Monday, April 28, 2008

So, the 2008 NFL Draft is over and done. The Patriots needed to get younger and better on defense. At the moment, they appear to have gotten younger. Whether or not they're better remains to be seen. Even if the young players step in and contribute on defense, it's hard to see the Patriots not taking at least one step back next season.

It seems highly unlikely that the AFC East won't improve at all in the coming season. Adding Jake Long should make the Dolphins offensive line (which was probably their biggest weakness among many, many, many weaknesses) considerably better. Granted, they still have a long way to go to be good in that area, but it's a start. Buffalo and the Jets should be slightly better than they were last season as well. All this points to the Patriots cruising to another division title, but it should be a tougher run and 16-0 isn't happening again.

The mid to late first round was the most interesting part of the draft, what with the trades and the run of mediocre offensive line prospects coming off the board the way they did. If I had to pick one team to blame for that crime against good taste, I think I'd have to blame the Lions. I don't see the sense in their trading down two spots to take Gosder Cherilus four rounds too soon. But that's just me. Apparently it was vitally important that they give Boston College something to brag about with two Eagles going in the first round.

After the Notre Dame game, I posted something to the effect that Cherilus had played himself out of millions of dollars in guaranteed money with the way Kerry Neal and Brian Smith blew past his feeble attempts to handle their speed rushes. Granted Cherilus was playing left tackle when people assure me that he is a natural right tackle. But if two true freshmen linebackers from an historically dreadful Notre Dame team cruised by him repeatedly as though he were Matt Light with a perfect season riding on his ability to block Justin Tuck or Osi Umenyura, how long will it take NFL defenses to exploit this flaw in Cherilus' game? But what would April be without the Lions making an inexplicable and indefensible pick?

I also think Atlanta gave up an awful lot to trade into the first round to draft their left tackle of the future in USC's Sam Baker. It is essential to protect a rookie QB's blind side, or any QB for that matter. But Baker wasn't so dominant in college that he was worth that risk and his injury history is a cause of some concern.

But the Falcons must be praised for picking up a temporary fix at QB until Ron Mexico clears up his legal issues and resolves his indefinite suspension. As I watched the draft coverage, I found myself unimpressed by the deep throw over the middle Matt Ryan completed against Maryland and Ron Jaworski broke down from two angles. And yet the same clip had to have been shown something like 20 times.

The first problem I had with the clip is that Maryland wasn't exactly a dominant team in the ACC last season. Then no mention was made of the fact that Maryland's defense was shifting around and looking very confused before the snap. Finally, with all the talk of throwing the receiver open, Jaws didn't bother to mention that NFL middle linebackers drop into their zones with a lot more precision and much better technique than the Maryland defender showed on that play (his shoulders were turned in such a way that he could do everything but cover the receiver on the play).

With the receivers and offensive line awaiting him, I don't see a very promising future in Atlanta for Matt Ryan. Yes, he was head and shoulders above the rest of the quarterback class of 2008, but that could just as easily be due to the weakness of that position group as a whole as opposed to a ringing endorsement of Ryan's potential.

I think the Cowboys dropped the ball big time when they passed on Rashard Mendenhall to draft Felix Jones. When the dust settles on this choice, I think we'll all be amazed that they passed on a better runner to draft a guy named Jones from the University of Arkansas because they were owned by a moron named Jones who went to the University of Arkansas. And I don't want any nonsense about Jones having breakaway speed. After watching the Rose Bowl, it should be readily apparent that Mendenhall has as much speed as any back with a ball under his arm.

Maybe the Steve Youngs of the world couldn't see why Brian Brohm plummeted the way he did. Personally, I think it's due to the fact that most teams didn't want to risk their future on a 23 year old with a receding hairline, a creepy pink shirt that made him look like he was auditioning for a dinner theater version of St. Elmo's Fire and bowl cut to top it off. He and Aaron Rogers would be set for the weakest QB competition in recent memory if it weren't for Miami taking a QB in the second round for the second year in a row. Chad Henne and John Beck are going to be a running punchline this season, just wait and see.

The Bears draft started fairly promising, at least they finally tried to get younger on the offensive line. Why they drafted a running back in the second round when they had much more critical needs at quarterback and wide receiver is beyond me, however. Yes, Cedric Benson hasn't produced the way the team desperately needs him to produce. But part of that has to be due to the inferior offensive line play last year and the fact that the team wasn't a serious passing threat.

I won't deny that I have probably been Cedric Benson's biggest supporter. Nor will I deny that he's disappointed my prediction that he would become a 1,500 yard rusher in the not too distant future. But no matter how you feel about Benson, it doesn't change the fact that the Bears top three receivers are Mark Bradley, Marty Booker's preserved remains and Devin Hester (who is at least another year away from being something beyond a novelty act in the passing game). And the less said about Bears' QBs the better. But maybe their later picks will turn out better than I think.

As a final note on this draft, why did the top two picks from Notre Dame have to go to teams I hate? I like John Carlson as a football player, or at least I did. Now I have to root against him because no one in their right mind wants to see anything good happen to the Seattle Seahawks. And why did Trevor Laws have to go to the sinking ship that is the Eagles? Putting a quality run stopper on a team like that is like putting a lace doily on a bowling ball. One can only hope he becomes an excuse for Donovan McNabb's inability to put the team over the top and he goes on to a team where he can thrive.

In other matters, it's been too long again since I've ripped Bill Simmons. First, I need to point out something from his piece on the Bruins Canadiens series. This is the verbal indictment of the Boston sports fan I've been waiting for, and true to form that jerk Simmons thinks it's a good thing, but here's a sentence he wrote:

We won an emotional Game 3 in overtime, followed by a number of postgame brawls on and around Causeway Street between Boston and Montreal fans, at least 50 of them involving guys named Sully and Murph teaming up to beat the hell out of someone named Pierre.

That's one more reason Boston sports fans are overrated. It takes two of them to beat down a French Canadian named Pierre. General Patton would be rolling over in his grave if he gave a damn about Red Sox Nation. If it takes two to beat up a lone Canadiens fan, how many does it take to throw a piece of pizza off the back of a Canadiens fan's head? On the plus side, I suppose I should thank God for the shanty Irish, otherwise Irish Americans might look like they make a contribution to American society instead of being degenerate drunken bullies. Thanks for bringing our ethnic group down once more, people of Boston.

Now consider this paragraph from Simmons' playoff awards column:
The Brian Fantana Memorial "Hey, Champ, Maybe You Should Stop Talking For Awhile" Award
To Charles Barkley for declaring last weekend that Rasheed Wallace is the most talented player in the league and could have been the greatest player ever if he wanted it. Chuck Wagon, we love you ... but you can't possibly believe that, right? Rasheed couldn't handle the responsibility of being great every night, true, but part of being great is that you've made a conscious choice to accept that everyday responsibility and live up to a different standard of pressure and expectations. It's like a chicken/egg thing. If Vince Carter was wired like Michael Jordan, he would have been Michael Jordan. If Derrick Coleman was wired like Kevin Garnett, he would have been the greatest power forward ever. If Sam Jones was wired like Jerry West, he would have been the NBA logo instead of what he was -- a top-50 player and one of the NBA's memorably clutch shooters. Rasheed was much closer to the Sam Jones camp than the DC/Vince camp, but all of them had one thing in common: They didn't totally want it. And that's part of being great.

Is it just me or did he rip Barkley and then go on to make exactly the same point Barkley made which made Simmons rip him in the first place?

Happy trails to Pat Riley, who has given up his coaching duties in Miami. When Dwayne Wade becomes this generation's Michael Ray Richardson three years from now, I'm sure every one will blame Star Jones, but a few of us might wonder what might have been had Riley given up after the 2006 title run or at the very least hadn't acquired spare parts like Shawn Marion and Ricky Davis (two very talented players but more concerned with stats than wins or team play).

And way to go Roger Clemens, thanks for having an alleged ongoing affair with a mediocre singer starting when she was 15. That really helps my effort to defend you against all logic. At least TO has been well behaved lately, so I have that going for me. Which is nice...

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