Thompson’s second big mistake

I was one of the loudest critics of Ted Thompson’s decision not to welcome Brett Favre back after the QB decided to unretire. Thompson is right in his assessment that Aaron Rodgers is a good quarterback. I just didn’t like the timing, considering they were a missed field goal away from the Super Bowl. But at this point, that’s water under the bridge.

Thompson’s second big mistake was not drafting a young tackle, especially since the Packers didn’t re-sign veteran Mark Tauscher. The offensive line was already suspect after last year’s performance. As much as I like rookie DT B.J. Raji, you have to draft a franchise caliber tackle. And before you say all the good ones were gone by the ninth overall pick, most of the teams in the top 10 were trying to trade out, so the opportunity to move up was there.

I’ve always said when it comes to quarterbacks … they’re like the fine family china. You don’t let everyone eat off the china. You put it in a cabinet to protect it.

What say you?

Catch me on Twitter: @jamiedukes

Put Up Your Dukes: Talking with T.O.

 

In my latest edition of Put Up Your Dukes, I “talk” with Terrell Owens about the state of the Bills’ offense as well as his relationship with Cowboys QB Tony Romo. I also take T.O. to task for his attitude following the Bills’ loss to the Saints last weekend.

Translating ‘Coach speak’

 

I don’t want to say NFL coaches are lying, but when you listen to what some of them are saying, it’s neither here nor there. On Friday’s NFL Total Access, I broke down some tape to translate for you.

Tears for Plax

Week 3 was filled with sensational finishes and as each game passes, the words of Patriots QB Tom Brady from a few weeks ago shine through. Brady said — and I’m paraphrasing here — no one is bigger than the game and this game goes on without you. Such is the case for former Giants WR Plaxico Burress, who recently began a two-year prison sentence for a weapons conviction stemming from his self-inflicted gunshot wound last November.

I have been extremely critical of Burress over the years because of the other self-inflicted wounds he continues to sustain. But I must confess, seeing the images of him in front of the judge last week with those bloodshot eyes gave me a genuine sense of grief. As a father, it was tough watching Plax with his son, Elijah.

I know there are many who say that Plax deserves what he gets for being stupid and they might be right. My issue is that I know bad people and Plaxico is going to jail for doing something stupid as opposed to being a real criminal, which by my definition is someone seeking to do harm.

What say you?

Catch me on Twitter @jamiedukes

Put Up My Dukes: Buyer’s and seller’s remorse

 

In my latest edition of Put Up Your Dukes, I examine buyer’s and seller’s remorse among NFL teams. Championships in the league are won and lost during the offseason, when key pieces are added and subtracted. It’s time to take a look back at the best and worst moves. Check out the video above.

Will the real _______ please stand up?

Every year the NFL has what I like to refer to Jekyll-and-Hyde teams. As an analyst, it is particularly frustrating and for fans it has to be impossible to handle. Here’s a list of the 2009 teams:

  • Cincinnati Bengals — The Bengals had finally started making all the right moves coming into this season. The improved defense got more weapons for coordinator Mike Zimmer. The defense has been good (outside of one fluke play to the Broncos) but QB Carson Palmer and the offense laid a big egg versus the Broncos in Week 1. The offense looked good in pulling off arguably the biggest upset of Week 2 by beating the Packers. (Though the Jets might claim that title with a huge win over the Patriots.)
  • Houston Texans — QB Matt Schaub and the Texans were pathetic versus the Jets in Week 1 on offense, which is not a reach considering Rex Ryan is one of the premiere defensive minds in the league. There is no way that rookie QB Mark Sanchez should have carved you up with such a pedestrian receiving crew. The Texans go on the road and win a shootout over the Titans and their vaunted defense in Week 2, but the defense remains a concern allowing 31 points and some huge plays to RB Chris Johnson.
  • Green Bay Packers — The Pack was the talk of preseason as they literally dismantled all comers. The offense got off to a rocky start but did enough to win versus the Bears in Week 1. Aaron Rodgers and the Pack aerial attack don’t appear to be as sharp, losing to the Bengals. The defense looked great against Bears QB Jay Cutler and RB Matt Forte but allowed but allowed Bengals RB Cedric Benson to rush for 147 yards in Week 2.

It’s early to panic, but I had high expectations for these teams.

What say you?

Catch me on Twitter @jamiedukes

Talking smack … big deal

 

I’m always amazed at the ridiculous emphasis placed on “trash talking.”

The media wait with bated breath on every Rex Ryan word, as if the Patriots are going to play harder. It’s silly and in many cases, the media outrage is contrived. As I’ve always said, shame on any player who plays harder because someone talked trash. Fans pay their hard earned dollars, television networks pay billions of dollars to the league and it is a reasonable expectation that players give their all, whether or not another player or coach says something prior to the game.

The truth of the matter is talking a little smack is the norm and some players thrive off yakking.

Case in point, Tom Brady… A few seasons ago, one of the Steelers’ safeties gave some bulletin board material prior to the game against the Patriots. After scoring a TD, Brady got in the kid’s grill. Once again, Tom Terrific has taken the bait by responding to comments made by Ryan, head coach of the Jets. Brady stated, “Talk is cheap”. Na … Na … Na … Na … Na …

From Babe Ruth calling his shot to Deion Sanders calling his shot to return a punt for a TD, trash talking has been a part of the fabric of sports. I direct my ire at the media, who make such comments out to be a violation of some sacred trust of civility. In actuality, trash talking is a time-honored tradition whose sanctity has been violated by players being forced to talk to the media.

What say you?

Catch me on Twitter @jamiedukes

Week 1 guys who Put Up Their Dukes

Every week we will highlight the great performances that didn’t make NFL Total Access.  I.E. these are the guys who do the grunt work.

  • John Abraham took second-year tackle Jake Long to school as the Falcons’ defense dominated the Miami Dolphins.  Abraham recorded two sacks, including a spectacular bull-rush that will be on the highlights for some time.
  • Buccaneers OT Donald Penn shut Cowboys LB DeMarcus Ware out for the second consecutive meeting. Ware was my NFL MVP last year and Penn did a great job of keeping him from sacking the statuesque Byron Leftwich.
  • Tully Banta-Cain had two sacks as the New England Patriots pulled off a fourth-quarter comeback win over the Buffalo Bills. This was a glass half empty, glass half full selection given the problems on the Bills’ offensive line.
  • Jets OT D’Brickashaw Ferguson kept Super Mario Williams in check as New York pulled off the upset win over the Houston Texans.  Ferguson’s performance was the main reason rookie Mark Sanchez had time to do his thing.
  • Cowboys OT Flozell Adams still has a little something left in the tank.  He controlled DE Gaines Adams throughout the Cowboys’ domination of the Buccaneers.

Who did I miss?

Catch Me On Twitter @jamiedukes

Put Up My Dukes: Weight issues

 

It’s a concern to me that current NFL players are so big and explosive. It’s an issue, not necessarily with current players, but with retired players. In my latest Put Up Your Dukes segment on NFL Total Access, I shared my story about fighting the battle with obesity.

My Elite 8 for 2009

Every year, I believe there are eight teams that legitimately fit into the Super Bowl conversation. And every year, one team jumps into the mix, like the Arizona Cardinals did last season. Here are my 2009 Elite 8 teams:

NFC
Philadelphia Eagles
New York Giants
Minnesota Vikings
Green Bay Packers

I have been on the record as saying that I thought the Chicago Bears would make the Super Bowl representing the NFC with the acquisition of QB Jay Cutler. I do believe the Bears have the talent to get there but the receiver position is a major concern. You need to look no further than the Philadelphia Eagles for the last 10 years.

AFC
New England Patriots
Pittsburgh Steelers
San Diego Chargers
Baltimore Ravens

I am as shocked as you are that the Colts are not on this list. I don’t have doubts the Colts will make the playoffs but there are too many mitigating circumstances to put them in the Elite 8 (Tony Dungy‘s retirement, consultant coaches, new defensive coordinator, suspect offensive line).

Let’s talk about the contenders. As I said, it never fails that a few teams have magical years. Here is my list of playoff-caliber contenders other than the Bears and Colts who have the personnel to get to the big dance.

NFC On the Fringe:
Arizona Cardinals
NFC South Division winner (Saints, Falcons or Panthers)

AFC
Tennessee Titans

What Say You?

Catch Me On Twitter @jamiedukes

Nothing wrong with a little white lie

Last week I made the statement on NFL Total Access that Eric Mangini needed to pick a QB and tell a little white lie.

The white lie serves two purposes. First, it will build the confidence of the QB chosen as the starter. Second, it builds the confidence of the team in the guy who is the named starter. The lie would consist of telling the starter that he clearly outperformed his competition. Needless to say, Mangini is marching to his own drum.

However, in Detroit Jim Schwartz has subscribed to my theory. Schwartz named Matthew Stafford as the Lions’ starting QB. Schwartz says with a straight face that Stafford outperformed Daunte Culpepper in the preseason. I don’t want to say it is a blatant lie, I consider it a little white lie.

Stafford completed 30 of 55 for 389 yards with one touchdown and four interceptions in the preseason. On the other hand, Culpepper hit on 22 of 34 for 194 yards with one TD and no interceptions.

Truth of the matter is, Culpepper performed better but he is hurt and would be limited in practice. The Lions don’t want to send a gimpy Culpepper out there with rust from limited playing time.

Stafford has shown he has a command of the offense. And yes, he’s made mistakes. But from my seat, those mistakes are more about adjusting to the speed of the pro game. If you look at all the interceptions, there was a receiver in proximity. Stafford has to learn only through reps at game speed what throws he can make. I applaud Schwartz’s decision and, more importantly, I can forgive the little white lie.

What say you?

Catch me on Twitter: @jamiedukes

Defenses must learn Vick Rules

 

The reinstatement of Eagles QB Michael Vick was the story of the day on Thursday. The key to Vick fitting in the system of the Philadelphia Eagles is how well he can run the offense as a backup QB. That’s what we have to see with Vick.

Eagles head coach Andy Reid also needs to find out tonight exactly how he wants to utilize Vick. I discussed the ruling and how the Eagles will incorporate Vick into the offense with Rich Eisen and Rod Woodson today on Total Access.

I also did a Playbook segment today on ‘Vick Rules’, and what happens when teams lose defensive containment of the pocket against Vick. There are rules for regular quarterbacks, and then there are ‘Vick Rules’. You can see what I’m talking about in the video above.

No-win situation, part II: Kyle Orton

I started this series on no-win situations with WR Roy Williams, who finds himself in the middle of the soap opera in Dallas. Now I’m adding Kyle Orton to the list. It’s easy to say, if they produce at an incredibly high level there won’t be a problem.  Well, we have a problem, because in both situations Pro Bowl play is the bar.

Orton has been booed before in Chi-Town, but he did not imagine he would find himself smack dab in the middle of a lover’s quarrel. Josh McDaniels got caught flirting with Matt Cassel and, like all diva’s, Jay Cutler rightfully felt scorned.  Cutler insisted on and was granted a divorce.  I just hope fans recognize Orton is an innocent bystander in this fiasco.

What say you?

Catch me on Twitter: @jamiedukes

Roy Williams in a no-win situation

Roy Williams has had a disappointing start to his time in Dallas. (Matt Slocum / Associated Press)

Roy Williams had a disappointing start to his time in Dallas. (Matt Slocum / Associated Press)

Well, maybe “no-win” is a little strong, but Roy Williams is in a real conundrum of a situation. Most teams would give an appendage or two to have two front-line wide receivers. Many would, or at least I have surmised that was Jerry Jones‘ intention when he acquired Williams from the Lions and one could have imagined getting rid of Terrell Owens was also in the cards.

T.O. was very popular among Cowboy fans. He was also popular among the players. Why? Because he produced on the field. They didn’t care about his crying at press conferences. They didn’t care about him getting fired up on the sidelines. Cowboys fans want production and the tape don’t lie.

Enter Williams with the lofty price tag of first-, third- and sixth-round draft picks in 2009 along with a seventh-round choice next year. Exiting is Owens’ 1,300 yards and 12 TDs per season. Adding insult to injury, did I mention Jerry didn’t do Roy any favors when he admitted part of his decision to release T.O. was based on giving Roy an opportunity to flourish?

On the field, Williams will need to at least match T.O.’s production. And … and … the Cowboys will need to make a push in the playoffs. Which brings us back to the root of the problem in Dallas. For the Cowboys to make that push, Tony Romo has to perform in December and January. In continuing down this path of logic, if Romo does perform and the Cowboys fall short of the Super Bowl, fans will reason that T.O. would have taken them over the top.

At the end of the day, I have empathy for Williams because, in my mind, he’s been placed in a no-win situation. Fans are likely to be tougher on him if he does not produce at a high level because he was caught in the middle of a canard. That canard is the notion that T.O. was the reason the Cowboys did not win games.

What say you?

Catch me on twitter @jamiedukes

Ryan making all the right moves with Jets

A tip of the old ball cap to coach Rex Ryan for the job and decisions he has made thus far for the New York Jets. Now that doesn’t mean the Jets are going to the playoffs, but it’s obvious that Ryan has learned some lessons along the way about how to make decisions — and more importantly how to execute them.

The latest in the line of good decisions came with the naming of rookie QB Mark Sanchez as the starter. But let’s back up to when Ryan was hired. The first thing he did was go get someone who could run his defense on the field. Ryan was going to bring in one of his veteran linebackers from Baltimore — Ray Lewis or Bart Scott — to the team because he knew a key part of his success was having that guy who is an extension of him on the field.

Fast forward to draft day. There were several teams who were talking the talk about Sanchez, but Ryan and the Jets got the deal done. My sources on the team have told me that Sanchez clearly has been the better quarterback in camp, but Ryan gave Kellen Clemens a chance to compete for the job. That’s important in a situation like this because it shows the other players fairness.

Naming Sanchez the starter now gives the offense the opportunity to focus in on Sanchez’s style of play. I’ll say it again — I’m not saying this will translate into a single win. What I am saying is that Ryan is executing the job as head coach with wisdom and great timing.

What say you?

Catch me on twitter @jamiedukes

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