Question: There seems to be a lot of conflicting stories about Manning's knee, what is your opinion as to the severity also any color as to the extent of Brady's injury? It seems like there are more QB related injuries this year, are teams just being more cautious this preseason?
Adam Caplan: Manning started practicing earlier this week so those reports could be wrong. Unless he has a setback, I would expected him to be ready for the first regular season game. As for Brady, the team has taken a cautious approach with his foot injury. But he's doing limited practicing this week and he'll be ready for the start of the regular season.
A bigger concern the Patriots is with their offensive line which has injury issues. RG Stephen Neal will miss at least the first six weeks of the season. I'm told key backup Russ Hochstein may not be ready until the third week as he recovers from his injury. And another top backup, Ryan O'Callaghan was placed on IR this week. LT Matt Light just returned to practice after missing about four weeks.
Question: I would like hear your thoughts on Troy Smith coming from an outsider. I think some of us here are too tied up emotionally to get a realistic gauge on him. (Not a dig at you Aaron, i just meant on the board in general.)
Caplan: I've studied over 150 quarterbacks in the eight years I've covered the NFL so I feel I have a pretty good idea what we're looking at with Smith.
Going back Senior Bowl week practices of 2007, Smith was inconsistent at best and his lack of height (he's a shade under 6'0") was clearly a detriment. Looking back at my notes, he had trouble seeing over the offensive line. I saw the same thing during training camp practices earlier this month.
What I like is he plays with a lot of confidence and seems to know what he wants to do with the football most of the time.
While he has an above average arm, I don't see him as anything other than a backup at the NFL level. His inconsistent mechanics and release point are also issues.
Question: How do you expect Pittsburgh to split carries between Parker and Mendenhall. Also, how much does Rudi Johnson have left in the tank?
Caplan: Parker should be the main ball carrier this season. The coaching staff is still working on Mendenhall's role. Parker is signed through 2009 so expect Mendenhall to be the starter in 2010 and beyond. Once the coaches are comfortable with Mendenhall, I would expect him to see lots of time in short-yardage situations. Mendenhall has had ball security issues so that has to be overcome if he's to have a decent role.
Question: The Ravens as well as other AFC north teams have issues.. Can any one team dominate the rest or will the winner simply be the one to survive..
Caplan: Pittsburgh now looks to be the favorite. I didn't feel that way a few months ago but Cleveland is having injury issues on both sides of the ball which may not be resolved by next week. Pittsburgh's offensive line is still a concern but the bottom line is they'll have one of the best offenses in the league again this season. Pittsburgh clearly has the least amount of issues as we approach the start of the regular season.
Question: has The AFC North taken over for The NFC West as the weakest division in the NFL I see a 8-8 or 9-7 winning the North this year.
Caplan: I would disagree since Pittsburgh should be in the 10-6, 11-5 area and Cleveland should be close to them. The Ravens certainly don't look like a winning team this season, same with the Bengals. The NFC West is worse since 9-7 won that division last year. And the AFC West may only have one winning team again this season.
Question: The Bengals cut Chris Henry saying it was time to move on. How hollow does the resigning of Henry make them look
Caplan: It makes the organization look pathetic since head coach Marvin Lewis was on record as saying he didn't want Henry back. But owner Mike Brown makes the personnel decisions since the team doesn't have a general manager. And until they have someone in charge with a strong football background, they will always have personnel issues.