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Tag:DeMeco Ryans
Posted on: January 13, 2012 9:42 am
Edited on: January 13, 2012 9:44 am
 

Film Room: Ravens vs. Texans divisional preview


Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit

The Texans are hoping they can do what the Ravens did three years ago: reach the AFC Championship with a rookie quarterback. Like the ‘08 Ravens, Houston’s rookie quarterback is a complimentary piece, not the focal point.

Gary Kubiak might be offensive-minded, but his current squad is built around the run and defense. Come to think of it, so are the current Ravens ... if they play their cards right. Here’s the breakdown.


1. Baltimore’s offensive approach
With Joe Flacco turning 27 next week and entering his eighth playoff contest, the manual says this is the time for the quarterback’s coming out party. But it’d be unwise of offensive coordinator Cam Cameron to buy into that.

Cameron has been Flacco’s most boisterous supporter – and rightfully so. He and John Harbaugh have gradually loosened the quarterback’s reigns over the past three years and all but removed them this year. That approach has had its ups and downs, but through it all the Ravens have continued to win.

Flacco had a poor season statistically – his completion percentage dropped below 60 for the first time, which is why he averaged a career-low 6.7 yards per attempt – but he was also playing with more freedom/responsibility than ever. You can tell a lot about what a coaching staff thinks of its quarterback by the plays it calls.

Most fans just assume the black-and-blue Ravens have a safe, methodical passing game. In reality, much of what the Ravens do centers more around Flacco’s big arm. Instead of using Anquan Boldin primarily underneath, the Ravens often push the ball to him downfield outside the numbers. They use their tight ends down the seams and it’s not uncommon for Flacco to launch multiple bombs in a half, usually targeting rookie burner Torrey Smith.

It’s encouraging that the Ravens have opened things up, but in this case the numbers don’t lie: Baltimore’s offense is inconsistent through the air and survives primarily because of Ray Rice. The fourth-year superstar led the league with 2,068 yards from scrimmage. In Baltimore’s 12 wins, Rice rushed for an average of 100 yards on 21 carries. In their four losses, he averaged 39 yards on nine carries (and in those losses, the score was never lopsided, making Rice’s decreased touches hard to explain).

Rice is one of the league’s few runners who can consistently move the chains with power or go the distance with speed. His low center of gravity lends him superb lateral explosiveness. That’s deadly behind an effective zone-blocking line that features guards as mobile as Ben Grubbs and Marshal Yanda.

Will Joseph try to neutralize Boldin this time? (Getty Images)

2. Facing Houston’s D
If Cameron wants to win, he’ll work the offense through Rice. The Texans’ swarming front seven can be difficult to run against, but the Ravens have the game’s most effective lead-blocking fullback in Vontae Leach. He takes great angles to blocks and hits moving targets adroitly, which can help neutralize the downhill speed of linebackers DeMeco Ryans and Brian Cushing. The objective of the Ravens run game is to get the defense flowing laterally and allow Rice to cut it up inside.

Flacco won’t be irrelevant, of course. In fact, it’s not unforeseeable for Houston to bottle up the run early and for Baltimore to take to the air. Getting Anquan Boldin back from a knee injury is huge, as he’s a much tougher inside matchup than agility-based tight ends Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta.

The Ravens have the speed to beat teams downfield, but Torrey Smith is still raw and can be taken out of a game by an elite corner like Johnathan Joseph. It will be interesting to see who the Texans have their No. 1 corner defend. If it’s Smith, they theoretically eliminate Baltimore’s field-stretching prowess. But last time these teams met, Boldin was the one who caught eight balls for 133 yards. Wade Phillips may not be willing to surrender that again.

Regardless of how the secondary matches up, Flacco will have to play with poise. Even when they’re not sacking quarterbacks, the Texans pass-rushers are disruptive. Flacco was impressive keeping his eyes downfield and sliding in the pocket in the last meeting, but he’s still somewhat of a week-to-week player in this sense.

3. Test for Yates
All in all, T.J. Yates has done a commendable job keeping the ship afloat.

 Gary Kubiak did not ask a lot of the rookie in the wild card round. In response, Yates was somewhat reactive reading the field, but he capitalized when a big-play opportunity came about (Andre Johnson’s double move on Pacman Jones). He also did not turn the ball over (though it was lucky that Chris Crocker dropped a surefire pick-six in the second half).

This performance, however, came against Cincinnati’s 4-3, zone-based scheme, which was similar to what Yates saw from the Jaguars, Falcons and Titans in previous starts. Yates is yet to face a 3-4, or even a blitz-oriented defense. He’ll face both Sunday, when the Ravens show him things he’s never seen before.

4. Ravens secondary
One thing Yates has never seen before is a safety like Ed Reed. The future Hall of Famer is not just rangier than all of Yates’ previous foes, he’s much savvier. Most safeties force turnovers by baiting quarterbacks into throws on a given play. Reed will bait a quarterback throughout the game.

He’ll bite on the first route of a play in the second quarter; then in the fourth quarter, against a similar play, Reed will assume the quarterback knows not to try to fool him twice. Thus, while every other safety would play conservative and make sure not to give up that first route again, Reed will abandon that first assignment and jump the second route.

This is how he gets a lot of his interceptions. He’s a master at recognizing how offenses use certain plays to set up other plays. This is no different than a great chess player thinking four or five moves ahead.

It’s unreasonable to expect a third-string rookie quarterback to win the mental battle against Reed. Thus, the Texans might be hesitant to have Andre Johnson stretch the field too many times.

Reed isn’t the only noteworthy defensive back in purple. Lardarius Webb has had a terrific season playing outside and in the slot. Webb defends the deep ball as well as any corner, and he’s great at jumping passing lanes from over-man coverage. His versatility expands what the Ravens can do with their disguises.

5. Houston’s run game
It will be difficult for Arian Foster to get outside against the Ravens the way he did against the Bengals. Strong safety Bernard Pollard is too good as a downhill run defender and outside linebackers Terrell Suggs and Jarrett Johnson are the best in the business when it comes to setting the edge:

You’ve probably heard the term “setting the edge”. Setting the edge is when an outside run defender (in a 3-4 it’s usually an outside linebacker) entrenches himself along the line of scrimmage or in the backfield near the offensive tackle or tight end. In doing so, he forces the running back to either cut back into the teeth of the defense or run parallel to the line of scrimmage (which allows time for other defenders to chase him down).

No outside linebacking duo sets the edge better than Baltimore’s Terrell Suggs and Jarrett Johnson. This snapshot offers an extreme example of fantastic edge-setting. Suggs didn’t just stalemate Duane Brown – he drove him back four yards.
(AP)

These days, the key to running on Baltimore is, believe it or not, attacking Ray Lewis. The 36-year-old Pro Bowler is still terrific at diagnosing plays, shedding blocks and wrapping up anywhere near the hash marks, but since returning from his toe injury (perhaps too soon), Lewis’s lateral limitations have been exacerbated.

When he’s going east and west, ballcarriers have little trouble bursting by him (especially when the ballcarrier hits the hole with as much authority as Arian Foster).

To get Lewis going sideways, the Texans linemen will have to have fully beat Haloti Ngata, Terrence Cody and Cory Redding off the ball. Houston’s front line doesn’t have the strength to block any of those guys – especially Ngata, even though the 345-pound monster has looked less than 100 percent down the stretch – but as a cohesive zone unit, they can nullify them by quickly establishing favorable angles.

That’s exactly what they did against the Bengals, who can be considered a good “pretest” for a bout with the Ravens.

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: November 30, 2011 3:42 pm
 

Film Room: Texans vs. Falcons preview

Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit



Two quality playoff opponents from the Southern divisions square off Sunday. Frankly, this game was a lot more intriguing before Matt Schaub’s injury. If he’s healthy, we’re talking about the Texans as Super Bowl contenders. Now, with T.J. Yates expected to start, we’re talking about them as mere playoff contenders.

Of course, the Texans might argue that their first-ranked defense and third-ranked rushing attack can still sail the ship. Their Week 13 matchup versus Atlanta will put that theory to its first major test.



1. State of Houston’s No. 1 defense
After four years of changing schemes and coordinators, the Texans finally got it right by hiring Wade Phillips. Phillips is running the same defense he did in Dallas: a 3-4 alignment with a lot of 4-3 gap-penetrating principles. As he did with DeMarcus Ware, Phillips keeps his best pass-rusher on the weak side of the formation to help command one-on-one edge matchups.

With Mario Williams hurt, that pass-rusher is third-year pro Connor Barwin. Barwin can get after the quarterback, but Houston’s best all-around outside linebacker is second-round rookie Brooks Reed. Reed is fantastic at setting the edge and taking on blocks in the run game, and every down he brings the insane energy that all of Houston’s front seven defenders bring.

The same can be said about Reed’s fellow rookie, J.J. Watt. The powerful, long-armed first-rounder from Wisconsin has become nearly impossible to block one-on-one, both against the run and pass. In recent weeks, so has veteran Antonio Smith, a tenacious, crafty veteran who knows how to steer the action in ways that create opportunities for teammates (Smith was crucial to Barwin’s four-sack effort at Jacksonville last week).

A wrinkle Phillips has frequently used in Houston that he used only occasionally in Dallas is blitzing his inside linebacker. The incredible speed, burst, timing and innate playmaking instincts of Brian Cushing has likely been the motivation for that.

Good as this Texans defense – and especially the deep, high-octane front seven – has been, you could argue that it’s fool’s gold (it wouldn’t be a super strong argument, but it also wouldn’t be completely ridiculous). The Texans have held their last five opponents to under 14 points, but those opponents have been the Browns, Bucs, Titans and Jaguars (twice).

Those teams all have a paucity of receiving talent, which Houston’s secondary – bolstered by the magnificence of free agent pickup Jonathan Joseph – has easily exploited. Virtually all of Houston’s seven sacks at Jacksonville were coverage sacks.

The Texans defense will face its first true test in a month and a half this Sunday.

2. Falcons passing game
The past two weeks, the Falcons have broken off from their usual heavy two backs/two tight end formations to operate out of three-receiver sets. That could just be how they prefer to attack vanilla, zone-based 4-3 defenses (which their last two opponents, Tennessee and Minnesota, both run). Or, it could be a response to losing fullback Ovie Mughelli (on injured reserve with a knee). We’ll know more after we see how the Falcons choose to go after the Texans Sunday.

The prediction here is Atlanta will stay in three-receiver sets. Harry Douglas is getting very comfortable in his slot role. Roddy White and Julio Jones are hard to double-team when they’re lined up on the same side of the field (which is easier for them to do in three-receiver sets). And no defense yet has found a way to defend Tony Gonzalez in the short seam areas out of these three-wide alignments.

What’s more, Matt Ryan is most comfortable when audibling at the line of scrimmage. He loves to get to the line early and move his targets around. Three-receiver formations spread the defense and paint a clearer picture for the fourth-year quarterback.

3. Atlanta’s run game
The Falcons are still built to run the ball. That will be the case as long as they continue to trot a large but unathletic offensive line out on the field. Michael Turner, who has a surplus of patience but deficit of speed and quickness, is best equipped to run behind lead-blocking fullbacks and tight ends.

However, he’s proven capable of consistently gaining 4-6 yards out of single-back sets. Those formations usually put a defense in its nickel package, which gives Turner more opportunities to use his power against a defensive back instead of a linebacker. The Falcons can also run draws and delays with emerging lightning bug Jacquizz Rodgers when lining up three-wide.

The Texans don’t mind playing in their nickel, in part because the linebacker who comes off the field, DeMeco Ryans, has not been dazzling this season, and in part because they have relatively firm-tackling defensive backs (Glover Quin, in particular).

4. Houston’s run game
If last week’s Jaguars game is any indication, it’s fallacious to think the Texans can survive their quarterback woes by simply riding their top-ranked ground game. Arian Foster and Ben Tate are both dynamic enough runners to move the chains against an eight-man box (Foster, in fact, is the best all-around runner in the AFC; his fluid but powerful hips and tempo-changing aptitude leave him not far from Adrian Peterson’s level).

The Texans zone-blocking offensive line is cohesive and moves well at all five positions (center Chris Myers is having the best season of the bunch). But as we saw last week, it will be a tough go if that eight-man box is not at least a little bit concerned about getting beat through the air.

So much of Gary Kubiak’s offense is predicated on play-action and rollouts. Houston’s fleet tight ends and Andre Johnson give this method its venom. Overall, the system is intricate but actually puts few heavy demands on the quarterback (arm strength and pocket toughness, two critical attributes, are less significant). But a respectable quarterback is still vital because those play-action and rollouts also set up a lot of Houston’s ground game (namely the stretch handoffs).


5. Atlanta’s defense
Mike Smith started sprinkling more blitz concepts and disguises on his defense last season, but lately, he’s drifted back to execution-based schemes (i.e. fairly vanilla zones that rely on defenders being fundamentally sound and physically outperforming their opponents).

The Falcons could be more traditional if free agent pickup Ray Edwards weren’t so disappointing at defensive end. Edwards was supposed to bring a bookend pass-rushing prowess across from John Abraham. Instead, he’s been less explosive than last season’s underrated starter, Kroy Biermann.

Biermann, like Abraham, is a sinewy, versatile athlete. That’s important because the Falcons do a lot of zone exchange pass-rushes (this is rushing a linebacker on one side and having the defensive end on the other side drop into coverage; the idea is to confuse the quarterback into throwing a hot read into traffic). Speedy but strong linebacker Sean Weatherspoon has been a standout presence in zone rushes (and, for that matter, in general run defense).

In the secondary, left cornerback Brent Grimes is assertive and trusted with most of the solo assignments. Big-money right corner Dunta Robinson plays too far off the receiver to be considered anything more than “solid”. The Falcons frequently interchange their strong and free safeties. No. 1 safety William Moore is a thumper when healthy. In the last three weeks that Moore’s been out, replacement James Sanders has been serviceable as a third-level run defender. No. 2 safety Thomas DeCoud has been a liability in coverage.

So who will win? Check our NFL expert picks for all Week 13 games

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: April 16, 2011 3:02 pm
 

It's easy to like DeMeco Ryans

Posted by Andy Benoit

Thanks to the media’s appetite for negative news (which is driven by the public’s appetite for negative news), it’s easy to forget that the NFL is full of charitable humanitarians. One of those humanitarians is Texans linebacker DeMeco Ryans.

The sixth-year pro announced on Friday that he is donating a $300,000 scholarship to his alma mater, Alabama.

“I have always wanted to do this since the day I left,” Ryans said in a statement released by the school, via Pro Football Talk. “The University of Alabama is such a special place to me, and I am honored to have the opportunity to endow a scholarship. I had a great time here, and I grew as a person here. This is a great time for me, and I am very excited.”

Ryans’ scholarship will go to football players studying in Alabama’s Culverhouse College of Commerce and Business Administration. While with the Crimson Tide, Ryans was a four-time Academic All-SEC and graduated cum laude.

Last spring, Ryans signed a six-year, $48 million contract, with $21.75 million guaranteed.

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


Category: NFL
Posted on: January 3, 2011 4:41 pm
Edited on: January 3, 2011 4:58 pm
 

Texans keeping Kubiak, replacing defensive staff

Posted by Andy Benoit

To the chagrin of many Houston fans, owner Bob McNair has announced that head coach Gary Kubiak will return for a sixth season. The Texans just turned in a disappointing 7-9 season in which it set new lows for defensive ineptitude (267.5 passing yards allowed per game, 32nd in the NFL).

"I appreciate Bob's confidence in me," Kubiak said in a statement released by the team. "We visited today and decided on a new direction. I am very lucky. I work for a great man that believes in me. That means a lot to me. I have a lot of work to do to make him proud."

RELATED: COACHING HOT SEAT TRACKER

One could make the argument that Kubiak is not deserving of the blame, though. Mike Shanahan’s long-time assistant in Denver was hired for his offensive pedigree. The Texans have ranked in the top four in offensive yardage each of the last three seasons. The problems have been on defense.

Consequently, Kubiak fired defensive coordinator Frank Bush, defensive backs coach David Gibbs, linebackers coach Johnny Holland and assistant linebackers coach Robert Saleh Monday. He is looking to bring in a defensive czar to right the ship, and he says it doesn’t matter if that individual has a 4-3 or 3-4 background, but has said that Wade Phillips -- previously rumored as a DC candidate -- will be interviewed.

A 4-3 background does matter, though. GM Rick Smith has invested very high draft picks in a slew of 4-3 front seven players (Mario Williams, Amobi Okoye, DeMeco Ryans, Brian Cushing). The 4-3 system has not panned out the last several years, but that’s been a player performance issue more than anything. This season, besides Ryans’ Achilles injury and Williams’ nagging hernia, the Texans were done-in by callow cornerbacks and safeties who are hard-hitting but inept in coverage.

Kubiak is not responsible for the defensive personnel, and he’s not responsible for players having basic fundamentals. That issue pertains more to the assistant coaches. Hence, McNair felt sweeping changes on that side of the staff would suffice for 2011.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.
Posted on: October 17, 2010 4:31 pm
Edited on: October 17, 2010 7:12 pm
 

DeMeco Ryans out for season with Achilles tear

Posted by Will Brinson

A tremendous (and potentially questionable, if you're a Chiefs fan or Brandon Flowers) victory by the Houston Texans -- 35-31 over Kansas City -- was marred DeMeco Ryans' ACL injury.

Things got worse following the game when Gary Kubiak announced that the 2006 Defensive Rookie of the Year would miss the remainder of the season.

That's a big blow to the Texans defense -- Ryans had the sixth most tackles in the NFL heading into the game and with Brian Cushing back from suspension, seemed prepared to really allow the Texans defense to gel.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed .
Posted on: July 7, 2010 12:21 pm
Edited on: July 7, 2010 12:37 pm
 

Position rankings: inside linebackers

P. Willis celebrates (US Presswire) Josh Katzowitz and Andy Benoit resume their debate, with today’s focus on inside linebackers.

Josh Katzowitz’s top five

5. Jonathan Vilma, Saints

4. London Fletcher, Redskins

3. Ray Lewis, Ravens

2. Brian Urlacher, Bears

1. Patrick Willis, 49ers


Unlike our 3-4 and 4-3 outside linebackers list – which, frankly, weren’t easy to put together, because there just aren’t many stars at those positions – we’ve hit a motherload of talent at the inside linebackers spot. 

Willis seems pretty clear cut to me. He has the phenomenal statistics, he’s proven he can play the run and the pass equally well, and he’s still only 25. He’s going to be a dominant linebacker years into the future. It’s hard to believe Urlacher has been in the league since 2000. His 2008 season was unimpressive (by his standards), and he didn’t play most of last year. But is he still a top-two ILB? Yes.

Lewis is still very, very good. But he’s lost a step, and he’s not quite as feared by offensive coordinators as he once was. Notice the “not quite.” He can still rush a passer, and he still clogs up the middle of the Ravens defense, but he’s not a machine anymore and he has a tougher time in pass coverage. Though Fletcher is 35, he’s coming off one of his better seasons and he finally made his first Pro Bowl last year. Vilma racks up the statistics, in part because he’s easily the best LB on the team. But without him, the Saints might not have won the Super Bowl.

Andy Benoit’s top five

5. DeMeco Ryans, Texans

4. London Fletcher, Redskins

3. Ray Lewis, Ravens

2. Brian Urlacher, Bears

1. Patrick Willis, 49ers


I figure our editors wouldn’t appreciate me responding to your top five with a simple “ditto," but what more can be said? I’d love to debate you about Urlacher – I’m sure more than a few readers will disagree with us – but I think his instincts are second to none. I’ve heard of a few players around the league privately criticizing Urlacher’s toughness – word is he’d would rather side-step a lead blocker than attack him square on – but I simply haven’t seen that on film.

I have no problem with Vilma being top five. I chose to go with Ryans because I thought he finally made more tackles near the line of scrimmage last season. Of course, I realize Ryans had better players around him and didn’t lead his defense to the postseason.

What’s most impressive about Willis is the way he’s improved in coverage. That was a weakness for him as a rookie. He also made more big plays in the backfield last year.

Fletcher and Lewis are machines. It’s remarkable the way they make their teammates better.

Since we’re in agreement here, want to expand to top eight? My next three ILB’s are: 6. Jerod Mayo (struggled with injuries last season but was, in my opinion, the best inside linebacker in all of football as a rookie in ’08) 7. Bart Scott (arguably the most versatile inside ‘backer in the game) and 8. David Harris (a thumper against the run). I’d put Vilma at 10, though again, tell me he’s five and you won’t get a very passionate debate.

Josh’s rebuttal

I really don’t see how one can argue at this point that Urlacher is better than Willis. Urlacher is on the downside while Willis continues to climb. The only question I have: will Willis consistently reach the level at which Ray Lewis has played for so many years as one of the best middle linebackers of all time? Time will tell. I accept your top eight challenge. 6. Ryans (I like him too, especially because his physical tools aren’t that great – he’s not big, and he’s not all that fast. He just makes plays). 7. Barrett Ruud (he disrupts plays in the middle of the field and has consecutive 135-plus tackle seasons). No. 8 Curtis Lofton (He has a chance to be a star, and the foundation for the Falcons defense. He hits hard and does well vs. the run and the pass.) I’ll reserve judgment for Mayo until after this season, but I agree that he’s a top-10 guy.

Andy’s final word

Okay good, we’ll get a debate here after all. I’m sick of everyone cramming Barrett Ruud down our throats. Ruud is nothing more than an average player (and I hesitate to even honor him with that distinction). He isn’t physical at the point of contact, he lacks ideal speed and agility, and his instincts are good but not great. I don’t understand how the middle linebacker for the league’s worst run defense (Tampa Bay allowed 158.2 yards per game on the ground last year) can get so much love. Yes, Ruud makes tackles, but most of them are miles downfield. There’s a reason the Bucs haven’t given him a long-term contract.

Feel free to argue back (we got away with going past the “final word” in the 3-4 outside linebackers debate, we can push the envelope again). I’m curious what kind of specifics a Ruud supporter can drum up.

Josh’s rebuttal to the final word


Your criticism of Ruud not doing much more than tackling runners downfield is not a new one. Ruud hears it as well. From a recent St. Petersburg Times story: "I read that I make all of my tackles seven yards downfield. But a lot of times, a tackle seven yards downfield is a great tackle, because you can keep a guy from going 60 yards. When I evaluate the great linebackers of the NFL, I see a lot of guys making tackles seven yards down the field. They're making a great play when a guy looks like he's about to break it outside.''

You might say that’s a cop-out, but he tells the truth there. Sometimes, it’s not about making the fabulous play that will get you on a highlight show. Sometimes, it’s about stopping the other guy from doing so.

The argument of not giving him a long-term deal holds no water with me, because of the impending lockout and the fact that hardly anybody is getting long-term deals this year. And now that the Buccaneers have made a commitment to their defense by drafting DT Gerald McCoy and Brian Price, that only will help Ruud – who, as I said, does a nice job causing havoc in the middle of the field even without the help of a defensive line who can disrupt a play up front. Plus, coach Raheem Morris calls him “The General.” That’s a pretty sweet nickname.

Andy’s final, final word

If Ruud is “The General”, he’s a lot more McChrystal than Petraeus. The Bucs denied Ruud’s contract request last year, even though they were well under the salary cap and focusing on securing young building blocks. Sure, a tackle downfield is certainly better than no tackle at all. But the reality is this topic never comes up with the Ray Lewis’s, Brian Urlachers, Patrick Willis’s and perhaps even James Farriors of the world. Again, the Buc run defense that Ruud spearheaded last season ranked dead last.

(Other positions: Safety | Cornerback | 3-4 Scheme Outside Linebacker | Punter  | Kicker | 4-3 Scheme Outside Linebacker )

--Josh Katzowitz and Andy Benoit

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter.


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