Around the League – Week 7

by Tommy Lawlor  –

* I’m probably in the minority on this, but I think the injury to Tony Romo could be a blessing in disguise for Dallas.  Let’s start with the simple fact that the Cowboys were 1-5 with him starting.  Something wasn’t right.  I don’t question Romo’s talent.  We all know he’s a gifted QB.  There are times when talent isn’t the answer.  The Cowboys were missing something.  With Romo out, the pressure shifts to the other players.  They now have to step up.

Dallas has plenty of firepower for Jon Kitna to work with.  He’s got arguably the best trio of RBs in the league.  There are 3 gifted WRs.  Jason Witten is one of the best TEs in the league.  The O-line is still above average.  So far this year Dallas has moved the ball.  They’ve delivered plenty of big plays.  They haven’t delivered clutch plays.

While Kitna isn’t a better QB than Romo, he might be a better fit.  The offense has to shift more to a running game.  The defense has to show some heart (which they didn’t for most of the Giants game).  The play on special teams has to tighten up.  It wouldn’t hurt for Wade Phillips to actually make a good decision or two.  His performance on Monday night left a lot to be desired.  

* The passing game for the Carolina Panthers came alive in their win over SF.  Matt Moore struggled at times, but ended up throwing for 308 yards and a pair of TDs.  He had a terrible INT.  Moore was picked off by DL Ray McDonald, who returned the pick for a TD.  I give Moore credit for bouncing back from that play.  Rookie WR David Gettis came through in a big way.  He had 8 catches for 125 yards and both TDs.  Gettis ran good routes and showed a feel for getting open.  He’s big at 6’3, 216 and could be the ideal complement to Steve Smith.  Fellow rookie wideout Brandon LaFell added 6 catches of his own.

The Panthers made an odd shift in the offseason, moving stud MLB Jon Beason to WLB.  They felt he could be even more of a playmaker at that spot.  Hasn’t happened.  Beason had 7 INTs, 3 sacks, 23 PDs, and a FF in his first 3 years.  Plus, he always led the team in tackles.  This year he’s 2nd in tackle.  He has a couple of pass break-ups, but that’s it.  Beason isn’t bad at WLB, but he’s not an impact player at all.  SAM James Anderson does lead the team in tackles and he’s playing well.  MLB Dan Connor is also having a breakout season.  He leads the team in TFLs with 7.

* Rams DE Chris Long had a sack, FF vs Tampa.  Long now has 3.5 sacks on the year.  He’s not the elite pass rusher that St. Louis hoped for when they took him so high, but he’s headed in the right direction and is proving to be a solid player.  Long has a good bust and still has the great motor that made him so special in college.

* The Saints are struggling right now.  People are looking at various causes of the fall of the mighty Saints.  Don’t over-think this.  They won the Super Bowl last year without having great players.  Drew Brees is a great QB.  That’s it.  The rest of the team is talented, but not great.  Dallas won 3 Super Bowls in 4 years because they had multiple Hall of Fame players.  Same for Denver.  Early in the last decade the Patriots had a great run.  That team had one of the all time great QBs in Tom Brady.  Players like Richard Seymour, Willie McGinest, and Rodney Harrison might not make it to Canton, but they’re just a notch below.  New Orleans just doesn’t have that kind of talent.  The team played at an exceptionally high level last year, but a lot of things had to click in order for them to do that.  This season things aren’t going so smoothly and the lack of great players is hurting them.

* I watched part of the NE/SD game last weekend.  One Chargers player that impressed me was NT Antonio Garay.  He’s up to 6’4, 320 now.  That’s a good NT build.  He’s already got career highs in tackles and sacks this year.  He had 1 sack last week, giving him 3 for the season.  Garay has some athleticism, but is also powerful enough to hold his ground and be a good run defender.

* Kenny Britt is emerging as a stud WR for the Titans.  He now has a TD catch in 5 straight games.  Britt has enough speed to be a vertical threat.  He also takes advantage of his size.  If he stays focused, the sky is the limit for him.

* The hottest DT in the NFL right now might be Antonio Dixon of the Eagles.  He’s played most of the snaps in the last 2 1/2 games in place of Brodrick Bunkley.  In that time Dixon has 12 solo tackles, 2 sacks, a TFL, and a couple of batted passes.  He’s drawn a couple of holding calls.  Dixon has been overpowering at times in the stretch and his play is part of the reason that the Eagles held Frank Gore, Michael Turner, and Chris Johnson to a combined total of 163 yards.  Not bad for a Redskins castoff.

* D.J. Moore is having a good year for the Bears.  He picked off a pass vs the Skins and ran it back for a TD.  He had another pick-six called back due to a penalty (on the offense oddly enough).  Moore has 3 INTs on the season.  Skins CB Deangelo Hall picked off Jay Cutler 4 times in that game.

It is odd to look at talented QBs like Donovan McNabb and Jay Cutler and see them playing such pedestrian football.  Cutler has 7 TDs and 7 INTs on the year.  McNabb has 6 TDs and 7 INTs.  Both guys are adjusting to new offenses and neither player has a good supporting cast.  Ben Roethlisberger already has 5 TDs this year on only 54 pass attempts.  This is shaping up to be an odd season.

* Did you see what Bills WR Steve Johnson did against the Ravens?  He caught 8 passes for 158 yards and a TD.  For the year he’s 25-372-5.  Johnson has good size at 6’2, 202.  He had good talent coming out of Kentucky, but there were questions about his ability to consistently play up to his potential.  Johnson is off to a great start in 2010.  Let’s hope he’s able to keep that up.

* LB Scott Fujita had a great game for Cleveland in their upset of the Saints.  Fujita was let go by New Orleans in the offseason so it had to feel good when he had 10 solo tackles, a sack, and an INT against his old team.  LB David Bowens had a pair of INTs in the game as well.  He ran both back for TDs.

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