Monday, August 18, 2008

Massacre in the Meadowlands

Prime time TV networks are starting to squirm at the idea of giving the Cleveland Browns FIVE games on National television this season. Playing on ESPN tonight for a Pre-Season spotlight game, the Browns are getting destroyed by the defending Champion New York Giants 30-3 early in the 2nd quarter.

Giants QB Eli Manning has thrown for 2 TD passes, while Pro Bowl QB Derek Anderson has left the game after suffering a concussion from a grueling sack by DE Usi Umenyiora.

The Browns look flat. They are dropping passes, missing tackles, making penalties and had a punt blocked for a safety. On the ensuing play they gave up an 82 yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Domenik Hixon (his 3rd TD of the game).

NFL Pre-Season Week 2 Re-Cap/Observations

Week 2 of the NFL Pre-Season is now in the books, here are some observations/thoughts:

QB Jay Cutler (Broncos) looked very sharp against the Dallas Cowboys first team defense, completing 12 passes in a row and finishing 16 for 20; 178 yards passing and 1 TD. He has a speedster in rookie WR Eddie Royal but will miss his #1 WR Brandon Marshall in the first 3 games (suspension).

The New England Patriots looked bad against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. QB Tom Brady didn't make the trip, and it seemed like the rest of the team didn't either. The defense was run all over and Buccs back-up's QB Brian Griese and QB Luke McCown carved up the Patriots secondary.

Detroit Lions WR Calvin Johnson looked like a man among boys catching 3 passes for 76 yards and 1 TD against the Bengals. Expect the former #2 overall draft pick to have a big year in Mo-Town. QB Jon Kitna has a perfect 158.3 passer rating after two pre-season games.

The San Francisco 49ers defense looks strong and aggressive. Led by All-Pro LB Patrick Willis, shutdown CB Nate Clements and new Free Agent DE Justin Smith, the 49ers kept the Green Bay Packers in check and sacked QB Aaron Rodgers 4 times before halftime and hurried him a half dozen other times. Look for the team to use an aggressive defense to make up for its lackluster offense.

Rookie RB's on the rise: Ray Rice (Ravens), Steve Slaton (Texans), Chris Johnson (Titans), Kevin Smith (Lions), Darren McFadden (Ravens), Felix Jones (Cowboys), Jonathan Stewart (Panthers), Rashard Mendenhall (Steelers), and Jacob Hester (Chargers) all look to get significant playing time and look to impact their teams early

The only way the Chicago Bears will find their starting QB is if they use a double-sided coin to toss in QB Kyle Orton's favor...both looked bad but QB Rex Grossman looked worse.

The San Diego Chargers lost to the the St. Louis Rams 7-6; but they only played 8 out of 22 starters.

Jacksonville Jaguars RB Fred Taylor and RB Maurice Jones-Drew combined for a total of 19 yards rushing against the Miami Dolphins defense.

The Indianapolis Colts are now 3-13 over their past sixteen pre-season games.

It took all of one week for QB Brett Favre (Jets) to look good in New York.

New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees continues to be in mid-season form going 12 for 17; 147 yards passing and 2 TD's against the Houston Texans.

Rookie QB's: Colt Brennan (Redskins), Dennis Dixon (Steelers) and Chad Henne (Dolphins) continue to impress; while Matt Ryan (Falcons), Brian Brohm (Packers) and Kevin O'Connell (Patriots) struggle

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Pre-Season Football (Live-Blogging) Saints vs. Cardinals

There are 5 Pre-Season games tonight in the NFL, and while all eyes are on Cleveland for the Browns-Jets game trying to catch a glimpse of #4 on the sidelines, we'll be focusing on the ESPN nationally televised New Orleans Saints vs. Arizona Cardinals football game. Both of these teams just barely missed out on the playoffs in 2007, and both hope to start fresh tonight.

Things to look out for tonight:

The 'New" Saints players- Former Pro Bowlers TE Jeremy Shockey and LB Jonathan Vilma make their debut tonight for the Saints; both hope to put the team over the top and into contention. Update: (neither are playing tonight).

Cardinals QB's- While QB Matt Lineart is the starter, keep an eye on former 2-time MVP QB Kurt Warner, who will push for playing time at some point this season.

Saints RB's- RB Reggie Bush will need to carry the load with a banged-up RB Deuce McCallister, back-up RB Pierre Thomas has looked very good in training camp so far.

Rookie 1st Round premieres of Saints DT Sedric Ellis and Cardinals CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie

Here is a Live-Blog of the 1st-Half of the game:

QB Drew Brees looks good, completed a couple of short passes and got the ball out in time before preventing a sack, his "out pattern" throws have good zip on them.

RB Reggie Bush says he "likes to run up the middle because he doesn't have speed to get outside"; run middle for no yards, run right for 9 yards and 1st down, and screen pass for 1 yard; 3 consecutive plays.

QB Drew Brees looks GOOD, just led a 13-play drive going 6 for 7; 35 yards and a 7-yard TD pass to WR David Patten. Brees had good protection, was patient and lofted a perfect pass into coverage for Patten to come down with the score. Note: New-look Arizona defense got "walked all over".

Saints 7-0.

On 3rd-8, QB Matt Leinart moves around in pocket, hits WR Jamaica Rector for 23 yards.

WR Anquan Bolden is OUT tonight, RB Edgerrin James has 2 carries for 5 yards.

Saints LB Mark Simoneau runs right through OT Levi Brown for a QB Sack.

QB Drew Brees is done for the night, insert new back-up and long time QB Mark Brunell.

Tough luck for RB Reggie Bush, TWO long Bush runs (13 and 17 yards) brought back on Offensive "Hold" penalties, both times Bush made something out of nothing.

Right after I was going to write that the Cardinals offense looks "bad", Leinart throws a 34-yard crossing pass on 3rd-5 to WR Steve Breaston to finish the 1st Quarter.

Saints 7-0

A lot of excitement from the coaching staff for Cardinals rookie RB Tim Hightower, who rushes right for a 2-yard TD.
Tied 7-7

RB Pierre Thomas, who has a lot of people buzzing right now, returns a kick-off 57 yards before being dragged down out of bounds by the Cardinals kicker.

QB Matt Leinart finishes the night 7 for 8; 91 yards on two drives.

QB Brian St. Pierre comes in for the Cardinals, looks like QB Kurt Warner is out.

At this point there has been a lot of penalties and mistakes from both teams on this current drive. Most of the 2nd/3rd string players are in and its noticeable.

Note: There has only been about 57 references to QB Brett Favre and the Jets

K Neil Rackers boots a 30-yard FG

Cardinals 10-7

Welcome to the NFL Saints WR Robert Meachem! The 2007 1st Round Pick (Tennessee) who missed the entire last season, hauls in a 49-yard catch from Brunell to inside the 10 yard line. He has 2 catches on the drive.

Saints go for it on 4th-goal on the 1-yard line, RB Pierre Thomas gets STUFFED by Cardinals rookie LB Ali Highsmith (LSU)

Cardinals 10-7 at Halftime

This concludes the 1st Half Live Blogging of the game...

Fantasy Football: Running Backs

The Running Back position is one of the most sought and most important positions on any Fantasy Football team. A star player will get 20-30 touches a game, opportunities to score touchdowns, and the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. While RB's seem to be a dime a dozen nowadays, with a shelf life career average of 3-4 years in the league, finding a good back can carry your entire team.

Factors to consider when drafting a RB: is he a starter or back-up; is he used in goal line situations; receiving skills; type of offense used; is there running back by committee; does he play for a good team; and what does the offensive line and fullbacks look like blocking for said player.

Heading into the 2008 season, who are the Top 20 Fantasy Football Running Backs?

Top 5

1. LaDainian Tomlinson (Chargers) Compared to his record breaking 2006 MVP season, 2007 was a disappointment, but he still led all RB's with 1474 rushing yards and 19 TD's. He's never caught less than 50 passes in a season in his entire career either. Despite coming off an injury, expect Tomlinson to once again be one of the best overall fantasy players.

2. Adrian Peterson (Vikings) Nobody expected the rookie to put up 1341 yards and 13 TD's last season. He has one of the best Offensive Lines blocking, will play for a contending team, but will have to split reps with RB Chester Taylor to stay healthy. Still a Top 5 draft pick in Fantasy.

3. Joseph Addai (Colts) Indy's top back racked up 1072 yards and 15 TD's in 2007. Its hard to root against an offense that is led by QB Payton Manning. Addai will get the numbers but will have to share some of the load with RB Dominic Rhodes, recently returned from Oakland.

4. Brian Westbrook (Eagles) In leagues that reward 1 point per reception, Westbrook is an elite back. He is a mismatch for defenders and posted 1333 yards rushing with 90 catches and 771 yards receiving, 12 TD's. QB Donovan McNabb is back and fully healthy and will keep the RB the focal point of the offense.

5. Frank Gore (49ers) OC Mike Martz has come to town and is going to do whatever possible to turn Gore into RB Marshall Faulk. Gore is a north-south runner and still ran for 1102 yards despite playing for the leagues worst offense and missing two games in 2007. He has come to training camp stronger, faster and determined to be an elite RB in the league.

The Rest of the Best

6. Marion Barber III (Cowboys) Leader of 2-back pack, Dallas will score, and score a lot
7. Clinton Portis (Redskins) Should improve on 11 TD's last year with new Jim Zorn offense
8. Larry Johnson (Chiefs) Will get the ball, but who is blocking for him?
9. Steven Jackson (Rams) Has not shown up for camp yet, and that's not good
10. Marshawn Lynch (Bills) Talented back but needs to get in the End Zone more
11. Laurence Maroney (Patriots) Hot/Cold but does play for the Patriots
12. Reggie Bush (Saints) Needs to adjust to being feature back, worked hard this offseason
13. Willis McGahee (Ravens) Has to stay healthy, his OL is weak and may share carries
14. Ryan Grant (Packers) Huge Fantasy surprise, will be relied on with no Favre in GB
15. Jamal Lewis (Browns) Has a lot left in the tank, will be playing for a contender
16. Thomas Jones (Jets) Sleeper Alert, new Pro Bowl FB and OL blocking, and FAVRE
17. Maurice Jones-Drew (Jaguars) Shares carries with Fred Taylor, still good though
18. Ronnie Brown (Dolphins) Should be a breakout season with new look Miami
19. Willie Parker (Steelers) Must regain 2006 status, and fight off rookie Mendenhall
20. Edgerrin James (Cardinals) Great fantasy pick in 2005, but will still get carries

Rookies to look out for:

Ray Rice (Ravens)
Jonathan Stewart (Panthers)
Darren McFadden (Raiders)
Kevin Smith (Lions)
Matt Forte (Bears)
Chris Johnson (Titans)
Rashard Mendenhall (Steelers)
Felix Jones (Cowboys)

Early Looks: CB Malcolm Jenkins (Ohio State)

One of the most hyped players heading into the 2008 season and the 2009 NFL Draft is Ohio State Defensive Back Malcolm Jenkins. The 6'1'' 208 pound player has been a huge reason that the Buckeyes have participated in the past two BCS Championship games.

His freshman year, Jenkins played mostly nickelback and finished with 37 tackles in 10 games. 2006 moved him to the starting cornerback position where he played in all 13 games, finishing with 55 tackles, 4 INT's and All-Big Ten honors. Last season, Jenkins was a bona fide play maker logging 47 tackles, 4 INT's and 2nd-team All-American.

When watching Jenkins, he possesses excellent speed and good size. He can play man-to-man coverage with big/small receivers, plays smarts, shows good instincts, and can play either corner or safety. He is a tough player that plays through minor injuries and rarely takes plays off. Jenkins can make open field tackles, is not afraid to lay a hit of a ball carrier, and consistently shows good body control. He needs to work on not being too aggressive and giving up catches underneath, as well as recovering on the deep routes if a receiver gets behind him.

2009 Draft Outlook: Baring any injury, Jenkins should be a Top 10 draft pick next April and the 1st cornerback selected. He is the closest thing to a 'shutdown corner' in college football and will be a hot commodity in post season all-star games and awards. He compares to CB Champ Bailey (Broncos). The future looks bright for this Buckeye.

J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets!

As everyone and their mom now knows, QB Brett Favre is now a New York Jet. The response from the rest of the world: "Whew, about time! We are so sick and tired of hearing about him!"

It's bizarre to think that there are actually 31 other NFL teams right now in training camp with position battles, injury updates, player holdouts, and news worthy stories, yet all have been trumped by the continuing saga of #4 and the 'he said, she said' battle between the Green Bay Packers, agent Bus Cook, head coach Jon Gruden and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

In the end, Favre is going to the "other" team in New Jersey.

Head Coach Eric Mangini and the NY Jets have had a major overhaul this offseason, and who can blame them when you play in the same division as the New England Patriots.

Added are: Pro Bowler's FB Tony Richardson (Vikings) and OG Alan Faneca (Steelers); LB Calvin Pace (Cardinals), DT Kris Jenkins (Panthers), TE Bubba Franks (Packers), and OT Damien Woody (Lions).

Adding Favre will bring instant credibility to the offense and build confidence throughout the team. While the verdict is still out on how effective he can learn a new offense and play at the age of 38 years old, there is no question that his acquisition will improve the Jets football team.

The only concern: The Madden Football '09 curse! Yep, Brett is still the cover boy...

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

NFL Training Camps: QB Battles

Unless your name is Peyton Manning (160 consecutive starts) or Tom Brady (110 consecutive starts), every year Quarterbacks must compete to earn or maintain their starting job for an NFL team. It is the most important position on the field and is a major factor in the success of a given team. While there are 32 starting positions available, it is not always a guarantee that a QB will start every game in a particular season. Heck, Brett Favre is having a hard time getting his NFL record 254th consecutive start.

Here is an update on the QB Battles heading into the 2008 season:

Miami Dolphins: Josh McCown vs. John Beck vs. Chad Henne

The Dolphins have waited nine years to find their replacement for Hall of Fame QB Dan Marino, and it looks like they may have to wait even longer. Henne should eventually be the "guy", but in the mean time, McCown is edging out Beck for back-up-QB that will get to start Week 1.

New York Jets: Chad Pennington vs. Kellen Clemens vs. (Brett Favre?)

An expensive new Offensive Line should help any of the QB's who get the job. Pennington has a ton of experience but is a banana peel away from another injury. This team should be begging future Hall of Fame QB Brett Favre to move to Jersey, it's the only way they'll have a chance against that other future Hall of Fame QB Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.

Baltimore Ravens: Kyle Boller vs. Joe Flacco vs. Troy Smith

New HC John Harbaugh made Boller the starting QB for the first preseason game against the Patriots due to "a nod to experience and seniority". While all three QB's have looked okay in camp, none have stepped up as the leader in the clubhouse yet. Boller's 40 career starts is the only thing giving him a 'slight' edge.

Chicago Bears: Rex Grossman vs. Kyle Orton

HC Lovie Smith has named Orton the starter for the 1st Preseason game against the Chiefs. While Bears fans would rather see a Chicago Cubs pitcher whirling the pigskin around instead, Orton has had the advantage so far in camp. That makes it a 51-49 race for the starting role.

Atlanta Falcons: Chris Redman vs. Matt Ryan vs. Joey Harrington

A healthy (and prison-free) Michael Vick could probably beat all of these QB's out with his non-throwing hand. But while the "future"QB Ryan wants to start right away, he may need to wait a little longer for playing time. HC Mike Smith is going to see if Ryan 'takes' the job, or if they should side on using caution for the rookie, and start the veteran Redman instead.

San Francisco 49ers: Alex Smith vs. Shaun Hill vs. J.T O'Sullivan

After eleven days of camp, this battle looks to be in a 3-way tie. Each QB possesses strengths/weaknesses that the others don't. OC Mike Martz is becoming impatient with the learning curve needed for his complex offense. It seems that GM Scot McCloughan wants Smith, HC Mike Nolan wants Hill and OC Martz wants O'Sullivan. All three must decide on the same QB and decide soon.

Green Bay Packers: Aaron Rodgers vs. Brett Favre

While the idea of a legit competition changes every 30 seconds for this team, the Packers seem to have made it clear that Rodgers is the guy. Rodgers will need to earn nothing short of a Super Bowl berth and Pro Bowl invitation to truly "win" this QB competition, even if Favre is gone.

Other "starting" Quarterbacks feeling the pressure:

Matt Leinart (Arizona Cardinals)
Brodie Croyle (Kansas City Chiefs)
Tavaras Jackson (Minnesota Vikngs)
Matt Schaub (Houston Texans)

University of Oregon Fall Camp: Day 1

Day one of the Oregon Ducks fall camp provided the first opportunity for both coaches and players to get acclimated with each other on the practice field before the regular season kicks off August 30th against Washington. As is customary with the first day of anything, there was obvious rust and the occasional mental lapse, but all in all it was a very encouraging day. The battle for the number one spot atop the quarterback depth chart continued where it left off in the spring, with Sophomores Nate Costa and Justin Roper (pictured left) essentially splitting the number of reps with the first team offense. While it appears that Costa maintains the slight edge over Roper so far on the depth chart, both quarterbacks performed equally well throughout the day.

“Nate (Costa) was sharper in drills,” said Oregon Head Coach Mike Bellotti. “Justin (Roper) was sharper in the 7-on-7’s.”

Costa at this point seems to be the most accurate of the two, displaying good touch and appropriate velocity on short and intermediate routes. Roper seemed to struggle a bit in this area, misfiring on a number of receiver screens, though he did exhibit impressive arm strength and accuracy on passes of 15 yards or more. Both quarterbacks showed nice mobility too. While neither will evoke visions of Dennis Dixon, Costa (who showed no ill affects from an ACL injury suffered last season) and Roper proved elusive when flushed out of the pocket. Most surprising was the mobility displayed by Roper, who during one particular sequence, escaped a blitzing linebacker and scrambled for a nice gain that would have garnered an easy first down.

Senior Jeremiah Johnson appears to be completely healthy as he led the running backs in a variety of drills today. After going down with a torn ACL against Washington State last year, Johnson showed no difficulty whatsoever running and cutting on his surgically repaired left knee. He also proved to be capable of outrunning defenders to the edge and showed great agility and burst in traffic. In addition to this, Johnson also had a number of impressive catches coming out the backfield.

“Jeremiah has that ability to scoot and accelerate that I like,” commented Bellotti of Johnson’s skill-set

The defensive backfield looked particularly opportunistic today, feasting on a few of the throwing errors made by the quarterbacks. Junior cornerback Walter Thurmond III had a couple of interceptions that likely would have gone for scores if he were playing in a game. Additionally, wide receivers looked solid with Seniors Jaison Williams and Terrance Scott along with Sophomore Jeff Maehl showing good hands and explosiveness after the catch. Scott particularly stood out with some difficult grabs near the sideline on poorly thrown balls. Finally, Junior cornerback Jairus Byrd and Sophomore wide receiver Aaron Pflugrad appear to be the front runners for the number one job at punt returner. Both were seen fielding punts today from Senior punter Josh Syria as UO Strength and Conditioning Coach, Jim Radcliffe, looked on.

Notes: Bellotti announced that freshman cornerback, Kenjon Barner has cleared NCAA entry requirements, allowing him to join the team for Monday afternoon’s newcomer practice.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Pre-Season Football (Live-Blogging) Colts vs. Redskins

The 2008 NFL Pre-Season started with the unexpected: an on-side kick. The Indianapolis Colts and Washington Redskins are duking it out in the Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio.

Live-Blogging during the 1st Half of the game:

As expected, a lot of the stars are OUT: QB Peyton Manning, DE Jason Taylor, RB Clinton Portis, SS LaRon Landry, WR Marvin Harrison, DE Dwight Freeney, and FS Bob Sanders.

Packers QB Brett Favre lands in Green Bay. Expect a lot of Favre talk with John Madden and Adam Sheftner calling the game for NBC.

Redskins QB Jason Campbell came out firing with a 20-yard TD to WR Antwaan Randle El. He looks good in the pocket, has good zip on his passes but did take a sack. (5 for 5; 61 yards passing).

Colts QB Jim Sorgi only played one series, completing multiple passes to TE Dallas Clark. With each team playing five pre-season games, expect both starting QB's to play only sparingly.

Redskins 7-0.

Colts RB Joseph Addai seems to have a head injury, seems okay but unlikely to return to the game (Fantasy Football owners breath a sigh of relief).

Colts K Adam Vinatieri boots a field goal, he'll most likely be enshrined in Canton someday himself.

Redskins 7-3.

Colts WR Anthony Gonzalez gets stopped a yard short on 3rd down. He needs to know to run his route past the 1st down yard marker. He is expected to be a big part of the offense in 2008.

Redskins RB Rock Cartwright looks good, is hitting the holes hard and getting good yardage.

The Colts 2nd/3rd string offense looks rusty, C Jamie Richards just hiked the ball through the End Zone for a Safety.

Redskins 9-3.

It is curious to see how Redskins back-up QB Todd Collins does in new Head Coach Jim Zorn's offense. So far, he has time in the pocket but is hesitant with the ball (Note: Collins is sacked as I am writing this).

Colts PR T.J Rushing gets a potential 63 yard punt return for a TD called back on a holding call. Rushing showed good speed getting around the corner and tip-toeing down the sidelines.

Brett Favre reference total: 3

Colts QB Quinn Gray rolls out and makes a nice 30 yard TD pass to WR Onrea Jones. Gray has been inconsistent so far in the game but uses a good play action pass to hit an open Jones for the score.

Colts 10-9.

Special Teams are always some of the best pre-season action to watch as guys are fighting for their jobs out there. We've seen some big hits and great hustle so far.

Redskins rookie TE Fred Davis (USC) just made his 1st catch for 8 yards. Along with Pro Bowl TE Chris Cooley and TE Todd Yoder, Washington should be strong at this position.

Redskins rookie RB Marcus Mason (Youngstown St) has looked good running the ball up the middle. He is getting to the 2nd level quickly and picking up 1st downs on north/south running (He has 7 carries for 44 yards; a 6.3 yards-per-carry avg).

Redskins DE Jason Taylor has 100.5 sacks since 2000; John Madden is recommending to the audience to take up ballroom dancing to lose weight. Taylor is down to 5% total body fat.

Redskins K Shaun Suisham misses 39-yard Field Goal (wide right).

Colts QB Quinn Gray looks rough in two-minute drill, over throwing multiple receivers. He does evade the pass rush and launches a 47-yard pass to WR Courtney Roby to the 5 yard line with 5 seconds to go in the half.

Colts K Adam Vinatieri kicks a 22-yard FG.

Halftime; Colts 13-9.

This concludes the Live-Blogging from the first Pre-Season game of 2008.

Detroit Lions Training Camp

Posted by: Darrin Ackerman

My observations from attending the Detroit Lions practice on Friday:

Coach Marinelli is known for running a tough training camp so it was worth noting that this was the second practice in a row without pads. Either things are going well or Coach Rod thinks his players are getting too nicked up.

After iron man center Dominic Raiola experienced a minor injury this week and six fumbled snaps later by his probable replacements, the Lions realized they had no viable backups on the roster and quickly signed veterans Andy McCollum and Nick Jones. Both spent extensive time practicing snaps with the Lions QB’s.

The Lions have made no secret about their desire to run the football more since ‘pass-happy’ former OC Mike Martz left town. The running backs and quarterbacks spent a lot of time working on play-action. They also practiced several plays with a lead fullback, something they didn’t do very often during the Martz years.

Second-year player Ikaika Alama-Francis is clearly the most athletically-gifted defensive lineman on the team. At 6-5 and 280 pounds, Francis showed outstanding speed and explosion for his size. If he continues to improve his technique, he will be a player to watch this season. Alama-Francis was a walk-on at Hawaii and did not play football in high school.

Just because he had a meager rookie year, don’t fall asleep on Calvin Johnson - he is worthy of the hype. His quick cuts and and the ability to move in and out of his breaks with ease are especially remarkable when considering his size (6-5, 230 lbs.). If the Lions can get the running game going to open up things downfield, expect a 1300-plus yard, double-digit touchdown season from Johnson.

Third-year running back Brian Calhoun looks faster and more explosive than he ever has since being drafted in the third round out of Wisconsin in 2006. Calhoun, who has suffered knee injuries during his first two seasons, has the look of a viable third-down weapon to add to the Lions’ arsenal.

Rookie defensive end Cliff Avril continues to impress in camp. Clocked at 4.51 while at the combine, there are few questions about his speed, but he showed much better explosion off the snap than when I watched him on tape from last season.

Kevin Smith, the rookie running back out of Central Florida, practiced almost exclusively with the first team. One thing I noticed about Smith is his excellent vision – he always keeps his head up and is looking for the open hole. He also did a solid job in pass protection.

It looks as though the Lions did indeed upgrade their horrendous secondary with the acquisition of cornerback Leigh Bodden. Bodden was picked up from Cleveland in the Shaun Rogers trade and he is without a doubt the best corner on the team. His ability to break quickly on the ball allowed him to snag several interceptions in practice and his physical style is a good fit for the Tampa 2 defense.

Rookie fullback Jerome Felton out of Furman may end up being the starting fullback on opening day. Felton showed good speed and hands and is a physical blocker.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Fantasy Football: Quarterbacks

A football team's success relies heavily on the success of it's Quarterback. The same can be said for Fantasy Football. Heading into the 2008 season, you won't find a team ranked in the upper tier of the league that has questions at the QB position. For fantasy reasons, you need a play caller that is consistent, stays healthy, has offensive play makers around him, and can lead his team into the end zone. Passing yards equal points, so it helps to have a gunslinger on a pass happy team as well.

Who are the Top 5 Fantasy QB's heading into 2008?

1. Tom Brady (Patriots) It'll be difficult to follow up his 2007 season where he threw for 4806 yards and 50 TD's. He has not missed a start in the past six years nor has he thrown for fewer than 3500 yards in any of those seasons. He will remain reliable and the Patriots have the easiest schedule this year. His supporting cast led by WR Randy Moss and WR Wes Welker are still the best in the league.

2. Peyton Manning (Colts) An injured knee will not keep Manning from having another great fantasy football season. He has 10 straight years of more than 3700 yards passing and has thrown at least 31 TD's in each of the past two seasons. Look for another big season as the Colts continue to be a contender in the AFC.

3. Tony Romo (Cowboys) While girlfriend Jessica Simpson sings praises that Romo is "her Sunday", so will we come this Fall. 4211 yards passing and 38 TD's in 2007; he will once again lead one of the most talented teams in the NFL with WR Terrell Owens and TE Jason Whitten. Expect a dominant defense to keep the Cowboys in good field position and a barking Owens to make sure Romo gets his numbers and TD's.

4. Drew Brees (Saints) Despite the distractions in their 2007 offense with injuries, disappointing play and departed players, Brees actually had a better year than his previous one when he led the Saints to the NFC Championship game in 2006. Enter a healthy WR Marques Coleston, a determined RB Reggie Bush and new big target TE Jeremy Shockey, and expect Brees to have a huge season.

5. Ben Roethlisberger (Steelers) In his first season with HC Mike Tomlin, Big Ben improved his passing TD total from 20 in 2006 to 34 in 2007. Add the fact that he also threw at least one TD in every game and at least two TD's in nine starts, expect him to enter 2008 with the guns firing. A healthy WR Santonio Holmes, reliable WR Hines Ward, consistent TE Heath Miller and rookie standout WR Limas Sweed, should help make Ben a top Fantasy choice.

The next 5 should be:

6. Derek Anderson (Browns) Must have big season with QB Brady Quinn waiting in wings
7. Carson Palmer (Bengals) His WR's are playing for contracts, meaning big numbers
8. Matt Hasslebeck (Seahawks) HC Holmgren wants to throw, and throw often
9. Eli Manning (Giants) He's a Manning, but needs to have some new targets step up
10. Phillip Rivers (Chargers) Leads top talented team in NFL, just needs to manage it

Injury Comebacks:

11. Donovan McNabb (Eagles) Must stay healthy or he'll lose his job to QB Kevin Kolb
12. Jake Delhomme (Panthers) Do or die year for Panthers, has weapons to be successful 13. Marc Bulger (Rams) Is consistent when healthy, needs help from young WR's

Something to Prove:

14. Aaron Rodgers (Packers) Good luck, the Favre monkey on your back is the size of a gorilla
15. Vince Young (Titans) Has the skills to be an all around great, hasn't shown it yet
16. Tavaris Jackson (Vikings) Rest of the team is Super Bowl ready, are you?

Sleeper Picks:

17. Trent Edwards (Bills) Potential to have a big year with a TON of young weapons around him
18. Matt Schaub (Texans) Needs to correct his mistakes and stay healthy
19. Alex Smith (49ers) Two words: Mike Martz; either going to be a home run or strikeout
20. Jason Campbell (Redskins) It's a coin-flip here, his help are mostly rookies

The NFL Offseason Widget