FOX Sports : 10 things to watch heading into the season
10 things to watch heading into the season
John Czarnecki / FOXSports.com
There is plenty of good news out there, but halfway through the exhibition season, here are my top 10 observations to consider entering the NFL's 87th season.
1. The Chicago Bears are facing a double whammy. A quarterback controversy AND a running back controversy.
I mean, what football writer doesn't enjoy a good quarterback debate? The players and the front office people have their fingers crossed that Rex Grossman can somehow make the proper reads and not rush his throws. And quit worrying about the accurate, almost flawless performances of veteran Brian Griese in two preseason games.
Grossman won't survive if he succumbs to the pressure. I don't think he will because there isn't a more confident guy around who really doesn't have the resume to support his assertions. But his teammates really like him; they simply want to see a few more touchdown drives.
Now, the same peer enthusiasm doesn't encircle Cedric Benson, the high-priced former first-round pick. Benson would lose any straw vote in the locker room. In fact, he'd probably finish third behind Thomas Jones and Adrian Peterson. Granted, pro football isn't a popularity contest but there is a definite Bears divide when asking who should be carrying the rock. You can bet, however, that the front office wants Benson to succeed because he was selected ahead of Cadillac Williams, last year's best rookie runner, and he's the top wage-earner on the offense.
2. Reggie Bush should have been the first player taken.
I don't mean that the Houston Texans should have drafted Bush, but they definitely should have entertained serious trade offers for the first overall pick and technically the rights to Bush. The Texans have too many personnel needs to have squandered such a lucrative, once-in-a-lifetime situation. When owner Bob McNair decided he didn't want Bush, the franchise should have spent the week prior to the draft eliciting potential trade offers for the pick. We know the Saints, who ended up with Bush, would have drafted Ohio State linebacker A.J. Hawk with the second pick. Tennessee most likely still would have picked Vince Young.
Now, the Jets may have wanted Mario Williams, Houston's choice, but they sound like they might have made a run at Bush, considering they knew months ago that Curtis Martin was in jeopardy. The Packers, picking fifth, wouldn't have passed on Bush, either. The bottom line is that Houston messed up. They could have still landed their guy, Williams, with the fifth or sixth pick in the draft while probably adding another second-round pick (and more) by simply trading down a few spots. It's pretty unanimous that they were really dumb about not trying at all to trade the potential rights to Bush.
3. The Bill Cowher retirement story will never die.
Could this be Bill Cowher's final season in Pittsburgh? (Keith Srakocic / Associated Press)
I haven't met a head coach who isn't curious about Cowher's future and what he's really going to do. Everyone has an opinion. The consensus is that Cowher, since he won Super Bowl 40, would like to be paid like Seattle's Mike Holmgren, who will earn $7 million, $7 million and $8 million over the next three seasons. Others think he simply wants to step away for a season or two. Cowher is only 49 years old, meaning he has plenty of time to return to the sidelines. The latest explanation I've heard about him leaving the Steelers is that he would much prefer to work with owner Dan Rooney rather than his son, Art Rooney II who has assumed much of his father's administrative duties with the Steelers.
Finally, if Cowher does retire after the season, you can bet that Rooney will argue like crazy to be rewarded with a first-round draft pick from the team that does sign him. The Steelers will contend that Cowher still owes them a season and essentially his rights for one more year.
4. The Carolina Panthers might have an offense to match that defense.
This theory explains why many believe the Panthers are a solid Super Bowl favorite. OK, Jake Delhomme can be a little risky with the football, but he does have Steve Smith, the game's best receiver. But what he also has is sure-handed Keyshawn Johnson, plus Keary Colbert, who is ready to bust out from a sophomore slump, and Drew Carter, a very tall and quick talent. The Panthers will be tough to defend in a four-wide formation. Plus, DeShaun Foster finally has a quick running mate in first-round pick DeAngelo Williams. Carolina has some scary speed outside of Smith.
5. The Colts are going to miss Edgerrin James a lot more than they admitting to.
Let's be honest, Edge was Peyton Manning's security blanket. He knew when to slide and protect, and was always attuned to blocking nasty blitzers. Plus, he ran the Colts' sweep play better than anyone currently on the roster. He was durable, great in the locker room and a big team player for a guy playing a prima donna position. The coaches loved him. We also know that Colts GM Bill Polian threw a fit in his draft room when the Patriots selected running back Laurence Maroney.
6. Brett Favre was temporarily insane when declaring this Packers' team the most talented he's ever been associated with.
Favre was attempting to be positive about the upcoming season when he made that declaration, forgetting that he once played on a Super Bowl team with Reggie White and LeRoy Butler and a few good receivers. What he meant to say is that this is the fastest Green Bay team he's ever played on. What we don't know is whether all these quick athletes can actually play football at a very high level.
7. People actually think the Eagles have a chance in the rugged NFC East.
It's an amazing revelation this summer, considering an unknown like Hank Baskett could be T.O.'s replacement and that Reggie Brown is more of a No. 2 receiver than a lead dog. But the experts say that Philadelphia has a bunch of mashers on the offensive line â€” why, why doesn't Andy Reid run more? â€” and that defensive coordinator Jim Johnson has plenty of depth along his front line and a secondary looking for redemption. The final ingredient is Donovan McNabb playing like a top five quarterback once again.
8. Not everyone is buying the Arizona hype.
Cardinals coach Denny Green believes his team can win more than nine games, but can that happen with a subpar offensive line? Sure, they have some great young receivers, but will Kurt Warner have enough time to find them and will Edgerrin James really find plenty of running lanes? In the first four games, the Cardinals play San Francisco and St. Louis in their new home and travel to Seattle and Atlanta. They need to go 3-1 if they are serious about the playoffs.
9. Kansas City looks like a descending team.
Herman Edwards bolted the New York Jets because he knew the personnel cupboard was bare, but his Chiefs have looked below average this summer. Every fantasy-league junkie wants to pick Larry Johnson No. 1, but he will miss Willie Roaf's blocking and the mad genius of Al Saunders. Now, Saunders and Johnson weren't the best of buddies, but talented offensive line coach Mike Solari can't know the passing game like Saunders and he's calling the plays. The Chiefs won't win by running Johnson every down and for some reason the defense seems devoid of a pass rush.
10. There is absolutely no reason any team should play five preseason games.
Every summer there is a raging debate about the necessity of playing four practice games prior to the start of the regular season. This preliminary schedule will never change because the owners like that August revenue, one they basically don't have to share with the players. But teams like Oakland and Philadelphia, who met in the Hall of Fame game, shouldn't have to play a fifth preseason game. What's wrong with giving them a week off for starting earlier than everyone else? If you took a vote among the coaching staffs and the players, the vote would be unanimous to skip that fifth game. Four is definitely enough.
Re: FOX Sports : 10 things to watch heading into the season
Yeah Favre is delirious...at least he has hope & is telling the fans in GB what they want to hear. Good read, thanks
Re: FOX Sports : 10 things to watch heading into the season
- i agree to that last point. they could make the HOF game the first game of the season for the teams involved, could they not? not like the first game of the season needs anymore hype, but it just a thought. either way, 5 is 1 too many.
- eagles dont have a chance.
- i dont really buy the arizona hype.
- chiefs are good, but this preseason might be changing my mind.
- andnyes farve is crazy. and he is only going to get crazier behind the swiss cheese oline