Play Fantasy Use your Fantasy skills to win Cash Prizes. Join or start a league today. Play Now
 
Tag:Casey Matthews
Posted on: December 22, 2011 10:41 am
Edited on: December 22, 2011 10:44 am
 

Keep an Eye on: Week 16's finer points

Julius Peppers will play a big role in stopping Aaron Rodgers. (Getty Images)
Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit

Packers vs. Bears
The question is, What did the Chiefs do to make the Packers imperfect, and can the Bears do it too? In short, the Chiefs did nothing special. They ate up clock offensively, running on early downs and sustaining drives with conversions on several third-and-manageable situations. They stayed in base personnel That kept the Packers in their base 3-4, which is plainer than rice cake compared to the blitzes and disguises from their nickel and dime packages. Against that front, Kyle Orton was able to manipulate the defense with play action and eye movement.


Defensively, the Chiefs played press-man against the Packers’ receivers, which the Chiefs had just enough resources to do given Greg Jennings was out. They often rushed only three and forced Aaron Rodgers to beat them from the pocket. Normally, Rodgers would do that with ease, but Sunday he was uncharacteristically jumpy.

The Bears can certainly play this rudimentary style of football – any team can. But that doesn’t mean it will work for them. It hasn’t worked for them yet, after all. Caleb Hanie has been asked to manage the game and has often responded by ruining it (three interceptions in three of his four starts). With no staple ground attack, the Bears haven’t even been in position to play dink and dunk football.

Defensively, Chicago has moved away from the archaic Tampa 2 and towards more press coverage schemes. But their press coverage has not been pure man-to-man, perhaps because of Charles Tillman’s limitations in change-of-direction. It’s doubtful the Bears can simply out-execute the Packers’ receivers; instead they’ll need Julius Peppers & Co. to exploit that injury-riddled offensive line.

Cowboys vs. Eagles
Apparently the 2011 Eagles just needed 12 games to find their identity. The last two weeks they’ve looked like what everyone originally expected them to look like. It’s not that the players are finally getting comfortable in the system, it’s that the system has been tweaked and is finally logical.

Defensively, the Eagles have played more press-coverage and have mixed things up in their pass-rush (for example, aligning Trent Cole and Jason Babin at standup inside linebacker positions behind a two-man line against the Jets – a tactic that generated two of Babin’s three sacks).

They’ve moved Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to dime back, giving the slot nickel duties back to Joselio Hanson. They’ve inserted Casey Matthews back into the lineup, not as a starter but as a nickel linebacker, where he’s been fairly comfortable. Thanks to all this (and more), this defense has given up just 29 points and has recorded 11 sacks over the last two games.

Offensively, Philly’s line is doing a much better job picking up blitzes. The receivers are reading coverages and Michael Vick is playing with patience in the pocket. Vick’s limited football IQ has still led to a few unnecessary hits and missed opportunities, but the good has far outweighed the bad.

LeSean McCoy was bottled up by the Dolphins but, working out of spread formations, he produced 102 yards on 18 carries against the Jets. He’s scored five touchdowns the past two games.

The Eagles won their first meeting with the Cowboys handily. Even on the road this week, it wouldn’t be a shock to see them do that again.

Saints vs. Falcons
No one is playing better than Drew Brees right now, though Matt Ryan has played well enough to make the Falcons this year’s Wild Card Team That Nobody Wants to Face.

After an up and down start, Ryan has gotten comfortable with the Falcons’ new pass-oriented system. That system has had them operating out of 11 personnel (one back, one tight end, three wide receivers) in a no-huddle. Ryan has called most of the game at the line of scrimmage.

This has helped Atlanta on several fronts. For one, Michael Turner, though a power back, has been very good running from the wider 2 x 1 receiver formations. In these sets, Turner gets a clearer picture of his running lanes and faces more cornerbacks and fewer linebackers at the second level.

Secondly, the Falcons can create more inside spacing for Tony Gonzalez, which punishes defenses that try to defend him with a linebacker. Defenses that put a safety on Gonzalez are leaving single coverage on either Julio Jones or Roddy White.

Perhaps the best benefit of the hurry-up is, with all the audibling, Ryan controls the pass protections. That’s given Ryan a much better understanding of where the defensive pressure is likely to come from. Ryan’s presnap protection calls will play a huge factor in the outcome Monday night, as the Saints are known for their aggressive blitzes.

So who will win? Check our NFL expert picks for all Week 8 games

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: October 12, 2011 4:16 pm
Edited on: October 14, 2011 9:43 am
 

Film Room: Redskins vs. Eagles preview

Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit



What is wrong with the Philadelphia Eagles? Theories about chemistry, the pressure of high expectations, focus, character and, everybody’s favorite, the “It Factor” make for great talk show palaver. But they lack substance. Fortunately, there are cameras in the sky that can answer Football America’s current favorite question. Heading into a matchup against their division rival Washington Redskins, here’s what the film says is wrong with this nightmare of a Dream Team.


1. Offensive Line
You already know that Philly’s offensive line is young, incongruent and, as of late, banged up. That’s all true. And, perhaps a little bit surprising. Youth is youth, nothing you can do about that. But with new offensive line coach Howard Mudd installing his straightforward and famously teachable blocking techniques, you’d figure things would click up front a little quicker than they have (or have not).

Under previous O-line coach Juan Castillo, there were five to six different blocking techniques that Eagles linemen had to correctly choose from on any given play. It’s not easy to be fundamentally sound when you first have to think about which fundamentals to use. Mudd changed that. He teaches only one technique that has built-in variations depending on the situation.

So far, many situations have been difficult for the Eagles line to handle. That’s in part due to youth (rookie center Jason Kelce had a costly blitz-pickup gaffe against the Bills, and right guard Danny Watkins initially failed to hold onto his starting job) and in part due to injuries (with Winston Justice on the shelf, Todd Herremans has played at the unfamiliar right tackle position, which has left a void at Herremans’ left guard spot; at left tackle, big but awkward King Dunlap has been filling in for injured Pro Bowler Jason Peters).
 
Though it hasn’t been smooth sailing off the dock, this Eagles’ line is not as atrocious as people think. It’s an athletic group that fits the system well and should improve. Of course, people may not notice the improvements given that the man this unit blocks for always has, and always will, make his linemen look bad.

2. Vick and his line
As Mudd explains so eloquently, offensive linemen are the only athletes in all of sports that play with their backs constantly to the ball. Linemen protect the man holding the ball, but they can’t see the man holding the ball. Because of that, their positioning and execution are built on trust and timing.
Michael Vick’s sandlot nature obliterates that timing.

This isn’t just about Eagles blockers not knowing where Vick is when he’s scrambling around (though that’s part of it); it’s about Vick not having a feel for timing his drop-backs. Quarterbacks take three-step drops when receivers run short routes, five step drops on intermediate routes and seven-or nine-step drops on long routes. Simply taking the steps isn’t enough – you have to synchronize them with the timing of the routes and with the timing of the pass protection concepts.

Vick has a poor sense of this timing. It’s part of his collection of flawed fundamentals. Often, he makes up for his flaws with insanely athletic plays. But in the process, life is always difficult for his blockers.

3. Defensive Wide-9 Technique
People are starting to grumble about new defensive coordinator Juan Castillo’s scheme – and rightfully so. It’s a Wide-9, which is a system built around generating a pass-rush with your front four. The defensive ends align in 9-technique positions, which means they’re outside the tight ends. This puts the defensive ends in space and allows them to be sprinters out of the box. It’s ideal for guys like Trent Cole and Jason Babin, both of whom are having productive years rushing the passer.

The problem is this system puts a considerable strain on a linebacking unit. As Ron Jaworski pointed out in the Lions-Bears Monday Night game, with the ends aligning so far wide, offenses run to the gaping holes inside. This is what the defense is designed to do. The Wide-9 aims to shrink the field by steering all the action inside. But this demands physical, stout linebackers who can take on blocks and play downhill.

The Eagles simply don’t have any. Exacerbating matters is the fact that their miscast linebackers are also inexperienced. Jamar Chaney is a sophomore seventh-round pick who has shuffled from one position to another. Brian Rolle is a sixth-round rookie playing only because he makes fewer mental errors than fourth-round rookie Casey Matthews.

Understandably, Juan Castillo is taking a lot of heat for the defense’s struggles. Only those within the Eagles organization truly know what kind of defensive coach he is. But you don’t have to be inside the organization to see that the system Castillo signed up to coordinate is not right for this team.

4. The Vaunted Secondary
Imagine buying a 65-inch plasma TV, but instead of watching Blue Rays or DVDs on it, you watch video cassettes. That’s sort of what the Eagles are doing with Nnamdi Asomugha. The ex-Raider was worth $25 million guaranteed because he’s the best outside press-man cover artist not named Darrelle Revis. But Asomugha has not been a press-corner in Philadelphia.

Greg Cosell, the executive producer of the NFL Matchup Show and one of the most respected analysts in the country, points out that Asomugha played outside press-man only 40 percent of the snaps through the first four weeks. The rest of the time he was in off-coverage, traditional zone or lined up over the slot (where he’s never regularly operated before). Consequently, Asomugha has been uncomfortable.
 
There are problems on the other side, as well. Asante Samuel is a classic off-coverage corner who needs to be able to see both the receiver and quarterback in order to be effective. Cosell adds that Samuel is also suited for a blitz-oriented scheme, where the quarterback is compelled to throw quickly, thus making routes easier to jump. In this Wide-9 scheme, Samuel has often had to play bump-and-run coverage, which he doesn’t have the physicality to do.

The Eagles may be sorting this snafu out. A few times against the Bills, they used Asomugha in man-to-man while everyone else played zone. But even if the corners are all utilized to their natural talents, there remains concern about the safeties.

Cosell, who can speak at length about the intricacies of Wide-9 run defense concepts, says a major issue has been Jarrad Page’s failures in run defense. Page was benched in the middle of the fourth quarter last week after several missed tackles.

5. The Redskins Matchup
With their bye, Washington has had an extra week to rest up and study Philadelphia’s myriad problems. Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett should be licking his chops. The Redskins run one of the most aggressive (and effective) blitz schemes in the league. Outside ‘backers Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan can feast on the Eagles offensive tackles, plus they have the athleticism to plausibly keep Vick in the pocket.

If Orakpo and Kerrigan are told to cut loose, don’t be surprised if strong safety LaRon Landry serves as a spy on Vick. Of course, let’s not get carried away with thinking these matchups spell doom for the Eagles. After all, Philly’s offense hung 52 points on Washington’s defense in Week 10 last year. (Philly’s D added seven more.)

On the other side of the ball, the Redskins’ zone-blocking scheme does not create the type of pounding downhill run game that’s ideal for attacking this Eagles defense.

But it does create passing lanes for tight ends. With the Eagles corners stifling the mediocre Redskins wideouts, don’t be surprised if Rex Grossman throws 15-20 balls to Chris Cooley and Fred Davis. It’s a good place to attack given that the Eagles linebackers have also struggled in coverage.

So who will win? Check our NFL expert picks for all Week 6 games

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: October 11, 2011 9:56 pm
 

Andy Reid won't back off the wide-nine scheme

Juan Castillo has struggled to get Philadelphia's defense playing well this year (US Presswire).Posted by Josh Katzowitz

It still boggles the mind that after firing defensive coordinator Sean McDermott after last season, Eagles coach Andy Reid moved offensive line coach Juan Castillo to McDermott’s old spot. And it’s been kind of fun to point out the inadequacy (so far) of that move, considering Philadelphia’s defense -- even with highly-regarded new acquisitions like Nnamdi Asomugha, Jason Babin and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie -- has been underwhelming this year.

Try tied for 26th in the NFL with 26.4 points allowed per game.

But the Philadelphia Inquirer has an interesting theory why Castillo might have been Reid’s only choice: basically, it states that, since Reid was so intent on implementing a new wide-nine* defense, other defensive coordinator candidates who would have had to do Reid’s biding in playing with that defense might have balked at the idea and said no thanks.

*This is the scheme where the defensive ends are split out wide, on the outside of the opponent’s tight end, and their goal is to disrupt the pocket with speed rather than trying to move offensive tackles with strength or footwork.

“What probably happened as the Eagles defensive coordinator search turned farcical was that interviewed candidates balked at the idea of coming aboard with the stipulation that the wide nine would be used here -- take it or leave it,” writes Jeff McLane. “There aren't many coaches that use it, although it has been around in one form or other for many years.

So that left Juan Castillo. And, well, Castillo would do whatever Reid and (defensive line coach Jim) Washburn wanted. He was an offensive line coach wishing to become a defensive coordinator. Castillo would have agreed to the wide nineteen.”

As McLane suggests, Washburn might have been another obstacle. Reid hired the well-respected Washburn away from Tennessee specifically so he could help install the wide-nine. This was before Reid had even hired a defensive coordinator. Considering Washburn was on to stay no matter what, that also would have taken away from a new coordinator’s autonomy in hiring the coaches he wanted.

While Babin and defensive end Trent Cole have performed well split out wide, the linebackers have done a poor job of tackling, leading to the benching of Casey Matthews and safety Kurt Coleman. But the real problem, the newspaper writes, is that Reid has not given Castillo the appropriate parts to play successfully with the wide-nine.

Yet, Reid told reporters this week that he’s sticking with the wide-nine, because he’s saying that it worked. For proof, he points to the second half of last Sunday’s Buffalo game when the Bills were held to a field goal for the rest of the game after starting the second half with an 80-yard touchdown drive.

"You obviously saw it work in the second half very effectively," Reid said. "We've just got to continue to work with it. Listen, anything new you've got to work with and work out the wrinkles and get it right."

"Players, they have to learn it, coaches have to learn it, particularly the new coaches. So it's a joint effort there."

Yes, but if the Eagles don’t improve -- they are, after all, a stunning 1-4 -- it might not be Reid’s call after this season. Because Reid is not 100 percent certain to survive if Philadelphia’s wide-nine doesn’t start producing better results relatively soon.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.
Posted on: February 28, 2011 12:15 pm
 

Casey Matthews out for rest of NFL combine

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Oregon LB Casey Matthews, the younger brother of Packers standout LB Clay Matthews, will miss the rest of the NFL combine after injuring his shoulder during Saturday’s bench press, according to NFL.com’s Steve Wyche.

Though he’s not the athletic specimen his brother is, CBSSports.com ranks him as the seventh-best inside LB in the draft (and No. 162 overall).

Matthews obviously has good name recognition, but he really made a case for himself during the 2011 BCS championship game when he impacted QB Cam Newton’s ability to make plays and stripped him of the ball late in the game.

One potential knock on Matthews is that he played in a defensive system at Oregon in which he blitzed a ton, probably inflating his sack numbers. Not that a wonderful NFL combine would have dashed that negative, but still, it has to be disappointing for a LB who could be selected on the second day of the Draft.

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

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