Tavern talk: Blue-Chip Players Part 3 - By Mike Lombardi

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Tavern talk: Blue-Chip Players Part 3 - By Mike Lombardi
(Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

National Football Post

Tuesday, we began our look at the NFL’s blue-chip players by examining the AFC East and North. Today, we look at the AFC South and West. It might not have been easy being green, but it’s harder being Blue.

APPeyton Manning

DEFINING A BLUE-CHIP PLAYER:

Player has abilities that can create mismatches vs. most opponents in the league. Is a featured player on the team and has impact on the outcome of the game. Not one player can take him out of the game. Each week he has a consistent level of performance. Plays at a championship level performance. He rates in the top 10 at his position in the league.

AFC SOUTH

Houston

BLUE CHIP

Andre Johnson: Tremendous talent.

Mario Williams: He’s their defensive line right now.

Steve Slaton: A top-10 back in the NFL.

Owen Daniels: 133 catches the past two years, great run team.

ALMOST, BUT BLUE

Dunta Robinson: Injuries keep him from being blue.

DeMeco Ryans: Tackling machine, but not many plays in passing game.

Chester Pitts: Solid player has started every game in his NFL career.

COACH/QB COMBO

The “if” factor weighs heavily for the Texans. If Matt Schaub can stay healthy, if the defense can make a few plays, if the Texans can win on the road. Too many ifs for me, but just the right amount for Mr. Bowen.

Indianapolis

BLUE CHIP

Peyton Manning: Not a hard one to figure.

Reggie Wayne: Gets better every year.

Dallas Clark: Might be borderline now, but when healthy, he makes the offense explode.

Dwight Freeney: Hard for most left tackles to handle.

Bob Sanders: If he stays healthy, he’s explosive.

ALMOST, BUT NOT BLUE

Robert Mathis: Very effective in this scheme.

Marlin Jackson: The scheme fits him well.

COACH/QB COMBO

New coach, but not a new quarterback. Which means the same results are in store. The Colts have it right because every place team president and GM Bill Polian has been has placed tremendous value in making sure the quarterback position is well covered.

Jacksonville  

BLUE CHIP

Maurice Jones-Drew: Can do it all – run, catch and block.

John Henderson: Hard to handle inside.

Rashean Mathis: Very good cover man who could use some rush.

ALMOST, BUT NOT BLUE

Reggie Nelson: At times, he looks like a blue, then he misses too many tackles.

COACH/QB COMBO

This is a big season for Jack Del Rio and for David Garrard. Right now they’re in the very average grade area. Both must step up their games.

APCortland Finnegan

Tennessee

BLUE CHIP

Michael Roos: One of the best left OTs in the game.

Chris Johnson: He’s an elite player.

Cortland Finnegan: Makes plays all the time. One of the best corners in the game.

ALMOST, BUT NOT BLUE

Tony Brown: Had a great season last year, was it because of Haynesworth? We’ll find out.

Kyle Vanden Bosch: Injuries have affected his play.

Keith Bulluck: Still a very good player, but not a blue.

Michael Griffin: 16 starts 7 interceptions get him very close.

COACH/QB COMBO

Jeff Fisher is a tremendous coach, one of the top five in the NFL. QB Kerry Collins knows his role, and the assistants know what he can and, most importantly, can’t do.

AFC WEST

Denver

BLUE CHIP

Brandon Marshall: One of the best wideouts in the game. Very talented.

Ryan Clady: Very impressive as a rookie; will keep getting better.

ALMOST, BUT NOT BLUE

Champ Bailey: Had a down year last season. Was it the lack of a pass rush, or him losing speed? Either way, he’s not a shut-down corner.

COACH/QB COMBO

New is the word in Denver this year. The Broncos have to determine if this will work, but Josh McDaniels understands how to maximize the quarterback position. Given the right time, I feel he’ll be successful.

Kansas City

BLUE CHIP

NONE

ALMOST, BUT NOT BLUE

Branden Albert: Next year at this time, he might be a blue.

Larry Johnson: He might be able to regain his old form.

COACH/QB COMBO
Another first-year coach and first-year starter in a new system.

Oakland

BLUE CHIP

Nnamdi Asomugha: Best press cover man in the NFL.

Shane Lechler: Best punter in the NFL.

ALMOST, BUT NOT BLUE

Sebastian Janikowski: Big leg, but too inconsistent in too many areas.

COACH/QB COMBO

New coach. Time will tell with Tom Cable and QB JaMarcus Russell.

APVincent Jackson

San Diego

BLUE CHIP

Vincent Jackson: Big-play receiver who’s gotten better.

Antonio Gates: When healthy, he’s a top-five player.

Philip Rivers: He wins in December (14-0 in his career).

LaDainian Tomlinson: He must stay healthy.

Darren Sproles: All the plays he makes are blue.

Shawne Merriman: One of the best in the NFL.

ALMOST, BUT NOT BLUE

Jamal Williams: He can still control the center but not as he once did. Age is creeping up.

Antonio Cromartie: Needs to rebound this year.

COACH/QB COMBO

The quarterback has had his best years with Norv Turner as the head coach. Norv has won playoff games both years, something Chargers fans have not seen too often.


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