The drought of receivers from the University of Florida who make it big in the NFL appears to be over. Unfortunately for the Ravens, the most prominent ex-Gators wide-out today isn't Travis Taylor, but his 1999 sidekick, Darrell Jackson.
The headliners in the class of 2000 receivers were Peter Warrick (fourth pick), Plaxico Burress (eighth pick) and Taylor (10th pick). But Jackson, a third-round pick - No. 80 overall - by the Seattle Seahawks, has outdistanced them all so far.
Through two seasons and two weeks, Jackson has 136 catches for 1,975 yards and 14 touchdowns. That's 10 more catches than Warrick, 673 yards more than Burress and eight more touchdowns than Taylor.
Jackson had career highs of 10 receptions and 174 yards last week in a loss to Arizona. His 70 catches in 2001 matched Taylor's two-year total. And Jackson's seven catches of 40-plus yards last year led the NFL. Obviously, he's made an impact that no other Florida receiver has been able to make.
"D-Jack was always my personal favorite," said another Florida receiver, Ike Hilliard, of the New York Giants. "A lot of guys liked Travis Taylor coming out in the draft, but I favored Darrell because of what he was able to do after he touched the ball. He's had a real good career to this point."
The issue of players taking shots at Michael Vick's knees won't end anytime soon. As long as the Atlanta Falcons quarterback is going to use his legs to gash the defense, defensive players are going to try to slow him down by whatever means necessary.
After hearing Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Greg Blache yell, "Take his knees out," last week, Vick seems to be getting the message.
"I know every coach is going to be gunning for me," he said. "It's up to me to protect myself and that's what I'm going to try to do over the next three or four weeks, focus on getting down and sliding."
Blache didn't deny he said it, but emphasized that he was talking about hitting Vick low as a running back, not while in the pocket. It is legal to tackle a running back low. And once Vick leaves the pocket, he's a running back.
Rookie quarterback David Carr of the Houston Texans got his baptism by fire last week when he was sacked nine times by the San Diego Chargers and completed just six of 25 passes. Carr has been sacked 15 times in two weeks, compared to 14 times in his senior year at Fresno State. That's a pace for 120 sacks, which would shatter the NFL record of 104 sacks surrendered by the Philadelphia Eagles in 1986 (with quarterbacks Ron Jaworski, Randall Cunningham and Matt Cavanaugh).
Perhaps more alarming is the charge by San Diego's Junior Seau that the Texans' linemen were tipping plays. Houston coach Dom Capers, however, said it had more to do with being in long-yardage situations than tipping off the Chargers.
Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Gus Frerotte might be on a short leash tonight in Atlanta, but the team's offensive coordinator, Bob Bratkowski, is coming under scrutiny, as well.
In his 18 games as coordinator, Bratkowski's offense has thrown for 13 touchdowns, 30 interceptions and produced just 13.3 points a game.
Chicago Bears wide receiver David Terrell has caught two passes this season and both were game-winners. Both times, he finished with end zone celebrations designed, he said, to get himself on ESPN's SportsCenter.
Against the Minnesota Vikings in Champaign, Ill., he jumped the retaining fence and bounded into the end zone bleachers. Last week at Atlanta, he leaned against the goal post and imitated a "counting the money" routine by comedian Mike Epps.
Said Terrell: "I'm just going to be myself, come out here and make plays and knock the criticism off my back."
Scoring, passing up
Scoring and passing are up in a two-week rampage of offense, the Ravens notwithstanding. Scoring is at a 13-year high.
Games have averaged 45.1 points, the most through the first two weeks since 1989 when games averaged 48.1. The NFL record for points per game over a season was set in 1948, when games averaged 46.5 points.
The 67.8 passing attempts per game represent the highest average ever after two weeks, too.
The Kansas City Chiefs have allowed seven plays of 37 yards or more, and rank 31st in total defense and pass defense. ... Could the Green Bay Packers lose at Ford Field, the Lions' new domed stadium? It's unlikely, but quarterback Brett Favre is 12-19 in domes and just 14-34 on artificial turf. ... The Bengals' appearance on prime-time TV tonight will be their first since Sept. 27, 1998, in Baltimore. They haven't played on Monday night since Oct. 19, 1992. ... The Miami Dolphins, who play host to the New York Jets today, have won 16 consecutive home games in August and September going back to 1993. ... New Orleans Saints running back Deuce McAllister became the first runner in team history to log 100-yard rushing games in the first two games of the season. ... Dallas Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith, just 413 yards away from Walter Payton's all-time rushing record, needs six rushes to break Payton's career carries record of 3,838.
The last word
Quarterback Drew Bledsoe has made a huge impact on the Buffalo Bills, aside from his 463-yard passing game last week. Listen to what fullback Larry Centers had to say about Bledsoe's performance in Minnesota:
"He comes back to the huddle with a staple in his neck. A staple! A piece of metal holding a cut together. His lip is bleeding. I think he got hit and it bent his helmet somehow. But he comes back to the huddle, and he's standing in front of 10 guys, bleeding, with a staple in his neck, and he's calling the plays, saying, 'Let's go,' and trying to get everybody else going."
Compiled from interviews, wire services and reports from other newspapers.
Class of 2000 receivers
Player, Team........ .....................Pick .............. Catches ....... Yards ....... TDs
Darrell Jackson, Seahawks ......80th ................. .136 .......... 1,975 ........ 14
Peter Warrick, Bengals ..............4th ................... 126 .......... 1,297 .......... 5
Plaxico Burress, Steelers ...........8th .....................90.............1,302 .......... 6
Laveranues Coles, Jets ............78th .....................85 ........... 1,270 .......... 8
Travis Taylor, Ravens ................10th ....................74 .............. 907 .......... 6