Schein: Players who can't be trusted
As we hit the stretch run of the 2012 campaign, Adam Schein identifies nine key players who simply cannot be trusted. More ...
Now, I'm in a good mood.
1) Jay Cutler
Forget the demeanor. Forget the shoving of teammates or tuning out and walking away from coaches. Focus for a second on Cutler's presence. Think about how grotesque the Bears were against Houston and San Francisco without him. Visualize the laser he hummed to Matt Spaeth for a touchdown last week. You can dream about the incredible and unstoppable connection with Brandon Marshall.
2) NaVorro Bowman
He's the straw that stirs the drink for the San Francisco 49ers on defense. Fellow linebacker Ahmad Brooks made a fascinating point to me on the SiriusXM Blitz this week, comparing the Niners defenders to pitchers in a successful starting rotation. Brooks said, "I see NaVorro making plays, Pat (Patrick Willis) doing his thing, Aldon (Smith) sacking the quarterback, our defensive backs, everyone wants to stay in line and be the next one to make a play and change the game."
3) Von Miller
If you haven't noticed, the Denver Broncos' offense has sputtered just a tad. Now, don't misinterpret. I stand by my bold prediction on NFL.com that Peyton Manning and the Broncos win every game down the stretch, even sans Willis McGahee. But Knowshon Moreno's consistency does worry me a bit, since he had been glued to the pine all season.
Miller is in the conversation for Defensive Player of the Year. He's a dominant, game-changing sack master who disrupts with constant pressure and beats double-teams. Miller has 14 sacks on the year. Take a look at the Broncos' remaining schedule. He's a lock to get 20.
4) Andy Dalton
Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden talked for three straight minutes when I asked him about Dalton's leadership and growth from last season. He referenced Dalton's smarts, work ethic, improved leadership and edge. Gruden gushed about his ability to get the Bengals in and out of run plays. This is beyond statistics, beyond what it says on the back of Dalton's bubble gum card as just a second-year player in the NFL.
Dalton is a stud. And he plays with the best receiver in the NFL this season in A.J. Green. Those two have built an incredible rapport. But Dalton has learned not to force the ball into one receiver, getting Mohamed Sanu involved recently. Gruden stressed to us how there is "no ego" on offense, whether it runs through Green, BenJarvus Green-Ellis or Jermaine Gresham. And that selfless attitude starts with Dalton.
5) Reggie Wayne
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Andrew Luck is already a star. He's also lucky -- no pun intended -- to have a savvy, dominant, winning veteran to throw to. I believe Wayne is in the mix for MVP and Offensive Player of the Year.
I think Green has been the top receiver in 2012, but nobody has been more valuable at the position than Wayne. He has the numbers with 1,105 receiving yards. The clutch catches have been incredible. And you cannot quantify his leadership.
6) Robert Griffin III
Washington will win some games you don't expect down the stretch solely because of Griffin, even as a rookie, even as pressure mounts.
7) Duane Brown
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Brown told us this week on the SiriusXM Blitz that he's taken on a bigger leadership role this year with Eric Winston's departure to Kansas City.
8) Stevan Ridley
Ridley has enjoyed a very strong season, with 939 yards on an average of 4.6 yards per carry. He's earned Belichick's trust. That's good enough for me.
9) Eli Manning
Not sure if you know this, but Eli's elite.
After Manning played eight straight wretched quarters against Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, the haters and critics came out of the woodworks. The whispers about a tired arm were so frequent they sounded like a yell.