Rams' Jackson still has gas in tank for playoff contender; more mail
Steven Jackson appears as though he will be moved by the NFL trade deadline
The more you watch San Francisco's Alex Smith, the more you know he can play
Once thought unlikely, Joe Philbin's Dolphins could grab an AFC Wild Card spot
NEW YORK -- On Sandy, Steven Jackson's fate, one name we haven't heard in the trade market, the amazing night of Alex Smith, falling in like with the Dolphins, and my stupid rankings:
That is one angry Sandy. Thanks to all for well-wishes regarding this massive storm. As my buddy Don Banks says of me, "World's luckiest man continues hot streak." We've escaped unscathed.
I live in midtown, 40 blocks north of the East Village, where cars this morning were submarines. We got a lot of wind and some rain, but nothing else. I feel for those affected by this brutal storm. The pictures from so many places break your heart, and I've seen so many familiar sights from my old Jersey stomping grounds in devastation. My heartfelt best wishes to the millions dealing with the fallout.
Steven Jackson could be moved. I've thought all along, based on the pin-drop quiet of the preliminary trade talks, that there wouldn't be a big deal before the trade deadline (pushed back from week six to week eight this year, and now pushed back two days more because of the superstorm), which is now Thursday at 4 p.m. Eastern Time. But I'd put the chances at 55 percent that Jackson, the 29-year-old running back with a couple of good years left in the tank, will be traded, based on the opinion of one AFC personnel man this morning. "Even though he's due a lot of money,'' the source said, "he's got real value for a contender because he can still play, and there're a few teams out there that really need a running back."
Jackson's case is very similar to Ichiro's last summer. Seattle wanted to move Ichiro, who had a heavy pricetag, and the Yankees bought him. Jackson is due $10.7 million through the end of the 2013 season -- $3.7 for the rest of this year, $7 million next season -- and still is a productive, eager back and a very good teammate. Since the start of last year, behind a shaky line, Jackson is averaging 4.2 yards per rush (368 carries, 1,548 yards).
Green Bay, Dallas and Arizona are the logical suspects. (I would have said Pittsburgh, but Jonathan Dwyer's been so good that he's negated the need for one.) I don't think GM Ted Thompson would want to take on that salary in Green Bay. Jerry Jones should in Dallas; his backs can't stay healthy, and Tony Romo needs the offensive help. Arizona had nine carries for seven yards Monday night, and its top two backs are both on IR, though Beanie Wells has the designation that he can return.
I do think the Rams would deal Jackson in the division if the price were right. The price has to be a fourth- or third-round pick, I believe. We'll see what the next 48 hours bring. This is a player who can still contribute to a playoff contender, and I think he's worth a mid-round pick.
Could Bryant McKinnie be the answer for someone? McKinnie's the odd man out in the Baltimore tackle rotation (Michael Oher's taken his old left tackle job, with Iowa State rookie Kelechi Osemele now the right tackle. McKinnie played but 23 offensive snaps in the last three Ravens game. But he'd be a good temporary Band-Aid for the reeling Cardinals, who I hear have some interest in him. They should. Their two starting tackles are the lowest-rated tackles in the NFL, according to ProFootballFocus.com, which has Bobbie Massie and D'Anthony Batiste blamed for the incredible total of 25 sacks and 74 quarterback hits or hurries -- in eight games!
The more you watch Alex Smith, the more likeable he gets. The only incompletion he threw Monday night was an easily catchable ball that Delanie Walker dropped on a second-quarter crossing route. A shame. A perfect passing line would have been a great thing for Smith to have, seeing that half the free world still thinks he can't play.
Well, he can, and his 18-of-19, 232-yard, three-touchdown, no-pick night in the 24-3 win over Arizona just proves one thing: Even if you gameplan to shut down the running game, Smith can beat a good defense. Take away one 17-yard gain by Frank Gore, and the Niners struggled running it all night (3.4 yard per rush excepting the 17-yarder). But Smith hung in against good Arizona pressure and put the ball where he wanted all night. What was so impressive, I thought, was what Smith's become adept at doing -- putting the ball on a spot where his receivers can make plays after the catch. Entering their bye, the Niners got a huge boost from Smith.
If the season ended today, Miami would be one of my AFC wild cards. Impressive talking to Miami coach Joe Philbin after the Dolphins' 30-9 domination of the Jets in New Jersey. Impressive because the Dolphins' 4-3 start doesn't surprise him. He knew what he had in his players, he knew they'd be good enough on special teams, he knew the defense was good. He also knew Ryan Tannehill and Matt Moore were good enough to win with -- particularly since Tannehill would be able to hit the ground running because the offense, conceptually, was going to be a lot like his Texas A&M scheme, with college coach Mike Sherman coming to run the offense at Miami.
One other factor: Philbin's reunion with defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle, who he hired off Cincinnati's staff; they worked summer football camps together in Massachusetts 25 years ago.
Only two teams have allowed fewer points than Miami, and only two fewer rushing yards. "Defensively,'' said Philbin, "we've got very good players. When I got the job, I didn't choose Kevin Coyle because he knew the 4-3 so well. It was because I knew what a passion he had for football, and I knew he could help make our players better. Our defense plays fast and plays with passion."
As for being 4-3, he said: "I wasn't sure how it would all come together this year. But I felt good about the way we prepared in the summer and the way we practiced. We worked them hard. In this league, you prepare every week and do your scouting reports, and the way I look at it, if you do the right things, you should have a good chance to win every game.''
Miami and Indy meet in Indianapolis Sunday, each 4-3 and each with a legitimate wild-card shot.
Now for your email:
YOUR RANKINS ARE DUMB. "How do you watch the Denver beatdown of the Saints Sunday night and then rank the Broncos 11th in your Fine Fifteen?''
-- From Ted of Colorado Spring, Colo.
You're right -- and all of you who beat me up on Twitter are right too. Should have had the Broncos eighth, ahead of Baltimore, Miami and Pittsburgh, instead of behind them. Brainlock by me.
ON SPORTSMANSHIP. "I think it was last season that you visited your brother in London and wrote about your experience at a Cricket match. I remember you remarking about the degree of sportsmanship involved, such as players self-correcting calls they knew to be in error, and the fans' appreciation of such sportsmanship. How would that type of fan base ever put up with the showboating antics of today's NFL players (see Antonio Brown running backwards for 20 yards into the end zone)?''
-- From Ben Hurwitz of Pittsburgh
Good question. I thought that was pretty petty too. I think fans should let players know their feelings when they see things like that -- and I think the fans in England, if a team ever gets relocated there, would be vocal, as would the press, in making their feelings known.
I DISAGREE, BUT THAT MAKES THE WORLD GO ROUND. "You wrote: 'I think it's literally impossible for a defensive back -- like Chicago safety Chris Conte in the third quarter against Carolina -- to avoid the kind of personal foul call he got for his hit on a defenseless receiver, Brandon LaFell. If LaFell is diving head-first for the ball and a defender is coming from opposite him to break it up, how possibly is he going to do it without hitting him somewhere around the head or neck? Should the defender simply lay back and wait for the receiver to catch the ball, then try to hit him?
As dangerous as that play is, the league is more than tying the defender's hands behind his back by making it virtually impossible for the defense to play defense on the play.' The comeback will always be: Play better defense before the ball is thrown. If the defender is in better position, then he doesn't have to dive at the receiver to break up the pass. I know playing defense in the NFL is tough, but so is brain surgery. And brain surgeons make less money than defensive backs.''
-- Jarrod of St. Paul, Minn.
What if the defender isn't in position to make the play? My rejoinder stays the same: The only way Conte doesn't hit the receiver in a defenseless position is by not hitting him. And I don't think that's fair to the defender. Your point would be that once a player is not in the right position, then he should just back away from a diving receiver. Why?
ON THE STEELER THROWUPS. "The Steelers' unis were a wonderful display. I neither know nor care whether they are for sale, but if you don't like them don't buy them. But why would you trash the league's history? Next you'll be saying the Homestead Grays jerseys were too baggy and itchy to be worn in tribute to the greatest baseball team of all time.''
-- Howard, of Richmond, Va.
Good point. The difference is, how many years did the Steelers wear those awful things? I read somewhere one year. What historical photo of some great Steeler have you ever seen with that ridiculous jersey on? I've never seen one. It's a dumb jersey and a dumb idea to resuscitate it now.
ON THE FUTURE OF ANDY REID. "Say Andy Reid gets fired, and we Giants fans would be ecstatic, does he make it out of the parking lot without another job, or does he take a year off? To me, he's Mike Shanahan: a great coach whose message has simply lost its effect and needs new surroundings. Shoot, he might not even get out of the NFC East, if you know what I mean.''
Chris Pfeifer, of Lynchburg, Va.
I think Reid would have at least one job offer if he leaves Philly, and if it's the right one, to him, then I think he'd take it.