8.18.2005
 
Obstruction Clarity
    E.J. Hradek received a copy of the memo that Mike Murphy, the NHL's VP of Hockey Operations, sent to team GMs and coaches on Monday. The memo outlines 'the league's new standard of enforcement for the upcoming season.

    Hradek writes behind espn's insider shield, so here's the important parts:
    Murphy wrote:

    "Any player who restrains, holds, hooks, trips, slashes, cross-checks or interferes with an opponent who has gained an advantage should be penalized. The game will reward speed, quickness, skill, intelligence and hard work. It will penalize cheating and illegal tactics especially when that player uses his stick, arm or body to take away an advantage gained by his opponent.

    "Stick on stick, body on body is acceptable. Stick on body, if restraining or impeding is NOT."

    "Rush/Back check -- Players will be allowed to skate freely up and down the ice without being 'locked onto, or held up' by the defensive player. This standard will also apply to an offensive player who uses illegal tactics to maneuver by a defensive player. There will also be special attention paid to the 'transition game,' as it was felt this was an area of the game when the 'little hook or hold' took place."

    "Fore check -- A forechecking player will be allowed to pursue the puck without being held, hooked, tripped or interfered with. Also, the defensive player will be allowed to retrieve the puck without being held, hooked, tripped, or interfered with."

    "Face offs -- Players will not be able to use their sticks to impede or restrain an opponent from moving freely from a face off. Players will be allowed to skate in the path of an opponent provided they get to that point on the ice ahead of their opponent. This will apply on all face offs, in all areas of the ice."

    "In the corner play -- Players will not be allowed to wrap [free-arm], pin [hold a player against the boards with no puck in the area or ride ... locking onto a player with your stick] an opponent in the defensive zone.

    "In front of the net -- Players will be allowed to engage and battle so long as they use legal tactics. The stick between the normal position of the hands may be used to 'fend-off or guide' an opponent -- so long as it is not used to impede or restrain an opponent from moving freely. There will also be heightened awareness on all cross-checks when used to restrain or impede an opponent -- but also when it is used as a tactic to eliminate an opponent from his position on the ice or in front of the net."

8.17.2005
 
2005 Fantasy Football / Offensive Coordinator Preview - Oakland Raiders
INDEX

Norv Turner
-entering second season with the Raiders (head coach)
Jimmy Raye
-entering second season with the Raiders (offensive coordinator)
    I'm skipping ahead in the order a bit now because I haven't had a chance to look at the preseaon work of any of the other two AFC South teams yet. I did, however, watch the OAK/SF game from this past weekend.

    First off, let's look at the Raiders' head coach Norv Turner. He will be the one calling plays again this season (Raye's bio can be found here). As head coach of the Redskins from 1994-2000, Washington went 49-59-1 under Turner (who left after Week 14 in 2000). Norv's offenses during those seasons held an average total yards ranking of 13.7, but in only one season did they finish in the top 10 (1999, 2nd). Evidence of the mediocrity of Turner's Redskins is also found in their win/loss column. After his first season with the 'Skins- a 3-13 adventure- Washington never finished better than 10-6 or worse than 6-10.

    Before becoming Oakland's head coach prior to last season, Turner was coordinating the offense in Miami during the 2002 and 2003 seasons. It was during those two years the Dolphins were able to wield the potential of Ricky Williams into stardom. Miami finished just 15th and 24th in total yards during that time, but in 2002 they were 1st in rushing attempts, 2nd in rushing yards, 4th in yards per carry, and 3rd in rushing touchdowns. 2003 brought a decline in those numbers, but they still ranked 8th in total rushing attempts, led by Williams' 392 carries that season.

    In 2001, Turner was put in charge of a San Diego offense that finished 28th in total yards (out of 31 teams) the year before. Getting the chance to work with then rookie running back LaDainian Tomlinson, Turner helped the Chargers improve to 15th best in total yards and 14th best in scoring (up from 26) in '01. And that was with Doug Flutie at quarterback.

    Balance has been Turner's reputation, but in his successful years he tends to favor the run. That's true for most good teams because they are playing with the lead more. But since Turner likes to lean on one back heavily, that means good things for fantasy owners. From 1999 to 2003, Turner's offenses finished 10th, 15th, 18th, 1st, and 8th in total rushing attempts. But more importantly, look at the work-load he's given his lead back over that stretch:
    YEAR
    RB
    Att
    YARDS
    TD
    1999
    Stephen Davis
    290
    1405
    17
    2000
    Stephen Davis
    332
    1318
    11
    2001
    LaDainian Tomlinson
    339
    1236
    10
    2002
    Ricky Williams
    383
    1853
    16
    2003
    Ricky Williams
    392
    1372
    9
    Because he has favored single RB backfields for so long, it was of great disappointment last season when Norv Turner was unable to find a running back talented enough to carry his usual demand. The 2004 Raiders finished dead last in rushing attempts, dead last in rushing yards, and just 22nd in ypc (3.95). The teams' leading rusher was Amos Zereoue, with 112 carries for 425 yards.

    This season, the Raiders will get to unleash Lamont Jordan- a beast of a running back at 5-10, 230 lbs who's just as quick as Jamal Lewis. Jordan toiled with the Jets behind Curtis Martin for four years where he never got more than 100 carries during any one season. Still, Jordan managed to average 4.9 ypc over those years. If you watch Jordan play, you expect a guy of his size to run with the kind of power he displays in and out of the tackle box. What you don't expect is for him to catch the ball so well out of the backfield, but that's exactly what he is able to do. In the kind of offense they have in Oakland, Jordan will easily bring in 50 passes for at least 400 yards (Williams had 50-351 in '03 and 47-363 in '02). I would not be surprised to see Lamont catch 75 for over 500 yards, his hands are that good and he's got the such a nice combination of size and quickness, he's hard to bring down in the open field.

    Norv Turner's offensive philosophy is a very simple one. It begins with establishing the run in order to get linebackers and safeties stepping towards the line of scrimmage when the ball is snapped. When that happens, he likes to have fast receivers and strong-armed quarterbacks beat opposing defenses deep. And that's why this story is not about Randy Moss, because the 2005 Raiders don't need Randy Moss to catch 100 passes for 1600 yards to have a successful season. They just need other teams to be scared that he might. The Raiders will not likely face a lot of eight man fronts to start the season and Jordan will feast upon them early. Jordan will also get an opportunity to catch a lot of passes because with teams keeping their safeties deep in order to contain Moss, Porter, Curry, and Gabriel, there will be a lot of dump off passes open.

    Behind center, the Raiders are well-equiped with Kerry Collins. In his best statistical season to date, Collins threw for 4073 yards in 2002 when he was with the Giants. He averaged 7.5 yards per completion and had a 61.5 completion percentage that year, both career highs. Last year, in his first season with the Raiders, Collins threw for 3495 in 14 games, which averaged out over 16 games would have been 3994, close to his career high. One cause for concern is that he throws interceptions at almost a 1:1 ratio to touchdowns. And in this offense, Turner likes to run the ball into the end zone. But if you're in a league that rewards yardage heavily, Collins is a solid bet for 4000.

    Finally, we arrive at Moss and company. It's hard to use stats to back up what we should expect from this group in 2005 because this is easily the most talented set of WRs Turner has had to work with. In seven seasons with the Vikings, Moss averaged 82 catches, 1306 yards, and 12.8 touchdowns a season. His career high in receptions was in 2003, with 111. This year, I see him more as a 70-75 catch guy with a high average per reception. Moss is still very much a perimeter receiver even though he's the world's best perimeter receiver. And as good as a red-zone target as Moss is, I'd have doubts in drafting him in the first round because of Turner's reputation for running the ball inside the twenty.

    Regardless, I do not see 1600 yards in Moss' immediate future. Part of that reasoning lies in Turner's history of production at the WR spot and the other part is due to the fact that Moss is part of a group of fantastic wide-outs who will undoubtedly be targeted by Collins' passes. Jerry Porter was just two yards shy of 1000 last year and he scored nine touchdowns as the team's top WR. Consider, however, that as good of a season Nate Burleson had last year, he still only had 1006 yards- despite the Vikings finishing 2nd in the NFL in completions and with Moss missing four games.

    So how many more yards can Porter put up playing 2nd to Moss? And then you have to factor in Ronald Curry, who was as impressive with his game-breaking ability as any WR last year. Consider also that last year was Curry's first full season as a receiver and that the former UNC quarterback is in many ways on a similar career path as another former ACC QB, Anquan Boldin. And I also like what Doug Gabriel offers as a deep threat, but really, how can we expect him to haul in any more than the 33 passes he caught last year without Moss?

    Probably one the hardest things Raiders fans who play fantasy football will have to decide on prior to the 2005 NFL season is picking which one of these Raiders they want to draft. It's not smart to have two of them on your team and it's just dumb to think that you can win your league with three. So with five starters returning along a very large and very talented offensive line, I'd wager that Lamont Jordan finishes the season as the most productive Raider.

8.16.2005
 
Lightning Strikes

Well, a recent hit at my home has forced this site to close until Wednesday afternoon, 17 Aug 2005. Duties will resume then.



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