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The New Silly Season Begins

June has arrived, which means publishers are racing to get their pre-season annuals on the newstand first. I spotted two in my local bookstore yesterday and purchased Street and Smith's yearbook. The Cowboys get a mixed review from the S&S folks, who like the team's draft, but are generally unimpressed with the Cowboys' direction.

Every annual has a unique format, and Street and Smith's relies on interviews with league scouts and personnel managers to shape their assessments. Street and Smith's is based in Charlotte, North Carolina, and uses a team of nine writers to assemble the team profiles. All are from the midwest or northeast; among the more familiar names are Don Pierson of the Chicago Tribune and Larry Weisman of USA Today. Street and Smith's also assigns a numerical value to each team, based, I assume, on its overall talent level.

Some of the major points in the annual include:

  • S&S picks the Eagles to defeat the Colts in the Super Bowl. Philadelphia will defeat Atlanta in the NFC title game and Indy will finally get past New England in the AFC.

  • The book predicts very little turnover from last season, with New England, Indy, Pittsburgh, Philly, Atlanta and Seattle again winning divisions. In the AFC West, Denver dethrones the Chargers. In the NFC North, Minnesota supplants the Packers.

  • Further proof of how safe the book is comes from the playoff roster. S&S picks the same six AFC teams that made the playoffs last year to repeat. In the NFC, four of the six return, with the Giants and Panthers crashing the party.

  • Dallas gets an A- for its draft, with Dallas getting extra value from the Marion Barber and Chris Canty picks.

  • Jason Witten gets the scouting profile -- each team gets one -- and is deemed a rarity in today's game, a tight end who is "not exceptional, but good" at both blocking and receiving.

  • Despite the high draft grade, Dallas is projected to finish third in the division, behind the Giants and ahead of the Redskins. The team's grade of 75 is low; it's tied for 26th with the Texans and tops only the Redskins, Bears, Bucs, Browns and 49ers.

  • The projected lineups are similar to those discussed on this site. However, S&S has Al Singleton at one ILB position, with Bradie James at an OLB position. Lynn Scott gets the nod at free safety. The rater seemed rather clueless at RT, slotting Jacob Rogers as the starter.

  • Much of the skepticism comes from the signing of Bledsoe, whom the magazine does not like, the age of the offensive line, and the apparent move to force-feed several rookies into the defensive lineup. The anonymous scout or GM wrote, "They'll be better than 6-10, maybe around .500... I don't really understand what they're trying to do. It seems like Parcells is on a short tenure... I don't see enough unless they hit some home runs in the draft."
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