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Features & Blogs
"Life in the UK"
• Sideline: Yes, Non–Conference Games DO Count
• NCAA Preview 2009
• Sideline: Time For The Talking To Stop
• Sideline: In Memory of Air McNair
• Sideline: Will Goodell Hand Out Hard Time?
• Sideline: Marshall's Not Joshing
• NFL Draft: No Rush To Judgment
• NFL Draft Analysis 2009 (Part 2)
• Sideline: NFL Draft Thoughts (Part 2)
• Sideline: NFL Draft Thoughts
• Sideline: Will Play For Food
• Sideline: Wonderlic Scores
• Sideline: Manning and Sanchez
• Sideline: 2010 Leagues Sci–fi, or Fantasy? / March Madness
• Sideline: Break Out The Brackets
• Sideline: LaDainian Tomlinson On The Record
• Sideline: The Incredible Sulk Continues
• Sideline: Guildford Heat Fired Up
• Sideline: Super Bowl thoughts from the Valley of the Sun
• Sideline: I know I came in here for something
• Sideline: College Football National Signing Day
• Sideline: 27 Points — 27 Super Bowl thoughts
• Sideline: An Epic QB Matchup?
• Sideline: Appreciating Arizona for What They Were
• Sideline: NFL Divisional Weekend Preview
• Sideline: Bowl Season Hangover
• Sideline: Six weeks Later
• Sideline: Wildcard Weekend Preview
• Sideline: Santa's Sackings
• Sideline: A Weis Decision ...for Now
• Sideline: Eye on the Ticker
• Sideline: Lions — An Anagram of Losin
• Sideline: Ready for the Turkey
• Sideline: Making it to the Big Dance
• Sideline: Brighter Days Ahead for Chargers?
• Sideline: Unnecessary Hits To The Pocket / Upset: BYU
• Sideline: Romo's Pause / Seattle Seahawks
• Sideline: Weekend Prep: Red River and More
• Sideline: College Football's 'Crossroads' Weekend
• Sideline: Gramatical Error
• Sideline: Turning The Page
• Sideline: So Cal 'Quizzed
• Sideline: 3rd Tuesday Panic / Forté Yard Dash
• Sideline: Two and Oh; Oh and Two
• Sideline: No More NCAAffeine
• Sideline: Week 1 College Football
• Sideline: How To Spell Heisman / Chad Ocho Cinco
• Sideline: A Second Slice
• Sideline: The Favre story STILL won't go away
• Sideline: Olympic Notes / Ricky's Still Relevant
• Sideline: Committee Meetings
• Sideline: Let the QB Battles Begin
• Sideline: Slinging The Slinger — More Favre
• Interview: Clint Dempsey
• Sideline: Welcome to the 2008 season
• Sideline: Plus One
• 2008 NFL Draft Review
• Sideline: Draft: The Morning After
• Sideline: Draft: Thinking the Unthinkable
• Sideline: Draft: Ready For The Long Haul
• Sideline: Sofa–bound Sport
• Sideline: Post–Winter Wonderland
• Sideline: Six Impossible Things
• Sideline: Brady's Misdirection Play
• Sideline: Colorful Language
• Sideline: Let the Romo–bashing begin
• Sideline: Bowl Bites: The Wrap
• Sideline: All About The Coaches
• Sideline: Bowl Bites 3
• Sideline: Bowl Bites 2
• Sideline: Bowl Bites 1
• Sideline: Coach Situations Vacant
• Sideline: For Some, The Playoffs Are Now
• Sideline: A Certain Lack Of Welcome
• Sideline: Unrelated Notes
• Sideline: Two Thanksgiving thoughts
• Sideline: Halftime: NFC
• Sideline: Halftime: AFC
• Sideline: London / A Tale of Two Chads / Intimidation
• Sideline: Damp Squib / Other London Notes
• Sideline: Rock 'Em, Sock 'Em / Dolphins – The Aftermath
• Sideline: The Dolphins Did What?
• Sideline: Notes on the Defenses
• Sideline: Habits to be Broken
• Sideline: Overtime
• Sideline: This Week's Starters
• Sideline: USF: Covering The Spread / Fantastic Football
• Sideline: Grossman: The Final Act? / McNabb, the Epilogue
• Sideline: Eagles QB in Slight Controversy
• Sideline: Leftwich's Parting Gift / Boos cruise
• Sideline: Notre Dame M.I.A.
• Sideline: Looking Beyond NFL Wk. 1
• Sideline: Best Hope For Heisman
• Sideline: Coaching Hot Seats / AP Poll Feeling ’Appy
• Sideline: The NFL’s Prime Cuts
• Sideline: Michigan Falls to Killer Apps
• Sideline: Look Out Couch / The Taint's On You, Bud
NFC SOUTH 2009 DRAFT
Richard L Gale hands out some grades and opinion on the NFL's most volatile division
Adjusted Draft Grade B–
• The Falcons have never enjoyed consecutive winning seasons, and coming off an 11–5 campaign there are two good reasons why history may repeat itself: a sophomore slump from Matt Ryan, and a defense that was one of the worst in the league last season. The Falcons gave Ryan a Year 2 security blanket a week before the draft, sending a 2010 second round pick to bring in all–pro tight end Tony Gonzalez from the Chiefs. With DT Grady Jackson, LB Keith Brooking, and CB Dominique Foxworth among defenders leaving the team since last season, the Falcons then committed all but one 5th round pick from the 2009 draft to defensive additions. Nonetheless, linebacker went largely unchecked, with even pass rushing Spencer Adkins a long shot.
• The 25th ranked rush defense was targeted first and last, with defensive tackles Jerry and Walker. Peria Jerry could be the best DT in the draft, if fit, but he had ankle and foot injuries from '04 to '06, had foot surgery in spring '07, knee surgery in '08 and was nursing a groin injury at the Combine. That's a dissuasive catalogue of gimpiness, and although the Falcons will surely have done their homework in this department, Jerry is no sure bet to solve their rush defense woes. Vance Walker started every game of his final three seasons, so at least that's one playable body. The Falcons also drafted pass–rushing end Sidbury, who will be a bit part player.
• With needs at safety and cornerback, the Falcons visited the secondary in rounds 2, 3 and 5. William Moore has a pro build and fine enough speed, but also has a resumé full of dings and surgery, which doesn't bode well for a player liable to be getting involved in a lot of contact at safety. Thankfully no injuries worth reporting for Chris Owens, a smallish corner, but one who understands the job well enough to become a starter for the Falcons.
• The lone offensive player taken was Garrett Reynolds, an offensive tackle, but a couple of undrafted invitees may also be of note: Ryan Stanchek of West Virginia, and Jose Valdez of Arkansas. All three are examples of effort over athleticism, and at least two could stick around. Another free agent of note was QB John Parker Wilson, whose care with the ball and get–the–job done time at Alabama may have prepared him well for a career backup role in the NFL. He'll be fighting DJ Shockley for the no.3 role to begin with.
Adjusted Draft Grade C+
• It seems like forever that Julius Peppers has had his bags packed waiting to leave the Panthers, but Carolina's unwillingness to part with him is understandable when you consider that Peppers' 14.5 sacks were as many as their next three sack artists combined. Hence the Panthers gave up next year's first round pick to leap between Miami and the falling Everette Brown, who had been spoken of as a high first round pick. Brown has sky–high potential for either DE or OLB, and the focus to attain that, at least as a pass–rusher (20 sacks the past two years). He's not particularly tall (6–1) which may have capped his draft value, but certainly was worth future 1st for what he will be able to bring right now. 3rd round pick Corvey Irvin shares Brown's burst and moves (though to a lesser extent) as a 300lb tackle equivalent, but had only one year as a starter in FBS play.
• The defensive backfield wasn't atop most people's need list for Carolina, but they selected two, perhaps wisely with the Drew Brees and Matt Ryan already in the division and Josh Freeman warming up. Martin is a smooth moving, fast and tall DB who might play at corner or either safety position, but whose best season was last year at free safety. He's adaptable enough to earn an eventual start role somewhere in the secondary. Munnerlyn is more of a long shot to make the team, though he may provide a one–season body on special teams.
• Three offensive players were selected, and another undrafted invitee – tackle Gerald Cadogan of Penn State is worth a mention. Cadogan and Robinson combine as a very cheap pair of decent linemen, Cadogan a good guard prospect who could develop into a tackle (as he did in college), and Robinson a big (6–5, 330) run–blasting guard. Both may be competing for the same left guard position, but Robinson should have the inside track on heft alone. Also aboard: Fiammetta, another in the long history of pro–ready Syracuse fullbacks, more a blocker and occasional receiver than runner; and Goodson, a small, fast outside back with fine receiving skills but was only a part timer even in college.
• With the possible exceptions of Robinson and Goodson, there is a recurring theme of 'hard worker' from this class of future Panthers, which always helps the grade, but the Panthers also didn't pay too much attention to their needs (receiver springs to mind) and left a few things undone, even taking training camp free agents into account.
New Orleans Saints
Adjusted Draft Grade C
• A short draft for the Saints, and one that failed to bring any additional running backs after the departure of Deuce McAllister (Pierre Thomas would seem to have made his claim on what Reggie Bush doesn't carry), nor a big name outside linebacker – Stanley Arnoux is a tackler more used to playing inside though he will play at the weakside here. Undrafted Jonathan Casillas of Wisconsin joined the team in camp.
• However, the secondary needed help too, and in Malcolm Jenkins they add a Jim Thorpe Award winner capable of starting at corner or free safety, a game–fast and consistent player who could adopt a start job wherever needed this season without being any more a liability than the players they already had. Chip Vaughn, another free safety in college, is big enough (and fast with it) that he may end up at strong safety – especially if Jenkins doesn't go to corner.
• Undrafted offensive Guard Cedric Dockery of Texas was a good one to bring to camp, but with their shortest draft since Mike Ditka was wearing Ricky Williams dreads, the Saints naturally didn't cover their needs. All four selections will necessarily stay aboard, but this was still a half–draft.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Adjusted Draft Grade C
• It seems like a lot of teams came out of the draft without enough selections at outside linebacker for their needs, but the Buccaneers omission was more pronounced than most considering they parted with Cato June and Derrick Brooks this offseason. The closest thing from the draft was defensive end Kyle Moore, who is not only definitely a lineman at 270+ lbs, but one whose best years may be in the future rather than just yet. They traded up in the 4th round to make sure they secured his upside. Also arriving for the line, and somewhat more ready (which may also be read as lacking finesse) is Roy Miller. Finesse be damned, Miller and Moore both fulfilled needs and will be worked in sooner than later.
• If the above critique on the defensive acquisitions suggest a team not thinking of a Super Bowl run in 2009, the selection of Josh Freeman confirms it. The third of the three first round quarterbacks taken in the draft, the Buccaneers traded up two picks to make sure they got there before the Broncos – I'm not entirely sure the Broncos were looking at Freeman, but after the 'Chucky' years of ever–changing quarterbacks, the strong–armed but unpolished Freeman settles the issue for the next few years, though he'll likely watch Byron Leftwich or Luke McCown for at least some of this season. There's little reason to think that Freeman has the supporting cast here to be the second coming of Joe Flacco.
• Also added to an offense that was mid–pack in 2008: Fulton, an ex–defender who is still learning how best to use his agility and speed on the offensive line (= another project); Stroughter, a productive catcher with no special abilities for the next level; and a couple of free agent look–sees in interior linemen Rob Bruggeman of Iowa and Maurice Miller of Ole Miss. All in all, there's little reason to think the Buccaneers helped themselves greatly in any area for the 2009 season.