December 14, 2017

Behind The Star: The Latest on the Dallas Cowboys

Welcome to Behind The Star: The Latest on the Dallas Cowboys.  This regular column will be dedicated to covering the Cowboys, everything from free agent signings to how the arbitration case against the NFL is proceeding (see below).  So far, the Cowboys have had an interesting off-season following a disappointing end to the 2011 regular season.  So let’s get started…

The big news (other than Tebow and the Saints) this week is that the Cowboys and the Washington Redskins have combined to file a grievance against the NFL in regards to being penalized for dumping money in the uncapped year of 2010.  It seems teams were warned not to do this, although nothing was put in writing.  The problem here is that quite a few teams used this to their advantage, but only the Cowboys and Redskins were docked money against the cap ($10 million for Dallas, $36 million for Washington).  What makes this story even odder is that the NFLPA signed off on the punishment and every team but Dallas, Washington, Oakland, and New Orleans were given an additional $1.6 million in cap funds.  The NFLPA could have sued the NFL for collusion.  Secret agreements between owners that don’t have the union’s consent are frowned upon by the courts.  You might think “well no harm no foul, the additional money against the cap that the other teams received makes it even.”  The problem with that line of thinking is that not every team will spend up to the cap, but we know the Cowboys and Redskins would have spent to the max.  So once again the union loses.  This will be an interesting story to follow once the arbitration date is set.

As for on the field related news, it was known that the Cowboys were going to go hard after a cornerback in free agency.  The question was would it be Cortland Finnegan or Brandon Carr?  Well, once Finnegan signed with the Rams that question became moot and Carr it was.  Carr signed for $50.1 million over five years.  This should give the Cowboys a much better CB tandem as Carr is a huge upgrade over Terrance Newman who was released.  The Cowboys also signed safety Brodney Pool.  Pool may or may not be an upgrade over Abram Elam.  He and Gerald Sensabaugh will be the weak link in the secondary. 

The Cowboys also solidified their offensive line with the additions of Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau.  They also released Kyle Kosier.  The moves give the Cowboys depth along the line, something that was sadly lacking last season.  The Boys will also switch Tyron Smith and Doug Free, which should only make the line stronger.  Center would seem to be this units biggest area of weakness.

Lets address the other signings by the Cowboys so far in free agency.  QB Kyle Orton gives the Cowboys a solid backup in case Tony Romo were to go down with an injury.  Orton is not here to challenge for the job, but every team needs a solid backup QB in this day and age.  WR Kevin Ogletree was re-signed, unfortunately Laurent Robinson wasn’t so they will still be in the market for a wide receiver.  Linebacker Dan Connor was signed to give them depth at linebacker, this also could suggest that Bruce Carter is not yet ready for prime time.  Fullback Lawrence Vickers was signed to be the battering ram in front of DeMarco Murray. It appears Dallas wasn’t totally convinced that Tony Fiametta will remain healthy.  All in all, Dallas did a good job in free agency.  They can now let the draft come to them in April.  They have the 14th pick in the 1st round.  They could still select a CB as you can never have enough of them in this day and age.  How about a safety?  Mark Barron could start right away.  A pass rushing linebacker or defensive end is not out of the picture, and they could even take an offensive lineman if that is where they believe the best value is when it is time to pick.  As always, there is rarely a dull moment in Valley Ranch.

All Out Blitz

Arizona Cardinals: QB Kevin Kolb returned last week and the Cardinals won, but Kolb still didn’t play all that well. He was constantly throwing passes into the ground…..RB Beanie Wells is battling knee, thumb and hamstring injuries which has limited his practice time this week, but he still should play versus the 49ers on Sunday.

Atlanta Falcons: QB Matt Ryan has just not been able to take that next step this season. For the Falcons to advance deep into the playoffs, they will need him to do so or they will have no chance of beating the Packers or Saints…..RB Michael Turner is dealing with a groin injury that certainly seemed to slow him down last week, but the Texans’ defense may also have had something to do with his performance. This week he gets the Panthers, a much better matchup.

Baltimore Ravens: Some consider the Ravens to be the best team in the AFC, but I’m just not feeling it. I’m not sure I trust QB Joe Flacco to raise his game to an elite level when it matters. Even though the Ravens beat the Steelers twice, I still think the Steelers may be the best overall team…..LB Ray Lewis still isn’t practicing due to turf toe and is unlikely to play once again on Sunday.

Buffalo Bills: The injuries just keep coming for Buffalo as TE Scott Chandler won’t play this week due to an ankle injury and K Rian Lindell was officially placed on IR, ending his season…..LB Nick Barnett has had a very good first season for the Bills, already racking up 97 tackles. He would seem to be a must play in IDP leagues.

Carolina Panthers: WR Steve Smith’s production has been down of late even though the Panthers running game has picked up. Smith could certainly use some help to take the defense’s attention off of him. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to give QB Cam Newton another target to throw to, not to mention Smith is getting up there in age and could see a drop off in his numbers at any time.

Chicago Bears: Things just keep getting worse and worse for the Bears. First they lose QB Jay Cutler with a thumb injury, now they may have lost RB Matt Forte with a knee injury…..What makes the Forte injury even more interesting is that this is the last year of his contract as he and the Bears have been at odds all season long on an extension. It would seem business wise that it would be a good decision for Forte not to rush himself back, making sure he’s 100% healthy next season.

Cincinnati Bengals: It seems the sand may be running out in the hourglass for the Bengals as they were wrecked last week by Pittsburgh. They’re going to be a good team, but they still need time…..RB Cedric Benson is dealing with a foot injury that caused him to miss practice Thursday. He could still play though as he missed practice last Thursday as well.

Cleveland Browns: The Browns are going to have to make a decision this off-season. Do they believe in QB Colt McCoy, or do they draft a QB in the first round of April’s draft? They should have a top ten pick and could select one of the more highly rated quarterbacks that will be available. Of course they still need WRs and may need a RB also if Peyton Hillis leaves. Yeah, they don’t have many playmakers on this team.

Dallas Cowboys: Head coach Jason Garrett has been lit up this week for “icing” his own kicker. That isn’t actually what happened. You can clearly see special teams coach Joe DeCamillis and kicker coach Chris Boniol ask Garrett to call timeout…..What Garrett should be taking criticism for was not calling a timeout after WR Dez Bryant caught the pass at the Cardinals 32-yard line with 26 seconds left. Dallas had two TOs left and should have used one there so they could run a couple more plays to get in better FG range. It wasn’t like K Dan Bailey was having a great day. He missed a FG earlier in the game from 50+ and banked another one off the goalpost, not to mention the league percentage on 50+ yard FGs is 50.2. This is the reason why it’s extremely bewildering that Garrett keeps insisting that he didn’t make an error. Garrett has cost the Cowboys two games this season with conservative play calling (New England). If they miss the playoffs, the blame should fall squarely on him…..The good news is that WR Miles Austin should return this week as should FB Tony Fiammetta.

Denver Broncos: It is hard not to be a believer in QB Tim Tebow after last week’s performance. I know it came against a terrible secondary in Minnesota, but still this was the first game that Tebow had to win with his arm and not his legs…..The Broncos have to be considered the favorite to win the AFC West. Scary I know, but I still think they are one-and-done as they will most likely play Pittsburgh or Baltimore in the 1st round.

Detroit Lions: Head coach Jim Schwartz has done a great job of turning around the Lions, but he needs to get control of his team. They make way too many personal foul penalties and are playing way out of control which may be costing them games as well as yardage…..RB Kevin Smith is still being hampered by an ankle injury and is having a difficult time finishing games. He also hasn’t practiced this week which could lead to RB Maurice Morris having a bigger role this week.

Green Bay Packers: That’s 18 straight wins now for the Packers if you count the playoffs. The only team that I believe can beat them would be the Saints in a shootout. It might just come down to which team had the ball last or who had to kick a FG instead of a TD in a cold weather playoff game in Green Bay that hindered the passing attack (think Brett Favre versus the Giants when the G-Men last won the Super Bowl – it was close to zero degrees that night).

Houston Texans: The Texans just keep finding ways to win even without their best players. WR Andre Johnson’s return to the lineup was short-lived as his hamstring acted up once again and he had to leave the game last week. He has already been labeled as out for this week’s game. The Texans may want to keep him out multiple weeks to get him as healthy as they possibly can for the playoffs…..Another player who is really banged up is LB Brian Cushing who is dealing with injuries to various parts of his body. He’s not going to miss any game time, but certainly won’t be anywhere near full strength either.

Indianapolis Colts: I know the final numbers for QB Dan Orlovsky looked good, but keep in mind a good percentage of those numbers came when the game was out of hand and basically over…..The Colts have finally admitted that it is unlikely QB Peyton Manning returns this season. It seems we have known that for months, yet they still haven’t placed him on IR. It should be very interesting in early March when Manning is due a $28 million bonus. It will be decision time!

Jacksonville Jaguars: It is hard to believe that RB Maurice Jones-Drew leads the league in rushing on a team with virtually no passing game. QB Blaine Gabbert had what may be his best game of the season Monday night versus the Chargers yet was only 19 of 33 for 195 yards and two scores. That is hardly lighting up the scoreboard, but every journey starts with a first step. Hopefully, that’s what this is for the Jaguars and Gabbert.

Kansas City Chiefs: So much for QB Kyle Orton. He comes in for one play, a flea flicker, gets hit and dislocates a finger on his throwing hand. Now he is questionable at best to play this week…..My first question would be if Orton was mentally prepared enough to come in the game in the first half, why didn’t he start? Were the Chiefs really thinking Tyler Palko was going to improve?

Miami Dolphins: RB Daniel Thomas has played better of late, but RB Reggie Bush has so far proven that he can be an every down back. He’s not posting out of this world numbers, but they are solid numbers week in and week out…..LB Kevin Burnett is starting to justify his contract of late as his play has really picked up the past couple of weeks…..The Dolphins are playing great and are certainly one of the hottest teams in the NFL, but this still may not be enough to save Tony Sparano’s head coaching job.

Minnesota Vikings: RB Adrian Peterson is questionable to play Sunday versus Detroit, but Peterson came out Friday and said he is still having a difficult time cutting on that ankle. Assuming that’s true, I wouldn’t let Peterson play. He is your franchise player and you don’t need to be risking his health in a meaningless game…..WR Percy Harvin has picked up the offense with the absence of Peterson, showing why many people believe he is a threat to score anywhere on the field when he has his hands on the ball. He did however tear a ligament in his finger. He’ll play Sunday but could have a problem catching the ball.

New England Patriots: With the Patriots’ schedule for the remainder of the season, I still believe they end up with home-field advantage throughout the playoffs…..We’ve heard a lot of news this week concerning the health of WR Wes Welker as he is dealing with knee and wrist issues. He may be banged up, but it won’t keep him from any game action.

New Orleans Saints: You have to be rooting right now for a Saints-Packers NFC Championship game. If the weather was decent in Green Bay (big if), that could be a game for the ages. It would remind me of the Cowboys versus 49ers in the 90s…..RB Mark Ingram will miss this week’s game with turf toe. This guy just can’t stay healthy. What is even more annoying is that he comes off of two productive weeks where he was finally starting to show why the Saints drafted him so early.

New York Giants: You have to admire the bravado of S Antrel Rolle. After the Giants have lost four straight games, given up close to 80 points and 1,000 yards in the past two games, he still comes out and states the Giants have a great defense.  Yeah, not so much Antrel…..RB Ahmad Bradshaw returned last week. Although his numbers were not great, he should force defenses to respect the run again and not go all out to stop QB Eli Manning and the passing game…..The Giants seemed to have every call go against them last week, including a couple that maybe shouldn’t have. Even if that’s so, it just makes up for the Arizona game where a terrible call gave them the game.

New York Jets: I’m not a big Mark Sanchez fan, but you actually hear some of the talk shows in New York mention that the Jets should sign Peyton Manning (if he becomes available) in the off-season and trade Sanchez. It seems they forget that Sanchez is coming off back-to-back championship game appearances. He must have done something right and no one will know if Manning can truly come back from his neck surgery until he gets into a game, plus it’s not like he’s going to come cheap.

Oakland Raiders: The Raiders look like they are in the middle of a late season collapse. They barely showed up last week, getting crushed by Miami, and now they get the Packers. Sure they have injuries, maybe even more than most, but you still have to play the game…..Speaking of injuries, RB Darren MacFadden is out once again this week. This is longest day-to-day injury I’ve ever seen.

Philadelphia Eagles: QB Michael Vick and WR Jeremy Maclin are both expected to return this week. This should give the Eagles’ offense a boost, and it will certainly be interesting to see if Vick does play with more caution as he stated he will earlier this week…..How much money has WR DeSean Jackson cost himself with his play and attitude so far this season?  Jackson is still signed for another season, but the Eagles can’t go through this again. They either need to sign him to a long-term deal and make him happy or ship him to a team that will.

Pittsburgh Steelers: I wrote earlier in this column that Pittsburgh may be the best overall team in the AFC. Well that was before QB Ben Roethlisberger suffered a high ankle sprain in Thursday’s win over Cleveland. Ben probably won’t miss any game time as the Steelers don’t play again until a week from Monday, but Ben’s mobility will certainly be hampered…..Another concern for the Steelers is the health of C Maurkice Pouncey who also suffered a high ankle sprain in the same game.

San Diego Chargers: QB Philip Rivers looked real good Monday night. Granted it came against a Jaguars team that lacks a pass rush or a solid secondary, but it also shows what Rivers can do when all of his receivers are healthy…..Speaking of healthy, RB Ryan Mathews also looked good and could be a future star in San Diego…..I have a feeling the Chargers offense lights it up again this week against Buffalo, everyone else has of late.

San Francisco 49ers: Because of their record, the 49ers are listed as #2 in most power rankings. I just don’t see that and have a very strong feeling they are one-and-done in the playoffs. I think their record is more because of a terrible division and nice schedule. I love their defense, but in the playoffs you need to score points and I just don’t see QB Alex Smith being able to beat Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints, their most probable playoff opponent.

Seattle Seahawks: You have to love the way RB Marshawn Lynch is playing of late. He’s actually making the Hawks offense somewhat interesting…..OT Russell Okung was placed on IR this week after tearing his pectoral muscle, a tough blow for Lynch and that running game…..QB Tarvaris Jackson reported this week that his arm strength is back to 100% after his pectoral injury earlier this year.

St. Louis Rams: As if the Rams offense isn’t bad enough, there is a pretty good chance that Tom Brandstater is going to start against Seattle on Monday Night Football. I’m sure ESPN is just thrilled with this game, not to mention RB Steven Jackson can’t be very happy with seeing what is sure to be an overloaded front to stop him…..WR Brandon Lloyd should probably be benched in fantasy leagues.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Here’s a stat I didn’t see coming–the Bucs have trailed for longer this season in term of minutes than any other team in the NFL, including the winless Colts…..QB Josh Freeman missed last week’s game with a shoulder injury. His replacement, Josh Johnson, suffered a dislocated shoulder on his non-throwing arm. Ouch! Now Freeman looks like he will start this week but how long he goes is anyone’s guess, not that it matters much right now.

Tennessee Titans: Tough game for the Titans this week as they host the Saints. I doubt the Titans would have a chance if this game were being played indoors, but in Tennessee in the elements and with RB Chris Johnson looking like he has returned to his normal self, stranger things have happened. Not to mention the Titans need the game much more than the Saints. Yeah, I’m not buying that either.

Washington Redskins: As if this wasn’t a dismal enough season for the Redskins, now they lose TE Fred Davis and OL Trent Williams for violating the league’s drug policy. Apparently they were supposed to be suspended for a year but were able to get it down to four games because of a technicality (the players thought there was a grace period after the lockout–like it’s even legal to do these drugs)…..Because of their dismal finish, the Skins should be in good shape to draft a franchise QB next year.

Bears Lose, Raiders Win, Caleb Cools, Jay Stays Away

In Hebrew, Caleb means “dog.”  In Oakland, it means “ouch.”

Caleb Hanie didn’t acquit himself nearly as well as Chicago Bears supporters would have liked in Sunday’s 25-20 loss to the Raiders but few NFL quarterbacks are ever triumphant in their first career start, especially when their offensive coordinator arms them with a game plan more suited to a wily veteran or itchy kamikaze.

It was a rough first half with Mr. Hanie getting intercepted three times (perhaps he was distracted by the Raiderettes because I know I was.  Which one was Tony LaRussa’s daughter?  Who cares!  Part of the NFL’s labor agreement this year should have been that all teams must have cheerleaders and they must all be as gorgeous and distracting as the Raiderettes) but he settled down after the break and made some nifty throws and nimble moves and kept Chicago alive, if not always threatening.

But the Hanie place was, indeed, cursed in the end as he spiked the ball in an effort to stop the clock with four seconds left at his own 46 yard line but only did so after first hoping to pass.  Apparently that’s frowned upon in the NFL rulebook and Mr. Hanie was called for grounding and also slapped with an automatic ten-second clock run-off and thus, the game was over.  It was really rather odd and felt quite unfair.  What’s wrong with a little trickery?  Think Al Davis wouldn’t have tried something like that?

Hanie’s quality of play and flowing of hair are most important as we cross winter’s threshold into December because the 7-4 Bears are likely to have #12 leading the offense for at least the next month and, if fortune favors, into the postseason.  That’s because on Wednesday Hanie’s predecessor under center, Jay Cutler, acknowledged that his thumb injury could keep him off the field and in Kristin Cavallari’s cabana well into 2012.

The Bears didn’t win with Hanie in Oakland but their next opponent, the 4-7 Kansas City Chiefs, shouldn’t prove nearly as stubborn though they could be a little more intriguing.  One of the reasons the Chiefs have struggled (besides the fact that Dwayne Bowe is a short-armed woosy) is their poor quarterback play in the wake of Matt Cassel’s injury.  Tyler Palko has taken over as KC’s QB and has thrown six interceptions, no touchdowns, has a passer rating of 47.5 and probably feels really badly about himself these days.  Chiefs coach Marty Schottenheimer, I mean Herman Edwards, I mean Marv Levy, I mean Hank Stram, I mean Gunther Cunningham, I mean Frank Gansz, I mean Dick Vermeil, I mean Todd Haley, says Palko will start in Chicago this Sunday but few except the most naïve and Palko among us expect Tyler to last very long against the Meanies of the Midway.  The Chiefs now have in their employ Kyle Orton as backup quarterback after he was let go by the Denver Tebows hoping to return to his former team, the Bears.  As much as Orton would have liked to play for Chicago again he’ll now enjoy nothing more than to compete against his former mates and he knows the defense, knows Soldier Field and knows all about neck beards.  He could be dangerous.

How strange, cold and operatic it will be when Orton, the man traded away for Cutler, returns to Chicago to play against the team that dealt him yet he wanted to return to and now will face Hanie whom Orton once referred to as “My deepest, most blood-borne soul brother.” (Not true.)

Orton will provide solid, but unspectacular passing and will help keep the Chiefs close but Caleb – a cool, confident gent – will play much better than he did in Oakland, especially because offensive coordinator Mike Martz who despite being a genius is a rather slow learner, will call for a few more running plays than the 27 the Bears had in Oakland.  The Bears will beat the Chiefs, 24-13, and be 8-4 and Lovie Smith will strike a pose.

The Bears will then shuffle off into the locker room and watch the Green Bay Packers improve to 12-0 by throat-punching the Jersey Giants at the Meadowlands.  But this will be good news because that will make the G-Men 6-6 and Dead Men in the wild card race.

The Bears will then travel to Denver for their last stop on the AFC West Express to witness the gospels of the single-wing and wicked defense that have become the Broncos’ calling card.  Tim Tebow will be running, Von Miller will be jumping, Brian Urlacher will be hitting and Jay Cutler will be on the sidelines, getting pelted with snowballs and bible verses.  It will be a snow globe of blood, religion and three-yard runs.  Don’t look away.

Raiders 23, Broncos 20

What’s up, everyone?  The Raider Guy has returned.  Last night, the final game of Week 1 featured the Oakland Raiders visiting the Denver Broncos.  Sometimes when these teams meet, it can get ugly.  Last night was one of those games.  Rain was pouring down, players were shoving one another after every play and the flags were flying.  There was a total of 25 penalties for 221 yards.  That’s not counting all the penalties that were declined.  15 of those penalties were on the Raiders for 131 yards.  But when you think about it, that’s nothing new when it comes to the Raiders.

The Broncos got the ball first and ended up punting.  A penalty on DeMarcus Van Dyke forced the Raiders to start from their own 10 yard line. The first break came for the Broncos.  On the first Raider play, Jacoby Ford fumbled and Rahim Moore of the Broncos recovered it at the Raider 13.  The Broncos could only manage a field goal as the Raider defense was up to the challenge of not letting them find the end zone.  The next break came for the Raiders. Daryl Blackstock blocked a punt and the Raiders set up shop at the Bronco’s 42.  After some solid running by Darren McFadden and Marcel Reece, Jason Campbell found Reece in the end zone for a 3-yard score to put the Raiders up 7-3.

The Broncos didn’t have the ball for very long on their next possession.  Knowshon Moreno ran to the left for three yards and fumbled.  He was originally ruled down, but a challenge by Raider’s head coach Hue Jackson proved that he did indeed fumble.  But the Raiders couldn’t get a first down and had to settle for a 37-yard field goal from Sebastian Janikowski. With 11:14 left in the second quarter, the Raiders had the lead, 10-3.

After a missed field goal by the Broncos, the Raiders took over at their own 46.  This was a penalty aided drive for the Raiders. Denver was called for defensive holding and unnecessary roughness.  This gave the Raiders the ball at the Denver six yard line.  But once again, they couldn’t get the ball into the end zone.  Janikowski ended up kicking a 21-yard field goal and that made the score 13-3 Raiders with 1:27 to go in the half.

Denver took over and Kyle Orton took to the air. After two big completions, he decided to go deep. This time, his pass was picked off by a diving Matt Giordano. With 24 seconds remaining, the Raiders took over at their own 24.  On the first play of the drive, Kevin Vickerson of Denver was called for a facemask penalty.  Then Campbell hit Reece for a 16-yard gain to the Denver 45.  On the next play, Michael Bush ran the ball up the middle for no gain.  Then, with only a few ticks remaining in the half, Janikowski trotted onto the field and promptly nailed a 63-yard field goal.  Kicking in the Denver thin air is something he has always liked to do.  With that kick he tied Tom Dempsey and Jason Elam for the longest field goal made in NFL history.  This made the score 16-3 Raiders at the half.

With a 13 point lead, the Raiders got the ball first to start the second half.  They promptly went three and out and Shane Lechler booted a punt to the Denver 10 yard line.  The punt was fielded by Eric Decker and he ran it back for a 90 yard touchdown.  Kicker Matt Prater made the point after and that made it 16-10 Raiders.  After another Raider punt, the Broncos quickly went to work again from their own 11.

With the running game being basically non-existent, Orton hit Eddie Royal for a 19-yard gain.  Then the ugliness started.  On three different occasions, the Raiders were flagged for 15 yard penalties.  Unnecessary roughness, roughing the passer and unsportsmanlike conduct were all called on the drive.  Then Orton hit Moreno for a 24-yard gain down to the Raider 6 yard line.  But after Willis McGahee was stuffed for no gain and an incomplete pass, Orton was sacked by Richard Seymour for a 7-yard loss. Denver had to settle for another field goal and Prater made a 30 yarder to cut the lead to 16-13.

Once again, the Raiders went three and out and Denver took over at their own 42.  Orton hit Moreno and Decker for big gains and the Broncos were moving the ball into Raider territory.  However, with the rain coming down and making the ball a little slick, Orton dropped back to throw and this time he dropped the ball.  The ball was recovered by Lamarr Houston of the Raiders.  It was time for the Raiders to do something with the ball besides punt it away after three plays. Campbell hit Darrius Heyward-Bey across the middle for a 17-yard gain.  Then Darren McFadden finally broke loose for a 47-yard gain to the Denver one yard line.  From there Campbell took it in for a Raider touchdown. Janikowski made the point after and that made the score 23-13.

The teams traded punts and with 7:39 left in the game and with the entire stadium screaming for Orton to be replaced by Tim Tebow, Orton took the Broncos on a 12 play, 80-yard scoring drive.  On that drive, Orton spread the ball around to five different receivers and hit Lance Ball across the middle for a 9-yard touchdown pass.

That gave the Raiders the ball at their own 20 with 3:43 to go.  Denver had two timeouts and the two-minute warning on their side.  However, the Raiders had Michael Bush on their side.  On the first play, Bush ran off right tackle for ten yards. Then up the middle for two.  Denver called time out with 2:54 remaining.  On second and eight, Campbell hit Heyward Bey for a 9-yard gain and a first down.  Bush ran up the middle to the Raider 43 yard line for another short gain.  Denver called their third and final timeout.  On second and eight, Bush got the call again. This time, he bulldozed his way for a 12-yard run down to the Denver 45.  With no more timeouts, all the Broncos could do was watch Jason Campbell take a knee three times as time ran out.

That gave the Raiders a 23-20 win and it also gave Hue Jackson his first win as the Raider’s head coach.  Also, it was the first time since 2002 that the Raiders won their first game of the season. It wasn’t easy and it was ugly, but it was a win. That’s all that matters.

Although the Raiders only had 105 yards through the air, Darren McFadden had a great game as he led the team in rushing with 150 yards on 22 carries.  Bush added 30 yards on nine carries.  The defensive line did a great job stuffing the Bronco’s running game and sacking Orton five times.  The Broncos had a grand total of 38 yards on 13 carries.

However, there was some very sloppy and undisciplined play out there.  If the Raiders want to contend, all the stupid penalties have got to stop. I doubt they will, but one can hope, right?  The next game for the Raiders is at Buffalo.  The Bills destroyed the Chiefs on opening day by a score of 41-7.  Going into Arrowhead Stadium and coming away with a win that big is very impressive.  They’ll be ready for the Raiders.  Until then, take it easy.

The Raider Guy

 

 

 

 

 

All Out Blitz

Arizona Cardinals: Adrian Wilson has a partial tear in his right bicep muscle that will limit what he can do this pre-season, and may even eliminate how many games he will play in during the regular season. Matt Ware is likely to take his place at SS…..As of now, it looks like Beanie Wells will be the primary ball carrier at the beginning of the season, but Ryan Williams is catching up fast.

Atlanta Falcons: The re-signing of Jason Snelling might have caught some off guard but you can never have too many backs. Jacquizz Rodgers still may touch the ball more than Snelling though. Rodgers will be the 3rd down back and the player who catches the ball out of the backfield; whereas Snelling would only play when Michael Turner needs a breather or if he were to get injured.

Baltimore Ravens: The Ravens let it be known this week that even with the signing of RB Ricky Williams, Ray Rice will still be the short yardage and goal-line back. That’s all fine and good, but I still have my doubts…..Losing WR Derrick Mason to the Jets has to hurt, as once again, the Ravens look a bit short in the receiver department.

Buffalo Bills: Looks like the Bills would trade WR Lee Evans if they could find the right deal. Problem is the receiver market has dried up and it may be too late to get the kind of value they are looking for (apparently the right price is a 4th round pick)…..Living on Long Island in Jets territory, the fans down here are not happy about the team not re-signing QB/KR/RB/WR Brad Smith and letting him go to a division rival. Smith sometimes gets a bad rap as just a return guy, but he can fill quite a few roles whether it be on special teams or on offense.

Carolina Panthers: Word is the Panthers are doing everything they can to get QB Cam Newton ready to start the 1st game of the season…..The Panthers did a great job in free agency this season, apparently signing everyone they wanted to, but still these are players that finished last season with one win.

Chicago Bears: Does it seem as strange to you as it does to me that WR Johnny Knox is not listed as a starter right now? He had a pretty good season last year and seems to have a good rapport with QB Jay Cutler. Seems even stranger that Devin Hester would be listed above him…..RB Matt Forte had initially stated that he wouldn’t play in any exhibition games as he wasn’t pleased with his contract, but he has softened on that stance.

Cincinnati Bengals: I know the Bengals just drafted QB Andy Dalton, but with the way this team is structured, would it surprise anyone if they ended up in the hunt for the first overall draft pick and QB Andrew Luck…..The Bengals are still receiving calls about the availability of QB Carson Palmer, but they are still being told that he won’t be traded.

Cleveland Browns: The Browns had hoped that RB Montario Hardesty would be 100% recovered from ACL surgery and could take some carries away from Peyton Hillis; thus allowing Hillis to be fresher as the year goes on. However, Hardesty has yet to practice and may not be able to take that much of a load off of Hillis, at least in the early part of the season…..With Hardesty having trouble with his knee once again, Brandon Jackson could be the backup to Hillis to begin the season.

Dallas Cowboys: Lots of rumors coming out of camp that Tashard Choice could find himself released. I fine that highly unlikely, but head coach Jason Garrett has never seemed to taken a shine to Choice…..One player to keep an eye on in camp is TE John Phillips. He was extremely impressive in camp last season before tearing his ACL. He has picked up right where he left off in camp this season and already seems to be ahead of Martellus Bennett.

Denver Broncos: Anyone listening to head coach John Fox after the Broncos pre-season game Thursday on how he thought QB Tim Tebow played? Knowing where Tebow is on the depth chart, he used the phrase “work in progress.” Kyle Orton will definitely start the season under center for the Broncos. That’s no guarantee he will finish there, but Tebow still needs a ton of work…..The bigger question is will Tebow be the 2nd or 3rd QB, as Brady Quinn could be the backup behind Orton.

Detroit Lions: Rookie RB Mikel Leshoure tore his Achilles on Monday and will miss the season. This would seem to be good news for Javhid Best fantasy owners as he looks to get the lion’s share of the carries. But the Lions don’t want to put to much on the second year player, especially after dealing with turf toe last year, so they have signed RBs Jerome Harrison and Mike Bell. Plus they still have Maurice Morris…..Leshoure’s injury is the second to hit the Detroit rookie class as DT Nick Fairley is also out after having surgery on his foot.

Green Bay Packers: LB Clay Matthews apparently played the last half of the 2010 season with a stress fracture in his lower leg. Imagine what he can do with two healthy wheels…..I know the Eagles made a bunch of high profile moves, but the Packers are still the best team in the NFC in my opinion…..RB James Starks has looked good in camp and put on some weight, he could be a serious threat to Ryan Grant’s playing time.

Houston Texans: WR Andre Roberts has recovered from his finger injury and looks to be completely healthy. If TE Owen Daniels plays as well this season as he did the end of last season, than the Texans offense could be tough to stop…..RB Arian Foster would like a new contract but owner Bob McNair has stated that he won’t get one off a single good season…..The Texans would like to trade RB Steve Slaton but Ben Tate continues to miss practice with a hamstring injury; thus the Texans have to hold onto Slaton.

Indianapolis Colts: TE Dallas Clark let it be known Thursday that he will have to wear a brace all season on his surgically repaired wrist. You have to wonder if this might affect him as the season goes on…..One of the new rules this season regarding game day rosters is that they have been expanded to 46 on game days. But there is no such thing as an emergency 3rd QB anymore. If you think you might need an emergency QB, than you have to activate him as part of your 46. Why do I bring this up? With the surgery to Peyton Manning’s neck this off-season, the Colts have already made it known that they will carry three QBs on game day.

Jacksonville Jaguars: LB Matt Roth stated earlier this week that he would sign with any team that offered him a $3 million deal. Well the Jags stepped up and gave him that contact. Roth has his issues, but he’s a solid LB in a 4-3 defense…..The Jags might need LB help after Clint Session suffered what is a probable concussion in the pre-season opener Thursday.

Kansas City Chiefs: TE Tony Moeaki is back practicing with the team. I still think he’s a sneaky play in fantasy leagues with defenses paying most of their attention to RB Jamaal Charles and WR Dwayne Bowe…..Speaking of Charles, you have to love coach Todd Haley who continues to play games with Charles’ head and fantasy owners draft picks by listing him 2nd on the depth chart…..For those of you wondering if Le’Ron McClain would take away any carries from Charles or Thomas Jones, hmmm, no.

Miami Dolphins: With all of the things that have gone on around WR Brandon Marshall, you have to wonder if the Dolphins are suffering from buyer’s remorse…..The Dolphins stated this week that RB Reggie Bush will not return punts this season. Why not? Shouldn’t your best playmakers be put in a position to do the most damage?…..LB Kevin Burnett will start with the 1st team defense Friday despite only having six practices with the Fish; shows you what the Dolphins think of him.

Minnesota Vikings:  Not sure how the Vikings could have let WR Sidney Rice leave via free agency when their starting wideout opposite Percy Harvin is Bernard Berrian…..Perhaps the lack of receiving talent is why the Vikings plan on getting RB Adrian Peterson more involved in the passing game…..Apparently one of the reasons the Vikings waived OT Bryant McKinnie was that his cholesterol was so high they were worried he wouldn’t be able to make it through practice.

New England Patriots: G Logan Mankins, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the NFL during the lockout, signed a new long term deal with the club…..TE Rob Gronkowski has looked unstoppable during camp and could be a highly sought after TE in fantasy drafts, but remember, Aaron Hernandez is still there, and he’s not so bad himself.

New Orleans Saints: WR Marques Colston still isn’t practicing much and it’s time to start wondering how healthy he will remain this season…..I like rookie RB Mark Ingram, but there are so many offensive players on this team that need to get their hands on the ball. It’s difficult to see Ingram having a huge season.

New York Giants: You have to wonder if the Giants would’ve made a stronger effort to sign WR Plaxico Burress had they known that Steve Smith would sign elsewhere. It has to hurt even more that he went to the division rival Eagles…..Mario Manningham however could be a sleeper in fantasy leagues as he is now the clear cut #2 option for QB Eli Manning.

New York Jets: Speaking of Burress, his ankle is still bothering him and is unlikely to play in the Jets first pre-season game. Missing the game is no big deal, but after not playing football for two seasons, he needs to get on the field and get in a rhythm with QB Mark Sanchez…..I know Jet fans are upset with the loss of WR Jericho Cotchery, but Derrick Mason would seem to be a nice solid upgrade.

Oakland Raiders: Memo to general manager Al Davis, signing TE Kevin Boss does not make up for losing Zach Miller…..Boss may not be the talent that Miller is, but he’s likely to have the best season of his career this year as QB Jason Campbell still doesn’t have a true number one receiver to throw to and may look for his big TE quite often.

Philadelphia Eagles: What is wrong with WR Jeremy Maclin? It doesn’t seem like the Eagles or Maclin have any idea. They both keep insisting that the illness won’t cause him to miss any regular season playing time, but I’m starting to have my doubts and you have to wonder if the signing of WR Steve Smith is an insurance policy against Maclin not being ready to go…..Word out of Eagles camp is that QB Vince Young is being outplayed for the backup job by Mike Kafka.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Jericho Cotchery, who signed with the Steelers this week, is slated to be their 5th receiver…..The Steelers biggest weakness could be along their offensive line which could force TE to stay in and block more often than he usually does…..WR Emmanuel Sanders has already recovered from foot surgery and should be back this week. He will once again be the teams #3 wideout.

San Diego Chargers: The Chargers are trying to send a message to RB Ryan Mathews by sitting him out of the pre-season opener. Apparently he’s not doing all that well in practice…..It’s looking more and more like Mike Tolbert will get his fair share of carries this season, and if Mathews doesn’t pick up his play, maybe even more than his fair share…..LT Marcus McNeil had foot surgery this week, but is expected back in the lineup before the regular season begins.

San Francisco 49ers: Anyone who saw the 49ers first pre-season game witnessed QB Alex Smith take a beating as the offensive line couldn’t block anyone…..WR Michael Crabtree is expected to be back on the practice field before the last pre-season game…..So far there are no takers for SS Taylor Mays and the 49ers are still trying to figure out how to use him.

Seattle Seahawks: If there is a true quarterback competition in Seattle, than after the first pre-season game, Charlie Whitehurst is well ahead of Tarvares Jackson…..OT Russell Okung had to be helped off the field with an ankle injury. This is the same injury that cost him six games last season. Not what the Hawks needed.

St. Louis Rams: WR Donnie Avery is still not practicing due to a hamstring injury and could be in danger of not making the team if he doesn’t get on the field…..Danny Amendola and Mike Sims-Walker would seem to be the Rams starters at WR.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: WR Arrelious Benn seems unlikely to play this pre-season as he is still recovering from knee surgery. The best case scenario looks like a return for the regular season opener…..If you’re looking for a rookie to take in your IDP league, you may need to look no further than LB Mason Foster who should start the season for the recently departed Barrett Rudd…..RB Earnest Graham looks to be the favorite for the third down back.

Tennessee Titans: Due to the depth of the Tennessee secondary, Cortland Finnegan has spent the majority of his time at nickelback…..The Titans would like RB Chris Johnson to report to camp before they start talks on a new contract…..TE Jared Cook could be the teams 2nd receiving option outside of WR Kenny Britt.

Washington Redskins: TE Chris Cooley is likely to miss at least the next two weeks with a knee injury…..Tim Hightower had an impressive first preseason game for the Skins and could be the lead running back come Week One…..The injury to QB John Beck may give Rex Grossman a leg up on the QB competition, not that it really matters.

All Out Blitz

Arizona Cardinals: Good news to every Cardinal fans ears, WR Larry Fitzgerald stated that with the improvements the team made on the field in free agency, he is more likely to sign long term with Arizona…..Coach Ken Whisenhunt stated on Thursday that Beanie Wells will start at running back to begin the season…..The addition of TE Todd Heap gives the Cardinals a solid pass catcher, but remember, Heap is nowhere near the player he used to be; however in the red zone, he’s a nice tall target for QB Kevin Kolb.

Atlanta Falcons: We learned recently that RB Michael Turner underwent groin surgery in the off-season; an optimist thinks this is the reason for Turner’s mediocre 2010 and a pessimist thinks this season won’t be any better…..Tony Gonzalez, 35, recently stated that he could play another three seasons if he wanted to; you have to wonder if Tony is starting to realize just how good this offense can be with the addition of WR Julio Jones.

Baltimore Ravens: The Ravens are one of the teams that are rumored to be interested in the services of Giants DE Osi Umenyiora, as if that defense isn’t scary enough…..The loss of TE Todd Heap to free agency means we will find out if Ed Dickson is the real deal or not…..A couple of the Steelers have had some unflattering things to say about QB Joe Flacco this week. Seems they forget that if not for a couple of key drops by Raven WRs in the playoff game last season, the Steelers wouldn’t have even made the Super Bowl.

Buffalo Bills: The Bills signing of LB Nick Barnett gives them a quality player who can range from sideline to sideline. The only reason he is still not a Packer is because of salary cap reasons…..With opposing teams having to respect the deep threat of WRs Steve Johnson and Lee Evans, RB CJ Spiller could have plenty of room to operate underneath.

Carolina Panthers: Linebacker Jon Beason was placed on the non-football injury list with tendinitis in his Achilles but it’s not considered anything serious…..One would have to think that Cam Newton will start at QB for the Panthers as Jimmy Claussen was nothing short of awful last season. But even if he doesn’t, the Panthers have stated that they will have plays designed for him each week…..Speaking of QBs who were awful last season, the Panthers signed Derek Anderson.

Chicago Bears: The Bears must be in love with former Cowboys, having signed WRs Roy Williams and Sam Hurd, along with RB Marion Barber so far in free agency…..Williams could be the ball possession type of receiver the Bears need. Hurd is probably still best suited for special teams. Barber looks to be the goal line back…..The Bears will be looking for another center after Olin Kreutz has decided to test the free agent market. Not good for a team whose biggest weakness may have been the offensive line last season.

Cincinnati Bengals: Cedric Benson is back in the fold after signing a one-year deal. One has to wonder if his market dried up because of his off field problems…..Andy Dalton will be given every chance to win the starting QB job this season. This promises to be a pretty ugly situation as Dalton would almost certainly be better off sitting behind a veteran to at least start the season…..Those of you who think Carson Palmer may change his mind and come out of retirement to play again for the Bengals, forget about it! There is a better chance of Boomer Esiason putting the pads back on.

Cleveland Browns: QB Colt McCoy is struggling so far in camp with the new West Coast offense, but that’s to be expected since there weren’t any off-season mini-camps to work on things…..You know you may not be in for a good season when you lose your punter for the year with a torn Achilles tendon.

Dallas Cowboys: There were many questions when Dallas didn’t try to upgrade their secondary via the draft, but the Cowboys kept insisting they trusted Terrance Newman and Mike Jenkins. The Cowboys were all of a sudden in late on the Nnamdi Asomugha sweepstakes, but lost out, and now the news that they have lost Newman for 4-6 weeks with a groin injury. Even if Newman comes back before the season opener, it seems unlikely that he would be at 100%, and all the top CBs are off the market…..On the flip side, they did solve their safety problems with the signing of Gerald Sensabaugh and Abram Elam.

Denver Broncos: Kyle Orton has clearly outplayed Tim Tebow in the battle for the starting QB job. Not a shock as Orton may not be a sexy QB, but still much better than an average one…..The Broncos signed ex-Patriot Ty Warren to help with their run defense…..WR Brandon Lloyd has looked good in camp once again, and if Orton does indeed start, could once again put up a big season.

Detroit Lions: The loss of DT Nick Fairley for most, if not all, of training camp with a foot injury is certainly not good news. But if he can get close to 100% before the start of the regular season, then it’s not a devastating loss…..The Lions did a great job of waiting out LB Stephen Tulloch. There wasn’t a big market for his services and they were able to get him at a much more team friendly contract.

Green Bay Packers: The re-signing of WR James Jones is great for the Packers but not good for those fantasy owners who grabbed Jordy Nelson thinking this would be his breakout season…..It’s also not good for their 2nd round pick Randall Cobb, who now will only get on the field in the event of an injury to one of the top four wideouts…..For those of you who are worried, DB Charles Woodson is practicing fully in camp.

Houston Texans: WR Andre Johnson dislocated a finger in practice Tuesday, nothing to worry about as he will be back in a matter of days. This reminded me of the days where John Elway and Brett Favre would repeatedly break or dislocate their receivers fingers because they threw the ball with such velocity…..RB Steve Slaton will be traded as long as Ben Tate shows he is healthy and can handle the backup RB job.

Indianapolis Colts: QB Peyton Manning was spotted throwing the ball in practice and looked good doing so, but is still on the PUP list…..WR Austin Collie is also practicing fully, but one has to wonder if he can make it through a full season after multiple concussions last season…..The Colts re-signed Joseph Addai to a three-year, $14 million contract. Not sure if it’s just me, but that seems a bit high.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Maurice Jones-Drew is being limited in training camp after coming off meniscus surgery. If there is one top RB that I’m staying away from in fantasy leagues, it would be Jones-Drew. He’s an injury risk and the Jaguars might use Rashad Jennings in a bigger role in order to keep Jones-Drew as fresh and healthy as possible…..I’m not a big fan of the passing game either and wonder if teams stack the line of scrimmage and force QB David Garrard to beat them.

Kansas City Chiefs: Head Coach Todd Haley has stated that once again the Chiefs will be a run first team this season. If RB Jamaal Charles can stay healthy, he is going to have a big year…..TE Tony Moeaki has missed the first couple of days of camp with a knee injury. He may not be a household name, but he is a good blocker in the run game and can surprise some people in the passing game.

Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins have announced that RB Reggie Bush will have pretty much the same role with them that he had with New Orleans, touching the ball about 10-12 times a game…..There were some rumblings that Miami is interested in QB Brett Favre (can’t he just go away), but apparently this is nothing more than internet rumor…..Tiki Barber had a tryout with the Fish this week. Pretty much shows you how desperate they are right now.

Minnesota Vikings:  WR Percy Harvin is looking forward to a breakout season after not having suffered from a migraine since last year…..Of course with Bernard Berrian starting opposing you, Harvin is going to have the attention of all of the pass defenses…..Tackle Byrant McKinnie showed up at camp close to 300 pounds and was promptly released…..Anyone who hasn’t seen the video of what P Chris Kluwe asked of Donovan McNabb in order to give up jersey #5 should check it out. Pretty funny!

New England Patriots: The Patriots and Jets are gearing up for what should be an interesting battle in the AFC East…..If WR Chad Ochocinco can’t be a deep threat, one has to wonder if the Patriots can be the high scoring offense they were in the past…..DT Albert Haynesworth passed his conditioning test without any problems for those of you who are wondering.

New Orleans Saints: RB Mark Ingram has looked great early on in camp and could be another dangerous weapon in the Saints offense…..DE Will Smith will finally be suspended four games for using performance enhancers; the courts finally upheld the NFL’s right to suspend Smith…..If you’re looking for a TE late in your draft, look no further than Jimmy Graham. He is going to have a big year.

New York Giants: The saga between the Giants and DE Osi Umenyiroa promises to last all season long. In a nutshell, Osi believes he was promised a new contract if he performed well and now wants to be traded. The Giants did give his agent permission to seek a trade for about 48 hours before rescinding it. They then told Osi to take the day off and he refused. It is going to be an interesting soap opera all training camp.

New York Jets: The Jets are taking a big gamble on WR Plaxico Burress. He hasn’t played in two years and had issues with both organizations that employed him. Now has a sprained ankle to begin camp…..It seemed the Jets were the favorites until the last minute to land CB Nnamdi Asomugha but re-signing Antonio Cromartie is still a good move. With Darrelle Revis on your roster, Asomugha was a luxury, not a necessity.

Oakland Raiders: If you’re the Raiders, how can you let TE Zach Miller leave during free agency, not to mention the aforementioned Asomugha?…..RB Darren MacFadden will be out of action for at least two weeks with a fractured orbital bone…..The Raiders have been working out TE Kevin Boss to replace Miller…..The Raiders are still hoping that WR Jacoby Ford will be ready for the regular season after having the cast taken off his broke hand on Tuesday.

Philadelphia Eagles: The Eagles are going for broke this season, signing just about every free agent imaginable…..CB Nnamdi Asomugha seems to be an answer to the multiple receiver sets that the Packers and Saints use as the Eagles now have three top flight CBs on their roster. Makes you wonder if they will try and trade Asante Samuel eventually…..The Eagles even tried to lure WR Randy Moss out of retirement…..If QB Michael Vick stays healthy, this is going to be a scary offense…..Speaking of health, DT Mike Patterson is probably out for the season after suffering a seizure in practice and needing surgery to fix the problem.

Pittsburgh Steelers: WR Emmanuel Sanders had another surgery on his foot and is no longer likely to begin the season as the Steelers #3 WR…..QB Dennis Dixon angered Pittsburgh management when he asked for a trade. He may get his wish though…..WR Hines Ward should be ready to come off the PUP list (thumb) in the next couple of days.

San Diego Chargers: In order to keep SS Bob Sanders healthy, they are thinking about replacing him in passing situations. That’s all fine and good, but Sanders usually gets hurt throwing his body around in the running game…..Another player who came off the PUP list was TE Antonio Gates. He practiced on Thursday. The Bolts have to be a little worried though about his foot. This injury looks like it’s never going to heal completely.

San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers signed WR Braylon Edwards. The loss of Michael Crabtree makes Edwards close to a necessity…..In somewhat of a shock, the 49ers sent out an email to all NFL teams that S Taylor Mays is available. It didn’t take long for Mays (2nd round pick last year) to prove to new head coach Jim Harbaugh that he can’t play at the NFL level, now you know why is college coach, Pete Carroll, passed on him.

Seattle Seahawks: The Seahawks signing of TE Zach Miller is somewhat surprising as they have a pretty good TE already on their roster in John Carlson. Miller just seems to be a luxury, not a necessity…..The Hawks also signed WR Sidney Rice earlier in free agency. Now if they only had a QB to get the ball to these two…..Yeah, I’m not a big fan of Tarvares Jackson or Charlie Whitehurst.

St. Louis Rams: The Rams finally found their backup to RB Steven Jackson in Cadillac Williams…..Michael Sims-Walker gives the Rams yet another WR who is maddingly inconsistent. QB Sam Bradford may not be able to make that jump to the next level without a true number one wideout.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: It would’ve been nice to see the Bucs spend some money in free agency this season. They are a strong young team with a ton of room under the cap. A couple of solid free agents here and there could make a big difference. Seems to be they are behind the Saints and Falcons at this time.

Tennessee Titans: It was bad news for WR Kenny Britt on Thursday when it was announced that commissioner Roger Goodell will still be judge and jury when it comes to player discipline. Oh and Britt hasn’t practiced yet due to a hamstring injury…..Chris Johnson still hasn’t reported to camp. He wants a new contract with around $30 million guaranteed. Cha ching!

Washington Redskins: A sleeper RB in your fantasy leagues could be Roy Helu. Tim Hightower has already proven he can’t handle a full-time role and Ryan Torrain underwent surgery to place four screws in his hand this week. Of course the problem is the Skins have no QB and coach Mike Shanahan is famous for driving fantasy owners crazy with his use of RBs…..The Skins did re-sign QB Rex Grossman. It’s either him or John Beck for the starting QB job, yippee.

All Out Blitz

After finishing my column last week I started to worry about what I would write about in this column. The NFL was still in a lockout, and a news and notes column was getting more and more difficult to fill out. Well as we have all seen this week, the NFL players, general managers, and owners are trying to cram 136 days of non-action into a single week. It’s been a smorgasbord of roster moves and transactions. I mean wow, it’s been a wild week. Let’s get started.

Arizona Cardinals: The Cards got their man when they acquired QB Kevin Kolb from the Eagles for CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a 2nd round pick in next year’s draft. This instantly puts them back in contention in the NFC West and makes WR Larry Fitzgerald the happiest man in the state. Some might argue that this was too steep a price to pay, but the Cards did draft CB Patrick Peterson this past April in the 1st round, and without a franchise QB, you’re just not going to get very far in this league.

Atlanta Falcons: Earlier this week, the Falcons stated they would not be able to sign DE Ray Edwards. Now they have reversed course and stated they would be able to sign him, but at their price…..The Falcons have signed all of their drafted rookies including WR Julio Jones. It should be just a matter of time before Jones makes his presence felt in the NFL.

Baltimore Ravens: The Ravens released WR Derrick Mason earlier this week, but would like him back at a reduced rate. The problem is Mason’s former team, Tennessee, is also interested in his services…..If the Ravens don’t sign a WR, 2nd round pick Torry Smith could end up starting from the get go opposite Anquan Boldin…..Like Mason, the Ravens decided to cut TE Todd Heap, but would like him back if they can agree on a smaller contract.

Buffalo Bills: Although he signed a three-year contract and has played for head coach Chan Gailey in the past, Tyler Thigpen should not be a threat to start over Ryan Fitzpatrick, unless Fitzpatrick falls on his face…..Although RB CJ Spiller is expected to touch the ball more, Fred Jackson is still expected to be the lead back for the Bills.

Carolina Panthers: I understand DeAngelo Williams is a great RB and the Panthers had plenty of money under the salary cap, but with Jonathan Stewart and Mike Goodson also on the roster, couldn’t that money be spent elsewhere…..I do love the move of adding TE Greg Olsen. They have a rookie QB in Cam Newton, and rookie QBs need a good TE as a safety blanket…..The player to be named later in the Olsen trade is not WR Steve Smith who stated on Thursday that he wants to finish his career in a Panther uniform.

Chicago Bears: You had to know the Bears would eventually trade TE Greg Olsen. In a Mike Martz offense, there just isn’t much use for a TE…..The Bears are said to be very close to signing WR Roy Williams. They want a tall receiver to make those catches over the middle, and Williams has played for Martz before…..Rumors are going around that RB Matt Forte could hold out for a better contract. He is only scheduled to make about $550,000 this season.

Cincinnati Bengals: I understand about standing on your principles but it seems kind of stubborn to not trade QB Carson Palmer and get a draft pick or two rather than just force him into retirement…..The Bengals are still expected to sign RB Cedric Benson as teams may be shying away from him due to yet another arrest this off-season…..The Bengals made yet another error when they let CB Jonathan Joseph sign with Houston. They have the money, but just don’t spend it wisely…..The trade of Chad Ochocinco to New England opens up a starting job for Jerome Simpson.

Cleveland Browns: Browns have a ton of money they could spend under the cap, but so far have not been able to sign anyone…..The Cowboys are interested in S Abram Elam. The Boys might be interested in quite a few of the Browns defensive players that played under defensive coordinator Rob Ryan while he was in Cleveland.

Dallas Cowboys: Dallas has solidified their offensive line with the signings of Doug Free and Kyle Kosier, but have lost defensive lineman Stephen Bowen to Washington…..The Cowboys are said to be in negotiations to bring in DT Cullen Jenkins. This would be an interesting signing as Jay Ratliff would normally play that position. Would Ratliff move to DE if the boys sign Jenkins? If the Cowboys can’t sign Jenkins and start to worry about their defensive line, one has to wonder if they will make a push to sign CB Nnamdi Asomugha. If you can’t get to the QB, better make sure you can cover those wideouts for as long as possible.

Denver Broncos: The Broncos and Dolphins are playing a game of chicken when it comes to QB Kyle Orton. The Broncos want to trade. The Dolphins want him to be their starting QB. However, Denver wants at least a 3rd round pick, and Miami doesn’t want to give up more than a 4th.  The Broncos are currently around $8 million over the cap; they must be under the cap by Aug. 4. Orton makes almost $9 million. So by the 4th, they must trade or release Orton. Miami knows this and right now there are no other suitors for his services. Miami might just wait Denver out unless someone else decides to step in with a better offer.

Detroit Lions: The Lions have a terrific defensive line. Unless they find a CB or two, it might not much matter…..Things aren’t any better on the linebacker front, as the Lions seemed to have dropped out of the running for Stephen Tulloch…..LT Jeff Backus has a shoulder injury that will force him to miss at least a couple of weeks of action. This is certainly not good news for QB Matthew Stafford, who needs his offensive line to be at full strength to protect him.

Green Bay Packers: Although the Packers want to retain WR James Jones, it looks like he will sign with Minnesota today…..The Pack picked up the bonus in Ryan Grant’s contract, assuring that he should once again be the starting RB for that high scoring offense…..LB Nick Barnett was a cap casualty but kicker Mason Crosby received a five-year deal.

Houston Texans: The Texans were said to be hot after CB Nnamdi Asomugha but seemed to be pretty happy with their signing of Jonathan Joseph on Wednesday. There biggest need was a CB and, although they may not have signed the number one guy on the board, they still got a very good player…..The signing of SS Danieal Manning and Joseph makes a weakness, now a strength. Could this finally be the year Houston makes the playoffs?

Indianapolis Colts: The Colts are another team that has been quiet this week, and now we’re hearing rumblings they may not sign RB Joseph Addai…..They did sign one of their own, S Melvin Bullitt…..We should find out the severity of QB Peyton Manning’s neck surgery by how much money the Colts guarantee him in his new contract.

Jacksonville Jaguars: TE Marcedes Lewis is expected to get a new contract shortly, as the Jags don’t want to lose his services…..The Jags did sign Clint Session, an unspectacular, yet solid LB who should help the Jags in the middle.

Kansas City Chiefs: WR Steve Breaston signed with the Chiefs, reuniting with head coach Todd Haley. This gives the Chiefs a legitimate threat opposite Dwayne Bowe and gives rookie WR Jonathan Baldwin time to grow into the job…..I’m getting a bigger and bigger feeling each day that RB Jamaal Charles is going to have a huge season, providing he can stay healthy.

Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins signed the scatback they were looking for Thursday in Reggie Bush. Some might think this is bad for Daniel Thomas, but the Dolphins were always planning on signing a back to share the load. Bush will get his 12-15 touches a game, but Thomas will still be the main ball carrier, including when the Dolphins are in scoring position.

Minnesota Vikings: The Vikings upgraded their QB situation with the addition of Donovan McNabb, but lost their best WR in Sidney Rice. Good thing they have RB Adrian Peterson…..One WR the Vikings did sign was former Bear Devin Aromashodu. Aromashodu has talent, but just never fit in Mike Martz’s offense.

New England Patriots: You have to hand it to coach Bill Belichick. He has no problem taking on other teams problem children. First he makes a trade with Washington to take DT Albert Haynesworth off their hands, and then makes another trade for WR Chad Ochocino. Good luck to you Mr. Belichick…..One might think the Haynesworth deal has no chance of working, as the Patriots also play the 3-4 defense that he hates, but what Haynesworth really hated was lining up over the center. In New England, he will play one of the end positions, as Vince Wilfork will do that bit of dirty work.

New Orleans Saints: The Saints wasted no time in replacing RB Reggie Bush by agreeing to a contract with Darren Sproles on Thursday…..New Orleans seems to be in a battle with Denver and Dallas for the services of DT Cullen Jenkins. Jenkins isn’t really needed in New Orleans so one might think they wouldn’t be the favorite to land him.

New York Giants: The G-men received good news this week when the Dolphins dropped out of bidding for RB Ahmad Bradshaw; would almost seem a lock that he returns to them…..Things could get very ugly with DE Osi Umenyiora. Osi believes he was promised a new contract and may hold out until he gets it…..Could the Giants really be interested in re-signing WR Plaxico Burress? Seems if coach Tom Coughlin believes that he and Burress can get along; a second go around could be possible.

New York Jets: The Jets signed their number one priority this off-season in WR Santonio Holmes, but his $50 million contract will probably cost them any chance at signing fellow wideout Braylon Edwards…..The Jets are also trying to lock up CB Nnamdi Asomugha. Can you imagine trying to pass against that secondary?…..The Jets fallback option if they are unable to sign Asomugha is expected to be Antonio Cromartie, not a bad second choice.

Oakland Raiders: The Raiders are said to still be in the market for a QB to challenge Jason Campbell for the starting job. It seems unlikely they would go after Kyle Orton however, as those two franchises don’t like each other.

Philadelphia Eagles: The Eagles found their backup to QB Michael Vick with Vince Young all but signed and delivered. You can certainly question Young’s maturity, but he would seem to be a good fit for the Eagles offense as he is sort of a Vick clone…..The addition of CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie gives the Eagles a really strong twosome with Asante Samuel, good thing too because their competition in the NFC East is strong at receiver. Dallas has Miles Austin and Dez Bryant, while the Giants boast Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham.

Pittsburgh Steelers: If the Giants don’t sign WR Plaxico Burress than the Steelers might. It seems only his former teams are interested in him at this time…..The Steelers number one off-season priority was retaining CB Ike Taylor; mission accomplished with a four-year deal…..The Steelers are doing their best to sweep LB Jerome Harrison’s comments under the rug, but you still have to wonder if the team is getting tired of his act.

San Diego Chargers: TE Antonio Gates is likely to begin camp on the PUP list, but that’s not anything to worry about as he should be ready to join the rest of the team in no time. One still has to wonder if Gates will be suffering from plantar fasciitis all season again…..It seems to be just a matter of time until WR Malcolm Floyd signs with another team.

San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers seem to be out of the running for CB Nnamdi Asomugha…..For the third straight season, WR Michael Crabtree will miss most if not all of training camp, and you wonder why he hasn’t taken that next step to stardom. This time it’s a foot injury that will keep him out…..The 49ers did upgrade their kicking situation with the addition of David Akers…..RB Frank Gore looks like he is going to be a holdout.

Seattle Seahawks: The Seahawks decided to sign former Vikings QB Tarvaris Jackson to compete with Charlie Whitehurst for the starting job. Whichever one wins the job will have Sidney Rice to throw to as he also went from Minnesota to Seattle…..I’m not sure the Seahawks QB situation got any better with Jackson, and have no doubt it would be much better with Matt Hasselbeck.

St. Louis Rams: The Rams have yet to sign that big time WR to help QB Sam Bradford make the jump to the next level…..The Rams are in the market for a solid RB to backup Steven Jackson. They realize Jackson has plenty of mileage on those tires and is unlikely to be able to play all 16 games.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Bucs are yet another team that has backed out of the Asomugha sweepstakes. Kind of surprising since they have a need, and have the money…..They have also let LB Barrett Rudd know that they will no longer require his services. He was a tackle machine, but to many of those tackles were 2-3 yard up field.

Tennessee Titans: The good news for the Titans is that the signing of QB Matt Hasselbeck gives the team a solid QB. The bad news is that he has about as much a chance of starting all 16 games behind center as I do…..More bad news is that RB Chris Johnson is a holdout waiting to happen…..The NFLPA will indeed fight the commissioner’s right to discipline players who got in trouble during the lockout. This could be good news for WR Kenny Britt who is a lock to be suspended if Roger Goodell is allowed to suspend players for sullying the NFL shield.

Washington Redskins: The Redskins have made a slew of moves; signing DE Stephen Bowen, WRs Dante Stallworth and Jabbar Gaffney, and CB Josh Wilson. It doesn’t amount to a hill of beans if they don’t have a QB, and they don’t have one…..The trade of DT Albert Haynesworth was addition by subtraction…..The re-signing of WR Santana Moss is nice, but he’s still not a real number one wideout. Skins seem to be pretty far behind the Cowboys, Giants, and Eagles in the NFC East.