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Every down players?
Notebook: Every down, these guys were there
March 31, 2005
By Pete Prisco
SportsLine.com Senior Writer
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Insider | Notebook
Staying on the field.
We hear that phrase all the time from coaches, who also preach it to their players on a regular basis. You get no pub in the tub.
But in this era of situational substitution, it's tough for somebody to play all of his team's plays, even if healthy.
Usually, the list of guys who take part in 100 percent of their team's offensive or defensive plays is mostly made up of offensive linemen.
The 2004 list is no different. According to NFL Players Association data, 55 players were credited with taking part in 100 percent of their team's offensive or defensive plays. Of those 55, 42 were offensive linemen, four were quarterbacks and the other nine were defensive players.
Most teams carry only 8-10 offensive linemen, and usually only eight or so are active on game day. So there isn't much substituting at all, even in blowouts. That's why they play so much.
It's the nine defensive players who should get the most credit. If you stay on the field in this era of situational substitution, it means you're a heck of a player. It means you can tackle against the run, yet have the ability to play in coverage. It also means you stay healthy.
The nine were Ravens safety Ed Reed, Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey, Browns safety Robert Griffith, Panthers safety Mike Minter, Texans linebacker Jamie Sharper, Saints safety Jay Bellamy, Seahawks safety Ken Hamlin, Redskins linebacker Antonio Pierce and Redskins linebacker Marcus Washington.
Minter is the real winner.
He is the only defensive player to play all of his team's plays in each of the past two seasons. That's special in this era, and he should be lauded for it.
Here are some other observations obtained from the play-time lists:
There are 14 offensive linemen who have played all of their team's plays the past two seasons. The Falcons -- center Todd McClure and right tackle Todd Weiner -- and Jets -- left tackle Jason Fabini and right tackle Kareem McKenzie -- each had two.
The four quarterbacks who were credited with taking all their team's snaps in 2004 were David Carr of the Texans, Minnesota's Daunte Culpepper, Aaron Brooks of the Saints and Denver's Jake Plummer. No quarterback took all the snaps in 2003.
Despite the growing injury concerns in the league, significantly more players took all the snaps last season than in 2003: 55 to 35.
Around the league
The NFL plans to tighten up its testing for performance-enhancing drugs. That's a wise thing. Players have been abusing the system for years, even though it's one of the better programs of any of the sports leagues. There have been several players who insist that human Growth Hormone has been used with regularity. Testosterone, which is at the core of a scandal involving three Carolina Panthers players, is another problem. The league plans to bring its policy in line with the new standards set earlier this year by the International Olympic Committee, which will make it tougher to use the substances like testosterone cream. The league has been suspending players since 1989 for steroid abuse. It's a program that needed to be implemented; as Saints coach Jim Haslett said last week, use was rampant in the 1970s and 1980s. Haslett took a lot of heat for his comments -- even admitting he used steroids -- but let's give the guy credit for honesty. Haslett sometimes says things others won't, and for that he should be saluted. What he said about steroids was dead on. The NFL does not want its competitive balance questioned, which is why performance-enhancing drugs are viewed much worse than recreational drugs in the league's substance-abuse program. To think players aren't skirting the tests in some way would be naÃƒÂƒÃ‚Â¯ve. Players know how to beat the system. Just ask any player on any team, and he'll tell you that.
What the heck are the Broncos thinking? They add four defensive linemen from a Browns defense that allowed 144.6 rushing yards per game, and they think they're going to be better? In the past month, the Broncos have added Gerard Warren and Courtney Brown and traded for Ebenezer Ekuban and Michael Myers. Ekuban and Brown have injury issues, while Warren was notoriously lazy under Butch Davis, who allowed him to get away with things other players couldn't; that had a way of alienating both the coach and Warren in the locker room. The Broncos lost defensive end Reggie Hayward to the Jaguars in free-agency, and they're trying to trade Trevor Pryce, although the asking price of a higher-round draft choice and Pryce's back troubles have prevented a deal. Broncos executives are telling people that with Brown and Ekuban on board, Pryce won't be back. The Broncos would save about $5.6 million on their cap if they let Pryce walk. He is scheduled to make $6.5 million in base salary this year, with a cap figure of $9.1 million. That's way too high for a player with back problems. Pryce, who has told teammates he is ready to go, could agree to a lower cap number in a restructured deal to stay in Denver, but that's not likely. So look for him to be elsewhere next season, particularly if the Broncos drop their asking price of a high pick.
Cleveland general manager Phil Savage pulled off another coup by trading Ekuban and Myers for running back Reuben Droughns. The Browns have not had a 1,000-yard rusher since 1985, the longest such streak in the league. Droughns is coming off a season in which he rushed for 1,240 yards after gaining just 97 in three previous seasons. Some might think Droughns is a product of the Denver system, which has featured big seasons by several backs the past decade. But as one Denver player said, "He might be the guy who made the system better. He just ran it up in there. There was no side-to-side stuff." Droughns will compete with Lee Suggs for the starting job under first-year coach Romeo Crennel. What he'll learn early on is that the Cleveland line isn't close to being as good as the one in Denver. In fact, the Cleveland line has been a weak spot since the team returned to play in 1999.
We're hearing a lot of hype about Arkansas quarterback Matt Jones lately. Some of it is warranted since he is such a physical specimen, running 4.4 in the 40 while standing 6-feet-6. But let's remember one thing here: He's being projected as a receiver in the NFL. That takes time to learn. Hines Ward made the move from a college quarterback to an outstanding wide receiver, but he played receiver some in college. Jones didn't. Drew Bennett was a college quarterback at UCLA who has developed into a heck of an NFL receiver for the Titans. But it took time. Jones will be able to do it, but there is risk. And that's why it's dicey using a first-round pick -- as some have suggested -- on Jones. There is no way in heck I would draft him before four or five receivers. I'd consider him as a second-round project. We're talking football here, not track. The Patriots might be playing this loyalty thing up a bit too much when dealing with Tom Brady's contract extension. The team wants to defer much of the signing bonus -- guaranteeing half of it -- according to reports, and Brady doesn't want that type of deal. The numbers won't be quite in the Peyton Manning class -- whose deal included $34.5 million in signing-bonus money -- but they are close. Word is Brady's bonus would be in the $25 million range. But if the Patriots don't come around on the signing-bonus payout issue, this one might not get done. Brady has two years left on his current deal, but he has a cap figure of $10.02 million this season and $14.02 million in 2006 (including a $3 million roster bonus). Interestingly enough, Brady's cap figure for this year is higher than Manning's $8.43 million. And next season, Manning's spikes to $17.7 million -- thanks to a $9 million roster bonus. That's high, but it's not that much higher than Brady's 2006 figure. The funny thing about the Brady deal is how everyone insisted he didn't really care about the contract. Now that it appears the Patriots are trying to stick him, it has become an issue. Forget loyalty, folks. Money pays the bills. And don't ever forget the NFL is a business, big business.
If Dick Vermeil is serious about making a title run this year in Kansas City in what could be his final year as coach (he's considering retiring), the Chiefs should make the move to get Patrick Surtain from the Dolphins. They need a top-tier corner, and Surtain is that. But they are offering only a fourth-round pick to get him. Up that to a third-round choice, and the feeling here is that the Chiefs can get him. Kansas City did sign Miami strong safety Sammy Knight, but that might not be a good thing. Knight doesn't run that well and is a liability in coverage. He's a good tackler, but in today's NFL, where offenses spread people out, Knight might hurt the Kansas City defense.
The Jaguars didn't want to release linebacker Tommy Hendricks last week. He was a valuable special-teams player. But the word is the Jaguars were a little concerned about his attitude in the locker room. Hendricks was a bit moody at times, and late last season, it changed for the worse -- some inside the organization theorize it was because he lost a lot of money in a pyramid scheme -- and the Jaguars were concerned about that. His release came a day after Hendricks was arrested for a misdemeanor for violating a restraining order taken out by his former wife. Hendricks is a good special-teams player, and if he can get his life in order, he can help somebody. The Jaguars must now look to find a young linebacker in the draft. It's is a position in need of an upgrade for this team.
There are a lot of people in Houston who still wonder if quarterback David Carr is the guy to lead this franchise to a Super Bowl. Carr has been erratic at times in his three seasons, but he has also been plagued by poor line play. The Houston coaching staff is pleased with his progress. "I feel really good about his move forward last year and we think it will be even better this year," Texans coach Dom Capers said. Carr went from a 69.5 passer rating in 2003 to an 83.5 passer rating in 2004. "We were one of only three teams with a 3,000-yard passer (Carr), a 1,000-yard rusher (Domanick Davis) and a 1,000-yard receiver (Andre Johnson)," Capers said. "So we feel good about where we're headed, especially with David."
The name of Thomas Davis has been a favorite in this spot for a while. Davis is a big-hitting safety from Georgia. At 6-1, 227, he ran 4.4 at his Pro Day workout two weeks ago. That should convince a lot of teams that he can stay at safety in the NFL, instead of moving to weak-side linebacker. Davis made plays all over the field for the Bulldogs, yet some scouts don't think he has what it takes to play safety on the next level. We don't buy it. "That's what a lot of personnel people are saying now," said one NFC personnel director. "But you can bet when the draft rolls around, he'll be gone by the 20s." Let's please put to rest the talk of San Francisco trading the first pick in the draft to San Diego for Philip Rivers. If the Chargers were going to do that, wouldn't they have done a deal before paying Rivers a $6.6 million option bonus in early March? Now the cap hit would be way too prohibitive to trade him. Rivers is slightly better than Alex Smith or Aaron Rodgers, the two top quarterbacks in this year's draft, but it's not that big a difference. If the 49ers are smart, they'll stay put and take Smith.
It's hard to believe that Titans corner Andre Dyson remains unsigned as a free agent. Dyson isn't in the same class as Samari Rolle, his former teammate who signed a big deal with the Ravens, but he's a feisty player who is capable in coverage. Seattle is looking at him, but it's a surprise more teams haven't given Dyson a look.