NFC West: Phillip Daniels

On parting with T.J. Houshmandzadeh

September, 3, 2010
A year ago, the Seattle Seahawks might never have guessed that T.J. Houshmandzadeh would prove more expendable than Deion Branch.

Houshmandzadeh's expected departure from the Seahawks after one 79-catch season shows -- again -- that the Seahawks are serious about pruning their roster and rebulding with their own players.

Houshmandzadeh does not fit into the team's long-term plans. Neither did cornerback Josh Wilson. And because the Seahawks are anxious to try out fresh talent at those players' positions, they're pushing Houshmandzadeh and Wilson out the door ahead of schedule.

Those who have followed the Seahawks for years will recall former coach Mike Holmgren parting with Ahman Green, Sam Adams, Phillip Daniels, Joey Galloway, Pete Kendall and others during the early stages of his Seattle tenure. The team didn't necessarily have adequate replacements lined up, but Holmgren had in some cases decided to move on anyway (he regretted losing Daniels).

New Seattle bosses Pete Carroll and John Schneider didn't inherit players as talented as the ones Holmgren pushed out, but Houshmandzadeh was the Seahawks' most proven receiver, and Wilson had been a playmaker. A team's new leaders can sometimes be so eager to reshape a roster that they're willing to make short-term personnel sacrifices. In this case, Carroll and Schneider might not think they're sacrificing anything at all. They simply inherited a team that had only nine victories to show for its past two seasons.

Houshmandzadeh's departure clears the way for Mike Williams to build upon what has the potential to become an all-time great career revival. Pushing out Houshmandzadeh also removes from the locker room a strong personality -- one unafraid to complain about his role. Williams, Golden Tate and Deon Butler in particular have shown promise this summer. The Seahawks also tried to acquire Brandon Marshall and they've looked into Vincent Jackson, so there's a chance the team isn't finished reshaping that position.

The Seahawks will lose their most proven receiver and a player whose on-field rapport with quarterback Matt Hasselbeck appeared markedly better than when they first started working together. But they'll be one step closer to fulfilling their long-term vision, and that is the priority.

Rosenhaus leads UFA agent scorecard

February, 18, 2010
The NFL's list of projected unrestricted free agents for 2010 included one column showing agents and another showing starts.

This made it easy to see which agents had the most projected UFA clients, and how many starts those clients averaged in 2009.

The result is the chart below. Drew Rosenhaus has more than 100 clients across the league, more than any agent. The NFL lists 15 of them on its projected UFA list, including Terrell Owens and three NFC West players (Randy McMicahel, Anthony Becht and Olindo Mare).

Agents Peter Schaffer and Brian Mackler are next on the list with seven projected UFA clients apiece, but no agent with at least four players listed can match Tony Agnone for players with lots of 2009 starts. Agnone's list features 16-game starters Casey Rabach, Kyle Vanden Bosch and Bobbie Williams, plus seven-game starter Michael Gaines.

The NFL has no agents listed for Phillip Daniels, Tully Banta-Cain, Leigh Bodden, Mike Furrey, Damion Cook, Tank Johnson and Matt Ware.

Jeff Feagles, Jeff Zgonina, Daunte Culpepper, Paul Spicer, Clinton Hart and Vernon Fox are listed as representing themselves.

Personnel report: Jackson and Rams' offense

September, 25, 2009
The 2006 season might always stand as a benchmark for Rams running back Steven Jackson.

That was the season he rushed for 1,528 yards and caught 90 passes for 803 yards. He has not exceeded 1,042 yards rushing, 40 receptions or 379 yards receiving over the subsequent two seasons.

Those numbers figured to spike this season as the Rams built their offense around Jackson to an even stronger degree following Torry Holt's release. The problem through two games has less to do with Jackson than with the offense overall. The Rams are averaging 20 percent fewer offensive plays this season than they averaged in 2006, about 13 snaps per game. Jackson has carried or caught the ball on 34.5 percent of the Rams' offensive plays, down from 40.9 percent in 2006.

A few things stood out while watching the Rams against the Redskins in Week 2:
  • The offensive line struggled. Jackson's 58-yard run on the Rams' 16th offensive play came out of nowhere. My notes for the Rams' 15 previous plays included these observations: "Richie Incognito got beat and that blew up the play. ... Alex Barron blatantly holds Andre Carter and gets away with it, but Phillip Daniels crushes Marc Bulger. ... Jason Brown injures MCL. ... Barron holds Carter from behind and replays show he grabbed Carter by the collar, but no call. ... Jason Smith misses Daniels off the ball. ... Barron whiffs on Carter, who lined up way outside but still beat Barron with an inside move. ... Line has no answer when Rocky McIntosh blitzes. ... Play had no chance, too much pressure."
  • Donnie Avery was the Rams' third-best receiver. Something isn't right with the first receiver chosen in the 2008 draft. He's dropping passes, losing fumbles, committing penalties and failing to outrun defensive backs. It's enough to make me wonder if the foot injury is behind him. The fumble he lost deep in Redskins territory wasted an otherwise highly impressive drive featuring better play up front and Jackson at his best. Avery needs a breakout game. He is certainly due.
  • This team drops far too many passes. I counted four against the Redskins, two by Avery and two by tight end Randy McMichael.
  • Bulger is taking a pounding. The quarterback was quite resilient throughout the game. A hit he took in his own end zone during the desperate final seconds left Bulger holding his left wrist. How long before he gets hurt more seriously?
  • The defense is almost good enough. The Rams' predictably poor pass rush is holding them back and could make them vulnerable to blowout defeats against teams with more powerful offenses. Overall, though, the Rams have made strides on defense. They can be decent against the run and their secondary appears significantly upgraded so far (with tougher tests looming, however).

One thing surprised me when charting the Rams' personnel use. The team used two tight ends on the first play and then almost never again. Offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur tried to use two tight ends on a third-and-1 play later in the game, but second tight end Daniel Fells committed a false-start penalty. The play did not count. He used three tight ends on another play. Overall, the Rams used one tight end on 48 of 50 snaps.

The Rams averaged 1.5 yards per carry on six carries from their base offense (2 RB, 1TE). They averaged 8.6 yards per carry on 12 rushes from their "zebra" personnel group featuring one back, three wide receivers and one tight end. Jackson's 58-yard run boosted the average from this group. Fullback Mike Karney made a few effective blocks from the base offense, but the Rams enjoyed most of their success without him.

For download: This Rams personnel report breaks down every offensive play. A second sheet shows production across personnel groups and much more.

Jackson's 58-yard run in 10 quick steps

September, 22, 2009

Posted by's Mike Sando

Ten things I noticed watching the Rams' Steven Jackson break a 58-yard run against the Redskins in Week 2:
  • The Rams were operating from what offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur calls their "zebra" personnel package with three wide receivers, one tight end and Jackson alone in the backfield. This left the Redskins with only two linebackers on the field.
  • The Rams ran away from Albert Haynesworth, who was lined up over left guard Jacob Bell. Left tackle Alex Barron obstructed Haynesworth just long enough for Jackson to escape between right guard Richie Incognito and right tackle Jason Smith.
  • Incognito and center Jason Brown initially double-teamed defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin. Incognito came off the block quickly and buckled linebacker London Fletcher with what appeared to be a left hand to the facemask. Fletcher lost leverage and Incognito buried him. Fletcher's left earhole was close to touching the grass.
  • Smith grabbed left defensive end Phillip Daniels by the jersey and held him. Daniels wasn't going to make the tackle.
  • Jackson ran strong and broke free from safety Chris Horton about 2 yards past the line of scrimmage. Horton overran the play but still appeared to grab Jackson by the foot.
  • Safety LaRon Landry came charging toward the line of scrimmage in run support, but he might have misjudged Jackson's speed and maneuverability. Both were between the hashmarks and within 5 yards of one another when Jackson cut to his right. I'm not sure if Landry even touched him.
  • Receiver Keenan Burton, lined up in the left slot, could have done a better job blocking safety Reed Doughty.
  • Receiver Donnie Avery hustled downfield to help with blocking, but he wasted the effort by shoving cornerback DeAngelo Hall in the back, drawing a penalty.
  • Coach Steve Spagnuolo grabbed Avery by the left forearm and appeared to be encouraging the receiver, not berating him. Avery seemed more interested in getting back on the field than staying around to listen.
  • As noted after Week 1, I'm still waiting to see whether the Rams are better off running the ball with fullback Mike Karney on the field. This was a second-and-10 play. I'm hoping to chart the Rams' personnel use before time runs short.
Posted by's Mike Sando

A trick question to test your divisional knowledge on a May Saturday: Which veteran head coach has led teams in three of the four current NFC West cities?

Hint: He's a current head coach.

(Read full post)