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Around the NFL Week 7

October 23, 2013

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3 trades that should happen: For whatever reason the NFL has fewer trades than pretty much any other professional sport. I’m unsure if it’s the reluctance of GMs, the belief that without a full offseason with a team that a player won’t be able to grasp the schemes, or coaches’ beliefs that their “next man up” strategy will get the job done but every year there are trades that should be made that aren’t and I always wonder why. Below are three trades that I see as a win-win scenario and which should be completed before the trade deadline:

Tony Gonzalez to the Patriots for a 4th rounder: To me this is a no brainer as the Patriots are struggling offensively due to their lack of quality receiving options for Tom Brady and this is likely Gonzalez’s last season so it’d be disappointing to see him waste away on a team that has almost no chance at getting to the postseason. Adding Gonzalez to a healthy Gronkowski would make the Patriots immediate Super Bowl favorites as their two tight end sets would again be the envy of the league and Brady would have a dominant possession target to go to when teams inevitably resume double teaming Gronk. Tony would join Rodney Harrison, Junior Seau, Corey Dillon, and other esteemed veterans who spent their last few years chasing a ring with Brady. I know Tony has denied any interest in leaving the Falcons this season but if a situation like this presented itself I’d be shocked if he declined. Also it wouldn’t surprise me if Gonzalez would continue playing in 2014 if he joined the Patriots as they are the type of no nonsense organization that I suspect he would be perfectly in tune with.

Josh Gordon to the Chiefs for a 3rd rounder: Some might be wondering why the rebuilding Browns would be willing to part with their 22 year old WR who already is their best offensive player and at $632,000 for 2013 is the type of young and cheap talent that every rebuilding team would want. What those people aren’t understanding is that Gordon is in Stage 3 of the league’s drug testing policy and the next positive test against him will get him an automatic 1 year suspension. Gordon to me seems like a kid that lacks the maturity to handle success and I have a feeling that in the next 12-18 months he will get that 1 year suspension. The Browns could very well be enjoying the last bit of production they will ever get from their 2012 2nd round pick and I think it might be the best option for everyone if Gordon was traded to a contender. If he was moved to Kansas City the Chiefs would finally have an outside threat to complement the skills of Dwayne Bowe, who is more of a possession receiver and hasn’t been able to get on track due to team’s double teaming him regularly. Also going from a 3-4 team, and losers of 2 straight, to a 7-0 team couldn’t help but improve his focus on football. The hope will be that getting Gordon to a contender will keep him motivated and focused so he doesn’t get that 3rd strike by the league yet, even if he doesn’t stay clean, Gordon still might be worth trading for as he’s 6th in the league in yards per game at 90 yards a game and could be even deadlier if he gets an upgrade to his quarterback. The Browns could recoup some of what they’ve invested into Gordon by getting a 3rd round pick from the Chiefs and being rid of the constant worry that their best offensive player will be taken from them while the Chiefs can add a supremely talented player for their Super Bowl run in 2013 and gamble that he stays clean. If he stays clean the Chiefs get a steal as Gordon is one of the 5 best young wideouts in the game and if he doesn’t stay clean then at least they were able to use the last bit of his production to help them contend for a championship in 2013.

Hakeem Nicks to the Colts for a 2nd rounder: This last trade is the most complex as the Giants won’t be re-signing Nicks this offseason but he’s been productive this year so he will likely be netting them a 3rd or 4th round compensatory pick anyway. That means the Giants wouldn’t even consider trading him unless they can get more than that level of compensation and no one would be willing to offer more than that unless they had a long term extension in place. The complexity makes the Colts the best trade partner for the Giants as they’ve traded away their 1st rounder in 2014 and their 2nd rounder in 2013 for young talents in Trent Richardson and Vontae Davis respectively so they clearly are willing to use draft picks but also because any young wideout would jump at the chance to hitch their career to a young budding superstar like Andrew Luck. If a team like the Chiefs came calling for Hakeem Nicks I suspect his agent would be hesitant to sign a long term contract with Alex Smith as his quarterback but with Luck an extension I think could be worked out with ease. Reggie Wayne is out for the year with an ACL injury so Nicks will obviously help them in 2013 but, with Wayne about to turn 35, his days as a true #1 WR are numbered and it’d be the best scenario for both parties if they could add Nicks which would move Wayne to the #2 WR spot and TY Hilton to the #3 spot. The obvious downside is that the Colts would be missing both their 1st and 2nd round picks in this upcoming draft but considering those picks added young talent like Richardson and Nicks I don’t think you can make the normal argument of a franchise “mortgaging” their future. Those are two Pro Bowl caliber players who are former 1st rounders and will be able to grow old with Luck over the next half decade. It’s a gamble but I think it’s one I would take if I were the Colts GM.

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What to make of the Cowboys: I considered doing a full article on this subject but was lazy so I just decided to throw it into my around the NFL segment. I watch a lot of football, both college and pros, and I don’t think there’s a more difficult team to gauge than the Cowboys (maybe the Georgia bulldogs, maybe). One week the defense gets 6 turnovers to lead the team to a Week 1 victory and the next week they can’t get the key stop against a mediocre Chiefs offense in a close road loss. That’s followed by a dominant performance against the Rams where they held them to a Rams’ season low 7 pts yet again was followed up by a horrible performance against the Chargers where they allowed 30 pts and Rivers completed 83% of his passed for +400 yds. And of course no discussion of the Cowboys defense this season would be complete without mentioning the 51 pt debacle against Peyton Manning and the Broncos. Giving up 51 pts in a game would make an observer assume they were a terrible defense yet once again the Cowboy did a 180 and in successive weeks held division opponents to 16 pts or less on their way to a 2 game winning streak and sole possession of 1st in the division. The offense has hardly been consistent either with Romo one week throwing for +500 yds and 5 TDs and the next week only throwing for 170 yds. That Redskins game was incredibly flukey statistically as Romo threw for less than 200 yds, the Cowboys leading rusher only had 29 yds, and their leading receiver only had 44 yds yet the team still won by 15 pts. I don’t know what to make of the Cowboys this season. Should we be glass half full people and mention how the 3 teams that beat the Cowboys this season are a combined 17-4 this season and the Cowboys nearly pulled out a win in each of those games? Or should we be glass half empty people and mention how the 4 teams that the Cowboys beat this season are a combined 9-18 and the Cowboys are just the least shitty team in the worst division in football? I don’t know as both arguments have their valid points but also have their holes. I have been impressed with the Cowboys new defensive schemes and how easily they’ve been able to overcome injuries. For decades the Steelers have been able to replace key players when they went down due to a fighters mentality that the Cowboys have noticeably lacked in recent years. Last year everyone cried themselves to sleep over how unfair it was that Jay Ratliff, Sean Lee, and Bruce Carter all were injured at the same time yet this season when Jay Ratliff, Anthony Spencer, and DeMarcus Ware all were injured the Cowboys just sucked it up and continued playing solid defense. Bruce Carter and Morris Claiborne have been benched, Will Allen has been waived, and 3 of the team’s 5 best defensive players aren’t currently playing (with two on season ending IR) yet the defense stays competitive. That is a testament to Monte Kiffin and Rod Marinelli who have rejuvenated this team with a discipline and expertise that Rob Ryan seemed to lack. Ryan has his pluses but an attention to detail isn’t one of them and I’m excited to be rid of the era of 12 men on the field penalties and blown coverages. I’m also excited to see this team finally drafting well beyond the 2nd round. Later this week I’ll be breaking down the 2013 Draft Class of the Cowboys but “spoiler alert” I think it’s their best mid to
late round drafting they’ve done since 2005 when they netted Marion Barber and Chris Canty in the 4th round. I still don’t know what the 2013 season has for the Cowboys but I do know the future looks bright with Travis Frederick, Terrance Williams, JJ Wilcox, and Joseph Randle all already contributing.

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Case Keenum: Last Sunday Keenum suited up for his first NFL action. Ironically enough he also started which makes him the rare 2nd year player to never suit up as a backup and have his first NFL game be his first NFL start. I’ve been a fan of Keenum’s for years and was excited to see him finally get his opportunity as I thought he could be a quality pro if he ever found a coach that could overlook his height. Due to Matt Schaub having a season from hell and TJ Yates just flat out sucking Keenum finally has gotten his chance in Houston and I expect him to take advantage of it. In his first game he had the unenviable task of matching up against Kansas City who lead the league in fewest points allowed (11.6 per game) and sacks forced (35). In the end he lost but his numbers, 271 yds 60% completion 1 TD 0 INT 110 QB Rating, were very solid and I expect him to build off it. In my opinion the Case Keenum era has begun and he will show everyone that he deserved to be drafted. I graded him out as a 2nd rounder in my draft analysis and as the #6 QB in that draft yet no media analysts had a ranking on him higher than the 5th round and most had him as free agent/undraftable type. Below I thought it’d be fun to post my analysis on him and see what I got right and what I got wrong with him 18 months ago.

Written on 3/12/2012, “Keenum is set to be the biggest “discrepancy” player in the 2012 draft as most have a 5th-7th round grade on him yet I’m giving him a 2nd round grade as my #6 QB. I think the core of the difference in opinions is due to two factors: arm strength and the label of him as a system QB. The first I think is easily proven to be false as he doesn’t have the strongest arm but is at worst in the middle of the pack in terms of arm strength. He showed that at the Combine where he looked to have a much stronger arm than Kellen Moore or Aaron Corp and a similar arm to Russell Wilson and Nick Foles. Yet it was proven even more emphatically in his games when he threw posts or go routes to Patrick Edwards as it was a common occurrence in their vertical attack and often times I saw him throw 40-60 yd bombs. A great example is a throw I charted this season that was 58 yds in the air and looked like a simple flick of the wrist. I think his arm strength is at least average and likely to get much better as he’s only 208 lbs and when he eventually develops into a 220 lb QB his arm strength should improve making it a non-issue for me. The second issue is that he’s been labeled a system QB and this has unfairly given him a stigma he doesn’t deserve. I’ll be the first to say that the system they run definitely inflates his numbers and makes him look better than he probably is yet calling him a “system” QB is unfair as it insinuates the Texas Tech/Hawaii noodle armed QBs who throw nothing but short passes. Keenum is in a system that accentuates the vertical passing game and he throws the ball downfield far more often than most college QBs. This is important to note b/c just last year I was down on Blaine Gabbert as 80% of his throws were within 7 yds of the LOS. That isn’t the case at all with Keenum and allows you to move Keenum out of the Chase Daniels/Blaine Gabbert types and put him in the vertical spread systems that Sam Bradford and Robert Griffin have come out of. Griffin is a good example of the double standard facing Keenum as they run the same offense (Houston began the offense under Art Briles and continued it after he left for Baylor) with similar principles. It’s a more nuanced offense than the Tech short passing scheme that essentially has 3 or 4 option routes which isn’t structured but is a read and react style. Houston’s is a downfield scheme with audibles and a structured approach more similar to a Mike Martz scheme than what most call a “system” scheme like at Tech or Hawaii. Also I don’t see how RGIII is now being discussed as the best player in the draft yet Keenum is bordering on undrafted free agent status despite the fact they run the same system and make similar throws. I’m not arguing Keenum is on RGIII’s level but no one is even mentioning what system Griffin is coming from yet can’t stop mentioning it with Keenum. I went back through my notes and found big games vs. Tech, Oklahoma St., UCLA, Southern Miss, and Penn St. yet all I hear is how Keenum played a weak schedule. Keenum played quality opponents, the system he’s in isn’t gimmicky, and his arm strength isn’t poor. Once you clear those misconceptions up you get a smart, accurate, experienced QB with underrated athleticism who put up elite numbers yet lacks a great arm and has poor height (6’0 1/2). I am docking him for his poor height so he drops to the 2nd round (had a mid 1st grade on him before he measured in) yet even at that lowered grade he’s still the biggest discrepancy” guy in this draft and he will be of utmost interest to me so I can see if I graded him wrong or NFL GMs did. 2nd rounder who is eerily similar to Marc Bulger and my #6 QB 3/23/12.”

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