Here we go. New year. New Blog. Thanks for reading. Here is a breakdown of my thoughts on the upcoming season.
The league will catch up to the read option this year, but it won’t get shut down like the wildcat. While this might hurt Colin Kaepernick, it won’t hurt RGIII or Russell Wilson, because they are pass first quarterbacks who happen to be world class athletes. Can’t say enough about these two — and they will likely torment me for years to come. RGIII will torch the Eagles for the next 10 years, while Russell Wilson (who the Eagles were one pick away from drafting in the 3rd round), will always be the one that got away. However, none of them will be as good as Andrew Luck, who is due for the big second year leap ala Peyton Manning, John Elway and Dan Marino.
EJ Manuel and Geno Smith will find out the hard way that they are not as good as last year’s rookie QB class. Manuel might have a few good years, boosted primarily by his athleticism. But when the league figures him out, expect a similar decline ala Vince Young. I hate everything about Geno Smith’s chances. Weak mentally, subpar athlete, and even worse passer. And it doesn’t help that he’s playing for a lame duck head coach and on a terrible team. But let’s put it this way: mid-way through the year, Jets fans should be calling for Mark Sanchez. That says all you need to know.
Adrian Peterson will be good this year, but he won’t be the top rusher in the league. That will be either LeSean McCoy, Jamaal Charles or Trent Richardson. Meanwhile, Arian Foster and Frank Gore are due for a big decline.
Wes Welker will catch over 100 balls, and AJ Green v Calvin Johnson for the title of best wide receiver in the league will be a legitimate debate. While everyone quickly found out about Julius Thomas on Thursday night, they will also find out about Jordan Cameron soon. He won’t be as good, but he will be good enough.
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Giovani Bernard, RB, Cin: he was a stud at UNC, so I got to see plenty of him in action. Expect him to become a Darren Sproles like player for the Bengals.
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Dion Jordan, OLB, Mia: He will be opposite Cameron Wake, which should give him less double teams to face. I expect him to put up good sack numbers, which always gets the attention of the voters.
NFL MVP: Peyton Manning. The offense is even better this year, with the additions of Wes Welker and Julius Thomas. And Manning won’t be throwing lame ducks on 20 yard outs like last year. They may not get it done in the postseason, but expect Manning to do big things this year.
5 teams that will miss the playoffs, but be a pain in the ass to play:
Jacksonville Jaguars: Two words. Gus Bradley. And Morris Jones Drew. Ok, that was like eight words. But you get the point. The defense will be markedly improved, and the offense will rely heavily on a motivated MJD. They might not get to 8 wins, but it’ll be close.
Miami Dolphins: I hate the front office. But somehow they’ve managed to get a good young quarterback and running back combo. Mike Wallace is more flash than substance, but with the improved defense, they should be a tough team to play.
Kansas City Chiefs: I was tempted to put them in the playoffs, but I just think Reid’s notoriously complex offense will be hard to digest in one year. However, watch out next year.
St. Louis Rams: they’ve gotten younger and quietly built a stout defense. They’ve also finally invested in the offensive line, and given Sam Bradford some weapons to play with. If they weren’t in the NFC West, they might push for a playoff spot.
Philadephia Eagles: In Chip Kelly we trust. I don’t believe in Vick, and the defense will be atrocious. But that offense is going to be fun to watch. LeSean McCoy and Bryce Brown will be a potent one-two punch, and expect DeSean Jackson to become the explosive playmaker that Kelly had at Oregon.
NFC Playoff teams: Washington Redskins, Atlanta Falcons, New Orleans Saints, San Fransisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, and Green Bay Packers.
AFC Playoff teams: New England Patriots, Indianapolis Colts, Cincinnati Bengals, Denver Broncos, Houston Texans and Pittsburg Steelers.
NFC Championship game: Atlanta Falcons v. Green Bay Packers
AFC Championship game: Denver Broncos v. New England Patriots
Super Bowl: Atlanta Falcons v. Denver Broncos
Super Bowl Champs: Atlanta Falcons: this is their year. Matt Ryan finally won a playoff game last year. The offense will be explosive. The defense improved. And I just getting the proverbial monkey off their back last year by finally winning a playoff game makes it easier for them to focus on the Super Bowl this year.
Defense wins championships.
It really is that simple.
What is the one constant between the four teams remaining in the playoffs? All four have elite NFL quarterbacks? No—only half do (Pittsburgh and Green Bay). Rather, all four finished in the top 6 in total defense. Can you win without a top flight defense? Sure, look no further than last year’s Super Bowl winner, New Orleans, or several years back when the Colts won it all.
But looking over past Super Bowl winners suggests that you are more likely to win a Super Bowl with a good quarterback and great defense than a great quarterback and mediocre defense. Mark Sanchez is two wins away for the second year in a row. Trent Dilfer won with the Ravens. Heck, even looking at Terry Bradshaw’s numbers (career 50% completion percentage, 212 tds, 210 ints), leaves you to believe that you don’t need Tom Brady to win the big one.
Which is why I think it is incredulous to say Michael Vick can never win a championship in Philadelphia. Despite his shortcomings (which I have been quick to point out all year), I think we all can agree that he is a good quarterback. My criticisms have focused on the fact that I do not think he is an elite quarterback; he cannot do the things other elite quarterbacks can: presnap reads, adjustments at the line, getting the ball out quickly and accurately in the face of pressure. All the little things that are crucial to elevating from good to elite. Listen to the Chicago Bears rave at how Aaron Rodgers recognizes a blitz and gets the ball out in 2-3 seconds before any pressure can get to him, and ask yourself if Vick will ever be that player. I think not.
But that does not mean the Eagles can’t win a Super Bowl with Vick at the helm. Andy Reid will never abandon his pass first philosophy, so we mine as well stop asking, hoping, and praying that he will. But we don’t need that to win. What we need is for the offense to improve at sustaining so that the defense is on the field less, and fresher longer drives (yes, I know, which could easily be done by just running the damn ball more). That will instantly make them more effective. If you also improve the defense through free agency, the draft, and coaching…well then I think we are onto something.
I have to admit, I know nothing about Roy Segrest beyond the fact that the majority of players that he coached underperformed, and then improved once they left the Eagles. By now, we have all heard the stats of Jason Babin and Chris Clemens combining for more sacks last year than Trent Cole and Juqua Parker.
Which brings me to the hiring of Jim Washburn. I love this move. Tennessee has always had a good defensive line, and Washburn seems to be a primary reason for that. The following all had great careers under Washbur: Kyle Vanden Bosch, Tony Brown, Jason Babin, Kevin Carter, Albert Haynesworth, Jevon Kearse, Antwan Odom, Robaire Smith, John Thornton and Gary Walker. Seven of those players (Vanden Bosch, Babin, Carter, Haynesworth, Kearse and Walker) earned a combined eleven Pro Bowl selections under Washburn’s tutelage.
Washburn brings a level of intensity that could instantly improve the Eagles dline. It’s not guaranteed—Bobby April had the best special teams unit for years prior to coming to the Eagles last year. And while the Eagles showed signs of improvement down the stretch, they were far from perfect. But, I think this hiring is a step in the right direction. There is talent there to be sure. And if Washburn can get the most out of his players like he did with the likes of Jason Babin last season, our defensive line won’t need much tinkering to show marked improvement.
(Editors note: When I first wrote this post, I thought I was going out on a limb suggesting the Eagles should sign Albert Haynesworth. I slacked, and didn’t post this since the Washburn signing, and now everyone is talking about it. Oh well, better late than never).
I will go out on a limb and suggest one way to drastically improve this defense: Albert Haynesworth. Yes, I know the risk. He is a malcontent. He is unpredictable. He throws more tantrums than Lindsey Lohan in court. But at his best, he is the most dominant force in the NFL. Oh, and he enjoyed his best years under Jim Washburn.
Chances are, with a defensive line of Trent Cole, Albert Haynesworth, Antonio Dixon, and Juqua Parker/Brandon Graham/Darryl Tapp, the Eagles could have a dominant defensive line. It would instantly improve the rest of the defense, if for no other reason than by making the rest of the d’s job easier. Linebackers would have less blockers to shed, the secondary would have to cover their man for shorter periods of time, and we wouldn’t have to send as many blitzes to generate pressure on the QB. Haynesworth isn’t the end all be all—we still need to address the right CB position (unless Trevard Lindley can step up), and our linebacking corp needs to be revamped (sorry Jamar Chaney, I’m not buying you as the MLB of the future).
Just one final tidbit courtesy of an old story from Profootballtalk.com back in April of 2010. Yes, Haynesworth signed a 7 year, $100 million contract. But last offseason the Redskins gave him a $21 million dollar bonus. Meaning that his remaining contract is three years, $16 million, with $9 million guaranteed.
…..So Big Albert…… How do you like Midnight Green?