Wow, this thing still exists? I thought if you didn't use it enough, it disappeared. What? That's Clovdyx's biceps? Why didn't somebody tell me sooner? I can't believe I dropped the ball on this, though. I wanted to do a week-by-week (or at least, every two or three week) update on the NFL and my evaluation of it. I guess I can just do it now, but man, September was such a long time ago. Oh well, let's look back and reflect on some things from the 2008 season.
-League MVP goes down 15 minutes into the season. Ouch. Terrible for the NFL. Terrible for their team. Terrible for me, because it's our best player. Hate it.
-Two rookie quarterbacks win for the first time on opening day since Archie Manning and Jim Plunkett. Does this mean the future is set for more rookies to come in and make immediate impact? Maybe, maybe not. But for now, we've got two guys to keep our eyes on. Like it.
-More gimicks on offense. Miami started the thing with it's "Wildcat" formation. Mixed feelings, really. It's nice to see innovation, but at the same time, I hate the copy cats. Tyler Thigpen catching a touchdown pass? DeSean Jackson taking a direct snap and running it in for a touchdown? The Jets playing Brett Favre as a wide receiver? REALLY?
-Emerging stars. Matt Cassel made a name for himself. Instead of Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, and Marvin Harrison dominating, guys like Larry Fitzgerald and Andre Johnson were the top receivers this year. Michael Turner was simply impressive down in Atlanta. Jerod Mayo was Defensive Rookie of the Year. Jay Cutler and Philip Rivers stepped up and led their teams well. LaMar Woodley was a beast across from James Harrison. Like it.
-Cinderella teams. Because, really, the Arizona Cardinals were in the Super Bowl. Like it.
-Great divisions and terrible divisions. The NFC South and NFC East were monsters. The AFC West was a joke. Did anybody win the NFC North this year? I'd rather have everybody pretty equal - not one or two dominant divisions and one or two pathetic divisions (see: AFC East, 2007). Hate it.
-Dumb arguments. I realize the Patriots have "no running game" and their backs are "scrubs", but they finished 6th in rushing, so maybe they know what they're doing.
-Sudden death overtime. Like it (and my Patriots were victims to the cointoss...)
All of that being said, it was certainly an interesting year. No matter which of the two teams won the Super Bowl, we were guaranteed to make history - either Arizona won their first, or Pittsburgh won their 6th. Wow. Six trophies. I'm confident New England has a team capable of getting there, but it'll be no easy task. After all, it took Pittsburgh about forty years to make the playoffs. Their six trophy was won about 35 years after their first. It's impressive how consistent they can be (although, I still say the Dallas Cowboys are the best NFL franchise, but I digress). We had teams come out of nowhere to contend, like the Dolphins and the Falcons. How about those turnarounds? We had teams drop (how about those unbeatable Giants?). A team not named the Seattle Seahawks won the NFC Worst, er, West. Really. We had a team not named the New England Patriots win the AFC East, and the Titans won the AFC South. And I could finally get time away from battling Bong Show (anybody seen him around lately?) in the Brady vs Manning debate. Now it's Kurt Warner vs Ben Roethlisberger (which I don't think is the same argument, despite people relating Roethlisberger to Brady in that he just wins while not necessarily doing much...)
Yes, it was certainly a roller coaster year, and I'm really looking forwards to seeing how 2009 pans out. Unfortunately, I actually will not be able to watch most of the games, as I will be shipping out to San Diego in September for basic training (I guess that's what happens when you join the Marines these days - who knew?). I fully expect some things to continue, such as Miami's trick formations, and I expect we'll probably see something we're not used to. Maybe two running backs lining up in the back field as split backs, with another lined up under center for a strange option based run, pass, or pitch formation? Ah, who knows.
Moving onto the draft, I'm REALLY excited to see how that plays out. I don't think I've seen as many mock drafts this year or people predicting what their team's will do, but the combine hasn't even happened yet. That should be starting any day now, though. Me? I'm looking forwards to watching only the linebackers and maybe the defensive backs. I don't think the quarterback class is all that strong last year, and other than two or three guys, I can't see too many running backs having an immediate impact. There should be a few tight ends and receivers that make their marks, though. I'm looking at you, Crabtree (I hope you enjoy coffee, because you'll be drinking a lot up there in Seattle).
I have a few guys that interest me. First of all, I'm really looking forwards to seeing how Rey Muauluga does. From what I've seen, the guy is an absolute monster. Originally, many expected him to be one of the first few picks in the draft, but lately, he seems to have dropped a bit. I'm not sure why. Another guy everybody is big on is Aaron Curry from Wake Forest. Where is Wake Forest, and do they have deer in Wake Forest? More importantly, who is Aaron Curry? Ever since the regular season ended, I've been hearing his name left and right but I don't recall hearing much about him while college football was being played. My main interests are in James Laurinaitis and Brian Cushing. I think either one is capable of falling to #23, where New England picks. I would prefer Cushing, because Jerod Mayo was very solid in the middle, and Gary Guyton proved to be capable of playing (and Tedy Bruschi is still there, too). While I couldn't see him starting right away, I think he'd be able to learn a lot from Mike Vrabel and Adalius Thomas, and depending on how it goes, he might be able to replace Vrabel as the starter by the time the season ends (maybe throwing Mike back into the middle rotation?).
I'm not as concerned with their secondary, right now. Both Terrence Wheatley and Jon Wilhite impresse me when they were playing last year, and I'm sure Bill Belichick is putting them through hell this offseason to get them ready for next year. Ellis Hobbs remains a starter, and that seems fair - I just think they need a bigger athlete to take care of the bigger receivers they face (no matter how good Hobbs is with coverage skills, he simply cannot match up with Terrell Owens or Larry Fitzgerald). Is there a guy like that available this year? Well, I think we can agree that Malcom Jenkins is out of the picture. Vontae Davis probably won't be there. Alphonso Smith is only 5'9" - if we wanted 5'9" corners, we'd play Ellis Hobbs (wait a minute...), Asante Samuel, Terrence Wheatley, or Jon Wilhite. Hm. I've always thought Victor Harris might be an option. He played with Brandon Flowers at Virginia Tech. If I recall correctly, he was a solid tackler. Also, he's 6', so that's definitely an upgrade. He runs about a middle 4.5, so he might be a step slow, but if he's covering the bigger guys, that shouldn't be much of an issue. Free agent wise, the Ravens just released Chris McAllister because he was supposed to make $8 million this year. If he would be willing to sign for maybe $3 or $4 million (what a horror! how can he survive on that?), maybe he's make a nice solution for the year.
Oh well. Nobody knows what goes on in any coach's head, and we all know that's especially true for Bill Belichick. I guess only time will tell how it all unfolds.
What about you guys? Who are you hoping to see in your team's uniform next year, and who are you expecting (they're rarely the same, after all).