Jacksonville Jaguars

2010 NFL Season: Week 15 in Review

A game of inches, obscene noises, and definitive silence.

Antonio Cromartie, aka The Jersey Boy: Nice Grab

And this, too. (And it’s not a replay.)

Antonio Cromartie Masterfully Turns the Inside Shoulder

Um, and this one, too.

Antonio Cromartie Demonstrates Desperation

And this, too.

Dwight Lowery Snuggles Close to Emmanuel Sanders

Jets 22, Steelers 17.   “Emmanuel!! Wait!  Dont’ leave me this way.   I luuuuuuuv you, man!  Don’t go!  I need you.”

No whistles.  No biggie.  It all evens out in the end.

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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: Lousaka Polite Keeps ‘Em Moving

The Miami Dolphins running game has not been stalled because of the season-ending injury to Ronnie Brown.  The Dolphins attack is multi-faceted and, in many respects, relies on the intelligence, guts and effectiveness of fullback Lousaka Polite.  The 6’0″, 250 pound masher out of the University of Pittsburgh has played for the Dallas Cowboys, Chicago Bears and Miami Dolphins during his six-year career.

The Dolphins pride themselves on having a physical attack.  Here are some shots of Lousaka Polite clearing a path for Ricky Williams in Week 14 vs. the Jacksonville Jaguars.  The Dolphins win gave them the tie-breaker over the Jags in their pursuit of a playoff berth.

Lousaka Locks On.

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2009 NFL Season: Week 13 Picks

After going 13-2 two weeks ago (missing on Oakland over Cincinnati and Kansas City over Pittsburgh) and following that up with a 10-6 week (including a 41-17 prediction of New Orleans over New England), there is no doubt that I am on fire!!

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2009 NFL Season: Week 9’s Biggest Losers

The week isn’t over yet, but on Sunday, some teams lost more than a single game.  It’s still early enough that anything can happen, but some teams may be watching their seasons fall apart.  Let’s take a look at the early casualties.

  • San Francisco 49ers. You knew the Titans were a dangerous opponent.  With Vince Young quarterbacking and Mike Heimerdinger calling plays, the Titans were sure to rely on a conservative attack  and their ability to pound the rock and force turnovers.  That’s exactly what happened.  The Titans won 34-27 on the road and forced Alex Smith into a sloppy, hurried game.  Frank Gore was dynamic and versatile, but he didn’t dominate the action like he did before the Viking game.  Suddenly, a team that began the season 3-1 with quality wins over division opponents is sitting at 3-5.  The bad news is that first-place Arizona won at Chicago on the strength of a 5 td performance by Kurt Warner (without Anquan Boldin).  The good news is that the Niners only trail them by 2 games — and already have a win at Arizona.  Mike Singletary has changed quarterbacks.  They score more points with Smith, but have less ball security than under Hill.  Next up: the Bears, Packers, Jags, Seahawks.  There is no reason this team can’t be 7-5 in a month.  Book It: If they’re +8 or better in turnovers over that time frame, they’re going to the playoffs.
  • New York Giants. If the playoffs began tomorrow, the New York Giants would have the same vantage point as the New York Yankees, and you and I.  They’d be watching from home.  The Giants have lost at home to the Arizona Cardinals and San Diego Chargers.  They’ve lost on the road to the New Orleans Saints and Philadelphia Eagles.  There really is no shame in losing to any of these teams.  The Saints finished in last place last season, but they’ve been remade and have yet to lose a game this season.  Arizona and the Eagles played in the NFC Championship game last year.  San Diego is a perennial playoff contender.  That the Giants have lost to these teams in consecutive weeks is surprising.  That the Giants have failed to score more than 20 points in any of these games is shocking.  The Chargers have been an enigmatic bunch all season.  They’re 5-3, but could be 7-1 or 2-6.  They’re inconsistent and have been unable to stop the run since the injury to Jamal Williams in September.  All of that sounded like a recipe for resurrection in the Meadowlands.  It didn’t happen.  Instead, the same depleted secondary that was undressed by Drew Brees was dissected by Philip Rivers.  The Giants could do “soul-searching” or any number of things on their bye week, but the answers (like the problems) are on the field.  The execution is simply what it has been — on either side of the ball.  When the sun rises tomorrow, the Giants will be 2 games behind the leader of the NFC East.  Next up: Atlanta, Denver, Dallas, Philadelphia.  This could get much worse before it gets any better.  Book It: If the Giants are not able to defeat second and third tier quarterbacks like Matt Ryan and Kyle Orton, the season will be over before they meet host Dallas and Philadelphia in consecutive weeks.
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Eli Isn't the Only Man On the Run (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

  • Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens are kicking themselves tonite for taking the Bengals lightly.  I don’t know why they continue to do that.  It seems they forget that they have a 3-8 record vs. Carson Palmer.  They don’t scare him.  He torches them more regularly and scars them more deeply than any QB in the league.  Really, if they think about it, they’re his bird bitches.  They probably don’t like to admit it, but 8 wins is 8 wins.  The Ravens know they will not be winning the AFC North this season.  They will not be beating the Steelers twice.  They may not even beat them once.  The good news, though, is that they hold tie breakers over the Broncos and Chargers.  Only 1 of them can win the division.  If the Ravens can somehow manage to get to 10 or 11 wins, they can sneak in as the 3rd in the AFC North.  New England, a probably division winner is the only team they’ve lost to in the AFC aside from Cincinnati.  It means their destiny is still in their own hands.  Baltimore can win 6 or 7 of their final 8 games.  If they do, they’re in because of their wins over the AFC West.  Next up: Browns, Colts, Steelers, Packers.  They get Indy and Pitt at home.  Book It: If Baltimore finds a way to win these 4 games and wins out until their Dec. 27th game in Pittsburgh, they’ll beat whomever they play in the Wild Card round.

Teams like the Bears, Texans and Packers lost games yesterday that likely surprised their die-hard fans.  What Bears fan doesn’t expect to beat the Cardinals in Soldier Field?  In all honesty, the Bears simply are not the same team they were at the beginning of the season.  The Bears were fortunate to beat the Steelers this season — and that win has been the cause of all “great expectations” since the signing of Jay Cutler.  It was a quality win.  It was something the Vikings were unable to do.  Still, there hasn’t been much for the Monsters of the Midway to hang their hats on.  Without Urlacher and Hillenmeyer, I don’t expect much.

For all their talent and perennial promise for unleashing potential, the Texans simply cannot be expected to win at Indianapolis.  I expect them to do what they did — play tough, play a little less than smart, and lose.

The Packers simply are not a good team.  They play unevenly and had to be flatter than week-old Coke after playing against Brett Favre under the national spotlight at home last week and then traveling in anonymity to lifeless Raymond James Stadium for a late game vs. a rookie quarterback and a rookie coach.  Teams that lose games like this don’t really belong in the post-season.  Green Bay will find their way out.

Addendum:

  • Philadelphia Eagles. Anytime you lose at home to a division rival, it’s painful and it adversely impacts your playoff positioning.  This version of the Eagles is losing games they are supposed to win.  They’ve lost at Oakland…and now this.  If you don’t think the Eagles are going to regret this loss, consider that over the next four weeks, they will be on the road at San Diego, at Chicago and at Atlanta.  The Eagles could lose every one of these games.  The last time the Eagles played on the West Coast, they lost to Oakland.  Against Dallas, the Eagles only ran the ball 23 times.  They didn’t run many plays overall.  Philly only converted 4 of 12 first downs, including some notable failures on 3rd and 4th down with short distances to go.  Jason Peters was injured.  Asante Samuel was roughed up.  Sheldon Brown was toasted.  Brian Westbrook was inactive.  Michael Vick was ineffective (He’s got time.)  McNabb looked like his ribs are still sore…and he also looked like he always looks.

2009 NFL Season: Week 6 Recap

There were some compelling story lines that emerged this week.  The Bengals took a not-so-surprising plunge back to earth after beating the Steelers and Ravens.  The Giants were undressed.  The “Sanchise” took it on the chin 5 times and the Jets found a new way to lose.  The Vikings showed just how tough they’re going to be down the stretch.  (It looks an awful lot like the Saints and Vikings are going to play for the NFC Championship.)  The Eagles did the unthinkable.  With all of these stories, perhaps nothing was more surprising that the rapid and complete demise of the once-proud Tennessee Titans.

Welker_v_Titans

AP Photo - Winslow Townson

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McNabb’s Rhythm and Garcia’s Echo

In Week 3 of the 2009 NFL exhibition season, the Philadelphia Eagles visited the Jacksonville Jaguars.  The third game is typically when starters play most of their minutes.  This is the one pre-season game that is usually worth watching, even if your principal interest isn’t with the competition for the final linebacker spot on the roster.  The game was physical, hard fought, and sloppy.  It was typical.  The Eagles would eventually win, 33-32. (more…)

The Man Behind the Giants Running Game

Why are the New York Giants so good at pounding the rock?

The New York Giants have had tremendous success running the ball over the past few years.  Historic seasons by Tiki Barber; Brandon Jacobs crushing defenders; Madison Hedgecock clearing holes; Derrick Ward eluding and erasing tacklers; and, a bruising Super Bowl win over the New England Patriots that included the diminuitive Ahmad Bradshaw dragging defensive tackles like sacks of laundry.  That power running game continued in 2008.  How about 207 yards rushing vs. the Baltimore Ravens defense?

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The team will not be playing in the Super Bowl in two weeks, but they did accomplish many things they set out to do this year.  There is a face behind this success and I hadn’t seen it until I did some hunting around online.

There are plenty of friendly jabs and genuine conversations at the dinner table on almost every Friday night during the season. That’s when Ingram and the running backs go out to dinner to discuss more than just football.

“You know how the folks talk about the running-back controversy — like a quarterback controversy? That’s what it keeps out,” Jacobs said of the weekly get-together. “It keeps all that confusion down. We’re closer on the field than we are off and (the dinner) takes out all of that stuff.”

But it was at a recent dinner with a non-teammate during which Jacobs understood the impact Ingram can have. Sitting across the table was Barber, who has been openly critical of Coughlin since retiring after the 2006 season.

“He was saying how great of a coach Jerald was,” Jacobs recalled.

“He said, ‘Listen to Jerald. He won’t steer you wrong.'”

ingramFrom the Giants website:

Jerald Ingram is in his fifth season as the Giants’ running backs coach and he has mentored a 1,000-yard rusher in every one of them. Ingram, who joined the Giants on Jan. 13, 2004, has 24 years of coaching experience, including 15 as an assistant to Tom Coughlin.

The running backs overcame the loss of three-time Pro Bowler Tiki Barber and several injuries to average 134.3 rushing yards a game, the fourth-highest total in the NFL. In addition, fullback Madison Hedgecock didn’t join the team until Sept. 12, but became a vital member of the backfield as a blocker and receiver.

Third-year pro Brandon Jacobs, elevated to the starting position, led the team with 1,009 rushing yards, despite missing five games and most of a sixth with knee and hamstring injuries. It was the sixth year in a row the Giants had a 1,000-yard rusher (Barber had the first five). The San Diego Chargers are the only other NFL team with a 1,000-yard rusher each season since 2002. LaDainian Tomlinson had all six 1,000-yard efforts.

In addition to Jacobs, Derrick Ward rushed for 602 yards and averaged 4.8 yards a carry before fracturing his fibula at Chicago on Dec. 2. Rookie Ahmad Bradshaw helped clinch a playoff berth with an 88-yard touchdown in Buffalo, the third-longest run in Giants history. Bradshaw also led the Giants in the postseason with 208 yards.

In Ingram’s first three seasons with the Giants, Barber emerged as one of the very best running backs in the NFL and one of the finest players in franchise history. Barber, who retired following the 2006 season, had never played in the Pro Bowl prior to Ingram’s arrival. But he was voted to the NFC team each of his final three seasons. In those three seasons, he rushed, in order, for 1,518 yards in 2004, a team-record 1,860 yards in 2005 and 1,662 yards last season. Barber, who rushed for 5,409 yards in his first seven Giants seasons, ran for 5,040 in just three years under Ingram to finish with a franchise-record 10,449 yards. Barber set the franchise record with 234 rushing yards at Washington in his final regular season game, breaking the mark of 220 yards he had set the previous season.

Ingram also helped make Jacobs one of the NFL’s best short-yardage and goal-line backs in limited playing time his first two seasons. In 2004, Jacobs was the first Giants rookie to score seven touchdowns since Bobby Johnson in 1984 and the first to rush for seven touchdowns since Bill Paschal ran for 10 scores in 1943. The following season, Jacobs rushed for 423 yards and nine scores to establish himself as Barber’s successor.

Prior to joining the Giants, Ingram was the running backs coach under Coughlin at Boston College and Jacksonville. The Jaguars were the only NFL team to rush for more than 2,000 yards in each season from 1998-2000, including an NFL-high 2,091 yards in 1999. Under Ingram’s direction, Fred Taylor rushed for more than 1,200 yards three times, including a team-record 1,399 yards in 2000, when he missed 3½ games. Taylor had nine consecutive 100-yard games, tied for the third-longest streak in NFL history. In 1998, the Jaguars rushed for a team-record 2,102 yards. Ingram is also known for turning his running backs into fine blockers and receivers; when he left Jacksonville, running backs had two of the three longest touchdown receptions in team history.

Ingram joined the Jaguars on March 3, 1994, 18 months before the franchise played its first regular season game, and stayed in Jacksonville until Coughlin left following the 2002 season. He was one of four assistant coaches who were with Coughlin during his entire tenure with the Jaguars.

Prior to his time in Jacksonville, Ingram spent three seasons as the running backs coach at Boston College. He began his coaching career in 1984, as a graduate assistant at the University of Michigan, his alma mater. The following year, he joined the staff at Ball State, first as tight ends coach, then as the running backs coach for five seasons. In 1991, he joined Coughlin at Boston College.

A fullback at Michigan, Ingram earned three letters and played on two Wolverines teams that won the Big Ten championship and advanced to the Rose Bowl. He graduated in 1984 with a degree in general studies.

Ingram was born in Dayton, Ohio. He grew up in Beaver, Pa. He and his wife, Kathleen, have a son, Julian.

Super Bowl Giants Football

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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