NFC West: Derrick Harvey
Long joins New England's Jerod Mayo as players among the top 10 choices to re-sign with their drafting teams. That group was pretty strong overall, as the chart indicates. A few more players, notably Jake Long and Matt Ryan, figure to cash in at some point in the not-too-distant future.
That the Rams and Patriots moved quickly to get deals done reflects well on Long and Mayo. They're young, rising players to build around.
NFC West teams do not face the Denver Broncos this season, but I could not resist one of the funnier stories from the weekend.
D.J. Williams probably faces a team fine for tweeting images from the Broncos' digital playbook. He should be embarrassed.
But to suggest Williams has put the Broncos at a strategic disadvantage would be going too far. Players switch teams every offseason. The detailed knowledge they bring with them has some value, but probably less than one might imagine. Versions of entire playbooks have shown up online without anyone seeming to care much.
Let's consider Williams and the Broncos for the sake of discussion. They face the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 1. The Steelers' coaches, having studied the Broncos in detail before their playoff matchup in January, know much more about Denver's defense than the formation adjustments Williams revealed in a screenshot. They might even know more about the Broncos' defense than Williams knows about it.
I doubt Arizona Cardinals coaches are worrying about the information Deuce Lutui, someone with access to Ken Whisenhunt's playbook since 2007, is taking with him to division-rival Seattle. Likewise, I doubt the San Francisco 49ers are sweating over the knowledge their former guard, Adam Snyder, is taking with him to division-rival Arizona.
Having an opponent's playbook would be nice, but it wouldn't tell an opponent anything about the game plan for a certain week, or even what calls a team might put in place for a given situation. Video study reveals what teams actually do, making it much more valuable.
In this case, Williams revealed a single page featuring six alignments. Any of the defensive players leaving Denver this offseason -- Mario Haggan, Jonathan Wilhite, Derrick Harvey and Brodrick Bunkley departed as unrestricted free agents -- could reveal much more at little risk to the Broncos.
Gholston tied offensive lineman Jake Long for a combine-high 37 repetitions in the bench press. He clocked 4.67 seconds in the 40-yard dash as a 266-pound defensive end.
The Jets drafted Gholston sixth overall in the 2008 draft. They tried him at outside linebacker in their 3-4 scheme, but Gholston has made no impact. As Rich Cimini notes via ESPN Stats & Information, Gholston has none of the 3,267 regular-season sacks NFL players have collected since 2008.
In retrospect, the Seattle Seahawks were much better off selecting Lawrence Jackson even though Jackson was, by all accounts, a disappointment before the team traded him to Detroit. He had 6.0 sacks in 11 games, all as a reserve, for the Lions last season. Two other NFC West teams, St. Louis and Arizona, came out much better with defensive ends Chris Long and Calais Campbell, respectively.
The chart shows defensive ends NFL teams selected in the first three rounds of the 2008 draft. I limited the chart to college defensive ends expected to fill similar roles in the NFL. Two defensive tackles in that draft class, Red Bryant and Kentwan Balmer, wound up playing defensive end.
Some on the list -- Jackson, Derrick Harvey and Phillip Merling come to mind -- never projected as elite pass-rushers. Cliff Avril, the last defensive end listed, has the most sacks. Long is probably the best all-around defensive lineman on the list, and he is improving.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
The Cardinals ran plays against the Jaguars in Week 2 from each of the seven primary personnel groups I track when charting a game. They even used all seven on first down.
That is unusual and possibly attributable to a several things:
- Kurt Warner and the offense can handle the additional burden. For example, using four wide receivers invites more defensive backs onto the field, giving defenses an opportunity to get more creative with their coverages. Warner nonetheless averaged 11.2 yards per attempt with seven first downs on 13 pass attempts from the Cardinals' four-receiver package. Top-notch Jaguars cornerback Rashean Mathis made Larry Fitzgerald work, but Warner spread the ball around. How many times he targeted players from four-receiver personnel: Jerheme Urban 4, Anquan Boldin 3, Fitzgerald 2, Steve Breaston 2, Dan Kreider 1, Tim Hightower 1.
- The Cardinals like their young running backs. NFL teams rarely pair two running backs with three wide receivers on the same play. The combination allows an offense to run the ball behind a fullback if defenses focus too much on defending the receivers. Most teams would rather have a tight end on the field over a fullback for the additional options in the passing game, but the Cardinals are without their most versatile tight end, Ben Patrick, for the first four games. Arizona has used two backs with three receivers on more than 10 percent of snaps this season, up from less than 5 percent in 2008. Against the Jaguars, the Cardinals paired Jason Wright and Tim Hightower, Beanie Wells and Dan Kreider, Wells and Wright and even one snap with two halfbacks, Hightower and LaRod Stephens-Howling, in packages with three wide receivers. The Cardinals had success, too, throwing a 5-yard touchdown pass to Wright from this group. They also fooled linebacker Daryl Smith with misdirection to the right, freeing Hightower for a 17-yard gain on an inside handoff.
The chart shows the Cardinals' production depending on how many tight ends were on the field (not counting quarterback kneel-down plays). They went without a tight end nine times in 28 first-down plays. They used two tight ends 12 times on first down. They mixed it up, in other words.
Note: Download full personnel report with play-by-play notes here
A few other Cardinals-related observations after taking a closer look at their game in Week 2:
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals responded to an early test. Bickley: "In the most important September football game this team has played, the visitors started fast and played alert. They left their alibis at home and remembered to pack a sense of urgency next to the toothpaste. They won an early game on the East Coast, avoiding the civic panic and national criticism that would've accompanied defeat."
Also from Bickley: Calais Campbell's blocked field goal try and Antrel Rolle's subsequent touchdown return were the play of the game. Bickley: "It was the sixth touchdown of Rolle's career, and this one tilted a competitive game in favor of the Cardinals. It also atoned for Rolle's terrible day as punt returner, a job he lost to Steve Breaston in the second half."
More from Bickley: Anthony Becht's hustle pays off against the Jaguars.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt seemed to alleviate any concerns about his play calling with a terrific effort in Jacksonville. Also, the defense played consistently well. Kurt Warner: "The key to it is we were balanced, and we were able to get the ball out quick. Everybody who had an opportunity made plays, and that's what this offense has been about when we've been at the top of our game. Hopefully this is a start."
Also from Somers: The Cardinals outplayed the Jaguars and got some breaks along the way. Also: "I thought Whisenhunt showed conviction by going with Matt Leinart late in the third quarter. Warner was hurting from a right shoulder stinger suffered last week. I thought back to training camp when Whisenhunt admitted he should have played Leinart more last year when games were out of hand. It can't hurt Leinart's development that the game got close late. I thought he looked decent."
More from Somers: Adrian Wilson gave Beanie Wells a football with Wells' name on it after Wells suffered fumbling problems against the Jaguars. Wilson: "You can't have plays like that. Putting the ball on the ground is forbidden. You have to get that M.O. off yourself as a football player and a running back. If teams know that you fumble, then they'll try to go to the ball all the time."
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com offers thoughts from Week 2. Urban: "Larry Fitzgerald tried to pretend he wasn’t getting upset at not getting many passes, including one point after he looked to be open down the field but didn’t get the ball." Fitzgerald, trying to hide a smile: "I was just tired. It was humid out there today I was just trying to save my energy so that’s why I walked off so slowly. That’s all that was."
Also from Urban: Warner appeared tired, but it was a happy tired.
Vito Stellino of the Florida Times-Union says the Jaguars' pass rush failed to pressure Warner. Stellino: "The Jaguars might have missed defensive end Reggie Hayward, who had their only sack last week but is out for the year with a broken leg. Derrick Harvey played end in place of Hayward while John Henderson played the other end. Harvey had only one tackle. Henderson, who tipped one pass and had three tackles, said Warner was beating them with short passes. His longest completion was only 22 yards."
Garry Smits of the Florida Times-Union implies the Cardinals were protecting Warner's single-game record for completion percentage. Smits: "Arizona Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said he didn't take quarterback Kurt Warner out of the game for the entire fourth quarter because he was trying to protect a record. He claims he didn't know about it until being informed by the media in his postgame news conference and was trying to protect Warner from further re-injuring his right shoulder -- a fact that never appeared on the weekly injury reports."
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch checks in with Chip Rosenbloom following a difficult first year as Rams owner. Rosenbloom: "We've demonstrated to ourselves, and our fans, that we're putting our best foot forward to show how much we care about winning, how much we care about the team and the fans. I don't know how else to demonstrate it. I don't know how else to show it but doing what we've been doing. Meanwhile, I've gained 12 pounds probably from nervous eating. We were not happy with what we saw on the field last year. We're doing everything we can to make sure that doesn't repeat itself."
Turf Show Times' Tackle Box sizes up the Rams' quarterbacks as well as potential later-round draft prospects at the position.
Dan Hinxman of the Reno Gazette-Journal checks in with 49ers coach Mike Singletary during a charity event. Singletary reflects on decisions he made to become a better husband and father. He also sees parallels between those roles and his current job. Singletary: "I look at coaching very much like parenting. If you have one parent saying, 'Don't discipline,' and you have another one saying, 'We need to discipline them into the ground,' you have an imbalance and kids will pick and choose. If both parents are on the same page, it's very difficult for the kid to get away with anything. It's the same thing in an organization."
Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says the 49ers are meeting with Mississippi tackle Michael Oher. Maiocco: "Last year, the only confirmed player the 49ers brought to Santa Clara and later drafted was wide receiver Josh Morgan. Among the other out-of-the-area players to travel to Santa Clara were Derrick Harvey, Phillip Merling, Quentin Groves and Malcolm Kelly." Oher appears to be a legitimate candidate for the 49ers at No. 10 overall.
Chris Sullivan of Seahawk Addicts has a hard time imagining Seattle drafting running back Chris Wells with the fourth overall choice. Even so, the Seahawks are expected to meet privately with the Ohio State standout. I don't read much into most pre-draft visits because teams take care to disguise their intentions.
John Morgan of Field Gulls would love to see Knowshon Moreno, Everette Brown and Mike Thomas in Seattle uniforms. He also thinks defensive end Lawrence Jackson has the physical ability to bounce back from a disappointing rookie season.
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com doesn't expect Anquan Boldin or Darnell Dockett to attend the Cardinals' voluntary offseason conditioning program while they pursue new contracts. The Cardinals were one of the healthiest teams in the league last season. Coach Ken Whisenhunt has credited strength-and-conditioning coach John Lott.
Revenge of the Birds' Hawkwind would mind seeing the Cardinals add Tony Gonzalez by trade from Kansas City. Hawkwind: "He would become another threat for the offense and he would surely make Kurt Warner happy. He's a dependable blocker and has the best hands in the game for a tight end. His leadership and knowledge of the game could point the rest of the Cardinals tight ends in the right direction as well." Reaching the Super Bowl could conceivably convince a team to think it's one player away from getting over the top, but I think the Cardinals would be better off building through the draft.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
The Seahawks' victory over the Rams leaves St. Louis in the lead for the No. 2 overall choice in the 2009 draft.
The next two weeks will probably affect the eventual order at the top of the draft, but here's how the top 10 would shake out at present, according to the league:
1. Detroit (0-14)
2. St. Louis (2-12): The last five players drafted second overall were Chris Long (Rams), Calvin Johnson (Lions), Reggie Bush (Saints), Ronnie Brown (Dolphins) and Robert Gallery (Raiders).
3. Kansas City (2-12)
4. Cincinnati (2-11-1)
5. Seattle (3-11). The last five players drafted fifth overall were Glenn Dorsey (Chiefs), Levi Brown (Cardinals), A.J. Hawk (Packers), Cadillac Williams (Bucs) and Sean Taylor (Redskins).
6. Oakland (3-11)
7. Cleveland (4-9)
8. San Francisco (5-9): The last five players drafted eighth overall were Derrick Harvey (Jaguars), Jamaal Anderson (Falcons), Donte Whitner (Bills), Antrel Rolle (Cardinals) and DeAngelo Hall (Falcons).
9. Jacksonville (5-9)
10. Green Bay (5-9)
The Rams would be picking second overall for the second year in a row. They've addressed the defensive line early in recent drafts. This might be time to help the offensive line. Orlando Pace certainly worked out well for them as an early pick.
The 49ers last picked among the top eight when they selected tight end Vernon Davis sixth overall in 2006.