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Tag:Dunta Robinson
Posted on: September 19, 2011 6:03 pm
Edited on: September 20, 2011 10:01 am
 

NFL fines Dunta Robinson $40K for Maclin hit

Posted by Will Brinson

On Sunday night, Falcons cornerback Dunta Robinson repeated history by smashing Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin with a helmet-to-helmet hit that reminded everyone of a similar shot he dropped on Eagles wideout DeSean Jackson in 2010.

Robinson was fined $40,000 by the NFL on Monday for violation of Rule 12, Section 2, Article 9 (a) (2) of the NFL's official playing rules (you probably know it as the "defenseless receiver rule").

"It is a foul if a player initiates unnecessary contact against a player who is in a defenseless posture," the rule reads.

He was also alerted by NFL VP of Football Operations Merton Hanks that any future violations of player safety rules would result in a suspension.

"Future offenses will result in an escalation of fines up to and including suspension," Hanks wrote to Robinson in a letter.  Roger Goodell was informed of the decision, and said "we felt this was the appropriate discipline."

The $40,000 is the minimum fine available to repeat offenders -- Robinson classifies, per the NFL, because of his hit on Jackson in 2010. At that time, Robinson was fined $50,000, but that fine was later reduced to $25,000.

"Robinson hit was violation because Maclin was defenseless by rule-had 'not had time to protect himself or has not clearly become a runner,'" NFL VP of Communications Greg Aiello tweeted Monday.

Our own Pete Prisco, who was on the scene for the Falcons-Eagles tilt -- notes that the "Falcons didn't feel it was cheap." Atlanta head coach Mike Smith said following Sunday night's game that he believed the hit was legal and "that's the way we teach it."
NFL Week 2

"My opinion didn't change," Smith reiterated Monday.

If Robinson does appeal, his case will be heard by ex-NFL coaches Art Shell and Ted Cottrell and must be heard by the second Tuesday.

I wrote this morning that Robinson should be suspended by the NFL, and I still feel that way. He flagrantly went head-hunting on Maclin, and both players are lucky that the Eagles wideout didn't sustain a serious injury.

"Player safety is a priority and we will not relent on it," NFL VP of Football Operations Ray Anderson said over the summer. "Let me make it very clear, particularly in regard to repeat offenders, that egregious acts will be subject to suspension. We will not feel the need to hesitate in this regard."

Had the hit on Maclin resulted in the wideout being carted off the field (a la Austin Collie), would Robinson have been suspended? My guess -- which is, admittedly, a morbid hypothetical -- is that Robinson wouldn't be suiting up for the Falcons next game.

And that's a scary thought because it means the league remains reactive -- rather than proactive -- when it comes to player safety.

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Posted on: September 19, 2011 3:01 am
Edited on: September 19, 2011 12:53 pm
 

Sorting the Sunday Pile: Week 2

Posted by Will Brinson



Sorting the Sunday Pile takes all of Sunday's NFL action and figures out the most important storylines for you to digest. Send your complaints, questions and comments to Will Brinson on Twitter. Make sure and listen to our Week 1 podcast review below as well and feel free to subscribe via iTunes.

(Ed. note: Week 2 Podcast will be live first thing Monday morning. Thanks for your patience.)

1. Michael Vick doesn't gets Michael Vick'd
Vick was going to get injured this year. That's just what happens when you combine a quarterback who runs like he does with an offensive line that blocks like Philly's doesn't. But what an unlikely way for him to get injured -- getting tackled in the pocket and falling into a head-to-head, concussion-inducing hit with Todd Herremans, his own offensive lineman.

And even though Mike Kafka looked pretty darn good in an impromptu relief appearance, and even though he provided an endless amount of philosophy-fueled jokes on Twitter, he's not Michael Vick, and he's not going to steal the starter's job or become the single-biggest story of the NFL season.

Fortunately for the Eagles, they've got a reasonably cushy schedule the next four games, facing the Giants, the 49ers, the Bills and the Redskins. But it's a quick reminder to those ready to crown the "Dream Team" as the likely Super Bowl champion: quarterback is a very talented, but very fragile position for them, and if they can't keep Vick upright, it's going to be tough sailing.

Three other notes on that game, while we're here. One, that was an embarrassing display by Falcons fans as Vick left the game, spitting out blood, to boo him mercilessly. I get that many folks won't get past what he did, and how much he might have cost the Atlanta franchise. But to boo a guy who could have suffered a serious head injury is just lacking in class. And kind of surprising for a sports city that typically doesn't show up to scream that loudly.

Two, can the NFL please do something about these "neck injury" classifications? Vick's neck might be sore, as Andy Reid said shortly after the game, he did in fact suffer a concussion. The only difference is that listing him with a concussion would rule him out for the game. A "neck injury" is a loophole for Vick to return to a potentially dangerous situation in terms of his personal health. The NFL needs to make teams get honest on these injury reports if they're going to be serious about player safety.

And finally, big ups to Matt Ryan for his performance in that game. Anyone who left the Falcons for dead after they were smacked around for the Bears obviously doesn't understand the importance of jumping to conclusions after a week's worth of football. The Falcons still got a little greedy when it came to forcing balls downfield to Julio Jones, and they could probably benefit from targeting Roddy White more, but Tony Gonzalez and Michael Turner were dynamite. Ryan suffered an injury, too, but stood strong and led his team to a win with four touchdowns.

Absolutely a signature win, especially when you consider the opponent and the circumstances.

2. Dunta Robinson should be suspended
No need for a cute title here, and yeah, I'm adding one more point to the Eagles-Falcons game, but it's an important one. And it's pretty damn cut-and-dry when it comes to the hit of the Falcons cornerback on Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin in the third quarter on Sunday night: it was dirty.

Maclin caught a ball over the middle, was running after the catch and got absolutely head-hunted by Robinson, who did the exact same thing to another Eagles wideout (DeSean Jackson) when these teams played in 2010.

Robinson was fined $50,000 for the monster helmet-to-helmet shot on Jackson. But that's not enough punishment -- he needs to be suspended.

The league said in 2010, immediately following Robinson's hit on Jackson mind you, that they would begin making an example out of repeat offenders by suspending them. We haven't seen that yet.

But we should; Robinson's decision -- and make no mistake, it absolutely was a decision, not a "reaction" -- to launch himself into Maclin helmet first was similar in a manner similar to the headbanging shot on Todd Heap that landed Brandon Meriweathear a big fine.

And it's similar, if not nearly identical, to his shot on Jackson last season.

There was a flag and there was a penalty, and Robinson was not ejected, as he should have been for the flagrant nature of the hit.

There'll absolutely be a fine coming his way in the middle of the week, but if Roger Goodell and Ray Anderson truly want to make an example out a classic case of a repeat offender, Robinson needs to be suspended.

3. Detroit Swag City
The Lions were one of the sleepiest of sleeper teams to begin the 2011 season. And with good reason -- if Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson can stay healthy, there's reason to believe Detroit's got enough potency on offense to compete with a playoff spot.

But here's the thing: they're actually doing it. It almost never works like that (ask the 2010 Houston Texans) but it's working right now.

Perhaps the biggest difference in these Lions, though, is the heretofore unseen amount of swagger present in Detroit football.

Before the 2010 season began, Chiefs GM Scott Pioli accused the Detroit front office of tampering. In response, the Lions would like offer Exhibit A: a 48-3 beatdown of Kansas City on Sunday in which they absolutely mangled KC in every aspect of the football game. It's the single-biggest margin of victory in Detroit's history, tied with their 45-point victory against Cleveland way back in 1957.

Exhibit B? The Lions decision to run Keiland Williams up the middle on fourth-and-one, leading 41-3, with just over five minutes remaining in the game. Just don't expect them to admit they were rubbing it in.

"We're not trying to do anything other than trying to win the game," Schwartz said.

Exhibit C? The Lions were "thrilled enough with the win" to give defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham a Gatorade bath with 28 seconds left:



This would be totally normal except for the fact that Cunningham is a defensive coordinator and this is the second week of the season. Oh right: Cunningham's the guy the Chiefs accused of tampering during the 2010 season.

So, yeah, message sent. But don't expect this swagger to suddenly disappear -- the guy who instilled it, Schwartz, doesn't see a whole to love about the victory.

"We can play better," Schwartz said after the game.

That's a pretty scary thought considering the Lions forced three fumbles (and recovered all three) and picked Matt Cassel three times. But Schwartz is right -- they've started slow on offense in both of their wins this year, and didn't look exceptional against the run early against Kansas City.

4. The Chiefs are dead, long live the Chiefs
There's a lot to love about the second week of the NFL season, but while we're here, we might as well go ahead and note that the Chiefs are donecakes when it comes to competing in the 2011 NFL season.

They're 0-2, they look lost on offense and defense, their best players are dropping like flies, and they have a negative 79 point differential through two games.

Considering they just got done with the "easy" part of their schedule -- the Bills and the Lions -- this does not bode well for the rest of their year. And Jamaal Charles' injury -- the running back is believed to be done for the year after tearing his ACL while colliding with the Lions mascot Sunday -- is the most tragic part of this Icarusian swoon back to reality.

Charles is truly one of the most exciting players to watch in the NFL, he's a home-run threat every single time he touches the ball, and he's the reason the Chiefs led the league in rushing last year and barnstormed their way to the AFC West title.

There will be no more excitement this season, and there will be no such division title.

In fact, the only drama remaining for the Chiefs is whether or not Todd Haley can hold onto his job for the rest of the year. To his credit, he's certainly willing to take the blame.

"The season will not be canceled as far as I know," Haley said on Sunday. "What we have to do is we have to stop doing those things that are costing us dearly, and putting us in very difficult positions."

Haley might wish the season would be canceled, though. A quick glance at the Chiefs schedule pegs their Week 5 game against Indianapolis as the easiest contest remaining, as they've got two matchups with Denver, Oakland and San Diego remaining and play one of the most brutal five-game stretches in the NFL starting in November: at New England, versus Pittsburgh, at Chicago, at the Jets, versus Green Bay.

No one has a warmer seat than Todd Haley right now.

4. Yes We Cam 2.0
Normally I might be cheesed that people are jacking my "Yes We Cam" swag (unless that's been around since Auburn and I just missed it), but being on board the Cam Newton bandwagon's too fun to get worried about anything.

Newton now has two of the three-highest passing games in Panthers history, he's one of only seven quarterbacks to throw for 400-plus yards in two-straight games, he owns the rookie record for most passing yards in a debut, he owns the rookie record for most passing yards in a game (ever), and, yeah, I get it -- he's 0-2.

The fact that people are screaming about win-loss records by a rookie on a team that's coming off a 2-14 campaign tells me two things. One, either they don't understand that quarterbacks don't play defense (much like pitchers don't score runs in baseball; wins aren't relative to success). Or two, they're sitting back in a corner and chugging a warm glass of Haterade, just because they can.

Newton's a guy that's always inspired critics. And he probably always will. But right now, he's making the right throws, he's saying the right things, and he's showing some of the most impressive progression we've ever seen in a young NFL quarterback.

Does he make mistakes? Absolutely. His three interceptions were pretty terrible. One might even call them rookie mistakes. And one might even note that they were a result of Rob Chudzinski taking the gloves off on the offense and winging the ball around. But there's no real need in ripping Chud, because he and Ron Rivera's coaching staff are the guys putting Newton in a position to succeed, and they deserve credit.

Just like Cam, regardless of the record.

It's been mentioned before, and it'll be mentioned again -- the Panthers probably won't win a lot of games when Newton's throwing for 400 yards. But that's a byproduct of lacking balance in the offensive attack, not because "Cam's not a winner."

5. Is 400 the new 300?

Speaking of 400-yard games, you've probably noticed that we've seen a number of games this season that have featured 400 or more passing yards. Six to be exact, which is quite a lot. In fact, we're currently on pace -- barring another offensive outpouring on Monday night -- for a whopping 48 400-yard games and and an absolutely insane 176 300-yard games in 2011.

Year 300-Yard Games
400-Yard Games
2006
65 7
2007
81 4
2008
76 8
2009
100 7
2010
96 11
2011
22 6

Now, there's a bit of caveating that needs to occur here. First of all, Newton is on pace to throw for something like 6,538 passing yards in 2011. While it would be foolish to guarantee it won't happen, it's pretty unlikely that Newton shatters Dan Marino's single-season passing yardage record by nearly 1,500 yards. (Tom Brady is, of course, more likely, but it's still a long ways off.)

Which is to say, it's still early, and you can't just simply project NFL numbers, particularly 400-yard passing games, across a season and expect continuity from here on out.

But as recently as 1998, we had just 52 300-yard games. At this year's pace, we're in reach of that many 400-yarders. It might not happen right now, but remember how 1,500-yard rushing seasons replaced 1,000 yard seasons as the new benchmark?

That transition is in process for the passing game right now, thanks to the entire league taking things aerial. It's a trend that won't go away and, sooner than later, 400 might actually become the new 300.

6. More like a Breathalyzer score
Not every quarterback's out there gunning the ball around with aplomb, though. Take Luke McCown of the Jacksonville Jaguars, who registered a quarterback rating on Sunday -- 1.8 -- that's impressive for all the wrong reasons.



McCown was 6/19 for 59 yards with four interceptions in the 32-3 loss to the Jets and inspiring only in the sense that his play makes you wonder what the hell the Jags were thinking when they decided to cut David Garrard one week before the regular season began. As my man Mike Freeman wrote, Garrard's kicking it somewhere much more fun than Jack Del Rio's office, cackling his ass off at McCown's performance on Sunday.

What makes it slightly more understandable is that it was against the Jets, who aren't exactly a cream-puff defense.

What makes it all slightly less understandable is that the Jaguars traded up to draft Blaine Gabbert this year, and seem hesitant to give him the nod. Why? Obviously Garrard wasn't the guy, because they cut him. And obviously McCown isn't the guy, because even Braylon Edwards is unimpressed with the digit he posted.

Gabbert was 5/6 in junk time, but let's see what the kids' got already. Jack Del Rio might be stringing out his job a little longer by playing the "you left me with no quarterback" card, but if my boss threw away my computer before the NFL season started, I wouldn't leave the other brand new computer I just bought sitting in a box in the sideline while fumbling through deadlines on a 10-year-old PC that I know doesn't work.

I'd crack that box open, see if the new computer is worth what I paid. Which is what Jacksonville needs to do.

7. Mmmmmm. [Fractured] ribs.
It's time to give Tony Romo his due -- the guy gets absolutely shredded when he makes stupid mistakes, like last week's debacle against the Jets. But on Sunday he returned after it was announced he'd suffered some fracture ribs and everyone assumed that it was Jon Kitna's ship to sink.

It was not. Romo came in, hit Jesse Holley for a big gain and the Cowboys took things to overtime where they ended up winning 27-24.

"I didn't want to be 0-2, and at the end of the day it's about winning and losing in this game," Romo said afterwards. "We needed a win. Why I wanted to be out there? I'm competitive. If I can play I'm gonna play."

Not the most convincing win against a 49ers team, but it was a win that an injury-ravaged Cowboys team badly needed to win. Things might be about to get rough for Jerry Jones squad, and we'll find out just how much of a creative mastermind Jason Garrett really is -- Miles Austin's dealing with a hamstring injury, Felix Jones has a separated shoulder and Romo's got a couple busted ribs.

If Romo can play and Dez Bryant can get back from his quad injury, there's still plenty of firepower on this offense, especially if DeMarco Murray can learn blitz pickups quickly enough to stay on the field in more than passing situations. The former Sooner is a highly-talented receiver out of the backfield, and has the potential to be a serious threat.

None (or all?) of that might happen, though, and this could be a situation where Kitna's trying to manage an offense that can't move the ball on the ground and can't stop anyone from passing on them until their secondary's back up to speed.

With Washington and Detroit on the schedule before their Week 5 bye and New England and St. Louis immediately after, that's a dangerous proposition indeed.

8. Living in the 90's
Man ... anyone else harking back to the Super Bowl heyday when we used to get "In Living Color" halftime shows lately? (Men on Football!) And I really hope you do, otherwise I'm suddenly old and busted.

That's back when the Bills used to get beatdown by the Cowboys and Redskins on the reg, and after two weeks of football, there's a sense of déjà vu circulating around certain cities, as Buffalo and Washington are both undefeated.

The Bills seem to be a little bit more "fa real" than the 'Skins, if only because their offense is more potent, but Washington, who plays the Cowboys next week, is a better bet to get to 3-0 than Buffalo, who host the Patriots.

Still, it's a remarkably fascinating story that two teams that literally no one picked to find their way to undefeated at any point past the first week of the season. And I don't want to start laying bets on Rex Grossman or anything, just yet, but kudos to the guy for finding ways to win in Washington when no one -- including yours truly -- even bothered to take him seriously after his "we'll win the NFC East" prediction.

They still won't, of course, but two weeks into the season Grossman looks a lot more right than anyone would have ever thought.

Meanwhile, Chan Gailey looks a lot more smart than anyone would have thought (good thing Todd Haley fired that guy, huh??), pushing the Bills to a remarkable 2-0 after beating Oakland 38-35 in the most exciting game of the day, particularly when you consider the Bills came out of halftime down 21-3.

"That was an amazing gutcheck by our team," Chan Gailey said.

Yes, ripping off five touchdowns in five second-half possessions is a "gutcheck." Or a guy doing remarkable things with unlikely personnel. Story of Gailey's career.

9. Same old, Same old
Being the lone expert to pick the Chargers for the upset over the Patriots on Sunday wasn't a bad spot -- San Diego could/should have won that game. Or at least not lost by two touchdowns anyway.

A brutal fumble from Mike Tolbert blew the game wide open, but it was kind of indicative of how San Diego operates in September; last week it looked like the Chargers might have kicked that monkey off their back.

Then they roll into Foxboro with a loaded gun and "pull a Plaxico" on themselves, firing repeatedly at the ground underneath their feet, whiffing three times inside the Patriots 20 and giving the ball away at the most inopportune times.

It's standard operating procedure for the Bolts, or at least it feels that way because it's September. And they'll probably be fine because the division is down (though you can argue the Raiders are dangerous and I'm fine with that) and they'll probably make the playoffs on the strength of a big November and December run.

But this is a team that's supposed to make a Super Bowl run. And they're not there right now. Which is, well, not that surprising.

10. Reviews under review?
The new NFL system for reviewing all touchdowns has been irritating through two weeks only in that every announcer in every game has to mention it after every touchdown, as if NFL fans weren't already aware of what's going on.

Oh, and the fact that there's some bizarro miscommunication going on with how the officials on the field and the people working in the booth are handling the issue of checking out plays.

Buffalo's interception by Da'Norris Searcy required a 10-minute break in which the officials finally came back on the field and announced, after everyone had left, that Searcy did in fact pick the ball off.

And Darren Sproles had what looked like a controversial score to end the Saints game in which he stepped out of bounds, yet no replay was deemed necessary.

Aaron Hernandez had a score against the Chargers Sunday that looked like a lock for a review under the dreaded "Calvin Johnson Rule," but the replay officials didn't even bother checking. Or it was so clear that they didn't need to.

If we're going to take the time to check out every single touchdown, let's make sure we actually check out every single touchdown. NFL fans might not be the most patient bunch, and it stinks seeing a touchdown celebration held off because of a potential rules issue, but getting the call right is the biggest deal, and providing a streamlined process for ensuring integrity of all necessary reviews is something the NFL needs to get in place immediately.

Put an APB out for:
Chris Johnson's rushing skills. It's one thing to be a star running back who really disappoints his fantasy owners (joke) by not producing at a high clip. It's an entirely different thing to be a star running back who's drawing boos from fans because you held out of training camp, demanded "Manning money" and then decided to start averaging less than 40 rushing yards a game.

Pop-culture referencing Jim Irsay tweet that's sure to drive Colts fans insane of the week
"All u negative,Colt haters.....ahhhh,well...ummm...that's just YOUR opinion...man!"

Hate to break it to, you Jim, but the bums lost. Again.

Muffed Punts
Leftovers from Sunday's action ...
... Andy Dalton and A.J. Green turning into a potentially dangerous connection in Cincy definitely deserves more love.
... Did anyone watch the Stanford-Arizona game on Saturday night? Because Andrew Luck is the real freaking deal, man. Kid is smart, strong, has a cannon for an arm, and can make all the throws. I'd tank my season for him.
... If you want to try a ridiculously delicious sandwich, and you live near a Village Tavern, hit it up for Sunday brunch and get the fried egg BLT. Standard ingredients but add cheddar cheese and an over-medium egg. It's unreal.
... Not even sure how to feel about this one -- some clown of a Bears fan mocked New Orleans devastation thanks to Hurricane Katrina a few years back, and some Saints fans got their revenge on Sunday. Or something.
... Does any good running back in the NFL have less breakaway speed than Michael Turner?
... Larry Fitzgerald and Adrian Peterson, two guys with Vikings history, are both franchise leaders for touchdowns (receiving and rushing, respectively) for their franchises now, and it happened on the same day.
... Josh Freeman is such a closer -- he stormed back against the Vikings on Sunday, giving him eight comeback wins in 14 career victories.

Worth 1,000 Words


Hot Seat Tracker
Long story, but I'm still waiting on the fancy math stuff. Whatever, not much has changed from last week, where the same small number of suspects find themselves with warm pants.
  • Todd Haley -- It just stinks that he might not get to hang around and coach Andrew Luck.
  • Jack Del Rio -- See: above. It's just an unbelievable mangling of the quarterback position.
  • Tony Sparano -- The Dolphins are 0-2, can't defend against the pass and despite Chad Henne looking much better, are not as good as we thought.
  • Jim Caldwell -- No idea if Jim Irsay would even can Caldwell at any point, as the Colts might actually like a figurehead with Manning around.
  • Tom Coughlin -- A loss Monday would not go a long way in helping his job security.
Chasing Andrew Luck (Plus Odds)
Chiefs (2/5): Like I said, the schedule is brutal down the stretch.
Colts (2/1): As Pete Prisco likes to say, the snake has no head.
Seahawks (3/1): Seen Pete Carroll screw up too many things to think he can get picking up Luck right. Still, this team is bad.
Jaguars (5/1): Yeah, they've got a win, but they're throwing out Gabbert now. We hope. Which is awkward.
Dolphins (7/1): Surely they can't be this bad.

MVP Watch
Mark my words: a quarterback will win this year. Bold, eh? Whatever. Matthew Stafford's my leader in the clubhouse, but I wouldn't scream at you if you screamed at me for not picking Tom Brady, considering he's looking like, well, Tom Brady. Ryan Fitzpatrick deserves some love and no, I am not joking this week. And sure, Aaron Rodgers if you want. It's early still.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.
Posted on: September 19, 2011 12:20 am
 

Dunta Robinson should face suspension

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

With all the new rules about head-hunting and helmet-to-helmet hits, you’d think that the only time a player would break that rule is if it was bang-bang play that was purely accidental. Especially if that person is already a repeat offender.

Dunta Robinson got nailed with a fine last year after a massive helmet-to-helmet hit on DeSean Jackson (which you can see in the video below), which resulted in a Jackson concussion.



Robinson got hit with a $50,000 fine that was later reduced, and everything was forgiven, right? Robinson even called Jackson to apologize.

That goodwill disappeared tonight when Robinson led with his helmet into the jaw of Eagles receiver Jeremy Maclin that was so blatant and so nasty that the officials would not have been wrong to eject him from the game. In fact, that’s exactly what they should have done.

Maclin had to come out for a short time, but he returned soon after. It’s a good thing he wasn’t hurt more seriously, or the Internet outrage against Robinson would have been even more intense. For good reason. And though I don’t usually root for the commissioner to take large chunks of money from a player’s paycheck, here’s hoping that Robinson gets hit with a monster fine (in the six-figure range?) and a suspension.

At this point, he’s earned it, and he needs to be stopped.

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

Posted on: September 15, 2011 11:49 am
Edited on: September 15, 2011 3:30 pm
 

Film Room: Eagles vs. Falcons preview

Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit



The uniquely compelling storylines surrounding this game pertain to off-field matters.

But those storylines wouldn’t exist if not for the action taking place on-field. (The reason you don’t know the names of the 17 people arrested in the dogfighting sting in Pass Christian, Mississippi on April 24, 2007 is because none of those 17 people had ever juked and jived 50-plus yards for a touchdown in an NFL game.)

Here’s an on-field breakdown of the Atlanta Falcons’ upcoming match up against their former quarterback.

1. Has he really changed?
As a leader and student of the game, Michael Vick has clearly grown since his days in Atlanta. But his recent growth as a pocket passer has been overstated. Vick is a sounder technician and smarter decision-maker than he was as a Falcon, but that’s not unlike saying Leonardo DiCaprio is a better actor now than he was on Growing Pains.

Of course he’s better now – he’s older and had nowhere to go but up.

Vick still doesn’t diagnose defenses with great acuity. He struggles to identify blitzes and relies too much on sandlot tactics. To be clear, those sandlot tactics are incomparably spectacular; few quarterbacks make as many plays as Vick. But few also leave as many plays on the field.


2. Speed Factor
The most significant resource Vick has in Philadelphia that he didn’t have in Atlanta is speed around him. Vick’s own speed can give defensive coordinators nightmares. Vick’s speed coupled with the speed of DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and LeSean McCoy make for night terrors.

It’s the type of speed that can kill – not just quickly, but also slowly. Defensive backs on both sides of the field must play with a meaty cushion against Eagle wideouts, which makes it easier for Vick to identify coverages and throwing lanes. Teams also must keep their safeties over the top, which puts added responsibility on linebackers to cover crossing patterns inside, thus opening up the flats for McCoy out of the backfield (McCoy’s 79 receptions easily led all running backs last season).

Vick’s speed also makes life easier on his offensive tackles, as defensive ends are often instructed to keep him in the pocket by rushing with less vigorous containment tactics. Because opposing pass-rushes can be naturally tentative, the Eagles don’t need to bother with play-action.

3. Zoning
It’s foolish to play man coverage against the Eagles. For starters, few teams have two corners fast enough to consistently run with Jackson and Maclin. What’s more, in man coverage, the defenders turn their backs to the ball and run away from the action by following receivers, which creates enormous outside running lanes for a quarterback to exploit if he gets outside the pocket (this is how Vick killed the Giants in Week 15 last season).

Fortunately, the Falcons are a zone-oriented defense, so they won’t have to adjust their scheme much for this game. But they will have to adjust their execution. Last Sunday against Chicago, the Bears used downfield route combinations that stretched the Falcon safeties over the top and created gaping voids in the deep-intermediate sectors of the zone. It was problematic.
 
Philly’s outside speed will only exacerbate this problem Sunday night – especially given that Falcon corners Brent Grimes and Dunta Robinson prefer to play off coverage at the line of scrimmage rather than delivering a jam.

4. The Solution
To prevent the Eagles from stretching the zone coverage, the Falcons must force Vick to get rid of the ball quickly. Doing this will also put the onus on Vick’s presnap reads and prevent him from extending the play and conjuring his sandlot magic. Mike Smith and Falcons defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder should tell their men again and again that the earlier Vick gets rid of the ball Sunday night, the better.

Atlanta is capable of bringing heat. As we talked about last week, Smith has adopted a more aggressive philosophy than he had as the defensive coordinator in Jacksonville. The zone blitz out of a 4-3 base or nickel package has become a staple in the Falcons’ scheme.

With pressuring Vick being so important, and with the Eagles having a makeshift, incohesive interior line, it’s as viable a tactic as ever.

5. Control Clock
For as much hoopla as there’s been about the addition of Julio Jones, the Falcons are still a power-run team (their unbalanced play-calling against Chicago was a function of the lopsided score). Michael Turner is a bruising high-volume runner and the offensive line is an unathletic but well-sized group.

The Falcons, working out of a Mike Mularkey playbook that’s rich with two-back and two-tight end formations, are already built to mount long drives. They’ll be wise to shorten the game and avoid a shootout with the Eagles.

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: July 6, 2011 11:29 am
Edited on: July 6, 2011 11:37 am
 

Texans chasing Nnamdi, 'long shot' to Cowboys?

Posted by Will Brinson

There's little question that, whenever the lockout finally ends, Nnamdi Asomugha will be the most sought-after player on the NFL's free-agent market.

And as more teams jump into the fray for help at the cornerback position, his price will only get higher. There'll likely be many teams chasing his services, but it appears that the Cowboys will not be one of them.

That's according to Matt Mosely of Fox Sports Southwest, who writes that he can "tell you with absolute certainty that Dallas sees Asomugha as a long shot."

Mosely says he's been told "only in our dreams" by folks in the Cowboys organization that such a signing and falls below signing Doug B. Free. (Not to mention it would require that Dallas release Terence Newman.)

Free's going to be pretty pricey, even though the 'Boys will end up moving him to right tackle once Tyron Smith's ready to take over on the left side. And while Dallas could definitely use Asomugha's talent to shut down some of the dangerous NFC East wideouts they face several times a year, they've got plenty of other issues to address.

A team that will have no choice but to chase Asomugha? That would be the Texans, whose pass defense flirted with being historically bad in 2010.

Jason LaCanfora of the NFL Network reported Tuesday that Houston is "indeed prepared to be aggressive in free agency … and will be among the teams pursuing" Asomugha.

The bad news for the Texans is that they'll now be chasing a player who will demand more than Dunta Robinson did when he left Houston for the Falcons in free agency a year ago.

The good news is that the new CBA, provided it plays out as everyone believes, should end up pushing several talented cornerbacks (namely Jonathan Joseph) into the free-agent market.

That won't make Asomugha too much cheaper, but it will give teams that don't have the bankroll to say in the hunt with the Dan Snyders of the world a shot at picking u pa viable option anyway.

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Posted on: April 11, 2011 1:07 pm
Edited on: April 12, 2011 12:37 pm
 

Offseason Checkup: Houston Texans

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:





When the Texans beat the Colts 34-24 in the 2010 season-opener, Houston was well on its way to winning the AFC South and the first-ever playoff appearance for the club. Matt Schaub was going to continue emerging as one of the top QBs in the game, Andre Johnson was going to cement his place as the top receiver in the NFL, RB Arian Foster was going to build on his first-game performance (231 yards and four total TDs on 33 carries) and Houston’s secondary was going to be just fine without Dunta Robinson.

That’s what we thought anyway.

Then, the Texans, sitting at 4-2, lost eight of their next nine games to kill their season. Foster still went on to win the rushing title, and Schaub had a pretty good season. But Johnson didn’t have one of his better years (though to be fair, he WAS dealing with a painful ankle injury that he played through), and the secondary, to be kind, was absolutely horrid. Overall, in fact, the defense was terrible. Yet, coach Gary Kubiak has been retained for another season, and the Texans continue to be slightly worse than mediocre.

But something must change …




New defensive system

That something might be new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. While Phillips’ reign as Cowboys head coach ended in disaster in the middle of last season, he’s still well-respected as a defensive coordinator. In 2011, though, he’s got a big job in front of him.



1. Um, the secondary
Yes, the Texans will need to rethink their entire defensive back roster, because it repeatedly got torched last season. After saying goodbye to Robinson, who went on to a so-so season with the Falcons, the secondary (Kareem Jackson, Glover Quin, Bernard Pollard and Eugene Wilson) were just tremendously bad. If the Texans can’t get this fixed, it doesn’t matter who’s coordinating the defense, because Houston simply won’t win.

2. Nose Tackle
Houston hasn’t had to worry much about this position in the past because of the 4-3 scheme it used to play, but now that the Texans will go to the 3-4, they need to find a massive NT to eat up blockers and allow his linebackers behind him to make plays. Maybe Shaun Cody is that guy, but he might not be good enough and he certainly hasn’t been an impact player thus far in his career.

3. Second Wide Receiver
It looked for a time like Kevin Walter might be that guy, but he was little more than solid last year. Jacoby Jones is fine on kickoff returns, but he drops the ball too much as a receiver. Though the Texans obviously have much bigger problems, it wouldn’t be a huge shock if the Texans went after Julio Jones in the first round of the draft.




It’s hard to be confident that a Kubiak-led team will ever make the playoffs, but the Texans better accomplish that this year if they want to keep him around. Defense, like we’ve pounded in your head over and over in this checkup, is the true test, and there is plenty of talent in the front seven on that side of the ball. If Phillips can help get that unit in gear, the AFC South is ripe for the taking.

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Posted on: February 28, 2011 1:50 pm
Edited on: March 1, 2011 3:47 pm
 

Greensboro docs research handheld concussion test

Posted by Will Brinson

The NFL announced a new concussion protocol procedure for teams on Friday in Indianapolis. But the answer to one of the league's most significant problems might actually be residing in Greensboro, North Carolina.

It's there, nearly 600 miles away from where the next batch of players is showing off their skills at the combine, that development to diagnose concussions with a handheld test is getting underway.

You can't actually diagnose a concussion, or traumatic brain injury, without knowing what happened inside the body. And this is important because it relates to the NFL's recent announcement of moving to a standardized examination. A positive step, but it's not going to allow medical staffs to make 100 percent accurate diagnostics.

That's where the Join School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering, a collaborative effort between the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and N.C. A&T State University, comes in.

"There are no diagnostic tools to accurately measure the neurological changes [following a concussion]," Shyam Aravamudhan, a JSNN professor, told CBSSports.com when we visited the facility earlier this year. "Molecular changes are where symptoms can be accurately diagnosed."

And the NFL's decision to use a universal baseline test will certainly aid in that area, but, again, not to the degree of certainty with which a molecular test would.

The process by which blood-based diagnosis occurs is fascinating. The brain contains a series of barriers that prevent entry by various molecular components to portions of the gray matter that help us function each day. Those barriers can be broken when an individual suffers a concussion, and as a result of the barriers breaking, markers are released into the blood stream. And when an individual is tested in the manner using the JSNN device, a positive test for markers indicates a case of traumatic brain injury.

A reasonable example of comparison is someone who gets busted for a DUI. Ever have a friend who almost never, ever acts drunk regardless of how much alcohol he's consumed? That person could get behind the wheel of a car after drinking 12 beers in the span of 4 hours and appear sober.

That has nothing to do with how much alcohol is in his bloodstream, it's merely a symptom of his body's different chemical makeup and how it processes alcohol. So everyone involved -- particularly the cop -- is surprised when he blows a .22 despite passing all the field-sobriety tests.

Want an on-the-field example? Remember the monster shot Austin Collie took against the Eagles when Asante Samuel launched him into inadvertent helmet-to-helmet contact with Kurt Coleman? Well, Collie didn't play for a few weeks because of the hit and finally returned to the field in Week 12, only to show "concussion symptoms" within the first few plays.



In other words he appeared completely fine to the critical eye, at least leading up to the game. An objective test of Collie's blood probably would have indicated these "concussion markers" from TBI were present and kept him off the field entirely.

Traumatic brain injury sounds much worse than "concussion." But it's important to note that according to the JSNN's staff between 75 and 90 percent of the 1.9 million annual diagnosed cases of TBI (per the Center for Disease Control's research, .PDF) are "mild."

"Mild" doesn't mean "safe" by any stretch of the imagination, and it's in this category where most sports concussions fall. But the most terrifying thing about these "mild" injuries is that as the frequency with which they occur increases, so does the long-term damage.

"Military and sports personnel are high-risk individuals," Kristine Lundgren, associate professor at UNCG's School of Health and Human Performance said. "With a second incident of TBI, the severity is even worse."

There are countless cases, according to the JSNN, of soldiers being incorrectly diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder when they've actually suffered a number of concussions. The symptoms -- from depression to delirium -- are similar but the treatment and, most importantly, prevention, are completely different.

"Why would you let the fact that the individual is conscious overrule what you find?" said Dr. Vince Henrich, director of biotechnology, genomics and health resources at UNCG. "There's a confusion about consciousness -- [when someone's awake] it's too easy to conclude that everything's okay."

And individual brains are, unsurprisingly, quite different from person to person, making a diagnosis even more difficult.

"You have to know the player, you have to know what they were like before," Lundgren said. "It's a really tough thing to do."

What we do know is concussions are this generation's -- for NFL players and beyond -- "signature injury." That's why funding for this type of research is so critical. The JSNN staff estimated that the work needed for an in-the-field concussion test that can determine TBI based on molecular levels could be completed in "about four years." In-the-field being something military and sports professionals could bring to their respective worlds.

But they also said, "depending on funding," it could be completed much faster. Dean Jim Ryan classified the UNC Greensboro's work on TBI as "one of the most immediately understood goals."

That's not an endorsement for any sort of investment, but it's obvious that current standards for measuring TBI in the NFL don't precisely meet the needs of an increasingly dangerous sport.

And yes there are also obvious issues aside from money. Players might have serious issues using bodily fluids for tests like this if the NFL controlled it.

But when you see someone like Dave Duerson -- an NFL legend dedicated to helping improve medical assistance for former players -- scrawl words about using his brain for science on his suicide note , it's hard not to think there's more that can be done immediately to improve the quality of life for not just current players but the kids who will eventually make their way onto NFL fields.

"TBI is more dangerous to a young brain," Lundgren said. "The brain is still developing and therefore at more risk."

Because concussions aren't exactly selective everyone on the football field's at risk until science figures out a way to really get a handle on what's going on inside our heads.

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Posted on: December 30, 2010 6:57 pm
 

NFL reduces fines for 'Big 3' concussion hits

Posted by Will Brinson

Way back in the middle of October, Brandon Meriweather, James Harrison and Dunta Robinson were all fined a lot of money because of big helmet-to-helmet hits that sparked a national debate about the safety of the NFL.

Those fines, according to Judy Battista of the New York Times, have all been reduced.

Harrison (originally fined $75,000, which nearly "forced" him into retirement) had his fine reduced from $75,000 to $50,000, Meriweather (the headbutt on Todd Heap) had his reduced from $50,000 to $40,000 and Dunta Robinson (who collided with DeSean Jackson) had his reduced from $50,000 to $25,000.

The NFL has since confirmed the reductions.

"We can confirm the outcome of those appeals," the NFL said in a statement. "The appeals officer, Ted Cottrell, reduced Robinson’s fine from $50,000 to $25,000 and Meriweather’s fine from $50,000 to $40,000. Following these decisions, Cottrell took the additional step of reviewing the appeal of James Harrison of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Harrison was fined $75,000 earlier this season for a similar flagrant hit. Cottrell consulted with Commissioner Goodell about reducing Harrison’s fine to $50,000 and the commissioner fully supported the decision."

Cottrell also said, according to the league's statement, that he reduced the fines because of an increased effort by the players to work within the confines of the rules and adjusting their techniques.

Additionally, those fine amounts just make more sense in the scheme of things, especially when you consider how knee-jerk the reaction from the league was to three big hits within a short time span at the time.

With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, and no major incidents with any of the players during the rest of the regular season, a reduction in fines seems like a smart move.

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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