Stiller Final Players� Grades -- 2000 Season
Foreword: These grades are based on a player's play during the entire season, as I personally watched and re-watched (via videotape), as well as took notes on, each and every play of the season. Bear in mind that a player's grade is based not only on what he did, but also his years of experience in the league, his salary, and any expectations of him. In other words, more is expected from a seasoned 6-year veteran making $4 million per year, than of an undrafted rookie free agent making the league minimum. Every year, I hear gripes and yelps about various grades, so just to reiterate -- the grades are very dependent upon experience and the amount of money the player is consuming relative to his teammates. Those not playing enough get an incomplete grade ("Inc"). (If interested, use the "Articles" tab on the left-hand side of this site, to read my �99 and �98 final player grades.)
In last-name alpha order, here are the final grades:
Brent Alexander: Brent arrived as an unheralded FA pickup from Carolina, who chose to allow him to depart. He pretty much arrived at camp as the backup to 2nd-year man Shields at FS. But with Lee hobbled early on, Brent got PT the first couple of game. Shields, who made several boners the first three weeks of the season that lead to huge gainers &/or TDs, gave way to Brent by week 4, and combined with Flowers' return from injury, Brent gave the defense instant stability, and lo & behold, the long gainers and botched coverage all but disappeared. Alex also established himself as a good run-supporter, and finished tied for 5th on the team in solo stops. All in all, this was a tremendous FA pickup by the Stillers -- easily one of the 4 best in Stiller free agent history -- and a guy who appears to have several more years left to contribute. A.
Ainsley Battles: This rookie from Vandy impressed me with his head-hunting and kamikaze play on spec teams in preseason. He didn't play much on defense early in the year, but injuries to Shields and Flowers enable Battles to get considerable PT in dime defenses, and he actually got to start late in the season. Battles battled well and really impressed. A.
Bettis: Doughboy Bettis had a solid season, plowing for 1330 yards & 8 TDs, though his yds/attempt was still under 4 (3.8). Contrary to some hasty declarations, the Bus showed he was not washed up. At the same time, for the second consecutive year, he supposedly worked out like a demon in the offseason, yet once again displayed a belly that looked more like Norm Peterson from Cheers and less like Chuck Norris. Bettis did run hard all season and consistently gave a good effort. B+.
Blackwell: In his 4th NFL season, Blackwell once again did little more than firmly cement his name as a 2nd round bust and a fragile china doll. He spent most of the year on PUP. He finally was activated toward the latter part of the season, and contributed a whopping 2 grabs for 23 yards. He also returned 10 kickoffs, almost all being the tiptoe variety where he meekly tiptoed and fell like a straw scarecrow. He did have the one long KO return for a TD, but that was courtesy of text-book blocking that gave him a gaping hole to run through, and then he had only the kicker to beat en route to the EZ. Technically, I could give Jackwell an "Inc" grade, but for a former 2nd round pick who has been wasting a roster spot for 4 years now, and who eats nearly $500K of cap money while giving virtually nothing in return, I believe I'll issue him a grade nonetheless. D-.
K. Brown: I felt Brown was overly fawned over last year as a rookie. He booted adequately, but not to the extent of the rabid gushing the local media poured over him. This year, Brown pretty much had a similar season, but the warts that I was concerned about last year surfaced as gaudy, ugly, full-blown blemishes. He was 25-30 in FGs, which basically mirrored his rookie production of 25-29. Worse, his leg got no stronger during the past offseason, which was a severe disappointment. He was incapable of booting the longer FGs in the mid 50's range, and came up miserably short on what would have been the tying 48-yard FG in the first Tenn. loss. His kickoffs were all-too-often pitifully short, just like last season. Brown is an acceptable NFL kicker but nothing more, and will remain so until he hits the ironhouse and the practice field and improves his leg strength. C.
Bruener: Often referred to as the "19-catch per year wonderboy", the bootfooted, brittle-fingered Bruener actually found a way to catch fewer than his annual, lowly 19 grabs, snaring just 17 balls this season. Yes, he blocked well. La di da. For a man who chews up $2M in cap money, his production is woefully unacceptable. C+.
Jaxico Burress: Burress looked like the real deal versus Dallas in the preseason opener, and I was soon salivating at the prospect of finally having a big target to throw to in the downfield passing game. Despite the offense's ineptitude and slop in the season-opening loss to Balt, Burress acquiited himself well. However, in game #2, Burress was essentially lost for the season, when the offense ignored him the entire game, despite being matched up against midgets like McCutcheon. The nail in the coffin was the miserable set of downs at game's end, when the Stillers had 3 chances to throw lobs to Burress, but refused to try it even once. From that point on, the offense basically ignored Jaxico, and as he was at MSU, once he became an afterthought, his focus and concentration waned. He rarely was used in the downfield passing game, instead being used in the Gaypride Dink & Dump on 3-yard hitches. In Nov., it was discovered that he'd messed up the tendons in his wrist in the season opener, but had fought through it until the discovery placed him on season-ending IR. Because this is a pretty out-of-the-ordinary case, I'm going to issue Burress two grades. He gets the grade of "D" for his prima-donna attitude, which showed that his preparation, workouts, studying, and attention to detail were all pretty piss-poor. For his production, I'll give him an "Inc", because factors outside his span affected production: namely, the injury; the total ignoring by the offense in the Cleveland loss; and the Gaypride Dink & Dump scheme that did nothing to use this man's downfield skills.
Clancy: This 3rd rounder played only sparingly all season. He needs to hit the ironhouse all winter & spring, and put on some more muscle and mass. I think he may have the necessary quickness off the ball, and the build, to contribute at NT, but he wasn't nearly big or strong enough to excel there this year. Inc.
Nakia Codie: This Baylor youngster may very well be the best contributor -- aside from Frank Pollard -- we�ve had from that pathetic Texas school in the past 20 years. He contributed on spec teams and in the dime defense, and snared one INT. If Shields gets sent to the unemployment line, he may be here again next season. Inc.
Chris Combs: The rookie 6th rounder from Duke (who the hell drafts football players from Duke, except the Stillers, who also drafted QB Spence Fisher from Duke a few years ago??) spent most of the time deactivated or waxing his bean on the sidelines. Depending on who is drafted or signed as a FA, he may be gone next year. Inc.
Conrad: The Upright Alligator was placed on IR before the season began. With any luck, The Mannequin Man will be released and will never again play for the Stillers or even be permitted entrance to our new stadium, even if he purchases his own ticket. NG (no grade)
Cushing: Cush was re-signed when Geason was lost for the season. He's a gritty player who gives a good effort. Inc.
Dawson: Dawson missed the majority of last season with a pulled ham. You'd think that having about nine months to recuperate would have been sufficient time for the ham to heal, but he came to camp walking on eggs with the ham still tender. He managed to eke his way through the initial portion of the season, but then injured it in October and never played again. Again, this is a player who could be given an "Inc", but with him chewing up $3.7M of cap money, I cannot, in good conscience, do so. C.
Duffy: The aged veteran had to step in when Dawson went down, and gave the team adequate play at center. He's not nearly capable enough to dominate a defensive tackle one-on-one, and even his shotgun snaps were spotty at times. Plus, he was whipped badly several times on pass plays, causing severe defensive disruption up the middle. C+.
Edwards: After a promising rookie season in which he snared a team-high 61 receptions, Edwards -- never one to work out hard in the offseason -- apparently did nothing the entire offseason and struggled in the early going, fielding passes as though he had frying skillets attached to each appendage. He was demoted in mid-season and contributed little the rest of the way, finishing with a piddly 18 grabs and no TDs. Much more is needed from this former #1 draft pick. C-.
Faneca: Alan completed his third season in the NFL in a manner that suggests he's pretty much topped out on what he's going to contribute. His run blocking was decent, but his pass-blocking was all-too-often soft and spotty. Faneca is an acceptable starting guard, but considering the team spent a #1 pick & lavished him with some decent cash, he's hardly what I call a bargain. B-.
Fiala: The 3-year former Huskie contributed steadily and capably as a head-hunter on spec teams. He played only sparingly on defense, getting PT only when Kirk went down with a sprained ankle. Fiala, while not overly gifted, gives it his all and is emerging as an inspirational special teamer and trusty backup. B+.
Flowers: Lee finished third on the team with 85 total tackles, and did a good job voicing his say in the locker room and with his leading-by-example on the field. While not continually abused, he does seem susceptible to giving up some nice gainers in the passing game, and at times tends to tackle with no hands, which leads to busted tackles and extra yardage for the offense. All in all, though, a defense needs his kind of fire & aggression at SS. And, it seems like only yesterday that many Stiller fans were wondering if this Flowers guy could adequately replace Carnell Lake as SS. He has. B+.
Fuamatu-Ma'afala: Fu was finally emerging with, by far, the best season of his injury-riddled 3-yer career, when he went down with a season-ending injury in October. At the time, he was rushing for over 7 yards per carry, and had snared 14 balls, mostly as a third-down back. He also took over the FB job for a couple weeks when Witman was lost for the season, and actually gave the Stillers far better blocking, rushing, and receiving from the FB spot than they'd gotten since the Rocky Blier years. For his work before his injury, Fu gets a well-deserved "A".
Gandy: I gave Candy a C-, and rightfully so, for his play last year, which was soft, sporadic, and just above average. This season, despite having a significant shoulder injury that made him play with only 1-1/2 arms, Gandy played exponentially better. The dumbassed penalties were all but eliminated, and he staved off what was basically a weekly parade of top-flight pass rushers. His run blocking was also far better this season. Candy makes a good deal of dough, but this year he earned it, and then some. Well done. A.
Geason: The backup TE had a nice camp, and contributed a couple big plays on pass receptions in the early part of the regular season. But he soon got injured and was placed on IR. It's unsure if he'll be able to come back next season, which is a bit of a shame, as he was a hard-nosed blocker and capable receiver who took up 90% less cap space than Bruener. Inc.
Gildon: Regular readers should have a very good feel for Gildon's grade, what with the weekly and year-end Gildong Reports that inherently serve as input for his final grade. Get past the Dong Sacks that Big Jason accumulated ( 8-1/2 of his 13-1/2 sacks were Dong Sacks), and you have a player who was pitifully soft against the run all year; gave up gobs of huge yardage and TD plays in key losses to Jax and NYG; and rarely ever applied good, consistent heat, harassment & disruption on opposing QBs. C.
Graham: The Graham Reaper nudged out Stewart for the starting job late in preseason. Despite running Gaypride's Dink & Dump offense, Graham showed some adequacy the first three games, but then got hurt. He came back a couple weeks later, but was still visibly hobbled and fairly ineffective. He finally gave way to Stewart and sat on the pine the rest of the season. The most pathetic point of his season, of course, was the utterly dumbassed sack he took while trying to futilely scramble on a 3rd-down play from the Browns 6 yard line, with time running out and the Stillers out of TOs. Had Graham simply whipped the ball into the bleachers, the Stillers would have had an easy time getting the FG team on for the game-tying 20-yard FG. Graham does deserve a modicum of credit for being the first QB in the last 3 years to actually push Stewart, something Stewart was in desperate need of, but never got, from Mike Prozac. C.
Clark Haggans: The rookie 5th-rounder, like (but even worse than) his fellow CSU alum Porter when he was a rookie, had a solid preseason but rotted the entire regular season, getting deactivated week in and week out. Haggans isn't nearly as explosive or speedy as Porter, but he does seem to have a good nose for the ball and good football instincts. Inc.
Hawkins: Shortney was an unrestricted FA last spring, but exactly zero teams expressed any interest in the stiff, so he sat around all summer collecting unemployment checks. The Stillers brought him back just before camp, in a move supposedly to give the team some veteran depth. Instead, Cowher -- ever the Hawkins lover -- rapidly zoomed PeePee Hawkins up the depth chart, so that by mid-season Hawk was starting at WR. PeePee finished with his typical pee-pee 12.5 yards/catch, and scored one TD all season, when the CB failed to exert any effort on a 5-yard lob. When he fired Gaypride, Cowher bemoaned the fact that in '98, the passing game was 29th in the league, and in '00 it was 29th. What Cowhead hopefully has taken into account, is that in all three of those seasons ('98-'00) PeePee Hawkins was a starting receiver in the vast majority of those 48 regular season games. D.
Henry: Keevin had another average, non-descript season. Not everyone has to be the hero on defense, but for a man who ties up nearly $1M in cap money, his contributions fall far short of his cost. C-.
Holmes: The Hit Man had yet another top notch season, once again leading the team in tackles with 86 solos and 41 assists. Holmes had several stellar games in which he clearly was not only the best linebacker on his team, but on the entire field. Without question, Holmes has to be one of the top 2 candidates for the Stiller defensive MVP. Well done. A.
Huntley: Hunt was extended in his contract & given a nice payraise last spring, but then was hobbled with ham problems in preseason and early in the year, and when Fu chipped in adequately as a third down back, Hunt was basically left to rot. Only Fu's season-ending injury allowed Hunt to emerge from the dark bowels of the Stiller bench, and he chipped in with 3 rushing TDs, a solid 4.7 yard per crack on the ground, and 10 catches. Because of the Stiller coaching staff's disdain for using anyone but Bettis to rush on 1st & 2nd downs, Huntley was pretty much only allowed to carry the pigskin on 3rd & long draw plays. Hunt did play his ass off on spec treams, where he served as a very reliable headhunter on punt & kickoff coverage. It's difficult to give a grade to a man who was so under-utilized, but given his strong spec teams play and his contributions during limited PT, he gets a "B".
M. Johnson: Malcolm mostly rotted behind the likes of Shortney Hawkins, and then was waived in mid-season. NG.
Kirkland: The Big Levon -- and I do mean BIG -- had another so-so season. His play wasn't poor, but it was hardly of the caliber we saw from Kirk in '96 and '97. The number of impact plays he made this entire season could be counted on the foot of a two-toed sloth. (And frankly, I can't recite even one.) We Pittsburghers are quick to get on the likes of Kevin Young & Tom Barasso for paltry production in relation to exorbitant salary, but at a cap hit of $5.5M, Big Levon has somehow escaped media scrutiny and ridicule for what has been three consecutive seasons of out & out mediocrity. What's also alarming is that the team had to send two coaches to baby-sit him during the offseason, in order to limit the bloating of his burgeoning belly. It paid few dividends, because if Kirkland weighed any less than 290 during the season, then I'm the Lucky Charms leprechaun. Kirkland talks a good game, and is always nice to the press, but it's high time the defense's most highly paid player and captain start living up to his humongous cap burden, or consider taking a pay cut or moving on to another club. C-.
Kreider: The undrafted rookie free agent wowed everyone at camp with his tough, hard-nosed blocking that left many defenders bruised and annoyed. But, because the team had a superstar incumbent at FB, Jon Witman, Kreider was cut and placed on the practice squad. Witman was lost for the season in mid-Oct, and then Fu was lost as well soon thereafter. Kreider's first start was against the Ravens, and while all the local and national media were fretting at the prospect of Kreider facing the superb Balt. LB corps, I specifically wrote here that Kreider would be fine. Fine, indeed. Kreider had a superb game against the Ravens, blasting Lewis and Sharper like a human bulldozer. Kreider went on to have a tremendous season, blocking well and even chipping in nicely on one nice run and showing good hands in the passing game. There should be no question whatsoever that the best FB on this team, by far, is Daniel Kreider. A+.
Tee Martin: Jerome Bettis, who threw 2 halfback option passes, threw 2 more passes than Tee did all season. I don't have really high hopes for this guy, and given Cowher's penchant for falling in love with the "new" rookie QB, Martin would be wise to get a short-term rental in the Pittsburgh area next summer. Inc.
Josh Miller: Josh had another stellar season. He got pretty good distance on his punts when he needed to, yet at the same time did a good job of directional punting to help limit dangerous returners. His pooch punting -- once a slackly weakness -- was outstanding the entire season. A.
Myslinksi: The Pierogi Boy played once in a while to spell Duffy at center, or spell a guard when nicked up. Inc.
Porter: The 2nd year man from CSU finally got his chance to play, courtesy of Carla Emmons departing in free agency. When permitted to rush the QB, Porter provided some good heat by using his stupendous speed and quickness of the corner, a la Greg Lloyd. Porter also excelled in pass coverage. Unfortunately, the coaching staff became infatuated with Porter�s coverage abilities, so much so that he spent some games rushing the QB only a handful of times, which was utterly asinine. Hopefully Porter will be totally unleashed next season, and will also be used all along the line of scrimmage. B+.
Poteat: Hank got a few sparse chances to return punts early one, and had a couple muffs that scared the ever-nervous Cowher. On several occasions, Hank showed flashes that he had the vision and wherewithal to excel as a returner, but Cowhead insisted on this absurd folly of using PeePee Hawkins to field punts inside the 20, and Hank on other punts. Hank �s biggest moment came when he blew the Redskin game wide open with a superb 53-yard TD dash on a punt return. Hank didn�t play any DB at all, but hopefully next year he can chip in on the nickel and serve as our full-time punt returner. B+.
Pourdanesh: The Shar of Iran stepped in when Marvel went down early in the 3rd game of the season against Tenn., and played superbly against Kearse and the Titans,a s well as Jax the following week. But he got injured early in the Jets game, and rarely ever saw the playing field ever again, instead rotting behind Tharpe or being deactivated. Shar, just as he did last season, so tormented and tooled Jevon Kearse, that Kearse was visibly frustrated and beaten by the end of the game. Shar is a UFA, and because of the imbecilic, crass treatment he�s received the past 2 years from Cowhead, it�s 100% unlikely he�ll return. Damn shame. I could give him a lower grade based on his bench/deactivation time, but when a player is overtly screwed over by his coach with no justifiable disciplinary or performance-related reasons, then there�s nothing the player can do about it. B+.
Schneck: The trusty long-snapper had a pretty good season, except for a couple high punt snaps. He costs practically nothing and is extremely reliable in a very critical aspect of the special teams. A-.
C. Scott: Chad was fully recovered -- at least physically � from his May �98 knee injury. At times this season, he played a bit soft and tentative, giving some average receivers acres of cushion for no reason at all. On the plus side, he did show some good downfield coverage skills, and closed well on nearly all deep balls thrown at him. He combined with DeWayne to give us the most productive, effective CB tandem this team has had since �94. B.
Shields: The 2nd year man from Weber St. committed some coverage boners early in the season, which led to long plays and ultimately to his benching. He soon was passed on the depth chart by Battles, and rotted on the pine. Later, he got hurt and was placed on IR. It�s entirely possible, especially with the progress of Battles and the fact that Shields is either unable or unwilling to use his size to punish offensive players, that Shields may be looking for work next summer if he does little at camp. C-.
Shaw: Clay Shaw showed some promise last season, snaring 28 passes at nearly 14 yards a grab. Of course, he drew most everyone�s ire with his absurd Superman t-shirt shenanigan in the losing finale last year. However, Shaw emerged as a legitimate NFL #2 receiver with a very strong season, grabbing 40 balls, scoring 4 TDs, and averaging nearly 17 yds/catch, a lofty YPC average this team hasn�t seen since the Yancey Thigpen days of �97. He did cough up a very costly fumble in the first Titan loss, and had a couple tough drops in the Giants loss, but all in all this was a splendid season for Shaw. For the paltry amount of $360K, Shaw was a tremendous bargain, and hopefully he�ll be resigned as a RFA this spring. A.
Simmons: Jason completed his third season, doing chores as a nickel back and special team coverage man. He performed adequately, but it�s readily apparent that Simmons is a mediocre journeyman, and nothing more. B-.
A. Smith: Smitty rotted all last season, but seized his chance this year when Sullie was nagged by the bad back, and responded with a solid year in which he chipped in a good bit at DE. Smitty is still undersized for DE in the 3-4, but showed good quickness, acceleration, and anticipation in disrupting many a play and getting good penetration. B.
Marvel Smith: The rookie 2nd-rounder from ASU was thrown into the fire, having to make his first & second NFL starts against Baltimore and Cleveland. In each game, Smitty was bullied about so badly by Rob Burnett and then Courtney Brown, that each of these defenders won the AFC Def. Player of the Week award for that week. Smitty then got hurt early in the Tenn. game with a sprain, and sat out several games. He came back and finished the season in good form, displaying some good footwork, grit, and skill. He needs a bit more polish, plus some more time in the ironhouse in order to fend off the strong bullrushers that permeate the NFL. Unlike the last 4 stiffs the Stillers have drafted to play tackle, Smitty fully appears to be a keeper. B.
Stewart: The Western Union Man had a subpar preseason, and ended up sitting the first 3 games while Graham started. Stew sparked the team to a big win over Jax on Oct. 1st, and then, with Graham hobbling and ineffective took over the starting job full-time a couple weeks later. Stewart deserves credit for personally disposing of his former self-imposed lunacy that he was a "pocket QB", and returned to his halcyon days of �97 by having fun, being creative, and using his athleticism. Realistically, of course, Stewart showed little progress as a passing QB. Yes, he finally threw while on the run a few times, which was a remarkable first in his career. And he actually chucked the ball downfield on occasion, whereas the two previous seasons he treated the downfield passing game with such disdain that it seemed the gameday pigskins he was using weighed as much as a medicine ball. Stewart still has trouble looking off receivers, preferring instead to stare at the primary WR from the moment the ball is snapped. His footwork was still poor; his "acting" on play-actions and screen passes makes Sly Stallone look like a decent actor; he seldom has the courage to his receivers and tight ends on seam routes; and he has trouble with touch passing as well as throwing the deep ball. For all the fawning over Stewart in the 2nd half of the season, he finished with 11 TDs & 8 INTs -- hardly an outstanding ratio -- and despite facing some softee defenses from Clev, Jax, Cinci, and San Diego, he eclipsed the vaunted 200-yard mark in just one game, versus the Giants. It fully appears The Western Union Man will once again be back next year as the starter. C+.
Staat: The former 2nd round pick once again did nothing to justify his lofty selection, playing only in mop-up and often being deactivated. It's high time this pathetic stiff be shown the door to the unemployment office. D-.
Chris Sullivan: Sullie was eagerly signed as a UFA by the Stillers, despite the fact that neither his former team (New England) nor any other NFL team, had any interest whatsoever in signing him. Sullie was nagged by back problems early on, and the stellar play of Aaron Smith relegated Sullie to bench duty and sporadic subbing. I supposed Sullie served his purpose in giving the team some veteran presence amidst a shuffled defensive line, but at a cost of nearly $900K, his contributions were far too meager. C-
Tharpe: Larry the Lardboy was brought in by G.M. Colbert (his former GM in Detroit) to provide veteran depth at tackle. Although woefully out of shape from sitting out the '99 season, Tharpe came in when Shar was hurt, and gave the Stillers some solid play at right tackle. He even relieved Smith late in the year when Smith left a game with a minor injury. Tharpe's lack of conditioning hurts him late in games, but he provided far better blocking than The Mannequin Man (Chris Conrad) and other stiffs the Stillers have put up with at tackle the past 3 years. B.
D. Thompson: Tommy served mostly as a spec teams headhunter, and provided solid coverage. He's a bit smallish and not quite quick enough to ever be a starter at LB, but his spec teams play indicates he may likely stick for another season. B.
Townsend: The small, 3-year CB from 'Bama had a solid season, contributing a good bit to the nickel defense. Deshea has pretty good one-on-one coverage skills, particularly when he can cover a receiver directly off the line of scrimmage. He'll be an RFA in March, and at the right price he should be welcomed back with open arms. B+.
J. Tuman: The ex-Wolverine completed his 2nd NFL season and has yet to catch an NFL pass. He got a good bit of PT as the 2nd TE, and frankly, his blocking was rather shoddy and soft. The Stillers hardly throw at all to their starting TE, so why they keep tying up a roster spot on a pass-catching TE who catches no passes and can't block well at all, is bizarre. C.
Tylski: The former Jaguar was signed in free agency as a replacement to Brendan PigStai. Tylski was an upgrade over Stai, which, of course, wasn't an enormous obstacle to hurdle. While Tylski was an upgrade over Stai, he hardly was a top-notch guard. All too often, he was whipped off the snap, or bullied or manhandled by physical DTs. Tylski might do for another year, but if anyone thinks this guy's the "long term" answer at guard, I've got oceanfront property for sale in Wyoming. C.
Von Oelhoffen: Kimo was signed as a UFA this past spring primarily upon the recommendation of center Dermontti Dawson, who for a few years has commented that Kimo is the one NT who gave him the most fits. Kimo did not disappoint Dirt, turning in a top-notch effort full of knifing penetration, guile, savvy, and quickness. Kimo isn't the plugging NT that Steed was; he prefers to beat a center right off the snap with adroit quickness and guile. Kimo was a tad bit pricey, especially when no one else was courting him, but his disruption to opposing offenses made him worth the cost. B+.
Vrabel: In his fourth season with the Stillers, the once-promising Vrabel played little on defense, instead making his contributions on spec teams. Vrabel actually had a very strong preseason, and to me he easily outplayed Gildon, but once the season started Vrabel saw PT only in sporadic relief work. B-.
Ward: I felt Ward struggled last year as a receiver, but he showed some improvement this season, most notably in his ability to go get the ball. He ended up leading the team in receptions -- which isn�t saying much when it was only 48 grabs -- and had 4 TDs. Ward showed good heart, toughness, and athleticism to warrant being a top-flight #3 WR, or maybe a fill-in #2 WR, but I still maintain that Ward simply doesn't have the speed or possess the downfield threat to be a legitimate starting receiver in the NFL. B.
Washington: DeWayne had a rock-solid season, and in my acute observation, should have made the Pro Bowl and, along with Holmes, was the defensive co-MVP. His run support, as always, was top notch, finishing 4th on the team with 78 total tackles. He also had 5 INTs, and more importantly, shut down many receivers he lined up against. It's a shame when a stiff like Gildong makes the pro bowl as a reserve, yet a guy who plays his ass off, like DeWayne, is left out. A.
Witman: Big Jon was on his way to yet another mediocre season, when he got hurt in October and was lost for the season. Based on the mediocrity he displayed and the outrageous $840K cap hit he caused, I'll rightfully issue him a grade. C-.
Zereoue: Amos served as a productive workhorse in preseason when the backfield was deluged with injuries, but once the regular season began, he was relegated to the dark depths of Cowher's bench, where no one ever emerges unless a string of injuries occur. Despite being the best threat this entire roster has as a pass receiver out of the backfield, he never once caught a pass the entire season, and carried just a few times twice all year, mostly in mop-up in the season finale. He played his ass off as a head-hunter on spec teams, but that did absolutely nothing to impress Coach Cowhead. Based on his usage, he gets an "Inc", but I'll also give him a "B+" for his attitude and stellar play on spec teams.
The Still Mill