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Old 08-17-2007, 11:43 PM   #292 (permalink)
 
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Can someone post the two O-line articles. One of them is about the Ravens O-line and the other about the Bengals.

http://insider.espn.go.com/nfl/insider/col...%26id%3d2978646

http://insider.espn.go.com/espn/blog/index...fname%3dnfl_afc

Thanks
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Old 08-19-2007, 09:43 AM   #293 (permalink)
 
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Oh wow two weeks.... nothing. 1 day 8 articles.
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Old 08-19-2007, 09:44 AM   #294 (permalink)
 
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Tait deserves more praise
By KC Joyner
ESPN Insider
(Archive)
Updated: July 18, 2007
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Pass-blocking is the latest subject in the series identifying the most overrated and underrated players in the NFL. The primary metric I use in grading pass-blockers is sacks allowed. The total number of sacks allowed is important, but I also place a lot of weight on the types of sacks the pass blocker is allowing. Coverage sacks are not as harmful to the player's grade as individual effort or blown block sacks.

July 18 Glossary
Coverage sack: A sack that occurs in the pocket, three seconds or more after the snap.
Individual effort sack: This is a sack when a defender beats an offensive blocker in a one-on-one blocking situation.

Depth level: A measurement of how far downfield a receiver was on a pass attempt. It is measured from the point at which the receiver touched the ball. Short passes are 1-10 yards downfield, medium 11-19, deep 20-29 and bombs are 30+ yards downfield.

Complete Glossary


In addition to sacks allowed, I also track the number of holding penalties called against an offensive lineman. Holding penalties are not quite as costly as sacks, as the offense loses the yardage but still gets to replay the down, but their negative value cannot be ignored.

As usual, the overrated and underrated rankings are based on how each player's 2006 metrics compare with his reputation. Pro Bowl berths are given a lot of weight in determining the perception of a player. The list is made up solely of tackles because the reputation of guards and centers is driven more by their run-blocking skills than pass-blocking.


Overrated pass-blockers
Walter Jones
Jones is widely regarded as the greatest pass-blocking left tackle in the league, but he gave up eight sacks last year -- the highest sack total allowed by any of the nine tackles either voted into the Pro Bowl or chosen as injury replacements. Jones also allowed one offensive holding penalty as well. He is still one of the better offensive linemen in the NFL, but his 2006 performance was well below his typical standard.

Flozell Adams
Adams was chosen as an injury replacement for the Pro Bowl, but his metrics were also mediocre. Adams allowed seven sacks, including four individual effort sacks. Adams also was called for one offensive holding penalty, and a crackback block penalty as well.

Others:
D'Brickashaw Ferguson: Ferguson might not be thought of as a great pass-blocker, but his metrics indicate he might not even be a good one right now. Ferguson allowed 11 sacks and had one holding penalty called on him. Given that five of the sacks were allowed during the Jets' last four games, Ferguson also wasn't showing much progress in this area.
Bryant McKinnie: McKinnie allowed six sacks. He also had five penalties called against him (four offensive holding and one tripping).


Underrated pass-blockers
Jason Peters
Peters is the most underrated offensive lineman in the league. He allowed only 1.5 sacks last season, and none were individual effort sacks. Peters also had zero offensive holding penalties called on him. The Bills thought so much of his play at right tackle last year, they moved Peters to left tackle in Week 9. If Peters plays as well in a full season at left tackle as he did in the last half of 2006, he will be a strong Pro Bowl candidate this year.

John Tait
Olin Kreutz gets the most press of any Bears' lineman, but Tait deserves some praise as well. He allowed only three sacks and had zero penalties called on him in 14 games last year. Tait's performance was especially good when you consider the verticality of the Bears' passing game. Chicago quarterbacks threw 82 deep/bomb passes in 2006, the fifth-highest total of any team in the league.

Others:
William Thomas: Thomas allowed only two total sacks and had zero penalties called on him in 16 starts last year. Philadelphia quarterbacks threw 79 deep/bomb passes, so Thomas was put through the pass-blocking fires and came through nearly unscathed.

Chad Clifton: Clifton allowed merely 2.5 sacks in his 15 starts last year. Only one was an individual effort sack. He also was called for just one offensive holding penalty. Green Bay quarterbacks threw 92 deep/bomb passes, so Clifton's pass-blocking skills were certainly tested quite frequently.

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Old 08-19-2007, 09:45 AM   #295 (permalink)
 
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Pryce not receiving enough credit
By KC Joyner
ESPN Insider
(Archive)
Updated: July 10, 2007
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In this week's installment of the NFL's most underrated and overrated players, I will be reviewing pass-rushers. The method I use to grade pass-rushers is based on the different sack types. The major sack types are coverage, garbage, individual, run and scheme. (The full list of sack types can be found in the complete glossary.)

July 10 Glossary
Coverage sack: A sack that occurs in the pocket, three seconds or more after the snap.
Garbage sack: When one defensive player gets a sack due to the pass rushing efforts of another defender. One typical example of this is when a defensive end crashes the pocket from the outside and forces the quarterback to step up into a well-blocked defensive tackle. The tackle was only able to get the sack because of the defensive end's pass rush, so he is credited with a garbage sack.

Individual effort sack: This is a sack when a defender beats an offensive blocker in a one-on-one blocking situation.

Run sack: This type of sack is credited when a quarterback starts to run after dropping back to pass the ball. The quarterback must be out of the pocket and pull the ball down, tuck it away and be running towards the line of scrimmage for a play to be noted as a run sack.

Scheme sack: Sacks that come off stunts or blitzes are tracked in this category.

Complete Glossary


Individual effort sacks are considered the most valuable because they show the pass-rusher can beat one-on-one blocking. Scheme sacks are also valuable because they show the rusher can be utilized in a number of ways.

Coverage, garbage and run sacks do have value, but I don't consider them great indicators of pure pass-rushing ability. Any player tallying a lot of these sacks may not be as good a pass-rusher as his sack total would indicate.

Sacks can also be split between categories. If a defensive ends stunts to the inside and is picked up by the guard, then beats the guard with a bull rush, the sack is listed as being half a scheme sack (for the stunt) and half an individual effort sack (for beating the guard one-on-one).

As has been the case for each of the overrated/underrated articles, players are rated based on their 2006 metrics. Pro Bowl berths are given significant weight in determining the perception of a player.


Overrated pass-rushers
Will Smith
Smith made the Pro Bowl last year in large part due to his 10.5 sacks, but those included three coverage sacks and 1.5 garbage sacks. Smith is still a very good player and probably deserved the Pro Bowl berth based on his overall game, but he is not as good a pass-rusher as his sack total would indicate.

Jared Allen
Allen's sack total (7.5) in 2006 was the lowest of his career, but he actually did even worse than the total indicates. Allen had one run sack and was practically gifted another when his blocker blew an assignment and left Allen completely unblocked. Only three of his sacks were individual effort sacks, and one of those came when Allen was matched up against a running back.

Others:
Robert Geathers: His 10.5 sacks tied for 14th in the league, but four of these were of the coverage/garbage/blown block variety.
Bobby McCray: McCray racked up 10 sacks last year, but 3.5 of these were coverage sacks and another 1.5 were garbage sacks.


Underrated pass-rushers
Trevor Pryce
Pryce did not make the Pro Bowl despite registering 13 sacks last year. His sack total is even more impressive when you consider that 6.5 of Pryce's sacks were of the individual effort variety and only 2.5 were of the garbage/blown block variety. He is a superb pass-rusher in both one-on-one situations and when utilized on the blitz.

Mark Anderson
Anderson posted 13 sacks as a rookie last year, including eight of the individual effort variety, and also didn't make the Pro Bowl. Amazingly, Anderson's individual effort sack total would have ranked 26th in the league on its own.

Others:
Elvis Dumervil: Dumervil was a situational pass-rusher for the Broncos last year and put up 8.5 sacks, 7.5 of which were individual effort sacks.
Kamerion Wimbley: Wimbley's 11 sacks showed he had a very good rookie season, but it was the diversity of the sack types that put him on this list. He had 6.5 individual effort sacks but also had a total of two scheme sacks. The scheme sacks were all split with other sack types, so he actually had sacks on blitzes/stunts on four separate plays. He is just as good at moving around the defense to get past his man as he is at simply beating his man one-on-one.

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Old 08-19-2007, 09:46 AM   #296 (permalink)
 
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Big-name safeties vulnerable to deep ball
By KC Joyner
ESPN Insider
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Updated: July 4, 2007
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In this week's installment of overrated and underrated players, I will be taking a look at the safety position. When I grade safeties, it is primarily based on their coverage skills, not their run-support skills, although I do take the run-support skills into account.


I also break down safeties into two positional categories: run safety and coverage safety. I use those terms instead of the strong and free safety terms because I think they better identify what each safety is responsible for.


July 4 Glossary
YPA (Yards Per Attempt): A quick barometer of a quarterback/wide receiver/tight end's efficiency.
Depth level: A measurement of how far downfield a receiver was on a pass attempt. It is measured from the point at which the receiver touched the ball. Short passes are 1-10, medium 11-19, deep 20-29, and bombs 30 or more yards downfield.

Success percentage: The percentage of plays on which a player does something successful with the ball. Successful plays include completions (for offensive players), incompletions (for defensive players) and penalty plays that go in the player's favor.

Missed passes: Inaccurate or dropped passes that cause an incompletion. Missed passes are used to measure how successful a QB/WR/TE could have been if not for the mistakes. They also help measure how lucky a cornerback was in coverage.

Near interception: Near interceptions are either dropped interceptions or interceptions that landed close enough to a defender that he could have had a chance to catch the ball had luck been on his side.

Stripped/dropped pass: A pass that a receiver starts to catch but then has the ball stripped away by the cornerback.

Forced incompletions: Any incomplete pass that a defensive back is physically responsible for causing. It is a combination of passes defensed, stripped/dropped passes and plays where a hit by a defensive back causes an incompletion.

Complete Glossary

The safety position also has a unique coverage metric that I call the deep-assist coverage metric. This metric is used to distinguish when a safety is helping another player cover a receiver over the top. In addition to that metric, I also use the direct coverage metric when the safety is directly responsible for covering a receiver one on one.


The deep assist metric is the most important coverage metric for a coverage safety because that is the primary responsibility of that position. The direct coverage metric comes up more often with run safeties because they spend more of their time near the line of scrimmage at the snap, but they also have their share of deep assist plays. I also will combine these metrics together to measure a player's overall coverage skills as well.


As usual, the overrated and underrated rankings are based on the 2006 metrics when compared to the player's perceived performance level.



Overrated safeties
Ed Reed
Reed's metrics were terrible last year. His 14.9 combined YPA was the fifth-worst in the league among coverage safeties. He gave up the third-highest number of total yards. He had the fourth-most bomb passes thrown his way and the third-worst YPA at that depth level.


I know there are those who will say that the game broadcast tapes don't show everything that Reed does and that these numbers are anomalies, but let me throw this out in my defense. Carson Palmer said that Reed often doesn't play his coverage and thinks he knows what's coming. Palmer also commented that Reed can get frustrated when the offense is getting some things going and will try to come up and make a play and lose his responsibilities because of it. Palmer was able to exploit Reed's impatience in Week 13, when he connected on a flea-flicker pass to T.J. Houshmandzadeh for a 40-yard touchdown.


The metrics show that Palmer isn't the only quarterback who knows Reed's coverage weaknesses. That is why I believe Reed is the most overrated safety in the league.


Sean Taylor
Taylor made the Pro Bowl as an injury replacement, but the metrics make it clear he didn't earn the spot. He ranked 20th in both deep assist YPA and deep assist success percentage. He did even worse when in direct coverage, as his 10.7 YPA in those situations was the seventh worst in the NFL last year. He also gave up the second-most total yards of any coverage safety. Taylor did do a lot more to support the run last year than he did in years past, but even taking that into account, he really wasn't a Pro Bowl-level coverage safety last year.


Others:
Dwight Smith: Smith gets a lot of credit for making big plays, but his 12.3 overall YPA was 30th-worst in the league.


Erik Coleman: Coleman tends to be mentioned in the same breath as Kerry Rhodes because he plays in the same secondary, but his 44.7 percent success percentage was the fifth worst among coverage safeties last year.


Ken Hamlin: Is being touted as something of a savior for Dallas, but his 10.4 deep assist YPA ranked only 19th among coverage safeties last year.


Underrated safeties

Brian Russell
Russell had the second-best overall YPA of any coverage safety last year. He also placed in the top eight in YPA in both the direct coverage and deep assist coverage metrics. Add those to his No. 14 ranking in overall success percentage and it shows that the Seahawks might have found a gem in Russell.


Kevin Kaesviharn
Kaesviharn mostly played run safety with Cincinnati in 2006, but he likely will play coverage safety in New Orleans. The metrics say his transition to that position should be very smooth. Kaesviharn's 5.8 overall YPA was the sixth-best among run safeties. He also posted a 6.3 YPA on deep assist plays, a total that was the 10th best in that category. If these metrics are any indication, Kaesviharn might give Josh Bullocks a run for his money for the starting coverage safety spot.


Others:
Mike Minter: Minter's 5.1 overall YPA ranked third among coverage safeties last year. He is being moved to run safety and his metrics say he should be a good fit there from a coverage standpoint.


Jarrad Page: Injuries forced Page into the lineup as a rookie last year, but he was able to hold his own. Page faced only 19 passes, but allowed a meager 5.4 YPA on them.


Nick Ferguson: Ferguson played in only 10 games last year due to injuries, but he posted tremendous metrics during that time. His 4.2 YPA was third best among run safeties and his 76.5 percent success percentage was second best.
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Old 08-19-2007, 09:48 AM   #297 (permalink)
 
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This is the next installment in a series of articles about overrated and underrated players. The analysis is based primarily on the 2006 metrics, which can be found in "Scientific Football 2007." This week's topic is overrated and underrated cornerbacks.


Underrated Cornerbacks

Charles Woodson
Normally, I would not include Woodson in the underrated category because he is considered a very good cornerback. However, his 2006 metrics indicate he should have been a lock for the Pro Bowl.
June 26 Glossary
YPA (Yards Per Attempt): A quick barometer of a quarterback/wide receiver/tight end's efficiency.
Depth level: A measurement of how far downfield a receiver was on a pass attempt. It is measured from the point at which the receiver touched the ball. Short passes are 1-10, medium 11-19, deep 20-29, and bombs 30 or more yards downfield.

Success percentage: The percentage of plays on which a player does something successful with the ball. Successful plays include completions (for offensive players), incompletions (for defensive players) and penalty plays that go in the player's favor.

Missed passes: Inaccurate or dropped passes that cause an incompletion. Missed passes are used to measure how successful a QB/WR/TE could have been if not for the mistakes. They also help measure how lucky a cornerback was in coverage.

Near interception: Near interceptions are either dropped interceptions or interceptions that landed close enough to a defender that he could have had a chance to catch the ball had luck been on his side.

Stripped/dropped pass: A pass that a receiver starts to catch but then has the ball stripped away by the cornerback.

Forced incompletions: Any incomplete pass that a defensive back is physically responsible for causing. It is a combination of passes defensed, stripped/dropped passes and plays where a hit by a defensive back causes an incompletion.

Complete Glossary


Woodson had the sixth-lowest overall YPA in the league last year. He also had the second-best YPA among cornerbacks with more than 60 passes thrown their way. Only Champ Bailey beat him out in that category.

Woodson tied for the most stripped/dropped passes, and had the eighth-most forced incompletions. His eight interceptions tied for sixth in the league and his 16 combined interceptions/near interceptions were the second most in the league. That Woodson was snubbed in favor of DeAngelo Hall and Ronde Barber for the Pro Bowl is a shame.

Nathan Vasher
The Bears recently signed Vasher to a contract extension, and the metrics indicate he certainly deserved it. His 6.0 YPA last year was the 12th best in the league. Vasher had good YPA numbers across the board, but his bomb pass YPA numbers were tremendous. He allowed zero completions in six bomb attempts and was even able to draw a 10-yard offensive pass interference call on one of the plays, thus making his YPA on bomb passes a superb -1.7 yards.

The main reason Vasher wasn't seen as a Pro Bowl-level cornerback is that his interception total dropped from eight in 2005 to three in 2006. Vasher did notch seven near interceptions last year, a total that ranked him second in the league in that category. If he can catch some of those near interceptions in 2007, a trip to Hawaii should be in his future.

Others
Johnathan Joseph: His 7.3 overall YPA was already very good, and if his poor performance against the Saints was removed, his YPA would drop to a mere 5.9 yards. He also helped the Bengals by leading the league in near interceptions (12).
Leigh Bodden: Only appeared in nine games for Cleveland last season, but had the third-best success percentage in the league, and led the NFL in forced incompletion percentage.
Al Harris: Was not quite as good as Woodson, but still ranked 18th in YPA and seventh in success percentage.
Charles Tillman: A 6.7 YPA, 52.1 success percentage and seven near interceptions indicate the Bears should do what they can to keep him around as well.


Overrated Cornerbacks

DeAngelo Hall
This is the second consecutive season Hall makes this list. He receives this honor because he once again made the Pro Bowl, despite posting simply abysmal metrics.
His 9.2 YPA ranked 76th among cornerbacks. Hall's 47.1 success percentage was solid (31st in the league), but his 17.9 missed pass percentage was one of the highest in the league. That means a large percentage of Hall's success was due to luck.

His supporters would point out that many of the big plays he allowed were due in part to not getting good help from the Falcons' safeties. That might be the case, but Hall's overall YPA was still only .8 yards better than Jason Webster's figure. Furthermore, Woodson had just as little help from the Packers' mediocre safeties and still put up great metrics.

Ronde Barber
Barber also didn't deserve a trip to the Pro Bowl. His 7.9 overall YPA was tied for 58th in the league, and his 37.6 success percentage was 76th. To put these numbers in perspective, Barber's YPA was equal to Terrence McGee's, and he ranked just below Carlos Rogers in success percentage.

Barber did have one great game last year, notching two interception returns for touchdowns in Tampa Bay's 23-21 win over Philadelphia in Week 7, but he had only one interception the rest of the year. He also only had three near interceptions. Barber is still a solid cornerback but to say he was one of the best in the NFC last year is simply not accurate.

Others
Will Allen: Allen is touted as the best cornerback on the Dolphins' roster, but his 38.8 success percentage was the worst of any qualifying cornerback on his team last year (30 pass attempts needed to qualify).
Marcus Trufant: His 9.0 YPA and 36.4 success percentage in 2006 didn't even measure up to his Seattle teammate Kelly Herndon, and Herndon was released this offseason.
Rashean Mathis: A starter in Jacksonville, Mathis has a number of really good metrics, but his 7.5 YPA is average and his 44.2 success percentage is borderline mediocre. He also allowed 22.3 YPA on the 10 combined corner/go/double move go passes thrown at him, so he definitely has a tendency to get beaten deep.
Terence Newman: He is considered much better than his Dallas teammate Anthony Henry, but Newman's 2006 overall YPA was only .4 yards higher than Henry's. He also ranked 57th in the missed pass percentage category, so luck was on his side
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Old 08-19-2007, 09:48 AM   #298 (permalink)
 
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This is the second in a series of articles about overrated and underrated players. The rankings are based primarily on the 2006 metrics. This week's topic is overrated and underrated wide receivers.


Overrated wide receivers

Donald Driver
For sheer production, Driver had few equals last year, as he ranked fifth in the league in receptions and in receiving yards.
June 20 Glossary
YPA (Yards Per Attempt): A quick barometer of a quarterback/wide receiver/tight end's efficiency.
Depth level: A measurement of how far downfield a receiver was on a pass attempt. It is measured from the point at which the receiver touched the ball. Short passes are 1-10, medium 11-19, deep 20-29, and bombs 30 or more yards downfield.

Success percentage: The percentage of plays on which a player does something successful with the ball. Successful plays include completions (for offensive players), incompletions (for defensive players) and penalty plays that go in the player's favor.

Missed passes: Inaccurate or dropped passes that cause an incompletion. Missed passes are used to measure how successful a QB/WR/TE could have been if not for the mistakes. They also help measure how lucky a cornerback was in coverage.

Complete Glossary


However, it took a huge number of pass attempts for him to amass these figures. When I rank wide receivers, I place the highest value on consistency and explosiveness. Driver certainly wasn't that explosive, as his 7.6 YPA ranked him 48th among wide receivers (of 67 qualifiers).

His 10.3 YPA on bomb passes (30-plus yards downfield) ranked him 39th in the league, and his 10.1 YPA on deep passes (20-29 yards) ranked him 44th.

Driver's consistency also left something to be desired. His success percentage, which used to be Driver's calling card, plummeted to a meager 57.6 percent last year, his lowest total in the four years I have been tracking metrics. He also had the most dropped passes of any wide receiver, and his dropped pass percentage (14.4) was the 12th worst in the NFL.

I'm not saying Driver is a bad wide receiver. I just think metrics such as these did not warrant the Pro Bowl starter slot he garnered last year.

Chris Chambers
Chambers isn't considered a great receiver, but his metrics indicate he wasn't even a good receiver last year. Chambers had the lowest YPA (5.1) and success percentage (44.8) of any wide receiver in the NFL in 2006. He ranked no higher than 49th in YPA at any depth level, so he lacked production across the board.

Chambers was hampered by bad quarterback play, but 14 of his 24 missed pass plays last year were drops. Even if some of those other 10 passes had been completed, though, it still wouldn't have brought his overall metrics back up to a respectable level.

Others
Randy Moss: He'll have to dramatically improve on his meager 6.2 YPA to keep the Patriots happy.
Greg Jennings: He is a Favre favorite, but his success percentage (45.2) was the second-lowest in the league.
Wes Welker: He is being touted as a vastly underrated player, but his 7.2 YPA last year ranked 55th in the league.
Torry Holt: He is one of my all-time favorite wide receivers, but his 7.5 YPA and 55.9 success percentage were his worst numbers in the four years I've been doing this. He also didn't deserve a starting spot in the Pro Bowl.


Underrated wide receivers

Terry Glenn
Terrell Owens gets the most press in Dallas, but the metrics indicate Glenn was the better receiver in 2006, and it wasn't even close. Glenn had the third-best overall YPA, the ninth-best bomb pass YPA and the seventh-best medium pass YPA.
Contrast that with Owens' ranking in overall YPA (40th), bomb pass YPA (37th) and medium pass YPA (34th), and it is clear Glenn is the more consistent and explosive receiver. Owens is still a productive player, as evidenced by his 13 touchdowns, but Glenn is the far more reliable receiver.

Reggie Brown
Donte Stallworth (who left via free agency) and Kevin Curtis (who signed with the Eagles) have received most of the attention in Philadelphia this offseason, but if the 2006 metrics are any indication, the breakout receiver could be Brown. He ranked 12th in the league with a 9.6 YPA last year, putting him in the company of Reggie Wayne and Darrell Jackson.

He also ranked in the top 22 in bomb and deep pass YPA and had the sixth-highest medium pass YPA. Opposing defenses might be paying a lot of attention to Curtis this season, and Brown's metrics indicate he could make them pay for it.

Others
Bryant Johnson: He has been an inconsistent player for most of his career, but had a strong season last year, posting a 10.5 YPA.
Santonio Holmes: His 10.5 short pass YPA was not only the best in the league, but ranked 2.5 yards higher than the second-best receiver in that category.
Mark Clayton: His 33.9 bomb pass YPA was the highest in the NFL last season.
D.J. Hackett: Hackett ranked 10th in overall YPA (9.7), and first in medium pass YPA (15.1) and success percentage (84.6).
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Old 08-19-2007, 09:50 AM   #299 (permalink)
 
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Bengals coping with change along O-line
By Len Pasquarelli
ESPN.com
(Archive)
Updated: August 17, 2007
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With starting tackles Levi Jones and Willie Anderson still not practicing, and given the ever-increasing possibility that Cincinnati might not have either standout blocker available for the start of the regular season, things are beginning to get a little worrisome on the Bengals' once-stable offensive line.

INSIDE TIP SHEET
Here's what you will find in Tip Sheet notes.

Ailing Andrews
Warren update
Colbert impressing
Peppers' big payday
Titans done with Woolfolk
Ferguson on the block
The List
Stat of the week
The Last Word

And all because one guy is knock-kneed and the other has flat feet.

OK, that's probably an oversimplification of the nagging physical problems that have precluded Jones and Anderson from playing even a snap in training camp. But the rather innocuous conditions, Bengals coach Marvin Lewis hinted last week, certainly have hindered Jones from returning to his left tackle spot and Anderson from assuming his job at right tackle, where he has been a Cincinnati fixture since his 1996 rookie season.

Jones is a bit knock-kneed, and it's fairly obvious when he walks. Apparently, the condition has slowed his recovery from offseason arthroscopic surgery to his left knee; the knee injury limited the five-year veteran to a career-low five starts in 2006.

Anderson, who is flat-footed, has battled a left-foot problem since December, and the common malady has played some role in his rate of recovery. He returned to the team Thursday after a week spent soliciting medical second opinions.

Anderson was rather cryptic Thursday in describing a nonsurgical medical procedure he underwent this week in Atlanta. It was some sort of electroshock treatment designed to promote healing which, he said he was told, had about a 60 percent success rate. However, the four-time Pro Bowl performer conceded that he might not be ready for the start of the season and could miss considerable time.




Jones


Anderson

Even with their star tackles in the lineup, the Cincinnati blocking unit was going to be in flux this season. Longtime center Rich Braham retired after years of battling through knee problems, and standout left guard Eric Steinbach defected to division rival Cleveland as an unrestricted free agent. Minus the two veteran tackles, things could definitely be dicey.


At practice last week, Cincinnati had just one player, right guard Bobbie Williams, on the field from its opening-day starting offensive line from the first game of the 2006 season. Third-year veteran Eric Ghiaciuc, who started 13 games last season in place of the injured Braham, was at center. The left guard was Stacy Andrews, a superb athlete who was a fourth-round draft choice; he has made only three starts in three seasons . Second-year veteran Andrew Whitworth, who filled in for Jones in 2006 and logged a dozen starts, was the left tackle. The right tackle was Scott Kooistra, who has been one of the big surprises of camp, but who has one career start in four previous seasons.


Oddly, all the changes could keep Whitworth, who performed admirably in 2006, out of the starting lineup. The plan had been to move Whitworth to left guard this year, to replace the departed Steinbach in the lineup. But the absence of Jones means Whitworth has had to play left tackle instead. And the coaches have now decided that, even if Jones returns for the start of the year, Whitworth hasn't logged enough time at guard to play there. Instead, it seems that Andrews has won the job.


It is certainly a representative line, and it's indicative of the depth the Bengals have assembled in recent years, but it remains a far cry from the unit that Cincinnati planned to field for 2007.


There is still a chance, of course, that Jones and Anderson could get back in time for the start of the season. Jones has made solid progress in recent days and, if the momentum continues, it appears he might get onto the practice field next week. Anderson's situation, though, is far more uncertain.


For quarterback Carson Palmer, who sometimes wears a brace on his surgically repaired left knee (he tore ligaments in a 2005 playoff game), having such a revamped offensive line in front of him can't be comforting.


Cincinnati will be forced to play the first half of the 2007 season without suspended wide receiver Chris Henry, a proven big-time playmaker, and his absence alone takes the unit down a notch. If the offensive line situation isn't resolved, and the two tackles aren't on the field for the Sept. 10 opener against Baltimore's blitz-crazy defensive front, things could get hairy in a hurry.



Around the league

Uncertainty surrounding Andrews: If things are chaotic on the Cincinnati offensive line, they are downright confusing for the Philadelphia blocking unit, especially at right guard. Earlier this week, Pro Bowl guard Shawn Andrews, who has missed more than a week in camp with what the team has called a sprained right ankle, hinted that the injury could be far worse. Andrews left camp at Lehigh last week to return to Philadelphia to consult with a specialist about his ankle, which was fractured on the initial play of his 2004 rookie season and has been an on-and-off problem for him since.
Said Andrews of his session with the specialist: "When I was talking to him, what he said to me was a tearjerker. It's kind of tough because [football] is something I love to do, and I can't really be out there to sweat and grunt with my teammates right now. I don't know what the future holds, but I'll be OK either way."


Pressed for more details, Andrews said he could not divulge more, because it would anger coach Andy Reid, who he jokingly said would "spank" him for saying too much. But the sense was that Andrews' injury might be far worse than publicly acknowledged by team officials. One day later, though, Reid said there was optimism that Andrews, one of the game's most physically dominating young in-line blockers, might be ready for the start of the season. And, privately, sources with the Eagles contend that is the case.

So why the cryptic message from Andrews? For now, it is anybody's guess. But there's no guesswork involved in this: Only 14 months ago, the Eagles signed Andrews to a seven-year, $40 million extension through 2015. If he were to have a potential career-threatening ankle condition, it would mean a big hit, both financially and competitively to the team.


Warren update: As of Thursday night, the Denver Broncos still had not completed a trade of defensive tackle Gerard Warren, the six-year veteran whose playing style makes him a poor fit for the two-gap techniques preferred by new defensive coordinator Jim Bates. So why, in a league where filling the defensive tackle position is always a tough chore, have the Broncos not been able to strike a deal, despite their weeklong efforts?



Gerard Warren

Defensive Tackle
Denver Broncos

Profile

2006 Season Stats Tot Solo Ast FF Sack Int
30 22 8 0 3 0

For one thing, the Denver front office is split over whether to swap Warren this early in the preseason. The Broncos have assembled depth and newfound bulk at tackle, where Warren was still listed as a nominal starter but where, in reality, he had at least four players in front of him. But there are always concerns about an injury at the position, and some Denver officials are cautioning coach Mike Shanahan that he should wait until it's closer to the start of the regular season to send Warren packing. Another factor: The few teams interested in Warren, who was the third overall player selected in the 2001 draft but is soon to be discarded by a second franchise in three years, are willing to gamble that Denver will simply release him if it doesn't meet a buyer to match its asking price. The Washington Redskins, who have conducted plenty of trade business with the Broncos over the past 3 years, head the list of teams waiting to sign Warren if he becomes free.


And finally, assuming Warren's existing contract in a trade would be a big swallow. While he dramatically reduced his 2007 base salary this spring to keep his roster spot in Denver, dropping down to the minimum of $595,000, Warren's base salary for 2008 is $4 million and goes to $4.68 million for 2009. ESPN.com has also learned that Warren's deal for 2007 includes a $2 million bonus for this season if he participates in 50 percent of the defensive snaps. There's a pretty good likelihood Warren will meet that threshold no matter where he plays, which would mean 2007 wouldn't be such a big bargain year for the franchise that acquires him.
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Colbert on the rebound: It appears that, after a two-year slump in which he caught only 28 passes, including just three in 2006, the career of Carolina Panthers wide receiver Keary Colbert is back on the upswing again. The fourth-year veteran, who went to camp in a three-way battle for the No. 2 starting spot, opposite the dynamic Steve Smith, looks like he has surged ahead of Drew Carter and second-round draft choice Dwayne Jarrett, and all but claimed the job.


Colbert has enjoyed a strong camp, following an offseason of hard work, and his resurgence could be a key for the Panthers' passing game. Coach John Fox pointed out that in 2005, when Smith had 103 catches for 1,563 yards and 12 touchdowns, no other Carolina wideout had more than 25 receptions, but the Panthers advanced to the conference championship game. In fact, that year, the Carolina wide receivers not named Steve Smith totaled only 64 catches. Last year, with Keyshawn Johnson catching 70 balls as the complement to Smith, and the Nos. 2 and 3 wideouts totaling 109 receptions, the Panthers struggled to an 8-8 mark. His point, that the mighty mite Smith might be able to carry the passing game, is a good one, and based on empirical results.


Still, the Carolina offense will be better overall if it locates a solid No. 2 wideout, and Colbert sure seems like the guy. The former Southern California standout, a second-round choice in 2004, notched 47 catches as a rookie and scored five times, starting 15 games in place of the injured Smith. Then he hit the skids over the next two seasons and there was some concern Colbert might not even make the roster this year. Those worries have been eliminated in camp, though, as Colbert has resuscitated his career and seems on track for a productive season.


Peppers nearing big payday: There was a lot of talk from Carolina this week about how star left defensive end Julius Peppers isn't overly concerned about his contract status. That rhetoric aside, the two sides are moving quietly but inexorably toward a long-term extension and, when the new deal is completed, the numbers figure to be monstrous.

Word is that the Peppers extension will include a larger average per year than the six-year, $72 million extension that was recently signed by Indianapolis right end Dwight Freeney. A deal that approaches $100 million total? It could happen, although maybe not by the beginning of the season. Peppers has two years left on his current contract, and will earn $7.5 million in 2007 and about $9 million in 2008. In addition to Peppers, the Panthers want to get a deal with right offensive tackle Jordan Gross, who is in the final season of his contract and who, without an extension, will be eligible for unrestricted free agency next spring.


Titans done with Woolfolk: The hamstring injury that prompted Tennessee to place fifth-year veteran Andre Woolfolk on injured reserve this week not only ended the season for the former first-round cornerback, but, one way or another, also concluded his largely disappointing tenure with the Titans. The team will attempt to reach an injury settlement with Woolfolk, so it can release the former Oklahoma standout. Even if that doesn't happen, and the Titans are forced to carry Woolfolk and his $837,500 base salary for the entire 2007 season, this is the final year of his contract, and Tennessee has no intention of trying to re-sign him.


The 28th overall selection in the 2003 draft, Woolfolk signed a five-year contract with a maximum value of $8.42 million and $3.41 million in bonuses as a rookie. But in his four seasons, he averaged just 9.8 appearances, started only 12 games, and recorded just three interceptions. The imminent departure of Woolfolk means that Tennessee is without both its top two selections from the 2003 draft. Second-round wide receiver Tyrone Calico, who had tremendous skills but could never stay healthy, was released last spring by the team.


Ferguson on the block: Another former high-round draft choice who has become persona non grata with his current team, and will be either traded or released soon, is Green Bay wide receiver Robert Ferguson. The Packers apprised Ferguson on Thursday evening that he no longer fits into their plans for 2007, having been eclipsed by several younger players, most notably second-year pro Carlyle Holiday, and that they are attempting to deal him.


Robert Ferguson

Wide Receiver
Green Bay Packers

Profile

2006 Season Stats Rec Yds TD Avg Long YAC
5 31 1 6.2 10 -1

A six-year veteran, and a second-round choice in the 2001 draft, Ferguson never played up to that status, and just once in his career registered more than 30 catches in a season. In 2004, the Packers, for whatever reason, signed Ferguson to a five-year, $13 million extension, a deal that included a signing bonus of $3.5 million. But his biggest contributions in Green Bay came on special teams, and there aren't many franchises willing to pay $1.8 million, Ferguson's base salary for this season, for a guy to cover kickoffs and punts.


The List: The New Orleans Saints haven't had much good fortune in "growing" their own linebackers. All three current starters -- Scott Fujita, Mark Simoneau and Scott Shanle -- came to the Saints either via trades or free-agent signings. In fact, over the past two years, New Orleans has either signed, re-signed or traded for a dozen veteran linebackers.


The list: Danny Clark (free agent), Troy Evans (free agent), Trev Faulk (free agent), Jay Foreman (free agent), Fujita (free agent), Cie Grant (re-signed), Dhani Jones (free agent), Tommy Polley (free agent), Shanle (trade), Anthony Simmons (free agent), Brian Simmons (free agent), and Simoneau (trade). Only six of the 12 are still with the team.


Stat of the week: It looks like Emmitt Smith, with 18,355 yards, could hold the all-time NFL rushing record for a long time. Among the top 20 rushers in league history, 18 of them are retired, and another, Corey Dillon (No. 11, with 11,241 yards), is considering retirement and currently doesn't have a job.

The leading active rusher entering the upcoming season is Edgerrin James of Arizona, ranked 19th with 10,385 yards, but he averaged just 3.4 yards per carry in 2006. The top rusher under 29 is San Diego's LaDainian Tomlinson. With 9,176 yards, Tomlinson is ahead of the numbers Smith posted in his first six seasons (8,956 yards), but is still slightly less than halfway to the total of the former Cowboys' star. L.T. is going to have to stay healthy for another six years and keep posting big numbers to have a chance to eclipse Smith's record.


The last word: "Innocent bystander. Wrong place, wrong time. I guess I'm the big fish in the little pond. I never touched anybody. I never hit no girl. I never told any one of them that I was going to kill them. I wasn't even there at 4 a.m. I know the truth is going to come out at the end of the day. And then I'll tell you, 'I told you so.'" -- Suspended Tennessee Titans cornerback Pacman Jones, on HBO's Real Sports, on his involvement in the Feb. 19 shooting outside a Las Vegas nightclub that left one victim paralyzed.
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