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28 Feb 2007

Four Downs: AFC South

by Aaron Schatz

Houston Texans

Never Badder than Bad

Last year, the Texans had a tough choice to make: either give David Carr an $8 million roster bonus, or cut him, admit their first-ever draft pick was a mistake, and start over. The Texans decided to pay the roster bonus in the hope that new head coach Gary Kubiak could tutor Carr and help him realize his potential.

One year later, that experiment seems to be over. Ignore the fact that Carr led the league with a completion percentage of 68.3 percent; that's simply a function of an offense that consisted almost entirely of short curls, quick slants, and passes to the flat. Carr finished 28th in our DVOA stats -- not bottom of the barrel, but below-average and clearly a hole in the offense.

The Texans have been talking to other teams about trading Carr, but they aren't getting many bites. Early rumors had them seeking a third-round pick, but if some team was going to give up a third-round pick for Carr, they would have done it already. For weeks now, stories out of Houston have gone back and forth. The Texans are trading Carr. The Texans are keeping Carr. The Texans are trying to trade Carr again.

In just the last week, we've had two completely contradictory reports. Adam Schefter of NFL Network says that "after watching the college quarterbacks this weekend and further assessing the potential free-agent class, the Houston Texans came away even more convinced that David Carr will be their quarterback this season." The Dayton Daily News says that Cleveland and Houston are discussing a Carr deal. (Why on earth the Browns would want that contract on their hands is another question, of course.)

The general assumption -- by general, I mean by every human being on the planet who watches professional football -- is that Carr would be replaced by Kubiak's former student Jake Plummer, who is sitting on the trading block over in Denver. So why hasn't it happened yet? Apparently, Plummer is actually considering retirement, rather than a year of defensive linemen sitting on top of him while he enjoys nine different flavors of grass and turf (not counting the preseason).

It's time for the Texans to move on at the quarterback position, and the best way to do that is without Carr. Based on last year's offensive game plan, it seems pretty clear that Kubiak has given up him, and keeping him for another years means another year of spinning the wheels and throwing more than 10 yards once a week. And it would be awkward if the former quarterback of the future has to keep the seat warm for the next quarterback of the future, be that Kevin Kolb or Drew Stanton or John Beck or whoever else the Texans feel is worth a gamble in the third or fourth round.

Who Could Leave?

Actually, as of this afternoon we know three players who are definitely leaving. Today, Houston released T Zach Wiegert, DT Seth Payne and WR Eric Moulds. If the Texans were just going to get one year of reasonable but unexciting veteran performance, and then suck up some salary cap ramifications, what was the point of that trade? From what I can tell on this page, Moulds is going to take up $1.25 million of dead space on the 2007 cap.

The Texans don't have any major players facing free agency. Then again, the Texans don't have that many major players to begin with. The free agents are generally a bunch of backups and replacement-level guys, who won't make big news whether they stay or go: DE N.D. Kalu, CB Dexter McCleon, LB Wali Rainer, OT Ephraim Salaam. RB Ron Dayne is the biggest name among the free agents, but he's nothing special either. TE Mark Bruener is useful for a team that needs a blocker and doesn't mind that he doesn't catch passes.

There is one interesting name among the Houston free agents: Antwan Peek. Peek showed potential as a pass-rushing linebacker when the Texans ran a 3-4, but was completely ineffective as a defensive end when they went to the 4-3. He could be a real sleeper if one of those genius defense-minded 3-4 head coaches -- Belichick, Mangini, Phillips -- can use him in a role that fits his strengths.

Finally, Chad Stanley: the Texans punt a lot and aren't very good at it, so they might as well try someone else in 2007.

Whom Should They Sign? (Projected Cap Space: $19.8 million*)

Seriously, what don't the Texans need? They have a promising young tight end but could use a second one. There's plenty of room for receiver depth behind Andre Johnson as well as cornerback depth behind Dunta Robinson. Eric Winston is going to play right tackle, Mario Williams is set at right defensive end, and the Texans rock at middle linebacker. Otherwise, every position is up for discussion.

The Texans don't need a position, they need an idea: the future. It isn't going to happen right away for this team, so they need to sign players who will still be useful if Kubiak can make a playoff run in 2008 or 2009.

Indianapolis Colts

Roll with the Rock Stars

It's funny how the media turns on a dime. On February 3, the Colts were a flawed team with a quarterback who couldn't win the big one. Two days later, everybody was writing "are the Colts the NFL's next dynasty" articles. Flipping channels one day, I came across ESPN's "Around the Horn" and actually heard some reporter answer the question "What are the Colts' chances of repeating" with "Not that large. I'd say 60 percent."

Did New England just drop out of the league or something? Has Baltimore decided not to play next season? Is there no chance that Pittsburgh or Cincinnati or Denver will rebound? Is San Diego suddenly worse than they were a few weeks ago? (Um, don't answer that.) On top of all this, we know that a couple of teams that we don't expect will come out of nowhere, and there is always that chance that one of the teams in the minor leagues (a.k.a. the NFC) will be able to win it all.

The Colts are definitely one of the top teams in the NFL, and they certainly have a chance to repeat. But that's what we thought about the Steelers a year ago, isn't it?

Life in the NFL is fragile. Imagine if that motorcycle crash involved Dwight Freeney, not Ben Roethlisberger. Or, imagine if Tommie Harris had missed most of the season but returned for Chicago in the playoffs, while Bob Sanders had been lost for the season and the postseason in Week 13. Would Indianapolis be the World Champions right now? (Heck, imagine if Reche Caldwell could find his contact lenses.)

But while a repeat is unlikely, it is more likely now than it was a couple of weeks ago. Once upon a time, before all this dynasty talk started, conventional wisdom said that the Colts had to win it all this year, because it was time to pay the salary cap piper. The Colts have managed to push the piper back a bit by renegotiating Peyton Manning's contract and creating another $8 million in cap room for 2007. There will be ramifications eventually, but the move extends the window on winning another championship with this core group of players. It also means that nobody should be writing those "Peyton Manning is selfish because his big contract makes it impossible to pay for defensive players" articles any more.

Before we move on, a note of appreciation for John Gambadoro of the Arizona Republic, who wrote one of the few realistic postmortems on Super Bowl XLI.

Who Could Leave?

Well, not Dwight Freeney. The Colts quickly stuck the franchise tag on their best free agent to make sure he stayed in Indianapolis. If he continues his postseason habit of occasionally switching up his outside spin with a rush to the inside, he'll be even more valuable in 2007.

What the rival Patriots are to wide receivers, the Colts are to linebackers: if you hit free agency, don't let the door hit you on the way out. Mike Peterson, Marcus Washington and David Thornton are past examples, and Cato June is probably next. June may be a year removed from the Pro Bowl, but it isn't that hard to find someone to blow tackles so Bob Sanders can clean up the mess and be generally awesome.

Two other linebackers are free agents, Rob Morris and Rocky Boiman. Morris was a big part of the postseason improvement against the run, but it was only a year ago that nobody wanted him, so it's hard to see him going elsewhere. Boiman is mostly a special teams guy.

Nick Harper was born to play cornerback in the "Tampa-2" system, and all those teams coached by Dungy acolytes are waiting to take him away from the real Dungy. The Colts do have depth in case Harper leaves; Marlin Jackson and Kelvin Hayden did not play as well as Harper during the season but they sure looked fine in the Super Bowl.

The general assumption was that Dominic Rhodes was the Colts free agent most likely to return, as he fits perfectly with Joseph Addai and isn't going to be offered a number one role anywhere. Rhodes' recent legal troubles complicate things, both in terms of the Colts re-signing him and in terms of another team wanting to offer him a generous contract.

Safety Mike Doss has been rendered superfluous by Antoine Bethea, but if no other team wants him as a starter, it's reasonable to believe he might come back in a reserve role.

Also unrestricted: WR Aaron Moorehead, DT/FB Dan Klecko, KR Terrence Wilkins. There are a bunch of restricted guys but they aren't going anywhere.

Whom Should They Sign? (Projected Cap Space: $10.5 million)

That cap projection has been adjusted based on an estimate of the space Manning's reworked deal will free up, and the space that will be lost due to Freeney's franchise-tag pay raise.

As you might expect from a Super Bowl champion, the Colts don't have a lot of holes. Well, they don't have holes when Bob Sanders is healthy. The biggest need is depth on the front seven, particularly if June and/or Morris are gone.

If Rhodes leaves, they need the second half of their running back committee, and a larger-sized veteran would be a good fit. (Paging Mr. Sammy Morris… Mr. Morris, please pick up the white-and-blue courtesy horseshoe-shaped phone…)

Finally, the Colts just can't trust Brandon Stokley's knees anymore. Even if the Colts decide that Dallas Clark is now permanently their slot-receiver-in-tight-end's-clothing, they still could use another wide receiver in case of injury or, god forbid, four-wide sets.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Follow For Now

One of the advantages of a press pass at the NFL Combine is that you can ask a head coach directly why his team was so absurdly inconsistent in 2006. The answer I received from Jack Del Rio as he was signing autographs in the RCA Dome hallways? "Leadership. We need more leadership."

The first response to this answer: "Isn't the head coach supposed to be the leader?" That's what a lot of people told me when discussing Del Rio's response, but I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. As a stat analyst, I don't do a lot of talking about unquantifiable things like leadership, but I'm willing to venture that there is a difference between leadership from your coaches and leadership from your fellow players in the locker room.

That leads to this question: Who are the leaders of the Jacksonville Jaguars? And what were they doing in 2006 instead of leading people?

Was the leadership missing because it came from the injured players? That doesn't make much sense. The Jaguars dominated good teams and lost to bad teams with Byron Leftwich at quarterback, and they dominated good teams and lost to bad teams with David Garrard at quarterback. The Jaguars dominated good teams and lost to bad teams with Mike Peterson, and they dominated good teams and lost to bad teams without Mike Peterson. The Jaguars dominated good teams and lost to bad teams with Marcus Stroud, and they dominated good teams and lost to bad teams without Marcus Stroud.

It isn't like the leaders just went away at some point during the year and fortunes changed. If leadership is really the reason for the inconsistency, then the Jaguars will be maddeningly inconsistent again in 2007, because the team will be led by the same veterans. More likely, it has nothing to do with leadership and Del Rio is as confused as the rest of us.

Who Could Leave?

Well, to start with, Byron Leftwich. Del Rio has officially designated Leftwich as the starter for 2007. That could be a move to help build Leftwich's confidence, or it might just be a move to raise his trade value. There's still a good chance of Leftwich going elsewhere in the next two months. Otherwise, the Jaguars are heading into training camp with one extremely distracting quarterback controversy. The worst-case scenario is a split locker room, like the one in Buffalo during the Johnson-Flutie years.

There's no natural replacement on the roster for free safety Deon Grant, who wants more money than the Jaguars want to pay. Otherwise, the handful of free agents are at positions with plenty of depth. With Greg Jones back to join Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew, there's no need for LaBrandon Toefield. With George Wrighster and Mercedes Lewis, there's no need for Kyle Brady at this point. I was surprised to read that wide receiver Cortez Hankton still exists.

There's no official announcement yet, but the word at the Combine was that defensive end Marcellus Wiley will sign with the 33rd NFL team: The NFL Network.

Whom Should They Sign? (Projected Cap Space: $31.0 million)

Well, they definitely need help at safety, whether Grant returns or not. After two serious injuries in two years, the Jaguars need to go into the season prepared to live without Donovin Darius -- even if they probably won't have to.

Reggie Hayward has injury issues, Paul Spicer is aging, and Bobby McCray is inconsistent, so there's certainly room if the Jaguars can find a quality defensive end. Depth at linebacker would be useful, as well as a new nickel back -- Terry Cousin had an injury-plagued down season, and Jags fans are afraid of the name "Ahmad Carroll."

The offense seems set, which is actually a bit of a problem. When a team has a clear hole, that's easy to fill. But the Jacksonville offense is a mix of three kinds of players:

  • Guys who are good enough that they don't need to be replaced but not good enough to count among the league's best at their positions,
  • Guys with unrealized potential who aren't yet at the point where you give up on them, and
  • Maurice Jones-Drew.

The one exception might be right tackle, where Maurice Williams is pretty much a stop-gap. But given the absurd contracts that will be given out to top-tier offensive linemen this off-season, does it make economic sense to replace him?

Tennessee Titans

5-0 Said Freeze, and I Got Numb

The Titans don't know what they are going to do with Pac-Man Jones, and neither do I. We all know the stories in the press about what happened in Las Vegas, and even his family is now telling the press that he's completely out of control. He's a bad guy who hangs out with bad people, and he can't learn the lesson that when you hang out with bad people, you're going to be in bad situations.

But our own Michael David Smith makes a good point here: If Pac-Man Jones has broken the law, shouldn't the Nevada legal system put him in jail?

Did Pac-Man Jones really grab a stripper by the hair and punch her in the head? If so, that's assault and battery. The proper response to assault and battery is not an NFL suspension or the unemployment line. It's prison time. If Jones is really friends with the shooter, and he told the guy to go back to the club and shoot somebody, that's conspiracy to commit murder. It isn't the job of the Tennessee Titans front office to investigate a crime, charge a defendant, and hold a trial.

Ron Higgins of the Knoxville News writes, "When are the Tennessee Titans going to wake up about cornerback 'Pacman'' Jones and smell the arrest warrant?" The answer to that question is, "When the Las Vegas police finish investigating cornerback 'Pacman' Jones and actually deliver the arrest warrant."

Many people believe the Titans need to take a stand on this pattern of behavior, even Jones has never been convicted of a crime. But why should the Titans take a stand, just so another team can pick up one of the best cornerbacks in football and claim to be "rehabilitating" him? Who decides how many "hangs out with bad people" tokens you have to collect before you lose your job?

If we're going to suspend players for a pattern of antisocial behavior, it isn't fair to force some organizations to hold to a different standard than others. If the league office wants guys like this out of the NFL, they need to step in and create a league-wide policy. Otherwise, you can't blame the Titans for staying in a holding pattern until the Las Vegas police department finishes its investigation.

Who Could Leave for Reasons Unrelated to Incarceration?

Travis Henry is due an $8 million roster bonus. While the Titans are happy with Henry's performance in 2006, they aren't paying that money. If the Titans can't work out a new deal with Henry by March 5, they'll cut him and put him back on the market. Chris Brown is also a free agent and gone, meaning LenDale White could be atop the off-season depth chart.

Wide receivers Drew Bennett and Bobby Wade could both be gone. Bennett is starting to look like a one-year wonder, and after overpaying for David Givens, the Titans may not want to lay out another big contract for a guy who isn't a true standout number one receiver. Bobby Wade was the least valuable receiver in football for two years according to Football Outsiders stats, then turned into Vince Young's best buddy and finished 19th out of 82 receivers in DVOA. If he doesn't cost much, the Titans might as well bring back a guy who has a Vulcan mind-meld with their young quarterback during option routes.

Defensive tackle Robaire Smith didn't fare too well during his temporary exile in Houston, and the Titans want him back, so re-signing would work best for everyone.

Say goodbye to aging, slowing middle linebacker Peter Sirmon, who will make way for second-year linebacker Stephen Tulloch in the 2007 lineup.

Whom Should They Sign? (Projected Cap Space: $36.0 million)

To start with, a really good lawyer for Pac, and possibly a nanny.

The Titans have half of an excellent secondary. Even without Jones going to jail, the Titans could use an improvement at the other cornerback spot. The possibility of life without Jones just makes this more important. Lots of rumors have them in on Nate Clements and it would be a perfect fit, especially since the Titans have plenty of cap space. Lamont Thompson isn't that great either, so there's room for a better free safety to partner with Chris Hope.

The defensive line has basically one star, Kyle Vanden Bosch. Albert Haynesworth is useful at tackle, now that he's served his penance, but this line could easily be upgraded -- whether it is a right end to play opposite Vanden Bosch or defensive tackles to cycle in and out and stay fresh.

A lot of articles on the Titans will mention wide receiver as a need, but what kind of wide receiver is that need for? Again, the Titans have a ton of guys who could be second and third receivers, and they don't have a colossal need for another. They need a receiver who can be a star, the number one who turns into Vince Young's best target, and that guy simply is not on the market.

Four Downs will return at the end of March with a division-by-division review of free agency.

*All projected cap numbers courtesy of www.askthecommish.com. These numbers are "ballpark" and are subject to change. The intention is to give an approximate idea of each team's available resources before free agency and the draft begin.

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 28 Feb 2007

63 comments, Last at 07 Apr 2007, 10:15pm by Joe

Comments

1
by Theo, Netherlands (not verified) :: Wed, 02/28/2007 - 8:10pm

It’s time for the Texans to move on at the quarterback position, and the best way to do that is without Carr.

Lets rephrase that to:
It’s time for the Texans to move on at the quarterback position, and the best way to do that is with other linemen.

2
by Purds (not verified) :: Wed, 02/28/2007 - 8:16pm

Anyone else see the Tennesse/Florida basketball game the other night? Manning was there, and he brought 2 teammates: Jeff Saturday and ... Brandon Stokley. I saw Manning and Stokley, and I wondered if they would ever take the field together again. All the conventional wisdom has Stokley gone, and I can't refute the idea. But, I thought it was a bit odd at that game.

3
by Atul (not verified) :: Wed, 02/28/2007 - 9:21pm

honestly, as long as the Houston media stays the same Carr-hating Houston media that it has been over the last 4 years there will be Carr-trade rumors when he takes the Texans to the playoffs in 2-5 years
nobody in their right mind should trade away a potential pro-bowl QB for a 2nd day pick and i doubt the Texans really considered it at any point.

4
by MJK (not verified) :: Wed, 02/28/2007 - 9:31pm

I think that, with Dillon probably leaving, the Patriots could make a serious run at either Rhodes or Henry. They need a pounding power back to complement/spell Maroney, and Kevin Faulk is getting old, too, and it seems like, at the right price, eithe Rhodes or Henry would be a good fit for them. Rhodes is the better player of the two at this point in his career, and so would probably cost more, but it would be nice payback for Vinateri.

5
by Vince (not verified) :: Wed, 02/28/2007 - 9:38pm

"Never Badder than Bad"
"Roll with the Rock Stars"
"Follow For Now"
"5-0 Said Freeze, and I Got Numb"

Awesome.

6
by Erithtotl (not verified) :: Wed, 02/28/2007 - 9:51pm

Is there a chance the Colts will cut Stokely then resign him at a lower salary? What is Stokely's cap hit if he's cut?

And what about Corey Simon, what are the ramifications of cutting him?

I believe Ryan Diem has a monsterous cap number as well, any chance they will reneg that?

7
by NF (not verified) :: Wed, 02/28/2007 - 9:58pm

I think Jacksonville is the sleeper team of 2007. They underperformed their DVOA. They underperformed their pythagorean wins. The offense was worse on third downs that other downs. The passing game was poor. They had injuries on defense. They are not losing any major players on defense. They are overhauling the offense by hiring a new offensive staff. I think that if the offense turns around, even with some regression to the mean by the defense, the Jaguars could be the best team in their division. In the regular-season, DVOA did rate them as the best in their division in 2006.

8
by Lance (not verified) :: Wed, 02/28/2007 - 10:28pm

I agree completely with #7. As long as David Garrard never touches the ball...EVER. I think what Del Rio may be talking about is that under Del Rio. They have seemed to have this arrogance about them (they have been said to be the mouthy-ist team in the league). They always seem to show up for big games, but they have a knack for falling asleep against lesser opponents. Del Rio could be saying he needs leadership to say less arrogance, more consistency. (Del Rio wearing a suit)

9
by Yaguar (not verified) :: Wed, 02/28/2007 - 11:17pm

On the Colts' likeliness to repeat:

First, I think people tend to overestimate a Super Bowl champion's likelihood to repeat. That's pretty obvious. In general, it's smarter to bet on the 31 non-champions teams than it is to bet on the champion.

However, I think the Colts are more likely to repeat than the average salary-cap-era champion. Why? Well, for one thing, offense doesn't vary all that much from year-to-year without a major change. (Acquiring Brees, or losing McNabb to injury, for example.) People at FO have done research showing that great offenses tend to remain great if they stay mostly intact. The Colts are a perfect example. They've ranked 2nd, 1st, 1st, and 1st in offensive DVOA since 2003. Obviously, the point is that we all know they're going to be 1st in offensive DVOA again in 2007 if there are no serious injuries.

On the defensive side of the ball, regression to the mean is far more likely. The regular-season defense was incredibly bad. Really, it's unlikely that the defense could manage to be worse in the 2007 season than it was in 2006. It's far more likely that it moves toward average. (In fact, that already began to happen in the 2006 postseason.)

The Colts went 12-4 with an awful defense, because they had the greatest offense in football. They'll probably have the greatest offense in football again next year, paired with a mediocre defense. But it's important to remember that the Colts had a lucky season last year, winning lots of close games. There's no reason to expect that next year.

My guess for next year:
Make the playoffs at 11-5 with the #1 offense and the #20 defense by DVOA.

That's pretty much what the Colts do every year. Then it's just a question of whether they can put 3 or 4 wins together in a row. Usually, that's hard to do in the playoffs, but sometimes they manage.

10
by Yode (not verified) :: Thu, 03/01/2007 - 1:05am

Its interesting how many folks characterize the Colts D as inherently bad based upon its hideous performance during the mid part of the 2006 regular season (it was indeed BAD). The assessed trend is then used as a prognosis going in to 2007 without much consderation given to its performance during the 2005 season or the 2006 post season, both of which easily counters the streak of bad games during 2006.

11
by Ruben (not verified) :: Thu, 03/01/2007 - 1:12am

If you were to tell me, in January 2003, that 4 years later, Cato June would be a hot-ticket free agent who just won a Super Bowl ring, I'd have called for the guys in the white coats.

While Marlin Jackson was awesome, the rest of the UofM backfield consisted of the Curry Brothers: "Crispy" and "Extra Crispy," respectively, and the feast-or-famine June. When he wasn't blowing up tight ends like that Madden commercial, he was on the wrong end of another Big 10 receiver's highlight reel.

I'm glad the guy found success in the NFL, but Aaron's assessment is probably spot on: LBs are to Dungy what WRs are to Beliceck. Who knows, maybe Tampa will pick up June to replace the geriatric Derrick Brooks. Ditto Harper for Rhonde, or to play opposite him.

Solid article.

12
by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Thu, 03/01/2007 - 3:01am

The Titans could probably use a tight end to replace Erron Kinney, whose career is probably over after missing all of 2006. One guy I wouldn't be surprise to see them go after is David Martin off the Packers. He's a bit of an under the radar guy, but I actually like him better than Daniel Graham, at least at the price I expect Graham to fetch.

13
by Karl Cuba (not verified) :: Thu, 03/01/2007 - 9:34am

I think that the Pacman Jones situation probably needs to be addressed before the police have enough evidence to put him away for a long time. It has reached the stage where he must be making other players uncomfortable. If you were hosting a party for the team would you want that douche in your house? Or meeting your wife or sister? "Good to see you Pacman, this is my kid sister, please don't hit her or spit in her mouth"

The guy clearly has zero respect for women and he's a PR nightmare.

14
by Ilanin (not verified) :: Thu, 03/01/2007 - 10:19am

9 - There are reasons to suspect that the Colts offense will regress next year. Chiefly this is their third down performance this year, which was an unsustainable 71.5% DVOA. In addition, Harrison is old enough that he really ought to be in decline, and 2006 was probably Manning's best season ever - though with Peyton, I'm not going to rule out him repeating it, it's just unlikely.

Still, the offense should still be #1 in DVOA (first and second down DVOA were #2, behind different teams (Eagles and Chargers)), just probably 5-15% lower than this year.

With both O and D regressing to the mean I imagine that the Colts will be about as good as they were this year - as likely to win the Superbowl as any other strong team provided the bounces break their way at the right times.

15
by Podge (not verified) :: Thu, 03/01/2007 - 10:46am

#3 - "nobody in their right mind should trade away a potential pro-bowl QB for a 2nd day pick and i doubt the Texans really considered it at any point."

That's true. Not sure how it applies to the Texans and David Carr though :p

16
by James C (not verified) :: Thu, 03/01/2007 - 11:14am

"(Heck, imagine if Reche Caldwell could find his contact lenses.)"

Reche Caldwell's contact lenses must be massive. The size of dinner plates!

17
by DoubleB (not verified) :: Thu, 03/01/2007 - 11:16am

10:

I'd be curious what the Colts D would rank if it was subdivided into 2 categories: with Sanders and without Sanders. His run support at safety makes up for a lot of the LBs mistakes.

18
by eagletom (not verified) :: Thu, 03/01/2007 - 11:34am

The thing I'd really be worrying about if I was the Colts GM is how much longer Tarik Glenn can play at a high level. 11 years is a long time to play left tackle. Him and Harrison are the guys whose play is most likely to decline significantly. If they can deal with that, O keeps on ticking.

19
by Chris (not verified) :: Thu, 03/01/2007 - 11:36am

How is Dominic Rhodes better than Travis Henrey?

The Colts offense will be good again next year and it is no suprise that good units that stay together stay good. A "smart" offense like that looks to exploit the defenses weaknesses on every play. They audible more than anyone and everybody being on the same page is what makes them so strong. It's a lot easier to stay on the same page when the guys your doing it with have been there with you for 4+ years or so. A team like the Redskins couldn't dream of running an offense like that because their owner wants to play musical chairs with his players every year because he's so impatient and wants to sell new jerseys.

The Colts D stinks every year, but oh yeah, their coach is a defensive genius and a nice guy.

The Jags D is good, but their offense is so boring, predictable, and pathetic. They can't live on a run game only, and running draws on every 3rd and 6. I still think Leftwhich is garbage, but if your going to only run screens passes, and the occasional jump ball ( not a very complex offense), then you might as well play the mobile Garrard who gives you something. Now if you wanted to run a more aggressive offense, who knows who is the better play. My guess is that if your not running a very complicated offense, your not running it for a reason.

I think Tennesse selects the speedy Tennesse WR Robert Meachem to give Vince Young a burner on the outside.

20
by John A (not verified) :: Thu, 03/01/2007 - 11:37am

It also means that nobody should be writing those “Peyton Manning is selfish because his big contract makes it impossible to pay for defensive players� articles any more.
I'm a big Manning fan, but he didn't exactly take one for the team here. All he did was convert a $10m roster bonus into a signing bonus, which allowed the team to prorate the cap hit over the remainder of the contract. From Manning's perspective, there is no difference. So instead of counting an extra $10m this year, he counts an extra $2m for the next 5 years. Salary cap math is fun.

21
by nikolas (not verified) :: Thu, 03/01/2007 - 12:10pm

I think Aaron really nailed the Titans' dilemma on Pacman. As much of a problem as he's been a double standard for them is absolutely unfair.

I'd agree that they need to address his problems sooner rather than later because of the huge amount of media attention. One thing to remember, however, is that Ray Lewis got massive, negative coverage after the murder charges and he's been able to rehabilitate his image, as has Kobe to a large degree. Of course that's completely ignoring the moral/ethical implications of their actions but the truth remains that if Pacman isn't convicted of anything and goes on to straighten out his act in a couple years he could be a model NFL citizen like Lewis now is.

Ilanin, good points about possible factors of a (slight) Colts offensive decline next year.

Aaron, good luck on the Public Enemy. Also, Follow for Now? That's a great, obscure reference even if I'd take Fishbone over them any day.

22
by Adam H (not verified) :: Thu, 03/01/2007 - 12:42pm

Yeah y'all c'mon! Here we go again!

23
by Chris (not verified) :: Thu, 03/01/2007 - 12:58pm

They can't cut Pacman until arrests and charges are made. If Pacman comes out anything less than clean, I think he has to turn in his uniform. I don't think Jeff Fisher will let him wait for strike 9 and your out.

The reason why no move has been made yet, is the possibility that he won't be charged. If the guy is presumed guilty, it won't make the Titans look very fair at all, even though the guy brought in all that negative PR and realistically than can release him if they want.

24
by Adam H (not verified) :: Thu, 03/01/2007 - 1:07pm

DVOA, how low can you go? Deep throw, does the receiver know? Once again back is the most fungible, the Tony Dungible.....sorry, I got a little excited.

25
by admin :: Thu, 03/01/2007 - 1:44pm

Follow For Now (the band) actually got their name from a lyric in "Bring the Noise" (which is where all four subject headers come from). By the way, underrated PE song: "Give It Up." Great groove, used to really rock the dance floor when I was DJing clubs and parties.

Another note on the Colts: Their 12-4 record this year was not indicative of their overall regular season performance according to both DVOA and Pythagorean wins. Assuming their defense plays more like it did in the playoffs, and the offense is still the best in the league, that improvement probably allows them to stay with the same record, not improve upon it.

26
by Adam H (not verified) :: Thu, 03/01/2007 - 2:15pm

I think the Colts are going to have a hard time repeating. I am not overly impressed with either of thier lines, and how often do we see somone "get the monkey off" and then sort of coast through the next year. If Dungy or Manning does that this year then I could easily see Indy falling back into the pack.

27
by Chris (not verified) :: Thu, 03/01/2007 - 2:24pm

Aaron, but what about the Colts schedule? Everybody in their division beat them at least once.

Do you think they will let June walk and draft that speedster linebacker from Hampton VA? The Cat ran a 4.3 40 as a 230 pound linebacker. Consider a guy like Dwayne Jarret, who is a top notch receiver rumored to run in the 4.7 range.

28
by Mark (not verified) :: Thu, 03/01/2007 - 2:31pm

Re: 20
Such notices ("player x converts roster bonus/whatever to a signing bonus, helping out the team") are a pet peeve of mine. While it doesn't really matter in the case of Peyton Manning, in most other cases the player is actually GAINING something, because he's getting money NOW that he could well NOT get in later years (because he might get cut). So actually such deals are a DEFINITE *WIN* for the player, but only a temporary benefit for the team (because the team gains cap space NOW but has to pay for it later). FO, I thought you guys knew better! (But I still love this site!)
== Mark

29
by stan (not verified) :: Thu, 03/01/2007 - 2:40pm

Pac Man and the Bengals eventually have to be a league issue. As long as someone will sign him, the Titans can't really do much to him.

Regardless of whether he is arrested or not, he is a major hurt for the league. There already is a growing group of sports fans who are disgusted with paying big bucks to go watch thugs. The NFL is going to have to address it. Even the player are talking about working with the league to clean up the mess.

30
by DrewTS (not verified) :: Thu, 03/01/2007 - 3:17pm

Re Del Rio's leadership comment

My take on it was that he just means they need more leadership from the players. The whole bit about losing to bad teams and beating good teams no matter who was playing is dead on, and it suggests that the player "leadership" has no effect.

The QB should be the most obvious leader, but the QB situation there undercuts Leftwich, and I've never seen Garrard show anything. Peterson and Stroud are good players, but they don't strike me as Ray Lewis type rally-around leaders.

Basically, they don't have a PManning, Brady, or Lewis who fills that "this is my team" role.

31
by turbohappy (not verified) :: Thu, 03/01/2007 - 3:49pm

I think the Colts will do what they have done the last several: Get into the playoffs. No team can beat every team in the league all the time since the salary cap, so a lot of winning the SB is drawing good matchups and luck. It could work out for the Colts again in 07, but it's more likely not to.

I would love to see them upgrade on June. He has GREAT hands for a linebacker (probably because he was a college safety), but that's pretty much it.

32
by zip (not verified) :: Thu, 03/01/2007 - 4:04pm

nobody in their right mind should trade away a potential pro-bowl QB for a 2nd day pick

Yeah, and Fred Thomas is a "potential" pro-bowl cornerback.

And I'm a "potential" rapist.

What?

33
by Dom Rhodes (not verified) :: Thu, 03/01/2007 - 4:20pm

While all the above commentary is well and good, nobody picked up on this one item: There was a split locker room in the Johnson/Flutie days in Buffalo?

Why on earth?

Okay, let's review: The OL, and probably RBs and WRs were on Flutie's side because he didn't sack himself every 4 drop backs. The D was busy on their own sh!t and the tall guys on special teams wanted Johnson, I suppose, for their off-season pickup hoops games. Not mobile, but he clogged up the middle. Or was it coach on one side, 52 players on the other side?

Anybody else wish Aaron asked DelRio directly, "Coach, isn't that what YOU are for, leadership and all? You know, as head coach?" Vein throbbing, eyelid muscle twitching, bite lip hard... must... not... kill... man... with... press... credentials.

Not sure why everyone is suddenly in love with Rhodes (who is not a big bruiser, BTW.) He got nothing but abuse here for 17 weeks, and there're a few reasons for that, one being that the platoon was not quite appreciated for what it accomplished, and the other being that he's a perfectly serviceable NFL RB, but not much more. His best attributes are not quite measurable: his willingness to suppress his ego for the team, and his relative freshness/experience ratio. His career started off fast, then he took off about 1.5 years with an injury, and rested a ton behind Edge, all the while getting in for a couple runs each game--he's been there for big playoff losses, wins, and injuries. His vet leadership is probably highly valued, but for a guy his age to have so little mileage, that's nice too. I'd basically ignore the 100+ yards in the SB. And the DUI sounds like it was handled well (i.e. no high-speed chases or Mel Gibsonian rants). It's not ideal, but most teams are willing to live with an infraction like that.

And while the Colts had some good luck this year (oppnents' bag FG %, Wilkins's punt rtn vs the Jags) they also had some bad luck (two long game-winners in the closing seconds, one over 60 yards). Excluding injuries, no reason they would not win 11 or more next year.

Tarik Glenn... yes, that could be a problem sometime in the not too distant future. They treat their OL like their LBs, except they draft them lower (mostly 2nd day picks). What happens when a team with perpetual draft picks in the #25 range suddenly has to get a franchise LT? (that's left tackle, not Lawrence Taylor or Ladanian Tomlinson). And they could really affect the O. What have been their constants for the past 9 years? Manning, Harrison, Glenn.

34
by Chris (not verified) :: Thu, 03/01/2007 - 4:39pm

Dom Rhodes- Before you say that the Colts were unlucky for Bironas to kick a 63 yarder, maybe you should review the game tape on that one.

He was originally going to attempt the long field goal, before Jeff Fisher realized that if he missed, the ball is spotted around the 50 and Indy had 1 TO left. So if Peyton sticks about 20 yard throw give or take, that Vinateri would then be attempting the game winning kick.

So Fisher sends out the punting unit and then Dungy gets flusterd. Now at this point, what is the worst thing that can happen? The defenses calls " peter peter peter, everybody gets away, and then the ball is downed and the game goes into OT.

But instead, Dungy gets flustered when he sees the punt unit and wastes his final time out. Now at this point, Fisher has a risk free chance to attempt the kick and win the game and Bironas nails it.

It was some of the dumbest clock management I have seen and Tony Dungy didn't get second guessed at all. He's just such a nice guy and a defensive master mind isn't he? When your giving teams free chances to win the game, it isn't called luck when you lose.

35
by Pat (not verified) :: Thu, 03/01/2007 - 6:00pm

It was some of the dumbest clock management I have seen and Tony Dungy didn’t get second guessed at all.

That's not clock management - it's game management. He didn't call the TO to conserve time, he called the TO to place the right team on the field.

Now, presuming that the field goal block team couldn't handle a punt, well, that's probably stupid. The only thing I can think of is that he was worried they'd pull a fake punt or something, but c'mon. The field goal block team could've handled that, too.

As for not getting second guessed... yeah, I'll disagree there. Everyone and his brother was criticizing Dungy for that one. It was a week's worth of "Dungy can't win the big one because he's a bad coach".

36
by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Thu, 03/01/2007 - 6:05pm

Re #34
I think it was the MMQB XP thread that week where we pointed out how Fisher schooled Dungy on that, and I'm pretty sure I even mentioned it in the IRC chatroom at the time it happened.

The fact is, in close games, they're normally a single play or series where something unexpected or lucky or fluky happens that helps decide the game. Maybe if Bobby Wade catches that pass in the earlier Titans-Colts game, or the Titans don't get called for holding and take themselves out of field goal range, or they call a timeout and don't let the Colts go downfield by running 3 WR hurry-up against their base 4-3 (Peter Sirmon trying to cover Brandon Stokley was not a pretty sight, I assure you), or they don't play 7 yards off from the 3 and let Wayne catch a pass unmolested, or Pacman doesn't get hurt and Harrison can't burn Woolfolk for the other touchdown...

37
by Chris (not verified) :: Thu, 03/01/2007 - 6:24pm

I never say any of the media bash on Dungy for that one. That Tony Dungy, he's just such a nice guy. The only reason it got brought up is because I brought that up in a thread a few weeks ago. If Mike Martz would have done the same thing sports center would do a 20 minutue show case on the huge melt down. But remember, that Dungy is just such a nice guy.

Of Course the FG block team could have handled a punt, it's not like those guys are 1) Ignorant to football or 2) on the punt team as well as the FG team.

Dungy just looked flustered when the Titans punt team ran out onto the field and he wanted to get his return team out on the field... not that it mattered. He was just played by Jeff Fisher and lost the game for being foolish.

38
by Yaguar (not verified) :: Thu, 03/01/2007 - 6:35pm

14. The Colts' crazy third-down numbers, I think, can be partly explained by the system, which means that they may not regress completely.

DVOA thinks the Colts are a better-than-average running team and an absolutely insane passing team, second only to the 2004 Colts; their running DVOA is 7.5%, while the passing DVOA is 56.7%. I can tell you, as someone who watches the Colts all the time, that they run the ball much more on 1st and 2nd down than on 3rd down. They run the ball not because they need to in order to score, but because they want to hold onto the ball and keep the defense well-rested. They know that even if Rhodes has a 1 yard carry and a 3 yard carry, Manning can bail them out easily on 3rd and 6, so it's no big deal.

Yes, the Colts have an absurd 71.5% DVOA on 3rd down, and it's not going to last. But they're mostly passing on those third downs, and their total passing DVOA is still nearly 60%. The dropoff might not end up being nearly as much as you expect.

39
by MJK (not verified) :: Thu, 03/01/2007 - 6:40pm

Everyone keeps saying "barring injuries, the Colts O will be good next year". I suspect that people mean "barring Peyton Manning getting run over by a bus". But "barring injuries" is probably more correct.

I didn't watch enough Colts to say for sure, but my impression was that this season, on the offensive side of the ball, they were fairly lucky on the injury front. Yes, they lost Stokley for the year and Clark for part of the year, but other than that, suffered no major injuries on offense. RB, QB, non-clark TE, #1 and #2 WR's, and especially O-line all were pretty stable over the course of the year. That seems above average injury luck to me, especially because of the stability on the line.

It doesn't take a catastrophic injury to a star player to derail an offense, or at least to bring an offense lightyears above average to a level that is merely above average. Consider if two starting O-linemen happen to go down at the same time. All of a sudden the running game evaporates and pass protection gets a lot harder, even with Manning.

To win the SB, not only do you need to be an above average team with good coaching, and draw favorable opponents in the post season and get some lucky breaks, but it also helps to have better than average injury luck. A lot of things need to go right for any team to win the SB these days.

40
by Nick (not verified) :: Thu, 03/01/2007 - 10:00pm

#39: I would tend to agree with your assessment in general. Barring injuries: of course in 2006 the D didn't have the luxury, but some injuries for the Colts O stayed under the radar. There was something amiss with Harrison's wrist at the end of the year (and supposedly he is *egad* considering medical attention?!). And the OL didn't make it through the season completely unscathed. There was a midseason (maybe wk 10?) report here on FO that showed that the Colts OL certainly was in the upper half injury-wise, but teams like SD and CHI had made it the whole season with ONE set of linemen -- no substitutions ever! There was a guard (Lilja) I believe who was injured for a game or two, replaced with Dylan Gandy, and Diem actually missed time in a couple games too, replaced admirably by a rookie, Charlie Johnson. So, not completely w/o injury, but nothing season ending either.

We can agree to disagree. Kidding, a season ending injury to any starter would be a blow, to say the least.

41
by Bobman (not verified) :: Fri, 03/02/2007 - 4:06am

Crap, That Dom Rhodes comment above was mine. Been a while and I forgot to change the name back.

Indy had what is pretty average injury luck in 2006--none of the stars (Corey Simon and Bob Sanders aside) but a lot of starters on D and role players on both sides of the ball. Assuming there are 352 starter games (22 starters x 16 games and as Indy has few standout STers, we'l leave it at that), my guess is that they lost about 70 starter games this year to injury/illness. Doss and Sanders acocunted for 22, Simon and Reagor for 26, Stokley missed 12?, Clark missed 4 or more, and a few OL losses late in the year... so if they were missing 70 starters in 352 games, that's about 20%. Seems about average, but it's just a guess--I know in 1999 Indy was very healthy and would guess they missed fewer than 30 starter games that year. (Is Stokley considered a starter? In 2004 he was, in 2005 much less so..... Regardless, he's a recent 1,000 yard 10 TD WR, so he's starter caliber.) Hell, they had subs in the SB on OL and the D backfield as well as DL.

The fact that the biggest names missed the injury bug certainly helped, and probably contributes to my impression that they were pretty healthy. And when guys like Bethea step in and fully replace guys like Doss anyway, it's not really losing a starter except for the guy's experience.

And regarding Fisher's outfoxing of Dungy, no argument there. Jeff had better command of the situation and proved it and won because of it. But... are you actually discountig the luck factor? You want to put a little bet on Bironas's next 60 yard attempt? When a guy hits the 4th longest kick in NFL history, outdoors on grass, there's more than a lttle luck involved.

And Yaguar, further to your point, I believe Indy has been at or near the top in 3rd down %age for the past few years. Not sure why they'd drop off in 2007 aside from the truism "they can't keep that going forever" (Which is as true as a team that gives up 175 yards on the ground per game all season can't win the SB). In fact, Indy's 3rd down percentage might well go up next year. Keep in mind, they had Rhodes starting and getting 3 yards on 1st down runs most of the season, instead of Addai getting 4 or more. Why wouldn't that extra yard on 1st down give them a better %age of third down conversions? I look at that stat a bit like a stock's price performance--can't go up forever, will likely drop after a long upward run, but on any given day, it's a coin toss which way it'll go.

42
by Mr Shush (not verified) :: Fri, 03/02/2007 - 9:19am

"Last year, the Texans had a tough choice to make: either give David Carr an $8 million roster bonus, or cut him, admit their first-ever draft pick was a mistake, and start over."

Not true: what's really frustrating is that the Texans had an intermediate option - a two year (as opposed to three) extension for Carr with a smaller signing bonus (about $5m, I believe). Why they didn't go that way is a mystery to me.

Carr is overpaid, and was a waste of the no.1 overall pick. That said, he is plainly better than the 28th best quarterback in the NFL. RT Zach Wiegert went down for the season in the Texans' 9th game, against Jacksonville, and was replaced by rookie Eric Winston, who run-blocked reasonably well but got killed in pass protection. He may improve with experience, but last year he was a liability. Two weeks later, C Mike Flanagan joined Wiegert on IR, and was replaced by second year late round player Drew Hodgdon, who also struggled. For the first half of the season, I remember the Texans' pass offense hanging around the outside of the top 10 in DVOA, with Carr's personal DVOA being around #15 among quarterbacks, despite one horrible game against Tennessee, where he was benched for Sage Rosenfels, who nearly brought the team back to win. Once Wiegert went down, Carr's performance level fell off a cliff, taking the Houston passing game with it, although improvements in the run offense and all aspects of the defense kept the team's overall level of play fairly constant. In any case, I submit that Carr's true level of ability is much closer to what DVOA said about him in weeks 1-9 than in what it says about him for the season as a whole. Of course, Wiegert just got cut, which expresses an awful lot of faith in Winston's ability to develop as a pass blocker.

As for the Moulds cut, I can see two explanations (given his pretty good level of play last year - he was one of the best #2s in the league according to DVOA). 1 (the sane explanation): Kubiak, Smith et. al really like Kevin Walter (so do I, and so does DVOA); Kubiak's offense only really uses two receivers, and Moulds is old and relatively expensive. Might as well take the extra cap hit of cutting him now, for a season where the team has no realistic chance of contending. 2 (the totally deranged explanation): Calvin Johnson is the best player in this year's draft and the best receiver prospect for years, with the potential to be a hard-working, team-first Randy Moss. Because of the needs of the teams picking 1-3, he could slip as low as 4, which makes trading up to take him a realistic proposition - albeit a stupid one for a team with so many needs and so little depth anywhere. Of course, the Texans are no strangers to stupid personnel decisions . . .

43
by Chris (not verified) :: Fri, 03/02/2007 - 11:00am

42- Of course the Bironas kick was improbable, but there didn't have to be a "trial" in the first place. If you had the opportunity to have a 63 yard FG attempt ( let's say you have a 25-33% chance of making that kick) or NOT being able to attempt the kick, which would you choose? Of Course you would take the risk free chance to win the game. Dungy was nothing but foolish for calling that TO, and nobody in their right mind would have called that TO if they correctly understood what was going on. When the FG team comes on the field to beat you, then the punt team comes on to conceed and send the game into OT, you don't call a TO and then give them another opportunity to kick and beat you. Even if there is a 10% chance he makes that kick, that 10% chance is unneccesary.

#39- I believe the Colts offense is REAL good. I think Manning could have put up more points, passing TDs, Yards etc if he wanted but it would have involved more RISK. More risky throws, more risky plays. The Colts could have scored quicker on drives and put up a lot more points. But why risk it? All it does is increase your chances for error, and even if you do score quick, it just tires out your defense.

I believe they took the "efficient" approach this year which would be a holistic approach to make the defense better too. So I actually don't believe when the offense took the field that their objective was to score points. I believe they wanted to have a DRIVE that scored points. The other 31 offenses just want to score, but the Colts I believe were different in that they wanted to take TIME and score.

44
by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Fri, 03/02/2007 - 11:46am

Re: 16

You bastard, you beat me to it.

45
by Justanothersteve (not verified) :: Fri, 03/02/2007 - 11:54am

#12 - Please, please sign Martin. Every year he shows promise. Every year he makes a couple spectacular catches. Then he gets injured by about game 5, misses a couple games, comes back but is totally ineffective for the rest of the year. Most of us Packer fans are tired of his potential and would prefer that he just leave. If you want him in Tennessee, take him. Maybe he'll play better closer to home.

46
by Mr Shush (not verified) :: Fri, 03/02/2007 - 12:40pm

Further to my comment #42, it appears there is a door number three, and Texans fans do not want to know what's behind it. According to PFT, Ashley Lelie is due to visit with the Texans shortly.

Bangs head against wall.

Gary, Rick, seriously. I know Ron Dayne, and Jeb Putzier and Ephraim Salaam and Lelie all played on some good Bronco teams. That does not mean they are good players. If Lelie is being looked at as a prospective cheap #3 or #4 who knows the system and can go deep on third and long, fine. But he's clearly not as good as Kevin Walter, or Eric Moulds, and if he's brought in as a #2, let alone paid like one, that will be a heinous mistake.

47
by Ben (not verified) :: Fri, 03/02/2007 - 1:27pm

re: 43 I certainly can't argue the fact that Dungy was out out-coached there, but the one part of his reasoning that you are leaving out was that he figured a trick play was much more likely then either a field goal or a punt in that situation.

Certainly, that was colored by the fact that the Titans have a history of trick plays against the Colts (three onside kicks in the first quarter a couple of years back is the one that pops to mind, but I know there have been others).

The real point that started all this is the division schedule. The Colts will probably split with the Jags like they have for the last few years, and will also likely drop one, to either the Titans or Texans. I would be very surprised to see any of the teams doing better then 4-2 in the division.

The Colts are falling back a bit to the rest of the division, but I certainly don't see the Jags or Titans going 5-1 or 6-0 in the division either.

48
by admin :: Fri, 03/02/2007 - 1:54pm

Heh, I said that the only place Jacksonville could really upgrade on offense was right tackle, and today the Jaguars announced they will sign Tony Pashos, who happens to play right tackle. Score one for Football Outsiders.

49
by Erithtotl (not verified) :: Fri, 03/02/2007 - 3:43pm

I'll second the comment that the Colts did not have 'above average' luck this year as far as injuries. Not only did they lose a good number of players on defense, many of them for significant periods, but they also lost them at the SAME POSITIONS. At one point, Sanders, Doss and Bethea were all out, their top 3 safeties. Not only did Corey Simon miss the year, but Monte Reagor had that horrible car accident, so they had two important DTs out at the same time as well.

Arguably these injuries, concentrated at two key run-stopping positions, had a lot to do with the team's struggle with the run, and I don't think it can be considered 'lucky'.

50
by Mr. Beefy (not verified) :: Fri, 03/02/2007 - 5:05pm

I think PacMan was right to keep those sperm receptacles in their place. :).

51
by Pat (not verified) :: Fri, 03/02/2007 - 5:05pm

#49: The comment was that the Colts offense had above average luck as far as injuries. As in, basically none.

52
by Kenneth (not verified) :: Fri, 03/02/2007 - 5:28pm

"And it would be awkward if the former quarterback of the future has to keep the seat warm for the next quarterback of the future..."

I dunno; ask the Chargers how that worked out.

53
by throughthelookingglass (not verified) :: Fri, 03/02/2007 - 5:43pm

41-I was wondering why a post criticizing Rhodes was signed 'Dom Rhodes'

54
by sam (not verified) :: Fri, 03/02/2007 - 5:49pm

The Jags' RT situation is interesting. In 2001 they drafted Maurice Williams in the 2nd round. Williams went to college to play DT and switched to OL after his freshman year and was a backup for 2 seasons. His senior year he was a beast of a starting OT, and that line must have been something - Jeff Backus and Steve Hutchinson also started on that line. Anyway, Mo won the starting RT job on day 1 of camp that season, started every game and the Jags ranked 6th in rushing around RT according to FO stats.

He broke his leg in game 5 of the following year (2002). In 2003 he returned to start week 1. But every from 2003-2005 the Jags' RT rushing numbers got worse. you'd think they'd have gone down in '03 as Williams returned from injury, and then gotten better as he healed fully. But they've gotten worse every season - 6th in 01, 12th in 03, 22nd in 04, 32nd in 05 and 26th in 2006 (slight improvement). And that's with a TE frequently in to block on that side. Shame... seems like he had such a promising career.

The Jags also have an UFA from last year, Richard Collier, they are really high on. The guy is huge and extermely strong but very raw. They seem to think he has a future with the team, but they've got Pashos signed to a 5 year deal and Khalif Barnes who has done an outstanding job (especially considering the pass rushers in the AFC South) in both run and pass blocking still has 2 years left on his rookie deal.

55
by Mike J (not verified) :: Sat, 03/03/2007 - 7:45am

#42, I would respectfully state that if David Carr is really one of the 15 best quarterbacks in the NFL, he was worth the #1 overall pick.

A top-half QB is not a bad player, it's a very good player. It's not Peyton Manning, but Peyton Manning is a hall of famer, and most #1 picks do not become those.

56
by Mr Shush (not verified) :: Sat, 03/03/2007 - 3:05pm

#55 - I agree that you can't automatically expect a #1 pick to be a hall-of-famer. However, the #1 pick is paid an awful lot of money - money which therefore cannot be spent on other players. Carr's rookie contract was for $46.75m over 7 years. That's an awful lot of money tied up in one player - especially a player who, in the nature of adjusting to the NFL, can be pretty much guaranteed to have at least one season in which his inexperienced play sinks any hope the franchise might have of being competitive. Trading the #1 pick for a player of Carr's current (or 2002, for that matter) age and ability who was locked up to an affordable long-term contract might actually not be such a bad idea, given the risk and expense of picking #1, though no team would ever do it. That doesn't mean that Carr, on the contract he has been playing on, was a good use of the pick.

A more simple argument would be simply this: the last 10 #1 overall picks have been Mario Williams (too early to say), Alex Smith (too early to say for sure, but probably not dissimilar to Carr in ability), Eli Manning (not great but clearly more talented than Carr), Carson Palmer (will be a hall-of-famer if he maintains his level of play from the past two seasons), Carr himself, Michael Vick (so over-rated he's under-rated, and clearly better than Carr), Courtney Brown (injury bust), Tim Couch (out-and-out bust), Peyton Manning (all-time top 5 QB and sure-fire first ballot hall-of-famer), and Orlando Pace (sure-fire first ballot hall of famer).

So that's 3 truly elite players, 2 clearly-better-than-Carr players, 1 player who may be comparable to Carr, 2 players who cannot sensibly be judged (Williams hasn't been in the league long enough, Brown got injured) and 1 flat-out bust. There have been worse uses of a #1 pick than Carr, but he was a clearly below average selection, and given that #1 picks are usually made by teams with lousy front offices (that's why they have the pick) I'd say that justifies calling him a waste of the pick. Throw in the fact that the guy whose name was called immediately after Carr's was Julius Peppers and . . .

The expectation for a quarterback selected #1 overall ought to be Drew Bledsoe. 4 Pro-bowls, but some lousy seasons too, and not in the hall of fame. If a guy doesn't do about as well as that, he wasn't worth the pick. If he does better, swell. You just drafted yourself a dynasty.

57
by Pat (not verified) :: Sat, 03/03/2007 - 7:40pm

#56: $6M/year for a top-half QB is trash money, though. Part of the reason why basically every #1 pick should be either a CB or QB - if they shine, they're still cheap.

If a decent franchise ends up with the #1 pick, the smartest thing they can do is take the best quarterback, because chances are, they can trade him pretty easily if they need to.

58
by Don M (not verified) :: Sun, 03/04/2007 - 11:52pm

Colts third down DVOA:
Much of their success on 3rd down, especially on 3rd and long comes from throwing passes that are actually long enough for a first down. Seldom do you see a Manning pass on 3rd and 9 thrown for 7 yards, that and Mannings ability to work over the middle and throw the ball to any of his receivers.

59
by Jeff (not verified) :: Mon, 03/05/2007 - 4:23pm

34&37

Tony Dungy got lambasted by the Indy media after that game. The assumption that Dungy never gets second guessed based on his being a " nice guy " is insipid. Up until Feb 4th Dungy ALWAYS got killed for not winning the " big one "

As far as Mike Martz goes, the reason he gets killed is because as a head coach he was FOREVER calling time outs that were not neccesary and making bone headed challenges on plays that were clearly correct the first time. He would cripple the Rams, leaving them without critical time outs at the end of halves or games.
While Dungy was out coached in that instant he does not have a history of bone headed time outs and challenges. BIG
DIFFERENCE.

60
by Mr Shush (not verified) :: Tue, 03/06/2007 - 1:42pm

I'd say describing a QB who was about the 15th best in the league as "top half" as being somewhat misleading, though not of course strictly inaccurate. My contention was and is that Carr is an average or slightly above average NFL starting quarterback - 12-18 in the league, say. Not really much better than you might be able to find on the annual veteran carousel for considerably less money. And David Lewin's projection system suggests we could always have known that was what he would be. I think the real best strategy for teams without a standout quarterback holding the top pick may well be to use it on an elite quarterback prospect if there is one (projected DPAR per game above 5, say), but otherwise to trade that pick for a stack of first day selections in the following draft, giving the option of either trading up to take that year's elite QB prospect or repeating the process.

61
by Mr Shush (not verified) :: Tue, 03/06/2007 - 1:50pm

Although to be fair, if Delhomme is currently playing on a 5 year, $38m contract, you're right, $6m a year for Carr doesn't sound so outrageous.

62
by BG (not verified) :: Fri, 03/23/2007 - 7:06pm

Colts did not lose to Miami at home last year. So maybe the Arizona writer should some research. All he had to do was look at the fact the Colts were 8-0 at home last year to see they didn't lose at the RCA dome.

63
by Joe (not verified) :: Sat, 04/07/2007 - 10:15pm

RE: 49
Sanders, Doss, Bethea and Marlin Jackson were out for the game they got killed by the Jags. They were starting Matt Giordano, a fourth round pick two years ago and Dexter Reed, who they cut before the season went unsigned for half the season until the colts resigned him after the injuries. Also noone's mentioned Freeney playing most of the season with a shoulder injury. Finally, top two MLBs out for the same game and the injuries at DT.
Bad injury luck on D, pretty good on O