AFC East: Larry Fitzgerald
1. Not yet, Geno: Hoping to get a sense of how non-Jets personnel feel about Geno Smith, I interviewed 10 experts throughout the week -- talent evaluators, analysts and former players-turned-analysts. The overwheleming consensus: He hasn't done enough to be anointed the Jets' franchise quarterback, although many believe he deserves another shot with a better supporting cast.
"I don't think you just hand him the job," CBS' Rich Gannon said. "I think you make it a competitive situation. They have to get better at that position. They need more depth and talent there, and I anticipate that will happen this offseason."
A longtime personnel man mentioned two weaknesses and raised a question about Smith, saying: His body is "too soft," he must do a better job of processing information and, "Does he love football or does he like football?" In professional football, there's a huge difference.
Bart Scott said "you can't get a fair assessment" of Smith because of the lack of weapons on offense. He suggested acquiring Matt Schaub, who many believe will be released by the Houston Texans. Schaub is "somebody who can compete and steady the ship, a bridge if Geno isn't ready yet. If not, you move on and draft somebody else."
Former New York Giants wide receiver Amani Toomer said, "I don't think he's done enough to secure the job. I think he's done some good things, but he's done a lot of bad things, too, so I wouldn't bank on Geno Smith. He's a guy that can be promising -- he has a lot of potential -- but potential gets coaches fired."
Tony Richardson said the Jets should sign a veteran and create a competition, with Smith having "the upper hand" at the outset. Smith used up his slack last season, according to Richardson, who said "Jets fans went through the growing pains and now it's time to win football games. The best guy should be the starter, period."
Anthony Becht believes the Jets should be patient with Smith because of his physical talent. He said it was "a humbling year" for Smith, starting with his unexpected slide in the draft. The adversity, Becht said, will fuel Smith's motivation. "You stick with the guy," he said. "People are afraid to take the time and develop talent. Sometimes they don't come right out of the box."
2a. Temple of doom: Wilkerson played two years at Temple with Denver Broncos defensive tackle Terrance Knighton -- aka Pot Roast. Wilkerson was the young pup, Knighton the upperclassman. Knighton knew Wilkersom was something special. "He was actually my backup," Pot Roast said. "He's a great player. The whole time I was at Temple, I was hoping he wasn't going to start over me."
3. Spy Games: The acrimony between the Jets and New England Patriots runs so deep that, before the AFC Championship Game was played, the Patriots were squawking about the prospect of having to practice at the Jets' facility during the run-up to the Super Bowl. In fact, they wanted to practice at Rutgers instead of the Jets. It turned out to be a moot point, obviously. Both the Jets and Giants, concerned about the possibility of hosting division rivals for the week, actually asked the league if they could trade places -- NFC team at the Jets, AFC at the Giants. That request was denied. As it turned out, the Jets and Broncos hit it off. The Jets found the Broncos to be terrific guests.
4. Give my regards to Bradway: Only two players from Terry Bradway's final draft as the Jets' GM (2005) remain active in the league -- kicker Mike Nugent (Cincinnati Bengals) and tight end Joel Dreessen (Broncos). Dreessen played one season with the Jets and was cut by Eric Mangini in 2006. He never forgot it. In 2010, as a member of the Texans, he caught four passes for 106 yards and a touchdown against the Jets. When he scored, he fired the football at a Jets logo on the wall behind the end zone. "That was one of my most liberating moments," Dreessen told me. "That was a really cool moment for me."
5. Trade winds: The Jets should be monitoring the Larry Fitzgerald contract situation in Arizona. If it falls apart, the Jets should swoop in to see if he'd be available in a trade. Even though he turns 31 in August, Fitzgerald would be a perfect fit for the receiver-needy Jets -- at the right price, of course. He told several media outlets this week at the Super Bowl that he's willing to restructure his contract, which has an $18 million cap charge in 2014. Stay tuned.
Every time Rex Ryan does an interview (and he did plenty this week) and is asked about his recent contract extension, it sounds like he's trying to convince everyone (maybe even himself) that he's happy with the outcome. Just my two cents.
7. Speaking the same language: After listening to the Seattle Seahawks for a week, it's amazing how much their players and coaches emphasize competition. Sound familiar? Idzik, a former Seahawks executive, preaches the same gospel. It's rooted in the Pete Carroll philosophy. In fact, Carroll takes it to the extreme with "Competition Wednesday." Every Wednesday, the first-team offense competes against the first-team defense in an unscripted practice -- highly unusual in the NFL. Not even the Jets go that far. But, hey, it's a copy-cat league. If the Seahawks win the Super Bowl, you might see a "Competition Wednesday" or two popping up around the NFL.
8. No Ordinary Joe: Talked to a couple of Hall of Fame voters this week who can't believe Joe Klecko never garners serious consideration for the Hall. It's hard to believe, isn't it? All he did was make the Pro Bowl at three different positions on the defensive line.
10. An Ode to Peyton: Heard this anecdote about Peyton Manning a few years ago, and it bears repeating on Super Bowl Sunday. In 1998, Manning and Ryan Leaf were projected as the top two picks in the draft. The Chargers, picking second, wanted to interview both prospects. They sent an abbreviated version of their playbook to each and asked them to learn the offense before the interview. As a reward and a test, the coaches stapled a $20 bill to the last page -- a clever way to determine if they'd read the entire book. Leaf arrived for his interview and never mentioned anything about the $20. Clearly, he didn't know it was there. Manning showed up and immediately thanked the coaches for the $20. And there you have it. Unfortunately for the Chargers, they never got a shot at Manning, who went No. 1 overall.
But which team provides the best landing spot for Manning? If healthy, the future Hall of Famer will make any team a playoff contender.
If Manning moves to the AFC East, there are two teams in need of a franchise quarterback. The Miami Dolphins want to upgrade from Matt Moore and have made it no secret they'd love to add Manning. The New York Jets say third-year quarterback Mark Sanchez is their starter. But there are reports that some in the organization want Manning instead. Both AFC East teams have solid defenses that would support Manning.
It seems nearly the entire NFC West could be in the Manning sweepstakes. Would Manning be a great fit there? There’s been a lot of chatter, with the Arizona Cardinals making a pitch. Kevin Kolb is a bust, and receiver Larry Fitzgerald hasn't had a good quarterback since Kurt Warner. The San Francisco 49ers, with their stout defense and running game, would be a Super Bowl favorite by adding Manning. The Seattle Seahawks also could have interest, but we ran out of teams we could list.
Finally, what about the Washington Redskins? Owner Daniel Snyder always is looking for the next big thing. The Redskins have been a mess for a long time. Even veteran coach Mike Shanahan hasn't been able to clean it up. Would Manning be the answer in Washington?
Using our SportsNation poll, vote on which team provides the best landing spot for Manning. You can also share your thoughts in the comment section below.
Wide receiver Marcus Easley has been sidelined by a knee injury.
Stevie Johnson has high expectations coming off a breakout 2010 season. "Just try to be like Lee [Evans]," Johnson said. "Lee's one of the elite receivers. He's had 1,000-yard seasons, multiple 1,000-yard seasons. That's what I want to do. I want to be one of those receivers you hear about. Steve Smiths and all that. [Larry] Fitzgeralds. I want to be like those guys. I want to have consistent, 1,000-yard seasons and multiple touchdowns. I don't want to get it twisted and sound like an arrogant guy or anything. But that's the next step for me. I feel like I want to be in that category with those receivers, like Lee is."
Jason Taylor was surprised to get the call asking if he wanted to return to the Dolphins.
Greg Cote of The Miami Herald: "Nothing the Dolphins have done so far, post-lockout, would scream win-now and command the rest of the league’s attention as much as the acquisition -- still -- of quarterback Kyle Orton."
New England Patriots
Chad Ochocinco has vowed to blend in with his new teammates in New England.
Chad Finn of The Boston Globe says Randy Moss' final pattern wasn't a predictable one.
New York Jets
Mark Sanchez says it's time for him to step up his game.
Sporting a new tattoo, Rex Ryan was in midseason form on Monday when he met with the media.
About the choice: Marshall has been a frustrating acquisition for the Miami Dolphins. His off-field issues remain a serious concern. He was prone to silliness. He didn't seem capable of generating that coveted chemistry with quarterback Chad Henne. So production plummeted. Even so, Marshall is one of the NFL's most dangerous receivers. He didn't reach triple-digit receptions for the first time since 2006, but he still tied for sixth in the league despite missing two games. He finished with 86 catches for 1,014 yards and three touchdowns.
Key fact: ESPN Stats & Information charted 139 targets for Marshall, seventh in the NFL. Had he played all 16 games with that pace, he would have finished fourth behind only Larry Fitzgerald, Reggie Wayne and Roddy White.
Hint about No. 11: Aside from Tom Brady, no other player remaining on the list was drafted later.
- 13. David Harris, Jets inside linebacker
- 14. Devin McCourty, Patriots cornerback
- 15. Wes Welker, Patriots receiver
- 16. Karlos Dansby, Dolphins linebacker
- 17. Fred Jackson, Bills running back
- 18. Sebastian Vollmer, Patriots right tackle
- 19. Steve Johnson, Bills receiver
- 20. Vontae Davis, Dolphins cornerback
- 21. Bart Scott, Jets inside linebacker
- 22. Randy Starks, Dolphins defensive lineman
- 23. Dustin Keller, Jets tight end
- 24. Kendall Langford, Dolphins defensive end
- 25. Rob Gronkowski, Patriots tight end
I was surprised to see only three offensive linemen appear on the ballots of our eight panelists: Miami Dolphins left tackle Jake Long, Cleveland Browns left tackle Joe Thomas and New York Jets center Nick Mangold.
Only four voters, including me, mentioned more than one lineman. AFC South blogger Paul Kuharsky and NFC South blogger Pat Yaskinkas must have been assembling fantasy teams because they didn't name a single grunt.
- Adrian Peterson, Vikings running back
- Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals receiver
- Andre Johnson, Texans receiver
- Chris Johnson, Titans running back
- Calvin Johnson, Lions receiver
- Jake Long, Dolphins left tackle
- Antonio Gates, Chargers tight end
- Nick Mangold, Jets center
- Roddy White, Falcons receiver
- Jason Witten, Cowboys tight end
Nobody can argue against how crucial offensive linemen are to a team's success. And since we removed quarterbacks from the equation, they make even more sense to appear on this list. If a team has an established quarterback, then the next thing to do is protect him.
Without offensive linemen, there's not enough time for the star receivers to get open or lanes for running backs to bolt through.
The importance of left tackles was underscored when the Dolphins selected Long first overall in 2008. Long has lived up to the expectations at a critical position by making the Pro Bowl each of this three seasons. He was voted All-Pro last year.
Mangold is the best center in the game. While centers aren't necessarily viewed as prominent enough to draft early, Mangold's dominance is indisputable. He has been an All-Pro the past two seasons and a Pro Bowler three straight. That's why he made my list.
Each Thursday leading up to the NFL draft (April 28-30), the ESPN.com NFL blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today’s topic: history in that spot.
The Bills' top pick is No. 3 overall. Here are the past seven players taken in that spot, with their NFL teams in parentheses:
2010: DT Gerald McCoy (Buccaneers)
2009: DE Tyson Jackson (Chiefs)
2008: QB Matt Ryan (Falcons)
2007: T Joe Thomas (Browns)
2006: QB Vince Young (Titans)
2005: WR Braylon Edwards (Browns)
2004: WR Larry Fitzgerald (Cardinals)
ANALYSIS: Some sexy picks have been made in this spot. None of the players have been out-and-out busts, although character concerns have overshadowed a couple. Only McCoy and Jackson haven't been selected for at least one Pro Bowl. Fitzgerald is an elite receiver, arguably the best in the business. Edwards can be a dangerous playmaker when not dropping passes, which he didn't do last year. Ryan is an emerging star. Young has been a lightning rod, but he did win rookie of the year and has gone to a pair of Pro Bowls. Thomas is a star blocker with four Pro Bowls on his résumé already.
The Dolphins' top pick is No. 15 overall. Here are the past seven players taken in that spot, with their NFL teams in parentheses:
2010: DE Jason Pierre-Paul (Giants)
2009: LB Brian Cushing (Texans)
2008: G Branden Albert (Chiefs)
2007: LB Lawrence Timmons (Steelers)
2006: CB Tye Hill (Rams)
2005: LB Derrick Johnson (Chiefs)
2004: WR Michael Clayton (Buccaneers)
ANALYSIS: This is a region of the first round where picks can break either way. There have been solid players drafted here, but no superstars. Cushing was a rookie of the year, but his career has been tainted by performance-enhancing drug usage. Clayton made an immediate impact with 80 catches for 1,193 yards and seven touchdowns as a rookie but hasn't caught more than 38 passes since. Johnson has been a solid linebacker for Kansas City, while Timmons has been an influential member of Pittsburgh's defense the past two seasons. Hill has been the biggest disappointment. He has been with four teams, starting 25 games.
New England Patriots
The Patriots' first-round picks are Nos. 17 and 28 overall. Here are the past seven players taken in those spots, with their NFL teams in parentheses:
2010: G Mike Iupati (49ers) and DE Jared Odrick (Dolphins)
2009: QB Josh Freeman (Buccaneers) and G Eric Wood (Bills)
2008: T Gosder Cherilus (Lions) and DE Lawrence Jackson (Seahawks)
2007: DE Jarvis Moss (Broncos) and T Joe Staley (49ers)
2006: LB Chad Greenway (Vikings) and TE Marcedes Lewis (Jaguars)
2005: LB David Pollack (Bengals) and DE Luis Castillo (Chargers)
2004: LB D.J. Williams (Broncos) and CB Chris Gamble (Panthers)
ANALYSIS: Results have been mixed with these slots, but the 28th pick actually has found more starters than the 17th in recent years. Freeman showed signs of developing into a future star last year, and Cherilus has started 40 of his 43 games at right tackle. Williams and Greenway have been regular starters. But Moss and Pollack didn't work out. In the 28th slot, Odrick is the only one who hasn't been a regular starter. Injuries detonated his rookie season.
New York Jets
The Jets' top pick is No. 30 overall. Here are the past seven players taken in that spot, with their NFL teams in parentheses:
2010: RB Jahvid Best (Lions)
2009: WR Kenny Britt (Titans)
2008: TE Dustin Keller (Jets)
2007: WR Craig Davis (Chargers)
2006: RB Joseph Addai (Colts)
2005: TE Heath Miller (Steelers)
2004: RB Kevin Jones (Lions)
ANALYSIS: What strikes me is that all seven selections not only are offensive players but also ball handlers. Perhaps teams in the back of the draft feel they can gamble a little bit and try to hit big on a skill position. Whatever the reasoning, it seems to have worked. This has been a successful spot. Jones and Addai rushed for 1,000 yards as rookies. Best appears to be the Lions' running back of the future. Miller and Addai have gone to Pro Bowls. Britt was the Titans' leading receiver last year. Keller is one of the NFL's better tight ends.
That, of course, shouldn't taint all NFL people.
Freelance writer Steve Terrill wrote a feature about a group of nine players who spent a month touring Rwanda with the Starkey Hearing Foundation to fit functionally deaf people with hearing aids.
Miami Dolphins cornerback Vontae Davis was part of the group, along with his brother, San Francisco 49ers tight end Vernon Davis, Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson and Arizona Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald.
"The first time I helped someone to hear, I was so moved. I was emotional," Fitzgerald told Terrill. "To see a child hear their mother's voice for the first time and see their family's reaction is one of the moments I will never forget. We all have basic needs, and hearing is one of those needs."
If you're feeling a bit jaded about what's going on with the NFL these days, do yourself a favor and read this piece. It will do your football conscience some good.
ESPN.com's blog network began its series of positional power rankings Tuesday with wide receivers. I included only one AFC East target on my ballot, omitting some big names readers will disagree with.
Although Brandon Marshall earned enough votes to crack the top 10, he didn't appear on my list. Neither did Wes Welker, Steve Johnson or Braylon Edwards.
- Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals
- Andre Johnson, Houston Texans
- Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions
- Roddy White, Atlanta Falcons
- Greg Jennings, Green Bay Packers
- Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City Chiefs
- Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis Colts
- DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia Eagles
- Brandon Lloyd, Denver Broncos
- Santonio Holmes, New York Jets
Nine of my 10 nominees comprised the consensus top 10. The lone discrepancy was the last slot.
I almost didn't vote for Holmes. I originally had Pittsburgh Steelers burner Mike Wallace on the list, but I couldn't deny the direct impact Holmes had in closing out colossal victories for the Jets.
Holmes' stats weren't staggering, but he started the season with a four-game suspension that kept him out of the lineup and off the practice field. Once the NFL activated Holmes, it took him a couple weeks to get back into the offense. Then he was sensational. He had eight touchdowns in his last 11 games, including two out of three postseason games.
I couldn't bring myself to include Marshall. He had a nice reception total, but he scored only three touchdowns (one by December) and averaged the fewest yards per catch of any wide receiver with at least 850 yards. The Miami Dolphins had one of the NFL's weakest red-zone offenses, and a top 10 receiver should be able to help in that regard.
Welker didn't make the cut because he had a terrible season when it came to drops. ESPN Stats & Information charted a league-leading 11 drops. Welker averaged fewer yards than Marshall despite nearly half of his total (848 yards) coming after the catch (410 yards). That's a lot of long handoffs.
ESPNBoston.com reporter Mike Reiss spent some time with the five-time Pro Bowler and asked his thoughts about the New England Patriots and compared the AFC East to the NFC West, which was won by the 7-9 Seattle Seahawks.
"I think it all starts with the head coach," Fitzgerald said of Bill Belichick. "He does a fantastic job, week in and week out, keeping his guys mentally prepared to go out there and play. He's the only coach in history to have four seasons with 14 wins, and that alone speaks volumes of what he's able to accomplish, especially in that [AFC East] division.
"I think you're looking at the NFL's strongest division from top to bottom. If Buffalo played in the NFC West, they'd probably win the NFC West. That's a strong, strong division, and he's found a way to win it [eight] times. It's astonishing."
The Bills went 4-12 in the AFC East but were competitive in several of their losses, taking three playoff teams into overtime before losing.
The order is set through the seventh pick. The winner of Sunday's night game will impact the rest of the order. But the Dolphins will be slotted 15th no matter what, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Playoff teams are slotted based on when they're eliminated from the tournament. We must wait to learn where the New England Patriots and New York Jets will select.
The order so far:
- Carolina Panthers
- Denver Broncos
- Buffalo Bills
- Cincinnati Bengals
- Arizona Cardinals
- Cleveland Browns
- San Francisco 49ers
Who will the Bills select?
I have no clue. Neither does anybody else.
We have four months to find out what their options might be after they comb through their roster, conduct the offseason evaluation process, pick up or lose players via free agency and then scout and interview hundreds of college prospects who will fluctuate with every combine workout, pro day, suspension, personal background disclosure or injury revelation.
And even then, once the Bills were on the clock eight months ago, how many people predicted they would draft running back C.J. Spiller?
That's why it's folly at this juncture to guess who the Bills -- or any other team -- will target in the first round, let alone assign the name of a specific candidate.
But here's what we can do for Bills fans. We can take a look at the recent history of third overall picks.
2010: Gerald McCoy, Buccaneers defensive tackle
2009: Tyson Jackson, Chiefs defensive end
2008: Matt Ryan, Falcons quarterback
2007: Joe Thomas, Browns tackle
2006: Vince Young, Texans quarterback
2005: Braylon Edwards, Browns receiver
2004: Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals receiver
2003: Andre Johnson, Texans receiver
2002: Joey Harrington, Lions quarterback
2001: Gerard Warren, Browns defensive lineman
2000: Chris Samuels, Redskins tackle
The gesture was impressive, a sign of commitment from the Bills to a player on the rise. But the money hasn't been well-spent.
On another team, Evans would be worthy of the handsome investment. He has game-breaking speed and fantastic hands. He should own some dazzling stats.
Yet he never has been to a Pro Bowl, never has put together consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, never has cracked double-digit touchdowns -- all the things you'd expect from an elite receiver making elite money.
Evans, the 13th overall pick in 2004, flickered greatness. He was an immediate deep threat, scoring nine touchdowns and averaging 17.6 yards a catch as a rookie with Drew Bledsoe. Evans hasn't matched those numbers since, enduring a long list of offensive coordinators and substandard quarterbacks -- from J.P. Losman to Trent Edwards to Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Evans has topped 63 receptions once, when he established career highs with 82 catches for 1,292 yards in 2006.
Pro-Football-Refernce.com has a feature that compares players whose careers were "of similar quality and shape."
Through three seasons, Evans was compared to the likes of Andre Rison, Ernest Givens, Andre Johnson and James Lofton.
Six seasons into Evans' career, he's grouped with Ron Shanklin, Santonio Holmes, Jerricho Cotchery, James Scott and Steve Watson.
Evans still has time to make something of his career, but his time in Buffalo has generally been a waste.
This will be viewed among Dolfans as the most encouraging offseason news since the club signed inside linebacker Karlos Dansby five weeks ago.
Rookie head coach Cam Cameron was booed and heckled by Dolfans when he stepped to the microphone at a draft party in the team's practice bubble. Many fans wanted the Dolphins to select Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn.
As fans chanted "Bra-dy! Bra-dy!" Cameron was extolling Ginn's virtues as a punt returner. Not exactly what you want to hear about a ninth overall pick.
Quinn didn't work out for the Cleveland Browns, who traded him to the Denver Broncos for running back Peyton Hillis, a sixth-round draft choice in 2011 and a conditional pick in 2012.
That sounds like a bonanza for Ginn, especially when you consider the New York Jets acquired Super Bowl MVP receiver Santonio Holmes for a fifth-round choice.
NFL.com's Jason La Canfora reported the Dolphins are shopping Ginn around the league. That could be the harbinger to the Dolphins selecting a receiver with the 12th pick because Ginn is the Dolphins' lone downfield threat, however inadequate the rest of his game might be.
Ginn has electrifying speed, as demonstrated when he returned two kickoffs for touchdowns in a Week 8 victory over the Jets.
But he has been a bust as a receiver. Over three seasons, he has 128 receptions for 1,664 yards and five touchdowns.
Ginn's known more for his dropped passes and penchant for running out of bounds to avoid contact.
Stat site ProFootballFocus.com tallied 10 drops last year for Ginn. That tied for most in the NFL. Factor in his 38 receptions, and Ginn's drop percentage was 20.8 percent, third-worst in the league among all wide receivers and tight ends.
What good does Ginn's blazing speed provide when he can't make a play?
ESPN Stats & Information calculated Ginn had the worst catch percentage among all NFL receivers on passes that travel more than 20 yards downfield.
The Dolphins tried him deep 15 times, but only three were completed. Arizona Cardinals star Larry Fitzgerald and Detroit Lions receiver Bryant Johnson had identical numbers. Fitzgerald, of course, makes other types of great catches Ginn does not.
If the Dolphins dump Ginn, they will have only two players -- nose tackle Paul Soliai and punter Brandon Fields -- remaining from their 2007 draft class, the final group selected by general manager Randy Mueller and Cameron before Bill Parcells fired them.
The Madden Curse won't strike anybody in the AFC East this year.
The cover boy for Madden NFL 10, the most popular football video game since George Plimpton told us how realistic Intellivision was, will be revealed Friday afternoon at the Edison Ballroom in New York.
None of the nine cover finalists hails from the AFC East -- anymore.
But one made his mark last year for the New England Patriots. Here's the list:
- Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel
- Arizona Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald
- New York Giants running back Brandon Jacobs
- Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning
- Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson
- Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu
- Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed
- Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger
- Dallas Cowboys linebacker DeMarcus Ware
I thought Miami Dolphins quarterback Chad Pennington or running back Ronnie Brown -- the Wildcat formation supposedly has been installed in the upcoming game, due on shelves Aug. 14 -- easily could be justified on that list.
Does Cassel really belong on that list? He might be the one actually chosen for the cover. Cassel, Fitzgerald and Jacobs were the only candidates invited to Friday's unveiling.
I predict Fitzgerald will be selected for the cover.
NFL analyst Cris Collinsworth, the man replacing John Madden in the "Sunday Night Football" booth, and veteran play-by-play man Tom Hammond break down each player in a series of nine videos at the Madden NFL 10 site.
"Probably the most stunning story that I can remember in a long time in the NFL," Collinsworth says. "Here's a guy that didn't even play college football. It was at USC and standing in line behind some great players.
"But you think of taking off not only that gap in years of college but that gap in years behind Tom Brady and then being asked to come in and take over for an undefeated team and the pressure that went with it. He wasn't perfect, but to be put in that situation ... I thought he handled himself tremendously well.
"As far as a great story of what happened in the NFL a year ago, [Cassel] was as good as it got."
PAHOKEE, Fla. -- When the Philadelphia Eagles traded for Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters and gave him a six-year contract worth $60 million, they eliminated themselves as a potential landing pad for Anquan Boldin.
But the fact another star player was traded at all is encouraging to Boldin, the dangerous receiver who's unhappy with the Arizona Cardinals.
|Check out the top highlights of Cardinals WR Anquan Boldin from 2008.|
"It can happen," Boldin said. "The [Jay] Cutler deal happened, too. So anything is possible. We'll have to wait and see."
Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt said Wednesday for the first time that the team is willing to listen to trade proposals for Boldin before next weekend's draft. Boldin has asked to be traded since the Cardinals gave receiver Larry Fitzgerald a four-year, $40 million contract.
Boldin grinned Saturday when asked about Whisenhunt's public comments.
"It's more of a relief because things are starting to move," said Boldin, in his hometown of Pahokee, Fla., to wrap up the fifth-annual Q-fest Weekend, a three-day community event. "After the season ended, there was nothing being done. At least there is movement.
"Like I've said all along, the only thing I want is a resolution. Hopefully, this leads towards that."
The Miami Dolphins and New York Jets are among the teams craving help at receiver. The Jets reportedly have phoned the Cardinals already to see where negotiations start. First- and a third-round picks are believed to be the Cardinals' asking price.
This week, I spoke to Scouts Inc. analyst Matt Williamson to break down how Boldin would fit with the Dolphins and how he would fit with the Jets.
Boldin and his Miami-based agent, Drew Rosenhaus, have stated multiple times over the past year that Boldin would love to play for the Dolphins. Their facility is about a 90-minute drive from Pahokee, located on the south coast of Lake Okeechobee.
"Everything is completely out of my hands," Boldin said. "There's absolutely nothing I can do at this point to make something happen or push things along.
"At this time of year, when the draft comes along, there are always names being mentioned. This year, my name just happens to be one of them being brought up again. We'll just have to wait and see."
Although the Miami Dolphins shocked everyone by winning the AFC East, football operations chief Bill Parcells this weekend said his team still needs players.
Last week, I invited Dolphins fans to identify the biggest need and have a little fun in the process by responding to the following question:
If money, contracts and salary-cap restraints were no object, and you could choose any player in the NFL to add to your team, whom would you acquire?
Here's a sampling of responses left in the comments section and in my AFC East mailbag:
Zach from Eustis, Fla., writes: I think you go with a top notch linebacker like Demarcus Ware opposite Joey Porter and i think that makes your secondary better as well as your linebackers, or i guess you could say the whole defense better. They got to get more pressure. You could get a big WR in the draft as well as some o-line depth, and you also get two o-lineman back from injury. I think when Henne takes over then you go for a reciever like Fitsgerald or Boldin because you got someone that can utilize them better with their arm strength.
Craig in Toledo, Ohio, writes: Tim love the blog and how you actually gave my Dolphins a chance to win the East win everyone counted them out! That being said I would have to pick Larry Fitzgerald if I could add one player to the Dolphins line up. I believe that break out receiver is really missing in Miami and could you imagine guys like Ginn and Camarillo playing 2nd and 3rd. Pennington could certainly make that work and then the ever dangerous Fasano at tight end. I think with an addition like Fitzgerald it really could put the Phins offense on another level. Thoughts?
phinsfan1984 writes: Sticking with idea of only one guy, Id say Ed Reed. The guy improves any defense he joins and with his ball hawking skill, he gives the offense a short field to play with alot of the time.
hamelsimms writes: I agree with sykora13.."Asomugha, too dominant a player to pass on." He would more than make up for the rest of the defenses weaknesses (which aren't alot). But if we get two picks, then give me Snee as well. Satele was a good center this year. He'll put on a little more muscle in the offseason, and continue to grow next year to a potential pro bowl center. But if you put Snee next to Satele...then sit back and enjoy the new running game in South Florida.
Miami's receiving corps is loaded with castoffs and overachievers. A player such as Fitzgerald would be a monster upgrade, but would Chad Pennington be able to maximize an asset like that? Possession receivers like Greg Camarillo and Davone Bess work well within the Dolphins' system, but Fitzgerald wouldn't be nearly the weapon with Pennington as he is with Kurt Warner or another long-ball artisan.
For the purposes of this poll, however, debate about receivers is moot because the name that popped up most frequently will win out, and this one was a landslide.
In the AFC East Blog's Plus One, the Dolphins select cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha.