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Tag:Top Ten with a Twist
Posted on: October 31, 2010 8:46 am
Edited on: October 31, 2010 8:47 am
 

Top Ten with a Twist: Halloween costumes

A. Cromartie would look great if he went as a dandelion for his Halloween costume (Getty).

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Today will be a packed day for you. Naturally, you’ve got a full slate of NFL games to watch – either on TV or in the stadium of your choice – and then there’s going to be the few hours you need to recover from your team winning (beer!) or from your team losing (beer mixed with tears!). Then, you’ve got to take the kids trick-or-treating, because, lest you forget, it’s Halloween.

With that in mind, we’ve come up with the top-10 best costumes the NFL could make use of this year. Most would require a sense of humor from the individual player, but if that player DID dress up in what we’re suggesting, they would automatically be included in our Awesome Hall of Fame.

There were quite a few costumes we left off, because they simply weren’t good enough (or were too obvious). One of which was Terrell Owens/Chad Ochocinco as Batman/Robin. We’ve been there, done that. We also had a Wizard of Oz theme working with Albert Haynesworth as the tin man, Norv Turner as the scarecrow, Bryant McKinnie as the lion, and referee Gene Steratore (the official who had to make the replay calls on the Calvin Johnson non-TD catch and the Ben Roethlisberger non-TD fumble) as the actual Wizard (pay no attention to that man behind (or, in this case, underneath) that curtain!)

10. Joe Flacco = The Situation. This is the reason we had this idea in the first place. The other day we told you about Flacco dressing up like the Jersey Shore’s biggest star (complete with faux-hawk, racing stripes and the state map of New Jersey shaved into the back of his head). Yes, Flacco, at face value, doesn’t seem to have much in common with The Situation. But he was the impetus for our idea, so we include him.

9. Tom Brady = Justin Bieber. Obviously, the hair. And yes, this story has been a bit played-out, but we can’t get over the fact that Bieber tried to call out Brady in his terrible bit of freestyling on that ridiculous video. It makes me sad.

We miss J. Allen's mullet, but probably not as much as he does (Getty). 8. Jared Allen = Samson. You know, the biblical character. The guy who had so much strength because of the length of his hair, and then cut it all off because of that damn Delilah (that’s the basic framework of the story, right? It’s been a long time since I was in Sunday school). Well, Allen – who’s recorded only one sack in six games this year – has been invisible for most of the season after cutting off his mullet, because of, sigh, a woman (now his wife).

7. Brett Favre = Bill Clinton. The only prop he needs is a cigar.

6. Brett Favre = Verizon cell phone guy. Actually, this one wasn’t my joke, but I think it’s funnier than the Bill Clinton gag. Yet, IF Favre went as the Verizon guy with a pair of the No Fly Wranglers made famous by SNL, he might shoot to No. 1 on this list.

5. Ben Roethlisberger = a stop sign. First of all, Roethlisberger has the solid width to support an octagonal sign. Second of all, Roethlisberger would do well to heed the sign’s message the next time he’s out at a bar or a golf course or anywhere where there are females present. Roethlisberger would get even bigger props if he could pair the sign with a motorcycle helmet (safety first!). 

4. Wade Phillips = Bernie Lomax from “Weekend at Bernie’s.” At this point, Andrew McCarthy might as well be slapping flies off Phillips' forehead. Phillips obviously is still the head coach of the Cowboys, but the way the season has gone, he’s a dead coach walking. McCarthy and Jonathan Silverman don’t yet have to intertwine their shoelaces with Phillips’ to drag him out to the field, but if things get much worse for the Cowboys, we’re not far away from having a big boozed-out party at Phillips’ island getaway.

3. Jeff Fisher = CSI investigator. The Titans coach has become a private detective after his WR Kenny Britt was arrested last week at a club a couple days before Tennessee took the field against the Eagles (where he pounded Philadelphia single-handedly). Later, Fisher admitted he visited the Karma Lounge on a fact-finding mission to find out what had really happened with Britt. No word on whether he went inside wearing a trench coat and a top hat. Or whether David Caruso was with him.

2. Braylon Edwards = taxi driver. This might be a stretch for Edwards, considering it’s entirely possibly he’s never actually been INSIDE a cab before. Especially when he’s out for a night on the town and allegedly has had way too much to drink. Or, even better, Edwards could dress as a limo driver. Get the nice suit, the jaunty hat, maybe a scarf and (definitely) the driving gloves.

1. Antonio Cromartie = dandelion. Do you know why? Can you figure it out? Why would we compare the Jets cornerback to the flowering plant from the genus taraxacum? Think about what happens when you blow a fully-bloomed dandelion. The seeds scatter to the wind in an effort to reproduce and to make new dandelions. How does that relate to Cromartie? Well, if you haven’t figured it out by now, check the video below. Happy Halloween indeed.




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Posted on: October 19, 2010 9:12 am
 

Top Ten With a Twist: 2007 Drafted QBs

JaMarcus Russell, the first pick taken in the 2007 NFL Draft, is one of the bustiest draft picks in league history (US Presswire). Posted by Josh Katzowitz

I saw an interesting tweet from @PScrags a few weeks ago, and it went like this: “FACT: Of the 10 quarterbacks drafted in the 2007 NFL Draft, not ONE is a current starting NFL quarterback.”

That perked my ears, and I thought I’d check out that particular Draft and see what happened to that non-illustrious 10 (in doing my own painstaking research, I discovered there actually were 11 QBs taken that year). As of today, PScrags' statement isn’t exactly true, though it could be soon, assuming Michael Vick retains his starting spot for the Eagles.

Carolina's Matt Moore, it should be noted, was an undrafted free agent that year, and now he’s back to being a starter after Jimmy Clausen showed he’s clearly not ready to play in the NFL. But Moore wasn't drafted anyway, so we're not including him.

1st Round

No. 1. JaMarcus Russell, Raiders: Well, we all know what happened to him, don’t we? The only question now is this: how many of us were introduced to Purple Drank because of Russell? A fair number, I suppose. Therefore, a toast to Russell. A toast of Purple Drank.

No. 22. Brady Quinn, Browns: Remember how amazed we were by how far Quinn had fallen in the Draft and how long he had to sit in the green room? Remember how some people thought he could be a No. 1 overall pick? Jeez, how crazy are some mock drafters anyway? He’s now, depending on the day, either the second- or third-string QB in Denver.

2nd round

No. 36. Kevin Kolb, Eagles: Well, he was the starter at the season’s beginning. Before the concussion and before Michael Vick transformed himself into one of the NFL’s elite quarterbacks. When Vick returns, he likely will knock Kolb into the backup spot. Unless Andy Reid changes his mind once again. And because Kolb has played well in Vick's absence, that's a possibility.

No. 40. John Beck, Dolphins: He was the third-string QB in Baltimore during the offseason, but that was before Marc Bulger came into the picture. He was traded to Washington where … he’s the third-string QB.

D. Stanton came in relief of S. Hill during Sunday's Detroit game (US Presswire). No. 43. Drew Stanton, Lions: I bet you didn’t know this: Stanton threw a TD in his first-ever NFL attempt. Ultimately, that probably will be the highlight of his career. When Matthew Stafford returns to the field after the Week 7 bye, Stanton will fall back to No. 2 (until backup Shaun Hill recovers from his forearm injury).

3rd round

No. 92. Trent Edwards, Bills: The wound is still too fresh to delve into the details, but in one week, Edwards lost his starting job and then lost his backup job. Jacksonville has since claimed him off waivers. Let me repeat: the Bills – who might be the worst team in football – decided they couldn’t use him. Edwards replaced David Garrard on Monday Night Football after Garrard sustained a concussion, and actually, Edwards didn't play badly.

4th round

No. 103. Isaiah Stanback, Cowboys: What can we say about Isaiah Stanback? Namely, he has five pass receptions in his pro career. He tore his Achilles in the preseason with Seattle, and he was released soon after. It’s almost not fair to call him a QB, but that’s what he did in college, so that’s how we’ll list him.

5th round

No. 151: Jeff Rowe, Bengals: He sat behind Carson Palmer and Ryan Fitzpatrick for a season. The next year, he lost his third-string job to Jordan Palmer. Ah, nepotism sucks, eh? Unless, of course, you’re the recipient of that nepotism. Then, it’s awesome.

No. 174. Troy Smith, Ravens: When Baltimore signed Bulger to back up Joe Flacco, that signaled the end of Smith’s time with the Ravens. There’s little doubt Smith has great athleticism, but he’s proven he’s not a starting QB in the NFL. He’s currently the third-string QB in San Francisco.

6th round

No. 205. Jordan Palmer, Redskins: Jeff Rowe’s worst nightmare. Actually, Palmer is one snap away from taking older brother Carson’s job if the latter has to leave the game because of injury.

7th round


No. 217. Tyler Thigpen, Vikings: Thigpen actually has had a better career than many of the QBs on this list. Sure, he’s the third-string QB in Miami, but he’s started 11 NFL games (with an absurd record of 1-10) and he’s thrown 19 TDs against 15 INTs.

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Posted on: October 5, 2010 10:14 am
Edited on: October 5, 2010 6:41 pm
 

Top Ten With a Twist: Curse of Wally Pipp

P. Hillis has taken over the Cleveland running game (US Presswire).

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

We’re a quarter of the way into the season, and some players who were originally slated to be backups suddenly have emerged as starters. Maybe it was through an injury to the former starter. Maybe it was because the starter wasn’t as good as the team thought and the backup was better. Maybe it was because – and Wally Pipp could relate to this – somebody just needed an off-day.

In fairness to the old-time Yankees first baseman, who was replaced one day (permanently, it turned out) in 1925 by a guy named Lou Gehrig because Pipp had a headache, that story might not be true exactly. Instead, he might have been benched because manager Miller Huggins simply wanted to shake up the lineup. Either way, Gehrig played the next 2,130 games, and Pipp ended up in … Cincinnati (and apparently, he was also one of Sports Illustrated’s first writing hires, one of those cool but useless facts).

Anyway, there have been some impact players to emerge this season so far, simply because they, like Gehrig, were given that chance to shine. Some have won a starting position. Some are just holding it until the real starter returns. But they’re all making a (mostly good) impression. It sounds like the perfect Top Ten With a Twist list to me.

10. Lance Moore, WR/PR, Saints: The story of Moore’s career. A Saints starts gets injured. Moore steps in and makes plays. Remember in 2008 when Moore caught a team-high 79 passes for 928 yards and 10 touchdowns after Marques Colston was hurt? Obviously, when Reggie Bush returns from his broken leg, Moore will fade back into the background – maybe. But man, he looked electric against the Falcons (six catches, 149 yards, two touchdowns), and he’s become a big target for New Orleans when it’s in the red zone.

9. Max Hall, QB, Cardinals: Look, we all know Derek Anderson isn’t a very good quarterback. But I didn’t think he would have a chance to lose his job this early. Hall, meanwhile, was a 2010 undrafted free agent (seriously, how poor is Anderson to lose to an undrafted free agent?). Not that Hall was great when he replaced Anderson on Sunday, because he wasn’t, but he might be Arizona’s best option at this point. Coach Ken Whisenhunt, meanwhile, isn’t talking. “I think we're going to go without [a quarterback) this week,” he joked Monday. “I think we're going to go with all Wildcat."

8. BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB, Patriots: He averaged about eight carries per game his rookie year in 2008, but with Kevin Faulk lost for the season – and Fred Taylor unavailable for the Miami game Monday – Green-Ellis (47 carries this year for 215 yards) has already nearly doubled his attempts from last year. He had his breakout in Week 3 against Buffalo when he carried the ball 16 times for 98 yards and a score, and vs. the Dolphins, he was impressive with a 16-carry, 78-yard, one-touchdown performance.

7. Shaun Hill, QB, Lions:
The reason Hill is so low on this list is because there’s no way he’ll take the job from Matthew Stafford. But still, how impressive has Hill looked the past few weeks? After Stafford went out with the shoulder injury in Week 1, Hill was terrible. But the past three weeks, he’s completed 61.9 percent of his passes for five touchdowns and six interceptions (he’s also averaging 301 passing yards per game), and he really impressed me in Detroit’s two-point loss to Green Bay.

6. Bruce Gradkowski, QB, Raiders: It didn’t take long for Raiders coach Tom Cable to figure out that, in order to save his job, he’d take his chances with Gradkowski instead of Jason Campbell. This is not to say Gradkowski is an elite quarterback, because that’s a laughable notion. But he played well at times when he was in Tampa Bay after Chris Simms ruptured his spleen in 2006 (Gradkowski failed to win the starting job in 2007). For now, though, Gradkowski is entrenched as Cable’s guy. As long as Cable is around.

5. Koa Misi, LB, Dolphins: Ikaika Alama-Francis was supposed to be the starter, but the night before the season opener, he caught some kind of illness and he’s been recovering ever since, losing 15-20 pounds in the process. Misi, the team’s second round Draft pick this year, has taken over his starting spot with consistent play and a smooth transition to the pro game. It was originally thought that Misi’s main objective would be as a situational pass-rusher – he was, after all, a defensive end in college – but he’s proven his worth as an every-down back with two sacks and a fumble recovery TD. In the meantime, he’s also Wally Pipp’d Alama-Francis.

4. Taylor Mays, S, 49ers: Mays so Wally Pipp’d former starter Michael Lewis that San Francisco released Lewis Monday, the day after Mays’ huge game against Atlanta. Mays had taken Lewis’ starting job already, and it sounds like Lewis asked for his release, but still, that’s pretty impressive for a rookie. Mays, in case you didn’t see it, had a phenomenal touchdown (both feet down!) after a punt block to give San Francisco a 14-0 lead. He also made 11 tackles.



3. John Carney, K, Saints: Carney, who will turn 65 later this year (I’m kidding, he’s 46), has returned once again to the NFL, and after making three kicks this past week, you have to wonder how much longer Garrett Hartley will stay on the roster – or why he’s on the roster at all at this point. Obviously, Carney isn’t the future kicker in this organization, and maybe the Saints are keeping Hartley around, because they’re hoping he can overcome what’s been a terrible start to the season for him. Otherwise, he’d already have been Pipp’d.

2. Ryan Torain, RB, Redskins:
Torain and Clinton Portis have split carries, but it seems that if this was the 100-meter dash at the Olympics, Torain would be Usain Bolt and Portis would be the other seven guys. Meaning Torain is pulling away and eventually will take Portis’ starting role. It could happen this week actually as Portis hurt his groin Sunday. Let me also briefly mention San Diego’s Mike Tolbert, who replaced first-round pick Ryan Mathews when he was injured and rushed for 255 combined yards the past three games (including a 100-yard performance Sunday when Mathews was in the game). But coach Norv Turner says he’s committed to keeping Mathews as the starter, so Tolbert doesn’t fit on this list all that well.

1. Peyton Hillis, RB, Browns: It was supposed to be Montario Hardesty and Jerome Harrison running the ball in Cleveland. Hillis – who was traded from Denver in the Brady Quinn deal this past offseason – was supposed to be just an afterthought. Baltimore’s Terrell Suggs had never heard of the guy until he ripped off 180 total yards (144 on the ground, the most Baltimore has allowed in five years) against the Ravens. With Hardesty out with a season-ending injury and with Harrison failing to make an impression on the Cleveland coaching staff, Hillis has taken advantage, tying the league high with four touchdowns and averaging 4.9 yards per carry. Like Gehrig, it appears that Hillis has no future plans to give up his starting spot.

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Posted on: September 28, 2010 9:59 am
Edited on: September 28, 2010 5:07 pm
 

Top Ten with a Twist: Biggest problems

Mike Singletary has led his San Francisco squad to an 0-3 start to the season (AP).
Posted by Josh Katzowitz

The first game, if your favorite team has a bad day at the office, you can forgive it. “Ah, it’s just one game,” you might say. “My men have plenty of time, and it was the first game of the season. Obviously, they haven’t worked out all the kinks.” You can still sleep at night.

The second game, if your team stinks up the joint again, you can forgive it. With reservations. “OK, it’s only two games. The season is still long. You can still make the playoffs if you start it out 0-2. They’re still figuring things out.” You still sleep at night, though probably not as soundly.

By the third game, though, if your team is still playing really, really poorly, you might have a tough time catching those Z's. By game three, problem teams – and problem players – are becoming more “the trend” and less “just a phase.” Your team might really suck, after all. Your favorite player might officially be over the hill.

You might officially have a problem.

10. Carson Palmer:
I’ve watched Palmer closely the past five or six years, and after the Jets beat Cincinnati in the playoffs last year, I wrote Palmer was no longer an elite quarterback (you can’t be elite, after all, if your stats fall somewhere between Jason Campbell and David Garrard). He’s continued his struggles this year, and though, the Bengals don’t need him quite as much if they have a healthy Cedric Benson, you can close the book on him as one of the best in the game.

9. Shawne Merriman’s Achilles/Andre Johnson’s ankle: Let’s combine two annoying injuries for players who would do well to stay on the field. Merriman, who missed much of the preseason because of a holdout/Achilles injury, played the last two weeks, but he had to leave Sunday’s contest because of a calf injury. Though he’s not the player he once was, he’s a better option for San Diego than Antwan Applewhite and Brandon Lang. And Johnson’s ankle is self-explanatory. If he’s not on the field – and he’s had to miss part of the past two games – the Texans offense isn’t nearly as potent.

8. David Garrard: I know, I hate putting two QBs on here in the first three picks, but, unlike Palmer, I’m not sure why Garrard is still playing with the first string. I mean, aside from Todd Bouman (hasn’t thrown a pass in five seasons) being his only backup. Coach Jack Del Rio was asked how much longer he could play Garrard, and Del Rio said as long as he was the team’s best option. Meaning he’s the team’s only option. Which is bad news.

7. Ben Roethlisberger’s return:
This isn’t about Roethlisberger necessarily and I assume coach Mike Tomlin will give him back his job when he returns from his four-game suspension, but the Steelers could be 4-0 playing a combination of Dennis Dixon and Charlie Batch. Roethlisberger obviously is a better QB than either of those two, but he’ll probably be rusty. What if he struggles against the Browns in his first game? What if Miami’s defense lights him up the week after that? Will Steelers fans be chanting Charlie Batch’s name (probably not, but you never know …)?

6. Brandyn Dombrowski:
So, how soon can Marcus McNeill return for San Diego? Dombrowski, playing LT and trying to protect Philip Rivers’ blindside, had a tough time against Seattle on Sunday, Chris Clemons toasted him a few times to sack Rivers, and on the Chargers’ first attempt to get within two late in the game – the first time Rivers hit TE Antonio Gates – Dombrowski was called for holding. San Diego coach Norv Turner has defended him, but Dombrowski had a rough one in the Chargers loss.

G. Hartley had a rough week for New Orleans last week and is in danger of losing his job (AP). 5. Garrett Hartley: It’s hard to believe how badly Hartley missed his game-winning 29-yard field goal in overtime of the Falcons victory against the Saints. Coach Sean Payton has shown plenty of loyalty to Hartley, but Hartley directly cost New Orleans the game Sunday. How many more games will he negatively impact the Saints before he’s off the team? Maybe, none. John Carney and Matt Stover apparently have tried out for the Saints this week, and at this point, if Hartley lasts the year in New Orleans, it’d be kind of a surprise. 

4. The entire AFC/NFC West: We’ll get into San Francisco’s Mike Singletary in a minute, but man, how inconsistent have these conferences been? Oakland has been terrible (against Tennessee), less terrible (a win against St. Louis), and almost not terrible enough to win again (a 24-23 loss to Arizona). Derek Anderson has worked his anti-magic for the Cardinals. And you still don’t know what you’re going to get when Seattle runs onto the field for the game. I'm still shocked St. Louis beat Washington. These divisions are wide open for the taking, especially when Kansas City starts 3-0 and leads the AFC West.

3. Chargers kick return coverage:
OK, so you saw what Leon Washington did against San Diego on Sunday, returning a kick for 101 yards for the TD and then returning another kick for 99 yards. That was unreal. But don’t forget about Kansas City’s Dexter McCluster, who had a 94-yard punt return in the season opener vs. San Diego. On Monday, several Chargers veterans volunteered for special teams duties in order to help improve that unit. Hey, it certainly couldn’t hurt.

2. Giants discipline:
Remember how Antrel Rolle complained about how much control the coaching staff held over the players? Well, that’s not exactly true, especially when we’re talking about New York’s 11 penalties, including five personal fouls that occurred after the play was over, in its bad loss to Tennessee. Two 15-yarders came courtesy of RT Kareem McKenzie (behavior McKenzie called “despicable” the next day), and Rolle incurred one when he tried to punch Tennessee TE Craig Stevens. With performances like that, you have to wonder what kind of control coach Tom Coughlin actually asserts over his players. And how much longer he’ll be in control of the Giants at all.

1. Mike Singletary:
After the 49ers 31-10 beatdown by the Chiefs, word filtered out that Kansas City’s defenders apparently were calling out San Francisco’s play calls before the plays were actually run. Now, the 49ers are 0-3, and maybe, aside from pulling down his pants to motivate his team, Singletary doesn’t exactly seem like an X’s and O’s guy. He actually was asked after the game if he had been outcoached, and he said, “I would not say ‘outcoached.’ When you have a loss like this, a lot of things look wrong.” Like the offense. And a day after backing his offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye and saying he’d be around the rest of the season, Singletary fired him. That means new offensive coordinator Mike Johnson continues the streak of Alex Smith never playing for the same coordinator in back-to-back seasons. I’m sure that will help.

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Posted on: September 21, 2010 4:21 pm
Edited on: September 27, 2010 8:34 pm
 

Week 3 Top Ten with a Twist: second-year players

Green Bay LB C. Matthews already has six sacks through two games this year (AP).
Posted by Josh Katzowitz

In my experiences, it’s never too early to hype somebody, no matter how early it is in the season or in a career. Sure, you run the risk of overhype, but then again, who cares? That’s partially what makes following and covering NFL football so much fun. Let the compliments and hyperbole fly and see where everything falls (either in the sky with the stars or on the floor with the garbage).

This week, we’re examining the second-year players who have impressed us the most this season. Some were not stars last season, but in their second years have shown they are, in fact, pretty good – if not great – players. Some were Pro Bowlers last year who have continued their strong play. Some have finally emerged this year. And some who were really special last year but have done next to nothing this season weren’t included.

This is the list in which we celebrate those who haven’t fallen into the so-called sophomore slump. Of course, it’s only two games into the season. Still plenty of time for those compliments to fall from the heavens and thud to the turf.

Sanchez 10. Mark Sanchez, QB, Jets: Listen, I know he’s not the greatest QB out there. He’s got a career 54.7 completion percentage, and he’s got 15 career TDs against 20 INTs. But I saw him in last year’s playoffs manage his team to the AFC championship game as a rookie, and he has the backing of New York’s management. He’s not going to be the next Peyton Manning, but he’s showing improvement. And Sanchez (21 of 30 for 220 yards and three TDs) outplayed Tom Brady last Sunday to beat the Patriots. Maybe an AFC East title isn’t out of the question.

9. Johnny Knox, WR, Bears:
Knox is a member of the powerful triumvirate of players from Abilene Christian who are making an impact in the NFL today (Bengals RB Bernard Scott and Bears S Danieal Manning are the others). He had a solid rookie season on offense, but he really shined on special teams, making the Pro Bowl as a KO returner. He’s made seven catches this year so far, and you saw his ability on the 59-yard pass from Jay Cutler last week when Knox used his pure speed to burn Dallas CB Mike Jenkins and make the catch.

8. Pat McAfee/Kevin Huber, P, Colts/Bengals:
Finally, some love for the punters (though we don’t give enough love to give these two an entry of their own). These two were the best punters in the Big East in their final collegiate seasons – McAfee at West Virginia and Huber at Cincinnati – and they’ve translated those skills into the NFL. McAfee averaged 44.3 yards last year, and though his yards per punt numbers have fallen a bit, he’s dropped five punts inside the 20-yard line. Huber, meanwhile, has upped his average yardage to 44.7.

McCoy 7. LeSean McCoy, RB, Eagles:
Last season, McCoy scored four rushing touchdowns and he caught 40 passes. Already this season, he’s scored four rushing touchdowns and caught nine passes. Plus, he’s averaging a ridiculous 6.7 yards per rush. He scored three touchdowns in the Eagles win against the Lions on Sunday, and it was the first time a Philadelphia RB has accomplished that since 1995.

6. Knowshon Moreno, RB, Broncos:
Remember how big a loss it could have been when Moreno went down with an injury in the preseason – we asked if Correll Buckhalter or (yikes) LenDale White could take over those No. 1 reps – but since he’s returned, Moreno has reminded Broncos fans why they were so worried about his injury prognosis in the first place. After all, he leads the team with 182 total yards of offense.

5. Josh Freeman, QB, Buccaneers: Behind Byron Leftwich and Josh Johnson last year, Freeman didn’t get any playing time until midway through the season, where he took over the starting role. He kept his starting position throughout the offseason, but he promptly fractured the thumb on his throwing hand in the preseason and missed some time. But since he’s returned, he’s been quite good, and Tampa Bay surprisingly is 2-0. This, even though Freeman is just 22 years old.

4. Hakeem Nicks, WR, Giants:
With a solid rookie season, Nicks was a guy who could be expected to make contributions behind Steve Smith and Mario Manningham. Don’t think anybody expected this. Of Nicks’ six catches on the year, four of them have gone for touchdowns. After catching three of them in Week 1, he rolled his ankle and was questionable for last Sunday. But he returned for the Colts game and secured another one late in that contest. He’s becoming a dangerous receiving threat.

3. Brian Orakpo, LB, Redskins:
After Washington drafted him with the No. 13 pick overall in the 2009 Draft, Orakpo had a huge rookie season, recording 11 sacks and earning a Pro Bowl berth. Orakpo’s stats aren’t quite as big so far this year, but he’s still causing plenty of fear among opposing offensive lineman. He’s blitzing more often than last year, and against Dallas in Week 1, he forced Alex Barron into three holding penalties, including the game-winner.

Foster 2. Arian Foster, RB, Texans:
Did anybody see this coming? Especially after last season when he was just a practice squad player in Houston? Well, who would have thought Foster had the 33-carry, 231-yard, three-touchdown career day he had in Week 1 vs. the Colts? Yeah, he came down to earth a little bit Sunday (19 carries for 69 yards and three catches for 69 yards), but still, is there a more exciting RB in the game right now?

1. Clay Matthews, LB, Packers:
He’s been the most dominant defensive player in the NFL this year. He’s got six sacks already this season, and already, there’s talk about him breaking the sack record (um, chances are, this won’t happen). But considering he had 10 sacks last year and is already more than halfway to matching that mark, that’s an awfully impressive figure. And he’s got an impressive head of blonde hair.

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Posted on: September 7, 2010 1:42 pm
Edited on: September 7, 2010 1:45 pm
 

Week 1 Top Ten with a Twist: front offices

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

The front office, like most of the players it pays, doesn’t take much of an offseason. The general managers and the other executives – player personnel and otherwise – are constantly remodeling the team. Get rid of the guy who’s too slow for the system, sign to an extension the cornerback who could be the league’s next breakout star, fire the coach who’s taken the team as far as he can, draft the perfect offensive lineman for the team’s scheme, etc.

And like the players you watch every week, these front offices are to be judged. In the first of our weekly Top Ten with a Twist, I’m grading out the front offices. Without further ado, here’s the list:

Top 10 Front Office Performances from 2010 Offseason

10. Chiefs: Second-year coach Todd Haley, after a rough first year in which he worked his team to the bone, has been more pleasant this offseason. He’s even been spotted … gasp … smiling. That’s probably because the front office, led by GM Scott Pioli, made his team better. Kansas City signed Thomas Jones – you know, the guy who was the NFL’s third-leading rusher last year before the Jets parted ways with him – and they had a good draft. Eric Berry and Javier Arenas will make a big impact in the secondary and Dexter McCluster will be a standout on offense. The Chiefs won’t sniff .500 this year, but they’re headed that way.M. Tannenbaum (US Presswire)
 
9. Raiders: Yes, Al Davis still makes bizarre decisions (he reportedly was the only one who wanted to keep Mike Mitchell and cut Steve Brown at safety that turned cutdown day into a confusing series of events), but the most important one this front office made was to rid themselves of JaMarcus Russell and to bring in Jason Campbell. Campbell will never be an elite quarterback, but he could lead Oakland back to respectability (meaning they’ll have a chance to go 8-8). Simply for getting rid of Russell, that makes the front office a shoe-in for this list, but they also drafted LB Rolando McClain with the first-round pick - they thought so much of him they traded away Kirk Morrison – and added LB Kamerion Wimbley.
 
8. Cardinals: While I absolutely hate the Derek-Anderson-is-starting-at-QB move, Arizona had a solid offseason. It let Matt Leinart go finally after it was clear he was never going to make it, but most importantly, it didn’t give in to Darnell Docket’s repeated requests during the past few seasons for contract extensions, not wanting to set a bad precedent by giving him an extension when he still had more than two years on his deal. But just before this season was to begin, the team rewarded him and possibly made him a Cardinal for life. Just for not folding, they’re in my top-10. Now, if the front office could just keep him from videotaping himself while in the shower …
 
7. Bengals: They had a good draft, selecting TE Jermaine Gresham, DE Carlos Dunlap, WR Jordan Shipley, CB Brandon Ghee and DL Geno Atkins, all of whom should get some (or plenty of) playing time. Further playing into the stereotype that the club is the NFL’s version of the Betty Ford Clinic, owner Mike Brown also brought in WR Terrell Owens and CB Adam Jones (you know him better as Pacman). Both moves could backfire, but they also could be outstanding. I’ll give major points off because the Antonio Bryant signing was a disaster (they spent $8 million and got only a couple practices out of him) and because they, for some strange reason, haven’t locked up a new contract with Marvin Lewis. If they lose him, there’s no way Cincinnati is back on this list next year.
 
6. Lions: Look, their defense has been terrible the last few years, and sure, the addition of star-in-waiting Ndamukong Suh in the first round of the draft was a no-brainer pick. But considering the number of occasions the Lions have screwed up their first-round selection, this one was actually the right move. Then, they got RB Jahvid Best later in the first round, and if concussions don’t prove to be a problem for him, that’s a nice pick. Adding WR Nate Burleson will help WR Calvin Johnson and QB Matt Stafford, as well. The defense probably still will struggle, but hey, at least Detroit is on the right rack. That’s not something you can always say going into a new season.
 
5. Vikings: Yes, the front office emasculated itself by outright begging Brett Favre to return to the team (pretty, pretty please), but ultimately, the Vikings knew they needed to make this happen. They needed Favre, because they obviously don’t trust Tarvares Jackson. I like the sixth-round Joe Webb pick quite a bit, and I like the trade of Sage Rosenfels even better. The trade for former Dolphins WR Greg Camarillo was a great addition when it was unclear what would happen with Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin. The Vikings know there’s no time like the present (especially when Favre is leading your squad), and they’re acting like it.
 
4. Seahawks: If we were going with the quantity over quality award, Seattle would be No. 1 without question. It started with the hiring of Pete Carroll, though I’m not sure he’s the right answer as the head coach (it’s hard to get an image of Carroll parachuting out of a sinking USC meteorite and landing softly and safely in the Pacific Northwest). He’s helped remake the roster through the draft (Russell Okung, Earl Thomas and Golden Tate) and through (what seems like) hundreds of other moves. I really don’t like paying so much money for backup QB Charlie Whitehurst, and I hate that the team has to pay most of T.J. Houshmandzadeh’s salary while he’s playing in Baltimore (hey, not every single one of those thousands of offseason transactions can work perfectly). But newly-acquired RB Leon Washington looks recovered from his knee injury and WR Mike Williams looks to be resurgent.
 
3. Ravens: I love the Marc Bulger signing (even if Joe Flacco doesn’t). WR Anquan Boldin also will prove to be a very good addition, and now with Houshmandzadeh in the mix, they’ll battle with the Bengals for the AFC North crown. I don’t think Baltimore is the favorite, but, with GM Ozzie Newsome in its corner, there’s no reason to think the Ravens won’t return to the playoffs. They’ve had some bad luck with their secondary, but I’m not sure how much else the front office could have done to improve it. The rest of the team will simply have to cover for the defensive backs.
 
2. Redskins: Above all else, they hired Mike Shanahan to run the team. This club has made some baffling decisions the past few years – none more so than handing Albert Haynesworth $100 million – but hiring Shanahan to show Haynesworth who is boss and trading for Donovan McNabb, who still has gas in his fuel tank, were good moves. How LT Trent Williams performs – the Redskins chose him over Russell Okung – will be a big factor in how well Washington plays this year. They’re not going to win the division, but they’ll be better than their 4-12 record from a season ago.

1. Jets: I’ve made no apologies for my thoughts that the Jets could play for the Super Bowl. Yeah, they weren’t great last year, at least until they got in the playoffs, but the front office has improved the team heading into this season. They brought in Antonio Cromartie to start next to Darrelle Revis, and they drafted another CB Kyle Wilson in the first round. They’ve taken care of three of their Core Four, and even if the timetable with Revis wasn’t ideal, at least the deal got done. Plus, the front office extended the contracts of Rex Ryan and Mark Tannenbaum when it didn’t have to do so (some see this as a negative, but I like the forward thinking). The jury is still out on LaDainian Tomlinson, but as a No. 2 RB who’s not overly expensive, I don’t mind the risk at all. The Jets are acting like they want to win the super bowl. How could you not love that?

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