The 2012 NFL Draft is finally finished and now all the experts are breaking down the big winners and losers, but what teams made the biggest improvements with all their off-season moves? Here is a breakdown of the top teams this off-season and what moves they made to make their fans excited about the 2012-13 season.
On the Rise
Buffalo Bills – Chan Gailey’s bunch is certainly worth mentioning as a team on the rise. The Bills made some impressive roster moves since the end of last year. The team added pass rush specialist Mario Williams during free agency and followed that up with a terrific draft. Corner Stephon Gilmore will solidify the Bills secondary and adding offensive lineman Cordy Glenn in round two was a terrific move as he can play either guard position and will give Buffalo some much-needed depth on their line.
Dallas Cowboys – The ‘Boys have been a trendy pick for the past several years and fans constantly hear how the their team is set to become contenders for a Super Bowl title, but they haven’t been able to avoid a late season swoon. However, after the moves the team made this off-season, 2013 could become their year to get over the hump. Dallas has terrific talent on offense, but defensively they have suffered with their lack of pass defense, but with free agent corner Brandon Carr now on the roster and the team trading up in the draft to take Morris Claiborne, Dallas is set in the secondary and it allows the ‘Boys’ to pay their blitz style defense with great effectiveness.
Philadelphia Eagles – The “dream team” entered the 2011-12 season as a favorite to win the Super Bowl as the Eagles added several talented free agents, but the defense didn’t play well and the team chemistry was missing in the first half of the season and it cost the team a shot at the playoffs. This year the team has added tackling machine DeMarco Ryan at linebacker and with the draft choices of Fletcher Cox, Mychal Kendricks, and Vinny Curry this team has added depth and talent all across their defensive roster and will enter the season looking to overtake the New York Giants as the best team in the NFC East.
Combining youth and veteran players doesn’t always mix, but these three NFL teams have added the pieces necessary to become winners. Improvements might be slow, but with moves like these this off-season, it won’t be long before fans of these teams have reason to cheer.
Cincinnati Bengals - While most teams hope to add depth and a couple starters from a draft, the Cincinnati Bengals could have added the best group of youngsters in 2012 with their selections. The Bengals made huge strides last year and did so with rookie quarterback Andy Dalton and receiver A.J. Green, but the players they added over this past weekend could surpass the class of 2011.
The front office added talent all across their roster and it started in round one with the picks of corner Dre Kirkpatrick of Alabama and guard Kevin Zeitler from Wisconsin. Both players will jump into the starting rotation and give the Bengals more talent then they currently have on their roster.
San Francisco 49ers - As I said in my post a few days ago, the 49ers were one of the biggest surprises in the NFL last season and I expected a lot from them in the draft. For me, I feel they left something to be desired with their selections. Frankly, I feel like they reached early for some guys that probably would have been available in later rounds. Just some odd picks. A.J. Jenkins is a good football player, but better than Alshon Jefferey, Rueben Randle and a host of other wide receivers? I don’t think so. LaMichael James is a peculiar pick too. Not bad value, but not great either so why take a player who plays a position of absolute strength if it’s only moderate value? I like the Darius Fleming and Cam Johnson picks. Just some odd ball picks early for me.
Jacksonville Jaguars - You can’t draft a punter in the third round and not be held accountable. I don’t even hate the move as much as everyone else because the way I see it if he’s a really good punter then you got a guy who can play the position the next 15 years–and no other 3rd round pick will give you that longevity. Still I find it hard to believe that he would have been drafted by anyone else in the third, and probably even the fourth round. This is the very definition of a reach–getting a guy you could not get if you waited. I also don’t love Justin Blackmon or the Andre Branch fit. None of the day three picks excite me.
Seattle Seahawks - I will probably be battled on this, but I didn’t like what the Seahawks did here. We’ll see. Pete Carroll has done a solid job despite going against the grain before. Still right now Bruce Irvin is Aaron Maybin coming out of college. Can the Seahawks get him to be more? I like the Jaye Howard and Winston guy picks, the rest I would have gone a different direction.
What They’re Saying
As for the other teams in the draft, here’s what the experts are saying:
CBS Sports Draft Grades
The first round of the 2012 NFL Draft has come and gone (in just over 3 hours), teams are now settling in and getting ready for the second and third rounds, which will take place tonight. Outside of the first two spots occupied by Andrew Luck and RG III, the first round was highlighted by a flurry of activity with teams wheeling and dealing to jockey for positioning to get the player(s) they coveted. In fact, the wheeling and dealing began roughly 45 minutes prior to Andrew Luck being announced as the first pick. The Cleveland Browns — who started the night with 13 picks — traded the fourth pick over all and their fourth-, fifth- and seventh-rounders to take over the Minnesota Vikings’ third overall pick (detailed below). Apparently concerned that another team was going to try to get in front of them, the Browns made the move to select Alabama running back Trent Richardson. That was the first of a record 19 trades, the most since 1970, including two out-of-character moves up by the New England Patriots, which they used to shore up their defense.
The trades were made easier and more appealing by the rookie wage system that went into place when the new collective bargaining agreement was agreed to last summer. That system reduced the price tag of the top picks by about half from what they were paid before the new deal, reversing the trend of just two years ago, when the price of the top few picks was so prohibitive that nobody wanted them.
Here’s a breakdown of each one of the trades made in round 1 on Thursday night:
- Cleveland gives up a 4th, 5th and 7th round pick to Minnesota to move up from 1.4 to 1.3 - Minnesota made a killing! They got 3 picks for a player they clearly were not going to draft by simply threatening Cleveland with the idea that they could make a deal with someone else to jump up and get Trent Richardson. Minnesota gets the player they were going to take at 3 anyhow at 4 and now add 3 more picks. Nice move for them. Cleveland better hope Richardson is the real deal and is another Adrian Peterson-like performer o else they got fleeced on this one, big time.
- Jacksonville gives 4th rounder to Tampa Bay move up from 1.7 to 1.5 - Huge move for Jacksonville! They got what they see as the best offensive playmaker in the receiving game and they only had to give up a 4th rounder to do it!
- Dallas gives up a 2nd rounder to St. Louis move up from 1.14 to 1.6 -Bold trade by Dallas. They saw that Tampa Bay moved back to #7 and they immediately trade up in front of them to nab Morris Claiborne. Getting the best CB in the draft is worth giving up their 2nd rounder. As for the Rams, they have turned the #2 pick into the #14 pick and 2 second rounders this year and 2 first rounders next year. Awesome job by a team with lots of needs!
- Philadelphia gives up a 4th and 6th round pick to move up from 1.15 to 1.12 – Seattle does well to get a 4th and 6th rounder to only move down 3 spots. Good move for them. But the Eagles get arguably a top-8 player in this draft in Fletcher Cox and only have to give up two late round picks to move up to get him. That is the definition of a great trade!
- New England gives up a 3rd round pick to move up from 1.27 to 1.21 – We are so used to seeing New England move down and get better picks or future picks, that I am surprised to see them move up for once. They know what they are doing. And only giving up a 3rd rounder to end up with Chandler Jones is a hell of a move. Being the anti-Boston fan I hate them!…..but damn they are smart and good at what they do during the draft.
- New England gives up a 4th rounder to move up from 1.31 to 1.25 – And the rich just keep getting richer. After one heck of a move to get Jones they land Hightower for simply a 4th rounder to move up. I am sick. Nice job New England.
- Minnesota gives up a 4th rounder to move up from 2.03 to 1.29 – The trade itself was fair for both sides. But I did not like the selection for Minnesota. Baltimore does a nice job to fall back only 6 or so picks and get a player that is the same caliber of what they would have picked at 29 while adding another 4th rounder.
- Tampa Bay gives up a 4th rounder to move up from 2.05 to 1.3 1- Nice job by Tampa. They moved back and still got Barron then used the pick Jacksonville gave them to move up in order to move up here and select the second best RB in the draft. Hell of a job working the board by TB.
Now that I’ve taken a look at the trades from round 1, it’s time for the winners and losers despite it being way to early to make any such determination but what the hell? Let’s do it anyway!
Minnesota Vikings – Able to trade down one spot, still get the player they wanted.
Pittsburgh Steelers – The Steelers are great at evaluating players and the really good ones tend to fall in their laps. This year was no different when they grabbed David DeCastro at #24
San Francisco 49ers – The surprise team of 2011 surprised everyone with the selection of WR A.J. Jenkins at #30. Jenkins is a very good receiver who might start at the next level. The question here is whether his value justified the selection.
What can we expect when rounds 2 and 3 get started tonight at 7:00PM? More trades? We’ll all have to tune in and find out. I’ll be back tomorrow to give my winners and losers just as I did today.
A very happy and prosperous New Year to each and every one of you. This afternoon while nursing my Ne Year’s Eve hangover, I watched all the happenings of of Week 17 with the rest of America and thought to myself, how much did we really learn that we didn’t already know?
Backing in to the playoffs isn’t such a bad thing: The Cincinnati Bengals, Denver Broncos, and Houston Texans all backed in to post-season play despite unimpressive performances down the stretch including Week 17. However, if any of these teams win next weekend, no one will remember how badly they stumbled into the dance.
Backing in is better than not getting in at all: Just ask the Jets. Yeah, I know. That goes without saying. Twenty other teams would love to be in the position that the playoff bound teams are in no matter if you backed in or steamrolled in like the Green Bay Packers.
Santonio Holmes was not on the field for the closing minutes of the Jets' season-ending loss, and a team source said the captain "quit" on his team. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Mark Sanchez, Rex Ryan, and the Jets are all overrated: Remember when Mark Sanchez led the Jets to back-to-back AFC Championship games? Remember when Rex Ryan garunteed a Super Bowl prior to this season? Yeah, well, the bottom fell out of all of that for the Jets. How bad was it? Sanchez was intercepted three times and Santonio Holmes, who happens to be one of the offensive captains along with Sanchez, was benched following an argument in the huddle. In fact, after the game, one unnamed Jets teammate said Holmes “quit” on the team. Furthermore, sources tell ESPN senior NFL analyst Chris Mortensen the Jets are leaning towards revamping their offensive coaching staff, despite an organizational philosophy of stability. There’s definitely turmoil surrounding the Jets and its safe to say the honeymoon period is over for Rex and the Jets.
Matt Fynn is going to get paid: No Aaron Rodgers, no problem. The 15-1 Green Bay Packers didn’t miss a beat with Rodgers holding the clipboard and Matt Flynn under center. The former LSU draftee completed 31 of 44 passes for 480 yards and six touchdowns. Wow! Flynn is the only quarterback other than Brett Favre or Rodgers to start for the Packers in the last 20 years, and he had better stats today than either of them ever had in more than 300 combined starts. Mr. Flynn is going to get paid big bucks in free agency next year. The only question is, where?
Tim Tebow is not the answer: The Broncos are going to the playoffs even if they aren’t a particularly good team. Their third straight loss puts them at 8-8 for the season and will raise further questions about Tim Tebow’s long-term viability as a starting quarterback.
This was one of the more wretched big game performances you are going to see out of a passing game. Tebow completed 6-of-22 for 60 yards and average of 2.7 yards-per-attempt. He was intercepted once and lost a fumble when in scoring range. Tebow was 30-for-73 with one touchdown and four picks in the last three weeks. He has seven fumbles in his last four games. That should be a clear indication for John Elway to start backing up the truck load of money in Matt Fynn’s driveway.
The Raiders are still the Raiders: Many fans in Raider Nation thought this would be the year the Raiders would snap out of it and make the playoffs for the first time since 2002. Instead, the Raiders aren’t going to the playoffs after losing three of their last four games. The Broncos left the door wide open for the Raiders to sneak in the back door and all the Raiders had to do was beat the Chargers at home and they couldn’t do it. Yup, the Raiders are still… the Raiders.
The injuries continue to mount for the Texans, Steelers: Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger returned to action following a high ankle sprain but despite is return, the injuries tontinue to mount for the Steelers. Running back Rashard Mendenhall went down with a knee injury in the first quarter against the Cleveland Browns. He was tackled at the end of a carry and immediately grabbed his knee in obvious pain. He limped off the field and then to the locker room and did not return. After the game, head coach Mike Tomlin acknowledged the injury appears to be significant and has already been ruled out of next weeks playoff game at Denver. Reports indicate it could be a torn ACL for Mendenhall. They could also be without safety Ryan Clark on Saturday.
The Houston Texans used another quarterback on Sunday. It was the fourth different quarterback to line up under center for the AFC South champions this season. Third stringer T.J. Yates has started since taking over for backup quarterback Matt Leinart in week 13 due to injury. Leinart started week 12′s game against Jacksonville following a season ending foot injury to franchise quarterback Matt Schaub one week prior. In week 17′s season finale against the Tennessee Titans, Yates was knocked out of the game first quarter on Sunday with a bruised left shoulder but could have returned, according to the Texans. Veterin Jake Delhomme took over for Yates and wasn’t bad for a guy who was on his couch a month ago. No matter, don’t expect Delhomme to start a playoff game next week. The Texans fully expect the rookie to be good to go against Cincinnati on Saturday.
The Giants are streaky, but are heading for the playoffs: In the NFL’s regular season finale, it was a winner take all NFC East championship game. Eli Manning and Victor Cruz lead the way as they did all season, and the New York Giants are headed to the playoffs.
And the Cowboys finish a frustrating season by losing to their division rival. There will be no playoffs in Dallas. Controversy always surrounds the Cowboys and Sunday night was no different. Tony Romo’s unsuccessful fourth-and-1 quarterback sneak deep in Giants territory in the fourth quarter on Sunday night was a costly failure in the Cowboys’ season-ending loss, and afterward Romo and Garrett were both asked who deserved the blame.
Simply put, Romo said, “The call comes from the sideline.”
Going for it on fourth down was the right call. But going through with the sneak, even after seeing that the Giants were lined up and ready for it, feels like a poor decision. Romo should have checked out of the play that Garrett called in from the sideline.
Now that the NFC East is decided, we finally can stop all of the wild and crazy potential playoff scenarios and seeding speculation. The field of 12 hopefuls is set and action begins on Saturday.
-4:30 PM (ET) NBC
-8:00 PM (ET) NBC
-1:00 PM (ET) FOX
-4:30 PM (ET) CBS
Can you believe it’s Thanksgiving?
Maybe it’s the unseasonably warm weather, or the absence of NBA games that were supposed to have already started, or that I haven’t heard a whole lot about this year’s Black Friday mega-deals, but it sure seems like Turkey Day snuck up on me this year.
Of course, you are probably almost as excited about watching an entire day of football as you are enjoying the best (and likely biggest) meal of the whole year and the company of loved ones.
Like cooking out and baseball on July 4th, and college football (and hopefully not too much of a hangover) on New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving and NFL football combine to make one of the greatest days of the year for sports fans.
This might be the best Thanksgiving football schedule that I can remember.
Packers @ Lions 12:30p.m. TV: Fox
NFL football on Thanksgiving Day in Detroit is a tradition that goes all the way back to the 1930s, but over the last decade the Lions have been out of the postseason race by Turkey Day.
This year is a little different.
The much-improved Detroit Lions will take on the red-hot Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers in the first of three exciting games scheduled on Thanksgiving Day.
Adding to the excitement of this game, the Packers come to Detroit as NFL’s only undefeated team left in the 2011 season, and they are the first unbeaten team to play on Thanksgiving in 50 years.
But this game will be no cake walk for the Pack.
This game is one of the most anticipated games in Detroit Lions football history in almost a decade, and the Lions come into this big Week 12 game with confidence.
Last year the Lions beat the Packers at Ford Field, after knocking QB Aaron Rodgers out of the game early. You can bet Lions DT Ndamukong Suh and the Detroit defense will be up for the challenge.
The pick: Lions in a shootout 37-34
Dolphins @ Cowboys 4:15p.m. TV: CBS
Just a few weeks ago, this game might have seemed like a dud, but the Dolphins have surged to 3 straight victories, including this past week’s 35-8 drubbing of the Buffalo Bills.
Once considered the frontrunners in the “Suck for Luck” sweepstakes, the Dolphins are showing signs of life and competing every week behind quarterback Matt Moore and Reggie Bush, who is starting to resemble the Reggie Bush of years past.
Dallas comes in at 6-4 and tied for the NFC East lead. Say what you will about the Cowboys’ postseason failures and Tony Romo’s lack of clutch play, the fact is that Romo and his team are dominant in November. In November, as a starter, Romo is 18-2 with 49 touchdown passes against only 12 interceptions in his career.
The Dolphins are going to come back to earth sometime, and I expect that to be now. On a short week, traveling to Dallas, Miami will struggle in all phases, and I see Dallas rolling over them and staying atop the NFC East.
The pick: Cowboys 27-16
49ers @ Ravens 8:20p.m. TV:NFL Network
Yours truly will have a first-hand front row seat for this one. The Brothers Harbaugh square off against one another for the first time as NFL head coaches, with Jim Harbaugh’s 49ers, a surprising 9-1 and the runaway leader of the NFC West traveling to face John Harbaugh’s Ravens, who are tied for the AFC North lead after beating the Cincinnati Bengals last week.
These teams are built similarly, with punishing defenses (the 49ers are 1st against the run, the Ravens are 3rd) and elite, multi-purpose running backs (Frank Gore and Ray Rice). The winner of this game will likely be the team who is able to have more success running against the other’s front 7.
Of concern for the Ravens is getting Rice consistent touches. This season, Rice has averaged just over 14 carries per game, which for a star back is not nearly enough. He is a valuable part of the receiving game too, with 51 receptions, but the Ravens need to find a way to establish Rice early and often.
The Ravens’ game plan lately has been a pass-heavy attack, but Joe Flacco is not Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees; he is not the type of quarterback who can give his team the best chance to win by consistently throwing over 35 times per game.
I think the 49ers will be able to run on Baltimore, especially if Ray Lewis were to miss the game (he is questionable currently with a toe injury that forced him to miss the Cincinnati game). As long as Alex Smith is able to play conservative, mistake-free football like he has done in the first 10 games this year, I think the 49ers win.
However, I’m having a hard time convincing myself that Alex Smith will be able to play conservative, mistake-free football for four quarters against the Ravens defense. Ray Lewis’ playing status changes things, but it doesn’t change the fact that Alex Smith must avoid the big mistake. I think the 49ers will give the Ravens all they can handle but in the end, it’s the Raven defense that makes the big play to gain victory.
The pick: 17-13 Ravens
We are now in the month of October, which can mean several things. Major League Baseball is now into postseason play, the majority of NFL teams have played a quarter of their regular season games, and the chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series title is nearing the end. Let’s pray to the higher powers that it isn’t Jimmie Johnson….again.
Here are my Top Three Performances from NFL Week 4:
1. QB Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay Packers): In a 49-23 beatdown of the Denver Broncos at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Aaron Rodgers not only stole the show through the air but he also looked stellar on the ground. To add to his performance of 408 passing yards and four touchdowns, Rodgers ran with ease on nine carries for 36 yards, and two rushing touchdowns. If only he would’ve had some recieving reps with backup quarterback Matt Flynn, this could’ve been the best performance of the 2011 season.
2. WR Hakeem Nicks (NY Giants): The more skepticism and criticism that seems to head in the way of the New York Giants, the better they play. Turns out that not only would Eli Manning show up but his fellow receiver Hakeem Nicks would play a factor in the Giants 31-27 road win against the Arizona Cardinals. Nicks would go on to tear up the Cardinals secondary with ten catches for 162 yards and one touchdown.
3. Baltimore Ravens Defense: On a chilly Sunday night in Baltimore, the New York Jets came in with alot of talk and confident swagger. Too bad that is all they could muster up, as the Baltimore Ravens defeated the Jets in an ugly yet exciting 34-17 home win. The Ravens defense stopped the Jets on a total of 150 offensive yards and returned three of four turnovers for touchdowns.
The MLB Postseason Divisional series took off on Friday night and continued throughout the weekend in excellent scheduling by TBS. Not only that but all games have been interesting to watch, including the Milwaukee Brewers early dominance in their divisional series versus the Arizona Diamondbacks. The only gripe I have with the playoff series so far is the suspension of the first game between the New York Yankees and the Detroit Tigers, as many baseball fans were denied of a classic ace pitching matchup between the Tigers Justin Verlander and the Yankees C.C. Sabathia.
NASCAR driver Kurt Busch got a huge win this past weekend at Dover International Speedway, moving him into a tie for 2nd place with Tony Stewart. They both trail the Sprint Cup leaders Carl Edwards and Kevin Harvick by nine points. With seven races left to go, it’ll be very difficult for defending champion Jimmie Johnson to bounce back with a thirteen point disadvantage, and the likes of Carl Edwards and Kevin Harvick aren’t slowing down anytime soon.
I am befuddled at the national media’s infatuation with the Dallas Cowboys and Tony Romo. It’s nothing personal, I just feel as if they do not deserve the recognition, especially with a 2-2 record. The Dallas Cowboys haven’t really accomplished anything relevant in the past several seasons. There are many great stories to cover at this point in the NFL season, mainly the surprise teams that have been performing at a high level (Lions, Bills, Raiders, etc.) but it is unfortunate that the overrated Dallas Cowboys are taking their publicity thunder. Until the Dallas Cowboys and Tony Romo accomplish something worth talking about instead of Romo’s cracked rib and latest girlfriend, they will get no writing from me unless they perform at their supposed “potential”.
There were a few things I did enjoy about last night’s WWE pay-per-view “Hell In A Cell”. I enjoyed the fact that Mark Henry retained the World Heavyweight Championship against Randy Orton, Beth Phoenix defeating Kelly Kelly for the Divas Championship, and Alberto Del Rio winning the WWE Championship in the main event against CM Punk and John Cena. But my favorite moment of the night goes to Intercontinental Champion Cody Rhodes for his unveiling of the classic Intercontinental title that was worn by the likes of Ricky Steamboat, Bret “The Hitman” Hart, and “Macho Man” Randy Savage. Even if wrestling fans don’t consider Cody Rhodes a top talent, the fact that he appreciates those that came before him truly earned points in my view.
Thank you for reading my blog this week! Surely next week we will be looking at the American and National League Championship match-ups in baseball, more NFL talk, and a possible look at some Heisman hopefuls. Feel free to check me out on Facebook (Joshua Collins Hall) or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org for any information regarding my blog and future projects. Enjoy your Monday night, I am out.
The 2011 NFL schedule enters Week 2 this Sunday, and as funny as it sounds, is this a “must win” week for some of the teams? In the NFL 16-game schedule, starting 0-2, or even worse 0-3, combined with playing in a tough division, you could be in trouble right away.
Indianapolis Colts – My, how the worm has turned! Staring 0-2 in the face, the Colts are an underdog this weekend at home to the Cleveland Browns. Yes, the Cleveland Browns! No Peyton Manning means a long season for the Colts, but if they can’t beat a team like the Browns at home and hold down the fort until Manning can return, then it could be Top 5 pick time for the Indianapolis Colts come April.
Dallas Cowboys – The Boys impressed a lot of doubters as they almost (and should have) beat the New York Jets last weekend in New York. This weekend they are in the “City by the Bay” to take on the San Francisco 49ers and the explosive Ted Ginn Jr. Playing in the same division with the Philadelphia Eagles, New York Giants, and surprising Washington Redskins, Dallas cannot afford an 0-2 start if they are thinking post season. Things could unravel in Big D starting 0-2.
New Orleans Saints – The Saints were in a barn burner last week versus the defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers, and even though it was voted the game of the week by NFL critics, the Saints would like to forget about it! New Orleans surely doesn’t want to lose this weekend to the Chicago Bears at home, dropping them to 0-2 on the season. The NFC West is much stronger this season with the 49ers and Cardinals improving.
So what do you think NFL fans, is there a such thing as a must-win in Week 2?
Everyone knows there are few guarantees in life. Except for the whole death-and-taxes thing.
When it comes to sports, the NFL in particular, such certainties are even more rare. I mean, teams routinely rise from worst-to-first in a one-year span and injuries and other uncontrollable variables can destroy the plans of even the seemingly most bulletproof of expected contenders. Raise your hand if you foresaw the Tampa Bay Buccaneers winning four more games than the Dallas Cowboys in 2010 last August.
With that premise in mind, it may be best not to get too sucked in over the incessant buildup of the Philadelphia Eagles, this season’s designated trendy choice to achieve Super Bowl glory, even as difficult as may be to downplay the enviable ensemble of talent the team has collected during its recent spending splurge.
There’s no debating the job head coach Andy Reid and general manager Howie Roseman did during the belated and frenzied signing period. The duo was able to stealthily move and land the biggest prize on this year’s free-agent market — cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha — and brought in two other quality pieces to an overhauled defense with the signings of linemen Cullen Jenkins and Jason Babin. And that doesn’t include the addition of proven corner Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, part of an admirable haul the Eagles were able to obtain in exchange for disposable second-string quarterback Kevin Kolb.
Philadelphia was even able to lure brand-name performers to fill in backup roles, snaring Titans castoff Vince Young and former No. 2 overall pick Ronnie Brown to provide strong depth at quarterback and running back, respectively.
Clear winners of this year’s offseason, now the Eagles’ challenge may be withstanding the challenge of sky-high presumptions, a hefty burden that has befallen other supposed championship-caliber clubs in the not-so-distant past. The Cowboys crumbled under those same conditions last season. The Vikings came close before ultimately failing as consensus NFC favorites the previous year. Dallas was expected to run the conference table in 2008, but fell prey to a toxic combination of injuries and infighting.
With an organization renowned for its stablility and a superior coach in Reid, Philadelphia does appear better equipped to prepare for those pitfalls that did in those predecessors, and with the exception of the mercurial Young, none of the newcomers are potential chemistry-killers like the ones that had a hand in the Cowboys’ 2008 demise. Still, to say the Eagles will have an easy path in a well-stocked NFC that houses the last two Super Bowl winners is as preposterous as it is premature.
A side effect of Philadelphia’s all-in mentality is that it’s caused some of its chief competition to up the ante as well.
New Orleans’ offseason moves didn’t produce nearly the amount of punch, save for the team’s shipment of an unhappy Reggie Bush to Miami. However, ex- Charger Darren Sproles is as good — if not better — a replacement for the high-profile running back, while a defense that was one of the league’s stingiest against the pass last season got tougher to run on as well after adding 670 pounds of bulk along the interior line in the form of beefy tackles Aubrayo Franklin and Shaun Rogers.
Atlanta was able to solve one of its most glaring needs by signing former Vikings defensive end Ray Edwards, giving the defending NFC South champs an established pass-rushing complement to sack-master John Abraham, while successfully retaining the core group of a team that won a conference-best 13 games in 2010, two more than the Saints and three greater than the Eagles.
And in case anyone forgot, there’s also the Green Bay Packers to deal with.
The reigning world champs were customary silent in free agency, but remember that last season’s historic run was made without the services of several injured players, including such prominent ones as emerging star tight end Jermichael Finley and dependable running back Ryan Grant. An already formidable offense would become even more dangerous if those two can reclaim their form, and the Pack shouldn’t lack the motivation needed to combat the dreaded Super Bowl hangover after having to witness Philly’s deluge of press clippings.
With an abundance of skilled playmakers on offense and a defense that should be an upgrade on last year’s disappointing unit following the influx of new faces, there’s no question the Eagles possess the goods to make a serious run at an elusive Lombardi Trophy and reclaim their lost standing as the toast of a city that’s been bleeding Phillies red for the last few years. But just like the other upper-echelon inhabitants of the NFC, and the rest of the league as well, there will be ifs.
If a defense that may have a rookie (Casey Matthews) calling signals at the pivotal middle linebacker position and an unproven new coordinator (Juan Castillo) running the show can make considerable progress. If valuable wide receiver Jeremy Maclin isn’t slowed down by a mysterious illness that’s kept him out of camp thus far. If disgruntled wideout DeSean Jackson and cornerback Asante Samuel, possibly relegated to a reduced role with the additions of Asomugha and Rodgers-Cromartie, don’t become needless distractions.
And what if Michael Vick, who hasn’t played a full 16-game season since 2006, sustains a serious injury that keeps him out for a significant amount of time? While Young’s an excellent insurance policy, will he show the aptitude, leadership and most importantly — the maturity — to win games in January and February if need be?
Yesterday, I examined the winners and losers of round 1 of the NFL Draft. In case you missed it, you can check it out here.
This morning I am going to take a look at the winners and losers from day two of the draft. Some teams just seemed to fumble their picks away in a stunning manner, while other teams (New England), took full advantage of day two. Yesterday wasn’t anywhere near as surprising as day one, however, there were a lot of eye opening picks and trades.
New England Patriots - Some teams just don’t change, and New England continues to be one of these teams. Year after year they find a way to compile multiple early round picks. The Patriots were able to acquire a 1st and 2nd round selection in 2012, while still getting playmakers where they needed them. Ras-I Dawlking probably wouldn’t have been my first pick on the 2nd round, that honor would have gone to Aaron Williams; however, who am I to question their logic? Devin McCourty is a perfect example of this from last year’s draft.
Following the pick of the Virginia corner, New England drafted a player that I think is going to be an all-pro performer in the NFL, Shane Vereen. He really does have what it takes to become a superstar in the league. Steven Ridley was a nice change of pace back, and should contribute immediately for the Patriots. Following that selection they took probably the most talented QB in the NFL draft in the enigma that is Ryan Mallett. I am not sure that he is going to pan out, but he couldn’t ask for more than to sit behind Tom Brady for the next couple of seasons.
Additionally, the New England Patriots worked out another amazing trade, this time with the clueless Oakland Raiders. New England sent their 3rd round, 92nd overall (OT- Joseph Barksdale) to the Oakland Raiders for their 2nd round selection in 2011 and a 7th round pick this draft.
Cincinnati Bengals - The Bengals got value and need with both of their day two picks. Andy Dalton at the start of the 2nd round is great value. I really thought some team was going to have to trade up to the end of the first no nab him. Instead, the Bengals were able to sit back and acquire the ultra-intelligent Dalton.
As much as Cincinnati’s pick of A.J. Green in the 1st round may have been an attempt to appease Carson Palmer they needed to look to the future, and Dalton is the man that could take the helm sooner rather than later.
Dontay Moch has been an interesting prospect all off-season long and I have been a major proponent of his. Moch may be extremely raw, but his upside is just crazy. In the Bengals 4-3 defense he may be asked to be a purse speed rusher off of the end, but I could easily see him making a solid transition to the OLB spot in either the 4-3 or the 3-4.
The Bengals sat back, didn’t make any hasty trades and it paid off.
Detroit Lions - The pick of Nick Fairley aside this has been another great draft for the Detroit Lions. After addressing defense on day one, the Lions were able to get more “toys” for their offense.
I thought Titus Young ranked as the 3rd best WR in the draft behind Green and Jones, Detroit was able to get him in the 2nd round; and absolute steal. Young should come in and be a great complement to Calvin Johnson in the passing game and an immediate upgrade from Nate Burleson.
Detroit did trade away 3rd, 4th, 5th and 7th round selections in order to move back up into the 2nd round, but they were able to get a real nice player in Leshoure. Jahvid Best and Mikell Leshoure should make a great backfield tandem for the next five seasons or so. It also must be noted that the Lions received Seattle’s 5th and 7th round picks in that deal.
Indianapolis Colts - The Indianapolis Colts traded up four spots in the 2nd round with the Washington Redskins and surrendered a 5th rounder in order to get the Villanova lineman. Considering that I thought Ijalana was going late in the 1st round, this was a great decision for Indianapolis. The Colts needed to get some more protection for Peyton Manning and Anthony Castanzo (1st round) along with Ijalana really helps that.
Drake Nevis is going to be an extremely solid linemen in the NFL; I really like the way he plays football. He gives the Colts another stout body up front to rotate into the game on a regular basis. The Colts and Patriots are perfect examples of how to build through the draft.
Arizona Cardinals - The San Francisco 49ers may have upset the Cardinals’ plans by trading up for Kaepernick. I think it left them completely off-guard because Ryan Williams should not have been the pick near the top of the 2nd round. I thought Shane Vereen, DeMarco Murray, Kendall Hunter and Daniel Thomas all should have ranked ahead of the former Virginia Tech Hokie RB.
Rob Housler? Really? Besides the fact that CBS Sports Line had him ranked as the 106th best prospect in the draft, I find it more intriguing because of who they passed up with this pick. Justin Houston and Ryan Mallett would have fit both the best player available and need category than Housler in this spot.
I really don’t care if the Cardinals are going to sign Marc Bulger in the off-season (when it starts), because they have absolutely no hope both short and long term at that position. It was an area that needed to address in this draft and have failed in doing so thus far.
Oakland Raiders - I have absolutely nothing against their offensive line picks. I really do believe that both Wisniewski and Barksdale may end up being solid player in the NFL, but… what is the point of giving up a future 2nd round pick to trade into the end of the 3rd round? As well all know 2nd rounders hold a lot more in terms of trade value than 3rd rounders do. Additionally, how many of us expect the Raiders to be picking in the last half of the 2nd round in 2012? Not me!
Oh, and the Raiders reached for Van Dyke with the 81st pick in the draft. CBS Sports Line had him as the 17th best corner in the draft. Oakland has a way of reaching for picks that leave the rest of the NFL in complete shock. They could have easily traded down a round or two and picked up Van Dyke there.
Dallas Cowboys - The Cowboys refused to address their largest need on day two, the secondary. Instead, they went with another OLB project in an attempt to team up with DeMarcus Ware. It really makes no sense to me as I am not a big fan of Carter’s, especially in the first part of the 2nd round.
Then the Cowboys decided to draft another RB when they already have three solid ones on their roster. Say what? I understand that they are looking to move Marion Barber, but considering the lockout issue won’t be able to. And, when they are, the value will only be picks for next year’s draft. I like Murray as a complementary RB, but there was no reason to select him in the 3rd round.
As always, you can get a pick-by-pick review of your favorite team by clicking here.
While the 2011 NFL season is anything but a lock to start on time (if at all), fans all over the U.S. sat by their computers and/or televisions with anticipation Tuesday, waiting for the clock to strike 7 p.m. eastern time. And, in a move that largely means nothing, the league satisfied their fans by offering up the complete schedule for the upcoming 2011 season.
So, while the times, dates and names written on the schedules may as well be scribbled in crayon for all intents and purposes, given the current labor situation with the league and all, if only for a moment, fans can now sit back and pretend all is well with America’s actual pastime.
Among the points of interest on the schedule:
- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will host the Chicago Bears in London on October 23 for Week 7 action. Also, the Washington Redskins will travel to Toronto to play the Buffalo Bills in a Week 8 game on October 30.
- The traditional Thanksgiving games will feature a tripleheader. Most noteworthy of all, we can look forward to a coaching battle between Harbough brothers as the Baltimore Ravens takes on the San Francisco 49ers.
- The Miami Dolphins vs. Dallas Cowboys is also scheduled for Thanksgiving Day.
- Michael Vick will come back to Atlanta for the first time as the starting QB of the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 2.
- The New York Jets host the New York Giants on Christmas Eve. Extra cops have already been scheduled to work the extra shift.
- The Detroit Lions earn their first Monday Night Football slot in a decade.
- Jay Cutler returns to Denver with his Chicago Bears team on December 11 – unless he get the sniffles on December 10 and deems himself too ill to make the trip.
Or — people who earn more in one year than most fans earn in a lifetime — will continue to fight over money and none of this will happen.
First and foremost, Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Along with the turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy and the rest of the trimmings. How about a few sports-related Thanksgiving links as an appetizer?
- If you’re from the Baltimore area, you’ve got a little pre-game football before the NFL kicks off. Of course, I’m talking about the Turkey Bowl.
- As for the NFL, I don’t think much can be said for the Patriots vs. the Loins (1:00p.m.; CBS), except that we’re forced to watch it. After all, it’s become a tradition to see the Lions lose on Thanksgiving.
- The game at (4:00p.m.; FOX) is probably the most intriguing. The Saints seem to be starting to roll on all cylindars and getting healthy but are in a dog fight in the NFC South with Tampa Bay and Atlanta. The Cowboys have been an enormous disappointment this year to say the least. At 3-7, post season hopes or all but over and Wade Philips is out and Jason Garrett is in. Under Garrett, the Cowboys have won two in a row beating the Giants and Lions respectively but are up against it today against the reigning Super Bowl champions. On the bright side for the Cowboys, Tony Romo might be ready to return to action by Christmas Day.
- In the nightcap, the 2-8 Bengals visit the 8-2 Jets (8:00p.m. ; NFL Network). The Jets are rolling and have displayed their own Houdini act the last 3 weeks with two overtime wins and a score with 10 seconds left last week against Houston. With everything that has been going right for the Jets, it’s a polar opposite for the Bengals. Perhaps, the most intriguing story line for this game are the comments that Terrell Owens said about Jets DB Darrelle Revis.
In the midst of all of the feasting and the football today, please remember to give thanks. That’s what it’s all about, right?
Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Thanks for reading. I’ll be back with the blog tomorrow.