Today I start with the AFC East, which I think will be won by the Jets.
Tomorrow, the NFC East.
New York Jets (Playoffs)
The New York Jets were a field goal away from playing in the AFC Championship Game last season, a problem the Jets fixed by drafting the best player out of Ohio State (kicker Mike Nugent).
The Jets have quietly had one of the better off-seasons by upgrading an offense with the addition of Laveranues Coles (who led the Jets in receiving two years ago) and Derrick Blaylock (a reliable third down with good hands and speed). In addition, the Jets return the best offensive line in the division and a defense ranked fourth overall last season
The Jets have two Achilles heels which I think will keep them from going to the Super Bowl. First, Herm Edwards is a poor game day coach (much like Mike Tice), and he makes poor decisions in the final minutes of a close game. Second, Chad Pennington has a shoulder made out of glass. Pennington has yet to play an entire season, which led the Jets to bring in Jay Fiedler as a backup.
New England Patriots
Dr. Z at SI.com released his rankings for the season, which (surprising or not) look very similar to mine. I like Dr. Z, whom along with Len Pasquarelli, is one of the must-reads when it comes to the NFL. (I guess you can throw in Peter King, aka Fatty McButterpants, if you can ignore his Pats bias).
Anyway one of the biggest difference between Dr. Z and I, is that I don’t think the Pats will make the playoffs this year. The Pats play in the most competitive division in the more competitive conference, and they had one of the worst off seasons of any team. The Pats never had the most talented guys on the field but they won games because they were the best disciplined and best led team. But they lost three leaders this off-season, coaches Romeo Crennel and Charlie Weiss, and linebacker Tedy Bruschi.
There has been this aura surrounding the Pats the last year and a half, which has prevented many mainstream writers from second guessing New England. I think this is the season Tom Brady and the Pats fall back down to earth, and don't make the playoffs. I may be wrong, but that is the reason I’m posting these previews. If I’m wrong you can always rub it in my face later on.
The Bills will be one of the best teams in the NFL. Just not this season.
The Bills are loaded with young talent on both sides of the ball. Besides having the best name in football (except possibly for this mythical Taco Williams I keep hearing about) Willis McGahee is looking to become the best running back in the league. McGahee and receiver Lee Evans were two big reasons the Bills went 8-2 to end the season. The other reason was the Bills defense, which became a fantasy monster towards the end of last season.
Unfortunately, even if the Bills weren’t stuck in the most competitive division in the NFL, they still have to put up with the growing pains of a young quarterback. J.P Losman is certainly a better option than Drew Bledsoe, but from what little I have seen of him he makes more plays with his legs than he does with his arms. Unless Losman can prove he is capable of throwing the ball down field accurately, expect to see opposing defense put 8 and 9 men in the box to shut down Buffalo’s rushing game.
For the Dolphins, much like the 49ers, their franchise quarterback’s (Dan Marino's) entrance into the Hall of Fame may prove to be the only feel good story of the year.
In between Ricky Williams “studying a lot of alternative theories about life” and Randy McMichael being arrested, again, the Dolphins hired LSU head coach Nick Saban. Saban has been surrounded by a good deal of hype since he started, thanks in no small part to Fatty McButterpants. But Saban does have a NFL experience (unlike Steve Spurrier) and makes an excellent teacher on the field. Although he still has to prove he has an eye for talent (he drafted heavily out of the SEC this year) and that he can be a good game day coach.
The Dolphins shouldn’t be as bad this season, simply because with the addition of Williams and Ronnie Brown they have better backfield. Still their veteran defense gets a year older, and their quarterbacks (Gus Frerotte and A.J. Feeley) don’t scare anybody. This team is a good first project for Saban, since fans can’t expect results right away. It will be interesting to see how Saban shakes out in Miami.
At a time like this it seems almost selfish to report on the Saints considering the many people who have died and the thousands that can not return to their homes.
Since it could be weeks, if not months before people can return to New Orleans, the Saints are looking to play in San Antonio. Parts of the Superdome's roof has been ripped off, and the Louisiana Governor has ordered the Superdome to be evacuated in the next two days because of flooding. The bottom picture is taken inside the Superdome, and the light streaming in is from a hole in the roof.
The Saints are looking to play at the Alamodome in San Antonio or possibly Reliant Stadium in Houston until they can safely return to New Orleans. San Antonio makes the most sense, since Saints owner Tom Benson has strong ties to San Antonio, the city where he made his fortune. The Saints first home game is September 18 against the Giants, which means the organization will need to make a decision soon on where they will play.
Another possibility would be playing closer to home, in LSU's stadium which actually holds more people than the Superdome. This would allow season ticket holders to attend the games, and keep the Saints in Louisiana. Baton Rouge is only an hour and a half from New Orleans, while San Antionio is eight and a half hours away.
There has been plenty going on in the football world, but before I touch on all news Buc-related I'm going to spend a few words on the devastation left behind by Hurricane Katrina.
Early reports were that New Orleans had been saved from the brunt of the storm, but now it appears the exact opposite is true. Thousands of people have been left homeless, and at least a hundred people have died, with both numbers likely to climb as reports slowly begin to filter back from an area that looks more like a war zone than a booming metropolis.
As has been constantly reported in the media, New Orleans lies below sea level and depended on a series of dams, levies and pumps to keep from completly submerging. With the approach of the storm and the loss of power, it appears these protections have failed, as nearby Lake Pontchartrain has flooded the city. This may not be a worst-case scenario for New Orleans but it is pretty damn close. Judging from early reports it will take years to repair the damage to the city.
If you want to, here is a link to donate to the Red Cross.
The Saints have sought refuge in California, and have been practicing at San Jose State University the last couple of days. They still do not know when they can return to New Orleans and when they can play in a damaged Superdome.
In Bucs news, NFL rosters had to be trimmed to 65 players by 4 this afternoon. The final round of roster cuts is on Sunday when rosters are trimmed to 53 players. The St. Pete Times is saying that runningback Ian Smart will be cut, but other than that as of posting this, nobody outside of One Buc Place knows who has been cut.
In Falcons news, much heralded receiver Peerless Price has been cut. I honestly don't know if this was because he just plain sucked, because Vick is a horrible passing quarterback or because he was just too much money for a fourth receiver. Probably some combination of all three.
In Panthers news, Clark Judge at SI.com likes Carolina to win the division and possibly go to the Super Bowl. Starting tomorrow, I will begin releasing my conference previews but I also like Carolina this year.
Finally, it has become almost cliche to mention it, but my thoughts and prayers are with the victims of this tragedy. As Floridians, we understand all to well the potential devastation of a hurricane. May everyone you know and care for be safe and sound.
In the next couple of days Gruden and the coaching staff are going to decide which kicker will earn the starting job and which guy will get cut. August 30 is the deadline for NFL teams to cut their rosters to 65 players.
In the preseason, Bryant has gone 3-4 with a long of 33 yards. Bryant missed a kick from 53 yards. France has gone 4-4 with a long of 49 yards.
Normally, like most people, I could care less about a couple of Manchester United rejects who couldn't tackle a real NFL player if their paycheck depended on it. But this is the only real position battle the Bucs have had in the preseason. Everyone, including Michael Pittman, knew that Carnell Williams would be the starter, and the o-line has been too beset by injuries for any real position battles. Throw in the fact that the Bucs had one of the worst kicking games in the league last season, and the kicking battle is the only real drama this preseason.
I think the 25 year old France will get the nod over the 30 year old Bryant. Both are good options but France has proven to be more accurate on longer field goals. The knock on France has been he has a weak leg on kickoffs, but Gramatica had the same problem and it was never a big deal. The Bucs are in a rebuilding year and going with the younger kicker fits perfectly with that philosophy. Plus, whenever France misses a field goal to win the game I can pull out the requisite "What else do you expect from a cheese eating, wine drinking, Eiffel tower building, surrender monkey?"
Katrina dropped up to 15 inches of rain on the Miami-Dade area, and resulted in the deaths of four people hit by fallen trees. The storm also left 1.3 million people without power.
Considering all the rain that has fallen on Miami in the last 24 hours, and considering that the weather forecast for tomorrow is a sixty percent chance of rain, there's a real good chance Pro Player Stadium is going to more closely resemble a swamp than a field. Based on personal experience I can tell you it is incredibly difficult to run on a water-logged field. Mud sticks to your cleats and it is almost impossible to plant your feet when you are trying to make a quick turn. Depending on what condition the grass is in, it can almost be like playing on ice. Gruden has said the weather won't affect his rotation of players.
Also, before anyone goes all Milton Bradley on me, I have plenty of black friends.
The worst of Katrina is expected to hit Friday morning and then continue throughout the day. This should almost certainly push back the Buc's departure time from Tampa, which is currently early Friday afternoon. The Bucs plan on taking a charter flight from Tampa to Miami.
Considering that the path of the storm takes it right across the southern Florida peninsula, I don't see how the charter plane could fly to Miami Friday afternoon. A more reasonable expectation would be to drive to Orlando early Saturday morning, and then fly from Orlando to Miami.
Or the NFL could delay the game two days, to allow the storm to clear out before the preseason game is played. This might be the better option considering there is a strong chance the storm could hit Tampa Bay, and many players would be more concerned for their families than they would for a meaningless exhibition game. Either way expect plenty of Carnell Williams/mud tire jokes if and when the Bucs play at a rain soaked Pro Player Stadium.
When ever it's been a slow news week with the Bucs you can always turn to the D-Rays for some comic relief. Two days ago Joey "Blazing Speed" Gathwright crashed into the wall while catching a potential triple. The catch was the top play on ESPN's baseball tonight, but Gathwright also made a bit of fool of himself running full speed into the wall before falling on his ass. He still caught the ball but not before taking a blow to his pride.
Gathwright's team mates, being the sensitive and caring guys that they are, decided to remind Gathwright of this catch by marking the outline in tape. Think the chalk outlines around dead bodies on one of the fourteen Law and Orders. Gathwright did injure his shoulder on the catch and will be out of the lineup for the next couple of days, but Lou Piniella has said he will use Gathwright as a pinch runner in the interim.
One of the guys I didn't mention who performed really well in the game against the Jaguars was rookie Barrett Ruud. Currently, Ruud backs up Shelton Quarles at the middle linebacker position but Quarles is getting older and it only a matter of time before Ruud takes over the middle backer position. One of the ideas I wish I could take credit for is moving Quarles to outside linebacker, which would promote Ruud to starting in the middle. You would have a starting linebacker corp of Derrick Brooks, Ruud and Quarles. The Bucs would have to suffer some rookie mistakes, but this looks like the most talented linebacker starting line they could put on the field.
Finally, the NCAA has reversed its decision to ban the Seminole mascot from the post season. While I applaud the NCAA for raising the issue of racist Native American images in sports, the way the decision was implemented was heavy handed and illogical.
The Seminole Tribes of Florida and Oklahoma both support FSU's use of the Chief Osceola (in fact the Florida tribe helps to design the FSU mascot). It sounds like the NCAA originally decided to institute this ban after a member of the Oklahoma tribe wrote a letter to the NCAA protesting the FSU mascot. But this letter writer (while being a Seminole Indian) did not officially represent the Oklahoma tribe. I personally don't think college sports have that many offensive Native American images (only three or four), instead some of the worst offenders are in the professional leagues, for example the Cleveland Indians or Washington Redskins.
Hats off to the folks at ESPN.com for the fantasy football girls. What they lack in journalistic integrity, they make up for in shameless self promotion.
Anyway, let's get down to the Bucs fantasy preview. I'm assuming that you play in your average 10 man yahoo fantasy league. This means you start 1 QB, 2 Rbs, 2 WRs, 1 TE, a flex position (RB or WR) and a defense. Typical scoring system, which means you are not awarded points for receptions or carries.
Carnell Williams, RB
According to AntSports.com Carnell Williams is on average being drafted #40 overall, which puts him before Michael Bennet, but behind J.J Arrington. Most of the time, Williams will be selected somewhere in the fifth round.
Williams will be the starter when the season begins. He will split carries with Michael Pittman early on until he improves his pass blocking, which is the weakest part of his game. But by the time the latter part of the season rolls around expect Williams to get most of the carries.
Williams stock has been rising lately, and should continue to do so. Williams should peak right around the time most fantasy teams are competing in the playoffs. If you like to draft a lot of runningbacks (which I do) Williams makes a good third back.
In the average AntSports.com fantasy draft, Michael Clayton is going #42 overall. Like Williams, Clayton will be selected somewhere in the fifth round. That puts him behind Mike Williams but before Anquan Boldin.
Clayton benefitted from the Bucs playing from behind and being the only healthy receiver on the team last season. Their has been talk that his production could decrease this season, but according to Dalbuc at Buccaneer Bounty there is no such thing as a sophmore slump. Dalbuc broke down the numbers of first round receivers and discovered that on average only 20% of receivers saw a decrease in production their second season.
Clayton should benefit from being more familiar with Gruden's complicated passing schemes. Additionally, a healthy Joey Galloway and Ike Hilliard should take some of the defensive pressure off of Clayton.
Brian Griese is being selected on average at #115, before Kurt Warner, but behind Byron Leftwich. Griese will be available in the late rounds and will most likely be selected between the thirteenth and fifteenth rounds.
Griese started in 11 games last season while producing an impressive 97.5 quarterback rating. Griese looked very comfortable in Gruden's offense and it showed with a 69.3 completion percentage. By comparison Peyton Manning had a 67.6 completion percentage, Daunte Culpepper threw for 69.2, and Donovan McNabb had a 64 completion percentage.
The offensive line is a big worry with Griese, but he has the potential to be a sleeper pick at quarterback. He threw for 20 touchdowns and 12 interceptions last season and if you project those stats over a full 16 games, Griese would have thrown for 29.09 touchdowns and 17.45 interceptions.
Average draft position is 133, behind Eagles defense but before the Vikings D. Ever since Monte Kiffin took control of the defense they have been one of the top ten defenses in the league. While I would still rank them in the top ten this season, I think they will slip a little bit.
The departure of Dwight Smith will hurt their secondary, while the linebacking corp is in a state of flux. The starting linebackers are not getting any younger this season. By the end of the season I wouldn't be surprised if rookie Barrett Ruud took over the middle linebacker duties from Shelton Quarles. The defensive line should be better this season with the addition of Chris Hovan and as long as they still have Monte Kiffin the defense will rank among the league's best.
But the defense won't be as reliable from game to game, and will most likely be prone to mental lapses. I would draft the Bucs as the seventh defense, but keep your eyes on the waiver wire for the Cardinals', Jets' or Vikings' defenses which could surpass the Bucs' defense.
I seriously think Gruden got fed up with everyone asking about Carnell Williams, so he just went ahead and ran William for a total of six yards on the first three plays of the game. Not exactly smart strategy, but at least it should shut up the fourth estate for awhile.
In a game featuring two of the better defenses in the NFL it should come as no surprise that the first half was a low scoring affair. What did surprise me was how bad Chris Simms looked as the number two quarterback. Going 6 for 10 for 51 yards, Simms continued his streak of poor play from the first exhibition game.
On the other hand, Luke McCown looked like he earned the second string job after going 10 for 16 for 131 yards with one touchdown and one interception. One of those completions was a 45 yard strike to Paris Warren for a touchdown. While I have little faith in our quarterbacks beyond Brian Griese, McCown deserves the backup job over Simms at this point. Some other things I noticed . . .
- Paris Warren looked impressive. Even though he only had one catch he made it count by putting on the afterburners to get into the end zone. He's still only a rookie, but it looks like he has earned his spot on the roster as the fourth or fifth receiver.
- Ryan Nece looked impressive playing special teams. He was constantly near the ball making plays, he had a fumble recovery off a Bucs punt which set up a field goal. On the ensuing kickoff after the field goal, Nece tackled the kick returner at the 21 yard line.
- The kicking battle got even more interesting. Todd France made his only kick for 49 yards. Matt Bryant made his first two kick from 38 and 26 yards, but he missed a long field goal from 53 yards that would have tied the game. I get the feeling that Gruden had been leaning towards Bryant, but after making a 49 yarder France is back in the competition. As I've said before this is the only true position battle to watch because whoever finishes second gets the pink slip.
The Bucs play their first home game of the preseason tonight at 7:30 against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The question on everyone's mind is how much of Carnell Williams will we see tonight? Most likely not that much.
Williams will not see a lot of action tonight for several reasons. First, Williams is going to be the starter when the season rolls around. He'll split time with Pittman at the beginning of the season, while Williams improves his pass blocking. But a team doesn't take a runningback with the fifth overall pick and then sit him on the bench for the season.
Second, Williams was injury prone while he was at Auburn and the last thing Gruden wants to do is lose his prize rookie in a meaningless game. The offensive line is missing some of its regular season starters (Anthony Davis, Matt Stinchcomb) and until the regular season starts there is no point risking Williams' health. Third, the Bucs have a lot of other runningbacks on their roster right now (Earnest Graham, Derek Watson, and Ian Smart) and the coaches need to evaluate which of these guys are worth keeping and which will get cut in the upcoming weeks. Anyway, here are some things to look for after Williams leaves the game:
- This will be the first game for rookies Rick Razzano (fullback) and Larry Brackins (receiver). Razzano looks like he can be the true blocking fullback the Bucs have been looking for. Brackins is the physically talented athlete out of Pearl River Community College who is fighting for the fourth or fifth receiver position on the team.
- The offensive line looked impressive last week, with 169 rushing yards. A team with one of the worst running games last season, the Bucs look to continue to establish a more dominant running attack this week and it starts with the offensive line. If the Bucs can rack up more rushing yards this week against a more talented Jaguars defense, it will be step in the right direction.
- Speaking of the Jaguars, all Jacksonvillite's (or is it Jacksonvillian's?) eyes will be on their own much heralded rookie, Matt Jones. Jones played quarterback at Arkansas, but he has been converted into a receiver by the Jaguars, who desperately need offensive help. Jones has a unique blend of size and speed (6 foot 6, 242 pounds), and was considered one of the best athletes in the NFL draft.
- The Jaguars depended heavily on their eleventh ranked defense last season, while the offense struggled to put points on the board. There will be even more pressure on quarterback Byron Leftwich this season to turn the offense around. Runningback Fred Taylor is one hit away from another season ending groin injury, and none of his backups have proven they can carry the starting load.
Moss, apparently jealous of T.O. grabbing all the headlines lately, admitted that he has used marijuana since he has entered the NFL. When asked if he still smokes he replied:
"I might. I might have fun. And, you know, hopefully ... I won't get into any trouble by the NFL by saying that, you know. I have had fun throughout my years and, you know, predominantly in the offseason.
So "have fun" is now slang for smoking the reefer? These crazy kids and their MTV, I never know what they're saying.
It will be interesting to see how the NFL reacts to the news but I don't imagine there is a lot they can do, since Moss has never tested positive for marijuana while he's been in the league. Moss was in Stage 1 of the league's substance abuse program, but that was because he spent a few days in jail after high school for a drug related offense. In fact, according to Moss's agent, Randy was tested a few days after the HBO interview was taped, July 20. Unless you are in the league's substance abuse program you only get tested during training camp, as opposed to steroids which the league tests for year round.
And by the way props to whom ever came up with ESPN.com's headline for this story, "Chronic Distraction? Moss admits marijuana use."
There are only five guys still holding out for a new contract:
- Antonio Gate, tightend (Chargers)
- John Abraham, defensive end (Jets)
- Cedric Benson, runningback (Bears)
- Bubba Franks, tightend (Packers)
- Corey Simon, defensive tackle (Eagles)
Yesterday was the last day of training camp for the Bucs, which means no more two-a-days in a heat index of 100 degrees for the players. The Bucs will return home to One Buc Place for one practice a day, while they prepare for the season ahead.
Offensive tackle Derrick Deese is still unsure how big of a role he can play this season, as he waits to hear how serious his foot injury is. Deese took a series of medical tests Tuesday in California, which could very likely determine if he will be able to play this season. If Deese is unable to play, expect Anthony Davis to start in his place at left tackle. Davis is also overcoming a thigh bruise, but Gruden has said he expects Davis to be ready to play in Saturday's home game against Jacksonville.
Additionally, the Bucs traded an undisclosed draft pick to the Cowboys for offensive tackle Sam Wilder. Wilder, a 6 foot 5, 302 pound product of Colorado, is an undrafted rookie. Wilder was added to provide depth at a left tackle position beset by injury, and a shaky right tackle position where Kenyatta Walker is starting and his backup, Chris Colmer, has not impressed the coaches.
- Anthony Davis, T (thigh bruise)- should start against Jacksonville
- Derrick Deese, T (foot)- could miss rest of preseason
- Sean Mahan, C/G (elbow)- returned to afternoon practice
- Jeb Terry, G (knee)- out 2-3 weeks
- Doug Buckle, G (appendectomy)- little used backup guard will miss 1-2 weeks after having his appendix removed
On a side note, Todd Steussie has refused to comment on the offensive line or his role on it, but he did give this quote to a group of reporters who approached him, "I'm not giving you guys any more nails and hammers to crucify me with."
- Anthony Davis has been one of the few bright spots for the Bucs o-line this preseason. Orginally slated to backup Derrick Deese at left tackle, Davis played a significant amount of time at left guard during Friday night's game against Tennessee. While Kenyatta Walker took most of the snaps at left tackle Friday night for the injured Derrick Deese, Davis is the guy you can expect to see starting at left tackle when the regular season starts. Offensive line coach Bill Muir has been trying to build more versatility into the line, and Davis play at left guard is an example of that versatility that will help the Bucs late in the season.
- Gruden is trying out something new this preseason to motivate his younger players, and make camp more interesting for the veterans. Gruden has been handing out stickers to guys who make big plays in preseason games, a la the tomahawks on FSU's helmets or the buckeyes on Ohio State's helmets. So far the biggest recepients of the skull and swords stickers have been Davis, Ernest Graham and Paris Warren. I think this is a pretty cool idea simply from the college throwback angle, but it also makes camp more interesting for all the players involved. Which is a bigger deal when you remember how boring camp can be for veteran players. But don't expect to see the stickers in any of the preseason games, NFL regulations say the stickers have to be taken off for any exhibition game.
- Offensive lineman Scott Jackson also impressed coaches by taking snaps at center despite having a broken left hand.
- Fullback Rick Razzano should return this week from a torn hamstring that has prevented him from practicing most of camp. I look forward to Razzano getting reps in the training camp since the guy seems like the true fullbacks the Bucs need to open holes for Carnell Williams.
- Speaking of Carnell Williams Gruden has come up with nicknames for some of the other runningbacks on the team. "We've got Earnest 'Dodge Ram' Graham, Ian 'Go-Cart' Smart and Derek 'Datsun' Watson back there, too," Gruden said. "Those guys filled in for our Cadillac on Friday night and did good things." Ouch, Derek "Datson" Williams? Go-Cart Smart? Yeah, I don't see those nicknames catching on quite like Cadillac did.
Jon Gruden pulled his new Cadillac out of the garage for the first time Friday, but he didn't even take it for a spin around the block.
From Gary Shelton at the Times:
On the first night of the Cadillac, it turns out, Jon Gruden left the keys in his other pants.
And from Chris Harry at the Sentinel:
With "Cadillac" in park, reserve running back Earnest Graham rushed . . .
YES! I GET IT, CARNELL WILLIAMS DID NOT PLAY LAST NIGHT! ENOUGH ALREADY!
I watched some of the game on the NFL Network, which has something called No Huddle, where they jump around to the different pre-season games. So I was able to catch bits and pieces of the game last night, but I didn't watch much of the second half. Some of the things I noticed from last night:
- Chris Simms didn't look all that good. Sure he was under pressure when he threw the interception to Keith Bullock who returned it for a touchdown, but there wasn't a single Bucs receiver in the area that Simms threw the ball to. Even the touchdown he threw to Ernest Graham was ugly. I would like to see some more of Luke McCown, but the backup situation doesn't look good for the Bucs.
- Jermaine Phillips looks ready to step up and be the playmaker in the secondary this year. He intercepted a pass from Steve McNair in the endzone to stop a potential scoring drive by the Titans. Two plays before, Phillips had been jawing with some Titans players and had to be pulled away by the refs and his teammates. Good to see some fire out the defense, even if it's only the pre-season.
- The Bucs will have more runningback depth this season than they have had in awhile. Ernest Graham looked good, scoring two touchdowns. He did have one fumble, but I can see Gruden using Graham on more goal line packages, since Graham seems to have a nose for the endzone.
- The kicker battle just got more interesting, but finally that's a good thing. Todd France made a 35 yard kick early in the 4th quarter to give the Bucs the lead. Matt Bryant responded by kicking the ball 33 yards in overtime to win the game for the Bucs. This is shaping up to be the most interesting position battle for the Bucs.
"What really has me mad is that I feel I'm being disrespected," Owens said during an ESPN interview last night. "Everybody is saying I'm not putting the team first. I rehabbed my butt off for 61/2, 7 weeks for the team. Nobody knows that I had to sign a secret waiver to relieve them from any liability just in case I got hurt in that game."
But T.O.'s former agent and Eagles president Joe Banner are both saying that is not true according to a story in the Philadelphia Inquirer.
"That's absolutely not true," Eagles president Joe Banner said when asked about Owens' waiver statement. "We never discussed it with him. The funny part is, we discussed it internally, but we decided that if he was willing to take the risk to try to win the Super Bowl, then we should be willing to take the same risk."
It looks like T.O. may have had to sign a medical waiver with the surgeon who put the screws in his ankle, since the doctor refused to clear him medically to play. Either way T.O. can now be called a liar in addition to being a spoiled crybaby.
I would like to see a big name come out of this but considering we're talking about Carolina here I doubt that is going to happen. I have no doubt that there are NFL players taking steroids that cannot be detected. For all the attention to baseball, the fact remains that the NFL steroid testing policy is not nearly as thorough or as harsh as the World Anti-Doping Agency, which regulates Olympic events such as cycling or sprinting.
Of course the one guy Bucs fans will be looking for, Carnell Williams, will most likely not see a lot of playing time tonite, simply to protect him from injury. Offensive line coach Bill Muir created a bit of a flap when he suggested that the best way to test Williams was to see how he responded to getting hit by NFL players. Gruden wasn't too happy about Muir's comments.
"I love Bill Muir as a brother and a father and a friend, but I don't agree with everything he says, you know what I'm saying?" Gruden said. "And I don't like this conversation. Obviously, you don't like to see any of your players take a great hit. The great backs, the ones that play for a long time, they avoid those hits, they know how to avoid them."
Expect to see more of Pittman, Ernest Graham, Ian Smart and rookie Derek Watson, while Alstott is side-lined with the neck injury. Another guy who will be getting of playing time is Chris Simms, who is competing with journeyman Luke McCown.
On the Titans side of the ball is will be interesting to see how the runningback situation plays out. Last season Chris Brown looked like he had what it takes to start, until injuries limited his production in the second half of the season. As a result the Titans picked up Travis Henry from the Bills. Brown is slated to start the game, but Henry will also get plenty of action. The third runningback is Jared Payton, Walter Payton's son who played at Miami, and even though he is a Hurricane I'm rooting for him to make the team.
Finally the Titans first round pick Adam "Pac-Man" Jones will not play because he is busy suing a night club owner in Nashville. Now Jones feels he has been unfairly treated by both his teammates AND the people of Nashville simply because he was a high pick. I'm all for making a fool out of T.O., but ESPN needs to do a better job reporting on what has to be the second most interesting sub-plot in the NFL right now. Someone needs to follow Pac Man Jones around with a camera and then put that tape on the Ocho.
Which makes sense as the O's have a three game home series against the Blue Jays. Cause here's the thing, despite what you here in the media the Baltimore fans are ready to cheer for Raffy. Sure there will be a few scattered boos when he comes back, but Raffy has become synonymous with the Baltimore area, and the fans are far more loyal than any in New York or Philly.
Anyway on the actual game.
If Camden Yards was a three course steak dinner at Bern's Steak House, then the Trop would be a Happy Mean at McDonalds. Off the bat, Camden Yards feels more intimate than the Trop when you are walking up to it from the parking lot. The small structure combined with an open air feel makes for an enjoyable night at the ballpark.
One of the best things about a baseball park is that for many of the teams there is so much history on that one field. For example, Babe Ruth worked in his father's bar which used to be where the center field is now. The Orioles have done an excellant job of incorporating that history into the park, they have an O's Hall of Fame wall which includes such greats as Eddie Griffin and Cal Ripken Jr. (among others). They also have small circular tiles in the walkway path beyond right field marking the longest home runs hit at Camden Yards (Aubrey Huff has a tile for the Rays).
Camden Yards was built in 1992 and became the trend-setter for baseball parks built after it. It was the first of the retro ball parks that incorporated brick and wide walking avenues to make the fans feel at home it the ball park. And the best decision the O's made was to keep the brick warehouse next to the stadium and turn it into part of the park by building restaurants and team store in it.
When you go to Camden Yards, you have to get a BBQ sandwich from Boogs. They have a tent set up along the main walking avenue, and the pork sandwich is prob the best meal I've ever bought at a sporting event.
I showed up an hour early just to walk around the ballpark, so when the game started it was almost a let down. The Rays look like a minor league team, while the O's lineup looked weak without Sosa and Palmeiro. The Rays were lucky to score two runs on a home run that was originally ruled a double, but then overturned because it bounced off a fan and back onto the field of play. At least that was what I was told by the drunk guy sitting behind us, since they didn't show the replay on the jumbo-tron. The O's went on to win 4-2, and it seemed like Baltimore could have won by a lot more if they had been trying.
I haven't been to Wrigley Field and I haven't seen a game at Yankee Stadium, but Camden Yards has to be my favorite ball park. It's a shame that it has to be associated with Rafael Palmeiro.
- Mike Alstott is out with a pinched nerve. It doesn't look serious but this should give Razzano more reps, which is good.
- Matt Bryant looks better at kicker but we'll have to wait and see how that plays out.
- O-line is still a mess, but should look slightly better by the time the season starts.
In other NFL news, T.O. is acting like a spoiled cry-baby, for more news just turn to ESPN, the 24 hours Eagles network. And Titan's first round pick Adam "Pac-Man" Jones is making an ass out of himself and questioning his teammates' loyalty. The guy is about two steps away from being beaten with socks filled with soap.
Miss Alabama, Kristen Bell
Miss North Dakota, Kaitlin Brown
Miss Kansas, Latasha Laine Lawrie
Miss Maryland, Alessandra Torres
and of course . . . Miss Florida, Victoria Ratliff
"You can have your little Tampa paper. I wrap my dead fish in that kind of column. Give me a break. This guy Todd Steussie comes in here because he's got something to prove and he's playing for the minimum wage. This guy's coming off the ball, and that's what we need."
- Jon Gruden to WDAE, 620AM when asked for his reaction to a column in Monday's Tribune.
No, not that Captain, this one . . .
If the Brian Griese goes down with an injury the Bucs have a gunslinger on the sidelines to help them out. Halfway through Monday's practice Griese lobbed a pass at the Buc's muscular mascot (am I the only one picturing a scene from Waterboy?), and Captain Fear surprised everyone by not only catching the ball, but throwing a 50 yard spiral pass back to Griese.
"He's got a good arm, doesn't he?" Griese said. "He threw it a little bit better than me. I might have a little job security problem. He threw it at least 50 yards in the suit. Out of the suit, that translates to about 70 yards."
Hehe, Griese's only kidding, right? Right?!
Greg Spires may be the most over looked player on the Bucs defense. But Jay Glazer at FoxSports takes the time to highlight Spires' success on the field.
Spires rarely makes the big play, but he dominant against both the run and the pass. According to TwoMinuteWarning.com's defensive player ratings Spires was the thirteenth best defensive player last season. Spires has an extremely high number of plays that counted for stops, defined as plays that prevent an offense from picking up more than three yards.
Right now the Bucs o-line looks like it could be worse than it was last year. Second string rookie right tackle Chris Colmer has looked so bad that Jeb Terry, who was projected to start at right guard has been moved to right tackle. And with so many starters injured backups at one position have become starters at another position.
The only guy on the o-line who the Bucs can depend on right now is center John Wade, who looked like the best o-lineman last season. But the teams needs Wade, who is recovering from off-season surgery to stay healthy, because his backup, Sean Mahan, has been moved to starting right guard.
Deese looks like he has the worst injury, and he could potentially miss almost the entire season again. Hopefully, Walker will return from injury soon, and the Bucs can regain some depth on the right side of the line they so desperately need. Here is how I see the Bucs offensive line shaking out by the time the season starts.
LT- Anthony Davis, backed up Todd Steussie (Deese will retake the starting job when he returns from injury)
LG- Matt Stinchcomb, backed up by Dan Buenning (expect rookie Buenning to get plenty of pt)
C- John Wade, backed up Sean Mahan
RG- Jeb Terry, backed up by Sean Mahan
RT- Kenyatta Walker, backed up by Jeb Terry (rookie Chris Colmer has played poorly in training camp and I would be surprised to see him get much pt this season)
Even though he played right tackle last season, Steussie is being worked in at left tackle, a more natural position for him. 14 year veteran Derrick Deese, who was projected to start at left tackle, is out with a foot injury. His backup, Anthony Davis, is an undrafted free agent with no NFL starts. Steussie is third on the depth chart.
Oh yeah, did I mention left tackle is the most important position on the o-line? Left tackle has to protect the quarterback's blindside, and typically has to go up against the defense's premier pass rushing defensive end.
I was planning on writing an article about which current players could make it into the Hall of Fame, but then Dr. Z at SI.com beat me to the punch. I'm not going to try and top what Dr. Z wrote since few people know the NFL better than he does. My only problem with Dr. Z's list is that he leaves out Tony Gonzalez, a five time Pro Bowler who has redefined the tight end position.
Dr. Z thinks Brooks is a lock, but doesn't believe Lynch and Sapp stand as good of a chance to get into Canton.
Aeneas Williams and Derrick Brooks -- Long and meritorious service at corner and outside linebacker, respectively.
John Lynch -- He has a shot because he's been so popular with the writers, i.e., selectors. Who said that being a nice guy didn't hurt?
Warren Sapp -- I won't vote for him. I know that other people will. I thought after Sapp's first few years that he'd be one of the greatest who ever lived. Unfortunately he didn't maintain the pace, but he's quotable and popular.
And as long as two of the greatest quarterbacks in the modern era are retiring another list worth considering is the greatest current quarterbacks. Just allow me a few disclaimers before I show the list, I literally thought this up while writing this post so there is a good chance I missed somebody. I'm not including guys who played before the modern era (which begins with the NFL-AFL merger in 1970), so guys like Johnny Unitas and Bart Starr will not be included. I also won't include guys like Peyton Manning or Tom Brady who still have a lot of their careers in front of them.
- Joe Montana
- Dan Marino
- John Elway
- Brett Favre
- Steve Young
- Terry Bradshaw
- Jim Kelly
- Troy Aikman
- Bob Griese
- Warren Moon
Anyway, congrats to this years Hall of Fame inductees; Benny Friedman, Steve Young, Fritz Pollard, and David Hasselhoff, erghh . . . Dan Marino.
and David Hasselhoff . . . seperated at birth?
I'm stealing this topic from yesterday's PTI but since I was watching it at a bar I have no idea what the guys where saying.
I would have to go with Marino, even though the knock on him is that he never won a Super Bowl. To borrow a quote about Chris Carter, all Marino did was throw touchdowns. The guy never had Jerry Rice to throw to, he didn't inherit a championship team.
Watching the Dan Marino top ten plays yesterday the one thing that struck me is the number of times he would throw for 450 yards and six touchdowns but still lose the game. If your team is putting up over 30 points and you're still losing the game, all the blame should be directed towards the defense.
I like Young, and I enjoy watching a scrambling left handed quarterback, but he had much a better team than Marino. Plus, he's another former Bucs quarterback who went on to win a Super Bowl after the left the Bucs (not that I'm bitter).
In other news I had planned to wake up at 5 this morning to watch the first preseason game, the American Bowl in Tokyo. I was gonna live blog the game and everything, but I once the alarm went off I immediately regretted the decision. So let's just say that was another failed idea in the short history of this blog.
Right now I am watching the Packers-Bills scrimmage on NFL Network, and the most amusing aspect of the scrimmage is that on the kick returns they play two-hand touch instead of tackle. The rest of the game they play tackle but just on the kick returns they go two-hand touch, which is for the safety of the kick returner. The Packers look really sloppy on defense on the first drive, but that could be just because this is the least important game they play all season.
On a side note, how dumb of a move was it for the Packers to fire their defensive coordinator two seasons ago after 4th and 26 against the Eagles in the playoffs? Sure somebody had to be blamed for that colossal fuck-up, but it was clearly the secodary's fault, the linebackers were playing in no-man's land, too far away to rush McNabb, but not far enough back to to defend a first down pass. Anyway, the fired Packers coordinator goes on to lead the dubious Falcons defense to the NFC championship game and now everyone thinks the Falcons have a top fifteen defense. Not the best move by Green Bay and yet another example why the Packers are gonna struggle this year.
It's that time of the year when the local newspapers run their profiles on newly arrived Bucs players, young and old. There are another two weeks until preseason games and the Bucs have to make some cuts. And with nobody holding out, and nothing exciting going on in practice the only stories left to write are player profiles.
Let's start with a Times article about Chris Hovan, a free agent acquisition from Minnesota. Hovan was a first round draft pick in 2000, but he failed to live up the hype around him the last two seasons in Minnesota. Hovan built a reputation as a high energy type of guy, but he failed to be the anchor on the defensive line the Vikings were looking for. Here's hoping that Hovan is a guy like Simeon Rice, he just needs a change of scenery to flourish.
Our next story is a two-for-one deal involving tightends Alex Smith and Anthony Becht. While Becht is the guy you can expect to see starting at the beginning of the season, Smith is the guy everyone is excited to see. While he's no robo-back, Smith looks like he can do a lot of things in the Bucs offense. In the mold of Antonio Gates and Tony Gonzalez, Smith is a guy too big to be covered by a safety, but too fast to be covered by a linebacker. Plus, he's got a black belt in tae kwan do.
Another new face is someone Gators fans are already familiar with, Ike Hilliard. Hilliard adds depth to a receiving corp that looked like a kiddie pool before he arrived. While Hilliard has spent the last eight season playing for the New York Giants, he will always be remembered in Florida for his catch against FSU in the Sugar Bowl national championship game. Expect Hilliard, if healthy, to play the third reciver position that Joe Jurevicius played last season.
Finally, we have two articles, one by the Times and one by the Tribune, on Joey Galloway, who might as well be a new face considering the number of games he played in last season. Galloway is participating in fewer practices this training camp in an attempt to ward off the groin injuries that kept him out of six games and limited him to 33 receptions last season. Galloway says he tried too hard last training camp to learn Gruden's complex offense, which resulted in his injury. I tried this excuse with my boss yesterday. I told him I was straining my fingers from typing all the time and I could be developing Carnal Tunnel Syndrome. He told me to stop being a pussy and get back to work.
Lucky NFL players.
Anyway here is the breakdown, money-wise, of Carnell Williams' five year contract:
On top of that Williams is getting a signing bonus of $13.1 million, and has roughly $8 million in incentives.
One of the worst decisions in NFL drafting history was made by the Bucs in 1982 when they traded their first-round pick in '83 for Chicago's second-round pick in '82 to draft Reese, a big defensive end from Bethune-Cookman.
Booker was a disaster as a rookie because he had something of a learning disability. For example, he attended Ribault high school in Jacksonville -- and couldn't spell it.
Gibron, the defensive line coach, spent the entire offseason after Booker's rookie year trying to teach him NFL football. Both worked hard.
So it's the first day of camp in 1983, Booker's second season. All the media can't wait to see how Booker looks. And he looks great.
The Bucs run their first play in practice. Doug Williams drops back, passes toward Booker's side of the field. And Booker engages the tackle, does a 360-degree spin, leaps 20 feet into the air and bats away the pass.
OK, maybe not quite 20 feet but we were stunned, so who's counting. Writers, myself included, are furiously scripting our leads. I was working on something like, "Outlined against a shimmering hot August sky, the Four Horsemen rode again -- and their names were Booker, Booker, Booker and Booker."
Meanwhile, the Bucs ran their second play, which was a run straight up the middle. And Booker engages the tackle, does a 360-degree spin, leaps 10 feet into the air and nothing happens.
I stop writing. So does everyone else.Third play -- Williams passes to the opposite side of the field. And Booker engages the tackle, does a 360-degree spin, leaps 3 feet into the air and nothing happens.
I tear the page out of my notepad. So does everyone else.
Remember Gibron, the man who worked the entire offseason with Booker? He's watching all this while leaning against the goalposts. Like the kids in South Park, the media bunches together and kind of shuffles our way to Abe. As our spokesman, I say, "Abe, you worked with him the entire offseason. And he's learned one move?"
And Abe says:
"Yeah, but ain't he good at it?"
If you're like me, you could care less about a couple of Manchester United rejects who couldn't tackle a guy if their salary depended on it (a la Gramatica in '99 playoffs against the 'Skins). But you have to admit the guys do have a tough job, no one wants to hang out with them and the only time you notice them is when they screw up.
And the Bucs have two guys right now competing for the starting kicker job, and who ever ends up in second place is getting a pink slip. Both journeyman kicker Matt Bryant (who played for three teams last season) and NFL Europe star Todd "I'm not French" France are battling for the position, and well . . . I won't say its been ugly but rumor is Gruden was asking around for Bill Gramatica's number.
Both kickers have looked good when they are running normal kicking drills, but as soon as Gruden turns the pressure up a notch both guys have fallen apart. But from what I've read Bryant has looked worse than France, so France could end up making the team by default. For a team that was tied for last in field goal efficiency last season, the Bucs desperately need somebody to step up and make some kicks. And if either one of them wants a job they better step up 'cause neither one of these guys is about to make the team as a backup linebacker.
The St. Pete Times reports that White scuffled with Anthony Becht.
"One of our guys got into a little scuffle," Becht said. "I kind of hesitated, because I wanted to see how the team reacted offensively. You've just got to have somebody out there. I'm not trying to fight anybody. I talked to the guys after everything was cool. But you've got to get the guys knowing that everybody is going to get their back - offensively. It'll rub off on some guys. Not to cause any fights, but you've got to have each other's backs throughout the season, and that's important."
That's all well and good, and it's nice to see Becht bringing some attitude to the offense, except according to the Tampa Tribune it was rookie Alex Smith, NOT Becht, who instigated the fight.
"Just two guys going at it," said Smith, a third-round draft choice out of Stanford. "I don't think it was a surprise to anyone. Guys were there to break it up, and everyone went about their business. It felt real good to be able to go out there today and hit somebody."
So to recap, the St. Pete Times reports that Becht was in the fight, while the Tampa Tribune claims Smith was the instigator in this altercation. It looks like we'll have to go to the Orlando Sentinel for the tiebraker.
The first day in full pads brought some cool collisions, fancy cuts and a moment of chippiness. Third-year DE Dwayne White and rookie TE Alex Smith were the combatants in the ceremonial first scrap of the season. It wasn't much, but it didn't need to be to get the fans excited.
So there you go, the St. Pete Times was wrong and the Tampa Tribune was right.
In other news the kicking game looked horrendous yesterday as both Matt Bryant and Todd France missed far too many kicks. The first two practices both had been perfect from 40 yards, but today Gruden made their jobs more difficult.
Adding a twist to practice, Gruden simulated a change of possesion and last second kick from the 47 yard line. This new twist, which Gruden calls "sudden change", is intended to see how kickers can respond to pressure. It didn't go well as Bryant missed from 47 yards.
"What do you think I think? It wasn't very good,'' said Gruden, who has endured two seasons of the worst kicking efficiency (.620) in the NFL. "It's an area we've obviously got to do better than that. We took a step back today. It's been a positive for us to this point, but today just shows you we've got a lot of work to do.''