Each Friday this offseason, Audibles will pit two players head-to-head in an attempt to figure out which one will have a better 2013 season. We’ll then take it to Twitter, to get your opinions on the debate.
The showdown for our inaugural toss-up: Green Bay WR Randall Cobb vs. Seattle WR Percy Harvin.
The New Orleans Saints highlighted last week one of the reasons teams often are hesitant to undertake scheme shifts on defense. Saints GM Mickey Loomis said, according to Larry Holder of NOLA.com, that Will Smith will open camp competing for an outside linebacker spot in the team’s new 3-4 defense.
That’s 6-foot-3, 280-pound Will Smith, a player who has spent his entire nine-year NFL career playing as a defensive end in New Orleans’ former 4-3 look. Despite 67.5 career sacks, Smith’s roster spot suddenly looks unsafe, despite him taking a massive pay cut this offseason (from $9 million in 2013 to $3 million) in an effort to stick around.
This is one of the challenges when a coaching staff opts for a new attack — the players on the roster don’t always fit.
Can the balance of power within an entire division change hands during May workouts? Possibly, at least in the case of the NFC West, depending on how the San Francisco 49ers respond to the torn Achilles reportedly suffered by WR Michael Crabtree.
There is not a lot to separate the 49ers and Seattle Seahawks on paper — those teams will enter the season as favorites in their division and conference. But the 49ers are now facing the extended absence of their No. 1 receiver, a player who raised his game to another level once Colin Kaepernick took over as the team’s quarterback.
Following three decent-but-unspectacular seasons, Crabtree became a borderline elite weapon for San Francisco down the stretch and into the playoffs last season. He had 20 catches for 285 yards and three touchdowns in the postseason alone. Crabtree also became Kaepernick’s unquestioned favorite target, with Kaepernick targeting him 89 times during his 10 starts (seven regular season, three postseason), a number more than double any other 49ers’ player.
Brian Urlacher could have coaxed another year or two out of a body that was breaking down rapidly. He could have signed with a team hunting for middle linebacker help, like Minnesota or Denver.
Instead, the 2000 Defensive Rookie of the Year, 2005 Defensive Player of the Year and eight-time Pro Bowler opted, wisely, to call it a career on Wednesday.
“After spending a lot of time this spring thinking about my NFL future, I have made the decision to retire,” Urlacher said in a statement. “Although I could continue playing, I’m not sure I would bring a level of performance or passion that’s up to my standards. When considering this, along with the fact that I could retire after a 13-year career wearing only one jersey for such a storied franchise, my decision became pretty clear.
“I want to thank all the people in my life that have helped me along the way. I will miss my teammates, my coaches, and the great Bears fans. I’m proud to say that I gave all of you everything I had every time I took the field. I will miss the great game, but I leave with no regrets.”
While retiring as a one-team player further cements Urlacher’s exceptional legacy with the Chicago Bears, he got to the real heart of the matter when he mentioned a decreased “level of performance.” Urlacher, who turns 35 later this week, missed all but one game in the 2009 season with a wrist injury and, though he made the Pro Bowl in both 2010 and ’11, clearly neared the end of the line during 2012.
A strong offseason has the Cleveland Browns feeling like they’re on the verge of contention in the AFC North. Before that dream becomes a reality, though, the franchise needs to decide on a quarterback.
The Browns’ competition there could be one of the most entertaining during the NFL preseason, with at least three QBs in the mix for the No. 1 gig.
To get you ready for that battle, here are the abbreviated scouting reports for the contenders: