For some, the most wonderful time of the year is Christmas. For another large chunk of the population, the time is now. The NFL season starts in less than a week. With the season opener upon us, here are several interesting storylines and topics
Edgerrin Jame, Arizona Cardinals- Running back Edgerrin James was clearly the most prized player on the free agent market. He is a strong, uphill runner who has the ability to plow through defenders. For his career, James has averaged 1,318 rushing yards per year. He also has been a legitimate receiving threat, finishing with 337 yards on 44 catches last year. The bottom line is he is a game changer. That is exactly what the Arizona Cardinals needed. Through the years the team has been a laughing stock. This signing not only shows a serious attempt to be a competitor but also gains them national exposure for the first time in years. The Cardinals also sold 55,000 season tickets this offseason.
Reggie Bush, New Orleans Saints – After suffering through the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, Saints fans were desperate to have something to cheer for. The 2005 Saints didn’t provide them with much. They may have found it in second overall pick running back Reggie Bush. Few players have had the hype coming out of college that Bush has had. As a senior, he had 2,611 all-purpose yards and scored a total of 18 touchdowns. He went on to win the Heisman Trophy. Many people see him as a potential Hall of Fame candidate already. The importance of this addition is not so much for the Saints organization as it is for the people of Louisiana. Bush brings the excitement and the energy that the fans desperately need.
The Dallas Cowboys Get Terrell Owens – The addition of wide receiver Terrell Owens could be a huge mistake for the Cowboys. It did not take long for the antics of T.O. to return as the team fined him $9,500 dollars for various violations. Owens has had a reputation as a selfish player. There is also the question as to how hard-nosed head coach Bill Parcells will get along with his new receiver. Owens has ripped teams apart in the past and shows no sign of changing his ways anytime soon.
Patriots elect to not re-sign Kicker Adam Vinateri – The New England Patriots’ decision to let their future Hall of Fame kicker walk could severely lessen their chances of winning their fourth Super Bowl in six years. After quarterback Tom Brady, Vinateri was the most crucial player on the team. His consistently hit game-winning kicks, including two Super Bowl winning kicks. Making this move even more damaging was the fact that Vinateri signed with their AFC rival Indianapolis Colts. If the Pats find themselves in a situation where a missed field goal leads to a critical loss, they will surely find themselves questioning their decision.
Teams on the Rise
Arizona Cardinals – The Cardinals have the ability to surprise a lot of teams this year. With the addition of Edgerrin James, they have one of the best offenses in the league. They are led by a former MVP quarterback Kurt Warner and a pair of thousand-yard-plus receivers in Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin. This type of offense is similar to the 2001 St. Louis Rams explosive offense that went on to the Super Bowl.
Miami Dolphins – Head Coach Nick Saban led his team to a 9-7 record last year with minimal talent. Entering his second year he has clearly implemented his system and the players have bought into it. The addition of Quarterback Daunte Culpepper fills their weakest posistion. Culpepper had a horrific year in Minnesota last year but had a monster year in 2004 finishing with 4,717 pass yards and 39 touchdowns.
Baltimore Ravens – The Ravens have had great defenses the last few years. The consistent area of weakness has been the quarterback position. The addition of former Co-MVP Steve McNair gives them not only a quality player, but also a proven veteran with big game experience. The addition of running back Mike Anderson indicates they will be a primarily run-offense, but now they have a quarterback they can count on to make a big play.
Teams on the Decline
Dallas Cowboys – It’s not only the Terrell Owens that has this team in trouble. Another loud-mouthed player is kicker Mike Vanderjagt. In the last pre-season game, Vanderjagt missed field goals of 33 and 32 yards in overtime. This does nothing to rid the reputation that he cannot come through in the clutch. The team also has a lot of strong personalities with Owens, Parcells, Vanderjagt, quarterback Drew Bledsoe and wide receiver Terry Glenn. One can almost feel the tension within the team. It certainly looks like a team destined to fall apart.
Indianapolis Colts – The loss of Edgerrin James is a big one. He was a staple in the impressive Colt offense. Defenses were forced to focus on him, leaving the Colts receivers in many one-on-one match ups. He was a big reason for their success. The loss of linebacker David Thornton will also hurt. He was tied for fourth in the team lead for tackles. The focus before the 2005 season was to improve the defense. This off-season they did not do that. The defense that was among the best last year, may have taken a few steps back this year.
Denver Broncos – Quarterback Jake Plummer had an MVP-like year in 2005. For most of his career, he has been mediocre. It is not out of the realm of possibility that last year was an apparition. The Broncos also go into this season without a clear number one running back. With Mike Anderson being traded away, they lose a quality running back as well as depth to a weak position.