NFC East: DeShaun Foster
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
When I'm not waiting by the mailbox for my copy of the 2009 Football Outsiders Almanac, I'm reading the work of Football Outsiders online. They do a really nice job of taking all the stats available on NFL.com and showing you how meaningless they can be. I find myself bringing up DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) numbers almost nightly during dinner conversations with my spouse and soon-to-be 2-year-old daughter.
I'm not able to take my Almanac on the road because, at 37 pounds, it's actually considered a carry-on item. But seriously, people like Jim Schwartz, currently the head coach of the Detroit Lions, read it religiously and have even suggested ideas to Football Outsiders staffers such as Aaron Schatz and Bill Barnwell.
On Friday, the Football Outsiders came up with the 25 most overrated NFL players in this decade as well as the 25 most underrated. Most of our ESPN Insiders have probably studied these lists, but today only, I'm allowed to share some of the information with the non-paying public. And before you trash the Football Outsiders, take the time to read about their innovative approach. Then feel free to trash them with a clear conscience.
So just off the top of your head, who were the most overrated players from this decade? For some reason, so-called shutdown cornerbacks keeping popping into my head. DeAngelo Hall's one of the first names that came to mind. Throw in Nate Clements as well. And I think Cowboys left tackle Flozell Adams should rank pretty high on the overrated list.
But the most overrated player this decade, according to Football Outsiders, was Panthers running back DeShaun Foster. Atlanta's Michael Vick was No. 2 on the list, so the NFC South's off to a quick start. But for our purposes, let's stick with the NFC East players who appeared on the list:
8. Stephen Alexander, TE, Redskins: Played the first four years of his career with the Redskins. According to our favorite number crunchers, Alexander only caught 52 percent of his intended passes, which is well below the league average for tight ends -- 64 percent.
10. DeAngelo Hall, CB, Redskins: Ding Ding Ding! Looks like I was onto something. Football Outsiders said Hall was only "slightly above average" in Atlanta and "miserable" for the Raiders.
11. Keith Brooking, LB, Cowboys: Obviously, Brooking "earned" his spot on the team as a Falcon. But he's in the NFC East now. He made the list because of his limitations in coverage.
12. Flozell Adams, LT, Cowboys: The NFC East is on a roll in the "most overrated" category. I knew Adams would show up somewhere on the list. He had one near-brilliant season (2003) but he quickly remembered how to be mediocre. The Football Outsiders pointed to his false starts.
14. Terence Newman, CB, Cowboys: Wait, these are fighting words! When healthy, Newman's among the best in the game. Of course, I'm basing that on the eye test. The Outsiders say he's paid like an "elite" player but he doesn't have a history of playing like one. I still don't think he's an overrated player, though. Teams don't throw in his direction a lot. That's a compliment to him as a player.
22. Roy Williams, S, formerly with the Cowboys: I'm going to put him on the list even though he's joined the Bengals. He was on his way to being a dynamic player while under the tutelage of Darren Woodson in 2002-03. But when Woodson's career ended because of a back injury, Williams' career went into full retreat. I'm still not sure why the Cowboys gave him the lucrative extension.
OK, let's take a little time to digest this list. I think a lot of folks would agree the Cowboys are the most over-hyped team in the league on an annual basis. And Aaron Schatz's list backs that up. I'll be back later with the most underrated players -- if anyone's interested.
Posted by ESPN's Sal Paolantonio
PHILADELPHIA -- In light of ankle surgery for Brian Westbrook, should the Eagles be in the market for a veteran running back?
Westbrook is having bone spurs in his right ankle removed Friday by Dr. Mark Myerson of Baltimore in a procedure called "debridement," which is essentially a clean-out of dead debris around his joint. Most orthopedic surgeons will tell you that Westbrook will not be able to run on that ankle for about six weeks. Two weeks of running and conditioning puts Westbrook on the doorstep of training camp, which opens for Eagles veterans July 29.
It is not unreasonable to believe that Westbrook will be held out of any contact drills at camp in the early stages and probably will not play for the first two preseason games.
In the meantime, that would be a heavy workload to put on backups Lorenzo Booker and rookie LeSean McCoy. Both are smallish backs: Booker is 5-foot-10, 191 pounds; McCoy is 5-10, 198. Before the season starts, that will be a lot of wear and tear on two backs who have yet to prove they can handle it. The Eagles have six more OTA practices until they break for the summer. Booker and McCoy will report to training camp with the rookies and selected veterans July 26.
Last year, Booker could not get on the field because he was an ineffective blocker and could not break tackles in the interior. He had just 20 carries for 53 yards and no touchdowns. At Pitt, the knock on McCoy was his blocking, which is critical in the Eagles' West Coast offense. If he can't pick up the blitz, he won't stay on the field very long.
And what if Westbrook, who already had offseason surgery on his left knee, has another setback? He turns 30 on Sept. 2. He is coming off his least productive year as an Eagle, especially in the playoffs, when he rushed for just 2.4 yards a carry, well below his postseason career average of 4.6 yards a pop.
So, whom can the Eagles target? They are $23 million under the NFL salary cap, the fifth-most cap room in the league. So, it's financially doable. Here is a list of free agents out there:
- Warrick Dunn: 34 years old, 786 rush yards, 330 receiving yards last season
- Ahman Green: 32 years old, 294 rush yards, 3 rushing touchdowns
- Rudi Johnson: 29 years old, 237 rush yards, 1 rushing touchdown
- Deuce McAllister: 30 years old, 418 rush yards, 5 rushing touchdowns
- Edgerrin James: 30 years old (31 in August), 514 rushing yards, 3 rushing touchdowns
- DeShaun Foster: 29 years old, 514 rushing yards, 1 touchdown
- Chris Perry: 27 years old, 269 rushing yards, 2 rushing touchdowns
- Michael Pittman: 33 years old, 320 rushing yards, 4 rushing touchdowns
Sal Paolantonio is an ESPN bureau reporter based in Philadelphia