Tag:BenJarvus Green-Ellis
Posted on: February 23, 2012 9:05 am
Edited on: February 23, 2012 10:28 am
 

2012 NFL Free Agency: Running back rankings

Players are willing to get the franchise tag if it means a long-term deal is in their future. (Getty Images)

By Ryan Wilson

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 running backs.

1. Ray Rice

Breakdown: Ray Rice told CBSSports.com back in October that "I think the Ravens are going to do the right thing … with the contract situation, I'll leave it in their hands." As it stands, Rice is a free agent. And it appears that while the Ravens may eventually "do the right thing" and sign him to a long-term contract (though almost certainly nowhere near Adrian Peterson-type money), the short-term plan is to franchise him. At 25, Rice hasn't yet reached his prime, which is all the more reason the Ravens should find a way to keep him in Baltimore for the next five years.

NFL Draft prep
The problem, of course, is that running backs are fungible. We've beaten this dead horse beyond recognition but it's worth repeating: teams can find relatively productive backs for little money. Knowing that, it doesn't make sense to use a non-trivial part of the salary cap to pay running backs, even those well above replacement level. It's why were were adamant last summer that the Titans shouldn't pay Chris Johnson. (They did and he was underwhelming in 2011, rushing for 1,047 yards -- 4.0 YPC -- and four touchdowns.)

That said, Rice isn't your typical back. In addition to his ability to run the ball, he's also a dangerous pass catcher. How dangerous? He led Baltimore in receptions in 2011 (76), was second behind Anquan Boldin in 2010 (63), and first in 2009 (78). For all the talk about Joe Flacco wanting a new deal, the Ravens' offense goes through Rice.

Potential landing spots: Ravens. That's it. If he gets away, Baltimore deserves whatever fate awaits them. Rice fits any system but is especially dangerous when he's utilized. That seems obvious but it's something offensive coordinator Cam Cameron forgot at various points during the 2011 season.

2. Matt Forte

Breakdown: Forte missed the final month of the 2011 season with a knee injury but it won't have any impact on what the Bears think he's worth. They have no plans to let him hit free agency -- earlier this month team president Ted Phillips said, "We'd like to (work out a long-term deal). But as (new GM) Phil (Emery) pointed out we obviously will at least consider placing the franchise tag on him. We don't have any intention of letting Matt hit the open market. We'll sit down with him privately, Phil will, and discuss what the plans are prior to the Feb. 20 franchise tag date."

And while #paydaman was the Twitter meme of the '11 season for Forte, he seems amenable to the franchise tag if it leads somewhere beyond a one-and-done deal.

"It depends on the motive of (the franchise tag)," Forte said a few days after Phillips' comments above. "If they are doing the franchise tag just to get more time in order to negotiate a long-term deal, then I would be OK with it. But if it's just to hold me another year and just, 'Let's throw some money at him right now to keep him quiet,' that's not going to solve anything."

Plus, with offensive coordinator Mike Martz gone and Mike Tice named as his replacement, the offense shouldn't require six weeks to find its rhythm. Ideally, a healthy mix of pass and run will keep Cutler upright and the Bears competitive in the NFC North. Forte, clearly, is a big part of that.

Potential landing spots: The Bears have no intentions of letting Forte get away, but like Rice, he'd fit in pretty much any offense. He's a capable pass-catcher and north-south runner.

3. Arian Foster

 Foster wants to stay in Houston '100 percent' (Getty Images)
Breakdown: Foster told CBSSports.com at the Super Bowl that he "100 percent" wants to be back with the Texans and it sounds like the Texans 100 percent want him back.  As of early January, the two sides hadn't made progress on a new contract, and like Forte, Foster doesn't seem averse to the franchise tag if it means a long-term deal is in his future. Unlike Forte, Foster is a restricted free agent, which means the Texans have the option to sign him to a tender offer, which would be much less than the one-year franchise-tag value of $7.7 million.

Could the Texans' offense survive without Foster, the 2010 NFL rushing leader? Yeah, sure. They still have Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson, Owen Daniels and Ben Tate. But Foster is only 25, and he's played on an undrafted free agent's salary the last two seasons. He's certainly outperformed his previous deal, now it's up to Foster's agent and the organization to find some middle ground.

Potential landing spots: The Texans. The franchise tag guarantees that other teams won't even get a shot at landing him. That said, he'd fit perfectly in the Redskins' scheme (they run virtually the same offense as the Texans, just with less talented players).

4. Marshawn Lynch

Breakdown: In the wacky world of Pete Carroll, trading a second-rounder for Charlie Whitehurst makes sense. So too does signing Tarvaris Jackson. To Carroll's credit, he said "thanks but no thanks" when his Heisman-winning quarterback during his USC days, Matt Leinart, was dumped by the Cardinals. And he had something to do with bringing Marshawn Lynch to Seattle for a 2011 fourth-rounder and a 2012 fifth-rounder. Lynch carried the Seahawks to a playoff win over the Saints in 2010, and rushed for 12,04 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2011.

Lynch was Seattle's most consistent offensive weapon last season (this explains the Peyton Manning scuttlebutt) and earlier this week the word on the street was that the team was in "deep" contract talks with Lynch and would consider using the franchise tag if the two sides couldn't reach an agreement.

We're not sure that's the best use of resources for an offense with plenty of issues. Unlike the Ravens, Bears and Texans -- all teams with top-15 quarterbacks -- the Seahawks might want to take that $7.7 million they'd use on Lynch and address other needs (quarterback, wide receiver, or a couple running backs, for example).

Potential landing spots: Seahawks, Bengals, Jets, Redskins

5. Michael Bush

Breakdown: Darren McFadden played in just seven games last season but the Raiders' rush offense still ranked 11th in the league, according to Football Outsiders. Much of that was due to Michael Bush, who ran for 977 yards (3.8 YPC) and seven touchdowns, and added 418 yards receiving.

Still, despite his '11 success, when training camp begins, McFadden will be atop the depth chart. Running backs-by-committee are en vogue so it's reasonable to think that Bush will get plenty of work but he wants to be a starter (likely because it comes with starter money). And for that reason, the Contra Costa Times' Steve Corkran wrote last week that Bush might prefer the franchise tag to a long-term deal. Corkran pointed out that new general manager Reggie McKenzie has a knack for developing running backs, which could mean that Bush will be elsewhere next season.

Potential landing spots: Bengals (former Raiders coach Hue Jackson is an assistant there), Buccaneers, Redskins

6. BenJarvus Green-Ellis

Breakdown: ESPN.com's Mike Reiss broke down Green-Ellis' situation nicely last week: "The view from here is that the Patriots would like Green-Ellis to return and have a price in mind. The question then becomes if that price is attractive enough that it sparks Green-Ellis to sign before hitting free agency."

Free agency starts March 13. There will be a glut of running backs on the market and there's no promise that Green-Ellis will get more in free agency than he would from the Pats. It's more likely that New England will offer something less than market value because a) they typically handle the salary cap well, and b) they'll sell it as "we're a winner, if you go elsewhere you'll be in rebuilding mode."

And then there's c): the Pats drafted two running backs last April -- Shane Vereen in Round 2, Stevan Ridley in Round 3 -- and should they not be able to re-sign Green-Ellis they'd have plenty of depth at the position (something they seem oddly incapable of at wide receiver). As always, as long as Tom Brady is on the field, the Patriots will have a good chance to win. It would be nice to have Green-Ellis behind him but New England's offense will survive either way.

Potential landing spots: Patriots, Chiefs (Scott Pioli's the GM)

7. Cedric Benson

Breakdown: It's seldom players go to Cincinnati to revitalize careers but Benson isn't your typical NFL running back. The Bears' former No. 4 pick in 2005, he was considered a bust until he joined the Bengals in 2008. He rushed for 1,251 yards in 2009, 1,111 in 2010 and 1,067 last season.

This offseason, the organization has talked about getting backup Bernard Scott more touches next season. Benson, meanwhile, has taken to publicly calling out the Bengals -- not the best negotiating strategy.

“We didn’t stick on what the offense was built on," Benson said during an appearance this week on SiriusXM. "When we had Carson and Chad we kept a strong identity in the run game and we kind of got away from it and didn’t let that part of the offense grow and bit the bullet on it a little bit.”

As for Benson's future in Cincy, we think this comment pretty much says it all: “I’m not sure [where things stand]. We haven’t had any talks about a new deal.”

Last offseason, the organization dumped Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco, drafted A.J. Green and Andy Dalton and made the playoffs. The in-with-the-new personnel philosophy will apparently continue this offseason, too.

Potential landing spots: Benson's skills have diminished to the point that he's probably not worth more than a veteran minimum deal. Given his baggage, it makes more sense for a team looking for running back depth to sign a young player.

8. Peyton Hillis

Cleveland wants to keep Hillis? (Getty Images)
Breakdown: Whether Hillis was a victim of the Madden curse (he thinks he was) or he just got really bad really fast, the fact remains: he cost himself a lot of money in 2011. Hillis was traded from the Broncos to the Browns for Tim Tebow's No. 1 fan, Brady Quinn, and Hillis rushed for 1,177 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2010. He played in just 10 games last season, rushing for 587 yards and three scores.

Not good. Not good at all.

There were concerns during the season that Hillis let his impending contract negotiations affect his decision to play. As you might expect, that didn't go over well with teammates or fans. Still, the Browns said last month that they want Hillis back after he "worked his way into the team's good graces" over the final six weeks.

A source tells the Cleveland Plain Dealer's Mary Kay Cabot that the organization might even consider franchising (!) Hillis if they come to terms with linebacker D'Qwell Jackson. That sounds, well, silly but then again, we're talking about the Browns.

Potential landing spots: Browns, Patriots (where derailed careers get back on track), Broncos (two Tebows, one backfield)

9. Ryan Grant

Breakdown: The team appeared to favor James Starks but he's had trouble staying on the field. In 2011, Grant had 14 starts and rushed 134 times for 559 yards and two touchdowns. Not particularly noteworthy, but then again, he played in Aaron Rodgers' offense. He'll be 30 in December and while he rushed for more than 1,200 yards in 2008 and 2009, an ACL injury sidelined him for all but one game in 2010.

Earlier this month, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Rob Reischel wrote that "Packer general manager Ted Thompson won't make a heavy investment in a running back Grant's age… So Grant will test free agency, and he is unlikely to return unless there's little interest on the open market."

Grant seems to understand the situation. "We'll see," he said. "I know I have a lot left. I think I showed that at the end of the year here. Would like to be back . . . but we'll just have to see."

Potential landing spots: Teams looking for running back-by-committee members willing to play for the veteran minimum. Barring injuries, not sure there will be much of a market.

10. Honorable Mention

Unrestricted free agents: Mike Tolbert, LaDainian Tomlinson, Kevin Smith, Thomas Jones

Restricted free agents: LeGarrette Blount, Isaac Redman, LaRod Stephens-Howling

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Posted on: February 6, 2012 12:04 am
Edited on: February 6, 2012 5:38 am
 

Gronkowski had little impact for Pats

Chase Blackburn comes down with an interception in front of Rob Gronkowski. (AP)
By Josh Katzowitz

INDIANAPOLIS -- Rob Gronkowski played as much and as well as most people could have guessed. He played but almost certainly was not 100 percent healthy. He didn't have much of a role in the passing offense. He was used mostly as a decoy and as a blocking tight end. And in the end, his impact on the Patriots' 21-17 loss to the Giants was minimal.

If we weren't wondering about how his ankle -- only two weeks after he suffered a high ankle sprain in the AFC title game -- we probably wouldn't have noticed Gronkowski at all. Basically, he was a shell of the man who accomplished so much this year and who put together arguably the best-ever season for an NFL tight end.

During the season, he caught 90 passes for 1,327 yards and 17 touchdowns. On Sunday in Super Bowl XLVI, Gronkowski was targeted only three times and caught two passes for 26 yards. He blocked on running plays, but mostly, he was invisible.

"I was good," Gronkowski said. "I was 100 percent out there doing everything they asked me to do."

Fair enough, but obviously the Patriots didn't ask him to do much. Which was probably appropriate, considering Gronkowski didn't practice the week after the AFC title game and didn't practice Wednesday or Friday before the Super Bowl. He was limited on Thursday, so the game plan for Gronkowski probably was small.

Giants 21, Patriots 17
Still, he had a chance to make a big play early in the fourth quarter as the Patriots tried extending their 17-15 lead. Tom Brady avoided the pass rush at midfield and launched a pass deep downfield, intended for Gronkowski. But the ball was badly underthrown, and Gronkowski couldn't get around Giants linebacker Chase Blackburn to prevent the interception.

"We were in a defense where I had to carry him vertical all the way down the field," Blackburn said. "[Brady] had a lot of time ... and he just threw it up for grabs. I finally found the ball. I just tried to box [Gronkowski] out and go up and get the ball.”

Maybe if Gronkowski's ankle were OK, he would have had a chance at catching the pass. Maybe he would have had a greater impact in the game, like fellow tight end Aaron Hernandez, who led the team with eight catches for 67 yards and a touchdown. But that's not who the Patriots had Sunday. His ankle allowed him to play, but it didn’t allow him to be the player you normally see.

"We don’t make excuses," running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis said. "We didn't win the game today, and that's it."

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Posted on: January 11, 2012 2:40 pm
Edited on: January 11, 2012 9:40 pm
 

Film Room: Patriots vs Broncos divisional preview

Will Gronk get his Gronk on this time around? (Getty Images)
Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit

It was assumed the Patriots would draw a rematch in their divisional round playoff opener. However, most figured that rematch would be of their Week 8 bout with Pittsburgh, not their Week 15 bout with Denver.

Here’s the breakdown of what could turn out to be the highest-rated divisional round Saturday night game of all-time.


1. New England’s plan for Tebow
Something to keep in mind is the Steelers had a sound gameplan last week, playing man coverage and using a tepid pass-rush to ensure that Tim Tebow stayed in the pocket. What the Steelers didn’t count on was Demaryius Thomas being able to get by Ike Taylor and Tebow being able to pull the trigger on downfield throws. Those two young ’10 first-rounders both had career days.

The Patriots might bet that the two youngsters can’t do it again.

On the one hand, that’s a smart bet given that Thomas and Tebow were inconsistent all season (Tebow especially). On the other hand, it’s foolish given that cornerback Kyle Arrington – who would draw the Thomas matchup, as Thomas almost always lines up on the favorable side of the left-handed Tebow – is not half the cover artist Ike Taylor is, and given that logic says if Tebow can win against the man coverage of the league’s best pass defense, he can surely win against the man coverage of the league’s worst pass defense.

In the last meeting, the Patriots played predominant Cover 3 in the first half:

The Broncos had success throwing skinny posts to Tebow’s left against the Patriots Cover 3 defense in the last meeting. Cover 3 is what you’d guess it is: three defensive backs each responsible for a third of the field. Because there is so much field to cover, the outside defensive backs often play man-to-man concepts (as Devin McCourty is doing on the right side). Cover 3 is something defenses play when they blitz or when they want to force a quarterback to throw (it’s the default zone coverage behind an eight-defender box).

In this example, the Patriots were clearly baiting Tebow to throw. Notice there are only five rushers (which is hardly a blitz considering Denver has seven guys in pass protection – the idea was to keep Tebow from scrambling). Also notice how linebacker Dane Fletcher has his back to the quarterback and is running towards the left passing window. (Fletcher was late getting there; Tebow did a good job recognizing the coverage and getting the ball out quickly. The result was a 22-yard completion to Eric Decker.)

The Broncos used great routes for beating this anticipated coverage, but Tebow was unable to connect on some of the throws.

Still, throws against Cover 3 are easier than throws against quality press-man, as long as the pass protection holds up. Denver’s protection was tremendous last week.

If tackles Ryan Clady and Orlando Franklin (who may need some help on the right side) can keep speed-rusher Mark Anderson at bay, the Broncos will be golden. (Keeping a backup like Anderson at bay may not sound difficult, but the former Bear was actually very disruptive in the last meeting.)

2. Stop the run!
The Patriots gave up 167 yards rushing in the first quarter of the Week 15 contest. They wound up winning the game handily, but they were on the fortuitous side of a few fumbles.

Common sense says you can’t bank on having success with such porous run defense. The issue last game was outside linebacker Rob Ninkovich’s inability to set the edge and the defensive line’s inability to prevent the Bronco linemen from contacting inside linebackers. This was a problem both with New England’s 3-4 and 4-3 fronts.

Nose tackle Vince Wilfork must stand out more this time around. The Broncos will be willing at times to block him one-on-one with J.D. Walton. The second-year center has been up-and-down (in a good way) handling tough solo assignments against nose tackles down the stretch this season. He was phenomenal against Antonio Garay of the Chargers in Week 12 but had been just so-so the previous week against Sione Pouha of the Jets. In Week 15 he held his own against Wilfork, but in Week 16 he got schooled by Marcell Dareus.
 
If Walton has a strong game, the Broncos can pound the rock inside. If he struggles, Denver’s at least capable of getting to the perimeter, though they’ll miss the fervid blocking of wideout Eric Decker.

3. Defending the Patriots tight ends
Greg Cosell, executive producer of the NFL Matchup Show, did an excellent job breaking down the Week 15 film back in December. Cosell wrote that the Broncos focused their coverages on Rob Gronkowski, successfully disrupting his timing by hitting him at the line of scrimmage.

However, that left fourth-round rookie safety Quinton Carter on Aaron Hernandez. Carter, like the rest of Denver’s safeties, is not great in man coverage, which Hernandez proved by posting what were at the time his career highs in catches (nine) and yards (129).

Though still a little green as a route runner (particularly against zone), Hernandez has the movement skills of a wide receiver. The Broncos may choose to defend him with rising rookie nickel back Chris Harris. That would leave safeties and linebackers to cover Gronkowski.

Defensive coordinator Dennis Allen may figure he can get away with that as long as coverage linebackers Wesley Woodyard and D.J. Williams are once again physical with the second-year superstar.

The Patriots’ counter to this would be splitting Gronkowski into a slot receiver position (likely in a spread 2 x 2 or 3 x 2 set), where he could line up a few yards off the line and operate against an overwhelmed defender in space. Even if the Broncos decided to sacrifice their run defense by going with dime personnel against the two tight ends, they still would be overmatched.

After all, just because Jonathan Wilhite is a corner doesn’t mean he can cover Gronkowski. This is the problem New England’s offense poses, this is why the Patriots are the No. 1 seed.

4. If lightning strikes twice ...
As the tight end analysis just suggested, the Broncos are faced with a very serious matchup problem that can only be solved by their players rising up and doing things no one thought they could do. It’s improbable, but as Denver’s offense showed last week, not impossible.

So let’s say for the sake of extra analysis that the Broncos can stop Gronkowski and Hernandez with their inside pass defenders. That leaves outside corners Champ Bailey and Andre Goodman on Wes Welker and Deion Branch (who did not play in the last matchup).

If the Broncos want to avoid the matchup problems that New England’s flexible formations create (such as Welker working against a linebacker in the slot), they’ll have to play man-to-man, with Bailey assigned on Welker and Goodman on Branch. Those aren’t bad matchups for either side – it would come down to who executes better (general rule of thumb, over the course of 60 minutes, put your money on the offense).

What we’re not considering is New England’s ability to run the ball. They’re not known for that, but against nickel or dime defense, they’re capable of controlling the game the old fashioned way.

Danny Woodhead has great lateral agility. BenJarvus Green-Ellis is a steady, highly professional runner. Of course, he may lose snaps to the more dynamic Stevan Ridley, a third-round rookie who has come on as of late. The Patriots have an excellent run-blocking front five with LG Logan Mankins being a premier puller, RG Brian Waters a shrewd playside anchor, LT Matt Light a crafty angles-creator (including at the second level) and RT Nate Solder a ridiculous athlete out in front.

5. Broncos pass-rush slowing down?
Pass-rush pressure is always a prerequisite for beating Tom Brady. Lately, the Patriots have nullified it with an increased emphasis on three-and five-step drops. Brady is especially sharp at this when working out of an empty backfield.

The Broncos have not had the most fervid pass-rush the last month anyway. They sacked Brady just twice in Week 15. They got Ryan Fitzpatrick just once the next week and Kyle Orton once in the season finale. They got to Ben Roethlisberger in the wild card round but that’s a product of Roethlisberger’s style of play. Denver’s pass-rush did not control the flow of last Saturday’s game. Von Miller has had just one sack since his first game back from a thumb injury (December 11 at Minnesota) and has been less explosive playing with a cast.

So who will win? Check our NFL expert picks for all divisional-round games

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: October 12, 2011 9:43 am
Edited on: October 12, 2011 10:51 am
 

Eye on Football NFL Awards: Week 5



Posted by Will Brinson

Every week, our NFL experts will hand out the Eye on Football hardware to the best of the best from the NFL week that was.

Week 5 NFL Awards
Expert Offense Defense STeams Coach
Freeman     Cutler  Rogers  Janikowski  Harbaugh
Prisco     Best  Wilson  Novak  Jackson
Brinson Green-Ellis  Allen  Janikowski  Frazier
Katzowitz  R-berger  Wilson  Janikowski  Harbaugh
Wilson  R-Berger  Barnett  Janikowski  Schwartz
Week 5's in the books and so are our ballots -- let's recap exactly why people won what they won.

Jay Cutler got a vote because even though he lost, the Bears offensive line is embarrassing. But Ben Roethlisberger, who plays behind an inept line as well, got more votes for his ability to play through injury and do what Ben do.

On defense, beating the Eagles is still considered impressive apparently, because George Wilson (and Nick Barnett) were mentioned the most and pick up our Eye on Defense awards.

Sebastian Janikowski, aka the Polish Cannon, was nearly a unanimous selection for Eye on Special Teams -- he was one Nick Novak vote away from sweeping the award this week, and it's understandable given he bombed three fifty-yard field goals.

For Eye on Coaching, things were much different -- Hue Jackson was the emotional favorite heading in, but Jim Harbaugh's business-like beatdown of the Bucs garnered him enough support to pick up the award.

Leave your votes in the comments below or scream angrily at us on Twitter @EyeOnNFL.

Eye on Offense Award
Mike Freeman Ryan Wilson
Jay Cutler Jay Cutler, QB, Bears
He didn't the win game. His statistics weren't great but it's rare to see a quarterback get the living hell beat of him like that and keep fighting. Fighting. That's not a word commonly associated with Cutler especially since half of league went on Twitter and trashed his toughness during that debacle of a playoff game last season. The only guy I saw get beat up more was Mark Sanchez against Baltimore. Cutler and Matt Forte almost single-handedly kept the Bears in the game.
Darren McFaddenBen Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers
It took a sprained left foot to the franchise quarterback and injuries up and down the roster, but the Steelers' offense -- and Roethlisberger -- looked crisp and efficient against the Titans. Big Ben finished with five touchdowns, and 24 of 34 passing, with many of the completions coming on three-step drops. Funny how that works.
Pete Prisco Will Brinson
Jahvid Best Jahvid Best, RB, Lions
Best ran for163 yards on 12 carries, including an 88-yard touchdown run against the Bears Monday night that helped give the Lions a 21-10 win. He averaged 13.6 per carry. Best has big-play ability that compliments the Lions' wide-open passing game.
BenJarvus Green-EllisBenJarvus Green-Ellis
"The Law Firm" was supposed to lose carries to Stevan Ridley heading into the Jets game. So much for that -- Ellis won on summary judgment against Rex Ryan's defense, running for 136 yards and two TDs on 27 carries, using a punishing physicality to help the Patriots seal a crucial division victory.
Josh Katzowitz
Ben RoethlisbergerBen Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers
We got word that Roethlisberger and his bad foot were limping around the locker room before the game. But after throwing for five touchdowns in Pittsburgh’s blowout win, Roethlisberger was either faking or it was just another “too tough to know any better” performances. He also did a nice job of adjusting in order to make up for a beat-up offensive line.
Eye on Defense Award
Freeman Wilson
Carlos RogersCarlos Rogers, CB, 49ers
He returned a Tampa Bay interception 31 yards for a touchdown. It was a good play but the truth is that entire 49ers defense deserved the award. They gave up just three points and you can see the 49ers start to take on the no-nonsense personality of the coach. This is what the 49ers had hoped to do when the organization hired Mike Singletary.
Nick Barnett Nick Barnett, LB, Bills
He intercepted Vick twice, including a pick-six. Of course, beating the Eagles isn't quite as prestigious as it was a month ago, but given the Bills' recent history, I'm guessing they won't quibble.

Prisco Brinson
George WilsonGeorge Wilson, S, Bills
Wilson doesn't get a lot of due, but he should. He was all over the field against the Eagles. He had 11 tackles, three passes defensed, an interception and a tackle for loss. He was everywhere in the Bills upset of the Eagles.
Jared AllenJared Allen, DE, Vikings
Allen did what he's done all year -- disrupt the passer. But this time, the Vikings finally won. Allen harassed Kevin Kolb into an absolutely horrible game, sacking him twice, picking up three tackles, three QB hits and recovering a fumble. Give Minny's D credit for finally holding a lead.
Katzowitz
George Wilson George Wilson, Nick Barnett, Bills
The Bills just keep on winning, and Sunday’s victory was a credit to their D. Wilson was all over the field with 11 tackles and a pick, and Barnett returned a Vick interception for a TD and then picked Vick again in the fourth quarter as the Eagles were driving for a potential game-tying touchdown.
Eye on Special Teams Award
Freeman Wilson
Sebastian JanikowskiSebastian Janikowski, K, Raidersy K
Janikowski tied an NFL record with three field goals of 50 yards or more. Not bad for a former fat boy party dude. Few players not named Vick have improved their public image over the years better than Janikowski. He's always had a strong leg but these days he's more disciplined and his accuracy and ability to boot long kicks makes him a terrific scoring threat.
Sebastian Janikowski Sebastian Janikowski, K, Raiders
He was 4 for 4 on field-goal attempts, none closer than 42 yards. Janikowski also converted from 55, 54 and 50. We almost expected him to run on the field and intercept Matt Schaub in the end zone on the last play of the game, too.
Prisco Brinson
Nick NovakNick Novak, K, Chargers
When the Chargers lost Nate Kaeding for the season on opening day with a knee injury, there was great concern about the kicking game. Novak has alleviated those fears. He made all five of his field goals against Denver and hasn't missed this season.
Sebastian JanikowskiSebastian Janikowski, K, Raiders
As awesome as the Polish Cannon's headshot is, I might just name him special teams player of the week every week from here on out. But he deserved it in Week 5, accounting for 13 of the Raiders 25 points with a 4-4 day, including three field goals longer than 50 yards each.
Katzowitz
Sebastian Janikowski Sebastian Janikowski, K, Raiders
He kicked a 54-yard field goal and followed that up with a 55-yarder. Then, one from 50 and one from 42. It was fitting on this day in particular because he had been selected in the first round of the 2000 NFL draft. By Al Davis.
 
Eye on Coaching Award
Freeman Wilson
Jim HarbaughJim Harbaugh, 49ers
The 49ers are 4-1. Repeat: the formerly sorry ass 49ers and their formerly sorry quarterback Alex Smith are 4-1. Harbaugh has been able to make Smith into a viable quarterback threat. Repeat: Alex Smith is good. How'd that happen?: Harbaugh, that's how.
Jim SchwartzJim Schwartz, Lions
The Lions are 5-0, including Monday night's win over the Bears in their biggest game in more than a decade. For some perspective, Detroit won five games in a season or fewer six times during Matt Millen's eight-year reign of terror.

Prisco Brinson
Hue JacksonHue Jackson, Raiders
With the death of owner Al Davis hanging over this team, Jackson got his team ready to upset a good Houston team on the road. That takes keeping the focus. The Raiders are playing much better this season, and Jackson deserves the credit.
Leslie FrazierLeslie Frazier, Vikings
Good on Frazier for holding onto a lead and winning his first game as a full-time head coach in Minnesota -- Frazier's tenure with the Vikings started off ... interestingly, with the Vikings blowing a slew of double-digit leads. Sunday was a critical win for Frazier and the Vikes.
Katzowitz
Jim Harbaugh Jim Harbaugh, 49ers
I thought about giving this award to Hue Jackson, just because of the emotion of the weekend with Al Davis’ death, but the 49ers are 4-1 and coming off a 48-3 destruction of pretty decent Buccaneers squad. You read that right: 4-1 and 48-3. That’s on Harbaugh.
 

Posted on: August 19, 2011 6:54 pm
Edited on: August 19, 2011 8:58 pm
 

Report: Clinton Portis tried out with Patriots

PortisPosted by Josh Katzowitz

In case you were wondering what happened to RB Clinton Portis -- aside from the fact Ryan Torain is still waving to him in his rearview mirror -- the Boston Herald has the news that the former Redskins star was in town Friday to work out with the Patriots.

Portis has had a number of good years for the Broncos and Redskins, gaining at least 1,200 yards in six of the seven seasons between 2002-08,and it’s a tad surprising his name hasn’t been brought up more as a viable free agent (I mean, when Tiki Barber is getting more pub than you, that’s not a great thing). But then again, Portis is 29 years old -- certainly middle age at his position -- and he’s been slowed down by injuries.

Last year, the loss of Portis for 11 games (he only carried the ball 54 times for 227 yards after suffering a torn abdominal muscle) led to the impressive play by Torain, hastening Portis’ departure out of town, especially since he was going to be paid $8.2 million for 2011.

It seems rather unlikely the Patriots are the team for Portis, though. They’ve already got young talent in BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead, as well as draft picks Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen, but it wouldn’t be shocking to see Portis land somewhere this season.

As the preseason continues, there are bound to be teams who wouldn’t mind having Portis around to help build depth. Wouldn’t you rather have him than Barber anyway?

First, he'll have to get in better shape. As the Boston Globe writes, Portis apparently wasn't at all fit during his tryout after having to lose 25 pounds in two weeks. Hmm, maybe teams would rather have an in-shape Barber rather than an eccentric overweight Portis.

UPDATED (8:56 p.m. ET): Player agent JR Rickert disputes the Globe claim. He tweeted that Poris weighed in at 222 pounds and there is "absolutely no truth to him being overweight."

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Posted on: May 7, 2011 1:22 pm
 

AFC East draft truths revealed

Posted by Andy Benoit

One of the best things about the draft is that from it we can find out what teams really think about their current players. Excluding examples of teams filling obvious needs, here are some of the more revealing draft picks from 2011, with a quick blurb of what the team was really saying by making this pick.

Buffalo Bills

1st round, Marcel Dareus, DT, Alabama
Deep down we know we’ll never really run a 3-4 defense.

3rd round, Kelvin Sheppard, ILB, LSU
But just in case we do….

4th round, Da’Norris Searcy, SS, North Carolina
Replace Donte Whitner? Heavens no, we wouldn’t have him do that! We’ll have Searcy replace backup George Wilson…and let Wilson be the guy to replace Whitner.

Miami DolphinsM. Pouncey (US Presswire)

1st round, Mike Pouncey, G/C, Florida
We’re still not entirely sure if Richie Incognito is a guard or a center. So, we got an even better tweener to shape that decision around.

New England Patriots

1st round, Nate Solder, OT, Colorado
The hints of decline that veteran left tackle Matt Light showed last season are only going to get worse. No way we’ll pay him market value.
P.S. Sebastian Vollmer’s future is at right tackle.

2nd round, Ras-I Dowling, CB, Virginia
It’s a tradition around here to draft corners in the second round. Plus, Kyle Arrington has no ball skills.

2nd round, Shane Vereen, RB, California
We need to replace Sammy Morris and Fred Taylor. Also, we wouldn’t mind letting some other team overpay BenJarvus Green-Ellis once he becomes an unrestricted free agent.

3rd round, Stevan Ridley, RB, LSU
Just in case Vereen turns out to be a flop.

3rd round, Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas
Even we’re not sure exactly why we did this. But we’ll figure something out.

New York Jets

4th round, Bilal Powell, RB, Louisville
We can’t shake the images of Joe McKnight throwing up at camp last year.

Check back throughout the week for other division’s Draft Truths Revealed. To see all Draft Truths Revealed, click the “Draft Truths” tag.

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Posted on: January 13, 2011 1:24 am
Edited on: January 13, 2011 12:29 pm
 

Patriots vs. Jets: 7-Point Divisional Preview

Posted by Andy Benoit



CBSSports.com's patented and award-winning 7-point preview gets you ready for each and every playoff game. As an added bonus, check out our playoff podcast preview:



1. New York Jets (No. 6, AFC, 12-5) @ New England Patriots (No. 1, AFC, 14-2)

The regular season’s undisputed champion begins the final chapter for a fourth Lombardi Trophy by hosting the preseason’s self-proclaimed undisputed champion. The Jets are responsible for one of the Patriots’ two losses on the season (Week 2 at the New Meadowlands), though revenge was already administered by the Pats in that 45-3 November Monday night thumping.

Still, you can bet the Patriots will come out focused and hungry (or with something to prove or with a chip on their shoulder or whatever hollow cliché you prefer). These AFC East foes both know their opponent and, after the Jets stifled the Colt offense by refusing to blitz Peyton Manning, are capable of debuting a freshly-minted, never-before-seen gameplan for this decisive rubber match.

2. PLAYOFFS?! Watchability Ranking



On the field, the Patriots are the most interesting team in football once again. Off the field, the Jets are, so it's a near-miss Five Mora Face ranking.

3. Key Matchup to Watch: Jets run offense vs. Patriots run defense

In that Monday night thrashing, Tom Brady carved up the Jets by exploiting their iffy nickel and dime backs (Drew Coleman and Dwight Lowery). Confident and fond of his defense as he may be, Rex Ryan knows that the best way to slow Brady this time will be to keep him off the field (just like the Jets did during the second half against Manning).

You control the ball by running. The Jets stayed on the ground 38 times for 169 yards at Indianapolis. Of course, there is a considerable difference between running against the undersized Colts front seven and running against the oversized unit of the Patriots. Normally, the Patriots prefer to align Vince Wilfork in the opponent’s favorite run gap. Against the Jets, that would mean putting the “325-pounder” at left defensive end. Of course, the Jets may be less inclined to follow their usual “run to the right” formula now that tackle Damien Woody is on IR.

For matchup purposes, Bill Belichick may be tempted to put Wilfork outside so as to capitalize on the mismatch against Woody’s replacement, Wayne Hunter. Hunter is a superb athlete but he hasn’t always shown consistent raw power. However, Mike Wright and Ron Brace’s trips to injured reserve depleted New England’s depth up front. Veteran end Gerard Warren has been a decent starter alongside rotating rookies Brandon Deaderick (seventh-round pick), Kyle Love (undrafted) and Landon Cohen (undrafted), but with these men starting, the Patriots have been less variegated with their front-three looks.

If Wilfork remains at nose tackle, expect the Jets to run away from him – i.e. outside. Because tight end Dustin Keller is a glorified slot receiver (not unlike New England’s Aaron Hernandez), Brian Schottenheimer may be inclined to bring Robert Turner off the bench for more six-man offensive line formations. Even if the Jets can win in the trenches, their running backs still must make plays against the athletic Patriot linebackers. Usually Nick Mangold is at the second level to help pave a path, but Wilfork will give him more to deal with than most nose tackles.

Beating New England’s linebackers is a tall order for the Jets runners. LaDainian Tomlinson is coming off his best career playoff game, but neither he nor Shonn Greene has the quickness and elusiveness to make a beast like Jerod Mayo miss.

4. Potentially Relevant Video

For all the denigration of the Jets after the Sal Alosi episode, you might want to take a look at this seven-year old video of Bill Belichick’s crafty sideline ploy against Marvin Harrison.



5. The Jets will win if ...

Mark Sanchez (the franchise’s all-time winningest postseason quarterback, believe it or not) is more accurate than he was last week. That’s not all, of course (not even close). New York must bog down in the red zone (figure they won’t be able to prevent Brady and company from racking up yards between the 20s) and shift field position at least twice (via special teams or a forced turnover).

6. The Patriots will win if ...

Brady gets in his usual rhythm working out of the shotgun spread (a formation that naturally limits the presnap disguises that Ryan’s defense is built around).

7. Prediction: Patriots 31, Jets 20



Posted on: December 17, 2010 2:59 pm
Edited on: December 17, 2010 3:39 pm
 

NFL Honorable Mentions: 2010's top stories

CBSSports.com is counting down the top 10 stories in all of sports of 2010. Here are the top 10 stories from the NFL that just barely missed the cut.


10. The Breakout Backs
Honorables
It was a swing year in fantasy football, as the over-valued running back position turned out a pair of new stars in the AFC: undrafted Arian Foster for the Texans and former Broncos seventh-round pick Peyton Hillis. Both players have well over 1,000 yards rushing and rank first and second in touchdown runs (entering Week 15, Foster has 13 and Hillis has 11).

Foster and Hillis share two things in common: a) both got their opportunity because their team’s second-round rookie running back got hurt prior to the season (the Texans lost Ben Tate to an ankle injury and the Browns lost Montario Hardesty to a knee) and b) both have an ideal skill set for their team’s system. Foster, a powerful yet fluid one-cut runner who thrives downhill, is tailored for Houston’s zone-blocking scheme. Hillis, a thundering steamroller who plays strictly north and south, was made for a power scheme.

Another running back who was undrafted and has blossomed unexpectedly in 2010 is New England’s BenJarvus Green-Ellis. The third-year pro is tied with Hillis for second in the league in rushing touchdowns and needs a little over 200 yards in the final three weeks to reach the millennial mark.

While we’re at it, there’s another Patriots running back who was undrafted and meets “breakout” status for 2010: Danny Woodhead (insert obligatory mention about his 5’7” size here). Woodhead, who was released in the preseason by the Jets, has done a masterful job filling the third down role of Kevin Faulk.  -- Andy Benoit


9. The Slowing Carousel



Labor negotiations have slowed the degree to which coaches have been canned in 2010. Yes, that's a terrifying thought, considering the number of gigs at risk this late in the season coupled with the coaches already fired so far this year. (John Fox and Marvin Lewis are the two most obvious "winners" when it comes to uncertain labor issues helping a coach keep a "good" job.)

In fact, the tides might have turned enough to warrant saying both gentlemen are in a worse position because of the labor strife -- they have to coach out abysmal underachievers and, sadly, hope to find some (ahem) luck at the top of the draft.

It won't matter for that pair of lame ducks, though, because their contracts are running out. On the other end of the spectrum are Wade Phillips, Brad Childress and Josh McDaniels; three coaches whose performance was so putrid that it warranted a midseason change.

Of course, neither of the first two were surprising. In fact, the only shocker involved with Wade and Chilly getting canned was the success that Jason Garrett and Leslie Frazier had afterwards.

Actually, check that -- it's also surprising that McDaniels would hire the same guy who operated the video camera during SpyGate! Which, perhaps, makes it less surprising that Pat Bowlen was less willing to sit around and wait for his newly-minted head coach to mature and suddenly found himself paying not just Mike Shanahan, McD, Eric Studesville but someone else next year. This is outrageously ironic given the lack of success that Mike Singletary (the quintessential interim coach) had in 2010, guiding the 49ers to a sub-.500 record (it seems like a fair guess at this point) in the weakest of the weak divisions, the NFC West.

Singletary said as late as Week 15 that he didn't worry about a) early season performance or b) his job security, and, well, that may say all you need to understand about why he won't land a head coaching job again.

Of course, Lovie Smith is casually guiding his team to a playoff berth and himself towards a blatantly misguided extension from Jerry Angelo, so maybe this would be a good year to take a step back and evaluate whether or not it's worth really judging a particular coach until 2011 gets nearer.

Rest assured, that's exactly what a number of owners will do. -- Will Brinson


8. Revis and the Jets

In this day and age of video games and fantasy football, it takes a special kind of greatness for a cornerback to become THE story in the NFL for an entire summer. Darrelle Revis has this special kind of greatness. As the first true shutdown corner football has seen since Deion Sanders, Revis has been by far the most important player on Rex Ryan’s vaunted defense. Without him, the Jets don’t make their run to the AFC Championship in January ’10, and they don’t enter September ’10 as one of the league’s leading Super Bowl contenders. So it’s no wonder that Revis’ contract holdout captured the headlines this past summer.

Of course, it didn’t hurt that Revis was holding out for a New York market team that happened to be featured on the über-popular HBO reality series Hard Knocks. The Jets training camp became a top 10 story in and of itself simply because we’ve never seen such transparency and personality from an NFL club. And we’ve never seen such star power or controversial new talent. The Jets are developing Mark Sanchez, the game’s first Mexican-American franchise quarterback, before our very eyes. They signed top Q-rating veterans and future Hall of Famers LaDainian Tomlinson and Jason Taylor. And, they unapologetically acquired gifted but questionable stars Braylon Edwards (in ’09), Santonio Holmes and Antonio Cromartie.

All of this goes against the typical nature of the conservative NFL. But this, along with the aforementioned Super Bowl aspirations (which stemmed largely from the boastful Jets themselves, is why Jets regular season games landed in a featured television slot 10 times in 2010, including six in primetime. -- Andy Benoit


7. Looming Lockout

The NFL is the most popular sport in this land. This much is obvious. It doesn’t take a genius to come up with that conclusion, not when advertisers have to spend $20 million per 30-second spot in the Super Bowl (that might be a slight exaggeration) and not when the NFL ratings continue to climb every Thursday night, Sunday night and Monday night.

So, would the NFL owners and the NFL Players Association really be dumb enough to shut down the 2011 season, even partially? Wouldn’t commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith realize that a lockout could potentially kill – or, at the very least, assault – the momentum of popularity? Wouldn’t they realize that sending the 2011 season to whatever dimension the 1994 World Series exists now would be a terrible, terrible move?  

Of course, they do. But the allure of money to be made and money to be spent keeps the two sides far apart. As the expiration of the CBA comes ever closer in March, the pressure will increase. Goodell said the other day that he thought a deal could be worked out by the end of the postseason, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they go into the spring and summer without a new agreement in place. 

It’d be short-sighted, and it’d be stupid. But it’s also very possible.  

Anybody up to watch a good game of soccer?  -- Josh Katzowitz


6. So Many Second Chances

No, we're not talking about Antonio Cromartie, thanks for asking.



And yeah, maybe that's inappropriate.

But what's the old line? "Shame on me for expecting you to hang out in a terrible situation the first time and shame on you for expecting me to believe that you would legitimately stop putting yourself in terrible situations after getting in trouble the fifth or sixth* time?"

Maybe that's paraphrasing things a bit, but there are only so many chances one individual is afforded, and it seems, all asterisk jokes aside, that Ben Roethlisberger -- in trouble twice -- has maximized his chances. (The motorcycle thing doesn't count in the scope of what we're asked to judge here.)

On the front, Roethlisberger is the classic case of why the personal conduct policy is absolutely necessary -- a young man, wealthy beyond his means, cutting loose above and beyond his scope of responsible behavior in a town that doesn't understand how to handle him. Allegedly.

There's plenty of reason for people to find disgust with him, but it's about second chances here, people.

Is the world supposed to be annoyed with someone who can't fully summon their talent because they're too busy doing whatever they do in Milledgeville, Georgia? Absolutely.

Should the general public become disgusted when whatever behavior a certain talent was involved in leads to legal allegations in the same town? Naturally.

But is it only fair if the same youthful talent -- who heretofore had only developed as a person ON the field -- somehow finds a different, perhaps more mature path and ends up getting judged differently?

Hell yes it is. Hate on second chances all you want, but the eerily parallel dichotomy between Roethlisberger and Vick at least warrant giving pause to the fact that sometimes second chances are only afforded when we want them to be. -- Will Brinson


Haynesworth 5. Coup De Faill

Face it, part of the reason you watch sports is to see the inevitable downfall. It’s why Tigers Woods was so compelling, why you watched Larry Holmes dominate Muhammad Ali, why you followed Michael Jordan when he played minor league baseball. And you watch NFL football (partially) to see the same thing.

Which is why the decline of Albert Haynesworth this year was so noteworthy, why the Vince Young blowup continues to make news, why a backup WR in Randy Moss continues to attract attention.

The downfall of Haynesworth has been the biggest train-wreck of the season. Redskins coach Mike Shanahan deactivated him for four games before deciding to suspend him the rest of the season. Haynesworth has been out of shape, he’s been insubordinate and now he’s out of a job. Thankfully, he can fall back on those tens of millions of dollars.

Young’s downfall was sudden, as quick as it took to walk out of a locker room full of teammates, but depending on Bud Adams’ inclination, he unbelievably might return to the team (surely, coach Jeff Fisher wouldn’t be around any longer if that’s the case). Meanwhile, Moss believes he’ll still get paid big bucks next year, despite a season in which he’s played for three teams and has had his least productive year ever.  

All of it has made for great viewing. -- Josh Katzowitz


4. The McNabb Trade

D. McNabb's five-year deal doesn't seem all that great today (US Presswire).

There are a million different angles a person can take in describing the significance of the Easter Day McNabb trade. For starters, the trade meant the dismissal of the decade-long face of one of the NFL’s most preeminent franchises. Few athletes have ever been as polarizing in a town as McNabb was in The City of Brotherly Love. And no athlete has ever been so polarizing simply by going about his business. McNabb never exhibited a controversial personality, yet his career in Philly was littered with controversy. It required a world of class for McNabb to take it all in stride for 11 years. That classiness was appreciated and returned by the usually-ornery Philly faithful, who gave their former quarterback a standing ovation when he returned to town as a member of the hated Redskins in October.

That’s another key facet of this story: McNabb wasn’t just traded – he was traded to a division rival. Never before had a franchise quarterback been dealt within the division.

To be brutally honest, the trade has become a symbol of why the Eagles, counting this year, have eight more playoff appearances than the Redskins since 2000. The Eagles have always parted with veterans a year too soon rather than a year too late. We thought McNabb was an exception to this rule, but sure enough, he has just another testament to it (14 touchdowns, 15 interceptions, completion percentage of 60.0 through Week 14). The 34-year-old was tossed to the bench in mid-December, becoming the latest aging Pro Bowler to come to Washington only to fizzle out.

The Eagles were only comfortable dismissing McNabb because they had their signalcaller of the future already on the roster. Of course, little did they know that signalcaller would be not Kevin Kolb, but Michael Vick, the Comeback Player, MVP candidate and headline story of 2010. -- Andy Benoit


3. The Old Croc Slinger

It was the story everyone loved to pretend to hate: Brett Favre, Brett Favre, Brett Favre, Brett Favre, Brett Favre. Did you get sick of him? Maybe on the surface. But deep down, you were never sick enough to ignore him. And that’s why he stayed in the news.

Favre’s 2010 essentially began and ended in pain. He suffered a gruesome ankle injury in the NFC Championship loss to the Saints and, 11 months later, had his consecutive starts streak end at 297 thanks to a bad shoulder. In between the ankle and shoulder was a thigh, elbow and foot injury. Each injury brought about an additional slew of reports, 99.9 percent of them speculative.

It’s the very concept of speculation that has become the defining characteristic of Favre’s public image. There was speculation about whether he’ll retire or come back. (Once again, 2010 gave us plenty of those stories, too. Remember Favre’s “this is it” texts to teammates during the summer? The workouts at Oak Grove high school? The Brad Childress visits to Mississippi? The more fruitful Jared Allen-Ryan Longwell-Steve Hutchinson surprise visit at the last minute?) There was speculation about his relationship with Brad Childress (it was poor, at best). And, for the first time since his substance abuse issues in the 90s, there was speculation about Favre’s character and private life.

The Jenn Sterger ordeal never took on the life of Tiger Woods’ scandal, but that was only because Favre, for the first time in his career, wasn’t willing to publicly address a topic in his patented stream-of-conscious manner. In the end, Favre admitted to placing calls to Sterger but denied sending lewd photos. The NFL investigated but, with the year winding down, the story seems to be fading away. Oddly enough, it helped Favre that, by the time the Sterger story came out, people had grown tired of hearing his name in the news.



People may have been tired of Favre, but they weren’t sick of him. It’s doubtful that he’ll be part of the top 10 NFL stories of 2011, but it's not inconceivable. The year ahead will still carry speculation about a possible comeback (don’t count on Favre biting this time), speculation about what Favre will do next (a lot of people will say broadcasting, but Favre’s never had that kind of persona) and, perhaps most intriguing of all, speculation about when Favre will return to Lambeau Field to make amends with the fans and accept his number being retired. -- Andy Benoit


2. Injury Du Generation

This space perhaps should have been dedicated solely to Steelers LB James Harrison and James Harrison alone. He’s racked up $125,000 in fines this year after illegal hits on Browns WR Mohammad Massaquoi, Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick and Saints QB Drew Brees. He’s also been quoted as saying he’s not trying to injure players, but instead, he’s only trying to hurt them (or was it, he’s trying not to hurt them, but to injure them instead?).  

Either way, it seems like concussions in the NFL have risen (there’s really no way to tell if this is true; only that the diagnosis of concussions might have risen), and in actuality, it seems like every player in the NFL this season has suffered at least one concussion. Even after the Dunta Robinson/DeSean Jackson collision forced the NFL to announce that it was going to enforce the penalties against illegal hits, the concussions have continued.  

But that’s not the scariest part of this whole scenario. The scariest part is what an examination of Chris Henry’s brain found in June. Though he played in the league only five years before he died last season, his brain showed signs of significant brain damage caused by repeated blows to the head.  

While it’s great that people like Chris Nowinski are making a concerted effort to educate the public about the dangers of concussions and continued head injuries, nothing is likely to change. The players don’t want rules-makers messing with the game, they don’t want to change their tackling technique, they just want to hit people and hit people hard. Many fans agree. Which, of course, is easy to do when you’re not the one who is getting smashed on the field every week.

This problem, I fear, will continue until the end of time.  -- Josh Katzowitz


1. First-Place Second Chance



There's a reasonable argument that Michael Vick's current situation is the most compelling redemptive story we've seen in sports.

Ever.

And yeah, I'm sorry that it requires the age-old tripe that is the one-line semi-paragraph to describe what Vick did, but, well, he tortured dogs and somehow returned to the good graces of America. Or at least the majority of America and/or those that buy their Nissans from Woodbury, New Jersey.



That's less than half a joke. Take a step back and look at what Michael Vick did, compare it to what any "sports villain" has done in the past 50 years (versus their redemptive story, natch) and, pretty please, find a comparable. Josh Hamilton is the closest thing there is and even he dealt with sins beyond the level of self-indulgence. That's not to say that we should applaud someone who manages to jerry-rig an engine to drive a broken car more than we should applaud someone who happens to repair the tires on a four-wheel flat.

It's just that if you're going to gauge a level of success by figuring out where someone ends relative to where they started and award bonus points for where they went in between (which, folks, unless you've stopped paying attention for the last several hundred years, is the "American Dream"), then it's very, very difficult to root against Michael Vick.

And also why he was nearly the most compelling story of 2010. -- Will Brinson

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