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Tag:Eric Weddle
Posted on: March 2, 2012 1:57 pm
Edited on: March 2, 2012 2:36 pm
 

Rice, Goldson, Campbell latest to be tagged

Rice will make $7.7 million in 2012 assuming he signs Baltimore's franchise tag. (Getty Images)
By Josh Katzowitz

Ravens running back Ray Rice, 49ers safety Dashon Goldson and Cardinals defensive end Calais Campbell are the latest players to be offered franchise tags by their respective teams.

-We named Rice the top free agent running back in our latest rankings, but we also never expected Rice to reach the open market.

Rice apparently wants an Adrian Peterson type contract, and considering Peterson signed a seven-year deal worth $100 million before last season, Baltimore doesn’t necessarily agree with Rice’s assessment of his worth. As CBSSports.com’s Will Brinson wrote, a deal that mirrors Carolina’s DeAngelo Williams’ five-year, $43 million deal is probably more appropriate. Assuming he signs the tag, Rice will make about $7.7 million for 2012.

“As we have in the past, placing the franchise designation on a player allows us to keep negotiating on a long-term contract,” Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said in a statement. “Our goal is to keep Ray Rice a Raven. We’ve done this with other outstanding players through our history, including Haloti Ngata a year ago.”

-As we told you a few days ago, the 49ers planned all along on placing their franchise tag on Goldson.

"By using the franchise tag on Dashon, it affords us the opportunity to continue to work on a long-term contract with him, while also ensuring he will be a 49er for a sixth season, in 2012,”  San Francisco general manager Trent Baalke said in a statement.

Goldson and his then-agent Drew Rosenhaus apparently turned down a five-year contract worth $25 million from San Francisco last year, and Rosenhaus convinced Goldson he could get him a contract closer to what Chargers safety Eric Weddle (five years, $40 million) had signed.

But that obviously didn’t happen, and Rosenhaus was forced to OK a one-year, $2 million deal for Goldson. It makes sense, then, that Rosenhaus no longer works for Goldson -- who will make $6.2 million in 2012.

-Campbell was the No. 3 defensive end on our free agent rankings list, and the move to tag him by Arizona was expected.

"We’ve made no secret of the high regard in which we hold Calais,” said Cardinals general manager Rod Graves. “To be clear, reaching a long-term deal that will keep Calais with the Cardinals for years to come remains our primary objective.  This move today allows us the opportunity to continue working with Calais and his agent toward that goal and that’s exactly what we will do.”

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Posted on: January 29, 2012 10:48 pm
 

Pro Bowl incentives don't pan out

V. Jackson played in the Pro Bowl (AP).By Josh Katzowitz

A couple new exciting (!) features this season were supposed to make this year’s Pro Bowl slightly more palatable. It didn’t exactly work.

The first change was to make it a more financially-sound decision for the players to give an effort by rewarding the winning players with $50,000 and the losers a paltry $25,000.*

So, how’d that work out? Well, look at the tweet from Bears radio sideline reporter @ZachZaidman, who tweeted the following in the first quarter: “I'd rather watch players in the Pro Bowl tweet about playing in the Pro Bowl than watch them play in the Pro Bowl.”

Indeed, most of the effort given in Hawaii was rather, um, lacking. Which is totally understandable and to be expected. There’s no sense in badly injuring yourself in order to triumph in a glorified All Star game. So, no matter the monetary incentive, an extra $25,000 isn’t going to make the risk/reward ratio any different.

* For the record, this is similar to what Will Brinson proposed last year when he wrote the NFL should make it a winner-take-all event.

“Make it winner-take-all so that each player's legitimately motivated to win the game and make the Pro Bowl competitive,” Will wrote.

Heck of an idea by Will and the NFL. Unfortunately, it didn’t work.


The second change, though, really could have been interesting. Well, as interesting as anything else the Pro Bowl could offer.

The NFL relaxed its in-game tweeting prohibition and actually set up computer stations on the sideline so players could instantly translate their in-game ramblings into 140-word thoughts. It was, um, not so exciting.

Or as the Newark Star Ledger’s @StevePoliti tweeted, “Tweeting stations. I turned on the Pro Bowl, and they're talking about tweeting stations."

Here’s a sampling of what entered our feed during the game.

@MillerLite40 (Von Miller): first series was great!!! it was an honor just to be on the field with all the guys!!!! #gigem #probowl

@ajgreen_18 (A.J. Green): first pro bowl TD!!! blessed!! #probowl

@GregJennings: Having a blast out here... bout to go out on O to catch some more passes!!

@ericweddle1: Truly blessed to be here! Such a amazing atmosphere #GREATFUL

To sum it all up, here’s “Late Show with David Letterman” (#onCBS!) head writer Eric Stangel, who penned the following, “Remember everyone, with the #ProBowl, this year- it counts! And by "counts" I mean is a complete waste of everyone's time."

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Posted on: November 16, 2011 3:40 pm
 

Film Room: Bears vs. Chargers preview

Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit


The Chargers have not won a game since we featured (and lauded) them in a Week 7 Film Room post. The Bears, on the other hand, are white-hot, having won four straight in taking over the NFC wild card lead.

Here’s a five-part breakdown of the two teams in this Sunday’s late afternoon showdown at Soldier Field.


1. Quarterback
It was not long ago that the preeminent strong-armed, interception-prone quarterback in his mid-twenties with an on-field demeanor that rubbed many the wrong way was Jay Cutler. This season, however, it’s Philip Rivers.

His league-leading 15 interceptions have been genuine turnovers – not the kind of cheap tipped picks that plagued Eli Manning last season. Rivers’ downfield accuracy has waffled. He also has been uncomfortable passing from a dirty pocket. That’s alarming given that his best trait in years past has been making strong throws in the face of pressure.

Cutler knows all about operating in the face of pressure. However, lately he’s been throwing from much cleaner platforms. Because he has the strongest raw arm in football, he does not necessarily need to set his feet in order to throw. He’s a solid athlete with underrated mobility that allows him to buy time. But it’s when the time is bestowed upon him and he is able to set his feet that he gets in rhythm.

It’s not quite a Brady/Brees/Rodgers-like rhythm – Cutler has too many fundamental flaws for that – but it’s a potent enough rhythm to carry a team to victory.

2. Offensive line
The reason Cutler has been more comfortable is he trusts his pass protection. Mike Martz knows that his unathletic offensive line cannot hold up long enough to consistently protect seven-step drops, so he’s built more three-and five-step drops into the gameplan (though the Bears did drift away from this just a bit against the Lions last week). As Cutler has said, he’s potent when he has room to throw.

To be fair, the Bears offensive linemen have elevated their play as of late. Guard Lance Louis has been particularly solid since becoming the new right tackle. Losing left guard Chris Williams (on I.R. with a wrist injury) hurts because, until Gabe Carimi returns from his knee problem (he’s missed seven games and underwent arthroscopic surgery last week), Frank Omiyale will likely play. Omiyale was a train wreck at right tackle earlier this season. He played guard earlier in his career, but if he were truly viable there, he never would have moved outside. Edwin Williams replaced Chris Williams last week, but the Bears have not named him the new starter. He could still be in the mix.

Either way, offensive line coach Mike Tice will have his hands full helping this group continue performing at an acceptable level.

Rivers has felt a lot of Cutler’s old pain as of late. Left tackle Marcus McNeill has fought injuries the past few weeks; after he left the Raiders game last Thursday night, backup Brandyn Dombrowski was eaten alive. Inside, backup left guard Cornell Green, filling in for All-Pro Kris Dielman (out since suffering a concussion-related seizure after the loss to the Jets), has struggled to move his feet in pass protection.

Even though Norv Turner’s playbook is heavy on slow-developing downfield passes, the Chargers did not give the left side of their line much help last Thursday. That should change going up against Julius Peppers.

3. Receivers
Once again, these two clubs are going in opposite directions. The Bears have recently gotten healthy outside, with Earl Bennett back and showing newfound quickness. Bennett is no longer just a plodding possession slot receiver – he’s Cutler’s go-to guy. His presence has eased the burdens on the unreliable Roy Williams and permanently raw Devin Hester.

Also, what can’t be understated is the brilliance of Matt Forte. His success on the ground has given the offense balance, which helps the passing attack. Forte is also one of the best receiving backs in the league.

The Chargers, on the other hand, are without Malcom Floyd (hip injury). His absence has been ameliorated by the flashes of athletic explosiveness from rookie Vincent Brown.

However, San Diego’s usual stars have disintegrated in recent weeks. Antonio Gates has looked heavy-footed and Vincent Jackson has consistently failed to separate against man coverage. Jackson had a three-touchdown outburst against Green Bay thanks in part to some coverage busts. But in the three games before that, he caught a total of seven balls for 98 yards. Last week against Oakland, he had just one reception for 22 yards.

4. Cornerbacks
It will be tough for Jackson to reignite at Soldier Field. Bears cornerback Charles Tillman is having arguably the best season of his stellar career. Tillman thoroughly won his one-on-one battle against Calvin Johnson last week, using a mixture of aggressive press coverage and well-timed post-reception physicality from off-coverage positions.

Tillman, like all Bears cornerbacks, used to only play one side of the field. It was part of Chicago’s strict Cover 2 scheme. But as this season has progressed, Lovie Smith and defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli have drifted away from Cover 2 and more towards single-high safety concepts with the corners playing both man and zone principles. This allows the other safety to roam the field as an extra run supporter or, more often, versatile pass defender.

Consequently, the corners have moved around based on matchups. Tillman defends the opposing team’s biggest (and often most dangerous) receiver, while Tim Jennings (who is having the best season of his career) follows the smaller-but-quicker No. 2 receiver. The commendable performance of these corners is the reason Chicago has been able to spice up its defensive scheme.

In sticking with our theme, San Diego’s secondary has been increasingly disappointing the past month. Left corner Quintin Jammer and slot corner Dante Hughes have been fine, but on the right side, Antoine Cason and rookie Marcus Gilchrest have taken turns replacing one another in the starting lineup. Free safety Eric Weddle moves well and has some interceptions, but he’s not a true stopper.



5. Defensive front
A feeble pass-rush doesn’t help matters for San Diego. The loss of Shaun Phillips (still out with a foot injury) and Larry English (injured reserve) leaves the Chargers with journeymen Antwan Barnes and Travis LaBoy on the edges. Barnes is fast and has actually been as impactful as his team-high six sacks suggest. LaBoy’s run defense compensates for his low sack total (1).

Still, the bottom line is the forces that once buttressed San Diego’s pass-rushing depth are now the forces that comprise San Diego’s pass-rush period.

If the Chargers want to generate consistent pressure on the quarterback, they have to blitz. Inside linebacker Victor Butler and slot corner Dante Hughes are the two best options for this. Blitzing is not preferable for defensive coordinator Greg Manusky, though.

It’s never been preferable for the Bears. They almost exclusively use a traditional four-man pass-rush, which works when you have a deep rotation, a highly-skilled No. 2 rusher like Israel Idonije and a monster like Peppers. In an effort to create matchup problems, Peppers has been lining up at both end positions and, lately, inside on certain passing downs.

So who will win? Check our NFL expert picks for all Week 11 games

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: November 15, 2011 10:00 am
 

Coach Killers, Week 10: The Rex and Beck show

Coach Killers is your weekly look around the league at those performances, decisions and "Wait, what did he just do?!" moments that put the guy in charge squarely on the ol' hot seat.

Posted by Ryan Wilson

David Reed, Billy Cundiff - Ravens

See if this makes sense to you. Three weeks ago, the centerpiece of the Ravens offense, running back Ray Rice, was on the sidelines with the Grand Schemer, Cam Cameron, as quarterback Joe Flacco was winging the ball all over the yard against the god-awful Jaguars. By the time it was over, Rice had just eight carries, and Flacco ended up 21 of 38 for 137 yards and Baltimore lost to Jacksonville, 12-7.

On Sunday, it was an encore performance; Rice had five carries, Flacco threw the ball 52 times … and the Ravens loss to the Seahawks. But Cameron isn't solely responsible for what happened in Seattle. The brunt of the blame falls on kick returner David Reed, who had not one but two fumbles, both recovered by the Seahawks and converted into six points.


“I was kind of hoping that it would go like this, where they wouldn't feature [the run] as much [and] they wouldn't be balanced out,” Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said after the game. “We got up enough and at halftime, they decided they were going to throw the football, so that we didn't see much of the running game at all. … I thought that helped us a little bit."

To recap: Cameron played right into Carroll's (!) hands. Let that sink in for a moment.

Here's something else we don't understand: Rice fumbled early in the Jags game and found himself on the bench. He's probably one of the most important players on the roster. Reed fumbles … and head coach John Harbaugh sends him right back out there. And he fumbles again. Reed might be the 52nd or 53rd most important player on the roster.

Carroll: "Tell Jim I said hi!"

“You can’t turn the ball over,” Harbaugh said. (Just ask Ray Rice, who was benched against the Jags.) “I mean, hey, this is the NFL, and you’ve got to protect the football. He knows that. And he will, he will. David Reed’s a tough guy, he’s a competitive guy, he’s been there before. I’ve got a lot of confidence in David, a lot of respect for David. He’s one of our guys.”

Kicker Billy Cundiff also honked two field-goal attempts, a 50 and 52-yarder. Yes, those are long-range opportunities and it's hardly shocking that he missed them both. But Baltimore signed him to a five-year, $15 million contract in the offseason, the type of money you pay guys to make tough kicks.

Finally, as our CBSSports.com colleague Will Brinson pointed out in his weekly Sorting the Sunday Pile column: this is unfortunate for Ray Lewis, his knees, ankles and all 10 toes.


Upside: We applaud Ray-Ray for his impromptu Carlton homage. Didn't see that coming.

Juan Castillo, Nnamdi Asomugha (but mostly Castillo) - Eagles

The dream is dead, the team is done and Philly should probably spend the final seven weeks of the season figuring out who's worth keeping around for 2012. To borrow one of Emmitt Smith's favorite words, the latest debaclement came against the lowly Cardinals, who showed up at the Linc for the Kevin Kolb Bowl -- without Kolb -- and proceeded to beat the Eagles with the mighty John Skelton.

We found out Monday that Michael Vick suffered a few broken ribs during the game and that my explain why the offense sputtered, but the defense has been a disaster all year. Some might say that this is what happens when you promote your offensive assistant to defensive coordinator.

Recapping Week 10

But presumably Juan Castillo doesn't teach his players to blow coverages, miss tackles or avoid contact altogether. At some point, the players have to, you know, execute. Which brings us to Nnamdi Asomugha. He's not the Eagle's biggest problem (far from it, in fact), but he came to Philly as one of the league's best cornerbacks with reputation for shutting down the opponent's best receiver.

This season, he's been miscast (which we can blame on Castillo). Brinson likes to say the Eagles want Asomugha to be Charles Woodson 2.0 when it makes much more sense to let him be the original Nnamdi. In the fourth quarter of Sunday's Cardinals game, Asomugha lined up offsides (seriously, how does that happen to veteran defensive back?) allowing Arizona to convert on third down. He also dropped a fourth-quarter interception.

The biggest crime, however, was that he wasn't super-glued to Larry Fitzgerald all day. And that again falls on Castillo.

"It would've been nice to be on him in that situation," Asomugha said. "I've done it before. With him. With others. Done it before. Chase guys. Follow guys."

Not Sunday. Instead, Castillo's gameplan seemed to involve letting Fitzgerald get open, which happened seven times for 146 yards, including two touchdowns.

One score came in the second quarter when Castillo got the bright idea to cover Fitzgerald with … rookie linebacker Brian Rolle.

Then, in the fourth quarter, Fitzgerald snagged a ball that deflected off Joselio Hanson's hand's and he walked into the end zone for the game-tying score. On the game-winning drive, rookie safety Jaiquawn Jarrett was in coverage on Fitzgerald on two of his receptions.

Asked after the game why Jarrett -- and not, I don't know, Asomugha -- was covering Fitzgerald at that point in the proceedings, Castillo said "Because I gotta do a better job."

This is the sort of answer you expect from an eight-year-old who forgets to take out the trash, not a grown man in charge of coordinating up a defense that happens to have a legit shutdown corner at his disposal.

Ryan Pontbriand, Phil Dawson -- Browns

It's not really fair to blame the Browns' latest loss on two of their best players, Ryan Pontbriand and Phil Dawson. But the fact that two of their best players are a long-snapper and a kicker tells you all you need to know about the current state of the franchise.

The West Coast offense isn't suited for the Rust Belt, especially when everybody knows what's coming (we talked about this phenomenon plenty last week). It was more of the same against the Rams, but the Browns, trailing 13-12, had a chance to take the lead with just over two minutes to go in the fourth quarter. Instead, Dawson shanked a 22-yarder. Replays showed that Pontbriand's snap his the foot of left guard Alex Mack, causing the ball to skip back to holder Brad Maynard, throwing off Dawson's timing in the process.


Browns football, everybody!

“This is one of the lows of my career,” Maynard said, via the Columbus Dispatch.

Pontbriand added: “I pretty much cost our team the victory. I’m pretty numb right now.”

Four years ago, Pontbriand earned an honorable-mention nod as one of Cleveland's top-five athletes. And that probably still holds. It's just that he had an off-day Sunday. Most amazing, perhaps, is that it hasn't happened more frequently. This is Cleveland after all.

Rex Grossman, QB, Washington

Last week, John Beck got the nod in this space. And we suspect that whoever head coach Mike Shanahan starts next week will end up here, too. The takeaway isn't that Grossman and Beck are bad (they are), it's that the Redskins organization is a complete and utter disaster. This comes as news to exactly no one, except maybe Shanahan, who somehow finds a way each week to look more exasperated than when we last saw him after the previous loss.

The latest demoralizing setback came in Miami against the Dolphins, a team that won its first game of the season last week. Miami notched win No. 2 Sunday against the Skins. Grossman finished the day 21 of 32 for 215 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions. And the offense consisted of three Graham Gano field goals. Not exactly reminiscent of those heady Shanahan days in Denver with John Elway.

“It’s the same thing each and every week,” wide receiver Jabar Gaffney lamented, via the Washington Post. “That’s what’s really, like, frustrating. We work on it, think we have it controlled and figured out. Then we come back out and we still have the same problems.”

Shanahan decided to reinstall Grossman as the starter after Beck went winless in three games, citing some nonsense about injuries and Beck's inexperience.

“You go with more of an experienced guy that has dealt with these situations,” Shanahan said in explaining his switch to Grossman. “I didn’t want to put John in a situation where we had a number of guys down, and with his experience, especially over the last two weeks, I didn’t think that was the right thing to do.”

Uh huh.

We said it last week but it Bears repeating: the Redskins could lose out. They're that bad. But they're also cursed and/or unlucky -- even if they go 3-13, they ain't getting Andrew Luck because there's no way the Colts are winning three games.

Defense, San Diego

For once this season, Philip Rivers wasn't the reason San Diego lost. Last Thursday, Rivers was adequate (which is an improvement over his recent performances) but the Chargers' defense -- their run defense, in particular -- was a no-show.

This might be understandable if Darren McFadden was in the backfield wreaking havoc. He was not. Instead, Michael Bush did the heavy lifting, rushing 30 times for 157 yards and a score, and hauling in three passes for 85 receiving yards.

If the Chargers don't get better, they can expect more performances like the one Michael Bush put on them last Thursday.

The Raiders' offensive line dominated the line of scrimmage, Bush took full advantage, and ultimately, Carson Palmer was the beneficiary.

San Diego's now 4-5 and tied with the Broncos (!) for second in the AFC West. Credit to Rivers for taking the glass-half-full approach.

“We’ve been worse,” he said after the Raiders loss.

Safety Eric Weddle was more direct in his assessment of what happened.

“We got our butts kicked. Every facet of the game. They ran the ball at will. We gave up too many deep plays.”

It gets more depressing. The San Diego Union-Tribune's Kevin Acee wrote Friday that only 18 times in Chargers history had they surrendered more yards than the 489 the Raiders had in Week 10.

Can San Diego get it together and make a late playoff push like they do every year?

“You know, every man can say they messed up here and there, didn’t play the way they’re capable of playing,” Weddle said. “And that’s what’s going to happen, you’re going to get a beat down like we did.”

So you're telling me there's a chance?

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Posted on: October 24, 2011 12:17 pm
 

Chargers say refs didn't call fair game

Q. Jammer blamed the officials in San Diego's loss (US Presswire).Posted by Josh Katzowitz

You can forgive fans (well, almost forgive them) for complaining about referees and thinking (no, truly believing) that the officials are out to screw over their teams for whatever reason. Maybe players think that way too, but it’s uncommon to hear a player emote the things that Chargers cornerback Quentin Jammer said after the Jets 27-21 victory against San Diego.

"I don't have to say anything about what the refs did -- everyone saw how the calls went," Jammer said, via the New York Post.

Then, of course, Jammer went on to say many things about what the refs did, especially when he was asked if the officiating was consistent.

“Yeah -- consistently bad,” he said. “No way it was called fairly. No way. Not at all. It wasn't called fairly at all. Maybe I'm being biased, but I'm just judging off what I saw. It wasn't a fair game called."

Well, yeah. Jammer is biased. His team lost a game it felt it should have won. Quarterback Philip Rivers and the offense did nothing in a 2-minute drill at the end of the game, and the Chargers fell to a Jets team that managed to score its biggest win of the season.

Jammer made the point that the Chargers had zero penalties called on them in their previous game, but then got nailed 13 times for 95 yards vs. the Jets, who were penalized eight times for 60 yards.

"How does a team just get sloppy like that the very next game?" he said. "The answer is, it doesn't."

Well, that’s ludicrous. Every team has the ability to get sloppy. Look at the Ravens, who are 4-1 and one of the favorites in the AFC but looked terrible in Week 2 against the Titans. With the exception of the Packers, teams can look great one week and crappy the next (it’s called parity, baby, and the NFL loves it!). Teams can avoid penalization one week and get tagged with 13 the next game.

Is that so difficult to believe, especially when five of those flags were for either offside or neutral zone infractions, a penalty that’s tough to dispute? Apparently so. Therefore, the officials get placed in the crosshairs.

“They were bad,” safety Eric Weddle said. “Really bad.”

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Posted on: July 27, 2011 1:19 pm
Edited on: July 27, 2011 1:33 pm
 

Report: Weddle to return to Chargers

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Free agent S Eric Weddle is returning to the Chargers after all.

Despite trumped-up interest from a number of teams (among them, the Jaguars, Broncos and Colts) who wanted to sign the DB coming off a strong season (96 tackles, two interceptions), the San Diego Union Tribune reports he’s agreed to terms to return to San Diego.

Take this for what it’s worth, but his agent David Canter proclaimed it the richest deal ever for a safety. That would be, according to the Union-Trib, that's a five-year, $40 million deal with $19 million of it guaranteed.

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Posted on: April 21, 2011 8:59 am
Edited on: April 21, 2011 9:00 am
 

Relationship with Weddle, Alka Seltzer fizzes out

E. Weddle is suing Bayer and Athlon Sports (US Presswire). Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Apparently, Chargers S Eric Weddle has a bad case of heartburn. And it turns out that Alka-Seltzer is the one giving it to him.

According to his agent,
David Canter, Weddle has filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit against Bayer AG, Bayer USA and Athlon Sports for a variety of alleged offenses.

Here they are, according to Canter (deep breath): “federal statutory misappropriation of image, California statutory misappropriation of image, common law misappropriation of image, conspiracy to misappropriate, unauthorized commercial use of likeness, unfair competition under the Lanham Act, false advertising, and civil action under California’s preservation and regulation of competition.”

Basically, the story is this. Weddle discovered that his image was being used by Bayer and Athlon Sports on Alka-Seltzer boxes, leading Canter’s general counsel to send a demand letter to remove all those items from stores.

As Canter’s press release states: “Part of this national marketing campaign was to place an image of our client Eric Weddle from when he was an All-American football player at the University of Utah on Bayer’s Alka-Seltzer antacid boxes.  These boxes appeared throughout the United States at various Wal-Mart’s, Walgreens, CVS’s, supermarkets, and local pharmacies. Additionally, the defendants used this same image of Eric to advertise and promote Athlon Sports’ college football preview magazine. Though this campaign never identified Eric throughout any advertisements, it was clear from the photo in question, that the image used was of Weddle, bearing the number 32 worn during his collegiate playing days at Utah.  It is the same jersey number that Eric has worn for his entire NFL playing career.”

Apparently, the letter that was sent was not heeded by Bayer and Athlon, which leads us to Weddle filing his lawsuit.

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Category: NFL
Posted on: April 3, 2011 2:34 pm
 

Offseason Checkup: San Diego Chargers

Posted by Will Brinson

 

Eye on Football's playing doctor for every NFL team with our Offseason Check-ups.



2010 was a weird year for the San Diego Chargers. They had all the tools necessary to contend for a Super Bowl, and in a season when parity reigned supreme, that should have equated with success. It didn't, though, because the San Diego got off to one of its patented slow starts, performed epically horrible on special teams, and couldn't close out inferior teams.

Statistically, though, it was all there. Philip Rivers was a machine on offense, piling up big stats despite throwing to guys like Legadu Naanee, Patrick Crayton, Randy McMichael and Seyi Ajirotutu. Part of what got those A-listers on the top of the Bolts' receiving stats was injuries (well, most was injuries), and part was the holdout of Vincent Jackson. Oh yes, and Mike Tolbert -- just like everyone expected -- was the team's leading rusher.

Defensively, San Diego thrived despite not having an elite pass-rushing presence. In fact, just like on offense, they were the No. 1-ranked team in the league. And yet, again, no playoffs. It's a really odd conundrum, frankly, and it's either a really weird fluke or it's indicative of a bigger problem within the organization. Given the Chargers' typically annual success, the jury's still out on the latter, but another slow start and sloppy manner of missing the playoffs could change that in 2011.



Special Teams, Depth

It's not all that hard to pinpoint the problems for the Chargers in 2010. Pretty clearly, special teams cost them a couple of wins and therefore a shot at the postseason (plus, likely a divisional title). 

Of course, fixing special teams is much easier than, say, fixing a giant hole at quarterback, and it's entirely possible that with the right personnel moves, the Chargers will be fine in that area in 2011. In fact, once some veterans were plugged into the special teams unit, San Diego was much better at the third leg of football than it was earlier in the year. (At that point, though, it was just too late.) 

Perhaps the bigger problem for the Chargers in 2011 will be the status of certain players. Vincent Jackson was franchised, but depending on how the CBA shakes out, he could be gone. It seems somewhat reasonable that he's around for one more year. Malcolm Floyd could be out the door as well, meaning the Chargers' depth at wide receiver could be crushed back to late-last-year levels. If Kevin Burnett, Stephen Cooper, Eric Weddle, Jacques Cesaire, Travis Johnson leave, the defense is going to take a hit too. It's part of the problem with the way A.J. Smith built the team -- if the labor negotiations don't favor the league, San Diego's depth suffers.



1. Defensive End
As might have been said 5,000 times in these previews thus far, it's a pretty good year to need depth at defensive line. So it wouldn't be surprising at all to see the Chargers nab a defensive end with their first-round pick. J.J. Watt, Cameron Jordan and Adrian Clayborn are all highly likely/possible picks for San Diego at No. 18.

2. Linebacker
Shaun Phillips had a monster year in 2010, but San Diego needs to beef up their linebacking corps, unless they actually think that Larry English can end up performing to his first-round expectations. (And, speaking of which, not exactly a great last pair of years in the first round for A.J. Smith, huh? Ryan Mathews and Larry English aren't exactly justifying their top-20 status.) English could still justify the selection, but there's some serious talent that would fit San Diego's scheme in guys like Robert Quinn, Akeem Ayers and Ryan Kerrigan, the latter two of whom should fall to 18 pretty easily. Quinn's a guy that would be a steal at 18 and could also be a trade-up target for Smith if hops up the board again in 2011.

3. Wide Receiver
Talk about an up-in-the-air position for the Bolts: if Jackson and Floyd end up leaving, they're going to need some serious help here. Buster Davis isn't going to pan out and while Antonio Gates should technically qualify as "depth" at wideout, having Naanee and Ajirotutu as the top receiving options just isn't going to cut it. Smith and Norv Turner know they can have success with less than elite talent, though, so seeing them take a wideout with an early pick would be a bit surprising.



Look, the Chargers are capable of winning it all in 2011. Statistics don't mean everything (obviously), but if a team is the top offensive AND defensive team, it means there's enough talent on the roster to bring home the Lombardi Trophy. Living up to the lofty expectations this franchise has set for the past few years in 2011 will require two things: not making simple mistakes and actually remembering that football starts in September.

It would help, too, for the Bolts to address some of their defensive needs as well. And for their last two first-rounders -- English and Mathews -- to play up to their potential. Should all of that happen in 2011 and the Chargers don't win the division and/or at least make a run to the playoffs, it's entirely possible that Norv Turner's job could be on the line once again. At this point, there's no viable reason for a team with this much success -- statistically speaking -- not to be converting their high-end performance into more wins.

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