Tag:Donovan McNabb
Posted on: December 23, 2010 12:06 am
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Rhett Bomar: Vikings quarterback of the future?

Posted by Will Brinson

Rhett Bomar was signed off the Giants practice squad on Tuesday by the Vikings, which is a seemingly innocuous move, right?

Well, yeah, probably. But there's a little interesting subterfuge involved in that Bomar and the Vikings have an opportunity to forge a current and future symbiotic relationship.

Right now, as Chip Coggins points out at the Minnesota Star-Tribune, Bomar is serving as the de facto Michael Vick practice dummy, which is the same thing he did with the Giants last week.

But Bomar isn't just there to do his best Vick imitation -- he thinks he can stick.

"It's a totally different situation," Bomar said. "There's no doubt about that. Eli's going to be there forever, and he's the franchise guy. Of course, everybody wants to play, and so I'm just looking for an opportunity to get on the field and show what I can do."

He's right -- barring some standard "miracle" that brings Brett Favre back to Minnesota, the quarterback competition next year is going to be WIDE open. There's little chance that the Vikings will roll with just Bomar and re-converted rookie Joe Webb (although that would be great for one of them), but best case he might be fighting against Webb and another rookie.

Worst case is he's competing against Webb and an acquired veteran like Donovan McNabb. But even that offers some opportunity.

Obviously some of this hinges on whether or not Leslie Frazier remains the head coach, but it's at least a better opportunity than he'll see in New York any time soon.

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Posted on: December 21, 2010 11:19 pm
 

Portis says Redskins are playing 'scared'

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Despite the fact he’s on the IR list and done playing for the season, Redskins RB Clinton Portis still continues to check in with 106.7 The Fan's The Mike Wise Show With Holden Kushner for his weekly segment.

Usually, he says something somewhat controversial, and today was no exception.

Portis Via the Washington Post, Portis said that without Donovan McNabb in the lineup, the Redskins are playing “scared.” That’s because, as Portis puts it, players see the benching of McNabb and realize if it can happen to him, it can happen to them as well.

"In the locker room, I think that (the McNabb benching) would scare a lot of guys," Portis said. "That Donovan McNabb, who has done so much in the NFL, gets benched. I think it becomes a thing in the locker room like, 'Man, if they bench Donovan, anybody can be benched. Or am I next, or what's next?' And I think guys start playing for safety.

"That's really been a big part of the problem around here. People start playing for safety. So it's like, 'I gotta play safe and sound, instead of going out on the limb and making plays.' It's like, 'How do you do what they say? I don't want to be outside the box. I want to do everything I possibly could to save myself.' Instead of just laying on the line. ... If they done with you, it ain't much you can do."

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Posted on: December 21, 2010 2:08 pm
 

'Disrespected' McNabb: 'Let's just move on'

Posted by Will Brinson

It wouldn't be a day in NFL coverage if there weren't some story relating to the Washington Redskins, would it? And thanks to Mike Shanahan starting Rex Grossman over Donovan McNabb in Week 15, we've got enough gossip juice to keep us rolling for the rest of the season, even if Albert Haynesworth stays off the radar.

Tuesday, McNabb appeared on ESPN 980 radio to talk about his benching and he had plenty to say about how he was "disrespected" by Shanny.

"Everything was handled awkwardly," McNabb said. "Somewhat to a disrespect to me and to the team."

McNabb lamented the evaluation process as well as the way that Shanahan handled the benching, not telling the QB of the decision until Thursday (and letting him hear about it through the media).

"Because of the timing and because of all the leaks and everything that was put out there, and no putting out the fire, so to speak," McNabb said. "I'm hearing everything through the media."

And, of course, he was asked about being placed behind even John Beck, into the third-string quarterback slot, something that didn't really thrill him too much.

"Yeah, I don't think too many guys go from 1 to 3," he answered. "That's an unfortunate situation that I guess I'm one of a few to be a part of."

The whole Washington thing is an "unfortunate situation" -- McNabb hasn't played well this year, and Shanahan has every reason to try something else out (although, Rex Grossman, really?) in the spirit of evaluation.

But the difference between the way he and McNabb are handling things publicly is stark, to say the least. McNabb continually says the "right thing," even when it involves him not looking for an apology ("At this point, let's just move on") or possibly returning to the Redskins in 2011 ("I do want to be back here").

Shanahan continually acts towards his would-be franchise quarterback in a manner that could, at best, be considered "motivational" in the right situation.

In this scenario, the only real word for it is exactly what McNabb used -- disrespectful.

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Posted on: December 20, 2010 2:11 am
Edited on: December 20, 2010 4:07 pm
 

10 stories worth your attention Week 15

Posted by Andy Benoit

1.) Miracle at the New Meadowlands

The Miracle at the Meadowlands – Herman Edwards’ last second fumble recovery and score in the Eagles’ stunning 1978 win at New York – will never be forgotten. But at the end of the day, that legendary sequence was more a consequence of Joe Pisarcik and Larry Csonka’s sloppiness than it was a great play.
D. Jackson (US Presswire)
The Miracle at the New Meadowlands was more about the brilliance of DeSean Jackson. There isn’t a more electrifying player in football than the third-year receiver from Cal. Jackson is what the Chicago Bears were hoping to get when they made Devin Hester a wide receiver; no player is as lethal on both offense and special teams. Not only does Jackson have long-striding speed and uncanny change-of-direction, but, as he showed after initially fumbling Matt Dodge’s line drive punt, he has t he acceleration of a Porsche.

Of course, after seeing the phrase “Matt Dodge’s line drive punt”, it’s hard to argue that sloppy play did not factor into the Miracle at the New Meadowlands, as well. During Jackson’s return, right before he alertly – though albeit unnecessarily – ran out the clock by running along the goal-line before taking it in, you could see Tom Coughlin throw his notepad to the ground in disgust. Coughlin then immediately ran onto the field and got in Dodge’s face.

But Coughlin should have been getting in GM Jerry Reese’s face. The bottom line question is, Why is Dodge even on the team? Yes, it’s easy for a sportswriter to look at the results and throw a punter – or, as Coughlin reminded everyone in the postgame press conference, a “young punter” –under the bus after an epically disastrous play, but anyone who has followed the Giants this season knows that Dodge’s lack of poise, hangtime and directional-ability have been major issues.

In fact, right before the punt, Troy Aikman commented about how Coughlin told the FOX production staff before the game that Dodge is not at a point in his career where you can ask him to kick a ball directionally. Wait a minute. Directional kicking…that IS punting. A punter who can’t kick directionally is the same as a quarterback who can’t throw or a shooting guard who can’t dribble or a striker who take a dive and fake an injury. If Dodge can’t handle directional kicking, he shouldn’t be in the NFL. The Giants have been learning that lesson the hard way this season – none harder than Sunday night.



2.) The buried stories

Whenever there’s a discussion about where the ending of a game ranks among all-time endings, the other storylines from that game inevitably get buried. We can’t let that happen with this Giants-Eagles classic. There are two storylines that HAVE to be examined.

First, the amazing Michael Vick. His fourth quarter alone chopped the defensive playbooks of Philly’s remaining 2010 opponents in half, as no team is going to risk playing man coverage against him again this season. With Giant defenders often turning their backs to the line of scrimmage and running downfield with the speedy Eagle wideouts, Vick was able to exploit rushing lanes that at times looked wider than the Jersey Turnpike. Vick, who finished with 130 yards on 10 carries, also created plenty of lanes himself. The Giants front seven swarmed the Eagles early on, but as the Giant pass-rush grew tired and the Eagles, trailing by 21 midway through the fourth, grew desperate, Vick was able to fall back on his instincts. What made him unstoppable in the fourth was that those instincts still involve keeping his eyes downfield and hitting the open receiver. That wasn’t the case four years ago. Vick killed the Giants with his legs Sunday, but his legs were deadlier because the Giants had to worry about his arm (and for good reason: Vick threw for 242 yards and three touchdowns). M. Vick (US Presswire)

The other story from this game: Andy Reid. Can you imagine the maelstrom of criticism Reid would face back in Philly this week if the Eagles had lost this game? He’ll still probably face the criticism – and deservedly so.

In the first half, backed up on their own 18 and with less than 30 seconds to play, Reid allowed his team to throw. Jeremy Maclin caught a quick slant but promptly fumbled, giving the Giants possession at the eight-yard line. It was the exact scenario that inspires most coaches to take a knee or run the ball in that situation. Even more bizarre than the awful decision to throw was that, just one play earlier, Philadelphia had run the ball in what appeared to be an effort to drain the clock.

It took New York one eight-yard pass to convert their golden opportunity into a touchdown and 24-3 lead (Hakeem Nicks beat cornerback Dimitri Patterson; Patterson had a nightmarish game that, unfortunately, will prevent most casual fans from recognizing that the fifth-year veteran has been stellar if not spectacular since becoming a starter for the first time last month).

Reid’s second blunder was not challenging the DeSean Jackson fumble early in the fourth quarter. Reid has always been one to roll the dice with his challenges – sometimes even when the odds of success are about as good as the odds of rolling snake eyes – but for whatever reason, he kept the red flag firmly in his grasp after that play, almost as if that particular flag was a personal keepsake item. FOX’s 47th replay of the Jackson fumble (and 17th replay in super slow motion, which everybody loves) confirmed what the first replay had shown: Reid should have challenged.



3.) The other New York-Pennsylvania showdown

Imagine how heartbroken the Big Apple would be had Ben Roethlisberger’s final two passes not been incomplete Sunday evening. The Steelers, trailing the Jets 22-17, had two chances to sling the ball into the end zone for a late fourth quarter win, but New York’s D finally regained its stifling nature at the most critical juncture.
M. Sanchez (US Presswire)
A win on the road against an AFC power halts all the worry about Rex Ryan’s club. This was a game that, aside from Brad Smith’s opening kickoff return touchdown return, was devoid of big plays. There were no turnovers or explosive completions. Rather, it was two teams fistfighting in snow flurries for 60 minutes (or, since we’re not counting Smith’s touchdown, 59 minutes and 48 seconds.)

Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer protected Mark Sanchez with more bubble screens and quick-strike play-calls, and in turn, Sanchez responded with a solid 19/29, 170-yard performance. Crafty play-calling – like the fake handoff-Sanchez bootleg on fourth-and-goal late in the third, or the direct snap to LaDainian Tomlinson on third-and-six midway through the fourth – also helped the offense regain its rhythm.

A big part of the Jets rhythm, of course, is running the ball. They became the second team in 47 games to top the century mark against a Steelers run defense that has allowed an historic 63.4 yards per game this season. The absence of strong safety Troy Polamalu was certainly a factor. The Steelers give up roughly 1.5 yards more per carry when their superstar is out of the lineup. They also force an average of one fewer turnovers per game and surrender an extra 10 points. Overall, Pittsburgh has now lost seven of its last 12 without Polamalu.



4.) Told you so

The last two weeks we’ve talked about how there’s no reason to worry in Indy. Well…see? “Colts 34, Jaguars 2R. Mathis (US Presswire)4” is not a super accurate portrayal of the action from Sunday’s game at Lucas Oil Field. If not for Mike Thomas’s conniving fake fair catch punt return for a score in the second quarter, this game probably would have ended up a blowout. (Can’t blame Thomas for being conniving on that play – if you can get away with it, then hey, by all means. Of course, the football gods didn’t seem amused. A little later in the game, Thomas botched a punt in which Indy’s new special teams playmaker Taj Smith ran into him before he could secure a fair catch. Thomas fumbled and the Colts recovered. However, the officials correctly ruled that Jacksonville cornerback Derek Cox had blocked Smith into Thomas. Thus, the fumble stood and the Colts got possession.)

Peyton Manning was surgical for a second consecutive game. He hit 29/39 for229 yards and two scores. His favorite target in the first half was Austin Collie, who caught eight balls for 87 yards and two touchdowns in his first game back after missing five weeks with a concussion. That Collie, a bourgeoning slot receiver, left in the third quarter after sustaining another terrifying concussion (he was knocked out going low for a ball over the middle – just like on the Week 9 play against the Eagles) is, at best, unfortunate and at worst, tragic. Only time will tell on Collie’s football future.

The Collie injury was the only true blemish on the afternoon for the Colts. The defense was simply too fast for the Jaguar offense. Maurice Jones-Drew was held to 46 yards rushing. David Garrard got hot for a series or two in the third quarter but had a costly interception to Antoine Bethea on an overthrown deep ball. Dwight Freeney may have turned in the most dominating zero-sack, zero-tackle performance in NFL history. And, on the other side of the ball, Donald Brown capitalized on gaping holes in the Jaguar defense, registering runs of 43 and 49 yards (a career high for Brown and season-high for the Colts).

Indianapolis is now 8-6 and still in control of its own destiny. Standing between them and a ninth consecutive postseason appearance are the 7-7 Raiders and 6-8 Titans.




5.) The Chosen One finally starts

As a contributor to a mainstream media outlet, I am required by law to preface all Tim Tebow stories with tT. Tebow (US Presswire)he following message:

Tim Tebow is a leader. He is special. He’s a warrior who loves to compete. He is young but already respected by teammates. He works hard and fights hard and loves the game. Coaches love him. But not as much as he loves them back. He is a high-character, team-first guy. And he’s not a quarterback…he’s a football player who happens to play quarterback. What a perfect human being.

So how was the miracle-working rookie in his first NFL start? Actually, not bad. Yes, the Broncos lost. But that was only because they gave up 264 yards on the ground (201 in the first half). Tebow himself was solid. In fact, he was solid enough for offensive coordinator Mike McCoy to be second-guessed: why didn’t McCoy let the rookie throw more? Tebow attempted just 16 passes, completing eight of them. The lefty showed surprising zip on the ball, particularly outside the numbers. And he exhibited fluid athleticism. Best of all was that there were no glaring glitches in his mechanics.

The conservativeness of Denver’s gameplan was best illustrated in the four quarterback draws that were called on third and long. Teams never call a quarterback draw on third-and-plus-five. Perhaps there were so many draws called because Tebow took a third-and-24 to the house for a 40-yard touchdown early on. The ex-Florida Gator is no Mike Vick, but it looks like his running ability will transfer well enough to the pro level after all.

There was one play in particular that ought to make Bronco fans optimistic about the future: on second and 11 at the Oakland 33, Tebow dropped back and lofted a deep floater to the back right corner of the end zone. The ball should have been picked off by either Stanford Routt or Michael Huff, but instead, it dropped into the arms of Brandon Lloyd, who was laying on the ground, barely inbounds. In short, the touchdown was a miracle sent from Heaven. (Or, at least it was a miracle once the officials reviewed it and reversed their initial ruling of incomplete pass.)



6.) The other ex-Gator who startedR. Grossman (US Presswire)

We could fill an entire week’s worth of Football Podcasts talking about the appropriateness of benching Donovan McNabb and then parading him out to midfield as a captain for the opening coin toss. At best, it was an awkward situation. Perhaps it was just a paperwork error. Can’t you just imagine Mike Shanahan seeing his captains walk to midfield and turning pale upon the realization that he forgot to have his secretary replace the McNabb file with the Cooley file (figure Cooley would be Washington’s new offensive captain, considering center Casey Rabach is too mediocre to wear the badge, Santana Moss is too self-centered and Rex Grossman is too Rex Grossmany).
 
The coin toss was the extent of McNabb’s on-field contributions – the rest of the day belonged to Grossman. Because seven previous years of creative turnovers, injuries and mental mistakes aren’t enough for the Redskins brass to gauge whether a player can be the long-term solution for their club, Sunday’s game was an audition for Grossman. He tied his career high with four touchdowns, but he also had three of his patented turnovers, including the one to Terence Newman that secured a loss in the final minute.

There was a stretch in the mid-to-late second half where Grossman was in command and digging his team all the way out of a 16-point hole, but too often when checking in on this game, viewers saw a quarterback jogging off the field looking unnervingly sheepish. But hey, no one is questioning the man’s cardio vascular endurance.



7.) Chiefs show something in Show Me State showdown


Okay, so Week 15 only confirmed that the NFC West would probably have trouble even sending one of its current four teams to a BCS bowl this year. The Seahawks benched quarterback Matt Hasselbeck in the second half of their 34-18 loss to the Falcons. (By the way, kudos to Atlanta for going cross-country to get their third straight road win.) The 49ers almost benched their quarterback in a 37-7 loss to the Chargers Thursday night. And the Cardinals wound up goiJ. Charles (US Presswire)ng with their third-string quarterback, John Skelton, in their 19-12 loss to the previously 1-12 Panthers.

So maybe it’s not all that impressive that the Chiefs went into St. Louis and beat the “least awful” team of the NFC West 27-13. Except that it IS impressive. Matt Cassel played just 10 days after having his appendix removed. No longer carrying around that extra weight, Cassel seemed even more eager to run. He scrambled six times for 17 yards, showing no fear of contact whatsoever. The 17 yards left Cassel with 109 fewer yards than Jamaal Charles, who upped his yards-per-carry average to 6.4 on the season. That 6.4 would tie him with Jim Brown for the all-time single season record. Charles battled cramps throughout much of the afternoon. Fortunately, he’s only one of the heads in this monster backfield; Thomas Jones gained 62 yards on 22 carries.

More impressive than the Chief offense was the Chief defense. It gave up two long drives to open the game, though both ended in field goals. The rest of the day, rising young cornerbacks Brandon Flowers and Brandon Carr stifled the Ram receivers. End Wallace Gilberry dominated in passing situations, recording three sacks and two hits on the quarterback. The stats don’t show it, but Tamba Hali played up to his Pro Bowl standard (too bad voters don’t see Chiefs games as often as they see Steelers games; the fifth-year pro is unlikely to beat out James Harrison or LaMarr Woodley).

This was virtually a must-win for the Chiefs. A loss would have dropped them to 8-6 and behind San Diego in the AFC West. The Chargers would have then had to beat Cincinnati and Denver to clinch the division title. As for the Rams, the loss keeps them in a first-place tie with their Week 17 opponent, Seattle. The loss also means that the 49ers are now the first team in NFL history to have a 5-9 record and still control its own playoff destiny. The NFC West: it’d be funny if it weren’t so pathetic.



8.) Quick Hits

**Cris Collinsworth summed it up best: it took 59 minutes, but Matt Flynn’s inexperience finally reared its ugly head Sunday night.

**The loss in Foxboro wasn’t all bad for the Packers, as they still control their own destiny. A R. Rice (US Presswire)win at home against the Giants next week puts them in the wild card driver’s seat. A byproduct of Flynn starting was that Green Bay was forced to conjure up a rushing attack. John Kuhn and Brandon Jackson were stellar, thanks in large part to a powerful front five.

**The FOX production team for the Falcons-Seahawks game passed along a statistical gem: as of halftime of Sunday’s contest, Matt Ryan has been blitzed 195 times, which is second most in the NFL. Against the blitzed, he’s been sacked five times, which is fewest in the NFL.

**Terrell Owens is out for the season after tearing his meniscus. According to Pro Football Talk, the Bengals seriously considered deactivating Owens for the final three games. They’re sick of his attitude. Owens won’t be in Cincy next year. Considering how things are ending there and how no other team wanted the guy when he was a free agent this past offseason, it’s possible that Sunday was the last game of Owens’ career.

**Randy Moss didn’t catch a pass (again), but he had an excellent block on Chris Johnson’s 11-yard touchdown run in the first half of Tennessee’s win over the team that I’m guessing Bill Cowher will coach in 2011.

**Have to admit, I didn’t get a chance to see the Lions-Bucs game (the NFL, for some reason, slotted 10 games in the early window and only three in the late window, making it impossible to keep up with every bit of the early action). Without yet reviewing the stories and stats, my guess is all the injuries are catching up to the young Bucs.

**It came in a losing effort, but linebacker Daryl Smith was all over the field for Jacksonville Sunday.

**The Ravens will be a tough out if the Ray Rice from Sunday continues to show up. The third-year pro has been somewhat of a disappointment this season, pressing too hard in an effort to live up to astronomical preseason expectations. Rice relaxed against the Saints, though, 153 yards rushing and another 80 through the air.



9.) My Pro Bowl ballot, offense


For some reason, the NFL ends Pro Bowl voting two weeks before the season itself ends. So, I was compelled to cast my Pro Bowl ballot before the December 20 deadline (voting closes at the conclusion of the Chicago-Minnesota game).
Below is my ballot, with explanations for players that I’m anticipating you might complain about.
*starter

Quarterback
AFC

Tom Brady, Patriots *
Peyton Manning; Colts
Philip Rivers, Chargers

NFC
Michael Vick, Eagles *
Drew Brees, Saints
Aaron Rodgers, Packers
 
Running Back
AFC

Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars *
Arian Foster, Texans
Jamaal Charles, Chiefs

If the Jags make the playoffs, MJD deserves serious MVP consideration. In addition to nearly 100 yards per game rushing, he’s arguably the league’s best all-around back in passing situations.)

NFC
Michael Turner, Falcons *
Adrian Peterson, Vikings
LeSean McCoy, Eagles

Would love to go with Steven Jackson, but McCoy’s drastic improvements as a pass-blocker and receiver are too hard to overlook.

Fullback
AFC
Greg Jones, Jaguars *

NFC
Ovie Mughelli, Falcons *

Wide Receiver
AFC

Andre Johnson, Texans *
Brandon Lloyd, Broncos *
Reggie Wayne, Colts
Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs

T.O.’s numbers are too largely a product of coverage floated towards Chad Ochocinco. Santonio Holmes didn’t play quite enough games. Wayne has better numbers than Lloyd, but Lloyd was the tougher cover for defenders this season.

NFC
Roddy White, Falcons *
DeSean Jackson, Eagles *
Greg Jennings, Packers
Calvin Johnson, Lions

The Saints spread the ball around too much for me to choose Marques Colston over these other bona fide No. 1 receivers.

Tight End
AFC

Antonio Gates, Chargers *
Tony Moeaki, Chiefs

The rookie Moeaki is already one of the best all-around blockers in the NFL. That said, I wouldn’t put up much of a fight if you argued that Jacksonville’s Marcedes Lewis deserves the nod here.

NFC
Chris Cooley, Redskins *
Tony Gonzalez, Falcons

Jason Witten is a warrior, but Cooley made more catches in critical situations. Gonzalez’s blocking has been crucial to Atlanta’s power run game.

Offensive Tackle
AFC
Matt Light, Patriots *
Joe Thomas, Browns *
Michael Roos, Titans

D’Brickashaw Ferguson is a tad too inconsistent as a power blocker. Too many times this season Ryan Clady hasn’t looked like himself. Marcus McNeil held out the first half of the year.

NFC
Chad Clifton, Packers *
Jason Peters, Eagles *
Rodger Saffold, Rams

Guard
AFC
Ryan Lilja, Chiefs *
Kris Dielman, Chargers *
Ben Grubbs, Ravens

NFC
Carl Nicks, Saints *
Todd Herremans, Eagles *
Chris Snee, Giants

Jahri Evans has been unusually mistake-prone this season. It doesn’t help that this is a great year for NFC guards. Davin Joseph deserves consideration, and I wouldn’t say Steve Hutchinson isn’t still viable.

Center
AFC
Nick Mangold, Jets *
Maurkice Pouncey, Steelers

NFC
Olin Kreutz, Bears *
Scott Wells, Packers

Shaun O’Hara is actually the leading vote-getter here, but he’s played barely one-fourth of New York’s games this season. This doesn’t mean that fans tend to be bias with their votes, does it?



10.) My Pro Bowl ballot, defense

Defensive End
AFC

Dwight Freeney, Colts *
Robert Mathis, Colts *
Jason Babin, Titans

Injuries hindered Mario Williams too much this season. The NFL Pro Bowl ballot lists Jets DE Shaun Ellis as a DT (which will probably cost him a trip to Hawaii).

NFC
Trent Cole, Eagles *
Justin Tuck, Giants *
Julius Peppers, Bears

Peppers hasn’t posted a ton of sacks, but the attention he’s drawn week in and week out is what has allowed the Bears defense to recapture its swagger. If you consider run defense and operating within the confines of a defensive scheme, Cole and Tuck are the two best all-around ends in the NFC.

Defensive Tackle
AFC
Haloti Ngata, Ravens *
Vince Wilfork, Patriots *
Richard Seymour, Raiders

NFC
Ndamukong Suh, Lions *
Jonathan Babineaux, Falcons *
Fred Robbins, Rams

Kevin Williams was unusually quiet for most of the first 10 weeks or so. Same goes for Jay Ratliff.

Outside Linebacker
AFC

Tamba Hali, Chiefs *
Cameron Wake, Dolphins *
Shaun Phillips, Chargers

I’ve been dreading this one for weeks because I figured at least one Steeler would get left off. Then I discovered that it’s not four OLB’s on the Pro Bowl ballot – it’s three. Ouch. No Terrell Suggs. No James Harrison. No LaMarr Woodley. All three are legitimate Defensive Player of the Year candidates. But so are the three guys listed above. Take any of the six, you can’t go wrong.

NFC
Lance Briggs, Bears *
Clay Matthews, Packers *
Brian Orakpo, Redskins

Inside Linebacker
AFC
Lawrence Timmons, Steelers *
Ray Lewis, Ravens

Jerod Mayo deserves Pro Bowl honors, but the Patriots D is just a little too far behind the Ravens’ D. And there’s no arguing against Timmons. Another name to remember here: Stephen Cooper. His high presnap IQ and ability to take on blocks makes him key to San Diego’s top five run defense.

NFC
Brian Urlacher, Bears *
James Laurinaitis, Rams

Is it me or has Patrick Willis been unusually quiet down the stretch? Would love to go with Stewart Bradley, as well, but Laurinaitis does too much in coverage.

Cornerback
AFC
Darrelle Revis, Jets *
Nnamdi Asomugha, Raiders *
Devin McCourty, Patriots

Brandon Flowers, Ike Taylor and Champ Bailey have been excellent, but these other three guys have been the lynchpins to their respective defenses.

NFC
Brent Grimes, Falcons *
Asante Samuel, Eagles *
Tramon Williams, Packers

DeAngelo Hall will likely get in because he’s a big market player with a lot of interceptions. But the truth is, teams are way, WAY too eager to throw at Hall. Charles Woodson is a great joker weapon, but Williams has been the best pure cover artist in Green Bay this season. If you argue for Aqib Talib, I won’t necessarily disagree.

Strong Safety
AFC

Troy Polamalu, Steelers *

NFC
Roman Harper, Saints *

Question for the NFL: why is there only one strong safety and free safety on the Pro Bowl roster? And question for all of you: why do you love LaRon Landry so much? He’s the centerfielder for a pass defense that ranked dead last in the NFC with him in the lineup. Harper is the key to a lot of the confusion Gregg Williams’ scheme creates.

Free Safety
AFC

Antoine Bethea, Colts *

NFC
Antrel Rolle, Giants *

Ed Reed is the best, but he missed the first six games. Bethea is the one constant in Indy’s perpetually banged up secondary.

Kicker
AFC
Rob Bironas, Titans

NFC
David Akers, Eagles

The Dolphins call on Carpenter a lot, but Bironas has been perfect from 40-plus yards this season. Plus Carpenter missed four field goals in Miami’s Week 15 loss against Buffalo.

Punter
AFC
Reggie Hodges, Browns

NFC
Donnie Jones, Rams

Return Specialist
AFC

Marc Mariani, Titans

Brad Smith is better returning kicks, but Mariani handles kicks AND punts.

NFC
Devin Hester, Bears

Leon Washington has the best numbers in the NFC, but no one alters field position like Hester.

Special Teamer
AFC

Eric Smith, Jets

NFC
Dmitri Patterson, Eagles

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed .

Posted on: December 19, 2010 9:46 am
Edited on: December 19, 2010 9:50 am
 

McNabb jerseys on serious discount online

Posted by Will Brinson

There's one sure-fire way to know you've cheesed off one of your employees. Outside of demoting from starting, franchise-saving quartback to third-string behind Rex Grossmann, anyway.

Slash his merchandise at the team's online store!

Which, according to Greg Rosenthal of Pro Football Talk, is precisely what the Redskins did.

A normal replica jersey, even from someone awesome like Brian Kelly or someone more awesome like LaRon Landry, costs $80.

Right now, McNabb finds his value in the Haynesworth bin, where it sells for the low, low cost of $39.95.

His authentic jersey which typically runs $289, is selling for $149.95, and the Donovan youth jersey, which is typically $50 now costs just $29.95.

Does this mean he's done as a Redskin? Or course not. Maybe when they signed that new extension, the team ordered like millions of extra jerseys assuming he'd around forever and now they're in a situation with tons of supply or more demand.

Considering the harsh words of his agent to the team recently, though, it seems pretty safe to say that this is a sign of the two parties not getting along.

In other words, he's squarely in the Haynesworth circle when it comes to stadium jersey costs, and that means the separation papers just need the signatures to be official.

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Posted on: December 17, 2010 5:33 pm
 

A McNabb McNotebook

D. McNabb officially has lost his starting QB job in Washington (US Presswire). Posted by Josh Katzowitz

In an effort to ensure that the rest of your night isn’t taken up by my posting Donovan McNabb story after Donovan McNabb story, let me make this post a McNabb notebook of sorts.

Three stories combined into a McNabb-sized post. After all, how else would you want us to treat a third-string QB?

1. Anybody want to know McNabb’s thoughts about Rex Grossman starting instead of him this Sunday?

As reported by the Washington Post, McNabb released a statement through his publicist, saying, “I respect Mike (Shanahan)'s decision as a head coach, but I strongly disagree with it."

Look, say what you will about McNabb’s quarterbacking skills, but he certainly has acted with class during what has become an awfully difficult season.

2. Anybody want to know what Grossman thinks about this idea?

According to TBD.com, he’s looking forward to the chance to reinvigorate his career.

“I think everybody has doubters in any situation, and until you prove yourself (on a) consistent basis, you’re always going to have doubters. I don’t care what profession you’re in. It’s motivation,” Grossman said. “I’m human. How could you not be motivated to show everybody who’s mocking you, or talking on the radio or TV, thinking they’re smart? I’m totally motivated to prove to them, and to myself that I’m a bona-fide starter in this league and can lead this team to a championship one day. Those are the type of goals I have, so motivation’s not a factor.”

Grossman has made 31 starts in his career, going 19-12, and in the 16-game season he started with the Bears in 2006, the team went 13-3 and he completed 54.6 percent of his passes for 3,193 yards, 23 TDs and 20 INTs – numbers that, looking back on it, aren’t completely terrible.

And apparently at least one of his teammates has confidence in Grossman.

“There’s not going to be a feeling out process. Rex is totally confident in the gameplan and what guys are going to do,” tight end Chris Cooley said, via TBD.  “He’s been around everyone, he’s seen how they run their routes all year. It’s not like we’re playing a quarterback we brought in last week. I care a lot about this team, but I’m not going to be divided. I’m going to be indifferent to the decisions that were made. Because I trust our coach, I believe he’s doing what he feels is best for this team and trust that as much as possible.”

3. So, where does McNabb land after this year? If you think Arizona, well, Arizona Republic reporter Kent Somers will disagree with you.

Somers writes that, even though McNabb lives and trains near the Cardinals complex, his sources have told him during the past few years that the Cardinals have never made a play for him.

Writes Somers:

Do the Cardinals pursue him? I would be surprised.

McNabb has never played in this offensive system. There are allegations that he's not the hardest working guy in the business. He has no ties to this coaching staff, which doesn't seem to hold him in as high a regard as some fans.

Maybe the Cardinals will show interest this time. They will look to bring in a veteran quarterback next season, and they will be tempted to draft one with their first selection. Maybe McNabb would be a nice bridge to the future. But again, I doubt it happens.


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Posted on: December 17, 2010 2:59 pm
Edited on: December 17, 2010 3:39 pm
 

NFL Honorable Mentions: 2010's top stories

CBSSports.com is counting down the top 10 stories in all of sports of 2010. Here are the top 10 stories from the NFL that just barely missed the cut.


10. The Breakout Backs
Honorables
It was a swing year in fantasy football, as the over-valued running back position turned out a pair of new stars in the AFC: undrafted Arian Foster for the Texans and former Broncos seventh-round pick Peyton Hillis. Both players have well over 1,000 yards rushing and rank first and second in touchdown runs (entering Week 15, Foster has 13 and Hillis has 11).

Foster and Hillis share two things in common: a) both got their opportunity because their team’s second-round rookie running back got hurt prior to the season (the Texans lost Ben Tate to an ankle injury and the Browns lost Montario Hardesty to a knee) and b) both have an ideal skill set for their team’s system. Foster, a powerful yet fluid one-cut runner who thrives downhill, is tailored for Houston’s zone-blocking scheme. Hillis, a thundering steamroller who plays strictly north and south, was made for a power scheme.

Another running back who was undrafted and has blossomed unexpectedly in 2010 is New England’s BenJarvus Green-Ellis. The third-year pro is tied with Hillis for second in the league in rushing touchdowns and needs a little over 200 yards in the final three weeks to reach the millennial mark.

While we’re at it, there’s another Patriots running back who was undrafted and meets “breakout” status for 2010: Danny Woodhead (insert obligatory mention about his 5’7” size here). Woodhead, who was released in the preseason by the Jets, has done a masterful job filling the third down role of Kevin Faulk.  -- Andy Benoit


9. The Slowing Carousel



Labor negotiations have slowed the degree to which coaches have been canned in 2010. Yes, that's a terrifying thought, considering the number of gigs at risk this late in the season coupled with the coaches already fired so far this year. (John Fox and Marvin Lewis are the two most obvious "winners" when it comes to uncertain labor issues helping a coach keep a "good" job.)

In fact, the tides might have turned enough to warrant saying both gentlemen are in a worse position because of the labor strife -- they have to coach out abysmal underachievers and, sadly, hope to find some (ahem) luck at the top of the draft.

It won't matter for that pair of lame ducks, though, because their contracts are running out. On the other end of the spectrum are Wade Phillips, Brad Childress and Josh McDaniels; three coaches whose performance was so putrid that it warranted a midseason change.

Of course, neither of the first two were surprising. In fact, the only shocker involved with Wade and Chilly getting canned was the success that Jason Garrett and Leslie Frazier had afterwards.

Actually, check that -- it's also surprising that McDaniels would hire the same guy who operated the video camera during SpyGate! Which, perhaps, makes it less surprising that Pat Bowlen was less willing to sit around and wait for his newly-minted head coach to mature and suddenly found himself paying not just Mike Shanahan, McD, Eric Studesville but someone else next year. This is outrageously ironic given the lack of success that Mike Singletary (the quintessential interim coach) had in 2010, guiding the 49ers to a sub-.500 record (it seems like a fair guess at this point) in the weakest of the weak divisions, the NFC West.

Singletary said as late as Week 15 that he didn't worry about a) early season performance or b) his job security, and, well, that may say all you need to understand about why he won't land a head coaching job again.

Of course, Lovie Smith is casually guiding his team to a playoff berth and himself towards a blatantly misguided extension from Jerry Angelo, so maybe this would be a good year to take a step back and evaluate whether or not it's worth really judging a particular coach until 2011 gets nearer.

Rest assured, that's exactly what a number of owners will do. -- Will Brinson


8. Revis and the Jets

In this day and age of video games and fantasy football, it takes a special kind of greatness for a cornerback to become THE story in the NFL for an entire summer. Darrelle Revis has this special kind of greatness. As the first true shutdown corner football has seen since Deion Sanders, Revis has been by far the most important player on Rex Ryan’s vaunted defense. Without him, the Jets don’t make their run to the AFC Championship in January ’10, and they don’t enter September ’10 as one of the league’s leading Super Bowl contenders. So it’s no wonder that Revis’ contract holdout captured the headlines this past summer.

Of course, it didn’t hurt that Revis was holding out for a New York market team that happened to be featured on the über-popular HBO reality series Hard Knocks. The Jets training camp became a top 10 story in and of itself simply because we’ve never seen such transparency and personality from an NFL club. And we’ve never seen such star power or controversial new talent. The Jets are developing Mark Sanchez, the game’s first Mexican-American franchise quarterback, before our very eyes. They signed top Q-rating veterans and future Hall of Famers LaDainian Tomlinson and Jason Taylor. And, they unapologetically acquired gifted but questionable stars Braylon Edwards (in ’09), Santonio Holmes and Antonio Cromartie.

All of this goes against the typical nature of the conservative NFL. But this, along with the aforementioned Super Bowl aspirations (which stemmed largely from the boastful Jets themselves, is why Jets regular season games landed in a featured television slot 10 times in 2010, including six in primetime. -- Andy Benoit


7. Looming Lockout

The NFL is the most popular sport in this land. This much is obvious. It doesn’t take a genius to come up with that conclusion, not when advertisers have to spend $20 million per 30-second spot in the Super Bowl (that might be a slight exaggeration) and not when the NFL ratings continue to climb every Thursday night, Sunday night and Monday night.

So, would the NFL owners and the NFL Players Association really be dumb enough to shut down the 2011 season, even partially? Wouldn’t commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith realize that a lockout could potentially kill – or, at the very least, assault – the momentum of popularity? Wouldn’t they realize that sending the 2011 season to whatever dimension the 1994 World Series exists now would be a terrible, terrible move?  

Of course, they do. But the allure of money to be made and money to be spent keeps the two sides far apart. As the expiration of the CBA comes ever closer in March, the pressure will increase. Goodell said the other day that he thought a deal could be worked out by the end of the postseason, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they go into the spring and summer without a new agreement in place. 

It’d be short-sighted, and it’d be stupid. But it’s also very possible.  

Anybody up to watch a good game of soccer?  -- Josh Katzowitz


6. So Many Second Chances

No, we're not talking about Antonio Cromartie, thanks for asking.



And yeah, maybe that's inappropriate.

But what's the old line? "Shame on me for expecting you to hang out in a terrible situation the first time and shame on you for expecting me to believe that you would legitimately stop putting yourself in terrible situations after getting in trouble the fifth or sixth* time?"

Maybe that's paraphrasing things a bit, but there are only so many chances one individual is afforded, and it seems, all asterisk jokes aside, that Ben Roethlisberger -- in trouble twice -- has maximized his chances. (The motorcycle thing doesn't count in the scope of what we're asked to judge here.)

On the front, Roethlisberger is the classic case of why the personal conduct policy is absolutely necessary -- a young man, wealthy beyond his means, cutting loose above and beyond his scope of responsible behavior in a town that doesn't understand how to handle him. Allegedly.

There's plenty of reason for people to find disgust with him, but it's about second chances here, people.

Is the world supposed to be annoyed with someone who can't fully summon their talent because they're too busy doing whatever they do in Milledgeville, Georgia? Absolutely.

Should the general public become disgusted when whatever behavior a certain talent was involved in leads to legal allegations in the same town? Naturally.

But is it only fair if the same youthful talent -- who heretofore had only developed as a person ON the field -- somehow finds a different, perhaps more mature path and ends up getting judged differently?

Hell yes it is. Hate on second chances all you want, but the eerily parallel dichotomy between Roethlisberger and Vick at least warrant giving pause to the fact that sometimes second chances are only afforded when we want them to be. -- Will Brinson


Haynesworth 5. Coup De Faill

Face it, part of the reason you watch sports is to see the inevitable downfall. It’s why Tigers Woods was so compelling, why you watched Larry Holmes dominate Muhammad Ali, why you followed Michael Jordan when he played minor league baseball. And you watch NFL football (partially) to see the same thing.

Which is why the decline of Albert Haynesworth this year was so noteworthy, why the Vince Young blowup continues to make news, why a backup WR in Randy Moss continues to attract attention.

The downfall of Haynesworth has been the biggest train-wreck of the season. Redskins coach Mike Shanahan deactivated him for four games before deciding to suspend him the rest of the season. Haynesworth has been out of shape, he’s been insubordinate and now he’s out of a job. Thankfully, he can fall back on those tens of millions of dollars.

Young’s downfall was sudden, as quick as it took to walk out of a locker room full of teammates, but depending on Bud Adams’ inclination, he unbelievably might return to the team (surely, coach Jeff Fisher wouldn’t be around any longer if that’s the case). Meanwhile, Moss believes he’ll still get paid big bucks next year, despite a season in which he’s played for three teams and has had his least productive year ever.  

All of it has made for great viewing. -- Josh Katzowitz


4. The McNabb Trade

D. McNabb's five-year deal doesn't seem all that great today (US Presswire).

There are a million different angles a person can take in describing the significance of the Easter Day McNabb trade. For starters, the trade meant the dismissal of the decade-long face of one of the NFL’s most preeminent franchises. Few athletes have ever been as polarizing in a town as McNabb was in The City of Brotherly Love. And no athlete has ever been so polarizing simply by going about his business. McNabb never exhibited a controversial personality, yet his career in Philly was littered with controversy. It required a world of class for McNabb to take it all in stride for 11 years. That classiness was appreciated and returned by the usually-ornery Philly faithful, who gave their former quarterback a standing ovation when he returned to town as a member of the hated Redskins in October.

That’s another key facet of this story: McNabb wasn’t just traded – he was traded to a division rival. Never before had a franchise quarterback been dealt within the division.

To be brutally honest, the trade has become a symbol of why the Eagles, counting this year, have eight more playoff appearances than the Redskins since 2000. The Eagles have always parted with veterans a year too soon rather than a year too late. We thought McNabb was an exception to this rule, but sure enough, he has just another testament to it (14 touchdowns, 15 interceptions, completion percentage of 60.0 through Week 14). The 34-year-old was tossed to the bench in mid-December, becoming the latest aging Pro Bowler to come to Washington only to fizzle out.

The Eagles were only comfortable dismissing McNabb because they had their signalcaller of the future already on the roster. Of course, little did they know that signalcaller would be not Kevin Kolb, but Michael Vick, the Comeback Player, MVP candidate and headline story of 2010. -- Andy Benoit


3. The Old Croc Slinger

It was the story everyone loved to pretend to hate: Brett Favre, Brett Favre, Brett Favre, Brett Favre, Brett Favre. Did you get sick of him? Maybe on the surface. But deep down, you were never sick enough to ignore him. And that’s why he stayed in the news.

Favre’s 2010 essentially began and ended in pain. He suffered a gruesome ankle injury in the NFC Championship loss to the Saints and, 11 months later, had his consecutive starts streak end at 297 thanks to a bad shoulder. In between the ankle and shoulder was a thigh, elbow and foot injury. Each injury brought about an additional slew of reports, 99.9 percent of them speculative.

It’s the very concept of speculation that has become the defining characteristic of Favre’s public image. There was speculation about whether he’ll retire or come back. (Once again, 2010 gave us plenty of those stories, too. Remember Favre’s “this is it” texts to teammates during the summer? The workouts at Oak Grove high school? The Brad Childress visits to Mississippi? The more fruitful Jared Allen-Ryan Longwell-Steve Hutchinson surprise visit at the last minute?) There was speculation about his relationship with Brad Childress (it was poor, at best). And, for the first time since his substance abuse issues in the 90s, there was speculation about Favre’s character and private life.

The Jenn Sterger ordeal never took on the life of Tiger Woods’ scandal, but that was only because Favre, for the first time in his career, wasn’t willing to publicly address a topic in his patented stream-of-conscious manner. In the end, Favre admitted to placing calls to Sterger but denied sending lewd photos. The NFL investigated but, with the year winding down, the story seems to be fading away. Oddly enough, it helped Favre that, by the time the Sterger story came out, people had grown tired of hearing his name in the news.



People may have been tired of Favre, but they weren’t sick of him. It’s doubtful that he’ll be part of the top 10 NFL stories of 2011, but it's not inconceivable. The year ahead will still carry speculation about a possible comeback (don’t count on Favre biting this time), speculation about what Favre will do next (a lot of people will say broadcasting, but Favre’s never had that kind of persona) and, perhaps most intriguing of all, speculation about when Favre will return to Lambeau Field to make amends with the fans and accept his number being retired. -- Andy Benoit


2. Injury Du Generation

This space perhaps should have been dedicated solely to Steelers LB James Harrison and James Harrison alone. He’s racked up $125,000 in fines this year after illegal hits on Browns WR Mohammad Massaquoi, Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick and Saints QB Drew Brees. He’s also been quoted as saying he’s not trying to injure players, but instead, he’s only trying to hurt them (or was it, he’s trying not to hurt them, but to injure them instead?).  

Either way, it seems like concussions in the NFL have risen (there’s really no way to tell if this is true; only that the diagnosis of concussions might have risen), and in actuality, it seems like every player in the NFL this season has suffered at least one concussion. Even after the Dunta Robinson/DeSean Jackson collision forced the NFL to announce that it was going to enforce the penalties against illegal hits, the concussions have continued.  

But that’s not the scariest part of this whole scenario. The scariest part is what an examination of Chris Henry’s brain found in June. Though he played in the league only five years before he died last season, his brain showed signs of significant brain damage caused by repeated blows to the head.  

While it’s great that people like Chris Nowinski are making a concerted effort to educate the public about the dangers of concussions and continued head injuries, nothing is likely to change. The players don’t want rules-makers messing with the game, they don’t want to change their tackling technique, they just want to hit people and hit people hard. Many fans agree. Which, of course, is easy to do when you’re not the one who is getting smashed on the field every week.

This problem, I fear, will continue until the end of time.  -- Josh Katzowitz


1. First-Place Second Chance



There's a reasonable argument that Michael Vick's current situation is the most compelling redemptive story we've seen in sports.

Ever.

And yeah, I'm sorry that it requires the age-old tripe that is the one-line semi-paragraph to describe what Vick did, but, well, he tortured dogs and somehow returned to the good graces of America. Or at least the majority of America and/or those that buy their Nissans from Woodbury, New Jersey.



That's less than half a joke. Take a step back and look at what Michael Vick did, compare it to what any "sports villain" has done in the past 50 years (versus their redemptive story, natch) and, pretty please, find a comparable. Josh Hamilton is the closest thing there is and even he dealt with sins beyond the level of self-indulgence. That's not to say that we should applaud someone who manages to jerry-rig an engine to drive a broken car more than we should applaud someone who happens to repair the tires on a four-wheel flat.

It's just that if you're going to gauge a level of success by figuring out where someone ends relative to where they started and award bonus points for where they went in between (which, folks, unless you've stopped paying attention for the last several hundred years, is the "American Dream"), then it's very, very difficult to root against Michael Vick.

And also why he was nearly the most compelling story of 2010. -- Will Brinson

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Posted on: December 17, 2010 1:07 pm
Edited on: December 17, 2010 1:11 pm
 

McNabb demoted to 3rd string; agent rips Skins

Posted by Andy Benoit

More from the headline-grabbing news out of DC Friday. Chris Russell of ESPN 980 reports that Donovan McNabb and Rex Grossman were informed of the quarterback change in Washington earlier this week, and that both were told not to say anything. Shanahan claims he told McNabb about the move Thursday. Oh, Shanahan also mentioned that Rex Grossman will start for the remaiD. McNabb (US Presswire)nder of the season, and that John Beck will be the No. 2. This means McNabb will not be part of the 45-man roster for the last three games, which, according to Grant Paulsen of ESPN 980, means the Redskins won’t have to pay him $93,000 in bonuses.

The Redskins probably wouldn’t mind McNabb’s agent, Fletcher Smith, keeping as mum like his top client. But that's a no go. Smith lashed out at the organization Friday. "Disrespectful is probably not strong enough of a word," Smith told Jason Reid of the Washington Post. "Donovan has handled himself with nothing but class, not just in Washington but as an ambassador for the league. To treat him this way ... it's beyond disrespectful."

Smith has been disenchanted with the Redskins organization throughout most of this tumultuous season.

"I almost don't even know where to begin, but it really started with Detroit and it was just wrong the way Donovan was treated," Smith said. "Just the way Mike handled the whole situation in Detroit, and in almost every instance since that time, and this is, I guess, the culmination of that. I think it's ... again, it's beyond disrespectful."

Smith, of course, negotiated McNabb’s new contract with the team back in November. Word is a big part of McNabb’s inspiration to sign the deal was how much he enjoyed living in Washington. He’ll likely have to reconsider that now.

Smith was asked what McNabb’s future holds. “Without talking to him, I can't answer that question at this time," he said. "Obviously, we're going to have to sit down and digest the season at season's end. And we will, in due time, come to a decision.

"But at the end of the day, he has to live there [in Washington], he has to play there. And the decision, at the end of the day, is ultimately his. I can't answer that question on his behalf. But from my standpoint, I'm certainly not happy with what has transpired. If that is his decision, we're absolutely not happy with Mike's treatment or handling of Donovan. In this situation and in a lot of situations this season."

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