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01 Mar 2011

Four Downs: NFC West

by Vince Verhei

Arizona Cardinals: Can anyone around here throw a football?

Ken Whisenhunt entered the 2010 season with Matt Leinart as his starting quarterback, but for whatever reason coach and player could not coexist, and so Leinart was shown the door during the preseason. Apparently Whisenhunt was more comfortable with a one-year wonder and a pair of undrafted rookies than he was with Leinart. What could go wrong?

As it turns out, everything. Derek Anderson, the one-year wonder, played as he always has outside of 2007 -- lousy. He completed only 52 percent of his passes, with seven touchdowns and 10 interceptions. That's right in line with his career numbers (53 percent, 53 touchdowns, 55 interceptions). He was so bad that he was benched for Max Hall, an undrafted rookie out of BYU. Hall showed why he went undrafted, completing half his passes with just one touchdown and six interceptions before going on injured reserve with a separated shoulder. Anderson returned to the lineup, but suffered a concussion in Week 12 and did not play again. Instead the Cardinals turned to a fifth-round pick, John Skelton of Fordham, who completed only 48 percent of his passes. By the end of the season the Cards were being quarterbacked by Richard Bartel, who was fresh off a stint as a backup (repeat: backup) in the UFL.

(Leinart, meanwhile, made a reported $600,000 with the Houston Texans without throwing a single pass. As revenge goes, it's not Brett Favre leading the Vikings to a win over the Packers in his return to Lambeau Field, but it'll have to do.)

It's unrealistic to expect any of Arizona's quarterbacks to improve in 2011. Their best bet to upgrade will likely be the draft, when they pick fifth. The Panthers, with the first pick, are likely to take a passer. The next three teams all have question marks at the position. Is new Denver Broncos coach John Fox committed to Tim Tebow? Are the Buffalo Bills satisfied with the mediocrity of Ryan Fitzpatrick? Are the Cincinnati Bengals going to lose Carson Palmer to trade or retirement?
If one or two passers go off the board before Arizona picks, they may be better off going with a veteran like Donovan McNabb, Matt Hasselbeck, or even Palmer. Those would have been fine options in, say, 2005. In 2011? Not so much.

Instead, Arizona could make a trade for Vince Young or Kevin Kolb -- which would mean a hefty exchange of draft picks for a guy with questionable character, or questionable talent.

Failing all of that, Arizona could stand pat and go with another season of Derek and the Dominoes. It wouldn't be all bad -- they'd have a great chance of landing Andrew Luck in 2012.

Free Agency, Whenever It Happens, Watch

You could almost field a whole offense with Arizona's free agents, although it might not be any good. We'll start with the line, where the entire interior -- center Lyle Sendlein and guards Deuce Lutui and Alan Faneca -- are unrestricted free agents. At 34, Faneca is also considering retirement. Also on the UFA list are wide receiver Steve Breaston and tight ends Stephen Spach and Ben Patrick. We'll have to turn to restricted free agents for our tackle (Brandon Keith), second wideout (Early Doucet), and running back (Tim Hightower). All we need is another tackle and a quarterback, but if you've read this far, you know that the Cardinals don't have any quarterbacks they need to worry about losing anyway. And when the offense goes three-and-out, punter Ben Graham is also a UFA.

For all of that, the biggest free agent concern for Arizona actually has one more year on his contract. Larry Fitzgerald is set to be a free agent in 2012, when he'll be 28 years old, still in the prime of his career. The mission for Arizona is not to contend for a playoff spot this year; it's to convince Fitzgerald that the pieces are in place to contend for many years to come.

St. Louis Rams: Can anyone around here catch a football?

The St. Louis Rams were the kings of small-ball in 2010, ranking ninth in total completions but just 30th in 20-yard pass plays. Part of that was an ultra-conservative game plan designed to keep rookie quarterback Sam Bradford in manageable down-and-distance situations, but part of it was a receiving corps that lacked any kind of big-play threat.

The problem is not Bradford's arm strength. The Football Outsiders game charting project charts a reason for every incomplete pass of the season. On Bradford's incomplete deep passes, the reason "underthrown" is used exactly one time. However, there are dozens of entries reading "defensed" (because receivers couldn't get separation), "overthrown" (because receivers couldn’t run down Bradford's passes), or "dropped"(because receivers simply couldn't hang on to the ball).

By season's end, Bradford's top wideouts were Danny Amendola, Brandon Gibson, and Laurent Robinson, and his tight end was Daniel Fells. Bradford only had one target who had ever gone over 700 receiving yards in a season -- and it wasn't any of those players, it was running back Steven Jackson.

Even without any major additions, this unit is likely to improve in 2011. Remember that the Rams' theoretical top two wideouts, Donnie Avery and Mark Clayton, played in only five games last season, all by Clayton, and he was done for the year by mid-October. With Avery coming back from a torn ACL and Clayton returning from a torn patella tendon, the Rams' receivers almost have to be better. On the other hand, they're still Donnie Avery and Mark Clayton. Avery's career catch rate is hovering around 50 percent, while Clayton has only had one season over 700 yards himself -- and that was in 2006. Even if these two were in perfect health, the Rams would need to upgrade.

Most mock drafts have the Rams taking Alabama receiver Julio Jones with the 14th pick in the first round. If Jones doesn't make it that far, the Rams have enough other holes that they don't need to reach for a shaky prospect. For starters, Jackson isn't getting any younger, and they could use another cornerback opposite Ron Bartell. In a perfect world, though, they'll end up with Jones (whose big-play ability is "exceptional," according to Scouts, Inc.) and likely be the favorites to win the 2011 NFC West.

Free Agency, Whenever It Happens, Watch

The Rams released safety O.J. Atogwe rather than pay him $8 million in 2011. They are hopeful he'll return to the team, and Atogwe has said there is "no bad blood" between himself and the Rams, but he has already visited the Redskins and plans to visit the Bills. He has also said that he doesn't plan to sign anywhere before the CBA expires on March 4.

Otherwise, the Rams are in pretty good shape entering free agency. Few starters will hit the market, and none of them can be considered close to stars. Right guard Adam Goldberg started 16 games and committed only three penalties, and our charting project has him with just eight blown blocks, but it's not as if the offensive line was the strength of the team. Defensive tackle Gary Gibson also started every game, but only made 20 plays on the season -- not even enough to qualify for our leaderboards. He did help the Rams in short yardage -- they were fifth in power situations. After that, you're looking at guys who should probably be replaced anyway. Mark Clayton and Laurent Robinson are free agents, though neither will be highly sought after. The restricted free agent list includes Danny Amendola and a trio of backup linebackers who saw a lot of playing time in 2010: Larry Grant, Chris Chamberlain, and David Vobora. And that's about all the Rams have to worry about.

San Francisco 49ers: Is there any hope for Alex Smith?

Let's play a game. I'll give you the two-year stat lines of six different quarterbacks, and you see if you can guess which is Alex Smith's over the last two seasons:

Let's Play the Quarterback Game!
Name G COMP ATT Yards TD INT Com% Y/A Rtg
Quarterback A 31 620 993 6,530 37 37 62.4 6.6 78.4
Quarterback B 28 436 778 5,337 28 28 56.0 6.9 74.4
Quarterback C 22 429 714 4,720 32 22 60.1 6.6 81.8
Quarterback D 29 393 703 4,444 28 22 55.9 6.3 75.2
Quarterback E 23 394 684 5,498 40 26 57.6 8.0 87.2
Quarterback F 24 341 599 4,246 24 16 56.9 7.1 81.3

Alex Smith is C. The others are Brett Favre (1992-93), Stan Humphries (1992-93), Rich Gannon (1990-91), Mark Rypien (1988-89), and Neil O'Donnell (1991-92) -- two or three years (or, in Gannon's case, 11 years) before they played in Super Bowls. Smith is 26; the other seasons shown in the table represent quarterbacks as young as 24 (Favre) and as old as 28 (Humphries).

No, I am not saying that Alex Smith will be a Super Bowl quarterback in the next five years. This table needs to be taken with not just a grain of salt, but with several pillars' worth. Most obviously, the NFL is a different game now than it was in the early 1990s. In 2010, 20 quarterbacks completed at least 60 percent of their passes, but only three did it in 1990.

I also cherry-picked the best names with numbers similar to Smith. While he did have similar stats as Favre, Humphries, etc., Smith also resembled less successful names like Jeff Blake, John Friesz, Dave Brown, and Craig Whelihan.

The lesson of that table, really, is that good things happen to quarterbacks who are given time to develop. Humphries, Gannon, Rypien, and O'Donnell were 25 or older in their first seasons as full-time starters. Favre was 23. Smith, meanwhile, was just 21, a top overall draft pick thrown to the wolves on one of the worst teams in recent NFL history. Is it any wonder he struggled so badly early in his career? Now imagine if he had been a late-round draft pick who didn't play his first three years. After his last two campaigns, fans would be clamoring for Smith to get a chance. Being drafted first overall may have been the worst thing that ever happened to Smith as a football player.

If the 49ers are dead set on replacing Smith, well, re-read what I said about Arizona earlier, except that the 49ers are two spots lower on the draft totem pole. Franchise quarterbacks don't grow on trees.

Matthew Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says new 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh has been spending plenty of time getting to know Smith. It looks like Harbaugh has decided that like it or not, the 49ers' best chance to win now and in the future is to hope that Smith is a late bloomer.

Free Agency, Whenever It Happens, Watch

The 49ers' front seven was far and away the best unit in the NFC West (unless you count Seattle's special teams as one unit), but there could be a lot of transition here in 2011. Nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin and linebackers Manny Lawson and Takeo Spikes are unrestricted free agents. They also could lose starters at safety (Dashon Goldson), guard (David Baas), and quarterback (both Alex Smith and Troy Smith), although all indications are that Alex Smith will be returning. Brian Westbrook is also unrestricted. He saw very limited action last year (101 combined rushes and targets), but he was still effective, especially as a receiver, and could help a team looking for a third-down back.

Seattle Seahawks: Can Red Bryant return to health?

It's a little-known secret that the Seattle Seahawks had one of the best run defenses in the NFL in 2010 -- for nearly half a season, anyway. Through Week 7, the Seahawks were allowing only 3.4 yards per rush, and only 41 percent of opponent's carries gained successful yardage. At the time, Seattle ranked second and sixth in these categories. Then came a disastrous Week 8 game against Oakland, when the Raiders stampeded for 239 yards. From that game forward, Seattle allowed 4.9 yards per carry (fourth-worst in the league) and a Success Rate of 47 percent (14th).
What changed? The simplest explanation is that late in the second half against the Raiders, defensive end Red Bryant tore his ACL and was lost for the year. The effect was dramatic and immediate. In the first half of that game, Oakland rushed 21 times for 71 yards. In the second half, with no Bryant on the field, they gained 168 yards on only 18 carries.

What made Bryant such an effective run defender? To answer that, we have to look at the Seahawks' defense under Pete Carroll, a hybrid 4-3 scheme that usually brings a linebacker up to the line of scrimmage on the strong side of the formation, almost as a fifth lineman. The Seahawks then plant the tackle on that side of the field in the A-gap between guard and center. That leaves the strongside end (usually Bryant, before he was injured) to line up in a five-technique on the outside shoulder of the offensive tackle. With the linebacker occupying the tight end and the defensive tackle taking the guard, it becomes very difficult for the offensive line to get a double-team on Bryant, usually leaving him one-on-one with the tackle.

As it turns out, that's often a mismatch. Bryant was drafted as a defensive tackle, but found himself inactive for most of his first two seasons, stuck behind Rocky Bernard, Brandon Mebane, and Colin Cole. Carroll and his staff moved the 323-pound Bryant outside, making him one of the largest 4-3 ends you'll ever see. Between his size and surprising quickness he was too much for most right tackles to handle.
After Bryant went down, Kentwan Balmer took his place, and the individual numbers tell the tale. Bryant made 16 run tackles last season, and 15 of them prevented the runner from gaining meaningful yardage, with the average gain coming just 1.4 yards past the line of scrimmage. With Bryant out of the lineup, only 61 percent of Balmer's tackles qualified as stops, with an average gain of 3.1 yards.

Can Bryant return to health? He's played only 17 games in three seasons, with a history of knee and ankle problems dating back to his days at Texas A&M. Headlines in Seattle over the offseason will focus on Matt Hasselbeck and whichever rookies Seattle finds in the draft, but it's Bryant's health that will really determine success or failure for the Seahawks in 2011.

Free Agency, Whenever It Happens, Watch

First and foremost, Matt Hasselbeck is an unrestricted free agent. Pete Carroll has said that re-signing Hasselbeck is Seattle's top offseason priority, and he's certainly worth more to the Seahawks than he would be to anyone else. It would be a pretty big shock if he left. It would not be a shock, though, if center Chris Spencer left -- the former first-round draft pick has been a disappointment, and Seattle already drafted his replacement, Max Unger, in 2009. Tackle Sean Locklear is also unrestricted. The defense is at risk of losing a pair of starters, cornerback Kelly Jennings and tackle Brandon Mebane, as well as defensive end Raheem Brock. He had a career-high nine sacks in 2010 without starting a single game. Leroy Hill, who once looked like a rising star before his career was derailed by injuries and legal woes, will almost certainly not be back. Leon Washington and Olindo Mare two, of the biggest contributors to Seattle's elite special teams, will also hit the open market.

The Seahawks prevented two other starters from hitting free agency when they signed wide receivers Mike Williams and Ben Obomanu to three-year contracts in January. It was Williams' fourth season, Obomanu's third, but both players more than doubled their career reception totals in 2010.

Posted by: Vincent Verhei on 01 Mar 2011

51 comments, Last at 07 Mar 2011, 12:33pm by Bobby Wommack

Comments

1
by Dean :: Tue, 03/01/2011 - 12:47pm

"they could use another cornerback opposite Ron Bartell."

I completely disagree with this statement. Bradley Fletcher is not a household name, but he emerged this season and really seemed to play at a high level. It seemed to me that he had a better season than Bartell did.

The Rams could use depth behind those guys, but the starters are set at CB.

22
by Podge (not verified) :: Wed, 03/02/2011 - 7:07am

He was better towards the end of the year after Bartell got hurt and wasn't the same when he came back, but early on Bartell was much better. But yes, I don't think CB is a massive need for the Rams, especially as Jerome Murphy showed flashes last year and Fletcher is basically a rookie and a half (he got injured after only a few games last year).

Fletcher's inury was an ACL/MCL type one, which conventional wisdom says is getting on for 2 years until you are fully back to 100% (he wasn't even expected to be healthy for the start of the season when he got hurt) and given CBs usually take at least 3 years to emerge at a high level, Fletcher could be really really good.

That being said, I was hoping the either Peterson, Amukamara (sp) or Smith would run a surprisingly slow 40 so their draft stock dropped to have them available when the Rams pick in either the 1st (Peterson or the other one) or 2nd (Smith) as they appear to be the good bump and run corners Spagnuolo likes. Assuming Julio Jones or AJ Green aren't available, which I don't expect them to be.

If Fitzgerald leaves Arizona though, would NFC West teams even need more than 1 CB? Fitzgerald, Breaston and Crabtree are probably the only WRs in that division that I wouldn't feel confident covering myself!

IMO, the Rams biggest needs are WR, interior O-line, a pass rushing DE, an OLB and a backup RB. I think we can manage with an undersized DE who only comes in on passing downs (so a later round pick), guards are typically available later on in the draft, as are 4-3 OLBs and backup RBs. Unless one of the top 2 WRs is available when the Rams pick at 14, I think the best bet is either trading down (if possible) or just taking the best non-QB, non-OT available. There's no other positions on the Rams where you just go "Yeah, we're set there."

27
by Dean :: Wed, 03/02/2011 - 10:03am

Other than you forgetting DT, I think we're basically on the same page. They have Fred Robbins and a couple guys who could generously be rotational guys, but shouldn't be starters. Even if they get a starter, they'll still need another one in a year or two when Robbins declines/retires. Even more than DE, they need a DT.

32
by Podge (not verified) :: Wed, 03/02/2011 - 3:27pm

Yeah, good point. I think like pass rusher, we can get by with a situational guy at DT if we have to - if we can get some sort of run stuffer who can play 2 downs, Spags has shown he's happy to have DEs at DT on passing downs.

But yeah, i forgot about DT.

33
by Dean :: Wed, 03/02/2011 - 3:31pm

I'd love to add a DE, don't get me wrong. Long has only done it for one year and you can apply the same things to Hall that I said about Robbins.. But there, they at least have Selvie who you can give another year to see if maybe he continues to improve. I don't think he'll ever be more than a rotational guy, but that already makes them deeper at end than tackle.

2
by bravehoptoad :: Tue, 03/01/2011 - 1:03pm

I like Alex Smith. I wish him well. I hope he has a great career somewhere. But good lord I'm tired of watching Alex Smith start all over again in this town. I wish he'd go away.

Maybe I'll regret the feeling if David Carr is the 49er starting quarterback in September.

In the meantime, the 49ers have interviewed Cam Newton and Colin Kaepernick, both of which make me shudder. I just want a nice little quarterback that can take the ball from under center, set up in the pocket, go through his reads, and complete passes with a reasonable degree of accuracy. Is Drew Brees too much to ask for? He is? I guess I'll just cross my fingers for someone like Christian Ponder in the draft, then -- there seem to be half a dozen decent mid-round prospects -- or Carson Palmer or Matt Flynn or Kyle Orton in free agency.

I'm filled with too many years of dread about 49ER QUARTERBACK.

7
by Go Pats (not verified) :: Tue, 03/01/2011 - 2:39pm

I still think the 49ers should go after Brian Hoyer, Pats get the 7th pick, 49ers get the 17th pick plus Hoyer. I too do not want to see any more of Alex Smith. The only other QB, if he can get things turned around is C Palmer, but I would still like to go afte Hoyer.

11
by Jimmy :: Tue, 03/01/2011 - 2:59pm

That would rate Hoyer as being as valuable as the 35th pick in the draft (ie 550 points on the Jimmy Johson trade chart). I have no real idea who Brian Hoyer is or why you think he is worth a very high second round pick. Given that your tag is 'Go Pats' I suspect I know why you think this trade is a good idea.

24
by Podge (not verified) :: Wed, 03/02/2011 - 7:42am

If they got both the Pats 1st rounders that might be a fairer trade. Again, not sure why either team would want to make it though! I suspect a 17th and a mid-20th would be enough to get you up to around the 7th pick, with Hoyer maybe being a makeweight in it. Can't see that the Pats would want to trade up though, unless they decided someone available there was too ridiculous to miss.

Pats will trade down though. They don't want to use 1st round picks.

50
by Bobby Wommack (not verified) :: Mon, 03/07/2011 - 12:32pm

As a Pats fan, I think Hoyer has a ton of potential. He could be starting, or at least contending for a starting job in two years or so. I don't know if he'd be the right fit for the 49ers now, but if they could trade a relatively decent pick (4th, 5th rounder) for him, I think that would be a steal. I'm telling you, he's impressive.

13
by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 03/01/2011 - 3:07pm

I'd be suprised if the niners were that interested in Hoyer and if they were the terms of that trade represent the niners getting royally screwed. There's no way Hoyer's worth ten spots at the top of the draft.

18
by Thok :: Tue, 03/01/2011 - 7:01pm

I suspect that a poster called "Go Pats" is unlikely to be suggesting a Hoyer trade to help the Niners.

34
by Go Pats (not verified) :: Wed, 03/02/2011 - 3:40pm

Actually that is exacly what I am suggesting, I am a huge Pats fan but have also been a 49er fan for almost 30 years, the last 10 of which have been downright depressing. NE has the utmost confidence in Hoyer as Brady's back up, in the limited amount he has played, he has looked good. I would much rather have someone who has been in a top organization after coming into the NFL and learning behind someone like Brady and being coached by the NE coaching staff than the average QB's coming out from college this year. He may not have the "physical" skills of say a Cam Newton, but that's not what makes QB's have great careers in the NFL. Montana was not exactly a physical specimen but he did ok.

I think the NE coaching staff knows QB's. That Matt Cassell didn't turn out too bad either and he didn't play a down in college.

Everyone jumps when they mention Klob as well, but what has he really done?

Its my opinion being a big fan of both teams. I think Hoyer would make a good choice. Plus with Brady planning to play at least 5 more years, he is just rotting away behind him. It's much less of a gamble than taking any of the QB's in the draft and I certainly do not think Alex Smith or the other scrubs on the roster are the solution.

14
by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 03/01/2011 - 3:12pm

It's all a bit ?????? really isn't it?

I've got to the stage now where I'm just blindly trusting that Harbaugh knows what he's doing at quarterback. But I've been hoping that for a while now.

I had been falling for Newton's skills but then I saw his footwork at the combine. But then the only qb there who looked like he knew how to drop back from centre was Mallet, who also displayed the strongest arm but has more red flags than a USSR recreation society.

So I'm sticking with ??????

28
by Mr Shush :: Wed, 03/02/2011 - 11:35am

I think this is not the draft to be taking a quarterback high in. There's some upside to be had, but not without extreme risk.

Look on the bright side: you now have a head coach who may possibly have some semblance of a clue about offense. There's a decent chance he'll be able to bodge together something resembling NFL quarterbacking from somewhere in the short term, and a better chance than most teams have that he'll find the right long term answer in a year or two. I think if I was a 49er fan I'd ultimately be more worried about the quarterback the Rams do have than the one you don't.

36
by bravehoptoad :: Wed, 03/02/2011 - 7:52pm

I'm just tense about them gambling with some guy who has a high ceiling and a low floor. They don't need a Michael Vick to win, just some guy who can be a passable quarterback. It would be a relief just to see this team run by one of those middle-of-the-pack guys.

If I flip over to the QB statistics and look for guys ranked around say, 15, I get Cassel, E. Manning, and S. Hill for DYAR, and Flaco, Cassel, and Palmer for DVOA.

Any one of those guys will do. Any of them would give us a winning season for the first time since Thag was first naming the thagomizer. Sad that Sean Hill was on our roster just last year.

3
by Spielman :: Tue, 03/01/2011 - 1:22pm

One of the more hilarious recent developments in the Rams fandom is a fairly common minority opinion that the Rams don't have to do a thing at the receiver position, and will have a good receiving corps without adding anyone. The evaluation in this article is a lot more sensible, though it does neglect to mention Danario Alexander, who clearly displayed some potential in his relatively brief playing time this year.

The argument seems to go:
1) Mark Clayton looked like the best receiver on the roster through the five games he played, so he should be re-signed and kept as a starter in the near term.
2) Donnie Avery was regarded as pretty good when he was drafted, and he hasn't conclusively proven that he's terrible, so he should also get a chance to start.
3) Danario Alexander flashed some legitimate talent, so he should get a shot to develop into a future #1 receiver despite his horror show of a medical history.
4) Danny Amendola was a useful player this year, and seems to have a future as a slot receiver with a knack for getting open on third down.
5) Brandon Gibson wasn't absolutely horrible, so why not keep him around?

Add it all up, and there's a faction of Rams fans banging the "We don't need no Julio Jones" drum for all they're worth.

5
by justanothersteve :: Tue, 03/01/2011 - 1:56pm

I live in St Louis and I don't know any Rams fans who think they can get by with their current WR corps. The ones you are talking about are probably the same idiots who think the Cardinals can get by just fine if Pujols walks next year. You can't cure stupid. The Rams may not need Julio Jones. But they know they need a serious upgrade at WR, with at least one high pick and maybe even another so Gibson can leave with Robertson.

6
by Spielman :: Tue, 03/01/2011 - 2:09pm

All I can say is congratulations on not knowing any idiots. I wish I could say the same.

8
by Dean :: Tue, 03/01/2011 - 2:40pm

I don't know anybody here in town who thinks the WRs will be fine as-is. Having said that, they have so many WRs who are young already that free agency would probably be a better option to address the position. If they go out and get a #1 WR via free agency - be it Sidney Rice or whoever - then everybody else slides down one rung on the depth chart and suddenly you have guys filling roles they're capable of filling rather than having to try to play over their heads.

I would MUCH rather see the Rams take a DT with their first round pick.

10
by commissionerleaf :: Tue, 03/01/2011 - 2:52pm

Agreed about the DT; Carriker didn't work out and the Rams defense is the side of the ball with more problems. Always, but especially this year, taking an RB in the first round is a mistake, and while receivers can be a good choice, I'd look at defenders first. I don't know about the Fletcher comment above, but rush defense (4.5 ypc) looks like more of a problem than pass defense (5.x net yds/att). DT or LB look like the way to go, and there are no first round linebackers this year, really.

Not so sure about the receivers. I think what the St. Louis offense needed was better health and a bit of a different playcalling focus, rather than new faces. Bradford isn't great throwing downfield anyway; why try to focus on that?

29
by Mr Shush :: Wed, 03/02/2011 - 11:40am

"Bradford isn't great throwing downfield anyway"

Really? I'd say deep accuracy was one of his best attributes.

12
by The Ninjalectual :: Tue, 03/01/2011 - 3:07pm

So you're calling me an idiot? You don't sound all that special yourself.

Clayton is vastly underrated, and Avery has potential. It would be a waste of a pick for the Rams to draft a 1st round WR, especially considering that there is no way Jones is still available at their pick.

Bradford was effective with the receivers he had. He made Clayton look like a star. The Rams are set at WR.

I'm not a Rams fan. I'm a Redskins fan, and the only way Jones drops to the Rams is if Green drops to the Skins.

16
by Anonymouss (not verified) :: Tue, 03/01/2011 - 4:10pm

If it looks and sounds like a duck...

The Rams clearly do not have a number one receiver on their roster so I'm not sure how it would be a mistake to draft one if a legitimate prospect dropped to them.

39
by The Ninjalectual :: Thu, 03/03/2011 - 5:00am

The Rams clearly do not have a number one receiver on their roster

You mean they don't have one that you can recognize. By this time next year when Clayton is in the pro-bowl and top 10 in DYAR we'll all be saying, "of course Clayton broke out, look at his 5 games in 2010 when he looked like a star!" If I told you last year at this time that Brandon Lloyd would finish #2 in DYAR, would you have believed me? No, you would have said the Broncos should go out and get a #1 receiver! Well they already have one! So do the Rams. You just don't see it yet.

41
by Dean :: Thu, 03/03/2011 - 9:52am

You'll understand, of course, if I don't share your optimism.

Fact is, I've seen this story before. I've said many times that this Rams team reminds me of the turn of the century Eagles when Reid was first building them into a contender. People back then used to think the Eagles were OK at WR with the likes of Torrance Small and Charles Johnson. The same fans later said they were OK with Trash & Stinkston.

It's much easier to evaluate them in hindsight, but as it turns out the truth was that McNabb was so amazing at that point in his career that he could make fans pretend that those guys were viable options. He couldn't do the same for Fred-Ex, but he's only human, after all.

We're seeing the same thing with the current Rams. It's not that Clayton is somehow this awesome receiver waiting to breakout. It's that Bradford made him look better than he really is. If Bradford can do that with the likes of Clayton and Amendola, imagine what he could do if he was throwing to an actual, viable target? Say, someone like Sidney Rice?

42
by Spielman :: Thu, 03/03/2011 - 11:39am

You are amazingly certain about this guy based on 23 catches.

45
by tuluse :: Thu, 03/03/2011 - 4:35pm

What if I said I still don't trust Lloyd or consider him a true #1 receiver?

46
by The Ninjalectual :: Thu, 03/03/2011 - 6:11pm

Watch some Broncos tape--you'll enjoy it--he was amazing this year.

47
by tuluse :: Thu, 03/03/2011 - 6:35pm

Lots of receivers have a one off good year and are never that effective again.

49
by commissionerleaf :: Fri, 03/04/2011 - 7:09pm

Brandon Lloyd had a 50% catch rate this year.

17
by Spielman :: Tue, 03/01/2011 - 5:04pm

"So you're calling me an idiot? You don't sound all that special yourself."

No, I was not calling you an idiot. justanothersteve used 'idiots' and 'stupid' in his post which I took in part as questioning the veracity of my report. I used his word, 'idiots', in my reply as a kind of shorthand while reasserting (rather pointlessly, I'll admit in retrospect) that I had seen people express that opinion. Additionally, I had no idea that you personally would hold to that opinion.

I apologize for any insinuation that you or anyone else with that opinion is necessarily mentally deficient. I am not calling you an idiot. However, I still vehemently disagree with the opinion itself, and I'm not a big fan of that 'special' comment for obvious reasons.

21
by justanothersteve :: Tue, 03/01/2011 - 11:12pm

No. I called the local Rams fans idiots. At least those few who think they don't need help at WR. (FWIW, I've been a Packers fan my whole life. My HS field was the Packers original City Stadium and my youngest bro has the family season tickets.) And they are the same idiots who call the local sports shows and/or write the Post-Dispatch to tell everyone the NL Cardinals don't need to pay Pujols better after getting him for a comparative bargain for the last several years.

40
by The Ninjalectual :: Thu, 03/03/2011 - 5:01am

See comment #39 above. They have more WR talent than you recognize.

35
by Tim R :: Wed, 03/02/2011 - 4:22pm

My view is that the Rams can get by with the current lot if Clayton and Avery are healthy, fairly big if, but could really use a true number one receiver. I have no issue drafting Jones but I don't think he'll be available and what I don't want is the Rams to reach on a developmental receiver because there are already so many young receivers with varying degrees of potential that adding more will probably be counter-productive.
Ideally a proven receiver like Rice would be available and we can draft a DT.

19
by Aaron Brooks' Good Twin (not verified) :: Tue, 03/01/2011 - 7:26pm

There's a difference between thinking the receiving corps doesn't need help and thinking there are higher priorities.

You don't start to fix the broken arm, no matter how mangled, when there's a sucking chest wound, too.

23
by Podge (not verified) :: Wed, 03/02/2011 - 7:17am

You can argue that we can get by with the existing WR corps. Given some natural improvement as they are mainly young, with just those 5 we could, in 2 or 3 years, have maybe the 28th best WR corps in the league, if the breaks go our way and every other team suffers some injuries.

So yeah, we could get by. Just not very well. The Rams have a lot of number 3 or 4 wide receivers, but no actual good starters. If your best guy is a guy who was the reject from the feared 2009 Baltimore Ravens WR corps, then yeah, I think you have a need for some changes there.

I like the fact you've just ignored the existence of Laurent Robinson as well. Given last season, I'm not entirely sure he actually exists.

25
by Spielman :: Wed, 03/02/2011 - 7:55am

I'm praying that the Rams also ignore the existence of Laurent Robinson. If they re-sign him, I will go down to Rams Park and puke on Billy Devaney's shoes.

4
by justanothersteve :: Tue, 03/01/2011 - 1:50pm

While Hasselbeck may not be worth much to most other NFL teams, there are at least two other NFC West teams that would probably be happy to get him. If he signed with Arizona, he'd have the best WR corps he's probably ever had. While he'd have to do more on his own in SF, he'd have a decent OL and backfield. Not sure if SF would be willing to sign him, but I could see him in Arizona. They did pretty good with Warner, who was also at the end of his career.

9
by commissionerleaf :: Tue, 03/01/2011 - 2:44pm

"I served with Kurt Warner, I was a fan of Kurt Warner, Kurt Warner was like a friend of mine. Mr. Hasselbeck, you're no Kurt Warner."

30
by justanothersteve :: Wed, 03/02/2011 - 2:27pm

Hasselbeck is no Kurt Warner. But he's also no Derek Anderson or Max Hall.

37
by greybeard :: Thu, 03/03/2011 - 2:52am

SF OL is not decent. They are not good at pass blocking and they are mediocre at best at run blocking. Actually they were terrible at run blocking but I blame the predictive play calling (1st down they run for short gain behind Iuapi, second down the runner is stopped behind the line of scrimmage because Rachal did not block anybody, 3rd down is when you should watch for Davis to miss his block on the pass rusher). I am exaggerating (a little).
They do not have Kwame Harris anymore and maybe that confused you. Though Rachal & Davis combination is close enough.

I am in the opinion of Hasselback is not worth much to any team, including Arizona. He is not very good anymore but more importantly he is not durable. I bet he will miss many games next year.

43
by bravehoptoad :: Thu, 03/03/2011 - 3:07pm

SF OL is not decent.

You can say that again.

Anthony Davis: Matt Williamson, "a disaster in protection." PFF: "Davis was the only tackle in the league responsible for double-digit penalties, sacks, and quarterback hits."

Joe Staley: injured for much of the year, spotty when he was in. Barry Sims, in relief, fell off a cliff.

Iupati and Bass played pretty well...Iupati's biggest problem was the way they used him, running behind him so consistently that everyone on defense knew where the ball was going.

Rachal was a wreck.

It's an embarrassing performance from a line with three first-round picks and two high second-round picks.

44
by Karl Cuba :: Thu, 03/03/2011 - 3:31pm

Call me an idiot optimist but I'd expect the line to improve next year. Staley has been good when healthy over the last two years, Baas was pretty good last year and Iupati was fantastic for a player who remains very raw (he doesn't get low, he doesn't flatten his back on contact and he was still throwing guys around at times).

Anthony Davis had a very rough first year but he flashes potential. He's very light on his feet for a big guy and has a good hand punch, the game just seems too fast for him. I'd hope that he would really improve with a full offseason under Solari but we might not get a full offseason.

Rachal has been very disappointing, he was supposed to be a raw physical specimen and I expected him to take a while to develop but he sooooo slow. I wouldn't mind if the niners could find a replacement for him somewhere.

The playcalling can't have helped. I knew what was coming, I expect you did too. Even after Raye left we were still limited in that department.

15
by alexbond :: Tue, 03/01/2011 - 3:28pm

I always kind of liked Chris Spencer at center, I felt that while he started his career bad, he consistently improved and at this point he plays reasonably well and gets thrown under the bus for having terrible, terrible guards next to him. Terrible guards like Max Unger. Unger will be a downgrade from Chris Spencer. Just as I am not strong enough to play offensive line in the NFL, Max Unger is not strong enough, to the degree that no amount of smart line calls or saavy can make up for when Jay Ratliff is lined up 6 inches away from his face mask.

20
by Bob B. (not verified) :: Tue, 03/01/2011 - 9:09pm

I just want to come to the defense of Jeff Blake as I don't think he really deserves to be lumped in with John Friesz, Dave Brown and Craig Whelihan. I think his career was much more like Stan Humphries, Mark Rypien and Neil O'Donnell than Friesz, Brown & Whelihan. As for Alex Smith... I'm still hopeful but skeptical.

38
by greybeard :: Thu, 03/03/2011 - 2:59am

Alex Smith's right tackle in his rookie year and the second year was Kwame Harris. His head coaches were Mike Nolan (an idiot when it comes to offense) and Singletary (an idiot when it comes to coaching).
I'd like to see him go to a good organization and show his true worth.

26
by zman (not verified) :: Wed, 03/02/2011 - 9:24am

by justanothersteve :: Tue, 03/01/2011 - 11:12pm
And they are the same idiots who call the local sports shows and/or write the Post-Dispatch to tell everyone the NL Cardinals don't need to pay Pujols better after getting him for a comparative bargain for the last several years.
****
Not to sway off topic (but I'm going to anyway), please explain how the Cardinals are in anyway obligated to VASTLY overpay Pujols for the next 10 years just because he was a "comparative bargain" the last several years. This is what gets baseball teams, ones that can't afford financial mistakes, in trouble. If the Cardinals give Pujols 10 years/$30M per they will cripple themselves from about year 4 of the deal on...but HEY(!) they'll have Pujols.

31
by justanothersteve :: Wed, 03/02/2011 - 2:33pm

Obligated? No. But he'll be worth at least 8 yrs/$25M per that some team will offer and the Cardinals won't. And if he goes to the Mets or Cubs ....

48
by zlionsfan :: Fri, 03/04/2011 - 1:41am

Wait, what? These are MLB contracts we're talking about here. It's not like you can just drop the last X years as if they didn't exist and start again. Pujols would be 39 at the end of that contract, and if you look at his similarity scores at 30, you get Jimmie Foxx (dropped to part-time at 34), Frank Robinson (DH at 37, part-time at 39), Ken Griffey Jr. (injured or average from 32 through 40 except for one season), Lou Gehrig (done at 36) ... even Aaron only had 465 PAs at 39, and now you're talking about a truly exceptional player in terms of longevity.

There are exactly three guys who posted an OPS+ of 160 or greater with at least enough PAs to qualify for the batting title at age 39: Bonds, Williams, and Ruth. If you switch to WAR, it's Bonds again, way ahead of the crowd (12.4), then Luke Appling with 5.3, Dummy Hoy with 5.1 in 1901 ... anyway, one thing I think you can say with virtual certainty is that he will not be worth 8 years/anything to some team. He's been an outstanding hitter and a pretty good first baseman through this point in his career, but his prime is likely past, and any wise team would pay him accordingly; pay now for the great seasons he'll likely have in the near future, but don't assume it'll continue indefinitely.

51
by Bobby Wommack (not verified) :: Mon, 03/07/2011 - 12:33pm

Really interesting stuff on Red Bryant, great read!