Cleveland Browns

A Look Back at the 2005 NFL Draft

Back in April, the NFL concluded the 2010 draft.  This year’s draft was punctuated by the prime time debut of Round 1 at New York City’s famed Radio City Music Hall.  The draft was extended over a three day period and received wide acclaim from fans and media, alike.

It is too early to say who the winners are for the 2010 draft.  Some draft picks never make it out of camp; some never fulfill the promise of their rookie contract.  Still others exceed the greatest expectations.  It has been widely stated that the average career of an NFL player is 4-5 years.  Given that, let’s take a look at the 2005 NFL Draft.

The Rules of the Game

There are as many ways to evaluate the success of a draft class as there are to evaluate players.  What matters most?  Years as a starter, Pro Bowl selections, All Pro selections, team wins, championships, value at selected position, value over next selection?  There are a lot of criteria to consider.

I’ll leave that final determination to you.  For my own purposes, I admit using a subjective mix of all of those criteria.   Here is a link for you to make your own decision.

Top Dog of the 2005 NFL Draft

1. Dallas Cowboys.   The Cowboys used two first round selections to grab DeMarcus Ware and Marcus Spears.  Ware has become a dominant defensive force in the league.  He has been selected to four Pro Bowls and been named All-Pro three times.  He is arguably the best player at his position in the entire NFL.  Ware, to the Cowboys credit, was taken just before Chargers LB Shawne Merriman.

DeMarcus Ware: 2005 Draft Cream of the Crop

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2009 NFL Season: The Steel Curtain Falls

Playoff races are heating up around the NFL.  In Pittsburgh, playoff hopes are as icy as Lake Erie in December.  The Steelers have lost five games in a row, including a Thursday night shocker at the hands of the Cleveland Browns.  Things are so bad in Pittsburgh that Brady Quinn completed a mere 6 of 19 passes for 90 yards — and people blamed the DEFENSE.  This was unthinkable after the Steelers flexed their muscles at Invesco Field at Mile High in Denver back in November.  Times have changed.  Pittsburgh is miles away from that victory and is in turmoil following a series of redundant, irritatingly close losses to the dregs of the NFL.

According to Mark Kaboly, the Steelers are unaware of what is wrong with the team.  They do not have solutions and are earnestly looking for answers.   His article in the Pittsburgh Tribune featured quotes from players like Casey Hampton, Hines Ward and ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer.  None of them seem to know what the problem has been with this team.  Kaboly does a solid job of listing many of the issues, but he doesn’t quite hit the nail on the head. AP’s Allan Robinson had the same experience in speaking with Chris Kemoeatu and James Farrior.  There is no one single problem and no one single solution.  Some problems can be fixed in 2009.  Some will take time.  The confusion is in the complexity.  So here goes…Top 10 Reasons Why the Steelers Are STILL Losing:

Is Troy Polamalu's Injury the Real Reason?

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The Denver Broncos: Six and So, So…So What!

The Broncos against the World!

Do you believe in the Broncos yet?  How many more wins will it take before you convert to the faithful?  Do they have to beat your team?  Do they have to beat your team on the road?  Do they have to beat your team in perfect health?  Do they have to beat your team or some other “proven favorite” by 25 points?  Or can they just win, baby?

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2009 NFL Season: The Meaning of 2-0

It is hard to say what the meaning of making it through the first two weeks will mean for this season.  I suspect that it can’t hurt.  In the case of the San Francisco 49ers, they’ve already beaten the favorite to win the division on the road and beaten the perennial division winner (while knocking out their QB).  They could not have asked for a better start.  With that said, not all 2-0 records “are created equal.”  Before proceeding, let’s take a quick look back.

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2009 NFL Draft — Live Blog

2009 NFL Draft.

Check Meebo for added live commentary.

It’s official.  Roger “Burn those Tapes” Goodell is at the podium.

1.  The Detroit Lions are on the clock.  The Detroit Lions are off the clock.  That was quick.

Matthew Stafford, QB.  Georgia.  The fans at the draft booed this pick.  I agree.  I’m not a hater, but I do not love Stafford.

The Lions always seem to draft like they’ve been backed into a corner.

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1997 Michigan Wolverines – Still Ballin’

With Brian Griese poised to start for the Chicago Bears, I thought I’d take a look at the old 1997 Michigan Wolverines. In 1997, the Wolverines were undefeated and led by Charles Woodson. Woodson, an Ohio native, won the Heisman, the Nagurski and the Thorpe awards. He played both ways and led the team to victories over Ohio State and Washington State in the Rose Bowl. Michigan won a lot of close games that year and did not have as many style points as the Nebraska Cornhuskers, but the did defeat everyone on their schedule. It was a long time ago, but there are more players than you might expect who are still in the NFL and who are still productive. Here’s the list (not in any particular order).

  1. Steve Hutchinson, Guard, Minnesota Vikings
  2. Charles Woodson, Cornerback, Green Bay Packers
  3. Ian Gold, Linebacker, Denver Broncos
  4. Tom Brady, Quarterback, New England Patriots
  5. Jay Feely, Kicker, Miami Dolphins
  6. Maurice Williams, Tackle, Jacksonville Jaguars
  7. Dhani Jones, Linebacker, Cincinnati Bengals
  8. James Hall, Defensive End, St. Louis Rams
  9. Jon Jansen, Tackle, Washington Redskins
  10. Anthony Thomas, Running Back, Buffalo Bills
  11. Jeff Backus, Tackle, Detroit Lions
  12. Jerame Tuman, Tight End, Pittsburgh Steelers
  13. Mark Campbell, Tight End, New Orleans Saints
  14. Brian Griese, Quarterback, Chicago Bears

Until recently, this list also included Aaron Shea, longtime fullback for the Cleveland Browns, William Peterson (cornerback) and Josh Williams (defensive tackle). That is a surprising number of players. Admittedly not all of these players began their NFL careers in 1998, but of the 39 Michigan players on NFL rosters, nearly half played on this team. It was a tremendous accomplishment to win a national championship. Perhaps it is even more impressive that so many of those players have managed to survive the rigors of the NFL for so long.

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Healing in Cleveland

Cleveland Browns center LeCharles Bentley suffered a career-threatening injury on the first play of preseason last year. Bentley, an Ohio State graduate, was signed by the Browns after several years anchoring the line of the New Orleans Saints. Bentley is an excellent player with the strength, agility, quickness and intelligence to lead a chorus of blockers in the tandem arts whether running or passing. He is an elite player.

Bentley has been cleared to play by doctors.

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For a life-long Steeler fan and a Michigan grad, Bentley is absolutely on the wrong side of the fence. He has been since he left high school. Decisions to embrace my arch rivals in Columbus and Cleveland, notwithstanding, his skill is undeniable.

True football fans must appreciate the play of elite centers. The center is the quarterback or point guard, if you will, of the offensive line. He is responsible for “reading the defense” and determining what type of protection (or blocking scheme) should be used from play to play. Sometimes the scheme will call for the line to overpower a single player or attack one side of the field or use deception to slow oncoming rushers. This sophisticated business requires acute awareness and the capacity to lead. Bentley does that as well as anyone in the league today.

Historically, the Steelers have been blessed with Hall-of-Fame caliber centers. Much has been made of the franchises’ incredible stability at head coach. There have been three coaches for most of the past four decades (Chuck Noll-Bill Cowher-Mike Tomlin). The Steelers have only had three centers over nearly as long a period: Mike Webster, Dermontti Dawson and Jeff Hartings. Webster was the toughest and Dawson was the best I’ve ever seen.

webster_sep24_home.jpgMike Webster

dawson_dermontti_150-1501.jpgDermontti Dawson

One of the hallmarks of a great center is the capacity to lead a play by “pulling” to one side of the field. In this instance, the center moves to the left or right (instead of blocking straight ahead) and leads a running back to the outside edge of the field. Along the way, the center may have to block multiple players. The best centers are able to evade alert defensive tackles who may want to keep them inside; capable of getting defensive ends or linebackers on the ground; and keeping their feet to get a hit on advancing secondary players. This is one of the most athletic, graceful plays in the game of football.

The speed, balance and timing required for a 300 pound man to lead a quicker running back around the corner – and block multiple defenders is sets certain players apart. In football, this role has traditional been given to guards. It is rare that a team has a center capable of pulling effectively. Bentley does this. All of the Steeler centers have done this. Kevin Mawae, who began his career with the Seattle Seahawks, still does this.

The Browns stand to be a much better team with LeCharles Bentley back in the fold. I am pleased that his recovery has come along thusly. Congratulations.

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2007 NFL Draft – Running Commentary – Top 5 picks + 1

The 2007 NFL Draft is on…live from Radio City Music Hall in New York City.

First on the clock – The Oakland Raiders. The pick: LSU quarterback, JaMarcus Russell. No surprises here. If I’m Randy Moss, I’m feeling pretty good. For the first time in a few years, he’ll have a quarterback who throws balls he can’t outrun. It’s a second shot at redemption for Moss since he blew up the Culpepper combination in Minnesota. Al Davis has what he wants. Still, I can see trouble on the horizon. The Raiders offense will have to have a balance of deep and short passes to keep defenses honest. Russell can’t take 7 step drops on every play and throw fly balls to Moss and Porter. Whichever player is lucky enough to run underneath routes for the Raiders next year could be going to the Pro Bowl. No player in the league will have more space to operate. Russell is a good fit for the Raiders. The key to his success, though, is the same as it is for other players. He will need pass protection, an effective running game, and a creative offensive package to maximize his effectiveness. Next on the clock: new Raider coach Lane Kiffin.

Calvin Johnson, the smile-free version, is picked at #2 by the Detroit Lions. Williams is the fourth receiver drafted by the Lions in recent years, following Charles Rogers (Michigan State), Roy “The Legend” Williams (Texas), and Mike Williams (USC). Based on his reaction, I believe he will be traded. I believe that decision is being made by upper-level management. Offensive Coordinator Mike Martz is probably lobbying hard to keep Calvin Johnson, even though he does not appear to be a classic Martz-type receiver. Martz prefers quick, route runners capable of getting separation on crossing routes, and running his favorite route – the deep dig (15-20 yards straight upfield, horizontal cross to the middle: in front of the safeties and behind the linebackers). Johnson can do many things well. That is probably not the best use of his talent. We’ll see if he is traded to the Buccaneers or if he remains a Lion.

Joe Thomas, LT Wisconsin, is scooped up by the Cleveland Browns with the 3rd pick. Thomas is a sound technician and the Browns could be compiling a formidable left side of an offensive line. The key to the Browns success, however, is the healthy return of former Ohio State star LeCharles Bentley at center. Bentley is the anchor of the Browns line, and Thomas is an excellent addition. ESPN posted a graphic on tackles drafted in the first round. From 1995 to 1997, the draftees were Tony Boselli (USC), Jonathan Ogden (UCLA) and Orlando Pace (Ohio State). I don’t believe Thomas is in that class, but he should be good for a long time. There are some concerns about his strength. He’ll need that against the likes of Aaron Smith (Pittsburgh) and Justin Smith (Cincinnati), but his strength is in diagnosis and quickness. He’ll need that against Terrell Suggs and the rest of the Ravens. Maybe Thomas can get the Browns to “Jump up, Jump up and Get Down!” at the end of the third quarter.

House of Pain video

A lot of mock drafts had Adrian Peterson going to the Browns. If you think about the Browns and Romeo Crennel, though, it’s not surprising that they went for a technician on the O-line. Crennel has Super Bowl rings (emphasis on the plural) that were won by teams without dominant running backs, but teams with power running games. It is important to be able to run with power; to get first downs late; and to run clock especially in inclement weather. It is not as important to have that elite running back. The league rushing champion has not played for a Super Bowl champion in years. The Cleveland pick fits with Crennel’s value system.

The Buccaneers take Clemson lineman Gaines Adams. I know they expect Adams to be an impact player right away. We’ll see. Adams was very productive in his games against ACC competition. (Side note: Brady Quinn looks sad. Dropping, dropping, dropping. Sad, sad, sad. He may be losing a bit of money today, but he’ll have ample opportunity to make it up.) I’m not totally sold on Adams, but I trust that Monte Kiffin knows exactly what the hell he is doing. Solid, safe pick for the Bucs. He could still be traded to the Lions and former Buc coach Rod Marinelli. They are probably negotiating for the Bucs 2nd round picks right now. Time will reveal.

Pick #5: Levi Brown, OT, Penn State to the Arizona Cardinals. No news here. Brown has to come in and dominate. He must win the position, protect Leinart and open holes for Edgerrin James. He will have excellent coaching from Russ Grimm, former O-line coach of the Steelers. If the Cardinals miss on this pick, the consequences will endure for years. Gotta get this right.

My favorite player in this year’s draft is probably going to the Washington Foreskins: LSU safety LaRon Landry! Damn. Can’t stand that team – but I cannot WAIT for the carnage that will be left by Landry and Sean Taylor when some quarterback hangs a receiver out to dry. LIGHTS OUT!!!!

Exhibit A: LaRon Landry standing over some cat that didn’t get the memo.

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Exhibit B: Sean Taylor doing what Sean Taylor does (when he’s not getting in trouble with the po-po).

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If you go over the middle against Washington, that’s your ass.