In the read option if the first receiver isn't open, Tebow prays and then runs.

In the read option if the first receiver isn’t open, Tebow prays and then runs.

Today, I’m going to do what professional sports journalists do. I’m going to take a simple quote and overanalyze it far too much in order to come to an interesting conclusion.

First, the background. The Jets have been ridiculously secretive about their “Wildcat” plays, banning anyone attending practice from speaking about them. Why be so secretive about it? There’s about 3-5 basic plays that are run from the wildcat formation, and everyone knows them already. Everyone just passes it off as the Jets being silly about being secretive, but what if “Wildcat” is just a smoke screen? What if they’re not running a Wildcat with Tebow? What if it’s really the read-option Tebow ran in Denver, and the Jets are trying to trick, at the very least, their week one opponent, the Bills, who will be unprepared? If that is the plan, I don’t think it will work. I expect NFL coaches to be a little smarter than that. I would expect the defense to watch film of Tebow from last year and be prepared a little for the read-option.

I read this quote today on ESPN: “It’s fine,” Tebow said Thursday. “We had a few live reps in practice, but I’ve ran that stuff before so I’ve had reps in my life at it.”  Tebow was responding to a question regarding whether or not he’ll have trouble running “Wildcat” plays which they hadn’t practiced live in preseason games.

Now, Tebow might just mean that he’s run some “Wildcat” plays before during games. Or, he slipped, and he let us know that it’s going to be more of a read-option offense, with which Tebow is already very familiar from his extensive time with that offensive system. If I knew how many true “Wildcat” plays Tebow has run in his life, I could make a better guess as to whether or not he let something slip here.

Preseason is so boring this is the kind of thing I write! BRING ON THE REGULAR SEASON, DAMN IT.

This is the consultant the Jets brought in improve their wildcat formations. This is the real reason there's a media blackout during practice when they run the plays. If it got out the Jets hired an alpaca, the fans would revolt.

This is the consultant the Jets brought in improve their wildcat formations. This is the real reason there’s a media blackout during practice when they run the plays. If it got out the Jets hired an alpaca, the fans would revolt.

Sep 292010

They say a ship screams before she sinks. Jack Del Rio and Tom Coughlin definitely scream.

They say a ship screams before she sinks. Jack Del Rio and Tom Coughlin definitely scream.

Titans 29 Giants 10 – The ship is sinking as the crew mutinies in New York. The Tom Coughlin watch begins in earnest. No such watch will start in Tennessee, where Jeff Fisher is firmly entrenched. Even if Vince Young regresses, the Titans will still have Chris Johnson to fall back on. The only question is this: at what point will all those carries start to wear on Johnson?

Cincinnatti 20 Carolina 7 – Cincinnatti overachieved last year. The Bengals defense is better than I have given it credit for, but the offense still is what it is. Carson Palmer has never been the same player he was before the elbow injury and it looks like he may never be the same player again. Carolina is rebuilding and has correctly started the Jimmy Claussen era, but John Fox needs to worry a little bit if he will be there to see it through to the end. The Carolina running game has regressed, but it’s hard to run when you have such a weak passing offense and a group of receivers who could be replaced by uniforms filled with straw (once you get past Steve Smith.)

Pittsburgh 38 Tampa Bay 13 – Wow, watch out for the Pittsburgh Steelers when Roethlisberger comes back. If Ben comes back ready to play at the same level he always does there’s no reason Pittsburgh shouldn’t be considered the favorites in the AFC. Tampa Bay is still in the process of rebuilding, but they have to be heartened by the development of Josh Freeman thus far. LeGarrett Blount is a big son of a bitch who may be a powerful runner in the future. The dented wheels of the old Cadillac can only go so far.

New England 38 Buffalo 30 – A heartening effort by Buffalo, although New England isn’t what they used to be. That pass defense is awful with a capital “A.” How good would the Patriots have been if the past couple seasons if you replaced Tom Brady with an average QB? Is Bill Belichick such a genius if he doesn’t have a hall of fame QB all these years? I could possibly think of 4-5 defensive coordinators I would want to run my defense before Belichick nowadays. The release of Trent Edwards is an odd move by Buffalo, as he was a fairly cheap and solid option for a #2 QB. I wonder what was going on behind the scenes…

Baltimore 24 Cleveland 17 – The talent isn’t quite there for the Browns yet and Brian Daboll is possibly the worst offensive coordinator in the NFL, but this team is playing hard. Peyton Hillis ran like Brandon Jacobs used to against a tough Ravens defense. I’m still a little wary of Joe Flacco even though I have an ongoing lovefest with his skill set. Did anyone doubt that Anquan Boldin would be this good in Baltimore? The guy is a hell of a player. Todd Heap hasn’t been the receiving threat he was early in his career for years due to declining speed, but the guy is still a heck of a TE.

The Vikings better hope that the Great Pumpkin rises from the Pumpkin Patch.

The Vikings better hope that the Great Pumpkin rises from the Pumpkin Patch.

Minnesota 24 Detroit 10 – Well, at least Minnesota can still beat the Lions when they’re starting their second string QB. Detroit is on an uptrend while Minnesota is on a downtrend. Jahvid Best’s toe injury is a big worry. Toe injuries seem like nothing but they can significantly limit a player’s ability to perform. Remember: Johnathon Ogden retired due to a toe injury that wouldn’t go away and Antonio Gates’ ’08 season was significantly hampered by a toe injury. Brett Favre has reverted to his pumpkin self again. AP proved he is still a monster. I knew it as soon as I saw the preaseason game where he turned back into the field and ran over David Barrett for a few extra yards instead of going out of bounds. High character guy too.

Atlanta 27 New Orleans 24 – Atlanta looked pretty terrible in week one but they’re clicking now. New Orleans will rebound, they are still a great and talented team. Losing Reggie Bush will hurt their offensive options but with people like Sean Payton and Drew Brees at the helm they will adjust. Look for more touches for Lance Moore. Also, DEAR GARRET HARTLEY: AT LEAST YOU’RE NOT SCOTT NORWOOD.

Dallas 27 Houston 13 – Same old Texans. I am not liking Gary Kubiak as a coach lately. Even Dallas can get motivated when everyone is kicking dirt in their face. The challenge will be to keep this up. Both of these teams should be in the playoffs this year based off of their talent and if they fail heads will roll. Alarm for Cowboys: Jason Witten is banged up pretty bad, but is toughing it out. Alarm for Fantasy Football Players: Despite a sighting of famous pizza delivery man Roy Williams, don’t expect that kind of production from him on a weekly basis.

Kansas City 31 San Francisco 10 – I love that lunatic Mike Singletary, but this coaching staff isn’t getting the job done. The teams’ performance is very uneven. Romeo Crennel is doing a heck of a job with the Chiefs’ offense and Charlie Weis no longer has a gall bladder. Hey, has anyone seen Michael Crabtree lately? Me neither. The Chiefs will come back to earth soon but the fans have to love the progress this team is making. Dexter McCluster is electric. Chiefs fans deserve it: they are some of the best fans in the NFL.

Even DeAngelo Hall has friends.

Even DeAngelo Hall has friends.

St Louis 30 Washington 16 – The Rams are closer to being a winner than the Redskins are right now, as sad as that is. Without McNabb the Redskins would be in an even more sorry state. Sam Bradford is coming along much faster than expected but the Rams have to start thinking about the future at running back. Steven Jackson has a lot of tread on his tires, is injury prone and a little long in the tooth. Oh, and DeAngelo Hall, please close your mouth. You are a third tier cornerback who thinks way too much of himself.

Philadelphia 28 Jacksonville 3 – The biggest sinking ship in the NFL besides the New York Giants is Jacksonville. If it wasn’t for MJD Jaguars fans would pray to have the games blacked out every week. The Eagles are winning ugly when they aren’t playing Jacksonville, but with players like Michael Vick, Maclin and Jackson in that offense they will at least keep their fans entertained. Michael Vick is still not an accurate QB. What is it they say? “There’s two things you can’t teach a QB : arm strength and accuracy.” Important words to remember. Vick has arm strength, at least. The Eagles will get by as McNabb wasn’t the most accurate QB in the world either… a curiosity as Philadelphia runs perhaps the purest version of the West Coast Offense in the NFL.

Indianapolis 27 Denver 13 – It’s not fair to have to go up against Peyton Manning after the tragedy the Broncos endured this week. Perennially underappreciated Kyle Orton is getting the job done. He is somewhat akin to a poor man’s Chad Pennington with a greater ability to win the game on his own and a greater propensity for bad decisions. Peyton Manning has rightfully (IMO) panned the NFL’s decision to go to an 18 game schedule, mostly because he won’t have time to work with the undrafted free agents and castoffs Indianapolis likes to identify and work with in preseason, which will be shortened. I also think players undergo enough wear and tear in a 16 game format. We’ll break here for a reader question, since it is Denver related:

Anthony Roselle writes: “This isn’t exactly a question, but more of a topic of discussion. What do you make of teams that don’t have a clear cut #1 WR. Example Broncos, Bears, and Chargers. They don’t have a clear cut #1 WR. One week Naanee tears it up the next week nothing, similiar for Malcolm Floyd. Also who is the #1 for the Bronco’s Gaffney, Royal, or the rookie Thomas. Does it pay to start any of these WR’s from these teams. It seems like one week they’re hot, and the next week nothing.”

Some teams will have receivers who are targeted more regularly than others. Denver is not one of them. It is characteristic of the Josh McDaniels offense to spread the ball around a lot, and unless there’s a stud there like Brandon Marshall or Randy Moss targets will vary a lot from week to week. With the Bears, I think you can expect Johnny Knox to get consistent targets but the ball will be spread a bit, albeit to a lesser degree than the Broncos. With the Chargers, they throw the ball so much that all their receivers should have no difficulty getting sufficient targets each week. It’s hard to identify a “#1” for the Broncos, but Thomas has the most obvious physical skills for the role. Royal will remain a slot receiver. Floyd and Knox will tend to be solid starts every week.

Arizona 24 Oakland 23 – Both of these teams just aren’t that good and lack talent at the QB spot. I think they’ll both focus more on running as the season goes on, as that is where their strengths lie. Fitzgerald will continue to underperform as long as the Arizona QB situation fails to change and his injuries linger. Darren McFadden has finally arrived. If you’re in a fantasy league I would pick up Fitzgerald if I could do so cheaply, in case he turns it around. Just don’t give up much for him.

Seattle 27 San Diego 20 – Seattle is better than expected, and it’s great to see Leon Washington succeeding in Seattle. He doesn’t look as explosive as he did before that absolutely horrific leg fracture last year, but he’s still a game changer. The Jets were fools if they thought they could replace him with Joe “Vomitorium” McKnight. Couldn’t they have kept Chauncey Washington (Now lost to the Rams) on the roster instead of McKnight? San Diego continues to find ways to lose despite immense talent. That said, Seattle is a difficult place for San Diego to play since it’s very loud and they run an offense with a lot of long winded playcalling terminology. It’s a recipe for false start and delay of game disasters, and they contributed to the San Diego loss. The San Diego offense will continue to remain explosive with Rivers at the helm. If the Seattle offense can continue to get at least some production out of its receivers John Carlson could be a useful fantasy TE.

Well,"Wildcat" was written in a kind of obsolete vernacular... Wildcat....

Well,"Wildcat" was written in a kind of obsolete vernacular... Wildcat....

New York Jets 31 Miami 23 – Mark Sanchez is looking much more developed than Chad Henne despite having less experience as a starter. If I looked at them play and didn’t know anything about them I would assume Henne is the younger QB. Henne is bigger and has a stronger arm than Sanchez, but in all other facets of his game Sanchez is superior. The Jets pass defense was abused by Henne, Marshall and the Dolphins and Kyle Wilson, although talented, has been a liability in the secondary so far. The Jets passing defense was scary bad in this game. Opponents take advantage of Jim Leonhard’s size, Eric Smith’s coverage skills, Kyle Wilson’s lack of experience and on occasion Antonio Cromartie. They need Revis and Pace back. The Jets still may be the class of the AFC after Pittsburgh, but Matt Slauson is a gaping hole in the left side of their offensive line. Vladimir Ducasse is not ready to play in the NFL yet. Prepare for big Sanchez numbers when Santonio Holmes rejoins the offense, which will also mean more room for Dustin Keller. The Jets out wildcat’d the Dolphins, just as they said they would. The Dolphins are one of the few teams that run the wildcat in a sensible manner but it looks like defenses have finally caught on. Jason Allen is an absolute joke – an Antonio Cromartie without the coverage skills and without the hordes of illegitimate children.

Chicago 20 Green Bay 17 – Wow, who saw the 3-0 Bears coming? Certainly not me, although I took the Bears in this matchup with the spread. Cutler still makes some god awful decisions and the offensive line is poor, but the run defense is surprisingly stout despite the fact that Tommie Harris is a liability nowadays. The Bears might continue to surprise this year, but they are still a borderline wild card team. The number of penalties the Packers accrued on Monday night was downright embarassing and lost them the game, but they will rebound. Aaron Rodgers is a magnificent QB and Jermichael Finley is in the top tier of NFL tight ends.

Ben Roethlisberger and Three Women Enjoying Tasty Rohypnol Beverages

Ben Roethlisberger and Three Women Enjoying Tasty Rohypnol Beverages

Since I probably have some pre-draft related questions that may be irrelevant by the time the draft is over, I’m going to answer some reader questions today!

For all of the people wondering if the Steelers now listening to offers on the eve of Draft Day are not going to materialize, do you think it is possible? Steelers are a class organization and the
Rooney’s are not big on Raiders of the 70’s kind of player conduct. Do you think one team in the top 10 or mid rounds will let the pick go, ride the suspension and get what is really a friendly remaining contract on Big Ben? -Jason

Knowing the Rooneys I don’t doubt in the least that they are shopping Roethlisberger. A football team is a product and Roethlisberger is damaging the brand with his conduct. After the police report was released – which pretty much indicated a case of forcible rape even though they could not prosecute Roethlisberger – a lot of fans will find it hard to cheer at all for him. I think I could more easily welcome Bill Belichick to the Jets as head coach than I could welcome Roethlisberger as a QB right now. I would also more easily cheer for famous canine sports enthusiast, Michael Vick, than I would for Roethlisberger. He has a lot of work to do to rehabilitate his image and the only thing saving him right now is his talent. I could only see a maverick like Al Davis trading for Roethlisberger at this point – everyone else will not want to deal with the baggage.

I wish I’d thought of this, but I haven’t really been paying attention since we’ve been chopping veterans and salary and sniffing with indifference at most free agents, but … Pat Kirwin on Sirius NFL just wondered aloud about Kevin Mawae signing with the Eagles.  Seems like a win-win, as Jackson will be out and we have no centers. Even if we get Marukice Pouncey draft day (and I would be fine with that), what could it hurt to have Mawae around? -Mike West

One certainly could do worse than Kevin Mawae at center. He is an intelligent and talented center who is a great locker room influence. However, I do get a little nervous due to his age and the fact that he is small for a center – does that mean there’s more wear and tear on his body? Mike Munchak, the Titans offensive line coach, swears Mawae is in great shape for his age. If that’s true Mawae would be a great filler for the gap in the Eagles’ offensive line. If the Eagles aren’t interested in Mawae they better have a backup plan because there are several other teams, including the Jets, who could swipe Pouncey from them. (The Jets would play him at guard.)

“If the League leading rushing Jets go into the 2010 season with a three headed backfield, will any of the running backs have any fantasy value and if so, who do you project to be the leading fantasy rusher?” G. Slade, Dover, NJ

Shonn Greene is a very talented running back who should only get better in 2010. However, Leon Washington and LaDainian Tomlinson will take a bite out of his fantasy production. Greene will definitely be the most fantasy relevant New York Jets running back, but he will probably be no better than a 2nd tier running back due to Washington and Tomlinson cutting into his touches.

“Are the new complex offenses like the wildcat, running quarterbacks and throwing running backs a fad or are they the wave of the future?” -Rich L., Denville, NJ

The “Wildcat” has been around for a long time in the college ranks although it has never been especially popular in the pros. However, the only team that really ran a unique “Wildcat” offense in the NFL were the Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins ran interesting, different plays with imbalanced and unique formations whereas most other teams’ “Wildcats” consisted of putting an athletic runner in at QB and running standard plays.

Part of the reason the Wildcat is not so popular in the pros is due to the fact that it exploits marked athletic superiority in the backfield. For instance, if you have a blue chip running back and an athletic quarterback when you run crazy option plays the defensive players will not be fast enough to handle Vince Young running the ball with the option to pitch it even further to the outside.  This works in a college environment where elite players have a huge edge in athleticism over the average player. However, in the NFL everyone belongs to that elite class from college and it no longer is as effective a tactic. The Wildcat was markedly less effective last season after other teams had an opportunity to properly prepare for it and it will most likely diminish in popularity in the 2010 season.

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