Ten Things I Think I Think
1. I think these are my preseason Week 2 observations:
a. Tom Brady got hit too much, and he got hit too much by the Bengals.
When I talked to Brady in the spring, he remembered --a bit ruefully -- what the Giants' rush had done to him in the Super Bowl, the last complete game he played. Watching a chunk of Thursday night's game against the Bengals on tape the other night, when Brady got hit hard twice, I was reminded of the hits and torment he took against the Giants.
"That four-man rush will get to you, and if those guys up front are good, which the Giants were, they can still keep the integrity of the secondary intact,'' he said. "It's hard to do. Normally, if you got a blitz, then you're going to have to throw the ball quick. But if you rush with four and can get to the passer, I mean, that's the best defense in the world. So few guys can do that, there are so few pass rushers, or a group of pass rushers that can attack the quarterback like the Giants or that great defensive teams do, when you sit back there quarterbacking you see like a two-high defense, and you see Michael Strahan and Osi [Umenyiora] and [Justin] Tuck and [Barry] Cofield, you're like, 'Man I better just catch it and try to find someone as fast as I can.' ''
The Patriots have to keep Brady cleaner.
b. I like those Bengal corners too. Physical guys, especially Johnathan Joseph.
c. No player in the NFL has a bigger week ahead than Jason Campbell, who looked shaky, inaccurate and as if he had a 20-pound bar on his shoulders Saturday night in the rain at FedEx. The Patriots come calling Friday night. Not an easy team to get well against.
d. Two return men might have made teams Saturday night -- Stefan Logan with the Steelers and LaRod Stephens-Howling, the Cards' seventh-round pick from Pitt, who had 89- and 63-yard kick returns against San Diego. Logan, a waterbug type of elusive returner, from, of all places, South Dakota, shredded the Redskins special teams with about 75 yards after contact. If I'm Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert, I'm figuring a way to keep Logan.
e. Matt Forte is underrated as a cutback runner.
f. What command Jay Cutler showed against the Giants.
h. Raved last week about the 49er pick who has chosen to be in camp, Glen Coffee, and there's more to be excited about: 16 carries, 129 first-half yards against the Raiders.
j. Best team in the first two weeks, to me, looks like Green Bay. Aaron Rodgers is playing as if these games actually matter. The defensive line keeps shutting good players; unsung players, like Johnny Jolly in and out, and they keep making plays.
2. I think we're on the way to a desperately needed streamlining of the Hall of Fame ceremony, and hopefully reducing it from the three-hour range to maybe two hours and 15 minutes.
I'm told the league, and the Hall, have decided to eliminate the speeches of the presenters, and have the presenters simply be there to help unveil busts and be a major part of the four-minute video presentation leading to the speeches of the enshrinees. I'm also told there will be more of a strongarm on those enshrined to limit speeches to 10 to 12 minutes (they'd gladly settle for 15) instead of 25 to 30. Eyes rolled particularly on Carl Peterson's 26-minute miniseries as the speech-maker for the late Derrick Thomas. I received lots of critical e-mail for saying the event needed to be streamlined, but anyone in attendance -- except for the new Hall of Famers and their families -- understands nothing will be lost if the speeches are kept to 15 minutes.
3. I think I have one job I wish I didn't have -- picking the order of finish in the NFL this year, and crystal-balling the playoffs, for SI's pro football preview issue. The reason I wish I didn't have it, of course, is that this is Paul Zimmerman's thankless job, and I want Zim to do it. And I'm hoping against hope he's back in 2010 to take it back from me. But after spending a few hours this week finalizing my picks, I realized a couple of things:
a. The easiest thing to do when making these picks is to duplicate the previous year. It's also the easiest way to get it wrong. In 2007, the NFC division winners were Dallas, Green Bay, Tampa Bay and Seattle. Last year, they were New York, Minnesota, Carolina and Arizona. That's not irregular, either. At least five new playoff teams have made the postseason for 12 years in a row. Last year the number was seven -- seven teams made the playoffs in 2008 that didn't make the postseason in 2007. I ended up picking five new division winners in the eight divisions. No spoilers. Wait for the mag.
b. Recent history says a Super Bowl team will come, relatively speaking, out of nowhere. Arizona last year, the Giants the year before, sixth-seed Pittsburgh in '05, Carolina in '03, the Ravens in 2000. So I picked one logical team in the magazine and one illogical team.
4. I think the Eagles are likely to use Michael Vick as a third quarterback this year in most games -- but not as the 46th, emergency-only backup. If they do the latter, they'd be creating a major personnel problem. Here's why.
The NFL allows teams to dress a 46th player, but only if that 46th player is the third quarterback dressing that day. Philly has a decision to make about Vick and how he will be accounted for on the roster. It wouldn't be smart to use a situational quarterback as the emergency quarterback because if the player is used in the first three quarters, then the first and second quarterbacks are ineligible to play from that point on. So when the Eagles play Vick, it's likely they'll do so as a legitimate third quarterback -- and thus will likely take one special-teams-type player out of the lineup on that particular day. It's risky, and it'll make the job of special-teams coordinator Ted Daisher a vital one as the Eagles go forward.
Having Vick run around and make magic is all well and good, but if Andy Reid picks Vick to dress over, say, a defensive back who is an excellent gunner on the punt team, that decision could result in a long punt return. Interestingly, we'd probably never know it because Reid would never say, "We had Michael active today at the expense of Player X.'' But internally, it could be a hot potato on the coaching staff, with some assistants feeling that Vick is preventing a good kick-team player from performing.
5. I think I have zero inside information on the Tom Cable boxing match in Oakland, but all I can relay is this, from one of the most trusted and smartest football people I talk to most weeks: "Why does this nonsense always happen with the Raiders? Do you ever see the coach punching a coach with the Giants? The Patriots? The Colts?''
6. I think the preseason is tough to judge anyway, but the Panthers left me guessing after watching three quarters of their game against Miami.
Good: DeAngelo Williams had the best run of any NFL back in the preseason (that and $4.14 will buy you a grande hazelnut latte) with his electrifying, 25-yarder in the first quarter.
Bad: Julius Peppers didn't get a sniff all night, and though much of that came against a terrific young tackle, Jake Long, it's the classic example of why no one beat the door down to get Peppers when he was on the market in the offseason. To pay a first-round pick and $16 million a year for a guy who's going to get you 10 sacks a year ... let's just say there are better ways to spend your salary cap money and draft choices.
Good: The offensive line looked good, and the first unit kept Jake Delhomme fairly clean against a good rush.
Good: I like the way Everette Brown rushes the passer. Quick, and stronger than you'd expect from a guy his size.
Bad: The Panthers fumble too much.
It's hard to tell what to think of this team, but they're not alone in that respect in the NFC South. It's also hard to tell much from preseason games, particularly ones when Delhomme's two most reliable targets, Steve Smith and Muhsin Muhammad, are on the sidelines in street clothes. It's going to be tough to get a real handle on the Panthers this summer. Delhomme coming back worries me, as does the run defense.
7. I think I'd like to rip Kyle Orton for the silly left-handed interception, but when you're going for it on fourth down, and it's a do-or-die play, and it doesn't matter if the throw is into the third row of the bleachers or into a defender's hands, I can't fault him much for making a throw like that. Orton (18 of 26, 182 yards) needed to play as much as he did. He made a nice fade throw to Brandon Stokley for a touchdown, didn't take a sack, and looked in control.
8. I think, from watching the first half of Denver-Seattle, Matt Hasselbeck was even better. I also liked how he stepped up strong in the pocket and took three sacks without flinching.
9. I think if you're a high school athlete, or a parent, there's a two-hour movie event tomorrow in theaters across the country that you should investigate. Tony Dungy's Red Zone 09 (www.redzonelive.com) will be shown in more than 400 major theaters and features interviews with famous and not-so-famous players and coaches and trainers.
It's about overcoming odds (2007 defensive player of the year Bob Sanders tells the story of getting only one Division I scholarship offer because of his size) and about the role of teamwork, and about steroids and nutrition and what college coaches want in an athlete. "We're trying to educate the total person,'' Dungy said last night. "This is what I'd tell my son about all aspects of being an athlete.''
It's designed to kick off the 2009 high school football season (and other sports), and Dungy has heard reports of entire football teams going to the theater Tuesday for team-bonding.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. Progress for Paul Zimmerman! Linda, his saint of a bride, reports that the two of them played the card game War Saturday. "He was just as fast as I was,'' Linda reports. "Not that that is any great feat, but it is NORMAL ... I was thrilled.'' We are so pleased.
b. Speaking of Zim, I met a great contributor to the Zim recovery fund in Denver Monday. David Roitman made a phenomenal contribution to the Dr. Z/Nothing Is Impossible Foundation, and the Broncos graciously hosted him at training camp. Roitman read about Zim's troubles, saw some of the auction items were moving slowly, and so he bid the minimum on five items -- and then paid for the items and turned them back in so the second-place bidder could win, and pay a second time.
Roitman wanted nothing for his efforts. His message: pay it forward. People have helped him in his life, he wants to help people, and he hopes someone will read his tale and maybe help someone else in need. I'm telling you -- the stories of generosity from that event will live with me for a long time.
c. Said it before and I'll say it again: Derek Jeter's the best baseball player of my lifetime.
d. An unassisted triple play to end a game? Incredible. Funny thing was, it was a pretty normal play, not difficult at all. Eric Bruntlett of the Phils just grabbed it three steps from second base, tagged it, then tagged the incoming runner. Happened in about a second and a half.
e. Brad Penny makes me long for the days of John Smoltz.
f. And for those who look at Smoltz's terrific outing for the Cards Sunday and say the Red Sox were idiots for dumping him, here's the stat you need to know: In his last 31 Red Sox innings, he gave up 31 earned runs.
g. Coffeenerdness: What does a coffee nerd do on midday Sunday when his four-year-old Krups is hissing and making funny noises instead of great coffee? He goes and buys another Krups. And I must say that first pot of dark roast was splendid.
h. Great Sears commercial about Favre being unable to make up his mind about a big electronics buy. The kid waiting on him tells him about the wafflers who come and can't decide whether to buy what they really want. "Those guys drive me crazy,'' he says. Art, or something, imitating reality.
Click here to pre-order Peter King's new book, "Monday Morning Quarterback: A fully caffeinated guide to everything you need to know about the NFL"
NFL Truth & Rumors