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Volume 6, Issue 60 (Friday, 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.
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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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INSIDE THIS ISSUE

1. KC - WR Hakim Will Not Sign With The Chiefs; Headed To The Saints
2. TEN - QB McNair Gives Team Reasons To Smile
3. MIA - New OL Coach Houck Gives Lineman Hope
4. BUF - QB Losman Receiving Accolades From Teammates
5. GB - Rookie QB Rodgers Not Ready For Primetime
6. CLE - Ex-Coach Says OL Shelton Not A Great Player
7. CIN - RB Perry Still Isn't Running At Full Strength
8. NYG - 2nd Warrant Issued For WR Burress
9. IDP: CAR - DE Peppers Leaves Teammates In The Dust
10. IDP: FA - DT Wright Hot Commodity In Supplemental Draft
11. IDP: KC -Defense Winning Its Share Of Battles

1. KC - WR Hakim Will Not Sign With The Chiefs; Headed To The Saints

Clipped From: AP, LionsFans.com

Free agent wide receiver Az-Zahir Hakim will not sign with the Kansas City Chiefs, coach Dick Vermeil said Friday. The Chiefs said earlier this week that they had reached agreement on a one-year contract with Hakim, who played for Vermeil when the St. Louis Rams won the Super Bowl six years ago. Hakim and his agent felt the wide receiver would fit in better somewhere else, Vermeil said.

"I was little disappointed, but I understand," Vermeil said. "That's just the nature of this game. You can't have everything you want."

The Chiefs have not committed to bringing in another receiver, Vermeil said, but have been in contact with former Eagles wideout Freddie Mitchell. Hakim, released by the Detroit Lions in April, had not signed a contract with Kansas City.

Warpaint Illustrated has learned that wide receiver Az-Zahir Hakim has decided to sign a contract with the New Orleans Saints. The deal could be announced as soon as today.

Late this morning Warpaint Illustrated was tipped off that the deal went south. His agent Bruce Tolner quickly called the Saints and they remained interested in acquiring the former Detroit Lions receiver.

This was an unusual change of heart for Hakim who professed his love for the Chiefs organization and Head Coach Dick Vermeil. He clearly wanted to play for them two days ago. But in the NFL money talks and the two sides could not reach an agreement on the terms of the contract. Though Hakim was not expected to be a starter; the team is looking for a veteran receiver to compete for the #3 position.

According to our source at Arrowhead, the decision for Hakim to sign with the Saints was the direct result of a conversation between Hakim and Vermeil. Both felt that the Saints would give him a better long term situation then playing just one-year in Kansas City with no guarantees of a long term contract. After that conversation, the Chiefs and Hakim agreed to part ways mutually.

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

This really isn't much of a surprise. Hakim brings the same basic skills to the table as 2nd year receiver Samie Parker without the upside. We would have been a good depth pick up for the club, but he wants a chance to start which isn't guaranteed in Kansas City. It must be a money situation as he is likely to slot in as the # 3 receiver at best in New Orleans as Joe Horn and Donte' Stallworth look like the starting receivers.


2. TEN - QB McNair Gives Team Reasons To Smile

Clipped From: Nashville City Paper article by Mark Howard

After the recent mini-camps, what started as low-level optimism has quickly snowballed into full-scale giddiness. The sight of a slimmer, trimmer Steve McNair bouncing around like a spry rookie has the Titans braintrust thinking it can beat the system after all. Unlike the mini-camps of seasons past, McNair is not hurt and is taking most of the snaps and making all the throws with a sharpness that wasn't evident a year ago.

Yes, you remember that forgettable 2004, when the Titans mystique turned into one big mistake. In short order, a perennial playoff team took a U-turn to a 5-11 meltdown led by its quarterback. The NFL's co-MVP of 2003 not only missed eight games due to injury but also saw his touchdown passes drop from 24 to eight and his interceptions rise from seven to nine. It all added up to a total disaster.

McNair's stats were not the only thing that took a beating. Almost right from the beginning, McNair didn't have his usual swagger, but at least for now he appears to have his mojo back. And for that reason, the Titans, more than ever, will ride No. 9 as far as he will take them. McNair is pumped. Part of the reason is his good health. But the biggest factor might be that, for the first time, he will have significant input into the Titans offensive philosophy. Unlike with previous coordinators Les Steckel and Mike Heimerdinger, McNair revealed that he has been given the green light by new offensive boss Norm Chow to improvise.

"If I see something that will work, [I can] run it and we'll talk about it later," McNair said of Chow's leeway.

Heading into his 11th season, Stevie Wonder relishes the new freedom that Chow has handed him to resort to his own devices at the line of scrimmage if the situation calls for it.

"My hands were tied for a long time. We got into a game plan with two or three checks and that's it," McNair said. "But Norm has given us leeway for whatever we want to do outside."

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

The good news is McNair is finally healthy and is in the best shape of his career. He could thrive within an offense where he is allowed the freedom to ad lib and he appears motivated to prove his critics wrong. The bad news is the talent surrounding him this season is questionable at best and he could be tough to make plays. The Titans defense will struggle and that could mean a lot of passing attempts in Tennessee this season but the question remains, "Who will catch the passes?" If Drew Bennett can prove last year wasn't a fluke, Tyrone Calico can make strides and the tight end position featuring two good players in Ben Troupe and Erron Kinney can thrive, McNair could surprise with a solid fantasy season. Just remember there is a great deal of risk attached to him for the 2005 season and you shouldn't reach for him in your draft. But if the opportunity presents itself and value exists, pull the trigger.


3. MIA - New OL Coach Houck Gives Lineman Hope

Clipped From: Sun-Sentinel article by Ethan J. Skolnick

Nick Saban's most important offseason acquisition finally introduced himself to South Florida on Thursday, months after arrival but still weeks before anyone truly sees the fruits of his lauded labor.

"I am not a miracle worker, no," Hudson Houck replied, with a sheepish smile, to the natural question of the day.

Not a miracle worker? That's hardly what you hear.

"I think he's probably the elite coach in the league," new offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said.

That's the word around the league about the man who has been an NFL offensive line coach for the past 22 seasons, guiding 11 linemen to 43 Pro Bowls, as those linemen and others have helped halfbacks to six rushing titles. That's also the buzz around the Davie facility, where there is cautious optimism about the line for a change, even if the personnel is little changed, with right tackle Stockar McDougle the only newcomer likely to crack the lineup. The holdover linemen are full of confidence and anticipation, a good sign since they matter most to the Dolphins' offense. Linehan said stimulating things about his intention to push the ball deep, just like his Vikings did, but you can't throw deep if your quarterback is deep in turf first.

"These guys are very eager, very eager," said Houck, who left San Diego and his grandkids up the California coast for a hefty contract and challenge. "They are looking for an answer: `How can I get better?'"

Lately, those players have proclaimed publicly what they whispered while whiffing at blitzes in 2004: They did not think Houck's predecessor, Tony Wise, had enough answers or did enough to find them, considering his comfortable status in the Dave Wannstedt regime. It's no secret Wise was down on 2004 first-round pick Vernon Carey from the start, so it's no stunner when Carey says of the difference, "It's a lot. They are totally different coaches. He's just doing a great job. He pushes you to be the best you can be and tries to teach us different little techniques that we probably didn't do last year."

Houck didn't come to bury Wise, yet his comments were telling. "I'd just as soon not talk about last year," he said. "That's somebody else. I really don't know what they were doing."

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

While it is ultimately the players that win or lose the games, good coaching can go a long way in making players better and more consistent in those games and coach Houck is amongst the finest in the NFL. Contrary to popular belief, there is a solid amount of talent amongst the Dolphin lineman and especially so if Houck can reach the sizable potential of 2nd-year lineman Carey. Don't be surprised when the Dolphins' offensive line plays much better than last year.


4. BUF - QB Losman Receiving Accolades From Teammates

Clipped From: AP article via ESPN.com

QB J.P. Losman has spent the last five months poring over game films and the playbook while making Buffalo his year-round home. He has been so tireless in his studies that Losman ignored the pleas and lectures of quarterback coach Sam Wyche to take a break.

"When I'm not meeting with him, he's sneaking down there and looking at film on his own," Wyche said. "I try to tell him, `You've just got to get away. You'll burn out if you're not careful.' But he is so into being ready for this season."

So far so good.

When the Bills wrapped up their last minicamp session this week, Losman received accolades from his teammates.

"He's a totally different guy," receiver Eric Moulds said. "He's impressed me as far as taking control of the huddle and being able to know exactly what to do. I think he had a real productive camp."

Linebacker Takeo Spikes has been won over by Losman's work ethic.

"He definitely has the want-to. But more so, he's doing what it takes instead of just going around and yapping off at the mouth," Spikes said. "It doesn't matter how much you want it or say you want it, but speak to me through your actions -- and I think he's done that."

For every successful first-year starter such as Tom Brady or Ben Roethlisberger, there's an endless list of young quarterbacks that have struggled, including Eli Manning's string of inconsistencies last year with the New York Giants. Losman is driven in part by having heard the doubters question why a team that finished at 9-7 -- and one win short of the playoffs -- last season would risk taking a step back by bringing in a raw quarterback.

"We're not going to use this `young quarterback' as an excuse," Losman said. "That's my job. And my job right now is that I've learned it all and I'm ready to go."

Wyche, who's tutored the likes of Joe Montana and Boomer Esiason, isn't making any promises, but likes what he's seen so far from Losman.

"He's definitely on track," Wyche said. "Sometimes you get into a car and you and you go somewhere and say, `I don't know where I'm going, but I'm making good time.' Well, he's making good time, and he knows where he's going, too."

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

Losman came out of college with the reputation of being a little too cocky for his own good and there were rumblings he had angered some of his collegiate teammates. However he appears to be doing everything right this season and he appears to have the support of his teammates behind him. It is encouraging to see him studying hard and trying to absorb everything he can. Our projections on Losman are conservative as he hasn't proven anything on the field as of yet but he has the potential to be better than expected if he continues to work hard as he is surrounded by talented playmakers. Watch his progression during the preseason to see if he should be lifted higher in your rankings.


5. GB - Rookie QB Rodgers Not Ready For Primetime

Clipped From: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article by Rob Reischel

When the San Francisco 49ers begin their season Sept. 11, it would be a shock if Alex Smith - the first overall pick in April's draft - wasn't their starting quarterback. When Green Bay begins its year that same day, Aaron Rodgers - the second quarterback chosen - stands virtually no chance of being the Packers' starter. At Green Bay's recently concluded minicamp, Rodgers was erratic at best. The pinpoint accuracy and confidence he displayed at Cal were gone. Far too many of Rodgers' throws sailed high on him and he was indecisive in his reads. Even though Rodgers' struggles are par for the rookie course, the Packers seemed concerned.

"Something is causing him to have his ball sail," offensive coordinator Tom Rossley said of Rodgers. "He's high on all of his throws. He's not really cutting loose, and he's not following through and finishing on the ball. I want to see him torque and throw the ball hard. I think then the ball will start coming out at a better trajectory."

Rodgers, who posted impressive scores of 1,310 on his SAT's and 35 on the Wonderlic test, admits to being overwhelmed.

"I did throw a lot of high balls," said Rodgers, who was taken with the 24th overall pick in the draft. "I've always said you throw from the ground up, from your feet up. And when you're not confident in your reads, you're late on stuff, you rush stuff, your feet are out of position and the ball goes high. And until I get my timing down on these plays, I will throw some high balls. It was frustrating at times, especially early on. But like I said, my main goal this camp was to get better every day, and I really feel like I did that. I got a lot better mentally. Once I get that, the physical part will play into it."

The Packers certainly hope so. But right now, Rodgers hasn't shown he'll be able to supplant Craig Nall as Brett Favre's backup in 2005.

What had to concern the coaching staff more than anything was the accuracy - or lack thereof - Rodgers displayed in this camp.

Rodgers, who left California after his junior season, completed 66.1% of his passes and set a Pac-10 record with a 1.95 career interception percentage. But in this camp, he consistently overshot his targets.

"He knew what he was doing (at Cal)," Rossley said of Rodgers. "As he learns, his accuracy will get better. The one thing we didn't see is the accuracy that we all saw in college. I think that that's just a part of being overloaded with the thinking. He needs reps. When he first came here, individual drills, he was sharp and on top of his throws. As things started to run together a little bit, the motions and formations and progressions, his head was spinning a little bit."

History has shown it takes most quarterbacks at least two years to master the West Coast offense. And early indications are that Rodgers won't be ahead of that curve.

Rodgers says he's studying his playbook at least two hours a night. And he hopes to increase that total between now and the start of training camp.

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

Nobody was expecting Rodgers to see action this season behind Favre anyways so in a redraft league, nothing has changed. In Dynasty leagues though, this blurb is a little worrisome. Some Jeff Tedford coached quarterbacks have struggled at the pro level (Trent Dilfer, Akili Smith, David Carr, Joey Harrington, Kyle Boller). It is obviously way too early for much worry but accuracy woes in minicamp do not bode well for him putting together successful plays during preseason games and he'll likely be stuck holding a clipboard for at least this season. Keep a close eye on him during preseason to see if he has made much progress.


6. CLE - Ex-Coach Says OL Shelton Not A Great Player

If the Browns expect new starting left tackle L.J. Shelton to be an above-average lineman, they're likely asking too much from the former Arizona Cardinals player. That's the view of former Cardinals offensive coordinator and Massillon High star Alex Wood, who coached Shelton during the veteran's injury-plagued 2004 season.

"On a scale of 1 to 10, I think L.J. is a 5 lineman at best," Wood said. "He's pretty much a middle-of-the-pack guy. He's got some skills. But, sooner or later, you have to see it on the field."

Wood said while Shelton is "a great guy," the lineman must erase doubts about his physical conditioning - an issue that surfaced last season in Arizona.

"We gave L.J. opportunities, but things just didn't pan out," Wood said.

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

The Browns have said they believe Shelton can be an improvement over departed tackle Ross Verba but that is difficult to believe. Shelton has a world of talent but has never been able to equate potential with production and he is not in very good shape this season. He was released for a reason and while he could be productive for the Browns this season, it is unlikely he'll be an improvement over Verba.


7. CIN - RB Perry Still Isn't Running At Full Strength

Clipped From: Geoff Hobson article in Bengals.com

What worries RB Chris Perry is that he hasn't run full speed with his pulled abdominal muscles since Oct. 25. He's taking it slowly now after his second surgery on April 1 because he kept making it worse back in October when he tried to get ready by going full tilt. He said it's getting better, but he's only been running at 60 percent. "I hope it will be ready for camp," Perry said. "If you're going to get ready, you have to be able to run full speed to prepare. I think I'll be able to, but I haven't run at top speed in a long time." He's cautiously optimistic. He's no longer feeling what he describes as "knives poking into your pelvic region and then to the rest of your legs," as he's running.

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

This doesn't sound very encouraging for Chris Perry again this season but it is wonderful news for Rudi Johnson owners. Johnson will again get the bulk of the carries this season and he should put up numbers at least comparable to a year ago. We have Johnson projected with 223 fantasy points, good enough for 10th overall. Perry has been a disappointment to the Bengals and it isn't getting any better.


8. NYG - 2nd Warrant Issued For WR Burress

Clipped From: New York Daily News article by Ralph Vacchiano For the second time in three weeks, an arrest warrant has been issued for Giants receiver Plaxico Burress, this time for failing to appear in court to answer a reckless driving charge in his hometown of Virginia Beach, Va. Burress, 27, was due in traffic court Wednesday to answer a ticket he received for improper passing at 12:30 a.m. on May 29. His agent, Drew Rosenhaus, said "I don't have any information on" why Burress did not appear. The Giants had no comment either, a spokesman said.

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

This may not be a huge deal but it is worrisome if you are looking for Burress to become a mature, more complete player with the Giants. He has always had an abundance of talent and ability but his maturity level has often been questioned and it has affected his play on the field. We have him projected with 860 yards and 7 touchdowns and he is certainly capable of more. http://footballguys.com/currentproj-rb.htm The problem is he's also capable of less depending on which Burress decides to show up.

9. IDP: CAR - DE Peppers Leaves Teammates In The Dust

Clipped From: Winston-Salem Journal article by Joe Menzer

Training camp will open for the Carolina Panthers at Wofford College in Spartanburg, S.C., precisely six weeks from today.

Until then, the lasting image from the team's June coaching sessions that wrapped up early yesterday will be of defensive end Julius Peppers beating the rest of his teammates in sprints - seemingly without breaking a sweat. Teammate Mike Minter watched in amazement as Peppers, at 6-6 and nearly 300 pounds, ran effortlessly in the 90-degree heat.

Jerry Simmons, the Panthers' strength and conditioning coach, generally has the offensive and defensive linemen run in one group and everyone else - quarterbacks, running backs, receivers, linebackers and defensive backs - in another. The linemen are required to run a series of four sprints from one side of the football field to the other and back within 45 seconds; the others are required to make it in 35. Most players were required to do the series of four side-to-side sprints twice each at the end of yesterday's 90-minute workout. After watching Peppers finish 20 yards ahead of the nearest lineman on his first series, Minter challenged him.

"I told him to run a 35 and he said, 'All right, I'll do it,' " Minter said.

And then Peppers did. While many of his teammates faded badly on their second series of sprints, Peppers only seemed to get stronger.

Minter shook his head after watching the display. "I'm impressed with everything this man does. Every day he does something to impress me," he said. "And that was his last (series). So you can just imagine a guy 300 pounds moving that fast across a field in a game. You saw them other guys out there, right? That just shows you how graceful he was running those things."

No one looked as athletic or as well conditioned as Peppers in the sprints. And Minter said he thinks it means something.

"I'm really looking forward to seeing what he'll do this year with (defensive tackle Kris) Jenkins (who missed most of last season with a shoulder injury) back in the middle," Minter said of Peppers. "I think he might break the sack record."

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

It is remarkable what defensive lineman can do in this day and age and Peppers is one of the best. He is in awesome shape and should have a great season with Jenkins back on the field with him at the same time. We have him projected at 12 sacks but don't be surprised if he goes well beyond that this season. He was the 2nd best lineman in fantasy football a year ago and could be even stronger in 2005.


10. IDP: FA - DT Wright Hot Commodity In Supplemental Draft

Clipped From: Sun-Sentinel article

The Dolphins and other NFL teams may find help for their defensive line through the NFL's supplemental draft, as Southern California defensive tackle Manuel Wright is set to visit next Thursday and Friday with team officials. Agent Peter Schaffer said Wright will visit with Philadelphia today and Cincinnati on Friday before heading to South Florida. Wright has a workout planned for all interested NFL teams early next month before the supplemental draft is held July 14. The 6 foot 6, 310 pound Wright was primarily a reserve the last two seasons and was expected to be a starter in 2005, but was declared academically ineligible.

The team that selects Wright in the supplemental draft will lose a corresponding pick in next April's NFL Draft.

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

Somebody is going to pick this guy up as he could be a very good NFL defensive lineman. The Dolphins certainly have a need at the position and could scoop him up in the supplemental draft but he may end up a hot commodity before the draft comes on July 14th.


11. IDP: KC - Defense Winning Its Share Of Battles

Clipped From: Kansas City Star article by Adam Teicher

The starting defense won more than its share of battles. And the second-team defense usually got the better of its offensive counterpart, indicating the Chiefs may at long last be building some depth. Five former defensive starters are now backups.

New secondary starters in cornerback Patrick Surtain and safety Sammy Knight have given the Chiefs some peace of mind, but the most startling transformation is at linebacker. Free-agent addition Kendrell Bell and first-round draft choice Derrick Johnson cover more ground than any Chiefs linebacker since Donnie Edwards.

"I've never been on the field with this many talented linebackers anywhere," Vermeil said. "How long it's going to take them to play football, I don't know. But they look good in their pajamas."

Johnson has been particularly impressive on pass defense. Johnson is second team behind Keyaron Fox on the left side, but that may have more to do with looming contract negotiations. The Chiefs don't want to provide the leverage of a starting spot.

Rich Scanlon's play in NFL Europe, where he was the league player of the year, gives the Chiefs hope they have a high-quality alternative if the current starting middle linebacker, Kawika Mitchell, doesn't improve.

When practice started last month, defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham was on a high from the personnel haul but cautioned that he wanted to see how the pieces fit.

He's finding it more and more difficult to contain his excitement.

"This phase has gone as well as phase one," Cunningham said. "I'm trying to keep level-headed. I'm trying to keep our emotions and our feelings to ourselves. There is improvement. I'll say that. I want to keep it in check until we get the pads on. Judging from the offseason practices, it's pretty darn good, as good as I've seen."

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

The Chiefs probably don't need to worry about the offensive side of the ball too much as they are an extremely veteran unit. Where the Chiefs have crumbled in recent years has been the shoddy play of the defense and it appears that positive strides have been made this season that could push the Chiefs into the playoffs for the 2005 campaign. New players such as Patrick Surtain, Sammy Knight, Kendrell Bell and Derrick Johnson are clear upgrades over the 2004 players and this unit could become quite competitive as the year wears on.


That'll do it for today, Folks. Have a great Saturday and don't forget about Dad and a Footballguys Subscription and / or Magazine. See you tomorrow with the update.

J

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