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Volume 6, Issue 54 (Saturday, June 11th)

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Hi Folks,

Hope you're having a nice weekend. We're rolling here as our Aaron
Rudnicki has rounded up the news for tonight. Let's get right to it.



Site News:

A. Footballguys Magazines are in the HOUSE.
Order here The magazines arrived Friday and we're super pleased with how they
came out. I think you will be too. David is busy working on the packaging and if
you had already ordered a magazine by Friday 6/10, it should ship Tuesday 6/14
via USPS Priority Mail. We told you they'd ship on 6/21 and we're going to
beat that by a mile. Priority mail is normally 3 day delivery so if you've
already ordered, be on the lookout as you should have your magazine by
the end of the week. We only have about 900 copies left and those will
go fast. For orders received from here on out, they should ship about
3 business days after we receive the order while supplies last. Thanks
for supporting what we're doing there.

B. Last Chance to get into our Survivor I Contest
As you may know, we've thrown our guys a curveball for entering the
Survivor I Contest - you have to enter a winning haiku to get in. We're
on the final round and it's open until Sunday night. Details are here.



1. KC - WR Hakim Reaches Oral Agreement With Chiefs
2. MIA - WR Boston Eager To Silence Critics
3. MIA - Dolphins Players Taking Wait-And-See Approach With RB Williams
4. NE - TE Watson Looking Healthy As Comeback Continues
5. SD - TE Gates Working Hard Despite Contract Situation
6. Signing Top 10 Picks Could Be Complicated
7. KC - RB Holmes Still Wants Full Load
8. IDP: DET - Lions Sign CB McQuarters
9. IDP: NO - Saints Optimistic About Young Linebackers
10. IDP: NE - LB Flexibility On Display At Mini-Camp
11. IDP: MIA - Rookie CB Daniels Opens Camp As Starter


1. KC - WR Hakim Reaches Oral Agreement With Chiefs

Clipped from: Kansas City Star article by Elizabeth Merrill

After a quick visit with an old friend, Az-Zahir Hakim decided he
wanted to be a Chief.

The speedy receiver, who played for Dick Vermeil's 1999-2000 Super
Bowl champion team in St. Louis, has reached an oral agreement with
the Chiefs, a source close to the situation said Friday night. Hakim
is expected to be in Kansas City for next weekend's minicamp.

Hakim had other options - he took a trip to New Orleans earlier this
month - but the opportunity to play for Vermeil again attracted him to
Kansas City, the source said. Hakim caught 31 passes for 533 yards for
the Lions last season but was cut when they drafted Mike Williams.

Although he never evolved into the receiver Detroit wanted, he thrived
in Vermeil's offense in his days as a Ram and is expected to make a
quick transition with former teammate Trent Green at quarterback.

The Chiefs were bargain-shopping for a receiver to play opposite Eddie
Kennison after they cut Johnnie Morton last week. Hakim, who is 5 feet
10 and 185 pounds, is similar in stature to Samie Parker, the expected

When reached earlier Friday, Vermeil said he wanted what was best for Hakim.

"I would love to have him here," he said, "but I don't want to
overstate the case to him and talk him into doing something if he has
a better deal somewhere else. If (his plans) include the Kansas City
Chiefs, I'm excited. I know this young man really well. He's already
done a great job for me."

[[[[[[[[[[ OUR VIEW ]]]]]]]]]]

Hakim should be a great fit in Kansas City given the success he had
earlier in his career while playing for Vermeil. While he didn't make
nearly as big of an impact in Detroit as the Lions hoped, he's only 28
years old and will now be moving to a much more explosive offense. As
the article mentions, he'll likely compete with Samie Parker for the
starting spot opposite Eddie Kennison. Given his small size, however,
Hakim may be better suited to play the #3 WR role anyway where he can
catch shorter passes and take full advantage of his run after the
catch ability.


2. MIA - WR Boston Eager To Silence Critics

Clipped from: article by Harvey Fialkov, 6/11/05

Dolphins receiver David Boston was wearing a red jersey at minicamp
Friday, signifying hands off to the defense. Surprisingly, the
organization didn't apply a hands-off approach to Boston when it
re-signed the oft-troubled receiver after a nightmarish 2004 season,
which included two knee surgeries, an arrest and a four-game
suspension for violating the league drug policy.

"I want a fresh start," Boston said in his first interview since
re-upping with the Dolphins on May 18. "I want to come out here and
compete every day and help the team out any way I can, and that's
where my mind-set is.

"That's the most important thing going on right now in my head when I
come to the Dolphins' facility," added Boston, 26. "Also, I just had a
daughter [Alaia] five weeks ago and my life has changed a lot. I'm
just ready to go out there and get better."

Boston, who signed for a minimum of $540,000 plus incentives, seems to
be on a mission to silence critics who don't believe he'll return to
his Pro Bowl form of 2001, when he caught 98 passes for the Arizona

"It's kind of a tough situation for him coming back from injury, being
a Pro Bowler at one time," said Dolphins quarterback A.J. Feeley, who
like Boston came to the Dolphins in March of 2004 with high
expectations in questionable deals engineered by former General
Manager Rick Spielman.

"I think he wants to prove a lot to himself and prove a lot to the
fans and people that may have doubted him."

Boston chose to return to the Dolphins after coach Nick Saban cut him
March 7 due to a failed physical, not out of a sense of debt for a
wasted season but more for the promise of a wide-open passing attack
under new offensive coordinator Scott Linehan.

"It's a great system," Boston said. "Coach Linehan on the offensive
side of the ball has done a great job of installing the offense and
everybody seems to be picking up on it well."

A red jersey wouldn't have prevented Boston's season-ending injury
last summer when he tore his left patellar tendon during a non-contact
practice with the Houston Texans. Then came an October altercation
with an airline ticket agent in Burlington, Vt., where Boston was
recovering from his second knee surgery. The simple assault charge was
later reduced to a misdemeanor. On Dec. 12, Boston chose to serve a
four-game suspension rather than contest the NFL's charge that he
violated the league's drug policy for the third time by testing
positive for steroids.

"That deal is over with and I'm looking forward to this year," said
Boston, noticeably slimmer than years past. "I'm 26 years old and
still pretty young. But I've got to go out there, get better and work
hard every day. That's the only way I'll get back."

Despite all the baggage, Saban believes the risk is minimal. "We are
happy to have him because, to me, the guy could be a very positive
asset to us," Saban said recently. "The guy did have a couple of good
years ... and he did have his issues, which are problems. If somebody
told you, you could buy a stock that could only go up, but it couldn't
go down, even if it had just an average track record, why wouldn't you
do it?"

The coaching and medical staffs are bringing Boston along slowly as he
has developed shin splints. Still, Boston lined up and caught a few
passes Friday during downpours from Tropical Storm Arlene.

[[[[[[[[[[ OUR VIEW ]]]]]]]]]]

Boston clearly has a lot of baggage, but it would be hard for anyone
to dispute his talent. It's a little surprising that he's only 26
years old yet has already been through so much since entering the
league. While many fantasy owners have likely written him off after
being burned by him several times in the past few years, his youth and
the installation of a new "wide open passing attack" provide some
reason for optimism. If Boston can stay healthy and return to his past
Pro Bowl form, he would give the Dolphins a very impressive 3-WR set
with Chris Chambers and Marty Booker. Granted, those are pretty hefty
"ifs" but hey, it's June. Throw in pass-catching TE Randy McMichael
and #2 pick RB Ronnie Brown and maybe Ricky Williams, and it becomes
apparent that whoever winds up starting at QB for the Dolphins will
have a pretty strong group of weapons this year.


3. MIA - Dolphins Players Taking Wait-And-See Approach With RB Williams

Clipped from: article by Len Pasquarelli, 6/11/05

His once-and-future teammates aren't yet ready to roll out the red
carpet for Ricky Williams. But with the return of the erstwhile
running back to the NFL now taken for granted around here, neither are
Dolphins players sprinting to lock the front door to team's complex.

When he arrives here -- and it appears his return to South Florida, at
least as a resident, is imminent -- Williams figures to be greeted by
a collective wait-and-see attitude from the teammates he abruptly
abandoned last summer.

It isn't as if Dolphins veterans can't wait for Williams to come back.
That said, there are some who want to see how much, if any, he has
changed. Call it a natural curiosity. Call it, too, a situation over
which they have no control for now. Because no matter their personal
feelings, Williams is probably just about six weeks removed from being
back among them.

"This is America, man, and everybody gets a second chance," said
defensive end Jason Taylor between mini-camp practices on Saturday
afternoon. "You can't keep a guy nailed to a cross forever."

Queried as to whether he and other team leaders will accept Williams
back in the locker room, Taylor suggested that the welcome the running
back receives in training camp will essentially be determined by the
commitment he demonstrates to the game and the team. One of the most
vocal critics when Williams walked away from the Dolphins just before
the beginning of camp in 2004, Taylor was even less committal when
pressed on whether he would want him back if he was Miami's general

"The one thing that isn't going to change," Taylor said, "is that
Ricky has to show that he is committed. That's the case for everyone
in our locker room. If you're in that room, and wearing our uniform,
you better want to be a part of what we're trying to do here."

Those sentiments were echoed by several Miami players, most of whom
were around last season when the Dolphins struggled mightily after
Williams' departure. The two players who were critical of Williams
opted not to speak for attribution.

According to his representatives, Williams will soon re-enter the
NFL's substance abuse program, which means he will have to agree to
random testing. How the Dolphins will deal with the $8.6 million
judgment the team won against Williams, basically because he breached
his contract, is unknown.

Said linebacker Zach Thomas, summing things up succinctly: "When it
happens, and Ricky is actually here instead of people just talking
about it, then you deal with it."

The one thing that seems certain is that the Dolphins are about as
certain as anyone can be, at least in matters regarding Williams, that
he is coming back after a year's hiatus. On Friday, the first day of
mini-camp, quarterback Gus Frerotte referred to having an offense
designed in part to take advantage of the matchups Williams can

[[[[[[[[[[ OUR VIEW ]]]]]]]]]]

Ricky Williams leaving the team last year wasn't the only reason the
Dolphins suffered their worst season in a long time, but it certainly
did appear to be one of the catalysts. Not only does he have to go
through a lot of steps to get back in the league's good graces, but he
also has a lot of ground to make up with his former teammates, many of
whom felt betrayed and blasted him in the press. It will be
interesting to see how this all plays out now that it appears he is
moving back to Florida and taking more steps towards returning.


4. NE - TE Watson Looking Healthy As Comeback Continues

Clipped from: article by Michael Parente, 6/11/05

He's making his cuts, he's running his routes efficiently and he's
showcasing the soft hands that made him a star in college.

Ben Watson looks like he's completely recovered from the knee injury
that forced him to miss his entire rookie season, but the New England
Patriots' second-year tight end insisted Friday that he's still a long
way from being ready to play.

"I probably feel a little more comfortable now mentally because it's
been a year and I had a chance to learn a few things," Watson said
after the team's morning practice at mini-camp, "but I'm still not
where I need to be in terms of being prepared to play and being
comfortable with the offense."

Watson is back on the field practicing for the first time since last
September. The 6-foot-3, 253-pound tight end spent the 2004 season on
injured reserve after hurting the anterior cruciate ligament in his
right knee during Week 1 against Indianapolis. He had surgery in
September and spent the entire year rehabilitating.

He's participated in the first two practices at mini-camp and doesn't
appear to have any lingering affects from the injury, but Patriots
head coach Bill Belichick said it's too early to evaluate him because
he hasn't absorbed enough contact yet.

"I think a lot of players that have come off injuries can go out there
and run around, but football is more than that," Belichick said.
"Until you really play the full game of football, and not just the
running around part, but the contact and pushing, that is really when
the real test will come."

After a tough rookie year, Watson is just glad to be back on the
field. Before the injury, the Patriots' first-round draft pick sat out
the first 18 days of training camp over a contract dispute. Upon
reaching a six-year deal worth $13.5 million, Watson reported to camp
and learned the system quickly.

He caught a pair of passes in the season opener and appeared to be
headed in the right direction until he hurt his knee. At first, the
injury wasn't thought to be serious, but the Patriots placed him on
injured reserve after Week 2. "It was very difficult because I was
getting used to being with the guys and playing football," Watson
said. "How would it be if you couldn't report anymore? That's your
job. That's what you strive to do, so it hurt me not being able to do

The fact that it was the first serious injury of his career made it
more difficult to withstand. Watson was so disappointed he couldn't
bear to watch his teammates play on Sundays. "The first half of the
season I didn't watch the games. It was hard," he said. "It was the
first time I've really had to sit out of a season."

The next step is to relearn the offense and get back on the same page
with everyone else. It's a long process, but he has plenty of time.
Training camp doesn't start until the end of next month, and he's
already a step ahead of where he was last year by being in mini-camp,
as opposed to holding out. He's happy with the results, but he's
cautiously optimistic.

"I've still got work to do," Watson said, "but I'm blessed to be out
here and playing football again. I feel pretty comfortable. Physically
and mentally, like anyone else who's young, I have a long way to go to
be full speed, but I'm working to get there."

[[[[[[[[[[ OUR VIEW ]]]]]]]]]]

Watson is an intriguing fantasy player in 2005. The Patriots surprised
a few people by taking him in the 1st round last year after having
recently spent a 1st round pick on Daniel Graham. He has an
unbelievable combination of size and speed that should make him a
valuable weapon in the Patriots passing game. Graham became very
valuable as a blocker last year, so Watson could emerge as the primary
pass catching TE when the Pats use a 2-TE formation. He's likely too
big for most safeties to handle and too fast for most linebackers. He
was also one of the smartest players in last year's draft class, so he
shouldn't have much trouble picking up all the intricacies of the
Patriots offensive system.


5. SD - TE Gates Working Hard Despite Contract Situation

Clipped from: article by Clark Judge, 6/11/05

The San Diego Chargers are back at work this weekend, and it's not
star quarterback Drew Brees or All-Pro running back LaDainian
Tomlinson who draws your attention. It's Pro Bowl tight end Antonio
Gates, and for the most basic of reasons.

He's here. Simple as that. The guy is the team's only unsigned
veteran, yet instead of pulling a Terrell Owens or Javon Walker, he's
not only visible -- he's in uniform, participating in every drill and
catching everything thrown in his direction.

Owens and Walker have contracts, but each stayed away from minicamps.
Gates, meanwhile, is at this weekend's three-day camp and also
attended last month's rookie orientation, which included a full-squad

"I want to get better as a player," he said after Friday morning's
practice. "There are so many things I need to learn. Obviously,
different personalities have different ideas about the way they should
go about things, but here's what I ask: Would I get better by sitting
out? I don't think so. I understand this is a business, but when the
time is right things will happen for me."

Gates doesn't know when that will be. Neither do the Chargers. He
hasn't signed a one-year tender of $380,000 because he wants a
long-term contract that would make him megabucks. And, frankly, the
club wants that deal almost as badly as Gates.

But talks have been going on since the middle of last season, with no
settlement in sight. With the team opening training camp in less than
two months you have to wonder: What happens to him if no deal is
reached by then?

"That remains to be seen," said Gates. "I just know I'm in here every
day doing what I can do." And that's what you can't help but notice.

But here's the problem: If he doesn't sign the team's tender by July
29, the opening day for veterans, he can't step onto the field -- even
if he wants to. League rules prohibit it. So he becomes a holdout. And
if he does sign, he risks playing for a relatively small sum of money
when there are millions out there waiting to be collected.

Optimists believe a settlement will be reached because the Chargers
have shown a willingness lately to throw around money to keep their
playmakers. I cite their signings of Tomlinson, defensive tackle Jamal
Williams, wide receiver Keenan McCardell and linebacker Steve Foley as
examples. I also mention their payment of $8 million to keep Brees off
the free-agent market for another season.

But then you can't help but notice that talks have been going on for
months, with little progress, and wonder what that means for the

"We're working on negotiations," said general manager A.J. Smith.
"It's business, but we're working our way through the process. I'm
optimistic that by the first day of training camp we'll have a deal."

[[[[[[[[[[ OUR VIEW ]]]]]]]]]]

It is great to see a young player like Gates continually trying to get
better, even after the amazing season he just had in his first as a
starter. With players like Terrell Owens and Javon Walker dominating
headlines with their holdouts, positive stories like this sometimes
get lost in the shuffle. Hopefully, a long-term deal can be reached
before training camp that both sides are happy with. Player holdouts
are often justified as just the "business" of the NFL. I fully
understand players wanting to make all the money they can. Any
employee wants that. I just have to wonder that maybe a better way to
a new big contract might be the route Gates seems to be taking and
showing the team what a great attitude he has to go along with the
production on the field.


6. Signing Top 10 Picks Could Be Complicated

Clipped from: article by Len Pasquarelli

When it comes to signing first-round draft choices, especially those
among the top 10, it seems every summer is a long, hot one.

So given the esoteric yet significant quirk in the collective
bargaining agreement that figures to play some role in 2005
negotiations, will this summer be even longer and hotter than most? Is
the annual negotiating mating dance going to be reduced to a waiting
stance, as the parties try to determine who will blink first?

There seems to be no consensus yet, according to a casual survey from
both sides of the bargaining table, about the potential effect on an
already ponderous process of continuing without a CBA extension.

Because the NFL and the Players Association have yet to agree to the
long-overdue extension, which most pundits felt would have been
accomplished last year, teams can currently prorate signing bonuses
over just five years. That represents a severely brief amortization
period compared to the recent past, when the impact of signing bonuses
could be stretched over six or seven seasons, a mechanism that enabled
agents to maximize up-front money and allowed teams to limit the cap
charges in the early years of a long-term deal.

Under the current terms, bonuses can be prorated for only three years
beyond the last capped season of the CBA. That means, with 2006 as the
last capped season, teams can use only 2005-09 for amortization
purposes. That results in the conundrum of trying to factor in the
normal increases that every draft class anticipates (especially the
players at the top of the lottery) and trying to squeeze them into a
shorter time frame.

The fit, to be sure, will be a tight one. And nerves will be taut.

"It's like you had a gallon of water to start off with, and a gallon
container in which to pour it," said veteran agent Eugene Parker, who
represents Chicago Bears tailback Cedric Benson, the fourth overall
player selected. "No problem there, right? But now, you add a few
ounces of water and also reduce the size of the container by a few
ounces. There's no way to make it fit."

Regarded as one of the most creative agents around, and an adept
negotiator who has created innovative contract structures to address
problems in the past, Parker likely will divine a way to make it work
this time around as well. So will other agents, and team negotiators,
because we're essentially talking about very bright men here, whose
business is cleverly crunching digits and solving problems.

Still, it won't be easy, and much of the negotiating time figures to
be spent more on the formula than on the finances.

"I think what you're going to see are contracts where you determine
the money first and then work backwards to get the structure that is
required to make the deal work," Sportstars agent Brian Mackler said.
"There are going to be a lot of gimmick-type things this year, because
both sides are going to need them."

[[[[[[[[[[ OUR VIEW ]]]]]]]]]]

Interesting article from ESPN Insider Len Pasquarelli about the impact
that the NFL's collective bargaining agreement (or lack thereof) will
have on contract negotiations this year. Seems like there may be more
players than usual holding out late into training camp this year.
Additionally, the prorating of signing bonuses over 5 years instead of
6 or 7 could lead to some salary cap problems for teams who don't have
much wiggle room.


7. KC - RB Holmes Still Wants Full Load

Clipped from: article by Bob Gretz, 6/10/05

Ideally, the Chiefs would like to see some of the offensive load taken
off the shoulders of Priest Holmes in 2005.

He'll be 32 years old in October and he missed half of last season
with a knee injury. Pro football history reveals very few running
backs have much of a career beyond the age of 30, especially one that
has had the ball in his hands as many times as Holmes over the last
four seasons. The wear and tear eventually reduces their

Plus, with an opportunity to play last year, Larry Johnson showed he
has the skills to be productive in the league, as both a runner and
receiver. With Derrick Blaylock gone in free agency, L.J. is the
unquestioned backup and destined for more activity.

There's only one problem: Priest Holmes isn't buying. Not in any
fashion. He wants no part of a lightened load. His age and recent
injuries (hip and knee) are meaningless pieces of the puzzle right now
in his view.

Holmes feels good and he wants the ball. He wants it a lot. "I don't
think I'll have fewer opportunities," Holmes said. "I like the idea of
getting Larry more involved in the offense. I really like the idea of
the two of us in the backfield together some of the time. But I don't
really see me getting fewer chances. Why would that happen?"

Well Priest, maybe because the Chiefs would like to see if they could
extend your playing career maybe another year or two, rather than
continue to pile up the runs and catches the way they have since you
joined the team in 2001.

"I just don't see that as a problem in this offense," said Holmes. "We
have a lot of weapons, a lot of ways to move the ball and score
points. There have been plenty of opportunities for all of us in this
offense and I don't see why that's going to change." The fact is that
Priest Holmes isn't giving an inch and he believes that attitude will
help make himself, the Chiefs and Larry Johnson better.

"I can pull some things out of Larry," said Holmes. "He's going to be
very successful. We all saw that with the way he ran last year. If I
can challenge him and show him that it's not going to be easy, that
I'm going to make every play, I'm going to take advantage of every
play when I'm out there, that's going to force him to take advantage
of every play when he's out there."

Over the last three years when the Chiefs offense has been at the top
of the league in yards and points produced, Holmes has been on top of
that production. In an average game during the 2002-04 seasons, he
averaged 41 percent of the touches, 37 percent of the yards and 50
percent of the touchdowns. He has been the offensive engine and he
does not feel like there's any reason that can't continue.

"You don't really know what the human body can do, until you ask it to
do something," said Holmes. "It's like you don't know if you can carry
the ball 30 times in a game, but then you get a chance and you find
out you can do it."

Count Holmes as one who doesn't buy into the theory that running backs
have only a certain number of carries in them before it becomes a war
of attrition on their bodies. "No, I don't believe that, don't believe
that at all," Holmes said emphatically. "Absolutely not."

"The wear and tear is going to be there," said Holmes. "That's what
goes with the game of football. Throughout my career I've always
bounced back from injuries. I don't know why it would be any different
now. I feel great, I'm ready and I want the ball."

[[[[[[[[[[ OUR VIEW ]]]]]]]]]]

For owners considering drafting Holmes very early on draft day, this
is exactly what you want to hear. Some have dropped Holmes on their
draft lists under the assumption that the Chiefs will go to more of a
running back by committee approach this year, but it doesn't look like
Holmes is going to give up too many carries without a fight. When
healthy, he seems almost a lock to be one of the top 2 or 3 RBs in the
league. The question remains how durable a 32 year old RB can be. If
the performance by Curtis Martin last year is any indicator, Holmes
probably shouldn't go any later than the #4 or #5 RB off the board on
draft day.


8. IDP: DET - Lions Sign CB McQuarters

Clipped from: AP article posted at, 6/11/05

The Detroit Lions have agreed to terms on a one-year deal with former
Chicago Bears defensive back R.W. McQuarters.

The Bears released McQuarters on May 23. He had signed a $21 million
contract extension with the team in January 2002 that ran through

The Lions had shown interest in McQuarters and former New England Pro
Bowl cornerback Ty Law. But Law is recovering from a broken foot and
Lions President Matt Millen said he didn't want to lose McQuarters
while waiting on Law's rehabilitation.

"I love Ty Law and I want to think I would still consider him, but
right now, with where we're at, I wanted to make sure I'm getting
something," Millen told the Detroit Free Press late Friday.

In five seasons in Chicago, McQuarters had 295 tackles and nine
interceptions. Last season, he showed his versatility when he switched
from cornerback to safety and returned punts.

He was acquired by the Bears in a 2000 trade with the San Francisco
49ers, who took him in the first round of the 1998 draft. He played
his first two seasons under now Lions coach Steve Mariucci.

The addition of the 28-year-old adds more experience to a defensive
secondary that has been upgraded in recent years by free-agent
acquisition and draft picks.

"I'm looking for him to compete in a lot of spots," Millen said. "He's
a younger guy but he's been around and he knows the division."

[[[[[[[[[[ OUR VIEW ]]]]]]]]]]

Solid signing by the Lions, as McQuarters can provide depth at the CB
position and also provide some insurance for Terrence Holt at free
safety. He'll likely fit in well as the nickel back right away and can
also contribute as a returner on special teams. While it would have
been great to add Ty Law, his recovery process is taking awhile. He
also would have been much more expensive and the Lions have already
spent a lot of money upgrading their secondary in the past few years
with the additions of Dre Bly, Fernando Bryant, and Kenoy Kennedy.


9. IDP: NO - Saints Optimistic About Young Linebackers

Clipped from: Times-Picayune article by Mike Triplett, 6/11/05

After ranking last in total defense and 30th against the run last
year, the Saints left their linebacking corps pretty much intact. The
major changes, the team hopes, started in motion last December.

Over the final four games of last season, the Saints featured the trio
of James Allen, Courtney Watson and Colby Bockwoldt -- a third-year
player and two rookies. The results were hard to ignore. The Saints
went 4-0 over that stretch, allowing 15.3 points and 285 yards per

This season, for the first time since Coach Jim Haslett took over in
2000, the Saints are hoping to start with the same three linebackers
who finished the season before.

"I'm very optimistic about our season," defensive coordinator Rick
Venturi said. "For the first time, we're going to start with some kids
that have already had some impact. Nobody wants to give them a lot of
credit, that's fine. But they've already had some impact here, they're
sharp guys, they really understand the system. And their growth is all
going to go forward. They're still young; that's the amazing thing."

The Saints didn't exactly ignore the linebacker position this
offseason. They targeted top free agents such as Ian Gold, Antonio
Pierce and Chad Brown, all of whom signed elsewhere. And they gave
strong consideration to Georgia linebacker Thomas Davis in the first
round of the draft before selecting offensive tackle Jammal Brown.

That draft-day decision was a head-scratcher for many observers, but
to hear the Saints' coaches talk about what they have, offensive
tackle may indeed have been a more glaring need than linebacker.

"I think they're overlooking that our season, in some ways started
with a month to go," Venturi said. "We made some key changes in the
lineup, key changes structurally. They paid off at that point. So
there is some picking up where we left off."

Allen started the first five games at strongside linebacker before
Sedrick Hodge returned from a four-game suspension. Then Allen
returned to the starting lineup in week 12 after a strong performance
at Atlanta in week 11, making eight tackles and forcing and recovering
a fumble. Allen recovered another fumble at Dallas in week 13 and
forced a game-saving fumble at Tampa Bay in week 14.

"He made big plays," Haslett said. "Our defense, categorically, we
weren't very good. But we ended up leading the league in forced
fumbles (20). If we can continue to do that and get more interceptions
on the back end, we'll be a much better team. And I thought James
really kind of started that trend."

Watson also started the first four games last season at middle
linebacker as a second-round draft pick out of Notre Dame. But he lost
his job to veteran Orlando Ruff before starting again in weeks 14, 15
and 16. Watson had 33 tackles and a sack in the last four games of the

Watson and Haslett used the same phrase, "night and day," to describe
Watson's progress from a year ago to now. As the middle linebacker, he
is responsible for calling out plays and adjustments to his teammates.
"The calmness and the way he's calling plays, the way he's attacking
the line of scrimmage, and he's smart," Haslett said. "I think he'll
be much better than he was last year."

Bockwoldt was the "surprise of the group," Haslett said. A
seventh-round draft pick from BYU, he replaced veteran Derrick Rodgers
and started the final seven games at weakside linebacker. He had 47
tackles in that span, including 11 in his first start against Denver.

The Saints did add Alfred Fincher out of Connecticut in the third
round of the draft. He has been impressive in the team's coaching
sessions and will push Watson at middle linebacker.

The Saints released Ruff this month. Rodgers, an eight-year veteran
set to receive $1.1 million this year, will need to fight for a roster
spot, likely battling third-year backup Cie Grant.

[[[[[[[[[[ OUR VIEW ]]]]]]]]]]

This article provides an interesting perspective on the Saints LBs.
Many thought this was a definite weak spot heading into the draft, but
they decided to upgrade elsewhere and apparently feel pretty
comfortable with the young trio after their strong play to finish the
2004 season. Courtney Watson appears to have the edge on rookie LB
Alfred Fincher for the time being and should be able to hold him off
for at least the 2005 season. Meanwhile, Bockwoldt appears to have a
solid grasp on the starting WLB spot and could be a very nice sleeper
pick in IDP leagues.


10. IDP: NE - LB Flexibility On Display At Mini-Camp

Clipped from: article by Paul Perillo, 6/10/05

Head Coach Bill Belichick stresses the need for versatility on his
roster and he continues to work to develop it. Friday's morning
practice featured some more shuffling with the linebacker position in
particular displaying a great deal of mixing and matching.

Day 2 of mini-camp featured a lot more of what took place on the
practice fields at Gillette Stadium on Thursday with plenty of bodies
shuffling in and out and from one position to another. Perhaps no area
saw more mixing and matching than the linebackers, where labels like
inside and outside appear to be endangered species around Foxborough.

During Friday's morning workout, the defense worked against Pepper
Johnson's "Show Team" for roughly an hour. The Show Team, featuring
veterans Larry Izzo at quarterback and Don Davis as his lead back, ran
plays from a variety of formations as the defense lined up almost
exclusively in its base 3-4.

While the three up front - Ty Warren, Vince Wilfork and Jarvis Green
(in Richard Seymour's absence) - and the four members of the secondary
- Randall Gay, Asante Samuel, Rodney Harrison and Eugene Wilson -
remained in their "normal" spots, the four linebackers were in
constant flux.

The series opened with Chad Brown and Matt Chatham inside and Tully
Banta-Cain and Rosevelt Colvin outside. But both Brown and Chatham
also took reps on the outside as Monty Beisel and Mike Vrabel rotated
inside. Colvin and McGinest were the only two who seemed to stick to
the outside while Beisel was the lone inside player.

"We're working players in a number of different positions - inside,
outside linebackers, guards, tackles, centers, defensive ends,
defensive tackles, corners, safeties, x, z [receivers], tight ends,"
Belichick said. "There are a lot of multiple crossover trainings going
on, so that gives us more flexibility. In our system, we can play our
players in different spots, but also it builds your depth for
situations where you have to cover multiple spots with only a few

Brown seems to be the guy with the most on his plate. The 13-year
veteran is not only trying to learn a new system, and by most accounts
a complicated one at that, but also seems to be getting groomed to
play as many as three different spots.

"I've been around a lot of different systems during my career and I've
pretty much played all of the linebacker spots with the exception of
the true middle linebacker position," Brown said. "At times I still
feel like a rookie as I'm trying to pick everything up. After practice
the rookies usually stay with the coaches and I've found myself
staying with them."

While Belichick's explanation of trying to build depth and preparing
for the unexpected down the road is true, the movement among the
linebackers in particular is intriguing. With the exception of the
middle linebacker spot, which thus far has been manned by Beisel with
Ted Johnson still on the sidelines, presumably due to an unspecified
injury, the other three positions appear to be interchangeable.

The possibilities come September are endless. Belichick could be
envisioning a unit with traditional outside guys McGinest, Vrabel and
Colvin all on the field together. In such a lineup, Vrabel could be
lined up inside next to Johnson but the defense would be hard-pressed
to predict what assignments everyone would have. Any of the three
could be asked to rush the passer, drop in coverage or provide support
against the run. It's the kind of unpredictability that has made New
England a very difficult team to prepare for in the recent past.

[[[[[[[[[[ OUR VIEW ]]]]]]]]]]

Practicing things like this in the summertime can pay off down the
road as the Patriots found out last year when Troy Brown was asked to
line up as a cornerback. The Patriots have a very deep linebacking
group now and that should give the team some flexibility as they try
to cope with the potential loss of their leader Tedy Bruschi. Monty
Beisel still seems like the most likely candidate to replace Bruschi,
but Chad Brown also seems like he'll get a serious look there as well.


11. IDP: MIA - Rookie CB Daniels Opens Camp As Starter

Clipped from: article by Alex Marvez, 6/11/05

Rookie cornerback Travis Daniels worked with the first-team defense
Friday in the first full-squad Dolphins minicamp practice made open to
the public this offseason.

Although coach Nick Saban said the Dolphins are far from finalizing
their starting lineups, the fact Daniels received the nod ahead of
veterans Reggie Howard and Mario Edwards indicates he has a legitimate
shot at becoming the replacement for the departed Patrick Surtain
(Kansas City) at left cornerback.

"I don't believe that just because I'm running with the `ones' is how
it's going to end up," said Daniels a former standout at South Broward
High. "But it is what it is right now so I'm going to keep on playing
and battling with the guys. Hopefully when it's time for the first
regular season game, I'll be the guy out there."

The fact Daniels, a fourth-round draft pick, played under Saban and
some other Dolphins defensive coaches at Louisiana State University
appears to have given him an edge over his teammates who have to learn
a new system. Daniels said his fellow defensive backs sometimes ask
for help in learning the scheme, which he hopes will reduce the amount
of rookie hazing he receives.

"Maybe (the veterans) won't make me take them out to lunch and stuff
like that because the more things they do to me like that, I'll be
like, `For three days, I'm not telling you anything,''' a laughing
Daniels said.

[[[[[[[[[[ OUR VIEW ]]]]]]]]]]

Daniels is a solid cornerback who is obviously familiar with Saban's
defense having played for him at LSU. Some scouts also think Daniels
could have been a consideration for the Dolphins at free safety, but
given the earlier injury to Will Poole, it looks like the Dolphins
will definitely be keeping him at CB. If he's able to hold onto the
starting job when the season begins, one has to expect that he'd be
targeted pretty frequently by opposing QBs, and he could provide some
nice value as a fantasy DB this year.


That'll do it for today, Folks. Have a great Sunday and we'll see you
tomorrow with the update.


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