Ten Things That Will Happen in the 2009 NFL Season
Shonn Greene of the University of Iowa will be a difference-maker for the lucky team that drafts him.
Greene, at 230 pounds, has the talent. He finished second in the country a season ago with 1,850 yards rushing. He also scored 22 touchdowns.
He's also got plenty of character.
Faced with academic ineligibility, Greene attended Kirkwood Community College to get his grades in order. He even balanced a job in a furniture store. So Shonn knows what responsibility is all about.
And Greene improved his combine figures in both the vertical leap and the 40-yard dash at his pro day, showing that he possesses great desire and a solid work ethic.
There aren't any running backs in this year's draft that make you drop your popcorn when they touch the ball. Greene compares favorably with guys like Knowshon Moreno (Georgia) and LeSean McCoy (Pittsburgh) who are ranked ahead of him in most draft rankings. He faced similar competition and outrushed them all.
Plus, he's 24, older than the other backs in the draft spotlight, and he only started for one year so that means there's not a lot of wear and tear on his body. What's left is a lot of upside.
Jeff Garcia will finish the 2009 season with more passing yards than JaMarcus Russell.
The former 2007 No. 1 draft pick hasn't lived up to his billing in owner Al Davis' eyes. Sure, he's shown steady improvement and offered glimpses of his immense talent in his brief stint as a starter. That's not enough for Davis, though. He wants results now.
That's what happens when you hold out for more money before you've even taken your first NFL snap.
When the Raiders inked Garcia to a contract earlier this month, Davis was closing the window of opportunity right on Russell's fingers. For Garcia isn't the backup or mentoring type. He's a quarterback with a starter's mentality and Davis has a fondness for aging quarterbacks. Remember Rich Gannon?
If Russell doesn't get a quick start out of the gate, Davis won't have any trouble slipping Garcia under center for several games, perhaps for the remainder of the season.
LaDainian Tomlinson will enjoy another 1,000-yard rushing season. Oh, yes, he'll also catch 50 or more passes.
One media outlet predicts that a great star's best years are behind him, and before too long, it becomes a mantra.
Have they forgotten that the Chargers struggled mightily in 2008 until Tomlinson overcame an opening-game injury? When he kicked into gear, so did the Chargers.
Tomlinson, who will turn 30 in June, will be looking to rebound from his worst season ever. He finished 2008 with a career low 1,100 yards, and he only rushed twice for 100 yards or more in two games.
Pride is a powerful motivating force for a superstar, and Tomlinson possesses this quality in spades. Couple this with the fact that the only thing missing in LT's career is a Super Bowl ring, and it's not a great leap of faith to conclude that Tomlinson is poised for big things in 2009.
Just because his initials are JC doesn't mean that Jay Cutler is the Bears' savior.
Cutler is the gunslinger with a powerful arm that the Bears have long coveted. They haven't had a franchise quarterback since Jim McMahon was taking snaps under center in the 1980s.
However, Jeff George had the same immense physical gifts that Cutler possesses, but he never brought a Super Bowl to his employer.
He and George also share the same character flaws: self-centeredness, aloofness, and a strange take on what it means to be a leader.
That's a bitter brew.
It takes all kinds to lead a team to a Super Bowl.
Joe Namath was brash and opinionated.
Kurt Warner is confident but reserved.
Quarterbacks of Cutler's ilk, however, seldom wear a Super Bowl crown because their head is too large.
The Bears obtained a rocket-armed quarterback if he can find time long enough to drop his baggage.
Terrell Owens will complain about sharing the football with Lee Evans and James Hardy.
Terrell Owens promises Buffalo no problems in 2009.
You would have a better shot of convincing me that Frodo Baggins would willingly surrender the One Ring to me for safekeeping.
Lee Evans is the showcase receiver for the Bills. He is the legitimate deep threat that Owens no longer is.
Hardy, a second-round pick of the Bills in 2008, is an awesome physical specimen. If he's able to recover from surgery, he will offer Buffalo both speed and power.
Josh Reed caught 56 passes for 597 yards a season ago.
Where does this leave TO?
Or, more precisely, where does TO think this leaves TO?
On the outside looking in, of course.
And TO can't deal with that.
The Bills gambled in obtaining Owens. They wagered that he will be able to work in tandem with Evans, Reed and Hardy. All for one, one for all. Whatever's best for the team. Personal glory isn't important and winning is everything.
That's not TO and it never will be.
The over and under on this is week six. Take the under, and bet the house.
Brad Childress will be fired as head coach of the Minnesota Vikings.
This one is like taking candy from a baby.
There are several knocks against Childress, so it's difficult to know where to begin.
Among these are that he only can win games that don't have any meaning; he's incapable of making halftime adjustments; the offense that he insists on using is unimaginative; he resembles a snake; and life is too short so I'll stop there.
Childress should have surrendered his clipboard last season following the Vikings' near-fiasco in week six against the Detroit Lions. Only a controversial interference call against Leigh Bodden and a field goal by Ryan Longwell salvaged a 12-10 Viking victory and his job.
This is a classic case of a talented team being shortchanged by poor sideline generalship.
Childress will be fired less than 24 hours following the Vikings' inevitable playoff defeat.
If you want a parlay, accept a wager that Vikings fans will mount a petition drive that calls for a state holiday to be called on Childress' firing date.
The Atlanta Falcons will plummet to earth.
They were one of the biggest surprises in the NFL last year.
A lot of the credit for the transformation went to quarterback Matt Ryan and running back Michael Turner. Ryan greatly outstripped expectations, impressing just about everyone with his poise and decision making, and Turner carried the ball an NFL-most 376 times on his way to 1,699 yards (second most in the NFL) and 17 touchdowns.
The improvement in the defense, though, was an equally important part of the equation that resulted in the Falcons' 11-5 regular-season record in 2008.
The Falcons lost four key defenders (outside linebacker Michael Boley, defensive tackle Grady Jackson, linebacker Keith Brooking and cornerback Dominque Foxworth) via free agency. The Falcons did sign former Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Mike Peterson, but there are major holes at outside linebacker, strong safety, defensive end, and at defensive tackle to fill.
Finding quality players in the draft to replace this quartet won't be easy to do.
This is a franchise that bears watching. Under Coach Mike Smith, the Falcons took a huge step forward last year. This year, they might do a little running in place.
The Pittsburgh Steelers may not repeat as Super Bowl champions. However, they will make yet another appearance on the largest stage the NFL has to offer.
We all know how hard it is to repeat as Super Bowl champions.
One may argue that the Arizona Cardinals have a better shot of returning to the Super Bowl than the Steelers since the NFC stinks and the AFC doesn't.
I don't buy it.
There's a winning culture in Pittsburgh. Consider the fact that the Steelers have re-signed 10 free agents who contributed to their Super Bowl victory earlier this year. Pittsburgh is obviously a good place to be.
It could have been a mystical confluence of forces that drove the Steelers to the promised land. I believe that Coach Mike Tomlin had a lot to do with it, and under his guidance, the Steelers will be knocking on the door once again.
There are no Matt Ryans or Joe Flaccos among the quarterbacks in this year's NFL draft.
That's not to say that there aren't any quarterbacks with star potential. Mark Sanchez (USC), Matthew Stafford (Georgia), and Josh Freeman (Kansas State) each have their supporters, but the common perception is that they will need a year or two under fire to refine their considerable talents.
After this top-ranked trio, there is a cluster of signal-callers such as Nate Davis (Ball St.), Rhett Bomar (Sam Houston St.), and Graham Harrell (Texas Tech), who will likely face a longer apprenticeship.
The point is that the college quarterbacks who could step into the NFL and perform at a high level like Ryan or Flacco decided to opt out of this year's draft. The list includes Sam Bradford (Oklahoma), Colt McCoy (Texas), and Jevan Snead (Ole Miss).
Anquan Boldin will bury the hatchet and live long and prosper in Arizona.
Boldin, blessed with rare physical gifts, once said that he wouldn't be happy until he's traded by the Arizona Cardinals. In fact, he spent most of last year emphasizing his misery to anyone who cared to listen.
Happily, his dissatisfaction seems to be in remission once talk of a new contract commenced.
Chalk it up to childish petulance.
Perhaps Boldin is beginning to realize that (a) not every team is blessed with a wizardly talent such as Kurt Warner and (b) many receivers would take far less money in exchange for the opportunity to play alongside Larry Fitzgerald.
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