Neil's NFL Daily: May 2, 2013
Before we head off on the final leg of our walk around the team drafts (it’s the big hitters on the NFL today), just a quick not on one of the more obvious and sensible changes that was reported yesterday. The always excellent Rich Cimini wrote that the Jets 3-4 DE Quinton Coples would be moving to OLB in an attempt to add some juice to their borderline pathetic pass rush. He played with his hand up on only 27 occasions last year and dropped in coverage a mere 10 times (none of which were from a two-point stance), but before you write it off consider that with a Pass Rush Productivity of 8.0 he had the fifth-best rating among his peers, which would have put him mid-table in the 3-4 OLB rankings despite having the clear disadvantage of rushing from the inside.
The main transaction of the day was the Javier Arenas/Anthony Sherman trade and I’ll comment on that in detail later.
Thursday, May 1st
From what I read, the Seahawks (with the two recent draft selections, Christine Michael and Spencer Ware) now have four clone halfbacks — all 5’10” to 5’11”, all within about 10lbs of each other and all guys who finish runs strongly. My first assumption from this is that they expect some wear and tear over the course of the season but want the scheme to stay the same, regardless of injuries, and the second is that when Marshawn Lynch’s contract expires in 2015, he’ll be gone.
Eleven selections for the king of our draft competition, Ted Thompson, and a contract extension for the best QB in football likely will make the Packers contenders for years to come. The manner of their recent playoff exits though still must hurt — particularly surrendering 579 yards to the 49ers in this year’s divisional round.
Ryan Pickett has been a consistently good run defender for them, but since they lost Cullen Jenkins pressure from the interior has been in short supply. It’s hoped that first-round pick DE Datone Jones will take some of the pressure off Clay Matthews, and that after Nick Perry’s disastrous first game, his subsequent displays (before injury) were better indications of his ability.
The Texans looked to fill each of their key weaknesses, bar one, and went about answering some important reservations. The wide receiver cupboard is bare after Andre Johnson? – How about first-rounder DeAndre Hopkins? Right Tackle still shaky in the hands of Derek Newton? – Let’s double up with Brennan Williams at 95 and David Quessenberry at 176. Ed Reed just a one-year thing? – Go with long-term replacement D.J. Swearinger.
It all looks good, but with no QB taken in the draft or picked up in free agency the Texans’ season comes down to a much bigger question — “Can Matt Schaub become either Eli Manning or Joe Flacco in the postseason?”.
With Wes Welker added, Louis Vasquez brought in to shore up the O-line and having Peyton Manning one year further into the action, this is a team that can score on anyone. My concerns are that with Champ Bailey aging (almost overnight in the playoff loss to the Ravens), after Von Miller and slot corner Chris Harris, where are the defensive stand-outs? Three draft picks and some reasonable work in free agency have maintained the status quo on paper, but have they really? Shaun Phillips, Terrance Knighton and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie all had pale shadows of their best seasons in 2012, and DRC (a player with huge talent) in particular looked distracted.
If you call the Danny Amendola pick-up just a Wes Welker swap the only thing the Patriots have done I like is grab strong safety Adrian Wilson to add leadership to their secondary. Look, I’m sure some of the draftees will work out, but Bill Belichick’s track record over the past five years is average. Let’s hope last year’s effort, where they already have hits with Chandler Jones, Don’t’a Hightower, Alfonzo Dennard and, to a lesser extent, Tavon Wilson, is more the rule than exception.
The Falcons track record is just too good to be very critical, but I really don’t like the way they’ve handled their O-line. Although Matt Ryan is better at dealing with pressure than many, he’s stellar when kept clean (+25.7 grade with no disruption to his pocket against +4.3 with) and the group in front of him keeps losing its best and most consistent players. Over the past two years they’ve lost RG Harvey Dahl, C Todd McClure, and RT Tyson Clabo while retaining Sam Baker and Justin Blalock. Baker, on the back of one very average season (after years of poor ones) was resigned but at least his 14th-ranked salary among left tackles somewhat compensates. Unfortunately, Blalock’s APY of only $400k per year less demands a far higher return than what we saw from him in all bar 2010, and even then that’s still far too much for a guard.
How will a team that was a couple of plays away from winning it all cope? By keeping all bar three starters, likely upgrading on two of the ones they lost and bringing in a massive volume (and possibly quality) of depth. If it wasn’t for the Seahawks’ prolific offseason they would be run away NFC favorites to go back to the Super Bowl in 2014. There are obviously some questions (e.g. can Colin Kaepernick continue to play well, and will Justin Smith hold up?) but all seem of the “nit-picky” variety and I for one, to the horror of all San Francisco fans, am installing them as my preseason favorite.
How can you not be impressed with the Ravens’ offseason? After it all got off to such a bad start with the ill-conceived Anquan Boldin trade (which may still come back to haunt them) things generally just got better and better. While there are still some concerns at the aforementioned WR position (can Jacoby Jones take on a full-time role or will someone else come through?) and on the offensive line (Michael Oher has now had more position switches than a politician in a swing state) but I like the look of this defense more than last year’s. While repeating will be very difficult, I actually think they may end up playing better but get less tangible results.
In Other News
In the trade which saw CB Javier Arenas go to Arizona and FB Anthony Sherman move to Kansas City there should only be winners. That said, the Cardinals may end up with one of their better acquisitions of the offseason if they use Arenas correctly. He was selected in the second round of the 2010 draft but being on the same team as the two Brandon’s, Flowers and Carr, saw him relegated to sub-packages. That said, slot corner may well be his best position anyway as he’s got better year on year. His slot cover snaps per reception have improved year on year from 7.2 to 9.7 and, last year, sixth-best in the league with 11.4 (although three of those above him played less than 125 snaps, while he played 284). When you add in the fact Patrick Peterson is poor in the slot and his return skills, this is a great move for Arizona. My main caveat now is why did it come to this? Why is a player performing so well on the field found disposable? Answers on a postcard…
As for Sherman, he’s no mug either but not really fair compensation for Arenas. Averaging 236 snaps on offense in his two years with the Cardinals he’s a pure FB who does an average job as a pass blocker and a slightly better than average one when leading the play.
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