Archive for February, 2010

NFL Best of the Decade- Part 8- Secondary

Out of all the lists I’ve made thus far, this one was the toughest.  You really could go either way with many of these players, especially the cornerbacks.

Anyway, here’s what I came up with.

Top 10 Cornerbacks

1. Champ Bailey- The Champ is here.  If you read my top running backs of the decade, you read why the Bailey, Portis trade was one of the greatest trades ever because of how it benefited both teams so adamantly.  Bailey was one of the rare corners who stuck to a receiver like glue and had unbelievable ball skills.  He had the quickness to stick to underneath routes, and the speed to stick with deep threat receivers.  One play defines his career.  In the 2005 NFL Divisional Playoffs, Bailey intercepted Tom Brady in the end-zone.  He ran the ball all the way back to the one-yard line.  The Broncos won the game and advanced to the AFC Championship Game. 

2. Ronde Barber- The twin brother of former running back Tiki Barber.  Ronde is an all-around corner.  He became the first cornerback in history to amass over 20 career interceptions and sacks.  He wasn’t the most athletic, but he was smart, instinctive and savvy.  In the 2002 NFC Championship Game, Barber took all the air out of Veterans Stadium when he sealed a Bucs win over the Birds after he returned an interception 92 yards for a touchdown. 

3. Charles Woodson- He sealed the 3 spot after winning the Defensive Player of the Year Award this past season; the first corner to do so since Deion Sanders achieved the distinction 15 seasons ago.  Woodson had 9 interceptions and returned 3 of those for a touchdown.  He was very physical and aggressive; excellent in helping against the run.

 

4. Ty Law- He was tough, physical and always made the big plays on the big stage.  His most important play came in Super Bowl XXXVI when he intercepted Rams quarterback Kurt Warner, returning the pick 47 yards to paydirt.  Law had absurd ball-skills to go along with his wide-receiver like hands.

 

5. Nnamdi Asomugha- Approximately two years ago, I had a friend ask me who the best corner in the league was.  I said Nnamdi Asomugha, he literally thought I made the name up.  He never heard of the guy.  I guess it sucks playing in Oakland.  I have also had people tell me, well how come he doesn’t have any interceptions?  I just laugh.  Anyone who judges this guy because he doesn’t have any picks clearly doesn’t know anything about football.  He takes half the field away, no one throws at him, he simply has superior cover ability.

6. Troy Vincent

7. Chris McAllister

8. Patrick Surtain

9. Antoine Winfield

10. Sheldon Brown

Honorable Mentions- Asante Samuel, Terrence Newman, Dre Bly, Rashean Mathis, Terrence McGee, Shawn Springs, Sam Madison, Samari Rolle, Deltha O’neal, Marcus Trufant, Al Harris, Walt Harris, Quentin Jammer, Aaron Glenn, Bobby Taylor

Some Names to Throw Out for Next Decade- Darrelle Revis, Tracy Porter, Mike Jenkins, Leon Hall, Eric Wright, Leodis McKelvin, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Aqib Talib, Antoine Cason, Malcolm Jenkins, Tramon Williams, Brandon Flowers, Vontae Davis, Alphonso Smith, Joe Haden, Kyle Wilson

Top 10 Safeties

1. Ed Reed– The best ball skills, instincts and closing speed I have ever seen.  He played head games with the quarterback, constantly baiting quarterbacks to throw interceptions.  Reed holds the NFL record for longest interception return for touchdown, 108 yards.  He is simply a “game-changer.”

   

2. Brian Dawkins- Dawkins was the heart and soul of the Eagles defense.  He was an emotional leader, getting his team fired up with bone-crunching hits.  He was fantastic at pressuring the quarterback in Jim Johnson’s complex blitzing schemes.  He is one of ten players to have over 20 career interceptions and sacks.

3. Troy Polamalu– An intrical part in Pittsburgh’s zone-blitz packages.  He had marvelous ability to stop the run, and play back in coverage.  He played with reckless abandon, throwing his body around. 

Troy_Polamalu_Icon.jpg image by revmyspace 

4. Darren Sharper- He showed this past season that he’s still got it.  With the Saints Sharper set the record for most interception return yards in a season, eclipsing Ed Reed’s mark of 358 yards set in 2004.  Sharper had 374 interception return yards.

5. John Lynch– He was predominantly known for his fantastic tackling ability.  In fact, in NFL Films top 10 feared tacklers, Lynch came in at number 10.  He played a coach on the field, always helping out his defense with positioning.  Lynch wasn’t athletic, but he was great at taking the proper angles to the ballcarriers.

6. Rodney Harrison 

7. Adrian Wilson

 Wide receiver Johnnie Lee Higgins #15 of the Oakland Raiders is sent flying by defensive back Adrian Wilson #24 of the Arizons Cardinals during a preseason game on August 23, 2008 at the McAfee Coliseum in Oakland, California.

8. Bob Sanders

9. Sean Taylor (What could have been)

10. Roy Williams

Honorable Mentions- Donovan Darius, Nick Collins, Adam Archuleta, Rod Woodson, Lance Schulters, Sammy Knight, Lawyer Milloy, Kerry Rhodes, Mike Brown, Ken Hamlin

Some Names to Throw Out for Next Decade- Quinton Mikell, Jairus Byrd, Roman Harper, Brandon Merriweather, LaRon Landry, Michael Griffin, Reggie Nelson, Kenny Phillips, Louis Delmas, Eric Berry, Taylor Mays, Earl Thomas

  

NFL Best of the Decade- Part 7- Linebackers

The 3-4 defense changed the way the linbacker position is played, especially the outside linebackers.  Defensive ends who played in college are now learning how to play outside linebacker. 

With the skill players on offense getting faster, the defense has to adjust.  Linebackers are getting smaller and faster.

Thus let’s look at who were the best linebackers of the decade.

Top 10 Inside Linebackers

1. Ray Lewis- Before the 1996 NFL Draft, scouts stated that Lewis was too small for the middle linebacker position.  At 6’1 235 pounds, Lewis may have been a tweener, but he was relentless.  Lewis has since then bulked up, now 260 pounds.  Lewis wound up being picked 26th in the first round.  Since then, Lewis has won 2 Defensive Player of the Year Awards (2000 and 2003) and a Super Bowl MVP.  Lewis is just so instinctive, he flies to the football. He’s also one of the most emotional players I have ever seen.

2. Brian Urlacher-  At New Mexico, Urlacher played safety.  At 6’4 260 pounds, Urlacher simply had unreal athleticism for his size.  He was picked 9th by the Bears in 2000 to play linebacker.  The transition to the middle linebacker position worked out just fine.  Not only could Urlacher close in on tackles, he used his experience playing safety in college to become one of the best linebackers in pass coverage ever, period. 

 

3. Zach Thomas- Tough, the one word Thomas is associated with.  He wasn’t the tallest, he wasn’t the most athletic, but he was tougher than a $2 steak.  Thomas played middle-linebacker for the Miami Dolphins for 12 seasons.  Year after year, Thomas’ name would be on top or near the top of the list in tackles.  He was only 5’11, but he was an incredible worker.

4. London Fletcher-  In my opinion, the most underrated player of the decade.  He finally got some due by making his first pro-bowl this past season.  He went undrafted in the 1998 NFL Draft after winning the Division III Defensive Player of the Year Award at John Carroll.  Like Zach Thomas, Fletcher was a phenomenal tackler. 

 

5. James Farrior- His career really got going after signing as a free agent in 2002.  He fit perfectly for Defensive Coordinator’s Dick Lebeau’s zone blitzing scheme.  Farrior had great timing on his blitzes up the middle, and backing out of a blitz into coverage.  He was also a great tackler, consistently leading the Steelers in tackles during the decade.

6. Al Wilson

7. Keith Brooking

8. Donnie Edwards

9. Tedy Bruschi

Tedy Bruschi #54 of the New England Patriots reacts after stopping Larry Johnson of the Kansas City Chiefs on September 7, 2008 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.

10. Patrick Willis

Honorable Mentions- Nick Barnett, Jeremiah Trotter, Junior Seau, Jonathen Vilma, Jamie Sharper, DeMeco Ryans, Jon Beason, Mike Peterson, Antonio Pierce, Mike Peterson

Some Names to Throw Out for Next Decade- Keith Rivers, Rey Maualuga, James Laurinaitis, Jerod Mayo, Curtis Lofton, DeMeco Ryans, David Harris, Rolando McClain, Brandon Spikes, Quan Sturdivant

Top 10 Outside Linebackers

1. Derrick Brooks- He could roam sideline to sideline and make tackles as well as he could drop back into coverage in Tony Dungy’s Tampa 2 Defense.  He was blistering fast and incredibly agile.  He excelled at making tackles in the open field.  In 2002, Brooks won the Defensive Player of the Year Award.  He had an NFL Record 4 returns for touchdown. (3 interception returns and 1 fumble return)

2. Joey Porter- He had a huge mouth, but he backed his trash talk with his play on the field.  He had 90 sacks in the decade, 2nd to only Jason Taylor.  Porter had great speed off the edge, he closes in on the quarterback in a hurry.

3. DeMarcus Ware- He has revolutionized the 3-4 outside linebacker position.  An exceptional pass rusher with extreme explosiveness.  He had 20 sacks in 2008, the most since 2001 when Michael Strahan broke the single season sack record with 22 1/2.  As we head into the new decade, Ware is still improving.

4. Julian Peterson- A very uniquely talented outside linebacker because of his ability to dominate in all facets.  He was strong v.s. the run, solid in pass coverage, and could rush the passer.  His 2003 season proves my point, 144 tackles, 7 sacks, 2 picks and 2 forced fumbles.  That is a true smorgasbord of NFL statistics.

5. Keith Bulluck- He was a very versatile player.  In college at Syracuse, Bulluck played strong safety, middle linebacker and outside linebacker.  As a Titan, Bulluck settled in on the outside.  He had nimble and quick feet.  He shined in coverage as he could cover a lot of ground.  He also had great ball skills.

6. James Harrison

7. Lance Briggs

8. Shawne Merriman

9. Takeo Spikes

10. Lavar Arrington

Honorable Mentions- Willie McGinest, Shaun Phillips, Adalius Thomas, Terrell Suggs, Jason Gildon, Peter Boulware, Ernie Sims, Cato June, Mike Vrabel, D.J. Williams

Some Names to Throw Out for Next Decade- Brian Cushing, Clay Matthews, Aaron Curry, Sergio Kindle, Sean Witherspoon, Greg Jones, Sean Lee, Bruce Carter

 

 

 

 

Tiger Woods Apology Speech

Although’s today’s speech was completely overblown, I have to give Tiger Woods a lot of credit for coming out and doing something he didn’t have to do, please the public.  Today was an apology to his wife, family, friends, and fans.  It was a starting point and a visible step towards his long and winding road back to golf. 

I’ve heard some bashing to his speech as being too overcliche’d and robotic.  You have to remember, Tiger’s personality isn’t exactly like that of Will Ferrell.  He’s very private.

Woods is an alum of Stanford University, so I think he would know how to write an effective, compelling speech.  Anyway, along with Kobe Bryant and Mark McGwire, this was the most talked about athlete apology speech ever.   Except, Tiger allegedly didn’t rape anyone or cheat the game.  Tiger’s actions were inexcusable, but all the drama has been completely overexaggerated, magnified, and blown-up.  I mean, even I’m writing a response to his speech.  Poor Tiger.

 

 

NFL Best of the Decade- Part 6- Defensive Line

Jason Taylor and Michael Strahan dominated their positions in the decade.  Strahan played the right side, Taylor the left.  Which one was better?

As for the defensive tackles, Sapp has to be number 1, right?

Lets count them down.

Top 10 Defensive Ends

1. Jason Taylor- Taylor was the sack-leader of the decade.  He was almost impossible to block one-on-one.  Taylor was tall and lean and played more of a finesse style, although, he had underrated power.  He did more than just rush the quarterback, he made plays.  He was outstanding at stripping the football and had great hands to intercept passes.

2. Michael Strahan- Will be most notably known for breaking the NFL single season sack record of 22.5 in 2001.  Strahan may have been the most complete end of the decade.  He caused havoc for quarterbacks, but he also excelled in stopping the run.  He won the defensive player of the year award in both 2001 and 2003.  Strahan retired after the 2007 season after accomplishing his goal, winning a Super Bowl with the Giants.  Not a bad way to go out.

3. Richard Seymour- He played stellar in the Patriots 3-4 defensive scheme.  He dominated as a 3-4 defensive end, but could also slide inside at defensive tackle in the 4-3.  He made essentially every tackle he had to.  He didn’t always put up the sack totals, which may make him be looked at in a negative light by casual football fans. 

4. Dwight Freeney- His patented spin move caused chaos for opposing offensive tackles in Tony Dungy’s Tampa 2 defense in Indianapolis.  Freeney is so quick off the ball, and stays low to the ground.  His relentless motor has allowed him to become the Colts all-time sack leader.

5. Julius Peppers-  He has all the tools; speed, quickness, power, agility and lateral mobility.  The 2002 NFL Defensive Player of the Year does a little bit of everything.  He sacks the quarterback, stops the run and creates turnovers.  Peppers also owns the accolade of both making the Super Bowl with Carolina, and the NCAA Final Four with North Carolina.

 

6. John Abraham

7. Simeon Rice

8. Jared Allen

9. Patrick Kerney

10. Leonard Little

Honorable Mentions- Hugh Douglas, Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, Aaron Kampman, Aaron Schobel, Robert Mathis, Mario Williams, Osi Umenyiora, Marcellus Wiley, Robert Porcher, Joe Johnson, Jevon Kearse, Aaron Smith, Andre Carter, Kevin Carter, Shaun Ellis

Some Names to Throw Out for Next Decade- Mario Williams, Trent Cole, Justin Tuck, Chris Long, Lawrence Jackson, Derrick Harvey, Robert Ayers, Derrick Morgan, Carlos Dunlap, Tamba Hali 

Top 10 Defensive Tackles

1. Warren Sapp- Sapp had unreal speed and agility for his size.  He was also very strong and had a non-stop motor. In 2000, Sapp recorded 16.5 sacks, astonishing for a defensive tackle.  Sapp demolished inside, stuffing opposing running backs and getting to the quarterback.  He caused teams to double and sometimes triple team him. 

2. Kevin Williams-  I remember watching the 2003 NFL Draft and just laughing at the Minnesota Vikings.  The Vikings had the 7th overall pick, and for the 2nd consecutive season, Minnesota couldn’t get their pick in on time.  They eventually took the guy they wanted at 9, Kevin Williams.  ESPN host Chris Berman made a mockery of Minnesota, and the “experts” insisted that Williams was taken a bit early.  I guess it’s Minnesota laughing now as Williams dominated the decade.

    

3. LaRoi Glover- He was one of the best interior pass rushers of the decade.  Glover’s effort was all-out.  He was strong, held a wide-base and had exceptional leg drive.  Off the field, Glover always gave back to the community.  He won the 2007 Walter Payton Man of the Year award.

 

4. Jamal Williams- He was the epitome of a 3-4 nose tackle, squashing running backs and quarterbacks.  Williams was massive and it takes a lot to move him.  He engages a double-team just about every down.  His ability to take up blockers allows the Chargers defensive ends and linebackers to roam free.

5. Kris Jenkins- Another massive tackle with outstanding run-stuffing ability.  He was and still is strong and quick.  He was one of the main reasons why the Panthers made the Super Bowl in 2003 along with Julius Peppers.

6. Albert Haynesworth

7. Casey Hampton

8. Marcus Stroud

stroud

9. Rod Coleman

10. Vince Wilfork

Honorable Mention- Shaun Rogers, Bryant Young, Pat Williams, Anthony McFarland, John Henderson, Tommie Harris, Sam Adams, Trevor Pryce, Cornelius Griffin, Corey Simon

Some Names to Throw Out for Next Decade- Haloti Ngata, Amobi Okoye, Mike Patterson, Domata Peko, Jay Ratliff, Darnell Dockett, Ndamokung Suh, Glenn Dorsey, Sedrick Ellis, B.J. Raji, Gerald McCoy, Brian Price 

 

NFL Best of the Decade- Part 5- Offensive Line

You’ve all heard the saying, a football game is won in the trenches.  The following were the best offensive linemen of the decade.

Top 5 Tackles

1. Jonathan Ogden  

2. Walter Jones 

3. Orlando Pace

4. Willie Roaf

5. Willie Anderson

 

Top 5 Guards

1. Alan Faneca

2. Steve Hutchinson

3. Will Shields

4. Brian Waters

5. Larry Allen

 

Top 5 Centers

1. Kevin Mawae

2. Olin Kreutz

3. Jeff Saturday

4. Matt Birk

5. Tom Nalen

 

Bracketology 2/14/10

Midwest (St. Louis)

1. Kansas

16. Lehigh/Jackson St

8. Louisville

9. Illinois

4. Vanderbilt

13. UTEP

5. Gonzaga

12. Siena

6. BYU

11. Dayton

3. Wisconsin

14. Charleston

7. Missouri

10. Florida State

2. West Virginia

15. Coastal Carolina

South (Houston)

1. Syracuse

16. Middle Tennessee State

8. Northern Iowa

9. Richmond

4. Texas

13. Murray State

5. Tennessee

12. Virginia Tech

6. Baylor

11. Old Dominion

3. Michigan State

14. Oakland

7. Xavier

10. Cincinnati

2. Duke

15. Belmont

West (Salt Lake City)

1. Kentucky

16. Robert Morris

8. Maryland

9. UNLV

4. Pittsburgh

13. Utah State

5. Temple

12. UAB

6. Butler

11. Ole Miss

3. Georgetown

14. Weber State

7. Clemson

10. Cornell

2. Kansas State

15. Morgan State

East (Syracuse)

1. Villanova

16. Stony Brook

8. California

9. Oklahoma State

4. Ohio State

13. Kent State

5. Wake Forest

12. Charlotte

6. Texas A+M

11. Marquette

3. New Mexico

14. Sam Houston State

7. Georgia Tech

10. Rhode Island

2. Purdue

15. UC Santa Barbara

Last 4 in- Ole Miss, Virginia Tech, Charlotte, UAB

Last 4 Out- Florida, St. Mary’s, San Diego State, South Florida

Next 4 Out- Washington, Notre Dame, Mississippi State, Northeastern

NFL Best of the Decade- Part 4- Tight Ends

The tight-end position has been revolutionized once again this decade.  While blocking is still a major factor, speed and catching the football has become an important factor.  For example at the scouting combine, Vernon Davis ran a 4.4 40-yard-dash, simply astonishing. 

I’ve blabbled enough, here are the to 10 tight ends of the decade!

Top 10 Tight Ends of the Decade

1. Tony Gonzalez- As a tight-end, he was the best receiving tight-end of the decade.  He reset the standard for a tight-end in the NFL.  He holds various NFL records for a tight-end including touchdowns, yards, and receptions.      He was also a very effective blocker, part of the reason why Priest Holmes and Larry Johnson had stellar seasons in their stints with Kansas City.     

2. Antonio Gates- The best athlete at the position of the decade.  As a pass catcher,  he is too fast for linebackers, and too big for defensive backs.  As a college athlete, Gates played basketball for Kent State.  In many of his receptions in the NFL, Gates uses his basketball background by “boxing out” defenders as he goes for the ball. 

3. Jason Witten-  As a blocker, he is adept in both the running and passing game.  He is just as good a receiver.  He’s tough to cover, and when he’s in the open field he knows how to deliver a blow.

4. Jeremy Shockey- As a Giant, Shockey always played with a chip on his shoulder.  He is the epitome of a hard-nosed football player.  Great blocker and receiver.  He really excelled lining up in the slot, running the seam.   

 

5. Alge Crumpler-  He was a rare athlete at his size.  He had huge legs that helped him quite well in the running game.  He was like adding another offensive lineman to the line of scrimmage.  As a receiver he can go get it in the end-zone.

6. Todd Heap- If the Ravens actually had a quarterback during the decade, Heap’s numbers could have been great.  Still, he was one of the top pass catchers at the position.  He was the main target in the passing game for the Ravens for many seasons.

7. Chris Cooley-  He played more of an H-back, but Cooley could really block well.  In the running game, he can clear a hole and seal the edge.  He could go get out, run good routes and catch the football.  Some say he has great hair.

  

8. Dallas Clark-  A great target in the passing game, and a huge asset for Peyton Manning.  Similar to Gates, Clark is too quick for linebackers, and too strong for defensive backs.  He runs the slot very well.

9.  Kellen Winslow II-  The son of the sensational Hall-of-Fame tight end Kellen Winslow of the San Diego Chargers from the 1980’s.  He plays a lot like his father did.  In 2005, Winslow suffered a horrific knee injury to his right knee in a motorcycle accident.  He wound up missing the entire 2005 NFL season.  I’m curious to what could have been if it wasn’t for that crash. 

10. Shannon Sharpe-  Arguably the top tight-end in the 1990’s makes the top ten in the 2000’s.  Sharpe is most notably known in the decade for his 2000 Baltimore Ravens Super Bowl run.  He had two extroardinary touchdown catches.  The first came on a 58-yard juggling score against the Broncos in the Wild-Card round.  In the AFC Championship Game against Oakland, he scored the only touchdown of the game on a crushing 96-yard touchdown reception. 

Honorable Mention- Randy McMichael, Freddie Jones, Frank Wycheck, Bubba Franks, Heath Miller

Some Names to Throw Out for Next Decade-  Vernon Davis, Owen Daniels, Dustin Keller, JerMichael Finley, Brandon Pettigrew, Brent Celek,  Fred Davis, JerMaine Grisham, Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez.