Tag:Craig Stevens
Posted on: December 7, 2011 12:08 pm
Edited on: December 7, 2011 12:09 pm
 

Film Room: Titans vs. Saints preview

Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit


While we weren’t looking, the Tennessee Titans got to 7-5 and in the thick of the AFC playoff race. This week they have a widely televised game against the New Orleans Saints. Perhaps it’s time we get to know Mike Munchak’s club.

Here are some tidbits on one of this week’s showcase games.


1. Saints O vs. Titans D: 31 flavors vs. vanilla
Sean Payton has been known to use 15 different formations on his first 15 plays. As offensive variety goes, the Saints are boundless and peerless. The Titans defense, under Jerry Gray, is the polar opposite. They’ve been the easiest unit to watch on film this season because they line up in base zones, they rarely move before the snap and it’s always clear what each player is trying to do. It’s an execution-based defense.

In this model, the Titans try to make opponents play conservatively and methodically. Instead of trying to beat the offense big once or twice and risk having the offense beat THEM big, the Titans would rather make the offense beat them small again and again, without making any bad mistakes. This formula works against middle-tier offenses – like the Broncos, Browns, Colts, Bucs and Bills, all of whom the Titans have held below 20 points. But unless an execution-based defense has a few top-level playmakers – like the Bears with Brian Urlacher or, in past years, the Colts with Dwight Freeney – it won’t hold up against upper-tier competition.

The Titans have a mobile, fairly athletic defensive line but one that’s devoid of premium pass-rushers. Their linebackers are reliable but not sideline-to-sideline players; it might even be considered a weak unit when outrageously overrated middle ‘backer Barrett Ruud is in the lineup (he’s been out most of the past month with a groin; rookie Colin McCarthy has been an upgrade in his stead). The secondary is sound but not ball-hawking.

The way to beat Drew Brees is to confuse him (which isn’t easy). He’s far too sharp as a progression-read passer for a defense to simply line up and play against. Unless luck intervenes or a few Titans defenders play the game of their lives, we’ll see Brees lead four or five ABC-123 type clock-eating scoring drives Sunday.

2. Chris Johnson
Pilloried for the destruction of fantasy teams nationwide the first 10 weeks of the season, the $30 million running back has rushed for over 100 yards in three of his last four outings. Not until these past two weeks did Johnson show his old acceleration and burst. We may never know what got him off track early in the year, but he appears to be on track now (he’ll have to stay on track a little longer before we fully trust him again).

One theory people floated was that his offensive line was struggling. That’s simply not true. It’s easy to blame the linemen because they’re big, faceless cogs in a unit. But ask yourself this commonsense question: What’s more likely? That one player (Johnson) suddenly stunk, or that FIVE players (the line) suddenly stunk? Johnson’s line wasn’t bad – Johnson was bad. He was stopping his feet to redirect, looking for holes rather than reading the movement of defenders and spinning mud when hitting the gas.

This isn’t to say that Johnson’s line has been sterling this season. Until they started consistently landing blocks on the move last week, guards Jake Scott and Leroy Harris looked very average (Scott maybe even a cut below that). Gritty veteran right tackle David Stewart has at times relied too much on grit and not enough on technique. Even steady Pro Bowl left tackle Michael Roos has struggled a bit (though more in pass-protection than run-blocking). But inconsistent means good AND bad. Until recently, the Titans line had been a tad inconsistent, while their running back had been just plain bad. We’ll see if Johnson can maintain his rhythm against a fast Saints run defense.

3. Titans O vs. Saints D: manufacturing big plays to compensate for a weakness
We’ve covered before how Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams dials up so many risky, complex blitzes in part because he does not have a good enough pass-rushing front four to simply line up and play. On a similar note, Titans offensive coordinator Chris Palmer has done a good job generating big pass plays this season through design.

With Kenny Britt injured, the Titans do not have any receivers who can consistently burn one-on-one coverage. Thus, instead of dictating the terms of engagement and just attacking through the air, the Titans have used route combinations in response to specific defensive looks. That’s good coaching.

Some examples that stand out: in Week 4, the Titans killed the Browns’ man coverages with a litany of natural pick plays (Nate Washington’s 57-yarder to set up a late first half touchdown being the highlight). In Week 13 they found ways to isolate Buffalo’s untested seventh-round rookie cornerback Justin Rogers with presnap motion.

In Week 3 they used a deep crossing route with unassuming tight end Craig Stevens:

The Titans knew that outside cornerback Cassius Vaughan was responsible for covering the defensive left third of field. So they sent wideout Marc Mariani on a fly route to carry Vaughan deep. That temporarily left an unoccupied void that Stevens’ crossing pattern was timed to hit. 

When Stevens caught the ball, Vaughan was out of position and facing the wrong direction. This well-timed, clever approach compensated for Stevens’ lack of speed.

This is quality stuff. It’s not necessarily sustainable – at some point, talent becomes a requirement in pro football – but it’s making the most of your resources.

4. Defending Graham
When facing the Saints, your defensive gameplan often centers around how you decide to defend Jimmy Graham. As the best receiving tight end in football, Graham, frankly, deserves a cornerback’s attention. But most teams can’t afford to sacrifice their run defense by playing a third corner on every down. So, they compromise by using a safety.

Then there are the brave teams that try to stop Graham with a linebacker (like the Giants two weeks ago, who put Jacquian Williams on Graham so that they could have one of their faster safeties defend Darren Sproles).

The Titans play a lot of zone coverage. Even a lot of their man coverages have sprinkles of zone concepts with cautious safety alignments over the top. Because of this, the Titans will likely be stuck in a few linebacker-on-Graham scenarios. Perhaps they’re comfortable with this.

In base defense, Will Witherspoon has been a savvy pass defender over the years. He’s not super savvy, though, as he comes out in nickel. Of course, that’s partly because rookie linebacker Akeem Ayers moves well in space, particularly near the inside flats. Ayers, however, is more inclined to make a tackle that merely prevents a run-after-catch, as opposed to actually breaking up a pass.

Expect Graham to get his usual touches, especially given that the zone defenders will constantly be peaking at Sproles coming out of the backfield.

5. Film Tidbits
Some miscellaneous trends for your viewing pleasure:
--when Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins creeps down into the box, it’s almost always to blitz.

--if the Titans do have one specific target they try to get the ball to, it’s tight end Jared Cook. He’s far from a go-to guy (inconsistent fundamentals, not as good a runner as his athleticism suggests), but he’s well-built and can create a mismatch once or twice a game. It usually comes when he detaches from the formation.

--The Titans like to use backup running back Javon Ringer in hurry-up offense. Ringer can catch and, more importantly, he’s a better pass-blocker than Chris Johnson. (We’ll see if Ringer’s hurry-up reps continue now that Johnson has gotten back to his normal self).

--The Saints almost always throw to the inside receiver in a given formation. It’s not often that the ball goes outside. (This tidbit came from film guru Greg Cosell, executive producer of the NFL Matchup Show.)

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: November 20, 2010 6:01 pm
Edited on: November 20, 2010 9:20 pm
 

Week 11 injury report analysis Part III

Posted by Andy Benoit

Packers @ Vikings

Brett Favre has a shoulder/ankle/elbow/chin/and probably something else, but he’s listed as probable and is 99.9999 percent certain to go. He’ll have his best receiver, Percy Harvin (ankle) available, and he’s also getting his former best receiver, Sidney Rice, back from hip surgery. No. 3 wideout BernardR. Bush (US Presswire) Berrian, however, is questionable with a groin injury. C John Sullivan (elbow) and G Anthony Herrera (calf) are both questionable, which is a problem given how slipshod the Vikings offensive line is on the outside.

For the Packers, the injury storm seems to be abating (either that or everyone has gone to IR already). WR Donald Driver (quad) and DL Ryan Pickett (ankle) aren’t expected to return yet, but the rest of the lineup is healthy.

Seahawks @ Saints

Reggie Bush (fibula) is likely back and eager to stick it to his former USC coach. Starting RB Pierre Thomas (ankle) is still out, though. It’s starting to seem unlikely that Thomas will return at all in 2010. TE Jeremy Shockey is out with a rib injury, and FS Darren Sharper won’t play due to a bad hamstring. That’s noteworthy because Sharper’s replacement, rising first-rounder Malcom Jenkins, is questionable with a neck. Rookie CB Patrick Robinson is also questionable (ankle); Sean Payton will make a decision on him just before kickoff.

Seahawks QB Matt Hasselbeck has a crack in his non-throwing wrist. He’ll play, but he won’t get to throw to Brandon Stokley (calf) or Golden Tate (ankle).

Redskins @ Titans

CB DeAngelo Hall does not have a hamstring injury, though expect that to change if Randy Moss beats him on a deep route. RB Ryan Torain DOES have a hamstring injury and won’t play. Fortunately, Clinton Portis is back after missing five games with a bad groin. Portis may not have RG Artis Hicks (thigh) to run behind, but Hicks is probably on the cusp of losing his starting job anyway. S LaRon Landry (Achilles) and CB Carlos Rogers (hamstring) are questionable.

The Titans are still without Kenny Britt (why do you think they signed Moss?) and they’ll play without TE Craig Stevens (knee scope) for the next few weeks. QB Kerry Collins (calf) is doubtful, which means Jeff Fisher avoids having to make a tough call on Vince Young. CB Vincent Fuller did not practice due to a hamstring injury.

UPDATE 9:20 p.m. ET: Landry and Rogers are both out for the Redskins.

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

Posted on: November 19, 2010 5:24 pm
 

Hot Routes: 11.19.10: Mocking Brady's rant

Hot Routes

Posted by Andy Benoit and Will Brinson

Titans tight end Craig Stevens will miss a few weeks after having his knee scoped. G. Jackson (US Presswire)


The Jets will be without wideout Jerricho Cotchery (groin) this week .


Maurice Clarett has completed his first full football season since 2002 when he was a superstar at Ohio State


An arrest warrant has been issued for former NFL defensive tackle Grady Jackson. Authorities believe he has a $50,000 watch that he shouldn’t have. Jackson says it’s all a misunderstanding .


Want to see an unbelievably hysterical Tom Brady rant mock video ?


DeAngelo Williams' contract situation .


Marion Barber won't be benched in Dallas.


Ravens not underestimating Brian St. Pierre. In unrelated news, they won the award for "Most Cliche Gamespeak of 2010 ".


The Chiefs may be without sensational rookie tight end Tony Moeaki this week (he suffered a head injury late against the Broncos).

Joey Galloway is getting dumped on in Washington . He’s had a very solid career, but is it a surprise that the 38-year-old who couldn’t stick on the Steelers or Patriots rosters last season is struggling now?


Rams punter Donnie Jones is getting some love .


Linebacker Mark Simoneau has retired after his short-lived comeback effort in Kansas City resulted in him going on Injured Reserve .


As expected, Rob Ryan’s name is starting to be tossed around in head coaching discussions.


The Broncos brought back running back Andre Brown. He was with the Giants in training camp, the Broncos early in the season, then the Jags for a few weeks, then the Colts and now the Broncos again. So is he extremely wanted or extremely unwanted ?


The Packers are giving Sam Shields another crack at punt returns .


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

Posted on: September 28, 2010 9:59 am
Edited on: September 28, 2010 5:07 pm
 

Top Ten with a Twist: Biggest problems

Mike Singletary has led his San Francisco squad to an 0-3 start to the season (AP).
Posted by Josh Katzowitz

The first game, if your favorite team has a bad day at the office, you can forgive it. “Ah, it’s just one game,” you might say. “My men have plenty of time, and it was the first game of the season. Obviously, they haven’t worked out all the kinks.” You can still sleep at night.

The second game, if your team stinks up the joint again, you can forgive it. With reservations. “OK, it’s only two games. The season is still long. You can still make the playoffs if you start it out 0-2. They’re still figuring things out.” You still sleep at night, though probably not as soundly.

By the third game, though, if your team is still playing really, really poorly, you might have a tough time catching those Z's. By game three, problem teams – and problem players – are becoming more “the trend” and less “just a phase.” Your team might really suck, after all. Your favorite player might officially be over the hill.

You might officially have a problem.

10. Carson Palmer:
I’ve watched Palmer closely the past five or six years, and after the Jets beat Cincinnati in the playoffs last year, I wrote Palmer was no longer an elite quarterback (you can’t be elite, after all, if your stats fall somewhere between Jason Campbell and David Garrard). He’s continued his struggles this year, and though, the Bengals don’t need him quite as much if they have a healthy Cedric Benson, you can close the book on him as one of the best in the game.

9. Shawne Merriman’s Achilles/Andre Johnson’s ankle: Let’s combine two annoying injuries for players who would do well to stay on the field. Merriman, who missed much of the preseason because of a holdout/Achilles injury, played the last two weeks, but he had to leave Sunday’s contest because of a calf injury. Though he’s not the player he once was, he’s a better option for San Diego than Antwan Applewhite and Brandon Lang. And Johnson’s ankle is self-explanatory. If he’s not on the field – and he’s had to miss part of the past two games – the Texans offense isn’t nearly as potent.

8. David Garrard: I know, I hate putting two QBs on here in the first three picks, but, unlike Palmer, I’m not sure why Garrard is still playing with the first string. I mean, aside from Todd Bouman (hasn’t thrown a pass in five seasons) being his only backup. Coach Jack Del Rio was asked how much longer he could play Garrard, and Del Rio said as long as he was the team’s best option. Meaning he’s the team’s only option. Which is bad news.

7. Ben Roethlisberger’s return:
This isn’t about Roethlisberger necessarily and I assume coach Mike Tomlin will give him back his job when he returns from his four-game suspension, but the Steelers could be 4-0 playing a combination of Dennis Dixon and Charlie Batch. Roethlisberger obviously is a better QB than either of those two, but he’ll probably be rusty. What if he struggles against the Browns in his first game? What if Miami’s defense lights him up the week after that? Will Steelers fans be chanting Charlie Batch’s name (probably not, but you never know …)?

6. Brandyn Dombrowski:
So, how soon can Marcus McNeill return for San Diego? Dombrowski, playing LT and trying to protect Philip Rivers’ blindside, had a tough time against Seattle on Sunday, Chris Clemons toasted him a few times to sack Rivers, and on the Chargers’ first attempt to get within two late in the game – the first time Rivers hit TE Antonio Gates – Dombrowski was called for holding. San Diego coach Norv Turner has defended him, but Dombrowski had a rough one in the Chargers loss.

G. Hartley had a rough week for New Orleans last week and is in danger of losing his job (AP). 5. Garrett Hartley: It’s hard to believe how badly Hartley missed his game-winning 29-yard field goal in overtime of the Falcons victory against the Saints. Coach Sean Payton has shown plenty of loyalty to Hartley, but Hartley directly cost New Orleans the game Sunday. How many more games will he negatively impact the Saints before he’s off the team? Maybe, none. John Carney and Matt Stover apparently have tried out for the Saints this week, and at this point, if Hartley lasts the year in New Orleans, it’d be kind of a surprise. 

4. The entire AFC/NFC West: We’ll get into San Francisco’s Mike Singletary in a minute, but man, how inconsistent have these conferences been? Oakland has been terrible (against Tennessee), less terrible (a win against St. Louis), and almost not terrible enough to win again (a 24-23 loss to Arizona). Derek Anderson has worked his anti-magic for the Cardinals. And you still don’t know what you’re going to get when Seattle runs onto the field for the game. I'm still shocked St. Louis beat Washington. These divisions are wide open for the taking, especially when Kansas City starts 3-0 and leads the AFC West.

3. Chargers kick return coverage:
OK, so you saw what Leon Washington did against San Diego on Sunday, returning a kick for 101 yards for the TD and then returning another kick for 99 yards. That was unreal. But don’t forget about Kansas City’s Dexter McCluster, who had a 94-yard punt return in the season opener vs. San Diego. On Monday, several Chargers veterans volunteered for special teams duties in order to help improve that unit. Hey, it certainly couldn’t hurt.

2. Giants discipline:
Remember how Antrel Rolle complained about how much control the coaching staff held over the players? Well, that’s not exactly true, especially when we’re talking about New York’s 11 penalties, including five personal fouls that occurred after the play was over, in its bad loss to Tennessee. Two 15-yarders came courtesy of RT Kareem McKenzie (behavior McKenzie called “despicable” the next day), and Rolle incurred one when he tried to punch Tennessee TE Craig Stevens. With performances like that, you have to wonder what kind of control coach Tom Coughlin actually asserts over his players. And how much longer he’ll be in control of the Giants at all.

1. Mike Singletary:
After the 49ers 31-10 beatdown by the Chiefs, word filtered out that Kansas City’s defenders apparently were calling out San Francisco’s play calls before the plays were actually run. Now, the 49ers are 0-3, and maybe, aside from pulling down his pants to motivate his team, Singletary doesn’t exactly seem like an X’s and O’s guy. He actually was asked after the game if he had been outcoached, and he said, “I would not say ‘outcoached.’ When you have a loss like this, a lot of things look wrong.” Like the offense. And a day after backing his offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye and saying he’d be around the rest of the season, Singletary fired him. That means new offensive coordinator Mike Johnson continues the streak of Alex Smith never playing for the same coordinator in back-to-back seasons. I’m sure that will help.

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