Tag:Owen Daniels
Posted on: January 13, 2012 9:42 am
Edited on: January 13, 2012 9:44 am
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Film Room: Ravens vs. Texans divisional preview


Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit

The Texans are hoping they can do what the Ravens did three years ago: reach the AFC Championship with a rookie quarterback. Like the ‘08 Ravens, Houston’s rookie quarterback is a complimentary piece, not the focal point.

Gary Kubiak might be offensive-minded, but his current squad is built around the run and defense. Come to think of it, so are the current Ravens ... if they play their cards right. Here’s the breakdown.


1. Baltimore’s offensive approach
With Joe Flacco turning 27 next week and entering his eighth playoff contest, the manual says this is the time for the quarterback’s coming out party. But it’d be unwise of offensive coordinator Cam Cameron to buy into that.

Cameron has been Flacco’s most boisterous supporter – and rightfully so. He and John Harbaugh have gradually loosened the quarterback’s reigns over the past three years and all but removed them this year. That approach has had its ups and downs, but through it all the Ravens have continued to win.

Flacco had a poor season statistically – his completion percentage dropped below 60 for the first time, which is why he averaged a career-low 6.7 yards per attempt – but he was also playing with more freedom/responsibility than ever. You can tell a lot about what a coaching staff thinks of its quarterback by the plays it calls.

Most fans just assume the black-and-blue Ravens have a safe, methodical passing game. In reality, much of what the Ravens do centers more around Flacco’s big arm. Instead of using Anquan Boldin primarily underneath, the Ravens often push the ball to him downfield outside the numbers. They use their tight ends down the seams and it’s not uncommon for Flacco to launch multiple bombs in a half, usually targeting rookie burner Torrey Smith.

It’s encouraging that the Ravens have opened things up, but in this case the numbers don’t lie: Baltimore’s offense is inconsistent through the air and survives primarily because of Ray Rice. The fourth-year superstar led the league with 2,068 yards from scrimmage. In Baltimore’s 12 wins, Rice rushed for an average of 100 yards on 21 carries. In their four losses, he averaged 39 yards on nine carries (and in those losses, the score was never lopsided, making Rice’s decreased touches hard to explain).

Rice is one of the league’s few runners who can consistently move the chains with power or go the distance with speed. His low center of gravity lends him superb lateral explosiveness. That’s deadly behind an effective zone-blocking line that features guards as mobile as Ben Grubbs and Marshal Yanda.

Will Joseph try to neutralize Boldin this time? (Getty Images)

2. Facing Houston’s D
If Cameron wants to win, he’ll work the offense through Rice. The Texans’ swarming front seven can be difficult to run against, but the Ravens have the game’s most effective lead-blocking fullback in Vontae Leach. He takes great angles to blocks and hits moving targets adroitly, which can help neutralize the downhill speed of linebackers DeMeco Ryans and Brian Cushing. The objective of the Ravens run game is to get the defense flowing laterally and allow Rice to cut it up inside.

Flacco won’t be irrelevant, of course. In fact, it’s not unforeseeable for Houston to bottle up the run early and for Baltimore to take to the air. Getting Anquan Boldin back from a knee injury is huge, as he’s a much tougher inside matchup than agility-based tight ends Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta.

The Ravens have the speed to beat teams downfield, but Torrey Smith is still raw and can be taken out of a game by an elite corner like Johnathan Joseph. It will be interesting to see who the Texans have their No. 1 corner defend. If it’s Smith, they theoretically eliminate Baltimore’s field-stretching prowess. But last time these teams met, Boldin was the one who caught eight balls for 133 yards. Wade Phillips may not be willing to surrender that again.

Regardless of how the secondary matches up, Flacco will have to play with poise. Even when they’re not sacking quarterbacks, the Texans pass-rushers are disruptive. Flacco was impressive keeping his eyes downfield and sliding in the pocket in the last meeting, but he’s still somewhat of a week-to-week player in this sense.

3. Test for Yates
All in all, T.J. Yates has done a commendable job keeping the ship afloat.

 Gary Kubiak did not ask a lot of the rookie in the wild card round. In response, Yates was somewhat reactive reading the field, but he capitalized when a big-play opportunity came about (Andre Johnson’s double move on Pacman Jones). He also did not turn the ball over (though it was lucky that Chris Crocker dropped a surefire pick-six in the second half).

This performance, however, came against Cincinnati’s 4-3, zone-based scheme, which was similar to what Yates saw from the Jaguars, Falcons and Titans in previous starts. Yates is yet to face a 3-4, or even a blitz-oriented defense. He’ll face both Sunday, when the Ravens show him things he’s never seen before.

4. Ravens secondary
One thing Yates has never seen before is a safety like Ed Reed. The future Hall of Famer is not just rangier than all of Yates’ previous foes, he’s much savvier. Most safeties force turnovers by baiting quarterbacks into throws on a given play. Reed will bait a quarterback throughout the game.

He’ll bite on the first route of a play in the second quarter; then in the fourth quarter, against a similar play, Reed will assume the quarterback knows not to try to fool him twice. Thus, while every other safety would play conservative and make sure not to give up that first route again, Reed will abandon that first assignment and jump the second route.

This is how he gets a lot of his interceptions. He’s a master at recognizing how offenses use certain plays to set up other plays. This is no different than a great chess player thinking four or five moves ahead.

It’s unreasonable to expect a third-string rookie quarterback to win the mental battle against Reed. Thus, the Texans might be hesitant to have Andre Johnson stretch the field too many times.

Reed isn’t the only noteworthy defensive back in purple. Lardarius Webb has had a terrific season playing outside and in the slot. Webb defends the deep ball as well as any corner, and he’s great at jumping passing lanes from over-man coverage. His versatility expands what the Ravens can do with their disguises.

5. Houston’s run game
It will be difficult for Arian Foster to get outside against the Ravens the way he did against the Bengals. Strong safety Bernard Pollard is too good as a downhill run defender and outside linebackers Terrell Suggs and Jarrett Johnson are the best in the business when it comes to setting the edge:

You’ve probably heard the term “setting the edge”. Setting the edge is when an outside run defender (in a 3-4 it’s usually an outside linebacker) entrenches himself along the line of scrimmage or in the backfield near the offensive tackle or tight end. In doing so, he forces the running back to either cut back into the teeth of the defense or run parallel to the line of scrimmage (which allows time for other defenders to chase him down).

No outside linebacking duo sets the edge better than Baltimore’s Terrell Suggs and Jarrett Johnson. This snapshot offers an extreme example of fantastic edge-setting. Suggs didn’t just stalemate Duane Brown – he drove him back four yards.
(AP)

These days, the key to running on Baltimore is, believe it or not, attacking Ray Lewis. The 36-year-old Pro Bowler is still terrific at diagnosing plays, shedding blocks and wrapping up anywhere near the hash marks, but since returning from his toe injury (perhaps too soon), Lewis’s lateral limitations have been exacerbated.

When he’s going east and west, ballcarriers have little trouble bursting by him (especially when the ballcarrier hits the hole with as much authority as Arian Foster).

To get Lewis going sideways, the Texans linemen will have to have fully beat Haloti Ngata, Terrence Cody and Cory Redding off the ball. Houston’s front line doesn’t have the strength to block any of those guys – especially Ngata, even though the 345-pound monster has looked less than 100 percent down the stretch – but as a cohesive zone unit, they can nullify them by quickly establishing favorable angles.

That’s exactly what they did against the Bengals, who can be considered a good “pretest” for a bout with the Ravens.

So who will win? Check our NFL expert picks for all Divisional Round games

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: January 7, 2012 6:15 pm
 

Lewis hinders team by making bad challenges

LewisBy Josh Katzowitz

Bengals coach Marvin Lewis isn’t known as one of the game’s great challenging coaches. As in, he oftentimes throws the red challenge flag on plays that clearly shouldn’t be challenged.

The last time the Bengals were in the playoffs, after the 2009 season, Lewis challenged official’s rulings early in the game vs. the Jets. He lost both, and New York went on to upset the Bengals in Cincinnati.

At halftime Saturday, with the Texans leading 17-10, Cincinnati -- and Lewis -- is, once again, out of challenges for the rest of the game.

While his second challenge wasn’t a terrible idea -- it was unclear whether Texans tight end Owen Daniels had made a first-down reception, or if the Bengals had caused an incompletion (though Adam Jones was awfully adamant that it was NOT a catch) -- his first challenge was a disaster.

That occurred on a second-and-two early in the second quarter when Cedric Benson went off right guard to gain one yard. But Lewis was led to believe that Benson actually had made the first down. Instead, after reviewing the call, officials upheld the original spot. On third-and-inches, Andy Dalton sneaked up the middle for the first down.

Which certainly could have been accomplished without challenging the second down in the first place. So, it was all for nothing in the end.

But because the challenges were ridiculous and because it created an instant firestorm on Twitter, here were my favorite reactions to Lewis’ bad decisions.
  • @willbrinson (Sorry, had to go with at least one CBSSports.com account): The Bengals should try to trade one of the Raiders picks for more challenges.
  • @JeromeSolomon I see what Marvin was doing. With no more challenges, he can't make another stupid challenge.
  • @FO_MTanier Challenges squandered like so many of the opportunities of youth.
  • @FauxJohnMadden It wouldn't be a Bengals playoff game without a random awful challenge from Marvin Lewis.
  • @CindyBoren Bengals should do a ceremonial burning of the challenge flag while Marvin Lewis speaks at halftime.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, Like Us on Facebook, subscribe to our NFL newsletter, and while you're add it, add our RSS Feed.
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 28, 2011 4:26 pm
 

Schaub gives T.J. Yates his seal of approval

T. Yates looks to be Houston's starting quarterback for the foreseeable future (US Presswire).Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Now that Matt Leinart is unofficially done for the season after cracking his left collarbone Sunday, it appears the Texans are going to take their chances with fifth-round pick T.J. Yates as the starting quarterback for the foreseeable future.

My colleague Will Brinson wrote a little about him in this week’s Sorting the Sunday Pile, but aside from Yates, who was 8 of 15 for 70 yards in relief of Leinart, holding the title of the best quarterback ever to emerge from UNC, we know very little about his ability to start in the NFL.

But considering the other Texans options, where else could they turn for a starter? Probably not Kellen Clemens, who was signed last week. Probably not Sage Rosenfels, who somehow has become a candidate to be claimed by Houston on waivers despite being placed on the Reserved/Non-Football Illness list with the Dolphins last month. And definitely not tight end Owen Daniels, who was actually the emergency backup to Yates on Sunday after Leinart left the game.

For now, it seems like Yates is the only man standing. And that’s OK by original starter Matt Schaub.

“T.J.’s been with us now for quite a while,” Schaub said on KILT in Houston, via sportsradiointerviews.com. “He’s been in our meetings; he understands our system. Obviously, you don’t want to give him an incredible amount of new stuff. … At the same time, we have enough guys in this locker room that have played enough football and they’re solid players. We’ve got some talent on our team and they’re going to have to pick up their play. We’ve dealt with injuries now all season. It seems like a broken record, but that’s what we’ve done and there’s something special about this team.”

And Yates is the guy that can continue that special season?

“T.J., for being a rookie, he’s probably picked this offense up to the point where he can function in it well, faster than anyone I’ve seen, including myself,” Schaub said. “That’s a big credit to him, because this is not an easy offense to pick up. … I, personally, have a ton of confidence that he’s going to go in there and play very well.”

After the game, Gary Kubiak talked about how Yates plays the game fast and that he has all the starting quarterback characteristics. Yet, Kubiak also acknowledged that he's barely taken any reps. Which means the Texans don’t really know what they have with Yates. For good or for bad.

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Posted on: November 27, 2011 4:52 pm
 

Leinart confirms he might be done for season

M. Leinart might have broken his collarbone Sunday (AP).Posted by Josh Katzowitz

It appears that the Texans might have lost their second quarterback for the season in back-to-back games. Two weeks ago, it was Matt Schaub and a foot injury, and today, in Houston’s 20-13 win against the Jacksonville, backup Matt Leinart was knocked out of the game with a possible broken collarbone.

"I think there's probably a pretty strong possibility I won't be coming back this season,” Leinart told reporters afterward, indicating he had broken his left collarbone for the second time in his career.

Leinart had played decently in place of Schaub, going 10 of 13 for 57 yards and a touchdown. But after throwing an incomplete pass, he was driven to the ground midway through the third quarter and appeared to hurt his shoulder. Fifth-round rookie T.J. Yates relieved Leinart and managed the game well enough to keep the Texans in front.

Now, it looks like next week’s starter could be a competition between Yates and Kellen Clemens, who signed as the third-string quarterback last week. Since the Texans probably don’t want to play emergency-emergency quarterback Owen Daniels, better known as a tight end, Houston likely will sign another quarterback this week.

Last week, Jeff Garcia, Trent Edwards and Brody Croyle worked out for the Texans, so signing one of those three wouldn’t be a surprise.

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Posted on: April 14, 2011 2:52 pm
Edited on: April 14, 2011 2:52 pm
 

Hot Routes 4.14.11 good Fitz, bad Fitz

Hot Routes

Posted by Andy Benoit

  • Larry Fitzgerald stinks – STINKS! – at baseball. And he knows it.
  • In other Larry Fitzgerald news, he organized team offseason workouts at Arizona State. Kent Somers, a highly respected Cardinals beat reporter, says that five years ago, the idea of Fitz (an admitted loner early in his career) exerting this kind of leadership would have been almost laughable.
  • Because they’re playing in the Hall of Fame game, the Bears and Rams will both get an early start on training camp.
  • Jerome Simpson, wide receiver of the Bengals, is training hard this offseason. There’s a chance the underachieving second-round pick could be in contention for a starting job in 2011.
  • Jamal Lewis is offering $3 million to purchase the shuttered Maui Sands waterpark in Erie County, Ohio.
  • Jaguars offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter and defensive coordinator Mel Tucker held a film session for 500 Jags fans. Koetter took the fans through four offensive plays. Just how revealing was the film? Well, one of the plays Koetter showed was the Hail Mary against Houston – not exactly the most complex X’s and O’s the sport has to offer.
  • Good headline from the Miami Herald: “The joke that is the pre-draft press conference”.
  • Matt Light and his fellow New England resident Peter King hosted a lockout breakfast to raise money for charity. (And no, the charity did not benefit players who can’t handle their money.)
  • Here’s a great glimpse into some of the offseason workouts of Texans Connor Barwin and Owen Daniels.
  • Ray Lewis talks about regularly visiting the hood.
  • Could the Steelers be looking at Baylor nose tackle Phil Taylor?


    For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.
Posted on: March 4, 2011 11:58 am
Edited on: March 4, 2011 12:00 pm
 

Hot Routes 3.4.11: Baby laughing makes me laugh



Posted by Josh Katzowitz

  • If you’re bored (and it IS noon on a Friday afternoon, after all) and you need to kill time while waiting to see what happens with the labor negotiations, Foxsports.com has the drinking game for you. If you participate, though, you’ll probably have to hit up the local liquor store. Unless you’re the kind of person who has both Cristal AND Schlitz at your home. In which case, you’re kind of awesome.
  • An interesting look by Yahoo! Sports’ Dan Wetzel at one of the most important power players in the labor negotiations: Judge David Doty.
  • Retiring Patriots G Stephen Neal thought there was a chance he could play next season. But he also knew if he injured himself again, he might be putting himself in real danger. So, he retired.
  • I’m sorry, this has nothing to do with football, but man, it’s always awesome watching a baby hysterically laugh uncontrollably. And if the labor negotiations go bad today, you can keep replaying this video. It will make you feel better. Seriously, this video is the best thing I’ve seen all week.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed .
Posted on: March 3, 2011 1:06 pm
 

Report: Daniels deal worth 4 years, $22 million

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Daniels Texans TE Owen Daniels, whose production has nosedived since suffering an ACL injury in 2009, reached a contract agreement with Houston today, according to the Houston Chronicle’s John McClain.

Assuming Daniels is healthy now, he’s still a big part of Houston’s offense, even though the Texans have a glut of TEs on the roster now.

After producing a 70-catch, 862-yard season in 2008, Daniels tore his ACL midway through the 2009 season, and though he returned last year – perhaps before he was completely 100 percent healthy – the knee obviously still bothered him (he had 38 catches for 471 yards in 11 games).

NFL.com’s Jason La Canfora reports that the deal is worth four years and $22 million.

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

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