Archive for the ‘Football’ Category

The Jets Suck; It’s Clemens’ Times

The big issue surrounding the Jets now is when, or whether, Kellen Clemens will take over for the struggling Chad Pennington.

Pennington has thrown 21 interceptions in his last 18 games, but the coaching staff has been patient, so Jets fans shouldn’t expect to see Clemens unless the team is completely and incontrovertibly out of it at the bye week.

At 1-6, they’re just about done. If you play the “Win, Loss, Win” game, the outlook might be: Bills (W), Redskins (L), which would put them at 2-7 entering their week off. Realistic hopes of a division title are gone – the Patriots are the Patriots – and with seven losses in the AFC, the team would probably be out of wild card contention. At that point, the pressure from the fans would be great and Eric Mangini would have no reason or excuse to not make the quarterback switch. Plus, the bye would give them two weeks to prepare Clemens, and the second-year signal-caller would get seven-game audition.

Although Mangini said on Wednesday that Pennington would start against the Bills, the coach’s previously obstinate support of Pennington wavered somewhat after last week’s loss to the Bengals, and the quarterback is now most likely on a short leash (ESPN jumped the gun on that one, too, last week).

Pennington is 31, has been a starter for five seasons and is familiar with the league, and his arm isn’t getting any stronger. At this point, it’s safe to say that he is what he is.

The youngster will have his struggles, but he should be able to attack the intermediate range and hit some completions downfield to Laveranues Coles and Jerricho Cotchery. Clemens will probably throw more interceptions than Pennington, but he’ll also get the team into the end zone more often.

The job should have probably been given to Clemens to start the season, but the Jets went 10-6 in 2006, and that bought Pennington a commitment from the coaching staff.

But the team wasn’t that good last season, either. Going into 2006, if someone had told you that the quarterback would have three more turnovers than touchdowns (16 INTs and four fumbles lost), the leading rusher would have 650 yards, they’d start rookies at center and left tackle, the offense would rank 25th and the defense would rank 20th overall (16th in turnovers forced), you’d probably be thinking it sounds like the recipe of 6-win team, or worse. Even with the easy schedule, that record with those stats was an anomaly. And it might have set the Jets back a season.

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Marvin Lewis

Marvin Lewis needs to shut the fuck up. Please. Every week after a loss, he talks about the selfishness of certain players and other impertinent bullshit. Some of his players might be selfish, but is that the reason his defense can’t stop anyone? I just watched Laveranues Coles break a tackle then run between two defenders for a long touchdown. When the team loses and he makes a statement like that, people (much of the media and clueless finger-pointing fans) automatically think, “Chad Johnson is tearing the team apart with his antics.” I disagree with that. And even if his 5-second post-TD slapstick or his whining on the sidelines does have an effect on the offense (not sure how it would, because he and Houshmanzadeh are on a record pace), what does it do to the defense? The defense has been shit since shit was being shat. Even when they went 11-5, that team was carried by the offense. Marvin doesn’t take any blame for that. And I mean, it’s not as if the police are being a distraction. I don’t think any Bengal has been arrested through 6 weeks. Most or all of their recent 1st round picks have been spent on defense. Has any of them paid off?

Can’t knock what he did with the Ravens, but I’ve lost a lot of respect for him this season. Blame-deflecting, red herring-pushing bitch.

Giants Made A Good Diehl

Last spring, in a somewhat surprising move, newly-appointed general manager Jerry Reese released Luke Petitgout, who was due to make $5 million this season. In July, Reese, who has adopted a young-&-healthier aphorism, explained the decision and zinged the former left tackle.

“People are so worried about left tackle… I think that’s so overrated,” said the irritated GM about Petitgout, who gave up 4 ½ sacks in nine games last year before his season was ended with a broken leg. “People act like Petitgout was the second coming. He never made the Pro Bowl, and I don’t think he ever was a first alternate. Now all of a sudden he’s the savior? That’s ridiculous. I don’t think we’re that bad off without [him]. He was not a star left tackle. He was a solid left tackle on some occasions and other times he wasn’t. Luke has been a marginal player for a long time.”

Although Reese made a prudent decision especially since Petitgout is lost for the year again he underrated the former first round pick. The penalty-prone Petitgout was never more than a solid pass-blocker (he gave up six sacks in 15 games in 2005), but he was one of the top run blockers at the position. In 2005 and a truncated 2006, he was ranked as the 7th best run blocker at left tackle in the NFL. Think of how many of Tiki Barber’s long scampers went to the left side.

But more surprising that Petitgout’s release was Reese’s negligence to sign or draft a replacement. Instead, he left the roster with question marks in raw second-year tackle Guy Whimper, whom he had campaigned for in the fifth round in 2006, and David Diehl, who was developing into a top right guard.

It was Diehl, the four-year veteran, who got the job and held it with an impressive-enough showing in training camp.

Left tackle would be the fourth offensive line position that Diehl had played, but what worried fans was the fact that he had never protected a quarterback’s blindside before, and he struggled at right tackle in 2004. Diehl, who looked slow out of his stance, gave up nine sacks and committed 10 penalties that season. So, regardless of the confidence he and the coaching staff had in him, it was a risky move, especially for Eli Manning.

But through five games, Diehl has disproved the doubters and proved Reese right. He has given up just one sack and the Giants backs are averaging 4.92 yards per carry running behind him good for eighth in the league. Not bad for a 27-year-old who hasn’t missed a game and is under a 5-year, $14 million contract. Younger, healthier, cheaper and possibly better.

I spoke with Diehl about his switch to left tackle and the progress he has made.

On how the transition to left tackle is going:

The more you practice, the better you feel. I’m definitely feeling much more comfortable out there. You always strive to improve and become a better player, and that’s what I’m doing. I’m taking each week and each game to learn and to improve because all of the guys on the field are depending on me, and I understand that.

The biggest difference between guard and tackle:

Just in pass protection, you’re working in a lot more space. At guard you can be a lot more aggressive because things happen so much quicker, but at tackle you have to be a lot more patient. You’re playing up against a defensive end, you want to be aggressive but you can’t be overaggressive because usually you’re out there by yourself and you have to be patient and put yourself in the right position.

How different is the pass-blocking technique at tackle:

They’re a lot different. You’re kicking vertical and trying to beat the defensive end to a point. It’s a lot different than it is at guard just because you can set flat at guard and get away it, but if you set flat on a defensive end, you’re giving him a short corner.

A review of his performance thus far:

I feel comfortable. The more work I get the better I feel. But I’m never going to be satisfied with the game. I’ll learn from it and I’m definitely going to see if there are things I can do differently to improve myself. It’s great to be in game situations where you’re not thinking, you just go out there and react. That’s the best thing about it.

Going against Osi Umenyiora in practice:

It’s extremely beneficial. To be able to play up against a guy like that day in and day out, it’s extremely helpful to me because if you’re preparing against a Pro Bowl type of player who’s got an extremely fast first step and an extreme burst off the ball, that can only help you. So for the development of me, it’s great to be able to play against a guy like that.

Cheater!

With last week’s revelation of the Patriots using video cameras to spy on opposing coaches during games, Bill Belichick now has more in common with Barry Bonds than initials and a surly attitude.

Bonds, who averaged 33 homers, had a .410 on-base percentage, 471 stolen bases, three MVP and eight Gold Glove awards through the first 15 years of his career, before the steroid allegations arose, was already en route to the Hall of Fame. Belichick, with his brilliant game-planning, immaculate draft record and innovative schemes, was regarded as a coaching genius, and his .704 winning percentage with the Patriots and three Super Bowl titles reinforced that. The Pats, for a while, were the de facto “America’s Team” with Tom Brady its golden boy and Belichick the sagacious sensei. But like Bonds, Belichick has besmirched his own legacy.

And like Bonds, whose rapid muscle growth, subsequent power surge and links to BALCO, have cast a cloud of cynicism over his records, Belichick’s espionage tactics should cost him as much. Take nothing away from his abilities, and don’t doubt how astute a strategist he is, but we should question how much cheating has padded his stats and bolstered his reputation.

Using such a clandestine scheme to steal signals is as much, if not more of a performance-enhancer in football than steroids are in baseball. Even a juiced-up batter must have enough of a discerning eye, coordination and impeccable timing to make perfect contact with a ball moving at 90 mph and changing direction. A steroid-using pitcher still requires precision to hit his spots and to control the movement of his breaking pitches. But in football, the gridiron chess match in which each play is carefully designed and strategy is paramount, knowing the opposition’s next move and being able to gear up for it is a tremendous advantage. The quick slant can be thwarted by a zone blitz; the square-in route can beat the Cover 2 defense. It’s simply a matter of knowing when to use what.

And the Patriots certainly have the talent to execute, which makes it more of a crime and reflects poorly on the so-called genius’ judgment. New England, which has arguably the most stacked roster in the NFL, was taking on a Jets team with an ill-fitting 3-4 defense that ranked 29th against the run and an offense with a deteriorated line. With such an advantage in skill and coaching, it was a stupid risk to cheat. Not to mention, Jets coach Eric Mangini was Belichick’s assistant less than two years ago. If the cheating had been going on for years, as many in the league suspect, Mangini would have known about it. Why then would Belichick, who has given his former protégé the cold shoulder since he took the Jets job, not think that his plan could easily backfire?

“Although it remains a league matter, I want to apologize to everyone who has been affected, most of all ownership, staff and players,” Belichick said last week.

That’s an admission of guilt, and given the precedence that Commissioner Roger Goodell has set with his iron-fisted castigation of players, the NFL was too lenient on the Patriots. Belichick will earn $4.2 million this season, so a $500,000 fine isn’t enough of a financial sting. The Patriots franchise is worth an estimated $1.4 billion (third wealthiest in the league), so $250,000 from them is like scooping a pint of water from the Atlantic Ocean.

Videogate is as much of a blow to the league’s image as players’ police records. So Belichick should have been fined $1.5 million, the organization $5 million, and the team made to forfeit the week one victory and be stripped of its first two picks in next April’s draft. That, like the lengthy suspensions of Pacman Jones, Michael Vick and Chris Henry, would send a message to the rest of the league that those shenanigans will not be tolerated. The cheaters have already prospered, so it’s only right that they suffer callous consequences.

Capt’n Eli Needs To Step Up

Heading into training camp, Eli Manning has a lot to prove. He deemed himself the team leader earlier this month and said that his squad has enough weapons to do without Tiki Barber, who accounted for almost 41 percent of the offense’s total yards. So now the quarterback must prove it.

“I’m ready to step up,” Manning said. “Leadership is something you earn from your teammates, and I think I’ve earned that. We’ve won enough games and had big comeback wins. [Teammates] know the way I prepare and how I go about my business. I’ve earned the respect.”

Such a bold quote from the typically demure Manning was a great sound byte for reporters, and an almost dulcet tune to the ears of most fans. But as his head coach said on the first day of mini-camp, “talk is cheap.”

Manning said what he did to a group of reporters and rapt onlookers in Grand Central terminal — he was there on July 11 for an HSBC-sponsored charity put-off — but there’s a difference between saying it there and saying it in the locker room; a big difference between telling the public what it wants to hear and telling his teammates what he needs them to believe.

And he’s got some convincing to do.

“I’m thinking of winning right now,” said Michael Strahan, who turns 36 in November. “They say Eli is going to mature. Well, I need him to mature now.”

Last month, Jerry Reese described Manning’s infamous pose of dejection as “that hangdog look” and said that it needs to change.

The self-proclaimed honcho had no response to those comments. Instead, he pooh-poohed the loss of Barber — who was a leader on the field and a heard voice in the locker room — and lauded his young garrison. He said they’ve got enough weapons to compensate, and they do.

In mini-camp Manning worked mostly with fledglings Sinorice Moss and Michael Jennings because Amani Toomer and Plaxico Burress, both recovering from off-season surgery, couldn’t participate.

“It was a big opportunity for me and [Moss] to get on the same page, timing-wise,” said Manning, who hooked up with the receiver just five times in 2006. “I’ve had three years with Amani and Plaxico, so we understand each other’s body motion. But the young guys got a chance to learn on the move.

“Sinorice has great quickness. He’s good off the ball, has great speed and can make the play downfield. He’s also great after the catch.”

He also described rookie receiver Steve Smith, who ran with the second team in mini-camp, as “a real smooth route-runner.”

The running game should be good enough, too. By all accounts, Brandon Jacobs is capable and poised for a breakout season, and Reuben Droughns is solid.

And even seventh rounder Ahmad Bradshaw drew the quarterback’s adulation: “He catches the ball effortlessly, and he’s quick at making adjustments and reading me,” said Manning of Bradshaw, who consistently burned Gerris Wilkinson in one-on-one pass drills. “I tell him something and he doesn’t forget, he executes it every time after that. I think he’s going to be a real good third down back.”

Add that crop to Burress, Toomer and Jeremy Shockey and the Giants could potentially be a dominant offense; at least more efficient than they have been. There are questions at left tackle, but Manning has enough talent around him to make most quarterbacks jealous. And he says he’s comfortable with Kevin Gilbride’s play-calling. According to him, the playbook hasn’t been altered much because “a lot of what we did before was based on [Gilbride’s] philosophy,” so he’s familiar with the system and doesn’t have to digest a whole lot in a short period.

He knows what his problems are physically, and he’s worked with quarterbacks coach Chris Palmer on improving his footwork and overall mechanics. Palmer paid close attention to him during drills, making sure he followed through properly, releasing high and finishing with his right hand by his left hip. And Manning said that he spent the off-season trying to get better at throwing on the move.

He looked good in drills, nailing the targets (his accuracy was second only to Anthony Wright’s), but he struggled in scrimmages. He didn’t complete enough of his passes, forced open receivers to make adjustments on the ones he did complete, and he threw six interceptions – it should’ve been eight because Gibril Wilson and Sam Madison dropped would’ve-been picks.

Shockey chided him during one of the scrimmages, yelling, “This is [bleeping] mini-camp. You’re not supposed to miss those!” Manning didn’t respond with words or his play.

If he is the leader — if he wants to be — he’ll have to. He’ll need to have more command of his offensive players. He isn’t a vocal leader, and he won’t suddenly become one. If he tries, the people who know him will see right through it. In the locker room, he sits in the back corner and keeps to himself. Believe it or not, he’s even more quiet and reserved than people say he is. Jared Lorenzen and Burress, whose locker is next to his, are the only teammates who converse with him regularly. Nobody would buy that guy transforming into “Randy Ra-Ra” or “Harry Hardass” overnight.

He’ll have to lead by example, and through his play, inspire confidence in his teammates. He doesn’t have to be more vivacious or charismatic, just more accurate, more consistent and more reliable. His offense will trust him; and from trust grows respect and admiration. There’s a difference between being in a position of leadership (as the signal-caller, he already is), and being the de facto captain. The latter is what he wants.

And it starts with training camp.

Manning is in his fourth season, and there are no more excuses. The honeymoon is over and this marriage (with all the Giants gave up to acquire him, it’s a long-term commitment) is in its honey-do stage. He needs to do well from the outset and show everyone that this season will be different. With his play, get everyone to believe that his fundamentals aren’t as flawed, that there won’t be another second-half swoon, that he not only realized what he’s done wrong, but has found ways to correct it.

After talking the talk in a red Polo shirt, he must walk the walk in a red practice jersey to convince the team, the fans and himself that anything has changed. Otherwise, he’ll be making the same comments in response to the same questions this time next year.

Chad Johnson Will Race A Horse

Chad is crazy and Chad is fast and Chad likes attention.

“I’m looking forward to it,” Johnson said Friday, after the first day of minicamp. “It’s going to be fun. Some of the things I’m going to be doing this year are crazy, and racing a horse is one of them.”

A 4-year-old colt named Restore the Road will race Johnson on the turf at Cincinnati’s River Downs on June 9. The horse will run ⅛th of a mile, while Johnson covers half that distance. – USA Today

Wasn’t that shit supposed to be degrading when Jesse Owens did it? I know it’s for charity, but Chad is gonna look bad doing this. It won’t even be entertaining. There has to be some other way to raise the money. And which organization is actually paying to see him get outrun by a horse? If this gets televised, there will be a lot of people, thoughts in unison, calling him a coon. Oh, it’s true.

If you recall, a few years ago Snoop Dogg competed in a charity football game against the LAPD (legal brutality). That’s something the Bengals should consider. If they want to race for charity, match Chris Henry’s 4.51 speed against a squad car for two blocks in downtown Cincinnati.

Breaking News: Michael Vick Is Dumb

I figure I’m obligated to write about the Vick dog-fighting scandal, but there isn’t an angle I can find that hasn’t already been beaten to death (like his pitbulls). So I’ll give you this:

My, has his public-eye stock plummetted. He came into the league as an overhyped, underdeveloped prospect and thrived because of his immense talent. He possessed one of the top 5 strongest arms in the league, and more athleticism than any quarterback in NFL history. Even if you didn’t care about the Falcons, you cared about the Falcons highlights because Vick was always one blown gap assignment or missed tackle away from doing something you’d never seen before. He had the pristine image to boot. Charismatic, fairly good-looking and articulate-enough, so he was a gift to the league in terms of marketing. And man, did the fans hop the bandwagon after his first full season – 3,713 total yards and 24 touchdowns with just 8 interceptions – and the whooping of the Packers @ Lambeau in the playoffs. He even got the Madden 2004 cover. And the football world cried when he broke his leg in preseason. And shook its head a little when the “Ron Mexico” story broke; it was the first blemish to Vick’s perfect persona. But after mulling it over, the football world laughed at the “Ron Mexico” story and hopped back on his herpes-infected dick and voted him into Pro Bowls, even though he regressed as a passer.

In 2006, he reached career-highs in passing touchdowns (20) and rushing yards (1,039, a quarterback record), but Atlanta lost its last three games and finished 7-9 (no, that wasn’t good enough to make the playoffs, even in the NFC). And his image took a couple blows when he flipped off his own fans after a game – they were pissed because he stunk – and whined in the press conferences every other week about how people don’t appreciate him.

Then he went and just fucked himself up in the off-season. Got caught at the airport with his 007 Aquafina bottle that contained a substance that appeared to be marijuana. They didn’t nail him on that – there probably wasn’t enough of it in there, but I’m guessing it was the remnants of some Piff – but then he came out and said that he uses the bottle to hide his jewelry when he stays at hotels. Nobody believed that. He gave himself a nice T.J. Combo uppercut with that one.

And now, he’s been accused of being a major player in a prominent dog-fighting circuit. He denies any knowledge of such, although the shit went down in his Virginia home. And according to a reputable informant, Vick has been involved since 2000, back when he was at Virginia Tech.

When asked if his image has been tarnished, Vick, who has since shaved the braids and sold the house for $400,000 less than he paid for it, said, “Everywhere I go, all around the world, people still support Mike Vick. Regardless of what I go through, people gon’ love me.”

Random Football Thought: Route Time

At the NFL Combine, they should test receivers for “route time” in addition to 40-yard, cone drills and shuttle times. Because how often have we seen prospects not play up to their 40-time? You’ll have a guy run a 4.35/40 but then struggle to get separation or just flat-out not look as fast with the pads on. I think that could be a result of two things: (1) the player doesn’t consistently give full effort during games or (2) while the 40 is straight-line running that allows him to run as fast as he can, most routes require the receiver to stop and turn at an angle, which many of them are incapable of doing while running at top speed. So except for breakaway runs (YAC) or the streak route, 40-times aren’t a great indication of a receiver’s “game speed.” A guy can run 40 yards straight in 4.3 seconds, but it doesn’t do him or his quarterback much good if it takes him as long to get where he’s supposed to be on a 20-yard corner route. So why not time the players running slants, posts, corners, drags, curls, deep ins, etc.?

This came to me when I was thinking about Calvin Johnson’s timed speed in contrast to his game speed. Though I expect him to be very good in the NFL, I think he’s somewhat overrated because of his 4.35 time. He never played that fast at Georgia Tech and fans expecting to see a 6-foot-5, 240-pound Steve Smith will be disappointed.

NFL Draft Winners & Losers

A review of the NFL teams that scored, and the others that fumbled in last weekend’s draft.

Winners

Browns: Cleveland might’ve mortgaged the future by dealing their 2008 first round pick to the Cowboys, but got what they needed in 2007. They added a potential franchise left tackle and quarterback in the first round with Joe Thomas and Brady Quinn, both projected top five picks. Second rounder Eric Wright is a risk because of his checkered past, but he’s a talented cornerback who could pay dividends if he stays out of trouble.

Jets: Teams that pick late in the draft are often passive, settling for players who fall to them and taking the best one still left at a position of need. The Jets bucked that trend and were proactive, trading picks and sacrificing quantity for what they believe is quality. They needed a cornerback, so they traded up and put themselves in position to draft Darrelle Revis, who they considered the top cornerback. They needed an inside linebacker, so they traded up and got the second highest rated one in David Harris, who will complement Jonathan Vilma.

Falcons: They were able to snag three first round talents in rounds 1-2. After losing Patrick Kerney, Atlanta needed a left defensive end with size and pass-rush skills to go with John Abraham. At No. 8, they got Jamaal Anderson, the second highest rated DE. They needed help on the offensive line, Justin Blalock was the best offensive guard, who also has experience at tackle. They needed a cornerback to pair with DeAngelo Hall, Chris Houston was one of the top talents in the draft. Ohio State center Doug Datish was a great pick in the sixth round.

Dolphins: Ted Ginn Jr. was a major reach at No. 9 – no other team wanted him that badly so if he’s who they’d targeted all along, they could’ve traded down for extra picks and still gotten him – but he adds explosiveness to a plodding offense and gives them a dynamic returner who can replace Wes Welker. Quarterback John Beck (second round) could‘ve been had later, but great picks in center Samson Satele and running back Lorenzo Booker.

49ers: San Francisco landed at least four quality players who will address needs for them. Patrick Willis was the draft’s top-rated linebacker, Joe Staley the second best offensive line prospect, and Jason Hill one of the best wide receivers. Defensive ends Ray McDonald and Jay Moore fit their 3-4 scheme and provide depth on the line. They did focus too much on the defensive line and didn’t give enough attention to the 26th ranked secondary, but they did spend $80 million on Nate Clements, and Tarrell Brown (147th pick) could be a steal for them.

Cowboys: Their actual draft wasn’t that good (selected two offensive tackles despite signing overrated, overweight Leonard Davis for $50 million, and reached on quarterback Isaiah Stanback in the fourth round), but they took advantage of Cleveland’s desperation for Brady Quinn and got what could be a top 10 pick next season. Trading their first rounder (No. 22) didn’t hurt because they shrewdly traded back up to No. 26 and scooped linebacker/defensive end Anthony Spencer, who they’d wanted all along.

Losers

Titans: Michael Griffin was a good pick at No. 19, but they reached on running back Chris Henry in the second round. The selection of Henry, who averaged just 3.3 yards per carry at Arizona, is an indictment of LenDale White, their 2006 second rounder who‘s put on 32 pounds since January. They might’ve pulled a muscle reaching for wide receivers Paul Williams, who caught just 72 passes at Fresno State, and Chris Davis in the middle rounds. Defensive tackle Antonio Johnson had just 2 ½ sacks at Mississippi State, and none last season.

Broncos: They traded up from No. 21 to 17 to take defensive end Jarvis Moss, which wasn’t necessary. None of the teams picking ahead of them (Bengals, Titans and Giants) was likely to take him. After selecting Moss, they took Tim Crowder, another defensive end, despite having drafted Elvis Dumervil last year, who got 8 ½ sacks in a part-time role. They ignored other areas of need such as wide receiver, tight end and safety. Left tackle Ryan Harris has quickness and can pass block, but he’s a weak run blocker. How will he fit that system?

Eagles: Kevin Kolb was rising up some draft boards, but how prudent was it for them to spend their first pick on a player who won’t contribute unless Donovan McNabb, A.J. Feeley and Kelly Holcomb all suffer serious injuries? He might be a quality prospect, but he’ll ride the bench behind a Pro Bowl quarterback. Victor Abiamiri gives them help as a pass rusher, but not enough. And that pick reflects poorly on their decision to draft Chris Gocong in the third round last year, and also on the signings of Darren Howard and Jevon Kearse. They lack speed at linebacker and Stewart Bradley (4.80) won’t improve that.

Chiefs: Nothing wrong with wide receiver Dwayne Bowe at No. 23 – which was probably there intention entering the draft – but not when Brady Quinn, a projected top 5 pick, freefalls to No. 22 and the team desperately needs a young quarterback. Kansas City could’ve done more to trade up – the Giants and Jaguars, at No. 20 and 21, respectively, might’ve been willing to swing a deal – and in rounds 2-3, they drafted defensive tackles back-to-back, passing on quarterback Trent Edwards. Their selection of UCLA kicker Justin Medlock was also perplexing considering they’ve got strong-legged Lawrence Tynes who is just four years into his career and has connected on 78 percent of his field goals.

Packers: They didn’t address any of their glaring needs. Their secondary gave up the third most touchdowns and they needed to upgrade the offensive line, but instead used the No. 16 pick on a defensive tackle who played just three games last season and had a late-first to second round grade. Green Bay was overanxious for a running back and wound up with Brandon Jackson in the second round. They’ve got no proven or experienced backs on their roster, and they chose someone who isn’t that big (5-foot-9, 210 pounds), isn’t that fast (4.54), wasn’t productive (1,431 yards in 33 games) and who’s never carried the ball more than 188 times in a year. Wide receiver James Jones was also reach in the second round. Their only good value picks were safety Aaron Rouse in the third round – although he lacks the range they need in the secondary – and top-rated kicker Mason Crosby in the sixth.

Cardinals: Buster Davis might develop into a poor man’s London Fletcher and wide receiver Steve Breaston was one of the top kick returners in the draft. Both were quality mid-rounders. However, Levi Brown with the fifth overall? The offensive line needed help, but Brown isn’t a great pass blocker, nor is he an overpowering run blocker. That pick is an example of a team focusing just on their greatest need while ignoring the better talent available to them. Alan Branch was a projected first rounder who might be a steal for them in the second round, but he only fell that far because teams believe the 324-pound defensive tackle has stress fractures in both legs.

2007 NFL Mock Draft: Round 2

33. Raiders: Ryan Kalil (USC)

The offensive line needs to be improved and the highest-rated lineman available will be Kalil, who is athletic. Jake Grove gave up 8 sacks last season – unheard of for a center. He also committed 6 penalties and Raiders backs averaged just 3.87 yards per carry up middle, which was second worst in NFL.

34. Lions: Anthony Spencer (Purdue)

The pass-rushing DE/LB ‘tweener is a rising prospect and some team could reach on him in the first round, but if he does fall to the second, the Lions wouldn‘t pass. He’s probably better suited to play outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense, but the Lions didn’t get enough pressure from their defensive line and desperately need a playmaker.

If the rumored slot swap with the Buccaneers in the first round does go through and Detroit winds up with Gaines Adams, they’ll need to go with a quarterback in the second round. Drew Stanton would be an option.

35. Buccaneers: Ben Grubbs (Auburn)

The interior of their offensive line is soft and doesn’t do a good enough job of run blocking. Cadillac Williams, despite his burst, has averaged just 3.8 yards per carry in his career. Grubbs, who blocked for speed backs at Auburn, including Cadillac, can pull and get out in space.

36. Browns: Adam Carriker (Nebraska)

A projected first rounder, he could fall into the second because he lacks athleticism and might not be able to be a pass rusher in the NFL. However, he’d help the Browns’ 3-4 scheme at defensive end because he’s got the size and strength to control his gap.

37. Bears: Justin Harrell (Tennessee)

With Tank Johnson facing an NFL suspension once he‘s released from prison, they’ll need a defensive tackle.

38. Cardinals: Brandon Merriweather (Miami)

His stock is soaring, but he could still drop to the second round because he wasn’t a ball hawk in college and his 40-times weren’t special. Also, because of the league’s new stringent conduct policies, teams must now be wary of players with “questionable character.“ However, the Cardinals secondary lacks speed and Robert Griffith will turn 37 during the season.

39. Falcons: Aaron Sears (Tennessee)

They need help at offensive tackle and guard. Sears, who played tackle for the Vols but might shift to guard in the NFL, could help Atlanta at either spot.

40. Dolphins: Tony Ugoh (Arkansas)

Miami needs offensive line help, especially after losing Damion McIntosh. Ugoh would give them an athletic tackle with the speed to pull and the quickness and arm length to possibly play the left. He’s raw, but it’s a weak class of tackles.

41. Vikings: Drew Stanton (Michigan State)

They reached on Tarvaris Jackson in the second round last year, but it’s unclear if they’ve got confidence in him to be their franchise quarterback. Drew Stanton, who also is athletic but has a better throwing arm, could be a long-term solution.

42. 49ers: Eric Wright (UNLV)

The secondary will be better with the addition of Nate Clements, but the group still lacks speed and they ranked 26th in 2006. Many believe that Wright, who has good size and ran a 4.36, has first round talent. Wide receiver is also an option, but the draft is deeper at that position.

43. Bills: David Harris (Michigan)

The linebacker’s stock is riding and the Bills will need someone to replace London Fletcher-Baker.

44. Falcons: Tim Crowder (Texas)

Having lost Patrick Kerney, they’ll need a defensive end with size and some pass-rushing ability to help complement John Abraham – or compensate for when he’s out with injury.

45. Panthers: Eric Weddle (Utah)

They need help at safety, and even if he isn’t able to beat out Shaun Williams for a starting job, he could contribute on special teams and be groomed to replace Mike Minter.

46. Steelers: Tanard Jackson (Syracuse)

Ike Taylor is solid, but they could use some depth and more youth at cornerback.

47. Packers: Quinn Pitcock (Ohio State)

Once considered a first rounder, Pitcock’s stock has plummeted. He doesn’t have ideal size, but his play is often extolled in clichés. He’s a hard-nosed, hard working lunch pale kinda guy, with great intangibles and a constant motor. He could help the Packers defensive tackle rotation.

48. Jaguars: Samson Satele (Hawaii)

Jacksonville’s offensive line needs to be upgraded – certainly, if Byron Leftwich is to be the QB – and Satele’s versatility would help. He’s got experience at guard, center and tackle and is considered a good pass blocker. Also, the Hawaii quarterbacks put up “Madden on rookie mode” stats every season (they combined for 62 touchdowns and 6,178 yards in 2006), so the offensive line must’ve done something right.

49. Bengals: Quentin Moses (Georgia)

All prolific offenses needs a pass-rusher on defense. After a strong junior season, Moses had a disappointing 2006 and wasn‘t impressive at the combine, but he’s got the quickness and moves to be a quality defensive end.

50. Titans: Josh Wilson (Maryland)

Missing Pacman Jones, they’ll need depth at cornerback and a return man with game-breaking speed. Wilson, who ran a 4.35 and has a similar build to Jones, could help in those departments.

51. Giants: Jason Hill (Washington State)

Still unsure about what Amani Toomer and Sinorice Moss will able to contribute next season, the Giants, who traded slot receiver Tim Carter, will need depth at wide receiver. Hill, who has excellent timed speed and is a good route runner, would give them insurance and possibly a long-term solution at split end.

52. Rams: Buster Davis (Florida State)

Davis was very productive in college – more so than several of the linebackers who will be picked ahead of him – but doesn’t have the ideal measurable. However, the 5-foot-9, 240-pound linebacker might remind them of London Fletcher.

53. Cowboys: LaMarr Woodley (Michigan)

The 6-foot-2, 266-pounder doesn’t have great size, but he could be moved from defensive end to linebacker in Dallas’ 3-4. He accrued 12 sacks and 16 ½ tackles for loss last season, so he could become the pass rusher the Cowboys would like opposite DeMarcus Ware.

54. Chiefs: Trent Edwards (Stanford)

They’ve been shopping Trent Green and they need a long-term quarterback. Damon Huard played well last year, but he’s a 34-year-old career backup. They drafted Brodie Croyle in 2006, but he doesn’t have much talent. Edwards, who wasn’t very productive in college, has prototypical quarterback size and all the physical tools.

55. Seahawks: Victor Abiamiri (Notre Dame)

Grant Wistrom, after three seasons of disappointment, was released and the Seahawks, despite acquiring Patrick Kerney, are in need of a pass rusher on the defensive line. Abiamiri could play a role in their d-line rotation, and along with Kerney and Julian Peterson, cause a lot of trouble for quarterbacks.

55. Broncos: Craig Davis (LSU)

Rod Smith is 37 and whether or not he has a bounce-back season, they’ll need to start grooming a successor and surrounding Jay Cutler with weapons. Javon Walker, who should be more explosive this year, will be the No. 1 receiver, and Rod Smith might still be the No. 2, but Davis could emerge as the slot receiver they’ve been searching for.

56. Eagles: Brian Leonard (Rutgers)

He would give them a power back to pair with Brian Westbrook – since Correll Buckhalter can‘t be relied on. Leonard caught 207 passes for the Scarlet Knights, which makes him a good fit for Andy Reid’s offense. With their versatility, he and Westbrook in the backfield together could create matchup problems for defenses.

57. Saints: Steve Smith (USC)

With Joe Horn gone, all they’ve got is Marques Colston and Devery Henderson at wide receiver. Smith, who put up good numbers despite having to share the ball in that vaunted Trojan offense, is an excellent route runner whose surprising 4.44 time could propel him up draft boards.

58. Jets: Daymeion Hughes (California)

The Jets need more depth in the secondary and it’s been reported that they have interest in Hughes. He didn’t time well at the combine (4.65), but he was very productive in college (13 interceptions and 24 deflections since 2005) and Eric Mangini will like his physical style.

59. Dolphins: Troy Smith (Ohio State)

He isn’t projected to go this high, but Miami would be reaching to fill another position of need here. Smith helps because they need a backup quarterback and someone to groom behind Daunte Culpepper, whose health is still questionable. Smith, despite being 2-3 inches shorter than scouts would prefer, is mobile and has a strong, accurate arm. He totaled 53 touchdowns to just 13 interceptions and completed close to 63% of his throws in a competitive Big Ten conference.

60. Ravens: Antonio Pittman (Ohio State)

They’ll need a backup for Willis McGahee, and Mike Anderson won’t be there for too long. Pittman is a speedy, elusive runner.

61. Chargers: Aaron Rouse (Virginia Tech)

Having released Terrence Kiel, San Diego needs a safety and they could also use a linebacker since Donnie Edwards is gone. Because of his size (6-foot-4, 226 pounds), Rouse could eventually be moved to linebacker like Panthers did with Thomas Davis.

* Thomas will likely be the first VT player selected, so we should expect to see a morose “It really puts everything in perspective” tribute from ESPN when his name is announced. Then Chris Berman will make the seamless- or at least immediate – transition and get back to being Fred Flintstone.

62. Jets: Ray McDonald (Florida)

Kimo von Oelhoffen is 36 and wasn’t very productive last year. McDonald has the size to play end in a 3-4.

63. Buccaneers : Anthony Gonzalez

Whether or not he vies for a starting job or beats out Michael Clayton, Gonzalez’s speed and underneath route running would be an addition and he’d help spark that offense. The transition from OSU’s to Jon Gruden’s West Coast Offense wouldn’t be too difficult for him, either.