NFL Alphabet Preview


NFL Alphabet Preview

With Week 2 of the NFL season set to dominate your Sunday, Im debuting a new feature here at Standing Room Only.

Its called the NFL Alphabet Preview, and its pretty self explanatory, so here we go:

NFL Alphabet Preview, Vol. 1

A is for Arian

With Adrian Peterson and Jamaal Charles still working their way back to 100 percent, Maurice Jones-Drew still finding his sea legs and Barry Sanders still unwilling to come out of retirement, Arian Foster and Ray Rice have emerged as the cream of the NFL running back crop. But if I had to choose one right now, Ill take Foster especially this week against the Jags. In four career games against Jacksonville, Fosters averaged 103.3 yards and 1.25 touchdowns a pop. (And dont worry about him missing Wednesdays practice with an illness. Youd get sick too if you were forced to sit through game film of the Dolphins.)

NFL Alphabet Trivia: Can you name the six active NFL running backs, under the age of 28, with at least 30 career rushing touchdowns?

Answer: Peterson (66), Jones-Drew (62), Chris Johnson (38), Marshawn Lynch (35), Foster (31) and . . . BenJarvus Green-Ellis (30)

B is for Blackout

Earlier this summer, the Jaguars promised their fans that this season would be void of TV blackouts. But the folks in San Diego received no such promise, and with the 1:25 pm (PST) deadline to sell the remaining tickets fast approaching, it appears more and more likely that Sundays home opener against Tennessee will not be televised in the local market.

Asked for comment, Chargers coach Norv Turner wore his frustration on his sleeve: You know, I just dont get it. Its like . . . I really . . . wait, what were we talking about?

C is for ChampsChumps

Sunday at MetLife, the Giants host the Bucs, and will look to avoid becoming the first defending Super Bowl champ in 13 years to start the season 0-2.

As is customary when youre up against NYG, the Bucs know that theyll have to put a lid on the pass rush to have any chance of coming out on top. Said Bucs WR Mike Williams: With that front four, you could have a baby playing secondary and it might make the Pro Bowl.

Never one to back down from a challenge, Tom Coughlin announced this morning that the Giants have signed Pee Wee safeties Alonzo Cromartie and Antonio Cromartie Jr. Both will start on Sunday.

NFL Alphabet Trivia: Can you name the last four defending Super Bowl champs to miss the playoffs?

Answer: The 2009 Steelers, the 2006 Steelers, the 2002 Pats and . . . Brian Grieses 1999 Denver Broncos, who are the last defending champs to start 0-2. (They started 0-4, and finished at 6-10.)

D is for Deja Vu

The New Orleans Saints season got off to a rocky start last week, as they were exposed by the Redskins young, athletic gunslinger, Robert Griffin III.

But things get better this week, as the Saints go toe-to-toe with classic pocket passer Cam Newton.

I mean . . .

"I think (Newton and Griffins) skill sets are similar to the degree that they both have good arms, they're very athletic and they both run very well, Panthers coach Ron Rivera said this week. The difference obviously being the physical difference. Our guy is 6-5 and he's 6-2. There's that difference and about 40 pounds."

Dont mind that faint grumble.

Its just Joe Vitt throwing up in his mouth.

E is for Eight

As in the St. Louis Rams eight-game losing streak, aka the longest current losing streak in the NFL. Over the course of the streak, the Rams (who host Washington on Sunday) have been shut out twice, have never allowed fewer than 23 points and have lost by an average of 13.5.

But on the bright side: Jeff Fisher caught you this delicious bass.

F is for Fined

On Thursday afternoon, Maurice Jones-Drew denied an report that he was fined 800,000 for his pre-season holdout.

"Make sure you guys report that was false," he told the Jacksonville media, before angrily driving off in his new car a used 2007 Dodge Stratus.

G is for Guarantee

And we wont be 0-2, Steelers Lamar Woodley told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in reference to Sundays game against the Jets. Every week the mindset is to go out there and win a football game, and not start the season off bad. So far were 0-1, and well manage to not go 0-2.

Responded Rex Ryan: Hey! Theres only one guy in this league who makes pointless and idiotic guarantees and thats Ol Rex! I guarantee it.

H is for Handshake

I believe Jim Harbaugh when he says that hes over the drama that stemmed from last years post-game handshake with Jim Schwartz. (The Lions and Niners play again on Sunday).

However, I dont believe for a second that Schwartz is over it. The guys a Belichick disciple, which means hes not in the business of letting bygones be bygones.

"That's long in the past," he said this week. "That just seems so long ago that that occurred. When two teams take the field, that's not going to be on one player's mind."

Note: The players minds.

I is for Ice, Matty Ice.

From looks of his Week 1 performance (299 yards, three TDs, no INTs and a rushing TD) it appears that Matt Ryan is ready to build off the momentum of last years 4,000-yard campaign and take things to another level. And what better way to re-iterate that notion than at home on Monday Night Football against Peyton Manning and the Broncos?

Although, at this point, dont we need to see Ryan win that first playoff game (hes 0-3) before anointing him with next level status?

I think so, but either way, one things for sure: The dude knows how to get it done on his home turf. Ryans 26-4 in 30 career games at the Georgia Dome.

By the way, Tom Brady's record in his first 30 starts at Gillette? You got it, 26-4. He improved that record to 28-4 before falling to the Chargers on October 2, 2005.

J is for Jamaal

Worse sign for Jamaal Charles ownersChiefs fans: That Kansas City used a diverse three-running back attack against the Falcons last Sunday, or that coach Romeo Crennel doesn't sound ready to change up that strategy any time soon?

"It's just by how we feel and how it's going," Crennel said about his running back plans. "You can't say how a game is going to go. The good thing about that is that I've got this guy named Hillis, who also could go into the game. I don't think we'll be disappointed when Hillis goes into the game."

K is for Kevin Kolb

Hairspray and an open flame.

Microwaves and aluminum foil.

Diet Coke and Mentos.

Bill Belichick and Kevin Kolb.

Stuff's gonna 'splode.

L is for Luck at Lucas

I understand how much it must have hurt Colts fans to see Peyton Manning conquer the world on Sunday night, but the post-game reaction in Indianapolis was a little ridiculous, no? A lot ridiculous? Like maybe they need to engulf the entire city in a cloud of hippo tranquilizer ridiculous?

I shouldn't generalize, I guess. I'm sure that there are a ton of less vocal Colts fans who realize why it made so much sense to move ahead with Luck, instead of squeezing a few more years of juice out of a 36-year-old QB who'd already undergone multiple career threatening neck surgeries . . .

But I'll generalize anyway:

What's wrong with you, Indianapolis?!

M is for Mario

As if things weren't bad enough for the Buffalo Bills with their Week 1 beat down at the hands of the Jets and the loss of Fred Jackson it's been recently revealed that 100M Man Mario Williams is already battling a nagging wrist injury. (Which might explain his Week 1 no-show).

Of course, Williams had a reputation in Houston for always "dealing" with some sort of injury, so the Buffalo media has been quick to criticize.

But Williams claims that he hasn't heard a thing: "I don't watch TV, man," Williams told the Buffalo News. "Never have, never will. I think I've said that about a million times in my last seven years."

On that note here's a joke that Mario won't get, and thus, won't track me down and devour my unborn children:

Mario Williams is a bigger hypochondriac than George Constanza.

N is for No. 1 Pick

In some ways, its impossible not to feel blindsided by Alex Smiths maturation into a not only viable, but straight up dangerous NFL quarterback. Then again, once you remember that he was the No. 1 overall pick in 2005, taken ahead of guys like DeMarcus Ware, Shawne Merriman and a fellow out of Cal named Aaron Rodgers, it makes sense. You cant really be shocked. But you can be happy for the guy. It was a long road, but he made it.

Last week, Smith broke Steve Youngs franchise record with his 185th consecutive pass without an interception, and with the way things are going, its fair to wonder: Is this the first of many YoungMontana records that will fall by way of Alex Smiths arm?

Answer: No. Probably not.

NFL Alphabet Quiz: On Sunday, Smith became the 12th quarterback in history to throw a touchdown to Randy Moss. Can you name the other 11?

Answer: Daunte Culpepper, Tom Brady, Randall Cunningham, Matt Cassel, Jeff George, Kerry Collins, Gus Frerotte, Todd Bouman, Andrew Walter, Brett Favre and Brad Johnson.

O is for O-fer

Its a little crazy to suggest that the Dolphins will go winless on the season, but theres no getting around the fact that their chances to score one in the win column will be few and far between. (Note: If youre response to that was: Wellll, technically, they have 15 more chances. Then we are mortal enemies.)

Anyway, if there was ever an opportunity for the Dolphins to prove that they arent a truly horrendous team, it would be on Sunday, when they host the fresh-off-a-late-Monday-night-game-on-the-other-side-of-the-country Oakland Raiders and the venerable Carson Palmer.

Here's to you, Joe Philbin.

P is for Pierre

Isnt it always?

A major factor in RGIIIs dominant debut against the Saints was his relationship with former Colt Pierre Garcon, who caught four passes for 108 yards and a touchdown before exiting with an injured foot.

Unfortunately for the rookie QB, it looks like hell take the field in Week 2 without his favorite target.

"I really don't know," Mike Shanahan said when asked about Garcon's status. "He was very limited. We'll have a better idea tomorrow."

When asked a follow up question on the teams running back situation, Shanahan kicked the reporter in the groin and skipped out of the room cackling.

NFL Alphabet Quiz: Name the seven running backs who have scored a touchdown in Mike Shanahans 33 games as head coach of the Redskins.

Hint: One of them is named Darrel Young (figured wed just get that out of the way).

Answer: Ryan Torain, Keiland Williams, Clinton Portis, Roy Helu, Tim Hightower, Darrel Young and Alfred Morris

Q is for Quintorris Lopez Jones

Or as hes better known, "Julio" Jones.

You would have thought it would be difficult to live up to the expectations of a team trading five draft picks for the rights to acquire you. You would have thought that it was damn near impossible to make Roddy White look like a mere NFL mortal.

You would have thought a lot of things before old Quintorris arrived on the scene.

R is for Raider Receivers

With Denarius Moore hurting, Jacoby Ford hurt and Darius Heyward-Bey still looking to make the leap, the Raiders could use a little help at receiver. But yesterday, GM Reggie McKenzie confirmed that the team has no interest in veteran free agents Terrell Owens, Chad Johnson and Plaxico Burress.

"It's not just (their) age," McKenzie said. "If the right player could add to the group ... we just didn't feel that those three were the right ones.

He was non-committal when asked whether the team might pursue a deal for Rae Carruth.

NFL Alphabet Quiz: 71 players in NFL history have caught 60 or more touchdown passes. Nine of them including TO (153), Chad (67) and Plaxico (63) are still active. Can you name the other six?

Answer: Randy Moss (154), Tony Gonzalez (96), Antonio Gates (76), Reggie Wayne (73), Larry Fitzgerald (73) and . . . Donald Driver, who caught No. 60 last night against the Bears.

Note: Steve Smith only needs one more to reach 60.

Note 2: Rae Carruth only needs 56 more.

S is for Sad

Isnt there just something so depressing about the BengalsBrowns rivalry? I mean, I know theres history. I know theres hatred. But while most inter-division rivalries leave me at the edge of my seat, BengalsBrowns makes me want to lock myself in a dark room and blast Elliot Smith.

T is for Tupa

How long has it been since the Cardinal beat the Patriots? Well (and I know Ive mentioned this before, but I literally can't get enough), it was on September 29, 1991 and the Cardinals quarterback was none other than punter extraordinaire Tom Tupa. (Tupa was 17-28 on the day for 312 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.)

And this just in: Ever the historian, Bill Belichick has announced that he plans to even the score by starting Zoltan Mesko at quarterback on Sunday.

Early line: Pats -8.

U is for Uniforms

Remember when everyone made such an unbelievably big deal out of the NFL switching their jerseys over from Reebok to Nike?

Yes, Id like those few days of my life back, too.

V is for Vick

Michael Vick had a pretty historic game in Week 1s win over Cleveland, setting a career high with 56 pass attempts and, not-so-coincidentally, also tying a career-high with four interceptions.

Whether or not Vick is still struggling from the beating his ribs took against the Pats in the pre-season is insignificant. Why? Because were talking about Michael Vick. If we made excuses every time he was playing through an injury, excuses are all wed ever have.

Bottom line: Unless Philadelphia can find some offensive balance and Vick can limit his completions to the other team, the Ravens are going to straight cannibalize the Eagles on Sunday.

NFL Alphabet Quiz: Since 1975, only six quarterbacks have amassed more rushing TDs than Michael Vick. Name them, please?

Hint: Oddly enough, 50 percent of them are name Steve.

Answer: Daunte Culpepper (34), Steve Grogan (35), Randall Cunningham (35), Steve McNair (37), Kordell Stewart (38) and Steve Young (43)

W is for Witten

Cowboys tight end (and Tony Romo binky) Jason Witten lacerated his spleen in the pre-season, but says hes finally feeling like his old self heading into Sundays game in Seattle:

The good news is unlike an ankle or a hamstring or some things where it can linger in there for weeks this is something that I feel good when I'm out there practicing and running around, he said.

The bad news? Its his (& spleen!

X is for X-Factor

The Falcons were already going to have their hands full with Peyton Manning 2.0 on Monday night, but the degree of difficulty was taken up a few notches when Pro Bowl cornerback Brent Grimes popped his Achilles in Week 1 against the Chiefs.

That leaves former third round pick Chris Owens to fill the void.

Is he up to it? Time will tell, but for now Owens is looking forward to the challenge: "This is like facing Mike Tyson in a 12-round bout, but I'm excited for the opportunity," he said.

Manning, who recently shocked fans by showing up to practice with an enormous facial tattoo, couldnt be reached for comment. Said Broncos coach John Fox: Last time I saw Peyton, he was on the roof tending to his flock of pigeons.

Y is for Your Fantasy Team

Just a reminder: Its only fantasy.

Its not worth the anger. Its not worth the depression. Its not worth screaming NO! YOU dont get it! YOURE the crazy one! at your girlfriend and then running out of the apartment in tears.

Eh, who I am kidding.

Of course it is.

Z is for Zebras

Listen, I dont have a huge problem with the replacement refs. Have they been perfect? No. But neither are the real refs. At the end of the day, my only problem is with the lack of Ed Hochuli.

Come on, Easy E. We need you, buddy!

Seriously, this might sound crazy, but what about launching a live web cam? It doesnt have to be anything special. Just a feed of you sitting on your couch watching the games in full uniform, screaming incessantly about the incompetence of the replacements. (Note: The more you refer to them as scabs the better.)

And thats all for now.

Enjoy the games.

Rich can be reached at Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Will the Harris signing mean more time on the edge for Hightower?

Will the Harris signing mean more time on the edge for Hightower?

David Harris is expected to be a savvy middle linebacker who will line up his teammates when they help. He's expected to provide some level of leadership, even in his first year in New England, as an accomplished-but-hungry 33-year-old who has not yet reached a Super Bowl. 

What Harris is not expected to do is improve the Patriots pass rush. He was in on one sack in 900 snaps last season.  

But in a roundabout way he might. 

MORE: How does Derek Carr's new deal impact Jimmy Garoppolo?

There are dominos to fall now that Harris has been added to Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia's defense. How much will Harris play, and whose playing time will he cut into? Those questions don't yet have answers, but one of the more intriguing elements of the Harris acquisition is how he will benefit Dont'a Hightower's game.

If Harris can pick up the Patriots defense quickly -- and all indications are that there should be few issues there -- he could take some of the all-important communication responsibilities off of Hightower's shoulders. 

Ever since taking the reins from Jerod Mayo as the team's signal-caller, Hightower has had to be on top of all requisite pre-snap checks and last-second alignment changes. It's a critical role, and one that Hightower performs well, but those duties place some added stress on the player wearing the green dot. Perhaps if part of that load can be heaped onto Harris' plate, that might allow Hightower to feel as though he's been freed up to focus on his individual assignments.

Harris' presence might also impact where on the field Hightower is used. Hightower may be the most versatile piece on a Patriots defense loaded with them, but with Harris in the middle, Hightower could end up playing more on the edge, where he's proven he can make a major impact (see: Super Bowl LI).

For Belichick and his staff, having the ability to use one of their best pass-rushers -- and one of the most efficient rushers league-wide, per Pro Football Focus -- on the edge more frequently has to be an enticing byproduct of the move to sign Harris. Especially since there are some question marks among the team's end-of-the-line defenders behind Trey Flowers and Rob Ninkovich. 

We'll have to wait for training camp before we have an idea of how exactly Harris fits in with the Patriots defense. But the effect he'll have on his new teammates, and Hightower in particular, will be fascinating to track. 

How does Derek Carr's new deal impact Jimmy Garoppolo?

How does Derek Carr's new deal impact Jimmy Garoppolo?

Ever since Derek Carr signed a five-year, $125 million extension with the Raiders to give him the highest average annual contract value in league history, some version of the same question has been posed over and over again. 

What does this mean for other quarterbacks looking for new deals? 

Despite the fact that Carr's average annual value surpasses the previous high set by Andrew Luck ($24.6 million), and despite the fact that Carr's contract provides him the security that alluded him while he was on his rookie contract, his recent haul may not mean much for the likes of Matthew Stafford, Kirk Cousins and other top-end quarterbacks.

They were already expecting monster paydays down the road that would hit (or eclipse) the $25 million range, and Carr's record-setting contract may not even serve as a suitable baseline for them, as ESPN's Dan Graziano lays out.

So if Carr's contract did little more for upper-echelon quarterbacks than confirm for them where the market was already headed, then does it mean anything for someone like Jimmy Garoppolo? 

Carr and Garoppolo were both second-round picks in 2014, but from that point, they've obviously taken very different roads as pros. Carr started 47 consecutive games in his first three years and by last season he had established himself as one of the most valuable players in the league. Garoppolo, by comparison, has started two games. 

Both players still hold loads of promise, but unless Garoppolo sees substantial playing time in 2017 and then hits the open market, he won't approach Carr's deal when his rookie contract is up.  

ESPN's Mike Reiss projected that a fair deal for Garoppolo on the open market might fall between the $19 million that was guaranteed to Chicago's Mike Glennon and Carr's contract, which includes $40 million fully guaranteed and $70 million in total guarantees, per NFL Media.

Perhaps something in the range of what Brock Osweiler received from the Texans after Osweiler started seven games for the Broncos in 2015 would be considered fair: four years, with $37 million guaranteed. Because Osweiler (before his deal or since) never seemed as polished as Garoppolo was in his two games as a starter in 2016, and because the salary cap continues to soar, the argument could be made that Garoppolo deserves something even richer. 

Though Garoppolo is scheduled to hit unrestricted free agency following the 2017 season, there is a chance he doesn't get there quite that quickly. The Patriots could try to come to some kind of agreement with their backup quarterback on an extension that would keep him in New England, or they could place the franchise tag on him following the season. 

Either way, Garoppolo will get paid. But until he sees more time on the field, a deal that would pay him in the same range as his draft classmate will probably be out of reach.