Posted on: October 28, 2011 1:08 pm
Posted by Josh Katzowitz
Without Peyton Hillis in the lineup last week vs. the Seahawks, Montario Hardesty ran 33 times and gained 95 yards, the best-looking stat line in his career.
But Hardesty is probably better off with some help, especially if it’s from the Madden cover boy, but, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, it’s unlikely to come this Sunday.
That’s because it’s looking like Hillis and his balky hamstring probably won’t play vs. San Francisco, making it the second-straight game he won’t be around and the third time in the past five weeks (and that’s not counting his six-carry, 14-yard performance in Week 6).
Hillis was a full participant in Wednesday’s practice, but his hamstring was sore Thursday and prevented him from practicing. Apparently, that soreness has bled into Friday.
In other Cleveland injury news, tight end Ben Watson (concussion) practiced Friday and worked with the starting group, while receiver Mohamed Massaquoi, also coming off a head injury, didn’t practice and probably won’t play.
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Posted on: April 17, 2011 3:38 pm
Edited on: April 17, 2011 3:39 pm
Posted by Andy Benoit
Eye on Football's playing doctor for every NFL team with our Offseason Check-ups.
Another year turned into another rebuilding season for the Browns (it turned out to be the last of three in Eric Mangini’s tenure). Injuries rocked all three mistake-prone quarterbacks (Jake Delhomme, Seneca Wallace and third-round rookie Colt McCoy, who performed OK but was limited to a cliff-noted playbook).
It maybe wouldn’t have mattered anyway, given the paucity of quality receiving options (No. 1 wideout Mohammad Massaquoi improved just enough to pass for being a low-end No. 2, while tight end Ben Watson was the go-to guy by default).
Defensively, the young secondary at times seemed overburdened by the volume of sub-packages in Rob Ryan’s complex system. But often, Ryan’s scheme compensated for shabby pass-rushing resources. The Browns were the only team not to give up 30 points in any of their first 15 games. Still, that wasn’t enough to save Ryan from the coaching staff overhaul in January.
The task of installing a 4-3 scheme is substantial, especially given this team’s prior commitment to the 3-4.
Linebackers Chris Gocong and Scott Fujita and nose tackle Ahtyba Rubin (who will now play more one-gap techniques) are the only players from last year’s team who are truly equipped to operate in a 4-3.
And Gocong never did blossom in Philadelphia’s 4-3. Restocking the defensive line will be the biggest challenge.
1. Defensive End
Marcus Benard is a fantastic athlete who, as an outside linebacker, often played bigger than his 256-pound size suggested. That doesn’t mean the undrafted third-year pro is ready to start – especially given that he’ll be learning how to play with his hand in the dirt. Jayme Mitchell, another undrafted guy, is penciled in on the other side. What does this tell you? The Browns need at least three, and maybe four, defensive ends.
2. Defensive Tackle
Rubin can be an adequate two-down player, even if he’s not a true Pat Williams-like clogger. Brian Schaefering, however, does not get off blocks well enough to play inside. Even if he did, the Browns would still need more one-gap quickness here.
3. Wide Receiver
Very few quarterbacks could succeed with Massaquoi, Brian Robiskie, Chansi Stuckey and Joshua Cribbs as their top four wideouts. Massaquoi is not dynamic enough to create on his own; Robiskie has barely seen the field his first two seasons; Stuckey’s quickness is impressive but best suited for the slot, while Cribbs is simply a gadget player.
Let’s hope new head coach Pat Shurmur is a patient man. The defense that Dick Jauron is installing is not complicated schematically, but it will take at least two years to accumulate the front seven personnel needed to run it.
That’s about how long the offense will take to develop if Shurmur decides that Colt McCoy is indeed the long-term solution for his West Coast system. A third straight 5-11 season seems likely.
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Tags: Ahtyba Rubin, Ben Watson, Brian Robiski, Brian Schaefering, Chansi Stuckey, Chris Gocong, Cleveland Browns, Colt McCoy, Dick Jauron, Eric Mangini, Jake Delhomme, Jayme Mitchell, Josh Cribbs, Marcus Bernard, Mohammad Massaquoi, Offseason Checkup, Offseason Checkups, Pat Shurmur, Rob Ryan, Scott Fujita, Seneca Wallace
Posted on: December 6, 2010 5:50 pm
Posted by Andy Benoit
Tags: Anquan Boldin, Arizona Cardinals, Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens, Ben Watson, Brent Grimes, Brian Urlacher, Buffalo Bills, Carolina Panthers, Chicago Bears, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Dallas Cowboys, Denver Broncos, Derek Hagan, Detroit Lions, Dexter McCluster, Hot Routes, Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars, Jason Campbell, Jason Pierre-Paul, Kansas City Chiefs, LeGarrette Blount, Marshawn Lynch, Matt Ryan, Miami Dolphins, Minnesota Vikings, New Orleans Saints, New York Giants, Oakland Raiders, Peyton Manning, Pittsburgh Steelers, San Diego Chargers, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, Sidney Rice, St. Louis Rams, Stephen Tulloch, Steve Smith, Takeo Spikes, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tennessee Titans, Washington Redskins
Posted on: November 15, 2010 1:41 am
Edited on: November 15, 2010 1:04 pm
Posted by Will Brinson & Josh Katzowitz
1. Garrett does Dallas
Perhaps the weirdest thing about a really weird Week 10 in the NFL was the Dallas Cowboys' not just winning, but flat-out dominating the New York Giants en route to a 33-20 thrashing of the team everyone thought was the NFC's best just a week ago.
But what could have possibly changed in just one week to take the Cowboys from the definitive punchline of the 2010 season and turn them into a dangerous spoiler machine?
"The difference is the freakish disasters that have defined our season didn't happen tonight for us," Jon Kitna said afterwards.
Well, yes, there's that. But where's the Jason Garrett love?!?!? After all, if he can do this in just one week, imagine what he could do in a whole year with a gigantic contract! (At least that's the argument he's likely pushing to Jerry Jones for the rest of this week.)
Garrett clearly makes the Cowboys a better team right now than Wade Phillips did -- simply based on effort alone -- but whether or not he's the long-term answer as a coach for Jones' organization is going to require more than just four quarters of impressive play from the Cowboys.
But Cowboys fans probably shouldn't bask in the glow of a dominating win against a division opponent -- continued success in a lost season will make Garrett all but a lock for the full-time job in 2011, and that would be a shame, particularly with so many excellent coaching candidates out there after the season.
One thing's for sure, though: whoever coaches Dallas next year and beyond is going to have a very special talent in Dez Bryant. The rookie wideout, whose play this year has to make Jones feel less horrible for passing on Randy Moss so many years ago, continued to light up the stat sheet against the Giants. (WB)
2. Dolphins QBs get tossed into the blender
Entering Sunday’s game, the Dolphins knew exactly where they wanted to go with their quarterbacks. Coaches had determined they needed to replace starter Chad Henne with backup Chad Pennington, and though this couldn’t have been easy for Henne, he took his demotion with class and professionalism.
That lasted all of two plays before Pennington dislocated his shoulder and left the game with a ton of money in hand (not the same hand that’s connected to the shoulder he just dislocated. The other hand, obviously). That’s because he got a $3.25 million bonus to play those two snaps (it was an escalator in his contract that had to do with him playing as the starting quarterback), so hey, good for him.
Next up was Henne, who soon left with a knee injury.
That leaves the Dolphins with one healthy quarterback, Tyler Thigpen. All we’ve heard since he was elevated to starter is how unorthodox of a signal-caller he is but, at the same time, how effective he can be. Apparently, he burns the Dolphins first team defense in practice all the time while running the scout team. Apparently, he’s innovative and, if he can limit his mistakes, he could be a real force. That said, 24 hours ago, he was nothing better than a third-string quarterback.
And to be fair, for all of Thigpen’s attributes, he’s 1-10 all time as an NFL starter.
Miami now will have to shop for at least one other quarterback to back up Thigpen, and the Dolphins probably will add two this week. JaMarcus Russell is apparently one option, as is Sean Canfield, Tom Brandsteter, Todd Bouman, Jeff George, Vinny Testaverde, and hell, I don’t know, Randall Cunningham (only Russell, Canfield, Brandsteter and Bouman are legit, by the way). (JK)
3. Do NOT make the Patriots angry
The debate surrounding the Patriots over the past week was "trap game v. crumbling dynasty." Could the Patriots really be looking that far past a former assistant on Bill Belichick's staff in Eric Mangini? Could Randy Moss have been more important than we thought to Tom Brady's success?
Yes and no are the answers to those questions -- and we can all justifiably hop back on the Pats bandwagon after they dismantled the Steelers on Sunday night behind a monster Brady performance that saw him throw for 350 yards, three touchdowns and rush for another. (Interestingly, all three were to rookie Rob Gronkowski and this was Brady's first game over 300 yards this season.)
Belichick may plan well (22-2 after a bye) and New England may never lose back-to-back games (23-3 following a loss), but not many people saw this coming, even if it was in Pittsburgh, where Brady's consistently ripped owned the Steelers franchise and stomped on the collective heart of the fanbase every time he gets a chance (6-1 against them for his career).
This isn't to say that there shouldn't be any hesitation to crown the Pats the best team in the NFL, because there should be. Their defense is still really young (though it's maturing), and there absolutely questions about the offense, but, really, what you should worry about is not playing them when they're angry. "
And if you saw Brady screaming at his offensive lineman, crunching forward for three yards, slamming the ball once he got in the end zone or referring to the game as "emotional" at least 30 times afterwards, you know the Pats played and practiced angry this week. (WB)
4. What else can go wrong in Minnesota?
Wait, wait, don’t answer that. If there is an answer to that, we don’t want to know the answer.
And we’re not even talking about Percy Harvin’s migraines and Sidney Rice’s hip and Bernard Berrian’s groin and John Sullivan’s calf and Adrian Peterson’s ineffectiveness Sunday and … so on and so on.
We’re talking about how Brett Favre somehow came up with another injury he can fight through (he told ESPN that he’s been having shoulder pains that might be related to biceps surgery he had in 2008) and how he threw three interceptions Sunday to go with a fumble and a QB passer rating of 44.5. Not coincidentally, Minnesota lost 27-13 to Chicago to fall to 3-6 on the season.
But obviously, Favre still thinks his squad can make the playoffs. Right, Brett?
"If I had to gauge today I would say no," he said. "I'm not writing us off. But guys are in that locker room as we did right after the game [saying], 'We've got to find a way to turn it around' – all the cliches that go with it, as you would expect. 'We've got to pick it up. We've got to find a way to win.' And I say yes to all of those.
"Can this team make the playoffs? Yes, I'll say yes to that. Will we make the playoffs? I have no idea. No idea. And for anyone in our locker room to think beyond next week, or really beyond today ... we will be watching the playoffs. That's probably a better guess than us making the playoffs. And that's just being honest."
The truth does, in fact, hurt. Whether Vikings owner Zygi Wilf was being completely honest about coach Brad Childress’ continued employment – he told ESPN that he wasn’t considering getting rid of Childress – we’ll just have to wait and see. But you can’t like the sour attitude that continues to waft through Childress’ locker room. Honest or not. (JK)
5. The AFC West just got wilder
The Oakland Raiders cruised into their bye with a three-game winning streak, but it was reasonable to think the Kansas City Chiefs could put some distance in the AFC West standings thanks to a matchup against the defensively incompetent Broncos.
Then a funny thing happened -- Denver watched how the Raiders beat KC the week before, stacked the box early against Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones, and blew out Todd Haley's squad early and often. Late too, for that matter; Josh McDaniels' decision to keep his starters in the whole game didn't exactly sit well with Haley, who refused to shake hands after the game.
What was the long-term outcome of this game? Well, for starters, the AFC West is wide open now. Oakland and KC are both 5-4 and in first, but looming LARGE are the San Diego Chargers at 4-5 and just one game back.
The Bolts are even more terrifying for that division because by the time the second set of divisional games get underway, they'll be in possession of a fully-loaded weapon, as Antonio Gates, Malcom Floyd, Vincent Jackson and Legandu Naanee all (should) return sooner than later.
What might be most weird about this is, given that all eight divisions are completely up in the air at this point, the Chargers might once again represent the team most likely to run away with their division. If they can win their remaining four games against AFC West foes (home-and-home against Denver, home game against Kansas City, home against Oakland), there's a pretty good chance they close the season 6-1 and cruise to another title. (WB)
6. What else can we say about Palmer?
He’s not just average at this point in his career. He’s worse than average. Carson Palmer showed that again in the Bengals 23-17 loss to the Colts. His stats actually don’t look too bad (31 of 42 for 292 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions). But Palmer, as he’s been the past two seasons, is sometimes so inaccurate, it actually feels like a joke. Surely, he can’t be that off. He must be joshing us.
Yet, he threw another pick-6 Sunday, and against a Colts defense missing most of its key players, he simply wasn’t good enough. He’s also not getting enough help from his teammates, particularly Terrell Owens, who seems to quit on a route at least once a game. Too far out of his reach – which, to be fair, happens quite a bit with Palmer – and Owens doesn’t bother going after it or knocking it away from the defender who’s usually ready to make the interception.
Palmer apparently had a pain-killing injection put into his shoulder before the game – the same shoulder that caused him to miss practice Wednesday and Thursday – and it seems clear Palmer isn’t healthy. Perhaps, he hasn’t been healthy in quite a while. Those are the whispers that follow him around, and though he’s always quick to deny that he has long-lasting pain, that could explain why he’s fallen so far from being an elite quarterback to being one that has dropped below the average line. (JK)
7. When playing not to win works
Pretty sure I'll feel like a jerk suggesting this, but the Browns should have played for the tie on Sunday. And yeah, maybe Herm Edwards won't agree, but when Cleveland dialed up a pass on first down with 1:35 remaining in overtime, and Colt McCoy missed Ben Watson, it ended up costing the Browns the game (and, no joke, a chance to at least get back near the playoff race) because they left the Jets 24 seconds on the clock after a punt to their own 37-yard line.
Now, McCoy had already led an amazing drive to close out regulation, so it's fine putting the game in his hands. But in that situation, you really can't play "just to win," because the risk-reward of having to march 60 yards just to have a shot at a game-winning field goal doesn't pan out. Run the ball with Peyton Hillis twice, and maybe play action on third down. Otherwise you end up losing just like the Browns did. (WB)
8. There's a new Smith in town
When we talked to 49ers LB Takeo Spikes recently about his team, he brought up, with no prompting, how quickly the team had taken a liking to QB Troy Smith.
"Just with Troy’s presence," Spikes said. "He’s a guy who’s not only confident in his abilities but he makes everybody feel confident about themselves and what he’s about to do when we step on the field."
You could really see that against the Rams. Smith threw for 356 yards and a TD on just 17 completions, and as the game entered the second half, he looked completely in control and command. This is not how he looked when he was in Baltimore. Maybe it’s something in that San Francisco air. Or maybe it’s the Rice-A-Roni. (JK)
9. Bills get off the schneid
The Bills have been so close on so many different occasions.
They kept New England in sight before falling 38-30 in Week 3. And after taking their bye in Week 6, the heartbreaks really began to pile up.
In Week 7, the Bills gained 505 yards and scored four touchdowns – and took a 24-10 lead against Baltimore, no less – but the game turned for good in overtime when Ravens LB Ray Lewis lifted up Buffalo Te Shane Nelson (not unlike Patrick Swayze hoisting Jennifer Grey into the air) and stripped the ball away. Four plays later, Baltimore kicked the game-winning field goal.
In Week 8, Buffalo forced overtime AGAIN, and AGAIN, the opponent crushed the Bills souls in the final period. Early in overtime, Bills K Rian Lindell actually kicked the 53-yarder that would have given the Bills the win, but Chiefs coach Todd Haley had called timeout just before the snap. On the retry, Lindell hit the upright and it was no good.
And last week, not even a trip to Toronto could change the Bills fortunes. Despite Buffalo leading 19-14 in the fourth quarter, the Bills allowed (of all people) Bears QB Jay Cutler to throw the go-ahead TD pass with 6:41 to go. The Bears could not respond and fell 22-19.
But Sunday … ah, Sunday. A blessed, glorious victory.
So, Buffalo, how did it feel beating the Lions 14-12? This Associated Press lede should tell you the story:
Elated and relieved, guard Eric Wood could not contain himself as he skipped toward the Buffalo Bills’ locker room door.
“Holy cow! We won a game!” Wood yelled, his voice echoing in the tunnel at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
So, yeah, it felt pretty good. Buffalo can thank RB Fred Jackson, who rushed for a season-high 133 yards and scored both touchdowns. And despite the fact Lions QB Shaun Hill led a furious comeback in the final minutes, the Bills defense cracked down during the two-point conversion and Hill was forced to throw it out of the back of the end zone.
Here’s hoping the Bills enjoy this victory. Lords knows they’ve earned it. (JK)
10. Quick Hitters:
****We had two overtime games this week. In an unbelievable upset, CBS’ Gus Johnson wasn’t calling either game. His game actually was decided on a last-second Hail Mary, which allowed him to be at his best while not having to put any extra (unpaid) time into his shift.
****As a result of the Bills winning, the Panthers look like they're in prime position for the first pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. It'll be the first time in franchise history Carolina selects first overall -- the closest they came was No. 2 in 2003, which netted them Julius Peppers instead of David Carr. That worked out okay.
****The Lions are 8-1 this season! Against the spread. Which is actually pretty impressive and probably indicative that they're better than their record indicates. So, that's something, right?
****Amazingly, the 49ers had three of their touchdowns called back because of penalties. And they were impressive touchdowns, too. Unfortunately, they’ve gone to that almost-touchdown heaven in the sky, never to be seen or heard from again.
****Speaking of San Francisco, the team was 0-for-11 on third-down conversions until Rams S O.J. Atogwe was called for pass interference in overtime. Two plays later, the 49ers kicked the game-winning field goal. Who said you have to convert third downs to win?
****Shonn Greene was expected to get more carries this week and he did, making the most out of the 20 times he toted the rock (his second-highest total of the season) and giving a good indication that the's prepping to turn into more of a workhorse for the Jets.
****Know what's weird? People just refuse to talk about the Atlanta Falcons as the best team in the NFL. Even though they have a record to match. That is all.
****Mario Manningham and Ramses Barden looked sharp in the loss to the Cowboys, just proving how deep and talented that WR corps of the Giants is -- if Steve Smith misses significant time, it's obviously problematic, but New York can still score.
****Randy Moss said he had a "bad" day/game in his debut for the Titans. And he's correct, but it was odd that he didn't try and blame someone else, merely pointing out he'd do what was necessary in order to help the team win. But that's usually what he does after his first week in a new location. If this keeps up and the Titans aren't winning, things could change. Quickly.
****Pete Carroll's playcalling is so freaking bizarre. It's one thing that the Seahawks simply can't run the ball without Russell Okung healthy (they can't), but it's another to be chunking the ball left and right across the field with little-to-no time remaining. Oh, and his decision to QB sneak in the red zone resulted in a broken bone for Matt Hasselbeck. It's really going criminally underrated because they're having some success this year.
****Brandon Marshall's temper flared up again Sunday, as he got upset after making a catch and threw the ball into the stands, drawing a penalty. Given that he might be catching passes from JaMarcus Russell soon (no, no seriously), there's a pretty good chance we could be seeing an epic meltdown at some point.
Tags: Ben Watson, Brad Childress, Brett Favre, Buffalo Bills, Carson Palmer, Chad Henne, Chad Pennington, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Colt McCoy, Dallas Cowboys, Denver Broncos, Dez Bryant, Eric Mangini, JaMarcus Russell, Jason Garrett, Jeff George, Jon Kitna, Josh McDaniels, Kansas City Chiefs, Mark Sanchez, Miami Dolphins, Minnesota Vikings, New England Patriots, New York Jets, Oakland Raiders, Rob Gronkowski, San Diego Chargers, San Francisco 49ers, Sean Canfield, Todd Bouman, Todd Haley, Tom Brady, Tom Brandsteter, Troy Smith, Tyler Thigpen, Vinny Testaverde
Posted on: October 18, 2010 3:58 pm
Mike Williams had career-highs in catches (10) and yards (123) for Seattle. Deon Butler, who is essentially replacing Deion Branch, caught all four passes that were thrown to him, including a 22-yard touchdown.
Greg Jennings wanted his role elevated in Green Bay’s offense. The loss of Jermichael Finley made that easy. On Sunday Jennings had six catches for 133 yards and a touchdown. However, he was only targeted seven times.
Former first-round bust and current No. 2 corner Jason Allen got his third interception of the season for Miami.
Since we reported it a few weeks ago, we have to report it again: Aaron Hernandez set a new Patriots franchise record for longest run by tight end. This time he went for 18 yards. Hernandez holds the previous record of 13 yards.
Derrick Mason led the Ravens with eight catches for 100 yards. T.J. Houshmandzadeh caught every ball thrown his way, which left him with two receptions on the afternoon. Housh did at least finish the game with zero public tantrums.
Haloti Ngata was the most dominant player on the field in Foxboro Sunday. The thundering defensive lineman had seven tackles, two sacks, two tackles for a loss and three hits on the quarterback (all of which we’ll assume Tom Brady argued for a flag on).
The Lions fumbled five times but only lost 2.
Asante Samuel, back after missing Week 5 with a concussion, had three pass breakups and a pick against Atlanta.
Ben Watson had his best game as a Brown, catching six passes for 88 yards and a score.
The Browns’ next two leading receivers were tight end Evan Moore (four catches, 84 yards) and running back Peyton Hillis (six catches, 49 yards). Not uncommon to see non-wide receivers leading the way when it’s an untested rookie quarterback making the throws.
Lawrence Timmons is a rising star in Pittsburgh. The fourth-year pro and second-year starting inside linebacker had 11 tackles, two sacks, two tackles for a loss, two QB hits and a pass breakup Sunday.
Dwayne Bowe: 108 yards and two touchdowns. And, as a CBS graphic kindly pointed out, zero drops.
Owen Daniels had his most productive game of the season, catching five balls for 79 yards. Many of Daniels’ catches were the result of play design.
Tamba Hali had zero tackles and zero sacks. We point it out only because the tireless pass-rusher was far more effective than those numbers indicate.
Tim Tebow had six carries for 23 yards and a touchdown. He also had six “crowd quieters” (as in he had to motion for the crowd to be quiet prior to the snap six different times).
Antonio Cromartie held the NFL’s leading receiver, Brandon Lloyd, to four catches Sunday. Cromartie had three pass breakups and three tackles (which means he overcame his greatest fear on three separate occasions).
For the second straight week, Felix Jones got more rushing attempts than Marion Barber. Barber had the better game running, though. He was 5/5 on third/fourth-down-and-one conversions. Jones, however, was better through the air: 10 catches, 61 yards.
Despite using a hurry-up most of the night, the Colts finished the game with four fewer plays (68) than the Redskins (72).
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Antonio Cromartie, Asante Samuel, Ben Watson, BrandonSpikes, Cameron Wake, Derrick Mason, Dwayne Bowe, Greg Jennings, Hot Routes, Jason Allen, Justin Forsett, Lawrence Timmons, Matt Cassel, Michael Jenkins, Mike Wallace, Mike Williams, Owen Daniels, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Tim Tebow
Posted on: September 28, 2010 10:21 pm
Posted by Andy Benoit
In Monday’s Hot Routes, we mentioned that Patriots rookie Aaron Hernandez set a franchise record for longest run by a tight end: 13 yards. We then added, “Eat your heart out Ben Coates…or whoever had the record to begin with.”
Well, on Tuesday, Patriots PR director Stacey James responded to our inquiry and said that the previous record for longest tight end run was held by Benjamin Watson (11 yards).
Can’t imagine many of you care, but we felt obligated to share since James is one of the better PR directors in the league and some poor intern on his staff probably had to spend at least a little time digging up that obscure record.
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