Walkthrough: Downs Off

Walkthrough: Downs Off
Walkthrough: Downs Off
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

by Mike Tanier

Every defensive tackle takes downs off.

There’s no such thing as a defensive tackle who operates at full power for every snap of every game. For that matter, there is no such thing as a human who goes full-bore for every moment of his or her working life.

While researching Clemson’s Brandon Thompson for Yahoo! Shutdown Corner, I noticed that many scouts said that he took downs off. Then, while crafting a report on Michigan State’s Jerel Worthy, I saw that several sources said that he took downs off. I grabbed the Pro Football Weekly draft preview magazine and started tallying the number of players who take downs off or have an "inconsistent motor" or who "run hot and cold." Worthy. Thompson. DaJohn Harris of USC. Penn State’s Devon Still. A bunch of other defensive tackles have "stamina that needs to be monitored."

I watched tape of the Outback Bowl: Michigan State against Georgia. The game went into triple overtime. Worthy wasn’t doing much at the end. He had been slamming into Georgia linemen all day: sometimes a double team, sometimes Cordy Glenn, who is a double team. Would I like a defensive tackle who is still fresh as a daisy after triple overtime? Sure. Does such a creature exist? Maybe on Krypton.

If you are going to tell me a defensive tackle takes downs off, tell me the downs so I can see for myself. Tell me "watch the second half of the Oregon game" or something. I need a little context, plus some evidence that you aren’t passing along fifth-hand information.

I am not even sure that I can spot a player taking downs off. Sometimes, the defensive tackle shuffling in the middle of the field, making no effort to rush the passer, is following instructions to clog the scrambling lane. Sometimes, the blocker just got the better of him. Sometimes, it’s the fourth quarter of a 37-13 loss. When watching tape and focusing on the line, it is easy to lose track of the quarter and score, so if Thompson looks gassed and unmotivated against North Carolina State, it helps to keep in mind that his team is getting their butt kicked. Again, there are players who are still spitting nails with 3:31 to play in a 37-13 loss, but not enough of them to build a team around.

In fact, if you watch a lot of tape, you will find that your eyes take downs off. This is especially true when evaluating interior linemen. "Hey, he’s blocked, he tried to rip, he failed, the play is to the outside. Hey, he got a quick release there, and stayed low, but the left guard took him wide. Hey, a slant, and he crossed the guard’s face well, but it was a rollout away from him. Zzzz, something something, huge guys slamming into huge guys, oh wait, I am supposed to be paying attention and evaluating this player!" If a tackle takes a down off while the scouts are hypnotized, does it still count as a down off?

Some defensive tackles are more competitive than others. Some are better conditioned than others. Nearly any of the ones that make it to the early rounds of the NFL draft have a) been the biggest dude on the field since Pop Warner days, and b) are expected to play about 70 snaps per game against everyone except Directional State in the season opener. If the guy is just getting dragged all over the field in the fourth quarter of a close game, it deserves a red flag. If we catch him going through the motions while getting blocked on the 12th play of a drive, or jogging in pursuit of a runner with twice his speed, that’s football.

While I am on my soapbox...

Please stop whispering about "character issues." If the guy has been arrested for marijuana possession three times, then say "Janoris Jenkins has been arrested for marijuana possession three times." If he led police on a drunken chase through a restaurant kitchen when he was a freshman, then say "Riley Reiff led police on a drunken chase through a restaurant kitchen when he was a freshman." If he comes across like a cocky kid who rolls his eyes during press conferences, then say "Chris Rainey comes across like a cocky kid who rolls his eyes during press conferences."

By using these clear, explicit statements, we allow you to draw your own conclusions. For Jenkins, you might say "Wow, that is somewhat disturbing." For Reiff, you might say "Sounds like just a campus caper gone wrong" or "Why a restaurant kitchen?" For Rainey, you might say "My, but we have an inflated sense of our own importance, don’t we Mr. Sports Journalist? Maybe his eye rolls have something to do with your inane, condescending questions." And if someone has real information that comes from a confidential source and cannot be directly stated, that information needs to be less vague than "character issues."

Of course, "character issues" are general and do not have to be substantiated or fact checked. That’s why they are so popular. The problem is, just as everyone takes plays off, everyone has character issues if you look hard enough.

And finally...

Not every prospect has four bullet points each to place in "Pros and Cons" or "Positives and Negatives" or (my favorite, from an employer long ago) "Assets and Flaws" categories. This is not a beef with PFW, which dutifully broke down each prospect into four-to-six bullet points in their magazine. It is how many scouting reports are assembled, and it is how a lot of us train ourselves to think when we try to make each player’s profile look like a neat, balanced ledger.

Take Dontari Poe. His scouting report reminds me of the scene in Madagascar 2 when the ladies’ man hippo tries to woo Gloria, the Jada Pinkett Smith hippo. "You are large," he keeps saying. "Huge. Gigantic." That’s Poe. He is huge. And he is strong. He is also huge.

We want to elaborate, so we state the obvious. Poe can occupy double teams. He can beef up the run defense. Hey, help me out PFW! "Heavy hands. Two-gap ability." Yep, big and heavy. Teams want to draft him because he is giant and strong, not because he does anything unique on the field.

The same thing happened when I tried to write up Lavonte David, the Nebraska linebacker. David is good at a lot of things, and he made about three trillion tackles per year, so writing his "Positives" was easy. But as for his "negatives," David is a little small at 225 pounds. That’s it. He’s a 225-pound linebacker, so he won’t be that great when plugging gaps, or blitzing, or so on. Really good, really productive, kinda small. A six-word scouting report! No one gets paid to write those.

The great news about modern Internet draft-nikery is that more and more people are imbedding video into their scouting reports to illustrate points. And more video is available on YouTube than ever before. There’s a downside to these trends –- some people use an isolated video clip to make the wrong point, or misinterpret what they see, and too much of the video on YouTube consists of hip-hop highlight reels –- but we are coming a long way. It is time for all of us to step up our games, on this site and everywhere. Let’s deep-six the clichés and euphemisms. Let’s go easy on the molecular scouting ("he drops his elbows too far when reach blocking.") Let’s keep getting better at what we do, and let’s try to do it for every prospect we scout.

We cannot afford to take downs off.

The Ballad of Luck and Manning

The Oilers had not won a game in nearly 14 months.

The team was a perennial playoff participant in the late 1970s, with Bum Phillips as head coach, Earl Campbell as one of the game’s most exciting stars, and a tough defense led by the likes of linebacker Robert Brazille. But now it was the 1980s, Philips was gone, and nothing worked for head coach Ed Biles.

Before the 1982 season, Biles named Gifford Nielsen as his starting quarterback over the aging Ken Stabler. When the season started, he traded for Archie Manning to be a good mentor from the bench, a position Stabler had no interest in filling. In Week 2, just hours after Manning arrived, Nielsen helped the Oilers beat the Seahawks in typical Oilers fashion. Campbell rushed for 140 yards; Neilson went 17-of-27 for 131 yards and stayed out of the way.

Then, a player strike erased two months of the season. When the Oilers returned, the old Campbell-and-more-Campbell formula no longer worked. The banged-up Tyler Rose chugged along at 3.4 yards per carry. The Oilers defense, without veteran mainstays like Elvin Bethea and Curley Culp, could no longer stop the run like it once did. The Oilers finished the season with a seven-game losing streak.

Along the way, and not surprisingly, Manning replaced Nielsen. Poor Manning was in familiar territory: playing for a lousy team with suspect coaching. He could still be counted on to do things like this, however.

Biles never considered turning to the third quarterback on the depth chart: Oliver Luck.

Things went from bad to worse in 1983. Manning began the season as the starter, but he was clearly toast. After a four-interception game against the Steelers, Nielsen returned to the lineup. The Oilers kept losing.

Soon after the Steelers loss, Manning and tight end Dave Casper were traded to the Vikings for draft picks. "Actually, I was totally shocked," Manning said. "I had no idea a trade was in the works. I never expected it." Despite the shock, he handled the trade with typical Manning aplomb. "I'm not leaving with my head between my legs," Manning said. "I'm not going to take shots at anybody. I busted my tail to help the Oilers get out of their slump. I regret that I wasn't able to do it."

Biles was fired. Chuck Studley took over. The Oilers kept losing. They lost a pair of overtime games in October. Nielsen had been sacked 22 times in 175 pass attempts. He got hurt early in a 55-14 loss to the Bengals, and Studley finally handed the reins to Luck. Luck threw for 229 yards, but it was mostly garbage production in a game that was decided in the first quarter. Luck’s performance was overshadowed by Campbell’s postgame trade demands; Campbell was pulled from the blowout early, and he wasn’t happy about it.

Luck became the starter. He had been the third quarterback taken in the 1982 draft, after Jim McMahon and Art Schlichter. He was a legitimate prospect, but the Oilers preferred old quarterbacks: Manning, Stabler, and Nielsen, who spent four years on the bench before he got his chance to unseat Stabler. Luck was ready, but more importantly, so was Campbell, who settled down and remained with the team.

On November 13th, 1983, after over one full year, 17 losses, and a major work stoppage, Luck led the Oilers to victory. He was 18-of-26 for 189 yards and two touchdowns. Campbell added 28 carries and 107 yards.

"I suppose it's a Cinderella start," he said. "Hopefully, I won't turn into a pumpkin in a couple of games,"

But Luck quickly went the way of the gourd. He threw 13 interceptions in his late-season run as the Oilers starter. The team plucked Warren Moon out of the CFL and handed him the starting job in 1984. A Dallas Morning News article from the 1984 preseason describes the state of affairs in the Oilers locker room:

The man destined to be millionaire Warren Moon's backup quarterback for the Houston Oilers this year was a solitary figure in the post-game dressing room.

Luck deserved better, because he came within 14 yards of rescuing the Oilers in a 31-24 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.

While sportswriters and television cameras were surrounding Moon, a few lockers away, Luck toweled himself from a shower all alone.

The Oilers went on to another ugly 3-13 season, but Moon went on to the Hall of Fame. Luck hung around as Moon’s backup for a few years and eventually wound up on the board governors at his alma mater, West Virginia. He was destined for the tiniest of historic NFL footnotes when his son was born on September 12, 1989.

Andrew Luck is destined for greater glory than his father, yet their careers will start in an eerily similar way: both must replaced a discarded Manning on a once-great team in the throes of misfortune.

There is probably some cosmic significance to the Manning-Luck connection, or at least much more drama can be made of it. It would have been fun to see the sons share a roster, as the fathers briefly did. But really, this is just a bunch of strange stuff that happened. Just as Peyton (and Eli) have surpassed Archie, so it will come to pass that Andrew will outperform Oliver in a way that will make papa proud.

In this case, however, it will probably happen by late October.

Atlanta Falcons Top Five Running Backs

1. William Andrews

The fullback version of Billy Sims. Andrews had five outstanding years as a brutal power runner who could also catch the ball out of the backfield. He then completely blew out his knee.

Early in his career, Andrews shared the backfield with Lynn Cain, who was more of a traditional halfback. In 1983, the Falcons hired Dan Henning off the Redskins staff, and they switched to a Redskins-style one-back offense. Andrews played the John Riggins role, but his 1983 numbers –- 1,567 yards, 4.7 yards per carry, 59 catches for 609 yards -– blew away anything Riggo ever did in the same system. Riggo had the Hogs in front of him, but Andrews could not complain about an offensive line that included several near-Hall of Famers, including tackle Mike Kenn and center Jeff van Note. Two more healthy seasons in that offense and Andrews might have been a Hall of Famer.

2. Gerald Riggs

Andrews’ successor, and the guy who racked up some of the yards Anderson would have earned if healthy. Riggs rushed for 1,719 yards in 1985. He had two other 1,000 yard seasons, and would have had a third if not for the 1987 strike. He was a great player trapped on a team strangely convinced that David Archer was an NFL quarterback.

3. Jamal Anderson

Anderson had four 1,000 yard seasons, but three of them were skin-of-the-teeth 1,000-yard seasons that did not impress DVOA. Anderson finished 32nd in DVOA in 1997 and 35th in 2000, two years in which his yards-per-attempt were in the middle threes. Our metrics are kinder toward 1996 (eighth overall), and he finished second to Terrell Davis in his monster 1998 season.

Anderson was a good back, but his stat line strikes me as a cosmic make-up for Hard Luck Hampton. Anderson was the guy who would rush for 152 yards in the final week of the season to crack 1,000. One year, he had exactly 1,000 yards entering the final game. A Falcons running back of the past would have lost three yards on his first carry and sprained an ankle, but Anderson grinded out 55 more yards, in a loss, for a team that finished 3-13.

4. Warrick Dunn

Dunn is a tricky player to place. He gained more rushing yards than Anderson, and finished just five yards behind Andrews on the Falcons list. (Riggs is the all-time leader). Everyone liked him, and he appeared to be the guy who really made things click for the early Michael Vick teams.

Dunn had a great 2005 season, finishing fourth in DVOA with 1,416 rushing yards, but his other big years were similar to Anderson’s best seasons, even though he was a different type of runner. After 2002, his role in the passing game was curtailed, so he was not ringing up that much value as a receiver. Anderson’s mammoth season drove the Falcons to the Super Bowl, so he gets the nod. Dunn will be at or near the top of another list very soon.

5. Dave Hampton

One of my favorite stories: a guy who twice came within five yards of a 1,000-yard season before finally clearing the hurdle. Here’s me telling the story five years ago. Back then, Pro Football Reference did not yet have the boxscores from 1970s games, which is why I so breathlessly report all of his game-by-game logs: that was hard-to-find info at the time!

The essay in the link ends with a list from the 2007 Pro Football Prospectus of the best running back seasons in Falcons history. Andrews totally tears up the list.

Michael Turner is ready to pass Hampton, and probably Dunn and Anderson. The big misgiving with Turner is that he had zero receiving value until this season; we get used to penciling in about 20-25 catches for featured backs, and we forget that for Turner that must be scaled back to 5-10. That has a real impact on total yards, so Turner’s 1,300-yard seasons don’t quite add up with Dunn’s 1,100-yard seasons. And it has an impact on the field as well: the Falcons are more dependent on their change-up backs then most teams, and when that change-up back was the forever-injured Jerious Norwood, that was a problem. Even Hampton had some receiving value. That said, Turner is number six with a bullet, and he will be climbing fast.

Cannonball Butler was the ultimate Norm Van Brocklin player: a fullback who averaged 3.2 yards per carry in one of his signature seasons. He deserves honorable mention for being named Cannonball Butler.


130 comments, Last at 09 May 2012, 11:46am

1 Re: Walkthrough: Downs Off

I'd like to get rid of the phrase "nasty streak" which is only used ever to describe OL.

It's dumb.

2 Re: Walkthrough: Downs Off

I never knew until watching that Archie Manning clip that Danny White was Whizzer's son.

25 Re: Walkthrough: Downs Off

Saw this before nut didnt have time for 2 posts at time.

To clear this up for reafers (did not view clip so dont know what info is in it). D White not son of Byron (Whizzer) white. Danny white son of Wilford (Whizzer) White. W. White involved in maybe most embraassing folly ever whrn with Bwars have ball around midfield scaredy cat White run backwards to avoid defenders. Then throw ball up in air whne reach end zone and other team (Rams if remembrr correctly) recover for TD.

91 Re: Walkthrough: Downs Off

You must work an awful lot!

By the way, did you mean "to clear this up for reefers?" j/k

We are number one. All others are number two, or lower.

3 Re: Walkthrough: Downs Off

Andrews great player. Like sims and T
. Davis- short carwer due to injuries but great when play. Off top of head going to say it was 1983 when andrews go above 100 scrimmage yards every gane except for two and in those two was in 90s anyway (maybe two games were vs Beras and buccs; somebody csn go check it otu).

In 1980 Falcs maybe best eam in league regular season. Then blow lead at hom.in playoffs vs dallas. If won that game maybe would have gone to sUper bowl and given Raiders better game thsn uptight Eagles

24 Re: Walkthrough: Downs Off

That 1980 playoff loss to the Cowboys broke my seven-year-old heart. Talk to any long-time Falcons fan, and that's the loss that hurt the most, not Super Bowl 33 (which all of us knew was a lost cause once we heard the news about Eugene's Midnight Ride).

32 Re: Walkthrough: Downs Off

which all of us knew was a lost cause once we heard the news about Eugene's Midnight Ride).

I need to remember that when I name my loser league team next season.

80 Re: Walkthrough: Downs Off

We should have something like a Wood League where we select the players we feel are most likely to win KCW awards on the season. One point per mention, team with the most wins.

Well, maybe it's too self-referential.

33 Re: Walkthrough: Downs Off

In 1983, Andrews was held under 100 yards from scrimmage in four games: 83 against the Saints, 59 against the Saints, 58 against the Rams, and 83 against the 49ers.

I'm thinking you might have meant 1981, when he was only held under 100 yards from scrimmage in two games and had 90+ in each: 96 against the Packers and 92 against the 49ers.

4 Re: Walkthrough: Downs Off

Archie Manning was a better athlete that either of his sons who are NFL stars. If he gets drafted by the Steelers at the top of the first round in 1970, instead of going number 2 to the Saints in 1971, my guess is that the Steelers start winning Super Bowls earlier, perhaps ruining Mercury Morris' 2nd career, and that a large majority of football fans would be saying that Peyton wasn't as good as the old man. We just don't have a good way of evaluating NFL players apart from their teammates.

Thanks for the shout out to Mike Kenn, one of my favorite unsung non-Vikings from my youth.

10 Re: Walkthrough: Downs Off

You are 100% spot on with regards to Archie, who is still loved by many New Orleanians for what he had to go through as our QB.

Sports talk radio and sports message boards are the killing fields of intellectual discourse.

12 Re: Walkthrough: Downs Off

People should look at his 1972 season, in which he was Tarkenton-good, given the context of the roster he was on. In fact, compare his numbers playing on a 2-11-1 team filled with awful talent, to Bradshaw's numbers, playing on an 11-3 team filled with future Hall of Famers.

Manning: 51 percent completions, 2781 yards, 6.2 yards/attempt, 18 tds, 21 interceptions

Bradshaw: 48 percent completions, 1887 yards, 6.1 yards/attempt, 12 tds, 12 interceptions.

38 Re: Walkthrough: Downs Off

Meh. I think Aikman was more overrated than Bradshaw.

Sports talk radio and sports message boards are the killing fields of intellectual discourse.

43 Re: Walkthrough: Downs Off

While I agree with the general point, it should be noted (as you do below) that Bradshaw and his teammates got a lot better a few years down the road. (And IIRC, Bradshaw seemed to really improve just as the Steelers aged out of their dynasty years - his famous playoff "tennis match" against Fouts and the Chargers, the pitch and catch with Stallworth to win against the Oilers, etc. He was a very good QB boosting his no-longer-Hall-of-Fame teammates.)

Bradshaw was really a pretty good QB playing on a team with tremendous scouting and player development staffs that went on a nearly unprecedented talent acquisition run. (I mean, you could have made a decent case that a non-Steeler-All-Pro team would have lost to the Steelers in a best of 7 in the 1975-1976 seasons. Yes, I'm a Steelers fan, but any team which manages to assemble Greenwood/Greene/Ham/Lambert/Russell/Edwards/Wagner all mostly in their prime is ridiculously good, even in the era of the Purple People Eaters, Doomsday, and the tail end of the Rams' Fearsome Foursome.)

47 Re: Walkthrough: Downs Off

Oh, I think Bradshaw eventually became a great qb; it just took a lot longer than it did for Archie Manning, which is why I think the '72 Steelers, which was a terrific team, would have had an excellent chance to beat the 17-0 Dolphins in the AFCCG, given better quarterbacking.

50 Re: Walkthrough: Downs Off

It's hard to compare eras. I'll start with that, because it has to inform any discussion of a 1970's QB. That was not an era when passing was easy. But Dan Fouts was playing about the same time, and posted 7% better completions (for comparison, this is about the same as the difference between Curtis Painter's 2011 and Eli Manning's), and 1.9 extra yards per attempt (Aaron Rodgers vs. Alex Smith) over their career. Archie Manning had three points CP and three quarters of a yard per attempt on Bradshaw, playing for a succession of the least talented teams in football... Ken Stabler's rate stats are similar to Fouts'.

I think the perception of Bradshaw's play is colored by the success of the team, and in particular the prevalence of highlight-reel film. I remember being impressed by Joey Harrington in 2006 (I think watching the Jets game). He looked like a real quarterback for 30 seconds too.

89 Re: Walkthrough: Downs Off

Not in 1976. The Raiders beat them soundly in the playoffs (granted without Harris and Bleier), and the Patriots could have beaten them as well (as they did earlier in the season). The '76 Steelers were not that scary.

130 Re: Walkthrough: Downs Off

The '76 Steelers were not that scary.
You mean the team that had five shutouts and did not allow a touchdown in eight games?

5 Re: Walkthrough: Downs Off

"Maybe on Krypton."

No, you forget, for a Kryptonian to be fresh after triple overtime he/she would have to be here on Earth, or any other planet with a yellow sun.

Although as much interstellar travel as Superman apparently attempts these days, I'm not sure it'd have to be yellow.

7 Re: Walkthrough: Downs Off

Somebody who is not as lazy as me should find out which draft gurus noted that Justin Smith plays like the Tasmanian Devil on a meth binge for 4 quarters, while Albert Haynesworth's efforts are as unpredictable as a spin of the roulette wheel.

19 Re: Walkthrough: Downs Off

Pat Kirwan of CNNSI on Justin Smith:
"A coach's dream. He will be on the field for every passing situation as a rookie and with 10 more pounds, could stay on the field for all downs. Some teams are concerned about his lower body bulk but his motor and his technique should overcome that. The Cincinnati Bengals wanted a guy with high character and a big-time motor and they got one in Justin Smith. There is some concern about his short arms, like there was with Patrick Kearney, who Atlanta took in the first round a couple of years ago. He will be at least a Chad Bratzke and maybe more. His 4.58 40 is rare for a defensive end and he puts that to good use every snap."

USA Today on Justin Smith:
"STRENGTHS: Relentless pass rusher who made immediate impact as collegian . . . Quick off the snap with a great first step .. . Moves well laterally and uses hands to get off blockers . . . Doesn't have great speed but is quick enough to get around the edge . . . Pursues from the backside and is fast enough to run down ballcarriers . . . Displays tremendous instincts and rarely blows assignments . . .Intense competitor whose motor never shuts down.

WEAKNESSES: Has tendency to play a bit out of control at times . . . Not as good when teams runs right at him as opposed to away from him. . . Not a great run-stuffer at this point, but should get better . . . Relied on quickness to get him off the edge in college; will need to improve pass-rush moves to be effective in the pros."

Sounds like they nailed it - lots of talk about effort and motor. I guess USA Today didn't realize that being "out of control" would manifest itself in throwing offensive linemen at the QB.

Kirwan on Albert Haynesworth:
"Albert Haynesworth was considered a better player than John Henderson. A very athletic tackle who is talented enough to play left defensive end, if needed. He had some off the field issues that caused him to drop to this spot. On talent alone, he might be considered the best tackle. His availability is a direct effect of the Bengals taking Levi Jones and having quality players available. With Haynesworth on a line with Kevin Carter and Jevon Kearse, he will be single-blocked and he has no excuse to be a productive player in his first year."

USA Today on Haynesworth:
"Positives: Physical inside player with solid legs & thick arms...Moves well for a player his size, showing fluid lateral movement to make plays down the line...Holds his ground firmly & attacks blockers with aggression...His quick first step allows him to slant through & has the strong power charge to effectively get into the backfield...Punishing run defender with the quickness needed to slip blocks & penetrate gaps.

Negatives: Very inconsistent in his play, looking great on minute and then disappears for stretches…Gets too upright coming off the snap, negating his strong leg drive…Needs to extend his arms quicker coming off the ball to prevent blockers from getting into his chest…While he can collapse the pocket, he needs to recognize the play better, as he tends to overrun in pursuit.

REMINDS ME OF…DAN WILKINSON, Washington Redskins: Much like Wilkinson, this kid has it all, but unfortunately, he's just as inconsistent."

Again, sounds like they nailed it - dominating physically, but problems with attitude and inconsistency.

26 Re: Walkthrough: Downs Off

The thing I always think when I muse on Justin Smith's NFL career is that while he was a good 4-3 DRE he became a monster when he became a 5T 3-4 DE. His first season in SF they tried to play him as a 275lb OLB and it didn't work. Then they moved him to end and he started to play very well. Then he added 20lbs or so in the following offseason and has been dominant ever since.

How his career might have turned out if he had gone to a 3-4 team back when he was drafted is scary (but hardly anyone used it back then).

8 Re: Walkthrough: Downs Off

I remember "Takes plays off" and "doesn't always have a high motor" were supposed to be the knocks on Haloti Ngata when the Ravens drafted him. I suspect anyone who passed on him as a result would like a do-over.

13 Re: Walkthrough: Downs Off

The same things were said about Julius Peppers when he was on the Panthers, and from watching on the Bears I think those claims were ridiculous. I have never seen a defensive lineman work harder than him the past two years. He's an absolute terror against the run which is where you expect effort issues to come into play.

Alex Brown was also accused of having an inconsistent motor, and he made his NFL career primarily through hustle.

So I just ignore these accusations anymore.

14 Re: Walkthrough: Downs Off

I'm opening up a can of worms, but... How often do you think "takes plays off" is actually code for "I need to find something negative to say about an athletic black player, and I'm too lazy/incompetent to actually watch tape"?

16 Re: Walkthrough: Downs Off

I've often recoded it in my head as:

1) I'm grading a dude who is the best athlete on the field

2) He is not racking up 5 sacks and 20 tackles in this game, despite going against athletes who are clearly not NFL-worthy

3) Therefore, he must be slacking quite a bit

4) Look, there, yeah, he gets blown out of the hole and easily turned by a guy 30 pounds lighter... he was coasting...

The question then becomes, why isn't he getting those 20 tackles? I've often wondered if the coaching / practice time / skills part is limited, so super-athlete only has a couple of scripts, and lesser-athlete can figure out how to blunt those few scripts, and then super-athlete just ends up spinning his wheels, which looks like coasting. Or something like that.


31 Re: Walkthrough: Downs Off


1. Uncalled holding
2. Double-teams
3. Plays run away from him

It's not like the offensive coordinator on the other side isn't away of the Homo Superior lined up at RDE and is planning accordingly.

74 Re: Walkthrough: Downs Off

Yeah. Because a defensive lineman is so athletic and so dominant, he should be beating double teams, blowing up gameplans and making the stop on every play. All that while keeping up with his grades, constantly saving children from burning buildings, making sure their grandparents are getting the treatment they need and watching that chick flick they promised their girlfriend they were gonna see. So that they can be the basis for [insert artist here]'s new book/movie coming out in the summer.

9 Re: Walkthrough: Downs Off

William Andrews is one of the best backs in history that will not get into the Hall of Fame. If I could take the time to make a case for him to media, I would do it. A fantastic running back. I wrote about him here, some time ago: http://mattwaldmanrsp.com/2011/09/04/a-case-for-canton-william-andrews/

67 Re: Walkthrough: Downs Off

I'm old enough to remember William Andrews. The guy was an absolute truck. Definitely better than Riggins but not as good as Campbell, to talk about players with similar styles. When you played Atlanta, you didn't worry about Bartkowski throwing to Alfred and Alfred, and you damn sure didn't worry about Lynn Cain. You worried about William Andrews.

Ultimately, though, I think he simply falls short. It's fair to say that he was on a Hall of Fame trajectory, but I don't think he deserves it. Not because he wasn't good enough, but because he wasn't good enough for long enough. I say that knowing full well that I tend to grade very leniently on guys who were eye-popping and then got hurt. I wouldn't get riled up at all if Terrell Davis got in, or even Bo Jackson for that matter. Andrews is in the same category, but behind those two in line.

Thanks for the link, though. It was fun just to go on the nostalgia trip and remenisce. Man, did he ever bring it.

18 Re: Walkthrough: Downs Off

Come one now...without football cliches...you've probably cut out over half of the real analysis most media members use. Throw out clutch, winner sauce, and has "it" and we're really left with just some names, verbs, and a whole lot of "run the ball and play good defense."

I doubt any of us were alive to really watch archie play but i doubt even if you had, you could accurately compare his circumstances to the nfl today. As boring as it sounds, the game has changed and we need to recognize it, just has the game has changed even from the 1990s. If we now can't even imagine teams that stay in base formations over half the time, what the heck must it have been like in the 60s and 70s when they were running "modern offenses" Do we know for sure archie would've been like p. manning? And has p.manning's game been built off mostly his athleticism or his other tangible but less physically imposing set of skills?

The sad truth is, making top 10 lists are fun, but as mike has painstakingly shown, its damn near impossible between eras.

20 Re: Walkthrough: Downs Off

It's funny that you mention formations, because if I remember correctly, the Colts under Manning stayed in their base formation more than just about any team in the league. That said, Peyton knows how to use audibles and analyze defensive variations better than anyone else in the league, which might not have been such a weapon in Archie's era.

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I think base or not base formation on offense really don't matter that much. You can run an infinite of combinations, especially considering today's RBs and TEs who can likely just as easily block, catch or run with little difficulty. 30 years ago, if you wanted to spread it out and go wide, you almost had to come in with a 4-wide set...now, you can spread it out with your standard 3-wide and run the TE down the middle.

I think the really big difference between formational coaching now vs. older football is on defense. Watch last year's Ravens/49ers/Cards (etc.) game tape...they might run their base set on D 30% of the time. Teams going from a 3-4 to a 5-2 on back-to-back plays now happens all the time...in the 70s-80s, that NEVER happened...one, because you didn't have "speed with size" like is so common place now and two defenses rotate personnel in much more than 20-40 years ago.

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I agree that defense has actually evolved more than offense in the last 40 years. Perhaps by necessity; it was just a lot easier to play defense when receivers could get mugged all over the field until the ball was in the air, offenisve linemen could not grab the way they can now, and just as importantly defensive linemen were allowed to clock pass blockers upside the head. One of my earliest football memories is of Carl Eller winding up and smacking Forrest Gregg on the side of the head so hard that Gregg's helmet flew through the air 15 yards. Given that tactic, there wasn't much need for sophistication.

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If you read Ron Jaworski's book "Ten Games That Changed The Game", the reader (or at least me anyway) will be left with the impession that the post-1978 offensive createtivity patented by Don Coryell and Bill Walsh is what led to all of the defensive adjustments.

Coryell's use of Kellen Winslow as the "Roving Y" and Walsh's West Coast offense forced defensive coaches like Buddy Ryan, Dom Capers and Dick LeBeau to create new ways to pressure the qb and disrupt offenses.

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If Reggie White or Richard Dent had been allowed the head slap, Buddy Ryan would not have needed to make any adjustments, to put Joe Montana or Dan Fouts on their backs. Can you imagine Reggie combining the head slap with the club move? Good grief.

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The Reggie White club is still something I can't fully comprehend. I've never seen another player even remotely able to do what he did with that. Yeah if he could have head slapped as well he might have had a 35 sack season at some point in his career.

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I've seen Aldon Smith pull it off in college (against Nate Solder I think but I could be wrong) but I struggle to think of an example in the NFL. It is probably very difficult to replicate because you just can't teach the sort of balance and timing that are essential to the move.

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You see guys who use the 'hump' move (I recall it was always referred to as such and you lot have it wrong - steps out onto dangerous precipice) but they move themselves as much as the tackle. Ogunleye used to try it every now and then but again would move himself inside the tackle whereas White used to just throw the tackle aside and carry on toward the QB. I used to stare at White in games he was in and I swear he spent whole games setting guys up for that move so he could use it when really needed (ie to win the game). I remember the Bears once driving into field position to win the game with time running out and then BOOM hump move, tackle on their arse watching Reggie flatten the QB. Next play BOOM same result. I am not sure if he then went round the outside swatting the tackle's outside arm down as if the 300lb guy was a toddler, but same end result. I am not honestly sure whether it was two plays or three, basically I can't remember if the first play was first or second down, a long time ago and I tried to instantly forget it at the time. What I do remember is that the Bears were about to win a game and then Reggie happened.

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Memories of SB31 - wonder if White did some setting up during that game. As the Pats drove for the late-3rd TD that made it a one-poss game, announcers said that Reggie looked gassed, and commented on the steamy atmosphere in the Superdome. Then, shortly thereafter, the "gassed" White flattened Bledsoe on consecutive plays, and the Pats had nothing left offensively.

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Weren't those innovations themselves largely a function of the 1978 rule changes? I don't see either of those offenses being nearly as effective without the Mel Blount rule, or offensive linemen being allowed to extend their arms.

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I don't know about that George. When Bill Walsh was the O coordinator for the Bengals in the early to mid 70s(i.e. before the so-called "Mel Blount Rule" became the law), Bengal qb Ken Anderson put up passing numbers that rivaled those of Steve Young and Philip Rivers.

Jim Hart was the Cardinals qb when Coryell was the head coach (about the same time Walsh was was at Cincy) and led the NFC in td passes twice, finishing ahead of HOFers Roger Staubach & Fran Tarkenton.

My point is that Walsh and Coryell always had the wherewithall to design cutting edge passing attacks, but the post 78 changes made it easier for them (and everyone else).

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I was there for Archie's first game. He won it on a late 4th down QB sneak that probably wouldn't count today with instant replay. Archie played completely differently from his sons, he was a great scrambler until injured and probably instructed his sons not to adapt his style.

If you want to imagine what it was like to watch a whole game and not just highlights of Archie, just recall Jay Cutler at the beginning of 2011. Archie never really had a chance to set up in the pocket, the defense was on him way too fast.

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Of course everyone takes plays off...you just can't and shouldn't go full-tilt for 40-50 snaps in a game...it's not necessary.

No one is complaining when the run goes to the opposite side and you just basically stand their against your blocker...grab each other's pads and take a break and wait to see if their is a cutback...that happens virtually on every play...but when you are taking a play off when the counter is on the fringe of your responsibility or when you don't penetrate that gap full out to make room for the push, etc...that's what should be noted...and instead of "take plays off" call it for what it is...crappy work ethic.

And lets be clear...EVERYONE knows on a football team who is a gamer for the majority of those snaps and who takes more plays off than they should. Not only do you likely see that behavior on the field, but you see it in positional drills, you see it during film study, you see it in the weight room, you see it during conditioning and you see it during unit drills.

It's called work ethic...and some kids just don't have it and quite frankly I don't think you can "coach" it on an ongoing basis. Yea, you can incentivize for it short term (work hard and you get Tuesday off...but over time you either have it or you don't.

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I don't think you can "coach" it on an ongoing basis

<places tongue firmly in cheek>
With the greatest possible respect, Coach Dave, just because *you* aren't able to coach it, doesn't mean nobody can :)

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I don't know about football, but certainly in other sports I've played and watched you also get guys who persistently dog it in practice but are absolutely all-out in competitive games. Obviously it tends to hurt their fitness levels and lead to shorter careers, but it happens nonetheless.

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Good list on the Falcons RBs. We've had a few good ones, particularly if your tastes run to big power RBs. William Andrews was a bad man.

I really think this will be Turner's last season in Atlanta, so I don't know if he'd climb above Dunn and Anderson.

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I'd like to say that I enjoyed watching Anderson run as I really love big, powerful runners but that would be a falsehood. He was a sodding pain. My beloved 49ers bounced off his knees and shoulder pads with alarming regularity; I remember one run in particular where he trundled Merton Hanks down field for about thirty yards.

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Base and sub have changed more than you think. Its not just from a personnel standpoint, it comes in forms of play calling and varying formation diversities. Splits, bunch formations, the more creative screens and half back and full back leaks out the backfield, tight ends that chip and still run deep go routes. Even greg cosell mentioned how in the past, slot receivers ran primarily short to intermediate, now you have some that are basically running the entire route tree including go routes(see victor cruz).

The same is true for defenses as people have mentioned. The zone blitz started its prominence in the 90s and has massively adapted since. We're seeing not so much a birth, but now consistent usage of things like big nickle, hybrid safeties and linebackers, the third corner as the prominent starter, and shifts from de to dtackles and vice versa as we say with jpp and tuck.

Whats the more interesting question is when the big shift happened? Sub from offenses was used in 90s by the bills and oilers and yet, the league was still mostly in base. The proliferation of sub for the league really is harder to pinpoint and why. Just off memory, it feels like it started after 06, when Ne responded after the afc champ loss to grab a bunch of receivers and go spread most of the time. Since then, everyone has done it and now defenses have to counter. I wonder if maybe then, it was the colts that really started this all. Or maybe the rams of 99.

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I actually should correct myself. After rereading the coryell and walsh chapters of games that changed the game, the concepts were installed during the 80s but the overlying theme was still the schemes were limited by the number of capable athletes. What seems to have changed is that the number of athletes at the skill positions have risen and now instead of there being just 1 kellen winslow type, we're seeing an explosion of 5-6 or tight ends and a number of capable receivers. Just off tight ends, the group includes gronk, hernandez, graham, finley, davis, and gates. The proliferation of athletes has allowed for specialized roles where now you don't need receivers to run entire route trees, but can basically play off their strengths within the formations.

I feel sorry for defenses because in terms of innovations, its long felt like offenses have had to dictate that defenses adjust; not vice versa. I wonder if one day we'll ever return back to the heavy base power formations as a staple to counter the defenses that have gone lighter and more out of sub.

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"Andrew Luck is destined for greater glory than his father"

I thought that Oliver Luck is Andrew's uncle, not his father.

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Just wondering how soon Mike Mayock's term "scheme flexible" will join the lexicon and start trending on Twitter.

"DVOA loves Philadelphia!"

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I found it humorous that first he defends players against the charge of "taking plays off" because they're human. Then turns around and criticizes journalists for using cliches like "character issues", but really isn't that just the way that sports journalists "take plays off" ?

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I thought I read this site regularly back in 2007, but I didn't remember the Hampton thing. That's a fantastic story.

We need more of that sort of column. I mean, it's not that dissimilar from walkthrough, but it's very cool. Or, in a similar vein, the Walkthrough from earlier in the year featuring the Whimper Waggle and other interesting statistics of the season. That kind of thing is just endlessly amusing to me.

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For anyone else, as I am now going to read them, these are the only other "Every Stat Tells a Story" pieces I found via google search:




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If my memory serves me correctly, September 1984 was particularly brutal on RBs knees. William Andrews and Billy Sims, yes, but also Wilbert Montgomery and Curt (not to be confused with Kurt) Warner. And Kellen Winslow as well. None of those players were really ever the same after.

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I thought most colleges don't have a good DT rotation like the pro teams, so they keep their starters in longer. Those guys get gassed and start to look like crap on certain plays.

And what I mean by good DT rotation, some teams don't have the depth to sub out their starters (a tired starter might be better than a rested backup), while others don't do that (whether it's because of coaches' stubbornness or the hurry up offense).

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Chuck Studley is a great name for a coach; it sounds like something from "Toy Story" (Buzz Lightyear and Chuck Studley!) Too bad his career success rate wasn't particularly studly.

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I agree with many of the cliches listed but I think "takes plays off" is valid. I mean, how else would you describe Randy Moss?

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randy was such a strange character. He openly admitted to tanking and his coaches were notoriously upset by him and yet, for whatever reason, teamates of his couldn't stop praising his work ethic. I mean, even rodney harrison- the biggest hater of all- had nothing but good things to say for randy. Strange is all i'll say.

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I think work ethic is actually not what's being discussed, really - with Moss, he would give up on games in a really shockingly blatant way, regardless of how he performed during practice or what have you. In playoffs in particular, when he was being more or less dealt with by a defense and the game would start slipping away, he would just disappear, jogging routes and not even leaving the line during running plays. To me, it's always been the one thing that should keep him out of serious "best of all time" conversations: just watch him during the playoffs losses to the Giants and Eagles - that's shit you would never catch Jerry Rice or Michael Irvin or even Cris Carter pulling in any situation, let alone a playoff game. But again, (whether or not you agree with the idea that Moss gave you during games) that's a different thing than someone who loafs during practice (as the famous AI quote goes...)

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On the other hand, he was that prolific and had a huge impact on games even with the loafing. Which could be considered even more impressive.

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I'm not saying whether he's impressive or not nor do I really give a shit, my point is that not working hard in the film room or on the practice field is a different short-coming than not giving it your all during games.

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Thank you Mr. Tanier for calling BS on "takes plays off." Ray Berry (in _Johnny U_) discussed his own system for grading himself after each game (yikes!), and said his best "grade" was 86%. He said that people who say they give "110%," "do not understand human weakness." Not the most inspiring line perhaps but one that is both memorable and true.

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To me...if we were doing a draft over the last 10 years where you could pick any non qb player you wanted...if you could guarantee a happy camper moss, who would most people pick? For me, it came down to moss, faulk, ware, and strahan; although Calvin Johnson is really impressing me. A few more years down the road and he might surpass even moss on the fear level.

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With the ability to specify happy camper Moss, it's Moss. Without that rather unrealistic proviso, I agree that I'd lean towards Revis, though Ware and Allen would also get strong consideration. If you went back a few years further, you'd have to think about whichever you like best of Ogden, Pace and Jones as well.

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I understand revis, but im curious, part of what makes this so complicated it is trying to reconcile talent with positional importance. I dont think corner is as valuable as pass rusher, but i can name about 6 great pass rushers but almost no one as good as revis(maybe ty law but thats off memory and very little conclusive evidence). Same goes for tackle- even though the trio you mentioned, jake long, joe thomas are several good ones that i'm not sure how big the drop off is.

If i were to pick certain players that really felt like they had no equals or where there was maybe 1 other that was in their class- it would be moss, faulk, calvin, and revis. But thats me.

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I don't think positional value's linear. The very, very best corners (and maybe wide receivers) are probably bigger outliers than the very best pass rushers.

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there's also a skewing effect that happens based on the type of team you have. Left tackle is very important but diminishes greatly with an elite qb. the reverse seems to be true with receivers. As for pass rusher vs corner- harder to say. But ya, i would agree about the outliers.

Question is, if you had to choose, revis or moss or faulk, who would it be? A friend of mine actually kind of convinced me to lean to faulk.

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Faulk was a pretty unique player, and I think I'd rather have him than the Moss that actually existed, at least if we're talking about a single season (Faulk was only really great for four years). I'd probably rather have Revis, though, and if we're talking about getting a player's entire career it's a no-brainer. And hypothetical perma-focus Moss . . . that's another thing entirely.

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Hey Mike, nothing to do with anything you wrote here, but I sure hope there will be some sort of appreciation of Brian Dawkins either here or at the Fifth Down.

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I wonder how many HoFers we'll see for that Eagles team that went to 5 straight conference championships.

I'm against McNabb being in, TO will probably get in, but he was just there that one year. The receivers were awful. The linebackers were nothing special. Are Tra Thomas or Jon Runyun hall of game caliber? Troy Vincent?

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McNabb - had a Hall of Fame arc but didn't quite sustain it long enough or high enough. Close but not quite.

TO - No. Emphatic no.

Runyan/Tre Thomas - Very good, but not in the caliber of the Ogden/Jones/Pace group that will vie for Canton.

Westbrook - better than Jerome Bettis, but Bettis isn't an HOF either. Again, close, but no.

Trotter - No.

Hugh Douglas - No.

Troy Vincent - Yes. Or, at least, he should be.

Dawkins - Same.

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Dawkins will, but mcnabb won't, i actually don't think TO will. I suspect he won't get in the first few tries due to logjam and already his career seems to have ended so long ago. And unlike moss, he's hated by the coaches AND the players for being a locker room killer. That sort of stuff is sure to work against him. He may get in, but i doubt it.

I don't think anyone other than dawkins frankly. Who else can we name? Tra thomas and runyan just haven't banked enough nationwide praise or mentioned routinely enough in the top 5 for years. Ditto for troy vincent. A big part of it though is the eagles have always been good but its amazing how 2 superbowls from the giants can practically relegate the entire eagles decade long success as moot. Its funny because the giants themselves have had those 2 runs and lots of seasons with missed playoffs or losses in the first round. Now they are suggesting the giants will have hall of famers in eli, possibly tuck, i've even heard chris snee's and tom coughlin seems to be considered a shoo in now. Proof that the superbowl is still in the medias eyes as the be all and end all.

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I think Eli and Tuck could both make it and be deserving depending on how the rest of their careers go. Which is a really huge "if".

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I think that Dawkins and Vincent are the only legit contenders - I wish Trotter and Westbrook both had 2 more seasons of playing at their highest level in them (because, uh, the Eagles probably would've played in another Superbowl, but I digress) because when they were at their best, they were as good as anyone in the NFL. Tra Thomas and McNabb definitely won't go for reasons that border on mysterious (the definiteness is what's mysterious.)

What works against Dawkins is that so few safeties make it to the hall and he's got stiff competition from his era in Ed Reed, John Lynch and Troy Polamalu. Reed and Polamalu (given another few even B+ seasons) are slam dunks... and Lynch was a key player on a dominant Bucs defense that I think will see several players going to the Hall. Dawkins has 4 All-Pros and 8 Pro Bowls compared to Reed's 5 & 8 and Polamalu's 4 & 7. I just don't see them letting in 3 safeties from the same era and Lynch is a borderline candidate that has a ring and "fan favoritism" working for him. He's going to be an Art Monk without the rings, a Cris Carter waiting while superior candidates waltz in ahead of him...

TO is hard to think of as an Eagles because he was barely there - his main accomplishments were sitting out the 2004 playoffs and ensuring a shaky 2005 season got tanked to give Andy Reid his only losing season in a decade-long stretch. He was great in 2004, but hardly the team-changer he was made out to be (they did come within a hair of the SB 3 seasons in a row before he showed up). Having weak playoff opponents and the illegal contact rules emphasis are what put the Eagles over the hump.

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Ed Reed is already talking about retiring and injury issues are already bothering Polamalu - certainly Reed and Dawkins are the same era, even if Reed plays another three years. Dawkins did join the league 6 and 7 years before them both, but when people look back in 20 years, those guys will be considered from the same era.

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It doesn't matter what people think when they look back 20 years from now. Just what they think when they look back 5-7 years from now. If Reed and Polamalu play another 3 years, they will be a decent buffer so Dawkins can get in before there is a "glut."

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But no way Dawkins is first ballot... while Reed and Polamalu certainly are. They're going to be competing for spots unless Reed and Polamalu continue to play for another 5 or 6 years and even then, I doubt Dawkins can sneak in before them. It's very easy to imagine that Red retires in two seasons, Dawkins doesn't go first or second ballot, Reed goes in, then Dawkins gets skipped the next year, Polamalu goes... and then there's the glut, Dawkins gets the squeeze, it's the same era, the guys play in the same era, this conversation is by far the most absurd of several absurd conversations I've had with you... Like, you understand Cortez Kennedy and Chris Doleman just went in this year right? And they're easier selections than Dawkins. Dawkins' name won't really be on the table for 12 or 14 years... because Reed and Polamalu will have pushed him aside. Because they're from the same era. And surer selections.

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Ok, obviously they played in the same era. I'm just not sure that when induction time comes they'll all be competing for the same spots.

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Well we agree in a roundabout way then: they won't be competing for spots because Reed and Polamalu will cut in front of him. Dawkins will be competing for a spot with the Ed Reed drafted in 2012 or 2013. I think a good factor in Dawkins' favor is that since 2002 (Reed) and 2003 (Polamalu) there hasn't been a truly great safety to emerge. There's been a couple bright flashes in the pan, but no one on the level of notoriety of those 3 guys and John Lynch... Adrian Wilson keeps going to the Pro Bowl, but does he have any All-Pro's? He seems like a John Lynch "eh, he's the best choice I guess" Pro Bowl compiler.

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Adrian Wilson was a first-team Associated Press All-Pro in 2009 and a second-teamer in '06 and '08.

He has been to five Pro Bowls ('06, '08-'11).

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There's another dude who will be angling to squeeze out Dawkins then - he also joined the league earlier than Reed and Polamalu, right? So he'll be retiring in the next few years too...

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Right. But absolutely no-one thinks Adrian Wilson has a credible Hall of Fame case or is likely to acquire one, surely? The next guys who conceivably might are probably Eric Berry and Earl Thomas.

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I have no idea who other than Reed and Polamalu will get serious consideration. His nunbers and accolades are getting there. He played in as many Superbowls as Dawkins. If he lands another All-Pro or two (which isn't an outlandish idea) it becomes difficult to keep him out and let in Dawkins... Earl Thomas sprang to mind, but I think fortunately he'll be so far down the road that he won't interfere with Dawkins. Berry has been up and down, right?

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Meh. Wilson's 32, and I think he's more a guy who's going to pro bowls for want of anyone better, rather than because people think he's currently an elite player. I can't really see him having even one more All Pro season, and he'd need at least two and possibly three to really threaten Dawkins. Berry went to the pro bowl as a rookie, then lost essentially his entire second season to injury. Given his athletic talent, he strikes me as someone who potentially could have a Hall of Fame career if he comes all the way back. Obviously there's a world of difference between "potentially could" and "actually will".

I'm fairly positive about Dawkins' chances. Apart from anything else, he's by far the best candidate from a string of very strong teams in a major market. If I was the sole voter, he'd be a mortal lock, probably at the first time of asking. I don't suppose he'll have it that easy, but I think he'll get there.

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I think Nick Collins was starting to arc that way (for actually getting consideration) with 3 Pro Bowls, 3 2nd team All-Pro and a super bowl ring (even if we don't think that should matter it seems clear that it does). Had he not gotten injured last year I think he very well could have had his first, first team all pro selection and likely would have had about 4 or 5 more seasons at that level ahead of him. I think he has been under rated and the way the defense played last year vs 2010 with basically just the loss of Collins and Cullen Jenkins illustrated some of that.

Of course it's likely his career is now over after the Packers released him, though there might be a team out there that will medically clear him, that does vary from team to team. He was the next best I could think of, but even then there were still a lot of if's for him before the injury and even more now.

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I never really thought about the Giants that way, but man... that is depressing.

I think Runyan has a good case; remember, he was a dominant player for the Titans as well. But he never quite had the same rep other elite tackles had, and the perception that he always came up short against Strahan will work against him.

I think TO's almost a definite no at this point... I mean, if Chris Carter and Andre Reed can't get in, how can he?

You know who might actually have the best case after Dawkins from these Eagles teams? David Akers.

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I totally disagree that To wasn't as big an impact. Not only was his season huge, but Mcnabb had a career year passing once he had To. I don't want to make it seem like mcnabb's production was a function of To, but he went from having arguably one of the worst set of receivers in pinkston, thash, and mitchel, to having one of the better ones with To and westbrook as well as LJ smith. We often forget how good TO was but he was really a special receiver. Again, his peak feels so long ago and so many tirades ago that we've basically forgotten.

I also agree, dawkins will get in. I expect reed to play another year or 2, ditto for polamalu. I think if darren woodson gets in- and i expect him to- then dawkins will too.

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TO the locker room cancer is likely to overshadow TO the gaudy-stat producer. Not to mention that his stats, while gaudy now, will likely not look nearly impressive in 5 years. He'll still be in line behind an entire logjam of worthy and almost worthy candidates. Ultimately, though, I see his legacy being measured in the franchises he ripped apart, not measured in receptions, yards, and touchdowns.

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TO's stats with the Eagles were great, no doubt, I said he was great... but there's no argument that he helped them get over the hump to the Superbowl. he sat out the playoffs. The Eagles had been the #1 seed the year previously, so its not even like TO got them home-filed advantage. They rested starters both years. He was great... but Westbrook emerging as one of the elite backs in the league and Trotter coming back with a vengeance were what put them into the Superbowl that year. People also forget that he was already pulling shenanigans in 2004 and the team was walking on eggshells around him - he wasn't 100% a "go, go team!" guy even then. Now, if they had managed to pull off a Superbowl Victory, he would have been their MVP and my thoughts on the matter would be slightly different...

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you could argue the only legitimate loss that eagles team had in the 2004 season was that loss vs pittsburgh at pittsburgh when they were 15-1. That eagles team was dynamic and one of the best football teams in recent memory. They were strong offensively and defensively and i think we are more or less agreeing on To. I still want to point out, the jump in pass dvoa was amazing. They went from 16% to 30.1 and that doesn't even factor late season mailing it in. That kind of jump doesn't happen by just adding more westbrook.

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Uh, take a look at how Westbrook's receiving DYAR numbers jump from 2003 to 2004. In 2004, He had 242 DYAR - he would have been the #20 WR in the league. As a RB. But again, my argument isn't that TO wasn't great on the Eagles - he was. I've said it now 4 times. However, TO sat out the playoffs and the Eagles had already made it to the NFCCG three years in a row. The only prize left for them was a ring, they didn't get one and then he tanked a shaky team in 2005.

Maybe I'm confusing things in that I'm talking literal win/loss accomplishments and not stats or other improvements designed to facilitate better win/loss accomplishments. He was great. He was literally not involved in helping the Eagles accomplish anything they hadn't already accomplished as a team or an organization. Westbrook and Trotter had expanded roles and were involved in making the trip to the Superbowl. It's just facts, not judgements.

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It wasn't just his stats - Owens was widely regarded as one of the top receivers in the NFL for several years. He won 5 first-team All-Pros and made the 2000s All Decade Team (first team). He shouldn't have much trouble getting into the Hall.

Here is a list of all the players since the 1970 merger who won 5 or more first-team All-Pros, retired more than 5 years ago (making them Hall of Fame eligible), and are not in the Hall:

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i think he absolutely deserves it, but look, he's being voted in by sportswriters, many of whom i guarantee don't do the right kind of homework and weigh those pesky things like intangibles and personality into it.

I'll never forget mike wilbon responding to whether matt flynn's performance knocked rodgers off the mvp peg, he said, "if i was an mvp voter this year, and i have been in the past, i would vote rodgers to third, behind drew brees and his season and behind(get this) MJD and how hes had to carry that jags offense"

No disrespect to either mjd or brees, but i couldn't believe this was the kind of person who got to decide important hall of fame factoring decisions like the mvp. Its a disgrace and probably one reason i suspect owens went from a near lock to now maybe 50 50 chance he makes it.

119 Re: Walkthrough: Downs Off

The HOF WR situation is so freakin' weird though. I think Moss and TO create a situation where all kinds of crazy decisions start getting made about who deserves to go and who doesn't...

112 Re: Walkthrough: Downs Off

This is apropos of nothing, but as Bucs (and FSU BTW) fan, I was seriously annoyed by how much harder Warrick Dunn ran while with the Falcons than he ever did with the Tampa Bay.