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FR: Preseason suspensions

Each year, we compile a list of players who will be suspended going into Week One and compare the importance of those suspensions. We’ll do this using our Football Relativity scale, with the 10 level holding the most significant suspension and the 1 level marking the least significant. We’ll start a new post once the season starts.

10 – Vikings DT Kevin Williams and Saints DE Will Smith (2 games for violating league’s performance-enhancing substance policy) – For three years, the StarCaps case lingered over four players. It lingered so long that two of them – NT Pat Williams and DE Charles Grant – aren’t even in the league right now. But the league finally settled and gave the Williams Wall, Smith, and Grant two-game suspensions with additional fines of two game checks. That’s a blow to both the Vikings and Saints, who lose top DL starters, but it’s not as bad as it could have been.

9 – none

8 – Bengals OG Bobbie Williams (4 games for violating league’s performance-enhancing substance policy) – Williams, who had started all but 3 games at right guard for the Bengals over the last seven years, has become one of the league’s better run-blocking guards. But he will miss the first four games of the season due to a suspension. It’s a huge blow to the Bengals, who lack consistency on the offensive line around Williams.

7 – none

6 – none

5 – Redskins CB Phillip Buchanan (4 games for violating league’s performance-enhancing substance policy) – Buchanon, who re-signed with the Redskins this offseason, will be benched for four games for violating the league’s performance-enhancing substance policy. He started five games last year and played all 16. The Redskins will likely rely on him as their third corner, so given that important role he’s a loss for the first quarter of the season.

4 – Titans FB Ahmard Hall (4 games for violating league’s performance-enhancing substance policy) – Hall, the Titans’ starting fullback, said he failed a test for performance enhancers because of a medicine he took to remain awake. Regardless, he will miss the first quarter of the season. The suspension didn’t just cost the Titans Hall; it also cost them a draft pick, since they traded for Quinn Johnson to replace him. It’ll be interesting to see if Hall can overtake Johnson and seize his job back once he returns.

3 – Raiders QB Terrelle Pryor (5 games) – In a controversial suspension, Pryor entered the supplemental draft with the knowledge that his college suspension of five games would be carried over to the NFL. It certainly impedes Pryor’s development, since he is raw and missed most of training camp, but it was the deal he had to make to get into the NFL in 2011. (Pryor is appealing, so the suspension could be reduced.)

2 – none

1 – Ravens WR David Reed (1 game for violating league’s substance-abuse policy) – Reed, a second-year player who is the Ravens’ primary kickoff returner, drew a one-game suspension for violating the substance-abuse policy. He’ll miss the opener against the Steelers, which is a blow to the Ravens in a key rivalry game.

We did not include the following unsigned players in the comparison: LB Eric Alexander (four games), LB Eric Barton (four games), OT Robert Brewster (four games), LB Vinny Ciurciu (four games), LB Harry Coleman (one game), LB Brandon Lang (four games), FB Reagan Maui’a (three games), RB Dominic Rhodes (at least one year)

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Wild-card Saturday thoughts

Let’s reflect on a upset-filled Saturday of wild-card games to open the NFL playoffs.

Seahawks 41, Saints 36
*Matt Hasselbeck isn’t an elite quarterback, especially not at this point in his career, but he showed Saturday that he can still get incredibly hot and carry a team. His four-TD performance featured some beautiful deep throws to Brandon Stokley, Mike Williams, and Cameron Morrah, and he only turned the ball over once against a Saints defense that will give up yards for turnover opportunities. That performance allowed the Seahawks to overcome a 10-point deficit and build a lead.
*Once the Seahawks built a lead, Marshawn Lynch put the game away with an incredible 67-yard touchdown run on which he broke six tackles and eluded a couple others. That run showed Lynch at his best, after a career in which he was good, not great, in Buffalo, and simply mediocre for the Seahawks. But Lynch showed up incredibly at a crucial time with this run.
*Raheem Brock came up big for the Seahawks again. His solid season turned into a good one with 2.5 sacks and a forced fumble against the Rams in a win-or-else Week 17 game, and Brock showed up big again with a sack and a forced fumble to help the Seahawks turn the game around in the second quarter.
*S Roman Harper was the goat for the Saints. He got suckered on two big plays, John Carlson’s second TD catch and on Stokley’s big TD catch. He’s not the only defensive player who struggled, but he didn’t help the cause.
*The Saints’ inability to run the ball effectively really stung them in this game. Julius Jones had 59 yards and two touchdowns, but he also had a key fumble and didn’t make yards that weren’t blocked for him. Missing Chris Ivory and Pierre Thomas, among others, came back to bite the Saints.
*I’m so glad that we got Mike Mayock as the color analyst for the game instead of blowhard Joe Theismann, who butchered the Jets/Bengals playoff game last year. Mayock isn’t flashy, but he sees the game well and stays away from the grand pronouncements that Theismann makes whether or not they’re true. Now that Mayock, who is the NFL Network draft expert, does Notre Dame games on NBC, the Peacock network actually has a great option for a No. 2 team that they don’t need at any time all year. And for that, we are thankful.

Nick Folk celebrates his game-winning field goal

Jets 17, Saints 16
*The key to this game kind of flew under the radar, but it happened on two third-down plays in the second half. Peyton Manning made the “right” decision at the line, based on the defense, by calling running plays, but Dominic Rhodes was stuffed on a third-and-1 and a third-and-7. As a result, the Colts got two field goals and trailed 14-13 instead of getting a touchdown in either spot. Manning is significantly better than either Rhodes or Joseph Addai, and we believe Manning should have taken the game into his own hands on at least one of those plays, instead of simply making the “right” play call.
*The Jets have to be encouraged by their running game, which controlled the ball throughout the second half. LaDainian Tomlinson ran for 82 yards and two touchdowns, and Shonn Greene ran for 70 yards. The Jets’ running game isn’t as unstoppable as it was in last year’s playoffs, and the Colts’ defense is so banged up and inexperience at linebacker that the Jets should have gouged it, but the trend is still a huge plus for Gang Green.
*Antonio Cromartie could have been the goat for the Jets, after giving up a long touchdown play to Pierre Garcon along with several other big catches, but his two kickoff returns in the second half were monstrous. His 41-yard return to start the second half helped to set up the Jets’ first touchdown, and his 47-yard return in the game’s final minute keyed the drive for the game-winning field goal.
*The Colts were not that talented in this game, after losing key skill-position players and a raft of secondary players. The question is whether the Colts can add talent and, as importantly, depth in time to rally in 2011. If not, we could be seeing the denouement of a great decade in Indianapolis.

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Filed under Football Relativity, NFL games, NFL playoffs, Postgame points

Pick ‘Em – Wild-card round

As we get to the playoffs, we won’t just make our picks – we’ll engage in a little preja vu by talking about how we expect games to go and by predicting final scores for each playoff game. We also have a few bonus college picks below.

Pierre Garcon vs. the Jets in last year's AFC title game

New Orleans at Seattle – As the first losing team to enter the playoffs, the 7-9 Seahawks are massive underdogs against the Saints, and with good reason. Seattle’s offense is pretty punchless – only 14 passing touchdowns all year, and not much of a running game despite the addition of Marshawn Lynch at midseason. Seattle’s big win against San Diego was a direct result of two Leon Washington return touchdowns, and it was only at Chicago that Seattle’s offense showed enough punch to beat a good team. The fact that Matt Hasselbeck may miss the game only makes that worse, because it’s hard to imagine Charlie Whitehurst playing acceptably as he did last week. Defensively, the Seahawks have shown a propensity to fall apart, which is why each and every one of their losses was by two touchdowns or more. So Seattle comes by its losing record honestly, and it’s far easier to foresee them with another double-digit loss to New Orleans, despite having home field advantage and a vocal 12th man. The Saints aren’t the powerhouse they were last year, because Drew Brees has been a bit more turnover prone and the defense has been less prone to cause those key turnovers. But Brees and the Saints D are still very good. The big question mark for the Saints is the running game, especially now that both Pierre Thomas and Chris Ivory are out for the playoffs. That lack of a running game may cost the Saints, but not in round one. Seattle’s 10th loss will fit its season-long pattern of big-time deficits. Pick: New Orleans 28, Seattle 10

N.Y. Jets at Indianapolis – The Colts looked incredibly fallible just a month ago, but as their running game got healthy with the return of Joseph Addai and Donald Brown and the renaissance of Dominic Rhodes, and as the defense got key LBs Gary Brackett and Clint Session back, the reports of the Colts’ demise now seem at least a bit premature. This is still not a classic Colts team – they’re missing too many players like Dallas Clark, Austin Collie, Jerraud Powers, Melvin Bullitt, and of course Bob Sanders. But Peyton Manning still has dangerous weapons in Reggie Wayne and Pierre Garcon, while Jacob Tamme and Blair White have become reliable performers. That should allow Manning to pick apart the Jets’ defense, which has not been nearly as dominant in 2010 as it was in 2009. The Jets must blitz to create pressure, and few quarterbacks are better than Manning at picking apart the blitz. In that matchup, we favor the Colts. On the other side of the ball, the Jets’ offense has sputtered lately. While the Jets have a higher-flying passing game than last year thanks largely to Santonio Holmes, who has a terrific playoff pedigree, the running game behind LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene has been too ordinary. The Colts aren’t the biggest defense, but they are good enough to quell the 2010 version of the Jets’ running game. So the game will hinge on whether Mark Sanchez can make enough big passing plays to keep up with Manning. And while Sanchez has been OK in big spots in his young career, he can’t keep up with Manning in this matchup. The Colts won this matchup in last year’s playoffs, and this year the result will be similar. Pick: Indianapolis 30, N.Y. Jets 20

 

Aaron Rodgers and Michael Vick

 

Baltimore at Kansas City – The Ravens are a dangerous team, because they have so many good pieces. Ray Rice is one of the league’s best running backs, both carrying and catching the ball, and he’s capable of carrying an offense by himself. But often, he doesn’t have to, because Joe Flacco finds veteran targets Derrick Mason, Anquan Boldin, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, and Todd Heap. And on defense, the Ravens can pressure the quarterback with Terrell Suggs, stop the run with Haloti Ngata and Ray Lewis, and force turnovers with Ed Reed. But the Ravens have been vulnerable to the pass all season, and that’s where Sunday’s matchup gets interesting. The Chiefs have a surprisingly good passing game, thanks to stud wideout Dwayne Bowe and QB Matt Cassel, who made fewer critical errors than any quarterback not named Tom Brady this year. Our sense is that Bowe will burn the Ravens’ secondary for one or two big plays this week. If that happens early, the Chiefs can ride their running game with reliable Thomas Jones and the explosive Jamaal Charles to build on a lead. Defensively, the Chiefs have an elite rusher in Tamba Hali, and Brandon Flowers has emerged as a top-tier quarterback. The rest of the secondary, however, has shown holes at times, as has the run defense. The Chiefs also have a strong home-field advantage at Arrowhead Stadium, although Flacco has a surprising number of road playoff wins on his resume at this point in his fledgling career. Baltimore will score in this game, but we believe the Chiefs will get enough big plays from Bowe and Charles to outscore Baltimore and get their first playoff win in 17 years in an upset. Pick: Kansas City 28, Baltimore 24

Green Bay at Philadelphia – This strikes us as the most back-and-forth game of the weekend. The Eagles are incredibly explosive, thanks to QB Michael Vick, RB LeSean McCoy, and WRs DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. They’re more likely than any of the other 12 playoff teams to produce an 80-yard offensive touchdown, and we could see one this week. But Philly’s defense has not been good of late. Picture the 31 points the Giants put up on Philly, and then imagine Aaron Rodgers picking apart a pass defense that has really struggled this year. The Eagles have traditionally been a high-pressure team, but their pass rush is not what it has been in the past. Trent Cole has 10 sacks, but only one other Eagle (Juqua Parker) has more than four. That should mean that Rodgers picks apart the Eagles’ D. While that’s the biggest problem for the Eagles, Green Bay’s biggest issue is its running game, which has been punchless since Ryan Grant’s Week One injury against these same Eagles. But even if the Eagles tee off on Rodgers, we don’t see them holding up against Greg Jennings, James Jones, Donald Driver and company. On the other side, Clay Matthews, Charles Woodson and the Green Bay defense should have more success against Vick and company. It might be a shootout, but Rodgers and the Pack will come out on top. Pick: Green Bay 27, Philadelphia 26

NCAA picks
Cotton Bowl: LSU -1.5 vs. Texas A&M
BCS Championship: Auburn -3 vs. Oregon

Last week: 8-4 college, 2-2 pro, 10-6 overall
Season: 54-62-2 college, 55-62-5 pro, 109-124-7

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Fantasy Football Applaud or a Fraud Week 16

Each week, we sort through the box scores to determine what fantasy football performances we should applaud, and which are merely frauds. As always, we’ll give more details about what each verdict means as we break it down. Now that we’re at the end of the seasons, we’re only noting players who have a chance of starting in a Week 17 championship game or who emerged out of nowhere in Week 16.

Tim Tebow

Quarterbacks

Josh Freeman, Buccaneers – Freeman has emerged as a fantasy starter this year, and if you hadn’t noticed, Sunday’s five-TD performance against the Seahawks should have turned your head. He’s a top-10 fantasy quarterback both this year and next. Verdict: Applaud

Carson Palmer, Bengals – Palmer has had a solid fantasy season even though his on-field performance has been awful. But Sunday against the Chargers, he was truly good, throwing for 269 yards and four touchdowns while completing 16-of-21 passes. The fact that he put up such good numbers without Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens was surprising, but the truth is that the Bengals are on their way to another late-season rush that means nothing. So if you want to ride Palmer next week against Baltimore, go ahead. Verdict: Applaud

Stephen McGee, Cowboys – McGee was pressed into action when Jon Kitna was injured on Christmas night, and he performed fairly well with 111 yards on 11-of-17 passing and one touchdown without an interception. If Kitna misses Week 17, McGee qualifies as a desperation play in two-QB or incredibly deep leagues because of Dallas’ strong receiving corps. We could see a two-TD game out of him as a starter. Verdict: Applaud

Tim Tebow, Broncos – In his first home start, Tebow ran for a touchdown (his fifth of the season) and threw for one. But the surprising stat was that he was able to shred the Texans’ admittedly sorry pass defense for 308 yards. Because of his rushing threat, Tebow is a startable fantasy player right now. His value is pinned to getting that rushing touchdown, but if you’re desperate, Tebow the Hero is an option. Verdict: Applaud

Running backs

Marion Barber, Cowboys – Barber had missed three games before returning on Christmas with a 58-yard game that included a touchdown. Barber still falls behind Felix Jones on the carries list in Dallas, but Marion the Barbarian is more likely to find the end zone than Jones. His return makes Tashard Choice irrelevant in fantasy terms, but that doesn’t mean we can trust Barber as a starter against the Eagles next week. Verdict: A fraud

Correll Buckhalter, Broncos – Filling in for Knowshon Moreno, Buckhalter had both a rushing touchdown and a receiving touchdown. If Moreno is out next week, Buckhalter becomes a flex option, albeit one with some risk. Verdict: Applaud

Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson, Jets – Both Greene and Tomlinson scored touchdowns against the Bears. It was Greene’s second touchdown of the season (first since Week 5) and Tomlinson’s first rushing TD since Week 6. We noted a few weeks ago that Tomlinson has really been slowing down, and with the Jets clinching a playoff spot this week, you’d have to figure he gets a break next week vs. the Bills. Greene, meanwhile, had 70 rushing yards against the Bears and could be coming on. We’d much rather play Greene than Tomlinson next week, but it could be that the Jets give Joe McKnight a look to protect both guys. Avoid both next week. Verdict: A fraud for both

Dominic Rhodes and Joseph Addai, Colts – The Colts brought Rhodes back off the UFL scrap heap two weeks ago, and this week Addai returned from a shoulder injury that had sidelined him for more than a month. Those two returns have made Donald Brown irrelevant for fantasy owners, and while Addai scored a touchdown against the Raiders, Rhodes was the leading rusher with 98 yards on 17 carries. It’s impossible to tell how this will play out next week, which means you can’t start any of them. But Rhodes is worth a claim if he’s available in your league, because he could qualify as a desperation play. Verdict: A fraud for Addai, Applaud for Rhodes

Wide receivers

Kenny Britt, Titans – Britt was having a huge season until a Week 8 injury sidelined him for nearly five games. But since his return, Britt has had four catches in every game, and he followed up Week 15’s 128-yard performance with a four-catch, 89-yard game with a touchdown against the Chiefs. Despite the Titans’ lethargic play, Britt is a must-start guy right now. Verdict: Applaud

Michael Crabtree, 49ers – Crabtree has had a disappointing season, garnering more than 61 receiving yards in just one game before his 122-yard performance against the Rams Sunday. Crabtree has talent, but the Smiths (Troy and Alex) at quarterback aren’t great, and so relying on him in any given week is just too much of a crapshoot. Verdict: A fraud

Johnny Knox, Bears – Knox has emerged as the Bears’ No. 1 receiver this year, and he’s nearly over the 1,000-yard mark on the season. More importantly for fantasy owners, Knox scored two long touchdowns against the Jets, giving him five on the season. Four of those five have come in the last five games, which means Knox has reached must-start status next week against Green Bay. And don’t worry about weather – Jay Cutler has thrown well in bad weather against the Vikings and Jets the last couple of weeks. Verdict: Applaud

Jordy Nelson, Packers – Nelson rode an 80-yard touchdown catch to a big day against the Giants. But you can’t rely on him to repeat his 124-yard performance, because he clearly falls behind Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, and James Jones in the pecking order. Verdict: A fraud

Andre Roberts, Cardinals – Roberts, a rookie out of The Citadel, had just 15 catches on the season before his five-catch, 122-yard breakout against the Cowboys that included a 74-yard touchdown. But somehow, Roberts went off while Larry Fitzgerald had just one catch and Steve Breaston and Early Doucet had none. That has all the looks of a one-week fluke that fantasy owners should ignore. Verdict: A fraud

Jerome Simpson, Bengals – With Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco out, Simpson broke out with a six-catch, 124-yard day against the Chargers that included two touchdowns. Don’t be surprised if Simpson and Jordan Shipley are featured again next week as the Bengals figure out whether they can move on from the diva receivas in 2011. Verdict: Applaud

Tight ends

Jared Cook, Titans – Cook, the Titans’ No. 2 tight end, had 96 yards and a touchdown against the Chiefs. The Titans seem to want to get a better look at Cook and Craig Stevens right now, but Bo Scaife is healthy, which means you can’t rely on any of the Tennessee tight ends. Verdict: A fraud

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Haynesworth suspended, plus other Week 14 transactions

Each week we share insights, analysis, and opinions of the week’s transactions. To see previous posts, click this link and start working back.

The big move of the week was the Redskins’ suspension of DT Albert Haynesworth. Haynesworth famously signed a contract potentially worth $100 million before the 2009 season and cashed a $21 million bonus check before this season before clashing with head coach Mike Shanahan over playing in a 3-4 defense instead of his preferred 4-3. The situation festered throughout the season, with Haynesworth’s conditioning, commitment, and preparation constantly questioned as he played in eight of the first 12 games with just 2.5 sacks. In moments, like the Chicago game, Haynesworth was dominant, but he was largely an afterthought. Finally, the Redskins had enough and suspended Haynesworth for the last four games of the season. We don’t absolve Shanahan in this situation, but Haynesworth’s petulence certainly led to an embarrassing end to his Redskins season, both for him and the team.

(And you can compare the Haynesworth suspension to others during the 2010 season in this post.)

In other moves…

Cowboys (put WR Dez Bryant on IR) – Bryant has had a standout rookie season, with six receiving TDs and two more scores on punt returns, but a knee injury sidelines him after 12 games.

Colts (put CB Jerraud Powers and S Bob Sanders on IR; add RB Dominic Rhodes) – The Colts’ injury problems in the secondary continued as they gave up the ghost on 2010 contributions from Sanders, who is trying to return from a biceps injury, and Powers was knocked out for the season as well. They brought back stalwart Rhodes, who played in the UFL this season, to help fill in for equally prolific RB injuries.

Buccaneers (put CB Aqib Talib and C Jeff Faine on IR; add C Donovan Raiola) – The Buccaneers lost two key contributors in Talib, who was emerging as one of the league’s best corners, and Faine, a quality pivot. Both are major losses as the Bucs push for the playoffs. They brought in Raiola, who has been with six NFL teams but has yet to play in an NFL game.

Saints (add LB Kawika Mitchell) – Mitchell, an eight-year veteran who has not played in 2010, joins the Saints to provide a late-season infusion. If he’s healthy, Mitchell is good enough to be an acceptable starter.

Lions (add OT Tony Ugoh) – Ugoh, who was once a starter for the Colts, joined the Lions. The former second-round pick has started 24 NFL games.

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Training Camp Moves – Last week

This post is a compilation of additions NFL teams made during the fourth full week of camps. The timetable for this post opens on September 4 and continues through the regular-season opener on September 10. You can read a summary of the first week of training camp moves here; the second week moves here; the third week moves here; the fourth week of moves here; the fifth week of moves here; and the sixth 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

Raiders (add DE Richard Seymour) – There are plenty of thoughts on the trade for Seymour in this post.

Broncos (add DE Vonnie Holliday) – Holliday, a 12-year veteran who played for Miami the last four years, signed to provide solid DL play for Denver and its new 3-4 defense. Holliday is a solid player who can anchor against the run but won’t provide much pass rush. Still, he’ll be an asset because he fits the new defense much better than most of the returning personnel in Denver does.

Seahawks (add S Lawyer Milloy) – Milloy, the long-time Patriot who played for Atlanta most recently, returns to his hometown to play for the Seahawks. He has basically been a full-time starter for 13 years in the NFL now, but he’ll have to beat out Jordan Babineaux for the free safety job in Seattle. Still, at the least he’ll provide pressure that makes Babineaux better, and his veteran influence will be an asset as well.

Jaguars (add OG Kynan Forney and S Brian Russell) – Given the massive offensive line injuries that doomed their season last year, it makes sense for them to add a veteran like Forney for insurance. Forney has started before, but he fits better as a backup in Jacksonville. Russell isn’t great, but he can play corner or safety at an average level, which makes him a solid backup.

49ers (add OT Tony Pashos) – Pashos was sent to the bench in Jacksonville by the additions of Tra Thomas, Eben Britton, and Eugene Monroe, and he chose to be released instead of taking a pay cut. He landed in San Francisco, where he’ll have a chance to start at right tackle after Marvel Smith retired during training camp.

Patriots (add OG Kendall Simmons) – Simmons, a long-time Steeler, provides depth for New England’s interior line. He basically replaces Russ Hochstein, who was traded for Denver for a draft pick, on the roster.

Eagles (add TE Alex Smith) – The Eagles let veteran L.J. Smith leave as a free agent in the offseason, so it makes sense that they grabbed Alex Smith after he was cut by the Patriots. Alex Smith is a good pass rusher who provides a nice complement and insurance policy behind new starter Brent Celek.

Falcons (add CB Brian Williams) – Atlanta has spent much of training camp looking for secondary help. They traded for CB Tye Hill and then signed Williams, a veteran who has good size but not great speed. If one of these two shots pays off for the Falcons, they’ll be very happy because they’ve met a real need.

Vikings (add WR Greg Lewis) – Lewis is an inconsistent deep threat who lost out to Joey Galloway for a roster spot in New England after going there in a trade from Philly. But Minnesota thought that Lewis’ deep speed was a better fit for them than the possession game of Bobby Wade, whom the team released. Lewis is ideal as a No. 4 receiver and can be a No. 3, because he’s capable of making huge plays but also capable of dropping his share of balls and then some.

Cardinals (add OG Jeremy Bridges) – Arizona cut Elton Brown and replaced him with Bridges, who is a good interior player who has had trouble staying out of trouble off the field. Still, he provides a nice backup if he behaves.

Jets (add TE Ben Hartsock) – Hartsock, the Falcons’ starting tight end last year, lost his spot in the ATL to Tony Gonzalez. He now moves to New York, where he will be the No. 2 tight end behind Dustin Keller. The Jets have been shuffling tight ends all offseason looking for stability in that spot, so Hartsock is a good find for them.

Subtractions

Raiders (cut QB Jeff Garcia) – Oakland signed Garcia to be its backup QB, which was a bad idea because Garcia has always refused to accept a backup role. That became obvious to Oakland, and Garcia’s performance wasn’t good enough to make them overlook his personality. This release will end up benefiting JaMarcus Russell in the end.

Bills (cut OT Langston Walker and RB Dominic Rhodes) – The Bills have had a lot of offensive upheaval late in training camp, and it continued in making the roster. Walker was starting at right tackle, but he’s not in good shape, and the Bills decided to go with rookie Demetrius Bell instead. Rhodes was slated to be the Bills’ backup running back in the first three weeks with Marshawn Lynch suspended, but he didn’t perform well enough to merit a roster spot.

Rams (cut LB Chris Draft) – Draft was expected to be a starter at outside linebacker for the Rams this year, but the Rams released him right before the season in what looks like a move to keep his salary from becoming guaranteed. Draft is a solid linebacker who is the definition of average. He has proven that he won’t hurt a team, but he won’t make many big plays either. Don’t be surprised if the Rams try to bring him back after Week One, but Draft may choose to move to a better team as a backup or injury fill-in.

Giants (cut WR David Tyree) – Tyree, one of the big heroes of the Giants’ Super Bowl 42 win, was released after he fell behind New York’s cadre of young receivers (like Mario Manningham, Hakeem Nicks, and Ramses Barden). Tyree missed the entire season last year with injury, and so he might not be healthy enough to be a big contributor anywhere else. But he’s a veteran and a good special-teams player, so he could end up being a nice midseason addition somewhere before long.

Vikings (cut WR Bobby Wade) – Wade had 50 catches in each of the last two years in Minnesota, but with Sidney Rice healthy and Bernard Berrian arrived, Wade became too expensive for his production. He was cut just before the season because his salary would have been guaranteed for the year on Sunday. He’s good enough to play elsewhere, but it won’t be for anything near the money he was slated to make in Minny this year.

Packers (cut QB Brian Brohm) – Brohm was a second-round pick just two years ago, but his performance has been so bad that he was beaten out for the backup job by Matt Flynn, just a seventh-round pick that same year, and then was cut. He cleared waivers and landed on the practice squad, which means no other team thought he was worth a flier. That’s a huge fall for a guy once considered a nice prospect.

Patriots (cut QB Andrew Walter) – Walter, the former Raider, came over to New England early in training camp, and it looked as if he would be the No. 2 QB there after the Pats cut ’08 draft pick Kevin O’Connell. But Walter too was beaten out by undrafted rookie Brian Hoyer, who seized the backup job and played well enough that New England will keep just two QBs to start the season.

Eagles (cut QB A.J. Feeley) – The ultimate loser in the Michael Vick experiment in Philly was Feeley, who has proven he can be a solid backup but got caught in a roster crunch. He should land elsewhere as a No. 2 quarterback at some point, because he’s better than many teams’ backups.

Chiefs (cut S Bernard Pollard, C Eric Ghiaciuc, OT Damion McIntosh, and CB Travis Daniels) – Pollard started all year last year, famously hitting Tom Brady’s knee in the first game, but he lost his starting job to Mike Brown and eventually lost his roster spot. Ghiaciuc came over from Cincinnati to compete for the Chiefs’ starting center job, but he obviously didn’t get the job done. McIntosh is a nine-year vet who started 31 games for the Chiefs the last two years, but he too lost not only his starting gig but his job with K.C.’s new regime. Daniels, a former Dolphin who played for Cleveland last year, couldn’t hook on to continue his career.

Titans (cut WR-RS Mark Jones) – Jones had a good year in Carolina as a return specialist last year, and Tennessee gave him a small signing bonus to fill the same role there this year. But Jones can’t really play elsewhere, and the Titans decided to let rookie Kenny Britt contribute on returns, which made Jones expendable. He’ll end up somewhere else, at least for a look, given his ’08 success.

Bears (cut CB Rod Hood) – Hood, cut by Cleveland just days ago, latched on in Chicago but didn’t look good enough there to stick around. He could still get another look during the season, but being released multiple times must be a shock after starting for a Super Bowl team last year.

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FR: 2009 Suspensions

As the season approaches, we thought it would be worth a look at the various suspensions players face to begin the 2009 system. So we’re using Football Relativity to compare the impact of these suspensions on their various teams. Note that this comparison doesn’t attempt to contrast the reasons behind suspensions; the only factor we’re considering in this comparison is how each player’s absence will affect his team or his own career. 10 is the most significant suspension; 1 is the least significant.

Note: The suspensions of Vikings DTs Pat Williams and Kevin Williams, Saints DEs Charles Grant and Will Smith, and Lions DT Grady Jackson are still pending. This “StarCaps” case is going through the court system, and there’s enough delay that all parties involved will be eligible to play in Week One.

10 – WR Plaxico Burress (2 years for violating personal conduct policy) – Burress’ biggest problem is obviously the jail term he is serving for criminal possession of a weapon, but he is ineligible to play in the NFL until after he serves his two-year sentence. That will knock him out of the NFL for the ’09 and ’10 seasons, and it could mark the end of his career given his age and the layoff he’s facing.

9 – Browns WR Donte Stallworth (1 year for violating personal conduct policy) – Stallworth was sentenced to less than a month in jail, but commissioner Goodell ruled that he would have to sit out the entire 2009 season. He is still under contract with the Browns, at least for now, which makes a move to the UFL for the season impossible. So Stallworth will have to sit. He’s still an NFL-caliber receiver, and even a starting-caliber guy, so his return in 2010 will bring some fanfare. But for now, Stallworth continues to pay for his huge mistake.

8 – Jets LB Calvin Pace (4 games for use of banned substance) – Pace, one of the Jets’ high-dollar acquisitions in 2008, said he accidentally took a tainted supplement that caused him to test positive for a performance-enhancer. Regardless of the unoriginality (or truthfulness) of his alibi, Pace’s absence will hurt the Jets. Pace has 13.5 sacks over the past two years in Arizona and New York, and he was a good fit as a pass-rushing OLB in the Jets’ 3-4 last year. As the Jets move to Rex Ryan’s system this year, the aggressiveness of the defense will be dialed up, which will play to Pace’s strengths once he hits the field. In his absence, the Jets are going to need pass rush to come from somewhere. Former first-round pick Vernon Gholston is the most likely candidate, but he just didn’t get it as a rookie. It’ll be interesting to see if the Jets’ D can thrive without Pace, because this looks like a pretty significant loss.

7 – Buccaneers S Tanard Jackson (4 games for violating substance abuse policy) – Jackson isn’t a household name, but he has started every game in both of his first two seasons in Tampa, and he’s becoming the type of playmaking safety that teams covet. So losing Jackson – especially on a defense that has already lost so many veterans – will make the Bucs’ defensive transition even more difficult. This is a huge blow to the Bucs’ hopes of getting off to a good start.

7 (con’t) – Bills RB Marshawn Lynch (3 games for violating personal conduct policy) – Lynch’s litany of off-field issues got him noticed by Roger Goodell, and he’s now serving a three-game suspension for that collection of misdeeds and mistakes. Lynch is a solid if unspectacular back who has more than 1,000 rushing yards in both of his first two seasons. But the Bills have Fred Jackson, another good back, in reserve, and Jackson’s good enough to carry most of the load through September. The real question for Buffalo is whether import Dominic Rhodes can be the kind of backup to Jackson that Jackson normally is to Lynch. I doubt that will happen, but the net effect won’t cost the Bills all that much because of Jackson’s ability.

6 – QB Michael Vick, Eagles (2 games for violating personal conduct policy) – We now know that Vick will be able to return to the NFL field after two games in 2009. The question is whether this penalty is enough to make sure that Vick is no more than a specialty player in the NFL in 2009. The Eagles have ideas on how to use him, but they don’t want to build their offense around a player who has missed two years before missing two games more in ’09. It’ll be interesting to see how Vick adjusts once he returns to the field.

5 – DE Shaun Ellis, Jets (1 game for violating substances and abuse policy) – Ellis, who was benched by the league and fined $100,000 as a result of a 2008 arrest for marijuana possession, will only miss one game, but it’s a significant one for the Jets. That’s because Pace, another member of the Jets’ front seven, is also sidelined for the game. That makes two big chunks out of the Jets’ defense, which will make beating the offensively prolific Texans on the road an even taller task.

4 — PK Garrett Hartley, Saints (4 games for use of banned substance) – Hartley admitted taking Adderall to try to stay awake, saying he wasn’t aware it was forbidden by the NFL. The Saints signed John Carney to fill in for Hartley, and that could be trouble for him, because Carney filled in for Lawrence Tynes with the Giants to begin last year, never gave up the job, and ended up making the Pro Bowl. So Hartley’s job is now in jeopardy because of this suspension.

4 (con’t) – DT Shaun Smith (4 games for use of banned substance) – Smith says he used a water pill, which is banned under the league’s anabolic steroids policy because it can be used as a masking agent. He was with Cleveland last year and with Detroit in training camp, but the Lions cut him just before the season. Smith will hook on elsewhere, because he can be a quality backup defensive tackle or even an average starter, but this suspension will seriously inhibit his market value and keep him from finding a new home quickly.

3 – LB Michael Boley, Giants (1 game for violating personal conduct policy) – Boley, whom the Giants signed from the Falcons in the offseason, will miss a single game. The Giants (and every other team) knew that a suspension was in the offing for Boley when he hit the free agent market, so the fact that this isn’t a surprise should limit its impact. Boley will be a starter, but he’s not so dominant that his absence will upset the Giants’ plans in the opener against the Redskins.

3 (con’t) – Colts DT Ed Johnson (1 game for violating substance-abuse policy) – The Colts cut Johnson last year after he was arrested for drug possession. They re-signed him this offseason because of their glaring need for massive defensive tackles, but Johnson still must sit out for one game with a league suspension. Johnson didn’t play at all in ’08, but he started every game for the Colts in ’07 and should be a contributor to the team’s DT rotation this year. Missing him in the opener against the Jaguars will hurt.

2 – Cardinals TE Ben Patrick (4 games for use of banned substance) – Patrick said he took Adderall to stay awake on a long drive. He wasn’t slated to start in Arizona, but with Steven Spach likely out part of the year after a postseason knee injury, Patrick still had a chance to establish a role as the Cardinals’ primary blocking tight end.

1 – WR Reggie Williams (2 games for violating substances and abuse policy) – Williams, a former first-round pick by the Jaguars who was the team’s best receiver in ’07 and was a contributor in ’08, was arrested earlier this year for possession of a controlled substance. That has severely limited his free-agent value, which wasn’t strong to begin with. While unsigned, he’ll be serving a two-game suspension, and he’ll have to be reinstated by the commissioner before he can return to the field.

1 (con’t) – DE Erasmus James (1 year for violation of substance-abuse policy) – James, a former Vikings’ first-round pick, has been out of the league since playing for the Redskins in 2007. His career was near its end anyway, and this suspension completely closes the door.

1 (con’t) – S Jimmy Williams (1 year for repeat violation of substance-abuse policy) – Williams, who was once a second-round pick in Atlanta, busted out there and then was cut by the 49ers after the 2008 season. This suspension could be the final nail in the coffin for his career, despite the potential he once showed.

1 (con’t) – LB Vince Redd, 4 games – Redd, who played for New England last year, was cut just before reports of his four-game suspension began to emerge. The Chiefs decided that such a bubble player wasn’t worth the wait and cut him.

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