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Tag:Marcus McNeill
Posted on: December 22, 2011 10:01 am
 

Film Room: Lions vs. Chargers preview


Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit

The Lions were that Feel Good team of 2011. Then they started shoving coaches after the game, hitting quarterbacks after the throw, fighting opponents after the play, stomping linemen after the whistle and meekly apologizing for it all after the fact. Thus, they’re now the team everybody wants to see get its comeuppance.

In some ways, they’re like the Chargers – a team that, over the years, has mastered the art of irritating casual onlookers. They haven’t done it with reckless hostility, but rather, perplexing underachievement. If the NFL were like college basketball, where Final Four appearances and division titles mattered, the Chargers would be a dynasty.


Instead, they’re the club that always falls on its face but somehow manages to sneak into the postseason…only to fall on its face again. At least during the regular season they get hot at the right time – this year looking like no exception.

Let’s breakdown these two irritating clubs.

1. Motion
The Chargers offense is perhaps the best in football at using presnap motion to dissect a defense and create favorable matchups. Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan recently took a page out of Norv Turner’s playbook.

After operating out of static formations virtually all season, the Lions created glaring mismatches by motioning Calvin Johnson into the slot against the Raiders last week. The results were extraordinary: Johnson, often working against Oakland’s backup safeties, had a career-high 214 yards receiving. Matthew Stafford threw for 391, with four touchdowns and no turnovers.

It might reason that the Lions will use more presnap motions this week, but that’s not a sure thing. If creating big-play opportunities were as simple as putting players in motion, Linehan would have had his players doing that long ago. But when you change your formation, the defense changes. When the defense is playing man, the changes are easy to read. But when the defense is playing zone, things become more complex.

With an inexperienced quarterback (Stafford will be making only his 28th start Sunday), fairly young tight end (Brandon Pettigrew), rookie wide receiver (Titus Young) and athletic but somewhat unrefined superstar (Johnson), Linehan may once again prefer to keep the Chargers defense – which usually plays to the situation, meaning zone on early downs and man on third down – as static as possible. The drawback with a static offense is it’s obviously easier for the defense to decipher, as there are fewer complexities in route combinations.

2. The running backs
Ryan Mathews has improved throughout his second season. He has the quickness, lateral agility and tempo-changing ability to create his own space or turn the corner. Physicality, down-to-down consistency, ball security and durability remain issues. In a pinch, the Chargers know they can fall back on the powerful, surprisingly versatile Mike Tolbert.

The Lions’ run game became an afterthought when rookie Mikel Leshoure’s Achilles tore in August. Statistically, things actually picked up on the ground for Detroit after receiving-oriented Jahvid Best went out with a concussion.

When healthy, Best’s replacement, Kevin Smith, has shown some suddenness and shiftiness, which makes him a good fit for this shotgun system. But overall, Detroit is unquestionably a pass-first team (28th in rushing yards, 31st in rushing attempts). That’s fine – as their 28 points per game (fourth best in NFL) attest.

3. Chargers O-line vs. Lions D-line
Figure San Diego must score 30 points to beat Detroit. That would have been dicey a few weeks ago when left tackle Marcus McNeill and left guard Kris Dielman first went down with injuries. But with left tackle Jared Gaither coming aboard and relieving helpless backup Brandyn Dombrowski, the front five has stabilized. Dielman’s replacement, Tyronne Green, has settled down in pass protection, and center Nick Hardwick has looked like his former Pro Bowl self.

Philip Rivers is arguably the best in the business at stepping into throws with defenders bearing down. He doesn’t need a clean pocket – just protection that can hold up for a seven-stop drop. The Chargers are up to the task, even if they’re facing the Lions’ high-octane front four. Last week, that front four was actually neutralized by a middle-tier Raiders bunch that had struggled mightily in prior weeks.

4. Rivers and his receivers
If Rivers is not under duress, he’ll throw for at least 325 yards Sunday. The Lions play some of the most basic Cover 2 and Cover 3 zones in football and simply don’t have the personnel to stay with Vincent Jackson or Malcom Floyd – especially with starting free safety Louis Delmas out.

Lions corners Chris Houston and Eric Wright are at their best playing off-coverage, where they can see a route develop in front of them and drive on the ball. The vertical nature of San Diego’s passing game, which is heavy on double moves, can be anathema to that brand of cornerbacking.

Inside, though Detroit’s linebackers can run, and though middle ‘backer Stephen Tulloch can play with depth in zone coverage, the Antonio Gates factor is still a major plus for the Boltz. Gates looks healthier than he has all season.



5. Screen game
Last week the Raiders became the latest team to successfully attack the Lions with screen passes. Because the Lions’ front seven defenders all play with their ears pinned back, offenses frequently use delay and misdirection tactics to coax them out of position. The faster a defender reacts in the wrong direction, the more daunting his recovery task.

San Diego regularly incorporates its running backs in the passing game (Tolbert and Mathews each have 47 receptions on the season). Expect several of the running back’s passes to be screens this week, especially early in the game when the Lions will, as always, will be amped up.

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: December 9, 2011 9:46 pm
Edited on: December 9, 2011 9:48 pm
 

Even if fired, Turner, A.J. Smith should be OK

Turner, SmithBy Josh Katzowitz

As just about everybody here at CBSSports.com has predicted, Chargers coach Norv Turner likely will be fired after this season, and there’s also a pretty decent chance general manager A.J. Smith will get a pink slip in his final paycheck (probably because the season has "snowballed out of control," moreso than most would have thought).

That’s especially true if Chargers owner Dean Spanos wants to go after former Titans coach Jeff Fisher, because there’s a high probability Fisher wouldn’t take the job if Smith is still in the GM chair.

But according to the San Diego Union Tribune, neither Turner nor Smith should fret too much about their job security. That’s because sources tell the paper that both men would be in high demand if and when they’re banished from the Chargers franchise.
 
As reporters Kevin Acee and Andrew Burer write, “League sources have said over the past two weeks that if Turner is fired he will be in high demand as an offensive coordinator and his availability could even prompt teams to drop current coordinators. Smith is also predicted to have multiple opportunities should he be jettisoned. … It is believed Smith will be a candidate when the Oakland Raiders hire a general manager job and also be in line for possible job openings in St. Louis and Miami.”

Turner running out of time
That’s because, even with their failings in San Diego, the two are talented football men. Turner was an offensive coordinator in Dallas in the early 1990s when the Cowboys were one of the top offensive teams in the NFL. Unfortunately for Turner, he was not a good head coaching hire for the Redskins, and though the Chargers have had good seasons in the Turner era, he certainly hasn’t taken the organization to the elite level.

Smith took over the GM role in 2003, and since then, the Chargers have had four seasons of at least 11 wins. But his contract disputes with Vincent Jackson and Marcus McNeill last year have scarred his reputation, and Turner’s failings have become Smith’s failings as well.

Though Smith still has three years and $6 million left on his current contract, it’s seeming likelier that he won’t be around after this year. As one of Acee’s sources said earlier this month, “The needle [on Smith's possible firing] has moved from 50/50 to 75/25."

And for Turner, that needle is at about 100 percent.




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Posted on: November 16, 2011 3:40 pm
 

Film Room: Bears vs. Chargers preview

Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit


The Chargers have not won a game since we featured (and lauded) them in a Week 7 Film Room post. The Bears, on the other hand, are white-hot, having won four straight in taking over the NFC wild card lead.

Here’s a five-part breakdown of the two teams in this Sunday’s late afternoon showdown at Soldier Field.


1. Quarterback
It was not long ago that the preeminent strong-armed, interception-prone quarterback in his mid-twenties with an on-field demeanor that rubbed many the wrong way was Jay Cutler. This season, however, it’s Philip Rivers.

His league-leading 15 interceptions have been genuine turnovers – not the kind of cheap tipped picks that plagued Eli Manning last season. Rivers’ downfield accuracy has waffled. He also has been uncomfortable passing from a dirty pocket. That’s alarming given that his best trait in years past has been making strong throws in the face of pressure.

Cutler knows all about operating in the face of pressure. However, lately he’s been throwing from much cleaner platforms. Because he has the strongest raw arm in football, he does not necessarily need to set his feet in order to throw. He’s a solid athlete with underrated mobility that allows him to buy time. But it’s when the time is bestowed upon him and he is able to set his feet that he gets in rhythm.

It’s not quite a Brady/Brees/Rodgers-like rhythm – Cutler has too many fundamental flaws for that – but it’s a potent enough rhythm to carry a team to victory.

2. Offensive line
The reason Cutler has been more comfortable is he trusts his pass protection. Mike Martz knows that his unathletic offensive line cannot hold up long enough to consistently protect seven-step drops, so he’s built more three-and five-step drops into the gameplan (though the Bears did drift away from this just a bit against the Lions last week). As Cutler has said, he’s potent when he has room to throw.

To be fair, the Bears offensive linemen have elevated their play as of late. Guard Lance Louis has been particularly solid since becoming the new right tackle. Losing left guard Chris Williams (on I.R. with a wrist injury) hurts because, until Gabe Carimi returns from his knee problem (he’s missed seven games and underwent arthroscopic surgery last week), Frank Omiyale will likely play. Omiyale was a train wreck at right tackle earlier this season. He played guard earlier in his career, but if he were truly viable there, he never would have moved outside. Edwin Williams replaced Chris Williams last week, but the Bears have not named him the new starter. He could still be in the mix.

Either way, offensive line coach Mike Tice will have his hands full helping this group continue performing at an acceptable level.

Rivers has felt a lot of Cutler’s old pain as of late. Left tackle Marcus McNeill has fought injuries the past few weeks; after he left the Raiders game last Thursday night, backup Brandyn Dombrowski was eaten alive. Inside, backup left guard Cornell Green, filling in for All-Pro Kris Dielman (out since suffering a concussion-related seizure after the loss to the Jets), has struggled to move his feet in pass protection.

Even though Norv Turner’s playbook is heavy on slow-developing downfield passes, the Chargers did not give the left side of their line much help last Thursday. That should change going up against Julius Peppers.

3. Receivers
Once again, these two clubs are going in opposite directions. The Bears have recently gotten healthy outside, with Earl Bennett back and showing newfound quickness. Bennett is no longer just a plodding possession slot receiver – he’s Cutler’s go-to guy. His presence has eased the burdens on the unreliable Roy Williams and permanently raw Devin Hester.

Also, what can’t be understated is the brilliance of Matt Forte. His success on the ground has given the offense balance, which helps the passing attack. Forte is also one of the best receiving backs in the league.

The Chargers, on the other hand, are without Malcom Floyd (hip injury). His absence has been ameliorated by the flashes of athletic explosiveness from rookie Vincent Brown.

However, San Diego’s usual stars have disintegrated in recent weeks. Antonio Gates has looked heavy-footed and Vincent Jackson has consistently failed to separate against man coverage. Jackson had a three-touchdown outburst against Green Bay thanks in part to some coverage busts. But in the three games before that, he caught a total of seven balls for 98 yards. Last week against Oakland, he had just one reception for 22 yards.

4. Cornerbacks
It will be tough for Jackson to reignite at Soldier Field. Bears cornerback Charles Tillman is having arguably the best season of his stellar career. Tillman thoroughly won his one-on-one battle against Calvin Johnson last week, using a mixture of aggressive press coverage and well-timed post-reception physicality from off-coverage positions.

Tillman, like all Bears cornerbacks, used to only play one side of the field. It was part of Chicago’s strict Cover 2 scheme. But as this season has progressed, Lovie Smith and defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli have drifted away from Cover 2 and more towards single-high safety concepts with the corners playing both man and zone principles. This allows the other safety to roam the field as an extra run supporter or, more often, versatile pass defender.

Consequently, the corners have moved around based on matchups. Tillman defends the opposing team’s biggest (and often most dangerous) receiver, while Tim Jennings (who is having the best season of his career) follows the smaller-but-quicker No. 2 receiver. The commendable performance of these corners is the reason Chicago has been able to spice up its defensive scheme.

In sticking with our theme, San Diego’s secondary has been increasingly disappointing the past month. Left corner Quintin Jammer and slot corner Dante Hughes have been fine, but on the right side, Antoine Cason and rookie Marcus Gilchrest have taken turns replacing one another in the starting lineup. Free safety Eric Weddle moves well and has some interceptions, but he’s not a true stopper.



5. Defensive front
A feeble pass-rush doesn’t help matters for San Diego. The loss of Shaun Phillips (still out with a foot injury) and Larry English (injured reserve) leaves the Chargers with journeymen Antwan Barnes and Travis LaBoy on the edges. Barnes is fast and has actually been as impactful as his team-high six sacks suggest. LaBoy’s run defense compensates for his low sack total (1).

Still, the bottom line is the forces that once buttressed San Diego’s pass-rushing depth are now the forces that comprise San Diego’s pass-rush period.

If the Chargers want to generate consistent pressure on the quarterback, they have to blitz. Inside linebacker Victor Butler and slot corner Dante Hughes are the two best options for this. Blitzing is not preferable for defensive coordinator Greg Manusky, though.

It’s never been preferable for the Bears. They almost exclusively use a traditional four-man pass-rush, which works when you have a deep rotation, a highly-skilled No. 2 rusher like Israel Idonije and a monster like Peppers. In an effort to create matchup problems, Peppers has been lining up at both end positions and, lately, inside on certain passing downs.

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: November 10, 2011 9:12 pm
Edited on: November 10, 2011 9:21 pm
 

McNeill, Ford injured in Raiders-Chargers game

San Diego and Oakland both lose key players early Thursday night. (Getty Images)

Posted by Ryan Wilson

Watching live, it looked like a routine running play. But with 7:39 to go in the first quarter, Chargers left tackle Marcus McNeill, pulling to block for running back Ryan Matthews, was met head on by Raiders linebacker Aaron Curry.

McNeill, listed at 6-7, 336 pounds, is five inches taller and 81 pounds heavier than Curry. But it was Curry who had the leverage on the play. He appeared to hit McNeill under his chin, and the Chargers tackle fell backwards hitting his head on the turf. He left the field on a cart.

According to NFL Network sideline reporter Alex Flanagan, the Chargers are calling the injury a neck stinger and his return is doubtful (Update: it's official -- McNeill won't return). Brandyn Dombrowski will replace McNeill.

NFL Network color analyst Mike Mayock pointed out that the loss of McNeill means that Oakland pass rushers Lamarr Houston and Jarvis Moss, because of their speed, could create matchup problems for San Diego's tackles.

The Raiders have injury issues of their own; Darren McFadden didn't play for the second consecutive game and wide receiver and returner Jacoby Ford limped off the field with a left ankle injury with 4:51 left in the first quarter. He went down after hauling in a slightly underthrown 41-yard pass from Carson Palmer. If Palmer had hit Ford in stride, it would've been an easy touchdown. Ford also headed for the locker room on a cart.

You can follow the game live here.

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Posted on: October 17, 2010 11:53 am
Edited on: October 17, 2010 12:10 pm
 

AFC Inactives, Week 6

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Here’s who IS active: Texans DE Mario Williams, Texans WR Jacoby Jones, Chargers LT Marcus McNeill, Browns QB Brett Ratliff (psst, he’s Colt McCoy’s backup), Browns RB Peyton Hillis (he’ll start), NT Haloti Ngata.

On to the inactives:

Chris Chambers, WR, Chiefs:
He was a late addition to the injury report, after hurting his finger late in the week. Without Chambers, Terrance Cooper could get more work, and don’t forget that QB Matt Cassel still has TE Tony Moeaki.

James Sanders, S, Patriots: He originally replaced an injured Brandon Meriweather a few weeks ago, and now, Sanders has a hamstring problem. Look for Jarrad Page to move into Sanders’ role.

Terrence Wheatley, CB, Patriots: He returned to practice this week for the first time this season, and New England was hoping he could contribute this week to a young secondary. He won't.

Jared Odrick, DL, Dolphins: His rookie season is quickly becoming a disaster. He played in Week 1, but he’s been set back by a hairline fracture in his leg ever since. There was some thought he could play this week, but obviously, he’s not.

Legedu Naanee, WR, Chargers:
Patrick Crayton will get the start in place of Naanee.

Josh Wilson, DB, Ravens: He’s been bothered by a sore hamstring, but it was thought he could play today. The big loss for Baltimore is his kickoff returning ability. Expect Jared Parmele to take his place.

Charlie Batch, QB, Steelers: With Ben Roethlisberger's return, Byron Leftwich officially takes over the Steelers backup job.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed .

Posted on: October 13, 2010 9:52 pm
Edited on: October 13, 2010 10:03 pm
 

Marcus McNeill deal is official

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Marcus McNeill and the Chargers have officially come to a contract agreement.

So writes McNeill’s agent, Alvin Keels, on his Twitter account.

From Keels’ Twitter page: “Finally! We have agreed to terms officially with the San Diego Chargers on a 5 year contract extension thru 2015. Congrats @MarcusMcNeill73”

Earlier in the day, NFL.com’s Jason La Canfora reported that the deal includes about $24.5 million of guaranteed money. Overall, McNeill will take home $48.5 million during the course of his contract.

UPDATE (10:01 p.m.):
Here's San Diego GM A.J. Smith's statement on the contract extension: "Marcus is an extremely talented player. We look forward to him being an integral part of our offensive line for years to come."

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Posted on: October 11, 2010 10:55 pm
Edited on: October 11, 2010 11:26 pm
 

McNeill, Chargers close on 5-year extension

Posted by Will Brinson

Marcus McNeill ended his holdout and reported to the San Diego Chargers, although he lost a ton of money and missed the first few weeks of the season -- turns out he definitely should have just shown up on time, as the team reportedly rewarded him with a five-year contract extension.

That's according to Adam Schefter at halftime of this, ahem, thrilling Vikings-Jets game on Monday night, and it's something that makes sense, because McNeill, while not the best left tackle in the game, is pretty critical to the Chargers offense (although they played well without him).

What's so mind-scratching, though, is that both he and the Chargers wasted a significant amount of either games or money, depending on which side you're talking about, to get this done.

On the other hand, A.J. Smith has established -- quite firmly -- that he's got a "no negotiation with malcontents" policy, and if he says he's moving on without you, he's actually moving on without you.

Which is to say, don't expect the Chargers and Vincent Jackson to mend fences any time soon.

Update (11:15): Additional sources are reporting the McNeill extension, including Lee Hamilton a San Diego radio host. Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports that the deal "is not done, but obviously close enough that ESPN was tipped" and is "expected to be announced tomorrow."

"That's not the case," Smith told Acee. "If there is something to report we'll let you know."

However, Acee added that some final negotiating points "won't be an issue" and something should get done.

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Posted on: September 25, 2010 1:35 pm
Edited on: September 25, 2010 3:35 pm
 

Marcus McNeill ends his holdout

Posted by Andy Benoit

One of the holdouts in San Diego is finally over. The Chargers have confirmed earlier reports that left tackle Marcus McNeill has finally signed his one-year restricted free agent tender. M. McNeill (US Presswire)

“We’re all very happy that Marcus has decided to sign his tender and go back to work,” said general manager A.J. Smith. “He has missed some time on the job, but we will be patient, get him up to speed and Coach (Norv Turner) will decide how quickly he gets on the field.”

By not signing his RFA tender on time, the two-time Pro Bowl left tackle saw his 2010 salary slashed from $3.168 million to less than $500,000 (after factoring in fines and missed games). No word on what made McNeill change his mind, though you have to figure the bind Vincent Jackson found himself in this week (unable to get traded) factored in.

McNeill could also be concerned about having the necessary five accrued seasons to be a free agent in 2010. He needs to play in at least six games to get an accrued season.  

Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union Tribune said the reason McNeill signed today is so he can start his three-game roster exempt suspension (a result of the hardball A.J. Smith played). McNeill will not travel with the team to San Diego, and he is not eligible to take the field until October 17 against the Rams.

McNeill, though somewhat inconsistent in his pass protection mechanics, is a dramatic upgrade over fill-in starter Brandyn Dombrowski.


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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