Point 1: No matter what's being said publicly, the Browns quarterback position is Brady Quinn's to lose.
Based on comments coming out of Cleveland, it appears that head coach Eric Mangini won't officially name a starting quarterback until at least mid-August. He's said he wants to see Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson in a wide variety of situations before he makes that call. And that makes a lot of sense.
But that doesn't mean that it's not obvious that Brady Quinn is the better quarterback in Cleveland.
Mangini is playing the smart hand, especially when you consider that Anderson's ego has to be shaky at best. He's coming off of a rocky 2008 season that has undoubtedly damaged not only his confidence, but the confidence of some of his teammates as well.
Anderson was 3-6 as a starter last year. While it's not fair to put those losses just on his shoulders, as the leader of the offense, his performance wasn't nearly as sharp as it was in 2007.
"The big one for me is huddle presence and the ability to run the offense," Mangini explained during a press conference. "Who can most effectively run the offense? Who can look at the defense, understand what the coverage is and go to the right place with the ball? Who can see a blitz look and put us into the right play?
"There's always going to be some right answer. And the ability for us offensively to get to the right answer in a short amount of time, under pressure -- that's what's going to drive the decision."
Sure sounds like Quinn to me. He's the calmer, more focused and athletic quarterback. He's hungry to lead and has a field presence that his teammates should respect.
But I like the way Mangini is playing the cards that he's been dealt. The best thing for his club right now is a quarterback competition that shows equal support for Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson -- at least for now.
Imagine this scenario. Mangini hands the starter's role to Quinn now or early in training camp. Then the unthinkable happens and Quinn is sidelined with an injury. Anderson tries to salvage some respect while he inherits the starter's role by default. How well do you think he's going to play in that situation?
Instead, by dragging out the competition and withholding his proclamation, Mangini hedges his bets. If Quinn is injured, Anderson becomes the starter, powered by the illusion that he was possibly going to win the job outright.
Bottom line, intended or not, Mangini's strategy is a confidence builder for a veteran who just might stumble his way into the starter's role again -- and who can't afford another blow to his psyche.
Point 2: Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio will either inspire his team to perform to new heights this season or will irreparably fracture it.
It's becoming obvious that the fiery head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars is tired of watching his team deteriorate after a few years of being among the league's legitimate playoff contenders. And who can blame him?
Jack Del Rio isn't going to be as patient in Jacksonville.
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Last week he lashed out at two-time Pro Bowler John Henderson. After the veteran defensive tackle injured his shoulder during practice, he left the field. Del Rio was clearly disappointed and questioned Henderson's decision to sit out of practice the next day as well.
"John has a shoulder that, back when I played, nobody would've missed a snap. Lombardi might be rolling over," he said. "It's disappointing to see him pull himself out. I'm not going to worry about somebody who's pulled himself out of a drill."
Despite the public criticism, Henderson took the high road, reassuring his head coach that the injury -- a slight dislocation according to one source -- was for real.
"We talked like men. I let him know about the shoulder. He saw the X-rays. He was good on it," Henderson said. "We're both good and we're getting back to work."
But the confrontation sent a message to the entire Jaguars roster that Del Rio wasn't going to give much latitude to any player who was even perceived as a slacker. In other words, patience won't be one of the virtues that you'll see in the Jaguars head coach this year.
And that may be exactly what this team needs to get back on track. Or it could cause dissension in the ranks that derails the Jaguars' playoff hopes.
Point 3: Brad Cottam is determined to fill some really big shoes in Kansas City.
As the Kansas City Chiefs finalized the trade of Tony Gonzales to the Atlanta Falcons, Cottam unofficially became the team's starting tight end, just a few months after completing his rookie season in the NFL. The 6-foot-7, 269-pound player out of the University of Tennessee told me this week that he had mixed feelings when he heard the news.
"You know, really I was thinking this is awesome for me. I can tell you I wasn't happy to see him go because he's really taught me a whole lot, and I'm sure I would have learned more from him this year," Cottam said. "But you always want to be the number one guy. It's always hard playing behind somebody. I just saw it as a huge opportunity and the door opening for me."
Although he only caught seven passes during his NFL debut season, Cottam gained plenty of experience during seven starts that will serve him well. And he's a mature, focused individual who should quickly gain the respect of new head coach Todd Haley.
Another advantage for Cottam this year is the more stable situation at the quarterback position. After working with Brodie Croyle, Damon Huard and Tyler Thigpen in 2008, the entire Chiefs offense will benefit from the team's offseason acquisition of former Patriots quarterback Matt Cassel.
Cottam has certainly been impressed by what he's seen so far.
"He's come in and livened up the team. He's serious when he has to be, but he's really having a good time. You can just tell when people have the kind of personality about them that says they're a winner," he said. "We haven't done anything yet in terms of playing anybody, but it's just the feeling that we're around someone that's going to be good."
Point 4: Vikings quarterback Tarvaris Jackson could be playing in Washington, Jacksonville or Seattle this fall.
Sources told ESPN that Brett Favre has already submitted to arthroscopic surgery to repair his injured throwing shoulder. But before the 39-year-old veteran will commit to a contract with the Minnesota Vikings, he's testing the arm gradually, trying to ensure that he'll have the full strength and range of motion required to play in what would be his 19th NFL season.
Will Tarvaris Jackson be moving to another city before September?
Jeff Gross/Getty Images
In last week's 7 Points column, I weighed-in on the impact of Favre's return on the Vikings' depth chart. With the money the team has committed to Sage Rosenfels, including a $1.4 million signing bonus, it's likely that Tarvaris Jackson, who is in the last year of his contract, wouldn't be needed beyond the end of training camp. In the meantime, he could serve as valuable insurance in case Favre or Rosenfels was injured during the preseason.
But the Vikings could also opt to shop him around the league, positioning Jackson as a valuable No. 2 quarterback with starter's experience. A team like the Redskins, whose depth chart behind Jason Campbell includes 37-year-old journeyman Todd Collins, second-year quarterback Colt Brennan and rookie Chase Daniels, could be willing to assume the final year of Jackson's deal that only calls for a salary of $535,000. While Jackson has as many question marks as Campbell, he may be an upgrade over Collins.
The Jacksonville Jaguars could use a bit more stability behind David Garrard, whose current backup is Cleo Lemon. And the Seahawks could use some help behind Matt Hasselbeck so they don't necessarily have to turn to Seneca Wallace again if the 11th-year veteran is unable to stay healthy for a full 16-game season.
Point 5: The Colts will be a better team in 2009 under Jim Caldwell as he loosens the reigns in Indy.
Sure, the Indianapolis Colts have won at least 12 games for six consecutive seasons. They even posted a 12-4 season last year. So will Jim Caldwell win at least 13 this year?
I think they'll have a very good shot at doing just that if they don't hit too many injury bumps along the way.
Over the past few years, despite my deep respect for Tony Dungy, I had wondered repeatedly about his seemingly blind loyalty to defensive coordinator Ron Meeks and special teams coach Russ Purnell. Obviously, both are good men with NFL-level smarts in their respective areas.
But think about it. With the exception of the 2006 season when they defeated Chicago in the Super Bowl, the Colts faltered repeatedly in the playoffs. Year after year, the fans and local media called for the dismissal of Meeks and/or Purnell. It seemed obvious to everyone but Dungy that the two men needed to be replaced.
And apparently, Jim Caldwell was among that majority.
By mid-January, Meeks tendered his resignation as rumors circulated that he was about to be fired. And a few days later, Purnell was informed that he wouldn't be returning.
Head coach Jim Caldwell needs to let Peyton Manning attack defenses again.
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Caldwell then ushered in a new outlook for the Colts with the hiring of Larry Coyer as defensive coordinator and Ray Rychleski as special teams coordinator. Both men bring a more aggressive style of play to the field than their predecessors.
Coyer was the Denver Broncos defensive coordinator from 2003-2006. During that four-year span, the Broncos allowed 98.3 yards rushing per game, fourth-best among all NFL clubs. Coyer is also more of an advocate of using the blitz than Dungy and Meeks were during their years in Indy.
Rychleski, who worked for Caldwell at Wake Forest, most recently led his special teams at the University of South Carolina to a second-place finish in the SEC in kickoff return coverage -- another glaring area of weakness for Indy.
Since Caldwell is prepared to show a more aggressive style of play on defense and special teams, I'm anxious to see if he'll let Peyton Manning be more aggressive as well. Indianapolis was repeatedly in tight contests last year, winning eight of their 12 games by seven points or less as they played with a conservative bent.
Maybe it's just me, but that seems counterproductive when you've got one of the most talented quarterbacks who has ever played the game on your roster.
Peyton Manning threw 49 touchdown passes in 2004, but the defense was just awful. Since then, Manning has been lulled into a more patient approach, throwing for an average of 29 touchdowns over the last four seasons.
Caldwell needs to let his franchise quarterback aggressively attack his opponents like he did back in 2004. Anything less than that robs the Colts of their full potential.
Point 6: I wasn't surprised to hear that the 49ers aren't interested in Michael Vick.
During an interview with Sirius NFL Radio on Monday, 49ers general manager Scott McCloughan said that the team has already discussed the possibility of adding quarterback Michael Vick to their roster if he's cleared to play football again by the Commissioner.
McCloughan made the verdict clear. "We will not do it," he said.
Since head coach Mike Singletary is a tough guy with a compassionate streak, there was some speculation in the media that he might be the person who would be willing to give Vick a second chance in the NFL. But I'm not surprised that Singletary and the 49ers are staying at an arm's length distance from him.
In case you haven't noticed, the last time the 49ers had a true franchise quarterback was 2001, when Jeff Garcia led the team to a 12-4 record while tossing 32 touchdown passes and completing 62.7 percent of this throws for more than 3,500 yards.
Since then, the 49ers have taken too many chances at quarterback. And the team has floundered while guys like Tim Rattay, Alex Smith, Trent Dilfer, J.T. O'Sullivan and Shaun Hill have passed the baton back and forth. So it doesn't make sense for the team to take yet another risk.
The 49ers'next quarterback move needs to be smart, not hopeful.
Points 7: My "can't miss" seventh-round draft pick is Lions linebacker Zack Follett.
I was stunned as I watched the former University of California linebacker slip into the seventh-round of the NFL Draft back in April.
If you've seen him play, Follett is a fiery, old-school style of linebacker who loves to put the biggest hit he possibly can on the poor sap who is running with the football. And the energy level you see on the field isn't that far off from what you'd experience if you talked to him face-to-face off the field.
You see, Zach Follett is simply a live wire. But what do you expect from a guy who picked Terry Tate, Office Linebacker as his hero while he was growing up?
NFL rookies are expected to contribute right away on special teams if they want to earn a roster spot. And Zack Follett is a player who will strike some fear into his opponents as he flies down the field with kamikaze-like abandon, ready to do whatever it takes to find the ball carrier and drop him in his tracks.
Detroit Lions fans are going to love watching this guy in training camp. He gets my vote as the seventh-round pick who is most likely to make his team's 53-man roster this September.
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