OK, I’m trying to figure out how to make time for this. Today, I worked 8:30 to 5, came home to find my car broken into, and some stuff stolen, dealt with that, went to an MBA class (HR management… blech) from 8 to 9:15, and caught the end of the Jets-Ravens game, and most of the Chiefs-Chargers game. Whew!
So, now, after all that, I’m going to share some thoughts from the first weekend.
1. I had lunch with some fantasy football playing guys today, and one was lamenting Houston’s sudden run-heavy bent, because he drafted Andre Johnson in the first round. I don’t like fantasy football, as most readers know, so I tried to explain the real story in terms of real football. The Colts play a ton of Cover-2, and like to try to use seven in the box. It mostly works, because they get out to a lot of early leads, and teams have to throw to play catch-up. That plays into the Colts’ hands, because they rush the passer and play sound zone defense.
The Donny Deutsch Big Idea that I was getting at was that the Texans ran on the Colts, because that’s clearly the way to beat the Colts. It’s not necessarily indicative of Houston’s weekly game plan, so all is not necessarily lost. The Texans will certainly throw the ball to Johnson plenty. You play to win the game, though, and Sunday, pounding the ball was the way to get the win.
I think the Texans are going to be excellent on offense this season, in all ways. I was very, very impressed with the play of LT Duane Brown in looking back at the game. He’s a lot better than Chris Williams and Sam Baker, two OTs who were drafted ahead of him in 2008. Brown was once a “reach”, which is a reminder of the meaninglessness of that label.
2. The Colts offensive line is absolutely atrocious. Mario Williams is awesome, generally, but he was throwing Colts LT Charlie Johnson around like a high school player. There isn’t a single good player on the Colts’ line, including the vastly overrated Jeff Saturday. Bill Polian undoubtedly knows this, and trusts Peyton Manning’s greatness to be enough to mitigate the issue. Most of the time, it will.
3. LT Jermon Bushrod did a really good job for the Saints against Jared Allen. I’ve never been a big fan of Jammal Brown, but Bushrod looks like he’s developed into a better player than his predecessor. The Saints get huge, huge value from the coaching of Aaron Kromer, who is in charge of their offensive line and running game. Bushrod, Carl Nicks, Jahri Evans, and Jonathan Goodwin were all drafted low, and Kromer has coached them all up to being outstanding players. Even Jonathan Stinchcomb, the RT, who was a second rounder in 2003, was considered and underachiever until Kromer started working with him. He shouldn’t have been in the Pro Bowl last season, but he’s become a solid player. The Saints have the best line in the NFL, if you ask me, and it’s a huge reason for their overall success.
4. It’s halftime of the second Monday Night game as I write this, and I’m reminded, as always, that I loathe Chris Berman and his tired, lame, TIRED schtick. At least he toned down his act some at the Hall of Fame ceremony this year.
5. The Vikings WRs looked like they couldn’t separate on the outside. The Saints have good CBs in Jabari Greer and Tracy Porter, but they played a lot of Cover-2, and Percy Harvin and Bernard Berrian did very little to threaten it. Sidney Rice can get across a CB’s face, and make a catch in front of a LB, but I question Harvin and Berrian’s ability to do so. Harvin is a very dangerous player, but he’s not a guy who can whip another guy with a sharply run route. I’ll be watching this in the coming weeks, but it could be a big issue going forward, if neither can run a slant route across a CB’s face. Brett Favre throws that route better than anybody who ever played the game, and if he doesn’t have it as an option, like with the Jets toward the end of 2008, he starts looking limited. If I’m a defensive coordinator, I’m showing nothing but a physical Cover-2 till those guys beat it.
6. I didn’t love Malcolm Jenkins as a CB coming out of college, because I question his ability to turn and run with speedsters. That said, I was very impressed with his play at FS Thursday. He showed really good instincts, and covered a lot of ground. I’m ready to concede that he’s quicker than I thought he was.
7. I continue to have no faith in the Bears this season. I think they’re a 4-12 team, primarily because their choice of offensive scheme doesn’t fit their personnel. The Lions are good on the defensive front, but they sacked Jay Cutler 4 times, and hit him 7 more. The Bears’ scheme calls for deep drops and minimum protection, and the Bears lack the linemen to pull it off. I’m certain of this, and I have been since Mike Martz (a very good coach when he has the right talent) was hired. He and Lovie Smith will both be gone after this season, and some new coach will come in, preaching smash mouth football, but lacking the linemen for that approach, too. The Bears have a bunch of guys who just kind of suck up front.
8. Rookie defensive linemen usually struggle, but Ndamukong Suh is not going to be one who does. He’s already manhandling guys physically, and it’s just a matter of time before his technique improves, and he’s unblockable inside.
9. The Bengals are making a big mistake in letting Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens hold such sway, and thinking that they’re a passing team all of a sudden. Their personnel is geared toward being a running team. I know that he was kept in check Sunday, but Cedric Benson is the Bengals’ best offensive player, and their offensive line is a lot better going forward than backward. The Patriots stacked their front against the run, and it was a successful strategy.
The Patriots got out to a huge lead, and then were willing to give up a lot of garbage passing yards in the second half, playing soft. They won the game early, though, like most good teams do.
10. I took a random-sample look at the Falcons-Steelers game Monday night, and I continue not to love Matt Ryan. To me, the guy is an average QB with a good supporting cast, and a lot of love from know-nothing fools like John Clayton. I don’t see any improvement in him since his rookie season.
11. I had the Browns-Bucs game on at the same time as the Broncos-Jaguars Sunday, and I found it interesting. The Browns fans instantly love Peyton Hillis, which I told a lot of them would happen. Peyton was Peyton on Sunday; he ran hard, and caught 4 passes, and looked like the best white halfback in the NFL since the 80s. He also fumbled twice, and lost one. To the Browns’ credit, they seem to realize that Hillis is no FB, and that he needs the ball to be an effective player. I’m happy for him that he’s found a place to get a chance to do what he does.
12. I’m putting the over/under on Seneca Wallace’s elevation to Browns starting QB at 5.5 games. Jake Delhomme just continues to throws the ball to the other team too much. Wallace is a better player, and would give the Browns a better chance to win. In other QB news, nobody in the Browns organization seems to view Colt McCoy as a legitimate candidate to ever be a long-term NFL starter. That shows that they’ve got a much better/more realistic personnel operation in place here.
13. The Bucs, on the other hand, have their QB for years to come. I put Josh Freeman right behind Matthew Stafford, even with Joe Flacco, and ahead of Matt Ryan, Mark Sanchez, and Chad Henne among 2008/2009 drafted QBs. He’s big, smart, athletic, and poised, and he throws a very nice ball. I like him better than Sam Bradford, too, but I didn’t want to include 2010 guys, with them having so little experience so far.
14. Robert Ayers looked excellent on Sunday for the Broncos, in a variety of roles. Never mind the tempered “he looked okay” praise from the Denver media, who don’t have any idea what they’re looking at. Ayers consistently whipped Eben Britton in the pass-rush game, and got his first sack, and he also looked sure of himself reacting to the run, and playing man-to-man coverage. If the Broncos had ever led, and/or the Jaguars ever had to throw the ball down the field, Ayers may have had a couple more sacks, the way he was playing. I think he’s going to replace Elvis Dumervil’s production this season, and they’ll be a monster pair in 2011. Ayers will ultimately be the better all-around player, though, because he offers more in the running game. I believe that Mike Mayock had it exactly right when he predicted that Ayers would be the best defensive player in the 2009 Draft in 3 years.
15. The Redskins sure looked like a Mike Shanahan team, in conservatively protecting a lead Sunday night. The criticism of Shanahan’s decision to “take points off the board” in the 3rd quarter is utterly asinine. The only reason NOT to take a field goal off the board when a penalty gives you a first down is that you’re afraid of what some second-guessing ass-clown like John Czarnecki will say. Shanahan is not afraid of that, and no coach should be. Don’t let anybody tell you that the numbers are with keeping the FG, because they’re not. If I have a 50% chance of scoring a TD, a 45% chance of kicking a later FG, and a 5% chance of scoring no points, (which is conservative), my expected outcome is 4.85 points, which is clearly superior to keeping 3 points.
16. The Cowboys have been beaten up badly today, so I’m not going to pile on. They didn’t look like a real contender Sunday night, but they still have a ton of talent.
17. The Jets are really good on defense, but you can throw the ball downfield on them. Antonio Cromartie is not a good CB, and people need to stop perpetuating the myth that he is.
18. Speaking of the Jets, they have a big problem at Left Guard, because Matt Slauson has really been struggling, and Vladimir Ducasse has reportedly been even worse in practice. I’m not one of these people who thinks Alan Faneca is good, or should have been kept. I’ll leave that second-guessing nonsense to others. I’ll just say that until either Slauson or Ducasse gets better, this is going to be a major problem. Between that issue, and Mark Sanchez’s clear lack of readiness for prime time, let’s all stop loving on the Jets’ man-parts, mmmmkay?
19. The Jets had no ability to exploit this, but the Ravens can definitely be had over the top. I’d run a ton of 4-verticals at them, and bet that my QB can riddle them with downfield throws. The Ravens might have the worst secondary in the NFL, outside of Detroit, if anybody can protect long enough to exploit it. I think Cincinnati is going to start showing signs of it this week, and Denver and New England are going to exploit it badly in weeks 5 and 6.
20. If I were a Chiefs fan (and thank goodness I’m not), I’d be really happy with what I saw of Glenn Dorsey and Tyson Jackson on Monday Night. Both of them looked much improved, which should come as no surprise. Defensive linemen take time to learn how to play in the NFL. Dorsey was outstanding, in particular.
21. I said I’m happy I’m not a Chiefs fan, but they do get my respect. They helped their team win a big opening game by getting extremely loud. Great showing by the Arrowhead faithful.
22. Has anybody noticed how bad that Chargers are in punt coverage? This is a continuing problem for them, and it tends to refute the meme about them having great top-to-bottom roster talent. I think they have great top-of-the-roster talent, and not much more than that.
It’s 1:21 AM, so I’m off the the rack. I’ll try to get some more watching/writing done tomorrow or Wednesday. Have a great Tuesday, friends!
Originally posted at One Man Football