Paul Domowitch | Birds' wideouts receiving unfair knocks

Posted: November 09, 2007

THERE ARE plenty of things to criticize the Eagles for right now without making stuff up.

Want to rip them for blowing all that free-agent money on underachievers Jevon Kearse and Darren Howard? Be my guest.

Want to call them out for wasting high-round draft picks on stiffs like Jerome McDougle, Matt McCoy, Matt Ware, Ryan Moats and Billy McMullen? Go for it.

But the popular talk-show notion that the problem with the 3-5 Eagles right now is that they don't have good enough wide receivers, well, that one I'm not buying.

Would it be great to have Randy Moss or Chad Johnson or Larry Fitzgerald or Plaxico Burress or that guy down in Dallas? Absolutely. But there are only about a dozen legitimate No. 1 receivers in the league.

The reason the Eagles have plummeted from third to 11th in the league in passing and from sixth to 18th in scoring is not because of Reggie Brown and Kevin Curtis.

When Brown was averaging 17.7 yards per catch and hauling in a team-high eight touchdown passes last season, I don't recall anyone in radioland suggesting he wasn't good enough. And the difference between last year's other starting wideout, Donté Stallworth, and his replacement this year, Curtis, is, well, there isn't really a difference.

"It's a wash," said a personnel man for an NFC North team.

There is a perception that Stallworth is night-and-day faster than Curtis. The truth is, the speed difference between them is negligible. In his workout for scouts before the '02 NFL draft, Stallworth ran a 4.32 40. A year later, before the '03 draft, Curtis ran a 4.41.

Last year, Stallworth averaged 3.2 receptions per game for the Eagles. Curtis is averaging 4.6. Last year, Stallworth averaged 60.4 receiving yards per game. Curtis is averaging 79.1. Last year, Stallworth averaged .42 touchdowns per game. Curtis is averaging .50. The only category Stallworth outproduced Curtis is yards per catch. He averaged 19.1 last year, while Curtis is averaging a slightly lower, but still impressive 17.1.

Right now, Curtis is on a 74-catch, 1,266-yard, eight-touchdown pace. That second figure would be the third-highest in Eagles history, behind only Mike Quick's 1,409 yard in '83 and Irving Fryar's 1,316 yards in '97.

Not good enough? Not quite.

Around the league

-- The rich will get richer this week when defensive tackle Tank Johnson makes his debut with the 7-1 Cowboys. His eight-game suspension related to weapons charges ended last week and he will play against the Giants Sunday, initially splitting time at nose tackle with Jay Ratliff. The former Chicago Bears starter signed a minimum-salary contract with the Cowboys in mid-September. "There were several interested teams, but we wanted to find a team that, when he would be reinstated, would be in the playoff hunt," said Johnson's agent, South Jersey-based Jerrold Colton. "He not only joined a team that's in the hunt, but one that may be the [NFC] favorite to go to the Super Bowl." Johnson spent 2 months in jail during the offseason for violating probation on a gun charge. He was released by the Bears after he was pulled over by police for speeding and tested for driving under the influence. Charges were never filed.

-- Several NFL club executives were surprised that commissioner Roger Goodell didn't feel the need to take a closer look at the situation involving Andy Reid's sons Britt and Garrett, particularly after Garrett acknowledged that he dealt drugs. Garrett spent a lot of time around the team's players. Goodell probably wouldn't be quite so understanding if a player brought a drug dealer into the locker room.

-- The Patriots gave linebacker Adalius Thomas a 5-year, $35 million contract last March. But Thomas was on the field for just three of New England's 10 defensive series in Sunday's win over the Colts. It's not exactly clear why. Bill Belichick played a nickel package most of the game and was rotating his linemen and linebackers a lot. Thomas also has been bothered by an ankle injury in recent weeks.

Draft winds

-- Right now, the top four quarterbacks in the '08 draft are Colt Brennan, of Hawaii; Brian Brohm, of Louisville; André Woodson, of Kentucky; and Exton's Matt Ryan, of Boston College. The order depends on what scout you talk to. One AFC player personnel director who has scouted all four has them in this order: Brennan, Brohm, Woodson, Ryan. "But I'm not fired up about any of them," he said. "They've all got issues. I don't think I'd take any of them with a top-10 pick. But that doesn't mean somebody won't."

The scout's biggest issue with Ryan, a Penn Charter grad, is his accuracy. Ryan has a 59.4 completion percentage this season, which is considerably lower than Brennan's 68.6, Brohm's 68.2 and Woodson's 63.8.

"In his defense, they do try a lot of vertical throws," the scout said. "So you're going to get some incompletions. But (his completion percentage) should be better than it is."

The scout likes everything else about Ryan. "He's got a strong arm," he said. "He's a big kid. Right at 6-5. He's got good mobility. He makes good decisions. It's just that he's not always accurate when you think he should make that completion."

-- Underclassmen won't declare until January, but the best player in this year's senior class is Glenn Dorsey, the 6-2, 300-pound defensive tackle out of LSU. "He is the best player I've seen, bar none," said an NFC scout. "Not even close. Between you, me and the phone line, this guy is Jerome Brown. Now, Jerome went on to prove it at the next level. But right now, this kid is where Jerome was coming out of Miami. You can play him wherever and however you want to play him."

By the numbers

-- The Chiefs have scored just 13 first-quarter points in eight games.

-- The Bengals are 2-9 in their last 11 games, dating back to last season.

-- Ben Roethlisberger became only the fifth quarterback since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970 to throw five touchdown passes in the first half, when the Steelers beat the Ravens on Monday night. One of the other four is the Eagles' Donovan McNabb, who did it in '04 in a 47-17 win over the Packers.

-- In eight games against the Giants in his career, Terrell Owens has caught 47 passes for 756 yards and nine TDs. His teams have gone 7-1 in those games.

2-Minute drill

FROM THE LIP:

-- "People don't seem to understand why I'm doing this. Well, you know what? Maybe I don't understand it either. Maybe it's just something I need to do." - Chiefs RB Priest Holmes, on his comeback from head and neck injuries

-- "One of the things that I'll always second-guess is going to be all the time I missed with [sons] J.D. and Coy. I know someday later on, I'm certainly not going to say I should've worked more. I'm going to say I should have been there [with my family] more." - Redskins coach Joe Gibbs, on the demands of being an NFL coach

-- "I feel like I've been playing with one flat tire since the first game. A car doesn't run well with a flat. I've got to get it fixed at some point, but I don't think that'll be during the season. I've just got to keep playing with the pain." - Texans RB Ahman Green, who has just 70 carries this season and has missed three games with a knee injury

THUMBS DOWN:

To the Jacksonville Jaguars, who have replaced the Bengals as the league's poster boys for bad behavior.

The Jags have had eight players arrested in the last 23 months; most recently, offensive linemen Richard Collier and linebacker Justin Durant, who both were arrested last Saturday after allegedly falling asleep while drunk in their cars. Collier was at a McDonald's. Durant on a highway exit ramp. Oh, and defensive tackle Marcus Stroud was suspended for four games for steroid use.

Asked if he had lost control of his team, Jags coach Jack Del Rio said: "We have rules and we have discipline. Let me clarify that for you: We have tons of rules. We have a booklet of rules just like every other team. We have a manual on rules.'' It would seem then, that he has a lot of players who can't read.

JON GRUDEN'S JEFF GARCIA TRIBUTE OF THE WEEK:

"Given the circumstances, he has really been superb. You lose Cadillac [Williams] and [Michael] Pittman and [Mike] Alstott. You lose your tight end and your left tackle. [Wide receiver Michael] Clayton is gone. [David] Boston is gone. [Another wide receiver] Mark Jones is gone. All the guys you work with in April, May, June, July [and] August are gone. It's a credit to him. He has been a great leader. He has been a consistent playmaker. And his poise, I think, shows through these times. He's been outstanding from Day 1 ... He is a big reason why we have a chance [to make the playoffs]."

Domo's rankings

1. Patriots 9-0 (1 last week)

2. Colts 8-1 (2)

3. Cowboys 7-1 (3)

4. Steelers 6-2 (4)

5. Packers 7-1 (6)

6. Giants 6-2 (9)

7. Titans 6-2 (12)

8. Saints 4-4 (20)

9. Chargers 4-4 (5)

10. Lions 6-2 (15)

11. Redskins 5-3 (13)

12. Seahawks 4-4 (7)

13. Browns 5-3 (21)

14. Bucs 5-4 (17)

15. Bills 4-4 (22)

16. Ravens 4-4 (8)

17. Jaguars 5-3 (10)

18. Chiefs 4-4 (11)

19. Panthers 4-4 (14)

20. Broncos 3-5 (16)

21. Cardinals 3-5 (18)

22. Vikings 3-5 (27)

23. Bears 3-5 (24)

24. EAGLES 3-5 (19)

25. Texans 4-5 (25)

26. Bengals 2-6 (23)

27. Raiders 2-6 (26)

28. Jets 1-8 (29)

29. Falcons 2-6 (31)

30. 49ers 2-6 (28)

31. Rams 0-8 (30)

32. Dolphins 0-8 (32)

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