|Daily Blog • May 12, 2010|
We are only a couple days away from sending my 2010 College Preview off to the presses! The good news is that once the magazine is off to the press on May 14th, we will go back to doing a blog EVERY DAY until the end of the 2010 College Football season!! Until then I will be giving you a 2010 NFL draft review. Today's blog gives you a review for the teams in the NFC East and NFC North.
After 4 straight playoff berths & winning the NFC East in 2008 the Giants were viewed as a serious contender in 2009. They were done in by an OL, which was tabbed as top 5 prior to the year, the decline of Brandon Jacobs (3.7 ypc) & the total collapse of a defense that didn't believe in new DC Bill Sheridan. The Giants gave up 427 pts the 2nd worst in franchise history (501 pts in 1966) & allowed 40 pts or more in back-to-back games for the 1st time since 1971 (5 times overall). The Giants aggressively pursued Rolle as they wanted a smart, headhunting player who has good range that is a willing enforcer vs the run. They added SS Deon Grant as insurance for Kenny Phillips who had microfracture surgery on an arthritic knee as his loss capsized the Giants secondary LY. Chad Jones was drafted to be an eventual replacement at SS should Phillips knee continue to deteriorate. The Giants opted to reinforce an already deep DL in the draft as Reese feels that it would boost the play of all 3 LB's rather than reaching for a MLB with McClain off the board. By drafting the very athletic Pierre-Paul though they got a player with just 6.5 sacks in 7 starts at a 1-A college after 2 years at different JUCO's. Pierre-Paul has the luxury of developing as a pass rush specialist in the short term but the team could have gone with Mike Iupati for an OL that needs depth. Joseph will battle for the #4 DT spot on a very deep unit & makes Rocky Bernard expendable. Dillard has extensive experience as a nickel & dime LB for Nebraska & the Giants are going to see if he can be a developmental prospect for Antonio Pierce who was released for neck issues. The Giants travel to IND, SEA & close out the season with 3 road games in 4 Wks vs MIN (10th time in 12 years), GB & WAS. They still have issues at RB as Jacobs (knee), Bradshaw (both feet/ankle) & FB Hedgecock (shoulder) are all rehabbing from offseason surgery which will put more on Eli Manning & his maturing WR's.
The Eagles have been in the midst of their youth movement for sometime & only have 9 of 22 starters (2 offense) returning from Wk 1 of 2008. Andy Reid felt that he'd gone as far as he could with Donovan McNabb as his QB. With just 1 year left on contract for all 3 QB's, he opted to trade the 6 time Pro Bowler to WAS for a 2nd in 2010 & a conditional 4th RD DC in 2011. Kevin Kolb became the 1st NFL QB to put up 300 yds passing in his 1st 2 starts but its fairly misleading. 159 of his 391 yards vs NO came in the final 9:36 when the Saints were up 40-20. The Chiefs allowed 6 games of 300 yds passing in 2009 as they shifted to a 3-4 scheme. PHI was very active in the offseason making trades to acquire DC's (CB Brown & Gocong to CLE) & upgrading the defense. PHI didn't disclose DE Victor Abiamiri's Feb microfracture surgery until May so as not to tip their hand in the draft. PHI traded up 11 spots to draft Graham & deepened the position with Te'o-Nesheim who are both undersized but high motor players. Graham will be the #3 DE & Te'o-Nesheim will be a rush specialist who will see lots of time on special teams. PHI used 3 players to try & replace Brian Dawkins LY & drafted Nate Allen to start instantly. Allen has to take a step up from covering Big East WR's & will be challenged often. Lindley will compete for the nickel spot, Clayton (4.59 spd) is a hybrid Safety/LB for a unit that was swamped with injuries LY. Kafka comes from a West Coast offense & is a developmental #2 while Harbor shined at the Combine & Pro Day to get noticed as a depth TE. Sapp had a 2nd RD grade but concerns about his knees saw his stock drop. PHI's toughest non-div road game is at SF & they get GB, ATL, IND, MIN at home before closing the season out hosting DAL. PHI is a very young team now & could struggle in 2010 as they develop new leadership.
The future is now for the Cowboys with Super Bowl XLV being played in Jerry Jones extravagant new stadium this year. DAL wrapped up 2009 with its 2nd NFC East title in 3 years by having a winning record after Thanksgiving for the 1st time since 1996. Jerry Jones has been very shrewd with the roster in the offseason as the Cowboys had already locked up its RFA's in 2009 & didn't have to worry about an uncapped year. Continuity & chemistry in the lockerroom has been the focus vs making big name splashes. After releasing Flozell Adams prior to the draft, DAL pulled a mild surprise by trading up for Dez Bryant opting to pass on a LT or FS. While no one has doubted Bryant's talent, his stock slid due to questions about his background & a slightly disappointing Pro Day showing. DAL's receiving corps is deep enough that Bryant will be able to ease into the system as his route running skills need work but he'll still have an impact vs solo coverage. DAL addressed the OT spot with Young who started 50 games for Notre Dame & he is a developmental swing tackle. By drafting Sean Lee, the Cowboys get an instinctive hard hitting player who will be the #3 ILB in the system & play extensively on special teams. Lee also gave the team enough depth to allow them to send 2006 1st RD DC Bobby Carpenter to STL for LT Alex Barron who needed a fresh start. Barron has loads of talent but has been criticized for a lack of intensity & lots of false starts on a bad team. Owusu-Ansah is a small school prospect (Div 2 IUP) who the team feels can eventually push for time at FS while lining up at KR. DAL does have some tough road games at HOU, MIN, GB & travel to IND after their Thanksgiving break. DAL has the talent for a deep playoff run & with FS still a question expect them to look into OJ Atogwe's situation.
The Jim Zorn era began well with a 6-2 start in 2008 but since then WAS went 6-18 as Zorn lost the backing of the ownership, front office & players. Dan Snyder made arguably the most impressive pickup in the offseason by hiring Mike Shanahan as HC. Shanahan also made 2 good hires as he brought in Jim Haslett who was in the UFL LY to be his DC. While Haslett is shifting the team to a 3-4 system he is going to run a lot of 4-3 to ease the transition. Shanahan's son Kyle came over from HOU (#4 offense LY) to run his offense. WAS hasn't had a QB start all 16 games for them since Brad Johnson led them to a 10-6 record in 1999. They sent a pair of DC's to PHI for McNabb who gives the offense instant credibility & sorely needed leadership. Instead of overspending on 1 overrated player like previous GM's, Bruce Allen smartly opted to improve the overall depth via FA to make up for a lack of DC's. Trent Williams is the 1st OL drafted in the 1st 2 RD's by WAS since 2000. Williams has athleticism favorably to elite LT Ryan Clady who Shanahan drafted in 2008 but he only has 1 year experience as a LT after 3 at RT. He is an instant upgrade to an OL that allowed 1 sack every 11.6 pass att's. Riley is a former WLB in a 4-3 who is being shifted to ILB here. He is insurance if London Fletcher struggles in the 3-4 transition or if Rocky McIntosh departs after the season. Morris is a receiving TE out of LA Tech who will get time as a receiving FB. Austin has a chance to make an impact as a KR/PR for a team that finished 30th on PR's & 24th on KR's LY. WAS does get HOU, GB, IND & MIN at home TY & the farthest West they travel is DAL in Dec. WAS will be a much more competitive team in 2010 than they have been but the defensive shift is likely to slow them down.
After a summer of drawn out speculation & media hype, Brett Favre flew into MIN on 8/18 & 90 min after landing was on the practice field. Favre silenced his critics with his best statistical year in his career going 5-1 vs NFC North foes with a 15-0 TD/Int ratio. He did sustain a lot of "extra hits" vs the Saints in the NFC Championship & while he's stated that he needs minor ankle surgery for 2010, he is expected to return. DT's Kevin & Pat Williams status is still unknown for the 1st 4 games of 2010 though due to the prolonged StarCaps situation. As a member of the final 8, MIN was unable to explore the FA market unless they lost a player to another team. They added Lito Sheppard just before the draft as Cedric Griffin (ACL) won't be ready for the start of the season & Antoine Winfield is 33 & coming off a foot injury. They then traded out of the 1st RD picking up an extra 2nd & while they were criticized for missing Patrick Robinson their true target was Chris Cook. Cook is the biggest CB (6-2 212) in the draft & has the versatility to play CB or eventually shift to FS like Antrel Rolle. MIN then traded up 11 spots to acquire Gerhart who is an ideal West Coast offense FB. While he won't bowl over defenders at this level he is a reliable receiver & MIN likes him as a short-yardage back & pass blocker. The Vikings looked ahead to their depth as Ray Edwards could be traded prior to camp & Griffen has 1st RD pass rush ability but teams were concerned about his work ethic. While still a top tier LG, Hutchinson turns 33 TY & the Vikings needed interior depth. DeGeare can play either OG spot & is big enough (6-3 325) to be an emergency RT. Kleinsasser is regarded as one of the best blocking TE's in the NFL but is 33 & Shuler has a similar skill set but needs lots of time in the weight room. MIN has 5 road games vs 2009 playoff teams as well as trips vs improved WAS, CHI & DET clubs. The good news is that Favre is expected to return for 2010 & MIN only has 1 true cold weather game late in the year (PHI).
The Bears paid a steep price for Jay Cutler in DC's & the optimisim for 2009 was high when he arrived. Cutler would struggle in a new system with no proven WR's, a poor OL & while he had a very respectable 15-6 ratio at Soldier Field, he'd tallied a 12-20 ratio on the road. The defense was blasted by injuries in the back 7, lowlighted by the Urlacher missing the season after breaking his wrist in the season opener. After the season, Lovie Smith replaced his OC with Mike Martz & relinquished the DC duties to Rod Marinelli the former DET HC. The problem with Martz's offensive style is that the rest of the NFL has caught onto it. From 2002 on his system has avg'd 4269 yds (63.3%) but only has a 22-23 ratio with 51 sacks allowed. Minus a 1st RD DC due to the Cutler trade & a 2nd that they sent to TB LY for Gaines Adams, the Bears had no choice but to be aggressive in the limited FA market. They spent a huge amount of money for Peppers & Taylor to put teeth into the defense & balance out the offense. Peppers is a 14 sack player when he's into the game & he should benefit from the change of scenery in 2009. Taylor has a similar style to Matt Forte & will be a big factor on 3rd Downs as a blocker & receiver. CHI was fortunate to have Wright fall to them in the draft & it is critical that he earns a starting spot in TC. Wright has speed (4.48), is a willing hitter & has good cover skills for the Bears zone defense. Wooten could be a steal as he had 26 plays behind the line as a Junior but an ACL injury in Jan 2009 set him back. He struggled as a senior but should feel more comfortable a year removed. Moore is an attempt to shore up depth in the secondary & is likely a dime & special teams player. LeFevour was tabbed as a poor man's Tim Tebow before scouts soured on him for not participating at the Combine which caused his stock to drop. CHI still has work to do on the OL & Cutler may be exposed too much in pass protection unless Martz has tweaked his philosophies.
There were quite a few questions surrounding the Packers especially since DC's would have a whole offseason to decipher Aaron Rodgers & the defense was embarking on a transition to the 3-4 under Dom Capers. Capers would work wonders with 2008's #20 defense improving to 2nd as GB set a franchise record for fewest rushing yards allowed in a 16 game season (73 ypg, 3.47 YPC L13 gms), tied a team record for fewest rush TD's allowed (5) & as well as tying a team record for TO's (+24). Rodgers would have an outstanding year becoming the 1st player with 4000 yds passing in his 1st 2 seasons. While he was sacked a league high 50 times, it is a bit misleading as he was only sacked 10 times in the final 7 games. Still, HC Mike McCarthy wanted the OL to be a priority for the draft but he made it clear he wasn't going to reach. GB was found itself in an ideal spot when Bulaga who was tabbed by many to go to KC at #5 dropped to them. While some noted that Bulaga is better suited to RT the Packers are going to put their 1st OL taken in the 1st RD since 1997 & work him at LT. He will be the swing OT at worse & could push RT Tauscher or LT Clifton for a spot in camp. Neal is a big (6-3 294), strong (31 reps) 5 technique DE for Capers defense & he'll be allowed to rotate in as a rookie to not overload him. Burnett was on quite a few teams boards for a good mid-round value. He has above-avg cover skills and is a quality hitter with no durability issues. Quarless had character issues at Penn St & is a low risk option in a deep TE position. Starks is rather agile for a big RB (6-2 218) and playing at Buffalo & a shoulder injury LY hurt his stock. GB could be 6-0 when they start the tough part of their schedule vs MIN, NYJ, DAL. They have 4 road games in 5 Wks after their bye but close out the year with 2 HG's vs NYG & CHI. If GB can overcome their concerns at CB they should mount another serious challenge for the NFC North.
The bad news is that the Lions are 33-111 since 2001 & over the L2Y have set an NFL record for losses (30) & most points allowed (1,011) since the NFL switched to the 16 game schedule in 1978. One of their 14 losses LY was to the NFL's only single win team on a fake FG. The good news is that the Lions drafted 5 rookie starters including a franchise QB with Stafford though his rookie #'s (2-8, 227 ypg, 53%, 13-20) are very similar to Joey Harrington's in 2002. A career DC, Schwartz made the DL a priority in the offseason & it looks as if he's changed it from a major weakness to a team strength for 2010. By picking up Vanden Bosch in FA & trading with CLE for Williams, DET has 2 good vets to develop Sammie Hill (4th RD DC LY) & the consensus best player in the draft with Suh. Suh dominated CFB on a rare level LY & would have won the Heisman if it wasn't so offensive player oriented. Suh gives DET the Albert Haynesworth style player that was so successful for Schwartz when he was with TEN. In a mild surprise, DET traded up for Best who is known for his big concussion vs Oregon St. Best brings some sorely needed speed to the offense (4.35) & is a good option as a receiver. 3 of the DB spots are wide open here (60-13 TD/Int L2y) with only FS Delmas guaranteed a spot so Spievey is likely to start. While not the fastest CB (4.53) he is a physical & dependable tackler that Schwartz covets. Fox will be the swing OT for 2010 & DET feels he can also play OG in a pinch. Young is a tweener DE/OLB who will come on as a situational pass rusher & special teams. DET has a tough start to the season with 3 Div road games in the 1st 4 Wks (15 straight NFC North losses) but get a rematch vs the Rams. They host the Jets & have the Patriots on Thanksgiving. DET will be hard pressed to earn 5 wins in 2010.