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Tag:William Gay
Posted on: March 1, 2012 8:12 pm
Edited on: March 2, 2012 10:21 am
 

2012 NFL Free Agency: Cornerback rankings

Follow all our 2012 free-agent rankings here (Getty Images)

By Ryan Wilson

Leading up to the start of free agency on March 13, we're compiling the best 2012 NFL free agents by position. These are the cornerbacks.

The NFL is a passing league, which puts a premium on quarterbacks and wide receivers on offense, and pass rushers and cornerbacks on defense. Incidentally, these positions are among the league's highest paid, too. Go figure.

1. Cortland Finnegan

Breakdown: The former seventh-round pick out of Samford has turned a draft-day oversight into a career fueled by motivation. Finnegan's on-field skills are sometimes overlooked by his trash-talking and knack for playing just past the whistle. But there's no disputing his ability. And if the Titans don't re-sign him (the two sides were reportedly far apart on a deal earlier this week), expect a CB-needy team to pony up. Like, say, the Cowboys.

Possible landing spots: Cowboys, Titans, Texans (for the sheer Andre Johnson/Kevin Walter awkwardness)

2. Brent Grimes

UPDATE: The Falcons franchised Grimes Friday

Breakdown:
Another small-school player who has emerged as one of the NFL's best cornerbacks. The Falcons are working to re-sign Grimes (worst case: they'll franchise him), who played opposite Dunta Robinson in recent seasons. ProFootballFocus ranks Grimes as their No. 1 free-agent CB, noting that he allowed just 258 total receiving yards in 2011.

Possible landing spots: Falcons

3. Carlos Rogers

Breakdown: Perhaps it's coincidence that Rogers' breakout performance came a year after he left the Redskins, the team that drafted him in the first round back in 2005. In Washington, he was considered a bust, a cornerback who got beat too often and dropped too many should-be interceptions. In San Francisco, he looked like the player the Skins envisioned they were getting on draft day. Rogers recorded six interceptions (he had eight in six previous seasons) and 18 passes defended in 2011, and said recently that he hopes to get a deal down with the 49ers before free agency. If not, he's a candidate for the franchise tag, assuming that honor doesn't go to safety Dashon Goldson

Possible landing spots: 49ers, Cowboys

4. Brandon Carr

Breakdown: Carr was taken in the fifth round of the 2008 draft as a Cover-2 cornerback. In three years, he's emerged as one of the Chiefs' best defenders and if he doesn't return to K.C. (the organization hopes to keep him), the Cowboys have grand plans of bringing him to Dallas (yes, just like Finnegan). Kansas City signed Stanford Routt in February but GM Scott Pioli said during a recent radio interview that "The signing of Stanford Routt does not impact where we’re at with Brandon Carr. As a matter of fact, Romeo and I both reached out to Brandon yesterday as this was unfolding and talked to him."

Possible landing spots: Chiefs, Cowboys

5. Lardarius Webb

                                                                            (Getty Images)
Breakdown: After a solid rookie campaign in 2009, Webb regressed in Year 2 only to have his best NFL season in 2011. The Ravens appear set to tender him as a restricted free agent and have him play opposite 2011 first-rounder Jimmy Williams. According to PFF, he didn't allow a single touchdown last season. Webb is also a capable return man.

Possible landing spots: Ravens

6. Terrell Thomas

Breakdown: Thomas suffered a season-ending injury during the preseason but the Giants could choose to re-sign him and let former first-rounder Aaron Ross walk. Thomas' 2010 season can kindly be described as disastrous, but he played well in 2009and at 27, he has plenty of upside. CBSSports.com's Pat Kirwan tweeted Thursday that the Giants and Thomas are closing in on a deal.

Possible landing spots: Giants

7. Tracy Porter

Breakdown: Porter is best known as "that guy who was on the receiving end of the Peyton Manning Super Bowl gift," but he hasn't lived up to expectations as a former second-round pick. That's not to say he's been a disappointment just that he hasn't been a breakout player. In his top-50 free-agent rankings, CBSSports.com's Pete Prisco offers an apt description: "He is a good, solid starting corner, and those guys get paid. The Saints probably won't be able to keep him. He turns 26 in August."

Possible landing spots: Lions

8. Aaron Ross

Breakdown: Ross, like former teammate Thomas, has been plagued by injuries. He's also one of the six Giants cornerbacks set to hit free agency. But unlike Thomas, the former first-rounder may have played his last down in New York. As the New York Daily News noted earlier this week, "(Thomas) was the starter over Ross before he tore his ACL in August. The Giants had even expressed an interest in extending his contract last summer before he got hurt." Still, like we said at the outset: this is a passing league, which means that even mediocre cornerbacks won't have trouble finding work. If Ross can stay healthy, he'll have a job.

Possible landing spots: Lions, Cowboys

9. Tim Jennings

                                                                            (Getty Images)
Breakdown: At first glance, Jennings is undersized and outmatched. That explains why the Colts parted ways with him in 2009, four years after they drafted him in the second round. It's with some irony then that Jennings' performed well in the Bears' defense. As PFF points out, Jennings is primarily a Cover-2 cornerback, a potential limitation given that teams are moving away from that scheme. Even though he was benched last year, Jennings didn't allow a touchdown. While he's not a starter, he provides quality depth in the right system.

Possible landing spots: Cover-2 teams looking for a nickel or dime back

10. William Gay

Breakdown: Gay, like most names at the bottom of this list, isn't an NFL starter. The Steelers tried that in 2010 with disastrous results. But Gay is a pretty good nickel back who can serve as a spot starter. Given that Pittsburgh has invested five years into him learning Dick LeBeau's scheme, they might try to bring him back. If not, he won't have any issues landing with another team.

Possible landing spots: Steelers, Lions

Honorable Mention

Richard Marshall, Eric Wright, Rashean Mathis, Ronde Barber, Marcus Trufant, Phillip Buchanon, Jason Allen, Kelly Jennings, Adam Jones, Antwaun Molden, Cary Williams (RFA), Jacob Lacey (RFA), Keenan Lewis (RFA)

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Posted on: January 6, 2012 9:32 am
 

Film Room: Broncos vs. Steelers wild-card preview

Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit


It hardly seems fair that a 12-win team has to go on the road to face an eight-win team, but the NFL’s playoff seeding system is designed to reward division champions. That includes the rare division champion that enters the postseason on a three-game losing streak.

Here’s a breakdown of what many expect to be a massacre.


1. Broncos offense has no prayer
We covered everything there is to know about the Broncos’ offense last week in preparation for their Week 17 bout with the Chiefs. Nothing has changed. It’s clear that press-man coverage can overwhelm Denver’s passing attack, as the receivers don’t have the quickness to separate and Tim Tebow doesn’t have the mechanics, timing or confidence to fit balls into tight windows.

It’s rare to see the zone-based Steelers play press-man coverage, though they did so with great success against the Patriots in Week 8. Usually, shutdown corner Ike Taylor (yes, SHUTDOWN corner) plays press coverage against the opposing team’s top wideout (in this case, Demaryius Thomas), while William Gay, Keenan Lewis and/or Bryant McFadden play a variation of zone on the other side.

If Dick LeBeau wants to bait Tebow into interceptions, the Steelers may still stick with their traditional approach:

This shot from Super Bowl XLV illustrates the Steelers’ traditional approach to coverage: Ike Taylor playing press-man against the opposing team’s top receiver (Greg Jennings) on one side, with the rest of the secondary playing zone on the other (you can tell it’s zone by how cornerback Bryant McFadden is lined up off the line and with his body open slightly towards the inside).

The Broncos don’t have a threatening tight end, so Tebow would be throwing into heavy zones against athletic corners. If LeBeau wants to pressure Tebow with James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley and bait him into the usual slew of incompletions, he can play man-to-man. Whatever LeBeau chooses will work; we’re talking about the league’s top-ranked pass defense against the league’s most inept passing quarterback.

Lately, Denver’s read-option run game has still produced yardage, though only because of the high volume of carries. If the Broncos couldn’t muster more than three points by running against Kansas City’s 3-4, they can’t be expected to muster ANY points running against Pittsburgh’s.

A key to Denver’s run game is getting offensive linemen clean to inside linebackers. No three-man defensive line does a better job at protecting its inside linebackers than Pittsburgh’s. That’s why Lawrence Timmons and James Farrior are able to play with their ears pinned back.

2. A roll of the dice
Because it feels a little too simplistic to declare the Broncos’ chances at moving the ball to be zero (even if they are), we’ll use this section to present creative ideas for how the Broncos might – MIGHT – manage to muster a semblance of offense on Sunday.

The first idea is to just throw deep and hope luck tilts your way (a cornerback falls down, a ref calls pass interference, two Steelers collide while going after the same easy interception, etc.). Don’t count on Denver doing this, though. It goes against everything John Fox has stood for since turning to Tebow, and it also requires that, you know, Tebow actually throw downfield accurately.

Another idea is to draw up trick plays. Lots of trick plays. Problem is, a defense as experienced and disciplined as Pittsburgh’s is not going to bite. You might make chance-taker Troy Polamalu pay for a gamble once or twice, but more likely he’ll make YOU pay even more for YOUR gamble.

A third (and stronger) idea is to run the ball outside. In the past, outside running was guaranteed to fail against the Steelers. This season, however, Timmons and Farrior have not been as sharp in lateral run defense. That’s why Pittsburgh has struggled a bit against zone teams. The Broncos no longer have a zone run game (it left shortly after Shanahan departed), but it might not be crazy to hastily install one given that their usual approach will not work anyway.

Denver’s lack of running back speed is an issue here, but again: their usual approach will not work anyway!

3. Pittsburgh’s passing attack
As lopsided as this matchup seems, the final score could be tight given that Pittsburgh’s offense might have trouble against John Fox’s and Dennis Allen’s defense. Don’t be surprised if the Steelers come out throwing in an effort to build a quick lead that forces the Broncos to go to the air early.
 
Against the Browns last week, offensive coordinator Bruce Arians chose to spread the field with 3 x 2 empty backfield sets on passing downs. This may have been to get the ball out quickly so that Ben Roethlisberger would not have to make plays on his bum ankle. Though Roethlisberger has gotten much better in his presnap reads and sudden decision making, his natural inclination is still to extend the play. Thus, Big Ben still held the ball plenty long last week.

He won’t be able to do that this week, though – not under the same gameplan, anyway. Offensive tackles Max Starks and Marcus Gilbert may have been be able to handle Browns defensive ends Jayme Mitchell and Jabaal Sheard on an island (Sheard just barely, actually), but they won’t have a snowball’s chance against Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller.

If Roethlisberger is to buy time for his receivers downfield, his offensive tackles will need running backs and tight ends to chip-block, if not stay in completely and double-team. Something else to keep in mind: Miller, D.J. Williams and Brian Dawkins all excel as inside blitzers. Blitz pickup is an area in which the Steelers interior line, particularly left guard Chris Kemoeatu, struggles.

Brown's emerged as one of Pittsburgh's best receiving options. (Getty Images)

4. The passing matchups
Even though protection could be a problem, it’s possible the Steelers will still spread the field and let Roethlisberger run around and make plays. We’ve seen them before give up piles of sacks this way but make up for it with big plays.

The Broncos have a good secondary now that undrafted rookie Chris Harris has blossomed at nickel corner, but they’re thin and inexperienced at safety and vulnerable with Jonathan Wilhite at dime corner.

If the Broncos decide to eliminate Antonio Brown (Pittsburgh’s new No. 1 receiver) with Champ Bailey, there will be big-play opportunities for Mike Wallace against the limited-ranged safeties. If Bailey defends Wallace, Andre Goodman can spar with Brown but probably not for as long as Roethlisberger can extend the play. Chris Harris will be tested by Emmanuel Sanders’ speed, and Wilhite will have fits trying to defend Jerricho Cotchery underneath.

As much as the Broncos might like their secondary, they can’t expect it to be the league’s first unit that sustains coverage against the Steelers’ prolonged improvisational plays. Thus, when the Broncos do blitz, don’t be surprised if they bring the kitchen sink to ensure that Roethlisberger goes down or throws hot.

5. Steelers run game
Rashard Mendenhall will be missed, but the Steelers can tread water with Isaac Redman. The third-year running back doesn’t have Mendenhall’s corner-turning speed and acceleration, but in confined areas he shows looser hips than you’d guess. Where Pittsburgh’s backfield woes will really show up is in the pass game. Mewelde Moore’s absence (foot injury) leaves them without a prominent openfield dumpoff receiver.

But this is a relatively minor issue. The primary job of the Steelers’ backfield is to pound the rock when called upon, which Redman and straight-line back John Clay are capable of doing. Also, Pittsburgh’s offensive line, especially with the superb pull-blocking skills of Kemoeatu, is capable of moving the pile down the stretch.

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: December 9, 2011 12:17 am
Edited on: December 9, 2011 12:19 am
 

Injury not enough to stop Roethlisberger in win

A high-ankle sprain wasn't enough to keep Roethlisberger from playing the 2nd half against Cleveland. (Getty Images)

By Ryan Wilson

For the fourth time in five seasons, head coach Mike Tomlin has the Steelers at 9-3. On Thursday night, however, it required something more than your typical Ben Roethlisberger performance. On most nights, that means holding the ball too long in the pocket, fighting off would-be tacklers, taking more hits than anybody should be able to take, and making plays. On most nights, he comes out the other side bruised but no worse for wear.

Against the Browns, it was a different story, one that takes Big Ben, football player, from cult hero to legend in the span of the halftime intermission. With 6:02 to go in the second quarter with the Steelers leading, 7-3, two Cleveland defender made a Roethlisberger sandwich, and he turned his ankle badly in the process.

Big Ben, in obvious pain and unable to put weight on his left leg, needed two Steelers' assistants to help him to the tunnel, where he took a cart to the locker room. Charlie Batch, who has started for Roethlisberger six times since 2004, played two series before the half.

Roethlisberger-ankle_medium

And then, minutes after NFL Network's Alex Flanagan reported that the Steelers had "positive" news about Roethlisberger's ankle injury, Big Ben, with his ankle heavily taped, limped out onto the field to begin the second half and didn't miss another snap.

Pittsburgh leaned heavily on Rashard Mendenhall to start the second half and he averaged 5.5 yards per carry. But the Steelers are a passing team, even with a one-legged quarterback. So that's what they did … even with a one-legged quarterback.

By the time it was over, Roethlisberger was 16 of 21 for 280 yards and two touchdowns, the last a 79-yarder to Antonio Brown with 2:52 remaining to put the game away for good.

For the Browns, it was more of the same: an offense unable to score points, protect the quarterback or avoid dropped passes in critical situations. Colt McCoy ended the game 18 of 35 for 209 yards but threw two interceptions, the back-breaker coming two plays before Roethlisberger-to-Brown broke the game wide open. A pass into the end zone intended for Mohamed Massaquoi was intercepted by William Gay.

A touchdown there would have given Cleveland a 10-7 lead with three minutes on the clock. Instead, Pittsburgh got the ball at the 20, still leading 7-3, and in the time it took cornerback Joe Haden to fall down, Brown hauled in a Big Ben pass and streaked 79 yards down the sideline.

After the game, Tomlin said Roethlisberger has a high-ankle sprain, but unlike just about anybody else on the planet, it wasn't enough to keep him on the sidelines.

"The doctor said he was okay to go, he wanted to go," said Tomlin. "I'll always give him an opportunity to show what he's capable of. We know what kind of competitor he is, we know his pain tolerance, we know what he's capable of."

Brown, quickly becoming one of Big Ben's favorite targets, called Roethlisberger's return to start the second half "rejuvenating."

"The guy exemplifies toughness … we needed him out there and it was exciting to have him back," he continued. "He persevered through the situation and made the plays we needed to win the game."

The Steelers now have 10 days off to prepare for a Monday-night matchup against the 49ers, and if Thursday night was any indication, Big Ben will be on the field in San Francisco.

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Posted on: February 6, 2011 10:51 pm
Edited on: February 6, 2011 11:30 pm
 

Five keys from Super Bowl XLV

Posted by Andy Benoit

1. Rodgers making the most of his time

We speculated before the game that Dick LeBeau would elect to drop back and play coverage against Aaron Rodgers. After all, when the Steelers blitzed Rodgers in the 2009 regular season matchup, they got tA. Rodgers (US Presswire)orched for 36 points.

Well, that speculation was prescient. Just as he did in the Super Bowl two years ago, LeBeau often kept safety Troy Polamalu in deep coverage. LeBeau’s bet was that outside linebackers James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley could abuse Green Bay’s edge pass-blockers. But with the exception of one James Harrison sack, that was not the case. Give a world of credit to Chad Clifton and Bryan Bulaga.

Polamalu played closer to the line of scrimmage in the second (including as a slot corner), but that did not disrupt Rodgers’ rhythm. As has been the case all postseason, Rodgers was terrific in his presnap diagnostics. And with solid protection, he was able to buy time in the pocket and work through his progressions. His poise allowed him to finish 24 of 39 (with six drops, no less) for 304 yards and three touchdowns.

2. Effective running

The Packers did not make the run a staple of their offensive gameplan (again, no surprise – they were facing the third best run defense in NFL history), but they made the absolute most of the rushing attempts they did have. James Starks finished with 52 yards, 37 of them coming in the first half. He had crucial gains of 8 yards, 7 yards, 12 yards and, most notably, in the fourth quarter, 14 yards.
 
The common thread on all these plays was that Green Bay attacked running. The Packers knew they didn’t have the oxen to move nose tackle Casey Hampton, so they attacked the edges. Brilliantly, they used slow developing runs to do this. This caused the aggressiveness of the outside linebackers to work against the Steelers. It probably wouldn’t have worked if Polamalu had lined up in the box.

3. The mismatch

For the past two years, the weak link of the Steelers’ secondary has been cornerback William Gay. The Packers sought out Gay early and often Sunday. Jordy Nelson beat him on a fade route on the opening touchdown (this would be a harbinger for the rest of the game, as Nelson finished with nine catches for 140 yards and was targeted 15 times). When Gay lined up inside, the Packers were able to exploit him with crossing patterns.

To be fair, Gay was not the only Steelers defensive back who struggled. Troy Polamalu took a few bad angles in coverage (including in the red zone) and Ike Taylor gave up a crucial 31-yard completion on third-and-10 to Greg Jennings in the fourth quarter.

4. Packers front seven (or eight) stepped up

The Packers were without athletic outside linebacker Erik Walden (high ankle sprain) this game. But replacement Frank Zombo stepped up big. He took on blocks extremely well and – for the most part – held the edge against the run. He also sacked Ben Roethlisberger in the third quarter.

A bigger injury was the loss of roving defensive back Charles Woodson. His absence was felt when Pittsburgh came out and completed crossing patterns passes and moved the chains on off-tackle runs early in the third quarter. Dom Capers was tempted to get conservative and utilize more traditional 3-4 fronts, but ultimately he tapped Jarrett Bush to play the joker role and stuck with the 2-4-5 that, all season long, has brought Green Bay magnificent success. Bush responded well (the design of the scheme gave him a clear pass-rushing lane or two) and the Packers defense avoided sliding down the sliJ. Bush (US Presswire)ppery slope they had found themselves on.

5. Pass-rush forced turnovers

Roethlisberger’s two first half interceptions that led to 14 Packers points were the product of bad decisions by the quarterback. But those bad decisions were the product of pass-rush pressure. Massive defensive lineman Howard Green ran into Roethlisberger on the first interception (the Nick Collins pick six). On the second pick, Roethlisberger felt his pocket collapsing and, uncharacteristically, floated the ball around A.J. Hawk and into double coverage.

Clay Matthews did not have a dominant game, but he got inside the Steelers’ heads somewhat by delaying his blitzes. Capers had Matthews line up as a quasi-inside linebacker early on. It looked like Matthews was spying Roethlisberger, but you don’t spy a non-Michael Vick quarterback with your superstar pass-rusher. Really what Matthews was doing was waiting for the Steelers offensive line to commit itself to a pass protection maneuver, then attacking. It was a shrewd concept given that the Steelers have struggled with pass protection communication at times this season, and given that they were without center Maurkice Pouncey.

Pass-rush pressure is about more than sacks. Green Bay’s front seven attacks disrupted the Steelers in subtle but costly ways.

[More Super Bowl coverage]

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Posted on: February 2, 2011 1:11 am
Edited on: February 6, 2011 2:53 am
 

Pittsburgh Steelers defensive roster breakdown

Posted by Will Brinson & Andy Benoit

Perhaps the most fascinating thing if you look (at a glance anyway) at Pittsburgh and Green Bay is that they've built their teams "properly." (AKA "the opposite of Dan Snyder.) They draft smart, and they sign smarter. At least that's what we're lead to believe, right?

Andy and I set out to check the roster breakdown for both teams. En route, we* managed to figure out not only where they're coming from, but what they'll do for their respective teams in the Super Bowl.

Name POS Acquired Scouting Report
Ziggy Hood
DE 
Drafted 32nd overall, 1st Round 2009 
First-round pick in ’09 has not shown drastic progress with playing time. Plays too tall to generate anchoring power; must get more physical in traffic.
Casey Hampton
NT
Drafted 19th overall, 1st Round 2001
The key to Pittsburgh’s vaunted run defense. A “325-pounder” who simply can’t be dislodged. Nimble lateral agility and surprising initial quickness give him playmaking prowess, too.
Brett Keisel
DE
Drafted 242nd overall, 7th round 2002
Long-deserved Pro Bowl honors were finally recognized this season. Far and away the most athletic 3-4 defensive end in football.
Aaron Smith
DL
Drafted 109th, 5th Round 1999
Venerated 12-year veteran hopes to play for the first time since tearing his triceps in October. If he can’t go, the forceful but somewhat sluggish Nick Eaton will continue to see action.
LaMarr Woodley
LOLB
Drafted 46th overall, 2nd Round 2007
His first and second steps are as effective as all but maybe six or seven pass-rushers in the NFL. Exerts tremendous strength whether he’s making a tackle or shedding a block.
James Farrior
LILB
8th overall, 1st Round 1997 NYJ; FA 2002
A 36-year-old whose downhill quickness suggests he’s 26. Instincts against the run are superb.
Lawrence Timmons
RILB
Drafted 15th overall, 1st Round 2007
Whoever's the 2nd most athletic ILB in football is barely a speck in this man’s rearview mirror. Instincts have improved precipitously. In short, he’s already a superstar (and maybe Pittsburgh’s best player on D).
James Harrison
ROLB
UDFA 2002 PIT; FA PIT 2004 Known for four or five illegal hits, but the thousands of legal ones he’s delivered have been just as punishing.
Larry Foote
5 LB
Drafted 128th overall, 4th Round PIT; FA, 2010
This defense does not skip a beat when he gives Farrior a breather. Is fantastic at blowing up the opponents’ lead-blocker.
Ike Taylor
CB
Drafted 125th overall, 4th Round 2003
Lanky cover artist who can operate in man or zone. If not for so many dropped interceptions over the years, he’d be regarded by many as a top 10 corner.
Troy Polamalu
SS
Drafted 16th overall, 1st round 2003
Llike the Steelers have a 12 on 11 advantage when he’s out there. The difference between him and other star defenders? 2 things: his calves (which give him NBA-caliber vertical leap and incredible closing explosiveness) and unwavering trust in his instincts.
Ryan Clark
FS UDFA, 2002, WAS; FA 2006
Hard-hitting, intelligent veteran leader who has decent range in coverage.
Bryant McFadden
CB
Drafted 62nd overall, 2nd Round 2005
If this defense has a weak spot, he’d be it. And that’s NOT to say he isn’t solid.
William Gay
NB
Drafted 170th overall, 5th round, 2007
OK when he can be a playmaker, but struggles when he has to be a play-stopper.
Ryan Mundy
SS Drafted 194th overall, 6th Round, 2008
Still learning. Didn’t make the costly mistakes this season that hounded him in ’09.

*Scouting smarts credited to Benoit. HTML and research credited to Brinson.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com