SCOUT'S HONOR: FAQ around NFL training camp

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The NFL's FAQ:
Word on the Street

Fans around the NFL always have questions regarding many issues they hear or read about in the fine print of Transactions listings.

Here are 10 questions buzzing around league circles recently, along with the scoop on what's really going down.

Scout's Spotlight
1. GIANTS: Collins a Giant mistake?
2. VIKINGS: DA denied by DW?
3. SAINTS: What was Brooks thinking?
4. SEAHAWKS: End near for Randle?
5. CHARGERS: Donnie in the middle?
6. DOLPHINS: Who replaces Gardener?
7. BEARS: Will offense open up?
8. BUCS: Didn't Lomas retire?
9. JAGUARS: Great Scott in JAX?
10. STEELERS: Why spend on an end?

  • 1. Are the Giants nuts for committing to quarterback Kerry Collins through 2004? The did take a risk by locking themselves up with for a few more years. The organization hopes that Collins and the rest of the club rebounds after a sub-par 2001 season.

    If not, they have a lot of decisions to make in regards to their core. A poor season could force the G-Men to begin making wholesale changes next spring. Outside of the wave they caught during the latter half of the 2000 season, the current core has been erratic. Collins draws mixed reviews around the league and people still remember he basically quit on the Carolina in 1998 -- although he¿s led two teams to the NFC Championship game during his career. The feel Collins will have a more productive season after adding more balance in the passing game with tight end Jeremy Shockey and tweaking the offensive line. At his best, he¿s a solid pocket passer with good tools. When he¿s off rhythm, he tends to force too many mistakes. For Collins to live up to the value of this extension, he must play better than he did in 2001. Another sub-par season answers a lot of questions about Collins. When evaluating any quarterback situation, the question that must be asked is whether this is the guy who can lead a team to the Super Bowl. What¿s the chance of the reaching the Super Bowl again with Collins at quarterback? Not very likely. That¿s one answer the can¿t afford to receive.

    2. Is it surprising that the Vikings opened training camp with D¿Wayne Bates starting over Derrick Alexander at wide receiver?

    It¿s not at all surprising. Bates has felt re-energized since signing with the and he¿s worked harder than Alexander during the off-season. Alexander is more of a downfield playmaker, but his work habits have always been inadequate. Alexander must be put in a position where¿s he¿s pushed and naming Bates as a starter does that. Bates lacks ideal speed and quickness, but has good size and physical skills to do the dirty work underneath and over the middle of the field to complement . After struggling to develop in Chicago, look for Bates to assert himself as a solid contributor in Minnesota this season. 3. Could Aaron Brooks afford to stage a holdout with the Saints?

    No. Both sides are losers in this deal.

    This is the last thing needed in New Orleans after distractions pulled them apart over the past year. This club must focus on football and the upcoming season to pull away from all those issues. As for Brooks, he¿s a very intriguing young quarterback who could break out with a very strong year. But he¿s not good enough yet to begin staging holdouts. After what happened last season, the need Brooks to emerge as a leader and set an example with his play on the field.

    4. Are the Seattle Seahawks in trouble if John Randle is slowed by his knee problems? You bet. Any time a 34-year-old defensive lineman is slowed by knee problems it¿s a cause for concern. plays with a tenacity that sets the tone for a defense. Take that out of the equation and Seattle is definitely missing an edge. And for a team that lacked a perimeter pass rush last season, they could have more problems without the interior pressure Randle provides. But it¿s hard to count Randle out until evidence is shown on the field. His motor and tenacity will allow him to remain effective until he¿s totally robbed of his quickness. 5. How do the Chargers plan on teaming up new addition Donnie Edwards with Junior Seau? Moving to middle linebacker gives the more speed on defense. San Diego has fielded very competitive defensive units over the past few years, but lack enough speed and athleticism to create turnovers. Edwards is a dynamic athlete who can cover a lot of ground against the run. He can attack up field and has matchup skills in coverage. The feel the undersized Edwards will work in the middle because they have confidence in the ability of tackles and . Both can pester and tie up blockers -- giving Edwards room to make plays. For this experiment to work rookie Ben Leber is a key factor. Leber must prove he can physically hold up on the strong side and neutralize the tight end.

    6. What happens with the Dolphins D-line after cutting problem child Daryl Gardener?

    It¿s hard to give up talented players along the defensive front, but was a question mark anyway. Coming off back problems and a position change created uncertainties. Plus Gardener created other problems off the field and didn¿t actively participate in team workouts during the latter portion of the summer. These were all distractions the didn¿t need. Who takes over at left end? A combination of , and will be counted on. Williams and Burnett shouldn¿t hurt the , but the duo won't match Gardener's production. Williams is an overachiever type who relies on effort. He¿s adequate against the run and provides a decent pass rush due to his motor. Burnett is coming off a terrible year in Baltimore. Coaches would like to keep Burnett fresh and use him mainly in pass rush situations. They hope to squeeze a productive year from him. But the key could be as a pass rusher. He¿s a great upfield athlete with the tools to produce solid numbers, but he¿s been an underachiever in past stops. He¿s shown the flashes, but must produce when the bullets are flying on a weekly basis during the regular season. 7. Why the heck would the Bears give offensive coordinator John Shoop a contract extension?

    BEARS OFFENSE - 2001
    Conservative approach
    Category No. NFL Rank
    Rushing yds/gm 108.9 17th
    Passing yds/gm 184.5 24th
    Total yds/gm 293.4 T-26th
    Giveaways 24 T-6th
    Turnover Diff. +13 4th
    Although he comes under heavy criticism from folks in Chicago, I believe the made a good choice to build continuity with John Shoop as offensive coordinator. Fans may not think so after last year, when their offense ranked only 26th in the league and 24th in passing. Critics feel he¿s too conservative and doesn¿t throw the ball downfield enough. But what has Shoop really had to work with? His top downfield threat -- -- has been injured for most of the last two seasons. Another downfield threat -- -- has been erratic. He also had the immature last season. There¿s been minimal talent at the tight end position. That¿s left Shoop to build his passing game around , who developed into a productive pass catcher within the short and intermediate areas. At QB, hasn¿t been able to stay healthy, which forced him to use quite often. And let's face it, Miller is a good guy, but he's not . Matthews was reliable with short passes, but lacked the arm to get the ball downfield. So Shoop built the offense around a strong run game, which is smart in blustery Chicago. With and their O-line, the have a consistent foundation to build around while adding pieces to the passing game. Shoop is a relatively young guy who will continue to grow into his role as offensive coordinator over the next few years. The biggest key is his offensive players believe in him. 8. Didn't Lomas Brown retire? What's Jon Gruden doing signing him in Tampa? Yes, Lomas did retire. But then, hasn't Reggie White retired 4-5 times?

    Jon Gruden loves compiling depth for his offensive line and he¿s not afraid of veterans. "Chucky" is being asked to win now. Tampa currently has a very young at left tackle. offers insurance if Walker¿s growing pains continue into this season.

    Brown also should set a good example for the developing Walker. Being undersized, Brown has learned all the tricks to remain a solid left tackle once his prime years were past him.

    9. How much will Darnay Scott make up for the loss of Keenan McCradell in Jacksonville? A lot depends on which we see in Jacksonville. Scott was a very athletic playmaker before breaking his left leg a couple years ago. Quite a few teams were suspicious of Scott¿s health this summer.

    Although Scott isn¿t the natural playmaker he was a few years ago he¿s still a good athlete who can stretch the field. And having at quarterback should help him. His speed gives the one element they¿ve been missing in their starting lineup in recent years. The other question is whether Scott can replace : He brings something different to the offense than McCardell did. If the try to use Scott like McCardell, they could diminish Scott¿s production. If they use Scott as a downfield target he can stretch opponents and also prevent teams from shading too much coverage towards . 10. After letting so many bigger-name free agents leave town over the last decade, why did the Steelers re-sign defensive end Aaron Smith to a huge contract?

    Don't worry, Steeler fan. This is a good move.

    Normally, defensive ends in the 3-4 defense aren¿t slotted for big paydays. Linebackers usually are the big money guys in this system, but is a valuable guy for Pittsburgh. He does the dirty work asked of defensive ends in their scheme, but he also does much more. He can make big plays against the run and provide pressure on the quarterback. Teams should never let good, young players get away. Smith is part of an excellent core that the have locked up on defense for the next several seasons.

    Brian DeLucia is a respected college and pro personnel consultant around the NFL. Formerly a consultant with and Pro Football, Brian heads into his third season with providing commentary around the NFL and NFL Draft.

  • Tagged: Falcons, Bills, Bears, Broncos, Packers, Titans, Colts, Saints, Jets, Eagles, Seahawks, Buccaneers, Redskins, Ravens, Texans, Michael Vick, Brian Finneran, Antuan Edwards, Dorsey Levens, Josh Evans, Terrell Buckley, Jeff Blake, Barry Gardner, Jeremiah Trotter, Duce Staley, Chris Redman, Todd Heap

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