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Tag:Jerod Mayo
Posted on: January 29, 2012 5:30 pm
Edited on: January 30, 2012 3:17 pm
 

25,000 Pats fans send team on way to Indy

By Josh Katzowitz

INDIANAPOLIS -- Showing their dedication to their beloved Patriots -- or just proving that there’s not much going on in Foxboro on non-football Sunday mornings -- New England fans waved goodbye to their team during a pep rally just before the Patriots took buses to the airport that led them here Sunday evening.

The team website points out that an estimated crowd of 25,000 descended upon Gillette Stadium for the pep rally.

[CBSSports.com's Full Super Bowl Coverage]

One of the highlights of the day was Wes Welker’s appearance in front of the mic. “Y’all ready for some football?” shouted Welker, who couldn’t finish a sentence without the crowd cheering madly for him. “Are you going to yell at everything I say?” he said before yielding the stage to his teammates.

Some players dressed garishly stylishly, as Deion Branch sported a white sports coat and linebacker Brandon Spikes somehow successfully showed off his pink suit.

“We’re going on a business trip,” linebacker Jerod Mayo told the crowd. “Hopefully we can bring back a championship.”

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, Like Us on Facebook, subscribe to our NFL newsletter, and while you're add it, add our RSS Feed.
Posted on: January 18, 2012 2:20 pm
Edited on: January 20, 2012 12:16 pm
 

Film Room: Patriots vs. Ravens AFC CG preview

Brady and Lewis will match wits in the AFC Championship Game. (Getty Images)
Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit

Tom Brady is right: the Ravens are the best team the Patriots have faced this season.

Cam Cameron’s offense poses problems for Bill Belichick’s defense, while Ray Lewis’ defense actually has a fighting chance against Brady’s offense. Here’s the breakdown.



1. Patriots formation versatility
Keep in mind, the Patriots, at least offensively, are also the best team the Ravens have faced all season. Their versatility is like nothing we’ve seen before.

Last Saturday they spent a bulk of the game in a no-huddle that featured tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez and wideouts Wes Welker, Deion Branch and Julian Edelman. Remarkably, they were able to run effectively out of this personnel grouping, as Hernandez carried the ball five times out of the backfield for 61 yards.

Those runs are almost just gravy – something the defense must now respect. The real purpose of putting Hernandez in the backfield is the same purpose as all of New England’s other alignments: to get a potent pass catcher matched up on a linebacker. Even safeties have major trouble covering Hernandez and Gronkowski.

This game will be no exception, as Baltimore’s strong safety Bernard Pollard is simply not capable of doing it, and the Ravens are unlikely to remove Ed Reed from centerfield. Brady rarely throws in the direction of starting cornerbacks. Even when he goes to Wes Welker, it’s often when Welker has drawn a matchup against a backup slot corner or non-cornerback.

Because the Patriots don’t try to confuse defenses so much as force them into bad matchups, HOW the Patriots line up to play is almost more important than how they actually play. Most of the damage is done through crafty presnap alignment. (This is one reason so many of Brady’s throws come off three-and five-step drops; the decision of where to go with the ball is made prior to the snap.)

The Patriots frequently go up-tempo to prevent defenses from having enough time to regroup or alter matchups before the snap. The only sure way to take the chess match element out of the equations and force the Patriots to win with execution is to play press-man coverage across the board. Problem is, no defense, including Baltimore’s, has enough quality cover artists to do this.


After a win over the Texans last week, Joe Flacco and the Ravens will take on Tom Brady and the Patriots at Gillette Stadium in the AFC Championship. Jason Horowitz and NFL.com's Pat Kirwan preview this game. Watch the game on CBS at 3 PM ET. 

2. Baltimore’s response
The Ravens may not have enough cover artists to play the Patriots man-to-man, but they might be the one team capable of matching wits with them. Ray Lewis is arguably the smartest front seven defender in the league, while Ed Reed is arguably the smartest back four defender. Those two are capable of recognizing New England’s subtle tendencies and getting their teammates into the proper defensive play-call.

Of course, Brady and Bill O’Brien know this and will likely inject a few tendency-breaking wrinkles into the gameplan. Of course, the Ravens know that the Patriots know that they know this, and the Patriots know that the Ravens know that they know and ... you get the idea – this has the potential to be one heck of a chess match.

Look for the Ravens to do plenty of presnap communicating and disguising at the line of scrimmage. It helps that they’re comfortable playing a plethora of different coverages. The outcome may be decided by which side can bully the other into a reactionary position. The Patriots can do that by going hurry-up; the Ravens can do it by blitzing fervidly up the middle.

3. Ravens pass-rush
To beat Tom Brady, you have to rob him of the trust he has in his pass protection. Brady – like any quarterback – does not like pressure directly in his face. And though he’s as tough in the pocket as anyone in the game, he has a tendency to get just a tad jumpy after taking a few hits from edge-rushers.

Recent playoff history shows that if a defense can create pressure and doubt, Brady will eventually start eating up the play clock worrying about protections. That makes him a significantly less dangerous player versus when he’s hurrying things up and concentrating on his receivers’ routes.

The question is, can the Ravens generate a pass-rush? If they blitz, they likely can. But one of the best kept secrets in football is that this is generally a four-man rushing defense. Because the Ravens use so many 3-4 or 2-5 fronts, their four pass-rushers come from a variety of different spots, thus creating the illusion of a blitz:

The Ravens use a lot of zone exchange concepts in their pass-rush. A zone exchange is essentially a four-man pass-rush where linebackers or safeties rush the quarterback, while a defensive lineman or another linebacker drops back into coverage. It can be confusing, often creating the illusion of a heavy blitz. The Thanksgiving night game – in which Baltimore had nine sacks – provided a good example.

Above (click image to enlarge): Upon first glance, this appears to be a blitz featuring five, possibly six pass-rushers.

Below: The Ravens use a lot of zone exchange concepts in their pass-rush. A zone exchange is essentially a four-man pass-rush where linebackers or safeties rush the quarterback, while a defensive lineman or another linebacker drops back into coverage. It can be confusing, often creating the illusion of a heavy blitz. The Thanksgiving night game – in which Baltimore had nine sacks – provided a good example.

The Ravens’ four-man rush has seemingly evaporated over the last month. It registered a quiet five sacks over the final three weeks of the regular season and then got zero pressure on T.J. Yates in the divisional round. With talents like Terrell Suggs, Haloti Ngata and Pernell McPhee, it’s imprudent to assume the pressure can’t suddenly return.

But worth noting is that the Patriots’ pass protection in the last month has also been as sharp as the Ravens’ pass-rush has been dull.

4. Dialing in on Ray Rice
Bill Belichick always builds his defensive gameplan around eliminating the opponents’ greatest strength. This season, no man has done a better job at eliminating Ray Rice than Cam Cameron. (Rice averaged less than 10 carries a game in Baltimore’s four losses.)

To be fair, Cameron has featured Rice most of the season, and the results thus far speak for themselves: 13 wins and Rice leading the NFL in yards from scrimmage.

But if Belichick has inside linebackers Brandon Spikes and Jerod Mayo shadow Rice, or if he brings safety Patrick Chung down in the box every play or has his linebackers sellout against the run, will Cameron have enough patience to stay with his superstar?

The Patriots run defense is coming together, while their secondary can be tempting to attack.

5. Baltimore’s passing game
It was virtually nonexistent against Houston, mainly because deep threat Torrey Smith was nullified by Johnathan Joseph. The Patriots don’t have a corner on Joseph’s level (or even in Joseph’s stratosphere).

If the Ravens want to take their deep shots with Smith, all they’ll have to do is block a mundane Patriots pass-rush (last week’s performance at Foxboro notwithstanding). Devin McCourty was serviceable as a nickel free safety against Denver, but it remains to be seen whether the struggling corner can suddenly play a new position when facing a strong-armed quarterback and polished play-action passing game.

In other matchups, tight ends Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson were quiet against Houston but should be able to work the seams against New England. Anquan Boldin will be extremely problematic for the Pats. The thought of him working outside against Kyle Arrington seems patently unfair; inside is even worse, as the Patriots don’t have a true slot corner.

So who will win? Check our NFL expert picks for all the Championship games

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: December 28, 2011 12:08 pm
Edited on: December 28, 2011 1:34 pm
 

Eye on Football NFL Awards: Week 16



Posted by Will Brinson

Every week, our NFL experts will hand out the Eye on Football hardware to the best of the best from the NFL week that was.

Week 16 NFL Awards
Expert Offense Defense STeams Coach
Freeman  Brees  Byrd Janikowski Schwartz
Judge  Brees  Grant  Akers Coughlin
Prisco Rodgers  JPP Seymour Coughlin
Brinson  Brees  Bills  Akers Coughlin
Katzowitz  Cruz  Mayo Seymour Coughlin
Wilson  Brees  Bills Janikowski Coughlin
One. More. Week. It's terrifying, isn't it? Anyway, before we get to that, let's hit up the (slightly delayed) Week 16 Eye on Football Awards.

On offense, only one voter steered away from record-breaker Drew Brees and there's definitely an argument for Aaron Rodgers. But Brees breaking Dan Marino's record for passing yards in a season gave him the nod for the Eye on Offense Award.

On defense, the Bills defense as a whole picked up the Eye on Defense Award thanks to their evisceration of Tim Tebow and the Broncos.

Another record-breaker, David Akers, gets the nod for the Eye on Special Teams Award based on a tiebreaker in a three-way race with a pair of Raiders.

And Tom Coughlin nearly got the clean sweep for the Eye on Coaching Award with the way he handled his business against the Jets.

Leave your votes in the comments below or scream angrily at us on Twitter @EyeOnNFL.

Eye on Offense Award
Mike Freeman Clark Judge
Drew Brees Drew Brees, QB, Saints
Don't like how the Saints did it but Brees still deserves credit for reaching it. The record is more about perserverance than anything else. Brees was told he'd never make it this far. He wasn't good enough. He's too short. His arm is weak and he proved so many people wrong. That's the best part of this story.
Drew BreesDrew Brees, QB, Saints
It's not the four touchdowns or the lopsided defeat of Atlanta that puts him here. It's breaking Dan Marino's record for single-season yardage. It took someone 27 years to make it. The least we can do is acknowledge him with this award.
Pete Prisco Will Brinson
Aaron Rodgers Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers
Rodgers throws five touchdown passes against the Bears to lock up home-field advantage in the playoffs and get the No. 1 NFC seed for the Packers. Can we give him this award every week?
Drew BreesDrew Brees, QB, Saints
Didn't particularly like the way the Saints gunned for or celebrated the record, but that's on Sean Payton and Brees, and if the Falcons wanted to stop them, they should have. So give Brees his due credit for walking down one of the hardest-to-break records in sports.
Josh Katzowitz Ryan Wilson
Victor CruzVictor Cruz, WR, Giants
Cruz talked trash before Saturday’s Jets game and then backed it up with a 99-yard touchdown reception that was a marvel? It’s hard to believe that last season, Cruz was not even supposed to make the team. Now, he's one of the most exciting receivers in the game.
Drew Brees Drew Brees, QB, Saints
Brees broke Dan Marino's 27-year-old passing record and was even accused of running up the score in the process. The accomplishment along with the whining from the Falcons makes him worthy of the honor.
Eye on Defense Award
Freeman Judge
Jairus ByrdJairus Byrd, S, Bills
The Buffalo defender returned a Tim Tebow pick 37 yards for a score in a Bills blowout. I'll go ahead and resist the temptation to do a Tebow joke here. It's just really too easy at this point.
Larry Grant Larry Grant, LB, 49ers
He starts for the injured Patrick Willis and finishes with 11 tackles, second best on the team. None, however, was more important than the last -- with Grant forcing a Tarvaris Jackson fumble that sealed a San Francisco victory and, in all likelihood, a first-round playoff bye.
Prisco Brinson
Jason Pierre-PaulJason Pierre-Paul, DE, Giants
Pierre-Paul had two sacks, three quarterback hits and four tackles. He was all over the field in the Giants victory over the Jets, which was critical to Coughlin's team staying alive for the playoffs.
Jairus ByrdBills DST
The Bills handed Tim Tebow his first-ever four-interception game and returned two of the picks to the house in a surprise beatdown of the Broncos. That they did it a week after giving up 200 rushing yards to Reggie Bush is all the more impressive/shocking.
Katzowitz Wilson
Jerod Mayo Jerod Mayo, LB, Patriots
As bad as the Pats defense has been this year, you have to give credit to Mayo for making a difference in New England’s comeback win against the Dolphins. Mayo recorded 13 tackles and his first two sacks of the season to keep the Patriots alive for a No. 1 AFC seed.
Chris Kelsay Chris Kelsey, LB, Bills
This goes to the Bills defense, which intercepted Tebow four times (including two pick-sixes), but Kelsay had two sacks and was in the Broncos backfield all day.

Eye on Special Teams Award
Freeman Judge
Sebastian JanikowskiSebastian Janikowski, K, Raiders
Kicked the game-winner against the Kansas City Chiefs to keep their postseason hopes alive. I remember when Janikowski was nothing but the source of fat jokes. Now he might be the best kicker in football.
David Akers David Akers, K, 49ers
Here's another guy who sets a single-season record, kicking 42 field goals ... with one game still to play. Akers had four in the 49ers' defeat of Seattle, with his last the game winner. I can't imagine where the 49ers would be without him. I know where Philadelphia is.
Prisco Brinson
Richard SeymourRichard Seymour, DL, Raiders
He blocked two field goals, including the potential game-winner on the final play of regulation against the Chiefs. Oakland won the game in overtime to keep their playoff chances alive.
Dan BaileyDavid Akers, K, 49ers
Andy Reid was off on Akers career -- the Eagles didn't want to pay the man and all he did was kick the most field goals in a single season in NFL history (42). The 49ers don't have the season they're having without Akers being so steady on the special teams end of things.
Katzowitz Wilson
Richard Seymour Richard Seymour, DL, Raiders
He was the Chiefs worst nightmare, blocking two field goals -- including the potential game-winner -- to keep Oakland in the hunt for a playoff berth and to eliminate KC. Even if his on-field temper gets him into trouble occassionally, the 11-year vet still has the ability to make big-time plays.
Sebastian Janikowski Sebastian Janikowski, K, Raiders
Janikowski's game-winner in overtime against the Chiefs kept the Raiders' playoff hopes alive and the kicker finally got his first Pro Bowl trip this week.

Eye on Coaching Award
Freeman Judge
Jim SchwartzJim Schwartz, HC, Lions
He exercized the ghosts of the pathetic Matt Millen by getting the Lions in the playoffs. It's quite the achievement by Schwartz in a surprisingly short amount of time.
Tom Coughlin Tom Coughlin, HC, Giants
After listening to Rex Ryan and the Jets talk all week, he and his club respond with a 29-14 defeat that puts them one win from the playoffs. Not only did Coughlin outlast the Jets, he survived a sideline collision that had him limping. The Giants take a cue from their coach: "No toughness, no championship."
Prisco Brinson
Tom CoughlinTom Coughlin, HC, Giants
With his team's season on the line, Coughlin led his team to a victory over the New York Jets. Coughlin has been good at getting his team ready for big games. He has another this week against the Cowboys.

Tom CoughlinTom Coughlin, HC, Giants
The only guy involved with New York football who refused to talk any trash this week? Coughlin. He let his team do the talking for him on the field, knocking around the Jets enough to create questions for Little Brother, and giving the Giants a shot at a division title and a playoff berth.
Katzowitz Wilson
Tom Coughlin Tom Coughlin, HC, Giants
Whether he’s on the hot seat or not, Coughlin still managed to keep his team level-headed in the face of a torrent of trash-talk from the Jets in a city rivalry game. The Giants just have to beat the Cowboys in order to take the NFC East title. It seems like people forget how good a coach Coughlin is, but on Saturday, he taught Rex Ryan a lesson.
Tom Coughlin Tom Coughlin, HC, Giants
He began the week by proclaiming that "talk is cheap" only to listen as various members of the Giants called out the Jets. The difference between them and Rex Ryan's squad? The Giants backed it up Saturday. And if they beat the Cowboys in Week 17 they'll win the division.
Posted on: December 17, 2011 1:27 pm
 

Report: Pats ink Jerod Mayo to 5-year extension

By Will Brinson

There aren't many redeeming qualities about the Patriots NFL-worst defense this year, but linebacker Jerod Mayo is one of them. New England knows this and that's why they've reportedly signed Mayo to a five-year extension.

That means that Mayo is now a Patriot through the 2018 season, reports Adam Schefter of ESPN.

Mayo's 2011 season is actually the worst of his short, but distinguished career -- he has no sacks and just 68 tackles through 11 games, against 175 tackles and two sacks in 16 games last year. (He does have two picks this season.)

The linebacker has struggled with injuries though. He sprained his MCL earlier in the season and missed two games in October; the entire month was basically a wash for Mayo, as he was limited by the injury and recorded just six tackles in four games.

That being said, Mayo is one of the two best players (along with Vince Wilfork) on the Pats defense, and it's a smart and logical move to get Mayo, the 10th overall pick in the 2008 draft out of Tennessee, locked up for the long haul, especially considering he's only 25.



For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, Like Us on Facebook, subscribe to our NFL newsletter, and while you're add it, add our RSS Feed.
Posted on: December 14, 2011 10:14 am
Edited on: December 14, 2011 11:31 am
 

Film Room: Broncos vs. Patriots preview

Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit


It might just be the most anticipated matchup of the season: Tom Brady vs. Tim Tebow. One quarterback inspires because he has it all and wins, the other inspires because he has none of it and wins. Let’s break it down.


1. Evaluating Tebow
If you want a rehashing of Tebow’s quarterbacking strengths and (many) weaknesses, or an opinion on whether the Broncos should invest long-term in their unconventional “star”, or a theory about motivation and inspiration and divine intervention, hit the message boards or talk radio. The focus of this post is on what Tebow has shown on film the past few weeks.

In short, he’s getting better as a passer but still has a long ways to go. He’s been very good against Cover 2 looks. He made the Vikings pay for their frequent (and, frankly, mind-boggling) mistakes two weeks ago, and he conjured up several critical late-game completions the week after, when the Bears moved from man coverage to a soft Tampa 2 (where a few goofs by the secondary and a lack of pass-rush killed them down the stretch).

Tebow remains slow in the pocket – in terms of progressions, decisiveness and ball release – and he falls back on sandlot tactics if his first read is not there. This isn’t the worst thing, though, as he’s clearly proven to be clutch in this style. He’s very effective on the move, both as a scrambler and passer. He can extend the play with a unique Roethlisberger-like sense for avoiding and shedding pass-rushers.

But unless the Broncos can continue to win while averaging less than 20 points per game offensively, they’ll need more aerial dimension, progression reads and overall consistency from their young quarterback.

2. Denver’s run game
When offenses put a bunch of bodies on the line of scrimmage, the natural assumption is that they’re relying on sheer human mass to bulldoze the defense and clear a path for the running back. In actuality, what they’re often doing is creating more running options for the back. The more players there are along the line of scrimmage, the more gaps there are for the defense to worry about.

This is why you frequently see the Broncos bring a receiver in motion down to the tight end spot just before the snap; it’s not the receiver’s blocking prowess that the Broncos like, it’s that his presence expands the run front surface. Generally, the defense responds to this by matching players to gaps (in other words, crowding the line of scrimmage).

The brilliance of Denver’s zone-option run is that it forces defenses to crowd the line of scrimmage when there’s still the threat of a pass. Granted, this passing threat is weak – usually only two or three receivers run routes, and defenses are happy to see Tebow throw – but it’s not weak enough for defenders to completely ignore. Thus, they’re distracted ever so slightly from their run-stopping assignments.

More than that, the zone-option presents a myriad of run possibilities on a given play. The ball could go to Willis McGahee, fullback Spencer Larsen, a sweeping receiver or stay with Tebow. And with so many options, the ball does not necessarily have to follow the direction of the blocking scheme.

These are all factors that defenders must mentally process after the snap. That’s not how defenders are accustomed to playing the run.
Also, keep in mind, defenses do not generally account for quarterbacks in the run game; Tebow’s threat as a runner has a wildcat effect that gives the offense a numbers advantage if the D does not bring an eighth man in the box.

3. How the Patriots will defend the run
A smart, fundamentally-sound run-defending front seven can still stymie the zone-option. Usually, it takes two stud linebackers and two stud defensive ends. The Bears and Jets both had these resources and, aside from a play or two, they both shutdown the Broncos’ ground game. The Bears did it out of a base 4-4 (safety Craig Steltz played in the box all game); the Jets did it out of a base 3-5.

Whatever the defensive alignment, the basic principles are the same: the linebackers must see the field well enough to track the ball and identify gaps. More importantly, they must run well enough to catch up to the ball (because, as we’ve examined, defending the zone-option is strict assignment football, where the reads are more details-oriented than in conventional run defense). The defensive ends must have the physical strength to penetrate against one-on-one blocking, as well as the discipline to stay within the strict confines of their edge duties.

It’s unknown whether the Patriots will follow Chicago’s 4-4 scheme or New York’s 3-5 scheme Sunday. They’ve alternated between various defensive fronts all season. More pressing is whether the Patriots even have the personnel. Inside linebacker Jerod Mayo is elite, but whoever’s next to him is most certainly not (Bill Belichick has tried a litany of different players here). At left end, Vince Wilfork is obviously a monster.

On the defensive right side, Andre Carter has been outstanding at times, but he may not have the necessary size to trade blows with a left tackle like Ryan Clady for four quarters. If the Patriots go with a 3-5 approach, they may want to rotate massive youngsters Ron Brace and Brandon Deaderick at end and use Carter’s flexible movement skills in space (ala Calvin Pace of the Jets).

Keep in mind, the Broncos have a sound rushing attack even without the zone-option. McGahee has a league-leading six 100-yard games on the season, and his front five is capable of winning one-on-one battles across the board. The Patriots got abused last week by a Redskins rushing attack that entered the game ranked 31st.

4. Back to the air
It’s entirely possible that Tebow and the Broncos will be able to move the ball through the thin Mile High air this Sunday. The Patriots’ pass-rush has been more “miss” than “hit” in 2011. Their secondary currently features a journeyman special teamer at strong safety (James Ihedigbo), a wide receiver and career-long special teamer at free safety (Matthew Slater) and another wide receiver at nickelback (Julian Edelman).

That’s the type of lineup you only see when someone is screwing around playing Madden.

If the Patriots bring Ihedigbo into the box, they’ll have to play either Cover 3 (zone) or man-to-man downfield. Because defensive backs must face inside when playing Cover 3, the way to attack them is with outside routes. Broncos wideouts Eric Decker and Matt Willis are effective on these patterns.

In man, cornerbacks must obviously stay with their assigned wide receiver. This season, Kyle Arrington and Devin McCourty have simply not done that. Arrington improved his ball skills but has still been exploited. McCourty has been just plain porous.

5. Patriots previous blueprint for Tebow?
We’ve looked at how the Patriots might defend the Broncos offense as a whole. What about defending Tebow specifically? One player who is somewhat similar in style is Vince Young.

The Patriots devised a shrewd gameplan when they faced the Eagles backup in Week 12. Using a mix of 3-4 and 4-3 looks, they focused on keeping Young in the pocket, forcing him to be a passer. They did this by jamming his tight ends and wing/flex receivers with defensive ends and blitzing linebackers.

That disrupted a lot of Young’s quick outlet throws and forced him to make reads downfield. When Patriot blitzers did actually go after Young, they always came from the front side. That way, Young would see the blitz and instinctively scramble to the backside. On that backside would be a defensive end in containment.

At the end of the day, this approach generated three sacks and 21 incompletions for the Patriots defense.

6. Other side of the ball
Even though Tebow has been at his most comfortable throwing against Cover 2, the Patriots would presumably love to play that defense often this Sunday, as that’s the tactic they tend to fall back on when protecting a big lead. The reason Tebow has not had to put together four good quarters of even semi-traditional quarterbacking during this six-game win streak is because no team has managed to jump way out in front against the Denver defense.

New England will certainly look to change that. Expect some form of hurry-up early in the game. Even if playing with a lead weren’t extra important this week, Tom Brady would still come out throwing, as it’s difficult to run against Denver’s base 4-3 (their tackles Broderick Bunkley and Marcus Thomas hold ground well, and their linebackers all cover ground well).

Most offenses would prefer facing Denver’s nickel D. It’s a much easier group to run inside against, and the revolving door at No. 3 slot cornerback has been a weak spot for the Broncos since Day One. The Broncos will likely use their nickel D against the Patriots’ base 12 offense (one back, two tight ends, two wide receivers). This will make John Fox’s group somewhat vulnerable to the run, but Fox would rather see Brady handing off than throwing.

Because so much of New England’s offense is horizontal, it’s important for a defense to have as much speed at linebacker as possible. In this sense, nickel linebacker Wesley Woodyard is better suited than starter Joe Mays. What’s more, in nickel, the Broncos can go with three downlinemen and create more space for their excellent inside blitzers, Von Miller and D.J. Williams.

Generating pressure inside is a must against Brady. The only way to disrupt him is to move him off his spot and make him play frenetic. The more Brady moves, the less likely he is to throw between the numbers. That’s critical, as these statistics show:

                            Tom Brady 2011 Passing Stats
          Between the Numbers         Outside the Numbers
   COMP %
                  73.4                     54.7
    YPA                   9.44                     7.31
  QB Rating
                 118.2                     86.8

So who will win? Check our NFL expert picks for all Week 15 games

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: December 9, 2011 6:16 pm
Edited on: December 10, 2011 1:43 am
 

Seymour fined $30K; Pettigrew, Mayo punished

PettigrewBy Josh Katzowitz

The NFL lesson of the week: don’t punch a fellow player or touch an official in anything other than a loving matter. Otherwise, the NFL is going to take a few bucks out of your wallet. This, of course, isn’t news, but considering Richard Seymour is a repeat offender, maybe this IS a lesson he needs to continue to learning.

Anyway, here’s a roundup of some of the biggest fines levied by the league this week.

Richard Seymour, $30,000: Seymour was tagged $25,000 last year when he struck Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger with an open hand, but the NFL has decided a second violation (when he gave Miami's Richie Incognito the business last Sunday) only was worth $5,000 more. As Rapid Reporter Eric Gillman points out, that’s three ejections in three seasons with the Raiders for Seymour, so, really, you have to applaud his consistency.

Jerod Mayo, $25,000: As Rapid Reporter Greg Bedard points out, Mayo was tagged for roughing Colts quarterback Dan Orlovsky and striking him in the head and neck area. This, even though Mayo wasn’t flagged during the game for the alleged penalty.

Brandon Pettigrew, $25,000: The NFL just HATES it when a player makes contact with an official, even if the contact was somewhat inadvertent and not necessarily intended for said official. But Pettigrew got caught bumping an official while going after Saints safety Roman Harper, and thus he gets a big fine, via Rapid Reporter John Kreger. Why he wasn’t kicked out of the game immediately, we don’t know.

Shaun Chapas, $20,000: You want to know why Chapas is having a bad day? Because, as ESPN Dallas writes, Chapas, a rookie Cowboys fullback, made a little more than $22,000 last Sunday, but since he blind-sided Cardinals linebacker Reggie Walker, the NFL wants to take most of that away. Also, Chapas wasn’t penalized on the play.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, Like Us on Facebook, subscribe to our NFL newsletter, and while you're add it, add our RSS Feed.
Posted on: October 26, 2011 11:01 am
 

Film Room: Steelers vs. Patriots preview

Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit



The Patriots are known for their offense. The Steelers are known for their defense. But the other side of the ball is just as intriguing. Here are five keys to Pittsburgh’s offense against New England’s defense.


1. Understanding the REAL Steelers
It’s amazing: we still hear so-called experts refer to the Steelers as a black-and-blue, ground-and-pound offense. Usually a phrase like “getting back to their roots” or “playing true Steeler ball” accompanies this embarrassing misnomer. The people who think of today’s Steelers as run-oriented are the same people who stopped renting movies once the video cassette tape disappeared.

They’re the same people who still worry about the cost of a cross-country phone call, or who think that the best way to make a statement is to send a letter to their local newspaper.

The Steelers are a passing team. This isn’t to say that they can’t or won’t run. In fact, their run-pass ratio is about as normal as it gets. Over the last four years, in games that Ben Roethlisberger has played, the Steelers have called a run play 43.1 percent of the time and a pass play 56.9 percent of the time. The league average is 43.6 percent run and 56.4 percent pass. When the Steelers are protecting a lead, they squeeze the air out of the ball. But when they’re trying to establish a lead, they throw.

The Steelers have put the ball in the air 84.4 percent of the time on third down. This suggests either a.) They are not running effectively (hence, they’ve faced a lot of third-and-long situations) or b.) When they need a money play, they trust their pass game more than their run game. They’re lining up like a passing team, too. So far Ben Roethlisberger has attempted 159 passes out of three-or four-receiver formations. He’s attempted just 21 passes out of two-receiver formations.

This season, the Steelers’ decision to transform into more of a downfield offense was a conscious one. In 2010 they drafted a speed-and-quickness wideout in the third round (Emmanuel Sanders) and a power runner in the fifth (Jonathan Dwyer). They did the same in 2009, drafting Mike Wallace in the third round and Frank Summers in the fifth. These moves were made after it was confirmed that ’08 first-round pick Rashard Mendenhall was an everydown back with a slight predilection for finesse over power.

But the main inspiration behind these moves was the guy under center.

2. Ben Roethlisberger
He’s often not described this way, but Roethlisberger is the most physically gifted quarterback in the AFC – if not all of pro football (it’s a whole other discussion, but strong arguments could be made for Aaron Rodgers, Cam Newton or Michael Vick).

Everyone praises Roethlisberger for having the strength to shed would-be sackers before throwing. But what’s more remarkable – and not talked about – is the quality of those throws. Roethlisberger throws off balance and under duress with unparalleled velocity and accuracy.

Very little about his game is fundamentally sound. His footwork is flawed. His balance is poor. His mechanics are okay but often irrelevant given that the majority of his drop-backs turn into sandlot improvs. The reason he’s a sandlot player is because he does not read the field well (if at all) before the snap. For most quarterbacks, this would be a crippling weakness. For Roethlisberger, it’s a strength. He actually prefers to react to a defense rather than dictate the terms.

Roethlisberger might sense a blitz presnap and, like just about any quarterback, make a few tweaks to his protection or receivers’ routes. More often, though, he’d rather just take the snap, actually see the blitz coming and make his own adjustments on the fly.

If any other quarterbacks played this way, they’d look like JaMarcus Russell (a sorry sap who actually did try to play this way). Roethlisberger has the physical talent and uncanny instincts to pull it off.

3. Defending Big Ben & Co.
The brilliance behind Roethlisberger’s unusual style is that it’s hard to gameplan against. It’s not unusual to see a defense strategically defeat the Steelers offense yet still get beat for a big play. Defensive strategies are based on disrupting the quarterback’s fundamentals and progressions. But what do you do when the quarterback does not rely on fundamentals or even progression reads?

But if it were as simple as just playing basic, fundamentally sound defense, every team would do that. Most teams, however, don’t have the resources to contain Pittsburgh’s weapons straight-up. Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown are bourgeoning inside receivers who have the quickness to separate from man-coverage and a great feel for locating the deep voids against zones (a critical attribute given the way Roethlisberger extends plays).

Outside, the lanky, long-striding Mike Wallace is the most lethal downfield threat in the game. These are wideouts who make you think twice about bringing a safety down in the box. Though the Steelers aren’t the run-first team they once were, they’re certainly capable of pounding a seven-man defensive front on the ground.

Thus, the most viable (and common) way to defend Roethlisberger & Co. is to attack their offensive line. You want to force Roethlisberger into sandlot tactics early in the down rather than let him extend the play. That way, his teammates don’t have time to execute their assignments. The limited timing naturally diminishes the threat of Wallace over the top and allows defensive backs to gamble more against Sanders and Brown.

Aiding this cause is the vulnerability of Pittsburgh’s front five. Left tackle Max Starks was out of football less than one month ago. Left guard Chris Kemoeatu has battled a knee injury and was awful in pass protection in his return last week. Right guard Ramon Foster is an undrafted backup (filling in for injured Doug Legursky) and right tackle Marcus Gilbert is an intriguing-but-still-youthful rookie.

4. How Belichick will attack
Belichick’s M.O. is to take away the opposing offense’s top two strengths. This obviously would mean preventing Roethlisberger from extending plays and eliminating Wallace’s deep routes. The Patriots did this last season in their Week 10 victory at Pittsburgh by blitzing like crazy (the Steelers had been struggling at the time with blitz pickups).

However, this season, Patriots linebackers have been poor in blitz execution. Also, the Pats have been more inclined to use a four-man pass-rush out of nickel packages.

We’ve seen Belichick do a 180-degree change in defensive gameplans from one week to the next plenty before, and anything’s possible when he’s coming off a bye. But given the way the Steeler guards struggle in pass protection, don’t be surprised if Albert Haynesworth finally gets significant playing time as a three-technique next to Vince Wilfork.

That’s a combination the Steelers simply wouldn’t be able to block. The Patriots could have their ho-hum ends play containment, which would keep Roethlisberger in the pocket facing pressure right up the middle. He’d still manage some sandlot plays, but he’d also be throwing into seven-man coverages, which could spell turnovers. The Patriots like to compensate for their vulnerable secondary by generating interceptions (last season they ranked 30th in pass yards allowed but first in interceptions).

5. Miscellaneous note
Jerod Mayo, who has been out since injuring his knee in Week 4, is far and away New England’s best linebacker. If he’s available Sunday, the Patriots would have more options for containing Roethlisberger (Mayo reads the field well and has good awareness in coverage). Not surprisingly, Belichick isn’t disclosing Mayo’s status.

So who will win? Check our NFL expert picks for all Week 8 games

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: July 7, 2011 3:40 pm
Edited on: July 7, 2011 4:24 pm
 

Hot Routes 7.7.11: Redskins don't want Clausen



Posted by Ryan Wilson

Got a link for the Hot Routes? Hit us up on Twitter (@CBSSportsNFL)
  • CBSSports.com's Mike Freeman thinks "a handshake agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement will happen next week, not on Thursday or Friday." Either way, that's welcome news.  

  • ESPN.com's Matt Williamson thinks Shawne Merriman "is done." In that sense, he should complement former Bills first-rounder Aaron Maybin nicely.
  • Redskins QB update via CSNWashington.com blogger Rich Tandler: "I would say there is zero chance that the Redskins are interested in [Jimmy] Clausen. Think they would rather go with who they have." Washington should subscribe to the addition-by-subtraction personnel philosophy more often.
  • We thought this went without saying since the Broncos spent a first-round pick on Tim Tebow a year ago, but the team has no interest in a poor man's Tebow, aka Terrelle Pryor.
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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