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12 Apr 2007

Four Downs: AFC North

by Jeff Bathurst

Baltimore Ravens

Interesting to consider: "We've already spent a lot of time studying Willis McGahee to see what he does differently than Jamal [Lewis], and how we can all help each other." That was Ravens offensive line coach Chris Foerster in the Baltimore Sun, on the changing line in Baltimore.

Coming off a season in which the Ravens ranked No. 1 overall in DVOA, the team is not standing pat on one of its core elements. The departure of two linemen in free agency -- right tackle Tony Pashos took a big deal to move to Jacksonville and left guard Edwin Mulitalo was allowed to go away, landing in Detroit -- did a lot to force the issue, of course. So did the uncertain future of Jonathan Ogden.

Ogden is expected to make a decision on whether he will return sometime before the draft on April 28, and his call will play into whether Baltimore picks an offensive lineman early, and where Adam Terry plays next year. Terry, going into his third year, is slotted in as right tackle now, but would move to left tackle in Ogden's absence. Chris Chester, a center-guard, is also expected to get a chance to play.

Last year's group allowed only 17 sacks, second in the league, and led FO's pass protection ranking with a 3.1 percent Adjusted Sack Rate. The problem came in run blocking, in which the Ravens line ended up 19th in Adjusted Line Yards.

A deeper look shows that the malaise was spread throughout the group, but when the Ravens ran off left tackle, they ranked ninth in the league at 4.69 Adjusted Line Yards. Ogden and Jason Brown held down the left side of the line after Mulitalo's season-ending injury after four games.

According to Foerster, coach Brian Billick might be willing to change his power running scheme with new blood in McGahee as well as a changing, presumably younger offensive line.

What does this mean for McGahee? He's coming off a season in which he ranked 24th in the league in DPAR, but ran behind a line that finished 26th in Adjusted Line Yards, at only 3.95. The Bills actually succeeded with McGahee running to the left, ranking ninth around end and 14th off tackle.

The numbers bear out a possible change in the straight-ahead power game. McGahee and the other Buffalo backs ran 33 percent to the left and 51 percent up the middle last year, as opposed to 18 percent and 67 percent, respectively, by Ravens backs.

However, that could all change if Ogden retires, or if McGahee and the line don't mesh, for reasons of unfamiliarity, general greenness, or whatever. For what it's worth, McGahee has shown up for off-season workouts in Baltimore, something he refused to do in Buffalo. Stay tuned.

Free Agent (and Other) Moves

The biggest outside move by the Ravens, of course, was trading three draft picks to Buffalo for McGahee to replace Jamal Lewis.

The Ravens filled the holes left by the departed Pashos and outside linebacker Adalius Thomas by promoting from within, re-signing Jarret Johnson (three years, $13 million) and moving Terry in line for a starting position at either tackle. They also held onto backup running back Musa Smith, who should be decent cover for McGahee and Mike Anderson.

Moves the Ravens could make in the remainder of the off-season: Signing a fullback to replace Ovie Mughelli, who got Ovie-paid (in Baltimore's eyes) by the Falcons. A backup defensive tackle (Aubrayo Franklin left for the Niners) and a backup defensive back might also help.

Draft Needs

Wading through the mock drafts, the Ravens, picking 29th as they are, of course are a tough team to project, but the main thinking seems to be offensive line.

As was detailed above, Baltimore is in a transition period with the line, not knowing the future of Jonathan Ogden and getting ready to mix in more young players with a new franchise back. There is little depth at tackle, so a guy who has been mentioned more than once is Justin Blalock, a 6-foot-4, 329-pound Texas Longhorn who started 51 straight games in college and was an all-American last season.

Also mentioned have been Auburn guard Ben Grubbs (6-3, 314), described as an "old-school mauler," and USC center Ryan Kalil (6-3, 291), who anchored the Trojans' line.

With Adalius Thomas gone, outside linebacker/defensive end is also a possibility, for depth if nothing else. That means Purdue's Anthony Spencer (6-3, 266) and Georgia's Charles Johnson (6-2, 272).

Cincinnati Bengals

The big story on Action News, of course, is the eight-game suspension of wide receiver Chris Henry, which came down April 10 from the commissioner's office. While avoiding the fate of "See you in 2008" Pac-Man Jones, Henry is going to suffer, but less certain is how much this will hurt Cincinnati's offense.

Henry did find the end zone nine times among his 37 catches, but ranked 48th overall in DPAR and -- maybe more importantly, given his playing time -- also only 41st in DVOA among wide receivers. The overall health and lawfulness of Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh far outweigh the availability of Henry in determining the Bengals' level of success.

Here, let T.J. tell it. How much concern do you have? "No concern, zero," Houshmandzadeh told the Cincinnati Enquirer when asked about a possible Henry suspension. "If Chris gets suspended, it's just two options: Either me and Chad would just do more, because we can, or someone would step in and try to do what Chris is doing." Given that the Bengals also lost Kelley Washington, there is a depth issue, but the team is counting on guys like Tab Perry and Antonio Chatman to come back from injuries.

The bigger impact on the 2007 Bengals will be felt in the defense and in Carson Palmer's play after having a full off-season to prepare. Palmer was a Pro Bowl backup, played in all 16 games, and threw for 4,000 yards (a Bengals first), all after tearing up his knee in the 2005 playoffs. The slow early-season comeback from that injury is the main reason why his DPAR and DVOA numbers dipped from the Manning stratosphere all the way down to top-five in the league.

An offense that starts with Palmer, Rudi Johnson, Chad Johnson, and Houshmandzadeh already has a leg up in lots of games -- not least in keeping the defense off the field. One Bengals priority cited is to improve on third down. According to traditional NFL stats, Cincinnati converted 35.8 percent of the time on third down in 2006, compared to 41.7 percent for opponents. What do FO stats say? Yeppers ... the Bengals offense was 23d on third down (compared to fourth overall). That indicates room for even more improvement on that side of the ball.

Free Agent Moves

An interesting piece in the Enquirer pointed out that the Bengals' top seven cap numbers are all draft picks of the team, and six of them have received restructured deals or contract extensions. (Defensive end Justin Smith, who has been franchise-tagged this off-season, is the exception.) The headline: "Bengals prefer to pay for performance." This is all to the good as far as player development, but reading between the lines, it also can mean: "We did almost nothing this off-season."

Putting the tag on Smith means paying $8.6 million to a pass rusher who has not yet reached 10 sacks in a season. Robert Geathers -- who did manage 10.5 sacks -- did get a long-term deal at defensive end. Also within the team, they held onto tight end Reggie Kelly (three years, $9 million) and third-down back Kenny Watson. But guard Eric Steinbach and defensive tackle Shaun Smith moved within the division to Cleveland, safety Kevin Kaesviharn left for New Orleans, and wide receiver Kelley Washington (New England) and tight end Tony Stewart (Oakland) also departed.

Bringing in center Alex Stepanovich from Arizona was the entirety of their pickups from outside the team, and as of this writing it was possible guard Stacy Andrews, a restricted free agent, could be lured away by the New York Jets. The Bengals would get a second-round pick if Andrews signs with the Jets.

Draft Needs

Defense seems to be the priority for the Bengals, and rightly so. Their major team needs are all on that side of the ball, especially at linebacker, cornerback, and defensive tackle.

The majority of the mocks lean toward cornerback for Cincinnati, mostly citing the team's tie for 31st in pass defense last year in traditional NFL stats. DVOA ranked the Bengals slightly better, at 28th, but that's not good either. With Tory James also gone this off-season, and second-year man Johnathan Joseph moving in to start opposite disappointing Deltha O'Neal, depth is an issue. Among the cornerbacks mentioned are Michigan's Leon Hall (5-11, 193, team record for pass deflections), Pitt's Darrelle Revis (6-0, 197, also a punt returner), and Arkansas' Chris Houston (5-11, 185, came out a year early).

Linebacker, a source of much pain in years past -- see Odell Thurman and David Pollack -- is also a big hole, throwing in the release of Brian Simmons to the mix. Two guys who could fit the bill at the Bengals' draft spot: Miami's Jon Beason (6-0, 236) and Florida State's Lawrence Timmons (6-3, 232).

Cleveland Browns

Among the boatload of defenders Cleveland has been bringing in under coordinator Todd Grantham is a curious find in former Bengals defensive tackle Shaun Smith. Smith, a 6-foot-2 325-pounder going into his fourth season, was a restricted free agent. The Browns gave him a four-year, $8 million contract after Smith played in just 34 games in three seasons, including seven starts, with 46 career tackles (according to NFL.com) and zero sacks.

Smith is tagged as the eventual replacement for Ted Washington, and after playing in the 4-3 for Cincinnati will man the middle for Cleveland, perhaps spelling Orpheus Roye or Robaire Smith (another new signee) at end.

The Browns' aim here is to stuff the run, instead of getting the stuffing knocked out of them, as in 2006. Cleveland was 29th in the league against the run according to traditional stats, yielding 142.2 yards per game and 14 touchdowns. FO's take? About the same. The Browns defensive line graded out to Adjusted Line Yards of 4.71, ranked 27th in the league. Getting more specific, on runs up the middle the Browns were 25th.

The addition of Washington last year was supposed to make the run defense better, and it was, but not nearly by enough. The 2005 edition of the Browns were atrocious up the middle, ranking 31st in the league. Overall, they gave up fewer Adjusted Line Yards, 4.49, but were worse relative to the league, 28th.

So, bully for Smith, who was on the Dallas practice squad in 2003, played in five games for the Saints in 2004, and then joined Cincinnati. Nice payday for an itinerant big guy. Whether that translates into more help up the middle remains to be seen. (The Bengals ranked 16th last season in Adjusted Line Yards, 27th up the middle.)

Free Agent Moves

There have been plenty of moves in Cleveland this off-season, none more expensive than the plucking of guard Eric Steinbach from Cincinnati for a seven-year deal that could be worth $49.5 million and guarantees him $17 million. Early in the off-season the Browns also locked up two of their own offensive linemen in Hank Fraley and Lennie Friedman.

Here's a typo I couldn't resist repeating: "He has a definite competitive steak in him and he plays the game until the whistle blows. He plays hard and plays physical." -- Browns offensive line coach Steve Marshall on Steinbach, from CBS Sportsline. Mmmmm ... steak.

The Browns added another former division rival when they signed Jamal Lewis away from Baltimore, eventually trading Reuben Droughns to the Giants to make room. Think of good things to say here ... Lewis may be a slight upgrade from Droughns, but he's no savior and is likely more a one-year stopgap. He, uh, knows how to win, though. So he's got that going for him.

Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham -- the defensive line coach in Houston from 2002 to 2004 -- brought in three former Texans in defensive end Robaire Smith, outside linebacker Antwan Peek and cornerback Kenny Wright. Smith replaces Alvin McKinley, who signed in Denver. Peek will get some time rushing the passer, and Wright should be the No. 3 cornerback behind Leigh Bodden and perhaps Gary Baxter, who is still rehabbing from tearing both patellar tendons.

The team also added former 49ers safety Mike Adams following the departure of Brian Russell, who landed in Seattle.

Draft Needs

The Browns are a team with many needs, and the tops are probably quarterback and running back. With the third pick, both should be eminently available. Stepping up their pursuit of Trent Green does not necessarily preclude the team from drafting a JaMarcus Russell or a Brady Quinn should one be available, but for the sake of argument, think of the team for this year and long term under the following scenarios:

1) Trade for Green, draft Adrian Peterson, add another quarterback later in the draft.
2) Draft Russell or Quinn, paired with Jamal Lewis, add another back later in the draft.
3) Stick with Charlie Frye/Derek Anderson and draft Peterson -- or whoever.

They could go any way. Sure, it would be sweet to have a competent quarterback behind center this season, with a young stud like Peterson and an old hand like Lewis rushing the ball. But are the Browns going to win this season? Or, do they learn with Russell or Quinn and stick it out with Lewis? (Under this scenario, you hope someone loves Calvin Johnson enough to ensure one of the QBs is there at three.)

The Browns' quest for Green will likely last until draft day, so don't expect anything soon.

Certainly the need for a long-term quarterback is paramount, but this is a team with big holes and many needs. They will probably seek help in the defensive backfield later in the draft, because of the injuries suffered last year and the general lack of depth.

Pittsburgh Steelers

This sounds like one of those college "media days" or something, but according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, at the NFL meetings in Arizona in late March, the coaches in the AFC North picked the Ravens to repeat as division champions in 2007. "They're the division champs," said Cincinnati's Marvin Lewis. "Last year was the Steelers, right?"

Well, no, Marvin, your Bengals won the division 2005, but we get it.

The Steelers' new head man Mike Tomlin didn't step right out and pick Pittsburgh, instead asking, "Are you kidding? Who would you like me to say?"

As Tomlin settles in and tries to win over the veterans on his side -- remember, Alan Faneca revealed himself as a big Russ Grimm fan, special teams captain Sean Morey signed elsewhere, and Joey Porter was dumped -- the departure of center Jeff Hartings has left a hole in the offensive line.

In that vein, the Steelers' one big outside arrival this off-season was Sean Mahan, who formerly manned the line in Tampa Bay. Mahan, who played left guard last year, is set to compete with Chukky Okobi and Kendall Simmons at center. Simmons would move over from right guard to play center, and Okobi was Hartings' longtime backup.

Pittsburgh slumped from 12th to 22nd in run-blocking last season, according to Adjusted Line Yards, and from 23rd to 25th in pass protection. Mahan is coming from a team in the Buccaneers who were 28th in rushing and 10th in pass protection.

Since runs up the middle were the Steelers' bright spot last year (13th overall, 4.43 Adjusted Line Yards), making up for Hartings' production might be key. And the willingness to move Simmons might mean two spots are available, not just one.

And one more from an AFC North coach in Arizona, on the shift to Tomlin: "Thank God, Bill [Cowher] and I never went toe-to-toe on the 50-yard line in front of anybody because he'd probably kick my butt," Billick said. "But it's the players, it's still going to be Pittsburgh-Baltimore; I can't imagine that changing dramatically."

Free Agent Moves

Mahan was brought in, but there was a lack of big-ticket signings, which is nothing new in Pittsburgh. The hiring of Tomlin -- and, indirectly, the loss of Grimm and Ken Whisenhunt -- was the biggest change to happen to this team in the off-season.

Among its own players, Najeh Davenport returned to be a backup running back to Willie Parker, and defensive backs Tyrone Carter and Chidi Iwuoma (a special-teams star) came back.

It's Tomlin, his work with defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau and his enthusiasm for the job, who will make the most difference. Besides Ben Roethlisberger, of course, who is the straw that stirs the drink. A strong return from Big Ben will take the place of any missed free-agent signings.

Hey, listen to Ken Whisenhunt, who seems never to have a shortage of opinions of his former team: "I think there is a culture there with the identity of the team, certainly with coach Cowher there a number of years, and they have been successful with that. I would anticipate they would continue with that same mentality with how they play football." Thanks, uh, ex-coach!

Draft Needs

The release of Joey Porter means that Pittsburgh could use some help at outside linebacker or pass rusher. Clark Haggans and James Harrison return, but the mock drafts mostly center on pass rushers, most notably Georgia defensive end Charles Johnson, Nebraska defensive end Adam Carriker, Florida defensive end Jarvis Moss, and Florida State linebacker Lawrence Timmons.

Moss (6-6, 251) was "the next Jevon Kearse" when he arrived at Florida, but a staph infection after a pelvis injury kept him off the field for most of three seasons, until he returned in 2005. He started only 13 times in 26 games but was credited with 87 tackles and 15 sacks. Johnson (6-2, 272) left Georgia after his junior year after only starting one season, and being named "only" second-team all-SEC in 2006. Carriker (6-6, 292) probably brings the best resume of all, having been named the Big Twelve defensive lineman of the year and a third-team all-American. Timmons (6-3, 232), listed as a linebacker, started only one season for the Seminoles and had eight career sacks.

Outside of the pass rush, the Steelers could look for depth on the offensive line -- Faneca and Simmons are in the final year of their contracts, and Simmons could be moving to center. Running back also is a bit of a void past Parker and Davenport, although Verron Haynes could come back if his injured knee heals.

Coming this weekend: AFC South by Alex Carnevale.

FO thanks Jeff Bathurst, a former copy editor at the sports desk of the Philadelphia Inquirer, for helping us out with Four Downs this off-season.

Posted by: Guest on 12 Apr 2007

75 comments, Last at 30 May 2007, 5:16pm by WhoDey

Comments

1
by Chris (not verified) :: Thu, 04/12/2007 - 10:33am

Once again every team needs to look to replace what they lost ( and not what they already needed). Of Course the Ravens have to draft somebody to fill in for Adalis Thomas. There is no chance anybody on their roster could fill in for him. Why would they ever want to draft a receiver and improve that hole, when they lost Adalis Thomas and a guard.

I'm not trying to pick on Jeff Bathurst because I think he did a good job and everybody does it.

2
by Justin Zeth (not verified) :: Thu, 04/12/2007 - 10:48am

Kendall Simmons at center??? Are they TRYING to get Roethlisberger killed?

3
by Pat (not verified) :: Thu, 04/12/2007 - 11:00am

I can't see how the Browns don't draft a quarterback in the first round this year. Even if they want to cling to the belief that high drafted running backs are worth it, if you need a QB and RB, you draft the QB first.

I always feel bad for the Browns. They're not drafting bad. They don't have bad coaching. This year was the first year I thought they've made a bad free agent move (with Lewis). It's just like that franchise is freaking cursed.

4
by lobolafcadio (not verified) :: Thu, 04/12/2007 - 11:14am

The Browns could go with Thomas, you know, kinda "you build your team from the trenches...". And how long is the honeymoon for a coach nowadays ? Two seasons ? If you don't win in your third year, good-bye ?
I like what Crennel did in Cleveland (even to bet on a promising young QB who didn't deliver in his first starting year). I hope he will have time (still two or three seasons) to let his team grow up.

5
by Tom Kelso (not verified) :: Thu, 04/12/2007 - 11:18am

Interesting how you don't mention Slayton, who most mocks have going to Baltimore, at all. You figure he'll be gone by then?

Trying to figure how to diagree with Chris wihtout taking the thread off the rails -- O-line and corner are bigger holes for the Ravens than receiver. The receivers had no problem catching the passes -- when they were thrown to.

6
by James, London (not verified) :: Thu, 04/12/2007 - 11:47am

Can Crennel & Savage afford to take a QB? That means another season before the Browns contend, and neither of them might last that long.
Of course, it's unlikely that the Browns will contend anyway, but both the HC and the GM are under pressure so they might feel compelled to try.

Oh, any Bengals fans have any idea on Pollack and Thurman?

7
by Karl Cuba (not verified) :: Thu, 04/12/2007 - 11:48am

I would have thought that the Steelers would take a long look at Ryan Kalil but he probably doesn't represent value for them with their first rounder.

What I really don't understand though is why so many people are pedicting that they'll take Carriker. If they are staying in a 3-4 then they have Smith and Keisel to play end, so they need a replacement for Porter. If they're moving to a Tampa 2 because of Tomlin then they would need a speed rusher to play right end, with Keisel or Smith playing under tackle and left end. But in neither scenario do they need Carriker. (If the niners don't take him at 11, the next side that would probably take him is Tennesse)

8
by Israel (not verified) :: Thu, 04/12/2007 - 12:04pm

What I really don’t understand though is why so many people are pedicting that they’ll take Carriker.

The logic seems to be that you don't pass up the next Aaron Smith. And that the rush OLB can be Kiesel.

9
by Karl Cuba (not verified) :: Thu, 04/12/2007 - 12:10pm

Israel, I can't agree with you there. There's nothing wrong with the Aaron Smith they've got and Kiesel weighs 285 lbs. They need a speed rusher not another power end and playing Kiesel as a LB would put quite a lot of coverage responsibilty onto Haggans, which is hardly his best use.

10
by Joe T. (not verified) :: Thu, 04/12/2007 - 12:19pm

#6 - I agree. They should try to land a veteran QB or none at all. Of course now the vet QB pool has really dried up, and they have to contend with Miami for Trent Green. They should've tried to get one last season. Phil Savage must be a little slow, because it sounds like they are going to shoot themselves in the foot whatever they do at the QB position. Draft Quinn, and between him, Frye and Anderson you only have a few years of experience. It would be beneficial to have a mentor QB at the #2 slot. Pick up Trent Green or Quinn, and you are liable to shake the confidence of your other two QBs who were competing for the starting job last season, and either of whom have potential to blossom into capable starters.

I actually think Kerry Collins might be a good fit in Cleveland as a #2.

Brady Quinn could be the next Bernie Kosar, but Crennel is on the hot seat this season.

11
by throughthelookingglass (not verified) :: Thu, 04/12/2007 - 12:22pm

Watching the Steelers last year, I think they might have a hole at RG even if Simmons stays there.

“They’re the division champs,� said Cincinnati’s Marvin Lewis. “Last year was the Steelers, right?�

Hahahahah

Way to stay classy with Najeh Davenport, backup running back :)

12
by Pat (not verified) :: Thu, 04/12/2007 - 1:00pm

#6: I think they can. The main thing they need to show is improvement from last year, and that, they'll get from the defense, rather than the offense - along with a slightly easier schedule. A quarterback in the top part of the draft also gives them the beginnings of a solid offense. It's entirely possible that Quinn, for instance, halfway through the season could come in (even behind a poor line) and perform well.

In some ways, Cleveland this year mirrors Arizona last year. Third year under a coach, consistent mediocrity so far in terms of wins/losses, but looking more carefully, the beginnings of an actual football team are there. Now, considering Green got fired, maybe that's not the best analogy - but I actually think firing Green was a mistake. By the end of the season, the Cardinals were starting to be an actual viable football team, and heck, if only the second half of the season counted, the Cardinals would've won the NFC West.

If Crennel/Savage can avoid being fired, it's the best route to take.

13
by Ryan Mc (not verified) :: Thu, 04/12/2007 - 1:09pm

re 6: both Pollack and Thurman look like long shots to contribute much this season.

Pollack is saying that he might be able to play again if he played DE rather than LB, but still no official clearance from doctors.

Thurman is eligible to rejoin the team in June, but who knows exactly what kind of shape he will be in mentally or physically. All indications are that the team is planning on Ahmad Brooks being MLB this year, and any contribution from Thurman would be a bonus.

14
by Cooper (not verified) :: Thu, 04/12/2007 - 1:24pm

Re: Thurman and Pollack

Pollack is apparently well on his way to a full recovery, and I think is quoted as saying he'd like to play again, but wants to play defensive end to decrease the risk of being injured again. If he plays at all, it will be in the last couple of games.

No news that I know of has come out in quite a while about Thurman. Lewis has pretty much stopped mentioning his name, but I have to think he'll be able to compete for a position, meaning we'll find out rather quickly if he's been keeping in shape during his time off. If he is in shape by the beginning of the season you have to think he'd at least see spot duty.

15
by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Thu, 04/12/2007 - 1:35pm

Re #10
Slight problem: Kerry Collins has re-signed with the Titans. If the Browns wanted to, say, swap first round picks, I'd imagine Mike Reinfeldt would make him available pretty quickly. Jeff George is still out there, though.

16
by mawbrew (not verified) :: Thu, 04/12/2007 - 1:55pm

Re: 12

I largely agree. Noticeable improvement from last year is the key. I'd also add that I think Crennel is more likely to get fired than Savage. Crennel's loyalty to Carthon burned up all of his capital. Savage I think still has some (though not Millenesque) support.

If they stay at #3, I'd guess that a QB is the pick. Thomas is tempting, but they have spent so much in FA on the OL during the past two years that I don't think they'll go that way. If they move down, it might still be a QB but might also be Peterson.

Re: 13

That sounds really bizarre. Pollack can't play at LB because of risk to his neck, but he could play at DE? What doctor came up with that advice, the dude on the Simpsons?

17
by mawbrew (not verified) :: Thu, 04/12/2007 - 2:12pm

By the way, I don't think the Browns have really soured on Frye (he's only started a season's worth of games and behind an OL that was highly skilled only at getting QBs injured), but they know he has to improve considerably (reducing his picks, throwing to Jurivicious occasionally) to be their long term answer.

I think their rationale is similar to San Diego's when they acquired Rivers. If the incumbant develops, great. If he doesn't, we got the next guy already on the roster.

18
by jonnyblazin (not verified) :: Thu, 04/12/2007 - 2:13pm

re: 5
Steve Slayton? I don't think he's in the draft this year. Next year should be the year of the RB. (I guess this year is the year of the OL/WR).

I'm not sure if the Ravens are shopping for a FB, they could just go with Justin Green and draft someone in the later rounds. Green apparently is more of a finisse FB (athletic, who can catch passess in the flats) as opposed to a knock-you-on-your-ass (kyoya) FB like Mughelli. He would fit in with the more spread 'em out offense McGahee can function in, not the smashmouth type Jamal Lewis was limited to.

re: 1
The Ravens almost always have a replacement LB waiting in the wings who steps in when someone leaves for greener pastures, this year it's Jarrett Johnson. (I think the Ravens locked him up for more than 3 years, but there was some conflicting reports on the contract length) Johnson is a hard nosed player who can rush the passer and is tough against the run but doesn't have the coverage skills that AD had. Bart Scott does, so he'll assume some of Thomas's responsibilities.

While I think it would be prudent for the Ravens to draft OL early, Newsome is just so damn good at drafting defensive players, so I wouldn't be disapointed if he got another pass rusher or CB early on.

19
by Joe T. (not verified) :: Thu, 04/12/2007 - 2:20pm

#15 - Man, the free agent/trade bait QBs this year have been pretty dreadful. Jeff Garcia was the best available, and no way in hell would he subject himself to the Browns O-line again. Jake Plummer had a hissy because they dealt him to TB. Joey Harrington was available, but he's not starter material. I would say that Plummer and Trent Green were the only viable starters available, I think Garcia shined in a good situation but might not do so well with the weaker weapons in TB. Fumblepepper might be available if Green goes to Miami, but I can't see him in a Browns jersey, nor can I see Cleveland settling for him when they could draft Fumblepepper II or Kosar II.

20
by Tom Kelso (not verified) :: Thu, 04/12/2007 - 2:29pm

OK, johnny, I'm blanking here. What is the name of that tackle from Central Michigan then? I thought it was Joe Slayton.

21
by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Thu, 04/12/2007 - 2:32pm

Staley. Steve Slayton is the West Virginia RB, and was a true soph this season, so he couldn't have declared. Yes, I was confuzzled, too.

22
by calbuzz (not verified) :: Thu, 04/12/2007 - 2:38pm

#12 - You mean Greene ISN'T who we thought he was?
Since when?

23
by Ryan Mc (not verified) :: Thu, 04/12/2007 - 2:52pm

re 16: thanks for the laugh! I think Pollack came up with the whole DE-good/ LB-bad prognosis himself...which is probably why he isn't a doctor. (or maybe he just doesn't like LB and is trying to get back to his college position?)

24
by Karl Cuba (not verified) :: Thu, 04/12/2007 - 3:00pm

12: "if only the second half of the season counted, the Cardinals would’ve won the NFC West"

Well the Niners and the Cards both went 4-4 over the last eight games, though the Cards did sweep the division. If you take the last 9 games then the 49ers would win 5-4 to 4-5.

25
by Chris (not verified) :: Thu, 04/12/2007 - 3:10pm

18- Is Ozzie just so damn good at drafting D talent or is there an additave effect when you pool all that talent together?

Sort of like if you were thrown in to play receiver or tight end with the colts ( or running back for that matter)? Do you think Fletcher would even see the field on half the teams in the league?

Being a running back on a offense with no talent sucks. Being even a role player on a good unit should enhance your value. As the Raiders and Redskins have found out in the past 10 or so years.

Then again, being a one man defense can sure get your tackles up on a bad team... see Hardy Nickerson in Tampa.

26
by Tom Kelso (not verified) :: Thu, 04/12/2007 - 4:01pm

D'oh!

Right, Staley -- Slayton will come in handy in a year or two, when McGahee's contract DOES become overpayment. So. why not Staley, Jeff?

Chris has a point - as the Rams, Cardinals and Patriots can attest. Kim Herrring and Duane Starks (or Dexter Jackson, for you Buc fans out there) certainly didn't bring their performnce with them. But that means Rex Ryan has a point when he says that Jarret Johnson will be a more than adequate fill-in for AT -- and I'm on record as saying I wish they had kept him.

27
by Mike D (not verified) :: Thu, 04/12/2007 - 4:11pm

25

There may be an additive effect to joining the Colts offense but the Colts also invest heavily in it by drafting skill positions early and often. Harrison, Wayne, Addai, and Clark are all first-round guys.

I'm not at all debating your general thesis but it's not as if the core of the offense are mid-round scrubs being saved by the team...

28
by James, London (not verified) :: Thu, 04/12/2007 - 4:25pm

#13 & 14,

Thanks guys. Last I'd heard, Pollack was never going to play again, and Thurman I've heard nothing of since his suspension.

As for the Browns, noticeable improvement should be the criteria on which they're judged. Whether that's the case or not remains to be seen. (And is something Martin O'Neill should be taking careful notice of).

I don't see any college ball, so I've no idea who the Browns should draft. I've seen Quinn & Russell compared to John Elway, Ryan Leaf and everyone in between. What I am pretty sure of is that "This player might get me one more win this year and save my job" isn't a great selection criterion.

29
by mawbrew (not verified) :: Thu, 04/12/2007 - 4:58pm

How the Steelers respond to all the coaching changes seems like the biggest unknown in this division. They still have the talent that made them SB champs less than two years ago and they could perform at that level again this year. But if things start poorly ....

30
by Chris (not verified) :: Thu, 04/12/2007 - 5:39pm

27- What about Lewis, Mccalister, Reed, Suggs, Ngota?

I wasn't talking about the position the guys were selected in either. If you throw Terrel Suggs on the ravens, ( where there isn't as much focus on him), he can theoretically be a better pass rusher than if here were a 49er and the opposing offense might double him, or keep a TE to chip him etc.

The fact that the Ravens already have a solid core, let's them play with house money... same with the colts. If Joseph Addai were drafted in the first round by the Arizona Cardinals or Cleveland Browns, do you think he would have had that kind of success? He could have been a bust in cleveland, but nearly a super bowl MVP in Indy.

The thing that makes it all work in Indy is that #1 pick that's coaching the offense right now. He makes the sum worth greater than the parts...

I'd say that's a harder thing to achieve on defense, but what Ray Lewis has done for years is about as close to you could come to that. A MLB might not even be as important to a defense as a stud CB or stud DE, but Ray Lewis is just nasty and it's his defense.

31
by Pat (not verified) :: Thu, 04/12/2007 - 6:30pm

Well the Niners and the Cards both went 4-4 over the last eight games, though the Cards did sweep the division.

Hence, the Cards would've won the division. :)

It's a silly stat, I know, but I was really surprised Green got fired, to be honest. I'm completely of the opinion that Green got himself fired at that press conference debacle - because by the end of the year, the Cardinals were starting to look with an actual future.

32
by NF (not verified) :: Thu, 04/12/2007 - 8:17pm

31:

I think Dennis Green was fired partly because of the disaster against the Bears and the scapegoating of the OC for his error in going to the running game, and partly because, even though he was probably the best coach the Cardinals have had for a while, his tenure has been marked by the complete failure to actually build an offensive line. If the line is average, Edge probably averages over 4 yards a carry, gets over 1,200 yards, and the Cardinals could very well make a run for division leader.

The front offices response has been to bring in the men they think are responsible for the sucess of Ben Roethlisberger, Willie Parker, and the Steelers offensive line, which I think confirms that Green was fired for a lack of confidence that he could build a good O-line.

33
by James C (not verified) :: Thu, 04/12/2007 - 8:35pm

#25

As though Tampa had hardly any good players alongside Hardy Nickerson when he played in Tampa Bay.

Just off the top of my head; Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks, John Lynch and Donnie Abraham. Other than those two/three probable hall of famers and the other guy who went to a few probowls he really was on his own.

34
by Random Bengals Fan (not verified) :: Thu, 04/12/2007 - 9:50pm

I'm really curious to see who ends up being the Bengals' starting MLB. Right now, it's Ahmad Brooks versus Caleb Miller. Brooks was at a serious disadvantage, when we first took him--he hadn't played football in a while, he was overweight, he missed most of camp (he was taken in the supplemental draft), etc. He has a lot of talent, but he's admitted that the coaches benched him because of his immaturity and unfamiliarity with our defensive system. (Which, as far as I can tell, involves not tackling and covering wide receivers by staying as far away from them as possible.)

Caleb Miller, on the other hand, has a good head for the game, but not a good body. He was at MLB when we went on our four-game winning streak (starting with NO), but he was benched because, ironically, his head wasn't in the game. Either some unknown off-field situation was distracting him, or he wasn't/isn't that obsessively motivated to succeed in the NFL. Brooks is bigger and more hard-hitting, and he's considered the favorite to win the job. Ironically, we did much better on defense when Brian Simmons wasn't playing. I wish I could remember where I saw the stat...

Losing Kaes really hurts us. With Dexter Jackson's injury history, our third safety is pretty important. Seventh-round special teams gunner Ethan Kilmer--who is, no joke, deceptively fast and very athletic--will eventually be a good safety for us, but it wasn't his position in college, so it'll take time for him to learn it. I think we'll get a corner and a safety on the first day. In my ideal world, we'd get Revis and Weddle, though I'd like to trade down to pick up a third, so we can also get a DT. (Officially, we only have one DT under 30 on the roster, Peko. Also-Samoan Jonathan Fanene is a hybrid DE/DT, and the fun-named Frostee Rucker has also been experimenting as a hybrid, but they're both listed as DEs.) If we do that, I doubt Revis will still be there, so it may be Ross or Houston.

Then again, if we trade Justin (or "Bustin," as some of us call him) for a second or third, I can see us taking a DE first, and then going CB/S. And the Andrews situation is win/win. If we keep him, we still have our best o-line backup (after all the injuries in that area, last season, that's important), and if we trade him, we get a second-round pick, and god knows we need all the picks we can get.

As for the Legend of Outlaw Chris Henry...we'll miss his TDs, but, I agree, I think our healing-up backup WRs (Tab Perry, Chatman, speedster Bennie Brazelle) should fill in okay. With Henry gone, you have a ton of guys fighting for the #6 spot (maybe #7, too, as we carried seven WRs, last season). Special teams specialist Glenn Holt, former college QB Reggie McNeal, and might-be-converted-to-HB Skylar Green. It'd help if we drafted a TE early on the second day, and if RB Chris Perry, who's quite a good receiver, can finally stay healthy. I wouldn't be surprised if we took a RB instead of a TE, or a WR in the last round.

As for Pollack being a DE...well, the Bengals' medical people are a bit, um, questionable. Chris Perry thinks one of his surgeries screwed him up, and Carson went outside of the organization when he was hurt, IIRC.

We may have a Center battle brewing, with Ghiaciuc, Stepanovich, and Ben Wilkerson, but I'm thinking the Ghiapet wins it easily. When he had to come in for Braham, starting in the second game, he struggled, but he improved as he went.

Losing Tory James should hugely help our pass defense. We'll also be helped if Deltha can get back to his '05 form, granted. Our first-round pick, Johnathan Joseph, did very well, though he kept dropping/missing what should have been easy INTs. He's been working on his hands and ball-awareness skills.

35
by Random Bengals Fan (not verified) :: Thu, 04/12/2007 - 9:58pm

Also, we need a backup for WSLB Landon Johnson. We're good at SSLB, we're developing former DE Eric Henderson as a backup to Rashad Jeanty, who contributed well as a starter in his rookie year.

36
by Chris (not verified) :: Thu, 04/12/2007 - 11:00pm

I was thinking of the Hardy Nickerson with 214 tackles in 1993. You know, with the 5-11 Bucs that gave up the 3rd most points in the league. You know... before the GM brought all those guys in for coach Fungy.

37
by Yaguar (not verified) :: Thu, 04/12/2007 - 11:39pm

27: Don't forget that LT Tarik Glenn is also a first round pick. Indianapolis offensive first rounders since 1996:

1996: Marvin Harrison
1997: Tarik Glenn
1998: Peyton Manning
1999: Edgerrin James
2001: Reggie Wayne
2003: Dallas Clark
2006: Joseph Addai

Basically, they pick offensive first-rounders perfectly.

Back to AFC North:
I think Pittsburgh rebounds next year, although I'm not sure they can close the talent gap with Baltimore. Obviously they're the 2006 Philadelphia of 2007. Everyone knows they're much better than their record of last season.

Oh, and if I were Cincinnati I would totally grab another offensive first rounder, and just keep stacking the offense. (You can tell that being a Colts fan has had an effect on me.)

38
by oldnumbersevne (not verified) :: Fri, 04/13/2007 - 12:46am

re: 1
The Ravens almost always have a replacement LB waiting in the wings who steps in when someone leaves for greener pastures, this year it’s Jarrett Johnson. (I think the Ravens locked him up for more than 3 years, but there was some conflicting reports on the contract length) Johnson is a hard nosed player who can rush the passer and is tough against the run but doesn’t have the coverage skills that AD had. Bart Scott does, so he’ll assume some of Thomas’s responsibilities.

While I think it would be prudent for the Ravens to draft OL early, Newsome is just so damn good at drafting defensive players, so I wouldn’t be disapointed if he got another pass rusher or CB early on.

:: jonnyblazin — 4/12/2007 @ 1:13 pm

I often think to myself when the Ravens lose a guy to free agency or injury, well whoever they plug in will be just as good, if not better. Newsome, Billick, et all, do a good job of finding defensive talent. They sort of remind me of the Steelers when they let Kevin Greene go, let Greg Lloyd go, just plug a guy in, and he does the job.

For my fellow Steelers fans; Was Grimm a great coach who got as much as he could out of that line, or something else?

It seemed to me the Steelers were a few turnovers away from ten wins last season. I am not sure what they will be in the upcoming season. New coach, Arians running the offense, just alot of turnover coaching-wise. Dear God, let it work!

39
by Cooper (not verified) :: Fri, 04/13/2007 - 1:13am

Oh, and if I were Cincinnati I would totally grab another offensive first rounder, and just keep stacking the offense.

I know you're joking, but I would honestly not be upset or disappointed with an offensive pick if it's a guy who falls (please be Peterson...). I know nothing about Greg Olsen but by all accounts he could play a Dallas Clark role pretty well. Even Marshawn Lynch was projected fairly high before this downward push on running backs. Marvin's 1st round picks have been good players so far, even though some have been injured.

40
by Pat (not verified) :: Fri, 04/13/2007 - 3:45am

and partly because, even though he was probably the best coach the Cardinals have had for a while, his tenure has been marked by the complete failure to actually build an offensive line.

That's why I thought his firing was premature. It actually looked like, by the end of the year, they had a half-decent offensive line.

Then again, maybe that was the point: "quick, it looks like he found 5 decent offensive linemen! fire him before he can screw them up!" (Granted, they just lost one of them, but...)

41
by Penrose 10,000 (not verified) :: Fri, 04/13/2007 - 4:06am

So he’s got that going for him. Which is nice.

42
by Ilanin (not verified) :: Fri, 04/13/2007 - 6:39am

People who have read my comments in various places will be aware of my opinions on the Steelers' line. In precis:

Mediocre at best. It's never ranked above 23 in ASR whilst Russ Grimm has coached it; though the run blocking is somewhat better and occasionally even top 10. Still not really good enough given how many high picks have been spent there. It will be interesting to see what the new line coach makes of things. Either way, a new tackle is probably required from the
draft.

As for the other needs, well, Tomlin has said he thinks that Ike Taylor has an enormous amount of potential and appears to have made it his pet project to turn #24 into a shutdown corner. His background is as a DB coach, so we'll see. Of course either way if the corners are still going to line up with a 5-7 yard cushion we're still going to get burned on underneath stuff, and Bryan "pass interference" McFadden isn't exactly what I look for in a starter either, so CB is still a need.

OLB is the big need, though it was the big need before Porter was let go because the pass-rushing was lousy last year too. Brett Keisel is being given reps at linebacker in mini-camp, and I appear to be the only Steelers fan who thinks this is a bad idea and we should just let a great DE be a great DE.

The Steelers need to draft the best player at whichever of these three positions on the first day.

43
by Chris (not verified) :: Fri, 04/13/2007 - 9:54am

37- Don't you think that additive effect has anything to do with it? If your a LB and your front 4 sucks, your going to have pulling guards in your face making your job a whole lot more difficult. If your on a good defense with other good players it's easier to shine. Same thing as being on a good functional offense. Do you think Edge got a lot worse as a player when he moved to arizona, or that his offense isn't as good?

41, what is wrong with a 5-7 yard cushon? That's actually very standard.

44
by MRH (not verified) :: Fri, 04/13/2007 - 11:32am

I can't agree with the support for Green based on his team's 4-4 finish.

ARI was 26th in DVOA (-18.1%), down from 22nd (-12.3%) in 2005. Weighted DVOA did show some improvement, to 20th (-7.3%). You can focus how Green turned the team into a sub-mediocre squad in the 2nd half or how his team got worse from year-to-year. I would argue that weak franchises are willing to accept 3rd year coaches who flog their teams up to 20th in the second half of the third season. That would be a typical Arizona reaction. Instead, the ARI FO has decided to not settle for the prospect of mediocrity or worse.

Let's look at those last 8 games, too. They were 4-1 against teams ranked 20th or lower in DVOA, beating DET, STL, SEA, and SF while losing to MIN. And they were 0-3 against teams ranked 18th or higher (DAL, DEN, SD).

They got blown out AT HOME by DAL and DEN (both 17 point losses) - and both teams were starting inexperienced QBs, the kind that should be vulnerable on the road. The seven-point road loss to SD looks better until you realize that the Chargers were ahead 27-7 until late in the 3rd, and they sat Tomlinson and Rivers (who both got dinged up) for the 4th quarter.

So count me as unimpressed by that 4-4 finish.

45
by Chris (not verified) :: Fri, 04/13/2007 - 11:39am

Are you saying that " The Cardinals are who we thought they were"? BOOM.

46
by Chris (not verified) :: Fri, 04/13/2007 - 11:40am

If you want to crown their asses?

47
by DWL (not verified) :: Fri, 04/13/2007 - 11:46am

Chris,

Looking at the additive affect –

The question you really seem to be asking is: is the interaction between players simply additive or is it synergistic?

It’s fairly obvious that being a LB w/ a poor front 4 is going to make your job tougher. The question is, with a great front 4 are you able to exceed your natural abilities or at least maximize them consistently? Marvin Harrison has been a great receiver in part b/c of Peyton Manning. What would Harrison look like if Carson Palmer were the QB in Indy. If Harrison performed about the same, then the results would suggest an additive model; however, if he were for some reason dramatically worse, then a synergistic effect would be in effect.

Essentially, this is the fundamental question that the good folks at this site are trying to answer. In the ultimate team game, how do you reliably asses and measure individual performance?

48
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Fri, 04/13/2007 - 11:58am

"What would Harrison look like if Carson Palmer were the QB in Indy. If Harrison performed about the same, then the results would suggest an additive model; however, if he were for some reason dramatically worse, then a synergistic effect would be in effect."

Except Palmer has proven to be almost as good as Peyton. If you were to ask that question with Trent Dilfer, it would make sense.

Of course it has somewhat of a synergistic affect. The fact that the Patriots defensive line is so dominant makes everyone else's job easier.

A good QB does the same.

49
by DWL (not verified) :: Fri, 04/13/2007 - 12:21pm

No, no, no.

Dilfer makes no sense what so ever to, and a dramatic drop off with Dilfer could suggest an additive model as well.

I chose Carson precisely b/c he has been relatively equal to Peyton. Therefore, a continued high level of performance from Harrison is expected, and if found suggests and additive model; however, if under Palmer a large drop occurred, it would suggest that the presence of Peyton manning allows Harrison to go above and beyond (synergistic)

Synergistic is probably not the best descriptor, the question really should be, what is the best model to describe the model (linear model or non-linear).

As QB (or defensive line) quality improves by X, does receiver (or linebacker corps) performance increase at steady rate, or does it increase in a non-linear way?

That is:
When playing together-
Peyton Manning = 100 on QBness and
Marvin Harrison = 100 in Receiverness

and

When playing together -
Carson Palmer = 90 in QBness
Marvin Harrison = 95 in receiverness

and

When playing together -
Trent Dilfer = 50 in QBness
Marvin Harrison = 75 in receiverness

Then it appears to be a linear relationship.

However if:

When playing together-
Peyton Manning = 100 on QBness and
Marvin Harrison = 100 in Receiverness

and

When playing together -
Carson Palmer = 90 in QBness
Marvin Harrison = 95 in receiverness

and

When playing together -
Trent Dilfer = 50 in QBness
Marvin Harrison = 60 in receiverness

Then it appears to be a nonlinear relationship of some sort.

50
by Karl Cuba (not verified) :: Fri, 04/13/2007 - 1:25pm

"additive" is something that you add as a means of preserving food.

51
by DWL (not verified) :: Fri, 04/13/2007 - 1:37pm

That is one definition, albeit an irrelevant one

52
by Karl Cuba (not verified) :: Fri, 04/13/2007 - 1:40pm

Well it certainly doesn't mean cumulative which is the sense that you and Chris have been using it in. Unless this is another example of the US tendency to mangle the english language.

53
by Joe T. (not verified) :: Fri, 04/13/2007 - 1:49pm

#49 - Of course a receiver's value and effectiveness correlates to the passing strength/accuracy and effectiveness of the quarterback. The reverse would hold true as well, but the correlation might not be as strong, since the QB dictates how a receiver is integrated into the offense through receiver selection and check-down. I won't attempt to quantify it or provide an ambiguous ratio.

But I agree, Marvin Harrison owes a great deal of his success to Peyton Manning, and might not be such a celebrated receiver with Trent Dilfer throwing to him. To a lesser extent Manning owes some success to Harrison, success he might not have realized if he were throwing to Reche Caldwell or Ashley Lelie.

I would expect that correlation, if we could indeed quantify it, would be non-linear, since it involves intangibles such as player personality and the QB/WR adjusting to and meshing with one another.

54
by Joe T. (not verified) :: Fri, 04/13/2007 - 1:53pm

At the same time, this QB/WR correlation is speculative and not scientific in any sense. I would be skeptical of anyone who proposed a statistical simulation that would show how Marvin Harrison suffered in a Trent Dilfer led offense, or how Ashley Lelie would prosper with Peyton Manning throwing to him

Stats can be used to analyze and explain the past, predict trends for the present and immediate future, but are terrible for predicting hypothetical situations where the variables are juggled around.

55
by DWL (not verified) :: Fri, 04/13/2007 - 2:00pm

karl c, I think your wrong. see link

56
by DWL (not verified) :: Fri, 04/13/2007 - 2:00pm

or this link, crap

57
by Karl Cuba (not verified) :: Fri, 04/13/2007 - 2:03pm

I think that the title of the website points to american mangling of english. It should, in a more civilised sphere of existence be planetmathS.

58
by Luz (not verified) :: Fri, 04/13/2007 - 2:11pm

not to hijack the anal word debate but what are people's opinions on levi brown as a LT? i've seen speculation elsewhere that he'd make a better RT.

i say this with the hopes that steelers have a chance to draft him.

59
by Terry (not verified) :: Fri, 04/13/2007 - 2:38pm

49: Anecdotally --meaning.. from my football experience in my younger days-- I'd say there is both synergistic and additive relationships between players. To what level is probably unfeasible to reliably measure.

But look at it this way. In my youth, I was an Urlacher-style MLB, decent at taking on blocks but significantly better at running around them or better yet, straight to the ball. And IMO synergistically, for a player of this type, it is _not_ a football myth that "space-eating", large DL are especially valuable in maximizing this player's effectiveness.

However, one player's effectiveness does not necessarily completely correlate with the entire defence's. It could be possible that the team defence would superior with smaller, penetrating linemen, even should that cause the play of the quick Urlacher-MLB to suffer.

60
by Chris (not verified) :: Fri, 04/13/2007 - 3:17pm

47- Sometimes good old fashioned "naked eye" :)

What about when say, Peerless Price goes from snagging 90 balls in a season in buffalo, to a decoy ( or Hood Orniment as CJ would say) in Atlanta? Do you think his skills deminished that quickly or maybe he was catching passes from a RB disguised as a QB? What if he went to Indy and got plugged into coach Peytons offense?

The whole debate stems from saying ( Ozzie is great at picking defensive talent). The same statement could be said about Bill Polian and offenseive talent...

but is it true? What if instead you layed the foundation with a core of Manning/ Ray Lewis and then "surrounded" them with pretty good players ( but not as dominiant).

Putting pretty good players next to argueably the best ever would seem to lead to higher value. How have the Ravnens free agent departures done in the past? Peter Bouleware, Ed Hartwell, Duane Starks and on and on and on. What about the most recent example of Edge for the Colts?

61
by throughthelookingglass (not verified) :: Fri, 04/13/2007 - 3:43pm

karl c, I think your wrong.

High comedy. If that was intentional, well done.

52-This is our country!

62
by Brian (not verified) :: Fri, 04/13/2007 - 3:54pm

It's true no one can truly replace Adalius Thomas--his abilities are unique. I can't imagine the Ravens even trying. Their needs are on the O Line and at FB.

63
by Karl Cuba (not verified) :: Fri, 04/13/2007 - 4:30pm

61: This is the internet, international waters and all that.

64
by jonnyblazin (not verified) :: Fri, 04/13/2007 - 4:35pm

re: 48, 49
I don't think you can really say Palmer and Manning are relatively equal, or even that Palmer is almost as good. (Irrational Palmer/Manning debate?) Unlike the the Brady argument, you can't say Palmer's weapons are inferior to Manning's, and statistically Peyton is a significant notch above Carson. CP only has had one year where he was in the same stratosphere as Manning.
In the past 3 years:
Palmer's DVOA: 7%, 35%, 27%
Manning's DVOA 62%, 42%, 58%

65
by DWL (not verified) :: Fri, 04/13/2007 - 4:59pm

61 - regretably, it was knot, sometimes I'm a typing moron

66
by DWL (not verified) :: Fri, 04/13/2007 - 5:04pm

57 - does this help?

May not be able to create my contractions on demand, but in general, I tend to use the English language correctly.

67
by Josh (not verified) :: Fri, 04/13/2007 - 5:12pm

Re: Cleveland.

A lot of Clevelanders want Crennel gone, even though he has no talent there.

on the other hand, several winnable games were lost in part due to Crennel's coaching.

A bad o line, a bad qb, a bad running game make things worse for an average defense, which turns bad at the end of the game. It's best suited against power teams and not spread offenses.

68
by Chris (not verified) :: Fri, 04/13/2007 - 5:54pm

Does a bad offense always turn an average defense bad, or have you ever noticed opposing teams trying to "run out" the clock and not try and score points as aggressivly. I believe both circumstances exist. I think the Redskins are a decent example of this.

69
by Jerry (not verified) :: Fri, 04/13/2007 - 7:47pm

Re #47 et seq:

The question you really seem to be asking is: is the interaction between players simply additive or is it synergistic?

Here's a vote for synergistic (non-linear if you prefer). If an offense has one great receiver, the opposing defense can take steps to neutralize him (put their best cover corner on him, double-cover him, etc.) But give the offense a second great receiver, and a defense without similarly great talent will be in trouble. Either they'll take away one receiver and be burned by the other, or they'll divide their resources and both receivers will do better than either would have individually. And if you throw in a great running back, the offense will be even more successful.

This applies all over the field. How many great pass rushers can an offense double-team?

70
by Yaguar (not verified) :: Fri, 04/13/2007 - 8:27pm

I think I can prove that it's possible for offenses to be synergistic, although I can't prove that there's a significant effect in the current NFL.

Bear with me on my absurd example. Let's say there's a defense that consists of Champ Bailey, DeMarcus Faggins, and a bunch of high school players.

You have an offense that has Marvin Harrison and a bunch of high school players. Champ Bailey covers him pretty well, and you're pretty evenly matched against the defense. Now add Steve Smith to your offense. Whichever of the two receivers gets covered by DeMarcus Faggins, he's sure to get about two long touchdowns per game from burning the hapless Texans CB. Now add Chad Johnson to the offense. On every play, you've got one of the best five receivers in football covered by a high school player. Your quarterback could pass for 700 yards on the day.

In this admittedly absurd example, there's a huge synergy effect.

However, I can also come up with examples that show decreasing marginal returns (the exact opposite of synergy.) Michael Turner can't produce as much value for San Diego as he could for another team, because the Chargers can't run the ball 600 times a year. A team with terrible running backs (like Green Bay) would probably be able to get more value from him by giving him more carries. Turner is not producing synergy in San Diego.

71
by Karl Cuba (not verified) :: Fri, 04/13/2007 - 11:43pm

66: From this side of the Atlantic it still isn't "OK". However I realise that you "yankees" can't be held accountable for the mistakes of your kin. (Otherwise you'd be constantly apologising for electing Bush; . . . . twice)

:-)

72
by DschAf (not verified) :: Mon, 04/16/2007 - 9:10pm

RE: 64
"In the past 3 years:
Palmer’s DVOA: 7%, 35%, 27%
Manning’s DVOA 62%, 42%, 58"

Blazin, it's not really fair to compare Manning's best three years with Palmer's first three years, especially when you consider the injury he was coming off last year. Just glancing at the raw numbers, there is no "stratospheric" difference between their stats for seasons 1-3; in fact, Palmer's look a little better.

CP: 10769YDS 64Cmp% 78TD 43Int 91.5
PM: 12347YDS 60Cmp% 85TD 58Ind 85.5

73
by gleebergloben (not verified) :: Fri, 04/20/2007 - 11:46am

I think the Stillers will do a lot better than people think. Last year was an anomoly, and the departure of players won't have an impact. Hartings' knees were shot, and against the Chargers, he looked like a rookie. Porter still has gas in the tank, but is not what he once was. Whisenhunt was a good offensive coach, but I never thought Grimm was much to write home about.
Also, the Stillers are flying under a lot of radars this year; a lot of people are expecting another 8-8 year, and I think that bodes well for the team. And the Stillers needed new blood for a coach, which is why I'm glad they chose Tomlin over Whisenhunt and Grimm. The O-Line can't play much worse than they did last year, and they'll be much better this year. And as they O-Line goes, so will the Stillers.

74
by jonnyblazin (not verified) :: Sat, 04/21/2007 - 1:40am

re: 72
That's Palmer's first 4 years. Manning started as a rookie, Palmer rode the bench. But the point isn't that Palmer doesn't have the potential to become as good as Manning, it's that he quite simply isn't nearly as good as Manning is right now, and there certainly is no guarantee that he ever will reach that level, as so few QBs do.

75
by WhoDey (not verified) :: Wed, 05/30/2007 - 5:16pm

74: Palmer was coming off an injury, the year before his numbers were right there with Peyton. And the Bengals don't get 4 games a year vs. the Titans & the Texans.

I would say Palmer is just now reaching that level and has the potential to surpass it.