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Undertaker #59
05-31-2007, 07:48 AM
http://sport.monstersandcritics.com/nfl/article_1307441.php/Line_of_Scrimmage_Pats_Colts_and_Bolts_-_2007s_Elite_Trio

Philadelphia, PA - May is 'National Hyperbole Month' in the NFL, a time for prognosticators from coast to coast to scour over projected 2007 rosters and make breathless pronouncements about the imminent ascendance of whatever team has improved itself in the most tangible manner during the preceding months.

In the spring of 2007, the object of our collective affection has been the New England Patriots. In fact, earmarking the Pats for greatness is so easy Sean Salisbury can do it.

We all recall how New England was one defensive stop away from representing the AFC in Super Bowl XLI this past February. We all know about the Hawking- like genius of their head coach, and have considered the trio of titles engineered by the golden boy quarterback. None of us has to leaf through the Sporting News' Pro Football Register to understand what names like Randy Moss, Donte' Stallworth, Wes Welker, and Adalius Thomas could do to enhance the quality of the sitting 'Team of the Decade.'

And so we gush, even though New England is but one of three potentially elite- level teams that will be wading through a contentious AFC in 2007.

The reigning World Champion Indianapolis Colts still have that guy wearing No. 18, still have those two receivers that few can cover when it matters, and still have the coach for whom players would run into burning buildings.

The San Diego Chargers are one season removed from an NFL-best 14-2 regular season, return basically everyone of import from the roster that forged that mark, and will enter the year spitting mad over the way their 2006 campaign ended, with a shocking home playoff loss to the Patriots.

With apologies to other probable double-digit-win teams like the Bears, Ravens, Saints, and Bengals, it is New England, Indianapolis, and San Diego that will begin the upcoming season as those against which all others will be measured.

Which of the three will actually match the hype, if any? That's where we come in.

Below we take a 'Tale of the Tape'-style look at the rosters of the Patriots, Colts, and Chargers, evaluating the strongest areas of all three teams entering the 2007 campaign and identifying the true favorite:

Quarterbacks: 1. Colts, 2, Patriots, 3. Chargers

You could make a real case for Tom Brady being the preferable quarterback to Peyton Manning just a few short months ago, but that sales pitch is a stretch at this point. Manning has won three straight against Brady head-to-head, including two in New England and one in the playoffs, now has a Super Bowl title in his hip pocket, and frankly, is the more consistent player. That said, there's no shame in being the second-best quarterback in the NFL, which Brady is. No one with a lucid sense of reality would place Philip Rivers anywhere other than third on this list, though he did a commendable job in his first year as a starter last season.

Running Backs: 1. Chargers, 2. Patriots, 3. Colts

LaDainian Tomlinson is arguably the finest running back of his generation, and now that Manning has won the big one, the 'L.T. has never won a playoff game' storyline figures to get trotted out with more frequency beginning this season. The presence of backup Michael Turner and fullback Lorenzo Neal should give Norv Turner few backfield worries. New England's Laurence Maroney and Indianapolis' Joseph Addai are similar talents, but the Patriots get the edge here because they have some credible NFL players (Sammy Morris, Kevin Faulk, Heath Evans) beneath him on the depth chart at running back. As it stands now, if Addai goes down, Indianapolis would be handing the football to someone named DeDe Dorsey.

Wide Receivers: 1. Colts, 2. Patriots, 3. Chargers

Based purely on potential, you would have to give the edge here to the Patriots. New England added Moss, Stallworth, and Welker to a group that already included capable players like Reche Caldwell and Jabar Gaffney. But when analyzing the corps of receivers that will actually be more productive, the smart money is on Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, and first-round draft choice Anthony Gonzalez. San Diego's group of receivers is a distant third, especially now that Keenan McCardell has been trimmed from the roster. Eric Parker and Vincent Jackson figure to be the Chargers' Week 1 starters at wideout, with first-round draft choice Craig Davis (LSU) looked to for a contribution as well.

Tight Ends: 1. Chargers, 2. Patriots, 3. Colts

The Patriots' Benjamin Watson and Colts' Dallas Clark inspire their fair share of worry among NFL defensive coordinators, but nothing close to the gnashing of teeth that goes on over the prospect of having to stop San Diego's Antonio Gates. Add in the presence of the underrated Brandon Manumaleuna and 6-7 rookie Scott Chandler (Iowa), and the Bolts have an especially scary contingent working the middle of the field. New England gets the number two spot thanks to backups David Thomas and Kyle Brady, who have a little more versatility than Indy's backup duo of Ben Utecht and Bryan Fletcher.

Offensive Lines: 1. Chargers, 2. Patriots, 3. Colts

These three offensive trench units are remarkably similar in their makeup, all being effective and reliable despite the lack of real star power in the mould of a Jonathan Ogden or Steve Hutchinson. You'd have to have to give a narrow nod to San Diego here, however, since the left side of tackle Marcus McNeill and guard Kris Dielman, center Nick Hardwick, and right tackle Shane Olivea are all regarded as being among the top tier at their positions. New England's left side of tackle Matt Light and guard Logan Mankins is solid, as is center Dan Koppen. There is a widespread belief around the league that Manning makes his line look good, and not vice-versa, though there is no doubt that players like left tackle Tarik Glenn and center Jeff Saturday stack up with the NFL's best.

Defensive Lines: 1. Patriots, 2. Chargers, 3. Colts

Comparing the three-man front of the Patriots and Chargers to the Colts' 4-3 unit is a little unfair, since responsibilities within those schemes are dissimilar. That said, since Indianapolis didn't stop the run or rush the passer very well during the 2006 regular season, it is an easy pick for last place on this list. If tackles Anthony McFarland and Raheem Brock can stop the run as well as they did in the 2006 postseason, and if ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis revert to their pre-'06 production, Indy will move up this chart. New England's trio of nose tackle Vince Wilfork and ends Richard Seymour and Ty Warren is spectacular when healthy, and San Diego's group of nose tackle Jamal Williams and ends Luis Castillo and Igor Olshansky is strong in its own right.

Linebackers: 1. Patriots, 2. Chargers, 3. Colts

Adding Adalius Thomas to a group of linebackers that already included Mike Vrabel, Tedy Bruschi, Roosevelt Colvin, and Junior Seau gave New England the most recognizable second line of defense in the league. San Diego's outside duo of Shawne Merriman and Shaun Phillips gives the Chargers' the pass-rushing edge, though New England receives the overall nod because less is known about the new San Diego inside duo of Stephen Cooper and Matt Wilhelm. Indy is a distant third here, due to the fact that problems at the linebacker position were a major reason for all those rushing yards the team surrendered a year ago. Gary Brackett and Rob Morris are penciled in at two of the linebacker slots a lot, but following Cato June's defection to Tampa Bay, who will end up on the weak side is anyone's guess.

Defensive Backs: 1. Patriots, 2. Colts, 3. Chargers

New England has had as many injury issues in the secondary as any other team in the league, but if the likes of cornerbacks Ellis Hobbs, Asante Samuel, and strong safety Rodney Harrison can remain healthy, the Pats will have the makings of a talented group. Offseason additions like veteran corner Tory James and first-round safety Brandon Meriweather figure to help as well. Indianapolis has a major (though oft-injured) talent in Bob Sanders at free safety, and a blossoming one in Antoine Bethea at strong safety, but following the offseason defections of Nick Harper and Jason David, the corner slots could be left to Marlin Jackson and the inexperienced Kelvin Hayden. San Diego's secondary has long been its Achilles heel, though the early selection of cornerback Antonio Cromartie and strong safety Eric Weddle in the last two drafts helps a bit.

Returns: 1. Patriots, 2. Chargers, 3. Colts

Ellis Hobbs gave the Patriots a big spark on kickoff returns a year ago, and if New England commits to allowing Wes Welker to handle punts (he is currently listed behind Kevin Faulk at that position), Belichick's squad could be lethal in that area. San Diego's Michael Turner was outstanding on kickoff returns last year, though the return of Darren Sproles after a 2006 season lost to injury could limit Turner exclusively to backup duties. Sproles is a candidate for punt returns as well. Indianapolis has not re-signed free agent Terrence Wilkins, who handled 73 of the team's 81 punt/kickoff returns in the '06 regular season, and their direction with respect to both positions is unclear.

Kicking: 1. Colts, 2. Chargers, 3. Patriots

Indianapolis has a clear edge over most other NFL teams in the kicking game, with the ultra-reliable Adam Vinatieri still going strong at the age of 34 and Hunter Smith remaining a top-flight punter. Chargers kicker Nate Kaeding was consistent last season and boasts a big leg, but is better known for his huge misses in the team's last two playoff games. San Diego punter Mike Scifres is one of the best in the business. Gostkowski kicked well during the second half of last season, but is still somewhat erratic, and punter Josh Miller is coming off an injury-marred 2006.

Coaches: 1. Patriots, 2. Colts, 3. Chargers

Though they have far different approaches, Bill Belichick and Tony Dungy are perhaps the two most highly-respected coaches in the league. Belichick's three rings break the tie. In contrast, there might not be a bigger concern for Chargers fans this year than the team's new coaching regime. The twice-fired Norv Turner is now the head coach, and San Diego also lost some major assistant coaching talent like offensive coordinator Cam Cameron (now the head coach of the Dolphins), defensive coordinator Wade Phillips (head coach, Cowboys), tight ends coach Rob Chudzinski (offensive coordinator, Browns), linebackers coach Greg Manusky (defensive coordinator, 49ers), and secondary coach Brian Stewart (defensive coordinator, Cowboys).

Overall: 1. Patriots, 2. Chargers, 3. Colts

OK, so maybe it's not just hyperbole. New England is the most complete of the AFC's three top contenders, though obviously the team's ability to deliver on its immense promise is contingent on intangibles such as health and chemistry. San Diego's ability to reach Super Bowl XLI (or win its first playoff game since the early 90's, for that matter) figures to be a tall order given the gauntlet the club will face in the traditionally strong AFC West, and Norv Turner's history of winning big games is even less distinguished than that of his predecessor, Marty Schottenheimer. As for the defending champs, most of last year's best-known horses will be at the starting gate, but the Colts' depth is not what it was in 2006 and the Super Bowl hangover is always in play. Thus, the early nod in the hunt for the Lombardi Trophy goes to New England.

And may the hype bus roll on.

Baron Samedi
05-31-2007, 07:56 AM
Dammit! I can't find anything to take issue with here...I pretty much agree with it top to bottom.:mad:

cka203
05-31-2007, 08:39 AM
Not a bad analysis. I don't know that I agree with it 100%, but for the most part, logic would dictate that it's correct.

Course, we all know logic isn't what gets the Ws...

Steve1
05-31-2007, 08:45 AM
Look for a precipitous dip in the standings for the Chargers. Their new coach isn't up to the task.

Then again, the Bosox had a new coach in '04, and went all the way, so who knows. It's just my guess.

I don't think we'll know about the Patriots until there is a clearer view of the run game's level of effectiveness.

One bad injury to Manning, and it's curtains for the Colts.

Hurting one's head by overanalyzing can lead to headaches and a surprising inefectiveness of predictions.

ColtFan81
05-31-2007, 08:46 AM
Yeah, not bad. I don't agree with out offensive line being 3rd, however.....

ICB
05-31-2007, 08:48 AM
I agreed with most of it. I'm not sure I agree with his take on the offensive lines...

dchester
05-31-2007, 08:48 AM
Originally posted by ColtFan81 on 05-31-2007 at 09:46 AM
Yeah, not bad. I don't agree with out offensive line being 3rd, however..... I actually agree with you on that.

cka203
05-31-2007, 08:52 AM
Yeah, the O-line is why I said I didn't agree 100%. Also not real sold on the TEs, but overall, not bad.

P4E
05-31-2007, 09:02 AM
WTF...im a pat, and have no idea why watson is in front of my man DALLAS CLARK...CLARK IS THE BEST TIGHT END IN FOOTBALL..yes better than gates

cadmonkey
05-31-2007, 09:21 AM
I agree 100% with this. I just hate having the expectations of us being the best.

The*Big*Lebowski
05-31-2007, 09:25 AM
Originally posted by PATRIOT4EVER on 05-31-2007 at 10:02 AM
WTF...im a pat, and have no idea why watson is in front of my man DALLAS CLARK...CLARK IS THE BEST TIGHT END IN FOOTBALL..yes better than gates

Well, i don't think it's just Watson vs clark. Its the position as a whole, which I would give the slight edge to the pats over the colts.

And no way in hell is Clark better than Gates.

Hawg73
05-31-2007, 09:43 AM
Preseason hype is all well and good and I don't expect the Pats to sit around wallowing in all the bouquets tossed their way by the national media to this point with more sure to come.

I'll just state that the man in charge says repeatedly that your reputation and track record doesn't really mean shit when you line up to begin the season for real. As boring as it may be to read, it is no less true that how you execute, how you play on Sunday is the only thing that matters. How well the team responds to the whistle is more important than trying to add projected stats of all the new guys to last year's total.

We'll see all kinds of changes and unexpected occurences as the season arrives. That's the norm. We are breaking in a brand new receiving corps and I don't expect them all to be functioning like a swiss watch out of the gate. I expect exactly the opposite.

We've got questions at LB, WR, TE (don't forget we lost Graham and his outstanding blocking) and especially at safety.

Everyone has a right to be excited if they wish, I won't rain on any parades, but I don't for a second assume that this will be the best Pats team ever (as is commonly the case right now) until I see what they do and how they do it.

The last time the media fawned on the Pats like this was after we killed the Steelers in the '02 opener and euphoria reigned. I can recall eating up every word at that time. Shortly thereafter we discovered that we couldn't stop the run and ended up missing the playoffs.

The*Big*Lebowski
05-31-2007, 09:50 AM
Buzzkill!

But absolutely correct.

P4E
05-31-2007, 09:53 AM
Originally posted by The Big Lebowski on 05-31-2007 at 03:25 PM
Well, i don't think it's just Watson vs clark. Its the position as a whole, which I would give the slight edge to the pats over the colts.

And no way in hell is Clark better than Gates.

For me dallas is the best, then followed by gates and watson..clark tore us apart in the AFCG...and gates was pretty poor against us in the divisional game

The*Big*Lebowski
05-31-2007, 10:03 AM
Gates would have done some serious damage had they properly used him. As Indy did Clark. Plus, Gates plays with mediocre receivers compared to Clark. And Clark has been anything but durable.

I think you have Gates, Gonzales, and Shockey. and then everyone else.

Oswlek
05-31-2007, 10:17 AM
Originally posted by PATRIOT4EVER on 05-31-2007 at 10:53 AM
For me dallas is the best, then followed by gates and watson..clark tore us apart in the AFCG...and gates was pretty poor against us in the divisional game

Against Indy, NE lost both of their #2 safeties, Seymour was hurt on the very first play and due to flu and exhaustion, NE's DL and LBs got no pressure on Manning in the second half.

There is no way to use that game as a basis for evaluation. In the first game, a game in which Harrison was lost on the third defensive play of the game, Clark was held to 2 catches for 42 yards.

Gates would have looked every bit as dominant against NE had he faced the squad that Clark saw. Likely even more so.

ICB
05-31-2007, 10:20 AM
Originally posted by The Big Lebowski on 05-31-2007 at 11:03 AM
Gates would have done some serious damage had they properly used him. As Indy did Clark. Plus, Gates plays with mediocre receivers compared to Clark. And Clark has been anything but durable.

I think you have Gates, Gonzales, and Shockey. and then everyone else.

I absolutely agree that you put Gates and possibly Gonzales ahead of Clark. I'm not so sure about Shockey but I wouldn't argue with you about it either. ;)

What I totally disagree with is the comment that Clark had been anything but durable. He came back from a sprained ACL (or was it MCL) in what? Six weeks?

dchester
05-31-2007, 10:54 AM
Originally posted by cka203 on 05-31-2007 at 09:52 AM
Yeah, the O-line is why I said I didn't agree 100%. Oh, I had assumed you were referring to Manning's rating.

The*Big*Lebowski
05-31-2007, 11:04 AM
Originally posted by ICB on 05-31-2007 at 11:20 AM
I absolutely agree that you put Gates and possibly Gonzales ahead of Clark. I'm not so sure about Shockey but I wouldn't argue with you about it either. ;)

What I totally disagree with is the comment that Clark had been anything but durable. He came back from a sprained ACL (or was it MCL) in what? Six weeks?

So he missed 6 weeks, correct? To me, durable means not getting hurt to begin with. But thats just me.

This was a comparison of Gates vs. Clark. Gates has been more durable than Clark.
:shrug:

According to the stats on GP, Clark has missed 12 games in the time that Gates has missed 3.

They are both good though!

ICB
05-31-2007, 11:15 AM
Originally posted by The Big Lebowski on 05-31-2007 at 12:04 PM
So he missed 6 weeks, correct? To me, durable means not getting hurt to begin with. But thats just me.

This was a comparison of Gates vs. Clark. Gates has been more durable than Clark.
:shrug:

According to the stats on GP, Clark has missed 12 games in the time that Gates has missed 3.

They are both good though!

Well, that's the thing, though. He's certainly not injury-prone and, if you saw the hit he took, you'd know that even the toughest guy would have been injured.

I agree with you, though. They're both great and I definitely give the edge to Gates. I just wanted to defend Clark a little in that, he's a pretty tough guy.

Brady's Bunch
05-31-2007, 12:06 PM
For me Clark is the 4th best TE in the league behind Gates, Gonzalez and Shockey....though i still don't get the love fest over him

Steve1
05-31-2007, 12:15 PM
I really don't know enough to say alot about Gates, since the Chargers haven't played the Pats all that much since he's been in the league, so I haven't focused on him.

I've got to say Dallas Clark caught just about all of the pegs from Manning vs. the Pats in the AFC championship game, when it counted. Would he have, if the Pats had their starting safeties? I don't know. And it really doesn't matter to me. Clark came through when needed.

If "if and buts were candy and nuts"......if my Patriots last year had better receivers, the tight ends would have gotten open more often, and Graham and Watson would have played like stars.

This year....could be better in that regard

Oswlek
05-31-2007, 01:34 PM
Originally posted by Steve1 on 05-31-2007 at 01:15 PM
I really don't know enough to say alot about Gates, since the Chargers haven't played the Pats all that much since he's been in the league, so I haven't focused on him.

I've got to say Dallas Clark caught just about all of the pegs from Manning vs. the Pats in the AFC championship game, when it counted. Would he have, if the Pats had their starting safeties? I don't know. And it really doesn't matter to me. Clark came through when needed.

If "if and buts were candy and nuts"......if my Patriots last year had better receivers, the tight ends would have gotten open more often, and Graham and Watson would have played like stars.

This year....could be better in that regard

I think you are refering to my post about the "ifs" but you missed the point a little.

Someone was basing an opinion of Clark and Gates based on two games against the same team. I was pointing out that, even though the uniforms were the same, the teams weren't even close to the same.

BTW, I think one has to be a little skeptical of Clarks dominance when you consider just how little he has done in just about every other game against NE. Even in the AFCCG nearly all his yardage came in the second half when things were collapsing around NE.

Steve1
05-31-2007, 04:29 PM
Originally posted by Oswlek on 05-31-2007 at 02:34 PM
I think you are refering to my post about the "ifs" but you missed the point a little.



Nah, it must have been subconcious if I was refering to your post. I did read it, and I have no big disagreements, and I was saying the candy and nuts thing just about my ideas. I was kind of making fun of my own idea.

But I see what you mean about: if the Pats had the same sickness and fatigue problem vs. the chargers that they had vs. the colts, then Gates would have had a field day.

Except for one thing....Peyton Manning gets the ball to the receiver better than just about anybody, including Phillip Rivers, I'd presume. And Clark came through when it counted. I refuse to detract from that performance. The opportunity was there, and he took it by the horns. He didn't drop any easy ones (or did he! I don't really remember...).

But I like Watson too....he can rumble for big yards.

Tchok13
05-31-2007, 06:01 PM
Originally posted by The Big Lebowski on 05-31-2007 at 10:25 AM
Well, i don't think it's just Watson vs clark. Its the position as a whole, which I would give the slight edge to the pats over the colts.

And no way in hell is Clark better than Gates.

Agreed, Gates is sick.

Oswlek
05-31-2007, 06:47 PM
Originally posted by Steve1 on 05-31-2007 at 05:29 PM
Nah, it must have been subconcious if I was refering to your post. I did read it, and I have no big disagreements, and I was saying the candy and nuts thing just about my ideas. I was kind of making fun of my own idea.

But I see what you mean about: if the Pats had the same sickness and fatigue problem vs. the chargers that they had vs. the colts, then Gates would have had a field day.

Except for one thing....Peyton Manning gets the ball to the receiver better than just about anybody, including Phillip Rivers, I'd presume. And Clark came through when it counted. I refuse to detract from that performance. The opportunity was there, and he took it by the horns. He didn't drop any easy ones (or did he! I don't really remember...).

But I like Watson too....he can rumble for big yards.

Clark is very good..... but Gates is otherworldly.

BTW, for all the Colt fans, Clark is without a doubt the best TE amongst the NE and Indy contingents. If someone told me that Dave Thomas would be as good as Clark, I would be thrilled. I just don't see him as the dominant force that Gates is and Gonzalez was. Yes, Indy has a lot of options, but if he were that good, they would make it a point to get the ball in his hands 4-5 times a game.

I like Watson in the open field, but he just looks a little out of place as a TE. I can't really describe it, but when I watch Thomas out there, he just looks the part. It seems as if he were made to be a TE. Watson always just looks a little uncomfortable for whatever reason.

Crazy as it sounds, if I could have only one (assuming of course that Thomas' injury is a non-issue) I would probably take Thomas.

Steve1
05-31-2007, 08:21 PM
Originally posted by Oswlek on 05-31-2007 at 07:47 PM
Clark is very good..... but Gates is otherworldly.

a little uncomfortable for whatever reason.

Crazy as it sounds, if I could have only one (assuming of course that Thomas' injury is a non-issue) I would probably take Thomas.

Dave Thomas appears to have some highlight plays in him. I think the Pats picked a winner there.

I've got to watch more of Antonio Gates. Now if memory serves, the Pats did a real good job of taking him out of the offense during the divisional championship game. Thankfully.

We'll get to watch him again vs. the Pats in early Sept. during the 8:30 p.m. Chargers at Patriots game. Should be a freakin doozie.

It's funny...a friend of mine who goes to training camp with me said "watch this guy watson....he catches the ball with his hands.....and graham catches it with his body, thus losing the ball more. Watson is going to be great, Steve...."

But I must admit, this is the same guy who said to me " I love this Rod Rutledge...this guy is going to be Real good..."

Well, Rod Rutledge did play tight end of the 2001 NFL Champion New England Patriots, so he wasn't all bad!

grog
05-31-2007, 08:43 PM
Running Backs: 1. Chargers, 2. Patriots, 3. Colts

As it stands now, if Addai goes down, Indianapolis would be handing the football to someone named DeDe Dorsey.


If I were the Colts, I'd be worried about depth at every position. In fact, I think that is and has been the strength and trademark of BB in NE. He manages the team well so that there is rarely a drop-off when a starter goes down, be it personnel or scheme. Of course, if Brady were to get hurt,...well, I guess same goes for Manning. San Diego can probably absorb a loss of starting QB better than the Pats or the Colts.

Very good and objective analysis. I was surprised that both our LBs and DBs were rated above the other two teams, but when you look at it, you have to agree. I think Randall Gay is our pleasant surpise this year, and Merriman will be better than billed.