8.26.2005
 
Time Off

I'm back after a brief hiatus.

It's pretty time consuming for one to watch every preseason football game that has occured so far through the first two weeks.

Anyhow, the rest of the offensive coordinator reports will be coming in like a hurricane as long as a hurricane doesn't wipe me out.

In the meantime, check out this story that Off Wing relayed that originated on the NY Times:

A couple of soldiers from the 3rd Infantry Division serving in Iraq have taken up a pastime not common in the desert -- roller hockey:
On the other side of the goal, Specialist Eric Armstrong let out a belly laugh as he weaved around other players, an orange rubber ball on the tip of his stick. He shot and scored. Then the players promptly lost the ball in the darkness.

"While still in Kuwait, I joked that we'd be playing hockey here in a few months, but I was totally kidding," said Specialist Armstrong, 20, who is from Appleton, Wis., and has played hockey since he was 10. "Now it's weird to play this here, because Iraqis have probably never even seen hockey, or ice, for that matter.

"But after awhile, I couldn't watch another movie, couldn't play another video game," he said. "I needed hockey."
The troops started playing after a sporting goods store from Armstrong's native Wisconsin donated 13 sticks and 16 pairs of skates. They only have one net, and that was fashioned out of tent poles.

Click here for a slideshow.

Anybody out there know how we can get these guys some more equipment? I'd be up for raising some cash to buy a pair of nets, and ship these guys some more sticks. Who's with me?

POSTSCRIPT: Big props go to Juliet Macur, the New York Times reporter who did the story.
Anyone who can help, please contact Eric at Off Wing.


8.22.2005
 
2005 Fantasy Football / Offensive Coordinator Preview - Jacksonville Jaguars
INDEX

Carl Smith
-entering first season with the Jags
    Carl Smith (bio) hasn't coordinated an NFL offense since the Jim Mora, Sr. era in New Orleans (1986-96). Recently, he's worked mostly as a quarterbacks coach- last year at USC and 2002 in Cleveland.

    So other than hearing that the Jags were 'going with a more vertical-style offense' this year, it's been hard to nail down exactly what that has meant. But over this past weekend, Jack Del Rio spoke about just exactly what they're going to do with the ball this year:
    "I know everybody likes to have a word that you can kind of associate with that [the offense], that describes the unit,'' Del Rio said. "We want to be whatever we feel we need to be to attack the opponent we're playing. If it takes running the ball 50 times, we want to be able to do that. If it takes spreading them out and throwing it 50 times, we want to be able to do that.''
    That essentially means, they're going to be balanced. And they are going to game plan, a lot. And there's probably no better way to run an offense in the NFL today.

    Only the Bears had a worse TD percentage in the red zone last season. Jacksonville made their way inside the twenty 45 times in 2005, but they came away with just 19 touchdowns. On the whole, they finished 29th in the league in total points and did not record more than 28 points in any one game last year. Ten times they were held under twenty points and in two games against division rival Houston, they scored a combined 6 points.

    The Jaguars are, of course, led by Byron Leftwich on the field. Entering his third year in the NFL now, Leftwich is the type of quarterback who, like a Brett Favre, can win games just as much with his heart as with his arm. After back to back sub-3000 yard seasons to start his career, it will be interesting to see Byron work in a offense that is more suited to his talents. Too often last season the Jags would struggle for 56 minutes and then look great in the last two minutes of either half. I wonder if there's a stat available to configure Leftwich's passer rating in those last two mintues.

    In spite of the 'new offense,' I wonder by how much the Jags are going to be able to stretch the field this year. Most of their receivers are big, rangy fellows like Jimmy Smith, Reggie Williams, Ernest Wilford, and Matt Jones. Smith is clearly the leader of this group. Aside from 2003, when he was suspended for four games, the future Hall of Fame WR has recorded eight straight 1000+ seasons. And even in '03, he put in 805 yards in twelve games. But Smith has never scored more than 8 TDs in one year, so he's about as little risk/little reward as you can get in fantasy football.

    Williams is a young and raw 22 year old who will probably need more experience before he appears on fantasy rosters. Wilford has made some clutch catches so far in his young career, but also needs more time. And then there's first round pick, Matt Jones, whom I'm not a huge fan of. I think no matter how much polish this guy acquires on his way to becoming a NFL wideout, he's still going to be the kind of guy who takes too many plays off.

    One other wideout who I like on this team is Chad Owens. As a returner, he's going to win at least one game for Jacksonville this season. But people are finally starting to notice just what this guy can do as a receiver too. Sure, he's undersized and won't play every down, but on a team that doesn't have many players like him, Owens should get a chance to stand out. In that same link I hate on Matt Jones, I also wrote about what a steal Owens would be in this year's draft. Consider Tim Dwight racked up 669 yards and 7 touchdowns one year with Atlanta and Jermaine Lewis pulled in 6 TDs and 784 yards with Baltimore. Owens has the ability to do the same, on top of the two or three return scores he'll likely have this year.

    At running back, the age-old question of Fred Taylor's health will continue. He's supposed to play in the Jags third preseason game, This time around, Taylor is recovering from off-season surgery on his left knee. And obviously, he's good when he plays. But if you're looking for a backup to Fred Taylor, you may consider rookie Alvin Pearman before you go after LeBrandon Toefield. Pearman was one of those guys at the Combine that the NFL Network's Mike Mayock loved. He called Pearman this year's Mewelde Moore and there's good reason why. The former Cavalier has shown a tremendous burst through the hole in the Jags first two games this season and I think that before the season is done, he will get more time than Toefield does. But who knows just how much time that will be with Taylor coming back.

    A final note: last season the team defense I had to have in leagues that played with such (individual players are better!) was the Buffalo Bills. They were coming off a solid 2003 season that was hindered only by the low number of turnovers they were able to force that season. So leading into last year, that was an area of focus for the squad and they ended up 2004 as one of, if not the best fantasy defense. They year before that, I had Baltimore and before that I had Tampa Bay. Each of those defenses were squads that could be drafted long after the consensus 'top picks' that year and each of those squads ended up out-performing almost every other.

    I don't know how long I can keep this streak going, but this season, I'm calling the Jags' defense/special teams as the group to have. You'll be able to get them long after Baltimore and Buffalo and Pittsburgh are gone. Jacksonville has made pressuring the quarterback their top defensive priority this off-season. They brought in DE Reggie Hayward (10.5 sacks with Denver) through free agency and will get their other end Paul Spicer back after he missed much of last year with an ankle injury. Just as importantly, they should be playing with the lead a lot more this year and that's the best way to get turnovers and sacks. In terms of points allowed, they gave up the fifth fewest in all the NFL last year and when you add in Owens' ability to run kicks, I think this defense/special teams group is by far one of the best values in fantasy football this year.

 
2005 Fantasy Football / Offensive Coordinator Preview - Houston Texans
INDEX

Chris Palmer
-entering fifth season with Texans
    It's hard to get excited about these Texans because it seems like we were down this very same same road last year.

    What has changed?

    This past off-season, the main story coming out of Houston was the maturation of David Carr and how the team was going to slightly redesign their offense in order to protect him more. They are intending on doing that by using more short drops/quick throws when they send out four or five receivers. But this offense won't be confused with a Bill Walsh system any time soon. In 2005, this team will still use conservative play calling to control the clock and take shots down the field when the opportunity is right (sometimes, at least).

    Offensive Coordinator Chris Palmer, who was head coach of the Browns during their expansion years, is officially on the hot seat after his Texans, despite their improvement, only managed to scored the 21st most points in the league last season. In support of Palmer, Houston has improved in each of their previous three years of existence- both in record and in offensive rankings.

    In 2002, the Texans went 4-12, finishing last (32nd) in points scored and total yards. The following season, Houston won one additional game (5-11) and leaped up to 28th best in points and 31st in total yards. Last year, they finished 7-9, 21st in points, and 15th in total yards but more impressive was their balance. Their 3555 passing yards last season were 16th best (right in the middle of the league) and their 1874 rushing yards were good for 13th.

    So while most expected last season to be the year the Texans pulled themselves out of last place, is this really the year they become a contender for a playoff spot?

    While Palmer has a strong reputation for developing quarterbacks, it can be argued that Andre Johnson would already be an NFL superstar if Palmer would focus more of his attention on getting 2003's 3rd overall pick the ball more. Further criticism is directed at Palmer by those who feel that he's turning David Carr into another version of Tim Couch (the quarterback Cleveland selected first overall to build their expansion team around).

    I don't necessarily think the latter to be true but there is no doubt that Johnson has the ability to do more than what the Texans have asked him to do. Entering now his third NFL season, the former Miami Hurricane averaged 14.8 yards per catch his rookie season, and 14.5 last year. In contrast, Randy Moss has averaged 15.9 and Terrell Owens has averaged 14.6 in their careers so far. The problem here isn't really that the Texans don't do enough to get Johnson the ball, after all he did finish 17th in total targets last season, it's just that they don't do enough to put Johnson in a position to make a play on his own. In other words, they throw too frequently to Andre down the field and they need to do more to get him the ball closer to the line of scrimmage.

    Tied directly to Johnson's developement into an elite WR will be the play of fourth year receiver Corey Bradford. The former 5th round pick has the size (6-1, 200) and speed to play along the outside- therefore allowing the Texans to move Johnson in motion, into the slot, and anywhere else they can try to get him matched up against linebackers, safeties, and nickel backs. Consistency has been a problem for Bradford, but he's said to be having good preseason.

    David Carr threw for 3531 yards last year and it's a very good bet that he'll reach 3500 again in 2005. The biggest problem with the Texans is and will continue to be their red zone production. Last year, inside the 20, the Texans did finish 6th in the league in TD% inside the redzone (59.1). But a closer look at their numbers show that they only made 44 trips inside the twenty and nine of those times they walked away with no points at all. And already this preseason, the Texans' first team offense was stopped on four straight downs from inside the 5 by the Broncos and they almost did the same thing against Oakland in PWeek2. Carr runs very well for a quarterback and he throws even better on the run, but the team's lack of red zone production combined with his poor TD/INT ratio will keep Carr from being a top 10 fantasy quarterback.

    Domanick Davis looks to be the clear starter at running back, but Houston has a ton of options behind him should something happen. Tony Hollings, Jonathan Wells, and rookie Vernand Morency have all looked strong this preseason. Since Davis is just a 5-9, 220lbs slasher, part of the Texans' red zone troubles have to do with his inability to consistently gain straight ahead yards in close quarters. FB/RB Wells could steal more than the three touchdowns he scored last year as a result. But Hollings will most likely serve as Davis' backup this season, considering they are similar in size and running style. Regardless, Davis will be sharing a good portion of the team's carries again this season and if he's to again be a top 10 fantasy back, he'll need to make up yards as a receiver.


ON THE BEACH
-----------------------

Past Ten Posts
2006 NFL Combine
New Address
New Address
Friday Football
Thursday Football (II)
Thursday Football
Wednesday Football (II)
Wednesday Football
Tuesday Football
Coin Flip Challenge - November

2005 NFL Season
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Offseason News
Fantasy Football Preview
- Offensive Coordinators


Coin Flip Challenge '05
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March - April - May
June - July - August
Sept - Oct - November

Hockey Picks
05-06 Season
03-04 Season

NFL Weekly Picks
2005 Season

2005 Fantasy Baseball
'27-29' Preview:
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NHL Lockout
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