On the outside looking in, these candidates for No. 102 fell just short of a spot in the PFF Top 101 for 2011. It’s not that they had no voice in their corner during the sifting of last season’s top players, they did, it’s just that there were more voices opposed to their inclusion and the line was drawn just in front of them.
This short series that will take us right up to the first installment of the actual list on Sunday is designed to bring these players (and these opinions) to light; opening up the argument and inviting you all in.
Following Neil’s presentation for Robert Mathis and Jahri Evans yesterday, this time it’s Khaled Elsayed highlighting a pair he believes should have made the cut: Dallas’ Tony Romo and Philadelphia’s Cullen Jenkins.
The Case for Tony Romo
Khaled Elsayed: Cowboys fans, I tried my damndest. I quoted the stats, reminded everyone that he played part of the season with a freaking punctured lung, and tried to make them see sense. But my colleagues just couldn’t find a spot for Tony Romo in our Top 101 players of 2011.
I get the why. There were a couple of games (Jets, Lions) where he did more to hurt them than help them (with the Detroit game being particularly bad), but what about the rest of the season? What about throwing for 4,203 yards with a 31:10 ratio of touchdowns to interceptions? In our own PFF adjusted QB rating, that was good enough for sixth … and I can tell you now that more than six QBs made the list.
His passing grade wasn’t the greatest, but if you look past a horror start to the year then you’ve got a guy who overcame injury and almost pushed Dallas to the playoffs. We’ve bemoaned Romo in the past for being too much of a risk taker, but his 66.3% completion percentage is that of a guy who evolved his game to start taking what the defense gave him. It’s a better year than these chumps below are prepared to give him credit for.
In response …
Ben Stockwell: Simply put, this was not one of Romo’s best seasons and it was not one of the Cowboys’ best seasons, they both missed another opportunity. This was a less wild version of Romo where he played more to a baseline rather than fluctuating wildly around it. The difference being, though, that there weren’t the dizzying highs that we have seen in the past to counterbalance those terrifying lows. Lows like we saw in defeats to the Jets and the Lions early in the season that you simply cannot look past as my colleague, Mr. Elsayed, would like you to do.
Sam Monson: Much as he continues to have a loyal and rather fervent fan base (included amongst them, Jerry Jones), Tony Romo remains a very good, but very flawed player. Last season he was just our 10th-ranked QB, behind Matt Moore, behind Alex Smith, and when he was bad, he tended to be very bad. The interceptions thrown–against Detroit in particular–are burned into my mind along with the screams of “WHAT WAS THAT!!?!” Romo may still have rope left with which to hang himself from Jerry Jones and the Cowboys, but he simply wasn’t good enough to make this list.
Neil Hornsby: The truth is: I initially wanted to pick Romo too, spent about an hour trying to justify it and then tossed him back in the pot at which point Khaled picked up the “poison chalice”. In essence, the top-line numbers look good, but when you dig underneath there’s nothing to get excited about. “That’s why we grade.” I constantly reiterate to the team; because grading tells you while he may have been on fire for parts of games, he never really ever took one over. The grading tells you just how truly dreadful he was in Weeks 1 and 3 and how utterly average he was otherwise. Trust the grade, Khaled.
The Case for Cullen Jenkins
Khaled Elsayed: Time and time again the question popped up and I responded “Cullen Jenkins.” For a list that–spoiler alert–doesn’t have many penetrating defensive tackles, I championed Jenkins as a guy who made a big impact on the Eagles’ defense. Only three players had a higher pass rushing grade from the DT spot (one a situational player) and it wasn’t like Jenkins was a slouch against the run, finishing 14th overall in defensive stops in the run game.
Still, it was his pass rushing that should have seen him make this list, but I think the terrible trio lost the plot for a second. How else do they explain ignoring a guy who was the fourth most productive tackle when it came to rushing the passer. Did they not read this article? Fools.
In response …
Ben Stockwell: The “Wide-9″ defense brought the Eagles a great deal of success in 2011, but the one thing it does is put a lot of pressure on their defensive tackles. While Jenkins was certainly a disruptive force as a pass rusher, he was simply too one-dimensional of a defensive tackle (only just passable in run defense this year) to endorse him for the Top 101 list. His case is also not helped by the fact that he was outperformed on fewer snaps by Derek Landri who was a complete revelation for the Eagles in rotational duties. Comfortably outperforming Jenkins in run defense while still providing quality inside pass rush, showing what is possible as an all-around defensive tackle in that defense.
Sam Monson: The Eagles like disruptive pass rushers, and Cullen Jenkins was brought in because he was one of the best in the NFL, and, in truth, he had a fine season for Philadelphia in their defensive scheme and did apply his share of pressure. The problem, though, is that he was at best average against the run, and as good as he was rushing the passer, he wasn’t good enough to distance himself from any of several alternate candidates. Marcell Dareus had near identical numbers as a pass rusher, but nobody is banging the drum for his inclusion. My other issue with Jenkins is that he wasn’t even able to separate from the DTs on the Philadelphia roster. Derek Landri (acquired for the price of a ham sandwich last offseason) was Jenkins’ equal as a pass rusher, and dramatically better as a run defender on a fraction of the snaps.
Neil Hornsby: I have sympathy here. He is an extremely good pass rusher from the inside and his run defense, for a player so penetrative, is adequate. I can think of at least two players I put him ahead of, but it is close. In the end, he didn’t play that many snaps (27th among defensive tackles) and was poor-to-awful in Weeks 3 through 8 when the bottom fell out of the Eagles’ season.