by jimm (not verified) :: Mon, 08/25/2008 - 1:54pm

Finally a sane article regarding Bolt being an NFL receiver. Straight ahead speed is only one skill of many a receiver needs. Hand eye coordination, so is toughness, and agility.

Yaguar, as for Williamson - other than hand eye coordination he has all the makings of a receiver. The only problem is hand eye coordination is probably the most important skill required.

21
by mawbrew (not verified) :: Mon, 08/25/2008 - 1:59pm

Re: 19

Thanks for the correction, I must have misread something on his experience. Also, despite how good he's looked for the Lions I'm inclined to think the Colts wouldn't let a solid player (especially at WR) get away. Chalk it up to preseason misconception on my part.

22
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 08/25/2008 - 2:09pm

Neither is Usain Bolt. He probably would have been able to do it pretty easily if he played in high school and college, though.

Why? I have no idea why people think that track stars can be football players just because a few football players were track stars.

People already complain about the 40-yard dash as being "unrealistic" because players rarely run 40 yards in a straight line. Now you care about the performance of someone in a sprint that's 2.5 times as long as that? The combine consists of orders of magnitude more physical tests than the 40 yard dash, and yet people are fawning over a guy's performance in a test that's not really the same as just one of them?

Of course, the best reason why Usain Bolt isn't going to play in the NFL is probably not listed here: because he probably doesn't care.

23
by jonnyblazin (not verified) :: Mon, 08/25/2008 - 2:11pm

I'm not sure what to make of Bolt, but I'm pretty sure he's got a better chance of being an NFL WR than me...

Its odd to write off his chances because of lack of WR experience though, QBs have constantly been turned into WRs. They have had just as much practice running routes and catching on the run as Bolt has.

The only real question is can he catch the ball. Route running can be taught to a degree. I don't see the harm in someone shouting "Hey Usain!" and tossing a football at him and see what happens.

Its also important to note that this isn't some blazing fast college track guy. Bolt is significantly faster than the next fastest human being on the planet. His speed vs. a CB's speed is equivalent to a WR's speed vs. a LB's speed. If a CB was lined up against him 1 on 1 he'd have to be about 20 yards off the LOS to not get burned deep.

24
by Bright Blue Shorts (not verified) :: Mon, 08/25/2008 - 2:19pm

If you want to know what happens when world class sprinters who've never played football, try to become football players - try Dwain Chambers.

9.87 secs in the 100-metres then he got banned from athletics and tried to make it in NFL Europe in 2007. A foot injury ruled him out for the season, and with NFLE gone he returned to athletics.

There was a lot of controversy over whether (a banned drugs cheat) should be allowed to compete for GB at the Olympics but the British Olympic Association hands down life bans so he wasn't selected.

25
by BigCheese (not verified) :: Mon, 08/25/2008 - 2:27pm

24: Exactly what does that tell us about his ability to be a football player since he didn't even appear in a game?

26
by Yaguar (not verified) :: Mon, 08/25/2008 - 2:30pm

22: He was in a very close 4th coming out of the first 30-40m, and he pulled away immediately after that. There is absolutely no doubt that he'd run the fastest 40 time ever. He could make Antonio Cromartie or Pacman Jones look absolutely silly trying to chase him down.

The obstacles for him are that he's never developed any field vision, route running (if he's to play WR) or ball skills. If he were even mediocre-to-bad in those areas, he'd be a good wide receiver.

The reason you don't see more dual sprinters/football players is that most sprinters are too small to be football players. Bolt isn't. Give him 15 pounds of muscle and he has the same build as Randy Moss.

It's absurd to say that Usain Bolt couldn't have been a pro football player if he had wanted to. He just hasn't ever wanted it so far in his career, and there's no reason to start now.

27
by Andrew (not verified) :: Mon, 08/25/2008 - 2:52pm

Bo Jackson was a world-class track athlete in college.

28
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 08/25/2008 - 3:09pm

22: He was in a very close 4th coming out of the first 30-40m, and he pulled away immediately after that.

OK, apparently my post wasn't clear enough. Fast 40 time? That's nice. What about his short shuttle, his 3-cone drill? Sprinters don't develop change-of-direction abilities, because they don't need to. You think he'd play football at that weight?

Give him 15 pounds of muscle and he has the same build as Randy Moss.

Give him 15 pounds of muscle and he slows down considerably. Last time I checked, more weight = less speed. Newton's Second Law, and all that.

29
by Yaguar (not verified) :: Mon, 08/25/2008 - 3:13pm

He'd still be fast as hell. Come on, you can't seriously suggest that he'd be anything but top-notch in any of the speed/agility/acceleration drills.

30
by weaponx (not verified) :: Mon, 08/25/2008 - 3:21pm

Michael Bates was an Olympic bronze medalist turned return specialist. Yes, Michael Bates.. he of the 90's all decade team chosen by voters of the Pro Football HOF. All pro from 96 to 2k.

World class speed is world class speed... this actually HAS been seen before.

31
by Flounder (not verified) :: Mon, 08/25/2008 - 3:25pm

If he'd kept at it instead of going with football, Donald Driver had an excellent shot at being an Olympic high-jumper.

32
by MikeChicago (not verified) :: Mon, 08/25/2008 - 3:27pm

What's unique about Bolt isn't his speed. It's the unprecedented combination of speed and height (see link). Put him in the defensive backfield. He's faster than Deion Sanders, and taller than Randy Moss.

33
by pawnking (not verified) :: Mon, 08/25/2008 - 3:56pm

Can anyone see Bolt as a modern day Forrest Gump (with a normal IQ, of course)? During a kickoff, somone else could field the ball, hand it to him and he would take off. If he just did that, what would he be able to accomplish?

And how would you like to be the special teams player assigned to tackling a 6'6" giant running that fast? It would probably feel like getting hit by a small truck at 30 MPH.

Of course, that's exactly why Bolt would never play football in the NFL. Too much of a risk of being hurt. But it's fun to think about.

34
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 08/25/2008 - 4:04pm

#29: Huh? Why? Changing direction comes from totally different muscles and tendons than straight-line speed. Why in the world would a sprinter spend time developing muscles he's not going to use?

#32: Height and speed. Big deal. You know how you deal with speed on the football field?

Step 1: Jam at the line of scrimmage. If Bolt's extreme short-distance acceleration is only average, he won't reach "world-class speed" before the QB gets nailed.

Step 2: Cover-2, or jeez, any form of coverage with a free safety. So what if he can outrun the corner? The safety has a 10-15 yard head start and can see the ball. Bolt's not going to be out there running free just because he's faster than a corner.

#30: Michael Bates was considered one of the best football prospects coming out of high school. He played football in college, as well. His brother was drafted by the NFL. The game was not new to him, and he knew how to condition his body to play football.

So no, this hasn't been seen before.

35
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 08/25/2008 - 4:07pm

And how would you like to be the special teams player assigned to tackling a 6′6″ giant running that fast? It would probably feel like getting hit by a small truck at 30 MPH.

Bolt weighs 190 pounds. I'm pretty sure it would feel exactly like getting hit by a guy who weighs 190 pounds.

OK, if he's running faster - say, 5% faster? 10% faster? - it'd be like getting hit by a guy who weighs 200-210 pounds running at normal speed.

36
by Yaguar (not verified) :: Mon, 08/25/2008 - 4:20pm

The Madden draft generator might come up with guys who have 99 acceleration and only 75 agility, but that doesn't happen in real life. Someone among the best dozen or so people in the world at getting out of starting blocks is going to be able to change direction quickly. If he can go from a stop to 30 mph really quickly, there's no reason to think he'd be bad at changing direction quickly as well.

37
by Temo (not verified) :: Mon, 08/25/2008 - 4:25pm

32. Put him in the defensive backfield. He’s faster than Deion Sanders, and taller than Randy Moss.

Considering that a lot of guys who spend 4 years in college, as well as most of their pre-college days playing CB still struggle in the NFL until they learn proper footwork and technique, I doubt it'd be that easy for Bolt.

38
by MikeChicago (not verified) :: Mon, 08/25/2008 - 4:27pm

#32: I meant make Bolt a cornerback. Maybe play him at safety for his first year, where his inexperience at reading formations would be less of a problem.

39
by Zachary S. (not verified) :: Mon, 08/25/2008 - 4:34pm

As a Raider fan, I hope Al Davis was too busy to see Bolt in the Olympics.

40
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 08/25/2008 - 4:36pm

#32: I meant make Bolt a cornerback. Maybe play him at safety for his first year, where his inexperience at reading formations would be less of a problem.

I, uh, don't know where to start on this one. Safeties read formations more than corners. Cornerbacks are less about pure speed and more about reaction time, instincts, and technique.

If he can go from a stop to 30 mph really quickly, there’s no reason to think he’d be bad at changing direction quickly as well.

I'm really, really confused why you think this is true. I'd really appreciate the comments of someone more in kinesiology than me, but I had thought that a long-striding body type like a sprinter is going to be inherently slower at change-of-direction skills because cutting and shifting direction requires shorter strides as well.

In any case, it's definitely not true that "someone among the best dozen or so people in the world at getting out of starting blocks is going to be able to change direction quickly." They have the phrase "lateral acceleration" for a reason.

41
by MJK (not verified) :: Mon, 08/25/2008 - 4:46pm

#38 I actually would expect reading formations is more important to the safety than to the CB. A CB usually is supposed to cover a specific WR, a specific chunk of field, or blitz. It's the safety that has to adjust based on what he thinks the offense is likely to do.

Pat, a mild quibble--I think it's kinetic energy, not momentum, that's relevant to feeling how hard it is to be hit by someone. If a 190 lb man runs 10% faster than a "normal" player, the "normal" player with the same kinetic energy would weigh about 230 lbs (m_normal * v_normal^2 = m_bolt * v_bolt^2).

Your point is good, though. Sprinters are highly specialized at one particular athletic skill. An NFL wide reciever has to be one of the top 96 people in the world at a collection of about six or seven very differnt athletic skills.

42
by Yaguar (not verified) :: Mon, 08/25/2008 - 4:52pm

Pat, all of those speed/acceleration/agility skills are pretty heavily correlated.

43
by pawnking (not verified) :: Mon, 08/25/2008 - 4:57pm

I just looked at the combine 40 yard dash times. The fastest WR in the 40 was DeSean Jackson (Go Eagles!) at 4.35. This translates to 9.195 Yards per Second, or 8.408 meters per second.

Bolt was running at 10.32 meters per second. At 190 lbs, his impact would be 1960 lbX Meters/Second (I forget what that measures). DeSean would have to weigh about 233 lbs to have the same punch as Bolt.

Note that DeSean weighs about 180. His force would be about 1510 lbs X meters/second, which is about 25% less than Bolt.

44
by Yaguar (not verified) :: Mon, 08/25/2008 - 5:00pm

Many of the strokes in swimming use very different muscles, and that doesn't stop the same guy from dominating in every stroke. I believe Phelps had the fastest splits in the IM for everything except breaststroke. Backstroke is markedly different from butterfly, and the same guy is capable of beating anyone at both.

Athletic abilities tend to come in groups. You'd never accuse the champion of the benchpress of not being able to build his bicep muscles. He can almost certainly do that, too.

I don't know why you're so insistent that the only skill Bolt could possibly develop is straight-line speed.

45
by Temo (not verified) :: Mon, 08/25/2008 - 5:01pm

I just did a quick calculation using Bolt's 10 meter splits from his record-breaking run (click name) to estimate his 40 yard time. You have to estimate his rate of speed from 30-36.576 meters and subtract the reaction time (because unlike actual races, the combine run starts the clock when the body moves, not off a starter's pistol).

His result? 4.37 seconds. Now there's 2 reasons for this not-out-of-this-world speed:

1. NFL timers suck/are too fast. This has been alleged by some track and feild people over the years. Never proven.

2. The initial acceleration part of running varies much less than top speed/speed endurace. Read the article I linked. Speed endurance is just as important as top speed in world class sprinting, and Bolt has been the best ever at it. Whereas most Olympians hit their peak at 50-60m split and then decrease slightly to the finish, Bolt hits his peak at that same split... then he runs approximately the same speed until he starts celebrating with about 15-20m left.

The point with #2 is that maybe that initial acceleration isn't that different from Bolt and most CBs/WRs, and really you don't care about a full 100m speed on a football field that's only 100 yards long (less than 100m). Also, if you know track and field like I do, Bolt is still built more for 200 meters than for the 100 meters. He broke Michael Johnson's WR in the 200 meter despite a headwind of more than 1.0m.

Long story short, Bolt's speed does not translate into game-changing NFL speed.

46
by Admore (not verified) :: Mon, 08/25/2008 - 5:07pm

It's an interesting debate about Bolt to my mind.

First let me state that I think there's no way he's interested in the NFL. FIrst, he's going to be very rich anyway, doing what he already does. Second, he lives in a country that idolizes sprinters. He's a national hero. So, basically, he's got money and fame covered. I imagine he gets on well with the ladies (or gentlemen if that's his preference). So why would Bolt subject himself to pain, injury and, almost certainly, failure?

On the other hand...

Here's what's alluring about Bolt, or the predicted wave of huge sprinters - they are MUCH faster than everyone else on the field, AND they're big. Maybe the acceleration wouldn't manifest in time, but look at Devin Hester - a true gamebreaker is worth serious money, even in a limited role.

My math may be wrong, but look at it this way -

A fast NFL player runs a 4.3 40 yards. Let's assume the same speed over 100 yds. Now convert to meters. Your 4.3 40 guy is going to run the 100m in 11.75, that is, more than two full seconds slower than Bolt. (I know more factors come into play. Granted.) At Bolt's speed he's not just 2 seconds ahead, going from goaline to goaline he's about 20 yards ahead of your 4.3 40 guy.

That's ludicrous. It's ridiculously faster than the fastest guys on the field. So while there're a lot of very good reasons why it wouldn't work, it's something to dream on. One day maybe a big Olympic finals caliber sprinter will have football chops. We'll see him hit a seam on a kickoff and leave a vapor trail filled with flailing DBs down the field. It'd be fun to see.

47
by Admore (not verified) :: Mon, 08/25/2008 - 5:10pm

@ Temo - That's funny, and it shows how people are all over on this one. Similar analysis, different results. I'm probably wrong, but are you converting for meters? I just did my own, lesser, analysis, and I think Bolt is faster than that.

Also, think about what his speed means in terms of distance.

48
by jonnyblazin (not verified) :: Mon, 08/25/2008 - 5:12pm

"Height and speed. Big deal. You know how you deal with speed on the football field?
Step 1: Jam at the line of scrimmage. If Bolt’s extreme short-distance acceleration is only average, he won’t reach “world-class speed” before the QB gets nailed."

Umm, Bolt's short-distance acceleration is about as fast as any other human being. After that, he's faster than any other human being. If Bolt sheds the jam without safety help he's gone. If there is safety help, he's Randy Moss: a WR who consistently requires a double team. That helps the rest of the team even if he doesn't catch any balls.

"Step 2: Cover-2, or jeez, any form of coverage with a free safety. So what if he can outrun the corner? The safety has a 10-15 yard head start and can see the ball. "

Any player that consistently requires two defenders to cover (one playing 20 yards off the LOS) is going to help the offense win. If it is just a safety back there, Bolt would likely be 5 inches taller than him. If the defender is constantly going back, you could hit 15-20 yard outs all day long.

I think it would be pretty silly to but him anywhere but on the outside as a WR. Kick returns require a lot of toughness and football savvy, but being a deep threat less so (DB is a whole different beast). C'mon, if Bolt could catch at all (a big if, I know), would his skill set be that much different from a guy like Bernard Berrian? He's fast and he can kind of catch, and he signed a $40mil contract.

49
by Temo (not verified) :: Mon, 08/25/2008 - 5:20pm

47. Of course I did. But here's where you went wrong:

A fast NFL player runs a 4.3 40 yards. Let’s assume the same speed over 100 yds.

You can't assume that at all. The initial part of any run from a dead stop will be MUCH slower than the rest of the run. The first 10 meters of Bolt's run took 1.85 seconds, where as his peak speed was 0.82 seconds per 10 meters(which was fast than any of the recent world class runners, and held longer than any of them as well). He hit his peak at the 50-60meter split. Again, click my link in my name.

50
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 08/25/2008 - 5:20pm

#43: DeSean's a punt returner - straight-line speed doesn't matter much there. Demps, who's a kick returner, is 206. DeSean is also, notably, a midget (according to Donovan McNabb).

Any player that consistently requires two defenders to cover (one playing 20 yards off the LOS) is going to help the offense win.

I didn't say you need two defenders to cover. I just said you need a safety over the top. The safety doesn't necessarily have to roll to the WR's side, because without any ability to run routes, the safety'll perfectly well know where the guy's going.

Pat, all of those speed/acceleration/agility skills are pretty heavily correlated.

Uh... I really, really don't agree. For football players they are, because football players need deep speed and cutting ability. But why in the devil would a sprinter practice the ability to cut on a dime? It won't help, and it could possibly hurt.

51
by Yaguar (not verified) :: Mon, 08/25/2008 - 5:23pm

45, 47: The timing differences between the 40 and track make it impossible to do calculations. There are, however, some NFL athletes who ran the 100m dash. This gives us a basis for comparison of something.

Deion Sanders: 10.26
Chris Williams: 10.38
Usain Bolt: 9.69

Let's not delude ourselves into thinking this is even close.

52
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 08/25/2008 - 5:26pm

I don’t know why you’re so insistent that the only skill Bolt could possibly develop is straight-line speed.

Woah, woah. I never suggested that. I just suggested he hadn't developed it. I'm also implying that if he does try to develop it, there's no guarantee he will keep the same speed he had before.

Your swimming analogy is weird. Phelps is considered amazing because he did so well in such a variety of strokes and events. Bolt dominated in the 200 m and 100 m. Why are you subscribing a Phelpsian athleticism to him without any evidence?

53
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 08/25/2008 - 5:28pm

There are, however, some NFL athletes who ran the 100m dash. This gives us a basis for comparison of something.

Yeah. It means football speed doesn't translate into good track speed. I don't know why you think the reverse would be true.

54
by Yaguar (not verified) :: Mon, 08/25/2008 - 5:29pm

"But why in the devil would a sprinter practice the ability to cut on a dime? It won’t help, and it could possibly hurt."
I don't think he's great at that ability right now. I think he had the genes and stuff to do that if he wanted to, though.

I'm arguing that Bolt could have been a great football player had he been born in Palestine, Texas instead of Trelawny, Jamaica.

55
by jonnyblazin (not verified) :: Mon, 08/25/2008 - 5:30pm

re: lateral acceleration

The faster his straight line speed is, the more cushion he'll receive. Thus, even with average NFL WR lateral acceleration, he'll be more open than a slower WR. To bring up the same analogy, I've never seen Moss run a hitch or out and marvel at his technique. When he runs those routs and is open, its because defenders fear of the deep ball.

56
by Yaguar (not verified) :: Mon, 08/25/2008 - 5:33pm

Oh, above I mixed up Chris Williams and Chris Johnson. I was referring to the latter.

53: The 40 is more related to track speed than it is to football speed, I think. It's run on a track in track shoes without football gear.

Sanders and Johnson ran 4.28 and 4.24, respectively, at the combine, and they both would get embarrassed by Bolt in a 100. I don't know what Bolt's time would be, but it would be faster than theirs.

57
by Admore (not verified) :: Mon, 08/25/2008 - 5:36pm

@49 - I posted my first thing without seeing yours, then a quick reply.

I see what you're saying about speed endurance. Wouldn't that strengthen my point about breakaway speed and distance? Even if the initial 40 is similar to NFL speed, and that there'd be some acceleration or higher splits in the middle distance, it seems unlikely to me that NFL guys would have speed/endurance to compare with Carl Lewis or Bolt.

If your sprinter did have some football ability, you'd have to think about end arounds (if your sprinter could cut or turn) kick or punt returns, WR screens and long bombs to take advantage. Getting 3-5 TDs and/or great field position makes that worthwhile.

BTW I think Bolt would be a bit faster than 4.37, even allowing for initial distance - more like 4.28, but I won't holler about the difference, either. Bolt, FWIW wanted to play cricket - maybe his eye/hand wasn't good enough for it?

58
by langsty (not verified) :: Mon, 08/25/2008 - 5:39pm

bob hayes held the world record for the 100m for most of the 60s. it's not like the NFL hasn't counted world-class olympians among its ranks before (hayes, ron brown, willie gault) and the difference in athleticism wasn't as exaggerated as some of you guys portray it to be.

also, justin gatlin's been trying to get into the NFL for a couple years now, and he can't even make a practice squad.

59
by David (not verified) :: Mon, 08/25/2008 - 5:44pm

Interestingly (well, to me, anyway), if Bolt was going to switch sports (which he isn't), he would switch to cricket. He's a massive fan of cricket, and it is his preferred sport. He was spotted as a fast bowler by a track coach, and persuaded to take up sprinting.

Not that the financial rewards on offer in cricket are anything close to those in the NFL, but if money is his only criterion for selecting a sport (and I sincerly doubt that it is), then athletics is going to pay him more than football is, anyway.

60
by langsty (not verified) :: Mon, 08/25/2008 - 5:46pm

in fact, from gatlin's wiki article:

"On March 13, 2008 Gatlin performed at Tennessee's NFL pro day. His numbers were as follows: Ran a 4.45 and a 4.42 in the 40. Had a 40 ½-inch vertical jump, 11-foot (3.4 m) long jump, 4.4 short shuttle and 7.36 cone drill and 12 reps in the bench press. The former Olympic sprinter has yet to be signed by any NFL teams."

now, obviously the 2008 edition of justin gatlin isn't the same as the athens gatlin, but it still gives you a point of comparison.

61
by David (not verified) :: Mon, 08/25/2008 - 5:48pm

@57 - I should really refresh before I post...

He was a bowler, rather than a batsman, so eye/hand probably wasn't the deal-breaker, as you can be an international bowler with abysmal hand/eye co-ordination (Monty Panesar, Phil Tufnell). Bowlers need excellent body control, though - maybe that was what was lacking...

62
by Temo (not verified) :: Mon, 08/25/2008 - 6:00pm

57. No, I think he would run right around 3.37 :)

However, Yaguar is right: timing error in the way NFL measures speed is huge. They use a hand-starter and a computerized stop, which adds the starter's reaction time to seeing the athlete's body move.

63
by Temo (not verified) :: Mon, 08/25/2008 - 6:01pm

62. errr, 4.37. He would run an actual 4.37, but timing error can be anywhere from .2 (or lower) to .3 (or higher).

64
by Biebs (not verified) :: Mon, 08/25/2008 - 6:13pm

I don't get the whole Bolt thing. Presumably he never played football in his life before, since it's not a popular sport in Jamaica.

Every sprinter that became a player either played football at some point in their lives or, at the very least, had a working knowledge of the sport.

I believe both Gault and Bob Hayes played football in HS before focusing on sprinting. Bolt doesn't have that. Has he even played a game of two hand touch football?

65
by Ashley Tate (not verified) :: Mon, 08/25/2008 - 6:30pm

Re: 63

FY_ The precise 40-yard time is 4.35 based on his 10 meter splits. Bolt's NFL-style 40 time would be .2-.3 seconds *lower*. The difference is that the timer starts for NFL players when they move; for sprinters the timer starts when the starter starts the race. The reaction time is not counted for NFL players.

66
by jonnyblazin (not verified) :: Mon, 08/25/2008 - 6:45pm

I think what makes Bolt much more interesting than the other sprinters is his height. This isn't just another sprinter, its one that is taller than every DB in the league .

langsty,
You don't think that Gatlin's use of steroids and his employment of a coach known for working with sprinters who got caught doping is a relevant fact in this case? Could that possibly be a reason his times weren't that good?

67
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 08/25/2008 - 6:49pm

I’m arguing that Bolt could have been a great football player had he been born in Palestine, Texas instead of Trelawny, Jamaica.

The lateral acceleration is just one part of it, though. Even if he had wanted to play football, the next question is "how well does he handle a jam at the line," and "how well does he handle running without a clean lane?'

I think partly, you're saying "well, the speed's genetic, everything else is taught" but I don't really agree. Even if you assume the lateral acceleration is going to be OK, you still have to ask how well he'll be able to handle getting jammed at the line. At high height and body build, his center of gravity is going to be quite high, and so a sharp shock is going to knock him off balance a lot more than someone who's shorter.

I just don't think it's a given at all.

68
by Temo (not verified) :: Mon, 08/25/2008 - 7:06pm

Turns out that in the splits I used, the 0-10m split includes the reaction time, so his actual 40 yard time is 4.19. Subtract hand-timed reaction, and he could possibly run a 4.0 40 yard dash.

69
by Tom D (not verified) :: Mon, 08/25/2008 - 7:35pm

Matt Jones is really tall and really fast, but even a replacement level receiver, he is not.

70
by Jericho (not verified) :: Mon, 08/25/2008 - 7:49pm

I glossed over the responses, but I didn't see a mention of James Jett, former Raider and Olympic Gold medalist (although in the 4 by 100 relay). Jett was pretty damn fast for his day, good enough to make the U.S. relay team, which is no small feat.

Besides, as mentioned, Bolt doesn't have the greatest starts in the 100 m. He's a back half racer, which doesn't really help for football. You want that ultra quick acceleration. Yes he has height, but if speed is what you want, Asafa Powell is the guy with the quick burst. Powell can beat Bolt to 40 meters.

71
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 08/25/2008 - 7:53pm

Of course, the other thing is that just because he can run that fast in track shorts doesn't mean he runs anywhere near that fast in pads. You don't know how he handles additional weight on his body, nor restricted motion.

You could say "the same criticism applies to guys at the Combine" but they've already been preselected to be good football players based on past performance.

72
by Admore (not verified) :: Mon, 08/25/2008 - 8:14pm

@64 - There isn't much to get. It's preseason.

So, um, where do I draft Bolt in my fantasy league? ;)

@68 - I'm just going to stick to my exceedingly precise 4.28 guess.

@70 - Jett had pretty decent hands - for a sprinter.

@71 - I agree, there's no way of knowing. This is all like BS-ing in bar about the greatest player ever, or if Ted Williams didn't go in the military, or Mickey Mantle was a teetotaler, to me, at least.

It's like the arguments that sometimes arise about how good a US national soccer team could look with the best of the NFL and NBA spending their lives training to be soccer players instead. Who knows how it really would go.

I think the best athletes mostly select themselves for their proper sports, if they are available. Spain is the reigning soccer champ and they were damn near the reigning basketball champ- again. It doesn't seem like one program detracts from the other in a country much smaller than the USA.

73
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 08/25/2008 - 8:35pm

@64 - There isn’t much to get. It’s preseason.

Honestly, this is the part I really don't get. It's preseason - not training camp. There was actual football this weekend. Really. And yet on NFL.com, on PFT, and here, people are talking about the possibility of a sprinter making it in the NFL, when said sprinter has absolutely no interest in doing so (my belief, not fact).

I'm really hoping that a Patriots fan will chip in about the Pats performance against the Eagles. What gives? Seriously, what gives? I mean, it's all well and good to say "Matt Cassel sucks," but that doesn't explain the special teams doofery, nor the offensive line getting manhandled.

I mean, on running plays, half the time there was an Eagles defensive lineman waiting to greet the running back. What gives?

74
by Xeynon (not verified) :: Mon, 08/25/2008 - 9:13pm

The obstacles for him are that he’s never developed any field vision, route running (if he’s to play WR) or ball skills. If he were even mediocre-to-bad in those areas, he’d be a good wide receiver.

You think this, why? Field vision, ball skills, and route running (not to mention toughness, hand-eye coordination, and lateral agility) are all EXTREMELY important attributes for an NFL receiver - at least as important as straight line speed, and without question more important than straight-line speed over distances as large as 100 m. We don't know that Bolt possesses ANY of these skills. Every year in the NFL draft there are "great athletes" who are taken on the chance that they will develop into good football players. Very few of them do. In fact, I'd like to see you name even one example of a guy who was primarily a sprinter and then became an outstanding receiver - as noted above, guys like Bob Hayes don't count, because he was an excellent football player in addition to being an excellent sprinter. Just because an athlete is world class at one sport does not mean he'd be even mediocre at another - for reference see Michael Jordan, who was arguably the greatest basketball player ever but at the height of his physical ability was a far-below average AA outfielder, despite the fact that he had played baseball before and seemingly had all the natural talents (hand-eye coordination, quick reaction time, etc.) necessary to succeed at it.

The reason you don’t see more dual sprinters/football players is that most sprinters are too small to be football players.

Incorrect. Most world class sprinters are between 5'10" and 6'1" and of lean but muscular build, just like NFL receivers and defensive backs. Michael Johnson, for example, was 6'1". The reason you don't see more dual sprinters/football players is that the two disciplines require skill sets that only partially overlap, and very few athletes possess the range of abilities necessary to be world class in both.

75
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Mon, 08/25/2008 - 9:14pm

For anyone thinking GB is going to be ok this year just know the following:

--the offensive line is in tatters as nobody is either good enough or healthy enough to play center or guard

--there are no decent defensive tackles able to take the field

--AJ Hawk is likely to miss the start of the season

So the lines stink and the best cover linebacker is hurt before the season begins.

Good grief....

76
by Grafac (not verified) :: Mon, 08/25/2008 - 9:53pm

Is anyone surprised that the Jamaican sprinters are so dominate? Why are they? Because they care. It is basically their national sport. The USA's youth doesn't care as much about sprinting or a dozen other olympic sports. It is my firm belief (and of course cannot be proven) that there are many wide receivers and running backs and point guards in the NBA who WERE capable of being track stars. They didn't follow that path and develop track skills because football and basketball is where the money and fame is in the USA. But to say Bolt could become a football player is like saying T.O. or Randy Moss (or fill in your favorite fast football player)could become an Olympic sprinter. It's too late now and the economics don't make sense.

77
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 08/25/2008 - 9:55pm

The obstacles for him are that he’s never developed any field vision, route running (if he’s to play WR) or ball skills. If he were even mediocre-to-bad in those areas, he’d be a good wide receiver.

While I like the way that Xeynon put it, I'd say that the biggest obstacle for him is that he'd have no clue what the hell he's doing.

78
by Michael (not verified) :: Mon, 08/25/2008 - 9:57pm

Bob Hayes and Willie Gault played college football--Hayes at Florida A&M (I believe) and Gault at Tennessee.

Projecting Bolt as a WR is the same as the guys who keep insisting the option is a viable NFL offense. I guess it keeps them occupied and off the streets, but it's a fool's game.

79
by Yaguar (not verified) :: Mon, 08/25/2008 - 10:01pm

76: Yep, that's absolutely a fair way to put it.

If Randy Moss had just practiced the 100 all his life, he'd be pretty wicked at it, and probably could have become a world track star. He didn't do that, and it's too late now, but he definitely could have.

I think the same is true for Bolt in the other direction.

80
by Temo (not verified) :: Mon, 08/25/2008 - 10:01pm

72. Not that it changes your point, but actually, until 2010, I'd say Italy is the reigning soccer champ. I'd say a world cup title would take precedence over a Euro cup title.

74. 5'10" to 6'1" is actually on the small side for an NFL WR.

76. Also, year to year variability in talent. No one country will dominate track forever, after all.

81
by Yaguar (not verified) :: Mon, 08/25/2008 - 10:11pm

"Honestly, this is the part I really don’t get. It’s preseason - not training camp. There was actual football this weekend. Really. And yet on NFL.com, on PFT, and here, people are talking about the possibility of a sprinter making it in the NFL, when said sprinter has absolutely no interest in doing so (my belief, not fact)."

I don't think anyone's seriously considering it as a real possibility. It's just an interesting thought experiment. In the same vein, I wonder how much training it would take for LeBron James to become an NFL-capable TE.

Anyone reasonable knows perfectly well that the only impressive football thing Bolt could do right now is to run a mean 40 time.

People are talking about the Olympics because it's fun and we're sports fans and it doesn't happen all that often. I think it pretty easily trumps preseason football.

Maybe my particularly blase attitude towards the preseason comes from being a Colts fan. Every year we see Sorgi and a bunch of scrubs go 0-4, and it never matters in the least.

82
by Xeynon (not verified) :: Mon, 08/25/2008 - 10:11pm

-80

6'0" is average for an NFL receiver. There are guys like Moss and Owens that are significantly taller, but there are also guys like Steve Smith (5'9"), Santana Moss (5'9") and Wes Welker (5'8") that are significantly shorter.

83
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 08/25/2008 - 10:48pm

Maybe my particularly blase attitude towards the preseason comes from being a Colts fan. Every year we see Sorgi and a bunch of scrubs go 0-4, and it never matters in the least.

Third week, Colts preseason games:

2008: BUF 20, IND 7
2007: DET 10, IND 37
2006: NO 14, IND 27
2005: DEN 37, IND 24
2004: BUF 17, IND 30
2003: DEN 23, IND 28
2002: BUF 7, IND 19
2001: MIN 28, IND 21

So unless the Colts suck or the Bills are very, very good, the Colts will have just ended a 7-year streak of never losing to a lesser opponent in Week 3 of the preseason.

The Colts do seem to do worse than they should "on average" taking into account all of the preseason games, but the whole "the Colts try to lose preseason games" just seems overrated.

Much like with the Patriots, yes, you can say "they didn't have Manning." But this is the first preseason you can say that, and that should worry Colts fans.

84
by WeaponX (not verified) :: Tue, 08/26/2008 - 12:30am

re. #34: I wasn't making a case for Bolt as much as bringing up a world class runner/darn good football player that played well at the NFL level (in a very specific and limited role). As you pointed out though, there is a massive difference in the two.

85
by Subrata Sircar (not verified) :: Tue, 08/26/2008 - 8:13am

Butch Woolfolk was a Big Ten track champion and All-American. His collegiate career overlapped the 1980 Olympic boycott, but having seen him play football I feel like he had Olympic-class straight-line speed.

Tyrone Wheatley was similarly an All-American track champion. Both of these guys were amazing in college; big guys who ran like the wind and just crumpled defensive backs who were unfortunate enough to be in their path. (Wheatley has perhaps the third most impressive performance I've seen live on a football field, in the 1993 Rose Bowl when he ripped off TWO 90+ TD runs in the 4th quarter for the win. [The 2nd was Vince Young against Michigan; when they took USC the next year I felt vindicated that yes, he really was that good. The 1st was Anthony Carter catching a TD pass on the last play against Illinois, with everyone in the stadium knowing he was going to get the ball ... and he ran a down-and-in, got the catch and made to the end zone anyway.]

But I digress; just wanted to point out that track stars can make the leap and do it frequently. Football scholarships are much more plentiful and prized than track scholarships, after all, and the post-collegiate career holds more promise unless you're one of the 3-4 best people in the world at your event. (For football, you have to be one of the best 100 people in the US, essentially; the NFL is not a worldwide sport.)

86
by weaponx (not verified) :: Tue, 08/26/2008 - 8:53am

These guys all played football a couple times while growing up too :)

87
by Harris (not verified) :: Tue, 08/26/2008 - 9:06am

Pat and I don't agree on much, though he might disagree, but we agree on this. C'mon people. The Giants have lost three of last year's top defenders in Strahan, Wilson and Osi. Kyle Orton and J.T. O'Sullivan looked like competent NFL QBs. The Patriots, a team that prides itself on its special teams, allowed punt and kick return TDs to the Eagles, a team whose special teams have been atrocious for at least two years. Carson Palmer broke his face. All of this happened this week and we're wasting time debating whether a tall sprinter could play in the NFL?

Six long, terrible football-free months are ending. I know it's preseason for the fans too but this performance is simply unacceptable and, frankly, some of you should be fearing a visit from the Turk. Now let's snap to and get our heads in the game, people.

88
by Purds (not verified) :: Tue, 08/26/2008 - 9:14am

Re: #51: Xavier Carter, LSU, 10.09 100 meters. Bust as college WR. Now a professional sprinter.

James Jett, WVU, 10.25 100 meters. Played football in college.

Re: #65: Don't forget that Bolt went out of blocks in track spikes on a synthetic track. Is that how they measure 40 times at the combine? Blocks alone would count for a tenth or two.

Re: #72: "I think the best athletes mostly select themselves for their proper sports, if they are available." You might be stunned by how much that used to be true in the US, but is become not true today. I teach and coach at a private high school with pretty good athletics, and it's amazing how resistant the good athletes (and their parents) are to NOT specializing. Some simple stories of kids we have had to really almost force to change: a very good soccer player who finally tried lacrosse as a junior, and went on to play in the NCAA championships twice as a starter at UVA in lacrosse; a basketball player who finally, his junior year, tried track, and went undefeated in the 300 intermediate hurdles and I have no doubt will be a Division III All American in the hurdles in college (he broke a school record held by a kid who went on to be a 2x NCAA Division III All American). For each of those kids, there are 10 who wouldn't try another sport.

Re: 79: If I'm Moss's track coach, I am putting him into the 200 and 400. Less sexy events, but once he built up any endurance, with that gliding stride, he'd be unbeatable.

89
by Purds (not verified) :: Tue, 08/26/2008 - 9:27am

Pat:

Good to get it back to football. As a Colt fan, I am worried, but Manning will make a huge difference to this team. Just as Brady will to NE, a team that looks horrible in pre-season right now -- even the NE special teams can't do anything. But, as to your comment about week 3 games: don't forget the Colts were not without Manning, they were without Manning OR Sorgi, starting a 3rd string QB. Usually makes a difference.

Colts preseason records
2008: 1-3
2007: 1-3
2006: 1-3
2005: 0-5
2004: 2-2
2003: 3-1

The way the Colts spend their money, and this is a knock on them from just about everyone outside of Colts fans, forces them to rely very heavily on young guys, and Dungy and company always turn up several UFA and late-round gems every year. How do they do it? Not by trying to lose preseason games, but by playing all of the untested guys a lot during preseason to see what the kids can do. Now, I understand a lot of teams do this, but the Colts put those guys into the first and second string rotation to see what they can do against the "big boys."

90
by Purds (not verified) :: Tue, 08/26/2008 - 9:29am

Can I ask a Patriots question: do Pats fans worry about Brady's commitment this year? I'm not talking about the phantom injury (he seems to practice quite a bit for an injured guy), but about this being the first year he was not a fixture in off-season workouts. I'm not buying his line that he wanted to spend time with his kid. Are you?

I'm just wondering if he's decided to enjoy the fame a bit, and that has lessened his focus.

91
by panthersnbraves (not verified) :: Tue, 08/26/2008 - 10:00am

#81 How about Julius Peppers? NCAA Final Four and Superbowl appearances. It may be that the big/tall/middling quick would be the combination of talents to make a basketball and football cross-over possible.

Baseball requires getting used to the equipment.

92
by panthersnbraves (not verified) :: Tue, 08/26/2008 - 10:04am

#87 I realize it's only the back-water Panthers, but the loss of Jason Carter as the PR/3WR looks like another blow in the Injury Parade in Carolina.

It looks like they may end up having to go two TE's instead of the 3 or 4-wide they were looking to implement.

93
by MJK (not verified) :: Tue, 08/26/2008 - 10:28am

The Lions have drafted two potential world class sprinters, Roy Williams. In college he reportedly ran a 10.08 in the 100m. He's fairly tall and a pretty good receiver too.

Before Charles Rogers broke his collar bone and possibly lost motivation while smoking pot, he ran a 10.3 in high school. He also held a couple state records at some point during his high school years in the 100m, 200m and 400m.

94
by Harris (not verified) :: Tue, 08/26/2008 - 10:55am

#92 Not to piss in your cornflakes, but I'm an Eagles fan so all I can say is, "Eeeexcellent. Everything is going according to plan."

95
by DGL (not verified) :: Tue, 08/26/2008 - 10:57am

So when does the Loser League registration hit?

96
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Tue, 08/26/2008 - 12:25pm

"Deion Sanders: 10.26
Chris Williams: 10.38
Usain Bolt: 9.69

Let’s not delude ourselves into thinking this is even close."

No, they're probably not close, running 100M, but running the first 15 yards, where 90% of football action happens, yeah, they're close. And I guarantee Deion cuts much faster.

97
by Diabolical Lawyer (not verified) :: Tue, 08/26/2008 - 1:13pm

Can I ask a Patriots question: do Pats fans worry about Brady’s commitment this year?

I'd be more worried about the deal with Satan expiring. You usually get 6 years for your soul. Brady bought an extra year by throwing in his first born child. Now payment is coming due. The Pats play the Jets in Week 2 just like in 2001....

98
by zlionsfan (not verified) :: Tue, 08/26/2008 - 2:00pm

Come on, guys, there's plenty of room for discussion about both hypothetical players and artificial games ... it's not like the innernets will fill up with one or the other. :)

Re 18, 19, 21: perhaps some of the confusion comes from the fact that there are two Standefords. John's the one mentioned above, the one whom the Colts released. (Uh, not that it's necessarily the same, but is this going to be like DeMulling?) Jake graduated last year - he had one good year and a few good games at Purdue, but I'm not sure he'd be any different than John in an NFL offense.

99
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 08/26/2008 - 2:19pm

#89: The reason I chose Week 3 is simple - it's the week when the starters play the most, and starters-vs-starters, the Colts are better than the majority of the league most years, so you don't have to worry about competition.

And you can see that in the results: the Colts don't lose Week 3 unless the team they're playing is much better, or they're just not that good.

It's easy to say "well, they were starting Jared Lorenzen," and that's definitely true. But the fact that they had to start Jared Lorenzen in Week 3 of the preseason, when they really, really would like to be starting Peyton Manning, tells you something. They've never been injured this much this deep into the preseason before and had a successful season.

It's also worth noting that the Colts preseason slate has typically been on the harder side.

100
by Purds (not verified) :: Tue, 08/26/2008 - 2:47pm

"the Colts don’t lose Week 3 unless the team they’re playing is much better, or they’re just not that good"

You think the Denver 2005 team was "much better" than the Colts 2005?

Indy 2005:14-2, lost to Pitt in playoffs 21-18
Denver 2005: 12-4, lost to Pitt in playoffs 34-17

I guess that redefines "much better".

101
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 08/26/2008 - 3:56pm

#100: Yeah, much better wasn't what I meant. Should've been "better or equal." In the previous post I said "never losing to a lesser opponent," which is worded better.

102
by Bandicoot (not verified) :: Tue, 08/26/2008 - 4:11pm

Re: #81- I think it is much more likely Lebron would be a succesful NFL tight end than Bolt would be a succesful NFL anything. Lebron was an All-State Wide Receiver in High School before quitting to concentrate on basketball. Plus, basketball has the most versatile skill-set needed to succeed out of all the major sports, especially for swingmen. Lebron is insanely quick in every direction, fast over distance, strong, coordinated, and can leap. I'm convinced he'd be a great tight end.

103
by Dave (not verified) :: Tue, 08/26/2008 - 8:02pm

The Lions have drafted two potential world class sprinters, Roy Williams. In college he reportedly ran a 10.08 in the 100m. He’s fairly tall and a pretty good receiver too.

Actually, Williams is the wrong Lions receiver for this discussion. It's Calvin Johnson who has the combination of freakish size and speed that Bolt would bring.

Williams firmly believes that he would have been a multiple gold-medal winner had he stuck with track, but even he admits that CJ is significantly faster than he is. No matter which Lion you ask, the answer to the question "Who is the fastest player on the team?" is "You mean other than Calvin?"

104
by Mr Shush (not verified) :: Wed, 08/27/2008 - 9:11am

Purds (#88) - Funny, watching Bolt pull away from the best athletes in the world with such apparent ease reminded me of nothing more than Moss effortlessly leaving three Jets DBs trailing in his wake in scoring a long touchdown on a deep post last year.

Further to the Slaton comments, both he and Chris Taylor did pretty well in their time with the #1s in that game. Given that Chris Brown and Ahman Green have so far been healthy enough for a combined 8 pre-season carries at 2.4ypc, I think it's likely that RB Houston will be a timeshare between Slaton and Taylor for much or all of the season. That might change if TJ Duckett signs, of course.

105
by mike carlson (not verified) :: Wed, 08/27/2008 - 12:15pm

Dwaine Chambers worked hard at learning to be a wide receiver but hands are not something brits grow up using in sports,and learning to catch while running patterns and being hit is hard. In the preseason scrimmages in 2007 Chambers made a cross the middle catch that had everybody congratulating him, but the reality is he was never going to make it, exactly as youd expect.

He did tell me he'd run a 4.19 40 though...

Bob Hayes always said he was a football player first and sprinter second, and Jake Gaither his coach echoed that. Ollie Matson was another Olympic sprinter who was a footballer first. OJ Simpson was part of a relay team at USC that held the world record for the 4x220 relay.

The Giants signed Henry Carr from the Tokyo Olympic 200m to try to cover Hayes, but Carr was, like Nehemiah, only a high school footballer...

106
by bob40 (not verified) :: Wed, 08/27/2008 - 12:42pm

I liked the analysis of Steve Slaton's skills. But in considering his chances of moving up due to injuries, there was no mention of Chris Taylor. Assuming Green and Brown go down, wouldn't Taylor be in the running for the starting job? Just wondering.

107
by Fred (not verified) :: Thu, 08/28/2008 - 5:31am

"but hands are not something brits grow up using in sports"......well apart from in rugby,cricket and football

108
by mike carlson (not verified) :: Fri, 08/29/2008 - 4:54am

Re 107: If you ever watched English rugby players drop a big fat ball at the slightest provocation, cricket players struggle with catching elementary pop-ups, and football players get penalties whenever they touch the ball with their hands you'd know what I was talking about....whoops!

109
by Fred (not verified) :: Sat, 08/30/2008 - 5:28am

108,lol.

Guess us Brits will have to enrol in the Samuel Romo School for comedic catching and book our tickets for the second annual "Hands of Stone" Bowl at Wembley in October. :-).

F

110
by Rodafowa (not verified) :: Sat, 08/30/2008 - 9:59am

Re 107: If you ever watched English rugby players drop a big fat ball at the slightest provocation, cricket players struggle with catching elementary pop-ups, and football players get penalties whenever they touch the ball with their hands you’d know what I was talking about….whoops!

Now I KNOW you're just trying to bait us. :)

If cricket fielders were allowed to wear a honking great glove on one hand, I daresay they'd struggle less under the high ball (alright, Monty still might).

111
by NotQuite (not verified) :: Sun, 08/31/2008 - 9:57pm

"All the guys who have succeeded at track and football — all of them — were football players first."

Someone forgot Jim Thorpe.

OK, that's from like 1913, but still...