Friday, August 29, 2008

2008 - NFL Season Preview - Part 2

It’s time for part two of our NFL record predictions. Today we will finish up the non-playoff teams. As we described in our last post, the teams are being listed in the order that they will be drafting next April. Just to recap, picks 1-10 look like this:

1 – Atlanta Falcons
2 – St. Louis Rams
3 – Cincinnati Bengals *
4 – Miami Dolphins *
5 – Kansas City Chiefs *
6 – Chicago Bears *
7 – Arizona Cardinals *
8 – San Francisco 49ers *
9 – Cleveland Browns **
10 – Tennessee Titans **

* Subject to tie breakers (4-12 teams)
** Subject to tie breakers (6-10 teams)

And now without further ado:

11 – Oakland Raiders (projected record 6-10)

I hope I am wrong on this one, in the past I have found myself to be way to optimistic when putting these projections together and picking Oakland to win all the close ones, hopefully I have swung too far in the other direction this year. Oakland has three glaring weaknesses, the WR’s, the pass blocking, and the ability to stop the run, in that order. Those weaknesses combined with a rookie QB make anything more than 6-8 wins a real long shot, but the rest of the team is solid enough that anything less would be a real letdown.

12 – Detroit Lions (projected record 6-10)

Here is the thing; I like the kind of team that Rod Marinelli is putting together (no I do not give Millen much credit, these are Marinelli players coming in). The Lions are becoming a team of blue collar, lunch pail bringing mutherfuckers. But I still believe they are one more year from truly being able to contend for the playoffs. Unfortunately if they do not contend this year it could mean Marinelli’s head, as Millen will be feeling the heat and need a scapegoat.

13 – Buffalo Bills (projected record 7-9)

There were a couple Bills games that I came real close to picking them on, but ended up going the other way. Including the week 1 match-up against Seattle. And that sums up my feelings on this team pretty well, so close, but not there yet. The problem I have with this team starts at HC, where Dick Jauron does just enough not to win. I just don’t think Jauron will nut up when the game is on the line, and say punt on 4th and 2 down by 6 with 4 minutes left in the 4th quarter on the opponent’s 48. That is the kind of chicken shit play calling I have come to expect from Jauron, and while his chart may say it is the right choice, to the offense it say “I have no confidence in you”.

14 – Houston Texans (projected record 7-9)

I know 7-9 is a step back from last year’s record for this team, but I actually think they are better than last year, but the schedule is tougher. I expect this team to flirt with 500 all season, but a brutal stretch in November into December will dash their playoff hopes. However if this young offensive line can gel, and the defensive line keeps improving at their current pace, this team will contend for the AFC South crown next season.

15 – Denver Broncos (projected record 7-9)

God this one pained me, I so wanted to put the Raiders a game ahead of the Broncos in the final rankings, but in the end it came out this way. The difference to me is the experience of Jay Cutler vs. the inexperience of Russell. Other than that these teams are very similar, can’t stop the run, huge question marks at WR, great defensive backfields. But at least Broncos fans will be down about yet another non-playoff year.

16 – NY Jets (projected record 8-8)

Guess what, this has nothing to do with everyone’s favorite attention whore, in fact I would have given them another early win with Pennington at the helm thanks to his experience in the system. The O-line is nowhere near as good as advertised. The defense is still in transition and I don’t like some of the personnel moves. This team is better than last year’s version, but that is largely due to playing the NFC West.

17 – NY Giants (projected record 9-7)

The Giants are still a good team, but the loss of Osi, Strahan, and Wilson on the D will be too much to overcome. The secondary is going to get exposed on a weekly basis, and while I don’t like Shockey, he is a better overall TE than Boss and Boss’s limitations will slow the offense. This team will still be in playoff contention until the final week, but comes up just short.

18 – Carolina Panthers (projected record 9-7)

Here is how I see Carolina’s season. They struggle early without Steve Smith and due to a tough 1st 3 weeks. Turn it on mid season before falling apart in November. A big part of the problem here is there is no one across from Peterson to draw the offense’s attention, and with no other pass rush this team will struggle. They will still be in the hunt deep into December, but there just isn’t enough there to say playoffs.

19 – Washington Redskins (projected Record 10-6)
I really have no Idea why I like the Redskins this much. Their offensive line looks putrid in the preseason, Clinton Portis is due to breakdown, Campbell is still making rookie mistakes due to being in his 5th offense in 5 years and the defense has already had the injury bug hit. But for some reason I expect this team to win a few shockers and contend deep into December, getting bounced from the playoffs due to tiebreakers.

20 – Green Bay Packers (projected record 10-6)

The last of our non-playoff teams is the 3rd that I have missing out due to tiebreakers. There are two key reasons why I do not see this team making the playoffs this year. One being that I do not see Aaron Rogers remaining upright all season, and two being the moves on the defensive line. This is still a young team that is set up well for the future, but there will be a season of growing pains for Green Bay as they make the transition from Favre to Rogers.

Twenty teams down, twelve to go. When Brickinthebox returns with part 3, we will give you our playoff teams along with the predictions for how they will fair come playoff time. That’s right, the 1st annual Brickinthebox put it on the board lock for Super Bowl winner will be announced next week. Try not to bankrupt Vegas, I don’t need them coming to break my fingers.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

2008 - NFL Season Preview - Part 1

The NFL regular season is upon us. So it is time for Brickinthebox to do what every other site that talks NFL does, make some worthless predictions about how teams will fair this season.

Here at Brickinthebox we are going to break this thing up into parts. There are only so many hours a day I can waste at work without forcing myself to stay late to take care of actual work. The goal being to have all the predictions for team records out by Thursday, and maybe a closer look at each division as well.

So here is how we came up with this mess. I went through the NFL schedule and assigned each team a win or loss for each game. Then I told my spreadsheet to tally up the record, and I was surprised by some of the results.

Then I had to decide how to present this wealth of misinformation. Some sites present it by division, some by record. I’m going to do things a little differently; I am going by draft order in next year’s draft. So with all the BS out of the way, the 1st team on the clock is:

1 - Atlanta Falcons (projected record 2-14)

What a freaking mess, their two best players going into last season are now in prison and on the Oakland Raiders (no that is not the same thing wise ass). They are starting a rookie QB, Matt Ryan, whom I believe is incredibly overrated (go look in the archives for why). They have two sample size superstars (TM in the backfield. They are starting a rookie at LT, who I believe should have been moved to guard, or even better center. Then you look at their defense. There is just nothing to like about this team this season. Next…

2 - St. Louis Rams (projected record 3-13)

Look, this team has the potential to do much better than this I admit that. But they also have the potential to beat out Atlanta for the 1st pick. Their offensive line is in shambles, Pace is already injured. Bulger looks shell shocked, and Trent Green and his vacant stare is backing him up. Steven Jackson is the lone bright spot on offense, and he just got paid, the carrot has been taken out from in front of the horse. The defense has some young talent, but way too many holes. This is going to be a long year for St. Louis.

3 – Cincinnati Bengals (projected record 4-12)

I am not going into the tiebreakers, and I have a ridicules number of teams at 4-12, so I am just going with the order that the spreadsheet sorted them. So Cincinnati gets the #3 pick. I would like to pick the Bengals to perform better, I have Carson Palmer on two of my fantasy teams, but I just kept giving the edge to the opponent for two reasons. One being that the Bengals defense sucks, and two being the offense looks to be falling apart due to injury. I will say that of all the teams I have picked to go 4-12, the Bengals are the one in my mind most likely to go 8-8, whoopee.

4 – Miami Dolphins (projected record 4-12)

After last year’s debacle, this is a great turn around for this team. I like allot of what the Dolphins have been doing. The O-line has some of the best young talent in the league; the running backs look good if they can stay healthy. Pennington is a gamer, say what you will about his arm, and Henne is a great Parcells type QB. But it is going to take at least one more season for the Dolphins to get the personnel they need on defense, and there is no one to catch the ball. The Dolphins will play allot of teams tough, but fall short most of the year.

5 – Kansas City Chiefs (projected record 4-12)

I kept asking myself as I picked Chiefs games, are they really this bad, or is it just my anti-Chief bias? The answer, they really are this bad, and I could have just as easily picked them to go 1-15. Croyle sucks, Herm sucks, the defense sucks, the receivers other than Bowe suck and LJ has the curse of 370 (TM hanging over his head. Other teams are going to run and pass at will against this team, and the offense will face 8 and 9 in the box all day. But remember Chiefs fans, this is a rebuilding season, as will be next year, and the year after, and the year after…

6 – Chicago Bears (projected record 4-12)

There were plenty of games where I could have gone either way with the Bears. I kept saying to myself, “the defense should keep them in this, but can the offense score?” unfortunately I could only see the defense pulling out 4 wins. When you QB choice is Orton or Grossman, you really don’t have a choice. The receiving core is abysmal. I do like the young backs, but the O-line will struggle to open any holes. Four wins sounds about right for this team.

7 – Arizona Cardinals (projected record 4-12)

Wait a minute, isn’t this the year the Cardinals finally turn it around and compete for a playoff berth? Well if you have believed this the last 10 years, you probably believe it again. I like coach Wiz, Boldin and Fitz are an incredible WR pairing. But I don’t trust Edge to hold up, I don’t trust the line to give them enough time and the defense is Swiss cheese. If Arizona can work out there differences with Boldin and keep Wiz around I expect them to improve, next year.

8 – San Francisco 49’ers (projected record 4-12)

I will say this upfront, hiring Mike Martz was a huge mistake. His schemes do not fit the personnel. His personality will clash with Nolan’s, and this team will be a mess by midseason as fingers get pointed at everyone. There are good young players to build around on defense, but the Vets that have been brought in don’t make sense. The offense is Frank Gore, and Gore cannot carry a team this bad alone. And in case you haven’t been paying attention, San Fran makes three of the NFC West teams drafting in the top 8. What a pathetic division.

9 – Cleveland Browns (projected record 6-10)

If anyone in Cleveland read this blog, I would be getting allot of heat right now. Fortunately I have 3 readers, so there will be no backlash. For Cleveland I kept thinking “can the offense score enough to keep up” and the answer time and time again was no. Derrick Anderson is the big question mark here. Will he recover from his concussion and prove that last season wasn’t a fluke? I believe that the answer is no, last season was a fluke, his WR’s & TE’s will return to earth, and the Dog Pound will be calling for Quinn by midseason. But the real problem is on D. Shaun Rogers will break down early after looking unblockable the 1st few weeks. And there is just nobody in the secondary that can cover. This is a great team for fantasy production, both for and against.

10 – Tennessee Titans (projected record 6-10)

BrickintheBox’s favorite idiot, Adam Schein, went off on a caller the other day for referring to the QB situation in Tennessee as the “Vince Young Experiment”, but what should it be called. Everyone loves to point out that Vince was a probowler as a rookie (just proves how worthless the probowl is for accessing talent) and the Titans winning percentage under Vince. Well the record is more due to a tough defense getting by despite Vince. This year some of that D starts to show its age, and Vince will be forced to carry more of the load. Vince cannot handle the load, and when the Titans are forced to go away from their run heavy ways they will lose, and lose often.

There you have it, the top 10 picks in the 2009 NFL draft will look something like this, if not I will give you your money back (as this site is free you are looking at $0, spend it wisely). Keep checking back for the next segment where we will go into the rest of the non-playoff teams.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Myth of the 3rd Preseason Game

Every season we as fans get geared up for the 3rd preseason game. We have been lead to believe that the 3rd game is a dress rehearsal for the regular season. The 3rd game is when the coaches gameplan like this is a regular season game and we as fans get a true feel for how our team will stack up come the regular season.

It’s time that this myth gets debunked.

Do the majority of the starters get more time in the 3rd preseason game get more time than in any other preseason game, sure. Do teams actually set up a scout team to mimic some of the things the other team does, probably. Do the coaches put in specific packages to attack the other teams weaknesses and hide their own, most of the time, no.

Dan Reeves was on Sirius NFL radio this afternoon discussing this very same topic. He brought up specific examples of what they would do going into a 3rd preseason game. Was his team going up against another team that ran a 3-4 front, then they would look at that in practice. But that sort of thing was the extent of the extra preparation that was made.

His co-host, Jim Miller, brought up a couple examples of how during his playing days that they would call certain protections based on the other teams tendencies as they came into the 3rd game. But that was as far as they went. They didn’t plan to attack a corner who was week, or had a specific tendency.

This is a basic truth of the NFL that has been overlooked for years. Why is hard to say. Personally I feel that it is due to the fans desire to actually get some feedback on their team, it has been since December or January since most of us have seen a meaningful snap for our team. Finally our starters will be on the field for the majority of the game, we want them to succeed, and we want some sort of insight into how our team will perform in September.

Oh, and the rantings of Dennis Green and his “They are who we thought they were” breakdown. Lets not dwell too long on the rantings of a man who had clearly lost it in assigning our value on one game.

Keep these truths in mind when you watch your team play a preseason game:

- The defense is vanilla; few teams show their more exotic schemes in the preseason. If they do show an exotic blitz, front or coverage, there is as good a chance that they are trying to put something on film that future opponents have to plan for, as they are actually planning to make that a regular part of their offense.

- The offense is basic. The team is not looking at the tendencies of a DE who takes himself out of a play by getting to far up field, and exploiting it. That double reverse they ran, well there is a good chance that is a red herring for a future opposing DC to spend time game planning against.

- The coaches talk before the game about things they want to see, and would like the other team to try. You don’t play preseason games against other teams in you division, chances are if you want to work on your 2-minute drill, the other team wants to work on its prevent D. Everyone has lots to work on, there is no rule against working together to make both teams better.

- What game planning that is done is more geared towards what a team needs to work on, rather than finding holes in the other teams game. When you hear that the Raiders put in a specific package for the Arizona game, chances are that package was set up as a generic package with little or no regard put into the Cardinals team. It is more of a walkthrough for the players on the Raiders letting them know, this is how many plays, packages and protections we put in during a typical week.

Now I do know that there occasions and teams that do put more stock into the 3rd preseason game. There have been instances of teams putting together an opponent specific game plan for the 3rd preseason game. But this is the exception rather than the rule. Teams with 1st year head coaches sometimes due this in an attempt to get the players to buy into a system. With success they can go to the team and let them know, if you buy in this in the kind of result you can expect.

But as I said when the preseason started, nothing can be gained by looking at the wins and losses in the preseason. What you can do is look at individual players and their fundamentals, Johnny Free Agent RB who is ripping up the league for over 100 yards rushing per game right now, will probably find himself on the bench in two weeks. Steve Spurrier’s fun and gun offense looked like it was going to take the league by storm after 4 preseason games. 16 regular season games later Spurrier went back to college with his tail between his legs.

Enjoy the preseason for what it is, glorifies practice. Putting more stock in it than that is foolish, just ask the Colts, their record is something like 3-13 since Dungy took over as HC, I think they have been doing alright once the real bullets start flying.

If you only watch one game this weekend - 2008 CFB week 1

With my focus being on the Raiders preseason the last couple weeks, the College Football Season has snuck up on me. That’s right, the College game gets started Thursday night. Hallelfuckinujah, the long wait is over, real football is back.

So with that, the return of a regular column (well as regular as any column here) is warranted. That’s right, it’s “If you only watch one game this weekend”.

As always, I may not pick the best match-up, I watch College football to root for my favorite teams, and to look at guys with NFL potential. So if you read this column I hope to give you an Idea of what players to keep an eye on so that you can bring more to your NFL draft discussion in April than rehashing whatever Mel Kiper has told you.

There is an easy choice this week for everyone to watch, as Tennessee travels to UCLA to take on the Bruins. But that is Monday night, what else are you going to be doing as you digest that big BarBQ meal. Honestly, if you aren’t planning to watch that game, just leave my site. That’s right, go click somewhere else you damn commie.

Ok, if you are still here, it is safe to assume you are watching that game anyway. So lets look at another match up that you should be spending your valuable long weekend watching. If you already have Saturday night plans, well set the TiVo and watch Sunday morning as you nurse your hangover. Because Alabama vs. Clemson bears watching.


I won’t lie to you, there isn’t allot of talent held over here from the pre Saban regime. But there are a couple Jr’s and Sr’s worth watching.

Andre Smith, OT (6-4, 340)
A first team All-SEC selection as a sophomore, Smith should only build on that success in his Jr year. Smith is already projected as a potential 1st round prospect. Keep an eye on the Match-up between Smith and fellow Jr Ricky Sapp, as it will give you a feel for how both of them stack up vs. top competition.

Antoine Caldwell, C (6-3, 305)
Caldwell had an excellent sophomore year, but injuries all over the line cause him to be shuffled around last year. That movement along the line may actually increase his draft stock as NFL scouts now have film on him at both guard positions as well as center. Nasty player, and a team leader, Caldwell should here his name called in the 1st 3 rounds if he continues to build on the last 2 seasons.

Like I said, this is a little thin, but there will be plenty of freshman and Sophomores to peek your interest. I could tell you about Leigh Tiffen (K) but he is a kicker, who cares.


Now here is something to get excited about, when Clemson has the ball the talent is all over the field, and should give you plenty to watch.

Cullen Harper, QB (6-3, 220)
Harper is listed just under the NFL’s desired size for a QB, but his play on the field last year has garnered some 1st round buzz. If you read the football outsiders (and why wouldn’t you, go to their site and buy a ProFootball Prospectus) you know that the best predictor of future success for QB’s is games started and completion percentage. For his 1st season as a starter, Harper was 2nd in the SEC in terms of completion percentage. If he can stay healthy this year, he will be looking at 26 career starts. A repeat of last season’s success will have him high on many boards.

James Davis, RB (5-11, 210)
A two time First Team All-ACC selection, Davis suffered a setback in spring practices with a separated shoulder that required surgery. He is expected to return to form this season, and should be looked at as a potential 1st – 2nd round pick if he does.

C.J. Spiller, RB (5-11, 193)
If Davis isn’t ready to go, Spiller is more than capable of picking up the slack. He is already a dangerous kick returner, and should get more looks coming out of the backfield this season, as he is a better receiver than Davis. Don’t be surprised to see this junior enter the NFL after this season, as he could immediately start many places as a 3rd down back.

Aaron Kelly, WR (6-5, 190) & Jacoby Ford, WR (5-10, 188)

Clemson brings a formidable pair out as their starters at WR, Kelly has been rated as the top WR in the ACC by CollegeFootballNews. He may lack the ideal speed for the NFL, but his size will garner him some long looks. Ford may not have Kelly’s ideal size, but he more than makes up for that with his explosion. His season was ended early due to injury last year, but he should be able to come back from that broken ankle and cause headaches for opposing DC’s. Both currently carry 2nd-3rd round grades.

When ‘Bama has the ball:

Michael Hamlin, SS (6-3, 206)

The Tigers leader on Defense, Hamlin has the size, speed and ball hawking ability that will get the attention of NFL scouts. His speed will be called into question, but even with that concern he should go on the 1st day if he continues to play as he has in the past.

Ricky Sapp, DE (6-4, 242)

Sapp bears some close watching, as the back-up to Gains Adams in 2006 he still was 2nd in sacks on the team. He seemed to take a step back in the 2007 season as a starter at the Tiger’s “bandit” DE position. His numbers were good, but you would expect better based on what he showed in flashes the previous season. If he wants to go pro after this, his junior, season he needs to take his game to the next level. If he does, you are looking at a 1st day pick, with 1st round potential.

There you go, you want to impress your friends with you knowledge of the college game when NFL draft season commences, watch this game and keep an eye on the players listed above. Its not that hard, sit on your couch, turn on the TV, open your beer. Life is good again, football is back.

2008 - Fantasy Football Draft review

As I previously mentioned in the last two 7 things are better than 10 columns, I attended fantasy football drafts the last two Saturday nights. I’m not going to bore you with the details of the drafts, no round by round analysis, but hey, I’m bored at work and feel like wasting my time banging out a column. On with the show:

- Is it just me, or has the NFL’s emphasis on Parody lead to more teams who you just don’t want to touch?

This was actually a topic of conversation I had with a fellow drafter as we drove the last hour together to the first draft site, and was brought up after the 2nd draft. It seems that every year there are more and more teams that I have so many questions about that I don’t even want one of their players on my squad. Think about it, do you feel that any of these teams will be competitive enough on offense to take any of their players before the last couple rounds:

NY Jets
Kansas City
Oakland (sorry Nation)
San Francisco

Sure most of the teams listed above have a player or two highly ranked on most draft boards, but truthfully do you think Larry Johnson will A. Stay Healthy, and B. Face less than 8 in the box at any time? That didn’t stop players from these teams from getting selected early and often. Vince Young was a keeper in one league, are you kidding me, has he gotten moved to RB? Darren McFadden was selected 1st round in the same, maybe Adrian Peterson syndrome, because he looks like Reggie Bush part 2 to me.

I remember having two or three teams that I wanted nothing to do with in the past, but this season is the worst I can remember. This year about a quarter of the teams in the NFL as so pathetic, or experiencing so much upheaval that I have no desire to have any of their players on my team. In other words, this has become like baseball, where a good portion of the teams are out of it before the season starts, and that sucks.

- The top of the draft is more of a crapshoot this year than any other year I can remember.

My thoughts on this may be clouded due to our league rules, But in our keeper league top 4 available players looked like this:

L. Tomlinson
T. Brady
P. Manning
S. Jackson

I’ve written here about how I believe that the wheels are about to fall off of Tomlinson. Brady has not played in a preseason game yet, and there are injury rumors. As for Pey-Pey, he just went under the knife, and the team is being very tight lipped about his availability. Steven Jackson went through a protracted hold out, and as a former owner of Jackson, I know full well how he performed last year after missing the preseason.

But it goes further than that. Of the other players ranked in the top 10 most places do you really feel good about Randy Moss (tied to Brady’s health, injury history and his head problems), Adrian Peterson (huge injury red flag), T.O. (Dallas is about to implode, IMO)? Of the top 10, I am down to 3 guys I feel confidant will live up to that billing. I am sure that I am wrong about 3-4 of these guys, but which ones?

- Don’t show up to the draft at your own risk

We only have 10 teams in the 1st league to draft. Its cool since most of us have known each other for years, it makes the hazing all the more fun. But the most brutal hazing may have been done by those selected by the 2 absent owner to pick their team for them. When your QB’s look like this (we start 2, yeah we are wild and crazy) E. Manning, Leinart and Edwards, or Anderson (keeper) Hasselbeck and Matt Ryan, you have just been royally fucked over by your “friend”. The best part of it, those who were there selecting made no secret that they didn’t give a fuck. (Although one claimed that the absent owner was going to be happy with Matt Ryan, (Boston sports homerism knows no bounds).

We also had two no-shows for the 2nd draft, but these guys were much more civil about it. You know what I blame it on, the Mid-west mentality. These guys just aren’t as cutthroat around here. I guess Pittsburgh is just a nicer place than Boston.

- The draft 2 RB’s 1st strategy may be dead (at least for this year)

I have 10 RB’s listed in my top 20 players, I have already expressed my concerns with a number of them, and while most of those I haven’t mentioned I feel pretty good about, Frank Gore and the San Fran mess is on that list. After that you are seriously reaching to draft any of these guys in the 1st two rounds. Maroney, went down that road last season, Larry Johnson, not with a 10 foot pole, Ronnie Brown, will he even start in Miami? But all of these guys will go in the 1st two rounds in most drafts, just not to me. When I drafted RB’s in the 1st two rounds I got Lynch and Jones-Drew, I was drafting 11th, don’t you wish you were as smart as me.

- If your keepers include Crumpler and Nick Folk (he is a kicker, wouldn’t want you to have to look it up).

Thanks for your donation.

- Parody has struck the TE position

This may be more due to Gates and Gonzalez falling back to the pack, but in my 1st draft 11 TE’s were selected, and there are still 5 out there that I would feel good about starting on my squad. To the point that now I regret taking one as early as I did, since I could have grabbed one in the last couple rounds, when you should be selecting other positions where there is little to no drop off, like Kicker and Defense.

I took this advise to heart in the 2nd draft, and was the last person to select a TE, getting Zach Miller in the 12th round, I’m willing to put money on Miller being a top 10 TE this season, and there are still two players out there I think will put up better numbers than 7 of the TE’s selected in that league.

- If you draft Houshmandzadeh and Jerome Harrison as the 12th & 13th Pick

Thanks for the donation. I mean…WOW, were you trying to hide the fact that you made a poor pick in Housh, by making an unfathomable pick in Harrison, I had to look up who the hell he was, and this was the 1st pick of the 2nd round. Usually I go 15 rounds without having to ask who someone is, or what team they play for.

Unfortunately that is it for live drafts for me this year, I have a couple online drafts to take part in, but those just aren’t as much fun, and I honestly have much less interest in those leagues as there is no money on the line. I’d give you a list of players that I think should have been drafted, and I am considering picking up off the waiver wire, but some guys in these leagues read this, I’m not helping them out.

Monday, August 25, 2008

7 Things are better than 10 - End of August Edition

Damn, I feel like I just typed up one of these columns yesterday, that is just the way that these last couple weeks have been. It’s felt like I haven’t had the time to take a good shit. And it’s important to be able to have the time to take a good healthy dump, because sometimes that’s the only place where the wife will leave you alone. Anyway, enough preambles, lets get right into what is on my mind after this past weekend.

1- Layoff Lane

I feel like this is quickly becoming the Lane Kiffin apologist blog, but the criticism of Lane following Saturday’s game is astounding. The bulk of the critique is aimed at Lane’s decision to let the world know that the Raiders were going to come out passing against the Cardinals.

The critics have lambasted Lane, “why would you announce ahead of time of your intentions”, “this was a major tactical error”, “when it wasn’t working they should he should have gone back to the run”.

Dear Critics, you are idiots, this is the preseason, the game doesn’t count.

The point of telling the other team that you are going to come out passing is that you want them to gameplan for that. You want to see how your passing attack stacks up against a team trying to shut it down. You want to know how the team is going to perform when it has to pass, and when you have to pass the other team knows it and attacks accordingly.

Trust me, Lane is hardly the only coach who is letting the other team know what they are doing prior to a preseason game. Detroit came out and ran their two minute offense to start this past weekends game, and if you take a look, the other team ran their prevent to start the game. You think that wasn’t planned out ahead of time between the coaches? The only thing that Lane did differently was he let all of us in on the secret prior to the game.

2 – I need to get my Fantasy draft review out

Had my second live draft of the season this past weekend. Got together with a bunch of Guys here in the burgh and sat around a living room drafting. And holy shit; there were some confounding moves. I mean stuff that really hurt my brain trying to figure them out.

Needless to say, when I tell you who the last pick of the 1st round was, and the 1st pick of the 2nd round was you are going to be lining up to get into this league next season and try to win the pot, since there is at least one player just lighting Franklins on fire.

3 – Nature rocks

Lots of time spent out in nature this weekend. I needed to get out and away from the house, cell phones and computers. Saturday morning we went hiking some mountain bike and horse trails nearby, at one point we stopped for five minutes and just watched a spider spin its web. I don’t know if that qualifies as a Zen experience, but just stopping to appreciate nature is something everyone should do.

Sunday I made the trek down to WV to the family land solo. While the local park was relaxing, it just doesn’t compare to the relaxation I get from hiking out into the forest where there is no one for miles. Brought my lunch, by bow and a target. Took target practice for about an hour, then I started hiking. Stopping at a ridgeline where I could over look the valley and the mountain across the way and just soaked in the sun as I devoured a sandwich. Watched a turkey strut, and squirrels frolic. To me there is nothing better that just being alone where I can quietly watch the world without any other people around.

4 – I don’t care who you are, your shit stinks too

I have a co-worker, we will call him Frank, Frank has a reputation for being one of the best in the company at his job. Frank fully believes that he is the best at his job, Frank believes that he is infallible, and that he knows best how to get any task done.

For the last three months Frank has been droning on and on at every meeting that he wants a certain task performed his way. We have been performing the task as per his instructions. Now there is a problem. Frank has disavowed any knowledge of ever instructing us to perform in the manner resulting in the problem. This is typical Frank.

Now don’t try to tell Frank that you have been doing what he wants, according to Frank that’s just not true. Don’t try telling the Project Manager, he loves Frank, Frank can do no wrong. I hate Frank.

5 – As much as I love going there, I could never live in WV

A sad truth struck me this weekend. As much as I love going to the Family land in West Virginia, I could never set up a home and live there. And there is one simple reason for this: I can’t grow a beard.

As I drove up the dirt road to the land I pass some of the neighbors (i.e. people who live within a mile of us). All of them proudly wore full beards. When I stopped at the local general store, only three miles from my place, even the 17 year old behind the register had the scraggly start to his facial masterpiece on display.

I am well into my 3rd decade on this planet; I still need only to shave twice a week. I would never be able to fit into the mountain man culture down there, I just wouldn’t be able to fit in, and that saddens me, damn you genetics.

6 – The injury bug hits, and proves Lane right

Back to the Raiders, there were two major injuries to the Raiders this weekend as both Carter and O’Neil went down with season ending knee injuries. Of course, as luck would have it, both of them play positions where there is little to no depth behind them.

We all knew coming into this season that the Raiders were one injury away from major problems at WR, hell there were major problems there without injury. As camp progressed we were regularly informed that the receivers on the roster just weren’t getting it done, and many of them were having trouble staying on the field.

At FB, the Raiders looked damn good at both starter and back up. Griffen plays at a probowl level, and O’Neil was pushing him for playing time last season, combined with the RB’s, the Raiders had an embarrassment of wealth at the position. But looking at the depth chart the Raiders were only 2 deep at FB, sure Rankin was getting some time at H-back, but for all the wear and tear a FB receives, you should at least have a camp body there.

Now the Raiders have a major problem, cut downs are upon us, and there is nobody to step up, nobody has been brought in to get some sort of handle on the system. The Raiders are either going to have to keep a WR that should be on the street or pick up someone who has no experience in the system.

At FB, the Raiders now have to bring in another body, once again some one with no experience in the system, the Raiders are a run 1st team, and now Griffen will have to play extra time, opening him up to injury. Bad things man.

7 – For those looking for Haters

Raider Nation loves to claim that the media is full of Haters, everyone is out to cut down the Raiders at every chance they get. Well Nation, we finally have a true outlet in the media for your disdain.

Marty Schottenheimer has joined Sirius NFL radio. As I type this he and Adam Schein are discussing the Raiders potential for the upcoming season. Marty has the Raiders pegged for 3 wins. When pressed on the issue, his reasoning is…”They are the Raiders”. That’s it, no insight, no reasoning; just “they are the Raiders”.

OK, I will give you that one Nation that is a hater. Schottenheimer went on to disparage Al Davis’s contributions to the league, claiming that he never did anything for the good of the league, he only looked out for the Raiders. Go Fuck yourself Marty, Davis has arguably done as much for the league as any other Owner.

You want to know why you are no longer a coach in the league Marty, because of one thing, when it came to the playoffs you knew that your team was going to lose, for one simple reason, “(Insert Team Name) is coached by Marty”.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Steroids for the Win

I guess it pays to be an asshole. In yet another move that I cannot fathom, FSN has hired Shawne Merriman to be an analyst on their NFL preview show.

Merriman continues to prove that being a cheat will have no detrimental effect on your potential earnings in America. Somehow coming off a season where he was suspended four games for steroid abuse he managed to become the face (along with Steven Jackson) of Nike’s huge ad campaign. I guess just do it includes just injecting yourself in the ass to get ahead.

Merriman also continues to prove that the majority of the sports world cannot get past certain numbers. For baseball it is homeruns (who cares if you strike out every other time at bat), for football it is touchdowns on offense, and sacks on defense. Merriman is a hell of a pass rusher; I will give him that. But he is incredibly weak at the point of attack, and god save him if he is asked to go into pass coverage. He is a one dimensional player if there ever was one. But don’t tell that to the pundits who list him as one of the top linebackers in the game.

Now Merriman will bring his “insight” to FSN’s preview show. I have to wonder what king of knowledge he will bring to the table. I can see it now:

Glazer – Green Bay is going to have its hands full Monday night trying to contain Allen without Bryant McKinnie.

Merriman – Allen ain’t *bleep* what is that he is doing after the sack. That ain’t no sack dance, this is a sack dance (starts spastically jumping around, breaking two lights on the set). HA lights out mother*bleep*.

Gene Upshaw #63

Here at Brickinthebox we take a quick break from our normal poor analysis and off color jokes to mourn a legend.

A Raider legend passed today. Gene Upshaw was a member of three Raider Super Bowl teams, including two winners. He is the only player to ever reach the Super Bowl with the same team in three decades. When you start naming off the All-time Raider greats, you don’t get very far before Mr. Upshaw’s name passes your lips.

Honestly I am too young to remember Upshaw the player. Sure I have watched the old NFL films where he and Art Shell locked down the left side of the line and demolished some of the best Defenses of the day. But during my time watching football was the Union head. Sure I was aware of his past greatness, but my focus was on his actions as they pertained to the business of the league.

I often disagreed with Upshaw’s stances on issues, the rookie cap comes immediately to mind, but you had to respect the man for the way he conducted business, and for the way he championed the player’s cause.

Raider Nation has lost a legend today, the NFLPA has lost a man who has become synonymous with the players cause, but most importantly his family has lost a father and husband.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Calling out the Raiders, the Lane Kiffin way

Much of Raider Nation is abuzz with the latest installment in the Lane Kiffin vs. Al Davis soap opera. We have not progressed much since Lane was rumored to be on the chopping block and didn’t wear Raider apparel at the Senior Bowl. It is the same old shit, just a different day.

So why has the latest installment drawn much of my, and the rest of Raider Nation’s attention? Well for those who follow the media’s spin job, it’s just the latest example of the Raiders internal dysfunction, and a sure sign that Lane is angling for his release. For me it’s something different. It is a sign of a young coach finding his voice, and for better or worse it warrants comment.

The momentum has been building on this issue since the start of preseason as Kiffin has been quoted saying the following:

Day 1 of training camp: "When you take this job you realize who the owner is and you realize most guys don't last really long, so that is what it is." (He added that he and Davis have a "working relationship" and a shared desire to win.)

Day 3 of camp: After praising defensive lineman Tommy Kelly's potential, Kiffin noted: "He's got a lot to prove now with that contract."

Last Monday, Aug. 11: Disappointed by the team's depth, Kiffin said: "It's been a situation that, unfortunately, we haven't brought guys in. I control what I can control. We come out every day and get our guys as good as we can. I'm pleased with the top of our roster, but we need to add to the bottom of our roster. We need more competition."

"You've got to be willing to release 'em and live with it, and pick other people up for more competition."

Friday night, after losing at Tennessee: In terms of who might supplant punt returner Johnnie Lee Higgins, Kiffin said: "I really don't have anybody to look at, that's the problem. There isn't anybody there that's very dynamic with the ball."

Saturday media conference call: Rightfully irked by wide receiver Javon Walker missing two catch-able passes Friday, Kiffin said: "... That's discouraging because he was paid an awful lot of money, paid like one of the top five receivers in the NFL. We need him to make those plays."

When you read through those quotes can you find one that you disagree with? Davis changes coaches like he changes his underwear. Kelly and Walker both got paid before proving anything. There are problems with the depth on the Raider’s roster. And if Higgins continues with the constant brain farts, do you see anyone on the roster that can replace him (Hall or McFadden, but they are too valuable elsewhere).

Lets start with the Kelly and Walker comments. If this were any other coach, he would be commended for the honesty. The media loves Bill Parcels, despite his disdain for them, due to his frank nature and how he holds the players publicly accountable. The players who bust ass for Parcels love him, because the loyalty is returned. You know who you don’t hear complaining about Lane’s comments? The players, they demand to be treated like men, and Lane is giving them that. He is demanding accountability from the players; in return he will get it. For those who think he is trying to distance himself from these signing, why would he bother? Lane seems to be a smart individual; he knows that no one puts the Raiders roster on the coach. IMO, this is a coach using the media to put pressure on the players, look at the top coaches in the league, and you will see them all use this technique in varying manners.

The depth question does speak to his relationship with Davis, and I believe goes back much further than this preseason. Davis has become so paranoid that a player he releases will become a superstar elsewhere, that he has become almost paralyzed when it comes to roster movement. Lets face it; Davis has seen a lot of talent blossom elsewhere in recent years. Le’roy Glover and Rod Coleman became household names after leaving the Raiders. Randy Moss returned to superstar status as a Patriot. The only player whom I can think of who has come to the Raiders and became a superstar in recent years is Rich Gannon.

Think back to last season, Lane was forced to keep the worthless husk of Lamont Jordan on the Roster, and IR Michael Bush so that Jordan wouldn’t rediscover himself elsewhere. The Raiders waited weeks to release Coop when he was injured in preseason, why, its not like he was going to latch on elsewhere, as proved by how long the Raiders were able to wait before bringing him back.

Kiffin needed to call out Davis on this one, as nobody else would. The place you will truly see the depth of a team is on special teams, a unit that plays 1/3 of the game, but is made up of all the borderline roster players. The Raiders special teams have been abysmal in recent years. The back end of the roster needs to be upgraded. Those who think “why bother, if the guy was going to contribute he would be on a roster” are flat out wrong. There are plenty of players out there who could upgrade the back end of the roster. Why hold on to an injured 3rd string lineman for a week, rather than reach an injury settlement and get some fresh legs in to compete.

Once again, look at the guys who are the best at building a team right now, hardly a day goes by without some waiver wire work from the New England’s of the league. They realize the importance of the backend of the roster, not just the big names.

Which brings us back to quote #1, "When you take this job you realize who the owner is and you realize most guys don't last really long, so that is what it is."

Lane is approaching this differently than other recent Raiders coaches. Which is why I think he has a chance to endear himself to Davis. Davis reportedly loves a good debate on football, and loves the people who tell it like it is, but he also has a habit of surrounding himself with yes men. Shell and Turner spring to mind as coaches who would just take whatever they were given, and never risk tipping the apple cart. Kiffin is proving that he is not going to be the pushover coach that has lead the Raiders into their recent malaise. He has found his voice, and is proving that he will stand up to Davis in ways that few coaches will.

Lane is demanding accountability from everyone, whether it be coach, player or Managing General Partner. Since the days of Gannon, there has been no one in the organization with the balls to demand the accountability, combined with the self-discipline to be accountable themselves. Sapp was verbal in demanding that the other players show up, while he was putting forth little effort on the field. Lamont Jordan loved to call out the team… from the trainer’s table. Jarrod Cooper calls out the team, while making mental mistakes every time he actually set foot on the field.

Kiffin has found his voice; I for one encourage the members of Raider Nation to back his play. I believe that he should be applauded for his honesty, and his demands for accountability, since, as Lane so astutely pointed out:

"The other way hasn't worked around here for the last five years."

Skewering the Media - Peter King Edition

Sometimes I wonder how the hell members of the media get away with printing the drivel that regularly comes out in print or online. Regularly the mistakes are glaring, and show that the writer has done little more than spout off whatever has come to the top of his head.

But that isn’t what we are going to focus on today. Today a pompous ass has drawn the bull’s-eye here at Brickinthebox. No, not Bill Simmons, it’s been so long since I have read a column by him, I don’t even know if he is still spewing BS. No today it is NFL writing royalty that draws my ire. Peter King, come on down.

Due to restrictions at work, I rarely read Peter King’s Monday morning quarterback anymore. But in reading this week’s column, I doubt that I would anyway. Lets take a look at some of his quick hits:

3. I think when I see Michael Phelps give his quasi-goofy thrill-of-victory smile and aw-shucks look, I see a lot of the Eli Manning aw-shucks look. Giants fans, you know what I'm talking about.

Really, I know I throw some fluff into my 7 things sometimes, but now we are comparing the smiles of Phelps and Manning.

4. I think I don't want to hear what great fans the Jets have. Not for a long time. That crowd Saturday night was a disgrace. At least half the stadium was empty for Favre's debut in a Jets' uniform. I expressed my amazement to a few fellow scribes Saturday night -- emphasizing that N.Y. traded for an all-time-great quarterback, not a broken-down one -- and they gave varying reasons for the poor turnout. Like it's the middle of vacation month for New Yorkers, and it's a preseason game. Horsefeathers. If you really love your team, and you have season tickets, you should have been at that game unless you were in Tibet. Ridiculous.

I know that King has his head firmly implanted in Favre’s ass, but this is just ridicules. Nobody cares about the preseason. The games don’t count. Nobody is going to remember Favre’s 1st preseason TD as a Jet. The only thing here that is ridiculous is Kings expectation that Fans are going to come in droves to the Meadowlands for a meaningless game, get raped for parking, food and drink so that they don’t miss out on his hero’s first game. There are plenty of reasons to ridicule Jets fans (hell they are Jets fans) but no showing to Lord Favre’s 1st appearance isn’t one of them. I can’t wait until Favre gets booed for one of his patented 3 INT performances, and Kings response.

7. I think this would be a good category for MMQB: Like Father, Like Estranged Son Dept. And this would be my first entry: On Wednesday, Belichick told his players he would cancel night meetings and waive curfew if nose tackle Vince Wilfork caught a punt while holding a football in either arm. Wilfork caught the punt, and the players, smelling freedom, went wild. On Thursday, New York Jets coach Eric Mangini told his players he would cancel night meetings and waive curfew if kicker Mike Nugent made a 53-yard field goal. Nugent made the field goal, and the players, smelling freedom, went wild.
8. I think I wonder where Mangini learned that one.

Well knock me over with a feather; a coach gave his team time off based on some meaningless challenge at the end of practice. That must be a Bill Belichick original. There is no other coach that has ever done that. Lets just ignore the fact that this has been done at every level of football forever. I think if you have to wonder where Mangini learned that one you are a moron.

n. So I see Gary Myers of the New York Daily News in the press box at the Meadowlands on Saturday night. He tells me the doctor about to give him a colonoscopy last year says to him, "Do you know Peter King?'' Myers says yes, and the doc proceeds to tell him what a kook I am for beginning the prep work for my bowel cleanout just before a two-hour-and-40-minute plane trip. You think that's the first time I've heard that one, doc?

Just keep that to yourself.

p. There will come a day -- I don't know when; five years, seven maybe -- when you will have the same number of satellite radios in your possession as cars. It's coming. It can't be stopped.

And just proving that no research, or real thought is put into this drivel. SiriusXM has deals with all of the major auto manufactures to put their radios into every new car sold. Hell I have 2 cars (mine & my wife’s) and three radios, since my truck came with XM when I bought it, but I had Sirius. So yes, if you buy a new car within the next five to seven years, you will have as many satellite radios as cars, thanks Nostridumbass.

Monday, August 18, 2008

7 Things are better than 10 - Back for 2008

It’s been slow here at Brickinthebox despite the return of football (well at least preseason anyway). Well my excuse (notice I always have one of these) is that I have been traveling. Hell I have been driving 24 of my last 92 hours on this planet. So I guess I haven’t had time for you, my loyal reader.

But hey, my inactivity has given me enough time to come up with some observations, some deep insights, and now I am prepared to share them with you. That’s right it is the return of everyone’s favorite column where I cleverly tell you something you already know.

Seven things are better than ten (go fuck yourself Peter King).

1 – HD TV, how did I ever live without you, you glorious bastard?

In my travels this week I was forced to watch the Raiders vs. Titans without the benefit of my beloved HD and Tivo. I had to time the refilling of my drink or my bathroom breaks with commercials, no pausing the TV. I could not see every individual blade of grass on the field. It was a real nightmare. Honestly, how did man survive all those years without TiVo in HD? While I could see clearly that Vince Young is a complete failure at QB, without the benefit of HD, I didn’t feel that I could taste his salty tears of failure.

I was so relieved when I finally returned home last night that I immediately turned on the Pats at Bucs, just so I could count the beads of sweat on Matt Cassell’s brow, as he watched his career flush down the toilet.

If I ever get divorced, I think I will fight for 2 things; my dog and the HD with TiVo everything else just doesn’t matter.

2 – This goddamn Favre thing just won’t end.

He is having doubts, he feels comfortable in his uniform, and he threw a TD. He takes a shit every morning at 8:15 am. He hates all this attention, but please look at him take a lap, since he is just another player.

Ok, so you already knew that the Favre thing wouldn’t end if you read this blog, I have stated it numerous times. But I continue to be amazed at the number of people who think Favre will actually make a difference in New York, and the amount of press he is getting.

Then there is this from Kissing Suzy Kolber:

Peter King was at the Jets preseason game on Saturday and, of course, his only focus was Favre. Dude was even wearing a green shirt. His first stop was Dustin Keller, to ask him how honored he was to have caught Favre’s first Jets preseason touchdown.

Here at Brickinthebox (along with every other blog on the net) we have joked in the past about how far up Favre’s ass Kings head resides, but this is just asinine. I honestly think that King purchased the new Madden just to jerk it to Favre’s picture on the cover.

3 – What the fuck is wrong with New Jersey

Not only is Peter King from that god-forsaken state, but also the people there have no Idea how to drive. I am speaking in particular about the asshats driving minivans.

Dear Minivan driver, if you are not passing get the fuck out of the passing lane. I spent the better part of an hour Sunday driving through New Jersey following minivans passing no one in the passing lane. They were just out there in case they ever came across someone driving under the speed limit. But hey, at least I got to watch Dora for an hour through their rear windows, oh and laughing at the Rav-4 with spinners driving next to me, who couldn’t seem to find a big enough opening on the right to pass the minivan convoy.

4 – Nothing brings us together like football

I suck at keeping up with old friends. Other than spamming them to check out this site, I am terrible at keeping up with their lives. One of my best friends from College had a son seven months ago; I think I found out three weeks back. I don’t text, I hate talking on the phone, and my email skills are lacking.

But once a year we get together to draft our fantasy football teams. I won’t bore you here with the details of the draft (I need to save some material for another column). But after laughing so hard that it hurt a number of times, I left wondering why the fuck we only get together once a year. And I owe what little contact I still have with these people to Football.

So for the next couple months, as we talk trash via email on a regular basis, I will once again feel close to these old friends. Then football season will end, and I will once again forget half of their names until its time to bring everyone together again next August. I am a sad sad man.

5 – Raiders Stuff

You know I can’t do one of these without discussing the plight of the Raiders. Watching the Titans game without the benefit of HD and Tivo, I was unable to go into the depth I usually do breaking down the game (fear not, I Tivo’ed the game at home and will take a closer look later). But I did manage to come away with a few thoughts.

For all the off-season spending, the Raiders are not appreciably better at their weak points from last season. Special Teams still sucks, so what Higgins had a TD return against San Fran, that shows more how pathetic the Niner’s are. Coverage and return blocking are still weak. The offensive line still requires too much help to stay in when pass blocking, limiting the number of receivers going out. The defensive line still can’t hold its ground, and there is no #1 receiver on the field.

The Raiders are still going to have trouble stopping the run, they are still going to see 8 in the box as the receivers worry no one, and Jamarcus will run for his life every time he drops back to pass.

Sure the starting defense looked good Sunday, but that was more due to Tennessee trying to pass with Vince Young at QB, and the only receiving core sadder than the Raiders. The Raiders are better than last year, but it is going to be a long season.

6 – Remember when you were good at stupid stuff

I used to be scary good at Darts. Not much of a life skill, but I could go to bars and win myself free drinks for much of the night, as suckers stepped up, and got their asses kicked. It wasn’t rare for me to close out a game of Cricket in 3-4 rounds.

Well Saturday night after the draft, I was more than happy to actually play some darts. I stepped up to the line, and the darts fluttered like a Philip Rivers deep ball. Rarely hitting the mark. Sure there was the occasional shot that drew praise from the guys I was playing with, but my deft touch was gone.

It got me to thinking, I used to play this game constantly, and I also used to play Madden like it was a full time job. Sure I have picked up new pursuits over the years. I have gotten married, I spend a lot of my free time outside, either hiking, or hunting, oh and I have a job now. But those things I used to love doing I seem to have pushed aside.

So Sunday morning before my long drive home I dug through the basement in my old house looking for that old dart board so that I could bring it with me, and maybe I could rediscover that lost skill. But when I found that old board, it was much like my game, deteriorated and covered in mold. But the darts just needed to be dusted off, and they made the journey back with me. Who knows, maybe sometime soon I will get a new board and return to my past glory.

7 – The Greatest American Athletes are at the Olympics

No, no they are not. I am not trying to take away from the accomplishments of Michael Phelps, or any of the other amazing athletes at the Olympics, but America’s best are not jumping into the pool, or running in circles around a track.

In the US the best athletes head to where the money is. That money is not found at the bottom of a pool, or in a starters block. That money is found putting a ball in the basket, or launching a tight spiral. The next time that anyone in this country shows any interest in a swimmer, or a track star will be 4 years from now in London, unless of course there is a doping scandal.

Much of Phelps success is attributed to his build, and how it is perfect for swimming; he is tall (relatively anyway) and has an incredible wingspan. The thing is on any college basketball team you can find a player with a similar build, but none of those guys are jumping in the pool, because there is no money in it.

Its funny, since the US still leads the medal count, despite the majority of these events holding little more than fringe status here in the States. The rest of the world should be thankful that we don’t give a flying fuck about their past times. Otherwise we would really be rubbing their noses in it.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Preseason Game 1 - Quick Hits

Well I have cautioned against putting too much stock into what we see in preseason game, especially the 1st one. But none the less, I have watched the starters 3 times now, and have the backups on my TV screen as I type, and of course have had some things stick out in my mind.

Observations from Friday's game:

- I said I was going to be keeping a close eye on Jake Grove and I did. Save for 1 play he looked very good out there. He handled Franklin one on one when called on to do that, and got to the 2nd level very well on inside zones. The one bust was where Russell got sacked. The Niners stunted out of a 4 man front on the plays, and the whole line was a cluster fuck. Hard to say who blew the assignment, but Grove definitely didn't help things.

- Did Nike fit Gerard Warren with roller skates rather than cleats? He was regularly blown 3-5 yards off the line.

- Howard looks much more aggressive against the run this year.

- Tommy Kelly getting quick penetration blew up 2 plays on the Niner's initial drive. It is hard to pull when the DT has pushed his blocker back in the way. He will have to do a better job with double team though. He got his ass handed to him when the Niners doubled him.

- For all the consternation about the Raiders ability to pass block, they did an adequate job of picking up the blitz, with the aforementioned stunt being the 1st teams only real breakdown.

- The Raiders looked better against the run, but I think we may be getting a false read due to the sucktitude of the Niners, there were some gaping holes available due to Kelly's penetration, combined with Burgess taking it wide, and Warren having a brand new pair of roller skates. A better running team will take advantage of this if it isn't shored up.

- I've already read how McFadden has proved the naysayers (haters) wrong with his strong showing at RB. Look, I've held back on my rhetoric about what a poor pick he was, lets all hold off on anointing him as a Superstar until he shows a little more. Like maybe breaking a tackle. Sure Papa said he broke a tackle almost every time McFadden touched the ball, but running through the hole is not breaking a tackle. He did a great job of falling forward after contact, but in the NFL you have to break tackles to be great.

Overall the Raiders looked good for this point of the preseason. The Passing game is always the last thing to come around, add in a QB in Russell who is essentially a rookie, and I didn't expect much. Bush showed some real promise as the Thunder to Bush's lighting. And the Raiders 2nd/3rd string defensive line looked like there could be a couple diamonds in the rough out there. Sure this was to moribund Niners, but this is the kind of football the Raiders will need to play to win this season, Pound the rock, with the TOP and turnover battle, and get some big plays along the way. Very encouraging.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Preseason SuperStars

Robert Meachem is going to be a star in the NFL. How do I know this, the former 1st round draft pick torched the Cardinals 3rd string in last nights preseason game. The injuries and poor work habits are behind him, the one year wonder label attached to him in the draft has been ripped away. Once he lines up across from Colston and with Shockey in the line-up the Saints will be unstoppable.

Wow, that paragraph looks pretty ridicules when you read it doesn’t it. But it isn’t that far off from the kind of thing you are going to read and here in the coming weeks as the NFL preseason hits full stride.

This morning on the Sirius Blitz, Brickinthebox whipping boys Adam Schein and Solomon Wilcots expressed how they knew this kind of breakout was coming based on what they had learned from talking to Saints players and staff this off-season. Never mind a week ago when Wilcots was at Saints training camp he made a point of not mentioning Meachem when discussing the Saints outstanding depth at WR.

Meachem wasn’t the only player to gain the attention of the media and fans last night. In the New England / Baltimore game Lamont Jordan had a good night for him. Leading the aforementioned windbags to transition from their Meachem praise to talking about what a great fit Lamont is in New England. Lets remember one thing before we hand Lamont the comeback player of the year award, you give a RB that you are sure of the rock almost 20 times in a preseason game.

And while we are on the subject of the Pats / Ravens game, a couple Raiders sites I frequent are abuzz with the performance of Fabian Washington in that game. He came away with two picks. Before you get your dander up over the Raiders letting Washington get away, look at whom he did this against. It wasn’t Brady, Moss and Welker. It was Matt Cassel and Gutierrez. With the kind of pressure the Ravens bring, Washington better look good against these scrubs.

Which brings me to the point of this posting. As we watch these preseason games, you need to take everything with a grain of salt. Next to no game planning goes into the 1st two games. The Raiders haven’t put in special protections for the Niner’s 3-4. The Raiders defense hasn’t spent time studying the Martz offense. Sure they practiced against each other a couple days ago, so they have a better feel for the opponent then most teams do going into the 1st game of the preseason. But it is going to be base offense and defense calls.

So enjoy finally getting to watch you team this weekend, it has been Seven long months since we could enjoy any form of NFL football. But don’t put much stock into how a player looks this week, especially if they are playing after the 1st two series. Look for solid fundamentals, and pray for no injuries. At this point that is all that can truly be taken from these games. Wins and losses don’t matter and stat lines are meaningless. You are getting to see players take a mid-term exam during the learning season. Finals won’t be for a few weeks.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Attention Whore Chronicles

Even here at BrickintheBox we can’t ignore the biggest NFL story of this off-season. Some sights will call this the biggest ever, but we seem to remember something to do with dogs, and another thing where players gained free agency, and I fail to see how an aging Diva overshadows those items, but none the less. We have decided to go with the time honored tradition of naming winners and losers long before the smoke clears and an actual game is played.

Brett Favre – Loser

Face it, Favre was going to get the loser tag no mater how this played out. His constant cries for attention grate on this blogger, he has gone from Green Bay Icon to a Diva the likes of T.O. But what cements his place in the loser category is where he ended up, the New York Jets.

Favre has gone from one of the youngest, best built teams, to the Jets. The Jets reek of desperation, and the Farve trade is just the latest lame attempt at regaining relevance. The Jets have watched the team they share the NY market, and a stadium, with win three Super Bowls since the Jets last appearance, they have failed at an attempt to get their own stadium, they have become an afterthought in their own division and their own city.

This off-season has seen them overpay for questionable talent in a manner that only Al Davis could truly appreciate. They have a coach, that thanks to busting his ex-employer in the spygate scandal, knows that once his welcome runs out here he most likely will be a pariah in NFL circles. They have a GM that knows his fate is tied to the pariah coach. This team must win at all costs, or these gentlemen will be on the streets.

It all adds up to an unfavorable situation for any player, let alone Favre, and then you look at the two offenses, and you have to wonder why Favre would accept a trade to the Jets.

Offensive Line – A quick look at the two teams and the Jets definitely have more name recognition across the line, but does that make them better? I say no. In fact the only starter on the Jets who I would take over the Green Bay starter would be Nick Mangold, who is one of the best young centers the league has seen in years. Ferguson is unsteady and could still go either way. Faneca was brought in with much fanfare, but those who call him the best guard in the league stopped watching the game in 2005. And Woody at right tackle, the Jets might have been better served to sign a NY subway turnstile.

While I wouldn’t put any of the Green Bay interior lineman above the Jets interior players, there is not as much of a difference as name recognition would lead you to believe, and Green Bay holds a decided advantage at tackle.

Wide Receivers – This isn’t even close. Would you take Driver, Jennings and Jones or Coles, Cotchery and ummm….yeah you get the point. Lets not forget the tight ends here either, Green Bay has Donald Lee, the Jets counter with Chris Baker, Dustin Keller (a.k.a. the 800th TE drafted in the 1st round by the Jets in the last 15 years) and Bubba Franks, well at least Favre will have someone to go to dinner with.

Running Back – Well here we go again. The Jets have Thomas Jones who proved he has little left in the tank last season, and Washington who is a great kick returner. The Packers have Ryan Grant, who may well be a one hit wonder, but behind him are a couple solid guys in Jackson and Morency.

Add it all up and Favre is going to go from National Media darling, to New York media punching bag as quickly as Lindsey Lohan downs a bottle of Dom. Mr. Attention Whore is going to get loads of print, but somehow I doubt he is going to want to read it. But at least Mrs. Attention Whore is getting a bigger market to parade herself on; maybe she can get a reality show out of the deal.

Green Bay Packers – Losers

They can’t like the way this all transpired, and this story isn’t going away anytime soon. Ted Thompson will be followed around by this Brett Favre trade for the rest of his career, hell his life. The only way that the Packers come out on top in this one is if Aaron Rogers leads them to a Super Bowl win this year. So in other words, they are losers also.

N.Y. Jets – Losers

Yeah Favre is an upgrade over Pennington, but they are the Jets, you can’t spell Jets without the letters L, O, S, E, R, S.

Tampa Bay – Winners

Sure they are going to have to deal with a disgruntled Jeff Garcia, but I see no way that Favre and Gruden could co-exist and succeed. Gruden is too controlling and Favre too much of a Gunslinger, that’s oil and water right there. The Bucs are better served to stand pat and try to win a week NFC South, where their only real competition is the Jeckle and Hyde franchise in New Orleans, than bring in Favre and his media circus.

And Finally, IMO, the biggest losers here are the fans. Not just those in Green Bay and New York, but all NFL fans. This story isn’t going anywhere. Every week will be a compare and contract of Rogers. We have weeks of preseason left for interviews with Farve, Pennington, the coaches and GM’s. This just isn’t going to end.

God, I hate when Attention Whores get what they want.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Bringing The Nasty Back

Attitude, if there is one thing that I came away with from my time playing and coaching the Oline, it is that you have to have a certain attitude to be successful. That attitude is one that is hard to develop; the player must come into it on their own. They must believe that they cannot be stopped, they must have a firm grasp of what they are doing and go into each play with the confidence that what they are about to do is right and that they have the ability to get it done.

It wasn’t until my playing days were over and I was coaching that I latched onto this belief. It was as I worked with high school lineman and saw guys with all the physical advantages play at a lower level than the guys who had that elusive attitude.

Of the time that I played, I only really had that attitude for a couple seasons. Sure I had it as a JV, but I was going against lesser physical talents. Getting bumped up to Varsity I at first looked at myself as a back up. If that is your attitude you will never get to that next level. Sometime during my junior of high school year it clicked for me. I didn’t care who you put in front of me; I was going to beat them. This attitude leads to a nasty disposition on the field. A failure of any type enraged me; I had that nastiness that draft nicks expound on when trying to describe an offensive lineman.

The thing about this attitude is that it can be fleeting. I went into college with this attitude. I took personal offense to a list of key freshman omitting my name, and listing another player at my position. Unfortunately health problems kicked in (try showing up for camp a week removed from food poisoning and play center at 205). My reduced weight, and poor attempts to put it back on lead to escalating injuries, the loss of that attitude, and eventually the end of my playing days.

It was in the subsequent year, working with high school players that I discovered the importance of attitude. I would call it confidence, but it is something more. There were many times that I had a player who wasn’t confident in what they were doing, but the attitude was “I will get it done anyway”. A coach can only do so much to develop the attitude; you can line the player up against an inferior player only so many times. You can coddle, or yell in an attempt to find a way through to the player. But in the end something must click inside the players, they must find that next level on their own.

So what is this diatribe doing on a blog about the Raiders? I never played for them, hell I was never at the level of any of these guys. It is because based on reports out of camp, it seems like a player that many have affixed the bust label seems to have rediscovered this attitude.

Jake Grove was called “Nasty Jake” during his time at VT. With a family member at Tech, I took a special interest in their team. Grove was a pleasure to watch as a guy who focuses on line play when he watches the game. I was genuinely excited when the Raiders selected him in the 2nd round. Tops on my Christmas list that year was an authentic Grove jersey.

Grove failed to earn the starting center spot his rookie year, but to do so is rare in the NFL, the center is the brain of the offensive line, he must have a full grasp of everything the offense is doing and what the defense will try and counter with. Maintaining a veteran presence at the position for a team with playoff aspirations came as no surprise, even if it was the questionable skills of Adam True.

Since that rookie year, Grove has struggled with injuries; he has played in a different system almost every year (this year being the 1st where he will have the same coach and system in consecutive years). When I watched Grove in the limited time that he was on the field, the nastiness was gone. He made the occasional good play, when I graded players he regularly did well, but there was a major difference between watching him and the elite, the attitude was gone.

Last season the Raiders did have a center with the attitude, Newberry however was all attitude, his body was failing, but based on camp reports, it seems some of that attitude may have rubbed off on Grove.

Grove did not enter this year’s camp as the anointed starter, despite the loss of Newberry. Veteran John Wade was brought in as competition for Grove and Chris Morris. If you had to assign a favorite it would be Wade based on health and body of work. But don’t try telling that to Grove this year. When asked about the center competition Grove responded:

"I plan on starting, we'll see what happens. But I feel if I can go out there and do what I can do, it won't be a problem."

Those 1st four words stood right out to me. He isn’t planning on competing, he is planning on starting, in his mind he is the best out there, whether or not it translates onto the field, he seems to have rediscovered that attitude. Camp reports seem to back this up, as Grove has reportedly grabbed the starting spot by the balls. The 1st game depth chart still lists both Grove and Wade as starter, but if those at practice are to be believed, the competition is essentially over.

Friday, we the fans get our 1st chance to see if this attitude translates into production on the field. The majority of the Raider Nation’s eyes will be firmly focused on Russell, McFadden and Harris as they attempt to get some feel for if this season will mark the 1st step in a return to respectability. However mine will be on #64 (at least on the 1st viewing) the attitude, or lack thereof, won’t be determined by the wins and losses on individual plays, it will be determined by the follow-through on the wins, and the reaction to the losses. When you have the attitude, the nastiness, the wins are dominating, and the losses result in an obvious reaction and a far different result the next time. With a man head up on Grove with the Niner’s 3-4, this game will be a great gauge of where Grove’s attitude truly lies.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Losing the Love - the Javon Walker Story, IMO

Lamont is gone, Nnamdi is in camp, Lane seems to have the ear of the troops, I was starting to think that the Big-Top was too busy in Green Bay to set up a 3rd ring in Oakland. Well I was proven wrong Saturday.

Javon Walker had to be talked out of retiring earlier in the week. Here comes the fucking clown car.

I wasn’t a fan of the Walker signing. The guy was coming off of a serious injury, and had reportedly been having trouble getting his head back in the game since witnessing Darrent Williams murder. Walker was a huge risk for the Raiders, and they compounded that risk by handing him a huge contract, filled with guaranteed money.

Since OTA’s, there has been little positive news coming out of practices on the Javon front. According to reports and Lane, he showed up out of shape, and showed little of the burst that had gotten him big contracts in Denver and Oakland.

Then the whole Vegas incident hit the wires, complete with unbelievable stories of being abducted from hotel rooms and spraying of Champagne.

Honestly at that point I was ready to cut bait with Javon. He was partying like a rap-star instead of getting ready for an OTA that week, or attending an event in William’s honor. He was once again making the bad decisions that he is becoming known for.

Lucky to be alive, and miraculously not suffering from any career threatening injury, Javon showed up to training camp ready to compete…physically. And here is where I believe the real issue lies. Javon has all the physical tools that he needs to be a dangerous WR for the Raiders. What he lacks is the mental fortitude to be an NFL receiver.

The report that Javon wanted to retire casts many of his actions since the days in Green Bay in a new light for me. The truth is, many NFL players don’t play for love of the game. I know that is a hard pill to swallow for NFL fans, many of whom would give up their right nut to suit up one day in the NFL. Now the lack of love is usually attributed to the big-nasties on the line, who have been pushed into football since child hood since they were bigger and stronger than their classmates. But limited the pool of players who play for money only to guys over 300 lbs is foolish.

Javon put up 1 big season in Green Bay and then looked for his payday. NFL careers are short, so I really don’t fault him for wanting to get paid, but the way he went about it, publicly calling out the Packers struck me as wrong. The fact that his teammates (Brett Favre in particular) came out on the side of management was confounding. Players rarely speak out against fellow players, unless there is something more there.

After his short hold out, Javon lasted 1 game before going down with injury. An off-season trade to Denver seemed to give Javon the fresh start he needed. And he did produce that 1st season in Denver. Then things turned sour in Denver also. Walker held Williams in his arms as he died. He returned to Denver and was no longer the clear cut #1, a young receiver was pushing him for that featured role. Then the injury bug returned.

I believe that Walker has lost whatever love for the game he ever had. He has gotten a bad taste of the business side in Green Bay; his teammates have turned on him in two separate cities. He has twice seen the bad side of what the NFL spotlight has to offer.

Who’s love wouldn’t be tested by what Javon has been through? Would you still love the game if it had cost you as much as it has cost Javon?

I’m not trying to start a pity party for Walker, I still say that one needs to have the wherewithal not to put themselves into a strangers car in Vegas, that his actions that night were inviting trouble. His decision-making has been questionable since the Green Bay days. But if you look at his decisions to date, is it that hard to think that he has placed the blame for what has happened to him on football? Could he think that his success in the game has been more curse than blessing?

That is why I question the Raiders desire to talk him out of retirement. I don’t see this year’s Raiders being the kind of team that can help Walker rise above and rediscover a love for the game. The Raiders have too many soap opera storylines floating around, to give Walker the support he needs. Walker needs some time as a role player, where little would be expected of him. He needs his Plunket year(s) on the bench where the mistakes of the past can fade. Right now the weight of the Raiders expectations for the passing game rest squarely on Walker’s shoulders, I believe he will crumble under the pressure at this point, hell he already is.

I have developed some sort of sympathy for Walker over the last few weeks. Something I didn’t expect from my cynical ass. But even with my newfound sympathy, I see no reason for the Raiders not to grant Walker his wish, and let him walk away from the game. There is too much money tied up in Walker’s contract for a player who has no love for the game. A Larry Brown type signing is the last thing this team needs as it struggles to return to respectability.

Al, If I am right about his mental state, Javon will come to you again this off-season with his desire to leave, I urge you to accept. Cut your losses. I know you have resurrected many a player’s career. But those players had the fire; they just lacked the proper outlet. Walker has the outlet, but no fire, and that fire is hard to reignite when you have nothing to play for. Walker has the money, he has the fame, and the NFL has nothing to offer him. There is no spark for Javon in Oakland as things stand.