Wednesday, July 6, 2016

2006 AFC South Preview

By Eric Williams

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Having said that, I fully expect the Indianapolis Colts to be the cream of this division – although the Jags are quickly closing the gap on Indy’s division dominance of the last few seasons. Whether the Colts will be the only playoff team from this division remains to be seen, but their window of opportunity is slowly closing, while everyone else’s is beginning to open.

Here’s the skinny on the AFC South for 2006.

Indianapolis Colts
The Colts took a huge blow when thy decided to let starting running back, Edgerrin James bolt for the truckload of money that the Arizona Cardinals offered him this offseason.

Nevertheless, as long as the Colts have Peyton Manning and Dungy at the helm, they should still be one of the best teams in the entire AFC. If the Colts, who started last season 13-0 can’t find enough motivation after their dismal playoff pasting at the hands of the Pittsburgh Steelers, then they could be in real trouble this season.

However, I believe the Colts, even without James, will once again, find ways to put plenty of points on the board. Now, whether their offensive line, which put on one of the most pitiful displays I have ever seen against the Steelers in the playoffs, can figure how to stop the blitz – or at least slow it down, remains the Colts’ biggest question.

Blitz blocking or not, I like Indianapolis to win four division games this season and once again, be one of the main Super Bowl contenders in the AFC.

P.S.

The Colts did sign one player who could be crucial in helping them to achieve their Super Bowl dreams – “Mr. Clutch,” former New England Patriots kicker, Adam Vinateri.

Jacksonville Jaguars
I really like what head coach Jack Del Rio has done in his brief tenure in Jacksonville. The Jags may have taken advantage of their weak schedule last season, finishing with a 12-4 record, but they will be hard pressed to repeat that performance in 2006 with one of the toughest schedules in the league this season.

The Jags’ first four games this season are absolutely treacherous (Dallas, Pittsburgh, at Indianapolis, at Washington) and later in the season they have several other tough games, both at home and on the road.

Much of their success this season will probably once again, ride on the right arm of quarterback, Byron Leftwich, who has improved steadily each season. If Leftwich can continue his growth and the Jags can help with some competent rushing – and the defense, which has been excellent under Del Rio, can continue to improve, the Jags could be a legitimate contender in the AFC.

I think it’s more likely that Jacksonville will probably be somewhere around .500 this season and win three division games. Anything more than that, and Del Rio should win the Coach of the Year award.

Tennessee Titans
I am already on record as saying that the Tennessee Titans ownership and front office are the most despicable and idiotic employers in all of professional sports (okay next to the Philadelphia Phillies, Sixers and Flyers) but I will say that the monetary plan they created a couple of years ago seems to be working to perfection, no matter how bad they screwed over franchise player, Steve McNair.

I’ve always been a huge supporter of Titans head coach, Jeff Fisher, even when his hands were tied the last two years because of salary-cap related issues.

However, it would appear that the Titans are quickly on their way back to respectability.
Not only did Tennessee end up with former Texas quarterback Vince Young, with their first round draft pick, but they also added three competent players from winning teams in free agency.

When the Titans went out and signed, former Colts linebacker David Thornton, former Patriots receiver clutch wide receiver, David Givens and ex- Pittsburgh Steelers safety Chris Hope, they served notice that they do indeed expect themselves to once again become a Super Bowl caliber contender within the next couple of seasons.

Quarterback Billy Volek will open the season as Young learns the nuances of the NFL game. Volek has played well when given the opportunity, but this is clearly going to be Young’s team at some point in the near future.
I expect Tennessee to go through some growing pains this season, but they will certainly be better for it in 2007 and 2008.
I like the Titans to win thee division games this season and I wouldn’t necessarily say it is unrealistic that they could possibly win four.

Houston Texans
The Texans’ loss is the Titans gain here. I have absolutely nothing against Mario Williams – and I think he’s going to turn out to be a fine player for many years – but for the life of me, I still can’t see why Houston didn’t select running back Reggie Bush with the first overall selection of this year’s draft.

Not only is new head coach, Gary Kubiak and a new general manager in Rick Smith, going to have to deal with the normal pressure associated with winning and losing, but each week, they may have to deal with being inundated with questions from the media about their decision not to select Bush.

However, the Texans have nowhere to go but up and in addition to selecting Williams, they fervently tried to upgrade their offensive line by drafting tackles Charles Spencer and Eric Winston with back-to-back picks in the third round.
The Texans also added veterans, wide receiver, Eric Moulds and defensive end Anthony Weaver.

The Texans will certainly have their work cut out for them and should experience a lot of growing pains this season. However, Kubiak is an excellent offensive mind who should help quarterback, David Carr maximize his potential.

Now, if the Texans can learn to keep Carr off of his back and get some competent defensive play this season, those are the main questions the Texans face as they enter the first year of the Kubiak era.

Personally, I think the former backup to John Elway is going to have to keep a bottle of Maalox on hand at all times this season. Look for the Texans to win a maximum of two division games this season.

Tags:2006 AFC South Preview

2006 Baltimore Ravens Preview

Simply put, this season is a put-up-or-shut-up season for, head coach, Brian Billick and many of the aging veteran players that have been with the Ravens since they hoisted their Super Bowl trophy in 2000.

There should be no excuses either this season. Billick, who was hailed as an offensive genius when he was the offensive coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings in the late 90s, has a first-rate quarterback in Steve McNair and a solid defense led by two former, defensive Player of the Year award winners.

Whether the Ravens can put it all together to make one last championship run is another question altogether. However, lack of talent won’t be an issue.
Here’s the skinny on the Baltimore Ravens for 2006.

Quarterback
Baltimore traded a fourth-round pick for former Tennessee Titans quarterback, Steve McNair, who is an immense upgrade over the totally clueless, Kyle Boller, who immediately moved to number two on the depth chart with McNair’s arrival.
For this team to have any chance at securing a playoff spot in the tough AFC, McNair has to stay healthy. If he doesn’t, it’ll be the same old song in B-more – or should I say, B-less.

Running Back
My motto as a columnist has always been to call things like I see them. Having said that, I have to say that running back, Jamal Lewis is an absolute disgrace. For Lewis to essentially quit on his teammates because of his desire for a new contract was downright despicable.

If it were up to me, there is no way Lewis would have ever been back, however,
He is back and is the number one back once again.
However, if Lewis doesn’t perform the way he did a few season ago when he rushed for over 2,000 yards, the Ravens have acquired former Denver Broncos 1,000-yard rusher, Mike Anderson, who, at the very least, will provide a change of style from Lewis’ punishing approach.

Wide Receiver/Tight End
McNair will have a familiar target in veteran, Derrick Mason, whom he is already comfortable with. Mark Clayton, last year’s No. 1 draft pick, will start on the other side, giving McNair another excellent receiver – and one that is going to get better with each passing game.

Tight end Todd Heap is an excellent pass catcher and is healthy after playing through several nagging injuries last season.
Clarence Moore and Devard Darling will compete for the third and fourth slots respectively.

Offensive Line
Although veteran tackle, Jonathan Ogden clearly isn’t the player he used to be, he’s still better than 90 percent of the tackles in the league. However, I can’t say the same for the rest of the Ravens nondescript offensive line.
Edwin Mulitalo, Mike Flynn, Keydrick Vincent and Adam Terry are all mediocre at best. Brian Rimpf and Tony Pashos will either come off the bench as rotation players, or earn a starting position somewhere along the line in this disjointed group.

Defensive Line
Not a bad unit on the whole here for Baltimore. Trevor Pryce and Terrell Suggs are the glue that will hold this foundation together. Justin Bannan, rookie, Haloti Ngata, and veteran, Kelly Gregg round out the rest of the Ravens defensive line.

Linebackers
Ray Lewis may not be the player he used to be either, but he’s still pretty damn good. Whether that’s enough to get the Ravens back into the thick of the playoff hunt in the AFC remains to be seen.
Adalius Thomas is quickly becoming a Pro Bowl caliber player whose growth this season should help Lewis use his distinctive sideline-to-sideline abilities to the utmost. Either, Bart Scott or Dan Cody will start on the other side.

Defensive Backs
Former Defensive Player of the Year, safety, Ed Reed, is the headliner of this group. Chris McAlister, Samari Rolle are certainly above average players at their respective positions. The only weak link could be safety, B.J. Ward.
Special Teams
Matt Stover is rock solid for the Ravens. However, the Ravens don’t have a starting punter at this point. Leo Araguz and Sam Koch will battle for that position. B.J. Sams will man the majority of the Ravens returns, both punt and kickoffs, with Clayton backing him up on both roles.

Coaching
If Billick doesn’t get his act together this season, he won’t be back in 2007 – and rightfully so, if I may say so. However, if the Ravens can pull out a winning season, I think he should get at least one more season with a competent quarterback at the helm – and I’m not talking about Kyle Boller either.

Tags:2006 Baltimore Ravens Preview

2006-2007 UConn Basketball Preview

The Connecticut Huskies men’s basketball team is ranked as high as 18th in the latest pre-season polls, but this honor comes without the current crop of players on their roster having achieved much of anything in the college game. UConn doesn’t have a single scholarship player that has more than one season’s worth of college experience on their basketball squad, but they do have a highly regarded, eight-player deep, incoming class of freshmen. UConn basketball will be lead by sophomores Jeff Adrian and A.J. Price, with Price still having not stepped on the basketball court in an official capacity due to health problems and an ill-advised run-in with the law. But UConn may have the best safety net an inexperienced college basketball team could wish for, a seven-foot-three center that will anchor a stingy defense.

Coached by recent Hall of Fame inductee Jim Calhoun, who is entering his 21st year as the Huskies’ basketball mentor and 35th overall, UConn is always a player in the national championship hunt. But this is perhaps Calhoun’s biggest challenge in years at the school located in Storrs, as the lack of basketball experience is sure to result in some growing pains. Most of Calhoun’s rotation will subsist of freshmen, and he will mix and match until the veteran coach finds one to his liking. The backcourt could be a potential weakness, but if Price lives up to the billing he had when he came to UConn basketball a couple years ago, it could also be one of their strengths.

The perception in basketball-crazy Connecticut is that last year’s team should have won it all, but they were upset in one of the sport’s greatest shockers- in the NCAA tourney by George Mason. Much of the talent then either graduated or absconded to the NBA, leaving UConn depending on youth to develop and develop quickly if they want to compete in the Big East this year, never mind in the tournament come March. UConn has been tabbed by Big East coaches to finish fifth in the league for the 2006-2007 campaign, but Calhoun will expect and demand more than that.

Jeff Adrien was a member of the Big East’s All-Rookie Team last year, but still he only averaged 6.5 points and 5 rebounds per contest. However, he saw limited minutes, and he was able to garner attention as a defensive presence under the boards. Adrien added twenty pounds of muscle in the off-season, and is now listed at almost 240 pounds to go with his six-foot-seven frame; he is very athletic and quick, and will have to step up as a leader for the UConn basketball team despite his own youth.

A.J. Price came to UConn as a highly touted point guard in high school, but his career and life were in jeopardy when he suffered an episode of bleeding on the brain during the 2004 pre-season. Price recovered from that scary experience, but became involved in the theft of some laptops that led to him being suspended and placed on probation in 2005. Price is finally getting the chance to play basketball, and Calhoun is quick to note that Price’s composure will be his biggest asset, especially when he ventures into some of the rowdy Big East venues where his past is sure to be brought up. In high school in New York, Price won a pair of state championships and scored almost 1,400 points; his UConn basketball debut will be highly anticipated to see just how good he is and can be.

Two sophomores with some collegiate hoop familiarity are Craig Austrie and Rob Garrison, although the two have not impressed Calhoun in the pre-season. Austrie played extensively in the non-conference part of the schedule last year, as he stepped in for UConn guard Marcus Williams, who was sitting out for his part in the computer theft that Price was involved in. The six-foot-three Austrie averaged just 3.3 points a contest with 85 assists in the 34 games he participated in, but he will have to ratchet it up if he is to see big minutes this year. Garrison, at six-foot-two, played in just a handful of Big East tilts, and he will have to vie for minutes with some of his freshman counterparts.
The last of the five sophomores on the UConn basketball team is six-foot-six swingman Marcus Johnson. He is one of UConn’s most gifted players athletically, can shoot from the outside, and also can handle the ball. Johnson averaged about four points a game last year, but the way has been cleared for him to play much this season with the departure of such stars as Rudy Gay, Hilton Armstrong, and Josh Boone. Calhoun is counting on big things from Marcus, and so are UConn fans.
Ben Eaves is a six-foot-seven freshman forward from Worcester Academy in Massachusetts, where he went for 12 points and seven rebounds a game last season. Eaves is from England, and has played in international competitions for his country, distinguishing himself in the 2005 Under 18 European Championship. Eaves can shoot and rebound, but where he will play is still to be decided by how he meshes with the other UConn players. Doug Wiggins was last year’s Gatorade Player of the Year in Connecticut, as the six-foot-one guard averaged 32 a game for East Hartford High School. He is in line for some heavy minutes if his game translates as successfully in college. Walk-ons Marty Gagne and Ben Spencer do not figure to leave the bench much, but will be make under-appreciated and invaluable contributions in practice for UConn.

UConn basketball has produced some great shooters, names like Ray Allen and Richard Hamilton come to mind, and the next one may be Jerome Dyson. A six-foot-three freshman from Proctor Academy in New Hampshire, Dyson averaged 26 per game with eight rebounds as a senior. The three sport star is touted as a dead-eye shooter, and figures prominently in UConn basketball plans this year and in the future. Forward Curtis Kelly comes to UConn as the New York Post and Daily News High School Player of the Year, and the six-nine lefty, who averaged 21 points and 11 rebounds last year, should back up Adrien in the paint.

Stanley Robinson is a six-foot-nine freshman forward who scored over 2,000 points in Birmingham, Alabama during his high school days. Robinson earned a gold medal this past summer on the FIBA U18 American Men’s team, and could be something special. Jonathan Mandledove is a lanky six-eleven center who may be a project, but the honorable mention McDonald’s All-American could be a surprise under the basket, as could six-nine center Gavin Edwards from Arizona.

Calhoun’s wild card, and the player that may allow UConn to survive the mistakes that freshman are sure to commit, is the tallest man ever to put on the UConn basketball uniform, seven-foot-three Hasheem Thabeet. Hasheem is from Tanzania, and now that the questions concerning his eligibility have been put to rest, he can set about the task of using his soccer background to provide intimidating low-post defense. Thabeet has been playing basketball for just four years, but Calhoun feels that he may be one of the biggest impact players in the nation. His offensive game needs work, but he is already a solid defender, and will get better with each game he plays.

The early schedule is full of cupcakes such as Fairfield, Sacred Heart, and Albany; UConn doesn’t venture outside of the Nutmeg State until their twelfth game, at West Virginia. Calhoun knows there are plenty of squads in the Big East that will be high in the polls to insure Uconn has a decent RPI ranking, teams like Pitt, Georgetown, Marquette, Louisville, and Syracuse. There are non-conference games at LSU and Georgia Tech, with Indiana coming to Hartford in January. By the time the Big East Tourney rolls around, Jim Calhoun hopes that his young team has learned its lessons well, and can make yet another run for UConn basketball at a national title, which would be the third under the Hall of Famer. Calhoun saw firsthand the challenge he faces when the Huskies opened up with lightly regarded Quinnipiac on November 10th, at Gampel Pavillion in Storrs no less. The young Huskie basketball team jumped out at halftime to a 35-16 advantage, but were outscored by 12 in the second half to post a less than impressive 53-46 victory. Dyson led the way with 16, but shot an indefensible 5 of 12 from the free throw line; UConn went a paltry 15 for 34 at the charity stripe to keep it a game. Thabeet had just five points on 1 of 6 shooting, but he did erase 7 shots on the defensive end. But Jim Calhoun has the whole month of December to figure out who is what, and when he does, UConn may just be on its way again.

Tags:2006-2007 UConn Basketball Preview

2005 Infant to Toddler Rocker by Fisher Price Versus The Deluxe Activity Rocker by Combi

If you are currently expecting a baby and trying to figure out what to put on your baby registry then you may want to take the time to read this article. I had put both of these items on my baby registry and yes I did receive them, but I noticed that there are quite a few problems with both of these items. Following is a list of five problems that I found with the 2005 Infant to toddler rocker by fisher price.

1. The motor does not last very long. For the amount of money that you invest in this product you would really expect it to last an at least until your child gets tired of it. But unfortunately this products motor died after only a few weeks. It may have been because we used it quite often, but any baby product should really be made to last, since it will be getting constant use.

2. It is not very sturdy. When you first put these items together you will see that it really is not very sturdy at all. When your child begins to rock in it, they almost seem to appear to be failing out. On several occasions it even flipped over. Baby products should be made to endure the abuse that young children will sometimes put them through, and this product just does not do that.

3. Uncomfortable for baby. I have noticed through the course of my research that most baby rockers have a lot more cushion to them. This one however seemed to be very uncomfortable and has no cushion to it at all. All babies need that extra padding and comfort. Especially since most moms use baby rockers to help their children fall asleep. If they are not comfortable then they will not fall asleep.

4. Does not encourage hand to eye coordination. I have spoken to many parents about whether or not they feel the hand to eye coordination is increased by using this product and based on the poll I took about eighty percent said no. They hanging animals that come with the rocker usually ended up being disregarded or ignored. So as far as the educational aspect of this item there really does not seem to be any.

5. Not very comfortable for toddlers. This chair is supposed to be able to convert into a chair for your child when they become a toddler. Converting it does happen to be a very simple task, but the chair is just not very comfortable for toddlers. Of course they like the rocking motion, but being that most toddlers end up getting overly excited with some objects they begin to rock themselves too hard in this chair and can actually end up harming themselves. This information is based on a poll of about thirty different families who have used this product. About seventy percent felt that it is useless for toddlers.

Not everything about the 2005 infant to toddler rocker is bad; there are several very good qualities about this product. Following is a list of pros that you can consider when thinking about buying this product.

1. Two uses for one price– One thing that many parents seem to love is that you can get two items for the price of one. This is definitely something that you get with this product. You can use it for your infant and then you can convert it to a chair for your toddler.

2. Bright Colors help to hold your child’s attention– Many parents found that the colors of the chair itself seem to help hold their child’s attention. Although some found that the hanging toys did not hold their child’s attention, the seat itself had very interesting designs that children seem to love.

3. Easy to transport from room to room.- Another feature that was very good about this product is that it is very easy to transport from room to room. This works great for parents who are always busy trying to complete tasks around the house while trying to keep an eye on their young children.

4. Very affordable– When compared with the price of other rockers this product happens to be very affordable. It usually cost about thirty five dollars, but if you wait until it goes on sale you may be able to purchase it for less. One thing that parents always seem to look for in any product is affordability.

The Pros and Cons of the Combi Deluxe Activity Rocker

Following is a list of several pros and cons that were found in the Combi Deluxe Activity Rocker. When comparing these two products I could not come up with the same number of pros and cons. Take a look and compare this list with the lists listed above and see which you would prefer to invest in.

1. Very Expensive– This items costs about eighty dollars, which is really a lot of money. Especially considering that this product is only able to be used until your baby reaches the age of about nine months. Even though it says that it can be used until your child reaches that age of twelve months. But many parents have found that their children no longer enjoy using it once they have reached eight or nine months of age.

2. The vibrating is the only real feature- Unlike some of the other rockers that are currently on the market this one does not play music, or have any additional features other then the three speeds of vibrating. It can vibrate slow, medium or fast, and that is about it. My children were not very entertained by this feature, and I ended up rocking it with my foot and not even using the vibrating feature.

3. No bright Colors for your baby to look at– The colors on this rocker are very neutral, and do not have any of the bright colors that most rockers have. While this may be beneficial at first since most babies can not see colors, eventually they will begin to recognize colors and will not longer find this product very interesting.

Following is a list of several Pros that I found with the Combi Activity Rocker!

1. It is very comfortable for your baby– Unlike the fisher price infant and toddler rocker this one is very cushiony and comfortable for baby. It was very simple for my little one to get comfortable and fall asleep in this rocker.

2. Machine Washable seat cushion– When it comes to babies anything that is machine washable is definitely a plus. This product has removable cushions that you can very easily pop into the washing machine and place back on the rocker. Since most babies always seem to make a mess this definitely make life a lot easier for mom.

3. Several reclining positions-You can recline the chair to adjust to your child’s own personal comfort level. Even the bottom foot rest can be easily adjusted so that your child is as comfortable as he or she can get. This is really a great feature since each child is very different.

4. Very easy to transport- Just like the Fisher Price rocker is fold up very easily and is simple to transport from room to room or when you are traveling on trips.

When you have finished reading this article you should be able to decide which of these products will work best for you and your little one. Keep in mind that everyone has their own opinions, and what does not work for others may not work for you. There is also nothing wrong wit going to the store and taking a look at each of these products and physically comparing both of them.

Tags:2005 Infant to Toddler Rocker by Fisher Price Versus The Deluxe Activity Rocker by Combi

2006 AFC East Preview

Way before I ever even dreamed about becoming a sports columnist, I was running around the streets of Philadelphia as a youngster in the early 1970s proclaiming the fact that the Miami Dolphins, and more specifically, Bob Griese, was the greatest thing since sliced bread.

I have been a diehard Miami fan ever since, although they have rarely given me reason to celebrate – even though they employed a player, (Dan Marino) that I think was the best ever at his position and a head coach who was also one of the greatest of all-time.

At any rate, I am once again feeling pretty good about my ‘Fins and the direction they are headed in going into year-two under head coach Nick Saban.

However, I don’t necessarily believe that the Dolphins are going to cakewalk through the AFC East this season – especially since there is a team named the New England Patriots that still resides in the division.
Now, the Jets and Bills are another story, but here’s my take on the AFC East for the upcoming 2006 season.

Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins won their final six games last season to finish 9-7 and put, not only the Patriots, but the entire AFC, on notice, that they are for real.

Saban, who has been described as one of the best coaches on the entire planet by many, came into Miami with a clear, concise plan to improve the Dolphins and he has implemented his plan to near perfection.

If new starting quarterback, Daunte Culpepper, comes anywhere close to producing the career numbers he put up in Minnesota, then Miami could be looking at making a deep playoff run this season at the very least.

Saban’s presence of mind to hire Dom Capers and Mike Mularkey as his new defensive and offensive coordinators respectively was a coup that could also vault the Dolphins to the top of this division.

I fully expect Miami to win at least three division games and more likely, four on their way to their first postseason under Saban.

New England Patriots
I am amazed at how many people think the Patriots are suddenly going to fall apart. Well, it’s not going to happen.
Have the Pats come back to the pack a little?

Unequivocally.

Are they suddenly yesterday’s news?

No way – at least, not until Tom Brady’s arm falls off and Bill Belichick suddenly forgets how to coach.

Having said that, the Patriots are certainly not the team that hoisted three Vince Lombardi trophies in four seasons.
The Pats undoubtedly have plenty of questions that need to be answered – and more competition – from the Dolphins, than they have faced in quite some time.

Is starting safety, Rodney Harrison, the defensive leader on this team, ready to return? Can anyone replace Adam Vinateri or Willie McGinest? Can Dean Pees make the transition from linebacker coach to defensive coordinator?

2006 will bring answers to all of these questions and many more – and although I don’t believe for one minute that the Patriots are a fallen dynasty, they do have more questions to answer this season than at any time during the Belichick era.
I expect the Patriots to go at least 3-3 in the division in 2006 and with the Jets and Bills in this division, probably, 4-2.

New York Jets
Everything I’m hearing out of New York is that 35-year-old rookie head coach; Eric Mangini has the stuff it takes to succeed as a head coach in the NFL. Having said that, I don’t care if the man is the reincarnation of Vince Lombardi, the Jets are a team that should struggle to stay around .500 this season.

With a tough early-season schedule (games against New England, Indianapolis, Jacksonville and Miami in the first six weeks), the Jets could be buried before the midway point of the season.

Any team that is hoping that former Washington Redskin, Patrick Ramsey, can take over as their starting quarterback is simply out of their mind.

I think it is entirely possible that the Jets could win only one or two division games this season in what should be a trying inaugural season for Mangini.

Buffalo Bills
I always liked Marv Levy when he was coaching the Bills through their four Super Bowl losses, but I have to say that maybe it I time for the man to walk away from the game and enjoy retirement like most people his age.

Levy hired ex-Bears head coach Dick Jauron after Mike Mularkey’s surprise resignation, which was a step backwards in itself. But for the Bills to select a safety (Donte Whitner) that no one else had rated that high and then spend money on the underachieving Peerless Price was absolute nonsense.

Simply put, the Bills should be in a footrace for the bottom spot in the AFC East. I’m thinking one or two division wins sounds about right for the Bills too.

Tags:2006 AFC East Preview

2005 NFL Draft Five Years Later: Where Are They Now?

Now that 5 full seasons have passed, it’s time to take a look at the 2005 NFL Draft class and where they are today. I will take a look at the top ten picks in depth and then look at other sleepers and busts that were drafted back in 2005. The performances, like most drafts, offer ranges from flops to Pro-Bowlers.

1. Alex Smith – QB – San Francisco 49ers

Alex Smith had a miserable rookie season, with 1 TD and 11 interceptions while battling injuries. He wasn’t much better in the following years, though San Francisco had a different offensive coordinator each year. He eventually lost his starting job, but regained during the 2009 season and finally showed promise as a starting QB. He is the 49ers starting QB entering the 2010 season.

2. Ronnie Brown – RB – Miami Dolphins

In 2008, Ronnie Brown became the poster child for the popular Wildcat offense. He broke out that year, rushing for over 900 yards on just 214 carries. His 2009 season ended with injury, but he figures to be back splitting time with RB Ricky Williams.

3. Braylon Edwards – WR – Cleveland Browns

Edwards has dynamic potential at wide receiver, but has become well known for his dropped passes. He talked his way out of Cleveland during the 2009 season and was traded to the Jets, a team he helped lead to the AFC Championship Game. Edwards is a key player for the Jets entering the 2010 NFL season.

4. Cedric Benson – RB – Chicago Bears

Benson was another running back bust with the Bears. He had a host of problems on and off the field and never fully grasped the starting job. After being released by the Bears, Benson wound up in Cincinnati and had a key role in the Bengals offense in 2009. He still is having some off the field issues, including another recent arrest.

5. Carnell Williams – RB – Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Williams shared a backfield with Ronnie Brown at Auburn. After a rookie year that saw him rush for over 1,000 yards, Williams battled injuries. He finally played a full season in 2009, gaining over 1,000 yards from scrimmage.

6. Adam Jones – CB – Tennessee Titans

Jones no doubt has shown signs of dominance in the secondary and return game. But sadly, off the field issues have derailed his career. He is known mostly for his arrests and suspensions, and is considered one of the biggest risks in the NFL. In 2010 he is receiving another chance, this time with the Bengals.

7. Troy Williamson – WR – Minnesota Vikings

Williamson was drafted higher than many thought. He has largely been a bust, known for dropping many crucial passes and being fairly immature. He was traded to Jacksonville in 2007 and hasn’t improved much there either.

8. Antrel Rolle – CB – Arizona Cardinals

Rolle has had a decent though unspectacular career. He was benched but regained his starting spot. He moved to free safety in 2008 and also played in the Wildcat offense for the Cardinals. He was released in 2010 and signed with the Giants. He has also appeared in the Pro Bowl.

9. Carlos Rogers – CB – Washington Redskins

Rogers struggled his first four seasons, mainly due to injuries. He had a good year in 2009, starting 15 games and leading the team in pass deflections. He is being counted on to continue to help the Washington defense in 2010.

10. Mike Williams – WR – Detroit Lions

Williams was a major bust. He wound up sitting out a year after trying to enter the NFL Draft before he was eligible. After that the Lions drafted him. He had a modest rookie year and a dreadful 2006 season. He was traded to Oakland in 2007 and was cut from there, briefly playing for Tennessee as well in 2007. Williams was out of football after that, but has signed a deal with the Seahawks in the 2010 offseason, reuniting with his USC coach Pete Carroll.

While the top 10 of the 2005 NFL draft is checkered, other huge stars emerged later in the draft…including first rounders Aaron Rodgers, DeMarcus Ware, Shawne Merriman, and Jamaal Brown, all considered among the best at their positions. Vincent Jackson, Justin Tuck, Marion Barber, Trent Cole, and Frank Gore are among the later round picks who have forged successful Pro Bowl careers.

SOURCES

2005 NFL Draft

Williams Stats

Smith Stats

Benson Arrest

Rogers Stats

Tags:2005 NFL Draft Five Years Later: Where Are They Now?

2006 Tampa Bay Devil Rays Season Review

What went right: Carl Crawford had an excellent season. He reached double-digits in triples and homers while hitting over .300 and stealing 58 bases. He’s a franchise player that the Rays need to build around. Ty Wigginton had 24 home runs and 79 runs batted in while hitting .275. Then again, have Wigginton as one of your strong points says a lot about the state of the team. Rocco Baldelli returned strong from injury to hit .302 with 16 home runs and 57 RBIs. He also stole 10 bases. An improvement in strike zone judgment will make Baldelli a more complete player. Scott Kazmir showed his immense promise by compiling a 3.24 ERA to go along with 163 strikeouts in 145 innings. Mark Hendrickson was a nice surprise. He kept the team competitive in his starts. The Rays took advantage of his increased stock and dealt him and Toby Hall to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Dioner Navarro and Jae Seo.

What went wrong: Starting pitching was bad and the bullpen wasn’t much better. Outside of Kazmir and Hendrickson, only one other pitcher who pitched over 50 innings (Ruddy Lugo) had an ERA below 4.00. By the end of the season, there wasn’t a consistent closer available either. San Francisco castoff Tyler Walker finished with 10 saves to go with an ERA very close to 5.00. The offense was filled with empty at bats from Jorge Cantu (.249 average, 91 strikeouts in 413 at bats), Damon Hollins (.228 average, 64 strikeouts in 333 at bats), and Jonny Gomes (.216 average, 116 strikeouts in 385 at bats). Trading away Julio Lugo to the Los Angeles Dodgers and Aubrey Huff to the Houston Astros only served to weaken the offense further.

Going forward: The Devil Rays have some of the best young positions talent in the minor leagues. Volatile Delmon Young made a splash late in the year. Young hit .317 over 126 at bats and displayed tools similar to those of Vlad Guerrero. Mercurial BJ Upton was slightly overmatched in his 175 at bats, but still managed to hit .246 and steal 11 bases while only being caught stealing on time. Dioner Navarro, who came over as part of the Hendrickson deal, looks like he will be a solid, if unspectacular catcher in the future. Navarro displayed solid plate discipline and decent power, 4 homers, in 193 at bats with the Devil Rays. Kazmir is an unquestioned future ace, but there is little in the rotation behind him. Kazmir would also benefit from improving his change-up. His electric fastball/slider combination would become deadlier with the ability to change speeds. The Rays would be wise to sign a decent veteran starting pitcher or two to fill in the rotation behind Kazmir. James Shields appears to have some promise, but he would be better served pitching as a #4 or #5 starter at this point in his career. Stop gap veterans in the bullpen would be beneficial as well. Having a consistent closer would give the Rays 5-6 more wins next year since winnable games wouldn’t be lost in the last few innings.

There are some building blocks in place for the D-Rays, but it is going to take a few years for them to mature into established players. Hopefully by that time, there will be role players in place that can support the building blocks.

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2006 NCAA Basketball Preview

‘Tis the season to be jolly, well, almost. But if you are a fan of schools like North Carolina, Kentucky, Duke, Arizona, and Kansas, you are tired of the weekly shalacking that your teams receive and are ready for the college basketball season to begin. For schools like these, football games are no longer a place to go and watch football, they are an excuse to hang out and talk about the upcoming basketball season, and there is a lot to be discussed. From the reigning national champion Florida Gators returning their entire starting lineup, to the star studded recruiting classes of North Carolina and Ohio State, and the endless abundance of talent for the Duke Blue Devils, there is plenty to discuss. Let’s get started…..

My Preseason Top 5 ….

#1 – Florida- How could they not be in this position? The Gators return all five starters from last year’s national championship team, including Joakim Noah who is arguably one of the top players in the nation and who was a man among boys in their run to the national championship. Watch out for Corey Brewer, who is one of the most versatile wing-men in the country. Billy Donovan has a very solid squad this year, although Florida will be targeted from day one, they have the talent to make it back to the final four this year.

#2 – North Carolina – If it wasn’t for Florida returning all 5 starters, the Tar Heels would be the preseason number 1. The Dean Dome is home to the nation’s top low-post presence, Tyler Hansbrough. This sophomore sensation was dominating in his freshman season and has added 15 lbs of muscle in the off season. The Tar Heels also added the nation’s top recruiting class, including; Tyson Lawson, Wayne Ellington and Brandan Wright, three of the top fifteen recruits in the nation. This young, yet very talented Tar Heel squad should have Roy Williams chasing his second national title in the past three seasons.

#3 – Kansas – Like Florida, the Jayhawks are returning all five starters headed by the flashy stud named Brandon Rush. The Jayhawks arguably have the most talented roster in the country much like the Connecticut Huskies of last year. The hope for Bill Self and his squad is that their season doesn’t turn out like Uconn’s and that they make it to the Altanta and an appearance in the Final Four.

#4 – LSU – The Tigers of LSU made a sensational run to the Final Four behind the wide body known as Glen ‘baby’ Davis. The Tigers will be hurt by the loss of Tyrus Thomas, who was a top 5 pick in this year’s NBA draft. LSU return’s everyone else from their team that made it to Indianapolis last season. LSU will be tested early when they face the Huskies of Connecticut and Texas A&M.

#5 – Ohio State – This could possibly be a bit of a stretch but I like the “Thad Five.” The “Thad Five” refers to the incredible recruiting class that coach Thad Matta has brought in for this season. This recruiting class is headed by Greg Oden, a 7′ 1″ 255-pound monster who experts said would have been the unanimous number one draft pick in the NBA this year if it wasn’t for the new rules regarding draft age. If Oden is as dominating as everyone predicts, I see no reason why Ohio State can’t make a run at the Big Ten title and beyond this season. Huge matchup at North Carolina looms early in the season when the Heels and the Buckeyes clash in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

Sleeper – Georgia Tech – The Yellow Jackets added a pair of studs, Thaddeus Young and Javaris Crittenton. The Jackets will be young this season, but with the coaching of Paul Hewitt who knows how to get his team to the Final Four, I believe the Jackets will be a dark horse to make it all the way to Atlanta.

Top 5 Studs for the 2006/2007 Season –

1. Tyler Hansbrough (UNC) – was an absolute stud in his freshmen season average 18.9 points and 7.8 boards per game. With more help this season, look for a monster year for the big man in light blue.
2. Chris Sumpter (‘Nova) – Villanova’s top player who missed most of last season, is the front runner for player of the year in the Big East. Assuming he stays healthy, look for Sumpter to lead the Hoyas to the top of the Big East.
3. Josh McRoberts (Duke) – With the departure of Sheldon Williams, McRoberts will the focus in the post of the Blue Devils this season. He is very athletic especially around the rim, both dunking and blocking.
4. Greg Oden (Ohio State) – A lot is to be learned by the young Buckeye, but with his size and talent, Oden will be dominating kids from day one. Be afraid, be very afraid.
5. Joakim Noah (Florida) – He passed up a shot to turn pro being named the Final Four’s MOP last season and is poised to lead his Gators back to the Atlanta. Can you say repeat?

There is a quick peak of what is to come for the 2006/2007 college basketball season. It is nearly time to trade the pigskin for the hardwood, and touchdowns for high-flying slam dunks, but for now, the pain of the football season will linger a little while longer, but stay focused on the main issue, the college basketball season is right around the corner which means there are brighter days ahead….

Tags:2006 NCAA Basketball Preview

2006 Kansas City Chiefs Preview

I don’t know what to say about the Chiefs except that, new head coach Herman Edwards should finally instill some kind of defensive toughness in this team that has been an offensive juggernaut for the better part of the last five seasons.

After watching the Chiefs during the preseason though, I am going on record to say that if Edwards tinkers with the offense too much (which he may have already done) then he will be dong this team a serious disservice.

The Chiefs problems have always been on the defensive side of the football. If Edwards tries to play it too close to the vest, and run Larry Johnson into the ground in the process, then the Chiefs will be taking a serious step backwards.

Similarly, if Edwards can get the defense up to a championship caliber level, then the Chiefs could be one of the best teams in the league. Whatever happens, it should certainly be an interesting season in 2006 for the Chiefs as the begin year-one of the Edwards era.

Quarterback
Even at 36-years-old, Trent Green has shown no apparent signs of decline and continues to make play after play for K.C. Green is very accurate and always has an “out” if he is in trouble. I will say that the Chiefs had better look to upgrade their backup QB position because if they think Damon Huard is the answer, they had better think again. Kike the majority of NFL teams, should their starting quarterback go down, Kansas City can mail in the rest of their season.

Running Backs
Because of his eye-opening year in 2005 and the arrival of Edwards (a coach who likes to run the ball), all of a sudden, everyone is suddenly expecting former Penn State star, Larry Johnson, to rush for 2,000 yards. However, I am going on record right now to say that, if Edwards doesn’t let Green throw the ball enough in 2006, the Chiefs – and Johnson – will suffer greatly for it.

Johnson will continuously face seven and eight-man fronts designed to specifically stop the run. If Edwards lets the offense operate much as it did last season, with a nice balance of passing and rushing, then Johnson should have some huge games this year.

One other thing K.C. should be worried about is the loss of fullback Tony Richardson, which leaves them with no veteran lead blocker for Johnson.

P.S.
At some point, I suspect that Priest Holmes will want a bigger role in the backfield but we shall see.

Wide Receiver/Tight End
For a guy that looked like he was nearing the end of his career a few seasons back, Eddie Kennison has pulled off one of the biggest reappearing acts of all-time. Kennison is coming off of consecutive 1,000-yard seasons and is the Chiefs only real weapon at the wide receiver position.

Sammie Parker, the team’s other starting wide receiver, is as inconsistent as any wide receiver anywhere and had better get his act together quickly before he loses his spot to some other unknown talent. K.C. should be thanking their lucky stars for tight end Tony Gonzalez who is going to go down in history as one of the best tight ends of all-time. Now if only Edwards will throw a little more.

Offensive Line
The Chiefs have an excellent offensive line that has opened huge holes for years for Priest Holmes and now, Larry Johnson.
Willie Roaf is a sure-fire Hall of Famer and guard Will Shields is a competent veteran. Brian Winters is another Pro Bowl caliber player and Casey Weigmann is the glue that holds this unit together. John Welbourn starts at the other tackle while Kevin Sampson and Jordan Black will come off the bench as rotation players.

Defensive Line
To put it mildly, the Chiefs’ defensive line reminds me of Swiss cheese. There are holes all over the place – except where end Jared Allen plays that is. K.C. drafted another Penn State product with their first-round pick this year (Tamba Hali) to help upgrade this atrocious unit that also includes Eric Hicks and Carlos Hall, Ryan Sims and Lional Dalton.

Linebackers
Again, I see more Swiss cheese here. Besides second-year man, Derrick Johnson, the Chiefs are hurting at linebacker.
Kendrell Bell reminds me of my wife’s cooking – he’s toast at this stage of his career and should probably hang it up. I also keep having these nightmares about middle linebacker Kawika Mitchell, making tackles on a consistent basis. Edwards had better have some Maalox on hand at all times this season because the Chiefs defense is going to drive him batty at times.

Defensive Backs
I like K.C.’s secondary. There’s All-Pro caliber, Patrick Surtain on one corner and two competent safeties in Sammy Knight and Greg Wesley. If Lenny Walls can man the other corner competently, then the Chiefs won’t have a problem here at all – unless they’re forced to cover receivers forever because the defensive line and linebackers can’t get any pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

Special Teams
All I’m going to say is that the Chiefs young kickers don’t get more consistent, either one of them could be gone come 2007.
Kicker, Lawrence Tynes and punter Dustin Colquitt had better get their acts together quickly because I’m sure Edwards vividly remembers former Jets kicker, Doug Brien costing his team a shot at the AFC Championship title by kicking the ball everywhere except between the uprights.

Coaching
I have always been an immense Edwards fan and I think it will only be a matter of time before he gets this team into contention for the conference championship, however I am going on record right now to say that Edwards had better throw the ball more often than he did with the Jets.

The Chiefs’ strength is obviously their offense and if Edwards plays it too close to the vest, the Chiefs could actually take a step backwards in 2006.

Tags:2006 Kansas City Chiefs Preview

2006 NFC East Preview

Going into the 2006 NFL season, the NFC East looks to be the deepest division in all of football. The Giants won the division a year ago, while Washington won a playoff game. Dallas has been solid in recent years, and added Terrell Owens, while Philadelphia is only a year removed from a Super Bowl appearance. The questions in the division are whether they can survive into the postseason after beating up on one another, and, of course, what effect the NFL’s most controversial player will have on his team, his division, and his league. If T.O. holds up, Dallas has to be considered a serious contender for the NFC championship.

(2005 Regular Season Records in Parentheses)

Dallas Cowboys (9-7)

The pre-season coverage of the Cowboys has, as expected, revolved around wide receiver Terrell Owens, his hamstring, and his potential for an explosion this year. Whether T.O. can handle Dallas depends on two factors: can he get the ball, and can the Cowboys win? If Dallas can get Owens the ball, and live up to expectations on offense and defense, they can expect to be a top-ten unit on both sides of the ball and to challenge seriously for the NFC East title and beyond.

The Cowboys return the heart of an excellent defense that finished tenth in total defense a year ago; led by an excellent secondary featuring Terrence Newman and Roy Williams, they should continue to stop opponents this season. A healthy, and happy, Owens will upgrade an offense that finished in the middle of the pack a year ago. With Julius Jones and Marion Barber in the backfield behind a rebuilt offensive line, the Cowboys will have weapons all over the field for quarterback Drew Bledsoe, and he should have more time to get the ball to his receivers. Bledsoe led the NFC by taking 49 sacks a year ago; while he deserves some of the blame (he holds on to the ball way too long way too often); if the Cowboys can cut that number, their passing attack will thrive in 2006.

Bill Parcells is running out of time for his third Super Bowl ring, and this may be his last, best opportunity. The Cowboys face a challenging schedule, but as third-place finisher a year ago, they get the Lions and Rams, in addition to their divisional matchups. The slightly easier schedule, and the addition of Owens, give the Cowboys the pre-season nod.

2006 Prediction: 11-5, NFC East Champions, Super Bowl loss to Colts

Washington Redskins (10-6)

The Redskins a trendy Super Bowl pick after closing the 2005 regular season with five straight wins and giving eventual NFC champion Seattle a tough game in the divisional playoffs. In the off-season, Washington added DE Andre Carter and safety Adam Archuleta to a top-ten defense, while picking up wide receivers Brandon Lloyd and Antwaan Randle-El to take the pressure off of breakout star Santana Moss. On paper, the Redskins look ready to challenge for the NFC title.

The pre-season injury to Clinton Portis, however, has to be a concern, and like their division counterparts, the Redskins face a difficult schedule, with divisional matchups against the NFC East and South and AFC East. The offense struggled mightily in the playoffs a year ago, and even with his new weapons, Mark Brunell turns 36 in September and has lost at least a step. The Week 2 matchup at Dallas looms large in setting the pace early; with the Redskins and Cowboys dueling the stretch, and Joe Gibbs and Bill Parcells at the helm, it will feel like the old days in the NFC East. Parcells gets the edge in 2006, however, and the ‘Skins will have to settle for the wild-card spot again. Washington may get another playoff win, but a Super Bowl run seems a bit premature.

2006 Prediction: 10-6, wild card

New York Giants (11-5)

Last year’s NFC East champion looks to defend their crown in 2006 against what shapes up to be one of the NFL’s best divisions. With all eleven starters returning from last year’s third-ranked offense, and the continued development of Eli Manning, Giants fans are looking at 2005 as a stepping stone to things to come. Defensively, the G-men added a number of veterans to a defense that was solid a year ago, but simply overwhelmed by injuries down the stretch. The Giants’ best acquisition was OLB Lavar Arrington, a supreme talent who struggled in Washington. If Arrington stays motivated and plays smart, he could be the impact linebacker the Giants have lacked for years. If not, the Giants could have depth issues at the position.

There are more concerns for the Giants. Tiki Barber is coming off a career year, and, at 31, cannot be expected to provide another 1,800-yard season. Many of the Giants’ stars – Barber, Michael Strahan, Amani Toomer, and Sam Madison – are on the wrong side of 30, an age at which NFL stars often slow down, and sometimes deteriorate quickly. The Giants’ biggest concern is their schedule; New York may have the most difficult schedule in the NFL with six games against their own tough division, plus four each against the NFC and AFC South, in addition to games against 2005 division winners Chicago and Seattle. The Giants play ten games against teams with winning records in 2005 – six of them on the road.

Every year, at least one division champion seems to fall apart the season after. With so many question marks, the Giants may get some good wins, but the schedule is simply too tough. With Washington and Dallas charging, the Giants will slip to at least third in an excellent division.

2006 Prediction: 7-9

Philadelphia Eagles (6-10)

It all fell apart quickly for the Eagles a year ago, who suffered through injuries, tough losses, and the Terrell Owens media circus en route to a frustrating, miserable 6-10 season. It doesn’t look to improve much for the Eagles in 2006, a consensus pick to finish last in the talented NFC East.

That’s not to say the Eagles will be a bad team; with returning stars like Donovan McNabb, Brian Westbrook, and Jevon Kearse, the Eagles still have talent, and Philadelphia will be a dangerous team from week to week. But with ten games against the Redskins, Cowboys, Giants, Colts, Jaguars, Panthers, and Bucs, they will struggle to reach even 8-8 in 2006.

For all the T.O. hype, it was Philadelphia’s defense that let them down a year ago, finishing 27th in the NFL in points allowed in 2005. The return of CB Lito Sheppard from injury and the addition of DE Darren Howard will help, but not enough. McNabb lacks weapons and experience at wide receiver, and there’s little depth behind starting RB Brian Westbrook. The Eagles will show flashes of their three straight NFC Championship Game appearances, but it won’t be enough in a deep, physical NFC East division.

2006 Prediction: 7-9

Tags:2006 NFC East Preview

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