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News: Gosselin: Today's NFL a yearlong adventure

Discussion in 'News Zone' started by LaTunaNostra, Jul 14, 2004.

  1. LaTunaNostra

    LaTunaNostra He Made the Difference

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    Rick Gosselin: Today's NFL a yearlong adventure
    02:09 PM CDT on Wednesday, July 14, 2004

    Rick Gosselin
    Inside The NFL

    How times have changed in the NFL.

    Once upon a time teams would spend eight weeks in training camp. They would spend two weeks getting in shape, then play six exhibition games before entering a season.

    That was back in the 1960s and ‘70s -- before the salary cap, before free agency, before offseason conditioning programs. Back then pro football was a seven-month job for the players.

    Now it’s a 12-month investment with minicamps, quarterback schools and on-the-field training sessions. Players and coaches are allowed to squeeze in a week of vacation here and there where it fits.

    In today’s NFL, players report to camp already in shape. The goal isn’t to get ready for a season. The goal is stay healthy for the season. Every day of practice is a day to put your championship hopes at risk with an injury.

    So the Arizona Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts and Seattle Seahawks won’t even report to training camp this summer until August. Some teams will spend less than three weeks in camp.

    A growing number of teams won’t even go away to camp. Twelve clubs -- Cleveland, Detroit, Green Bay, Houston, Jacksonville, Miami, New England, New Orleans, San Francisco, Tennessee, Washington and the New York Jets -- will train this summer at their year-round facilities.

    The athletes are certainly better in today’s NFL. But I’m not sure the game is.

    NFL Q & A


    Q: Do you know what players were involved in the famous Hershel Walker trade between the Cowboys and Minnesota Vikings?

    GOSSELIN: When it was all said and done, the Cowboys traded Herschel Walker plus two third-round draft picks and a 10th-rounder for LB Jesse Solomon, LB David Howard, CB Isaac Holt, DE Alex Stewart and RB Darrin Nelson plus three first-round picks, three second-rounders, a third-rounder and a sixth. Here's where the deal gets difficult to trace. By the time the Cowboys were done wheeling and dealing, every single one of the original draft picks was traded in an attempt to move up or down, except the sixth-rounder in 1992 (TE Fallon Wacasey, who didn't make it). These are the players who wound up as Cowboys as a direct result of those deals: Emmitt Smith, Darren Woodson, Russell Maryland and Kevin Smith as draftees and Tony Casillas in a trade.

    • • •

    Q: I saw where you ranked the hiring of defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham by the Kansas City Chiefs as one of the NFL's five best offseason moves. Wouldn't they be better off changing a player or two than bringing in a coordinator and keeping the 11 starters intact from a defense that quite simply wasn't good enough in 2003 (ranking 29th in the NFL)?

    GOSSELIN: Cunningham spent six years with the Chiefs from 1995-2000, first as defensive coordinator, then as head coach. He preached attack, attack, attack, and the Chiefs responded with a plus-53 in giveaway/takeaway ratio and 263 sacks during that stretch. Greg Robinson took over as defensive coordinator in 2001 and implemented a read-and-react scheme. Sacks and takeaways went down, and so did Kansas City's defensive resistance.

    There is talent on this defense. Safety Jerome Woods is a Pro Bowler, and the Chiefs believe tackle Ryan Sims, end Eric Hicks, linebacker Scott Fujita and safety Greg Wesley have Pro Bowl potential. I look for Cunningham to dial up the intensity, asking his defenders to dictate the tempo like they did in the 1990s rather than have offenses dictate it to them as was the case in the 2000s.

    Generally, the more aggressive a defense plays, the more big plays it makes. That's been Cunningham's calling card. The Chiefs have one of the best offenses in the NFL. They don't need the defense to carry this team to be successful. Kansas City just needs the defense to become competitive, to jump from 29th in 2003 into the teens this season. I believe the arrival of Cunningham and the change in philosophy will give this defense that chance.

    • • •

    Q: What did you think of Miami's acquisition of WR David Boston?

    GOSSELIN: On paper, it's a great pickup. If his weight is in check, Boston is a big-time talent, the prototypical big receiver. But he was a distraction off the field in Arizona in 2002 and again in San Diego in 2003. He got suspended by the Chargers for a game last September less than a month into his new $47 million contract for conduct detrimental to the team. Hopefully he'll figure out soon that the clock is ticking on his career. This is his third team in three NFL seasons. If he can be the football player he was in 2001 when he led the NFL with 1,598 yards on 95 catches, he could help the Dolphins overtake New England in the East. Miami head coach Dave Wannstedt needs some offense this season to save his job. This is a high-risk move that could pay a huge dividend. Or blow up. It's all up to Boston.

    • • •

    Q: You mentioned last week that it wasn't wise for the NFL to leave big markets in the 1990s for small markets. With the exception of Los Angeles on the large size and Green Bay on the small size, do the nation's 32 largest markets all have NFL teams?

    GOSSELIN: Surprisingly, there are four NFL cities that are not Top 32 markets: New Orleans at 42, Buffalo at 44, Jacksonville at 52 and Green Bay at 68. The largest markets without NFL teams are Los Angeles at 2, Sacramento at 19, Orlando at 20, Portland at 24, Hartford at 27 and Raleigh at 29. New York, the largest market, has two teams as does San Francisco/Oakland, which ranks fifth. At the back end of the 32, you find Nashville ranks 30, Kansas City 31 and Cincinnati 32.

    • • •

    Q: Regarding your comments on the Cowboys in 2004, while I believe the four points you addressed were legitimate, I would like to give you a more positive spin.

    First off, quarterback. We obviously don't know the height of Quincy's upside. But I believe that just through natural progession, he will be better this year than he was last.

    2.) I know Julius Jones is just a rookie, but I believe that any legitimate running back will do better than Troy Hambrick. I saw enough of Jones to know he can run in this league even if he was a reach.

    3.) Let's remember who Marcellus Wiley is replacing. Ebenezer Ekuban is certainly not Charles Haley. By default Wiley has to be an upgrade over Ekuban.

    4.) Even though I believe Mario Edwards got a bad reputation for interfering with receivers, he got picked on by QBs and refs. I don't think Pete Hunter, who is a better athlete than Edwards, can be any worse than Edwards was last year. We did have the No. 1defense last year with him, and I don't think his shoes are that hard to fill. Your thoughts?

    Detrick, a Cowboys fan in Philly

    A: I've long believed and have often written that there are six cornerstone positions on a championship team: quarterback, running back, wide receiver, left tackle, pass rusher and cover corner. The Cowboys have Quincy Carter, Julius Jones, Keyshawn Johnson, Flozell Adams, Greg Ellis and Terence Newman at those six spots. The Eagles have Donovan McNabb, Brian Westbrook, Terrell Owens, Tra Thomas, Jevon Kearse and Lito Sheppard. The Redskins have Mark Brunell, Clinton Portis, Laverneus Coles, Chris Samuels, Philip Daniels and Fred Smoot. The Cowboys may indeed be better than they were a year ago, but have they closed the gap on Philadelphia? And have they maintained the gap on Washington?

    Set the fan in you aside and objectively ponder this question: Which set of six cornerstones do you feel most comfortable with in the NFC East? Then rank them 1-2-3. By the way, the Cowboys also play the most difficult schedule in the NFL in 2004.

    • • •

    Q: What do you think the Cowboys would do if they end up with two top five picks in the draft next year?

    GOSSELIN: I doubt the Cowboys will have one pick in the top 5, much less two. I think the Cowboys and Bills should both be in the playoff hunt heading into December. Now that might result in 8-8, but I think both teams will be competitive this season. If the Cowboys do end up with a top-10 pick, my guess is their needs would be pass rush and cornerback -- same as now. Heading into this fall, Georgia's David Pollack is the best pass rusher on the board in 2005 and Miami's Antrel Rolle the best cornerback. Having two first-round draft picks gives the Cowboys great leverage next April. I'd be surprised if they trade out of the first round again. More likely they would trade up.

    • • •

    Q: Last year the Cowboys tried to sign wide receiver Will Pettis from the AFL, but he had to clear waivers before being able to sign (he didn't). If a player is submitted to the waiver wire once, do they have to be exposed again the next year if they decide to come out? If the person doesn't have to be exposed, do you think the Cowboys might be interested in him as a backup at wideout with the uncertainty of Antonio Bryant, Dedric Ward now out of the picture with a broken foot and with nothing but unproven receivers as backups?

    Shawn Evans

    GOSSELIN: Pettis played for the Dallas arena team in 2003, which is why he had to clear waivers. The NFL doesn't want NFL owners who double as Arena League owners to have their own private farm system. The rule still applies.

    Any player the Cowboys want to sign off the Dallas Desperados must clear waivers. As strapped as the Cowboys are at wide receiver this summer, Pettis might again be an option. He was even better for the Desperados in 2004 than he was in 2003, catching 95 passes for 1,076 yards and 20 touchdowns and making second-team All-AFL.

    But let's face it, the Arena League isn't the answer for the Cowboys, and neither is NFL Europe. Remember Cory Fleming, who washed out at wide receiver for the Cowboys in 1996 after having caught six passes in two NFL seasons? He was the Player of the Year in the Arena League in 2004. And the best receiver in Europe in 2003, Matthew Hatchette, wound up catching just 15 balls for the Jacksonville Jaguars last season. That's why I expect Antonio Bryant to be back with the Cowboys in training camp. The Cowboys don't like their other options at wideout.

    • • •

    Q: How far are the Houston Texans away from contending for a playoff spot? Could they be the surprise team in 2004?

    GOSSELIN: The talent is there to contend, but the situation is not. The AFC South is already top heavy in Super Bowl contenders with Indianapolis and Tennessee. I doubt three playoff teams will come from this division. You got a glimpse of the talent on the Texans in the last two games of 2003 when they fought the Colts and Titans down to the wire in a pair of three-point losses.

    David Carr is still learning how to play quarterback. NFL co-MVPs Peyton Manning and Steve McNair are already there. That's the difference in the three franchises. I think Carr has Pro Bowl potential. I can see him one day leading a team into the playoffs and beyond. But Manning and McNair still have the upper hand and, as a result, so do their teams.

    But there's a lot to be excited about in Houston. I think GM Charley Casserley has done a fine job of building this team. I talked above about the six championship cornerstones for a franchise -- several of those are already in place in Houston. QB David Carr, HB Domanick Davis, WR Andre Johnson, pass rusher Jason Babin and CB Donte Robinson are young players with great potential. As they develop, the Texans will develop into a contender. But it doesn't happen overnight. I think the Texans could be in playoff contention heading into December. But I think they take the step from playoff contender to Super Bowl contender in 2005.


    Printer Version
  2. AdamJT13

    AdamJT13 Salary Cap Analyst

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    The Patriots had Tom Brady, Antowain Smith, Deion Branch, Matt Light, Mike Vrabel and Ty Law last season. I'd give those six guys an advantage over ours at only two positions (quarterback and cornerback), and I'd trade players with them at only one (quarterback).

    Goose actually wrote that? And it actually got into print? We have the EASIEST schedule in the NFL, not the most difficult.

    http://www.fftoday.com/sos/sos.htm

    Not only do our opponents have the lowest 2003 winning percentage, we're also tied for facing the fewest winning teams and the fewest playoff teams.
  3. big dog cowboy

    big dog cowboy THE BIG DOG Staff Member

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    That is almost the only thing I agree with in that article.
  4. AJM1613

    AJM1613 New Member

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    Seriously?

    Vrabel is a better pass rusher than Glover, Willey, or Ellis. He had more sacks than any of them from the outside linebacker position (and yes I know that sacks are overrated).

    I also think that you have to rate Branch higher than Johnson. Branch is a very good receiver. He only started 11 games last season and had 803 yards (he played in 15) and three touchdowns. I definitly think that you would trade Branch for Johnson as well. This is coming from someone who hates the Patriots almost as much as the Cowboys.
  5. Big D

    Big D Well-Known Member

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    We had the most difficult schedule last year too so what does that really mean? :confused:

    Also if big names equalled success on the field, the raiders or redskins would win ever year.
  6. TheSkaven

    TheSkaven Last Man Standing

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    I am embarrassed for Goose. In fact, this team has the easiest schedule in the NFL in 2004. He obviously needs to do some better fact checking.

    That's fine, let him hitch his wagons to the Washington Redskins as the number 2 team in this division. The writers do that every year after the Redskins make a big free agency splash, you think they'd eventually learn. They have a 34 year old quarterback and an injury prone, system running back in Clinton Portis. Their defense was putrid last year and they lost one of their defensive cornerstones (Champ Bailey).

    The Cowboys, on the other hand, are building this team sensibly, losing only one player from the #1 defense in the NFL and upgrading both the defensive and offensive lines.
  7. AdamJT13

    AdamJT13 Salary Cap Analyst

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    Vrabel's career high in his first six seasons was 4.5 sacks. Last year, he had 9.5. Late blip on the charts doesn't make him better than Ellis, who had eight sacks last year, 7.5 twice and six once. Last year, Ellis had at least half a sack in nine different games. Vrabel had sacks in only five different games. Ellis is a more consistent pass-rusher and has been producing for a longer period of time.

    (I wasn't even considering Wiley or Glover, who have each had multiple double-digit sack seasons.)


    Branch caught 57 passes for 803 yards and three touchdowns, with his best games being 3-107, 6-93 and 6-89. Keyshawn played in only 10 games, but he had more catches per game, more yards per game and more touchdowns per game. He also had games of 10-123, 9-102 and 6-83. He was more productive than Branch and had bigger games than Branch. He just didn't get along with Jon Gruden.
  8. AJM1613

    AJM1613 New Member

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    Last year was the year the Patriots won the Super Bowl, so I think that you would need a person who you think is going to get more than 9.5 sacks this year (I wouldn't expect it from Willey or Glover, Ellis has a chance). You also have to understand that Vrabel doesn't rush the passer on every play, not that defensive ends do (some play containment) but I am sure that Vrabel had more sacks per blitz than Ellis has ever had in his career. IMO, a linebacker who can blitz is a lot more affective than a defensive end because it seems to cause more problems. If I was building a defense, the first player I would add right now would be Suggs. Of course that is only an opinion.

    Johnson had an extra half catch a game than Branch in games started and 1 more yard per game. He also has .05 more touchdowns a game. I think that New England's depth at wide receiver compinsates for that extra .5 catch for 1 yard and .05 TD.

    I also can't see why, how you wouldn't trade Branch for Johnson.
  9. dallasfaniac

    dallasfaniac Active Member

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    First off, you don't want to get into a debate with AdamJT13, you'll just get chewed up, spit out, and have to run back to the Philly board. Wait, maybe you do want to get into it with him. :D

    You want a reason why we would not trade for Branch? I can give you 2 main reasons.
    1) We got rid of a short receiver in Galloway (5'-11") for a big possession receiver that will go over the middle. Why would we want to get rid of said receiver for a mini-me Branch (5'-9")?
    2) Even with last year's sit out, Johnson averages 992 yards 6 TDs a year. Branch's best year, 803 yards 3 TDs.
  10. junk

    junk I've got moxie

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    Apparently run defense isn't high on your list of priorities.
  11. Charles

    Charles Benched

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    :D So Mr. Gosselin , lets say we did the same exercise during the 2003 off-season. There is absolutly no way the Cowboys would have finished ahead of Philly, Giants and the Redskins, but we all know the end result.

    The Cowboys had the toughest schedule going into the 2003 season.

    Talk about being realistic sheesh.
  12. AJM1613

    AJM1613 New Member

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    Especially when I can get a guy like Trotter two weeks before minicamp. :)
  13. AdamJT13

    AdamJT13 Salary Cap Analyst

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    Most linebackers have "more sacks per blitz" than defensive ends because there's not always anyone assigned to block linebackers. A lot of times, all they have to do is avoid a half-hearted block attempt from a running back. Defensive ends almost always have to beat at least an offensive tackle -- unless they're double-teamed, that is.

    Vrabel had a nice season last year, but he's not a better player than Ellis, and I certainly wouldn't trade Ellis for him.


    That's a completely different issue, but it does call your sanity into question.

    New England's depth at wide receiver? Their receiving corps was almost decimated by injuries last season, which is the biggest reason why Branch even caught 57 passes. He didn't have to compete for catches with Troy Brown, David Patten and David Givens every game. Patten's injury (knee injury, missed the rest of the season) put Branch in the starting lineup, Brown missed four of the next six games after Branch became a starter, and Givens and Bethel Johnson also missed games that Branch started.

    Keyshawn, meanwhile, was competing with Keenan McCardell for catches. And McCardell, as you know, was the NFC's fifth-leading receiver and went to the Pro Bowl.


    I WOULD trade Branch for Johnson, if I had Branch. But we already have Johnson, so I don't need to trade for him. And there's no way I'd trade Johnson for Branch, especially when we already have Terry Glenn (who is similar to Branch, but a better player).
  14. AJM1613

    AJM1613 New Member

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    Vrabel ad a nice season last year and it doesn't matter if he is a better player than Ellis for his career, the only thing that matters is the year that they won the Super Bowl. I don't know what you expect from Ellis this year but I don't think that it is too far fetched to equal Vrabel's season last year in terms of sacks but sacks don't show every aspect of pass rushing.

    The strang this is that Vrabel isn't even the best pass rusher on his team, Richard Seymour is clearly better even though he had 1.5 sacks less than Vrabel. Sometimes, I beleive that sacks can be overrated. I think that Seymour's play from the middle got Vrabel his 9.5 sacks, as well as McGinest and other linebackers on that team.

    Now tell me, would you trade Ellis for Seymour?

    If I was starting a defense for my team for the present and future than yes it would be Suggs, if not of course it would be Lewis.

    The Patriots had 8 wide receivers catch passes for them last season, that is depth. To say that Patten, Givens, Brown, and Johnson were all hurt at some point of the season shows that they had 5 receivers at some point. Lets get rid of Patten because he didn't have to compete in the games Branch. Behind Johnson is McCardell and then no one.

    I think that if you made that trade then you would ruin your team. I am not talking about for just one season, I am talking about the rest of their careers'. And Glenn isn't a better player than Branch.
  15. AdamJT13

    AdamJT13 Salary Cap Analyst

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    I would, because Seymour is younger, has more potential, is better against the run and can play end or tackle. But Seymour is not a better pass-rusher than Ellis and wasn't last year. Ellis had a higher sack percentage with much less around him.


    Their "depth" was out of necessity, since so many of them were injured at some point. It wasn't a case of so many players competing for catches at the same time. Put it this way -- if Patten, Givens, Brown and Johnson had remained healthy, would Branch have started 11 games and caught 57 passes? Nope.

    Unless a team's receiving corps is hit hard by injuries, Branch is no better than a No. 3 receiver or marginal No. 2. Before last season, Keyshawn put up either at least eight touchdowns or at least 963 yards every season of his career. I'd take Keyshawn over Branch this season and next. And after that, you're probably looking at free agents to replace either of them, anyway.



    At what, backgammon? He's certainly better on the football field.

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