Tag:St. Louis Rams
Posted on: September 28, 2011 3:56 pm
Edited on: October 1, 2011 11:49 am

Film Room: Ravens vs. Jets preview

Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit

Ever since Rex Ryan left Baltimore to become New York’s head coach, we’ve viewed these two teams as mirror images of one another – and understandably so. Both have young quarterbacks. Both have running backs entering their primes who are backed up by a sage veteran. Both feature an aggressive and deceptive 3-4 defensive scheme. And both talk abundant trash even though their respective rivals – the Patriots and Steelers – have all the rings.

Let’s take a closer look at these teams’ similarities.

1. Young quarterbacks
Something that stood out in Week 3 was how the Ravens and Jets heavily utilized play-action early on, but for different reasons.

The Ravens referred to it to allow time for downfield routes to unfold. They wanted to take advantage of a depleted Rams secondary that was starting undrafted second-year nobody Darian Stewart at safety and disintegrating Al Harris at nickel corner outside. (They succeeded, by the way).

The Jets referred to play action because they wanted to prolong the time that Raiders’ defensive backs had to hold up in man coverage. They also wanted to coax the Raider linebackers into running out of position. (They succeeded, but only in the first half.)

Same offensive tactic, but with vastly different inspirations. The Ravens were trying to showcase their young quarterback, while the Jets were trying to simply make life easier for theirs (nothing wrong with that). This makes sense. Flacco has been around a year longer than Sanchez and is clearly a year ahead of him development-wise. He has a stronger arm and, as of late, more refined tools. He has really improved his pocket movement, becoming more consistent in resetting his feet before he throws.

The Jets are working with Sanchez in this realm. Entering this season, the USC star had a habit of bringing the ball down while eluding rushers in the pocket. This compelled him to reset both his feet AND throwing mechanics, which is too slow of a motion for the NFL.

For what it’s worth, don’t expect such a heavy dose of play-action in this game. Both defenses have savvy linebackers and are too likely to blitz. Instead, the key will be which young quarterback does the best job at diagnosing coverages and pass-rushing attacks prior to the snap.

2. The running backs
Let’s get one thing clear: Ray Rice is a better football player than Shonn Greene. It’s not even close. If Rice were a Friday night, Greene would be, at best, a Wednesday afternoon. Rice runs with superb balance and strength, and his lateral agility is second to none (especially when he gets to the second level). What’s more, he’s a demon in the passing game, both as a receiver and blocker.

Greene, on the other hand, has been somewhat disappointing. He sits out most passing downs and has 1,440 yards rushing…in 32 career games. One issue is Greene’s more of a momentum runner than explosive runner. He excels on sweeps because those runs naturally allow him to hit the line of scrimmage going downhill. But sweeps don’t work against elite outside linebackers (like, say, Terrell Suggs).

Between the tackles, Greene’s vision and timing are very average. That’s why the Jets made LaDainian Tomlinson a prominent part of their offense last season. Tomlinson is off to a fantastic start as a receiving back this season (12 catches for 196 yards and a touchdown), but that’s in part because he knows how to outwit pass defending linebackers. On film, it’s clear L.T. has lost a lot of his speed and quickness. If the Jets are to go anywhere in 2011, they’ll have to ride Greene.

Same goes for the Ravens and Rice. Rice’s production is not a problem, though the Ravens were wise to bring in a supporting No. 2 back like Ricky Williams.

3. The receivers
Derrick Mason is the X-factor. He was Baltimore’s possession target last year and is now filling that role from the slot in New York. The crafty 15-year veteran is one of the few players in the league who does not need to get separation in order to be open.

Plaxico Burress is another one of those players. He’s been, for the most part, his same old self this season (which is remarkable when you really think about it). His matchup Sunday night against Carry Williams will be worth watching. If you asked God to make a cornerback specifically for defending Burress, you might get Williams. He’s only 6’1”, 185, but long and upright, he plays much bigger than that. He has an intriguing combination of physicality and change-of-direction ability, and if asked to play man coverage, he won’t be shy about using trail position technique (which will compel Burress to use his “speed” more than his strength).

It will be interesting to see what the Jets do with Darrelle Revis. The likely assignment will be Anquan Boldin, though last week, rookie Torrey Smith turned in a jaw-dropping three-touchdown first quarter that had the Rams redirecting their safety help concepts. Smith gets faster at the end of his routes, which is something all great deep threats do. Antonio Cromartie has the speed to run with him, so expect the Jets to trust that matchup. But expect the Ravens to readily go after it.

The weak link of both cornerbacking groups happens to be an ex-Boise State Bronco: Chris Carr for the Ravens and Kyle Wilson for the Jets. If it comes down to these ancillary matchups, the Jets have the overall advantage. Mason, their No. 3, is as reliable as they come. For the Ravens, newcomer Lee Evans (who now figures to be the No. 3 receiver) has not established any sort of a rhythm with Flacco.

4. The defensive lines
The Jets have a unique run-stopping approach with their three-man defensive line. Instead of asking their downlinemen to occupy blockers and fill two gaps, the Jets ask them to focus on physically manhandling the guy in front of them. The idea is this creates congestion through penetration and also defines the inside linebackers’ path to the ball (David Harris and Bart Scott are tasked with reading the defensive linemen’s action and attacking in the opposite direction that it’s drifting. More on that in the next section.)

The Jets are the only 3-4 team in the NFL that plays the run this way.

This unique approach is why general manager Mike Tannenbaum drafted a fist-fighter like Muhammad Wilkerson in the first round. Tannenbaum would probably give his right eye for a chance to have a guy like Haloti Ngata. The Ravens 335-pound defensive end/nose tackle is the most destructive front line force in the NFL today.

Ngata has the power of a tug boat and mobility of a clipper. Truly, he moves like a linebacker. Expect him to spend most of his time at defensive end this season, as last year’s second-round pick, Terrence Cody, has looked great at nose tackle.

5. The inside linebackers
These are the entertainers – the guys NBC cameras will fixate on Sunday night. The sagacious Ray Lewis and loquacious Bart Scott. Both back up their personas. Lewis no longer has elite sideline-to-sideline speed, but he compensates with instincts, ferocity and fundamentals.

He was a demon attacking Rams lead-blockers last week. The Ravens’ defensive style will always allow Lewis to be productive, as so much of their run approach is predicated on his teammates occupying blockers.

Scott, who is as aggressive downhill as any linebacker in the league, has both an easier and tougher job than Lewis. It’s easier in that he has a stellar running mate in David Harris. It’s tougher in that, as mentioned earlier, he must read the defensive linemen’s battles in front of him and pursue the ball accordingly.

The reason other 3-4 defenses don’t take this type of approach is it requires great intelligence and pursuit skills from both inside linebackers. Most defenses don’t have an inside combination like Scott and Harris.

So who will win? Check our expert picks for all Week 4 games

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: September 24, 2011 2:04 pm
Edited on: September 24, 2011 2:06 pm

For the gambler in you, Week 3

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Each Saturday, we’ll take the best -- and most clever -- odds collected by bodog.com for the upcoming week and give our take. This is important stuff, perhaps the most important post you’ll read all week. Because if you can’t lose money while watching a game in which you have absolutely no effect, what’s the point of watching sports at all?

How many teams that are currently 0-2 will make the playoffs this season (Note: The last two years 17 teams have started out the season 0-2 and none of them made the playoffs)?

0 4/7

1 or more 7/5    

Right now, there are seven teams that are winless this season, and among them, the Dolphins will turn out to be the best. But with the Patriots and Jets -- and Bills (!) -- in that division, they’ve got no chance at the postseason. However, you also have to remember that two of those squads -- the Rams and Seahawks -- reside in the NFC West and the rest of the division is 1-1. I still think St. Louis will rally to win the division and take that playoff spot. So, I’d take “1 or more."

Which team will be the last remaining undefeated team in the 2011 regular season?

New England Patriots 5/4

Green Bay Packers 9/2  
Washington Redskins 5/1   
Detroit Lions 6/1    
New York Jets 6/1    
Houston Texans 8/1  
Buffalo Bills 16/1    

Count the Bills out. They’ll lose to New England on Sunday. The Patriots won’t lose until Oct. 30 at Pittsburgh (and that’s if they get by the Jets beforehand). The Packers will last a week longer than that when they have to travel to the Chargers. So, go with Green Bay at some pretty decent odds.

Regular season win total -- Kansas City Chiefs  
Over 4½ (-115)

Under 4½ (-115)

I see three wins -- vs. the Vikings, Colts and Broncos at home. And that’s all I see.

Blaine Gabbert -- total TD passes Week 3 (Must start)

Over ½  (-200)

Under ½ (+160)

Blaine Gabbert -- total interceptions Week 3 (Must start)

Over ½  (-200)

Under ½ (+160)

On the first bet, Gabbert will go over. On the second bet, Gabbert could go way over. But he won’t beat Cam Newton and the Panthers. Not when Newton will throw for more than 600 yards this week

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Posted on: September 21, 2011 6:39 pm

Deon Grant defends himself, says he wasn't faking


Posted by Josh Katzowitz

You think Giants safety Deon Grant was faking his injury Monday night in order to slow down the Rams no-huddle offense? Well, color Grant offended. Extremely offended.

"I want to ask a question: From the first time I touched the football field, how many games (have) I (missed)?" Grant said Wednesday via ESPN New York. "None, right? None. Now to this day I got two torn MCLs. I just had wrist surgery two years ago. I had a hole in my labrum and a torn rotator cuff. I (haven't) missed (any) games."

Grant also made sure to point out that he’s played 162 out of 162 games since he entered the league in 2001.

"I went out one play," Grant said. "I got banged up, and went right back in and finished the game -- (just like I have) every game for my career. My whole thing is when (do) you know (if) somebody faking an injury? ... I'm not no duck or no dummy. I'm not about to be going out there banging myself up like they do in the movies.

Was Grant faking?
"You look at my knees now, do you see this knee (my right one), this knee is smaller than that one (my left one)? You see the bang up, right?"

OK, but what about the fact you and Jacquian Williams looked like you were doing some kind of synchronized dance when the two of you went to the turf at the same time? Grant counters by claiming that he banged his knee on the play before and that he tried to play through it. But one play later, he knew he needed a breather.

"As I was walking, they lined up knowing I couldn't get back into my position because of the injury, so I went down. It just so happened Jacquain -- he was catching a cramp at the same time -- and he went down.

"I went out (and) came back in. I've been doing that my whole career. But you go and check my medical report. I (have) the injuries to speak for it. Two torn MCLs I never had surgery on. Wrist surgery. Shoulder surgery. (A) broken hip with a metal plate with screws in it, so I don't fake nothing. How can another person that's not in your body tell you when you're faking an injury?"

While he makes a good point -- nobody outside the Giants locker room and those Rams players within earshot Monday night -- knows if Grant was injured one minute and then miraculously healed the next or if he was truly faking.

And while I appreciate Grant’s passionate defense, nobody is questioning Grant’s toughness. Nobody, from what I can tell, is calling him a pansy because he would fake an injury when New York’s defense was in so much flux. We’re questioning his tactics and the Giants’ ethics in allegedly endorsing such a move.

We’re not saying Grant isn’t a tough SOB. We’re saying, at that moment, he might have helped his team the only way he could. By falling to the turf and acting like he was injured when he wasn’t to force a stoppage in play to halt the whirlwind.

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Posted on: September 21, 2011 1:05 pm
Edited on: September 21, 2011 4:32 pm

Giants Domenik Hixon out for season with torn ACL

Posted by Will Brinson

If you value your personal health, here's some professional advice: don't play football for the New York Giants. Tom Coughlin's squad suffered another season-ending injury today, when they announced that wide receiver Domenik Hixon would miss the rest of the year with a torn ACL.

Hixon, you might recall, made an outstandingly awesome circus catch in the end zone to close out the first half. Unfortunately, that's when he tore his ACL as well -- Hixon limped off the field and didn't return from the half.

It's the second-straight year his season ends with a torn ACL.

The loss is tremendous for the Giants, who use him on special teams and, obviously at wideout. With Mario Manningham suffering a concussion and Hakeem Nicks still banged up, Eli Manning's receiving corps looks dangerously thin at the moment.

Veteran Brandon Stokely and second-year wideout Victor Cruz (who had a crucial drop on a third down against the Rams) will have to step up as injuries continue to mount for the Giants.

The timing of Hixon's injury couldn't be worse, either, as they're slated to go against division rival Philadelphia this week. Yes, the same Eagles team that currently employees Steve Smith, one-time leading wide receiver for the Giants.

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Posted on: September 21, 2011 11:16 am
Edited on: September 21, 2011 11:47 am

Rams to file complaint against Giants for faking

Posted by Will Brinson

On Monday night, Giants defenders Deon Grant and Jacquian Williams did their best hit-by-a-bowling-ball impersonation in order to slow down Sam Bradford and the Rams offense as they ran roughshod over New York with their no-huddle offense.

Everyone who watched the game -- whether you were there like Mike Freeman or just checking out the acting on television like me -- believed the Giants were faking the injuries. The Rams obviously feel the same way, and are going to file a complaint with the NFL office.

"That'll go on the list of things we're going to send in," coach Steve Spagnuolo said. "I think the league is looking into it. I'll let it run its course from that point of view."

NFL VP of Communications Greg Aiello recently said said that teams could face punishments for faking, but only if said faking could be proved.

"The Competition Committee deprecates feigning injuries, with subsequent withdrawal, to obtain a timeout without penalty," Aiello said in an email to Freeman. "Coaches are urged to cooperate in discouraging this practice. If a player or club admits to it, the action would be subject to discipline."

Unless, you now, there's actually audio of what Bradford claims to have heard before the "injuries."

"They couldn't get subbed, they couldn't line up," Bradford said. "Someone said, 'Someone go down, someone go down,' so someone just went down and grabbed a cramp."

One would think, given the way the NFL meticulously catalogues the action on the field for NFL Films, and given that this was a primetime game, that if a Giants player yelled "someone go down" it would be pretty easy to prove.

As noted several times over the past two days, there's nothing new about faking injuries in football. But that doesn't mean the league should just stand by and wait to until something happens in a key situation to alter the outcome of a game before changing the rules.

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Posted on: September 20, 2011 12:01 pm
Edited on: September 20, 2011 12:09 pm

Should the NFL fine players who fake injuries?

Posted by Will Brinson

On Monday night, the Rams got pummeled pretty bad in New York (28-16, though it didn't feel that close). But the Giants weren't rolling the entire game. In fact, early in the first quarter, Josh McDaniels put the pedal to the floor and had the Rams running a no-huddle offense that absolutely gassed out the Giants defenders.

The result was, as you can see above, what appears to be a classic case of faking an injury to stop the clock. Now, I don't want to sound like a jerk and call out Deon Grant and Jacquian Williams ... but I will anyway, and I won't be the first person, especially considering that Jon Gruden was practically mocking them in the booth on Monday.

As he should have -- Grant and Williams looked like bowling pins as they hit the ground at the exact same time in a blatant attempt to slow Sam Bradford's march down the field.

This is a problem because, well, there's not much that officials on the field can do. The NFL certainly can't order referees to start flagging people they think are faking injuries. That goes against every single aspect of player safety that the league touts in today's game.

And faking injuries to slow down the pace of the game and/or halt momentum isn't something new either; it's been happening for a long time and in almost every sport, in case you forgot how Ghana managed to burn through clock against the US in the most recent World Cup. As Michael David Smith notes at Pro Football Talk, the NFL has a catch-all rule for "palpably unfair acts" but the league won't use that on faking injuries.

But the league should do something, and it wouldn't be hard to hit Williams and Grant with a fine, either.

"However, if a player demonstration constitutes taunting or unsportsmanlike conduct, or delays a game, a foul will be called, and a fine will be assessed," the NFL's memo to players and coaches regarding league discipline reads.

That passage is technically designed to cover excessive celebration penalties, but clearly the language therein ("delays a game") gives the league some wiggle room with which to fine anyone who fakes an injury in order to slow down the other team.

Now the league just needs to exercise that power.

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Posted on: September 19, 2011 7:32 pm

Justin Tuck, Hakeem Nicks to play against Rams

Tuck and Nicks will play against the Rams in MNF. (US PRESSWIRE)

Posted by Ryan Wilson

The Rams will be without Steven Jackson in Monday night's matchup with the Giants, but New York, another team decimated by injuries early in the season, will have two of their best players on the field.

Wide receiver Hakeem Nicks (knee) and defensive end Justin Tuck (neck) will play. Both players were listed as questionable earlier this week, but in the past few days it appeared clear that they would suit up barring a setback.

The Newark Star-Ledger's Mike Garafolo writes Monday night that "Nicks looked just fine in warmups, running well and getting downfield as normal on a deep ball from Eli Manning. Tuck was not on the field before inactives were announced. He will take part in the team stretch. After practicing all of last week, including in Thursday's full-pads session, he should be fine."

As for those inactives, DE Osi Umenyiora, TE Travis Beckum, CB Prince Amukamara, WR Jerrel Jernigan, RB Da’Rel Scott, OT James Brewer and OG Mitch Petrus are down for the Giants.

For the Rams: Jackson, DB Jermale Hines, LB Jabara Williams, DL C.J. Ah You, WR Danny Amendola, WR Austin Pettis and TE Stephen Spach will not play.

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Posted on: September 19, 2011 6:51 pm
Edited on: September 19, 2011 6:58 pm

Rams RB Steven Jackson out for Giants game

                        (US PRESSWIRE)
Posted by Ryan Wilson

This morning, head coach Steve Spagnuolo called running back Steven Jackson "a tough call" for the Rams-Giants Monday night game. According to CBSSports.com's Mike Freeman, Jackson, who suffered a quadriceps injury in the Week 1 loss to the Eagles, is officially a no-go. The Rams running back told NFL Network's Albert Breer that he "Just couldn't open up." 

St. Louis has been hit hard by injuries early in the season: wide receiver Danny Amendola is out with an arm injury, cornerback Ronald Bartell is done for the year with a fractured bone in his neck, and quarterback Sam Bradford will play with a bruised right hand.

Cadillac Williams, who was selected fifth overall in 2005 by the Bucs, will start in Jackson's place. Williams' career has been marred by knee injuries but he signed with the Rams in the offseason to add depth.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com