Going into the season there's a lot of positional questions that need addressing. Because most of you damn kids won't get off my digital lawn, I'm going to try to address the most important ones today. If this team is going to succeed, we're going to have to expect a lot from new players. Today we'll be looking at a few new pieces of the team to determine whether they'll sink or swim in 2007. Let's start with the crux of the offense:
1. Can Joey Harrington be an effective quarterback? All evidence points to no on this one. Harrington has been a colossal bust for a former top of the first round quarterback, and he's never shown the kind of leadership or determination you look for in a franchise QB. He has been aggressive and confident so far in Petrino's new system. I'm a big fan of encouraging signs, so maybe Joey Joe Joe Junior Shabadoo has finally found a place he can call his home. Then again, maybe he's destined to be the same mediocre excuse for a player he's always been. As much as I hate to say, I think Harrington will start out strong and flame out like a candle in the wind. It doesn't help that he probably likes that song, too.
Verdict: Bobbing up and down for a bit, then sinking fast.
2. Will Joe Horn anchor the receiving corps? The short answer is yes. Don't expect him to put up huge numbers, but Horn does provide that wily veteran aura which will endear him to fans. It helps that he can catch and run routes very well in his advanced age, two skills he desperately needs to teach the team's younger options. Roddy White and Mike Jenkins will hopefully both play well in their new roles, but Laurent Robinson is still raw and Adam Jennings is basically just the kick returner right now. It's going to be up to a gimpy Alge Crumpler and Joe Horn to lead the way, and I think Horn is probably up to the task. I also think this might be his last effective year, so let's all enjoy it while we can. I'd like to think he'll provide a nice bridge this year until all the younger receivers are either better (God willing) or ready to go.
Verdict: Swimming well.
3. Will Jamaal Anderson fufill all our hopes and dreams at end? Yes and no. He's already showing his athleticism and ability to get to the quarterback, so I'd expect him to pile up all those wonderful sacks that will have everyone declaring him a rookie of the year candidate. The no part of this yin and yang is his handle of the running game, which is still a major concern for me. It's one thing to just single-mindedly plow through the line or around it to get the QB and another entirely to keep track of a running back and deal with mobile blockers. I think Anderson will get plenty of attention this year and be truly effective as a pass rusher, so don't get me wrong. Until I see how him improve his grasp of blocking schemes a little more, however, I'm very concerned about runs to the outside.
Verdict: Doggy paddling his way through.
4. Can Lewis Sanders provide coverage, and, failing that, Chris Houston? When people rip on our secondary, the second cornerback spot is a big part of the reason. Lewis Sanders is the equivalent of a AAAA player in baseball: he can handle the nickel or dime spots just fine, but it's asking a little too much of him to provide consistent success while starting. Think about it. Do you feel good about Lewis Sanders matching up against a good #2 like Greg Jennings, Anquan Boldin or even Isaac Bruce? You probably feel like hiding under your covers right now, and you're not alone--I'm building a fort out of my Simpsons sheets just thinking about it. But on the other hand, Chris Houston couldn't beat out Sanders for a spot. If that's not a testament to Petrino liking veterans, then that's a very bad sign indeed.
Verdict: Floating in an inner tube surrounded by sharks.
5. Who is this Prater fellow, and can he be a good kicker? I couldn't have invented a more bizarre scenario if I had been been doing toad with Peter Griffin. Prater bounced around for two years and never got a shot anywhere. Then in the span of like a week, he came in and swept Petrino off his feet and bedded him, whispering sweet promises of a 85% field goal conversion rate and our new coach was smitten. So instead of the not great but known quantity Cundiff, the team takes no time at all to decide Prater can get it done. Consider me intrigued in signing up for your newsletter, but I have no idea what's going to happen.
Verdict: Swimming? I guess? I dunno.