|07-18-2003, 07:00 PM||#2|
Join Date: Apr 2003
Welcome Drew. The article does\'nt mention the Saints at all. It\'s by Ryan Early he does\'nt seem to be much of a Saints fan. I\'m sure he\'ll have something to say ( and it wont be good) when he does the same article on defense. I\'ve posted the article below. If you like I can post the defense article when it appears.
The Best and Worst: Offense
By Ryan Early
Thursday, July 17
Updated: July 18
12:27 PM ET
After reading our own Len Pasquarelli\'s article last week on the deepest team units in the league, we wanted to take a look at the best units in football in terms of overall talent. We break down the top 5 units in the league at a variety of positions. And just to throw in a bit of controversy, we added the bottom 3 units as well. In these rankings, a superstar is just as important as the talent at his surrounding positions.
Running Game Skill Positions
(Halfback, Fullback, Blocking Tight Ends, H-Backs)
Former NFL Most Valuable Player Marshall Faulk may be the best all-around running back in the league, but a relative void at talent at the Rams\' other positions like fullback, tight end and backup running back pushes the Rams running unit out of the top five. We were tempted to rank the Falcons here, because of Michael Vick\'s running ability. Instead, here are five teams that have gone out of their way to not only have outstanding runners but put their talented backs in the best position to succeed.
1. Kansas City Chiefs - Provided he\'s as healthy as he says he is, Priest Holmes leads the Chiefs to the top of our list. Kansas City had no idea they were discovering a superstar when they signed Holmes as a free agent two years ago, but he has blown through 2000 total yards from scrimmage in both seasons in Kansas City, including last year when he missed the final two games of the season with a hip injury. Concerns over that injury pushed the Chiefs to take this year\'s top rookie runner, Larry Johnson out of Penn State. Johnson has a rare combination of size and speed and can take the pounding of running inside and still break a long gain if he gets into the secondary. Fullback Tony Richardson is one of the more versatile in the league, equally adept at blocking, running and receiving, and blocking tight end Jason Dunn is brought in to get that short yardage surge.
2. San Diego Chargers - The workhorse in the Chargers\' offense is third-year running back LaDainian Tomlinson, the best young runner in the league. In his first two seasons, Tomlinson has carried the ball 711 times and made another 138 receptions. He made dramatic improvement from his rookie to sophomore seasons, increasing his per carry average almost a full yard while cutting his number of fumbles from eight to three. The Chargers decided to give him a hand and signed Pro Bowl fullback Lorenzo Neal in free agency from the Bengals. Neal has been the lead blocker for a 1,000-yard back an incredible six straight seasons, and there is none better at blasting linebackers out of the way. Tight end Stephen Alexander is the one weak spot in the Chargers unit as he has trouble staying healthy.
3. Miami Dolphins - The value of Ricky Williams is much debated in South Florida as the Dolphins traded away two first-round draft picks for Williams thinking he was the missing piece to their Super Bowl puzzle, then didn\'t even make the playoffs last year. But Williams did lead the league in rushing with 1,853 yards. In four seasons, Williams\' yardage totals and averages have increased every year. Could he be the league\'s next 2,000-yard rusher? Fullback Rob Konrad improved his lead blocking last year and can also carry the ball to give the offense a change of pace. The team lost its best blocking tight end through free agency in Jed Weaver, and will try to make do with second-year tight end Randy McMichael and their big rookie, Donald Lee.
4. Denver Broncos - This looks to be the first season in five years that the Broncos have a repeat leading rusher. While the Broncos have taken unknown runners and gotten them excellent seasons, Clinton Portis looked like a special back in his rookie season. The league\'s Offensive Rookie of the Year ran for over 1,500 yards, had a spectacular 5.5 yard rushing average and scored 17 touchdowns despite not starting the first four games of the season. Former 1,400 yard back Mike Anderson is still around and can be used at both halfback and fullback, giving the Broncos a double-threat by putting him in the backfield at the same time with Portis. The main lead blocking job will be fought out between Rueben Droughns and rookie Kyle Johnson in training camp. The competition should improve the play at the position. The Broncos have one of the better blocking tight ends in the league in Dwayne Carswell, but he is suddenly facing some legal trouble that could limit his availability.
5. Green Bay Packers - When healthy, Ahman Green is one of the best runners in the league. The only problem is, he takes too many hits and gets banged up every season. His 4.3 yard average last season was the envy of many backs, but was his career low. To help him out, the Packers plan on giving more carries to second-year back Najeh Davenport, a 250-pounder who averaged 4.7 yards per carry in his rookie season. Fullback William Henderson has developed into an outstanding lead blocker and can also run the ball and get a few catches. Nick Luchey comes in via free agency and flashed his potential as a power runner last season. Backup running back Tony Fisher had two 90-yard games when forced to start. Tight end Bubba Franks loves to throw his big body around as a blocker to round out this full cast of characters.
1. Washington Redskins - The Redskins under Steve Spurrier have transformed their offense to feature the pass first and the run a distant second. When they do run the ball, they figure it will be mostly on draw plays, forgetting the need to run the clock to hold a lead in the second half. Perhaps they don\'t intend to have many leads. As such, they released Stephen Davis before the start of free agency and traded for the fumble-prone Trung Canidate, who ended up in the Rams\' doghouse because of his horrible practice habits. Backups Ladell Betts and Kenny Watson had some good games at the tail end of the 2002 season, and Betts has the chance to push Canidate out of the starting role, but the more likely scenario is that all three, along with return specialist Chad Morton, will get playing time. The \'Skins have two decent young fullbacks in Bryan Johnson and the aptly named Rock Cartwright, but tight end Zeron Flemister is not much of a blocker.
2. Dallas Cowboys - After jettisoning the NFL\'s all-time leading rusher, the Cowboys enter the post-Emmitt Smith era with a main back who cared so much about finally getting his opportunity to start that he showed up to the team\'s first minicamp overweight. Whether Troy Hambrick can work his way out of Bill Parcells\' doghouse during training camp remains to be seen, but the Cowboys don\'t have a lot of other options. Michael Wiley is a good outside threat but couldn\'t hold up to the every-down pounding. Aveion Cason, acquired in a trade with the Lions, is a third down back. Dallas missed several other opportunities to improve its backfield in the offseason, so it must have a lot of faith in Hambrick. Fullback Jamar Martin missed his rookie season with a leg injury. Tight end Dan Campbell is the one really good thing going for the Cowboys in the running game, but Parcells always had a need for an outstanding blocking tight end and signed the former Giant in free agency. Rookie tight end Jason Whitten was taken in the third round but could be the best tight end in this year\'s class.
3. New England Patriots - Two years ago, Antowain Smith was the catalyst to the Patriots\' Super Bowl run, perfect for grinding out yards and holding onto the ball to work the clock. When he took it easy last year after signing a big money contract, the Patriots had to shift gears and went to a pass-happy offensive philosophy. Because of Smith\'s contract, the Patriots were hesitant to get rid of him just to spend more money on his replacement. Instead, they hope to motivate Smith to return to form. Antwaine Womack sat out his rookie season with a knee injury but could push Smith in training camp. Kevin Faulk is a really good change-of-pace back but is a better receiver than runner. Fullback Fred McCrary comes from San Diego as a free agent with maybe one more season left in him. Young tight end Daniel Graham has a lot of potential as a blocker.
Passing Game Skill Positions
(Quarterback, Wide Receiver, Tight End, Running Back)
Everyone likes to debate who the best quarterbacks are, or the best wide receiver tandem. We\'ll look at the whole unit. Talent-wise, which teams are stocked right down the line at every position? While Pasquarelli rightly ranked the Browns as having the deepest group of wide receivers, they don\'t come close to the top five overall. The Bills certainly would have made this group last year, but their loss of Peerless Price breaks up one of the best receiving tandems in the league.
1. Oakland Raiders - The Raiders may have fallen one step shy of their dreams last year, but they got to sports\' biggest game through the air. Quarterback Rich Gannon is the most accurate passer in the league, and had to be with an aging receiving corps that had problems stretching the field vertically. With the emergence of young receiver Jerry Porter and tight end Doug Jolley, that should change this year. Future Hall of Famers Jerry Rice and Tim Brown return as well to work the middle of the field, setting up defenders with every move and head bob. Just when defenses think they can\'t possibly cover everyone, Charlie Garner sneaks out of the backfield into the flat to turn a dump pass into a big gain. It\'s no wonder Gannon briefly teased the league with breaking Dan Marino\'s single season yardage record last year.
2. Indianapolis Colts - Marvin Harrison didn\'t just break the single season receiving record last year, he shattered it. He caught 143 passes last year, all from Peyton Manning, who by the way is the only quarterback in the history of the NFL to have four consecutive 4,000-yard seasons. Those two by themselves are enough to get them this high ranking. Anything Reggie Wayne can bring to the table in his third season is a plus. The Colts are used to having good supplementary receivers from their tight end and running back positions, but Edgerrin James struggled in his first year back from injury and Marcus Pollard was asked to stay back and block more frequently. James should be back to his previous dominant form this season, and the Colts drafted Dallas Clark, a good receiving tight end.
3. St. Louis Rams - The Rams believe most of their problems on offense last year stemmed from their offensive line, and we\'re inclined to believe them. Kurt Warner could return to his super productive form behind an upgraded line this year, but young Mac Bulger is waiting to once again take over after finishing with a 101.5 passer rating last season. Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt are an outstanding receiver duo, both going over 1,000 yards receiving each of the past three years. Marshall Faulk is the best receiving running back in the league. The only drawback to the unit is the loss of tight end Ernie Conwell in free agency. The oversized Brandon Manmaleuna will try to replace him.
4. New York Giants - Despite losing Ike Hilliard halfway through last season and never getting a viable replacement for him in the lineup, the Giants\' passing game still racked up some huge numbers. Tight end Jeremy Shockey was the difference maker, causing so many match-up problems that defenses just did not know how to handle him. Amani Toomer worked the deep half of the field while Tiki Barber frequently shot out of the backfield and into pass patterns. The three combined for 225 receptions and 2,834 yards, helping Kerry Collins to his first-ever 4,000-yard season. With Hilliard returning, could the Giants put up even bigger stats?
5. Pittsburgh Steelers - The most prolific receiving tandem in the league in 2002 was the dynamic duo of Hines Ward and Plaxico Burress. They finished just four yards apart in their season totals, Ward with 1,329 to Burress\' 1,325, and combined for 190 receptions and 19 touchdowns. Antwaan Randle El provided an extra spark as the team\'s third receiver with his open field running and unique ability to run trick plays. Amos Zereoue is a good receiver out of the backfield who made 42 catches last year. The Steelers quarterbacks combined for over 4,000 passing yards in 2002, and Tommy Maddox is looking forward to getting all those yards for himself now that Kordell Stewart has left for Chicago. While Ward and Burress will continue to lead this group, the ball should be spread around more with the continued improvement of Randle El and the signing of Jay Riemersma, the first time the Steelers have had a good receiver at the tight end position since they drafted Eric Green in the early \'90s.
1. Arizona Cardinals - The Cardinals\' offense went on Oprah for a complete makeover. Unfortunately, Oprah doesn\'t know a lot about football. They kicked to the curb their starting quarterback and top three wide receivers and replaced them with journeyman Jeff Blake and a host of no-names and rookies at wide receiver. Tight end Freddie Jones is the only quality veteran returning and he had a very disappointing season. It is very possible that the Cardinals will start two rookie wide receivers as they spent high draft picks on Bryant Johnson and Anquan Boldin. The collection of rabble they have to beat out includes Jason McAddley, Bryan Gilmore, Larry Foster and Kevin Kasper.
2. Detroit Lions - It is always difficult for a team to function with a rookie quarterback under center, but the Lions didn\'t help matters much last season by acquiring receivers who were more concerned with their track time than catching the ball. The Lions should be improved with Joey Harrington having another year in the league to learn and grow. While Bill Schroeder remains a starter and Az-Zahir Hakim attempts to come back from an ugly hip injury, the Lions are counting a lot on rookie Charles Rogers being able to not only start but be the team\'s \"go to\" guy. That\'s asking an awful lot for a rookie, no matter how talented. Tight end Mikhael Ricks will have a better year thanks to Rogers\' presence but is far from an elite player at the position.
3. Carolina Panthers - The team enters training camp with a three-way battle for the starting quarterback job with 37-year-old Rodney Peete the favorite. Peete has never gotten through a season in one piece, so Jake Delhomme was brought in from the Saints to compete with him and Chris Weinke. Head coach John Fox was never satisfied with Muhsin Muhammad and Steve Smith as his starting receivers and pushed for the team to sign Kevin Dyson away from the Titans. Unfortunately, the oft-injured Dyson has already been lost for the season. Ricky Proehl is the third receiver but has the surest hands on the team. Tight ends Kris Mangum and rookie Mike Seider will try to replace Wesley Walls.
It was difficult to narrow down the list of great offensive lines to just five. Several outstanding units were left out, including the Steelers, who have one of the best interior lines in the league, the Redskins, who already had two excellent tackles and filled in the rest this offseason, a Cardinals line filled with hulking behemoths, and a 49er unit that has always taken guys nobody else wanted and put together an outstanding unit.
1. Kansas City Chiefs - Left tackle Willie Roaf came to the Chiefs last season through a trade and became the final piece to the team\'s line. While he is no longer a force in the running game, he dominated opponents with his pass blocking, allowing his quarterback plenty of time to wait for the downfield patterns to develop. Right tackle John Tait went through an adjustment period in shifting sides, but was playing very well over the second half of the season. Right guard Will Shields has now gone to eight Pro Bowls and is looking as good as ever. The other two interior linemen, left guard Brian Waters and Casey Wiegmann, are finally getting the recognition they deserve as they both are very mobile and can pull and trap to spring open Priest Holmes\' runs.
2. Philadelphia Eagles - No other team sent three linemen to the Pro Bowl last year, but the Eagles will be hard pressed to do so again. Tra Thomas has the potential to be among the best left tackles in the league, but he seems to suffer from a lack of motivation or focus. For every game in which he abuses defenders, he has another in which he gets beat by guys he should easily handle. On the right side, Jon Runyan is a force in the running game. He loves to lay into an opponent and physically manhandle him. Unfortunately his aggressiveness can work against him in pass blocking and a defender can get him off balance. Guard Jermaine Mayberry is a perfect match with Runyan on the right side as his strength is pass blocking and can frequently make up for Runyan\'s mistakes there. Left guard John Welbourn is a converted tackle with the size to match and does a good job matching up with the league\'s bigger defensive tackles. Center Hank Fraley is the youngster of the group but has a lot of upside and his teammates already trust him to make the correct blocking call on every play. Together, the Eagles\' line has no weaknesses, with the sometimes seen potential to play as the league\'s best unit.
3. St. Louis Rams - Provided Orlando Pace doesn\'t have a prolonged holdout (which is very possible considering how far apart he and the Rams management are concerning his contract) the Rams will have taken a group that allowed the fifth-most sacks last year along with so many hits on the quarterback that the position resembled a MASH unit, and turned it into one of the league\'s top units. Pace is a man mountain who is impossible to bull rush and has the quick feet and long arms to keep the speed rushers from getting around him. If he holds out, the Rams will shift newly acquired tackle Kyle Turley, known for his fiery temperament and fierce competitiveness. While Turley can handle himself on the left side, he can be dominant on the right. Adam Timmerman is the third standout Rams lineman, they signed center Dave Wohlabaugh to be a bigger more athletic center who excels in pass blocking, and the solid Andy McCollum slides over to left guard.
4. Seattle Seahawks - Here\'s another holdout possibility with left tackle Walter Jones still upset at being hit with the Franchise tag for the second season in a row. Last year he held out of training camp and looks likely to do so again as he wants to be paid as the best tackle in the league and the Seahawks are only willing to pay him as the second best. When happy and healthy, Jones combines with guard Steve Hutchinson as the best left side in the NFL. Hutchinson missed 12 games last season with a broken leg, but that forced the front office to improve the unit\'s depth. The big addition that vaulted the Seahawks line into one of the top units was the signing of right tackle Chris Terry off waivers from the Panthers, and then signing him to a new long-term contract. Terry was a bit of a party animal off the field and the Panthers finally got fed up with it, but he continues that animal persona on the field and was a major reason for the Seahawks\' offensive push at the end of last season. Robbie Tobeck is best playing in space when pulling on running plays. He can play both guard and center. Chris Gray is the projected fifth starter but will have to hold off challenges from converted tackles Jerry Wunsch and Pork Chop Womack.
5. Oakland Raiders - Entering the 2002 season, the Raiders were thought to have the top unit in the league. But while they still have incredible depth and above average players at every position, the unit was knocked down a few notches last year. Left tackle Barry Sims had trouble against speed rushers, and was just destroyed in the Super Bowl by Simeon Rice. Center Barrett Robbins is one of the best in the league, but depression caused him to skip the biggest game of the year and he may not be accepted back by his teammates. Right tackle Lincoln Kennedy struggled through the season with migraines caused by his playing, but was voted to the Pro Bowl once again and is coming back for another attempt at a championship. Mo Collins is one of the league\'s best guards but no team wanted to match his asking price in free agency and he re-signed with the Raiders on the cheap. Frank Middleton remains the fifth starter, but could be challenged by a host of others who comprise the deepest unit in the league.
1. Houston Texans - The team\'s first pick of its expansion draft, and projected franchise cornerstone, left tackle Tony Boselli will retire without ever playing a down for the franchise. Without Boselli last year, they were forced to play a rookie who would fit better at guard at the all-important left tackle spot. The entire line had none of the chemistry and trust that is so difficult to build yet necessary to play well together. Chester Pitts will once again take over at left tackle, but the Texans are now forced to shuffle their entire lineup from what they worked on during the minicamps under the assumption that Boselli would play. The other positions will all be filled by players with starting experience. Zach Wiegert is versatile enough to play four positions and joins the team through free agency from the Jaguars. He\'ll shift over to right tackle, unless Greg Randle proves capable. Steve McKinney is the one standout on the line at center and lends his vast experience to this young unit. Fred Weary figures to have one of the guard spots, with the other filled by either Milford Brown, Ryan Schau or Todd Washington. The Texans have more depth this year than last, but have not improved talent-wise on a unit that gave up a record 76 sacks last year.
2. Cleveland Browns - This is a unit built and designed with one thing in mind, run blocking. That\'s different from just about every other offensive line in the pass-happy NFL but could work out for the Browns. The line came together over the second half of the season and started opening holes for rookie running back William Green. In the offseason, they replaced Steve Wohlabaugh at center with rookie Jeff Faine, who is a much better run blocker than the veteran was. Both of the team\'s tackles, Ross Verba and Ryan Tucker, play the positions mostly because the Browns have nobody better to man them. Both are good run blockers but would be better suited to play guard. They each struggle in pass blocking though Verba has learned plenty of tricks over the years to help him get by. The inside guard spots are up for grabs in training camp with coach Butch Davis leaning toward going with the younger but much bigger combo of Melvin Fowler and Qasim Mitchell. Mitchell is the team\'s biggest lineman at 6-6 and 340 pounds, and Davis has visions of the second-year player mauling defenders in the run game. It may be a very good thing that the team has two starting caliber quarterbacks, though, as with the line\'s poor pass blocking, they\'ll both get plenty of playing time.
3. New York Giants - Last year, offensive line coach Jim McNally worked wonders with a unit filled with young, inexperienced but athletic players last season and built them into a cohesive unit that was playing exceptionally well by the end of the year. Now it is back to the drawing board as the entire right side of the line left in free agency. Left tackle Luke Petitgout is the one blue chipper in the bunch. The Giants were ridiculed for taking him too high when they selected him in the first round of the 1999 draft, but their scouts were right when everyone else\'s were wrong. Left guard Rich Seubert and center Chris Bober also return and will be leaned on heavily. Expect the majority of runs to go to that side, just like two years ago when the situation was reversed and the team ran almost exclusively to the right. The right side might start the season with veteran but perpetual backup Barrett Brooks as the starter at tackle and Jeff Hatch, who missed his entire rookie season with a back injury, at guard. But that could change on a weekly basis. The coaches have a good initial impression of rookie fifth-round pick David Diehl, but that\'s before they\'ve put the pads on. Second-year tackle Ian Allen is also in the mix. Regardless of who starts, the line should be athletic but inexperienced and not very strong in run blocking. That could really hurt without a strong inside runner in the backfield and in short-yardage situations.
|07-18-2003, 09:04 PM||#3|
Join Date: Jul 2003
thanks saints5221. The saints get no respect at all from espn. wait until the season starts, then we\'ll finally get some respect.
|07-18-2003, 09:15 PM||#4|
1000 Posts +
Join Date: Apr 2003
Location: Cary, NC
Don\'t worry. This guy didn\'t list the Bucs either, and all they did was win the Superbowl.
I think we can safely say that this guy\'s opinion isn\'t worth squat.