Four Downs: NFC South

Four Downs: NFC South
Four Downs: NFC South
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

by Doug Farrar

Atlanta Falcons

Will the "Curse of 370" strike Michael Turner?

One of the major keys to Atlanta's 2008 turnaround was former San Diego running back (and longtime LaDainian Tomlinson backup) Michael Turner, signed to a six-year, $34.5 million contract in March of last year. In his first year as a primary NFL back, Turner finished second in the league in yards (1,699, behind only Adrian Peterson) and touchdowns (18, behind only DeAngelo Williams). Turner did manage to lead the NFL in one important category -- unfortunately, that category was carries, with 376.

Football Outsiders has established in numerous studies that running backs who are overworked (roughly 370 carries or more) are at greater risk for significant decline or injury the next season. The talented Turner now finds himself in the crosshairs of the Curse of 370.

The sad part is that Turner never had to be overworked, because the Falcons have another running back with a perfectly complementary skill set: three-year veteran Jerious Norwood. In 2007, Norwood put together a very impressive statistic -- while the offensive line in front of him finished dead last in adjusted line yards, Norwood somehow finished first among all running backs in DVOA. And while Turner is a bruiser who likes to break through first contact and make his own lanes, Norwood is a speedster with a quick first cut that Turner just doesn't have.

So, why did the Falcons give Norwood a total of 95 carries? In those carries, Norwood gained 5.1 yards per attempt and scored four touchdowns. The team seems to see Norwood as more of a multipurpose player (he caught 36 passes and returned 51 kickoffs in 2008), but it would serve the Falcons well to split the load a bit more equitably -- especially since the rejuvenated offensive line can now help Norwood make plays.

Who Could Leave?

Start with the linebackers. It's a good thing that second-round draft pick Curtis Lofton worked out so well in the middle, because Lofton may have new teammates on either side in 2009. After a brief time as an FO Binky, Michael Boley disappointed in 2008; injuries and ineffectiveness caused him to be replaced by Coy Wire on all but third downs as the season ended. He's a free agent, and the Falcons showed interest in Boley clone Nic Harris of Oklahoma at the Senior Bowl. Veteran Keith Brooking is nearing the end of the road as well. The Falcons need more speed from their linebackers. There's a thought that second-year defensive end Jamaal Anderson, who's been a severe disappointment as a pass rusher, might leave his current position and be tried as a situational pass-rushing tackle. Safety Lawyer Milloy is in a position where his athleticism has declined, but the team might need his acumen enough to look at another season.

Who Could They Sign?

Atlanta's been one of the rumored stops for Albert Haynesworth, and while that move would immediately improve the Falcons' defense, you have to figure that GM Thomas Dimitroff learned a thing or two from Bill Belichick about drafting impact defensive tackles. They might be better off re-signing Grady Jackson and looking at someone like Mississippi's Peria Jerry, who's projected to go in the late first round. Tight end is a need as well, but there isn't much at the elite level on the open market. Any offensive tackle needs brought about by the retirement of Todd Weiner would be more intelligently handled through the draft; for the second straight year, it's a deep and impressive class at the position.

Carolina Panthers

Is it time to plan for life after Delhomme?

If you watched Carolina's 33-13 divisional-round playoff loss to the NFC champion Arizona Cardinals, your last abiding memory of Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme is the dinosaur egg he laid on the turf of Bank of America Stadium. Delhomme completed 17 of 34 passes, took two sacks and threw an astonishing five interceptions to end Carolina's season. According to Football Outsiders' advanced metrics, he played the second-worst game by a quarterback in the past 14 postseasons (only Kerry Collins' losing effort for the New York Giants against the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XXXV was worse). Fans and pundits were understandably apoplectic, but were the voices calling for Delhomme's head wailing in error?

According to his per-game DVOA in 2008, there is still some life in the old dog. Through the 2008 season, Delhomme finished with negative DVOA in five of 16 games. Two of those games were in Weeks 2 and 3, when Delhomme was still shaking the rust off after missing most of 2007 with an elbow injury. He balanced stinkers like his Week 10 performance against the Raiders, when he completed 7 of 27 passes and threw four picks, with a stretch run in which he put up only one DVOA mark under 30 percent in the Panthers' last six regular-season games. In those games, the team went 4-2, and its two losses were by a total of 10 points.

Jake Delhomme's Last Six Regular-Season Games
Week Opponent DVOA VOA DYAR Weekly QB rank
12 Atlanta 36.90% 35.70% 110 8
13 Green Bay 39.30% 27.40% 84 8
14 Tampa Bay 6.70% -5.30% 35 14
15 Denver 33.20% 60.30% 74 11
16 NY Giants 60.90% 57.30% 95 7
17 New Orleans 80.20% 84.60% 131 3

Delhomme may not be in the upper echelon of quarterbacks as he was in 2005, but he still has what it takes to lead the Panthers. Teams that make rash personnel decisions based on single-game performances tend not to return to the postseason too quickly. And where is Collins now? He just led another team (Tennessee) to the playoffs.

Who Could Leave?

Julius Peppers doesn't want to spend any more time as a Carolina Panther, and he doesn't care who knows it. The pass-rusher has made noises about playing outside in a 3-4 defense. The Panthers would find the ideal situation in getting a long-term deal done with left tackle Jordan Gross, who is also a free agent and actually wants to stay with the team, and then franchising and trading Peppers. Worst-case scenario, they'd have to franchise Gross, as he's the heart of their redefined offensive line. Cornerback Ken Lucas' subpar play, and his $9 million cap hit, will hasten his departure. The Panthers can plug Richard Marshall into his spot.

Who Could They Sign?

Primary needs include defensive line, with or without Peppers; the run defense suffered when tackle Maake Kemoeatu was hurt. Former Seahawks receiver D.J. Hackett has been a disappointment in Carolina and may be on the way out. If that's the case, and the Panthers want a complementary deep threat for Steve Smith, ex-Saint Devery Henderson might be an intriguing addition if he can catch more balls than he drops.

New Orleans Saints

How do they solve their secondary?

In the three years of Sean Payton's tenure as New Orleans' head coach, the Saints have been among the most dynamic offensive teams in the league. In 2006, they ranked first in yards and fifth in points, and parlayed that productivity into a trip to the NFC Championship Game. However, the Saints haven't posted a winning record since, due to a defense that has fallen to the depths and can't seem to right itself.

Before the 2007 season, New Orleans signed ex-Colts cornerback Jason David to a four-year, $15.6 million contract. It was thought that David would improve the team's pass defense with his athleticism, but all he did was become a chilling object lesson in what happens when you sign a zone cornerback and ask him to play man coverage all the time. In his first year with the Saints, David's numbers were astonishingly bad; he won the Football Outsiders Reverse Triple Crown by allowing the most total passing yards, yards after catch and passing touchdowns of any defender despite missing three games with a forearm injury. Our game charting metrics list "Hole in Zone" as the empty space in certain defensive schemes. In 2007, David allowed 12.1 yards per pass to the 11.6 allowed by "Hole in Zone" -- as a defender, David was literally worse than a void.

Things weren't much better in 2008 -- the Saints drafted Indiana man-coverage speedster Tracy Porter in the second round, and the rookie seemed to be getting the hang of the next level before he was placed on injured reserve after five games with a dislocated wrist. When fellow cornerback Mike McKenzie went down after half a season with a knee injury, the Saints were back in trouble on the defensive side. They finished first in yards gained and points scored, but could muster only an 8-8 season. Personnel will be an issue going forward, but the team hopes that the hire of former Redskins and Jaguars defensive coordinator Gregg Williams brings a needed aggressiveness to this defense. Sometimes the best way to improve the secondary is to give it some help in the pass rush.

Who Could Leave?

David could be out the door, though he did "improve" his yards per pass play allowed to 8.8. The Saints may also be ready to cut ties with running back Deuce McAllister, whose $7.3 million cap hit in 2009 doesn't match his productivity or ability to stay healthy over the last few seasons. Receiver Devery Henderson will be taking his demon speed and brick hands elsewhere. Linebacker Jonathan Vilma is a free agent this year, but Williams has said that he wants to build the defense around the talented man in the middle.

Who Could They Sign?

The Saints might be able to reverse the David signing by picking up cornerback Leigh Bodden on the cheap. Bodden displayed far more expertise in man coverage situations for the Browns in 2007 than he did in Detroit's Suck Zone last season. Bodden may not be elite, but he's on the open market, and the Saints need to find players in the defensive backfield who fit the scheme. If McKenzie has another injury-filled season, no amount of offense will overcome further defensive deficiencies.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

What killed this defense down the stretch?

After their 23-20 Week 13 win over the New Orleans Saints, the Buccaneers stood at 9-3, with a defensive DVOA of -17.6%, good for fifth in the NFL (Since DVOA is a scoring-based value system, defensive DVOA is better when it's negative.) Only the Ravens were better against the pass, and only the Ravens, Steelers and Vikings were better against the run.

And then, sometime in early December, longtime defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin announced that he was leaving the team to coach with his son, former Raiders head coach Lane, at Tennessee. We're not necessarily blaming Kiffin for what happened after he told the team, but things went downhill very quickly from there.

In a Week 14 loss to the Panthers, the Buccaneers' defense gave up 299 yards rushing, a franchise record for its opponent and only 7 yards short of the Tampa Bay franchise record. In that one game alone, the Bucs dropped from 14th to 28th in the league in the percentage of rushing yardage allowed on runs over 10 yards. The carnage continued in an overtime loss to the Falcons the next game, when Michael Turner ran for 152 yards on 32 carries. Against the Chargers in Week 16, it was Philip Rivers' aerial assault that did Tampa Bay in, as it allowed four touchdown passes. And in the season finale against the moribund Raiders, that formerly great defense gave up 177 yards rushing to Michael Bush, a back who had gained 244 yards all season until that game.

Kiffin's departure may have been a factor, but in the end, the Bucs' front seven just wore down and got pushed around. In one month, Tampa Bay's rank in adjusted line yards on defense dropped from seventh to 11th. The four-game losing streak kicked the Bucs out of the playoffs, and Kiffin's departure started an organizational domino effect that also claimed Jon Gruden as a casualty.

Who Could Leave?

His nemesis (Gruden) may be gone, but Jeff Garcia might be ready to move on anyway. The Bucs' quarterback situation has been a crazy quilt for years, and Garcia deserves a situation with a bit more stability -- either a starting spot with a team that needs a veteran or a backup job on a Super Bowl contender (*coughMinnesotacough*). Cadillac Williams, having overcome one patellar injury, succumbed to another. He won't be ready to try again until midseason at the very earliest. Receiver Michael Clayton has spent every season since his rookie year disappointing the Bucs with iffy production. He's now a free agent, and apparently interested in returning under new coach Raheem Morris, but it remains to be seen whether the interest goes both ways.

Who Could They Sign?

Depending on whose reports you read, the Bucs have as much as $40 million in cap room to play with, a front four in need of an upgrade, and a revamped front office looking to make a splash. Sound like a good match for one Albert Haynesworth? If Joey Galloway joins Clayton on the list of departures, the new regime will have to surround Antonio Bryant with some complementary threats. And as this free agent receiver class looks pretty much like T.J. Houshmandzadeh and the Pips, the draft might be the better way to go.


34 comments, Last at 18 Feb 2009, 12:14am

#1 by Key19 // Feb 12, 2009 - 3:56pm

Haynesworth to Tampa would be sweet. Would make watching Bucs games not horribly dull anymore. Would love to see another force somewhat comparable to Sapp in Pewter and Red. No insight on who should be QB though? What about Josh Johnson?

So will the Saints need another RB if McAllister leaves, or will they just trust Bush? Also, where are some places where Henderson might end up? He did have the #1 DVOA amongst WRs with 100+ targets... Has to be worth something. Doesn't seem to me like the Saints will be any better next year than they were this year.

Chances Matt Moore gets a chance in Carolina? I know that they put up good DVOA last season, but I never really believed in the Panthers, and their Playoff game only strengthened my opinions about them.

I think Atlanta has the best shot at the crown this year. Roddy and Matt are great, Turner should be fine, and the defense can get strengthened through the Draft and Free Agency.

Points: 0

#2 by BucNasty // Feb 12, 2009 - 4:07pm

You're forgetting about Pierre Thomas.

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#5 by Key19 // Feb 12, 2009 - 10:06pm

Ahh, indeed I am. I really need to not do that. Especially when Fantasy Draft time comes around. Good call, BucNasty.

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#4 by BucNasty // Feb 12, 2009 - 5:35pm

Regarding Cadillac, the good news is that this time the injury wasn't as severe. In the first injury, his tendon snapped in half. This time, it was ripped off the bone but intact. Apparently that's not as bad, as witnessed by Mark Jones (who also tore his PT, soon after Cadillac, while with the Bucs) being ready for the Panthers since the beginning of the season. Some reports have Cadillac being ready to go by training camp.

I'd say Tampa is also the most likely landing spot for Haynesworth, but I think we'd have a tough time wooing receivers. I'll be happy enough if we can manage to keep Bryant in town.

Points: 0

#3 by MilkmanDanimal // Feb 12, 2009 - 5:18pm

I would be very OK with Haynesworth. To say the least. If Bryant comes back (which better @#$!! happen), I also wouldn't mind Henderson being a Buc (words I NEVER thought I would say). Maybe he doesn't catch everything, but he catches enough of them now that he's at least something vaguely resembling a downfield threat.

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#6 by Key19 // Feb 12, 2009 - 10:22pm

Are there seriously only 3 people interested in the NFC South?

Anyways, @Milkman:

Devery would be pretty sweet as a Buc. He would also allow you guys to cut Galloway without any hesitation at all.

My question to Bucs fans: Do you guys think Cadillac is the long-term answer at RB? He seems to be pretty strongly supported by the fans, but I personally don't really think of him as the answer at RB for the next say 6 years or so. What is his contract situation?

I think that if the Bucs get Henderson and Haynesworth and resign Bryant, they could very well win the NFC South this season. LB and CB are still needs and QB is up in the air, but having Haynesworth helps everyone on the defense a decent amount. Unless Ronde's game really drops off from last year's Pro Bowl-caliber performance (har har), the secondary shouldn't be terrible with the added QB pressure from Albert. Bryant and Henderson are good enough that the Bucs should be able to give up a few big defensive meltdowns and still be in the game. I think losing Garcia will actually HELP the offense (unless they get someone terrible at QB).

Points: 0

#16 by MilkmanDanimal // Feb 13, 2009 - 11:19am

I'd like Cadillac to be the long-term answer, but you're talking about a guy who's suffered significant knee injuries in two consecutive seasons after he had knee injuries in college. Confidence is not, to say the least, high. Dunn won't be around forever, and Earnest Graham is at best serviceable. There isn't a long-term solution at RB, but there really hasn't ever been that I can recall. Pierre Thomas needs to just move teams over. I'd be all over him as a Buc.

CB-wise, Aqib Talib had a good rookie season. If they can re-sign Buchanon, the secondary is OK. Barber's drop-off was pretty dramatic this year, sadly. LB . . . please, please, please draft an impact OLB this year. Heck, two. Possibly four or five.

I'm ambivalent on Garcia leaving. I like the guy and he does proverbially extend the play, but he often extends it out of a perfectly good pocket and runs into a defensive lineman. Luke McCown is one of those "promise" guys and he's looked good when he's played in the occasional game, but Bruce Gradkowski looked really good for two weeks when he first started until everybody realized he couldn't throw the ball 15 yards downfield (I just remembered the Bruce Gradkowski era, I need to go take a shower now). McCown's such an unknown quantity that, if he's the starter, I have utterly no freaking clue what will happen. Better him than Griese. Josh Johnson? Who knows. Was raw as hell last year, and it's not like Gruden is exactly known for coddling young QBs. He's probably still raw as hell.

Points: 0

#34 by PaulH (not verified) // Feb 18, 2009 - 12:14am

Cadillac never had knee injuries in college. In his freshman campaign he suffered a broken clavicle against Alabama on a tackle from (now Raven) Jarrett Johnson, and as a sophomore he suffered a broken ankle against Florida. Both were bone injuries that healed completely, and neither had anything to do with his knees.

Even so, that point notwithstanding, Cadillac looks to have a very short career ahead of him. He is about to turn 27, and he's coming off of back-to-back major knee injuries. Even if he can get back to 100% for the 2009 season opener, he probably only a couple of good years left after that. By that point, he's going to be right at 30, and for a relatively small back with a very serious injury history, that's pretty much a death knell.

Don't get me wrong, I like Cadillac, but it's just not looking good for him. Any time you have a player at a position with such a short life, who stayed all four years of college, and who has lost out on at least a couple of years to major injuries, there really just don't have a very long time to post good production, and that pretty much sums up Cadillac.

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#7 by Ben Stuplisberger // Feb 12, 2009 - 11:06pm

Brian Burke has refuted "The Curse of the 370." FO made fairly clear errors in reasoning and cherry picked statistics to support their argument. Link:

I'm no longer a believer.

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#9 by Doug Farrar // Feb 12, 2009 - 11:45pm

Well, there are other facets, and the end points for overuse evolve as the research does. Turner is a guy who loves to run inside. Contact has a lot to do with it. We've also done studies on carries versus touches, and the percentages of backs who head on the high side of 370 touches with about 15 percent catches or more tend to avoid the generic "Curse". Of all the backs to hit 370 touches in a season, only John Riggins in 1983 and Christian Okoye in 1989 had lower percentages of catches in their carries than Turner in 2008. Now, there are things we don't really know. Percentage of outside runs, how many prior seasons with more than X carries factor in (this is his first year with any real starting obligation, carry-wise), etc.

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#10 by Ben Stuplisberger // Feb 13, 2009 - 2:59am

I am not sure if you read Burke's argument, but he claims that FO made two large mistakes with the original thesis, which was that a back with 370 or more rushing attempts will decline or be injured within the following two years.

The first mistake, according to Burke, was setting the bar at 370. Burke claims that if the bar was set at 369 or 371, the overuse theory breaks down. Despite FO's claims to the contrary, 370 is indeed a magic number, the theory doesn't work without it.

The second mistake was excluding Eric Dickerson from the data set (or so it is assumed by Burke). According to Burke, Dickerson's ability to foil the curse does not provide the rational for excluding him from the analysis.

One other intriguing point he makes is that RB's in general have high injury rates, and staying healthy can be a matter of luck. I believe that may be a point that FO is fond of making...

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#22 by Pat (filler) (not verified) // Feb 13, 2009 - 5:25pm

Burke's response is best described as "going over 370 doesn't kill a running back." Which is true. The fact that 369 or 371 gives you a different answer is immaterial (it's due to small sample size, anyway - when you change things by one and get different answers, the numbers suck): you shouldn't be dividing up the dataset via an arbitrary cutoff anyway. If you just look at it as "likelihood of injury the next year versus carries in a given year" there's a clear correlation. Using 370 just makes it easy to understand, which FO has said multiple times: it's just an easy mnemonic.

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#27 by Ben Stuplisberger // Feb 14, 2009 - 11:57am

I do not think I understand your argument. Maybe I just have an ignorance of statistics, but here goes:

If 370 is just a mnemonic, and a symbol for overuse, then why is the effect not shown at different numbers around the 370 point, like 368, or 375? I understand that the higher the number, the smaller the data set becomes, but why would we not see injuries increasing above other points, like 365 or 368, which is what Burke seems to show? I do not understand why dividing the data set at slightly difference points and getting different answers is immaterial. Again, if the effect was true, should it not work for all of the numbers around the cutoff?

I do think Burke made any conclusion other than there is not enough evidence to prove that "overuse" hurts a running back.

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#33 by Anonymous3 (not verified) // Feb 17, 2009 - 9:59pm

Pat-I don't think you read the article carefully. There are natural reasons for RBs who had a peak season to regress the following year, none of which have anything to do with overuse. Besides, the data show the declines aren't even statistically significant.

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#11 by Kulko // Feb 13, 2009 - 3:38am

Having read Burke article carefully and it clearly shows holes in your study. I do not necessary believe,his claim, that he proved that Overuse doesn't exist at all, but it is well enough conducted to be taken seriously.

If you take your own claims seriously to always improve your own results it is high time to look at this matter anew, with some new methods and including all the new numbers.

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#14 by Joe T. (not verified) // Feb 13, 2009 - 7:41am

The Burke article is good, and raises quite a few points, but jesus, it sounds bitter. He can't provide constructive criticism (on theories still very much in infancy) without firing a couple cheap shots.

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#17 by orang3b // Feb 13, 2009 - 11:28am

yeah, i'd agree with that. he takes shots specifically at FO in several other articles, too.

"Oh mercy, yes. You gotta beat that competition."

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#21 by Tom Gower // Feb 13, 2009 - 4:10pm

He seems overly-intent on showing how wrong and therefore evil or at least malicious FO is. It's like his way of showing the cool kids how he belongs. I find it really tiresome and very off-putting as a reader. I started visiting FO because I was interested in statistical analysis of football, the same reason I visited your site, and keep visiting FO because I still find serious and statistical analysis of football interesting, not because I have an idol of Aaron Schatz I feel compelled to worship.

That doesn't mean, though, that we can't use his critique as somewhat of a useful corrective, as it seems like the Curse of 370 started out as something along the lines of "Running backs who have 370 or more carries in a single season tend to suffer a clear performance decline or injury within the next 2 seasons, unless their name is Eric Dickerson" and became "(IF) RB carries >= 370, (THEN) LJ-esque Career Doom," when there are other factors that seem like they could be relevant, as Doug pointed out in his comment.

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#24 by coldbikemessenger (not verified) // Feb 13, 2009 - 6:33pm

I disagree. I think Brian does a great job of making complex idea's easy to understand and I thought his article was very well done.

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#28 by Ben Stuplisberger // Feb 14, 2009 - 12:14pm

I don't blame Burke for feeling bitter, because the "curse of the 370" has become gospel, and it was never conclusively proven in the first place and it is one of the cornerstones of FO's popularity. FO staff members have become famous (maybe not rich) on a theory, which in his opinion is not well supported by the evidence.

Unlike science, BS does not walk in journalism, just like FO is constantly pointing out. In the early days of this site, there was definitely some bitterness from FO towards other broadcasters and journalists. ESPN and SI were shoveling the same old platitudes, and FO came in to existence to destroy those misconceptions. The very name of the site implies that bitterness, Football Outsiders.

Burke is pissed off because he feels that the 370 theory was bogus in the first place, and that FO cooked the numbers so that they could have another theory to make them famous. Like I said, in science, the theory would not become accepted until it was properly vetted, whereas in journalism, a theory just has to sound good for it to be accepted.

The hero worship on this site is just creepy, which is off-putting. Look at the star system, only you got a high star rating, for criticizing the heretic's bitterness (I am not saying this is your point of view, only the perception of it), whereas the more complex and reasoned posts that followed received no ratings at all. When the masses worship you, it will always create bitterness in those who are not worshiped, especially if the worshiped are relying on style more than substance.

I am not saying FO has not done some great work, they have. The fact that they have brought in more rational analysis to journalism is there greatest contribution.

Points: 0

#29 by Joe T. (not verified) // Feb 14, 2009 - 3:25pm

I'll have to go a re-read the Curse of 370 articles. Its been a while, and to be honest, my interest in the straight-up statistical analysis is cursory. I think though that over time we've lost sight of the original theorem, that 370 carries in a season is an indicator that a RB is on the decline, not necessarily that 370 carries in a season is the cause of that decline.

Just a thought that I don't think has been sufficiently touched on, but in many cases, when a back is entrusted with the ball 370+ times per season, it is because he is already at the peak of his career - he's a player who has matured enough to play a majority of snaps and is typically a 3rd or 4th year veteran. Most RBs only have serviceable lives of what, 6 seasons tops?

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#20 by Wait, what? (not verified) // Feb 13, 2009 - 2:33pm

Turner's totals for 2008: 376 carries, 1,699 yards, 4.5 YPC.

Regardless of individual stance on the "Curse," isn't it more likely that Turner will decline in 2009 than not? Taken from the linked analysis:

"[W]e should see a regression to the mean in YPC for all RBs with peak seasons, not just very-high-carry RBs. The higher the peak, the larger the decline the following year."

So, Curse or no Curse, everyone involved is expecting Turner to decline. How significant that decline will be no one knows (or maybe he won't decline; this is not outside the realm of possibility). As long as people aren't assuming that Turner will put up a 1,700-yard season just because he did it this year (which sounds silly, but I've seen way too many ESPN/Fox Sports-type commenters unfairly slag RB's for not replicating their peak years), they're looking at the issue the right way. You can say "Turner is expected to regress to the mean in '09," or you can say "Turner is expected to suffer the Curse of 370." The end result is pretty much the same.

Coincidentally, Wikipedia tells me that today is Michael Turner's 27th birthday, so I wish him a healthy and productive 2009 season, in which he shares carries with Jerious Norwood at a reasonable rate.

Points: 0

#26 by Ben Stuplisberger // Feb 14, 2009 - 11:50am

Exactly, which is one the main points of the Burke article. An exceptional season will probably not be repeated every year.

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#8 by null_void (not verified) // Feb 12, 2009 - 11:17pm

I'm interested in the NFC South too!

Regarding Carolina...As Doug says, one can't put too much stock into single game performances. Jake had the worst night of his career against Arizona, and it cost Carolina a shot at going deeper into the playoffs. Still, with Matt Moore a fairly unknown quantity and little likelihood of Carolina drafting a QB, Jake remains the best option for now. If he continues to struggle into next season, then the Panthers may look at giving Moore another shot or looking in a new direction.

Peppers, unfortunately, appears to be a goner. Replacing him and shoring up the rest of the defensive line should be the primary goal of the offseason, besides locking up Gross at tackle. The Panthers have assembled most of the pieces they need on offense; it's the defensive line that is the largest area of need. Another corner to support Gamble and Marshall would also be good to target, although the staff reportedly thinks highly of young Wilson.

Much of the Panther's offseason hinges on the fates of Gross and Peppers. The ideal situation for Carolina would be to sign Gross to a contract and franchise-and-trade Peppers. In the worst case scenario, both walk and Carolina gets nothing but compensatory picks.

Points: 0

#12 by Theo // Feb 13, 2009 - 3:44am

ac·u·men (ky-mn, -ky-)
- noun
Quickness, accuracy, and keenness of judgment or insight.

FO is so informative!

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#18 by Jimmy // Feb 13, 2009 - 12:27pm

Theo ( I am assuming this is Theo 'from Holland' of previous FO incarnations)

Is it possible to get the dutch for dinosaur egg?

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#13 by David // Feb 13, 2009 - 5:29am

To be fair, much as I like the Four Downs series, and grateful as I am for any football-related content in the dead month of February, it's a little same-y at this point, as the full merry-go-round of free agency hasn't begun, and draft fever is still in the process of whipping up. This does make it a little tricky to really comment on the column - Albert Haynesworth is going to be a target for most teams, and would make most teams better (probably)

This is an interesting division. None of the teams are bad, but all of the teams have weaknesses. Three of the four teams have a decent level of stability (assuming that Raheem Morris will continue in the footsteps of the cover-2), which means I think that the Falcons will decline next year. In the other teams' cases, it's mostly evolution, rather than revolution

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#15 by drobviousso // Feb 13, 2009 - 10:10am

There is a lot of 'samey' going on, but info on who has cap space, who has what needs, and how teams approach free agency is pretty useful to know when watching FA news and the draft.

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#19 by Jimmy // Feb 13, 2009 - 12:31pm

There should be a moratorium on saying that 'Team X might look to add Haynesworth' as almost every team in the league would probably like to add the guy, and most of them have the cap room. Maybe just put a 'Haynesworth Box' next to the team name, and tick it for teams that may well be interested in Fat Albert and his magic accident causing Ferrari.

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#23 by Pat (filler) (not verified) // Feb 13, 2009 - 5:31pm

Wait for the NFC East version. I don't think any of those teams are interested/could afford Haynesworth.

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#25 by Tom Gower // Feb 13, 2009 - 8:29pm

Haynesworth has said he'd prefer to stay in the South, and I believe has expressed an interest in playing in Atlanta. Other the Titans, I think the Falcons and the Bucs are the next most likely landing spots, with Denver (not sure where they stand on cap room) being maybe the next possibility.

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#30 by oi! (not verified) // Feb 15, 2009 - 2:42pm

At least part of the reason is the same reason he never gets as many touches as the coaching staff says they want to get him - nagging injuries. He was limited for about four or five games late in the season because of a ribcage injury.

Points: 0

#31 by ammek // Feb 16, 2009 - 7:41am

Hmm, the Delhomme dilemma. I watched two of those six games you cite, and came away underwhelmed. Against the Packers, Delhomme only attempted 17 passes. Two were bombs thrown into double coverage: they were caught by Muhammad and Smith, respectively, against the odds, and almost in spite of the QB. On week seventeen, Delhomme attempted a mighty 20 passes against possibly the worst secondary in the NFL. He had two big completions and not much else, the completion being a familiar-looking desperation heave into double coverage which was spectacularly caught by middle-case deity Steve Smith.

We know that it's hard to separate the different elements of a football team. But I have the distinct impression that Carolina's starting WRs are responsible for a lot of that positive DVOA -- and conversely that the Panthers' "no mid-range passes permitted" offensive scheme leads to loopy games like the one against Arizona.

Points: 0

#32 by montanapanthersfan // Feb 17, 2009 - 8:22pm

This draft should be nothing but defensive line, guard, and cornerback, for us.

Alas, d-line is looking to be weak, and we have a history of defying fan history in the draft, so I'm sure I'll be ranting like a lunatic at some point, draft weekend.

Points: 0

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