Welcome to the first addition of Sports Nickel’s NFL Rewind. This article will take a look at the weekly goings on of the National Football League. As we all know, football is quickly becoming America’s new past time, and news of its greatest League always takes precedent in the sporting world. However, while I’ll still be recapping and discussing the biggest stories of the week, here I’ll be taking a deeper look into the actual football at hand.
Although the official NFL regular season has yet to begin, there are still plenty of headlines circulating throughout the league. Teams are in the initial phases of training camp, and soon enough position battles and personnel questions will be at the forefront of discussions. So until the regular season starts, I’ll try and keep you up to date on all the need-to-know transactions and team-based progression.
Without further ado, let’s get to Sports Nickel’s first weekly NFL Rewind!
The Preseason Dilemma
It’s been one of the long-standing traditions of the National Football League: preseason action. For years, teams have been getting together to play games before the start of the regular season to prepare for the upcoming weeks.
Teams use it as a time to both allow their starters to slowly re-immerse themselves in full-speed football, while providing backups and those on the bubble to state their case for a roster spot. Offenses are still working out patterns and plays, defenses are adjusting to the flow of the game. Yet while preseason games seem like a harmless warm-up for the regular season, they are one of the most heated topics of debate for the NFL.
Most wonder why so much time and effort is devoted to supposed meaningless games. Starters are only seen for a couple series at most, and even when in, don’t reveal their full repertoire of weapons. Then add in the injuries that often occur before even a real snap. Ask Broncos fans, who have already had to see running backs Knowshon Moreno and Correll Buckhalter and defensive star Elvis Dumervil suffer potentially serious injury. When a player’s entire season can change in an instant, why bother with games that don’t offer much?[pullquote]When a player’s entire season can change in an instant, why bother with games that don’t offer much?[/pullquote]
Both sides of the debate have merit, so it’s difficult to determine what the league should do. Indecision can be seen throughout the league, as rumors of a reduced preseason have yet to carry much weight. Any change to the current NFL offseason format could potentially have backlash. Yes, many players, coaches, and teams could do without the added risk of preseason games, but a lot of information can be derived from full-speed football.
Where the real issue resides, however, seems to be in money. Where else? The fact remains that football in America, specifically the National Football League, sells at all costs. The game has overtaken the other major sports to be the country’s biggest athletic staple. Is the league really ready to sacrifice the cash flow that preseason games bring? While no exhibition match will bring in as much as a regular season rivalry, football is still football.
It will be interesting to see how the Commissioner and his office handle the situation, for it could have noteworthy ramifications. The day-to-day fan may not realize it, but the NFL preseason is a trusted asset to both coaches’ playbooks and the league’s wallet.
Next we’ll cover some of the more prominent headlines, while taking a deeper look into their team-based impacts.
1st Down and Favre
No one is as tired of the Favre Saga as yours truly, believe me. The will he/won’t he headlines that surface annually seem more out of a teen TV drama than the National Football League. But even I have to admit that Brett Favre’s status as an active or retired player could significantly alter the results of the NFL in 2010.
The Division champs in 2009, the Vikings now face more competition. The Packers seem contenders for not only the division, but also for the Super Bowl; the Bears have improved and look to utilize Jay Cutler’s arm more effectively; and even the lowly Lions seem on track to surprise a few teams. Needless to say, Brett Favre could decide Minnesota’s fate.
For who would replace Favre? He did throw that late interception against New Orleans, but there’s no denying that Favre was imperative to Minnesota’s weekly success last season. He has the arm to get the ball downfield to receivers Sidney Rice and Bernard Berrian, and the accuracy to hit Percy Harvin on the wing or across the middle. On the depth chart behind him sits Tarvaris Jackson, who has yet to prove anything. Perhaps he’s gained wisdom under Favre’s tutelage, but can he be relied uponweek in, week out? A run-first/pass-second penchant, less-than-stellar accuracy, and a questionable arm raise concerns.
2nd Down and Haynesworth
It had dominated headlines in the District for weeks, but Albert Haynesworth’s holdout from practice appears to be over. In an attempt to alter his status as a defensive tackle, and most likely to piss off new head coach Mike Shanahan, Haynesworth failed conditioning tests. He has been fairly public not only about his desire to get out of the Shanahan’s 3-4, but Haynesworth has also requested he be moved.
Truth is, he might actually have a case. His last year with the Titans earned him his enormous contract, and he did so in a 4-3 scheme. Haynesworth was able to control the middle with some pressure taken off by his fellow DT. In Shanahan’s system, he may not be as effective. With that much more attention given to him in the middle, his game will suffer.
If the Redskins want to maximize Haynesworth’s impact, they need to find a way to clear his path to the QB. While moving him to defensive end seems logical, he doesn’t seem like a fit, even with all that weight lost.
3rd Down and Dumervil
Recently Broncos’ defensive standout Elvis Dumervil went down with a torn pectoral muscle, and could miss the entire season. Even more so than Haynesworth in Washington, the absence of Dumervil on the Denver defense could have a profound effect. In 2009, Dumervil not only lead the team in sacks, but he nearly posed the only pass-rushing threat on the entire team. Dumervil led the league in sacks last year with 17, and the next closest on the Broncos was Vonnie Holliday, with 5 (coincidentally, Holliday now plays for the Redskins).
The Broncos already face a challenge in their division with the perennial contending Chargers, but losing their only threat on defense could hamper their whole season. Without that pressure off the corner, quarterbacks will have more time to survey the field and make the right play. The pressure to succeed now sits on veterans Champ Bailey and Brain Dawkins’s shoulders. Denver better hope former 1st round picks Jarvis Moss and Robert Ayers make big leaps in training camp.
4th Down and Holdout
As is with the case in most sports, the same story lines are re-tread before every season. Which players will live up to potential and how a team’s chemistry will develop are common, and in the NFL, contract disputes seem to be at the forefront.
Every offseason there is a new star complaining about his current deal, threatening to hold the team and organization for ransom. Many of them have a case, like Texans’ receiver Andre Johnson, in which both sides come to a quick, mutually appeasing outcome.
On the other hand, take Jets’ CB Darrelle Revis. He had arguably the best season of any secondary player in 2009, and now wants max money. I’m not alone in saying that both sides have taken outlandish stances. I understand he was a Pro Bowler in the last two seasons, and the Jets need to protect themselves as an organization, but this ego contest has gone too far.
The effects of such player-franchise tug-of-wars can only have negative repercussions. As my colleague Matt Strobl duly noted, rookies are already receiving astronomical salaries. It shouldn’t be surprising that they too now hold out until mid-August, potentially missing camp.
Now we’ll get some quick hits of some interesting points around the NFL.
- Is Brian Cushing’s alleged use of steroids that big a surprise for the NFL? And more importantly, do fans really care, or is all this a carry-over from MLB?
- Tony Romo had a good statistical 2009, but one has to wonder how much longer Jerry is willing to start him as the drought in Dallas continues.
- Everyone’s wondering if there are enough passes to go around in Cincinnati, but I’m more curious to see what should be another talent-laden defense in the AFC North.
- Is the NFL becoming more balanced? It seems as though every division has at least two playoff hopefuls this year, with most having three.
As one of our last segments, we’ll investigate one of the worst calls, plays, or headlines in the past week’s NFL action.
Flag on the Field
Contract holdouts, whining players, and Brett Favre aside, one thing has stuck out to me as a problem in the NFL. I refer to hazing of rookies.
No, I am not a purist who is against the practice. I actually have nothing wrong with it. Spraying the rookies with water, shaving their heads, and making them run an extra lap are small prices to pay as a first year player. Football is about respect and responsibility, and if a rookie can go through the minor initiations and still demand his place on the team, I give him that much more credit.
It’s not as though this is a new tradition, either. It occurs in every training camp of every year. What I find a problem with is the sudden upheaval of the media toward the practice of it. To act so outrageous that such things could possibly happen in a league where grown men fight, hit each other, and use general anger as motivation on a daily basis seems two-faced to me.
I say take it easy. These players are used to fighting for approval, so let them have their fun and calm down.
Finally, we’ll take some extra time to look ahead to some of next week’s top headlines.
Next on the Schedule
Usually we’ll be taking a gander at the next week’s key matchups, such as team vs. team, player vs. player, and coach vs. team, but seeing that even preseason games have yet to get into full swing, we’ll just all go to recess early today.