If you want to excel consistently, you have to have a team philosophy and know how to execute it year in and year out. That’s why teams like Pittsburgh and New England keep making it back to the Super Bowl.
The New York Giants are one of those teams. On offense everything revolves around clutch quarterback Eli Manning, and on defense it’s all about their front four. By putting pressure on the quarterback with their four down linemen, the Giants can neutralize quarterbacks like Tom Brady while other teams can barely slow him down.
With that backdrop, I was very impressed when the Giants were able to grab defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins in the second round and then Damontre Moore in the third round. This New York Giants fan blog has a great post breaking down both picks. Hankins in a beast who helps plug up the middle against the run, but Hankins is also very quick and mobile for a big defensive tackle. He reminds me of guys like Michael Dean Perry and Warren Sapp who were quick off the ball and could rush the passer up from the interior line position. On the Giants, where the defensive ends pose real problems in pass protection, Hankins will have even more opportunities to get sacks. He clearly has first-round talent so the Giants got great value here.
The value was even better when they were able to grab Moore in the third round. He dropped like a rock with poor performances at the combine and on his pro day, so there’s some risk here. But given his talent, Moore is a steal in the third round. And while the bright lights of New York City could be a problem for this guy, he’s going to the perfect team for his talents, and the guys in this locker room should keep him in line.
The NFC is loaded with media favorites San Francisco and Seattle, along with teams like Atlanta and Green Bay. The Giants slipped last year, but if these two guys pan out, you can bet the Giants will be in the mix for the NFC title.
The Jets unceremoniously released Tim Tebow the day after the NFL draft. The timing sort of sucks for Tebow, but who can blame the Jets for trying to get something in return for Tebow?
It will be interesting to see if anyone is willing to give this guy another shot. For the Jets, I think they took a major gamble grabbing Geno Smith. Don’t get me wrong, Smith has some talent and could develop in the right situation, but he seems immature as hell, and throwing him into the New York media circus seems like a huge mistake. Smith is very inconsistent and really needs to sit on the bench and learn for a while, particularly considering that the Jets will now run the complex West Coast Offense. If they throw him in too early, Mark Sanchez will look like a rock compared to Geno Smith.
One time, Brad Smith returned a kickoff 90 yards-with one shoe. Another time, he scored on a 32 yard scamper via the ground. Yet another, he returned a blocked punt for a TUD. And I didn’t even mention the fact that last season he scored on a 32 yard receiving TUD against the rival Patriots.
His insane versatility on the field stretches to his local community as well, where he started the “Brad Smith True Foundation” to help kids in his hometown of Youngstown, Ohio to promote “discipline, education and organized activity.”
BE: With the Jets, you had a 108-yard kickoff return for a TD, the longest in franchise history. What do you get more exhilaration out of: that or a 32-yard scamper for a TD?
Brad Smith: It doesn’t matter to me (laughs). If it’s running, blocking a kick, it doesn’t matter. What matters to me is, did I do something to help my team win?
BE: Do you want to play QB more?
Brad Smith: I’m always a quarterback first — it’s what I’ve done my whole life. And I have fun doing it, but I’ve done all kinds of stuff. Whatever they ask me to do is what I’m going to do. That’s how I look at it man. Whatever I can do to help the team win is what I will do.
BE: With the Jets you were there from the transition between Eric Mangini to Rex Ryan. What was that like?
Brad Smith: It was a good transition. The support group they have there is unbelievable, from the training staff to the strength staff at the time, they all made it a smooth transition. Coach Mangini, I learned stuff I still use to prepare for games to this day from coach Mangini. He was one of the most detail-oriented coaches I’ve ever been around. Rex gets you to play and let it loose 100%, so you don’t have to think — I picked that up from Rex. We’ll see how it goes with coach Marrone.
+ There’s a large contingent that feels as though Jerry Jones has condemned his own team by handing Tony Romo a six-year, $108 million contract extension that includes $55 million guaranteed. And who could blame them? Romo is a competitor and a leader. Outside of missing 10 games in 2010 due to a shoulder injury, he’s durable and has eclipsed 4,000 yards passing in four of his last six seasons. He’s also 1-3 in the postseason and has a nasty habit of saving his worst effort for the most crucial of moments. How could any Dallas fan be okay with rewarding what essentially amounts to mediocrity? But survey the league. There are at least 10 teams that would gladly guarantee Romo $55 million if he could suit up for them. Jones is rolling the dice that Romo will eventually prosper in those moments that have ruined him in the past. He’d rather continue to invest in the undrafted gem that he signed in 2003 instead of starting all over again at the position next year. And maybe he’ll eventually be undone by his unwavering loyalty, but it’s not as if the Cowboys developed any Pro Bowlers in the years between Troy Aikman and Romo. For better or worse, Jones has pushed Romo and a large chunk of his money into the middle of the pot and said, “All in.” We’ll see if the gamble pays off in the upcoming years.
+ Did Elvis Dumervil just pass up his best chance at playing for a championship by not re-signing with the Broncos? Think about that for a moment. It’s not as if he took the money a la Mario Williams and become a hired mercenary for a bad team – the Ravens are the defending champions, after all. But the last franchise to win back-to-back Super Bowls was the Denver Broncos in the late 90s, which proves how difficult it is to repeat in the NFL. Thanks to Ozzie Newsome and John Harbaugh, Baltimore will continue to compete year in and year out. But if it weren’t for Rahim Moore’s mistake in the Divisional Round last season, the Broncos may have won it all in February. (One could certainly make the argument that they were the best team heading into the playoffs.) With Wes Welker now catching passes from Peyton Manning, the Broncos should be right back in the Super Bowl mix in 2013. While he may never regret the decision to leave the Mile High state (especially when you consider the manner in which things ended in Denver), it would be a bitter pill to swallow if Dumervil was forced to watch his former teammates compete for a title next year. And that may very well happen.
+ Buddy Nix continues to boggle the mind in Buffalo. He had to part ways with Ryan Fitzpatrick a couple of weeks ago because he made the bone-headed decision in 2011 to overpay Fitzpatrick for one month of quality football. But why sign Kevin Kolb to a two-year, $13 million contract? He doesn’t represent a clear upgrade over Fitzpatrick, who also would have been a fit for coordinator Nathaniel Hackett’s “K-Gun” offense. Fitzpatrick often displayed poor footwork and mechanics but he was at his best when getting the ball out of his hands quickly and spreading it around to different receivers. Instead of throwing more money at the position, Fitzpatrick could have been the starter until Ryan Nassib or another rookie was ready to take over in 2014. It just doesn’t make sense although hey, we’re also talking about the same guy in Nix who passed up on Andy Dalton, Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson in the second and third rounds each of the past two years. Not much Nix has done over the past three years has made much sense.
+ The more film I watch on this year’s defensive tackle class, the more I like. Star Lotulelei is versatile in that he can play in multiple defensive fronts, can anchor and also collapse the pocket when rushing. Meanwhile, Florida’s Sharrif Floyd is massive at 6-foot-2 and 297 pounds, but he’s light on his feet and has the ability to be a double-digit sack lineman as a 3-technique tackle. One could easily say the same about Mizzou’s Sheldon Richardson, who is an athletic marvel and a player that spent a lot of time in the opposing team’s backfield last season. When you get past the top three, Ohio State’s Jonathan Hankins was considered the best defensive tackle prospect at the start of the 2012 college football season (until his play fell off the map as the year wore on), and North Carolina’s Sylvester Williams is athletic, strong, and shows burst off the snap. It’s a great year for teams looking for interior pass-rush help.
+ Geno Smith might be the biggest wild card in the first round this year. The Chiefs have expressed interest in him, but chances are they’re planning on drafting Luke Joeckel with the No. 1 pick. The Raiders could take him at No. 3 but they’ve also expressed interest in Matt Flynn, while the logical move for the Bills would be to wait until the second round and nab Doug Marrone’s former Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib. (This after signing Kevin Kolb to a two-year, $13 million contract over the weekend.) If Smith goes in the top 10, my best guess is that it’ll be to Arizona at No. 7. There have been so many smokescreens surrounding the Cardinals over the past few weeks that you would think the entire state of Arizona is on fire. But I’m not buying their interest in Matt Barkley, whose best fit is in a West Coast offense. He simply doesn’t have the arm strength to run Bruce Arians’ offense efficiently, and neither does Carson Palmer (whom the Cardinals have expressed interest in as well). Smith is far from an elite quarterback prospect, but he does have enough arm strength to challenge the seam at the next level. That’s vital in Arians’ system.
+ If Manti Te’o falls out of the first round, it’ll be because of the current value for NFL middle linebackers – not because of his fake girlfriend or one miserable game versus Alabama. Just as he showed in the months leading up to the national title game, he sifts through traffic well, he plays downhill, and he’s an instinctive player. But this is a pass-happy league and if Te’o is going to play middle linebacker in a 4-3, he’s likely to come off the field on third downs. Middle linebackers simply don’t hold as much value as they did 10 years ago, which is why a player like Alec Ogletree may come off the board ahead of Te’o. Ogletree is a knucklehead who ran into off-field issues at Georgia, but he’s also a former safety that can run and cover. Assuming he develops at the pro level, teams won’t have to take him off the field in nickel situations. There’s a lot of value in that attribute, more so than a prospect that is a true thumper in the running game that has his limitations in coverage.
+ With all the talk surrounding Tavon Austin this year, one receiver that should be getting more attention is Louisiana Tech’s Quinton Patton. He has good size, quickness, and pass-catching ability. He doesn’t drop passes, he’s smooth in and out of routes, and he shows a willingness to block. Unlike Austin, Patton lacks top end speed, doesn’t separate and he didn’t make much of an impact as a return man in college. But he was productive in his two years with the Bulldogs and he has great intangibles. Prior to the 2011 Poinsettia Bowl, he gave a $300 Best Buy gift card (which was one of his bowl gifts) to a child from the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Some team in the second round is going to get a solid player on the field and a high-character person off it.
+ Some team is either going to hit a grand slam with LSU’s Barkevious Mingo or they’re going to strike out looking. I fear there’s no in between. He’s a freak athletically and he could potentially be a headache for opposing teams as a designated pass rusher, but he’s really lean and may not hold up against the run. He also wasn’t overly productive at LSU and arguably wasn’t their best pass rusher, either. (That would be teammate Sam Montgomery.) If he can’t defend the run and he can’t set the edge, will he be worth taking in the first round based on his upside as a pass rusher? Bruce Irvin was, but the Seahawks also used him appropriately (i.e. as a DPR). When Irvin had to start versus the Falcons in the Divisional Round last year because of the injury to Chris Clemons, Atlanta ran right at him because he couldn’t set the edge in run support. Then again, he also finished with eight sacks as a rookie and there are plenty of teams that would kill for similar production. It’ll be interesting to see which ones will be willing to give up a late first-round pick in hopes of acquiring that same kind of output from Mingo.
+ The Dolphins just signed an underrated player in Brent Grimes. Assuming he’s healed from the Achilles injury that robbed him of nearly his entire 2012 season, he’ll upgrade a secondary that was often torched last year. He’s small but he’s technically sound and often the best athlete on the field at any given time. Granted, in signing him to a one-year, $5.5 million contract they overpaid for his services, especially considering he’s coming off the injury. (The cornerback market has also been weak this year.) But Miami got a quality player nonetheless.