Friday, September 24, 2010
Eagles keep their options open
By Adam Schefter
When the Philadelphia Eagles announced Kevin Kolb's contract extension in April, they didn't announce another significant component of the deal.
Kolb's extension left Philadelphia the financial flexibility to commit to Michael Vick.
Philadelphia is paying Kolb $11.4 million this season, but it drops to only $1.4 million next season, when Vick is scheduled to become a free agent. Philadelphia is going to be able to pay big money to one of its quarterbacks next season, and right now, having been promoted to starter, Vick is positioned to cash in.
But this is the foresight of Philadelphia's front office. It was playing this game and preparing for this scenario even before it traded Donovan McNabb.
Just follow the money.
The deal Kolb signed in April paid him a $10.7 million signing bonus and a $715,000 base salary this year -- an almost identical sum to the $11.2 million on McNabb's contract this season. So what it comes down to is this: Philadelphia took McNabb's money and reallocated it to Kolb this season.
Now the Eagles are in position to take Kolb's money and pay it to Vick, or whoever most deserves it, next season. But that's next season. For now, let's focus on next week.
McNabb returns to Philadelphia. Never too early to start getting ready.
On to this week's 10 Spot:
It is hard to imagine that only two games into this season, four teams have changed quarterbacks. Philadelphia is sticking with Michael Vick, Carolina is turning to rookie quarterback Jimmy Clausen, Buffalo is going with Ryan Fitzpatrick and Oakland is tapping Bruce Gradkowski. This doesn't include Cleveland losing quarterback Jake Delhomme to a sprained ankle, Pittsburgh losing Byron Leftwich and Dennis Dixon to knee injuries, Detroit losing Matthew Stafford to a shoulder injury, Tennessee benching Vince Young, Arizona benching Derek Anderson and Jacksonville benching David Garrard. St. Louis didn't even wait for the season to begin before turning from veteran A.J. Feeley to rookie Sam Bradford. The most important position in sports never has been as volatile as it is now. The physical and mental stresses of the job are immense. Already they have taken their toll. And, like last season, the moves are a long way from being over.
Some stats are so difficult to fathom that the Elias Sports Bureau must confirm them. Here's one: Among all quarterbacks with 50-plus starts since 2001, the two most sacked are San Francisco's David Carr and
Philadelphia's Michael Vick. Now Carr, who has been sacked once every 9.5 passing attempts, is easy to understand. He played behind an expansion offensive line in Houston that allowed 76 sacks in 2002. But Vick is one of the most electric and elusive quarterbacks in NFL history. And yet, he has been sacked once every 10.2 pass attempts. It is worth noting because Vick plays behind a shaky Philadelphia offensive line that already has lost starting center Jamaal Jackson to a season-ending injury. As difficult as it is to envision, Vick is going to need to keep producing the types of big plays he has been making -- because there will be enough plays on which he suffers a loss.
During the season's first two weeks, Vikings quarterback Brett Favre lacked the exuberance he has demonstrated throughout his storied career. He looks as if he doubts the decision he made to return for another season. He doesn't look as if he's having fun, and it shows in his play. In his first two games last season, Favre eased into the Vikings' offense, throwing more than 10 yards downfield on only six of his 48 attempts. Through two games this season, even without Sidney Rice, Favre already has thrown more than 10 yards downfield 25 times (almost 40 percent of his attempts), according to ESPN Stats & Information. The results -- a 48 percent completion percentage on those attempts, one touchdown and three interceptions -- help explain the Vikings' 0-2 start.
One of the more intriguing subplots of Monday night's Packers-Bears game is what happened in January, one day after Green Bay's season ended in disappointment in Arizona. The Bears faxed the Packers a permission slip to interview Green Bay quarterbacks coach Tom Clements for Chicago's offensive coordinator job. The Packers rejected the request, which is not uncommon. Jeremy Bates, who went with Pete Carroll from USC to Seattle, turned down the Bears. Bengals quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese didn't want the job. Chargers assistant head coach Rob Chudzinski didn't want the job. And the Bears got "stuck" with Mike Martz, which might turn out to be the best thing that has happened to Chicago in years. Martz has helped resurrect Jay Cutler and revive Chicago's offense. And now, his offense goes against Clements' in a battle of the coach the Bears wanted and the one they got.
During the offseason, in an effort to elevate his play, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan studied tape of Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Philip Rivers, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees. Now Ryan will get an up-close look at Brees in a matchup that will shape the NFC South standings and potentially the way the postseason seeds shake out. When Ryan studied Brees during the offseason, he noticed how patient Brees was and how effectively he checked down when nothing was open downfield. Early on, those lessons have been evident, with Ryan doing his best Brees imitation. Through two games, Ryan has thrown for 477 yards, Brees 491. Ryan has thrown three touchdown passes and one interception; Brees has thrown three touchdown passes and no interceptions. But Ryan can't be as good Sunday. He has to be better.
|Michael Vick has been sacked once every 10.2 pass attempts in his career -- an astounding number.|
When Dallas won the NFC East title last season and its first playoff game since 1996, it did so behind its run game. So somebody explain why, during the season's first two games -- both of which it lost -- Dallas has essentially downplayed it. The Cowboys have called 42 run plays and 100 pass plays that have produced two offensive touchdowns. Starting Sunday in the battle against Houston for the Lone Star State, it might be wise for the Cowboys to turn back to Marion Barber, Felix Jones and Tashard Choice to keep the Texans off the field and Dallas in the game.
Just because nine teams started last season 0-2 and all missed the playoffs does not mean Minnesota and Dallas should abandon hope. All Minnesota has to do is remember 2008, when it joined Miami and San Diego as the three teams that opened 0-2 before turning around their seasons, winning their divisions and making it to the postseason. In fact, since the playoff field was expanded to 12 teams in 1990, 22 teams have made the playoffs after an 0-2 or worse start. That said, Dallas and Minnesota are going to have to play considerably better than they have.
Chargers running back Ryan Mathews starred in the preseason, but Mike Tolbert has stood out in the regular season. Tolbert did not arrive in San Diego with the fanfare of Mathews, the first-round draft pick San Diego traded up to land in April. Tolbert was an undrafted free agent from Coastal Carolina, where he teamed with Dolphins quarterback Tyler Thigpen and Bengals wide receiver Jerome Simpson. But the 5-foot-9, 243-pound Tolbert has looked like a modern-day version of former Chargers standout Natrone Means and has run like him, too. So often teams draft a player only to see a less-heralded one emerge. It happened in Houston, where undrafted free agent Arian Foster assumed the role the Texans thought second-round pick Ben Tate might take. Now it might be happening in San Diego, too.
Had Mike Tomlin not had the success he did in Pittsburgh, it's possible and even likely that Tampa Bay would not have been so quick to hire his protégé, Raheem Morris. But because Tomlin won a Super Bowl in Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay did not hesitate to replace Jon Gruden with Morris. Now Tomlin's and Morris' teams square off in a matchup of two surprising 2-0 teams. Tomlin's influence is all over Morris' philosophy and core coaching beliefs. Now Morris will take what he learned from Tomlin and try to hand the Steelers their first loss -- without standout safety Tanard Jackson, who has been suspended at least one year for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy.
Forgive Baltimore if it feels out of sorts Sunday. The Ravens are back home after one of the longest trips in NFL history. Going back to last season (and excluding preseason contests), the Ravens have played six straight road games -- at Pittsburgh, Oakland, New England, Indianapolis, the New York Jets and Cincinnati. If any other AFC North team has designs on winning the division, it might want to keep down Baltimore. Four of the Ravens' final six games -- Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, New Orleans and Cincinnati -- are at home.
|The Cowboys need to get their run game, with Marion Barber (above), Felix Jones and Tashard Choice, back in gear.|
The Schef's Specialties
Game of the week: Falcons at New Orleans: Now we'll see how much Reggie Bush means to the Saints' offense.
Upset of the week: Jacksonville over Philadelphia: A story, and result, made for talk radio in Philadelphia.
Player of the week: Cowboys OLB DeMarcus Ware: He'll be matched against Texans OT Rashad Butler, the fill-in for suspended left tackle Duane Brown.
Adam Schefter is an ESPN NFL Insider.