Category Archives: Commentary
by Patrick Wall
As the NFL world descends on Indianapolis for the second time in less than a month, the focus will be on the future. Prospective rookies attending the Combine shuffle in to be poked and prodded, measured and tested, interviewed and studied. But the Combine is also a place for the sport’s power players to begin wheeling and dealing.
Eagles’ GM Howie Roseman will be hearing plenty about his disgruntled star wideout DeSean Jackson. Hopefully these conversations tell him what I suspect he already knows: if winning the Super Bowl next year is really, truly, the goal, the Eagles must keep him.
Granted, this is easier said than done. Jackson, and agent Drew Rosenhaus (the man responsible for this infamous moment in Philly sports history), are asking for the type of money the Jets inexplicably gave Santonio Holmes, or around $10 million per year.
Let’s be clear: neither Jackson nor Holmes are worth that type of money. But they are similar players, and both are crucial to what their respective offenses do. When Jackson is on the field, defenses have to account for his blazing deep speed. And when he has the ball in his hands, he can take it the distance at any time. This has likely been Rosenhaus’ mantra through the negotiation process.
For the Eagles, the situation looks less rosy. After holding out during the first part of training camp, Jackson had his worst year as a pro, netting 58 catches for 916 yards and four touchdowns. While these numbers aren’t terrible, the team expects better. Despite being a threat as a punt return and runner—as a rookie he was the first player to be named the starter at two positions in the Pro Bowl—he was a virtual non-factor as a punt returner last season.
Worse than his production was his attitude. Jackson seemed to be pouting for the majority of the season, and was deactivated against the Cardinals for missing a team meeting. He was also benched against the Patriots for playing soft, dropping easy touchdowns that would’ve meant he’d take big hits.
Several news outlets have reported recently that Jackson is likely to be given the franchise tag as early as next week. This would lock him up for another year and pay him the average of the top five receivers in the game, which equals around $10 million. Jackson has said he is fine with this—proof, in this writer’s opinion, that it’s all about the Benjamins, baby.
Franchising DeSean also gives the team a few options: they can keep him for a year and potentially franchise him one more time after next season, negotiate a long-term deal, or trade him.
At this point, many fans seem ready to part with DeSean, but I’m not so sure. Money seems to be his biggest motivator. While it’s fair to wonder if he’ll pull an Albert Haynesworth and quit on the team once he gets paid, he’s worth too much to the team to let go.
Yes, there are some sexy free agent names out there, including Dwayne Bowe, Marcus Colston and Vincent Jackson, but neither have the skill set of a player like Jackson. Defenses fear Jackson, and shutting him down only means more opportunities for guys like Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant, Brent Celek and the always dangerous LeSean “Shady” McCoy.
With head coach Andy Reid on the hot seat, continuity is key for the 2012 Eagles. It’s why the team brought back defensive coordinator Juan Castillo, and it’s why QB Michael Vick will still be leading the team. Jackson is one of Vick’s favorite weapons, and the two have an adorable “big bro/little bro” dynamic that I think is a positive forJackson’s maturity (yeah, you read that right).
So what’s he worth? Definitely not the $10 million per year he wants. But DeSean may have a hard time turning down $6 or $7 million a year with incentives and a healthy signing bonus. Overpaying for superstars isn’t necessarily a bad thing. A happy DeSean Jackson is a bonus for the team, and a productive DeSean Jackson is a nightmare for opposing defenses.
By Evan Benton
Easily the most sought-after free agent element in the tumultuous postseason, Oakland Raiders’ divinely skilled cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha was signed by the Philadelphia Eagles for a five-year, $60 million deal and heralded what was to be a new dawn for the green and black birds.
Now currently 4-7 and tied with the troubled Washington Redskins for bottom-feeding duty in the always competitive NFC East, the Eagles have lost a hold on their preseason hopes. Starting quarterback Michael Vick left Week 10’s home game against the Arizona Cardinals with more than a few broken ribs, and thus sat out these last two games. In his stead, Vince Young resurfaced and led his team to a stomp over the much-hated New York Giants last week. This week, he played very well, but not well enough to hamper perennially perfect New England, who beat them 38-20.
In his brief stint as an Eagle, Asomugha has accrued three interceptions and 21 total tackles. In comparison, Asante Samuel has added to his already stellar resume as an Eagle with two picks – one for a touchdown – along with 27 total tackles in his fourth year under coach Andy Reid.
Asomugha is not exactly underperforming for his new team, but for a franchise earlier this season dubbed “The Dream Team”, anything but a 10-interception season wouldn’t be good enough for its rabid, nationwide-despised fan base. In reality, everyone supporting the Philadelphia Eagles want wins, not INTS, to be the stats that really matter. And while Asomugha and Samuel have become – and will continue to represent – a terrible dual threat for any opposing quarterback, they are not the game changers that some unfairly expected them to be.
The cornerback position is an interesting one, for players and fans. The fastest players on defense are paid to follow, track, and prevent the fastest players on offense. Or, if we are to quote Samuel, who once said “They don’t pay me enough to tackle”, the obvious reason teams shill out millions for them and draft them high (or relatively, anyway) is for their heart-stopping, game-changing penchant for interceptions.
No other position on defense creates more turnovers, pure a simple. Cornerbacks can change games, no mistake. It happens often. But rarely can one, even Nnamdi Asomugha, change a season; a team. Great cornerbacks that rise to the occasion can only do one thing: make a good team even better.
Look at ageless wonder Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams, important facets of the undefeated Green Bay Packers’ big-time defense. Woodson is second in the NFL right now in terms of interceptions, with six on the season. Williams adds four, and together they’ve combined for 75 total tackles. Would the Packers still have a winning record without these two corners this season? Sure. Would they be a resounding, peerless 11-0? Doubtful.
The number one pick-master this season comes as perhaps as a surprise – four-year man Kyle Arrington of the Patriots, who leads all defenses with a whopping seven interceptions. His 46 total tackles as well as 12 total pass deflections – all in just nine games started in 2011 – has shown his success at the position and his dominance against his opposition. At 5’10” and 196 pounds, Arrington is often up against big wideouts that are used to manhandling secondaries. He’s shown his own worth, and his explosive lockdown ability has helped balloon New England to a 8-3 record.
His second year with the Patriots led to 60 total yards and just one interception, but the lone pick led to a touchdown. The only one of his short career. In time, it’s possible that the 25-year old Arrington may fill in the shoes for Samuel, who left for his current home in 2008.
Carlos Rogers, recent import from Washington to the Bay Area, has helped an already stellar San Francisco defense immensely with five interceptions, one of them a pick six. The 49ers wouldn’t be 9-2 without their impressive defense, and Rogers is an excellent addition to it.
Another offseason pick-up of note was Houston’s decision to snag Cincinnati Bengals alum Johnathan Joseph, who along with Leon Hall – probably the best cornerback after Asomugha of the last five years – were members of one of the most organized secondaries on one of the NFL’s most disorganized teams for years. Joseph gives the upstart Texans the experienced, dependable cornerback they need , and his four interceptions and one forced fumble prove he’s giving the AFC South-leaders their money’s worth.
Like Philadelphia, Kansas City also has a talented secondary that, on its own, is wildly impressive, but hasn’t alone added to wins. Brandon Flowers, all 5’9″, 185-pounds of him, is one of the fastest and most aware cornerbacks playing on any team. Undersized constantly in comparison to who he’s covering, the former Hokie has four picks this year, a touchdown, 36 total tackles and is the defensive leader of the league in pass deflections with 21.
Every team has their cornerbacks, but some are lucky enough to have one that sometimes stands out above the rest of the team. And the really lucky ones have a tandem.
And sometimes, they change games. All one has to do is remember Tracy Porter’s immortal pick of Peyton Manning in the waning moments of Super Bowl XLIV, the straw that broke the horse’s back and the epitome of game changer. More recently was DeAngelo Hall’s four interceptions of Jay Cutler last season, defensive efforts by a cornerback that neutered Chicago’s offense and gave the Redskins the edge in a close game.
But more often than not, they don’t. Even the best ones merely do their jobs, do them well, and can only keep the opposing offense in check and hope their own lights the field up.
Even Asomugha, while he was earning his reputation as the decade’s best cornerback, could do nothing to help his team, the Oakland Raiders, get a winning season. The defensive phenom may have owned the entire side of a field for entire games at a time, but he has no ring to sweeten the pot of his career.
In the next few years, Asomugha’s presence as an Eagle will undoubtedly provide his team with wins and playoff appearances. Now, part of a disorganized program without a real plan of action or identity, he’s doing all he can, and that should be enough.
In the meantime, other, lesser known players like Arrington are bonafide league leaders on teams poised to visit the postseason on the backs of underrated talent.
In a league where giant runs and rainbow-arc bombs dominate highlight reels, the devoted professional at the cornerback position often goes unheralded.
But not unnoticed.
Images courtesy of insidetheiggles.com, and www2.ljworld.com, respectively.
Week 1: Somehow I’ll Make a Man Out of You(r Fantasy Football Team)
By Patrick Wall
After reading Evan’s funny and well-articulated thoughts on our fantasy league (not to mention Brian Chan’s wonderfully in-depth look at our draft,) I thought it prudent to give my take. After all, I run the league. I am, wait for it… League Manager. With a capital “L” and a capital “M.”
I’m the boss. The king. The shah. And you’d think that with my phenomenal cosmic (read: fantasy football) power, I’d be working on a three-peat. Or at least a repeat. Something.
Well, fair reader. You’d be wrong. Very wrong.
You see, I seem to be snake-bitten when it comes to the world of fantasy football. I can tell you about non-name players like Bethel Johnson and Jeremy Bloom. I can spout of useless stats like it’s my job. But, the elusive title of MAFL league champion still eludes me.
True, I did win the league’s inaugural year. But considering no one else knew how to play fantasy football (and also considering that some of us were still in junior high at the time,) it’s hard to count that a win. After all, you don’t go around talking about how great the Las Vegas Locomotives’ championship year was, do you?
After a great deal of introspection, self-searching and training montages, I think I’ve figured out what ails me.
I love football too much.
Yes, anyone who knows me also knows how utterly obnoxious I am during the NFL season. And for that, I’m sorry (nah, just kidding. I’m not. Like, at all.) But being able to separate the head from the heart and turning my knowledge and love for the game into something tangible has proven more difficult than it might seem at first.
Like everyone else, I have a wide range of opinions. In the world of football, these can be based on past performances (I hate you, Matt Forte,) predictions (such as my decision to not draft anyone on the Chiefs, Redskins or Bengals) or just simple homerism (with the fifth pick in the MAFL draft, my Philadelphia Finishers selected Michael Vick.)
But too often I allow these factors to seep in. At first, I played the fantasy game like a snake—cold and calculated. I watched the stats, looked for matchups and went for the kill when I thought there was a play to be made. Sometimes it worked, but I found myself burned too often by terrible draft picks and bad luck.
I found that my success came not when I fussed every day about which third down back made the best flex play, but when I approached fantasy football like a normal, functioning member of society. You know, those people with jobs, social lives and girlfriends.
And you know what? It worked. Sure, I came in last in our division this past season. And yes, that meant that I placed lower than two guys who never once updated their rosters. But this year will be different. This year, I have a plan. I call it, drum roll please:
Patrick’s Incredible Plan for (Fantasy Football) World Domination
Essentially, the PIPf(FF)WD breaks down like this: compare last year’s stats to this year’s projections, factor in minimal bias and avoid boom-or-bust potential as much as possible. In our draft last week I placed a premium on players I felt would be the most consistent.
Ultimately my team, like anything worth having in life, required some sacrifice and compromise, but I think I have a stronger team than in years past. The star power is somewhat lacking, but I’m banking on solid players continuing to be solid than risking it all on another big year from Chris Johnson or Jamaal Charles, for example.
My Finishers are headlined by Vick, Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald, Jets wideout Santonio Holmes and a running back tandem of Rashard Mendenhall and Amhad Bradshaw. True, neither back is a world-beater. But they are consistent, play on good teams and have talent.
My second goal is to watch the waiver wire, but not to make snap decisions and not to fawn over my team like an overprotective parent whose child develops an immunity to Neosporin before the age of four.
Will this all work? Will I finally claim a legitimate MAFL championship? It remains to be seen. But I like my chances and I think this year will be different. And I’m glad you’re coming along for the ride.