September 29, 2008
Sundays are all about collecting stories and stats, angles and observations. Mondays are about clearing the notebook. Here are some themes and images that had my attention during Week 4 of the elegant violence.
In the preseason I got out a Redskins shovel. After the Giants loss on opening night, I buried them. And now it's time for my mea culpa; I can't ignore what I've seen the last three weeks (with the win at Dallas carrying the most weight, of course).
Well played, Jason Campbell. Nice rally, Jim Zorn. And wow, that's a nasty NFC East. Some notes from their latest win take the lead in this week's notebook:
• Campbell looks like a completely different player these days, more confident, a quarterback who's understanding what he's seeing. He's pushed his YPA over the seven mark, he doesn't have a turnover through one month of play, and he's taken just seven sacks. He passed the eye test emphatically at Dallas, pocket-aware and accurate throughout, with a few "wow" plays mixed in (unfortunately his coolest improvisation Sunday, a TD pass to Antwaan Randle El, was wiped out by penalty). I can guarantee you he'll be a notable riser when the Wednesday Shuffle-Up ranks come out of the oven.
• Clinton Portis might be the most underrated star in the league. He doesn't have the same breakaway gear as he did in the Mile High days, but he's underrated as a between-the-tackles guy and he reads his blocks extremely well. He's also the best blitz pickup specialist in the league; he assumed that mantle the day Corey Dillon retired. Portis is a goofy guy off the field, but he could play for my team anytime.
• Given the public investment I have in Santana Moss, I was watching him more closely than usual from the jump Sunday. Thanks for being quick off the mark, No. 89. I'd also like to thank the Cowboys for that ridiculously-large cushion on the flanks; Terence Newman was obviously petrified of Moss jetting by him. The progress of Campbell and the offense might push Moss into the 10-12 range at receiver going forward; you paid for him as a No. 2 or a No. 3, but he might give you lower-end No. 1 numbers.
• Terrell Owens claims the Cowboys didn't use him enough on offense Sunday, even as he was the focus for one-third of the scrimmage plays (20 targets and rushes over 61 snaps). How's the weather on your planet, TO?
• Andy Reid is an outstanding offensive designer, but he stinks with clock management and endgame decisions, he has for years. The timeout the Eagles wasted right before their 4th-and-goal play came back to haunt them (I guess no one on the staff has gotten around to "Blink" yet). You want to see wasted opportunities inside of two minutes on a consistent basis, meet me in Philadelphia.
• Chris Johnson's got smarts to go with his jets, he reads his blocks very well, and you can use him at the goal line too, apparently. He's still a liability in pass coverage, however, so don't knock the Titans for platooning him. They're handling it right.
• Monday out of Michigan: Rudi Johnson has passed Kevin Smith on the depth chart. I caught an interesting spot with Rudi Saturday; he told Sirius Radio that he's really going to miss Matt Millen (I can only imagine the bond they built up over the last month).
• The way the Cincinnati offensive line is playing right now, I don't think it matters who the quarterback is. Even after scoring yesterday, Ocho Stinko is worth next-to-nothing in the shrewd leagues. (Marvin Lewis must have some pretty good Polaroids stashed away.)
• I don't want to rain on the Brett Favre parade, but the Cardinals sure helped where they could with an afternoon of defensive breakdowns. This result was more a strike against Arizona than it was a plus for the Jets.
• Garbage-time production generally comes in two forms:
passing from the team behind, and running from the team ahead. So if you
started Dustin Keller as a spot-play yesterday, enjoy the found money tossed
• Damon Huard is an ordinary quarterback on his best day, but at least he belongs in the league, and his presence gives everyone else in the Kansas City offense a step forward. You won't want to use Huard in common formats, but you can feel better about every Chiefs skill player so long as we're not looking at Tyler Thigpen or Brodie Croyle.
• LaDainian Tomlinson didn't have a run over five yards in the New York game and he was without a breakaway against Oakland until the final quarter (the long outside score was essentially a gift from the defense, which sold out up the middle). The stats still count and LT remains an every-week start and a first-round talent, but there's no way I'd draft this guy No. 1 overall in any startup league. I just don't see the same explosiveness.
• Pass blocking remains optional in the San Francisco offense, where the patterns run intermediate and deep and J.T. O'Sullivan gets left holding the bag a lot. It will be interesting to see the rested Patriots attack this offense next week.
• It's a joke that Al Davis continues to let Lane Kiffin twist in the wind like this. Endorse the guy or fire the guy, Al. Try to steer that rudderless ship once in a while.
• Good times for the Brewers, who rallied late and made it to the party after all. Would you slot CC Sabathia or Prince Fielder in the Bookman role?
• Pouring water into a leaky bucket, that's' the best way I can describe Brian Griese right now. He keeps both sides in the game.
• Muhsin Muhammad was never a burner and he's got below-average speed now, but he understands leverage and setting up defenders as well as anyone. Technically sound, all the way.
• In a perfect world the Browns would locate the underbelly of their schedule and slot that as Brady Quinn's debut week. But then you look at their hellish slate and realize that there is no underbelly. The Denver game on Nov. 6 is a possibility, albeit it's extra pressure as a Thursday stand-alone game. The Giants in two weeks? Bad idea. I'm open to ideas, how would you play it?
• The thrilling conclusion to the Houston-Jacksonville game was nixed in my local sports bar because a three nice chaps (and one smoking-hot girlfriend) ambled in and successfully lobbied for a soccer game. No one scored on the pitch for the final 45 minutes, but we did miss three scores from the Texans and Jags. Note to self: buy six more TVs, never leave the house. (I don't have words of advice to the Andre Johnson owners yet, but I'll check back in the comments after I watch the tape. Mmmmm, Short Cuts.)
• I don't blame Scott Linehan for being frustrated, but completely ducking the media on Monday, that's a cheesy move. I'm sure Bobby Petrino approves, though.
• The Eagles might not have the best defense in the NFL, but it might be the most fun to watch. Count the pass rushers and note where they come from; Jim Johnson's scheme is like a box of chocolates. This is also a very stout team against the run; I wouldn't use any borderline RB against the Eagles right now.
• The Steelers and Jaguars get the Saturday night matchup next week, which makes it four stand-alone games in five weeks for Pittsburgh. Does this bother anyone else? Can't we space these things out a little bit? (Post-MNF Update: Rashard Mendenhall fractured his shoulder and is out for the year, which gives Mewelde Moore deeper-league value until Willie Parker is ready to return. Parker isn't expected to be ready for Week 5.)
• Speed Round: James Thrash is the new Troy Brown. Fantasy owners can't start him, but they can root for him . . . Philip Rivers always looks well-caffeinated . . .Pam Beesly, you had me at hello . . . Think there are some ghosts in Shea Stadium? Good grief. And yeah, this has "overpay for K-Rod" written all over it . . . Reggie Dunlop, I wish we skated a shift together. I'm gonna miss ya, hustler.
Photos via Getty Images (Campbell) and AP (Muhammad)