Some early evaluations

The WR corps need a definite revamping. While Palmer threw 54 times today, 14 went to his TE, and 5 to his RB, over half of his 34 completions. Also, his starting WR's weren't even in the game on the TD drive that gave the Raiders hope in the 4th quarter. What does this mean? That the starting WR's are unable to separate, they have problems catching the ball, and I still have not seen much in the way of blocking. DHB has not stepped up, Moore has regressed badly, I don't see Ford's being healthy changing the situation (and he has not been able to stay healthy anyway). Criner and Streater look to be able to make plays, but the team needs one or more solid WRs, less potential than production, which means that some of this corps will necessarily need to it the bricks.

The defensive backfield has struggled, but the lack of depth to begin the year has really been exposed due to injuries. It is hard to expect third- and fourth-string players to match up consistently with starters. Like it or not, our current DB's just don't cut the mustard as starters. That really isn't a knock on them; they seem to fit well into the system when they are fulfilling their roles, but they are simply not good enough to start and hold the position down. Bartell is iffy, Huff seems to be a better CB than S (which should say something about both positions), Hanson is a nickel back, Giodano is a gamer but not a starter, Mitchell is not a cover guy, Branch whiffs too often for my taste, and Lee has not looked bad but needs more seasoning. Another position that needs an infusion of players to see some if competition wil bring out better play.

At RB, Jeremy Stewart has looked good in limited duty, Reece has been effective although it is really not is best position, Goodson has shown big play ability but a propensity for injury, and Jones has yet to show that he is more than a ST guy. The biggest questions at the position concern McFadden: can he stay healthy, can he be explosive in this scheme, and is it worth dealing him and looking for anothe back later in the draft?

The OL has struggled to protect Palmer, making opposing DL look like gangbusters. While the run blocking has improved, it seems that Carlisle is about done, Brisiel needs to show that he is worth what he is being paid, and a RT needs to be found. I'd like to see if Parsons can make the move to either C or LG, and if Bergstrom and/or Nix is going to be able to contribute.

At LB, right now we are starting a rookie, a street free agent, and a guy who has not been able to lock down a starting job before. That said, the position could be playing worse. Can't judge Gaither yet, but it looks like Burris has hit the rookie wall, and Wheeler is feeling the effect of a full season as starter. I still like Wheeler and want him back; Burris is still working hard, but it looks as though a MLB and more competition on the outside is still needed, especially if we are looking at phasing in a 3-4 look. I would guess that McClain will not be back next year, although he may yet play again this year, to see if his play will entice someone to make a cheap trade for him. Goethel is out of the picture due to injuries, as far as I can see, and it remains to be seen what Burnett and Clayton have to offer.

On the DL, there is a real issue with the depth in the rotation, as well as inconsistent production from the starters. Houston has had a solid year, Kelly has done some good work, but the rest have not shone consistently, or in some cases at all. A DT that can regulaly occupy a double team and has a good motor is paramount. It may be worth looking at moving Houston inside and finding a replacement DE.

At QB, Palmer has not played badly; any time that a QB puts it up 40+ times a game, he is going to throw picks. Period. Still, there is a question regarding how much longer he can play at a high level, and no question that a running game and a better WR corps would help him (or anybody else) quite a bit. I would like to see if Leinart can play, and for Pryor to see some game time, but not as a starter. He is going to have to do something on the field, but the question is whether he has been doing so on the practice field, and/or the classroom. I don't care about physical tools, but how they are put to use. It may be that he isn't earning a look; if so, then he hasn't earned any playing time.

This may come as a surprise, but while I think that Janikowski should stay, I am not sold on keeping Lechler, especially with salary cap issues. Not because he isn't still one of the top punters in the league, but because while his gross average is great, his net is more pedestrian, in part due to coverage issues. I'd settle for a guy with less gross distance but more hang time, leading to better net average. That could be done with a much cheaper player. I wouldn't look forward to it, but... the needs of the team come before any player, no matter how much you like them.

As for coaching, I'll be honest: I didn't think that Allen was the best hire, but thought that he may be able to bring something to the table. I think that he has, but he has also been handicapped by some of his choices for assistants. I expect Allen to stay, but wouldn't be totally averse to a change, such as talking to Jack Del Rio. I think that Knapp has not helped himself at times, although it hasn't helped that the execution on the field has been so poor. He may not be 'the problem', but he certainly doesn't appear to be 'the answer' either. Ted Gilmore has some question marks; while he may have been effective at the collegiate level, there are some serious questions abut the current WR corps, and how they have developed.

I don't like the way this season has gone, but with as many question marks as we started out with, I'm not surprised that injuries and depth problems have derailed the season. It doesn't mean the end of the world, but it does need to be addressed so that the nucleus of young players on this team can continue to develop for the future.

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