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ETB’s NBA Logo Report Cards, Part Three

August 25, 2009

NBA Team Stickers

By: Zachariah Blott

Oklahoma City Thunder

Current logo: D

OKC Thunder LogoBest logo: None

Yet another team whose logo is their name and a basketball. Many of those other teams (Knicks, Lakers, Clippers, etc.) received a C for their logo because they at least kept it simple and didn’t add crap to it. Well here’s one that added crap to such a bland, basic concept. The OKC font is awkward. There are a blue and orange marking (eyelashes? grains of rice?) in the background.

Not sure what type of image they could use for the name Thunder? Here are a few teams who came up with something: Berlin Thunder (NFL Europe), Berlin’s alternative logo, Stockton Thunder (minor league hockey), Trenton Thunder (minor league baseball), and Trenton’s old logo.

Orlando Magic

Current logo: C

Orlando Magic LogoBest logo: 1989-2000

Remember when George Lucas put Jar Jar Binks in The Phantom Menace because he was a character the kids would like? That didn’t work out so well from a public reception standpoint. I get a similar feeling when I look at the Magic’s current logo. They took a decent, cartoonish logo that was used from 1989-2000 and replaced it with something similar but far more … kidsy. It’s puffy, has a giant star dotting the I (see also: middle school love notes), and the flying ball appears to have taken a slight detour in its flight path.

Orlando Magic Classic Logo

Eight more NBA logo report cards, after the jump …

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14 CommentsPosted by Andrew Thell on Aug. 25, 2009 at 3:01am in NBA

ETB’s 2009 NFL Previews: NFC West

August 21, 2009

Kurt Warner of the Arizona Cardinals

Kurt Warner Photo Credit: Icon SMI

By Darren Yuvan

With the preseason nearly half over (thank God), ETB contributor Darren Yuvan has been breaking down the league’s outlook division by division. Up next is the NFC West, which just might end up as the worst division in the league. NFC East and NFC South previews will wrap this series up next week; in the meantime, be sure to read about the AFC North, AFC West, AFC East, and AFC South, and NFC North too.

1 – Seattle Seahawks

Despite struggling through an injury-marred 4–12 season last year, Jim Mora’s arrival and a healthy Matt Hasselbeck should help put the Seahawks back in charge of what should be an extremely tight division.

Hasselbeck’s health is the key to this team’s fortunes. If he can stay healthy, they challenge for the division. If he doesn’t, it’ll be another rough year in Seattle.

With Deion Branch and Nate Burleson both at full strength, the addition of star wideout T.J. Houshmandzedah, and tight end John Carlson coming into his own, Hasselbeck will have no shortage of weapons at his disposal in the passing game. The Seahawks should have very little trouble putting points on the board.

Julius Jones returns after an underwhelming year as the starter. He’ll need to really step it up to help relieve the pressure on Seattle’s passing attack. T.J. Duckett also returns as Jones’ backup and a short-yardage battering ram—expect a repeat of his 8 TDs from last season.

The offensive line, which was decimated by injuries last year, is once again struggling to stay healthy. Guard Walter Jones, center Chris Spencer, guard Mansfield Wrotto and tackle Ray Willis have already been dealing with injury issues this August, though none of them—except for maybe Jones’—seem to be serious. But this unit needs to get healthy and get some playing time together. Keeping Hasselbeck on the field will be their top priority.

All four NFC West teams were atrocious on defense last year, and Seattle was particularly bad, especially against the pass, where they ranked dead last in the NFL.

The trade of Julian Peterson for Cory Redding should help the pass defense, as Redding is one of the best inside pass rushers in the league, more than offsetting the loss of the perennial Pro Bowler Peterson.

Veteran Ken Lucas was also brought in to help shore up the coverage units, and they also expect big things out of rookie linebacker Aaron Curry, though Curry is currently dealing with a groin strain that could keep him out of valuable camp and preseason time.

Ultimately, if they can stay healthy, Seattle has the most well-balanced roster in the division, and some fresh head coaching perspective in Mora should have them motivated. Expect them to squeak out the division with a 9 – 7 or 10 – 6 and be the only NFC West team in the postseason.

Darren Yuvan breaks down the rest of the NFC West after the break…

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No CommentsPosted by ETB Contributor on Aug. 21, 2009 at 8:13pm in ETB Articles, NFL

ETB’s NBA Logo Report Cards, Part Two

August 21, 2009

NBA Stickers NostalgiaBy: Zachariah Blott

I have 10 more team logos for you in the second installment of ETB’s NBA Logo Report Cards. Here are the basics of what I’m looking for in a good logo: If the name of the team is included, make sure its font, size, and color allow it to be easily read. The image should be simple and clear, displaying some artistic depth while staying away from getting too busy. Additionally, the logo’s image should incorporate the theme of the team, or at least their location. Overall, I’m looking for a clean, cool looking logo (note: very subjective) that won’t date itself into local humor in 20 years.

Again, all of these logos are found at sportslogos.net.

See also: NBA Logos Report Cards, Part One

Indiana Pacers

Current logo: D

Best logo: None

Indiana Pacers Classic LogoThe Pacers logo has changed very little over the years, but it needs to because frankly it sucks. It’s a big P for Pacers, with a basketball that apparently has picked up speed. Sound terribly boring? You’re right, it is. It’s very blah and does not use the race car theme the team unwisely adopted at their inception in 1967 (they joined the NBA nine years later). Their original logo included a long white arm—Rik Smits?—holding what appears to be a baseball. I wish I was making this up.

Los Angeles Clippers

Current logo: C

San Diego Clippers LogoBest logo: Current

Like the Pacers, the Clippers’ logo showcases a basketball that’s picked up speed. Yawn. Again, I’m not sure why you have a team name that invokes specific images and then never hire a graphic artist to make it happen in a logo. At least their first logo as the San Diego Clippers used this theme, although it was quite possibly the very definition of a dated 70′s logo. I give LA’s logo minor props for being simple and clear enough that it’s remained the same for the team’s entire 25 year history.

Eight more NBA logo report cards, after the jump …

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6 CommentsPosted by ETB Contributor on Aug. 21, 2009 at 3:01am in NBA

NBA Schedule-Makers Play It Safe and Opt for the Same Old, Same Old

August 20, 2009

Shaquille O Neal and Kobe Bryant

Shaquille O’Neal & Kobe Bryant Photo Credit: Icon SMI

The NBA has mapped out the 2009-10 season–yes, I realize I’m a bit late on this–and as usual, those charged with booking the primetime and national TV matchups have invested themselves much too heavily in the past while keeping their eyes shut, for the most part, to the long-term future of the league.

Raise your hand if, after four straight years of the same tired, overhyped, lazy Christmas Day offering from the NBA, you still care about “Kobe Bryant vs. Shaquille O’Neal.” For the 18 of you with your hand up, please put it down, you’re embarassing everybody.

The San Antonio Spurs will see nearly a quarter of their games televised on either ABC, TNT, or ESPN; eight additional ones are slated for NBA TV. Tim Duncan is obviously a living legend and I know they traded for Richard “Peanut” Jefferson, but unless you’re a Spurs fan or Eva Longoria, few people get excited about the Spurs. Let’s not forget they took part in one of the least-viewed NBA Finals (vs. Lebron James and Cleveland Cavaliers in ’07) in league history. Yawn.

Meanwhile, the young, exciting, up-and-coming Oklahoma City Thunder–which is led by Kevin Durant, one of the brightest stars in the league–get one national TV game all year, a Wednesday night matchup in mid-December with the Dallas Mavericks on ESPN. Woo.

Speaking of the Mavericks, who were recently sabotaged in their bid to bolster the frontline by overpaying for restricted free agent center Marcin Gortat (the Magic matched his nutty $35+ million deal), they get 12 primetime games, including five of their last seven games in February–six if you include a NBA TV telecast.

Huh? This is essentially the same team that went 50-32 last year and missed barely made the playoffs. Yes, they added Shawn Marion, and stubbornly threw funny money at a 36-year-old Jason Kidd, but this is still one of the more mediocre “good” teams in the league and one that’s well on its way towards a rebuilding phase. They’ll struggle to make the postseason, again… but hey, there’s always that run to the NBA Finals 4 years ago.

More on the NBA’s 2009-10 national TV schedule after the break…

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3 CommentsPosted by Brian Spencer on Aug. 20, 2009 at 4:41pm in NBA

Eight Breakout NFL Running Backs for 2009

August 20, 2009

Donald Brown, Indianapolis ColtsAs this series on breakout fantasy players progresses I should point out that I don’t expect all of these players to “break out.” We never know what the season has in store for any individual player, that’s the game. But I do think all of these guys have a chance to break out and be productive fantasy performers. When draft day comes, the trick is to load up on guys in the early round who have the highest probability of carrying your squad, and then to spend the middle and late rounds filling out the roster with as many potential breakout candidates as possible.

They won’t all work out, but some will.

You’ll notice that rookie running backs dominate this list. That’s because year after year the rookie backs remain some of the biggest draft-day bargains. It often takes a few years for players to adjust to the NFL level at other positions, but running the football is a skill that translates well from the college ranks. Just like real football, in fantasy the strategy with RBs is to get ‘em while they’re young and run ‘em into the ground.

See Also:
Six Breakout Tight Ends for 2009
11 Breakout Wide Receiver Candidates

1) Donald Brown, Rookie, Indianapolis Colts: My gut feeling on Brown is that he’ll be one of the biggest fantasy stories of 2009. Rushing 5 times for 58 yards in the preseason opener against the Vikings has only heightened my expectations. The 2008 NCAA leading rusher out of UConn was the best Colt on the field, showing excellent vision and burst. Although this figures to be a strict committee in the early going, I’m about ready to give up on Addai as a runner (just one game over 80 yards rushing in his last 20 contests) and I’m bullish on the rookie’s chances of thriving on artificial turf and in this offense. I think the explosive, shifty Brown is the Colts leading rusher and their primary back by the end of the season.

2) Darren McFadden, Second Year, Oakland Raiders: It’s unfortunate that I know my league-mates will be reading this, because McFadden is one of my favorite picks this season. His carries will be limited in a scenario where he shares the backfield with the significantly more boring Justin Fargas, but he’ll be active in the passing game. I see his total touches being somewhere in the 250 range. McFadden is just as game-breaking as he was a year ago, the toe injury is gone, and the Raiders are more committed to getting him the ball, particularly on what they’re calling their “explosive plays.” Unfortunately, he plays for the Raiders, so …

Six more breakout running back candidates, after the jump…
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1 CommentPosted by Andrew Thell on Aug. 20, 2009 at 5:01am in NFL, NFL Fantasy News

ETB’s NBA Logo Report Cards, Part One

August 19, 2009

Classic NBA StickersBy: Zachariah Blott

If you’re poking around the Internet for something interesting about the NBA during this uber-slow part of the off-season (Magic Johnson’s 50th birthday was the big news this past week), take a look at sportslogos.net. The site has pretty much every sports logo ever, and it conveniently provides the dates they were used so a fan can actually pick up on the artistic trends over the decades.

I looked through the logos of all 30 NBA teams and would like to provide a little analysis as to which clubs managed to choose something nice and which, well, simply chose something.

Atlanta Hawks

Current logo: B

Best logo: 1972-1995

I’m not sure why the Hawks abandoned the red and yellow color scheme that defined them from 1972 until 2007—maybe they didn’t want to be associated with McDonald’s in any way. It doesn’t change how I view their logos over the years, but that was their unique identity for so many years. Their current logo of a pissed off hawk gripping a gray (huh?) basketball isn’t bad. However, they should have stayed with the simple Pac-Man head they used from 1972 to 1995; it’s less busy and instantly reminds fans of how much fun it was to watch Dominique Wilkins and Spud Webb in the 80′s. Yeah it’s mostly writing, but their logo for the 1971-72 season was a decent precursor.

Atlanta Hawks Classic Logo

Boston Celtics

Current logo: A

Best logo: Current

Boston Celtics LogoThe Celtics have a top-rate logo that management wisely doesn’t mess with for trivial reasons. Although the current one has only been around since 1994, its original incarnation was hit upon way back in 1968. You’ve got a leprechaun with a basketball and the name of the team. It is unmistakable to all sports fans and is straightforward enough that it doesn’t look crowded or forced, even though it has six colors. The color additions/changes in 1994 all enhanced this beautiful logo. What did the Celtics have when Bill Russell was winning 11 titles? A hideous cross between Jughead and an overly caffeinated college cheerleader.

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10 CommentsPosted by ETB Contributor on Aug. 19, 2009 at 1:01am in NBA

First Round in Fantasy Football Drafts Not Always the Land of Milk and Honey

August 17, 2009

Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers and running back LaDainian TomlinsonFor all the research, planning, analysis, and mock drafts that go into the weeks and days leading up to fantasy football drafts, whether or not your picks pan out and your squad has a successful season inevitably boils down to is this: pure, dumb, often unexplainable and random luck.

Best-laid fantasy plans are foiled every Sunday by fuzzy rules, questionable calls, inexplicably terrible performances in slam-dunk matchups, and fatal season-ending injuries. Professional football is, indeed, an unpredictable, often dumb sport, and on some level that’s what makes it so great—and what makes fantasy football such a crapshoot.

That’s why I tend to not worry or get too excited about first-round picks: just because this “elite” group of players enter the season as fantasy studs, it doesn’t mean they’ll end it that way. In fact, most of the time it doesn’t.

One of just many examples: former Seattle Seahawks RB Shaun Alexander, who came into the 2006-07 campaign riding high after rushing for 1,880 yards and scoring 28 TDs the previous year. A consensus top-five pick in most fantasy circles, Alexander rewarded those with faith in his ability to do it again by dropping all the way down to 896 yards rushing, 7 TDs, and 3 fumbles lost in just 10 games.

No, fantasy titles aren’t won by scoring a top-five slot: it’s done by making savvy picks in the middle rounds and playing the waiver wire like a seasoned vet as soon as the draft is over.

I’d argue, in fact, that this year you’re better off picking towards the end of the first-round than towards the front of it unless you land the first-overall pick (which better not be wasted on Maurice Jones-Drew). Call me crazy, but outside of Adrian Peterson there’s not a lot to be overly excited about in the consensus top-10 or 12 fantasy picks in ’09. Sure, there are some strong bets, as always, but, well… meh.

Of course, maybe it’s just the disaster that was last year’s first-round fantasy picks that has me feeling so bearish about this year’s cream of the crop. In case you’ve forgotten, here’s a look back at the top-10 draft choices (and how they fared) in ETB’s 2008 fantasy football league. Hint: not so good.

A statistical look at last year’s first-round fantasy “studs” after the break…

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1 CommentPosted by Brian Spencer on Aug. 17, 2009 at 12:15am in NFL, NFL Fantasy News

Six Breakout NFL Tight Ends for 2009

August 14, 2009

Philadelphia Eagle Brent Celek

Brent Celek Photo Credit: Icon SMI

There’s a clear-cut consensus top four tight ends in fantasy football this season: Jason Witten, Antonio Gates, Dallas Clark and Tony Gonzalez. You should try to get them. They’re pretty good. But every year, some schmucks will overvalue the position and reach, meaning you won’t be able to draft them at value. This year it feels like there’s the top four and there’s everybody else. After that top tier it gets murky. Sure there are Kellen Winslow, Owen Daniels and Chris Cooley, but they have their question marks. For my money, the best strategy for 2009 once those elite four are off the board is to wait and swing for the fences on a high-upside breakout candidate. Somebody like the six gentlemen below …

See also: 11 Breakout Wide Receiver Candidates

1) Greg Olsen, Third Year, Chicago Bears: Olsen has legitimate high-end talent and he finally has a legitimate quarterback, which means he’s looking at a top-tier TE season – but he isn’t being drafted like it. Reports out of training camp are that Cutler and Olsen have been doing some serious bonding, both on the field and off. His great relationship with Cutler combined with the fact that he’s Chicago’s most consistent receiving threat should make him a natural red-zone presence. Olsen is big, and he’s also extremely fast for the position, getting down the field as well as any TE – which means the yards should be there weekly.

2) Brent Celek, Third Year, Philadelphia Eagles: The Eagles throw the ball a lot, and they make every effort to get the tight end involved. Celek is the clear No. 1 in Philly this season and he can be what LJ Smith was not: reliable. You usually sort last season’s fantasy stats by regular-season totals, but don’t forget Celek was leaned on heavily in the playoffs last year – and that he responded with 19 receptions, 151 yards and 3 TDs. He’s got a shot at being a top-10 fantasy tight end.

Read on for four more breakout tight ends …

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7 CommentsPosted by Andrew Thell on Aug. 14, 2009 at 3:01am in NFL, NFL Fantasy News

Eleven Breakout Wide Receivers for 2009

August 10, 2009

Devin Hester and Jay CutlerThe NFL season, and just as importantly the fantasy football season, is upon us. The Hall of Fame Game, the annual first preseason game, took place on Sunday night in Canton, Ohio. There’s no turning back now. It’s balls to the wall from here on out. From mock drafts to average draft position charts to sleeper and bust articles, fantasy football immersion and overload is inescapable. ETB contributing writer Darren Yuvan has been doing an excellent job with his divisional previews, and now The Bench is here with our first fantasy projections article of the season. I’ve been combing twitter, reading every article I can get my hands on, and mock drafting away and here are six early picks I’ve gleaned for breakout wide receivers plus five bonus guys to keep an eye on.

I define a breakout wide receiver as one who fulfills two criteria. First, I expect him to perform at a much higher level than he has at the NFL level to this point – or very well at the NFL level right off the bat, in the case of rookies. Second, he must be a guy we project to significantly outperform his ADP. You’re all more than welcome to make your picks for breakout wideouts in the comments section.

Devin Hester and Jay Cutler photo credit: Icon SMI

Six Elite Options

1) Anthony Gonzalez, Third Year, Indianapolis Colts: It’s a simple matter of supply and demand with the Colts third-year wideout. There’s always a great supply of productive passing in Indy with Peyton, and now that Marvin Harrison has moved on the looks and scores should be relatively easy to come by for Gonzalez. Considering he’s been the third wide receiver his first two years in the league Anthony’s numbers have been respectable (catching an impressive 73% of the balls thrown his way), but now the path is cleared for him to make that prototypical third-year breakout. Though he lacks elite physical tools, he’s a hard worker with great timing and route running. 1,000 yards and 7 TDs is the baseline.

2) Devin Hester, Fourth Year, Chicago Bears: Now in his second year as a wide receiver, Hester is poised to take a big leap forward at the position. Ron Turner has been raving about his skills and maturation. Not only is he more comfortable and polished lining up out wide, but he also has an elite QB to get him the ball in Jay Cutler. Hester has always had elite speed and separation skills and now he has a terrific quarterback who can deliver the ball downfield and find him. Be ready to sell high mid-season though – those Week 15 and Week 16 matchups at Baltimore and versus Minnesota are daunting.

3) Dwayne Bowe, Third Year, Kansas City Chiefs: We tend to think that the wide receiver “Year Three Breakout” theory is a tad overblown, but it’s real and things are setting up nicely for the physical specimen. Todd Haley is the new head coach and there’s no question the man likes to throw. Bowe’s also got a legit quarterback now in Matt Cassell. It’s hard to be a “breakout” candidate when you register 86 receptions for 1,022 yards and 7 TDs, but there is definite 1,200 yard, 10 TD and fantasy WR1 potential here. You gotta like the fact that Bowe will spend the fantasy playoffs in Ohio: Week 15 versus Cleveland and Week 16 at Cincinnati.

4) DeSean Jackson, Second Year, Philadelphia Eagles: There was a slight scare with a “pop” in his knee last week, but all indications are that he’s just fine. Other than that incident, the training camp reports on DeSean have been downright glowing. According to Bob Glauber he’s been the best player in Eagles camp and, somehow, he’s apparently looking faster than he was a year ago. Scary. A full year of familiarity with the offense and Donovan McNabb can only help. Playing against those brie-like 49ers and Broncos defenses in the fantasy playoffs is a major bonus.

Seven more breakout wide receiver candidates, after the jump…

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5 CommentsPosted by Andrew Thell on Aug. 10, 2009 at 12:38am in NFL, NFL Fantasy News

ETB’s 2009 NFL Previews: NFC North

August 6, 2009

Minnesota Vikings RB Adrian Peterson

Adrian Peterson Photo Credit: Icon SMI

With training camp underway in the NFL, we’re breaking down the league’s outlook division by division. With the AFC out of the way (links follow), we set our sights on the NFC North, where the Vikings are a trendy Super Bowl pick and the Lions are hoping to actually win a game. Don’t miss the AFC North, AFC West, AFC East, and AFC South previews too.

- Detroit Lions by Brian Spencer
- Minnesota Vikings by Andrew Thell
- Chicago Bears by Dave Wright
- Green Bay Packers by Darren Yuvan

1 – Minnesota Vikings

Despite the shaky quarterback play of Tarvaris Jackson and Gus Frerotte last season, the Minnesota Vikings went a respectable 10-6, winning the NFC North. Their defense was elite, ranking near the top in most metrics and finishing as the NFL’s stoutest rushing D in the NFL for the third consecutive season despite losing starting MLB EJ Henderson in Week 4.

On offense, second-year stud Adrian “All Day” Peterson led the NFL in rushing yards with 1,760, while Chester Taylor once again proved himself one of the league’s most valuable and reliable backup running backs. High-profile, and costly, free-agent acquisitions Bernard Berrian and Jared Allen earned their paychecks: deep threat Berrian led the league in yards per reception (20.1) while notching 7 TDs, and Allen provided a much-needed pass rush, finishing 5th in the league in sacks (14.5) despite battling injuries much of the year.

Given just those facts, it’s somewhat shocking that the Vikings didn’t win more games and that Minnesota was embarrassingly trounced in the first round of the playoffs by the wild card Philadelphia Eagles. It’s no secret among football fans that blame for the underwhelming final results can be squarely placed on quarterback play. In that deciding playoff game, Tarvaris Jackson was befuddled and bullied by the aggressive blitzing schemes of Philly’s late, great defensive coordinator Jim Johnson.

It’s hard to overstate just how bad Mr. Jackson performed, but his final line in that game tells some of the story: 15-35 (42.9%) for 164 yards, 0 TDs and 1 INT with a 45.4 QB Rating despite the Iggles stacking the box against Adrian Peterson all day. Long touted as the future of the franchise, and longtime Brad Childress pet project, it was clear the Vikings needed significant improvement in the passing game to become the legit Super Bowl contenders the rest of their roster says they should be.

The Vikings might just have that significant improvement, and it has nothing to do with the whims of a certain No. 4.

Minnesota unsurprisingly addressed the QB position quickly in the offseason, trading a 2009 fourth-round pick to the Houston Texans for longtime backup gunslinger Sage Rosenfels in February. Rosenfels is probably best known for the infamous fourth-quarter fumble he committed against Indianapolis back in October last season that cost Houston the game. And make no mistake about it, in his career Sage has had trouble taking care of the football. The nine-year vet boasts an unimpressive 30/29 touchdown-to-interception ratio over his career. But also make no mistake about this: Sage Rosenfels is an upgrade over the bumbling Tarvaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels can move the football.

Filling in for Matt Schaub in 15 games over the last two seasons Rosenfels boasts a stellar 65.2% completion rate and 7.5 yards-per-attempt. Similar numbers this year, which wouldn’t be shocking given the benefit of full-time starter status, would put him in the top 5-10 in the NFL in both categories (where he also figures to be in INTs).

The other two major upgrades to Minnesota’s offense came via the draft. First-round pick Percy Harvin has the look of an elite playmaker, a top-10 talent who slipped all the way to 22nd on draft day due to character and marijuana-related concerns. He’s got scary quicks and is an early candidate for NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year. Just a few days into camp, Minnesota is already working him into kickoff and punt return duties, using him on reverses and lining him up in Wildcat formations, in the slot, on the outside and in the backfield.

Meanwhile, the Vikings drafted a behemoth of a right tackle in 6-8, 343-pound Phil Loadholt in the second round. Paired with Bryant McKinnie, Loadholdt gives the Vikes two of the NFL’s seven largest tackles. He replaces the woeful Ryan Cook on the offensive line and by virtue of his sheer size and athleticism will make an already stellar offensive line elite.

On defense, the one major concern is the possible suspension of Kevin Williams and Pat Williams, the Williams Wall which has paced Minnesota’s NFL-best rushing defense. The proceedings remain ongoing with the pair facing a possible four-game suspension. That would be a major blow, but not the type of event that would derail a promising season. The defense should also be bolstered by talented rookie nickel back Asher Allen and the healthy return of starting MLB, former Butkus Award winner and tackling machine EJ Henderson. By all accounts, Henderson has been one of the most impressive Vikings in camp.

Breaking down the rest of the NFC North after the break…

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2 CommentsPosted by ETB Contributor on Aug. 6, 2009 at 3:50pm in ETB Articles, NFL

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