A Motorcycle a Day Keeps Your Tight End Away
QUINCY, MA - 2004 for the Apple Eaters was a season of peaks and valleys. Their opening week loss against the Mallards was a shock to a team that expected to contend for a playoff spot, while 2 wins over the Buddies almost gained them enough ground to recover and make their first playoff appearance since 2000. Brian Westbrook emerged as a breakout star while amid MVP predictions, Matt Hasselbeck took a step backward.
Unfortunately, the off season has been nothing but let-downs for this club - Koren Robinson checked himself into rehab for alcohol abuse, "Mr. Eater" Emmitt Smith retired after a surprisingly productive final season, Travis Henry was signed by the Titans to "back up" Chris Brown, and then there was the continuing saga of motorcycle daredevil Kellen Winslow Jr. The one constant for owner Chris Davidson remains the production of Marvin Harrison, who has scored 70 or more points for 6 straight seasons and will be relied upon again this season to anchor the franchise.
Biggest Question Facing Owner Chris Davidson
Is Matt Hasselbeck a franchise quarterback? After a breakout season in 2003 that saw him score a league-high 156 points, Hasselbeck fell to the 10th best at his position in 2004. Now with the off-the-field problems of Koren Robinson, it will be even tougher for Hasselbeck to put up big numbers with drop-prone Darrell Jackson and a trio of journeyman receivers in Joe Jurevicius, Jerome Pathon and Bobby Engram. Like Joey Harrington, this could be a make-or-break season for Hasselbeck's future with the Eaters.
There's a Heath Miller joke in here somewhere, but that would be too easy. The Eaters draft 9th overall in 2005 and will be looking to replace the longtime "face of the franchise", Emmitt Smith. Expect the four top backs to be gone by #9, which leaves the Eaters with a choice between probable first rounders Frank Gore, Eric Shelton and Ciatrick Fason. Chris has always had a soft spot for the 49ers, and his vain attempts at acquiring Jerry Rice from Mike have no doubt only fueled that desire to add one to his squad. Look for the Eaters to select Gore, who will add insurance if Brown (and Kevan Barlow) start to see less of the ball this season.
Hasselbeck, Brown, Westbrook, Harrison, Gardner, Miller, Brown, Jenkins
While nearly every key contributor returns from a solid 7-6 campaign last season, question marks are everywhere for the Eaters. Can Hasselbeck bounce back from a poor 2004? Will Chris Brown keep his starting job all year now that Travis Henry is in camp? What will Michael Jenkins contribute? Throw in a tough divisional schedule and games against the revitalized Beans and Refugees, and this could be a real let-down season for Chris and the Eaters. Along with Harrison, their season would appear to hinge on the very underrated Westbrook, who could see his workload increase if Terrell Owens continues to pester the Eagles. In the end, it's not enough though - the Eaters become a victim of their own schedule and struggle.
5-8; 4th AFC West