Suh comparisons dangerous for Fairley
THU, FEB 10
5:47 PM CST
DT Nick Fairley
With Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck unexpectedly returning to Palo Alto for his junior season, leaving $50 million and change on the table to pursue a degree in architecture, Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley is currently the No. 1-overall selection on many of the mock drafts you'll see -- including mine.
Luck's loss is Fairley's gain, even if the 6-5, 298-pounder may not see as much money at the top as he could if he actually played QB and didn't just chase them, but what's a bit dangerous is that he's already being compared to Ndamukong Suh. Going to Detroit last year at No. 2, Suh was treated like a once-in-a-generation talent at the D-tackle position and then played like it as a rookie for the Lions, yet everyone is in a hurry to put those same expectations on Fairley.
Suh was a man among boys as a senior at Nebraska, leading the team in tackles with 82, which is unheard of lining up in the trenches every snap, and recording 12 sacks. His signature performance came in the Big 12 Championship Game against unbeaten Texas, registering 12 tackles, six tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks and almost single-handedly shutting down the Longhorns' high-powered offense -- albeit in a 13-12 defeat. Shortly thereafter, Suh finished fourth in the balloting for the Heisman Trophy, and a strong case was made by many experts that he should have won it.
He was already one of the best defensive linemen in the NFL just a few games into his professional career, as he got selected as a starter for the NFC Pro Bowl squad and was a runaway winner for all the Rookie of the Year awards.
Fairley, on the other hand, because he originally attended community college and then entered the draft after his junior season, didn't dominate top collegiate competition year in and year out the way Suh did. But he did have a signature performance, when he terrorized Oregon in last month's BCS Championship Game with five tackles, three tackles for loss, a forced fumble and a sack and looked to be the best player on the field -- yes, better than Heisman Trophy golden boy Cam Newton. If just for a night, Fairley appeared to be worthy of the top spot in the draft.
However, if the Panthers do indeed call Fairley's name first in April, hoping for Suh-like production out of him would be a mistake, as defensive tackle is generally one of the hardest positions in football to make the leap from Saturday to Sunday.
Suh got to play on a line that included the likes of Corey Williams, Kyle Vanden Bosch and Cliff Avril, all of whom are quality contributors. Still smarting from the defection of Julius Peppers in free agency, Carolina's defensive front features a solid pass rusher in Charles Johnson but not much else.
Remember, Suh was supposed to be a once-in-a-generation talent, and a generation is much longer than one year.
For all the news, notes and quotes on the Panthers, visit PantherInsider.com
Sometimes the best trades in the NFL...
WED, FEB 9
4:42 PM CST
TE Rob Gronkowski
... are the ones never made, as was certainly the case for the Patriots this past offseason.
As soon as new offensive coordinator Mike Martz and his tight end-unfriendly passing game arrived in Chicago, speculation began to surface that 2007 first-round pick Greg Olsen could be on his way out of the Windy City. It was reported that an offer of a second-round selection in the 2010 draft was made by New England, although the deal didn't happen.
Olsen made the best of the situation and did what he was asked to do, becoming a better blocker than he had ever been in the past but seeing his catches drop from 60 last year to 41 this year, his yards from 612 to 404 and his TDs from eight to five. Clearly Jay Cutler's primary target once the monster trade with Denver went down in 2009, Olsen's 2010 included an unheard of seven games in which he caught just one pass -- or none. Although he is more well-rounded now than he was in Ron Turner's system, the sun may have set on the 6-5, 255-pounder being a fantasy favorite like fellow former Hurricanes Jeremy Shockey and Kellen Winslow were (and are).
The Patriots, meanwhile, spent that second rounder on Arizona's Rob Gronkowsi and then a fourth rounder on Florida's Aaron Hernandez, and each rookie put up bigger numbers than Olsen did with the Bears. Gronkowski, more of a traditional tight end, reeled in 42 balls for 546 yards and 10 touchdowns, while Hernandez, more of a half-tight end and half-receiver hybrid, recorded 45 receptions for 563 yards and six scores. Sure, Cutler isn't nearly as accomplished throwing the football as unanimous MVP Tom Brady, but New England coach Bill Belichick demonstrated why it makes more sense to build from within than chase veterans with brand-name recognition.
Less than a year later, the Patriots wouldn't trade Gronkowski for Olsen straight up. As a matter of fact, they might not even trade Hernandez for Olsen straight up.
And then there's Olsen, headed into the final season of his contract but little more than a square peg being banged into a round hole.
For all the news, notes and quotes on the Patriots, visit PatriotsInsider.com
Cards ask Fitzgerald who he wants at QB
TUE, FEB 8
1:06 PM CST
WR Larry Fitzgerald
This is some 24 months it's been for Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald, as he went from playing in perhaps the league's most dangerous passing attack to possibly it's most anemic.
In 2008, Arizona averaged 304.7 yards per game through the air courtesy of the right arm of future Hall of Famer Kurt Warner, which was almost good enough to win Super Bowl XLIII. Fitzgerald went berserk in the fourth quarter of that game with a pair of touchdown catches, including a 64-yarder to take the lead with 2:37 to play, but Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger stole the Vince Lombardi Trophy by hitting Santonio Holmes on a 6-yard scoring strike with 35 seconds left in regulation.
However, in 2010, with Warner having traded his headset in the huddle for a microphone in the broadcast booth, the Cardinals only accounted for 204.0 yards passing per game, as Derek Anderson, John Skelton, Max Hall and Richard Bartel each took turns embarrassing himself. That quartet managed a cumulative passer rating of 60.4 and a combined touchdown-to-interception ratio of 10-to-19, which should not come as much of a surprise since Anderson may be the worst one-time Pro Bowl QB in league history and the other three were all rookies. The fact that Fitzgerald still caught 90 passes for 1,137 yards and six TDs is nothing short of spectacular.
Kolb seems to make sense for all parties, as the Eagles are committed to Michael Vick -- even if they have to slap the franchise tag on him -- and Kolb is on record saying he wants to be a starter in 2011, although Philadelphia certainly will not just give away a promising young passer and should demand a package of draft picks in return. Coming off a dreadful 5-11 campaign, Arizona needs those draft picks to replenish the veteran depth it has lost recently.
While Bulger is a former Pro Bowler and has enough mustard on his deep ball to take advantage of Fitzgerald's down-the-field acrobatics, he's soon to be 34 years old and wouldn't be anything more than a temporary stopgap. If coach Ken Whisenhunt sees a future with the strong-armed Skelton at the controls, perhaps Bulger is the better -- and cheaper -- alternative at this juncture.
One player curiously absent from Fitzgerald's list: Donovan McNabb. After a disastrous one-year stint in Washington, the situation appears to be irreparable between McNabb and Redskins coach Mike Shanahan. Getting benched in favor of Rex Grossman is all the evidence needed to support that argument.
No organization wants to give the impression that the inmates are running the asylum, but with Fitzgerald the Cardinals' best player and going into the final year of his contract, anything that can be done to make him happy must be explored.
For all the news, notes and quotes on the Cardinals, visit AZRedReport.com
The good and the bad from North Texas
MON, FEB 7
11:31 AM CST
In David Letterman-like fashion, even if I was always more of a Craig Kilborn guy, here is a Top 5 list of my eight days in the Dallas metropolitan area for Super Bowl XLV and everything surrounding it, as I head back to Chicago this evening:
I still can't get over just how little action was taken due to the terribly wicked weather we experienced, specifically in downtown Dallas at and around the Sheraton, which is where the Media Center was buzzing all week long. Not once did I see anyone with a shovel in his hand, as if the city was shrugging its collective shoulders to suggest there was nothing that could be done. Here's a word of advice for my dear Texans: Get some salt. Forget about the sand. Salt actually melts snow and ice, while sand does nothing more than give you, well, sandy snow and ice. Yes, I'm from Chicago, and Chicago is prepared to deal with such treatment from Mother Nature. But still, you figure someone would have looked at a radar and got on the horn with a few municipalities to the North and brought in several heavy-duty trucks or something. So many activities were ruined. However, I imagine mini-bar receipts were through the roof since nobody went anywhere. ...
Thankfully, I did get some down-home Texas barbecue the night before the game. Do yourself a favor and go to Railhead should you ever find yourself in the Ft. Worth area. You didn't even have to chew the sliced beef because it simply melted in your mouth. Here's something I learned about Texas: Cole slaw, baked beans and potato salad are considered vegetables. When I ordered my rib dinner, the youngster behind the counter asked me if I'd like "all three vegetables" to go with it. Here I was thinking it would be corn, green beans and collard greens or something like that. Nope. Cole slaw, baked beans and potato salad. ...
I'd like to say thank you once again to the drunken female Steelers fan that spilled beer on me at the start of the game making her way to her seat, with no apology whatsoever. I was in the last row of the auxiliary press box. She was in the first row of the section behind me. Just before kickoff, I got a Miller Lite shower. Wet shirt, wet seat, wet laptop -- what a way to get my live blog going. And then during the game, she sloppily yelled "Let's go!" half a dozen times before every snap no matter who had the ball. Her voice was reminiscent of Stevie Nicks -- solo Stevie Nicks, not Fleetwood Mac Stevie Nicks -- first thing in the morning after a pack of menthols and a box of white grenache the night before. Stay classy. ...
For the first time since Nipplegate with Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake, the NFL skewed toward a younger demographic with the Black Eyed Peas for the halftime show. You want my opinion? More sizzle than steak. I'm not a hip-hop guy, so I have a hard time classifying anything as "music" when there are no instruments on stage. Fergie? Totally overrated on every level. I recognized some of the songs, but mostly because they'd been sold to television commercials. No original beats at all. Everything is a remix of something done previously. And a buddy of mine that's a huge Guns n' Roses fan has now lost all respect for Slash with that "Sweet Child o' Mine" cameo. Prince was electric at Super Bowl XLI. That's the standard. ...
Brooklyn Decker? Hot in person, no question about it. Marisa Miller, on the other hand? Any room she's in simply radiates. I feel good about the fact that she's been my No. 1 woman on the planet for quite some time -- I love you, Mrs. Crist -- and lived up to the lofty pedestal I'd put her on, despite having only seen her before two-dimensionally. Luckily, both were very nice when I chatted briefly with them and then asked to take a photo. And, yes, I used the same bad line on both of them: "Can I get a picture with you? It's for my wife, actually. You're her favorite supermodel." I'm sure they've heard it all before. For me, taking a photo with Marisa Miller was the equivalent of hoisting the Vince Lombardi Trophy. Eat your heart out Aaron Rodgers.
For all the news, notes and quotes on the Packers, visit PackerReport.com
|John Crist is an NFL Analyst for Scout.com, a voter for the Heisman Trophy and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America.|