Sunday, April 29, 2007

The NFL Draft: Round Two

33. Arizona, Alan Branch: This is a very interesting situation. Mr. Branch was, a month or two ago, preceived to be the best defensive tackle available. But as often happens on draft day he slid steadily down the board. Mr. Branch has outstanding lower body strength, though he has a tendency to come up too high. A good run stuffer who is also very effective in the pass rush.

34. Buffalo, Paul Poslusny: Another player who wasn't expected to be available this deep into the draft. A high energy, competitive player who is a little slower than preferred for the outside linebacker position, and struggled at the inside spot as well. Good in pass coverage, better against the run. Relentless at tenacious at the point of attack. Great football IQ. Coming back from a knee injury.

35. Tampa Bay, Aaron Sears: Rated as the #1 guard by Pro Football Weekly, which says that he "[p]acks a powerful punch . . . [c]an block out the sun." A versatile player who can play guard or tackle. Very solid in the run and pass -- fairly imoveable in pass protection. Has excellent football awareness. Needs to improve his blocking on screen passes.

36. Philadelphia, Kevin Kolb: The eight ranked quarterback according to Ourlad's Draft Service and Athlon Sports. Ranked as the sixth best quarterback in the draft by Pro Football Weekly. Ranked as the fifth best quarterback by Street & Smith's and ESPN. Only The Sporting News -- which ranked Mr. Kolb as the second best quarterback (behind JaMarcus Russell) applauds the Eagles' brain trust for this choice, and even they describe him as "a frustrating prospect." Nice first pick in the draft.

37. San Diego, Eric Weddle : A four year starter who played six different positions during his collegiate career. An instinctive player who is especially effective in zone coverage, but has speed enough to cover the deep ball. Good size (5'11", 203 lbs.) helps his ability to support the run. Rated as a late third round pick by Ourlad's. Hard to evaluate given the level of competition against which he played. Solid special teams contributor.

38. Oakland, Zach Miller: An outstanding pass catcher with decent speed (4.86), and size enough (6'4", 256 lbs.) to go across the middle. A good blocker, but doesn't use size as effectively as one would hope. Smooth route runner who was rated by The Sporting News as the best pass catching TE in the draft.

39. Atlanta, Justin Blaylock: A terrific pick of a player many had rated as a fist rounder. Bigger and stronger than most of his competition at the collegiate level, but will have to improve technique in order to compete at the NFL level. A good athlete who displays excellent mobility and quickness when pulling, and can move quickly to the second level to block linebackers. Ourlad's says that Mr. Blaylock "reminds our scouts of Will Shields when he came out of Nebraska."

40. Miami, John Beck: ESPN's Sean Salisbury says that there isn't much difference between Bray Quinn and this quarterback out of BYU -- exactly. Is older, 25, than the traditional NFL rookie. A tough competitor who has a strong arm and good footwork. Throws three-quarters and has an inordinate number of passes blocked/deflected.

41. Atlanta, Chris Houston: I love this player, and had hoped that he would slide to the Steelers. A speedy defender who plays aggressively at the line of scrimmage. Performed well against outstanding competition, and is described by Athlon Sports as "a classic cover two corner." Does sometimes lunge in press coverage, and struggles in run support.

42. Indianapolis, Tony Ugoh: Good size (6'5", 301) with a wingspan of 36", the longest amongst the top offensive tackles available. Poor technique will slow his development along with a slow first step off the ball. Questionable football instincts, and strength. Drafting for need versus "best available" can, in the long run, bite teams in the butt -- this pick seems like a reach at this level.

43. Detroit, Drew Stanton: A tremendous competitor who has more determination than skill -- but then so did Bernie Kosar. Good size for the position, but needs to improve arm strength to have any hope at competing at the NFL level. Good mechanics, and nice touch allow him to throw acurately into traffic. That ability does result in some bad decision making from time-to-time. Good feet, moves well to avoid pressure.

44. Minnesota, Sidney Rice: A big receiver whose physical skills compare favorably with the receivers taken in the first round (with the exception of Calvin Johnson). Has soft, sure hands and speed enough to run away from coverage. Can be slow coming out of cuts because of upright running style, something that will change with coaching. Played baskeball in high school, and displayed excellent vertical leap at the NFL Combine (39.5").

45. Carolina, Dwayne Jarrett: First round physical skills who tends to cutoff his routes. Ourlad's Draft Service says he "[w]as a matchup nightmare for USC opponents." More of a possession receiver than a deep threat, but has do a better job of making the easy catches in order to succeed in the NFL. Very competitive in traffic and across the middle. A big game player who may benefit from the tutoring of fellow USC alumni Keyshawn Johnson.

46. Pittsburgh, LaMarr Woodley: A little shorter (6'1") than one would prefer, but has long arms. In an interview with ESPN head coach Mike Tomlin described both Mr. Woodley and first round pick Lawrence Timmons as having "position flexibility" and "great football character." Mr. Woodley has an outstanding first step and good speed. A hard hitter whi is very aggressive and competes hard.

47. New York Jets, David Harris: The #2 ILB available, and a football player's football player. Quick first step, good speeed and agility make him a force against the run. Good lateral speed makes him a "sideline to sideline player" (Ourlad's). A weak blitzer but excellent in pass coverage, especially in the zone.

48. Jacksonville, Justin Durant: Poor time in the 40-yard dash at the Combine belies a player of exceptional speed and athleticism. Disruptive, especially on plays going away where he can use his speed, but can get caught up with bigger blockers. Led his team in tackles the last two seasons and has 12 career sacks. Is preceived as having good upside potential, and many believe he could be a special teams difference maker.

49. Cincinnati, Kenny Irons: A speed merchant who, at 203 lbs. either has to bulk up (which may slow him down) or change positions. Has good hands, and is a tremendous open field runner. He was a poor blocker in college, and unless he gets bigger it is unlikely that he will get any better. A hard runner who takes on tacklers, and is hard to bring down.

50. Tennessee, Chris henry: The tenth rated running back available in the draft, and outside of the top 100 overall -- in other words, this is not a value pick. Started a grand total of four games, but turned in an outstanding Combine performance who Ourlad's describes as "[a] poor man's Michael Turner if he's willing to work." For all the shocked looks at Philadelphia's choice of Kevin Kolb at the start of this round, this one doesn't make much more sense.

51. New York Giants, Steve Smith: A very good possession receiver who is tough in crowds and across the middle, but lacks the speed to be a deep threat. Will struggle to get on the field given the Giants depth chart. A smart player who reads defenses well and adjusts well. Very coachable.

52. St. Louis, Brian Leonard: The first fullback taken in the draft, and the only available who will be considered on the first day. Lost fourteen pounds so that he could be considered at the running back position during the Combine. A good pass catcher, and offensive threat rather than an NFL style fullback (i.e. blocker first). "An inconsistent lead blocker" (The Sporting News). Tough player with solid instincts.

53. Cleveland, Eric Wright: Transferred out of USC, played one season at UNLV, entering the draft as an underclassman. Decent size (5'10") though he is a little light (192 lbs.). Excellent speed allows him to cover elite receivers, and provide good run support. According to Ourlad's there are "Of field red flags . . . Needs to clean up off the field problems." plays a little too upright, but with work he could excel.

54. Kansas City, Turk McBride: Seventh rated defensive tackle, and a one year starter. At 277 pounds he is undersized for the middle, but his speed (4.83 forty at the combine) is the best amongst the available DTs, an makes one wonder if a position change might not be fforthcoming. Because of his lack of bulk he has struggled against bigger offensive linemen, and can be overwhelmed against teams with strong running attacks. An excellent pass rusher.

55. Seattle, Josh Wilson: The seventh rated cornerback available in the draft, but one who has above average speed. Somewha smaller than preferred and can get pushed around by bigger players. Has difficulty shedding blockers, and gives up far too much cushion at the line of scrimmage. Has great physical ability but can taake too many chances, and give up too many big plays.

56. Denver, Tim Crowder: A four year starter who is fairly polished, but doesn't have much untapped potential. Effective against the run and in the pass rush, where he employs multiple moves. Is effective when running stunts and plays a disciplined style of football -- good scheme player. Had an inconsistent senior season, but was rated by some as superior to Steelers draft pick LaMarr Woodley.

57. Philadelphia, Victor Abiamiri: A physical specimen who is an "explosive and natural playmaker" (Ourlads). Plays high, and as a result he cam be overwhelmed by strong blockers. A competitive, physical player who loves to compete. Too quick to react to misdirection plays, and will take himself out of the play at times. Needs to bulk up a bit, especially in the lower body.

58. Detroit, Ikaika Alma Francis: Seventeenth rated defensive end in the draft -- Matt Millen is still Matt Millen. A converted basketball player who seems lost at times. Was hurt in the Hula Bowl. Lacks both the upper- and lower-body strength needed to play effectively in the NFL. Has potential but is as raw as any player chosen in the draft.

59. Carolina, Ryan Kalil: Perfectly placed at this spot, and the #1 rated center available in the draft. A leader on the offensive line, despite being somewhat smaller than preferred. Very quick inside, and has a well-developed football IQ. Needs to improve his upper body strength in order to compete against the big defensive tackles. A winner who plays big in big games.

60. Miami, Samson Satele: Two picks, two centers. A four year starter who played guard and center. Somewhat shorter than preferred but is solid otherwise. Can be dominating at times but hasn't been able to do it consistently. Lost no games to injury during his career (KNOCK WOOD). A good run blocker, but really excels in pass blocking.

61. Detroit, Gerald Alexander: The ninth ranked strong safety available in the draft who was a three year starter who played both corner and safety. Strong in run support, but inconsistent in pass coverage. Inconsistent play is the result of poor technique. Graded by Ourlads as a sith or seventh round choice. Matt Millen strikes again.

62. Chicago, Dan Bazuin: The thirteenth rated defensive end who was a four year starter. Demonstrates good straight ahead speed but struggles laterally. Strong competitor who is shorter than preferred, but is a good edge rusher. Most effective when moving before the snap.

63. Green Bay, Brandon Jackson: A bowling ball (5'9", 210 lbs.) power back who also possesses nimble feet, and good quickness to get through the line. Does not have break away speed, but is a good pass catcher. A below average blocker.

64. Tampa Bay, Sabby Piscitelli: Excellent size (6'2", 224 lbs.) and football instincts. Especially effective zone coverage. A good tackler though he is not a big hitter. "Should be a major contributor on special teams" (Ourlads).

The second round is completed, and this is how it shook out, by position:

QB: 3
RB: 3
WR: 3
TE: 1
FB: 1
OT: 1
OG: 2
C: 2
DT: 2
DE: 5
OLB: 2
ILB: 1
CB: 3
S: 3

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Saturday, April 28, 2007

Since Last We Spoke . . .

I know, I know it's been awhile -- that's what work (a real job, not the job -- i.e. being a beat writer covering the Pittsburgh Steelers -- I pretend to have here) and a family will do at times. But while I was silent I was still preparing myself for the draft, and here's what I think (updated throughout the first round).

1. Oakland, JaMarcus Russell: Absolutely the most physically gifted quarterback in the draft. However, if the Raiders were actually interested in getting the best player for their situation they would have chosen Joe Thomas (Wisconsin). Mr. Russell passed primarily out of the shotgun, and displayed what Ourlad's Draft Service describes as "[g]ood awareness and field vision." Needs to improve his technique -- his extaordinarily strong arm was a difference maker at the college level, and it's good enough to make up from some mistakes at the pro level -- for awhile. But the league will eventually catch up with arm passers.

2. Detroit, Calvin Johnson: The best athlete in the draft, and arguably the smartest. He joins Lions offensive coordinator Mike Martz in recreating the "Greatest Show on Turf;" but even the best collegiate wide receivers struggle tansitioning to the NFL and anyone expecting great things right away is going to be disappointed. On the other hand Mr. Johnson has exceptional deep speed, and is big and physical enough to go across the middle with impunity. His size and strength is sure to create mismatches for defensive coordinators.

3. Cleveland, Joe Thomas: They are the Browns, and I am loathe to give them any kind of a break, but this is absolutely a terrific pick. Given the unbelievable string of injuries Cleveland has suffered along the offensive line -- and even if they hadn't suffered the injuries -- this monster offensive tackle is a difference maker. He is powerful inside, and has speed to move downfield. According to Ourlad's he has "good balance and pass protection technique [and] [s]lides his fee laterally and maintains contact with defender."

4. Tampa Bay, Gaines Adams: Depending on who you believe Mr. Adams is the first or second best defensive end in the draft. At 6'5", 260 he has the size and speed to play linebacker in a 3-4 alignment, but will be asked to play end for Monte Kiffin. A little inexperienced -- only a two year starter at Clemson -- and has to hit the weight room. Amongst the top defensive ends in this year's draft Mr. Adams did the third fewest bench presses (21) at the NFL combine.

5. Arizona, Levi Brown: There is little suprise that Ken Whisenhunt and Russ Grimm opted to go with one of the best offensive linemen in this, or any other, draft. A little slower than Joe Thomas, but a little stronger and quicker. Certainly big enough (6'5", 323 lbs.) to play tackle but is projected by some as a guard at the NFL level. A good player who will contribute, but a bit of a reach at this spot.

6. Washington, Laron Landry: Unsuccessul in their effort to trade down and accumulate some picks in subsequent rounds, the Redskins opted to take a difference maker at the free safety position. Terrific speed (4.45 in the 40), and good size (6'0", 202) who displays excellent football instincts and reactions. Played in Nick Saban's complex defensive scheme and excelled. A great blitzer who will miss tackles because of his aggressive approach.

7. Minnesota, Adrian Peterson: It is testimony to both the dearth of running backs in this draft, as well as the ability and character of Mr. Peterson that despite his injuries he was still a top ten pick. Good size (6'1", 219 lbs) who is a physical, down hill runner who also catches the ball well out of the backfield. Likes to play physical football -- Ourlad's says that he "[r]uns like he's his own blocker" -- but given all the injuries he suffered in college he has to learn how to save himself from big hits. Good speed to the corner, but doesn not possess break away speed. Could benefit from more work in the weight room -- was only able to do 16 bench press repititions in the bench press at the combine.

8. Atlanta, Jamaal Anderson: Enters the draft as an underclassman. Rated the #1 DE prospect by Street & Smith's who say that he is a "[s]pecial pass rusher." However, as is to be expected of someone who started a total of 30 games in his college career, he is a bit raw. Has good football instincts, and exceptional speed and quickness who needs to hit the weight room -- hard.

9. Miami, Ted Ginn: Enters the draft as an underclassman. A terrific playmaker but who is going to get him the football? Faster than Calvin Johsnon, but shorter (5'11" v. 6'5") and smaller (178 lbs. v. 239 lbs.) a la Santonio Holmes. A bit of a reach at this spot despite truly exceptional speed and large, strong hands. Rated by Pro Football Weekly (PFW) as the #3 receiver in the draft behind Calvin Johsnon and Dwayne Jarrett (USC). Of Mr. Ginn PFW says "Thinly built . . . and does not like to get hit."

10. Houston, Amobi Okoye: Enters the draft as an underclassman -- a 19-year old underclassman! It is understandable that a team would see the potential in this young man, but one wonders if the Texans will be able to keep him under contract long enough in order to see him fulfull that potential. Does demonstrate good technique -- Ourlad's says he "can stack the run . . . if he plaus low and wtih leverage." However, they also say that he tries to "muscle blockers" which isn't going to work out to well, at least at first, as he transitions to the NFL.

11. San Francsico, Patrick Willis: The 49ers are on a roll, and this is a terrific pick, though Mr. Willis is a little undersized (6'1", 240 lbs) for inside linebacker. Despite that he has been a good run stopper, though his pass rushing abilities lead some to project him as an outside linebacker. Very aggressive player who plays with emotion, and can sometimes play out of control.

12. Buffalo, Marshawn Lynch: An underrated running back who is powerful between the tackles, as well as quick the edge. Holds the Cal record for 100-yard rushing games in a career (17) who has the size and speed to make people miss. Mr. Lynch is a bigger version of Maurice Jones-Drew, and is an even better pass catcher.

13. St. Louis, Adam Carriker: No better than the #3 defensive end in the draft, but rated as the #10 player overall -- a good value pick for the Rams. An outstanding combine performance (e.g. he out-bench pressed both Gaines Adams and Jamaal Anderson) moved Mr. Carriker up the board. Very polished -- i.e. demonstrated a good combination of strength and technique -- especially compared to others at this position. Strong hands who consistently sheds blockers.

14. New York Jets, Darrelle Revis: The Steelers got our flanked, and the Jets picked up the cornerback that they had earmarked as their #1 pick. Good size (5'11", 200 lbs.) combined with outstanding speed make Mr. Revis a special player. Very physical, very smart, who will benefit from individual coaching to improve some sloppy footwork. Like to hit, and may move to safety in order to more fully exploit his skills.

15. Pittsburgh Steelers, Lawrence Timmons: Ranked by Ourlad's as the #23 player overall -- in no smnall part because he enters the draft after having started at Florida State for only one year -- so he represents something of a reach here. Rated as the #2 outside linebacker by both Ourlad's and Pro Football Weekly. Good size (6'3", 230 lbs.) allows him to disrupt the running game, and his speed makes him a factor both in the pass rush as well as pass coverage (PFW says that "he can eliminate the tight end from the game."). Ourlad's says he has the "[k]nack to make big plays."

16. Green Bay, Justin Harrell: An odd choice for any number of reasons. Ranked as the #3 defensive tackle by PFW and #5 by Ourlad's. A big man (6'4", 305 lbs) who started for three years. A solid run stuffer who is swallows up double teams. Isn't the most durable player, was something of a disappointment at the Combine, and is coming off a bicep injury last season.

17. Denver, Jarvis Moss: Way back when Mr. Moss was identified as the good fit for the Steelers. While he has terrific speed, and a wing span of 34", he is also prone to leaving his feet and arm tackling. According to Ourlad's he was "manhandled by big offensive tackles . . . [who] [c]an be a liability in the run game."

18. Cincinnati, Leon Hall: #1 rated cornerback in the draft -- why didn't the Steelers take him? -- who The Sporting News describes as "tough and physical . . . [who] plays bigger than his size." Great footwork, and adequate speed makes him effective in man-to-man and zone alike. Provides excellent run support. Ourlad's says this: tough-minded, and accepts a challenge . . . competitive and aggressive."

19. Tennessee, Michael Griffin: The #1 rated strong safety. Big hitter who is solid and durable if not as flashy/spectacular as the cornerbacks taken earlier in this round. Good speed keeps him with the receiver in coverage, and his nose for the ball makes him dangerous in coverage. Always ooutstanding in run support who will take on bigger players. Described by PFW as having "blue-chip special-teams ability . . . too big, fast, athletic and exceptional . . . to escape the first round."

20. New York Giants, Aaron Ross: Third or fourth amongst the conerbacks available who was a one year starter at Texas. Shows good quickness, but needs to get stronger -- was pushed around by bigger receivers -- but was solid in run support. His 34" vertical jump at the NFL Combine was mediocre. Is prone to getting burned while trying to make the spectacular play. Good punt returner.

21. Jacksonville, Reggie Nelson: Looks eerily like Maurice Jones-Drew. Rated #25 overall by Ourlad's, the #2 free safety in the draft. The defensive scheme at Florida -- which relies on athletes making plays rather than gimmickery -- is very simplified, meaning that there will be a fairly steep learning curve for Mr. Nelson. Indeed, according to PFW Mr. Nelson is "not a quick study and may struggle on a team that implements . . . different game plans each week." Moreover, Ourlad's warns that he will "need to improve technique in every phase of his game." A junior college transfer who is a below average tackler.

22. Cleveland, Brady Quinn: Our long national nightmare is finally over -- someone tell ESPN to shut up! On the other hand, the Brown are still the Browns. The fans may love this pick, but the view from here is that the Browns traded up to the end of the first round -- and give up their 2008 #1 pick -- to get a third round player who benefited tremendously from playing a pathetic regular season schedule for four years. He is a strong player who surely will benefit from having played in the pro style offense of Charlie Weiss.

23. Kansas City, Dwayne Bowe: Excellent size to go across the middle, with good deep speed. Will go to the ground for the low ball. Good lower body strength makes him tough to tackle, and a good blocker. Every assessment I read discussed "inconsistent hands" and an occasional loss of focus.

24. New England, Brandon Meriweather: Hmmm. The fourth rated free safety in the draft who has had on the field and off the field difficulties. Does not have the speed or size (5'10", 195 lbs.) to cover the top receivers. Good reactions, and strong in run support. His football knowledge and instincts have been compared favorably to those of Ed Reed.

25. Carolina, Jon Beason: The third rated outside linebacker in the draft. At 6'0" he is a little shorter than most NFL scouts prefer, but he is aggressive in taking on -- and shedding -- blockers. Outstanding against the run, and more than adequate in pass coverage. According to Street & Smith he is a [d]isciplined [player who] plays within the scheme . . . [a] very physical player who . . . is simply fearless." Only managed 19 repititions in the bench press at the NFL combine.

26. Dallas, Anthony Spencer: The #22 rated player by Ourlad's. Well respected amongst Big Ten coaches and players. Has the size (6'2", 261 lbs.) and speed (4.73) to play outside linebacker in the 3-4. A four down player who is equally accomplished against the run, and in pass rush. Played primarily from a three point stance, so he will need to work on pass coverage technique. Described by PFW as a "better athlete than a player." Ten yard dash time at the combine was similar to those turned in by Gaines Adams, Adam Carriker, Jamaal Anderson, and jarvis Moss; but his bench press performance was better than all of those players except for Adam Carriker (33 reps versus 30).

27. New Orleans, Robert Meachem : Only started one season at Tennessee, but has good size (6'2", 214 lbs.) and decent speed (4.42). Good vertical jump (37.5" at the combine) and hand placement makes him tough to beat in a jump ball situation. Rated a third round pick by The Sporting News (rated as the #30 pick by Ourlad's) who described Mr. Meachem as lacking focus and "apprehensive when running routes over the middle." A below average blocker.

28. San Francisco, Joe Staley: A good football player, for whom the 49ers overpaid by giving up next season's #1 -- who was a three year starter at Central Michigan and developed into a top notch pass protector. Not quite as accomplished a run blocker, but he is competitive, quick, and "works to finish his blocks (Ourlad's). Needs to improve lower body strength in order to enhance his ability to drive opponents off the line of scrimmage. Good hands and quick footwork is a cut above others in this draft.

29. Baltimore, Ben Grubbs: The #2 rated guard who is more technique/finesse than brute force. Tends to play too high, but was the man behind whom Auburn often run in short yardage/goal line situations. Showed good balance and is very effective at pulling out to lead running plays to the edge. Very durable, three year starter.

30. San Diego, Greg Davis: Rated by Ourlad's at #53 overall -- can we all say "reach"? -- who has game-breaking speed, and can contribute on punt returns. Has good size (6'1", 207 lbs.) and strength that gives him the ability to get away from the line of scrimmage with minimal delay, and also aids his above average blocking ability. Routes can be imprecise, and he is sometimes hesitant when going across the middle.

31. Chicago, Greg olsen: The first tight end taken in the draft. A speedy receiver who is a legitimate threat downfield, though he has a tendency to be too upright when coming off the line. Runs excellent, precise patterns and is difficult to knock off. Physical receiver who is strong across the middle, but is a below average blocker -- something that will have to be remedied with the run-happy Bears. No hesitation in competing for the ball.

32. Indianapolis, Anthony Gonzalez: A tough, competitive receiver cut from the same mold of Hines Ward -- i.e. a great blocker who fights for extra yardage, and is fearless going across the middle. Started only one season, and is entering the draft as an underclassman. Excels at finding the seam/hole in coverage. Unlike Dwayne Bowe, Mr. Gonzalez demosntrates reliable hands and unfailing concentration. Outstanding third down receiver.

So concludes the longest first round in NFL Draft history -- six hours and eight minutes! In this round the picks broke down by position this way:

QB: 2
RB: 2
WR: 6
TE: 1
FB: 0
OT: 3
OG: 1
C: 0
DT: 3
DE: 5
OLB: 2
ILB: 1
CB: 3
S: 4

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Monday, April 16, 2007

The Strength of the 2007 Schedule

The NFL wizards have compiled the relative strength of each team's schedule -- the Steelers, despite their 8-8 record in 2006 play the NFL's 10th most difficult schedule, and the AFC North's second toughest schedule (two spots below Cincinnati).

The Steelers play four teams who made the playoffs last season (Seahawks, Jets, Patriots, and Ravens) and ten games versus teams whose 2006 winning percentage was .500 or better.

According to NFL the Buffalo Bills and Oakland Raiders have the toughest schedules this year -- the 2006 winning precentage of their respective 2007 opponents was .539 -- while the Arizona Cardinals have the easiest (.461).

To see a listing of the strength of schedule for all the teams click here (Adobe Acrobat required).


Thursday, April 12, 2007

2007 Rule Changes

The following information, outlining rules changes for the upcoming season -- including a modification to the false start, 10-second run off penalty that bit the Steelers in the ass last season -- as well as changes to the interviewing process for assistant coaches whose teams are involved in the playoffs, was released by the NFL this afternoon:

"A number of playing-rules changes were adopted by NFL owners at the NFL Annual Meeting in late March.

Following are the changes, with comments from the co-chairman of the NFL Competition Committee,RICH MC KAY:

INSTANT REPLAY: Made a permanent rule. “We think instant replay has been an accepted part of our game now for a number of years,” says McKay. “It’s worked quite well.” Also, high-definition replay equipment will be installed in NFL stadiums.

• INSTANT REPLAY: Also made permanent in the replay system were “down-by-contact” as a reviewable play and each review being limited to a maximum of 60 seconds.

• SPIKING OF BALL: It will now be a five-yard penalty for a player to spike or throw the ball after a down has ended, except for after a touchdown. 'We did not think this type of spiking was good for sportsmanship or the administration of the game by officials,' says McKay.

• PLAYER SAFETY: It will now be a 15-yard penalty (rather than five yards) for a player to make a block below the waist against an eligible receiver while the quarterback is in the pocket. Also, when a player who receives the snap fumbles or muffs the ball, the restrictions on the defensive team relative to illegal contact and an illegal cutblock will end.

• TWO-MINUTE WARNING/10-SECOND RUNOFF: The requirement that the offense has to be behind in the score or the score has to be tied for a 10-second clock runoff to be exercised against the offense for an excess timeout with two minutes to go in the first half or in the game has been eliminated. Now a 10-second runoff will take place no matter what the game situation. Any possible advantage for the offense (e.g., the old rule would not require a 10-second runoff if it were ahead) has been eliminated. The defense has the option to decline a 10-second runoff (which will give it more time should it get the ball back).

• CLOCK STOPPAGE: Two exceptions were added to the rule that dictates that the play clock be restarted at the tie at which it was stopped prior to the snap. Now an instant replay review prior to the two-minute warning will reset the clock at 25 seconds (as has been the case with other stoppages such as a penalty), as will an instant replay review after the two-minute warning that results in a reversal. These changes will make the administration of the rule more consistent.

• PACE OF GAME: The foul for unintentional touching of a forward pass by an interior lineman has been eliminated. It was felt that no advantage was gained by the offense on such a play, and elimination of the rule would speed up the game.

• CROWD NOISE: The five-yard penalty against the defense for excessive crowd noise has been eliminated. The penalty had not been called in many years.

Although they are not playing-rule changes, two procedures for coaching employment also were changed:

• Assistant coaches on Super Bowl teams may now interview for a second time with a club for its head-coaching position during the off-week after the championship game. 'We wanted to make sure that coaches on Super Bowl teams did not feel it was a disadvantage,' says McKay.

• Clubs now have the exclusive right to an assistant coach’s contract through the second Tuesday after their season has ended or last playoff game, rather than the third Tuesday as in the past

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

NFL Schedule Announced

The National Football League announced the 2007 regular season schedule on Wednesday, and the Steelers will begin the Mike Tomlin era with a game against the Cleveland Browns, in Cleveland, September 9th.

Other highlights include a game against Ken Whisenhunt's Arizona Cardinals on September 23rd, Joey Porter's return to Pittsburgh November 26, 2007, and a Monday night appearance versus the Ravens at Heinz Field

Here is the Steelers complete regular season schedule:

September 9: at Cleveland
September 16: v. Buffalo
September 23: v. San Francisco
September 30: at Arizona
October 7: v. Seattle
October 14: BYE
October 21: at Denver
October 28: at Cincinnati
November 5: v. Baltimore
November 11: v. Cleveland
November 18: at New York Jets
November 26: v. Miami
December 2: v. Cincinnati
December 9: at New England
December 16: Jacksonville
December 20: @ St. Louis
December 30: @ Baltimore

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Getting Draft Ready -- The Updated Draft Order

The National Football League has updated the order by which team will make selections in this month's draft. Including compensatory picks, the Steelers will have nine choices in the seven round draft.

The Steelers draft positions for each of the seven rounds looks like this:

First Round: 15th

Second Round: 14th (46th overall)

Third Round: 13th (77th overall)

Fourth Round: 20th (119th overall) and 33rd (132nd overall -- compensatory pick)

Fifth Round: 19th (156th overall) and 33rd (170th overall -- compensatory pick)

Sixth Round: 18th (192nd overall)

Seventh Round: 17th (227th overall)


Monday, April 02, 2007

Preseason Schedule Announced

The National Football League announced a general scheduled for the 2007 preseason, and the Pittsbugh Steelers will face five NFC opponents this summer.

The first game, as had been previously announced, will the be the Hall of Fame game. The game will be played in Canton, Ohio on August 5th versus the New Orleans Saints.

After the Steelers will play in Pittsburgh versus the Green Bay Packers. The date for that game has not been set, but it will be played some time between August 9th and 13th.

The third game of the Steelers' preseason will be played some time between August 16th and 20th, and will be in Washington versus the Redskins.

On August 26th the Steelers will host the Philadelphia Eagles in a game to be broadcast nationally by ESPN.

The fifth preseason opponent for the Black & Gold will be the Carolina Panthers. That game will be played some time between August 31st and September 2nd, and will be on the road.