When Arizona head coach Dennis Green passed the torch to first round draft selection Matt Leinart, he did so without hesitancy. Just last week, Green discussed a change at quarterback with his team leaders, who expressed a desire to see if veteran Kurt Warner could correct his ball-handling issues. Fumbles and ill-times interceptions had taken the Cardinals out of potential game-changing situations. Following Warner's and the Cardinals latest fiasco, a 32-10 loss to Atlanta, Green benched the veteran and has inserted Leinart into the starting lineup. While Green did not seek the advice of those team leaders following the loss, indications are all are on the same page as Green and welcome the change. From what we've been told, Warner isn't making the transition a smooth one at this time.
Daunte Culpepper continues to comeback from a serious knee injury last year and he continues to be inconsistent. Not displaying the ability to run away and through a pass rush at this time, Miami head coach Nick Saban is concerned that Culpepper is on the verge of playing outside of himself and the scheme to make something positive happen for the underachieving Dolphins. Heading into the season, the Dolphins were not sure if Culpepper would be physically ready to play and at this time the same question remains. But, the other issue in Miami is Culpepper appears to be slow in his reads and is making questionable decisions. Sitting behind Culpepper is Joey Harrington, another off-season acquisition who hasn't impressed the coaching staff, but has improved his understanding of the offense over the past weeks. Don't be surprised to see Harrington get some snaps if Culpepper continues to struggle.
When the New England Patriots brought veteran quarterback Vinny Testaverde in for a visit last month, more than a few eyebrows were raised. Head coach Bill Belichick is positioning himself for the run of the season and sought a wild-card in his back pocket in the event quarterback Tom Brady were to suffer some lingering arm issues (has in the past). Testaverde remains capable of stepping in and helping a team with an immediate need. Also, this raises some questions as to Belichick's overall confidence of Brady's backup Matt Cassel … With the addition of rookie Laurence Maroney, the 2006 season is expected to be the last significant run by Corey Dillon with the Patriots. Maroney has been everything the Patriots expected when selecting him in the first-round of the 2006 Draft, while Dillon has played the role of mentor extremely well, while being productive on the playing field.
Terrell Owens to Dallas has met all the off-field expectations we expected, but the handling of the constant Owens issues and toughness of the Dallas organization has been much stronger than expected. For this first time in his career, Owens is getting the point it isn't all about T.O. Just days after an accidental overdose, head coach Bill Parcells played the talented receiver, but headed into the days leading up to the game without Owens being a factor. Thus far, Parcells is firmly in control regarding Owens and his players, the Parcells guys on the roster are keeping Owens in close check, if that is possible. To this time, Owens hasn't been a cancer to the team, chemistry-wise and Parcells and the leaders on the roster are bound to ensure he doesn't become one.
Firing Mike Sherman may have been in the cards, due to change being needed in Green Bay. But, the hiring of Mike McCarthy to lead a building process was questioned at the time of his hire and is increasingly questioned today. Following the Packers latest debacle, a 31-9 drubbing at the hands of the Philadelphia Eagles, we see the Packers making the same mistakes and playing undisciplined football. McCarthy's fairly organized practice routine is not getting results on the field, especially with quarterback Brett Favre continuing to force the ball into coverage. It's early, but the pressure is already on McCarthy. b
With the reigns turned over to rookie quarterback Vince Young, the Titans are on the verge of adding the reigns of the rushing attack over to rookie Lendale White. While hardly knocking the socks off the Tennessee coaching staff, White has practiced hard and warrants an opportunity in the Titans fragile backfield. A hard-runner, White could provide the Titans with a running game to take some of the pressure off of Young, who does not appear poised to be a significant factor at this time.
The Jacksonville Jaguars looking to add punch and stability to the receiver corps are expected to line-up running back Maurice Drew often in the slot. With the inconsistency of Reggie Williams and unknown status of oft-injured Matt Jones, Drew could provide the Jaguars with a speedy presence in the passing game, matching up against linebackers and safeties. Additionally, the Jaguars are expected to provide quarterback Byron Leftwich additional opportunities in the passing game in coming weeks. Known as a rather conservative offensive team, the Jaguars coaching staff is confident Leftwich will handle the added responsibility.
Linebacker Dan Morgan continues to insist his career is far from over. Prone to concussions throughout his professional career, Morgan says he is feeling fine and itching to get back on the playing field. The Carolina Panthers medical staff has mixed feelings regarding Morgan's return to the field and has been steadfast in refusing to grant the player clearance to practice … The Panthers are expecting the Browns, their week-five opponent to attempt to take a page out of the New Orleans Saints playbook and attack the defense through the air. The Carolina coaching staff blames average execution by the team defense and a very solid New Orleans game-plan as the reason for the Saints' passing success. All which the Panthers' staff doers not believe will occur against the Browns.
Those close to the New York Giants believe the team made a grave error in judgment in signing linebacker LaVar Arrington to a multi-year deal over the off-season. According to numerous scouts and team personnel evaluators, Arrington has no explosiveness and is slow in reacting to the play. Once his strength, Arrington's lack of speed and quickness has left the former standout a mere shadow of the player he was prior to knee woes.
The Chicago Bears have scrapped plans to ensure running back Cedric Benson receives 10-touches per-game, as was previously planned. Starting running back Thomas Jones has shown to be a more efficient back in the Bears' system and is very popular with the players and staff. Additionally, Jones is a legitimate threat coming out of the backfield and rarely misses blocking assignments. All which cannot be stated about Benson, who could be hurting his opportunities for playing time with a less than desired attitude … Quarterback Rex Grossman's solid play can be attributed to his intense study time with offensive coordinator Rod Turner. Turner and Grossman spend a significant amount of time doing film-study, and it doesn't hurt that Grossman is healthy and gaining on-field experience.
Look for the San Francisco 49ers to bench starting right tackle Kwame Harris once guard Larry Allen returns from a knee sprain. Harris has been inconsistent and victimized on numerous occasions early in the 2006 season. Adam Snyder figures to step into Harris' starting spot upon Allen's return, which is questionable at best this week.
As the offensive deficient Oakland Raiders continue to struggle moving the football, the team remains steadfast regarding their decision to let capable receiver Jerry Porter sit. During the off-season, Porter requested to be traded after not seeing eye-to-eye with new head coach Art Shell. A couple additional trade requests were made, but the team refuses to listen to representatives for the former West Virginia product. With the state of the Oakland passing game, the lack of production from Randy Moss, the Raiders desperately need someone to step-up and assume the responsibility, but it will not be Porter, as the team has no desire to play him … The usually impatient Al Davis has been quiet regarding the state of his Raiders. Realizing the errors over the past few seasons will not be quickly repaired, Davis is only looking for gradual improvement, something which has been occurring on the defensive side of the ball.
The Cleveland Browns enter a tough game against the Carolina Panthers this week without their starting cornerbacks, Gary Baxter and Leigh Bodden. Baxter nursing a pectoral muscle injury and Bodden a high ankle sprain leave the Browns very thin at the cornerback position. Facing standout receiver Steve Smith, the Browns defensive backfield will be in for a significant challenge … Much of the Cleveland lack of success in the running game and pass protection can be attributed to the less than expected play of the starting guards, Joe Andruzzi and Cosey Coleman. Neither player has been quick off the ball, is limited in space, and has become rather immobile. Free agent acquisition, left tackle Kevin Shaffer has been average at best and continues to struggle against quicker pass rushers … Lining up against one of the league's better pass rushing team in Carolina, the Browns will need to run the ball effectively, as quarterback Charlie Frye regularly holds onto the ball too long and is sacked often.
Not many people in and around the NFL believed the New York Jets would be a very competitive team in the 2006 under the direction of first-time head coach Eric Mangini. With numerous changes amongst the roster, a change in philosophy, and attitude, the Jets were deemed a team in a full-rebuilding mode and shouldn't be expected to be anything more than the door-mat team in the AFC East division. The return of a mostly healthy Chad Pennington at quarterback, some spirited play along the offensive line, and a defense which is focused on the fundamentals, the Jets have been competitive and may be the surprise team of the 2006 season. While the resurgence of Pennington has been key, it is the attitude and preparation of Mangini which has been the refreshing look the Jets needed.