Our postseason look at the biggest weakness on each team starts out west, where offensive (and kicking) talent has proven to be in short supply.
15 Apr 2007
by Alex Carnevale
The David Carr era in Houston is over, and the metrics have to applaud for posterity. Carr never was very good as a Texan, and looking back, the selection of Carr is going to be filed somewhere between Tim Couch and Eli Manning.
|David Carr 2002-2006|
Say what you want about the chicken-egg argument as concerns Carr's offensive line. Looking at this record, it's hard to believe Carr was going to come back to the Texans and be a success. He himself reflected ever so poignantly, "If we were stuck in the forest it would be hard to light a fire with what we had going on." Doug Farrar had a fun note on this signing, writing that "Carolina now has the first two players selected in the 2002 NFL Draft -- one spot after the Texans made Carr the #1 overall pick and the first in the franchise's history, the Panthers selected DE Julius Peppers."
New quarterback and Virginia alum Matt Schaub should be more Kubiak's style. Schaub's 2005 NFL trial was a rousing success at 30.1% DVOA, despite attempting just more than a handful of passes. This was basically one game against the Patriots in which they focused on the run and made Schaub beat them, and before you get too excited, remember the power of the Doug Johnson Effect. With former Packers head coach Mike Sherman as offensive coordinator, it's no surprise that Schaub's offensive weapons include two former Packers running backs, Ahman Green and Samkon Gado.
2007 Game to Watch: Carr will be on the sidelines watching Jake Delhomme when the Texans come to Carolina on Sep. 16th.
The Texans signed wideout Andre' Davis for $850,000 to compete with Jerome Mathis and David Anderson behind the real Andre (Johnson, no apostrophe necessary) and Kevin Walter. The Texans can expect a diverse range of impact NFL talent to choose from with the No. 10 pick in the draft, and may opt for a defensive talent instead of bolstering their long-suffering offensive line. The key to their success may lie in what GM Rick Smith does with the rest of his selections. The Texans have real needs on both sides of the ball, but no second-round pick thanks to the Schaub deal. That's a problem considering that, more than most other teams, the Texans need an infusion of replacement-level talent to add depth.
It's one big sighhhhhh in Indy. "We might need another running back," someone bleats. Nobody can find Bill Polian because he's in the Jacuzzi. Peyton's looking to star in a sequel to the "The Natural." The Colts have made only token moves, bringing home guard Rick DeMulling after a two-year sojourn with the Lions and re-signing linebacker Rob Morris. Nick Harper has joined the Titans, but the Colts are probably better off having Harper stay in the division.
2007 Game To Watch: Five of Indy's games are special evening events; that's the kind of scheduling that comes when you wear rings. At Baltimore, at San Diego, and at Jacksonville will ensure there's little to no chance of an undefeated season. Once you get past that, there's enough filler on the schedule that the Colts have to do little to get back to the playoffs, avoiding the Steelers' fate in 2006.
Safety Mike Doss found a new home in Minnesota, and the Colts will look to address that need in the draft. Finding a Cato June replacement waits for April 28th as well. The Colts are going to see what they can get out of free safety Marlin Jackson, plus their second-round picks for 2005 and 2006, defensive backs Kelvin Hayden and Tim Jennings, respectively. With the 32nd, 95th, and 98th picks, the Colts have a shot at a capable corner. Maryland CB Josh Wilson fits the Colts' speed mold at the third-round level, though he could creep higher out of scarcity. They will be highly tempted to take the best available with the knowledge that the defensive side of the ball again will not be forced to be a strength. The fact that Wilson would be a solid special teams contributor right away may enhance him in Bill Polian's eyes. Then again, considering this franchise's ignorance of special teams over the past few years, maybe not.
The Jaguars may not have upgraded a single skill position so far in free agency, but a soft schedule means there's a chance that nobody will notice. Byron Leftwich's potential resurgence will be a nice story, and in a tiny media town, it's going to play a lot bigger than a string of misadventures on the part of Jacksonville players.
After 2005, Leftwich had security blanket Jimmy Smith ripped out from under him. The selfish Smith did the ultimate me-move and retired, leaving the ball in Leftwich's hands. PFP 2005 wrote, "Leftwich is still learning how to run a pro-style offense after playing in a shotgun-and-chuck-it set at Marshall. New coordinator Carl Smith will simplify the passing game..." This change resulted in Leftwich's 2006 DVOA going from an unimpressive 2.3% to 19.3%. PFP said he was "moving into the upper echelon of NFL quarterbacks" before Leftwich went down with an ankle injury and the Jaguars went to the run early and often. In a crushing win over the Colts in Week 14, Leftwich's replacement, David Garrard, attempted only 14 passes.
Adding Tony Pashos at offensive tackle was a smart move. Tight end Jermaine Wiggins is no great shakes, but worry more about what this says about the Jags' confidence in Marcedes Lewis' ability to contribute in 2007. Wiggins certainly isn't there to replace Kyle Brady as the "blocking tight end."
2007 Game To Watch: Facing San Diego at home on November 18th should be fun. You know you have an easy schedule when your in-house website is even admitting it's a cakewalk.
The Jags have been quiet in free agency. Re-signing backs LaBrandon Toefield and Derrick Wimbush as insurance was a smart move. They'll get the back end of the draft's top talent. They already have some physical receivers and a capable running tandem, putting them well ahead of most of their division. Expect them to add on defense, as they can't be happy about picking a tight end in the first round last year. Safety Reggie Nelson is one of the players the Jags hope drops to them, as Donovan Darius can't be relied upon. Here's a quick look at who the usual suspects project the Jaguars to take:
Todd McShay: Adam Carriker, DE, Nebraska
Don Banks: Jamaal Anderson, DE, Arkansas
Mel Kiper Jr: Ted Ginn Jr., WR, Ohio State
Peter Schrager: Lawrence Timmons, LB, Florida State
Ourlads: Reggie Nelson, S, Florida
Scott Wright: Reggie Nelson, S, Florida
The middle of the first round is kind of unpredictable, so the Jags will wait and hope something nice drops to them at No. 17.
It made for a lot of talk-show chatter, and a near-seizure by WFAN host Chris Russo, but somebody got what they wanted with Pac-Man Jones' season-long suspension. There's not going to be much protest on anybody's part, though he may have a shot at a reduction after 10 games. He's allowed to come to a practice facility once a week, watch practice, study film. If he gets in trouble again, he's done. It's not often you look back and think you would have preferred to draft a performanc-enhancing drug user in Shawne Merriman; instead of a Pro Bowl corner, Jeff Fisher now has the Artest of the NFL. (Pacers GM Donnie Walsh got a year of Peja Stojakovic back -- the Titans would take a year of anyone.)
Fisher wept quietly in response to the news that the 2007 Titans won't have their second best playmaker: "There was one issue that everyone knew about prior to the draft. His background was very difficult. None of us have an idea what he went through, I can assure you of that. Beyond that, it is very complex. If I could give you one simple answer to why, I would. But it is a very, very complex set of circumstances." Having Jones on a college campus for some of his year off may not be the best idea we've ever heard. FO head Aaron Schatz can give you a much better idea of what the Titans lose on the football field because of this than I can.
2007 Game To Watch: The games against Houston will be fun forever, kind of like if Kobe had signed with the Clippers. The Falcons come to town following the Titans' bye week; the promise of Vick vs. Young means there should be enough broken plays to make any purist appropriately nauseous.
Nick Harper's signing (three years, around $10 million) should hold down one corner, allowing the Titans to try to score a hit at wide receiver in a deep draft for wideouts. New GM Mike Reinfeldt may feel the need to upgrade the secondary -- they already brought in former Falcons safety Bryan Scott to add depth, but the Titans still need help at corner. Drafting a corner with an early pick may not offer much value if they expect Pac-Man back in 2008, or especially part of 2007. With their schedule, they can still be competitive, and a team I cited as similar to last year's Titans squad, the 1992 Green Bay Packers, advanced to the divisional round the following year. There's precious few game-changers available with the No. 19 pick, but the Titans may be willing to roll the dice. A deep draft at receiver could see them choosing between Ted Ginn Jr., former USC wideout Dwayne Jarrett, and in-state talent Robert Meachem. All three have a good chance of being on the board when the Titans pick.
Four Downs returns after the NFL draft.
114 comments, Last at 18 Apr 2007, 5:24pm by Jeff