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Recent posts by Nolan Nawrocki
Sandwiched around a record-breaking, jaw-dropping Monday-night performance against the Redskins were two Eagles victories over Peyton and Eli Manning. The Mannings have come to be known for their sharp decision making and ability to dissect defenses, but it is Eagles QB Michael Vick who has yet to throw an interception, a remarkable feat 11 weeks into the season — even if he did sit out several games with injuries.
Comparisons to Steve Young are easy to make — both southpaws stood roughly 6-0, 215 pounds and played in similar-style offenses. What is even more uncanny, however, is precisely when their careers peaked. Young was 30 years old and in his eighth pro season when Joe Montana went on injured reserve and Young first took over as the starter in 1991. Like Vick, Young was most known for his trademark escapability in the pocket, but after he entered the front lines in San Francisco, he finally learned to use his feet to continue locating open receivers downfield instead of tucking and running.
Like Young when he entered his prime producing years, this season marks Vick's eighth in the NFL after he just turned 30 in June. He has more escapability than any other NFL passer, as Young did in the early 1990s, and he too, under the direction of Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg, has learned to use his feet to set up the pass.
It took four years for Young to take the 49ers to a Super Bowl and likely will take Vick some time as well. With more speed, better arm strength and as much dynamic playmaking ability as any runner in the NFL, however, Vick might be primed to top Young's feats in more timely fashion. How he fares against the NFL's No. 2 run defense next week should provide a better barometer for just how dangerously effective he can be down the stretch.
• For as much heat as Gary Kubiak will take after his Texans lost on the final play for the second consecutive week, not to mention dropping four games in a row, consider that the Texans were down 23-7 with barely 12 minutes to play and ripped off 17 consecutive points to take a lead. His team never gave up or stopped playing hard for him and was in position to win. Noticeably costly for the Jets in their fourth-quarter skid was the absence of ORT Damien Woody — one of the best at his position in the game — who exited with a right knee injury and left Wayne Hunter severely overmatched trying to handle the power of Mario Williams and speed of Mark Anderson. Anderson beat Hunter off the edge and stripped Sanchez with a little less than two minutes to play to set up another Texans score.
• The Bills better be careful. After stringing together their first two wins over Detroit and Cincinnati in consecutive weeks, they may lose out on the chance to land their quarterback of the future via the draft. Then again, the Bills seem to do some of their best work late in the draft, where they found their two most productive stars. Their top rusher, Fred Jackson, was an undrafted free agent in 2006. Leading WR Steve Johnson was a seventh-rounder. DT Kyle Williams, who is playing as well as anyone on defense, was a fifth-rounder. And that's not to mention former OLT Jason Peters, who was signed as an undrafted free agent before being dealt to Philadelphia. The way Chan Gailey has been able to get Ryan Fitzpatrick to play, the Bills may be better-served adding help to their defensive line.
• The Packers got off to a slow start vs. Minnesota, mustering eight yards of offense in the first quarter, but that is when the secondaries of both teams began to show up in different ways. Charles Woodson stripped Toby Gerhart to stop a Vikings drive, and a physical, confident-playing Tramon Williams drilled Greg Lewis and later jumped a Percy Harvin slant pattern to halt another drive. On the flip side, Greg Jennings repeatedly beat Chris Cook for big plays, and Vikings S Husain Abdullah dropped an overthrown Aaron Rodgers pass that hit him in the hands. He then got beat by Jennings for a TD pass.
• In two games at the helm, Jason Garrett has now doubled the victory total of his predecessor through the first half of the season. The most noticeable difference has been the increased balance in the offense and more reliance on a physical run game that was abandoned all too often earlier in the season as the Cowboys often were forced to play from behind. The improved efficiency of backup QB Jon Kitna crisply executing the play-action passing game has also helped. That Garrett has been able to string wins together out of the gate with a backup quarterback could improve his chances as a head coach elsewhere if Jerry Jones were to let him escape. At the current pace, Garrett does not look like he will be going anywhere.
• The Buccaneers' youth movement and the development of QB Josh Freeman deserve to be commended, but a closer examination of Tampa's schedule reveals why the NFC South has looked especially strong, with Atlanta, Tampa Bay and New Orleans all having at least seven wins with the struggling NFC West on the schedule.
• Having such a weak schedule makes the Panthers' struggles all that more concerning. At least they are allowing one of the youngest rosters in the league to earn some stripes. There is not much else positive that could be said about the Panthers' efforts against Baltimore. Carolina had no chance with Brian St. Pierre, starting in his first week on an NFL roster this season, at the helm, and could be lucky to win another game, with how many injuries the team has endured.
• It's not uncommon for ownership to be on a separate page from GMs and head coaches, and Titans head coach Jeff Fisher has increasingly had to deal with decisions he did not approve. Before the 2006 draft, Fisher never wanted Vince Young. The decision to draft the Longhorns' quarterback was made by Titans owner and Texas resident Bud Adams. It was a forced marriage, and Fisher has done his best to manage and mold the immature passer. By the time the season ends, a divorce can be expected, and although common logic would indicate that it should be Young, it would not surprise many in the NFL community if Fisher were to escape an owner who has foolishly meddled in football operations to the detriment of the team. Fisher is one of the more respected NFL head coaches in the league and would be highly coveted on the open market in the same esteemed class as Bill Cowher and Jon Gruden.
• A look at some of this year's statistical leaders could serve as a reminder why many executives are willing to gamble on high-risk talent. Undrafted free agent Arian Foster leads the NFL in rushing. Ahmad Bradshaw, not selected until the seventh round, rounds out the top five in rushing. Brandon Lloyd and Terrell Owens, at one time teammates in San Francisco, were both on the street for an extended period with no one willing to give them a shot until the Broncos and Bengals called. They now rank second and third in the league in receiving yardage. Cameron Wake had to spend time in the CFL and change his name from Derek before he was given a chance in the NFL. With 9½ sacks, he only trails Clay Matthews for the league lead. Even Alphonso Smith, who was nearly cut in Denver before being dealt to Detroit, is excelling, tied for third in the league in interceptions with five. What they all have in common were questions about their egocentric personalities coming out of college, some with extended rap sheets. But they also are highly competitive and driven, and it's not a surprise to see any faring so well.