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The FOOTBALL SICKNESS PODCAST, 2013 Washington Redskins Preview with BurgundyBlog

The Redskins enjoyed a magical 2012, with the arrival of RGIII and a new era of hope and excitement. And with good reason. Dude balls. He rapidly infused the entire squad with the belief that they could win, and win they did, taking the NFC East. But he also lives on the edge, and it got him in trouble. Time to find out what he’s learned. We asked our man Brent from Burgundy Blog to join us and break it all down, and he did not disappoint. Plenty of good stuff here, including lots of RGIII, the Return of the Rak (cue The Wipers…bonus points if you get this reference…), and what the Shannies might have up their sleeves in year 2 of the new era. Oh, and Sen does Eagle fan things while attempting to revoke Burns’ Bruin Card. It’s all fun and games until somebody loses their dignity. It’s rough out there. Better GET YOUR HELMET ON!!!

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The FOOTBALL SICKNESS PODCAST: Free Peyton Edition

Well. THAT was quite a weekend of wondrous NFL offseason occurrences, was it not? First, Peyton Manning got his expected release, and the ensuing South Beach circus was quite the sight to behold. Helicopters, rumors, paparazzi…it was a fantastic spectacle. And it’s only beginning…imagine if he replaces Tebow in the Mile High City.  Then, of course, the expected trade up for the #2 pick and the rights to RGIII happened at a rather unexpected time and price.  FootballSickness.com’s Ryan Burns and Sen Sogah hash it all out for you in striking and glorious detail.  Just another reminder that the SICKNESS is spreading and there is no offseason. We highly recommend you GET YOUR HELMET ON!!!

Click HERE for the FOOTBALL SICKNESS PODCAST, Free Peyton Edition.

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Fair to say there's some interest in #18. (Photo: John Leyba, The Denver Post)

 

NFL DRAFT SICKNESS PREVIEW: WASHINGTON REDSKINS

The best thing the Redskins could do is probably trade down and collect additional picks.  Such is life when you were a bad team before trading away important draft picks for an aging quarterback who happened to have the worst year of his career after he joined your group, which happened to be totally devoid of help for said quarterback.  And before your 100-million dollar D-Lineman asked out of your chosen defensive system.  Now, DMac5 wants out, Haynesworth checked out, and the ‘Skins have a lot of holes to fill once again.  They don’t necessarily have to go QB at 10.  Rex Grossman played in a Super Bowl not long ago, so we know he can at least steward an NFL system.  They do desperately need receiving help, some protection, a more steady running back situation, defensive backfield help galore…yikes.  We asked All Purpose Roto’s Chris Mangan, author of a fantastic GM/Draft analysis series there, to weigh in on several teams, including the ‘Skins.  Follow Chris and his partner in crime, Bob Butterfield, @AllPurposeRoto on Twitter.

This worked out well, eh?

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Q:  As with so many teams this year, everyone assumes the Redskins must have a quarterback, and early. Do you think they go QB at #10? If so, which one do you think they’d like or are targeting at that spot?

A:  It seems to be a foregone conclusion that McNabb is going to the Vikings (at least the Redskins will get something out of him), so that means Rex Grossman is their QB, so yeah they need a QB. I think they’d be smart to move back a bit and go for the 2nd tier of QBs (Ponder, Mallett, Locker), but word is they love Gabbert, so I think he’s the guy.

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Q:  Besides QB, what one position must they address in the first 3 rounds?

A:  The team has so many needs, they really should just go best player available, but if you’re going to invest heavily in a rookie QB, it’s very important to have a good offensive line to protect him. The line was solid last year, but it needs to be better.

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Q:  More important need: protect the QB, or give him someone to throw to?

A:  Protecting him. A good QB can make a lot of average WRs look pretty good, but if he doesn’t have time then it kills everything the team is trying to do. It’ll lead to an increase in turnovers, swing field position and stall out our offense. In addition, if a QB doesn’t have time, look no farther than David Carr to see what it can do to his confidence level.

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Q:  More important need: corner or DT? Why?

A:  In this division, with our scheme, CB. In a 3-4 we can find guys to fit our scheme that won’t be a huge investment and will be serviceable. But with our corners, we have to try to cover Miles Austin, Dez Bryant, DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Hakeem Nicks, Mario Manningham and Steve Smith. The Skins need secondary help in a big bad way.

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Q:  What does a good 2011 Redskins draft look like?

A:  The problem is that the McNabb trade was essentially a band aid on a gut-shot. The team needed to accept that they had to rebuild from the ground up, but didn’t do that. Looking at our division it’s a longshot that they’ll make the playoffs even with an excellent draft. It would be interesting to see them reinforce their defense and build around Brian Orakpo who is without a doubt the teams best player and then worry about filling in the rest of the holes next year.

If Gabbert falls to them and they don’t have to move up for him, I think that’s a huge win. The most important thing for them is to keep their own picks. If you can trade back at all, that would be ideal because there are a ton of needs.

 

HUH?!?!? The Randy Moss & Donovan McNabb Debacles

Just when you think the NFL has shown you everything you’re ever going to see, a couple of things happen that force you to re-calibrate your understanding of the game, or at least some of the people in it. This week, those things fell into the category of coaching and/or personnel decisions. Donovan McNabb, supposed franchise stabilizer and the guy who cost the Redskins some valuable draft goodies this past offseason, was benched in the two-minute offense in favor of…I can barely get this out…Rex Grossman. Yes, that Rex Grossman. Meanwhile, the downward-spiraling Vikings are now going to waive Randy Moss, after some post-game remarks Brad Childress apparently found too complimentary of his latest conqueror. What in the world is going on, here?

1. VIKINGS WAIVE RANDY MOSS

That was fast.

It’s the little things that kill. This all started in August of 2009. Brad Childress either decided or acquiesced to the suggestion that he should personally pick Brett Favre up at the airport when he joined the Vikings. And the Ol’ Gunslinger has outranked Chilly in the eyes of everyone but Chilly ever since.

When Chilly wanted to bench him last year during a bad game, Favre overruled his head coach. (Cue Chilly, staring blankly and gnawing his spearmint cud.) For two seasons, he has allowed (or been required to allow) Favre to hold his team hostage while skipping the dirty work of training camp. This past couple of weeks they’ve sniped childishly at each other in post-game news conferences. At no time was Childress even in the game.

Whether this is all the product of Childress’ shortcomings as a head coach or whether some general organizational “-itis” or “-ism” has somehow stricken the purple is not clear. But what is clear is that this is getting serious. For awhile there, the Vikings were only jeopardizing this season with the Fav-ruhpalooza. But now they’re starting to toy with the future of the organization, and for an organization with a LAH-AH-AH-OT of old dudes, that is a dangerous, dangerous game.

All this would be enough were that the entire story. But this comes on the heels of yet another uneven performance marked by a 2-quarter disappearance by Adrian Peterson, a thoroughly indefensible waste of a challenge by Chilly, and an octogenarian quarterback being knocked into his ninth decade. And, as has become customary in 2010, a loss.

Finally, there’s the other thing. You know what I’m talking about, because it’s obvious. You can see it just watching the game on TV. Brad Childress has lost this team, and he might not really ever have had it. He certainly hasn’t had it since Favre came aboard. But as long as we’re casting aspersions on the professional efforts of those whom we have no proper authority to judge, allow me to just say that Brad Childress doesn’t look like the kind of coach I want to play for. It’s not just the high school chemistry teacher looks that so many have pointed out. It just looks like a largely joyless experience. Have you ever seen Childress smile? About anything? Does he ever seem like he’s enjoying the fact that he is (presumably) living his dream? If not, isn’t he missing the entire point by which he is supposed to be connecting to his players? More than one media-type-person I follow on Twitter today indicated that the Vikings players reacted with shock that Moss was already gone, but a total lack of surprise that Childress had done something inexplicable.

And now, they have decided to waive Randall F. Moss only three weeks after giving up a third round pick to get him. Forget that it reeks of Childress trying to grasp at the steadily withdrawing reigns of this team. Forget that it looks like Chilly punishing Favre by taking away the toy he’s always wanted. This wasn’t some throw-in…a third round pick is a valuable thing. Teams that know what they’re doing view second and sometimes third round picks as more valuable than early firsts. You don’t see Super Bowl Champions wiping their posteriors with 3’s. But that’s exactly what the Vikings just did. They’ve been making a lot of “last-ditch, put us over the top” type moves for years, now. Signing expensive free agents to fill key spots, adding Favre, trading for Moss…and none of them has brought Minnesota any closer to the Lombardi. At 2-5 and in disarray, this team isn’t even going to make the playoffs. And in a few months they’ll be back to square one: no quarterback they trust, no Randy Moss, no third-round pick, the Williams Wall, Hutch, and others another year older.

Sometimes, you can want something so bad that when you try to squeeze it, it slips right through your fingers.

2.  MIKE SHANAHAN BENCHES DONOVAN MCNABB FOR REX GROSSMAN

McNabb was extremely supportive of the coach's decision.

When I first heard this, I thought someone had slipped something horrible into my Sunday Brunch. Is there anyone in this game who has been more blatantly and regularly and openly disrespected than Donovan McNabb? Unbelievable. And yet he always handles it with utmost class and respect even for those by whom he has been disrespected. But after today, I don’t know how DMac5 can contain himself. I would be going ballistic.

At yesterday’s post-game presser, when asked what the hell he was doing putting a placeholder like Rex Grossman in for one of the winningest and most prolific quarterbacks of the last decade-plus, Shanahan made it very clear: he felt Grossman gave the Redskins a better chance to win because he had spent 2009 with Shanahan’s son and offensive coordinator, Kyle, in Houston, and therefore knew the 2-minute offense better than McNabb. Shanahan said that with the speed of the operation and the need to call two plays at a time and have it be automatic, he felt Grossman was the better bet.

UMMM…EXCUSE ME??? You went out and gave your division rival, the Philadelphia Eagles, a second-round, and either a third or fourth-round draft pick for a quarterback that you expected to be your guy for the next few years and now, after off-season workouts, OTA’s, training camp, four preseason games and half the regular season, you’re telling me the guy can’t run the two minute offense? Because he doesn’t know it? Given the degree to which you have attempted to put your stamp on the organization, that seems like I problem that maybe I ought to be blaming you for, Shanny.

But wait…there’s more! Rather than employing the obvious and standard “that’s my story and I’m sticking to it” plan, Shanahan switched it up this morning. No longer was McNabb’s alleged failure to understand or operate the two-minute offense the issue. No no. Now, McNabb’s “cardiovascular endurance,” or lack thereof, precluded him from cardiovascularly enduring the hurry-up offense. So, hey, congratulations, Donovan! You’re not stupid anymore. Just lazy and out of shape.

Unbelievable.

I mean, seriously, is that the best Shanahan can do? Does he think we’re all paying zero attention? Look, we already know you aren’t high on McNabb. You haven’t extended him, which would have been the obvious move had he shown you he was the guy you were hoping he was when you traded for him. But rather than just calling it like it is, you pull a Chilly and throw your veteran star quarterback under the bus? Just come out and say it: “I made a mistake. Donovan McNabb is not my quarterback. I hoped it would work out and he’s a talented guy but it’s just not coming together the way I expected. I feel the need to shake things up so I’m going in another direction.” I mean, it’s on you regardless. Why add insult to insult for McNabb and make yourself look ridiculous and ineffectual in the process?

At any rate, it should be fascinating to see how these stories play out and perhaps intertwine in the coming months. Natural rumor-mongering will lead to stories of McNabb as the next quarterback in Minnesota given his experience in the West Coast offense Childress runs. But I think those stories are assuming facts not in evidence- like, for example, that Childress will be around. Shanahan surely will be, but the Elway Plan is not working with McNabb, obviously. Can he start from scratch and build a winner?

It remains to be seen, but we know what the record looked like in Denver after John Elway, don’t we?

EAGLE EYE: RETURN OF THE MAC

We start this week by looking back at the last. It won’t take long, mainly because it didn’t take long for the Eagles to dispose of the Jaguars. Michael Vick looked in control again, moving the offense up and down the field, and hitting a myriad of receivers for big plays. His arm looks as strong as it did in his rookie year. At one point, Vick hit Desean Jackson for a 50 yard gain, while throwing the ball off of his back foot. Amazing.

The defense looked solid, only giving up the lone field goal to the Jags. David Garrard looked confused, and alarmingly unprepared. He threw just the one pick, but it could have easily been 5. Maurice Jones-Drew could get nothing consistent on the ground, even though he got 22 chances to try. It’s tough to take anything away from this game because Jacksonville looked so bad. The one thing this game showed is that the Eagles are more mentally tough than in years past. They came, they saw, they kicked some ass. They did it all knowing that this week was coming.

DMac5 leads the Redskins into the Linc this Sunday. (Boy, does that sound weird.)

Here it is, finally. The Redskins are coming to town to rekindle their NFC East rivalry with the Eagles. They have a new coach in Mike Shanahan, and have looked a bit unsure of themselves at times. Clinton Portis looks old, even though he is still on the good side of 30. Santana Moss and Chris Cooley have been very good so far, but no other viable receiving threats have stepped up at all. Which leads me to the quarterback. Donovan McNabb played for 11 years in Philadelphia, so it’s going to take awhile before that red #5 jersey doesn’t make me sick. His first few games have been very good, but the record is what it is, 1-2. He’s going to have a wild range of emotions leading into the game, and he has to be able to control them for the Redskins to be successful. The Eagles’ D has shown some holes in the pass defense, especially covering the tight end. If Cooley can get off, it will make the run game that much better, and they’ll need a solid game out of Portis to keep the Eagles’ offense off the field.

Speaking of the Philly offense, boy does it look good. They have receivers running all over the place, and a quarterback that is getting them the ball on time. Vick was named the NFC player of the month for September, and he deserved all of that recognition. Now the first division game is at hand, and he has to show that he indeed learned something from McNabb. #5 regularly made the NFC East his playground, which lead to multiple titles and the 5 NFC Championship games. Vick’s first test comes against a defense that has given up 30+ points in the last 2 games. The Eagles have averaged 30+ points in the last 2 games. Sounds like a match made in heaven.

I still have serious concerns about the Eagles’ running game, even though it is ranked 7th in the league. They average 140 YPG, but lead back LeSean McCoy only gets half of that. To this point he has carried the ball 34 times, which is absurdly low. If and when a defense loads up to stop the pass, will the Eagles be able to grind out a victory? That remains to be seen. This won’t be the week though. It’s going to be a mad house in South Philly this weekend. McNabb will play well, but the Eagles’ offense is clicking on all cylinders right now. Put another one in the win column. Eagles 30 Redskins 17.

EAGLE EYE: WEEK 1 POSTMORTEM

I feel like I’ve seen this movie before, even though, the stars are a little bit different. The Eagles had a game in their grasp, needing a late score to tie, and they fall short. Stop me if you’ve seen that movie too. It was only game one, so I’m not going to sound the alarm, but this is a trend that needs to change.

The story of the game, though, was the play of the Eagles’ quarterbacks, and what looks like a stronger belief from the team in the backup. Kevin Kolb’s play was

Clay Matthews and the Packers' D was all over Kevin Kolb.

uninspiring, to say the least. He was inaccurate and slow in decision making, and that is a huge problem since those were supposed to be his strengths. He was only able to muster 3 points while he directed the offense before his concussion. I’m not ready to toss him out of the driver’s seat yet, but the needs to be healthy before he sees the field again. Curiously, the offense looked much better once Michael Vick entered the game. Maybe by necessity, a 20-3 deficit, the tempo of the offense picked up with a no-huddle style. Vick’s athletic ability showed through as well while rushing for more than 100 yards. He found open receivers, and kept the Packers off guard by getting out of the pocket. He still is not the right quarterback for this offense. He doesn’t get the ball out quickly enough which is why the Eagles got rid of McNabb in the first place. If we have to count on Vick running around every week well, say hello to last place in the division.

My main problem with this game is the decision making and play calling of the head coach. Andy Reid has won a lot of games in this league both in the regular season and postseason. Having said that, the same mistakes keep popping up. Last night, The Eagles defense had control of the Green Bay offense for most of the game. Even with that being the case, he chose to run the ball 10 times, and I’m ignoring Vick’s 11 carries. Yes, that’s right 10 carries, and one was a reverse to Jeremy Maclin. Ryan Grant went out in the 2nd quarter and had 8 carries himself, almost more than the Eagles for the whole game. This is not a new strategy for Reid. He’s always said that he wants more balance, but once the games start, he’s all about the pass. Hence, the defense stays on the field and gets worn down, leading to more and more throwing.

Fast forward to the end of the game. After curiously using all of their timeouts early in the 4th quarter, the Eagles were able to make a stop and give the ball back to the offense down 7. They moved into Green Bay territory facing a 4th and 1. I can think of a ton of plays in this situation, but Andy Reid chose a quarterback dive from the shotgun formation. You guessed it, turnover on downs. Look, I’m not an NFL head coach, but having the whole 2 minute timeout to talk about the situation, how is that the play that is designed? How about a run/ option, or even using the RUNNING BACK to run the ball. I’m at a loss. Walsh had Roger Craig, Seifert had Ricky Watters, Holmgren had Dorsey Levens, Shanahan had Terrell Davis. All of those coaches ran the “West Coast” offense, and recognized the need for a sound running game.

All in all, the loss to Green Bay was not a surprise, but the way the game unfolded was. The Lions await the Eagles in Detroit next week. They better be ready to bounce back, because the Lions will be seething over the way the game ended in Chicago.

NFC EAST DIVISION PREVIEW

The NFC East boasts four teams with a chance to make some noise this year. The rivalries run bone deep, and make every game special. This season there have been some major changes and developments that leave the race wide open, and unusually unpredictable. That’s why the division is affectionately called the NFC Beast! Fair warning- it may be slightly Iggle-fied by our resident Philly fan, Sen Sogah.

1. DALLAS COWBOYS

It’s Time, Tony. The Dallas Cowboys have all the talent and weapons that a QB could want. He has multiple receivers, 2 solid running backs, and an All-Pro tight end. If he can’t get it done this year, then he will never get it done. He’s been electric at times, as well as seemingly lost at others. He needs to be consistent not only in the regular season, but also in January when a player’s reputation is made. The main problem will be the offensive line, which through the preseason has not shown a lot of cohesiveness. Regardless, for Romo, there is no more time for excuses. Being the Cowboys’ quarterback is a glamorous position, but not a forgiving one.

Super Dallas. No team has ever hosted a Super Bowl. This year the Cowboys have as good a chance as any. The monstrocity that is Cowboys Stadium was a by-product of Jerry Jones’ biggest dreams. It’s a signal of the corporate society we live in, and is perfect for the Super Bowl, which has become a completely corporate event. The residents of Texas may not have their expectations recognized, but the big game will be more memorable than ever.

2. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

In Kolb We Trust. Kevin Kolb has assumed control of the Philadelphia Eagles. He is a better true fit for the “West Coast” offense. His release is faster than McNabb’s and he is a much better reader of defenses. He has also shown better accuracy, which should allow Desean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, and the rest of the offensive weapons to make plays after the catch. A large problem for the Eagles was 3 and out possesions, but with Kolb’s consistency, those should decrease. There was clearly an underground movement to have him take over at quarterback, so he must produce. Andy Reid has now tied his career path to him, so if it doesn’t work, look for a change at the top soon.

Gang Green. Last year was a sad time for all Eagles fans. Jim Johnson had built an intimidating defensive unit, built on blitzes and man coverage. When he passed, that duty fell on Sean McDermott. In his first year, the Eagles’ defense took a large step back. The injuries to Sheldon Brown and Stewart Bradley took a large toll on the team. This year, they have stocked up. Ernie Sims was signed to upgrade the LB postion, and they drafted Brandon Graham and Nate Allen to infuse some youth. It will be interesting to see if the defense returns to the amoeba form of years past.

3.  WASHINGTON REDSKINS

Old face, New place. Down in DC, there is a new leader on offense. Donovan McNabb, an Eagle for his whole career, has flown south to take the helm of the Redskins. He has been a steady performer, and in my view, the best quarterback in Eagles history. He brings big game experience, and talent that Jason Campbell just could not harness. If he can me more accurate than in the past, Washington has a chance to be a spoiler this year. Health, as always, is a major key for #5. He is already nursing a sprained ankle from the 2nd preseason game. But Redskins fans, don’t be alarmed. This is a quarterback who once threw 4 touchdown passes on a broken ankle.

Hey, Hey, Hey. It’s Fat Albert. Much has already been said about the conditioning of Albert Haynesworth. He was able to sign a contract worth $100 million, but wasn’t able to keep in shape enough to start this year. I don’t expect him to be Adonis, but be a professional. The team was counting on him, as bad a decision as that may have been. He was signed to be the cog of the defense, and clog up opposing teams’ running games.  Instead he is clogging up the chemistry of the team. Right now, he looks like a bigger, slower version of 2004 Terrell Owens. This should be fun.

My Way or the Highway. There is no doubt who’s team it is in Washington DC. The ridiculously unprepared Jim Zorn is out, and Mike Shanahan came in with full power, and has put his stamp on this team. Signing Willie Parker and Larry Johnson to compete with Clinton Portis was a good move, even if they weren’t up to their past selves. We all know that his calling card has been run, run, play fake to the tight end. He has the QB, the TE, and the load of backs, but he still needs to work on the offensive line. The draft was a good start, so look for a much improved football team by the time December comes around.

4. NEW YORK GIANTS

The Book of Eli. Three years have flown by quickly. Hard to believe it’s been that long since Eli Manning made one of the biggest plays in Super Bowl history, andstopped the Patriots’ run to an undefeated season. He has been extremely durable in his career, while dealing with a lot of turnover at the receiver position. Many are looking for a big year from #10. He should fulfill those expectations this season. He has a healthy Hakeem Nicks, as well as the always reliable Steve Smith and Kevin Boss. So far this preseason, they have looked explosive. Eli is the key to a successful season in NY, as is true of any franchise QB.

Is Brandon Done? Ahmad Bradshaw is a great changer of pace, but Jacobs has to be able to get the tough yards in short yardage as well as on the goal line. The jury is out on whether he still can. It’s silly to see someone so big tip-toeing and getting nicked up so easily. If he stays healthy, he’ll get 10 TDs and allow that Giants to be the grind-it-out team that we are used to watching. If not…it’s all on Eli and his guys.

STEP UP OR STEP OUT!

With the NFL season quickly approaching, it’s time to take stock of some players that need to answer the bell this year. Being the most important position on the field, we’ll focus on the quaterbacks. There are 5 who need to make an improvement in play, and show that they truly are the leaders of their respective teams.

1. Donovan McNabb. To have a player that is still highly regarded traded to a team in the same division is unheard of. But that is the situation here with Donovan F.

DMac5 has to show and prove in the nation's capital.

McNabb. There is no more time for excuses. McNabb was the best quarterback in Eagles history, but he never delivered the top prize. His legacy is not questioned, but his desire has been questioned many times. He now has a new lease on his career, and it’s time for him to show that there is still plenty of gas left in his tank. Shanahan will no doubt give him the opportunity to succeed. He needs to bring his experience in big games, good and bad, to the table, to try and bring the team together. Win and win now, because a sub-par performance and a duplication of the Redskins record from last year will start the doubting all over again.

2. Matt Leinart. Oh boy, where to start with Leinart. He was one of the most decorated quarterbacks in college history, but an unmitigated disaster in the NFL. He has all the weapons a QB could want at his fingertips. The running game will be much improved in Arizona with Beanie Wells, and the #2 rated WR in the league based on the footballsickness.com ratings. He had the best tutor you could ask for in Kurt Warner, whose soon-to-be-HOF career was borne out of hard work and perseverance. If Leinart has learned anything, it must be attention to detail. If he can be just solid, the Cardinals will challenge the 49ers for the top spot in the NFC West.

3. Tony Romo. I know you may find it hard to see Romo’s name on this list, but it’s deserved. He must step up and finally take this team to the promised land. The Cowboys, by all accounts, are the most talented team in the league. In fact, they have been for the past few years, and have only one playoff win to show for that. The Super Bowl will be played in the Taj MaDallas, and Jerry Jones expects to see his team playing. In the past, Romo has seemed immature, but no more time for that. He must show that those times are behind him, and realize that the hot seat is warming up for him.

4. Matt Cassell. Cassell made himself a lot of money playing well in Tom Brady’s absence. Last year, in his first full year as a starter, he took a step back. He was wildly inconsistent, and did not look worth the $10 mil a year salary or the $28 mil that was guaranteed in his contract. The Chiefs need him to bounce back this year, in order for them to take the next step forward. Luckily for him, he’ll be coached up by Charlie Weis, whose game preparation should help set Cassell up for success.

5. Jay Cutler. Cutler was hailed as the piece to get Chicago back to the top of the division. Instead, he proved to be a turnover machine. He came close to breaking the Bears’ QB INT record with his 26 INT last year. With Mike Martz entering the fray, he needs to take advatage of the matchups he’ll have available to him. The Bears cannot afford another season like that. With his arm strength and mobility, he was once mentioned in the same breath as John Elway. He needs to step up before his career ends with comparisons to Jeff George.

HEY, NEW GUY!

Right now, in football camps across this great land, thousands of young, dedicated, hard-working men are embroiled in position battles running five deep or more. Many will have their dreams shattered and hearts broken. For some, this will be the end of a relatively long, successful line; for others, the dream will die tragically, within sight of the prize, without ever having reached it. You have to understand this fact to understand what the NFL is: one of the most competitive environments on planet earth. Seriously, think about what your job would be like if (1) you knew you needed to make every dime you would need for a very long time before you were in your mid-30’s and (2) there was an immense statistical likelihood that you would not. Anyone who tells you that the NFL is “just a game” is just wrong.

By and large, these guys are special. They understand things about commitment and work that many of us, based on my observation, do not at such an early age. I submit that football has everything to do with that. Nobody is in the NFL who hasn’t dreamed of putting on a uniform on Sundays since they were little boys, and who hasn’t worked like heck to get there. And, just as many will be turned away, every year there is at least one player on every team who becomes an invaluable piece of the core, if not a star. These are not necessarily rookies, but guys who may not have yet landed on your mental player rolodex. Some of these guys are breakout candidates, and some are just solid pieces to a puzzle. But if you watch enough NFL football, you know that to win, you’d better have enough of both. Here’s to the new guy!!

ARIZONA CARDINALS: Daryl Washington, LB. If you have to replace Karlos Dansby, this is a good place to start.

ATLANTA FALCONS: Brent Grimes, CB. Scrappy playmaker who is getting rave reviews in camp. Liked him from day 1. Love it when they prove me right.

BALTIMORE RAVENS: Ed Dickson & Dennis Pitta, TE’s: These two rookies can both play, right now. I particularly like Dickson’s skill set, but Pitta is more polished as a receiver. Bottom line, Ozzie Newsome is one of the 3 best football talent evaluators in the league. You think he’s missing on a tight end?

Dude is gutsy.

BUFFALO BILLS: Andy Levitre, G & Eric Wood, C. A year under the belt should make a big difference.

CAROLINA PANTHERS: Matt Moore, QB. He’s not going to just roll over and give Jimmy Clausen the job.  The guy’s got moxxy, and he can sling it. He stabilized the offense in 2009. Another guy to watch is rookie WR Brandon LaFell.

CHICAGO BEARS: Devin Aromashodu, WR. He just looks like a football player to me. Cutler hit him a lot down the stretch.

CINCINNATI BENGALS: Brandon Ghee, CB. An underrated 3rd round draft pick who is another good player in one of the league’s top secondaries.

CLEVELAND BROWNS: Matt Roth, DE/OLB. The Manguin grabbed the former 2nd round pick off waivers mid-season from Miami, and he was the Browns’ best defensive player from that moment forward. He appears to be precisely what Mangini wanted at the position. I’m buying it. Double-digit sacks or my name is Stanley.

DALLAS COWBOYS: Dez Bryant, WR. You’re either in or out. I’m in.

DENVER BRONCOS: Steve Antonopulos, Head Athletic Trainer. Apparently he’s going to be needed with the frequency.

DETROIT LIONS: Jahvid Best, RB. As you know, I’m driving the bandwagon.

GREEN BAY PACKERS: Brian Bulaga, T. Their O-line was already getting better with some adjustments late last year, and Bulaga will push that process along.

HOUSTON TEXANS: Jacoby Jones, WR. Time for the long-time fantasy sleeper to grow up.

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS: Jerry Hughes, DE. Another in the Freeney-Mathis “holy crap, that guy’s quick to the quarterback” mold. The talented rookie spells the starters and helps keep them fresh late.

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS: Tyson Alualu, DE. At least, he better be, after they surprised the whole league by taking the former Bear 10th overall. He’ll obviously get every opportunity to prove he belongs.

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS: Tamba Hali, OLB. Chiefs fans know this already, but a lot of NFL fans don’t. Got close to so many sacks last year I stopped counting. Maturation along the 3-4 front will benefit him noticeably.

Sean Smith is smoooooth.

MIAMI DOLPHINS:  Sean Smith, CB. Almost too good last year to put him here this year. This guy is all kinds of tough. A big, physical, modern-day prototype at the position.

MINNESOTA VIKINGS: Toby Gerhart, RB. Obviously, Adrian Peterson is The Man. They won’t need the Stanford baller much, but he’ll make plays when they do.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: Brandon Spikes, LB & Brandon Tate, WR. Spikes is the perfect hammer for a Hoodified 3-4, and Tate is an under-the-radar guy with definite pro skills.

NEW YORK GIANTS: Ramses Barden, WR. He’s not going to be a 100-catch guy or anything, but he presents a nightmare in the red zone when teamed with the Giants’ other passing weapons, which are significant. As I’ve been saying, I know they want to get back to the power run game but I’m convinced they’ll discovery their best bet is to let Eli take the reigns.

NEW YORK JETS:  Vladimir Ducasse, G & Kyle Wilson, CB. Wilson is one of the steals of the 2010 draft. I’m including Ducasse because, well…you know that old saying about how nobody notices an offensive lineman until something goes wrong? Well, given that he’s replacing a multi-Pro Bowler in Alan Faneca, and that the other 4 pieces of that line are intact, people are going to notice extra in his case.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS:  Malcolm Jenkins, S. Moving from corner to what I believe is his more natural position in the NFL, safety. He and Sharper are a nice playmaking duo back there for the returning champs.

OAKLAND RAIDERS: Offensive Skill Players. I had so many candidates here I just decided to mention it again- I think this team is a lot better on the whole than their quarterback play has allowed them to look. They need to stay healthy, but Chaz Schillens, Louis Murphy, Zach Miller, Darius Heyward-Bey, rookie WR Jacoby Ford, Darren McFadden and my main man Michael “Big” Bush represent an armada of talent.

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES: Brandon Graham, DE. Apparently this isn’t obvious to some people. I know. Surprised me too. It won’t last. He’s a household name by November.

PITTSBURGH STEELERS:  Maurkice Pouncey, C. I came very close to putting Dennis Dixon’s name here (more on that later), which is my way of saying you should remember later that I wanted to put Dennis Dixon’s name here but chickened out and went for the obvious call. Pouncey is the mauler they desperately needed at the pivot to return to the Steeler way. The AFC North has apparently noticed everyone decent in the conference has monster nose guys.

ST. LOUIS RAMS: Sam Bradford, QB. For better or for worse, and probably a little of both as a rookie. But I think he’ll be fine if they can keep him protected. Personally, I’d be going Herschel Walker right now with Steven Jackson if I were the Rams, but I can also see where they could have talked themselves into believing they can compete immediately. Bradford’s intriguing.

SAN DIEGO CHARGERS: Ryan Mathews, RB. This is Donald Butler’s spot, but Norv has already told us this is coming.

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS: Mike Iupati & Charles Davis, OL. I love Mike Singletary. He drafted these two monsters to fix the line with one shot, and he’s wearing it, having just announced that both will start. It’s a great call. Alex Smith will thank him.

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS:  Pete Carroll, Head Coach. Does it translate this time? Pete better hope so, because the NCAA will want to have a word with him when and if he tries to return the college game.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS: Brian Price, DT. Everyone knows about Gerald McCoy. But Brian Price has similar or better natural gifts, and when he’s going right is potentially more dominant. I’m hoping the #3 overall pick will rub off on my fellow Bruin and drive him to be the player he can be: an elite one.

Shop wrecker extraordinaire, Brian Price.

TENNESSEE TITANS: Jared Cook, TE. He never seemed to get into a rhythm as a rookie, but he’s got a ton of talent. I hesitate to admit that I liked damn near everything I saw from Vince Young in ’09, and the ‘Dinger likes to use his tight ends in the pass game. And you’ve seen their wideouts, right?

WASHINGTON REDSKINS: Fred Davis, TE. Maybe he is already too obvious to be on the list, and the ‘Skins certainly hope the real answer turns out to be one of the young, gifted wideouts. But Davis is as good as a WR at some things, and Ol’ Whatshisname will figure out a way to get him the ball.

ALBERT HAYNESWORTH REALLY GRINDS MY GEARS

Just a quick blast here. Generally speaking, I go out of my way to skip the negative stories about NFL players. They’re covered enormously and erroneously enough elsewhere, and I simply don’t have the facts in most cases.  Today, however, I feel I do have sufficient facts and evidence to draw an absolutely correct conclusion. That conclusion? You suck, Albert Haynesworth.

Haynesworth signed one of the largest contracts in sports history a little over a year ago to play football for the Washington Redskins franchise. Since I’m not one to mess with other people’s money too readily, let’s just say this: he’s making a LOT. Compared to almost everybody, including the millionaires in his own profession. He came to camp only after having raised a stink of monumental proportions about playing a position for which he is perfectly suited, and cashing a rather substantial ($20M) bonus check. Now we find out he can’t pass a conditioning test that his entire unit passed easily.  I have no problem with him taking the check, by the way. It was in the deal. Fine. But here’s my problem, though it certainly affects me no more than as a disappointed fan: Mike Golic can apparently pass the test. So can one of the guys over at PFT. You are supposed to be in shape to play football. So, really, what’s the problem here?

Now, maybe that knee is really bothering him. But we’re not hearing much of it. Regardless, I love the NFL in part because it is so demanding that nobody but the ultra-athletically-gifted can hope to merely skate by. Toughness, both mental and physical, is at a premium. There are many stories of guys that work their souls to the bone just to get a chance to maybe cover a kick or two for a 1-15 team. The league is full of professional, hard-working, dedicated men. So, I’ll admit it: It just grinds my gears that a guy like Haynesworth can show up and mail it in and still be effective, conditioning test or not. Whatever else you think of him, he certainly appears to take the game and his gifts completely for granted.  It makes me want to boo him.

So congratulations, Albert Haynesworth! You’ve just won the prestigious FootballSickness.com Steaming Turd of the Week Award!

Hey, Albert? This One's For You, Buddy.