Monday Evening Quarterback - August 31, 2007
The Sleeping Giant - Lawrence Timmons
From the day he was drafted on April 28th until the day he slowly waded his way back into the training camp waters on August 14th, Lawrence Timmons participated in four full practices and left two other practices early with injury.
Members of the Pittsburgh media wrote him off - saying he wouldn't contribute this year and would surely be overshadowed by fellow rookie Lamarr Woodley.
Fans called him a bust and compared him to former Steelers linebacker Huey Richardson, the Steelers' first round pick in 1991 who was cut by rookie Head Coach Bill Cowher before the 1992 season. Like Timmons, Richardson was the 15th overall pick.
It was solely Huey Richardson's college production as a pass rusher that led to his draft status. He had 12 1/2 sacks his junior year as a linebacker, but when he got to the pros it became apparent that he wasn't a pro linebacker, was very stiff and had clearly made his name as a one trick pony at Florida.
Timmons is anything but a one trick pony.
In 2005 as a part time player, Timmons had two blocked punts, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, three sacks and six quarterback hurries. Timmons also was one of the gunners on the punt team. There's not a whole lot of linebackers who can play on the outside on the punt team at any level.
As a junior, Timmons continued his versatile ways, while starting at strong side linebacker. Timmons was used in multiple positions and had success in all facets of linebacker play. He finished the year with 18.5 tackles for loss, 11th in the nation.
All through last season, Timmons was listed by Florida State at 6'3". It was a great shock at the combine when he measured in at 6'1". But that measurement is deceiving. With very little in the way of a neck, Timmons has a rangy build and very long arms for his size, elements inherited from his father Lindsley Timmons, a former 6'8" forward for the Duquesne University basketball team.
Timmons later disappointed scouts by running a 4.66 at the combine. That this qualified as a disappointment is noteworthy in itself.
First, it's a measure of how fast today's NFL player has become. A 4.66 in 1997 would have been eye-popping for an outside linebacker.
But even today it's well above average. The disappointment is an indication of the expectations scouts had for Timmons after seeing him play in college. This guy was destructive - he was quick to the play and did damage once he got there.
Timmons clearly plays faster than his 40 time. All the evidence from college is there - Timmons has the potential to be great. What has occurred between his last game as a Seminole and his first game as a Steeler is irrelevant. He's a football player.
Because of the questions about his raw size and speed and because of his offseason of injury, it was assumed that the NFL would have to wait a year or two before that potential would be unleashed.
The assumption was premature. Timmons has quickly shown the instinctual explosiveness that earned him his draft slot based on his game tape. He has tools that can't be taught, and he has a natural instinct that has allowed him to play fast despite limited experience and repetition.
From showing explosion off the edge to running with wide receivers down the field in coverage to exploding off the backside, beating a block and catching the runner from behind, Timmons has given a glimpse of his vast potential in the preseason.
It's now up to Coach Mike Tomlin to put it to use. Timmons figures to see action at a variety of positions in the sub packages right away, with the potential to contribute as a defensive end, linebacker and safety in the exotic looks Dick Lebeau prefers. It's actually possible at this point that Timmons will have a much larger role than Woodley in 2007. Woodley will be subbed in to give others a rest. Timmons will be brought in as a weapon.
Timmons has gone from forgotten man to important cog in the span of two weeks. The Steelers have had problems on 3rd and long for much of this decade. Timmons is the front office's attempt at a solution.
Quote of the Week
"Hey, Louis Lipps had excellent return skills, too. Maybe they should sign him back. Why is it that every time a team cuts a big name, I receive a ton of emails suggesting the Steelers should sign him? Dwight is just the latest."
- Ed Bouchette, when asked by a Post-Gazette reader if the Steelers should look at bringing in recently released return man Tim Dwight.
Factoid of the Week That I Hope Will Interest Someone Besides Me
Huey Richardson, now a financial analyst, was in the World Trade Center when the first plane hit on September 11th.
Due to make his way to one of the upper floors for a meeting, Richardson's boss stopped into a store on the facility's first floor mall. Richardson was watching his boss shop for collar stays when the first impact occurred, and was able to make it out safely.
Amusing Travel Note of the Week
I'm a veteran traveler of mountain roads. From my commute down Highway 9 to Silicon Valley in California to my current commute up 15 miles of mountain roads to an elevation 1,000 feet higher than that which I originally departed, I've done mountain roads for 10 years.
No problem. Except for one. People who refuse to use turnouts.
If you find yourself meandering on a rural road in the boondocks, passing time and taking in the scenery, remember this: that frustrated driver behind you knows every inch of the road and is coming home from work.
Pull over and let him go.
Ten Things I Know I Think
1. Marvin Phillip and Brian St. Pierre are both on the bubble, and both sustained injuries during the game last night. I haven't heard much about the severity of either injury since, but it brings up an important question.
How many players use the IR as a tool to not get cut, and how many teams collude with these players to make it happen?
Jerome Bettis recently admitted that he faked an injury to avoid being cut. Teams and team doctors have a less than reputable history of injury disclosure. It's one function of a team that isn't very transparent.
Could the team have asked a guy like Phillip to get down and stay down, to put on a good show? Why cut a guy and expose him to the wire if you can get him to take a dive, reserving his spot either through the PUP list or injured reserve?
2. Offensive line carnage of the week: a tie between Chukky Okobi getting abused by the Panthers' Lional Dalton and Max Starks falling prey to a sloppy spin move by defensive end Otis Grigsby.
3. Daniel Sepulveda is going to do things during his career that haven't yet been seen from a punter. At first I was shocked to see him in the frame at all when the Panthers fumbled that punt. Then, my jaw dropped as he athletically pounced on the ball with enviable technique.
4. It's hard to tell if a lot of action in the final preseason game is an omen of good things or bad things for a player. For Gary Russell, it seemed like a conditioning test. For Verron Haynes, it seemed like once last chance to change some minds.
5. It was a nice moment when Anthony Madison took time for a teaching moment with William Gay after Gay failed to make any effort at downing Sepulveda's punt inside the 5 yard line. Madison and Gay are in direct competition for a job, and Madison showed class by separating himself from the situation on that head-scratcher of a play despite the fact that Gay will likely take his job. Tyrone Carter simply let Gay have it, but I wouldn't expect anything different from Lil Evil.
(Around the League)
6. Joey Harrington carved up the Cincinnati Bengals' defense on Monday Night. Too much focus on the offense has left the team short on defense yet again. It's actually a mirror of the team culture, where there are too many offenses and a shortage of defense attorneys.
7. Simeon Rice visited the Rams today. He would be a great addition to a team that needs to upgrade the pass rush to compensate for a young, questionable secondary. With an explosive offense already in place, an improved defense could lead to big things in St. Louis, and a defensive line of Rice, Glover, Carriker and Little would go a long way.
8. The Jacksonville Jaguars have announced that they will either trade or release Byron Leftwich, naming David Garrard as the starting quarterback.
Garrard is a quarterback who can be somewhat reliable for a team that will try to win games with their defense, but he's not a guy that will carry a team to huge success.
Leftwich was overrated coming out of college, but he never really had a chance at big success in Jacksonville due to a receiving corps that has been shaky since the retirement of Jimmy Smith. First round picks thrown at the position haven't helped.
In the end, Leftwich fits best in an offense that allows him to sit in the shotgun with four wides and make quick passes to receivers who can run after the catch. Unfortunately, he's no longer in the MAC.
9. Tough break for Tampa Bay wide receiver Paris Warren, a player on the bubble entering last night's final pre-season game against Houston.
After impressing all night long, Warren broke his ankle while scoring the game's winning touchdown on a night where he had 7 catches for 110 yards and two touchdowns.
10. Charlie Frye has officially been announced as the first of Cleveland's bi-annual sacrificial offerings to Dan Rooney's Steelers. Look for the Browns to seek real penance in the second meeting by offering up their highly-touted virgin, Brady Quinn.
Who I Like This Weekend, And I Don't Mean Lee Corso
The town of Blacksburg, VA. The Hokies have a chance to put their tumultuous year behind them by stating their case as the class of the ACC against East Carolina. It will also be a cathartic event for the entire university.
Football is America's emotional salve.