NFL Ducks get ready for week six

The National Football League is headed into week six of the schedule and some NFL Ducks (former Oregon players now playing in the NFL) could have an impact for their teams. One NFL Duck faces his first hostile crowd, another rookie will see more time as a blocker. One tough guy is a starting linebacker, and a former quarterback has re-signed. Meanwhile an alum from eastern Oregon may be inactivated and one former Duck signal caller's NFL team will continue to be the fodder for Jay Leno.

The Detroit Lions' Joey Harrington (1999-2001)* makes his third professional start but this time he starts on the road. Harrington has not only captured the starting job as quarterback but he has as Jo-Ann Barnas of the Detroit Free-Press writes, "has the Lions believing."

Harrington led the Lions to their first victory of the season by beating New Orleans 26-21. The quarterback that led the Ducks to a Fiesta Bowl win was 20 of 36 for 267 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. In Harrington's first start he had four interceptions on 15-of-35 for 182 yards with two touchdowns in a 37-31 loss to Green Bay. However, Harrington nearly relived his moniker of 'Captain Comeback' when the rookie quarterback mounted a furious fourth quarter charge denting a 17-point Packer lead. A would be game winning pass from Harrington skimmed off Lions' Mikhael Ricks' fingertips in the end zone.

The Lions (1-3) face the dismal Minnesota Vikings (0-4) at The MetroDome in Minneapolis on Sunday. Harrington has an opportunity to have a 300-yard passing day against a Minnesota defense that has given up 288.25 yards passing and only three interceptions in the first four games. Detroit of course must also count on running back James Stewart to provide a legitimate attack to keep the Vikings defense honest.

One of Harrington's teammates from the Oregon team that finished the 2001-2002 season ranked No. 2 nationally is tight end Justin Peelle (1998-2001) now with the San Diego Chargers (4-1). Peelle has been bothered by injuries in the early part of the season, but this week he will see expanded playing time against Kansas City (3-2) as a blocking tight end because of an ankle injury to Chargers' starter Stephen Alexander. Peelle has not recorded a reception in his young professional career and it is not likely he'll see any passes in his direction as the Chargers once known as "Air Coryell," now are averaging 161.2 yards per game passing. Peelle is expected to provide some extra blocking support for LaDainian Thompson who is on a tear with a 110.8 yards per game rushing and five touchdowns. San Diego also has another pair of former Duck cornerbacks. Alex Molden (1992-95) is one of the starters for Chargers and Davis Sanchez (1997) has seen playing time at cornerback for the lightning bolts.

Peter Sirmon (1996-99) was No. 44 when he was an Oregon Duck and now with the Tennessee Titans (1-4) his number is 59. Sirmon is listed as a starter at an outside linebacker spot but his actual playing time has been limited because of the defensive packages the Titans have been using "nickel" and "dime" packages 75 percent of the time this season. In the nickel or dime defensive coverage schemes, Sirmon is the first off the field. A nickel package is a scheme using four down lineman, two linebackers and five defensive backs. The dime package has four down lineman, one linebacker and six defensive backs. This week Tennessee takes on the Jacksonville Jaguars (3-1) and so far this season former Husky quarterback Mark Brunell is averaging 229.5 yards per game and has five touchdown tosses with only one interception. Brunnell's numbers will cause the Titans to stay with their coverage packages in hopes of slowing down the left handed No. 6 ranked passer in the history of the NFL. One of Brunell's possible targets is a player the Husky fans would like to forget - wide receiver Patrick Johnson (1994-97) caught the winning touchdown pass at Husky Stadium in 1997 for the Ducks. This season, Johnson has eight catches for 154 yards and two touchdowns for the Jags.

A.J. Feeley (1999-2000) started seven games for Oregon in 2000 until an injury sidelined him against Arizona. His back up was No. 3, Joey Harrington and the rest of the story is the stuff of folklore. Feeley resigned with the Philadelphia Eagles (3-2) this week after being released by the team. The Eagles cut Feeley in order to make room for a defensive lineman when 3rd year defensive tackle Cory Simon went down with a high ankle sprain in the first quarter of the 44-13 Philadelphia win over the Dallas Cowboys on September 22nd. Feeley has not yet recorded a pass in this year's NFL regular season. The Eagles have week six off with a bye.

The AFC East leading Miami Dolphins (4-1) may declare Jed Weaver (1995-98) inactive if Dolphin tight end Desmond Clark dresses for the next game. Weaver hales from Bend, Oregon. The Dolphins will face the Denver Broncos (4-1) this Sunday. The Miami-Denver game is one of the NFL spotlight games of the week. Weaver lost his starting spot to rookie Randy McMichael in the preseason and has seen limited playing time because the Dolphins have not used many two-tight end sets. Clark, caught 51 passes for 566 yards and six touchdowns in 2001, is thought to have better play-making ability than Weaver. Former Oregon running back Reuben Droughns (1998-99) is on the Denver roster and has appeared in all five games this season for the Broncos. Droughns has 2 carries for a total of two yards with one touchdown.

Other NFL teams that carry former Ducks include Green Bay (4-1) with tight end Jeff Thomason (1988-91) and punter Josh Bidwell (1995-98) will take on New England (3-2.) Veteran safety Chad Cota (1991-94) is with the St. Louis Rams (0-4) and will face the league leading Oakland Raiders (4-0) Sunday St. Louis. Corner back Rashad Bauman (1997-2001) and the Washington Redskins (2-2) host the New Orleans Saints (4-1.) The man with the perfect Duck name, linebacker Wesly Mallard (1998-2001) who is seeing playing time with the New York Giants (3-2) and will be at home against the 1-3 Atlanta Falcons.

Finally, comedian Jay Leno used the Detroit Lions as the butt of some of his on going gags. However the Lions picked up a new quarterback from Oregon and no longer are the source of the hoots and howls from the Tonight Show audience. Instead Leno has started picking on the hapless Cincinnati Bengals (0-5) a team that has former Duck quarterback Akili Smith (1997-98) who has been a starter, back-up and bench warmer in the ongoing rotation of Bengal ineptness. Smith along with fellow Bengal Jon Kitna and Gus Frerotte have been the tackling dummies inserted into the Bengal line-up this season in the position formerly known as quarterback. The situation has caused Leno to quip that the Bengals would reduce the chances of mass desertion by not naming a quarterback until kickoff.

The Bungles face Pittsburgh (1-3) in the game you really don't want to watch.

*Dates in parenthesis indicate years lettered.

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