Happy Tuesday to all MHR community members. I've been absent for a few weeks, mostly due to craziness in my day job, but at least partially due to a lack of awe-inspiring topics to write about. This is the worst part of the football year, where nothing is going on.
Today, we'll talk about the other teams the Broncos play this season, including AFC second-place teams and the AFC West, and time permitting, I kind of feel like beating up on some MSM writing. We shall see how far I am able to get, and for now, I am going to get right to it. Ready.... BEGIN!!!
1. As promised, let's continue the around-the-league offseason evaluations...
a. Indianapolis Colts (2008 Record 12-4, Lost in Wild Card Round of Playoffs)
Smart Personnel Moves - I really liked the selection of Donald Brown, the RB from UConn. Joseph Addai is a nice player when you keep his carries down, but Brown is a workhorse kind of back. I expect that he will ultimately get 2/3 of the carries for the Colts, with Addai getting the other 1/3. Running the ball effectively is crucial for the Colts, because when the defense has to play the run, Peyton Manning just shreds secondaries. He is very good against dedicated pass coverage, but he is great against 8 in the box. I also liked the pick of Austin Collie, a WR from BYU. He has a really good feel for the passing game, and can be a good slot player in the NFL.
Questionable Personnel Moves - I get that the Colts have a minimalist strategy in free agency, but I think that they are going to regret not doing more to replace Marvin Harrison. Reggie Wayne has really been the #1 guy the past few years, but Anthony Gonzalez is below average for a #2, and should be playing in the slot. If any team should have signed Terrell Owens, it's the Colts. Peyton Manning is one QB he couldn't ever throw under the bus, and the Colts have the kind of program he would have a hard time poisoning.
ST&NO Outlook - I have some reason to think that the Colts are going to decline a little bit this season. There has been a lot of turnover on the coaching staff, and I don't see how you could have a lot of faith in Jim Caldwell, given his underwhelming tenure as a head coach at Wake Forest. I also think #2 WR and the right side of the O-Line are going to be weaknesses, and that the defense will continue to be vulnerable to the run. Despite this, the Colts will be in the playoff mix, as usual. They'll be good, but not elite.
b. New England Patriots (2008 Record 11-5, Missed Playoffs)
Smart Personnel Decisions - I really liked their first three second-round picks, Patrick Chung, Ron Brace, and Darius Butler. Chung and Butler have a chance to start as rookies, and Brace should play a lot in the D-Line rotation. I also loved the Fred Taylor signing. I expect him to lead the team in carries this season, and play well. He still has some good football in him. Joey Galloway was also worth a look, and according to PFW, he has looked good so far. It was a pretty nice offseason for the Pats, if you overlook their obviously huge errors in valuing cheaper second-round picks over more expensive first-rounders.
Questionable Personnel Decisions - It's a somewhat small complaint, but they could have done more to improve their highly overrated and underwhelming offensive line. You may not remember it amid the 41-7 shellacking the Broncos took from the Pats last season, but the Broncos sacked Matt Cassell 6 times in the game, by far their best performance of the season.
ST&NO Outlook - I've been saying since Tom Brady got hurt that it's no sure thing that he comes back as good as new. I definitely stand by that, and I could care less what they say about it in Foxboro. Carson Palmer looked great in practice once too, but he has never been the same player since his catastrophic knee injury, and Brady's was comparable. Assuming Brady is healthy, and can play at 90% of his old level (or better), the Patriots are a championship contender once again. If not, they could be a .500 team, because they really got lucky that Matt Cassel played so well last season.
c. San Diego Chargers - (2008 Record 8-8, Lost in Divisional Playoffs)
Smart Personnel Decisions - I somewhat liked the Larry English pick in the first round of the draft. He is another pass rusher, and you can never have too many of them. Picking Dominique Byrd in the 7th round has some potential upside too.
Questionable Personnel Decisions - A lot of their draft picks are really obscure, and they seemed to like them better than most other teams. The right side of the Chargers offensive line isn't very good, and they could have stood to improve quite a bit there. Also, their average IQ is pretty low, according to the screenshot below from the super-reliable ESPN.com. Really, 83 is shockingly low, when you think about it.
ST&NO Outlook - The Chargers are the favorite to win the AFC West, but they won't necessarily get it done. I can't put my finger on what it exactly is, but they have a real underachiever streak. Their talent is also downgraded a bit from last season, and for the second year in a row, they didn't do a lot to improve in the draft. The Chargers will be formidable, but they are flawed, and can be beaten.
d. Kansas City Chiefs - (2008 Record 2-14, Missed Playoffs)
Smart Personnel Decisions - I like Tyson Jackson a lot as a player, and I am not one of these guys who worries too much about draft slot. The Chiefs got a very good player for their defensive line, and that's a smart decision. I also liked the choices of Donald Washington and Ryan Succop, and the acquisition by trade of Mike Vrabel.
Questionable Personnel Decisions - I'm not too big on the Matt Cassel trade. Josh McDaniels obviously thought highly of him, but I just wonder if he can be as effective without all the playmakers around him. I am not saying it was a bad move, but it's no slam dunk as a good one either. I also think Larry Johnson should have been traded, and Tony Gonzalez shouldn't have been.
ST&NO Outlook - If Glenn Dorsey and Tyson Jackson play well on the defensive line, and Tamba Hali can get some pressure this year, the Chiefs have a 7-win ceiling. I expect their defense will still be terrible, though, and that they'll win 4 or 5 games instead.
e. Oakland Raiders - (2008 Record 5-11, Missed Playoffs)
Smart Personnel Decisions - This is the most difficult task of any team review, because even when the Raiders do something semi-smart (like sign a solid backup QB, as a hedge against a JaMarcus Russell regression or stagnation), it's always kind of dumb if you look at it a different way (Jeff Garcia is a well-known me-first guy, who isn't too interested in actually being a backup). I will give them credit for drafting Matt Shaugnessy, who I like as a player, and not just because he went to my alma mater, Norwich Free Academy of Norwich, CT. I think Shaughnessy fits the Raiders' 4-3 scheme very well, and that he will overperform his draft slot.
Questionable Personnel Decisions - The Raiders will regret taking Darrius Heyward-Bey seventh overall. I said before I am not such a draft slot guy, but when you pass up Michael Crabtree (or Percy Harvin, or Jeremy Maclin) for a guy, he'd better be a star - and DHB isn't going to be one. Also, counting on Khalif Barnes at LT is a mistake. He's a below-average starter there, even if he is a marginal upgrade over Kwame Harris.
ST&NO Outlook - The Raiders have some talent, especially at RB, LB, and LCB. If they commit to pounding the ball in the running game, and they get their defense patched up a bit, and playing sounder, this can actually be an 8-8 team. I think Garcia ends up starting by mid-season, which would be disastrous for the Raiders, (hence the reason I think it will happen). In short, I would hate to be a Raiders fan, and have to secretly hope for Al Davis's death and/or retirement.
2. Did you see this nonsense foxsports.com did around the 10 best "franchise players" under 30? Len Pasquarelli made it worse here with the continued omission of Ryan Clady, and the inclusion of Jordan Gross instead. Gross is good, but he isn't one of the 5 best LTs in the game (Clady, Thomas, Roos, W. Jones, Peters), let alone the best. All of those 5 are under 30, except for Walter Jones, too. I am not a Len Pasquarelli fan, so I don't expect any better, but come on!!! You don't have to be a stats producer to be a franchise player.
3. I think that Ed Thompson is kind of stupid, from what I have read of his 7 Points column. NYC originally made this point, but it bears repeating how asinine it is to say that the Broncos are paying Dre' Bly anything this season, since they're not. Many people don't know this, but in the NFL, unlike all the other major sports, there are no guaranteed annual contracts. The Broncos paid Dre' some bonus money in the past, but they'll pay him nothing this season. The dead money is merely an acceleration of the prorated bonus, so anything Dre' does this year is not "literally at Denver's expense." Next time you see this sort of (il)logical construct, you'll be able to spot it for what it is right away. This is not at all like the Tigers paying Gary Sheffield to play well for the Mets.
4. Here's an asinine comment from John Clayton. It seems that the Texans were lucky that their owner Bob McNair was afraid Reggie Bush received extra benefits at USC, and that stroke of luck led them to draft Mario Williams, because, nobody knew he'd be this good, right?
I mean, hell, he might have been declared ineligible by the NCAA to play in the NFL, right? What Clayton means is, he and his brethren all had that one wrong, and Charley Casserly and Gary Kubiak got it right. They all eviscerated the pick at the time, and said it was just Houston being cheap. Right....because paying $30 million in guarantees for a part-time scat-back, who is banged-up a lot, is brilliant. Even after one season, Houston was getting ripped, as if the jury was in.
The Texans drafted the player they thought was the best, and the one who filled their biggest need. It turns out, Williams seems to have actually been the best player, and it's important to remember, it was more good evaluation than good luck.
Have a great week, and I think this Tuesday debut will be the start of a total shift to Tuesday mornings for ST&NO, since I was planning to make that move anyway once the season starts. As always, thanks for reading, and for your contributions in the comments.