NFL Nation: NFC Stock Watch 2010 Week 4
1. Derek Anderson, Cardinals QB. The Cardinals benched him only four games into the season. The move might not be permanent, but it was telling. Anderson had to know the Cardinals were entertaining other long-term plans at the position, but he probably figured to get longer than 14 quarters.
3. Justin Forsett, Seahawks RB. Marshawn Lynch's addition to the Seahawks means Forsett no longer projects as the starter this season. Seattle has big plans for Lynch. The bye week gives the Seahawks time to prepare Lynch for the team's game against Chicago. Forsett will remain an important part of the rotation, but he's a less important part now.
1. Sam Bradford, Rams QB. Throwing two touchdown passes to help end the Rams' 17-game NFC West losing streak means Bradford is providing immediate returns on a long-term investment. He's looking like the best quarterback in the division only four games into his career.
2. Taylor Mays, 49ers S. The 49ers' decision to release veteran safety Michael Lewis became less of a story when Mays replaced him capably and, by the way, accounted for half the team's points with a spectacular special-teams touchdown. Consider this a running start for Mays.
3. Max Hall, Cardinals QB. Hall is on the rising list the way Forsett is on the falling list -- through circumstances involving another player. Anderson's benching, whether permanent or not, suggests Hall will probably be starting for the Cardinals sooner, not later.
1. Andy Reid, head coach, Philadelphia Eagles: No matter how you slice it, that was an embarrassing display at the end of the first half. Reid's always had trouble with clock management, but he's apparently too stubborn to do anything about it. If ever a man needed a clock specialist, it's this man. I understand that the officials blew his mind by moving the ball back from the one-foot line, but you still need to have a quicker reaction. It was a clueless moment that contributed to a 17-12 loss to the Washington Redskins.
3. Matt Dodge, punter, New York Giants: Tom Coughlin has shown extreme patience with the rookie, but it's probably time to move on. Jeff Feagles spoiled this organization for a lot of years. Right now, Dodge has no clue where the ball's going. The team worked out Hunter Smith on Tuesday. I think the Giants should make the change now.
1. Albert Haynesworth, defensive lineman, Washington Redskins: I've been highly critical of Haynesworth since the offseason because of his attitude and overall approach. But he made a big contribution to that win Sunday by drawing holding penalties and making plays against the run. I think he's starting to buy into Jim Haslett's defense, and that's a scary thing for opposing offensive coordinators. He still seemed disgruntled about his playing time after the game, but Mike Shanahan won't care as long as his defensive tackle continues to play like this.
2. Ryan Torain, running back, Washington Redskins: Clinton Portis might have a difficult time getting his job back when he returns from a groin injury. Torain received the bulk of the carries Sunday against the Eagles and produced 70 yards and a game-changing touchdown. That 12-yard TD on which he ran over Quintin Mikell set the tone for an upset win.
1. Donovan McNabb, quarterback, Washington Redskins: I know he was lousy in the second half, but he still got the job done in a 17-12 win against his former team. You have to admire the way McNabb put aside all the emotion and made big plays in the first half. The deep ball to Anthony Armstrong was enormous and the touchdown throw to Chris Cooley staked the Skins to an early 14-0 lead. McNabb's 18-yard scramble helped milk the clock late in the game. Something tells me he'll remember to stay in bounds next time he gets that opportunity.
2. Confidence in the Detroit Lions' defense: I wouldn't say this group has been overly hyped this year, but Lions coach Jim Schwartz certainly trusted it with 6 minutes, 23 seconds remaining Sunday at Lambeau Field. Instead of attempting a long field goal or playing for a first down from the Packers' 37-yard line, the Lions punted. The idea was to pin the Packers deep, get a stop and get the ball back in good field position to launch a game-winning drive. But the Lions never got the ball back because they couldn't stop one of the NFL's least-proficient running teams from milking the entire clock. At this point, the Lions' defense very much remains a work in progress.
3. Between-play creativity: The NFL has informed Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jared Allen that he can no longer go to the ground as part of his sack dance because it violates NFL rules. Allen reacted with appropriate humor, joking he would use a piece of cardboard to prevent contact with the ground. Allen has been using the same dance for a while, so it's clear that someone recently complained that the league wasn't enforcing its rules fairly. That someone has too much time on his/her hands. Let's find something important to legislate.
1. Brett Favre's heart rate: The Vikings quarterback has dreamed of playing with receiver Randy Moss for years and was deeply disappointed the Green Bay Packers didn't acquire him from the Oakland Raiders in 2007. He'll finally get his chance. The short-term possibilities are endless for this duo, both of whom will be highly motivated to make history. Ask yourself this question: When Moss burst onto the scene with a five-catch, 190-yard performance at Lambeau Field in October 1998, did you ever think he would one day team up with the opposing quarterback that night?
2. Ted Thompson's confidence: Hours after passing on the opportunity to trade for a legitimate starting tailback, the Green Bay Packers general manager had to endure the news that Moss was likely on the way to providing a jolt for a divisional rival. But as the Vikings were agreeing to give up a third-round draft pick for Moss, Thompson was refusing to do the same to acquire Buffalo Bills tailback Marshawn Lynch. I realize Thompson probably didn't know about the Moss discussions before making a decision on Lynch, but I also doubt it would have changed his mind. Ultimately, the Seattle Seahawks sent a fourth-rounder in 2011 and a conditional 2012 pick for Lynch. Independent of the Moss trade, Thompson must be awfully confident in his current backfield of Brandon Jackson, John Kuhn and Dimitri Nance to have passed up what would have been a quite reasonable deal for a 24-year-old starting-caliber runner.
3. Accountability in Chicago: It's impossible to ignore the facts. In four weeks, the Bears have benched their No. 1 cornerback (Zack Bowman), their leading Week 1 receiver (Devin Aromashodu) and one of their long-time mainstays along the defensive line (Tommie Harris). They released defensive end Mark Anderson, have instituted rotations at two offensive line positions and have made clear that, as the kids say these days, they ain't playin'. All 53 Bears players should be on notice. It will be interesting to see if this approach fuels motivated play or spirit-killing uncertainty.
2. Carolina’s wide receivers. With Steve Smith likely out with an ankle injury and Dwayne Jarrett released after he was charged with driving while impaired, the Panthers are down to rookie receivers Brandon LaFell, David Gettis and Armanti Edwards. They also claimed David Clowney off waivers Tuesday. Edwards has yet to be active on game day. Rookie quarterback Jimmy Clausen doesn’t exactly have a stellar cast to throw to.
3. New Orleans’ offensive line. It’s not what it was a year ago. That’s a little disappointing because the line returned intact, but it hasn’t been dominant. Drew Brees is getting pressured more than usual, the running game’s been only ordinary and All-Pro guard Jahri Evans has developed a sudden knack for getting called for holding penalties.
1. Curtis Lofton, linebacker, Falcons. He’s been a pretty good middle linebacker in his first two seasons. But the knock on Lofton was that he didn’t make big plays, and he talked this summer about how he wanted to change that. It’s happening. In Sunday’s victory against San Francisco, Lofton had nine tackles, a sack and an interception. A few more big plays and Lofton could be a strong candidate for the Pro Bowl.
2. Roddy White, receiver, Falcons. It’s hard to put White’s stock much higher than it already was. We declared him the best receiver in the NFC South last week. But White went out and took his game to a higher level Sunday. He made one of the most incredible plays of his career and it didn’t even involve him catching the ball. After Nate Clements had a late interception, White ran him down from behind and popped the ball loose to cause a fumble that the Falcons recovered. Atlanta then went on a drive and kicked the game-winning field goal.
3. Usama Young, safety, Saints. He’s usually just a special-teams player. But a series of injuries forced him into the strong safety spot in Sunday’s victory against Carolina. With the Panthers close to the range where they could kick a game-winning field goal, Young stepped up and had a tackle where he dropped DeAngelo Williams for a four-yard loss. That and a sack by free safety Malcolm Jenkins on the next play took the Panthers definitively out of field-goal range.