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American Football: Rookies are looking good this year

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posted on Oct, 11 2006 @ 06:29 PM
A good article that was on

There were some very interesting games on Sunday, but I really wasn't surprised by any of the results. Several things played out as expected.


The Bears' mighty growl
The Chicago Bears are 5-0 for the first time since 1986, but more impressive than the record is how they're winning. Not only have they established a balanced attack on offense in terms of passing and running the ball, but they're managing to get both running backs involved. Thomas Jones had 22 carries against the Buffalo Bills and Cedric Benson got 14. You know they're going to run the ball, so that's not the surprising part. What's different is that they're attacking down field. Bernard Berrian already has more catches (19) this season than he did last year (13) and more touchdowns (four) than he did his first two years (two) in the league.

This improved offense is what's going to propel this team to new heights. We've seen the Bears get to the playoffs in recent years with good defense, but we haven't seen them throwing the ball down field like Rex Grossman is doing right now.

Young guns a blazing
Already, this is starting to look like a good draft class. The Tennessee Titans realize they have to play Vince Young if they want to make progress and he has played very well. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were forced to play Bruce Gradkowski because of the injury to Chris Simms and he played a phenomenal game against the New Orleans Saints. In fact, he played much better than Simms had played at any point this season. Gradkowski made some very good decisions and looked in command of the offense. Also, Matt Leinart played well for the Arizona Cardinals.

All three guys lost on Sunday, but there is reason to be excited about their futures. Young is much farther along than former Titans quarterback Steve McNair was at this stage of his career. And Leinart was very impressive in how he took command of the offense early and got off to a good start. He came in and threw deep passes immediately, which was very noticeable considering how critics said he didn't have a strong arm. Also, the Cardinals didn't change the game plan from what they were doing before. He threw 35 times in a game they led most of the way.

Soaring high
This was a big game for Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb and he played like it. The last time he faced the Dallas Cowboys, he suffered the groin injury that ended his season on the play in which Roy Williams' interception return for a touchdown essentially ended the game. Everyone kept talking about Terrell Owens, but you knew this game was much bigger than a regular season game to McNabb.

The thing that probably stands out most with McNabb this season is how he's taking these young guys and getting them to produce like seasoned veterans. With the way guys like Donte Stallworth and Greg Lewis are playing, this is a better receiving corps than what he had with T.O. two years ago when they got to the Super Bowl because he's spreading the ball around and getting everyone more involved.

Utterly Disappointing

Bad Bledsoe
In the end, the Dallas Cowboys had a number of things go wrong on offense. It appears tight end Jason Witten didn't run the type of route Drew Bledose was expecting him to down at the goal line, which led to the game-sealing interception return for a touchdown. But there were plenty of Bledsoe miscues throughout the game.

On one play, he appeared to be late with the ball, missed Owens and the pass was subsequently picked off. On another, he got sacked. Ultimately, Bledsoe is making some bad plays that you don't expect from a veteran.

Horsing around
Last year, the Indianapolis Colts looked invincible for a long stretch while they were undefeated. You got the sense that they could run the table and they played like they were sending a message that it was finally their year.

Now, they still have a good offense and the running game is starting to pick up a bit, but teams are able to run against them. The Titans ran for more than 200 yards against them on Sunday and teams are heading into games with a lot more confidence. Everyone is talking about how much Edgerrin James would be missed, but the absence most hurting them is defensive tackle Corey Simon. After a disappointing campaign last season, they had great expectations for him this season. Instead, he's out for the season and they don't have a space-eater up the middle to stuff the run. Now, opposing teams have the ability to block the defensive tackle with one blocker and use other players to pick up the linebackers.

Rusty Redskins
Talk about a playoff team that's really in trouble. I thought all along the Washington Redskins were going to have trouble adjusting to Al Saunders' offense. They had a little success against teams whose defenses aren't that good, but it'll be tougher against better units.

They brought in a couple of guys in the receiving corps – Brandon Lloyd and Antwaan Randle El – who don't fit the system. As a result, the offense has no identity. The unit should be built around Clinton Portis and Santana Moss, but instead they're trying to spread the ball around. The problem is heightened with the fact they play in the best division in football and have a tough schedule coming up (three of their next four games are at Indy, against Dallas and at Philadelphia).

It doesn't look good for Washington.

Cris Carter is Yahoo! Sports' NFL analyst. Send Cris a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.

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