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NFL Dogs: An Early Look
by Bryan Leonard - 06/07/2006
While many publications are beginning to look at the best teams in the NFL, there is just as much money to be made betting AGAINST teams with weaknesses. Here's a look at some NFL teams that appear to be moving in the wrong direction.
Raiders: Art who? Art Shell is back to coach the Raiders, a curious move as he has not been involved in coaching since the Raiders fired him after the 1994 season. That was a long time ago, and the NFL has changed. Just ask Joe Gibbs, who struggled in his first year back admitting that the game had changed a lot. For instance, when Gibbs was winning Super Bowls in the 1980s and 90s, one of his mantras was maximum quarterback protection. He tried that in 2004, but with so few receiving targets, no one could get open against today's Cover-2 defense. The Redskins were 29th in passing that season.
And Shell didn't light the NFL world on fire when he was coach the first time. His offense coordinator will be Tom Walsh, who was fired by the Raiders along with Shell following the 1994 season. Walsh was an assistant with the Raiders from 1982-94, coaching quarterbacks and receivers before becoming offensive coordinator under Shell. Talk about a potentially throwback attack! Will they come out in the Single Wing or the T-Formation?
Just as curious have been the personnel moves, getting rid of mistaken prone QB Kerry Collins for mistake prone Aaron Brooks. Age has been a problem with a weak defense the last few years, signing guys like Ted Washington, DE Bobby Hamilton and Warren Sapp. So who do they add this offseason? 11-year CB Tyrone Poole and CB Duane Starks, the latter who was a bust with New England's poor secondary last season. Since losing the 2003 Super Bowl to Tampa Bay, the Raiders are 14-33-1 against the spread!
Vikings: Brad Childress is the new Minnesota head coach, a former offensive coordinator with the Eagles. I hope he knows what he's getting into. Trading star WR Randy Moss and shipping out star QB Daunte Culpepper in each of the last two offseasons while getting little in return makes it very tough on the new coach. Capable QBs are rare in this league, and to dump Culpepper without at least seeing if he is healthy for a potential bounce-back season makes little sense. After all, he is only 29-years old and in 2004 Culpepper had an incredible season with 39 TDs and 11 picks.
They also let WR Nate Burleson walk. He was off a poor season, but in 2004 Burleson had 1,006 yards receiving and nine touchdowns. Minnesota's offense was 25th in the NFL in 2005, a poor 27th rushing the football, and will be again run by 38-year old Brad Johnson. The Vikings defense wasn't much better than the offense, ranked 21st overall. Many eyebrows were raised on draft day when the Vikings TRADED UP into the second round to take Tarvaris Jackson of Alabama State. Who? Don't worry, you're not alone. A lot of folks are wondering what the Vikings are doing.
Bills: The late push to nearly make the playoffs in 2004 was a mirage, folks. The Bills have gone 31-49 since 2001, tied with Cleveland for the third worst record in the NFL over that span. And they looked lost for 2006. New coach Dick Jauron steps in after a less than remarkable run with the Bears a few years ago. There is no QB, with J.P. Losman and Kelly Holcomb battling for the job.
And the organization decided to let go of a lot of quality talent this offseason, losing WR Eric Moulds, S Lawyer Milloy and NT Sam Adams (cap casualties). One of the biggest surprises of the 2006 draft was when the Bills selected Ohio State safety Donte Whitner with the No. 8 pick. Buffalo surprised again by taking N.C. State defensive tackle John McCargo, who wasn't expected to go that high. The secondary also adds rookies Ohio State cornerback Ashton Youboty and South Carolina safety Ko Simpson. This secondary will be very young, and the defense couldn't stop the run last season (29th) and doesn't look any better.