Saturday, September 02, 2006

Week 1 Top 25 Picks

#1 Ohio State 35
Northern Illinois 20

#2 Notre Dame 42
Georgia Tech 21

#3 Texas 28
North Texas 10

#4 Auburn 28
Washington State 24

Marshall 35
#5 West Virginia 31

#6 Southern Cal 31
Arkansas 28

#7 Florida 49
Southern Miss 10

#8 LSU 77
Louisiana - Lafayette 10

#23 Tennessee 28
#9 California 24

#10 Oklahoma 35
UAB 14

#14 Michigan 35
Vanderbilt 3

#15 Georgia 49
Western Kentucky 0

#16 Iowa 35
Montana 0

#17 Virginia Tech 63
Northeastern 3

#18 Clemson 24
Florida Atlantic 7

#19 Penn State 35
Akron 31

#20 Nebraska 31
Louisiana Tech 3

#21 Oregon 38
Stanford 24

[#24 Arizona State beat Northern Arizona 35-14 on Thursday]

#25 Texas Tech 24
Southern Methodist 17

Friday, September 01, 2006

Notre Dame at Georgia Tech - Preview

OK, so I'll add my voice to the din of bloggers that have prepared the standard breakdown of this game.

ON NDNation, NDTIGER had the following [mocking] recap of nearly everyone's blog breakdown for this game:

"Notre Dame has a great offense from last year! Georgia Tech's QB is hit-or-miss! Calvin Johnson is only one man! GASP - ND's defense gave up 617 yards, but I predict good improvement, have any of you heard of Travis Thomas moving to linebacker, or the team's focus on "playing fast??"

And, honestly, on a superficial level, that is the sum of this game. Calvin Johnson will get his touches, Notre Dame will score points, and the defense hasn't proven itself.

So let me break this game down where games are really won or lost: in the trenches.

Notre Dame Offensive Line v. Georgia Tech Defensive Line

Key matchup:
Sam Young, Freshman Offensive Tackle (Notre Dame) 6'7" 292 lbs. v.
Darrell Robertson, Junior Defensive End (Georgia Tech) 6'5" 240 lbs.

Young is a monster true freshman, the first in Notre Dame history to start his very first career game. And this isn't some unranked Davieham team he is starting for - it is the #2 team in the nation, according to the AP poll. This is a lot to ask of a
true freshman.
With four starts to his name, Robertson is a veteran backup who is finally stepping into the full-time starting role. He isn't a dominant pass rusher, but he has one big advantage over Young - experience.
If Georgia Tech wants to stay in this game, Robertson must consistently beat Young. If he does so, Walker will be forced to choose between picking up the unblocked defensive end or the blitz (which I expect Tech to do on almost every play).
I expect that if Robertson and the blitz have to much success early, we'll see a lot of draws and quick screens.
My prediction: Young, although inexperienced, has the size and strength advantage here. Robertson will beat Young a few times during the game, pulling from his bag of tricks, but won't beat him consistently enough to wreak havoc in the Notre Dame backfield. Young will dominate him in the running game.
Edge: Georgia Tech (barely)

Other matchups:
Bob Morton, Senior Guard, 6'4" 298 lbs. v. Darryl Richard, Sophomore (RS) Defensive Tackle, 6'4" 285 lbs.
Physically, these two players would normally play to a stalemate, as size and strength are pretty even. However, a stalemate generally favors the offense, and this is anything but a normal game for Morton. He will be highly motivated to beat the snot out of Richard in honor of his father, who passed away last week.
If Richard doesn't let himself get frustrated, and plays consistently, eventually the emotion that Morton will play with will get in the way of his concentration, and possibly allow Richard to get some penetration at key points in the game. He is a potential All-ACC defensive lineman, and that alone keeps me from giving the edge to Morton.
Edge: Even

John Sullivan, Senior Center, 6'4" 290 lbs. v. Blitz pickup and linebackers
This is a bit of a simplification, as the blocking schemes will matchup any combination of these players against blitzers or linebackers, but in a base package, the center (particularly on passing plays) will have responsibility for the inside blitz or help with other pass rushers. Sullivan, along with the rest of this line, has far too much experience to make many mistakes.
Edge: Even

Dan Santucci, Senior (RS) Guard, 6'4" 296 lbs. v. Joe Anoai, Senior Defensive Tackle, 6'3" 280 lbs.
Santucci will neutralize Anoai for the most part. Santucci is a good, but not great offensive lineman, and Anoai is a good, but not great defensive lineman. But, as I said before, ties go to the offense in the trenches.
Edge: Even

Ryan Harris, Senior Tackle, 6'5" 292 lbs. v. Adamm Oliver, Junior Defensive End, 6'4" 265 lbs.
This one isn't even close. Ryan Harris is big, strong, fast, has great hands and footwork, loads of experience, and a great understanding of the offense. Brady doesn't have to worry about his backside this year as long as Harris stays healthy. Adamm Oliver is a very good defensive end, and may get himself a sack tomorrow, but he will not be a factor lining up against Harris every down.
Edge: Notre Dame (by a fair margin)

Notre Dame's Defensive Line v. Georgia Tech's Offensive Line

Key Matchup:
Victor Abiamiri, Senior Defensive End, 6'4" 270 lbs. v. Mansfield Wrotto, Senior Offensive Tackle, 6'3" 310 lbs.
This is an interesting matchup. If Wrotto gets his hands on Vic, he has the strength and size to stop him dead in his tracks. However, Wrotto can't get his 310 pound frame moving quickly enough to catch Vic if he takes a wider angle. Problem is, with Reggie Ball being such a rushing threat, Vic won't be able to be overly aggressive as a pass rusher, as the defensive line will largely be focused on containing Ball.
On rushing plays, Vic will really struggle not being blown off the ball by the stronger Wrotto. Vic will be a great pass rusher this year, but this team doesn't match up well with his strengths.
Edge: Georgia Tech

Trevor Laws, Senior Defensive Tackle 6'1" 283 lbs. v. Nate McManus, Junior Offensive Guard, 6'3" 295 lbs.
Laws has a leverage advantage here against McManus. He isn't giving up much weight, but Laws' shorter stature will allow him to get under McManus' block and penetrate the backfield.
Edge: Notre Dame

Kevin Tuminello, Junior Center 6'4" 285 lbs. v. Notre Dame Linebackers and Blitzers
With Crum playing the inside 'backer, Tuminello had better be prepared to move his feet. Crum's quickness could play to our advantage if he can shed Tuminello's block. If Tuminello can tie him up in traffic, the edge here could go to the Yellow Jackets.
Edge: Georgia Tech

Derek Landri, Senior Defensive Tackle, 6'3" 277 lbs. v. Matt Rhodes, Junior Guard6'3" 285 lbs.
Here is another matchup that pits two basically even players against each other, and ties go to the offense.
Edge: Georgia Tech

Ronald Talley 6'4" 262 lbs., Junior Defensive End and Chris Frome 6'5" 260 lbs., Senior Defensive End v. Andrew Gardner, Sophomore Tackle
Gardner is the least experienced member of the offensive line, and he will be facing a rotating pair of defensive ends that will simply wear him down over the course of the game. Expect Gardner to be effective early, but that in the later quarters, Frome and Talley will start to have quite an impact.
Edge: Notre Dame

The lines are fairly evenly matched, but Notre Dame's depth and experience on both sides of the ball give the Irish an edge in this game. Notre Dame's biggest weakness against this team will be getting pressure on the quarterback and stopping the run. Georgia Tech's weakness, however, will be their aggressiveness. Notre Dame's veterans on the offensive line won't make many mistakes, and when Young goofs, Darius Walker will be there to pick up the missed blitzer. Quinn won't be able to stand in the pocket forever, but I'm sure Coach Weis has a bunch of quick slants, draws, quick screens, and receiver screens dialed up to take advantage of Tech's aggressiveness.

My Prediction:
Notre Dame 42
Georgia Tech 21

How I see the game playing out:
Reggie Ball has a great day, connecting with Calvin Johnson for 100+ yards and two big touchdowns, and adding another score of his own on a scramble, while the Tech offense moves the ball effectively for much of the day. Notre Dame's bend-don't-break defense is surprisingly opportunistic, though, forcing a couple of turnovers deep in their own territory.
Brady Quinn, however, makes Reggie Ball look downright silly. He peppers a bunch of quick, accurate throws to multiple receivers all over the field, while Darius uses his versatility on draw plays and screens to rack up nearly 200 yards in total yardage. Just when the defense appears to be tightening, Brady strikes, finding McKnight and Samardzija deep with 3 long touchdown passes, and Darius scores one on the ground and one through the air. Schwapp pounds one in to ice the game late.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

ESPN on ABC intro

Irish Roundtable dug up this nugget for your viewing pleasure. It's the Notre Dame - Georgia Tech intro for this Saturday's broadcast. Enjoy.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Notre Dame Preseason Football Preview - Part VII

Part VII - Defensive Secondary

Watch the position of Zbikowski on the Now famous 4th and 9 play below (approx. :25 into video):

Notice that he is far too shallow when Leinart delivers the pass, and that if he hadn't been playing so shallow, the resulting run would have been simply a 1st down, rather than a 60+ yard romp. If Notre Dame holds USC on that drive, we probably would have played for the National Championship last year.

Expect to see a lot of plays like that this year.

The weaknesses in our linebacking corps as outlined above are going to force Zbikowski and Ndukwe to play closer to the line of scrimmage, leaving our corners out to dry. An improved pass rush and better play from our corners will help alleviate this problem, but ultimately our safeties can only do so much.

This entire unit has been lambasted all season as being too slow, not able to keep up with speedsters like Santonio Holmes and Ted Ginn, Jr. However, most of the pundits have confused lack of speed with playing out of position.

Starting Safeties

Tom Zbikowski, Senior, Strong Safety (3 year starter)
For the three of you that haven't heard, Tommy Z started his professional boxing career this past summer, debuting in a :49 knockout of Tommy Bell, an Ohio State ringer. When he got to training camp this year, he looked a little more like a boxer than a football player, but it didn't take much time for him to get his football legs back under him.
Obviously, the first thing you talk about with Tommy is his toughness. Any guy that enjoys getting into a ring and trading head blows with other grown men has got to be tough.
What most people don't realize about Tommy is his amazing speed. He runs a sub-4.4 forty, and several times last year chased down "speedsters" from behind, such as Reggie Bush in the USC game, and Ted Ginn in the Ohio State game.
What Tommy needs to work on is playing more disciplined and not biting on the play action fake as much this year. This is where Tommy's toughness gets him in trouble. He wants to hit someone on every single play, and so he sneaks up closer to the line of scrimmage than he should. If he can sit back in coverage more this year and trust his linebackers and D-line to stop the running game, he could be one of the best safeties to come out of college in the past decade. If he doesn't, he'll probably slip into the 2nd or even 3rd round of next year's draft.
In many ways, Tommy's particular skills are showcased best as a punt returner. His toughness means that he's not afraid to run over people. His speed gives his the burst necessary to get separation, and he has that second gear that allows him to pull away in the open field. Being stiff-armed by Zibby is like being punched in the face (surprise, surprise).
He was named first-team All-American as a punt returner, and second-team All American as a defensive back. If he can improve his defensive play, as well as break a bunch of punt returns, don't be surprised if he gets a little pub as a dark horse Heisman candidate - but he won't win it, as he is only the fourth or even fifth besst Heisman candidate on his team.

Chinedum Ndukwe, Senior, Free Safety (2 year starter)
Ndukwe is a converted receiver, and last year he played a little heavy at the safety position, in part because for most of the offseason the coaches weren't sure if he should be playing at safety or outside linebacker. When people were talking about this defensive backfield being too slow, they were probably picturing Ndukwe lumbering around the field last year.
Many people say you can't teach speed. I don't agree with that, but Ndukwe doesn't need to be taught speed. He just needed to lose some weight. This year, he is 20 lbs. lighter, and has the quickness and speed to go with it. Remember, he is a converted reeiver. He has the speed.
Now, Ndukwe needs to show improvement in reading defenses and not biting on the play action fake.

Starting Cornerbacks

Ambrose Wooden, Senior (2-year starter)
Wooden came out of nowhere to earn his starting position last year, and quickly developed into the most talented corner on the team. Right now, I would rate his as the #1 corner on our defense, due to his physical ability.

Mike Richardson, Senior (RS) (3-year starter)
Richardson doesn't have the panache of Wooden, but he is a very good, very reliable #2 corner, that would be the #1 guy on pretty much any team in America. Richardson's biggest asset is that he rarely makes mistakes. He may get beaten physically by some of the top receivers in the nation, but it is not because of porr execution.


The cornerbacks are not slow. The safeties are not slow. The next person that comes to me and says as much just might get my foot so faar up their ass that they'll be chewing on shoe leather.

The perceived "slowness" of this defensive secondary starts, actually, in the linebacking corps and defensive line. If the linebackers can't stop the run, the safeties have to move up in run support. If the defensive line doesn't get pressure on the quarterback, the corners are forced to try to play one-on-one with the receivers until they get open.

Corners cannot shut down an opposing offense on its own.

That said, the defensive line should get better pressure this year. the linebackers won't improve much, so when the defensive line fails to get pressure, the corners will struggle. If this linebacking corps can use its speed and athleticism to flow to the ball and shut down the run, our safeties will be able to use their speed to disrupt the passing game.

On the whole, the defense is only as good as its weakest link (the linebackers). If the defensive line gets quarterback pressure and the defensive secondary stops the pass, it will be for naught if the other team can run for 6-8 yards per play against these linebackers.

All that's left now is to see how it plays out on the field.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Notre Dame Preseason Football Preview - Part V

Time is running short before the first game, so I will try to get out the last couple of parts of my preseason preview done today and tomorrow, so that I can get my Georgia Tech Preview post ready by Thursday. So, without further ado, here is

Part V - Defensive Line

The defensive line last year struggled getting consistent pressure on the passer, hanging our secondary out to dry and causing many of our passing woes last year. In particular, this group struggled containing mobile quarterbacks. This year, this group must improve its play if we expect to keep the likes of Reggie Ball and Drew Stanton from running wild.


Victor Abiamiri, Senior, Defensive End (4 year starter)
Vic was a stud coming out of high school, and was expected to be a great pass rusher with lots of brute strength and surprising quickness off of the corner. Alas, to date he has fallen short of expectations.
The pass rush on the defensive line begins and ends with Abiamiri. If he is effective, teams will be forced to double team him, leaving our other talented lineman in one-on-one battles. If he can't prove this year that he can consistently beat his blockers one-on-one, our pass rush won't go anywhere, as the offensive line will be able to more effectively pick up blitzes.
All that said, the stars seem aligned this year for Abiamiri to finally show that he was deserving of the hype early in his career. I expect him to have a similar breakout season to what Maurice Stovall did last year. He is all over the preseason lists, and despite underpreforming to his potential, has been quietly sneaking up the all-time lists at Notre Dame for sacks and tackles. If he lives up to his potential this season, he can punch himself a top 10 pick in the NFL draft and single handedly improve this unit into a championship-caliber defense.

Trevor Laws, Senior, Defensive Tackle (2 year starter)
Laws is probably the most improved member of this unit this year, and had awesome off-season conditioning improvements. He is bigger and stronger than last year, and hasn't lost a step. At 283 lbs, he is finally big enough to be the run-stuffer up the middle that we need from our defensive tackles. As a matter of fact, with the weaknesses on our linebacking corps, Laws (and Landri) will have to pick up the slack on the run defense. Laws has looked impressive in practice, getting great penetration into the backfield, disrupting the offense. If he can force teams to run at the strong side of the defense, rather than the weak side, he will make our linebacking corps look much better, as Travis Thomas will not get caught up by inside blockers as often, and can use his athleticism to make plays.

Derek Landri, Senior (RS), Defensive Tackle (3 year starter)
While Trevor Laws is the star of the interior line, Derek Landri has more experience, and actually had more tackles than Laws last year. Landri hasn't improved as much as Laws in the offseason, but he has quietly become one of the best defensive tackles in the country, while still flying under most team's radar. I expect him to have a similar season this year as last year (which is still quite impressive), but with the improvement around him, the entire unit will look much better.

Ronald Talley, Junior, Defensive End (2 year starter)
Talley took over for an injured Chris Frome last year, and despite Frome returning for injury, has really improved himself and held onto the starting job. While Talley isn't near the pass rusher that Abiamiri is, at the strong side end he has the physical tools to beat one-on-one blocking and get pressure on the QB. If Abiamiri can command double-teams on the other side, expect Talley to wreak havoc in the backfield. He will likely split time with Chris Frome to some extent.


Chris Frome, Senior, Defensive End (1 year starter)
Frome was the starter at the beginning of last season, and if not for an injury, he would probably have been the incumbent starter coming into this season. However, Talley took hold of the opportunity to start and stepped up his game considerably. Frome is healthy again, and has been improving steadily through the offseason. He is right on the heels of Talley, and Coach Weis will probably rotate him in quite a bit to keep both of them fresh, adding to the pressure put on opposing offensive lines late in the game.
Don't be surprised if Frome supplants Talley as the starter later in the season, or if they start alternating starts. Frome has more quickness than Talley, but hasn't completely regained his strength from before his injury.

John Ryan, Freshman, and Justin Brown, Junior
Listed together on the two deep behind Abiamiri, they are two different kinds of players. Ryan needs to develop more physically and mentally to push for starting time, but has loads of potential. Brown, the more veteran player, is the kind of player that doesn't have the natural ability of some of his more heralded teammates, but has worked his ass off, and developed his technique to the point that the coaches feel comfortable with him as a solid backup going into the season. Really, though, the #4 defensive end spot is Ryan's to take.

Travis Leitko, Senior, Defensive Tackle
One of the great stories on this Notre Dame team, Leitko will be the subject of several tear-jerking features on television networks this season. In Ty's last year, Leitko appeared to be the heir apparent to the defensive end position. He had to deal with some severe personal issues, and left the team last year. (I'll do a feature on him later this season) He returned this year, and had to walk-on, having lost his scholarship. He busted his ass, and was rewarded with a scholarship at the end of training camp. He is the clear #3 defensive tackle right now, and has defensive end speed to go with his defensive tackle size. He will have a significant impact on special teams, and will probably be used liberally to give Laws and Landri breathers.

Pat Kuntz, Sophomore, Defensive Tackle
An Indiana boy, Kuntz right now is the heir apparent to the interior of the defensive line, and as much as I like this kid, that's not good news. He is a very good defensive tackle, but does not have the physical tools to anchor a defensive line. He would be a good #2 defensive lineman, and is an excellent #4 guy going into this year.
Next year, however, Coach Weis needs to hit some home runs with his defensive tackle prospects. Marvin Austin, the stud of the incoming class, isn't too high on Notre Dame right now, but would be an instant impact player if the Irish could land him. And the Irish desperately need a defensive tackle of his stature in next year's class.

This group is the deepest, most talented defensive line in the country - on paper.

However, at this point, they are no more than a middling group based upon their performance on the field. If this group meets their full potential, they can wreak havoc on opposing backfields. However, Vic Abiamiri hasn't played with the kind of motor a top-flight defensive end needs on every play to this point. Laws finally has the size to go with his speed, but needs to show he can get consistent penetration into opposing backfields before he can be called an NFL prospect. Coach Holtz used to say something along the lines of, if you have two players that are dead-even for the starting position, then what you have are two backups. Talley and Frome are basically dead even right now, and neither one has really stepped up and taken over the starting position, which shows me that neither one WANTS it more.

Much like the linebackers, this group has the potential to be great, but I'll believe it when I see it.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Notre Dame Preseason Football Preview - Part IV

Part IV - Offensive Line

The offensive line returns four experienced starters this year, and has more depth and talent than last year's veteran squad, which had experience but little depth. I expect this year's squad to be as good as last year's, if not better. However, I won't be too worried if one or more of the front line guys goes down, like I was last year.


Photos courtesy University of Notre Dame Official Athletics Site /

Ryan Harris, Left Tackle, Senior (4-year starter)
The best lineman on the offense generally is tabbed to protect the quarterback's weak side, and Ryan Harris fills that role this year. He is one of the best tackles in the nation, and has the best NFL potential on the line.
He was named to the second-team preseason All-America for 2006 by Athlon, third-team by Street & Smiths and the Walter Camp Football Foundation. Sporting News rated him the number-six offensive tackle in college football, and Lindy's rated him the seventh best. He has also been named to the 2006 Outland Trophy watch list, the award given to the most outstanding offensive lineman.
Harris is one of the few players in Irish history to start as a true freshman, and has been a stalwart at his position, starting 32 straight games at left tackle. He will completely neutralize all but the best of the best pass rushers this year.

Dan Santucci, Left Guard, Senior (RS) (2-year starter)
Recruited as a defensive lineman, Santucci moved to the offensive line during spring practice in 2004. Much like Jeff Samardzija, he did not start under Willingham, getting his forst starting nod in the Insight Bowl. Under Coach Weis and Coach Latina, Santucci has improved immensely over a short period of time, and is now a top-notch offensive guard, rated as the 10th best guard in the country by Sporting News.

John Sullivan, Center, Senior (3-year starter)
Sully, as he is affectionately called by his coaches and teammates, is another veteran starter along the offensive line. Sully is also one of the better centers in the country, rated as the 10th best center in the country by Lindy's. He is a dependable senter, who has an excellent understanding of Coach Latina's blocking schemes. He rarely fails to recognize a blitz as the anchor of the offensive line, and almost never missnaps. He has also shown that he can be a bit of an actor as well, pulling off the surprise direct snap to Darius Walker at the end of the Stanford game last year to cement victory for the Irish.

Bob Morton, Right Guard, Senior (3-year starter)
I was deeply saddened to hear of Bob Morton's father passing this past week. I lost my father to a heart attack when I was 12 years old, and I know how difficult everyday life can be after such a devastating blow. He has truly impressed me with his dedication and faith in this time of hardship. He chose to stay with the team through last Friday's scrimmage, and will rejoin the team tomorrow (Tuesday), the day after his father's funeral. If you haven't watched his comments at the official Notre Dame website, I strongly urge you to do so. You can find them here.
Morton actually started his career at center, before being bumped to right guard by John Sullivan. Morton is actually the backup at center right now, and backup Brian Mattes would probably fill in at guard if Morton or Sully were to get injured.

Sam Young, Right Tackle (Freshman)
Sam Young has the most potential I've ever seen for a true freshman lineman. He has the natural size to be an NFL-caliber prospect, and his strength is already imprssive not just for a freshman, but for any college lineman. If this kid can actually get bigger and stronger during his career, and stay healthy, he will probably be the first offensive lineman pick when he comes out of college into the pros. But I'm getting ahead of myself, and starting to sound like Beano Cook.
With Ryan Harris anchoring the other side of the line, and being a true freshman, don't be surprised to see some teams rush Brady from the front side to try to take advantage of Young's inexperience. The first couple of games will be an adjustment period, as they always are, but this shouldn't be a problem with as much work as Darius Wlaker has put into blitz pickup in the offseason.


Brian Mattes, backup utility lineman, Senior (RS)
Mattes has never started for the University of Notre Dame, and is not starting again this year, yet his dedication to the team is unquestionable, coming back for a fifth year. He has impressed Coach Weis this year, and will likely be the #2 guy at either guard position. However, with Morton being starting right guard and backup center, Mattes would fill in if anyone on the interior line went down.

Duncan, backup right tackle, Sophomore
Duncan is the only player other than Mattes likely to see the field as a backup this year, barring complete meltdown along the offensive line and injuries galore. Duncan got edged out by Sam Young for the starting right tackle spot, but is not far behind, despite Young's freakish physique. Because he is so close behind Young, I would expect him to step in if either Young or (God forbid) Harris goes down with an injury. Turkovich is listed as the #2 guy on the depth chart behind Harris, but I think Coach is more enamored with Duncan at this point.

Other players listed on the two deep: Eric Olsen, Guard (freshman); Michael Turkovich, Tackle (sophomore); Dan Chervanick, Center (Senior (RS))

Coach Weis landed the best offensive line recruiting class in the country last year, and a class with such potential that it could go down as the best line recruiting class in Notre Dame history. Sam Young is already starting, Eric Olsen has pushed into the two deep, and we have some other man beasts in Matt Carufel and Dan Wenger. And if you want to talk about imposing, Chris Stewart is an absolute GIANT. As in 6'5" 350+ lbs. He was a little out of shape coming in this past winter, but another couple of months in the weight and conditioning program, and this kid could be a monster. If he can develop that massive frame to its full potential and develop his technique, he could be even better than Sam Young.

So, next year we will have a drop-off in experience, but may actually upgrade in talent.

But this year, we return the core of an offensive line that has been improving steadily over the past two years. If this group improves as much from last year to this year as it did from Ty Willie's last year to Coach Weis' first, we could have a Top-5 offensive line unit this year. Without improvement, this is a Top-15 unit as is. And if they do become a Top-5 unit, they'll have a couple of grateful friends with hefty NFL paychecks to buy them dinner next year in Quinn and Walker. Not to mention some hefty NFL paychecks for themselves.

When Brady has time to sit in the pocket, he can absolutely shred a defense. If Sam Young plays to his potential, this year's entire offense should improve dramatically from last year's, based on line play alone.

And that is a scary thought.

Carretta strikes again...

Because it is premium content, I can't divulge too much about my buddy Kevin Carretta's latest article on Blue & Gold, except to say that he has an excellent analysis of the tight ends this year.

He goes into far more depth than myself, but has come to essentially the same conclusions.

If you have access to the Blue & Gold premium content, check out his article here/