September 7, 2010

Eagles vs. 49ers: Round two.

With only two days until kickoff, here's part two of kingmyno.com's award-winning showdown between Peter True's San Francisco 49ers and Steve Cimino's Philadelphia Eagles. Today's topic: offense! Spoiler alert: We have a lot of it, San Francisco does not.

Offensive line:
King:
Ut-oh. That’s how most Eagles fans feel when you bring up the offensive line. It might be the most questionable part of the roster, not a good sign when you’re breaking in a first-year quarterback and maturing running back.

After years of Jon Runyan and Tra Thomas holding down the fort, Eagles fans got used to two dynamite bookends at tackle. And after trading for Pro Bowler Jason Peters, everyone expected more of the same. What they didn’t expect was inconsistent play and false-start penalties, but they fast became two of Peters’ Philadelphia trademarks. His name will become mud in this town if he doesn’t start living up to everyone’s lofty expectations.

Meanwhile, the guard carousel continues to twirl. Todd Herremans is an old standby, but Max Jean-Gilles fails to impress and Stacy Andrews has been shipped out of town with great gusto to Seattle. Reggie Wells started for a bunch of years in Arizona, but he seems like a very ho-hum player. We'll see if he supplants Nick Cole after a few weeks.

The key, as always, is center Jamaal Jackson. If he comes back healthy, wealthy and wise in Week 1, the line should be acceptable. But either way, I’ll launch a preemptive strike and wave the white flag to Peter’s massively upgraded Niners offensive line. It’s the least I can do after they spent two first-round picks bolstering it.

True: I am glad Steve didn’t try to make a case here, because he clearly had none. Especially after the exciting play of Anthony Davis this preseason, opening monster-sized holes for Anthony Dixon on a consistent basis.

Our pass protection is still unproven, but after paying big in the draft, we should be able to run at will. The injury to Eric Heitemann, our fixture at center. was a crushing blow and had me cursing the NFL preseason all over again, but our possibly sycophantic 49ers beat writers seem to think that David Bass has been stepping up admirably in his absence. I'll keep an eye on that as the season begins, because nothing destroys a good o-line like a missing/shitty center. But if Bass is up to the task, I foresee this being an elite unit in 2010.
ADVANTAGE: 49ers

Tight end:
True:
Vernon Davis is an unquestionably polarizing football player. One needs only to look at the gap between his 2009 output and his 2010 fantasy stock to see that the conventional wisdom is not buying a return to greatness for V-Diddy this season. Luckily for you, loyal King Myno readers, I can tell you that this Hatorade being chugged by the NFL intelligentsia is entirely without warrant. Let's not forget that Vernon has always had the physical pedigree to be an NFL superstar. That's why the 49ers made him the sixth overall pick. No one should have been surprised that he put it all together under the tough-love tutelage of Mike Singletary for a monster 2009.

Davis' detractors who predict a regression seem to forget that Mike is still leading the charge in San Francisco, and that Vernon will be just as motivated in 2010. None of this is meant to detract from Brent Celek, who is by all accounts a solid tight end who isn't going to make many mistakes. But let's get real: he doesn't run a 4.4 forty and he isn't going to split down the seam for 40-yard touchdown strikes with relative ease all year either.

King: Again, I’m forced to agree with Pete. Vernon Davis’s head may not always be in the game, and he may be more focused on punching Michael Crabtree in the face right now, but he’s a monster. I wouldn’t take many tight ends over Brent Celek, but Davis is definitely one of them.

In fact, all the "Brent Celek will catch 100 balls this year because him and Kolb are friends" stories have been more than a little annoying. I really don’t think friendship levels are a part of Kolb’s quarterback decision-making process, and if they are, we’ve got bigger issues than I expected on our hands.

I like Clay Harbor as a tight-end project, but then again, I also liked Cornelius Ingram. Basically, it looks like Brent Celek and waiver-wire trash again, and Vernon and his Under Armour are a step above.
ADVANTAGE: 49ers

Wide receiver:
King:
Another bold proclamation: The Eagles have the best wideout trio in football.

As Mr. True and his California associates know quite well, DeSean Jackson is a speedster unlike any in the game today. As long as he doesn’t get decapitated going across the middle (a growing concern after the shot he took this preseason), he should continue to strike fear into the hearts of defensive coordinators everywhere.

Meanwhile, Jeremy Maclin lived up to his first-round pick status with a dynamite rookie year (762 yards, 4 touchdowns). As he matures, the six-foot, 200-pound Missouri alum might end up being Kevin Kolb’s favorite target.

And finally there is Jason Avant, the unsung hero. His name isn’t bandied about much, but he’s the perfect possession receiver with maybe a top-10 pair of hands. There was even a story going around the first few weeks of camp that Avant hadn’t yet dropped a pass. The perfect complementary receiver.

But let’s not forget about Riley Cooper. I know he was Tim Tebow’s butt buddy and everyone hates that, but look at those flowing locks creeping out of his helmet. This guy’s a keeper. And he’s not embarking in any extended, silly holdouts like Crabs over there. Our guy’s got dignity.

True: Bold indeed. Some would even say delusional. I mean, what the fuck is a Jason Avant?

I am not going to sit here and argue that the Niners have better receivers than the Eagles. As Steve alluded to, I would never disrespect DeSean like that. Instead, I prefer to daydream about how good we would be if we had taken my advice and fucking drafted DeSean ourselves with one of the two picks we decided to pass on him with. Kentwan Balmer remains the bane of my existence to this day, thanks to that horrendous draft.

But despite Steve’s hyperbole, the two teams are actually much closer than he makes it out to be when it comes to pass-catchers. Although no one in Niner Nation was thrilled when Crabby decided to hold out for half the season last year, we were pleasantly surprised when he put together a respectable rookie season after he finally reported. If he gets past his nagging shoulder injury that Vernon Davis evidently thinks is fake, he should be a threat that does more than enough to keep opposing DBs from keying too much on VD.
ADVANTAGE: Eagles

Running back:
True:
I sure hope that Mr. Frank Gore doesn't read King Myno’s Court, because if he does, he will no doubt be offended at the following sentence. But, Mr. Gore's pedigree notwithstanding, the Niners and the Eagles are actually closer at this position that meets the eye. For starters, Frank has never been someone you could describe as "durable," having missed parts of the last three seasons.

This nagging issue is compounded by our lack of backfield depth. Sure, Anthony Dixon has looked like a fucking stud all preseason, and yeah, we made a savvy play to scoop up B-West from free agency (no one blames you for backing out of that Rams deal, B-West! Gross!). However, Dixon is a rookie, and it is unclear what he can do once the stats start counting. Plus, you Eagles fan readers know all too well that Westbrook has durability issues of his own, which are only compounded by his advanced age.

On the Eagles side of the ledger, I was a fan of LeSean McCoy as a potential sleeper in 2009. While that didn't exactly pan out in fantasy terms, Eagles fans no doubt liked what they saw from their rookie runner. Now with a year under his belt, I will be targeting "Shady" once again in 2010 and smart owners will follow suit. The addition of solid, if unspectacular, backup Mike Bell rounds out a backfield that will give the Eagles a legit rushing attack. Just not as legit as ours.

King: I’m going to agree with Pete. In fact, I’m surprised he was so complimentary towards the Eagles. I know Franky Gore isn’t exactly Bruce Willis in Unbreakable, but you can’t predict injuries, even with him. He’s light-years ahead of McCoy in terms of talent, and there’s very little doubt in my mind that he’ll eclipse LeSean in 2010 production.

In fact, I’m not high on LeSean at all. I don’t see one thing in particular that he does well, besides hold onto the ball poorly and cause constant heart palpitations. I’m not soured on him; he’s definitely an NFL player. I just don’t see him taking that step up to a definitive, starting running back. I think he needs complementary players.

Luckily, Leonard Weaver (and his wonderfully simplistic Twitter) and Mike Bell (hopefully) can be just that. The Eagles should have a decent running attack in 2010, and anyway, we all know they won’t run the ball anyway. Advantage definitively to the 49ers.
ADVANTAGE: 49ers

Quarterback:
King:
My indecision towards Kevin Kolb has already been well-documented, but with the season very close by, I’ll make a proclamation: Kolb will be a top-ten quarterback in 2010. Better than McNabb? Maybe, but definitely not worse.

His preseason struggles have been noted, but it’s also just preseason. The Colts never, ever put up a fight in the preseason, and that never seems to affect Peyton Manning. This, of course, isn’t saying Manning = Kolb, but it’s a bit early to draw any serious conclusions. Kolb knows the offense, he seems to have a quarterback’s mindset and he’s under the tutelage of Andy Reid, who, despite the occasional flaw, knows how to develop a QB.

Plus, Kolb has all the weapons he needs to succeed. DeSean Jackson and Brent Celek are Pro Bowl-caliber players, Jeremy Maclin is on the way and the McCoy/Weaver/Bell running ball trio should be adequate at worst. A weak offensive line won’t help matters, but if Jamaal Jackson gets healthy and Stacy Andrews is not absolutely awful, Kolb should be upright for 16 games.

That alone is more than we’re used to, and its way more than Mike Singletary has to work with in San Fran. Alex Smith, the corpse of David Carr and something called Nate Davis? You’d be a playoff team if not for that poop platter, Pete.

Pete: I was dreading dealing with this position, as I am not one to try to put lipstick on a pig so I won’t even try. But as usual my bloviating friend has gone too far when he proclaims, “You’d be a playoff team if not for that poop platter.” Wrong, we are going to be a playoff team despite that poop platter.

Though it has taken him far too long, his half-season performance in 2010 indicates that Alex Smith has finally become an average NFL quarterback. And when you surround an average quarterback with an elite running back, elite offensive line and an elite target like Vernon Davis, you are going to win some games. Especially when you have a top-five defense on the other side of the ball, and (let’s face it) the shittiest division in football to compete against.
ADVANTAGE: Eagles

So who comes out on top? Pete will tell you San Francisco, and I’ll tell you Philadelphia. Personally, I think we’re both smack-dab in the middle of NFL mediocrity, so it doesn't really matter. But if you have a dissenting opinion, bitch to us in 140 characters at @SteveCimino and @pwtrue. Hooray for football.

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