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Tag:Harry Douglas
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: November 12, 2010 12:18 am
 

Matt Ryan is awfully impressive

M. Ryan has become one of the better quarterbacks in the league (US Presswire). Posted by Josh Katzowitz

I was prepared to write a post about how much better Matt Ryan is at playing quarterback than Joe Flacco. I probably wouldn’t have phrased it exactly like that, because the difference in the abilities of Ryan and Flacco is probably minimal at best.

But with the Falcons dominating the Ravens for most of the game Thursday night – and with Ryan easily out-playing Flacco – it would have been an easy story to write.

Yet, then, Flacco showed that, while neither he nor Ryan should be considered a top-five quarterback, they’re most definitely two of the better quarterbacks in the league. And they’re two quarterbacks who can push their respective teams deep into the playoffs and perhaps take them on a ride to the Super Bowl.

During Atlanta’s 26-21 win vs. Baltimore, Ryan was brilliant, completing 32 of 50 passes for 316 yards and three touchdowns. It was a career game for him.

Flacco (21 of 34 for 209 yards, three touchdowns and one pick), who looked so flat for most of the game, willed his team to 14-straight unanswered points, including two touchdown passes in a span of 4:37 late in the fourth quarter. It was a heck of a final 15 for him.

Briefly, after Flacco hit Ravens TE Todd Heap for the nine-yard score with 1:05 to play to give Baltimore the 21-20 lead, it looked like Flacco had been vindicated.

Until Ryan – who improved to 18-1 at home in his career – took the field, that is.

He didn’t get a ton of help from his receivers. Harry Douglas dropped a pass. So did Roddy White, which was strange because White had dropped one earlier in the quarter and White almost never drops passes.

But he threw a great ball to Michael Jenkins for a 24-yard gain in which Jenkins made a wonderful fingertip catch. He connected with White, and two plays later, Ryan – with the pocket collapsing around him – threw toward TE Tony Gonzalez. The pass was incomplete, but the officials called it pass interference on Ravens LB Tavares Gooden.

Which set the stage for Ryan, who rolled left and threw a great pass to White for the 33-yard touchdown with 20 seconds to go and the victory.

Earlier, I told you Ryan isn’t the elite of the elite. After all, can you visualize him standing in the same picture as Peyton Manning, Tom Brady or Philip Rivers? But with more performances like that, you can see that he eventually could make his way into the frame with the finest of the fine.

Ryan is already a really good quarterback. Ryan becoming a great quarterback is very much a real possibility.

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Posted on: October 13, 2010 9:37 am
 

Hot Routes 10.13.10: Beast Mode Bounce Back?

Posted by Will Brinson & Andy Benoit



Got a link for the Hot Routes? Hit us up on Twitter (@CBSSportsNFL).
  • Even the always sensible John Morgan Field Gulls seems excited by the Marshawn trade -- the hardest part, he writes, is really trying to figure out what the Seahawks have on their hands, exactly.
  • Michael Jenkins is BACK, baby! And he's starting. No, seriously, he is -- Harry Douglas will go back to the slot role. Which, honestly, probably works out better for the Falcons as they can really utilize his speed and let Jenkins, um, do something over on the other side.
Posted on: September 22, 2010 11:06 pm
 

Michael Jenkins returns for the Falcons

Posted by Andy Benoit

The Atlanta Falcons passing attack is getting stronger. On Wednesday, possession receiver Michael Jenkins returned to practice after missing virtually the entire preseason and both of the first two regular season games with a shoulder injury. M. Jenkins

The Falcons have been using Eric Weems and Harry Douglas in Jenkins’ place, and Matt Ryan has been looking for No. 1 wideout Roddy White even more than usual (White was targeted 23 times and caught 13 passes in Week 1 against the Steelers; in Week 2 against the Cardinals, he was targeted 12 times, catching seven balls.

Mike Smith told Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal Constitution that they’ll bring Jenkins along slowly this week. He will likely not start against the Saints.

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Posted on: August 11, 2010 10:45 pm
 

The Falcons need Finneran

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

With two of Atlanta’s best receivers out of action – that’d be Michael Jenkins with a shoulder and Harry Douglas, who’s still recovering from knee surgery – 34-year-old Brian Finneran will take many of the practice reps in place of them.

Finneran hasn’t been a full-time starter since 2003, and he really seemed to fall off last year, making just 11 catches for 111 yards in 10 games while dealing with his long-term knee injury problems.

But if the Falcons need him to start, then he’ll start.

"I've been there before," Finneran told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution . "It's been a while since I've been asked to do it, but you just go out there and play football. I've been on the football field for a long time now. Whether if you are a two, three or number one [receiver], you go out there and play."

Jenkins likely will miss four to six weeks, which means Finneran could go into the regular season as the starter at that WR spot. Finneran always has used his 6-foot-5 height to his advantage, and he’s got good hands. And if he can stay healthy, he might continue to have a significant role on this squad even when Jenkins returns.

"A lot of times, the number [one receivers] of the world, you know who they are, the Roddy Whites and Larry Fitzgeralds of the world," Finneran told the paper. "But from two through four, those guys get to step up and make plays every week. So you just go out there and do it."

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