2012 NFL Season Predictions

The 2012 season picture is not as clear as 2011 was but I think I can make some sense out of it.  Last season I correctly foresaw the Patriots losing the Super Bowl after beating the Ravens.  I correctly predicted the NFL MVP, Comeback Player of the Year, Defensive Rookie of the Year, and the Executive of the Year.  I correctly predicted 8 out of 12 playoff teams including the Detroit Lions and the Houston Texans.   As I look into the crystal ball I see some divisions with a clear cut winner and many situations like the AFC West last year where the division will be highly contested top to bottom.  I see a team with a 12 year playoff drought finally getting back in and I see a future Hall of Famer winning his first playoff game of his career.  I will include below my regular season rankings, playoff projections, and the worst five teams in the NFL this season.   Overall, I think we’re going to see a lot of interesting things this season and so without much further ado, let me tell you what to expect.

AFC North –

Baltimore Ravens (2)
Pittsburgh Steelers
Cincinnati Bengals
Cleveland Browns

AFC East –

New England Patriots (3)
Buffalo Bills (5)
New York Jets
Miami Dolphins

AFC South –

Houston Texans (1)
Tennessee Titans
Indianapolis Colts
Jacksonville Jaguars

AFC West –

Kansas City Chiefs (4)
Denver Broncos (6)
San Diego Chargers
Oakland Raiders

AFC Playoffs –

Wild Card Round
New England (3) vs. Denver (6)
Kansas City (4) vs. Buffalo (5)

Divisional Round
Houston (1) vs. Kansas City (4)
Baltimore (2) vs. New England (3)

AFC Championship
Houston (1) vs. Baltimore (2)

NFC North –

Green Bay Packers (1)
Chicago Bears (5)
Detroit Lions
Minnesota Vikings

NFC East –

Dallas Cowboys (4)
New York Giants
Philadelphia Eagles
Washington Redskins

NFC South –

Atlanta Falcons (2)
New Orleans Saints
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Carolina Panthers

NFC West –

San Francisco 49ers (3)
Seattle Seahawks (6)
St. Louis Rams
Arizona Cardinals

NFC Playoffs –

Wild Card Round
San Francisco (3) vs. Seattle (6)
Dallas (4) vs. Chicago (5)

Divisional Round
Green Bay (1) vs. Chicago (5)
Atlanta (2) vs. San Francisco (3)

NFC Championship
Green Bay (1) vs. Atlanta (2)

TOP 5 PICKS of 2013 NFL DRAFT

1. Jacksonville Jaguars
2. Arizona Cardinals
3. Miami Dolphins
4. Cleveland Browns
5. Indianapolis Colts

SUPER BOWL

Green Bay (1) vs. Houston (1)

CHAMPIONS

Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers, Super Bowl MVP

Keep an eye out tomorrow for my postseason award predictions!

 

My 2012 NFC Pro Bowl Team

The NFC finally chose this year to overtake the AFC as the better conference in the league.  A lot of that has been due to stellar quarterback play, running back play, and the amazing defense we’ve seen this year.  My biggest regret in putting together my NFC Pro Bowl team is that some of my biggest snubs still did not make the cut because the NFC was way too good this year and there just was not room for them.  For instance, while mainstays Matt Forte and Adrian Peterson were on pace to make the Pro Bowl, their injuries were a major factor in not making it.  Another of my biggest snubs was the Rams’ Chris Long but do you put him in over Allen? Over Babin? Over Pierre-Paul?  Exactly.  The NFC has just been to dominant this season.

*denotes someone who did not make the Pro Bowl
** denotes someone who made the Pro Bowl but is not a Pro Bowl starter that I named a Pro Bowl Starter

Quarterback –

Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay
Drew Brees, New Orleans
Matthew Stafford, Detroit*

Running Back –

LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia
Marshawn Lynch, Seattle*
Frank Gore, San Francisco

Fullback –

John Kuhn, Green Bay

Wide Receiver  –

Calvin Johnson, Detroit
Victor Cruz, New York Giants*
Jordy Nelson, Green Bay*
Steve Smith, Carolina

Tight End –

Jimmy Graham, New Orleans
Tony Gonzalez, Atlanta

Tackle –

Joe Staley, San Francisco
Bryan Bulaga, Green Bay*
Jason Peters, Philadelphia

Guard –

Davin Joseph, Tampa Bay**
Evan Mathis, Philadelphia*
Jahri Evans, Philadelphia

Center –

Scott Wells, Green Bay**
John Sullivan, Minnesota

Defensive End –

Jared Allen, Minnesota
Jason Pierre-Paul, New York Giants**
Jason Babin, Philadelphia

Interior Linemen –

Justin Smith, San Francisco
Jay Ratliff, Dallas
Kevin Williams, Minnesota*

Outside Linebacker –

DeMarcus Ware, Dallas
Aldon Smith, San Francisco*
Ryan Kerrigan, Washington*

Inside/Middle Linebacker –

London Fletcher, Washington*
Patrick Willis, San Francisco

Cornerback –

Charles Woodson, Green Bay
Charles Tillman, Chicago**
Brandon Browner, Seattle*

Free Safety –

Earl Thomas, Seattle
Dashon Goldson, San Francisco

Strong Safety –

Kam Chancellor, Seattle*

Punter –

Andy Lee, San Francisco

Kicker –

Matt Bryant, Atlanta*

Kick Returner –

Patrick Peterson, Arizona

Special Teamer –

Darren Sproles, New Orleans*

Well there’s my 2012 NFC Pro Bowl Team.  It’s disappointing that people like Peterson, Forte, Tulloch, Greenway, Bowman, Long, etc. can’t make it though they are worthy but there’s only so many positions available.

Agree? Disagree? Let me hear your thoughts!

2011 NFL Offseason Grades – NFC West

ST. LOUIS RAMS

2011 Draft Class:  Robert Quinn, DE (1-14); Lance Kendricks, TE (2-47); Austin Pettis, WR (3-78); Gregory Salas, WR (4-112); Jermale Hines, S (5-158);  Jabara Williams, OLB (7-228); Jonathan Nelson, CB (7-229)

 

 

Lance Kendricks is a big, strong, athletic tight end who should make an immediate impact for the Rams.

The Rams had a lot of impact rookies in 2010 and they have some guys in this year’s class who could also make an immediate impact.  I love the pick of Robert Quinn for the Rams.  Had he not been injured this past season he would have probably been a top 5 draft pick so for the Rams to get him at number 14 (with both top wide receivers off the board) was a great value.  Lance Kendricks, also looks to be a tight end who could have an immediate impact for the Rams.   He is a strong athletic tight end and in that offense, I really believe he could have a huge year.   Pettis and Salas could help bolster an ailing receiving corps and so overall I really like what St. Louis accomplished with their draft.  The only major problem is that the Rams failed to address issues on their offensive and defensive lines.

KEY ADDITIONS: Quintin Mikell, S (Eagles); Harvey Dahl, G (Falcons); Jacob Bell, G (Rams); Mike Sims-Walker, WR (Jaguars); Mark Clayton, WR (Rams); Ben Leber, LB (Vikings); Daniel Muir, DT (Colts); Justin Bannan, DT (Broncos);  Al Harris, CB (Dolphins);  Cadillac Williams, RB (Buccaneers);  Jerious Norwood, RB (Falcons); Mark Clayton, WR (Rams)

KEY LOSSES: John Greco, G;  Daniel Fells, TE; Laurent Robinson, WR

Quintin Mikell is not a name that gets a lot of attention BUT he is without a doubt one of the best safeties in the league.  It is going to be really interesting to see how the great defensive mind of Steve Spagnuolo utilizes him in this Rams defense.  Dahl was a great move that the Rams had to make to help improve their offensive line.  I really do like the addition of Al Harris, Cadillac Williams, and Jerious Norwood to this team but the pick-up Rams fans should be excited about is Mike Sims-Walker.  Sims-Walker is a good wide receiver and now with Josh McDaniels at the helm of the offense and a better quarterback than he had in Denver – don’t be shocked if Sims-Walker has a big year.  It’s a contract year for Sims-Walker so he is going to be motivated to perform.  I think that he should become the number one wideout in that offense. Bradford’s favorite target was Mark Clayton at the beginning of last season and so bringing him back is a definite credit for this receiving corps.   Of course the loss of John Greco is a major blow to that line but that was really the one downer in the Rams free agency period.

ARIZONA CARDINALS

2011 Draft Class: Patrick Peterson, CB (1-5); Ryan Williams, RB (2-38); Robert Housler, TE (3-69); Sam Acho, DE (4-103); Anthony Sherman, FB (5-136); Quan Sturdivant, ILB (6-171); David Carter,  DT (6-184); Demarco Sampson, WR (7-249)

The Cardinals drafted who I believe to be the best overall player in the draft in Patrick Peterson

With the 5th overall pick, the Cardinals may have very well selected the best overall player in the draft (although Von Miller is on that same level).  Peterson was a force to be reckoned with while he was at LSU and provided the Cardinals with potentially the best young cornerback tandem in the NFL (until the Kolb trade).   They followed that up by getting the 2nd best running back in the draft in Ryan Williams.  Ryan Williams is a physical runner who can also catch balls out of the backfield.   The Cardinals draft was not so much about addressing needs but in most cases, they took the best possible player on the board regardless of position and in my opinion that’s how championship teams are built.

KEY ADDITIONS: Kevin Kolb, QB (Eagles); Vonnie Holliday, DE (Redskins);  Richard Marshall, CB (Panthers);  Jeff King, TE (Panthers);  Daryn Colledge, G (Packers);  Lyle Sendlein, C (Cardinals); Deuce Lutui, G (Cardinals); Nick Eason, DT (Steelers); Chester Taylor, RB (Bears)

KEY LOSSES: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, CB; Derek Anderson, QB; Tim Hightower, RB; Steve Breaston, WR;  Ben Patrick, TE; Gerald Hayes, LB

If Kolb becomes the quarterback the Cardinals clearly believe he can be, then he was a bargain.

Arizona’s offseason is about Kevin Kolb.  On paper it does appear that the Arizona Cardinals overspent for Kevin Kolb by giving up a 2nd round pick and former 1st round pick Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.  However if Kolb can develop into the franchise quarterback that the Cardinals believe he can be than it is well worth it.  The trade already gave Larry Fitzgerald the confidence in Arizona he needed to sign a long term contract with the team so that trade has already began to pay dividends.  Re-signing Lutui was key for the Cardinals and I like the signing of Todd Heap with the assumption that Arizona plans to incorporate the tight end even more into the passing game.  Chester Taylor had a terrible year in Chicago last year but if he can return to Minnesota form, this is going to be a great bargain signing for the Cardinals.

Rodgers-Cromartie was a huge loss and I am curious to see who steps up into the number 2 receiving spot with the departure of Steve Breaston.

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

2011 Draft Class: James Carpenter, G (1-25); John Moffitt, G (3-75); K.J. Wright, OLB (4-99);  Kris Durham, WR (4-107); Richard Sherman, CB (5-154); Mark LeGree, S (5-156); Byron Maxwell, CB (6-173); Lazarius Levingston, DE (7-205); Malcolm Smith, OLB (7-242)

James Carpenter can be a good tackle in this league but Andy Dalton would've been less of a reach

Seattle definitely had one of the worse drafts in the NFL.  Their largest need going into the draft (later solidified by the departure of Matt Hasselbeck) was quarterback which they failed to address.  I believe that taking Andy Dalton at this pick would have been less of a reach than James Carpenter was.  In the second round the Seahawks got a good guard in Moffitt but with greater needs in the receiving corps, quarterback position, and along the defensive line this pick did not make much sense either.   While their later picks addressed some key needs in the Seahawk secondary, I have to question whether any of these players will have much of an impact.  Overall, a rather unimpressive draft.

KEY ADDITIONS: Sidney Rice, WR (Vikings), Brandon Mebane, DT (Seahawks); Zach Miller, TE (Raiders); Robert Gallery, G (Raiders); Tarvaris Jackson, QB (Vikings); Alan Branch, DT (Cardinals); Leroy Hill, LB (Seahawks); Michael Robinson, RB (Seahawks)

KEY LOSSES: Stacy Andrews, OT; Chris Spencer, C; Lofa Tatupu, LB; Matt Hasselbeck, QB

If Tarvaris Jackson cannot have success in Seattle, he will never be a successful starter anywhere

I love what the Seahawks did in the offseason.  I have long been a believer that Tarvaris Jackson has the talent to be a starting QB in this league.  I can honestly say that if he doesn’t succeed in his current situation (with his favorite receiving target in Rice and the same offensive coordinator he has had his whole career in Bevell) then he will never succeed.  The Seahawks made a splash by grabbing the 2nd best wide receiver on the free agent market and then by signing a great tight end in Zach Miller and getting Robert Gallery from Oakland to help their offensive line.  The big signing of course for the Seahawks was bringing back Brandon Mebane who may have been the best defensive tackle available in free agency.  The question remains though as to whether Jackson or Whitehurst can emerge as a viable starter for Seattle.

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

2011 Draft Class: Aldon Smith, DE (1-7); Colin Kaepernick, QB (2-36); Chris Culliver, CB (3-80); Kendall Hunter, RB (4-115); Daniel Kilgore, G (5-163); Ronald Johnson, WR (6-182); Colin Jones, S (6-190); Bruce Miller, DE (7-211); Michael Person, OT (7-239); Curtis Holcomb, CB (7-250)

Aldon Smith was a good choice and satisfies a need, but another Missouri Tiger may have been the better choice

Unlike many, I don’t believe Aldon Smith was a reach at 7th overall.  He is a fast, physical pass-rusher that satisfies an obvious need for San Francisco and was not going to fall outside of the top 10 picks.  However, I believe that San Francisco drafted the wrong Missouri player.  The obvious need for San Francisco was quarterback and with every quarterback except Cam Newton still on the board,  Gabbert or Locker would have made a lot more sense than Smith.  However, Harbaugh found his developmental project in the second round in Kaepernick.  However, considering that Mallett fell all the way to the 4th round – I though this was not the wisest of picks.  I look at the entire San Francisco draft and pretty much every player they took is a project but the problem is that the 49ers need impact players now.  Maybe Harbaugh is just mailing it in so he can grab Andrew Luck next season.

KEY ADDITIONS: Braylon Edwards, WR (Jets); Alex Smith, QB (49ers); Madieu Williams, S (Vikings); David Akers, K (Eagles); Donte Whitner, S (Bills); Ray McDonald, DT (49ers); Carlos Rogers, CB (Redskins); Jonathan Goodwin, C (Saints)

KEY LOSSES: Aubrayo Franklin, NT; Nate Clements, CB; Manny Lawson, LB; Eric Heitmann, C

49ers fans hope Harbaugh can do for them what he did up the road in Stanford

The first big thing that the 49ers did was go out and get one of the biggest coaching names available in Stanford’s Jim Harbaugh.  His brother Jon has had success in Baltimore and Jim took Stanford from nothing to being a legitimate national football power.  I really like the Braylon Edwards pick-up for the 49ers because, despite his drops, Edwards is a player with “homerun” ability.  Whitner is a player who made giant steps last year and is a risk worth taking in my mind.  Goodwin should come in and solidify that offensive line and I really like the addition of David Akers who I believe was the best kicker available in free agency.  I really did expect the 49ers to make a splash in either the quarterback or cornerback market but unfortunately, they really did not do anything to improve either position.

Questions? Comments? Snide Remarks? Let me hear ’em!

2011 NFL Offseason Grades – NFC South

 

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

NFL DRAFT

2011 NFL DRAFT PICKS: Cameron Jordan, DE (1-24); Mark Ingram, RB (1-28); Martez Wilson, OLB (3-72); Johnny Patrick, CB (3-88); Greg Romeus, DE (7-226); Nathan Bussey, OLB (7-243)

 

It's very rare that you see the best running back in the draft fall all the way to the 28th pick.

With the exception of maybe Cleveland, nobody was more impressive the first night than the Saints.  I was shocked when they had Cameron Jordan just sitting there for them with the 24th overall pick.  What I always noticed about Jordan when he played at California was his long arms that made it next to impossible for anyone to get around him to the outside.  He has great speed and size and a work ethic that comes from his father Steve who spent 13 years in the NFL as a tight end with the Vikings.  To be able to follow up the Jordan pick by trading up to land the best running back in the draft in Mark Ingram 28th overall was an unbelievable value.  The Saints didn’t fare as well in later days, neglecting the huge need they had for an offensive tackle but in regards to value I was definitely impressed by the pick up of Martez Wilson in the 3rd round.   He was a great run-stopping linebacker at Illinois who I thought would go in the mid to late 2nd round but some off the field issues and a 2 injuries (a herniated disc 2 years ago and a stabbing last year) probably led to his fall into the 3rd round.

 

 

 

FREE AGENCY

KEY ADDITIONS: Abrayo Franklin, NT (49ers); Darren Sproles, RB (Chargers); Lance Moore, WR (Saints); Roman Harper, S (Saints); Clint Ingram, LB (Jaguars); Jermon Bushrod, OT (Saints); Scott Shanle, LB (Saints); Zach Strief, OT (Saints); Alex Barron, OT (Cowboys); Will Herring, LB (Seahawks); Fabian Washington, DB (Ravens)

KEY LOSSES: Reggie Bush, RB; Akin Ayodele, LB; Remi Ayodele, DT; Jeremy Shockey, TE

Franklin is a big, physical nose tackle who transforms the Saints' rush defense overnight.

While everyone was distracted by the Philadelphia Eagle’s Miami Heat-like stockpile of talent, few took the time to notice the impressive job that the New Orleans Saints did in free agency.  They were able to land the biggest defensive line prize of the free agency period in Abrayo Franklin.  Franklin is a largely unknown player but he is one of the premier nose tackles in the league who should fit nicely into Greg Williams’ scheme down in New Orleans.  In a division that boasts Michael Turner, DeAngelo Williams, Johnathan Stewart, and LeGarrette Blount, stopping the run is a must.  They traded Reggie Bush away for a 2nd round draft pick and then were able to pick up the exact same player, maybe a better version, in Darren Sproles for a lot lower price tag than Bush would have demanded.   They brought in Fabian Washington and Clint Ingram to tighten up that Saints secondary and then did the most important thing that any team can do in free agency, they re-signed their top free agents.

ATLANTA FALCONS

NFL DRAFT

2011 DRAFT PICKS: Julio Jones, WR (1-6); Akeem Dent, LB (3-91); Jacquizz Rodgers, RB (5-145); Matt Bosher, P (6-192); Andrew Jackson, G (7-210); Cliff Matthews, DE (7-230)

 

The Falcons clearly think that Jones can help them win now.

For the Falcons, this draft will be mostly gauged in the future on the success of Julio Jones.  The Falcons sold the farm and then some to trade up and grab him so it’s clear that they believe he is the missing piece that can help them win now.  If he does nothing more than open up the field more for Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez, and Michael Turner – that alone could help the Falcons take the next step.  The Akeem Dent pick in the 2nd round makes a lot of sense and I like the addition of Jacquizz Rodgers in the Falcons backfield.  I see him being more of a pass catching back which could be a nice change of pace for the Falcons offense.  I am also a fan of the Cliff Matthews pick in Round 7.  Many have scrutinized this draft and while the price paid for a player with a high ceiling and good chance of getting injured was high.  I like the “all-in” move.

 

 

 

FREE AGENCY

KEY ADDITIONS: Ray Edwards, DE (Vikings); Justin Blalock, G (Falcons); Stephen Nicholas, LB (Falcons); Mike Peterson, LB (Falcons); Tyson Clabo, OT (Falcons); Eric Weems, WR (Falcons)

KEY LOSSES: Michael Jenkins, WR; Jamaal Anderson, DE; Jerious Norwood, RB; Harvey Dahl, OT

Ray Edwards will once again be in a defense where he plays opposite an All-Pro defensive end.

I really like what Atlanta did in the free agency period.   They did the first thing they needed to do, re-signed the large majority of their free agents.  The loss that probably hurts them the most is the departure of Harvey Dahl who was a very physical force on that Falcons line in previous seasons.  Then the Falcons went out and made the move they needed to by getting the second best defensive end on the free agent market in Ray Edwards.  There has been a lot of criticism that Edwards was a product of being opposite All-Pro Jared Allen on the Vikings front four.  Great – now he’s opposite All-Pro John Abraham.  The Falcons needed containment help in a division that has Drew Brees, Josh Freeman, and now Cam Newton.  I think Edwards is a perfect fit here and will have considerable success in Atlanta.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

NFL DRAFT

2011 DRAFT PICKS: Adrian Clayborn, DE (1-20); Da’Quan Bowers, DE (2-51); Mason Foster, ILB (3-84); Luke Stocker, TE (4-104); Ahmad Black, S (5-151); Allen Bradford, RB (6-187); Anthony Gaitor, CB (7-222); Daniel Hardy, TE (7-238)

I firmly believe that this could soon be the most feared defensive end pairing in the NFL

 

I cannot say enough good things about how well Tampa Bay drafted this offseason.  They went out with their first round pick and drafted Iowa’s Adrian Clayborn.  A player who can play either the defensive tackle or the defensive end position.  Either way he’s a game changer.  Then the Bucs took what I consider the most low-risk/high-reward pick of the draft in taking Bowers in the 2nd round.  Prior to getting injured, Bowers was considered to be a top 5 draft pick.  The Bucs needed DE help and responded by taking two of the top ten defensive ends in this year’s draft.  The late pick that I love of theirs is Ahmad Black.   At Florida, Black was a hard-hitting safety who had excellent awareness and great instinct for finding the ball.  Tampa probably should’ve addressed secondary concerns earlier but could not have done better in the 5th round than Black.

 

 

FREE AGENCY

KEY ADDITIONS: Quincy Black, LB (Buccaneers); Davin Joseph, G (Buccaneers), Jeremy Trueblood, OT (Buccaneers); Michael Koenen, P (Falcons)

KEY LOSSES: Barrett Ruud, LB

 

The Bucs needed to re-sign Davin Joseph to have any hope of competing in a very tough NFC South.

As many good things I can say about their draft, I can say as many terrible things about the Buccaneers free agency period.   They re-signed the majority of their impact free agents but the only really significant signing they made was luring Michael Koenen away from the rival Falcons.  When your best free agency move is grabbing a punter (while yes, Koenen is a very good punter) you know your free agency has been less than desirable.

 

 

CAROLINA PANTHERS

NFL DRAFT

2011 DRAFT PICKS:Cam Newton, QB (1-1); Terrell McClain, DT (3-65); Sione Fua, DT (3-97); Brandon Hogan, CB (4-98), Kealoha Pilares, WR (5-132); Lawrence Wilson, OLB (6-166); Zack Williams, G (6-203); Lee Ziemba, OT (7-244)

 

The Panthers have entrusted the next 10 years of their franchise to Cam Newton.

Much like the Falcons and Julio Jones, the whole Panthers draft will be weighed in the future of Cam Newton.  While I find him to be an incredible athlete, I do not believe he has the intelligence or discipline to play the quarterback position.  I still feel like Von Miller, Marcell Dareus, Blaine Gabbert, or Patrick Peterson would have all been better choices.  But now it is up to Newton as to whether or not he will succeed, it’s not a question of talent but of work ethic and leadership.   The majority of the Panthers draft in taking players like McClain, Fua, and Wilson (who clearly fill needs) follows the same pattern as Newton.  These are all players with great potential but the question is whether or not they pan out.  Three years from now this will be remembered either as an excellent draft or a terrible one.

 

 

FREE AGENCY

KEY ADDITIONS: Charles Johnson, DE (Panthers), DeAngelo Williams, RB (Panthers); James Anderson, LB (Panthers); Thomas Davis, LB (Panthers); Greg Olsen, TE (Bears); Jeremy Shockey, TE (Saints); Ron Edwards, DT (Chiefs); Omar Gaither, LB (Eagles); Olindo Mare, K (Seahawks); Derek Anderson, QB (Cardinals); Ben Hartsock, TE (Jets); Ron Rivera, Head Coach (Defensive Coordinator, Chargers)

KEY LOSSES: Matt Moore, QB; Dante Rosario, TE

Re-signing Charles Johnson was the best move the Panthers could have made in free agency

Like the Saints, the Panthers had an unbelievable (but highly unnoticed) free agency period.  What I love about what the Panthers did is they started off by finding their head coach in Ron Rivera who I believe perfectly fits the tradition of defense that the Panthers have.  I thought this was an excellent hire.  Then they turned around and re-signed every single one of their high profile free agents, they got Steve Smith excited about being a part of the Panthers, and just recently they extended Ryan Kalil.  From their they got to work, they went from having no good tight end to having the best tight end receiving corps in the league in Olsen, Shockey, and Hartsock.  They brought back the best defensive end in free agency in Charles Johnson and re-signed DeAngelo Williams (which I didn’t think they’d pull off).  Then they brought in Gaither and Edwards to improve their front 7.  And while often overlooked, they brought in Olindo Mare as a great replacement to the aging John Kasay.  Overall a fantastic job for Ron Rivera in his first free agency period.

 

 

Overall, the NFC South as a whole probably improved the most of any division.  While I am not a huge fan of what the Bucs did in free agency or the Panthers did in the draft, all four teams in this division should be considerably better next season.  I am excited to see how this division plays out.

Questions? Comments? Snide Remarks? Let me hear ’em!

2011 Offseason Grades – NFC East

Without further ado, offseason grades for the NFC East

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

NFL DRAFT

2011 DRAFT PICKS: Danny Watkins, G (1-23); Jaiquawn Jarrett, S (2-54); Curtis Marsh, CB (3-90); Casey Matthews, ILB (4-116); Alex Henery, K (4-120); Dion Lewis, RB (5-149); Julian Vandervelde, C (5-161); Jason Kelce, C (6-191); Brian Rolle, OLB (7-237); Greg Lloyd, ILB (7-237); Stanley Havili, FB (7-240)

 

If Casey is half as good as his brother Clay, he will be remembered as an absolute steal in the 4th round.

Philadelphia had 11 picks in this year’s drafts and when I look at how they used it I see it as “honest”.  The Eagles were aware of their weaknesses and drafted position by position to tighten things up.  A lot of people considered Watkins a reach in the first round, but Andy Reid believes he can be a Week 1 starter.  Watkins has good strength and is an adequate pass blocker and run blocker.  The one thing I always noticed when he played at Baylor is he is a “play to the whistle” type player so I think he’ll fit in fine in Philly.  Jarrett was a good pick up to help solidify the safety position and Curtis Martin seemed like an obvious choice for a team that, at the time, was weak at cornerback position.  Making Alex Henery the first kicker off the board made it pretty obvious that Akers was on his way out (which surprised me).  They doubled up on centers late with Vandervelde and Kelce clearly acknowledging their need there.  Philly did a good job of drafting in positions of need, I just don’t know how many of these players will have an impact. I love the Casey Matthews pick.  He was a great player at Oregon and comes from a great line of impact players who were underappreciated in the draft.  If Casey is half as good as his brother Clay (who is a leader on the Packers’ defense) then he was an absolute steal in the 4th round.

 

 

 

FREE AGENCY

KEY ADDITIONS: Nnamdi Asomugha, CB (Raiders); Ronnie Brown, RB (Dolphins); Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, CB (Cardinals); Cullen Jenkins, DT (Packers); Vince Young, QB (Titans); Steve Smith, WR (Giants); Jason Babin, DE (Titans); Ryan Harris, OT (Broncos); Akeem Jordan, LB (Eagles); Evan Mathis, G (Bengals); Jarrad Page, S (Patriots); Derek Landri, DT (Panthers); Anthony Hargrove, DL (Saints)

KEY LOSSES: Kevin Kolb, QB; Quintin Mikell, S; Brodrick Bunkley, DT; Leonard Weaver, FB; Ernie Sims, LB; Max Jean-Gilles, G; Dimitri Patterson, CB; Stewart Bradley, LB

Nnamdi Asomugha was the obvious prize of free agency but I'm a big fan of the addition of Ryan Harris to this Eagles' line

A lot has been said and just how unbelievable the Philadelphia Eagles’ offseason has been.  I have not seen this much hoopla about a team’s free agency since the 2007 Patriots when they brought in Moss, Stallworth, Welker, and Thomas, among others.  Last season the cornerback position was a glaring weakness for the Philadelphia Eagles but they shored up that position through free agency and trade by bringing in 2 of the top 10 cornerbacks in the league.  Mikell was a gigantic loss for the Eagles at the safety position but Page should make for a good replacement and I really do believe it would behoove the Eagles to, at this point, move Asante Samuel to the safety position.  Steve Smith was a nice risk to take given Maclin’s mystery illness.  I love the addition of Babin and Jenkins.  I really believe that they will benefit from Trent Cole in the same way Kevin Smith and Ray Edwards were able to benefit by the addition of Jared Allen.  Vince Young was a great pick up if for no other reason, then to do with him what they did with Kolb and McNabb – flip him on the trade market for higher value.  The most unsung of this group but maybe the Eagles’ best pick up was Ryan Harris at tackle who should solidify that offensive line for the Eagles but there still remain some questions at center.

WASHINGTON REDSKINS

NFL DRAFT

2011 DRAFT PICKS: Ryan Kerrigan, DE (1-16); Jarvis Jenkins, DT (2-41); Leonard Hankerson, WR (3-79); Roy Helu, RB (4-105); Dejon Gomes, S (5-146); Niles Paul, WR (5-155); Evan Royster, RB (6-177); Aldrick Robinson, WR (6-178); Brandyn Thompson, CB (7-213); Maurice Hurt, G (7-217); Markus White, DE (7-224); Christopher Neild, DT (7-253)

While I am not a fan of the Cornhuskers, I'm a big believer in what Roy Helu, Jr. can accomplish in the NFL

Mike Shanahan has a reputation as someone who can develop quarterbacks but where does this come from?  He inherited a first ballot Hall of Fame quarterback in John Elway and has not had a strong QB ever since.  That being said, QB is the most obvious weakness for the Redskins and I feel that they made a huge mistake in trading down when they could have drafted, who I believe to be, the best quarterback in the draft in Blaine Gabbert.  Any time you get the opportunity to draft a franchise quarterback, you need to take it and I feel like this is a mistake that will haunt Washington fans for years. However, the Redskins did get great value in trading down and Kerrigan and Jenkins should do wonders for their front four.  The pick that Redskins fans should be excited about is landing Nebraska running back Roy Helu in the 4th round.  This kid is a strong running back who in college could easily break tackles and can accelerate in the gaps.  I really think that Helu has a bright future as a number one running back in the NFL.

 

 

 

FREE AGENTS

KEY ADDITIONS:Barry Cofield, DT (Giants); Josh Wilson, CB (Ravens); Stephen Bowen, DE (Cowboys); Santana Moss, WR (Redskins); Chris Chester, C (Ravens); Jamal Brown, OT (Redskins); Jabar Gaffney, WR (Broncos); Tim Hightower, RB (Cardinals), Donte’ Stallworth, WR (Ravens); Kellen Clemens, QB (Jets)

KEY LOSSES: Albert Haynesworth, DT; Donovan McNabb, QB; Carlos Rogers, CB; Casey Rabach, C; Maake Kemoeatu, DT; Phillip Daniels, DE; Jeremy Jarmon, DT; Vonnie Holiday, DE

Given their draft, trading defensive end Vonnie Holliday for Tim Hightower was a move that could pay dividends for Mike Shanahan

Mike Shanahan got younger in the front four completely rebuilding it this offseason.  He addressed this need with the first two rounds of the draft and then went out in free agency and signed Barry Cofield, and Stephen Bowen who is one of the better young defensive ends in the league.  Re-signing Santana Moss was a necessity and the addition of Stallworth and Gaffney bolsters that receiving corps.  Chris Chester was a really solid pick-up as well to help strengthen a weak offensive line.  I will continue to say that I feel like the McNabb trade was a bad decision for Washington because after passing on Gabbert and trading Donovan, the Redskins are without a QB.  I do like the Tim Hightower trade quite a bit for Washington and between Hightower, Helu, and Torain, Shanahan should find a tandem that he can work with in his famous “running system”.


NEW YORK GIANTS

NFL DRAFT

2011 DRAFT PICKS: Prince Amukamara, CB (1-19); Marvin Austin, DT (2-52); Jerrel Jernigan, WR (3-83); James Brewer,  OT (4-117); Greg Jones, ILB (6-185); Tyler Sash, S (6-198); Jacquian Williams, LB (6-202); Da’Rel Scott, RB (7-221)

 

The Giants had to be excited to find a cornerback like Amukamara available to them at pick 19

From a value standpoint, the New York Giants had an excellent draft.  I really did not think that Amukamara would fall past the Detroit Lions at 13 but he fell to the Giants and they were wise to take him.  Marvin Austin should help out that defensive line of theirs.  He fell because he lacks consistency but he has the talent to be an elite defensive tackle.  The two late picks of the Giants that I really like for them is James Brewer in the 4th round who has the skills to be a servicable tackle and could help out their O-Line but I feel that they did not do enough to address their aging offensive line.  Tyler Sash was a good risk to take in the seventh round.  He was a standout safety at the University of Iowa and was a cornerstone of a great defense.  In college he was an aggressive player who was a great tackler and had an ability to get his hands on the ball.  He has some parts of his game he needs to tighten up to play at the pro level but has the potential to do well in that Giants defense.

 

 

 

FREE AGENCY

KEY ADDITIONS: Mathias Kiwanuka, DE (Giants); Ahmad Bradshaw, RB (Giants); Ben Patrick, TE (Cardinals); Stacy Andrews, OL (Seahawks); Kevin Boothe, G (Giants); David Baas, C (49ers)

KEY LOSSES: Rocky Bernard, DT; Shaun O’Hara, C; Rich Seubert, G; Shawn Andrews, G; Steve Smith, WR

Re-signing Ahmad Bradshaw was the Giants' no. 1 priority going into the offseason

New York was so cash-strapped going into this season that they really couldn’t do much in free agency.  They were able to re-sign their top two priorities in Ahmad Bradshaw and Mathias Kiwanuka.  The Giants already had offensive line issues and now have lost Shaun O’Hara, Rich Seubert, and Shawn Andrews.  I do believe that David Baas is an upgrade for them over the aging O’Hara and I like the addition of Stacy Andrews but I feel this line has a long ways to go.  I do see the Steve Smith loss really hurting this team because, if nothing else, he took pressure off of Hakeem Nicks.  Overall the Giants were able to replace what they lost which still leaves the Giants looking pretty average in a much improved NFC.

DALLAS COWBOYS

NFL DRAFT

2011 DRAFT PICKS: Tyron Smith, OT (1-9); Bruce Carter, OLB (2-40); DeMarco Murray, RB (3-71); David Arkin, G (4-110); Josh Thomas, CB (5-143); Dwayne Harris, WR (6-176); Shaun Chapas, FB (7-220); Bill Nagy, C (7-252)

 

Some say Smith was taken too early but if he plays well, you can never take a Pro Bowl OT too high

A lot of people criticized Dallas for not trading out of their pick to try and get more value at the offensive tackle position but the Cowboys got the man they wanted in Tyron Smith and 9th overall and I believe he was a perfect pick for the Cowboys.  I believed that the Cowboys needed to fix their offensive line issues and so the fact that they waited until the 4th round to continue to do that was confusing.  The Cowboys also should have addressed the cornerback position earlier.  Given the departure of Marion Barber, the DeMarco Murray pick makes sense in the 3rd round.  The best value pick here was Dwayne Harris who is a small, speedy receiver with great hands that should do nicely in the slot for the Cowboys offense and provide a great target for Tony Romo.

 

 

 

 

 

FREE AGENTS

KEY ADDITIONS: Jason Garrett, Head Coach (Cowboys’ Offensive Coordinator); Doug Free, OT (Cowboys); Kyle Kosier, G (Cowboys); Marcus Spears, DE (Cowboys); Jason Hatcher, DE (Cowboys); Gerald Sensabaugh, S (Cowboys); Abram Elam, S (Browns)

KEY LOSSES: Marion Barber, RB; Roy Williams, WR; Leonard Davis, G; Marc Colombo, OT

The best offseason move the Cowboys made was removing the interim tag from Jason Garrett's title.

The Cowboys had a down year last year in a season where many had them pegged to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.   With Tony Romo healthy again and a new head coach, this is a team that hopes to bounce back in a serious way.  Jason Garrett was the only man for the job and as one of the hottest head coaching candidates available, the Cowboys were smart to hang on to him before he left to go elsewhere.  Then Garrett turned around and brought in one of the best defensive minds in the game in Rob Ryan to help that Cowboys defense regain old form. Like the Giants, the Cowboys were limited by their cap situation but that did not stop them from re-signing most of their important players.  Roy Williams was going to be gone regardless and the Cowboys are sold on the future of Felix Jones and Tashard Choice (along with DeMarco Murray) in that backfield.  Sensabaugh is a good safety but the addition of Elam at that position was a great move by Dallas.  The loss of Marc Colombo does hurt, but Tyron Smith should prove to be an upgrade at the position.


When I look at the landscape of the NFC East, it’s kind of a mixed bag.  A strong Philadelphia Eagles team drastically improved almost overnight.  The Redskins have gotten stronger at some positions and weaker at others.  The New York Giants look like a team that will once again, just miss a wildcard spot, and the Dallas Cowboys didn’t do much but they did fire their head coach and they do get their Pro Bowl quarterback back in the fold which should make a huge difference.  As always, this is going to be a fun division to watch. 

Questions? Comments? Snide Remarks? Let me hear ’em!

2011 NFL Offseason Grades – NFC North

This season ESPN and NFL.com both made, what I consider to be, a mistake.  Like any sports media they issued grades for the free agency period post lockout but they did so while players like Braylon Edwards, Steve Smith, Malcolm Floyd, and Ronnie Brown were still on the free agent market.  Additionally they did not factor in any pre-lockout acquisitions or re-signings (though these were few) into the free agency grades.  Free agency grades also don’t take into account one of the most important free agent acquisitions of all – coaching hires.

The first offseason grades that we saw were in the hours following the NFL Draft for how well each team drafted.   While draft grades (as are free agency grades) are speculation based on how well the collective media think players will fare for a team years down the road, we as fans still enjoy having an “expert opinion” on how well our team drafted.

What is rarely done however, is a combination of the two grades where the entire offseason activity is graded.  A lot of teams we will see a team have a great free agency period and a poor NFL Draft or the other way around so in actually being patient enough to wait until all the big names were signed, I feel like I can do something that we don’t see enough of – grade an NFL team’s entire offseason.   I provide an idea of what my grades mean below:

A Range – Outstanding

B Range –  Good

C Range –  Some Good, Some Bad (a.k.a. Hard to Determine)

D Range – Pretty Bad

F Range – What the heck were you thinking?!?

Today I give you the NFC North, a division that many believe could be among the best in the NFL this season but what do the grades say?

GREEN BAY PACKERS

NFL DRAFT

2011 DRAFT PICKS – Derek Sherrod, OT (1-32), Randall Cobb, WR (2-64), Alex Green, RB (3-96), Davon House, CB (4-131), D.J. Williams, TE (5-141), Caleb Schlaunderaff, G (6-179), Rick Elmore, DE (6-197), Ryan Taylor, TE (7-128), Lawrence Guy, DT (7-233)

As a Vikings fan, the athleticism of Cobb and what he can do for that Packers offense, scares me.

After winning a Super Bowl with many of their best players on the sidelines, the Green Bay Packers clearly felt they needed to improve an already dynamic defense by using their first three picks on the offensive side of the ball.   The past couple of years, Jared Allen, Kevin Williams, and Ray Edwards spent more time in the Packers backfield than Ryan Grant so finding a strong offensive tackle like Mississippi State’s Derek Sherrod was an obvious choice with the 32nd overall pick.  While there are concerns about how agressive Sherrod will be there is no question about his desire to work and ability to run block which plugs a major hole for Mike McCarthy’s offense.   The two players I love in this draft for Green Bay are Hawaii’s Alex Green and Kentucky’s Randall Cobb.  Green Bay desperately needed to find a running back but really were not in a position to fill this hole before the third round.  Thompson has always been about getting the best player on the board and there is no reason to question his tactics.  I think Cobb will make an immediate impact as part of the Green Bay offense and was a great insurance policy for James Jones (who did re-sign after lockout) and opens the door for the departure of Jordy Nelson after this season.  With the emergence of wildcat -type schemes in the NFL, do not be surprised if the SEC quarterback is used in this role as well.   While I do like the Packer’s draft, I really thought they would try and find a pass rusher in the first three rounds but instead waited until late in the sixth round to select a defensive end.

 

 

FREE AGENCY

KEY ADDITIONS: James Jones, WR (Packers); Mason Crosby, K  (Packers); John Kuhn, FB (Packers)

KEY LOSSES: Nick Barnett, LB;  Cullen Jenkins, DT; Mark Tauscher, OT; Jason Spitz, G

Aaron Rodgers lobbied for the Packers to bring back Jones, a favorite target of his.

The Packers could have looked across the NFL and seen the NFC powers (Eagles, Saints, Falcons) gathering arms and bolstering their rosters.  The difference between the Packers and these other teams though is that the Packers just won a Super Bowl.  They had very little cap room and did what they do best – kept their best guys and made few moves.  They brought back a solid kicker in Crosby (which teams with playoff experience know is important), a guy who can get in the endzone when he has to in John Kuhn, and were able to keep James Jones from signing with the rival Vikings which makes Green Bay loaded at wide receiver.   Additionally, the Packers will see a number of their stars back off the DL this season which makes another Super Bowl run very feasible.


DETROIT LIONS

NFL DRAFT

2011 NFL DRAFT PICKS – Nick Fairley, DT (1-13); Titus Young, WR (2-44); Mikel Leshoure, RB (2-57); Douglas Hogue, OLB (5-157); Johnny Culbreath, OT (7-209)

At 13th overall, Nick Fairley may have been the biggest steal of the 2011 Draft.

In one swoop, the Lions were able to get their hands on a top 5 talent in Nick Fairley and potentially establish the best defensive tackle tandem in the NFC North with Fairley and Suh.  That’s saying something considering that for many seasons, the North has boasted the Williams Wall who are historically speaking, the best run stopping tackle pair of all time.   And the Lions are going to have to be able to stop the run when their division has the likes of Matt Forte, Ryan Grant, and Adrian Peterson.  Additionally Titus Young provides another great young target for quarterback Matthew Stafford and Mikel Leshoure paired with 2nd year running back Jahvid Best could give Detroit a powerful 1-2 punch.   In Douglas Hogue, the Lions got a hard-hitting and speedy linebacker that could have gone a lot earlier.  Overall, with only a few picks, this was an excellent draft for the Detroit Lions.


 

FREE AGENCY

KEY ADDITIONS: Eric Wright, CB (Browns); Justin Durant, LB (Jaguars); Stephen Tulloch, LB (Titans); Chris Houston, CB (Lions); Drew Stanton, QB (Lions)

KEY LOSSES: Bryant Johnson, WR

Tulloch is a great fit for the Lions and was a great and unheralded move for Detroit.

Detroit gave themselves a solid defensive front four in the draft after taking Nick Fairley 13th overall.  The Lions focused their free agent signings on tightening up the rest of their defense.  The Lions should have a pretty solid rush defense (important against Chicago and Minnesota) with the addition of Stephen Tulloch and Justin Durant.  Tulloch is a great tackler who, behind Suh and Fairley, keep Peterson and Forte from doing too much up the middle.   Eric Wright is a risk worth taking at the cornerback position as he has great upside and it was important for the Lions to get Houston back on board as well as bring back Stanton given Stafford’s injury history.  While there weren’t any “big names” signed, the Lions addressed their needs on the defensive side of the ball but there remain some major questions on the offensive line.

CHICAGO BEARS

NFL DRAFT

2011 NFL DRAFT PICKS: Gabe Carimi, OT (1-29); Stephen Paea, DT (2-53); Christopher Conte, S (3-93); Nathan Enderle, QB (5-160); J.T. Thomas, LB (6-195)

 

Gabe Carimi is a big, strong, athletic tackle who should be able to start for Chicago immediately.

If Nick Fairley wasn’t the best value pick in the first round, then Gabe Carimi might have been.  I really did not believe that Carimi would fall that late in the first round.  Regardless of what you might say about Big Ten football, the Big Ten produces two things better than anyone – offensive linemen and middle linebackers.  Carimi is no different – he is a big athletic, run blocking tackle who can start immediately.   I really like the Christopher Conte pick-up in the third round for the Bears.   Though he only started at Cal for his senior year, he made the most of it.  He has great size and is pretty fast which makes him a hard-hitting safety, he’ll be right at home in that Bears’ defense.  Enderle kind of confuses me because they have a very capable back-up in Caleb Hanie (as seen in the 2011 NFC Championship) but Enderle does have a big arm and some real upside.   I think they should have tried to use what few picks they had on a wide receiver or another offensive lineman.

 

 

 

FREE AGENCY

KEY ADDITIONS: Roy Williams, WR (Cowboys); Anthony Adams, DT (Bears); Chris Spencer, C (Seahawks);  Corey Graham, CB (Bears);  Amobi Okoye, DT (Texans); Brian Iwuh, LB (Bears); Matt Spaeth, TE (Steelers); Vernon Gholston, DE (Jets); Adam Podlesh, P (Jaguars); Marion Barber, RB (Cowboys)

KEY LOSSES: Greg Olsen, TE; Tommie Harris, DT; Olin Kreutz, C; Devin Aromashadu, WR

Roy Williams and Mike Martz have a history together so Williams makes sense for the Bears.

The Bears did a lot during free agency, I just don’t know how good it was.  The four biggest signings are probably the ones that Bears fans either dislike or don’t know about.  Roy Williams is a perfect fit for the Chicago Bears given that he fluorished in Mike Martz’s offense in Detroit  and I really believe that he will rebound this year and lead the Bears in receiving.  I like the addition of Adam Podlesh who is a good punter and should help that Bears defense play with some longer fields this year.  Vernon Gholston and Amobi Okoye were both great value signings.  While they are both first round draft busts, the Bears gave up next to nothing for them and if Lovie Smith and Rod Marinelli can get one of them to even realize half of their potential – it was definitely a risk worth taking.

I hate the Chris Spencer move because even though Kreutz is in decline he is still a strong center and good locker room guy.  Spencer is unproven and the Bears may have been better off signing Kreutz for one to two years and looking for a center in next year’s draft.  Marion Barber does provide some competition for Chester Taylor and is an okay signing.   Spaeth was a good signing as well but is in no way a replacement for Greg Olsen.

MINNESOTA VIKINGS

NFL DRAFT

2011 NFL DRAFT PICKS: Christian Ponder, QB (1-12); Kyle Rudolph, TE (2-43); Christian Ballard, DT (4-106); Brandon Burton, CB (5-139); DeMarcus Love, OT (6-168); Mistral Raymond, S (6-170); Brandon Fusco, C (6-172); Ross Homan, OLB (6-200); D’Aundre Reed, DE (7-215); Stephen Burton (7-236)

 

Years from now, the entire Vikings draft will be based on how good of a quarterback Christian Ponder turns out to be.

Whether or not Brett Favre will play in the NFL this year remains to be seen but it is rather clear that he will not be back with the Vikings.  In what many viewed as a rather weak quarterback class, the Vikings took the 4th quarterback off the board with the 12th overall pick in Florida State’s Christian Ponder.  Nobody has reached as hard as the Vikings did taking Ponder 12th overall since Santa Claus last tried to touch his toes.  Many consider Ponder the most “NFL ready” of the class but when Andy Dalton was taken in the 2nd round, it seems Minnesota could have gotten their guy later in the draft.   Many comparisons have been made between Ponder and Hassleback and if Christian Ponder is indeed Matt Hassleback in a couple of years – then this looks like a stroke of brilliance.  For now, it seems to be a reach.  For Vikings fans not only will Ponder be compared to Dalton and Ryan Mallett but he will also be compared to Prince Amukamura, Jimmy Smith, Gabe Carimi, Nick Fairley, Nate Solder, and Adrian Clayborn – all players who could have filled immediate needs for Minnesota.   The Vikings had a solid rest of the draft however in taking the best tight end in the draft in Kyle Rudolph and getting a steal with Christian Ballard in the 4th round.  He could be a great defensive tackle in another year or two.   I believe that Brandon Fusco will prove to one day be a steal and can be a great center in the league, a position the Vikings have struggled to fill since Matt Birk left for the Ravens.   And Stephen Burton was a risk worth taking in the 7th round.

 

 

 

FREE AGENCY

KEY ADDITIONS: Donovan McNabb, QB (Redskins); Michael Jenkins, WR (Falcons); Charlie Johnson, G (Colts); Remi Ayodele, DT (Saints); Ryan Longwell, K, (Vikings);  Devin Aromashadu, WR,  (Bears); Leslie Frazier, Head Coach (Vikings Defensive Coordinator)

KEY LOSSES: Bryant McKinnie, OT; Jimmy Kennedy, DT; Madieu Williams, S; Sidney Rice, WR; Tavaris Jackson, QB; Ben Leber, OLB; Ray Edwards, DE

Vikings fans hope to see the Philly edition of Donovan McNabb in purple this year, not the Redskins version.

Of course the big news out of Vikings free agency is getting Donovan McNabb for next to nothing.  This is a great pick-up by Minnesota as it provides them a quarterback who can help them win now while Ponder learns the ropes.   While Hasselback may have been the better fit given Ponder’s style, McNabb is a great pick up for a Minnesota team just two years removed from an NFC Championship berth.  The Vikings also got two very solid pick ups in Charlie Johnson from the Colts who now will be forced into the left tackle role and Michael Jenkins, a sure handed receiver who is familiar with new offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave.  The Vikings have seen three of their coordinators be hired away to coaching jobs in the last 15 years only to go on and win Super Bowls (Tony Dungy, Brian Billick, and Mike Tomlin) and were not about to let hot coaching prospect Leslie Frazier leave.  He has the respect of the locker room and this is a win for the Vikings.  Frazier also has brought in Mike Singletary to help the linebacker corps.  Ryan Longwell’s re-signing was a priority given that he is one of the league’s most accurate kickers and there wasn’t much available on the free agent market.

Minnesota’s biggest loss is without a doubt Sidney Rice, a young deep threat with leaping ability who was the best wide receiver available in free agency.  Overnight, Minnesota went from having a great receiving corps to a decent one at best.   Ray Edwards will be missed opposite Jared Allen as will Ben Leber.  Overall this is going to be a very different Vikings roster than was seen the past two years.

Overall, the NFC North has taken significant strides forward.  The Green Bay Packers have put themselves in a great position to become the first NFC team since, well, the Green Bay Packers to make back-to-back Super Bowl appearances and the Lions continue to build a promising young team.  The Bears have solidified their defense and brought in some help on offense while the Vikings have taken some risks that could pay off big or could leave them where they were last season.   Overall, I see the NFC North being a tough division that could once again send multiple teams to the playoffs.

Questions? Comments? Snide Remarks?  Let me hear ’em!

Land of 10,000 Lattes

Like all stories from “The Funyun”, the post below is a work of satire, parody, and fiction.  While the names of famous people and actual events are referenced, this story should not be considered a valid news source.

Darrell Bevell joins the Seattle Seahawks after five years as Offensive Coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings and has already brought Sidney Rice (left), Tarvaris Jackson (center), and Frank Walker (unpictured) with him. Pete Carroll is currently courting Vikings LB Ben Leber (right) thinking this could yield 2005-type results.

After pulling off the biggest upset of the NFL postseason in 2010, the Seattle Seahawks and head coach Pete Carroll hope to build off that season in 2011.  Carroll was excited by making it to the divisional round of the NFC playoffs but feels his team can do better.  “It has always been our goal to play in an NFC Championship game.  We fell one game shy of that goal last season and I knew we had to make the right draft picks and bring in the right staff and players to make that possible.”  In pursuing the Halas Trophy, the Seahawks have made some major additions this offseason.

The Seahawks started by bringing in offensive guru Darrell Bevell who spent the last five years under Brad Childress and the Minnesota Vikings and parting ways with Pro-Bowl  quarterback Matt Hasslebeck.   While in Minneapolis, Bevell saw the Vikings win the NFC North twice and come within an interception of playing in Super Bowl XLIV.   In going to Seattle, Darrell Bevell brought two of his own offensive players, quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, and the All-Pro young deep threat Sidney Rice.  In recent days, cornerback Frank Walker has followed his Vikings teammates to the Pacific Northwest and the Seahawks are currently in talks with the hard-hitting veteran linebacker, Ben Leber, also from the Minnesota Vikings.

Head coach Pete Carroll has long admired the Minnesota Vikings franchise.  He served as the defensive backs coach for Minnesota from 1985 – 1989 and even interviewed for the head coaching position in 1992 before losing out to Dennis Green.  “It was great being part of a franchise like the Vikings fresh off the departure of Bud [Grant].” Carroll said, ” He’s a Hall of Fame coach who led the Vikings to four Super Bowl appearances.  He was a great mentor to me in teaching me the importance of coming close to winning a championship.  I took that same philosophy to USC and brought it with me here.  In LA, we came close consistently and when we did win, we were fortunate the NCAA took that title away.”

When asked about the what Darrell Bevell brings to the Seahawks, Carroll remarked that, “Darrell has a great offense and knows better than anyone how to get a team in the NFC Championship.  A few years ago, Mike [Holmgren] was able to lead this team to a Super Bowl loss and we need to get back to that tradition here in Seattle.  Mike had a simple formula: bring in your old back-up for Brett Favre and fill the roster with capable wide receivers.  That’s the value of Darrell bringing in guys like Tarvaris and Sidney.  I really believe Tarvaris is a guy we can throw under center week 1 and he can help us almost win right now.  Both guys are going to help us to to come close to winning  a championship.”

Carroll went on to explain, “We aren’t Pittsburgh, Green Bay, or New England, but we’re definitely not a Cleveland, Detroit, or Houston either.  Seattle is a city that needs to have hope and see their team almost win but we know we can never truly compete.  For the last fifty years, nobody has walked that line better than the Minnesota Vikings.”  He went on to say, “Bud Grant taught me the value of almost winning and Mike brought that tradition here.  I think we’ve put ourselves in a position to appear in the NFC Championship game.”

Carroll has received a lot of attention for having a DJ on the field during practices and the locker room TVs show the movie Ace Ventura: Pet Detective at least once a day.  Defensive tackle Brandon Mebane said, “There is just a lot we can learn from Ray Finkle and his ‘Kick heard ’round the World.”

Wide receiver Mike Williams was excited about the prospect of Sidney Rice being a part of the team saying, “Sidney is a guy who has been there and almost won.  To get a guy like that, like Randy Moss and Cris Carter, who has come so close  …. he’s going to help us get back to 2005 form.”   When asked about other free agent additions, Williams said, “It was great to get Leroy Hill back on board because he gives us a leader who has been on the cusp of winning a championship and now to see Coach Tom [Cable] bring guys in like [Robert] Gallery and [Zach] Miller who have not had a chance to be a playoff team.  They are going to be hungry to make it to the NFC Championship game.”

Since that Super Bowl berth, the Seattle Seahawks have lost grasp of a division they once dominated as the Arizona Cardinals took the division and even made it all the way to the Super Bowl a few years back.   The Rams have their quarterback of the future in Sam Bradford and new coach Jim Harbaugh in San Francisco promises to shake things up for the 49ers.  Offensive Coordinator Darrell Bevell feels that the Seahawks are primed to repeat in the NFC West this season.

Andre Reed played in and lost 4 straight Super Bowls, finished his career in 2000 with 951 receptions, and is waiting on the call from Canton. Would he consider one last "almost win" to solidify his HOF bid?

“It was a great feeling to play that game in New Orleans two years ago, and I only hope we can host a championship here.  I know Tarvaris and he’s been working in the offseason and the two years of mentoring from Brett Favre is only going to help.  Sidney has proven to be a guy that can almost win and should we ever set our expectations too high, I know that I can count on him to surprise us all with an unexpected surgery and bring us back down to Earth.”

Carroll also mentioned that while talks remain ongoing with the Viking’s Ben Leber they have also reached out to Brett Favre, Randy Moss, Bryant McKinnie, and even inquired about a possible trade for Bernard Berrian.  There is a lot of hope in Seattle these days with players feeling that they could play in the NFC Championship game this year and find themselves back in 2005 form so they can play in a Super Bowl.  Bevell even noted that the Seahawks had reached out to Andre Reed and Cris Carter in the last week just to see if they would like one last chance to almost win a Super Bowl and solidify their Hall of Fame bids by being on a Super Bowl runner-up.

“Just to get to go to Indianapolis or New Orleans and be on the field while Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, or Peyton Manning win another ring,” said quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, “that would be the experience of a lifetime.”

Questions? Comments? Snide Remarks? Let me hear ’em!