Bears

Andy Dalton generating interest from teams

With a large class of potential 1st-round quarterbacks the middle-tier guys haven’t received much media attention. One under-the-radar guy that is starting to generate some buzz, however, is Andy Dalton (my 4th-rated quarterback).

According to various reports, Dalton has either already met with or is scheduled to visit the Bears, Bengals, Browns, Chiefs, Patriots and Vikings.

Dalton could wind up starting for someone in 2011

I have Newton rated ahead of potential 1st-round picks Cam Newton and Jake Locker, mainly because I believe he is the most NFL-ready quarterback in this year’s draft class. He isn’t the flashiest player with the strongest arm but he is a solid pocket passer with above-average athleticism.

The reason for all the interest in Dalton is the fact that he fills a variety of needs for different teams.

Teams like the Bears and Patriots are looking for a quality backup quarterback, and Dalton can fill that role immediately. He may not end up ever starting for those franchises, but he can provide some insurance behind Tom Brady and Jay Cutler.

Others may look to him as a short-term starter. The Vikings, for example, may miss out on the opportunity to land a top-tier quarterback in the 1st round. However, if Dalton is on the board in the 2nd or 3rd round, they could select him and plan on making him the starter for 2011. Given the uncertainty surrounded free agency, this would be a safe way to ensure that they have someone other than Joe Webb at quarterback if they’re unable to address that need in free agency. In that scenario Dalton may only start for season, but he would be a cheap one-year starter who would then become a valuable backup once the new franchise quarterback is brought in.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Bears, Browns, Chiefs, Patriots, Vikings Comments Off

Early star of the Senior Bowl: Phil Taylor

I’ve been a huge fan of Phil Taylor since I saw him play for the first time earlier this season. I believe he is a true nose tackle in every sense of the word and deserves to be a 1st-round pick. I currently have him as my 4th-rated defensive tackle, ahead of some much bigger names such as Marvin Austin, Drake Nevis and Allen Bailey.

Based on the reports out of Mobile, it sounds as though others are starting to fall in love with Taylor as well. Here’s what others are saying about Taylor as the Senior Bowl:

Shane P. Hallam – DraftCountdown.com - ”He wasn’t ripped and didn’t show a six-pack like many of the other players, but he carried his 337 pound frame EXTREMELY well. You would never guess he was that heavy, but he still has the size to eat up space”

Scouts, Inc. – “[S]howing great feet through the bags for a 6-4, 337-pounder.”

Tony Pauline – DraftInsider.net - “The massive interior defender ate up double-teams and clogged the middle of the line. He also displayed a very nice swim move while rushing the passer.”

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I currently have Taylor going to the Chiefs with the 55th pick in my most recent mock draft, but that could certainly change if he continues to impress this week. He would be a great fit at nose tackle in Kansas City, and potentially could end up as a 1st-round option for them if his stock continues to rise.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2011 NFL Draft, Chiefs 2 Comments

32 reasons why no one in the NFL should want Moss

Cardinals – Need a lot more than one aging receiver to fix their quarterback situation.

Falcons – Why mess up a good thing between Matt Ryan and Roddy White?

Ravens – No room with Boldin, Mason and Housh. Moss would pout, ruin chemistry.

Bills – Ryan Fitzpatrick has been pleasantly surprising. Don’t mess with a good thing.

Panthers – Think Moss will be a good soldier on a team competing for the No. 1 pick?

Bears – Lovie and Martz have their hands full already with Jay Cutler in the locker room.

Bengals – T.O.  and Moss in the same locker room? No thanks.

Browns – If Mangini can’t get along with Braylon Edwards, how would Moss fit in?

Cowboys – The last thing they need is another distraction.

Broncos – Do you really think McDaniels will get along with Moss better than Marshall?

Lions – Can you picture Moss accepting role as a No. 2 receiver on a 2-5 team?

Packers – Chemistry on offense seems to be great. Don’t mess it up.

Texans – See above.

Colts – Manning prefers his no-name receivers. And it works just fine for him.

Jaguars – Last place Jags aren’t going anywhere. Don’t waste the money.

Chiefs – Already hold a big lead in a weak division. Why mess with what’s working?

Dolphins – Marshall and Moss is too much ego for any coaching staff to handle.

Vikings – Been there. Done that.

Patriots – Been there. Done that.

Saints – Brees seems to be doing o.k. for himself without an elite receiver.

Giants – Can you picture Moss backing up Nicks and Smith?

Jets – I think they’ve learned their lesson with Braylon Edwards.

Raiders – Been there. Done that.

Eagles – Been there. Done that.

Steelers – After trading Holmes, adding Moss would be a step backwards.

Chargers – Vincent Jackson is back.

49ers – Can you picture Moss being happy in last place in the worst division?

Seahawks – The last thing Mike Williams needs right now is a bad influence.

Rams – Last thing this young, overachieving team needs is a bad influence like Moss.

Bucs – See above.

Titans – Kenny Britt has enough issues to overcome without Moss influencing him.

Redskins – McNabb and T.O. didn’t work. Why would it work with Moss?

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 49ers, Bears, Bengals, Bills, Broncos, Browns, Buccaneers, Cardinals, Chargers, Chiefs, Colts, Cowboys, Dolphins, Eagles, Falcons, Giants, Jaguars, Jets, Lions, Packers, Panthers, Patriots, Raiders, Rams, Ravens, Redskins, Saints, Seahawks, Steelers, Texans, Titans, Vikings 1 Comment

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 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

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 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

Training Camp Preview: Chiefs

Biggest Question Mark: Offensive Line
According to ProFootballFocus, Matt Cassel was “under pressure” just over one-third of the time he dropped back to pass (34.4 pct) in 2009. In those “under pressure” situations, he was sacked 42 times and completed just just 38.7 percent of his passes. If the Chiefs passing attack is going to improve this season, the offensive line must give Cassel more time in the pocket.

KANSAS CITY, MO - MAY 9:  Rookie third round draft choice Alex Magee #71 of the Kansas City Chiefs goes through a drill during a rookie minicamp at the Chiefs practice facility on May 9, 2009 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by G. Newman Lowrance/Getty Images)

Could Magee win a starting job over the Chiefs former top-10 picks?

Position Battle to Watch: Defensive End
Both Glenn Dorsey and Tyson Jackson were huge disappointments in 2009 and both should be looking over their shoulders at Alex Magee. In a reserve role Magee outplayed both former 1st-round picks and could be fighting for a starting job this summer.

Impact Rookie: Dexter McCluster
Eric Berry is a future star, but he’ll struggle to make a significant impact until the Chiefs front seven improves. But on the offensive side of the ball, McCluster can have a game-changing impact all on his own. The Chiefs hope his explosiveness jump-starts their offense.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Chiefs 1 Comment

10 Underachievers that must step up in 2010

10. Aaron Curry – LB – Seahawks
It’s tough to  say a rookie underachieved, but Curry entered the league as a can’t-miss prospect. His 2009 season was a disappointment from day one. He started 12 games for the Seahawks and played nearly every snap when he was healthy, but just never produced. Making the transition from the ACC to the NFL certainly wasn’t aided by the sinking ship that was the Seattle Seahawks in 2009. The new regime has no allegiances to him, meaning he’ll have to earn his job in 2010 and the expectations will be very high.

9. Charlie Johnson – OT – Colts
Maybe this isn’t the right list for Johnson, because no one has really ever expected much from him. But he remains the starting left tackle for one of the league’s best quarterbacks, and with that comes the expectation of success. Johnson was a liability last season, especially in the Super Bowl when he allowed one hit and three pressures. As Manning gets older, protecting him becomes more important and Johnson needs to prove he can step up the challenge.

8. Jonathan Vilma – LB – Saints
Vilma was the Saints best linebacker in 2009, but that’s not saying much. They’ve since parted ways with Scott Fujita and failed to find an adequate replacement. Vilma will need to continue to improve in order to make up for the deficiencies at outside linebacker in New Orleans.

7. Levi Brown – OT – Cardinals
Brown’s poor play was masked by Kurt Warner’s pocket presence the past few seasons, but his sloppy play must stop now that Matt Leinart is under center. He’ll be asked to anchor the Cardinals patchwork offensive line and finally live up to expectations.

6. Amobi Okoye – DT – Texans
Drafted as a 19-year-old in 2007, Okoye was supposed to be an instant terror on the Texans’ interior defensive line. Instead, Okoye has been a liability against the run and  rarely made an impact as a pass rusher. He registered just two sacks and five hits in 2009, numbers that much improve if he’s to avoid a bust label in his 4th season in the league.

5. LaRon Landry – S – Redskins
Landry was supposed to be the leader of the Redskins’ secondary in the post-Sean Taylor era. He’s made his presence felt in run support, but he’s struggled to adjust to the speed of the NFL passing game. He is stiff in coverage and is often caught out of position. The Redskins have remained committed to him, but his days could be numbered if he doesn’t impress the new regime early on.

4. Derrick Johnson – LB – Chiefs
Johnson was a college legend at Texas, but his transition to the NFL has been a tough one. He’s never lived up to expectations in Kansas City and he could be getting his last chance in 2010. Romeo Crennel will look to him to step up as a starter at inside linebacker and he’ll need to perform if the Chiefs have a chance to rebound from a miserable defensive performance in 2009.

3. Darren McFadden – RB – Raiders
McFadden was supposed to have an Adrian Peterson-like impact and help turn around the Raiders fortunes. Instead, he’s struggled to hold off Michael Bush and Justin Fargas for the starting job in Oakland. McFadden needs to finally live up expectations before the Raiders send him packing along with JaMarcus Russell.

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 03: Quarterback Matt Leinart #7 of the  Arizona Cardinals during the NFL game against the Green Bay Packers at  the Universtity of Phoenix Stadium on January 3, 2010 in Glendale,  Arizona. The Packers defeated the Cardinals 33-7. (Photo by Christian  Petersen/Getty Images)
The bust label is ready to be slapped on Leinart if he doesn’t step up in 2010

2. Matt Forte – RB – Bears
After a memorable rookie season Forte suffered a brutal sophomore slump. Mike Martz likes to incorporate his running back into the passing game as much as any offensive coordinator, which could mean Forte is due for a breakout season. We should get a good idea for how much Martz trusts Forte based on how they use him in training camp and in preseason games.

1.Matt Leinart  – QB – Cardinals
All eyes will be on Leinart early this season. He has the physical tools to be an elite quarterback, but he just hasn’t put in the effort to live up to expectations. Perhaps the light bulb has finally gone off now that Warner is gone and he’s been given his last chance to succeed in Arizona. Derek Anderson will be breathing down his neck, pushing Leinart every step of the way.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Bears, Cardinals, Chiefs, Colts, Raiders, Redskins, Saints, Seahawks, Texans 1 Comment

Early NFL Rookie of the Year Predictions

It may only be May, but it’s never too early to look ahead. By glancing through some projected depth charts we’ve come up with an early rookie of the year prediction. We’ll track each player’s progress and update our rankings on a weekly basis throughout the season.

OFFENSE
1. Ryan Mathews, Chargers

Offensive Rookie of the Year typically goes to a running back, and often to a player on a good team. Mathews may not be the most talented of this year’s rookies, but he is in the best position to succeed. He’s the feature back in San Diego and should cruise to 1,200 yards and 10+ touchdowns.

2. Ben Tate, Texans
Tate will have to beat out Steve Slaton for the starting job, but he certainly will enter training camp with an excellent shot to be the Texans’ feature back. Unlike Slaton, Tate has the size to carry the load and put up impressive numbers throughout the year.

3. Golden Tate, Seahawks
Tate will likely be used as an all-purpose receiver in Seattle much like Percy Harvin was used in Minnesota last year. He isn’t their No. 1 target, but they’ll find ways to get him the ball.

4. C.J. Spiller, Bills
While Spiller was the top-rated running back on most draft boards, he didn’t land in a great situation in terms of finding immediate playing time. Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson still deserve to get their fair share of the carries (assuming they’re still around) which will limit Spillers ability to put up ROY-type numbers.

5. Jimmy Clausen, Panthers
If Clausen beats out Matt Moore he’ll be in an excellent position to succeed as a rookie. Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams will carry the load on offense, limiting the amount of work Clausen needs to do.

DEFENSE
1. Eric Berry, Chiefs
The Chiefs defense won’t be very good, meaning plenty of chances for Berry to show off his skills. He’ll clearly stand out as the best player in their secondary from day one, and should be the DROY favorite.

2. Derrick Morgan, Titans
Morgan will start from day one on an already respectable defense in Tennessee. He’s surrounded with enough talent that should allow him to rack up 7+ sacks this year.

3. Earl Thomas, Seahawks
Thomas will start immediately for the Seahawks and should be an instant-impact player. He’s a ball hawk, which means he should have no problem putting up the gaudy interception numbers that will catch the eye of ROY voters.

4. Brandon Graham, Eagles
Graham likely won’t start in Philadelphia, but he’ll be used as a situational pass rusher. He’s one dimensional, but he’ll put up the numbers necessary to get noticed as a rookie.

5. Sean Weatherspoon, Falcons
Weatherspoon is one of the few defensive rookies who has been handed a starting job. He likely won’t put up the numbers to in the award, but he’ll be in the discussion simply based on having the most opportunities to show off his talents.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Bills, Chargers, Chiefs, Eagles, Falcons, Panthers, Seahawks, Texans, Titans 2 Comments