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: September 09, 2007, 01:05:27 AM

Already n the insider board, but I thought I'd offer it up to the vultures.  It's long.

INTRO
     Another season finally rolls around.  It took WAY too long.  I've posted this bit for the last 3 years, so I figgered I'd continue it.   I've expanded it a bit, and divided it into breakable sections as it is very long and I may end up breaking it up.  Feedback is appreciated, both on content and style.
      What do I expect this year?  What does it look like for our heroes?  It's hard to say.  For whatever it's worth, here is Doc's Opinion:

THE OFFSEASON
     This has been one of the stranger offseasons that I can remember.  We really didn't do many of the things you would have expected, but then again we did. Confused?  Me too.  I would have expected; keeping Rice, or trading him for a player or pick; going after a younger QB than Garcia in addition to the Garcia addition; no Snake drama; being able to pick 3 QBs; adding a proven WR thru FA; drafting a LOT early; spending big bux in FA; firing Muir; firing Mann; not releasing all three of our best pass rushers.  Basically I expected a different way of addressing our deficiencies than the route we took.
     The good news?  I think we addressed most of them pretty well.  But I still have some questions.  Garcia, Pettigout, Carter, June,  these are good moves.  Especially on O, there needed to be some age/experience reinjected.  PBuc may very well be the second biggest signing after Garcia.  Letting Rice go still boggles me.  So, Talent-wise, what did we achieve?  I'll put a list in the sections.

THE PRESEASON
     The preseason did nothing but muddy the waters.  We looked better overall than last year, but didn't look very good.  Were we holding our cards close to our vest?  Is this as good as it gets?  I believe the defense is actually better than it showed, but what we saw was very close to what this D really is, minus the game-specific planning.  I'll clear that up in a minute
     On offense It's hard to judge on the few series we saw whether this will be a good O or a very good O, or a mediocre O.  We saw some good stuff from Garcia, and I feel better knowing Grads isn't alone back there now that Luke's healed.  But the preseason is what it is, and it's hard to do more than use some of what you saw.

THE TEAM
     I see this as a second half team, and I mean that about both individual games and the season as a whole.  The offense looks good enough to not get shut out early, and the defense looks good enough to keep things tight going into the second half of games.  After that, the offense should be benefitting from a nice helping of Carnell and a much more physical line wearing down defenses for them.  On the Defensive side I think it will be far more pronounced.  We have a history of making good adjustments defensively, and while the line may lack star power, it's full of high-motor guys, the kind that can wear on an offensive lineman after a few quarters.
   As for why the second half of the season?  Well, this is a different team than last year.  Very different, although people seem not to notice that too much.  I didn't really notice it much myself, but it crept up and suddenly I was looking at a new team.  In 05 the changes weren't as dramatic as what we've seen this year, and in 06 we stood still.  This year we've overhauled.  I won't be cutesy and technical about "opening day" starters, and on defense (particularly the line) the term is moot anyway.  But here's what's different : Pettigout, Askew/Pittman FB, Garcia, Carter, Haye, Adams, Boston, Stovall, Jackson, Sears, Buchanon, Stevens -- and possibly Piscatelli.  THat's anywhere from 12 to 14 major changes out of 22 (Depending on Sabby and how you count Pittman's FB role).  These changes are also at some KEY positions.  Boston and Stevens may be knocked out as well.  We also added 3 new coaches on defense, and Coyer seems to be very much involved in the changes on defense, so he's more than "Just Another Line Coach".  Throw in former rookies Joseph and Trueblood if you want, they will be more impactful this year.  Definitely not that chick who dumped you last year's team.
     All that change makes it hard to say what we'll see this year, but it also says that whatever we DO see this year, it will very likely be better in November/December than September.  Change like this can often be a disaster, and could very well put us back in creamsicle.  But I do like our chances.  In 02 we successfully went through something similar, but less dramatic.  The parallels are there if you want to draw on them. Unfortunately, the talent isn't, so don't go too far with them Smiley
 

THE OFFENSE
     Stay healthy Jeff!!  That is clearly the biggest thing this year.  But how did we do in personnell?  LOT -- substantial upgrade; LG - substantial upgrade(over Mahan), FB -- decent upgrade; TE Decent upgrade**; WR--same/no change; QB -- Major upgrade.
     We don't know much about this O, other than we'll score more often than 06.  But that's not hard.  Garcia is a huge upgrade to what we had last year.  And in 05.  And in 04.  He may even (dare I say it?  Don't tell TBBBB!) be better than Brad.  He certainly fits much better.  He should also have a shorter learning curve.  It took Brad and the team some time to get the system down, but once they did it was a good offense.  Top ten in 03.  I think the curve is far faster this year as the team in general knows the system, and Jeff is familiar with the concepts and fits so well.  And while it's not analysis, does anyone else feel karma here?  We're due to have a healthy QB.  Gru and Garcia just seem to be meant to be together.  Like "peanut butter and chocolate" meant to be together.  While there are other issues that have to be addressed, I don't think QB play is one of them while Jeff's starting.
     The line.  It looks very good to mine eyes.  Sadly, mine eyes have been staring at a horrible line for years, so that's not saying much.  It is definitely looking like the best we've seen since at least 03 though.  And it's more along the lines that Gruden (and his playbook) likes, rather than a Muirian line.  THe health of Luke is key here, but if AD ends up there, we should still be seeing a better version of the 05 line.  And we did OK offensively with that line and an inferior QB or two...
     At running back I am not a Carnell hater.  And he seems to be in good shape.  But the lack of anyone other than Askew to block scares me.  Askew is already about 15lbs lighter and 3 inches taller than a FB should be.  And Pittman behind him?  I want to see more power running, and that requires a tank-like FB.  I write in my diary "Dear Gosh, I hope the rocket backfield is all that Gruden thinks it is".
     WR Corps?  SSDD.  We really needed to try something there.  What we did was ... NOTHING.  I do think Clayton will be better this year, it's no coincidence he disappeared once Greise went down.  So maybe there's some hope.  And Stovall could come up and shine.  But I'll wait and see on that.  As of what we've seen so far, we have a WR Corps that isn't particularly impressive.
     Overall.  It looks improved.  And the preseason shows it to be better.  As time goes on it should get better than we've seen so far.  Preseason is a baseline that you should go up from, and this group looks ready to do that.  Top ten?  Not likely, mainly due to the recievers and with a nod to the time it takes to gel in the system.  But this unit could very well be performing at a top 10 level in december.  Early on it will be rougher, but even then it will be the best we've seen since 03, that's a fairly safe bet, based on our recent skunkfest of QBs and OL endeavors.  Yeah, we've been THAT bad lately.


THE DEFENSE
     The talent?  It's hard to say "starter" here, so lets be flexible:  RDE- Downgrade, but better v run already, and his rush may be better later on.  NT - same/no change. UT- upgrade (over booger - Wyms would ahve been better rushing, but Haye is better than our last starter - MacFarland.  But then so is a bag o' chips) LDE-same/no change.  Carter addition is an upgrade over any rotation, Chuk is unproven.  Depth is unproven, but at least 2 line guys look better - which ones depends on the rotation.
     Lets start with the easy (and good) part.  The secondary looks great.  Ronde/BK is one of the best/better combos out there, and with PBuc at nickle this is one of the strongest groups in the league.  Safeties might be an issue, but I still like Allen.  I would have expected Phillips to be the one to lose his job first, but maybe TJax is really that good.  Sabby still looks a little hesitant to me, but if he turns into the ballhawk that he's projected to be, then we have a very strong group there.
     Linebackers.  DB is DB, just slower.  I still like him there.  June is a stud, and with the flipping of coverage whatever weaknesses he has in tackling should be covered somewhat.  He's also gonna hear from Gruden rather than Dungy when he wimps out, and maybe that's what he needs.  Ruud is still a question, but he filled in well for Q last year.  He needs to attack more though.  He seems to try and contain rather than attack sometimes when he should be attacking rather than contain.  But he knows the system and should get the right calls in.  THe rookies seem to be situational guys and I don't expect too much of them, but it's a deeper group talent-wise than last year.  Trotter is an enigma.  He may be depth, but guys like him have a way of ending up starting, so we'll see.
    The Line.  This is the big one.  Just what the Fsck did we do there?  If you're confused by all the moves there, don't feel alone, it's a bizarre sitch.  Sometimes it sounds like the "addition by subtraction" crap that Minnesota fed out when the let Randy go.  "we'll improve the rush by cutting our BEST THREE RUSHERS".  Yeah, that's what we did.  OK, White was given WAAAY more than he's worth by detroit.  Simeon was due for a big payday, but is still a top DE.  Wyms was paid more maybe than he should have been.  But with all the cap room, why did we do this?  I think there are several factors.  First, with Simeon, when some of us were talking about trading him, all you heard was "he'll be awesome in a CONTRACT YEAR!".  Sim's no spring chicken, this wasn't a "CONTRACT YEAR!!".  This was his last payday before retirement, he wasn't coming back in 08, nobody'd pay him enough.  The far more likely scenario is he'd mail the season in like he's mailed in so many games before.  Couple that with his potential to do lasting harm to Adams, mix in his injury, and I think we have the reason he's not here.  One alone might not be enough, but together they ended his Buc carreer.  White just got released because he was given about 10 times his actual value, and we still had Rice and Wyms.  I'm still a bit lost on Wyms, but let me take a shot here:
     On passing downs we are going to see a lot more 3-4 so that cuts a lot of the need for a rushing lineman.  In the 4-3 on passing downs we will likely see domething like Adams-Hovan-Carter-Chuk, which is essentially a 3-4 with Chuk putting his hand down.  Coyer likes a different type of lineman than rod did (Rod was all about quick, Coyer wants quick AND strong), and he didn't feel Wyms fit that.  (Wyms also gets hurt a lot).  I'm still at a loss for how we're better without keeping at least Wyms or Rice, but I think that some of the above explains it.  I just hope we're better off this way.  I've seen nothing to say we are or we aren't with Wyms, and Rice may end up a moot point with Adams here.
     Overall.  It's really hard to say.  I blamed a lot of the falloff last year to the 2 coaches we fired.  I predicted a return to close to top 10 based solely on the coaching changes this year.  But this is a different defense now, and I don't feel secure in saying much about them.  But I can say we've got an imposing secondary and a decent-to-very good LB corps.  The line is in progress, and it may turn out very well, or very bad.  I vote well, because we put the #4 pick there, Hovan is solid, and Spires and Carter are mature pros that will get done what they need to.  They will all be good mentors for Haye and adams.  I think that like the offense this is a second half unit,  and moreso than the offense.  The Line is lacking in starpower, no denying it.  But these are your classic "high-motor" guys, and they wear you down.  We're also implementing a new scheme, and will be doing heavy rotation.  The combination of improvement in understanding the scheme, young players learning as they go, and relatively fresh legs, make this a unit that should be strong late in games and late in the season.  I have to admit I'm not really sold on the changes here though.  We could have fairly easily gotten the defense back to a quality form with minor changes and an eye to a 2-year plan.  This kind of start from scratch move doesn't sit well with my stomach.

THE QUESTIONS
   A truly good team shouldn't have many questions, but we do.
   WR Corps -- I can't be the only person completely underwhelmed by what I've seen.  Someone needs to step up next to Joey.  I think the committee idea is actually a good one - I expect it will be over by week 3, it'll drive these guys to perform for the job.  Gosh knows they haven't shown much yet.
   LOT -- Health primarily
   QB -- Not so much ability, but rather health, and the depth behind him.  As an aside, it's interesting to me that the same people that are insisting that we'll get the "CLE/DET Garcia" not the more recent Eagle garcia are almost to a man the same ones that think Carnell is a bust, because his most recent year sucked and it's a "what have you done for me lately league".  Same goes for how they write off the team based on 06.  So if you think 06 is the best measuring stick, be excited about Jeff.
   PASS RUSH  -- We can believe all we want, but until we see it it's a question
   PASS PRO -- Looks better, but has holes.  We'll see.
   RUUD -- I was all about this guy, and still like him.  But he's still trying not to make mistakes rather than attacking.  He needs to get over that.

PROJECTIONS
     All this change makes any projections even more guesswork than they already are.  But with some Assumptions: A healthy Garcia, and no/few major injuries elsewhere, we can predict somewhat.  If Garcia goes down, all bets are off.  Although if he goes down and there aren't any other major injuries, we could be looking at a mirror of 05 with McCown playing the Simms role.  Just with fewer wins.  That said, here's the look with Jeff healthy.
     I think if we can steal 2 of those first five, we are rockin.  Even against the weaker of those teams, it says we are better than the teams we face later on.  1-4 out of the gate and we still have a chance, but it's a huge climb, depends on how we lost.  0-5 pack your bags, Jon.  This team needs to hang together and after last year a start like that would be fatal.
     There is a tremendous discrepancy in the quality of opponent in the first 5 weeks and the rest of the schedule.  Combining that with the changes noted above makes this a team that will very likely go on a second-half tear if they don't fall completely apart in september.  This is going to be the greatest challenge of Gruden's carreer.  He needs to hold it together while the kids learn the NFL and the vets learn the new schemes.  It doesn't need to be stellar, but he MUST secure 2 wins in september.  The players know damn well what the schedule looks like, so they will keep tight if they are competitive early, knowing that it's downhill after that.  But he needs to be competitive.  5 losses by 1 point might actually be as good as 2 wins morale-wise, but let's not get too detailed here.
     Once things start clicking after several weeks, we should be able to romp through the schedule.  I fully expect something similar to 03 in terms of production on offense.  It won't be quite as good, but it could be, or even better.  I'm just not sold the talent is there yet for that.  But the line, the back, and the QB are leaning towards that level.  The WRs aren't though, and the TEs are in the air.
     The defense is the biggest ? in the affair.  Great secondary, nice LBs, but a crazy line.  I'm betting the line does well.  Why?  Because the money and players were there to go a completely different route.  Instead we have this bizarre line I can't wrap my hands around.  And when I don't understand something, I don't assume the pros who do this for a living are idiots, I assume they know something I don't.  So I bet that Monte and Coyer have assembled something good there.  And with that, I can see a top-half or close to 10 defense again.  It's hard for fans to realize we still might be good on defense, when the play is below what we're used to.  10 years of dominant defense skews your expectations.  There are plenty of fans on other teams that would kill for a 17th ranked D.
    I won't do a game by game, but here are some interesting bits.  I think we sweep atlanta, and split with Car and NO.  (4 wins there).  NO is looking like a team that forgot they need to work hard to be successful, and we may exploit that in the home opener.  We actually have a chance to sweep CAR, because the first one is there for us if we can take advantage of it. CAR and Rams are our best chances at wins in september.  I've already penciled in Indy as a loss.  Seattle is a very tough one, and I hope but don't expect.  I do believe that Jon locked Stevens in a room with him for 3 days and got every bit of info he could from him, so the defense should be prepped.  But still a hard one.  After these games we meet people that don't look better than us on paper, so from there I's not so much about the talent assembled, but rather how the players play and how well the coaches do their jobs.  This is also the part that will most likely determine Jons future.  If you don't think Jon's a good coach, then we're shot even if we steal 2 in September.  If you think he is good, and we steal 2, then make your playoff plans.
     So here's my "official" call for the season.  It's optimistic, and there is evidence to say we'll tank, but here goes.  Based on the positive changes on offense, and faith in the coaching on defense, I'm going 9-7 +/- 1.   I really think 10-6 is a legit possibility, but I'll stick with 9-7 +/-1 for flukes.  Don't underestimate the effect of the schedule.  It's one we can work with.  It's also one that could kill us if we can't get some wins early.  So if we hit our potential early and roll from there, we could be 11-5 with this schedule.  If we throw an egg in september, we could be longing for the "good old days" of 4-12.

Boid Fink

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#1 : September 09, 2007, 01:16:40 AM

You did not double space, and you failed to cite your sources...

 :D


Moosedrool

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#2 : September 09, 2007, 01:26:18 AM

I'm not readin' all of that. Can someone paraphrase?




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#3 : September 09, 2007, 01:30:13 AM

One thing I know.  IF Gruden gets down by 10, forget the run...

Which means the plane is only flying on one engine...


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#4 : September 09, 2007, 01:30:39 AM

yeah, give us the cliff notes.

Morgan

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#5 : September 09, 2007, 01:31:24 AM

So here's my "official" call for the season.  It's optimistic, and there is evidence to say we'll tank, but here goes.  Based on the positive changes on offense, and faith in the coaching on defense, I'm going 9-7 +/- 1.   I really think 10-6 is a legit possibility, but I'll stick with 9-7 +/-1 for flukes.  Don't underestimate the effect of the schedule.  It's one we can work with.  It's also one that could kill us if we can't get some wins early.  So if we hit our potential early and roll from there, we could be 11-5 with this schedule.  If we throw an egg in september, we could be longing for the "good old days" of 4-12.

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#6 : September 09, 2007, 01:31:43 AM

I prefer Chicago style, over MLA...


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#7 : September 09, 2007, 01:48:33 AM

Sorry you guys don't have the patience to read it all.  I think it's a fair overall assessment of all areas, and I'm interested in knowing what other's opinions of them are.  There's more there than the projections though Oma.  I tried to give the why's of things as much as the end result. 

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#8 : September 09, 2007, 01:56:16 AM

Who is the Doc and does he/she know football???


ufojoe

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#9 : September 09, 2007, 08:10:49 AM

Thanks for taking the time Doc. Enjoyed it. I agree that the D line is a strange situation.
But like you said, our coaches are pros and must know something. Right? At least I
hope they do...

Honestly, I don't know what to expect today. Probably a loss because it's in Seattle
and they're picked by some to be Super Bowl worthy. Tough first game. Stealing it
would be amazing.

The O Line is key to this game, IMO...

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#10 : September 09, 2007, 09:27:50 AM

There's one thing I learned from this post and that is that there's a big difference between insiders and outsiders.

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#11 : September 09, 2007, 08:21:42 PM

There's one thing I learned from this post and that is that there's a big difference between insiders and outsiders.

Sadly, there's just hate flying from most of the outsiders.  The PR Boards actually used to be primarily about stuff like this, and far more knowledgeable than I am.  Unfortunately, it seems many new people here would rather come and vent their spleens than actually talk about the team.



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#12 : September 09, 2007, 08:24:26 PM

Wow, nice wall of text!

as for...

Quote
One thing I know.  IF Gruden gets down by 10, forget the run...

I'm really starting to think if Gru is calling the plays forget the run.

DYK, we have a college football forum... http://www.pewterreport.com/forum/index.php?board=5.0
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