Editor: "How do you feel about some PR next week?"
Me (thinking): Public Relations? Did I do something wrong? Is he drafting a letter for me to sign and awkwardly read in the HR department? Maybe I'll pull an Al Davis and read it off an overhead projector, Lane-Gate style.
Editor: "So, you're doing the Power Rankings. Oh yeah, and we're gonna need you to work on Sunday. OK, great. Try to get the article in early, too."
Weekend = destroyed. Social life = same. What about you all out there?
Another June weekend devoid of football -- for most of us, anyway -- left a lot of people watching the Stanley Cup Finals. This after the Miami Heat won another NBA title. I was overjoyed for LeBron, except not at all.
Despite everything going on in the sports world, there's still plenty of NFL noise, especially with every team closing out minicamp and entering summer hibernation with a bunch of questions.
Yep, Michael Crabtree could be gone for the year, Ben Roethlisberger had the ole arthroscopic treatment, and Aaron Hernandez is just plain under the public microscope. Who knows how the Patriots will be affected by all of this, but the general uncertainty in New England called for a drop in these rankings. Of course, that's not the only notable development below -- there's plenty of movement, starting at the very top.
Hit us up with your thoughts: @Harrison_NFL is the place.
Michael Crabtree's injury, the
Seattle Seahawks leapfrog their NFC West rivals into the No. 1 spot.
I'm already on record endorsing Seattle's
Super Bowl potential.
In other news -- sorta -- saw Golden Tate saying he would give 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh "The Sean Lee treatment." If he really wanted to make his statement forceful, Tate should have said he'd give Harbaugh the Sam Shields treatment.
The Crabtree injury leaves those who feel the 49ers are the best team in football in a pickle. The jury is out on A.J. Jenkins, who knows when Mario Manningham will be ready, and Vernon Davis might play wide receiver. Great, a 250-pound wideout. This is where still having Delanie Walker on the roster to play tight end would be nice. And here you see that one spot in the universe where injuries meet salary cap, and it ain't pretty.
It will be interesting to see how this new middle of the defensive line -- free-agent acquisition
Terrance Knighton and rookie Sylvester Williams -- makes its presence felt in 2013.
On another note, I'm guessing all of us strutted into work a little lighter after seeing Willis McGahee talk of being the Week 1 starter ... two days before getting released. I might have engaged in some corporate boot-licking myself after that deal. I'm not above it.
The Atlanta Falcons will sign Richard Seymour around the time the new Star Wars movie comes out, when J.J. Abrams transforms the cocky, charismatic Han Solo into an introverted CPA. Surprised more people aren't ticked about what Abrams did to Spock's character. Equally surprised Seymour isn't in Atlanta. What a nice career he's had, and what an appropriate addition he'd be to the Falcons' 4-3.
Oh, Greg Jennings and Aaron Rodgers -- such funny guys. But when Jennings says he'd take Brett Favre over Rodgers -- even if it's all in good fun -- this predictably sparks the tired debate over who is the better Green Bay Packers quarterback. My question to Packers fans: Is either the greatest Green Bay QB of all time? Bart Starr went 9-1 in the postseason, people, winning five NFL championship games and two Super Bowls.
When we last supplied these rankings, the Baltimore Ravens were devoid of a left tackle. Then the club re-upped Bryant Mckinnie. Considering what a Statue of Liberty Joe Flacco is back there, that's a big signing. And now John Harbaugh says Elvis Dumervil is emerging as a leader. How do you not love GM Ozzie Newsome? Picking up the guys he needs when he needs them -- without overpaying.
The Houston Texans stand pat. It's safe to say we're all wondering when Ed Reed will be ready to play. But the thought here is that the development of first-round pick DeAndre Hopkins is more important to this football team than the Reed's recovery. Hopkins will start Week 1. While we're at it, Darryl Sharpton's ability -- or inability -- to take a step forward will have an impact on the season. If he does, a linebacking crew of Brooks Reed, Brian Cushing, Whitney Mercilus and Sharpton has a shot at being something special.
Obviously, the Aaron Hernandez situation looms large for the New England Patriots, especially with Rob Gronkowski's health status. The club hopes Danny Amendola can stay in the lineup, but that's been a problem in his career. Interesting that New England fans took serious exception to your friendly writer suggesting, last time around in this space, that the Patriots lack star power outside of Tom Brady. It's not there when Gronk is hurt, and the defense's most well-known player is a 31-year-old nose tackle. Ironically, Logan Mankins' name wasn't even mentioned in a bevy of angry tweets sent my way by Pats fans -- he's probably the team's best player besides Brady. While the feeling here is that New England could have used an impact guy from the 2013 NFL Draft, you have to give the club credit for always managing personnel losses (Lawyer Milloy, Ty Law and Richard Seymour, to name a few) and making the postseason every year.
Andre Smith got his money. Thus begins the nervous hand-wringing over Smith's motivation -- or lack thereof. Skipping out on the club's minicamp, Smith received some hefty fines. Cincinnati Bengals fans really shouldn't worry about Smith, though. The fines are nothing his three-year, $18 million contract won't cover. He'll still be able to pay his On Demand charges.
With each passing practice video of Robert Griffin III that hits the tube, confidence grows that he will be 100 percent ready and productive by Week 1, with no ill effects from that surgically repaired knee. Meanwhile, judging from pictures of the QB in his skin-tight workout shirts, RGIII really needs to start working out. No muscle tone whatsoever on that guy.
Cordarrelle Patterson has impressed a few folks at Minnesota Vikings practice. Vikes fans are salivating over the prospect of Patterson starting Week 1, alongside prized free-agent acquisition Greg Jennings and big tight end Kyle Rudolph. Not trying to be a Negative Nancy here, but he's running around in shorts with a helmet on -- contact not included. So let's refrain from sounding the big Gjallarhorn quite yet.
Picking up Ahmad Bradshaw was enough to give the Indianapolis Colts a slight bump over the Chicago Bears. While Chicago demolished Indy last year, let's not forget that it was Andrew Luck's first NFL game. If healthy, Bradshaw gives Chuck Pagano a quality two-down back (at least), making Vick Ballard a strong backup, as opposed to a so-so starter.
Since we last addressed the Bears, Brian Urlacher called it quits. And the club's top pick in 2011 ( Gabe Carimi) was traded to the Bucs. As if Bears fans needed to be reminded further of former GM Jerry Angelo's legacy of top draft choices ... Of his eight first-round picks, only one played like it in Chicago: Tommie Harris (2004). Marc Colombo (2002), Cedric Benson (2005) and Greg Olsen (2007) all played better with other teams. Former defensive end Michael Haynes (2003) and offensive "tackle" Chris Williams (2008) didn't exactly make it rain like Richard Dent and Jim Covert in Chicago, either. And then there was the team's second first-rounder in 2003, Rex Grossman ... Whew boy, what a pantheon of Bears greats drafted high in the Angelo era.
Still high on the Miami Dolphins, but 14 is as high as we go on potential. The Fins are certainly a threat to the Patriots in the East, but a bunch of free-agent signees frolicking around in gym shorts and a 2012 record of 7-9 is not enough to leapfrog the Colts or Bears in these rankings. Heard some good things about a returnee, though. Armon Binns is practicing well and making a play for the slot, potentially giving this team an inside complement to Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline.
While some would push the 7-9 New Orleans Saints over the 7-8-1 St. Louis Rams -- especially with Sean Payton back in the Big Easy -- losing pass rusher Victor Butler to an ACL injury really hurts Rob Ryan's defense. The Dallas Cowboys, despite having a better record than both last season at 8-8, also have some injury concerns with Tony Romo's cyst and DeMarcus Ware's shoulder. Meanwhile, keep an eye on Rams rookie RB Zac Stacy, a fifth-round pick out of Vanderbilt who might give the offense an inside running presence -- a la the departed Steven Jackson.
The Cowboys are ailing, as mentioned just above, but they still should be a bigger divisional threat to the reigning champion Redskins than the Giants. The defense is the key to that equation, not Tony Romo. While the lightning-rod quarterback did have his miscues with the division on the line in Week 17, how many times did he and the Cowboys' sixth-ranked offense bail out Rob Ryan's injury-plagued unit last year?
The hits just keep on coming. Jason Pierre-Paul could miss significant time after having surgery on his back. Then there's the lingering Victor Cruz situation. These fiscal matters usually take care of themselves. But while Cruz was training with the New York Islanders' director of sports performance, one wonders if Hakeem Nicks was also there replacing the voltage regulator on the Isles' zamboni, because he sure as heck wasn't at Giants OTAs.
Ben Roethlisberger looks to be OK after having that procedure on his knee. Like him or not, any fan has to admit Big Ben is tough. Sometimes that's not the best thing, as Roethlisberger can say he's fine when he's not all the way ready. The Pittsburgh Steelers should let him sit often during training camp. After all, how much is camp going to do for a 10th-year veteran with two Super Bowl rings? Give rookie Landry Jones a longer look.
Victor Butler might not be a household name, but the New Orleans Saints certainly were relying on his presence in 2013. New defensive coordinator Rob Ryan brought Butler over from Dallas to give the weak New Orleans pass rush a shot in the arm. Now that's over. Will Smith really has to tear it up this season for the defense to play anywhere close to the offense.
There's been a lot of talk about Josh Freeman hitting the open market in 2014. Part of the issue with Freeman -- specifically how premium of player he is (and what kind of premium the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are willing to pay) -- is not his issue at all. With RGIII, Russell Wilson and Andrew Luck lighting the football world on fire, expectations for all young QBs have shot through the roof. Freeman has been viable, throwing 27 touchdown passes last season. Freeman's main issue -- and what fans are waiting for -- is taking that step forward from decent starter to franchise-esque player. If Freeman finishes the 2013 season strong, there will be pressure to throw a lot of money in that direction. Hmm.
Hate that Melvin Ingram went down, but love the Dwight Freeney signing. He might not be Dwight Freeney circa 2009, but he'll bring an attitude and a presence that the San Diego Chargers' defense dearly needed. Remember Sean Jones signing in Green Bay, or Neil Smith in Denver? Guys who can provide leadership and eight sacks off the edge make a difference. The thinking here is that people are way too down on San Diego.
Jonathan Stewart's injured ankles are a bit bothersome. With DeAngelo Williams recently turning 30, and the Carolina Panthers expected to half-junk the read-option, the club needs a classic running game on some level. As mentioned often, Cam Newton should not be the No. 1 rushing option. New offensive coordinator Mike Shula told the Charlotte Observer he wants his quarterback to be able to "play fast," but that doesn't necessarily mean with the football tucked under his arm.
All anyone wants to talk about is quarterback. What about that defense? Let's see, there's a new coordinator (Billy Davis), a new scheme (3-4), a new nose tackle ( Isaac Sopoaga), a new OLB/pass rusher ( Connor Barwin) and a whole new secondary ( Cary Williams, Patrick Chung, Kenny Phillips and Bradley Fletcher). And we're not even counting Bradley Cooper. Just saw Silver Linings Playbook. That's easily better than either of the last two Hangover movies, and I didn't even bother seeing Hangover III.
The Cleveland Browns went about practice sessions a bit differently under Rob Chudzinski and Norv Turner. Differently? OK, call it faster. Turner desires two things: 1) getting the play called expeditiously, and more importantly, 2) training Brandon Weeden to get the ball out of his hand quicker. Playing with a sense of urgency -- a trait from Turner's tenure as Jimmy Johnson's offensive coordinator in Dallas.
The Louis Delmas health concerns have surfaced again. The Detroit Lions expect the veteran safety to be the leader on defense -- a dicey proposition considering his knees might not allow him to play a full slate of games. Hopefully, this guy doesn't become anything close to a Bob Sanders 2.0 -- an impact safety who played 50 games ... and missed 78.
Interesting story coming out of Arizona Cardinals minicamp regarding wide receiver Ryan Swope. The sixth-round pick out of Texas A&M is long on ability ... and maybe a little short on luck. With Andre Roberts at the 2 and Michael Floyd still developing, Swope has a real shot to make noise as a rookie. Unfortunately, lingering concussion symptoms are preventing the kid from showing what he can do. Now you know why the NFL is so strict on the helmet-to-helmet stuff. To be perfectly clear, this writer is rooting for Swope -- be it "unprofessional" or not.
Tennessee has a new system under OC Dowell Loggains (no relation to Kenny), who took over the offense last November. Sure you are all familiar with Dowell Loggains, right? OK, this guy worked his way up from an entry-level scouting assistant with the Cowboys in 2005 to administrative assistant with the Titans in 2006-07 ... then quality control coach (2008-09), quarterbacks coach (2010-12) and now offensive coordinator in Tennessee. So, for all you glorified interns, put your head down and work. Make $%#& happen.
The passing game is still, well, up in the air with Santonio Holmes still ailing from that Lisfranc injury. Per Wikipedia, "This type of injury is named after Jacques Lisfranc de St. Martin, a French surgeon and gynecologist who first described the injury in 1815, after the War of the Sixth Coalition." So you know, the War of the Sixth Coalition ultimately ruined Napoleon, forcing him into exile on Elba -- which is exactly where Mark Sanchez will be playing if he can't beat out Geno Smith. (Note to college kids: Don't ever use Wikipedia as a reference. ... Well, unless your social life demands the economized time.)
If Doug Marrone and staff can teach, the Buffalo Bills' offense could be set for years to come. Not many teams have this kind of youth in the passing game, where Marrone could be leaning on EJ Manuel (23 years old) under center, Robert Woods (21) at WR2, Marquise Goodwin (22) in the slot. Oh, then there's Da'Rick Rogers, a 22-year-old with the raw ability to contribute yesterday. Couple those guys with effective players in tight end Scott Chandler and Stevie Johnson, and this offense could be sweet in 2014.
Can the Kansas City Chiefs give Denver a run for its money? That's what many in this business seem to think, based on the arrivals of Alex Smith and Andy Reid. What about the D? The unit that the Chiefs will probably have to lean on finished 25th in points allowed at 26.6 per game. That's not to say Kansas City can't make a move in the AFC West, but questions at corner, inside linebacker, wide receiver and, yes, quarterback leave the 2013 underdog darlings at 30. We'll reassess during training camp.
Seems like the Jacksonville Jaguars are always getting picked on by the media -- if not outright ignored. So let's stay positive. Cecil Shorts III has enjoyed a strong offseason in an effort to repeat an out-of-nowhere breakout in 2012. To celebrate, we attached a short Shorts highlight. And here's another. You're welcome, America.
No offense intended, but these Oakland Raiders feel like an expansion team. Get this: The Raiders likely will have 14 new starters -- out of 22 -- when they play the Colts in Week 1. Oh, and a new punter, too. Still, this is the right way for GM Reggie McKenzie to proceed. Blow the thing up, get the dead money off the books and start developing talent. That's what those Colts did in 2012. Get started with gettin' started.
Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @Harrison_NFL.