NFL Mailbag: Team of the Decade

Will the Steelers or the Patriots be the team of the decade? Is Packers QB Aaron Rodgers the next Steve Young? Is Jamal Lewis over-the-hill in Cleveland? Will the light go on for Tarvaris Jackson in his fourth season with the Vikings? Scout.com's Ed Thompson tackles some great questions from NFL fans.

During the months of May, June and July, casual NFL fans drift away to focus on baseball, work on a tan and do some yard work. But there are plenty of fans who continue to evaluate their team year-round, buzzing about topics and issues that will impact their team's success in 2009. So I recently asked fans from ten of our NFL sites at Scout.com to submit questions about their teams that would be of interest to all NFL fans—and they didn't disappoint me. 

If you have a question you'd like me to consider for my next mailbag feature, be sure to drop me a note. I'm always glad to hear from fans who have a question about their favorite team.

  • I know that I should avoid this question from Steel City Insider's Pittsburghsgoingtothesuperbowl because I'm bound to get thrown under the bus by fans from both teams. But it's just too good to pass up. 

    He wanted to know whether I thought the Steelers or the Patriots would be considered the team of the decade if Pittsburgh not only wins their third Super Bowl in the past five years, but mows down Tom Brady and the Patriots head-to-head in the postseason in the process. 

    Well, I think the only way I could give that nod to the Steelers would be if they win it all and the Patriots fail to make the playoffs again. That would result in both teams having three Lombardi Trophies, but the Steelers would have seven playoff appearances since 2000 versus six for New England. 

    But if the Patriots also make their seventh playoff appearance, I'd use regular-season records during the decade as my next tie-breaker. And if the Patriots amass enough wins to qualify for the playoffs, it's unlikely the Steelers could overcome New England's current 7.5-game advantage with their 102-42 record versus Pittsburgh's 94-49-1 mark.

  • Speaking of New England, gr365 from Patriots Insider wondered if I thought the Patriots will add a veteran outside linebacker to the roster. 

    Well, if the Cowboys' Greg Ellis is released, New England should make a serious bid for him. But their cap situation isn't all that great since since they're roughly $6 million under and need a good chunk of that dough to sign their draft choices. So the addition of Ellis would likely require the release of another veteran or renegotiating a deal with a high-priced veteran to free up some space. 

    One renegotiation target could be defensive end Richard Seymour, who is in the final year of his contract and who will hit the team's cap for nearly $10 million. Former Redskin Marcus Washington would be a capable and cheaper alternative if the Patriots can't land Ellis. He could bridge the team's talent deficit at the position for a year while they sort out what to do there for the 2010 campaign.


  • Is mobile QB Aaron Rodgers the next Steve Young?
    Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

  • IPBprez2 from Packer Report asked if I thought comparisons between Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers and former 49ers great Steve Young were fair and whether or not they would last. 

    I actually think that's a very good comparison for Rodgers at this early stage of his career and would argue that the fifth-year veteran is actually a bit ahead of the curve versus Young, whose career didn't really take off until 1992, his eighth season in the league. The one area that Rodgers will need to work on to make the comparison stick is his completion rate, which was about five percent lower than Young's when he hit his prime. But the potential is certainly there. 

  • Panther20 from Panther Insider is understandably disgruntled with those in the media who are projecting Atlanta and New Orleans as the 2009 NFC South Champions. He asked, "Are people quickly forgetting that the Carolina Panthers went 12-4 and won the NFC South last season based upon the playoff loss to Arizona?"

    After reminding myself that there is a team in the Carolinas (just kidding, Panther20), I had to agree that he had a legitimate gripe from that perspective. But part of that speculation is Jake Delhomme's fault. 

    Drew Brees and Matt Ryan generated a bunch of exciting highlight-reel moments last year that has everyone buzzing while Jake Delhomme, a hard-working, blue-collar type of quarterback, has been on the decline. His touchdown production and passing yards during his last two full seasons have dropped off significantly, and he missed 13 games due to injury in 2007. 

    The lack of respect could also be due to uncertainty over how the Panthers defense will perform under new defensive coordinator Ron Meeks and without Julius Peppers—assuming that he doesn't return to the fold. That said, I expect the NFC South to be a three-way slugfest between the Panthers, Falcons and Saints that goes right to the wire if all three clubs avoid major injury problems.

  • Cathousecrazy from Jag Nation is convinced that the trio of Maurice Jones-Drew, Greg Jones and rookie Rashad Jennings working behind a re-tooled offensive line will propel the team's rushing attack into the top five in the league this year. 

    I agree that Jacksonville has taken some good steps towards making sure they don't finish as low as 18th in rushing like they did last year. While I really like their mix of running backs, I'm not sure that the offensive line will be ready to deliver top-five results quite yet.


    Maurice Jones-Drew should roll as the Jaguars' featured running back.
    Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

    Don't get me wrong, Jacksonville's selection of offensive tackles Eugene Monroe and Eben Britton was brilliant, but you've got to give that revamped offensive line plenty of practice reps and months of game experience before they'll be inside each other's heads enough to be dominating as a unit. So while top ten is probably achievable this year, I think top five is a bit of a reach, even though I expect Maurice Jones-Drew to tear it up this year. 

  • Since there's still no definitive word on whether or not Brett Favre will be playing in Minnesota this year, Gopherhockey from Viking Update is looking for some hope that fourth-year quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, a player who's consistently been inconsistent, will wake up and become more reliable. "What other quarterbacks struggled their first few years before the 'light' went on," he asked. 

    Probably the best example who comes to mind would be Trent Dilfer, who threw a whopping 37 interceptions and just 16 touchdowns while leading the Buccaneers during his second and third NFL seasons. During his fourth season, he led his team to a 10-6 record, throwing 21 touchdown passes and just 11 interceptions. Three years later, he won a Super Bowl ring as the quarterback of the Ravens. 

    So is it still possible that the light could go on for Jackson? Sure. But honestly, I just don't think we're going to see Tarvaris Jackson sporting a Super Bowl ring other than as a backup to Favre or another true starting-caliber quarterback.

  • Biggbenns from Broncos Update noted that with the addition of rookie Knowshon Moreno, the Broncos' depth chart at running back is likely to get shuffled. "Who is the most logical choice to stay and who is going to be gone?" he asked. 

    I think the players who will be impacted sooner than later are second-year back Ryan Torain, who was limited by injuries during his rookie season, and former Texan Darius Walker. The team invested a $1.8 million signing bonus in Correll Buckhalter, so he'll stick. Lamont Jordan offers the team some versatility as a running back who also has the size to fill in for fullback Peyton Hillis if needed, so pencil him in at No. 3.  With the addition of Moreno, J.J. Arrington likely fell from a sure No. 3 to being on the bubble.

  • Noting the offseason acquisitions of offensive linemen such as Floyd Womack, John St. Clair and first-round rookie Alex Mack, Koesters from The Orange And Brown Report asked, "What do you see out of the Browns running game this year? Will Jamal Lewis rebound from a down year in '08 thanks to the revamped line? Or has age and carries taken a toll on him forcing the Browns to get the ball more to other backs, mainly Jerome Harrison?" 


    Is it time to reduce Jamal Lewis' carries in Cleveland?
    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Head coach Eric Mangini is smart enough to realize that at age 29, Lewis will be more productive carrying the ball 200 times instead of the roughly 300 he's averaged over the past three seasons. And Harrison has the ability to be an effective tandem partner. I think it's time for the team to turn him loose and see what kind of impact he can have. After all, they need to determine if they currently have their featured back of the future in-house or if running back will be a high priority during the 2010 offseason.

    The Browns should have a more balanced offensive attack thanks to the addition of wide receiver talent during the offseason—and that's going to help them revitalize a running game that finished 26th in the league last year. But until the new faces on the offensive line get used to working alongside each other, there will be some inconsistent results. I can see them finishing around the middle of the pack in rushing this season—which would still be a significant improvement. 

  • Carnack from Warpath is understandably concerned about whether or not the Washington Redskins have a "Plan B" if their starting quarterback falters. "Is Jason Campbell the QB for this team throughout 2009, regardless of his on-field performance?" he asked. 

    Carnack, Campbell will be the team's quarterback throughout the final year of his contract unless he suffers a major meltdown or the team falls badly out of contention late in the season. If that happens, Jim Zorn's "Plan B" should be Colt Brennan, not Todd Collins. The second-year gunslinger out of Hawaii has a knack for keeping things exciting when he's on the field. So whether the team wins or loses while he gains some starting experience, the fans would at the very least be entertained by his presence. Either way, I think this is Campbell's last hurrah in Washington. 

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    A member of the Pro Football Writers of America, Ed Thompson's player interviews and NFL features are published across the Scout.com network and at FOXSports.com..

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