Ear To the Ground - Week 15
Posted 12/11 by Bob Magaw, Exclusive to Footballguys.com
"The cosmos speaks in patterns" - Roger von Oech (paraphrase of Heraclitus)
"Luck is the residue of design" - Branch Rickey (Brooklyn Dodgers GM - integrated baseball)
"Our business is winning" - Bill Parcells (Ex-Giants/Patriots/Jets/Cowboys HC, MIA grocery picker and future HoFer)
The subject matter of ETTG is IDP with an emphasis on Dynasty leagues. Ear To The Ground was chosen for this column's title to convey a sense of detecting rumblings in the distance... an ability essential to project a prospect from college to pro and rookie to veteran. It will consist of three sections: Team Reports (Watchlist), a Defensive Rookie of the Year Meter and an IDP Spotlight. The emphasis here will be on the impact positions of LB, DE and S... exceptional DTs and CBs will be noted for leagues that differentiate DE/DT and S/CB. Dynasty content is geared towards youth. Like most successful working rosters that employ a blend of production and potential, there will be a balance of rookie and veteran coverage in the mix. While by the nature of much IDP coverage new names will bubble up to the surface from week to week, ETTG will try to identify key players early on and provide a synoptic overview for the whole season as it unfolds.
MLB D'Qwell Jackson (12-3 & 2 INTs) made a huge move with a monster game in a losing effort to the Titans, surging past the likes of Patrick Willis and Jon Beason all the way to #2 LB. Jackson has flashed promise intermittently in the past, but has taken his game to another level in 2008. No doubt the disappointing general ineptitude of the offense has contributed to the substantial boost in his production compared to previous seasons. CB Eric Wright (3-0) is having a top 20 season, showing that last year wasn't an IDP fluke.
Green Bay Packers
It seems like a long time ago since the Packers began the season riding on a wave of emotion off a 2-0 start to the 2008 season. They are just 3-8 since. In the process they have squandered some huge games by the defense, especially by FS Nick Collins (7-0) and CB Charles Woodson (4-2) in the secondary. They are #10 and #14 among DBs, respectively. They each have 5 INTs, with 5 TDs between then. Desmond Bishop (8-3, 1 sack and 2 FFs) was pressed into action when MLB Nick Barnett went down, and he came up big Sunday, pacing the team in tackles. A.J. Hawk (2-3) has been dinged a lot this season, contributing to an up and down season for IDP purposes. He is barely inside the top 60 LBs.
MLB DeMeco Ryans (7-2 & 1 sack) had a big game in the upset over the Packers, but he is way off the mark of the rather high bar he set in his first two seasons in the league. He currently falls just outside the top 20 LBs. DT Amobi Okoye (1-1) hasn't come close to meeting expectations based on the promising debut in the first half of his rookie season. CB Dunta Robinson, returning from a catastrophic, devastating knee injury, had just 2 solos but added an INT.
The Jaguars have been one of the most disappointing teams in the NFL (along with the Chargers), and the handwriting on the wall regarding the LB changing of the guard has been evident for some time. As if further confirmation was needed, former stud and defensive leader Mike Peterson had a paltry 1 solo... the torch has been passed to new MLB Daryl Smith (7-0). It will be interesting to see what he is capable of next season with a full training camp of preparation and reps as "The Man". DB Brian Williams (8-2) got off to a hot start from the SS position but his IDP importance had become marginalized when he was forced to play in more of a CB role. He paced the team in tackles during another drubbing, this week at the hands of the Bears. Prized rookie DE Derrick Harvey (1-0) needs to take a big step up in 2009 to justify his lofty top 10 pedigree, yet he is disturbingly not flashing the late season improvement seen by Gaines Adams in his rookie 2008 season, which was a harbinger for better things to come in his soph campaign.
The big news this week will be the status of the Great Wall of Williams (Kevin and Pat). Stay tuned at FBG for the latest news concerning their suspension injunction. DE Jared Allen (5-0, 2 sacks and 1 FF) had a heroic game after suffering from a chop block administered by rookie RT Gosder Cherilus, and could be impacted by the knee injury during the playoff stretch run. Bookend Ray Edwards (3-0, 1 sack & 1 FF) could play an important role depending on the availability and effectiveness of his DL-mates.
The Raiders offensive misfortunes have led to a fortunate IDP byproduct... the defense is on the field a lot. MLB Kirk Morrison (11-1) has risen to #8 LB, augmenting his prodigious tackle opps with a smattering of big plays (1 sack, 1 INT & 2 FFs). SS Gibril Wilson (2-2) has been a busy dude this season with all the tackling breakdowns in the front seven (the reason he was brought in), reflected in his #7 DB ranking. While Al Davis made some horrific decisions in free agency (Javon Walker, DeAngelo Hall, etc.), Wilson wasn't one of them.
San Diego Chargers
The Chargers entered the year with extremely high expectations and were thought to be one of the three best teams in the AFC (if not the NFL) in terms of overall roster talent and depth, but their playoff aspirations have crumbled as the season has wore on. In retrospect, OLB Shawne Merriman's (one of the most explosive defenders in the league and a threat for the sack crown, when healthy) landing on IR early appears to have been a much more devastating loss to the franchise's overall prospects than many initially realized. It will be interesting to see how the Chargers fare in 2009 assuming a full recovery and his ability to come all the way back.
St. Louis Rams
Since the Rams won their only two contests of the season in the wake of the Scott Linehan firing (improbably beating WAS & DAL in weeks 6 and 7), in the past 7 games they have been outscored 216-73. The Rams fall from grace has been the culmination of years of dysfunctional front office mismanagement, yet an apparent contagion of quitting has added some more sinister undercurrents to the dark undertow that has been characteristic of this doomed, death spiral season. Rams fans can hope that instead of trying to revive the damaged corpse that is the current roster, a new team can emerge from the ashes in the future. MLB Will Witherspoon has had his worst season as a pro in an injury plagued campaign as nightmarish as the franchise's as a whole, but he could return to his outstanding form from earlier in his career. There have been rumblings that Spoon could return to his more natural WLB spot in 2009 (it is unclear at present where this would leave current WLB Pisa Tinoisamoa). The team is reportedly interested in re-signing soon-to-be free agents FS Oshiomogho Atogwe and CB Ron Bartell, but commenting on the record is complicated by the fact that possibly not a single person in the front office as it is presently constituted will be back after this year. The Lions may suffer the enormous ignominy of being the first 0-16 team in league history (the Bucs had an infamous winless season of course, but that was before the current 16 game schedule was implemented), and so probably won't take much solace from the fact that the Rams are unmistakably the worst team in football.
Defensive Rookie of the Year Meter
Top 10 DROY Candidates
- Jerod Mayo, ILB, NE, 1.10, Tennessee (6'1" 240)
81 Solo Tackles, 20 Assists, 1 FR & 3 PD (#15 LB Overall & Top Rookie LB)
- Curtis Lofton, MLB, ATL, 2.06, Oklahoma (6'0" 250)
55 Solo Tackles, 19 Assists, 1 Sack, 1 FF & 1 PD (#42 Overall LB & 2nd Rookie LB)
- Chris Horton, SS, WAS, 7.42, UCLA (6'1" 210)
49 Solo Tackles, 8 Assists, 1 INT, 3 FF & 15 PD (#36 DB Overall & Top Rookie DB)
- Dwight Lowery, CB, NYJ, 4.14, San Jose State (5'11" 200)
46 Solo Tackles, 15 Assists, 1 sack, 3 INTs, 1 FR & 5 PD (#37 DB & 2nd Rookie DB)
- Chris Long, DE, STL, 1.02, Virginia (6'3" 265)
28 Solo Tackles, 7 Assist, 4 sacks, 1 FF & 1 FR (#41 DL Overall & Top Rookie DL)
- Brandon Carr, CB, KC, 5.05, Grand Valley State (6'0" 205)
58 Solo Tackles, 3 Assist, 2 INT, 2 FR, & 6 PD (#40 DB Overall & 3rd Rookie DB)
- Brandon Flowers, CB, KC, 2.04, Virginia Tech (5'10", 190)
42 Solo Tackles, 6 Assists, 2 INTs, 2 FR, 9 PD & 1 TD (#63 DB Overall)
- Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, CB, ARI, 1.16, Tennessee State (6'2" 185)
28 Solo Tackles, 1 Assist, 3 INTs, 15 PD & 1 TD (#86 DB Overall)
- Kenny Phillips, FS, NYG, 1.31, Miami (6'2" 210)
46 Solo Tackles, 9 Assists, 1 INT & 5 PD (#76 DB Overall)
- Antoine Cason, CB, SD, 1.27, Arizona (6'0" 190)
39 Solo Tackles, 7 Assist, 1 INT, 1 FF & 5 PD (#82 DB Overall)
Standing on the Verge...
- Leodis McKelvin
- Derrick Harvey
- Kendall Langford
- Lawrence Jackson
- Tyrell "Nexus Seven Series" Johnson
- Glenn Dorsey
- Derrick Harvey
- Quentin Groves
- Jordon Dizon
- Sedrick Ellis
- Vernon Gholston
- Shawn Crable
- Cliff Avril
- Philip Wheeler
- Beau Bell
- Xavier Adibi
- Phillip Merling
- Calais Campbell
- Jason Jones
- William Hayes
- Kentwan Balmer
- Trevor Laws
- DeJuan Morgan
- Charles Godfrey
- Tom Zbikowski
- Aqib Talib
- Mike Jenkins
- Terrence Wheatley
- Terrell Thomas
- Chevis Jackson
- Reggie Smith
- Antwaun Molden
- Tyvon Branch
Injured Reserve List
- Tracy Porter (dislocated wrist)
- Keith Rivers (jaw broken in two places)
- Tavares Gooden (hip injury)
- Dan Connor (torn ACL)
This section will draw from and point back to preseason content, such as Spotlights, Face-offs, Value Play and Sleeper articles, Team Reports and Player Pages, as well as new content as in-season events dictate.
Daryll Tapp (from a Preseason Player Page)
- Best Case - Tapp has another increase in his sack total (increasing from 3 as a rookie to 7 in his 2007 soph season) and flirts with DDs. He sees a similar progression in solo tackles (22 - 2006, 42 - 2007) and FFs (1 - 2006, 3 - 2007). If bookend Patrick Kerney starts the 2008 season on the torrid pace he left off in 2007, Tapp will be the beneficiary of reduced attention from blocking schemes. The OLs of NFC West divisional rivals SEA, STL and ARI continue to falter and underachieve. His durability (32 straight games) remains a constant.
- Worst Case - At some point during the season he is beaten out by the higher pedigreed DE Lawrence Jackson (Tapp was a 2006 2nd rounder from Va. Tech, Jackson a 2008 1st rounder from higher profile USC). If he isn't actually beaten out during the season, Jackson could play well enough to force his way on to the field at the expense of Tapp.
- 2008 Outlook - Entering his third year in the NFL, 2008 could be a watershed year for Tapp. He has a chance to build on his modest success to date, and is positioned to succeed with talent around him on all three levels of the Seahawks defense. Tapp owners probably shouldn't be too concerned by the presence of Jackson (at least not this season, as most young DL take a few years to mature and develop). While Jackson is technically sound (as would be expected for a four year USC starter), he isn't necessarily a quick-twitch athlete and may always be better against the run. He also could be more of a long term replacement for the still spry but aging Kerney, and could shift to the inside ala Justin Tuck, which wouldn't bump Tapp from the starting rotation. While Tapp may be short at 6'1", he often turns his lack of stature into a leverage advantage, helped by his Plastic Manlike long arms. While he isn't known for his sheer speed, Tapp has impressive short area burst and explosion, plays with passion, has an excellent work ethic, outstanding motor and hits like an electric axe handle. The FBG staff consensus ranking has him falling just outside the starting DL dividing line, but he has top 15-20 upside if things break right.
Thanks for reading Ear to the Ground. Any comments or questions are invited - Magaw@Footballguys.com.
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