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NFL Quick Hits 8/22

August 22, 2012

“Two preseason games: 18 of 26, 174 yards, three touchdowns. Your magic spell is working, Mike Mularkey,” said Peter King in his latest Monday Morning Quarterback. I have issues with this for a couple of reasons as first off the preseason is notoriously misleading with young players dominating in it to never be heard from again while veterans struggle in it and then go on to career years. My listing below shows this as the first column has 5 quarterbacks who had very good 2011 regular seasons yet struggled in the preseason and the second column has the opposite with 5 quarterbacks who had great 2011 preseasons only to struggle, or not even play in some cases, during the 2011 regular season.

                                2011 preseason     2011 regular season

Drew Brees              79.7                         110.6

Cam Newton            64.9                         84.5

Andy Dalton             59.6                         80.4

Eli Manning               51.6                         92.9

Alex Smith                48.1                         90.7


Max Hall                   145.3                       NA (never attempted a pass)

Derek Anderson         129.4                        NA (never attempted a pass)

Richard Bartel            115.5                       52.5

Philip Rivers              114.8                       88.7

Tim Tebow                 108.3                       72.9

Another issue I have with this idea that Gabbert is “turning the corner” is that Gabbert still isn’t attempting, let alone completing, mid or long range throws. Gabbert has Brady Quinn and Matt Leinart disease in that he seems to be unable to throw a ball more than 12 yards in the air. It’s an unusual phenomenon but their dink and dunk approaches usually begins somewhat successfully only to turn into utter disaster as the cornerbacks move up and are more physical on the wide receivers, the safeties inch closer to the line of scrimmage, and the opposing defense eventually suffocates the offense due to a lack of space. I suspect this will occur during the regular season as Gabbert still seems reluctant to attack a defense with deep throws and his wide receivers (Justin Blackmon, Mike Thomas, etc.) are all possession receiver types. Only time will tell but I still see colossal bust when I watch Gabbert play.

The pocket passer is alive and well: Every year NFL scouts push athletic, quick twitch quarterbacks up the draft boards and call them the wave of the future. Guys like Cam Newton, Colin Kaepernick, and Tim Tebow are seen as the blueprint for future signal callers and guys who are tall and slow drop each year come draft time. Two nights ago with Tom Brady taking the night off and Michael Vick injured early in the game I got a chance to see two guys who dropped on draft day due to the notion that they weren’t athletic enough for the new NFL. In 2011 Ryan Mallett, a possible top 10 pick going into the draft process, fell to the 3rd round due to character issues and a 5.37 40 that made him slower than many offensive linemen. In 2012 Nick Foles, a possible 1st round picking going into the 2011 season, fell to the 3rd round due to a poor Combine throwing session and a 5.14 40 that made him slower than a few offensive linemen. Both looked impressive last night and could be trade targets by other teams as neither should get significant playing time during the regular season due to the caliber of starter they are behind but both appear superior to a number of NFL starters on other teams. Foles had superior numbers (18-28 217 yds 2 TD 1 INT 96.9 QB rating) and led his team to a win, partially due to a 24 yard scramble against an all out blitz that proved doubters wrong who said he lacked the foot speed or pocket awareness to succeed in the NFL. Yet Mallett impressed me even more than Foles as his numbers were mediocre at first glance (10-20 105 yds 1 TD 0 INT 82.3 QB rating) yet was very impressive when considering the fact that his “1st team offense” was without Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd, and Logan Mankins (all 5 being Pro Bowlers sometime the past 2 years) while going against the Eagles 1st team defense that was fully stocked except for Jason Babin at DE. Despite all of those disadvantages Mallett left the game early in the 2nd quarter with an 11-0 lead. Every year scouts try to treat the pocket passing quarterback as a dying breed yet it just isn’t the case. Of the top 13 quarterbacks, in terms of QB rating, only 4 (Aaron Rodgers, Tony Romo, Alex Smith, and Ben Roethlisberger) would be considered “mobile” quarterbacks and all of them except for Rodgers (4th among QBs in rushing yards) would be in the scramble to pass not to run category. My point is that the NFL quarterback position has been dominated this past decade by two players in Tom Brady and Peyton Manning who look downright laughable when scrambling yet analysts continue to say the era of the pocket passer is ending. Brady and Manning likely will be retired in a few years but young talent like Mallett and Foles continue to come into the league and their height (both 6’6) and arm strength (Mallett’s arm is top 5 in the league in strength which is the reason why Jon Gruden nicknamed him the rifleman) still proves that a strong and accurate arm is successful in this league even when it comes with slow feet. It’s great to be mobile, strong armed, and accurate like Aaron Rodgers but guys without the complete package are successful as well and I think Mallett and Foles two nights ago proved the scouting community wrong as they both look like future starting quarterbacks.

Michael Vick: Vick has only played in a few series in 2 preseason games and already has sustained two injuries. Obama can say all he wants about how Vick needs to slide more often but his latest two injuries have occurred in the pocket and are due largely to the poor play at LT. King Dunlap and Demetrius Bell are attempting to replace Jason Peters and it isn’t looking pretty right now. Neither ever will be able to fully replace a player like Peters who is widely regarded as a Top 3 LT yet right now they’re looking similar to the 2010 version of Marc Columbo. If the play of the offensive line doesn’t improve Vick will miss large portions of this season due to injuries and if he’s inactive much of the year it’s unlikely that the Eagles will make the playoffs as their divisional opponents look much improved and their backup, Nick Foles, is a rookie and despite looking very impressive, wouldn’t likely be able to lead a team to the playoffs in year 1 of his career.

NFL replacement officials: I haven’t watched every game this preseason but I’ve watched large parts of 5 of them and the officials rarely have been wrong, they’ve just been slow. There is a huge difference in that as fans won’t stop going to games or watching them on t.v. if there are occasional 2 minute delays and the idea that these officials are ruining “the integrity of the game” is rather preposterous to me. This all smells like a good old fashioned media blitz to create a story out of nothing as Peter King discussed in MMQ how the recent Lions-Ravens game an embarrassment, has made the officials a bigger part of their analysis than the players, and ESPN is constantly running every miscue by the new officials. So what if an official called a holding call on the punt returner instead of his teammate with a similar number. The result is the same as it was a penalty, it deserved to be called, and it was 10 yards from the spot of the foul. These officials are slow and aren’t used to talking into a microphone but they are making the right calls pretty consistently and instead of listening to the media fans should continue to focus on the players and the “replacement official problem” will just go away. The NFL doesn’t appear to be caving into the locked out officials demands anytime soon and, considering the NFL has offered officials 5-11% raises in their new contract and it’s been refused as insufficient, I’m quite fine with siding with management’s side. I don’t care about officials, I don’t think the new ones are doing a terrible job, I know the new ones will improve throughout the year, and I think this is all about the media making a mountain out of a molehill since it’s the preseason and there’s only so much analysis to have on the battle for the Cowboys #3 WR. Don’t let the media fool you on this, the replacement officials are doing fine.


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