Sunday, August 23, 2009

Top 10 Building Blocks/Cornerstones- NFC West

If I was to draft 10 players from the NFC West to serve as my core of a Superbowl contender for the next 3-4 seasons, the players I would draft and the priority I place on them are:

10. John Carlson, TE, Seattle Seahawks- I'll be completely and bluntly honest. There are two reasons that Carlson is on this list. One of those reasons being that he used to play for the Fighting Irish, and another because the NFC West is absolutely pathetic. That being said, Carlson is a bright young player with a lot of skill who had an excellent rookie year. He had 55 catches for 627 yards, and 5 TDs, playing with a bunch of nobodies on an injury ravaged Seattle offense. He has a bright future ahead of him. Oh, and go Notre Dame!

9. Dominique Rodgers Cromartie, CB, Arizona Cardinals- While he has a tendency to give up the big play, as he showed in the postseason, he still is an incredibly gifted athlete who showed some good things as a rookie. His kind of natural ability isn't matched by many CBs in the NFL. if he can harness the nuances of his position, the sky is the limit for this guy.

8. OJ Atogwe, S, St Louis Rams- I rarely hear this guy's name mentioned among the league's best safeties, but he definitely is one of them. He's one of those really good players on a REALLY bad team so he doesn't get the notoriety some other players would. The last three seasons, Atogwe has 16 interceptions, and 24 pass deflections . He has proven he is adept in coverage, and has done so despite playing with a team practically devoid in talent in every other aspect of defense.

7. Lofa Tatupu, MLB, Seattle Seahawks- Lofa is Mr Reliable. He isn't going to wow you with his natural ability, but the guy is a really good football player. He always seems to be in the right spot, and hits very well. The last four years he has racked up 431 tackles and nine interceptions. He is one of the best middle linebackers in football.

6. Darnell Dockett, DT, Arizona Cardinals- Dockett is one of those guys who is just a disruption up front. He causes havoc on most weeks for whoever happens to have the unenviable task of blocking him. He's one of the league's better pass rushers from the defensive tackle spot, and can line up anywhere on the defensive line and cause problems. He doesn't have the greatest numbers in the world, but numbers aren't as paramount for defensive tackles, and don't really tell the whole story.

5. Marcus Trufant, CB, Seattle Seahawks- I like Trufant. I believe he's a top CB in the league and has been so for awhile. He has great physical ability, and has been excellent for the Seahawks. He has poor hands, but that is not a prerequisite to being a good CB, it is a bonus. Trufant and Cromartie give the team a potentially dynamic set of CBs.

4. Adrian Wilson, S, Arizona Cardinals- I think Wilson is behind only Ed Reed when it comes to safeties in the NFL. His speed, his size and his hitting ability (just ask Trent Edwards) makes him one of the league's best defensive players. He also is one of the league's best blitzers from the safety spot.

3. Anquan Boldin, WR, Arizona Cardinals- The only reason he isn't #2 on this list is durability concerns. Boldin plays fairly recklessly so he's a risk, given his age and injury history. All that being said, the guy is a top WR in the game and embodies consistency. Year in and year out, you can rely on Boldin for very good numbers. He is arguably the league's best possession WR, but can beat you in a variety of ways. Add to that the fact that he's probably one of the two or three hardest WRs in the league to tackle and you have a force.

2. Patrick Willis, MLB, San Francisco 49ers- There might not be a more talented defensive player in the league than Willis. He might also be one of the fastest players in the NFL, and an LB being in that discussion is saying something for sure. Willis flies to the ball and makes a ton of plays. His 315 tackles, 15 pass deflections and 5 sacks over the last two years speak to that ability and the scary part is that he can get even better.

1. Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Arizona Cardinals- Fitzgerald is one of the game's very best wideouts. His size, his strength, his physical ability and most of all his amazing hands separate himself from the pack. Regardless of the terrible QBs and offensive lines he has been around, Fitzgerald has produced in a major way pretty much every season he has been in the league. He's one of those receivers you can pretty much build an entire offense around, and be successful that way.

Others who garnered consideration
Stephen Jackson, HB, St. Louis Rams
Frank Gore, HB, San Francicso 49ers
Matt Hasselbeck, QB, Seattle Seahawks
Karlos Dansby, LB, Arizona Cardinals
Steve Breaston, WR, Arizona Cardinals
TJ Houshmanzadeh, WR, Seattle Seahawks

Friday, August 14, 2009

Michael Vick signs with the Eagles

About a month after his reinstatement to the NFL, Michael Vick has found his way back into the NFL. Vick signed a one-year deal, with an option for a second year, with the Philadelphia Eagles marking his official return to the NFL after a two year hiatus.

Personally, while I've never been high on Vick as a football player, it's cool with me that he is back in the NFL. I realize what he did was absolutely heinous, disgusting, reprehensible, among a laundry list of other not so flattering words. That being said, he did his time, and hopefully he learned from it and is a stronger person as a result. I'm not buying the whole sob story act, or the whole 'I'm sorry, please forgive me' act, because in reality if he didn't get caught, who's to say he wouldn't STILL be doing those disgusting things? Am I saying it is impossible for a human being to be rehabilitated? No, I am not, but I am skeptical by nature. It always kills me when people say 'Oh, well he looks remorseful,'. Well, some people are better actors than others. I'm not saying he can't be remorseful, just that I don't buy it. All that being said, I'm not one to hold grudges and I definitely believe that he deserves a chance to redeem himself for the wrong that he has done. However, I'm not buying any of the 'woe is me, I'm sorry for what I did' rhetoric.

I do think that some of the 'He shouldn't be allowed to play ever again in life' sentiments, and even as far as callers on sports radio wishing him injury is somewhat extreme. I can understand why people would be outraged, especially those who love animals. I can even understand those who say the punishment wasn't strict enough, but really, not allowing him to ever play again in the NFL? Really? Honestly, if Vick isn't allowed to play again then there are a ton of NFL players who shouldn't be allowed to play again, based on some events that we know of (Stallworth-yes I'm aware he got suspended for a year, Leonard Little among others), and several others of which we don't know (Ray Lewis, probably half of the rest of the NFL). If there is consistency in the argument, I don't mind it, but if the crying foul is exclusive to Vick, that isn't right. I AM NOT trying to rationalize what he did, but the extreme nature of some of the complaints regarding Vick are a bit misdirected and exaggerated. He is not the most evil man that has ever walked the face of the planet.

And for the people crying foul about him being able to regain his job as a result, let's not forget the fact that, in essence, Vick DID lose his job. He was employed for the Atlanta Falcons making a truckload of money and got fired, and lost a ton of money during his jail stint. I also read a lot of comparing Vick to the regular joe. As unlikely as it is, someone fresh out of jail can also get a job somewhere else. Vick was released from his duties, went to jail, came out and another organization was interested in his duties. While Vick is playing in the same league, he now plays for a different employer for a reduced paycheck in a reduced role as he tries to rebuild his career.

I'm glad he is getting a chance to redeem himself, and genuinely hope he takes advantage of it. Will he ever be a good guy? Perhaps not. Is he actually sorry for what he's done, or what he lost as a result of getting caught? Who knows. But as a forgiving person, I hope he succeeds and becomes the latest good ol' American comeback story. What he did was heinous and inhumane, but I hope he rebounds from the adversity that he has faced, and conquers it.

As far as the football ramifications, I think the name and the luster of the story far outweigh what he will actually do on the field. The Eagles already have a QB, they already have a stable of weapons on the offensive side of the ball, and I'm not buying into the 'fad' called the Wildcat. I can see him being on the field for 7-10 plays a game and someone to be accounted for, but can't see him doing enough to make the signing a noteworthy one.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Thoughts on the Yankees/Red Sox series

-The crowd was as loud as I've heard it all season over the weekend. A winning team and the hated Red Sox tend to have that kind of effect.

-A.J. Burnett was simply marvelous Friday night. While Burnett can be somewhat erratic at times, his start Friday night was a snapshot to why the Yankees paid the man $82 million this offseason to be their #2 starter.

-Boy, John Smoltz has hit a wall hasn't he? If he was on any other team, I'd probably feel a little bad for the guy. It has to be tough for someone who has seen nothing but success for the majority of his career to have his performance just fall off a cliff like that. Regardless, I'm glad the Yankees were able to bash him into his current 'DFA' status.

- It's truly a beautiful thing to watch Robinson Cano and Derek Jeter turn the double play. There were three that stuck out to me this weekend, those being the Ortiz 4-6-3 on Friday night, the 4-6-3 on Lowell Saturday, and the 6-4-3 on Bay tonight. Boy, can they turn it or what?

- The ESPN broadcast team, as I've said ad nauseum, is absolutely horrendous. They make John Sterling sound like a combination of Marv Albert, Vin Scully and Al Michaels.

-It's good to see Alex Rodriguez come through with big hits for the team. Rodriguez is vilified far too much for a player of his stature. While he brings some of it on himself, the guy is a great baseball player. It's nice to see him come through in a big spot. He has actually done that quite a bit this year, and even in his relatively abbreviated season, he has come through quite a bit in the big spot. That was an absolute shot he hit off Lester tonight.

- Mark Teixiera is simply an awesome baseball player. To this point that signing has been a rousing success. His offensive numbers, and his defense have been top notch. I think you can make a very good argument for him as the American League MVP. To this point, he has been worth every penny. That bomb he hit off Bard was incredible, and I've never heard the Stadium that loud.

-This series was well pitched from the time A.J. Burnett took the mound on Friday to the end of the series. It's a pleasant change of pace from the usual sloppy, back and forth slugfests for which these two teams usually partake.

- While the Red Sox did get swept, I have to admit that they have the makings of a nice pitching staff with Beckett, Lester and Bucholz in the future. We all know about Lester and Beckett, as they are proven commodities, but Bucholz has nasty stuff and pitched very well on Saturday.

- Mariano Rivera is so automatic that it's a surprise when he puts a runner on base. I'm going to miss that man when he retires

- The chants of 'Sweep' at the end of Sunday's game was great. Hopefully the Stadium remains like this for the rest of the year, and the 'public library' atmosphere goes away. That is for the birds.

-Johnny Damon, like the rest of the Yankee team, has benefited immensely from the short right field porch in the New stadium, but that shot he hit last night was legitimate. He blasted it, and sent the Stadium into a frenzy. He has been a very good offensive player for the Yankees this year, artificially enhanced numbers or not.

-The sweep is a significant body blow to the Red Sox. They were already reeling and the Yankees set them back even further. It will be interesting to see if they can recover from it.

- The chant of 'Sweep' at the end of last night's game was incredible.

-Lastly, GO YANKEES!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Eli Manning gets paid

And when I say 'paid' I mean 'PAID'. Can you say 'mucho dinero'? The Giants made Eli Manning, the NFL's highest paid player. Manning agreed to terms on a new contract that will pay him $106.9 million (I got a little light headed typing that) over the next seven seasons. He gets a six year, $97.5 extension added onto his current contract which has him making $9.4 million for this upcoming season, the final season of the previous contract. The average yearly salary of $15.23 million, between now and 2015, is an NFL record. The contract features $35 million as the signing bonus, Manning will see $41 million in the first two years of the pact.

Eli Manning is one of my favorite players in the NFL, and is my guy. That being said, this contract is a bit on the ridiculous side. I like him as a player, because he is a good QB. But is just a "good" QB, worth this contract? Eli has always handled himself like a champion through good and through bad, and is as good as it gets with the game in the balance. At the most chaotic of times during the course of a game, Eli's calm demeanor is never fazed. While Eli's statistics were never particularly pretty, he has thrown at least 20 TDs in every full season in the NFL. I think that particular fact is often overlooked when it comes to Eli. Manning is also one of the best QBs in the league in clutch situations, which he has displayed on a consistent basis.

The Giants were in a tough spot when it comes to the negotiations, especially considering this is the last year of Eli's deal. If they offered Eli what he considered a "lowball" deal, what if he basically tells the Giants off, and says 'I'm going to free agency'? You then risk the guy leaving. For all of Eli's faults, he is a good quarterback and during the Superbowl run he was excellent. Do you take a risk on that particular fellow, who is also the Giants "franchise" QB leaving? Or do you pay him handsomely to keep him happy? This is, in essence, throwing a dog a bone. It's a 'Thank you for being a class act, and being so good during the last SB' pay raise for Manning. The only part I think it will affect, is the fact that a contract that big takes dollars away from other parts of the team down the line. I don't think the overpaying of him is really that big a deal, it's no different than the Steelers overpaying for Roethlisberger after last season.