Posted on: April 14, 2010 4:50 am
We're less than two weeks from the draft, and the annual Brett Favre watch is well underway.
So we're also seeing the usual stories this time of year calling the Falcons trade of Favre to the Packers for a draft pick after his rookie season the worst draft pick trade or overall trade in NFL history.
For the record, I disagree.
Never mind the stories about Favre's drinking, that he partied much harder than he practiced while with Atlanta, that coach Jerry Glanville didn't want him on the team, that he would have been in competition just to hang on to the #3 QB spot, or that when he got on the field his rookie year, two of his four pass attempts were incomplete - and the other two were intercepted.
Nope, forget all that stuff. The bottom line is that Atlanta traded its second round pick one season for a first round pick the next season. That's hardly the worst trade in NFL history, regardless of what players are taken with those picks.
So let's cut then-VP of Player Personnel Ken Herock a little slack. He didn't make the worst trade ever.
Click here for another side of the story you might not have known...
On second thought, go ahead and rip Herock to shreds. He deserves it, because he DID make what is probably the all time worst trade.
He just didn't do it in Atlanta.
It's actually a two-parter. Either part alone would be a contender for the worst trade in NFL history. Put them together, and the result is a masterpiece of horror. It's the "Plan 9 From Outer Space" (or "Manos: The Hands Of Fate") of GM work.
I apologize for this turning into a long story, but believe me, it's worth it. It's a gem.
Because of a 1980 trade, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers didn't have a second round pick in 1982.
Read about it (and what a cheapskate Dolphins owner Joe Robbie was) here
When the 1982 draft came around, then-GM Ken Herock really liked a small school defensive end named Booker Reese, from Bethune-Cookman. The Bucs planned on taking him in the first round. What happened on draft day is a matter of who you believe.
Offensive lineman Sean Farrell unexpectedly slid down the draft board and was still available when Tampa hit the clock at #17. The Buffalo Bills called, wanting to move up five spots from their #22. They offered to swap their second rounder for one of Tampa's two third rounders as the trade price.
There was a lot of noise at the draft site in New York (mainly Giants fans already shouting for their preferred pick, as the G-Men were going to be on the clock right after Tampa). And there apparently was a bad phone connection between Tampa and their man on-site, equipment manager Pat Marcuccillo.
With about five minutes clock time remaining, Marcuccillo handed in a card with Sean Farrell's name on it. The folks in Tampa denied it, but the story in newspapers around the country (and fledgling cable network ESPN, which was right there covering it live) is that the Bucs made a mistake and either turned in the wrong card or turned in a card too soon.
After Farrell's name was announced, Marcuccillo went back and conferred with NFL officials - apparently saying it was a mistake and trying to "undo" the pick. But the Giants turned in their card almost immediately after Tampa, so the commish said no dice.
Was it a mistake? Here's one version of the story...
...and the denial by the Buccaneers.
Bottom line = the Bucs got Farrell, not Reese, and they had no second round pick to take Reese. So they immediately started scrambling and tried to work a deal to move up.
They ended up giving the Bears their first round pick the following year (1983) for Chicago's second rounder, but in the end they got their man.
Herock proclaimed his draft an instant success, saying his first two picks were as good as anyone's.
Article with GREAT comments from Herock on Tampa's draft prowess...
(I really love this one, especially the stuff about how much better they were at drafting by taking more chances - as opposed to going for more of those lame, boring picks like Lee Roy Selmon, Doug Williams or Hugh Green.)
And they all lived happily ever after.
Well, not quite...
Tampa quarterback Doug Williams was the lowest paid starting QB in the NFL (at a mere $120k - less than many backups and less than some punters and kickers) but chose to play out his initial contract rather than hold out for more money. But when his contract expired after the 1982 season, he wanted to get paid.
Bucs owner Hugh Culverhouse made an offer he called "generous". Williams' agent called it "embarassing". At that point it became pretty obvious that Williams would ended up bolting for the brand new USFL.
That wouldn't have been such a big problem, as the upcoming draft was even then regarded as the best in NFL history for quarterbacks. There was just one catch... Herock had given up his first round pick the prior year.
Story on the Williams contract and the 1983 QB class...
...continued. (Wow - Ken O'Brien as a Buccaneer?)
So he worked a deal with Cincinnati, once again giving up Tampa's future first round pick (in 1984) for Bengals backup QB Jack Thompson.
(Browse the whole page, not just this Mizell column)
The Throwin' Samoan was Cincinnati's third stringer (most teams kept only two QBs on the roster) behind Ken Anderson and Turk Schonert. He had been a first round pick back in 1979 but was already regarded as a bust.
He had never completed 50% of his passes for a season, had never averaged 100 passing yards per game for a season, had a career QB rating below 60, and had not even attempted a pass attempt in his one and only game appearance the previous year. And for this, Herock was willing to part with a future first round pick.
The Bucs flopped, and the pick Tampa gave up became the # 1 overall selection of the 1984 draft.
In other words, the Bucs missed out on their chance to draft Dan Marino or Ken O'Brien (their choice - both were still on the board when what would have been Tampa's pick came up) because Herock felt he just had to have Booker Reese. For an encore, he gave away the first overall pick of the draft straight up for a third string bust who hadn't thrown a pass in nearly two years. And the one first round pick he got right throughout the whole mess was quite literally by mistake.
And now the "Animal House"/"Stripes"-style montage of what happened to the key players...
"Accidental" draft pick Sean Farrell had a productive, 11 year NFL career, including five seasons with the Buccaneers. When he became a free agent in 1987, Tampa re-signed him and then traded him to New England for three draft picks, including a second rounder.
The man on-site at the 1982 draft, Pat Marcuccillo, resigned his position as equipment manager for "personal reasons" during the 1982 players strike. Within a week, he was charged with grand larceny for stealing 1,520 Bucs jerseys and selling them to a Chicago sports memorabilia dealer for $21k.
The Chicago dealer (who reportedly didn't know Marcuccillo was selling them illegally) sold many of them to another dealer in San Antonio for $20 apiece.
The San Antonio dealer then brought his jerseys to Tampa, advertising "Genuine Buccaneers Game Jerseys" for sale in the local paper. That caught the attention of the Buccaneers front office, who prompted police to begin their investigation that eventually led to Marcuccillo's arrest.
And just like they had claimed that there was no error with the draft card, the Bucs claimed at the time that they had no idea why Marcuccillo was leaving and that his resignation was a surprise. (Hmmm.... 1500 jerseys went missing and the equipment manager suddenly quits during the police investigation... Nope, nothing unusual here. No clue why he left.)
(Enter 23 for the page number; the article is on the lower right side of the page)
Booker Reese flopped in 1982 and 1983, developed drug and alcohol problems, and was dumped for a conditional 12th round pick after the first game of the 1984 season.
He also had another off-field issue...
He appeared in 11 games for the Los Angeles Rams, who sent him to rehab after he failed a drug test and then released him the following year.
But he did meet the condition for the Bucs to get their 12th rounder
He signed with the San Francisco 49ers in 1985 but again failed a drug test and was released, ending his NFL career.
He was convicted of cocaine possession in 1999 and was sent back to prison for a parole violation in 2004.
The Chicago Bears used Tampa's first round 1983 pick to select Willie Gault, who lasted 11 seasons in the NFL as a wide receiver and return man.
Before the NFL, he was a track star (110 meter hurdles, 4x100 relay) and a member of the U.S. Olympic team. But he missed his chance to compete when the U.S. boycotted the 1980 games. He was ruled ineligible for the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles because he was a professional football player.
He did become an alternate in 1988, but in Calgary rather than Seoul.
Jack Thompson didn't even win the Bucs starting job coming out of camp, but became the starter after the other quarterback (Jerry Golsteyn, career QB rating of 36.2) put in horrid performances in the first two games. Thompson then spent the 1984 season as the backup to Steve DeBerg, who was acquired in a trade for two draft picks. It was Thompson's final year in the NFL.
Headline story on his release
And the beat writer's column on the side of the same page
(Interesting comparisons: Culverhouse said no to paying Doug Williams $800k and then $600k in 1983, but note the contract the Bucs had given Thompson and also how much Steve Young made in the USFL.)
The Bengals traded Tampa's #1 overall pick of 1984 to the Patriots, who used it to select WR Irving Fryar. Fryar racked up 12,785 receiving yards over his 17-year career, putting him 13th on the all-time receiving list. He's also tied for 14th in receiving touchdowns with 84.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers managed a 5-4 record and made the playoffs in the strike-shortened 1982 season but utterly tanked in 1983, going 2-14 to start a remarkable string of 12 consecutive seasons with 10+ losses.
Ken Herock left the Buccaneers in June of 1984, reportedly to take over the USFL's Washington Federals, who were planning to move to Florida.
He ended up with the Raiders instead, helping them on their way from their 11-5 and 12-4 records in 1984/1985 to their 8-8 and 5-10 records in 1986 and the shortened 1987 season.
Right after the 1987 draft, the Smith family handed him the keys to the Falcons, where he remained for the next ten seasons.
His first draft choice as Falcons head of personnel...
Category: NFL Draft
Tags: 49ers, Atlanta, Aundray Bruce, Bengals, Booker Reese, Brett Favre, Buccaneers, bust, Dan Marino, Dolphins, Doug Williams, draft, Falcons, Irving Fryar, Jack Thompson, Ken Anderson, Ken O'Brien, Larry Csonka, Miami, NFL, Patriots, Rams, Sean Farrell, Steve DeBerg, Steve Young, Tampa Bay, Turk Schonert, Vikings, Willie Gault
Posted on: April 12, 2010 1:13 pm
We're ten days and counting from showtime. It's time for the mock drafts out there to start putting in their final entries - the ones that really matter.
The best one I've seen yet this season was in the Chicago Tribune this weekend. It's not a one-guy-picks-all deal like we'll get from the so-called gurus who don't spend more than ten minutes becoming familiar with any given team. Instead, this one is a collective effort, with the beat writers from local papers around the country representing the teams they cover.
So D-Led made the Falcons pick, Rick Stroud of the St Petersburg Times picked for Tampa, Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic made the Cardinals pick, etc, etc. It was compiled by the Trib's Sam Farmer, who did NOT make a pick himself since Da Bears sent their first rounder to Denver last year.
It still has all the flaws of other mocks in that it leaves out trades, is based on voices/opinions from outside team compounds, etc. But at least the people involved are intimately familiar with the teams they are representing. That puts it a step ahead of anything we might hear from Todd McShay, Pete Prisco, Don Banks, Peter King, or Darth Helmet Hair this week.
Spoiler alert... Lindsay Jones of the Denver-Post saved us by taking D-Led's man-crush away from him at #11...
Here are the picks:
1. Rams: QB Sam Bradford, Oklahoma. (pick by Jim Thomas, St. Louis Post-Dispatch) "They're doing everything but stitching his name on his jersey."
2. Lions: DT Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska. (Nick Cotsonika, Detroit Free Press) "Suh is the smart, multidimensional and productive player the Lions want."
3. Buccaneers: DT Gerald McCoy, Oklahoma. (Rick Stroud, St. Petersburg Times) "If McCoy or Suh is there, the Buccaneers will run to the commissioner with the card."
4. Redskins: OT Russell Okung, Oklahoma State. (Rick Maese, Washington Post) " Donovan McNabb will have someone to protect his blind side, a luxury Jason Campbell didn't often have."
5. Chiefs: S Eric Berry, Tennessee. (Adam Teicher, Kansas City Star) "It's been close to 10 years since the Chiefs have had a playmaking safety in the secondary."
6. Seahawks: OT Trent Williams, Oklahoma. (Danny O'Neil, Seattle Times) "His athleticism makes him a better fit than Iowa's Brian Bulaga for Alex Gibbs' zone-blocking scheme."
7. Browns: QB Jimmy Clausen, Notre Dame. (Mary Kay Cabot, Cleveland Plain Dealer) "The Browns could try to trade the pick, draft Clausen and trade him or draft him and keep him. They also like Colt McCoy."
8. Raiders: OT Bruce Campbell, Maryland. (Jerry McDonald, Oakland Tribune) "There's a 50-50 shot they take Campbell, but they'd probably take Trent Williams over him."
9. Bills: OT Brian Bulaga, Iowa. (Mark Gaughan, Buffalo News) "The left tackle position torpedoed the entire team last year. The Bills would be happy to get any of the top guys."
10. Jaguars: ILB Rolando McClain, Alabama. (Vito Stellino, Florida Times-Union) "The Jaguars are short on linebackers. Question is, is McClain better than the best defensive end on the board?"
11. Broncos: C Maurkice Pouncey, Florida. (Lindsay Jones, Denver Post) "This is a bit high for a center, but the Broncos don't have one. If they were to line up today, they'd have nobody to snap the ball."
12. Dolphins: WR Dez Bryant, Oklahoma State. (Omar Kelly, South Florida Sun Sentinel) "Dez Bryant is looking for a father figure, and Bill Parcells wouldn't mind being one. The Dolphins need a difference maker at receiver."
13. 49ers: CB Joe Haden, Florida. (Matt Maiocco, Santa Rosa Press Democrat) "The 49ers need help in the secondary, and their corners aren't great. Haden would be a good pick at a high-profile position of need."
14. Seahawks: RB C.J. Spiller, Clemson. (O'Neil) "Seattle is one of four teams not to have a 1,000-yard rusher in any of the past four seasons. Spiller would be an instant upgrade at the position."
15. Giants: DE Jason Pierre-Paul, South Florida. (Ralph Vacchiano, New York Daily News) "He's a freakish athlete, and the Giants have some uncertainty at the position, especially with Osi Umenyiora unhappy."
16. Titans: DE Derrick Morgan, Georgia Tech. (Jim Wyatt, The Tennessean) "The Titans are in desperate need of an impact player at the position after losing Kyle Vanden Bosch in free agency."
17. 49ers: OT Anthony Davis, Rutgers. ( Dan Brown, San Jose Mercury News) "The 49ers sorely need offensive line help, and Mike Singletary's presence will help allay concerns about Davis' character."
18. Steelers: G Mike Iupati, Idaho. (Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) "The Steelers need to start getting some studs on their offensive line, and Iupati certainly is that. He's a safe pick for them."
19. Falcons: OLB Sean Weatherspoon, Missouri. (D. Orlando Ledbetter, Atlanta Journal-Constitution) "With Mike Peterson turning 34, the Falcons need a run-and-hit linebacker who's adept in coverage."
20. Texans: S Earl Thomas, Texas. (Jerome Solomon, Houston Chronicle) "The Texans really need some help in the secondary, and Thomas has the type of ballhawking skills they could use."
21. Bengals: TE Jermaine Gresham, Oklahoma. (Joe Reedy, Cincinnati Enquirer) "Tight end is a real weakness for the Bengals. They need a guy who can both block and stretch the field."
22. Patriots: OLB Sergio Kindle, Texas. (Karen Guregian, Boston Herald) "Kindle fits the physical prototype the Patriots like for an OLB/DE. They also like Michigan's Brandon Graham."
23. Packers: CB Patrick Robinson, Florida State. (Bob McGinn, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) " Al Harris is 35 and coming off reconstructive knee surgery; Charles Woodson is 33. Robinson fills a real need."
24. Eagles: CB Kyle Wilson, Boise State. (Jeff McLane, Philadelphia Inquirer) "With Sheldon Brown gone to Cleveland, the Eagles need a cornerback who can step right into the starting lineup."
25. Ravens: DT Jared Odrick, Penn State. (Jamison Hensley, Baltimore Sun) "The Ravens need youth on the defensive line, and Odrick would fit right into their 3-4 scheme."
26. Cardinals: DT Dan Williams, Tennessee. (Kent Somers, Arizona Republic) "The Cardinals have been searching for a 3-4 nose tackle ever since Ken Whisenhunt arrived. They need somebody who can hold the middle."
27. Cowboys: OT Charles Brown, USC. (Clarence Hill, Fort Worth Star-Telegram) "With Flozell Adams gone, the Cowboys have a hole at the position. Brown not only fills an area of need, but he fits in that draft slot."
28. Chargers: RB Ryan Mathews, Fresno State. (Jay Paris, North County Times) "LaDainian Tomlinson is gone, and the Chargers have a void at running back. They'll hope to get Alabama DT Terrence Cody in the second."
29. Jets: DE Brandon Graham, Michigan. (Rich Cimini, New York Daily News) "One of the problems the Jets had on defense was they had to blitz a lot of guys to get pressure. They need a pass rusher."
30. Vikings: CB Devin McCourty, Rutgers. (Judd Zulgad, Minneapolis Star Tribune) "Depth at corner is a problem for the Vikings, who have had health problems at the position. They really like McCourty."
31. Colts: DT Brian Price, UCLA. (Mike Chappell, Indianapolis Star) "The Colts failed in their attempt to get better on the defensive line last offseason. The bid continues this year."
32. Saints: OLB Jerry Hughes, TCU. (Mike Triplett, New Orleans Times-Picayune) "Hughes might be a 'tweener for a 4-3 defense, but defensive coordinator Gregg Williams will find a way to fit him in."
Posted on: January 2, 2010 10:38 am
The NFLPA has always voiced strong opposition to the salary cap system, and has always insisted that the final year under each CBA be uncapped. The purpose of this is that if no new agreement is reached and a stoppage occurs, the status quo will be without a cap.
The wisdom or absurdity of the union's position is fodder for another time. For now, the key point is that when the owners brought in the cap system, the concession they offered as a trade-off was early free agency. Before the cap system, players had to have six years of service to become true (unrestricted) free agents. Until they reached six years of tenure, they could only be restricted free agents. But with the salary cap in place, unrestricted free agency began after four years of service.
The catch is that since we don't have a new CBA in place for 2011, 2010 stands to be an uncapped year. And when the cap goes, so does the early free agency. So all over the league, guys with four or five years in the league who would become free agents will find themselves RFAs (restricted free agents) rather than UFAs.
Their current teams will be able to tender (offer) them standard one year contracts. There are several levels of tenders. If the tender offer is a higher level, the team will get draft picks as compensation if another team signs that player away. At the highest tender level, the price tag is a first round AND a third round pick.
Also, the current team has the right to match any offer made to a tendered RFA to keep the player. It becomes that team's choice - match the offer and keep the player, or let the other team sign the player away and take the draft picks.
According to several reports, there are currently a total of 212 potential free agents that will be affected. These are players who would become true (unrestricted) free agents if we get a new CBA to restore the cap before March but will drop back to RFAs without a new deal.
Here's the list:
Atlanta Falcons - T/G Tyson Clabo, G/T Harvey Dahl, T/G Quinn Ojinnaka, RB Jerious Norwood, P Michael Koenen, S Charlie Peprah, S Jamaal Fudge.
Arizona Cardinals – SS Hamza Abdullah, FB Justin Green, G Duece Lutui, K Mike Nugent, WR Jerheme Urban and NT Gabe Watson.
Baltimore Ravens – G Chris Chester, WR Mark Clayton, K Billy Cundiff, P Sam Koch, SS Dawan Landry, T Tony Moll, TE Quinn Sypnieski, T Terry Adam, CB Favian Washington and WR Demetrius Williams.
Buffalo Bills – OLB Keith Ellison, QB Gibran Hamdan, G Richie Incognito, TE Joe Klopfenstein, SS George Wilson and CB Ashton Youboty.
Carolina Panthers – OLB James Anderson, OLB Thomas Davis, TE Jeff King, CB Richard Marshall and T Rob Petitti.
Chicago Bears – DE Mark Anderson, FS Josh Bullocks, NT Dusty Dvoracek, FS Danieal Manning and OLB Jamar Williams.
Cincinnati Bengals – MLB Abdul Hodge, OLB Rashad Jeanty, LB Brandon Johnson, G Evan Mathis, and DE Frostee Rucker.
Cleveland Browns – SS Abram Elam, LB Arnold Harrison, RB James Harrison, LB D’Qwell Jackson, FS Brodney Pool, LB Matt Roth and FB Lawrence Vickers.
Dallas Cowboys – WR Miles Austin, DE Stephen Bowen, CB Cletis Gordon, DE Jason Hatcher, WR Sam Hurd, T Pat McQuistan, C Duke Preston, G Cory Procter, SS Gerald Sensabaugh, DE Marcus Spears, SS Pat Watkins and K Shaun Suisham.
Denver Broncos – LB Elvis Dumervil, G Chris Kuper, WR Brandon Marshall, QB Kyle Orton, TE Tony Scheffler and DE Le Kevin Smith.
Detroit Lions – SS Daniel Bullocks, C Dylan Gandy, DE Jason Hunter, WR Adam Jennings, G Daniel Loper, FS Ko Simpson and LB Cody Spencer.
Green Bay Packers – SS Atari Bigby, CB Will Blackmon, G Daryn Colledge, FS Nick Collins, DE Johnny Jolly, FB John Kuhn, FS Derrick Martin and C Jason Spitz.
Houston Texans – FS John Busing, T Rashad Butler, TE Owen Daniels, RB Ryan Moats, SS Bernard Pollard, LB DeMeco Ryans and C Chris White.
Indianapolis Colts – WR Hank Baskett, FS Antoine Bethea, FS Aaron Francisco, LB Tyjuan Hagler, CB Marlin Jackson, CB Tim Jennings, T Charlie Johnson, LB Freddy Keiaho and CB T.J. Rushing.
Jacksonville Jaguars – LB Clint Ingram, DT Montavious Stanley and WR Troy Williamson.
Kansas City Chiefs – OB Brodie Croyle, LB Derrick Johnson, LB Corey Mays, C Rudy Niswanger, T Ryan O’Callaghan and FS Jarrad Page.
Miami Dolphins – RB Ronnie Brown and TE Anthony Fasano.
Minnesota Vikings – T Ryan Cooke, DE Ray Edwards, NG Red Evans, QB Tarvaris Jackson, CB Karl Paymah and FB Naufahu Tahi.
New England Patriots – K Stephen Gostkowski, G Logan Mankins and LB Pierre Woods.
New Orleans Saints – RB Mike Bell, T Jammal Brown, G Jahri Evans, DT Tony Hargrove, SS Roman Harper, FS, Hernandez Jones, WR Lance Moore, WR Courtney Roby, T Zach Strief, TE David Thomas and CB Leigh Torrence.
New York Giants – LB Chase Blackburn, G Kevin Boothe, FS C.C. Brown, NT Barry Cofield, CB Kevin Dockery, WR Derek Hagan, WR Sinorice Moss, T Guy Whimper and LB Gerris Wilkinson.
New York Jets – QB Kellen Clemens, CB Drew Coleman, WR Braylon Edwards, NT Howard Green, G Wayne Hunter, WR Brad Smith, SS Eric Smith, RB Leon Washington.
Oakland Raiders – LB Jon Alston, T Khalif Barnes, LB Ricky Brown, QB Charlie Frye, LB Thomas Howard, LB Kirk Morrison and CB Stanford Routt.
Philadelphia Eagles – WR Jason Avant, C Nick Cole, LB Omar Gaither, LB Chris Gocong, CB Ellis Hobbs, G Max Jean-Gilles, TE Alex Smith and RB Leonard Weaver.
Pittsburgh Steelers – T Willie Colon.
San Diego Chargers – LB Tim Dobbins, WR Malcom Floyd, DT Antonio Garay, C Eric Ghiaciuc, LB Marques Harris, WR Vincent Jackson, DE Travis Johnson, T Marcus McNeill, LB Shawne Merriman, RB Darren Sproles and QB Charlie Whitehurst.
Seattle Seahawks – LB Lance Laury, P Jon Ryan, G Rob Sims, C Chris Spencer and DE Darryl Tapp.
San Francisco 49ers – G David Baas, LB Ahmad Brooks and CB Marcus Hudson.
St. Louis Rams – DE Victor Adeyanju, FS Oshiomogho Atogwe, T Alex Barron, RB Sam Gado, DT Gary Gibson, WR Ruvell Martin and G Mark Setterstrom.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – WR Mark Bradley, WR Brian Clark, LB Matt McCoy, T Donald Penn, LB Barrett Ruud, WR Maurice Stovall, T Jeremy Trueblood, RB Carnell Williams and LB Rod Wilson.
Tennessee Titans - DE Dave Ball, DT Tony Brown, TE Bo Scaife, LB Stephen Tulloch, DT Kevin Vickerson and RB LenDale White.
Washington Redskins – QB Jason Campbell, SS Reed Doughty, DT Kedric Golston, LB Rocky McIntosh, DT Anthony Montgomery, C Will Montgomery and CB Carlos Rogers.
Tags: Ashton Youboty, Atlanta, Bears, Bills, Braylon Edwards, Broncos, Browns, Buccaneers, Cardinals, Carlos Rogers, Carnell Williams, Chargers, Charlie Peprah, Chiefs, Chiefs, Colts, Cowboys, Danieal Manning, Dolphins, Eagles, Falcons, Gerald Sensabaugh, Giants, Harvey Dahl, Jamaal Fudge, Jerious Norwood, Jets, Kevin Dockery, LenDale White, Lions, Michael Kownwn, Miles Austin, Packers, Panthers, Quinn Ojinnaka, Raiders, Rams, Ravens, Redskins, Ronnie Brown, Saints, Seahawks, Shawne Merriman, Texans, Titans, Tyson Clabo, Vikings
Posted on: December 12, 2008 2:50 pm
Edited on: December 12, 2008 3:33 pm
I'm sure everyone is sick by now of hearing me preach that we're badly undersized in the middle of the defensive line. But it is an Achilles Heel type of weakness - if exploited properly, it can bring down our entire defense.
The first team to take advantage of it was... Tampa, in week two. And this weekend, we get the Bucs again - and with major postseason implications for both teams.
Everybody knows about the interception that Matt Ryan threw in the first quarter last week, which killed a likely scoring drive for Atlanta and led to a touchdown for New Orleans instead. And everyone knows all about how the kickoff coverage unit suddenly forgot how to tackle, giving up an 88-yard return to set up the winning score for New Orleans.
But if you have the video handy - either from the original broadcast, the NFL Replay version on NFL Network, or streaming video, it's time for a little more video review. Let's take a good, hard look at exactly WHY this whole undersized DT thing is so important...
The TE sets up in the backfield but then shifts to the end of the line, leaving a single back set. At the snap, one WR runs across the backfield (faking the reverse) but the handoff goes to the single back, who runs straight up the middle.
The important part is the blocking scheme. TE and RT block the DE and one of the two LBs. There's no need to double team either DT, so the guards and center have an extra man free to move downfield and block the other LB. (For most of the game, the guards will block the DTs with the center moving downfield on the LB.)
On this particular play, the TE takes the DE, the OT takes Boley, and the interior lineman moves out to block Brooking. Chevis Jackson runs right into Brooking and falls down, taking himself out of the play. Brooking somehow beats both his blocker and Jackson and makes the tackle, but the play results in a seven yard gain.
That's not a killer, but it shows that New Orleans came into this one already knowing that the way to open up the run is to get bodies downfield on the LBs.
First Saints play after the INT: same personnel packages as before. The Saints play a 3 WR plus TE package, this time with Reggie Bush as the single back. The Falcons again go to their nickel package with Moorehead and Babineaux as the DTs.
This time, instead of shifting the formation, faking the reverse, etc, the Saints call a simple draw. Using Bush as the single back may have helped with the illusion of a pass play.
(A well-executed draw is the opposite of the play-action fake handoff. Instead of faking the run to hold the safeties and linebackers, it fakes the pass to lure the defensive line into pass rush mode. The offensive tackles allow themselves to get "beaten" around the outsides, letting the defensive ends simply run themselves away from the play, which goes up the middle.)
The TE (Shockey) goes out for the pass, is covered by one of the two linebackers (Boley), and then blocks that LB. Again, the interior linemen have no need to double up on the undersized DTs, leaving a free man to slide downfield and block the other LB (Brooking).
The announcers pointed out that Milloy missed a tackle. Actually, so did Coleman. But what the announcers didn't mention is that it didn't really matter, because that was already a full 20 yards downfield.
And that's the essence of the Falcon predicament. There's always an extra defender somewhere to match up with the ball carrier. The goal of the offense is to try to man up so that the extra defender is as far away from the ball as possible. The Saints showed pass, the safeties set up in their deep zones, the offense managed to get bodies on both linebackers, and the result was that nobody could even TOUCH the running back until he was 20 yards downfield and running at full speed. (And since both safeties whiffed, the play went for 43 yards, setting up first and goal.)
In other words, they didn't even bother double-teaming Grady. The implications of that are really, really bad for Falcons fans.
This particular play was another draw. The TE (Shockey) went out and drew pass coverage from a linebacker (Brooking), basically taking him out of the play. The center slipped downfield and blocked Lofton. The play ran away from Boley. It went for 18 yards.
Smitty wasn't happy about this one. But if he and VanGorder don't dial up something fast, we'll just see a re-run this weekend.
9:49 remaining, second quarter. Saints have 1-10 at their own 23: this time they fake the draw (basic play-action). By now the team has been burned on so many runs that the LBs can't help but bite on any fake handoff.
The catch is that the LBs have the underneath zone responsibility in pass coverage. So when they step up on the fake handoff, they're leaving a huge gap in the middle of the field, between themselves and the deep safeties. Shockey went right into this gap and was wide open.
Fans tend to fume if the cornerbacks get beaten by a WR and give up a 21 yard reception. But think carefully - this is much worse. Every Falcon on the field was doing his best, all of them were essentially doing the appropriate thing, and yet nobody could stop the offense from executing a childishly simple pitch and catch for 21 yards in the dead center of the field.
Two plays later, the Saints hit us with another draw. We're in the basic 4-3, but Grady is off the field (with Jason Jefferson as his replacement).
Once again, no double team is necessary on the DTs. Once again, the center slips out to block Lofton downfield. The Saints shifted the WRs before the snap, and Brooking was pushed into coverage duty away from the play. The fullback blocked Boley.
So yet again, the offense is able to get a body on every defender in the same ZIP code as the ball, leaving a deep safety as the extra man. Lofton was able to recover and make the play downfield, but it was yet another 18 yard gain.
There's just one catch. If it doesn't get there, plays like this are the result. Brees gets the ball away, it's caught, and the WR is off to the races for 36 yards.
The announcers raved about the WR's quick hitch route, but somehow they were completely oblivious to the fact that Atlanta sent SEVEN pass rushers.
I don't mind that one so much though. At least it showed that our coaches were aware of the problem and were trying to dial up some answers. In this same game last year, the only thing our alleged coach dialed up was an airline reservation...
I'm not going to claim that getting bigger at DT will solve all of the Falcons problems and make the defense invincible. But I do claim that UNTIL we fix the middle of our D-line, whatever other problems might pop up on defense don't even matter. If we give up that kind of yardage on simple draw plays throughout the game, other teams won't even need to throw the bomb or attack us in any other way.
We have to solve this problem FAST, or we won't go anywhere even if we do make the playoffs. And unfortunately, our current 53-man roster doesn't appear to have the personnel to fix things within our current scheme.
We'll either have some personnel changes (maybe even this week), lean on some interesting gimmicks (and hope they work), or wait until next year...