Every Monday, SI.com's Ross Tucker will hand out letter grades to deserving NFL parties...
Braylon Edwards, Cleveland Browns WR. Edwards escaped a failing grade by making a couple of big plays in the second half of the Browns' loss to the Redskins, but it was not nearly enough for a guy who is clearly Cleveland's best offensive weapon yet is maddeningly inconsistent. The plus is because Edwards acknowledged his critical mistakes, which shows the accountability I like in an elite player in this league.
But verbal acknowledgement only goes so far in a production-oriented business like professional football. Edwards dropped at least four catchable balls, including a couple thrown right on the money when he was wide open. Just as importantly, Edwards missed a hot read late in the game in which he was supposed to break off his route short after the Redskins came with an all-out blitz. That was a missed opportunity.
The Browns are having a tough enough time handling the ups and downs of the streaky Derek Anderson at quarterback. Having your best offensive player like Edwards fail to help him out on a consistent basis makes it all the more difficult.
Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens QB. The honeymoon was officially over for Flacco the past couple of weeks after he started his NFL career by winning his first two games and acquitting himself fairly well against the Pittsburgh Steelers on a Monday night game that also happened to be his first start on the road. There was a fear among some that Flacco was regressing, given his uneven play of late and a plethora of interceptions against the Titans and the Colts. All of a sudden the Ravens had lost three in a row and there was a significant concern about Flacco's ability to stay away from the key turnovers that can change the momentum of the game.
If Sunday's victory over the Dolphins was any indication, there's no need to worry about Flacco. The former Delaware Blue Hen had by far his best day as a pro, finishing 17-23 for 232 yards and a touchdown, no small feat on the road against a better-than-expected Miami Dolphins defense. The natives in Baltimore can once again breathe a sigh of relief, as it is looking more and more like the Ravens got it right with Flacco.
There will be more highs and lows, to be sure, and you have to expect that from a rookie quarterback. But Flacco has already done more than enough to ingratiate himself to his veteran teammates by keeping the Ravens in contention for a playoff berth in the AFC.
Jerry Jones, Dallas Cowboys owner. It Jones is failing a pretty basic course, Chemistry 101, right now in Dallas. I don't think all is necessarily lost in Dallas as this team simply has too much talent to put up many more stinkers like the loss in St. Louis on Sunday. But the Cowboys play like a bunch of individuals, not a team in the truest sense of the word, and that is why even if they are able to bounce back from this setback, it is hard to imagine them having the intestinal fortitude to win two or three straight post-season games and reach the Super Bowl.
There are reports Jones gave his team a "tongue-lashing" after the game. I have now officially heard it all. That is like your parents getting angry at you for partying too much in college. First of all, what exactly did they think was going to happen when they sent you to the top-ranked party school in the country? And perhaps more importantly, what are they actually going to do about it now, after the tuition is paid in full? Are they going to ground you by sending you to your dorm room? The answers are that your parents, like Jones, had a sneaking suspicion this could happen and there really isn't a whole lot they can do about it moving forward.
Jones has probably read all the reports about his team lacking in discipline so he decided to give his best Vince Lombardi impression. Please. Jones has the convincing authority of a junior high hall monitor. As a matter of fact, given his history of enabling and his recent support of Pacman Jones, even after he got in a fight with his own bodyguard, Jerry Jones' credibility as a disciplinarian in the eyes of the players is non-existent.
Jones prides himself on his marketing prowess and his ability to consistently keep the Cowboys brand in the public eye. The good news is the Cowboys are still the talk of the league right now as usual. The bad news is it is for all the wrong reasons. There is no doubt it is a Hard Knock life in Dallas these days.
Jim Haslett, St. Louis Rams coach. I felt like it would be disingenuous to give Haslett a good grade a week ago, when his Rams went on the road to defeat the Washington Redskins despite the fact they were dominated for much of the game and outgained by over 160 total yards. My thought process was maybe it was a fluke win as a result of three Redskins fumbles and not necessarily a harbinger of good things to come for a team many believed was potentially the league's worst after the first four games.
After the Rams ran roughshod over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, it is time to give Haslett and his charges some well-deserved credit. Yes, as I referenced above, the focus will be on what ills the Cowboys in the wake of their devastation at the hands of the previously woeful Rams. But that would be an injustice because it would take away from the outstanding performance by a group of men that seem revitalized by the fiery Haslett.
I don't often give coaches their fair share of blame when a team performs poorly because I am not prone to giving them a whole lot of credit when things go well. Players play, as the expression goes. In the Rams case, however, there simply is no other explanation. Haslett has effectively changed the mindset of all 53 men in the locker room. They now believe, which is in stark contrast to the latter stages of the Linehan regime. Isn't it amazing what a group of guys can accomplish when they truly have a conviction for what they are doing?
The Rams have all of a sudden gotten physical after their lines were taken to task earlier in the season. Now, the offensive line is busting open huge holes so Steven Jackson can scamper for 160 yards, and the defensive line is harassing Brad Johnson into throwing three picks in a game he played under constant duress.
Line play, more than any other position group, can at times be a function of attitude and desire. It is pretty evident Haslett has injected both into the big men on both sides of the football for the Rams and that is the reason, more than any other, that they are now playing at a very competitive level.