I'm not a fan of Yahoo! Sports Jason Cole, and I've made that clear in many previous articles. It's nothing personal. I just find him intellectually lazy and woefully ignorant of how football is played despite his extensive work covering the sport over a period of 15-plus years. He also seems to have a near pathological dislike for Peyton Manning. Maybe Big P told him to "f@ck off" after an interview request several years ago, and Jason has held a grudge ever since. Or, maybe it's because Jason spent too much time working for a south Florida newspaper, absorbing the now hilarious "Peyton can't win in Florida" banter that infected sports journalism world during the early part of Big P's career. Who knows.
What I do know is that anyone who thinks Ben Roethlisberger is a better QB than Peyton Manning is not someone who should be taken seriously, let alone paid real money to write about football. My 2 cents.
However despite Jason's often bizarre tracks of thought when it comes to evaluating football and NFL players, it is nice to see that he values something related to the Indianapolis Colts: Their d-line. In his off-season rankings series (aka, something for Jason to do in order to justify his salary during the "dead" time), Jason ranked the Colts as the fourth best defensive front in the NFL.
I wasn't quite sure whether or not I agreed with Jason on this point. I mean, I'm about as homer as it gets (and unlike most paid "journalists," I'm more than happy to admit my bias), but even I don't necessarily think the Colts have a better d-line than teams like the Patriots, Steelers, and Cowboys. For Cole, the reason the Colts rank ahead of these teams is because he is not counting people like DeMarcus Ware as "lineman." They are linebackers, no different than, say, Clint Session or Brian Urlacher.
And thus, with one slight caveat, Cole's d-line rankings become pretty much worthless.
I realize he has to write something during the off-season, but Jason should, at least TRY to make an interesting article using rankings. Why not include players like Ware, Joey Porter, and Calvin Pace as part of the d-line evaluation for certain NFL teams? What's the differecne between a 3-4 rush linebacker and a 4-3 rush end?
The stance. That's it.
Rush linebackers in most 3-4 defenses are not valued for their coverage skills. Their job is to rush the passer from a stand-up position, not a three-point stance (ala Dwight Freeney, Robert Mathis, Jared Allen, etc.). Thus, in essence, they have about as much in common with coverage linebackers as wide receivers do with running backs.
Also, if Cole is only listing down linemen as real "d-linemen," then it's insulting to list the friggin NY Giants d-line ahead of the Colts. Their d-line was awful in 2009. Absolutely awful. Osi Umenyiora is done (working with the second unit now), Mathias Kiwanuka is over-rated (3 total sacks last season), and rookie Jason Pierre-Paul is a major project player. This line was routinely blown off the ball in 2009, and their pass rush was non-existent. Trust me, I watched many Giants games last year (almost as many Colts games), and to call their d-line better than Indy's is a piss poor job of evaluation.
Hell, I'd almost rank the Rams d-line ahead of the Giants. At least the Rams hustle.
But, whatever. It's Jason Cole. At some point, I'll stop torturing myself by reading his columns. If I had to rank my top lines, I'd have the Colts in the top 10, but with the Cowboys, Ravens, and Steelers ahead of the Colts.