NFL Nation: Mark Schlereth


ESPN's Bill Polian, Mark Schlereth, Trey Wingo and Adam Schefter offered thoughts Monday on the trade sending Percy Harvin to the Seattle Seahawks.

Polian examines the fit. Schelerth addresses Harvin's impact. Schefter notes Seattle general manager John Schneider's past efforts to chase big-name wide receivers.

Dilfer, Schlereth break down the 49ers

February, 1, 2013
2/01/13
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NEW ORLEANS -- ESPN's Trent Dilfer and Mark Schlereth break down the San Francisco 49ers' Colin Kaepernick, Justin Smith and more in the video analysis above.

They also touch on Joe Flacco and Anquan Boldin.

Enjoy.

Merril Hoge, Chris Mortensen, Mark Schlereth, Seth Wickersham and Keyshawn Johnson are picking the Green Bay Packers to defeat the San Francisco 49ers in the teams' divisional playoff game Saturday.

K.C. Joyner is calling the 49ers' offense overrated Insider while pointing to diminished run blocking, the absence of a downfield passing threat and questions on special teams in explaining why San Francisco is vulnerable.

What kind of respect is this for the team that stood No. 1 in ESPN's NFL Power Rankings three weeks ago?

ESPN's Tedy Bruschi and Herm Edwards made their Packers-49ers picks in the video above. One of them did pick the 49ers. I'll make my guesses Friday, as usual.

Experts: Falcons will win

January, 10, 2013
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All season long, Atlanta fans have been talking about how the Falcons don’t get enough respect.

I never have understood the obsession so many fans have with how they think they’re perceived by the national media. It really is a pointless exercise. Coaches and players don’t spend much time thinking about whether they’re getting their due.

Most of them believe you don’t go out and ask for respect. You earn it.

And the fact is, the Falcons aren’t going to get wide-spread respect until they win a playoff game for the first time in the Mike Smith-Matt Ryan era.

But Atlanta fans might be happy to know their team is a solid favorite against Seattle, according to the ESPN NFL Expert Picks. Nine members of the panel picked the Falcons.

Mark Schlereth, Tom Jackson, Mike Ditka and Cris Carter picked the Seahawks. So did SportsNation, but that’s based on a vote by fans. There’s a lesson to be learned there. If Atlanta fans wanted another pick in the Falcons’ column, they should have voted more often than Seattle fans.

Anyway, most of you know that I generally don’t make predictions. But I make an exception for the playoffs.

You can go here to see my prediction on who wins the Seattle-Atlanta game.
Here are selected comments from ESPN analysts on Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, who announced Wednesday that he will retire at the end of the year:

Lewis
Lewis
Trent Dilfer, who won a Super Bowl with Lewis: "He was the best defensive player on the field every game he played in. Off the field he was the best. He had this unique ability to resonate with every single person in the locker room. And that's hard to do. In the NFL, unfortunately, sometimes the guy who is most productive has the loudest voice and that messaging is wrong. Well, that's not the case with Ray. He is the most productive player but his messaging within the locker room is always right. There's an intensity to him. That intensity is authentic. It's genuine and it's always directed at making the football organization better. ... When I say he's the best, really in my experience in the National Football League, I've never seen a person better than him at those three layers: preparation, leadership and play."

Mark Schlereth, a three-time Super Bowl champion: "I know he has lost a step. I know he's not the player that he once was. I still look at him as a great player and emotional leader, and all the different things that he brings to an organization. ... There's just something about Ray Lewis. You expect Sundays to see 52 out there - pregame, getting everybody going. Then during the course of the game just flying around making plays. I was actually shocked to hear this announcement."

Jason Taylor, a former NFL defensive player of the year: "It's always shocking when a great player leaves the game. Unfortunately, it happens to everybody. We understand that. It is a tough emotional time. The timing of it is interesting. He will provide an emotional boost for the team. He's not completely healthy, but he is still Ray Lewis. He is still going to bring energy. He's still going to bring leadership. He's going to bring passion. That place will be electric on Sunday."

Tom Jackson, former NFL linebacker: "One of the top five guys, maybe, to play the position. ... When you look at his career, what he was able to accomplish over the years, the longevity, the excellence, you start doing a shell game with those top five guys to play the game, Ray Lewis is somewhere in there. ... As a player, his skill set was outstanding, but emotionally, in terms of inspiring guys around him to be a better player in your own right, I think there is no one who has ever been better at that than Ray Lewis."
A lot has been made about the San Diego Chargers’ offensive woes and the issues of quarterback Philip Rivers.

The Chargers -- who have scored 30 points or more at least five times since 2006 -- have not scored more than 29 points this season and Rivers is off to his worst start as a professional. If ESPN analyst Mark Schlereth is right, the Chargers’ offensive struggles may continue.

Schlereth said on “SportsCenter” and “NFL Live” on Wednesday the Chargers are missing an explosive player who can control the middle of the field. Schlereth believes the Chargers’ offense is missing the player that used to fill that role -- Darren Sproles.

Schlereth said that he think Rivers misses getting the ball to Sproles on option routes and underneath plays.

Sproles departed San Diego as a free agent this summer. He did have an important role in the Chargers’ offense on screen plays and as a change-of-pace running back. However, last season, his production slipped some, causing the Chargers to decide they could move on without him.

Still, San Diego really doesn’t have anyone to take that role. It drafted small running back Jordan Todman in the sixth round with the hopes he’d eventually play a Sproles-like role. However, he was recently cut and placed on the practice squad. So he is clearly not ready to contribute

I think the Chargers’ best bet for finding Rivers targets in the middle of the field is tailback Ryan Mathews out of the backfield as both he and fellow running back Mike Tolbert have been solid receiving targets. In addition, I think the return of tight end Antonio Gates will help as well in the middle of the field. He has always been a top bail-out option for Rivers. He has missed three games this season due to a foot injury.

This offense has long been effective because it was varied and had different options. The loss of Sproles hurts, but I think it would be premature to think the Chargers’ entire season will be altered because of his departure.

Wrap-up: Packers 25, Falcons 14

October, 10, 2011
10/10/11
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A few thoughts on the Green Bay Packers' comeback 25-14 victory over the Atlanta Falcons:

What it means: The Packers improved to an NFL-best 5-0 after their most impressive performance of the season. The Packers also extended their winning streak to 11 games, dating to last season and including the playoffs. Now the Packers will watch Monday night to see if the Detroit Lions can match their record by defeating the Chicago Bears at Ford Field.

Adversity football: That's a phrase coach Mike McCarthy uses often. Sunday night, the Packers faced their first two-touchdown deficit since midway through the 2009 season, trailing 14-0 with nearly four minutes remaining in the first quarter. They outscored the Falcons 25-0 the rest of the way. They also overcame the loss of left tackle Chad Clifton, who suffered what appeared to be a serious hamstring injury in the second quarter. The Packers finished the game with Marshall Newhouse moving from right tackle to left tackle and rookie Derek Sherrod at right tackle.

Newhouse praise: Newhouse looked pretty solid at left tackle, but don't take it from me. Here's what ESPN analyst and former NFL offensive lineman Mark Schlereth tweeted during the game: " Newhouse is gonna be a star in this league at tackle I can't tell you how hard it is to switch from RT to LT and not skip a beat!"

Defensive shutdown: The Falcons rolled up 140 yards on their first two possessions, both of which ended in touchdowns. The Packers defense held them to 111 yards the rest of the way, and safety Charlie Peprah ended the Falcons' only legitimate scoring threat with an interception at the Packers' 14-yard line midway through the fourth quarter. They only sacked Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan once, but they unofficially hit him seven times and clearly knocked him off his rhythm in the second quarter and beyond.

RodgersWatch: Quarterback Aaron Rodgers finished with 396 yards, bringing his two-week total to 804. He tied a Packers record by completing a pass to 12 different receivers. Only one skill-position player who was active for the game didn't catch a pass: Fourth-string tight end Ryan Taylor. We'll give him a pass.

JonesWatch: Receiver James Jones entered the game with nine catches for 88 yards. He complained briefly about his role in the offense but wisely waited his turn. His five-catch, 140-yard performance included a 70-yard touchdown. But I thought his best play came in the fourth quarter, when he made sure to stay in bounds near the sideline at the end of a 21-yard play.

FinleyWatch: Tight end Jermichael Finley had an odd night, dropping a touchdown pass in the second quarter and also a third-down opportunity in the third quarter. Finley failed to come up with a catchable two-point conversion pass as well. But his final catch, a 24-yarder in the fourth quarter, converted a third down and was critical in the Packers' efforts to run out the clock.

CrosbyWatch: Let's not forget that place-kicker Mason Crosby tied his franchise record with a 56-yard field goal on the Packers' second possession of the second half. The kick made the score 14-9. Had he missed it, the Falcons would have held their 14-6 lead while taking over near midfield.

What's next: The Packers will host the winless St. Louis Rams next Sunday at Lambeau Field. Six and oh, anybody?

Arrowhead Stadium makes visitors quiver

June, 7, 2011
6/07/11
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A few hours ago, I thought "NFL Live" analysts Mark Schlereth and Marcellus Wiley were off base by not including the New England Patriots in the conversation for most explosive offense.

We're in alignment again.

This week's ESPN.com Power Rankings deal with the league's toughest venues. I was alone among the eight divisional bloggers in putting Arrowhead Stadium atop my ballot. Nobody else had it higher than third. NFC South blogger Pat Yasinskas didn't list it at all.

Schlereth and Wiley played there, and they expressed no doubt Arrowhead Stadium was the most difficult place to go. Wiley said it always felt like the Kansas City Chiefs were up 3-0 by the end of the national anthem.

"It's Arrowhead Stadium, and it's hands down," Wiley said, adding that it's the only place he ever had to insert earplugs to get through a game.

Schlereth recalled whenever he played at Arrowhead Stadium, the Denver Broncos would scrap 25 percent of their playbook and eliminate all seven-step drops because of the noise.

My complete ballot:
  1. Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City Chiefs
  2. Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis Colts
  3. Qwest Field, Seattle Seahawks
  4. Soldier Field, Chicago Bears
  5. Heinz Field, Pittsburgh Steelers
  6. Invesco Field, Denver Broncos
  7. Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia Eagles
  8. Gillette Stadium, New England Patriots
  9. Lambeau Field, Green Bay Packers
  10. Metrodome, Minnesota Vikings

The biggest discrepancy with my ballot and the overall list was my ranking of Lambeau Field, which was first or second on six ballots. It was a subjective process, and I distinctly remember a mediocre Miami Dolphins squad traveling a long way to beat the Packers at Lambeau Field last season.

The Packers have gotten lit up at home a few times the past three years despite having terrific talent. I guess I couldn't get past that. I realize the Chiefs have gotten destroyed at Arrowhead, too. But it's not the stadium's fault Kansas City has fielded poor rosters.

NFC East blogger Dan Graziano gave Ralph Wilson Stadium his No. 1 vote, but the Buffalo Bills' home venue didn't appear on any other ballot. Graziano explained weather conditions buoyed his thinking.

Bills fans are some of the most dedicated and lively in the league. Their tailgates are off the charts, and their loyalty remains strong despite being tested by bad teams. But too many visiting teams have left Ralph Wilson Stadium with smiles on their faces the past decade.

Patriots belong in explosive O discussion

June, 7, 2011
6/07/11
8:56
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In an "NFL Live" segment, ESPN analysts Mark Schlereth and Marcellus Wiley discussed the most explosive offense.

Each spoke definitively about his choice. Wiley went with the Philadelphia Eagles because of team speed. Schlereth backed the Green Bay Packers.

Yoo-hoo! Fellas?

What about the New England Patriots? All they did last year was score the most points in the league, averaging 4.8 points per game more than the team than finished second, the San Diego Chargers.

The Patriots scored a league-leading 56 offensive touchdowns. They did so on 986 scrimmage plays, just 22nd in the league. To give a better idea of what kind of neighborhood the Patriots were in when it came to snaps: Of the 10 teams that had fewer plays than the Patriots, the Tennessee Titans scored the most offensive TDs with 37.

In other words, the Patriots scored most frequently and on much fewer plays than most other clubs. Isn't that the definition of explosiveness?

The Patriots also added six more touchdowns on defense and three in the return game, but those aren't germane to this conversation. The Patriots still had the most potent offense last year and should be at least as dangerous in 2011. The whole crew is back.

Granted, the Patriots won't have a bunch of players drafted in the first three rounds of your fantasy league like the Eagles and Packers probably will, but quarterback Tom Brady is the reigning MVP and spreads the ball to a contingent of reliable players such as Wes Welker, Deion Branch, Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez and Danny Woodhead.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis isn't a superstar, but he was the AFC East's only 1,000-yard rusher last season. The line consistently performs at a high level and allows the Patriots to remain a balanced -- and explosive -- offense.

Ranking the AFC East's tight ends

March, 29, 2011
3/29/11
5:33
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To play off ESPN.com's positional Power Rankings, I've broken down the AFC East's best tight ends.

Here’s how I slot them:
  1. Dustin Keller, New York Jets
  2. Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots
  3. Aaron Hernandez, New England Patriots
  4. Anthony Fasano, Miami Dolphins
  5. Alge Crumpler, New England Patriots
  6. Jeff Cumberland, New York Jets
  7. David Martin, Buffalo Bills
  8. Jonathan Stupar, Buffalo Bills
  9. Mickey Shuler, Miami Dolphins

The first five are obvious. Keller is the most dangerous tight end in the division. I ranked him sixth in the NFL on my ballot.

But if Gronkowski and Hernandez didn't have to share touches, then one of them might surpass Keller. Gronkowski and Hernandez combined for 87 catches, 1,109 yards and 16 touchdowns.

ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer thought Gronkowski was snubbed from the overall top 10 list and called him "a dominant blocker in-line ... almost like another tackle" and said "he will be the premier tight end in the NFL in the next few years."

Fasano is next in the AFC East with 39 receptions for 528 yards and four touchdowns, but the stats plummet after that. Crumpler is next because of his blocking skills and knowledge he can make the play if the Patriots depended on it.

From there, I sorted them based on speculation.

Cumberland, an undrafted rookie, was deactivated for 15 games. But I saw enough of the physical specimen in training camp and the preseason to imagine him contributing more to the Bills than Martin (seven receptions, one touchdown) or Stupar (12 receptions, no TDs).

Video: Jets at Steelers predictions

January, 21, 2011
1/21/11
9:57
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ESPN commentators Tim Hasselbeck and Mark Schlereth preview Sunday's game between the New York Jets and Pittsburgh Steelers for the AFC crown.

Both analysts predict the Steelers will win the rematch because superstar safety Troy Polamalu is back, and the Jets won't be able to handle Ben Roethlisberger's brand of "backyard football."

Patriots should be scared of Randy Moss

October, 28, 2010
10/28/10
2:27
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Look out, New England Patriots defensive backs.

Moss
That's the recommendation by former Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi for Sunday's game against the Minnesota Vikings in Gillette Stadium.

Randy Moss will be making his return to Foxborough after the Patriots traded him to the Vikings last month, and he'll be extra motivated to put on a show.

"One little piece of advice to those DBs, two words: Get back," Bruschi said. "When Randy Moss comes off that line and he's striding and he puts up that mailbox arm, they're throwing it to him. Get back. Randy Moss wants a touchdown in this game."

On the set of "NFL Live," fellow analyst Mark Schlereth recalled the added incentive he felt when returning to play the Washington Redskins after joining the Denver Broncos.

"I can't tell you how excited I was to play my former team and basically say 'You guys made a mistake in letting me go,'" Schlereth said.

Bruschi predicted the response from the Gillette Stadium fans should be warm for Moss. It will be Halloween, so you can expect to see a bunch of those Moss masks in the crowd.

"I don't think there should be any question on how the New England fans react to the return of Randy Moss," Bruschi said. "I think you get up out of your seats and you give him a standing ovation because when he was here he performed admirably for this organization, caught a lot of touchdown passes, almost delivered a world championship to the New England Patriots. It would have been their fourth.

"He was nothing but a good teammate while he was there. It doesn't matter how he left and all the speculation. When he was there, he did his work and he performed well for this team. So you get up and give him a little bit of love, New England."

Bruschi: Sanchez a tanking front-runner

September, 16, 2010
9/16/10
1:05
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If ESPN just can get Tedy Bruschi to stop pulling punches, then he might have a future as an entertaining studio analyst.

In an "NFL Live" segment that previewed Sunday's showdown between the New England Patriots and New York Jets at the Meadowlands, Bruschi zeroed in on one player in particular.

"I've got a big concern with the New York Jets, and that's the quarterback, and that's a huge concern," Bruschi said. "As you saw in the offseason, all the confidence that Rex Ryan has, it exudes to his team.

"But when Sanchez gets going and things are going well, I think he's a great quarterback. His attitude is infectious. He's a leader of that team. But when things go bad I think he tanks it. Right now I see Mark Sanchez as a front-runner, and that's not something that you want at that quarterback position.

"A quarterback should have to lead his team when you’re down one point with two minutes left to go on Monday night. You should have that sort of aura about yourself that wants to lead your team down the field."

Sanchez was 10 of 21 for 74 yards in Monday night's home loss to the Baltimore Ravens. On the Jets' two possessions after Nick Folk kicked a field goal to pull within a point with 10:29 to play, Sanchez completed three of his eight attempts for 27 yards and was sacked once.

Bruschi and Mark Schlereth both picked the Patriots to remain unbeaten and keep the Jets winless.

Best Broncos Team Ever: 1998

June, 25, 2010
6/25/10
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Notable players: QB John Elway, RB Terrell Davis, WRs Rod Smith and Ed McCaffrey, TE Shannon Sharpe, OT Tony Jones, C Tom Nalen, G Mark Schlereth, DE Neil Smith, DE Trevor Pryce, LB Bill Romanowski, LB John Mobley, S Steve Atwater, K Jason Elam.

Analysis: This was a great all-time NFL team. In 2007, the NFL Network ranked the team as the 12th-best Super Bowl winner.

[+] EnlargeTerrell Davis
US PresswireTerrell Davis gained 2,008 rushing yards in 1998, just one of six 2,000-yard seasons in NFL history.
The 1998 Broncos followed up their magical 1997 season, in which they were a surprise Super Bowl winner, with a surgically precise team. The Broncos were masterful in every aspect of the game. Elway led the Broncos during his final NFL season, which culminated in an MVP-winning performance in an easy 34-19 win over Atlanta in the Super Bowl.

The Broncos won their first 13 games and finished the regular season 14-2. The only game Denver lost that it truly tried to win was its 14th game, a last-moment loss to the Giants at The Meadowlands. The Broncos were never challenged during three postseason wins. Known for not having the best supporting casts for much of his career, Elway enjoyed the benefit of a stunning running game and a nasty, fierce defense in his final season.

Running back Terrell Davis ran for 2,008 yards, which was then the third-highest rushing total in NFL history. He won the NFL MVP award that season.

When Davis’ hard, downhill running in coach Mike Shanahan's brilliant zone-blocking scheme was combined with the elegance of Elway passing to Smith, McCaffrey and the game-changing Sharpe, Denver was breathtaking to watch on offense.

Defensively, this mean, nasty group always seemed to come up with the big play. Things rarely went wrong for this team. It simply steamrolled through the season.

“We were stacked,” said Elam, who tied an NFL record with a 63-yard field goal during the season. “I remember us routinely being up by three touchdowns at the end of the first quarter and we knew it was over … It was a dream season.”

Most impressive win: The 34-19 victory over the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl XXXIII. The supremely focused Broncos never truly let the Falcons in the game. It was a perfect ending to a near-perfect season.

Businessmen: People around this team always talk about how serious it was. Unlike the 1997 season in which Denver had to fight and scrap every step of the way for its first Super Bowl championship, winning it all was a foregone conclusion all season in 1998.

The Broncos were focused on winning the Super Bowl all season. After the win over Atlanta, there were no wild celebrations. Sure, players were happy. But they were businesslike. It was a different scene from the euphoric celebration that followed the team’s win over heavily favored Green Bay the year before. It was as if the 1998 title was expected all season.

Honorable mention:

1977: Red Miller’s 12-2 outfit was strong, but it was no match for the Cowboys in the Super Bowl.

1996: The memory of this team still stings in Denver. The Broncos were a great team, perhaps better than the 1998 outfit, but it lost at home in the divisional playoff round to Jacksonville, ruining everything good associated with this team.

1997: This is probably the most popular Denver team ever. It fought its way to the franchise’s first Super Bowl win as a wild-card team. The words “This one is for John” will never be forgotten in the Rocky Mountains.

Best Redskins Team Ever: 1991

June, 22, 2010
6/22/10
11:30
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Notable players: QB Mark Rypien, RB Earnest Byner, WR Gary Clark, G Mark Schlereth, DE Charles Mann, CB Darrell Green, K Chip Lohmiller

[+] EnlargeMark Rypien
US PresswireMark Rypien threw for 3,564 yards and 28 touchdowns during the 1991 season.
Analysis: Maybe I should've leaned toward the Riggo-Theismann teams, but in my mind, the ’91 team was too stacked to ignore. Clark was such an unbelievable competitor and he still drops by practice from time to time and inspires the current players. Green was the primary reason opposing teams only managed 6 yards per passing attempt that season. His battles with Michael Irvin were priceless.

The ’91 offensive line was dominant to a ridiculous degree. Redskins quarterbacks were only sacked nine times that season, which is a decent half for the current unit. Rypien had 14 touchdown passes of 25 yards or more to lead the league. Washington could beat you with the pass or run and then its defense knew how to protect leads.

Most impressive win: The Redskins breezed through the regular season with a 14-2 record and then pounded the Lions and Falcons in playoff games. But the 37-24 Super Bowl win over the Bills stands out to me. The Bills were in the middle of a remarkable run and they had an immensely talented offense. The Redskins didn’t care about any of that. We remember the Cowboys being the dominant team of the '90s, but the Redskins set the table in ’91 with a memorable season.

Best player: Green was brilliant at cornerback, but Rypien was the MVP of the league. For that one season, he put up numbers (3,564 yards passing, 28 TDs) that would make any quarterback envious. And the man threw an excellent deep ball.

Honorable mention

1987: I’ll never forget Doug Williams’ performance in the Super Bowl. He was shaky early in that game, but after the Skins fell behind the Broncos by 10, Williams settled down and started shredding the defense.

1983: I know the ’82 team won a Super Bowl, but that was in a strike-shortened season. Give me the ’83 team even though it was pummeled by the Raiders in the Super Bowl.

1972: The Skins ran into the perfect Dolphins in the Super Bowl, but Billy Kilmer and the gang had a tremendous season. Larry Brown was a monster and the great George Allen had the Cowboys in full paranoid mode. It was a classic time in the rivalry because the Cowboys also had become an elite team.

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