NFC North: Jake Delhomme
Three teams placed waiver claims last week on former Denver Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton. He was awarded to the Kansas City Chiefs, so it's at least fair to speculate that the Minnesota Vikings' reported decision Thursday to waive quarterback Donovan McNabb is based on a hope that he would be claimed as well in a time of high injury rates for quarterbacks around the league.
McNabb hasn't taken a snap since the Vikings benched him late in their Oct. 16 game at the Chicago Bears. Rookie Christian Ponder has started the past five games, and at 2-9, there is no competitive reason for the Vikings to maintain a veteran option at quarterback. If Ponder is injured, third-string quarterback Joe Webb could reprise his 2010 role and play out the proverbial string.
Speculation has immediately turned toward the two teams that missed on Orton -- the Chicago Bears and Dallas Cowboys -- as well as the Houston Texans, who signed veteran Jake Delhomme off the street this week to serve as rookie T.J. Yates' backup.
I'm sure McNabb would love the Bears to claim him. He grew up in Chicago and starred at Mt. Carmel High School. It's not yet clear if the feeling is mutual. The Bears had a long and favorable history with Orton, and the only thing they know about McNabb is what the rest of us have seen over the past two years: A precipitous decline in play for a five-time Pro Bowler.
Perhaps McNabb would be an upgrade in an emergency over Josh McCown, whom the Bears signed after Orton was awarded to the Chiefs. But it's probably too ambitious to think McNabb can learn their offense and make an impact on their playoff push.
In reality, there isn't much to this move beyond the surprising news itself. McNabb wasn't going to get back on the field for the Vikings, wasn't going to re-sign next season and has already been paid the majority of his $5.05 million contract -- including this week's game check. If he were to end up in Chicago, his arrival would be a one-day story before the Bears returned to the primary question of their playoff push. It's up to starter Caleb Hanie, not McCown or rookie Nathan Enderle or McNabb or anyone else, to get it done.
I thought it was important to work under a narrow definition of "dirty" play and suggested it be confined to a blatant attempt outside the rules to injure an opponent. To me, the only applicable play in Suh's career was his August 2010 hit on Cleveland Browns quarterback Jake Delhomme.
There have been a number of such instances in Suh's career, when he has been rough but perhaps not overtly intending to injure an opponent. Some of you noted his post-play shove of Atlanta Falcons offensive Joe Hawley last week and his after-whistle shoves of New England Patriots offensive lineman Logan Mankins during the preseason. Neither drew a penalty during the game, although Suh was probably fortunate in both cases.
Regardless of whether you define those plays as dirty or simply rough, some of you believe they have helped build a deserved but general reputation over time that is otherwise short of blatant examples.
"Where there is smoke, there is fire," wrote Les_Grossman. "This guy's done plenty to create a real perception," opined sundevilaw. Biggest Cheese offered an interesting comparison and analogy to explain what amounts to a buildup of non-specific evidence:
"Find me BJ Raji or some other 'non-dirty' defensive lineman clips that are comparable to those plays listed above? You can excuse one or two borderline plays, but when you start accumulating a list of them, it says something.Tearloch, meanwhile, wondered if Suh is his own worst enemy for taking shots "that most players would avoid." Last season against the Chicago Bears, for example, Suh "was close enough to wrap up" quarterback Jay Cutler from behind and possibly take a swipe at the ball. Instead, Suh chose to hit Cutler with a forearm shiver to the back that was technically legal but so violent it fooled referee Ed Hochuli into thinking it was a blow to the head.
"My mother claims she’s not a bad driver. She averaged about 2 accidents per year for 5 years. Not a single one was her fault legally. But at some point, you've got to assume she’s a bad driver."
In the end, wrote Flinstone93: "For all the accusations, very little has come about in terms of evidence, which is one of Suh's problems with the media. Part of it he brings on himself -- the whole 'Don't judge me without knowing me, but I'll never let you get to know me' shtick is a tired one and he should really be above it. … But we've got to be careful our perception doesn't become our reality."
My take? I really think the "dirty" tag should be saved for the absolute worst instances in NFL history of play outside rules and/or sportsmanship. If we think Ndamukong Suh is dirty, then what should we call Jack Tatum, whose nickname was "The Assassin"? What was Bill Romanowski, who spit in an opponent's face and broke a quarterback's jaw? What about Conrad Dobler, who "punched and kneed and (on special occasions) gnawed on defensive linemen," according to this profile by ESPN.com's Michael Weinreb.
Were they just really, really dirty?
I hope we can all agree that Suh isn't in the Tatum-Romanowski-Dobler category. There have been some instances when Suh probably could control himself better, but no one produced evidence that suggested he routinely is attempting to hurt opponents -- let alone punching, kneeing, spitting, biting or chewing them. When I think of a dirty player, that's what comes to mind.
At the same time, I think his public plight is an excellent example of how many people value first impressions. Fair or otherwise, the first NFL play many people saw of Suh was the preseason hit on Delhomme. That's all it took to start the ball rolling and increase scrutiny on his every move. I don't think Ndamukong Suh is a dirty player, at least by my definition, but I understand why not everyone sees it that way.
I want specifics.
I want rule citations.
I want context.
In Tuesday's SportsNation chat, Dave of Phoenix suggested Suh "has brought all of this on himself" and "has made his reputation with his actions."
I'm not sure I agree. During the chat, my top-of-the-head response was recalling only one instance in Suh's career that I thought was dirty. And I define "dirty" as a blatant attempt outside the rules to injure an opponent.
That instance came in the 2010 preseason, a play that to me is largely responsible for this ongoing discussion. As you can see in this NFL.com video, Suh grabbed the face mask/helmet of Cleveland Browns quarterback Jake Delhomme and spun him violently and awkwardly to the ground. The NFL fined Suh $7,500 for the play. How Delhomme escaped injury on that play, I'll never know.
Beyond that, however, I'm not sure I could come up with enough examples to support a debate. Some of you might cite the 2010 regular-season game when Suh tackled Dallas Cowboys running back Marion Barber by his hair. Officials called him for a horse-collar tackle, a bad call based on NFL rules that consider the hair an extension of the body. (NFL.com video here.)
Others might note his unnecessary roughness penalty on Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton in the 2011 preseason. (NFL.com video here.) The NFL fined him $20,000 for that play. I thought it was a violent hit and probably in violation of NFL rules. But dirty? Was he blatantly attempting to injure? Not to me.
There are two sides to every issue, of course. And that's where "Have at It" comes in. If you believe Suh is in fact a dirty player, I want examples in the comments section below. Links to video would help. Build your case instead of just making a general observation. As always, I'll publish a representative sample of your thoughts, along with my own take, by the end of the week. Have at It.
That's all we know for a fact at this moment. The NFL reviews all plays for possible postgame discipline, of course. Did Suh get fined? There has been no confirmation. I can, however, pass along what Suh posted on his official Twitter account at about noon ET:
If the NFL did in fact fine Suh $20,000 for the play, you can attribute it mostly to his third offense and not the severity of the hit. Last year, Suh blatantly ripped off the helmet of Cleveland Browns quarterback Jake Delhomme in a preseason game and was fined $7,500. Suh’s hit on Dalton was probably worth a penalty but wasn’t nearly as vicious as the Delhomme near-decapitation. (The NFL also fined Suh $15,000 for hit to the back of Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler last year.)
Fair or not, all defensive players should be aware that the NFL's emphasis on player safety will empower it to ring up huge fines on a weekly basis if it so chooses. I don't know what effect, if any, it will have on the game. But a few wallets are going to be a little lighter. More to come ...
I'll say it again: I don't think that Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh's 15-yard penalty in Friday night's preseason opener was anywhere close to the penalty he earned last summer for ripping off the helmet of Cleveland Browns quarterback Jake Delhomme. Friday night, he hit Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton and Dalton's helmet came off -- an important distinction.
Obviously, the violence of the hit had something to do with the helmet coming off. But it didn't strike me as blatantly dirty. Neither did Suh.
Suh, via Carlos Monarrez of the Detroit Free Press: "There's always a fine line of dirtiness and a fine line of aggressiveness. I know to this point that in my own heart that I haven't crossed that line by any means."
If anything, the hit just puts another incident on tape for two entities: opposing quarterbacks and future game officials. Both will have a close eye on him in upcoming games.
Continuing around the NFC North:
- Lions receiver Calvin Johnson is day-to-day because of a bruised left shoulder, according to Phillip Zaroo of Mlive.com.
- Lions tight end Brandon Pettigrew (ankle) returned to practice on Sunday, notes Tim Twentyman of the Detroit News.
- Lions receiver Nate Burleson hopes that teams single-cover Johnson this season, as ESPN analyst Cris Carter recently suggested. Monarrez has more in the Free Press.
- Chicago Bears defensive end Corey Wootton will miss at least a month because of damage to the meniscus in his right knee, according to Vaughn McClure of the Chicago Tribune. Wootton suffered the injury on the opening kickoff of Saturday's preseason opener.
- With 73 yards on 13 carries, and another 46 yards on two catches, Chicago running back Kahlil Bell is getting noticed. Sean Jensen of the Chicago Sun-Times has more.
- Bob LeGere of the Daily Herald thinks the Bears need to move Roberto Garza back to guard and insert Chris Spencer as their starting center.
- Bears rookie offensive lineman Gabe Carimi was solid in his preseason debut at right tackle, according to Dan Pompei of the Tribune.
- Michael C. Wright of ESPNChicago.com on the Bears' offensive line: "The whole unit needs to improve. But reflection usually offers clarity, and a day after what appeared to be a nine-sack debacle at Soldier Field, the truth is that what transpired really wasn't out of the realm of what was expected."
- Backup quarterbacks Matt Flynn and Graham Harrell both played well Saturday night, writes Jason Wilde of ESPNMilwaukee.com.
- Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "Competition is supposed to make you better, but if you're the Green Bay Packers, you might not want to bring in a punter for, say, the next 10 years. Not with Tim Masthay on the roster."
- Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press-Gazette: "Early in training camp, Randall Cobb insisted he can be more than just a slot receiver, which was what many scouts had him pegged for coming out of the University of Kentucky. Even if he's limited to that role as a rookie this season, it looks like he might be able to do some damage."
- The Minnesota Vikings appear to be moving away from the zone-blocking run scheme, writes Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com.
- Bob Sansevere of the St. Paul Pioneer Press pulls back the curtain on new Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator Fred Pagac. A little bit.
- The Vikings had a tight end next to new left tackle Charlie Johnson on eight of his 11 plays over the first two series of Saturday's preseason opener, notes Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune.
Just making sure you caught Adam Schefter's report on the $7,500 fine issued to Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. We discussed the issue at hand earlier this week; Suh grabbed the facemask of Cleveland Browns quarterback Jake Delhomme and then twisted him to the ground during a Aug. 28 preseason game at Ford Field.
My opinion hasn't changed. I'm all for mean and nasty defensive linemen, especially considering the way the Lions defense has been pushed around in recent years. But here's the realithy: whether you believe the takedown was intentional or an accident, NFL officials are never going to allow a play like that to go unpunished. Like it or not, the quarterback will be protected every time.
I don't care about a fine, but the Lions defense can't absorb many 15-yard penalties. And if the league had suspended Suh, a possible consequence if there is a next time, all he would have done is hurt his team further. Now let's move on.
At least one Browns player believes Suh should be suspended. The play is available for online viewing on NFL.com, where you'll see Suh grab Delhomme's facemask and spin him to the ground. I don't condone any part of the play, especially to the extent that it cost the Lions penalty yardage, but I think it gives us another instructive moment as we get to know the No. 2 overall pick in the draft.
As we noted during our training camp tour, Suh is one serious dude. It appears he also has a mean streak. According to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, Suh said that no level of discipline will change the way he plays. "I'm going to keep getting after quarterbacks and keep getting after running backs," Suh said.
If Suh can channel that energy into legal plays, he could have a deep-seated impact on how the entire defense performs. If he hasn't already, he'll soon learn there are plenty of ways to be nasty in this league without incurring penalties.
Arizona Cardinals 14, Chicago Bears 9
Preseason record: 0-3
Of interest: The Bears look off. I don't know how else to describe it. Quarterback Jay Cutler threw two interceptions, took four sacks and seemed hesitant on too many throws. In three preseason games, Mike Martz's offense has scored 36 points. Quite simply, it's not ready for the season to start. "I think we came out and put a lot of pressure on Game 3," Cutler said. "And sometimes it doesn't work out like that." I'll say. Meanwhile, the defense spent most of the night on the ropes against a Cardinals offense that has had its own struggles this summer. Late Saturday night, safety Chris Harris tweeted that it "might have been my worst game ever." Among other things, Harris took a poor angle on Stephen Williams' 27-yard touchdown reception. It didn't help that linebacker Lance Briggs left early with an ankle injury.
Local coverage: David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune: "If you're the Colts or another model of NFL consistency, you can dismiss chronic preseason problems as an aberration. If you're the Bears you have no such luxury and likely fear a trend. You certainly sense a familiar doom." The Bears continue to be plagued by uncharacteristic special teams miscues, writes Jeff Dickerson of ESPNChicago.com. Saturday night, it was a blocked field goal. And the normally-reliable Robbie Gould hit the left upright from 48 yards. Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune offers this balance: "It's true the Bears were without Brian Urlacher and Nick Roach, and then Lance Briggs for most of the game. That's like a baseball team without its starting outfield. So we should not be jumping off any skyscrapers today."
Next: Thursday at Cleveland Browns
Detroit Lions 35, Cleveland Browns 27
Preseason record: 2-1
Of interest: The Lions were trailing 27-21 when starters departed midway through the third quarter, the result of some shoddy defense but an offense that continued to display explosive potential. Running back Jahvid Best sprinted 51 yards on his only carry, and quarterback Matthew Stafford connected for a nice 7-yard touchdown pass to Bryant Johnson. But the defense allowed Browns quarterback Jake Delhomme to complete 20 of 25 passes. Other than a couple of big hits from defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, along with cornerback Chris Houston's 12-yard fumble return for a touchdown, it was an alarming outing for the defense. Middle linebacker DeAndre Levy's early groin injury surely didn't help matters.
Local coverage: Stafford said the offense has "done a good job in preseason as a unit, executing and playing fast," according to Tom Kowalski of Mlive.com. Best only had one carry because he felt "tight," after the first drive, according to coach Jim Schwartz via Chris McCosky of the Detroit News. Bob Wojnowski of the Detroit News on the defense: "Unless the line can rush the passer, tackle runners and occasionally destroy an opposing offense, the defense will have a hard time avoiding less-pleasant crowd noise, the kind that rhymes with "'Suuuh.'"
Next: Thursday vs. Buffalo Bills
Minnesota Vikings 24, Seattle Seahawks 13
Preseason record: 2-1
Of interest: Receiver Percy Harvin played only after passing a final medical test Friday night. He said doctors believe they have pinpointed the causes of his migraine headaches and have given him a better plan to deal with them. He gamely pushed through 14 plays and took two hard hits that had him twisting his neck on the sideline. Meanwhile, the Vikings started rookie Chris Cook at right cornerback and my amateur eyes saw nothing to suggest he isn't ready to be their Week 1 starter. It was notable that Asher Allen served in the nickel and veteran Lito Sheppard was playing with the third team late in the fourth quarter.
Local coverage: Quarterback Brett Favre was thrilled to see once-and-current teammate Javon Walker's 25-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter, notes Jeremy Fowler of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Phil Mackey of 1500ESPN.com suggests that Tyrell Johnson will win the competition with Jamarca Sanford for the starting strong safety job. Coach Brad Childress was planning to watch tape of the game before deciding whether starters will play in Thursday's preseason finale, according to Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune.
Next: Thursday versus Denver Broncos
Earlier: Our review of the Green Bay Packers' 59-24 victory against the Indianapolis Colts.
Opponent: Arizona Cardinals
Location: Soldier Field
Time: 8:30 p.m. ET
Personnel notes: Starters will play at least a half and possibly into the third quarter. Middle linebacker Brian Urlacher (calf) won't play, and we probably won't see him again until the Sept. 12 opener against the Detroit Lions. Safety Craig Steltz (ankle), receiver Earl Bennett (hamstring), linebacker Nick Roach (knee) and quarterback Caleb Hanie (shoulder) are all expected to be sidelined. It's also unlikely that new quarterback Todd Collins, signed this week as the likely replacement for Hanie, will be ready to play much in this game.
Focal point: The preseason is to be taken with a grain of salt, but it would be nice if the Bears could take at least a granule of optimism with them into the regular season. Their first two outings have been a toxic mix of poor pass protection, special teams gaffes and defensive lethargy. A crisper outing in preseason Week 3 would allow us to file previous efforts in the "learning pains" category. But if it's more of the same Saturday night, Bears fans will have real reason to worry.
Opponent: Cleveland Browns
Location: Ford Field
Time: 5 p.m. ET
Personnel notes: Starters will play at least a half. Place-kicker Jason Hanson (knee) might kick beforehand but isn't expected to participate in the game. Safety Louis Delmas (groin) is expected to make his preseason debut, but it's not clear if fellow starter C.C. Brown (hand) can play. We're not expecting to see defensive ends Jared DeVries (knee) or Lawrence Jackson (hamstring).
Focal point: We haven't given the Lions defense much credit this summer, so it will be interesting to see the impact of Delmas' return. First of all, is he finally healthy? Assuming the answer is yes, how much can he impact the entire group? Denver Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton threw for 177 yards in the first half of last week's game. Let's see if Delmas can help the Lions have a better showing against Cleveland's Jake Delhomme.
Opponent: Seattle Seahawks
Time: 8 p.m. ET
Personnel notes: Starters are expected to play into the third quarter because most will sit out next week's preseason finale for precautionary reasons. As was the case in 2009, that makes this game the primary building block for the offense following the late arrival of quarterback Brett Favre. And like last season, Favre will be playing with a whole new set of receivers. Javon Walker and Greg Camarillo could make their Vikings debut. Receiver Percy Harvin (migraines) isn't expected to play. Neither is defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy (unknown injury).
Focal point: The Vikings' first-team offense hasn't scored a touchdown this preseason, so its development is a crucial storyline Saturday night. So is the continuing competition at right cornerback, where rookie Chris Cook is getting a chance to win the job vacated (temporarily) by the injured Cedric Griffin. Veteran Lito Sheppard and second-year player Asher Allen remain in the mix.
Earlier: Our review of the Green Bay Packers' 59-24 victory Thursday night over the Indianapolis Colts.
As we discussed last week, preseason games don't rank high on my list of NFL excitement. But I understand not everyone feels this way, so what follows is an attempt to reasonably account for each game while giving direction to those seeking more information. We'll tweak and continue this format throughout the preseason.
San Diego Chargers 25, Chicago Bears 10
Preseason record: 0-1
Of interest: Quarterback Jay Cutler played only one series and threw only two passes, but it was notable that both went to receiver Johnny Knox. Early in training camp, Cutler clearly was favoring Knox, and many people around the NFL consider Knox the Bears receiver who best fits this offense. On the other side of the ball, the Bears had to be happy with rookie safety Major Wright's debut. In limited action, he was credited with seven tackles before leaving with a left hand injury. And, finally we heard from the long-forgotten Al Afalava. The 2009 starter intercepted a pass, but also appeared responsible for a blocked punt when he let San Diego's Brandon Lang pass into the backfield easily.
Local coverage: Wright had a "pad-popping" debut, according to Michael C. Wright of ESPNChicago.com. Special teams coordinator Dave Toub is still looking for the right combination, writes Jeff Dickerson of ESPNChicago.com. Offensive coordinator Mike Martz went with a vanilla approach, writes Sean Jensen of the Chicago Sun-Times. Backup quarterback Caleb Hanie suffered a right shoulder injury of undetermined severity, according to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune.
Next: Saturday vs. Oakland Raiders
Pittsburgh Steelers 23, Detroit Lions 7
Preseason record: 0-1
Of interest: The Lions' new defensive line performed as advertised. Right end Kyle Vanden Bosch got to Steelers quarterback Byron Leftwich twice, forcing poor throws, and left end Cliff Avril had a sack. As we discussed during our camp tour, that's the kind of game-to-game performance the Lions' defense will need to improve this season. Quarterback Matthew Stafford's interception came off a rushed, high pass that was tipped by his receiver. Call it a wash. On the other hand, his 2-yard touchdown pass to Calvin Johnson clearly reflected elevated communication.
Local coverage: Running back Jahvid Best's quickness was as advertised, writes Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press. Chris McCosky of the Detroit News: "Several of the players and position groups the Lions are counting on to push them toward respectability made encouraging first impressions Saturday. However, there were still too many remnants of the old horror show on display." The Lions lost linebacker Jordon Dizon (knee) for the season, according to Tom Kowalski of Mlive.com.
Next: Saturday at Denver Broncos
Cleveland Browns 27, Green Bay Packers 24
Preseason record: 0-1
Of interest: You're reading this right: The Packers' starters were down 14-0 midway through the first quarter of this game. And I wouldn't say their defense was playing vanilla schemes, either. I know I saw cornerback Charles Woodson on at least one blitz. Take that for what you will. More concerning to me was the night of tailback Ryan Grant, who lost a rare fumble on his first carry and later stumbled to the sideline after a head injury. It's not believed serious, but it was a reminder of the Packers'questionable depth behind him. Oh, and quarterback Aaron Rodgers completed 12 of 13 passes for 159 yards. Ho hum.
Local coverage: Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette: "[T]he Packers were looking to be better than they showed entering their second year in defensive coordinator Dom Capers' 3-4 defensive scheme." The Packers' performance "made it clear that the team has some work to do before making travel plans for Dallas in February," writes Jason Wilde of ESPNMilwaukee.com. Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "There's no shame in giving up an 80-yard drive to crafty veteran Jake Delhomme, who probably will be the Cleveland Browns' starting quarterback opening day, but when your starters give up 162 yards and three touchdowns, it makes it look as though you've been pussyfooting around all summer."
Next: Saturday at Seattle Seahawks
Minnesota Vikings 28, St. Louis Rams 7
Preseason record: 1-0
Of interest: Six players didn't make the trip because of injury, and two others -- middle linebacker E.J. Henderson and running back Adrian Peterson -- were in uniform but didn't play. The Vikings followed through on their plans to play quarterback Sage Rosenfels for most of the game, but to me it was odd that Tarvaris Jackson, who would be the team's starter if Brett Favre retires, got only one series. Doesn't he need more repetitions? And even though Rosenfels finished with 310 yards and three touchdowns, television cameras caught Brad Childress giving him an animated, one-sided coaching point in the first quarter.
Local coverage: Rosenfels downplayed his discussion with Childress and a separate incident with offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, according to Bob Sansevere of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Chip Scoggins of the Star Tribune: "With their stars either in Mississippi, on the sideline or sitting at home, the Vikings early on looked like a team playing its first preseason game without its best players." Rosenfels exploited blown coverages, according to Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com.
Next: Aug. 22 at San Francisco 49ers
The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported the Packers would host free-agent quarterback Jake Delhomme, presumably for a job as a veteran backup to Aaron Rodgers. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel then quoted Delhomme's agent, Rick Smith, denying the visit.
Smith wouldn't elaborate, but Jason Wilde of ESPNMilwaukee.com reports there has been contact between Delhomme and the team. Packers coach Mike McCarthy coached Delhomme in New Orleans from 2000-02 and the two remain close. Delhomme has visited Cleveland, where he could compete for a starting job, and will visit New Orleans this weekend.
If things don't work out in Cleveland or New Orleans, it's not out of the question that Delhomme could re-join McCarthy in Green Bay. Rodgers' backup for the past two seasons has been Matt Flynn.
Continuing around the NFC North:
- Philadelphia could sign Minnesota defensive end Ray Edwards to an offer sheet, according to the Delaware County Times via Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune. Edwards is a restricted free agent who was offered a first-round tender.
- Bob Sansevere of the St. Paul Pioneer Press on free-agent tailback LaDainian Tomlinson: "The Vikings had better hope the Jets don't dazzle Tomlinson and wipe Minnesota off his radar because, like [Brett] Favre, he can help this team."
- Free-agent guard Chester Pitts will visit Detroit next week, according to John Niyo of the Detroit News.
- Don't count on the Lions taking Oklahoma State tackle Russell Okung with the No. 2 overall pick of the draft, writes Tim Twentyman of the Detroit News.
- The best way to view Chicago defensive end Julius Peppers' contract is as a three-year, $40.5 million deal, writes Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune.
- Bears safety Josh Bullocks signed his restricted free-agent tender, taking himself off the free-agent market.
We already know that we have the NFL’s two most proficient quarterbacks in terms of touchdown-interception discrepancy through 12 games. Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers are the only quarterbacks with 25 or more touchdowns and seven or less interceptions this season.
We also have the NFL’s two most interception-prone quarterbacks. Chicago’s Jay Cutler and Detroit’s Matthew Stafford are tied for the league lead with 20. Here is that dubious ranking:
1. Jay Cutler (20 in 12 games)
1. Matthew Stafford (20 in 10 games)
3. Jake Delhomme (18 in 11 games)
4. Mark Sanchez (17 in 12 games)
Feel free to put this post in the “It Only Matters to the Blogger” file. But I’m the blogger in question, and I thought it was interesting. So there.
Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert
Earlier Wednesday, I pointed you toward SportsNation's interactive ranking of the NFL's top 20 quarterbacks, with the promise I would return with my own list. I'm a man of my word. (Except when I'm not, of course). So here is my take, followed by some notes and explanations:
- Tom Brady
- Peyton Manning
- Drew Brees
- Ben Roethlisberger
- Donovan McNabb
- Kurt Warner
- Carson Palmer
- Matt Ryan
- Aaron Rodgers
- Jay Cutler
- Tony Romo
- Philip Rivers
- Eli Manning
- Jake Delhomme
- Matt Hasselbeck
- Matt Schaub
- Matt Cassel
- David Garrard
- Kyle Orton
- Trent Edwards
I managed to squeeze both NFC North entrants into my top 10, with an order that shouldn't be surprising to readers of this blog. I'm a bit more comfortable now with Rodgers than Cutler, but that of course is subject to change over time.
To do so, I put some big names in the lower half of my ranking. Romo (11), Rivers (12) Eli Manning (13), and Delhomme (14) have all been named to a Pro Bowl. My NFC West colleague, Mike Sando, notes Rivers' feistiness, but I wonder what his passing numbers would look like without the Chargers' huge running game. And I've never been a huge fan of Eli Manning, who has been pretty average for most of his career. He's a career 56 percent passer.
Sometimes evidence of potential outweighs past performance. I have more confidence in the immediate and future success of Ryan, Rodgers and Cutler than I do in Eli Manning, Delhomme or Hasselbeck.
This is just one blogger's ranking.
Remember these are FUN and NOT NFL canon. With that, please proceed to tear me to shreds in the comments below.
Week 6 is about the time when we in the media start assessing the statistical performances of players who are paid a lot of money to, well, perform statistically. So, we feel professionally bound to point out that Minnesota defensive end Jared Allen -- who signed a contract this offseason that guarantees him $31 million -- has amassed two sacks thus far, tying him for 35th place in the league. (That production puts Allen on pace for 6.4 sacks this season, if you're into such projections. We're not, but again, journalistic obligations. Or something.)
Anyone who has watched the Vikings this season can attest Allen has been a disruptive force. He leads the team with 14 quarterback hurries and, more important, has opened opportunities for other players to make a big impact.
Often such sentiments are used as excuses for underperforming players, but it's fair to attribute at least two huge plays this season to Allen's presence.
Twice, cornerback Antoine Winfield has blitzed from the left side of the defense -- opposite of Allen, who plays right end -- and enjoyed an unimpeded path to the quarterback. Unblocked as the offense focused its attention on Allen, Winfield managed to sack and strip the ball from Carolina quarterback Jake Delhomme and New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees.
Winfield returned Delhomme's fumble for a touchdown and set up a score for the Vikings offense after sacking Brees.
Would the Panthers and/or Saints have had a man designated to block a weak-side blitzer had Allen not been on the field? We'll never know that for sure. But his presence certainly made each offense more susceptible to the blitz.
"You want to make them slide to me and Kevin [Williams]," Allen said. "Give us the double teams and the chips. It opens people up. I don't care how [the quarterback] gets on the ground. I just care that he's on the ground and we get points out of it."
Allen managed at least 7.5 sacks in each of his four years with Kansas City, including an NFL-high 15.5 in 2007, and said he is not worried about this season's total.
"I'm getting to the quarterbacks and I'm hitting them," Allen said. "They just don't have the ball. But I look at the talent around me on this defense and I know [sacks] are going to come in bunches. I'm having a blast playing here. I was joking with the guys and saying it's almost tougher when you play with a bunch of playmakers. You have to be on your p's and q's. A half-step difference, and somebody else has already made the play."