NFCW status report.
I’m going to pick up the NFC West for Jeff Rich.1 It sucks when real life interferes with the important business of internet football blogging but we must be flexible. Won’t lie, am disappointed because Jeff’s stuff is top-notch and being Phoenix-based he’s a lot more tuned in to the NFC West than I feel I am. BUT THAT WON’T STOP ME FROM HAVING A HOT TAKE! And I do. I promise I’m not trolling, but I see the Niners unravelling this season. Read on.
Re-signed: coach Pete Carroll, DE Michael Bennett, FS Earl Thomas, CB Richard Sherman.
Veteran additions: CB Phillip Adams, WR Taylor Price, G Greg Van Roten, OT Stephen Schilling, QB Terrelle Pryor, CB A.J. Jefferson.
Veteran subtractions: CB Brandon Browner, DE Red Bryant, DE Chris Clemons, TE Kellen Davis, OT Breno Giacomini, FS Chris Maragos, DT Clinton McDonald, G Paul McQuistan, FB Michael Robinson, WR Golden Tate, CB Walter Thurmond.
Draft picks: 2a-Paul Richardson (WR), 2b-Justin Britt (OT), 4a-Cassius Marsh (DE), 4b-Kevin Norwood (WR), 4c-Kevin Pierre-Louis (OLB), 5-Jimmy Staten (DT), 6a-Garrett Scott (OT), 6b-Eric Pinkins (S), 7-Kiero Small (FB).
Kanick’s offseason grade: A-.
There was only one player on Seattle’s defense last year graded out red in PFF’s reviews. And he’s gone (Chris Clemons). At first blush you might pick on Seattle for losing Red Bryant. But when you look at the snap count distribution on the d-line it’s remarkably balanced and light. McDaniel, Mebane, Bryant, McDonald, Avril, Clemons, Bennett — the lowest was Bryant with 488 snaps; highest Bennett at 617. With distribution of play like that you can afford to let the 30+ players go (Bryant and Clemons) and start to work Greg Scruggs and Jordan Hill into your rotations. There just aren’t any holes here. Even losing 30-yr-old Brandon Browner isn’t a problem as 26-yr-old Byron Maxwell played as well if not better than Browner when given the chance last year.
On offense, their biggest hole was Paul McQuistan and we know where he is now. You could say losing Golden Tate hurts,, except that you’re looking at a full season of Percy Harvin now.
When you’re this stacked that smartest thing you can do is lock-up your core players (and HC). Look at the “Re-signed” category and the Seahawks are an “A” grade right there. But I’m not sure I like trading out of pick #32 just for Minny’s 2nd and 4th this year.. and then trading back again with Detroit. Seems to me an XSF or Bitonio could challenge Sweezy and guard. For a team recently rated with the 30th worst o-line, passing over those players is suspect even with 2011 first rounder James Carpenter looking good in camp.2 Local boy Seferian-Jenkins would offer a decent alternate to Zach Miller. If they like Paul Richardson that much, trade back up into the second to get him. But I’m probably splitting hairs and net is they added athletes like raw athletes Norwood and Pierre-Louis and if they learn and develop the ceiling is very high.
One more point. Richard Sherman. Check this series of gifs breaking down how he plays corner. Just damn.
I went into this assignment looking for someone to knock the Seahawks off the top slot. Not finding it. Has anyone closed the gap? Well yes. But..
Re-signed: Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, WR Anquan Boldin, LB Michael Wilhoite, K Phil Dawson, CB Eric Wright, WR Kassim Osgood, CB Perrish Cox, FB Bruce Miller, TE Demarcus Dobbs, S Craig Dahl.
Veteran additions: FS Antoine Bethea, CB Chris Cook, QB Blaine Gabbert, OT Jonathan Martin, WR Brandon Lloyd, WR Steve Johnson.
Veteran subtractions: CB Tarell Brown, RB Anthony Dixon, C Jonathan Goodwin, WR Mario Manningham, QB Colt McCoy, CB Carlos Rogers, SS Donte Whitner.
Draft picks: 1-Jimmie Ward (S), 2-Carlos Hyde (RB), 3a-Marcus Martin (C), 3b-Chris Borland (ILB), 3c-Brandon Thomas (OT), 4a-Bruce Ellington (WR), 4b-Dontae Johnson (CB), 5a-Aaron Lynch (DE), 5b-Keith Reaser (CB), 6-Kenneth Acker (CB), 7a-Kaleb Ramsey (DT), 7b-Trey Millard (FB).
Kanick offseason grade: B+.
With a departing center (Goodwin), strong safety (Whitner), and a 31-year-old feature back; ;; the Niners first three picks were a strong safety (Ward), a running back (Hyde), and a center (Martin). So… yeah. Take a note Banner-Lombardi. With holes filled, the Niners were free to go bargain shopping for ballers who slid due to measurables. Short-arms Borland might be great, he has the heart. Brandon Thomas was a probable first/second round pick and blows ACL in workout. That’s where you use your compensatory third round picks, son. Even a guy on my do-not-want list –Bruce Ellington– well a lot of scouts love him, it’s just the height thing, fourth round sounds right.3 I wanted to dock the Niners a half grade here, but I now actually love this pick since this is the pick the Browns traded for Terrence West.
There’s a strong consensus that the Niners and Seahawks are the two best teams in the NFL and I agree. So, in addition to viewing the offseason in terms of hole-plugging (on an already strong roster) let’s look at the moves from a ‘how-to-beat-Seattle’ viewpoint. In the two games lost to Seattle last year, Frank Gore was held under 20 yds. Enter Carlos Hyde. Anquan Boldin had only one catch in the first Seattle game (when Crabtree was out). Enter Stevie Johnson. Trent Baalke both plugged roster holes and added tools to match better against the Seahawks.
There’s nothing not to like about the Niners’ player moves this offseason.4 However the off-field dust-ups with Chris Culliver (hit/run, racial slur), Daniel Kilgore (public intoxication), Aldon Smith (bomb threat), Colin Kaepernick (sexual assault), and Harbaugh (almost traded to Browns) indicate a team breaking apart and trending the wrong way.
I’m going to try to take my ‘Can’t-Stand-Kaepernick’ hat off for this paragraph. With a team that’s had to deal with disappointments the last two years (in spite of its success) and with the off field turmoil and with the loss of some core veterans (Goodwin, Rogers, Whitner; Justin Smith and Dashon Goldson from the Super Bowl team)… does Kaepernick provide leadership? Does he want to?
When I look at him objectively I see a good QB. Throw out passing yards and passing TD numbers; that’s not his game, not the Niners’ offense. He’s a terrifically fast and big and durable. A QB who threatens a defense in many ways. When you go through his stats, he holds up well. The exception is his accuracy numbers5 but hey, only eight picks so what’s the problem? Moreover, he’s inaccurate with authority, if that makes sense. He throws the ball hard — even if it’s sometimes off target — and I love that.
But I can’t get past a perception of me-first. You may not think wearing other teams’ gear or bicep-kissing celebrations are big deals and they might not be. But they don’t scream team-guy either. Quite the opposite. Let’s say he signs this summer and is paid as a top 10 QB.6 Do you think he’ll become more ‘the Niners QB’ or more ‘Kaep: The Brand’ icon?
May be nothing. But I’m glad he’s not my team’s QB. Particularly so given whatever is (or is not) going on between Harbaugh and Baalke.
Pete Carroll got an extension. Brother John got an extension. But nothing brewing for Jim Harbaugh? 36-11-1 plus one NFC Champs banner and two division wins all in three years and he hasn’t been signed past this year? It’s more than odd to have this unresolved. It’s dysfunctional. And while there’s a lot to like about Jim Harbaugh, he act is wearing thin with me. I root for Pete Carroll to kick his ass every time they meet now. My god, such a whiner. And in terms of lower-case C coaching, the example he sets for his players with his sideline antics isn’t great. As with Kaep, may be nothing or it may be something.
And we haven’t even gotten to Aldon Smith. In the last two years: two DUIs, stabbed at his own house party, possession of weed, possession of assault weapons (felony x3), and arrest by LAX mall cops for a bomb threat. Hard to see how he avoids some suspension time.
Niners have a top notch roster that’s for sure. Will it hang together behind Harbaugh and Kaepernick and battle through the (probable) loss of Smith? I suspect it will not. Not well enough to catch the Seahawks. But I think it unravels in a hurry for the Niners if they get off to a slow start. Their schedule is a bear.
Re-signed: DL Frostee Rucker, K Jay Feely, DL Matt Shaughnessy.
Veteran additions: TE John Carlson, CB Antonio Cromartie, RB Jonathan Dwyer, LB Larry Foote, WR Ted Ginn, G Ted Larsen, OT Jared Veldheer.
Veteran subtractions: CB Javier Arenas, SS Yeremiah Bell, LB Jasper Brinkley, CB Antoine Cason, G Daryn Colledge, LB Karlos Dansby, TE Jim Dray, OT Mike Gibson, RB Rashard Mendenhall, WR Andre Roberts, RB Alfonso Smith, TE Kory Sperry, DE Ronald Talley, OT Eric Winston, LB Dontay Moch, TE Jeff King, RB Ryan Williams.
Draft picks: 1-Deone Bucannon (S), 2-Troy Niklas (TE), 3a-Kareem Martin (DE), 3b-John Brown (WR), 4-Logan Thomas (QB), 5-Ed Stinson (DE), 6-Walt Powell (WR).
Kanick offseason grade: B.
There was a pretty big hole in Arizona’s line last year so I loved the Veldheer signing and even though they didn’t draft an o-lineman they will get last year’s top 10 pick, Jonathan Cooper back. If Bobbie Massie ‘gets it’ this year, the Cards could find themselves with a dramatically improved o-line.
That should help elderly statue Carson Palmer. You might think that the Cardinals’ 10-6 record last year indicates that Palmer is playing like his best Bengals years. No. I just poured through Palmer’s stats for QBR (20th), Accuracy (18th), Deep Passing (19th), Under Pressure (14th).. it’s all pedestrian except one: Palmer’s completion percentage improves by 10.4% when he runs play-action (Only Cam Newton’s is higher.) This is a good debunking of the ‘you gotta find your elite QB to win’ myth.7 It also shows the importance of a run game and also supports Acto’s ‘take RBs late in the draft’ mantra since Andre Ellington is the story here and he was a sixth round pick. Palmer is also helped his two tall8 and stellar WRs Fitzgerald and the emerging Michael Floyd. Throw in the real coach of the year, Bruce Arians, and the Cardinals offense should only improve this year.
The problem is on defense at linebacker. Arizona took a calculated risk not re-signing 32-yr-old Karlos Dansby leaving one hole at ILB. John Abraham is 36. But they had to be blindsided by Daryl Washington’s suspension for repeated weed violations. He is the talent equivalent of Josh Gordon except on defense and, like Gordon, the warning signs were there. I guess all a coaching staff and front office can do is hope a guy will ‘get it.’ No such luck with Washington. Net net: the Cards’ 3-4 went from Dansby/Washington last year to Minter(?)/Foote(?) this year. A major drop off especially in linebacker pass cover. As nice as that d-backfield looks now adding Bucannon to Petersen, Cromartie, and Mathieu, the underneath routes now look available. Cards might first team to play nickel as their base defense.
Iffy linebacking corps aside, I like Arians to build on the momentum from last year.
Re-signed: LB Jo-Lonn Dunbar, OL Rodger Saffold.
Veteran additions: WR Kenny Britt, DE Alex Carrington, QB Shaun Hill.
Veteran subtractions: QB Kellen Clemens, G Harvey Dahl, CB Cortland Finnegan, FS Matt Giordano, TE Mike McNeill, CB Quinton Pointer, QB Brady Quinn, G Shelley Smith, SS Darian Stewart, G Chris Williams, LB Will Witherspoon.
Draft picks: 1a-Greg Robinson (OT), 1b-Aaron Donald (DT), 2-Lamarcus Joyner (CB), 3-Tre Mason (RB), 4-Maurice Alexander (S), 6a-E.J. Gaines (CB), 6b-Garrett Gilbert (QB), 7a-Mitchell Van Dyk (OT), 7b-Christian Bryant (S), 7c-Michael Sam (DE), 7d-Demetrius Rhaney (C)
Kanick offseason grade: C-.
I kinda sliced up the Rams’ offseason here and I stand by it. Love Greg Robinson. Love Aaron Donald. Did not address WR and they’re entering their sixth season without Torry Holt.9 No really, their leading WRs since 2008 have been Holt, Avery, Amedola, Lloyd, Givens, Cook.10 WTF? Not getting a WR makes their offseason a fail. They simply didn’t need Greg Robinson as much as they needed Mike Evans. Just dumb.
So as good as their pass rush is going to be, as good as their o-line is going to be, the fact is they have a borderline mediocre QB throwing to sub-par wideouts. They needed to give Janoris Jenkins some help now that Finnegan is gone and they gave him under-sized Lamarcus Joyner.
In free agency they did nothing really. Kenny Britt? Shaun Hill? Alex Carrington?
And Sam Bradford has been getting the benefit of the doubt for four years now. You can only use the “poor supporting cast” bit for so long. He was the #1 pick in 2009. If you look back over those four years, select QBs who have started 30+ games, and sort by QB rating — Bradford is 24th out of 29. Just behind of Josh Freeman, ahead of Ryan Tannehill.
I’m also a bit sour on Jeff Fisher.
Much as I love having Long-Barksdale-Saffold-Robinson on an o-line; much as Long-Brockers-Donald-Quinn is a protoype old school 4-3 front and I love it; much as STL should own the LOS on both sides… I don’t have faith in this offense to score points.
This is the team that could break my three-studs law.
GAME BY GAME RECORDS.
vs Pack L (Seahawks slow starters.); at Chargers L; vs Broncos W; at Skins W; vs Cowboys W; at Rams W; at Panthers L; vs Raiders W; vs Giants W; at Chiefs W; vs Cards W; at Niners W; at Eagles L; vs Niners W; at Cards L; vs Rams W.
x-Cards 11-5 (wild card)
vs Chargers L; at Giants W; vs Niners W; at Broncos L; vs Skins W; at Raiders W; vs Eagles W; at Cowboys L; vs Rams W; vs Lions W; at Seahawks L; at Falcons W; vs Chiefs W; at Rams L; vs Seahawks W (Huge playoff clinching win at home.); at Niners W.
at Cowboys L; vs Bears W; at Cards L; vs Eagles W; vs Chiefs W; at Rams L; at Broncos L; vs Rams W; at Saints L; at Giants W; vs Skins W; vs Seahawks L; at Raiders L (Derek Carr shocks world.); at Seahawks L; vs Chargers L; vs Cards L.
vs Minny W; at Bucs L; vs Cowboys W; at Eagles L; vs Niners W; vs Seahawks L; at Chiefs L; at Niners L; at Cards L (Ending a foul three game road trip that sucks all life out of team.); vs Broncos L; at Chargers L; vs Raiders W; at Skins L; vs Cards W; vs Giants W; at Seahawks L.
- Fun note: Jeff has the Niners taking the division. Irony! [back]
- Worth noting the bad o-line review comes Mike Tanier of Sports on Earth… yet another pundit who dings the Browns draft for NO WIDE RECEIVERS and then loves up on the Rams’ draft which included… no WRs. Mixed bag with this guy. [back]
- And specifically not in the first round to the Browns Kiper you jackass. [back]
- The only thing I’m docking them on is the Jonathan Martin signing. I just don’t think he’s very good… but if anyone is equipped to know his potential and whether he has a chance to find it, it’d be his old college coach Harbaugh. [back]
- CK ranked 23rd in accuracy between Schaub and Manuel using the formula: (Completions + Drops) / (Attempts – Throw Aways – Spikes – Batted Passes – Hit As Thrown). [back]
- He did. Six years, $110M. [back]
- For that matter, Seattle/Wilson and Niners/Kaepernick also poke holes in the QB-is-all talking point. [back]
- Both Fitz and Floyd are 6-3. [back]
- In those six seasons no Rams receiver has gained over 700 yds. [back]
- Seriously, here’s all the WR seasons over 700 yards since 2008. There’s TWO HUNDRED FIFTY-SIX NAMES HERE AND ONLY ONE RAM — TORRY HOLT, #200, IN 2008. [back]