Posted on: April 12, 2010 1:13 pm

This year's best mock draft

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 list of affected free agents

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.
Posted on: February 21, 2009 2:36 pm
Edited on: February 22, 2009 8:21 pm

The Chart - part two (2008 draft day trades)

Okay, last time we saw the actual numbers of the standard NFL draft pick point value table, commonly known as The Chart.  A quick recap:  I want to stress that the chart does NOT try to say whether a team should make specific trades or what specific players are worth.  It is simply an index to help us all understand what kind of market value teams have put on specific draft picks in the past, based on all pick-for-pick trades over many years.  It tells us what is, not what is right or wrong.

The version of the chart that I posted was the copy that the NFL sent to every team in the league before the 2007 draft.  To get an idea of its ongoing accuracy, let's look at the trades that teams made during the draft in 2008. 

The short version is that there were 23 trades that were strictly pick for pick within the 2008 draft (no future picks, no players).  Of those, only one broke from the chart by more than 10% (for early round trades, where the numbers are big) or 11 total points (for later rounds, where the numbers are smaller).  And that one trade was a four for one deal, with the one pick carrying the higher point value.  Seven out of the nine first-day deals were within 5%.

For those who want the details (or want to see the proof), here's the list of first-day deals...

The Saints moved up from #10 to #7, also giving #78 to the Patriots and receiving #164 in return.  Looking at the chart, the Saints received 1526 points worth of picks in exchange for 1500 points.  That's a difference of only 1.7%.   (New Orleans selected Sedrick Ellis.  The Patriots selected Jerod Mayo.)

The Ravens broke from the chart in the day's second trade, moving down from the #8 pick and receiving picks 26, 71, 89, and 125 from the Jaguars.  They gave up 1400 points and received only 1127 in return, and the 273 point imbalance (or 24% of the 1127 points received) was the farthest any deal broke from the chart during the entire draft.  But note that it was a four for one deal, which might have made it a little more enticing for Baltimore.  The Jags made the deal to select Derrick Harvey

The Chiefs moved up in a deal with the Lions, giving Detroit picks 17, 66, and 136 in exchange for picks 15 and 76.  That's a 1248 for 1260 deal, with the mere 12 point difference representing less than 1% of the point total given by either side.  Both teams used the top picks to select offensive linemen, with KC taking Branden Albert and Detroit selecting Gosder Cherilus.

The Ravens moved back up to draft Joe Flacco, giving the Texans the 26 and 89 they had received from Jacksonville plus the 173rd pick in exchange for pick #18.  That's 867 points given up to receive a 900 point pick.  The 33 point difference makes a 3.8% windfall for Baltimore.  

The Falcons moved up to draft Sam Baker, giving the Redskins picks 34, 48, and 103 in exchange for picks 21, 84, and 154.  Atlanta did pay a premium of 8.8%, giving 1088 points and receiving 1000.  That was the second highest differential of the draft. 

But it wasn't as bad as initially reported - ESPN originally announced the trade as a 3 for 1 deal, saying that Atlanta had only received pick #21.  GM Thomas Dimitroff emphasized that evening that the TV reports were incorrect and that it was a 3 for 3 swap.  The team was willing to pay a slight premium (the 88 point difference is exactly the value of the fourth round pick #103 that the Falcons gave up) because Baker was the last of the top-tier offensive linemen on their board.  The Carolina Panthers had just moved up to #19 to draft Jeff Otah, giving up their 2009 first rounder as part of the deal, so the Falcons knew they couldn't wait to get a top lineman.  And considering Atlanta selected Harry Douglas and Kroy Biermann with the other two picks, Falcon fans probably shouldn't be upset with the results.

The always trade-happy Cowboys made their first deal of this draft by giving picks 28, 163, and 235 to the Seahawks for pick #25.  Based on the chart, Dallas gave up 687 points (assuming a 1 point value for #235) for a 720 point pick.  That's a 4.8% differential.  It could be argued that Jerry Jones made the deal just for the sake of making a deal, but the Cowboys theoretically made the trade in order to get DB Mike Jenkins.  Seattle used the #28 to select Lawrence Jackson.

Seattle moved down again with the #30 pick, sending it to the Jets for picks 36 and 113.  That's a mere two point difference, with 618 points received for a 620 point pick.  New York made the move to get TE Dustin Keller.

Baltimore and Seattle were the most active dealers of the day.  In the second round, Seattle moved up to #38 (to select TE John Carlson), sending the Ravens picks 55 and 86.  The 20 point differential is 3.9% of the 510 points Baltimore received.   

Philadelphia and Minnesota also made a second round deal, with the Eagles sending picks 43 and 152 to the Vikings for picks 47 and 117.  That's 511 points for 500, or a 2.2% differential.  The Vikings selected Tyrell Johnson at 43, while Philly picked up DT Trevor Laws with the 47th pick.

There were three other trades that involved picks from #1 to #64.  The most significant was that Carolina sent the Eagles picks 43, 109, and their first round pick of 2009 in exchange for Philadelphia's pick #19.  The catch is that the major pick that Philadelphia received was the future first rounder. 

The key question is how much to discount a future pick.  For the sake of demonstration, I'm going to assume that the Philly braintrust used a 50% discount factor as their guideline.  Neither side knew exactly where that pick would fall, but both likely anticipated that it would be a later pick.  From Philadelphia's perspective, the pick received would be no worse than #32.  That pick rates 590 points on draft day.  Applying a 50% discount factor for the one year wait, the Eagles were receiving 295 points or more for that future pick.  That would give Philadelphia at least 851 points for their 875 point pick.

Obviously, the team giving up the future first round pick is taking a risk, not knowing where that pick will fall.  If Carolina also used a 50% discount factor and had confidence that they would draft no earlier than #22 in 2009, then they would value that future pick at 390 points or less.  For them, the deal would be at most 946 points given away in exchange for the 875 point pick, for a premium of 8.1% or less.   

But there's one other important note here -  when a team moves up the way Carolina did (or Atlanta did two picks later), they aren't acquiring a draft pick.  They know exactly what player they will select with the pick they acquire.  So the other major factor is how the team values that specific player.  I'll cover that in more detail in the next post...

The Buccaneers and Jaguars swapped second rounders, with Tampa sending pick 52 (at 380 points) to Jacksonville for picks 58 and 158 (348 points combined) plus Jacksonville's 7th rounder in 2009.  It's hard to imagine any team putting much value on that particular future pick, but the 32 point difference is within 10% even if it carries no value at all.

And finally, the Miami Dolphins traded pick 64, acquiring picks 66 and 176 from the Lions.  That's a 4.1% windfall for the Fins based on the chart.  I mention it because even though it was the first pick of the third round, that pick would ordinarily have been the last pick of round two.  (There were only 31 picks in the first round, as the Patriots forfeited their own first rounder over the videotaping incident.) 

Posted on: January 12, 2009 7:17 pm
Edited on: January 21, 2009 3:30 pm

Falcons move up in draft...

A little tidbit for those of you who actually do tune in and read the official CBS fan blogs (of which this is one):

Thanks to the wild results of the NFC playoffs, the Atlanta Falcons have bumped up a spot in April's draft.   The draft order is based mainly on the team's regular season record, with postseason advancement and opponents' winning percentage as tiebreakers.  But the two teams in the Super Bowl automatically draft #31 and #32.

Both the Eagles and Cardinals would have drafted ahead of Atlanta, which would have been in the #25 spot.  But since Arizona and Philadelphia will face each other for the NFC title, one of them will move to the #31/32 spots, which will bump Atlanta up to #24.

Yes, it's a minor thing.  But you probably heard it here first...

(And thanks again for reading the blog.) 


1/21 UPDATE -    picks #21-30 will be (in order):  Philadelphia, Minnesota, New England, Atlanta, Miami, Baltimore, Indianapolis, Philadelphia (from Carolina), NY Giants, Tennessee.  


Posted on: October 26, 2008 5:28 pm
Edited on: October 28, 2008 3:16 pm

Video review (pun intended) of the Eagles game

I know everyone will mostly want to talk / read / comment on the screwup by the officials that sealed the game for Philly.  So I'll start with that, just to get that 800-pound gorilla out of the way.

This is the 10th season since the return of the replay system, and it seems like this season has had the most controversial calls since that 1998 season that brought such a massive outcry over the poor officiating that the league had little choice but to bring back some form of video review.

But now that replay is back, here's the big question:  how much responsibility lies with the coaching staff?  Are the coaches to blame if they have no challenges remaining or no time outs?  Should it be standard practice to save that last time out until after the two minute warning, just in case yet another officiating crew makes yet another game-altering mistake?

If so, Mike Smith just made his first blunder as Falcon head coach.  He used Atlanta's final time out just before a Philadelphia punt in order to save as much time on the clock as possible for his offense.

The catch is that he did it outside of the two minute warning.  At that point, any reviews have to be initiated by the coaches.  So when the refs blew it on the punt, there was nothing more he could do than scream at the guys at the zebra suits.

I can't wait to hear what Mike Pereira has to say about the muff call by the officials.  Will he make any comment about the fact that Smith left himself "exposed" for half a minute by leaving himself without a time out?  Will the league try to shift some of the responsibility to the coaches?    I hope he won't.  Pereira is a class act, and the mind-blowing calls by Hochuli's crew, this crew, and others have had him scrambling to play defense all season.

Here's my take:  Pereira will acknowledge that the officials blew it.  The league will apologize to the Falcons for it.  And that will quite appropriately be the end of it.   Falcons lose.  End of story.   (Coach Smith already said there were a whole lot of other plays the team would like to have back.  He went out of his way to say that the bad call was not the difference in the game.)

I can't say I blame Smith at all for using the last time out when he did.  You're down by six points. The opposing team can burn 31 seconds if you don't call time out right now, and you'll be left with about 1:52 when you do get the ball. Should you save that last time out - and lose 31 seconds plus the clock stoppage at the two minute warning - just on the off chance that the refs will make a mind-blowing bad call?

The responsibility to get the calls right has to stand with the officials, not the coaches.  It was a freak thing, and it worked against Atlanta.  But it happens.  It happened earlier this season in San Diego.  The Falcons are moving on, as the Chargers did after that game against Denver.

Did it cost Atlanta the game?   Maybe.  Yes, there were other opportunities.  There are ALWAYS other opportunities.   But if the officials mandate that one team will arbitrarily give up a possession in good field position and that the other team will get an extra possession in excellent field position, that creates a significant and artificial disadvantage.  

But I suspect if the entire game were replayed, the Eagles would still win - and possibly by a larger margin.


Notes on specific plays: 

11:16 Q1, first Philadelphia play from scrimmage -  this was the first start, and for that matter the first extensive playing time at all, for Domonique Foxworth.  The Eagles went at him straight out of the gate with a deep pass. What I find noteworthy here is that the safety (Coleman) was late to get back and help out in coverage.  If you get a chance to see it on NFL Replay, check it out.  The receiver is BEHIND Coleman, who has his back to the ball the entire way as he's running to catch up with the play.

This is one of the problems Atlanta has had in allowing big plays all season long.  We're theoretically a cover two defense.  The cardinal rule is that the safeties should never allow receivers to get past them.

Atlanta fans were down on Brent Grimes after Green Bay threw a deep TD pass to Greg Jennings, but it was exactly the same situation - and even a similar route - as this play.  The cornerback had the outside position on the receiver and was expecting safety help deep inside.  That safety help wasn't there. 

In this case, the receiver wasn't able to hang on to the ball as he came down to the ground, saving Atlanta from giving up yet another big play.


5:29 Q1 -  Jamaal Anderson was chip-blocked by the receiver leaving the backfield, plus had two blockers on him.  He beat them all and got the sack.

15:00 Q2 -  after the Eagles convert a 3rd down with a long pass play, the announcers emphasized on the replay that Milloy bit and left a huge gap in the zone coverage.  What they didn't mention is that Stephen Nicholas got caught up in the underneath traffic and bumped on the crossing route, which allowed the receiver to get away from him for the completion.  I don't know if the play was designed to create that kind of a pick, but that was the outcome.

13:33 Q2 -  Lofton blitzed and forced a fumble. That also counts as a sack, so congratulations to Lofton for the first sack of his young career.   It's also noteworthy that the Falcons were more aggressive with their blitz calls, particularly in the first half, than they were in weeks 2 through 5.   They rarely blitzed against Green Bay and sent just three pass rushers after Aaron Rodgers seven times.   This time around, they blitzed more frequently, occasionally sending six men and even keeping no deep safeties on a few plays.   Jerry Glanville would have been proud.

13:24 Q2 -  Turner goes nowhere on a run on 2nd and 10.  Did the Eagles know what was coming?  They should have - it's a very strong Atlanta tendency. If the Falcons throw an incomplete pass on first down, they're running on second down.

12:47 Q2 -  yes, Roddy ended up catching both of Ryan's TD passes - for the first multiple TD game of his career, but up to this point he was having a game he'd rather forget.  The announcers called him out for his poor route running that helped create the first Philadelphia interception. (That's an advantage of winning a few games.  We finally get announcing teams that have a clue.)  He had the holding call downfield that cost the Falcons ten yards off of a big running play.  And on this third down play, he dropped a perfectly thrown deep ball.  That's three negatives against him in less than 18 minutes of football.

To his credit, he did try to take some heat away from Ryan after the game by claiming the second interception was on him and that he should have done more to break up the play.   That was quite generous.  Roddy did all he could, including interfering with the defender to try to break it up.  It was simply a horribly underthrown ball on the fade route.  That one was entirely on Ryan. 

12:30 Q2 -  McNabb makes an effective play-action fake and has plenty of time to throw the ball, but ends up dumping it off for just a 2 yard gain.  Nice job by the Falcon secondary to make sure all the deep targets were covered.

9:10 Q2 -  After a 1st down incompletion, the Falcons partially break from the run tendency I mentioned above.  They tried to set up a screen pass to beat the blitz.  It didn't work - again, probably because the Eagles were anticipating the run.  They didn't bite, so Ryan aborted the play and intentionally threw the ball into the ground at the RB's feet.

8:50 Q2 - the first Eagles play after the Atlanta touchdown is another example of how the cover two puts heavy responsibility on the safeties.  Brooking has coverage on the tight end through the short zone.  As the TE goes deeper and leaves his coverage zone, Brooking releases him to the safety (in this case, Milloy).  But the safety wasn't in place to break up the play, which went for a completion and a first down.

7:53 Q2 - the announcers emphasize the nice coverage on the punt by Sav Rocca.  Eagles fans already know this, but the Falcon fans might not.  Rocca is a former Australian Football League player.  I'm a huge Footy fan (and still celebrating that my favorite team, Hawthorn, just won its first premiereship in 17 years) so I'm happy to see Rocca having success in the NFL.

I'm surprised more AFL players haven't been brought to America to punt.  It was no accident that Rocca's punt bounced straight up.  That's something that a lot of AFL kickers can do.  If the coverage unit had let it go, it probably wouldn't have gone into the end zone anyway.  

6:28 Q2 -  Koenen answers with a boomer of his own, kicking one 53 yards from out of his own end zone.

4:53 Q2 -  On the previous 1st and 10 play, the Eagles once again tested Foxworth deep.   We'll never know how close a play it might have been, as the WR fell down.   On 2-10, they decide to go after the safeties.  I'll assume the receiver in question was Coleman's responsibility, as he was the closest defender to an otherwise wide open man.   The play went for a 22 yard completion for a first down.

2:30 Q2 -  the weakness in the middle of the D line is exposed yet again, as McNabb runs straight up the middle for the touchdown.  In this case, Jason Jefferson and Kindal Moorehead were the DTs on the field.  

In case you missed it the 20 or so times I've mentioned it on the Falcon message board, we're undersized on the defensive line.  Moorehead and Jefferson list at 299 and 295 pounds.  They were up against center Jamaal Jackson (330 pounds) and guards Todd Herremans (321 pounds) and Max Jean-Gilles (the ex-Georgia Bulldog, now up to 358 pounds).  That's 594 pounds of Falcon meat against 1009 pounds of Philly cheesesteaks.  

1:38 Q2 -  again Ryan throws the ball into the ground at the RB's feet to abort a doomed screen pass.  Kudos to Ryan for recognizing the bad situation.  But the Falcons need to do a better job of self scouting.  They have some pretty strong tendencies.

0:21 Q2 -  with Philly driving just before halftime, the Falcons mostly have the second unit D-line on the field.  For this play, Chauncey Davis and Kroy Biermann were on the ends, with Moorehead and Babineaux in the middle.  Brooking rushed from the linebacker position, but Davis dropped back into coverage so it was still just a regular 4 man rush.  McNabb picked on Coleman again, hitting Curtis for his first catch of the season.

0:15 Q2 -  on the next play, John Abraham rotated back in to replace Davis, who had just been running in pass coverage.  He gets to McNabb, but not before the ball had been thrown.   McNabb threw in Chris Houston's direction this time.  From the looks of the play, Houston seemed like he thought he'd have safety help from Lawyer Milloy.   Once the receiver passed through the shorter zone, he took the outside and short position in coverage.   

In other words, it might not be fair to say Houston was beaten.   This has happened with Grimes on several plays in previous games.  The corner takes one side of double coverage, but the safety isn't there on the other side as the corner expects.   The end result is an open receiver, a completed pass, and a corner who did everything he should have done but comes out looking foolish. 

Maybe it's a coaching issue, and the young corners simply aren't aware that they're the sole defenders.  Maybe it's a communication problem.  Or maybe the safeties are being stretched too thin by having heavy run responsibility in addition to deep coverage duties.  But the Falcons won't "arrive" as a top team until they solve the undersized line and overworked safety issues.

0:09 Q2 -  the Eagles take one shot at the end zone before kicking the field goal.  The play was a quick look and throw, as Philly couldn't risk a sack or take the time to check down several receivers.   If the target wasn't open, McNabb would throw it away.  The Eagles targeted Domonique Foxworth. 

Once again, Foxworth was on the spot, so McNabb threw it over everyone's head out of bounds.  Foxworth won't get credit for a pass defended in the official stats, but the coaching staff knows he saved the team four points.

14:15 Q3 -  on 2nd and 10, nickel corner Chevis Jackson blitzed.  McNabb saw it coming and threw to his receiver - who had a huge cushion to the safety - but missed.   McNabb had plenty of time on the following 3rd and 10 play and targeted Jackson's receiver for a 25 yard gain. 

11:30 Q3 -  Philly has 1st and 20 after a penalty.  This time, there was definitely a miscommunication in the secondary.  In the cover two scheme, the corners have responsibility for the outside zone.  The wide open man was Chris Houston's responsibility.

7:40 Q3 -  on the Falcon message board, fans have been brutal on Finneran for his drop and Adam Jennings for his alleged muff.   But on this play DeSean Jackson turned a fair catch opportunity into some significant NEGATIVE yardage.    It's not just Jennings.

And if you happen to see the game again (through NFL.com, for example), take a look at who was in coverage for Atlanta.  The gunner who forced Jackson to change course and run backwards was Brian Finneran, and the one who made the tackle was Adam Jennings.

3:27 Q3 - the Falcons line up in their 3 TE formation and spring Turner for a good run.  I note this play because I see this as the main area where Atlanta is hurt by not having Baker in the starting lineup.  With Baker at LT, backup tackle Todd Weiner is free to play as the second TE in unbalanced or multi-TE formations.  With Baker out, Weiner is pressed into duty on the line, making him unavailable for these packages. 

It's nice to see the Falcons can still use this lineup, but without Weiner as the sledgehammer at FB or TE, they don't do it often.   On this particular play, both McClure and right guard Harvey Dahl pulled.  They acted as the leads (as Weiner would have) on what was essentially a power sweep.

2:05 Q3 -  this McNabb pass for a first down is simply a good play design to beat the cover two.  The idea is to get multiple receivers through the short zone and into the areas where the safeties have primary coverage responsibility.   The safeties are simply outnumbered, with only two of them covering the entire width of the field.  A quick look or pump fake draws a safety to the side, and the pass goes to the middle.

The very next play again took advantage of our undersized backups on the defensive line.  Davis, Moorehead, Babineaux, and Biermann were the linemen on the field.   I mentioned that half ton in the middle of the Eagle line already.  But to add to that, the Philly tackles are 330 and 335 pounds.  Meanwhile, Davis and Biermann are 274 and 241 pounds. 

Is anyone surprised that the Eagles plowed right through our guys and sprang Westbrook up the middle for 18 yards?

15:00 Q4 -  in spite of constant blitzes from Philadelphia, the Falcons didn't give up a sack until the first play of the fourth quarter.  Put this one on Jerious Norwood.  He was in the backfield to help pick up the blitz, but he ran to his far right, leaving a free lane for the linebacker to come straight at Ryan completely unblocked.

7:57 Q4 - a bright spot for our D-line woes has been short yardage.  The Falcons had that amazing goal line stand against Chicago, which turned out to be a crucial factor in that game.   Atlanta has another big goal line stand.  Andy Reid elects to kick the field goal rather than go for it on fourth down.



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