Four Downs
Offseason analysis of the NFL, division by division

Four Downs: NFC South

by Mike Tanier

Atlanta Falcons

Here's the FO slant on the comings and goings in Hotlanta:

Joe Horn signed: Horn can still play; he ranked 18th in the NFL in DPAR last season despite missing parts of the year with groin and hamstring injuries. But he wasn't worth the $5.5 million the Saints were due to pay him in 2007. The Falcons had a greater need for a stabilizing veteran receiver, but $19 million over four years is a lot to pay for a player on the downside of his career.

Horn's departure from New Orleans was hardly a clean withdraw. In the days before the start of free agency, Horn stated that he would not accept a pay cut. He later changed his tune, saying that he would have happily taken a cut to the $3 million range to stay in the Big Easy. He then claimed that coach Sean Payton didn't want him back. Gosh, Joe, maybe he thought that when you said you wouldn't take a pay cut it meant that you wouldn't take a pay cut.

Horn should click with Michael Vick; he spent six years catching passes from Vick's cousin Aaron Brooks, so he knows that the ball won't always arrive between the numbers or before the safeties converge. He's also an outspoken player who can usually be counted upon for a candid remark when not talking about his own salary expectations. As the next story suggests, the Falcons need more players who call 'em as they see 'em.

Patrick Kerney gone: In early February, it looked like Kerney would remain in Atlanta. But in the days leading up to the free agency period, he voided the final two years of his contract. Market changes clearly influenced his decision: once Dwight Freeney, Charles Grant, and Justin Smith were franchised, Kerney became the best available defensive end.

But there's more to the Kerney story, as Jeff Schultz of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported in late February. Kerney was disappointed by the Falcons' late-season fade in 2006 and suggested in interviews that not everyone on the team was focused on winning. "I look at the whole picture," Kerney said before his whirlwind free agent tour. "Your performance on the field on Sunday is just a byproduct of a year-round commitment. How do you treat your body? How do you handle yourself in the off-season? What's your devotion to your teammates, even away from the locker room? When you talk about team chemistry, that's how it's developed. You pull for that guy next to you."

There's a Falcons player who's not making a year-round commitment? One who may have wanted to get the season finale over quickly so he could go to a New Years party? Someone who may not understand the basics of airport security? Who could Kerney be referring to? We can only guess.

Ed Hartwell and Ike Reese released, Marcus Wilkins signed: The 2005 signings of Hartwell and Reese are exhibits 5,000 and 5,001 in the NFL's Museum of Free Agency Failures. Hartwell was supposed to be Ray Lewis Lite, a top all-purpose middle linebacker who would make the whole defense better for the low price of $26 million over five years. Reese was a special teams ace who would also help as a nickel linebacker and super sub. But instead of a Pro Bowler and a valuable spare part, the Falcons got an injury-prone cap drain who played just 13 games in two years and a journeyman no better than a hundred other kick gunners.

The Falcons signed former Bengals special teams gunner Marcus Wilkins on March 3rd to replace Reese. Wilkins had 14 special teams tackles last year and comes as a relative bargain ($3 million over three years). The team tendered outside linebacker Demorrio Williams a one-year deal worth $1.3 million, meaning that potential suitors must sacrifice a second-round pick to sign him. As of now, Williams is the weakside starter, with Michael Boley on the strong side and Keith Brooking in the middle. Third-year pro Jordan Beck could unseat Boley or possibly Brooking, who is a poor fit in the middle and doesn't like playing there.

Ovie Mughelli signed, Justin Griffith released: Griffith is an all-purpose fullback who can catch, run, and block fairly well. Mughelli is an exceptional run blocker coming off his first decent season as a rushing threat. Bobby Petrino likes his backs to fill clearly defined roles, and Mughelli will be asked to lead block and only lead block.

Toniu Fonoti and Derrick Hamilton Signed: Fonoti looked like an exceptional prospect coming out of Nebraska in 2002. But he battled injuries, never got into top condition, and displayed terrible footwork in two seasons as the Chargers' starting guard. Hamilton is a king-sized receiver who tore his ACL in 2004 and never developed. He's now part of a crowd at receiver for the Falcons. Both players are reclamation projects.

Matt Schaub tendered: For just $2 million, the Falcons get a solid backup quarterback and still-hot prospect who could become the most important man in Atlanta if Michael Vick decides to throw Petrino's playbook in the paper shredder. That, my friends, is a bargain.

Carolina Panthers

Here's the FO slant on the comings and goings in Charlotte:

Mike Rucker, Dan Morgan, and Na'il Diggs get new deals: "Continuity" is the watchword in Carolina. The Panthers were over the cap days before the start of free agency, so they busied themselves restructuring the contracts of defensive end Mike Rucker and linebacker Dan Morgan to make them more palatable to all parties. They then re-signed linebacker Na'il Diggs to a one-year deal.

Overall, it's a wise strategy. The Panthers finished ninth in the NFL in defensive DVOA last year, and most of their problems are on the other side of the ball. Rucker is 32 and coming off an ACL tear, but he is still a dangerous pass rusher and solid run defender. Diggs is an adequate veteran at a position where the Panthers lack depth. The Morgan deal is the most risky: Morgan missed most of last season with his fifth (at least) concussion since 2003. Panthers GM Marty Hurney defended the move in early March, noting that Morgan had been cleared to play by leading concussion specialists and had met with team doctors and head coach John Fox.

Morgan may not last the full season, and Diggs won't be a major difference-maker. But the Panthers don't want to rely on guys like Adam Seward to play major roles this season. Morgan's new deal is incentive-laden, so he won't cost the team much if he cannot play. Look for them to improve their depth at linebacker in the draft, at least when they aren't selecting reinforcements on offense.

Jake Delhomme restructures: Delhomme helped the team clear cap space by turning some of his future salary into a $4 million signing bonus. Despite some December speculation around the league, Delhomme isn't in danger of losing his starting job. That late-season announcement by Terry Bradshaw stating that Delhomme was through in Carolina? Pat Yasinskas of the Charlotte Observer reported last month that the statement was an error by a script writer who feeds Bradshaw information. Oops. That being said, Delhomme needs to step his game up, or he'll be the subject of non-erroneous speculation after the 2007 season.

Kris Mangum retired: Mangum's departure doesn't exactly leave the Panthers with a void at tight end; the void was there even when Mangum was in the lineup. Mangum saw his playing time and productivity drop every year since 2004, and he wasn't exactly Shannon Sharpe in 2004. Mangum, who backed up Wesley Walls in the halcyon days at the start of the millennium, gradually lost his starting job to Michael Gaines, a 280-pound right tackle who was accidentally issued a uniform number in the 80's.

The Panthers are looking for a pass-catching tight end who fits new coordinator Jeff Davidson's system. Former Raiders tight end Doug Jolley, who visited the team last week, fits the bill. The Panthers have little money to spend, so they will have to settle for budgetastic options like Jolley.

Al Wallace, Karl Hankton, and Kevin McCadam released: You don't make an omelet without breaking some eggs, and you don't get below the cap without releasing some roster-filler veterans. Hankton was the Panthers' special teams captain but contributed nothing to the offense. Wallace turns 33 late in the month but can still help some team as a rotation player on the defensive line. McCadam is a bottom-of-the-roster dime defender who also played a major role on special teams. When a team gets in serious cap trouble, they have to cut vets like these and give their jobs to sixth-round draft picks. The Panthers did re-sign Alex Haynes, a blocker on the return units who has shown promise as a running back in NFL Europa. New acquisitions Terrence Melton and Stephen Williams will round out the back of the bench while saving the team a few pennies.

New Orleans Saints

Here's the FO slant on the comings and goings from the Crescent City:

Brian Simmons and Kevin Kaesviharn signed: The Saints needed to upgrade their talent level at linebacker and in the secondary. The Simmons and Kaesviharn signings made the Saints defense faster, deeper, and more flexible.

Signing Simmons was a wise move. While he's no longer an elite playmaker, Simmons is still very effective as a run defender and can play a role as a pass rusher. Our statistical breakdowns show that Simmons has lost a step in pass coverage -- he made 30 tackles on passing plays, but his average stop occurred 8.2 yards down field, meaning that he was letting receivers gain too much yardage before bringing them down. But the Saints still have a viable coverage linebacker in Mark Simoneau and can also use Scott Shanle as a third down linebacker. With Simmons and Scott Fujita on the field at the same time, defensive coordinator Gary Gibbs will have more blitz options. And with Simoneau on the bench, the Saints are insulated against injuries.

Kaesviharn, another ex-Bengal, can also be a weapon as a pass rusher. The former substitute teacher started for the Bengals in 2005 and was a spot starter in 2004 and 2006. He has seen action as both a cornerback and free safety. Kaesviharn is a liability in run defense as a safety but is a better player than Omar Stoutmire, whom he will likely replace. The Saints will also have Roman Harper back from the injury that cost him half his rookie season.

Charles Grant franchised: Like most franchise players, Grant isn't happy that he was slapped with the tag. He isn't Lance Briggs angry, but he's miffed. Grant expressed his feeling last month when interviewed after a Mardi Gras parade. "The GM told me I wasn't one of them guys midway through the season, that I wasn't one of them guys that deserved money like that. So I said to myself, 'I'm a loyal individual to this community and to this team. If I'm not one of them guys, let me touch that free agent market.'"

The Saints traveled this road before. They used the franchise tag on defensive end Darren Howard in 2004 and 2005, and Howard spent those two seasons as a disgruntled employee before bolting for Philadelphia. The Saints don't appear to be in any rush to reach the negotiating table, but they should be. If they wait until Colts franchise player Dwight Freeney signs a deal and sets a new market for defensive ends, they could be in real trouble: Grant might demand Freeney money, and not even Freeney will be worth Freeney money.

At press time, Grant was talking to the Buccaneers, who would have to surrender two first-round picks to sign him. Grant isn't better than Calvin Johnson, let alone Johnson and another young prospect. But he's good, and he can help the Saints reach the Super Bowl. They should pay the man.

Hollis Thomas re-signed: Thomas' numbers don't exactly stand out: he recorded 43 total tackles and 3.5 sacks (his highest total since 2000) in 12 games before receiving a four-game suspension for violating the league's steroid policy. But Thomas isn't a numbers player: he's a run-stuffing one-technique space hog. He's also a smart player who sniffs out screens and misdirection plays and at least slows the ballcarrier down. Thomas lists at 306 pounds, an indication that the Saints perform their weigh-ins on the moon. His four-year, $12 million contract seems excessive, but if you're familiar with NFL contracts, you know that Thomas won't be around for all four years, nor will he earn all 12 million dollars. The 33-year-old is slated to make $6 million next year, which buys a lot of muffuletta.

Eric Johnson signed, Billy Miller re-signed, Ernie Conwell released: Conwell and Miller are similar players: aging tight ends with good hands but little speed who work zones well and can be effective targets on first and second down. There's only room for one player like that on a roster (at most), and Miller is four years younger and better as a blocker on punt and kick returns.

When healthy, Johnson is still a productive receiver. But Johnson missed two of the last four seasons with foot and neck injuries, then battled ankle injuries through the latter half of last season. Johnson or Miller will start the season as the team's receiving tight end. Mark Campbell, John Owens, and Robert Johnson are still on the team's payroll, so the Saints have no shortage of blocking tight ends.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Here's the FO slant on the comings and goings on Florida's Gold Coast:

Jeff Garcia signed: It's time to play Jeff Garcia multiple-choice. Finish the thought: Garcia is …

A) An aging journeyman who enjoyed surprising success at the helm of a very good Eagles offense last year. His fine December performance made him too expensive for the cap-conscious Eagles to keep, especially since it was completely out of line with his efforts the previous two years.

B) A dangerous threat to Donovan McNabb's status as Andy Reid's sacred cow quarterback whose presence on the Eagles roster endangered McNabb's fragile psyche. Garcia was therefore forced out of Philly by a cabal that included Reid, bean-counting team president Joe Banner, and McNabb's blog-happy mother Wilma.

If you answered "A," you know your football. If you answered "B," you are either a Philadelphia sports talk radio enthusiast or one of the conspiracy moonbats who caters to that crowd. If you chose "A," you know that the Bucs got a capable backup who can start a few games and outperform the likes of Bruce Gradkowski. If you chose "B," you are already lining up for Bucs playoff tickets. Be prepared for disappointment.

Garcia became expendable when, after stating that he wanted to stay in Philly, he asked for five days to test the market and, you know, rope the Eagles into a public bidding war with the Broncos, Raiders, and Bucs. The Eagles sniffed out this stratagem, noted that McNabb's ACL rehab is on schedule, and told Garcia he had all the time in the world. Just days later, Garcia became Jon Gruden's Jake Plummer consolation prize.

Garcia is now the object in Chris Simms' rearview mirror, a player good enough to compete with Simms for the starting job but old enough to play the role of sagacious backup if he lands on the bench. Garcia is a Gruden-type of quarterback (small, fast, weak-armed veteran), and he's streaky, so anything can happen in camp next year. But the Bucs will eventually learn that they purchased the 2004 (Browns) or 2005 (Lions) Garcia, not the 2006 Eagles model. For evidence, just check out the Bucs' offensive roster, particularly the line. The Bucs look a lot more like the Lions or Browns than the Eagles, don't they?

Either Simms or Garcia could lead the Bucs to 8-8 this year. But neither of them will lead the team to anything more. And only Simms has the potential to get better.

Kevin Carter signed; Dewayne White to Lions: The Bucs are hemorrhaging young talent on defense. The team traded Anthony McFarland during last season and failed to re-sign White, leaving the defensive line dangerously thin and manned by journeymen and aging players like Simeon Rice and Chris Hovan. White wasn't a household name, but he led all Bucs linemen in defeats (tackles for no gain or a loss or stops on third down) and stops on passing plays.

The 33-year-old Carter still has some tread on his tires; he made 35 stops on rushing plays last season, the second best total on the Dolphins line. Despite 5.5 sacks, Carter isn't much of a pass rusher anymore, as many of his sacks came on clean-up detail. Carter-for-White is almost an even swap if you overlook the fact that Carter is five years older.

The Derrick Brooks generation is graying quickly in Tampa. By bringing in another 30-something, the Bucs have set themselves up for a depressing Children of Men-type scenario on defense.

Cato June Signed: June's raw tackle stats (96 solos, 45 assists) are pretty impressive. The game tape shows that June gets blocked too easily and sometimes hesitates to fit the hole, with many of his tackles occurring 12 yards downfield. But our stat breakdowns show that he was somewhat effective against the run and very good against the pass. He's a good fit in Tampa Bay because a) he played in a similar defense in Indy; b) he fills a need now that Derrick Brooks has flipped to strongside linebacker and Shelton Quarles is probably retired, and c) he doesn't have an AARP card in his wallet.

Patrick Chukwurah also signed with the Bucs in early March. Chukwurah is an end/linebacker tweener who played in Denver under new Bucs line coach Larry Coyer. Chukwurah can rush the passer, but he's an ineffective run defender who missed some time with injuries last season.

Mike Alstott re-signed, B.J. Askew signed: Buccaneers quarterbacks threw 38 passes to Alstott last season. He caught just 21 of them, gaining a whopping 85 yards. That's 2.24 yards per pass play, a number that fits nicely with Alstott's 2.9 yards per rush. Alstott is, in short, a big minus on the field. Off the field, he provides grit, moxie, leadership, and all that other stuff that Garcia is supposedly bringing with him from Philly. After inking Alstott, the Bucs acquired Askew, another pass-catching fullback with delusions of halfbackdom. Askew is a better player than Alstott right now and can be an asset as a lead blocker. The Bucs are now the deepest team in the league at fullback, for what it's worth.

Luke Petitgout signed, Kenyatta Walker released: Walker had a checkered career in Tampa. He started 16 games as a rookie first round pick in 2001 but was briefly benched in 2004 for having too many concentration lapses, and he never developed into a dominating tackle. Walker missed most of last season with a knee injury, which gave the Bucs a chance to get acquainted with Jeremy Trueblood. Petitgout is a solid-if-unspectacular left tackle who will keep his quarterback upright when he isn't injured or jumping offsides. Petitgout should be able to unseat Anthony Davis at left tackle. The 330-pound Davis, a two-year starter, could then provide depth all along the line.

Philip Buchanon re-signed, Sammy Davis signed: There must have been a two-for-one sale for bad cornerbacks somewhere. Ronde Barber, please don't get any ideas from that twin brother of yours.

Later this week: NFC North by Ned Macey


129 comments, Last at 21 Apr 2007, 10:28am

1 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

The prospect of Charles Grant for Calvin Johnson and another (possibly) solid player is intruiging. Let's just outscore them!

Plus we'd be sending the message that Tech is better than UGA...

2 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

How I missed the extended witticism that is Mike Tanier's writing.

3 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

When Mike Vick still stinks next year, will Joe Horn be...
A) "too old"
B) " still bothered by injury"
C) " trippled teamed so he loses effictiveness"
D) " People will realize that it's not the Offensive Line, it's not the pass catchers, but the QB that is the problem"?

4 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

When Mike Vick still stinks next year, will Joe Horn be...
A) "too old"
B) " still bothered by injury"
C) " trippled teamed so he loses effictiveness"
D) " People will realize that it's not the Offensive Line, it's not the pass catchers, but the QB that is the problem"?

5 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

Thanks, Mike -- funny and informative article. Just one gripe -- that Vick is Brooks' cousin shouldn't tell Horn what to expect anymore than, say, any hypothetical Colts receiver who goes to the Giants should expect that the ball will arrive between the numbers. Watching Vick play would do the trick, though.

But it's certainly nice to see a more level-headed analysis on just how much impact one can realistically expect from free-agent signings.

6 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

I don't know, but I do know if Horn is hit by a meteor and 'loses effectiveness', you'll blame Vick. Lighten up :)

7 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

Mike Tanier- Of Course Kerney was talking about Vick. He's the same guy that took himself out of the end of one of the games THIS year. He was confronted about it and he said he would "never" quit on his teammates but went on about some phantom injury that we never heard of again.

The same Vick that threw a 100 yard Pick 6 to Adrian Wilson at the goalline of the Arizona game. Vick ran hard for about 20 yards and then quit and was outrun by the 235 pound strong safety for 100 yards.

The same guy that was flicking off the fans when he thought the cameras were turned off. How much of a "misunderstanding" could that really be?

Do you remember what Peerless Price was saying when he left Atlanta? He was saying to "look at the tape", because he was open.

8 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

#5 I think MT was saying that Aaron Brooks and Vick have similar playing styles, and thats how Joe Horn should know what to expect. You know, take the snap, check down a single receiver, roll out of the pocket, evade the outside linebacker, rush forward, carry the ball precariously in one hand, get laid out by the strong safety 20 yards downfield, fumble, lose game. That playing style.

9 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

I feel bad for Matt Schaub. He's probably hell bent on getting out of the ATL come season's end. He's a great QB though, my Matt Schaub led Cleveland Browns just won the Super Bowl after going 16-0 in the regular season in Madden 07. What more proof do you want about his potential?

10 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

The Falcons should trade Vick while they can. Maybe they could get Randy Moss for him.

Schabb throwing to Horn and Moss, with that run game.

Or Vick crying that they need to draft some more 1st round receivers and free agents.

11 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

Trade Vick? I dont think the dirty birds have $20+ million of cap space right now.

12 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

As a Tampa fan, I feel I have to try and defend Alstott (I can't promise that I'm right). Looking at both 2006 and 2005, Alstott produced higher DVOA than Cadillac Williams. This year, the Cadillac was below replacement level, while Alstott was just barely above it. To me, this seems to indicate that Alstott's poor yards per cary are more a result of our sorry offensive line than of his remaining ability.

As for receiving, Alstott has good hands (if not quite as good as Pittman's), and has posted good stats in enough years that I'm willing to blame our QB troubles for his astounding -46.1 DVOA.

Here are the rushing stats for 2005 and 2006 (2005 DVOA/DPAR; 2006 DVOA/DPAR):
Alstott: (11.3/4.5; -14.7/.2)
Pittman: (7.3/5.9; 7.1/4.2)
Cadillac (7.9/7.1; -16.3/-2.5)

13 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

The other way to phrase my argument is that Cadillac is even less efective than Alstott. Ugh.

14 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

why do people think Schaub is good?

and that run game? You mean the one that Vick makes into a good one...

15 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

Matt Schaub is okay. I'll gladly take him off the Falcons hands and have him be Donovan McNabb's backup. Schaub is a good backup and should have a nice 12 or 13 year career as a good locker room guy, clipboard holder, and occasional starter like Jason Garrett.

16 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

#14 - Please see my previous post. I justify my claim that Matt Schaub is the greatest bench warmer in the NFL right now with my Madden 07 season stats - passer rating 152.7, 41 touchdowns, 5,322 yards. Meanwhile, Michael Vick only threw 2,248 yards, 11 touchdowns and a measly 79.2 passer rating. The fictitious stats do not lie.

17 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

OK, but in real life, he's completed under 50% of his passes.

Just sayin'...

18 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

Do we know Derrick Brooks is moving to the strongside?

19 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

Joe T.

Please put down the Madden game and pay attention to real football.

20 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

Note to Chris, Mike T. and others: It's entirely possible that Michael Vick AND Joe Horn will play poorly.

Note to Chris: "That run game" finished 13th in ALY, and Warrick Dunn was below average in DVOA. Jerious Norwood looked great in limited playing time, but "that run game" isn't winning any playoff games.

21 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

20-I don't think Chris finished his sentence. I think he meant to say The Falcons should trade Vick while they can. Maybe they could get Randy Moss for him.

Schabb throwing to Horn and Moss, with that run game....would be mediocre, which would possibly be a small improvement.

22 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

7 - Whoosh. You'd think the airport security line would have driven the point home.

23 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

yeah Joe T, and when you're ready to play All Madden...

24 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

23: His stats aren't unreasonable for All-Madden level. Once you know the AI's defensive tendencies you can really pick them apart passing.

20: I think that's the most likely outcome, that the age bug hits Horn and Vick continues to suck at passing.

25 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

Kudos on the Carousel lead-in to the article. Oh, the actual article was pretty good too.

26 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

re: Kerney

He was referring to DeAngelo Hall. He wouldn't be referring to Mike Vick 'cause what does Kerney know about the Falcons offensive players? Nothing.

27 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

I know the Vick-bashing gets repetitive and overdone, but it really is a textbook example of a team tying up way too much cap space in a guy who doesn't deliver production to match it. I can't remember when they extended his rookie deal; it makes me wonder how much doubt they wrestled with prior to making that commitment. They must have had some inkling about his work habits and other shortcomings, didn't they?

28 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

Madden 2007 is soooooooo realistic. my rookie Qb playing on the Raiders threw for 7000 yards, 81 TDs and 7 INTs. I have three games with 8 TDs. The Raiders have a play called "bunch fade" which is basically a quarunteed TD to Randy Moss.

29 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

Isn't this where ROBO-PUNTER had its genesis last year? Ah, memories.

30 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

PS Randy moss = the B button. totally the easiest one to reach on a clunky Xbox 360 controller.

31 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

Will Allen, sometimes I think the Vick bashing gets a bit repetitive too.
Then I remember that crazy LHC thread from a while back where the Falcons fans exploded...the feeling goes away. :)

32 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

Now, #28 is an example of someone who isn't playing on All-Madden.

Vick-bashing is repetitive and boring. I'd like to see Chris square off against the irrational Falcons fans from a couple of years ago.

33 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

even on all madden, the bunch fade=TD. Especially when the corner's AI decides its a good idea to cuddle the Linebacker next to him, leaving 7-8 yards of open space for randy moss to run freely in. It's kind of like Michael Lewis in real life in that way.

34 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

Btw you say Matt Schaub is a great Madden QB? Have you played with Michael VIck in Madden? He is the greatest Video Game QB in history. You could throw for 7,000 yards, rush for 2,000 yards and score 70 Tds. Hell even when you throw a pick he can always catch the DB and force a fumble. If Madden was accurate Vick would already be in the Hall of Fame.

35 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

I also re created Randall Cunningham, who can throw for 400 yards (on the bills) and run for 200 every game no matter who I'm playing. I routinely put up 90 points. ON ALL MADDEN. AGAINST NEW ENGLAND. By the way, what's with Bellicheck not being listed by name in that game? it just says "New England coach."

36 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

I heard rumor about Falcons trading Schaub to Raiders. Schaub sucks. Look at his stats, he played one game against the Patriots on national tv, and lots of people predicted he would be good. But he sucks.

9-7 going to be realistic. Offense coach staff was that bad. Raiders are putting together a quality offense staff. rumors are Raiders are paying big bucks to two Coaches on part time basis. Alex Gibbs to work with olineman and Qb Guru to Tom Brady- Tom martinez will work with Raiders Qbs.

If the rumor of Raiders having hired tom martinez to be a partime Qb coach are true. You caN bet the farm that Jamarcus Russell will be the number 1 pick in the draft.
Also at Jamarcus Russell proday, kiffin slipped in his intentions. They asked him why he was checking all the way back to Russell high schools days. Kiffin response was we are investing alot of money in this kid you better believe we are going to do our homework.

37 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

I heard a rumor that jamarcus russel will have a rating of 100 on madden 2008 because he can throw the ball like....400 yards.

38 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

re: Podpeople

I do not know abouT that but Russell will be Qb to lead Raiders back to promised land.

40 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

re: 19

Post of the night.

I swear that the Madden game has ruined today's youth.

41 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

I would love to see the Raiders win the AFC west next year, mostly because I think the Chargers are retarded for firing the Schottster. that guy has like, a 99 knowledge rating in Madden.

42 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

Re: garcia section

I chose A. And that was even before I saw the answer.

To the Football Outsiders: any chance you will again mention prominent posters in the next edition of your book? I wouldn't mind seeing one of my posts in there. Too bad I made my Alex Smith predictions in late July. A little earlier and maybe I would have gotten in the 2006 book with that.

43 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

ok since i'm done posting silly madden comments, can I make a serious one? To me Schaub gets support for reasons similar to Garcia: the supporter dislikes the alternative. The huge difference being that Garcia actually played well, Schaub...not so much. Also Garcia was replacing a Francise QB who happens to play for a rediculously succesful franchise (try explaining that to the Philly media) while Schaub would be replacing an over paid running back the league allows to make forward passes for some reason.

44 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

yeah, but Vick never played running back except for a couple plays in one game last year

45 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

Sweet merciful crap, Mulgrew, are you still banging that drum?

46 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

29-AFC South. Mario Williams-Reggie Bush talk.

47 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

re: 36

That's an odd writing style. I want to read more from this Raiderjoe.

re: the Mulgrew posts

Hey, at least he's not making Boratian comments in every post anymore. I did see a recent Borat reference in his blog, however.

48 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

Nice memory, 46. I believe someone else came up with the idea, and then Pat referred to the hypothetical player as "said robo-punter," and it just took off from there.

49 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

chris draft is rumored to be heading to the rams. bah.

51 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

Enjoyed the article. Just wanted to point out that it's easier to convince people that you don't have a hive mind at FO, when you don't say things like: "Here’s the FO slant".

52 Re: Four Downs: NFC South


Joe T. got zinged by Jason Mulgrew!

That's like losing a game of Four Square to the mentally handicapped kid with one arm and a limp.

53 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

As a Saints fan I have to be happy with Simmons. I believe he is an upgrade at a need position. The LB's played well last season but that upgrade (and more hopefully in the draft) was needed.

54 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

#52: So is zinging Mulgrew in return like beating up the mentally handicapped kid with one arm and a limp?

55 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

Madden does ruin peoples perception. Somebody was telling me that Deangelo Hall was a shut down corner because he has a 96 speed rating on madden. The guy would cite the corners speed in madden as if it makes the guy good.

26- What makes you so sure he was talking about Deangelo Fall? You could be right, but to say that a Defensive End knows nothing about his quarterback is false.

It's not like the offense and defense are quarentened from each other. You know, offenses and defenses do face off in practice. They do share the same locker room.

You don't have to be in the same Huddle as Vick to realize that he doesn't show the effort that the highest paid player in the league should show, and that your team leader should show. Mike Vick is just oblivious.

Now I'm not going to sit here and hype up Matt Schaub because we honestly don't know too much about him, but Vick isn't going to win a title in this national football league unless he has the 2000 Ravens defense behind him or all the other teams besides the Raiders are contracted or something.

You want to know when I really couldn't stand Mike Vick. Let's rewind all the way back to maybe 2003 I believe when he came back from injury in a Nationally televised game against Carolina....

right before the game, but after the pregame shows, the network did honestly about a 15 minute promo on Vick where he kept saying things like "I'm Mike Vick, I'm back, and the rest of the league better watch out!". "I'm Mike Vick, I'm the ultimate weapon, and you defenses better be scared". It wasn't like a couple quotes, but 15 freaking minutues of Vick Camera time, highlights and quotes. I honestly couldn't believe it. I've never seen anything like it for any other player.

Now normally I wouldn't like that anyway, but when that's coming from a guy who can't even throw for over 200 yards on a consistant basis, it sickens me.

56 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

Brady Quinn is so dreamy, but he's no match for Catholic Match School Girl. She would bore a hole right through his cornea. Ohmygospleasebringherback!

57 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

If we're bringing back ROBO-PUNTER, we had better bring back Catholic Match Girl.

58 Re: Four Downs: NFC South



59 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

I had Vick in FIFA 07. He scored 7,181 goals in a single season. In Deer Hunter 5, Vick killed 46,972 deer, 17 mongooses and a ferret. But the Ultimate was in Harry Potter: World Quidditch Cup. Not only did Vick score 14,362 goals with the quaffle, but he caught the Golden Snitch in every single game! Even the one in which he was attacked by the Dementors! I can't wait to kick ass with Vick in The Sims: Hot Date.

60 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

56: Don't forget the must play sequel, "The Sims: More or Less Discreet Clinic".

61 Re: Four Downs: NFC South


"Now I’m not going to sit here and hype up Matt Schaub because we honestly don’t know too much about him,..." and yet, in an earlier string, you dismantled Tavarius Jackson based on a single rookie performance.

62 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

Wouldn't it be 'The Sims: the Hot and Incredibly Itchy Date'?

63 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

59 - You know, Vick probably would make a good soccer player. I still think he wouldn't be a good passer though, which is pretty important.

What sport or position actually suits the guy? I don't know a ton about baseball, but it seems like that would make sense.

64 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

Re 63 - Track and/or cross country running.

66 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

61: I think we all know why that is.

63: He is athletic enough for just about any sport. The question is attitude and work ethic, IMO. If it's true that this was the first season that he's watched film of himself, then...

68 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

Vick would rule at Kabadi.

And hardly anyone would care.

69 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

#59 - LOL

I put Michael Vick in EA Rugby 06. He was crazy fast, and had awesome dreads, but he kept fumbling the ball.

Oh yeah, I was being self-deprecating earlier. Mulgrew, you should have picked up on that when I said "The fictitious stats do not lie." Fictitious means "made-up."

No, its less satisfying.

70 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

61- No, I don't think Jackson will turn out to be anything and POINT to his performance. It is a "projection", just like some people PROJECT Calvin Johnson to be good in the pros, despire not playing in any games yet.

Matt Schaub was once a top prospect at UVA before injury.

Tavaras Jackson didn't even play ACC caliber competition in college.

71 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

#70 - You know, UVA puts out some smart players. You can't be a dummy and graduate from there, even on athletic scholarship. A good deal of the game is intuition and instincts, but smarts plays a role, like knowing when to throw your weed in the trash at the airport.

73 Re: Four Downs: NFC South


I guess if Steve McNair had had a bad first start, you would have expected him to turn out to be nothing?

74 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

Surely the Bucs have signed Carter to play under tackle?

75 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

68 - I dunno, I think he'd be a pretty big star in the Punjab if that happened. Maybe he could get a 150 million rupee endorsement deal there.

76 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

Re: #71 -

Vick went to Virginia Polytechnic Institute, not the University Of Virginia. Of course, since UVA was home to stellar student-athletes like Olden Polynice, well, I can understand your confusion...

77 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

Matt Schaub went to UVA. Atlanta's other two QB's (Vick and Randall) went to VT. Ergo, Matt Schaub = smart, Mike Vick = not smart.

Other players who went to UVA include Tiki Barber (smart), Ronde Barber (smart) and Heath Miller (smart and big).

I was replying to #70, which made no mention of Michael Vick.

78 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

Re: 77
Assuming you are a Hokie, everyone can see why you bombed the reading comprehension portion of the SATs.

I'm sorry you had to spend 5-8 years surrounded by cows, and I don't mean the dairy kind. It really isn't a bad idea to combine sun-dressed beauties, alcohol, and football... and they wonder why most students leave at half-time.

80 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

Alas, like such a buffoon, I look... I'm sorry Mr. Jefferson, I've besmirched your great institution of learning.

My response was, obviously to #76... nevermore, nevermore.

81 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

DWL- Steve Mcnair doesn't have horrible mechanics, he actually WAS mobile ( unlike Jackson with his 4.8 speed), and he tore it up enough to be a cover of sports illustrated ( if I can remember back 10 years or so correctly).

No, I was talking about how Schaub was supposed to be a big time first rounder before his injury at UVA.

I believe Schaub had a 30 + Wonderlac score, Tiki Barber was a validictorian perfectionist and his bro Rhonde isn't to shabby either. Virginia is a tough college to get into. They used to have a Fullback by the name of Charles Way who was a 3.8 gpa engineering student/football player as well. He played for the NY Giants.

A lot of UVA fans accuse tech of having too many trouble makers on the team, but the Tech fans I know wanted Marcus kicked off the team ages ago.

82 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

UVA Grad- JMU has much hotter girls, and they aren't as snotty. I wouldn't exactly call all of those UVA girls sun dressed beauties.

83 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

Two thoughts (impressive right?):
First, don't you have to hold your breath for a long time in Khabbadi? (one of many possible spellings) Don't really know if Vick's love of "dark particulates" will help with that.
Second, UVAGrad at least you realized your mistake. Most of the other replies to Joe T in this thread believe that irony is something used to take the wrinkles out of a shirty.

84 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

#82 Right on. My brother went to UVA. I could really care less about the UVA-VT rivalry, as I went to W&M (you know , Darren Sharper's alma mater) and then to a non-football school (but we're coming in '09, watch out W&M).

Alot of times smarts can make up for less raw physical talent. Other times, when you combine supreme intellect and freakish athletic ability, its down-right scary (read, John Lynch).

85 Re: Four Downs: NFC South


And from post 30 in "The Mystique of the 40-yard Dash:"

"A 40 isn’t everything."

BTW: The 40 is a measure of mobility - since when?

86 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

#83 - Sometimes I'm ironic, other times I am the Hammer of Reason.

87 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

A 40 isn't everything, but Mcnair was "mobile" and Jackson is NOT. Tall, choppy strides that can't away from anyone.

Someone brought up in another thread that the only reason people saw him as "mobile" is because of the competition he was playing against at his 1AA school. Then they brought up the name Tuiossasopo ( spelling).

Joe T- Would your non-football school happen to have a recent cinderalla slipper on her foot after a basketball tournament last year?

88 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

No, my non-football school was the other CAA team that bounced out in the first round this year.

89 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

OK, because George Mason is always " getting a team next year".

90 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

Joe T- what year did you go to W&M? I graduated in '02. I thought I was the only one here- no one else was screaming bloody murder when the Browns buried Lang Campbell last pre-season.

My sister (JMU student) has a joke she likes to tell- "Q: What do you call a hot girl at UVA? A: A visitor from JMU." I guess they need to compensate for the "Just Missed UVA" jokes.

Oh, right, NFC South. Should we pencil in Tampa as a front runner for the 2008 #1 overall pick? Aging defense, questions at QB...seems like the pieces are in place for a total disaster.

91 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

I went 2000-01 and first half of 01-02. Not a place I enjoyed, but had a few good times there and made a couple good friends. I went to two football games the whole time, and it was just to see W&M wail on VMI. The Keydets never even had a chance. The weakness of the conference makes NFL prospects from the CAA questionable, usually.

ODU gets her team in '09, she should be able to jump right into the CAA football conference and be competitive, since she gets to recruit out of the heavily coveted 757.

92 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

So whats up with your JMU sister?

Sorry but I can't resist. Don't they Call W&M William and Larry?

90- You think Tampa is that bad? What about the Raiders, Lions, Browns or maybe Bills?

93 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

What, are we playing 6 degrees of Virginia State schools here? My brother went to VMI...

94 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

90 - I don't think that the Bucs are bad enough to consistently lock down a top five draft choice in the next couple of years. As for next year, I think that their QB situation is better than it was last year. Either Simms or Garcia will know Gruden's system better and is a better backup (not to mention a better starter) than poor Gradkowski.

Also, the aging members of the defense (Simeon excluded) were the only ones making plays (Dewayne White excluded). I don't think they're decrepit yet, just not top-line anymore. Couple that with the weak schedule their losing record will give them, and I think that they'll be able to hide the fact that their running on fumes for at least another year.

95 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

Tampa gets the AFC South (Jacksonville, Indy, Tennessee, and Houston) and the NFC West (St. Louis, Arizona, Seattle, and San Fran). Plus Detroit and Washington and their division twice...

I think they are going to pick in the top 10. Too many ifs on that team: If Cadillac is healthy, if Chris Simms is an actual NFL QB, If one other WRs step (and if Galloway still has it in him..). If the defense does not get old too fast..

96 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

re: 42 and 50

Posters at this site get mentioned in what book?

Please let me know. I am new here and if posting quality information here would get my name mentioned in a book I am all for it.

97 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

96 Black Joe: I don't think that posting here will get you in a book. The book would be the Pro Football Prospectus, an interesting look at the upcoming season. Even if they did let posters in they might not let Mulgrew represent them, even though he might have been dead right about Alex Smith (though I also championed Smith). To write in it it seems that you must have been to Brown. (I'd like to say Brown university or Brown college but as a Limey I'm not sure which it is)

98 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

Dear Karl Cuba,

Thank you for responding.
From reading above, I have come to understand Mulgrew is one of the stooges of this site. Post 42 is psychotic ramblings, perhaps?

99 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

Yes, 42 is what we call "touched" and 50 is a joke since I think his name is made-up.

100 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

I've never said this, but Mike, that was excellent and you are a treasure on this site.

101 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

Re #59
Sounds like a whole new brand of Chuck Norris jokes: Michael Vick athlete jokes

102 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

#97 - You don't just need to have gone to Brown. You need to have a strong pro-Patriots bias as well. Even if you support another team, like Eagles Fan Mike Tanier, who deliberately didn't mention the Patriots in this article to demonstrate that they are so good that they don't even need to be mentioned. Right? Just wait until the Pats draft Zach DeOssie. We'll never hear the end of him.


Love your work btw Mr Tanier. But why doesn't Charlotte get a nickname, while Tampa, New Orleans and Atlanta do? Another example of a clear Patriots bias I think.

103 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

re: 62

That game would get an NC-17 rating.

re: 97
I saw a post from a message board person in last year's book.

re: 94
Isn't Tim Ratty still there? He almost beat the Bears. He should get a chance to win the job. He is better than Gardowksi and Simms.

104 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

#77, Joe T -
Sorry, I was just so overjoyed by the chance to work Olden "Xerox" Polynice into a discussion of "college graduates" that I missed what you were talking about. My bad.

105 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

First of all I see Jeff Garcia getting the starting job. He was just on the Dan Patrick show last week and he said that he left Philly because Mcnabb was the starter ( barring injury), and he wasn't given a chance to "compete". In Tampa it is an open competition so let the best man win.

To play Devils advocate on Tampa.
1. They are 1 year removed from the playoffs.
2. They have some good chess pieces on defense and a very good defensive coordinator.
3. Their offensive line was terrible, and if Luke P. or the young guys give them anything they have the opportunity to dramatically improve that whole offense ( rushing and passing), which in turn could also take some pressure off their D. If you give Cadallac some holes, he can run the ball and eat up some clock.
4. Gruden had 39 year old Gannon lead his raiders to the SB, and I don't think he has a problem giving Garica the ball at 37. He's a former pro bowler and winner in a similar offense.
6. 4-5 could somewhat be solved by Garcia in the passing game because he doesn't hold onto the ball very long and has functional mobility which helps. A quicker passing game ( with possibly Calvin Johnson) could equal less sacks and improve the whole team.

To me it all comes down to offensive line. Their line was so bad, that improvment wouldn't just help out their offense, but their whole team. I think the Arizona Cardinals have the same exact problem. By switching to a QB who gets rid of the ball quicker ( Warner to Leinart) you could see the improvement. You would also think that Garcia would be more successful in reading blitzes to have them blocked properly over Gradkowski and Simms. On a side note, I think Gruden and Garcia could be best friends or develop some tension.

106 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

re: 57

Brady Quinn is the new Catholic Match Girl.

Who is more dreamy? I'm not sure.

107 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

I'm a Buc fan, so there are obvious biases involved, but I tend to think the Bucs will wind up somewhere between 2005 and 2006.

106 is right - a big problem with the Bucs was with the OL, and while I'm not a big Petigout believer, he's better than what the Bucs had at LT. Davis was just too inconsistent and probably should be a guard. Also, 2 rookies started, and the one the Bucs were expecting a lot from (Davin Joseph) was injured 4 days before the season started. Their best OL from '05, Dan Buenning was never 100% all season and ended up on IR. I have to believe those 2 will benefit from the experience.

And don't be fooled by the resigning of Alstott - Caddy's going to get a proper lead blocker this year I think in Askew. I think the Alstott signing was done to avoid the pitchfork and torch crowd in Tampa.

But a bigger problem than the OL was the QB situation. When Simms' finally started to wake up, he lost his spleen. Gradkowski just wasn't ready, and it showed. Whether it's Garcia/Simms or Simms/Garcia, the position can't be worse than it was in '06. The QB woes affected everybody - by his 4th game Gradkowski was checking down immediately; there were games where Galloway and Alex Smith were open all over the place and Gradkowski never even looked.

We'll see, but I think it's an 8-8 type team.

108 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

Mr. Tanier - I enjoyed the piece overall, but a couple of things:

There has been some speculation that Brooks will play strong side, but I'd put at the odds against it.

Also, I don't think it's fair to lump Buchanon in with Sammy Davis. I had low expectations when they brought him in last year, but he certaintly exceeded them. He was one of the few brightspots in the secondary late last year and is one of only 2 guys (Bk's the other) who can be effective in man coverage for the Bucs.

109 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

To Booker Reese,

Is Tim Ratty still on the Buccos team and if so, why doesn't he get a look to win the starter's job?

110 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

As a Bucs fan, the big hope that I have going into next season is that having a guy like Garcia will improve the whole offense. I'm not suggesting top half of the league, but more in running the offense. You have to remember, the Bucs offense was extremely young outside of a few vets (Galloway and Wade; Hillard, Alstott, Becht, and Pittman in limited roles). Otherwise, the Bucs starters were two 1st year players on the offensive line (Joseph and Trueblood), 2nd year players in TE Smith, G Buenning, and Cadillac, and 3rd year players in Clayton and OT Davis.

Counting the fact that there was no QB who had started over 16 games (besides Rattay at the end of the season), and you had 8 of 11 starters with under 3 years in the NFL last season.

For me, the hope is having a QB who is so familiar with the WCO and can be a fiery leader in the huddle and lockerroom could have a big impact on so many young players who may have yet to see how the WCO is run with competent QB play.

111 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

109 - He's a free agent. If Luke McCown hadn't torn his ACL on Day 1 of training camp (of if Fiedler's shoulder would have healed in time) Rattay wouldn't have even been on the roster.

Rattay is reportedly a terrible practice QB, and almost every observer over the summer indicated that Gradkowski was beating him out. It wasn't close in the preseason games either - Gradkowksi and Simms just looked 100 times better.

Rattay did ok late when he got the job, but mostly I think he just showed how badly Gradkowski's game had fallen apart. Rattay's most successful game, against the Bears, wasn't the result of anything special he did other than just put the short to mid-range passes on the money and let Galloway and Ike go to work. In fact, for the first quarter he was in there, he looked worse than Gradkowski.

I think Rattay mostly showed what Gruden can do with matchups if he has just a competent guy at QB.

112 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

I believe Rattay is a FA, or if he isn't, he is not expected to return to the team in 07.

113 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

Okay, thanks guys. I overrated Rattay it seems.

114 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

I dunno, DPAR has Rattay fairly well ranked - 20th by my count, best of all Tampa QBs by a long margin (19.2 compared to -13 for Simms and -30 for Gradkowski). Better than the likes of Vick, Alex Smith, Brad Johnson, Leftwich, Grossman, Hasselbeck, Young, Carr and Garrard. Starter material by that rank.

Seems to me Tampa should have kept him.

115 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

Rattay is a free agent, and no, he is not expected to return. It would have made for good training camp metaphors if we'd resigned him and if Plummer decided not to retire.

Will the Rat be eaten by the Snake . . .

116 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

Anyone wishing to have a small article in my up coming book on being an educated NFL fan please hit the link on my name. Give me a small sample of topics you would like to cover and I will e-mail you back.

117 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

Here is a qustion to Buc fans. We saw how good Cadillac was in his rookie season although I felt Gruden really overrused him
quite a bit. This past season he struggled. This upcoming season will Gruden split carries with him and another running back or will he continue to use him up?

118 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

I think that FO has written an article on the "using running backs up" phenomenon, but now I can't find it, and I can't remember what it said. Anyone else remember?

I'm not sure that his running was worse than it was last year. To my eyes, he still seemed to make people miss, run over people occasionally, etc. He just never really got anywhere doing it. As I outlined in 12, all of the Bucs runners were significantly worse this year than last. I'd look at least oartly to the QB situation.

I think Gruden will still lean on him, unless his fumbling continues to be an issue, in which case he'll never get the ball again, ala Thomas Jones (who only fumbled once, I think before he was scrapped).

119 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

As a niners fan I can say that Rattay is a decent Qb. He knows how to run an offense and has a good arm. The issue with him is that he seems to be very brittle, he could get injured in a pillow factory.

120 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

Podge, I don't think you can read too much into Rattay's DPAR - he basically had a great but fluky quarter against Chicago, an ok game against a terrible Browns team (in which his turnover led to the only Browns points), and a forgettable finale against Seattle. When I say Chicago was fluky, I mean it's not too often that Ike Hilliard takes a 5 yard slant, breaks two tackles and outruns the defense for a 50 yard score.

As for the Caddy question, Gruden took some grief for the pace of carries Caddy was taking early on in 2005, but a lot of those carries were a function of the Bucs trying to close out late games. I don't think that pace is something Gruden wants.

He's been dying to use the so-called "Rocket" backfield with Pittman and Caddy back there together, but so far he doesn't seem to trust Caddy's blocking/receiving enough to really utilize it often.

I think Gruden would love to recreate the Watters/Garner backfield, but he doesn't have the personnel.

121 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

118 - it said that 370 or more carries seems to be the danger zone, and that just about every running back except for Eric Dickerson has been pretty dismal after hitting that number.

Caddy never hit that number, but was on pace to for awhile.

122 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

You can point to the measurables all you want but I think the best part of Cadallacs game is his vision.

That doesn't bode well with a terrible O-Line in tampa. I suspect that with average/good line play he can be a heck of a lot better.

123 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

Tampa's really taking a chance this year with so many old guys on defense.

In sports, you get old quickly, unlike in life, and by "quickly", I mean "suddenly".

Don't be surprised if their defense can't maintain what they've done in recent years because of this.

124 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

One of the big reasons Cadillac sucked so much was that thanks to Gradkowski's "he's ten yards away, I can't throw that far!" arm, everybody was bunched in the box. I mean, Gradkowski looked fine for a week or two until everybody realized that he couldn't, you know, throw the ball (which tends to be sort of a downer for a QB).

As for the O-line, I can't remember whether Trueblood or Pinata Walker started at RT, but the line was freaking awful. I could probably look up how many times Caddy was tackled in the backfield last year, but I'd rather forget the season ever happened. Cadillac was pretty much hosed regardless of what he did.

Can I mention how much last year sucked again? I mean, the highlights of the season were (1) kicking a field goal and (2) almost beating the Bears, and I was screaming for them to lose so they'd get a better draft pick.

125 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

123, Tampa's been taking that chance for years. The closest the Bucs have been to an impact young player for a few years was DeWayne White, and he's now gone. The D has kept getting older, and younger players like Barrett Ruud haven't impressed.

I do think there will be a pretty significant drop-off this year for the D. If either Brooks or Barber go down it leaves too much of a hole, and they're sort of at the age where I expect them to break. At which point I'll cry into my Derrick Brooks jersey and thank the lords of DirecTV I can switch to another game.

126 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

But people are calling Caddalac a bust. He's a back with good vision that is behind maybe the worst line in the league. If you put him behind say Indy,Cincy Giants, Pats, Seattle, KC, Washington, Pittsburgh's line it would be a different story.

127 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

Re: 126

Who is calling him a bust? Who said that the Tampa line wasn't awful? Who are you arguing with?

128 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

All of you Mike Vick Bashers sound ridiculous with your infantile...elementary level attempts at be condescending and sarcastic. Mike is one the best football players that most of us will witness in our lifetime! Atlanta knew what his strengths were, as well as his weakness's when they picked him in the draft! As the best Athlete and Player on the dirty bird's roster...Play up to his an offense around them! You guys really believe that Mike Vick isn't appreciated as a QB in the NFL? I say greater than 90% of the Owners & coaches will give up anyone on their roster to have the opportunity to be associated with such an electrifying football players...they would stand to make millions in sales and other revenue generating ventures just by the anticipation of Vick donning a uniform! Get real people! You guy's remind me of the fickle minded Romans in the days of the great coliseum.