Pro Bowl choices are few this year

November 14, 2009

(UPDATE – The news that Ronnie Brown is out for the rest of the season alters this list tremendously.)

The NFL has opened up its 2010 Pro Bowl voting, but unfortunately it looks like there probably won’t be a lot of players attending the contest in Miami who hail from Florida teams.

When two of your three NFL teams stumble through the season it’s hard to expect that they will beat out the talents of other 29 teams in the league.

But here’s some players who I believe deserve serious Pro Bowl consideration.

Maurice Jones-Drew: Ok, so I was sort of wrong about Mojo. He has had a great season stats wise as the feature running back for the Jacksonville Jaguars. He leads the league with 11 rushing TDs and is third in the AFC in rushing yards. This may not be surprising since Mojo is basically the only good thing going on with the Jags offense. But while I was wrong about whether or not Mojo could handle a full-time load – I also predicted that he couldn’t turn around the fortunes of the Jaguars. And that has turned out to be dead on.

Ronnie Brown: If the Miami Dolphins make the playoffs again this season it will of course be due primarily to Brown. He is the heart and soul of the Dolphins offense whether he’s running the Wildcat or taking the handoff from Chad Henne. He is 7th in the AFC in rushing, but that’s because he is dividing his rushes with Ricky Williams (who is also having a pretty decent season).

Jason Taylor: After a one-year exile with the Redskins, Taylor has been a welcome addition to the Dolphins defense. The 35-year-old veteran has already has 5 and a half sacks for the season and has forced two fumbles.

Aqib Talib: Talib has been one of the few bright spots in a dismal season for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He has five interceptions on the year, which ties him for third in the entire NFL.

Beyond these four players, there are a handful of others who I think you could make an argument for, including Jaguars wide receiver Mike Sims-Walker. Sims-Walker, a 2nd year pro, has helped out the Jags much more than their acquisition of Torry Holt. Bucs linebacker Barrett Ruud has had a solid season as well and ranks 8th in the league with 68 tackles. Ruud also has an interception. Ted Ginn Jr. deserves some consideration because of his kick-returning skills, but we’ll have to see whether or not his 2 tds against the N.Y. Jets was a one-week wonder. Right now he’s not even on the Pro Bowl ballot as a returner.


Bad start for Jags and Bucs is so predictable

October 12, 2009

In the wake of yet another debilitating loss, the rah-rahs for new coach Raheem Morris and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have just about faded away completely.

Instead we now have columnists wondering if Morris is up to the job as head coach.

Psst. It’s a bit too late to ask this question.

This train wreck of a season was set in motion months ago and back in April I warned that both the Jaguars and Bucs were heading in the wrong direction.

The decision to rebuild the Bucs and jettison everyone associated with past success made no sense earlier this year. And it’s being shown out on the football field on Sunday.

Let’s just face facts here.

1. Morris was rushed into this job with no proof that he was ready. It doesn’t mean he can’t be a good coach, but there was no evidence that he deserved it.

2. In the NFL there is one position that matters the most. It’s called quarterback. If you don’t have a half-way decent quarterback, you will lose most weeks. Only if you have a ferocious defense can you afford to have a mediocre player. Just look at the Tennessee Titans. If their defense isn’t playing the way they did last year, Kerry Collins isn’t good enough to bail them out. The Bucs had opportunities to go after and bring in a good quarterback and they didn’t do it. They went through the preseason insisting that they had two guys who could handle the job. Of course neither of them is playing now.

3. If you can’t evaluate personnel and talent, you are also doomed. Why bring in a new kicker, or hire a new offensive coordinator if just a few months later you are forced to discard both of them? That’s yet another sign that no one knows how to run an organization.

By contrast, we know that the Jaguars have a good coach in the past with Jack Del Rio.

But the continued off-field problems – such as the need to suspend leading receiver Mike Sims-Walker – reprise questions from last season about whether Del Rio has control of the team anymore. The Seahawks 41-o drubbing on Sunday has to go down as one of the most embarrassing losses in team history.

And there’s still the problem that the team lacks the offensive firepower to win consistently. When a team shuts down running back Maurice Jones-Drew, then there’s got to be someone else who can help. It shouldn’t take the suspension of one player to derail the entire aerial attack of a team.

So two more predictions: Del Rio and Morris will find their coaching careers in the NFL come to a crashing end in the next few weeks unless something miraculous occurs between now and then.

Let’s see whether I am wrong about this one.

Just can’t believe the hype for Mojo and the Jags

July 4, 2009

This past week the NFL has begun pumping up the upcoming 2009 season and one of their questions for fantasy owners was whether Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte should be ranked as the No. 2 back over Jaguars back Maurice Jones-Drew.

While Drew was ultimately placed No. 3 on the list the NFL has this to say about Jones-Drew: “Fantasy owners looking for a breakout season should look no further than Jones-Drew.” Of course this assertion is based on the fact that Jones-Drew is slated to be the main workhorse on the team now that Fred Taylor is in New England.

Hate to sound like a broken record on this but this hype for Jones-Drew hype is flat out wrong. He could prove me totally wrong but until the 5 foot 7 Jones-Drew averages more than 12 carries a game it is just hard for me to believe that he can hold up to the week-in and week-out grind.

As I have noted previously, his rushing total was actually HIGHER in 2006 than it was last year. Granted the Jags offensive line was in bad shape last year but it defies logic to think as the NFL fantasy gurus do that Jones-Drew is suddenly going to bust out for a 1,100 yard, 13 touchdown season. If anything one could argue that his touchdown total will actually go down if the team relies more heavily on fullback Greg Jones who was hurt last year.

Then there’s the nagging question of the productivity of the entire Jags offense heading into 2009. Part of the blame for that is due to the O-line injuries and the lack of a decent wideout. A motivated Torry Holt signed with the team in April but can David Garrard really help the 33-year-old receiver reclaim some of his old glory?

The Jags already play in one of the most competitive divisions in the NFL. It’s hard to imagine that this team has enough firepower to compete with Indy, Tennessee and now a surging Houston Texans squad that won five of its last six games.

The last time Coach Jack Del Rio was on the hotseat he made the bold decision to bench Byron Leftwich and go with Garrard. I just don’t know what other magic trick Del Rio has left to turn this team into a solid contender. And if Mojo isn’t the answer then it’s going to be an even more dismal season.

MoJo for hire: Jags on verge of expensive mistake

February 23, 2009
Sports Addict Gary Fineout

Sports Addict Gary Fineout

There’s no doubt that Fred Taylor, a potential Hall of Fame candidate, had come to the end of his usefulness in Jacksonville. The Gator great got hurt at the tail end of the 2008 season and it’s clear that the Jaguars brass were worried about the long-time viability of the 33-year-old back who now ranks 16th all time in rushing.

But the Jaguars are on the verge of making a monumental mistake as they begin the post Taylor era. Because as explosive as he seems at times, Maurice Jones-Drew is not the kind of back who the Jaguars should make their every down back, or on the very least, the kind of back you give in excess of $20 million for in a long-term deal.

It’s not that MoJo doesn’t have flashes of greatness – but his success may have been due to the fact that he was a chance of pace back from Taylor who could catch defenses off guard. His great per-yard average may have been due to the fact that wasn’t pounding the rock 20-25 times a game. For example, as his number of rushes went up this season, his rushing average fell.

His yard per carry average in 2008 was the lowest in his three years in the NFL. And even more telling MoJo averaged just 2 yards per carry this past season when he rushed more than 20 times a game. That’s not inspiring because you want a back who picks up momentum late in the game.

MoJo’s biggest asset has been his versatility and his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. But once again he was able to put such great numbers because he came in on third down after Taylor had taken the shots and done the work on first and second down.

Ok, I’m sure some will say he’s a tremendous weapon and the Jaguars have to make sure they don’t overuse him. But if that’s the case then why pay him the same amount of money as Steven Jackson or other first-tier running backs.

MoJo is just 23 and will likely be a heck of player for years to come. But he’s not the kind of running back you build a franchise around. You would think that the NFL team that made costly mistakes on no-show wideouts such as Jerry Porter would think twice before making another expensive error.