Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Mediocre Football Q & A: Part Deux

Scroll down to read part one of my riveting discussion with Wess of Sons of the Tundra.

Here's part deux, which is the exact same as part one, except that it's not. This edition sees a role reversal, with Wess asking the questions and me answering them. Enjoy...

Wess: What went wrong with Carson Palmer in '07, and will he ever return to the heights of '05?

Brad: It would be easy to say that Palmer's problems in '07 can be directly attributed to poor line play (stud OTs Levi Jones and Willie Anderson missed a good part of the season and when they actually played they hardly resembled their once-dominant selves. Plus, Eric Steinbach left for Cleveland in free agency, where he made the Pro Bowl, and the Bengals never found an adequate replacement.)

It would also be easy to say that Palmer only had two guys to throw the ball to, TJ Houshmandzadeh and Chad Johnson. Between the Chris Henry suspension and the myriad of injuries to seemingly everybody else, Palmer was often forced to throw the ball to Glenn freaking Holt in critical situations.

I could also point to the anemic running game. Rudi Johnson is done. The guy was never a speed demon to begin with and what burst he had is now gone. You can tell me all you want about his groin/hamstring problems and I can tell you I felt this way before the '07 season. I sincerely hope he never lines up behind Carson Palmer ever again.

As far as Kenny Watson goes...golly gee, fella, thanks for trying hard...you win the Participation Award! Okay, maybe Watson has a right to exist and make a living playing American football, but not as a feature back. I repeat, not as a feature back. In fact, I will stab anybody who thinks he deserves a chance. That list includes Marvin Lewis. Look, the guy's not fast enough to take one the distance and he's certainly not powerful enough to handle 18-20 carries a game. The last word I would ever use to describe Kenny Watson is "dynamic." In fact, I said far meaner things about him after his 130 yard, 3 TD performance in week 7 against the Jets. That pissed off a lot of blind Bengals fans.

Anyway, back to the Palmer question (as I see the next question surrounds the Bengals' running game)...

I've created plenty of excuses for Palmer's below average play in 2007. And believe me, I've used all of these excuses in bar room arguments. This is mostly because they aren't untrue (nobody can really say that the injuries to Willie Andedrson and Levi Jones didn't affect Palmer's play). But, it's a fairly ridiculous argument on my behalf to bring up Chad Johnson and TJ Houshmandzadeh as the Bengals' only healthy WRs, as if I should feel sorry for Palmer getting to throw to two Pro Bowlers in their prime. I'm quite sure that most teams (Dolphins, Titans, Jags, Ravens, etc.) would die to have that be a problem .

Now, to actually answer your question: Do I see him returning to the heights of '05?

No, I don't. Then again, Eli Manning just won a Super Bowl so I'm not willing to discard Palmer entirely. Who knows? I still find Palmer to be a really good QB, and one who will lead the Bengals to the playoffs four or five times before it's all said and done, but he just looks like a different guy to me. I've never seen a guy who is supposed to be a superstar in the middle of his prime just carelessly heave the ball into coverage the way Palmer did in countless situations in '07. You can tell me he was just trying to make a play and I can tell you he was playing dumb football. I just hope this smart guy was wrong when he said "I'm starting to think Palmer is on the fast track to become Drew Bledsoe, and not John Elway."

Okay, I promise I won't be as longwinded for any of the other questions...

Wess: Gimme a full report on the state of the RB position for the Cincinnati Bengals. Is Rudi done? Will he bounce back? Should Kenny Watson be given a shot? Will Kenny Irons be healthy enough and/or good enough to take a share of the job by the end of next season? Will Chris Perry ever be heard from again in a Bengals uniform? Will the Bengals sign a free agent RB? If so, are we looking more Melwelde Moore type or Michael Turner type? Will the Bengals waste another early round pick on a RB?

Brad: Jesus, I said I wouldn't be so longwinded and you go ahead and ask for a full report.

I gave my take on Rudi Johnson and Kenny Watson in my previous answer, so that's covered. Thank God. As for Irons, it's tough to say how healthy he'll be. It's true that RBs are never the same the year after an ACL tear, but it's not as true as it once was (Jamal Lewis in '02 and Deuce McAllister in '06 come to mind). Plus, Irons injured his knee in the first preseason game, which is a whole lot different than doing the same thing in week 4 of the regular season. It was quite clear last year in camp that Irons was the best back on the team, which made his injury all the more difficult to swallow. Again, who knows how he's recovering, but he has to be the odds on favorite to be the feature back come October.

Perry. This guy was such a weapon in 2005 that I openly rooted for an injury to Rudi Johnson just so Perry would be the every-down guy. Think about it: Perry would have carried the ball 12-14 times per game (at most) and caught another 7 or 8. Plus, the Bengals could have gone no-huddle and destroyed the league with matchup problems everywhere (remember how unstoppable Chris Henry was in '05? And '06?) Damn that woulda been fun to watch.

But I digress...

I'd say it's officially now or never for Chris Perry. The Bengals had the opportunity to bring him back for the last few games of '07 but decided instead to shelve him for what was turning out to be a lost season. Good idea, Coach Lewis. The first you've had in quite awhile, actually. It's no guarantee that Perry will ever contribute again, but we should find out Day One of mini camp.

Signing Michael Turner? No way. We're talking about the Brown family here. Mewelde Moore? What's the point? Why not just do it the way the Jags do? That is, draft RBs when you really don't need them. For every LaBrandon Toefield and Alvin Pearman you might get yourself a Maurice Jones-Drew or Greg Jones (pre-injury). I see the Bengals drafting a RB between rounds 3 and 5. Stay tuned.

Wess: Re: the Chad Johnson saga. We have an advantage over most dynasty leaguers around the country because we know that Mike Brown is a stubborn jackass. If he says Chad Johnson won't be traded, you can take it to the bank. Who would you rather have as a WR in dynasty leagues, Chad Johnson or Housh? Has to be Johnson in dynasty leagues, right? Housh is in the middle of a nice 5-year run, but much of it is provided by the attention given to possible HOFer Chad. Housh has a much greater chance of falling off the face of the fantasy earth than Chad does.

Brad: You're right, the Chad Johnson saga is the most boring non-story that somehow continues to make headlines. He's not going anywhere, it's as simple as that. He is annoying the hell out of me, though. And he's ruined every bit of goodwill that he built up over the last half-decade. Oh well.

Your dynasty league Houshmandzadeh/Johnson question: I'm with you, I'd rather have No. 85. It's not even an issue, really. He's the better player on the football field (by a lot) and he's the one who has the better chance of maintaining greatness for the next 7-8 years. But I love Houshmandzadeh. Love him. Probably the most determined athlete I've ever come in contact with. But he's not in Johnson's league. He's just not. (By the way, the great majority of Bengal blowhards/sports talk callers disagree strongly with me on this one. They think Houshmandzadeh is the better player of the two. But that was expected, right?)

Wess: Where will Michael Turner end up?

Brad: It seems like Chicago makes too much sense, so it probably won't be them? I'd like to see him end up in Houston. Anything is possible, I suppose.

Wess: Who will be the starting QB for the 49ers?

Brad: Shaun Hill. Lock it. Call me crazy but I like the guy. And I've never been a big fan of Alex Smith. You may recall our pre-draft conversations from a few years back when I said how I like Aaron Rodgers better than Smith.

Wess: Can the Rams offense bounce back?

Brad: No. They're done. They need to start over. I wasn't a Bulger guy when he was supposedly good, and he hasn't gotten better since then. I would also advise the shot-callers in St. Louis to stop wasting money on the Drew Bennetts and Randy McMichaels of the world. And can they ever count on Orlando Pace again?

Wess: Who would you rather have in a dynasty league, Ronnie Brown or Larry Johnson?

Brad: I would have them rated equally going into next season with the slight edge going to Larry Johnson. Call me stupid, but I think he has another monster year left in him. But does he care? He seems like a bit of a frontrunner to me.

Wess: Will Marion Barber be the every-down back for the Cowboys next season?

Brad: Is there a more fun back to watch than Barber (you know, besides Westbrook, Petersen and maybe Jones-Drew)? The answer is NO. The problem is that what makes him fun to watch is what will ultimately put him in a wheelchair before he turns forty. The guy is so reckless that it's hard to see him lasting much longer than five or six years. But, in the short-term, he should be fine.

Wess: Where will Darren McFadden end up?

Brad: McFadden is no Adrian Petersen, and Petersen somehow slipped to 7th, so it's anybody's guess. My hunch is that he won't leave pick No. 5, though. Oakland (whether they pick 4th or 5th) seems about right.

Wess: Have you ever seen anything more odd than the last 6 weeks of Eli Manning?

Brad: In my life? Yeah. My next door neighbors during my childhood, the Isforts, used to do odd shit all the time. Like, they used to work on cars in the middle of the night and cut the grass when it was raining and stuff. And they used to call the cops on each other all the time. That was much stranger than a former overall No. 1 pick winning a Super Bowl. In the football world, though, I can't honestly say I've ever been so shocked in my life. Let's just go ahead and credit Kevin Boss for Manning's late-season run...it's much easier that way.

Wess: Is this the beginning of the end of LaDainian's pure dominance?

Brad: I would say that he has two (or maybe three) years remaining in his prime. But, his reign as the top back in football is over. Adrian Petersen gets that label for the next five years or so.

Wess: Why are the Chiefs wasting time on Brodie Croyle?

Brad: Because they think he's good?

Wess: What are the chances the Seahawks DON'T draft Jonathan Stewart? That seems like too good of a match not to happen. What are the chances Jonathan Stewart ends up a better NFL RB than McFadden? What about Felix Jones?

Brad: I haven't really paid attention to mock drafts and where Stewart specifically projects. I know he'll be a 1st rounder, but to who...I have no idea. What I do know is that this year's RB class has a chance to go down as the best ever. McFadden, Stewart, Jones and Rashard Mendenhall are all so bleeping good I can't stand it. And they all offer the one thing most special backs possess: the extra gear. Especially Jones. In my opinion he's the most underrated college football player of my lifetime. The guy rushed for damn near 3,000 yards on less than 400 carries in his college career (do the math) and yet nobody ever talked about him. He's my sleeper pick to be the best back in this draft. Another guy I love is East Carolina's Chris Johnson. I ain't too sure where he's being projected but that dude's an animal.

(Note to NFL GMs: Stay away from Steve Slaton in the first two rounds. His feet aren't good enough to be an elite NFL back. He's Tatum Bell meets Michael Bennett. He's a homerun hitter, but offers little else. Overrated.)

Wess: Why is Matt Ryan so highly regarded? What happened to Brohm & Woodson's prospects?

Brad: Matt Ryan is a good prospect. He's got a really strong arm and called a lot of his own plays this past season, so you know he's not a dumb guy (Akili Smith, anyone?). But for whatever reason, and I can't quite put my finger on it, he doesn't impress me the way a likely top five pick should.

As for Woodson, I still really like him, but you're right, he's all of the sudden a 3rd round-type guy. He throws a perfect ball, and he's accurate when throwing deep, but his delivery is long, and Byron Leftwich has shown us why that's a bad thing. I wouldn't bet against Woodson, though. At least he knows how to throw a football, which is more than I can say for Tarvaris Jackson.

Brohm...the best QB prospect in the draft, and I'm not sure why scouts disagree with me. He has the size, mobility and accuracy (in the pocket and especially out of it) that I thought NFL team's covet. Who knows why his stock is slipping?

(One other thing: I know I'm basically alone on this, but I'm still a Colt Brennan guy. He's the most accurate college passer of my lifetime and has the quickest of quick releases. Yeah, his arm is weak, but it's better than Pennington's, and he's done okay. I'm not projecting greatness, but I do think Brennan will stick in the league for a number of years.)

Wess: Are there any WRs that should be drafted in the 1st round this April?

Brad: DeSean Jackson is Peter Warrick with speed. To me, that's a good thing. He's a game-breaker who will be a nightmare returning punts, as well. The other guy I love is Mario Manningham. He's explosive and polished. He's only 6'0, but he plays bigger than his size (ala 5'11 Chris Chambers). I don't like Limas Sweed or Early Doucet (their production never came close to their hype) and I'm take-it-or-leave-it with Malcolm Kelly. My sleeper in this draft is Cal's LaVelle Hawkins. He was a stud who was caught in DeSean Jackson's shadow.

Wess: Shouldn't the Browns trade Derek Anderson this off-season while they can?

Surprisingly, I think Brady Quinn is a keeper. I say "surprisingly," because I saw him as nothing but a talented choke artist at ND. But his preseason and limited action in last year's regular season changed my stance. It doesn't take much with me. That said, I'm not so sure he'll ever throw 29 TDs and lead his team to a 10-6 record the way Anderson just did in his first season as a starter. I like Anderson. To me, Quinn should be guaranteed nothing. Anderson is the starter in '08 (with no competition) and we'll see if he can be like Drew Brees and refuse to look in the rearview mirror.

Wess: If you were the Bears, Ravens or the Vikings, what would be too much to give up for Donovan McNabb? Isn't "game manager" Chad Pennington the perfect low-cost off-season acquisition for a team with the Vikings' unique strengths and weaknesses? How does that trade not happen?

Brad: Yes, the Vikings and Bears should give up plenty for McNabb. Both of those teams are good enough to make it to the Super Bowl with McNabb as their QB. He's old, but he's not that old. It's not inconceivable that he plays Pro Bowl-level QB for the next six years, you know?

As for the Ravens QB situation...how dare you. You and I both know Troy Smith is the guy for the next fifteen wonderful years.

Wess: Best Swampland in Florida investment: Javon Walker, Kevin Jones, or Cadillac Williams?

Brad: Kevin Jones over Javon Walker. Cadillac will walk with a limp for the rest of his life.

Wess: How good is Brandon Marshall? Should he be considered a Top-10 dynasty WR?

Brad: Awesome. Fantastic. Super. Great. Awesome. Really awesome. Awesome. YES, Marshall is a top 10 dynasty WR. The question really should have been, "Greg Jennings, Brandon Marshall or Marques Colston?" To that, I would have replied...NO EFFING CLUE!

Wess: What's your prognosis for Matt Leinart in 2008? Will he bounce back, or will Kurt Warner take over again at some point?

Brad: Bounce back. Although I'm starting to think I'm in the minority. I see Leinart throwing 25 TDs and leading the Cardinals to the playoffs in '09.

Keep the change, you filthy animals.

-Brad Spieser (