Archive for September, 2008

Notable Packer (and Non-Packer) stats thus far

September 17, 2008
  • Kampman #7 in sacks with 2.5
  • Hawk tied with 6000 others at #8 in sacks. Good for Hawk though – I really hope this is a sign of things to come for our linebackers
  • Greg Jennings leads the NFL in receiving yards at 258.
  • Woodson tied for 5th in interceptions
  • (Non-Packer Brandon Marshall leads the NFL in receptions w/18 after playing just one game)
  • Aaron Rodgers has the 5th highest QB rating at 117.8 (Favre is #9 at 104.5)
  • The lowest rated QB in the NFL: Carson Palmer at 37.4 – wow (I did pick Cincy to lose that decision and got some degree of crap for making that pick – so far, so good).

Wilf – or I mean Childress benches Tarvaris

September 17, 2008

Your team is in trouble when 63% of your fans are pleading for Gus Frerotte to start.

Interesting move in MN. Read this article. In 3 days, Childress has gone from confirming that Tarvaris will be the starter this week vs Carolina to stating Frerotte will not only be the starter but that “Frerotte will be the quarterback for the rest of the season”. Childress also spent a good part of the offseason declaring at any opportunity that Tarvaris was the guy and that he had confidence in him. Now he’s flip-flopped. Wow. This leads me to believe that either Childress is arbitrary and incompetent or that this was not a decision made by Childress. Actually, it’s probably just both! I think owner-guy Wilf came down and said “Brad, I obviously made a huge mistake by hiring you. Let’s just get that on the table. But also, I don’t want Tarvaris starting anymore – your project is through. I want the ‘greatest free agent acquisition of all time’, Gus Frerotte, to start.” Like the Brewers recent firing of Yost, I just don’t think this was Childress’ decision – Childress’ only decision was to bench Tarvaris or lose his job.

Now, many (or at least Brother Steve) may be wondering how I can account for my belief that Tarvaris would be a good QB at this point. Well, it’s harder, that’s for sure. But I think there are several factors. I spent a few minutes the other night reading the Startribune and a few Viking blogs to get a pulse for whom fans blamed most for the game on Sunday. Lots of criticism of T-Jack for sure, I’d say the most criticism for Childress, and a decent lashing too for the receiving targets (there was one startribune article that talked about how bad the Vikes receivers/TE are and how they aren’t getting open). I still contend the guy has potential but I also can’t ignore some of the obvious stats like a lifetime passer rating of 68.2 and 12 career passing TDs vs 17 Ints. He has not been good in the first two games and has not had a remarkable career either.

That said, after reading these articles/posts and thinking more about this surprising move, it made me wonder: what would Tarvaris be like if he were QB of a different team with a good coach and good receivers- like the Packers? What if he were groomed by McCarthy? I wonder if he would stand a better chance on a team with a competent (or in MM’s case, near brilliant) coach and a helpful receiving corps. I’m obviously making a fairly desperate argument here at this point, but there is still something that is telling me Tarvaris might still be good under different circumstances. Despite Frerotte being incredibly mediocre, his play under Jackson’s same circumstances might be a good indication of how bad Jackson may really be or how much potential he may still have. Still, I wouldn’t have pulled the plug on the Jackson project just yet – I would have given him at least a few more games. We’ll see.

More Love for Rodgers

September 17, 2008

Let me open with the necessary it’s-only-been-two-games caveat.  There.

On Sirius NFL Radio this afternoon, Gil Brandt, NFL analyst and former Dallas Cowboys GM, offered some interested statistics.  Aaron Rodgers threw for more than 300 yards and 3 TDs on Sunday.  It took Brett Favre 25 games to accomplish the former and 10 games to accomplish the latter.  (That said, have the Lions ever been this bad?)

Second, John Hansen is the publisher of a fantasy football subscription site galled Fantasyguru.com.  He is not only a smart fantasy analyst (the smartest, in my view) he is a keen talent evaluator and is generally quite knowledgeable about pro football.  Here is his take on Rodgers:

“Packer QB Aaron Rodgers has been poised, comfortable, aware, and he’s made every kind of throw. You cannot ask for more of Rodgers; he looks like a guy who was ready for his opportunity. He does not have a gun, but the ball comes out with juice on intermediate throws, and he can air it out.”

I describe myself as a hopeful skeptic about Rodgers before the season.  On the one hand, I thought there were reasons that he slid as far as he did in the draft and like virtually everyone else, I’m pessimistic about Jeff Tedford-coached quarterbacks succeeding in the NFL.  Hence the skepticism.  On the other hand, we have seen that Ted Thompson is a very strong talent evaluator (with one 325 pound asterisk in Justin Harrell, though he might be talented and injury-prone) and that Mike McCarthy is a hell of a quarterbacks coach.  So in those moments I allowed myself to trust their judgment, I was optimistic.  Hence the hope.

I’d have to say my skepticism is melting away.  But not only has it been just two games, Rodgers played against an atrocious secondary in Detroit and a below-average one in Minnesota.  I agree with the Hansen assessment and would add another strong Rodgers’ asset: he can run and actually looks very fast.   But I’m eager to see it against a better defensive backfield.

I

Smart Ass Comment Gets Serious Answer

September 17, 2008

I was basically joking with this post, but commenter Cindy V. writes to provide some actual, you know, information on the NFL and video.  She writes:

I used to work for Fox Sports covering the Packers at Lambeau Field. And yes, the NFL does have a film crew at the games. Does the NFL get the network”s footage in addition to what they shoot themselves? I don’t know. I think, however, a team should send video because the network coverage has many angles of the play. A local TV camera crew could have still another angle on the fumble. You never know, so why not send the video?

I’m still guessing the NFL could just TIVO each of the games, but maybe the teams send in video of plays that never makes air.  Interesting.  Thanks for the clarification.

Year of the Rookie

September 17, 2008

Two weeks into the 2008 NFL season and one thing stands out: Rookie running backs are having an immediate and profound impact on the game.  There was much less pre-draft hype about this class of running backs — it was considered decent, not great by the draft gurus.  But several teams thought otherwise and in picks that many draft experts quickly labeled as “reaches,” snatched up running backs relatively early.  It’s early, but those picks are looking very smart.  Already we have rookie RBs with 100-yard games and multiple touchdown games.

What explains the phenomenon?  I’ve got a bunch of theories, but honestly I haven’t a clue which one is right.  One thing that seems to be a factor is the ongoing transformation of the NFL — from a run-first league to a pass-first league .  Many teams have shifted their offensive philosophies even as they pretend that they are run-first teams.  (See Packers, Green Bay).  In a sense, the league-wide shift has been happening for more than a decade, as more teams embraced the West Coast offense or some derivation thereof.  But I think the success of the Patriots and the Packers last year — with spread offenses that match-up strong #3 and #4 receivers against weak defensive backs and limit how much defenses can double #1 receivers — has accelerated the change.

One consequence of these changes is fewer defensive formations in which defensive coordinators stack the box to prevent the run.  So somewhat paradoxically running backs are finding more room to run as teams guard against being dominated by the pass.

That’s one theory anyway.  A second explanation is simpler: the rookie running backs this year are just very, very good.  I think that’s true, too.  Darren McFadden put up 164 yards and a touchdown last weekend on 21 carries.  Yes, it was against the CHEFS, but it was the kind of performance many draft experts predicted when they crowned him the next Adrian Peterson.  I think he’s good, but I don’t think he’s AP or close.  In fact, I think he very well might be the fourth or fifth rookie running back in this class — playing a role much closer to that played by Reggie Bush than Peterson.

For what it’s worth, here are my top rookie RBs, in order of likely success.  We can look back at this in a year or two and you can make fun of me or write the executive committee and suggest that I be named head of pro personnel.

1. Matt Forte.  Have you seen him?  The guy is incredible and it’s very bad news for the Packers.  He hits every hole — no matter how big — and explodes through it.  And on those occasions where there are no holes (sadly rare these days), he creates one or uses his speed to get outside around the cluster.

2. Chris Johnson.  He blew away NFL personnel types at the combine with his 4.24 40-yard dash.  Others have run fast.  The question was whether he could combine that kind of speed with the shiftiness and wiggle that is the difference between sprinters and running backs.  Umm, he can.  We saw glimpses of this in the preseason game against the Packers and we’ve seen much more of it

3. Felix Jones.  It’s hard to evaluate him because he’s had relatively few carries from the line of scrimmage.  But he has made those carries count — racking up yards against the Browns and even earning some tough yards against the Eagles when MB3 was struggling.  But some of this is just a guess based on his unbelievable explosiveness on kick returns.  I believe he had more than 250 all-purpose yards in Monday’s game, many of which came on his 98-yard kick return for a touchdown.  He is incredibly elusive.

4. Jonathan Stewart.  Solid.  That’s the word to describe Stewart.  Although he reportedly still has some pain in his surgically-repaired toe, he has already unseated DeAngelo Williams as Carolina’s top RB.  This is the same DeAngelo Williams who was regarded a couple years ago as the next Barry Sanders.  I don’t think Williams is Sanders, of course, but he’s not bad either.  It says something that Stewart — considered a reach at #13 — has already won that job.

5. Darren McFadden.  See above

6. Tim Hightower.  He split carries with Edgerrin James last week against Miami.  Edge is old and slow, so that fact alone doesn’t say much.  But Hightower looks like he might have a little something

7. Kevin Smith.  The only time the Lions have hit with an early-round draft pick in recent memory is when they took Calvin Johnson last year.  Otherwise, it’s been grim.  I think the same is true this year.  Smith is nothing special — he’s an okay change-of-pace back would could merit 8-10 touches backing up someone good.  Even the Lions seem to recognize this as they went out and signed Cedric Benson last night.  But don’t expect their running game to improve — as I said, Smith could back up someone good.

The wild card here is Rashard Mendenhall, who has been used very sparingly by the Steelers.  Willie Parker has been very effective and much to my surprise, has managed to keep Mendenhall on the bench.  I thought Mendenhall was the best back in the draft and I was shocked that he fell into the mid-20s of the first round.  As much of a man-crush as I have on Ryan Grant and as much as I agree with the Ted Thompson strategy of trading down in the draft to accumulate picks, I thought the Packers should have given serious consideration to moving up to get Mendenhall.

If these guys stay healthy, this could go down as one of the best running back classes in league history.

Follow Up to Bad Call Against San Diego

September 15, 2008

I came across this sentence in an NFL.com article about the horrendous call in the Denver-San Diego game on Sunday: “San Diego coach Norv Turner said he spoke with NFL officials Monday and that the Chargers sent in video of the plays in question.”

My question: Did they really send video to the NFL?  Doesn’t the NFL have video of plays that take place on Sunday?

Saying Something Nice About Cowboy Fans

September 15, 2008

It’s the song, not the singer.  Why don’t idiot young performers understand this when they sing the Star Spangled Banner?

Tonight, a “pop sensation” I’ve never heard of — Kat Deluna — offered a hideous, off-key, look-at-me version of the national anthem before the Cowboys-Eagles game.  She did that annoying vocal gyration that Christina Aguilera made famous — it sounds like a classic vibrato on speed — and otherwise tried to own the song.

You can’t own the song.  It’s ours.  All of ours.  And it’s an honor for anyone to be asked to sing it.

I think we should go back to having kids or local choirs sing it and forget the celebritization of a great tradition.

So what does this have to do with Cowboy fans?  They booed her when she finished.  Good for them.

Pete Prisco gushing over Rodgers

September 15, 2008

I think Pete Prisco is a bit premature here. Aaron Rodgers has looked positively awesome in his first 2 games and arguments to the contrary aren’t worth making. But, the season is 2 games old and there is a lot of football left. While I’m pulling hard for the guy to succeed, Prisco and others starting the “I told you so” comments need to give it some more time. One thing I will say is that for a guy who has started only 2 real NFL games, he seems remarkably poised out there.

San Diego robbed; Shanahan’s unique decision

September 15, 2008

San Diego should have won that game yesterday. Cutler fumbled and it was recovered by San Diego. Absolutely no question about it. Horrendous officiating error that cost a team a victory. That is simply inexcusable anymore.

That said, Denver coach Mike Shanahan’s decision to go for 2 to win the game was unreal. It seemed so odd and so aggressive and so wild and so chancy and so incredibly…risky. Actually, while it was somewhat risky sure, I think our whole collective notion of what’s “risky” anymore has been altered by the very lame, conservative coaching styles that seem to have invaded the NFL. Back in the day, I’m sure more coaches would have taken calculated risks like this – not so much anymore. I’m sure Gregg Easterbrook is going to have a field day tomorrow in his ESPN TMQ column making fun of how conservative coaches were yesterday. Shanahan was a nice exception to that and for that, he deserves recognition (even though San Diego should have already won the game).

Also, among the conservative coaching decisions: Romeo Crennel decided to kick a field goal with 3 minutes left instead of going for it on 4th and 6 from about the Pitt 30 yard line or so. It was 10-3 and after the field goal it was 10-6, so they still had to score a TD. The crowd booed as Pitt easily picked up a first down or two to seal the game. Meanwhile, over in MN, Brad Childress seemed to have decided before the game that he did NOT want to score touchdowns under any circumstances. In his pre-game speech, my “sources” tell me he told the team field goals are the greatest things of all time and that he wished the only way to score was via field goal – then he added that in fact, “today, we will only score 3 points at a time”. At one point, a “source” overheard Childress as he yelled to Shiancoe while running his endzone route to drop a wide open TD pass so that Longwell could convert on another field goal. I’m with reader Ron L – Childress may not make it too far into the season if they continue losing.

Bailed out by Woodson

September 14, 2008

Woodson shut the door on the Lions today. Jennings, Rodgers, Crosby also were clutch there. But it was Woodson who ended this game. Nice play there by Collins too. I like that our defense just finished this game off so emphatically.


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