Friday, September 30, 2022

Jeff Lageman—Worth Remembering

 By John Turney 
"With the fourteenth pick of the 1989 draft the New York Jets take . . . Jeff Lageman, University of Virginia."

"Who?" "Booooooooooooooooooooooooo."

That was Jeff Lageman's introduction to the NFL. He was a disappointing surprise to Jets fans attending the draft. He was also a surprise to the media, "He's a third-rounder at best," wrote Will McDonough of the Boston Globe. He was even surprised himself, "I didn't expect to be taken until Round Two. It was an incredible shock when the Jets called."

He simply was not on many people's radar for the first round. He'd been a fine collegiate player—He was All-ACC as a senior and led the Cavaliers in tackles his junior and senior season, but he was not the typical All-American-type prospect many think of when they conjure a first-rounder in their mind. 

But the Jets saw the 6-5, 250-pounder as something others didn't:  A rush backer. Lageman had been an inside linebacker at Virginia but with his height, he didn't project well at that position. But he could run and had a lot of length, good traits for a 3-4 outside linebacker Jets brass reasoned. It was a gamble.

The gamble did pay off but it took until Lagaman's third year to do so.

He was okay as a rush backer but nothing spectacular. In his rookie year, he showed some promise but nothing to indicate he'd live up to his draft status. 

Then Lageman got a break. 

Head coach Joe Walton was gone, and in came Bruce Coslett. Out went the 3-4 scheme and in came Pete Carroll with his 4-3 Eagle defense.

Carroll had been a secondary coach with the Minnesota Vikings and they had some excellent defenses in his tenure there under defensive coordinator Floyd Peters, who was a "4-3 only" guy. He believed in defensive linemen getting up the field and creating havoc and playing the run on the fly and Carroll's aim was to build a front four modeled after the one in Minnesota.

Jeff Lageman was going to be the "Chris Doleman", the blind side rusher and fellow 1989 draftee Dennis Byrd was to be the "Keith Millard", the "Eagle tackle" (three-technique). Playing on the center was Scott Mersereau whose role was that of Henry Thomas. Eventually, Marvin Washington was going to man the left end but was the designated pass rusher that first year. 

Initially, only Byrd lived up to his designed role but Lageman and the others learned and showed some progress. The team's total of sacks rose from 28 to 38 and the Jets thought the plate was set for many years with a young, active front four. 

"In this scheme, I am kind of happy," Lageman told the media. "I didn't want to be in a position where I would drop all the time. I like coming in on the quarterback from the blind side." 

Carroll was liking a lot of what Lageman did but did tell the papers that he was "not a highlight pass rusher. From that position . . . we are counting on that position to be a factor and we need to improve on that."

Lageman got the message. In the off-season, he worked on getting bigger (he went from 253 to 266 with his body fat reduced by twenty-five percent) and stronger (bench press jumped as did his squat numbers), and faster. With the added weight and strength his forty times dropped as did his ten-yard and twenty-yard splits.

The next season he came into his own, leading the team with ten sacks and recording three forced fumbles and five pass deflections. In addition to improving his athletic ability, he worked on his techniques, learning to use his hands better, using "some quickness and a little finesse" rather than getting whatever pressure he got, "from his bull rush and from my strength."

But 1991, only two years into the plan, was the last year the four were together. The wheels came off the following season. First, Lageman blew out his ACL and then, at midseason, Dennis Byrd was tragically paralyzed, ending his career. The soon-to-be-great foursome didn't get to gel and mature and become the force envisioned by the Jets.

The next couple of seasons the Jets struggled and Lageman was oft-injured (in addition to the knee he played with a separated shoulder and a herniated disc in his neck) but was very good (led team in sacks both seasons 8.5 in 1993 and 6.5 sacks and 29 hits/hurries in 1994) but averaging eight sacks a season he was not great, not exactly what the club envisioned. 

He played more like a second-rounder than a 14th-overall pick. Oh, he'd give full effort, one hundred percent hustle was his strong suit but in a city that had seen Mark Gastineau rack up 19, 20, 22 sacks in a season, Lageman just didn't measure up.

Still, the Jets wanted to re-sign him when he became an unrestricted free agent in the 1995 off-season. They offered a three-year deal with about $5.35 million but Lageman chose the expansion Jaguars whose offer that was slightly higher in total bit significantly higher in the upfront money. 
An injured foot ended his season early in his first year with Jacksonville (3 sacks and 30 pressures) and the next year it was an injured knee that felled him and he missed four games at midseason. However, he recovered in time for the surprising but glorious late-season run that vaulted the Jaguars into the AFC Championship game. 

After the bye, the club went 6-1 and then beat Buffalo and Denver in the playoffs before succumbing to the Patriots, one game short of the Super Bowl. 

Along the way, the Jaguars did some interesting things on the defensive line. On passing downs, they often went with four defensive ends with former starter Joel Smenge coming in as a defensive tackle and starting right end Clyde Simmons (Lageman moved to the left end to accommodate Simmons who they has added that season) moving from end to tackle with super rookie Tony Brackens manning the right edge. 

It was the forerunner to Tom Coughlin's "NASCAR" front he deployed with the 2007 Giants when Justin Tuck and starting strong-side linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka would play inside joining ends Osi Umenyiora and Hall of Famer Michael Strahan. That lasted about ten games into the year—until  Kiwanuka got hurt but it was effective. 

It is hard to know for certain if the Jaguars were the first to use four defensive ends in nickel situations but it likely was. Regardless, it was unique for that era. 

In 1997 the Jaguars improved their record from 9-7 to 11-5 but got booted from the playoffs early, losing to the Broncos. Lageman didn't have great numbers but had several notable games and contributed to a defensive that upped its sack total from 37 to 48. 

Lageman's three-year deal has expired but was not a free agent long signing a one-year $2.3 deal to stay in Jacksonville. But he didn't stay long—he only played one snap, injuring a biceps on the play and that put him on injured reserve for the year after which he was a free agent.

By April, the papers were reporting that Lageman was likely to retire and in June he made it official.

Even though Lageman may not have lived up to his draft status, or maybe he did, he's right on that cusp, he did have a good career, one worth noting. 

He was a leader, a tough guy who played through injuries and showed a good motor and certainly with remembering. 

Career stats—


Tuesday, September 27, 2022

'Justin Fields Sets Embarrassing Mark Through Bears’ First Three Games'? Nope.

 By John Turney 

While checking out some things online we came across this piece by Sports Illustrated.com's  Bear reporter Daniel Chavkin

The article seems to be based on this Tweet

Justin Fields’ 297 passing yards through the first 3 weeks is the lowest total since the merger for a starting QB according to .
*******************************
Well, not so fast. Without much hesitation, we knew that couldn't be accurate. Our memory banks recalled another Bears quarterback that had trouble moving the ball through the air. So we were pretty confident that the Bears current quarterback Justin Fields could not possibly hold the "Embarrassing Mark."

So to be sure, we did look it up just in case we had a faulty memory and also if we misread the article and Tweet.

We were right.

In 1972, which is, of course, after the merger, Bobby Douglass was the starting quarterback for the Bears. That year, he started all 14 games and rushed for 968 yards but threw for 1,246, completing just 37.9 percent of his pass attempts.

These are dreadful passing numbers, even for the so-called "dead ball era" in pro football—often defined by researchers as the period from 1970 through 1977.

So, going to the weekly totals, in Week One, Douglass threw for 73 yards. The following week he had 52 passing yards and in the third week, his passing yard total was 89 yards.

That is a combined 214 passing yards in those three weeks. In that span, Douglass completed 15 passes in 43 attempts and three touchdowns, and five picks. His passer rating (though it was a year before it was introduced by the NFL) was 35.6.

But remember this:  Douglass ran for 247 yards in the first three weeks that season, 33 more yards than he passed for. Hey, you gotta move the chains anyway you can.

Of course, that does not change the fact that for this day and age 297 yards is not what one would call prolific, but even though "quarterback wins" are not a statistic—give the kid a break—the Bears are 2-1.

Douglass' Bears were 0-2-1 after three weeks.

Bill Belichick's quote seems to make the perfect point, "Statistics are for losers. Final scores are for winners."

Here is the second part of Peter Bukowski's Tweet—
We have no reason to doubt it, so one out of two ain't bad. We suspect, though we have not checked, that the search engine at Pro Football Reference somehow skipped over Douglass' performance in the first three weeks of 1972. Sometimes that happens. It is not big deal, we are not criticizing Mr. Bukowski, we do and will make mistakes so we are not above reproach and don't expect others to be, either.

It's just that something was triggered in the old brain cells so we took the opportunity to remind folks of one of the more unique quarterbacks of the 1970s—Robert Gilchrist Douglass, University of Kansas, someone you didn't want to tackle.

Update: As per Mike Sando of The Athletic, he ran the search engine at Stathead and found 27 others in addition to Douglass. We didn't remember any of those.
However, upon further inspection shows that most of those didn't play the whole game like Douglass did. So, for apples-to-apples comparisons, that should be considered. 

TUESDAY TIDBITS: "Is a Dream a Lie if it Don't Come True"

By TJ Troup 
Art credit: Merv Corning
The Chicago Bears finished second in their division in 1948 with one of the best non-play-off teams ever, and a very motivated group of grizzlies traveled to Green Bay to open the 1949 season on September 25th. The three Packer passers that afternoon (Girard, Jacobs, and Heath)threw 13 passes during the game with nary a completion in the Bears victory. 

A very strong Packer team traveled to Tampa on Sunday the 25th 73 years later, and the Packer passer....some guy named Rodgers completed 12 of his first 13 passes for 120 yards, with two going for touchdowns, and no interceptions (a passer rating of 144.7). The impressive start by the Packer offense was just enough to capture victory. 

 Offensively philosophy is transitioning from the old adage of controlling the ball to one of we gotta score. 

The Rams & Dolphins did not take nearly as many offensive snaps as their opponents on Sunday, yet came away with the victory. As the season progresses will follow this stat to see if last Sunday was the exception, or as stated above the league is in a time of philosophical transition. 

When the expansion Vikings first played at home at the "Met" in 1961 against the Lions they lost 37-10, and Detroit continued to win as they would go 5-1-1 the first seven times at Minnesota. Since then Minnesota has beaten Detroit at home in 44 of the last 55 games (80%); including the come from behind victory on Sunday. Began this narrative with history, so, let's go back and visit another. 

On September 25th, 1988 coach Bill Walsh is in his tenth and final season as head coach of the 49ers. San Francisco has won 32 of their last 42 road games and is on the road again.....this time in Seattle. The Seahawks will average 130 yards rushing a game for the season, but today they will gain only 29 yards on 12 attempts against San Francisco's multiple front defense. 
Art credit: Merv Corning
Joe Montana completes 20 of 29 passes for 302 yards (his 19th 300-yard game) and 4 touchdowns. Jerry Rice latches onto 6 passes for 163 yards (his 15th one hundred-yard receiving game in his last 35 games), and 3 touchdowns. Montana and Rice strike twice in the 3rd quarter on scoring passes of 69 and 60 yards. The explosive 49er offense gains 580 total yards in the 38-7 victory. For the sixth consecutive season under Walsh San Francisco will earn a playoff berth. 

 Every team after three weeks believes they will have a successful season in 2022, thus the title of this narrative comes from Bruce Springsteen's "The River".

Monday, September 26, 2022

Packers Sweat Out Victory in Tampa

 By Eric Goska

(screen capture from NFL Game Pass)

The Green and Gold did a lot of perspiring in Tampa Sunday. And not just because temperatures hovered near 90 degrees.

Potent early, Green Bay’s offense all but evaporated in its matchup with the Buccaneers. Unable to score in the second half, the Packers had to sweat and sweat a lot before eking out a 14-12 win at Raymond James Stadium.

Fourteen points may still be good enough to secure a victory in today’s NFL, but it is hardly enough to do so comfortably. And, shutting off the scoring valve in the second quarter is a move no team should consider.

Like it or not, this unorthodox approach earned Green Bay its second win of 2022. That it caused Packer Nation to collectively breathe into an oversize brown bag, well, this was Tampa Bay after all.

As mentioned during the broadcast, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers have struggled in the Big Guava before. Just 1-3 in four previous starts there, Rodger’s five TD passes and eight interceptions factored into his less-than-stellar passer rating of 65.

Sunday, Green Bay’s offense came out shining. On its opening drives of 10 and 12 plays, the team helped itself to 146 yards, nine first downs and a 14-3 lead.

Even its third effort moved the chains. The Packers advanced 60 yards on six plays before running back Aaron Jones lost a fumble at the Tampa Bay 2-yard line.

That third-down completion – two minutes, two seconds short of halftime – killed the lights. Rodgers and Co. spent the remainder of the game operating primarily in the dark.

How stark was the difference?

On its opening 28 plays, Green Bay gained 206 yards and 11 first downs. Eighteen of those snaps occurred beyond the 50. The Packers converted five of six third downs.

In its closing 33 plays, Green Bay managed 109 yards and three first downs. Seven of those snaps occurred beyond the 50. The Packers converted one of nine third downs.

So, how much did the Packers have to sweat?

After Allen Lazard closed out Green Bay’s scoring by taking a 6-yard pass from Rodgers in the end zone, Tom Brady and his offense ran 47 plays. They gained 223 of their 285 yards with their opponent banished from the scoreboard.

That’s a long time to hold one’s breath. That’s a long time to wait to pull out victory in a game the team had little business winning.

Since 1950, the Packers are 35-247-8 (.134) when scoring 14 or fewer points in a regular-season game. In that time, they are 18-119-4 (.142) when failing to score after the half, regardless of how many points they posted in the first two quarters.

Combine those two – 14 or fewer points with zero coming after the break – and Green Bay is 6-110-4 (.067) since 1950. That’s one win (on average) every 12 years.

Not surprisingly, just two of those wins occurred on the road. In addition to squeezing out a 2-point decision in Tampa, the Packers knocked off the Lions 14-10 in Tiger Stadium 58 years ago.

Going that route for a W is a path better left to others. Green Bay must improve if it hopes to beat the Patriots in Week 4.

Half-hearted
Since 1950, the six regular-season victories in which the Packers scored 14 or fewer points with none of those points occurring after halftime. Sweat is the time that remained after Green Bay’s last score. Offense is the number of plays and yards its opponent gained after Green Bay’s final score.

Date

Score

Opponent

Sweat

Offense

Sept. 25, 2022

14-12

at Buccaneers

38:44

47-223

Oct. 27, 1996

13-7

Buccaneers

30:59

35-110

Sept. 17, 1995

14-6

Giants

39:06

60-242

Oct. 5, 1980

14-9

Bengals

42:02

42-141

Dec. 4, 1977

10-9

Lions

34:45

41-148

Sept. 28, 1964

14-10

at Lions

30:27

26-140


Sunday, September 25, 2022

Judgements III

 By Clark Judge 
Darius Slay
Philadelphia cornerback Darius Slay may be right. There are no Robins on the Philadelphia Eagles. Just a bunch of Batmans

Slay was talking about the Eagles’ wide receivers, but he might as well have been talking about the entire roster. The Eagles are one of only two NFC unbeatens (the Giants are the other), and, granted, that’s after three weeks of a 17-game season. But the signs are all there that it’s time to take them seriously.

They run. They pass. They play defense. They win.

 Plus, they have a potential MVP candidate in quarterback Jalen Hurts.

Never was that more apparent than Sunday’s 24-8 demolition of Washington, a game where Hurts threw for 340 yards, the defense rang up nine sacks, they held an opponent to single digits for the second consecutive week and wide receiver DeVonta Smith caught eight passes for a career-best 169 yards.

Unusual? Not really. It was the second straight week where Hurts was marvelous. He committed no turnovers, looked poised and was in complete control of an offense that put up 24 points by halftime. It put up 24 by the half the week before, too. And in the season opener? You guessed it: 24.

Then there’s this: Only one turnover in three starts.

Playmakers are everywhere, with running back Miles Sanders and receivers A.J. Brown and Smith among the most notable Batmen. But it’s the improved play of Hurts that stands out. A question mark entering the season, he suddenly is accurate, makes smart decisions and doesn’t commit costly mistakes.

”He has been fantastic this year,” said Hall-of-Fame coach and NBC analyst Tony Dungy.

Five times in a career of 22 starts – including twice this season –the 24-year-old Hurts threw for 330 or more yards. Only four other quarterbacks, including Hall-of-Famers Kurt Warner and Sonny Jurgensen, can say that. More important, he’s 8-1 over his last nine regular-season starts, and the Eagles are 9-2 over their last 11.

In a conference where Tampa Bay, Green Bay and the defending Super Bowl-champion Los Angeles Rams were supposed to predominate, it’s not too soon to add another team to the conversation. Philadelphia, come on down.

SUNDAY SCHOOL: FIVE THINGS WE LEARNED

1.      The honeymoon is over for Josh McDaniels. OK, so he’s coached just three games in Las Vegas. But Raider Nation is restless, and who can blame them. Dating back to his days in Denver, McDaniels is 1-10 in his last 11 games as a head coach.

2.      Don’t schedule Tennessee after the Titans play on Monday Night. Under Mike Vrabel they’re 5-0 following games on Monday.

3.      Lamar Jackson’s price keeps going up. He turned down the Ravens’ five-year, $250 million offer and decided to bet on himself this season, ala the Yankees’ Aaron Judge. Smart. Like Judge, Jackson is playing like a league MVP with 12 TDs (10 passing, two rushing), 749 yards passing and another 243 yards rushing, including back-to-back 100-yard rushing games. Better yet, he just put up five TDs on Bill Belichick’s D. For Lamar, it’s play now, pay later.

4.      So does Roquan Smith’s cost. He’s Chicago’s best player and the reason the Bears moved to 2-1. Uncertain to play because of a hip injury suffered in Week 2, Smith turned in a bravura performance. Not only did he have 16 tackles, including two for losses, but he produced the fourth-quarter interception of Davis Mills that led to a game-winning field goal. If the Bears don’t pay him the big bucks, somebody else will.

5.      The South just rose again. Entering this weekend, the AFC South was the pits – with a combined 1-5-2 record. Then Sunday happened, and the division went 3-1 – with Houston the only loser. Indianapolis upset Kansas City, Jacksonville upset the Chargers and Tennessee held off the Raiders.

THIRD AND 15

1.      Consider that a signature win for Miami. It broke a seven-game losing streak to Buffalo. It kept the Dolphins unbeaten this season (3-0). Plus, it has them on top of the AFC East. But if I’m a Bills’ fan, I’m not overly concerned. Buffalo played without seven starters, with others wilting in the 90-degree heat, yet still had a chance to win in the closing seconds. As I said, a signature win for Miami, but not a shift in the balance of power. The road to the AFC East still goes through Buffalo.

2.      Buffalo ran 90 plays to Miami’s 39 … and lost. You can’t make this stuff up.

3.      The NFLPA wants a review of the league’s concussion protocols after Tua Tagovailoa returned from what the Dolphins said was a head injury … and it should. Tua was slow to get up after hitting his head on the ground, stumbled on his way back to the huddle and had to be escorted off the field.  Then he returned and played. The NFLPA wants to know why. So do I.

4.      Who needs Mike Evans vs. Marshon Lattimore when we have Bills’ OC Ken Dorsey on Coach Cam?

5.       At 3-0, Miami’s Mike McDaniel is one of three unbeaten head coaches (Nick Sirianni and Brian Daboll are the others). But here’s what’s more impressive. His wins were against Bill Belichick, John Harbaugh and Sean McDermott.

6.       All 24 of Philadelphia’s points Sunday occurred in the second quarter, and I know what you’re thinking: So what? So that’s where most of the Eagles’ points have been this season, and you can look it up. They have 84 points through three weeks, with all but 19 (65) in the second period

7.       The past two seasons, the host team not only reached the Super Bowl; it won it. That streak ends in February. The game is in Arizona.

8.       Chargers’ coach Brandon Staley’s explanation for leaving quarterback Justin Herbert in Sunday’s 38-10 loss is absurd. I have no doubt that Herbert – who played despite broken rib cartilage (that’s another story) – pleaded to stay in the game. Most players would. But he’s not the coach. Staley is. It’s his job to protect his player. Leaving Herbert in and risking further injury made no sense. Herbert doesn’t run the team. Staley does. So, then, riddle me this, coach: What has happened to Austin Ekeler? After scoring 20 times last year and accumulating 1,558 scrimmage yards, he’s disappeared. Four carries Sunday, 28 for the season and only 13 catches. More important, zero TDs. Staley’s supposed to be a bright young coach. Explain that one.

9.       Now here’s one for Tom Brady: You’re two points down with 14 seconds left and line up for a game-tying two-point conversion. How in the world do you let the play clock expire before the snap? Inexcusable, especially by someone with Brady’s experience and resume.

10.   Believe it or don’t: Jacksonville not only is on top of the AFC South but defeated its last two opponents by a combined score of 62-10.

11.   Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow, sacked 13 times in the first two weeks, was dropped only twice Sunday … and that’s a start. But let’s not get carried away. It was the Jets.

12.   With Zach Wilson sidelined, the Jets tried to win with a backup quarterback … OK, Joe Flacco … throwing 155 times in three games, an average of 52 per. Not a good idea.

13.   Justin Fields is the Bears’ quarterback, but let’s be honest: He’s more of a threat as a running back. The reason: Inaccuracy. He hasn’t thrown a TD pass in two weeks, has thrown for 297 yards in three, has a passer rating of 50.0 and 23 completions … for the season.  Can you say, “Bobby Douglass?” A report last week suggested the Bears would let Fields throw more in the future. They didn’t. Now you know why.

14.   The Patriots are 1-2, quarterback Mac Jones has a significant ankle injury and the next stop is Green Bay. Good luck. You’re going to need it.

15.   Yeah, it was ugly. But it was predictable. With Sunday night’s 11-10 victory, Denver’s Russell Wilson is 18-4 vs. the 49ers (including the playoffs) and 5-1 vs. Jimmy Garoppolo.

SUNDAY’S GOLD JACKET STATS

The Saints have been held scoreless in the first half four times in their past 20 games … or since Drew Brees left. They were blanked in the first half four times in 228 games with Brees as their starter.

Since the start of last season, Buffalo is 0-6 in games decided by eight or fewer points.

SUNDAY’S GOLD JACKET QUOTES

“I am frustrated, and I am angry. I expect more. It’s not easy to win in this league. We know that. But we expect more, and we’ll do it better as we move forward.” – Las Vegas receiver Davante Adams.

“It’s frustrating as hell. It wasn’t good.” – N.Y. Jets coach Robert Saleh on latest loss.

“You get a front-row seat to watching greatness.” – Baltimore defensive end Calais Campbell on quarterback Lamar Jackson.

Friday, September 23, 2022

Kyle Vanden Bosch—A Career Worth Remembering

 By John Turney 
Kyle Vanden Bosch showed tons of promise when he was Arizona Cardinals—his work ethic and smarts were praised by his coaches and it seemed set he would be a star in the desert. He'd been everything the Cardinals hoped for when they took him in the second round of the 2001 NFL Draft and as a rookie, he earned a starting spot.  

But his knees would just not cooperate. 

His rookie season ended after three games when he tore the MCL in his right knee in practice during a routine drill. Two years later he had his right ACL go out on him during a preseason game. Again, he was out for the rest of the season.

Vanden Bosch had it all—strength, quickness, and smarts.

The strength? He was the University of Nebraska Lifter of the Year Finalist in 1999 and 2000 and did 26 reps of 225 pounds at the combine. 

The quickness? He was time at 1.6 in the ten-yard dash and 4.66 in the forty and just dominated the drills. He did a 6.82 in the three-cone and had a 4.08 time in the short shuttle. When he left Nebraska he held the fifth-best Husker Performance Index for his position—a series of agility drills that measure athletic talent. He also left holding the school record in the "pro agility" run.

The smarts? He was a two-time Academic All-American and a three-time Big 12 All-American. He finished his degree early with a 3.8 GPA. 

Vanden Bosch was brought in to help a pretty poor pass rush. In 2000 the Cardinals had just 25 sacks. In 2001 it fell to 19 with Kyle on the IR for the last 13 games. Frankly, it was still paltry in 2002 (again only 21 sacks) when he was back starting and led the team with just 3.5 sacks, one of the lowest team-leading numbers in recent memory.

The Cardinals sad-sack story continued in 2003, the year Vanden Bosch missed in full, with 21 sacks once again. 

In his final year with the Cardinals, Vanden Bosch was not a starter at right end—the Cards signed free agent Bertrand Berry to take his spot and he didn't disappoint—leading the pass rush with 14.5 sacks and took the pass rush out of the four-year doldrums. 

That year, after being moved to back and from right end to left end in camp, Vanden Bosch's role became that of a nickel rusher ostensibly to protect his surgically repaired right knee by not playing on run downs. He said his knee was at maybe 75-80 percent that year so the move made sense. He only played about 25% of the defensive snaps and finished with zero sacks and ranked sixth on the team in pressures. Sixth. 

It was not great production to say the least.

Cardinal head coach Dennis Green had seen enough and had no interest in re-signing Vanden Bosch—it was time to move on. Fortunately, the coach who drafted him, Dave McGinnis, helped him get a reprieve by advocating for him to Titans head coach Jeff Fisher. McGinnis was Fisher's assistant head coach and linebackers coach and loved Vanden Bosch's work ethic. Fisher and the Titans gave Vanden Bosch a one-year "prove it" deal for the vet minimum with the hopes the knee was close to 100 percent and he could reach his potential in Nashville.  

Vanden Bosch proved his old coach right by playing where he was asked (he moved to left end) and by having a healthy year and a career year at that. He was the Comeback Player of the Year and was voted to the Pro Bowl. He led the team with 12.5 sacks and was second in quarterback pressures and forced four fumbles. 

That production earned him a long-term deal—four years, $22 million with two-thirds of it guaranteed. The deal kept him off the free agent market where he might have gotten more money but his loyalty to the club that gave him a chance and whose scheme he knew and whose organization, from GM Floyd Reese down to his position coach, loved his game was a major factor in not testing the market. 

Vanden Bosch had built a reputation as one of those relentless pass rushers, a high-motor guy but to his line coach John Washburn said he was more than that telling the papers, "He's a lot more than a try-hard guy. He's quick and can run and is good with his hands. He's a lot more than advertised."

Years later Washburn told a Nashville radio station, 104.5 The Zone, that, "There’s nobody like him…he’s special. This guy was different." He explained that "no one was more dedicated than this guy."

Though his sack number dropped in 2006 his pressure didn't. Both Football Outsiders and Pro Football Focus reported that he led the NFL in pressures, though with different totals. The next year (now back at right end) the NFL's official statistics (via NFLGSIS) had him leading the NFL in quarterback hits as he again went to the Pro Bowl and had 12.0 sacks and forced four fumbles. 

His production dropped off the next two seasons (he was slowed by a groin injury in 2008) and with the Titans not interested in him—they made no attempt to keep and it was off to free agency. The Lions signed him to a four-year $26 million deal and in addition to bolstering the pass rush, he was also expected for him the elder statesman on a young defensive line that featured two youngsters—rookie Ndamukong Suh and 24-year-old Cliff Avril.

The Lions head coach Jim Schwartz was the Titans defensive coordinator for four years and was part of the Vanden Bosch fan club like Dave McGinnis and John Washburn. Schwartz, despite the couple of off-years, still trusted Vanden Bosch and told Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, "We knew how important it was...to get a player like that. Those guys don't come along that often." 

Schwartz also told the media that he'd done his due diligence, evaluated film, and came to the conclusion that Vanden Bosch was still a premium pass rusher and that he also brought intangibles to the table like leadership and his unmatched work ethic. All that was to rub off on the youngsters on the defense.

His performance in Detroit was mixed. He did what he was asked to do in terms of leadership and the Lions improved their record in both 2010 and 2011 (going 10-6 and going to the playoffs). But in terms of personnel production, it was okay but it just wasn't spectacular. 

In his first season with the Lions he got hurt—this time a building disc in his neck, and finished with just four sacks and the pressures were not there as they had been in the past—about half as many. His best season in the Motor City was 2011, a year he was held out of practice one day a week to keep him healthy. He had eight sacks, forced four fumbles, and upped his pressures but it was his last good year. His final season didn't show much and he was a cap casualty early in 2003. 

It was an excellent career for someone who had four knee surgeries in his first four seasons. He is still known as perhaps the gold standard of hustle-type players. In practice, he would always sprint to the ball carrier and at least touch him, even if the play went the other way. He just wanted to be in the habit of getting his hands into every play. 

He went to the Pro Bowl twice, was All-AFC in 2007, and when healthy put unrelenting pressure on quarterbacks. It's a career to keep in our memory banks.

Career stats—