Happy Tuesday, friends, and welcome to Information From My Eyes. MHR people will recognize that title as something I used for sections in my old Shallow Thoughts & Nearsighted Observations posts. The title refers to a phone survey about sports blogging I participated in with a Penn State journalism student last year. The guy asked me where I get my information, meaning what websites. I guess in his mind, bloggers find information from “professional” writers, and repost it. I got a little annoyed with the poor kid, and told him my information came from my eyes.
I think Information From My Eyes is apropos of my whole Tuesday article though, particularly in the regular season, because this is going to revolve around games I watch on Monday nights. Normally, I come home and watch 5-6 recorded Sunday afternoon games, and then the Monday night game live. That’s what I did tonight. Of course, as we get into the offseason, there will be less to watch, so I will probably go back to regular season game video for that analysis.
For now, I’m going to get moving with this. I’m downing a Five Hour Energy, which is the best friend of people who spend 35 hours working between Sunday and Monday, like I typically do during the regular season. I ought to see if I can sell them ad space, once I get going with this. Anyway, here goes.
1. Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys
a. My good friend Paul Haley, of Fort Worth, Texas, has season tickets for the Cowboys. He was texting me during this game Sunday, at a time when I couldn’t care less, because the Broncos were on. Today, when I was at my day job, he was texting me more, asking what I thought. I told Paul my rule; I never comment on football I haven’t personally seen yet. Like a true Cowboys fan, he couldn’t believe I didn’t watch their game, like the world revolves around the Metroplex’s team, or something. I mean, come on; Joe Buck, The Voice, always calls their games, right? To be honest, I thought I was going to be really impressed with the Cowboys, and really down on the Eagles, based on all the MSM commentary. It turns out, I am neither thing. This is example number 45,623 not to put any stock in what Don Banks or Peter King says, as they sell their books at Target. So, P.H., here is my blanket statement for you. Dallas is a good team, which executed very well, especially on offense Sunday. Philadelphia is a good team, which didn’t execute particularly well on offense Sunday. I can’t say that I think it was particularly emblematic of anything, except which team played better on that Sunday.
b. One thing Dallas did really well was get the ball out of Tony Romo’s hands quickly, to negate Philadelphia’s blitz game. I especially appreciated Jason Garrett’s sense of timing with calling the screen game. He caught the Eagles in several blitzes for big plays.
c. I think Flozell Adams is generally terrible, but he handled Trent Cole pretty well Sunday. He was helped the concerted strategy to get the ball out quickly, of course, but he did well in the game.
d. Peter King named Anthony Spencer to his All Pro team, instead of Elvis Dumervil or Brian Cushing, and I think he has that 100% wrong. There are at least 10 OLBs in the NFL who’ve had better years than Spencer. That said, Spencer has had his best two games of the season during the last three weeks, with 4 of his 6 sacks coming in them. He got 2 on Sunday, taking advantage of Winston Justice, who isn’t very good in pass protection.
e. The Eagles missed on some chances Sunday. A few throws by Romo went off their defenders’ hands, and a turnover or two could have changed this game. Also, DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin each dropped a few passes, LeSean McCoy fell down on a couple screens, and Donovan McNabb missed some open players. I don’t think their bad day had a lot to do with the Cowboys defense; I mostly put it on the Eagles being a little out of sync.
2. San Francisco 49ers at St. Louis Rams
a. First, congratulations to Mike Singletary and the 49ers for finishing with an 8-8 record. That’s a significant accomplishment in re-establishing their relevance as a franchise. I think they’re pretty close to being a legitimate contender in the NFC. The Niners have two first round picks, 13th and 17th, and in the first two rounds, they need two offensive linemen and a cornerback, all of whom can play right away. Nate Clements has lost a step, and is reportedly moving to Free Safety, where I expect him to be effective. I doubt they can get Joe Haden at 13th, but if they can, they should. Anyway, their real current period problem is up front on offense. They’re like five 2010-era Ben Hamiltons right now, and Alex Smith has been getting hit as soon as he reaches the top of his drop. You can somewhat hide a marginal guy like Chilo Rachal or David Baas among three good starters, but Joe Staley is the only one they have, and he’s been hurt. Smith showed everything they need to win, if he can have some time to throw.
b. I really like Dashon Goldson, the 49ers’ strong safety. The guy hits as hard as anybody in the league, but he’s usually under control when I see him. He’s very underrated right now, but I think he’s going to make a big name for himself soon.
c. I think the best 30 front DE in the NFL this season has been Justin Smith of the 49ers. I have praised him before, but he has really found the right situation for him in San Francisco. He was dominant against the Rams, and just embarrassed Alex Barron.
d. I’d be pretty depressed if I were a Rams fan. They have very few players who would be very useful on a winning team. Steven Jackson, and James Laurinaitis, Jason Brown, and Oshiomogho Atogwe are their only good players. Others like Donnie Avery, Danny Amendola, Ronald Bartell, and James Hall are borderline. There’s a long way to go from a talent perspective.
e. One player who has come into his own over the second half of the season is DE Chris Long. I was very impressed with the quickness off the edge that he showed Sunday, even if he didn’t ever sack Smith. He had 5 sacks over the last 9 games of the season, and has said that the light finally went on for him during that time. He is never going to be a Jared Allen or Dwight Freeney, but he can be a good two-way right DE.
3. Green Bay Packers at Arizona Cardinals
a. First of all, Arizona played about as vanilla as possible, and the Packers played like they had something to play for, which they did, if you consider there to be a difference between the 5th and 6th playoff seeds. Second of all, while the Cardinals got outhit, I got the distinct impression that their approach of trying to just get through the game with their players healthy contributed to that. The Packers can beat the Cardinals in this week’s playoff game, but the opposite is also true.
b. The Cardinals played way too much off coverage, which is not to assume that they’ll repeat that mistake. Aaron Rodgers does a great job of throwing the slant, and his WRs all run that route expertly, as it has always been Brett Favre’s best throw too. Domonique Rodgers-Cromartie got banged up early in the game, and didn’t return, and the Packers continually went after #27 Michael Adams, with a lot of success.
c. I really thought that both Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher were completely washed up at the end of 2008. They looked like awful football players. They both skipped training camp, and the early part of this season, and they both look like the rest they got has done them a lot of good. Rodgers was sacked 37 times in the first 8 games, and only 13 times in the last 8, when Tauscher started playing. Rodgers deserves some of the credit for getting the ball out quicker, but Clifton and Tauscher have really succeeded in solidifying the edges.
d. I have spent all year killing the Packers for taking B.J. Raji over Michael Oher, but Raji is really starting to show something, mostly playing DE. He was mostly matched up with Jeremy Bridges, a career backup, but he was really pushing him backward a lot of the time.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars at Cleveland Browns
a. Several of my friends were at the game, but Cleveland Browns Stadium looked about 75% empty on TV Sunday. It was snowy and very cold, but the home team was on a 3 game winning streak, so it must have been a bit disappointing for them to see so few seats with behinds in them.
b. The left side of the Browns offensive line has been terrific the last month, between Joe Thomas, Eric Steinbach, and Alex Mack. They’ve really been opening holes in the running game, and giving Jerome Harrison and Chris Jennings room to work. On Harrison’s TD run Sunday, Steinbach got outside and crushed a CB, giving him a clear lane to the end zone. In the preseason, there was speculation that Steinbach could be cut, because he’s a little bit smallish for what Eric Mangini wants to do. He’s had a very nice season, though. Unlike the Pioli/Haley regime in Kansas City, Mangini at least didn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.
c. I am trying to think of something nice to say about the Jaguars. Here goes. I like their rookie class this season, especially their two starting Offensive Tackles, Eugene Monroe and Eben Britton, and their CB Derek Cox, who had an interception Sunday. Their rookie TE Zach Miller had his first 2 TDs of his career Sunday too, and looked very natural catching the ball. RB Rashad Jennnings and WR Mike Thomas contributed as well, so the Jags can feel good about getting some new able bodies.
d. What is the identity of the Jaguars? I haven’t been able to put my finger on it all season. They’re terribly inconsistent game-to-game. They really don’t do anything special scheme-wise on either side of the ball, and none of their players are the kind of guy who a team is built around. They have some nice pieces like Maurice Jones-Drew and Mike Sims-Walker.
I know the city of Jacksonville intimately, having lived there for 6 years, and it’s not an NFL town. It’s a college football town, where everybody is one of three things: a Florida Gator, a Florida State Seminole, or a Georgia Bulldog.
What I am getting to is that I agree with the sentiment that the Jaguars need to draft Tim Tebow, and cast their lot with him. First of all, the recent Pro Football Talk article which suggested that some collusion was going on to make Tebow available to the Jags was speculative garbage, like most of what is written on that site. He’ll probably be available at the 10th pick, because guys like Sam Bradford and Jimmy Clausen are more traditional in the NFL mold as QBs, and more easily projectable.
Since that’s dispensed with, I’ll move on to the question of whether Tebow can play. Yes, he can play in the NFL, he’ll just need to work in an offense that’s suited to his talents. He can make every throw, and his accuracy is much better than he’s given credit for. He doesn’t throw the ball to the other team or fumble much, and he’s obviously a threat with his legs.
The legitimate question about Tebow is his long release, and the fact that he always starts his motion with the ball below his waist. That may or may not be correctable through coaching, but the risks inherent to it can be minimized. You can coach your OTs to ride pass rushers deep, and coach Tebow to step way up in the pocket like Drew Brees does.
To get back to the main point, the Jags drafting Tebow would give them an instant identity. I realize that people are sick of all the talk about what a religious guy he is, but that makes it easy to forget that he’s a great football player, maybe the greatest in NCAA history. Games would be sold out, fans would get interested, and all that annoying talk would start fading. NFL games aren’t called in the same way as college games, where there tends to be a lot of credit given to the innocence and goodness of student-athletes. That’s because the primary audience of college football is people who went to college, work professional jobs, and are more wholesome than not. NFL football is presented with less of an assumption made about the demographic makeup of its audience, so you get a bit less sanctimony. Dick Enberg will get his name wrong, but he and Dan Fouts won’t spend as much time on Tebow’s circumcision adventures. Scouts aren’t going to like Tebow, but coaches will, and he’s going to win in the NFL. Winners win, never forget that, and Tebow is unquestionably a winner.
e. I guess that wasn’t really information from my eyes, and neither is this. I think that the Browns have caused Mike Holmgren some optical problems with canning Eric Mangini. I’m pretty sure he wants to, and mostly sure that he will, but if he does so, and brings in a guy like Jim Zorn, they’d better win early.
Browns fans and the local media are going to remember the 4-game winning streak that the team has ended the season on, and knowing many of these fans intimately, I can tell you, they’re conditioned to look for the negative around here. Cleveland fans whine a bit less than Red Sox fans used to, but they always expect something bad to happen, and once again foil them from winning a championship in any sport. If the new coach starts out 0-4 next season, all you’ll hear is how Mangini shouldn’t have been fired, and how this is just another example of the team sabotaging themselves. If he stays, and they start 0-4, the same people will be calling for his head.
I’ve always said that the management of the team is far too concerned with what the fans and local idiot media think, and the best thing that Mike Holmgren can actually do is to instill a sense of confidence that the program is going to work, whether outsiders can understand it or not. In a way, that’s the approach that Eric Mangini had here, yet the media and fans succeeded in convincing Randy Lerner to commit $50 million to Holmgren, and change the program for the fifth time in eleven years since returning to the NFL.
Mangini is naturally very shy and secretive, and has a hard time articulating his plan to the media. I am sure that he sits in his office, working crazy hours, just sure that his plan is going to work if it has enough time for everything to fall into place. His inability to continually sell that plan is his undoing, though. Hopefully, for my friends who are Browns fans, the nonsense stops, and the organization learns to ignore external negativity. If Randy Lerner doesn’t want to be called bad names, he ought to just sell the team, because his expectations are unrealistic.
5. Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos
a. I really didn’t feel like re-watching this infuriating game, but professionals do the job even when they don’t feel like it. The first thing I’ll say is that despite all the hand-wringing about the Broncos quitting, I saw no evidence of that whatsoever. I saw some players have bad games, but nobody who appeared to be loafing. The only Denver front 7 player who played well was Ronald Fields, and the only offensive lineman who played well was Ryan Clady, per usual lately. You can’t win very much when you get dominated at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. Broncos fans need to be honest with themselves, and understand that this is a talent problem, and not an effort problem.
b. I am impressed with the toughness shown by Knowshon Moreno on both of his 1-yard TD runs. He really fought through some contact on both plays.
c. I also liked the way Kyle Orton threw the ball, except for on the first interception. The second one was a great play by Derrick Johnson, and the third was a garbage time jump ball that the Chiefs player won.
d. Jamaal Charles was pretty spectacular, especially his ability to break tackles. He used to go down much more easily than he has been lately. I was also very impressed with the play of the Chiefs’ offensive line, especially Brian Waters and Branden Albert on the left side.
e. I saw on my former site, the outstanding http://www.MileHighReport.com, where the play of Andre’ Goodman was being denigrated. I can’t imagine why, because I thought he played very well. He lost a jump ball to Chris Chambers, but gave up nothing else of consequence, made several key tackles, and intercepted a pass.
f. I think Ryan Succop might end up being the best Mr. Irrelevant ever. He’s a keeper, and I expect him to be kicking for the Chiefs for many years to come.
g. Remember when Derrick Johnson wasn’t good enough to play for the Chiefs? I wonder if the Pioli regime will keep him around after this season. Not only does he go back to the Herm Edwards era, he even played for Dick Vermeil. He's double-tainted.
It’s 1 AM, so I am going to call it a night. Look for some other articles as the week goes on, and probably a video or two. If you’re not following me on Twitter, please follow me, and the site, to keep abreast of what’s getting posted. As I identify some contributors, there will be more and more content coming, but for now I’m going to try to put something new up most days. Thanks for being down since Day 1.