NFL Nation: Lamont Jordan
This helps explain why quarterbacks earn the most money, why teams often draft pass-blocking tackles over top runners and why fullbacks have become endangered.
Teams still value running the ball, of course. Defenses would have an easier time defending quarterbacks if they knew with certainty a run was not coming. And every team seeking support for young or average quarterbacks would be better off with a strong ground game.
NFC West teams fall into this group. Each team in the division is on pace to produce a 1,000-yard runner.
One division has produced four 1,000-yard rushers in a season five times since divisional realignment in 2002. Each NFC West team's leading rusher is on pace for at least 1,100 yards. Only one division, the AFC North in 2010, has produced four players with at least 1,100 yards since realignment.
Frank Gore's yardage production for the 49ers has leveled off in recent weeks. Continued strong defense and increased production from quarterback Alex Smith have helped the team keep winning. Facing two backup quarterbacks -- Arizona's John Skelton and St. Louis' A.J. Feeley -- simultaneously lowered the bar for the 49ers in recent weeks.
I would expect the Seattle Seahawks' Marshawn Lynch to gain the most rushing yardage in Week 14 among NFC West backs. Seattle wants to field a run-first offense, which makes sense this week.
The Rams rank second in most sacks per pass attempt, a threat now that Seattle's best pass protector, Russell Okung, has landed on injured reserve. The Rams are averaging fewer than one offensive touchdown per game. That gives Seattle a good chance to win without taking as many chances through the air. The Rams have allowed more rushing yards than any team in the NFL.
Note: With an assist from Anicra in the comments, I updated the projected totals for Jackson, Lynch and Wells to reflect their participation in only 11 games this season. I had previously divided their rushing totals by total team games (12 apiece), using the average to project totals for the remaining four games.
The Miami Dolphins received one. The Buffalo Bills and New York Jets didn't get any.
The picks were revealed Monday night at the NFL owners meetings at the Ritz-Carlton Orlando Grande Lakes.
Compensatory picks are awarded to clubs based on a secret formula more guarded than Colonel Sanders' recipe. We know the formula involves the number of free agents gained and lost the previous offseason and how well those players performed the ensuing season. We think the formula factors in the players' salaries, playing time and awards.
New England lost five qualifying free agents (running back LaMont Jordan, fullback Heath Evans, receiver Jabar Gaffney, linebacker Larry Izzo and long-snapper Lonie Paxton) and signed only one (safety Brandon McGowan).
The NFL compensated the Patriots with one sixth-round pick and three seventh-round picks. The selections are Nos. 205, 247, 248 and 250.
Miami lost two qualifying free agents (cornerback Andre Goodman and safety Renaldo Hill) and signed two (center Jake Grove and center Joe Berger).
The Dolphins were given a seventh-round pick, No. 252.
The rest of the Eagles' inactives: CB Geoffrey Pope, S Quintin Demps, G/T Stacy Andrews, G Mike McGlynn, WR Kevin Curtis, TE Martin Rucker, DE Trevor Laws
Broncos inactives: Emergency QB Tom Brandstater, WR Eddie Royal, CB Ty Law, RB LaMont Jordan, S Vernon Fox, ILB/FB Spencer Larsen, G Seth Olsen, DL Chris Baker
Former Eagles safety Brian Dawkins will be introduced last for the Broncos. I'm sure there will be a huge roar from the crowd, but the Eagles haven't planned any formal ceremony to honor their former star.
|AP Photo/David Duprey|
|When all the Bills' running backs are active, free-agent signee Dominic Rhodes is probably No. 3 on the depth chart.|
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Dominic Rhodes was at the most exhilarating juncture of his career.
He was reveling in the glory as a Super Bowl champion, and he was more than a bit player for the Indianapolis Colts. He could have been the game's MVP.
Rhodes blew it.
He blew a .09, and he blew his best opportunity to show he could be somebody's leading man in 2007.
Rhodes is certain his past transgressions still follow him. He has been arrested for DUI and domestic abuse. Two years ago, he was suspended as a repeat offender under the NFL's substance abuse policy.
As a free agent again this year, he wasn't pursued nearly as much as he figured. He did turn 30 in January. Signing a running back at that age is tantamount to buying a gallon of milk a day before the expiration date.
|Stan Liu/US Presswire|
|After being cut by the Raiders, Rhodes returned to Indianapolis last season and ran for 538 yards and six touchdowns.|
But Rhodes was coming off a productive season with the Colts. He gained 840 total yards as Addai's backup. He said he's happy to be with the Bills, but he thought he would've had more options.
"I was upset with how it went," Rhodes said. "I really figured I would get more interest and more teams would be coming to get me.
"But I sat back and realized some of the mistakes I made. I messed up."
Two weeks after running for a game-high 113 yards and a touchdown to help the Colts beat the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI, Rhodes was failing field-sobriety tests at 3 a.m. on the Interstate-65 shoulder in Indianapolis.
Police arrested Rhodes for DUI, but the blunder didn't cost him right away. Three weeks later, the Oakland Raiders signed him to a two-year contract worth $7.5 million. And his legal problems improved. He pleaded guilty to reckless driving and had the DUI charges dropped.
Rhodes was in the clear. Or so he thought.
The NFL suspended him the first four games of 2007 as a repeat offender under its substance abuse policy. Rhodes forfeited almost $353,000 in game checks and fell out of favor with the Raiders' front office. They cut him after the season.
The undrafted overachiever from tiny Midwestern State had done so much to make it in NFL, but he prevented himself from experiencing all that was possible.
"More than the money, when you're 75 or 80 years old, you're going to look back on the opportunities missed," said Carolina Panthers quarterback Josh McCown, who was Rhodes' training camp roommate with the Raiders. "Those are going to be your regrets, regardless if there's a dollar sign attached or not. He realizes that was a missed opportunity. As a competitor in this business, you hate to miss any opportunity."
In 2002, Rhodes was arrested for domestic battery. Rhodes avoided a conviction. The judge placed him in a diversion program and mandated counseling.
"I'm not shying away from the fact I got in trouble," Rhodes said. "It's out there. People know. I'm ready to talk about it and make amends for it and help anyone else who needs help with it."
The timing of his DUI and the four-game suspension torpedoed his chance to become a feature back.
When he joined the Raiders, he fully expected to emerge as the starter. But in the first three games he was away from the team, LaMont Jordan rushed for 70, 159 and 121 yards. In Week 4, Jordan ran for 74 yards, while Justin Fargas ran for 179 yards.
"The four weeks off really hurt him in his heart because he missed being around us and playing the game," McCown said. "That's when it really set in what had happened.
"Even moving forward there was a thought process 'I'll sign with Oakland and win this appeal and go play and be opening day starter and parlay that into something bigger.' When the suspension came down, it was a blow to what he was hoping to get accomplished."
Rhodes played only six games for Oakland. He had only 24 yards through his first three appearances. He started the last two, rushing for more than 100 yards in each loss.
"I wished he would've gotten a chance to work in that offense the whole year," McCown said, "because I think he would have had a big year."
Rhodes returned to his comfort zone last season. Indianapolis was a security blanket.
Benevolent coach Tony Dungy welcomed him back. With such mainstays as Peyton Manning, Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne and Jeff Saturday, the offense hadn't changed. After seeing the grass was browner elsewhere, Rhodes was more willing to accept his backup role to Addai.
"We're barely a year and a half removed from my DUI," Rhodes said. "Teams were kind of scared of that. Teams that don't know you are scared. The Colts know me. They know that I'm not a bad guy."
Rhodes, who started four games last season when Addai was hurt, ran for 538 yards and six touchdowns. He caught 45 passes for 302 yards and three touchdowns. His nine combined scores matched the single-season career high he set as a rookie, when he filled in for James and rushed for 1,104 yards.
"One thing people forget is they think of him as a backup, but I think he's a little better football player than the perception," said former Colts coach Ted Marchibroda, who is a broadcast analyst for the team. "He did a great job filling in last year.
"I think he felt in his first stint with the Colts he should've been playing more, and he made it known. But not this time. He was real happy coming back with the Colts and did a good job."
"I was excited to see him go back to Indy and hopefully rekindle what he had going there," McCown said. "When I saw he got to play in some games and was starting, I thought 'You know what? He's going to turn this into something good. It's going to work out for him.' I was surprised people didn't take more interest in him."
Rhodes signed a two-year contract that will pay him base salaries of $750,000 this year and $1.25 million next year. The deal included $450,000 in bonuses.
He's probably third on Buffalo's depth chart when everybody is active. Pro Bowl back Marshawn Lynch has been suspended for the first three games because of repeated malfeasance. Popular backup Fred Jackson should be the primary backup.
"The opportunity's there for me to get some touches," Rhodes said. "They wanted me the year I came into free agency after the Super Bowl, so I figured the second time is a charm.
"All I want to do is get out there and make some plays and just keep showing the league what I got and keep playing as long as I can."
Rhodes insists he's more mature than he used to be, that he has amended his lifestyle and learned from his mistakes.
Another misstep could lead to a season-long suspension.
"I have a chip on my shoulder," Rhodes said. "I came from a small school. I'm a smaller back. I run a lot different than most smaller backs. I'm a between-the-tackles guy and I'm always out there trying to prove a point and make sure people notice me when I'm on the field.
"That's just me. I'm always out to prove myself and give everything I got and make sure my teammates know I'm accountable."
Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson
ENGLEWOOD, Co. -- So much for all of those pressing defensive needs in Denver.
That's what the No. 18 pick is going to be.
In one of the early shockers of the draft, Denver took Georgia running Knowshon Moreno with the No. 12 pick. It wouldn't have been a huge shock if the Broncos took Moreno or Ohio State's Beanie Wells with the No. 18 if things fell into place.
But at No. 12?
With defensive players Brian Orakpo, Robert Ayers and Malcolm Jenkins all available, the Broncos turned to offense. The Broncos had the No. 2 overall offense last season and they were 29th on defense.
There is no doubt Moreno will become the featured back in Denver. It is also clear Denver will be a running offense in the post-Jay Cutler era. With quarterback Kyle Orton, acquired in the in the Cutler trade, the likely starter, Denver will try to pound the football and control the clock. That would both take pressure off of Orton and off of the rebuilding done.
Moreno is a good pick for Denver, but it was still unexpected that early in the draft.
As teams gather and prepare to talk turkey with Denver, new Broncos coach Josh McDaniels said Cutler is "our quarterback."
McDaniels' reiteration likely will not sway teams from trying to trade for Cutler. The Denver Post reported last week that 10 teams were interested in Cutler. The New York Daily News is reporting that the Jets want Cutler.
More trade talk is expected. Still, the Broncos have not opened the trade doors yet. Sources say the Broncos want to talk to Cutler a third time to try to get on the same page before talking trade.
The biggest stumbling block for the Broncos in dealing Cutler is they don't have a quarterback to start if he is traded. If Denver can devise a plan to get a suitable starter in a trade or through the draft, and it thinks the Cutler problem is beyond repair, it may start listening.
But McDaniels' comments Monday shows, at least publicly, the team isn't there yet.
Meanwhile, the Denver Post is reporting the team may be interested in trading running backs Ryan Torain or Peyton Hillis. Both players were rookies last season and both were put on injured reserve. Denver has added three veteran running backs -- Correll Buckhalter, J.J. Arrington and LaMont Jordan -- this offseason. Hillis was very impressive when he played last season and he is versatile, so a trade involving him would be somewhat surprising.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Tracking free-agent visits can become a part-time job during the initial rush of free agency. Now that things have settled, I've put together an unofficial list showing where NFC West free agents have visited and which players the division's teams have visited with.
These visits fall into four basic categories:
Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson
News is popping in the AFC West:
The Denver Post is reporting that the Broncos have resolved their contract issues with running back J.J. Arrington and have agreed to terms again. The team and Arrington had agreed to a deal on Friday but it fell apart on Saturday.
Denver now has three new running backs in Arrington, Correll Buckhalter and LaMont Jordan. The addition of the veterans may mean it will be difficult for youngsters Ryan Torain and Peyton Hillis to get extensive playing time.
Expect Buckhalter, Arrington and Jordan all to play fairly extensive roles. Jordan may be the short-yardage back and Arrington the third-down back.
- The Houston Chronicle reports that Houston matched the offer restricted free agent receiver David Anderson received from Denver last week. Anderson likely would have been a No. 5 receiver with Denver.
- Former Kansas City quarterback Damon Huard is headed to San Francisco. The Chiefs had no plans of bringing back Huard, who was a starter at times the past few seasons.
- Denver has kept defensive lineman Kenny Peterson. He may be the only in-house free agent new Broncos coach Josh McDaniels keeps. The team thinks Peterson will fit in Denver's new 3-4 defensive alignment.
Interestingly, Peterson is the only holdover who knows McDaniels. The two were actually high school teammates in Canton, Ohio. McDaniels was a senior and Peterson was a freshman.
Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson
The Denver Post reports the Broncos are shopping tight end Tony Scheffler because new Denver coach Josh McDaniels prefers three receiver, one tight end sets and Scheffler won't fit. Scheffler played with blocking tight end Daniel Graham in double tight end sets in Denver.
Scheffler is a fine down-field option and he could attract interest on the open market. This news may not make Jay Cutler any happier with the Broncos. Scheffler is one of his favorite targets and the two are close friends.
In the same article, the Post reports that Denver receiver Brandon Stokley restructured his contract to keep him in Denver. This is a good move. Stokley is a terrific third-down receiver and a leader in the locker room.
Former Denver long snapper Mike Leach will be visiting in Arizona and Seattle. Leach is considered one of the better snappers in the league but he was suddenly cut by Denver when the team signed New England long snapper Lonie Paxton.
This won't make the Raiders happy. When the Raiders agreed to cut running back LaMont Jordan last year, the team asked that Jordan not sign with two teams -- New England or Denver. Jordan signed with New England last summer. Wednesday, he agreed to terms with the Broncos.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
While the 49ers are preparing to visit with Kurt Warner, the Cardinals will be meeting with free agents Bryant McFadden, LaMont Jordan and fullback John Kuhn. That is the word from Darren Urban of the Cardinals' Web site.
I'll provide snippets of analysis on each player from Scouts Inc.
Kuhn, fullback, Packers: Kuhn is a backup fullback and core special teams player. He is a tough, competitive player with a blue collar mentality. He aligns at both the fullback and wing positions in the Packers' different personnel groupings. He has the willingness to lead up inside and block on the second level. He has decent balance and control when finding targets, while maintaining position. He has the ability to adjust, he's but not a big finisher when inserting as a lead blocker. He will stop feet on contact, but has decent recovery ability.
Jordan, running back, Patriots: Jordan is a downhill runner who has to get a head of steam up before he hits the line of scrimmage to be effective and is not the type who can turn a loss into a gain with elusive running skills. He can bounce the ball to the outside when the middle is plugged up. ... He can fill a need as a power back who catches the ball out of the backfield and can be hard to tackle once he gets to the second level or catches the ball in the open field.
McFadden, cornerback, Steelers: McFadden has a strong well-defined body and adequate height. He plays the run well, is physical near the line of scrimmage and doesn't back down from a physical challenge. McFadden has decent instincts, plays the ball well and is a quick learner. He sees plays develop well and shows excellent competitiveness. He is a good tackler and gets his hands on the ball quite a bit. His speed is just slightly above average and could be exposed against the faster wideouts in the league. His hip turn and change-of-direction skills are also just slightly above average, but he has very good body control and rarely takes false steps, which make up for some of his potential shortcomings.
The Scouts Inc. bios include additional information, but these descriptions should help us better understand what the Cardinals might be seeking.
Taylor visited the Buffalo Bills on Tuesday and the Patriots on Wednesday. When choosing between those two organizations it's a pretty easy decision to make.
Taylor turned 33 in January and would like to win a championship ring. The Bills haven't reached the playoffs since 1999 and have gone 7-9 three straight seasons. The Patriots win Super Bowls.
Taylor has been knocked throughout his career as being injury-prone. But Taylor played in 100 of Jacksonville's last 112 games, and he won't have to carry the whole load in New England.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick was dissatisfied with the same crew last year and brought in LaMont Jordan before the start of 2008.
The New England Patriots did their part. Now they must wait. Right about the time their flight touches down they'll know their playoff fate.
The Patriots defeated the Buffalo Bills, 13-0, in windswept Ralph Wilson Stadium. The Patriots are 11-5, but still might not make the playoffs depending on what happens in two games that kick off at 4:15 p.m.
The Patriots need either the New York Jets or Jacksonville Jaguars to win. If it's the former, then the Patriots would claim the AFC East title. If it's the latter, then the Patriots would make the playoffs as the second wild card.
Buffalo, meanwhile, finished 7-9 for the third straight season under head coach Dick Jauron, who might not keep his job after guiding the Bills to a 5-1 start and then overseeing their collapse.
Conditions were so nasty in Orchard Park, N.Y., that Patriots quarterback Matt Cassel's stat line looked more like a drive breakdown: 6 of 8 for 78 yards.
The Bills coped with the loss of Marshawn Lynch, who was deactivated because of a shoulder injury. His replacement, Fred Jackson, ran 26 times for a career-high 133 yards, but the Bills couldn't get into the end zone.
Bills quarterback Trent Edwards was 14 of 25 for 128 yards and no interceptions, but he did lose a fumble.
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The New England Patriots aren't going away.
In fact, they're looming more than they have all season.
The Patriots went into Sunday the only team among the AFC East-leading threesome not in control of their own destiny, but they remain very much a factor after walloping the Arizona Cardinals 47-7 in the snow globe that was Gillette Stadium.
The Patriots are 10-5 and play the Buffalo Bills in next week's season finale. While the Patriots could win 11 games and not make the playoffs, the Cardinals are 8-7 and have ensured their spot by clinching the harmless NFC West.
The Patriots could become the first 11-win club to miss the postseason since the NFL adopted its current format in 1990 if the Baltimore Ravens beat the Jacksonville Jaguars as expected next week to finish 11-5 and both the Jets and Dolphins win today.
The Ravens hold the tiebreaker and would take the second wild-card berth. The Indianapolis Colts earned the first wild-card entry.
Cassel's phenomenal season continued. He completed 20 of 36 passes for 345 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions.
A few notes from the first quarter, with thanks to ESPN researcher Mark Simon:
- The Cardinals have allowed at least 21 points in the first quarter three times in their past four games.
- LaMont Jordan scored the Patriots' first two touchdowns. It's his fourth career multi-TD game, but his first since Week 12 in 2005. He never before had scored two in the same quarter.
- Kevin Faulk had the other Patriots touchdown in the first quarter on a 15-yard catch and run. He has 14 career receiving touchdowns and 14 career rushing touchdowns.
- The Patriots haven't lost a game in which Faulk has scored a touchdown since December 20, 2004. They're 7-0 in that span.
|AP Photo/George Nikitin|
|Patriots quarterback Matt Cassel was exceptional in a 49-26 win over the Raiders less than a week after his father passed away.|
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham
Cassel had four touchdown passes by the opening drive of the second half. He finished with 218 yards on 18 completions to help the Patriots remain tied with the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins atop the AFC East.
All three teams won Sunday and are 9-5 with two games left.
With the Patriots' postseason hopes on the line, many were concerned if Cassel could cope. The alternative would've been to insert rookie Kevin O'Connell. But Cassel insisted on playing, a decision that inspired his teammates.
Five years ago this month and on the same field, Brett Favre threw four first-half touchdown passes to beat the Raiders the day after his dad died.
Cassel's father, Greg, was found dead early Tuesday morning in his Southern California home. Cassel left the team Wednesday but returned to practice Thursday at San Jose State, where the team worked out in between games against the Seattle Seahawks and Raiders.
Randy Moss, playing in Oakland for the first time since he was traded from there, caught five of Cassel's passes for 67 yards and two touchdowns.