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Tag:Brian Waters
Posted on: February 1, 2012 7:59 pm
 

Kevin Faulk still has big role with Patriots

K. Faulk spends time at Media Day (US Presswire).

By Josh Katzowitz

INDIANAPOLIS – Kevin Faulk began his career in New England 13 seasons ago. Before Bill Belichick, before Tom Brady, before the Super Bowl titles and the dynasty label. Back then, Faulk, taken in the second round of the 1999 NFL draft, took handoffs from Drew Bledsoe, took coaching from pre-USC Pete Carroll and took plenty of losses (19 in his first two seasons).

But better than perhaps anyone in the organization, Faulk understands how far the Patriots have come since 2000. He was there at the beginning when the team was going nowhere and in the middle when the Patriots couldn’t avoid the Super Bowl. And now as Faulk gets closer to the end of his closer, he gets to help determine if the Patriots can end their seven-year NFL title streak and reestablish themselves as one of the greatest organizations in NFL history.

Faulk has never really been a star. He led the team in rushing just once, and though he was a big contributor in the passing game for much of his career, he was rarely spectacular. Mostly, he was just solid. But he’s played for a coach in Belichick who has no qualms about cutting loose veteran players if he believes they’ve outgrown their usefulness,and  the fact Faulk has remained in New England all these years is a testament to Faulk’s importance in this organization.

Faulk

“Kevin has been essential,” Patriots guard Brian Waters said. “He’s got a lot of young guys he’s been working with. He has a great understanding of telling them what it takes to get to the next level. It’s different when it comes from coaches. Coaches say the same things over and over. When it comes from a player, especially when it comes from a guy with such a big heart and such a leader as he is, it definitely sticks with you.”

Faulk is not an outspoken player, which he fully displayed during Tuesday’s Media Day proceedings. He had his own podium, but his answers were clipped and not altogether interesting.

He’s adamant about not reflecting on his career before it’s finished. He knows he’s on the backend of his career, but he doesn’t appreciate these days any more than he appreciated the game in the past.

“What happened earlier in my career? You worry about that after your career,” said Faulk, who is the team’s all-time leader with 12,349 all-purpose yards and just one of six NFL players this past decade to total 3,000 rushing yards and 3,000 receiving yards. “Once you’re in it, you’re in it. You don’t want to look back and think about what you’ve done. You wait until it’s all over.”

He did wonder, though, if he still had a place in the NFL after missing most of last season with a torn ACL. He wondered, in fact, if he’d ever get a chance to win his fourth Super Bowl ring.

“Sorta, kinda,” said Faulk, who started this season on the PUP list. “That’s every year, though. You always wonder if you’re going to get back there. There’s a lot of different ways and situations that has to go on in order to make it to this point.”

But there’s little doubt Faulk has been one of Belichick’s favorite players. Even though Faulk, throughout the years, has played behind the likes of Terry Allen, J.R. Redmond, Antowain Smith, Laurence Maroney, Corey Dillon, Sammy Morris and BenJarvus Green-Ellis ((see above graph), Belichick continues to see Faulk’s value.

“In terms of his contributions, his unselfishness, and being a great teammate, everybody loves Kevin,” Belichick said. “As they should. He contributes so much to our football team. He’s so unselfish. Always tries to help the younger players and the team in whichever way he can. He’s not the most vocal guy, but he will speak up sometimes and it’s always in a positive way. He was here when I got here. He’s been a great player and a great teammate for all of us through the years.”

H/T to CBSSports.com's Ryan Wilson for the graph.

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Posted on: January 29, 2012 12:54 am
 

Super Bowl XLVI Preview: Patriots O vs. Giants D

Breaking news: Brady is key to the Pats winning. (Getty Images)
Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit

It’s this side of the matchup that makes Super Bowl XLVI so compelling. New England’s juggernaut offense against the league’s best four-man pass-rush. Here’s the breakdown.



1. Relevance of rematch factor
What happened in Super Bowl XLII has virtually no bearing on this game. Yes, that game was decided by New York’s front four getting pressure on Tom Brady. And yes, front-four pressure will play a huge role in this Sunday’s game. But the pressure in Super Bowl XLII was schematically generated by the Giants’ inside blitzes (both feigned and real).

This approach compelled the Patriots’ help-blockers to work inside, leaving one-on-one matchups for defensive ends Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora outside. This was a brilliant strategy by Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo because it punished Brady for taking seven-step drops. Those seven-step drops were obligatory in an ’07 Patriots offense that was built around the vertical prowess of Randy Moss.

But as mentioned, that gameplan is now irrelevant, as the ’11 Patriots are built around the horizontal prowess of Aaron Hernandez, Rob Gronkowski and Wes Welker. What IS relevant is the gameplan the Giants had in Week 9 when they went into Foxboro and forced four turnovers en route to a rare Patriots home loss.

New York’s Week 9 gameplan centered around physical coverage behind a four-man pass-rush. No surprise – that’s how the Giants are built to play. What’s important is to understand HOW the Giants executed this gameplan.

Considering New York’s personnel is basically the same now as it was in Week 9 (only better), there’s no reason to think they won’t go with the same approach again. Let’s dissect that approach.

2. The four-man rush
One thing that sets the Giant’s four-man rush apart – besides an insane collection of talent – is its mismatch-creating versatility. The Giants have used 27 different front four alignments this postseason.

Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul can both slide inside and work against overmatched guards (and every NFL guard, even Pro Bowlers like Logan Mankins and Brian Waters, is overmatched against athletes like JPP and Tuck). They can align linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka anywhere up front. They have a beastly all-around force in Chris Canty (and for what it’s worth, a solid duo of rotating run-stoppers next to him in Rocky Bernard and the underrated Linval Joseph).

Most quality four-man pass-rushes have guys who are either speedy or powerful; Pierre-Paul, Tuck, Kiwanuka and, by defensive tackle standards, Canty, are all speedy AND powerful. This is what creates their versatility, and it’s also what allows the Giants front four to tee-off rushing the passer without becoming vulnerable to the run.

Expect the Giants to jumble their front four looks as much as possible. They also might walk linebackers up to the line of scrimmage just to give Brady and his linemen something to think about. As we talked about last week, the key to beating Brady is to not just get pressure on him, but to make him consciously worry about his protection.

3. New England’s response to New York’s D-line
The Patriots, like 30 other NFL teams, will have their hands full with many of the individual front line matchups against New York. For an elite left guard, Logan Mankins can be surprisingly iffy in protection sometimes. Left tackle Matt Light often rises to the occasion against top-shelf speed-rushers, but it’s a lot to ask of the 33-year-old to block Osi Umenyiora on an island. On the right side, tackle Nate Solder struggled in pass protection last week against Baltimore.

In Week 9, the Patriots were obviously concerned about one-on-one situations in the trenches. They used six or seven offensive linemen on 20 snaps. In the first half, they often kept Gronkowski and, at times even de facto wide receiver Hernandez, in to pass-block. Don’t expect them to do that as much this time around.

New England’s offense has become even more spread-oriented, which means more pass-rush nullifying three-and five-step drop passes. Because of the skill players’ versatility, the hurry-up has become the Patriots’ main offensive attack. Expect them to use frequent hurry up in order to prevent the Giants from rotating defensive linemen.

The Patriots will likely go with their two-receivers, two-tight ends, one-back personnel, and they’ll have different groups of plays already packaged for whatever personnel the Giants defense responds with. A hurry-up will keep the same defensive personnel on the field for an entire series, forcing the 270-plus-pound D-linemen to play snap after snap after snap without rest. The hope is this wears the defense down late in the series and late in the game.

It’s vital that the Patriots win the battle on first and second down. Doing so makes the hurry-up offense more vibrant and, obviously, mitigates the substantial pass-rushing advantage that New York has on third-and-long. Winning on first and second down is hard to do consistently without running the ball at least a little. This is why New England will likely go with the 12 personnel (one back, two tight ends) as opposed to their new 02 personnel package (zero backs, two tight ends, three wide receivers).

Then again, Hernandez has been a surprisingly adroit ballcarrier ... perhaps a no-running back grouping is indeed viable. Or given that they’ve had an extra week to prepare, perhaps the Patriots will debut an all new offensive wrinkle (like they did after their last bye, with the Hernandez backfield packages in the divisional round against Denver).

4. New York’s coverage
The advantage of getting pressure with four is having seven guys to crowd the field in coverage. Few back sevens are as well-equipped to defend the Patriots’ pass game as the Giants’. They have athletic pass-defending linebackers (Michael Boley and Jacquian Williams) who can play laterally. More importantly, those linebackers can exert brutish force against any receivers running shallow inside routes. Those shallow inside routes are the backbone of New England’s passing attack.

The Giants also have versatile safeties who can (maybe) hang with Gronkowski and Hernandez. Deon Grant did a fabulous job on Gronk in Week 9 (he had a great pick in underneath coverage, and overall, Gronkowski’s impact was not as pronounced as his 101 yards suggested).

Antrel Rolle doesn’t run extremely well, but he’s agile enough to compete with Hernandez. In Week 9 Hernandez had not yet blossomed into the über-versatile weapon that he is today. So, Rolle actually spent most of that contest defending Wes Welker in the slot. Rolle got beat late a few times but also made some physical plays in the first half.

Physicality is a key concept. The Giants have capable press corners in Corey Webster and Aaron Ross. Webster is an outside defender who normally shadows the opposing team’s top receiver. Because Welker so often aligns in the slot, and because Deion Branch is not worth putting your best cover guy on, expect Webster to draw a litany of different matchups out wide. Same goes for Ross, who is actually more likely than Webster to cover Welker in the slot.

The Giants played more press-man than usual against the Patriots, and with good success. In the four games in which New England’s offense struggled the most this season, Brady’s completion percentage barely topped 50 when facing safety-help man coverage.

5. New England’s response
The Patriots know that aggressive press coverage can really disrupt the timing of their routes – an especially dubious scenario given that many of their routes are synched with other routes. Expect the go-to receiver to line up off the line of scrimmage as a means of creating more initial spacing (which makes it hard for a defender to deliver a jam). This could mean Welker in the slot, Hernandez in the slot or backfield, Branch in motion, etc. Play action could also take away inside help early in the routes, which bodes well for Welker:

This is an illustration of great route combinations. “Route combinations” refers to how one receiver’s route works hand-in-hand with another receiver’s route to exploit a specific coverage. This play shows a somewhat unusual case of an offense creating throwing lanes against man coverage with space-oriented route combinations (as opposed to regular man-beaters like pick plays, bunches or double crossing patterns).

It’s second-and-five. The Patriots are in a 1 x 2 set out of 12 personnel (one back, two tight ends). Judging by the cornerbacks, the Giants are in man coverage. This is confirmed when Rob Gronkowski goes in motion and Deon Grant follows him.

The matchup Tom Brady likes is Wes Welker against safety Antrel Rolle in the slot. Welker is going to run a deep cross. This is somewhat of a tendency-breaker, as most would expect Welker to run a shallow cross on second-and-five.

The primary intent of Gronkowski’s motion is NOT to verify the coverage, it’s to balance the formation and ensure that Grant will play close to the line of scrimmage. If he’s near the line, he’ll be unable to drop off Gronkowski and jump Welker’s route over the middle.

Don’t be surprised if the Patriots have their tight ends or running backs run patterns outside the numbers while the receivers run patterns inside. This would put pressure on the linebackers and safeties to play with more speed than power and make it more difficult for corners to count on a little help over the shallow middle (which most corners need). These inside-outside crossing elements are also natural man coverage beaters, which the Patriots must rely on.

Because Brady runs like he’s wearing ski boots, defenses facing New England don’t have to commit a linebacker to shadowing the quarterback. Thus, they essentially have one extra player at their disposal. The Patriots mitigate this defensive advantage by crafting creative route design concepts:

Upon the snap, there are two key elements:

1. Welker is coming out of the slot, not off the line of scrimmage. Thus, he has about two yards between him and Rolle, which is enough to prevent Rolle from exerting a physical jam.

2. Brady fakes a handoff to Danny Woodhead. This slows the pass-rush just enough to give Welker the time needed to execute his deep cross. More importantly, it distracts linebackers Mathias Kiwanuka and Michael Boley. They might be in a man-read assignment, meaning if Woodhead goes right, the linebacker to that side (Boley) picks him up. If he goes left, then Kiwanuka picks him up. In that case, the design of the run action was outstanding because, by starting Woodhead on the left side and running him off the fake to the right flat, the attention of both linebackers is drawn. That’s what happened here, as Boley and Kiwanuka both responded to the fake by stepping forward and becoming non-factors in this play.

(Note: It’s also possible that Boley had Woodhead straight-up, with Kiwanuka serving as a free-roaming lurk defender. If that’s the case, then Kiwanuka played this exceptionally poorly.)

Being drawn forward, the linebackers are unable to sense Welker’s crossing route and unable to give Rolle any sort of help inside. Thus, Rolle is caught playing too far outside.

On the left side, Gronkowski ran a very shallow out-route while Chad Ochocinco ran his out towards the sideline. Both of these routes were designed to widen the defense and create a big open gap for Welker.

Overall, this play had a combination of four routes working together: Woodhead’s flat on the right, Gronkowski’s out and Ochocinco’s fly on the left and Welker’s deep cross down the middle. The result: an easy 25-yard completion to arguably the league’s best slot receiver.

Again, the crossing patterns are natural man-beaters. So are bunch and stack alignments, which are great for pushing a defense into off-coverage and creating space for quick-striking throws. These tactics will replace a lot of would-be run plays in New England’s up-tempo offense.

Check our NFL expert picks for all the Super Bowl

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: January 28, 2012 3:05 pm
 

Umenyiora and Matt Light are not great friends

O. Umenyiora apparently has a problem with M. Light (Getty).

By Josh Katzowitz

Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora is not such a big fan of Patriots left tackle Matt Light.

"I don't know what it is that he does, but it's something that he's doing that really gets under my skin," Umenyiora said, via CSNNE.com. "Because I'm not that type of guy, you know what I mean? He's probably the only person I've ever fought on a football field."

Three times, in fact, the two have squared off on the football field, including the Super Bowl four years ago, and Giants defensive end Justin Tuck likes to needle Umenyiora by saying Light is undefeated against him.

When Patriots guard Brian Waters heard Umenyiora’s analysis about Light, he let out a chuckle. Is Matt Light -- and his teammates -- playing mindgames with the Giants?

“There is a little bit of that but for the most part, it’s a physical game,” Waters said, via the AP. “The mental part is making sure you know who you’re blocking from play to play. For them, they have their own assignments that they have to be accountable to. That’s probably the strongest mental part. All the other itty-bitty games that are played during the course of a game, there’s definitely going to be some of that gamesmanship at some point.”

As for Umenyiora’s plans in the Super Bowl?

"I think [Light is] more important to his team than I am to mine right now," he said, "so if we can both fight, we both get kicked out and [Jean-Pierre Paul] and Tuck will have a field day."

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, Like Us on Facebook, subscribe to our NFL newsletter, and while you're add it, add our RSS Feed.
Posted on: January 23, 2012 2:04 pm
Edited on: January 23, 2012 3:38 pm
 

Cam Newton and other Pro Bowl roster additions

NewtonBy Josh Katzowitz

Now that the Patriots and Giants officially are heading to Indianapolis for Super Bowl XLVI, that means nobody from New England and New York will be flying to Honolulu this week for the Pro Bowl.

Which means we get tons of additions and deletions to the roster!

Here’s the list so far.

-Panthers standout rookie quarterback Cam Newton will replace Eli Manning on the NFC roster. As you well know, Newton threw for 4,051 yards passing, the most ever by a rookie quarterback in NFL history while recording 21 touchdowns and posting an 84.5 quarterback rating. Newton also rushed for 14 scores, the most ever by an NFL quarterback.

-Bears defensive end Julius Peppers will take over for New York’s Jason Pierre-Paul. This is Peppers’ seventh Pro Bowl appearance, and it’s the first time since Richard Dent in the mid-1980s that a Chicago defensive end has made the roster in back-to-back seasons.

-Jets guard Brandon Moore will replace New England’s Brian Waters on the AFC roster. This is Moore’s first Pro Bowl selection. Ravens guard Ben Grubbs will take over for Logan Mankins.

-Bad news for Tim Tebow. According to Pro Football Talk, Ben Roethlisberger “definitely” is attending the Pro Bowl festivities, meaning Tebow, the second alternate, will be staying home this week (and maybe going on tour with Brad Paisley instead).

-As the Cincinnati Enquirer reports, Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton replaces Tom Brady, tight end Jermaine Gresham replaces Rob Gronkowski and defensive tackle Geno Atkins replaces Vince Wilfork.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, Like Us on Facebook, subscribe to our NFL newsletter, and while you're add it, add our RSS Feed.
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: September 4, 2011 2:36 pm
Edited on: September 4, 2011 11:05 pm
 

NFL teams continue to fill out 53-man rosters



Posted by Ryan Wilson

NFL teams reduced their rosters to 53 players Saturday night, but that's just the beginning of the roster-assembly process. Some newly unemployed big-name free agents weren't out of work long, and teams in need of depth meant that other mid-level players found homes quickly, too. And then there are the practice squads.

Luckily, we got you covered here at the Eye on Football blog where, to quote Banky Edwards, we're like CNN and the Weather Channel: providing constant updates.

So check back often and bookmark CBSSports.com's Rapid Reports while you at it.
For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.
Posted on: July 29, 2011 12:39 am
 

The biggest releases of the day

WeaverPosted by Josh Katzowitz

We had some surprising, and plenty of not so surprising, names who were released today, the first day teams could actually waive players.

Here are a few of the most-significant pink slips handed out today (we already told you about Vince Young and Tennessee here and the Baltimore guys who have been cut and the Dallas players who are gone).

-Former Vikings S Madieu Williams: He didn’t play well last year, and he’s teetering on being a bubble player in the league. Although Minnesota coach Leslie Frazier originally said he wanted to see what Williams would do in training camp, he ultimately decided not to find out. The fact Williams was supposed to make $5.4 million this year didn’t help his chances.

-Former Saints CB Randall Gay: After missing most of last season while dealing with the effects of a concussion, New Orleans released Gay. He would have cost New Orleans $5 million, and considering he was stuck behind Tracy Porter on the depth chart, this seemed like an easy call.

-Former Eagles FB Leonard Weaver: The former Pro Bowler was caught off guard by this move. This is what he wrote in a series of tweets (sics, of course, apply): “Hey there eagles nation, I'm sorry to say but I just found out I was released by the Eagles. … The kicker behind that is that the organization didn't call me and tell me. I had to find out by a reporter. … Now I have mixed feeling about that because I gave everything I had to the organization, and I would think that they would atleast call... And Let me know what was going on, but as I have learned over the years fans, business is business. …However I wish the best for the Philadelphia Eagles.”

-Former Chiefs G Brian Waters: He was a Kansas City mainstay for more than a decade, and the news of his release was met by sadness from some of the city’s media. Said Waters, who played 163 games in a Kansas City uniform: “The Chiefs and I have mutually agreed on this decision and although I look forward to continuing my career, I’ll always have a special place in my heart for Kansas City."

-Former Giants RB Tiki Barber: I know it’s hard to believe, but for some reason, New York severed ties with the former NBC broadcaster.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.

Posted on: July 1, 2011 1:58 am
 

NFL, NFLPA meet for more than 15 hours

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

The NFL and the NFLPA finally have emerged from their 15 1/2-hour meeting, and they will return at 9 a.m. Friday morning to continue discussions, according to reports from NFL.com’s Albert Breer. The mega-bargaining session began at 10 a.m. ET Thursday and continued until about 1:30 a.m. Friday

There’s obviously no new CBA, but after such a long day of meeting face to face, you have to wonder if that announcement is coming relatively soon -- like, say, within the next week or so.

Though late Thursday afternoon, there was plenty of pessimism emanating from a number of reports after the NFLPA held a conference call for some of its members, the fact that the two sides negotiated for another eight hours after that has got to be a positive step.

Plus, with the league moving closer to a deadline when a deal would have to be done in order to begin training camps on time, both sides seem a little more energized to get something accomplished.

According to the AP, among those involved in the talks today included: U.S. Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan, Giants owner John Mara, Chiefs owner Clark Hunt, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, Patriots owner Robert Kraft and, for the players, Colts C Jeff Saturday, Chiefs G Brian Waters and Ravens CB Domonique Foxworth.

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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