by Michael Lombardi
May 04, 02010
QUOTE: “If any man seeks for greatness, let him forget greatness and ask for truth, and he will find both.” -- Horace Mann
Darren Sharper returns
Often in the NFL, when a system of offense or defense is introduced by a new coordinator, the real benefit becomes increasingly evident in the second year. As former great 49ers coach Bill Walsh always reminded his assistant coaches about coaching rookies, “The first year, we teach the player the system. The second year, we develop the skills in the system.” With this in mind, the Saints should be better on defense with the return of Darren Sharper. The players will know the system, they will know the calls, and now they can concentrate on improving their skills.
Keeping Sharper allows continuity within the defense – and as an added bonus, it also allows Malcolm Jenkins, their first-round pick in 2009, more time to learn to play the game from the free safety position. Playing safety requires a player to see the game out of both eyes, while playing corner only requires you to see it out of your inside eye — which is much different. In theory, it seems easy to move a corner to safety, but in reality, it’s difficult. If a corner is not used to seeing the whole game or lacks the instincts to react to the game, he will appear hesitant in all his movements, looking like a bust. Moving from corner to safety is not as easy as moving from shortstop to second base; it takes an investment in playing time. Sharper’s return allows this transition to be much easier.
Now the Saints will have nine of their 11 starters returning to a defense that was far from perfect last year but was very opportunistic. Sharper might not have the same speed or the same athletic skills he had years ago, but he’s quick-minded and he gets the players around him to play smarter, thus playing better.
What makes this a win/win for the Saints and Sharper is that he was allowed to test the market, so he determined his real value. He might have wanted a long-term deal, but with his injury and his age, he was never going to generate the kind of dream deal his success last season warranted.
Limas Sweed is down and out
The Steelers’ Limas Sweed suffered a torn or ruptured left Achilles tendon and will miss the 2010 season. Based on his production the past two years, Sweed will have given the Steelers only seven career catches. The upcoming season was going to be his breakout year as he was more committed to investing time in his profession. The frustration of his first two years made Sweed realize that he needed to change his approach — which, according to all reports, he had done. So having to undergo surgery on his Achilles has to be a huge disappointment for him.
For the Steelers, they needed Sweed to emerge after they traded Santonio Holmes to the Jets and now have a huge void at speed wide receiver. With Arnaz Battle, Antwaan Randle El and Hines Ward, the Steelers might have the slowest group of wideouts in the NFL. They need Mike Wallace to be a bigger factor, and they must find another wideout who can escape press and stretch the defense down the field. Losing Sweed hurts because he was ready to become a player, and the Steelers needed a player with young legs.
Eagles return to Kelly Green
I don’t think I could be happier that the Birds were at Franklin Field yesterday, posing in their old uniforms — the same uniforms in which they won their only world championship. If I were the commissioner, I would make it a rule that any franchise that won a world title had to wear that uniform at least twice every year. I hate the constant changing of uniforms – great franchises never have to change. I love that the Birds will be back in their real uniforms. I can picture Eagles great Chuck Bednarik tackling Packers running back Jimmy Taylor as the clock runs out — in a Kelly green uniform.
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