Posted on: September 1, 2011 2:47 pm
Edited on: September 1, 2011 2:48 pm

Johnson deal good news for Hillis

So Chris Johnson scores $30 million in guaranteed money, making him a happy camper. That's good news for the running back, and I don't just mean Chris Johnson. I mean Cleveland's Peyton Hillis.

He's in the market for a new contract, too, though, unlike Johnson, he's gone to camp and kept talks off the radar. But there's no question he deserves a new deal and, after what happened to Johnson, there's no question he deserves to break the bank, too.

Look, I'm not going to argue that Hillis is another Chris Johnson because he's not. But I will argue that he's as valuable to his team.

He scored more touchdowns last season than Johnson, had a better yards-per-carry average and finished fewer than 200 yards behind the Tennessee star -- all that after not starting the season at Cleveland's No. 1 back. In fact, he didn't join the starting lineup until the third week.

Tennessee was 6-10, with Johnson producing 33 percent of the offense and 30 percent of the scores. Cleveland was 5-11, with Hillis producing 36 percent of the offense and 45 percent of the scores. Just saying.

Yeah, OK, so Johnson was Tennessee's leading receiver with 44 catches. Big deal. Hillis had 61 on a team that played half the season with rookie Colt McCoy at quarterback.

All I'm saying is that, like Johnson, Peyton Hillis deserves a pay raise. I don't know how much, but I do know that after what Johnson just got whatever Hillis is seeking may not be enough.

Johnson is one of the game's premier backs. We all know that. But Hillis was one of its premier performers last season, and if he weren't he wouldn't be the cover boy for Madden 12.

Anyway, Johnson's deal is good news for Hillis. His value just went up.

Category: NFL
Posted on: September 1, 2011 2:27 pm

Score one for Johnson

Well, let's hear it for Chris Johnson. Not only did he become the league's highest-paid running back; he became one of its highest-paid players, period.

Basically, he got what he wanted, so score this a win for Chris Johnson. But the Tennessee Titans ... I'm not so sure.

First of all, they tried to hold their negotiating position with the guy before caving. Tell me that doesn't sink in with the next guy who wants a pay hike. Second, Johnson missed all of training camp, and that's not good for anyone. I saw what it did to Darrelle Revis a year ago when he joined the Jets, then immediately hurt his hamstring.

There was a lesson there, and the lesson there is that you don't just step in and play. Revis tried and paid for it, and Johnson might, too. Memo to Tennessee fans: Stay on the lookout for hamstring alerts.

No question, keeping Chris Johnson is the right idea, and if DeAngelo Williams is worth $21 million in guaranteed money, Johnson should be worth $30 million. Not only is he the best player on Tennessee's roster, he's one of the best players in the game.

But what does Tennessee get in return ... and I mean this season?

I just don't believe that people step on to the playing field and pick up where they left off. That's why we have mini-camps and training camps, folks. Only Johnson participated in neither.

Tennessee wasn't a good team without Johnson, and it won't be all that good with him. But Tennessee was over a barrel. It had to give people a reason to come to games ... and Matt Hasselbeck won't cut it.

So the Titans did what they should've done all along, tore up his old deal, made him a multi-millionaire and welcomed him back to the team. Now, let's see how much good it does them. I already know what it's done for Chris Johnson.

Category: NFL
Posted on: August 29, 2011 3:41 pm

Kowalski's death a setback for Detroit

I still am having trouble trying to cope with the death of Tom Kowalski, who covered the Detroit Lions for Booth Newspapers.

I stood with Tom at last Wednesday's practice and quizzed him on this year's team and what he thought of the team. As usual, he was upbeat and informative. He was always both.

I don't know of many people who knew the Lions as well as Tom. Mike O'Hara is one. Curt Sylvester is another. But both left the beat, and, with them, left a void. O'Hara is still around, working part-time for FoxSports, and good thing. I love seeing the guy.

But I loved seeing Kowalski, too. I saw where someone said his death leaves a void in Detroit sports journalism, and he has that right. Tom was on top of the news, knew his team and wasn't afraid to ask the tough questions or write the difficult story.

I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with him. I am sad it can't happen again.

Category: NFL
Posted on: August 26, 2011 2:55 pm
Edited on: August 26, 2011 3:16 pm

One suggestion: Change offense for Cam

An assistant coach I trust says that Carolina has it all wrong with quarterback Cam Newton and that the Panthers should let him do more with the football -- like run it. Basically, he said, they should try to make him as comfortable as possible by letting him run more of the plays that he did at Auburn to take advantage of his vast physical talents.

At Auburn, Newton ran nearly as much as he threw, and the results were impressive. He won the Heisman Trophy, he won a national championship and he gained the attenton of the Panthers, who made him the top pick in the April draft.

But Newton looks far from ready for the NFL and was positively underwhelming vs. Cincinnati Thursday. When he did look decent he was scrambling out of the pocket, but when he threw he stunk -- hitting 6 of 19 passes and looking like anything but a quarterback. In three preseason games he has four completions to wide receivers, and while he aimed eight passes at WR Steve Smith on Thursday, he connected on only one.

"If this weren't Cam Newton," a scout said during the game, "you'd say this guy has no business being on the field."

Newton not only is on the field; he's the likely starter for Carolina in two weeks at Arizona. Based on what I saw Thursday, that's a scary thought -- both for Newton and his teammates. Newton labled his play "unacceptable," but it's hard to imagine him improving in the next few weeks ... especially if the offense doesn't look more like Auburn and less like Carolina.

"He's a strong and determined kid," said an AFC assistant, "but he doesn't like criticism. There's a little bit of an entitlement thing going on with him. It will be interesting to see how all this plays out if the season goes as last night's game did. The proof will be in the pudding."
Category: NFL
Posted on: August 22, 2011 4:49 pm
Edited on: August 22, 2011 5:04 pm

Niners, Raiders should suspend, not end, series

The shootings last weekend outside Candlestick Park convince me that something needs to happen with the San Francisco-Oakland preseason series, and that something is an indefinite suspension.

Not end it. Suspend it, and, yes, there is a difference. By suspending it the 49ers and Raiders can resume when they think it's right, and it's right to have two teams so close play each other in the summer. But it's not right if fans can't control themselves, which is what's happening, so penalize them by pulling the plug.

Not forever. Indefinitely. I believe it can and will happen because people in the right places in both organizations are too smart to ignore the obvious ... and the obvious is that when these two meet trouble can follow.

That was apparent over the weekend when two people were shot after the game, with one seriously wounded. Nobody is sure if the shootings were committed by persons who attended the game, but I don't care. Enough is enough.

There was a guy who was assualted and knocked unconscious in a men's bathroom, too. That's too much for me, and it should be too much for the 49ers and Raiders.

There's a reason security is increased at Candlestick Park and other stadiums when the Raiders come to town, and it has nothing to do with the teams on the field ... if you know what I mean. Suspending the preseason series indefinitely would put an end to the violence, send a message to fans and allow both clubs the freedom to resume the series if and when they deem it possible.

For now, it's not. That was all too apparent last weekend. I don't care if the two want to continue their preseason scrimmages -- the controlled environment seems to control the spectator violence -- but preseason games are off the books ... for now.

That's how it should be, and I'd be surprised if the 49ers and Raiders don't take the hint.

Category: NFL
Posted on: August 20, 2011 2:48 pm
Edited on: August 20, 2011 3:32 pm

Uh, oh, look out below

Jim  Irsay's message that Peyton Manning might not be ready for the season opener only confirms what I already believed: That this is the year to get the Indianapolis Colts.

I've said for months that this should be the year that Houston makes the playoffs, and, more than that, this should be the year the Texans make a push for the top of the divison. Now, more than ever, I believe that.

Look, the last time Manning missed the entire preseason was 2008, and what happened? Yep, the season served as his training camp, and the Colts suffered -- losing four of their first seven starts and, eventually, losing the AFC South to Tennessee.

It didn't hurt Manning. He won another MVP award. But the Colts went nowhere, losing in the first round of the playoffs to San Diego.

Well, now look where we are: Manning not only will miss the preseason again; he could miss the start of the regular season, with Irsay asking readers on Twitter whom to sign as a veteran backup.

That's not a good sign. It not only means Manning record of consecutive starts is in jeopardy, it means the Colts' dominance of their division is, too.

But that was going to happen sooner or later. Looks like it could be sooner.

Category: NFL
Posted on: August 12, 2011 2:17 pm

Ravens get smart with Evans move

The addition of Lee Evans made too much sense not to happen.

When I was in Baltimore on Tuesday I talked to people about the wide receivers and how the Ravens needed someone -- and, yes, Lee Evans was the focus -- to help rookies Torrey Smith and Tandon Doss. Ravens' coaches like these guys, but they're rookies, and outside of quarterback I don't know of a more difficult position for a first-year player to excel.

So there was a need. Heck, only one wide receiver on the roster -- Anquan Boldin -- caught a pass for Baltimore last season.

"The places where we have holes is we're looking hard," said Baltimore coach John Harbaugh. "It's just a matter of what's available out there."

Well, Evans was out there, and getting him for a fourth-round draft pick is fair. In fact, when I was kicking this around with an NFL general manager later that afternoon we agreed that a middle-round choice -- a fourth or a fifth -- would be reasonable. So the Ravens do the deal, and they're a lot better for it.

I mean, after Evans the cupboard was bare. And Arizona was interested, so Baltimore had to do something ... otherwise risk losing him and crossing its fingers with Doss and Smith. Now, it has two veterans for quarterback Joe Flacco, and I suggest this move is as much about him as it is Doss and Smith.

If you have a quarterback you value -- and Flacco not only has taken the Ravens to the playoffs every year; he's won at least one playoff game each season -- you give him weapons to succeed. The Ravens subtracted Derrick Mason, and people in Baltimore were infuriated. Well, guess what? They traded a slot receiver for another deep threat, and I'll take that.

This was a smart move by Baltimore.

Category: NFL
Posted on: August 12, 2011 8:48 am

Cofield: Paint New York blue

Granted, he's not the most impartial judge, but now that ex-Giant Barry Cofield is in Washington he has a chance to evaluate just who is winning the Battle of New York. And, not surprisingly, he says it's not the Jets.

The defensive tackle played with the Giants for five years and was a starter on the 2007 Super Bowl champions, so he naturally leans toward Big Blue. But he also left the Giants this summer for Washington, and, now that he's hundreds of miles away, has a better perspective on what's going on in and around the Big Apple.

So I asked him who owns the city -- the Giants or the Jets.

"Right now," said Cofield, "the Jets  are getting all the headlines. But until they get a ring I think it’s still the Giants’ city. The Jets are in a position to seize it. They already have the front page, and they already have the media salivating at press conferences, but until they win the ring it’s still the Giants’ town."

He has a point. The Giants have three Super Bowl trophies, with 2007 the last. The Jets have one, and that was Super Bowl III -- or over four decades ago.

But this just in: The Giants haven't won a playoff game since walking off with the Lombardi Trophy, while the Jets made it to the conference championship game the past two seasons.

Category: NFL
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