Archive for category Jacksonville Jaguars

NFL Late Hits

I’ve been throwing out my thoughts on Monday mornings on Twitter and will probably continue to do so, but felt like a proper article makes a ton of sense.

With that in mind, welcome to NFL Late Hits, my new Monday article here at The Thundering Blurb. It won’t cover everything that happens in the NFL on a Sunday, just the stuff that for whatever reason sticks in my brain by day’s end.

Two huge plays yesterday have caused some chaos in the NFL media and Fantasy Football community – one was the 4-2 call to go for it by Patriots Coach Bill Belichick, the other, Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew taking a knee at the one to milk the clock in the Jets game.

Let’s start with the call by Belichick. I’ll admit, I didn’t see it when it happened.

I did discover a new food allergy so, you know, win!

Instead, I went over the hightlites and looked over the game info at NFL.com. I can’t say I thought it was the best call, but I’m not sure it’s the worst ever.

Say what you will, but Belichick goes on fourth pretty often and it works out for him more than most coaches. I may be remembering wrong, but on NFLN last night, I believe Mariucci said it worked somewhere in the neighborhood of 78% of the time for him.

It’s not a bad percentage – on the other end of the field.

Look, Belichick has forgotten more about football in the time it took me to type this sentence out than I know now. So I’m sure he had all the facts, figures and percentages in his head when he made the call.

I just don’t know why you risk giving Peyton Manning the ball on your side of the field.

A great coach rolls the dice. Sometimes you hit the point, sometimes you crap out. Like The Hoodie said in his press conference, people will question you anyway.

I think it was a bad call. I also think the media shouldn’t be pulling their hair out over it.

Especially since, had the Pats made it, we would have had another round of ‘This is the kind of GENIUS which has made him so successful’.

A little perspective please.

Speaking of perspective – ok, so if you lost your Fantasy Matchup because Maurice Jones-Drew took a knee on the one yard line, you might want to skip a few paragraphs to where I chat about Brian Westbrook.

This was the right call. Could Jaguars kicker Josh Scobee have biffed the extra point kick? Sure. It happens less than 2% of the time, but like the man said ’so you’re saying there’s a chance?’.

Listen, when people say Fantasy Football is ruining enjoyment of the game, it’s because of reactions like this.

Scobee – shaky though he has been – wasn’t missing that kick. A short, high, kick is very hard to block. I know it cheeses you off not to get the 6 points but the Jags needed to milk the clock.

Whether reports are true that Head Coach Jack Del Rio called for a knee prior to the play or not, it was the right decision.

Seemingly overlooked in the ‘DAMMIT MJD YOU COST ME MY GAME’ shouting was the fact that Jones-Drew picked up the first down. That game was done. They could burn the clock all the way to the wire (which they did) and kick a ‘gimme’ field goal (which they also did).

It’s a no brainer. Sure, like Belichick’s call above if something bizarre had happened and the Jets had gotten the ball back and won, it would look foolish.

But the best way to finish a game and win is to keep the ball out of the hands of the opposing offense’s hands. They did that. As much as I don’t love the thought of Mark Sanchez having to lead his team 80 yards to a win, all it would have taken was a missed tackle and the Jets could have walked away with a win.

Why take that chance? Keep the ball in your hands as long as you can. Milk the clock. Kick the field goal.

It’s maddeningly simple to me, as it was when Brian Westbrook did it previously.

Hell, MJD even apologized to you which he really didn’t need to. Of course he admitted he had himself and screwed himself too, but also pointed out that hey ‘you play to win the game’.

Side note: With players owning themselves and other players in leagues that often deal with pots of prize money, is the league going to come down on this as gambling?  I know the arguement has been Fantasy isn’t gambling, but you have to wonder if the NFL worries.

Things didn’t go all that well for the guy who last took a knee at the line either. Brian Wesbtrook suffered his second concussion in less than a month yesterday and you have to start thinking we’re seeing the end of him in the NFL.

Listen, I’m no doctor – in fact I didn’t even stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night – but twice in a month is bad. In fact, as far as I can tell, it’s awful.

The more often you get them, the more easy it is to get them. More than one player can testify to that and with the recent discussion in the media and NFL circles about head injuries and their long term effects I cannot imagine the Eagles rushing him back out there.

Especially not with LeSean McCoy there. I mean, isn’t this what you picked him for?

Maybe not, if you run a grand total of 13 times.  The Eagles only threw to the backs a total of five times as well.

Sure, they were down and yes they moved the ball through the air effectively in the fourth quarter. Still, there was never a threat that they were running the ball – I wonder if the success moving the chains via air freight than on the ground says more about deficiencies in the Chargers secondary than the Eagles pass attack

Either way, one hopes the Eagles – and Westbrook himself – are very cautious this time out.

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Trendspotting: Maurice Jones-Drew

I’ll be the first to admit that I had a bunch of concerns about Maurice Jones-Drew coming into this season. Most of those concerns – regarding his size, weight and their impact on his durability as well as the fact that he has never carried the ball as many times as the Jaguars want him to – are things which take a whole season to play out.
MJD is the Top Fantasy RB in many leagues

MJD is the Top Fantasy RB in many leagues

 
I felt he was still a top ten back. Six weeks in, he’s not only that but a top two back. He’s even the #1 back in many leagues.
 
However, while his overall numbers are very good his week to week numbers have fallen flat a few times.
 
A quick look at his overall games (credit to footballguys.com for supplying the stats) shows a few games where his owners might have struggled.
 
WK   OPP RSH YD TD TARG REC YD TD FPT  
1   IND 21 97 1 8 5 26 0 18.3  
2   ARI 13 66 0 7 4 17 0 8.3  
3   HOU 23 119 3 7 4 28 0 32.7  
4   TEN 6 14 1 3 3 26 0 10.0  
5   SEA 12 34 0 5 5 23 0 5.7  
6   STL 33 133 3 7 5 45 0 35.8  
TOT     108 463 8 37 26 165 0 110.8
 
Looking at the numbers I was struck by how inconsistent the production has been. His big games are big – very few backs have had games like that this season, much less more than one.
On the other hand, he’s had a few subpar games to alternate with those huge games.
 
What is going on with Jones-Drew? Is there a cause for concern? What is causing the yo-yoing production?
 
In this week’s Trendspotting, we look at the diminutive back and examine whether his owners need to sell high – or if the rest of us need to buy.
 
While I was working on the research for this, I did something a little different and threw out a post in the Footballguys forums to take the temperature of his owners and see what people felt might be going on if anything. You can check out response here, but I found very little worry for his prospects and some thoughts on the up and down production which mirrored what I was already thinking.
 
A few people are selling high(ish) and a few are looking to buy but overall his owners are patient and calm.
 
Good stuff there though and I encourage you to check it out.
 
And why shouldn’t his owners be patient. The overall picture in fantasy right now is one of struggling first round running backs.
 
Chris Johnson, Matt Forte, Steven Jackson, Steve Slaton – all are players taken in the first who have had issues in the first six weeks. We could add folks like Tom Brady and Randy Moss (Week 6 fireworks notwithstanding) as well. 
 
So it isn’t a reach to say that Jones-Drew has more than been worth his pick, along with the other survivor of the first round, Adrian Peterson. 
 
I took a look at the many leagues I am in (mostly PPR leagues, but some not) and Jones-Drew is the top back in many of them. You can’t be upset when so many other studs have fallen flat.
 
What about those down games? Well, first consider that in the above graph from FBG’s player page, eight and ten points are not tragic totals (and do not include PPR points). Disappointing? Perhaps. 
 
Looking closer though, Jones-Drew ran into things that may have shut down the production for many of the backs in the same situation.
 
As Sigmund Bloom points out in the thread, both the Arizona and Seattle games he was hamstrung by an early deficit. Looking at those two games, Jones-Drew got his usual amount of catches as well – between four and five which is right at his average so far. Against Arizona he still compiled a nice 83 yards total. 
 
While the Seattle game didn’t even have that going for it, there hasn’t been a back this year who didn’t put up lackluster points once.
 
Still, that game highlights one problem with Jones-Drew – or rather his situation. For whatever reason, the line has not been able to create enough room for him to run. It could be starting two rookies on the line, it could be an echo of the adversity the squad faced last season.
 
Is MJD dissmissing critics like he does these Bills?

Is MJD dismissing critics like he does these Bills?

Luckily, Jones-Drew has proven himself to be that special breed of back who can overcome weakness around him. In the tradition of LaDainian Tomlinson, Barry Sanders and Steven Jackson, Jones-Drew is a back who transcends situation. Now, that doesn’t mean I don’t have concerns (which we’ll touch on in a minute) but it does say that regardless of his team he will make positive yards most of the time.

 
One thing owners have to love is the propensity of the Jaguars to give him the rock in the red zone.
 
A quick look at the numbers show Jones-Drew has gotten more looks than ANYONE else on the team and by a huge margin. In fact, of 71 total red zone looks, Jones-Drew has been ‘the man’ on 30 of them. The next closest is quarterback David Garrard with 21. After that it is a huge dip to the surprising Mike Sims-Walker who has seven.
 
Of his eight touchdowns, all but one are short yardage/goal line scores. He can still break a long one on occasion (as evidenced by his 61 yards touchdown against the Texans in Week 3) but you know that the team will nearly always give him the rock in the red.
 
Mind you, so does the opposition. That’s true of many stud backs though, so really you’re looking for opportunity and Jones-Drew gets plenty of it.
 
You also have to like some of his upcoming schedule. The Titans aren’t scaring anyone, Kansas City, Buffalo, Texans and Colts can all be run on. The Jets are reeling – we’ll see how they are in a few weeks but they aren’t an immovable object, especially without NT Kris Jenkins.
 
They aren’t all easy match-ups but it’s not an awful schedule.
 
The only concern I have with Jones-Drew is no different than what I was worried about in August: can he hold up to the workload?
 
As much as he hasn’t carried the ball 30 times every game, he has already racked up 108 carries. His first three years the total number of carries were 197 (2008), 167 (2007) and 166 (2006). 
 
He’s already more than halfway to the most carries he has ever had in his NFL career. I’m not even adding the catches, which he should easily eclipse as well this season. 
 
Jones-Drew has never carried the ball as often as he will this season (barring injury). So my biggest concern remains, will he be able to keep it up all season.
 
The team is not forcing either Greg Jones or Rashard Jennings into the mix with great frequency. This is Jones-Drew’s team, it is not a running back by committee nor does it show any signs of becoming one.
 
It is a hard – and honestly very dicey – to try a predict injury. Many people do – I’m not one of them. But we have seen backs fade as a season goes. If Jones-Drew had carried the ball 250+ times at least once in college (as other slight backs have – most notably Barry Sanders who for some reason people love to point out to me was a smaller back who never had injury issues) I’d be less concerned.
 
He hasn’t though and any owner or analyst should at least be a little concerned as the season progresses if he continues on a pace to pass 300 carries (and probably 350 touches total including catches). He’s never done it before – that doesn’t mean he can’t and there is a first time for everything. There aren’t many things more season killing though than to have a stud back wear out as you hit the Fantasy Playoffs.
 
Am I saying sell high? Am I guaranteeing an injury or dip in production?
 
No, not at all. I wouldn’t sell Jones-Drew and if I ran across an owner who was looking to part ways, I would see what I could do to acquire him.
 
What I am saying is, prepare for the worst and hope for the best. If you own
Will MJD put the facepalm to his critics?

Will MJD put the facepalm to his critics?

Jones-Drew, make sure you have back-ups you would be comfortable rolling with into the playoffs. It’s not ground-breaking advice and further, it applies to just about any stud back.
 
With his lack of history though, it’s more critical than doing so for a guy like Peterson.
 
Otherwise though, if you’re an owner of Maurice Jones-Drew, it may be a slightly bumpy ride but it’s also one that could help you towards a championship.    

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Running Back Blurb Breakdown: Maurice Jones-Drew


Maurice Jones-Drew
One of the most divisive backs in fantasy right now, Maurice Jones-Drew is a fantastic athlete whose strength and speed belies his size.

But questions still plague him.

He’s never carried the rock as the feature back, not even in college. And as much as he is tough, will he wear down if the Titans do use him as the bell cow? Or conversely, will they spell him a bunch with Greg Jones and Rashard Jennings?

MJD should put up nice numbers, especially in a PPR league but he’s going as the second – in some cases FIRST – Rb off the board in some drafts.

I haven’t even gotten to the revamped offensive line, though I think it will be healthy and capable this season. But they’ll be rolling out a pair of rookies and while some of that could be merely for depth, they really collapsed fast in 2008.

In their defense, you can’t have what they went through happen and not collapse. Once Richard Collier was shot and paralyzed, the fact they even pulled it together when they did is pretty gutty.

The passing attack appears to also be a big question mark at first glance. But Tory Holt alone is better than anyone on the roster last year, save the departed Matt Jones. And the two draft picks of Jake Dillard and Mike Thomas have looked good enough in tees and shorts to allow Dennis Northcutt to be traded.

Still, Garrard seemed to plateau last season and if he cannot get a little more going on, MJD might start finding his running lanes clogged.

While I think Jones-Drew has the talent, there are many questions I have about him. To many to take him earlier than where he is at five.

2009 NFL Running Back Battles to Watch: Part 2

Welcome to part two of the 2009 NFL Running Back Battles To Watch. Yesterday we looked at a bunch of great backs including – but not limited to – the Denver Broncos, Indianapolis Colts and the Carolina Panthers.

Today we’ll be looking at some more interesting backfield situations and seeing what they might mean for their respective teams.

We’ll start off with a team that has a clear-cut number one back but also some questions as to what to do if he cannot carry the full load over the course of the 2009 season.

Jacksonville
We all think Maurice Jones-Drew aka ‘The Human Bowling Ball’ aka ‘The Bad Little Man’ will be the bell cow here and get most if not all the work. The man can do it all and despite his size, usually stays healthy. With no Fred Taylor, he should get every carry Freddy used to get, right?

Well, yes and no. While MJD is a stud and the offensive line is much healthier and better than 2008’s version, the Jaguars will by no means risk burning out Jones-Drew before the playoffs. I expect one of the backs behind him to get a fair share of carries as well.

Note that I am not saying they will cut significantly into his totes – but that it will factor in and probably in a good way.

Former USC tailback Chauncey Washington patiently waited for his shot, but now has to hold off former Liberty stud Rashad Jennings a guy who improbably fell to the Jags in the seventh round – something I still can’t figure out.

Both players have the ability to fill in for MJD but despite being a USC Homer, I like Jennings better. He can catch, he can slide into holes but he has decent size. Matt Waldman of the Rookie Scouting Portfolio and footballguys.com said it best; ‘what you should know about Jennings is that he’s a bigger back with finesse’.

That size combined with the skills Waldman alludes to make him a very attractive compliment to Jones-Drew and a guy to watch for long term on his own as well.

Jennings has some issues finishing a run and will need to improve that if he wants to catch Washington.

And lest we forget, Greg Jones has been occasionally stud-like when he has had a shot in the past and is a great 3rd down back. Jones has never quite been the same since a knee injury and is often hurt.

Who ends up spelling MJD could have some real value for fantasy owners and Jags fans. It should be a horse race between these three.

New Orleans
Will Reggie Bush stay healthy? Will Pierre Thomas? Who gets the ball on third downs and at the goal line?

Big questions for an offense which needs to improve it’s run game to take some pressure off the pass game. It looks like Thomas has the between-the-tackles work locked down while Bush will continue to play scat-back.

But both have some injury questions (Bush his legs and Thomas’ wrist) so the Saints have journeyman Mike Bell, second year player Lynell Hamilton, and undrafted free agents P.J. Hill and Herb Donaldson.

Mike Bell has played well in camp so far but don’t discount the rookies. The Saints went hard into the street free agent market post-draft so they clearly have some concerns with the tailback position.

Bell has played well before and then faltered. Hill has some serious character concerns but seems to realize he screwed up and is motivated to prove he has the ability and maturity to make an impact. All three are big backs, something the Saints lost when they let Deuce McAllister go.

It will be interesting to see if any can make ground on Thomas and given the injury issues (for both Thomas and Bush) and Thomas’ size, one of these guys could see action this season.

Philadelphia
With Brian Westbrook banged up again (What? Stop lying Garda! NEVER!) every Eagles fan – and many, MANY fantasy football owners – want to know who to grab for this year’s version of Westbrook Insurance.

Aside: Should Westbrook and/or the Iggles talk to Geico about a sponsorship? I mean, in these troubled economic times, shouldn’t a club be looking for cash wherever they can?

I’m not saying, but I am just saying is all.

But all shenanigans aside who backs Westy up resonates hard an long amongst the NFL community of fans and it goes beyond fantasy football folks. As much as I like the receivers and the passing offense this year, they need the run game hitting on all cylinders.

With the very real possibility that the last two years of 15 games might have been an illusion in terms Westy’s health the Eagles need to know they can throw another guy in there and crank out the yards effectively.

Which leaves you with this question: LeSean McCoy or Lorenzo Booker?

Booker was a guy who I had high hopes for coming to Philadelphia last season after being virtually ignored by Miami previously. With his ability to catch the ball and his general shifty running style, I thought Lo-Book was going to get some traction finally but sadly that didn’t happen.

Booker barely saw the field and then the team went and drafted LeSean ‘Shady’ McCoy who is plays very similarly to Westbrook’s game. And while a tad undersized, McCoy plays tough and isn’t afraid of contact.

It will be a battle in the most literal sense and no other fracas may impact the whole offense of a team like this one. If they cannot move the ball on the ground – and lack a player at the RB spot who can catch the ball as effectively as Westy – defenses could key heavily on the pass game.

San Francisco
I spent a lot of time the past few months looking oer the 49ers and there are a ton of questions surrounding this run game and what it could be.

New offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye keeps saying this will not be a run heavy playbook, but if you look at his resume, he’s definitely developed some very strong rushing attacks. So does that mean Raye is tossing some disinformation out there?

Maybe not.

The 49ers often run a game where a strong rushing attack sets up a vertical passing attack. It hasn’t worked well for many reasons – not the least of which is the lack of a permanent solution at quarterback.

So it isn’t far fetched that Raye is being truthful – a rarity in today’s NFL it seems. With the weapons at both running back and wide receiver, the Niners are set up to have an effective attack from either direction.

We know Frank Gore is the stud-bell cow-big dawg-whatever you call it in the backfield. But he cannot do it alone as we saw when he wore down last season.

So who is the backup who could share in his carries? A great question as the backs behind him all have questions.

Michael Robinson has functioned more as a fullback and special-teamer and while Thomas Clayton tends to shine in preseason games, he hasn’t played worth a tinker’s damn during the season. Neither of them have quite been able to give the team a consistent and safe backup to Gore in the past few years.

Two rookies – third round pick Glenn Coffee and street free agent Kory Sheets – have a shot at spelling Gore. Coffee is a solid one cut runner with great vision, who can aggressively attack the hole. He’s a powerful runner who could help the short yardage game, something that occasionally struggled in 2008.

Sheets has great acceleration and burst and is a very good receiver out of the backfield. He can be very elusive and shows patience behind the line with good vision and instincts. I think he could emerge as a nice compliment to Gore in the vein of a Leon Washington or Reggie Bush.

Adding Sheets as an extra weapon is nice, but ultimately the 49ers need to get someone to consistently and reliably spell Gore to save him for a potential run at a playoff spot this year.

Seattle
Somehow the Seahawks ended the draft without a replacement for the long departed Shaun Alexander, instead relying on Julius Jones and TJ Duckett for a solution at the running back position.

I can’t say I am enthusiastic about that, however I am cautiously optimistic.

With a healthy pass game – which they lacked from the get-go last season – the Hawks could find themselves in possession of a consistent though not spectacular rushing attack.

Julius Jones has shown some skills in the past and will probably make a good two-down runner for the team, getting a lift from a new zone-blocking scheme which he fits into well. However, even though he was the top running back for Seattle last season, he was pretty inconsistent and has to correct that if the team is to depend upon him.

People keep talking each season about how this is TJ Duckett’s time to shine, but I haven’t heard a lot of that yet this off-season. Maybe that bodes well for the former Falcon/Redskin/Lion. He has always possessed a nose for the end zone and he’ll get most of the redzone/end zone looks in my opinion – at least when the team isn’t throwing the ball to Houshmandzadeh or second year tight end John Carlson.

The question – aside from will Edgerrin James or Duece McAllister sign prior to the season – I am asking is where do guys like Justin Forsett end up? If Duckett is more suited to the short yardage/goal line role, will Forsett a second year man out of California, end up as Jones’ backup? Or will he be relegated to special teams?

I want to watch this battle closely as teams all know the Seahawks are gearing up to throw the ball a lot. So who ends up running the ball is of paramount importance. If they cannot move the ball on the ground, the wide receivers may find it very tough to get room to work in the secondary.

That’s it for now – if you don’t hear from me in a few days, have someone send a cop to check on me. I might be buried under an avalanche of moving boxes.

Shock And Awe: The Winners and Losers for Day 1 of the 2009 NFL Draft

It’s a little bit folly to try and really declare winners and losers for a draft that isn’t even finished, much less a day old. Players haven’t even stepped on a NFL field yet, and some may not pay off for several years to come, forget this season.

Still, by the end of Saturday, it’s a worthwhile endeavor to examine some teams who have ended up looking smart and others….

Well, not so much.

So with the realization in mind that we still don’t know everything – here are the teams who made our jaws drop, though not always for good reasons.

The Shock

Oakland Raiders
Maybe Al Davis and his Raiders will prove us all wrong, but right now their draft can be summed up in an exchange I saw between Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times (where the Raiders once resided) and Raiders beat writer Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee (which is close to Oakland i suppose).

Farmer: Why were the Raiders reaching like that in the second?

Jones: They reach because that’s what they do.

They weren’t going to go offensive tackle, despite the need, because that’s not really the Raiders way.

And I knew they weren’t going to grab Crabtree, whether or not he was the best wide receiver on the board at the time. Crabtree’s lack of timed 40 speed made it impossible because Davis is crazy for speed like the bird in that cereal commercial is coo-coo for cocoa puffs.

But I never thought he would bypass Missouri’s Jeremy Maclin, who had the speed and a more developed game. I’m a little nonplussed.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t wish Heyward-Bey a failed career and he will probably turn out ok. But picking him up at 7, when they could have traded back and picked him later?

That’s just not achieving maximum value.

Worse, the team manages to follow it up with an even bigger reach in choosing Ohio Safety Michael Mitchell, a guy most people didn’t even have ranked in their drafts much less the second round.

Mitchell also may develop into a solid player, but right now he looks like a workout warrior and a huge reach as the third safety off the board behind Patrick Chung of Oregon and Louis Delmas of Western Michigan.

It’s one thing to fall in love with a player. It’s another to waste a pick five rounds early.

The Raiders have five picks on Sunday, two in the fourth round. They can recover, given the tremendous value still on the board, but if they keep picking like this, they might as well throw darts at a list on the wall.

Dallas Cowboys
How can I say it’s a bad draft when they didn’t draft anyone?

Bad enough the Cowboys didn’t have a pick for the first round due to last year’s wheeling and dealing, but they then traded out of the second.

Meanwhile, value continued to tumble by them in the form of solid safeties, wide receivers and defensive ends.

Maybe it’s not bad in the sense the Raiders draft was on Saturday but it’s shocking to watch the usually wheeling Cowboys nuetered and missing out on the value on the board.

Cleveland Browns
The Browns made a big move back when the Jets traded for the fifth pick and Mark Sanchez (more on that in a minute) and were poised to grab some great value all day long.

Instead, they kept moving backwards accumulating more and more picks. And when they did spend them, it’s questionable whether they took the best value on the board.

I can’t argue with the selection of Alex Mack. The center from Cal is a versatile lineman who can work at almost any position along the line. And Brian Robiskie is a polished, fast receiver who runs a solid route tree and will contribute early, especially if Braylon Edwards is traded on day two.

But the Browns can’t rush the passer and need a linebacker or top flight defensive lineman.

I say need because while Mack is a great center, USC linebackers Clay Matthews and Rey Maualuga as well as Ohio State linebacker James Laurinaitus were on the board still.

Maualuga was in fact still on the board when Robiskie was picked. While offensive line and wide receiver were needs, the pass rush was a bigger one and with several very good linebackers on the board, the Browns chose to fill less important needs.

They also bypassed shoring up their need at cornerback by letting Vontae Davis and Alphonso Smith sneak away as well.

And as much as I think Hawaii defensive end/linebacker convert David Veikune will be a good upside pick, wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi was a luxury, especially behind the Robiskie pick.

Massaquoi may become a good possession receiver down the road, but they could have grabbed a corner, safety or even replace Winslow at tight end.

For a team with so many holes who is rebuilding, it seems like they filled few of them with four picks in the first two rounds.

The Browns have four more picks on Sunday – one in the fourth and three in the six. Lots of defensive talent remains on the board and I hope they can recover from a lackluster day one.

The Awe

New York Jets
Jet Nation is a tad split over the selection of USC quarterback Mark Sanchez, especially given the talent that slid out of the first round and through the second. But when you look at the price they paid, it’s more than reasonable for a possible franchise quarterback.

Defensive end Kenyon Coleman, quarterback Brett Ratliff and safety Abram Elam were players who in all likelihood would get cut before camp or in Ratliff’s case, clearly hadn’t impressed the new regime all that much.

Aside from that, adding the second rounder to a swap that spanned twelve spots between first rounders is a marginal price to pay.

The Jets have put themselves in a position where they cannot make many mistakes on day two though. They have four more picks on Sunday spread across four of the five rounds.

As I said with the Browns, there are many value picks to be had but the Jets have to be conservative to a great extent. They already rolled their dice once and that’s as much as they can risk.

Detroit Lions
I will openly admit – and it’s a shock to nobody who has read my work the last few months – that I do not agree with the Stafford pick. It’s not an awful pick – just not one I believe had to happen this year.

Yet, Stafford could develop into a nice franchise quarterback and he is far from awful. While I may not agree with the strategy to rebuild the franchise, it’s a solid pick.

On the surface, Brandon Pettigrew at 20 made me wince as well. But, like Stafford, Pettigrew is considered the top at his position and on top of it, he’s a tremendous blocker.

He’s no offensive tackle but he will be able to stay in and protect Stafford. A pick that is more shrewd than i gave it credit for at first. As Stafford and the oline get better, Pettigrew can release and become more of a pass catching tight end.

Finally, hard hitting cornerback Louis Delmas. Again, top at his position. And Delmas is the type of hard nosed player who could help give this defense a personality – something it greatly lacks.

The Lions are looking to become more physical on the defensive side of the ball and Delmas will bring that in spades. They also need some help in the secondary and this fills that hole.

Three picks. Three players arguably at the top of their class. They may not have filled all their needs but the ones they did fill were given top talent.

With five picks on day two, including the first in round three and another later the same round, the Lions stand to pick up some very good value. They could easily pull someone like Jarron Gilbert or Michael Johnson to help fill the defensive line hole, pick up the top guard on the board in Duke Robinson or even a decent tackle like South Carolina’s Jamon Meredith.

New England Patriots
The rich get richer. And richer. And richer.

How the organization ended up with the same amount of picks they started with, but also an embarrassment of riches in players is beyond me, but that’s how they end up being the great team they are every year.

Four picks in the second and every one a value.

Patrick Chung, second best safety in the class brings some thump to the secondary and will make receivers pay dearly.

Defensive tackle Ron Brace got overlooked a bit with BJ raji getting the love at Boston College, but will stuff the run as good as anyone in the draft class and is likely to take over for Vince Wilfork at the nose tackle.

Darius Butler, one of the top corners in the draft, probably won’t start this coming season but will take over in the aging secondary within the next year or two.

And while Sebastian Vollmer is a project for the offensive line, he will develop into a nice right tackle and used to play tight end, so he has the versatility to move around for trick plays if need be.

And, oh by the way – they have seven more picks. By the end of the draft they may have multiple picks for next years draft as well.

Before I let you go, dear reader, here are a few teams I am on the fence about. Tomorrow could be pivotal for them.

San Francisco 49ers: One pick, but what value. But you better build on Crabtree use your remaining six picks wisely.

Houston Texans: Methodically took care of two key needs with picks of USC LB Clay Matthews and DE Connor Barwin. Six more picks to shore up the corners and get a back to compliment Steve Slaton.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Almost made the Awe list, but as much as I loved watching them grab two very good offensive tackles in Eugene Monroe and Eben Britton, passing on Crabtree and Maclin and then a host of good defensive line prospects makes me wonder if last season’s Oline injury woes didn’t get in their head too much.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Did you really need to leap up and pay the price you did to move a few spots? Especially since nobody in front of you was likely to grab your choice of Josh Freeman? Six picks on day two and like the Jets you’d beter make them count. Unlike the Jets though, your new franchise quarterback is a far bigger project and has more question marks.

Thursday Game Breakdown – Colts at Jaguars (Jaguars breakdown)

David Garrard – A bad matchup to be sure, the Colts are only allowing 190 yds per game. Does it get worse? Yup – only a meager 5 TDs through the air while snagging 14 INTs – good enough for 9th best total in the league. Garrard has been up and down all seasojn – I wouldn’t want to throw him out there in my Championship week against this defense.

Maurice Jones-Drew – MJD is THE MAN now in the backfield and faces a nice matchup. The Colts allow 127+ yards a game on the ground and 16 Tds to date. Not only will MJD get a lot of carries, he’ll get some targets in the pass game as well. While he has under-produced for chunks of the season, I think this week he rolls off a very nice game.

Dennis Northcutt – Looks like he gets Garrard’s love with Matt Jones out. Can I trust him? Probably not, certainly not as more than a 4. As I expect a bad game from Garrard, you can’t depend on Northcutt all that much.

Reggie Williams – Williams consistently confuses the heck out of everybody and while he can put up the occasional big game I don’t think this is a matchup I would risk it.

Mike Walker – Nope – I want to see him play I think he has potential but it hasn’t been realized – or evident – since he hasn’t been on the field.

Marcedes Lewis – A shaky guy at best, not in the top 10 TEs this week, but if you are in a Hail Mary situation, you’re likely going to get maybe 20-40 yards and 3-5 catches. So not pretty, and barely passable.

Thursday Game Breakdown – Colts at Jaguars (Colts breakdown)

Peyton Manning – Jacksonville is ranked as the 14th team against the pass allowing only 208 yds per game, but actually have given up the 4th most TDs in the league with 22. Manning has had a pair of great games the last two weeks against Cinci and Detroit, both of which normally hurt QBs because they can be run on so effectively. However, the Colts love to throw the ball and will probably do it often enough to where Manning should be a solid start once again.

Dominic Rhodes – Rumor has once again told us that Addai will certainly, maybe almost for sure could be dressed for the game. Whee – I love certainty! I don’t think this hurts Rhodes all that much but it could hamper the overall numbers a tad. The Jags are ranked a mediocre 17th in the league allowing 110 plus yards in the ground and 11 TDs. Not great not bad. I think Rhodes could get the lions share of the carries – if the Colts might make the playoffs then perhaps a healthy Addai may be worth riding Rhodes for now. I think he could get some decent yards and he’s a better start without Addai than with. I expect TDs through the air, not on the ground though so shoot for yards with a Rhodes start.

Joseph Addai – Even if he can play, do you want to roll with him? Even when he has played, he’s been a streaky. He’s had some good games (week 12 and 11) but far more shaky games. Even if he does go, I don’t know how well he will play. I think you take your championship life in your hands if he is in your lineup.

Reggie Wayne – Wayne hasn’t been as outstanding as we had hoped he might be. He’ll have a few big games in a row and then sort of fade away. Three of the last four weeks have been less than good – he gets targets but until last week vs Detroit had actually been a rather bad play. However the Jags give up yards, as I mentioned with Manning, and a ton of TDs. I think you can expect one of his better games this week, rather than worry about a down week.

Anthony Gonzales – A bump up since Harrison doesn’t play so Gonzalez might be a decent 3 or 4. He’s a shaky 4 most weeks, but could get some work across from Wayne when the coverage shifts that way. Has some nice upside, but I’m not in love with him as a start this week.

Dallas Clark – Does the Pro Bowl snub get a big game from him? Do Manning and Dungy try to prove a point? I think Clark could be an excellent start this Thursday because I think the Colts were as shocked as we were that Gates made it when Clark was outplaying him the whole year. 142 and a touch like last week? Probably not. But a bunch of catches and 50 or so yards – with maybe an accompanying TD? I think it’s very possible.

Wednesday News and Notes

2 days to kick off and things are getting livelier – here’s the breakdown for the morning – and don’t forget The Thundering Blurb Daily News Stampede hits at noon EST/9am PST and tonight is the usual Thundering Blurb Fantasy Football Show at 9pm EST/6pm PST. Both on BlogTalkRadio.com and ITunes!

Let’s roll -

New England Patriots
You don’t know how accurate this rumor is, since Belichick treats injuries like State Secrets but WEEI radio in Boston says that have heard an MRI taken on Tom Brady’s foot revealed that there is a crack in it. Of course there is very little chance of confirming this BUT I know a couple of places I trust that are working hard to dig up facts on this and I’ll keep you posted here and on both podcasts. There was a rumor last week Brady was on crutches which was denied, so take this with a grain of salt. Also consider that he could play with a small crack or fracture in his foot and likely will – still this could affect his mobility and effectiveness.

Don’t hit the streets in a panic, but it’s something to keep an eye on. I will keep you posted if I can dig anything up.

Arizona Cardinals
After all the noise about Anquan Boldin’s dissatisfaction with his less than Larry Fitzgerald-like contract, the Cards WR has done what I said he would – he’s been the professional he always is and is focused on the game and playing his best. Boldin was in a recent issue of the Arizona Republic and sounds ready to go.

“My teammates work too hard, and I know I’m a big part of the process with this program. If I held out or did anything like that, I’d be letting them down.”

If you had any reservations about owning him in a Fantasy league – put them to rest. With Warner behind center, Fitz may get more looks, but both WRs will shine this season.

Seattle Seahawks
There have been some reports that Deion Branch could be back for the opener. Seems like those were a little premature – according to the Seattle Times , he isn’t quite ready and is getting into football shape. You have to consider that Branch hasn’t played a down in some time and even when he returns, he will have to spend some time getting his rhythm back. While Hass needs his WRs to step up, Branch is a guy who will be nothing more than bench depth – at best – for the next several weeks, minimum.

Denver Broncos
Not that this should come as a shock to anyone as this is the birthplace of RBBC, but HC Mike Shannahan is planning on rotating Selvin Young and Andre Hall at running back this season. Denver Bronco beat writer Mike Klis is saying that after about 6 weeks or so, they’ll probably throw rookie Ryan Torain in the mix. That might not quite happen unless Torain is a phenomenal rookie who can step into an offence minus Training Camp and about half a season and just play – but it tells you things are the same in Denver as they always are. Hall will get a chance to shine in short yardage and spot work and Young will work everything between the 20’s. Shanny has already told us he doesn’t think Young will hold up for a whole season, so you knew there would be a split. I like Hall and I think he will do well – but as always, the Denver RB sitch is a difficult one to sniff out. Figure Young as your better bet, but watch Hall. And Torain might be a nice play late in the season, once he has some games under his belt.

Jacksonville Jaguars
Finally, Fred Taylor was reportedly arrested over the weekend for disorderly conduct. The AP report posted on ESPN is interesting and has Taylor egging bystanders on to do…. well I don’t know. But he kept on being loud and vocal while they were searching his car and he got himself arrested. This continues the rule that no good can come a) outside a Miami nightclub and b) after midnight. Taylor could face some sort of suspension – probably minor – depending on the full report and what he does next. The NFL will have somethijgn to say soon, though likely not before week 1 is in the books. Make sure you have alternatives going forward.

Thats all for now – the News Blurb is just a few hours away!

Belated Thursday Stampede

The Blurb Herd is a little tired after last night’s little BlogTalk technology explosion, so we’re running a tad behind.

Luckily it’s not like we’ve had huge news yet today – it’s no like LT retired or somethign this morning.

Still there was a little bit of movement here and there:

Of course, as we knew, guys like Ben Roethlisberger, Brett Favre and Marc Bulger will not be playing in their preseason finale.

Guys like Trent Green, Byron Leftwich and Kellen Clemens will.

Still, as I said on last night’s Thundering Blurb Fantasy Football Podcast, there are still reasons to watch and position battles to be won.

In more direct news -
Kansas City Chiefs
Larry Johnson will see action vs the Rams even though he has already seen a bunch of work in the preseason. He hasn’t been tremendously sharp though and I think they would like him to spring into the season on a high note.

Jacksonville Jaguars
We keep talking about how we don’t know who will catch balls in Jacksonville, but we do know that Troy Williamson hasn’t caught ANY balls this preseason. He needs a big night to have an impact this season – or maybe even stick on the team at all. Matt Jones and Mike Walker are holding the seast warm for Jerry Porter and Reggie Williams and it still tells me very little of whether any of these guys will have an impact. Garrard will spread the ball around and like I have said before, put up good numbers himself but probably not have that 1 WR who will make your Fantasy team happy.

Green Bay Packers
Ryan Grant is another RB who will see some time tonight. This will make the game a little more interesting to watch and unlike the Larry Johnson thing, is less of a shock. Grant missed a bunch of the preseason and needs the work. he won’t be out there too long, but he’ll get some work and maybe widen the gap between himself and Brandon Jackson a little more.

That’s all for now – will be back this afternoon with some more news. And don’t forget to check out The Drive Block on BlogTalkRadio.com tonight with myself and the Footballguys’ own Cecil Lammey and Sigmund Bloom. That’s 7pm PST/10pm EST.