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.
19 Jul 2005
by Al Bogdan
Also check out the previous edition of Four Downs: NFC East.
When you're coming off a season when you were the #27 pass defense in the league according to DVOA, you wouldn't think that you'd be looking to give away what few defensive backs you have for pretty much nothing. But, that's what Dallas just did, getting a conditional late round pick from the Jets for Pete Hunter. Dallas will get either a sixth round pick in 2007 or a fifth round pick in 2006 depending on the amount of playing time Hunter sees this year.
Hunter missed most of last season after injuring his knee early in the season against Washington. He reportedly became disgruntled after the signings of Anthony Henry and Aaron Glenn pushed Hunter down to fourth on the Cowboy draft chart. It's somewhat understandable why Hunter might be unhappy to be bumped down from the starting lineup to nickel back, but it's not readily understandable why Dallas would be so quick to get rid of him. After veterans Aaron Glenn, Anthony Henry and Terence Newman, there is no cornerback on Dallas' roster with more than one year of NFL experience. The Cowboys are shaping up to once again have one of the weakest secondaries in football.
There is, of course, a veteran cornerback on the market who has played for Bill Parcells before. Could the departure of Hunter mean that Ty Law is on his way to Dallas? It would make too much sense for the Cowboys, who could use another veteran to add depth to their depleted secondary. Things have been relatively quiet on the Law front, with Ty holding out hope for big money and teams holding out hope that he'll agree to play for something close to the veteran minimum. The Chiefs are the latest team to be rumored to have interest in Law, but no team has yet made him an offer for what Law still believes his value to be. If Ty does eventually sign for something below the $6 million he's reportedly looking for, don't be surprised if he ends up making a big contribution to Dallas' playoff run this year.
The most interesting position battle going into Giant training camp is the battle of the reality stars for the honor of backing up Eli Manning. Former Bachelor Jesse Palmer and Tim Hasselbeck, husband of former Survivor star and current co-host of the View Elisabeth Hasselbeck, will be competing for the #2 quarterback spot. Palmer is the incumbent, but Hasselbeck looks to be the better choice to win immunity, or to be exempt from the boardroom, or to receive a rose, or whatever your favorite reality show gimmick is.
Palmer has been the Giant backup or third string quarterback for the past four seasons, but has never really shown much in the few chances he's had to play. Jesse has started three games in his career, at the end of the 2003 season, performing terribly in all of them. In his first two starts, the Giant offense scored a grand total of ten points. In the season finally against Carolina, Palmer tossed four interceptions, finishing the game with a quarterback rating of 24.4. Palmer's 2003 DVOA of -46.9% was better than only one quarterback who through at least 100 passes that year â€“ the immortal Kurt Kittner.
While Hasselbeck has also had limited playing time, he at least has shown glimpses of ability during his time on the field. Tim started the last five games of the season for the 2003 Redskins, going 1-4. Hasselbeck had about as bad of a game against Dallas that season as any quarterback could have, completing only six of his twenty-four passes with four interceptions thrown in for good measure. In his other four starts however, Hasselbeck showed flashes of promise. Tim completed over 60% of his passes against the Giants, Bears and Eagles and threw multiple touchdowns against New York and Chicago.
There's still a dark horse candidate for the backup role on the Giant roster â€“ 275 pound Jared Lorenzen. â€œJ. Loadâ€? was on the Giant roster going into training camp last year, but left the team for undisclosed personal reasons before he really had a chance to make the team. With Eli entrenched as the starter for the foreseeable future, a creative team might keep Lorenzen as the #2 quarterback on gameday just to give opposing teams a different look in short yardage situations. If Manning is out of action for any extended period of time, the Giants would then just elevate either Palmer or Hasselbeck from their emergency quarterback role into the starting lineup.
We're at T-Minus 312 or so hours and counting on T-O watch. Will Terrell show up to training camp on August 1? Or more importantly, will he be in an Eagle uniform against Atlanta for the season opener on September 12? If Owens isn't on the field, and with Freddie Mitchell's departure, the Eagles will have only three receivers on their roster who caught a pass for them last season, including Billy McMullen and his three catches for 24 yards. So who will be lining up with Todd Pinkston and Greg Lewis should Owens sit out the beginning of the season? Let's meet your 2005 Eagle wide receivers!
The aforementioned McMullen is a third year receiver out of the University of Virginia. A big receiver at 6' 4â€?, 215 lbs, he would appear to be the best complement to the smaller Pinkston and Lewis. Owens himself stated last season that McMullen was the receiver on Philadelphia best suited to fill his role in the offense. According to the Eagles' media guide, McMullen is a big Tom & Jerry fan and loves to eat cereal.
Next on the depth chart is rookie Reggie Brown, the Eagles' second round pick out of Georgia. Brown has "good overall muscle development, tight waist, good bubble and knotted calves" according to his draft prospect profile on NFL.com. Seriously, what does that mean? What does having a "tight waist" have to do with being a valuable NFL receiver? What the hell is a "good bubble"? This reads more like a personal ad than a scouting report.
If McMullen's love of corn flakes and Brown's "knotted calves" don't get you excited for the upcoming season, Eagles fans, then maybe second year receiver Justin Jenkins will give you some optimism about a T.O.-less receiving corp. Relegated to the practice squad last season, Jenkins' college career was hampered somewhat by a depth perception problem in his left eye during his junior season. Nevertheless, Jenkins ended up tying Eric Moulds for the Mississippi State record for career touchdown receptions with 17.
The Redskins already lost two of their biggest contributors on last year's #3 defense when Fred Smoot and Antonio Pierce left for big free agent money elsewhere. Now the team is in danger of losing three of their biggest expected contributors to this year's defense because of injuries, legal woes, and contract disputes in varying combinations.
Let's start with the newest addition to the Redskin defense, #9 pick Carlos Rogers. Rogers is still unsigned, but it would probably be more surprising if a top ten pick was signed with two weeks to go before training camps open up. The more troubling development, however, is what appears to be three injuries to his ankle. According to Redskins.com, Rogers has a first degree sprain, bone bruise and stress facture in his right ankle/foot. The injuries will cause him to miss at least the beginning of training camp.
Safety Sean Taylor isn't injured, but his legal troubles could keep him out of action, or at the very least distracted, if he even decides to report to the team. Taylor started the off-season as yet another disgruntled ex-Hurricane/Drew Rosenhaus client who decided to skip workouts because of his unhappiness with his contract. Last month, however, Taylor appears to have decided that a simple contract dispute wasn't interesting enough for his off-season, so he added felony weapons charges to his plate.
Taylor was arrested in June for felony aggravated assault with a firearm and misdemeanor assault. This all stems from an alleged incident where Taylor allegedly assaulted and allegedly pointed a gun at two individuals who had allegedly stolen two ATVs from Taylor. All of these alleged activities have resulted in the very real possibility that Taylor will spend the next three to sixteen years of his life behind bars. Taylor's fate will be decided by twelve Miami-Dade County residents if and when his trial begins as scheduled on September 12, the day after Washington's season opener against Chicago.
And then there's the confusing case of Lavar Arrington. Where do we even begin? Arrington spent a good chunk of the off-season ripping the Redskins and their treatment of him after his knee problems that curtailed his 2004 season. Lavar hasn't practiced yet this summer and its unclear whether he'll be ready or effective for the start of the regular season. He's also in the middle of a contract dispute with the Redskins over a $6.5 million roster bonus that wasn't included in the final version of the contract extension he signed last year. As the folks over at ProFootballTalk.com http://www.profootballtalk.com have pointed out, however, it's unlikely that the arbitrator's eventual decision will make much of a difference. Arrington is a likely cap casualty because of his injury after this season anyway. A favorable decision for Lavar will just give Washington 6.5 million more reasons to get rid of him. Not to be outdone, Arrington was the subject of a recent police investigation after a security guard was shot at a charity event Lavar hosted. Unlike his teammate, Arrington is not suspected of being involved in the incident.
That's it for me. See you later this week (hopefully) with the unofficial start to the 2005 season - the Third Annual Scramble for the Ball Over/Under Extravaganza.
64 comments, Last at 27 Jul 2005, 10:54pm by dwn&distance