Monthly Archives: August 2009

Bruschi hangs ’em up

As NFL cuts get close, we could see some surprising retirements by players who would have been otherwise cut. Case in point: long-time Patriots LB Tedy Bruschi, who retires today. Here are some thoughts on his career; you can see how it (and the career of fellow weekend retiree OT Marvel Smith) compares to others from the league in this post that has all retirements this offseason.

Bruschi, who entered the league as a third-round pick and an undersized linebacker from Arizona, became one of the iconic players in New England’s Super Bowl era. He made just two Pro Bowls in his 13-year career, but he was a determined playmaker on all three of New England’s Super Bowl champs. He was also one of the few links between New England’s ’96 Super Bowl appearance and the glory years of the 2000s. Even more, he overcame a stroke in 2005 and returned to the field to play three more seasons. Bruschi will get some Hall of Fame consideration, but in our eyes he’s just below that level, even considering his significant contributions to the best team of the decade. But he still had a wonderful career all in one place, which is a sterling legacy to leave.

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Training Camp Moves – Week 5

This post is a compilation of additions NFL teams made during the fourth full week of camps. The timetable for this post opens on August 22 and continues through August 28. You can read a summary of the first week of training camp moves here; the second week moves here; the third week moves here; and the fourth week of moves here. Because moves will be coming fast and furious throughout training camp, we’re going to use quick analysis of moves each week during this time instead of creating a massive Football Relativity comparison.

Additions

Seahawks (add RB Edgerrin James) – The Seahawks’ running game sputtered early in the preseason, and new head coach Jim Mora wasted no time making a change. He brings in James, who seemed to be losing steam during his time in Arizona but did have a bit of a renaissance during the postseason. Seattle can spot James with Julius Jones to keep both fresh, and James’ ability to catch the ball allows him to be a factor in West Coast schemes like Seattle’s.

Chiefs (add OLs Ike Ndukwe and Andy Alleman) – The Chiefs, who are in the midst of rebuilding an offensive line that had gotten old, looked to Miami for reinforcements via trade. Ndukwe, who was cut by the Redskins in ’06 and the Ravens in ’07, found a home with the Dolphins last year, starting 15 games at guard. The Dolphins were looking at him as a tackle this year, but he projects as a starting guard in K.C. Alleman started four games at guard for the Dolphins last year, so he’ll have a shot at competing for a job with the Chiefs, but he looks more like a backup interior lineman than a future starter.

Panthers (add S Kevin Kaesviharn) – With starting FS Charles Godfrey suffering from a wrist injury, the Panthers needed to add safety depth. Kaesviharn, a nine-year veteran, can provide that, and he can be an acceptable fill-in starter if Godfrey’s injury lingers. He’ll have to focus on coverage, because SS Chris Harris is a big hitter who is sometimes exposed dropping into coverage.

Raiders (add LB Napoleon Harris) – Harris, a long-time Raider who went to Minnesota in the Randy Moss trade, comes back to provide linebacker depth. He can play any of the three linebacker positions, which makes him a good backup, but he probably shouldn’t be starting.

Broncos (add OG Russ Hochstein) –  Hochstein has been a long-time backup for the Patriots, starting just 20 games since 2002 but playing in at least 13 games every full season he’s been there. He’ll bring a veteran presence and some versatility to the Broncos in a trade from New England for a late-round pick next spring. Denver head coach Josh McDaniels knows what he’s getting in Hochstein, and he’s likely matching what he knows about the player to what he knows about his team. Hochstein will make the Broncos and contribute somehow. But if he starts more than in spot duty, it’s a sign that the Broncos’ line depth is lacking

Jaguars (add LB Adam Seward and WR Ernest Wilford) – Seward, who has spent his whole career as a backup in Carolina, spent the offseason with the Colts but was a training-camp cut. But he was quickly snapped up by the Jaguars to compete as a middle ‘backer. Seward is big and bulky, so he seems to fit as a two-down guy who plugs the run in the middle. Wilford had his moments in Jacksonville, but he never found a role in Miami despite getting looks both at wideout and at tight end. He fits as a red-zone target, and the Jags’ receiving corps is thin enough that he could carve out a small role.

Cowboys (add C-OG Duke Preston) – The Packers signed Preston as an unrestricted free agent from Buffalo earlier this offseason, ostensibly to compete for a starting job. But Preston instead got the axe in training camp. He’ll then hooked on in Dallas, where he will fight for a backup spot.

Buccaneers (add LB Bo Ruud) – After losing Angelo Crowell for the season, the Bucs needed LB depth. So they signed Ruud, whose brother Barrett is a starter. Bo was released by Cleveland earlier in training camp after missing his rookie season in ’08 with an injury. He could fit in as a backup, given the Crowell loss, but at the least he’ll get to play with his brother for a few weeks.

Lions (add WR-RS Glenn Holt) – Holt is a good return man and OK receiver who had his moments in Cincinnati but never found a role in Minnesota. He was cut by the Vikings but quickly claimed on waivers by Detroit, where he could find a role as a reserve receiver and returner.

Jets (add P Glenn Pakulak) – Pakulak averaged more than 47 yards per punt last year, but his net average was under 38 yards, which isn’t great. He got beaten out in Saints training camp by rookie Thomas Morstead, a fifth-round pick. But Pakulak quickly landed with the Jets, who had major punting problems last year. He has a great chance to win the job there.

Browns (add TE Nate Jackson) – Jackson had his moments as a pass-catching tight end in his six years in Denver, but he’s probably a No. 3 tight end at best.

Bears (add LB Darrell McClover) – McClover, who played in 22 games for the Bears over the past three years, returns to the team. His best chance to stick on the roster is via special teams.

Lions (add PK Billy Cundiff) – With Jason Hanson hurting to the point that he might not be ready to start the season, the Lions had to get a dependable second option at kicker. Cundiff, a former Cowboy who most recently made a team in 2006, is probably at least an accurate guy from 40 yards and in. If Hanson is hurt for the long term, though, the Lions may look at another team’s cut list for a better option.

Bengals (add PK Sam Swank) – While Chad Ochocinco’s kicking exploits were fun, the Bengals can’t risk him getting hurt, and so they found a fill-in for injured PK Shayne Graham. We mention Swank here because he’s a Wake Forest product, and we’re biased.

Subtractions

Seahawks (cut RB T.J. Duckett) – The newly added Edgerrin James replaces Duckett, who scored 10 TDs as a goal-line back last year but had just 61 carries overall. Duckett is little more than a role player now, so don’t count on much when you see him again. The ironic thing is that the former first-round pick had his best success with Mora in Atlanta, but that may reveal that he’s truly done.

Patriots (cut S Tank Williams) – Williams, a former Titan, missed his first season in New England due to injury, and he wasn’t able to find a role this year after the Pats drafted Patrick Chung. That’s a long road down for a guy who was once considered a possible successor for Rodney Harrison in New England.

Raiders (cut CB Ricky Manning and WR Samie Parker) – Oakland signed Manning last week, but a one-week look apparently told them all they needed to know about where his skills are now. Parker was once considered a prospect in Kansas City, but he’s never proved himself, and the fact that the receiver-poor Raiders cut him says all you need to know.

Browns (cut OT George Foster) – Foster, a former first-round pick with Denver who played for Detroit last year, got bounced again this offseason. He’s likely going to have to wait for an injury (like the one to Seattle’s Walter Jones) to find a spot as a backup right tackle. He’s big, but his skills aren’t great.

Chiefs (cut LB Vince Redd) – Redd, who played for New England last year, was cut just before reports of a four-game suspension to start the season began to emerge. The Chiefs decided that such a bubble player wasn’t worth the wait.

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Fantasy Football: Part-time backs

In the past few years, we’ve seen a proliferation of NFL teams turning to multi-running back attacks. Where once there was a running back, a fullback, and perhaps a third-down back, now there are all sorts of different roles for running backs, with many teams using two or even three regularly. While that might make an NFL offense run more smoothly, it makes putting together a fantasy football backfield much trickier.

So in an effort to sort through some of these situations, we’re going to look at some of the backs who have part-time roles with their NFL teams and try to figure out where they fit in a fantasy football team. We’re going to use a Football Relativity comparision to do this, and as we go down the scale we’ll indicate how each level on the comparison translates as you build your roster.

One more note before we begin: You can find all of our fantasy football coverage by searching the fantasy football category on our blog, and you can also use the search function on the right of the blog to find individual players.

10 – Jonathan Stewart, Panthers – Stewart is currently fighting an Achilles tendon injury, and the Panthers are being overly cautious to protect him. But as long as Stewart is ready in week one, he’s a fantasy starter even in a limited role. A lot of people look at his 10-touchdown stat line from ’08 and consider Stewart a goal-line back, but he’s more than that. Look again, and you’ll see that he had 836 rushing yards and a 4.5 yards-per-carry average. In other words, he’s a ton better than T.J. Duckett. Even playing a role behind DeAngelo Williams, Stewart is a No. 2 fantasy starter in most leagues whom you can count on for 800 yards and 8-10 touchdowns again at a minimum. Plus, he has the upside to do more if he stays healthy throughout the season or if Williams gets hurt or struggles. Stewart fits starting at the beginning of the third round in regular-sized fantasy leagues.

*Players above this line are in general every-week starters in 10- or 12-team fantasy leagues. Players below this line become matchup plays and flex-position options.

9 – Donald Brown, Colts – Most people are projecting Brown to be the change-up for Joseph Addai, and that role would make him a fantasy backup. But Brown has more upside than that because he could actually usurp the starting role from Addai. That makes Brown an ideal No. 3 back in most fantasy leagues because of his upside. To begin the season, Brown is a matchup play or a flex option, but he could easily become a starter by midseason.

9 (con’t) LenDale White, Titans – White also has a goal-line back rep, but he got 200 carries last year en route to a 773-yard, 15-touchdown season. That touchdown number is out of proportion, and so it would be unreasonable to expect that many scores from him this year. But White is a 10-12 touchdown guy who should also get 700 rushing yards or more. The Titans will use White in short-yardage situations, but they’ll also use him to spell Chris Johnson to help keep Johnson healthy throughout the season. You probably don’t want to count on White as an every-week starter, but he can be a strong matchup play and flex option, and if you end up having to start him most weeks, it’ll probably turn out OK.

8 – Reggie Bush, Saints – Bush is not a starting NFL running back, and at this point he’s not an ideal fantasy football starter either. He is an elite player at what he does well – catching the ball out of the backfield and returning punts. He’s dangerous enough with the ball in his hands that he should get 15-18 touches every game, and he’s liable to score 10 touchdowns with that limited number of changes. But Pierre Thomas is the Saints running back who can start for your fantasy team this year. Bush has scored six offensive touchdowns in each of the last two years, (though he added three on punt returns in ’08), and he has missed at least four games in each year. You simply can’t count on him every week. But if you draft him as your No. 3 back, you’re going to have a guy who will score 6-8 touchdowns and pile up some yards and receptions for you. He’s the definition of a fantasy football flex-position guy.

*Players above this line are consistent flex options and/or matchup plays. Players below this line fall into more traditional backup roles for fantasy football.

7 – Felix Jones, Cowboys – Jones has a ton of talent, but he’s kind of hard to project from a fantasy perspective because he missed so much time in his rookie season. In the six games he played, Jones averaged 5 carries per game, in addition to a handful of catches and returns, but he scored four TDs in those six games. If he can get 10-12 touches a game and stay healthy, he can probably double that touchdown total and end up with more than 600 yards. That would make him a solid No. 3 fantasy back. But because of his undefined role, he’s more of a borderline No. 3 or supersolid No. 4 fantasy back who you take hoping his role ends up being more than we’re expecting it to be at this point. Nonetheless, he’s a guy worth taking a flier on in your fantasy draft.

6 – Chester Taylor, Vikings – Playing behind Adrian Peterson the last two years, Taylor (a former 1,200 yard rusher) has scored 6 and 7 touchdowns and had 800 and 1,000 total yards. That kind of production merits a top backup spot in your fantasy league. The thing that keeps Taylor half a notch below Felix Jones is the lack of upside; we’ve seen over the last two years what Taylor is going to be. Only a long-term Adrian Peterson injury opens the door for Taylor to be more. So Taylor is a smart pick if you have Peterson, and he’s a solid bye-week and/or emergency fill-in for other fantasy owners.

 6 (con’t) – Rashard Mendenhall, Steelers – Mendenhall had a disappointing rookie season, averaging just 3.1 yards per carry before suffering a season-ending injury in the fourth game. But this year, a healthy Mendenhall remains a good fantasy prospect. He’ll start off as Willie Parker’s backup, but Mendenhall’s size could allow him to seize short-yardage carries first and then eventually start to carve into Parker’s regular workload. Mendenhall starts off as a lower-end No. 3 fantasy back or a top No. 4 fantasy back, but he’s one with a lot of upside. He probably won’t be as good to play in an emergency as Taylor will be, but he could end up with bigger numbers because of the role he could develop in Pittsburgh as the season wears on.

5 – Leon Washington, JetsTriple threats like Washington have huge value to their NFL teams, but their value to fantasy teams is hard to quantify. Washington had 800 yards and 10 total touchdowns last year, which is enough to make him a No. 3 fantasy back. But that’s probably the top end of what Washington can provide in the role he has. I’d prefer to make him a top No. 4 fantasy back (basically between 32 and 45 on the RB draft board) who has potential to start pretty much every week if your roster faces tough matchups, byes, or injuries. It just doesn’t make sense to me to depend on him for more than that. He can be an asset to your roster, but relying on him too heavily will leave you disappointed in the end because his role is so compacted.

5 (con’t) – Darren Sproles, Chargers – Sproles is the same song, second verse as Washington. Last year he finally carved out a sizable offensive role in San Diego, and he delivered with 662 yards and six touchdowns. Throw in a return touchdown, and you have a valuable fantasy backup. Sproles’ numbers could go up a tiny bit this year, because he will get regular offensive touches from the start of the season, but he’s still a top No. 4 running back who is best as a fill-in. Like Washington, Sproles isn’t a guy you want to rely on regularly, but he is a guy you can call on at any time.

4 – Le’Ron McClain, Ravens – McClain is nominally the Ravens’ fullback, but he was a running back who had 900 rushing yards and 11 total touchdowns last year. Those numbers will be hard to match in ’09 with the emergence of Ray Rice, but McClain will still have a role. Still, he fits below Washington and Sproles because his productivity as a short-yardage specialist and rotation back is a little more dependent on matchups than the production of explosive players like Washington and Sproles. That makes McClain a No. 4 fantasy back who falls just below Sproles and Washington on the draft board.

3 – Ahmad Bradshaw, Giants – Bradshaw gets a lot of attention as a member of the Giants’ Earth, Wind, and Fire backfield, but his production doesn’t match the hype. He fell behind Derrick Ward in the NYG hierarchy by the end of last season, and while Ward is gone, it’s possible that Danny Ware could prevent Bradshaw from leaping ahead in touches this year. Some people are touting Bradshaw as a No. 3 fantasy back; it says here that’s he’s really an average No. 4 who will end up in the 40s in terms of running back production. He’s a decent backup who has upside if (or when) Brandon Jacobs gets dinged up, but he’s not going to break out in a big way.

2 – Tim Hightower, Cardinals – Hightower exploded onto the fantasy scene last year with seven touchdowns in the Cardinals’ first eight games, but his production waned pretty severely. While he scored 10 touchdowns and had 34 catches, he ended up averaging just 2.8 yards per carry. Now that the Cardinals have Beanie Wells as their first-round pick, Hightower looks to fall into a more traditional backup role. He’s just a No. 5 fantasy back whose upside is tied to Wells’ downside but not much more. He’s still worth drafting in most leagues, but relying on Hightower even as a bye-week fill-in is dangerous.

2 (con’t) – Jerious Norwood, Falcons – Norwood is a lite version of Washington and Sproles, a triple threat who provides a great change of pace to Michael Turner. He had 800 offensive yards and six touchdowns last year, and he’s likely to come close to that yardage total again this year. But Norwood, while talented, is not in Washington’s or Sproles’ league as a gamebreaker. That means that his touchdown total of 6 could easily fall to 2-4 this year. Norwood is a No. 5 backup who could go into your lineup in a big-time pinch, but relying on him for more is unwise.

1 – Michael Bush and Justin Fargas, Raiders – The Raiders had a solid running game last year. Fargas ended up with 853 rushing yards, and Bush had 421 rushing yards with a late-season push. Both are talented backs, but both should lose carries to Darren McFadden this year. Fargas is the back who is most likely to lose in this transaction, as he and McFadden could basically switch yardage totals in ’09. Bush has a chance to maintain his role because he’s a bigger back with short-yardage ability. But the uncertainty makes Fargas and Bush specialty backs who fit in the No. 5 fantasy back category.

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Fantasy Football: Mock draft

I took part in an online mock draft this week, just to see what players are going higher than I expected and what players are going lower than I expected. I’ve taken the results of this draft and made a list of players who were overvalued and undervalued. This list should help you see which players on your draft board are rated too high and which you may be able to draft later than you expected.

If you think this exercise is valuable, let me know, and we’ll do another round next week.

Mock 1 (8/26/09)
(12-team snake draft; numbers refer to draft position)

No. 6 – RB LaDanian Tomlinson – OVERVALUED – A lot of people like Tomlinson this season, but I’m a little more bearish. I think Tomlinson is a borderline first-round pick (No. 10-12 player overall), because you can get two solid backs drafting from that position. Drafting LDT higher makes you rely on him too much given his age and his decline last year. He’s no longer an elite fantasy back; just a very good one. Don’t draft him high based on history.

No. 17 – RB Clinton Portis – UNDERVALUED – Portis’ numbers over the past several years show that he remains a solid late first-rounder. I actually have Portis above Tomlinson on my personal draft board, but that’s a minority opinion. If you’re drafting late in a 10- or 12-team league, you can probably make Portis your No. 2 running back, which would be a great result. If you get Portis in the middle of the second round or later, count your blessings, because you got a steal.

No. 21 – RB Steve Slaton – UNDERVALUED – This strikes me as a little bit of an artifically low spot for Slaton, but even in the mid-teens Slaton is undervalued. He’s a legitimate first-round pick who should be able to repeat his numbers from last year in Houston’s potent offense. If you draft 9, 10, 11, or 12 in a snake draft and end up with Slaton and Portis as your top two running backs, you’ll be set.

No. 45 – WR Wes Welker – OVERVALUED – Lots of people have Welker rated as a second-level receiver, but I think that’s too high. Instead, I have him as a third-level receiver, much like Vincent Jackson, Braylon Edwards, Brandon Marshall, and Roy Williams. That’s the group between 15 and 20 at receiver on my draft board, which means they’re borderline starters in two-WR leagues. But in this league, Welker went as a No. 1 receiver. He will have consistent yardage numbers (and catch numbers if you’re in a point-per-catch league), but his lack of touchdowns last year wasn’t a coincidence. He’s probably a 6-to-8 touchdown guy, and that holds down his fantasy value. He should go in the 50s, not the 40s, in most leagues.

No. 51 – WR Roy Williams – OVERVALUED – Like Welker, Williams went too high in this draft. Williams becomes the Cowboys’ No. 1 receiver, but he’s not going to automatically match Terrell Owens’ numbers of recent years. The Cowboys have a depth of dangerous guys, from Jason Witten to Patrick Crayton to Miles Austin, and it’s hard for me to see Williams becoming an 80-catch guy. He’s a No. 2 fantasy wideout, but not a top-15 wideout, which is where he was drafted in this mock. My guess is that he’ll be drafted too early in your draft as well.

No. 58 – QB Matt Ryan – OVERVALUED – This is way too high for Ryan, who is a better player in real football than fantasy football at this point in his career. Even with the addition of Tony Gonzalez in the offseason, Ryan is still only about the 10th or 11th best fantasy quarterback. That makes him a borderline starter, not a 5th-round pick. Don’t get your head out over your skis with Ryan – at least not this year. He’s solid but not yet a fantasy stud.

No. 59 – WR Vincent Jackson – UNDERVALUED – Jackson, who broke out in a big way last year, should have gone ahead of Welker and Roy Williams instead of behind them. To me, he’s the best of the third group of receivers (which starts around No. 15 on the wide receiver board) because of his production last year and his upside. I’d be far more excited about taking a gamble with Jackson than with another upside guy like Williams.

No. 63 – RB Knowshon Moreno – UNDERVALUED – I always have rookie running backs higher on my personal draft board than most of the “fantasy experts” do, but most of the time the rookies come through. That trend of undervaluing rookies definitely happened in this draft, and I think it’s a mistake. Moreno should end up as the No. 1 back in Denver, and with his talent that should put him as a starting fantasy running back. But this draft position put Moreno outside the top 25 backs, and that’s simply a mistake.

No. 66 – RB Ahmad Bradshaw – OVERVALUED – Many fantasy observers are looking at Bradshaw and expecting his numbers to rise now that Derrick Ward is in Tampa Bay. But my feeling is that the Giants will keep Bradshaw as a change-of-pack back instead of giving him most of Ward’s work in addition to his own. So instead of making Bradshaw a No. 3 fantasy back, I consider him a No. 4 back (and his teammate Danny Ware a No. 5 or 6 back). So I wouldn’t start considering Bradshaw until about two rounds below where he went in this draft.

No. 73 – RB Ray Rice – UNDERVALUED – Rice has emerged in training camp and in preseason games as the Ravens’ best threat at running back. He’s an ideal No. 3 back and may even end up being a solid every-week starter. He’s got a good offensive line, and he has talent. The only question is opportunities to touch the ball, and it’s looking more and more like Rice will be getting far more of those than Willis McGahee or LeRon McClain will.

No. 74 – RB Donald Brown, Colts – Brown is another rookie who seems undervalued to me. I think he’s a solid pick in the sixth round of 12-team leagues as a No. 3 back with huge upside. If Brown can supplant Joseph Addai, he’ll have a ton of value. But even if Brown shares touches with Addai, my hunch is that he’ll be on the better end of the split, which will make him a terrific flex option or even RB starter. So if Brown falls into the 70s in your draft, grab him before someone else wises up.

No. 76 – WR Hines Ward – OVERVALUED – Ward went ahead of his teammate Santonio Holmes, but Holmes is the Steelers’ receiver I’d rather have this year. Holmes should end up with more yards, and based on his playoff performance last year, he should end up with more touchdowns as well. To me, Ward is a veteran receiver who I’d feel OK about as my No. 3 wideout but not in a more significant fantasy football role. So if you’re counting on Ward as one of your two starting receivers, you’re overstating his value.

No. 82 – RB Cedric Benson – UNDERVALUED – You might not like Benson’s off-field history, and you might have been let down on his performances in Chicago. But Benson looked good in the second half of the season for the Bengals last year, and as the unquestioned starter this year, he should be a quality No. 3 fantasy back and maybe even a dependable starter. He doesn’t have huge upside, but you should get some consistent performances from Benson, and that’s something valuable. It certainly makes Benson more than the No. 4 back he was drafted as in this mock.

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The league’s best coordinators

Our latest post for the Most Valuable Network’s Football Wire focuses on the best coordinators in the NFL for the 2009 season. Check out the post via archive from our MVN blog below.

And in case you missed it, you can how teams fare in terms of the combination of offensive and defensive coordinators in our Football Relativity comparison.

Who are the best coordinators in the NFL? Over on www.footballrelativity.com, we spent plenty of time and bandwidth trying to figure out which NFL team has the best combination of offensive and defensive coordinators. You can check that post out over there, but we wanted to take some of what we learned in the research for that post to create a list of some of the best and most important coordinators in the NFL in 2009.

So here are our votes for the best coordinators in the NFL, in a few categories:

Best Offensive Coordinator – Mike Mularkey, Falcons. Mularkey, who was once the Bills’ head coach, had a great season for the Falcons last year. He rode the legs of Michael Turner, set rookie QB Matt Ryan up for success, and continued the ascension of Roddy White as a true No. 1 receiver. Now he has a new toy to play with – TE Tony Gonzalez, one of the best red-zone threats ever. Another good season like that, and Mularkey will be interviewing for head-coaching jobs once again.

Honorable mentions: Scott Linehan (Lions) returns to the coordinator ranks after a failed tenure as Rams head coach. He’s had great success in this position before. Cam Cameron (Ravens) had a good season last year, reinforcing his coordinator chops. Jason Garrett (Cowboys) had a rough ’08 season but is still considered a rising star as an offensive tactician.

Best Defensive Coordinator – Dick LeBeau, Steelers – The creator of the zone-blitz scheme is still going strong in his 70s. He is a master technician who has created a scheme that has been in place in Pittsburgh for so long that it’s second nature for the team to find the personnel that fits. That lets the Steelers find guys who might not fit on other teams – James Harrison, Lamarr Woodley, Aaron Smith – and utilize them as big-time playmakers. Plus, players love playing for LeBeau. He’s a great asset to the Steelers and to the NFL as a whole.

Honorable mentions: Dom Capers (Packers) and Mike Nolan (Broncos) are former head coaches who are stepping into new situations to try to implement the 3-4 defense. Both are specialists in that scheme, and both have a track record of success as coordinators. Leslie Frazier (Vikings) does his job quietly but effectively. He has a beast of a unit in Minnesota, and he knows how to use his talent well. His head-coaching chance is coming, and it’s coming soon.

Best legendary offensive coordinator – Dan Henning, Dolphins – Henning’s solid schemes are creative enough to allow for new ideas, and he is open-minded enough to let ideas like the Wildcat into his offense. Henning was successful as a coordinator in Washington in the 1980s, and after a few head coaching stops, he’s had success in Carolina and then in Miami in this decade. That’s a really good run for any coach.

Best legendary defensive coordinator – LeBeau

Best up-and-coming offensive coordinator – Jeff Davidson, Carolina – Davidson isn’t the kind of coordinator who gets a lot of attention for designing a multifaceted passing game that lights up the scoreboard and makes fans ooh and aah. (Think of new head coaches like Josh McDaniels or Todd Haley.) But Davidson is brutally effective in designing a running game that can work. First in Cleveland and for the last two years in Carolina, he’s had teams that can run the ball effectively. His scheme fits the Panthers’ personnel perfectly, and if he continues to have the kind of success calling running plays that he has had, he’ll become a hot name in head-coaching hunts in a few years.

Best up-and-coming defensive coordinator – Ron Rivera, Chargers – Rivera took over for Ted Cottrell in San Diego midway through last season, and the difference was apparent immediately. He has an aggressive, blitzing style that echoes his former coach Buddy Ryan as well as his former mentor Jim Johnson. This is Rivera’s second coordinator job, and if he can maximize the Chargers’ talent this year, Rivera will become a prime head-coaching candidate quickly.

Best rookie offensive coordinator – Pete Carmichael, Saints – Talk about a prime situation – Carmichael takes over the reins of an offense that is loaded with talent. Head coach Sean Payton is the playcaller, but Carmichael will still get the luster of helping to run an offense that looks to be a powerhouse again in ’09. Honorable mention: Mike McCoy (Broncos) is a bright coach who will work with McDaniels, which should allow him to develop a good tactical reputation pretty quickly.

Best rookie defensive coordinator – Chuck Cecil, Titans – It’s a strong class of rookie defensive coordinators this year, and Cecil should be the cream of the crop. He’s been an assistant in Tennessee for eight years, and now he takes over for Jim Schwartz as coordinator. The former big-hitting safety should continue the physical style of defense that has made Tennessee a consistent contender over the last decade.  Honorable mention: Sean McDermott (Eagles) takes over for the late Jim Johnson after assisting him for most of the decade. He’ll continue Johnson’s innovative and incessant blitzing. Mike Pettine (Jets) is Rex Ryan’s hand-picked choice to implement Ryan’s version of the 3-4 defense with the Jets. Ryan raves about Pettine, but the new head coach has been prone to hyperbole. Still, Pettine is a prospect to watch. Bill Sheridan (Giants) takes over for Steve Spagnuolo but should continue the defensive scheme that empowered one of the league’s best front fours to attack, attack, attack.

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Seattle is on the Edge

The Seahawks made a big move at running back yesterday, axing T.J. Duckett and bringing in Edgerrin James. Here are some thoughts on the move, both from an on-field perspective and from a fantasy football perspective.

The Seahawks’ running game sputtered early in the preseason, and new head coach Jim Mora wasted no time making a change. He brings in James, who seemed to be losing steam during his time in Arizona but did have a bit of a renaissance during the postseason. Seattle can spot James with Julius Jones to keep both fresh, and James’ ability to catch the ball allows him to be a factor in West Coast schemes like Seattle’s. He replaces Duckett, who scored 10 TDs as a goal-line back last year but had just 61 carries overall. Duckett is little more than a role player now, so don’t count on much when you see him again. The ironic thing is that the former first-round pick had his best success with Mora in Atlanta, but that may reveal that he’s truly done.

From a fantasy football perspective, this does little to change Jones’ value. He’s around the 30th best running back – a solid backup but not a guy you want to count on as a starter. James is borderline draftable, but he’s worth a shot because he would have decent upside if he can get a 50-50 split or better. You should definitely add Edge to your draft board.

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Preseason pains in Week Two

The injury list from the NFL preseason got a lot longer in Week Two, and so we thought we’d discuss the impact of some of the main injuries here. We’ve also included these injuries in our combined post about all of the training-camp and preseason injuries. This post includes injuries from preseason games and some other issues that came to light during the week.

Panthers LB Jon Beason – Beason, the Panthers’ Pro Bowl middle linebacker, suffered a torn MCL in the second preseason game. That’s usually a 4-to-6 week injury, which would indicate that Beason could miss up to the first month of the regular season. Reports indicate that the Panthers hope it’s a mild enough sprain that Beason will be able to play before that, which would be a huge boon to the Panthers. Remember that Carolina already lost DT Maake Kemeoatu, and that S Charles Godfrey is suffering from a broken wrist, and consider that the Panthers don’t have enough of a depth of defensive playmakers to replace another key starter.

Saints OLT Jammal Brown – Brown, an emerging star at left tackle, had surgery to repair a sports hernia in late August. The Saints still hope he can return to open the regular season, but that would be an especially optimistic timetable. The fact that Brown’s backup has also been dinged up in the preseason makes Brown’s speedy return even more possibly.

Seahawks OLT Walter Jones – Jones, who quietly has been an all-time great at offensive tackle, was trying to come back from microfracture knee surgery, but he suffered a setback and had to have a follow-up surgery during training camp. The Seahawks are saying he’s out indefinitely, which could mean anything from a return early in the season to the end of Jones’ Hall-of-Fame-caliber career. The Seahawks don’t have a successor in place, so losing Jones for any amount of time is a monster problem for them.

Buccaneers LB Angelo Crowell – Crowell, a former standout in Buffalo, signed with the Buccaneers in the offseason to be a starter after missing the entire ’08 season. But a torn biceps muscle will bench Crowell for the entire ’09 season as well. That hurts a Bucs defense that let a lot more talent go in the offseason than what they brought in. Crowell’s veteran wile will be missed in what looks like a rebuilding season in Tampa Bay.

Seahawks C Chris Spencer – Walter Jones isn’t the only Seahawk lineman who’s hurting. Spencer, the starting center, has an injured left quadriceps, and the team has yet to figure out how many regular-season games he’ll miss, although it will be at least a couple. At least rookie Max Unger could step in for Spencer, a former first-round pick who has turned into a decent center. But losing two offensive line starters, even if it’s just for a handful of games, will most likely put a significant crimp in Seattle’s offensive style.

Giants DT-LS Jay Alford – Alford is a key member of the Giants’ defensive line rotation, and he also serves as the team’s long-snapper. But in the team’s second preseason game, he suffered a knee injury that tore his MCL and partially tore his ACL. He’ll be out for a significant amount of time, but the Giants have yet to decide whether he’ll have to miss the entire season. This injury hurts on two fronts – the Giants’ defense, which attacks so much that depth is vital, and on special teams as well. Alford’s potential as a penetrating pass rusher will be missed.

Bears DT Dusty Dvoracek – Dvoracek, once a second-round pick, now sees his season ended early by injury for the fourth time in four years, this time with a torn ACL. That’s a blow to the Bears, who are going to have to limit stud DT Tommie Harris’ snaps to keep his aching knees as healthy as possible. This injury probably will spell the end of Dvoracek’s Bears tenure as well, because it’s hard to see a team counting on a guy who has been injured so often once again next season.

Cardinals OLB Cody Brown – Brown, the Cardinals’ second-round pick this year, is a pass-rushing linebacker from Connecticut who was expected to find a rotation role for Arizona this year. He and Calais Campbell were slated to help replace the potent rush of Antonio Smith, who moved to Houston via free agency. But Brown broke his wrist and will miss the entire season. That hurts his development and takes a defensive weapon away for a defense that could use him.

Cowboys OT Robert Brewster – Brewster, a third-round pick, was projected as a backup tackle for the Cowboys. Instead, he’s going to be on injured reserve and miss the season after tearing a pectoral muscle. Given the age of Dallas’ tackles, this move could end up hurting more than it would appear at first glance.

Cowboys LB Brandon Williams – Like fellow rookie Brewster, Williams will miss the season. He has a torn ACL. Williams, a fourth-round pick, was slated to be a backup linebacker and likely a special-teams contributor.

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