pat_white_300It’s the buzz word of the year – Wildcat – and after the Dolphins brought it from the college game into the Pros with success last year, every team wants to have it in their arsenal. Every team’s fans want their team to embrace it. Is it here to stay? Who knows, but no team is ready to live and dy by it. The Pittsburgh Steelers were ahead of it 10 years ago with Kordell ‘Slash’ Stewart and with so many converted QBs on team rosters at WR, there is clearly some opportunities. Today we look at some of the players and teams in place to keep the trend moving.

Let’s start with the Dolphins. Ronnie Brown was the trigger man last year in Miami, but the Fins went and drafted Pat White with the Wildcat in mind. Even though Brown threw the ball at times last year, opponents will have to respect what White is capable of in the passing game out of the Wildcat.

Antwaan Randle-El was an accomplished QB at Indiana, so as a WR in Washington he is already a ready-made solution if coach Jim Zorn goes in that direction.

The New York Jets have plenty of explosiveness with the likes of Leon Washington in the lineup, but it is ex-Missouri QB Brad Smith that will give ‘Gang green’ a chance to expand its Wildcat repertoir.

In Cleveland, Josh Cribbs is a weapon in the return game, at WR and with his QB pedigree, also as a Wildcat possibility for the Browns. The Browns would relish any chance to get him more touches.

San Francisco 49ers backup running back Michael Robinson was a standout QB at Penn State before making the transition into the backfield rotation. Already last season we saw some attempts, but with a more consistent base offense, the Niners could really see it evolve.

Seattle Seahawks QB Seneca Wallace got plenty of time under center last year when replacing Matt Hasselbeck, but he could well be back in the WR rotation again. If so, the Wildcat gives him some playmaking chances.

Darren McFadden ran the ‘Wildhog’ at Arkansas in a mostly run based scheme, but the Raiders intent to get him the ball in a range of ways could see the WildRaider emerge. McFadden’s teammate Michael Bush has also shown a good arm so another wrinkle could be in play.

Baltimore Ravens backup QB Troy Smith was a dual-threat in college with Ohio State and already we saw a couple of Wildcat looks from the Ravens last year for Smith. Expect more this year.

Then of course we have Michael Vick. Teams looking for a way to use Michael Vick will see this as the ideal way to not commit too much to him, but take advantage of his skills as a runner and passer. How about Vince Young? He is not the starter in Nashville, so the risk of running him more isn’t really there, so could there be a better person to have in Wildcat for the Titans?

Is the Wildcat a sales-vehicle for a player like discarded former #1 Matt Jones. Jones has had his off-field issues, but was the leading WR on the Jaguars last year, despite not really matching his first-round selection. Jones was a star QB at Arkansas and would be value for a team looking for some WR help and the chance to add a Wildcat element. The 6’6′ Jones ran 4.3 40 yard dash at the combine and certainly has the physical tools.

I bet Nebraska Cornhuskers Heisman Trophy winner Eric Crouch is wishing he has been coming out of college now. The spearhead of the Huskers option offense, Crouch never got a Qb shot in the pros and aborted attempts at Safety and WR meant his career was over. The Wildcat would have been his saviour.

There are of course some teams I am sure won’t even consider the Wildcat. Can you imagine the Indianapolis Colts taking Peyton Manning off the field for any reason? And you wouldn’t line him up at WR as a decoy merely because he becomes a target.

The Wildcat will be on show ths year, hopefully not too much, but don’t expect it to disappear just yet.

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Favre Farewells Finally

July 29, 2009

p1_favre1It has been a stellar career for Favre, but perhaps the drama and ‘will he or won’t he” speculation has clouded our memory of his fanstastic achievements in the NFL. Hopefully now, as he permanently retreats to his ranch in Mississippi, we can move forward and allow our fond memories of #4 in Wisconsin to return. Then, in 5 years time, we can start talking about him again, as a Hall of Fame surefire first ballot.

Congratulations on a great career, if only it wasn’t for the saga.

NFL Commissioner Roger Gooddell has granted Michael Vick reinstatement under conditions, with the former Atlanta FAlcons QB completing corrective services requirements.

Vick is eligible to commence training with teams immediately, can participate in the final two pre-season games, and potentially see regular season action in Week 6.

The question remains whether any team is willing to take a punt on Vick. At a minimum wage, and with an incentive-based contract, there would be some interest, but who from?

matt.leinartThis time last year former First-Round Draft Pick Matt Leinart was the expected starter for the Arizona. Now, entering the season as defending NFC champions, the Arizona Cardinals will ride the arm of veteran Kurt Warner who led the best season in Cardinals history.

With Warner atop the depth chart, where does that leave Matt Leinart? Is he the future of the franchise? How long the Warner revival in Az lasts is yet to be seen, but many are suggesting the inability of Leinart to have put a stranglehold on the spot before Warner’s ascension is a sign that he isn’t the future for Head Coach Ken Whisenhunt.

Leinart has plenty to gain by watching Warner at work. The knock on Leinart, among a few, has been his maturity, dedication and professionalism (eg. when searching for images of Leinart, the google images search revealed a page of party shots prior to any of Leinart in uniform). No doubt he can gain plenty of valuable lessons from Warner in this regard and, given the opportunity in 1 or 2 years, should be a better player than the one who was almost handed the reigns in 2008.

Leinart still has the physical tools, although there are those who doubt his arm strength, and no doubt he will be hoping that there is comparable supporting – ie. Fitzgerald, Boldin and Breaston – but that is unlikely.

The scrutiny won’t be as close this pre-season on Leinart’s development and performance, but it could be his pre-season this year that could be indicative of where he really sits in the Cardinals plans.

An interesting article on si.com about the potential impact NY Jets rookie QB Mark Sanchez might have on the NFL’s penetration into tue hispanic market. Check it out here.

jp-losmanIt might be a backwards leap, but former first-round QB JP Losman is hoping gametime in the fledgling UFL will give him the chance to resurrect his NFL career. After being supplanted by Trent Edwards in Buffalo, Losman became an unrestricted free agent, but has been unable to land a gig. Losman figures to have a chance to pickup a backup job during or post-training camp, but was willing to take the chance to become the most prominent member of the inaugural league. See the espn.com story here.

Big Ben in Big Trouble?

July 22, 2009

BenRoethlisbergerPittsburgh Pro-Bowl Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been accused of sexual assault by a woman over an incident in Reno, Nevada last year. Read NFL.com’s coverage here.

71465469EG021_Houston_TexanAs NFL teams enjoy a brief break before entering Training Camp, we thought it was worth examining the depth charts across the league. Who has the best QB situation? Who has the worst? What are the backup options like? Who has the players capable of leading their team to the Superbowl?

New England and Indianapolis are blessed with two of the very best quarterbacks in the NFL, including the winners of the past two MVP trophies. But behind the durable Manning sits a player who doesn’t fill Colts fans with confidence or opponents with fear – Jim Sorgi. Sorgi has comfortably carried Manning’s clipboard for a few years now, and in his annual taste of action in the final regular season game when the Colts have secured playoff positioning and Peyton earns a break he has looked like an adequate backup. But if Manning were to go down hurt during the regular season, would he be capable of leading the team?

Last year, as the Patriots lost Tom Brady during the first game of the season, nobody thought they could do anything without him. Enter Matt Cassel (pictured), the unheralded backup who didn’t even start in college. Cassel, after some early shakes lead the Patriots to an 11-5 record.  But now, Cassel has parlayed that performance into a big dollar deal in Kansas City and behind Brady is an even more shaky support crew.

So who in the NFL has the best situation in place if the current starter were to be injured? This blogger has three suggestions – Miami, Cleveland and Minnesota.

Interestingly, none of these teams would be in my Top 10 for best starting quarterback, but in terms of their reliance on their #1 and capability of the backup, there is a change. Miami starter Chad Pennington was a rightful winner of Comeback Player of the Year, leading the incredible turnaround for the Dolphins from 1-15 to the playoffs. Behind Pennington is second-year player Chad Henne who has thrown all of 20 NFL passes, but has the skills and the smarts to fill in well for Pennington if needed, so much so that if he were pressed into duty, it would be tough to see him lose the gig (perhaps that says more about his upside and Pennington’s stage of career). In Cleveland, new coach Eric Mangini doesn’t know who is the starter – Brady Quinn or Derek Anderson. Either way, the Browns have a former Pro-Bowler (2007) in Derek Anderson and a future Pro-Bowler in Quinn at their disposal, this is certainly a most comfortable position compared to some teams. What about the Vikings? Even before we discuss Brett Favre, the Vikes have Tarvaris Jackson starting. Jackon is an unproven, work in progress who showed some development last year. Behind him is Sage Rosenfels, the former Texan acquired in a trade. Rosenfels is a great fit for coach Brad Childress’ West Coast scheme and was thought to even be capable of challenging Jackson. Throw Favre into the mix and you have some uncertainty, but some good options.

So then, which teams have the most to lose with an injury to their starter? Given we have already mentioned the PAtriots and Colts, how about 3 other suggestions – Chicago, Seattle and New York Giants. On this occasion, we are talking about losing Pro Bowl players. The Bears newly hired-gun Jay Cutler is a superstar, but behind him there is noone that Lovie Smith could possibly trust. Even when Orton was the starter, he at least had servicable Rex Grossman in place.  We have seen how Matt Hasselbeck was missed last season, and Seneca Wallace isn’t quite a long-term answer for the Seahawks, despite being a great athlete. With no true veteran experience in the lineup behind Hasselbeck, new Head Coach Jim Mora Jr will be hoping for a healthy year from his Pro Bowl thrower. Eli Manning has had his knocks, but he is undeniably a leader and invaluable to coach Tom Coughlin. David Carr is a former #1 overall pick as his backup. Sounds like impressive pedigree, but is the big blue machine ready to be turned over to him? Sure they have  a strong run game, but with a limited pass offense minus Manning, Jacobs and Bradshaw would see a lot of stacked boxes.

It is early days yet, but injuries shape seasons and how the team responds to the new leader under center is critical. I am sure there are many collective fingers crossed entering the 2009 season.

QB Drops Around the Web

July 16, 2009

Heather Dinich has a piece on U of Miami QB Jacory Harris with a Q & A style. Check out the article on ESPN here.

Big Ten writer Adam Rittenberg talks to Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz and QB Ricky Stanzi about his development. See the full story here.

Ensuring the Big 12 doesn’t miss out, Bruce Feldman enters Q & A world with Kansas signallcaller Todd Reesing.

USC+v+Oregon+State+2Q7pM0lHDNalWith shoulder surgery behind him, Lyle Moevao, QB at the helm of Oregon State’s demolition of USC last season, is back on the road to the season, albeit with Sean Canfield keen to ensure there is plenty of competition for the spot.

Read more courtesy of oregonlive.com