Tag:Brian Dawkins
Posted on: January 6, 2012 9:32 am
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Film Room: Broncos vs. Steelers wild-card preview

Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit


It hardly seems fair that a 12-win team has to go on the road to face an eight-win team, but the NFL’s playoff seeding system is designed to reward division champions. That includes the rare division champion that enters the postseason on a three-game losing streak.

Here’s a breakdown of what many expect to be a massacre.


1. Broncos offense has no prayer
We covered everything there is to know about the Broncos’ offense last week in preparation for their Week 17 bout with the Chiefs. Nothing has changed. It’s clear that press-man coverage can overwhelm Denver’s passing attack, as the receivers don’t have the quickness to separate and Tim Tebow doesn’t have the mechanics, timing or confidence to fit balls into tight windows.

It’s rare to see the zone-based Steelers play press-man coverage, though they did so with great success against the Patriots in Week 8. Usually, shutdown corner Ike Taylor (yes, SHUTDOWN corner) plays press coverage against the opposing team’s top wideout (in this case, Demaryius Thomas), while William Gay, Keenan Lewis and/or Bryant McFadden play a variation of zone on the other side.

If Dick LeBeau wants to bait Tebow into interceptions, the Steelers may still stick with their traditional approach:

This shot from Super Bowl XLV illustrates the Steelers’ traditional approach to coverage: Ike Taylor playing press-man against the opposing team’s top receiver (Greg Jennings) on one side, with the rest of the secondary playing zone on the other (you can tell it’s zone by how cornerback Bryant McFadden is lined up off the line and with his body open slightly towards the inside).

The Broncos don’t have a threatening tight end, so Tebow would be throwing into heavy zones against athletic corners. If LeBeau wants to pressure Tebow with James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley and bait him into the usual slew of incompletions, he can play man-to-man. Whatever LeBeau chooses will work; we’re talking about the league’s top-ranked pass defense against the league’s most inept passing quarterback.

Lately, Denver’s read-option run game has still produced yardage, though only because of the high volume of carries. If the Broncos couldn’t muster more than three points by running against Kansas City’s 3-4, they can’t be expected to muster ANY points running against Pittsburgh’s.

A key to Denver’s run game is getting offensive linemen clean to inside linebackers. No three-man defensive line does a better job at protecting its inside linebackers than Pittsburgh’s. That’s why Lawrence Timmons and James Farrior are able to play with their ears pinned back.

2. A roll of the dice
Because it feels a little too simplistic to declare the Broncos’ chances at moving the ball to be zero (even if they are), we’ll use this section to present creative ideas for how the Broncos might – MIGHT – manage to muster a semblance of offense on Sunday.

The first idea is to just throw deep and hope luck tilts your way (a cornerback falls down, a ref calls pass interference, two Steelers collide while going after the same easy interception, etc.). Don’t count on Denver doing this, though. It goes against everything John Fox has stood for since turning to Tebow, and it also requires that, you know, Tebow actually throw downfield accurately.

Another idea is to draw up trick plays. Lots of trick plays. Problem is, a defense as experienced and disciplined as Pittsburgh’s is not going to bite. You might make chance-taker Troy Polamalu pay for a gamble once or twice, but more likely he’ll make YOU pay even more for YOUR gamble.

A third (and stronger) idea is to run the ball outside. In the past, outside running was guaranteed to fail against the Steelers. This season, however, Timmons and Farrior have not been as sharp in lateral run defense. That’s why Pittsburgh has struggled a bit against zone teams. The Broncos no longer have a zone run game (it left shortly after Shanahan departed), but it might not be crazy to hastily install one given that their usual approach will not work anyway.

Denver’s lack of running back speed is an issue here, but again: their usual approach will not work anyway!

3. Pittsburgh’s passing attack
As lopsided as this matchup seems, the final score could be tight given that Pittsburgh’s offense might have trouble against John Fox’s and Dennis Allen’s defense. Don’t be surprised if the Steelers come out throwing in an effort to build a quick lead that forces the Broncos to go to the air early.
 
Against the Browns last week, offensive coordinator Bruce Arians chose to spread the field with 3 x 2 empty backfield sets on passing downs. This may have been to get the ball out quickly so that Ben Roethlisberger would not have to make plays on his bum ankle. Though Roethlisberger has gotten much better in his presnap reads and sudden decision making, his natural inclination is still to extend the play. Thus, Big Ben still held the ball plenty long last week.

He won’t be able to do that this week, though – not under the same gameplan, anyway. Offensive tackles Max Starks and Marcus Gilbert may have been be able to handle Browns defensive ends Jayme Mitchell and Jabaal Sheard on an island (Sheard just barely, actually), but they won’t have a snowball’s chance against Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller.

If Roethlisberger is to buy time for his receivers downfield, his offensive tackles will need running backs and tight ends to chip-block, if not stay in completely and double-team. Something else to keep in mind: Miller, D.J. Williams and Brian Dawkins all excel as inside blitzers. Blitz pickup is an area in which the Steelers interior line, particularly left guard Chris Kemoeatu, struggles.

Brown's emerged as one of Pittsburgh's best receiving options. (Getty Images)

4. The passing matchups
Even though protection could be a problem, it’s possible the Steelers will still spread the field and let Roethlisberger run around and make plays. We’ve seen them before give up piles of sacks this way but make up for it with big plays.

The Broncos have a good secondary now that undrafted rookie Chris Harris has blossomed at nickel corner, but they’re thin and inexperienced at safety and vulnerable with Jonathan Wilhite at dime corner.

If the Broncos decide to eliminate Antonio Brown (Pittsburgh’s new No. 1 receiver) with Champ Bailey, there will be big-play opportunities for Mike Wallace against the limited-ranged safeties. If Bailey defends Wallace, Andre Goodman can spar with Brown but probably not for as long as Roethlisberger can extend the play. Chris Harris will be tested by Emmanuel Sanders’ speed, and Wilhite will have fits trying to defend Jerricho Cotchery underneath.

As much as the Broncos might like their secondary, they can’t expect it to be the league’s first unit that sustains coverage against the Steelers’ prolonged improvisational plays. Thus, when the Broncos do blitz, don’t be surprised if they bring the kitchen sink to ensure that Roethlisberger goes down or throws hot.

5. Steelers run game
Rashard Mendenhall will be missed, but the Steelers can tread water with Isaac Redman. The third-year running back doesn’t have Mendenhall’s corner-turning speed and acceleration, but in confined areas he shows looser hips than you’d guess. Where Pittsburgh’s backfield woes will really show up is in the pass game. Mewelde Moore’s absence (foot injury) leaves them without a prominent openfield dumpoff receiver.

But this is a relatively minor issue. The primary job of the Steelers’ backfield is to pound the rock when called upon, which Redman and straight-line back John Clay are capable of doing. Also, Pittsburgh’s offensive line, especially with the superb pull-blocking skills of Kemoeatu, is capable of moving the pile down the stretch.

So who will win? Check our NFL expert picks for all the wild-card games

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: December 25, 2011 10:02 pm
 

Is Brian Dawkins' career in jeopardy?

B. Dawkins is having neck troubles that could derail his career (US Presswire).

By Josh Katzowitz

As Tim Tebow-infatuated as everybody in the NFL seems to be (in good times and bad), sometimes we have to point out how much the Broncos improving defense has contributed to keeping him in games in order to win them late.

On Saturday, vs. a Bills team that’s taken a huge nosedive in the second half of the season, the Broncos proved that if the defense isn’t good, Tebow has no shot at winning. And one reason for the Denver defensive no-show was because Brian Dawkins had to leave the game with more neck troubles.

As the Denver Post points out, there are concerns that his neck issues ultimately will end his 16-year career.

“I don’t want to talk about the neck,” Dawkins said after the Bills 40-14 rampage was complete.

But how can we NOT talk about the neck, especially if it’s going to derail a top-notch career and put the Broncos playoff potential in a perilous place? Dawkins didn’t play last week, and the Patriots dominated. Dawkins didn’t play much Saturday, and Buffalo dominated. The trend might not be coincidental, especially because Dawkins is still effective against the run.

Dawkins said he didn’t know if he could play next week in the regular season finale against the Chiefs for the right to go to the postseason. But there is this: without Dawkins, the Raiders chances to win almost certainly decrease.

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Posted on: December 7, 2011 2:28 pm
 

Keep an Eye on: Week 14's finer points

Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit



Broncos vs. Bears
Perhaps after this Sunday’s game, Tim Tebow can help Bears right tackle Lance Louis pray for quicker feet. After seemingly stabilizing Chicago’s nightmarish right tackle situation over the past month, Louis, a converted guard, completely fell apart in the loss to Kansas City. He was culpable for most of Kansas City’s seven sacks and also had a holding penalty just outside his own goal-line. It was a performance that would have made even Winston Justice circa 2007 cringe.


It’s not like the Chiefs did anything complex against Louis, either. They didn’t stunt defenders near him or feign blitzes in his gaps. They simply lined players up mano-a-mano and won (Justin Houston, Tamba Hali, Derrick Johnson and even lowly Tyson Jackson all got through; by the fourth quarter, Romeo Crennel was putting players on waiting list for reps at left defensive end/outside linebacker).

Things won’t get much easier for Louis this week. His Bears travel to Mile High, where they’ll meet rookie Von Miller, the AFC’s answer to Clay Matthews (assuming Miller returns from the thumb injury that sidelined him against Minnesota). Miller, in fact, has an even better burst than Matthews.

If Miller is unavailable, the matchup in the trenches will be more even but still tilted in Denver’s favor. The Broncos have gotten great play out of their defensive line in recent weeks, particularly inside with active tackles Broderick Bunkley, Marcus Thomas and, on passing downs, Ryan McBean. These three cause congestion that allows the speed of Miller, D.J. Williams, Elvis Dumervil and Robert Ayers to flourish.

Even with adequate pass-rushing resources, the Broncos are willing to manufacture pressure through design. They blitz Brian Dawkins a few times each game and, on some occasions, have surprised offenses by bringing Miller from the inside. At times, execution and assignment identification have been problematic for the Bears O-line. The Broncos will be eager to exploit that.

Packers vs. Raiders
The Raiders traded a bounty for Carson Palmer so that they could get away from the elementary, run-only offensive gameplans they used early in the year with Jason Campbell. Aside from a putrid outing at Miami last week, where Palmer played jittery in the pocket because of a justified lack of trust in his protection, the ex-Bengal has been much better than his numbers suggest.

That said, the Raiders need to return to a ground-only approach when they travel to Green Bay this Sunday. Their only chance to win the game is to shorten it. For the last two weeks, we’ve focused on how a quality four-man pass-rush in front of good, aggressive coverage could give a defense a chance to stop Aaron Rodgers.

Well, the last two weeks, Rodgers & Co. have had no trouble against the Lions and Giants, owners of arguably the two best four-man pass-rushes in football. It’s wishful to think that the Raiders’ front line, which is remarkably powerful but deprived of genuine edge speed, can dictate the action this Sunday.

It might be wishful to think the same thing about Oakland’s offensive line. That unit, even with frequently used sixth blocker Stephon Heyer, was unable to move Miami’s three-man front last Sunday. But ground-in-pound is Oakland’s best bet against the Pack. And last week was likely an aberration. The Raiders are athletic on the left side up front with tackle Jared Veldheer capable of exploding at the second level and guard Stefan Wisniewski possessing intriguing short-area mobility.

And they have a workhorse in Michael Bush. He was methodical and effective three weeks ago against the stingy Vikings, rushing for 109 yards on 30 carries. The week before, he toted the rock 30 times for 157 yards at San Diego.

The Packers front line is hard to move; B.J. Raji is a beast, and Ryan Pickett and backup Howard Green have nose tackle size at the end positions. But if you CAN move them, you’ll also move the clock. That, along with great special teams (which the Raiders have) might – MIGHT – be enough to sorta maybe kinda have some form of an outside shot at possibly coming close to beating the seemingly unbeatable Packers offense.

Ravens vs. Colts
For many fans, filling out the offensive line section of the Pro Bowl ballot can be challenging. Often it involves just clicking on whatever linemen hail from the best teams. If the running back is good, his offensive linemen must be good as well (so the thinking goes).

This is the kind of misguided logic that sends underachievers like Bryant McKinnie to Hawaii. (McKinnie made the Pro Bowl in 2009, even though he was benched at times down the stretch.)

McKinnie’s first season as a Raven has actually been much better than his last several seasons as a Viking. At 6’7”, 350-something pounds (give or take), the 10th-year veteran would not seem to be a great fit for Baltimore’s movement-oriented zone-blocking scheme. However, as it turns out, the zone-blocking scheme capitalizes on McKinnie’s natural size and also masks his timidity.

McKinnie’s built like a monster but plays like a milquetoast. He’s never exerted the explosive power or vicious hand-punch of an elite lineman. That’s been detrimental to his run-blocking. But in a system that has him move before making contact in the run game, McKinnie can get away with playing soft because his momentum, working with his sheer size, generates natural power. It’s physics.

Don’t vote McKinnie to this season’s Pro Bowl, though. DO, however, vote his teammate, Marshal Yanda. The 27-year-old right guard has drastically elevated his already-impressive game since signing a five-year, $32 million contract in July. In fact, lately, Yanda has been the best guard in all of football. He has great footwork and the rare ability to land multiple well-angled blocks on a single play.

As this week goes, he’s perfectly suited to dominate against a fast but undersized defense like Indy’s.

So who will win? Check our NFL expert picks for all Week 14 games

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: September 16, 2011 2:58 pm
 

Ward doesn't see how Steelers are old

WardPosted by Josh Katzowitz

While many have wondered how the Steelers will deal with some older players not performing well, especially in the wake of their four-touchdown loss to the Ravens last week, Warren Sapp had no problem giving his honest opinion.

And now that Steelers receiver Hines Ward has had a chance to respond, Ward decided he wouldn’t respond to Sapp in such harsh tones.

On Showtime’s “Inside the NFL” this week, Sapp said, “The Pittsburgh Steelers. I have three things: old, slow and it’s over. It’s just that simple. James Harrison told us that he was 70-to-75 percent. It looked more like 40 percent to me if you are looking at the ballgame I was looking at. And Hines Ward, Mercedes Sapp can cover Hines Ward right now. You have to be kidding me ... Mercedes is my 13-year-old daughter. She will cover Hines Ward in a heartbeat.

"And Troy Polamalu, Ed Dixon runs this crossing route. Troy Polamalu is trying to grab him to have a pass interference and he can’t even get close enough to grab him. [It] looked like he was dragging a wagon behind him. Touchdown Baltimore. Pittsburgh Steelers done."

Mr. Ward, your retort, please?

Ward's Getting Old?
“I don’t have a reaction to that,” Ward told 93.7 The Fan in Pittsbrugh, via sportsradiointerviews.com. "He can bring his 13-year old daughter out there and see if she can cover me if she wants to. I don’t have a reaction to that. People are always going to say something. As far as the team being old? I don’t see how the team is old. I think I am the oldest guy on the offensive side. Ben Roethlisberger is the second oldest guy on the offensive side. Defensively? You got Aaron Smith, James Farrior and Brett Keisel. We just re-signed some of our youngest guys. If you look at our team, we are not as old as people want to portray us. What does that matter anyway?

“I love Warren. He was my ‘Dancing with the Stars,’ guy before me. It’s his opinion. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and it is not going to change. There are guys older than me like Brian Dawkins. Donald Driver is older than me. Age doesn’t matter. Age is something for somebody to put out there just to make an excuse.”

Ward also realizes that he's open to criticism, and at this point in his career, he has to be used to it. Even if a former star player is the one making it.

“That’s your job,” Ward said. “That’s what makes news. Your job is to criticize and make stuff. As players we hear it, but it doesn’t validate anything. The Steelers are not going to keep me around if they do not think I am productive. We don’t just keep guys around to just keep guys around. That’s just an excuse when people start looking at the age and that stuff. If you look at our young guys…look at our wide receivers? I’m out there with second and third year guys all the time. Our whole offensive line…we are really not old up front. Rashard Mendenhall is still young and in his prime. When people say stuff like that I just laugh because when they were old one day, somebody said that about them. But now they are in a position to say that. I don’t get caught up in it.”

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Posted on: May 8, 2011 11:27 pm
 

AFC West draft truths revealed

R. Moore (US Presswire) 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.

Denver Broncos

2nd round, Rahim Moore, FS, Broncos
We too can read Brian Dawkins’ bio: born October 13, 1973. (Also, we’ll admit, it’s not ideal that we’ll have to relocate intriguing young safety Darcel McBath.)

2nd round, Orlando Franklin, OT, Miami
We’re not fond of either RG Chris Kuper or RT Ryan Harris. Hard to say which of those two, exactly, since every outside observer can see that both of those players are athletic young blockers. So yeah, we probably didn’t (in any which way) need to draft an offensive lineman this early. But you know how it is with new GM’s.

3rd round, Nate Irving, ILB, North Carolina State
We feel the same way about Joe Mays as the Eagles did.

Kansas City Chiefs

2nd round, Rodney Hudson, C, Florida State
Rudy Niswanger doesn’t have the strength to hold up in a phone booth.

3rd round, Justin Houston, OLB, Georgia
He can smoke all the weed he wants, he’s still a much, much better athlete than Andy Studebaker.

5th round, Ricky Stanzi, QB, Iowa
Can you believe we ever toyed with the idea of starting Brodie Croyle!?

Oakland Raiders

2nd round, Stefen Wisniewski, C, Penn State
You might think this was a legacy pick. Yup. (But the good news is we needed a center anyway.)

4th round, Taiwan Jones, RB, Eastern Washington
We’d like to re-sign Michael Bush, but you never know.

San Diego Chargers

2nd round, Jonas Mouton, OLB, Michigan
The hope is that he’ll play well right away and no one will notice that our ’09 first-round pick (Larry English) has absolutely no pass-rushing instinct.

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: March 11, 2011 10:50 pm
 

Hot Routes 3.11.11 shortened special (thanks CBA)

Posted by Will Brinson



Got a link for the Hot Routes? Hit us up on Twitter (@CBSSportsNFL).


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Posted on: December 5, 2010 11:47 am
Edited on: December 5, 2010 11:53 am
 

AFC Inactives, Week 13

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

First, those who ARE active: Chiefs WR Dexter McCluster (who will actually get the start opposite Dwayne Bowe), Colts RB Mike Hart, Colts LB Gary Brackett, Titans QB Kerry Collins (who is starting),

Now, those who are NOT active:

Mike Sims-Walker, WR, Jaguars: One week after suffering an ankle sprain, he was back last week, and though he was didn’t do much, he was still an integral part of the gameplan. But he re-aggravated his ankle and won’t play today. Kassim Osgood will start in his place.

Kendrick Lewis, CB, Chiefs:
Kansas City has played exceptionally well with Lewis in the lineup (the Chiefs are 6-1 when he’s on the field). But he’s out today. So, that’s not good for Kansas City.

Kyle Vanden Bosch, DL, Bills: This is a big loss for Buffalo, especially since Vanden Bosch is one of the team’s best defensive players.

Brian Dawkins, CB, Broncos:
He hurt himself last week, but his skills have noticeably declined this season. This might not be the worst thing in the world for Denver.

Brandon Marshall, WR, Dolphins:
Limited in practice all week, many people thought Marshall would be healthy enough to play vs. the Raiders, especially since he said he was bouncing back quickly. Apparently, he's not. He's inactive, and that's a huge blow for Miami.

Kenny Britt, WR, Titans: Sounds like he's targeting next week as his return from a hamstring.

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Posted on: October 30, 2010 1:21 pm
Edited on: October 30, 2010 1:25 pm
 

Week 8 injury report analysis Part I

Posted by Andy Benoit

Broncos @ 49ers

The Broncos kept LB Wesley Woodyard, LB Robert Ayers, CB Perrish Cox, S Darcel McBath and DE Kevin Vickerson back home in The States for this one. The absence of these five players is a serious blow to Denver’s defensive depth. At least S Brian Dawkins (knee) and CB Andre Goodman (quad) are probable. Both sat out last week’s debacle against Oakland.

Considering both of these teams have a bye next week, is it even worth it for the Broncos to play Dawkins and Goodman this week against a 49ers passing attack that is without starting QB Alex Smith (shoulder) and relying on a somewhat hobbled Vernon Davis (questionable; ankle)?

Because the Broncos love to sling the ball, it’s worth noting that Niners CB Tarell Brown (back) is doubtful and CB Nate Clements (ankle) is probable.

Jaguars @ Cowboys

The Cowboys are likely without Tony Romo for the season, given that the team will almost certainly be eliminated from playoff contention once his shoulder heals. The Jags are getting THEIR quarterback, David Garrard, back after a 1 ½-game absence (concussion). How’s this for freaky: every quarterback that has replaced Garrard at some point this season has goL. Hall (US Presswire)tten injured. Luke McCown blew out his knee working relief duty in Week 1. Trent Edwards dinged his right thumb after Garrard suffered his concussion against the Titans. And now, last week’s starter, Todd Bouman, is questionable with a right finger injury.

Also questionable is Jaguars DE Jeremy Mincey (hand), who was just given the starting job ahead of disappointing former first-round pick Derrick Harvey (who should be listed as questionable each week with an iffy skill set).

Jacksonville’s interior defensive line should step up in this game. The Cowboys are still without left guard Kyle Kosier (ankle) and his backup Montrae Holland (groin). Phil Costa will start for them. Cornerback Terence Newman is expected to play despite sore ribs. Knowing Newman, though, he’ll come out of the game with a false injury scare at least twice.

Dolphins @ Bengals

Not a single player of consequence is listed on Miami’s injury report. For the Bengals, it’s the other way around. Essentially Cincy’s entire secondary is listed as questionable, with the exception of S Roy Williams, who is doubtful (knee), and CB Leon Hall, who is probable (hamstring). Hall missed Wednesday and Thursday’s workout. His counterpart, Johnathan Joseph (ankle), missed Wednesday and most of Thursday. Backup CB Morgan Trent also sat both days. And, oh yeah, nickelback Adam Jones was just placed on IR (neck). Considering the Bengals have next to no pass rush, the injuries in the defensive backfield are an extra major concern.

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