Tag:Frank Omiyale
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: October 19, 2011 4:21 pm
 

Keep an Eye On: Week 7's finer points of analysis

Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit

Saints vs. Colts
New Orleans’ two new weapons
The Saints have redefined their passing attack. It now runs through Jimmy Graham and Darren Sproles. Graham has been far and away the best tight end in football this season. All onlookers could observe last season that the former Hurricanes power forward possessed considerable raw talent, but few could have predicted he’d polish it this quickly.

Graham has a natural feel for gaining positioning against pass defenders (insert obligatory “like a rebounder” comment here) and, best of all, he’s a hands-catcher who snags the ball away from his body. This makes him nearly impossible to defend, given his size and elevation abilities. Helping the cause is that the Saints align Graham all over the formation, which gives defenses fits in deciding what personnel package to use (most, including the Bucs this past week, have been going with nickel and treating Graham like a slot receiver).

Graham is Brees’s go-to guy. Sproles might be Sean Payton’s.

When the Saints are trying to dictate the tempo of a drive, they often look to get Sproles the ball underneath. The key is putting him in positions to run after the catch. This could mean screens, though often it has meant short outs and ins on spread plays where wideouts run deep to lift the coverage. Sproles has remarkable quickness and elusiveness, amplified by a rare-found ability to start and stop. He’s been much better in this offense than Reggie Bush ever was.

So how will the Colts defend the two new weapons? They’re a zone-based defense with fast linebackers. That helps against Sproles, but it does little for containing Graham. If the Saints can find ways to pass protect long enough to run vertical routes outside, that’ll prevent the Colts safeties from running under and over Graham’s routes. This would spell a fifth-straight 100-yard game for the rising star.



Dolphins vs. Broncos
Tebow’s limited resources
You couldn’t ask for more favorable conditions for a new starting young quarterback: two weeks to prepare, a game at Miami (where the weather is nice and the crowd is irrelevant) and facing a defense that, even with a beast like Cameron Wake, has for some reason completely forgotten how to rush the passer.

Trading your No. 1 receiver just days before the game might not seem favorable to a young quarterback, but that receiver was unenthused about playing with Tebow and hadn’t been getting open in Denver’s new ball-control offense anyway. Plus, he was liable to leave after the season, and his spot is ready to be filled by a now-healthy (hopefully) Demaryius Thomas.

Thomas is a possession target, whereas Brandon Lloyd was more of a vertical threat (though not a burner). The Broncos already have a litany of possession targets, such as Eric Decker, Matt Willis and, when healthy, Eddie Royal. This lack of vertical speed compresses the field and narrows throwing lanes, which isn’t good with a slow-reading young quarterback who has a long windup and prefers to improvise outside the pocket.

The Dolphins are healthy at cornerback again; with no downfield threats to worry about, don’t be surprised if this is the week they finally figure out how to reach the quarterback.

Bears vs. Buccaneers (London)
Forces up front
When playing well, these teams offer two of the faster defensive front sevens in football. The Bucs defensive ends – vastly improved Michael Bennett and explosive rookie Adrian Clayborn – feasted on the shoddy Saints tackles last week and should be licking their chops for J’Marcus Webb and Lance Louis (a guard by trade who has taken over for the overwhelmed Frank Omiyale on the right side).

Linebacker Geno Hayes played with instincts and speed against the Saints, which hasn’t always been the case this season. He’ll have a big say in whether the Bucs can contain Mr. Do It All, Matt Forte.

For Chicago, the mission will be attacking right tackle Jeremy Trueblood. Julius Peppers, bum knee and all, is a force who can matchup with Donald Penn on the left side. Same goes for underrated Israel Idonije. But over the years, when it’s rained on Trueblood, it’s poured. He’s the guy to go after.
The Bucs don’t have a backfield star like Matt Forte to build around, though Earnest Graham is a productive receiver who, as he showed last week, can add a dimension of surprising (though subtle) inside quickness and elusiveness.

Don’t be stunned if Graham becomes a bigger component in the run game even after LeGarrette Blount gets healthy. Graham, however, is facing a much greater challenge this week than he faced last week; Chicago’s linebackers are just as fast as New Orleans’ but a lot more physical.

So who will win? Check our NFL expert picks for all Week 7 games

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: March 22, 2011 11:31 am
 

Offseason Checkup: Chicago Bears

Posted by Andy Benoit



Eye on Football's playing doctor for every NFL team with our Offseason Check-ups. Also, check out our checkup podcast:





Lovie Smith earned a new contract after his seemingly mediocre team ended its three-year run of mediocrity. The ending of the Bears’ season became THE story of the postseason when Jay Cutler left the NFC Championship with a strained MCL. The loss of Cutler’s strong arm confirmed what many already knew: the Bears had been paddling upstream all season against the current of their awful offensive line, ho-hum receiving corps and close-to-lethargic run game.

Credit Cutler and especially the surprisingly malleable Mike Martz for making late season adjustments that compensated for these weaknesses. Helping compensate for offensive shortcomings was the resurgence of a defense that saw MLB Brian Urlacher return from his ’09 wrist injury fresh as can be and long-time Panther Julius Peppers provide a much-needed pass-rushing presence while galvanizing the run defense.



 Every time you put on the film, Nick Roach, the athletic four-year linebacker, stands out. Roach, undrafted out of Northwestern, has been a special teamer who only starts when someone is injured. Last season, it was Pisa Tinoisamoa’s bum knee that propelled Roach to the first string. Predictably, Roach proved to be an upgrade over Tinoisamoa.

Roach's lack of size and abundance of speed make him better equipped for the weak side in a Cover 2 system. Obviously, this team’s weakside position is held down by Lance Briggs. But given Chicago’s options on the strong side, Roach is worth playing out of position.

(Not to push too much change too fast, but Briggs is actually built more like a strongside linebacker anyway. So if the Bears really wanted to mix things up – which, we know, they don’t – they could relocate their veteran Pro Bowler, too.)



1. Offensive tackle
Just because J'Marcus Webb started as a rookie doesn’t mean he’s the answer at right tackle. The lumbering seventh-round pick only started because the team’s Gatorade cooler didn’t have hands or feet and the tackling sled didn’t know all the plays. The Bears could also stand to upgrade at left tackle, though veteran Frank Omiyale survived well enough in that spot last season.

2. Interior offensive line
Center Olin Kreutz hit a wall in 2010. It wouldn’t be sensible to re-sign the 33-year-old. Left guard Chris Williams is a former first-round pick who didn’t take the field until 2009. You hate to give up on the guy this early, but watch him in pass protection and you see that you wouldn’t be giving up on much.

3. Wide receiver
Devin Hester is at worst a gadget play specialist but at best only a slot option. Johnny Knox is a zone-beater with speed to burn, but it’s hard to picture teams ever rolling their coverage to his side of the field. With Earl Bennett being almost strictly an underneath target, there’s room to insert a downfield playmaking weapon in this rotation.



Any team that hosts the NFC Championship and returns virtually all of its players the next season will have legitimate Super Bowl aspirations. But it wouldn’t be outlandish to proclaim these Bears a one-hit wonder. A little more firepower and a lot more blocking prowess are needed offensively. Defensively, the table is pretty well set, though coaches have for years been searching for a playmaker at the safety position.

Finding one may be necessary for putting this unit over the top. As things stand, this is far and away the second best team in the NFC North.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed
Posted on: December 9, 2010 3:32 pm
Edited on: December 10, 2010 1:28 pm
 

Key Matchup Week 14: Belichick vs. Martz

Posted by Andy Benoit

Want more Week 14 action? Check our NFL podcast preview

B. Belichick (US Presswire)Bill Belichick has faced Mike Martz before. You may recall Super Bowl XXXVI. Belichick’s revolutionary defensive gameplan that afternoon centered around beating up on Martz’s finesse-based Ram offense.

Now the offensive coordinator of the Bears, Martz is operating out of the same playbook, though he’s reading from different chapters. He has seemingly let go of his rigid insistence on throwing the ball every down. Entering Week 14, the Bears rank a respectable 16th in rushing attempts per game (26.7).

It’s no coincidence that the Bears’ five best rushing performances this season – with the exception of the 218-yard outburst against Carolina – have all come during their current five-game winning streak. But none of those five wins have come directly from running the ball. In fact, the Bears have not had over 135 yards rushing in any of those five games. Heading into Sunday, Chicago ranks 22nd in run offense.

So why has the run been so important? Because it’s what gives the Bears balance. We hear all the time that teams need to have balance in order to win. That’s not true. Teams with a superstar quarterback and electrifying receivers can win without balance (just look at the ’09 Colts, ’08 Cardinals or ’07 Patriots). But teams with modest talent DO need balance.

The Bears have modest talent at best. Jay Cutler has a superstar arm, but he’s somewhat limited in pre-snap reads, and he can be erratic in post-snap decision-making. Chicago’s receivers are fast but raw. And, above all else, the Bears offensive line is a makeshift group.

Many have cited the line’s personnel changes (Frank Omiyale to left tackle; J’Marcus Webb to right tackle; Chris Williams to guard) as the reason for the offense’s turnaround. But that’s like citing the toppings as the reason frozen pizzatastes better than pizza that’s been burned black.

The Bears offensive line has improved because on 26.7 plays per game this season those five blockers get to fire out of their stance and play downhill. Early in the year, Chicago linemen were asked to drop into pass protection every play and shield defenders long enough for Cutler to complete a seven-step drop. Not only were the Bears blockers not good enough to do that, but the frequent pass protection assignments robbed them of their edge. Pass protection forced blockers to be reactionary; run-blocking enables them to be proactive. By getting to be proactive on more plays, the Bears offensive linemen naturally play with more all-around confidence. When forced to play reactionary, we’ve seen this group struggle to communicate and recognize assignments.

M. Martz (US Presswire)Though Chicago isn’t a great running team, don’t be surprised if Belichick’s gameplan this week centers around forcing the Bears to throw. Yes, New England’s young defense ranks 31st against the pass and is tied for 24th in sacks. But it also ranks second in interceptions (18 on the season). And Belichick may believe that he can get clean pass-rushers in the backfield simply by confusing Chicago’s line.

Cutler isn’t turning the ball over like he was last year (he has just 10 interceptions on the season). But do you really think, deep down, he’s lost his gunslinger’s mentality? What about Martz?

When the stakes are high and the pressure is on, human beings have a natural tendency to fall back on what they know best. With this being a prove-it game flexed for national television purposes, Cutler and Martz could feel the pressure. If they do, their egos will tell them to put on a show.

Belichick would welcome that. Whatever makes the Bears one-dimensional and easier for his young defenders to figure out. Belichick has playmakers in the secondary who can exploit aerial aggression (namely rookie corner Devin McCourty, who is sensational outside the numbers, and safety Brandon Meriweather). Don’t be shocked if Belichick surprises everyone by betting on his young defensive backs and daring the Bears to throw.

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

Posted on: November 18, 2010 2:36 pm
 

The real key to Bears-Dolphins matchup

Posted by Andy Benoit
C. Wake (US Presswire)
Everyone is talking about Julius Peppers facing Jake Long and his injured left shoulder Thursday night, but the more significant pass-rushing matchup in this game will be on the other side of the action. Miami’s Cameron Wake has blossomed into one of the premier defensive forces in the NFL. The ex-Canadian League superstar leads the AFC with 8.5 sacks on the season and, for the most part, he’s been stout against the run.

Wake’s supple athleticism is buttressed by good initial quickness and underrated strength. Neither Bear offensive tackle – Franks Omiyale or seventh-round rookie J’Marcus Webb – has a prayer at blocking him one-on-one. But if Chicago can find away to contain Wake through chips and tight end double teams, there will be at least four or five big plays on the table for Jay Cutler.

Reason being, the callow Dolphins secondary has proved to be erratic in diagnosing route combinations. No. 2 cornerback Sean Smith has looked particularly vulnerable (which is partly why he was benched at one point this season), and second-year free safety Chris Clemons is not yet consistent enough to constantly pick up the slack (plus Clemons is better near the box than in centerfield). When given time to develop, Chicago’s complex route combinations are some of the most aggressive and effective in the game.

For any time facing the Bears, it’s crucial to get pressure on Cutler. For the Dolphins, it’s vital.

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Posted on: October 13, 2010 6:09 pm
 

Chris Williams to replace Roberto Garza

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

The Bears have lost their starting LG Roberto Garza for Sunday’s game vs. the Seahawks. He might not get his job back when he returns, though.

Garza, according to ESPN Chicago, has been dealing with knee pain the past few weeks, and he’ll undergo arthroscopic knee surgery this week.

C. Williams That means LT Chris Williams, who’s returning from a hamstring injury that’s kept him out of the lineup since Week 2, will slide into Garza's position. Frank Omiyale will stay at Williams’ former spot.

"He [Williams] took snaps at a couple spots," Bears offensive line coach Mike Tice said after practice. "We didn't give him too many snaps in a row, four at the most I think, because I didn't want him to get fatigued and hurt his leg again."

Garza hasn’t played particularly well this year, so if Williams can show he’s adept at transitioning to the guard spot, the former first-round pick might take Garza’s starting spot for good. Of course, with the amount of switching the coaching staff has done with the offensive line this season, there’s no telling how this will end.

“As physical as Chris is, he’s natural inside because he’s so stout and that helps us in protections and in the running game,” offensive coordinator Mike Martz told reporters.

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Posted on: August 12, 2010 3:20 pm
 

Offensive line could ruin Bears

Posted by Andy Benoit

If you don’t care about the Bears offensive line…well, you should. It’s the key to Mike Martz’s system. The wide open, deep-throwing, risk-taking system frequently calls for five-and seven-step drops for the quarterback and slow developing deep routes for the wide receivers. This puts a heavy burden on the pass-blocking.

That’s why it’s big news when the Bears move longtime right guard Roberto Garza to the left side and insert untested Lance Louis into Garza’s old spot. And it’s especially big news when Martz says that right tackle Frank Omiyale is “not where he needs to be”.

He’s got that right. Where Omiyale truly “needs to be” is on the bench. But the Bears are intent on making the journeyman veteran a starter. Last season, they converted him to left guard, only to find that his lack of lower-body strength was a bigger problem inside than outside. Because Kevin Shaffer always seems to be playing in snow boots, Omiyale still projects to be the starting right tackle. But Bears fans have every reason to be concerned.

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