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Tag:Josh Sitton
Posted on: November 16, 2011 4:09 pm
 

Film Room: Packers vs. Buccaneers preview

Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit


The Green Bay Packers are off to the best start of any Defending Champion since the ‘99 Broncos. With legitimate buzz about a perfect season getting louder, let’s look at some of subtle but important elements that make this team great.


1. Aaron Rodgers hidden traits
Through nine games, Rodgers is playing the quarterback position better than anyone has ever played it. No need to sit here and talk about his arm strength, accuracy, intelligence, mobility and “moxie” – all it takes are two eyes and a pulse for an observer to notice these things.

Besides, it’s the little things that set Rodgers apart. Things like….
  • Footwork: This past Monday night, Jon Gruden shrewdly pointed out that when taking a shotgun snap, the right-handed Rodgers keeps his right foot back. All other right-handed quarterbacks keep their left foot back. By keeping his right foot back, Rodgers is in position to throw the second he receives the ball. This is critical given how many quick slants and smoke screens the Packers throw. Rodgers’ footwork is not just unique in the shotgun. He’s incredibly crafty in how he angles his drop-backs ever so slightly to impact opposing pass-rushers’ path to him. It’s something you generally wouldn’t notice unless you have to play against him. Rodgers’ subtle footwork adjustments can be a tremendous help to Green Bay’s offensive line.
  • Presnap vocals: Rodgers recognizes defenses as well as any quarterback in the game and uses the snap count better than anyone. This Sunday, keep track not just of how many times Buccaneer defensive linemen jump offsides (Adrian Clayborn and Albert Haynesworth both had some issues with this last week) but how many times the linebackers and cornerbacks are baited into accidentally showing their hand. Rodgers is remarkable in the way he recognizes any flinch and mentally processes a defender’s initial move. Good dummy cadences allow him to do that.
  • Precision accuracy: Rodgers has the ability to succeed even on plays where the defense’s scheme defeats Green Bay’s offensive concept. His ball command is a big reason why. Most accurate passers simply hit the dart board; Rodgers routinely hits the bull’s-eye. He puts the ball not just on a receiver, but in the most favorable location for that receiver. This is why the Packers are the best in football when it comes to running after the catch. The last passer who threw with the quick release and velocity necessary for near-perfect precision was Kurt Warner. The difference between Rodgers and Warner is Rodgers exhibits this kind of accuracy in the pocket AND outside on the move (he’s the best movement passer in the NFL, Ben Roethlisberger and Josh Freeman included).
2. Formation versatility
The Packers offense is a nightmare to prepare for. They have a bottomless trove of formations and personnel packages. They regularly use three different running backs, five different wide receivers and four different tight ends, with formations reflecting virtually every possible combination of those groupings.

And thanks to the versatility and potency of Jermichael Finley, defenses often can’t decipher whether it will be a run or pass formation until the Packers line up. Even then, it can be hard to decipher, as it’s not uncommon for Finley to shift before the snap. The Packers run a lot of the same plays but out of different formations.

This formation versatility allows Green Bay’s rushing attack to stay afloat. Talent-wise, it’s not a great ground game. James Starks and Ryan Grant are both methodical, gaping-hole runners who can’t redirect quickly or create their own space. It helps that they play with a strong, versatile lead-blocker in John Kuhn and behind stud right guard Josh Sitton and crafty center Scott Wells. H-back Tom Crabtree is also a positive factor in run packages.

But what really makes a difference is that the Packers are a threat to throw out of run formations. They have a viable screen game, they’re great in play-action and Rodgers is not afraid to go downfield even if there’s only one wideout in the formation (the first touchdown to Jordy Nelson in Super Bowl XLV is a great example).

The Bucs safeties struggled in run-pass recognition against the Texans last week. And their linebackers really struggled against the run (middle ‘backer Mason Foster is about as stiff as they come). Don’t be surprised if the Packers pound the Bucs on the ground and later throw the safeties a curveball with a downfield shot out of heavy personnel.

3. Receiver distribution

Receiver distribution can be explained with simple who-where-how questions: WHO are the receivers on the field, HOW do they line up and WHERE do they run? The “who” is always favorable to Green Bay. Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, Jordy Nelson, James Jones and Jermichael Finley form the most formidable quintet in the NFL. All are fast, fundamentally sound and well-schooled in Mike McCarthy’s system.

It’s in the “where” and “how” that McCarthy doesn’t get enough credit. Along with Sean Payton, McCarthy is the best in the business at creating big passes through alignment and route combinations. The Packers create a lot of mismatches simply by lining certain players up in certain areas. They create even more mismatches by designing routes that work off one another.

The best example is their 3 x 1 receiver set (three receivers to one side, one receiver to the other). Greg Jennings is often the X-iso receiver (i.e. the receiver on the one-receiver side). From this formation, an outside route by Jennings all but guarantees one-on-one coverage (a safety over the top can’t cover enough ground quick enough to help outside; even if he could, the three receives being on the other side of the field usually demands that he be over there).

If Jennings runs an inside route, Rodgers has a one-on-one matchup to locate on the three-receiver side. He identifies these matchups almost instantaneously. And with the vast talent at receiver, the one-on-one matchup will almost always favor Green Bay. Defenses that try to nullify this by playing zone to the three-receiver side are punished by route combinations that work off one another by attacking the boundaries of the zones (i.e., that grey area where one defender’s zone ends and another’s begins).

McCarthy’s goal is to slow down a defender’s mental process just enough to give his quarterback time to strike. The second quarter touchdown pass to Jennings in Super Bowl XLV is a great example:


1. The play involved a formation shift, as Greg Jennings’ motion turned a 2 x 2 receiver set into a 3 x 1. This shifted the Steelers’ zone coverage from a Cover 2 to a man-zone scheme, with Ike Taylor playing man against the lone receiver (Andrew Quarless) outside and the rest of the defenders playing zone.

2. In this scenario, the backside safety (the safety furthest from the three receivers) is responsible for the 3 receiver (the receiver nearest the slot). That was Ryan Clark on the right side.

 

3. It was a great route combination by the Packers. The far outside receiver (Donald Driver) ran a hitch, which forced that cornerback to sit on the route. Because that corner had to sit, he could not help against the second receiver (Jordy Nelson), who was running a seam route downfield. Thus, the deep safety, Troy Polamalu, now had to worry about Nelson.


4. The problem was, Polamalu also had the receiver furthest inside (Jennings) screaming at him. Naturally, Polamalu froze for a split second, as he was mentally processing two different receivers racing into the edges of his zone. This created natural confusion with Ryan Clark, who was responsible for that inside receiver and had a lot of ground to cover. Clark had stayed in his original Cover 2 positioning a beat too long (an understandable mistake given Pittsburgh’s fondness for disguising coverage).

5. Rodgers recognized all this. It was exactly how the play was designed to work. The coverage was decent, but Rodgers’ arm was better. Touchdown.

4. The other side of the ball
Green Bay’s defense is as versatile as its offense. It’s a unit that has been inconsistent this season, but don’t think for a second that this group isn’t capable of winning a game on its own in any given week.

Dom Capers’ 3-4 scheme can quickly morph into a 2-4-5 or 1-4-6 scheme, depending on the pass-happiness of the opponent (expect more 3-4 looks this Sunday, as the Bucs utilize a lot of base personnel on early downs). The flexibility of the defensive backs allows the Packers to disguise blitzes before the snap and alter coverages after the snap. These are two of the leading principles of Capers’ system.

Why other teams don’t simply mimic Capers’ effective, playmaking-oriented scheme is because of personnel limitations. Capers enjoys the rare fortune of having the four most critical weapons that a defense in today’s NFL can have: an interior clogger (B.J. Raji), an edge-rusher (Clay Matthews), a cover corner (Tramon Williams) and a versatile slot corner/safety (Charles Woodson). Star players make the role players around them better. The Packers D has stars at every level.

5. The Woodson factor
Matthews might be Green Bay’s most valuable defender simply because there isn’t another pass-rusher on the roster (or perhaps in the league) with his initial quickness and sheer speed. But Woodson has a far greater hand in what the Packers do schematically.

An elite cover corner early in his career, the 35-year-old veteran has morphed into more of a freelancing box safety, ala Troy Polamalu. This isn’t to say Woodson can’t still cover. His five interceptions this season – and outstanding performance playing bump-and-run outside in place of an injured Tramon Williams at Carolina in Week 2 – prove that he can. But he’s more dangerous in the box.

Woodson is an elite blitzer and run defender from the slot. He’s surprisingly physical. His greatest traits are his timing and the unique paths he takes in attack. Woodson recognizes offensive concepts quickly, not just in terms of where the play is going, but when it is designed to get there. He adjusts accordingly, which is why you almost never see him get blocked.

Woodson’s impact is not just felt through his own big plays, either. He is brilliant at getting to spots on the field that he knows will redirect the offense back into the teeth of the defense. A lot of times, the goal of Woodson’s blitz is not to get a sack, but rather, to simply force the quarterback to move into a vulnerable area that the rest of the defense is secretly attacking.

Guys like Woodson only come around every decade or so. They’re rare because it takes about 8-10 years for a player to master the game’s nuances. By that time, most players have declined athletically. The ones that don’t go to Canton.

So who will win? Check our NFL expert picks for all Week 11 games

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: October 3, 2011 9:36 am
Edited on: October 3, 2011 9:42 am
 

Report: Jordy Nelson, Packers reach 3-year deal

Posted by Will Brinson

On Sunday we discussed how Ted Thompson was not talking about a new contract with Packers tight end Jermichael Finley. Perhaps that's because he was too busy working out a deal with wideout Jordy Nelson?

The Packers wide receiver, in the final year of his current contract, signed a three-year, $13.5 million extension, according to ESPN.

Nelson, who caught five balls for 91 yards and a touchdown on Sunday in Green Bay's blowout win over Denver, has become an integral part of the Packers passing attack over the last year and change.

In 2010, he posted a career high 582 yards and 45 catches in 16 games, four of which were starts. He's on pace to shatter those numbers in 2011, having accumulated 201 catches and two touchdowns (tied for his career high) in 2011 already.

Nelson's the second free agent to receive a deal since the season began -- guard Josh Sitton also received a contract from the Packers that extended him through 2016.

All that's left now for Thompson in terms of locking up the core is lineman Scott Wells and Finley. Depending on how the season goes, we might not have seen the last of Green Bay contracts.


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Posted on: February 4, 2011 2:38 am
Edited on: February 4, 2011 9:26 am
 

Young Packers play with a passion for the past

Posted by Will Brinson

IRVING, Texas -- No one questions the historic importance of the Green Bay Packers franchise, but it'd be entirely possible for the current rendition of the Pack to lose a sense of connection with the teams of the past.

That's not the case at all, though.

Even on this is young squad (average age: 25.88 years; none of the current players were even alive when Vince Lombardi died) there's an impressive sense of where Super Bowl 45 fits in the NFL's historical context.

That's probably because they hear it from the man in charge.

"The history of tradition with the Green Bay Packers is a tremendous asset for us as a football team and for us as an organization," head coach Mike McCarthy said Thursday. "It’s something that’s embraced on a daily basis.

You definitely want to win this game for the Packer nation, represent the tradition and history of the great players - Jerry Kramer and all the way down through. We understand where we are, it’s the standard of the Green bay Packers, it’s about winning Super Bowl trophies, and it’s time for the Lombardi Trophy to go back home."

[More Super Bowl coverage]

That's a sentiment that's echoed throughout the locker room "History and tradition is strong in Green Bay," center Scott Wells said. "It's one of the things when you get drafted or signed as a free agent -- they bring you in, and I remember they brought my family in and they give you a tour of the Hall of Fame.

Embracing tradition is obviously important in Green Bay -- a member of the Packers probably couldn't survive a tour in Cheeseland without a belief that the publicly-owned football team is more than just a simple recreational activity for fans and a business for players.

That's not to say it's a requirement, though -- Ted Thompson, the architect for this team, doesn't necessarily demand people who will embrace the Packer tradition.

"We look for good people," Thompson said. "We're very conscious of what kind of person we put in our locker room. We feel like that's very important. But in terms of them embracing tradition, it's something that's acquired.

And once you're there and once you see it and once you experience it on the streets and in the grocery stores, I think you have an appreciation for it and I think these guys do too."



Clearly the pride of the Packers lives in the city, but as almost any member of the team will attest, the walk to work is filled with piles of memorabilia that would serve to humble even the most talented of football players. For this team, though, it serves more as a challenge.

"When I first got to Green Bay to walk around and see the fans and see how much it means to them, and then you go through Lambeau and the Hall of Fame and see all the tradition, I think it motivates you," right guard Josh Sitton said. "You want to be part of something great and you thank all the guys who came before you and we're here because of them, so it's pretty cool."

The pictures of trophies -- named after this fella who once upon a time won some games in Green Bay -- in the media room are constant reminders of a goal, as well.

And they're not just there for show. In fact, there was a purposeful preseason placement for the photos.

"I gave Mike (McCarthy) that idea in the offseason," Aaron Rodgers said. "He might not tell you that, but a good friend of mine who is also a professional athlete, talked about how his coach motivated them in that way.

I thought that would be a cool thing for us to see every day in the meeting room because we start a day off in that room. To be able to think about the entire season what we’re really playing for by having that empty picture up on the wall."

Talent, good coaching and a little bit of luck probably didn't hurt the Packers get this close to achieving their goal, either.

But there's a very clear sense of purpose within the entire team -- and it all seems centered around the tradition they all embrace quite seriously.

None of them knew Vince Lombardi. And none of them even watched him coach. But because a heightened sense of pride's already instilled within the town, the team's substantially more focused on making sure that the NFL's biggest prize makes its way home once more.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.
Posted on: February 3, 2011 9:43 am
 

Unsung heroes inside Green Bay's O-line

Posted by Andy Benoit

DALLAS -- From the “unsung heroes” department we spotlight the Green Bay Packer guards. Unlike most offensive linemen, the spotlight is something these two enjoy. Left guard Daryn Colledge was a communications major at Boise State and hopes to get into broadcasting after his playing career. Right guaJ. Sitton (US Presswire)rd Josh Sitton is the type who loves shock value. Told there would be a story about him and Colledge, he opened up the interview by saying, “Daryn Colledge is an a******.”

Sitton eventually took the interview seriously, talking about his breakout 2010 campaign.“Obviously there’s always competition in this game, but coming into this season I was pretty entrenched at the right guard spot, I knew it was going to be my job and so I could focus on me, focus on the little things, focus on the details,” he said.

Sitton declined to rank himself amongst NFL right guards, but most neutral experts will tell you he’s now somewhere near the top five. The third-year pro thrives in pass protection and has emerged as Green Bay’s most mobile run-blocker. He gets off his first block and delivers contact at the second level as smoothly as just about any player in the game.

His running mate College has always had adequate mobility; it’s been his consistency in the trenches that has wavered in past years. But playing all 16 games at the left guard position for the first time in his five-year career led to a breakthrough season (just in time for his second contract, no less).

“I have some things I’d like to do better, but being my first year that I didn’t have to move around, I feel like I’ve played strong,” Colledge said.

Pressed for specifics as to how he can improve, he replied, “I think everybody wants to play (with lower positioning), we want to be better in the run game. For me, just physically improving every single year is the goal. As soon as you get stagnant, you’re probably going to get replaced.”

Getting replaced has been a constant threat in Colledge’s career. Before this season, training camp benchings were somewhat of a ritual for the former second-round pick. Not anymore.

“Daryn Colledge has played a lot of football for us. He is a very reliable individual,” Mike McCarthy said. “He doesn’t miss practice, is very consistent.”

As for Sitton?

“I think Josh has come into his own the last two years,” McCarthy said. “In my opinion, I think he is playing at a near Pro Bowl level.”
Best of all is that the Packers can reasonably assume that both their guards still have yet to reach their full potential. Sitton, in particular, is destined to become an upper echelon blocker. “You can always get better. You’re never going to master this game,” he said.

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Posted on: February 3, 2011 7:55 am
 

Ndamukong Suh talks Super Bowl, Lions and more

Posted by Will Brinson

DALLAS -- Ndamukong Suh is a really talented and outstanding defensive player. He looks flat-out ferocious on the field.

But when you get a chance to talk to him away from the gridiron, he's so outstandingly smart about the game and brings such a different demeanor (than you'd expect from his style of play anyway) to interviews that it makes him even more impressive as student of the football.

I caught up with Suh at Radio Row during the Super Bowl, and we chatted about his toughest matchup, how the Lions are turning the corner, who he thinks will win the Super Bowl and much, much more.

[More Super Bowl coverage]



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Posted on: February 2, 2011 12:58 pm
 

Packers learning to deal with Twitter

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

IRVING, Texas – In the heat of the moment, Packers LB Desmond Bishop has logged on to the Internet, clicked on his Twitter page and prepared himself to spill his thoughts online to the 14,000 or so who follow his feed.

Then, sometimes, he takes a breath, thinks about the possible ramifications and deletes the words he’s just written.

“All the time,” Bishop said Wednesday during the media’s morning availability at the team’s Omni Mandalay at Las Colinas hotel.

Really? All the time?

“Yeah, you have to realize what you’re writing before you put it out there,” Bishop said today. “There were times when I was going to write something in the heat of the moment, and I read it, and I was like, ‘I better delete this, because it wouldn’t be good.’ Sometimes you get that backlash when you press send, and then it’s too late. It’s out to the world.”

Some of the Packers know about Twitter backlash.

Like last week, when TE Jermichael Finley and LB Nick Barnett – both of whom are on Injured Reserve – complained that the Packers injured players wouldn’t get to sit for the team photo because of travel logistics.

It caused a mini-controversy for the team, and it prompted coach Mike McCarthy to talk to his team about the ramifications of social media.

“I wouldn’t classify that as a major issue,” McCarthy said. “It was really a situation we dealt with, and as long as our football team is not distracted by it, I don’t feel like it’s an issue. But it was talked about.”

Said Bishop: “He basically told us to have common sense. You know what’s right to say and what’s not right to say. Sometime you’re giving an option and you don’t expect it to be blown out of proportion.”

While a guy like G Josh Sitton won’t bother messing with social media – “I don’t even think about it. I don’t care,” he said – it’s still relevant on his team and in his league. Even though McCarthy isn’t a fan of Twitter and Facebook as either, he also has to deal with it.

“I won’t even let my daughter have a Facebook account, so I think that tells you what I think about Twitter,” McCarthy said. “I wouldn’t even know how to access a Twitter account right now. I understand it’s an important part of the network, but that’s something personally I have zero interest in.”

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Posted on: February 2, 2011 1:59 am
Edited on: February 3, 2011 8:45 am
 

Green Bay Packers offensive roster breakdown

Posted by Will Brinson & Andy Benoit

Perhaps the most fascinating thing if you look (at a glance anyway) at Pittsburgh and Green Bay is that they've built their teams "properly." (AKA "the opposite of Dan Snyder.) They draft smart, and they sign smarter. At least that's what we're lead to believe, right?

Andy and I set out to check the roster breakdown for both teams. En route, we* managed to figure out not only where they're coming from, but what they'll do for their respective teams in the Super Bowl.

Name POS Acquired Scouting Report
Aaron Rodgers
QB
Drafted 24th overall, 1st Round 2005
He lacks is a weakness. One of the smartest, savviest and most athletic quarterbacks in the NFL. A Super Bowl ring might even legitimize the inevitable Is he better than Favre? discussion.
James Starks
RB
Drafted 193rd overall, 6th Round 2010
ixth-round rookie arrived on the scene just in time for Green Bay’s playoff push. Not a star, but the upright runner gives the backfield some of the burst it’s been missing.
Brandon Jackson
RB2
Drafted 63r overall, 2nd Round 2007
Doesn’t have the initial quickness or agility to be a quality NFL runner, though has at least found a niche as a pass-blocker and screen pass receiver on third downs.
John Kuhn
FB
UDFA 2005, PIT; FA 2007
Now synonymous with the term “folk hero” around Wisconsin. Has a knack for moving the chains.
Chad Clifton
LT
Drafted 44th overall, 2nd Round 2000
Superb technique and consistent pass protection earned him Pro Bowl honors for the second time in his 11-year career.
Daryn Colledge
LG
Drafted 47th overall, 2nd Round
Was finally kept at one position for 16 games, and responded with a career year. Not the strongest ox in the field, but dexterous at the second level. Packers would be wise to give him the long-term contract he wants.
Scott Wells
C
Drafted 251st overall, 7th Round
Reliable as they come. Will get jolted by bull-rushing nose tackles, but very rarely let’s that disrupt the entire play. Good mobility out in front.
Josh Sitton
RG
Drafted 135th overall, 4th Round
Arguably the best right guard in football this season. Outstanding brute force on contact, has little to no trouble reaching linebackers in the run game. What’s more, he’s at his best in pass protection.
Bryan Bulaga
RT
Drafted 23rd overall, 1st Round 2010
First-round rookie was drafted to eventually become the left tackle, but he might not have the quickness for that. Sound mechanics have made for a fairly smooth debut season.
T.J. Lang
OL
Drafted 109th overall, 4th Round 2009
Versatile player but limited athlete.
Greg Jennings
WR
Drafted 52rd overall, 2nd Round 2006
Known for his catch-and-run prowess, though his best asset is his innate feel for working back to the ball late in a play.
Donald Driver
WR
Drafted 213th overall, 7th Round 1999
The elder statesman saw his production dip in 2010 (thanks in part to a quad injury). But there’s still plenty of speed and quickness left in him.
James Jones
WR
Drafted 78th overall, 3rd Round 2007
When he’s not dropping balls he’s burning teams for long plays. Was actually Green Bay’s second most productive receiver this season.
Jordy Nelson
WR
Drafted 36th overall, 2nd Round 2007
The fact that he’s white and not constantly compared to Wes Welker or Brandon Stokley tells you what a viable field-stretching target he can be.
Andrew Quarless
TE
Drafted 154th overall, 5th Round 2010
Not Jermichael Finley, but then again, Antonio Gates isn’t even Jermichael Finley. The fifth-round rookie improved as the season wore on. Can catch what you throw him within 15 yards of the line of scrimmage.
Donald Lee
TE
Drafted 156th overall, 5th Round 2003
Scaled-back role because he’s not the blocker that Tom Crabtree is. Still athletic, though. Packers try to get him one or two touches a game, usually on a screen.

*Scouting smarts credited to Benoit. HTML and research credited to Brinson.
Posted on: December 28, 2010 3:26 pm
 

Your candidates for the All-Screwed team

M. Cassel could very well be left off the Pro Bowl team (US Presswire). Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Tonight, the NFL will announce which players will get to travel to Hawaii to play the Pro Bowl on the Sunday before the Super Bowl (yes, it’s back in Honolulu once again). I’m sure many deserving players will be elected to the rosters by their colleagues, their coaches and their fans. I’m sure some non-deserving players will get to pack their bags, as well.

And I’m sure there will be a number of players who will ask themselves how in the hell they didn’t get selected. Earlier today, I asked in a Twitter poll which players were the best candidates that absolutely would get screwed in the voting.

Running as an easy No. 1 was Chiefs QB Matt Cassel (who garnered 19.2 percent of the vote on all ballots cast). It’s easy to remember that Cassel looked pretty awful earlier in the season – it seemed that the Chiefs were winning early games in spite of Cassel and not because of him – but overall, Cassel has had an impressive season (3,001 yards, 27 TDs, 5 INTs) in leading Kansas City to the top of the AFC West.

But yeah, he’s not going to make the Pro Bowl ahead of Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers.

Following Cassel is Bills NT Kyle Williams, who was named on 11.5 percent of the ballots. Williams has 75 total tackles – second-best among defensive linemen – and he’s accumulated 5.5 sacks. On a Bills defense that has very little to brag about, Williams is it. He’s just not a well-known name, and he might very well be left off.

Other players who got more than one vote: Buccaneers QB Josh Freeman, Saints DB Malcolm Jenkins and Packers G Josh Sitton.

The teams will be announced tonight, and frankly, the anticipation is killing me.

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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