Archive for February, 2010

Pre-Combine Mock Draft

February 27, 2010

by Tommy Lawlor

I posted this on ScoutsNotebook on Thursday.

01 – St. Louis — DT Ndamakung Suh, Nebraska

Not much to say about this selection. The Rams need help and Suh is the best prospect. QB is a thought, but there just isn’t one worthy of this pick. Coach Steve Spagnuolo used a great D-line to help the Giants win the Super Bowl in 2007. He’s got some pieces with Chris Long, Adam Carriker, and Cliff Ryan. Suh could be the kind of great presence that would help the other guys to become better players.

02 – Detroit — DT Gerald McCoy, Oklahoma

I’m not sure that McCoy is an ideal fit for Jim Schwartz’s system, but he might be too good to pass on. The Lions defense has struggled for a long time. Adding a disruptive presence to the middle of the line could be a big help.

03 – Tampa Bay — S Eric Berry, Tennessee

Is this too high for a Safety? Maybe. Eric is an unusual prospect. He’s the best S prospect that I’ve ever seen. Tampa could use him. Sabby Piscitelli hasn’t developed into anything more than an adequate starter. Berry could take over for him and give the Bucs a pretty good secondary (also Aqib Talib and Tanard Jackson).

04 – Washington — QB Sam Bradford, Oklahoma

In the last mock I had the QBs slide. This time I decided to have them go early to see how that would change things. Bradford is the top QB and has excellent potential. He’s athletic enough to fit Mike Shanahan’s system. Washington has been looking for a franchise QB for a long time. Maybe Sam is the answer.

05 – Kansas City — ILB Rolando McClain, Alabama

I know many people think the Chiefs will go for an OT. I think they’ll look for an impact player on defense. McClain has the potential to be a great ILB. He can be the heart of that defense for the next decade. I may be higher on McClain than most, but I think guys with his size, athleticism, and skill set are really hard to find.

06 – Seattle — OT Bryan Bulaga, Iowa

Walter Jones is back and forth on whether to retire, but I think he’s done. Seattle could leave Sean Locklear at LT, but he’s not ideal for that spot. Adding a pass blocker like Bulaga allows Locklear to play at another spot and strengthens the overall line. Seattle doesn’t have great skill players, but better blocking would really help that offense.

07 – Cleveland — CB Joe Haden, Florida

Joe is the top CB in the draft. The Browns could use a top flight corner. I’m sure they’ll consider some offensive players at this spot, but there isn’t great value for them. Take the CB and work on the offense later.

08 – Oakland — OT Russell Okung, Oklahoma State

The Raiders have shuffled various guys in and out at LT since Barry Sims left. They need a good young player to plug in at that spot. Okung is a good fit for them. His strength is run blocking, which should fit well with Oakland’s stable of runners. I considered putting Jason Pierre-Paul at this spot. We know that Al Davis loves his athletic projects.

09 – Buffalo — OT Trent Williams, Oklahoma

I’m sure the Bills would love a QB, but I don’t see a slam dunk choice. The smart move then is to get a LT to help whoever does end up under Center. Williams is an outstanding OL and veteran player who can help the Bills immediately. Give him a shot at LT. If he doesn’t work, Trent should be able to slide to the right side and be a good starter over there. Buffalo has a good interior, but could use help on the outside.

10 – Denver — QB Jimmy Clausen, Notre Dame

I’m not sure what Josh McDaniels really wants to do at QB. Kyle Orton is okay, but hardly seems like the long term answer. Clausen isn’t an elite prospect, but he played in a similar offensive system in his time at Notre Dame and should be a pretty good fit for McDaniels.

11 – Jacksonville — DE Derrick Morgan, Georgia Tech

All the talk out of Jacksonville is that they want another pass rusher. Morgan is the top DE available in the draft. He is big enough for the left side or athletic enough for the right side. He has a very good motor and those type of players have done well for the Jags.

12 – Miami — LB Jason Pierre-Paul, USF

I’m still convinced that Tuna will be in love with JPP. Jason played DE for the Bulls and would be huge for LB, but he’s got the athletic ability to make the transition. He’s got a tremendous wingspan. JPP played standing up at times this year and looked okay. He is raw, but that’s why god invented assistant coaches.

13 – San Francisco — OT Anthony Davis, Rutgers

The Niners have the makings of a solid OL, but they still need a good OT to mix in. Davis is a good run blocker and would be an ideal fit for the SF offense. The Niners have a playoff-caliber defense. The offense has to catch up to that level. Improved blocking would help.

14 – Seattle (from DEN) — WR Dez Bryant, Oklahoma State

Bryant is the kind of impact receiver that Seattle desperately needs. Houshmandzadeh moves the chains, but just isn’t a big play guy. Bryant is deadly in the Red Zone and has the athletic ability to turn short throws into big gains. He also offers help on PRs. Seattle’s long PR last year was only 29 yards.

15 – N.Y. Giants — DB Earl Thomas, Texas

Earl jumps way up. I have concerns about his tackling, but he is such a force in coverage that a desperate team like the Giants should love him this high. Think how often receivers ran free through the NY secondary last year. Earl has the speed and range to stop some of those plays or at least chase down guys who do get loose.

16 – San Francisco (from CAR) — RB/RS CJ Spiller, Clemson

Why take a RB with Frank Gore already in place? Because Spiller is a lot more than just a RB. He has WR skills when it comes to catching the ball. He’s the best RS in the whole draft. He also is a dynamic playmaker. The Niners offense struggled to score points. Spiller can help put the offense in good position with a long return. He can move the chains with a big play. He can also score TDs himself. Spiller had at least one TD in each game this year for Clemson.

17 – Tennessee — DT Dan Williams, Tennessee

Dan would give the Titans a real presence in the middle of their defense. They have some solid guys, but no one that really has to be accounted for. Big Al left a big void when he got elected and headed to D.C. Dan is 330 pounds and can push the pocket as well as play the run. He looked great in the Senior Bowl.

18 – Pittsburgh — OG Mike Iupati, Idaho

Iupati is a great run blocker and the Steelers need to get back to being more physical on offense. He can play either G spot or RT. I don’t know about LT. Mike would give them a dominant type of blocker. They had that with Alan Faneca and he was great for the Steelers.

19 – Atlanta — DE Brandon Graham, Michigan

The Falcons need to get better at rushing the passer and covering receivers. Graham is the best value on the board. He might be smaller than Mike Smith would ideally like, but you can’t argue with his motor or his production. Graham is the kind of relentless worker that should fit in well on the Falcons roster.

20 – Houston — WR Arrelious Benn, Illinois

The Texans could still probably use some help on defense, but Benn is just too good to pass on. He is a big WR with great RAC skills. That is ideal for Houston’s offense. He also provides them good insurance in case anything happens to Andre Johnson. Guys like Kevin Walter and Jacoby Jones are good complementary players, but have their limits.

21 – Cincinnati — WR Golden Tate, Notre Dame

Was the Cincy offense painful in the playoffs or what? Chad Johnson is still a gifted receiver, but the passing game needs a boost. They need a playmaker. I considered giving them Jermaine Gresham, but went with Tate because he offers versatility. Tate can play Wildcat QB. He can run the ball. He is a gifted receiver. He’s also a gifted RS. The Bengals need an offensive weapon, either in free agency or the draft.

22 – New England — LB Sergio Kindle, Texas

The Patriots need a boost to their pass rush. Kindle is the kind of versatile guy that Bill Belichick should love. Sergio can play DE or LB. He’s physical against the run, but also athletic enough to get after the QB. Sergio has Top 20 talent, but there are a couple of character concerns that may drop him a few spots.

23 – Green Bay — OT Charles Brown, USC

Aaron Rodgers got sacked 8 to the 4th power times in the first half of the season. Get out your abacus and do the precise figuring. The Packers need help at OT. Brown is an experienced blocker who played in a pro style offense. Adjusting to the NFL should be easier for him. He is better at run blocking than pass pro, but has the potential to be a quality LT. He seems like a good fit for the Packers system.

24 – Philadelphia — CB Kyle Wilson, Boise State

The Eagles are expected to make a strong push for a DE in free agency. That means that CB is the biggest need on the team. Luckily for them there are some good choices in this part of the first round. Wilson is a terrific fit. He can cover, tackle, blitz, hit and play on STs. I think Kyle is talented enough and experienced enough to contribute as a rookie.

25 – Baltimore — CB Patrick Robinson, Florida State

The Ravens need a cover corner. Robinson has terrific potential, but had a down Senior year. I think the Ravens overlook the struggles because of the way he played at the Senior Bowl. Playing on a bad defense in a dysfunctional situation brought out the worst in Robinson. Playing with guys like Haloti Ngata, Ed Reed, and Ray Lewis could bring out the best in him. Robinson has the man-to-man skills to be a perfect fit if he can play at a consistent level.

26 – Arizona — OT Bruce Campbell, Maryland

Bruce has good size, long arms, and excellent athletic ability. That’s pretty much what you want in a LT. The only downside to him is lack of experience. He’s only got about 20 starts in college. Honestly, that lack of experience is one of the reasons that he is still available at pick 26.

27 – Dallas — OT Vlad Ducasse, UMass

We know that the Cowboys want someone to groom behind Flozell Adams. Ducasse would be good value at this point. He can spend a year learning the system and adjusting to the NFL. Ducasse has good size at 6’5, 330. He’s athletic enough to be a good LT. He could also slide into G if needed.

28 – San Diego — RB Ryan Mathews, Fresno State

L.T. is gone. Norv Turner’s offense is predicated on a gifted RB (Emmitt Smith, Stephen Davis, Ricky Williams, LaDainian Tomlinson). Darren Sproles isn’t meant to be “the guy”. The Chargers need a talented workhorse RB. Mathews has the size and speed to thrive in their system. Reminds me a bit of Donald Brown.

29 – N.Y. Jets — DE/LB Jerry Hughes, TCU

Tough, productive, and versatile. Knows how to get to the QB. That sounds like a Rex Ryan kind of player. Hughes can play DE or OLB. The Jets can move him around and do a variety of things. As good as the Jets defense was, they didn’t have that many sacks. Hughes could help them be even better in 2010.

30 – Minnesota — DT Jared Odrick, Penn State

Pat Williams isn’t getting any younger. Jimmy Kennedy has developed into a good backup, but the time is right for adding a high quality prospect at DT. Odrick would give the Vikings a young player to pair with Kevin Williams once Pat does decide to retire.

31 – Indianapolis — TE Jermaine Gresham, Oklahoma

The Colts love skill players. Dallas Clark will be 31 this summer. They could use a talented TE to develop as his replacement. They’ve added various guys the last few years, but no one has stood out. Gresham is much bigger than Clark, but Jermaine is a gifted receiver and Red Zone target. He’d give Manning another weapon to use.

32 – New Orleans — DE Carlos Dunlap, Florida

Too good to pass up at this point. Gregg Williams has done well with bigger D-linemen in his career. Adding a guy with Dunlap’s potential would have to be exciting. The Saints won the Super Bowl, but their defense needs a lot of work. Dunlap has the potential to be a major force off the edge. He’s also versatile. He can line up anywhere on the line and be effective.

Advertisements

Some Free Agent Notes

February 24, 2010

by Tommy Lawlor

I watched some game tape of potential FA prospects.  I focused on defensive players.

Karlos Dansby – LB – 6’4, 250 – will turn 29 in the upcoming season

Dansby is an unusual guy.  He plays ILB in the 3-4 looks the Cardinals use and OLB in the 4-3.  He actually lined up at DT in one alignment in the Dime defense.  He has ideal size, but isn’t a rugged, physical type of player.  Karlos has excellent agility and athleticism for his size.  He covers a lot of ground, both in pursuit of the run and when in pass coverage.  Good tackler.  Effective blitzer.  Led the Cardinals in tackles this year.  Playmaker.  Has at least 1 sack, FF, and INT in 5 of his 6 NFL years.  I think he would be best suited to playing ILB in the 3-4.  I would actually project him to WLB in the 4-3.  Karlos is too gifted to have him taking on blockers at the POA.  You’d rather have him off the ball where he can use his speed and agility to make plays in pursuit.

Antrel Rolle – FS – 6’0, 208 – will turn 28 late in the upcoming season

Former CB has found a home at FS.  He’s under contract, but is reportedly going to get cut because he’s due a big bonus.  Rolle will be the top UFA Safety if he hits the market.  Arizona likes to keep him back off the ball.  He’s a true centerfielder much of the time.  Has good speed and range.  He’s not a natural Safety, but gets the job done.  Good hitter.  Doesn’t go for killshots, but they may be an advantage with the new rules.  Generally a good tackler.  Effective when he does play in the box.  Willing to get his nose dirty against the run.  His best FS days are ahead of him.  He’s only played there for a couple of years.  He now should have a good feel for the position while still having enough speed and athleticism to be a good player.  Posted solid numbers in 2009:  71 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 4 INTs, 1 FF.

Antonio Pierce – MLB – 6’1, 238 – will turn 32 in the upcoming season

Released by the Giants following the season.  In watching their games I had noticed that Pierce was not the same player in the last couple of seasons.  Upon checking the tape more carefully that is definitely the case.  He is an adequate player, but nothing more.  Pierce had 2 TDs scored in his area in one game that I watched.  He had a chance to make plays on both scores, but simply lacks the ability to get to the ball suddenly.  One time he could have shot the gap and nailed the runner for a loss, but was slow.  The other play was a short pass where he got stuck on a block and couldn’t get to the ball carrier.  I don’t think any team should pursue him as a starter.  Pierce is still a good leader and quality locker room presence, but his best days are behind him.

OJ Atogwe – FS – 5’11, 205 – will turn 29 this spring

Restricted Free Agent.  Could be trade material.  Outstanding Safety.  Complete player.  Can cover man or zone.  Good hitter and tackler.  Will miss on occasion, but is generally good.  Has some pop.  Good in the box or playing back off the ball.  Willing to take on pulling blockers on run plays.  Plays smart.  Sees things before they happen.  Came into the league at a late age.  Only has 5 years in, but is about to turn 29.  There should be enough “tread on the tire” that he can continue to play at a high level for another 3 years.  Has posted some huge numbers in the past.  In 2007 he picked off 8 passes.  In 2008 he picked off 5 and had 6 FFs.  His numbers dropped a bit in 2009.  He still had a sack, 3 FFs, and 2 INTs.   Good player.

Darren Sharper – FS – 6’2, 210 – will turn 35 in the upcoming season

Caveat emptor.  The highs are high, but the lows are low.  Darren has great instincts and elite ball skills.  Picked off 9 passes this year and ran back 3 for TDs.  Loves to bait QBs.  That works great against young guys.  Look at his INTs from this year:

Matt Stafford – DET – 2 … rookie playing first ever game

Kevin Kolb – PHI – 1 … young QB making first ever start

Mark Sanchez – NYJ – 2 … rookie QB in his 4th start

Chad Henne – MIA – 1 … young QB making 4th ever start

Matt Ryan – ATL – 1 … 2nd year starter

Tom Brady – NE – 1 … can you say anomaly?

Josh Freeman – TB – 1 … rookie QB

Darren loves to jump routes.  Veteran QBs know to be careful when facing him, but young guys think they see an open receiver.  Out of nowhere comes Sharper to make the pick.  He is a playmaker in the passing game.  The downside of Sharper is his tackling.  He is flat out bad.  He misses tackles.  He doesn’t always look real interested in taking on runners.  There are times when he doesn’t even get in good enough position to miss closely.  Darren can’t be counted on to clean up mistakes by the front seven or CBs.  The Saints did not finished 20th or worse in points and yards allowed.  Any team interested in bringing in Sharper as a FA better have a high powered offense.  Not my cup of tea.

L.T. is Free

February 23, 2010

by Tommy Lawlor

The Chargers have released LaDainian Tomlinson. Several years ago this would have been unthinkable. LT was the heart and soul of the team. He was on the way to breaking Emmitt Smith’s career rushing record. LT was a workhorse runner with big play ability. He was a true franchise RB.

But something funny happened on the way to the forum. Father time paid a visit to LT ahead of schedule and the elite runner became a mere mortal. And then some. In the last 2 years LT has averaged 3.8 ypc and 3.3 ypc. He has 515 carries in that span, but only 9 runs of more than 20 yards.

Thomas Jones is also an older workhorse RB. He does play behind one of the best O-lines in the league, but Jones still is a good point of comparison. Jones has 621 carries in the last 2 years. He’s had 14 runs of 20 or more yards. Jones averaged 4.5 and 4.2 ypc in those seasons. These numbers are a bit surprising when you consider that Tomlinson plays on a dynamic offense that can throw the ball and really stretch the defense while Jones spent this year with a rookie QB and limited passing attack. Jones saw a ton of 8-man fronts.

LT still has something in the tank, but I hope no one thinks of him as a starting RB anymore. He is now at the point in his career when you look at him as a role player. He did score 23 TDs over the last couple of years. I think a team looking for a goal line runner and veteran backup should be interested.

The question I have is whether LT can accept a role like this. Over the last 2 years Tomlinson still seemed to think of himself as “the guy”. Any team he joins from this point on will be bringing him in as a pinch hitter and not the star slugger. LT has to acknowledge and accept that fact or he’ll be miserable wherever he goes.

The second issue is how many teams will have interest? No one will pay him big money. Teams looking at him as a role player will have concerns. They can’t use him on STs. What about durability? LT has only missed 2 games in the last few years, but he has hardly been healthy. Is that likely to improve now that he’s another year older?

I think someone will give LT a chance in 2010, but it won’t shock me if that is his final season in the NFL. We saw Emmitt Smith, Eddie George, and Shaun Alexander each fade quickly. I hope LT isn’t on the same path, but I’m not optimistic at this point.

Jevan Snead is an Idiot

February 19, 2010

by Tommy Lawlor

I’ve been watching tape of Oklahoma State QB Zac Robinson.  He had a down year.  You remember that he was without stud TE Brandon Pettigrew (graduation), stud WR Dez Bryant (suspension), and stud RB Kendall Hunter (injury).  You see Zac running the OSU offense, but the skill players around him not getting the job done.  Dropped passes.  Sloppy routes that turn into INTs.  And so on.

Zac goes to the Senior Bowl and plays really well.  Suddenly we can forgive a lot of the struggles of 2009.  He showed that with the right people around him he can still be a very good player.

Jevan Snead had a down year.  Back in 2008 he threw for 2,762 yards with 26 TDs and 13 INTs.  Snead looked like a player on the rise and possible 1st round pick.  This year he threw for 2,632 yards with 20 TDs and 20 INTs.  He only finished 72nd in the nation in pass efficiency.

Jevan’s argument is that he was going pro because he would be graduating this spring and losing so many veterans around him.  He would lose 3 OL, a TE, his best WR, and Dexter McCluster.  That’s a lot of firepower.

Somebody figured out a couple of years ago that the formula for successful QB prospects in the NFL was completion percentage + starts.  A QB needed to complete 60% of his passes.  There was no specific number for starts, but the more the better.

Jevan sat down with an agent and figured out that the “smart” thing to do was come out early after a poor season, knowing he only has 2 years as a starter and has a lifetime completion percentage of 55.  Thinking like this would send up a major red flag for me.

I called him an idiot because his decision is short-sighted and dumb.  Does he not think NFL teams wouldn’t understand that he’d be without key players next year?  Just as importantly…he robs himself of a chance to play in the Senior Bowl.  Go back to Zac.  That was a key for him in getting back some momentum.  Zac really helped himself down in Mobile.  All Jevan can do is go workout at the Combine.  That won’t mean diddly poo (to borrow a quote from Jim Mora) compared to what the Senior Bowl could.

The first key to being a successful QB is good decision making.  Snead has shown NFL teams that he needs a lot of help in that area.

Some Offseason Thoughts

February 18, 2010

by Tommy Lawlor

My latest entry for the Huffington Post.

Link

Shawne Merriman

February 17, 2010

by Tommy Lawlor

A couple of years ago Shawne Merriman was among the best players in all of the NFL.  How times have changed.  He missed virtually the entire 2008 season.  This year he played in 14 games, but wasn’t much of an impact player at all.  Shawne had 26 solo tackles and 4 sacks.

In Merriman’s first 3 years he averaged 62 solo tackles and 13 sacks a year.  He had 15 pass deflections, an INT, and 8 forced fumbles.  He was a disruptive force that offenses had to account for on every snap.  Will we ever see that guy again?

I watched Merriman closely in several games this year.  He simply doesn’t have the explosive burst that we saw several years ago.  He still plays hard.  You don’t see any lack of effort.  Merriman is an effective power rusher.  He can be tough to block when he plays with good leverage.  He has some pass rush moves, but without much of a burst they aren’t as effective.

Merriman is a restricted free agent.  I can’t see anyone giving up picks to get him.  If he was unrestricted I’m sure some team would take a run at him, hoping that Merriman would be better now that he’s not coming off a major injury.  2010 will be a key season for Shawne.  He needs to  get his career going in the right direction.

Now This is Funny

February 16, 2010

by Tommy Lawlor

The Onion has up a short bit on the post-Super Bowl power rankings.  Great stuff.

Link

Any Hope in St. Louis?

February 14, 2010

by Tommy Lawlor

In the last 3 years the Rams have finished 3-13, 2-14, and 1-15.  How bad are things?  In that span the team hasn’t finished in the Top 20 on offense or defense in points or yards.  They can’t move the ball or score.  They can’t stop people from moving the ball or scoring.  Ouch.

Coach Steve Spagnuolo was only at the helm for this year’s 1-win season.   I think Steve is a talented coach, but he’s in charge of a team with some major issues.   Simply put, the team lacks talent.  The 2006 and 2007 draft classes are almost disastrously bad.

2006

1 15 Tye Hill CB Clemson
2 46 Joe Klopfenstein TE Colorado
3 68 Claude Wroten DT Louisiana State
3 77 Jon Alston LB Stanford
3 93 Dominique Byrd TE USC
4 113 Victor Adeyanju DE Indiana
5 144 Marques Hagans WR Virginia
7 221 Tim McGarigle LB Northwestern
7 242 Mark Setterstrom G Minnesota
7 243 Tony Palmer G Missouri

2007

1 13 Adam Carriker NT Nebraska
2 52 Brian Leonard RB Rutgers
3 84 Jonathan Wade CB Tennessee
5 139 Dustin Fry C Clemson
5 154 Clifton Ryan DT Michigan State
6 190 Ken Shackleford T Georgia
7 248 Keith Jackson DT Arkansas
7 249 Derek Stanley WR Wis.-Whitewater

Those draft classes didn’t look bad on paper, but they didn’t work out at all.  I find it hard to believe that the players are completely at fault.  I have to think that there was something systematically wrong with the Rams.  The organization has been dysfunctional in some recent years.

I hope things are starting to change.  The last couple of classes produced solid young players in Donnie Avery, Chris Long, and James Laurinaitis.  The problem is that you still aren’t getting difference makers.

I give Spagnuolo credit for keeping the team focused.  I watched several times during the year and while the team absolutely lacked talent I never saw any lack of effort.  If you can keep millionaire players motivated in the middle of a disastrous season I think that shows the coach has the potential to turn the team around.

St. Louis needs a QB and they need difference makers on defense.  There is no QB worth the #1 overall pick.  As good a player as Ndamukong Suh is I think the Rams would be better off trading back a few spots.  That would allow them to take Bradford and then work on both lines with picks in the 2nd round (assuming they got a 2nd in the trade).

The other possibility is taking Suh #1 overall and then going for Colt McCoy in the 2nd round, assuming he falls that far.  The Rams could always deal up for him if needed.  That would give them a potentially dominant DT and a franchise QB.

The real key is finding a QB you believe in and going for that guy, whether Bradford, McCoy, Jimmy Clausen or someone like Dan LeFevour.  Heck, they could trade for Donovan McNabb or could go after a veteran free agent like Chad Pennington or Kerry Collins.  I don’t think keeping Marc Bulger around any longer makes sense.  He has really struggled the last few years.  I think a change of scenery is the only hope for turning his career around.

This is a crucial offseason for the Rams.  They must add a key player or two to get this franchise headed in the right direction.  The Lions went 0-16, but had Calvin Johnson in place and then added Matt Stafford and Louis Delmas in the draft.  DeAndre Levy may turn out to be the MLB of the future.  Veteran Julian Peterson did some good things for them.  St. Louis needs an offseason like that where they add multiple players who look like key starters or impact players.  Good luck to Coach Spags and GM Billy Devaney.

Interesting Note on Pete Carroll

February 13, 2010

by Tommy Lawlor

We’re all curious to see if Pete Carroll can be a successful NFL coach.  He was great at USC, but pro football is a whole different world.  Pete was an NFL coach in the 90s, but we don’t know what he’ll do post-USC.  Pete did some real crazy stuff with the Trojans and the kids ate it up.  Every day was an adventure.  The NFL is business.  There was an interesting blurb in a NY Times article about this:

N.F.L. scouts would return from visits and marvel at the movie stars and rappers on the sideline for practice. According to one former college and N.F.L. coach, who did not want to be named because he has no close connection to Carroll, one problem some Southern California players have when they go to the N.F.L. is adjusting to the humdrum N.F.L. week.

“The N.F.L. is very exciting on Sundays,” the coach said. “But during the week there’s not much jazz. U.S.C. players had to get used to it. They’d go to practice and say, ‘Where is everybody?’ They had to get used to practicing without the cheering.”

Pete understands the two worlds are very different, but I can’t imagine he’ll be able to completely change.  After all, Pete was a quirky coach in his first couple of NFL stints.  He raised that to a whole new level at USC.  No way all that stuff goes back in the closet, so to speak.

I can’t decide if I want Pete to succeed or fail.  Part of me wants Johnny College to fall flat on his face.  The other part of me would like to see part of the corporate culture of the NFL lighten up a bit.  I know one thing…I’ll certainly pay more attention to the Seahawks this year.

The Missing Fastball

February 12, 2010

by Steve Steiner

I’ve always liked Eagles linebacker Chris Gocong. For one thing, his name is a lot of fun to say. Gocong. That just sounds like a tough guy. I haven’t liked an Eagles linebacker’s name this much since Paul Butcher. Also, I’m partial to the tough guys that play the thankless positions, like fullback for example.

In a recent article Chris described the SAM linebacker position he plays as the “fullback” of the Eagles defense. It requires a lot of heart to get the job done. A lot of the time the SAM needs to run into offensive linemen, who are much bigger than he is, in order to “set the edge” on run plays. The SAM has to get the running back flowing back inside so the other guys can make the tackle and show up on the stat sheet. He has to sacrifice his body just like a fullback does. Chris has never seemed to mind, and at times, has done a very good job of this.

Unfortunately, good linebackers need to do more than just dirty work. They must be playmakers. They need to be instinctive. They don’t have a lot of time to see a play develop. They have to instantly read the play, diagnose run or pass, and immediately move to get into proper position. They can’t have wasted motion. One false step can make a lot of difference when a guy is trying to cover 20 or 30 yards in a matter of seconds.

This is where I think Chris can be lacking sometimes. He seems fast enough to get to where he needs to be, but doesn’t necessarily make the decision quick enough to get there. Chris played end in college. Read and react wasn’t part of his game. He was allowed to attack upfield.

Gocong seems fast enough to cover, but he either doesn’t recognize that he needs to drop back, or his hips aren’t fluid enough to allow him to turn and run as quickly as he needs to. So it’s a paradox because you have a “fast” player, who’s too slow, at times.

Here’s where I think the solution lies: Chris Gocong’s strengths are best suited as a situational pass rusher. The Eagles should move him to Left Defensive End on passing situations. Chris wasn’t just a defensive end at Cal Poly. He was a great one. He had 23.5 sacks in a single season in 2005. That’s the Divison I-AA record!

What about size? Chris is big enough to play LDE. He’s about the same size as Juqua Parker and Jason Babin. He doesn’t have the bulk of Victor Abiamiri, but you make that sacrifice for better pass rush skills. Chris Gocong is a gifted athlete. To be that big and to be able to move as well as he does is special. I think where the experiment failed is that Chris never looked completely comfortable in his new role with the decision making that a linebacker has to do on virtually every snap. As a 3rd down pass rusher, you can take a lot of the hesitation out of Chris’s game. He’ll play up on the line of scrimmage and he can get after the QB. Attacking is what he does best.

The Eagles defense doesn’t have a great option at LDE on 3rd and long right now. Jason Babin played well at times, but Gocong was a pass rushing machine in college. I know, I know, it was at a small school – but sometimes football is football – ask Brian Westbrook about small schools.

Some might question the wisdom of moving Gocong to end. He’s only got 4 career sacks. Blitzing off the edge as a linebacker is very different from rushing the passer on a regular basis. Chris had great success with that in college. He may not have the instincts for linebacker, but he sure knows what to do when he goes after the quarterback.

I think the Eagles can solve two issues with this move. You can open up the SAM linebacker position to another player who might do a better job and you give yourself another weapon in the pass rush on third downs. As Andy says, you can’t have too many fastballs to throw at a QB. I think maybe Chris Gocong is the missing fastball the Eagles have had all along.