Mixed Signals: Why Kyle Orton is more desirable than Kevin Kolb

Kyle Orton finds himself in a familiar situation this offseason.  The 28 year old former Purdue standout is again being overlooked.  While all the talk about available quarterbacks has revolved around Kevin Kolb, Matt Hasselbeck, Vince Young, and even Mark Bulger, Orton has remained under the radar despite solid performances throughout his young career.  After finishing in the top 11 in passing yards and compiling over 20 touchdown passes in each of the last 2 seasons, Orton remains the best option on the market for any quarterback-needy team.    

Despite solid numbers, Kyle Orton is not Denver's long term answer at quarterback

Orton’s career, up to this point, has been chaotic.  Even though he led the Chicago Bears to a 9-7 record in 2008, the team did not feel he was a championship-caliber quarterback and Kyle Orton ended up as nothing more than a space filler in the Jay Cutler trade during the offseason.  After getting to the Denver Broncos for the 2009 season, Orton again produced a winning record, however, his new team still decided to reach for quarterback Tim Tebow during the first round of the 2010 draft.  Although new head coach John Fox stands behind Orton as his starting quarterback, Vice President of Football Operations, John Elway, seems to be pushing for the Tim Tebow era to begin in Denver.  With the Broncos still years away from competing for a title, I would not expect to see Kyle Orton on Denver’s 2011 opening day roster.

What teams should be trying to figure out a way to get Kyle Orton on their roster in 2011?  Unlike a rookie or even the inexperienced Kevin Kolb, Orton allows a team to focus on winning immediately, making him ideal for a talented team that underachieved in 2010.  I would envision teams like the Miami Dolphins and the Arizona Cardinals, teams with established offensive units, with excellent skill position players that did not solve their long term quarterback issue in this year’s draft, being the most logical fits for the signal caller.  Orton has never been surrounded with a talented receiving corps and, after making  the streaky Brandon Lloyd look like an All-Pro in 2010, it would be scary to think what he could do with the likes of Brandon Marshall or Larry Fitzgerald. 

At only 28 years old, not quite two years older than Kevin Kolb, with a winning record over his 61 career starts, and coming off 2 straight seasons where his quarterback rating has exceeded 86, Kyle Orton is the best option for any team looking to acquire a quarterback via trade or through free agency.  Now, if this lockout would only end so that these types of moves could be made…

Not Frank: Tiki Barber’s misguided comparison

Tiki Barber has done it again.

For the second time this year the former Giant running back has managed to make headlines.

Of course, by now you know about Barber’s announcement to return to the NFL in 2011.

However, if you haven’t heard, his latest announcement is just as shocking but this time for all the wrong reasons.

In a recent interview with SI, Tiki Barber addressed leaving his wife for 23 year old intern Tracy Johnson and the fact that they had been living with his agent, Mark Lepselter for a period of time.

In particular, Tiki and his girlfriend were apparently living in Mark Lepselter’s attic, which led to Barber to tell SI: “Lep’s Jewish,  and it was like a reverse Anne Frank thing.”

Yikes!

Comparing yourself to a young girl who was hiding out to avoid one of the most heinous acts of genocide the world has ever seen is never a good idea.

Especially, when the reason you are hiding out is because you have done one of the most dishonorable things a man can do to his wife, save pulling a Schwarzenegger, in leaving her when she is 8 months pregnant with twins.

In Tiki’s defense his agent, Mark Lepselter, did defend him and indicated he was not offended by the comments.

In the end, this is probably only hitting the headlines because of the slow news cycle, but still you’ve got to wonder what the heck is going on in Barber’s head.

What do you think about Tiki’s comments?

Weigh in here.  

 

Unemployed: Will LaDainian Tomlinson, Clinton Portis, Willis McGahee, and Ronnie Brown be on NFL rosters in 2011?

The late Aaliyah once said “age ain’t nothing but a number”.  More recently, the saying that “30 is the new 20″ developed to help ease the fears of Generation X and Y as they are getting older.  In fact, Jay Z even tried to convince the masses that 40 was the new 20 when he approached that fearful age.  Do you know who has obviously never heard any these age-defying sayings before?  NFL decison makers, that is who.  Lost among the NFL labor nightmare are a large number of extremely successful, veteran running backs, many who have not yet reached 30, who have no idea what their football future will be like.  Over the past few years, NFL teams have avoided aging running backs like the Plague, preferring to get rid of a back 1 or 2 years early rather than 1 or 2 years too late.  The best a veteran back can hope for these days is to be a part of the common split backfield where 10 carries in a game is a rarity.  Additionally, with so many aging backs on the market, these guys will compete with each other for the few available spots- leaving some very familiar names without a team to call their own in 2011.  Let’s take a quick look at some of the backs who may not be able to find a place on an NFL roster this coming season (thanks to NFL.com for the help with some of the following stats):

LaDainian Tomlinson– Despite Tomlinson’s incredible resume, an NFL MVP award, 6 selections to the All Pro team, and the record for most touchdowns in a season, his prospects for the 2011 season are murky at best.  The San Diego Chargers had already decided that Tomlinson’s best days were behind him and had moved on following the 2009 season, forcing LT to sign with the New York Jets for 2010.  Early in the season, it seemed like LT may have rejuvenated his career in New York, however, after a torrid start to the season, he faded late in the regular season and lost touches as the playoffs progressed.  With Shonn Greene emerging as the Jets go-to back and with the drafting of Bilal Powell in the 4th round, Rex Ryan and the Jets may not need Tomlinson’s services in 2011.  If the 32 year old LT is cut by the Jets who will take him?        

The two future Hall of Famers may never get to converse on the field again

Clinton Portis– It is hard to believe that two seasons ago, Clinton Portis rushed for 1487 yards and 9 TDs.  The past 2 years have not been so kind to Portis, who has not been able to stay healthy and who, after reconnecting with his former coach Mike Shanahan, was not able to recapture the magic of his 2002 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year season.  Prior to the commencement of the lockout, Shanahan and the Redskins cut ties with Portis, leaving the former Miami Hurricane star on the open market.  At 29 years old and coming off 2 injury-plagued seasons, will Clinton Portis fight his way onto a roster in 2011?  You can bet that Portis will do everything in his power to do so since he only has 77 yards rushing remaining until he reaches 10,000 for his career.

Ronnie Brown –  Will 2011 be the year that Ronnie Brown finally breaks out?  Most likely, we will never know.  After getting drafted second overall in the 2005 draft, ahead of his former, more recognizable Auburn teammate Cadillace Williams, it seemed as if Brown would allow Miami Dolphin fans to move on from the erratic, suspension-prone Ricky Williams.  After seven Ronnie Brown seasons marred with injury and dissapointment in which he was named to one Pro Bowl and surpassed 1000 yards only once, Williams seems like the back who is more likely to be a part of the 2011 Dolphins than Brown.   Coming off a 2010 season when he averaged a career low 3.7 yards per carry, the question need to be asked, if the Dolphins do not want Brown will anyone else want to take a shot at him?  For a running back who has never seemed to reach his full potential and will turn 30 during the 2011 season, the answer is probably no.

Willis McGahee– After completing the greatest season for a running back in University of Miami history, it still came as somewhat of a shock to many that the Buffalo Bills made Willis McGahee a first round pick after he suffered this injury in the 2003 National Championship Game.  After sitting out his rookie season recovering, McGahee went on to have 4 productive seasons with first the Bills and then with the Baltimore Ravens, amassing over 990 yards in each.  Although he has seen his role change in the Baltimore backfield over the past few seasons with the emergence of Ray Rice, McGahee proved to be a valuable asset, great around the goalline and reliable in the fourth quarter.  However, with Rice continuing to prove that he is an every down back and with the drafting of Anthony Allen (a virtual McGahee clone from a size perspective at 6’1 and 230 lbs.), The Ravens made it clear that 2010 was most likely McGahee’s last season with the team.  Where will this 29 year old find work in 2010?  Unfortunately for McGahee, it will most likely be somewhere other than the football field.     

The NFL landscape is changing at the running back position and many successful veterans cannot be enjoying it.  Other veteran backs like Jospeh Addai, Cedric Benson, and Chester Taylor may find similar fates as the 2011 offseason takes shape as the market no longer exists for veteran runners.  Keep this philosophy in mind so that you are not shocked when Minnesota or Tennessee uses an early round pick in 2012 or 2013 to find a replacement for their aging backfield star.

Vince Young should be a Philadelphia Eagle in 2011

Vince Young had a disastrous 2010.  He took part in a strip club brawl that turned into a YouTube highlight,  he had a spat with his coach, he suffered numerous injuries, and he ended the season as an  outcast of the Tennessee Titan organization.  After that tumultuous year and due to a $4.5 million roster bonus he is set to receive after the lockout ends, Vince Young will be cut and will need to find a new home in 2011.  Despite rumors last week that had him linked to the Minnesota Vikings due to the fact that he was working out with Adrian Peterson,  I cannot see Young being the answer for a Vikings team looking for a veteran leader to briefly run the offense while 2011 first round pick Christian Ponder learns the pro game.  Young has also been linked to the Washington Redskins to battle with incumbents John Beck and Rex Grossman for the starting quarterback spot in Mike Shanahan’s west coast offense.  Although this scenario seems a bit more likely, I doubt we will see VY in the nation’s capital either.  The Philadelphia Eagles- again emerging out of nowhere, much like they did in the Michael Vick sweepstakes – make the most sense as a next stop in Young’s career.

Why do the Philadelphia Eagles need Vince Young?  Don’t they already have Michael Vick?  Of course, they do, but, as we saw last season, it is highly unlikely that Vick’s playing style will allow him to suit up for all 16 games.  Whilea solid backup quarterback is important to every team, to the Philadelphia Eagles it is vital.  While the Eagles already have Kevin Kolb in place, his value will be too high for Andy Reid to keep from trading him, and Reid will not risk going into the season one hit away from the start of the Mike Kafka era.  Instead Reid will move Kolb and replace him with a motivated Vince Young, creating one of the most unusual quarterback tandems in NFL history.

Why does Vince Young need the Philadelphia Eagles?  Ask Michael Vick.  While with the Atlanta Falcons, Vick was a player who, on natural ability alone, had been a successful NFL quarterback from a wins and losses perspective.  His career took an obvious turn for the worst when he was sent to federal prison for his role in a dog fighting ring.  After serving his time, Vick came to the Eagles as an extremely talented player with a cannon for an arm who had flaws and was in need of some fine tuning.  The Eagles staff was able to turn Vick, a player with a career completion percentage of under 54%, into a elite pocket passer, with a completion percentage close to 61%, and runner up for the league’s 2010 MVP award. 

Vince Young needs to make the smart career and join the Eagles.

Vince Young is a quarterback in need of a similar rebirth.  Although his past is not as checkered as Vick, he does have the brawl in a strip club bathroom on his resume and he may only have only one more shot to convince NFL teams that he can be a Super Bowl winning quarterback.  Similar to Vick, despite struggles with his accuracy, he has been a winner through the early parts of his career.  Like they did with Vick, Andy Reid, offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, and the rest of the Eagles coaching staff could work with a rededicated Vince Young on refining his throwing technique, getting a better understanding of the pocket, and helping him harness his natural abilities to turn him into an accurate, elite player.   Just like Vick was able to ease his way into the fray due to Donovan McNabb’s presence on the 2009 Eagles, Vince Young would be able to slowly work on his craft without feeling the pressure of having to start on a weekly basis because Michael Vick is firmly entrenched as the starter.

Although I am sure he would love to find a place where he could start immediately, Vince Young should make the smart career move and join the Philadelphia Eagles.  He is still only 27 years old and, with Michael Vick’s shell life in question, Vince Young could be not too far away from starting a truly successful career in the City of Brotherly Love.

Ring Hollow: Are Peyton and Brady done winning titles?

In a recent podcast I brought up an interesting point. What if Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are done winning titles?

Every year we count the Colts and Patriots in as contenders just because of the guys they have lining up under center.

However, recent history shows that a younger crop of QBs maybe ready to take the mantle and much sooner than we think.

With that idea set as the back drop let’s look at the 5 reasons why the best two QBs of their generation won’t win any more titles before they retire.

1 – Aaron Rodgers is the best QB in the league

For the better part of a decade we’ve thought of Peyton Manning and Tom Brady as the standard for how QBs should play the position. Great pocket presence, excellent decision making, and great accuracy. But last season we saw something different begin to emerge.

The mobile quarterback with great pocket presence, decision making, and great accuracy is now becoming the standard and Aaron Rodgers is at the head of the class. Rodgers put on an absolute clinic late in the regular season and postseason and clearly has the best of both worlds when it comes to mobility and the ability to make the correct decisions in the pocket.

2 – Father Time is undefeated

After the Patriots selected QB Ryan Mallett, in the 3rd round of this year’s NFL draft, I heard Brady responded by saying he is going to play for 10 more seasons. Good luck with that Tom. At 33 years old (34 when the 2011 season starts) it would be hard to imagine Brady playing into his mid 40′s and still being the MVP quarterback he is today. Same thing with Peyton. At 35 years old how many top flight seasons does he have left?

Simple math would tell you that Brady and Peyton have more good seasons behind them than in front of them.

3 – The trend is not their friend

After starting his postseason career at 14 – 2, Brady has dropped his last three postseason starts. What is more the surprising is that in those 3 consecutive losses (Giants, Ravens, Jets) Brady has not looked like the same QB that won 3 Super Bowls before his 30th birthday.

Of course, we all know about Peyton’s checkered postseason history. Granted, his postseason record (9 – 10) may not be all his fault, but it does mean that when the Colts get in the playoffs their chances of being eliminated early is something that is more likely to happen than not.

Winning in the postseason takes a lot of things, including luck, and lately Peyton and Brady have been on the short end.

4 – Less separation between teams

There was a time just a few years ago (2004 – 2006) where the Patriots and Colts were a lock to win their division and more than likely grab the top two seeds in the AFC playoffs. Fast forward to 2011 and the AFC is a much more level playing field. With teams like the Ravens, Jets, Steelers, and Chargers having emerged as perennial powers the path to the postseason is no longer a lock for the Colts and the Patriots.

The Patriots won 14 games in 2010 but based on their postseason loss to the Jets it’s clear they over achieved. As for the Colts it took a win late in the season against Jacksonville to secure a postseason berth. A postseason without both Brady and Manning would have been unthinkable 5 years ago, but now it’s only appears to be a matter of time before it happens.

5 – Championships are just hard to come by

Unlike other sports football is ultimate team game. Even when Tom Brady and Peyton Manning were clearly the best QBs in the game that did not guarantee them championships. In fact, both Brady and Peyton’s best statistical seasons (2007 for Brady, 2004 for Manning) did not result in a championship.

So while Tom Brady and Peyton Manning will probably continue to play well for at least the next couple of seasons there is no certainty that the team around them will become championship caliber during that time.

Think Peyton and Brady have more rings left in their future? Talk about it here.

Incomplete: The 5 NFL teams who should not receive a draft grade

We have had just over a week to digest the 2011 NFL draft and fans of teams like the Arizona Cardinals, Seattle Seahawks, Philadelphia Eagles, New England Patriots, and the Washington Redskins should not yet jump to conclusions.  If you are like me, after the draft is complete, you rush to read every draft recap you can, both to see how your favorite team did in the eyes of the experts and also to see what players should suddenly be put on your fantasy draft radar.  Remember that 2011 is a different year for football and, without having the complete picture of your favorite team’s intentions, it is too early to pass judgment.  Generally by this time each year, teams will have had the chance to add pieces through the draft and via free agency.  With the delay of the start of the league year, savvy teams may still be able to add those pieces that so many fans were screaming for on draft day (and throughout this week).  Let’s look at the most pressing question for each individual team:

Who will play quarterback for the 2011 Arizona Cardinals?

Donovan McNabbis already working out with Larry Fitzgerlad, will they be teammates too?

Scared by the ghost of Matt Leinart, the Cardinals chose to pass on the likes of Jake Locker and Blaine Gabbert in the first round of the draft.  Although the Cardinals are in need of a quarterback, I feel that the recent success of Kurt Warner has forcedKen Whisenhunt’s hand to again look for a veteran leader behind the center.  Although the Cardinals did not address it’s quarterback issues in the draft, the team can still find their next signal caller this offseason.  Rumors have linked Donovan McNabb, Kevin Kolb, and Kyle Orton to the desert and I am certain that each quarterback would enjoy playing with the likes of Larry Fitzgerald, Beanie Wells, Ryan Williams, and Steve Breaston in the weak NFC West.

Will the Seahawks really have Charlie Whitehurst as their only option at quaterback in 2011?  

A few months ago, Pete Carroll may have been able to pick Jake Locker with the 25th pick in the draft and start the season with his quarterback of the future.  Then Locker made a huge leap on team’s draft boards after the combine and his pro day and ended up going 8th overall.  So Carroll decided to fill other needs through the draft.  With Matt Hasslebeck hitting free agency, the Seahawks find themselves with only the unproven Charlie Whitehurst as an option at quarterback for the defending NFC West champs.  If the Seahawks are able to grab a young quarterback like Kevin Kolb they will have their quarterback of the future in addition to the pieces they added through the draft.  Or, worst case scenario, they could convince Hasselbeck to come back for one more year and add a young QB next season.

How did the Eagles help the worst red zone defense in recent memory? 

The Eagles lost the chance to deal Kevin Kolb while the league adjusted to the court rulings on the stay of the lockout which changed their 2011 draft day opportunities.  Nonetheless, the Eagles have the offensive talent at skill positions to compete for a Super Bowl title and needed to fill huge holes on a very porous defense this offseason.  Andy Reid did not exactly do so in the draft.  Among his first three picks, he drafted a 26 year old offensive lineman (which was also a position of need) and a cornerbackwho came to Utah State as a running back.  He tried to fill some needs in the later rounds with picks like Casey Matthews, brother of the Green Bay Packer defensive menace Clay Matthews, but he still needs to find help at linebacker to deal with the team’s red zone deficiencies.  With the likes of Paul Posluszny, Stephen Tulloch, and Barrett Ruud available through free agency, the Eagles still have the ability to add a defensive leader to a defense in desperate need of one.

Who will rush the passer for the New England Patriots?

If he plans on winning another Super Bowl, Belichick needs a better pass rush

In typical Bill Belichick fashion, the Patriots chose to trade one of their two first round picks, passing on pass rushers like Brooks Reed and Akeem Ayers,  to better prepare them for the 2012 draft.  New England was exposed last year as a team unable to put any pressure on the opposing quarterback.  Coming off a 14 win season and withthe league’s defending MVP still under center, the Patriots did not fill their one huge hole through the draft.  However, as they showed with the acquistion of AdaliusThomas several years ago, the Pats are not scared of making a big splash in free agency.  With rushers like Matthias Kiwanuka, Ray Edwards, and Jason Babin available, Bill Belichick will still be able to help his defense this offseason with veterans rather than rookies.

The Washington Redskins would rather start John Beck than Donovan McNabb?

The Mike Shanahan-Donovan McNabb marriage in Washington lasted about as long as a relationship on ABC’s The Bachelor.  But seriously, Shanahan is not going to rely on John Beck or Rex Grossman to win games in the tough NFC East, is he?  Shanahan obviously did not like Blaine Gabbert, choosing to trade down and sure up their defense rather than pick the former Missouri Tiger.  We must remember that Shanahan won his Super Bowl rings with a veteran John Elway and just finished trying to do the same with Donovan McNabb.  With Shanahan having a preference towards mobile quarterbacks like Elway and McNabb, would it not make sense for Vince Young to find Washington to be a great place to try to revive his career under Shanahan’s tutelage?  Or maybe Shanahan could make a call to his old stomping grounds in Denver and try to get Kyle Orton in the nation’s capital.  Do not worry Skins fans, the John Beck era will end before it even begins.

Perfect Ten? 10 rookies who will make a fantasy impact in 2011

Leshoure could make a big fantasy impact in 2011.

Now that the 2011 draft has concluded it’s never too early to start looking at the rookies who could end being the next fantasy superstars.

While no one can ever be sure on what rookies will make the biggest impact, Two Guys takes a shot at ranking the top rookies for the upcoming (fingers crossed) 2011 season.

1) Mikel Leshoure – RB – Detroit Lions

He’ll be the heavy in the Lions backfield duo with Jahvid Best. He has should provide solid production for the Lions as an every down back and his size will help him get into the end zone near the goal line.

2) Daniel Thomas – RB – Miami Dolphins

With the potential departure of the aging Ricky Williams and the oft injured Ronnie Brown, Thomas seems like a natural fit for the Dolphins offense. At 230 lbs he’ll be able to keep the chains moving and help keep pressure off of Chad Henne.

3) Ryan Williams – RB – Arizona Cardinals

With Beanie Wells and Tim Hightower struggling to make a consistent impact in the running game, Ryan Williams has a chance to get some major playing time. He has the ability to be an every down back and his speed makes him a home run threat that defenses will fear.

4) Mark Ingram – RB – New Orleans Saints

I know I projected Mark Ingram to be a potential draft bust, but he couldn’t have landed in a better situation than he did with the Saints. Ingram will certainly have room to run as teams will not be able to stack 8 in the box against the Saints passing game. With Reggie Bush’s status uncertain and Pierre Thomas’s injury history Ingram could end up getting more than his fair share of the carries for the Saints in 2011.

5) Julio Jones – WR – Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons traded the farm to grab Julio Jones and they expect him to make a major impact right away. Jones should be able to make some big plays early on considering the fact he will face single coverage in most formations since Roddy White will draw the double teams.

6) A.J. Green – WR – Cincinnati Bengals

If Carson Palmer decides not to retire I can see A.J. Green winning rookie of the year in 2011. Green has a rare blend of size and speed that will make him almost unstoppable if he receives one on one coverage.

7) Kendall Hunter – RB – San Francisco 49ers

While Frank Gore is certainly the starter for the 49ers going into 2011 his injury last season raises major concerns about his durability going forward. Hunter is certainly worth drafting since he has a chance to see field early on as a third down back and could end developing a larger role as the season goes on.

8 ) Jamie Harper – RB – Tennessee Titans

Sure, he won’t see many carries behind Chris Johnson but Harper is a going to be a productive player in this league. He has the size, hands, and speed to be an every down back. Besides, he is only one CJ2K injury away from being the most requested waiver wire pick up in 2011. So be smart and take a flyer on him late in your draft, you won’t be sorry.

9) Randall Cobb – WR – Green Bay Packers

The writings on the wall, and since James Jones will likely be gone Randall Cobb steps into the perfect opportunity. He has the perfect size and quickness to fit in with Packers quick strike passing game which allows receivers to gain significant yards after the catch. Cobb could also see additional playing time as Donald Driver was plagued by injuries last season and is in the twilight of his career.

10) Lance Kendricks – TE – St. Louis Rams

Lance Kendricks is an athletic, physical tight end who will help Sam Bradford by stretching the field vertically down the seams and making yards after the catch on short passes. His size makes him an ideal red zone target as well as a mismatch for most safeties and linebackers in the league.