pastabelli's inside tip sheet

Discussion in 'NFL General Discussion' started by yisman, Jul 13, 2007.

  1. yisman

    yisman The Ambivalent One

    Give credit to Baltimore Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome. One of the best talent evaluators in the business, Newsome might not be sure yet who the Ravens' starting quarterback will be in a couple years, when Steve McNair is retired and former first-round flop Kyle Boller is playing elsewhere.

    Here's what you will find in Tip Sheet notes.

    Oliver's timetable
    Deadline looming
    Schweigert in good standing
    Darius comes cheap
    The List
    Stat of the week
    The Last Word

    But Newsome, as evidenced by Thursday's supplemental draft, is certainly putting a face on the offensive line that will be protecting whomever lines up at quarterback.

    When the Ravens chose University of Maryland prospect Jared Gaither in the fifth round of the supplemental draft, it was with an eye toward the future, and toward the daunting task of having to replace left tackle Jonathan Ogden at a point not much further down the road. It wasn't the first time this year that Newsome sought to identify the potential successor to Ogden, and it certainly wasn't the first move he has made over the last two years to filter in fresh blood to an aging blocking unit.

    During the first round of the April draft, Newsome, cognizant of the fact future Hall of Fame member Ogden is quickly closing in on the end of a brilliant career, was poised to snap up Central Michigan star Joe Staley, a player some scouts felt was the offensive tackle with the most upside in the talent pool. A tremendous pass protector, Staley would have been groomed for Ogden's left tackle spot.

    But the San Francisco 49ers traded up to New England's No. 28 slot in the first round, one rung ahead of the Ravens, and pirated Staley from Newsome's clutches.

    Three months later, after considerable research on Gaither, who is reputed to be immature and a bit of an underachiever, Newsome made up for not landing Staley by taking a big, imposing specimen who needs plenty of work, but certainly has impressive tools. Like most supplemental picks, Gaither arrives with a high-risk factor. But if he grows up under the tutelage of offensive line coach Chris Foerster, the Ravens could have a solid, young left tackle for the next 10 years.

    Certainly, the selection of Gaither, who posted numbers during his audition for scouts that would have ranked among the best results at the February pre-draft combine, should not have been a surprise. Newsome's staff devoted a lot of hours to researching Gaither, spoke with Maryland head coach Ralph Friedgen about him, conducted in-depth background checks, including a lengthy interview the night before the supplemental lottery.

    But there was also this angle: Newsome is systematically revamping an aging offensive line and needed an heir apparent to the left tackle slot, so Gaither was considered worth the gamble.

    Gaither now joins a fairly impressive cadre of young blockers who will, over the next year or two, find their way into the Baltimore starting lineup. Some of the young blockers, in fact, will be starters in 2007.

    Two-year veteran Jason Brown (fourth round, 2005), started 12 games in 2006 after stalwart Edwin Mulitalo suffered a season-ending triceps injury, and he is projected as the starting left guard going into camp. Tackle Adam Terry (second round, 2005) has only two starts in two seasons, but is being counted on to step in at right tackle for the departed Tony Pashos, who signed with Jacksonville as an unrestricted free agent. Chris Chester (second round, 2006), who started four games at right guard in 2006, is too good not to be on the field, either at right guard or center. The man Newsome took in the first round this year, after Staley was snatched from his clutches, Auburn guard Ben Grubbs, was graded by many scouts as the second-best lineman at any position in the '06 draft. And the Ravens like this year's third-round pick, guard-tackle Marshal Yanda of Iowa, too.

    Even if Gaither flops, which clearly is a possibility, Newsome and his staff have assembled the nucleus of their next generation of offensive line starters.

    In the opening game of the 2006 regular season, the starting line unit consisted of Ogden at left tackle, Mulitalo at left guard, center Mike Flynn, Keydrick Vincent at right guard, and right tackle Pashos. Ten months later, Pashos and Mulitalo (released earlier this spring) are gone. Despite being one of the NFL's most underrated snappers, Flynn, 33, might not be able to hold off Chester much longer. And Vincent, whose play has been disappointing since coming over from Pittsburgh as a free agent in 2005, will have to upgrade his performance to retain his starting spot.

    The key to any offensive line unit is the left tackle position, and so motivating Gaither and having him realize his potential is critical to the Ravens' overhaul. Still, the mammoth tackle is just one piece of a jigsaw puzzle Newsome and his staff is close to completing.

    Around the league

    Chargers will groom Oliver: San Diego probably took less of a gamble in the supplemental draft, selecting former University of Georgia cornerback Paul Oliver in the fourth round. Although he doesn't run well, Oliver is a terrific "ball athlete" with nice instincts, and, with their depth, the Chargers won't have to force him onto the field as a rookie. Instead, the San Diego staff can take some time to develop Oliver, with an eye toward 2008.
    The guess is that starting right cornerback Drayton Florence will leave the Chargers as an unrestricted free agent next spring. Florence has been a steady but hardly spectacular performer in San Diego during his two seasons as a starter, but he will be pushed for his job this year by 2006 first-rounder Antonio Cromartie, and could end up as the nickel cornerback. The Chargers are set at left cornerback, with Quentin Jammer there, but the team would like to shore up the other side. Cromartie figures to be the starter by 2008 at the latest and, by that point, Oliver might be ready to regularly contribute as a nickel defender.

    Deadline looming: As noted in this space for the past few weeks, next Monday is the deadline by which franchise players must sign a multiyear deal. After 4 p.m. Monday, franchise players can only sign a one-year contract. It appears there has been progress on deal for Freeney and Detroit Lions defensive tackle Cory Redding, and both players could beat the deadline.

    The status of negotiations with New England cornerback Asante Samuel and Chicago weakside linebacker Lance Briggs remains unchanged. There is virtually no chance either player will sign a long-term deal before the deadline. In fact, both Samuel and Briggs continue to insist they will sit out the first 10 games of the season before reporting.

    Schweigert in good standing: With the Oakland Raiders' signing of nine-year veteran Donovin Darius earlier this week, it's been widely accepted that current starting free safety Stuart Schweigert will be the odd-man out in a secondary that statistically ranked first in the league in 2006. The prevailing opinion is that Darius will slide into Schweigert's free safety spot, allowing 2006 first-round pick Michael Huff to play strong safety, closer to the line of scrimmage, where he appears to be more comfortable.

    But some folks in the Oakland organization cautioned this week that Schweigert is a much better player than he is credited for being, and that he will get plenty of playing time. In fact, coordinator Rob Ryan is said to be at work conjuring up schemes in which all three safeties are on the field, even on early downs. Pass coverage has never been a strong suit for Darius who, like Huff, is most effective playing in the box" Schweigert has better range in the deep secondary than either Huff or Darius and shouldn't, Raiders sources insist, be so easily dismissed.

    Raiders get a bargain: The Raiders, by the way, landed Darius without having to surrender any upfront money. His three-year, $7.1 million contract, according to league salary documents, does not include a signing bonus. The former Jacksonville starter, and the leading tackler in Jaguars' history, will earn base salaries of $1.6 million (2007), $2.5 million (2008) and $3 million (2009). Of his 2006 base salary, $600,000 is guaranteed.

    Despite his rsum, it appears that Darius was not as hot a commodity in the free-agent market as many felt he would be. Teams may have been concerned about the fact he has suffered major injuries each of the past two seasons, a torn knee ligament in 2005 and a broken ankle in 2006, that limited him to 15 appearances in that stretch. There was also a nagging calf problem that cropped up this spring as Darius was rehabilitating his ankle.

    The List: Of the 35 players selected in the supplemental draft between 1977-2006, nine never played in a regular-season game. Here's the list of supplemental players who never saw any action: running back Rod Connors, (by San Francisco), 12th round, 1978; running back Rod Stewart (Buffalo), sixth round, 1979; wide receiver Billy Mullins (San Diego), ninth round, 1980; defensive back Kevin Robinson (Detroit), ninth round, 1982; running back Roosevelt Snipes (San Francisco), eighth round, 1985; wide receiver Ryan Bethea (Minnesota), fifth round, 1988; running back Mike Lowman (Dallas), 12th round, 1989; defensive back Brett Young (Buffalo), eighth round, 1989; defensive back J'Juan Cherry (New England), fourth round, 1999.

    Stat of the week: The Jacksonville Jaguars scored 371 points in 2006 and surrendered only 274 points, but despite an impressive plus-97 point differential, they finished with only an 8-8 record and did not qualify for the postseason. The gaudy point differential was better than that compiled by eight of the 12 playoff teams last year. Two teams, the New York Giants and Seattle, posted negative differentials. The dozen teams in the 2006 playoffs averaged a plus-82.2 point differential.

    The last word: "I'm looking forward to [the 2007 season] because when you're older, you don't take it for granted that success is going to happen. You don't say, 'Well, we can win in two or three years.' I don't have two or three years right now. I'm thinking of winning right now. They say Eli [Manning] is going to mature. Well, I need him to mature now. The thing about this season is that the sense of urgency is greater than it has ever been." -- New York Giants defensive end Michael Strahan, 35, and entering his 15th season, acknowledging that he is nearing the end of his career.
  2. Dam8610

    Dam8610 Starter

    Damnit, that's a great move by the Ravens. I was hoping the Colts would bid a 4th on Gaither.
  3. misfitz

    misfitz Dropping Twitter Bombs

    gaither will be a speciman im sure of it

    it also looks like the Chargers are getting football players that are ballhawks not necessarily track guys both Weddle and Oliver are Ball hawking guys that just play football but dont have blazing speed
  4. Litez0ut

    Litez0ut Litez0ut Sucka

    With that kind of pass rush you don't really need shut down corners.
  5. misfitz

    misfitz Dropping Twitter Bombs

    exactly but i wasnt really saying anything about shutdown corners i was talking more about how teams have fallen in love with FAST CBs and that SD has been drafting the opposite they are drafting slower but more productive guys who are like ball hawks