Tag:Jahri Evans
Posted on: November 23, 2011 6:18 pm
 

Film Room: Giants vs. Saints preview

Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit



With a December Monday Night schedule that could make viewers implode from boredom, we at least get to say goodbye to November with a compelling, playoff-implicating NFC matchup. This warrants a classic five-part breakdown.


Saints offense vs. Giants defense
1. Giants pass-rush vs. Saints pass protection
This is a glaring mismatch. New Orleans has the worst pass-blocking offensive tackle tandem in football in Jermon Bushrod (left side) and Zach Strief (right side). Bushrod is slow and has awful technique. Strief is just slow. The sack numbers do not reflect this because Drew Brees is a magician when it comes to getting rid of the ball quickly and moving in and out of the pocket.

Brees, like most star quarterbacks, gets rid of the ball thanks to shrewd presnap reads. But where he’s really elite is in going through his reads. Brees can scan three or four different receivers on a simple five-step drop. He recognizes and anticipates receiver-defender relationships as fast as any passer in the game.

Because so much of what Brees does is based on quick timing and rhythm, it’s not necessarily wise to blitz him. Instead, the objective is to force him to exhaust his progressions. It’s 50-50 that the pass protection can hold up long enough for him to do this (if Brees were a typical quarterback, it’d be more like 25-75). The Rams did this in their Week 8 upset of the Saints.

The Giants’ defensive ends are several grades better than the Rams’. They’ll pressure Brees with four rushers.

2. Saints WR’s vs. Giants secondary
In Week 8, the Rams thrived with physical press coverage aided by safety help. The Giants secondary delivered terrific press coverage in their win at New England a few weeks ago. It wouldn’t be surprising to see more of that Monday night. The Saints have four quality wide receivers: Marques Colston, Robert Meachem, Devery Henderson and Lance Moore.

With a matchup nightmare like tight end like Jimmy Graham, most of the Saints’ formations involve only three of those wideouts. But whatever the pieces, they can -- and do -- align in all different spots on the field.

This is one reason it’s enticing to play press-man against them. Instead of trying to figure out the litany of formations and route possibilities, a defensive coordinator can put a safety or two over the top and tell his cornerbacks to just jam the hell out of whoever they line up against.

But when defenses can mix in zone coverages, they obviously give themselves more options. With rookie Prince Amukamara now healthy, the Giants might be one of the few secondaries in the league versatile enough to do this against the Saints.

With Corey Webster shadowing DeSean Jackson most of last Sunday night (Webster has shadowed the opposing No. 1 receiver regularly this season), Amukamara and Aaron Ross played inside and outside across from him. Both men played man and zone principles.

The Giants also have a multipronged tool in safety Antrel Rolle. He’s rangy in space and, as a former cornerback, adept at playing all coverages as the nickel slot defender.

3. Saints’ savvy run-pass tactic
Don’t be surprised if the Saints frequently throw out of running formations Monday night. Jimmy Graham is extremely effective running routes from a traditional tight end stance, and fullback Jed Collins is capable of catching passes in the flats. We think of the Saints as a spread offense, but Brees is averaging about 10 pass attempts per game out of two-back formations, and 10 of his 23 touchdown passes have come from such sets.

The run formation approach gains potency because the Giants starting linebackers struggle in coverage. Those struggles manifest drastically if Michael Boley (hamstring) is still out. Boley’s replacement, Mark Herzlich, was fantastic against the run last Sunday, but he was badly exposed when dropping back in coverage.

The linebacking issues are significant enough that the Giants may even be compelled to play their 4-2-5 nickel defense against the Saints base offense (they’d be treating Graham as a wide receiver). In that case, Sean Payton would have his array of running backs pound the rock behind monstrous All-World guards Carl Nicks and Jahri Evans.

The run formations could also aid New Orleans’ proficient play-action game (Brees was 17/19 for 212 yards and two touchdowns off play-action fakes against the Falcons in Week 10). It’s a myth that you need to establish the run in order to set up play-action.

In reality, defenders are trained to react to movement; play-action will work if the fake and the offensive linemen’s initial movements are executed well, regardless of how a team has been running the ball. That said, those fakes and movements are obviously more believable when the offense is lined up in a run formation.

Giants offense vs. Saints defense
4. Giants run game woes
The Giants will not advance deep in the playoffs if their run game does not get going. A typical Brandon Jacobs run these days involves the 265-pounder stumbling a yard behind the line of scrimmage, bumping into his own blocker, fighting for a yard-and-a-half and then pissing off every player around him by bumping into body after body as he tries to prove his manhood by ferociously picking himself up off the ground before other players can unpile, all the while barking emphatically about ... what, exactly?

How lucky are the defenders that this isn’t four years ago, when Jacobs was actually productive?

The Giants need a healthy Ahmad Bradshaw in the worst of ways. Of course, the rock-firm scatback’s presence would only present a greater opportunity for a rejuvenated run game -- not the assurance of one. Bradshaw was averaging just 4.0 yards per carry before his foot injury -- 0.7 yards below his career average.

New York’s problems start up front. And they may not be solved this week. Center David Baas has struggled with lateral run-blocking in tight spaces. Saints defensive tackle Aubrayo Franklin is not an ideal opponent to face when trying to correct this. Thirty-one-year-old left guard David Diehl is showing signs of decline. This week could be tough, as the Saints defensive ends are excellent in run defense, particularly when crashing inside.

If the Giants offensive line can somehow break even in this matchup, New York’s fullbacks and tight ends will likely have opportunities to work against a Saints linebacking corps that’s without leader Jonathan Vilma (out since the start of the month with a knee). The Saints would almost need to commit eight to the box at that point. Roman Harper might be the best pure in-box safety in the NFL, but if the Giants can compel him to focus heavily on the run, they’ll impeded his blitzes, which are one of the Saints’ best weapons in pass defense (see item 5).

5. Saints blitzes
A big reason Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams blitzes so much is he knows his down four linemen cannot consistently collapse the pocket on their own. Don’t expect that to change much Sunday night (even though the Giants offensive tackles struggled mightily against the Eagles).

The difference between Williams’ D and other blitzing defenses is that Williams’ D blitzes hard. His blitzes often involve six pass-rushers instead of just five. And because one of those six rushers is usually a defensive back (Harper is phenomenal in this facet, as his 6.5 sacks on the season attest), and because nickel linebacker Jonathan Casillas has crazy speed and acceleration downhill, New Orleans’ blitzes are exceptionally fast.

Expect Victor Cruz and Jake Ballard to be big factors Monday night; as slot targets they’ll be Eli Manning’s hot reads against these blitzes.

So who will win? Check our NFL expert picks for all Week 12 games

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: October 24, 2010 6:03 pm
 

Three thoughts on the Browns upset of the Saints

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Here are the reasons why Cleveland beat the New Orleans 30-17 win today.

1) Browns special teams tricks: Cleveland was aggressive with its special teams calls, and today at least, it worked. Early in the first quarter, when receiving a punt from New Orleans, Joshua Cribbs caught the kick, ran seven yards straight ahead and then lateraled it across the field to Eric Wright, who dashed down the left sideline to the Saints 19. The Browns had to settle for a field goal, but that play set a tone.

In the second quarter, with Cleveland facing a fourth-and-eight, the Browns coaching staff went for more trickery. Punter Reggie Hodges took the snap and ran straight up the middle of the field. There was nobody near him until the Saints brought him down at the 9-yard line. It was stunning – because it was such a brazen play call and because of its effectiveness.

"When you're looking to win, you've got to be aggressive,” Saints coach Sean Payton said, as transcribed by Rapid Reporter Larry Holder. “We failed to recognize and handle that. Those are gutsy calls."

2) Cleveland’s pass defense stymies Drew Brees: The Saints QB had a tough time getting into a rhythm. He finished 37 of 56 for 356 yards, two touchdowns and four interceptions. Yes, four interceptions, and the Browns probably should have had more. At times, Brees was incredibly inaccurate with his throws.

Brees was really hurt by Browns LB David Bowens, who returned two interceptions for touchdowns. The first one he caught off a deflection from New Orleans G Jahri Evans, and he ran 30 yards for the touchdown. The second one, he plucked the ball out of the air, and he plodded untouched for the 64-yard score. He stopped just before the goal line and then somersaulted into the end zone to celebrate.

3) Maybe the Saints just aren’t very good: The Saints squeaked by the 49ers and the Panthers (two of the worst teams in the NFL) by a combined five points. They lost to the Cardinals who were starting an undrafted free agent rookie for the first time. They made good progress last week in an easy victory against a decent Buccaneers squad, but then were terrible today.

So, what’s the deal, Sean Payton?

"We did all the things you can't do (and still) win a game. If we continue to do that, we'll muddle around, win some, lose some. That's something that will get you beat in this game."

Just like it did today.

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Posted on: October 20, 2010 12:16 am
 

Bucs run defense is awful

Posted by Andy Benoit

Just how bad is the Buccaneers run defense these days? Before Sunday’s game, Sean Payton told FOX Sports iC. Ivory (US Presswire)n the broadcast meeting that he’d be irritated if Saints running back Chris Ivory failed to top 100 yards on the ground. Payton surely presented his expectations as confidence in his player rather than disrespect for his opponent. But come on: how often does a coach place such high expectations on an undrafted rookie?

Ivory, of course, lived up to those expectations. Quite easily, in fact. He topped the 100-yard mark on his 10th carry, which came with just under 12 minutes left in the third quarter. Ivory finished the day with 15 carries for 158 yards. And it wasn’t a Barry Sanders-like 158, either. Ivory’s stats weren’t buttressed by one or two breakaway runs; his longest carry went for 33 yards.

Ivory shows some encouraging traits. He’s compact and runs with very good balance. He’s not a burner, but he accelerates well enough. That said, this was a classic case of a good running offense gashing a very poor run defense.

Ivory wasn’t the only Saint who had success on the ground. The box score shows Julius Jones gaining just 32 yards on nine carries. But a lot of those yards came late when New Orleans was running out the clock. When Jones got touches within the flow of regular offense (i.e. when the Bucs couldn’t load up the box and only think about defending the run), he consistently found daylight.

Tampa Bay currently ranks 31st against the run. Last season, it ranked dead last. The Bucs spent their first two draft picks on defensive tackles Gerald McCoy and Brian Price. McCoy was a complete non-factor against top-echelon guards Jahri Evans and Carl Nicks. Price is still coming off the bench behind Roy Miller (who, by the way, was manhandled on more than one occasion Sunday).

As weak as the Bucs are inside, their real problems are outside. If anyone has footage of defensive end Michael Bennett NOT getting stood up and locked by a run-blocker, please send it this way. Playing behind ends that can’t set the edge, finesse-oriented outside linebackers Geno Hayes and Quincy Black are easily exposed as liabilities in traffic.

The Bucs run defense will get better at some point. After all, it’s not uncommon for defensive tackles to struggle as rookies. And Hayes and Black are both capable players when operating in space (at least Hayes is, anyway). But from the looks of things, “some point” won’t come until at least 2011.


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Posted on: September 10, 2010 12:17 pm
Edited on: September 10, 2010 12:28 pm
 

Three thoughts about NO-MIN

B. Favre and the Minnesota passing offense had a rough game (AP). Posted by Josh Katzowitz

My take on Thursday’s Saints 14-9 win against the Vikings.

1. I loved the “We are one” salute at the beginning of the game, signifying the players’ solidarity with each other as they enter the final season of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement. Some people didn’t like it – they thought it was too showy or too much of a flick-our-noses-at-the-owners kind of moment (and I’ve seen a joke or two on Twitter about how the owners should show solidarity by turning off the lights for a minute)  – but I thought the move was pretty damn cool.

"Even though five minutes from then we were going to go out and bash each others' heads in," QB Drew Brees told reporters after the game, "we're all one voice."

2. Jeez, how much did the Vikings miss WR Sidney Rice last night? More importantly, how much will they miss him until he can return from hip surgery? Percy Harvin was mostly invisible (one catch, 12 yards), and Bernard Berrian was, somehow, worse (one catch, three yards), and aside from TE Visanthe Shiancoe, Minnesota’s passing game was terribly unimpressive. Greg Camarillo made a nice catch, and even Greg Lewis recorded a reception. But originally, I thought Harvin and Berrian would be OK until Rice returned. I might have been totally wrong. And if Shiancoe is the only receiving threat – he was Thursday, at least – and the Saints figured out a way to shut him down in the second half, it’s not far-fetched to think other teams will do the same.
P. Thomas had a big second half for New Orleans (AP).
You also have to wonder about Brett Favre. Not just that he might be too old (finally), but that his decision to miss most of training camp cost his team dearly. As Camarillo said after the game, the offense had no chemistry. A couple extra weeks of practicing together might have helped solve that.

3. The Saints ran the ball just three times in the first half, but the coaching staff switched gears in the second half and made a point of giving the ball to Pierre Thomas. He rushed 19 times for 71 yards, and he helped New Orleans eat up huge chunks of time in the fourth quarter to keep the Vikings at bay. The big run came with 1:59 to go when, on a second and six, Thomas broke a Ben Leber tackle (which would have stopped him behind the first-down marker) and made the first down to seal Minnesota’s fate.

Of course, much of the credit must go to New Orleans interior linemen. Guards Jahri Evans and Carl Nicks were outstanding against one of the best defensive lines in the NFL.

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Posted on: July 16, 2010 9:34 am
 

Mankins, Patriots not communicating

L Mankins before a game last season (Getty). If you thought the New England Patriots and the disgruntled Logan Mankins were negotiating behind closed doors to make sure one of the top offensive guards in the NFL was ready to begin training camp, think again.

According to the Boston Herald’s Ian Rapoport , the two sides haven’t even begun to talk.

Part of that likely is because the NFL is on its month-long holiday, but it’s unclear whether Mankins – who missed all of New England’s offseason workouts – will attend training camp.

From the story:

Mankins had refused to sign his one-year restricted free agent tender worth $3.26 million, and the Patriots reduced it to $1.54 million. He’s not under contract, so he simply won’t be paid if he doesn’t show.

Mankins has said his stance is based on principle and that he wanted to be traded. Bauer added that “Mankins is a pretty principled guy.”

While sources have indicated the Pats offered Mankins a deal worth $7 million annually, the guard’s camp puts it at seven years and $6.5 million annually. The guaranteed money is not clear. If 2010 had a salary cap, Mankins would have been a free agent.


Two problems here: 1) New Orleans signed guard Jahri Evans to a huge seven-year, $56 million deal last year and obviously that set a precedent in Mankins’ mind, and 2) Mankins believes the Patriots have been dishonest in promising to take care of him after he played last year at what he believes was a reduced rate.

--Josh Katzowitz

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Posted on: July 14, 2010 12:36 pm
 

Position rankings: guards

Josh Katzowitz and Andy Benoit resume their debate, with today’s focus on guards.

Andy Benoit’s top five
J. Evans (US Presswire)
5. Leonard Davis, Cowboys

4. Steve Hutchinson, Vikings

3. Carl Nicks, Saints

2. Kris Dielman, Chargers

1. Jahri Evans, Saints

As you can see, an unsexy list from the unsexiest position in football. Leonard Davis makes it because he knows how to use his 365-pound size. Everyone thinks Steve Hutchinson is a God, but that’s only because most fans don’t know the names of any other guards. Hutchinson was once the best, but at 32, he’s lost half a step (which is half a step less than Alan Faneca). Of course, Hutchinson had plenty of steps to spare. He still offers good mobility, but his strength in a phone booth has declined.

You might read the name “Carl Nicks” and say Who?! The Saints left guard is a monster in the run game, getting to the second level with regularity. The only thing he struggles with is lateral movement as a pass-blocker. Dielman is rock-solid. Evans is an even better run-blocker than Nicks, plus he’s reliable in pass protection.

Josh Katzowitz's top five

5. Bobbie Williams, Bengals

4. Kris Dielman, Chargers

3. Chris Snee, Giants

2. Jahri Evans, Saints

1. Logan Mankins, Patriots

I agree that Evans is one of the best guards around, but I don’t think he’s earned the title of No. 1 quite yet. Yes, he had a heck of a season last year, and he was rewarded with a seven-year, $56-million contract. But he needs to mirror that performance for at least one more year before I can knight him as the top guy.

Mankins has been the most talked-about guard throughout the offseason because of his contract clashes with New England’s front office. The fact he might not play this year has to be worrisome to Patriots fans. Mankins is strong, and he has good quickness and agility. If he’s playing, he’s the best out there. Andy, I’m surprised you didn’t even put Mankins on your list.

Snee has a great initial punch at the line of scrimmage, and when he gets to the next level, he makes linebackers pay. Plus, he’s durable, starting the last 78 games the Giants have played.

Williams has been the rock of a Bengals offensive line that continues to turn over year after year. He’s underrated and has never made a Pro Bowl squad. He’s not going to wow you, but that doesn’t mean he’s not on the top five fringe. He’s just too consistent and solid for me not to put on this list.

Andy’s rebuttal

Top five fringe is different from top five, Josh. More on that in a second.

I like the Snee pick, and I can certainly live with Mankins (though, obviously, I think No. 1 is too high). Both those guys have the unique ability to land square, domineering blocks off of movement. I still think Hutchinson is elite (or borderline elite), and I’m disappointed you didn’t praise my prescience for going with Nicks now, and not after he gets his first Pro Bowl (either this season or next).

Okay, let’s talk about the fringe pick, Williams. You’re a (former) Bengals Rapid Reporter. I’m not suggesting you lack journalistic integrity – not at all – but I’m willing to bet you have a good working relationship with the 11th-year veteran. From afar, Williams seems like he’d be a good guy. He shows great on-field leadership. So, be honest, did Williams help you write your list?

The problem is, as a player, Williams is too close to the fat part of the bell curve. I’m going to break my rule of never publishing raw notes from film study to share some of what I took away from watching Williams these past two years:

Raw notes from ’09 Bengals film:

Williams shows good power and size when he’s able to be the aggressor. If he’s stepping into a block between first and second level, he’ll move guys. But if the action starts from standstill, he may not win.

Raw notes from ’08 Bengals film:

Williams is about the same as always....decent but not great. Moves okay, doesn’t have ideal power but gets in his spots, etc.
These are descriptions of a solid starter, not a top five player.

Josh’s final word

Ha! If Williams and I had written this list, we would have spent all day laughing about your exclusion of Mankins. True, I’ve covered the Bengals for various outlets for the past five seasons, but I’m an objective journalist and I don’t play favorites (hell I haven’t had a favorite NFL team since I was a kid, and it certainly wasn’t the Bengals). There are a few guys on the Bengals squad that are wonderful with whom to deal, but I haven’t put them on any of our lists. Considering this is the 11th top five list we’ve done and Williams is the first Bengals player I’ve put in the spotlight – and probably the only one I’ll include for the rest of our top five series – well, I think those facts speak for themselves.

Truth be told, I thought about Hutchinson, I thought about Nicks and I thought about Faneca (he’s just nowhere near his prime anymore). I knew you’d hate the Williams pick, but in all my extensive research – and the fact I’ve seen him play scores of games the past few years – I’m more than confident in defending the selection. He’s just too good and consistent.


Other positions: Safety | Cornerback | 3-4 Scheme Outside Linebacker | Punter  | Kicker | 4-3 Scheme Outside Linebacker | Inside Linebacker  | Defensive Tackle  | Defensive End | Offensive Tackle  | Center)


--Josh Katzowitz and Andy Benoit


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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