49ers

10 Biggest NFL Underachievers

10. Knowshon Moreno
Is it too early to call him a bust? In two games before getting hurt Moreno averaged just 2.8 yards per carry. His performance was so disappointing that the Broncos traded for Laurence Maroney (not too early to call him a bust). Moreno is expected to return to action this week.

9. DeAngelo Hall
According to Pro Football Focus, Hall has been targeted 24 times and has allowed 23 completions. Wow. Just by pure luck you’d think two or three of those passes would be dropped or slightly off target and fall incomplete. And he isn’t just being targeted on short easy routes – he’s allowed over 10 yards per completion.

8. Cadillac Williams
When are the Bucs finally going to give up on Williams? He’s averaging just 2.5 yards per attempt, easily the lowest among starting running backs. He’s been so bad that undrafted free agent LeGarrette Blount, who was cut by the Titans, is now splitting carries with Williams.

7. Ndamukong Suh
Suh was supposed to be an instant impact player. Many said he was one of the best defensive prospects to enter the draft in years. Sure, he’s been credited with three sacks, but is that really a good way to measure interior lineman? He has been exposed as a liability against the run and opponents are taking advantage of the hole he creates in the middle of their defensive line. The Lions are giving up 4.8 yards per attempt – 4th highest average in the league.

6. Brian Robiskie/Mohamed Massaquoi
Maybe Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson weren’t the problem in Cleveland last year. The Browns simply don’t have a receiver who can make a play. The two 2009 2nd-round picks have failed to show any improvements in their second season. According to Pro Football Focus they rank 97th and 96th in percent of targeted passes caught – out of 97 qualifying receivers.

5. Michael Crabtree
After a strong end to his rookie season, Crabtree was a major reason why the 49ers were picked by many to win the NFC West. Yes, Alex Smith hasn’t helped his cause but Crabtree hasn’t helped Smith’s either. He’s caught just 11 of 21 passes thrown his direction. A true No. 1 receiver makes plays even on poorly thrown balls.

4. Michael Turner
Here’s a scary thought: the Falcons are 3-1 with almost no help from Burner Turner. He’s averaging just 3.8 yards per attempt this year. His career low entering this season was 4.5. He just hasn’t looked like the big bruising back that terrorized the AFC South the past two seasons. But he’s 28 and has never shied away from contact, perhaps he’s simply nearing the end of the road.

3. Jared Allen
Where has the Vikings sack master been hiding this season? He has been credited with just one sack and has generally been a non-factor all season. His struggles have had a ripple effect throughout the Vikings defense. If he isn’t getting to the quarterback, the rest of the unit suffers.

NEW ORLEANS - SEPTEMBER 09: Quarterback Brett Favre  of the Minnesota Vikings grabs his torso as he lies on the turf after taking a hard hit from Roman Harper  of the New Orleans Saints at Louisiana Superdome on September 9, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

It's been an ugly start to the season for Favre and the Vikings

2. Chris Johnson
So much for all that talk about breaking Dickerson’s rushing record. Johnson is averaging just 3.8 yards per attempt this season – nearly two full yards less than last season. Maybe teams have figured out how to stop him. Or maybe he’s just worn out from his league-leading 358 carries last year.

1. Brett Favre
Maybe Favre should have hung up the cleats for good this time. He’s already thrown six interceptions, just one fewer than all of last season. He’s averaging just 6.2 yards per attempt, which would be a career low. And he’s completing just 61 percent of his passes – down seven percentage points from last season. Any way you slice it, Favre has been this year’s biggest underachiever.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 49ers, Broncos, Browns, Buccaneers, Falcons, Lions, Redskins, Titans, Vikings Comments Off

10 Observations from Week 3 in the NFL

1. The Steelers are now heavy favorites to win the AFC in my opinion. A 3-0 start with Dennis Dixon and Charlie Batch at quarterback is no fluke. As long as they stay healthy, they’re the deepest team in that conference and no one can stop them. But health was an issue for them last year, so nothing is guaranteed.

2. I’d like to know the real story behind Trent Edwards’ release in Buffalo. How does a Week 1 starter not even have a spot on the roster two weeks later? There has to be something going on behind the scenes that we all aren’t aware of.

3. It’s nice to see Darren McFadden finally living up to expectations. He went over 100 yards again this week and has 345 on the season. Now if only Oakland could get some consistency at quarterback…

4. The 49ers are panicking already by firing offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye. How long before they panic some more and pull Alex Smith in favor of David Carr or Troy Smith? He’s already thrown five interceptions this season and I can’t imagine Mike Singletary will have the patience to let him keep up that pace for much longer.

5. That was a great road win for the Titans against the Giants this weekend. But I think we’ll know a lot more about the Titans over the next three weeks. They’re at home against the Broncos, then at Dallas, then at Jacksonville on Monday night. All three of those games look winnable. But they could just as easily go 1-2. If they come out of that stretch with a 5-1 record, they could be headed towards a playoff berth.

6. The Chargers are lucky Marcus McNeill is coming to the rescue soon. But they better hope his temporary replacement Brandyn Dombrowski doesn’t get Phillip Rivers killed in the meantime. It seemed like Rivers was under pressure all day against the Seahawks – a team that doesn’t even have a great pass rush.

Cleveland Browns

Peyton Hillis nearly led the Browns to an upset in Baltimore

7. Peyton Hillis is a beast. His 144 yards on Sunday were the most the Ravens have ever allowed to a division opponent. That’s in a division that has featured Jerome Bettis, Corey Dillon, Eddie George and plenty of other quality running backs over the years.

8. Want proof that Peyton Manning is a miracle worker? Austin Collie is the NFL’s leader in receiving yards.

9. I think the Broncos are a lot better than I expected, but they’re still going to finish in the bottom third of the league. They don’t have a running game, and no one on that roster appears ready to emerge as the answer to that problem. I’m even starting to wonder if it’s time to consider Knowshon Moreno a bust? It’s still early, but it rarely takes 1st-round running backs this long to develop. It’s not as though he’s playing in an inept offense. The Broncos have a solid passing game and a respectable offensive line. He should be producing by now.

10. The Chiefs may be 3-0, but I still put their chances of making the playoffs at well less than 50 percent. They’re off this week, then at Indy and at Houston. They’ll be 3-2 by mid-October and looking more like the team we all expected them to be.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 49ers, Bills, Broncos, Browns, Chargers, Chiefs, Colts, Raiders, Steelers, Titans Comments Off

NFL Rookie Rankings – Week 2

OFFENSE
1. Jahvid Best, Lions
Best is the runaway leader among offensive rookies after two weeks. He ranks second among rookies in rushing yards and leads all rookies in receiving yards. He has given the Lions offense a new look and is emerging as one of the most dangerous playmakers in the league.

2. Jordan Shipley, Bengals
Shipley caught five passes again this past week, giving him 10 for 124 yards on the season. He has emerged as legitimate a third option behind Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco and has given the Bengals perhaps the best trio of receivers in the league.

3. Dez Bryant, Cowboys
Bryant caught just two passes this week, but both were big 26-yard plays. He also returned a put 62 yards for a touchdown and is averaging 19.3 yards per return on the season.

4. Sam Bradford, Rams
The Rams scaled back the workload for Bradford in Week 2, as he attempted just 25 passes. He is completing 57.5 percent of his passes and averaging 5.3 yards per attempt – both mediocre numbers, but impressive for a rookie on a team like the Rams.

5. Aaron Hernandez, Patriots
Hernandez is emerging as one of the Patriots most explosive weapons this season. He ranks second among rookies this season with 146 receiving yards on just seven catches.

DEFENSE
1. Koa Misi, Dolphins
Misi played a key role in stopping the Vikings last week, and is emerging as a leader on the Dolphins defense. He is the most well-balanced rookie linebacker in terms of ability as a pass rusher and run stuffer.

2. Rolando McClain, Raiders
McClain anchored the Raiders defense in their win over the Rams last week. He already looks like one of the best middle linebackers against the run and the Raiders defense has improved as a result.

3. Derrick Morgan, Titans
Morgan recorded a sack for the second straight week but that’s not the only reason he’s ranked. He has done an excellent job holding up at the point of attack and the Titans run defense has improved as a result.

4. T.J. Ward, Browns
Ward has been one of the few bright spots for the Browns this season. He has been like an extra linebacker for the Browns run defense… which they have definitely needed.

5. Brandon Graham, Eagles
Graham picked up his first career sack last week, and looks like the best pure rookie pass rusher in the league. However, he’s being used in a rotation almost exclusively as a pass rusher which is why he isn’t ranked higher.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Bengals, Browns, Cowboys, Dolphins, Eagles, Lions, Patriots, Raiders, Rams, Titans Comments Off

5 teams that could trade for Kevin Kolb

The Eagles announced that Michael Vick is their new starting quarterback, essentially ending the Kevin Kolb era after a quarter of football.

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Kevin Kolb throws a forward pass against the Green Bay Packers during the second quarter of NFL football action in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, September 12, 2010. REUTERS/Tim Shaffer (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

Has Kolb thrown his last pass in Philly?

But Kolb is just 26 years old and has looked good in limited playing time – enough so that the Eagles traded away Donovan McNabb in the offseason. If Vick is now their starting quarterback for the long term, it would make sense for the Eagles to trade Kolb – and they should probably sooner rather than later to avoid any distractions.

So who might be in the market for a starting quarterback? Here are a few options…

5. Jaguars
The Jaguars likely won’t show an interest in Kolb before the trade deadline, but he could be an option if he is available next offseason. The coaching staff isn’t particularly fond of David Garrard and would likely entertain the idea of trading for a younger signal caller with more upside. That said, I wouldn’t rule them out as an immediate option. If the asking price is right it may be a good way to motivate Garrard while also giving them an insurance policy on the bench.

4. Vikings
The Vikings have every reason to be concerned about their 0-2 start considering the shaky play of Brett Favre. He isn’t the same quarterback from 2009 and he may have finally suffered one to many injuries. The Vikings aren’t going to bench Favre, but trading for Kolb may not be a bad idea if they want an insurance policy. Even if Kolb sat behind Favre for 2010, the job would be his next season.

3. Cardinals
The Cardinals are a logical choice because we know they’re capable of being a contender with the right quarterback. And Derek Anderson likely isn’t that guy. The reason they may not be interested is the fact that Kolb is still an unknown. We know from the 2007 season that Anderson can be a serviceable quarterback in the right system, and once Beanie Wells returns the Cardinals offense may be just fine. But Kolb has only played two full games in his career and the Cardinals may not want to take that risk.

2. Bills
The Bills have already given up on Trent Edwards and are handing the starting duties back to Ryan Fitzpatrick. In another couple weeks when the Bills are 0-6 or 0-7 Brian Brohm will likely get called upon to start. And then when he fails they’ll hand it back over to Edwards, and so on. It’s not a pretty picture in Buffalo, and Kolb could provide some much needed stability.

1. Browns
Cleveland makes the most sense because of their dreadful quarterback situation as well as GM Tom Heckert’s connection to Kolb (he came over from Philly this offseason). In fact, the Browns have already reportedly contacted the Eagles who said that Kolb was not available… at this time, anyway.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Bills, Browns, Cardinals, Eagles, Jaguars, Vikings Comments Off

10 observations from Week 2 in the NFL

1. Mike Martz is Jay Cutler’s savior. Through two weeks he has looked like the best quarterback in the league. If you’re not buying into the hype, consider this stat from ProFootballFocus.com: when Cutler was blitzed on Sunday, he completed 17 of 24 pass attempts for 198 yards and three touchdowns. That’s efficiency that you will rarely see against one of the more talented defenses in the league.

2. What’s up with all these quarterbacks being benched? If you’re sitting a guy midway through the second game of the season maybe you shouldn’t have started him in the first place. If your team has already made a quarterback switch before fall is officially here, you have every reason to panic.

3. At this rate, I don’t see how Eric Mangini and offensive coordinator Brian Daboll will survive the season in Cleveland. In each of their first two games the Browns offense has come out of the gate with reasonable success, only to be completely shut down in the 2nd half. It’s as if the Browns just go to the locker room and hang out at halftime while the other team adjusts.

4. Another issue with the Browns offense… how can you not get the ball in the hands of your playmakers? They had Jerome Harrison, Josh Cribbs and Seneca Wallace on the field at the same time for most of the game, and yet they failed to even fake any trick plays. They could have created some nightmare matches for the Chiefs defense with just a little creativity.

5. Derek Anderson did not look good on Sunday, but his offensive line didn’t do him any favors. The Cardinals offensive line allowed two sacks, six hits and 18 pressures! And they only dropped back to pass 33 times! And please, for the sake of Kurt Warner, don’t think that this offensive line got worse since last year. Warner was simply brilliant at avoiding pressure and getting rid of the football.

6. I’m excited to see Jimmy Clausen’s debut on Sunday, but I’m afraid it won’t be pretty. He faces two tough secondaries in each of his first two games – vs Cincinnati, at New Orleans. The Panthers might as well wave the white flag. They’re locked in a battle with the Browns and Bills for the No. 1 pick.

7. The Vikings have every reason to panic. They should add one in the win column this weekend against the Lions, but after that it’s at the Jets, home against the Cowboys, then at Green Bay and at New England. They could lose all four of those games. And they will if Brett Favre doesn’t stop playing like Sage Rosenfels. The Vikings could have gotten this performance for a lot less money if he had stayed retired.

8. The Steelers may be emerging as a favorite in the AFC. They’re 2-0 (two good wins, mind you) while essentially playing without a quarterback. As soon as Roethlisberger returns, this team will be very, very hard to beat.

9. Green Bay’s defense looked absolutely dominant on Sunday (with plenty of help from Trent Edwards). But here’s a fun stat for you courtesy of ProFootballFocus.com – the Bills didn’t target Charles Woodson once the entire game. Not a single pass thrown his direction. Now that’s respect.

10. And I’ll conclude with this… I hope someone in the NFL public relations department is paying close attention to the amount of media coverage being given today to Braylon Edwards and Kenny McKinley. The fact that most media outlets are spending more time talking about Edwards’ DWI and how the Jets will react, than to McKinley’s death is sad.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Bears, Browns, Cardinals, Packers, Panthers, Steelers, Vikings Comments Off

NFL Rookie Rankings – Week 1

OFFENSE
1.
Sam Bradford, Rams
The Rams asked Bradford to carry the team in his first professional game and he did just that. Bradford 32 of 55 passes for 253 yards in a near upset of the Cardinals. He did throw three interceptions (one on a hail mary) but it was an impressive debut nonetheless.

2. Jordan Shipley, Bengals
Shipley led all rookie receivers with 82 yards on five catches Sunday. All five of his receptions went for first downs, including a 51-yard reception. After seeing Shipley’s performance, its easy to see why the Bengals didn’t feel the need to keep Antonio Bryant around.

3. Dez Bryant, Cowboys
The Cowboys fed it to Bryant early and often as he caught eight balls for 56 yards. He was primarily used on short passes, as the Cowboys looked to him to make plays after the catch. Four of his receptions went for first downs, with a long of 15 yards.

4. Maurkice Pouncey, Steelers
Pouncey gave the Steelers an immediate upgrade at center, replacing Jeff Hartings. The Steelers were back to the power-running game that they’re known for, with Rashard Mendenhall averaging over five yards per carry.

5. Ryan Mathews, Chargers
Mathews didn’t set the world on fire, but he was solid in his debut against Kansas City. He racked up 75 yards on 19 carries, a modest 3.9 yards per attempt.  He also lost a fumble which led to a Chiefs touchdown.

DEFENSE
1. Koa Misi, Dolphins
Misi stepped into the Dolphins starting lineup and was all over the field against the Bills. He recorded one sack, and was consistently getting pressure on Trent Edwards. With production like this, the ‘Phins won’t miss Jason Taylor or Joey Porter.

2. Brandon Graham, Eagles
Graham made an immediate impact for the Eagles pass rush, consistently getting into the backfield and pressuring Aaron Rodgers. He didn’t record a sack, but his efforts did not go unnoticed.

3. Rolando McClain, Raiders
McClain fully lived up to expectations in his first game with the Raiders. He looked like a veteran, showing the impressive instincts that made him a star at Alabama. With McClain in the middle, the Raiders should be much improved.

4. T.J. Ward, Browns
Not much went right for the Browns on Sunday, but Ward already looks like an upgrade at strong safety over last year’s primary starter Abe Elam. He did a nice job in coverage against Kellen Winslow, and was consistently stepping up to help out against the run.

5. Eric Berry, Chiefs
Berry was quietly effective against the Chargers, helping the Chiefs pull off the upset. He didn’t come up with any big plays but was consistently in the right position, providing support for the Chiefs corners. It’s only a matter of time before he comes up with some game-changing interceptions.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Bengals, Browns, Chargers, Chiefs, Cowboys, Dolphins, Eagles, Raiders, Rams, Steelers Comments Off

10 Observations From Week 1

1. Arian Foster is the answer to all of the Texans problems. They’ve been looking for a feature back since entering the league. Jonathan Wells, Domanick Davis Williams, Ahman Green, Steve Slaton and many others have tried and failed to fill that hole. Now Foster looks like the real deal.

2. I missed the end of the Cowboys-Redskins game, but when I heard the game ended on a holding penalty the name Alex Barron immediately popped into my head. Sure enough, it was Barron who blew the game for the Cowboys. He may be the least disciplined player in the game – regardless of position. He’ll lose his starting job, and maybe his job altogether, as soon as Marc Colombo is healthy.

3. But I shouldn’t put all the blame on Barron. Tony Romo and Tashard Choice, what were you thinking at the end of the first half?! A shovel pass is possibly the last thing that should have happened on that play. Throw a hail mary, throw it out of bounds, or just take a sack! Anything is better than a shovel pass. That was destined to fail.

4. The Steelers are in serious trouble if Max Starks doesn’t get healthy soon. Jonathan Scott replaced Starks on Sunday and, according to ProFootballFocus.com, allowed three quarterback pressures on the 10 pass plays in which he was on the field. Tony Hillis is also an option to replace Starks at left tackle. And if they get really desperate, rookie Kyle Jolly is on the practice squad.

New York Jets Braylon Edwards is called for running into the kicker on Baltimore Ravens Billy Cundiff in the second quarter on Monday Night Football in week 1 of the NFL season at New Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey on September 13, 2010.    UPI /John Angelillo Photo via Newscom

Braylon Edwards commits one of the Jets 14 penalties, running into Billy Cundiff on a FG attempt.

5. The Jets might be the least disciplined team in football, and I’m not at all surprised. What do you expect when you put that many egos one roster, led by a coach that has little control over his players. Rex Ryan is a hell of coach, but he isn’t real big on discipline and it shows on the field. The Jets committed 14 penalties for 125 yards, 10 of which came in the 1st half. For a team that isn’t expecting much out of its offense, that’s simply unacceptable.

6. What happened to the Dolphins offense? Surely the Bills defense, in their first game running a 3-4 system, didn’t improve dramatically from a season ago. The Dolphins didn’t turn the ball over, controlled the clock for over 36 minutes and yet only put 13 points on the board (the other two points came on a safety). Here’s one idea to jump start the offense: get more than two receivers involved. Brandon Marshall and Davon Bess were the only wide receivers with a catch on Sunday. They need to find away to get Brian Hartline involved. He’s their Wes Welker.

7. The Bucs and Browns may be the two worst teams in football. The Bills were in the discussion, but they actually looked better than expected on Sunday, at least on defense. The Rams were also in the mix, but nearly pulled off a win over the Cardinals. But the Browns and Bucs played a nearly unwatchable game this weekend. That game very well may have decided the No. 1 pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. Jake Locker, pack your bags for Cleveland.

8. According to ProFootballFocus.com, Peyton Manning dropped back to pass 59 times on Sunday and was sacked, hit or pressured on 25 of those plays. That’s a remarkable 42.5 percent of his pass plays. That’s bad news for the Colts offensive line, but it also calls attention to just how freaking amazing Manning is at playing this sport. Despite all that pressure he didn’t throw an interception and completed over 70 percent of his passes.

9. The Falcons offense couldn’t have been more predictable. Hand off to Michael Turner, pass to Roddy White, hand off to Michael Turner… and so on. They need to get others involved in the offense if they’re going to improve upon Sunday’s pitiful showing. The Steelers defense is good, but not that good. Offensive coordinator Mike Mularky played right into the Steelers hands with a terribly uncreative game plan.

10. And finally, I’m not even sure what to say about Calvin Johnson’s touchdown that wasn’t. Clearly he caught the ball. The NFL needs to do away with these nonsense rules that throw common sense out the window.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Browns, Buccaneers, Colts, Cowboys, Dolphins, Falcons, Jets, Lions, Steelers, Texans 1 Comment

NFL players on the trade market: where might they land?

BOURBONNAIS, IL - JULY 30: Greg Olsen  of the Chicago Bears runs past Zack Bowman  after catching a pass during a summer training camp practice at Olivet Nazarene University on July 30, 2010 in Bourbonnais, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Olsen may be done in Chicago

Greg Olsen
Mike Martz tried to embrace Olsen, essentially a wide receiver in a tight end’s body, but Martz just doesn’t have use for those guys in his system. As a result, he’s reportedly on the trade market. Here are a few teams that could use his services:
1. Panthers – Jeff King is an adequate starter, but offers very little as a receiver. Matt More would welcome the addition of another weapon in the passing game.
2. Chiefs – Leonard Pope and Tony Moeaki have battled for the starting job. Pope has been a disappointment throughout his career. Moeaki, a rookie, has plenty of upside but also has a long injury history. Olsen would provide some stability at the position.
3. Bills – With Shawn Nelson suspended four games, the Bills don’t really have any options at tight end for a quarter of their season. Olsen would provide some immediate help and potentially push Nelson for the starting job once he returns.

Vincent Jackson
1. Rams – This could be a golden opportunity for the Rams to add a true No. 1 receiver for Sam Bradford to work with. He would immediately improve one of the worst receiving corps in the league.
2. Browns – Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll was unable to get his passing game to do much of anything last year – in part due to inept quarerbacks, in part due to inept receivers. Jackson would immediately become the best receiver in the AFC North and upgrade what might be the league’s worst passing offense.
3. Seahawks – Pete Carroll and staff are building the Seahawks in an effort to win immediately and the addition of Jackson would be an obvious step in that direction. However, they already have a decent amount of money wrapped up in the position (Branch, Houshmandzadeh).

Matt Leinart
We devoted a full post to Leinart’s possible destinations. Check it out here.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Bears, Bills, Browns, Cardinals, Chargers, Chiefs, Panthers, Rams, Seahawks Comments Off

10 Most Underrated NFL Players

10. Shaun O’Hara
Since being signed as an undrafted free agent in 2000, O’Hara has developed into one of the games best interior offensive linemen. Now entering his 11th season in the league, O’Hara continues to get better with age. He finally made the Pro Bowl each of the past two seasons and likely has more to come.

9. Matt Roth
The Dolphins waived Roth midway through the 2009 season and the Browns capitalized on Bill Parcells’ mistake. Roth was dominant down the stretch in Rob Ryan’s defense, excelling against both the pass and the run. He’s one of the most well-rounded 3-4 outside linebackers in the league and still has his best years ahead of him.

8. Kelly Gregg
While Terrell Suggs, Ray Lewis and others get all the credit for the Ravens’ defensive success, Gregg is the glue that holds it all together. He doesn’t generate the stats to get attention or make highlight-worthy plays, but he is one of the most consistent nose tackles in the game.

7. Antoine Winfield
Winfield has been regarded as a solid cornerback for over a decade now, but I don’t think he’s ever gotten the attention he deserves. He’s solid in coverage, but really excels against the run. Perhaps only Charles Woodson is more well-round in terms of ability to defend both the pass and the run at an elite level.

6. Vincent Jackson
As Jackson fights for a new contract in San Diego most fans are wondering how a player like Jackson could demand so much money. While I can’t defend his actions and his willingness to sit out the season, I will argue that he belongs among the highest-paid receivers in the game. As far as complete receivers go, only Andre Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald are better. Jackson has it all – the speed to stretch the field, great hands, and is arguably the best blocking receiver in the game.

5. Keith Brooking
Brooking flew under the radar for years in Atlanta and finally stepped into the spotlight in Dallas last season. The 5-time Pro Bowler has never been viewed as one of the game’s truly elite linebackers, yet at age 35 he remains among the best at his position. He lacks the stats – sacks and interceptions – to get noticed, but he’s one of those players that is simply all over the field. When the Cowboys defense makes a key stop, chances are Brooking was in the middle of it.

4. Jared Gaither
The Ravens tried to bait another team into signing Gaither as a restricted free agent this season. Rumors have circled the league that they’re unhappy with his work ethic. But whatever it is about him that the Ravens aren’t high on, it certainly didn’t slow him down in 2009. He was one of the game’s most dominant left tackles, protecting Joe Flacco’s blind side. He allowed just four sacks and two hits all season – ranking among the game’s most efficient left tackles.

3. Pierre Thomas
Thomas is often overshadowed by Reggie Bush, but he is the true star of the Saints backfield. He is one of the most well-rounded running backs in the game, and is perhaps most valuable as a receiver. According to ProFootballFocus.com the Saints targeted Thomas 42 times last season, he caught 39 of them and didn’t drop a single catchable pass.

LANDOVER, MD - DECEMBER 06:  Robert Meachem #17 of the New Orleans Saints scores a touchdown against the Washington Redskins on December 6, 2009 at FedExField in Landover, Maryland.  (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

Meachem may be on the verge of stardom

2. Shaun Rogers
Shaun Rogers got a bad reputation in Detroit as being lazy and overweight. Since coming over to Cleveland, Rogers has reestablished himself as one of the game’s premier nose tackles. In terms of clogging holes and stuffing the run, he’s on the same level as Albert Haynesworth and Kevin Williams.

1. Robert Meachem
Meachem finally overcame a long string of injuries and played a key role in the Saints Super Bowl run in 2009. He started seven games for the Saints and proved to be a valuable deep threat, averaging over 16 yards per catch. What really makes him stand out, however, is the little things he does. He is an above-average blocker and has arguably the most consistent hands in the game. In 2009 he was one of just three receivers with over 40 catches and zero drops.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Browns, Chargers, Cowboys, Giants, Ravens, Saints, Vikings 9 Comments

10 Most Overrated NFL Players

10. A.J. Hawk
Hawk will someday enter college football’s Hall of Fame as one of the greatest linebackers of his generation. But his production simply hasn’t translated to the NFL. He’s a solid starter on a good defense in Green Bay, but far from the star that some Packers fans believe him to be.

9. Nate Clements
Since cashing in on a monster contract from the 49ers its been all downhill for Clements. He was benched at one point last season before suffering a season-ending injury. The 49ers inexplicably decided to bring him back – fat contract and all – in hopes that he returns to form.

8. Eric Steinbach
On an offensive line which featured Rex Hadnot, John St. Clair and Pork Chop Womack, it was Steinbach who was the weak link. He’s an acceptable pass blocker, but struggles to open up holes in the running game. The Browns spent big money to bring him north from Cincinnati a few years ago, and he’s been a consistent disappointment. He easily earns the title of most overrated offensive lineman.

7. Dunta Robinson
When he wants to be, Robinson can be great. But he rarely cares enough to put in the effort. Knowing a contract was on the line he stepped up his game down the stretch last season and got a nice deal from the Falcons. He may start out the year looking like a star, excited by the change of scenery, but as soon as the Falcons are out of the playoff picture, Robinson will do his disappearing act.

6. Shawne Merriman
Based on last year’s performance, Merriman should probably be No. 1 on this list, but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt due to the fact that he was coming off an injury. Since being suspended for steroid use, we haven’t really seen much out of Merriman and this year could be the end of the road for him in San Diego with Larry English waiting in the wings.

5. Reggie Bush
The “explosive” Reggie Bush returned 27 punts last season, for an average of 4.8 yards. Of the 38 players with at least 12 punt returns only Arnaz Battle had a worse average. Ouch. He can be a nice little weapon and break off a big play from time to time. But so can Jerome Harrison, Justin Forsett, Steve Slaton… you get the point.

4. Brandon Jacobs
Jacobs was a bulldozer when the Giants first handed him the starting job, but part of that success was due to the depth around him. He takes more abuse than any running back in the league and the human body just simply isn’t built for it. He isn’t capable of being a feature back, as the Giants learned last season. His carries will be reduced this year in hopes that his production improves.

3. DeSean Jackson
He’s explosive and fun to watch, sure, but he’s also terribly inconsistent. He had as many games with fewer than 35 receiving yards last season as he did games over 100 yards. His route running is, well, basically limited to going deep. And he is too small and completely unwilling to set a block. He’s a great weapon to have, but not a true No. 1 receiver.

ATLANTA - AUGUST 13: Jamaal Anderson  of the Atlanta Falcons sacks quarterback Matt Cassel  of the Kansas City Chiefs at Georgia Dome on August 13, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Cassel hasn't lived up to the hype in Kansas City

2. Vernon Davis
Davis is the offensive version of Dunta Robinson. When he wants to be, he can be dominant. But the effort just isn’t always there. He developed into a legitimate fantasy football star last season, but in real life he’s still a liability. His blocking, if you can even call it that, is atrocious. And his hands are as inconsistent as anyone in the game. He dropped 13 balls last season, a whopping four more than any other tight end in the game.

1. Matt Cassel
What exactly has Cassel done in his career? Sure he was decent in 2008 with the Patriots. But considering it was one of the greatest offenses of all time in 2007, couldn’t most backup quarterbacks have thrown 21 TD and 11 interceptions on that team? In 2009 he came back down to earth and looked pretty much like Tyler Thigpen, Brodie Croyle or any other average quarterback would have looked in Kansas City.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 49ers, Browns, Chargers, Chiefs, Eagles, Falcons, Giants, Packers, Saints 32 Comments