November 15, 2010
On Sundays, I watch a day of football and make observations. On Mondays, I come here and empty the notebook.
• The looming presence of Champ Bailey(notes) scared some gamers away from Dwayne Bowe(notes) on Sunday, but at the end of the day Bowe had some monster numbers (13 catches, 186 yards, two scores). Okay, a lot of that came in garbage time against a soft umbrella – you could argue all of the numbers came in garbage time – but the point here is that shutdown corners tend to be overrated. Every team plays zone at least part of the day, and dedicated 1-on-1 matchups (wideout vs. corner) rarely happen for a full 60 minutes. The Jets will sometimes dedicate Darrelle Revis(notes) on a specific opponent for the day – and that's a case where you want to consider it for your ranks – but otherwise, don't sweat the shutdown corner idea. It's more myth than reality.
• I've spent most of the season raving over St. Louis rookie quarterback Sam Bradford(notes), but Colt McCoy's(notes) play in Cleveland has been just as impressive. McCoy has a 85.2 rating and a 7.4 YPA through four starts, and it's come against a murderous schedule (at Pittsburgh, at New Orleans, New England, New York Jets). Somehow McCoy opened his career against Dick LeBeau, Gregg Williams, Bill Belichick and Rex Ryan and came out smelling like a rose, winning two of those games and narrowly missing against the Jets.
It's a shame McCoy isn't a few inches taller – he's just 6-1 – and he doesn't have a plus arm, but maybe that doesn't matter. He processes information quickly, he moves well and throws accurately on the move, and nothing seems to faze him. Congratulations, Cleveland, you've finally got a quarterback to build around.
• Shaun Hill's(notes) efficiency stats don't measure up, but there's a lot to be said for volume. He's aired the ball out 224 times in the five full games he's played this year, and more starts like that are on the way; Detroit might be an underdog in every game remaining on the schedule. It's also time to put a fork in this team's rushing attack (3.4 YPC, worst in the NFC). Jahvid Best(notes) couldn't do a thing against Buffalo's leaky front seven, stumbling to 35 yards on 17 carries.
• Say what you want about Randy Moss's(notes) declining skill set, but any No. 2 receiver that teams with Moss seems to be producing (Nate Washington(notes) scored at Miami, albeit part of a quiet 26-yard day). The three Moss underlings this year (Wes Welker(notes), Percy Harvin(notes), Washington) have combined to post a 48-540-6 line; basically that's a Greg Jennings(notes) or Anquan Boldin(notes) production level in 2010.
Sure, Welker and Harvin are fine players on their own (and Harvin was essentially playing out of position in the first month of the year), but their per-game averages haven't been as zesty without Moss. Correlation isn't necessarily causation, but I'll leave it at this – I certainly like Washington more playing along with Moss than I would had Moss not signed with the Titans.
• If Dez Bryant(notes) keeps his head on straight (you never know with young stars, after all), he'll be the best receiver in the NFL someday. Basically this is Andre Johnson(notes) 2.0, someone who can beat you with speed, physicality and adjustments in the air.
• The Broncos aren't going anywhere in 2010, but let's tip the cap to Josh McDaniels for the job he's doing with the offense. The breakthroughs of Kyle Orton(notes) and Brandon Lloyd(notes) are well documented by this point, and Knowshon Moreno(notes) has been a handy back of late. Moreno has 10 receptions and three receiving TDs over is last three games, a credit to the design of the offense.
• If you really want to determine what receiver a quarterback favors, look at where the ball goes when a play breaks down. Jay Cutler's(notes) improvisations on Sunday were mostly aimed in the direction of Johnny Knox(notes) (90 yards), and Ben Roethlisberger(notes) and Mike Wallace(notes) hooked up on some schoolyard plays in the evening loss to New England.
• Eric Mangini certainly deserves credit for Cleveland's improvement this year – the Browns play hard for him every week and will be a tough out against anyone. But Mangini's in-game strategy still leaves a lot to be desired, and we saw another example at the end of Sunday's overtime session against the Jets. When you're pinned on your own 3-yard line with 1:35 to go and can effectively end the game (and secure a tie) by running the ball three times, that's the proper play. For the second week in a row, the Jets picked up a gift victory because the opposing head coach had no idea how to manage the clock.
Granted, we also have to credit the Jets for taking advantage when the Browns and Lions left the door open. I was very impressed with Mark Sanchez's(notes) pocket presence and mobility Sunday – that's something he couldn't really learn at USC because he was seldom pressured there – and the offense is a lot more dangerous now that Santonio Holmes(notes) is fully integrated into the lineup. Start all of your normal Jets next week against Houston's disorganized defense.
• I've always liked Tyler Thigpen(notes) and I'm curious to see how he fares as Miami's starter the rest of the way. But let's not expect miracles from him in his first turn, given that he'll have limited preparation time before the Bears come calling Thursday night.
• Troy Smith(notes) showed moxie and a strong arm in his second San Francisco start, and he deserves a chance to take this job and run with it. But he also took five sacks against the underrated Rams pass rush, a reminder that the scrambling quarterbacks usually get dropped more than the stationary folks do.
• Justin Forsett(notes) averages 79 yards a game and 5.3 YPC in Seattle's five victories; those stats collapse in Seattle's four defeats. Again, correlation isn't causation, but if I ran the Seahawks offense, I'd find 10-plus touches for Forsett every week. He's got a great feel for the zone-blocking scheme, and he's capable of making a big play even if the line doesn't hit all of its assignments.
• The Mike Thomas(notes) game winner at Jacksonville was the fluke of the year, everyone can see that, but let's not lose sight of the progress Thomas has made in his second season. He's quietly got 41 receptions and 634 yards from scrimmage, and he's managed to score in the last two weeks. He's an interesting flex idea for next week's game against Cleveland.
• Has the Mike Martz sack bubble burst on us? The Bears have only allowed two sacks in 65 dropbacks since their bye week. That established, this mediocre offense line will get a stern test against the Dolphins and Eagles over the next two weeks.
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