Posted on: December 30, 2011 4:57 pm
Edited on: December 30, 2011 4:58 pm
By Josh Katzowitz
As we enter the final weekend of the season, a number of squads are just playing out the string, hoping to put a solid performance on film, ready to clean out their lockers and look ahead to next year. While only four games on this week’s schedule mean absolutely nothing in terms of the postseason, quite a few of those teams are just looking to play spoiler.
And looking to the 2012 draft, where they can begin to rebuild their team or shore up that one position that could put them over the hump for next season. That’s why we’re taking the 10-worst teams in the league this year and finding one major flaw that needs to be fixed from April 26-28 in New York City’s Radio Music Hall.
For these teams -- and their fans -- the time has come to salivate at the prospects of landing the exact right guy that could change their fortunes for years to come.
10. Bills: Defensive line -- I didn’t like the Ryan Fitzpatrick $59 million extension earlier this year, and I hate it now. But I think Buffalo has other concerns for the moment, and they come on defense. For one, Buffalo has a tough time stopping the run. First-round pick Marcell Dareus has been a bit inconsistent at the nose tackle, but he also has the ability to play like a monster. The 3-4 ends, though, need to be better. Injured tackle Kyle Williams obviously will help when he returns next season, but the ability to rush the passer once in a while also would help (Buffalo’s 25 sacks ranks 30th in the league).
9. Dolphins: Quarterback -- Look, the Dolphins have some talent. They proved that when Tony Sparano’s job was on the line, and they started winning games. They proved it by nearly beating Tom Brady, and they proved it by nearly beating Tim Tebow (that last point was a joke). While Matt Moore has been much better than expected after taking over for Chad Henne, he’s a Band-Aid. I think most of us would agree that Henne isn’t the answer as the starter, and perhaps, he and Moore could have a battle to see who could back-up a legit starting quarterback. Reggie Bush established himself as a 1,000-yard rusher, and with a talented quarterback like Robert Griffin III (if he lasts that long in the draft), the Dolphins could begin pushing for AFC East crowns.
8. Browns: Pass rushers -- Cleveland got two defensive linemen early last year (tackle Phil Taylor in the first round and end Jabaal Sheard in the second), and they’ve done a nice job on the left side of the defensive line. But the defense ranks 25th in the league in sacks, and defensive end Jayme Mitchell hasn’t had a great season. Marcus Benard, coming off a solid rookie season last year, is on IR, and if the Browns could get one more high-end rusher in the draft, they’d have talent and depth.
7. Redskins: Quarterback -- It’s probably time for Mike Shanahan to come to the realization that his quarterback picks the past two years have been disastrous (Donovan McNabb, Rex Grossman, John Beck). He said the other day that the rebuild of this franchise has taken more time than he thought, but a standout quarterback obviously would help that process along. Shanahan also said that there was no question in his mind that he’d be back next season, but unless he finds a way to invigorate his offense, that might be a different story this time next year.
6. Chiefs: Right tackle -- Looking across Kansas City’s depth chart, there’s not one position group that so obviously needs to be overhauled. The Chiefs have talent, even if some of those positions don’t have much depth. But right tackle Barry Richardson has badly struggled this season. According Pro Football Focus, Richardson is the worst-rated offensive tackle in the league (the decision to cut Jared Gaither near the end of the season was a bad one). Left tackle Branden Albert is solid, but the right side of the line needs to be reworked.
5. Buccaneers: Run defenders -- The Buccaneers tried to shore up their defensive end spots last draft, taking Adrian Clayborn in the first round and Da’Quan Bowers in the second round. Considering Tampa Bay ranks dead last in sacks, the experiment hasn’t paid off immediate dividends. But the Buccaneers are also terrible against the run, and even though tackle Albert Haynesworth has played better than most of us had a right to expect, there are still huge holes to fill in the lineup.
4. Vikings: Secondary -- The Vikings rank as the 31st-worst defense in the NFL, but in reality, their front seven has talent (for instance, Jared Allen, Kevin Williams and Chad Greenway). Minnesota lost Antoine Winfield (its best corner) early in the year, Chris Cook has legal troubles, safety Jamarca Sanford has struggled badly and the rest of the safeties have been ravaged by injuries. It’s no wonder opposing quarterbacks dominate the Vikings defensive backs. On the season, Minnesota has recorded seven interceptions, worst in the NFL. The Vikings need to find somebody who can force turnovers in order to improve this unit.
3. Jaguars: Receivers – Oh, how they need receivers. Yes, Blaine Gabbert has been, by far, the worst rookie quarterback to play this year, but Jacksonville, even with new ownership and a new coach, probably needs to give him more than a season to see if he’s a quarterback of the future. He also needs somebody who can catch his passes. Here are Jacksonville’s top-three receivers: Mike Thomas, Jarret Dillard, and yeah, nobody else. In fact, there’s a good chance running back Maurice Jones-Drew will end up as the team’s leading pass-catcher this season. Hard to blame Gabbert completely when his receiving corps is so bad.
2. Colts: Running backs -- Assuming Peyton Manning returns healthy next season -- admittedly, a huge assumption -- his receivers should continue to be fine (this, of course, depends on what happens with free agents Reggie Wayne and Pierre Garcon). But we’ve seen this year that without a running game, a Manning-less Colts squad has very little chance of doing anything (mostly because Manning makes up for SO many team deficiencies). Joseph Addai, who’s averaging 3.8 yards per carry and probably won’t get to 500 rushing yards on the season for the second year in a row, might be released into free agency, and Donald Brown, while improved, isn’t a legit No. 1 running back. The Colts obviously have a big decision to make regarding Manning and Andrew Luck, but taking a running back probably wouldn’t be a bad idea.
1.Rams: Offensive linemen -- There’s been talk that maybe the Rams should grab Luck if they end up with the No. 1 pick. Which, with Sam Bradford on the team, would be ludicrous. Instead, St. Louis should be focused on how to put together an offensive line that doesn’t lead the league in sacks allowed. The biggest problem, not including injuries to Jason Smith and Jacob Bell that have hurt the unit, has been the line’s interior. Linemen aren’t the sexiest position, but damn, St. Louis needs to find some that can stay healthy and keep Bradford and Steven Jackson out of danger.
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Tags: Adrian Clayborn, Albert Haynesworth, Andrew Luck, Antoine Winfield, Barry Richardson, Blaine Gabbert, Branden Albert, Buffalo Bills, Chad Greenway, Chad Henne, Chris Cook, Cleveland Browns, Da'Quan Bowers, Donald Brown, Donovan McNabb, Indianapolis Colts, Jabaal Sheard, Jacksonville Jaguars, Jacob Bell, Jamarca Sanford, Jared Allen, Jarret Dillard, Jason Smith, Jayme Mitchell, John Beck, Joseph Addai, Josh Katzowitz, Kansas City Chiefs, Kevin Williams, Kyle Williams, Marcel Dareus, Marcus Benard, Matt Moore, Maurice Jones-Drew, Miami Dolphins, Mike Shanahan, Mike Thomas, Minnesota Vikings, Peyton Manning, Phil Taylor, Pierre Garcon, Reggie Bush, Reggie Wayne, Rex Grossman, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams, Steven Jackson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tony Sparano, Top Ten, Washington Redskins
Posted on: November 21, 2011 2:33 pm
Posted by Josh Katzowitz
While Tony Sparano seems to have cooled down his hot seat just a bit -- a three-game Dolphins winning streak certainly has helped his cause -- Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio isn’t doing himself any favors.
After cutting David Garrard in the preseason and giving the starting quarterback spot to rookie Blaine Gabbert -- who, statistically speaking, is one of the worst quarterbacks in the league -- the Jaguars are 3-7 after their 14-10 loss to the Browns on Sunday.
When asked why Maurice Jones-Drew didn’t get the ball on the final play of the game from the Browns 2-yard line, Del Rio deflected the blame to offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter.
“Our offensive coordinator calls the plays,” Del Rio said, via the Florida Times-Union. “I can’t speak to his thinking. You’ll have to get with him.”
“We certainly talked about those things through the course of the drive. We got down and took our crack. You can make a case for doing that. You can guess any number of plays when you don’t connect. [It’s] a missed opportunity.”
The final minute of the game was a disaster for the Jaguars. After reaching the 5-yard line on a third and one with 45 seconds to play in the game, Jones-Drew gained three yards for the first down. The Jaguars didn’t call timeout there and let 28 seconds run off the clock (that also must have been Koetter’s fault), and after Jones-Drew failed to reach end zone on first and goal, they stopped the clock with 8 seconds left.
Gabbert missed on a fade pass for Jason Hill, and with three seconds to play, Gabbert never looked at Jones-Drew, who was open in the flat, and threw behind Mike Thomas for the incompletion. Game over.
Koetter, you may defend yourself.
“Three of the four plays were our two-point plays -- two passes and one run, so in those last four plays, we gave it to Maurice twice and we had one play action and we had a little option play to Mike Thomas,” he said. “I like all four of those plays.”
That’s fine, but for Del Rio to claim he had nothing to do with the play-call is absurd. Sure, Koetter probably was the one to call the play, but unless Del Rio wasn’t wearing his headset, he knew what had been called. He could have intervened -- he is, after all, still the head coach -- and vetoed the decision. But he didn’t. Instead he let Koetter take the fall.
“We are on the 2-yard line and I have to find a way for us to score,’’ Gabbert said. “That’s on me. I have to learn from that and get better.’’
Now, if only Del Rio could learn from Gabbert in how to share in the blame.
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Posted on: November 10, 2011 9:03 am
Posted by Josh Katzowitz
If you were asked which team currently employed the worst starting quarterback in the league, it’d be an easy answer. Tim Tebow, right? Not even close, yes?
Well, no, not exactly.
As ESPN.com’s Paul Kuharsky reports, on passes that travel less than 10 yards in the air, Jaguars rookie Blaine Gabbert has a 50 percent completion rate, and his passer rating of 60.9 is the worst in the league.
Even worse than Tebow? Yes, apparently.
The article in question wasn’t a comparison between Gabbert and Tebow, but Kuharsky gives an interesting answer regarding the question of why the Jaguars shouldn’t get away from their running game and give Gabbert a chance to show what he can accomplish if he’s throwing down the field. That’s because, according to Kuharsky’s stats, Gabbert is 10 for 10 on screen passes with a quarterback rating of 105. His long-distance passing is somewhat less than that.
And even though running back Maurice Jones-Drew hasn’t been as effective as a pass-catcher this year, there doesn’t seem to be any reason to believe that Gabbert suddenly would become a rookie of the year contender if he began heaving throws down the field, especially considering his top two receivers are Mike Thomas and Jason Hill.
But what about Tebow, you ask?
Funny thing, he’s getting more comfortable in the Broncos offense (going 2-1 in your first three starts and having your coach install more of a college-style offense probably doesn’t hurt).
"Our offense is what it is, and we'll continue to run that, but every week we'll continue to game plan new things, just like any team would to try to take advantage of the defense we're going to face," Tebow said, via the Denver Post.
So, with Gabbert’s worth falling and Tebow’s worth rising, what can we gather from all this information? Easy, Gabbert is not > Tebow.
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Posted on: April 5, 2011 3:21 pm
Edited on: April 5, 2011 7:36 pm
Posted by Josh Katzowitz
Eye on Football's playing doctor for every NFL team with our Offseason Check-ups .
On Dec. 12, 2010, the Jaguars were 8-5, and they were just beginning the week of practices that led to a showdown with the Colts that basically was for the AFC South title, a crown Jacksonville never has won. Indianapolis showed up that night and won by 10 points, and the Jaguars never recovered, losing their final three games and missing the playoffs for the third-straight season.
It was a huge disappointment, and you have to wonder about the future of this organization with this coaching staff in place. That is the No. 1 question facing this franchise heading into next year.
1. Avoid late-season slumps
Do you put this on Del Rio? Do you put this on Jacksonville being a bad cold-weather team? Do you put this on late-season injuries to Garrard and Jones-Drew in 2010? It’s hard to know. But after starting 7-5 in 2009 and 8-5 in 2010, the team went on to lose four games and three games, respectively, to end those years on the sourest of notes. We don’t know the answers to the above questions, but somebody might want to figure it out.
2. Defensive everywhere but DT
Though their 2010 first-round pick of DT Tyson Alualu was deemed a little bizarre at the time, the rookie from California had a pretty good year. He should continue to be an anchor in the middle of the defensive line. Now, just about every other position in Jacksonville’s defense needs to be upgraded. Perhaps most important are the defensive ends, who can help lessen the time the Jaguars unremarkable secondary must cover opposing WRs. Former first round pick Derrick Harvey has been a disaster, Jeremy Mincey is barely passable as a starter and Aaron Kampman has had a couple major knee injuries.
3.Quality Wide Recievers
Is Mike Thomas truly a No. 1 guy? He had a nice season last year (66 catches, 820 yards, four TDs) as a second-year player, but how will he fare without Mike Sims-Walker – who simply wasn’t the consistent playmaker the Jaguars needed? That’s a major question for Thomas and WR Jason Hill. If they can’t produce, Jacksonville still has young receivers in Tiquan Underwood and Jarrett Dillard. Jacksonville could feel the need to upgrade this position before next year, but if not, it’s still a talented, albeit mostly unproven, corps at this point.
It seems like nobody can really tell if QB David Garrard is worth keeping around, though he actually played pretty good football last season. Meanwhile, there’s no question Jacksonville will hang on tightly to RB Maurice Jones-Drew, who recorded 1,324 yards in 14 games last season and surpassed Tennessee’s Chris Johnson as the AFC South’s best back (his backup, Rashad Jennings, also is quality), and TE Marcedes Lewis proved himself a valuable commodity.
The offense most likely will continue to play conservatively – in part, because of the strength of Jones-Drew and to mask some of Garrard’s inadequacies – but the real test will be the defense. For Jacksonville, it’s the playoffs or bust, and most likely, we won’t know how good this team – or how safe Del Rio – really is until Week 13-17.
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Posted on: December 27, 2010 2:57 pm
Eli Manning became the first Giants quarterback since YA Tittle 71 years ago to have 30 touchdown passes in a season.
217 of New England’s 348 yards at Buffalo came on the ground.
Rookie free agent Kyle Love started at NT for the Pats. He recorded a sack and two tackles.
The Browns’ only touchdown pass Sunday came from wideout Mohammad Massaquoi.
Michael Crabtree had six catches for 122 yards and a touchdown. It was just Crabtree’s second 100-yard game season and only the third time he’s gone over 60 yards this year.
After going four weeks without a sack, Rams DE James Hall has now reached the quarterback in back-to-back games. Hall had 1.5 sacks on Sunday.
After losing an NFL-record 26 consecutive road games, the Lions have now won back-to-back contests away from home. Detroit’s win left Miami with a 1-7 record at Sun Life Stadium.
Mike Thomas has evolved into Jacksonville’s No. 1 receiver. He was the team’s statistical leader once again with 96 yards on six catches. Also, emerging wideout Jason Hill added 77 yards on four receptions.
Hmmmm….maybe Carson Palmer CAN still play after all. Without having to worry about two diva receivers, Palmer spread the ball around against San Diego Sunday, completing 16/21 passes for 269 yards and four touchdowns. Jermaine Gresham, Andre Caldwell and Jerome Simpson all had at least four catches and 55-plus yards receiving.
Jacob Tamme caught seven passes, giving him 60 on the season.
The Bucs outgained the Seahawks 439 to 174.
Kellen Winslow had his best game of the season, catching seven passes for 98 yards and two touchdowns.
Tags: Baltimore Ravens, Bobbie Carpenter, Carson Palmer, Chicago Bears, Chris Harris, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions, Eli Manning, Eric Weddle, Geno Hayes, Green Bay Packers, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars, Jacob Tamme, Jacoby Jones, James Hall, Jared Cook, Johnny Knox, Kansas City Chiefs, Kellen Winslow, Lawrence Jackson, Miami Dolphins, Michael Crabtree, Mike Thomas, Mohammad Massaquoi, Nathan Vasher, New York Giants, New York Jets, Randy Moss, Sam Bradford, San Diego Chargers, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, St. Louis Rams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tennessee Titans, Washington Redskins
Posted on: December 17, 2010 9:21 am
Posted by Andy Benoit
Back in the summer, who would have ever imagined that the Jaguars-Colts Week 15 matchup would essentially be for the AFC South title? The Jaguars have overachieved in 2010 and the Colts have been stricken with injuries. At this critical juncture, both teams still control their own destiny.
The Colts defense, no matter who it puts on the field, will be fast. Colts president Bill Polian has a specific mold of player he looks for when drafting, and that mold begins and ends with speed. (In between is character, versatility within a position and football IQ.) Indy’s D excels on the fast Lucas Oil Field surface.
The Jaguars obviously want to pound the ball with Maurice Jones-Drew. The 5’7” bowling ball comes into the game having rushed for over 100 yards in six straight contests. And everyone knows that the way to attack the Colts front seven is to run right at it (especially if the Colts can’t rely on strong safety Bob Sanders flying into the box).
But this is still the NFL; at some point, the Jaguars will have to throw. The concern is, they’ll be relying on David Garrard. The ninth-year veteran has a sterling 93.2 quarterback rating this season (20 touchdowns, 12 interceptions), but that is largely a product of orchestrating a conservative passing attack.
Jacksonville’s passing attack is conservative by necessity, not choice. Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter is a creative pass-first coach who has had to reshape his persona. Reason being, Garrard is a good scrambler, but he’s not necessarily lethal outside the pocket. He has a mediocre arm that prevents him from making great improvisational plays. Because Garrard lacks ideal instincts, Koetter is forced to call a lot of plays that are similar to what he might call with a first-or second-year quarterback.
Much of Jacksonville’s pass game is predicated on play action. This is partly a function of the Jags being a run-first team, but it’s more a function of Koetter feeling obligated to simplify Garrard’s reads. The very nature of play-action and rollout passes cut the field in half and define the read for a quarterback. If the quarterback’s first look isn’t there, there’s usually a second look and then an option to run. With a star pocket passer, there’d be a second look, followed by a third and fourth look. That’s why, at the end of the day, pocket passers put more pressure on a defense.
Indy’s defensive speed can make it difficult to run play action. Yes, the faster Colts could take themselves further out of position by biting on a Garrard fake. But they can also get back in position much quicker. And because Jacksonville receivers Mike Sims-Walker and Mike Thomas don’t necessarily have dynamic raw playmaking abilities, many of Jacksonville’s big plays are slow developing (drag routes, comeback routes, etc.) Slow developing plays against a speedy defense? Not ideal.
What’s more, the Jaguars will likely need to keep an extra tight end in to block, as right tackle Jordan Black has little to no chance at containing Colts defensive end Robert Mathis one-on-one. That means one less tight end for Garrard to lean on. In the past, when the Jags offensive line has struggled, Koetter has sacrificed tight end Marcedes Lewis. But Lewis has become too valuable as a receiver to leave in as a blocker.
In short, we’re talking about a Jaguars passing offense that will simply be one step behind the Colts passing defense. Thus, if it’s even possible, the Jags will have to rely on Jones-Drew and Rashad Jennings even more than usual.
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Posted on: December 3, 2010 8:49 am
Posted by Josh Katzowitz
Much has been made this week about the Andre Johnson-Cortland Finnegan fight from last Sunday – the actual bout itself (Johnson won on points), the fairly-benign punishment of $25,000 apiece in fines and no suspensions, and the fact Johnson was mic’d up during the game. But we haven’t head much about what the Titans think about Finnegan – known around the league as an instigator and a dirty player.
Apparently, Tennessee coach Jeff Fisher is OK with Finnegan’s antics.
"I have no issues with how Cortland played in the game on Sunday," Fisher said, via the Florida Times Union. "Cortland Finnegan did not throw a punch, so I have no issues with that. Cortland Finnegan was hit in the face; helmet knocked off, and pushed from behind the play before. So I have no issues with how Cortland responded.
"I have issues with the incident, I think it's bad for football, I think it's bad for the league, and I think it sets a bad example, but I don't have any issues with what Cortland did in the game and how he played."
This week, Finnegan and the Titans will face the Jaguars. Which means Jacksonville will be on the lookout for what many consider to be a “dirty” Tennessee squad. And unlike Steelers WR Hines Ward, who garners respect because he’s physical while not making a mockery of himself during the game, Finnegan has developed a not-so-nice reputation.
"He's chippy, man," Jaguars WR Mike Thomas said. "He is what he is; he's Cortland Finnegan. He just tries whatever he can do to get an edge on you. Get you frustrated. Talk some noise. After the whistle he might try to get a little physical."
But Finnegan has a weakness. As Johnson showed, he’s susceptible to the uppercut. If you can land that on him, it might make for an early night.
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Posted on: November 16, 2010 1:20 am
Posted by Will Brinson
Our affinity for graphs and charts and purty pictures knows no bounds, so (with a nod to the smartypants at NY Mag), we present the NFL Approval Matrix. Suggestions, complaints and intellecutual property lawsuits may be directed to us on Twitter (@CBSSportsNFL).
Click to embiggen.
Tags: Brett Favre, Buffalo Bills, Chad Pennington, Cleveland Browns, Dallas Cowboys, Eric Mangini, Fred Jackson, Jacksonville Jaguars, Jason Garrett, Jeff Reed, Kansas City Chiefs, Matt Hasselbeck, Miami Dolphins, Michael Vick, Mike Shanahan, Mike Thomas, Minnesota Vikings, New England Patriots, Pete Carroll, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers, Randy Moss, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, Tennessee Titans, Todd Haley, Tom Brady, Troy Smith, Washington Redskins