June 22, 2017

The Long View: Bush and Hawk Get Cut

The Green Bay Packers cut linebacker A.J. Hawk on Wednesday, the same day the Detroit Lions said goodbye to running back Reggie Bush. If this is the end for them it’s fitting that they go out together because they came into the league together, burdened with huge expectations.

Did they meet them?

Bush, a Heisman trophy winner at Southern Cal, was taken by the New Orleans Saints with the second overall pick in the 2006 draft. Hawk went to the Packers three picks later, fifth overall.

When a player is picked in the first round they’re expected to be a Pro Bowler. When they’re taken in the top five the hope, and the hype, is that they’ll end up in the Hall of Fame. Bush and Hawk have zero Pro Bowls between them and neither will make the Hall of Fame.

But are they busts?

Bush, who has been a hybrid in the NFL playing running back, receiver and returning kicks, accumulated 1,326 all-purpose yards and nine total touchdowns his rookie year and helped the Saints reach the NFC title game for the first time in franchise history (they lost to the Bears.)

Bush, despite battling injuries, contributed more than 1,000 yards in total offense in each of the next two seasons for the Saints (including three punt return TDs in 2008) and was a vital contributor in 2009 when the Saints advanced to their first and only Super Bowl, pulling off a huge upset of the Indianapolis Colts.

In 2011 Bush went to the Miami Dolphins and did something many thought he could not, rush for a thousand yards, 1,086 to be exact while also catching 43 passes for 296 yards and seven total touchdowns, numbers that he almost duplicated the next season in Miami.

Bush’s first year with Detroit in 2013 was the best of his career, statistically, with 1,512 yards from scrimmage and seven scores. This past season Bush appeared in just 11 games for Detroit with 550 total yards.

On draft day nine years ago if you had a crystal ball and saw that Reggie Bush would never win a rushing title, never make a Pro Bowl and play for three different teams you might have said he was going to be a disappointment.

But what if you looked into that very same mystical forecaster and saw that Bush would last nine seasons in a league when most players (especially small running backs) don’t last half that? And what if you were also told Bush would help a moribund franchise play in two conference title games and win one Super Bowl?

A.J. Hawk joined the Packers in 2006 and started all 16 games with 82 tackles, a number that he would never reach again.

But there are other numbers. Aaron James Hawk appeared in every game his rookie year and would do that again every year of his career except 2011 when he missed a grand total of two games.

Hawk was a starting linebacker in 136 of the 142 regular season games the Packers have played since 2006. He never had fewer than 53 tackles in a season, compiled nine career regular season interceptions and 19 sacks.

With Hawk, the Packers had the league’s second best defense in 2009 and fifth best in 2010, the year Hawk helped Green Bay win a Super Bowl, defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Let’s jump in the wayback machine and break out that crystal ball again. No Pro Bowls for Hawk, never led the league in tackles, didn’t create a lot of turnovers…but nine years as a starter means something. It means a lot of things.

If you’re still not impressed with Hawk or Bush we understand.   If you’ve read this far you’re obviously the demanding type and we respect that.

So let’s see how Reggie Bush and A.J. Hawk measure up with other first rounders from 2006.

The first overall pick that year was defensive end Mario Williams who went to the Houston Texans. Williams played in two Pro Bowls for the Texans and two more since joining Buffalo in 2012 including the last two seasons and appears to still be going strong.

The third overall pick was quarterback Vince Young who went to the Titans. He was the offensive rookie of the year and appeared in two Pro Bowls. But his career came to an end with the Eagles in 2011.

Offensive Tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson went fourth overall to the Jets. He has made three Pro Bowls and is still going. Other future Pro Bowlers in the 2006 first round were Vernon Davis, Jay Cutler, Haloti Ngata, Chad Greenway, Antonio Cromartie, Tamba Hali, Davin Joseph, Jonathan Joseph, DeAngelo Williams, Marcedes Williams, Nick Mangold and Joseph Addai.

They all made at least one Pro Bowl but we confess there are a few in that group we’ve never heard of. And more importantly, perhaps, which one of those would you have rather had than Hawk or Bush? Ngata and Mangold almost certainly. The others spark a good debate.

The last player taken in the first round of 2006 was defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka who went to the Giants. Like Bush and Hawk, Kiwanuka was released this week. And like Bush and Hawk, Kiwanuka has a Super Bowl ring. Two of them.

Bush and Hawk might have a kindred spirit in Keith Van Horne, the All-American offensive lineman from Southern Cal who was taken by the Chicago Bears with the 11th overall pick in 1981. Chicagoans expected Van Horne to be a stud, a killer, an All-Pro, a legend.

He wasn’t. He was, however, a very solid football player, starting 169 games from 1981 until 1993. The Bears had great teams with Van Horne, making the playoffs seven times and winning one Super Bowl. There may have been other right tackles the Bears could have plugged in and had the same success. But the point is they didn’t need to look for another tackle because they had a good one.

Van Horne, Bush and Hawk are on the football’s Mount Rushmore of “take the long view.” All first round picks are expected to be great. Everyone wants a Lawrence Taylor, Peyton Manning, Patrick Peterson or J.J. Watt. But just because a first rounder doesn’t become a star doesn’t mean he was a bad pick. We all want winners, we all want stars and we all want it now. But patience can pay off. Availability, durability and determination cannot be measured at the combine.

Or maybe they can be and that’s really why Reggie Bush and A.J. Hawk were taken so high, and lasted so long.

The future…what can you do with it?

 

All Out Blitz

Arizona Cardinals: Right now Andre Roberts is expected to start opposite Larry Fitzgerald at WR. Now don’t get too excited and go running out to pick him up in your fantasy leagues. This could easily change before the season begins…..Speaking of Fitzgerald, he wants to sign a long term deal with Arizona as he is happy with their off-season moves, but if a deal can’t be worked out, the Cards can’t franchise him as he has a clause in his contract that prohibits that move.

Atlanta Falcons: Rumors are flying around the Atlanta training camp that the addition of WR Julio Jones will allow the Falcons to have more of a high tempo aerial attack. With WR Roddy White and TE Tony Gonzalez, the Falcons could certainly go this route, but it’s hard to see them going in this direction unless it is necessary; as it’s hard to win shootouts week in and week out…..With all the talk about the Saints, Packers, and Eagles, the Falcons have been able to fly under the radar so far. They just may be the best of them all.

Baltimore Ravens: TE Ed Dickson is practicing once again. Dickson needs to be on the field as much as possible in order to gain QB Joe Flacco’s trust. Flacco could use a big target over the middle…..Where RB Ray Rice goes in your fantasy draft probably depends on whether or not you believe that Ricky Williams will take over the Willis McGahee role and vulture short yardage touchdown runs. The Ravens coaching staff states that Rice will get those carries, but I have my doubts.

Buffalo Bills: If LB Shawn Merriman can continue to put pressure on the opposing QB like he did in the first preseason game, than the Bills’ defense could be better than first thought…..QB Brad Smith saw quite a few snaps in the Wildcat formation during the first preseason game. He could be a weapon in that offense, as the Bills want to use him similar to how the Steelers used Kordell Stewart in the 90s…..The Bills finally parted ways with former 1st round pick LB Aaron Maybin. Can you say bust?

Carolina Panthers: QB Cam Newton impressed in his first pro start and seems to be on target to start the season under center for Carolina. With that being said, if the Panthers had a solid veteran presence at QB, they would probably prefer to have Newton watch and learn but Jimmy Claussen does not give them that option…..TE Greg Olsen had a solid 1st game for Carolina. It should surprise no one if he is the team’s best receiver this season no matter who is throwing him the ball.

Chicago Bears: Neither WR Johnny Knox nor Roy Williams was all that impressive in the first preseason game, as only one ball was caught between them. So if there is indeed a training camp battle between these two, no one did all that much to cause separation…..I have a hard time thinking the Bears believe they can go into this season with Williams and Hester as your starting wideouts. Not all that impressive.

Cincinnati Bengals: The Bengals and CB Leon Hall are likely to open up contract negotiations shortly. Hall has pretty good leverage, as the Bengals have plenty of cap room and can’t let another CB walk and get nothing in return. They already let Jonathan Joseph go to the Texans. But then again, this is the Bengals we’re talking about…..WR AJ Green injured his knee in practice Wednesday, but it looks to be minor. Green may be one of the few reasons to watch the Bungles this season.

Cleveland Browns: I’m still trying to think of a reason to watch the Browns…..The teams top two RBs, Peyton Hills (hamstring) and Montario Hardesty (knee), are both banged up but should be good to go by next week…..QB Colt McCoy might be that reason to watch the Browns. He had an impressive first preseason game. Still he is not a true franchise QB, rather he is more of a game manager.

Dallas Cowboys: WR Dwayne Harris had a fantastic first pro game and is gaining on Kevin Ogletree for the 3rd WR job, but before anyone gets too excited, the Cowboys don’t use three WR sets all that often. They love to go with two TEs and line up Jason Witten in the slot to go along with Miles Austin and Dez Bryant…..A name to remember in those two TE formations is John Phillips, as he may eventually surpass Martellus Bennett on the depth chart. Phillips was making noise in training camp last year before tearing his ACL.

Denver Broncos: While RB Knowshon Moreno has looked very good in practice so far, Willis McGahee could vulture TDs from him just like he did from Ray Rice last season…..It’s pretty much set in stone that Kyle Orton will start over Tim Tebow at quarterback. The bigger question may be who will backup up Orton: Tebow or Brady Quinn…..DT Ty Warren, who was being relied on to stuff the run for Denver, tore his triceps and is a candidate for IR.

Detroit Lions: DT Ndamukong Suh may think the $20K fine for ripping the helmet off yet another QB’s head is excessive, but he still will want to calm himself down for fear of getting the reputation that LB James Harrison of Pittsburgh has gained. Last thing Suh wants is the NFL to look at his play with a fine tooth comb…..DT Nick Fairly is no longer wearing a cast and seems to be on pace to possibly play in Week One.

Green Bay Packers: WR Donald Driver has stated that he will accept a demotion from his starting WR role if he feels James Jones or Jordy Nelson warrants the job…..WR Randall Cobb may not see much action in the passing game since the Packers are absolutely loaded at WR. He still could make a huge mark in the return game. Cobb will be a threat to take the ball to the house every time he touches it, as if the Packers didn’t have enough of those types of players.

Houston Texans: LB Mario Williams doesn’t look the least bit comfortable yet in the 3-4 defense. Switching from DE to LB means Williams will now have coverage responsibilities, something he is not the least bit familiar with…..The Texans are starting to tire of RB Ben Tate’s injuries. They need to see him on the field to see if he can be a legitimate backup to Arian Foster. If not, than Steve Slaton will remain on the roster.

Indianapolis Colts: After watching the Colts backup QBs, you have to seriously wonder if they could ever win a game that Peyton Manning didn’t start…..Will this be the year that WR Pierre Garcon takes that next step? It would be a big boon to the offense if Garcon could become a bit more consistent in his route running, and even more so, if he could actually catch the ball. He has been one of the league leaders in drops the past couple of seasons.

Jacksonville Jaguars: There is a pretty good chance that the Jags will play it safe with RB Maurice Jones-Drew this preseason. He may not see a snap until Week One of the regular season…..QB David Garrard looks to get his first action of the preseason this weekend. He better get on the field soon if he wants to remain the starting QB. The longer he is out, the more likely it is Blaine Gabbert that opens the season as the #1.

Kansas City Chiefs: Rookie WR Jonathan Baldwin looks to finally be healthy and could see some action this week. But don’t expect anything big. Baldwin may be no better than 5th when it comes to passing options…..No matter where the Chiefs place RB Jamaal Charles on their depth chart, the team will go as far as Charles can take them.

Miami Dolphins: QB Matt Moore hasn’t practiced all that well with the team. However, he did impress the coaches with his play during the game Friday. Will he unseat Chad Henne? Probably not right away, but the team/players have little to no faith in Henne. It could just be a matter of time, unfortunately for the Fish, that their quarterback of the future is not on the roster…..RB Reggie Bush will get his first action this weekend. Coach Tony Sparano is still undecided if he will use Bush on punt returns. I am not sure why you wouldn’t.

Minnesota Vikings:  Apparently the Vikings first choice to start at QB was Tyler Thigpen, not Donovan McNabb. If that’s true, I’m not sure why Thigpen would sign in Buffalo for a backup job…..WR Percy Harvin may not play this weekend. It’s not due to migraines, but rather bruised ribs…..DL Kevin Williams has accepted his fate that he will finally be suspended after losing an appeal in the StarCaps case, probably four games.

New England Patriots: WR TJ Houshmandzadeh is scheduled to visit New England this week. It could be interesting to see Housh and Ochocinco together once again…..QB Tom Brady is said to be on fire in training camp. I would still like to see who becomes the Pats deep threat to stretch out the secondary…..You have to love coach Bill Belichick’s honesty about why the NFL moved the kickoff up to the 35 yard line—because they want to eliminate the return game.

New Orleans Saints: RB Mark Ingram has looked impressive in camp, but still it’s hard to see him having a big season with Pierre Thomas still on the roster…..If you’re looking for a sleeper WR for your fantasy league, Lance Moore could be your man.

New York Giants: A little bit of controversy here in the Northeast as QB Eli Manning compared himself to Tom Brady. You have to love his self confidence. He did beat Brady in a Super Bowl, but Manning has a ways to go before he can consider himself in Brady’s class, a sure fire Hall of Famer…..DE Osi Umenyiora has returned to camp, but one has to wonder if it’s just a matter of time until he walks out again if he is unable to get his contract extension.

New York Jets: WR Plaxico Burress finally practiced Wednesday. He will need all the reps he can get with QB Mark Sanchez…..LB Aaron Maybin, formerly a Bill, signed with the Jets Wednesday…..RB Joe McKnight suffered a concussion during the game Monday. He’s going to have to prove himself a bit more durable if he wants a bigger role in the Jets offense this season.

Oakland Raiders: WR Louis Murphy will miss the regular season opener with hamstring and groin injuries…..The good news is that WR Jacoby Ford and RB Darren McFadden are both on the mend and should get into a preseason game or two, but not this weekend.

Philadelphia Eagles: The Eagles received a dose of good news when it was discovered that WR Jeremy Maclin does not have a significant illness and could begin practicing with the team in a week to 10 days. He is expected to be ready for the regular season…..The asking price for CB Asante Samuel is two 2nd round picks. So it seems he is unlikely to go anywhere, which makes sense seeing as though the Eagles seem to be all-in for this season.

Pittsburgh Steelers: CB Ike Taylor suffered a broken thumb in the first preseason game. Not a big deal though. He is supposed to be out of action for just a couple of weeks and won’t miss any regular season time…..WR Mike Wallace has set a goal this season of 2,000 yards receiving this season. While it’s always nice to set your goals high, that’s certainly not going to happen. Wallace seems to forget that the Steelers are a run team first.

San Diego Chargers: In fantasy leagues, drafting RB Ryan Matthews or Mike Tolbert could be dangerous, as the Chargers plan for these two seem to change by the day. The team wants Matthews to be the every down back, but right now, he hasn’t been all that impressive in camp…..TE Antonio Gates returned to practice this week and once again seems to be somewhat healthy. However, with plantar fasciitis, it could act up again at any time.

San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers were thinking about signing QB Daunte Culpepper but decided on Josh McCown instead…..WR Michael Crabtree was spotted without a walking boot, so it seems like the worst may be behind him…..If there is a QB competition between Alex Smith and rookie Colin Kaepernick, Smith is clearly ahead.

Seattle Seahawks: TE John Carlson has a labrum injury in his shoulder. Any missed time could find Carlson on the outside looking in with Zach Miller the new number one TE…..Even though Charlie Whitehurst clearly outplayed Tarvares Jackson in the first preseason game, head coach Pete Carroll stated that there is no competition at quarterback and that Jackson is his man.

St. Louis Rams: With the Rams minus a true number one WR, rookie TE Lance Kendricks could play a major part in their passing game…..WR Donnie Avery has returned to practice, but may have a hard time making the team. Don’t be surprised if he finds himself on the waiver wire before the end of camp.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: WR Arrelious Benn, who is coming off ACL surgery, will be cleared for contact next week…..Apparently LB Mason Foster will be eased into game action rather than having everything thrown at him at once.

Tennessee Titans: RB Chris Johnson not only wants to be the highest paid back, but also wants to be one of the highest paid players in the NFL. This situation could get real ugly if his contract demands don’t come down…..Still no word yet on whether or not WR Kenny Britt will be suspended for his multiple transgressions this off-season…..If there was any doubt in your mind, Matt Hasselbeck will start at QB for the Titans, at least to begin the season.

Washington Redskins: The Skins plan to start John Beck at QB this season unless he plays terribly this preseason. The Shanahan’s believe he is the real deal. This is not saying much, but I think Rex Grossman is the better QB. Ouch!…..TE Chris Cooley made a visit to Dr. James Andrews regarding his knee. Makes one wonder how serious the injury is…..The Skins are deep at TE though, as Fred Davis is a pretty good option.