Tuesday, May 09, 2006

But That Was Long Ago

The maudlin recollection of missed opportunities has haunted me, recently. A snippet of a familiar song dragged me through time and space to the trip south to Lethbridge. The time - a multitude of different long-weekends, start-of-semesters, and so on.

So often I would make my way down there and make my way back, proud of the fact that I could handle the entire trip in one go. What happened to the rest-stop at the side of the road? A chance to stop and step into the tall rows of whatever grew in the endless fields I drove past?

I saw Lethbridge - and my tie there - too much as a destination rather than a journey. I spent so much time figuratively counting down the days that I missed out on a good portion of my life. The majority of the people I met there were transient in my life - existing, to me, on a temporary basis because they helped to define my time down there. Do I miss the friends I made in Lethbridge? Few of them. And yet, a snippet of a familiar song can drag me back to a time of loneliness where my solitude was absolute, recalling it with a sad fondness. Not a longing but an acknowledgement of a time when things were simpler, and much sadder. I won't dwell on these feelings, but I do think they're worth writing down.

Friday, May 05, 2006

With the first pick of the franchise's first draft, the Texans pick...

In the past, I have heard that it takes 5 years to be able to properly grade a draft. I thought this was a good number to go by, since players take time to develop and they probably don’t really come into their own before two or three years in, and then they could just have a lucky season or two.

Regardless, in the fast-paced era of free-agency, the turnaround time has become insane. I think 4 years are plenty, nowadays, before you cast your judgment on a draft class.

With that said, here is my judgment on the Houston Texans’ 2002 draft class:

1. David Carr – He had three years of steady progress, learning under the gun, when he regressed seriously last year. Granted, he was under extreme pressure all year, both from coaches who feared for their own jobs and from defensive linemen who seemed to have no impediment to the quarterback. Considering he was a #1 overall pick, I believe that he has not played up to standards, with the caveat that this year will be his do-or-die season. No more excuses, no more coddling. So far, I would give this pick a C-.

2. Jabar Gaffney WR Florida – He had a solid season last year, and has been a consistent, yet under-used, target. He’s off to Philadelphia to battle with the likes of Jason Avant and Freddie Mitchell for the right to catch passes from Donovan McNabb. Considering the state of the offense, he has been a solid pick all the way around, and despite his disparaging comments about the Texans, I wish him the best. B

2a. Chester Pitts G San Diego – This has probably been the best pick of the draft for the Texans, so far. More than solid, Chester will get a chance to stick at one position under Gary Kubiak and it will be his position of strength, Guard. With a solid tackle beside him, Pitts should be the best lineman on the team, in a good way, rather than the “best-of-a-bad-lot” way that he has been in the past. A-

3. Fred Weary G Tennessee – I dunno. This wasn’t a great pick. I’m thinking it was a heck of a reach. I think he might do something in Kubiak’s Zone Blocking system, and he’ll probably get a chance to compete for a starting spot against Steve McKinney. So far, though, he’s been nothing. D

3a. Charles Hill NT Maryland – He was brought in to be a Capers system guy and was released early on. F

4. Jonathan Wells RB Ohio State – Great special-teamer, decent blocker, decent catcher, just didn’t run as big as he was. Still, he’ll be missed. B+

5. Jarrod Baxter FB New Mexico – Not good, not bad. Never played, but expectations for 5th rounders are limited. C-

5a. Ramon Walker SS Pittsburgh – I love this guy. He blocked two kicks against the Patriots and has been a steady force on special teams when he’s been healthy. I don’t know if he’s still on the team, but he’s probably my sentimental favourite first draftee. A

6. Demarcus Faggins CB Kansas – He’s probably the steal of the draft – hard to find anyone this far down, let alone a guy who can step in and shut down Marvin Harrisson in his first game as a starter. A

6a Howard Green DT Louisiana – Didn’t do anything. Another beefy guy who didn’t make the team. D

7. Greg White DE Minnesota – I have no idea who this guy is. D

7a. Ahmad Miller DT Nevada – See above. D

Overall, there were some surprises. They took Chester Pitts over Clinton Portis. I thought they should have taken Julius Peppers instead of Daid Carr, and then found a quarterback later in the draft, maybe Josh McCown or Rohan Davey.

I thought that drafting Gaffney was a huge mistake since Florida receivers just don’t seem to do so well in the NFL.
I’d say that they get a C- for their first draft, hoping that David Carr’s performance this year will boost it up significantly.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Milestone Number One Reached, Four Days Late

Four days, over the course of four months, doesn’t seem like all that much. Considering I almost gave this goal up when I got my new job, I’m pretty satisfied with the four days.
Here, for your viewing pleasure, is the list of books that I read over the last four months (and four days):

Bloody Sundays - Mike Freeman
A Feast For Crows - George R. R. Martin
The Magician's Nephew - C. S. Lewis
Memories of Ice - Steven Erickson
The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - C. S. Lewis
Song of Susannah - Steven King
The Dark Tower - Steven King
Eragon - Christopher Paolini
Anansi Boys - Neil Gaiman
Shaman's Crossing - Robin Hobb
Queen of Demons - David Drake
The Horse and His Boy - C. S. Lewis
Nighttime Parenting - William Sears
The Subtle Knife - Philip Pullman
The Amber Spyglass - Philip Pullman
Prince Caspian - C. S. Lewis
Jackal of Nar - John Marco

Next, I move on to The Grand Design which is the sequel to Jackal of Nar in John Marco’s “Tyrants and Kings” series.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The 2006 Texans Draft

Well, the big off-season weekend for the NFL has come and gone. I had resigned myself to the likelihood of bad personnel decisions that I’d seen in the past and, while I wasn’t looking forward to it, I had resigned myself to the addition of Reggie Bush to the Houston Texans.

Boy, was I ever wrong.

I know you’re supposed to grade a draft 5 years after, to allow the players a chance to learn, develop and all that other stuff. However, I believe that involves a lot of hindsight and second-guessing, so I’m going to comment on my team’s draft two days removed.

1. Mario Williams, DE, NC St. This is, in my opinion, the second-best guy the Texans could have gotten. I thought that their pass protection was worse than their pass-rush (though it’s like having an overacting contest between Jim Carrey and Al Pacino). I thought D’Brickashaw Ferguson would have been the guy to get here, even if the Texans couldn’t trade down. Regardless, this is a big area of need, he’s a huge physical force and he’s apparently got a heart of gold.

2. Demeco Ryans, LB, Alabama. It surprised me that, with Tackle Winston Justice (and Eric Winston, for that matter) still on the board, the Texans would dip back into the defensive pool. However, by all accounts, this guy could end up being THE leader on defense. He’s smart, he’s solid and he’s apparently another high-character guy. (the kind of guy that Winston Justice apparently isn’t)
Charles Spencer, T/G, Pittsburgh. Finally, I thought when hearing about the first of two consecutive picks in the 3rd round. Finally, they have an offensive lineman picked on the first day. I don’t know who this guy is, and with Eric Winston still on the board, I was quite baffled. But apparently, this guy could be the next coming of Larry Allen. He could be a big bust too, but apparently, they like the tools he’s working with, so I’ll support that.

3a. Eric Winston, T, Miami. YES! Two picks in a row and they’re both offensive linemen. Well, call the first day a complete success!

4. Owen Daniels, TE, Wisconsin. I was a little confused by the pick of a backup tight end when guys like Free Safety Ko Simpson (thought to be a first-round talent) and Strong Safety Darnell Bing were still on the board but I’m not going to pretend I know the things that the Texans’ front office knows.

5. Traded for Eric Moulds, WR, Buffalo Bills. I’ll take a Pro-Bowl receiver for a fifth round pick any day.

6. Wali Lundy, RB, Virginia. He’s the kind of guy that will fit into the offensive scheme that the Texans want to run. He’s a solid short-yardage back and apparently, he could be ready to step in and start in a couple of years.

7. Given up for Kevin Walter, WR, Cincinnati. I don’t know how I feel about this, given the next pick in the draft.

7a. David Anderson, WR, Colorado St. He’s small, he’s tough and he runs good routes. I guess we need our Wayne Chrebet, too.

All in all, it was the best draft day that the Texans have ever had, Reggie Bush hype aside. And regardless of whether five years from now, people are calling all of the Texans’ draft picks busts, for today, the front office filled needs, got the best players for them and leave me excited for the regular season.