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Tag:Gary Kubiak
Posted on: September 22, 2011 11:04 am
 

Top Ten with a Twist: Biggest surprises

Wade Phillips has revitalized Houston's defense (US Presswire).

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Every year, it’s easy to predict how some teams and players will perform. For instance, this year it was easy to see that the Patriots were going to be awesome, the Colts were going to struggle without Peyton Manning, and some unheralded running back somewhere would surprise everyone with his fantastic performances (Houston’s Ben Tate for example, playing in place of last year’s unheralded/awesome running back Arian Foster).

But, as always, there have been some major surprises through the first two weeks that virtually nobody could see coming. Which is why we follow sports (and the NFL, in particular) in the first place. It’d be boring if we knew everything. But the fact we didn’t know just HOW terrible the Colts would be without Manning is what makes watching pro football a good time.

Therefore, this week, we introduce the Top 10 with a Twist list of the players and teams who have surprised us the most in the first two weeks of the season. No Tom Brady mentions in here. Instead, we give you Ryan Fitzpatrick and Jimmy Clausen's replacement.

10. Redskins: Remember how we all laughed at Rex Grossman when he proclaimed he thought that Washington would win the NFC East? Well, look at which squad is at the top of that division. That would be the Redskins at 2-0, ahead of the Eagles, Giants and Cowboys. It’s because Grossman has played well, running back Tim Hightower has had a resurgence and the Redskins rank No. 6 in points allowed (they were No. 21 last season). Hey, maybe, in addition to being a pretty decent quarterback, Grossman is quite the soothsayer. 

9. Dunta Robinson: I have to admit that I was shocked that the NFL fined the Falcons cornerback only $40,000 after his egregious case of head-hunting against Eagles receiver Jeremy Maclin last Sunday night. You’ll recall Robinson was fined $50,000 the first time he was caught head-hunting last season (that figure was reduced to $25,000), and though the NFL will say this case was different and less severe, I don’t buy it. We called on the NFL to suspend Robinson, and I didn’t think we’d see that. But I didn’t think we’d see less of a punishment than the first time he went helmet to helmet. Though we live in a time when Roger Goodell’s disciplinary decisions oftentimes don’t make sense, this was a shocker.

8. Bills: It’s only been a few years since the Bills started a season 2-0, but could you tell me the last time Buffalo started the season 2-0 and then finished with a winning record? You’d have to go all the way back to 1996, so obviously, the Bills aren’t going to start celebrating anything quite yet. But the way quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick continues to play (which, in itself, is a shocker) and the way running back Fred Jackson continues to pile up yards and the way coach Chan Gailey continues to turn around this team, it’s well … a little surprising. And it’s gotten them into first place in the AFC East (well, they’re tied with the Jets and the Patriots, but the Bills alphabetically are at the top of the division, so there’s that).

Johnson7. Kenny Britt: Yes, we knew Kenny Britt had talent, but we didn’t know he’d explode like this after his rather interesting offseason. So far, he’s recorded 14 catches for 271 yards and three touchdowns, and considering, in his best season before this one, he totaled 42 receptions and 775 yards, this is looking like a breakout year for him. Now if he only can stop getting arrested in the offseason …

6. Chris Johnson: You might find this selection strange, considering I placed Johnson in last week’s list -- the top-10 candidates for comeback player of the year. But after a Week 1 in which he was underused (only nine carries), Johnson ran for 53 yards on 24 chances last week. Which means that for a player whose stated goal is to break the 2,000-yard mark again hasn’t even cracked the 100-yard mark for the entire season. Considering he just signed a $54 million contract, his output has been rather disappointing. Maybe we shouldn’t have been so surprised. Johnson did, after all, hold out from training camp. But Johnson has been so good in his career, the fact he’s been so underwhelming is a little off-putting.

5. Chiefs: How do you go from winning the AFC West crown to being absolutely horrible the next year? How do you go from being pretty decent last year to being absolutely atrocious now? Some injuries (Tony Moeaki, Jamaal Charles and Eric Berry), some in-fighting between general manager Scott Pioli and coach Todd Haley (supposedly) and some brutal defense. Whatever the cause, Kansas City has been outscored 89-10 combined by the Bills and the Lions. Considering the Packers, the Steelers, the Chargers (twice), the Patriots, the Bears and the Jets still are on the schedule, the Chiefs might be in for a colonoscopy of a year.

4. Cam Newton: People were split about how Newton would affect the Panthers this season. Some thought he’d be terrible (I’m guilty, as charged). Some thought he would excite the masses in Charlotte with his on-field play and his off-field charisma. But nobody really knew for sure. Remember, about a month ago, we thought Jimmy Clausen might beat out Newton for the starting job (gosh, we were so naïve back then, eh?). But even those who thought he’d be a solid quarterback have to be taken aback by these numbers: a 62.7 completion percentage, 854 passing yards, three scores (we’ll ignore the four interceptions so far) and the record for most passing yards in a pro debut and most passing yards by a rookie. Sure, the Panthers are 0-2, but Newton has been pretty incredible.

3. Bill Belichick: Who would have guessed the Patriots coach would ever allow anybody to film his life for a documentary? The first episode of A Football Life: Bill Belichick on NFL Network was an interesting look at the best coach in the league and what he’s like in the meeting room, the locker room and, interestingly enough, on a boat in Nantucket. Belichick comes off like a cold-blooded SOB around the media, but in this documentary -- the second part of which will air Thursday, and supposedly, he really shows his emotions in that episode -- you can see the guy is actually human. And considering Belichick would be the 32nd NFL coach who I ever believed would agree to something like this, it’s a pleasant surprise.

2. Faking injuries: Did anybody think this stuff wasn’t happening before? Just because Deon Grant might have been faking an injury to slow down the Rams’ no-huddle, hurry-up offense  last Sunday (Grant, by the way, takes GREAT offense that you’d even think so), that’s not to say this tactic hasn’t been used for many, many years. It has; it’s usually just not so obvious. In fact, you can read this brief article from the NY Times in which the Bengals ask the league to look at players faking injuries. That article, by the way, is from 1989.

1. Wade Phillips: He wasn’t the most-respected head coach (I think the second season of Hard Knocks with the Cowboys gave the impression he was kind of a bumbling Texan who let people walk all over him), but as a defensive coordinator, he’s done a wonderful job in Houston. Since changing Gary Kubiak’s defense to a 3-4 and since the team signed Danieal Manning and Johnathan Joseph in the secondary, Phillips has helped Houston become the top defense in the league, allowing 10 points and 271 yards per game (both rank No. 1 in the NFL). Who would have thought that after last season when the Texans secondary was burned in just about every game they played? Phillips, though he might never get another head coaching job, is saving somebody else’s job right now. We knew Phillips would be good. We didn’t think he’d be this good, this soon.

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Posted on: September 19, 2011 10:05 am
Edited on: September 19, 2011 10:06 am
 

Arian Foster on hamstring: 'I pulled myself out'

Posted by Will Brinson

Arian Foster spent much of the second half of Houston's 23-13 win in Miami on the sidelines, as Ben Tate piled up the rushing yardage for the Texans.

That's because Foster re-aggravated the left hamstring injury that's been bothering him since the preseason, which led to some worry that he'd returned too soon, although Foster insists he was just being precautionary.

"I pulled myself out because I felt it getting a little tight," Foster said, calling it a tough decision to do so. "But I have to realize that it's only Game 2," he added. "It's a long season, so I have to get healthy."

The biggest issue for anyone that wants to see Foster going full-force is that the Texans handily defeated the Dolphins -- that the score was even remotely close is more a byproduct of Johnathan Joseph missing a couple series -- he later returned to the game with an ankle injury -- in which Miami was able to stumble upon some offense.

It seems like Houston could have probably rested him another week and not skipped a beat, given that Ben Tate became just the 11th player in NFL history to start his career with back-to-back 100-yard games.

"[Foster] obviously wasn't himself and he got pretty fatigued," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. "He wanted to play in the second half but when he told me he felt a little tight in the locker room, I said, 'That's it.'"

And so Kubiak gave Tate the rock, and Tate responded just fine, piling up 103 rushing yards on 23 carries and melting off enough of the clock to preserve a win for Houston.

Don't be surprised, then, if Foster sits this coming week. And maybe the next week after that, depending on how healthy his hamstring is. If it's anything less than 100 percent, he shouldn't be out there for a team that, as we've mentioned, as a free pass to a division title and just needs to avoid doing anything stupid.

Meanwhile, let's not forget that Kubiak is a Mike Shanahan disciple -- it's not like he's scared to have a previously unknown running back step into his system, perform well and turn into a feature back that can carry the team going forward.

Just ask Arian Foster.


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Posted on: September 14, 2011 8:31 pm
Edited on: September 14, 2011 8:32 pm
 

Arian Foster practices, starting is 'the plan'

Posted by Will Brinson

Arian Foster missed Week 1's game against Indianapolis, but the Texans running game didn't miss a beat -- Ben Tate piled up over a 100 yards and both he and Derrick Ward found the end zone.

But that doesn't mean Houston doesn't want Foster to get back sooner rather than later, and it's therefore quite good news that he returned to the practice field Wednesday.

"Arian practiced today. Arian took a normal Wednesday load for a starter," coach Gary Kubiak said. "I guess the key probably is how he comes out of practice tomorrow. Does he feel good? But everything was positive today at practice, so we’ll see."

Of course, we went through this all last week with Kubiak, who listed Foster as day-to-day and didn't officially rule him out until Sunday morning. Foster offered more encouraging words this time around. Kind of.

"It felt good," Foster said of his hamstring. "It was pretty fluid, but you got to ease along hamstring injuries, like I’ve been saying, so I’m just going to take it day-by-day and see how it feels.

"[Staring Sunday's game] is the plan, but you never know with hamstring injuries. They’re tricky. Sometimes they’ll sneak up on you."

Cue up the legions of frustrated fantasy owners screaming; or just going after Foster on Twitter to find out about his health.

It might not be necessary, though, because if Foster's practicing on a Wednesday -- he wasn't practicing last Friday, mind you -- he seems like a safe bet to get a start this week.

However, the Texans are firmly aware of how wide open the AFC South is (don't let them tell you otherwise), and if they don't think Foster is back to 100 percent by Sunday, don't be surprised to see him sit again.

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Posted on: September 10, 2011 10:02 pm
Edited on: September 17, 2011 4:16 pm
 

For the gambler in you (Week 1)

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Each Saturday, we’ll take the best -- and most clever -- odds collected by bodog.com for the upcoming week and give our take. This is important stuff, perhaps the most important post you’ll read all week. Because if you can’t lose money while watching a game in which you have absolutely no effect, what’s the point of watching sports at all?

Top-five Super Bowl picks

New England Patriots 11/2 
     
Green Bay Packers 7/1

Philadelphia Eagles 15/2  
    
San Diego Chargers 11/1

New Orleans Saints 12/1

Bottom-five Super Bowl picks

Cleveland Browns 100/1

Washington Redskins 100/1 
             
Carolina Panthers 125/1

Cincinnati Bengals 150/1

Buffalo Bills 150/1

The big change in the Super Bowl odds has to do with Peyton Manning and the Colts. Bodog’s head oddsmaker Adam Young explains: "When someone as important to a team as Peyton Manning is questionable for one or more games to start a season we are almost forced to pull down their season win total and divisional odds and in turn those of the Texans.  We have left up the Super Bowl odds with the Colts moving up from 16-1 to 20-1 and the Texans down from 28-1 to 20-1."

So, my advice: don’t put your money on the Colts. Instead, I’d put your money on New Orleans to win the whole thing.

Will Tiki Barber play in a game in the 2011 regular season? 
       
Yes 3/1   

Nope. Only the Dolphins have thought enough of Barber to give him a workout, and we’re not flabbergasted enough to think that somebody else will be that desperate to give him another chance.

Who will be the first coach fired in the 2011 regular season? 

Jack Del Rio 3/1

Tony Sparano 7/2

Gary Kubiak 11/2

Marvin Lewis 15/2

Tom Coughlin 15/2

Mike Shanahan 10/1

Norv Turner 10/1

Lovie Smith 12/1

Andy Reid 15/1

Field 2/1

You have to think the decision to release David Garrard and start Luke McCown until Blaine Gabbert is ready to play will seal Del Rio’s fate. At least with Garrard as the starter and with Manning out for the time being, you’d think the Jaguars would have a chance at the postseason and the chance to save Del Rio’s chance. There’s no chance now.

Terrelle Pryor -- total starts at quarterback in the 2011 regular season  
    
Over ½ (+110)

Under ½  (-140)

It’s the Raiders. Of course you go with the over.

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

Posted on: September 8, 2011 7:58 pm
Edited on: September 8, 2011 8:01 pm
 

'Game-time' Foster waiting on 'hamstring gods'

Posted by Will Brinson

You wanna know when Arian Foster will be cleared to play on Sunday? Yeah, well, so does everyone else, including him.

Unfortunately, from the sound of the things that Gary Kubiak -- who called Foster day-to-day Wednesday -- said after practice it doesn't look like we'll get an answer until a little closer to kickoff against the Colts.

"Everything’s still progressing the same way," Kubiak said Thursday. "But obviously we’re getting close to game time."

But Kubiak won't ever really know. Only Foster will when his  unless the "hamstring gods" carbon copy his coach as well.

"I'm going to get an e-mail from the hamstring gods, and they’re going to tell me when it’s ready," Foster said when asked how he'd know when he's ready to play. "I refresh my e-mail every 20 minutes."

Foster also had some serious answers -- "when you try to push through it's just going to re-occur" and "it's something that has to heal completely before you can come back completely" -- but that right there is why this guy is one of my favorite players in the NFL right now.

In other Texans-Colts news, every single person on Houston's team refuses to talk about the fact that Kerry Collins isn't as good as Peyton Manning.

"No, I don’t think so," new defensive coordinator Wade Philips said when asked if he'd change his preparation without Manning in the game. "Like I said, the first ball game is enough. Maybe later in the season maybe some things change, but right now we’re excited about playing this game. We want to put our defense together, play mistake-free and make some plays."

What Phillips didn't mention is that he absolutely owns the Colts new starting Kerry Collins, who is 0-7 in his career when going against Philips-coached teams, having never scored more than 17 points.

Does that mean that the Texans are finally going to shake the Colts and dominate the AFC South. Well nothing's a guarantee but if the stars could ever align for a division title my goodness it's happening for Houston.

Which is probably why they don't want to jinx it.

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Posted on: September 7, 2011 5:03 pm
 

Gary Kubiak says Arian Foster is 'day-to-day'

Posted by Will Brinson

Now that we've gotten Peyton Manning's immediate injury concern out of the way -- he's just not going to play during Week 1 -- everyone can turn their attention to the Colts opponent, the Texans, and their star running back Arian Foster.

Foster, as you've likely heard, is dealing with a hamstring injury that resulted in some awkward Twitter encounters and even some handsome jokers who run a popular podcast calling him up to talk.

Texans head coach Gary Kubiak addressed Foster's injury and was about as vague as you would expect.

"He went a little harder [Wednesday] in his rehab process," Kubiak said. "He'll be day-to-day. I think he's improved every day. The progress has been very good, and I know that there was more progress today."

We'd kind of assumed that Foster would play and, frankly, Kubes comments seem like a bit of injury-report gamesmanship. Or not.

"If Arian’s full speed and can play, we want him to play," Kubiak continued. "We need to be at our best to win a football game, but at the same time, we’ve got to listen to what’s going on. As I said all along, the progress has been very good and I know there was more progress today, so maybe this conversation is different tomorrow. I don’t know. We’ll see."

Yes, those people who drafted him in the first round root for the Texans probably just got a little sick to their stomach.

What's interesting about the Texans approach to this game is that the Colts are a seriously weakened team right now -- that's what happens when Peyton doesn't play. And Houston's seriously deep at running back, as Derrick Ward, Ben Tate and Steve Slaton back up Foster (in that order).

Foster still seems like a good bet to play, barring a setback between now and Sunday, but there's a really spicy and calculated gamble available for Kubiak here if he wants to give Foster an extra week to get healthy against his chief division rival while they're down on the ground.

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Posted on: July 17, 2011 2:33 pm
Edited on: July 17, 2011 3:07 pm
 

Texans' Foster won rushing title with bum knee

Posted by Ryan Wilson

Texans running back Arian Foster won the NFL rushing title last season, his 1,616 yards 149 yards clear of the next best player, Jamaal Charles. And Foster probably would have added to the total if he had two healthy knees.

The former undrafted running back out of Tennessee told Sporting News that he played the 2010 season with a torn meniscus in his knee and didn't tell anyone because he feared losing his job.

For an idea of just how impressive that is, in addition to winning the rushing title, Foster was also second in the league in total value and value per play among all RBs, according to Football Outsiders (behind just Charles).

The knee has since been fixed, which should mean the Texans' running game will be even more formidable in 2011. Last year's second-round pick, Ben Tate, is healthy after missing the 2010 season with a leg injury, and he and Derrick Ward will share the backup duties behind Foster.

But in today's NFL, there aren't clear delineations between starting running backs and backups. It's a backs-by-committee approach that not only keeps players fresher as the season wears on, but also reduces injuries. And whatever your thoughts on the Curse of 370, there's every reason to believe that Foster's workload should be lightened after he carried the ball 327 times in 2010, all on a bum leg.

But offense hasn't been much of a problem for the Texans in recent seasons. Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson and Foster have made sure of that. It's the defense that has been their Achilles' heel, and that's where new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips comes in. It's easy to laugh at that sentiment, but that's because Phillips looked perpetually out of sorts in his last job as the Cowboys coach (The Costanza-styled puffy coat certainly didn't help).

Phillips was defensive coordinator for the Chargers from 2004-2006, and that unit finished 12th, 16th, and 17th in team defense, according to Football Outsiders.

That's not Dick LeBeau impressive, but it's average or slightly better, which would have been enough to put the Texans in the playoffs at some point in the last four seasons. By comparison, since 2008, Houston's defense has finished 29th, 19th, and 31st. That's unacceptable.

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Posted on: July 7, 2011 9:12 am
Edited on: July 7, 2011 9:38 am
 

Who we want to see on Hard Knocks '11

Hard Knocks (Getty).Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Throughout the lockout that seems neverending -- now at 114 days and counting!!! -- we’ve seen players get arrested, we’ve seen the NFL and the NFLPA come together and then bicker and then come together and then bicker, and we’ve seen players sue their girlfriends for their engagement rings.

Most disturbing, we’ve seen the signs that Brett Favre might want to return for another season.

We’ve also heard plenty about how a lost preseason would cost the NFL $800 million if the lockout continues through August and into September.

But when it comes to the preseason and how much is on the line, you know what we haven’t heard about? We haven’t heard which squad will be the subject of the annual highlight of August –- HBO’s "Hard Knocks."  

Oh, we know which teams have already declined the invitation (or supposedly, declined the invitation). Among them are the Buccaneers, the Broncos, the Lions and the Falcons (who might be open to doing it in the future), and at this point, it seems as if nobody wants to be on the show. Making matters tougher are those who say cooperating with Hard Knocks is a mistake.

Assuming we’ll see a preseason this year that would provide a platform for the Hard Knocks crew to start filming -- and CBSSports.coms’ Mike Freeman writes that it’s getting close --here are five teams we’d like to see featured on Hard Knocks. Many of them might not be interested for one reason or another, but if we have a fantasy roster, this is it.

Panthers


NewtonThe big storyline: Simply put: the entertainer and the icon, Cam Newton. We want to see how he learns the offense; we want to see if his teammates rally around him; we want to get an early idea of whether Carolina made a bad decision last April. Or maybe he’s the next superstar in the game. Either way, he’s one of the biggest storylines of the preseason, and we want to be inside the locker room to see what happens.

The foil: Jimmy Clausen. How is he going to react to Newton? What happens when Newton badly fakes out some defender destined for the practice squad and gains 30 yards on a broken play? Will the director then cut to Clausen as he raises a fist to the sky in anger? And what happens if Clausen, um, actually outplays Newton?

Two other compelling reasons: 1) NFL.com’s Gil Brandt has mentioned in the past couple of days that Favre has offered to help mentor Newton. Can you imagine the video that could come from this, especially if the camera caught Favre alone in the locker room sending a text message? 2) WR Steve Smith: is he going to play for the Panthers or not?

Patriots


The big storyline: The same guy who makes sure this show would never feature his team on his watch. That would be coach Bill Belichick. How fascinating would it be to see how Belichick builds a team and how he relates to his players? Would we get to see Belichick’s team meeting in which he implicitly tells his team how to answer questions from the media (in the most uninteresting way possible)? Kidding aside, we want to see a future Hall of Fame coach behind the scenes and uncensored.

The foil: Rex Ryan. Is there any way to get a split screen of the Jets coach talking trash about Belichick -- hey, he’s not here to kiss anybody’s ring! – while Belichick coldly goes about finding a way to make Ryan pay for his words?

Two other compelling reasons: 1) Danny Woodhead: he was on Hard Knocks with the Jets last season, and though he’s not in danger of being cut with New England, I still want to know why Woodhead, all of a sudden, is so freaking good. 2) G Logan Mankins (and his agent) has said some not very complimentary things about the Patriots management, all in the name of landing a large contract. Will he be kinder and gentler this preseason?

Packers


The big storyline: Obviously, the Lombardi Trophy. Hard Knocks has never followed a team the preseason after it won the Super Bowl, so it’d be cool to see the ring ceremony the public wasn’t allowed to witness a few weeks back (I’m assuming Hard Knocks wasn’t actually there, but it’d be cool nonetheless) while watching the Packers attempt a repeat.

The foil: Charles Woodson vs. Tramon Williams. Woodson is the bigger name, but he’s older than Williams and there’s a pretty good chance Williams is the better CB these days. Maybe we’d really get to see if Woodson is close to the end, and if Williams can replace Woodson’s outrageous production.

Two other compelling reasons: 1) Would Aaron Rodgers sign autographs for the fans at training camp? Because, as we all know, he doesn’t like signing for cancer patients (I kid, I kid). 2) Last year, little-used cornerback Brandon Underwood had a sexual assault charge hanging over his head all season (he pleaded no contest to a lesser charge). Now, he’s been charged with disorderly conduct after an alleged physical altercation with his soon-to-be ex-wife. Underwood isn’t a great quote, but his story might make for an interesting change of pace on the show.

PhillipsTexans


The big storyline: The will-they-or-won’t-they-fire-him as it relates to coach Gary Kubiak. I’m kind of surprised he’s still coaching in Houston actually, and the last time Hard Knocks featured this kind of storyline, it was Wade Phillips with the Cowboys. Now, Phillips is Kubiak’s defensive coordinator. How hot can that boiler room get anyway?

The foil: The secondary. This is what I wrote in the Texans offseason checkup: “The secondary (Kareem Jackson, Glover Quin, Bernard Pollard and Eugene Wilson) were just tremendously bad. If the Texans can’t get this fixed, it doesn’t matter who’s coordinating the defense, because Houston simply won’t win.” I don’t disagree with that.

Two other compelling reasons: 1) Though he came off a bit bumbling in Season 4 with the Cowboys, Phillips is a sympathetic figure. And the man has proved he can coordinate a defense. I want to see how he transforms a 4-3 sieve-like defense into a 3-4 defense that potentially could save Kubiak’s job. 2) Will QB Matt Schaub ever get into the playoffs? He’s the best quarterback in the league who hasn’t gotten there.

Raiders


The big storyline: Obviously, Al Davis, and the one question I want to know. How hands-on is he these days?

The foil: Nnamdi Asomugha: Just like Darrelle Revis last season with the Jets, we’re not going to see too much of the talented free agent cornerback on the TV. Unfortunately, we won’t get to see any of Antonio Cromartie either (psst, see video below).

Two other compelling reasons: 1) New coach Hue Jackson finally gets his chance at running a team. Forget that Tom Cable went 6-0 in the AFC West last year without making the playoffs -- still a pretty damn impressive feat. Davis got rid of him, just like he gets rid of everybody after a couple years. Will Jackson be an exception? 2) Al Davis: Seriously, I want as much Al Davis as possible.



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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com