Category:NFL
Posted on: October 11, 2011 7:17 pm
 

Don't underestimate spark Tebow provides


About two months ago, as news broke that 2010 first round pick Tim Tebow had slipped to No. 3 on the Denver Broncos' depth chart, a national writer who I respect very much essentially asked me to explain what went wrong.

I argued that nothing had gone wrong, which was counter to what virtually everyone else was saying -- and probably why my comments weren't part of his article.

Now that Tebow has given an opportunity to start for Denver again, I fully expect critics to again rise up and bash the move. And again, I will preach patience.

I have never considered myself to be a Tim Tebow apologist. If I were running an NFL franchise I would not have selected him in the first round. That said, he does possess some extraordinary skills that can, if complimented correctly, lead to success as a quarterback in the NFL. I believed it then. And I stand behind my 2nd round grade for Tebow now.

Anyone who watched any of the second half of Denver's game Sunday against the Chargers saw the immediate spark Tebow provided. The fans were more excited. Teammates were more excited. Had Brandon Lloyd not dropped what was a very accurate pass from Tebow for the tying two-point conversion in the closing minutes, the Broncos' coaching staff would have no choice but to be excited.

Instead, today feels as though the Broncos' staff are throwing their collective hands up in the air and saying, "Ah, what the hell, let's give this Tebow guy a try."

Tebow serves as a classic example of how the high expectations of a spectacular collegiate career can quickly turn to disappointment when similar success isn't immediately gained in the NFL.

Tebow started three games as a rookie, leading the Broncos to one of their four victories (Houston) last year. He threw for 651 yards in those three contests, including passing for four touchdowns against three interceptions. He also ran in a touchdown in each of the three games. Were his name not Tim Tebow, one might argue that a rookie quarterback scoring seven touchdowns against four turnovers (he fumbled against Houston) and leading his team to 25% of his team's victories despite only starting 5% of the season might have done enough to earn more playing time.

Instead, because of the fact that he'll never be the prototypical spread passer so en vogue in today's NFL, he's already being characterized by some as failure whose only chance at NFL success is at a different position.

In reality, Tebow's size, ability to throw on the run and intangibles continue to make him a fit in an offense geared around the running game -- which is precisely what Denver is attempting to do with John Fox.

Fox, and team president John Elway, clearly would not have picked Tebow had they been with the Broncos in April of 2010. The fact that they are giving him an opportunity, however, is acknowledgment that he did bring a spark to this team on Sunday.

My job as a talent evaluator asks me to grade the measureables. Heights, weights, 40-times, completion percentages, they are all part of the gig. Tebow, perhaps more than any other quarterback I've scouted (though Jake Locker is close) has a toughness and competitive spirit about him that defies a numerical grade.

I've watched too many quarterback with marginal accuracy, arm strength and mobility have success in the NFL when an offense is tailored around their individual skill-set. Under Fox, the Carolina Panthers did precisely this for Jake Delhomme, recognizing that his ability to lead his teammates could result in wins, despite his lack of ideal tools.

Thus far this season, Denver's starter, Kyle Orton, has completed 58.7% of his passes 979 yards, eight touchdowns, seven interceptions and two fumbles lost.

Orton's numbers aren't impressive. Even less so is Denver's record (1-4) during that time. I am not claiming that Tebow's touchdowns or completion percentage will be better.

But give Tebow five games. Don't be surprised when the team "miraculously" has a higher winning percentage with him at quarterback -- just like it did last year.

Posted on: August 20, 2011 11:35 pm
Edited on: August 21, 2011 12:15 am
 

More thoughts on the rookies from SEA-MINN

I will be blogging live from the press box tonight from Seattle for the Seahawks-Vikings preseason game. My goal is to give readers some insight as to how some of the rookies and perhaps other young players for both teams performed.
Earlier I posted some thoughts based on how several of the Seahawks' rookies performed throughout the first half. This post will focus on the Vikings' rookies, especially quarterback Christian Ponder and tight end Kyle Rudolph.

Ponder showed some mobility in escaping the rush, but was the proverbial deer caught in the headlights, at times. He was willing to step up in the pocket in the face of pressure and kept his eyes downfield, completing a nice pass to Juaquin Iglesias to extend a drive early. The Vikings ultimately kicked a field goal on the drive. Ponder did not challenge the defense on anything longer than 10-15 yards.

Ponder's mobility and experience in a pro-style offense made him very effective on play-action bootlegs. He showed the ability to throw on the move, but picked up the majority of his yardage from these plays with his legs, often surprising Seahawk defenders with his speed.

He was inconsistent with his accuracy, forcing receivers to adjust often. Ponder did throw a nice back shoulder fade to Devin Aromashodu in the early 3rd quarter. His moderate height (6-2) was an issue on a few plays, as he had a couple of throws tipped and/or knocked down at the line of scrimmage.

Rudolph had a bit action his way in the first half (three catches for 22 total yards). He was targeted on three consecutive throws from Ponder as the half was coming to a close. He caught two of them as Seattle dropped coverage to protect deep, giving up underneath routes. The first catch was the tougher one, coming directly at his face mask as he turned to look for the ball. He got his hands up quickly, secured the catch and attempted to turn upfield before being ridden out of bounds. Rudolph did a nice job of gaining a clean release and showed some burst out of his breaks to gain freedom from defenders. He did not show much in terms of straight-line speed, however, on the few plays where he was allowed to run longer routes. Rudolph has good size and strength as a blocker. While he was unable to knock defenders off the ball, he did show some competitive fire in locking onto his target and turning to seal the defender.




Posted on: August 20, 2011 10:35 pm
Edited on: August 20, 2011 11:50 pm
 

Early impressions of the rookies from SEA-MINN

I will be blogging live from the press box tonight from Seattle for the Seahawks-Vikings preseason game. My goal is to give readers some insight as to how some of the rookies and perhaps other young players for both teams performed.

This first post focuses on the Seahawks. I am looking forward to writing about the Vikings' players, but no rookies started for them. I am especially looking forward to scouting first two picks -- quarterback Christian Ponder and tight end Kyle Rudolph.

As expected, Seattle's young offensive line had their rough stretches. The timing between rookies John Moffitt (RG) and James Carpenter (RT) was clearly off on an early running play. Both players were asked to provide running blocks to the left (essentially pulling from their positions). Carpenter leapt out of his stance and quickly caught up to Moffitt (who was slow getting out) and the two stumbled over each other, providing little help to running back Marshawn Lynch.

On Seattle's second series, Carpenter was asked to release to the second level, but wasn't able to beat middle linebacker Erin Henderson to the spot. Henderson read the play, shot upfield and tackled Lynch for little to no gain.

Carpenter was much better later, effectively sealing off Minnesota defensive end Adrian Awasom on a couple of quick-hitters from Leon Washington.

On a more positive note, rookie safety Jeron Johnson forced a fumble of Viking punt returner Greg Camarillo. The ball was scooped up by outside linebacker Aaron Curry and returned roughly 45 yards for an apparent touchdown, but the play was whistled dead and Camarillo was ruled down by contact. The play was later overturned with Seattle receiving the ball (but not the score).

A tough start so far for second year receiver Golden Tate. He had an opportunity for a big play on the Seahawks' first play from scrimmage, but had the ball ripped from his hands from Viking cornerback Cedric Griffin. Tate also let a pass get through his hands following the Seahawks' fumble recovery. The ball was caught by Vikings' cornerback Marcus Sherels and returned for a score.

The Seahawks' offensive line (including Moffitt, Carpenter) held up well on this particular pass play and quarterback Tarvaris Jackson threw a very catchable ball.



Posted on: August 2, 2011 12:37 pm
Edited on: August 2, 2011 12:49 pm
 

Moss should be a slam dunk 1st ballot HOF

Randy Moss' retirement from the NFL was met with sighs of relief from defensive backs around the NFL and a collective "How soon does he make the Hall of Fame" question from pro football scribes and bloggers.

For talent evaluators, Moss' retirement is met with a different feeling, at least from this one.

It is met with appreciation.

Randy Moss' combination of size, acceleration, top-end speed and body control made him the dangerous wide receiver the NFL has ever known.

Moss wasn't the best receiver the league has seen. We all know that he was prone to listless, unmotivated play that sent him packing from more than one team. It is why, despite still undeniably possessing a big play ability that every team is looking, that Moss wasn't offered a competitive contract this off-season, leading to his retirement announcement.

We all know he didn't run the sharpest routes or possess the softest hands. He rarely demonstrated the physicality as a downfield blocker that a receiver with his size advantage could have.

The media tosses around the word "freak" to describe athletes with extraordinary athleticism. If there ever was an athlete that deserved the moniker, it is Moss. Put simply, tall skinny guys like the 6-4, 210 pound Moss typically don't have the muscle power in their lower body to generate the explosive acceleration and long speed that Moss so successfully used throughout his football career.

Too often Moss was miscast as strictly a deep ball threat. This is a valuable skill in the NFL, but demands "only" great speed. Moss' athletic brilliance was that he generated great speed so quickly. When he caught a slant, a hitch, a deep out or even a bubble screen, he had the burst to zip past the initial wave of defenders coming his way.

Moss' career numbers are astounding. He caught 954 passes for 14,858 yards and 153 touchdowns. He scored double digit touchdowns nine times over his career. You want big plays? He caught passes that gained his offense 40+ yards an amazing 76 times in his career. DeSean Jackson is often credited with his big play ability. Sure he's young and will hopefully continue his brilliant playmaking for a long, long time, but by comparison he's had 20. Moss' numbers are even more impressive when you consider that his boorish behavior often pushed him to new teams. In every case, he was expected by the fans (if not the coaching staffs) to be an instant savior of a passing attack.

That behavior may, unfortunately, be enough to keep some of the NFL scribes given the privilege of voting for the Hall of Fame to place some type of misguided moral code on their ballots.

Moss was among the truly elite, freakish players of his era. His ability to threaten the defense should be held in much the same regard as what Jim Brown, Walter Payton, Jerry Rice and Terrell Owens did as runners and receivers during their astounding careers.  The Cover-Two defense was created to help stop Moss and other big play artists.

If Moss isn't a first ballot Hall of Fame player, than I haven't seen one.



Posted on: July 13, 2011 10:49 am
Edited on: July 13, 2011 10:53 am
 

NBA's Robinson could, likely still can play CB

Oklahoma City Thunder guard Nate Robinson is making alternative plans should the NBA go into an extended lockout as many fear.

Rather than sit and take it easy or sign with an international basketball team, he told Tzvi Twersky of SLAM that he "might go play football."

Now, before you simply laugh off the idea of the 27 year-old attempting to make this career change, know this. Long before Robinson starred as a point guard for the University of Washington, was selected in the first round of the 2005 NBA Draft by the Phoenix Suns and won three Slam Dunk championships, he was a standout cornerback for then-head coach Rick Neuheisel's Husky football team.

Robinson, following the footsteps of his father, Jacque Robinson, signed with the Huskies on a football scholarship. He only played one season for the football team, but saw action in all 13 games as a true freshman, starting the final five contests and recording 34 tackles and two interceptions.

Statistics rarely tell the whole story and that is certainly the case here.

The 5-09, 180 pound Robinson is an extraordinary athlete whose quickness, vertical jump and surprising physicality always made him a better candidate for the NFL than the NBA, at least that was the opinion of one young NFL Draft analyst back in 2003. He certainly has been blessed with athletic genes. Father Jacque is the only player in college football history to have been named the MVP of the Rose Bowl (1982) and the Orange Bowl (1985). A running back, he was drafted by the Buffalo Bills in the eighth round in 1985 and later played with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Gil Brandt of NFL.com agrees that Robinson could play in the NFL and emphatically states, "If I were a team that needed a cornerback, I'd sure as hell give Robinson a call."Brandt, of course, prior to working with the NFL as an analyst, spent nearly 30 years as the Dallas Cowboys' Vice President of Player Personnel.

It has been nearly ten years since Robinson played competitive football with helmets and pads. That said, there were many who doubted whether he could make the leap from the Pac-10 to the NBA strictly because of his lack of prototype height. His height wouldn't be quite the detriment as a nickel or dime cornerback, however, precisely why Robinson could surprise if given an opportunity.


Posted on: April 29, 2011 11:22 am
Edited on: April 29, 2011 11:30 am
 

Falcons expected to target Vikings DE Edwards

Even if the Atlanta Falcons select a defensive left end in the third round Friday night, filling what many observers feel is the team's most pressing need, the club is still likely to try to essentially fill the void in free agency.

Remember, the Falcons surrendered their second-rounder to Cleveland as part of the mega-package to move up 21 spots in the first round on Thursday night and to choose Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones. So the options at left end in the third round, particularly players who might quickly contribute, could be iffy at best.

Still, a number of league sources told The Sports Xchange on Thursday night and early Friday morning that they expect Atlanta to choose the veteran route to try to address the left end need. And the player many expect the Falcons to target when the veteran free agency period eventually begins is Ray Edwards of Minnesota.

Any pursuit of Edwards, 26, could be tricky because his status as a free agent is tied to a new collective bargaining agreement or to the rules the league imposes as part of re-opening for business after the lockout. A five-year veteran, Edwards can only be an unfettered veteran if there is an agreement which reduces the number of accrued seasons for unrestricted free agency to four years.

Four years was the prior requirement, but the uncapped season in 2010 raised the level to six years, and the league could decide to play under those guidelines again.

Edwards was offered a one-year restricted free agent tender, at $2.521 million, by the Vikings, but obviously would prefer to be unrestricted. If he gains the latter status, the Falcons could chase him and pair him with right end John Abraham, the 11-year veteran who enjoyed a resurgent campaign in 2010 with 13 sacks.

Owner Arthur Blank, as he has demonstrated in the past, most recently with corner Dunta Robinson last spring, is not shy about opening his coffers to target and pay a premier free agent. The Falcons awarded Robinson a six-year, $57 million contract, with $25.5 million guaranteed, last year. The price tag for Edwards, if the Falcons do go after him, will also be pricey. But Blank wants a Super Bowl champion, and as illustrated Thursday night with the Jones deal, is willing to go "all in" to get one.

A fourth-round choice from Purdue in 2006, Edwards is regarded as one of the NFL's top left ends, and a productive pass rusher. He has five or more sacks in each of the last four seasons, which coincides with his tenure as a starter. The last two years, Edwards has 16.5 sacks. He had a career-best 8.5 sacks in 2009.

The lack of pass rush from the left end spot in 2010 was a glaring deficiency for the Falcons and certainly contributed to the club registering only 31 sacks for the season. Only 10 teams notched fewer. The trio of players who had quarterback kills at left end for the Falcons - Kroy Biermann, Jamaal Anderson and Chauncey Davis - totaled just six sacks as a group.

Biermann regressed as a rusher, netting only three sacks, while starting 14 games. The previous season, he had five sacks as a situational player.

There is still some hope that third-year veteran Lawrence Sidbury, a fourth-round choice in 2009, might develop into a viable rusher. But Sidbury has just one sack in 22 appearances, and no starts, in two seasons. So the Falcons could turn to a proven commodity, and many, even in the Atlanta organization, seem to feel that Edwards might be the target.

Add to that the fact that Abraham is now 33 and the team in the next few years may need to find a replacement, and the consideration that Edwards has conceded in the past that he wants to play right end at some point in his career.

In his five NFL seasons, Edwards has 182 tackles, 29.5 sacks, 11 passes deflected, six forced fumbles and two recoveries. He has appeared in 72 games, with 58 of them as a starter.

--Len Pasquarelli, The Sports Xchange

Posted on: February 24, 2011 12:44 pm
 

Bucs' GM: No. 20 is good spot to deal

The 20th overall pick has been traded three times on draft day since 1993 according to the NFL, but Buccaneers GM Mark Dominik said the team is in what is historically a hot spot to deal in the 2011 draft.
Drafted 20th overall is a luxury in the mind of the Buccaneers after drafting third overall in 2010. Dominik said the Bucs will "let the draft come to us, as we did on the second and third day last year." He underscored that the team always stays true to its overall draft board, and that could again lead to unexpected picks as was the case in 2010, when UCLA DT Brian Price was the team's second-round pick, following third overall pick Gerald McCoy, a similar, gap-penetrating defensive tackle.
But the thesis of his commentary was this: The Bucs aren't abandoning their youth movement. Dominik said the team is pleased with the direction of the franchise -- hard to argue results after their unexpected 10-6 finish -- and noted that team's that have made the decision to "go young" including the Packers, have seen immediately dividends. 
The presence of select veterans, including recently re-signed CB Ronde Barber, helps support the fresh-faced roster led by 2009 first-round pick Josh Freeman. Dominik said the Buccaneers plan to build around Freeman and pointed out that he's younger than the team's two star rookies in 2010 -- WR Mike Williams and RB LeGarrette Blount -- a reminder that he's just scratching the surface of what the franchise considers immense potential.
--Jeff Reynolds
Category: NFL
Posted on: January 9, 2011 12:07 pm
 

SEA win should (but won't) quiet playoff re-seeds

As the only sub-.500 division winner in NFL history, the Seattle Seahawks entered the playoffs largely as a joke, at least to many.

The idea that they'd be rewarded for their 7-9 regular season record with a home playoff game rankled some. Critics pointed to Seattle as a primary example of why the NFL should consider re-seeding the playoffs based in wins, rather than division titles.

One might argue, as I, Sports Illustrated's Jim Trotter (and many others) did on Twitter yesterday that the Seahawks' victory over the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints would end the discussion. By convincingly winning a game in which many of the national experts predicted Seattle would be slaughtered, it would serve to reason that the NFL's policy of rewarding division winners with a home playoff game, is indeed, working.

Critics maintain, however, that Seattle's win over New Orleans, could, in fact, have the opposite effect. They argue that New Orleans, due to their significantly better record (11-5) while playing in the more competitive NFC South division deserved the right to host the game. That Seattle, essentially, got an unfair advantage and if Saturday's divisional playoff game would have ended quite differently had the game been played in New Orleans.

There are elements to their argument that I understand. The Saints' regular season was unquestionably more deserving of recognition than the Seahawks'. Critics who feel that the NFL should consider re-seeding can point to Seattle, the 10-6 Kansas City Chiefs (who host the 12-4 Baltimore Ravens today) and countless other teams in history as "proof" that the NFL's playoff system needs fixing.

However, if the Seahawks' win Saturday doesn't convince critics that the NFL is right to continue their playoff system, I don't know what would. I don't believe anything would.

Isn't it obvious that if Seattle had been throttled by the Saints Saturday (as so many expected) that playoff critics would have pointed to the lopsided score as evidence the Seahawks didn't deserve to be in the playoffs, much less host a game? Hell, even if Seattle had lost despite giving a "surprisingly" competitive effort, that those same critics would give a collective, "See, we told you so."

And now, because Seattle did win the game, they still don't deserve it?

Pick a side. You can't have it both ways. 

There remains a lot that needs fixing in the NFL -- the rookie wage scale, the miniscule pension provided to retired players, and the ridiculously long review policy among them.

The NFL playoff seeding is one of the league's longest standing traditions. The system makes divisional games mean more than others, creating and maintaining natural rivalries that are good for the competitiveness of the game.  To change the seeding based on the NFC West winner's 7-9 record is a bad idea.

To change it now, after Seattle (like many other division winners in the past) took advantage of the spoils of their title and beat a wildcard team, would be a slap in the face to the traditions and competitiveness that makes the NFL the world's greatest sporting league.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com