March , 2009
Mike Mayock still vividly remembers his first impression of Josh Freeman, who at the time ...
"The 49ers emphatically closed the door on any possibility imprisoned quarterback Michael Vick will suit ...
The AFC East is as competitive a division as there is in the NFL but ...
Florida Times-Union NFL draft analyst Mike Mayock of the NFL Network completed a conference call a ...
Winter Meetings Talk The Denver Broncos are reportedly satisfied with keeping Jay Cutler as their franchise ...
Cleveland Plain-Dealer The biggest decision facing Browns coach Eric Mangini and General Manager George Kokinis is ...

Archive for the ‘Columns’ Category

Full Circle: Word from the Meetings and More

Posted by Administrator On March - 24 - 2009 ADD COMMENTS

Winter Meetings Talk

The Denver Broncos are reportedly satisfied with keeping Jay Cutler as their franchise quarterback, but it all is smoke and mirrors according to one of our sources. The organization is making this claim in order to drive his value up and get more in return for Cutler when they do in fact trade him.

Jerry Reese, the New York Giants GM, did in fact, as we reported, inquire about Cleveland Browns WR Braylon Edwards, according to the New York Daily News.

The Dallas Cowboys have been shopping former first rounder, linebacker Bobby Carpenter. Carpenter’s failure to adapt with the defensive scheme in Dallas has resulted in being labeled as a bust. Don’t be surprised to see Carpenter land in Miami, via trade or release, as VP Bill Parcells was the one who had drafted Carpenter out of Ohio State.

A columnist from the Oakland Tribune speculated that the Oakland Raiders should pursue LB Derrick Brooks & WR Amani Toomer, both veterans that were released recently. None of our sources could confirm that Oakland was interested in either player though.

The Detroit Lions have begun contract negotiations with their number one overall pick, but have been hush-hush on whom it is. Basic speculation would conclude that it is either QB Matt Stafford or OT Jason Smith, but don’t rule out OT Eugene Monroe or LB Aaron Curry.

Back to the Draft

In exciting news, former Cal Poly WR Ramses Barden will attend the Southern Cal pro day and receive passes from QB Mark Sanchez. Barden is a small school sleeper that should get plucked from the undrafted in or around round three. The mere fact that he is receiving this much hype, enough anyways to catch passes from Sanchez, is an encouraging sign that his value is rising.

Former Eastern Michigan LB Daniel Holtzclaw fared decently at his pro day which stern onlookers from the Jets, Giants, and Texans. Holtzclaw is a late-rounder/privileged free agent most likely.

Brigham Young QB Max Hall, who will be a senior for the 2010 NFL Draft, has already added 15 lbs. to his frame. Hall is considered a dark horse for the Heisman Trophy and needs to improve on his pass placement.

With A.Q. Shipley departing for the NFL, the Penn State Nittany Lions will move talented offensive lineman Stefen Wisniewski to center. Wisniewski was an every game starter at guard last season in Happy Valley.

Former UTEP center Robby Felix has been cleared to play football again. He suffered a minor stroke a couple of months ago. His draft stock took a considerable hit.

An NFL “insider” told a writer at the Akron Beacon Journal that former Kent State QB Julian Edelman reminds him of Wes Welker and Antwaan Randle El. Edelman ran a 4.48-forty at his pro day and is worth a sixth or seventh round flier at best.

If Cutler is on the block…

Posted by Administrator On March - 17 - 2009 ADD COMMENTS

In the eternal search for answers, the first question is always an easy one. It works that way on Jeopardy, and it works that way in life.

Say, what would Jay Cutler look like in a Buccaneer uniform?

Why, he would look splendid, of course. The red jersey would look dandy, and the pewter helmet would look striking. Given his arm, and forgiving his whine, he would look dangerous, and when is the last time anyone has said that about a Bucs quarterback?

Now for the tougher question:

Should the Bucs offer their No. 1 draft pick for him?

Final answer? Yeah, they should.

Okay, okay. Let’s be real here. Despite the NFL’s loudest snit, despite the team’s posturing and Cutler’s pout, the Broncos aren’t likely to get rid of Cutler, if for no other reason than the sheer ugliness of the alternatives. Over the years, a lot of hurt feelings have been salved by an owner writing a very large check to the player with the wounded ego.

That’s the likely conclusion here, too. It’s one thing for new coach Josh McDaniels to prefer Matt Cassel, but it’s another to trade a Pro Bowl player to start a draft choice, a rookie, or a backup named Chris Simms. Trade Cutler, and it could become a coach’s legacy.

If you had to predict how Denver’s latest mess — McJaygate, they are calling it in Denver — will turn out, here’s a guess: Owner Pat Bowlen will eventually meet with Cutler, and the more he acts like an ATM, the less Cutler’s bottom lip will stick out. In the end, the Broncos will talk about “reconfirming our commitment” to Cutler (read: paying the money), who will talk about “a misunderstanding that was taken out of context” (read: getting the money), and everyone will act as if McDaniels and Cutler were Butch and Sundance all along. And shame on that darned media for not noticing.

On the other hand, Cutler has put up his house for sale in Denver, and he isn’t returning Bowlen’s phone calls, and no one is sure if he will show up for the start of offseason conditioning on Monday.

So what if the relationship between a quarterback and his team really is broken? What if those who think a trade is inevitable are right? Should the Bucs be willing to jump on Cutler like a lost fumble?

You betcha.

Granted, a No. 1 draft pick (and maybe a third, if you believe the rumored asking price) is a swallow-hard price, especially for a team with as many holes on defense as the Bucs. When you think about the offseason so far, most of us have expected the Bucs to spend that pick on a defensive lineman, maybe on a linebacker, on anyone who could discourage the other team on third down. Given the lack of a second-round draft pick (traded away in the Kellen Winslow deal), the notion of an idle first day of the draft is unsettling.

On the other hand, Jay Cutler.

The kid is 25, and he’s a Pro Bowl player already. He has a great arm, and he can move in the pocket, and he has some swagger. In the last two years, he has passed for more than 8,000 yards — something no Buc has ever done over a two-year period.

That’s the intriguing thing here: Since Doug Williams walked away after the 1982 season, it seems the Bucs have been in search of a long-term answer at quarterback. Vinny Testaverde might have been it if his supporting cast had been better, and Brad Johnson was efficient for a while, but there really hasn’t been anyone worth building an offense around for a several-year period. Cutler could be that guy.

Yeah, he has some growing up to do. Lately, the kid has whined so loud you might think he was playing for Boone’s Farm. That hasn’t helped his popularity among Broncos fans, who seem to think he should shake off his team’s trade attempts like a blindside sack and get on with it. The airwaves are filled with those who think Cutler is a baby who should be burped and put to bed, preferably in Minnesota or Detroit or, yes, Tampa Bay.

In the NFL, quarterbacks come at a price. Look at the Bucs’ roster, and it’s hard to put together a package of players that would satisfy the Broncos. The currency would come from draft picks.

Again, a No. 1 pick is a lot for a team with needs. I get that. But some of the early mock drafts had the Bucs taking a project at quarterback in Kansas State’s Josh Freeman. Really, which guy would you rather have? Come to think of it, except for a precious few No. 1 draft picks — Lee Roy Selmon, Williams, Paul Gruber, Derrick Brooks, Warren Sapp and, if he ever shows up because we’re leaving the light on, Bo Jackson — who wouldn’t you trade even up for a quarterback worth believing in?

Yes, the Bucs need defensive players to fit “the plan” that everyone keeps talking about. But here’s a thought: What if the plan doesn’t culminate in 2009? What if the plan is to be a contender by 2010? Or 2011?

When it comes to quarterbacks, you get one while you can.

If you are right on the player, no one will ever regret the price.


Stafford can undo Detroit’s curse

Posted by Administrator On March - 9 - 2009 ADD COMMENTS

As the NFL Draft is less than two months away, I am starting to feel the intensity multiply within my lower abdomen.

Each team has a chance to begin anew.

In 1998, the Indianapolis Colts drafted a scrawny quarterback named Peyton Manning and the luck of the franchise began to improve.

Ten years later, the Atlanta Falcons were coming off one of their worst seasons ever. A year prior, the Michael Vick controversy dampened expectations in the 112 and a three headed-monster reared its head at quarterback, led by none other than Joey Harrington. Then, all of a sudden, a geeky, strong armed passer from Boston College was brought in. Low and behold, this rookie phenom named Matt Ryan would reverse the Falcons’ fortunes in just one season.

When spring finally rolls around and the winter storm clouds begin to disperse over most of the nation, fans everywhere feel as if their franchise has a chance to redeem themselves from a year or years of agony.

Even the “SideLions” of Detroit and the predators of the “Black Hole” in Oakland have a sense of Barack Obama-hope.

The season is a mere six months away but the defending Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers have the same record as the Detroit Lions, 0-0. This feeling of a new season dawning upon the fans of the National Football League is what makes it great.

For fans in Detroit, life begins anew in 2009 as the fifty years of the Bobby Layne curse ended in 2008.

Superstitions are a part of sports. For Detroit Lions fans, it is a lifestyle.

Fifty years ago, the Lions traded famed quarterback Bobby Layne to the Pittsburgh Steelers after Layne helped guide the Detroit franchise to what would become their last professional championship in football, ever. As a matter of fact, Layne led the Lions to three NFL championships.

Still, the ungrateful organization in Detroit attempted to sell damaged goods, as Layne was injured during the last championship season.

Legend has it that when Layne was sent packing to Pittsburgh, leaving behind some great friends and football players including running back Doak Walker, he stated that “the Lions would not win for fifty years.”

Well, from his final season with Detroit in 1958 to 2008, a span of fifty years, the Detroit Lions certainly have not won. They have not won an NFL championship or Super Bowl, and have the worst winning percentage of any NFL franchise over that same span of fifty years.

Here comes the intriguing part.

A high school in Texas, Highland Park High School to be exact, won a state championship under the guidance of young quarterback Bobby Layne. Layne would then go on to play his college ball for the Texas Longhorns and then proceed into the NFL where he would eventually play for the Detroit Lions.

In 2006, 48 years since their last state championship in football, Highland Park HS was led to another state championship, this time by quarterback Matt Stafford. Stafford, coming out of Highland Park, was the nation’s top recruit at quarterback.

The irony of the situation is that now, quarterback Matt Stafford from Georgia, is in position to be the first player selected overall in the 2009 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions, fifty years since the curse of Bobby Layne destroyed the Lions organization.

In the first year of the post-curse era, Stafford, the first banner winner for Highland Park HS since Bobby Layne, will get a chance to undo the curse of Layne himself. While much is yet to be seen from Stafford as he probably will not be ready to start immediately for the dysfunctional Detroit Lions, hope is in the air.

Superstitions are a part of sports. From wearing the same pair of underwear during a winning streak to turning your baseball cap inside out to provoke a rally, fans believe in superstitions. The Bobby Layne-Matt Stafford connection is too surreal for the Lions to pass up on.

Marketing firms are already jumping all over this. Fans in Detroit are coming off of their worst season ever, in the final year of the Layne curse, but are more excited than they have been in a long time, even more so than when Barry Sanders was breaking defenders ankles’ as they missed on tackles.

For the Detroit Lions, an organization that is not expected to win any time soon, quarterback Matt Stafford is a no-brainer selection. It makes sense for the long-term and would keep star wide receiver Calvin Johnson content.

After fifty years of losing, the Lions can not do more to reverse the curse of Bobby Layne than by selecting Matt Stafford.

by Pete Dymeck

Market Slows Down

Posted by Administrator On March - 4 - 2009 ADD COMMENTS

Now that cornerback Ron Bartell has decided to return to St. Louis, agreeing to a four-year deal, the Rams are two-thirds of the way along in their Killer Bs strategy to open free agency.

Baltimore center Jason Brown signed with the team on Saturday. Bartell agreed on Monday. And James Butler … ?

Call Butler a work in progress. Talks continue with Kevin and Carl Poston, the agents for Butler, the safety from the New York Giants. Butler has gotten nibbles from the Cleveland Browns and San Francisco 49ers but so far has taken no trips.

The Rams remain optimistic they can get a deal done with Butler in what has been a soft safety market so far. On Tuesday, Baltimore safety Jim Leonhard agreed to terms with the New York Jets, but it was for a modest $2 million a year — $6 million over three years.

While Rams executive vice president Kevin Demoff continues to work on the Butler deal, the Rams also were working on the next phase of their free-agent plan, the “second wave” of free agency.

In theory, the market calms down after the first week or so of free agency, meaning players can be signed at more reasonable prices. Trouble is, many of the free agents who appeared to be on the Rams’ radar have signed elsewhere.

At wide receiver, Pittsburgh’s Nate Washington signed with Tennessee, and Tennessee’s Brandon Jones signed with San Francisco. The Rams had talked to agents for both players and there was a time over the weekend when it appeared one or both would be visiting Rams Park.

Two New Orleans receivers could be possibilities for the Rams: deep threat Devery Henderson and restricted free agent Lance Moore. But Moore was tendered at a second-round level, and that’s probably too steep a price for the Rams, since they obviously have a high second-round pick.

At defensive tackle, Green Bay’s Colin Cole signed with Seattle and San Francisco’s Ron Fields signed with Denver. It’s believed the Rams had interest in both. It seems a certainty that the Rams would like to add another defensive tackle to the mix with Clifton Ryan and Adam Carriker.

At running back, the shelves are rapidly diminishing. Derrick Ward (Tampa Bay), Fred Taylor (New England), J.J. Arrington (Denver), Correll Buckhalter (Denver), Cedric Benson (Cincinnati), and Maurice Morris (Detroit) are all off the market.

But there are still some options: Tatum Bell, DeShaun Foster, Rudi Johnson, Kevin Jones, Lamont Jordan, Deuce McAllister, Michael Pittman and Dominic Rhodes are all looking for work.

At fullback, Tony Richardson (New York Jets) and Corey McIntyre (Buffalo) re-signed with their clubs, and Detroit’s Moran Norris signed with San Francisco. But Heath Evans, Lorenzo Neal, Terrelle Smith and Leonard Weaver remain on the market.

The Rams are known to have at least some interest in Evans and Weaver but don’t want to spend a ton of money at the position. Neal has had a great career, but at age 38 may not have much left.

League-wide, there hasn’t been a lot of movement on the quarterback market so far. But two sources now have told the Post-Dispatch that the Rams aren’t interested in Tampa Bay’s Jeff Garcia as a potential No. 2 behind starter Marc Bulger. Quarterbacks such as Byron Leftwich, J.P. Losman, Kyle Boller and Chris Simms remain available.

The Rams also are exploring their options for a backup tight end. The team has talked about bringing in San Francisco’s Billy Bajema for a role as a blocking tight end, but no visit has been set yet. Bajema visited the New York Jets on Tuesday.

And what about the all-important offensive tackle position? The best guys are gone. Jordan Gross re-signed with Carolina just before the start of free agency. Vernon Carey re-signed with Miami; Cincinnati’s Stacey Andrews went to Philadelphia; and Jon Stinchcomb re-signed with New Orleans.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Pre-Spring Top 25

Posted by Administrator On February - 25 - 2009 ADD COMMENTS

We would like to switch things up a bit around here, especially since the combine dial is finally turned off! As many of you know, there is no offseason in football, whether it is in college or the pros. With that said, we will take a look at an early Spring Top 25 for college football.

1. Florida Gators
Who cares if they lost Percy Harvin? The core of the defense is returning and so is Tim Tebow.
2. Oklahoma Sooners
Sam Bradford, Jermaine Gresham lead this team but they have question marks on the offensive line.
3. Oregon Ducks
They lost some instrumental pieces but a down-year for USC and soft schedule will help.
4. Penn State Nittany Lions
The Rose Bowl blowout can not screw up their psyche. New wide receivers will need to step it up.
5. Ole Miss Runnin’ Rebels
Without a doubt, next to Tim Tebow is Jevan Snead in our preseason Heisman watch.

6. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
The triple-option led by RB Jonathan Dwyer is scary enough for the ACC, watch out nation.
7. Ohio State Buckeyes
We want to see QB Terrelle Pryor improve as a passer before we lean on him as the saviour.
8. LSU Tigers
This team will go only as far as the quarterback position will lead them. Right now, its Jordan Jefferson’s job.
9. Oklahoma State Cowboys
WR Dez Bryant might be better than former TTU WR Michael Crabtree. First game of season is vs. Georgia.
10. USC Trojans
The murky waters at quarterback, plus the significant losses on defense won’t help. Taylor Mays is back though.

11. Virginia Tech Hokies
Like OSU’s Pryor, we aren’t sold on Tyrod Taylor, the Hokies passer. If he improves, so do this team.
12. Alabama Crimson Tide
Won’t be as good as last year but not playing Florida or Georgia in the regular season truly helps.
13. Iowa Hawkeyes
Will have to win on the road this year but we really like QB Ricky Stanzi.
14. Georgia Bulldogs
Replacing Knowshon Moreno won’t be as hard as it will be to replace Matthew Stafford.
15. Florida State Seminoles
The offensive line is very experienced. The weaponry is inexperienced but could be explosive.

16. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
To put it gently, their soft schedule will only help them in 2009.
17. Texas Longhorns
Colt McCoy is a good quarterback but the losses on defense will set them back a year.
18. Boise State Broncos
They have one of the best passers in the country. Play in a weak conference. All is good from here.
19. Nebraska Cornhuskers
The Blackshirt defense is back and they will be good enough to keep Nebraska in the game.
20. Michigan State Spartans
Eight starters from the defense will return. Replacing Brian Hoyer will be easier than you think.

21. Miami Fl. Hurricanes
No controversy at quarterback plus a ton of experience from last year’s freshmen equals more wins in 2009.
22. TCU Horned Frogs
They lost a lot of core pieces on their great defense from a year ago.
23. Brigham Young Cougars
The offensive line will be new and untested but QB Max Hall will have a great season.
24. Pittsburgh Panthers
A lot of people have Rutgers here, not Pitt. The offense will miss LeSean McCoy but it should be okay in a year where the Big East takes a step back.
25. Tennessee Volunteers
Call us crazy, but in year one, we think head coach Lane Kiffin will do a fine job.

Just missed: Rutgers, Kansas, Utah, California, Central Michigan, Michigan, Illinois, Clemson, West Virginia, Colorado, UCLA.

National Treasure: SMU’s Forgotten, Yet Glorious Football History

Posted by Administrator On February - 16 - 2009 ADD COMMENTS

The year is 1987, and the SMU Mustangs are just five years removed from being recognized as back-to-back Division I National Champions in 1981 & 1982. They are on trial by the NCAA and are awaiting the “Death Penalty.”

The Death Penalty refers to the NCAA’s ability to terminate a school or university’s sports program for any length of time for a repeat major violation. The Death Penalty has only been handed down three times in collegiate sports history, with the most recent being dealt to the Southern Methodist University football program in 1987.

In 1985, the SMU Mustangs were placed on three-year probation for recruiting violations. Previously, the ‘Stangs program had been on probation a record seven times.

In 1986, reports surfaced that SMU players were still being paid by boosters. That resulted in an investigation by the NCAA, and the result was the Death Penalty, which killed this one-time powerhouse football program.

The fallout from the Death Penalty sent shock waves not just through SMU, but their football conference as well (the Southwest Conference), which collapsed in 1996.

SMU did not field a football team until 1989. Since their reinstatement that year, they have had only one winning season. During that span, the Mustangs have also beaten just two ranked opponents as well.

Southern Methodist University won their first national title in 1935 with a 12-1 record. They scored an eye-popping 288 points while only giving up 39 points. In the regular season, they shut out eight of their 12 opponents, including powerful conference foes Texas and Texas A&M.

The history at SMU is rich. They can proudly boast about the greatest quarterback in school history, Don Meredith. Meredith was an All-American in 1958 and 1959 and would eventually get drafted in the third round of the 1960 NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears. Subsequently, the Bears traded Meredith to the Dallas Cowboys for several future draft picks.

Don Meredith may never have led the Dallas Cowboys to a Super Bowl victory, but he did make the Pro Bowl three times and was named the 1966 NFL Player of the Year. He is famous for leading the Cowboys against the Packers in the famous “Ice Bowl” game of 1967.

If you have ever heard of the Doak Walker Award, raise your hand. Annually, this award goes to the best college running back in the nation. Eddie George, Ricky Williams, LaDainian Tomlinson, and Darren McFadden have all won the Doak Walker Award.

You may now ask yourself, who is Doak Walker? He is a Pro Football Hall of Famer and former SMU Mustang running back (pictured above). He won the 1948 Heisman Trophy Award and was named an All-American.

Walker’s influence surpassed SMU and encompassed the Dallas area, as the infamous Cotton Bowl has been dubbed as “The House That Doak Built.” Doak Walker was named the fourth-best college football player in history according to ESPN.

Possibly the most well-known SMU alum is also known as one of the best NFL players to ever carry the pigskin: running back Eric Dickerson. Dickerson was a smooth runner and comparisons to him have been made while watching film on Reggie Bush, LaDainian Tomlinson, Bo Jackson, and O.J. Simpson.

Dickerson was the ball carrier that broke Earl Campbell’s Southwest Conference record for rushing yards and attempts. He was a two-time All-American and finished third in voting for the Heisman Trophy his senior season.

In 1981, SMU finished the season ranked number one by the National Championship Foundation. In 1982, SMU was recognized as the number one team at the end of the season by the Helms Athletic Foundation. The aforementioned statements are the reasons why SMU has been recognized as the national champions three times throughout history, despite the controversy in 1982.

The controversy in 1982 involved the Penn State Nittany Lions. SMU finished the year as the only undefeated team in the nation. They even beat the Pittsburgh Panthers 7-3 on New Year’s Day in the Cotton Bowl. They were denied a shot in the national championship since they tied Texas Christian in the final game of the regular season. Still, the Mustangs remained the lone undefeated team in all of America.

In the Associated Press poll, Penn State were named as national champions, while SMU were ranked second behind them, even with a better record. At the time, current ESPN analyst Craig James was a running back for the ‘Stangs, and the Penn State-AP Poll controversy still boils his blood.

From 1980-1985, SMU had the winningest program in Division I history with a 55-14-1 record.

Like we stated earlier, SMU has been recognized by a major media outlet or foundation as national champion three times through their storied history. We must inform you, though, that six schools were recognized as national champions in 1981.

The “official” champ on record is Clemson University, but in that year, Nebraska, Penn State, Pittsburgh, SMU, and Texas were all recognized by the cluster of media sources proclaiming national champions at the time.

What does the future hold for this storied university? The average Joe probably never would have guessed that SMU’s history would be so glamorous.

On Jan. 7, 2008, SMU announced the hiring of new head coach June Jones, who has a career record of 76-41. Jones is the reason why Hawaii made a trip to the Sugar Bowl and Bowl Championship Series in 2007.

Can he bring glory back to the state of Texas for all Mustang fans? With the talent around him, we could see some of those old, dusty SMU records broken.

SMU has one of the nation’s most prolific passers in junior quarterback Justin Willis. Many expect him to put up Colt Brennan-like numbers now that he is entrenched in June Jones’ offense. Willis will have a great wide receiver to throw to as well—Emmanuel Sanders. Sanders, a junior, caught 74 receptions for 889 yards and nine scores last year.

The largest task for SMU will be rebuilding their defense.

Although success may not happen in 2008, the future is bright for the Southern Methodist Mustangs—and future years could look like the early ’80s all over again.

(This was published on Aug. 13, 2008, by Sideline Scouting’s Pete Dymeck

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Compensatory Picks Released

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Full Circle: Word from the Meetings and More

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