Tag:Sean Weatherspoon
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: July 6, 2011 4:44 pm
 

Hot Routes 7.6.11: MJD losing carries already?

Posted by Will Brinson



Got a link for the Hot Routes? Hit us up on Twitter (@CBSSportsNFL).
  • Albert Breer of the NFL Network is sitting on the side of the street in New York (like, literally) waiting on lockout-related news. Here's his latest update.
  • SB Nation Atlanta reports that Sean Weatherspoon is going above and beyond what he needs to do during the lockout, getting together with Missouri teammates to workout. I have an unholy amount of love for 'Spoon and I'm hoping it doesn't manifest itself in an ill-advised DPOY pick this preseason.
Posted on: November 20, 2010 9:18 pm
 

Week 11 injury report analysis Part IV

Posted by Andy Benoit

Cardinals @ Chiefs

Three running backs are questionable for the Cardinals: Beanie Wells (knee), Jason Wright (head) and LaRod Stephens-Howling (hamstring). Defensive backs Greg Toler (foot) and Kerry Rhodes (hand) are also questionable. If they don’t play, then Matt Cassel will just have to find someone else to pick on through the air.

Cassel won’t have TE Tony Moeaki to rely on; the upstart rookie is out after suffering a concussion against Denver. LG Brian Waters also left the Broncos game (groin); his status for Sunday is up in the air. Same goes for RG Ryan Lilja (foot) Starting safety Jon McGraw (knee) remains out, and his backup, Donald Washington (who was a whipping boy last week) is questionable with a calf injury.

Falcons @ Rams

Rookie OLB Sean Weatherspoon (knee) finally had a full week of practice. He’s questionable after missing the past four games. Pass-rushing demon John Abraham, who is playing at a Pro Bowl level this season, is also questionable with a groin. This is not a primetime game, though, so maybe it doesn’t matter if Abraham plays or not. If he does play, he’ll go up against Rams rookie LT Roger Saffold, who practiced all week despite a sore ankle.

Rams wideout Danario Alexander will probably wait one more week to return from his knee injury, though he’s at least listed as questionable.

Buccaneers @ 49ers

The only Buc expected to be out of the lineup is DE Kyle Moore (shoulder). DT Ryan Sims may join him, but neither is a difference-maker individually. Regardless of who plays, Tampa will have trouble with the downhill style of Frank Gore (who, by the way, is probable with a foot).

Niners LT Joe Staley (who is as average as his first name) is out with a fibula. Thus, they’ll rely on sluggish veteran Tony Wragge.

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

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: October 1, 2010 1:59 pm
Edited on: October 1, 2010 2:02 pm
 

Hot Routes 10.01.10 (cool looking date, huh?)

Hot Routes
Posted by Andy Benoit


C. Ochocinco (US Presswire)
Chad Ochocinco is sorry for the sex-line flap (even though he has nothing to apologize for since he wasn’t at fault). This is at least the second time we’ve mentioned this story about Ocho’s cereal, and it’s probably the fifth or sixth time you’ve heard about it. This begs the question…could the mistake have been a clever publicity stunt? (Think about it: would we be talking about the cereal without the sex-line controversy?)

The Redskins couldn’t practice Thursday because it was raining. Seriously.

Football wasn’t the only thing Braylon Edwards was thinking about last Sunday.

Eagles second-year running back LeSean McCoy is getting some well-deserved props for his improvements in pass-blocking. (By the way, that was three hyphens in one sentence!)

John Madden remembering George Blanda.

Our own Will Brinson continues to sit by the window, staring off blankly as he thinks about the bum ankle of his beloved Sean Weatherspoon. The Falcons linebacker missed practice again on Thursday.

Titans running back Javon Ringer wouldn’t mind getting more action behind Chris Johnson. Jeff Fisher has hinted a few times this week that the second-year man will get a heavier load. (Ringer has 13 carries on the season.)

Normally, homemade music videos don’t make it anywhere on CBSSports.com (except maybe the message boards). But this Redskins hip-hop video is an exception. (Notice the notice editing on the superhero bit about 30 seconds or so in.) Oh, also, my editor pointed out that, thanks to a quick few seconds of iffy content, we need to add a NSFW warning. Or, maybe it is suitable…depends on your view of animal behavior. We'll say nsfw (lowercase)."

Sean Payton thinks John Fox would be the top free agent available next year if the head coach doesn’t stay in Carolina.

Is this the most unforeseen NFC Offensive Player of the Month recipient of all-time?

Packers rookie linebacker Frank Zombo (what a name, by the way), was fined $7,500 for his hit Monday night on Jay Cutler. (Going by Shaun Smith’s fine…for just $2,500 more, Zombo could have nailed Cutler where it really counts.)

For some reason, Dwayne Jarrett thought now would be a good time to reveal that his agent approached the Panthers about trading the receiver during the offseason.

Ray Rice is a go for Sunday.


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

Posted on: September 9, 2010 7:45 pm
 

NFL Predictions from the F&R Crew

Posted by Will Brinson

It's prediction time, kiddos! And really, nothing's more awesome than putting yourself in charge of compiling these, creating HTML, squeezing them in just before the start of the first game and then being totally wrong a few months from now. The nice part is, you can make your own predictions below. Seriously, you can, and we're interested. So comment away. Or don't -- this post will be here all season long so you come back and remember just how right we all were.

Award Josh Andy Will
SB  Champs Colts Colts Falcons
NFC Champs Packers Saints Falcons
AFC Champs Colts Colts Chargers
NFC South
Saints Saints Falcons
NFC North Vikings
Packers Packers
NFC East Cowboys Cowboys Eagles
NFC West 49ers 49ers 49ers
AFC South
Colts Colts Colts
AFC North Bengals Ravens Bengals
AFC East Jets Patriots Patriots
AFC West Chargers Chargers Chargers
MVP Peyton Manning Aaron Rodgers Philip Rivers
Coach Jim Caldwell Mike Tomlin Norv Turner
Offensive POY Chris Johnson Aaron Rodgers Aaron Rodgers
Defensive POY Darrelle Revis Troy Polamalu Patrick Willis
Offensive Rookie Ryan Mathews Jahvid Best Ryan Mathews
Defensive Rookie Ndamukong Suh Brandon Graham Sean Weatherspoon

Posted on: August 27, 2010 11:55 pm
 

ATL hearts the 'Spoon

Posted by Will Brinson

I'm a spork man myself, but that's mainly a result of growing up on a healthy (not in the actual sense of the word) diet of dirty rice and BoBerry biscuits from Bojangles.

Still, when it comes to fave utensils in Atlanta, you'd be hard pressed to find one more popular than "the 'Spoon" right now. Or, as my lengthily drawn-out and likely shoddy analogy may have indicated, Sean Weatherspoon, the rookie linebacker who's drawing rave reviews out of Falcons camp.

The kid's already speaking like a leader, as judging from his quote following the Falcons' 16-6 win over Miami on Friday night.

“I felt as a defensive unit we went out with that attitude that we weren’t going to take anything," Weatherspoon said, "we were going to shut down the running game and we did a good job of that."

That's certainly a justified statement following the Falcons shutting down the 'Fins rushing attack -- they held Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown to 14 yards rushing on 12 carries combined, and the rest of the four Dolphins' "rushers" included Pat White and Chad Pennington and they still only totaled an extra 32 yards.

Jim Corbett of USA Today paints a solid profile of the impression that Weatherspoon's made thus far in his rookie season, telling the story of a kid who, when signed, cost Mike Smith $200 for checking his cell phone during a team meeting and then quickly repaid it with a note that said "I got your back, coach."

He's also a kid who's drawn "raves" from Tony Gonzalez and Matt Ryan and endeared his teammates to the "bravado and playmaking" he pulls off on the field.

"I've never seen a rookie defensive guy come in like Spoon," Gonzalez says. "Just his whole swagger, it's going to help us a lot."

"He understands the game well beyond his years," [Thomas] DeCoud says. "We're on our way to being one of the elite defenses. We have a chip on our shoulders."

And it seems pretty clear that 'Spoon is one of the primary reasons Atlanta can, ummm, feed the fuel to the fire.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS feed.
Posted on: July 29, 2010 5:19 pm
 

Sean Weatherspoon, Falcons agree to 5-year deal

Sean Weatherspoon is the latest first-round domino to fall, agreeing a five-year deal with the Atlanta Falcons on Thursday.

Financials of the deal haven't been disclosed, but the AJC 's D. Orlando Ledbetter says a "big push" on Thursday really helped move the negotiations to a close.

“There hasn’t really been a lot of action throughout the first and second rounds,” [HC Mike] Smith said. “But of course, the closer that you get to the reporting date, you’ll start to see more and more guys sign.”

The Falcons now have their entire draft class inked.

Worth noting as well from Ledbetter's piece: Smith and Thomas Dimitroff have done an excellent job of getting their early-rounders into camp on time, with Sam Baker in 2008 being the only first-rounder not in training camp on time ... and he was only an hour or so late.

-- Will Brinson

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter and subscribe to our  RSS Feed .
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com