Tag:Tim Hightower
Posted on: September 21, 2011 2:56 pm
Edited on: September 22, 2011 3:31 pm
 

Film Room: Cowboys vs. Redskins preview

Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit



One of the most storied rivalries in pro football is renewed Monday night when the Cowboys welcome the Redskins to Big D for their home opener. Mike Shanahan’s team is a surprising 2-0. The Cowboys, after two close games, are 1-1, ensuring their performance on Monday’s national stage will spark an overreaction from Football America (at 2-1, people will ask if the Cowboys are legit Super Bowl contenders; at 1-2 they’ll ask if Jason Garrett is right for the job).

1. Perpetually Maligned Quarterbacks
Are any other two quarterbacks, fair or unfair, viewed as blunder-prone as Tony Romo and Rex Grossman? If Grossman were a star, he’d be Romo. If Romo were a bum, he’d be Grossman. Their performances this season have been overanalyzed in contrasting extremes.

Everyone took part in National Dump on Romo Week (Sept. 12-18) and pilloried the sixth-year starter for being a “choke artist”. While Romo has made his share of mistakes in crunch time, in reality, prior to the interception he gifted Darrelle Revis in Week 1, the only late-game mistake that 90 percent of fans could instantly identify with Romo was his botched field goal hold in the January ’07 playoff loss at Seattle (a play that had nothing to do with his quarterbacking ability).

Reputations rarely form by accident, though. The truth is, Romo is mistake prone.

He’s mistake prone because he has trouble deciphering defenses before the snap, and he tends to take aggressive action on faulty hunches. This is problematic, especially if Dallas has Super Bowl aspirations. That said, at the end of the day, Romo still has respectable playmaking talent. Hence his 345-yard performance with a fractured rib and punctured lung at San Francisco.

Grossman is on the other end of the spectrum. He’s not a naturally talented playmaker. But he can be functional when properly used. His two performances this season have received mostly positive reviews. He threw for 305 yards against the Giants and 291 against the Cardinals. But he was somewhat inaccurate in Week 1 and benefited from several terrific catches by Redskins receivers.

He also struggled in the face of pocket pressure (fortunately he had just one turnover from it, which didn’t prove to be costly). Grossman came back to earth a bit against Arizona and, given his track record and limited role in Washington’s offense (his reads are defined, his audible powers are minimal), he’ll likely level off over the coming months.


2. Washington’s ground game
The Redskins have shown a commitment to running the ball these first two weeks. After posting lackluster numbers against New York, Tim Hightower was sharp versus Arizona, registering 96 yards on 20 attempts. Hightower is a much better fit for Shanahan’s zone-blocking scheme than he was in Ken Whisenhunt’s pounding approach.

Reason being, Hightower does not have great burst when coming from a standstill, but he has proven to be an effective momentum runner.

A zone-blocking scheme allows for a one-cut downhill run, but as the illustration below shows, the nature of the sliding blocks allows a runner to take a few extra steps in the backfield, which a runner like Hightower needs in order to build momentum before breaking through the line of scrimmage.



Hightower – as well as his backup, fourth-round rookie Roy Helu, who runs with good tempo and changes direction fairly well – benefitted from stellar offensive line play last week. Left guard Kory Lichtensteiger and left tackle Trent Williams were particularly impressive landing blocks on the move and taking angles that created natural running lanes.

3. Tight ends significant
Washington’s offense makes great use of the tight end, in large part because a tight end crossing pattern is a natural outlet off the rollouts and bootlegs that Shanahan’s scheme uses frequently.

While Chris Cooley has had a modicum impact coming off a knee injury, fourth-year pro Fred Davis has emerged as a fluid target in an elevated role. Davis makes good adjustments to the ball and has the athleticism to be effective in space.
 
For the Cowboys, Jason Witten becomes all the more significant with Miles Austin (hamstring) out and Dez Bryant’s (quad) status in question. Witten is the ultimate safety valve. Generally the beneficiary of mismatches created by others outside, he should be able to create a few of his own mismatches inside, as Redskins linebacker London Fletcher tends to struggle covering elite tight ends.
Week 3 NFL Preview

4. The outside ‘backers
DeMarcus Ware has registered more sacks than anyone in pro football over the past five years, and he appears to be even more potent in Rob Ryan’s scheme (Ryan, like Wade Phillips, has aligned Ware primarily on the weak side of the formation, where one-on-one matchups are easier to come by). Opposite Ware, Anthony Spencer (in a contract year) is a stout playside run defender.

But the Cowboys may soon have the second best outside linebacking corps in the NFC East. Brian Orakpo has made two Pro Bowls his first two seasons and has superb strength to compliment his edge speed.

Opposite him, first-round rookie Ryan Kerrigan has flashed monstrous potential through two games. Kerrigan, a high-motored Big Ten player who drew predictable comparisons to Aaron Kampman coming out, has the swiftness to chase plays as a backside run defender and the body control to outmaneuver blockers in the phone booth. He’s a much, much better athlete than many had guessed.

5. Something to keep an eye on ...
The Redskins are a fairly blitz-heavy team, but those blitzes have usually involved safeties. They caught the Cardinals off-guard last week by blitzing their inside linebackers aggressively. Fletcher in particular blitzed with great timing and downhill speed.

His blitzes were done not necessarily in an effort to get sacks, but to make Kevin Kolb move before throwing. Romo is better throwing off movement than Kolb, so perhaps Jim Haslett won’t use this tactic as much in Week 3.

But with the Cowboys having a young offensive line and depleted receiving corps, the reward could be greater than the risk.

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: September 14, 2011 10:42 am
Edited on: September 14, 2011 10:43 am
 

Top Ten with a Twist: Comeback players

M. Stafford, if he stays healthy, could be a candidate for comeback player of the year (US Presswire).

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Some had disappointing seasons last year only to find themselves in a brand-new setting this year. Some had worn out their welcome in one city and were rewarded with a new home in a new part of the country. Some were injured, and some just flat-out stunk.

But this is a new season, and it’s never too early to make predictions about the 2011 comeback player of the year, especially since two-time winner Chad Pennington is out for the season and won’t be eligible for his third award until 2012.

You won’t find Albert Haynesworth on this list, because a man who duped one organization out of tens of millions dollars only to find himself holding a golden parachute to the league’s most respected franchise doesn’t need another reward if he potentially plays well (or, unlike in Washington, plays at all). But pretty much everybody else is eligible for a spot on our latest Top Ten with a Twist: Potential Comeback Players of the Year.

10. Kevin Kolb: I originally wasn’t going to put him on this list, because simply put, I’m not entirely sure he’s going to live up to his $63 million ($20 million guaranteed) contract in Arizona. But after his 18 of 27, 309-yard, two-touchdown performance in the Cardinals win against the Panthers (all while getting sucked into the “Cam Newton is awesome” maelstrom), it’s at least a possibility Kolb will play like Arizona believes he can. Kolb supporters point to an impressive two-game stretch he had in 2009 for why he’s worth all that money. I’m more interested in his 130 quarterback rating from Sunday and where he can go from there.

9. Chris Johnson: You might not know this, but last year, Johnson had a disastrous season. When you compare him to 2009, his performance declined by more than 600 yards and he scored three less rushing touchdowns. If that’s not the sign of a guy who has already become much less effective … wait, what’s that? Johnson still rushed for 1,364 yards and 11 touchdowns last season? Oh, never mind. But here’s the thing with Johnson. He keeps proclaiming that he’s going to rush for 2,000 yards, and while he did it in 2009, he fell woefully short last year. And yes, he won’t make it 2,000 in 2011 either. But he’ll also be better than last year, particularly since he now should be completely happy with the money he’s making.

8. Bob Sanders: We all know Bob Sanders can’t stay healthy. Not after missing 64 of 112 career games with the Colts. And because we’ve barely seen the guy (only nine times in the past three seasons) we always seem to lose sight of the fact that Sanders was once a premier safety threat  mentioned in the same breathe as Troy Polamalu and Ed Reed. One good sign for Sanders’ return to respectability: he didn’t have to spend this offseason rehabbing an old injury. But Sanders also is 30 now, where the aches and pains increase rather than diminish. In his first game with San Diego, he accumulated six tackles. But at least he didn’t leave the game with an injury. Which, with Sanders, is pretty good news.

7. Tim Hightower: You’ll recall that Hightower had a bit of a fumbling problem as the No. 2 running back behind Beanie Wells in Arizona -- he had eight lost fumbles combined in the past two seasons -- and though Hightower had good production in place of the injured Wells, the Cardinals decided they’d rather have Wells than Hightower. The Redskins, who were saying goodbye to Clinton Portis, went after him, and their interest was rewarded this week when Hightower looked solid, rushing 25 times for 72 yards and a score. Just as important, though, is his pass protection and his versatility (he’s a pretty good receiver as well). Just as long as he doesn’t fumble, he could be a really good addition for Washington.

6. Steve Smith (Eagles version): We still don’t know how healthy Smith is, but the fact that he was active for the first game -- much to the chagrin of the Giants, I imagine -- is awfully impressive, considering he was coming off microfracture surgery on his knee. He wasn’t targeted by Michael Vick, and he didn’t play all that much. But the fact he was out there at all was pretty ridiculous. Smith probably won’t be healthy enough to produce the stats that would give him a legit shot at the comeback player of the year, but he’s already gone to extraordinary lengths to return this soon, so why not?

Henne5. Steve Smith (Panthers version): Aside from all those Panthers fans who now have hope, receiver Steve Smith has to be one of the biggest Cam Newton fans around. For a guy who wanted out of Carolina as soon as possible (and as receiver, why would he want to try to field passes from Jimmy Clausen?), the infusion of Newton into this offense was the main reason Smith exploded for eight catches, 178 yards and two touchdowns. Considering he only accumulated 46 catches for 554 yards and two (!) scores in 2010, a little Newton in his life apparently has gone a long way.

4. Chad Henne: Despite Miami fans chanting that they wanted Kyle Orton (who now has to hear the chants of “We want Tebow” in Denver) in the preseason, the popular storyline out of south Florida is that Henne finally will turn himself into a legit starting quarterback. Henne was a major storyline in the offseason -- coach Tony Sparano said “we’ll see” about Henne’s chances of starting and receiver Brandon Marshall laid out in detail why Tyler Thigpen was a better player until Henne began to make believers out of his teammates, who voted him offensive captain. It’ll continue to be a storyline as long as Henne plays the way he did against the Patriots (30 of 49 for 416 yards, two touchdowns and a garbage-time interception) in one of the best performances of his pro career.

3. Rex Grossman: Based on the way he played against the Giants on Sunday, I thought about putting Grossman higher on the list. But I just don’t see him as a top-15 quarterback -- this season or any other. Maybe if he got to play against the Giants shell of a defense every week. But until that happens, I don’t see him taking home the hardware. That said, Grossman surprised many people this week -- including, I imagine, John Beck -- and didn’t look like the same quarterback who was Donovan McNabb’s two-minute offense replacement. At least, he played like a legitimate starting quarterback.

2. Bryant McKinnie: Surely, McKinnie would be the first comeback player of the year award winner to have weighed 400 pounds (allegedly) and gotten released from his old team for it (not to mention earning $75,000 for getting down to a trim 372). But McKinnie, as the new left tackle for the Ravens, helped set the tone last Sunday when, on the first play of the first Ravens drive, he dispatched Steelers linebackers James Farrior and James Harrison, allowing Baltimore running back Ray Rice a 36-yard gain. Baltimore ended up beating Pittsburgh by four touchdowns, and don’t think McKinnie wasn’t a big reason for that. If he keeps it up, perhaps McKinnie can make history as the first offensive line ever to win the award.

1. Matthew Stafford: The Lions quarterback scared the daylights out of just about everybody when he hobbled to the sideline with an apparent injury in Detroit’s season-opening win against the Buccaneers. For a guy who’s missed 19 games the past two years with various ailments, that was not a moment for the weak at the heart. But it was only cramps, and during Detroit’s victory, Stafford showed that he still has the talent to be a top-five quarterback. And considering most of the comeback players of the year happen to be quarterbacks, that doesn’t hurt his chances either.

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Posted on: August 19, 2011 11:33 pm
Edited on: August 20, 2011 5:44 pm
 

Cards RB Ryan Williams officially out for season

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

UPDATED (Aug. 20; 5:39 p.m. ET): It's official: Cardinals RB Ryan Williams is out for the season, as Rapid Reporter Craig Morgan writes.

Said coach Ken Whisenhunt on Saturday: "The human element gets lost sometimes. You’re so excited about a young man like Ryan and you build a relationship with him over a short time. You want to see him have success and then that’s put on hold.”

----------

While Tim Hightower was performing impressively for the Redskins on Friday night (six carries, 70 yards, TD), his former team might be longing for a backup to its starting RB.

Ryan Williams Injury
That’s because rookie Ryan Williams -- selected in the second round by the Cardinals to compete with Beanie Wells for the starting spot -- most likely ruptured the patella tendon in his right knee during Arizona’s preseason loss to the Packers. That was what coach Ken Whisenhunt told reporters, via Cards Chatter, after the game, and if that injury is confirmed, Williams will miss the rest of the season.

Williams had to be carted off the field after he was tackled by Green Bay rookie S M.D. Jennings and awkwardly landed on his right leg. Williams’ teammates surrounded him before he left for the locker room, and he held his head in his hands as he left the field.

Without Williams in the lineup, LaRod Stephens-Howling and Alfonso Smith are the RBs that would back up Wells -- who was brittle himself last season. Either way, it’s a devastating loss for the Cardinals.

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Posted on: August 19, 2011 10:03 pm
Edited on: August 19, 2011 11:03 pm
 

John Beck shows why Shanahan likes him

J. Beck played well against Indianapolis in the preseason (AP).Posted by Josh Katzowitz

If John Beck is unofficially the official starting QB this year for Washington, he proved tonight that he might actually be ready, looking awfully competent against an uninterested Colts defense while completing 14 of 17 passes for 140 yards.

Yes, yes. Cue the “it’s only the preseason” comments, and that’s most definitely true. But if you’re a Redskins fan, would you rather have Beck look bad? No, of course not. So, the fact he helped lead Washington to a 16-3 lead before exiting the game is only a positive (he also had plenty of help from RBs Tim Hightower and Roy Helu, who combined for 146 yards on 14 carries in the first half).

And if you root for Washington and you assume Beck WILL beat out Rex Grossman, you have to look at tonight’s game as a step forward, especially when you consider he’s only started four games in his career (and that was four years ago, and he lost all four games!), and his stats aren’t especially hot (as you can see here in the CBSSports.com player profile).

One question Rapid Reporter Tom James asked before the game started was how he would handle a pass rush. Beck -- who missed the first preseason game because of a groin injury -- has more mobility than Grossman, but he also hasn’t played well when the defense sends pressure his way.

Beck passed that test tonight, as James writes that Beck, “showed his athleticism in the first half, a stark contrast to Rex Grossman. Grossman gets rid of the ball faster, Beck holds onto it, knowing he can elude pressure and make plays with his legs.”

After the game, coach Mike Shanahan seemed relatively pleased with Beck's play, saying (via Chris Russell of ESPN 980) "John did a good job. Always room for improvement." Meanwhile, Beck said, "I feel pretty good about it, but I'm antsy to see the tape."

Some think Beck wrapped up his starting duties tonight, but remember, Grossman played pretty well in that first game (19 of 26, 207 yards and a TD) when he started. Still, if the Redskins end up choosing Beck, tonight’s performance should give you some insight into why it seems that coach Mike Shanahan likes him so much.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.
Posted on: June 17, 2011 12:06 am
 

Beanie Wells surprised by Cards draft strategy

WellsPosted by Josh Katzowitz

When the Cardinals took RB Ryan Williams in the second round of April’s draft, it caught Arizona’s current No. 1 RB Beanie Wells off guard.

And while it seems somewhat odd that the Cardinals would tell Wells he was on very thin ice only two years into his career – especially after making him a first-round pick in 2009 and because he suffered from a knee injury last year – what other message could management have been sending by taking Williams when it did?

“I didn’t think we really needed a running back, especially in the second round,” Wells said on the Fan AM 1060 (via the Arizona Republic). “But obviously they did. I just take it on as more competition and prepare the same way. … I wasn’t angry. You know the ins and outs of the business. If they don’t like the production at a position, they’re probably going to get another one. This game is like a candy store – if you don’t like the candy you taste, you get another piece.”

He then was asked what he thought the move meant for his job security as the top RB.

“I wasn’t the starting running back; Tim (Hightower) was,” Wells said. “I was just trying to compete to become the starting running back.”

That’s a strange attitude, considering Wells was the featured back until he injured his knee late in the preseason last year – which affected him the entire season – and considering how badly Hightower struggled holding onto the ball. It’s strange because Wells absolutely SHOULD consider himself the starting RB.

During the draft, Williams talked about touching base with Wells, saying, “When the Cardinals told me they were going to pick me, they gave me Beanie Wells’ phone number. I didn’t use it, but now I might give him a text for some help. … I hope so. I heard he’s a good guy. He’s a team player, and I’m part of the team. Hopefully, he’ll be willing to help.”

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Posted on: May 4, 2011 9:31 am
 

NFC West draft truths revealed

Posted by Andy Benoit

One of the best things about the draft is that from it we can find out what teams really think about their current players. Excluding examples of teams filling obvious needs, here are some of the more revealing draft picks from 2011, with a quick blurb of what the team was really saying by making this pick.

Arizona Cardinals

2nd round, Ryan Williams, RB, Virginia Tech
We’re not sure Beanie Wells can stay healthy. Or that Tim Hightower is really all that good.

San Francisco 49ers
C. Kaepernick (US Presswire)
2nd round, Colin Kaepernick, QB, Nevada

Remember when we said that Alex Smith is still our guy? Yeah – that was a lie.

4th round, Kendall Hunter, RB, Oklahoma State
Glen Coffee screwed us last year.

Seattle Seahawks

1st round, James Carpenter, OT, Alabama
Sean Locklear is lazy and not worth signing.

St. Louis Rams

1st round, Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina
Do you believe James Hall is as good as his 10.5 sacks last season suggest? Neither do we. Also, let’s face it, when we say Chris Long has a great motor (which he does), we’re also saying he’s not an elite athlete.

2nd round, Lance Kendricks, TE, Wisconsin
When the offensive starters are announced over the loudspeaker during pregame, we get a little squeamish hearing the name “Billy Bajema” called. For one, the guy should never start for any team. Ever. And for two, the name Bajema just sounds, you know, sorta dirty.

3rd round, Austin Pettis, WR, Boise State
We’re worried about Danario Alexander’s knees.

Check back throughout the week for other division’s Draft Truths Revealed. To see all Draft Truths Revealed, click the “Draft Truths” tag.

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Posted on: April 29, 2011 8:57 pm
 

Ryan Williams will enlist Beanie's help

R. Williams will try to take carries away from B. Wells and T. Hightower (US Presswire). Posted by Josh Katzowitz

NEW YORK – Only a few minutes after the lockout was reinstated by the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, new Cardinals RB Ryan Williams, drafted No. 38 overall in the second round, was talking about how much he likes to study the playbook and how much he’ll need to do so in order to beat out Beanie Wells and Tim Hightower for playing time.

So, I asked him: now that the lockout has been reinstated, how much is that going to hinder your development since you won’t be receiving a playbook immediately?

“When the Cardinals told me they were going to pick me, they gave me Beanie Wells’ phone number,” Williams said. “I didn’t use it, but now I might give him a text for some help.”

You think he will help, considering you’re trying to take his job?

“I hope so,” Williams said. “I heard he’s a good guy. He’s a team player, and I’m part of the team. Hopefully, he’ll be willing to help.”

I imagine, even though Williams will be trying to take carries away from Wells, Williams is probably correct.

And for his part, Williams says he has no problems sharing the ball. He’s had to do it every year but one since he started playing at 14 years old – the only time he was THE guy was when Virginia Tech teammate Darren Evans tore his ACL in 2009 – and he’s used to making the most of less opportunities.

With Wells and Hightower – assuming the Cardinals keep both of them – that could be an interesting RB trio.

“I was part of a three-back rotation last year, “Williams said. “I’m all for it.”

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Posted on: April 18, 2011 12:13 pm
Edited on: April 19, 2011 6:00 pm
 

Offseason Checkup: Arizona Cardinals

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

L. Fitzgerald could walk into free agency at the end of next season (US Presswire).

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



Let’s see, when your choices to fill the starting quarterback spot boil down to Derek Anderson vs. Matt Leinart, you know your season is pretty much screwed before it even begins. And that’s pretty much what happened with the Cardinals last year (though, to be fair, quarterback was far from the only problem in Arizona).

I bet you don’t remember this, though. After beating the Saints in Week 5, Arizona actually was 3-2 before falling through the floor. The only player worth a darn on offense was WR Larry Fitzgerald, and it seems like most of the defense underachieved (most notably, LB Joey Porter). Suffice to say, it was not a good year for the Cardinals.




Best player is unhappy

Fitzgerald, the only bonafide superstar on this team, was visibly frustrated last year with the offense (and the quarterback play in particular), and even though he somehow caught 90 passes for 1,137 yards last season, the Cardinals front office has to convince him that Arizona has a blueprint for the future. Otherwise, Fitzgerald could walk away after his contract is up after the 2011 season.




1. QUARTERBACK
This is an easy spot to pick on, because if you look at the current roster of QBs, here’s who you find: Anderson (consistently terrible throughout his career, and he doesn’t like taking questions about laughing on the sideline during losses), Max Hall (probably doesn’t have the skill set to start in the NFL), John Skelton (perhaps a little potential) and Richard Bartel (no idea who this is). Missouri’s Blaine Gabbert has a pretty good shot at landing in Arizona, and if he doesn’t, the Cardinals could elect to go after Marc Bulger.

2. RUNNING BACK
The Cardinals tried two years ago, selecting RB Beanie Wells in the first round, but that hasn’t worked out so well. Wells had a tough time staying healthy last season, and Tim Hightower had a big problem with fumbles. In fact, Arizona was last in the league in rushing offense – which kinda doesn’t help the quarterback. I actually think LaRod Stephens-Howling is a pretty good player, but I’m not sure he’s a featured back kind of guy.

3. LINEBACKER
Although the defense ranked No. 29 last season, I like the three players across the line (NT Dan Williams and DEs Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell), and the secondary could be very, very good. But the linebackers are brutal. Texas A&M’s Von Miller would be a blessing for the Cardinals, who pick fifth, but he might not be around by then. Besides, Gabbert might be the more exciting (though not the safer) pick.




It’s hard to believe the Cardinals are only three seasons removed from playing in the Super Bowl, and it’s hard to imagine them getting back there anytime soon. If only Arizona had a good quarterback, a dependable running back, a second WR, a decent offensive line, and some players in the LB corps, the Cardinals would have a good chance of getting back to .500.

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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