- Merril Hoge, NFL
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I spend all week watching game film, hours and hours of footage. And I have a passion for fantasy football. So it was only natural that I took the next step and put pen to paper, so to speak, and jotted down my fantasy thoughts as I went along. I'll continue to do so each week during the NFL season. Enjoy!
David Garrard versus Tom Brady: Is there really a comparison? Yes, there is, and a
very good one! As I wrapped up studying the Pats' offense on tape, I
plugged in the Jags' offense, and during that study it was like I was
watching Brady. Here's what I mean:
As I study Brady and Garrard,
there are two things that both are doing at a very high level: decision-making and accuracy. I know Garrard does not have the numbers that Brady has, but quite honestly he does not have the
great supporting cast around him, either. In this league, if you can be accurate and make good decisions on a consistent basis, you have about an 80 percent chance of
being very successful. And in those two categories, Garrard is just as good as Brady is.
• There is one guy, aside from Brady, who is the most important player on the Patriots: Wes Welker. You can shut Randy Moss down with two guys, but Welker is a completely different story. Teams have tried, like the Eagles did last week, but Welker kept the Patriots' offense going. People keep talking about this blueprint for beating the Patriots. Well, every blueprint that is worth anything has a foundation, and the foundation for beating the Patriots is to neutralize Welker. That has not happened, and no one has been all that close to being able to do it.
• One last piece of tape evidence that Randy Moss still has some dog in him and always will ... several times during the Eagles game, Moss quit on plays, hurting his team. My good friend Ron Jaworski and I showed several plays featuring Randy on our "Matchup" show during Moss' second season in the league. We were the first ones to expose him for who he really is. There was great public debate, even though we had the tape to prove it. People were making excuses for him because they said he was tired at times. Guess what? So is everyone else who plays this game. In fact, it was some three years later, when Randy finally admitted to it, that people started to talk about it and were appalled by it. Well, that is what makes my job so special, and I would not want to do TV any other way. Watching tape is the only way to speak the truth and give correct analysis on teams and players. That is why Jaws and I spend all week going over the tape to bring fans the true answers to the questions that each Sunday leaves us with about teams and players, good and bad.
• Has there ever been a tougher football player than Warrick Dunn? Pound for
pound, maybe never. It's too bad that Atlanta has had so many on- and off-
the-field troubles, because the nation is missing out on watching a
player who has defied all the odds and critics this game has to offer -- too small, can't handle the pounding, won't last, can't run between the tackles, will have to play on third downs only, will never be a 25-carry back. Well, I just finished
watching Atlanta's offense, and Dunn still has great feet, is tough as
nails and can still run. His football instincts are some of the best
there are, and it's a joy to watch him on tape.
• There is no question Vince Young is struggling and is very
limited as a passer, but he is getting no help from his backs or
offensive line. LenDale White has been the most disappointing. At times as I
watch him, he is slow to the hole and goes down too easy. I know teams
have figured how to defend this offense, and their primary target is the
running game, but there is no reason for White not to attack the line of scrimmage hard on every play. The offensive line has not been as dominant, either, and that is also hurting the offense. They must start controlling the
line of scrimmage if the Titans want to get back on track, because if
they keep having to throw the football like they have the past three weeks,
they may not win another game this season.
• As I have studied the Colts' offense the past couple of weeks, there is
no question they are not the same without Marvin Harrison. But last
week against the Falcons, you could see that they are starting to find a
rhythm. The Colts used to just line up Harrison on the right, Reggie Wayne on
the left and move Dallas Clark from one side to the other. Now,
with Harrison out, they move everybody around. They use motion, and the reason for
that is to create matchups. Peyton Manning has had to work hard to adjust to
these things, but that's why he is so great. He makes these changes faster
than anyone, other than Tom Brady. This offense will really start to
• The Chiefs' offense loses Larry Johnson and Priest Holmes and in steps
Kolby Smith? Well, after studying him, here is what I like and what gives
him promise. He has very good lateral movement, which allows him to get
to holes. When a hole closes, he is a hard runner and will break tackles.
He had more than 25 carries, and the key to being a good back in this league
is if you can follow up a 25-carry day with another 25-carry day and still
produce. I will be watching him closely this week to gauge that. One
thing that he must work on is catching the ball. He dropped too many easy
ones, and in this offense -- and for fantasy -- this could be a big bonus. One
last thing: Because he moves so well laterally, sometimes he makes too many
moves, and last week he missed a few runs in which he could have gotten more
yardage. With experience, he should improve.
• A.J. Feeley made some throws under pressure that only very experienced
quarterbacks make. His decision-making at the end overshadowed that, but I was
very impressed with his toughness and the accuracy with which he threw the ball. If
he starts this week, those things will be key for him against the
Seahawks, because they have become an aggressive blitzing defense.
• Vikings D versus Lions O. Just when you think Detroit will get back on
track, they freeze for just a moment. I know the Vikings' defense has not been
very good this year, but some things have changed in the past couple of weeks
that would concern me if I owned Jon Kitna. The Vikings are blitzing more
and they do a very good job of pressuring the offensive line. They make the offensive lines they play really work at trying
to pick up the right guy. This has been a big problem for Detroit's O-line
all year, and I do not see it getting better this week for them or Kitna.
• What to do about Eli Manning? After I watched Sunday's game versus Minnesota on tape, he was not the only
one to blame, which is almost always the case. He had running backs just plain
missing blocking assignments; they were more interested in running routes,
so Eli was running for his life because of those mental blocks. The O-
line physically got whipped, and that is the biggest shame in football; finally, wide receivers dropped passes and did not run hard on their routes at times. These are not excuses
for Eli, just the facts that showed up while watching tape.
For Eli, I was
very concerned after studying this tape, because he was misreading some
very elementary coverages. He misread blitzes and made throws that
resulted in interceptions. He looked very confused, and once he threw a couple bad
picks, you could see the confidence leave his body. Eli has nowhere to
go but up, when you are the son of Archie Manning, the little
brother of Peyton and the first player taken in your draft ... and
you play in New York, where you must play like a champion and win championships to
be considered great.
Eli is a good quarterback, he is not great, and his Giants teammates
need to help him. When they were playing well, one
thing that was crystal clear is that they ran the ball and then threw it using play action. As I study them now, I very seldom see that, so
the coaching staff should shoulder some of this blame, as well. If the Giants can't run the ball and they keep using just the drop-back game to
pass, they will go into a free fall, the thing all Giants fans fear.
Merril Hoge is an analyst for a wide variety of NFL programs on television and ESPN Radio. Check him out Sunday on "NFL Matchup" at 8:30 a.m. ET on ESPN and on "ESPNEWS Fantasy Insider" with Matthew Berry from 11 a.m. to noon on ESPNEWS. He also will be on "NFL Live" on ESPN at various times throughout the weekend.