Tag:Pat Williams
Posted on: October 12, 2011 11:30 am
Edited on: October 14, 2011 9:43 am
 

Film Room: Bears vs. Vikings preview

Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit



Few people are excited about this week’s Sunday Night game. The 1-4 Vikings and 2-3 Bears look like non-contenders in an NFC North division housing a pair of 5-0 clubs. This Film Room post is not about the Bears-Vikings game. We’ll touch on the matchup towards the end simply because it’d be weird not to. But the main point here is to examine why the Tampa 2 defense – which both these teams run – is on its death bed.



1. Tampa 2: What it is
The Tampa 2 (aka Cover 2) is a classic zone scheme. Four pass-rushers up front; three linebackers underneath; a left and right cornerback outside; and, as the "2" refers to, two safeties over the top.

Against the pass, as the illustration to the right (click to enlarge) shows, the safeties each cover half the field deep. The linebackers and cornerbacks each cover 1/5th of the field underneath. The middle linebacker is responsible for any vertical routes inside. Up front, the linemen shoot the gaps. There’s no blitzing.

The advantages are that all pass defenders have straightforward responsibilities and the action (for the most part) always takes place in front of them. As for the disadvantage ...

2. Run Defense
In football there are two traditional ways to stop the run: have a defensive line that wins battles in the trenches or have a strong-tackling safety drop down as an eighth man in the box. A Cover 2 naturally misses on both of these. The defensive linemen are instructed to rush the passer first and play the run if it’s convenient along the way.

Defensive line penetration is great for stopping the run, but it can be hit or miss (especially if the offense knows that the defensive linemen are trying to penetrate on every play). The safeties must stay back and cover deep. If they step forward, they run the risk of biting on play-action (which is a great way to get beat deep).

Because of this, Tampa 2 defenses rely on their linebackers and cornerbacks (yes, cornerbacks) to stop the run. More on this in item 4.
Worth noting is that not all Tampa 2 defenses are bad against the run. In fact, the Vikings and Bears have been spectacular in run defense over the years. That’s a product of phenomenal personnel.

The Vikings have had the Williams Wall at tackle (and Pat Williams actually played a nose tackle role, which is a twist on a traditional Cover 2 front) and the Bears have had star linebackers Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs. But Tampa 2 teams without top-echelon run-stuffers (like the Colts) are very susceptible to the run.

3. Tampa 2 vulnerabilities
Cover 2 defenses are vanilla by nature. That was fine in the late 90s and early 2000s when the scheme was still new and offenses weren’t spreading the field every down. But complex, motion-oriented offenses have an easy time creating mismatches against a Cover 2.

Heck, even basic offensive formations can create mismatches. For example, something the Eagles do against a Cover 2 is line up their speedy receivers in minus splits (close to the formation).

Because Cover 2 cornerbacks always line up outside, this formation dictates that DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin run their routes against linebackers and safeties. Talk about a mismatch.

There are other avenues for mismatches. For a long time, Cover 2 defenses did not have No. 1 and No. 2 corners, but instead, left and right corners. If the left corner stunk, offenses would simply align their best receiver over there. Mercifully, most Cover 2 defenses (the Bears and Vikings included) have recently shown a willingness to at least move their corners from one side to the other based on where they expect certain receivers to be.

That still doesn’t mean a defense will get the corner-on-receiver matchup it desires. This past Monday, Calvin Johnson ran what amounted to a slant-and-go against the Bears’ Cover 2. Charles Tillman stayed with Johnson for about 15 yards. He should have jammed Johnson in an effort to reroute him. Instead, he played the basic Cover 2 technique, which meant he let Johnson go once Johnson went inside towards safety Chris Harris’ deep zone. That left the most athletic wideout in the world matched up on a strong safety. The result was a 73-yard touchdown.

Besides matchup issues, there are natural voids in the Cover 2 that everyone knows about. The gaps 15-20 yards downfield outside the numbers are the main ones, though the voids behind the linebackers in the seams can be enticing too. Really, Cover 2 is the new Prevent Defense. And because the Cover 2 became such a popular defense in the early 2000s, every offense in the NFL has a special chapter in its playbook specifically designed for beating it.

4. Stringent personnel needs
Obviously, a Cover 2 is not a completely hapless defense. If it were, nobody would run it. With the right personnel, the scheme can be quite viable. A great defensive line can sometimes be enough; look at the 2011 Lions or previous years’ Colts, for example (But keep in mind, great defensive lines are going to make any scheme look good.)

Because of the Cover 2’s simplicity and NFL offense’s familiarity with it, the “right personnel” has gone from being “strongly recommended” to “absolutely required”. And the bar for the “right personnel” has risen considerably.

In a Cover 2, you must generate a pass-rush with only four defensive linemen. Thus, you need top-notch speed rushers and defensive tackles with outstanding initial quickness. Those types of players are usually found only in the first rounds.
 
Because the cornerbacks only defend the first 10-15 yards outside, and because the safeties are aligned so deep, Cover 2 cornerbacks are counted on as part of the run defense. Thus, they need to be good tacklers. This is why Antoine Winfield is so potent in Minnesota’s D. Or why, in part, Ronde Barber has stuck around for so long in Tampa Bay. Or why Indianapolis always brings in firm-tackling corners.

It’s also why you’re always hearing about Tampa 2 teams needing fast linebackers. Yes, the linebackers need speed in order to play the pass (especially the middle linebacker, who must run with any targets running vertically between the numbers). But really, Tampa 2 linebacker speed is needed for stopping the run. With the cornerbacks lined up along the front, the defensive linemen are told to shoot the gaps and force runners to that help outside. It’s up to the linebackers to chase them down along the way.

Finding quality Cover 2 type players is certainly not impossible. Problem is, if you don’t have the right guy in every spot, offenses can easily punish you. If a team like the Packers has a weak spot on D, they can use disguises and zone blitz concepts to cover it. If a team like the Bears or Vikings have a weak spot, they can only hope that their defensive ends reach the quarterback before the quarterback exploits it.  

5. Studs and Duds
The star defensive players for both teams have lived up to their end of the deal. For the Bears, middle linebacker Brian Urlacher has moved with more quickness and fluidity than in any of the past three seasons. Monday night’s game aside, Lance Briggs has been the fierce hitter he always is. Julius Peppers has only two sacks, but he’s been a force in bits, if not chunks. Opposite him, Israel Idonije, who has great movement skills and a real feel for executing moves based on the situation, remains one of the most underrated ends in the game.

For the Vikings, Jared Allen has recaptured his 2008/2009 form. End Brian Robison has been fast and tenacious. In fact, he’s having a much better season than Ray Edwards is having in Atlanta. As usual, defensive tackle Kevin Williams has shown his uncommon mobility/power combination. Cornerback Cedric Griffin has been stout in coverage, and E.J. Henderson, while not always great versus the pass, remains a smart, assertive downhill force against the run.
 
The problem is both teams have had a propensity to give up big plays, in part due to iffy play at safety. It’s worse with the Bear than the Vikings. But, on the flip side, the Vikings’ offense has been worse than the Bears’. We could write a thousand posts explaining what’s wrong with both offenses. In short, neither has a good line nor the receivers necessary for their respective systems.

Perhaps this is the week that these offenses find their rhythms through the air. After all, both will be facing plenty of Cover 2 looks.

So who will win? Check our NFL expert picks for all Week 6 games

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: September 2, 2011 6:39 pm
 

Kevin Williams, Will Smith suspended two games

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

The fall out from the StarCaps case is officially complete.

Already, we had told you about Vikings defensive end Kevin Williams and the likelihood of his original four-game suspension being reduced to two games, and today comes word, via Rapid Reporter Larry Holder, that Saints defensive end Will Smith will face the same two-game suspension.*

*The New Orleans Times Picayune reports that Smith still will miss four game checks. So will Williams, by the way.

The suspensions for Smith and Williams begin Saturday, Sept. 3 and end Sept. 19. The four game checks will cost Smith $1.5 million.

Charles Grant and Pat Williams, both of whom are free agents, also have been suspended.

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Posted on: August 23, 2011 7:20 pm
 

New drug punishment system could help Williams

K. Williams could be facing a two-game suspension rather than a four-game suspension (US Presswire).Posted by Josh Katzowitz

It looks like the fallout from the StarCaps case* finally will end, and it might have given way to a completely new way to punish those who test positive for drugs.

The St. Paul Pioneer Press is reporting that Kevin Williams will have his original four-game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy reduced to two games, because, in this new (still hypothetical) system of punishment, the NFL could suspend those players either for two games or for six games.

*Which gave reporters a tiny intro into legal reporting before the lockout hit and made us all reach for our law review books.

In April, a Minnesota court ruled that the NFL could proceed with the suspension of Williams (and former Vikings defensive tackle Pat Williams and Saints defensive end Will Smith), who had tested positive for a banned diuretic that was not listed in the ingredients of the StarCaps weight loss supplement he had been taking.

Which, at this point, should be OK with Williams.

In May, he claimed he was at peace with the court’s decision, saying, “With all this (lockout stuff) going on, maybe (the NFL will) forget about it and we can go on with our regular work. If it happens, it happens. I found a great place to work out in Little Rock. I'll be there getting ready and see you in Week 5, if that's the case."

Funny thing, the NFL didn’t forget it, but it sounds like the league is willing to go a little lighter on his suspension as well.

The reason for that, writes the Pioneer Press, is because, while the NFL and NFLPA meet to figure out if the union will accept HGH testing, the two sides would implement that new punishment system for positive drug tests -- two-game suspensions for diuretics and six games for steroids.

Since Williams fits into the former category, he automatically would go from four to two.

-In other Kevin Williams news, the Pioneer Press writes that he has plantar fasciitis and will miss the final two preseason games.

"Everything's good, though," Williams said. "Just trying to take some precautions, find out exactly what's going on. I'll be ready for the season. It's nothing bad."

Asked if he’d be ready to play in the season-opener against the Chargers, he said, “I’ll be there.”

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Posted on: May 23, 2011 5:10 pm
Edited on: May 23, 2011 6:53 pm
 

Kevin Williams at peace with likely suspension

Posted by Andy Benoit

A few weeks ago, the NFL quietly won thK. Williams (US Presswire)e never-ending court battle against Pat and Kevin Williams in the StarCaps case. (That ruling in the Minnesota Supreme Court flew under the radar because it came at the same time that a different Minnesota court was ruling on a much bigger and no-longer-fun-to-talk-about case involving the NFL.)

With the court ruling in favor of the league, expect the four-game suspensions of the Williams Wall and Saints defensive end Will Smith to be upheld. Kevin Williams told Jeremy Fowler of the Pioneer Press that he is ready to accept the suspension and, after three years of fighting, is finally at peace with the whole thing. He’s also optimistic that the NFL might, you know, just sort of forget about the whole thing. (Don’t count on it.)

"With all this (lockout stuff) going on, maybe (the NFL will) forget about it and we can go on with our regular work," he said. "If it happens, it happens. I found a great place to work out in Little Rock. I'll be there getting ready and see you in Week 5, if that's the case."

Whether Williams will be lining up next to Pat Williams come Week 5 remains to be seen. The 39-year-old veteran free agent recently said it’s 50-50 on whether he’ll return to Minnesota. He’s not happy with everyone in the organization.

"It's just guys up in the office, man," he said. "You know how the front office is. I don't have a problem with Coach Frazier. Me and Coach Frazier talked. We talked a lot of times. It's just people up in the office, man. With a lockout going on now, it's all the same. Business."

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Posted on: May 19, 2011 9:59 pm
 

Ray Edwards ready to start new career

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Vikings DE Ray Edwards will start a new career Friday. A career where he’s going to get hit in the face quite a bit.

As we’ve written about before, Edwards will face former kickboxer T.J. Gibson in a pro boxing match. It will mark Edwards’ pro debut – and he reportedly will be getting a $5,000 payday and half the gate receipts for the card at Grand Casino Hinckley in Minnesota.

And he continues to claim that if he doesn’t get more money from the Vikings – or more likely, a trade to somebody who WILL pay him more money – he’ll simply continue merrily along on his boxing career.

NFLers freelancing as boxers
"I've openly said I won't play for the Vikings, because of the simple fact of my backup is getting paid 70 more percent than I am -- there's no way I can do that to myself,” Edwards told 1500 ESPN. “I'd rather do what I love doing. I love doing football as well. But if there's nobody that's going to trade for me, I will be definitely focusing on boxing."

He also talked about Brian Robison, his backup who signed a three-year, $14.1 million contract (as opposed to Edwards $2.836 million tender), and DE Jared Allen – who is in the middle of a six-year, $73.26 million deal.

"I was happy for (Robison)," Edwards said. "He's definitely a great guy. I love the guy off the field, love him on the field. Great teammate. I wished him all the best, because we both were up for contracts. So, I told him that more than likely they're going to keep you because of the numbers situation.

"They're paying Jared. You've got Kevin (Williams), who's almost due for a contract and he's been there forever and he's a six-time Pro Bowler, I believe. I don't know if they're going to try to keep Pat (Williams) or not. It's just a numbers game.”

So, boxing it is – for now, at least.

But let’s be honest. How long will it take Edwards to earn $2 million a year by boxing? Most likely, never.

Perhaps he should just stick to football. Because he gets to, you know, wear a helmet.

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Posted on: April 28, 2011 4:01 pm
 

NFL wins in StarCaps case

Posted by Andy Benoit

A court in Minnesota ruled in favor of the NFL on Wednesday. Too bad it wasn’t for the case the owners care most about.

Remember the StarCaps case? Well, league spokesman Greg Aiello announced Thursday on Pro Football Talk Live that the “the Minnesota Supreme Court has just issued this morning an order denying a review of the appeals court decision that went in favor of the league. The result is the case is over and we, the NFL, prevailed in the case.”

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Thus, Vikings defensive tackles Pat Williams (a free agent) and Kevin Williams, as well as Saints defensive end Will Smith, will have to finally serve that four-game suspension they’ve been fighting since 2008.

The whole incident came about after several players tested positive in ’08 for bumetanide, a banned diuretic that was in the StarCaps weight loss supplement but not listed as an ingredient. The players said they shouldn’t be suspended for unknowingly taking the substance. The NFL essentially said rules are rules, and the rules state that the player is solely responsible for what goes into his body. The Minnesota Supreme Court said the NFL was right.

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Posted on: April 10, 2011 4:42 pm
Edited on: April 10, 2011 4:43 pm
 

Offseason Checkup: Minnesota Vikings

Posted by Andy Benoit



Eye on Football's playing doctor for every NFL team with our Offseason Check-ups .



The Vikings’ perils couldn’t have been any worse for Minnesotans and any better for bloggers. Brett Favre drama took on a whole new tenor. Added to the cacophony of “Will he play?” questions was “Do you think it was him?” speculation.

Favre’s acrimonious relationship with Brad Childress did not improve, either, which was part of the reason the head coach was unable to survive through November.

Things didn’t pick up once Childress was fired. Symbolically, and fortunately for Zygi Wilf and his cadre of business cohorts seeking a new stadium, also literally, the Metrodome roof collapsed, leaving this team homeless for the holidays. The novelty of relocated Monday night games distracted from the fact that the Vikings finished the season in the same way they started it: with a thud.



Fullbacks

There is no reason to keep Naufahu Tahi on the roster. Even if the 29-year-old fullback had played well in 2010 (and he did not), his presence would be a hindrance. Adrian Peterson is a violent, decisive runner who does not have good patience when it comes to setting up his blocks. Peterson’s natural tendency is to get the ball and explode.

When there is a fullback in front of him, he’s forced to slow down and wait for the play to develop. Tahi, like most fullbacks, can’t hit the hole as quickly as Peterson can, even when he’s starting out two yards closer to the hole.

Peterson is better in an empty backfield. And, with a plethora of tight ends already on the roster, including blocking specialists Jeff Dugan and Jim Kleinsasser, the Vikings are better running out of dual tight end formations anyway. Save a roster spot; dump the fullback.




1. Quarterback
Favre is really gone this time (*) and, with Childress gone, the front office has realized it is finally free to admit that Tarvaris Jackson is not the answer.

2. Offensive Tackle
The Vikings won’t draft someone at this position because that’d be admitting it was a mistake to sign Bryant McKinnie to a long-term deal and invest a second-round draft pick in Phil Loadholt. The reality is, the 6’8” 350-pound McKinnie’s heart is the size of a dwarf’s. The 6’8”, 335-pound Loadholt is still developing but is yet to show any signs of ferocity.

3. Cornerback
Antoine Winfield is creeping up in age but can still play, especially if asked to man the slot. Problem is, Minnesota doesn’t have any stability outside. Cedric Griffin tore both ACL’s at different times in 2010. Asher Allen has become every quarterback’s favorite opponent. Last year’s second-round pick, Chris Cook, has character concerns and just six games to his name, thanks to injuries as a rookie.




This team’s window of opportunity has closed. The Vikings knew this was coming – why do you think they were so desperate in their pursuit of Favre last summer? Now they must develop a new green quarterback behind an offensive line that is much, much worse than people realize (Favre’s quick decision making masked many pass protection deficiencies last season).

The defense, which already needs help in the secondary given that the pass-rush has tailed off, will take a step back if nose tackle Pat Williams does not return (he’s an unrestricted free agent).

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Posted on: March 24, 2011 12:08 am
 

Leslie Frazier wants Pat Williams back

Posted by Andy Benoit
P. Williams
By most accounts (including the subject’s own), Pat Williams is not expected to return to Minnesota in 2011. The mammoth nose tackle is 38, not under contract and dismayed by some in the Vikings organization.

But if head coach Leslie Frazier has his way, Williams will still be wearing purple next season.

"We had a good talk," Frazier told reporters at the NFL owners meetings, according to ESPN. "I think we're on the same page with some things. Love Pat. Been great for me. Especially when I was in the [defensive] coordinator role. Been great for our locker room. You guys know Pat as well as I do. Love Pat."

Williams’ return could be in a reduced role. Last season, if there was even a hint of chance that the offense would run the ball, Williams remained on the field.

"We'll have to see where things go," Frazier said. "He has some things he wants to achieve. We have some ideas about the direction we want to go as well. He knows what those directions are, and we'll have to see how it all plays out."

Williams is old but still valuable, if not vital, to Minnesota’s run defense. His size and power alone command double teams, and he’s still capable of penetrating and sliding laterally down the line of scrimmage.

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