Tag:Barrett Ruud
Posted on: February 29, 2012 12:33 pm
Edited on: February 29, 2012 2:28 pm
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2012 NFL Free Agency: Linebacker Rankings

Fletcher, at 37, might not have many options other than returning to Washington. (US Presswire)
By Josh Katzowitz

Leading up to the start of free agency on March 13, we're compiling the best 2012 NFL free agents by position. These are the linebackers.

While there are a ton of free agent linebackers about to come on the market -- I’ve counted approximately 80 -- there doesn’t seem to be many surefire game-changers in the bunch. London Fletcher, vastly underrated in Washington, is one such player, but other than him, you’ve mostly got solid guys who can be contributors to whichever team signs them.

Some of the better free agent linebackers have been taken off the board already, as D’Qwell Jackson has re-signed with Cleveland while Ahmad Brooks agreed to return to San Francisco. Here are the rest of those who probably will try out their fortunes on the market.

1a. Mario Williams


Breakdown: Though we have Williams as the No. 1 defensive end available, we have to give him some love on the linebacker list, as well. Simply because in Wade Phillips' 3-4 scheme, Williams was an outside linebacker. He only played five games for the Texans last year before tearing his pectoral muscle, but with five sacks, he also proved he can be successful in a 3-4 defense, meaning every team in the league should be thinking about Williams' worth. We thought he might struggle to find his balance in the first year of Phillips' scheme, but, as a linebacker, Williams is pretty damn good also.

Possible Landing Spots: Texans, Jaguars, Seahawks, Titans

1b. London Fletcher


Breakdown: Fletcher is one of those players who, unless you’re paying close attention, somehow seems to rack up the tackle numbers -- and you’re not really sure how. And before you know it, he’s leading the league with 166 takedowns, like last year.  In fact, Fletcher has recorded at least 116 tackles every year since 2001, and he’s started 224-straight games. The problem with Fletcher is that he’s 37, and you have to wonder how long his durability will hold up -- as well as his penchant for making scores of tackles every season. That shouldn’t matter, however, because it sounds like he wants to return to Washington and that the Redskins feel the same way. “We want our captain back,” Redskins general manager Bruce Allen said earlier this month. The feeling apparently is mutual.

Potential Landing Spots: Redskins

Tulloch might be a good fit in Philadelphia because he knows how to play in the wide nine. (US Presswire)

2. Stephen Tulloch


Breakdown: After a solid 2008-10 with the Titans (the dude had 160 tackles in 2010), Tennessee let the Lions take away Stephen Tulloch for 2011. After recording 111 tackles, two interceptions and five passes defended last year, Detroit would like to keep him. It’ll likely cost the Lions much more than the one-year, $3.25 million deal they paid Tulloch last year. More importantly for the Lions, though, is locking up defensive end Cliff Avril, and you have to wonder if the Lions will want to shell out that much money to two defensive players. One good option for Tulloch might be the Eagles. Considering Tulloch played for years with Jim Washburn, who installed the wide nine scheme in Philadelphia last year, Tulloch would be comfortable in that system. Besides, the Eagles linebackers last year were pretty horrible, and Tulloch would be a big upgrade. Wherever he lands, one can only hope that Tulloch gets another chance to Tebow in front of Tebow.

Possible Landing Spots: Lions, Buccaneers, Eagles

3. Anthony Spencer


Breakdown: He’s pretty much the definition of one of those solid linebackers I wrote about before, and the Cowboys don’t fancy losing him to free agency. There has been speculation that the team could place the franchise tag on him, but if not, at least one Dallas reporter has speculated that Spencer could land a Chris Canty-like deal (a six-year, $42 million contract signed in 2009). The Cowboys might be averse to giving him such a long deal, because he hasn’t necessarily lived up to his first-round draft pick expectations. Spencer’s representatives and the Cowboys were scheduled to meet at the scouting combine, and if they can’t come to a long-term agreement, Dallas might just have to grit its teeth and tag him.

Possible Landing Spots:Cowboys, Dolphins

4. Curtis Lofton


Breakdown: For the past three years, Lofton has been a tackling machine, accumulating at least 118 (including 147 in 2011), and it’s clear the Falcons want to re-sign him. But when Atlanta general manager Thomas Dimitroff says that negotiations between the team and Lofton are “amicable,” it strikes kind of a weird tone (or is that just me?). And maybe the Falcons won’t be terrified if Lofton leaves. As the Atlanta Journal Constitution wrote last week, “There’s growing sentiment that he’s a liability against the pass. The question thus becomes: Would you pay $8 million a year for a two-down linebacker?” Lofton might want more than that. Reportedly, Lofton is asking or a four-year deal worth $36 million.

Possible Landing Spots: Falcons, Eagles, Browns

5. David Hawthorne

Breakdown: With Hawthorne, you pretty much know what you’re getting. He’s good for about 110 tackles a season, five passes defended or so, and an interception or three. But it sounds like the Seahawks have a higher priority to sign running back Marshawn Lynch and defensive end Red Bryant than inking Hawthorne to a new deal. Hawthorne is only 26 years old, and he’s solid across the board. But maybe more than most of the other linebackers on the list, there’s not a great chance for him to return to his old team. The one caveat to that: now that Leroy Hill is facing another drug charge, that might open up Seattle’s interest in Hawthorne again.

Possible Landing Spots: Bears, Cowboys, Seahawks

6. Jarret Johnson


Breakdown: The Ravens, at some point soon, might have to make a choice between whether they want Johnson or Jameel McClain (see below) to return to Baltimore for 2012. General manager Ozzie Newsome had said he wants to keep both, but that will be tough for the club to accomplish. So, if you’re Newsome, who is the priority between Johnson and McClain? Well, McClain had more tackles (84-56) last season  but less sacks (Johnson had 2.5 to McClain’s 1), and the Baltimore Sun predicts the Ravens have a better chance of retaining Johnson. He is, though, four years older, which might mean Baltimore will actually go harder after McClain. “I’d like to fit in again here,” Johnson said last month, via the team’s official website. “But unfortunately this is a business and sometimes business decisions [have] got to be made. I hope to be back. I’d love to retire a Raven, but we’ll see.”

Possible Landing Spots: Ravens, Colts

7. Jameel McClain


Breakdown: At 26, McClain is a young talent who likely will command a large salary (moreso than Jarret Johnson (see above)). It doesn’t sound like there’s a great chance for the Ravens to keep him.

Possible Landing Spots: Ravens, Colts, Eagles

8. Honorable Mentions

Unrestricted: Barrett Ruud, Chase Blackburn, Clark Haggans, Joey Porter, Andra Davis, Manny Lawson, Geno Hayes, Wesley Woodyard, Dan Connor

Restricted: Dannell Ellerbe, Aaron Maybin

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Posted on: October 5, 2011 2:37 pm
Edited on: October 6, 2011 4:52 pm
 

Film Room: Steelers vs. Titans preview

Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit


The Tennessee Titans are off to a 3-1 start under first-time head coach Mike Munchak. Are they for real? The Titans have had the good fortune of facing the Jaguars, Broncos and Browns this season – all teams that run a bland 4-3 and suffer from a dire lack of weapons in the passing game. The Titans did, however, defeat a Ravens team that humiliated the Steelers in Week 1.

Which brings us to the next question: how are the Steelers right now? They’re 2-2 but have looked hardly “Steeler-like”. Ben Roethlisberger (sprained foot) is expected to play Sunday, but James Harrison (fractured orbital bone) is out. How serious of a test do the Steelers pose to this minimally tested Titans club?


Here are five keys of the matchup.

Run powers struggling
1. Titans run offense
The natural assumption is that Chris Johnson held out for virtually all of training camp and has therefore been rusty early in the season. An examination of the film reveals that ... this is exactly the case.

Johnson has not shown his usual initial quickness or burst out of the backfield. He’s had a tendency to stop his feet at the first sign of trouble, which is why he’s not creating his own space. These issues were apparent even in his 101-yard performance against the Browns last week.

The fourth-year running back is not the lone culprit for Tennessee’s anemic ground game. Interior linemen Eugene Amano, Leroy Harris and Jake Scott have been inconsistent at times, and right tackle David Stewart seems to have lost a bit of the power that once backed-up his nastiness.

Also, fullback Quinn Johnson is no Ahmard Hall. Hall’s return from suspension this week will be most welcomed – he has great feel and recognition in this Titans offense.

2. Steelers run defense
It ranks 22nd and has looked downright feeble in both losses this season (Week 1 at Baltimore, Week 4 at Houston). The Ravens and Texans both feature a stretch zone rushing attack, which the Steelers have been uncharacteristically poor at defending. James Harrison, coming off back surgery, has not played with the same physicality as past years.

He’s out this game; replacement Lawrence Timmons has superb athleticism but, as a run defender, he’s better equipped for his customary inside position, where he can chase down ball-carriers in either direction. This week, Timmons will have to be an edge-setting outside ‘backer, and against arguably the game’s steadiest left tackle in Michael Roos.

There’s too much history of success to think the Steelers run defense will continue to struggle (though the film through four weeks has often supported the wide-held notion that the Steelers are getting old fast). They have the ultimate X-factor in Troy Polamalu, but the real key to turning things around is at defensive end.

The Steelers’ secret to success is that they’ve always had incredibly active ends who can create chaos in the trenches and allow the linebackers to play downhill. But those ends – Aaron Smith and Brett Keisel, who’s been out the past two weeks with a strained PCL – along with stalwart nose tackle Casey Hampton are also well into their thirties.

Creating big plays: natural vs. manufactured
3. Steelers passing offense (natural)
The Steelers are a pass-first team. It’s been that way for several years now. And it will remain that way as long as Mike Wallace is around. The third-year sensation is the most lethal big-play receiving threat in the game today. He’s DeSean Jackson only with a longer stride.

The Steelers have done an excellent job of designing their route combinations around Wallace. His lifting of the safety is often what allows Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown to get open in the 18-25-yard range. But not everything about Pittsburgh’s passing attack is done through design.

There’s a lot of natural talent driving the force. Much of the production comes from Ben Roethlisberger’s incredible ability to not only extend the play, but make accurate throws downfield off that extension (there isn’t a better off-balance, improvisational passer in all of football).

The key to stymying Big Ben’s improve is to get to him with multiple pass-rushers. It’s hard enough getting just one pass-rusher to a quarterback, but the Steelers’ offensive line is porous right now. The Texans swarmed Roethlisberger by blitzing inside, which crowded his sight lines (thus making him break down earlier than usual) and forced shaky offensive tackles Trai Essex and Marcus Gilbert to work one-on-one.

4. Titans passing offense (manufactured)
A bulk of Matt Hasselbeck’s passing yards have stemmed from big plays that were well-crafted and called against the perfect defensive look (the best of many examples: receiver Damian Williams setting a pick against Cleveland’s man coverage that left Nate Washington wide open for a 57-yard game).

These kinds of plays are fine – it’s what good coaching and preparation are all about – but they can only carry you so far. At some point, you need a threat like Mike Wallace to build around. The Titans had such a threat before Kenny Britt tore his ACL.

5. Injuries impacting outcome
If the Titans can’t find their run game, they’re in trouble. The Steelers, even without James Harrison, have a far stronger pass-rush than the Jaguars, Broncos or Browns. The Titans handled the Ravens’ potent pass-rush well in Week 2, but they were able to build their aerial attack around Britt. Britt’s replacement, Nate Washington, isn’t that type of receiver – especially against a top-tier cover corner like Ike Taylor.

Running the ball could be equally important for the Steelers. With Roethlisberger less than 100 percent and the front five hurting, Pittsburgh’s best bet might be to challenge the Titans inside. Defensive tackle Jurrell Casey has been outstanding against the run, but center Maurkice Pouncey has the technical aptitude to temper Casey’s raw power. On Pouncey’s left, guard Chris Kemoeatu is arguably the best pulling blocker in the game. The Steelers should relish opportunities to get him on finesse middle linebacker Barrett Ruud.

Of course, putting a dent in Pittsburgh’s ground game is the fact that Rashard Mendenhall left last week’s contest with a hamstring injury. Isaac Redman, the spotlight could be on you.

So who will win? Check our NFL Week 5 expert picks for all the games

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: July 7, 2010 12:21 pm
Edited on: July 7, 2010 12:37 pm
 

Position rankings: inside linebackers

P. Willis celebrates (US Presswire) Josh Katzowitz and Andy Benoit resume their debate, with today’s focus on inside linebackers.

Josh Katzowitz’s top five

5. Jonathan Vilma, Saints

4. London Fletcher, Redskins

3. Ray Lewis, Ravens

2. Brian Urlacher, Bears

1. Patrick Willis, 49ers


Unlike our 3-4 and 4-3 outside linebackers list – which, frankly, weren’t easy to put together, because there just aren’t many stars at those positions – we’ve hit a motherload of talent at the inside linebackers spot. 

Willis seems pretty clear cut to me. He has the phenomenal statistics, he’s proven he can play the run and the pass equally well, and he’s still only 25. He’s going to be a dominant linebacker years into the future. It’s hard to believe Urlacher has been in the league since 2000. His 2008 season was unimpressive (by his standards), and he didn’t play most of last year. But is he still a top-two ILB? Yes.

Lewis is still very, very good. But he’s lost a step, and he’s not quite as feared by offensive coordinators as he once was. Notice the “not quite.” He can still rush a passer, and he still clogs up the middle of the Ravens defense, but he’s not a machine anymore and he has a tougher time in pass coverage. Though Fletcher is 35, he’s coming off one of his better seasons and he finally made his first Pro Bowl last year. Vilma racks up the statistics, in part because he’s easily the best LB on the team. But without him, the Saints might not have won the Super Bowl.

Andy Benoit’s top five

5. DeMeco Ryans, Texans

4. London Fletcher, Redskins

3. Ray Lewis, Ravens

2. Brian Urlacher, Bears

1. Patrick Willis, 49ers


I figure our editors wouldn’t appreciate me responding to your top five with a simple “ditto," but what more can be said? I’d love to debate you about Urlacher – I’m sure more than a few readers will disagree with us – but I think his instincts are second to none. I’ve heard of a few players around the league privately criticizing Urlacher’s toughness – word is he’d would rather side-step a lead blocker than attack him square on – but I simply haven’t seen that on film.

I have no problem with Vilma being top five. I chose to go with Ryans because I thought he finally made more tackles near the line of scrimmage last season. Of course, I realize Ryans had better players around him and didn’t lead his defense to the postseason.

What’s most impressive about Willis is the way he’s improved in coverage. That was a weakness for him as a rookie. He also made more big plays in the backfield last year.

Fletcher and Lewis are machines. It’s remarkable the way they make their teammates better.

Since we’re in agreement here, want to expand to top eight? My next three ILB’s are: 6. Jerod Mayo (struggled with injuries last season but was, in my opinion, the best inside linebacker in all of football as a rookie in ’08) 7. Bart Scott (arguably the most versatile inside ‘backer in the game) and 8. David Harris (a thumper against the run). I’d put Vilma at 10, though again, tell me he’s five and you won’t get a very passionate debate.

Josh’s rebuttal

I really don’t see how one can argue at this point that Urlacher is better than Willis. Urlacher is on the downside while Willis continues to climb. The only question I have: will Willis consistently reach the level at which Ray Lewis has played for so many years as one of the best middle linebackers of all time? Time will tell. I accept your top eight challenge. 6. Ryans (I like him too, especially because his physical tools aren’t that great – he’s not big, and he’s not all that fast. He just makes plays). 7. Barrett Ruud (he disrupts plays in the middle of the field and has consecutive 135-plus tackle seasons). No. 8 Curtis Lofton (He has a chance to be a star, and the foundation for the Falcons defense. He hits hard and does well vs. the run and the pass.) I’ll reserve judgment for Mayo until after this season, but I agree that he’s a top-10 guy.

Andy’s final word

Okay good, we’ll get a debate here after all. I’m sick of everyone cramming Barrett Ruud down our throats. Ruud is nothing more than an average player (and I hesitate to even honor him with that distinction). He isn’t physical at the point of contact, he lacks ideal speed and agility, and his instincts are good but not great. I don’t understand how the middle linebacker for the league’s worst run defense (Tampa Bay allowed 158.2 yards per game on the ground last year) can get so much love. Yes, Ruud makes tackles, but most of them are miles downfield. There’s a reason the Bucs haven’t given him a long-term contract.

Feel free to argue back (we got away with going past the “final word” in the 3-4 outside linebackers debate, we can push the envelope again). I’m curious what kind of specifics a Ruud supporter can drum up.

Josh’s rebuttal to the final word


Your criticism of Ruud not doing much more than tackling runners downfield is not a new one. Ruud hears it as well. From a recent St. Petersburg Times story: "I read that I make all of my tackles seven yards downfield. But a lot of times, a tackle seven yards downfield is a great tackle, because you can keep a guy from going 60 yards. When I evaluate the great linebackers of the NFL, I see a lot of guys making tackles seven yards down the field. They're making a great play when a guy looks like he's about to break it outside.''

You might say that’s a cop-out, but he tells the truth there. Sometimes, it’s not about making the fabulous play that will get you on a highlight show. Sometimes, it’s about stopping the other guy from doing so.

The argument of not giving him a long-term deal holds no water with me, because of the impending lockout and the fact that hardly anybody is getting long-term deals this year. And now that the Buccaneers have made a commitment to their defense by drafting DT Gerald McCoy and Brian Price, that only will help Ruud – who, as I said, does a nice job causing havoc in the middle of the field even without the help of a defensive line who can disrupt a play up front. Plus, coach Raheem Morris calls him “The General.” That’s a pretty sweet nickname.

Andy’s final, final word

If Ruud is “The General”, he’s a lot more McChrystal than Petraeus. The Bucs denied Ruud’s contract request last year, even though they were well under the salary cap and focusing on securing young building blocks. Sure, a tackle downfield is certainly better than no tackle at all. But the reality is this topic never comes up with the Ray Lewis’s, Brian Urlachers, Patrick Willis’s and perhaps even James Farriors of the world. Again, the Buc run defense that Ruud spearheaded last season ranked dead last.

(Other positions: Safety | Cornerback | 3-4 Scheme Outside Linebacker | Punter  | Kicker | 4-3 Scheme Outside Linebacker )

--Josh Katzowitz and Andy Benoit

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter.


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