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Volume 6, Issue 131 (Saturday, August 27th)

Hi Folks,

It's here. I know that many leagues are drafting this weekend and we'll continue to ramp up our coverage to bring you everything you need to Dominate Your League. From Training Camp Updates, Drafting Software, to Fantasy Articles to the latest in Cheatsheets and up to the minute Stat Projections. We'll keep you covered. Thanks to our Footballguy Aaron Rudnicki for the help rounding up these stories tonight. Let's get to it.

Joe Bryant


1. ATL: QB Vick Set To Pass More This Year
2. JAX: RB Taylor Pleased With Preseason Debut
3. PHI: QB McNabb and WR Owens Shine In Victory
4. NO: TE Boo Williams Out For Season
5. BAL: QB Boller Has Rough Outing
6. CAR - RB Jamal Robertson Starting To Assert Himself
7. SD: RB Sproles Auditioning For Bigger Role
8. NYJ: QB Pennington's Play Troubling In Loss To Giants
9. GB: Packers Have Issues On Offensive Line
10. BAL: Ravens Re-tuned Defense Looking Strong
11. IDP: WAS - LB Arrington Returns To Action
12. SEA: Battle for MLB Job Continues

1. ATL: QB Vick Set To Pass More This Year

Clipped from: NY Times article by Ray Glier, 8/27/05

Vick talks to the news media once a week for 10 to 15 minutes and is constantly surrounded by escorts who keep people away. Vick may open up when the regular season starts, and a lot of Atlanta fans are hoping the offense does the same. The Falcons led the N.F.L. in rushing in 2004 with a conservative attack featuring running back Warrick Dunn, a solid line and the improvisational ability of Vick. The pass was an occasional weapon. Atlanta ranked 30th among the 32 teams in passing last season, and only the Pittsburgh Steelers threw fewer times.

When Philadelphia knocked them out of the playoffs in January, 27-10, it was obvious the Falcons lacked a downfield passing threat to make the Eagles defense back off the line.

"We're all looking for that wow factor now," said tight end Alge Crumpler, referring to the passing game, not to Vick, the biggest wow factor in the N.F.L.

Crumpler led the Falcons with 48 receptions last season, but the most catches by a wide receiver was 45, by Peerless Price, who was demoted to the second team before training camp.

A big reason the Falcons were conservative offensively was that Vick was still learning the West Coast offense put in by a new coaching staff. "You can't put the lack of productivity at the feet of the receivers," Rich McKay, Atlanta's president and general manager, said. "With Michael being new to the system, we were going to be pretty conservative.

"The numbers were not fantastic numbers, but they helped us win 11 games. Naturally, those numbers will go up this season because Michael will be more comfortable with the system. We probably won't be as conservative and focused on the run."

The Falcons picked wide receivers in the first round of the last two drafts. Michael Jenkins, a 6-foot-4 flanker from Ohio State, was the 29th pick over all in 2004, and Roddy White, a speedy split end from the University of Alabama-Birmingham, was chosen 27th over all in 2005.

"We cannot lose sight of the fact that the focus of our team is Michael Vick, and we have to be mindful of that from a personnel standpoint," McKay said. "We always have to think about getting him weapons."

Coach Jim Mora has been looking for a wide receiver to emerge as a threat, and Jenkins might have done that Thursday, catching two touchdown passes from Vick.

White, however, is out with a high ankle sprain and may not play until the season opener Monday night, Sept. 12, against Philadelphia. He is considered the wide receiver most likely to deliver the wow factor Mora has been looking for downfield, but he is unproven after an injury and a contract dispute led him to miss nine practices to start camp.

Speculation and controversy also swirl around Price, the 28-year-old receiver who was acquired in a trade from Buffalo in 2003 and signed a seven-year, $42 million contract to be Vick's primary target. There have been questions about Price's effort and his willingness to block in the Falcons' run-first scheme.

The Falcons continue to emphasize the running game and mix in some downfield throws from Vick. In 10 throws against Jacksonville, two were crisp on-target deliveries of more than 10 yards, while one was an 18-yard strike for a touchdown to Jenkins. But Vick struggled, too.

Mora and McKay have turned around a franchise that had four losing seasons in its last five before earning a playoff berth in 2004. The next step, many say, is to rev up the offense with downfield passes by the N.F.L.'s superstar quarterback, whose arm is as powerful as his feet are quick.

"We're going to take more chances in the passing game; we're going to attack downfield this season," Dunn said. "We want to make teams put seven in the box and back those safeties up. It's coming."

[ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ OUR VIEW ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ]

The Falcons offense was anything but balanced last year as they ranked 1st in rushing and 30th in passing. They have been trying for several years to provide Vick with quality weapons to use in the passing game, but it's been a slow process. The Falcons coaches are optimistic that last year's 1st round pick Michael Jenkins will emerge as reliable target this year, and his 2 TDs in this game are a great start in that direction. The talent at the position is certainly better than it has been in some time, but whether that translates into bigger passing numbers for Vick or not remains to be seen.

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2. JAX: RB Taylor Pleased With Preseason Debut

Clipped from: Times-Union article by Vito Stellino, 8/27/05

The Jaguars made what appeared to be a routine announcement last January, when they said running back Fred Taylor had arthroscopic knee surgery. For Taylor, the surgery turned out to be anything but routine.

After making his first game appearance in over eight months since injuring his left knee Dec. 19 at Green Bay, Taylor revealed for the first time that he feared his career was in jeopardy after he discovered his left knee had suffered major damage.

"I was on the couch thinking, 'What am I going to do without football?''' Taylor said Thursday night after the Jaguars' 23-7 NFL preseason loss to the Atlanta Falcons.

That explains why Taylor was in such an upbeat mood after he made a 13-yard run on his first carry against the Falcons. Taylor burst through a hole in the line, did a 360-degree spin to break a tackle, then took a hit on his left knee from Falcons safety Keion Carpenter.

And Taylor bounced up without a problem. "I've been working hard, and it looks like it's paying off," he said. "It's a great starting point, something to grow on. I needed all that.''

Taylor, 29, has spent seven months rehabilitating the knee and generally was limited to one practice session per day during training camp. He even had to wear a red jersey like a quarterback so he would avoid any contact.

But if his big run was any indication, the rehab has worked. "I don't want to get too excited, but I'm going to cherish this moment," he said. "It was a pretty serious injury. I tore the PCL, MCL and they cleaned some other stuff, too.'' Taylor felt so good that he didn't want to leave the game after four carries (for 18 yards) and two catches (for 8 yards). But the Jaguars didn't want to risk his knee on the wet, slippery field once the rain started.

Taylor wouldn't rule out playing in the final preseason game in Dallas next Thursday night, but it's unlikely the Jaguars will risk him running on turf.

Even the Falcons gave Taylor good reviews. "The guy is just getting back in his groove,'' Atlanta coach Jim Mora said. "He's a great running back in this league. He's coming off a tough injury, and I'm sure as the season goes on, he is going to get better and better."

Taylor's return gives the Jaguars hope of a running threat in the Sept. 11 season opener because they haven't developed an alternative.

The Jaguars failed in their attempt to trade for Travis Henry, who went to the Tennessee Titans, and backup LaBrandon Toefield hasn't emerged as a replacement. Toefield gained only 12 yards in six carries against Atlanta and has just 51 yards in 13 carries in three preseason games.

Rookie Alvin Pearman has shown flashes, and he gained 27 yards in six carries against Atlanta, but he has done most of the work with the backups.

The Jaguars still don't know how much of the load Taylor can take, but his presence should make play-action passes more effective. Starting quarterback Byron Leftwich sounded excited to have Taylor lining up behind him again. "Everyone was happy for him,'' he said. "It was good to see him in our huddle.''

[ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ OUR VIEW ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ]

After an entire offseason of uncertainty, things are starting to fall into place for Taylor. While the Jaguars will likely continue to be careful with him and take things slow, the fact that he's out there taking snaps in a preseason game and looking like his old self has to be a relief for Jaguars fans. Taylor remains a nice value pick in most drafts as many owners shy away from him due to the injury concerns. A healthy Taylor would also bodes well for Leftwich, who could be on the verge of a breakout season.

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3. PHI: QB McNabb and WR Owens Shine In Victory

Clipped from: AP article posted by Washington Post, 8/27/05

Terrell Owens and Donovan McNabb made it clear in a hurry that they don't have to speak in the locker room to connect on the field.

In their first game together since their post-Super Bowl spat, the feuding stars hooked up for a 64-yard touchdown pass on the first play from scrimmage Friday night in the Philadelphia Eagles' 27-17 exhibition victory over Cincinnati.

"It was business as usual," McNabb said.

On Friday night, they showed when all of the hoopla is pushed aside, they could be the best tandem in the conference. In just one half, Owens caught five passes for 131 yards and McNabb threw for 256 yards and three touchdowns. "It was great to get those two connected," coach Andy Reid said. "They've got a special thing between them and it showed."

Owens declined to speak to reporters, putting his headphones on to tune everyone out. With the Eagles running onto the field before the game as a team rather than having the offense or defense introduced individually, there was never a chance for the fickle fans to boo Owens. He never gave them an opportunity once the game started, either.

After Rod Hood returned the opening kickoff 24 yards to Philadelphia's 36, McNabb connected with Owens. The All-Pro wide receiver caught McNabb's pass in full stride near the 20 and streaked into the end zone. "It's good to have him back out there," Reid said.

Known for his flamboyant antics after scoring, Owens toned down his act. He spiked the ball, stood with his hands on his hips, stared at the crowd and nodded his head - perhaps in approval of a job well done. McNabb jumped into center Hank Fraley's arms and pointed downfield.

Owens then ran to the sideline, stopping once to pound his chest and point toward the sky. What he didn't do was celebrate with McNabb. The two didn't even acknowledge each other.

"We were both excited whether we celebrated together or with other teammates," McNabb said. "Let's not blow this out of proportion. It's still early."

Maybe, but Owens twice walked past McNabb without even looking at him and then sat on another bench just a few feet away from the five-time Pro Bowl quarterback.

"Everybody saw he came out exploding on the first play of the game," said Greg Lewis, who had four catches for 72 yards and a touchdown. "That just set everything off the right way."

The touchdown was eerily similar to the way the Eagles (2-1) opened last year's preseason when McNabb and Owens connected on an 81-yard TD pass, also on the first play.

[ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ OUR VIEW ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ]

Well, this certainly is going to make people think twice before dropping Owens or McNabb very far down on their draft cheatsheets. Both players showed that they don't need to get along well in order to produce on game day. Some of the more risk averse owners will still likely shy away from this entire situation, but that could create a nice value opportunity for others who think the worst is over. With this story seemingly changing on a daily basis, we'll continue to keep you updated on any further developments. Aside from all the noise surrounding this team, think about how ridiculous this situation has become. These two guys connect on a great TD and celebrate with everyone else on the team but go out of their way not to acknowledge each other on the sidelines? I know kindergarten kids who act more mature. Everyone is back in love with Owens after Friday's game but when two grown men are acting this childish, I am still leery of the entire situation. If their relationship is this icy after a great play, what's going to happen when McNabb fails to see a wide open Owens in the endzone? And how much disruption will Andy Reid allow if things start to get rocky? Nobody with eyes can deny Owens' talent. But this still doesn't feel like a totally stable situation. On the flipside, maybe they really don't need to ever talk outside the huddle. It didn't seem to hurt Friday night.

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4. NO: TE Boo Williams Out For Season

Clipped from: Times-Picayune article by Mike Triplett, 8/27/05

Saints tight end Boo Williams tore the ACL and MCL in his right knee Friday night, ending his season.

Williams, in his fifth season, was already facing an uphill battle to keep his roster spot heading into training camp. Then a hamstring injury sidelined him for nearly two weeks.

Williams became pinned between two defenders while blocking for tailback Aaron Stecker in the third quarter of the Saints' 21-6 loss to the Baltimore Ravens at the Superdome. His right leg rolled underneath a would-be tackler.

Williams threw his helmet down in frustration before being assisted off the field.

Williams was having a decent camp before the hamstring injury. And he didn't let that injury keep him out for long, returning to practice this week.

All through the spring and summer, Williams had openly discussed how important this preseason would be to his future.

Williams, 26, who was signed as an undrafted free agent out of Arkansas in 2001, has had a roller-coaster career in New Orleans. He had a breakout season in 2003 and became a starter last season. But he disappointed, dropping passes and committing assignment errors, and fell out of favor with the coaches.

[ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ OUR VIEW ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ]

It was only a year ago that Boo Williams looked like one of the most promising fantasy TE prospects in the league. He wasn't able to replicate the success he enjoyed in 2003, however, and now it looks like he'll have to wait for the 2006 season to get another chance, which may have to come from another team.

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5. BAL: QB Boller Has Rough Outing

Clipped from: Baltimore Sun article by Jamison Hensley, 8/27/05

In the Ravens' 21-6 win over the New Orleans Saints last night, the question wasn't whether Kyle Boller would succeed, but whether he would survive.

Trying to turn around a troublesome preseason, the Ravens' quarterback had trouble staying on his feet at the Superdome, where he was knocked down on over half of his throws in yet another ragged performance.

There was the good: Boller hit receiver Clarence Moore for a 31-yard score just before halftime, his first passing touchdown against a starting defense this preseason. There was the bad: He was wild on several throws and was intercepted for the fourth time this preseason, having his pass deflected at the line.

And there was the ugly: He took a vicious hit to the head that flattened him. "It's hard to evaluate a quarterback on his back," said coach Brian Billick, who watched his starting quarterback get hit seven times on 12 passing plays. "We have to pass-block better."

In one half of work, Boller finished an unspectacular 5-for-11 for 53 yards as the Ravens (1-2) recorded their first victory of the preseason. What saved his night was the touchdown on his final throw. Three plays after taking that helmet-to-helmet hit, he narrowly avoided being sacked on a blitz by lofting a sideline pass to Moore that made it 14-3 as the cornerback fell down trying to defend the pass.

Before that score, Boller had not converted on four third downs and had completed four passes for 22 yards. "We knew they'd bring pressure and I wanted to take the shot," Boller said. "It was easy. I threw it up and Clarence went up and got it."

[ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ OUR VIEW ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ]

Despite all the improvements the Ravens have made on offense, Boller continues to have a very unimpressive preseason. The team promoted Jim Fassel to offensive coordinator, hired Rick Neuheisel as a QB coach, and added 2 talented weapons in Derrick Mason and Mark Clayton. All those improvements may not matter though, if the offensive line doesn't improve their pass protection and Boller doesn't dramatically improve his accuracy and decision making.

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6. CAR - RB Jamal Robertson Starting To Assert Himself

Clipped from: Charlotte Observer article by Stan Olson, 8/27/05

The name is Jamal Robertson. And if people haven't noticed the Carolina Panthers running back, he was doing his best to change that Friday night in a 23-20 exhibition win against Cleveland at Browns Stadium.

Robertson, showing a nice combination of speed and shiftiness as the third Carolina running back into the game, is starting to assert himself in the race for a roster spot at the position. He finished the game as the Panthers' leading rusher, with eight carries for 47 yards. He also had a key block on Efrem Hill's game-winning touchdown catch.

Included in Robertson's rushing effort was a 24-yard burst that saw him disappear into the right-side pile and pop out on the other side, running free. "They were tackling each other, not me," he said through a grin.

Robertson also showed he's an effective kickoff returner, taking one back 44 yards in the second quarter. That makes him competitive at the position with Rod Smart, who can also handle both roles.

"That was a big return," coach John Fox said. "We got points (on the drive). Jamal's done an outstanding job for us. He comes to play every time he crosses the line, and he did another good job tonight."

So who wins the job?

Right now, DeShaun Foster and rookie Eric Shelton are locks, and Stephen Davis will be if he is healthy after returning from microfracture knee surgery. Backup fullback Nick Goings can also play running back, and isn't likely to be cut.

But Carolina also needs a kickoff returner, and that is likely to be either Robertson or Smart.

Robertson was around last season. He signed in November, carried 16 times for 71 yards, and hauled back six kickoffs for 180 more. He's looking better this season, having rushed 15 times for 101 preseason yards, a 6.7-yard average.

Smart has carried five times for 38 yards. He did not have a carry Friday night. He has returned five kickoffs for 119 yards in the preseason.

[[[[[[[[[[ OUR VIEW ]]]]]]]]]]

Rookie Eric Shelton was a favorite sleeper pick for many fantasy owners this year, but Jamal Robertson has been more impressive up to this point. It looks like the Panthers may have a tough decision to make on cutdown day, but owners in deeper leagues should keep an eye on Robertson. He's shown flashes in the past during his time in San Francisco, but has yet to make much of an impact during the regular season.

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7. SD: RB Sproles Auditioning For Bigger Role

Clipped from: San Diego Union Tribune article by Kevin Acee, 8/27/05

It is certainly going to be interesting to see how and how much Darren Sproles is used in the regular season, because offensive coordinator Cam Cameron is giving the diminutive rookie running back a workout in the exhibition games.

Last night against the Vikings, Sproles ran to the outside and up the middle, taking some serious pounding as he went. It could be a worry that he might get a little beat up, which could affect his primary role as a kick returner.

But head coach Marty Schottenheimer evidently does not think so. "I would fully expect we'll find a way to get him the ball (from scrimmage)," Schottenheimer said.

That suits Sproles fine. "It's something I want to do," said the 5-foot-6, 181-pound Sproles, who was also the target on a few passes last night, two of which he dropped.

He played only in the second quarter and finished with two receptions for minus 2 yards and four carries for 6 yards.

Sproles leads the team with 12 receptions this preseason, and he has had at least four more passes thrown to him that were either off-line or dropped. He has carried 14 times.

As a kick returner, Sproles showed some exciting potential last night. He almost broke one kickoff return for a touchdown, a shoe tackle from behind being what stopped him. The run, during which Sproles spun out of one seemingly certain tackle, went for 42 yards. "Man, I saw it," he said of the open field in front of him. "One person. He barely got me, too." Sproles also had a 32-yard return and a 20-yarder.

[ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ OUR VIEW ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ]

Sproles was one of the most productive and explosive RBs in the nation while playing for Kansas State, but many scouts believed him too small to see much time in an NFL backfield. The Chargers appear determined to test out that theory and could come up with a few ways to try and get the ball in Sproles' hands. His opportunities will be limited as long as Tomlinson is healthy, but Sproles is definitely an exciting player to watch and he should make an immediate contribution on the return teams.

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8. NYJ: QB Pennington's Play Troubling In Loss To Giants

Clipped from: article by Ken Berger, 8/27/05

A week ago, Chad Pennington sparkled in his debut, performing so flawlessly that his one mistake -- an overthrown 50-yard pass -- was dubbed the most talked-about incompletion of the preseason. The post-mortem of Pennington's performance Friday night will result in no such levity.

In his longest and last game action of the preseason, Pennington was seriously off his game. It was about as bad as he's ever looked, and the dismal statistics didn't even tell the whole story in the Jets' 15-14 loss to the Giants.

A week after going 9-for-10 for 86 yards against the Vikings, Pennington was 5-for-11 for 36 yards, no touchdowns, two red-zone interceptions and two sacks, one of which resulted in a fumble.

He drove the Jets 69 yards on his first possession but forced a throw to Laveranues Coles that was intercepted by Corey Webster in the corner of the end zone. For Pennington, who has never thrown an interception in the red zone in the regular season or playoffs, it was his first of two such interceptions in the first half alone.

"You just can't turn the ball over in the red zone," Pennington said. "You've got to at least get six points out of those two drives. I've got to work on that stuff and really get comfortable with this offense."

On the next Jets possession, the Giants' Michael Strahan torched right tackle Adrian Jones and sacked Pennington, resulting in a fumble that was recovered by Antonio Pierce with 12:27 left in the second quarter. The turnover led to a 21-yard field goal by Jay Feely, making it 6-0 Giants.

On Pennington's second red-zone interception, he said he saw defensive end Strahan dropping into coverage against tight end Chris Baker, but he rushed the throw on first-and-goal from the 1 with 2:12 left in the second quarter. Strahan stepped in front of Baker to intercept Pennington's play-action pass, then made the mistake of trying to run it out and was tackled at the 1. "It was one of those passes where you wish you had a string on the end of the football so you could pull it back," Pennington said.

"Our offense was very, very sluggish," coach Herman Edwards said. "We didn't play well and we didn't play smart."

On the Giants' first play after Strahan's interception, Tim Hasselbeck ran into Mike Cloud in the backfield, resulting in a fumble that was recovered by defensive end Bryan Thomas in the end zone for a touchdown that made it 7-6 Jets. It was one of two defensive touchdowns for the Jets.

But that didn't diminish the concern about Pennington's performance, which seemed to prove the theory that the physical aspect of his return from shoulder surgery won't be nearly as challenging as becoming proficient in Mike Heimerdinger's offense after missing so much practice time.

The most positive development for the Jets was that cornerback Ty Law made it through an uneventful debut, at least getting his first contact out of the way after a long layoff since fracturing his left foot last October. But Jones, another starter under the microscope, was exposed by Strahan, who beat him for the first-quarter sack and forced fumble against Pennington. Later, Jones was pancaked by Strahan on an inconsequential 2-yard keeper by Pennington.

[ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ OUR VIEW ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ]

After a couple good throws last week that quieted doubts about Pennington's arm strength, now we have a whole new set of concerns about his comfort with the Jets new offensive system. The Jets ditched their offensive coordinator and brought in Mike Heimerdinger from the Titans who prefers a more open and aggressive passing attack, but Pennington missed a lot of mini camp practice time while recovering from his shoulder injury and may get off to a slow start this season as a result.

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9. GB: Packers Have Issues On Offensive Line

Clipped from: AP article posted by Washington Post, 8/27/05

The bruised and battered bodies of Brett Favre and Ahman Green are testament to a sobering reality in Green Bay: the Packers haven't come close to replacing departed guards Marco Rivera and Mike Wahle with the season opener just two weeks away.

"You don't replace anybody," center Mike Flanagan insisted. "You move on."

They haven't done that, either. The Packers have struggled to run the ball in all three of their exhibitions - fumbling eight times - and Friday night's performance in a 27-3 loss to New England was their worst. Favre was clobbered and threw two interceptions and Green had his third fumble this month and gained just 23 yards on 11 carries.

Take away Favre's 13-yard scramble and they averaged a mere 2.9 yards a carry.

And now it's the Packers coaching staff that is scrambling after rookie Will Whitticker and veteran Adrian Klemm failed to wrap up starting jobs with their play against the Patriots.

The Packers' elite offensive line was shattered on the first day of free agency when Rivera took a $9 million bonus to go to Dallas and Wahle accepted an $11.5 million bonus to play for Carolina.

Klemm and fellow veteran free agent Matt O'Dwyer were the leading candidates to fill the void heading into camp but neither has seized the opportunity. Klemm is being pushed by second-year pro Scott Wells, a converted center, and O'Dwyer, who has yet to start a game, didn't even see any action Friday night even though Whitticker played poorly before being replaced by Atlas Herrion, who was on the practice squad last year.

"This is the preseason," coach Mike Sherman said. "We will get fixed what needs to get fixed. Hopefully, this game will be a distant memory four weeks from now."

Flanagan said it shouldn't be a surprise that the offensive line remains a work in progress after losing both of its stalwart guards. "These guys just broke the bank," Flanagan said. "There's a reason they got $11 million and $9 million just to sign on the dotted line. Because they're that good."

But enough about them. "Those guys were great guys, people, players. But they're gone. You can't dwell on what you had," Flanagan said. "No one's expecting those guys to play exactly like they did. Hopefully, they'll bring something new to the table. We've just got to move on."

To really do that, the starters need to be named so they can get play together and get some cohesion. All last week, the coaching staff rotated the guard candidates every three or four snaps at practice and that's no way for a group to jell.

[ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ OUR VIEW ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ]

While some observers differ on what the impact of losing two starting guards will be on the Packers offense this year, it is hard to argue with the results so far. Apart from an early drive against the Bills defense, the Packers have struggled to move the ball and have given up an unusually high number of sacks. Part of the problem appears to be that none of the new guards have played well enough to establish themselves as a starter, so the new line hasn't had enough time to get comfortable with one another. Hopefully, a decision is made soon, or this could be the year Favre sees his consecutive games streak come to an end.

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10. BAL: Ravens Re-tuned Defense Looking Strong

Clipped from: Baltimore Sun article by Mike Preston

First-year coordinator Rex Ryan has added some personal touches to the defense for 2005, but that unit for the Ravens remains dominant heading into the regular season after last night's 21-6 win over the Saints at the Superdome in preseason game No. 3.

This group is more fun to watch than in previous years because Ryan has so many toys and schemes. The Ravens love to blitz, but it's hard to determine where the pressure will come.

The Ryan family is known for the 46 defense, but that's only part of the total defensive package. Sometimes, the Ravens look like they're back in a 3-4.

Other times they'll crowd seven or eight players around the line of scrimmage. Sometimes safety Will Demps will line up as an outside linebacker.

They'll flip-flop outside linebackers Terrell Suggs or Adalius Thomas to hide a fourth pass rusher or sometimes crowd the line with eight players but only rush three. Watching the Ravens defense is certainly more entertaining then watching the offense. Again.

In three preseason games, the Ravens have given up some big plays defensively, but that happens when you gamble and use a lot of blitzes, especially in the preseason. Actually, the Ravens have to gamble because the unit has to manufacture points.

They've got a couple of playmakers such as Lewis, Reed, Chris McAlister and Suggs, and a few more when cornerbacks Samari Rolle, Deion Sanders and Dale Carter are healthy.

The most impressive thing about last night's defensive effort, though, was the play of tackles Maake Kemoeatu and Kelly Gregg. Both turned in solid performances last year, but like the rest of the line, wore down late.

Gregg and Kemoeatu are now blowing up the other team's running plays. They're not just making tackles but penetrating at the same time and keeping offensive linemen off Lewis.

"We came out and played the tempo," Lewis said. "We had three or four three and outs before anything. I think we're getting better with every snap. We have to keep fine-tuning it, that's what preseason is for, just keep fine-tuning some things and communicating. We have a lot of different things we're running."

[ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ OUR VIEW ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ]

There is a reason the Ravens appear to be the consensus #1 fantasy defense drafted this year. They are loaded with talent at almost every position and are going to be playing in a very aggressive scheme that should create plenty of turnovers. Ray Lewis and Ed Reed are obviously the leaders, but players like Terrell Suggs, Chris McAlister, and Samari Rolle are also all considered to be elite players. While it is usually not a great idea to draft a defense too high, the Ravens this year might be one of the exceptions.

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11. IDP: WAS - LB Arrington Returns To Action

Clipped from: Washington Post article by Nunyo Demasio, 8/27/05

The crowd noise increased early in the second quarter to provide a clue that linebacker LaVar Arrington was in the game. The cheers reached a zenith after Arrington lined up at right defensive end on a passing play against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Arrington didn't do anything spectacular on the play, an incompletion that gave Washington the ball back.

But the 73,987 fans, some of whom wore Arrington's replica No. 56 jersey, showed excitement at Arrington's first game since last year. "These fans are awesome," Arrington said in a jubilant locker room after a 17-10 victory for the team's first win in preseason.

Last season, Arrington missed 12 games because of a right knee injury, which eventually required a second surgery during the offseason. Since Arrington came back too soon last season, the Redskins have been very careful easing him back.

Nonetheless, Arrington showed flashes of what he can do while playing substantially in Washington's 17-10 victory last night.

Arrington was conspicuous playing with reserves such as defensive lineman Aki Jones. But Arrington showed exuberance about his return to the field, often slapping teammates five and goading the crowd to get loud when second- and third-stringers were in the game. Arrington, who collected two tackles on his first six plays, didn't leave the game until Pittsburgh's second-to-last possession.

"The whole week in practice LaVar has been running with the [reserves], and he hasn't one time complained," said reserve linebacker Chris Clemons. "He's been motivated all week. He's been saying how much he can't wait to get back."

Midway through the fourth quarter, Arrington came close to an interception but let the ball fall through his hands. "I'm rusty," Arrington before quickly adding, "No excuses. I might have dropped that if I had been playing. I almost had one against my home town. And I let it get away. But at least I know there's a lot I can get better at."

In the second quarter, Arrington lined up strictly at defensive end on a few third-down passing plays. Arrington didn't play weak-side linebacker until early in the third quarter during Pittsburgh's first offensive drive of the half.

Before the game, Gregg Williams -- assistant head coach of defense -- estimated Arrington would get up to 30 snaps. And Arrington's playing time was the most since he last played a full game on Sept. 19.

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Arrington was easily one of the most highly regarded linebacker prospects to enter the league over the past 10 years, but he's yet to fully live up to his enormous potential. He began his career playing on the strongside of the formation, which limited some of the numbers he put up and many IDP owners were excited when the team decided to switch him over to the weakside last year. Unfortunately, injuries put those plans on hold for awhile. If he can recover and play like his old self, he could be a devastating weapon to add a Redskins defense that was already one of the best in the league last year while playing without him.

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12. SEA: Battle for MLB Job Continues

Clipped from: Seattle Times article by Chris Cluff, 8/27/05

Second-year player Niko Koutouvides and rookie Lofa Tatupu are locked in perhaps the most significant head-to-head competition in camp, and the fight for the middle ground - which continues tonight in Kansas City - will last until just before the season begins, Holmgren said.

Since Holmgren became coach in 1999, the Seahawks have started seven players at middle linebacker: Anthony Simmons (1999), George Koonce (2000), Levon Kirkland (2001), Isaiah Kacyvenski and Orlando Huff (2002), Randall Godfrey (2003), and Huff and Koutouvides (2004).

With the exception of Koutouvides, a fourth-round pick in 2004 who started the last two games last season, all of the middle men have been just that - one-year players passing the position on to the next average Joe or George or Randall.

That's what led the Seahawks to trade two fourth-round picks and a second-rounder to the Carolina Panthers to move up in the second round and select Tatupu with the 45th pick in the draft last April. It was the highest the team had drafted a linebacker since taking Simmons in the first round in 1998.

The Seahawks were enamored with Tatupu because of his experience in the pro-style defense run at USC by former NFL coach Pete Carroll, whose scheme is a scaled-down version of the one Ray Rhodes uses in Seattle.

Tatupu said the biggest differences are the more complicated terminology and the variety of linebacker stunts the Seahawks use.

Holmgren thinks the 22-year-old has picked it up well so far. "He's doing fine. He just has to keep playing, become more familiar," Holmgren said. "He just makes plays. He has the right fit. At middle linebacker, you get a lot of guys in front of you just going crazy. He knows where he is. He solidifies the defensive front; there are not a lot of gaps in there. Then he makes plays. He's got good ball skills in pass coverage. He's around the football. Now he's just got play some more."

Tatupu missed the exhibition opener with a hamstring injury but started against the Dallas Cowboys on Monday and was not unhappy with his performance against the run. He said he used the injury time wisely and does not feel like he is behind in learning the defense.

Tatupu already is confident in his recognition ability and in his defense against the pass. "That's an area I think I do well in - coverage," he said. "I may not be the fastest, but I understand what the offense is trying to accomplish and certain tendencies according to formations."

Pass rushing is a different story. He said veteran Jamie Sharper has helped him in that area. "I've gotten in a lot more on the pass rushes," Tatupu said. "And I like it now. Before, pass rushes would be a drill where it would be like, 'Nah, I'm just going to go bull rush these guys.' Me and Kouts talk about that, too. Now I'm starting to put together a little repertoire and get after 'em."

Even though Tatupu doesn't have that experience, the coaches are confident he already has the mind-set to start, and they are giving him every chance to beat out Koutouvides.

"This is a competition, no doubt," Tatupu said. "But ... we're professionals, and we're not going to sit there and act like, 'Ah, it's my spot.' It's the best man's spot. That's understood. If I'm not the best man, I don't want to be out there hurting the team."

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While Tatupu initially looked like a huge reach on draft day when the Seahawks traded up to get him, it's not looking like such a bad pick any more. They were clearly desperate for help at the linebacker position and what Tatupu lacks in measurables like size and speed, he makes up for with his instincts and intangibles. He's a natural who looks more and more like he could begin the year as the Seahawks starter at MLB and could be a huge sleeper in IDP leagues.

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That'll do it for today, Folks. Have a great day and we'll see you tomorrow with the update.


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