Tag:Jared Cook
Posted on: December 7, 2011 12:08 pm
Edited on: December 7, 2011 12:09 pm
 

Film Room: Titans vs. Saints preview

Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit


While we weren’t looking, the Tennessee Titans got to 7-5 and in the thick of the AFC playoff race. This week they have a widely televised game against the New Orleans Saints. Perhaps it’s time we get to know Mike Munchak’s club.

Here are some tidbits on one of this week’s showcase games.


1. Saints O vs. Titans D: 31 flavors vs. vanilla
Sean Payton has been known to use 15 different formations on his first 15 plays. As offensive variety goes, the Saints are boundless and peerless. The Titans defense, under Jerry Gray, is the polar opposite. They’ve been the easiest unit to watch on film this season because they line up in base zones, they rarely move before the snap and it’s always clear what each player is trying to do. It’s an execution-based defense.

In this model, the Titans try to make opponents play conservatively and methodically. Instead of trying to beat the offense big once or twice and risk having the offense beat THEM big, the Titans would rather make the offense beat them small again and again, without making any bad mistakes. This formula works against middle-tier offenses – like the Broncos, Browns, Colts, Bucs and Bills, all of whom the Titans have held below 20 points. But unless an execution-based defense has a few top-level playmakers – like the Bears with Brian Urlacher or, in past years, the Colts with Dwight Freeney – it won’t hold up against upper-tier competition.

The Titans have a mobile, fairly athletic defensive line but one that’s devoid of premium pass-rushers. Their linebackers are reliable but not sideline-to-sideline players; it might even be considered a weak unit when outrageously overrated middle ‘backer Barrett Ruud is in the lineup (he’s been out most of the past month with a groin; rookie Colin McCarthy has been an upgrade in his stead). The secondary is sound but not ball-hawking.

The way to beat Drew Brees is to confuse him (which isn’t easy). He’s far too sharp as a progression-read passer for a defense to simply line up and play against. Unless luck intervenes or a few Titans defenders play the game of their lives, we’ll see Brees lead four or five ABC-123 type clock-eating scoring drives Sunday.

2. Chris Johnson
Pilloried for the destruction of fantasy teams nationwide the first 10 weeks of the season, the $30 million running back has rushed for over 100 yards in three of his last four outings. Not until these past two weeks did Johnson show his old acceleration and burst. We may never know what got him off track early in the year, but he appears to be on track now (he’ll have to stay on track a little longer before we fully trust him again).

One theory people floated was that his offensive line was struggling. That’s simply not true. It’s easy to blame the linemen because they’re big, faceless cogs in a unit. But ask yourself this commonsense question: What’s more likely? That one player (Johnson) suddenly stunk, or that FIVE players (the line) suddenly stunk? Johnson’s line wasn’t bad – Johnson was bad. He was stopping his feet to redirect, looking for holes rather than reading the movement of defenders and spinning mud when hitting the gas.

This isn’t to say that Johnson’s line has been sterling this season. Until they started consistently landing blocks on the move last week, guards Jake Scott and Leroy Harris looked very average (Scott maybe even a cut below that). Gritty veteran right tackle David Stewart has at times relied too much on grit and not enough on technique. Even steady Pro Bowl left tackle Michael Roos has struggled a bit (though more in pass-protection than run-blocking). But inconsistent means good AND bad. Until recently, the Titans line had been a tad inconsistent, while their running back had been just plain bad. We’ll see if Johnson can maintain his rhythm against a fast Saints run defense.

3. Titans O vs. Saints D: manufacturing big plays to compensate for a weakness
We’ve covered before how Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams dials up so many risky, complex blitzes in part because he does not have a good enough pass-rushing front four to simply line up and play. On a similar note, Titans offensive coordinator Chris Palmer has done a good job generating big pass plays this season through design.

With Kenny Britt injured, the Titans do not have any receivers who can consistently burn one-on-one coverage. Thus, instead of dictating the terms of engagement and just attacking through the air, the Titans have used route combinations in response to specific defensive looks. That’s good coaching.

Some examples that stand out: in Week 4, the Titans killed the Browns’ man coverages with a litany of natural pick plays (Nate Washington’s 57-yarder to set up a late first half touchdown being the highlight). In Week 13 they found ways to isolate Buffalo’s untested seventh-round rookie cornerback Justin Rogers with presnap motion.

In Week 3 they used a deep crossing route with unassuming tight end Craig Stevens:

The Titans knew that outside cornerback Cassius Vaughan was responsible for covering the defensive left third of field. So they sent wideout Marc Mariani on a fly route to carry Vaughan deep. That temporarily left an unoccupied void that Stevens’ crossing pattern was timed to hit. 

When Stevens caught the ball, Vaughan was out of position and facing the wrong direction. This well-timed, clever approach compensated for Stevens’ lack of speed.

This is quality stuff. It’s not necessarily sustainable – at some point, talent becomes a requirement in pro football – but it’s making the most of your resources.

4. Defending Graham
When facing the Saints, your defensive gameplan often centers around how you decide to defend Jimmy Graham. As the best receiving tight end in football, Graham, frankly, deserves a cornerback’s attention. But most teams can’t afford to sacrifice their run defense by playing a third corner on every down. So, they compromise by using a safety.

Then there are the brave teams that try to stop Graham with a linebacker (like the Giants two weeks ago, who put Jacquian Williams on Graham so that they could have one of their faster safeties defend Darren Sproles).

The Titans play a lot of zone coverage. Even a lot of their man coverages have sprinkles of zone concepts with cautious safety alignments over the top. Because of this, the Titans will likely be stuck in a few linebacker-on-Graham scenarios. Perhaps they’re comfortable with this.

In base defense, Will Witherspoon has been a savvy pass defender over the years. He’s not super savvy, though, as he comes out in nickel. Of course, that’s partly because rookie linebacker Akeem Ayers moves well in space, particularly near the inside flats. Ayers, however, is more inclined to make a tackle that merely prevents a run-after-catch, as opposed to actually breaking up a pass.

Expect Graham to get his usual touches, especially given that the zone defenders will constantly be peaking at Sproles coming out of the backfield.

5. Film Tidbits
Some miscellaneous trends for your viewing pleasure:
--when Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins creeps down into the box, it’s almost always to blitz.

--if the Titans do have one specific target they try to get the ball to, it’s tight end Jared Cook. He’s far from a go-to guy (inconsistent fundamentals, not as good a runner as his athleticism suggests), but he’s well-built and can create a mismatch once or twice a game. It usually comes when he detaches from the formation.

--The Titans like to use backup running back Javon Ringer in hurry-up offense. Ringer can catch and, more importantly, he’s a better pass-blocker than Chris Johnson. (We’ll see if Ringer’s hurry-up reps continue now that Johnson has gotten back to his normal self).

--The Saints almost always throw to the inside receiver in a given formation. It’s not often that the ball goes outside. (This tidbit came from film guru Greg Cosell, executive producer of the NFL Matchup Show.)

So who will win? Check our NFL expert picks for all Week 14 games

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: December 27, 2010 2:57 pm
 

Hot Routes 12.27.10 playoff pushes

Hot Routes

Posted by Andy Benoit

The Packers were 5/6 in the red zone Sunday. The Giants did not even reach the red zone.

Eli Manning became the first Giants quarterback since YA Tittle 71 years ago to have 30 touchdown passes in a season.

217 of New England’s 348 yards at Buffalo came on the ground.

How’s this for turnover differential: Patriots 0 turnovers, Bills 7. That’s not points off turnovers, that’s just turnovers.

Rookie free agent Kyle Love started at NT for the Pats. He recorded a sack and two tackles.

Chicago’s Johnny Knox had four catches for 92 yards against the Jets. He needs just 40 yards to reach 1,000 on the season.

Chris Harris recovered a fumble, snatched a game-clinching interception and led the Bears with 11 tackles. He also broke up a pass and registered a tackle for a loss.

The Ravens netted just 97 yards passing against the Browns.

The Browns’ only touchdown pass Sunday came from wideout Mohammad Massaquoi.

Time of possession continued to be a problem for the Titans. They controlled the ball for only 20:56 against the Chiefs.

Super talented but equally raw tight end Jared Cook led Tennessee with 96 yards on five receptions. Randy Moss was not even targeted.

With the running game stalled much of the afternoon, Rams quarterback Sam Bradford stepped up and completed 28/37 for 292 against the 49ers.

Michael Crabtree had six catches for 122 yards and a touchdown. It was just Crabtree’s second 100-yard game season and only the third time he’s gone over 60 yards this year.

After going four weeks without a sack, Rams DE James Hall has now reached the quarterback in back-to-back games. Hall had 1.5 sacks on Sunday.

After losing an NFL-record 26 consecutive road games, the Lions have now won back-to-back contests away from home. Detroit’s win left Miami with a 1-7 record at Sun Life Stadium.

Bobby Carpenter, Nathan Vasher and Lawrence Jackson were Detroit’s top three tacklers Sunday. All were acquired as hugely disappointing castoffs from other teams.

The Redskins and Jaguars both failed to reach the 80-yard rushing mark Sunday.

Mike Thomas has evolved into Jacksonville’s No. 1 receiver. He was the team’s statistical leader once again with 96 yards on six catches. Also, emerging wideout Jason Hill added 77 yards on four receptions.

Hmmmm….maybe Carson Palmer CAN still play after all. Without having to worry about two diva receivers, Palmer spread the ball around against San Diego Sunday, completing 16/21 passes for 269 yards and four touchdowns. Jermaine Gresham, Andre Caldwell and Jerome Simpson all had at least four catches and 55-plus yards receiving.

Eric Weddle led the Chargers with 16 tackles…which tells you that top inside linebacker Stephen Cooper wasn’t playing.

With Andre Johnson out of the lineup, Houston wideout Jacoby Jones stepped up with five catches for 115 yards against the Broncos.

In a complete role reversal, the Colts outrushed the Raiders 191-80.

Jacob Tamme caught seven passes, giving him 60 on the season.

The Bucs outgained the Seahawks 439 to 174.

Kellen Winslow had his best game of the season, catching seven passes for 98 yards and two touchdowns.

Geno Hayes led the Bucs with two sacks.


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Posted on: December 15, 2010 11:56 pm
 

Randy Moss is now a bench warmer

Posted by Andy Benoit

One of the biggest stories in the NFL last week went largely unnoticed. Heading into Thursday night, we wondered if Kenny Britt’s return to the Titans lineup (Britt had missed the past month or so with a hamstring injury) would force Randy Moss to the R. Moss (US Presswire)bench. Though Moss has had a minimal impact in Tennessee this season, it seemed inconceivable that the future Hall of Famer wouldn’t start.

Well, not only did Moss not start – he didn’t play in the three-receiver sets, either. Moss was the Titans’ fourth wideout behind Britt, Nate Washington and Justin Gage. Credit Jeff Fisher for having the gall to do what’s right. At this point, Moss, with his stiff route running and declining acceleration, is indeed Tennessee’s fourth best receiver.

In the days following the game, there was talk about the Titans designing packages that would get Britt and Moss on the field together. On Monday, however, Jeff Fisher seemed to dump a little cold water on that idea.

“We’ve got quite a few of our guys that know all three positions,” Fisher said, according to the Tennessean. “Kenny’s just been focused on the one position at the split end. So it really would be a result of Kenny being able to go out there without any issues and play both positions.

“But again, I would say (getting them both in the lineup together) is a possibility. I didn’t say we’d definitely do it.”

The reality is, there’s no reason for the Titans to play Moss at all this point. He likely won’t be around next season. If they’re going to design new receiving packages, they’re best off putting their focus on getting young, ultra athletic tight end Jared Cook more experience in the slot.

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Posted on: August 23, 2010 5:54 pm
 

Cardinals-Titans: what (or why) to watch

Posted by Andy Benoit

Matt Leinart and Vince Young are on the same field once again tonight. Don’t expect quite as many fireworks as four years ago in Pasadena. Both players are trying to get their respective 8-8 caliber teams over the hump. Problem is, both of these teams are 8-8 caliber in large part because of their quarterbacks.

If Leinart and Young don’t do it for you, here are a few more reasons to watch:

--Chris Johnson. If the Titans are smart, they won’t play the superstar running back more than one series (and if they’re really smart, they’ll sit Johnson the whole night). But that doesn’t mean the third-year sensation isn’t fun to watch. Whether he’s on the field or one the sidelines, count how many times ESPN cameras catch Johnson twitching his head. It’s one of those things where, after noticing it once, you’ll keep noticing it again and again and again and again. (Some people believe Johnson is flicking the dreadlocks out of his eyes. But that doesn’t explain why he twitches his head with his helmet on.)

--Titans tight end Jared Cook. Tennessee is hoping the second-year pro can assume a bigger role in the passing game. Expect Cook to get plenty of reps. He’s an outstanding raw athlete who also has the type of size that makes everyone around him look tiny.

--Cardinals rookie linebacker Darryl Washington. He’s essentially being asked to save Arizona’s depleted inside linebacking corps. How will he look on the big stage?

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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