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 Post subject: Focus: Keyshawn Johnson
PostPosted: Sat May 20, 2006 10:35 am 
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As always, Nunyo DeMasio writes so fluidly and with such insight,...he's just awesome. Thank you NinersLacking! Commentary to follow.

Steve Smith trudged off the field during the second quarter of last season's NFC Championship against Seattle, sternly flashing four fingers -- for the number of defenders who had covered him. Initially, I thought Smith's display was hyperbole until I viewed the replay.

During the regular season, the routine double- or triple-teaming of Smith didn't prevent him from leading NFL receivers in catches and tying for tops in receiving yards and touchdowns. But occasionally in Seattle's 34-14 rout of Carolina, Smith faced two linebackers plus a cornerback and a safety.

After Smith's Herculean playoff performances against the Giants and the Bears, Seattle discovered the best way to contain the 5-foot-9, 185-pound powder keg: virtually ignore the rest of Carolina's receivers.

But Carolina's signing of Keyshawn Johnson -- one of the NFL's best possession wideouts and a clutch performer -- will halt such tactics and catapult Carolina back to the top of the NFC.

"They will have to pick their poison," Johnson said on Thursday. "I might be slow, but I'm going to nickel-and-dime you to death while I let Steve slice up your ass. I dare a defensive coordinator to leave me out there by myself."

Supposedly, a potential problem is that Smith and Johnson are high-strung receivers with volcanic tempers and both have an insatiable desire for the ball. (After Johnson's rookie season in 1996, the top overall pick wrote a book entitled Just Give Me the Damn Ball. And Smith has a reputation for snarling when Carolina's offense turns run-heavy.)

So I'm not surprised that during Smith's and Johnson's first practice last week, the media scrutinized their interactions and highlighted exchanges. An Associated Press story noted them joking in the huddle and conversing during warmups.

"It's been comedy," Smith said, "because so many people are watching us: 'Oh, they're joking in the huddle.' Like it's breaking news. It's like reality TV. They are filming us conversing and stretching."

Despite the hunt for drama, I don't see any drawbacks. Johnson's addition should produce immediate results. The last time Carolina paired Smith with a big target (Muhsin Muhammad in 2003), the club reached the Super Bowl.

Johnson's image as a prima donna is exaggerated. He definitely has a healthy ego, which makes him a typical NFL wide receiver. (According to a 2005 story in the Atlanta-Journal Constitution, Dr. Arnold Mandell of UC San Diego studied NFL prospects in 1973 and reached the following conclusion: "The wide receiver shares many features with movie stars. He is narcissistic and ... brilliant and vain and not too friendly. He's rarely a popular member of the team."

And to think that the professor's finding was pre-T.O. and Randy Moss.)

Virtually all receivers blur the line between being competitive and being selfish. But the "Meshawn" image doesn't quite mesh with the 6-4 receiver willing to do the dirty work like blocking, and who has been described as being a positive influence by former teammates.

"I've heard it a hundred times: 'How are you going to handle Keyshawn?'" said Carolina coach John Fox. "At this point in his career, I feel he's a real positive with work ethic and preparation. I like some pizzazz in a personality. I don't want a bunch of robots."

Johnson clashed with Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden in 2003 over his role in the offense before being deactivated for the final five games. But I find it more telling that a disciplinarian like Cowboys coach Bill Parcells traded for Johnson after coaching him with the Jets.

I'm no Johnson apologist. When we crossed paths in the lobby of the Panthers' facility last month, I reminded him that the last time we met was in 1997. I was a St. John's beat writer for the New York Daily News subbing for the Jets beat guy, Rich Cimini, and witnessed Johnson berating a reporter in the locker room. Johnson chuckled at the recollection before adding that the reporter must have done something that merited a tongue-lashing.

With Johnson's brash personality, it makes more sense to watch his interactions with quarterback Jake Delhomme. Delhomme is a cocksure and excitable player who occasionally -- get this -- must be calmed by Smith. It's no secret that Johnson wasn't exactly Drew Bledsoe's biggest fan since the quarterback displayed the mobility of a mannequin, and held the ball too long.

Testy exchanges will inevitably occur among Johnson and his new teammates. But the Panthers -- who have one of the NFL's best defenses -- will win enough to suppress the egos. "It gets overblown when a marquee player has a shouting match," Delhomme said. "But we have that all the time. I'm not saying everything is going to be perfect this year. If it is, something's wrong. I expect us to get after each other."

Added Johnson, "Who gets the football is for the media and fantasy fans. I don't know what it means to have two high-strung guys at receiver. I know Steve is going to lengthen my career."

Last season, Smith quietly set NFL records with 38.3 percent of a team's receptions and 44.8 percent of its receiving yards, snapping Redskins great Art Monk's 1984 mark. Meanwhile, Carolina's second-leading pass-catcher wasn't even a receiver. It was tailback DeShaun Foster with 34; wideout Keary Colbert had only 25.

Still, I don't envision Smith's numbers dropping substantially. In 2003, Smith and Muhammad alternated in producing big games, depending on the defense. Smith amassed team highs of 88 catches for 1,110 yards and seven touchdowns. Muhammad had 54 catches for 837 yards and three touchdowns.

Although Johnson turns 34 in July, his skills haven't diminished. Last year, teams game-planned for Johnson as he produced 71 receptions for 839 yards plus six touchdowns. (Johnson was among the NFL's top receivers in third-down catches, with 25.)

Now, defensive coordinators face a quandary on whether to focus on Smith or Johnson. Smith's days of flashing four fingers are over.

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/200...son/index.html

Nunyo, Nunyo, Nunyo,...ah well, he has to be wrong sometimes.lol

Nunyo, you have to know the Panthers offensive philosophy my friend. Yes, the Panthers threw the ball more last season than in recent years but that offense is based on the run. You can say it sets the run up with the pass or vice versa but the Panthers offense has a superb O-line and those guys are always desirous to run block instead of pass block. Yes, Foster was the second leading receiver and he probably will be again, or the rookie RB Williams.

Johnson says he'll nickle and dime ya to death? Ya know why? He told ya why when he admitted he's slow. The Falcons could put Jimmy Williams, a rookie, on Johnson and he'd do just fine.

Nunyo is correct that the Panthers defense will be a good one but he fails to mention that unit's lack of quality talent at LB and depth at DB,...but then, all NFL teams can't be deep at every position.

It was nice to be right about the Panthers return to being an elite team as I predicted they'd bounce back last season after all those injuries that derailed them in 2004 just after appearing in a Super Bowl. The 1999 Falcons had the same thing happen to them. Then having the Bucs rise up again should be proof to everyone how tough the NFC South is to win. The Falcons and Panthers open the season in beautiful Charlotte. Panthers will wear white and make the Falcons sweat in their red jerseys and ugly black pants,...which reminds me,...I need to post more about that,...those cursed, ugly black pants gotta go!

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PostPosted: Sun May 21, 2006 3:01 am 
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I picked the Panthers to win it all last year way back in July. I was quite surprised to see how handly they lost to the Seahawks at the end of hte year.

Where I disagree mostly PB is that Jimmy Williams can cover Keyshawn. Keyshawn Johnson has pimp slapped every Falcon corner that he has faced over the years. Sure, he's never faced D-Lo, but frankly we all know that he never will since Hall's attention will be on Steve Smith solely in those games. Sure, J-Will has the body and athleticism to shut Keyshawn down, but he's not going to, at least not this year. Why? Because he's a rookie. Not to mention the fact that he's a rawer one than most. So what if Keyshawn is 34 this July, he's still a very solid receiver. Sure, he's never lived up to the status of being a #1 overall pick. Sure, his ego far exceeds his actual ability. But he'll be playing for his 6th NFL coach, and thus be working in his 6th different NFL offense, and never once has he not been the go-to receiver in those offenses. This year will mark the first time ever. IMO, Keyshawn is easily one of the Top 10 possession wideouts in the league, if not in the Top 5. Love him or hate him he is the prototype possession receiver in the NFL (either him or Hines Ward). As the article indicated, that's what he does best, move the chains.

I agree with you however that the Panthers passing attack is not going to so central as it was a year ago to their offensive success. Smith carried that offense last year. But I truly believe that DeAngelo Williams is going to have a Cadillac-like impact in Carolina. The Panthers will "revert" to a run-first team as they were in 2003, with a 2-headed attack. But that makes them even more potent when you have 2 Top 20 WRs and a backfield that is probably going to put up between 1700-1900 yards for you.

If you ask me, the Panthers are still my personal favorite to win the NFC this year. The Seahawks are the only team that can truly go toe to toe with them when they are playing at their finest. No, not even the Falcons can touch them when the Panthers are on a good day. With exception of linebacker and possibly RB if Williams doesn't live up to my prediction, the Panthers are a superior team to the Falcons in every single facet and area of the game, from coaching to punting. The question of whether they win the Super Bowl or not is up to either the Pats or Broncos.

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PostPosted: Sun May 21, 2006 10:21 am 
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We will see come opening Sunday as to how the Cats are more superior to the Crows Pudge. The Falcons were limping both times they faced Carolina last season, both routs. The Falcons won't be so hurt opening day.

Of course,...if JW starts opposite Johnson,...Crocker will be there to help and Brooking will be coming hard from the weakside.

Ever seen a WR go to the turf as Brooking bears down?,...ever seen a RB do the same? lol I have my friend.


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PostPosted: Sun May 21, 2006 1:05 pm 
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I can't wait PB, I hope Mora shows the 44-11 game the night before the game to the whole team....i want that taste of Filet du Merde in their mouths when they take the field.


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PostPosted: Sun May 21, 2006 2:23 pm 
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BirdBrain wrote:
i want that taste of Filet du Merde in their mouths when they take the field.


lol and enlighten what that tastes like please?


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PostPosted: Sun May 21, 2006 4:22 pm 
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pretty bad.....but is it bad enough??? That is the question. Last year we had somewhat the same scenario, playing a team ,(in the opening game), that kicked our butt in the NFCCG, preventing us from going to the Super Bowl. This year we get to play the team that make us quit, give up, act like little sissies. Can we repeat the same result??? Yes, i know we aren't in the Dome, but i think we have to take the crowd out of the game early. Smith is scary, especially with KJ to cover as well. But if we can get to Del Homey, then i think we have a good shot.


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PostPosted: Sun May 21, 2006 4:30 pm 
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BB raises a good point. Delhomme has the proclivity to become a spaz when he is asked to do too much. In the past, he has had some plays where you just shake your head (ask Kevin Mathis).

With a little pressure coming from Abraham, Coleman & Kerney, and Delhomme can easily get rattled. This means, though, that our O has to score and not let the Panties play the game they want to (run, run, and run some more).

Also, everyone focuses on the Panties picking up MeShawn, but the true FA signings that impacted them the most, IMO, was losing Witherspoon. He will be hard to replace. I believe they also lost a starting safety too, so they have some holes to fill before we anoint them champs.

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PostPosted: Sun May 21, 2006 6:58 pm 
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Their starting safety (Thomas Davis) moved to LB to replace Witherspoon.

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PostPosted: Mon May 22, 2006 8:35 am 
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Also,...we forget the Falcons offense, if able to move the ball on the ground, can keep Smith/Johnson/DelHomme off the field. It's the first down conversions that will be a key stat come Sep. and Vick is great at doing that with his legs.

Davis moving to LB is a telling sign. The Panthers defense can be had even with their great D-line and good corners. They are just as thin as the Falcons are on the line and the Falcons have far better LBs than do the Panthers. With Davis leaving a S position to fill now,...well, ya see how precarious a situation their defense is in. They'll be healthy on opening day just like us but wait till the season unfolds and then we'll see just how superior the Panthers are to the Falcons in every area.


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PostPosted: Mon May 22, 2006 10:29 am 
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"They will have to pick their poison," Johnson said on Thursday. "I might be slow, but I'm going to nickel-and-dime you to death while I let Steve slice up your ass. I dare a defensive coordinator to leave me out there by myself."

- This is just my personal opinion, but Meshawn just doesn't scare me. I'm not saying JDub's gonna come in a shut him down as a rook, but it shouldn't be too long before he does. To me, he's always been more bark than bite. I don't see how Carolina should own us either. Before last yr it was quite the opposite. They couldn't touch Vick with a 10 foot poll. Take into acct they knew our snap counts last year and that doesn't help. I still don't get how Carolina maintains this dual favorite/underdog role perpetually. If Delhomme's on his back via K/A/C, then no WR's should be doing much. Another thing, if I'm Vick, I'm gonna make these boys remember what fear is.


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 Post subject: Hmmmm
PostPosted: Mon May 22, 2006 12:49 pm 
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Johnson has more mouth than hands and is slow to boot. I know alot is made about this guy but when Chrebet (SP?) started opposite him with the Jets that was a telling sign. I have seen this guy drop more easy passes than he has ever caught hard ones. Carolina is tough, but any one of three teams could take the division depending on injury and how new players mesh.

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PostPosted: Mon May 22, 2006 2:20 pm 
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Seattle showed what happens when Steve S. is taken out of the game. Keyshawn will definitely help, but I'd rather have them line Kasay up for 3 then watch Smith take it 50+ yards for 6.

The other thing is that Delhomme locks onto his WRs. Even if Keyshawn gets some balls, I gotta believe that our DBs will make it difficult as he is slower and Delhomme will help them make the read. Plus, let's see what Milloy adds as far as giving Keyshawn something to think about coming over the middle.

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PostPosted: Mon May 22, 2006 2:59 pm 
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It's not MeShawn we have to worry about, he won't beat us....

It's DeShaun Foster and DeAngelo Williams we have to worry about. If we can take the run away from them then we have the talent in our secondary to cover Smith and Johnson when you also take into consideration how good our pass rush should be.


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PostPosted: Mon May 22, 2006 3:25 pm 
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It's not MeShawn we have to worry about, he won't beat us....

It's DeShaun Foster and DeAngelo Williams we have to worry about.


I agree. For the first time in a long time I am pretty confident in our Pass D.

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PostPosted: Mon May 22, 2006 4:21 pm 
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Well I'm really hoping Hartwell is gonna help out with those two. I was really geeked at the start of last season, hoping he'd help our run D out and be that intimidator we needed. Then he didn't gell well early/got caught up in blocks, and I started to wonder if all his talk and hype were just that. So here's to a healthy season of clogging the opposing teams run game and being an intimidator. Really he's the best defender we've got that no ones talking about (key being talked about).


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PostPosted: Mon May 22, 2006 9:27 pm 
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I agree in that Delhomme is not a special QB. But he's not chopped liver either. You don't win 5 of 7 playoff games by being chopped liver. And I'm not saying the Falcons are incapable of beating hte Panthers, I'm just saying that even at the Falcons best, if the Panthers are playing their best, then the Falcons won't beat them. Just as we discussed last year on this board, when the Colts were at the top of their game, the Falcons would nearly have to play a flawless game in order to beat them. The truth of the matter is that the Falcons are not a supremely talented football team. We don't lack talent, it's just that in terms of our talent across the team we don't exactly rank up there with teams like Indianapolis, Carolina, Seattle, etc. Obviously, it's not just talent that wins football games, and I think one of the reasons the Falcons have been relatively successful the past decade (compared to past decades) is that they've been able to have that "X" factor that is playing hard and getting the energy from the coaching staff. We had that in 1998, got that in 2002 and 2004. Frankly saying, we are a team that isn't talented enough to just beat everybody. We'd have to gain ultimate success much like the Steelers did last year, and just play great football down the stretch, despite being far from the most talented team in the league.

The Falcons did play the Panthers extremely well prior to last year, but I think the off-season additions the Panthers have made over the past 2 years have been great. Ken Lucas, Thomas Davis, Ma'ake Kemoeatu, DeAngelo Williams, Keyshawn Johnson, Mike Wahle are outstanding pickups.

But I agree the key to success for the Falcons this year against the Panthers is going to be stopping the run. The Panthers didn't run the ball well last year, but like every other team in the league seemed to have a very easy time when it came to running on the Falcons. Foster had 2 of his 3 100-yard games vs. the Falcons last year. He averaged twice as many yards against the Falcons than the rest of his opponents. That can't happen again this year, if the Falcosn want to have a chance to win.

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PostPosted: Tue May 23, 2006 11:21 am 
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"And I'm not saying the Falcons are incapable of beating hte Panthers, I'm just saying that even at the Falcons best, if the Panthers are playing their best, then the Falcons won't beat them."

I honestly don't look at it like the panthers have a lot more talent than we do. I do see it in terms like, they've been much more consistent on a year to year basis. You're right with the point about the players they've added recently, so that speaks to their front office capabilities. But as far as saying we can beat them if all things are equal, I just don't see it. It's a defeatist atittude. For what seemed like his first 2-3 years starting, they couldn't even see Vick, let alone handle him. I just have a feeling that we're gonna get back to our old ways against them. I guess we'll find out week one, but I honestly can see a similiar situation to our opening game last year vs the eagles. Everyone picked the Eagles, and we came into that game and punched 'em square in the mouth. I'd love to do that right out of the gate this year.


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PostPosted: Tue May 23, 2006 1:17 pm 
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That is one thing I do love about our division. There are no easy games. Every game is important. I do believe that we match up well with the Panthers in terms of talent, but it is a matter of scheming and heart as to who will win. I am very excited about the upcoming season. Bring em on!!!

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I don't think Carolina is that much more talented than us either. I just don't see it. I think we have a lot of talent and potential on this team, we just need to pull it all together and hope people stay relatively healthy this season......


(someone has to play the optimist to Pudge's negative nancy :) )


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talent-wise, I think the teams are on equal footing. Where they excel is in having the speed and a good front 4 to give Vick problems. They don't have to blitz consistently to get pressure, and can drop and force Vick to pass which has been a problem for him. Basically, they can execute the game plan that Jimmy Johnson drew up against us in the '04 NFC Championship game.

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PostPosted: Wed May 24, 2006 2:44 pm 
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As far as covering Steve Smith vs. Keyshawn goes, is there any reason why we wouldn't try to do what the 49ers did to Michael Irvin? Instead of putting Deion on Irvin like everyone thought they were going to do, they put Deion on Alvin Harper (I think it was) and double/triple teamed Irvin. The plan worked perfectly. Deion by himself was way more than Harper could handle, and Irivin despite being as good as he was could not consistently beat the double and triple teams all game long.

Why wouldn't that work against Carolina? Put Hall on Keyshawn and take him out of the game. Double up Smith with Webster/Williams and Milloy/Crocker all game long and throw in Brooking every now and then if he starts to make things happen. At the very least this should give Abe, Kerney and Coleman an extra half second or so to get to the QB.

The key would be that the middle of the D *NOT* be as soft as margarine. They need to be able to at least limit the run game using the LBs and one safety. If we need both safeties to play run first all the time, we can't double up on Smith.


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PostPosted: Wed May 24, 2006 4:15 pm 
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DToews wrote:
As far as covering Steve Smith vs. Keyshawn goes, is there any reason why we wouldn't try to do what the 49ers did to Michael Irvin? Instead of putting Deion on Irvin like everyone thought they were going to do, they put Deion on Alvin Harper (I think it was) and double/triple teamed Irvin. The plan worked perfectly. Deion by himself was way more than Harper could handle, and Irivin despite being as good as he was could not consistently beat the double and triple teams all game long.

Why wouldn't that work against Carolina? Put Hall on Keyshawn and take him out of the game. Double up Smith with Webster/Williams and Milloy/Crocker all game long and throw in Brooking every now and then if he starts to make things happen. At the very least this should give Abe, Kerney and Coleman an extra half second or so to get to the QB.

The key would be that the middle of the D *NOT* be as soft as margarine. They need to be able to at least limit the run game using the LBs and one safety. If we need both safeties to play run first all the time, we can't double up on Smith.


That means that we would have to take people out of the box, which could lead to an explosive run by Carolina. I mean, its really a lose-lose situation. You could cover the WR's 1v1, with a safeties help up top, which would allow more men in the box to stop the run. Or, you could cover one WR 1v1 and another with a LB and a DB, keeping the safety overtop, to help the 1v1. Then, you're all of the sudden down a man in the box which makes it easier for the Opponents run game

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PostPosted: Wed May 24, 2006 4:54 pm 
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Bottom line is to get pressure on Del Homey...then everything will fall into place. Give him time and it will be another blowout.


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PostPosted: Wed May 24, 2006 5:21 pm 
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mickvick302 wrote:
DToews wrote:
As far as covering Steve Smith vs. Keyshawn goes, is there any reason why we wouldn't try to do what the 49ers did to Michael Irvin? Instead of putting Deion on Irvin like everyone thought they were going to do, they put Deion on Alvin Harper (I think it was) and double/triple teamed Irvin. The plan worked perfectly. Deion by himself was way more than Harper could handle, and Irivin despite being as good as he was could not consistently beat the double and triple teams all game long.

Why wouldn't that work against Carolina? Put Hall on Keyshawn and take him out of the game. Double up Smith with Webster/Williams and Milloy/Crocker all game long and throw in Brooking every now and then if he starts to make things happen. At the very least this should give Abe, Kerney and Coleman an extra half second or so to get to the QB.

The key would be that the middle of the D *NOT* be as soft as margarine. They need to be able to at least limit the run game using the LBs and one safety. If we need both safeties to play run first all the time, we can't double up on Smith.


That means that we would have to take people out of the box, which could lead to an explosive run by Carolina. I mean, its really a lose-lose situation. You could cover the WR's 1v1, with a safeties help up top, which would allow more men in the box to stop the run. Or, you could cover one WR 1v1 and another with a LB and a DB, keeping the safety overtop, to help the 1v1. Then, you're all of the sudden down a man in the box which makes it easier for the Opponents run game


That's where Lawyer has to come into play. We forget the value of safeties. That's where the Falcons D has been so weak. Wish we had a young Brian Jordan or a Scott Case,...but we got the Lawyer.

DHall will always play the #1 WR thank goodness. Jerry Glanville ain't running the defense anymore,...thank goodness.


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PostPosted: Wed May 24, 2006 9:11 pm 
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Location: North Carolina
I didn't want to do this, but I guess if I want to lend more weight to my argument, I have to do a position by position breakdown of the Panthers vs. the Falcons. Congrats to anyone that actually reads this in its entirety.

Coaching - I think Fox is the better coach. When you look at how well the Panthers have played down the stretch of each of the past 3 seasons, I think this goes to show how strong a coach Fox is. IMO, good coaching means that a team is playing its best when it should be playing its best, which is late in the year in my mind if you want to make a postseason run. The Falcons have struggled with this ever since the 1999 season. Not exactly Mora's fault, but clearly he should be doing something to correct this.

QB - Delhomme is the better passer no doubt? I think we all can agree there. Delhomme is no Tom Brady however. But people are saying "put pressure on Delhomme and he'll make mistakes" like he's the only one. Vick is the same. Sure, Vick's running ability gives him an advantage, but since Knapp took over this offense, it's been rare that Vick has been able to run wild in the same way he did against the Panthers early on. Who wins here depends on your assessment of what is more important for this position. Running an offense, Delhomme is clearly ahead. Making plays, Vick is definitely ahead. So for now, I guess I'll give it a DRAW

RB - This is one of those positions that I believe the Falcons have the edge. But truthfully, I expect DeAngelo Williams to be one of the top candidates for rookie of the year this year, and I suspect he'll rack up somewhere between 1100-1300 yards. With Foster running probably between 500-800, that makes a very potent duo. Our own duo is pretty solid. Dunn is coming off a career year, and for that reason alone I don't expect him to be as good this year as he was a year ago, not at his age. Duckett should be better. Norwood makes our position perhaps deeper, but since he's unlikely to see the field doesn't factor much into the equation. Griffith/McCrary vs. Goings/Hoover are practically identical duos so they don't really tip the balance anywhere.FALCONS get a SLIGHT EDGE mostly due to they are more proven.

WR - Do I need to explain this one? Panthers PERIOD.

TE - We have the edge here with Crump, but the combo of Mangum, Seidman, Gaines, and rookie Jeff King definitely make the Panthers much deeper. With the top 3, none would be in the same class as Crump, but all could be decent starters in the NFL. If you took the best of what those 3 give you it equals to about the same as Alge at the top of his game, but because it's hard to get 3 guys giving you their best all the time, so the FALCONS WIN.

OL - Panthers hands down. Sure, their line isn't an outstanding running unit. But Gross, Hartwig, and Wahle are all top players at their position, although they don't make the headlines like Seattle's linemen do. Wharton is a pretty good LT and I suspect Mathis will develop into a capable RG. Again not an elite unit piece by piece, but all 5 pieces fit well and all their players are looking are still on the way up, while at least 2 of our starters are basically 1-2 years away from retiring.

DL - It's about even when you look at the starters. The Panthers have a better rotation. The DEs are about even when it comes to what each can do at the top of their game. Abraham's A game is much better than Rucker's, but Peppers is much better than Kerney's. Jenkins/Kemoeatu/Moorehead/Lewis are a good interior trio. Jenkins prior to injury was the best DT in the league. With 2 injuries, I wouldn't say he's in the class of Coleman now, but he's a better all-around player and still should be a good player if he can stay healthy. Kemo is the type of hole clogger that none of our DTs are. Moorehead/Lewis are similar to Lake & Babs in that they are good at getting pressure on the QB. Also Al Wallace, McClover, and Haye definitely are better DE depth than Davis, Savage, and Mallard. I say because their rotation is better (and that matters a ton more than some people here are willing to give credit to), the PANTHERS WIN out.

LB - We will hear hands down. Dan Morgan, Davis, Draft, Diggs are all good players. Diggs when healthy and playing well can be as good as any of our LBs, but I'm not sure if he is any longer that player. Morgan is a good starter, but has never been a force due to injury. He probably ain't gonna start now. Davis has a lot of upside, and I think coudl be better than Witherspoon, but that remains to be seen at this point. FALCONS WIN.

DB - Taking the position as a hole, you have to like the Panthers. Chris Gamble is not that far off behind DeAngelo Hall in terms of ability. IN fact, Gambel may in fact be more athletic than Hall is if that's at all humanly possible. Lucas is definitely much better than Webster. Reggie Howard (former starter) and Richard Marshall are about even with Cash and Williams. Williams and Marshall are about even because both are very athletic, fast, and raw. Sure Williams was graded higher in the draft, but that was mostly due to size. At safety, MIke MInter, although on the decline is still better than either of our guys. If you asked me 3 or 4 years ago I would have taken Milloy. But Milloy has dropped much more significantly since that span than Minter has. Minter is a hard-hitting guy that still is able to make plays vs. the pass and can start and play well at either FS or SS. Crocker is a good player, but doesn't have huge upside if you ask me. Shaun Williams has been a major disappointment during his NFL career, but is still talented. I would call him and Crocker about even. Being the "star" safety for the Browns if you ask me is about the same as being an underachiever with the Giants. Their depth at safety is better, with a possibly retiring CB being our top backup, while theirs are McCadam, Colin Branch, Nate Salley, all of whom would be the #3 if they were here in Atlanta. PANTHERS win.

ST - John Kasay, still one of the best kickers int he league. Jason Baker, one of the best placement punters in the game. Koenen has a bright future, but let him do it for 2 or 3 years before i start putting him in the same group as these guys. With Rossum coming off such a down year, I'd be less inclined to say our return game is much better than the Panthers, especially since they still find ways to get Smith back on returns still. Our coverage units are better, but the differnce is neglible.

When you factor in this position by position assessment, sure we run the football better than the Panthers, but in terms of throwing the football, stopping the run, and stopping the pass, we have a lot to prove in those realms before I think we can say we are as good as Panthers. You look at how consistently good that defense has been under Fox in Carolina, and our defense shows that they have a ton to improve.

So I'd re-evaluate my statement to say that by judging talent vs. talent by position, the Falcons are clearly stronger than the Panthers at LB. I would not argue against someone if they also threw in QB, RB, and TE, but the gulf between the two teams in minimal. Just like the Panthers being better at DB and ST is nothng significant either. But at the WR, OL, and DL positions the gap is significant enough that I would say that the Panthers are better than us in 5 of the 6 main aspects of playing football:

coaching
passing the football
stopping the run
stopping the pass
special teams

I think we match up well against the Panthers, but that statement should not be confused with we match up evenly. By matching up well, it means that we have the talent, caliber, and type of players that can beat and overmatch the Panthers players. But the exact same can be said about the Panthers.

I could point out numerous examples of that, but i'll let you chew on this before I go into that.

_________________
"Vincere scis, Hannibal, victoria uti nescis" -- Maharbal, 216 B.C.E.


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