Lessons From Last Year

September 02, 2007

IS AHMAN GREENTHIS YEAR'S EDGERRIN JAMES?

Last year itlooked as though Arizona's signing of top free agent Edgerrin James (farright), then 28, from the Colts would bring some life to Arizona's lacklusterrunning game. But those pricey new wheels (which were actually old wheels)couldn't break free behind the Cardinals' shoddy offensive line, which hadranked 32nd in rushing in 2005 (and wound up 30th last season). Houston'ssituation with Green (right) looks uncomfortably similar. Even with theaddition of the 30-year-old free agent, the Texans' 21st-ranked rushing attackwon't improve much behind a line that boasts zero inspiring acquisitionsthrough the draft and free agency. Further, Houston's offense is in transitionwith new QB Matt Schaub and still only has one dangerous wide receiver, AndreJohnson, to stretch the field. In five years only one Texans back has evertopped 1,100 yards. Green's situation is as bad as James's--at least.

IS CEDRIC BENSONOR JOSEPH ADDAI THIS YEAR'S RONNIE BROWN?

With RickyWilliams gone in 2006, Brown was set to get more carries in Miami in his secondNFL season. He got the carries--but he didn't do much with them, totaling just1,008 rushing yards. This year Benson and Addai are young backs who will getmore touches after the departure of, respectively, Thomas Jones from the Bearsand Dominic Rhodes from the Colts. But really, that's where the comparisonends. Benson, unlike Brown, thrived as a solo back in college. (Brown split theload at Auburn with Cadillac Williams.) And while Addai's carries willincrease, Tony Dungy will still rotate backs and keep Addai rested. Here's anadded bonus for both: With the exception of Indianapolis's Tarik Glenn, whoretired, their teams' Super Bowl offensive lines will return intact. Expectbigger numbers from these two.

ARE RANDY MOSS,DARRELL JACKSON AND JOE HORN THIS YEAR'S TERRELL OWENS, JAVON WALKER AND DEIONBRANCH?

A change of localewas supposed to be just what receivers Owens, Walker and Branch needed in 2006.Owens hated his team, Walker hated his contract, and any Branch fantasy ownerhad to hate the way the ball was spread around in the Patriots' offense. Butnone of the above met expectations in his new home--which should come as nosurprise. A new team means a new quarterback, a new coach, a new system. It'sthe rare free-agent WR who thrives in Year One in his new home. We've alreadybeen down this road with the Patriots' Moss, who arrived in Oakland two yearsago seemingly ready for a monster season and instead began his slow decline inproduction. Don't expect the Falcons' Horn, 35, or the 49ers' Jackson, 28, tobreak the pattern.

WHO WILL BE THISYEAR'S MARQUES COLSTON?

ODDS ARE, no one.The seventh-round pick, who finished in the top 25 in every major receivingcategory his rookie season, was an exceptional case. There are, however,several unheralded players who will likely go undrafted by fantasy owners butdeserve attention. Watch their progress and pluck them from the waiver wireearly. They are: WR James Jones, a Packers third-round pick from San JoseState who has developed an early rapport with Brett Favre, enabling Green Bayto cut Robert Ferguson; second-year RB DeDe Dorsey, who picks up the carries inIndianapolis that don't go to Joseph Addai; and Dolphins RB Jesse Chatman, afifth-year veteran who was out of the league last year and has never hadfantasy significance but is pushing Ronnie Brown for carries--in part becausehe knows Cam Cameron's system from their three seasons together in SanDiego.--David Sabino

IS LARRY JOHNSONDUE FOR A BREAKDOWN?

LJ SET AN NFLrecord with 416 carries last year, which set off alarms because the other fourplayers to rush 400 or more times in a 16-game season--Jamal Anderson, EricDickerson, Eddie George and James Wilder--saw significant drops in productionthe following year. If you include postseason carries in season totals, thetrend is worse. Of those nine backs who rushed more often than LJ, only TerrellDavis ran for more yardage the next year. Throw in other Chiefs negatives, suchas the loss of G Will Shields and T Jordan Black; their inexperienced skillplayers; and LJ's long holdout, and drafting Johnson high looks like a riskyproposition.--D.S.

PHOTOMARK J. REBILAS/US PRESSWIRE (GREEN) PHOTOGENE LOWER/WIREIMAGE.COM (JAMES) PHOTOKYLE TERADA/US PRESSWIRE (JOHNSON)

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)