Tuesday, September 05, 2006
2006 Season Preview: #24 Minnesota Vikings
2006 Season Preview: #25 Oakland Raiders
2006 Season Preview: #26 Tennessee Titans
2006 Season Preview: #27 Green Bay Packers
There’s nothing sadder than a faded superstar that hasn’t realized that nobody gives a shit about him anymore (see Smith, Emmitt). Brett Favre may have been the savior of the Green Bay Packers in the 1990s, but he is preventing the Packers from entering a rebuilding mode that they desperately need right now. As a fan, I would like to see Favre suffer the indignity of spending the waning years of his career in a Texans jersey so there will be another humiliating photo to show with the montage of Joe Namath as a Ram, Franco Harris as a Seahawk, Willie Mays as a Met, and Michael Jordan as a Wizard. With or without Favre, the Packers aren't a very good team. Ahman Green is in his eighth season as a pro and is coming off a season-ending knee injury, so his ability to carry the load this season has been justifiably questioned. Samkon Gado was able to secure role of Green's backup, and the Packers released Najeh Davenport as a result. Javon Walker was traded to the Broncos in the off-season due to his alienation with Brett Favre. Donald Driver is not exciting, but he will suffice as a starting wide-out in the NFL. The player to watch will be Greg Jennings, a rookie WR from Western Michigan who has been the star of the Packers' preseason. The one common denominator for all the teams at the bottom of this list is a shitty run defense, and that is true for the Packers as well. Rookie linebacker A.J. Hawk is struggling after being tagged as the draft's surest bet in April. On the other hand, he is nailing Brady Quinn’s sister, so he’s got that going for him. The Packers suck once again this year and will have the distinction of being the doormat of the NFL’s worst division.
Monday, August 14, 2006
2006 Season Preview: #28 Cleveland Browns
What happened last year: Romeo Crennel's inaugural campaign with the Browns went exactly as most expected it would. Crennel managed to extract a hint of promise from the Browns, but, ultimately, even the beloved apprentice of Bill Belichick could not change the fact that his squad was stocked with shitty players. The most glaring weakness for the Browns was at the QB position, where rookie Charlie Frye from Akron took over the job that Trent Dilfer, a player who has made a career out of being just good enough not to be fired, could not finish. In the running department, Reuben Droughns ran for 1232 yards, but scored only two touchdowns, indicative of a team that scored fewer points than every other team in the NFL. First-round draft pick from Michigan, Braylon Edwards, caught 32 balls for 512 yards and three TDs in ten games before tearing his ACL in December, and 2004 first-rounder, TE Kellen Winslow, Jr., missed the entire season after he crashed his motorcycle while popping wheelies in a parking lot in May. Defensively, the Browns fielded the fourth best pass defense, although much of that ranking was due to the fact that teams preferred to run against the Browns' 30th ranked rush defense. The Browns scattered six wins throughout their season, which is respectable, but barely so, in the NFL. What has changed: The Browns were active early and often in the free agent market, beginning by signing perhaps the most coveted free agent of the off-season in center LeCharles Bentley from New Orleans. Under the file of shit that could only happen to the Browns, however, Bentley suffered a season-ending knee injury during the first 11-on-11 drill of Browns' training camp. On top of that, the expected replacement, Bob Hallen, conveniently decided to retire two weeks later. As of the date of this article, it appears the Browns are shit out of luck at the center position for 2006. Romeo Crennel also lured Willie McGinest to Cleveland from New England, which should help the Browns complete their conversion into a 3-4 defense. The Browns continued their spending spree by signing Cleveland-native Joe Jurevicius, one of the most trustworthy receivers in the NFL, and nose tackle Ted Washington from Oakland amongst their other veteran additions. The Browns used their first two picks in the draft on defense, taking OLB Kamerion Wimbley from Florida State with the 13th pick, and ILB D'Qwell Jackson from Maryland in the second round. With these two picks, and Edwards and Winslow presumably returning at full strength on offense, the Browns should have a pretty impressive influx of young talent on both sides of the ball.
What will happen this season: Speaking as a Steelers fan, the Browns don't scare me at all. Although they are a much more dangerous team under Romeo Crennel than they ever were under Butch Davis, this team is going to have to do better than Charlie Frye at QB to threaten in the AFC. The Browns scored the fewest points in 2005 and ranked last in red zone offense, and because one of the hardest things for a young quarterback to do is to score touchdowns, I don't see the Browns improving much in this regard. This is especially true with the question marks on the offensive line. The Browns will likely win another six games in 2006 and finish last in the AFC North. The good news for the Browns is that in a year they will be better than the Ravens.
Thursday, August 10, 2006
2006 Season Preview: #29 Buffalo Bills
What happened last year: The Bills came out on opening day in 2005 sporting the old school OJ uniforms and summarily kicked the shit out of the Houston Texans. Bills fans had to have a good feeling considering that they were coming off a season in which they won eight of their last ten games. However, the Week 1 victory would be the high point of the season for Buffalo. The Bills won only four more games in 2005. While the sputtering offense that ranked 28th in the league was not a surprise, the real shocker was that the defense, which ranked 2nd in the NFL in 2004, ended the season as the fourth worst in 2005, mainly due to the fact that the Bills allowed 137.8 rushing yards per game. The Bills were unable to find an answer at the quarterback position in 2005, with second-year player J.P. Losman starting the first four games, free agent acquisition Kelly Holcomb starting the next four, Losman starting the next five, and Holcomb starting the final three. Between the two of them, the Bills had only four 200+ yard passing performances, including a single 300+ yard game. Running back Willis McGahee failed to meet the high expectations that he had created with his performance late in the 2004 season. McGahee ran for 1247 yards, but had only five touchdowns, and with no significant contribution coming from his backup, he was unable to carry the impotent Buffalo offense. Lee Evans, a second-year receiver from Wisconsin, emerged as the number one target of the Bills' two-headed monster of a quarterback. The substandard outcome for the 2005 version of the Bills promised wholesale change within the Bills' organization.
What has changed: What better way is there to signal a fresh start for your franshise than bringing back an 81-year-old former head coach as general manager and vice president of football operations? Marv Levy, most notorious for going 0-4 in the Super Bowl as head coach of the Bills from 1986 to 1997, returned to football in January, although he did not assume coaching responsibilities, as many suspected he would. Head coach Mike Mularkey read the writing on the wall and resigned a week after Levy's appointment. Replacing Mularkey is former Bears coach and Yale alumnus Dick Jauron. On the personnel front, the Bills focused their attention on rebuilding their defense. Defensive tackle Sam Adams was cut as a casualty of the salary cap mess in early March, as was safety Lawyer Milloy. The main free agent pick-up for the Bills on defense was DT Larry Tripplett from Indianapolis. The Bills stockpiled defensive bodies in the draft by taking strong safety Donte Whitner from Ohio State, DT John McCargo from NC State, CB Ashton Youboty from Ohio State, FS Ko Simpson from South Carolina, and Kyle Williams, a DT from LSU. On offense, the Bills added C Melvin Fowler and OG Tutan Reyes to upgrade the offensive line. Peerless Price is also returning to the Bills to try to recapture his glory years. Finally, the Bills bought a ticket for the A-Train, Anthony Thomas, in order to give the Bills a competent counterpart to Willis McGahee.
What will happen this season: The Bills won't be good. They have serious issues with their quarterback play, and that alone is enough to sink a team in the NFL. The defense is a work in progress, although it will benefit with the return of Takeo Spikes to middle linebacker. Buffalo will be neck and neck with the Jets all season for last place in the AFC East. When all is said and done, the Bills will definitely be picking in the top ten in the draft next April, with a decent chance that they will be in the top five. The Bills fans, however, have no other choice than to sit back and watch their team suck because, after all, there isn't shit to do in Buffalo. Luckily, most residents of Buffalo are just happy to have an NFL team.
Sunday, August 06, 2006
2006 Season Preview: #30 New York Jets
What happened last season: The 2005 New York Jets campaign can be summed up in two words: unmitigated disaster. After losing to the Steelers in overtime of the 2004 divisional round of the playoffs, the Jets entered last season with visions of an AFC Championship in their head. In retrospect, however, there were many troubling moves prior to the 2005 season that depleted the talent on the team and helped lead to the hopeless situation the Jets now find themselves in. The first dubious move occurred when the Jets decided to place the franchise tag on John Abraham and allow LaMont Jordan to leave via free agency for the Raiders. The other highly questionable decision was trading their first round pick in 2005 for TE Doug Jolley and a second round pick. The Jets used their second-round pick on kicker Mike Nugent and missed the opportunity to grab the next great tight end in the league in Heath Miller. Proving that the Jets could do nothing right, they traded Santana Moss to Washington for Laveranues Coles. Coles caught 73 balls for 845 yards and five touchdowns for the Jets; Moss had 84 receptions for 1483 yards with nine TDs and represented the 'Skins in the Pro Bowl. The detrimental effect these moves had on the team was apparent in 2005 when the Jets' offense ranked 31st in the NFL. Granted, the Jets were extremely unlucky that they were forced to rely on Brooks Bollinger to man the helm after Chad Pennington and Jay Fiedler suffered major injuries within minutes of each other, but the entire offensive regime was a house of cards to begin with. Considering the lack of any reliable receivers and with no quality back-up behind the decrepit Curtis Martin, it was no wonder that the Jets could get nothing going on offense. Ultimately, the Jets' 4-12 season triggered a massive overhaul of the Jets' roster, coaching staff, and front office. It is safe to say the Jets are starting from scratch this season and it will be several more years before it will be a team to take seriously again.
What has changed: From the moment the Jets walked off the field in Week 17, everyone knew a shitload of changes were in store for this team. The first, and probably most controversial, was the departure of affable head coach Herm Edwards for Kansas City - a move that left a bitter taste in the mouth for many Jets fans. Chosen to replace Edwards was Bill Belichick's young understudy, Eric Mangina [sic]. The Jets also replaced incompetent GM Terry Bradway with Mike Tannenbaum. The youth movement, affectionately known as Tanngini, didn't take long to make its impression on the roster, first by signing Patrick Ramsey to compete with Pennington for the starting QB spot, and later by trading the disgruntled John Abraham to Atlanta. The Jets also added reliable vets such as Tim Dwight, WR from San Diego via the Patriots, Andre Dyson, CB from Seattle, and Kimo von Oelhoffen, DE/destroyer of ACLs from the one and only Pittsburgh Steelers. There was a lot of pressure on the new-look Jets to make a splash in the draft by taking either Vince Young or Matt Leinart. The Jets, however, remembered that patience is indeed a virtue and used the draft to rebuild their offensive line around D'Brickashaw Ferguson from Virginia and Nick Mangold from Ohio State. Contrary to popular belief, Mangold is not related to Dorothy Mantooth, a woman who, by all accounts, is a saint. The Jets also drafted QB Kellen Clemens in the second round of the draft, and he is already competing with Pennington and Ramsey for the starting job.
What will happen this season: It would be foolish to expect this team to make any huge strides this year. If ever a team were in rebuilding mode, it is the Jets. The Jets will basically use the 2006 season to provide experience for their young players, find out if any of their QBs are worth investing in, and lose a lot of games to try to get as high a draft pick as possible so they can grab a stud running back to replace Curtis Martin. The Jets defense is good enough that, if they can get their offense figured out, the Jets will be back in contention within two or three years. In the mean time, however, expect a three-win season with the Jets picking in the top three of the 2007 draft. Jets fans are used to seasons that amount to nothing, so this season should be nothing new.
Friday, August 04, 2006
2006 Season Preview: #31 Houston Texans
What happened last season: It's hard to imagine it today, but after going 7-9 in 2004, it wasn't unthinkable a year ago that the Texans could make the playoffs in 2005. Instead, the Texans posted the worst record in the NFL at 2-14, with their only victories coming against such lowly competition as the Browns and Cardinals. The Texans ranked 30th in total offense and 31st in total defense. The story on the offensive side of the ball was the inability of David Carr to cross the threshold of NFL quarterback mediocrity. Carr led the Texans to the 31st ranked passing attack, and although the offensive line was no help, Carr has had decent running support and a potential Pro Bowler at receiver in Andre Johnson to aid him. Good quarterbacks can do a lot more with a lot less. While there is still optimism in Houston that Carr will develop into the franchise QB he was expected to be, the bottom line is that after his fourth year as starter Carr's career appears to be a much closer approximation of Tim Couch's legacy than Peyton Manning's. Defensively, the Texans fielded the most porous run stopping unit in the NFL, a fact that must have been particularly troubling to ex-head coach and renowned defensive guru, Dom Capers. The Texans' season was very quickly rendered a joke, but once the scope of the disaster was apparent, the Texans made all the right moves by mailing in the rest of the season, which enabled them to lock up the number one pick in the draft with a miraculous loss to the 49ers on the last weekend of the season. Despite the reprehensible play of their team, Texans fans were privately rejoicing their victory in the Reggie Bush Sweepstakes because they knew their woes would soon be assuaged by the addition of one of the most exciting players to enter the league in years. However, that leads us to...
What has changed: The Texans drafted Mario Williams with the first fucking pick in the draft! The only possible explanation for how the Texans could have passed up on Reggie Bush is an intelligence failure at all levels of the organization. It was a decision that can only be described as Isiahthomasesque. It is easy to blame Charley Casserly because he was ultimately the one responsible for the unconscionable decision to take Mario Williams with the top pick. However, Texans owner Bob McNair shares equal culpability. How could he just sit back and let Casserly completely fuck up the most important decision in the history of the franchise before his eyes? The worst part of the whole situation was that the Texans fired Casserly in May. How can anyone in the Texans' organization sleep at night knowing that a lame duck GM single-handedly sucked the collective football zeal from both the team and the city of Houston? Even if the Texans weren't convinced that Reggie Bush was second coming of Gayle Sayers, there was such a universal consensus that Reggie Bush was by far the best prospect in the draft that the Texans really had no choice but to take him and hope that the rest of the world was right. Even if Bush turned out to be a bust, no one could blame the Texans for taking him. At the very least, they could have traded down a few spots and picked up some sort of compensation in exchange for settling on the fourth or fifth best player in the draft. Instead, they took Mario Williams, a defensive lineman from North Carolina State. I'm sure Williams is a fine player, but a defensive lineman has to be really fucking good to justify being taken number one overall. I apologize for the rant. I just wanted to get all of that on the record just in case Charley Casserly googles "Charley Casserly is a huge asshole" or something like that. The other notable additions for the Texans this offseason were the free agent signings of LB Sam Cowart from Minnesota, C Mike Flannagan from Green Bay, WR Eric Moulds from Buffalo, TE Jeb Putzier from Denver and DE Anthony Weaver from Baltimore. The Texans also fired head coach Dom Capers and replaced him with Denver offensive coordinator Gary Kubiac, who, for no reason other than my inherent immaturity, I will refer to from now on as Gary Pube-iac.
What will happen this season: With all that being said, the Texans were better than a two-win team last year. It wouldn't be surprising to see Houston win anywhere from four to six games this season. The draft aside, the Texans made some respectable moves in free agency, and the Texans will undoubtedly field a better team this season. Eric Moulds isn't any good these days, but Cowart, Weaver and their draft picks should be able to solidify their defense and keep them out of the statistical cellar. Andre Johnson and Domanick Davis will continue to be effective, but David Carr needs to make things happen this year on offense for this team to be successful, and I just don't see it happening. If Carr doesn't break out this season, look for the Texans to enter the starting quarterback market, perhaps eyeing Ohio State's Troy Smith, who could be next year's Vince Young. The most disheartening thing for the Texans is that there seems to be no long-term plan in effect. This team doesn't have a legit franchise player to build around, and the Texans will continue to be one of the most boring and least impressive teams in the NFL until they get another opportunity to sign a brand-name player like Reggie Bush.
Thursday, August 03, 2006
2006 Season Preview: #32 San Francisco 49ers
The honor of being professional football’s shittiest team goes to the San Francisco 49ers. This team sucks.
What happened last season: Last year was a season to forget for the 49ers. Although they did not have the worst record in the NFL, there is little doubt that no team has fewer reasons for optimism than San Francisco. The 49ers ranked last in total offense and total defense, and they suffered through losing streaks of five and seven games. Last year’s number one overall pick, quarterback Alex Smith, was an embarrassment for the 49ers, but in all fairness it is difficult to think of a worse situation into which a rookie quarterback could be placed. Because the only other options at QB were Ken Dorsey and Cody Pickett, it meant that Smith was going to be forced into action before he was anywhere near ready to run a professional football team. The big question is whether Smith will ever be able to recover from the emotional scarring of last year’s experience. Kevan Barlow was missing in action at running back most of the year, and by the end of the season it appeared as though rookie Frank Gore had the inside track on being the team’s starter. Wide receiver Brandon Lloyd was perhaps the 49ers' only noteworthy player, but his spectacular catches were a mere sideshow to the 49ers' pathetic season. Defensively, it will suffice to say that the 49ers were the worst team at stopping the pass in the NFL and allowed more points than all but two teams.
What has changed: The 49ers took the unorthodox approach to improving their team by ridding themselves of their two best players in LB Julian Peterson and WR Brandon Lloyd. Apparently the 49ers are so dedicated to fielding a shitty team this season that they don’t want to pay the salaries of any worthwhile veteran players. The front office did, however, open their wallets for washed-up journeymen and vets staving off retirement. The Niners brought in Trent Dilfer as a much needed mentor and backstop to Alex Smith. Cornerback Walt Harris and OT Larry Allen were among the other notable highlights of the 49ers’ off-season acquisitions, not to mention Antonio Bryant, who will couple with Arnaz Battle to form a WR combo that will ingnite fits of laughter in defensive coordinators throughout the NFL. In the draft the 49ers took tight end Vernon Davis from Maryland with the fifth overall pick. It is a little surprising that Mike Nolan and company felt that tight end was their most pressing concern considering the utter lack of talent at every position on this team. San Francisco spent its second first-round pick on combine phenom linebacker Manny Lawson from North Carolina State. The 49ers should have had the balls to use their two first round picks to move up in the draft to get Reggie Bush. He would have been the perfect fit for San Francisco and would have helped make up for last year’s first-round dud, Alex Smith. The lack of concern over the deficiencies at key positions must be very galling for 49ers fans, if there are still any left.
What will happen this season: The theme for the 49ers' season, according to their official website, is "Faithful." Not exactly a ringing endoresment. It's pretty much asking their fans to accept their shittiness with the hope that eventually things will turn out alright for their team. I'm quite sure that things are not going to be alright with the 49ers this year. If this team wins more than four games this season, it will be a fucking miracle. My suggestion to the 49ers is to sign the retarded kid that hit all those three pointers in a high school game a few months ago. He couldn't really do any worse than any of their current players.