GOLDBERG ON FOOTBALL: Preseason mysteries Print
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Thursday, 06 September 2007 11:13
NFL Headline News

 Career backup Damon Huard will start this Sunday for Kansas City after second-year-man Brodie Croyle failed to beat him out. The Chiefs hoped Croyle would earn the quarterback's job.
The Texans will start Matt Schaub, who had just two starts in three NFL seasons with Atlanta.
Add the raw Tarvaris Jackson (Vikings), struggling Charlie Frye (Browns) and 37-year-old Jeff Garcia (Bucs) to this week's starters and you wonder why Byron Leftwich, a 27-year-old who was the seventh overall pick in the 2003 draft and is 24-20 as a starter, has been looking for a job.
Leftwich's release by the Jaguars was one of a number of unusual doings in the preseason. Such as Randy Moss' continuing absence from the field; Michael Strahan's no-show at Giants training camp; and the Raiders' decision to cut a player they took with the first pick of the third round, something very rarely done.
The way the Jaguars dealt with Leftwich is the most puzzling.
Yes, he's immobile and injury prone, and he would have cost more than $5 million against the Jaguars' salary cap this season. Football people also question his ability to grasp an offense and his long windup that, combined with his lack of mobility, make his an easy target for defenders.
But his agent, Tom Condon, suggests that Leftwich's troubles with coach Jack Del Rio stem from a basic difference in philosophy. Del Rio, an ex-linebacker, is defense-oriented, and Leftwich would love to throw deep as often as he can.
Certainly, no one has ever questioned Leftwich's toughness. He played on a broken ankle at Marshall, getting carried down the field by teammates after a completion during a late drive. And immobile QBs have succeeded in the past - both Drew Bledsoe and Kerry Collins got teams to Super Bowls.
His stats are certainly decent: 51 TD passes to 36 interceptions, and a respectable passer rating of 80.5.
So if Del Rio, who used his first draft pick as Jaguars coach on Leftwich, wanted to dump him and install David Garrard at QB, why did he announce in February that Leftwich was his starter? He could have anointed Garrard and tried to trade Leftwich - maybe not for a first-round pick, but perhaps a second or third from quarterback-starved teams.
Think Chiefs, Vikings and even the Ravens, who need a young QB when Steve McNair retires because Kyle Boller is a free agent after this year.
In fact, by cutting Leftwich now, Del Rio may have disrupted his team.
``When something like that happens, it's something that you can't even put into words,'' receiver Matt Jones said. ``When it happens that late and nobody sees it coming, you can't even describe it.''
Condon says at first there were seven or eight teams interested. Right now, the Ravens or Chiefs seem the most likely - Croyle doesn't appear to be the future there and Huard certainly isn't.
Jacksonville might thrive with Garrard. But now there's no one except the untested Quinn Gray behind him.
Strange timing.
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Some other offbeat doings around the NFL:
RANDY'S ROLE: Much was made of Randy Moss's acquisition by the Patriots for a fourth-round pick. But Moss has yet to get on the field because of a leg injury. Will he play on Sunday against the Jets? Bill Belichick gives his usual murky reply when he's asked about Moss' availability. Moss practiced this week, but even if he's out there, how good can he be?
``I've been in situations before where a certain guy's been in the offense for at least five or six years and really didn't practice that much because of an injury, but came out and knew exactly what he was doing,'' another new New England wideout, Donte' Stallworth, said during camp. ``But if you're a new guy not really familiar with everything, it will be a little harder.''
Look for more from Stallworth and Wes Welker, the other new acquisitions, especially because the Pats cut Reche Caldwell, last season's leading receiver.
STRAHAN SHOWS: Michael Strahan finally deigned to show up in the Giants' camp this week after missing the entire preseason. The betting line in New York is that he'll suit up Sunday night in Dallas.
But how much do the Giants really want him? He's 35 and he's played well when healthy the last few years. But he missed half of the 2004 and 2006 seasons with injuries and he plays a position at which the team is well-fortified.
Why did he stay out until now?
- He really did contemplate retirement. The talk around the NFL was that his father wanted him to quit, something he confirmed when he finally spoke to the media on Tuesday. Strahan suggested that until this week, he didn't know if he still had the desire to play.
- Money. He's due to make ``only'' $4 million this season and wanted to renegotiate.
- Two-a-day practices. Strahan says that wasn't a factor. Most veterans say it always is.
- Pride. Coach Tom Coughlin apparently told him he was likely to be put in a rotation that included the much younger Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck and Matthias Kiwanuka. Kiwanuka is now at linebacker, but will still be a DE in passing situations; Tuck had an outstanding preseason in Strahan's place; Umenyiora was an All-Pro two years ago and is one of the NFL's best young defenders.
Why did he come back?
- Pride and records. He thinks he still can play at a Pro Bowl level. And he shares the Giants' sacks record at 131 1/2 with Lawrence Taylor, although Taylor had 9 1/2 that don't count as a rookie in 1981, the year before they became an official stat.
- A Super Bowl ring, or so he says. It's very unlikely he'll get one with this team, this year or next, when there may be a new coach intent on rebuilding. On the other hand, in this NFL, you never know.
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UNKIND CUTS
Why did the Raiders cut Quentin Moses, a defensive end they took with the first pick of the third round last April? That's a high pick to dump - even if he wasn't ready yet, anyone taken that high normally has enough potential to make it at some point.
Gruden more recently.
Overall, more draft picks were cut this year than usual. About 75 percent made teams on cutdown day as compared to more than 80 percent since the salary cap took effect. Remember, rookies are cheaper than marginal veterans and more willing to sacrifice their bodies on special teams.
The highest picks to be released were Moses, 65th overall; linebacker Buster Davis, the 69th overall pick by Arizona; and running back Antonio Pittman, a fourth-rounder by New Orleans. The Cardinals claimed Moses, Pittman went to St. Louis.
Seven teams kept all their draft picks: Baltimore, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Miami, San Diego and the two New York teams. The Dolphins, who had 10 picks, also kept three undrafted free agents on their 53-man roster, giving them 13 rookies.
 

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