Tag:Ovie Mughelli
Posted on: January 5, 2012 10:37 am
 

Film Room: Giants vs. Falcons wild-card preview

Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit


Both of these teams seem to be peaking at the right time. The Falcons are looking for their first playoff win in the Matt Ryan-Mike Smith-Thomas Dimitroff era; the Giants are looking for a second improbable Super Bowl surge in five years. Here’s the breakdown:


1. Falcons offensive approach
The Falcons spent most of the season trying to figure out if they would remain the two tight end/two-back run-oriented offense that has defined them since Mike Smith and his offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey arrived, or if they’d go ahead and assume the pass-first identity that Thomas Dimitroff committed them to when he traded a bounty for the chance to draft Julio Jones.

In the end, the pass-first approach won out. After fullback Ovie Mughelli went down with a Week 7 knee injury and Jones’ iffy hamstring strengthened, the Falcons drifted to more three-receiver sets and wound up finishing fourth in the league in pass attempts.

They also expanded Ryan’s presnap freedoms. The fourth-year quarterback has considerable power when it comes to audibling and changing protections at the line of scrimmage. In fact, it’s not unheard of for the Falcons to eschew huddling for an entire half. There have been some rough patches – Jones, in particular, was prone to mental mistakes early on – but the Falcons are finally clear about being a passing team.

By working out of three-receiver sets, Atlanta makes it tougher for defenses to double both White and Jones, as doubling both all but ensures Tony Gonzalez gets matched up on a linebacker:

Gonzalez has made a living feasting on zone defenses with an option route. With an option after Gonzalez gets over the top of a linebacker’s coverage, he runs his route based on how the safety plays. A lot of times the safety’s actions are determined by how he’s reading other receivers’ routes. This illustration shows the concept in its simplest terms. Gonzo and his QB must diagnose the defense the same way. That’s never been a problem for Matt Ryan and the veteran TE.

Also, what people don’t think about is how the three-receiver sets can actually help Atlanta’s power run game. Yes, there are fewer lead-blockers or offensive linemen for Michael Turner to run behind, but if Turner can get to the perimeter, he’s more likely to meet a defensive back than linebacker.

Not many defensive backs can’t tackle the 244-pounder one-on-one. This season Turner rushed for 459 yards on 93 attempts (4.9 average) out of three receiver sets.

The Falcons have not completely abandoned their heavy run game (they constantly used a fullback or extra tight end last week, likely to assure that Tampa Bay’s atrocious middle linebacker, Mason Foster, stayed on the field). If they don’t go no-huddle, they’ll be more inclined to bring in Michael Palmer, Reggie Kelly or Mike Cox, rather than stay exclusively in the three-wide spread.

That said, no-huddle would be an excellent tactic for them Sunday, as it could help quell the Meadowlands crowd and slow down that Giants’ pass-rush.

2. New York’s big nickel package
After rookie nickel corner Prince Amukamara got torched for the umpteenth time in early/mid-December, the Giants reverted back to their “big nickel” defensive package, with Antrel Rolle sliding down to slot corner/outside linebacker and either Deon Grant or Tyler Sash coming in to fill Rolle’s safety spot.

Rolle, whom the Cardinals drafted in the first round as a cornerback out of Miami, has the skills to cover slot receivers, and he also happens to be a superb run-defender. In fact, he’s so good that the Giants often used their “big nickel” package against base offensive personnel last season. Rolle doesn’t just offer solidity against the run; he’s also a shrewd blitzer and help-defender in zone coverage. In short, he’s a poor man’s Charles Woodson.

Obviously, though, if the Giants were overwhelmingly better with Rolle at slot corner, they wouldn’t have moved him back to safety to begin this season. Rolle being in the slot does leave the secondary a bit more vulnerable in downfield coverage. Cornerback Corey Webster’s terrific work in solo coverage ameliorates this somewhat, but Aaron Ross is a bit of a concern on the other side.

3. Atlanta’s approach
If Webster defends Julio Jones, Matt Ryan will look for the mismatch with Roddy White. If Webster defends White, Ryan will look for Jones. The Giants may want to give Ryan one more presnap read to dissect by having Webster alternate between defending Jones and White.

Regardless of where Webster lines up, a big focus of Ryan’s will be on getting the ball out quickly. He’s more inclined to find his rhythm with three-and five-step-drops, just as Tony Romo did in the second half Sunday night (it was a mistake for the Cowboys to not go with this approach earlier in that game).

Matt Ryan will be celebrating if he can get the ball out quickly. (Getty Images)

Even if Ryan’s rhythm is not a concern – and maybe it isn’t; the guy is a cerebral, fundamentally sound passer – Atlanta’s pass protection IS. The Falcons’ front five is a mauling, power-based group that is below the NFL’s athletic median.

It holds up because the five cogs are cohesive and familiar to Ryan. But that isn’t enough when facing a technician like Justin Tuck, a lightning bolt like Osi Umenyiora or a freak like Jason Pierre-Paul.

The only way the Falcons can give Ryan enough time to take a shot downfield is if they go max protect. Thus, when the Falcons do get away from their three-wide personnel, they won’t just be looking to pound the rock – they’ll be looking to go deep. The Giants secondary should be on high alert for play-action.

4. Stopping Eli and the passing game
Cris Collinsworth mentioned early in last Sunday night’s broadcast that Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan regretted not blitzing Eli Manning more when they met back in Week 14. But in the rematch, Ryan quickly found out that even his most creative blitzes couldn’t faze Manning.

The eighth-year veteran has reached that level where he himself can’t be beat. He simply has too much intelligence, poise and arm strength. Instead, the way to beat Manning is to beat his receivers and hope that leads to Giants mistakes.

Thus, don’t expect the Falcons to do anything more with their pass-rush than the occasional zone blitzes that they’ve used all season. They’re better off focusing on Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz. The Redskins discombobulated the Giants in Week 15 by bracketing the top receivers with corners underneath and safeties over the top. Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett was betting that Manning would get impatient and force some balls into those coverages. He was correct.

Stifling the receivers outside is a great approach because it forces Manning to work to his third and fourth reads. He’s more than capable of that….as long as his protection holds up. The Falcons have only a good-but-not-great pass-rush (free agent pickup Ray Edwards has been a disappointment), but it’s a pass-rush that’s capable of exploding at any moment thanks to the supple speed of John Abraham. When Manning’s primary reads are covered, this offense goes from being big-play oriented to dink and dunk. That bodes well for the Falcons (see item 5).

5. Atlanta’s speed
The emergence of Sean Weatherspoon has been huge for Atlanta’s defense. The second-year linebacker is a swift, powerful three-down player who attacks the run and can patrol sideline-to-sideline in underneath coverage. The Falcons have a second player of this ilk in Curtis Lofton, a sound fourth-year pro who lacks Weatherspoon’s elite athletic prowess but compensates with decisive diagnostic skills.

With these two working behind vociferous, quick defensive tackles like Jonathan Babineaux and Corey Peters, it’s not only tough to run on the Falcons, it’s tough to execute screens, dumpoffs and shallow crosses. The intended receiver might catch the pass, but he’s not going far. If he does get away, he still has to get by William Moore and Thomas DeCoud, two of the game’s faster downhill safeties.
 
Overall, this speedy zone defense will be a problem for the Giants, a team that compensated for its bad run game this season by totaling 138 completions to Jake Ballard, Bear Pascoe, Henry Hynoski, D.J. Ware, Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs.

So who will win? Check our NFL expert picks for all the wild-card games

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: November 30, 2011 3:42 pm
 

Film Room: Texans vs. Falcons preview

Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit



Two quality playoff opponents from the Southern divisions square off Sunday. Frankly, this game was a lot more intriguing before Matt Schaub’s injury. If he’s healthy, we’re talking about the Texans as Super Bowl contenders. Now, with T.J. Yates expected to start, we’re talking about them as mere playoff contenders.

Of course, the Texans might argue that their first-ranked defense and third-ranked rushing attack can still sail the ship. Their Week 13 matchup versus Atlanta will put that theory to its first major test.



1. State of Houston’s No. 1 defense
After four years of changing schemes and coordinators, the Texans finally got it right by hiring Wade Phillips. Phillips is running the same defense he did in Dallas: a 3-4 alignment with a lot of 4-3 gap-penetrating principles. As he did with DeMarcus Ware, Phillips keeps his best pass-rusher on the weak side of the formation to help command one-on-one edge matchups.

With Mario Williams hurt, that pass-rusher is third-year pro Connor Barwin. Barwin can get after the quarterback, but Houston’s best all-around outside linebacker is second-round rookie Brooks Reed. Reed is fantastic at setting the edge and taking on blocks in the run game, and every down he brings the insane energy that all of Houston’s front seven defenders bring.

The same can be said about Reed’s fellow rookie, J.J. Watt. The powerful, long-armed first-rounder from Wisconsin has become nearly impossible to block one-on-one, both against the run and pass. In recent weeks, so has veteran Antonio Smith, a tenacious, crafty veteran who knows how to steer the action in ways that create opportunities for teammates (Smith was crucial to Barwin’s four-sack effort at Jacksonville last week).

A wrinkle Phillips has frequently used in Houston that he used only occasionally in Dallas is blitzing his inside linebacker. The incredible speed, burst, timing and innate playmaking instincts of Brian Cushing has likely been the motivation for that.

Good as this Texans defense – and especially the deep, high-octane front seven – has been, you could argue that it’s fool’s gold (it wouldn’t be a super strong argument, but it also wouldn’t be completely ridiculous). The Texans have held their last five opponents to under 14 points, but those opponents have been the Browns, Bucs, Titans and Jaguars (twice).

Those teams all have a paucity of receiving talent, which Houston’s secondary – bolstered by the magnificence of free agent pickup Jonathan Joseph – has easily exploited. Virtually all of Houston’s seven sacks at Jacksonville were coverage sacks.

The Texans defense will face its first true test in a month and a half this Sunday.

2. Falcons passing game
The past two weeks, the Falcons have broken off from their usual heavy two backs/two tight end formations to operate out of three-receiver sets. That could just be how they prefer to attack vanilla, zone-based 4-3 defenses (which their last two opponents, Tennessee and Minnesota, both run). Or, it could be a response to losing fullback Ovie Mughelli (on injured reserve with a knee). We’ll know more after we see how the Falcons choose to go after the Texans Sunday.

The prediction here is Atlanta will stay in three-receiver sets. Harry Douglas is getting very comfortable in his slot role. Roddy White and Julio Jones are hard to double-team when they’re lined up on the same side of the field (which is easier for them to do in three-receiver sets). And no defense yet has found a way to defend Tony Gonzalez in the short seam areas out of these three-wide alignments.

What’s more, Matt Ryan is most comfortable when audibling at the line of scrimmage. He loves to get to the line early and move his targets around. Three-receiver formations spread the defense and paint a clearer picture for the fourth-year quarterback.

3. Atlanta’s run game
The Falcons are still built to run the ball. That will be the case as long as they continue to trot a large but unathletic offensive line out on the field. Michael Turner, who has a surplus of patience but deficit of speed and quickness, is best equipped to run behind lead-blocking fullbacks and tight ends.

However, he’s proven capable of consistently gaining 4-6 yards out of single-back sets. Those formations usually put a defense in its nickel package, which gives Turner more opportunities to use his power against a defensive back instead of a linebacker. The Falcons can also run draws and delays with emerging lightning bug Jacquizz Rodgers when lining up three-wide.

The Texans don’t mind playing in their nickel, in part because the linebacker who comes off the field, DeMeco Ryans, has not been dazzling this season, and in part because they have relatively firm-tackling defensive backs (Glover Quin, in particular).

4. Houston’s run game
If last week’s Jaguars game is any indication, it’s fallacious to think the Texans can survive their quarterback woes by simply riding their top-ranked ground game. Arian Foster and Ben Tate are both dynamic enough runners to move the chains against an eight-man box (Foster, in fact, is the best all-around runner in the AFC; his fluid but powerful hips and tempo-changing aptitude leave him not far from Adrian Peterson’s level).

The Texans zone-blocking offensive line is cohesive and moves well at all five positions (center Chris Myers is having the best season of the bunch). But as we saw last week, it will be a tough go if that eight-man box is not at least a little bit concerned about getting beat through the air.

So much of Gary Kubiak’s offense is predicated on play-action and rollouts. Houston’s fleet tight ends and Andre Johnson give this method its venom. Overall, the system is intricate but actually puts few heavy demands on the quarterback (arm strength and pocket toughness, two critical attributes, are less significant). But a respectable quarterback is still vital because those play-action and rollouts also set up a lot of Houston’s ground game (namely the stretch handoffs).


5. Atlanta’s defense
Mike Smith started sprinkling more blitz concepts and disguises on his defense last season, but lately, he’s drifted back to execution-based schemes (i.e. fairly vanilla zones that rely on defenders being fundamentally sound and physically outperforming their opponents).

The Falcons could be more traditional if free agent pickup Ray Edwards weren’t so disappointing at defensive end. Edwards was supposed to bring a bookend pass-rushing prowess across from John Abraham. Instead, he’s been less explosive than last season’s underrated starter, Kroy Biermann.

Biermann, like Abraham, is a sinewy, versatile athlete. That’s important because the Falcons do a lot of zone exchange pass-rushes (this is rushing a linebacker on one side and having the defensive end on the other side drop into coverage; the idea is to confuse the quarterback into throwing a hot read into traffic). Speedy but strong linebacker Sean Weatherspoon has been a standout presence in zone rushes (and, for that matter, in general run defense).

In the secondary, left cornerback Brent Grimes is assertive and trusted with most of the solo assignments. Big-money right corner Dunta Robinson plays too far off the receiver to be considered anything more than “solid”. The Falcons frequently interchange their strong and free safeties. No. 1 safety William Moore is a thumper when healthy. In the last three weeks that Moore’s been out, replacement James Sanders has been serviceable as a third-level run defender. No. 2 safety Thomas DeCoud has been a liability in coverage.

So who will win? Check our NFL expert picks for all Week 13 games

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: November 6, 2010 6:57 pm
 

Week 9 injury report analysis Part III

Posted by Andy Benoit

Bucs @ Falcons

The Bucs will once again be without starting offensive linemen Jeff Faine (quad) and Jeremy Trueblood (knee). Also missing is fullback Earnest Graham, which is noteworthy because his lead-blocking abilities fit perfectly in what has become a strict power run approach for this offense. Wideout Sammie Stroughter did not practice all week due to a foot injury. Thus, rookie Arrelious Benn has a chance to start carving out a true niche in this offense (Benn caught a 53-yard touchdown pass last week, but that’s basically been the extent of his contributions).

The Falcons likely will not have OLB Sean Weatherspoon; the first-round rookie has been out since Week 5 with a knee injury. Fullback Ovie Mughelli is questionable with a hamstring. That’s crucial because Atlanta’s best approach against this Tampa Bay D is to pound them between the tackles on the ground.

Saints @ Panthers

Does Drew Brees have a fractured knee and torn meniscus or not? The Saints are saying no – in fact, Brees is not even listed on the injury report. Running backs Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas are both still out (Bush is technically listed as doubtful this week). Rookie CB Patrick Robinson is out with an ankle, though the Panthers do not have the aerial firepower to take advantage anyway. Besides, both Saints starting corners, Tracy Porter and Jabari Greer, who missed the Steeler game, are probable after practicing all week.

Carolina’s 28th-ranked rushing attack will once again be missing RT Jeff Otah (knee) and RB DeAngelo Williams (foot).

Giants @ Seahawks

No Shaun O’Hara for New York. Thus, Adam Koets, who has decent movement skills but lacks O’Hara’s nastiness and veteran shrewdness at the second level in the run game, will be the fulcrum of the offensive line. The Giants are coming off a bye, which explains why basically everyone else (save for OT Will Beatty and FB Madison Hedgecock) is healthy.

The Seahawks are starting Charlie Whitehurst in place of injured Matt Hasselbeck (concussion). Rookie receiver Golden Tate (ankle) is also out for Seattle. And, likely, so is rookie LT Russell Okung (ankle). Because Tyler Polumbus is questionable with a knee injury – and, frankly, because he does not begin to have quick enough feet to handle Osi Umenyiora – the Seahawks will likely turn to veteran Chester Pitts.

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

Posted on: September 27, 2010 4:10 am
Edited on: September 27, 2010 2:33 pm
 

10 Sunday stories deserving your attention Wk 3

Posted by Andy Benoit

1.) Cowboys justify the hype

It’s disappointing not to have two weeks of Wade Phillips Hot Seat chatter to look forward to. (What can you say? The guy is fun to dump on.) But at least we have reason to believe the Cowboys will be in the thick of the NFC East race now. Even if you’re not a fan of America’s Team (and Mexico’s Team), you have to admit, because their NFL-high five primetime games left (counting Thanksgiving), football is more exciting with the Cowboys being relevant.

Dallas’ 13-play, 80-yard touchdown drive in the second quarter against Houston – capped by a Marion Barber one-yard touchdown burst – was the type of drive that turns a season around. It was also a microcosm of Sunday’s game. On the drive, Tony Romo completed three different third downs of nine yards or longer. He bought himself time in the pocket and worked deep into his progressions on several throws, hitting four different receivers on the drive, including Roy Williams three times. T. Romo (US Presswire)

We should probably give Williams a week off from his whipping boy duties. The former Texas Longhorn was tremendous in catching a game-high five passes for 117 yards and two scores. Williams consistently won battles at the line of scrimmage, and he showed commendable fluidity making catches on the move. The key was that Jason Garrett played to Williams’ strengths by asking him to run straight-line patterns, as opposed to direction-changing routes.

The Cowboy defense was equally impressive. DeMarcus Ware posted three sacks, and it wasn’t simply a case of him feasting on backup left tackle Rashad Butler (Butler actually wasn’t bad this game). Ware benefitted from having excellent man coverage behind him.

As glad as we all should be to see the Cowboys avoid the irrelevance that generally awaits an 0-3 team, let’s hope Jerry Jones’ men don’t turn in too many more performances like this. Otherwise, we’ll once again get the nonstop reminders that the Super Bowl is in Cowboys Stadium this year, and that Jones REALLY, REALLY, REALLY wants to have the first true home field advantage in the game’s history.

2.) Hold your horses, Texans fans

On Houston’s side of things, that secondary that gave up over 400 yards passing to both the Colts and Redskins – you know, the secondary we all conveniently overlooked these past two weeks while hastily editing our preseason picks and branding Gary Kubiak’s club as the breakout club of 2010? – is officially porous.

Romo, in completing 23 of 30 passes for 284 yards, exposed Houston’s flaws at cornerback. First-round rookie Kareem Jackson struggles early in coverage. If it’s zone, Jackson’s not always sure how long to carry the receiver. If it’s man, he doesn’t always deliver an effective jam (no rhyme intended). Opposite Jackson, second-year pro Brice McCain had trouble when Cowboy receivers redirected late in their route.

Both young corners have the talent to improve. It’d help if safeties Eugene Wilson and Bernard Pollard – especially Pollard – flashed the same big-play prowess they flashed late last season. And it would also help if superstar Mario Williams (and “superstar” is not an appellation to be used lightly) broke his habit of vanishing every few weeks. Williams was a nonfactor this game despite facing single blocking most of the afternoon.

3.) Saints get marched on

No need for a “What’s wrong with the Saints?” piece – it’s just one loss. And let’s refrain from chalking up the home loss to the absence of Reggie Bush. Heck, we talked in the Week 2 Preview Podcast about how whenever Bush goes down, Lance Moore steps up. Sunday, the unheralded fifth-year veteran caught six balls for 149 yards and two touchdowns. He also set up a first quarter touchdown by returning a punt 72 yards. M. Turner (US Presswire)

The Saints still lost, of course. Why? The Falcons’ rushing attack. Michael Turner, Jason Snelling and lead-blocking fullback Ovie Mughelli confirmed what we already knew: the way to beat the good-but-certainly-not-great New Orleans defensive front seven is to run right at it. Not only does a power run game keep Drew Brees off the field while allowing a team to control tempo and tone, but it also minimizes the creativity and aggressiveness of Gregg Williams’ blitzes. This brings to mind that brilliant Mike Tyson axiom (and yes, those last four words really did just show up in that order): everyone has a plan until they get hit in the mouth. The Saints defense is crafty…until it gets hit in the mouth.

The Falcons hit the Saints in the mouth in the form of 50 runs for 202 yards Sunday. Turner, looking every bit like the 244-pound bowling ball he is, ran 30 times for 114 yards. Snelling, a more upright runner with comparable downhill power, had 14 carries for 62 yards. And Mughelli – well, he basically punched his ticket to Hawaii simply because he is a fullback and his name has now been mentioned twice on a mainstream website.

One last note: Falcons head coach Mike Smith went for it three times on fourth down, including twice on fourth-and-two in a first-half series. The Falcons reached the end zone after being successful on both of those fourth-and-two attempts. They later failed on a fourth-and-six inside the final four minutes of regulation, and the Saints promptly capitalized on by matriculating downfield for a game-tying field goal. But credit Smith for sticking to his plan and playing to win.

4.) Killer kickers

Those of us who shrewdly picked the Falcons to be serious contenders in the NFC South this year (and there actually wound up being quite a few of us) can thank Saints kicker Garrett Hartley for those satisfying feelings of smugness we’re all enjoying. Hartley badly missed a 29-yard field goal in overtime (actually, no need to say “badly missed” – the only way to miss from 29 yards is “badly”), prompting Sean Payton and the front office to schedule a tryout for kickers on Monday.

A kicker tryout? That’s like the Saints and Hartley dating for three years, getting into a fight and the Saints deciding to go home with a stripper the same night. The Saints will regret acting on their anger in the morning.

Hartley is the same kicker who booted three 40-plus-yard field goals in Super Bowl XLIV (by the way, let’s lose the Roman Numerals on the Super Bowls now – they’re a pain to decipher). He’s the same kicker who nailed a 40-yard game-winner in the NFC Championship two weeks before that. Oh, and he’s also the same kicker who booted the game winner just last week at San Francisco!

Yes, Hartley is 4/7 on the season. But do three misses in the regular season really trump four huge makes in the postseason? Besides, the only kickers out there who are any good are Dave Rayner and Kris Brown, and they’re out there only because, lately, they’ve gotten quite good at doing what Hartley just did against the Falcons.

Hartley wasn’t even the worst kicker in football Sunday. That distinction went to Oakland’s $16 million man, Sebastian Janikowski. The Polish Whatever His Nickname Is These Days missed three field goals in the Raiders loss at Arizona, including the would-be game-winner from 32 yards. If Janikowski weren’t an Al Davis favorite, the Raiders would be competing with the Saints for bum kickers to bring in. You just hope Janikowski’s awful day doesn’t stay with him and create a Mike Vanderjagt-like fall from grace.

5.) The lost fumble that’s not a turnover

One more note from the Saints-Falcons game, then we’ll move on. In the third quarter, the Saints gave the ball to backup running back Chris Ivory on a fourth-and-one play. Ivory fumbled and Atlanta recovered. The play goes in the books as a turnover. But it shouldn’t.

Technically, there was no turnover of possession by the fumble because the play yielded the same result as if Ivory had been held short of the first down (which, by the way, he would have been if he’d held onto the ball). The point of the turnover statistic is to reflect sudden changes in possession. This was not a sudden change of possession.

An interception or lost fumble on fourth down or on the final play of a half should not be classified as a turnover. Just like we don’t classify red-zone field goals as red-zone scores.
This, coincidentally (or not), is a perfect segue to…

6.) The Denver Broncos

Have we ever seen a team play as well on offense as the Broncos did Sunday and score only 13 points? It’s amazing what zero touchdowns on five red zone trips will do to a bottom line. The Broncos racked up 519 yards, including 476 passing from Kyle Orton. Remarkably, Orton did not set a franchise record for single game passing yards. Even more remarkable is that the man who holds that record is not named John Elway. (Jake Plummer has the mark at 499.)

There are two ways to look at the Broncos after Week 3. K. Orton (US Presswire)

One: Josh McDaniels has an ingenious system and four excellent receivers to execute it (a willowy, speedy, budding star in first-round rookie Demaryius Thomas, a silky smooth role player in Jabar Gaffney, a shifty underneath threat in Eddie Royal and a highlight reel wizard in Brandon Lloyd, who leads the NFL with six catches of 25-plus yards this season). The Broncos showed they can dominate with this system and talent – they just need to do a better job at finishing drives.

Or, two: the Broncos just played a team that doesn’t mind letting the Denver skill position players “get theirs” because that team knows it can stop this offense when it counts. Of the two scenarios, the second is most likely. Recall that Indy gladly let Brandon Marshall catch 21 passes for 200 yards against them last season. In that game, they still held the Broncos to 16 points.

The Broncos talk about how they accept the fact that Peyton Manning will move the ball up and down the field, and how if they can just bog down in the red zone, they have a serious chance to win. What they don’t realize is that the Colts take the exact same approach to them. The only difference is, the Colts succeed.

Denver does have plenty to be excited about offensively, though. Their front line, despite starting two rookies and untested first-year guard Stanley Daniels, kept the Colts pass-rush in check. (Left tackle Ryan Clady was particularly good against Dwight Freeney.) And Orton’s arm looks stronger than it did last season.
 
But it doesn’t matter in this matchup as long as Manning is on the other side. He loves facing the man coverage scheme of the Broncos, mainly because he’s willing to let Champ Bailey win against Reggie Wayne in order to exploit mismatches elsewhere. Sunday, Manning found Austin Collie 12 times for 171 yards and two touchdowns.

He also hit practice squad call-up Blair White (most predictable, yet still agreeable, nickname ever: The Blair White Project) for a score.
In case you didn’t know, appearance-wise, White lives up to his last name. And, chances are, you already know what the BYU grad Collie looks like. This begs the question: before today, had any quarterback in NFL history ever thrown touchdown passes to two different white wide receivers in the same game?

7.) Drunk driving = superstar status

Is it just me, or did the mainstream media – and especially NBC during the Sunday night telecast – propel Braylon Edwards into superstar status this week? Last I checked, Edwards is a gifted receiver who often runs slipshod routes and, at times, seemingly plays with oven mitts on. That makes him not a superstar but, at best, a solid No. 1.

But you would have thought the man was Jerry Rice 2.0 the way everyone played up the story of his one quarter suspension. Too bad Edwards couldn’t have gotten busted during the offseason or in a smaller market. That would have made his DUI more forgivable, right?)

Of course, in the end, Edwards was a difference-maker against the Dolphins (two catches, 87 yards and a touchdown, plus sensational run-blocking). So maybe the hype was worth it. The most damning part about this whole ordeal for the NFL is that the Jets are right when they point out that players that have gotten a DUI on other teams have not been disciplined at all. Edwards’ de facto one-quarter suspension was a first.

But why did the Jets announce the one quarter plan before the game? They should have told the players and then kept it quiet. The media would have speculated, sure, but by then, the game would have already been going on. Thus, there would have been no distraction. Instead, the one quarter plan was announced, which is why the Dolphins wisely deferred to the second half after winning the coin toss (they knew that this likely meant one more possession for Edwards to miss).

There has, at least, been some good that has come from this whole mess: Edwards, knowing his image needs serious repair and that the NBC cameras would be all over him, finally shaved his hideous beard.

8.) Who the Hillis?
P. Hillis (US Presswire)
It came in a losing effort, but how about the game Browns running back Peyton Hillis had against the Ravens? The former Broncos fullback who has somehow crept into Cleveland’s starting tailback position carried the ball 22 times for 144 yards and a touchdown against the staunch Ravens D. he also added 36 yards receiving.

The Browns front five dominated a Ravens front seven that came out looking like a group that was thinking about the Steelers (next week, CBS, 1:00). Hillis is a mechanical, if not choppy, runner, but he’s an absolute battering ram once he establishes downhill momentum.

9.) Okay, let’s start learning more of the Chiefs players

The Chiefs are 3-0. Their most recent win was a blowout of a disoriented 49ers club that, on Sunday, showed serious signs of the Tin Man Syndrome. Still, the win legitimized this rising young Kansas City squad enough to warrant a “get to know their names” feature. Disclaimer: this positive attention isn’t to suggest that the Chiefs are a playoff contender – it’s still very, very early. But it is positive attention nonetheless.

So, who to learn about? You already know Matt Cassel is a caretaker being paid like a superstar. You already know Jamaal Charles is an uncommon home-run threat. You already know Dwayne Bowe is a talented wideout who occasionally lands in Todd Haley’s doghouse. You already know Dexter McCluster is Percy Harvin Sans Migraines. You already know Glenn Dorsey is a former first-round pick who could finally be coming to life as a 3-4 defensive end. You already know that the same goes for Derrick Johnson at inside linebacker.
Okay then, here are two more names to add to the file (we’ll see how this week goes and, if necessary, add even more names down the road).

Tony Moeaki, tight end. The third-round rookie out of Iowa has the strong yet supple frame that coaches covet in a “big, athletic tight end”. He also has long arms and soft hands, which has allowed him to snatch a team-high 12 passes and two touchdowns on the season.

Brandon Flowers, cornerback. The third-year starter is close to being described as the “third-year sensation”. Flowers intercepted a pass for a second straight week Sunday (he ran last week’s pick back for six points). More impressive has been his shutdown ability, which he started to flash in 2009.

10.) Quick Hits

Unable to decide on a final story to create a nice round 10, I’m going to take the easy way out and drop in here some one-liner observations from all the other games.

***Patriots inside linebacker Jerod Mayo looked extremely fast against the Bills, particularly in closing on the ball. Looks like he’s regained his ’08 form.

***Charlie Batch’s pocket presence was close to flawless against the Bucs.

***Jimmy Clausen looked every bit like the unprepared rookie that he is. This isn’t meant as a harsh criticism of the Golden Domer. In just about any other situation, Clausen would still be learning from the bench. But the Panthers realize they have next to no chance with Matt Moore. So, Clausen, fairly or unfairly, is forced to play. He consistently held the ball too long against the Bengals Sunday. That was the crux of his problem. It will be interesting to see how much quicker he can get by next week. (If it’s not dramatically quicker, Carolina is in trouble.)

***It’s strange to see Redskins defensive lineman Lorenzo Alexander lining up at outside linebacker, though he wasn’t too bad in this role against the Rams.

***The Seahawks won because they got two kickoff return touchdowns from Leon Washington. Great comeback story, but this is the exact type of game we shouldn’t read too much into. San Diego must get better in special teams coverage; Seattle is dangerous at home. Both true statements. A third true statement: anyone who thinks the Seahawks are better than the Chargers is crazy.

***With Donovan McNabb headed back to Philly in Week 4, I figured you’ll be glad for a break from Eagles quarterback stories this week. Thus, I won’t acknowledge Michael Vick’s magnificent performance in Jacksonville. (Oops.)

***Nnamdi Asomugha won the matchup against Larry Fitzgerald Sunday (two catches, 26 yards), though Asomugha may have gotten some help from Derek Anderson.

***Bears fans, sorry I couldn’t irritate you this week, but your team didn’t play Sunday.

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Posted on: July 29, 2010 3:00 pm
 

Mughelli gets a different view

Falcons fullback Ovie Mughelli penned an opinion piece today for the Atlanta Journal Constitution , writing about his visit to the Gulf Coast to see the BP oil spill devastation with his own eyes.

He was shocked when he landed in that oil-soaked region.

From his well-written piece:

If we’re all supposed to be responsible citizens — athletes or whatever your profession may be — we are not doing our job right now.
We are destroying our planet and hurting our children’s future through our addiction to fossil fuels.

That thought crossed my mind again and again as I took a boat tour of the Gulf Coast last week with other athletes from the NHL and NFL.

I saw oil-soaked pelicans trying to fly, Dolphins surfacing in oil-covered water, and wetlands with several inches of sticky, tarry oil all over.
I talked to fishermen whose livelihoods are now gone because of the BP oil disaster.


Mughelli admits that he, once upon a time, didn’t think much about his environment in those terms. He didn’t ponder how to keep the planet healthy. It wasn’t until he had a daughter of his own that those thoughts began to trickle into his mind. Now, he calls upon the president to help fix our nation’s dependency on oil.

If you follow the news and have the slightest bit of interest in environmental issues, Mughelli isn’t really breaking any new ground here. But for an athlete to be aware of issues – and to actually use his platform to try to help – that’s a pretty decent start.

--Josh Katzowitz

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Category: NFL
 
 
 
 
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