Friday's NFL Beat

Special teams star performers ... First down play execution key in this weekend's AFC Championship Game ... Ogunleye ties a Chicago franchise record ... Colts keep another starter off the market ... Tom Brady finishes second ... and more in Friday's NFL Beat.

Give Me 20:  Six NFL players were credited with 20 or more special teams tackles this season. Minnesota linebacker Heath Farwell was the league leader with 28, including 23 solo efforts. Colts defensive tackle Darrell Reid tied San Diego linebacker Brandon Siler with 21. Both players made 18 solo tackles. And three players tied for fourth to round out the 20-and-over club, including Washington linebacker Khary Campbell, Cleveland wide receiver Joshua Cribbs, and Seattle linebacker Niko Koutouvides.

First down: Keep an eye on how productive San Diego and New England are on first down during this weekend's AFC Championship Game. During the regular season, New England posted a league-best 53.7 percent rate of gaining 4-plus yards on first down while the Chargers were dead last at 40.3 percent. The league average was 46.5 percent.

Linebacker off the market: After signing safety Bob Sanders to a new deal during the season to keep him from becoming an unrestricted free agent, the Indianapolis Colts have reportedly secured starting strongside linebacker Tyjuan Hagler for the 2008 season. Hagler was scheduled to become a restricted free agent, but the Colts offered him a one-year contract extension worth $1.417 million to keep him in the fold.

Adewale Ogunleye grabs the arms of Raiders quarterback Josh McCown, forcing a fumble during 2007 action.
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

Franchise record: Bears defensive end Adewale Ogunleye forced six fumbles in 2007. Only one other man in Chicago history has done that — Richard Dent back in 1992. But fifteen players have forced more fumbles in a single season than the pair of Chicago players. The all-time leader in the category is Miami's Jason Taylor, who coerced opponents into giving up the ball ten times in 2006.

Second-best: Patriots quarterback Tom Brady completed an amazing 68.9 percent of his passes this season. But believe it or not, that's the second-best mark since 2000 by a quarterback who played in all 16 games. Former Viking Daunte Culpepper was successful on 69.2 percent of his passes during the 2004 campaign on 548 attempts. Brady threw 578 times this season.

One to watch: Louisville's Gary Barnidge will be playing in this weekend's East-West Shrine Game and has reportedly received an invitation to the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis in February. After catching 53 passes for 655 yards and seven touchdowns, the 6-foot-6, 238-pound tight end will get a good look from pro scouts in the coming months because of his versatility as a receiver. In addition to lining him up next to their tackles, Louisville also used Barnidge out of the slot and put him in motion on plays. While he's got good hands and the speed to be a legitimate deep threat, he'll have to convince NFL clubs that he can add some weight and handle the more physical line play at the pro level.

Ed Thompson's player interviews and NFL features are published across the network and are syndicated through You can contact him by email through this link.

Statistics referenced in this article are provided by STATS, LLC. Copyright 2007 by STATS, LLC. Any use or distribution of such Licensed Materials without the express written consent of STATS is strictly prohibited. 

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