2013 NFL Week 7 – Lloyd’s Leftovers

1) Injuries — Every season there seems to be a week where fans and media see the “physicality” of the NFL game. It is truly “Next Man Up” time as marquee players like Colts WR Reggie Wayne (knee – season), Eagles QB Nick Foles (concussion), Texans LB Brian Cushing (knee – season), Bears QB Jay Cutler (groin – 4 to 5 games), Rams QB Sam Bradford (ACL – season), Bengals CB Leon Hall (Achilles – season) and many others went down for extended periods of time. Unfortunately for NFL GM’s there are not a lot of players left on the street, unless you are talking about unwanted retreads like Tim Tebow, T.O, Chad Johnson, and Richard Seymour.

 

2) Not so happy homecoming for Peyton Manning – Maybe it was the long heart-felt ovation from the Indy faithful, but Peyton wasn’t Peyton for a large portion of a 39-33 “road” loss to the upstart Colts (5-2). Denver (6-1) lost their chance for an undefeated season and their 17-game winning in one swoop. Manning’s final numbers were good (29-49, 386 pyds, 3 TDs, 1 INT) but he clearly rattled (sacked 4 times and hit 10 times). There was a 5 for 12 stretch where the 4-time MVP wobbled pass after pass, which many attributed to a big sack/FF/safety recovery by Manning’s former teammate Robert Mathis. I know it was only 1 game, but the Broncos now trail the undefeated Chiefs (7-0) and they look vulnerable in two big areas (Pass Defense and running the football — only 64 ryds). We will see if Manning and the rest of John Fox’s team can respond at home in Week 8 vs. the upstart Redskins (2-4)… BTW is there any question that the Colts will win the pitiful AFC South (2-game lead over TEN).

 

3) Some horrible QB play – I was once asked if this is the “Golden” age of NFL quarterbacks? To answer the question, “No Way”! Sure passing numbers are up, but Sunday showed that there are not even 32 QB’s who should be playing on a weekly basis in the NFL. Sure, Andy Dalton (24-34, 372 pyds, 3 TDs, 0 INTs) had a “career” day as he led the Bengals (5-2) to a big 27-24 win over the Lions in a real shootout, but so many other signalcallers stunk-up the joint. I will start with new Eagles starter Nick Foles. After enduring a week of hearing that Foles was the next Unitas and “better” than injured former starter Michael Vick (hamstring) — including some fans saying that he was smarter — the 2nd year passer, making his 8th career start, was a “Deer in the Headlights”. In a horrible performance (), against the hated Cowboys, with the division lead on the line, Foles was too scared to make throws (too many checkdowns). And when he did have chances to make “big” game-changing throws (McCoy on a Wheel Route, a wide-open Avant in the endzone, Celek downfield along the sidelines, D-Jax deep, and many others) Foles looked like Tebow in terms of his accuracy and just plain didn’t take advantage of opportunities. Mercifully for Eagles’ fans, the tentative passer’s day ended in the 3rd quarter with a concussion after Cowboys DE George Selvie slammed Foles to the ground after he refused to throw the ball after holding it for what seemed to be an eternity (at least 7 seconds). We will see who Eagles rookie HC Chip Kelly picks to be his starter versus the Giants (1-6) in Week 8 at home — PHI has lost 9 straight at the Linc — but right now a gimpy Vick is probably his best option. Other lowlight quarterbacks in Week 7 were Eagles backup Matt Barkley (3 INTs), Vikings starter Josh Freeman (Why did they start him on MNF?… Completed under 40% of his passes ), Titans’ Jake Locker (Ineffective in his return from injury), Browns’ Brandon Weeden (Get ready for the draft CLE), Rams Kellen Clemens (average at best after replacing Bradford), Dolphins Ryan Tanneyhill (horrible 4th quarter) and Cardinals Carson Palmer (just looks old as he missed too throws)

 

Philadelphia Eagles-New York Jets Preseason Game Report

NY Jets RB Danny Woodhead may have earned a spot on the team after his tough play in New York’s win over the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field

On a night where many starters rested, the Philadelphia Eagles preseason mercifully came to an end.  The hometown Birds lost 21-17 to the visiting NY Jets, but the big news was that both teams left the game relatively healthy.  Rex Ryan’s Hard Knocks boys were sloppy in victory and the game’s two biggest plays were due to Jets’ mistakes.

Former Falcons Pro Bowl QB Michael Vick made his first start in four years, but his stint on the field for the Eagles only lasted just one quarter before heading to the bench.  Rookie safety Kurt Coleman, the real star of the game, seemed to solidify his roster spot by returning two fumbles (one each by Joe McKnight and John Connor) both less than 10 yards for touchdowns. 

The hard-hitting former Ohio State Buckeye definitely has put pressure on fellow defensive backs Quinton Demps, Victor “Macho” Harris, and Anthony Scirrotto as he might have locked up the Birds’ last safety spot before 53-player roster cuts on Saturday September 4th.  For the game, Coleman, a seventh-round pick, finished with 5 tackles and 2 fumble recoveries for touchdowns.  By the way, after his great effort, the former All-Big Ten safety now has outscored the Eagles offense this preseason. 

The game’s other big play was courtesy of Jets’ veteran quarterback Mark Brunell and former Super Bowl hero Santonio Holmes (will serve a 4-game suspension to start the season.   Brunell (11-17, 118 yards, and 2 TDs), who called his owns plays in the game, hit Holmes with a 51-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter to give the Jets (2-2) the lead for good over the Eagles (2-2).

Thankfully, the NFL will open its regular season on September 9th with the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints hosting the Minnesota Vikings.  Respectively the Eagles open at home with the Green Bay Packers and the NY Jets host the Baltimore Ravens in their brand new stadium.

Lloyd’s Leftovers 

  • What a great interview Rex Ryan is during press conferences!!  Buddy’s boy was very honest as he told stories about telling guys they didn’t make the team with some of their efforts.  My favorite quote was Ryan saying, “Sometimes durability means more than athletic ability in making it in the NFL” – he was referring to the tough gritty play of Danny “Rudy” Woodhead in the game.  He also added, “(The NFL) is a Man’s League”.  And one Jets’ player that I talked to after the game made it abundantly clearly that the team nor Ryan were not performing for the Hard Knocks cameras.

 

  • I was surprised by the little amount of arm strength Brunnell and Eagles third-stringer Mike Kafka showed on several out patterns and deep throws.

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and Sports Journey Network , who is also an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

Perrilloux Tries to Resurrect his College Career at Jacksonville State (AL)

Troubled former LSU quarterback Ryan Perrilloux has signed on as a transfer with Jacksonville State (AL) for the 2008 NCAA season.

May 19, 2008

(Philadelphia, Pa) —  In some good news, talented but troubled  former #1 prep player quarterback Ryan Perrilloux has officially transferred to Jacksonville State (AL). By now everyone knows that Perrilloux after numerous infractions was  kicked off LSU’s national championship team this spring. 

There is no doubt that the 21-year old Louisiana native has enormous talent (championship pedigree, strong arm, and dual-threat ability), as shown by his MVP performance in the 2007 SEC Championship game, but it is now time for him to mature and take advantage of the opportunity given to him by the Gamecocks. Jacksonville State is a Football Championship Subdivision level team (former 1-AA), so Perrilloux will have two years of eligibility to measure up his huge prep level clippings.

Jacksonville State coach Jack Crowe, who handed the starting job to the former LSU prized recruit after doing his investigation said, “I think he’s been an immature player, and I think he’s been a very, very, very frustrated player”.  Crowe added  “He’s got a national championship ring and a love for LSU. He’s not a tainted person with a tainted feeling. He just made mistakes, admitted them and moved on”. 

I truly hope that Perrilloux has grown up and is ready to take the steps needed on and off the field to make it to the next level.  Hopefully he has learned something from how Tavaris Jackson went from Arkansas to Alabama State to the NFL as a 2nd round by the Minnesota Vikings.  Perrilloux has two years left in college, so I will be monitoring his progress

Lloyd’s Leftovers

 — Former Georgia Tech star quarterback Joe Hamilton, who had been just hired on April 28th to a position of assistant coach in the player personnel department, has resigned his position at the school after he was charged with marijuana possession, driving under the influence of alcohol and hit-and-run.  GA Tech Paul Johnson in announcing the resignation said about Hamilton, “I know he has great love and concern for this program and always will.” LV’s Take: Hamilton can recover from this situation, but it is a shame.  The former Heisman runner-up could have been very valuable to the option offense that Johnson is bringing from the Naval Academy.

— The Falcons have for sure moved on from the Michael Vick era with the selection of Matt Ryan.  Falcons’ owner Arthur Blank recently said “Michael (Vick) is in jail” and “We don’t know how long that will be for. We don’t know what physical and mental condition he’ll be in when he gets out. … Selecting Matt Ryan was the important way to do that.”   LV’s Take: The real fun will begin when Vick is released, which is expected sometime in 2009.

—  Raiders QB JaMarcus Russell showedd up at minicamp in shape at 269 pounds and should have better stamina this season. LV’s Take: Hopefully now all of the talking heads will finally put to rest all the 300 pound rumors and the big quarterback eating his way out of the NFL stories.  The kid has a huge upside and I think this season you see him go vertical to all of the speedsters that  Al Davis has assembled.

— Vikings quarterback Tarvaris Jackson got a strong vote of confidence from his center Matt Birk on the radio station KFAN.  Birk said of his growing young passer “This is the year,” and “Do I think he has what it takes? Absolutely! Is it going to be ups and downs, bumps in the road? Absolutely. But I think he’s coming along. … I think he’s got what it takes. Obviously, it’s a big year for him and a big year for us, but I feel very good with him being our quarterback.”  LV’s Take:  As long as Jackson hands off to all-world running back Adrian Peterson, he will be okay.  But he better watch for competition from Vikings draft pick John David Booty.

2008 NFL Draft Review

photo by David Kindervater

(Photo by David Kindervater)

By Lloyd Vance, BIGPLAY Football “Draft Guru” / Sr. NFL Writer

(Philadelphia, Pa) — Now that the biggest “non on the field” NFL event is done for this year and 252 players know their destinations, it is time for myself and other talent evaluators to recap the action and then take a well deserved rest.

The 2008 NFL Draft definitely had a ton of buzz, hype, and excitement as Radio City Music Hall was electric when the event kicked off at 3 PM on Saturday – BTW: Loved the later start time.  The later start time and new format seemed to invigorate the teams to move swifter as on Day 1 the first round took only 3 hours, 30 minutes, which was almost half the time of last year’s draft (6 hours, 8 minutes) and almost equaled the record of the 1990 draft (3 hours, 24 minutes).

This year’s event seemed to be the NFL’s biggest production outside of the Super Bowl as over 450 media members — not including the gaggle of ESPN and NFL Network personnel — covered the event including an impressive 13 of the top 20 newspapers were represented along with television outlets (ABC News, CBS News and CNN), international media (England and Japan), and non-sports media (Forbes, the Financial Times and Wall Street Journal).

Overall, the event was timely on both days and teams seemed willing to listen to all offers before making their selection(s) easily within the allotted time (1st Rd – 10 Minutes, 2nd Rd – 7 Minutes, and Round 3 – 7 was 5 Minutes).   The NFL got the invited list of players right as no one went fishing rather than attending and all six invited players (Jake Long – Dolphins, Chris Long – Rams, Matt Ryan – Falcons, Glenn Dorsey – Chiefs, and Vernon Gholston – Jets) were able to leave the “Green Room” without enduring the Aaron Rodgers treatment.  The 2008 NFL Draft class may not have had the high-profile flash of the 2006 group (Matinee Superstars including Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush, Vince Young, and many others), but this year’s class is definitely a solid group especially at Offensive Tackle (8 selected in first round) and Cornerback (30 players selected overall). 

Tidbits from this year’s draft included:

Big Conferences Reign Supreme – NFL teams are looking for successful players from big conferences in the draft, because players are being taught pro techniques at these college and universities. A little over 70% of the players selected were from the 6 BCS Conferences. The SEC and PAC 10 had the most players drafted overall with 34, followed by the ACC (33), Big 12 (29), Big Ten (28), Big East (19), Conference USA (11), Mid-American (9), Western Athletic (8), and Mountain West (7).

USC had too much talent not to win it all in ’07, right?? – For the entire 2007 college football season analysts talked of the enormous amount of talent on the USC Trojans’ squad, but the group underachieved settling for an 11-2 record and a dominating Rose Bowl win.  Well the Trojans did bring home the title of most players selected with 10 players including first rounders DT Sedrick Ellis (selected by Saints), LB Keith Rivers (selected by Bengals), OT Sam Baker (selected by Falcons), and DE Lawrence Jackson (selected by Seahawks) .  The talent laden Virginia Tech Hokies had eight players selected and 2007 BCS Champion LSU had six players selected.  Surprisingly FCS level Champion Appalachian State had two players selected, which was more than traditional college football powers Maryland (1); Syracuse, Stanford, Washington, and Alabama (all had no selections).

The “Slash” Effect – It is hard to believe, but it has been over 13 years since Steelers 2nd Round Draftee QB Kordell Stewart became “Slash” in 1995 as a multiple threat – multi position player in Chan Gailey’s Super Bowl Bound Pittsburgh offense. Teams have since tried to find the next “Slash” with Developmental quarterback types.  This year not surprisingly the Steelers, who drafted college quarterbacks Stewart, Antwaan Randle El, and Hines Ward in the past, may have found their next Slash with the selection of Oregon Dual-Threat quarterback Dennis Dixon in the 5th round.

Rookies Better Watch Their Pockets – With rookie guaranteed money reaching $30 Million dollars (Jake Long got from the Dolphins a 5-year, 57.75 Million Deal w/ 30 Million guaranteed), a rookie salary cap is in Commissioner Roger Goodell’s vocabulary.  The Commish said in a recent interview, “I’m a big fan of the rookie salary cap also. I think that it is very much in the best interest of our veteran players, being able to be rewarded for what they achieve on the NFL field, and to the kind of money that’s being guaranteed for rookies that have not played – there’s still a question of whether they can play at the NFL level. That’s something that I don’t think is appropriate, and I think it’s one of the things that we’ve already outlined with the union that we want to discuss and reevaluate it.”

No Receivers Taken in First Round, but They Made a Comeback – After not having a receiver selected in the first round, this group proved it had good depth with 35 receivers taken in the draft, proving that the NFL is a “passing” league.  Surprisingly speedy, unheralded Donnie Avery of Houston was selected by the Rams before Devin Thomas (Redskins – 2nd Rd), James Hardy (Bills – 2nd Rd), DeSean Jackson (Eagles – 2nd Rd, Malcolm Kelly (Redskins – 4th Rd) and others.  The rest of the positional breakdown goes as follows:  CB (30), RB (27), DE (24), OT (23), LB (22), DT (18), and QB (13).

Draft Report Card

I don’t like to give “Letter Grades”, because as I always like to say, “It takes 2 to 3 years to evaluate a draft”. That being said, some teams definitely did seem to strengthen their teams in the 2008 Draft. The teams that did well seemed to follow a blueprint that I believe has worked in the past for teams like recent Super Champs New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers, Indianapolis Colts, and the New York Giants:

  • Go for Larger School Players (BCS Level Players) in the 1st three rounds.
  • Judge the total player (Interview, Practice Habits, All Star Game, Combine, Pro Day, “Character”, and most importantly Game Film).
  • “Football Players” in the 4th round and higher (Day 2). Players that may not have all the measurables, but who can provide quality depth by helping on special teams or playing multiple positions.
  • Always consider your team’s needs with picks (Use the draft to replenish and build to establish the cornerstone of your team).

Remember no “blueprint” is bulletproof, so regardless of how much homework is done before the draft, most talent evaluator’s will have just as many Charles Rogers, Freddie Mitchell, Mike Mamula, Akilli Smith, and Tim Couch (All High 1st Round Busts) type picks on their resume as Tom Brady, Terrell Davis, and Seth Joyner (All late round finds) type picks. The draft process is a roll of the dice, but the aforementioned group always seems to do just a little bit better than others.

WINNERS

Dallas Cowboys – Many people have called GM/Owner Jerry Jones a “meddler” in the past, but the deep-pocketed owner and his staff had a pretty good draft.  On Day 1 they grabbed homerun threat running back Felix Jones from Arkansas (1st Rd), South Florida cover corner Mike Jenkins (1st Rd) and athletic former basketball player TE Martellus Bennett in the second round.  Then the ‘Boys draft staff grabbed sleeper running back Georgia Tech Tashard Choice (4th) and Boise State heady cornerback Orlando Scandrick plus jettisoned Parcells’ players Anthony Fassano and Akin Ayodele.

Miami Dolphins – Made sure that No. 1 player Jake Long was signed, sealed, and delivered instead of being a training camp holding out. Got their quarterback of the future in Jake Long’s teammate quarterback Chad Henne and Clemson defensive end Phillip Merling in the 2nd Round. They also traded RB Lorenzo Booker to the Eagles for a fourth round pick, and grabbed Parcells favorites former Cowboys LB Akin Ayodele and TE Anthony Fassano (for only a 4th round pick) all in Day 1. They were also frugal in Day 2 grabbing Hampton DT Kendall Langford (3rd Rd) and Toledo RB Jalen Parmele (6th Rd).  Also look for a deal by training camp moving disgruntled DE Jason Taylor elsewhere — There were rumblings that the Jaguars were after him, but nothing happened…Maybe the Eagles will be interested.

Kansas CityAn unbelievable draft for a GM (Carl Peterson) and Head Coach (Herman Edwards) on the hot seat.  On Day 1 they selected three guys with first round grades in DT Glenn Dorsey, OT Branden Albert, and CB Brandon Flowers.  With nine picks on Day 2, they grabbed other big school blue chippers Texas RB Jamaal Charles (3rd Rd), Tennessee big TE Brad Cottam (3rd Rd), North Carolina State DB DaJuan Morgan (3rd Rd), Missouri WR Will Franklin (4th Rd) and small school top prospect from Grand Valley State CB Brandon Carr.

Pittsburgh Steelers – The “blue collar” tough team followed their philosophy by grabbing big school performers Illinois workhorse running back Rashard Mendenhall (1st Rd), Texas receiver Limas Sweed (2nd Rd), future 3-4 pass rusher UCLA’s Bruce Davis (3rd Rd), big Texas offensive tackle Tony Hill (4th Rd) and almost heisman winner Oregon QB Dennis Dixon (5th Rd).  Look for Mendenhall to make the Cowboys, Panthers, and Raiders think twice on passing him up for other backs.  I also cannot wait to see the trick plays they will use with Dixon.

Patriots – Everyone wanted to talk about their aging linebackers and leaky secondary going into the draft, so it was only natural that Belichick’s boys responded.  Led by draft phenom VP of Personnel Scott Pioli, the Patriots grabbed three linebackers (Tennessee’s Jerrod Mayo in the 1st Rd, Michigan’s Shawn Crable in the 3rd Rd, and Nebraska’s Bo Ruud in the 6th Rd) and two cornerbacks (Colorado’s Terrence Wheatley in the 2nd Rd and Auburn’s Jonathan Wilhite in the 4th Rd).  Plus they grabbed developmental quarterback type San Diego State’s Kevin O’Connell (3rd Rd) and their own “David Tyree” clone in UCLA special teamer Matthew Slater (5th Rd).

Colts – Their draft started at the 2007 NFL Draft when they moved up to grab rookie of the year candidate Offensive Tackle Tony Ugoh.  The move to grab Ugoh caused them not to have a first rounder, but GM Bill Polian and Head Coach Tony Dungy went to work.  They grabbed athletic versatile Arizona State O-lineman Mike Pollak (2nd Rd), Georgia Tech OLB Phillip Wheeler (3rd Rd), Georgia pass rushing OLB Marcus Howard (5th Rd), and I love the selection of tough football player all-time Michigan rusher RB Mike Hart in the 6th round.

HEAD SCRATCHERS, BUT I WOULDN’T CALL THEM “LOSERS”

Houston Texans – The Texans appeared to make the biggest reach of the first round as they grabbed Virginia Tech Offensive Tackle Duane Brown after all of the glamour tackles were gone – There were a record 8 offensive tackles taken in the first round.  I did like the long-armed athletic tackle a lot, but he clearly was a 2nd or 3rd round player at best. The Texans didn’t pick again until the third round when GM Rick Smith recovered by taking solid players West Virginia RB/KR Steve Slaton and Eastern Kentucky CB Antwaun Molden. They also added special teams linebacker Virginia Tech’s Xavier Adibi in the fourth round.

Seattle Seahawks – If I did give out letter grades, the Hawks would need a special note to their parents.  After taking over the draft reins from Head Coach Mike Holmgren, I expected more from GM Tim Ruskell.  The Seahawks reached badly for USC DE Lawrence Jackson in the first and then selected unathletic Notre Dame TE John Carlson in the second round.  Both players are projects in my opinion and they will need time to develop.  Also wasted picks on potential undrafted free agent specialists long snapper Tyler Schmitt from San Diego State (6th Rd) and kicker Brandon Coutu from Georgia (7th Rd).  However I will give the Seahawks props for taking Mohawk wearing bad-ass fullback Owen Schmitt from West Virginia (5th Rd).

Atlanta Falcons – Sure they got the new face of their franchise in golden boy quarterback Boston College Matt Ryan (3rd Overall).  But they reached badly for bad senior year USC offensive tackle Sam Baker (21st Overall) and smallish Oklahoma MLB Curtis Lofton (2nd). On Day 2 even Mel Kiper couldn’t’ even tell you a little about most of their group. However the one player in the second half of their draft I did like Louisville receiver Harry Douglas, who is good in the redzone.

Detroit Lions – The “Millen” Man March to fire beleaguered GM Matt Millen just got bigger as the Lions seemed to have nary a plan in the draft.  After passing on the chance to move up to draft Virginia OG/OT Branden Albert, the Lions reached for right tackle candidate Gosder Cherilus.  I don’t see Cherilus being ready to play anytime soon.  They also reached for Colorado MLB Jordan Dizon too soon in the second and got too catch up in Central Florida running back Kevin Smith’s numbers from college by selecting him with the first pick of Day 2.  Smith should be a good contributor, but I don’t think he is a future game-breaker nor was he the 64th best player in the draft.  Also what are you doing with disgruntled receiver Roy Williams. The Lions did do something right by exciting the crowd by selecting Army S Caleb Campbell in the 7th (see Lloyd’s Leftovers).

Baltimore Ravens – I thought they did a good overall job, but trading up to grab Delaware quarterback Joe Flacco with the 18th pick was too much — Ravens dealt the first-round choice they received from the Jags (26) along with the 89th overall selection and a sixth-rounder to Houston for the No. 18 pick.  GM Ozzie Newsome rebounded nicely taking Rutgers RB Ray Rice, (2nd Rd), LB Tavares Gooden (3rd Rd), Notre Dame Safety Tom Zbikowski (3rd Rd) and UTEP OG Oneil Cousins (3rd Rd).

Cleveland Browns – All of Phil Savage’s wheeling and dealing left the Browns with only five picks and none until the fourth round.  They do have DT Shawn Rogers (Lions) and DT Corey Williams (Packers) to show for it, but they needed more.  However I did like the pick of athletic Missouri tight end Martin Rucker (4th Rd).

Tennessee Only one receiver, c’mon doesn’t V.Y deserve more than Cal’s Lavelle Hawkins in the 5th Rd.  And did they really need speedy East Carolina running back Chris Johnson in the first round when they already had Chris Henry on their roster.

Players Not Selected

Every year thousands of players are left heartbroken as “Mr. Irrelevant” (2008’s version was Idaho LB David Vobora picked 252nd by the St. Louis Rams) is selected thus ending their dreams of being selected in the NFL Draft.  Sure being drafted is an honor, but there have been many outstanding undrafted players including: Broncos great receiver Rod Smith, former Eagles tough strong safety the late Andre Waters, Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, and many others.  The great thing for undrafted players is that they can now choose their landing spot in the NFL and possibly enhance their chances by finding a good roster situation before signing.

Some 2008 undrafted players to keep an eye on in training camp are

  • My ultimate sleeper for the 2008 NFL Draft Georgia Southern jack-of-all-trades QB/KR/WR Jayson Foster (Signed w/ Dolphins)
  • Maryland junior eligible linebacker Erin Henderson (signed w/ Vikings and will play with his brother EJ)
  • Houston receiver Anthony Aldridge (signed w/ Broncos)
  • Chaldron State record-setting RB Danny Woodhead (signed w/ Jets)
  • Wes Welker clone Texas Tech receiver Danny Amendola (signed w/ Cowboys)
  • Speedy Stillman CB Brian Witherspoon (signed w/ Jaguars)

 

Lloyd’s Leftovers:

  • File Your Papers – In a move that signaled “Please turn in your retirement papers”, the Packers drafted second rated quarterback on my board Brian Brohm to be Aaron Rodgers backup.  I know Brett Favre, who surprisingly is on the ’09 Madden cover, wants to leave the door up, but Packers GM Ted Thompson slammed it shut.  The Packers also placed Favre on the “Retired” list this week and hopefully the old graybeard gets the hint.  However No. 4 better be careful in retirement as we all know about the Madden jinx.
  • Disgruntled Veterans Stay Put – For all the talk that veteran players, especially disgruntled pass catchers Bengals Chad Johnson (reportedly turned down a first and third round pick from the Redskins), Lions Roy Williams, Cardinals Anquan Boldin and Giants Jeremy Shockey would be moved this weekend there were only two minor deals that netted 4th round picks for the trading teams.  The Raiders gave up on former 2005 first round pick cornerback Fabian Washington sending him to the Ravens for a 4th Rd pick and the Dolphins with an already crowded backfield sent ’07 third round selection running back Lorenzo Booker to the Eagles for a fourth rounder too.  So I guess Dolphins DE Jason Taylor, Eagles CB Lito Sheppard, and the aforementioned pass catchers better report to post draft mini-camps… My guess is more than a few of them will continue to draw lines in the sand and not be in attendance.
  • Hey Roger, Where was the Big Public Scolding of the Patriots for Spygate – With a deal in place for Patriots alleged former tape man Matt Walsh to tell all to the NFL on May 13th.  Where was the big announcement/scolding to the world about how the Patriots organization forfeited their first round pick at #31 for “spygate”.    I guess the NFL wants this whole situation to go away, but I don’t think some fans — many of them at Radio City yelled “Cheaters” when the Pats picked — or Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter will let them.
  • Look Out Dallas Gentleman’s Clubs – From the “Take Him, Because We Don’t Want Him” book, the NFL formally approved Tennessee’s trade of suspended cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones to the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday. Dallas gave the Titans a fourth-round pick in this year’s draft and a sixth-rounder next year – To no one’s surprise the Cowboys have a clause that states they would get back a fourth-rounder in 2009 if Pacman isn’t reinstated or a fifth-rounder if he returns then gets punished again.  Now let’s see if heavy-handed Commissioner Roger Goodell lets him back before training camp or ever.  I won’t even discuss how Pacman and former Hampton “character” issue/recently signed undrafted free agent DE/OLB Marcus Dixon need to stay away from the 58 strip clubs in the Dallas/Forth Worth area.
  • Lions Get a Soldier – The biggest star of a rather quiet and uneventful second day of the draft was Army SS Caleb Campbell.  With the crowd chanting “Ca-leb Camp-bell!” and “U-S-A!” over and over as the humble Army cadet got a step closer to having his dream of playing in the NFL filled when he was selected by the Lions in the 7th Rd — He also will not have to go to Iraq as well. Campbell will be the first Army football player to benefit from a new policy allowing athletes with a chance to play professionally to complete their service by serving as recruiters and in the reserves. Campbell said “I’m very fortunate,” “Without the Army and the academy … I wouldn’t be able to do this. BTW: The last Army cadet to be drafted was quarterback Ronnie McAda drafted as Mr. Irrelevant by the Green Packers in 1997.
  • What No Quarterback?? – Incredibly quarterback strapped teams the Bears, Chiefs, Lions, and Panthers did not select one.  Maybe they can get one from the quarterback laden Buccaneers (selected San Diego University’s Josh Johnson in the 5th Rd despite having five other quarterbacks on their roster) or Packers (Selected Louisville’s Brian Brohm in the 4th Rd and LSU’s Matt Flynn in the 7th Rd to keep Brett Favre stand-in Aaron Rodgers company)
  • A Brief Look at the ’09 Draft – It is never to early for some research for the 2009 NFL Draft including: Ohio State quartet CB Malcolm Jenkins, RB Beanie Wells, LB Jim “the Animal” Laurinaitis, and offensive tackle Alex Boone; LSU pass rusher Tyson Jackson, Virginia Tech DB Victor Harris, West Virginia speedster quarterback QB Pat White, and my ultimate sleeper Virginia Union quarterback Lamar Little.  But we have 11+ months to bring you information and draft news about these guys.

That is it for 2008 Draft and may all the teams be enriched going into the 2008 season. You can check out my first round pick by pick analysis at http://www.emqb.com/nfl-draft-2008-first-round-recap/#more-1645.

NFL Week 13 Preview

(Philadelphia, PA) – As the calendar turns to December, the NFL enters into the final stages of their 88th rendition.  This season has been filled with more highs and lows than I can remember in quite some time, but on the field teams are either moving forward toward the playoffs or getting ready for the April draft.  Playoff positions are becoming clearer weekly as the Patriots (11-0) and Cowboys (11-1) have already clinched spots in the dance with it looking more than like that these two teams will be hosting the AFC and NFC championship games.  But beyond the two behemoths there is a mad scramble for the precious five remaining other playoff spots in both conferences.  Currently in the NFC, twelve teams are within one game of .500 or better entering the final five weeks of the season and conversely in the AFC there are 10 teams that have a chance.  Parity is definitely a big factor with the NFL going down to the wire as it seems almost every team — Eagles, Redskins, Bears, Vikings, Cardinals, Texans, Broncos, Bills, and Saints — is at 5-6 with a chance to make or break their season in the next few weeks.

We always say around the NFL that “Every Game Matters” and this slogan always rings true in the month of December.  As Colts head coach Tony Dungy said recently of the crucial games this time of year, “Even though every game counts the same during a season, December games always are huge”.  The Super Bowl XLI champion coach added,  “Playoff standings can dramatically shift with one win or one loss.  You always want your team playing its best as you head into the playoffs, so it’s not just winning in December that’s important, but continuing to improve as well.”

One thing for certain is that people love this game and everyone seems to be watching — except on NFL Network which is a huge fight that will need to be settled by the attorneys — as the NBC Sunday night game featuring the Philadelphia Eagles at New England Patriots was viewed by 21.8 million fans, ranking as the second most-watched prime time program last week.  This week’s marquee match-up occurred on Thursday night (11/29/2007) featuring the 10-1 Cowboys hosting the 10-1 Packers in a game that featured for only the eighth time in history two teams with 10-1 or better records.   Unfortunately for me my cable operator chose not to show the game — seems like everyone else I talked to on Thursday night had the same problem as 2/3 of the country couldn’t see the game — because of the cable operators ongoing fight with the NFL Network, leaving me with the internet to track the game.    For those that missed the game, the Cowboys won 37-27 as Tony Romo (19/30, 309 yards, 4 TDs, and 1 INT) solidified his position as the best quarterback in the NFC while Packers quarterback Brett Favre (5/14, 56 yards, 0 TDs, 2 INTs) didn’t even finish the first half after receiving a hellacious hit by DB Nate Jones that separated his left shoulder and injured his left elbow.  The other storyline of the game was the continued improbable climb of Cowboys receiver Terrell Owens (7 catches for 156 yards w/ 1 TD) from Bill Parcells’ doghouse to Wade Wilson’s team leader.  The ‘Boys are now 11-1 and seem poised to return to the Super Bowl for the first time since 1995.

Here are some of Lloyd’s Leftovers before we head to our featured game.

  • The NFL will do the right thing by honoring tragically murdered Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor in every stadium this week.  The heavy-hearted ‘Skins will be sporting a  “21” decal on their helmet for the remainder of the season, starting this week.  Just as important, the Cleveland Browns will honor Hall of Fame player Bill Willis by wearing a “BW” decal on their helmets for the rest of the season.  Willis died recently at the age of 86 and he deserves high praise for being one of the first African American players after the 1933 to 1946 “dark” period in the NFL.
  • The New England Patriots will be attempting to become only the sixth team in history to start a season with a 12-0 record when they travel to the Baltimore Ravens (ESPN, 8:30 PM ET).  The Patriots who are chasing the 1972 Dolphins “Holy Grail” of an undefeated season would join the 1985 Bears (12-0), 1934 Bears (13-0), 1998 Broncos (13-0), 2005 Colts (13-0), and 1972 Dolphins (14) with the distinction.  I think they will be safe this week, but the Steelers (week 14) and Giants (week 17) will be looking for their chance to knock out the town bully.
  • The top three teams in the NFL (New England (11-0), Dallas (10-1), and Green Bay, 10-1) combine for a 31-2 record, which matches 1984 (Miami, 11-0; Denver and San Francisco, 10-1) as the only NFL seasons with the top three teams with such a record through 11 games.   
  •  Minnesota Vikings rookie running back Adrian Peterson looks to return to action this Sunday against Detroit after missing the last two games with a knee injury.  The first-round draft pick out of Oklahoma has played nine games and leads the NFL with 1,081 rushing yards.  Peterson needs 143 yards this week against the Lions to pass Pro Football Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson (1,223) for the most rushing yards in a player’s first 10 games.
  • New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady leads the NFL with 39 touchdown passes this season and needs one more to become only the fourth quarterback to throw for 40 touchdowns in a season.  If Brady throws a TD this Monday night against the Baltimore Ravens, he will reach the 40-touchdown plateau in his 12th game, the second fewest needed to reach the mark. 

Featured Game and Other Games

Jacksonville Jaguars (8-3) at Indianapolis Colts (9-2) @1:00 PM on CBS

Broadcast Team: Jim Nantz, Phil Simms

I am extremely excited to see if the Jaguars are ready to seriously challenge the champs for supremacy of the AFC South after the Colts have dominated them over the years owning a 10-3 advantage in the series with the champs winning 4 of the last 5 meetings.  The last time they played on 9/24/06 the Colts won 21-14 with Indianapolis WR-KR Terrence Wilkins having an 82-yard punt return touchdown and QB Peyton Manning throwing and running for a touchdown.

Since the two teams joined the AFC South Division after the realignment of 2002, they have never met in December separated by only one game.  Veteran Jaguars running back Fred Taylor said of the game, “We know what’s in front of us, we know what’s at stake.”  These two teams are not particularly fond of each other especially after the Colts humiliated the Jaguars 29-7 on Monday Night football this past October.  In that game QB Peyton Manning had 259 yards w/ 1 TD and DE Dwight Freeney had 2 sacks, including 1 safety on Jags backup quarterback Quinn Gray, but this time things might be different.  Freeney is out for the year with a foot injury and efficient Jags quarterback David Garrard (136-209, 1,626 yards, 9 TDs, 0 INTs) will play in the game.  Garrard is third in the conference in quarterback rating and he has not thrown an interception in 209 attempts.  But remember Manning (240-379, 2,821 yards, 19 TDs, and 12 INTs) and RB Joseph Addai (202 rushes for 876 yards w/ 4.3 ypc and 9 TDs) will try to pickup the slack for injured WR Marvin Harrison (knee).  The Colts will also be trying to shake off a hangover from since their second half collapse against the Patriots.

Jags also think they can out-physical the Colts as shown by their 375 yards rushing – tied for the second most in the NFL since the 1970 merger – in a 44-17 win over the Colts in December 2006 game.  With a win and other outcomes this week, the Colts will earn their sixth consecutive playoff berth.  Remember these teams inevitably will play it close.  Other than the last two games between the two (a split) every Colts-Jaguars meeting since 2002 has been decided by no more than 10 points.

Other Week 13  Games

Thursday, November 29

GB 27 @ DAL 37

Sunday, December 02

DET @ MIN 1:00 PM  FOX

SEA @ PHI  1:00 PM  FOX

SD @ KC    1:00 PM    CBS

NYJ @ MIA  1:00 PM  CBS

SF @ CAR   1:00 PM   FOX

HOU @ TEN 1:00 PM  CBS

ATL @ STL   1:00 PM  FOX

BUF @ WAS  1:00 PM  CBS

CLE @ ARI   4:05 PM  CBS

DEN @ OAK  4:05 PM  CBS

NYG @ CHI  4:15 PM  FOX

TB @ NO     4:15 PM    FOX

CIN @ PIT   8:15 PM  NBC

Monday, December 03

NE @ BAL  8:30 PM ESPN

2007 NFL Week 12 Review

(Philadelphia, Pa) —- It is hard to believe, but Turkey Day has come and gone (hopefully everyone had a happy Thanksgiving) with the NFL hitting the third quarter pole toward its February close date.  You better appreciate this time of year in the NFL, because the season will be over before we know it and each week is a saga unto itself.  The weekly soap opera brings tremendous high and lows based on storylines that will keep diehard fans, fantasy football geeks, casual fans, guys that study betting lines, and everyone else on the edge of their seat for the entire rollercoaster ride from September to February.

The separation pattern continued in week 12 as the “Championship Rounds” (November and December) have led to several trends appearing.

  • Some teams are streaking forward toward the playoffs by stringing consecutive wins together — Patriots (11), Cowboys (8), Packers (6), Buccaneers (3), Seahawks (3), and Jaguars (3) — while others seem stuck in neutral and can’t seem to get a win continuing losing streaks – Dolphins (11), Ravens (5), Panthers (5), Chiefs (4), Titans (3), Redskins (3), and Lions (3)
  • Championship level teams are showing their mettle (Patriots, Colts, Jaguars, Cowboys, Steelers, and Packers)
  • Early season potential playoff upstarts coming back to earth i.e. “Frauds” — Lions, Ravens, and Titans (Giants???)
  • Bunch of other teams fighting for their playoff lives weekly as parity continues (There nine 5-6 teams including the Eagles, Redskins, Bears, Vikings, Cardinals, Texans, Broncos, Bills, and Saints).
  • Teams getting ready for the draft in April (Panthers, Rams, Jets, Falcons, Niners, Raiders, and most importantly the winless Dolphins who seem assured of picking first – Arkansas RB Darren McFadden is quickly moving up my list, but I still like the pro prospects of Kentucky QB Andre Woodson)

—The Eagles almost pulled off the impossible, hanging with the might Patriots for four quarters in a 31-28 loss. In the NFL there are no “moral victories” as only wins in the official standings count when the season is over.  Every NFL team can point to “shoulda woulda coulda” games that were almost victories, but the best teams find ways to win tough close games.  Sure I was happy to see the Birds go all out in a game no one including yours truly gave them any chance to win (NFL record tying 24 point underdogs).  But in the end the pretty girl talked to them and they went home without her number.  Andy Reid said after the game “Obviously, there are some good things we can take out of this game and there are also a ton of things we need to work on”.  What I did notice was that the Eagles might have shown other teams in the NFL the formula for beating the Patriots. 

1) Get pressure on quarterback Tom Brady – the Eagles brought “heat” from five pass rushers including LB Chris Gcong (1 sack) finishing with three sacks overall and how about the hit defensive end Juqua Thomas laid on the “golden boy” quarterback.

2) Minimumalize mistakes – the Eagles only had 3 penalties as opposed to the Patriots seven and their O-line allowed zero sacks, but turnovers was where the game was lost for the Birds (Eagles three, including one returned for a touchdown to the Patriots none)

3) Play physical with Randy Moss and tattoo any receiver that catches a ball – Moss was limited to five catches for 43 yards with zero touchdowns as Eagles corners Sheldon Brown and Lito Sheppard grabbed, pushed, and frustrated him.  The tandem also knew safeties Brian Dawkins and JR Reed were also lurking over the top to hit any receiver ready to catch a pass. 

4) Play loose — We saw an onside kick recovery, a flea-flicker, an almost pass by a receiver, and a “no fear” attitude throughout the entire team from embattled head coach Andy Reid to all forty-seven players that suited up for the Birds. See other NFL teams, they are human after all. 

5) Limit the Patriots number of runs causing them to be a passing team only — The Birds took away the Patriots running game (15 rushing plays), but they were unable to get an interception off the Pats’ season high 54 pass plays for 380 of the team’s 410 total yards.

—Everyone better start planning for the NFC playoffs to go through either one of two places Dallas or Green Bay, as the Packers and Cowboys are both 10-1.  These two teams showed on Thanksgiving by destroying their opposition that this maybe a flashback year to the mid 90’s when these storied franchises were at the top of the conference.  Their Turkey day wins setup a marquee Thursday Night Football battle on NFL Network in week 13 in Dallas.  The game will feature America’s New Sweetheart Dallas quarterback Tony Romo against his former hero growing up in Wisconsin, Packers quarterback Brett Favre.

Before we go onto the weekly awards and game notes a couple of Lloyd’s Leftovers.

  • R.I.P Redskins Safety Sean Taylor — We are all grieving over the tragic shooting death of the maturing player at such a young age (24) and hopefully time will help to heal our remorse. My thoughts and prayers are with the Redskins and Sean’s family/friends.
  • As a noted football historian I would be remiss if I didn’t also send out my thoughts and prayers to the family of NFL Hall of Fame player Bill Willis.  The former Cleveland Browns and Ohio State passed away on 11/27/2007 at the age of 86 after a brief illness.  Willis was a two-way player (Tackle and Linebacker), who was one of the first African American players after the thirteen-year drought in professional football from 1933 to 1946.  Willis not only played for the Browns of the All American Football Conference (AAFC) and then the NFL, but he and teammate Marion Motley showed that African Americans could play with ferocity and intelligence.  Willis is credited with being the first African American to play and excel at the “middle guard” position, which later became the coveted middle linebacker position (thinking man’s position on defense).  Willis was enshrined in the pro football hall of fame in 1977. Steve Perry, the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s President/Executive Director said of Willis “The courage and leadership exemplified by him while leading the cause to break down racial barriers is a model for all of us all to live by.”
  • Hey Pittsburgh Steelers, fix your turf!!!  I know that the Rooney family is one of the classiest group of owners around, but it was a national disgrace that the Steelers and Dolphins had to play on a sloppy soupy playing field at Heinz Field last Monday Night.  The 3-0 win by the Steelers was one of the worst games that I have watched due to the field conditions and thank goodness no players were hurt due to the conditions.  I think the best way to fix this wear/tear and drainage problem for good – seems every year the Heinz Field turf is replaced – is to go with a synthetic grass rather than sod due to the Pitt Panthers, Steelers and several high school WPIAL championship games being played every year in late November.

Games Balls

Chicago Bears Kick Returner Devin Hester – I am no Larry Pasquale (vaunted former NFL Specials Teams coach), but even I know it is useless to kick to Bears uber kick returner Devin Hester especially down the middle of the field.  Hester may have saved the Bears season as he returned a punt 75 yards for a score and added an 88-yard kickoff-return for a score.  Both plays occurred in the crucial third quarter of the Bears 37-34 overtime victory against the Broncos and now Hester has tied his NFL record from last year of five returns for touchdowns.  In only his second season in the NFL, the “moves for days” runner has 10 returns for touchdowns in his career, which is four away from Brian Mitchell’s all-time record of fourteen (BTW: It took B-Mitch 13 years to compile his record). Former all-world returner Deion Sanders said of Hester “The reason he is so good is not only is he fast, but he has the strength to break tackles, good peripheral vision and impeccable timing.”

Honorable Mention

San Francisco 49ers LB Patrick Willis – Going into the season I thought Willis would e a solid candidate for the defensive rookie of the year and has not disappointed.  The first rounder from the University of Mississippi was amazing this week in the Niners 37-31 overtime victory over the Cardinals.  Willis had 18 tackles and .5 sacks while flying around the field.  He also made the play of the game running down Cards receiver Sean Morey on a 62-yard reception in overtime, when it appeared Morey was taking it to the house.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers DE Greg White – A relative unknown after toiling in the Arena Football League for two years, White showed he belonged in the big show. He made Pro Bowl left tackle Chris Samuels look bad and in the process finished with four tackles, one sack, and two forced fumbles.

Kansas City Chiefs RB Kolby Smith  – After Larry Johnson’s foot injury and Priest Holmes’ retirement, everyone was asking, “who was going to step up to run the rock?”  The answer was the rookie running back from Louisville (5th rounder).  Smith in his first NFL start had 150 yards and two touchdowns in a 20-17 loss to the Raiders. Sure he got stuff on a critical fourth-and-1 late in the game, but Herm should have kicked the field goal.

Lloyd’s Lackey 

New York Giants QB Eli Manning – It seems every year we talk about the Giants and Eli’s swoon in the second half of the season.  Manning was “jittery” as GM Jerry Reese said as he threw for 21-49, 273 yards, 1 touchdown, and 4 interceptions.  Did I forget to mention that three of his four picks were returned for touchdowns in a bad 41-17 home loss.  I don’t know what Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier devised, but he sure made Manning look befuddled against the NFL’s worst pass ranked defense going into the game. 

Dishonorable Mention

Cincinnati Bengals WR Chad Johnson – I know “Ocho Cinco” had a good game catching 12 passes for 103 yards and 3 TDs, but ENOUGH with the antics.  I am here to tell all your posturing for the cameras does is separate you from your teammates in the ultimate team game.  I didn’t like your donning of a faux Hall of Fame blazer to celebrate a touchdown in week two and this week was worse.  Number #85 cost his team a 15-yard penalty and field position by using an end zone camera to celebrate his first touchdown.  If Johnson’s wants to help save Marvin Lewis’ job he will stop these shenanigans.

Baltimore Ravens – I think that the Ravens fans and their owner (Steve Biscotti) our getting tired of head coach Brian Billick and his reeling squad.  The Ravens have totally lost their way and Sunday they lost for the 5th straight time this week 32-14 to the Chargers.  The Ravens only had 210 total yards (only 56 rushing yards) and a poor time of possession of 28:05 plus 2 turnovers.  I am can just hear Ray Lewis’ mouth now and won’t get any better as the Patriots come to town after struggling against the Eagles.

St. Louis Rams QB Gus Frerotte – The journeyman passer fumbled on fourth-and-goal with the Rams on the verge of a potential game-winning touchdown with 27 seconds left, leaving everyone scratching their heads.  He also had pedestrian numbers of 20-32, 161 yards, 1 TD, and 1 INT in a 24-19 home loss to the Seahawks.  The loss snapped the Rams two-game winning streak and now they should be thinking about whom they should take in the draft.

Game Notes

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Georgia Dome

Colts (9-2)     0   21   10   0      31  

Falcons (3-8)  10    3    0   0      13  

Texas Stadium

Jets (2-9)      0    3   0    0     3  

Cowboys (10-1)  7   14   3   10    34  

Ford Field

Packers (10-1)   0   17   14    6      37  

Lions (6-5)      6    3    3   14      26  

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Qualcomm Stadium

Ravens (4-7)    0    7   7   0      14  

Chargers (6-5)  0   22   7   3      32  

Soldier Field

Broncos (5-6)   3   10   14   7   0   34  

Bears (5-6)     3    3   14  14   3   37  

University of Phoenix Stadium

49ers (3-8)      7   10   7    7   6   37  

Cardinals (5-6)  7   14   0   10   0   31  

Giants Stadium

Vikings (5-6)   14   10   3   14  41  

Giants (7-4)     7    0   3   7   17  

Jacksonville Municipal Stadium

Bills (5-6)      0   7   7    0   14  

Jaguars (8-3)   10   6   3   17   36  

Paul Brown Stadium

Titans (6-5)   0   6    0   0   6  

Bengals (4-7)  7   7   14   7  35  

Raymond James Stadium

Redskins (5-6)     0   3   7   3      13  

Buccaneers (7-4)  10   9   0   0      19  

Edward Jones Dome

Seahawks (7-4)   7   0   10   7   24  

Rams (2-9)      16   3    0   0   19  

Cleveland Browns Stadium

Texans (5-6)   7   3   0   7      17  

Browns (7-4)  0   14   3   10      27  

Bank of America Stadium

Saints (5-6)    0   10   21   0  31  

Panthers (4-7)  3    3    0   0   6  

Arrowhead Stadium

Raiders (3-8)   3   3   7   7   20  

Chiefs (4-7)    7   3   7   0   17  

Gillette Stadium

Eagles (5-6)      7   14   7   0    28  

Patriots (11-0)  14   10   0   7    31  

Monday, November 26, 2007

Heinz Field

Dolphins (0-11)   0   0   0   0      0  

Steelers (8-3)     0    0   0   3      3  

Game Report: Eagles defeat winless Dolphins 17-7

Miami Dolphins (0-9) AT PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (4-5), 1:00 PM EST, Lincoln Financial Field

(Philadelphia, Pa) — BIGPLAY Football NFL Writer and Correspondent Lloyd Vance was at cold and rainy Lincoln Financial Field to experience the Eagles trying to get to a .500 record.  Plus the Birds were also trying to avoid the “Classic Letdown Game” against the winless Miami Dolphins.

Pregame Notes:  The winless (0-9) Miami Dolphins come to town in a game the inconsistent Philadelphia Eagles are expected to win.  The Birds have not strung together consecutive wins thus far this season, but they have a chance to get the .500 mark after a comeback win last week in Washington DC.  The Eagles were saved in the Redskins game by Brian Westbrook, who had 183 total yards of offense and 3 touchdowns including a 57-yard catch and run that may have saved their season.  The Dolphins have played tough in many of the games that they lost this season including last week losing at home to the Buffalo Bills 13-10.  An interesting subplot of the game is that Dolphins head coach Cam Cameron has decided to give BYU rookie quarterback John Beck his first NFL start.  The game also marks the one-year anniversary of Donovan McNabb injuring his knee (torn ACL) versus Tennessee.  Miami leads the all-time series 7 to 4, but the Eagles have won two of the last three games.  The last meeting was December of 2003 with the Eagles winning 34-27 in Miami and the Birds matched franchise record with 9th consecutive victory.  For the Dolphins watch for explosive free agent pickup LB Joey Porter and first round speedster WR Tedd Ginn Jr.  For the home team Eagles, running back Brian Westbrook (701 yards rushing with 5 TDs and 54 catches for 518 yards w/ 4 TDs) — bidding to be the NFL’s first 1,000 yard rusher and receiver in the same season since Marshall Faulk in 1999 — is a key player along with Trent Cole (NFC leading 9 sacks).

First Quarter: Dolphins 0 – Eagles 0 – This quarter was pretty much uneventful as there were only six first downs and three punts.  What I noticed was Donovan McNabb may have come out a little tight in at the beginning of the game.  He was high on a throw to LJ Smith and later threw an interception to Jason Allen.  Speaking of Smith, he had probably the worst quarter of any Eagle dropping a pass on his numbers and getting called for a holding penalty that took points off the board.  The Eagles did show on their second drive that they wanted to get to .500 with McNabb scrambling for 26 yards and a beautiful flea-flicker pass from McNabb to Curtis for an apparent touchdown that was nullified by the aforementioned Smith holding call.  For the Dolphins you could see the explosiveness of first round pick Tedd Ginn as he had 3 catches for 49 yards with a long of twenty three yards.

Second Quarter:  Dolphins 7 – Eagles 3 – The quarter opened with the Eagles having the ball in a drive that stalled at their own forty-one.  The failed drive opened the door for the most explosive play of the game as Tedd Ginn Jr circled under a Sav Rocca punt at his own 13-yard line.  The mercurial returner after an initial miss by Eagles LB Akeem Jordan made his way down the Birds sideline untouched sporting his world class speed giving the Dolphins a 7-0 lead.  On the ensuing drive, McNabb still seemed in a funk throwing a bad interception to Jason Allen when Kevin Curtis was double covered at the Dolphins two-yard line.  After another bad punt by Dolphins young punter Brandon Fields, the Eagles finally set off to get on the scoreboard driving from the Dolphins thirty-six to their sixteen where a David Akers’ 34 yard field goal got them on the board.  On the play before the field goal, Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb was chased then hit by Joey Porter causing him to leave the game with an ankle sprain.  AJ Feeley entered the game and threw an interception in his first series seemingly throwing the ball right to Dolphins DB Andre Goodman.  A series of punts afterwards left the score 7-3 at the half with the Philly faithful voicing their displeasure.  For the half the Eagles had three interceptions, three penalties, six first downs, 164 yards on offense led by a running game built around Brian Westbrook’s 68 yards on 12 carries (5.7 ypc).  Their passing numbers were nothing to write home about with McNabb throwing for 3-11, 34 yards, and two interceptions before exiting.

Third Quarter:  Dolphins 7 – Eagles 10  — The good news was that McNabb’s x-rays were negative, but the Eagles were trailing a winless team at home.  Someone (later learned Brian Dawkins) lit a fire under the Eagles at halftime as they came out of the locker-room.  The Birds drove sixty-two yards on seven plays ending with an 8-yard Correll Buckhalter touchdown run.  In the 3:51 minute drive, Feely was efficient finding Kevin Curtis for 14 yards and then an additional 17 yards.  However Feeley dodged a huge bullet when DB Will Allen sacked him causing a fumble that Vonnie Holiday recovered, but Allen was ruled offsides ruining the Dolphins game-changing play.  The quarter ended with the Eagles and Dolphins trading punts wrapped around runs by Dolphins rookie RB Jesse Chatman and Westbrook.  The Eagles dominated with 9:23 minutes of possession (Dolphins 5.37), third down conversions (2 of 3 to the Dolphins none), and penalties (Eagles zero to the Dolphins one).  Westbrook definitely looked like a player on a mission ending the third quarter with 22 rushes for 123 yards with a 5.6 yards per carry average.

Fourth Quarter: After a stirring third quarter both teams seemed to understand that the game still was not over.  The winless Dolphins showed heart by fighting to the end and the Eagles knew they still had a dangerous foe in front of them.  The Eagles starting the quarter with the ball rode the Westbrook express into Dolphins territory where Feeley looking comfortable threw a nice low 4-yard touchdown pass between defenders that Jason Avant snared in the end-zone for basically the game ending score at 17-7 Eagles.  On the touchdown play LJ Smith continued his tough afternoon by picking up an unsportsmanlike player penalty for yapping at an opposing player.  The field position and penalty seemed to fire up the Dolphins as rookies John Beck and Jesse Chatman took turn making plays moving the flippers down to the Eagles one yard line.  From there the Eagles decided enough is enough as they toed the line not allowing the Dolphins to score in a goal line stand that will surely be one of their highlights for the season.  On first down Chatman was stuffed by Trent Cole for negative one yards — second down produced an incompletion on a pass defended by Takeo Spikes — third down it was Spikes again as he ripped Chatman down for a one yard gain — after a Philly timeout, on fourth down the Dolphins desperately wanting a win went for it and the Eagles were ready as Juqua Thomas harassed then took down Chatman for a 13 yard loss on a pitch play.  After the goal line stand the fans and Eagles sideline erupted as they knew their first home win since September 23rd against the Lions was preserved.

Final Analysis:  — Eagles 17 – Dolphins 7, The game may not have been their greatest effort, but the Eagles pulled together to win a game against a foe everyone expected them to beat on a cold rainy day.  They evened their slate at 5-5 after a roller coaster first ten games and Andy Reid said of the feeling of finally being at .500, “It’s a lot better than being 4-6”.  They did not take the Dolphins for granted and it was the play of surefire Pro Bowl running back Brian Westbrook, who had a career day finishing with 148 yards on 32 carries (4.6 ypc).  Westbrook’s thirty two carries should finally quiet the critics that always say he is too fragile or injury prone.  On the career day Westbrook said, “It feels good.  We didn’t play a perfect football game, but we continued to fight”.  Eagles’ backup quarterback AJ Feeley stepped in and performed well after McNabb went down.  Feeley was excited after the game as he was able to exact revenge against a Dolphins team that had given up on him in the summer of ’06.  The former Dolphins starter in ’05 said of the win, “You never want to get your chance to play because of an injury to someone else. But it felt good to get in their and beat those guys due to our history”.  Final numbers for the Eagles showed twenty first downs, eight of sixteen on 3rd downs, 352 yards rushing with an incredible bad weather ground churning 202 yards on the ground that produced 34:49 minutes of possession.  Those are the good stats, but the Eagles need a healthy McNabb and need to do a better job on game-changing plays on defense (no interceptions and no sacks against a rookie quarterback) to move up the ranks of the NFC East.  Other than the goal line stand the game was a win that had few highlights that the Birds have probably already forgotten as they prepare for their own “Mission Impossible” as they travel to New England to face the might Patriots.

Lloyd’s Leftovers:

  • Where was Jevon Kearse ?? – The Eagles for whatever reason (benching for poor play or a knee problem) decided that their ’04 center piece should be inactive for the game.  This is a move I clearly anticipated as the “Freak” is not the same player and I suspect this maybe his last year in green.
  • Eagles WR Reggie Brown had more tackles (1) than catches (zero) in the game.
  • I wonder if perennial yapper Dolphins LB Joey Porter wishes he was still on the 7-3 Steelers rather than the 0-10 Dolphins.  Porter definitely wanted the money, but was it worth the discomfort of playing for a such a non-winner.  For the game Porter contributed four tackles and plenty of talk.