Hector and I were sitting in an unnamed Atlantic City casino having lunch the other day (Hector had the green eggs, I had the ham), and we decided this would be the week we eschew running backs. Let's give 'em a break. The injury bug has hit (Steven Jackson, Deuce McAllister, Shaun Alexander), so we've decided to wait a week or two to fully scrutinize the position. After all, this column is "Are You For Real?" not "Will You Be For Real?" With that said, we give you
Harrington responded to the Falcons' signing of Byron Leftwich by torching the Panthers' defense for 361 yards and two touchdowns. His passer rating was 61.9 in Week 1, but 110.1 in Week 3. He seemed poised, polished, and lively in an eventual loss, while making quasi-believers out of a lot of Atlanta fans. Was this the result of the former Jaguars signal-caller rolling into town and lighting a fire under Harrington? Was it just a shabby Carolina secondary? It could be a combination of these, but one thing is for sure: White seemed to benefit.
We've been waiting for this Roddy White to emerge for a solid two years now. His 2005 rookie season showed undeniable promise, with three touchdowns and a seemingly wide-open path to becoming the Atlanta No. 1 receiver in due time.
In 2006, however, he failed to deliver on that promise. White brought his overall yardage numbers up from 446 to 506, but didn't see the end zone once, and became a bit of an afterthought in the minds of fantasy owners -- especially with the arrival of Joe Horn and departure of Michael Vick -- causing only 1.8 percent of ESPN owners to roster him (as of Sunday's roster deadline).
But after a Week 1 performance of 29 yards on four catches, White has taken off. In three games, he has 237 total yards and a touchdown, including his seven receptions for 127 yards in Week 3, and could possibly have found a rhythm with Harrington. So, Joey Harrington and Roddy White, are you for real?
Hector: There's an old saying about a tree falling in the forest and the question of its ability to produce audio impact in the absence of observers. That's kind of how I feel here. When the Falcons are playing to an empty house, how will anyone know for sure if these guys are for real or not? Look, Atlanta did not sign Lord Byron to sit around and compose odes to Joey, but perhaps if he did, it would go a little something like this: "Near this spot are deposited the remains of one who possessed arm strength without accuracy, pocket presence without protection, success without victory. This praise, which would be unmeaning flattery if inscribed over a Hall of Fame quarterback, is but a just tribute to the memory of Joey Harrington, a dog!"
White, on the other hand, will do just fine once the huddle laureate takes over, and should be a decent enough stat-hound in the interim as well.
Victor: While I admire your free verse, Hec, I think we're going to be seeing Joey play until he gets hurt. Minnesota's defense isn't exactly a pushover, and the Atlanta receiving corps leaves a lot to be desired. This could be the confluence of events Falcons fans have been waiting for: Bobby Petrino's offense clicking with the QB who had squandered his endless potential in Detroit and Miami. With Vick out of the picture, it obviously would have taken a period of adjustment to move the team away from a running QB mentality and toward one in which we'd be hard-pressed to see Harrington finish with 10 rushing yards in a game. Just because he has stunk before doesn't mean he will stink forever. This could be the perfect situation for him.
As far as Roddy White, I just don't believe. Not yet, at least.
Dwayne Bowe, rookie stud receiver, Chiefs
Bowe has emerged in Kansas City as the clear-cut No. 1 and favorite of Damon Huard in the absence of Eddie Kennison. He grabbed five balls for 71 yards and a touchdown last week, and now has two touchdowns in three games on the season. We know very little about Bowe, because this is his first year in the NFL, but he played college ball at LSU, and Victor happens to have a very good friend in New Orleans, Beau LeBlanc, who compiles a list of the top Louisiana football prospects each year. Only a select few sets of eyes get to see this list: scouts, coaches and animated predictors, among them. So we consulted him, because we aren't afraid to admit that Beau may know more about Bowe than either of us:
"Bowe came in the same year as Craig Davis and Amp Hill. I went to see one of their freshman-only practices and Hill was a freak, but he had a serious knee injury early on and never recovered. Davis and Bowe went on to be one of the best WR combos in LSU history, so it's almost eerily similar to the Kennison/Bowe situation in KC right now.
"Bowe was a very good recruit, but not a superstar (Rivals only ranked him as the No. 21 WR). He had a big frame and really filled out under our elite strength and conditioning coach, Tommy Moffitt (one of the best in football; look at the guys on our team right now -- monsters). Plus, Bowe had LASIK surgery prior to his senior season, which seemed to get rid of some of his drops."
By the way, this was the first time Beau was interviewed by a cartoon. It may not be his last.
So we know this: Bowe is good, he had an interesting college career, and he's the No. 1 in Kansas City. But is that enough to make him for real?
Hector: Curb your enthusiasm, Vic. Being No. 1 in Kansas City is a lot like being the best band in Juneau, Alaska. It's nice and all, but the cold tends to keep away those talent scouts with the record deals in the back pockets. Bowe is a nice little flex player to have on your roster, but before I anoint him the second coming of Otis Taylor, I'm going to have to see the rest of the offense get in gear. Larry Johnson has been pitiful. The offensive line has been just a notch above swiss cheese, and although Huard has avoided major injury thus far, the prospect of Brodie Croyle makes my blood curdle. Too many negatives to focus on, and while Bowe has most definitely been a positive, it's more a function of defenses letting him run wild so that LJ and Tony Gonzalez do not.
Victor: You know, Cleveland was pitiful in Week 1, and then they tore it up in Week 2. Granted, we have given KC an extra two weeks to show their pitifulness (help me out, Hec, is that a word?), but Bowe is just recently emerging, and if he gets open, he'll get the ball. I especially like how Beau pointed out that Bowe had LASIK. It's little tidbits like that you just don't get from the box scores.
I am firmly seated on the Dwayne Bowe bandwagon. I'm not going to make him my WR1, but I won't be afraid to turn down trades for other WRs if I'm stuck with him as a bye-week replacement.
Kurt Warner, master of the hurry-up offense, Cardinals
Let's go waaaaay back to 2006. Warner is the quarterback for the Arizona Cardinals. He starts the first four games of the season, leads the Cardinals to a 1-3 record, but still manages a respectable rating, and throws five touchdowns with games of 301, 231 and 256 yards. He was, of course, yanked for Leinart in Game 4, and the Cardinals continued being the Cardinals.
But let's consider this: Warner wasn't horrible in his starts with the Cardinals last season. When all was said and done, his rating was a respectable 89.3, he threw for six touchdowns, and in the five games he started, he managed two games with over 300 passing yards. This season, he seems to be a perfect fit for the hurry-up offense the Cardinals are experimenting with. He stepped in for an ineffective Leinart against one of the best defenses in all of football and almost led the Cardinals to an improbable upset.
Yet Leinart still starts.
Regardless, we'd be remiss if we didn't ask the question on everyone's mind: Is Leinart's hot ex-girlfriend still single -- no wait. Kurt Warner, are you for real?
Hector: I give a yes here. Warner is for real but he's like a slow-acting poison. Yes, your offense can tolerate him in small doses, even thrive. But a full diet of Warner and suddenly the field position constricts and the speed of the whole 11 starts to fizzle. Woozy receivers drop catchable balls and then the rage sets in. Sacks mount, fumbles get lost and the brain starts to feel like it is constantly concussed. I say Warner is the perfect backup quarterback, and can come into the second half of games and provide just the right change of pace to lead the Cardinals on a few scoring drives. That's phenomenal! But for a fantasy owner, it's fatal. Start him and you'll spend the whole game waiting to see if he plays. Sit him, and you'll seethe as he comes in and throws two touchdowns. My "kurt" reply? Stay away.
Victor: You took the words right out of my mouth. Sometimes it seems like Warner does that on purpose. Like he can read my mind. Get out of my head, Kurt Warner! I know you can hear me
Regardless of Warner being an instrument of the devil, though, I still think there's some Vader-esque good left in him. He was unfairly yanked last season for Leinart, and I'd go so far as to say that maybe a brand new stadium had something to do with the rash move. He's not the most mobile guy, but he understands the system, and as long as Leinart continues to struggle with the hurry-up offense, we may be seeing the former grocer a lot more.