Tag:Cleveland Browns
Posted on: October 9, 2010 4:58 pm
 

Week 5 injury news and analysis, part II

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Rams at Lions

Once again, Lions RB Jahvid Best is listed as questionable, and once again, we expect him to play. His turf toe continues to limit him in practice a bit, but that doesn’t mean Detroit’s most exciting player won’t perform. WR Nate Burleson, who’s missed the past two weeks, is probable to play and should take a little of the attention off Calvin Johnson. TE Tony Scheffler, who suffered a concussion last week, returned to practice Friday and likely will be a gametime decision.

St. Louis DT Clifton Ryan, who’s been out the past three weeks with migraine headache problems, is questionable, and there’s a pretty good chance he could play. Before missing the past three contests, Ryan had played in 49-straight games. The past month has been pretty unusual for Ryan, one of the best run defenders on the squad.

RB Steven Jackson, who was questionable last week with a groin injury but still managed to gain 124 yards of total offense, is probable.

Bears at Panthers


The biggest news out of Chicago this week was that QB Jay Cutler won’t play because of a concussion. Originally, it was thought to be a minor head injury - though honestly, are ANY head injuries minor? - but then in the middle of the week, the team said he was out. Thus, we turn our eyes to backup Todd Collins, who hasn’t played much in the past … well … 13 years. Since 1997, he’s attempted only 166 passes.

While the Bears will miss one of their most important players, Carolina won’t have one of its best as well. WR Steve Smith, who hurt his ankle last week, definitely won’t play. Considering the Panthers also released Dwayne Jarrett this week after he was arrested on a drunken driving charge, the Panthers WR corps will be younger than young.

Buccaneers at Bengals

Cincinnati SS Roy Williams, who’s had a knack for getting injured the past few years, is doubtful to play with a knee injury. Chinedum Ndukwe will replace Williams at the SS spot, and though Ndukwe isn’t great in coverage, the Bengals have to be happy that CB Johnathan Joseph had full participation in practice Friday (he’s listed as probable with a forearm).

WR Jordan Shipley, who took that nasty hit from Cleveland’s T.J. Ward last week that led to a concussion, is out for the game.

Tampa Bay should be fine for this game. The Buccaneers only have five players listed on their injury report (LB Adam Hayward, LB Niko Koutouvides, DE Kyle Moore, WR Maurice Stovall and TE Kellen Winslow), and all of them are probable to play.

Falcons at Browns

Although they’re listed as questionable, Browns RB Peyton Hillis and C Alex Mack are expected to play Sunday. The big question mark is QB Jake Delhomme and whether he can suit up for the first time since the season opener. That likely will be a gametime decision after Delhomme participates in the pregame warmups.

The season so far has been disappointing for Cleveland DT Shaun Rogers, who’s listed as questionable with an ankle. He missed the Week 3 game against Baltimore, and though he played last week, he only registered one tackle (to go with his other two tackles on the season).

Atlanta only lists three on the injury report. LB Sean Weatherspoon and WR Michael Jenkins are questionable to play, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see Jenkins sit out once again. Weatherspoon, meanwhile, practiced fully the past two days, so he seems like a decent bet to play.

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Posted on: October 8, 2010 3:04 pm
Edited on: October 8, 2010 3:34 pm
 

Shipley out but Ward in (justice pronounced dead)

Posted by Andy Benoit

Bengals wide receiver Jordan Shipley has been ruled out for Sunday’s game due to a concussion. The concussion was the result of an egregious cheap shot from Browns rookie safety T.J. Ward. If you haven’t seen the hit, take a look at it here:

Wednesday, the Associated Press reported that Ward was fined $15,000 for the hit. That is an outlandishly soft punishment that should leave the executives at 280 Park Avenue feeling embarrassed. Jets safety Eric Smith was fined $50,000 and suspended one game for his hit on Anquan Boldin in 2008.

Fortunately, Shipley was not injured as badly as Boldin was. But that doesn’t make Ward’s hit any better than Smith’s. Why is it that Shipley has to sit out Sunday but the man who delivered the dirty hit that caused the injury gets to play? Ward should have been suspended.

"I just tried to make a play and unfortunately he got hurt," Ward said, according to ESPN. "It's part of the violent game we play. If you play that position, it kind of comes with the territory."

It’s too early to declare Ward a dirty player. But this was certainly a dirty play. Eric Mangini defended Ward’s hit, calling it “an aggressive play.” This prompted Shipley’s teammate, Terrell Owens, to tell Chad Ochocinco on The T.Ocho Show (seriously), “Look who it's coming from. Probably 90 percent of his players don't like him [Mangini] anyway. I don't like him. We got to see him again anyway, so we'll see who's going to do some cheap shots next game. Hit me like that."

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Posted on: October 8, 2010 10:31 am
 

Hot Routes: Could Devin Hester play quarterback?


Posted by Will Brinson 

Got a link for the Hot Routes? Hit us up on Twitter (@CBSSportsNFL) .
  • Todd Collins is starting and Caleb Hanie is the backup for the Bears on Sunday, but they also have a super-secret "emergency" plan, and will list someone as a third quarterback in the event that both those guys are sucked into the concussion vacuum that is the Bears' offensive line. "I'll just say without going into that and giving away too much more about our game plan, we have a guy in mind, maybe a couple of guys in mind, if we get down to No. 3," Lovie Smith said. So who is it, you wonder?  Apparently either Devin Hester or Matt Forte, which is actually way scarier than Collins or Hanie -- either/or would play the wildcat the entire game
  • Could Aaron Hernandez lead the Pats in the receiving the rest of the way? Sure -- Mike Reiss of ESPN Boston notes that only 36 percent of the Patriots snaps this season have been in "pure three- or four-receiver packages," whereas they ran nearly 56 percent in those sets last year. In other words, the team was moving towards utilizing their young tight ends even before trading Moss.
  • What one word would you use to describe Danny Amendola? (Note: please don't say "Welker.") Because the rest of the Rams would say stuff like "fiesty," "electric," "quick," "tenacious," and "energetic." David Eckstein is a huge fan, duh.
  • It's 2010 and athletes announce stuff on Twitter, so it should be no surprise that Chad Hall dropped his promotion off the Eagles practice squad vis-a-vis social media.
Posted on: October 7, 2010 10:55 pm
 

Mangini swears he doesn't hate Jerome Harrison

Posted by Will Brinson

If you've watched a Browns game this year (and/or read anything I've written about Cleveland's running game), there's a distinct chance that you could think Jerome Harrison is currently holding Eric Mangini's family hostage in his basement, Breaking Bad style.

Now, frankly, Peyton Hillis has justified the carries he's been given for the past few weeks, so it's kind of hard to hate on Mangini's decision, but it's at least reasonable to wonder if he dislikes Harrison. Thankfully, someone asked, via Stephanie Storm at the Akron Beacon-Journalposed the old "Is Jerome Harrison in your doghouse?" question.

"No, not at all," Mangini said. "He'll probably have some opportunities this week and every week is different. No, that's not the case at all."

However, considering that most of Harrison's carries either don't exist or are in the worst possible field position imaginable, that's not necessarily a good thing.

And, according to Mangini, even though Harrison came out and publicly mentioned something sarcastic about his "role" in the offense, the two still haven't had "any talks or anything, but [Mangini] is always open to that."

So, to sum up, we've got a running back making public statements about not getting enough carries, followed by a coach who says said running back is not in the doghouse even though he'll probably get the "same" carries in the coming weeks -- regardless of the fact that he rushed for a season's worth of yardage in three games last year and the other running back on the roster is banged up -- and there is NOTHING WRONG WITH THIS SO STOP ASKING QUESTIONS.
Posted on: October 5, 2010 5:23 pm
 

Dey Took Er Jobs: The Old Hanging Chad(s)

Posted by Will Brinson

Dey Took Er Jobs takes a look at the various job controversies around the league. If you don't get the title, you don't watch enough South Park .


As late as Monday afternoon, this column had the potential to be BOR-ING. But bless you both, Chad Henne and Buddy Nix, for your beautiful run of incompetence -- Chad Henne decided to get his interception on against the Patriots in a Monday night South Beach slaughtering and Nix shipped Marshawn Lynch out to Seattle on Tuesday afternoon for a fourth round pick, totally changing the landscape of people fighting for jobs in the NFL.

As a result of Monday night's performance, there's all kinds of wild conjecture flying that the Dolphins will consider looking to Tyler Thigpen (you may recall him from mop-up duty last night) or Chad Pennington.

In part, the latter makes sense -- Pennington led the original 'Fins revival a few years ago. The reluctance to bail on Henne stems from the fact that he has "all the tools" (as the old saying goes) and Miami invested a second-rounder in him

And the fact that bailing from Henne, regardless of how robotic some of his throws look, is a knee-jerk mistake.

Look, again, some of his decisions in the pocket were beyond embarrassing, but if you take away the three picks (it's okay, I'm laughing while I write it too), he went 29 of 36 for 302 yards and two teeters, and that's the type of game that will win most of the time.

Now as to why we so willingly yanked out all the mistakes from his line, well, look no further than the special teams issues on Monday night -- when the third branch of your team coughs up 20-plus points, it changes your gameplan entirely. In the case of the Dolphins, it switched them from a run-heavy/run-often team looking to keep the ball out of Tom Brady's hands into a team that was forced to pass more than it wanted to.

Or, as Tony Sparano said, it "puts a lot of stress on the position."

Panic is inevitable in South Beach -- the Dolphins fired their special teams coach within 12 hours of the Pats loss -- and that's okay. But they're 2-2 headed into the bye, just a game (plus tiebreakers) back of the Pats and Jets and firmly in a convoluted playoff race just a quarter of the way into the season.

Giving up on Henne now would be overkill -- especially when games against Green Bay, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Baltimore after the bye will give them plenty of opportunity to make a move.

****
"Beast Mode" should end up starting for the Seahawks -- Julius Jones was released after Seattle acquired Lynch, Leon Washington is best used in situational running and special teams, and Justin Forsett just hasn't looked like a feature back.

As has been bandied about many a time between Andy and I, Lynch isn't exactly an elite running back. But he does possess some traits -- most notably an ability to actually be physical when running -- that the rest of the Seattle backs just don't have. Add in Pete Carroll's disappointment with the running game following the loss to the Rams, a bye week to prep Marshawn for the team's system and there's no reason to think he couldn't garner the majority of carries right off the bat.

The fascinating subplot of this job fight is that Lynch was in Forsett's wedding recently -- the two were roommates at Cal, which means it should at least be congenial.

****
Michael Vick and Kevin Kolb just WON'T LEAVE ME ALONE. Stupid Vick had to go and get his stupid ribs stuck in between two stupid Redskins on a stupid run near the stupid goal line (why yes, I do own him in like four fantasy leagues, why do you ask?) and now Kolb takes the reigns as starter.

Again.

The Eagles get the 49ers on national television this week and then get a bye, so it's unlikely that Kolb could perform so well in two weeks to warrant Andy Reid changing starters for the rest of the season. But I'm fairly certain I've said that like twelve times this season already.

****
Jake Delhomme is healthy which means we can just move on past that whole Mini-Seneca Wallace Era that featured a win and ... oh, I see. We can't move on? There's some sort of controversy in Cleveland? NO!

Okay, there's not a controversy, per se, but Eric Mangini did say that starting Delhomme wasn't "a knock on Seneca" because he'd, after all, "decreased the amount of turnovers the last couple of games." Translated from Coach on the Hot Seat Speak, that means that if Jake throws more than one interception in the first half next week, he's getting yanked.

****
Cadillac Williams actually acknowledged that he might not be Tampa Bay's feature back for much longer; presumably that means that LeGarrette Blount makes a play for the starter's role, which, by the way, is bat-s insane.

And also just kind of gross from a karma perspective, considering that it should definitely be Stafon Johnson starting somewhere. But whatever -- Cadillac has been awful this year, and if he can't average more than three yards per carry, you certainly can't blame the Bucs for putting some fresher legs in there.

****
Ryan Torain could be stealing a job, too. Clinton Portis, always a charming interview, hopped on the radio Tuesday and gave Mike Wise an on-air scoop (yes, the same one, irony alert, thanks) when he told him that he didn't think he'd play this week.

Torain's been a better runner, a more physical runner, is healthier, doesn't fall down randomly when running in the middle of the open field, has fresher legs and has more to prove. Plus, this is Mike Shanahan we're talking about -- it wouldn't be appropriate for him not to have a random dude come storming up from the practice squad to rush for 1,000 yards in his system.

****
Quickly ...

- Forgot to mention the Bills whole RB situation, but the presumptive notion has to be that Fred Jackson will see some carries and C.J. Spiller will get a much-increased role.

- The Jags dumped Todd Bouman which means Trent Edwards gets promoted which means that David Garrard slightly thinner ice than Jack Del Rio.

- Darren McFadden, who's been pretty daggum good this year, could miss Week 5. If he does, Michael Bush gets to really make a power play for the starter job in Oakland (although they'll still split carries when McFadden's healthy); Bush looked better against Houston and was considered a distinct possibility to begin the season as starter before a hand injury.

- Poor Garrett Hartley. That's like having your dad beat you in basketball. When you're 29.
Posted on: October 4, 2010 10:05 pm
 

Delhomme looking to start Sunday

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

It sounds like Seneca Wallace’s reign as the Browns QB could end this week. That’s the feeling of Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer after the media spoke to Cleveland coach Eric Mangini today.
Delhomme
"He should practice on Wednesday,” Mangini said. "I thought we had a really good chance [against the Bengals]. I want to see with a bigger load how he responds. That's where we are on Monday. Hopefully we'll be saying the same thing on Thursday."

Still, Wallace played well in Delhomme’s absence. He nearly led the Browns to an upset against Baltimore two weeks ago, and of course, he helped beat the Bengals on Sunday.

"He's gotten more and more comfortable running the offense," said Mangini. "And I don't want anybody to think that by putting Jake in this is some knock on Seneca. I think Seneca has done a great job. And he's played well and he's played well against really tough defenses and I have no problem with him starting [and] playing."

Wallace Just for comparison’s sake, here’s how Delhomme (one game) and Wallace (three games) compare this year.

Delhomme has completed 54.1 percent of his passes for 227 yards, one TD and two INTs. Wallace has completed 61.2 percent of his passes for 554 yards (185 yards per game), three TDs and two INTs.

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Posted on: October 4, 2010 4:01 am
Edited on: October 4, 2010 12:40 pm
 

10 Sunday stories deserving your attention Week 4

Posted by Andy Benoit

1.) Conspiracy in Philadelphia

Until Sunday, it hadn’t dawned on me that Trent Edwards and Kevin Kolb are the same person. That’s why they’re never in the same place at the same time. Kevin “Trent Edwards” Kolb was a master of the safety outlet pass against the Redskins. Including what we saw in the first half against Green Bay in Week 1, Kolb is officially the most consistent dumpoff thrower in the game today (the consistency being, he dumps it off on every play).
K. Kolb (US Presswire)
DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin became nonfactors once Kolb replaced the injured Michael Vick. And somehow, tight end Brent Celek dropped out of the picture as well (until the final few minutes, anyway). Running back LeSean McCoy took 16 handoffs Sunday (64 yards rushing), which was just one more than the number of passes thrown his way. At least the emerging second-year pro was productive, turning those 15 passes into 12 receptions for 110 yards.

You wonder if Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg really trust their offensive line. Many believe Vick won the starting job because his legs allow him to elude the frequent pass-rushing pressure Philly’s makeshift front five has surrendered. On Sunday, the coaches were awfully willing to call screen passes and keep Kolb in simple check-down scenarios. Perhaps they knew Jason Peters couldn’t block Brian Orakpo without holding (which Peters got called for twice).

Futile as the offense was, Jason Avant actually had a shot at a go-ahead hailmary touchdown at the end of regulation. That play was made possible by a 15-yard double-hook-and-ladder play.

Quick Tangent

Inst’ it surprising that the hook and ladder is not a more common play? You’d think someone from the Mike Martz school of thought would realize that it’s a potentially lethal play that not only can trick opponents but also give defenders something to think about. You have to figure defensive backs and linebackers would pursue the ball a little less aggressively if they had reason to believe that a hook and ladder could be in the works.

Eventually, football will evolve to where the hook-and-ladder is mainstream. There are just too many possibilities for it. Some team that has a former college quarterback plaing receiver (think Brad Smith of the Jets, for example) will incorporate it. But, for whatever reason, we’re not there yet.

2.) Back to Kolb and the Eagles

By now, every NBC executive has hit his or her knees and pleaded with God to heal Michael Vick’s upper rib cartilege. If Vick has to sit out next week, we might officially have the most uninteresting matchup in the five-year history of NBC’s Sunday Night Football: Kevin “Trent Edwards” Kolb’s 2-2 Eagles visiting Alex “Too Bad for a Nickname” Smith’s 0-4 Niners. Instead of looking forward to the night cap, football fans will spend all of Sunday trying not to think about going back to work tomorrow.

See, it’s not just that Kolb appears to be an iffy quarterback (and I realize it is very, very early in his career, so I say “iffy quarterback” with the proper grain of salt), it’s that he is boooorrrrrrrring. Kolb doesn’t have a rocket arm. And he’s not mobile. Moxie is something we attribute to guys whom we like but can’t figure out why. I, like you, do not really know what moxie is. But I do know Kolb doesn’t have it.

It seems the best case scenario is that Kolb becomes a great West Coast system quarterback. That’s fine – Joe Montana obviously did well in a similar role. But it’s miserable for fans to watch the early development of a West Coast quarterback after they’ve already gotten a taste of the electrifying Vick. That’s like going back to just holding hands and occasionally kissing someone whom you’ve already….well, you get what I’m saying.

If Kolb starts against San Francisco, the NFL should call for a special flex schedule in which they move the Niners-Eagles to CSPAN and give us Redskins-Packers on SNF. I wouldn’t mind seeing the Redskins again now that they’ve discovered they can run the ball.

Washington came into Week 4 having gained only eight first downs on the ground; against the Eagles, they rushed for 10 first downs. (And since we’re on the topic of Skins running game, I’ll say once more that Ryan Torain will wind up being this team’s top rusher in the second half of the season.)

P.S. Eagles fans….perfect job welcoming Donovan McNabb back. Treated him to a well-deserved standing ovation before the game, then treated him like the enemy visitor he was after that.

3.) Are the Rams for real?

This question is usually a leading one. We tend to ask if a team is for real only after we’ve already decideS. Jackson (US Presswire)d that it is. Or, more accurately, only after we’ve decided to hope that it already is. (Example: the Chicago Bears before Sunday night. The “3-0 – that’s right – 3-0! Can you believe it!?” Chicago Bears.)

In this case, the question is just a question. Are the Rams for real? If by “for real” you mean “a team capable of finishing .500” – which is where the win over the Seahawks left Steve Spagnuolo’s team – then, yes, the Rams are for real. Don’t underestimate the value of playing in the NFC West.

A bad division may be St. Louis’ greatest strength, but it’s not the only positive. Obviously, Steven Jackson is a star. Aiding him is that Sam Bradford shows flashes of brilliances as a precision passer. Yes, he also shows a vulnerability to rookie mistakes (did you see his interception to former Texas rival and fellow first-round rookie Earl Thomas in the end zone?). But mistakes are partly a symptom of Bradford’s willingness to attack downfield. He’s showing he can make the tough anticipation throw – and even with bodies around him.

More intriguing is the Ram defense. Its secondary overachieved against Seattle’s overrated passing game. (And yes, Seattle’s passing game IS overrated. Brandon Stokley, just days after signing, seemingly captured Mike Williams’ role as the No. 1 receiver.)

The Rams front seven has been dominant two straight weeks. End James Hall has a sack in three straight games (four sacks total on the season). Middle linebacker James Laurinaitis has become much more of a downhill player. In fact, he now seems likely to emerge as one of those players who achieve greatness despite limited athleticism (ala Zach Thomas – or ala the anti-Barrett Ruud).

Spagnuolo does a great job of manufacturing big plays through A-gap blitz concepts. In short, St. Louis’ system is better than its personnel. That can translate to wins as long as everyone buys in (the Patriots proved this in the early 2000s). The Rams will be up and down in 2010. But when you’ve won six games over the previous three years, that’s progress. And, thanks to the NFC West, they’ll have meaningful games in December.

4.) Motown Blues

The toughest thing for a downtrodden franchise to do is learn how to win. The Lions are finding this out. Last season, Detroit’s offensive line was as porous as a colander. And its defensive line may have been the worst the NFL has seen in at least 15 years. Consequently, the offense sputtered and the defense ranked dead last in point and yards allowed. The Lions finished with a record of 2-14 (which, sadly, was an improvement over the previous year).

This season, the Lions are not awful. The offense has playmaking potential in the ground game, thanks to rookie Jahvid Best. The front five is able to protect Shaun Hill well enough for Calvin Johnson and Nate Burleson to actually be weapons. The defensive line is revamped, with powerful No. 2 overall pick Ndamukong Suh living up to the hype and venerable veteran Kyle Vanden Bosch igniting an assemblage of fellow newcomers.

And yet the Lions are still 0-4. Most maddening is the way they’ve gotten there. Detroit lost at Green Bay Sunday by the score of 28-26. In Week 2 the Eagles beat them 35-32. And you remember the Calvin Johnson non-touchdown catch in Week 1 against the Bears.

These are the type of losses that happen to a team that has grown accustomed to losing. The Lions are football’s version of the fat person who works out but still gains noticeable weight after eating anything heavier than a salad. Or they’re that poor person who finally finds a job but is at fault in a fender bender on their way to cashing that first paycheck. Bad things just happen to the Lions. To them, failure is familiar and, therefore, on some super subconscious psychological level, easy to achieve. And we’ll assume karma is glad to chip in and help screw them over at all times, given that has evolved into the status quo.

In short, the mojo and psychology of a team can be very real. Learning how to win is not easy. Detroit is finding that out.

5.) Unglamorous glamour guys

Three teams featured a fullback as their primary ballcarrier in Week 4. It’s hard to say whether this is a sign that the fullback position is not declining after all or if it’s a sign that the fullback position has already officially died.

For the second straight week, Peyton Hillis rushed for over 100 yards for the Browns. This time, it came in a winning effort (a surprising upset over the Bengals).

Mike Tolbert had 16 carries for 100 yards in the Chargers’ 41-10 blowout of the Cardinals. (By the way, say this about the Cardinals: they sure get their money’s worth when they lose. Especially on the road. Remember this team in its 2008 Super Bowl year? That year the Cardinals lost to the Jets 56-35, the Eagles 48-20, the Vikings 35-14 and the Patriots 47-7.)

Lastly, the Packers got a hearty nine carries and 39 yards from John Kuhn, who is clearly a better option than Brandon Jackson (though Jackson had an acceptable 33 yards on nine carries against the Lions).

All three of these guys got their chance thanks to injuries to others. Hillis stepped up after rookie Montario Hardesty went down with an ACL. Tolbert shined when rookie Ryan Mathews hurt his right ankle in Week 2. Kuhn came in when Ryan Grant was lost for the season with an ankle injury.

More noteworthy is that all three are getting legitimate reps. The Browns and Chargers both have viable scatbacks they could turn to in Jerome Harrison and Darren Sproles. And the Packers could be forcing the issue with Jackson. But coaches are choosing to go with these bulldozers instead. (Even with Mathews healthy now, Tolbert appears to be the No. 1 back in San Diego).
 
Hillis, Tolbert and Kuhn are all downhill runners who play with good pad level and balance. But they’re also nimble enough to make defenders miss. And, not coincidentally, all three can catch. Hillis is wonderful on screens. Tolbert is actually athletic enough to run routes out of the slot. Kuhn is effective in the flats.

There’s something refreshing and pure about true fullbacks getting heavy touches. It’s a case of good, fundamental football being rewarded.

6.) AFC East mugging

The AFC story in Week 4 was the outburst from LaDainian Tomlinson. It was his first 100-yard rushing performance in 26 games. He looks like a star No. 1 running back again. This begs the question, Have we ever seen a running back hit the 30-year-old Wall and later recapture his magic? The first answer that comes to mind is, No. The second answer is, Well…Thomas Jones. Except Jones – whom L.T. replaced in New York – was never a star before his veteran years. And he never really hit a wall. L. Tomlinson (US Presswire)

Ricky Williams is another answer. He shares the load with Ronnie Brown, just like Tomlinson shares the load with Shonn Greene. But it’s debatable whether Williams is a star back. And, he never really hit a wall.

A lot of people thought a 28-year-old Emmitt Smith was slowing down after he gained just 1,074 yards in 1997. Then Smith put together two straight 1,300-plus-yard seasons after that. Still, he was not declared washed up at that point.

Curtis Martin barely topped 1,000 yards at age 29. Many thought he would tail off the next season, but instead he rushed for 1,308 yards at 30 and a career-best 1,697 yards at 31. Martin, however, remained with the Jets that entire time.

The current Jets star was dismissed by his longtime San Diego team. Who knows, maybe time will still prove that the Chargers were wise to get rid of the future Hall of Famer. But going off the evidence we have through these first four weeks, Tomlinson looks similar to his old (young) self. The lateral agility and acceleration are not 100 percent there, but they’re at least 85 percent there. And that’s enough.
Meanwhile, don’t look now, but Mark Sanchez has eight touchdowns and zero interceptions on the season. And Dustin Keller is playing like an All-Pro. Plus, Rex Ryan’s defense is as dominant as ever.

On the other side in this game, we’re always hearing about the financial struggles of the Bills. One thing the team could do to alleviate costs is only bring its defense on road trips. That would cut travel costs by nearly 50 percent. The Bills offense doesn’t show up for most of the games anyway. For example, in the first 22 minutes of this game, Buffalo had less than 50 net yards and less than five minutes in time of possession. You really think that’s worth paying for extra hotel rooms, equipment managers, meals, etc.?

7.) Electrifying Bolt

Supposed you had to explain Shaun Phillips’ performance against the Cardinals to all the narrow-minded fantasy nuts out there. How would you do it? Here’s my approach: if the Chargers outside linebacker were a quarterback, he would have thrown for 450 yards. If he were a running back, he would have rushed for 160 with three scores. If he were a wide receiver, he would have had 10 catches and at least two taunting penalties.

Phillips was simply remarkable Sunday. With Shawne Merriman (or that Shawn Merriman imposter the team has kept around the past year and a half) and Larry English out, Phillips stepped up to the tune of four sacks, four quarterback hits, five tackles and an interception returned for a touchdown. He dominated with sheer speed (Cardinals right tackle Brandon Keith probably couldn’t describe Phillips to a police sketch artist at this point) and craftiness. The only way Derek Anderson, who was benched this game, could have avoided an interception on the play in which Phillips dropped into an underneath zone coverage was if the notoriously inaccurate Anderson had made Phillips his intended receiver.

It’s not just Phillips. The entire Charger defense has been stupendous through the first quarter of the season. (Remember, San Diego is 2-2 because its special teams units couldn’t cover against the Chiefs and Seahawks.) Ron Rivera’s unit has not allowed more than 14 points in any game this season. And only once has an opponent put together a 10-play drive against this team (Arizona’s opening drive Sunday, which ended in an interception). Of course, the Chargers have not exactly faced the most dynamic offenses so far: Kansas City, Jacksonville, Seattle and Arizona. But hey, this it the NFL, where all success is quality success.

Other defenders

Phillips was not the only defensive player who stood out Sunday.

**Ravens cornerback Lardarius Webb was phenomenal against the Steelers, particularly in his isolated deep ball coverage against Mike Wallace. Webb, fresh off his December ACL injury, broke up three deep balls on an island.

**Texans free safety Troy Nolan got significant playing thanks to an injury to Eugene Wilson. The 2009 seventh-round pick responded with two critical interceptions, as well as five tackles.

**Rookie cornerback Alterraun Verner was the talk of Titans training camp. In his NFL starting debut against Denver, the fourth-round pick showed why. Verner broke up three passes and recorded 11 tackles. He has plenty of room to improve – some of those tackles came because the Broncos targeted his side of the field – but the burst and athleticism are clearly there.

8.) Bears fans….are you there?

To anyone who has censured me for being negative about the Bears’ offense, you can send your apology notes to andy.benoit@cbsinteractive.com. It’s not hard to figure out: a bad offensive line, a bunch of raw wide receivers and a quarterback who trusts his natural ability just a little too much is a recipe for disaster. J. Cutler (US Presswire)

Coming into this game, the Bears had avoided disaster against the Lions, but it was clear that the ingredients for it were there. In terms of protecting Jay Cutler, the Bears had a disastrous start in the Dallas and Green Bay games, but they were able to overcome it. Sunday night at New York, they weren’t. Things got so bad that Cutler was eventually sacking himself (an out of bounds run for the sixth sack, and another out of bounds surrender that nearly went down as the ninth sack).

It is very difficult to give up nine sacks in a half. We almost never see it because teams that can’t pass protect eventually turn to their run game. But the Bears don’t have a run game. That became very conspicuous once Todd Collins entered the contest and Mike Martz gave the old-fashioned approach a whirl. Matt Forte looks better than he did a year ago, but he’s still not showing the juice to accelerate. Forte’s yards per carry average in each of the four games thus far: 2.9, 2.9, 2.6 and 2.2.

The Bears have a premiere defense – amazingly, Julius Peppers somehow seems underpaid – but they simply don’t have the necessary personnel to run Martz’s system. They’ll be a fun team to watch closely moving forward.

9.) Cardiac Cats are back?

The Jaguars are winning close games again. At least, that’s what everyone will be saying this week. It’s amazing: because Josh Scobee made a 59-yard field goal, we’re not talking about Jack Del Rio’s job security, television blackouts or a quarterback controversy. Instead, we may actually hear chatter about the 2-2 Jags being contenders in the AFC South. And we’ll absolutely hear chatter about the 2-2 Colts supposedly being old and no longer being a dominant club. (This whole notion, by the way, is ridiculous.)

What people won’t remember is how close the Jaguars came to settling for overtime in this game. With the game tied, the Jags got the ball at their own 23-yard-line with 42 seconds remaining and one timeout. When they ran a draw to Maurice Jones-Drew for eight yards, the Colts used a timeout in hopes of getting the ball back to Peyton Manning. It was a stark contrast: one team hiding its quarterback and the other desperately trying to showcase theirs. Garrard justified his coach’s lack of trust in him by throwing an incompletion on the next play. But a six-yard strike to Tiquan Underwood yielded a first down, and a 22-yard strike to Underwood on the next play put Scobee in field goal range. After one more Garrard near-meltdown (Colts corner Jacob Lacey dropped an easy interception), Scobee came on to seal the deal.

10.) Quick Hits
J. Flacco (US Presswire)
**It wasn’t a great slate of games this Sunday, but we at least got great finishes. Atlanta-San Francisco, Indy-Jacksonville, Detroit-Green Bay, Denver-Tennessee, Cleveland-Cincy, New Orleans-Carolina, Baltimore-Pittsburgh and Philly-Washington all went down to the wire.

**It just dawned on me that we’re near the end of this week’s Stories Deserving Your Attention and there has been no real mention of the Steelers-Ravens game. That’s too bad. It was, by far, the best all-around display of football on Sunday. The story of the game was how Cam Cameron continues to show more and more trust in Joe Flacco (24 completions on 37 pass attempts), and how that trust is being rewarded (the game-winning drive, for example). The Steelers did not play prevent defense on Baltimore’s final touchdown drive. Rather, they just played against a collected, strong-armed young quarterback.

**I’d love to be Terrell Owens for just two minutes after the Browns game. I’d like to know how I (he) truly felt after going for 200 yards in a losing effort. (I have absolutely no idea how Owens felt, and I won’t speculate. Just curious.)

**The Denver Broncos have a prolific offense, but their lack of a run game shows up in the red zone. The Broncos were 0/5 against the Colts and just 2/7 against the Titans inside the 20-yard line.

**The fumble on Nate Clements’ interception late in the fourth quarter was strictly a fantastic play by Falcons receiver Roddy White. Clements can’t be faulted for trying to score there. White has done this before. Recall that when these two teams met in San Francisco last year, White chased down Dre Bly and forced a fumble after an interception. (It was on that play when Bly, like an idiot, started celebrating during the runback.)

**The empty seats for the Texans-Raiders game could have put the WNBA to shame.

**Jimmy Clausen did some good things against the Saints (though I have no idea why I had to see 800 replays of that gimme 58-yard touchdown pass to Jonathan Stewart) but it’s obvious that the rookie’s decision-making is a little too slow for the pro game at this point. Last week Clausen dawdled in the pocket; this week, he wound up asking for the snap too late in the play clock (particularly on the game’s final drive). It’s all part of his learning curve.

**Why did the Panthers wear their alternate blue jerseys against the Saints? It was a road game, which minimized the marketing appeal of the third uni. And it was an indoor game, which meant that avoiding the heat-trapping black jerseys was not an issue.

**Speaking of heat…have you seen that the Colts now have two kids who hold a giant white board over Peyton Manning to create shade for the star quarterback when he sits on the bench? That must be a dream job for those kids. Still, every time I see Manning’s personal shade creators, I can’t help but think about the pathetic loser who used to constantly hold an umbrella for Michael Jackson.

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Posted on: October 2, 2010 2:00 pm
Edited on: October 2, 2010 4:48 pm
 

Week 4 injury news & analysis, part I

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Jets at Bills

There’s no need to worry about Jets CB Darrelle Revis this week, because he’s out (though it looks like he could return in time for Week 5). But C Nick Mangold has been limited in practice all week and is questionable. Mangold, though, has never missed a start in his career, and considering how much the Jets need him, expect him to be on the field.

We also could see the return of LB Calvin Pace. But it sounds like coach Rex Ryan might want to rest Pace’s foot another week – in part, because the Jets most likely won’t be tested much vs. Buffalo’s offense.

Not having Bills DE Marcus Stroud, LB Andra Davis and CB Terrence McGee in the lineup will be tough for Buffalo. But the good news is LB Paul Posluszny – who’s missed the past few weeks with a knee injury – is probable to return.

UPDATE (4:47 p.m.): Calvin Pace has been downgraded to out for this game. He did not travel with the team.

Bengals at Browns


In the tepid Battle of Ohio rivalry, three important Bengals pieces are questionable to play – LB Keith Rivers (foot), DE Antwan Odom (wrist) and WR Jordan Shipley (shoulder). Rivers missed Week 2 and Odom were out last week, so their return would bolster a Bengals defense that ranks ninth in the league.

Meanwhile, Cleveland somehow has 15 players on this week’s injury report. That’s nearly 1/3 of the active roster. Considering six of those players – including RB Jerome Harrison and OT Joe Thomas – are probable, the situation isn’t quite as dire as it appears.

WR Joshua Cribbs was limited earlier this week with an ankle injury (he was also forced to wear a walking boot), but he should play. It’s still unclear if QB Jake Delhomme will make his return. He’s listed as questionable, but he’s been spotted limping around the locker room this week. It looks like Seneca Wallace should get the start again.

Ravens at Steelers


Ravens RB Ray Rice (knee) practiced Friday without wearing a no-contact jersey, and though he missed Wednesday’s practice – and was limited Thursday and Friday – he said he’ll play vs. Pittsburgh. Coach John Harbaugh is a bit more cautious and said Rice will be a gametime decision. Expect Rice to play, though.

Baltimore LB Cory Redding, who suffered a concussion last week, is questionable. As of Friday, he hadn’t passed his concussion test, and he probably won’t play. It’s unfortunate for the Ravens, because Redding, coming off the worst season of his career last year in Seattle, has played solid run defense this year.

Not much new coming from the Steelers. QB Dennis Dixon, OG Trai Essex and WR Donte Stallworth are all out for this week’s game.

Broncos at Titans


We’ve already talked about starting RB Knowshon Moreno and who will replace him against Tennessee (in case you’ve forgotten, Laurence Maroney will get the bulk of the carries with some help from Correll Buckhalter). LB Wesley Woodyard also is out with a hamstring.

OT Ryan Harris, who’s questionable with an ankle and who’s missed all season, should be back, and for the first time this season, the entire Denver’s starting offensive line will be on the field together. Yes, Denver ranks No. 2 in the NFL in offense, but the return of Harris should help.

Tennessee doesn’t have any major problems. Starting CB Jason McCourty is still out after undergoing forearm surgery, but there shouldn’t be a big dropoff with Alterraun Verner playing in his place. DE Jacob Ford and and DT Tony Brown are questionable.

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