Our offseason Four Downs series ends with a look at the NFC West's biggest remaining holes and their most notable UDFA signings. The Rams and 49ers have to kick-start their passing games, Arizona's offense lacks a big dimension, and the Seahawks continue to rely on Russell Wilson's magic tricks.
20 Aug 2009
by Mike Tanier
Walkthrough is now a No-Favre Zone.
From this announcement on, Brett Favre will not be mentioned in Walkthrough until the end of the regular season.
This isn't snark or spite, it's a customer service. Most Walkthrough readers are sick of Favre. There's little more to say about him, but hundreds of commentators across the Internet, television, and radio are saying it. The football world needs a safe harbor. This is it.
There's no reason to dwell on one player when we can talk about:
Coaches Gone Wild: Raiders coaches now maintain the chain-of-command through the threat of violence, gorilla-colony style. At this rate of devolution, they'll be rutting in the parking lot by October. If it turns out that Tom Cable bashed Randy Hanson's face with an overhead projector, then this is the most amazing story in NFL history.
Meanwhile, Rex Ryan took a shot at the Ravens last week for issuing Michael McCrary's old uniform number to Paul Kruger, "some rookie who hasn't proven s**t." After making the comment, Ryan took a flamethrower to Vernon Gholston's No. 50 jersey and sent the ashes to Bob Crable. For the record, Kruger has already survived a near-fatal stabbing and an off-road auto accident. He's not a hard-knocks graduate like Ryan, who used his dad's connections to get assistant coaching gigs and inherited one of the greatest defenses in history.
Kicker Controversies: Brandon Coutu handled all of the kicking chores for the Seahawks on Saturday. He made two 38-yard field goals and had kickoffs of 66, 69, 58, 70, and 63 yards. Not bad, though not enough to send Olindo Mare packing. The Coutu-Mare battle: sounds like an obscure Central African imperial skirmish immortalized in a Warren Zevon song. Seahawks general manager Tim Ruskell swears his team won't carry two kickers and no wide receivers this year. "We're thinking about three this year," Ruskell joked about his kicker fetish.
Maybe Sean Payton, who treats kickers like Q-Tips, can send him a spare. Garrett Hartley, perfect on field goals last season, shanked a 20-yard field goal against the Bengals, then learned that he shanked a drug test for Adderall. John Carney, who was Hartley's age when Hartley was born, will start the season as the Saints kicker. Hartley has all the job security of a typical Saints kicker (none), but there's always long-haul trucking.
The Broncos: Shinebox McDaniels, angry that Tom Cable beat him to chair-flipping related headlines, did his best to spin Kyle Orton's three-interception cannonball in the preseason opener. "He also did plenty of good things on Friday night and ran the team effectively in a lot of ways." Yeah, that nine-yard pass to Brandon Stokley made everyone forget Jay Cutler. McDaniels is still ignoring/infuriating/shopping Brandon Marshall, Knowshon Moreno is hurt, and Chris Simms is wearing his invisibility jersey. If Eddie Royal gets hurt, Tom Brandstater gets the cover of the media guide.
Jason David and Josh Bullocks get released: The NFL passer efficiency rating just went down four points.
The No-Favre Zone won't affect regular season game previews, because my game previews won't appear in Walkthrough this year. More on that in a week or two. And if the Vikings make the playoffs, the ban will be lifted so I don't have to be too cute about coverage. But for now, it means the usual Walkthrough content -- play diagrams, gags, offbeat features -- will be blissfully Favreless for 19 glorious weeks.
Enjoy the vacation. I know I will.
In preseason fantasy football, David Clowney is a No. 1 wide receiver.
Clowney, a backup for the Jets, caught three passes for 102 yards and a touchdown last weekend. He led the AFC in receiving in the 2008 preseason: eight catches, 222 yards, two touchdowns.
Malcom Floyd of the Chargers would be another great preseason fantasy receiver. He caught six passes with a touchdown in 2006, 10 passes for 133 yards and a touchdown in 2007, and 12 passes for 137 yards last year. He caught a 37-yard pass against the Seahawks last week. Some guys own August.
After one week of preseason action, August heroes start to make news. There's Julius Edelman, the latest Patriots buzz player; Brit Miller, who scored two touchdowns for the Niners; Aaron Brown of the Lions, who flipped in the end zone after one of his two touchdowns. You only have a vague idea who these guys are. I only have a vague idea who these guys are. Some will make contributions in 2009. Some are destined for Clowney-Floyd status as valued backups and perennial preseason understudies. Some will be cut in two weeks. It's hard to tell who's who.
Let's take some time to lean more about last week's newsmakers. If one or two of them blossom into stars, we'll be ahead of the curve:
In a nutshell: A seventh-round draft pick by the Bills in 2007, Ah You spent the 2008 season on the Rams practice squad. He played well against the Jets last week, with a tackle for a loss and a near fumble recovery. He also has an awesome name.
Also Known For: Punching his teammate, BYU quarterback Brett Engemann, in the face during Engemann's Pro Day. Agents now advise prospects to not invite anyone to Pro Day who wants to punch them in the face.
He'll Make the Team Because: He's a high-effort, high-intensity defender having his second straight strong preseason. At 275 pounds, he could fit as a tweener who moves inside on passing downs in Steve Spagnuolo's defense.
He Won't Make the Team Because: He's an old prospect at 27. The Rams are deep and experienced at defensive end with Chris Long, Leonard Little, Victor Adeyanju, and James Hall, so Ah You must really make his presence felt.
Bold Forecast: A wave lineman for a few years, then Raiders head coach.
In a Nutshell: The Colts' on-and-off preseason and practice squad kicker since 2006. Andrus handled all of the team's August kicking chores in 2006 and 2007, and he provided the only scoring in Friday's 13-3 loss to the Vikings with a 42-yard field goal.
Also Known For: Rounding out the Giants practice squad during their 2007 Super Bowl run (the Colts briefly released him); hitting five straight home runs to tie a national record in high school baseball.
He'll Make the Team Because: Adam Vinatieri had knee and hip surgery in the offseason and has barely practiced. Andrus has been a consistent camp leg for years, and the Colts know what he can do.
He Won't Make the Team Because: Vinatieri will be the Colts kicker as long as he can swing his leg. Andrus missed a 54-yarder against the Vikings and hasn't kicked in a real-life football game since his days at Murray State.
Bold Prediction: The Jim Sorgi of kickers. We'll see him again in August of 2010.
In a Nutshell: The Lions' sixth-round pick from Texas Christian: An incredibly quick, oft-injured change-up back who scored two touchdowns in the preseason opener.
Also Known For: Getting suspended in high school for something called The Graffiti Incident, which sounds like a Led Zeppelin/Guns N' Roses cover band. Brown described what he did as "stupid stuff ... just to intimidate the incoming freshmen." His plans were thwarted when Mitch Kramer devised a scheme to dump paint on him outside The Emporium.
He'll Make the Team because: Brown has track-star speed and great elusiveness. The Lions need his playmaking ability.
He Won't Make the Team Because: Brown's college career is dotted with MCL injuries, ankle sprains, and suspensions. His end zone flip after a touchdown reception encapsulates the problem: great athlete, dubious judgment, 15-yard penalty.
Bold Prediction: Brown makes the Lions and plays a DeSean Jackson role, mixing great plays with dopey ones.
In a Nutshell: The Patriots' seventh-round pick, a former Kent State quarterback who caught five passes and returned a punt for a touchdown in the preseason opener against the Eagles.
Also Known For: Pre-draft visits with half the teams in the NFL. Federal law required sportswriters to use the word "Wildcat" within ten words of Edelman's name. Edelman passed for 1,820 yards and rushed for another 1,370 in 2008.
He'll Make the Team Because: He has been excellent in camp, has taken some reps as the third or fourth wideout, and can take punt return responsibilities from Wes Welker.
He Won't Make the Team Because: I dunno ... the Patriots could trade for Brandon Marshall or something.
Bold Prediction: He won't run much Wildcat, except with the scout team, but Edelman will return punts and catch some Welker-style screens. The Patriots have everything else: Do they need their own Josh Cribbs, too?
In a Nutshell: The Bills' seventh-round pick, a 5-foot-9 cornerback who intercepted three passes and recorded 2.5 sacks at West Virginia in 2008. He picked off two passes in the fourth quarter against the Bears on Friday.
Also Known For: Stealing a laptop in 2007. Lankster and a teammate left a college party in 2007 with a Dell laptop. Police pulled them over a few minutes later outside a McDonald's. The teammate was the perp, but Lankster also earned a three-game suspension. Some guys see free wifi and get carried away.
He'll Make the Team Because: Dick Jauron likes his toughness, and several Bills defensive backs have gotten hurt in camp. Lankster also has experience as a return man.
He Won't Make the Team Because: Leodis McKelvin, Terrence McGee, Ashton Youboty, Drayton Florence, and a few others are ahead of him on the depth chart.
Bold Prediction: Lankston earns one of the final roster spots, then moves up the depth chart slowly as the Bills let their other cornerbacks leave as free agents.
In a Nutshell: The University of Illinois' leading tackler last season, with 133 stops at middle linebacker. The Niners are converting him to fullback, and he caught two touchdown passes against the Broncos last week.
Also known for:Being deaf in his right ear since birth. "I look at your lips when I talk to you as opposed to your eyes," Miller said in an interview last year. "Sometimes people are freaked out thinking they have something in their teeth. If I'm trying to meet a girl or something, it's always interesting."
He'll Make the Team Because: Fullback/linebackers make great all-purpose special teamers. The Niners' other fullbacks, Zac Keasey and Moran Norris, are both hurt. The scouting reports said Miller lacked agility, but he looked pretty nifty avoiding Broncos tacklers on one of his touchdowns.
He Won't Make the Team Because: The Niners quickly signed rookie free agent Bill Rentmeester to replace Keasey, so Miller must keep battling.
Bold Prediction: Miller makes the team, unless Mike Singletary gets mad at him for not looking him in the eyes.
Eagles at Colts, Thursday Night, FOX: Peyton Manning and Donovan McNabb decide at the coin flip to cobble one good offensive line from the two rosters that both quarterbacks can play behind.
Titans at Cowboys, Friday Night, FOX: Jerry Jones is proud of his new stadium. At halftime, he'll exhume the corpse of Louis XIV and shout: "In your face, Sun King!"
Steelers at Redskins, Saturday Night, NFLN: The Redskins lost their preseason opener 23-0. No hurry installing that offense, Jim Zorn.
Broncos at Seahawks, Saturday Night, NFLN: Chris Simms throws three touchdown passes and saves a toddler drowning in Puget Sound. Kyle Orton is named Week 1 starter.
Jets at Ravens, Monday Night, ESPN: Rex Ryan's Pee-Wee Bounty Bowl.
Squeaky Fromme was released from prison just hours after the Eagles signed Michael Vick last week.
It was a tough week to be Roman Polanski's dog.
The Eagles toyed with the idea of signing Fromme. She could join LeSean McCoy and Vick in a Squeaky, Shady, and Sleazy backfield.
Look, this is going to take time, OK? I know America is the Land of Second Chances -- that's going to replace E. Pluribus Unum on our money someday. I know Vick paid his debt to society, that Pope Dungy spoke ex cathedra about the sincerity of his contrition. It's time to forgive and forget, at least according to the ever-forgiving Eagles fans I've spoken to (the ones who still hold a grudge against Joe Kuharich). I'm just not ready for this.
The Eagles have always been like a deadbeat brother to me: a troublesome-but-beloved family member I'm tied to forever. This is just another bail bond in that relationship. Frankly, I'm more worried about the pot-smuggling, middle-finger-waggling, playbook-ignoring Vick than I am about the guy who killed dogs. He's not going to open any more kennels, but he could still check into a Samson Street massage parlor under an assumed name carrying a Wawa coffee mug with a secret compartment full of ganja. That's the guy I didn't want playing for my team long before I heard the bad news about the kennels.
I'm also worried about the Eagles new tight end, Donovan McNabb. That's right, McNabb is about to follow on the heels of L.J. Smith, meaning he will have to learn to drop his own passes. "I'll be a receiver. I might be a tight end," McNabb said of his role in Vick's Grateful Dog packages. "You never know where I'll be." Picture it now: Eagles versus Giants, November 1. The Eagles go Wildcat, with Vick at quarterback, Brian Westbrook at running back, McNabb at tight end with Osi Umenyiora over him. Umenyiora throws McNabb to the ground. Westbrook bravely tries to block him but pulls a variety of muscles. Vick runs in circles to escape, then gets driven headfirst into the turf. Three injured Eagles on one play, the franchise kaput, Jason Peters scratching his butt the whole time. Paranoid fantasy? Vision of the future?
And then, there's the dogfighting. You know a guy carries a lot of baggage when he's the subject of sentences like "and then, there's the dogfighting." Rosie, my own pit bull, has been acting nervous lately; we've had to cone her, and it's a pathetic sight. The Frisbee pooch on Wii Sports Resort doesn't whistle as happily as she did when I bought the game. My oldest son knows who Vick is; he saw him on the news two years ago, and I had to explain about the bad man who hurts dogs, the one daddy gets paid to write about. Now, I have to explain that he's on the Eagles. I want my children to watch football. But I don't want them exposed to anything that will give them the impression that they can force unwitting animals into violent confrontation, train them to become stronger and more aggressive, confine them to tight spaces...
(Wait a second, let me turn on a Pokemon cartoon to entertain them while I work. OK, where was I?)
Eagles owner Jeff Lurie promises that Vick will be "proactive" about animal abuse. "Proactive" means many things to many people and absolutely nothing to most. It probably involves writing checks, recording PSAs, and making some highly controlled public appearances. I think it means he must take his message of redemption to the people. There's an Animal Adoption Center Dog Walk in Camden County on October 4. It's the Eagles' bye week, and Vick will still be suspended, so he would have no trouble attending an event located about four miles from Lincoln Financial Field.
If Vick wants to help the healing process, if he wants to win over Eagles fans who are struggling to accept him, he should come to the dog walk. Pet some dogs. Pet my dog. Look a few hundred dog lovers in the eyes. Then, Eagles fans like me will be more ready to embrace him.
Either that, or score a bunch of touchdowns. That works too.
55 comments, Last at 24 Aug 2009, 1:02pm by Kellerman