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News Item


Audibles With Phil Simms and Dan Dierdorf, Randy Cross and Trevor Matich


Phil Simms
(Oakland @ Philadelpia):   Donovan McNabb and Rich Gannon might be the two most mobile quarterbacks in the league. But don't call them scramblers. They don't look to go downfield with the run. They are content to stand back and try to find their receivers. When there is pressure and they have to move, they only move a little bit to buy time for a receiver to get open.

What makes a mobile quarterback so good is how he moves in the pocket, not out of it. The most important yards aren't the 4-yard scrambles, but rather the 40-yard passes that are completed when a quarterback is able to move around and buy time for his receivers. If a quarterback has to scramble out of the pocket, he's missed an opportunity for a longer passing play

That being said, the running does becomes an important factor in third-and-short situations. He (Gannon) is very cognizant of down-and-distance situations. So which one of these quarterbacks will have more success moving in the pocket and throwing the football? Gannon might be the best I've seen at this. But McNabb will have the upper hand in this game. The reason is the Eagles' defense.

Philadelphia has an extremely aggressive defense. They blitz a lot, so they cover all the running lanes and all the holes for a quarterback. They make you stand in there and throw the ball pretty quick. On the other side, the Raiders are not a big blitzing team. They try to do it with their front four, so it creates more lanes and the quarterback may have more opportunities to buy time to throw. So McNabb should have more opportunities. Of course, Gannon has the better weapons at receiver. And it will be very interesting to watch the match-up of Oakland's Jerry Rice and Tim Brown against Bobby Taylor and Troy Vincent. Two really big corners against two big receivers who run inside and across the field.

While the Raiders offense must overcome a tough Eagles defense and a loud crowd, I'll be curious to see if the Eagles offense can overcome its own inconsistencies. And even though McNabb is a very talented quarterback, he has got to be one step above where he is right now. He needs to be a degree higher in his accuracy.

(For Complete Simms analysis log on NFL.COM)

Dan Dierdorf
(On Jacksonville @ Baltimore):   There are a lot of unusual aspects to this game. This is not the Jacksonville-Baltimore game we've been used to seeing the last couple of years. These are two football teams feeling the heat. If being angry and desperate for a win makes for good football, the ingredients are there for an interesting game on Sunday.

(On Baltimore):   When you are the defending champions and you have the swagger that Baltimore does, your enemies and critics stand in line to take their shots when things aren't going well. They are an astounding minus seven in the plus/minus turnover differential and that is why they're 3-3.

How do you have the No. 4 offense and the No. 1 defense and be 3-3? Turnovers and big plays defensively. They've given up big plays at inopportune times, and fumbled the ball and thrown interceptions at poor times offensively. This is a football team not used to playing like this and having these types of problems. (On Elvis):   The big question is whether or not Elvis Grbac will be able to play. By all accounts the concussion he received in Green Bay is not a problem, but he has sore ribs that are a problem. So we could see the "ageless one" Randall Cunningham go if Elvis isn't able. Offensively there are a lot of questions surrounding the Ravens.

(On Jacksonville):   Jacksonville has more injury problems than any team should have to deal with. Tony Boselli is out for the year. Fred Taylor hasn't been playing. Donovin Darius is out. They have really been hit hard. At 2-3, this is a game they desperately need to win, and have to do so by going to Baltimore to play a very angry Ravens team.

Randy Cross
(On New England's quarterback situatuion):   An unselfish Drew Bledsoe did everything in his power to help Tom Brady and somehow still contribute to the Patriots win over Indianapolis. This "team first" attitude is refreshing and restores your faith in the fact that not every player has his, "I'll get mine first" interest in the front of his mind.

(On Pittsburgh):   Anymore question about whether or not Bill Cowher is worth the money they pay him in Pittsburgh? Any screaming about that contract extension? Under Cowher the Steelers are a team that plays tough aggressive defense (#1 in the NFL) and a running game (also #1 in the NFL) that chews up the game clock. Pittsburgh reduces football to its most basic elements and then excels at them. Are they a "great" team? No. Will they have trouble playing catch up if they trail big in a game? Yes.

But to focus on such things misses the pure joy with which the Steelers perform the most basic of tasks - running the ball and defense. Part of becoming a good team is knowing what you can and can't do and coming to grips with it in weekly game plans. So far when you play the Steelers what you see is what you get. They are the football version of a Joe Frazier/Mike Tyson fighter, always coming at you and always trying to take your head off. This is the newest version of "The Cowher Way.".

(On Seattle):   The Seahawks are coming off their bye and Mike Holmgren will stick with Matt Hasselbeck, for now. Seattle now knows what Trent Dilfer can do for them and that means Hasselbeck either produces or goes back to holding that clipboard next to Mike.

(On Cleveland):   Is there a better word than passion to describe the way the Cleveland Browns played last Sunday against the Ravens? Butch Davis has made all the difference in the world to how this team views itself and that's changing how all of us view them.



(On Flutie-Johnson controversy):   The first key to this game is for neither team to get caught up in the Doug Flutie vs. Rob Johnson media circus. A young Buffalo team is at the most risk for distraction. Neither quarterback, however, sees this as a personal duel, athough both are fully aware of the interest.

(On Doug Flutie):   Doug Flutie is seen in San Diego as a savior, bringing leadership, effectiveness, and stability to a position that has had none for years. To a city afflicted with Ryan Leaf, Flutie is a long-sought cool oasis in the middle of quarterback hell. Of course he would like to show the Bills that they dumped the wrong player, but his main focus is reaching first place in the AFC West. He knows that championships are the best revenge.

(On Rob Johnson):   Rob Johnson is much more concerned with the health of his offensive line than with showing up Flutie. He has taken a lot of criticism -- some of it fairly, but some of it not. He does take big hits holding the ball too long in the pocket, waiting for the big play to come open down the field while a shorter route is open for the reception. That's a problem.

He also tends to take on linebackers on the scramble, fighting for the extra yard instead of running out of bounds or sliding. That's a bigger problem. But I'd much rather convince a courageous quarterback that it's okay to throw it away or dump it short, than to try to teach a timid one to stand in the pocket and deliver the ball on time under pressure.

(On Buffalo @ San Diego):   A key matchup will be Buffalo's offensive tackles vs. San Diego's defensive ends. Left tackle John Fina is hobbled by a nagging knee injury. On the right side, rookie Jonas Jennings might not play because of a sprained foot. They will face one of the finest pairs of pass rushers in the AFC in Raylee Johnson and former Bill, Marcellus Wiley. If Johnson ever needed an excuse to get rid of the ball quickly, this is it.

The Chargers are coming off an emotional victory over division rival Denver. The key for them is, will they overlook the Bills in the middle of a critical run of divisional games? The Bills have a lot of young, talented, hungry players, and a quarterback who has the tools to burn you when he is on his game.


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