Tag:Michael Roos
Posted on: December 7, 2011 12:08 pm
Edited on: December 7, 2011 12:09 pm

Film Room: Titans vs. Saints preview

Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: October 5, 2011 2:37 pm
Edited on: October 6, 2011 4:52 pm

Film Room: Steelers vs. Titans preview

Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit

The Tennessee Titans are off to a 3-1 start under first-time head coach Mike Munchak. Are they for real? The Titans have had the good fortune of facing the Jaguars, Broncos and Browns this season – all teams that run a bland 4-3 and suffer from a dire lack of weapons in the passing game. The Titans did, however, defeat a Ravens team that humiliated the Steelers in Week 1.

Which brings us to the next question: how are the Steelers right now? They’re 2-2 but have looked hardly “Steeler-like”. Ben Roethlisberger (sprained foot) is expected to play Sunday, but James Harrison (fractured orbital bone) is out. How serious of a test do the Steelers pose to this minimally tested Titans club?

Here are five keys of the matchup.

Run powers struggling
1. Titans run offense
The natural assumption is that Chris Johnson held out for virtually all of training camp and has therefore been rusty early in the season. An examination of the film reveals that ... this is exactly the case.

Johnson has not shown his usual initial quickness or burst out of the backfield. He’s had a tendency to stop his feet at the first sign of trouble, which is why he’s not creating his own space. These issues were apparent even in his 101-yard performance against the Browns last week.

The fourth-year running back is not the lone culprit for Tennessee’s anemic ground game. Interior linemen Eugene Amano, Leroy Harris and Jake Scott have been inconsistent at times, and right tackle David Stewart seems to have lost a bit of the power that once backed-up his nastiness.

Also, fullback Quinn Johnson is no Ahmard Hall. Hall’s return from suspension this week will be most welcomed – he has great feel and recognition in this Titans offense.

2. Steelers run defense
It ranks 22nd and has looked downright feeble in both losses this season (Week 1 at Baltimore, Week 4 at Houston). The Ravens and Texans both feature a stretch zone rushing attack, which the Steelers have been uncharacteristically poor at defending. James Harrison, coming off back surgery, has not played with the same physicality as past years.

He’s out this game; replacement Lawrence Timmons has superb athleticism but, as a run defender, he’s better equipped for his customary inside position, where he can chase down ball-carriers in either direction. This week, Timmons will have to be an edge-setting outside ‘backer, and against arguably the game’s steadiest left tackle in Michael Roos.

There’s too much history of success to think the Steelers run defense will continue to struggle (though the film through four weeks has often supported the wide-held notion that the Steelers are getting old fast). They have the ultimate X-factor in Troy Polamalu, but the real key to turning things around is at defensive end.

The Steelers’ secret to success is that they’ve always had incredibly active ends who can create chaos in the trenches and allow the linebackers to play downhill. But those ends – Aaron Smith and Brett Keisel, who’s been out the past two weeks with a strained PCL – along with stalwart nose tackle Casey Hampton are also well into their thirties.

Creating big plays: natural vs. manufactured
3. Steelers passing offense (natural)
The Steelers are a pass-first team. It’s been that way for several years now. And it will remain that way as long as Mike Wallace is around. The third-year sensation is the most lethal big-play receiving threat in the game today. He’s DeSean Jackson only with a longer stride.

The Steelers have done an excellent job of designing their route combinations around Wallace. His lifting of the safety is often what allows Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown to get open in the 18-25-yard range. But not everything about Pittsburgh’s passing attack is done through design.

There’s a lot of natural talent driving the force. Much of the production comes from Ben Roethlisberger’s incredible ability to not only extend the play, but make accurate throws downfield off that extension (there isn’t a better off-balance, improvisational passer in all of football).

The key to stymying Big Ben’s improve is to get to him with multiple pass-rushers. It’s hard enough getting just one pass-rusher to a quarterback, but the Steelers’ offensive line is porous right now. The Texans swarmed Roethlisberger by blitzing inside, which crowded his sight lines (thus making him break down earlier than usual) and forced shaky offensive tackles Trai Essex and Marcus Gilbert to work one-on-one.

4. Titans passing offense (manufactured)
A bulk of Matt Hasselbeck’s passing yards have stemmed from big plays that were well-crafted and called against the perfect defensive look (the best of many examples: receiver Damian Williams setting a pick against Cleveland’s man coverage that left Nate Washington wide open for a 57-yard game).

These kinds of plays are fine – it’s what good coaching and preparation are all about – but they can only carry you so far. At some point, you need a threat like Mike Wallace to build around. The Titans had such a threat before Kenny Britt tore his ACL.

5. Injuries impacting outcome
If the Titans can’t find their run game, they’re in trouble. The Steelers, even without James Harrison, have a far stronger pass-rush than the Jaguars, Broncos or Browns. The Titans handled the Ravens’ potent pass-rush well in Week 2, but they were able to build their aerial attack around Britt. Britt’s replacement, Nate Washington, isn’t that type of receiver – especially against a top-tier cover corner like Ike Taylor.

Running the ball could be equally important for the Steelers. With Roethlisberger less than 100 percent and the front five hurting, Pittsburgh’s best bet might be to challenge the Titans inside. Defensive tackle Jurrell Casey has been outstanding against the run, but center Maurkice Pouncey has the technical aptitude to temper Casey’s raw power. On Pouncey’s left, guard Chris Kemoeatu is arguably the best pulling blocker in the game. The Steelers should relish opportunities to get him on finesse middle linebacker Barrett Ruud.

Of course, putting a dent in Pittsburgh’s ground game is the fact that Rashard Mendenhall left last week’s contest with a hamstring injury. Isaac Redman, the spotlight could be on you.

So who will win? Check our NFL Week 5 expert picks for all the games

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: September 23, 2010 8:12 pm

Titans response begs V. Young questions

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

I found this article in today’s Tennessean to be quite interesting. It dealt with the Titans and why they didn’t retaliate when the Steelers triple-team body-slammed QB Vince Young to the ground last Sunday. See video below to watch the play over and over again.

You’ll notice that there was no pushing by the Titans OL after the play, no attempting to defend its quarterback – only RG Jake Scott attempting to point out the perceived injustice to one of the officials. Hell, it appeared the first guy to try to help Young up was DE Aaron Smith – one of the Steelers who blasted him in the first place

So, why didn’t anybody try to get even with Pittsburgh’s defense?

A sampling of quotes from the men who could have/should have retaliated:

"All of us saw it and clearly it was in view of enough people. But by then everybody was looking at it and if you retaliate, one or more of us would be getting a fine or at least a 15-yard personal foul penalty," OT Michael Roos said. "It is unfortunate (a penalty) didn’t get called. We were definitely trying to plead our case to the officials on the field but it didn’t happen."

OT David Stewart: "I’ve seen the play on tape since, and it was borderline. A lot of times the second punch, that is what’s going to get flagged."

Scott: "I thought it was dirty. I asked the official, 'Why didn’t you call that?' Of course he didn’t have an answer. It was a dirty play, a dirty hit and it should have been a penalty and it wasn’t. But it doesn’t help the team to go in there and hit somebody after the fact, to go dive on the pile, because if you dive on the pile you are just adding one more guy on top of Vince. So that doesn’t help either."

OK, I understand not wanting to draw the 15-yard penalty, though if it was just a little pushing and shoving that probably wouldn’t have happened. But in some cases, isn’t a little bit of extra roughhousing worth it to let the other team know they have to answer for their actions? I’m not talking about somebody throwing a punch and getting ejected from the game. But something extra needed to be done. Somebody needed to get even.

And what does it say about Young if his teammates aren’t rushing to defend the QB – the guy every team tries to defend the most? How much respect do his teammates have for him if they let him get trampled by a group nearly as dangerous as the Fabulous Freebirds?

My theory: coach Jeff Fisher saw that the Titans weren’t rushing to defend Young. So, in his mind, he knew that he needed to make a change at QB. After the game, he talked about needing to find a spark, and he said that was the reason he inserted Kerry Collins into the game. Apparently, not even a trio of Steelers treating Young like a ragdoll could spark much emotion into the Titans.

That might be a big problem.

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Posted on: July 12, 2010 12:04 pm
Edited on: July 12, 2010 12:14 pm

Position rankings: offensive tackles

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

Josh Katzowitz’s top five

5. Jon Stinchcomb, Saints

4. Jake Long, Dolphins

3. D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Jets

2. Ryan Clady, Broncos

1. Joe Thomas, BrownsJ. Thomas (US Presswire)

This is the first top five list for offense we’ve done, and naturally, we start with, other than quarterback, perhaps the most important position on the field. We speak, of course, of the offensive tackle (specifically, left tackle, but on this list, we won’t discriminate against anybody playing on the right side). Tackles have finally been recognized for their importance, as teams are doling out huge contracts to pay the men who protect the quarterback.

Thomas is as quick a left tackle as you’ll find. He’s an outstanding run-blocker who uses his mobility to turn away onrushing defenders. Quite simply, he might be the best offensive linemen in all of football.

Clady gave up 0.5 sacks in his rookie season in 2008, which is pretty amazing. He took a small step back last season, but his blend of athleticism is impressive. He’s coming off a serious April knee injury, though (tore his patella tendon playing basketball). The Jets obviously think highly of Ferguson, considering he was the first of New York’s “core four” to sign a contract extension. He’s becoming more of a complete player – especially with his run-blocking during the past two seasons. Long doesn’t always do so well against the speediest pass-rushers in the league, and there were times last season when Miami’s coaches had to give him help in protection. Still, he’s made two Pro bowls in his first two years in the NFL.

And because I have to get a right tackle in there, I went with Stinchcomb. I think the Jets’ Damien Woody and Tennessee’s David Stewart were pretty good candidates, but Stinchcomb allowed only three sacks on more than 1,000 snaps last season (he allowed only one sack in about the same number of snaps the season before). Plus, he grades out as one of the better run-blockers in the league. Hmm, I wonder what Andy will think of my Stinchcomb selection. 

Andy's top five list

5. Michael Roos, Titans

4. Jared Gaither, Ravens

3. Jake Long, Dolphins

2. Ryan Clady, Broncos

1. Joe Thomas, Browns

If putting Stinchcomb on your list is meant as a joke, that’s funny. If you’re being serious, that’s even funnier. Stinchcomb is a grizzled mauler in the run game, but he’s a liability in pass protection. He surrenders few sacks because Drew Brees takes few sacks. Stinchcomb is maybe a top five right tackle. But for tackles overall? He’s not even top 25.
People hardly notice Roos because he’s so steady and fundamentally sound that he never stands out on TV. His long arms are a major asset. I hesitate to put Gaither here because I hear so many gripes about his attitude and work ethic. But in the end, his raw talent is second to none, and he’s improved his technique and awareness every year in his young career. We’ll see how he does on the right side this season.

Long has lived up to his No. 1 overall draft status thus far. He gets out of his stance quicker than any blocker in the game. Clady is the most athletic offensive lineman in the NFL. Thomas, however, was a tad more consistent in 2010. He can get out in front and even change directions as a run-blocker, plus pass protection comes easy to him.

I like Ferguson – he’s my No. 6 (or No. 5 if Gaither has another screw-up).

Josh, I was glad to see you didn’t follow the mindless herds that think Jason Peters or Bryant McKinnie are elite players. Both guys are paid like elite players, but both are below average left tackles. That’s right – below average. Talent-wise, they’re amazing. But output-wise, they’re unforgivably inconsistent. Peters has shoddy technique and McKinnie is soft.

You mentioned that tackle is a position getting its due. It’s true – too true, in fact. Because of Michael Lewis’s The Blind Side, left tackle has become the chic position. It makes a person feel smart to talk about how important the left tackle is. In reality, the best teams in recent years have not had the best left tackles. Not even close, in fact. The most obvious example? The Saints and Colts both had atrocious left tackles last season (Jermon Bushrod and Charlie Johnson). And look at the guys on our lists. How many are from playoff teams?

Josh’s rebuttal

It’s funny you bring up The Blind Side; neither of us picked the subject of that book, Michael Oher. I’ve talked to a few offensive tackles – none of whom are on my top five list – who basically scoffed at Oher’s play. They believe the only reason people know Oher is because of the movie. I’m glad to see you didn’t put him on your list either.

I agree that Stinchcomb is not one of the five best tackles in the league overall. But, unlike you, I felt it was necessary to put a right tackle on the list (Gaither doesn’t count, because he hasn’t played there before). Sure, a left tackle might be the most important spot on the offensive line – if you want your quarterback to finish the season with his head still attached to his shoulders – but without a good right tackle, a quarterback will still feel the brunt of many sacks. (He’ll just see them coming instead.) In regards to right tackles, Stinchcomb is the best (with the possible exception of the injured Willie Colon). His Pro Bowl selection means that somebody agrees with me.

As for Roos, I’m not sure he’s the best tackle on his team, much less the league.

Andy’s final word

I’m not going to bother arguing about who’s better between the polished Roos and gritty Stewart (by the way, gritty = euphemism for “unathletic and unrefined”). I will, however, respond to your righteous attitude about right tackles. I didn’t get the memo from our editors saying we had to compromise the integrity of our lists simply to acknowledge the best guys from the inferior tackle position.

I’m not a right tackle hater – I’ll even rank my top three: 1. Damien Woody, Jets; 2. Ryan Diem, Colts; 3. Ryan Harris, Broncos. I would have had Oher at two if not for his move to the left (those offensive tackles who criticized Oher are speaking out of jealousy). If Jammal Brown is as good in Washington as expected, he’ll overtake Woody. After all, Brown is so gifted that he’s spent most of his career playing the premium left side position.

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

--Josh Katzowitz and Andy Benoit

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter.


The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com