Monday, November 10, 2008

Triage and thoughts around the league

Adalius Thomas has joined the ranks of Tom Brady, Lawrence Maroney, Rodney Harrison, Tank Williams, and Ryan O'Callahan. Soon he will be put on the IR with them. All are lost for the season all players that were either starters, or were expected to be significant contributors.

Thomas played more defensive snaps than any other linebacker on the team - followed by rookie Jerrod Mayo, and Mike Vrabel. Rookie free-agent Gary Guyton has been rotating with Tedy Bruschi, allowing the veteran to remain fresh.

Like last season, the Pats got whacked by injuries at linebacker. Those injuries forced Bruschi and
Junior Seau to shift from platooning to sharing the box on defense. They played well, but they showed signs of wear and age late in the season - maybe at no time more than in the Super Bowl.

So this poses a question - Do the Patriots find their solution from within, or do they go out and get help?

The track record so far this season is that they look from within - consider: When Brady was lost for the season, Scott Pioli and Bill Belichick could have brought in a veteran - either Tim Rattay (whom the Pats considered drafting instead of Brady), or Chris Simms - or they could have even traded for a QB. The Pats took a lot of flak in the press for not bringing someone in.

They're down to a rookie free-agent running back that was buried so deep on the depth chart at the beginning of the season that he was somewhere below the ocean floor. The team could have gone and signed Najeh Davenport, recently cut from the Steelers. So far, they haven't.

When Rodney Harrison went down and the rest of the secondary got nicked up, there were a number of solutions available - including John Lynch. They brought back Jason Webster, who was with the team through the pre-season, but he hasn't played a snap yet.

There area few outside solutions to the Pats current dilemma, and I wouldn't be surprised to see them go to any of these, but I also wouldn't be surprised with a "damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead" attitude from Belichick. Roosevelt Colvin knows the system and is available, the same is the case with Junior Seau (assuming he's fully recovered from his off-season surgery). If Colvin can still play, he can fill the same roll as pass rusher that Thomas has been playing while keeping the current rotation largely intact. If Seau comes back, that allows the team to move Guyton to the outside, his natural position, while platooning Seau and Bruschi.

As for the defensive backfield, if the injuries continue to mount, I wouldn't be surprised to see Lynch brought back into the fold with Brandon Meriweather moving over to corner. Personally, and I don't think it will happen, but I would like to see Troy Brown brought back for the nickel package.


That sucking sound you hear coming from Oakland...well let's just say I now get why it's nicknamed the black hole. It's where careers go to die - whether as a player, coach, or executive, Al Davis is bound to suck the life out of you.

If Oakland fans are feeling...shall we say...put out, at least they're not Detroit which is not only looking at another likely round of layoffs after record losses by the auto industry, but also a football team that will almost certainly set a new record for futility with the first perfectly imperfect season. Looking at their remaining schedule, it wouldn't be surprising for the team to go winless.

Then of course there are fellow bottom feeders St. Louis, Seattle, San Francisco, Kansas City, Houston, and Cleveland. Fans of all these teams, particularly the Browns and Seahawks who both have been competitive in recent years, have to be wondering where it's all gone wrong for their hometown teams.

If the season ended today, the top eight positions in the draft (barring trades) would look like this -

1. Detroit
2. Cincinnati
3. KC
4. St. Louis
5. Oakland
6. Seattle
7. San Francisco
8. Houston

At the other end of the spectrum, you have upstarts and stalwarts turning in spectacular coaching performances -

Belichick has the Patriots positioned to possibly win the division again, in spite of injuries to the key players mentioned above. It may be one of the best seasons' worth of coaching in his career.

Mike Smith in Atlanta along with former Patriots employee Thomas Dimitroff has the Falcons four wins away from a likely playoff birth barely removed from the brutal chaos of last season's twin Michael Vick and coaching fiascoes. Considering there were those that knocked the Falcons for bringing in Smith, this has to be one of the top performances in the NFL this season.

Jim Zorn in Washington I was positive was a year away, at least, from being competitive. I figured the man who has never been a coordinator needed at least one season for his system to sink in. Boy was I wrong.

Jeff Fisher in Tennessee might actually match the Patriots' regular season accomplishment of last season. They have a tough road, with games against resurgent Jets and Colts teams, and what's sure to be a war of attrition against Pittsburgh late in the season. Fisher has done a hell of a job this season, but people are too quick to give him credit for doing it with their back-up, Kerry Collins, who's a better quarterback than Vince Young, and has piloted teams to the playoffs, and even as far as the Super Bowl before.

Any one of these four is worthy of coaching honors, and none would surprise me as the winner - barring an epic collapse by any of them.

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