Niblets for August 2010

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Best comment of the month:

From Tena

I’m not a baseball fan, but this whole episode stinks to the high heavens. WHY in God’s name is congress (A group of liars if there ever was one) WASTING their valuable time on a baseball player who allegedly lied about taking drugs that may even kill him someday. The country is in the grip of a horrible mess caused by the inattention of politicians for the last 30 years. That boil is getting ready to burst,and here we have Congress trying to “look busy”. It’s really disgusting. It’s impossible for Congress to hold anyone in contempt, because that is the feeling that the entire country has -against THEM!…..

You must also become a reader of because I made EXACTLY the same argument. Well done.

Updates on previous columns:

LeBron, Gilbert, Miami and Cleveland LeBron came back to Cleveland for a bike fund raiser. He was roundly booed and expressed disgust that the city wanted to be paid to provide police protection for the riders. LeBron, if you though that was a bad welcome, wait till the Beach Boys come to play.

The NFL, NFLPA, and an 18 game season. If you watched any of the preseason games you saw a lot of fans wearing empty seat costumes. In most games it looked like the average attendance was around 20% of capacity. I have not found league published attendance figures but it had to be very low. That makes it even more likely that we will see the 18 game regular season in 2011 or if a lockout occurs 2012. The injuries that have continued to pile up make the players even less likely to accept 18 games without a major fight.

Fantasy Football Sleepers, handcuffs and avoids in the NFC WR Bryant DA is expected to be the 3rd WR game 1 for the Boys. Move him up on your fantasy draft lists.

As I forecast months ago, AZ QB Leinart is likely not to be the starter. I suggest you take him off your list altogether. QB Anderson might be a bye week fill in available late in the draft.

Texan RB Tate is on IR.

Bengal TE Gresham has convinced me he is the real deal. Add him to your list.

See the comment about Hawk WR Houshmandzadeh below.

Raider RB Bush hurt his thumb so badly it required surgery. He will be out 4 to 6 weeks.

Niblets fresh from the cob:

Browns RB Hardesty on IR He has a history of injury and blew out his left anterior cruciate ligament and has been put on IR. Browns fans can just hope this is not a sign he will often have injuries.

Seahawk WR Houshmandzadeh could be traded or cut. This has to be a HC Carroll issue. Wherever he goes he should be productive. The uncertainty will move him down your draft chart. Carroll wants to prove that WR Mike Williams, the former 1st round pick of the Lions and USC player, is not a bust. Look for several teams to be interested because he is a solid WR and the Hawks will have to pick up the big guarantee given to Housh by the previous administration.

Steeler QB Ben Roethlisberger’s suspension cut to 4 games. We predicted this weeks ago. Meanwhile, one candidate to replace him, QB Leftwtch, went down in preseason game 4. One report from the team said he will but out with a knee sprain 2 to 4 weeks. But his agent’s company said he tore his MCL and will miss the season.

That’s what I think. Tell me what you

Bill Smith is a former coach of several semi-pro teams, has officiated both football and basketball, done color on radio for college football and basketball and has scouted talent. He is a senior writer for and edits He has also published several novels on

and edits .

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Notes on Week 3 Preseason games

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To see more comments on the games check out my article on NFL News, Notes and Rumors on


The Bengals have been unable to score TDs. The 1st O has scored just 2 TDs in 10 possessions coming into the game. The team struggled in the red zone in the first 2 games. What they needed was a game against the Bills. 2 1st team possessions resulted in 2 TDs. When the 1st team O left the game, they led 14-7. QB Palmer needs to play a little better than he did late in the 09 season. The biggest single addition to the team last year was RB Benson. After being a bust with the Bears, he showed he could be the guy in an NFL offense. He has to be the guy because there is no significant experience behind him. The O addition this year is WR Owens. The passing game suffered last year due to the lack of threat opposite Ochocinco. They signed WR Bryant but cut him. Rookie TE Gresham should also be a major help. He is a good late round pick in Fantasy football.

If the Bengals are depending on Smith to play RT, they will be disappointed. He was a bad pick and will be a bust.

The Bengal D played very well last year. It was one of the big reasons that the team swept the AFC North and made the playoffs. It didn’t look like a playoff D against a below average Buffalo O. DE Odom looks like is most of the way back from his ruptured Achilles last year. DT Tank Johnson finally gets the game and will be a force. Even so, the D allowed 3 first half TDs by the Bills. The D backfield allowed QB Edwards to complete passes to convert 3rd and long way too often. That has to change if the Bengals expect to get to the playoffs again this year.

The Bills O looked good against a playoff D. RB Spiller was caught a couple of times in big losses because he though he could outrun the D. He has to realize this isn’t Clemson any longer. The 250 pound LBs understand angles and are nearly as fast as he is. He also tends to dance behind the line. Those issues have to be worked out because he is the back of the future for the team. QB Edwards has Spiller and WR Evens but very little else to throw to.

The Bill D is going to be a work in progress. They are changing to a 3-4 and at times it looks good but there are a lot of missed assignments and will for a while. DE Stroud will help keep the team in line but even he is changing position from a 4-3 DT. The LBs are a weakness of the D. MLB Posluszny is the only real player in that group. The backfield is the heart of the D. Given any kind of pressure by the front 7, it still should perform well.


The Giants 1st team O has been very ineffective. It has scored only 1 TD in 3 preseason games (game 1 against the Jets). The O has been 3 and out a lot. The injury to QB Manning and backup Sorgi were factors but it goes a lot deeper than than. The WRs have all been hurt during the preseason. Even when they were on the field, the accuracy was inconsistent as was the protection.

The running game has been hurt by the failure of the O line to open holes. While the RBs are mostly healthy, the projected starting O line has yet to play together because of injuries. If and when the players get back, it is not clear that this team will have enough offense to make the playoffs.

The Giant D has played better than the O but still has issues. The Giants D needs to improve at red zone D. They allowed TDs in 67% of the opponent trips last year. Rolle and a recovered Phillips at S should help cut that figure down. Admittedly, the preseason schedule has been tough, but the Giants don’t look anything like a contender.

The Ravens look ready for the regular-season except for the O line. Flacco is accurate and the new hurry up O was very effective against NY. Flacco has a very quick release and his touch has gotten better. He has never had a WR like Bolden to throw to. TE Heap will still be a good target in the red zone.

It doesn’t seem to matter who the RB is, he makes yards. While teams have in the past been able to play the run first, that will not work against these Ravens. Forcing the D to be balanced has helped the running game.

The D is even more aggressive that it has been in previous years. The ILB combination of McClain and Lewis is outstanding. The one issue is the injuries in the D Backfield. CB Carr replaced Foxworth and FS Zbikowski was filling in for Reed. Reed is expected to be ready to play early in the 2010 season. The team has had too many personal foul penalties but that should be fixed.


This game for the Cards was a tale of the QBs. ExBrown Anderson started with former starter Leinart coming in late in the 2nd. Both generated a TD and looked OK but each has issues. Anderson has the cannon arm but lacks touch and consistent accuracy. Leinart has lost the confidence of his team after having the position handed to him 3 time and failing to hold onto it. They miss Warner. They even miss Josh McCown. Leinart is in his last year with the team unless he significantly improves his stats.

The O line is an issue as well. The team totally reshuffled the O line this year. LT Brown played RT last year but can he be quick enough to pass block against speed rushers? Probably not. RT Keith has never started a NFL regular-season game. They brought in UFA Faneca but he is not close to the pro bowl player he was a couple of years ago.

The WRs are missing Boldin but have Fitzgerald and a bunch of young guys. Rookie Williams looks very solid but will make rookie mistakes. Breaston and Doucet are both good if the later can stay healthy.

The Card D has lost a lot of players including pro bowl LB Dansby. The D line looks good and the team has put pressure on the QB regularly. The LBs are just OK with Porter leading the group. The DBs star is SS Wilson and CB Rodgers-Cromartie is a future star. But the team will miss S Rolle.

The Bears prime offensive issues are QB, RB, OL, and WRs. That is almost all the O. QB Cutler has an interception problem but it is not all his fault. The key part of a comeback route is coming back. When WR Knox did not come back, a Card DB did and picked off the pass. While Cutler doesn’t have a group of experienced quality WRs, some of the fault is his. He does not have great vision and will not see the LB underneath the coverage or the safety coming over the top. He also tend to trust his strong arm more than he should and tries to stick a pass in between 2 DBs. He needs to develop better pocket awareness as well.

RB Forte is not the guy he was in his rookie season. He seems to have lost a couple of steps and is not as aggressive hitting the hole. Former Vike RB Taylor was brought in to challenge him. So far neither of them are doing much but Taylor looks better. Part of that lack of production is the O line. 2nd year LT Williams has looked very beatable at times in pass coverage but is a little better in the run. RT Omiyale played G last year and was benched for part of the season. C Kreutz is 2 years beyond his pro bowl level of performance.

The WR problem is youth. Hester is not a natural WR and has struggled to become a precise route runner. Knox is young and will make some spectacular catches then have a brain cramp like the one described above. Bennett is the most reliable WR but is nothing special.

The Bear D will be better with the addition of DE Peppers and MLB Urlacher coming back from his year long injury. The key will be how much pressure the D line can put on QBs. The team has solid backups in the front 7 but the safety position is up in the air. They have 4 Ss but everyone has been benched for lack of production.


SF QB Smith has to get it done this year. He is in the last year of his rookie 1st overall pick contract. He had his best year last season but a QB rating of 82. That is not good enough to help this team win. They are not talented enough to win with a below average QB. If he does not improve, former Texan 1st pick Carr might be the answer. RB Gore is outstanding but has suffered from a lack of a passing threat. The O line is banged up and is not that solid if healthy.

WRs Crabtree, Morgan and newcomer Ginn all have talent but all need to give their QB more help catching the ball. Crabtree was set back by a long holdout and some minor injuries last year. They need him to be a #1 guy. Ginn looks like a new man after a disappointing start to his career in Miami.

The 49er D was very solid last year. NT Franklin had his first good year last year and held out. He has signed a deal and will be ready for the regular-season. The only star is ILB Willis. CB Clements is paid like a star but has yet to play like it in SF.

OK QB Campbell is a GREAT improvement. He has better vision and accuracy. He also has the big arm that Al Davis loves. He has given Raider Nation some hope. However, he was hurt in the 2nd quarter of this game. He was not hurt badly and was throwing at practice Monday.

Davis might interfere in naming the starting RB. He prefers the former 1st round swift McFadden but RB Bush is the best overall back. Bush, a 4th round pick due to a bad injury in his senior year, is bigger, a better inside runner and picks up blitzes better. McFadden is fast and is a good receiver but has not been able to stay healthy.

DE Houston, DT Kelly and OB Wimbley are providing a good pass rush. When the regular-season opens, DE Seymour will join the group. Rookie Houston will be a pass rush specialist but will challenge LE Matt Shaughnessy for the starting spot. Wimbley has found new life with the Raiders and had 4 sacks last week in the first half.

The run D has been the weakest area and Gore blew up the gut for a TD early in the game. But the run D got better as the game went on. MLB McClain is a potential star. The D backfield is good but CB Asomugha is the only star. FS Huff may have saved his career last year with a good season but has to continue to improve his ability to cover deep.


Reguardless of which QB starts the season, the Steelers will really struggle on O. With Roethlisberger suspended for at least the first 4 games, neither potential replacement looks like they can keep the team competitive until he gets back. QB Dixon has the ability to move. The problems that they have on the O line makes that a valuable asset. But Dixon is easily fooled by coverages and that leads to turnovers. The other option is Leftwich who is a statue behind C. In his short stint, Roethlisberger looked sharp.

The O line problems continued in Denver. RT Adams had more illegal procedure penalties than good blocks in pass protection and is too old and too slow to block speed rushers. The C position is also in question with rookie Pouncey replacing Hartwig in this game and possibly to start the season. The best O lineman LT Colon is out for the year. RT Stark has gone to LT to replace him. The running game was better last year than in 08 but will depend a lot on the blocking of the O line. While RB Mendenhall is the main guy rookie Dwyer could be the wild card.

The D is starting to crumble. Personal foul penalties that come from frustration have been more frequent this preseason. It is beginning to show its age. Even the return of FS Polamalu doesn’t seem to help. While the team still makes some spectacular plays, it struggles to get off the field on 3rd down.

DV is offensively challenged. The running game will be a big question mark. It will be RB by committee but they don’t have any franchise backs. They would love to see RB Moreno be the guy but he has yet to prove he can handle the job. He has been out much of the preseason with injuries. The team signed RB White who was cut by his college coach in Seattle. Buckhalter is above-average at almost everything but has been injury prone. If the team can’t pass, the opponents will stack the line against the run.

Despite losing WR Marshall, the team has some potentially very good receivers. WR Royals and Thomas are young and have talent. WR Gaffney will hold down a starting spot until Thomas is ready. The question will be can the O line protect Orton well enough? The O line has had a lot of injuries as well.

The Bronco D will miss LB Dumerville who led the NFL in sacks last year. They will also miss DC Nolan who was replaced with a 1st time D Coordinator. The D pass rush looked good against the weak O line of PT. The key will be NT Williams the ex-Charger. If he can stay healthy and LB Avery comes around, the D pass rush could be OK. IB Williams is good but the rest are average at best.

That’s what I think. Tell me what you think.

Bill Smith is a former coach of several semi-pro teams, has officiated both football and basketball, done color on radio for college football and basketball and has scouted talent. He is a senior writer for and edits He has also published several novels on

and edits .

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  • Author:
  • Published: Jul 31st, 2010
  • Category: NFL Football
  • Comments: Comments Off on Questions in the NFC East and North training camps

Questions in the NFC East and North training camps

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Note: We will look at all the divisions of the NFL with this same point of view over the next few issues of

NFC East


  1. Will the new LT be able to protect the blind side of QB Romo? The team cut previous starter Flozell Adams and will try Doug Free and Alex Barron at that critical position. Neither has proven he can be an effective RT let alone face the talented REs around the league.
  2. Will the ground game get back to a high level in the running back by committee system? Last year there was too much Jones and not enough Barber. The line was inconsistent and the running game suffered. Beware of taking either of these guys high in your Fantasy Draft.
  3. Will former 1st round pick Roy Williams ever be worth what Jerry Jones paid for him in the trade? NO and rookie Dez Bryant will have his spot before week 3 unless the injury takes him our for longer than we think.


  1. Will the D line return to the top of the NFL or repeat a disappointing 2009? Going into last season, the DL was supposed to be a strength. It was not. The Giants replaced DC Bill Sheridan with new DC Perry Fewell. 2008 star DE Osi Umenyiora has been advised to get surgery to fix his hip. How will DE Justin Tuck bounce back from his shoulder injury? The D is going to have to play better and stay healthier than it was in 09.
  • Will the running game return to a high level? In 2009, problems on the O line and at RB caused the running game to disappear during games against Dallas and other top teams. If the Giants are going to become a contender again, the running game is going to have to improve.
  • Can FS Kenny Phillips recover from microfracture knee surgery and will UFA SS Antrel Rolle solidify the last line of defense? The loss of Phillips was a major factor in the D’s decline in 09. Rolle had an off year in 09 for the Cardinals and they were willing to let him go. The D will depend on the S position as much as anything if it is going to become effective again.

  • Eagles

    1. Can QB Kevin Kolb become the QB that the team hopes he can? Probably not this year and it will be a down year for the Birds.
  • Can the running game be resurrected? In a word, no. The Eagles are talking like they have a running game but LeSean McCoy ran out of gas as a part timer last year. With Westbrook gone, he will have to carry the main load.
  • Will the D line produce sacks like they did in the beginning of the season last year? The team traded for DE Darryl Tapp and drafted undersized DE Brandon Graham in the first round. The D line ran out of gas last year. DE Trent Cole is getting older and neither LDT Mike Patterson or RDT Brodrick Bunkley are much of a pass rusher.

  • Redskins

    1. Will Albert Haynesworth settle in at DE? 21M just doesn’t buy as much as it used to. That is what the Redskins paid Haynesworth to play NT but he wasn’t thrilled about being hit by 900+ pounds of OL every play. He lost 25 pounds so that he would be too light to play NT but still couldn’t pass the conditioning drill.
  • How good will the O be with Donovan McNabb at QB? McNabb will be a great improvement over Campbell. But he will really miss the quality receivers he had in Philly.
  • How will the OL protect an aging QB? The bookend pro bowl Ts are gone. The replacements are 4th overall pick LT Trent Williams and ex-Saint RT Jammal Brown. Brown can play LT if needed and is a 2 time pro bowler. Williams is a questionmark.

  • NFC North


    1. How will QB Jay Cutler preform in OC Mike Martz’s offense? Cutler looked lost in a very simple O last year. Martz’s O depends on timing which has not been a strength of Cutler or the Bear WRs. Look for the Cutler/Martz marriage to end in a quick and ugly divorce.
  • Will the running game recover? 09 starter Matt Forte struggled badly and the lack of blocking up front didn’t help. Ex-Vike Chester Taylor was brought in to compete with Forte but he is not a full time guy at this point in his career either. Beware of these guys in the Fantasy draft as well.
  • Will the DBs finally come around? The coaching staff have been shuffling the lineup in the D backfield more often than they do in Las Vegas. The team has not had good coverage since they finally gave up on the oft-injured S Brown. Getting MLB Brian Urlacher will help a lot because he can cover the deep middle in the 2 deep zone.

  • Lions

    1. How well will 2nd year QB Matthew Stafford play? He was up and down as expected in 09 but should improve with a year of experience. Forget what you hear about better WRs for the Lions. There is Calvin Johnson and a bunch of “never was” guys.
  • Will the team have a running game? 09 starter Kevin Smith is coming back from an ACL. It takes 20 months to fully recover from that injury. Rookie Jahvid Best has talent but there is no indication he can hold up for 16 games. Look for the running game to struggle.
  • How much will the D line be improved by the addition of DT Ndamukong Suh and DE Kyle Vanden Bosch? A lot! Suh is the real deal and has more pass rush than you think. Vanden Bosch is a solid pass rush guy and won’t face as much double teaming as he did last year.

  • Packers

    1. How good will the D be without DT Johnny Jolly the year? That may sound like no big deal but Jolly played more downs than any other D lineman last year. Look for NT Ryan Pickett to move to LE leaving NT B.J. Raji to man the middle. Raji tends to wear down and there isn’t another legitimate NT on the roster if Pickett is not able to play there.
  • Will the O line look as old as it did late last season? LT Chad Clifton got old in a hurry last year. He has to play better. RT Mark Tauscher was OK but beyond that there is nothing special on the line. While there will be some challenges from the bench, there is no real depth there either.
  • Will the conversion to 3-4 continue to go as well as it did last year? The team lost multi-year pro bowl DE turned reluctant LB Aaron Kampman. The left OB looks like a problem with Brad Jones filling in for Kampman. He is solid rushing the passer but does not hold the point of attack against eh run. The rest of the LBs are solid.

  • Vikings

    1. Will the league be able to suspend the Williams boys at DT this year or will the court fightes go on until they retire? Don’t worry Vike fans, they are safe for 2010.
  • Will MLB E.J. Henderson (leg) and CB Cedric Griffin (ACL) be ready for the season? The D suffered when these two went down last year. The biggest value of the great DT play of the Williams boys is that it frees up the LBs to make plays at the line of scrimmage. The loss of Henderson was exposed in the Vikings loss in the playoffs last year.
  • Will QB Brett —? Who cares at this point?

  • That’s what I think. Tell me what you think.

    Bill Smith is a former coach of several semi-pro teams, has officiated both football and basketball, done color on radio for college football and basketball and has scouted talent. He is a senior writer for and edits He has also published several novels on

    and edits .

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