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 Post subject: 'Diesel' needs to go- Commentary
PostPosted: Tue May 16, 2006 8:20 am 
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FLOWERY BRANCH - You can feel sorry for T.J. Duckett, at least as sorry as you can for someone who makes more than a million dollars annually to carry a football a handful of times for 16 weeks each fall.

He is the rare first-round draft pick who has flopped through no fault of his own. He came to the Atlanta Falcons in 2002 hoping to quickly become the feature back, the battering ram to Michael Vick's sleight of hand.

Instead, he is the afterthought of the DVD rushing attack. Warrick Dunn, the first "D" in DVD and the feature back when the Falcons drafted Duckett, has gotten better with age. He's rushed for 1,000 yards the last three seasons. Vick - "V" in DVD - has cut back on his running but still out-rushed Duckett the last two years.

Duckett has handled it with grace. He has never bad-mouthed Dunn or complained publicly about playing time. Ask him directly if he'd like more carries, and he'll say yes, but he will always defer to what's best for the team.

What's best for the Falcons right now - and for Duckett - is to deal him.

Duckett opened the final year of his contract in the post-draft minicamp over the weekend. As usual, his spirits were high. He stuck around to autograph every fan's photo or football and answer every reporter's question, even those about his future.

Yet it is obvious he understands his situation. The Falcons used their second pick in last month's draft to select a tailback, Jerious Norwood. Dunn recently signed a contract extension that will keep him in Atlanta for another two years.

Plus, Atlanta continues to expand its West Coast-style offense. The scheme already relegated Duckett mainly to short-yardage and goal-line situations. Sure, he'd play every fourth series or so to give Dunn a break, but his main role was to use his 250 pounds to pick up that hard yard or two.

The Falcons have too many other options to spend the millions it will take to keep Duckett. Norwood can spell Dunn, and fullback Justin Griffith can lineup at tailback behind Fred McCrary on short-yardage.

Duckett is a bargain right now - he will make $663,000 this season - but will command a good salary on the free-agent market next spring. He is a 25-year-old veteran with low-mileage legs and little wear-and-tear on his body.

Duckett says he wants to stay with the Falcons. He won't be bothered by his contract status or any trade rumors.

"Those are things I can't control," Duckett said.

He is focused on working out and slimming down, proving that his reputation for laziness in the offseason is unfounded.

All that benefits him, of course, be it with the Falcons or potential future employers.

"I think it would be natural that he probably feels some motivation to really turn it up a notch," Falcons coach Jim Mora said.

Duckett, who also goes by the nickname "Diesel," deserves a chance to crank it up somewhere else. Given Duckett's attitude, the Falcons might even make out on an exchange: A sign-and-trade deal maybe for a solid defensive end or safety and a future draft pick or two.

And ensure there will be no hard feelings.

•Adam Van Brimmer is an Atlanta-based writer for Morris News Service.

Published in the Athens Banner-Herald on 051606


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PostPosted: Tue May 16, 2006 4:27 pm 
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I don't know what this writer has seen, Duck has flopped becasue he just is not very good.

If we could trade him for a solid player and not have to use a gun to complete the deal, then by all means do it.

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PostPosted: Tue May 16, 2006 7:38 pm 
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In all fairness Wease, Duckett came into a situation in Atlanta that did not benefit him. Sure, if he was the second coming of Jerome Bettis as many had hoped he was back in 2002, he would have been able to overcome to a degree. But alas, he is not. But just because he doesn't live up to the shadow cast by a Hall of Fame running back, doesn't mean he's a waste.

Had Duckett played for a team like Pittsburgh or Carolina the past 4 years, teams that love to power the football in their with big physical backs like Duckett, you would have seen a definitely different career path for him.

Yes, Duckett's skills aren't exactly what you would call great. His biggest issues in college was his lack of acceleration, vision, and his skills in the passing game (both blocking & catching). When Reeves drafted him in 2002, I'm sure Danny Boy expected that he would have several years of being able to work with Duckett and molding him into the type of back that would have been a great fit for his offense (a la Jamal Anderson).

Duckett came into the NFL with only 3 years of experience playing the RB position. As I recall, he was an All-State QB and LB in high school, and the day he stepped foot on the practice field at MSU with Saban was the first time he played running back.

Unfortunately for Duckett, he had a player ahead of him that did everything good that he didn't do, and frankly those are the factors most important in being an NFL running back. I'm sure Reeves plan was to have Dunn & Duckett split time, but with Dunn getting the brunt of the work for 2 or so years, and then by Year 3 or 4, Duckett was going to be a 1000-yard guy for him in his offense.

Had Danny Boy stayed, truthfully, I don't doubt that would have happened. In 2003, Duckett rushed for 669 yards in 10 starts, which projected over 16 games equates to 1070 yards. So by his 2nd year, one could argue that Duckett had already achieved 1000-yard status in terms of his production. By Year 3 or 4, one assumes he would have improved to the level that he could have possibly been a 1200-yard guy.

I'm not saying Duckett is a superstar in the making, but if he was put in the right offense, he could have been a solid producer, and you wouldn't be saying things like "bust," "disappointment," or "flop" when referring to him.

He's a power runner that doesn't break long runs very often, and excels in the short-yardage and goalline game that plays on a team with an offense geared towards quicker backs, that can cut, accelerate, and catch the football.

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PostPosted: Wed May 17, 2006 1:29 pm 
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TJ Duckett= square peg
Atlanta Falcons= round hole


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PostPosted: Fri May 19, 2006 11:42 am 
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- came across this...

Tom (Michigan): What do you see happening with T.J. Duckett in Atlanta and when do you think it could be?

Gary Horton: I think that Duckett is probably on the market, but his value goes up the closer we get to training camp and especially opening day. If I was Atlanta, I would anticipate that some quality backs will go down with injuries in August and that's when teams would become desperate for Duckett. So patience may be the best virtue right now.


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PostPosted: Fri May 19, 2006 12:18 pm 
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I think the proof that TJ isn't well admired in the NFL Football circles is the fact that he is still with us. As far as I know we were offered a 5th rounder from Pitt for him and we turned it down. There are at least , by my count, 12 teams that could benefit from a guy like TJ. Considering he was a first round pick, is pretty healthy, and isn't a drug addict, you would think someone would get up off a 4th round pick for him. This may end up happening during training camp anyway, but if TJ was considered a "good back in another system" then he would be gone by now. My opinion is he just isn't a self motivator, and has times where he really doesn't give 100%, the resulting effort then is poor.


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PostPosted: Sat May 20, 2006 3:56 am 
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The problem is that few head men believe Duckett is worth a first round pick, and that is why it becomes hard to move players like himself. Three good examples IMO:

Miami 2005 - the Dolphins were sitting pretty at #2 and able to get their choice of RBs in the draft. Due to his connection to Saban, one would have thought that at some point the Dolphins may have considered moving a middle round pick to Atlanta for Duckett. Makes sense, save money and can use the draft pick on a QB or another position. But I'm sure when the Dolphins took a deeper look at it, they didn't see Duckett close to the same caliber of player that Brown or Cadillac or Benson, or whomever was. If they thought the dropoff between one of those guys and Duckett was minimal, I'm sure they would have made an offer to Atlanta.

Carolina 2006 - As said several teams before, Duckett is an ideal fit for the Panthers backfield. Look no furtehr than their '03 season with Stephen Davis powering them to the SUper Bowl. Fox loves the bruising back that can carry the ball 25-30 times a game. But over the years, despite injuries and inconsistency at the RB position, the Panthers have probably not entertained much thought on trading for Duckett. This year, they were in a position to get a good back in this year's RB-strong draft class. As before with the Phins, Duckett was not in the same class as a Maroney or DeAngelo Williams, so why make the trade. Granted, I'm sure the Falcons and Panthers being in the same division also doesn't help matters much.

PIttsburgh 2006 - Pittsburgh had the same issue as the Panthers. If they wanted a power RB to replace Bettis, they had their chance to get WHite in this year's draft. Not to mention their tentativeness in making a trade is probably affected by the fact that Parker is already a 1200-yard back, so why give up a high pick for a guy that may or may not contribute between 200-500 yards this year. Would Duckett be perfect in Pittsburgh? Yes. But the Steelers aren't in a dire enough situation at RB to think about moving a high pick for a situational player even in their offense. As long as Parker is running well, the viability of getting Duckett in the 'Burgh is low.

Another major factor that contributes to Duckett's lower stock is the fact that he is not a great receiver.

Of the 27 backs last year with 180 or more carries, only 5 of them had less than 20 catches last year. And 2 of them (Shaun Alexander and Fred Taylor) are more than capable receivers, but the roles of 3rd down backs has been shifted to other players in order to save those guys some reps. The other 3: Mike Anderson, Willie Parker, and Stephen Davis aren't terrible receivers, but aren't quite guys that you expect to rack up 30-35 catches in a year. Interesting enough, it shows that the Panthers and Steelers are 2 of the few teams that Duckett would prosper on. Why was Ronnie Brown the consensus top back in 2005? Was it because he was so much better than Benson or Cadillac? No, it was because he was the most polished receiver among them. If LenDale White had caught 30 passes for USC last year, would he have fallen to Round 2? No, because he would have been considered a Top 5-10 guy that at worst would have had his work ethic/character issues drop him into the 20s. The vast majority of offenses nowadays not only want their RBs to be capable outlet pass options, but NEED them to be.

The only other types of offenses that would love to have a player of Duckett's type as their lead rusher are the ones that "Parcells-based": Dallas, New England, N.Y. Giants, and Cleveland. But with exception to Cleveland, all those teams have young backs that they want to groom down the road to be their feature backs or already fill a Duckett-like role. The Parcells coaching tree, Fox, and Cowher are now the only "throwback" type of coaches that like the Earl Campbell-type running backs. It's why until one of those 7 teams has a RB crisis, Duckett has only moderate trade value.

You're right BB, he isn't highly thought of in league circles, because frankly most teams out there see him as a situational back, and aren't willing to fork up more than a middle round pick for such a player, even now when guys like Stephen Davis (if healthy) and Jonathan Wells are still available via free agency.

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PostPosted: Sat May 20, 2006 10:19 pm 
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I think Birdbrain is right on this. Teams clearly don't seee him as a top talent, and if the best offer we can get is a 5th rounder, then they see him as a low round talent.

Pudge, of the teams you mention, I couldn't really see the Panthers trading for him as they have their own disappointing, runs too high RB in Eric Shelton who they invested a 2nd round pick in last year. I think the Steelers have some interest, but also remember that Verron Haynes came in and played well at the end of the season. Plus, he catches the ball okay. So between him and Staley, I think they have a solution. The question will be if Staley holds up. They do have the same situation with Fast Willy that we have with Dunn -- do you want to risk potentially wearing him down around the stripe?

I don't think any teams see Duckett as a guy that they can build around. He is more or less a situational type RB. That will never yield a high draft pick unless a team gets desparate with injuries in camp.

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PostPosted: Sun May 21, 2006 2:34 am 
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You're right, the Steelers are basically our best hope for a trade. And that probably only happens if Parker suffers a significant injury between now and the trading deadline after Week 6.

If Staley is healthy, he's more than capable of being the Steelers back. He was great in 2004 before he got hurt. Problem is that Staley's been in the league for like 7 or 8 years, and has only been healthy for 2 of them. Haynes is a good situational player, and you're right he's a pretty solid receiver. But frankly, he's not the type of runner that you want to give the ball 10 or 15 times in a game. The Steelers always seem to find quality backs from nowhere to fill the void. The Jemison guy on their roster, from what I've seen briefly of his play in Europe is a pretty good back and could surprise. Humes might surprise as well.

We shall see. As I've said before, trading Duckett is very doubtful at this point. I mean I doubt the Steelers offer goes past a 3rd rounder if if they had renewed interest. It's good value for Duckett on both sides, but not exactly the kind of pick that excites a front office to pull the trigger.

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PostPosted: Wed May 24, 2006 2:18 pm 
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Lets not forget that Duckett, despite having the rep of being a "power" back does not run with much power, or at least he didn't last year.

He was too slow hitting the holes and almost always seemed to go down on first contact. He hasn't run anyone over since John Lynch 2 years ago in Denver ... one of my favorite plays of all time, by the way, and even at that I think Lynch (though he definitely got the worst of that collision) managed to bring him down by 'tankling' him. :)


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PostPosted: Wed May 24, 2006 8:11 pm 
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Actually he trucked Derrick Brooks quite well in 2004. Not many people can say that.

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