This is obviously the slowest time of the year, in terms of NFL content, but I really enjoy this month where there are not a lot of stories to write about and I get to go into the film room and look at a lot of the things that interest me, such as new schemes, philosophies, etc. It ends up being a busier time than you might think.
Carson Palmer. Will he ever regain some of the form that made him one of the top 10 QB's in the league only a short while ago?
Well, I think he'll be better this year than a year ago, because he'll have more time to prepare and he'll also know his receivers better. But I'm not sure he's a perfect fit for the offense that the Raiders are running. They like to get their QB to roll out and make plays out of the pocket. That's not his style. I will say in the film I've watched this week, the Raiders receivers have played better than I thought. That might bode well for a better 2012 season.
Gary, how critical is character in today's evaluations? Are scouts/teams looking at twitter feeds, Facebook posts, etc. like most employers do? Seems like so many kids just don't get it.
Oh, I think character is absolutely a priority. It's probably more important to some teams than others. Coaches realize they're paying these guys a lot of money. The organizations are really tired of being embarrassed. We're in a society right now that does not have a lot of patience for guys in these situations making these kinds of mistakes. I believe that the penalties will become so tough and hopefully we'll educate the young guys better to educate some of these problems. I know coaches are always concerned when they let players leave and go home where they can't control them. But these are grown men...what can you do?
I've gone through the Bears schedule numerous times and I keep coming up with either a 9-7 or 8-8 season, please tell me it will be better than that!
I think you're probably pretty accurate. I think Green Bay is the odds on favorite to win the division. Detroit should be very good again. I think that if the Bears can gel offensively, they're going to be in a year long battle to grab a wild card spot. I would probably lean to 9-7, but 10-6 or 8-8 are not out of the realm of possibility. And, this defense that has a little age needs to hold together a little better.
Most surprising thing you have found so far digging through the film?
I've watched some defensive film the last few days and I've come up with some defensive units that will be really improved. Buffalo, Seattle, Dallas and the Jets. We've heard a lot about Buffalo in terms of adding personnel. They should have a dynamic pass rush. Seattle impressed me the most, because I haven't looked at them a lot. They are a complete defense with size. They are similar to the 49ers which may be the best defense in the NFL. I lvoe what Dallas did in the secondary in the offseason, which allows them to play man to man and then blitz. I like that Rex Ryan is going to switch to the 4-3 more which suits the personnel on hand.
Has Matt Forte irked the Bears coaching staff to the point where even if he does return, he could end up with less carries than Mike Bush this season?
I think these things are forgiven in a day or two, once they're done. Both sides will express their love for each other. Both sides just want to win. I don't think there's any carryover effect once they get to camp. I think the Forte/Bush duo could be very dynamic for the Bears.
Which non-QB rookie are you most excited to see play this year?
A guy that comes to mind immediately is Morris Claiborne in Dallas. He's such a great man to man corner. I think he can dramatically change the way they play that defense. But I am also real excited to see a player that might surprise you: OG David DeCastro, who should upgrade the Steelers OL. I thought he was a great player in college and I think he'll be fun to watch as a pro. Speaking of Stanford, I also want to watch TE Coby Fleener in Indy. We're in a TE era in the NFL and I think Andrew Luck and Fleener will continue their great chemistry.
And I love Luck Kuechly in Carolina. I think he'll be terrific.
Do you see a lot of new philosophies gaining traction in the NFL?
Yes I do. Ironically, I'm working on a project right now where I'm going through all 32 teams and really trying to get a handle on their philosophies and schemes and changes. I'm always interested to see how many teams change from 4-3 to 3-4 or 3-4 to 4-3 schemes. There is a lot of that this year. We have a lot of innovative coaches in the NFL and I think while they try to tweak schemes and confuse their opponents, I also see a lot of assignment oriented offenses and defenses that really demand execution. I will say this, when you sit down and watch film of this league, it is amazing at how creative some of these packages are.
35 year old Donovan McNabb says he'll be on a roster at the start of the season. If a starter goes down during the Pre Season or the Regular Season will he get a call or are his best days behind him? With one Super Bowl and no trophy will he get into the Hall of Fame?
I don't know aobut the Hall of Fame. I've always been one to stay away from that. I don't necessarily always have a feel for what it takes to be a Hall of Famer. He's been an excellent QB for a long time. I hate to see how the last couple of years have played out. He has the physical ability to step in if a QB got hurt, but is he ready to be in a backup role? Can he mentally prepare quick enough to run a team if he's thrown into the mix? I do believe that he's a proud guy who wants to finish his career on better terms than it is now. That's a huge motivation. I would love to see him get another shot.
Does Matt Cassel have to win a playoff game to stay in KC or will making the playoffs suffice?
Well, I don't know if there's a right answer to that question. But I think that the Chiefs want to be able to have enough consistency at the QB position that they don't lose games there. I believe their attitude is they can win with a great running game, a great defense, an efficient passing game that doesn't make mistakes. I don't think he has to carry this team, but if he starts losing games, then they will come to a conclusion that to move forward, they will have to make a change.
do you see the jets winning the superbowl in any of the next 3 seasons
That's a very interesting questions...I like the switch they made to the 4-3 defense. That will help them. It really rests on two things: how hard Sanchez plays at QB and can they have the physical run game that they are really trying to install. I think they are a good team right now that will fight to get into the playoffs every year, but I'm not sure they're elite. We've got a lot of AFC teams getting even better.
With all their holes, and they did address a few this offseason, did the Rams do enough to change that downward fall.
I think they'll be better, because with Sam Bradford back, he will have more weapons in the passing game. But I still think there will be major questions on defense. They have holes on all three levels. When you watch them on film, they have good players, but just not enough. I think Bradford gives them a chance to at least compete. Jeff Fisher will bring a real professional attitude and that will solidify things, but they are a year away from having good personnel to be a good football team, especially being in a division that last year were good and will be better this year.
Gary, I read your top duo's article for both conferences, and see that you have 2 sets of Patriots, Ravens, & Steelers and a K/P combo for OAK. Why no love for the Texans? Arian/Tate, Schaub/Andre, Andre/Arian, Watt/Reed, Joseph/Manning, etc.
That was very hard to leave some people off. The Schaub/Johnson combo was easy because they were both hurt. When healthy, that's a different story, but that wasn't the point of the article, it was based off of last year. I love Watt/Reed. I think it's unbelievable that they were productive enough to allow them to let Mario Williams go. I think they're one of the most dynamic young pass rushing duos in the NFL.
I will say this, when I first started writing ideas for the article, I said this will be easy. But it was hard to eliminate duos, because I was also trying to include guys in the trenches, because that's always interesting.
We're probably looking a a couple of more weeks until coaches start drifting back to work. Before we know it, we'll have football. I know we're close, because the stores I go to have more fantasy football magazines than I've ever seen. So I guess there are a lot of people getting ready. Enjoy the Fourth of July.