Tag Archive: Kroy Biermann


NFL Quick Hits: Week 2

This post will have to be more brief than my original one, partially because I missed the majority of the late afternoon games as well as the 49ers-Seahawks game (despite the delay) because of my move. Still, I want to write up my thoughts on the games I was able to see this week, so here there are.

New Message: Missing You. Sender: Tom Brady. Recipients: Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez: The Patriots are 2-0, but barely. They eeked out a win week one against a rookie quarterback and the Buffalo Bills and needed three interceptions from their defense to hang on for a 13-10 win against Geno Smith and the New York Jets this past Thursday. Shane Vereen got hurt after a very productive opening week and Stevan Ridley has started slowly in the first two weeks. On top of that, Danny Amendola was hurt against the Jets, Gronkowski is still out, Hernandez is long gone and so is Wes Welker. Julian Edelman was the only receiver Brady could trust to catch the ball and he targeted him very frequently as a result, though Aaron Dobson had three solid catches for 56 yards and the Patriots’ only touchdown. However, he caught those three passes on a whopping 10 targets from Brady and had at least a couple drops from what I saw watching the game live. Brady let his frustration show throughout the game and it’s easy to understand why. He’s used to sure-handed receivers that are on the same page as him, but it was clear that everyone on the unit outside of Edelman was still working out the kinks with Brady. This was perfectly shown on one 3rd down play in the red zone where Dobson was running a corner route and as he got to the goal line Brady fired a pass expecting him to have read the coverage, recognize the hole in the zone and sit down for an easy touchdown. Instead, Dobson continued running his route and the pass fell incomplete and led to a field goal attempt which left Brady incensed as he came off the field and on the sideline. Hopefully Amendola won’t be out for longer than a couple weeks and Gronkowski should be back either this week or next, so Brady won’t have to put up with this indefinitely. As frustrating as this is for him right now it might pay some dividends later in the season if he gets on the same page with Dobson and rookie undrafted free agent receiver Kenbrell Thompkins early on. Once Amendola and Gronkowski are back (and if they stay healthy) having Dobson, Thompkins and Edelman as reliable complementary options could provide this offense with a significant spark, not to mention if the running game gets going and Vereen returns healthy after he is activated from the injured reserve. The silver lining for the Jets is that Geno Smith flashed some upside in this game despite his three interceptions (though some of the throws he made late in the game were awful and complete head scratchers) and Chris Ivory seems poised to take over as a potential bell cow as he comes back from injury. That would be great for the Jets because they need a running game to help take some of the pressure off of Smith’s shoulders, there’s no way he should be throwing the ball 35 times in poor conditions against Tom Brady and the Patriots in his second career start. As out of synch as the Patriots offense was at times, the Jets defense has been better than a lot of people assumed it would be after losing it’s best player in Darrelle Revis, further proving that Rex Ryan may not be a media darling but he is a very good defensive football coach. We’ll see if that continues, but I don’t expect the Patriots to continue to struggle on offense like this for more than two or three weeks, and hopefully Chris Ivory will stay healthy and help keep Smith from needing to attempt 30+ passes in a game for a while.

It’s A Good Thing the Falcons Played at Home Because They Know Where All the Hospitals Are: Steven Jackson is already hurt and may be out another two to four weeks with a thigh injury. Bradie Ewing is out for the season with a shoulder injury. Kroy Biermann is out for the season with a torn Achilles. Sean Weatherspoon is on IR and is eligible to return week 11 because of a Lisfranc injury. Roddy White is playing through his injury but was clearly limited in week two as he was targeted just three times for three receptions and 21 yards. Julio Jones was on the injury report but thankfully went off for 181 yards and one touchdown against the Rams. The Falcons can survive without Steven Jackson thanks to Jason Snelling (if they ever give him the ball) and Jacquizz Rodgers as a change of pace back, they can survive while Roddy White is largely a decoy if Harry Douglas keeps catching 80% of his targets like he did against the Rams (4/5), they can survive without Ewing at fullback like they did all last season, and they can find a way to replace Biermann’s production as a pass rusher and hopefully his versatility to drop into coverage as well as his terrific motor. However, it’s going to be hard to replace ‘Spoon’s value to the linebacking corp because the Falcons were already thin there and relied on rookie linebacker Joplo Bartu from Texas State to help solidify that unit already. Now they will be scrambling to either add a veteran or will be forced to call up one of the young linebackers who didn’t make the team such as Pat Schiller. The Falcons have been hit hard by injuries already this year, but it’s not time to hit the panic button yet. However, they really need to work on establishing the run game against the Dolphins this upcoming week because running the ball 16 times for 36 yards (2.3 ypc) is embarrassing, particularly when your most effective runner (Jason Snelling) only got 2 carries and managed 19 yards and a touchdown despite the coaching staff almost deliberately trying not to give him the ball. Ryan was brilliant despite the lack of even a semblance of a running game, but expecting him to be that brilliant without a running game consistently is asking for a let down. Feed Snelling and let him take some of the heat off Ryan by getting him in more favorable 2nd and 3rd down situations. I haven’t been able to go back and rewatch the game yet, but Sam Bradford finally seems to have some weapons around him to do some damage with. Chris Givens gives him a deep threat that the Rams have been missing for years, and despite not liking him out of Boise State Austin Pettis has stuck around and remained productive despite lacking any explosiveness what so ever. The Rams, too, need to establish a running game and Daryl Richardson is the man they expect to do it. Still, he only got 10 carries and mustered 35 yards, but I still hope the Rams will give Benny Cunningham a chance to show what he can do. He is my favorite running back on the Rams roster and I really think he and Isiah Pead could do some damage splitting carries. The Rams defense is definitely talented enough to contend, it all comes down to whether Sam Bradford and the offense can take that next step this year now that he has some weapons to throw to.

Aaron Rodgers Is Still A Robot: I watched almost the entirety of the Packers-Redskins game and it honestly scared me watching Rodgers play quarterback. He had 335 yards passing at HALFTIME and finished with 480 yards, tying the passing record set by Packers legend Matt Flynn. He also threw four touchdowns while completing an insane 34 of his 42 passing attempts. His “QBR” of 80.9 is proof that ESPN’s rating system for quarterbacks is a complete joke because Rodgers was nothing short of masterful against the Redskins. On top of that the Packers also got 132 yards and a touchdown out of James Starks who was forced into action after Eddie Lacy was knocked out of the game with a concussion. RGIII on the other hand had a tougher day and started much slower than Rodgers did (though Rodgers was under pressure frequently during the first couple series). He still managed to finish the game with 320 yards, three touchdowns and one interception on 26/40 passing, but only ran the ball four times for a total of one yard. The Redskins are clearly trying to limit the contact that RGIII is taking, but it’s hurting the offense’s effectiveness early on in games if you ask me. The ‘Skins are 0-2 now and RGIII and that offense will have to get things going earlier if they are going to turn things around. We’ll see when the Shanahans are comfortable turning him loose on his surgically repaired knee.

Rivers Gets Redemption, Steals Victory From Vick, Eagles: Philip Rivers bounced back from a disappointing loss to the Texans the week before by winning on a last second field goal against the Eagles this past week. Rivers completed 36/47 passes for 419 yards and three touchdowns, all of which went to his new favorite target Eddie Royal who now has five touchdowns in just two games. Who saw that coming? Not me. I wasn’t happy to see Malcolm Floyd sustain a neck injury when he got sandwiched by two Eagles defenders over the middle, but his injury gave Keenan Allen a chance to get on the field and he caught two of his three targets for 34 yards including a BEAUTIFUL route on a deep in for his first NFL reception. Allen was my #1 ranked wide receiver in the 2013 NFL Draft class so I am excited that he might be getting more playing time even if it is because Floyd went down with an unfortunate injury. Rivers’ performance also overshadowed a terrific game from Mike Vick who threw for a career best 428 yards on 23 of 36 passing and two touchdowns. He also added six rushes for 23 yards and another score on the ground. LeSean McCoy only got 11 carries for 53 yards but he and DeSean Jackson were lethal in the passing game as McCoy totaled 114 yards on just five receptions and Jackson reeled in nine passes good for 193 yards and a touchdown. Chip Kelly’s offense is certainly fun to watch, but I am not surprised that the Eagles’ defense is struggling to stop opposing offenses from gaining a lot of yards and putting up a lot of points. They’re giving up 30 points per game through the first two weeks and that isn’t going to cut it in a division with the Giants, Redskins and Cowboys all capable of putting up a lot of points on any given Sunday.

Texans “Nuke” Titans: For years Texans fans and NFL Draft analysts alike have been waiting and wondering when the Texans would get a legitimate wide receiver to play opposite Andre Johnson and 2013 was finally the year as the Texans added DeAndre Hopkins. Hopkins was my #4 ranked wide receiver in an absolutely loaded class but I am a huge fan of his and was not surprised to see him help the Texans rally despite losing Andre Johnson to a possible concussion in the 4th quarter. He finished the game with seven receptions for for 117 yards and the game winning touchdown in overtime in just his second game during his rookie season. It’s clear “Nuk” Hopkins is living up to the hype so far, and it’s great to see such a talented player blossom under the tutelage of a longtime NFL star in Andre Johnson.

Bengals, Bernard Burst Past Steelers: This wasn’t as fun of a game as I was hoping it would be largely in part because the Steelers offense is in a very bad way right now. Outside of Antonio Brown and occasionally Emmanuel Sanders there are no playmakers (Markus Wheaton has barely gotten any snaps the first two weeks) and Heath Miller was out for this game as well. Big Ben will be happy once Le’Veon Bell and Miller return because Bell should help perk up the running game even though Maurkice Pouncey will be out the entire season. Ray Lewis seemed to think that this was a devastating blow to the Steelers, and contrary to what I have read from some media members I tend to side with Ray. It’s easy to overlook how critical a center is to the offensive line sometimes, but players like Pouncey (even if he hasn’t been at his best for the last year or so) don’t come around too often. Add to that the departure of Mike Wallace and Miller’s injury and it’s not hard to see why the Steelers are struggling out of the gate this year. The defense is still strong, but they struggled to match up with the quickness of Giovani Bernard out of the backfield as well as the athleticism of Jermaine Greshman and Tyler Eifert. The Bengals continue to look like a very good team at pretty much every position except quarterback where I still have my reservations about Andy Dalton despite the fact that he is entering the final year of his rookie contract. The Bengals have done well to surround him with weapons to get the most out of him that they can, but I think he plateaued after his rookie season and I don’t think he will ever take the next step from being a solid quarterback to being a good or great one. He settled down in this game and helped steer the Bengals to victory, but he was missing some throws he has to make to Eifert and AJ Green, two players with massive catch radii, that he has to make if he wants to lead the Bengals to the playoffs consistently, much less on a deep playoff run. The Bengals don’t seem to be totally convinced that Dalton is “the guy” yet either or they probably would have signed him to a contract extension, so it will be interesting to see how the season plays out, if Dalton takes the next step, and what the Bengals elect to do with him prior to him becoming a free agent.

Well, it was slightly more brief than last week. Hopefully you all enjoyed my thoughts, let me know what you think and if you agree or disagree with anything I’ve written here.

Thanks for reading!

–Tom

Here is my write-up on the Falcons-Bears game from Sunday, September 11th. For those of you who read my blog consistently you may know that I am a Falcons fan. I feel that I was relatively objective when writing this post, but knowing a team as well as I know the Falcons is sure to create some bias. Hopefully you enjoy the post in spite of this, as I took pages of notes on this game as I watched it live. Enjoy!

Falcons Offense:

The Falcons offense was ineffective at best today. Matt Ryan passed for 319 yards but had to do it with 31 completions on 47 attempts, which is never a good sign for an offense that prides itself on ball control and effectively running the ball. The Falcons only ran the ball 14 times today and while it was for 110 yards they got 53 of them on a huge run by Turner up the middle where he was largely untouched before he was caught from behind. Ryan averaged 6.8 YPA, which is not bad but not great either, and threw an interception on a forced pass to Tony Gonzalez that Brian Urlacher made a terrific play on to bring in the pass. There were a number of dropped balls in this game additionally. Roddy dropped at least two, I believe Harry Douglas had at least one, perhaps two drops, and Turner and Snelling each had a drop if I remember correctly.

The Falcons offensive line was also clearly overwhelmed by the Bears pass rush and it showed as they tallied 5 sacks, 14 QB hits, 9 hurries and forced two turnovers courtesy of Ryan (one INT and one fumble recovery). Early in the game Ryan was willingly taking shots to deliver catchable passes, but he was getting pressured and hit so consistently that he gradually became more and more uncomfortable in the pocket and started fading away from his throws which led to less precise ball placement, more air under his passes and therefore became less effective passing the ball.

When he had time the Bears were usually only rushing four (though they regularly applied significant pressure with four down linemen rushing) which meant Ryan was looking to pass against seven defenders dropping into coverage. That led to a lot of check downs which was frustrating to watch considering how much emphasis the Falcons front office and coaching staff placed on creating more explosive plays downfield. Julio Jones flashed the ability to help in this department by showing the ability to get vertical and make catches in traffic as well as taking shorter passes and getting yards after the catch which is something the Falcons have been sorely lacking.

However, despite spreading the ball around fairly well, Ryan still checked down a lot to his running backs and at times forced the ball to Tony Gonzalez which is something he really needs to stop doing. At times he will key on one receiver (frequently Gonzalez) and throw the ball to him despite the coverage keying on his eyes, which is how Urlacher was able to make that interception on a pass intended for Gonzalez. But I also recognize that he was checking down because of the lack of separation the Falcons’ wide receivers were creating downfield, which is equally as frustrating. The Bears were playing quality coverage on all of our receivers, our offensive line couldn’t slow down their pass rush, and Ryan was forced to dink and dunk all day. That meant we needed to string a lot of plays together with no mistakes to get a potential scoring drive, but we had so many penalties (9 penalties for 65 yards) on the offensive side of the ball such as false starts and holds that a number of promising drives were killed as a result of them. It seemed every time the Falcons fought their way into Bears territory they had an unnecessary penalty such as a false start, hold or penalty after the play ended that either led to a field goal attempt or to a punt looking to pin the Bears back in their own territory.

The Falcons have a lot to clean up before next week on the offensive side of the ball. Most notably they have to find a way to keep Ryan upright because if they can’t give him time and room to step up in the pocket to avoid the outside pass rush (which was a problem today with Joe Hawley and Garrett Reynolds making their first career starts at Center and Right Guard respectively) it is going to be a very long season and there won’t be time to stretch the field as those routes take longer to develop. As a result of their defense’s poor play and their inability to score a single offensive touchdown against the Bears the Falcons’ run game was abandoned which is never a good sign for Atlanta, and re-establishing that despite Michael Turner’s clear lack of explosiveness and burst is going to be critical.

Overall I thought the offense struggled mightily today, only managing six total points. We didn’t see more explosive plays thanks to limited pass protection for Ryan and limited separation downfield from the receivers, and the offense overall was inconsistent at best. When they did finally seem to have something going a penalty or sack would derail the promising drive, leading either to a punt or a field goal.

Falcons Defense:

The Falcons defense was very underwhelming to me. I was hoping to see a much improved pass rush and hopefully some better pass coverage, but I was not impressed with either. John Abraham provided the majority of our pressure as usual, but I did not hear Ray Edwards’ name called once. I was hoping that he, along with Abraham, Jonathan Babineaux and Peria Jerry, would create more consistent pressure. I think the pass rush was better than last year for the most part, however the Bears offensive line is a group we should have handled pretty easily, and far too often I thought deep completions downfield were a result of Cutler having plenty of time to survey the field and plenty of space to step up and deliver a catchable ball. So, while Abe impressed me (and drew a number of uncalled holding penalties as usual) I was underwhelmed by our defensive tackles and outside of some pressure from Biermann, Edwards and even some flashes from Sidbury I was not impressed by the defensive line from a pass rushing standpoint.

The secondary was our biggest problem area in my opinion, and that really hasn’t changed much since last year. I think it should be pretty clear to everyone that Dunta Robinson got vastly overpaid and really is not a #1 corner type of player. At times I wonder why he is even a starter. I thought he might just be best in a man coverage type scheme, but routinely he struggles whether in zone, man, press or off coverage. He opens his hips the wrong way, he doesn’t recover well once he’s made a mistake, he doesn’t close on the ball well, he lets running backs break contain when his only job is to force them inside to the pursuing defenders, and he misses tackles in the open field far too often. What exactly is the upside to playing him? I have to ask, because I don’t know. He’s better than the other corners we would start, which explains why Cutler was picking us apart (especially in the first half), but I think he is definitely upgradable and I don’t think he should be on our team in another two years. Thankfully, Brent Grimes makes up for some of his inadequacy with great plays on the ball, great instincts, better tackling, and amazing athleticism to recover, close and make plays on passes. He was one of the bright spots for the Falcons yesterday.

One problem I saw yesterday was not that the defense wasn’t getting any opportunities for turnovers, but rather that they weren’t capitalizing on them. I counted three dropped interceptions yesterday (Two by Thomas DeCoud and one by Sean Weatherspoon) and if DeCoud had brought in both interceptions it would have prevented a field goal and Matt Forte’s touchdown on a screen pass, which occurred just two plays after DeCoud dropped an interception if my memory serves. That is a serious problem, because if the pass rush rattles Cutler enough to make a mistake (which they did at times, even if it wasn’t as consistent as Chicago’s pressure) then the pass coverage needs to take advantage of it. Because they didn’t, 10 points went up on the board that could have been avoided, and instead of being down 30-12 late in the game it could have theoretically been a 20-12 game with only one possession necessary to tie the game. That is a huge difference, and it was one of the main reasons why the Falcons were unable to keep this game close.

One positive on the defensive side of the ball was the Falcons run defense. I thought it looked quite good for the majority of the game. I still think that the Falcons have issues tackling, as evidenced by Sean Weatherspoon when he attempted to shove Matt Forte when he was running down the sideline for an eventual touchdown instead of even attempting to wrap him up, but they were swarming to the ball, gang tackling at times, and they played fundamentally sound run defense for the majority of the game. That was great to see, because at least the front seven was doing its job and taking Matt Forte out of the game from a running perspective. Forte had a solid game running the ball accounting for 68 yards on 16 carries (4.3 yard average) with 27 yards coming on a single carry. Excluding that for curiosities sake, the Falcons only allowed him to run for 41 yards on his other 15 carries (an average of only 2.73 per carry) which is definitely good. The Falcons only gave up 88 yards on the ground (a 3.3 yard per carry average) and allowed no touchdowns on the ground which was good to see. However, Matt Forte shredded the defense catching passes out of the backfield with 5 catches, 90 yards and a touchdown. So while they slowed him down as a runner he showed his value as a pass catcher.

Long story short, the Falcons have a lot to work on. Their pass coverage was largely atrocious and there were plenty of big holes for receivers to take advantage of in zone coverage, and rarely were many Falcons in position in man coverage. The Falcons like to run zone, and that really proved to be problematic for Dunta Robinson and Chris Owens from what I was able to see. The pass coverage is going to have to come a long way, and an improvement in the pass rush will help that. But the pass rush isn’t going to be collapsing the pocket on every play, and I think it was better than it was last year even if it was less consistent than I would have liked in the first half. The secondary needs to hold up their end of the bargain, especially when it comes to capitalizing on turnovers. That didn’t happen, and it resulted in a pretty pathetic defensive display and an eventual loss.

Chicago Bears Offense:

The Bears offense looked like a juggernaut in the first half as Jay Cutler was carving up the Falcons secondary for significant chunks of yardage, he regularly had plenty of time to throw and this was all happening without much of a running game from Matt Forte and the offensive line. I thought Roy Williams looked great as he was making tough catches away from his body and providing Jay Cutler with a nice, big target that only needed the ball in his general area for the pass to be completed. A lot of people were skeptical about Williams and whether or not his addition would be significant, but I think he had a good game even if his stat line (4 catches for 55 yards and no touchdowns) wasn’t earth shattering. He did his job and each of the four times the ball was thrown to him he caught it. That’s all you can ask of a wide receiver.

I thought the Bears used Devin Hester more effectively yesterday. I don’t think you need to throw to him 5-10 times a game (they targeted him 5 times) but using him on bubble screens, a reverse and maybe a fade and post route would be how I would deploy him. He’s just so dangerous that if he can make a guy miss and get into the open field you never know what will happen, which is exactly what he did on a screen against the Falcons. He made a guy miss, got into the open field and just kept working back across the field, using his blockers and avoiding tacklers until he was pushed out at the one (though I personally thought he scored) which led to an easy 1 yard touchdown pass on play action from Cutler to Matt Spaeth in the back of the end zone. 53 of his 60 yards came on that one screen play, but that is what Hester brings to the table. He might get tackled four times for a total gain of seven yards, but he only needs one touch to change the landscape of the game.

Matt Forte continued to impress me which is nothing new. I’ve loved watching him play since he was at Tulane and I thought he was going to be a great back. I actually wanted the Falcons to draft him in the 2nd round instead of signing a free agent running back (like Michael Turner). That’s not to say that Michael Turner hasn’t been an effective back for the Falcons, but I thought Forte’s game would have been a great compliment to a quarterback like Ryan who is very smart and usually knows when to check down to his running back. I also thought his value was significant because even on a day when he was bottled up as a runner (save one 27 yard run) he was able to dramatically change the game as a pass catcher. Add it all up and he had 158 total yards rushing and receiving plus a touchdown, which is production you would take any day of the week from your running back. I really love watching him play and I think he is really the guy that makes this offense go.

Jay Cutler may have gotten a lot of grief for how he handled his injury in the conference championship game, but regardless of that he is still a quality NFL quarterback. Maybe he is lacking in toughness, and I am still personally bewildered by his footwork at times, but the guys arm is special. He has great arm strength, zip and there are times when he throws an off balance pass down the seam in perfect stride with his receiver and you just can’t help but marvel at how he made that throw. I personally think he could be one of the top 10 quarterbacks in the league without much debate if he improved his footwork and his mechanics from that standpoint, but even still he is very effective especially when he gets in a rhythm which the Falcons allowed him to do in the first half. He was very efficient as he completed 22 of his 32 pass attempts for 312 yards, 2 touchdowns and one interception that was returned for Atlanta’s only touchdown of the game. It was a bit of a fluke interception, but I still think it was on Cutler for throwing it instead of taking a sack, etc. I have always been a supporter of Cutler because he was the guy I thought would turn out the best of the trio of QB’s in his draft class. It’s hard to say he didn’t end up the best of the trio he was compared with considering the problems Vince Young and Matt Leinart have had in the NFL, but he could still be much better. But he didn’t have a very consistent rushing attack to take pressure off of him in this game and he was still efficient and effective which warrants mentioning in my opinion.

The Bears offensive line was better than I expected it to be, but considering the seemingly random assortment of parts that make up their offensive line that still isn’t saying a lot. It’s a definite testament to Mike Tice’s ability to coach up offensive linemen that the group played so well as a unit, only surrendering four sacks and 6 additional QB hits according to the stat sheet I’m looking at. In contrast, the Falcons offensive line allowed 5 sacks and 14 QB hits, plus 9 hurries and it is widely considered the better unit. They didn’t provide a lot of running room for Forte and Bell to run through, but I think that is something that might improve as the season progresses if the offensive line can stay healthy and mesh together as a unit. It will never be a good or a great unit in my opinion, but I think it can be solid.

Chicago Bears Defense:

The Bears defense continues to be the staple of their team. For years the defense has been responsible for dismantling powerful offenses to keep their lackluster offense in the game as long and often as possible. Now, with a potentially more dangerous passing attack and a running back who can threaten defenses just as well with the run as he can with the pass, the defense doesn’t have to win games by themselves. Their pass rush yesterday was as terrifying as ever, and Rod Marinelli continues to prove just how good of a defensive line guru he really is. The Bears cut Tommie Harris and brought in Amobi Okoye to replace him as he had not been effective for the Texans and no longer fit their scheme, and he provided some pressure along with Henry Melton at defensive tackle to collapse the pocket, and even ended up with a sack. Melton had an astronomical 5 tackles, 2 sacks and an almost unbelievable SEVEN hits on the quarterback. While they obviously played well from a statistical standpoint, I think part of the reason they were creating so much pressure was because Peppers was causing so many problems off the edge for Sam Baker and the Falcons offensive line. He forced Ryan to step up a number of times and a few times there just wasn’t any room to step up because the defensive tackles got such good penetration. The Bears defensive line was fantastic in this game, and that is a testament to their front office, their scheme, their personnel and definitely to Rod Marinelli.

The Bears run defense was more problematic than their pass defense was, but their team is built to stop the pass (especially deep passes) more than it is built to stop the run in my opinion. This was demonstrated by giving up 110 yards on only 14 carries to the Falcons. 53 of those yards came on one huge run by Michael Turner, but even still they gave up 57 yards on only 13 carries (an average of 4.38 per carry). So, their run defense could use some improvement, but they weren’t terrible in my opinion.

The real strength of the Bears defense was their pass defense. Their defensive line was nasty, but their secondary was also quite good. I think they look better than they actually are when you consider the personnel they are employing (I’m not a huge fan of Tim Jennings or Major Wright), but with that pass rush and some corners who can play man to man coverage (especially if they do it as well as Charles Tillman does) or zone coverage then they can be very effective. They caused a lot of problems for Matt Ryan because the pass rush applied pressure so quickly that the secondary was still covering the Falcons receivers effectively, meaning he had to either check down, take a sack or force a throw against good coverage. Being a pretty smart player, Ryan regularly elected to check down or take a sack. The Bears are very good at taking away big plays, but a big test for them will be seeing how well they do when they are forced to take away big plays from a team like the Packers. They have so many weapons in their passing game (Greg Jennings, Jermichael Finley, Donald Driver, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and James Jones, to name a few) that I think it will be hard to eliminate all of the big plays like the Bears did with the Falcons. The Falcons have Roddy White, Julio Jones, Tony Gonzalez and Harry Douglas, but unlike the Packers they don’t get vertical nearly as well as the Packers’ offensive weapons do. That was one reason the Bears were able to take away so many vertical plays: there just weren’t that many legitimate deep threats beyond Roddy and Julio.

Overall I was impressed with the Bears. A lot of people thought that they were going to finish in 3rd in their division and that there was no way they would see the playoffs having to go against the defending Superbowl Champion Packers twice a year plus deal with the up-and-coming Detroit Lions team in their same division. But they showed that while their offense is still a work in progress at times they can still play defense effectively. I don’t know exactly how their season will play out, especially since I don’t know if their pass rush will always be as consistently effective as it was against the Falcons yesterday, but I do think that they have a great shot at 8-9 wins which is more than a lot of people expected them to get based on what I read.

Sorry this post was so long, I had pages and pages of notes on this game. Hopefully you enjoyed the read, and thank you for reading! I’ll have my Missouri-Arizona State post up next.

–Tom

Defensive Notes:

Series 1:
-Good run D, Babs beat a one on one block.
-Good heads-up play by Abe to get an INT on a tipped pass.

Series 2:
-Empty backfield, zone coverage. This is why we had to go get Ray Edwards. No pass rush with the front 4 and Henne completes it to Bess underneath in Lofton’s zone.
-Great play by Biermann vs the run, knifed inside and tackled the back for a short gain.
-Got a little heat on Henne, but not much. On the opposite side the WR turned Dunta around and had a step on him. Could have given up a big play if Henne had thrown that way.

Series 3:
-Easy INT by Grimes. He bit on the play action but quickly recovered and made a nice play on the ball, easy INT. Great recovery by Grimes. Henne thought he had a free completion, nice play by Grimes.

Series 4:
-Franks flew off the corner to pressure Henne, could have had a sack but didn’t back down. Henne got hit and the ball was dropped.
-Sidbury showed some speed, forced Henne to step up but he had room to run and got the 1st down on 3rd and 8.
-Jerry stayed blocked way too long. Needs to something happen vs a 1 on 1 block or he needs to be replaced/upgraded.
-Sidbury showed more speed off the edge, but he can’t get around the OT on the outside. If he doesn’t step up this year then RE is a huge need for us.
-Chris Owens got absolutely burned. Dime back at most.

Series 5:
-Matt Moore wisely didn’t force the ball downfield.
-Peters working well vs 1 on 1 blocks, Sidbury showed a good motor. On the surface his good motor and edge speed make him intriguing, but he just can’t manage to get the edge or get off blocks. Moore threw a wobbly ball on the run.

Series 6:
-#36 looked BAAD in coverage. #39 misplayed the ball as well. Cliff Matthews got upfield and applied some pressure though. Good to see.
-Moore threw a good ball in the face of pressure here.
-#39 has whiffed on two hits in a row.
-Matthews with a good burst, impressive swim move. He might make the team if he keeps showing ability. Peters showed a good motor to chase down and tackle the RB in the flat.

Series 7:
-Owens showed some ability as a blitzer coming off the edge here.
-Chris Matthews has flashed some speed off the edge.
-Good tackle in flat by Franks. Seems to be a good tackler and blitzer which I like.
-Sidbury and Matthews are flying off the edge but keep getting knocked down as they try to get the corner. Sidbury needs to get stronger. Jerry and Sidbury both had a slot to drag down Moore but he got away.

Series 8:
-Matt Moore got leveled and threw a ball up, but Dent LEVELED Moore.

Series 9:
-Matthews has shown some speed and shoulder dip, just gets knocked down too much.

Series 10:
-Owens is a good tackling corner.
-Matt Moore looks ok. Solid arm strength and accuracy, some toughness. Good patience in pocket, good feel to step up. Deals with pressure well. Good anticipation.
-Edmond Gates has looked good. Great speed, good hands as well.
-Jerry just doesn’t shed blocks well. Doesn’t look disruptive.
-Robert James has looked good. I think he’ll make the 53 man roster.
-TD Edmond Gates. Nice catch, nice throw by Moore too.
-I like Darrin Walls, I think he’ll be the 5th CB. I’d keep him over Owens at this point.

Series 11:
-Jerry seemed to flash a nice move inside as he got a nice hit on Devlin.
-Matthews with a nice get off, good bull rush and shed, plus a good motor to sack Devlin. Nice play, I hope he finds  away to make the 53 man.

Series 12:
-Jerry beat his man and would have had a sack if he hadn’t drawn a BAD holding call. The OL had his arm around Jerry’s neck.
-Matthews has a good motor. Would have loved to see him at the East-West Shrine Game.

Thanks for reading! I’m going to preview some college games that everyone should watch, and I’ll be watching the Wisconsin-UNLV game and posting a write-up once it’s over and I have time to type everything up.

–Tom

More Transaction Updates:

Chad Ochocinco to Patriots- This is another saavy pick-up by the Patriots. Getting a quality player at a discounted price and they have the locker room to keep him in line, though he will always have his fun. It’s great to see Chad getting a chance to play for a contender, instead of the inconsistent Bengals. He definitely has upside, and with Chad, Deion Branch, Wes Welker, Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski Tom Brady should be a very happy camper. That offense may not look like an explosive offense (like it was with Randy Moss) but it’s an offense that can kill you in a 2 TE set or a 4 WR set, or even with 3 WR’s and 2 TE’s split out. I’m not sure you can say that about any other offense. Not to mention they have four or five running backs that could make most NFL team’s rosters. That offense is stacked.

Johnathan Joseph to Houston- This is a big pick-up for Houston. A year ago they let Dunta Robinson go and while he didn’t have a very good season in Atlanta it still left them searching for a quality corner. Now with Joseph and Kareem Jackson at corner they have a potentially impressive tandem of corners which is a huge change for a team that traditionally has a lot of issues in their secondary. Joseph is a very good corner in this league and if he can stay out of trouble (which has been a problem every once in a while, not consistently like other Bengals) he should be more than worth the money he got in my opinion.

Greg Olsen to Carolina- They gave up a quality pick for him, so Chicago got more value for him than the ‘Skins got for Haynesworth or the Bengals got for Chad Ochocinco, which is good. But the Bears traded away a quality weapon, though most people know that Mike Martz has never really heavily featured tight ends in his offense so the trade isn’t a huge surprise. I believe he was rumored to be available last year but nothing ever materialized. Carolina on the other hand picks up a quality TE who is the best TE they’ve had in a very long time, arguably since Wesley Walls.

Ray Edwards to Atlanta- This is a HUGE signing for the Falcons. I was concerned that he was going to get $8 or $9 million dollars a year, and we got him for 5 years, $30 million with $10 or $11 million guaranteed. Absolutely fantastic deal, not going to hurt us badly in the long run and he should be able to play up to that contract easily. Does a good job versus the run and also can threaten as a pass rusher with consistent 1 on 1 match-ups, and he will have that playing opposite Abraham with Babs and Peters in the middle. Hopefully Peria Jerry, Biermann and Sidbury will all step up, and if they do then we could have a very talented defensive line. This was the final piece of the puzzle for at least this year, so I am very excited to see how this talent laden DL performs.

Tyson Clabo back to the Falcons- Clabo signed for only 5 years and $25 million, a bargain for a pro-bowl caliber RT and another nice signing by the Falcons. I was skeptical of our offseason, but if we get Blalock at a reasonable price along with Clabo, Edwards and hopefully an extension for Grimes and possibly resigning Jason Snelling then this would be a terrific offseason.

Falcons release Jamaal Anderson, Michael Jenkins- We should have released Jamaal Anderson two years ago, but it’s official that he is gone now. As bad as he was for Atlanta he could be a solid player for a 3-4 defense at DE. He was most effective at DT for us when we moved him inside, but he will never be much of a pass rusher in a 4-3. Jenkins, on the other hand, was a solid #2 for us and I was hoping we’d keep him for one more year to keep some pressure off of Julio Jones. Now if Julio doesn’t step up and ball right away we don’t have anyone to put in to let him get his bearings, he just has to fight through it. Let’s hope Julio steps up, but I’m worried about asking too much of him too early.

Roy Williams agrees to go to Chicago- This would be a nice pick-up for the Bears who need a quality WR for Cutler to throw to and he has upside that he didn’t demonstrate much in Dallas. Leave it to Mike Martz to maximize that, so expect a more effective Roy Williams in Chicago.

Plenty of people would be happy to see Ray Edwards in Atlanta. He may not end up a Falcon, but I don't think he will be back with the Vikings.

As a diehard fan of the Falcons I naturally follow all of their player movements and keep a close eye on their depth chart, so I know the team pretty well. It is my opinion that Biermann can be upgraded (he is pretty good, but we could do better at LE) and there are free agents available at the position. Most Falcon Fans I have encountered want us to sign Charles Johnson, Ray Edwards or possibly Mathias Kiwanuka. Maybe even trade for Osi Umenyiora. But while I think all of them would be potential upgrades over Biermann (who I think would be ideal in a rotational role, not as the starter where he would be solid/pretty good) I think one player specifically offers a great combination of upside, the possibility of signing a reasonable contract, and meshing with our team as well or better than any of the players I mentioned above.

That player is Jason Babin, a DE who played on the Titans last year.

He had 12.5 sacks according to NFL.com (14 according to Pro Football Focus, who I trust in their evaluation of pro film) and it was easily his best statistical season. It would be easy to say that it is a fluke, but I personally don’t think it is, especially after reading this interview:

Jason Babin Interview

Babin has upside even at 31 years old, and despite his success last year I don't think he will demand an excessive payday like other defensive ends might.

This interview explains why he was so unproductive for so long. Like many players he was played out of position, at outside linebacker instead of defensive end (the position he starred at in college which led to him being a 1st round draft pick) for much of his career. This year, his 6th healthy season in the NFL I believe, was the first year he was able to play his natural position of 4-3 defensive end. Not coincidentally, according to him, he had his best season of his career easily and had sacks in 12 of his 17 games according to NFL.com (a couple games with only half sacks, but according to PFF he was one of the most effective DE’s at sacking the quarterback and at consistently hurrying the quarterback, plus getting quarterback hits).

Not only that, but his personality reminds me a bit of Jared Allen. He is something of a mountain man as he lives in Alaska and according to this interview he may have even killed a bear during the lockout. He is an extremely hard worker, he is very strong, and he isn’t as worn down as you might think he would be at 31 years old because he just hasn’t gotten a lot of snaps and opportunities in his career. Not only that, but he specifically states in the interview that he is best in defenses that rely on attacking upfield, which is exactly what we ask our defensive linemen to do here.

I think Babin is an ideal fit for what we do from a scheme perspective, from our need for another quality pass rusher opposite Abraham (imagine Abe with Babin opposite him, two potential 10+ sack guys, with Biermann and Sidbury rotating in to keep them fresh) and he would mesh with our team well as long as we played him at 4-3 DE (and who the heck wouldn’t after the season he had last year).

I hope the Falcons go after him, and if we do he would be a very good pick-up for us in my opinion. He’s not a long term solution at 31, but he is a significant upgrade for the short term for the next three years in my estimation. I don’t know that we will go after him, in fact it’s more likely that we won’t sign him than anything else, but I would love to see him in Atlanta. It’s also possible that he will have want an excessive amount of money, as some players do. But something about his personality and his overall attitude makes me think he’d just like to get a nice contract where he could play on a contender and play at his natural position, 4-3 DE.

Here’s hoping the Falcons pursue him, I’d love to see him in Red and Black.

Thanks for reading!

–Tom

New Mock Draft: 12.22.10

1st Round NFL Mock Draft:

1st– Carolina- Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford- The Panthers have a lot of holes and a lot of work to do on turning their team around, but I don’t think they have seen anything out of Jimmy Clausen that would make them say “Yes, this guy is definitely our franchise quarterback.” If that is the case then there is no way they can pass on Luck here if they think he is a potential franchise QB. We’ve seen the turnaround that a good, young QB can help a team accomplish if they come to the right situation with the Falcons, Ravens, Jets and now the Rams and to a lesser degree the Browns. The Panthers have a lot of needs, but solidifying the QB play can improve the whole offense. Luck is a very good QB prospect, and unless the Panthers are seeing something in Clausen that I’m not then they should take Luck #1 overall.

2nd– Cincinnati- A.J. Green, WR, Georgia- Cincinnati has a few needs as well, which makes sense or they probably wouldn’t be picking in the top five selections. I think Carson Palmer needs to be replaced in the next two years, if not sooner, their offensive line could use upgrades, they could use another quality wide receiver to play opposite Ochocinco and eventually replace him, and they could use pass rush help at DE and some serious safety help. It goes without saying that Cincinnati can’t really afford to miss with this pick, and I think that is why A.J. Green has to be the selection. He is the consensus #1 WR in the NFL Draft if he decides to come out according to just about everyone, and he would give the Bengals a very impressive cast of receivers with Ochocinco, Green and Shipley in the slot.

3rd– Dallas (F/ DEN)- Patrick Peterson, CB/S, LSU- Is this trade down especially likely to happen? No. Do I think it will happen if this is how the draft plays out? Maybe, but it probably isn’t especially likely. But I have to do something to keep things interesting right? Now, Denver will probably be looking at a front seven pick here, and they could pick Marcell Dareus here, but to be honest that feels a little high for him in my opinion. So, will anyone actually trade up here? I’m not sure, but if anyone was going to do it I think it would be the Cowboys. The Cowboys have a lot of talent and hopefully they bring Jason Garrett back because they have looked better with him at the helm. However, safety is a huge need for the Cowboys and I think that if they fall in love with Patrick Peterson they will go and get him if they need to. Peterson is an absolute playmaker, and he could be one of the most dynamic safeties in the league if he adjusts well to the position. His combination of size, speed and ball skills is something you rarely see out of a safety even in the NFL, so if they think he can be a game-changer for them that can dramatically help their secondary I would expect the Cowboys to make the move and go get him.

4th– Arizona- Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska- The Cardinals could arguably use a QB here, but I don’t think I would feel comfortable spending a top five pick on Jake Locker or Ryan Mallett. So if the Cardinals aren’t going with a quarterback until round 2 (most likely) then they have to look to fill another need. Cornerback could be that position. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is a good corner, but they don’t have much opposite him. They might have bigger needs than #2 corner, but there aren’t many better players available here than Prince Amukamara, so Arizona could end up getting the best player they can here.

5th– Buffalo- Robert Quinn, DE/OLB, North Carolina- Everyone thought the Bills were a lock to take a QB, but Fitzpatrick has played well enough to make them reconsider, so I don’t think they will go after a QB unless Andrew Luck somehow falls to them (which I don’t think is likely). Is Fitzpatrick the long term answer? Probably not, but if they aren’t sold on Locker or Mallett in the top five it makes sense to stick with Fitzpatrick and look to shore up other areas. Normally I think the Bills would grab a quality LT here, but since no such player is worth this high of a selection (when was the last time there wasn’t an offensive tackle worth this pick??)  I think the Bills could go after a pass rusher to help boost their pass rush. The Bills have used both 3-4 and 4-3 formations on defense this year, so I can’t say I know what formation they will stick with in the future. However, I think Quinn has the athleticism to potentially play in a 3-4 at OLB and I know he has the athletic ability to harass quarterbacks at RE in a 4-3. This is another big high risk/high reward pick for the Bills but it could pan out for them with a burst to their pass rush.

6th– Detroit- Da’Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson- I think this would probably be a worst-case scenario for the Lions, but even if Peterson and Amukamara are gone the Lions will have options. One of the most appealing would have to be adding a pass rusher with as much potential as Bowers. Bowers might not fly off the edge like you might think he would considering his amazing 15+ sack season, but he has an intriguing combination of size, speed and strength and projects well to the LE position in the NFL. Adding another potential stud pass rusher to that defensive line could help their secondary out, and in a very deep cornerback class the Lions will have an opportunity to select a corner with their 2nd round pick.

7th– Denver (F/ Dallas)- Marcell Dareus, DE/DT, Alabama- Denver traded down to try to pick up some draft picks to fill some more needs and still gets their guy! This would probably have to be a best-case scenario for the Broncos as they could really use some help on the defensive line and Dareus is probably the best 3-4 DE prospect in this draft class.

8th– Cleveland- Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State- Colt McCoy has shocked me with his play so far and he has impressed me thus far in his career. I did not think he was capable of this, but like I did with Sam Bradford I really underestimated his intangibles. And like I always say, I am man enough to admit when I’m wrong! I am going to re-watch the Bengals-Browns game and watch McCoy specifically, I will post my thoughts on him. However, I think it’s safe to say Cleveland has found a quarterback worth developing, so they need to work on getting him some weapons. That starts with a stud wide receiver, and outside of A.J. Green there isn’t a receiver I like more than Justin Blackmon. Blackmon has had an absolutely unreal season as he has had over 100 yards and at least one touchdown in EVERY SINGLE GAME this season. That kind of consistent performance is exactly what Cleveland needs out of a wide receiver, which is why I think they may pick him even over the bigger, potentially faster wide receiver in Julio Jones who has a potentially higher ceiling. Another reason they might not pick Jones? His lapses in concentration that lead to drops may remind them too much of Braylon Edwards.

9th– Houston- Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn- Houston has such a dominant pass rusher in Mario Williams but they have had so much trouble finding help for him along the defensive line so that teams can’t just double him, take him away and then buy time for their quarterback to throw. Nick Fairley has been one of the most dominant defensive players in the country this year and the first time I watched him play he reminded me of Kevin Williams the way he was coming off the ball, splitting double teams and making plays in the backfield. Adding Fairley could give the Texans a pass rusher who can collapse the pocket and help force quarterbacks to scramble, which could mean more sacks for Mario Williams.

10th– Minnesota- Jake Locker, QB, Washington- I struggled a bit with this pick because I really think the Vikings need to think about trading down at this spot because they have so many holes on their team. They need a quarterback, a left tackle, a center, a right guard, a defensive tackle, potentially a left end if they let Ray Edwards walk (and I really think they should, especially if he wants a big pay day), a cornerback and of course safety help. That’s a pretty long list of needs, and the more picks they have in the first two or three rounds to help fill those holes the better off they will be now that they will probably have to start rebuilding. Remember, they don’t have a 3rd round pick this year because they traded it to the Patriots for Randy Moss. But if they can’t or don’t trade down and Patrick Peterson isn’t available you have to imagine they will pick a quarterback. I don’t know which they will ultimately prefer between Locker and Mallett here at #10, but I think that with a couple years of development Locker will be the better NFL QB of the two, so I mocked him to the Vikings here. Locker is not ready to start as a rookie like so many people thought he might be after his great season as a junior, but in reality he needs significant work before he will be ready to start. The Vikings have very little talent at quarterback with only Joe Webb likely to be back next season. First and foremost they need to bring in a veteran quarterback who will be able to keep some pressure off of Locker, or whoever they draft, so he isn’t rushed in too early. Donovan McNabb, if or when he is released from the Redskins, would be ideal.

11th– Washington- Julio Jones, WR, Alabama- The Redskins, regardless of who is playing quarterback, could really use some firepower at wide receiver. They need help at the skill positions, namely running back and wide receiver, and Julio Jones has a higher ceiling than just about any receiver in this draft class because of his great combination of size, strength, speed and his ability to make unbelievable catches. He has such great hands, but he will still drop more routine passes sometimes that will frustrate you as a scout and as a fan. If he can improve his concentration and become more consistent he could be one of the best receivers to come out of this draft class (if not the best).

12th– San Francisco- Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas- It is pretty apparent that San Francisco needs help at quarterback after the Alex Smith experiment, at long last, has proven to be a complete failure. Troy Smith showed some ability, but it wasn’t consistent enough to make QB enough of an afterthought to pass on one here if there is a good one available. I am not a huge Mallett fan, and I personally think that his ceiling may be what Cutler is dealing with now. I don’t know how consistent Mallett’s footwork will ever be, and that contributes to his inconsistent accuracy and ball placement. When he gets in the zone, just like Cutler, Mallett can make any throw and put the ball wherever he wants it. But like with any QB, that ability comes and goes, and when they aren’t on their footwork causes erratic passes because they can get away with throwing off of their back foot, plus both of them have questionable decision-making. I was really high on Cutler when he came out of Vanderbilt, and I still like him as a QB, but I don’t think Mallett will ever be as effective as Cutler has been this season for the Bears. Maybe I’ll be wrong, but that is just my opinion. However, if the 49ers feel differently then he makes a lot of sense for them because they could use a strong armed QB who can make any throw to deliver the ball downfield to Crabtree and Vernon Davis as well as any other passing weapons they develop. I’m not sold on Mallett’s leadership capability either, but it would be nice if the 49ers could get a leader at QB who could lead the offense like Patrick Willis leads the defense.

13th– Seattle- Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State- Seattle needs help all over their defensive line, but outside of Red Bryant they don’t have a lot of talent at defensive tackle. There isn’t really a DE that I believe is worth this pick (I am not high on Adrian Clayborn after the way he played this year…) so if I was the Seahawks I would look at grabbing one of the quality DT’s still on the board. Paea might be the best one available, so he could very well be the pick. Paea is incredibly strong in the weight room but unlike some players his weight room strength seems to translate to the field, plus he is very quick off the ball and is very disruptive in the backfield. Playing next to Red Bryant (if he’s healthy next year, hopefully he will be) would mean a lot of one on one matchups for Paea which could mean some early impact from him. That would be huge for the Seahawks who really need a boost to their pass rush however they can get it.

14th– Tennessee- Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA- Tennessee needs OLB help, and they probably have needed it for a while, so they should be looking at that need first and foremost. It looks like they need a QB of the future since Vince Young has not been playing in favor of Kerry Collins, but there is no QB worth this high of a selection in my opinion unless they wanted to take Cameron Newton. However, if I was the Titans he would remind me way too much of Young to take a risk on him here. Ayers is a much safer pick that is good versus the run, versus the pass and can even rush the passer.

15th– Miami- Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama- You might think to yourself: Ingram? Really? The Dolphins have Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams! Well, both of them are getting a little older. Brown is getting close to that 30 year old mark where RB’s tend to start to decline, plus he has been dealing with injuries. It’s tough to pinpoint how much longer Ricky has left because of his time away from the game, but like Favre is beginning to find out you can’t play forever. Ingram is the best running back in the country and he should be able to contribute immediately to take some of the load off of Brown and Williams. Plus if one or both of them gets hurt Ingram would be comfortable carrying the load until they are healthy. Chad Henne has been inconsistent like I expected him to be in the NFL, so he hasn’t inspired a lot of confidence at Miami. I think it’s a little too early to pull the plug on him though.

16th– New England (F/ OAK)- Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M- The Patriots could use some pass rush help at OLB and that is one thing Von Miller does as well as about anyone in the country. Miller started slow this season but he has picked it up since then and has put together a quality senior season after he exploded onto the scene his junior year. He projects very well to the 3-4 OLB position and I think he would fit into the Patriots defensive scheme very nicely.

17th– Tampa Bay- Rahim Moore, S, UCLA- This might seem like a strange pick, especially with Adrian Clayborn still on the board, but like I said I’m not that high on him. However, I do like Rahim Moore and the Bucs need serious help at safety. I think they could use an upgrade at corner, but safety might even be more pressing than that. They have been rotating anyone in at safety this year trying to find someone who can play well, but no one has stepped up it appears. Moore is the essence of a center fielder and he has good ball skills which makes him a very nice fit for the Bucs defensive scheme.

18th– Jacksonville- Cameron Newton, QB, Auburn- This might seem like a strange pick here, but I think it makes some sense. David Garrard is about to turn 33 in February so he might have another year or two left playing at a high level, so a developmental QB would be a nice thing to have. Enter Cameron Newton, the ultimate developmental QB. Garrard could be a good mentor for Newton because Newton will probably play with a similar style to Garrard in the NFL if he ever develops his fundamentals like Garrard has. But with Garrard still playing well he would keep the pressure off of Newton while he developed as a QB and more importantly if they worked him into the game on some Wildcat formations he could help sell tickets, which is one of the reasons this pick makes the most sense. The Jags didn’t get Tebow last year to get people to buy tickets but Newton should have a similar impact. He really needs some development and coaching, but the amount of attention he would bring to the Jaguars would be worth the development and patience they will have to have with him.

19th– Green Bay- Janoris Jenkins, CB, Florida- The Packers could go a couple of different directions here.  The Packers could use a future LT (I think Bulaga should stick at RT), a RB, a DE (depending on Johnny Jolly), an OLB to play opposite of Clay Matthews and some help at corner. Al Harris is no longer with the Packers but Tramon Williams has stepped up into the starting role before and he has played well in his stead opposite Charles Woodson. The only problem is they don’t have much depth behind Woodson and Williams and Woodson himself is getting up in age and won’t be able to play as well as he had the past few years for a lot longer. That makes me think that corner should be addressed in one of the first two rounds, if not in the first round. Jenkins would do a couple things for the Packers as their draft pick. First, he would bring a physical presence because of the way he supports the run which is what the Packers like in their corners. Second, he would bring some impressive ball skills which the Packers LOVE in their defensive backs. Third, he would keep the streak alive of the Packers having at least one corner with dreads starting in their secondary alive for a long time. Yeah, I went there.

20th– San Diego- Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State- This might seem surprising but I think it makes a lot of sense. Cameron Heyward is an absolute beast in the trenches and I think he is the #2 3-4 DE prospect in this draft class for that reason. The Chargers could really use a 3-4 DE, so Heyward makes perfect sense for them at #20. He would help solidify a defensive line that used to be a strength for them, and while they do need an OLB to replace Merriman because Larry English has disappointed at OLB (I thought he was more of a 4-3 DE to be honest) I think they might be able to get one of those in the second or third round if they like a prospect there. Heyward could potentially contribute right away and fill a big need, so I think he has to be the pick here.

21st– St. Louis- Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa- I don’t know if this pick makes perfect sense because Clayborn projects better to LE which is where Chris Long plays currently, but he played RE at Iowa so maybe the Rams will get creative with him at RE to help their run defense and then move him inside on passing downs. Regardless, he’s a pretty good value here even if he has had a down season this year in my opinion. The Rams already have a pretty good defensive line but if Clayborn plays up to his potential then he could really turn this unit into a dominant force.

22nd– Kansas City- Justin Houston, OLB, Georgia- There are questions about how Houston will look at OLB in the NFL because he doesn’t drop that well into coverage, but at #22 he has to get serious consideration from the Chiefs because of his ability to rush the passer, even if he isn’t very natural at dropping back into coverage. The Chiefs have the start to a pretty good defense with a couple solid DE’s in Dorsey and Jackson, Derrick Johnson playing well in the middle and Eric Berry continuing to be impressive in the secondary. Grabbing a pass rusher seems like a logical next step, and there aren’t a lot of better pass rushers available than Houston at this point.

23rd– Indianapolis- Drake Nevis, DT, LSU- The Colts definitely need help up the middle of their defense and I am really high on Nevis. He is extremely disruptive up the middle for LSU, he gets off the ball quickly, splits double teams well, can bull rush his man to collapse the pocket and should really help solidify the Colts interior of the defensive line when he is ready to contribute.

24th– New York Giants- Dont’a Hightower, ILB, Alabama- The Giants could use a stud ILB and even though I wonder how good Hightower is in coverage I think he could be a good fit for the Giants. The Giants more than anything preach getting after the passer and Hightower is a very good ILB prospect but on some passing downs he lines up at DE when Alabama has four down lineman to rush the passer. If he can do that in the NFL, which I imagine with some development he could, he could give the Giants a quality ILB who could drop down and rush the passer with his hand down if they wanted him to. That seems like something the Giants would probably be interested in.

25th– New Orleans- Bruce Carter, OLB, North Carolina- I thought Carter would go earlier than this because he would test well and look good in drills but because of his surgery that is all up in the air so the last 1st is probably where he will end up going if/when he recovers from his surgery. The Saints probably shouldn’t complain though, especially since they have had good luck with linebackers coming off of injury (Jonathan Vilma). Carter would give the Saints a very athletic OLB as well as a potential special teams ace because of how well he pressures punts.

26th– New York Jets- Ryan Kerrigan, DE/OLB, Purdue- The Jets could use a DE here and an OLB because Jason Taylor is getting old, but there is no such 3-4 DE available that I think is worth this pick, and there isn’t a NT worth this pick either (Jerrell Powe is an option but I don’t think he is worth a late 1st). So OLB figures to be the pick and Kerrigan doesn’t project perfectly to the 3-4 in my opinion but some people think he would be fine at the position apparently. I will have to wait to see it before I believe it, but he definitely has the quickness off the ball to get after the passer from the OLB position in a 3-4. And more than anything that is what the Jets need from their OLB’s in that defense.

27th– Chicago- Derrick Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State- Sherrod might not be the ideal LT that Bears fans want, but I think he is the best offensive lineman in this class and more than anything the Bears just need talented offensive linemen so they can start to rebuild one of the worst units in the NFL. Sherrod could play LT or RT so depending on whether or not Chris Williams can offer anything at either spot Sherrod could slide into either spot and provide some reliability as a run blocker and as a pass blocker. He might struggle with some of the elite speed rushers at LT, but Frank Omiyale struggles with any above-average pass rusher there already regardless of speed, so Sherrod would at worst be a step in the right direction.

28th– Baltimore- Brandon Harris, CB, Miami- The Ravens need help at CB very badly because what talent they have there will hit the free agent market this offseason with the exception of Dominique Foxworth who has been out with an injury this season. The Ravens, as much as any team in the NFL, seem to hit it big when they pull talent from Miami’s talent pool (Ray Lewis and Ed Reed being prime examples. I’m sure there are more) so if they like Harris’ game and see him available late in round one at a position of serious need then I think they could go back to that same well once again.

29th– Pittsburgh- Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin- The Steelers really need an upgrade at RT and Carimi should fit in perfectly to the Steelers scheme that relies on push in the run game. Carimi could probably be a solid LT in the NFL, which gives him added value as a potential back-up at that position in my opinion, but I think he will at worst have a long, solid career at RT. If he can get coached up a bit he could very well have pro-bowl potential.

30th– Philadelphia- Aaron Williams, CB, Texas- The Eagles have a good corner in Asante Samuel but opposite him they have a lot of question marks. Ellis Hobbs was injured for the season again and his career may be over because of it, and no one has played well at all in replacing him. His replacement, Peterson, got absolutely owned this past weekend by the Giants. He gave up the first three of Manning’s passing touchdowns if I’m not mistaken. That’s a pretty bad game. So, the Eagles could use help opposite Samuels. Williams is a playmaker at corner which the Eagles obviously like and while he hasn’t quite had the season some expected him to have it’s safe to say no one on Texas did.  He still has a lot of ability and athletic potential, plus with the Eagles pass rush and ability to apply pressure he could be in position for a lot of turnovers.

31st– Atlanta- J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin- The Falcons don’t have a lot of serious needs but one thing they do need to improve is their pass rush. John Abraham won’t be able to play at this level for much longer, and his back-up Lawrence Sidbury has contributed next to nothing this season, and hasn’t even been active for the majority of the games. That’s not exactly a vote of confidence, and as much as I’d like Sidbury to be the future stud pass rusher the Falcons need at RE it’s just not a sensible conclusion to come to at this point. Kroy Biermann has played better than I ever expected him to when he was drafted in the 5th round, but I am not sure he is the answer at LE for us in the long term. I love watching J.J. Watt play and I think his passion for the game and his non-stop motor makes him a perfect fit on the Falcons. He might not be a 10+ sack guy at LE, but I think he will be good versus the run and get 6+ sacks for us.

32nd– New England- Cameron Jordan, DE, California- The Patriots are the masters of getting great bang for their buck and they did it again last year when they got Devin McCourty late in round one and he has been one of the best rookie corners in this draft class thus far. Jordan is a quality DE and I think he projects pretty well to the 3-4. I honestly expected him to come off the board earlier than this, but somehow he fell and the Patriots, as they probably will be on draft day no matter how it turns out, will benefit from it.

Hopefully you enjoyed my new mock draft! Please leave comments! Thanks for reading!

–Tom