- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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The defensive line is Peters's specialty, the pass rush in particular, and last year the Bucs got only 9.5 sacks from their linemen. That will be fixed. The new face on the front four is Keith McCants, who played outside linebacker for Tampa Bay last year.
The Bucs have some big names on offense—quarterback Vinny Testaverde, wideout Mark Carrier, running back Gary Anderson, and two rookies, tackle Charles McRae from Tennessee and fullback Robert Wilson, the demon blocker from Texas A&M—but the guy I like most is Ron Hall, the best tight end nobody ever heard of. Hall can do it all: catch, block, watch films. Too bad tight ends aren't featured anymore.
In 1989, the Green Bay Packers' only winning season in the last eight, the Majik show was playing in all theaters. Since then, Don Majkowski has been in the news, but not in ways the fans enjoy: He has renegotiated his contract, sued the league over free agency and hurt his right shoulder. Give us touchdowns, the fans cry. Give us magic.
Well, the first team Majik and the Packers will be looking at when the season opens is the Eagles, and that means Tony Mandarich versus Reggie White, a matchup overwhelmingly in Philadelphia's favor and one that cost the Pack backup quarterback Anthony Dilweg last season. If Majkowski survives that game, he might be asking, How do we run the ball enough to keep those guys off me?
Last year's leading rusher was Michael Haddix, with 311 yards, which ranked him 58th in the NFL. Haddix was cut in the preseason, and third-round pick Chuck Webb hurt his right knee on the second day of practice. So 215-pound Darrell Thompson, who's entering his second season, will have to come through.
Linebacker Tim Harris, who can usually be counted on for a sack or two a game, was shifted all over the place last year. Consequently, his sacks dropped from 19� in 1989 to seven in '90. One more piece of bad news: Inside linebacker Brian Noble, the team's sturdiest run stopper, suffered a partial tear of a ligament in his right knee in camp. His status is unknown. And so is Green Bay's.
You've got the Oilers' run-and-shoot, and then you've got the Detroit Lions' version of that four-wideout attack. Houston produced more yardage than any other team in the NFL last season. The Lions? Well, they got some yards, but their time of possession was dead last, and the defense, summoned relentlessly to strap on the helmets, finished 28th too.
The obvious conclusion is that formations don't win games, people do, and Detroit is lacking in the people department. Quarterback Rodney Peete can't stay healthy, and Andre Ware hasn't shown he can play run-and-shoot in the NFL. Ware is a long-ball thrower who has been asked to dink. Erik Kramer, a free agent last year, will mind the store until Peete gets over assorted muscle pulls.
The Lions lost wideout Richard Johnson, their leading pass catcher, to Plan B. June Jones, a coach who specializes in the run-and-shoot, escaped to Atlanta. Herman Moore, Detroit's No. 1 draft pick, out of Virginia, was given a starting wideout spot before he reported to camp. Now the Lions say they'll run some plays from conventional sets. They even have a tight end this season, Eugene Riley. Still, I have to question an offense that's not built around Barry Sanders, the game's most talented runner.
The defense might be interesting, though. Detroit has gone to a 4-3, which means that nosetackle Jerry Ball should raise plenty of hell, matched up against a guard; that Chris Spielman should feel right at home at middle linebacker; and that Mike Cofer, a linebacker in previous seasons, should be effective as a pure rusher from defensive end.