Didinger's Mailbag: Kafka, kickoffs, bad drafts

Didinger's Mailbag: Kafka, kickoffs, bad drafts
August 16, 2011, 4:28 am
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Answering your questions and commenting on your comments, here is todays dip into the mailbag.

Q. Ive been high on Mike Kafka since his come-from-behind days at Northwestern. Im not saying hes the next Joe Montana, but there are a number of things to like about him: his pocket presence, field vision and poise, as well as his ability to sense and escape pressure Id love to get your impressions on him.

-- John Murray

A. I liked Kafka coming out of college, too. He carried Northwestern in his senior year and played very well in the East-West Shrine Game (Offensive MVP). There is a lot to like about him, including his mobility and his short-to-intermediate passing accuracy. I just question his arm strength. The interception he threw on Thursday is an example. The ball hung in the air and resulted in an easy pick for the Ravens. There are certain throws a quarterback has to be able to make to be a success in the NFL and Im not sure Kafka has enough arm to make those throws.

Q. I think the NFL got it wrong moving the kickoff to the 35-yard line. Its going to be extremely boring watching all these touchbacks, not to mention taking away an exciting component of the game. Just think about Brian Mitchell. Would anyone really remember him if it wasnt for his kickoff returns? Do you think the NFL will switch back to the 30 before the regular season starts?

-- Tom FlahertyPrinceton, N.J.

A. I agree with you about the new rule. It will certainly decrease the number of kickoff returns six of the seven kickoffs in Thursdays Eagles game went for touchbacks and it will eliminate one of the most exciting plays in the game. I support the leagues efforts to promote player safety, but eliminating kickoffs which is basically what this rule does seems excessive. There is already a negative reaction to the rule, but I dont foresee the league changing it before the regular season. They want to give it a fair chance.

Q. Could you offer some perspective on the Eagles running backs? Im concerned. If (LeSean) McCoy breaks an ankle in Week 4, what happens then? Did you see enough of Dion Lewis to feel comfortable handing him the ball 20 times a game? No way we can trust Ronnie Browns health for 16 weeks. Im excited to see what we have with Derrick Locke.

-- Barry Springer

A. The Eagles have a pretty crowded backfield at the moment six running backs, two fullbacks. They dont have anyone who could adequately replace McCoy if he were lost for the season. That would be an enormous blow. Brown would take over as the starter and you would just hope he could keep it together for the full season. I think Lewis will stick as the change-of-pace back. I dont see Locke making the team. At 5-9, 190 pounds, he and Lewis are pretty much the same player, except Lewis is better.

Q. What are your thoughts on the contract situation of DeSean Jackson? As a fan, I love the guy. He brings intangibles the coaches cannot teach. However, are the Eagles willing to make a long-term commitment? Overall, his numbers are average. He hasnt caught more than 62 balls in a season. His playoff numbers are horrible. He may be better off testing the open market. The Eagles may be better off using the money for a bigger body wide receiver.

-- Tom CetroneLinwood, N.J.

A. I think the Eagles will settle on a long-term deal with Jackson because they need him. You say his numbers are average and if youre looking at total receptions, you would be right. But Jackson is a big-play receiver. The number that matters with him is yards per catch and he led the league in that category last season (22.5). There are plenty of bigger body receivers around, but you cant find another receiver to match his explosive speed. Jackson is the top deep threat in the game. He should be paid accordingly.

Q. As a former Hall of Fame voter, Id like to gauge your opinion on this years class. Personally, I dont think Deion Sanders belongs. While acknowledging he was a pretty good corner and returner, I dont think a defensive player who was so blatantly afraid of contact belongs in the Hall.

It seems to me the Pro Football Hall of Fame classes are very large each year as compared to baseball. Do you have an opinion on this? Are too many people getting in? I look at Halls of Fame as only the very best of the best.

-- Jim Shields

A. I wasnt Deions biggest fan. A lot of his antics turned me off. But if I still had a Hall of Fame vote, I would have voted for him without a moments hesitation. He was the best cover corner I ever saw. The term shutdown corner was created for him because he did exactly that. He was assigned to cover the other teams best receiver and it didnt matter who it was, Sanders shut him down. He didnt like to tackle, thats true, but he was so good in so many other areas, including kick returns, he was a deserving first-ballot inductee.

Regarding the number of enshrinees, there were seven in this years class. There were seven in last years class, too, which marked the most enshrinees over a two-year period in 43 years. I dont have a problem with it. Look at how many great players are still waiting to be called (Cris Carter, Tim Brown, Jerry Kramer, Roger Craig). It is still a very elite fraternity.

Q. I was at Eagles training camp last week and I was very impressed with Curtis Marsh, the rookie cornerback. Maybe I just caught him on a good day, but he was all over the field knocking balls down and breaking up plays. What have you seen so far?

-- Doug E.Cherry Hill, N.J.

A. Marsh is better than I thought he would be. I expected to see a raw talent with good size (6-0, 195) and speed (4.4 in the 40), but not much in the way of awareness. He did not play defense until last season at Utah State (he was a running back prior to that) so I thought he would be way behind the curve mentally. But Marsh has picked things up in a hurry. I thought he would be a project, a guy the coaches would keep around and work with for a year or two, but he could push for some playing time this season.

Q. Can you remember a worse draft than the 2007 draft? We give our No. 1 pick to Dallas. Kevin Kolb plays seven games. Victor Abiamiris career is over. Stewart Bradley is no longer here. Tony Hunt need I say more? C.J. Gaddis? I guess we got (Brent) Celek, but basically we ended up with a tight end and a cornerback (Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie) four years later. Can you think of a worse draft?

-- Mullarkey Conor

A. We dont know that Abiamiris career is over, but I get your point. Celek was a nice pick in the fifth round and the Eagles did turn Kolb into a Pro Bowl corner in DRC so you have to factor that into the equation. It wasnt a great draft, but at least the Eagles got something. Id argue the 2003 draft was worse.

2003 (in order) defensive end Jerome McDougle; tight end L.J. Smith; wide receiver Billy McMullen; defensive end Jamaal Green; guard Jeremy Bridges; safety Norman Lejeune.

The 2004 draft wasnt so great either guard Shawn Andrews; safeties Matt Ware and J.R. Reed; guard Trey Darilek and Adrien Clark; fullback Thomas Tapeh; quarterback Andy Hall; cornerback Dexter Wynn; running back Bruce Perry; center Dominic Furio.

Id say the 1992 draft was worse: The first pick was traded as the final payment for moving up to select Antone Davis, who was a bust. Starting in round two, the Eagles selected running back Siran Stacy; defensive tackle Tommy Jeter; running back Tony Brooks; quarterback Casey Weldon; cornerback Corey Barlow; receiver Jeff Sydner; guard William Boatwright; linebackers Chuck Bullough and Ephesians Bartley; cornerback Mark McMillian; punter Pumpy Tudors and tackle Brandon Houston.

When a 5-6 cornerback (McMillian) is the prize of your draft, thats a bad draft.

E-mail Ray Didinger at viewfromthehall@comcast.net.

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