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Volume 6, Issue 59 (Thursday, June 16th)

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Hi Folks,

Hope you're ready for a big Father's Day weekend. And we've got the perfect gifts for you guys who have wives and kids who don't know what to get you - A subscription to Footballguys.com or a brand new Footballguys Strategy Guide Magazine. What Dad wouldn't want that? Seriously, tell her you'll take care of it, spring for the goods and your family can know they've given you something you really want and not another goofy tie.
Order info at www.footballguys.com

Don't worry, we'll keep cranking out the Football News here. As you can see below, we've updated the site with a boat load of new Spotlight and Face Off articles where we dig deep on a player to take you way beyond the normal analysis you'll find on other sites. It's what makes us what we are. And thanks to our Maurile Tremblay for rounding up these NFL stories tonight. Let's go.

J


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B. Tatum Bell Face Off by David Yudkin and David Shick
C. Ronnie Brown Face Off by Chris Smith and Marc Levin
D. Tyrone Calico Face Off by Chris Smith and Andy Hicks
E. Laveranues Coles Face Off by Marc Levin and Aaron Rudnicki
F. Brett Favre Face Off by Mark Wimer and Mike Herman
G. Torry Holt Face Off by Colin Dowling and Cathy Fazio
H. Amani Toomer Face Off by Mark Wimer and Mike Brown
I. Nate Burleson Spotlight by Jason Wood, David Yudkin and Message Board Gurus
J. Kerry Collins Spotlight by Jason Wood, Mike Anderson and Message Board Gurus
K. Rudi Johnson Spotlight by Jason Wood, Mark Wimer and Message Board Gurus
L. Julius Jones Spotlight by Jason Wood, Mike Brown and Message Board Gurus
M. Kevin Jones Spotlight by Jason Wood, David Yudkin and Message Board Gurus
N. Derrick Mason Spotlight by Jason Wood, Colin Dowling and Message Board Gurus
O. Jeremy Shockey Spotlight by Jason Wood, Chase Stuart and Message Board Gurus


INSIDE THIS ISSUE

1. TB - WR M. Clayton Ready To Go
2. DET - WR M. Williams' Head Swimming
3. MIN - RB Bennett Clocked 9.91 Seconds In 100-Meter
4. MIA - Going Into Camp Without A Solid QB
5. MIA - RB R. Williams Reinstated In Substance-Abuse Program
6. MIA - Roles Of RB Brown, RB Williams Key To Season
7. NYJ - QB Pennington Begins Throwing
8. BUF - RB Henry Suitors Lining Up
9. DAL - TE Witten Poised To Cash In
10. CIN - WR Warrick Confident About His Recovery
11. HOU - Can WR Gaffney Take Pressure Off WR A. Johnson?
12. KC - PK Tynes Prepares For Second Year

1. TB - WR M. Clayton Ready To Go

Clipped from: Buccaneers.com article dated 6/16/05

Michael Clayton is the kid who showed up on the playground just as the rest of the neighborhood was getting called home for dinner.

Clayton, the intensely motivated second-year Tampa Bay Buccaneer receiver, has yet to practice fully this year due to a minor arthroscopic knee procedure in January. Determined to prove that his breakout rookie season was just a starting point, Clayton is almost ready to start working without limitations.

Unfortunately for him, the Buccaneers are about to start a month-long vacation.

On Wednesday, after participating in a limited fashion in Tampa Bay's organized team activity day, Clayton spoke about his eagerness to get back into the flow of the Buccaneers' offense. He is seriously champing at the bit, but the Buccaneers will soon be shutting operations down for five weeks, as soon as they complete next week's mini-camp.

"I'm just looking forward to getting on the field," said Clayton. "I'm a player who can't really sit still. To be back out here with the guys really brings your spirit up. When you put the pads on, it's even better, because that's what we live and die for."

Last fall, Clayton put together one of the best rookie seasons by a wide receiver in NFL history, catching 80 passes for 1,193 yards and seven touchdowns. He seemed impossibly prepared for everything that came his way in 2004; in retrospect, the Bucs' repeated praise of Clayton's work last spring and summer was prophetic.

Not surprisingly, Clayton has displayed that same dedication this offseason, working hard in the film room even when his knee rehab has kept him out of the full-speed workouts. He has remained in the thick of the Bucs' offseason work even if he hasn't been in every huddle on the field.

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

Clayton will play a major role in the Bucs' offense this year, as he is one of the young players the will look to build the offense around. Clayton made the most of his opportunities as a rookie, finishing 13th among WRs in total fantasy points but just 20th in targets. He will be looked to as the top WR on the team from the outset in 2005, and does have the potential to improve on last year's numbers.


2. DET - WR M.Williams' Head Swimming

Clipped from: Detroit Free Press article Curt Sylvester, 6/15/05

After three weeks of minicamps, Mike Williams is getting the hang of it.

"The first minicamp I was probably in that playbook maybe 15 minutes," Williams said. "The second minicamp I was in that book maybe 20 or 30 minutes. The (last) minicamp, an hour or an hour and 10 or 15 minutes. And you're still messing up."

Welcome to the NFL, rookie.

Williams, the Lions' first pick in the draft, is learning just what's involved in playing any of four wide receiver positions in the NFL. And there's a whole lot more involved than meets the eye.

Although coach Steve Mariucci has him listed as the backup to Charles Rogers at the split end position, Williams is also learning the plays as the backup to flanker Roy Williams and he has also run plays from the slot position on both sides of the formation.

He has no complaints about his work load.

"It's kind of good that you put yourself in a position to play more," Williams said. "The more you know, the more coaches feel you can help them."

There is a frustration factor involved, however.

"You're playing as hard as you can and doing what you can do, and you're going the wrong way," Williams said. "When you're in practice they don't care that you mixed this play up with another position, because you're wasting everybody's time, you're wasting a rep.

"But when you get into the meeting room, they're like, 'Ah, we know you're still learning.' But I'd rather be where I'm at now. I'm glad I've had to learn so many positions and so much at one time."

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

Williams sat out last season after losing his college eligibility. So he not only has to make the jump from the college game to the NFL, but he has to shake off a year's worth of rust at the same time. He is known as a hard worker, though, and lining up alongside a couple other big, young, highly regarded WRs in Charles Rogers and Roy Williams should work to his benefit.


3. MIN - RB Bennett Clocked 9.91 Seconds In 100-Meter

Clipped from: St. Paul Pioneer Press article by Charley Walters, 6/16/05

Onterrio Smith is suspended for the year, but if fellow Vikings running back Michael Bennett remains healthy, that might not matter.

Bennett was clocked in 9.91 seconds and 10.0 seconds in 100-meter track races this spring.

"The 9.91 would have been a fifth-place finish in the last Olympics in Athens, Greece," Vikings running backs coach Dean Dalton said. "He's smoking."

Bennett is healthy for the first time in two years after recovering from major ankle and knee surgeries.

"He's better now than he has ever been," Dalton said. "And he has matured."

Vikings quarterback Daunte Culpepper, after seeing Bennett in spring development camps, agrees.

"It's the best he has looked since he has been here," Culpepper said.

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

This story follows yesterday's glowing report about how great Bennett has looked in the Viking's non-contact drills so far this offseason. There has never been any doubt about Bennett's speed. His durability is what has held him back thus far in his career. If he can stay healthy, he should get the first crack at the Viking's starting RB job in 2004 - although he is not without competition. Mewelde Moore played well last year, Moe Williams is proven and dependable, and rookie Ciatrick Fason also has talent.


4. MIA - Going Into Camp Without A Solid QB

Clipped from: Associated Press article by Tim Reynolds, 6/16/05

The Miami Dolphins will go into next month's training camp without a clear front-runner in the team's latest quarterback battle.

Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said Thursday that neither newcomer Gus Frerotte nor incumbent starter A.J. Feeley has been chosen as the team's starter for this year's season-opener against Denver, and that the decision hinges on how they play in training camp.

"That's what the training camp going into the season is going to be for, establishing who that person's going to be," Linehan said. "That really wasn't the intent of our offseason program."

Feeley completed 191 of 356 passes last season, his first in Miami, for 1,893 yards, 11 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. Frerotte, now with his sixth NFL club, threw just one pass as Daunte Culpepper's backup in Minnesota last season, and hasn't been a regular starter since 1997 with Washington.

Frerotte does, however, have extensive experience in the Dolphins' offense - since it's largely the one used by Linehan over the past two seasons, when he was the Vikings' offensive coordinator.

That doesn't necessarily mean Frerotte will rate any edge in the quarterback race, Linehan said.

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

A.J. Feeley may have the edge over Frerotte in terms of arm strength and athleticism, but Frerotte has more experience - particularly in offensive coordinator Scott Linehan's offense - and may be the more accurate thrower. The Dolphins traded a second-round pick for A.J. Feeley last year, but that was under a previous coaching staff and general manager. Whoever wins the job will have a talented set of targets to throw to in Chris Chambers, Randy McMichael, and David Boston.


5. MIA - RB R. Williams Reinstated In Substance-Abuse Program

Clipped from: South Florida Sun-Sentinel article by Alex Marvez, 6/16/05

Dolphins tailback Ricky Williams was granted early reinstatement to the NFL's substance-abuse program, agent Leigh Steinberg said Wednesday.

Williams, who is driving back to South Florida from California, is now subject to 10 random drug tests a month for the rest of his NFL career. As a three-time offender, Williams faces a one-year suspension if he fails or misses a drug test.

Steinberg also said the Dolphins have given Williams a copy of their offseason workout program to help him regain some of the weight he lost in his year out of football. Steinberg said Williams, who weighed 195 pounds last month according to a Sports Illustrated story, is back in the 205-pound range and will work with a nutritionist to add more bulk.

"He's confident that his weight and strength are steadily returning, that he'll be in good shape by training camp and that the process will continue throughout training camp," Steinberg said.

Williams has to wait until late July to rejoin the Dolphins because of his status in the NFL's drug-testing program. Williams also faces a four-game suspension stemming from a third failed drug test for marijuana last year before his retirement.

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

Williams does not need to be 240 to be effective, but it would be nice to see him make it to at least 215. If he follows through on his plans to rejoin the Dolphins, he could be paired in the same backfield as rookie Ronnie Brown. Both backs are versatile - they can run, block, or catch the ball out of the backfield. Trying to defend both at the same time would give opposing defensive coordinators headaches.


6. MIA - Roles Of RB Brown, RB Williams Key To Season

Clipped from: South Florida Sun-Sentinel article by Alex Marvez, 6/16/05

As Miami Dolphins running back Ronnie Brown begins his pro career, it could be a case of same situation, different location. Brown spent much of his college career splitting carries with a player named Williams, so it won't be completely foreign to him if the same happens in the NFL.

The Dolphins made Brown the second player chosen in April's draft, even though he wasn't able to wrest the starting position at Auburn from teammate Carnell "Cadillac" Williams, who was selected three picks later by Tampa Bay. Brown is expected to start for Miami, but his role and playing time may be affected by the impending return of Ricky Williams.

Williams is expected to come out of retirement in late July to rejoin the franchise he abandoned just before the start of the 2004 preseason. Agent Leigh Steinberg said Williams has stopped smoking marijuana and plans to move back to South Florida and re-enter the league's drug-testing program even before applying for reinstatement, which should serve as a sign of good faith to the Dolphins.

"We're taking this step by step," Steinberg recently said. "Ricky is highly motivated and looking forward to playing for the Dolphins."

The same can be said of Brown, which could create an interesting dynamic when both backs are in the fold.

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

Brown is faster than Williams, and right now he is bigger as well. It is unclear how the carries might be split between them, but Williams would probably welcome a reduced role in the Dolphins' offense. In his famous 60 Minutes interview last year, he stated that one of the reasons he retired was that he didn't want to take the pounding of carrying the Dolphins' whole offense.


7. NYJ - QB Pennington Begins Throwing

Clipped from: Associated Press article, 6/16/06

Jets quarterback Chad Pennington has started throwing again, four months after surgery to repair a torn right rotator cuff.

Last week, Pennington began tossing the football off to the side during the final few offseason training activity sessions. Though he didn't participate in the practices, he was able to work on handoffs to the running backs.

Pennington is throwing about 80 times every other day, and the Jets expect him to be ready for full practice when training camp opens July 29.

"While he did not throw during on-field OTA practices, Chad was given clearance and a schedule to throw the football and will continue to be evaluated as to the amount of throws he will make leading up to training camp," coach Herman Edwards said in a statement Thursday.

"We fully expect Chad to be ready for the start of training camp."

Pennington had surgery in February after playing the final seven games of last season with a tear in the muscle of the rotator cuff, which the Jets initially said was a strain. The Jets went 3-4 in that span, and Pennington looked shaky, constantly underthrowing or overthrowing receivers.

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

Pennington's shoulder will be a concern until he throws the ball with zip during the preseason. He did not have a strong arm to begin with, so if he loses anything off his fastball it could really affect his performance. Daunte Culpepper could lose 10% of his arm strength and still be okay, but Pennington doesn't have that much of a cushion.


8. BUF - RB Henry Suitors Lining Up

Clipped from: Pro Football Weekly article by Jeff Reynolds, 6/16/05

Jacksonville and Tennessee have emerged as the most likely candidates to acquire RB Travis Henry from the Bills. Arizona and Philadelphia had been mentioned as bidders for Henry at draft time, but both teams have moved forward at the position. The Jaguars could add Henry as insurance against Fred Taylor not being ready for the start of the season. Taylor had knee surgery after an injury on Dec. 19 at Green Bay and has just begun a cardiovascular training regimen. Tennessee lacks depth at running back and could add the former University of Tennessee star with Chris Brown returning from a broken hand suffered in minicamp.

The philosophy around the running game has been the same for both teams, but changes to the coaching staff have led to a shift in strategy.

Jacksonville employed a physical, grinding hybrid of the West Coast offense under Bill Musgrave, and the Titans gave Brown 20 or more carries in five of his first nine starts before injuries slowed him down.

Now, Carl Smith is running the show in Jacksonville. The basis of his offense is a vertical passing game, but Smith said incorporating play-action will be a boon to Taylor (or whoever is slotted as the starting running back). LaBrandon Toefield was told to be ready to go during minicamps. But head coach Jack Del Rio and Musgrave showed little confidence in, or patience with, Toefield in the past. Henry, a powerful but stout between-the-tackles runner, isn't a great receiver. But with Toefield and rookie Alvin Pearman there to contribute on passing downs, Taylor and/or Henry would be limited to two-down duty.

New offensive coordinator Norm Chow plans to air it out in Tennessee, but head coach Jeff Fisher is too much of a throwback to completely ignore the ground game. The Titans ran the ball 420 times last season without a healthy running game. Where Chow excelled at USC was dictating personnel by spreading the field and turning simple draw plays through the middle or screen plays into big gainers. Brown and Henry aren't elusive, but neither is easy to bring down in the open field because of their base and ability to run through arm tackles.

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

The Jaguars already have some nice depth at the RB position, but the Titans could really use a backup RB of Henry's caliber. The Titans are apparently holding off to see whether Henry's price tag - the Bills are currently asking for a third-round pick - will be reduced before they commit to trading for him.


9. DAL - TE Witten Poised To Cash In

Clipped from: DallasNews.com article by Matt Mosley, 6/16/05

The only man happier than Baltimore Ravens tight end Todd Heap on Wednesday might be Cowboys tight end Jason Witten.

Heap became the highest-paid tight end in the history of the NFL when he signed a six-year extension worth $30 million, including an $11 million signing bonus.

Heap, the 31st pick in the 2001 draft, just drove the price up for top tight ends across the league. And Witten, who becomes a free agent after the 2006 season, stands to prosper.

Consider the following numbers: Heap, a two-time Pro Bowler, is coming off a season in which he missed 10 games with an ankle injury. He managed 27 catches and three touchdowns in those six games.

Witten, coming off his first Pro Bowl appearance, had a breakout season with 87 catches for 980 yards and six touchdowns. Only six players in the NFC had more catches than Witten.

Now he's poised for a huge payday. The Cowboys can't afford to wait until he becomes a free agent. They'll try to get something done as soon as possible.

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

Heap's huge contract has to be making several tight ends around the league salivate - San Diego's Antonio Gates probably more so than Witten. For many years the tight end position has been considered generally less important than the other offensive skill positions, and salaries reflected that attitude. But the recent trend is for NFL offenses to feature the tight end position to a greater extent than in the past, and the salaries of the top tight ends can be expected to rise accordingly.


10. CIN - WR Warrick Confident About His Recovery

Clipped from: Cincinnati Inquirer article by Mark Curnutte, 6/16/06

Peter Warrick continues to insist he is making progress in his recovery and is looking out for No. 80.

The sixth-year Bengals wide receiver participated Wednesday in a team workout, though he has yet to be cleared to participate in the team's mandatory minicamp Friday through Sunday.

"Just going to be smart, thinking about PDub," said Warrick, who is attempting to come back from shin and knee injuries that limited him to four games last season.

"It ain't no question," he said. "It's all about what I do when the time comes. The time will come when the games count."

Linebacker Khalid Abdullah, who missed all of his second NFL season because of a dislocated ankle, said Wednesday he is close to getting cleared, and that he expects to be ready for training camp. The first training camp practice is scheduled for July 29.

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

We keep hearing positive blurbs out of Cincinnati about Peter Warrick this offseason - many of them coming from Warrick himself. But he still hasn't been able to run at full speed yet. If he can show that he is fully recovered from last year's ankle injury, he should have a spot on the team as the #3 WR working out of the slot. But if he does not make a full recovery, the Bengals would have few qualms about getting talented rookie WR Chris Henry out on the field sooner rather than later.


11. HOU - Can WR Gaffney Take Pressure Off WR A. Johnson?

Clipped from: Houston Chronicle article by Megan Manfull, 6/16/05

Texans wide receiver Jabar Gaffney stood with a script in his hands as the Texans went over one drill after another during the final minicamp practice Wednesday.

At one point, Gaffney tucked the script away and participated in one of the passing drills. But for the most part, the fourth-year receiver remained off to the side, helping coach the newcomers.

It's a scene the Texans hope doesn't continue when training camp begins July 30. Gaffney is rehabilitating his left shoulder, on which surgery was performed about two months ago to repair the rotator cuff. Early this week, coach Dom Capers said he did not expect Gaffney to be available at the start of training camp.

Gaffney said he has no doubt he will be ready, though, and the Texans hope he is right. With opponents expected to double-team Pro Bowler Andre Johnson again, the Texans need additional playmakers such as Gaffney on the field.

"Jabar made a lot of plays for us last year, especially on third downs," Johnson said. "So without him being there right now, other guys just have to step in and see if they can pick up some of that.

"But I'm pretty sure he'll be ready when it's time to come to Buffalo (in the season opener) and play."

Last season, Gaffney ranked sixth in the NFL for converting 82.9 percent of his receptions into first downs. His 41 catches tied his season high set in 2002, and his 632 receiving yards were a career high.

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

Gaffney has made some great plays and had a few outstanding games for the Texans, but overall he has been inconsistent. Corey Bradford and rookie Jerome Mathis will both challenge Gaffney for playing time this year.


12. KC - PK Tynes Prepares For Second Year

Clipped from: KCChiefs.com article by Bob Gretz, 6/16/05

The Chiefs bit the bullet last year with Lawrence Tynes, going through a season with an inexperienced kicker and the problems that usually entail: two missed PAT kicks and inconsistency on his kickoffs. He has returned stronger and better prepared for his second season. Right now, he has no competition on the roster.

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

The Chiefs' high-scoring offense gives automatic fantasy cred to whoever handles their place-kicking duties. It appears that Tynes will have no serious competition for that job this year. His upside potential as a fantasy kicker is very good. Consider that he had the fourth-worst field goal percentage in the NFL last year (among starting kickers) and yet finished as the #11 fantasy kicker (tied with Seattle's Josh Brown). He could make his way into the top 5 at his position simply bringing his field goal percentage up to a respectable (but unspectacular) 82% or so.


That'll do it for today, Folks. Have a great Friday and remember your Dad this weekend with a Footballguys Magazine and / or Subscription. And you Dads, remember yourself if your family needs a little "guidance" in buying you a cool gift. Thanks for reading and we'll see you tomorrow with the update.

J
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