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Sunday Morning NFL Quick-Hits

Every Sunday morning our NFL columnist Anthony Stalter will provide his “quick-hits” from around the league. You can follow him on Twitter @AnthonyStalter.

+ The Miami Dolphins might be on the verge of making a mistake by signing Chad Ochocinco, who reportedly lacked football I.Q. to survive in New England. Said Boston Globe’s Greg Bedard: “The Patriots would literally tell him to run a route a certain way, and a minute later he would run it the other way. It happened all the time.” Ochocinco made six Pro Bowls, led the NFL in receiving yards once (2006), and led the AFC in receiving yards twice (2003, 2005) in Cincinnati because he was allowed to freelance, which is one of the many things that frustrated Carson Palmer. So why would the Dolphins want someone like Ochocinco on their roster when there’s a strong possibility that they’ll start a rookie at quarterback this season? Teams need to put young players in position to succeed, period. It makes no sense to start Ryan Tannehill and then throw Ochocinco into the mix when the idea is not to stunt the rookie’s development. If Tom Brady couldn’t work with Ochocinco, why would anyone believe that Tannehill could?

- Smart move by the Patriots to lock up tight end Rob Gronkowski to a six-year, $54 million extension through 2019. Only $13.17 million is guaranteed, which is quite the bargain for the most dominate tight end in the league. This move also indicates that the Patriots have zero concerns about Gronk’s offseason ankle surgery and neither should anyone else.

+ Jets receiver Santonio Holmes is being made out to look like a baby following his meltdown at the team’s OTAs on Thursday. But keep in mind he had missed voluntary workouts while in Germany on a USO trip, so receivers coach Sanjay Lal could have done a better job easing Holmes back into action. After all, it’s June – not August. There will come a time when Holmes needs to ratchet up his workouts so that he’s prepared for the season but it does the Jets no good for Lal to burn out his receivers or risk injury three months before the season. That said, Holmes could have also acted like a professional. There was no need for him to toss his helmet and make a scene. His unpredictable attitude is one of the reasons why the Steelers felt compelled to trade him despite the fact that he was their Super Bowl MVP in 2009.

- Brandon Weeden has better size, a bigger arm, and has reportedly outperformed Colt McCoy in OTAs this spring. But it still doesn’t benefit Pat Shurmur to name a starter before or during training camp. Teams should strive for competition at all positions, especially at quarterback. Players become awfully content when they’re making a ton of money and know that nobody is breathing down their necks for their starting job. Even if it’s a foregone conclusion that Weeden will be the starter, it behooves Shurmur and the Browns to make him work for it all summer.

+ It’s great to hear that Michael Vick has been the first player in and the last player out during Eagles’ practices this offseason. It also pisses me off thinking about how undedicated he was in Atlanta. Did he want to win? No doubt. But you never read reports about him being the first one to the practice facility in Flowery Branch when he was quarterbacking the Falcons. Part of the blame falls on owner Arthur Blank and former coach Jim Mora, whom allowed Vick to come and go as he pleased. But considering the Falcons paid him franchise money to be the leader of their team, one would think he would have taken more pride in his work instead of continuously trying to get by on his talent alone. It’s a shame when you read that Vick is now finally dedicated to his craft 11 years after he was drafted but then again, it’s better late than never.

- From a defensive standpoint, one team that might be significantly improved this season from 2011 is the Arizona Cardinals. The team looked lost throughout the first half last year trying to learn new defensive coordinator Ray Horton’s defense and as five-time Pro Bowler Adrian Wilson admitted, there were plenty of times where players didn’t even know if they were in the right position. The Cardinals also started a rookie at cornerback in Patrick Peterson, who suffered plenty of growing pains before coming into his own in the final six weeks of the season. One area the Cardinals must improve on is their interception total. They had just one pick in the final six weeks of the season and they went eight games in which they had zero interceptions. Assuming they’re more comfortable in Horton’s defense in year two and they can hang onto the ball when they have opportunities to make a play, Arizona should show marked improvements from 2011. Now only if they had a quarterback on the other side of the ball to lead them to the playoffs…

+ Asante Samuel is already paying dividends in Atlanta. After lining up opposite Matt Ryan four times throughout his career, the Pro Bowl cornerback has been giving instructions to his new teammate on how the quarterback can become more difficult to defend. Samuel has also reportedly brought a ton of energy to the practice field and fellow cornerback Dunta Robinson is thrilled that the presence of his new teammate will allow him to kick inside to the nickel position. Robinson is at his best when he can get his hands on a receiver and be physical at the line of scrimmage. The past two years he struggled in former defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder’s scheme because he was forced to play off the ball. But with Samuel and Mike Nolan now in Atlanta, Robinson will play inside where he thrived early in his career as a member of the Houston Texans.

- All signs point to Chris Johnson having a bounce back year in Tennessee. It’s public knowledge that he showed up to camp out of shape last year following his contract dispute and the lockout. But Dan Pompei of the National Football Post has been told by sources that Johnson has rededicated himself this offseason. Of course, it doesn’t matter how good a shape Johnson is in if his offensive line doesn’t open up holes for him in the running game. Eugene Amano, David Stewart and Leroy Harris all struggled in run blocking last season and Johnson often found himself bottled up. It’s great that he’s committed to offseason workouts but without a better effort from the Titans’ front five, he won’t be rushing for over 2,000 yards again anytime soon.

+ Despite a messy contract situation, it’s hard to envision a scenario in which Matt Forte doesn’t report to training camp. Forte wants a long-term deal from the Bears, who seemingly want to go year to year with their star running back. But at the end of the day Forte is a perfect fit for the Bears’ offense and he’s such a competitor that I don’t see him holding out all season. Plus, he has no leverage. He’s coming off a season-ending knee injury, he’s a running back in a passing league, and the Bears signed Michael Bush earlier this offseason as insurance. For Forte to hold out during one of his prime years doesn’t make sense. Plus, as long as he signs his franchise contract before the July 16 deadline he’ll make $7.7 in guaranteed money. Nobody is going to pass up that kind of cash, no matter how angry they are at their team.

- If the reports out of Seattle are any indication then the Seahawks might be in store for another rocky year at the quarterback position. Despite landing a three-year, $26 million contract, Matt Flynn has yet to distance himself from neither Russell Wilson nor Tarvaris Jackson. Everyone has been cautious when it comes to predicting Flynn’s success in his first year with the Seahawks, which is smart given his lack of experience. But it’s not like the Hawks gave him chump change – they paid him starter’s money. Thus, it’s a little surprising that Flynn has yet to emerge from a pack that also consists of a rookie third-round pick and one of the most underwhelming quarterbacks in the league.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @TheScoresReport. You can also follow TSR editor Gerardo Orlando @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom, and you can follow TSR editor Anthony Stalter @AnthonyStalter.

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Sunday Evening Quick-Hitters: Reactions from Week 8 in the NFL

Every Sunday evening throughout the 2011 NFL season I’ll compile quick-hit reactions from the day that was in football. I vow to always overreact, side with sensationalism over rationalism, and draw conclusions based on small sample sizes instead of cold, hard facts. It’s the only way I know how to write…

DIDN’T SEE THAT COMING…

St. Louis Rams Steven Jackson looks downfield after making a reception in the second quarter against the Carolina Panthers at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis on October 31, 2010. St. Louis won the game 20-10. UPI/Bill Greenblatt

- “If only the Rams could now somehow beat the Saints on Sunday, this would be the greatest sports weekend EVER,” uttered the random St. Louis fan on Friday night after the Cardinals defeated the Rangers in Game 7 of the World Series. How do the previously winless Rams defeat a team in the Saints that just racked up 62 points on the Colts? Well, that’s pretty easy. When you can’t stop Steven Jackson even though you know he’s going to get the ball every down, you lose two turnovers over on your side of the field, and you don’t protect your quarterback, you’re going to lose to most opponents regardless of whether or not they have any wins. The Rams won this game because of Jackson and their defense, which sacked Drew Brees six times and returned one of his passes for a game-clinching touchdown in the fourth quarter. Chris Long absolutely abused Charles Brown, who should have been given more help because he clearly needed it. The Rams clearly haven’t checked out and they’ll continue to fight every Sunday. That was apparent for anyone who saw Jackson flip out on his offensive line late in the second half following yet another false start penalty. What a sweet first win this was for a city that is on cloud nine right now.

- It’s not really shocking that the 2-6 Panthers lost another game. But considering whom they were playing and given that they were 3.5-point home favorites, it was a little surprising to see Carolina go down in flames to Minnesota on Sunday. Christian Ponder’s 102.7 passer rating and 8.4 yards per attempt were both season-highs for the Vikings, who apparently just should have started the kid from Week 1 and bypassed acquiring Donovan McNabb altogether. Ponder threw for 236 yards and a touchdown on 18-of-28 passing while earning his first career win thanks in large part to Olindo Mare’s inability to hit a 31-yard chip shot. The miss, which came with under a minute left to play, cost the Panthers an opportunity to force overtime. Good thing Carolina GM Marty Hurney spent so much money on Mare this offseason. Dude was totally worth it.

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Sunday Evening Quick-Hitters: Reactions from Week 5 in the NFL

Every Sunday evening throughout the 2011 NFL season I’ll compile quick-hit reactions from the day that was in football. I vow to always overreact, side with sensationalism over rationalism, and draw conclusions based on small sample sizes instead of cold, hard facts. It’s the only way I know how to write…

DIDN’T SEE THAT COMING…

New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (C) walks off the field with teammates after throwing an interception that was run into the end zone for a touchdown by the Seattle Seahawks in the fourth quarter during their NFL football game in East Rutherford, New Jersey, October 9, 2011. REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

- The Giants and Eli Manning had the game I thought they would last week in Arizona. Manning threw three touchdown passes but he was also picked off three times as the Giants started slow and finished poorly. Of course, Eli wasn’t the only reason the G-Men dropped a game they simply had no business losing. Their defense couldn’t stop a Seattle offense that has suddenly started to hit their stride after staging a dramatic comeback in the second half last week against Atlanta. Tarvaris Jackson, Charlie Whitehurst and Marshawn Lynch tuned up New York’s defense for 424 total yards. What’s most remarkable about the Seahawks’ 36-25 win is that the Hawks fumbled twice in New York territory. This could have been an even bigger blow out.

- The Steelers winning a home game against the Titans hardly constitutes a “Didn’t see that coming” moment. That said, this was a Pittsburgh team that didn’t have Casey Hampton, James Harrison, Aaron Smith, Chris Kemoeatu, or a fully healthy Ben Roethlisberger. Considering how good Tennessee’s defense has been this season, it was rather surprising to see Big Ben (who threw five touchdown passes) and Pittsburgh bully the Titans for four quarters. It appears those claims about the Steelers being finished were greatly exaggerated.

- Much like the Steelers’ win over the Titans, it’s hardly surprising that the Raiders traveled to Houston and beat the Texans. This isn’t the same Oakland team that was pathetic four or five years ago. That said, Al Davis just passed away yesterday and the Raiders took on a solid Texans team that just bullied Pittsburgh a week ago. Nobody would have been surprised if the Raiders’ hearts weren’t in it and left Houston without a win. But they played hard for four quarters, shut down Arian Foster, and won a huge road game to get to 3-2 on the season. Granted, Matt Schaub did throw an inexcusable interception at the end of the game and the Texans were without Andre Johnson. But “Just win baby?” Absolutely.

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Sunday Evening Quick-Hitters: Reactions from Week 4 in the NFL

Every Sunday evening throughout the 2011 NFL season I’ll compile quick-hit reactions from the day that was in football. I vow to always overreact, side with sensationalism over rationalism, and draw conclusions based on small sample sizes instead of cold, hard facts. It’s the only way I know how to write…

DIDN’T SEE THAT COMING…

Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford passes against the Dallas Cowboys in the first half of their NFL football game in Arlington, Texas October 2, 2011. REUTERS/Mike Stone (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

- There were certainly plenty of people who saw the Lions going down to Dallas and beating a sub par Cowboys team. But did anyone seem them getting down by 24 points and having to rally for the second straight week on the road? This team is legit and I can’t wait to see how they’ll fare in a couple weeks when they play the Packers. The best part about seeing the Lions go 4-0 is that I know Tom “Killer” Kowalski is watching somewhere. Killer had been the Lions beat writer for MLive.com over the last two decades before abruptly passing away in his home before the season started. Him and I worked together at WDFN in Detroit and while he’s greatly missed, there’s no way he’s missing Lions mania right now. They’re finally doing it, Killer…

- When I previewed Week 4 on Thursday I wrote about how Sunday’s trip to Cincinnati was going to be a good test for the Bills, even though they were playing a 1-2 Bengals team. I wrote that because the Bills were coming off an emotional win against the Patriots and now had to travel to play a team they were expected to beat. I even told my father that this was the day the Bills lose their first game. When they took a 17-3 lead I was ready to eat my words but in a blink of an eye, the Bengals were kicking a game-winning field goal to improve to 2-2 on the season. The Bills are a good young team but they’re not good enough to overlook any opponent.

- You know, it’s rather amazing. The lockout was supposed to hurt teams with new coaching staffs and yet the 49ers are 3-1 under Jim Harbaugh and could have very easily been 4-0 had they not collapsed against Dallas in Week 2. It’s a long season but what a great job he’s done so far making the transition from Stanford to the pros. When they were down 23-3 today in Philadelphia, the Niners could have easily packed it in. But they didn’t and I think that’s a testament to Harbaugh. What a great day for comebacks and what a great win for San Fran.

- Cam Newton almost threw for 400 yards again – and against Chicago, no less. I thought he would struggle against the Bears’ Tampa 2 and he did throw a pick-six early in the game. But man-oh-man is he an athletic marvel. At this point I guess I should stop including him in the “Didn’t See that Coming” section, but I continue to be amazed at what this kid can do so early in his career.

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Sunday Evening Quick-Hitters: Reactions from Week 3 in the NFL

Every Sunday evening throughout the 2011 NFL season I’ll compile quick-hit reactions from the day that was in football. I vow to always overreact, side with sensationalism over rationalism, and draw conclusions based on small sample sizes instead of cold, hard facts. It’s the only way I know how to write…

DIDN’T SEE THAT COMING…

New England Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker (83) chases Buffalo Bills cornerback Drayton Florence, as he runs an interception in for a touchdown, in the fourth quarter of their NFL football game at Orchard Park, New York September 25, 2011. REUTERS/Doug Benz (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

- Raise your hand if you had the Bills sitting atop the AFC East standings alone after Week 3. I can hear someone right now: “Actually, I did call the Bills being 3-0.” LIAR! Nobody had the Bills at 3-0 because that would mean they would have had to beat the Patriots at home in Week 3 and pfff, like that was going to happen. Well, it did happen. Not unlike last Sunday against the Raiders, the Bill spotted the Patriots a 21-0 lead and then proceeded to storm back, intercepting Tom Brady four times as Ryan Fitzpatrick led the comeback of all comebacks. And what a great decision by Chan Gailey at the end. He knew with the score tied 31-31 and the Bills well within field goal range that he could bleed the clock, kick the field goal and leave Brady with no time to respond. Outstanding coaching move. Outstanding game. Outstanding win.

- I definitely thought the Giants would keep things closer than the 9-points that Vegas gave them heading into Philly, but wow. Didn’t see an outright win coming. With most of his receivers out due to various injuries, Eli Manning had one of the better games of his career. You really have to hand it to the Giants, who were playing on a short week and who have been banged up all year. Instead of lying down like many expected, they took the fight to the Eagles’ front doorsteps and then delivered a knockout in the fourth quarter. I don’t care if Michael Vick stays in this game or not: The Eagles weren’t winning it.

- What do you mean Cam Newton didn’t throw for 400 yards? See, total bust. Just like everyone predicted…

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