Tag:Vincent Jackson
Posted on: November 26, 2011 12:15 pm
 

Is Philip Rivers playing hurt?

We might not find out if Rivers is really injured until after the season. (Getty Images)

Posted by Ryan Wilson

Through 10 games this season, Philip Rivers has thrown 17 interceptions. His previous high in five seasons as the Chargers starting quarterback: 15 in 2007, and that was over 16 games. Annually considered one of the league's best quarterbacks, Rivers' sudden plunge into mediocrity has been, well, baffling.

Offensively, the names are virtually unchanged, although Vincent Jackson and Rivers seem to find themselves on different pages of the playbook on a weekly basis, and tight end Antonio Gates doesn't yet appear to be fully healthy. Ryan Matthews occasionally flashes first-round talent, but he still lacks consistency. Then there's the offensive line which, due to injuries, is currently held together with duct tape and chicken wire. And let's not forget head coach Norv Turner, who could be out of a job come January.

While all of these issues play some role in Rivers' Season of Forgettable Football, there might be a simpler answer: he's hurt.

You'd never know it to ask him (he's denied it every time the question comes up), but there's a growing belief in league circles that Rivers' unexplained slide can actually be explained pretty easily: he's not 100 percent.

"Rivers repeatedly says nothing is wrong, but numerous NFL executives and coaches around the league disagree," ESPN's Adam Schefter wrote Friday. "What has happened many times in the past is that a quarterback who struggles during the season will acknowledge afterward that he was hurt. It wouldn't be stunning if the same happened with Rivers. Based on the opinion of people around the league, Rivers has to be playing hurt, no matter how much he denies it."

Sports Illustrated's Peter King echoed those sentiments during a Friday appearance on NBC SportsTalk, suggesting that we'll learn after the season that Rivers was playing hurt.

It sure would explain a lot, though we suspect such a revelation won't do much for Turner's job security.

The gamble, assuming any of this is true, presumably was that Rivers at less than full strength still gave the Chargers the best chance to win, especially in a relatively weak AFC West. Well, as it turns out, the West is relatively weak ... and San Diego is still a bad team. Not all of that is on Rivers; he's played better in recent weeks. The defense has been atrocious and Turner's aforementioned game-management issues haven't helped, either.

Wherever the truth may lie, here's the reality right now: the Chargers are 4-6 and tied for last in the division. They'll probably need to go 9-7 to have a chance to win the West. If the previous 10 games are any indication, that's all but impossible. Then again, we say this every year, and almost every year, San Diego makes a late charge. We're just not sure they have it in them this time around.

Fun starts Sunday when Tim Tebow comes to town.


After a win over the Jets last week, the Denver Broncos hope to keep their streak alive as they take on the San Diego Chargers on Sunday. NFL.com's Pat Kirwan and Jason Horowitz preview this game. Watch the game at 4:15 PM ET on CBS.

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Posted on: November 16, 2011 3:40 pm
 

Film Room: Bears vs. Chargers preview

Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit


The Chargers have not won a game since we featured (and lauded) them in a Week 7 Film Room post. The Bears, on the other hand, are white-hot, having won four straight in taking over the NFC wild card lead.

Here’s a five-part breakdown of the two teams in this Sunday’s late afternoon showdown at Soldier Field.


1. Quarterback
It was not long ago that the preeminent strong-armed, interception-prone quarterback in his mid-twenties with an on-field demeanor that rubbed many the wrong way was Jay Cutler. This season, however, it’s Philip Rivers.

His league-leading 15 interceptions have been genuine turnovers – not the kind of cheap tipped picks that plagued Eli Manning last season. Rivers’ downfield accuracy has waffled. He also has been uncomfortable passing from a dirty pocket. That’s alarming given that his best trait in years past has been making strong throws in the face of pressure.

Cutler knows all about operating in the face of pressure. However, lately he’s been throwing from much cleaner platforms. Because he has the strongest raw arm in football, he does not necessarily need to set his feet in order to throw. He’s a solid athlete with underrated mobility that allows him to buy time. But it’s when the time is bestowed upon him and he is able to set his feet that he gets in rhythm.

It’s not quite a Brady/Brees/Rodgers-like rhythm – Cutler has too many fundamental flaws for that – but it’s a potent enough rhythm to carry a team to victory.

2. Offensive line
The reason Cutler has been more comfortable is he trusts his pass protection. Mike Martz knows that his unathletic offensive line cannot hold up long enough to consistently protect seven-step drops, so he’s built more three-and five-step drops into the gameplan (though the Bears did drift away from this just a bit against the Lions last week). As Cutler has said, he’s potent when he has room to throw.

To be fair, the Bears offensive linemen have elevated their play as of late. Guard Lance Louis has been particularly solid since becoming the new right tackle. Losing left guard Chris Williams (on I.R. with a wrist injury) hurts because, until Gabe Carimi returns from his knee problem (he’s missed seven games and underwent arthroscopic surgery last week), Frank Omiyale will likely play. Omiyale was a train wreck at right tackle earlier this season. He played guard earlier in his career, but if he were truly viable there, he never would have moved outside. Edwin Williams replaced Chris Williams last week, but the Bears have not named him the new starter. He could still be in the mix.

Either way, offensive line coach Mike Tice will have his hands full helping this group continue performing at an acceptable level.

Rivers has felt a lot of Cutler’s old pain as of late. Left tackle Marcus McNeill has fought injuries the past few weeks; after he left the Raiders game last Thursday night, backup Brandyn Dombrowski was eaten alive. Inside, backup left guard Cornell Green, filling in for All-Pro Kris Dielman (out since suffering a concussion-related seizure after the loss to the Jets), has struggled to move his feet in pass protection.

Even though Norv Turner’s playbook is heavy on slow-developing downfield passes, the Chargers did not give the left side of their line much help last Thursday. That should change going up against Julius Peppers.

3. Receivers
Once again, these two clubs are going in opposite directions. The Bears have recently gotten healthy outside, with Earl Bennett back and showing newfound quickness. Bennett is no longer just a plodding possession slot receiver – he’s Cutler’s go-to guy. His presence has eased the burdens on the unreliable Roy Williams and permanently raw Devin Hester.

Also, what can’t be understated is the brilliance of Matt Forte. His success on the ground has given the offense balance, which helps the passing attack. Forte is also one of the best receiving backs in the league.

The Chargers, on the other hand, are without Malcom Floyd (hip injury). His absence has been ameliorated by the flashes of athletic explosiveness from rookie Vincent Brown.

However, San Diego’s usual stars have disintegrated in recent weeks. Antonio Gates has looked heavy-footed and Vincent Jackson has consistently failed to separate against man coverage. Jackson had a three-touchdown outburst against Green Bay thanks in part to some coverage busts. But in the three games before that, he caught a total of seven balls for 98 yards. Last week against Oakland, he had just one reception for 22 yards.

4. Cornerbacks
It will be tough for Jackson to reignite at Soldier Field. Bears cornerback Charles Tillman is having arguably the best season of his stellar career. Tillman thoroughly won his one-on-one battle against Calvin Johnson last week, using a mixture of aggressive press coverage and well-timed post-reception physicality from off-coverage positions.

Tillman, like all Bears cornerbacks, used to only play one side of the field. It was part of Chicago’s strict Cover 2 scheme. But as this season has progressed, Lovie Smith and defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli have drifted away from Cover 2 and more towards single-high safety concepts with the corners playing both man and zone principles. This allows the other safety to roam the field as an extra run supporter or, more often, versatile pass defender.

Consequently, the corners have moved around based on matchups. Tillman defends the opposing team’s biggest (and often most dangerous) receiver, while Tim Jennings (who is having the best season of his career) follows the smaller-but-quicker No. 2 receiver. The commendable performance of these corners is the reason Chicago has been able to spice up its defensive scheme.

In sticking with our theme, San Diego’s secondary has been increasingly disappointing the past month. Left corner Quintin Jammer and slot corner Dante Hughes have been fine, but on the right side, Antoine Cason and rookie Marcus Gilchrest have taken turns replacing one another in the starting lineup. Free safety Eric Weddle moves well and has some interceptions, but he’s not a true stopper.



5. Defensive front
A feeble pass-rush doesn’t help matters for San Diego. The loss of Shaun Phillips (still out with a foot injury) and Larry English (injured reserve) leaves the Chargers with journeymen Antwan Barnes and Travis LaBoy on the edges. Barnes is fast and has actually been as impactful as his team-high six sacks suggest. LaBoy’s run defense compensates for his low sack total (1).

Still, the bottom line is the forces that once buttressed San Diego’s pass-rushing depth are now the forces that comprise San Diego’s pass-rush period.

If the Chargers want to generate consistent pressure on the quarterback, they have to blitz. Inside linebacker Victor Butler and slot corner Dante Hughes are the two best options for this. Blitzing is not preferable for defensive coordinator Greg Manusky, though.

It’s never been preferable for the Bears. They almost exclusively use a traditional four-man pass-rush, which works when you have a deep rotation, a highly-skilled No. 2 rusher like Israel Idonije and a monster like Peppers. In an effort to create matchup problems, Peppers has been lining up at both end positions and, lately, inside on certain passing downs.

So who will win? Check our NFL expert picks for all Week 11 games

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: November 7, 2011 2:21 pm
 

Antonio Gates gets ripped for being 'old and fat'

Posted by Will Brinson

The Chargers are struggling, obviously. At 4-4 after their loss to Green Bay, though, they're still in a position to win the AFC West, although figuring out exactly what is bothering quarterback Philip Rivers would probably be nice.

On Monday morning, Yahoo Sports Mike Silver pegged the blame on someone else -- Chargers general manager A.J. Smith. Silver argues that other general managers wouldn't grab much talent off San Diego's roster, and that includes tight end Antonio Gates, who was called "old and fat" by Silver's team source.

"It’s harsh to say, but he looks old and fat," the source told Silver about Gates. "He’s not beating people. We don’t have any speed, we’re soft on defense, and we put so much on our quarterback. When he was playing great, we could kind of get away with it. Now he’s not playing very well, and it’s all falling apart."

This is supposed to be an indictment (I think) of Smith's ability to construct a roster, but obviously it comes off as quite insulting to Gates. And it doesn't make a whole lot of sense, honestly.

Week 9 Review

Gates is older, at the age of 31. And he is slower, considering that he's dealing with plantar fascitis. Has he gained weight? Well maybe, but whatever, he's still been pretty productive thus far this season, catching 25 passes for 297 yards and two touchdowns.

At that pace, Gates will catch 772 passing yards over the course of the season. Just four tight ends since the merger have caught more than 775 passing yards in a season after turning 31. Tony Gonzalez did it three times, Shannon Sharpe did it twice and Mickey Shuler and Wesley Walls each did it once.

None of those guys played less than 15 games, either. Which is a nice way of saying that while the Chargers might be in trouble when it comes to their current roster construction, the quality of Gates play isn't the issue.

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Posted on: November 7, 2011 10:08 am
Edited on: November 7, 2011 12:28 pm
 

Rivers 'not hurt,' frustrated by injury questions

Posted by Will Brinson

Despite throwing four touchdown passes, Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers still had a pretty rough day in San Diego's 45-38 loss to Green Bay Sunday.

Rivers threw three interceptions, two of which were returned by the Green Bay secondary for touchdowns, and the other which sealed the Packers victory. Adding salt to the proverbial wound was Rivers having to answer questions about his health, again.

"I appreciate everybody trying to come up with a theory and a reason but I’m not hurt," an exasperated Rivers said following San Diego's loss on Sunday. "I’ve thrown a handful of picks that I normally don’t throw and I’ll probably throw some more throughout my career and there won’t always be a reason why. I prepare, I give everything I’ve got, give our guys everything I’ve got, and they fooled me once today and the other one got tipped.
The one at the end, I wish I would’ve thrown it up high and deep and given Vincent a chance but I didn’t.

"Health is not an issue, it’s never been an issue on any interception I’ve ever thrown in eighteen years of football."

It's hard to blame Rivers for getting a little frustrated at all the questions about an injury that everyone seems to think he might be hiding -- the media seems determined to peg Rivers' struggles on the fact that he's hurt something.

The reality is probably closer to what Chargers owner Dean Spanos noted on Sunday after the game to NBC's Alex Flanagan.

Week 9 Review

"Sometimes you just have an off year," Spanos said. "That is what Philip Rivers is having so far."

Interestingly, Rivers isn't the only one struggling with interceptions this season -- Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Rivers have combined for a whopping 35 interceptions on the season. Those three quarterbacks threw 39 all of last year, with 22 of them coming from Brees.

That's not supposed to excuse Rivers play, because he's only thrown 11 touchdowns against his 14 picks. But assume Rivers is having a bad year.

And then add in the fact that he's dealt with injuries to Antonio Gates (which hurts his red zone and touchdown production) and several wideouts (hurting his timing with his weapons).

That adds up to a much more logical reason for his struggles than some mystery injury.

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Posted on: November 3, 2011 9:17 pm
Edited on: November 4, 2011 9:23 am
 

LT: Rivers 'distracted' due to being 'the guy'?

Posted by Will Brinson

Philip Rivers is struggling right now, no question about it. Statistically, he's way off his production from the past two season in 2011. And the Chargers final play of regulation in a tough loss to Kansas City Monday, in which Rivers fumbled a snap before taking a knee, sums it up succinctly.

No one's precisely sure what's wrong with Rivers, but there are multiple theories -- a hidden injury, offensive injuries, Antonio Gates' health -- as to why he's not performing up to par. Rivers' former teammate, LaDainian Tomlinson, has his own idea, and it involves leadership.

"I don't know what Philip may be going through right now. But I will say, to me, he seems distracted for some reason," Tomlinson said to the media recently. "It just seems like he's distracted. I always said this: It's hard to be the guy on the team. When they say this is your team. It's hard to be that guy now. Because you get all the questions of what's wrong and what's right.

"Then, you get your teammates that expect certain things from you. When that doesn't happen, you get strange looks in the locker room. So it's hard to be that guy when it's your team. So that may have a little bit to do with what's going on."

I'm not so sure this rings true. Rivers played all of 2010 without Tomlinson, and though the Chargers didn't make the playoffs, he had a monster statistical year and kept the Bolts afloat despite more injuries than they suffered so far this year.



It sounds like A.J. Smith, Chargers GM, probably agrees with me. Or just doesn't like Tomlinson sticking his beak in someone else's business.

"I agree with what LT said about it’s hard being the guy," Smith said, via the San Diego Union-Tribune. "But I think it’s a lot harder when it’s no longer your team, and you’re not the guy."

Annnnd, burn. Oh right, but Rivers had a comment as well.

"Based on what you told me," Rivers said. "He has to be speaking from experience. I don’t feel that burden, nor has it had anything to do with the struggles.

"People say, 'It's your team.' I’ve never bought into that."

Naturally, Smith and Rivers are referencing the fact that Tomlinson wasn't exactly a leader in his final year with the Chargers. As you may recall, before the 2010 season began, Rivers expressed that there was "a little bit of relief" in San Diego with Tomlinson gone.

This went over really well with Tomlinson, who ripped back at Rivers and Gates, so to say he's not biased on this subject is silly.

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Posted on: October 19, 2011 10:12 am
 

Film Room: Jets vs. Chargers preview

Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit



For the first time in the Norv Turner era, the San Diego Chargers enter their sixth game of the season with a record other than 2-3. Now that the perennial power of the AFC West is finally living up to high expectations out of the gate, no one seems interested in acknowledging them.

That’s about to change. The Chargers’ matchup against the Jets is the only marquee game on an otherwise shabby Week 7 schedule. Below is a breakdown of that game and this very good San Diego team.

(Ed. Note: But first, our film-room edition of the Pick-Six Podcast. Subscribe via iTunes here.)


1. Norv Turner’s offense
Slow starts and a seemingly lax, bland personality have made Turner ripe for criticism over the years. But what no honest critic can deny is Turner has always been ahead of the offensive strategizing curve, particularly recently, as the Chargers have finished in the top five in scoring each year since he arrived.

Turner’s offense is unique. While the rest of the NFL is spreading out, the Chargers operate predominantly out of base personnel (two backs, two receivers and a tight end). Turner believes that you don’t need to align horizontally in order to attack vertically. The Chargers refer frequently to seven-step drops and dictate one-on-one matchups for their gazelle-like receivers by designing routes that go outside the numbers.

This tactic is fairly easy when Antonio Gates is in the lineup, as safeties are compelled to focus on him in the middle. When Gates is sidelined, as he’s been since Week 3, the receivers’ routes are inclined to develop more slowly, which forces the offensive line to elevate its play (blocking on a seven-step drop is not easy). San Diego’s front five has answered that challenge this season.

One-on-one matchups outside can also be commanded simply by lining up in base formations. With a line as powerful on the ground as San Diego’s, defenses are compelled to have a safety eye the running back, if not walk all the way down into the box. Otherwise, the Chargers can run with ease against a seven-man front. A preoccupied safety can’t offer viable help in coverage outside.

Long developing routes not only generate big plays (San Diego frequently finishes near the top of the league in 20-plus-yard passes), they also stretch a defense, which creates space for dumpoff passes to targets coming out of the backfield. Fullback Mike Tolbert (a surprisingly skilled receiver) and running back Ryan Mathews have combined for 48 catches this season, averaging over 10 yards per pop.

2. The personnel and matchups
The Jets don’t mind the Chargers creating one-on-one matchups for their receivers. They’re used to that, in fact, given the way Darrelle Revis shadows the opposing team’s top wideout with no safety help. Expect Revis to blanket Vincent Jackson, and expect Vincent Jackson to see few balls come his way (Revis is coming off a two-interception performance, and the Chargers had no problem going away from Jackson when he was guarded by Champ Bailey two weeks ago).

This leaves Antonio Cromartie-Malcolm Floyd as the key matchup. Cromartie is built to defend downfield routes; he’s a long-striding runner who likes to track the ball in the air, rather than rely on physical jams and proper press technique. If he can handle Floyd one-on-one, the Jets are in business. Most likely, though, he’ll need some help.

With two corners who, for the most part, can match up to San Diego’s receivers, it will be interesting to see how New York defends the running backs underneath. The Jets indiscriminately integrate their linebackers and safeties into blitzes and zone exchanges. Rex Ryan will likely utilize those blitzes and zone exchanges given that even if the Jets can’t sack Philip Rivers, they can at least disrupt and discourage his seven-step drops. Thus, Jim Leonhard, Eric Smith, Bart Scott and David Harris could all take turns blitzing the passer and spying the backs.

3. Philip Rivers
Often, systems are only as good as the quarterback running them. The Chargers have one of the game’s best in Rivers. He is a perfect fit for Turner’s offense. The seven-step drops require a strong arm and the toughness to make throws with defenders bearing down on him.

Rivers has this – all in one package, in fact.

Thanks to his shot-put throwing motion, he does not need much room in order to throw. He can push the ball downfield without having to fully step forward or, obviously, wind up. Mentally, his focus when a hit’s on the horizon is as impressive as anyone’s in the game.

4. The run game
Because Turner’s offense is built largely around manipulating the strong safety, it, more than most, thrives on run-pass balance. That’s why the Chargers traded up last season to draft Ryan Mathews in the first-round. After a disappointing, injury-filled rookie campaign, the first-rounder from Fresno State has started to blossom in recent weeks. Mathews has very fluid lateral agility, which makes him potent in space. The issue has been whether he can create his own space. Last season, he struggled to press the hole and break the line of scrimmage at full speed. That’s a sign of a runner thinking too much.

Mathews has corrected this. He seems to be reading defenses before the snap more than after the snap. As a result, he’s rushed for 98, 81 and 125 yards his last three outings. It helps that he plays with solid lead-blockers in Mike Tolbert and Jacob Hester, a mobile interior line, a capable road-grader like Marcus McNeil and arguably the game’s best left guard, Kris Dielman.

5. Other side of the ball
San Diego’s defense has been every bit as effective as the offense this season. Coordinator Greg Manusky has a very straightforward approach, often basing his tactics on the down and distance. With his corners playing so well and with this being a cohesive veteran unit, Manusky does not have to get cute in his approach.

Aside from the willowy Shaun Phillips, the Chargers don’t have a dominant pass-rusher, though Larry English and Antwan Barnes have both flashed occasionally this season. Still, Manusky is willing to blitz on third down, usually with a traditional inside linebacker who can give the Chargers a fifth pass-rusher to dictate that the speed guys face one-on-one matchups outside. The Jets’ floundering pass attack shouldn’t pose too much of a problem for the Bolts.

What might be a problem is New York’s run game. True, it has been stagnant this season. It’s starting to look like Shonn Greene’s ’09 postseason coming out party will also be the pinnacle of his career. But we’ve seen the Jets succeed before.

Physically, they have the potential to pound the rock, and the Chargers’ run defense stumbled against Willis McGahee and the Broncos two weeks ago. Starting ends Jacques Cesaire and Luis Castillo are both on the mend, and nose tackle Antonio Garay, while a quality player, has not stepped up accordingly. Hard to picture that changing against Nick Mangold.

So who will win? Check our NFL expert picks for all Week 7 games

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: September 20, 2011 3:59 pm
Edited on: September 20, 2011 4:13 pm
 

Haloti Ngata, Ravens reach five-year deal

Posted by Will Brinson

We mentioned earlier that the deadline to extend players given the franchise tag was rapidly approaching -- we also mentioned a report that the Ravens and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata were closing in on a "blockbuster" deal. That deal is done and the two sides have reached a five-year deal.

"It just feels awesome," Ngata in a statement released by the team.  "I won’t have to worry about my family, my kids, with money problems.  Hopefully, I can continue to do well for the Ravens now and it’s a good deal for them."

It's a better deal for Ngata -- Aaron Wilson of the Carroll County Times reports that the contract will pay Ngata $40 million in guaranteed money over the first two years of the deal, which is absolutely stunning, even for an impact defensive player of Ngataga's standards.

"Haloti’s re-signing is significant as we push to win consistently and battle for championships," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said Tuesday.

The Ravens and Ngata had reportedly been working on a deal for some time now, but the talks cooled until Tuesday, when negotiations between the two sides picked up serious steam and eventually resulted in the deal.

"We've been talking, but didn’t want it to be real public and in the media," said Ngata. "We just wanted to make sure we don’t put too much emotion into it and make sure we got the right deal."

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Posted on: September 20, 2011 3:50 pm
Edited on: September 21, 2011 3:53 pm
 

Eye on Football NFL Awards: Week 2

Posted by Will Brinson


Every week, our NFL experts will hand out the Eye on Football hardware to the best of the best from the NFL week that was.

Week 2 NFL Awards
Expert Offense Defense STeams Coach
Freeman  Romo Wilfork Cromartie  Belichick
Judge  Brady Cromartie  Hanson  Munchak
Prisco  Romo Cromartie  Kasay  Munchak
Brinson Stafford Wilfork  Bailey  Munchak
Katzowitz Jackson Woodson  Akers  Gailey
Wilson  Britt Wilfork  Bailey  Gailey
Week 2's wrapped up now and we saw one of the most interesting two-week swings in NFL history. That's right -- the public perception of Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo. He was a choker after Week 1 and now he's suddenly become one of the toughest guys in the NFL. Whether those two are mutually exclusive or not doesn't matter -- Romo wins the Eye on Offense Award for Week 2. It's a well-deserved win considering his willingness to play with a punctured lung (!) may have saved the Cowboys season.

Dan Bailey, the Cowboys rookie kicker, deserves some love too, for punching in a pair of field goals that eventually gave the Cowboys the win over the 49ers. And he got it, as he's the Eye on Special Teams Award winner for Week 2.

Perhaps the flashiest move of Week 2, though, was Vince Wilfork's interception of Philip Rivers shortly before halftime in the Patriots win over the Chargers. Wilfork tipped the ball, made a fantastic grab and nearly found the end zone. It was enough for him to squeak by Antonio Cromartie as our Eye on Defense Award winner this week. (And it also makes for an amazing replay.)

Finally, big ups to the Titans Mike Munchak who won his first game by barnstorming the Ravens -- he also barnstormed his way to the Eye on Coaching award for Week 2. Even if it isn't as amazing as Chan Gailey nearly winning back-to-back weeks with the Bills, it's still quite impressive.

Leave your votes in the comments below or scream angrily at us on Twitter @EyeOnNFL.

Eye on Offense Award
Mike Freeman Clark Judge
Tony Romo Tony Romo, QB, Cowboys
He showed mental toughness and guts this week two things I didn't think were there in abundance. He played with a punctured lung and broken rib. (Punctured freaking lung?) And perhaps in one moment changed his image from pretty boy stat machine incapable of winning the big one into hardcore player. I don't know if Romo has changed permanently or not. I just know I'll never doubt him again.
Tony RomoTony Romo, QB, Romo
He suffers a cracked rib and a punctured lung, then returns to rally the Cowboys to victory? He shouldn't have been in a game; he should have been in Stanford hospital. This should silence his critics for, oh, maybe one week.
Pete Prisco Will Brinson
Tom Brady Tom Brady, QB, Patriots
Can I retire this award? Two weeks in a row I had to go with Brady. He threw for 423 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions against the Chargers. I wanted to go somewhere else, but where? He might win this thing every week. We know he's the leader in the MVP race already.
Matthew StaffordMatthew Stafford, QB, Lions
Stafford started slow again on Sunday, throwing a pick against the Chiefs. And then he got his evisceration on, helping Detroit roll to a 48-3 redemption beatdown for Gunther Cunningham. Stafford threw for 294 yards and four touchdown passes ... and it might have been more if Detroit hadn't been up by so many points in the second half.
Josh Katzowitz Ryan Wilson
Vincent JacksonVincent Jackson, WR, Chargers
Last week, I selected Cam Newton after he threw for an obscene amount of yards in his NFL debut. This week, he threw for an even obscener amount of yards. But, once again, the Panthers lost so I turn in the direction of Jackson. Though maybe I should have picked Tom Brady last week, Jackson was fantastic against the Patriots, recording 10 catches for 172 yards and two touchdowns. Maybe New England should have tried doubling him every once in a while.
Aaron Rodgers Kenny Britt, WR, Titans
It was easy to make fun of Britt during the lockout because he spent much of his time going from one legal entanglement to another. But when he's on the field and healthy, he's among the best wide receivers in the league. Against the Ravens Sunday, he caught nine passes for 135 yards and a touchdown as the Titans made easy work of the Ravens, 26-13. Also worth noting: Britt inflicted this damage without much help from Chris Johnson, who rushed for 53 yards on 24 carries.
Eye on Defense Award
Freeman Judge
Vince WilforkVince Wilfork, DL, Patriots
If he's under 400 pounds, I'd be stunned. On a light day, he's 3-fiddy. Minimum. Despite that girth, I've said for years that Wilfork, pound for gigantic pound, is the most underrated athlete in the NFL. His blubber hides the fact that he moves far quicker than you'd ever think. This was the case against San Diego when he lept that big ass into the air, picked off a pass and rumbled down the sideline. Easily the best play of the week.
Antonio Cromartie Antonio Cromartie, DB, Jets
So the Jets don't sign Nnamdi Asomugha and get Cromartie as the booby prize. Some booby prize. He has two interceptions, 149 all-purpose yards on five touches and a reason to make Jets' fans think they'll be OK without Nnamdi.
Prisco Brinson
Antonio CromartieAntonio Cromartie, CB, Jets
He had two picks, one almost for a touchdown, against the Jaguars. Not bad for the "other" corner. Cromartie will get a lot of opportunities to make plays playing opposite Darrelle Revis. He made the most of it against Luke McCown Sunday. Of course, it helped that McCown was horrible.
Vince WilforkVince Wilfork, DL, Patriots
Woodson and Cro had great games, but against inferior teams -- Wilfork was the absolutely difference maker on a day when Albert Haynesworth didn't show up. His interception, which (sadly) didn't end in a touchdown, was one of the most athletic moves I've ever seen from a defensive lineman.
Katzowitz Wilson
Charles Woodson Charles Woodson, CB, Packers
It was deemed Heisman on Heisman crime when Woodson intercepted Cam Newton twice (and also recovered a fumble). More importantly, Woodson helped settle Green Bay’s defense after the Panthers jumped out to a 13-0 lead. Playing without Tramon Williams by his side, Woodson continued to impress in the 14th year of his eventual Hall of Fame career. 
Vince Wilfork Vince Wilfork, DL, Patriots
He got the first interception of his NFL career when, just before halftime, he batted a Philip Rivers pass into the air before hauling it in and rumbling 36 yards. With seconds in the 2nd quarter, Tom Brady complete two quick throws to set up a Stephen Gostkowski field goal that gave the Pats a 20-7 lead. The 10-point end-of-half swing sealed San Diego's fate.
Eye on Special Teams Award
Freeman Judge
Antonio CromartieAntonio Cromartie, CB, Jets
You can tell something great is about to happen with Cromartie. He just looks on the verge of becoming maybe the best return man in football. The Jags may not be the best test since the franchise is hurting right now but on the first play of the game he returned the kickoff 39 yards. That helped the Jets score a first quarter offensive touchdown, the first one in a 16 games.
Jason Hanson Jason Hanson, K, Lions
He played in his 297th game for the Lions, breaking Bruce Matthews' longevity record with one team. What's more, he played all those games with the Lions, a club that makes changes like McDonald's makes burgers.
Prisco Brinson
John KasayJohn Kasay, K, Saints
When the Saints lost Garrett Hartley with an injury, they turned to the 41-year-old Kasay. He is in his 21st season and appeared to have moved on with his life. So what does he do Sunday? He makes three field goals, including one from 53 yards. You have to love the old guys.
Dan BaileyDan Bailey, K, Cowboys
In a week with just one return (Michael Boley's fumble recovery to the house Monday), a kicker needs to win. Dan Bailey, for knocking down the game-tying and game-winning field goals in a crucial victory for Dallas, with the pressure of being a Cowboys kicker AND a rookie, deserves it.
Katzowitz Wilson
David Akers David Akers, K, 49ers
Akers hit three extra points and just one field goal this week. But the field goal was a record-breaker. In the always-tough Candlestick Park Akers nailed a 55-yarder, the longest kick in stadium history. Yeah, San Francisco didn’t win the game, but props to Akers for a record-breaker.
Dan Bailey Dan Bailey, K, Cowboys
The rookie honked a 21-yard field goal on the Cowboys' first drive, but he nailed a 48-yarder as time expired in regulation to tie the game. And he calmly converted a 19-yard chipshot to give Dallas its first win of the season Sunday.
Eye on Coaching Award
Freeman Judge
Bill BelichickBill Belichick, Patriots
The best coach of all time again has his Patriots in the mix of the best teams in the NFL. Lots of work needed to fix that defense but he'll get it done. He always does. The best thing about Belichick this week? The show that aired chronicling his daily life. It gave a rare look at a coach few people know well.
Mike Munchak Mike Munchak, Titans
Not only does he score his first pro win; he does it at the expense of a Baltimore team that just obliterated Pittsburgh. I never saw this coming. I bet the Ravens didn't, either.
Prisco Brinson
Mike MunchakMike Munchak, Titans
His team lost the opener, and didn't look very good in doing so, but Munchak made his team bounce back and upset the Ravens in Week 2. The Titans have been a run-centric team, but Munchak let Matt Hasselbeck throw the football to beat the Ravens. It was Munchak's first victory as a head coach.
Mike MunchakMike Munchak, Titans
There's little reason to think the Titans could succeed in a year where change is especially detrimental. Even with RB Chris Johnson stalling out, Munchak got his team prepped enough to pick up his first regular-season win as an NFL head coach by beating down the previously high-flying Ravens.
Katzowitz Wilson
Chan Gailey Chan Gailey, Bills
Just like we all predicted, the Bills are 2-0 after dominating the Chiefs in Week 1 and completing a fantastic comeback victory against the Raiders in Week 2. Gailey, in his second season, continues to turn around a moribund franchise that hasn’t been relevant since Marv Levy. The Bills still probably won’t beat the Patriots and the Jets, but, with Gailey in charge, they’ll certainly have a better chance.
Chan Gailey Chan Gailey, Bills
I was on the Gailey bandwagon and after a come-from-behind win over the Raiders I see no reason to hop off now. Buffalo scored 21 fourth-quarter points to outlast the Raiders by three, and in two weeks, they've scored 79 points (they didn't score that many points until Week 5 of the 2010 season). If the Bills can beat the Patriots this week, I'm running for president of the Chan Gailey fan club.

 
 
 
 
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