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Volume 6, Issue 63 (Monday, June 20th)

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Tonight's update brought to you by:
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Hi Folks,

Hope your week's off to a good start. We're rolling here. Plenty of new features on the site today and thanks to our Mark Wimer for rounding up these NFL stories tonight. Let's get to it.



A. The Water Cooler
by Chris Smith

B. Tiki Barber Spotlight
by Jason Wood, Maurile Tremblay and Message Board Gurus

C. Drew Bennett Spotlight
by Jason Wood, Colin Dowling and Message Board Gurus

D. Andre Johnson Spotlight
by Jason Wood, Chase Stuart and Message Board Gurus

E. Eddie Kennison Spotlight
by Jason Wood, Mike Brown and Message Board Gurus

F. Jake Plummer Spotlight
by Jason Wood, Bob Henry and Message Board Gurus


1. WAS - Redskins' Offense Opening Up
2. CIN - WR Warrick expected to be 100% for Training Camp
3. CIN - Bengals' Offense Looks Great On Paper (Commentary)
4. CLE - QB Doug Johnson to Back Up Dilfer
5. TEN - OC Chow Under Scrutiny
6. TEN D - Toughness Evident
7. IDP CIN: New Bengals' Starting LBs - Pollack and Thurman
8. IDP KC: What's Plan C at CB?

1. WAS - Redskins' Offense Opening Up

Clipped from: Washington Post article by Nunyo Demasio, 6/20/05

The perfection thus far increases the likelihood of Gibbs making the shotgun a critical part of his offense during the regular season. Gibbs has never used the shotgun in 13 years as an NFL head coach, but after overseeing one of the feeblest offenses in the NFL last season, he has incorporated several changes.

Washington has revamped its blocking schemes to better accommodate tailback Clinton Portis, who prefers more open space. Gibbs has also made the playbook less complicated and attempted to reduce movement before the snap. After a season that lacked many big plays, the Redskins' emphasis is on getting the ball downfield.

While serving as a broadcaster for ESPN during the April draft, right tackle Jon Jansen told a national television audience that Washington used a 1992 offense last season.

"I didn't mean anything derogatory by it," Jansen explained Saturday. "There were things we did last year that offenses probably did back then, that really didn't account from some of the blitzes you see now. The coaches have done a great job at tweaking the offense. We've made little things that most people wouldn't see unless they know a lot about football. The thing they'll see is us scoring more and winning more games."

Many of Gibbs's alterations were implemented in last season's final five games, when the offense averaged 21 points, almost five more points than during the first five games. But the most significant -- and conspicuous -- change involves the shotgun. Last season, the Redskins were among three NFL teams that never employed it.

But on Friday, Gibbs cracked, "When you're not successful, you'll try anything."

Gibbs said that the frequency with which the shotgun will be used will depend on how the offense adapts before the regular season. Most of the Redskins' offensive players, particularly quarterbacks and centers, have a background in the shotgun.

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

Considering how little scoring the Redskin's players did last year, any changes designed to make the offense more powerful are welcome. We'll see how the new wrinkles work once regular season rolls around.

2. CIN - WR Warrick expected to be 100% for Training Camp

Wide receiver Peter Warrick is close, very close, to being medically cleared for practice. He's expected to be 100 percent physically when players report to training camp on July 28.

"Peter's worked hard," head coach Marvin Lewis said. "But when you're coming back from an injury, you've got to do double time. You don't just get to do what you're used to doing. You've got to do more because you've got to catch up physically, mentally and with your conditioning. Hopefully, he's into the stage now where he can push to do more because he's getting pretty close to being back."?

?"A guy like Chris Perry is hating life right now, he and Peter Warrick. You can just see the pain in their faces. Those guys love to practice, love to be on the field and love to compete, and do all of the things you get to do when you play. But when you're on the sidelines, you feel like a coach or a water boy. You're not doing anything." - Quarterback Carson Palmer.

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

Peter Warrick isn't going to be a fantasy force buried behind Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh, but he'll provide valuable depth and figures to see some action in 3-wide sets, if he's truly back to 100%. If either of the starters goes down to injury, Warrick would likely be a valuable waiver-wire pickup.

3. CIN - Bengals' Offense Looks Great On Paper (Commentary)

A lot of people around here can't wait until football season, but maybe that's not the right approach. Maybe they should hope it never arrives.

Because it doesn't get any better than it is right now for the Bengals. I mean, right now, they're in the playoffs for sure, and possibly - almost certainly, if you listen to the radio - the Super Bowl. Right now, Carson Palmer has more options than a Chinese menu. Right now, the Bengals could sell out a team meeting.

They're so good on paper that they ought to resurface their field with it. Mostly, it's the offense. On defense, the Bengals are counting on the energy of youth, the advantage of speed and the recent roster of the University of Georgia, all of which should put a little more bulldog into their bite. On offense, there's not a guy who touches the ball who couldn't take it to the Pro Bowl, except for the tight ends, whom Marvin Lewis says not to worry about because, what, do you want them taking catches away from Chad Johnson?

If you play fantasy football, you love this offense. If you don't, you just fantasize:

How good can Palmer be - and before he hurt his knee late last year, he was dang good - behind the readiest line the team has had in years, with Rudi Johnson to take the ball, tirelessly, and Chad and T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Peter Warrick and Chris Henry and Tab Perry and Kelley Washington to throw it to?

For Lewis' third edition, circa June, the issues are things like these:

If Warrick comes back healthy, does he push Houshmandzadeh? We all know what he can do. But does he even make the team?

If Chris Perry, last year's top draft choice, gets over the hernia thing, does he play in the same backfield as Rudi? Does he add another whole dimension?

When sophomore Landon Johnson is ready to go, does he take over the starting middle linebacker spot - where he played so stunningly well last year - from rookie Odell Thurman, who has shown no signs of giving it up?

Or maybe the better question is this:

Are the Bengals as primed and talented as Cincinnati thinks they are, or is that the desperation talking? Have the years of playoff deprivation (and watching the Reds) so clouded our judgment that we're dazzled by cubic zirconia?

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

The Bengals certainly have bright prospects in 2005 - as the writer mentioned, if you play fantasy football, you have to really like what you see happening on the Bengals' offense. We think that Palmer is on the cusp of being a fantasy starter, and that Chad Johnson will end up a top-5 wide receiver.

4. CLE - QB Doug Johnson to Back Up Dilfer

Clipped from: Palm Beach Post article by AP Staff, 6/20/05

Needing a veteran quarterback as protection for Trent Dilfer, the Cleveland Browns signed former Atlanta backup Doug Johnson to a one-year contract Monday.

Johnson spent last season with Tennessee. He signed with the Falcons as an undrafted free agent in 2000 and made 11 starts in four seasons before being released and signed by Jacksonville.

The Browns also waived defensive lineman Larry Burt, defensive backs Charles Byrd and Justin Fraley, wide receivers Bradley Chavez and Bill Flowers and running back Adimchinobe Echemandu.

Dilfer, acquired in a March trade from Seattle, played in just 10 games the past two seasons for the Seahawks. Before they brought in Johnson, the Browns' only backups were Josh Harris, a second-year player, and Charlie Frye, a rookie drafted in April.

Johnson got his most playing time in 2003 when he appeared in 10 games - eight starts - for the Falcons while replacing an injured Michael Vick. He completed 136-of-243 passes for 1,655 yards and eight touchdowns with 12 interceptions.

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

This becomes significant if Dilfer is injured during the 2005 season. As always, it is good to know who backs up starters in the NFL - at QB, the starter will impact the entire offense. Johnson would be more prepared to deal with a Dilfer injury than Harris or Frye.

5. TEN - OC Chow Under Scrutiny

Clipped from: article by Len Pasquarelli, 6/20/05

?the speed factor on which Chow will be judged in his maiden NFL campaign is how quickly he can incorporate an offensive design that has produced three Heisman Trophy winners, and statistically ranked in the top 10 of the NCAA in 15 of the last 21 seasons, but is untested at the professional level.

Even in a 2004 season assessed by Fisher as mediocre, the Tennessee offense ranked No. 11 in the league and clicked off more snaps than everyone but the Denver Broncos, and so no one knows precisely what barometer will be used to gauge Chow's impact. Then again, Chow, who had rebuffed previous overtures from NFL teams, is savvy enough to understand that the common denominator at every level of the sport is victories. And in 2004, the Titans, a team that some observers consider in decline, and a franchise that is in the throes of dealing with its salary cap excesses of the past, didn't win often enough.

"This hasn't been a franchise accustomed to losing," said Chow, 58, lured from national champion Southern California with a contract totaling approximately seven figures.

"They are a lot more accustomed to being in the playoffs and being a [Super Bowl] contender here. So, hopefully, we can play some part in getting back on that track. I'm certainly excited by the challenge."

His legion of friends are excited for Chow, who has long been regarded as the premier coordinator in the college game, but there are also some skeptics who are curious to see how he designs plays at the highest level of the game.

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

The Titan's offense has been stripped by free-agency/cap problems. WR Derrick Mason is in Baltimore. RB Chris Brown is struggling to overcome a turf-toe injury. Tyrone Calico is returning from knee surgery. Norm Chow has been very successful among the college ranks, but the depth in Tennessee is paper-thin. If everyone with NFL experience stays healthy and contributes, he has a chance at fielding a respectable offense. Otherwise, Tennessee is in for a long season.

6. TEN D - Toughness Evident

Clipped from: Tennessean article by Paul Kuharsky, 6/20/05

Brad Kassell was a week, maybe 10 days from being ready to practice for the first time last season.

He had endured an excruciating summer and fall. After shredding his Achilles tendon in a freak accident in Texas, he missed all the time where he could have made a dent in the linebacker lineup.

Then, three hours before the Titans' second game, Rocky Calmus was judged a no-go because of a back injury.

Coaches turned to Kassell, who appeared a long shot to play, and he nodded.

"He played in the Colts game, the second game of the season, with zero reps," defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said. "I don't know if in the history of the NFL that's ever been done. He did not practice one time (in training camp, the preseason or the first two weeks of the season) and played in the game."

In a season where the Titans lost a slew of players to injury and almost as many games, Kassell came back ahead of schedule from a serious injury and grew into a symbol of just the sort of the grit and toughness the team loves.

"To think how far he came from camp with the injury to the way he played at the end against Detroit to the very last play, I mean you look at that game and it typifies the way we like to play on defense," Coach Jeff Fisher said.

Kassell started the final 14 games at middle linebacker, finishing as the team's second-leading tackler with 128.

The linebacker who joined the Titans as an undrafted rookie out of North Texas in 2002 made such an impression with his 19 tackles in a last-game win over Detroit, the Lions ultimately signed the unrestricted free agent to an offer sheet.

When the Titans matched it, his salary for 2005 jumped from $656,000 to $1 million. "It's been huge for him," said Peter Sirmon, who missed last year with a torn ACL, helping to create an opportunity for Kassell. "He's looked at as a real leader of the defense now and not just a special teams guy, not just a guy who's going to go out there and thump, but he's going to make some plays. I think athletically he's gotten better."

But from Kassell's perspective, his status as the incumbent starting middle linebacker and his new contract change nothing.

"I've got a short memory. I don't know, maybe I've been hit in the head too many times," he said. "That's just the way I like to play football, it's kind of the way I grew up."

Said Schwartz: "Whatever he had in third grade lunch money, he's still got squirreled away somewhere, that's him. Money's not going to change him. Being a professional football player is not going to change him. If he was digging ditches, he'd be just as competitive."

Kassell will still have to hold off a training camp challenge from often-injured Calmus, who's spot he took over last year.

A hard-nosed run defender who worked hard and fared reasonably well when called on to help out in coverage, Kassell won't be on the field as part of the nickel package designed to key on pass defense.

He said he feels like he is ahead now, not because of his status as the starter, but because of how many more snaps he's played.

Still, when he reports to training camp in July, he's not likely to be wondering if he'll still have a roster spot when the Titans open in Pittsburgh on Sept. 11.

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

The Titans will need every ounce of toughness they can muster, because it's going to be a long season due to cap problems. This unit looks like one of the worst in the NFL heading into training camps. Kassell could be a good play in IDP leagues, though, as starting MLB tend to rack up a bunch of tackles.

7. IDP - CIN: New Bengals Starting LBs - Pollack and Thurman

David Pollack and Odell Thurman continue to command two of the three starting linebacker jobs for the Bengals.

The two rookies, former teammates at Georgia and the Bengals' first two draft picks in April, wrapped up another stage in their development Sunday with the completion of the team's mandatory three-day minicamp at Paul Brown Stadium.

Pollack is working at strong-side outside linebacker. Thurman is running No. 1 at middle linebacker.

Coach Marvin Lewis continued to downplay the reported difficulty of Pollack's transition from college defensive end to outside linebacker in Cincinnati.

"It's a simple position," Lewis said of outside linebacker. "The only people making a big deal out of it are (reporters). It's not a big change. It's a very easy change. Call it what you want. Call it defensive end. Just keep writing it and writing it and writing it."

Asked what Pollack would do in the defense, Lewis said, "Things he's been doing since he's being playing football."

Pollack said he would work hard between the end of the offseason program June 29 and the start of training camp one month later.

"Watch film," he said of his routine. "Study my playbook over and over. Run (and) work on my drops (in pass coverage). That's stuff I can control."

Thurman said he knows what he is supposed to do on paper in the classroom and that the challenge remains to learn his assignments thoroughly enough to perform them at high speed on the field.

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

Both of these players figure to make a big impact on the Bengals' defense - Pollack is expected to apply a lot of pressure to opposing QBs, while Thurman will see a lot of action in the middle of the defense. Either one would be a solid pick in a dynasty league rookie draft.

8. IDP KC: What's Plan C at CB?

Clipped from: Kansas City Star article by Elizabeth Merrill, 6/20/05

Battle's injury leaves a big hole, which deepens with the uncertainty of Eric Warfield's status. Warfield, the Chiefs' best cornerback in 2004, was demoted to the second team in anticipation of a suspension from the NFL for violating the league's substance-abuse policy.

He could miss as many as four games, and it could come at the start of the season, when the Chiefs open with the New York Jets, Oakland Raiders and Denver Broncos.

"We're not going to panic," Vermeil said. "I'm more concerned about (Battle) because he's been here for two years, and he was just starting to find out what it takes to be a professional football player. It's part of the game. It's the rotten part of the game."

Just a few days ago, Vermeil raved about the progress of the defense, which was overhauled with some key offseason acquisitions. One free agent the Chiefs took a pass on last spring was cornerback Ty Law.

Law is still on the market, but Vermeil said it was unclear whether the Chiefs would do any more defensive shopping. Money, undoubtedly, is the biggest issue. Both Vermeil and president/general manager Carl Peterson have said that the Chiefs used up most of their cap space on free agents and trades. On Saturday, they added veteran wide receiver

"We'll look," Vermeil said. "But I don't know what's out there - and then we'll also more deeply evaluate those young people we have. But we have time."

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As our Mike Brown reported last night, Dexter McCleon may be the next starter opposite Patrick Surtain (at least while Warfield serves out his suspension), but a free agent acquisition before training camp is also likely. Depending on the teams' attitude toward Warfield once the expected suspension is over, whoever ends up starting across from Surtain to begin the season could be a valuable fantasy CB - he'll see a lot of chances to make tackles and defend passes, as opposing teams will key on the weakest link in the secondary.

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


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