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"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 WEST 2009 DRAFT
Richard L Gale hands out some grades and opinion for a division that suddenly got a lot better at linebacker
Adjusted Draft Grade B
• The Cardinals were looking to rejuvenate their running game (meaning part with Edgerrin James), and when Chris 'Beanie' Wells fell all the way to 31, Arizona's draft started with a bang. Further tools for the running game were added with free agent fullback Dionte Johnson, Wells' blocker at Ohio State, and speedy 7th rounder Stephens–Howling, a Sproles–like kick return option who was had 900 yards three seasons ago before being eclipsed at Pitt by LeSean McCoy.
• Youth at outside linebacker and a starting defensive end were also needs. Will Davis played slightly large his senior year and could translate from DE to DT, and Cody Brown had 18.5 sacks the past two years as a pass–rusher, though the 33 tackles for loss are also noteworthy. There's a slight needs/selections mismatch here that probably translates to Brown playing edge rusher in spurts before a full time role at outside linebacker. Work to be done.
• I may be a little higher on him than others, but I consider Rashad Johnson a minor steal at the end of the third round. He has a free safety's football savvy and tackling ability, but may convert to corner here. If not, Toler — a similar but slightly faster prospect who played corner in college — and a selection of undrafted free agent corners are also in camp. However it shakes out, Johnson is a valuable roster addition even if he stays at free safety.
• Needing line bodies, the Cards drafted a Herman of Munster proportions in Johnson (6–7, 365), and added another interior possibility in Trevor Canfield, though training camp competition will include Hawaii's Hercules Satale, brother of former Dolphin and present Raider Samson. Between them are a tackle and guard, satisfying need on paper, but none define a position.
St Louis Rams
Adjusted Draft Grade B–
• If there's a word that underlines the choices here, it's 'solid'. Jason Smith may be second to the athleticism of Eugene Monroe as tackle of the draft, Smith is a can't–miss prospect in a similar vein to the Dolphins' Jake Long last year. After losing Orlando Pace, the Rams (and their quarterbacks) needed to be sure of the next generation of left side protector. A similar case can be made for James Laurinaitis, son of former WWE Wrestler 'The Animal', and a Butkus Award–winning inside tackler who probably ranks a fraction behind Rey Maualuga of USC as the middle linebacker or choice, but who just feels like a future all–pro.
• The 'solid' theme runs through Chris Ogbonnaya. Perhaps needing a speed rusher, the Rams instead went for a part–fullback type who has all the elements: rushing, catching and blocking. With players like these, the Rams could afford themselves one risky pick, and that would be Fletcher, who's a blend of pro size and good speed, but didn't wow the stats book at Iowa and pleaded guilty to drink driving his junior season (not that DUIs are so rare in the NFL).
• All of the above players matched need, as did Scott, Foster and Null, as the Rams stuck firmly to the script. Foster was something of a forgotten receiver at the Tar Heels behind Hakeem Nicks and Brandon Tate, and lingering injuries from postseason surgery kept him from the Senior Bowl, but he's a hard worker who could emerge down the road. However, I'm unconvinced that Null was worth a draft pick.
San Francisco 49ers
Adjusted Draft Grade B
• Mike Singletary is a straight talker, and went into his first draft as head coach talking about committing to the running game. Having given TE Vernon Davis a famous dressing down last season, it was clear that he would also be sending a message at that position. And the coach who once defined the middle linebacker position might add one in this draft. All that was expected, and all that was done. However, along the way the 49ers took arguably the best receiver in the draft, and a notable passer to figure into the long–term plans of an unsettled quarterback situation.
• When the Raiders took Darrius Heyward–Bey over Michael Crabtree, that allowed their cross–bay neighbors to take a definitive scoring threat who will start from day one. The two–time Biletnikoff winner has sky–high talent and is a relentless playmaker. He may also have a sky–high ego, so the chances of both he and 7th round pick Ricky Jean–Francois steering clear of Singletary's doghouse seems remote (though Crabtree won't be the one getting cut). Crabtree may be a Jerry Rice or a Terrell Owens, but for now the 49ers could use either. For possibly one year only, the pairing of Crabtree and not–quite–retired great Isaac Bruce is tantalizing...
• ...If only the 49ers had a quarterback who could take advantage. Alex Smith seems unlikely to regain his starting role from Singletary's choice, Shaun Hill, but the latter is still a stop–gap starter until he proves he belongs. He won't feel any pressure from draftee Nate Davis for now, but Davis was a phenomenal player last year and given plenty of time and attention, could emerge as an inspirational passer in two or three years.
• The tight end acquisition wasn't one that should have Vernon Davis unduly worried, at least from a receiving standpoint. Pascoe is a blocker with the hands and concentration to contribute a little in the pass game too. However, with only minor offensive line additions through free agency, those blocking skills of his may be called upon with an increased emphasis on the rushing game. The pressure will be on Davis to max out his blocking if he wants to stay on the field so often.
• That rushing game will be emboldened by Glen Coffee, who lacks breakaway speed or lightning cuts, but uses the gaps well to advance the ball, and figures to spell Frank Gore.
• The 49ers didn't expect to solve everything in one weekend, and happily traded their 2nd round pick to Carolina for a 1st round pick next year.
• The pressure of being Mike Singletary's first inside linebacker must be enormous, but such is Scott McKillop's lot. The margin of my pre–draft notes has the phrase 'tackles, Tackles, TACKLES' scribbled next to McKillop, and indeed he tallied 188 over his final two seasons, thanks to the sort of play recognition his coach was once famous for. Unlike Singletary, however, he'll be part of a 3–4 alignment that has an inviting opportunity next to Takeo Spikes to the inside, so he'll have an early opportunity to show how he tackles as a pro.
Adjusted Draft Grade B–
• The Seahawks had arguably the pivotal pick of the first round, selecting at pick four. With Matthew Stafford, Jason Smith and Tyson Jackson off the board, the Seahawks could have gone for tackle Eugene Monroe, defensive end Aaron Curry or, leaping into their own future at QB, Mark Sanchez. It wasn't beyond possibility that they might snatch impact receiver Michael Crabtree. In the end it was Curry they took, but with their next three picks they selected at each of the other three positions.
• 2008 Butkus winner Aaron Curry is one of the impact players of the draft. As he bulked up from 200 to 250 lbs between high school and the combine, his tackling productivity increased alongside. Always around the ball, he had four interceptions as a senior, turning three into points. The one area in which he hasn't excelled is sacks (he failed to register more than 3.0 in any college season).
• Needing a tackle and an interior lineman, the Seahawks snatched Max Unger in the second round, perhaps the best center in the draft but also a two–year starter at tackle. He probably works in for the Seahawks as an interior lineman, but if Walter Jones breaks down at left tackle before his natural successor is found — which Unger may not be — or former first rounder Chris Spencer gets injured, Unger's versatility could be pressed into service.
• TJ Houshmandzadeh's arrival downgraded the need at receiver to 'slight', but neither Nate Burleson nor Deion Branch have been standouts in turns as starters, so the Seahawks also bring Deon Butler into the mix. Butler is Penn State's career receptions leader (not that massive a number) after four years of action, and has the kind of sharp cuts and flashy speed that could displace Branch as the no.3 receiver and make him a terrific slot guy.
• Still working through those most desirable positions, Seattle took Mike Teel in the 6th round. Teel went into something of a funk in the first half of his senior year, when the draft had removed sufficient runners from Rutgers to leave the passing game as the main weapon of attack. Teel seemed unready for the challenge, but as the season continued he turned things around, winning his last six by ever more impressive margins, including a seven–touchdown performance against Louisville. He'll make a good project passer.
• Miscellaneous notes: Safety Courtney Greene is a tackler who does best when he can focus in on a victim; veteran corner Ken Lucas returns to Seattle and will battle Josh Wilson for a starting role; veteran fullback Justin Griffin will bolster a position that was down to just Owen Schmitt. The Seahawks have a need at DT that went unaddressed.