Tag:Shaun Ellis
Posted on: September 21, 2011 2:16 pm
Edited on: September 22, 2011 3:23 pm
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Film Room: Bills vs. Patriots preview

Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit



We’ll find out this Sunday just how "for real" the Bills are. It’s one thing to face unfamiliar foes from the iffy AFC West. It’s another to face the perennial bully of your own division. Before we forecast the matchup, let’s use the first four points to understand what these 2-0 teams are all about.

1. Patriots passing attack
The last time New England’s juggernaut offense was hitting on this many cylinders was 2007, when the rest of the NFL had no answer for Randy Moss over the top and Wes Welker underneath. New England runs a much different offense now than in those Josh McDaniels days.

Under McDaniels the Patriots in 2008 went 11-5 with Matt Cassel filling in for the injured Tom Brady. The system still worked because of the unique combination of Moss and Welker. If the Patriots were to lose Brady in their current system, they’d plummet to the middle of the AFC East. Virtually everything New England does is predicated on Brady’s unbelievable ability to diagnose a defense and set his feet before throwing.

Most NFL passing offenses are built on the quarterback anticipating where the receiver is going. The Patriots’ offense is essentially built on Brady seeing where the receiver is going before firing. The reason for this is New England’s heavy use of option routes.

The patterns that Patriot receivers, as well as their sensational young tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez (who will miss this game with a knee injury), run often hinge on what the defense does. It’s up to the receiver to correctly assess the coverage – both presnap and on the fly – and choose his route accordingly. This is the premise of an option route.

Because of this, the Patriots don’t look for size and speed at wide receiver; they look for intelligence and precise route running. That’s why Wes Welker and Deion Branch, two classic role players, are stars here. They’re perfect for this system.

Option routes are designed to specifically exploit the weakness of a coverage. The reason other teams don’t run option routes nearly exclusively is because they take a split second longer to unfold, and other teams don’t have a quarterback who can make accurate throws a split second later in the down. Brady happens to have an unmatched ability to square his body and throw soundly with defenders around him.

It’s incredible – the guy has a quick, picturesque release, and you almost never see him throw off-balance. Even other superstars like Rodgers and Brees can’t quickly square up and fire under duress the way Brady can.


2. Buffalo’s quarterback
Since last season, the Bills have been higher on quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick than any other team in football. There are rumors that the front office is looking to quickly sign the 28-year-old Harvard alum to a long-term deal before his market value skyrockets.

But how good is Fitzpatrick, really? Most of his supporters tout his grit. Praising a quarterback’s grit is like praising a girl’s personality. Even if the praise is justified and honest, it still feels backhanded because it implies the absence of more obvious (important?) physical attributes.

While Fitzpatrick is no Chad Pennington, he doesn’t have the world’s strongest arm. He can scramble and buy time with his feet, but he’s no Aaron Rodgers. And he reads a defense OK (he was phenomenal recognizing Oakland’s blitzes last week), but he’s no Peyton Manning. Most concerning is his occasionally erratic accuracy. Every game, poor accuracy costs him a few quality completions. And because he’s such a risk-taker, there’s an increased possibility that his inaccuracy translates to interceptions.

Don’t take this as “Fitzpatrick hating”. We only harp on his negatives because, these days, so many are highlighting his positives.

3. Chan Gailey’s adjustment
Even in the shortened offseason, the Buffalo Bills managed to drastically alter their offensive playbook. Prior to the season, we heard that Chan Gailey (who runs the offense) and Curtis Modkins (who coordinates the offense) would implement more spread formations. A lot of teams talk abot spreading out and being more aggressive, but the Bills have actually done it.

This is somewhat surprising because the Bills, especially after dumping Lee Evans, don’t seem to have the receiving personnel for this. None of their wideouts other than Roscoe Parrish – who is out for the season with an ankle injury – have great speed. And all of them are young.

However, through two games, Buffalo’s spread approach has worked marvelously. Stevie Johnson’s improvement as a route runner (he gets open late in his patterns extremely well) has compensated for his middling speed and made him a veritable No. 1 target. David Nelson, who’s a lanky 6’5” and has a newfound comfort for hauling in passes, has been a matchup nightmare both inside and out.

Donald Jones offers decent quickness off the line of scrimmage, and Fred Jackson or C.J. Spiller (who, by the way, are both running with outstanding fluidity, especially on the perimeter) are capable of flanking out, which gives the Bills formation flexibility in their personnel packages.

Tip your cap to the historically power-run oriented Gailey for recognizing the direction that the NFL is going in and, at age 59, adjusting his philosophy accordingly.

4. The defenses: 4-3 or 3-4?
Both teams have run hybrid 3-4-slash-4-3 defense in recent years, not because they have versatile players or schemes but because they’ve been without a quality pass-rusher and have looked for creative (i.e. desperate) ways to manufacture pressure on the quarterback.

As it stands, neither team still has a quality rusher. Knee injuries have robbed Shawne Merriman of his burst and direction-changing ability. Merriman still has decent power, but without the movement prowess, he’s a shell of his former self. Opposite him, Chris Kelsay, though playing faster than usual this season, is not consistently dynamic. In New England, Bill Belichick is hoping elder newcomers like Shaun Ellis and Andre Carter can skim the edges on third down.

Despite feeble pass-rushing resources, both teams’ 3-4/4-3 ambiguity appears to be gone this season. Both made personnel moves that suggest a commitment to one system. The Bills spent the No. 3 overall draft pick on Marcel Dareus, a classic 3-4 end. So far, Dareus has shown intriguing power in shedding blocks, both laterally and in penetration. The Patriots traded for Albert Haynesworth, a classic one-gap tackle (just ask him) and have settled into a 4-3.

So far, Haynesworth has been a monster, but only in sub-packages. He must improve his endurance if he wants to be an everydown player like Vince Wilfork.

5. The Bills’ prayer
Do they have one this Sunday? They won’t be able to get pressure on Brady, so their best bet is to play coverage and hope for a timely turnover or two. That will be tough, though, as No. 1 corner Terrence McGee is out and his replacement, Leodis McKelvin, has struggled in man coverage.

Also, strong safety George Wilson, while stout in the box, is a slow runner with limited coverage skills. The Raiders took advantage of this with screen passes and underneath passing routes last week; the Patriots, with Gronkowski and Danny Woodhead, will have no trouble doing the same.

Thus, it’s on the Bills offense to control the tempo and shorten the game. Buffalo’s front five, coached by Joe D'Alessandris, has been phenomenal through two weeks. Center Eric Wood has the run-blocking movement skills of a Pro Bowler, while left tackle Demetrius Bell (whom yours truly has been very hard on the past few years) has shown good awareness and improved mechanics in pass protection.

A good front line is key to having a sustainable offense. But unless the Bills can work some magic on special teams, they won’t need a sustainable offense to have a chance Sunday…they’ll need a perfect one.

So who will win? Check our expert picks for all Week 1 games.


Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: April 10, 2011 9:07 am
 

Ryan: Gholston improved but others did better

Gholston Posted by Josh Katzowitz

One of the biggest – or, at least, most highly-publicized – draft busts in the past few years was Jets DE Vernon Gholston’s inability to turn his talent into anything resembling even a journeyman career in the NFL.

As ESPN.com’s Tim Graham points out, Gholston, a No. 6 pick in 2008, started only five games in his career and recorded exactly zero sacks. In fact, we wrote about it in Hot Routes last month when it was discovered he could have unlocked a $9 million escalator bonus by simply recording a sack, a fumble recovery or a forced fumble. He didn’t, of course.

All along, Jets coach Rex Ryan thought if anybody could develop Gholston, he could be the coach to do it. When talking with Graham a few weeks ago, Ryan apparently got a little defensive talking about the fact he couldn’t mold Gholston into the player Ryan wanted him to be.

To be fair, Gholston was a 4-3 DE at Ohio State but then moved to the 3-4 LB position under former Jets coach Eric Mangini before moving to the 3-4 DE spot in Ryan’s defense. So, yeah, he moved around a little bit. But still …

"I think Vernon improved," Ryan told Graham. "Last year, I thought he gained strides. Unfortunately, I never knew this when we picked up Trevor (Price) and he played well for us, but that took a little away from Vernon. We had Shaun Ellis, so it was kind of hard to get [Gholston] more reps.

"But the guy is an excellent teammate. He did what was asked and he got better.”

Graham then asked if Ryan had failed with Gholston.

"Well, then I failed as far as the numbers go," Ryan said. "But I thought he got better, though. We'll see what happens to him. He's not done playing.

"I think I've had a long list of guys I've developed in my coaching career. Some guys develop faster than others. But I'll put how I coach up against anybody in this league when it comes to defense and technique."

Gholston likely will get another chance in the league. But obviously it remains to be seen if someone other than Ryan can unlock the talent that apparently lies in Gholston’s body.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed .
Posted on: March 21, 2011 3:43 pm
Edited on: March 21, 2011 3:54 pm
 

Offseason Checkup: New York Jets

Posted by Josh Katzowitz



Eye on Football's playing doctor for every NFL team with our Offseason Check-ups. Also, check out our checkup podcast:





Rex Ryan has got to be the most entertaining coach in the NFL today, but he’s also proven he can, you know, coach pretty well, too. His quarterback, Mark Sanchez, has been fairly mediocre the past two seasons (he ranked 16th last season in passing yards, 19th in touchdowns, 27th in passer rating and 29th in completion percentage . . . but No. 1 in rumored romances with 17-year-olds!) and he was entering the season with a RB in LaDainian Tomlinson that had been left for dead by San Diego and another RB in Shonn Greene that only had 108 carries in his career.

While the offense didn’t finish in the top-10, though the running game was No. 4, the defense was, once again, spectacular. Yes, there were some disastrous games in there – ahem, the 45-3 destruction of New York by the Patriots after Ryan had talked all kinds of trash to coach Bill Belichick – but for the second-straight season, the Jets made the AFC championship game.

That’s not a terrible place to be.



Obviously, the quarterback position needs better production. Sanchez is barely passable in this position (get it?!), and he’s lucky he has such a strong run game and a defense that can make his win-loss percentage look pretty outstanding. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that the Jets could win a Super Bowl with Sanchez in charge, it just seems much more likely if he could develop into a top-10 QB.



NFL Offseason
1. Second cornerback
So, how does Nnamdi Asomugha sound in that spot? Fantastic, but pretty unlikely, I think. Antonio Cromartie possibly could return to the squad and he was more than solid for much of the year (he did have a couple awful performances, though), especially when Revis was injured. Perhaps, Kyle Wilson – the first-round pick from 2010 – will be ready to take his place after a relatively anonymous rookie year. But Revis really wants Cromartie to return, and he doesn’t seem to have great confidence in Wilson.

2. Defensive Line
A few days ago, an ESPN analyst ripped the front-three of the Jets and said the defensive success the past few years was “smoke and mirrors” and “bells and whistles.” We think that’s pretty unfair to a guy like Mike DeVito, coming off the best year of his career. But NT Sione Pouha is 32 years old, Shaun Ellis is 33 and the Jets already released Kris Jenkins and Jason Taylor. In Ryan’s defense, the nose tackle is one of the most important positions on the field, meaning he’ll have to find somebody who can compete against Pouha for the starting job and, barring that, can at least provide more depth.

3. Right Tackle
Apparently the Jets feel good enough about Vladimir Ducasse at right tackle, because they (sort of surprisingly) cut Damien Woody. It’s hard to tell how New York got to that analysis of Ducasse, who admitted that he struggled to learn the playbook last year and couldn’t win the left guard spot at the beginning of the season.



Ryan already has said the Jets will win the Super Bowl next year, and considering they’ve fallen only a game short the past two years, anything less than an appearance in Indianapolis next season will be a real disappointment. Assuming the Jets defense remains a top-five unit – and they probably should – Sanchez continues to improve and Ryan keeps his team stocked with g------ snacks, expect another deep playoff run. And, quite possibly, a Super Bowl appearance.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed
Posted on: January 24, 2011 6:25 pm
 

Taylor's career might come to a close

J. Taylor might have played the final game of his career (US Presswire). Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Jason Taylor has had a standout career, mostly as a Dolphins LB but this season as a solid member of the Jets defense. At 37, his best days are clearly behind him, though he’s still shown he has retained much of his skill set.

Now, after the Steelers ended the Jets season Sunday, Taylor – who finished with five sacks, the lowest total he’s ever recorded while playing a full 16-game season – will have to decide whether he’ll try to return for another year.

Well, it’s not necessarily a matter of him deciding.

The Jets might not want him back – as ESPN.com’s Tim Graham points out, New York will be more concerned with free agents WR Santonio Holmes, WR Braylon Edwards, WR Brad Smith, DE Shaun Ellis, LB David Harris and CB Antonio Cromartie.

"I pride myself on being a play-maker and a game-changer," Taylor told reporters in an emotional postgame presser. "While I might not be the same as I was a few years ago, I still need to do more."

Whether he’ll get that chance is questionable. And if not, he can fall back on the whole “he had a pretty outstanding career” thing. Because he did.

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Posted on: January 21, 2011 10:51 am
 

Hot Routes 1.21.11: what does Mean Gene think?



Posted by Josh Katzowitz

  • Mean Gene Okerlund weighed in on Bart Scott’s post-game rant last Sunday. Said Mean Gene: “On a scale of one to 10, I would give him an eight. A good interview has to create emotion. You can do that through love or hate, or just by entertaining people, and he does that.”
  • Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti lays down the gauntlet for new OL coach Andy Moeller: there better not be any more alcohol-related incidents, or you’ll be fired.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed .
Posted on: December 21, 2010 9:36 am
 

Shaun Ellis getting sued for snow throw

Posted by Will Brinson

Back in December 2008, something crazy happened at Quest Field in Seattle.

It snowed.

Oh, and the Seahawks beat the Jets in the snow and the Seattle fans screamed at the Jets players as they left and Shaun Ellis picked up a giant chunk of snow and lobbed it into the stands.



Seems like forever ago, right?

Well, perhaps it hasn't been that long -- one of the people who claims to have been hit by that chunk of snow, Robert Larsen, is suing Ellis, according to TMZ.

Larsen is supposedly claiming he "has suffered physical injury, humiliation, mental distress, pain and wage loss" as a result of being hit by a giant snowball after an NFL game.

"I woke up this morning, and somebody texted me," Ellis said, according to the New York Daily News. "I was like, 'OK, cool.' I guess the statute of limitations (hasn't ended). I don't know."

The lawsuit is obviously a bit auspicious, to say the least. Especially when you consider that Larsen claims he was holding a Seahawks sign which, according to the video, would make him the same dude that caught the chunk of snow and then celebrated with it in his arms, which you can see in the screenshots from the same YouTube below. How traumatic.

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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