Play Fantasy Use your Fantasy skills to win Cash Prizes. Join or start a league today. Play Now
 
Tag:Tony Romo
Posted on: September 14, 2011 3:35 pm
 

Jones on Romo: One of best games he's played

Jones thought Romo played well against the Jets. (US PRESSWIRE/Getty Images)
Posted by Ryan Wilson

Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo has his critics, and he did nothing to dissuade them from pointing out his shortcomings after his fourth-quarter performance against the Jets on Sunday night.

(A quick recap in case you're just back from Mars: with 12 minutes to go in the game and the Cowboys leading 24-17, Romo fumbled a yard short of the end zone. Then, with less than a minute to go and the score tied, 24-24, Romo threw an interception. Thirty-seven seconds later, the Jets kicked the game-winning field goal and that was that.)

We gave Romo a name-check in this week's Coach Killers, although former Cowboys great Drew Pearson thinks Romo's intended receiver on that last fateful pick, Dez Bryant, needs to play more consistently.

And while this might buck conventional wisdom, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has only laudatory things to say about Romo. Not just in general, but specifically coming out of the Jets game. Appearing on 105.3 the Fan in Dallas, Jones was asked his thoughts on Romo's Week 1 showing (via SportsRadioInterviews.com):

“I thought this may draw a little criticism," Jones began. "I thought Tony played one of the best games I have ever seen him play. You can make a big case that the way he played for three quarters was how we got there at the end and looked like we were for sure going to get the win. He played outstanding, the game has really slowed down for him which is a very good thing, he’s seeing where the ball out to go, all those things bode well for us. He really is a quarterback that has averaged 10 wins for every 16 he has started in the NFL. He’s a winner and we are going to rise and fall based on what Tony Romo is about the next several years and I’m excited about that. We’ve got somebody here where if we can get some other things together we can have a team that gets us in a position to take a shot.”

You know, it's hard to disagree with Jones here (well, except the part about Romo playing one of his best games ever). We mentioned on Monday's Pick-6 Podcast that Romo outplayed the Jets' Mark Sanchez but Sanchez appears to have a knack for avoiding mistakes at critical junctures while Romo is drawn to them. And it's not solely a function of his style of play or decision-making process. It genuinely seems like the gods of chance hate Romo.

Jones isn't buying it. In fact, he thinks Romo "loves pressure" although he concedes that the quarterback has a knack for "trying to make the best play he can instead of doing the kinds of things that don't lose football games. … There's a lot going on at that position," Jones said. "When you get somebody who can really master it, it's something special. He's close."

He better be. We picked the Cowboys to win the NFC East.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, subscribe to our NFL newsletter, and while you're add it, add our RSS Feed.
Posted on: September 13, 2011 11:45 am
 

Drew Pearson: Dez Bryant hasn't done anything

Former Cowboys great Drew Pearson is unimpressed with Dez Bryant. (US PRESSWIRE)
Posted by Ryan Wilson

Tony Romo got a name check in our Week 1: Coach Killers column, not so much because we think he'll get Jason Garrett fired, but based on the perception that he has a knack for making the worst decisions at critical points in the game.

Against the Jets on Sunday night, Romo did just that, throwing a back-breaking interception late in the fourth quarter. The pass was intended for Dez Bryant, who had been limping around the field for some time with cramps, but was easily picked off by Darrelle Revis.

At the time, we wondered why Romo would throw in Bryant's direction since it was clear that he wasn't 100 percent. To his credit, Romo took full responsibility for the loss but former Cowboys great Drew Pearson isn't concerned about the quarterback. His issues are with Bryant, the team's 2010 first-round pick.

Appearing on 103.3 FM Monday, Pearson, according to the Dallas Morning News said, “You saw what happened in the fourth quarter. We had wide receivers that couldn’t finish the game. Come on! Jeez!”

He was just getting warmed up: “The first quarter was spectacular. Great job, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah,” Pearson said. “But now we need you in the fourth quarter and you can’t even run? You catch three passes in the first quarter and then you get targeted five times after that and you don’t make any catches? . . . Let’s not be so high on this guy who hasn’t really done anything. He missed four games last season, he comes in this game and he can’t finish it out."

Bryant seems to attract scrutiny. Former mentor Deion Sanders distanced himself from Bryant after the "droopy pants at the mall" incident, saying in March that "[Bryant] needs help. I told the Cowboys from Day 1 that he needs help. Matter of fact, they have a team in place to help him. But you cannot tell a grown man what to do." Then there's the civil suit for the hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid debt.

As for the play in question against the Jets that led to the Revis interception, Pearson observed, "Dez's first move was a jump, a hop-step. What is that? That's one second gone from the pass route. I mean, what is that? Come on. …

"Yeah, he's raw. He's a monster. That's what monsters do, I guess. You see that in high school kids running routes like that."

We're pretty sure Pearson was being sarcastic there.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.
Posted on: September 13, 2011 10:25 am
Edited on: September 13, 2011 7:03 pm
 

Coach Killers, week 1: Haley takes the blame

Coach Killers is your weekly look around the league at those performances, decisions and "Wait, what did he just do?!" moments that put the guy in charge squarely on the ol' hot seat. (Getty Images)

Posted by Ryan Wilson

Todd Haley, Chiefs head coach. Week 1 of the regular season looked a lot like the previous four weeks of preseason football for Kansas City's offense. Which is to say: it existed in name only. And it's not like the Chiefs were facing the Patriots on the road. They had the Bills -- the Bills -- at Arrowhead Stadium. Instead of playing like the defending AFC West champs, Kansas City instead looked like the sad-sack outfit that won six games in the final two seasons of Herm Edwards' tenure.
Todd Haley wants you to know that he blames Todd Haley. (Getty Images)

Buffalo led 14-0 after a quarter, went up 34-7 after three quarters, and ended up winning 41-7. And the Chiefs are left to wonder where to go from here.

Yes, it's only one game -- the first game of a long season -- but Sunday's offense looked a lot like the one that got steamrolled by the Ravens in the AFC Divisional Game last January.

It's easy to blame quarterback Matt Cassel, especially after you take a gander at his stat line from Sunday: 22 of 36 for 116 yards. That works out to 3.2 yards per attempt, which means that if the Chiefs threw on every down, they'd go three-and-out every series (which isn't far from the truth). But Cassel isn't calling the plays or assembling the roster. The latter is Scott Pioli's job, but since he's pretty high up on the org chart, that leaves Todd Haley, who puts together the game plan (if you want to call it that).

“I’m taking 100 percent responsibility for our team not being ready to go,” he said after the game. “OK? You can point the finger right at Todd Haley. OK? I’m taking 100 percent responsibility.”

Uh oh. Haley went Costanza on us and started referring to himself in the third person. Not a good sign.

And while it's swell that he's holding himself accountable, that won't do much to keep him gainfully employed. The Chiefs look completely lost without offensive coordinator Charlie Weis, who left for the University of Florida before the Ravens playoff game. Maybe it's coincidence, or perhaps there's a correlation, but it's not like Haley didn't get the head-coaching gig because of his ability to -- and apologies in advance to Hank Stram -- matriculate the ball down the field.

Either way, if the Chiefs don't find a way to score points, Haley won't make it to Halloween.

Jim Caldwell, Colts head coach. It's simple, really. Caldwell, who took over for Tony Dungy after the 2008 season, is only as good as his quarterback. Yes, that holds for most coaches (most notably Bill Belichick and Tom Brady -- although Belichick went 11-5 with Cassel in '08), but Caldwell can't use that as an excuse when Bill Polian inevitably calls him into his office and asks why he shouldn't be fired.

Week 1 in Review

For the sake of discussion, let's say Manning shuts it down for the season, and Indy wins five or six games with some combination of Kerry Collins, Curtis Painter, Brett Favre and/or David Garrard (joke!). Isn't Caldwell ultimately responsible? (Of course, Caldwell might point out that Polian should've found a competent backup QB long ago, but he can't very well say that out loud.) Put differently: if Caldwell's coaching skills are directly related to whether his Hall of Fame quarterback is on the field, he's not bringing much to the table. Belichick, with or without Brady, is worth , what, three wins a season all by himself? Same with Mike Tomlin or Mike McCarthy.

That said, we don't expect Caldwell to lose his job no matter how bad things turn out for Indy this season. The man did go 14-2 in his first season and take the Colts to the Super Bowl. And Indy was 10-6 a year ago. Then again, his detractors are quick to point out that Caldwell was 26-63 during his eight years as the Wake Forest head coach. That's not exactly something you put at the top of the resume.

Pete Carroll, Seahawks head coach. Carroll has talked about "the plan," presumably one that entails making the team better. But based on some of his offseason moves -- notably, signing Tarvaris Jackson a year after trading for Charlie Whitehurst and weeks after letting Matt Hasselbeck walk -- we're starting to think that this plan involves positioning the team for a run at Andrew Luck. (Which, technically, will make the team better, just not this season.) 

Seattle did win the NFC West last season, but they also went 7-9. That's like being the prettiest ugly girl or the skinniest fat dude. When people say, "They won the division by winning just seven games!" it's not a compliment. They're mocking you. So, no, it's not something to brag about, especially since this year's team somehow looks worse.

The Seahawks lost to the 49ers, 33-17, Sunday, but the game was out of reach well before that. San Francisco led 16-0, and Seattle appeared to be running some version of the Chiefs' offense. And things don't get any easier because the Seahawks travel to Pittsburgh this week. We joked yesterday that the Steelers could play the same sloppy game they did against the Ravens and have little trouble beating this Seattle team. That's how bad it was. Maybe somebody should ask Carroll what his deal is.

Jack Del Rio is quite familiar with the hot seat in Jacksonville. (Getty Images)
Jack Del Rio, Jaguars head coach. The Jags dumped David Garrard just before the season opener and we can all agree that a) the move was probably long overdue and b) the organization has an awful sense of timing.

Whatever, life after Garrard got off to a good start: Jacksonville, with Luke McCown under center, outlasted the Titans, 16-14. But this is the NFL, where fortunes change weekly, and it's not a stretch to think that the Jags' success could be short-lived. Partly because they haven't had a winning season since 2007, but also because their quarterback of the future is currently a rookie sitting behind McCown on the depth chart.

Not only that, it's not like Del Rio hasn't been in the "you're almost certainly getting canned" crosshairs in previous seasons. And his dilemma in 2011 is that if McCown plays just well enough to keep the gig, the Jags might again finish 8-8. But if McCown stumbles and Blaine Gabbert gets the keys to the offense, then it's a rebuilding year. While not an official stat, we think Del Rio is all out of "rebuilding year" mulligans. As it stands, his job security rests with McCown's ability to play better than he has at any point in his NFL career. We wonder if Del Rio will get to keep that black leather jacket as a parting gift.

Tony Romo, Cowboys quarterback. In general, this list will be populated with players who single-handedly torpedoed a team's chances or underachieving units (like the Chargers' special teams any week last season). So it's unusual that the first four names above are all coaches. But Haley, Caldwell, Carroll and Del Rio are as responsible for the fate that awaits them than any miscue their players might make that would ultimately reflect poorly on them.

And that brings us to Romo, who admitted after Sunday night's loss to the Jets, that the blame was his and his alone. That's not completely true, although a fumble at the Jets' goal line and that pass intended for a hobbled Dez Bryant that found Darrelle Revis on the next-to-last drive didn't help matters.

On Monday's Pick-6 Podcast, we talked about how the perception is that Romo's a choker, and Sunday night was the latest example. We don't actually believe that; if anything Romo's unlucky. Look no further than his counterpart in Week 1; Romo outplayed the Jets' Mark Sanchez but Sanchez has a knack for avoiding mistakes at critical junctures while Romo seems drawn to them. And it's not solely a function of his style of play or decision-making process. It genuinely seems like the gods of chance hate Romo. We think this has something to do with that whole Jessica Simpson thing.

But could his ill-timed miscuses be enough to cost Jason Garrett his job? Nah. Partly because we've seen what the Cowboys look like without Romo, but also because he's a top-10 quarterback. Does he take chances? Yeah, sure. Does he sometimes get burned? Yep. But he has the ability to put a ton of points on the board, and that overrides the occasional mistakes.

Now there's no doubt in our minds that Jerry Jones will some day fire Garrett. But it won't be because of Romo. In fact, Romo will probably end up saving Garrett's job a couple times before it's all said and done.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.
Posted on: September 12, 2011 10:14 am
Edited on: September 12, 2011 6:30 pm
 

Sorting the Sunday Pile: Week 1

Posted by Will Brinson



Sorting the Sunday Pile takes all of Sunday's NFL action and figures out the most important storylines for you to digest. Send your complaints, questions and comments to Will Brinson on Twitter. Make sure and listen to our Week 1 podcast review below as well and feel free to subscribe via iTunes.



It's rather unfair to the rest of the NFL to expect a legitimate follow-up to the Thursday night spectacular that was New Orleans and Green Bay. To the extent that folks wanted drama, the most spine-tingling moments came before the action on Sunday, as the NFL and the nation honored the 10-year anniversary of 9/11.

Fantastic job all around by the NFL and the various broadcast partners and the players and Reebok and everyone involved for really making Sunday a touching tribute to one of America's greatest tragedies. Can you really imagine what would have happened if there hadn't been football on the anniversary because of the lockout?

Obviously the nation would have moved on -- it's just sports. But the public relations hit would have been 100-percent inverse of the boost the league received on Sunday.

Not that it matters. There was football. And it was good and there were lots of stories. Many of whom we'll break down below. In the words of Jay-Z, "let's rock."

1. Yes We Cam
What did you expect from Cam Newton in his first start as an NFL player?

Because, no offense, but it doesn't really matter -- Newton set the world on fire en route to throwing for 422 yards and two touchdowns, plus rushing for another score.

Carolina still lost to Arizona in a close game, but that's not really important, as they're not a Super Bowl contender right now. What's important is that they appear to have finally gotten their franchise quarterback. And that makes one guy -- Steve Smith -- pretty happy.

"He was everything everybody didn't expect him to be," Smith said after the game. "He was on point, he made some great runs, he made some great reads, made some fantastic throws. He made some throws out there that honestly as a receiver it made it easy to catch them."

In case you missed it, Smith wanted out of Carolina all of last year while catching (or, if you prefer not catching) passes from Jimmy Clausen but after the Panthers drafted Newton, Smith eventually got back on board with staying in Carolina over the long(ish) haul.

It worked out pretty well for him on Sunday, because he caught eight passes for a 178 yards, numbers which should have the same effect on Smith as Newton's totals have on fans: obscuring the win-loss column.

As we noted on Sunday, Newton's 422 yards was the highest passing yardage total by a rookie, in their season opener, in NFL history. It's tied for the highest total for a rookie in any game, with Matthew Stafford's 422 in 2009 against the Browns.

And perhaps most crazy of all, it's the fifth-highest season opener total in NFL history. Not rookie history -- NFL history. Damn impressive stuff is what it was -- maybe Bo Jackson was right after all.

Newton, by the way, is already 11th on the Panthers all-time passing yards list.

2. Most Valuable Peyton

In a brutal twist of irony, while Kerry Collins was starting his first game as a Colt, stinking up the joint and causing Colts fans to start researching Stanford's schedule in 2011, he somehow managed to pass Joe Montana for the 10th-most passing yards in NFL history. That Collins did so was the lone bright spot for a Colts team that got absolutely drubbed by the Texans in the first game without Peyton Manning at the helm since 1998.

Sunday was just the second time since Indy drafted Manning that they trailed 17-0 after the first quarter, and the 34-0 halftime deficit for Indy was the largest in franchise history.

Look, everyone knows that Peyton is really good. And everyone knows that Peyton meant more to this team over the past few years than anyone could possibly imagine, and that the Colts wouldn't have won as many games as they have without him.

But is it possible to give someone an MVP award when they don't even play for an entire season simply based on how poorly their team plays without him? Of course not. If it was, though, Manning would warrant consideration in 2011 just based off what we saw in Week 1.

As for the long-term issue of Manning's health, it's really hard to imagine that the Colts would even consider trying to bring him back in 2011. There's a very good chance that by the time we get halfway through his aggressive rehab schedule the Colts are 0-4.

At that point, the season's over for all reasonable intents and purposes. By Week 8, when Peyton might be ready? Yeah, there's a good chance Indy's done then. And if they are, there's little-to-no sense in bringing him back at the risk of busting up his career to try and ruin a good shot at landing Andrew Luck.

3. The Steelers are terrible
Just kidding. But I really wanted to make sure we make at least one absolutely incorrect knee-jerk decision in this column. The Ravens might have been favored by a field goal against the Steelers on Sunday, but the consensus amongst all the experts was that the Steelers are a significantly better team, though because of the rivalry factor things would come down to a field goal in a close, bloody game.

Whoops on all counts.

Well, except the blood -- Pittsburgh strolled into M&T Bank Stadium and got absolutely stuck in the face by their rival and then spent all afternoon trying to figure out how to make the gushing stop, only it never did.

Ben Roethlisberger threw three picks and fumbled twice and the Steelers committed a whopping eight turnovers as they generally looked like a boxer against the ropes getting continually pummeled.

"That playoff taste, now it's over," Rice said. "Now we’ve got that burden off our shoulders, boom! We’re one up on them right now.”

The two biggest concerns for the Ravens coming into this season were the offensive line and the secondary.

The Ravens were mocked for their desperation in signing Bryant McKinnie shortly before the season began, mostly because McKinnie was reportedly clocking in around 400 pounds. (As reported Sunday, he's now making more money for weighing less. So that's nice.)

But he was a tremendous difference for Baltimore on Sunday afternoon, as he provided stability at the left tackle position and made some key blocks. He wasn't perfect, of course, but that's OK.

Especially because the most important benefit he provides Ravens is the ability to slot their offensive lineman in correct positions. If he's motivated, he could be a difference maker.

4. Falcons get mauled
Mea culpa time I guess: the Bears probably won't finish in last place in the NFC North. Ha. Yeah, I predicted that. They still could, and as long as that offensive line is as porous as it was against the Falcons, I'll stick by that prediction.

After all, New Orleans and Green Bay -- Chicago's next two opponents -- are not only good but they're not shy about blitzing heavily. That could mean plenty of Cutler getting tattooed six-and-a-half steps into his drops. If that.

And if Caleb Hanie has to play, the Bears will struggle mightily. But they'll have their defense which, well, yeah, per usual it's the reason the Bears are dominating.

"We still have to play up to the defense's level," Cutler said. "They're still carrying us."

Brian Urlacher and Julius Peppers, in particular, were beasts on Sunday. Peppers picked up two sacks, recovered a fumble and forced another fumble that Urlacher scooped and took the house. And Urlacher himself looked particularly spry, picking up an impressively athletic interception.

I'd still argue that the Bears have the makings of the third-best team in their division, but they are the defending champs and for some reason they will just not go away. Which should mean one or two angry comments from Bears fans every week. Sigh.

5. Living the dream
Many a writer ruthlessly mocked the Eagles this offseason for hogging the headlines, particularly when backup quarterback Vince Young decided to refer to Philly's squad as "The Dream Team."

It's still a stretch and I remain adamant that the metaphor is largely irrelevant for the game of football. (Case: in point, Philly's linebacking corps wouldn't exactly be starting for most other NFL teams.)

But my goodness -- the Eagles are just as explosive as last season, aren't they? LeSean McCoy is so sneakily fast for an every-down back that you don't realize it until re-watching him take the ball around the corner, past a defender and into the end zone.

The defensive line will swarm opposing quarterbacks and obviously the combo of Michael Vick and DeSean Jackson gives the Eagles the ability to score from anywhere. Seeing how Andy Reid operates in a close game going forward will be interesting though -- I saw some chatter about the Eagles running the ball immediately after Vick would get touched.

That pretty clearly, um, is a tell. And even if it's not something the Eagles are going to do every single series, it's something they have think about doing, because exposing Vick to multiple shots in back-to-back instances during games simply won't work if the Eagles want to dominate the way Vince Young expects them to.



6. These are your brother's Cowboys
They are not your father's Cowboys. And they're not even your uncle's Cowboys. These Cowboys like to score frequently and play quite well for about three and a half quarters.

And then things get tight and they choke.

The most disturbing thing about the way that Tony Romo handed the game to the Jets -- a pass intended for a gimpy Dez Bryant that Jessica Simpson could have intercepted, much less Darrelle Revis -- in typical, um, Tony Romo fashion.

As my man Mike Freeman wrote, it's precisely the kind of late-game debacling that causes people to think that Romo can't win big games or even close little games for the Cowboys.

"We win that football game if I don't do what I did," Romo said afterwards.

You simply can't fumble on the one-yard line (when a score would all but guarantee you victory) and then proceed to gift wrap a turnover for the other team when there's less than a minute remaining on the clock and the score is tied.

Going into what eventually turned out to be the final drive, Jason Garrett and Romo need to be on the same page regarding a few things. One, nothing stupid. Two, if you're going to force a pass, then you need to force the pass deep so the Jets don't get a free field goal. And three, nothing stupid.

Look, I get that the Jets used a defense designed to confuse Romo into thinking Dez was in single coverage and therefore force a ball his way. But he has lots of weapons. In fact, I was in the middle of writing how good I felt about my pick of Dallas to the Super Bowl because of their creative defense (Rob Ryan did outstanding work last night with limited manpower) and a high-octane offense so stocked with weapons that Kim Jong-Il is jealous.

All they need is Romo to put it together and stop being the stereotype that people put on him. He was doing all that until the Cowboys got in a position to put a tough road game against another Super Bowl contender on ice and he absolutely melted down.

7. Detroit hope city
Matthew Stafford's been getting pumped up all offseason long -- that he exploded in the preseason didn't help matters much, and that he was overdrafted by most fantasy football players helps even less.

So there were some funny moments in his eventual breakout on Sunday. First there was the early interception -- a pick-six by Aqib Talib -- against Tampa that made everyone realize that there were a lot of eggs in a basket. And no one really knew what the basket was built out of, except that it was probably the most fragile type of straw a man can find.

Then Stafford started going off ... except after his first touchdown pass he began cramping up. (Lots of cramping Sunday in case you didn't notice.) The world collectively held its breath as Stafford was examined on the sideline because, my goodness, it's early to be injured even if you're Stafford.

Instead, the former Georgia standout and No. 1-overall draft pick returned to the game and kept slinging teeters to Calvin Johnson, eventually finishing with 305 yards and three touchdown passes in Detroits 27-20 win over Tampa Bay.

Let's not get out of hand and start giving the Lions a playoff berth quite yet -- they certainly have problems, most notably in the secondary -- but there's reason to be excited for football in Detroit.

As long as Stafford can stay healthy anyway.

8. Rex Grossman is ... not bad?

I know, it's weird, but it might be true. Grossman appeared to be pretty darn competent most of Sunday. He threw for 305 yards on two touchdowns and backed up Mike Shanahan's seemingly inexplicable to name him the starter during the preseason.

It's not that John Beck is such a logical choice, it's just that, well, he's Rex Grossman. It seems to make no sense.

"Any typical kickoff weekend, your emotions are high," Grossman said after the game. "Being it's Sept. 11, 10th anniversary, Colin Powell's in the locker room giving you the pregame speech, and then coming out and the fans are chanting 'U-S-A.' I was overwhelmed. It was a fun day. It's a day I'll never forget."

Let's not get too high on Grossman just quite yet, because the Giants were basically trotting out a practice squad of players on defense after their starting lineup was ravaged by a ridiculous run of injuries during the preseason.

Maybe he is the answer at quarterback and maybe the Redskins could win the NFC East and maybe the Shanahans really are able to turn contaminated water into a Colt 45.

But we've seen Grossman light teams up -- like he did while tossing four touchdowns and 322 yards against Dallas in Week 14 of last year -- and immediately follow it up by laying an absolutely egg. Let's reserve judgment until we see his body of work over the span of a few weeks.

9. Go West, Young Man
We already covered Newton and his impressive rookie performance, but he wasn't the only rookie to have a big impact in Week 1.

Ryan Kerrigan returned an interception for a touchdown to help push the Redskins over the Giants, J.J. Watt terrorized the Colts defensive line, Patrick Peterson returned a punt for a touchdown that proved to be the difference maker against Carolina, A.J. Green caught the go-ahead touchdown pass for the Bengals, Randall Cobb trended on Twitter Thursday night thanks to his holy return, Tyron Smith was big on the line for the Cowboys, and Andy Dalton started out white hot … until Phil Taylor knocked him out of the game.

So yeah, very impressive week -- thus far anyway -- from an impressive group of young NFL players, especially given the shortened time frame they're working on.

10. Injured Rams
Not a great day for Steve Spagnuolo, huh? The Rams were seen by many, including yours truly, as a team on the rise in 2011. They play in a terrible division, they have anchors on both sides of the line, they have a franchise quarterback in Sam Bradford and they easily could have been a playoff team in 2010.

But a number of injuries during Week 1 are a quick reminder of how fragile success is in the NFL.

Steven Jackson pulled his quad which has "lingering" stamped all over it, Danny Amendola dislocated his elbow and could likely be done for the year and most terrifyingly, Bradford hurt his finger.

We don't know precisely what will happen to Bradford, but there was discussion of "nerve damage," which is scary as hell. Bradford downplayed the injury after the game.

"I don't see any way I'm not going to be on the field, to be honest with you," Bradford said.

Well, here's one way: if you're at risk for a bigger injury, the franchise won't let you near the Big Apple, even it's for a matchup against the would-be hapless New York Giants.

Put an APB out for:
Charlie Weis. Because from what I saw of the Chiefs offense on Sunday, they might be missing the guy who turned Matt Cassel into a Pro Bowler, Jamaal Charles into the best running back in the NFL last year, and Dwayne Bowe into a touchdown monster. We've touched on the fact that the Chiefs had a REALLY easy schedule in 2010. That's fine. But the offense has too many weapons to be scoring seven points against the Bills and not consider "If we did X last year and we're doing Z this year and Y isn't there anymore, gee what could be the difference?"

Muffed Punts
Leftovers from Sunday ...
... Anyone ever notice that Rex and Rob Ryan really look like George and Oscar Bluth?
... 49ers punter Andy Lee posted the third-highest average for punts in one game, smoking his 59.6 yards per punt.
... How does Joe Torre -- the Yankees coach during 9/11 -- not let baseball players wear NYPD and NYFD hats?
********

Worth 1,000 Words




Hot Seat Tracker

I'm hoping to have my fancy mathematical formula to track who's most likely to get canned up and running by next week, but in the meantime, we can break down coaches in trouble pretty simply. (That's mainly because of all the first-year head coaches -- it's pretty unlikely we see a lot firings between now and next season.)
  • Tom Coughlin -- Coughlin's got a plethora of injuries to fall back on, so maybe he can buy some more time. But the way the Giants lost to the Redskins Sunday, it's hard to imagine New Yorkers won't continue the annual tradition of calling for Coughlin's head.
  • Todd Haley -- What's worse: showing up for work without wearing pants or getting beat by the Bills 41-7 at home? Gotta be the latter.
  • Jack Del Rio -- Yeah, he won, but we need people to add to this list. Plus, he beat the Titans.
  • Jim Caldwell -- The "Manning Factor" for his job will be fascinating to watch this season.
MVP Watch
Peyton! No, but seriously, in the way-too-early glance at the MVP race, I'll go ahead and throw Philip Rivers out there, since he's fourth in passing yardage right now and the Chargers are 1-0. Also: Michael Vick.

And Ryan Fitzpatrick.

What? It's Week 1.

Posted on: September 11, 2011 9:37 am
Edited on: September 11, 2011 10:38 am
 

Cowboys extend Witten through 2017

Tony Romo keeps one of his favorite targets in Dallas through 2017. (Getty Images)
Posted by Ryan Wilson

The Cowboys signed tight end Jason Witten early Sunday morning to a five-year, $37 million contract extension that includes $19 million in guarantees, according to CBSSports.com Rapid Reporter Nick Eatman. Now one of the NFL's best pass-catching tight ends, and quarterback Tony Romo's go-to guy, is signed through 2017.

Witten hauled in 94 passes for 1,002 yards and nine touchdowns last season, even though Romo was lost for the final 10 games. Just how good were those numbers? According to Football Outsiders, Witten ranked third in total value among all NFL tight ends behind only Antonio Gates and Rob Gronkowski, two players who caught passes from Philip Rivers and Tom Brady all season long.

Last month, the Seahawks signed tight end Zach Miller to a five-year contract worth $34 million, including $17 million in guarantees. By comparison, Miller had 60 catches for 685 yards and five touchdowns a last season with the Raiders. He also ranked 19th in total value, according to Football Outsiders. Of course, Miller played in Oakland, where he was often the only reliable downfield passing option, and he played on a team built around the run.

As for Dallas, there's no reason to think Witten, 29, won't continue to play at a high level. He's had at least 80 catches and 950 yards receiving in each of the last four seasons, and 2011 shouldn't be any different. We'll find out on Sunday night when the Cowboys begin their season against the Jets.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.
Posted on: September 7, 2011 3:27 pm
Edited on: September 8, 2011 4:45 pm
 

Film Room: Jets vs. Cowboys preview

Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit



The Ryan Brothers are about more than oversized mouths and midsections. They’re two of the craftiest defensive scientists in today’s NFL.

Rob, in his first season as Dallas’ defensive coordinator, is hoping to build the same type of confounding defense that his brother has constructed in New York.

That’s a tall order.

The Jets have had two full years of experience in The Ryan System; the Cowboys, thanks to the lockout, have not quite had two months. The Jets also have the luxury of designing coverages around Darrelle Revis, the best shutdown corner since Deion Sanders.

The Cowboys, on the other hand, are just hoping that Terence Newman, who showed signs of decline last season, can recover from a groin injury in time to play. Whether he does or not, the Cowboy corners figure to need safety help Sunday night.

The Cowboys defense will improve under Rob Ryan, but it’s a question of when. The Jets defense, we already know, is ready to go. For this reason, we’ll focus our five key points on Cowboys O vs. Jets D – a matchup that, as you’ll see, drastically favors Gang Green.

1. Selling Out
What Rex Ryan does as well as any coach in football is attack tendencies. In other words, for simplicity sake, say that on second-and-10, data shows that the opposing offense uses play action 75 percent of the time. The Jets, on second-and-10, will employ a defensive tactic that goes all-out towards stopping play action.

This might seem like an obvious move. But a majority of NFL coaches are hindered by fear about that 25 percent chance of getting burned by a non-play action call. Not Ryan. He always looks to feast on an offense’s predictability. That’s one reason his players love him. Worth noting is that last season, the Cowboys often clang to basic personnel formations and had a tendency to be predictable.



2. The Disguise
While it’s true the Jets are one of football’s blitz-happiest teams (especially on third down), it’s a myth that their playbook is thick with myriad blitz designs. In actuality, the Jets use a relatively modest collection of blitz packages. The difference is that they execute these blitzes with a wide variety of personnel. Insiders call this "cross training", when a team has multiple players from multiple positions performing the same techniques. The Jets have nearly mastered it. This versatility is why defenders can roam around before the snap and disguise their looks.

3. The Execution
A lot of Ryan’s pass-rush designs look like blitzes but actually involve only four pass-rushers. Often, the pass-rushers are overloaded to one side. For example, the Jets might place seven defenders on the line of scrimmage (say four to left and three to right).

But when the ball is snapped, three of the four defenders on the left side drop into coverage, while all three defenders on the right side rush. This creates confusion for offenses in pass protection, which results in pass-rushers getting a clear path to the quarterback or being blocked by an overwhelmed running back.

The Jets make great use of a variety of zone exchanges. As our illustration shows, much of the work is done simply with the presnap alignment.

In this alignment, even if three of the four defenders on the left side of the line retreat back into coverage, they still create a pass-rushing advantage for the defense. The very nature of the pre-snap configuration forces the offense to waste blockers on the left side and also creates one-on-one matchups on the right.

Those one-on-one matchups dictate that the running back pick up the outside linebacker, which is a mismatch favoring the defense. On a related note, the running back also has reason to first look left (1. above) immediately after the snap, which makes him a half-beat slower in identifying his actual assignment on the right (2. above).

4. Cowboys Achilles Heal
Pass protection recognition figures to be a bugaboo for the Cowboys – at least early in the season. Two of Dallas’ starting linemen are rookies: first round right tackle Tyron Smith, who, at 20, is the youngest player in the league, and seventh-round left guard Bill Nagy.

What’s more, new center Phil Costa might not be overweight and overpaid like predecessor Andre Gurode, but he’s also not battle-tested. The undrafted second-year pro has played in four games, with just one start that came at left guard. Front line questions are ominous considering Tony Romo has always had some trouble diagnosing blitzes.

The only saving grace in Week 1 is that with Rob Ryan running the Cowboys D, this callow offensive line has had a chance to practice against some of Rex Ryan’s defensive concepts. But we’re still talking about an untested group coming off a shortened offseason and facing one of the most confounding defenses in all of football.

5. A Scintillating Raw Matchup
The ever-fluid Miles Austin figures to be blanketed by Darrelle Revis Sunday night. Thus, the Dez Bryant-Antonio Cromartie matchup takes center stage.

This will be like watching football’s version of a great impromptu dance-off or pickup street ball game. Both players are unrefined but dripping with natural talent and confidence. Bryant’s inexperience figures to limit his route tree; Cromartie’s refusal to use his hands in press coverage drives Jets coaches crazy. But both players have natural game-changing abilities.

So who will win? Check our expert picks for all Week 1 games

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: August 31, 2011 10:34 am
 

Podcast: Top-10 QBs, Power Rankings, Frank Gore

Posted by Will Brinson & Ryan Wilson

Podcast time, kids! And it's the last one before we go full-on with our heavy schedule of talking on the Internet radios during the regular season. So I suggest you get your subscribe on right here.

New season, new name (CBSSports.com's Pick-6 Podcast) and snazzy new art. Yeah, that's how we're rolling.

In the meantime, we debate our top-10 quarterback list if the season started right now (read: Peyton Manning doesn't make it unless you think he's faking), wonder whether Tony Romo can make the jump to an "elite" quarterback, why Will thinks Philip Rivers is better than Drew Brees and what on earth Ryan's doing with Ben Roethlisberger in his top three.

We also debate Pete Prisco's power rankings and then wonder why the 49ers gave Frank Gore so much money.

Conversatin' starts … now (and while we have you, remember to subscribe to the podcast via iTunes). If you can't listen to the podcast below, download it here. And if you'd like to keep working while listening in your browser, pop that puppy out in a new tab here.



For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.
Posted on: August 16, 2011 4:59 pm
 

Tony Romo's bachelor party had hide/seek, no beer

Posted by Will Brinson

Bachelor parties have become a fascinating cultural phenomenon in this country: a pack of men travel to a random city and do ridiculous things. It wasn't always like this and it's still not always like this. Some people, like star NFL quarterback Tony Romo, still take it easy and kick it in a cabin in West Virginia and play hide-and-seek.

Wait, what?



Look, I've got no business criticizing Romo's decisions on his bachelor party. After all, he's got a pretty good life and whatever decisions he's made throughout his time here on Earth have worked out decently alright for him, in terms of making lots of money, becoming really happy, getting to play football and marrying an attractive lady.

(He doesn't have the privilege of doing a daily football podcast that's ranked in the top-50 of Sports Podcasts on iTunes, but, hey, you can't win 'em all.)

That aside, the idea of having 14-15 dudes soberly frolick around a secluded cabin in West Virginia probably isn't everyone's cup of tea. And did the other 14 fellas show up to the cabin and -- understandably -- wonder where the hooch was?

Most importantly: who planned this party, Tim Tebow?

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com