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Tag:Darrelle Revis
Posted on: October 25, 2011 1:45 pm
 

Eye on Football NFL Awards: Week 7

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 7 NFL Awards
Expert Offense Defense STeams Coach
Freeman  Forte  Revis Braman  JDR
Judge  Brees Flowers Scobee Haley
Prisco Murray Woodley Scobee  JDR
Brinson Murray Flowers Scobee Haley
Katzowitz Murray Flowers Bryant Haley
Wilson  Foster Flowers Scobee Haley
Week 7 is in the books and that means it's time to hand out some awards. Oddly enough, we've got a pretty good consensus going this week, as a number of players were just so impressive that they garnered an easy victory.

Big ups to new Cowboys starting running back DeMarco Murray who wins his first-ever Eye on Offense Award. I'm sure he's slightly more excited about that than he is about breaking Emmitt Smith's single-game Cowboys rushing record.

On defense, multiple members of our esteemed panel requested the freedom to vote for Kyle Boller and Carson Palmer. Since that's not allowed, Brandon Flowers ran away with the hardware like it was a Palmer pass to the flats.

If you saw the abomination that was Monday night's game between the Jaguars and Ravens, there shouldn't be any question who won the Eye on Special Teams Award -- Josh Scobee knocked out three 50+ yard field goals and picked up the cheese from us.

And Todd Haley, the bearded wonder, has his Chiefs within one win on Sunday of creating a three-way tie in the AFC West. For that, plus blanking the Raiders on Sunday, he's your Eye on Coaching Award winner. No, we didn't see this coming either.

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

Eye on Offense Award
Mike Freeman Clark Judge
Matt Forte Matt Forte, RB, Bears
You can be predictable and pick Arian Foster. Or Drew Brees. He threw for a cabillion yards and 800 touchdowns against the Colts. But it's the Colts. The way they're playing Brees could have thrown for five touchdowns on one leg while drinking a Dos Equis. I'm going with Matt Forte. He had 183 total yards against Tampa in England, mate. He's surpassed 1,000 total yards for the season already. Pay the man.
Drew BreesDrew Brees, QB, Saints
Tim Tebow had three spectacular minutes of play; Brees had 60. So whom are we talking about now? Yeah, well, that's what happens when you win a Super Bowl and throw TD passes every week. Only this week he had six. I don't care that it was against the Colts. I care that he did it, period. Magnificent performance by a magnificent quarterback.
Pete Prisco Will Brinson
DeMarco Murray DeMarco Murray, RB, Cowboys
Murray -- He comes off the bench to rush for a franchise-record 253 yards, including a 91-yard touchdown run, so there can't be any other player in this spot. Murray is an explosive back who just might be taking the starting job from Felix Jones.
DeMarco MurrayDeMarco Murray, RB, Cowboys
When your first carry of the day goes for a 91-yard touchdown, you're probably going to end up with a decent statistical outing. But take away that monster run and Murray still averaged 6.75 yards a carry against St. Louis en route to his 253-yards, a Cowboys single-game record.
Josh Katzowitz Ryan Wilson
DeMarco MurrayDeMarco Murray, RB, Cowboys
For a guy who had 71 career yards entering Sunday’s game vs. the Rams, Murray’s record-breaking 253-yard performance was enough to lead Dallas to a monster win, give Jason Garrett a reason to keep playing him instead of Felix Jones, and lead the man whose record he broke to give him a shout-out on Twitter. That, of course, is Emmitt Smith.
Arian Foster Arian Foster, RB, Texans
I know DeMarco Murray went buck wild on the Rams defense but, well, it's the Rams defense. What else was he supposed to do? Arian Foster, against division foe Tennessee, had more than 100 yards receiving by halftime. He ended the day with 234 total yards (119 receiving, 115 rushing) and three touchdowns as the Texans whipped the Titans, 41-7.
Eye on Defense Award
Freeman Judge
Darrelle RevisDarrelle Revis, CB, Jets
Man crush alert. I have one. His play at CB is remarkable right now and he had another interception returning this one 64 yards. This on the heels of an INT last week that was returned 100 yards for a TD. The pick wasn't classic Revis but it was still solid and reflected how the Jets are using him in coverage. He's playing everywhere, doing everything.
Brandon Flowers Brandon Flowers, CB, Chiefs
The Chiefs intercept Oakland six times, two of them by Flowers and two of them for touchdowns. Flowers had one of those scores, and it was notable because it marked Carson Palmer's first TD of the season. Give Flowers and the Chiefs credit. They were give little chance here, and they won ... with defense.
Prisco Brinson
LaMarr WoodleyLaMarr Woodley, LB, Steelers
Woodley had two sacks, spent the day in the Cardinals backfield, and showed why he's one of the top pass rushers in the NFL. Woodley can do it with speed or power. He's a tough one to block without help.
Brandon FlowersBrandon Flowers, CB, Chiefs
Like last week, it might be fine to hand this award to Kyle Boller or Carson Palmer, but give Flowers credit for picking off two passes, taking one to the house and making three tackles in a crucial game that got the Chiefs back into the AFC West race.
Katzowitz Wilson
Brandon Flowers Brandon Flowers, CB, Chiefs
The Chiefs embarrassed two quarterbacks (Kyle Boller and Carson Palmer) and one head coach (Hue Jackson) by intercepting six Raiders passes. You could go with the collective effort of the entire Kansas City defense, but since Flowers recorded 33 percent of the interceptions, plus a pick-6, I’ll single him out for recognition.
Brandon Flowers Brandon Flowers, CB, Chiefs
We could have gone with the entire Chiefs D -- or, hell, Carson Palmer and Kyle Boller for doing their part as the defensive players of the week -- but Flowers had two picks against Oakland, including a 58-yard TD return against Palmer. On the day, KC's D had six picks, and made Palmer look a lot like the guy who bumbled his way through 2010 in Cincinnati.
Eye on Special Teams Award
Freeman Judge
Bryan BramanBryan Braman, LB, Texans
The most unusual choice perhaps I'll ever make but I love these kinds of stories. Rookie Bryan Braman made the Houston team as an undrafted free agent.John McClain of the Houston Chronicle pointed out how Braman made two big hits that helped to set the tone on special teams.
Josh Scobee Josh Scobee, K, Jaguars
Thank goodness he was in the lineup. Otherwise, neither of these two teams might have scored until Friday. Scobee did what Sebastian Janikowski did two weeks earlier, which is nail three 50-yarders. Janikowski was my pick then, and Scobee is my pick now. I bet he's Jack Del Rio's, too.
Prisco Brinson
Josh ScobeeJosh Scobee, K, Jaguars
Scobee made three field goals from outside 50 yards and added another as the Jaguars upset the Baltimore Ravens. Scobee has not missed a field goal this season, going 14 for 14 and making all five of his kicks outside 50 yards.
Josh ScobeeJosh Scobee, K, Jaguars
The Jaguars won 12-7 on Monday night and Scobee's the only reason why, belting four field goals, three of which were more than 50 yards long. His clutch knockdown of a 51-yarder with 1:43 left saved Jack Del Rio from another questionable coaching decision. He's 14/14 on the year too.
Katzowitz Wilson
Red Bryant Red Bryant, DE, Seahawks
The hard-headed (quite literally) Seahawks defensive end blocked two Browns field goals, and though ultimately, Cleveland won a terribly ugly game and Bryant was ejected for head-butting Browns tight end Alex Smith, that doesn’t take away from his special teams performance.
Josh Scobee Josh Scobee, K, Jaguars
He striped three field goals from beyond 50 yards  and accounted for the Jaguars' only points against a Ravens team that featured an offensive game plan crafted before the invention of the forward pass. Outside of MJD, Scobee is Jacksonville's best scoring threat, and Monday night he was their only scoring threat.
Eye on Coaching Award
Freeman Judge
Jack Del RioJack Del Rio, HC, Jaguars
He's going to be fired at the end of the year. He knows it. Everyone on the Jaguars does. He's been terrible this season and for the past several years the only person Del Rio hasn't fired and thus scapegoated is the owner. If Del Rio could, he'd fire him, too. But his win against Baltimore was gritty, smart and nicely done despite the ugliness of the game.
Todd Haley Todd Haley, HC, Chiefs
Not only did he go into Oakland and pull out an improbable victory; he blanked the Raiders, the first time the Chiefs have had a road shutout since 1973. I thought Haley's coaching career was supposed to be on life support. Yeah, well, all I know is that he won his last three and can tie for first in the AFC West with a win Monday.
Prisco Brinson
Jack Del RioJack Del Rio, HC, Jaguars
He is clearly on the hot seat, and there had been talk of his being let do during the bye week, but Monday's impressive victory over the Baltimore Ravens changes that. Del Rio's team shut down the Baltimore offense in a 12-7 victory.  For his efforts: A trip to Houston this week.
Todd HaleyChan Gailey, Bills
I've already spent some time apologizing to (a) Chiefs fan(s), who find their way back to .500 after Week 6, even though the teams they beat are a combined 5-16. But the only team with a winning record in that list is Oakland, and give credit for Haley coming in and whipping the Raiders.
Katzowitz Wilson
Todd Haley Todd Haley, HC, Chiefs
The winning streak beard continues to grow on Haley’s face, and though we saw some jokes before Sunday’s game that questioned the last time the haggard-looking Haley had bathed, there’s no doubt of the turnaround the Chiefs have made the past three weeks. Remember how Scott Pioli was on the verge of firing Haley? Well, those days are gone, after the Chiefs smashed the Raiders on Sunday.
Todd Haley Todd Haley, HC, Chiefs
I was all set to give this to Jack Del Rio, but Brinson reminded me that not only did Del Rio challenge whether Joe Flacco stepped out of the back of the end zone, but he also chose to kick a 51-yard field goal with the Jags up by two and 1:43 to go in the game. Instead, I'll take Todd Haley, who could've been fired after the first three weeks of the season. Now, Kansas City is 3-3 after smoking Oakland 28-0. Clearly, this has everything to do with Haley's new hobo chic appearance.
Posted on: October 21, 2011 5:14 pm
 

Revis hangs up on radio show, Jets apologize

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

It’s the non-penalty call that just won’t go away, and Darrelle Revis is still being asked questions about it. Until, you know, he hangs up on his interviewer on the advice of his PR man.

If you watched last Monday night’s game between the Jets and the Dolphins, you saw Miami quarterback Matt Moore hit Revis in the numbers before Revis took the pick-6 100 yards to the opposite end zone.

And ESPN made sure to air plenty of replays before Moore released the ball that showed Revis and Dolphins receiver Brandon Marshall making contact with each other, Marshall falling to the turf and Revis making the easy interception.

Analyst Jon Gruden immediately (and repeatedly) said a pass interference penalty should have been called, and at the time, I also thought it was evident there was some illegal contact.

Judge for yourself:



Revis has been adamant that he didn’t interfere with Marshall, and today on the Mike Francesa radio show on WFAN in New York, Revis got mad enough where Jets PR decided it was best if he just end the interview immediately and hang up the phone.

See the interview below (it gets heated about the 5:00 mark):



From the very beginning of the interview, after Francesa, when introducing his guest, said Revis was the only member of the Jets organization who liked him, Francesa asked him about the Marshall play. “You mugged him, didn’t you?” Francesa almost immediately said. “Said Revis: “That’s what’s everybody thinks.” Later, he said, “I did not mug Brandon Marshall.”

They moved on to other topics for a few minutes, but the conversation was steered back to the Marshall non-penalty.

Revis explained that Marshall was tripping, and Francesa laughed at the notion, asking how Marshall’s jersey wound up in Revis’ hand. Even though Revis brought up the always-stupid “Do you know football?” thing and the conversation seemed somewhat joking, it then got heated.

From part of the transcript (via CBS New York):
“You are still the only one in the world who doesn’t think that was a penalty,” said Francesa.

“I don’t care!” said Revis, who was on the verge of getting very upset. “I don’t care what everybody thinks! I don’t care what you think, I don’t care what the whole world thinks."

“You’re good at interviewing,” he said.  “I’m good at what I do. Just leave it at that!”

As Revis’ voice rose, Jets PR man Jared Winley instructed Revis to hang up the phone, and, though Francesa was shocked by the intrusion, Revis did exactly that.

Later, Winley apologized, saying in a statement (via the New York Daily News):"In my judgement (sic), given the tone of the interview, I should have asked Mike to move on to another topic, instead of instructing Darrelle to hang up the phone. That was an error on my part. I've called Mike's producer and I apologized."

All in all, not a good day for anybody involved in the interview. Except, of course, for Mike Francesa.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.
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: October 18, 2011 7:31 pm
 

Eye on Football NFL Awards: Week 6

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 3 NFL Awards
Expert Offense Defense STeams Coach
Freeman  Rodgers  Revis  Hester Schwartz
Prisco   Gore Coleman  Hester  Morris
Brinson Bradshaw  Revis  Hester Schwartz
Katzowitz Bradhsaw Coleman  Hester  Zimmer
Wilson  Cutler Coleman  Hester Harbaugh

Week 6 was -- quite obviously -- all about the handshake. But there are other awards to get to as well. And the Eye on Offense Award was a hotly contested little battle here, but Ahmad Bradshaw, with 104 yards and three teeters in a Giants win, takes home the hardware.

On defense, things were a bit of a toss-up too, as Darrelle Revis' pick six garnered him plenty of support. But Kurt Coleman's three-pick game won the day. Although, yes, we are checking with the judges on whether or not Rex Grossman was eligible.

We're just going to go ahead and rename the Eye on Special Teams Award the Weekly Contest to Be Better Than Devin Hester.

And, as mentioned, coaching was a toss-up too, but Jim Harbaugh gets the Eye on Coaching Award ... simply for entertainment purposes?

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

Eye on Offense Award
Mike Freeman Ryan Wilson
Aaron Rodgers Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers
He's undefeated and doing things at the quarterback position we've seen before but rarely. I know, I know. You're sick of Rodgers. Get used to him, though. He's going to be around these here award neighborhoods for some time as the Packers are likely to enter the nine and 10 win range and start entering the 1972 Miami Dolphins neighborhood.
Jay Cutler Jay Cutler, QB, Bears
He was 21 of 31 for 267 yards and tossed two touchdowns against a very good pass-rushing Vikings defense. Perhaps more amazing: Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz left six, seven and sometimes eight players in to block, and, it turns out, Cutler is a pretty good quarterback when he's not getting blasted for 60 minutes (he was sacked just once).
Pete Prisco Will Brinson
Frank Gore Frank Gore, RB, 49ers
He ran for 141 yards and scored a touchdown in the team's upset of the Lions. What's truly impressive is that Gore averaged 9.4 per carry. That is special.
Ahmad BradshawAhmad Bradshaw, RB, Giants
The Giants fell apart against the Seahawks at home in Week 5, making Week 6's game against the Bills absolutely critical for them. Bradshaw was most critical to the win, running for 104 yards and three touchdowns in the Giants win.
Josh Katzowitz
Ahmad BradshawAhmad Bradshaw, RB, Giants
In a huge game for the Giants, Bradshaw, without Brandon Jacobs in the lineup, had a tremendous performance, rushing for 104 yards and three touchdowns. I imagine Eli Manning appreciated the contribution. 
Eye on Defense Award
Freeman Wilson
Darrelle RevisDarrelle Revis, CB, Jets
He did get beat a few times against Miami on Monday night but that 100-yard interception return was spectacular. Sure, he practically knocked Brandon Marshall on his butt in a great display of non-called pass interference, but Revis is getting those non-calls now.
Kurt Coleman Kurt Coleman, S, Eagles
Obviously, Rex Grossman shares this award because without him, Coleman's three interceptions wouldn't have been possible. In related news: nothing like a BAD REX unannounced visit to make Juan Castillo seem like he knows how to coordinate a defense.
Prisco Brinson
Kurt ColemanKurt Coleman, S, Eagles
He was benched a few weeks ago, but when inserted back into the lineup he made the most of it against the Redskins. Coleman had three picks of Rex Grossman in the game and had one of his best cover days. He was benched for his poor tackling.
Darrelle RevisDarrelle Revis, CB, Jets
I'd love to nominate Rex Grossman, but I'm not sure that's in the spirit of the awards. Instead, I'll give it to the guy who took a pick 100 yards to the house, giving the Jets a 7-3 lead when they should have been down 14-0. Revis showed why he's the best CB in the NFL today.
Katzowitz
Kurt Coleman Kurt Coleman, S, Eagles
Vindication for the Eagles safety. A few weeks after Coleman was benched, he reemerged as Rex Grossman’s biggest foil (well, second to Grossman himself), intercepting three passes and helping Philadelphia to perhaps a season-saving win. Chances are Coleman won’t be benched this week.
Eye on Special Teams Award
Freeman Wilson
Devin HesterDevin Hester, WR/KR, Bears
Why kick to him? Why, why, why? One more time: WHY? Kick the football out of bounds. Kick it into the stands. Kick it into the dirt. Anywhere except to him. He burned yet another team -- this time the Minnesota Vikings -- that stupidly kicked to him. And he'll keep doing that until teams finally get smart and stop doing it.
Devin Hester Devin Hester, WR/KR, Bears
I'll repeat what I wrote in Week 4, the last time Hester was our Special Teams Player of the Week. "We'll never understand why any team thinks kicking to Hester is a good idea." The Vikings did it, and Hester scored. Weird how that keeps happening.
Prisco Brinson
Devin HesterDevin Hester, WR/KR, Bears
Can it go to anyone but Hester? He ripped off a 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown Sunday night against the Vikings. He also returned a punt 27 yards and almost broke that one.
Devin HesterDevin Hester, WR/KR/ Bears
As long as teams continue to kick to Hester, he's probably going to keep winning this award. Hester was the difference against the Panthers two weeks ago; against Minnesota he simply squashed any hope they had for their entire season with one magnificent burst of speed.
Katzowitz
Devin Hester Devin Hester, WR/KR, Bears
He’s made strides as a receiver this season, but as the Vikings -- who, for some strange reason, continued kicking to Hester -- can attest, he’s still awfully dangerous as a kick returner. Early in the third quarter, he returned a kick 98 yards for the touchdown nearly took back a punt as well. He is, as the Vikings know now, pretty good on special teams.
Eye on Coaching Award
Freeman Wilson
Bill BelichickJim Schwartz, HC, Lions
We went to the same high school. I think we played on the same football team together though I only sorta remember him. I was concussed a lot so bear with me. He's obviously a fiery guy and though his scamper after Harbaugh was unneeded most people would have wanted to punch Harbaugh in the mouth after that obnoxious post-game reaction.
Hue Jackson Jim Harbaugh, HC, 49ers
I think Harbaugh is a crazy-arms meltdown away from a tenured professorship at clown college, but the guy has the 49ers believing something not even Mike Singletary could convince them of: they're a good football team. Through six weeks, they're 5-1. Last year, they were 6-10.
Prisco Brinson
Raheem MorrisRaheem Morris, HC, Buccaneers
After his team's horrible trip to San Francisco that saw them get blown out 48-3, he got his team ready to play against the Saints and pulled off a 26-20 upset.  The Bucs were without running back LaGarrette Blount, so Morris turned the game over to Josh Freeman, who had a big game.
Mike MunchakJim Schwartz, HC, Lions
People are complaining about Schwartz' roll in Handshake-Gate (ugh), but here's the thing: Schwartz celebrates on his own sideline. Not at midfield. I'll hand him this award just based on the fact that 90 percent of America would have punched Jim Harbaugh Sunday. He didn't.
Katzowitz
Mike Zimmer Mike Zimmer, DC, Bengals
The Bengals DC continues to be one of those long-time assistant coaches who needs to be rewarded with a head coaching job. The Bengals have the No. 2 D in the NFL, and have allowed just one opponent to score more than 20 points. Cincy hasn’t played a Murderer’s Row of quarterbacks, but still, Zimmer’s unit has been impressive.
 

Posted on: October 13, 2011 11:37 am
 

Keep an Eye On: Week 6's finer points of analysis

Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit

Raiders vs. Browns
Keep an eye on: Raiders passing game
The Raiders are a run-first team, no doubt. That shouldn’t change against the Browns.

Cleveland can stop the run well enough, especially if middle linebacker D’Qwell Jackson stays clean from blockers. But at some point, Jason Campbell will have to make a play or two through the air. Expect Darren McFadden to be the primary receiving weapon out of the backfield.

Throws to McFadden have easy, defined reads for Campbell (who often flounders late in his progressions and when his pocket gets too crowded for him to take a full step into his throw) and they should be available given the way Cleveland’s linebackers have struggled in underneath coverage. Most of those struggles have come against athletic tight ends.

The Raiders, however, are more inclined to run tight end Kevin Boss down the seam and swing McFadden underneath. The Browns will likely commit a safety (perhaps T.J. Ward) to tight end coverage and allow Scott Fujita to cover McFadden (expect zone principles since Fujita doesn’t have a prayer at running with McFadden in man coverage).

This isn’t to say Campbell won’t go to his wide receivers. He’s been attacking deep more in October than he did in September. That’s a response to the new speedy duo of Denarius Moore and Darrius Heyward-Bey. Both are raw but potentially lethal. (No. 3 receiver Jacoby Ford is also a burner.) They’re not a potent one-two punch yet, though. Moore’s only big game came against the Bills, when Heyward-Bey was out of the lineup.

We may find out which receiver the Raiders like better this Sunday. Campbell has avoided throwing at top-flight corners this season (he hardly looked to Darrelle Revis’ side in Week 3 and rarely challenged Houston’s Johnathan Joseph in Week 5). Browns second-year sensation Joe Haden is most definitely a top-flight corner (he may have the most natural change-of-direction ability of any defensive player in football).

If Haden returns from his sprained knee, he’ll likely line up on the defensive left side. Whoever Oakland puts on the offensive left side (i.e. away from Haden) figures to be the go-to target. That could tell you what wide receiver pecking order the Raiders prefer.



Ravens vs. Texans
Keep an eye on: Brian Cushing
The third-year pro has been arguably the best inside linebacker in the AFC this season. That’s significant considering how mightily Cushing struggled as the middle linebacker in Houston’s 4-3 scheme last season.

But the inside duties are different in Wade Phillips’ new 3-4. With less field to cover, Cushing has been able to be more of an attacker than a reader-and-reactor. That’s a style best suited for his speed and ferocity.
 
Cushing hunts down outside runs extremely well and shows vigor when tasked with clearing out a lead-blocker. Both are critical traits for containing a Ravens ground game featuring a dynamic B-and C-gap runner like Ray Rice and a fullback like Vontae Leach.

Cushing is also noteworthy because of what he means to Houston’s pass-rush. Against the Raiders last week, Phillips resorted to frequent inside blitzes in an effort to instill panic in Oakland’s pass protectors and command one-on-one matchups for the rushers outside. Cushing continuously stood out for timing his blitzes well and executing them with reckless abandon.

With Mario Williams out, Phillips may feel compelled to be even more aggressive with linebacker blitzes. And he’s certainly seen the Week 4 film of Joe Flacco and the Ravens struggling to sort out many of the Jets’ inside blitzes.

Lions vs. 49ers
Keep an eye on: the tight ends
The 49ers and Lions are very different offenses. The Lions run a modern, semi-spread, aerial attacking offense. The 49ers run a 1980s, compact, ground-pounding offense.

That’s primarily a function of the quarterbacks. Though both are former No. 1 overall picks, Matthew Stafford is gun-slinger while Alex Smith is, comparatively, a spitball shooter. (To be fair, Smith did have a terrific game against the Bucs. He diagnosed coverages well and made a few stick throws.)

Though vastly different, both offenses are built around the same base personnel package: two tight ends. The Lions frequently line up with Tony Scheffler and Brandon Pettigrew while the Niners often feature Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker. The conundrum that two tight end personnel presents for a defense is in deciding what personnel to respond with.

Go with nickel and you risk getting run on (especially when facing the Niners, given that Davis and Walker are both solid run-blockers). Go with a base defense and you risk getting thrown on (especially with the Lions since Scheffler often splits out as a third receiver in the slot).
 
All four tight ends are weapons. For the Lions, Brandon Pettigrew is surprisingly mobile given his 265-pound frame and ’09 knee injury (from which he’s seemingly gained mobility through rehabbing). Scheffler is a swift downfield target.

For the Niners, Vernon Davis is as athletic as they come. No one save for maybe Jermichael Finley is as dangerous down the seams. Delanie Walker is not as good as Bay Area fans think, but he’s versatile in patterns and can block from a standstill position, off of motion or in a lead out of the backfield.

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Posted on: October 7, 2011 10:07 am
 

Cromartie to Brady: Target me, big boy

CromartiePosted by Josh Katzowitz

Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie is a big fan of the spoken word. No matter what happens in the game -- like, when, he gets beaten for a couple of touchdowns -- Cromartie doesn’t seem to lose confidence in his abilities.

You might recall last January when Cromartie, for whatever reason, called Tom Brady an “ass----“ and when asked why he would say something so harsh, he responded, “That's what I think about him. I don't really give a damn about him. I don't have to play against him. I play against the receivers."

Well, apparently, the Jets win against the Patriots in last year’s playoffs has emboldened Cromartie even more and somehow given him even more confidence. Which is why he painted a big ol’ bullseye on his back this week in preparation for the Jets-Pats showdown this Sunday and invited Brady to throw passes at him.

"I hope I'm a target this game," Cromartie said, via the Associated Press. "I want to be a target every game.”

Well, of course, Brady is going to target Cromartie. I mean, it’s not like Brady is going to seek out a meeting with Darrelle Revis. But still, now that he’s had some time to think about his Brady statements from last season, he probably feels contrite about calling Brady a jerk-face. Right?

“I’ll never change how I feel about Tom Brady and what I said last year,” said Cromartie. “Do I respect him? Yes. He has three football rings. But other than that, when we’re on the football field, I don’t really give a damn.”

Yet, it’s not like Cromartie has been wonderfully consistent this season. He allowed two touchdowns in Week 1 but then snagged two interceptions in Week 2 vs. the Jaguars. He’s one of the best No. 2 cornerbacks around, but when he gets beaten by a receiver, he really gets beaten.

But you know what? Maybe, he is in Brady’s head. The Patriots quarterback shut down his weekly news conference after only five minutes because people kept asking about Cromartie and the comments he made.

“I don’t really care what he says,” Brady said before leaving.

But Brady probably does care. And it’s like your boy Bill Shakespeare wrote all those years ago, "The Brady doth protest too much, methinks."

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Posted on: October 6, 2011 11:17 am
Edited on: October 6, 2011 11:18 pm
 

Podcast: Ray Rice and Week 5 NFL preview

Posted by Will Brinson & Ryan Wilson

Week 5 of NFL action is coming up and we've got a pretty, pretty spicy matchup between the Steelers and Titans being featured on the mothership. If only we had a superstar NFL running back who's played against both teams to help us break it down.

Oh right, we do! Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens, who's working with Sheets Energy Strips, swings by to chat about the Steelers vs. Titans matchup (he's faced both teams through the first four weeks of the season; Baltimore beat Pittsburgh in Week 1 and lost to Tennessee in Week 2), where he stands in terms of the running backs in the NFL, who the best defensive player on Baltimore is, what he thinks of Hines Ward's DUI, whether he's due for a new contract, why Joe Flacco continues to struggle in games and much, much more.

"I think the Ravens are going to do the right thing … with the contract situation, I'll leave it in their hands," Rice said.
We also break down the rest of the week, wondering whether Rex Grossman or Hue Jackson has the more insane guarantee, if Wes Welker is the best wide receiver in the NFL and how he'll fare against Darrelle Revis, whether Cam Newton will go over or under on 370 yards passing this week, and whether we'd want Ryan Fitzpatrick or Matt Ryan as our quarterback if we had one game to play

All that and much, much more -- just hit the play button below to listen (and did we mention that you should subscribe to the podcast via iTunes?). If you can't listen to the podcast below, download it here. And if you'd like to keep working while listening in your browser, pop that puppy out in a new tab here.


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Posted on: September 29, 2011 11:57 am
Edited on: September 29, 2011 11:58 am
 

Top Ten with a Twist: Most underrated

D. McFadden is one of the league's most underrated players (US Presswire).

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

You know all the big-name players, even if they’re past their prime. Guys who once were great and impactful and who were rated exactly as their athleticism required. Now, though, some of those players have begun their descent into the final phases of their career, but fans, remembering their past exploits, still think of them as high-end performers on the field.

Now, they’re making way for players you’ve probably heard of but can’t place. Players who you’ve seen but can’t remember on which team they reside.Players who are overshadowed and under the radar. The players who won’t be considered underrated for much longer.

In this week’s Top Ten with a Twist, we feature the best players who are not as well known as they should be. You can call them underrated and call them under the radar, but their teams and their teammates know how important they are. They are, in fact, some of the best players in the league who aren’t necessarily considered the best players in the league.

10. Sean Lee: He won’t be a name only hardcore fans recognize for much longer. He was just named NFC defensive player of the month after a sensational start to the season (31 tackles, two interceptions, and two fumble recoveries). Lee had knocked long-time starting linebacker Keith Brooking out of the lineup, and with the way he’s playing, you can certainly see why. He has been scary this year.

9. Hakeem Nicks: Considering wide receiver is one of the most glamorous positions in the sport, it’s tough to find a guy who you could call underrated -- conversely, there’s no shortage of players we could consider overrated at this position. But Nicks is one of those guys who doesn’t get the national attention (even though he plays in New York!) of a Calvin Johnson, an Andre Johnson or a DeSean Jackson. And while Nicks might not quite be on the same level as those receivers, he’s close. His 79 catches, 1,052 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2010 is a testament to that.

8. Ryan Kalil: You might have been shocked when the Panthers gave him a six-year, $49 million ($28 million guaranteed) deal before this season to make him the highest-paid center in the game, but those around the league know his value. He’s versatile in pass protection and run-blocking, and he doesn’t get called for holding penalties. Is he the best center in the league? Probably not as long as Nick Mangold is playing, but Kalil is still one of the top guys out there.

7. Vince Wilfork: He gets plenty of attention -- especially when he’s picking off passes and strolling his way back up the field -- but when compared to defensive tackles like Haloti Ngata, Ndamukong Suh or (gasp!) Albert Haynesworth, Wilfork doesn’t get the admiration he deserves. Despite his size -- he very well could be playing in the 400-pound range -- he’s one of the most athletic big men you’ll see. He’s one of the best run-stoppers around, and he’s the anchor of the Patriots defense. You know him, but he still hasn’t made his way to superstar status.



6. Darren Sproles: It was thought that the new kickoff rules would hinder Sproles, and that was probably one of the reasons the Chargers didn’t re-sign him in the offseason. But Sproles has continued to prove his wealth, settling into the Saints backfield, where he’s shown he can still rush (7.4 yards per carry), catch the ball (21 receptions, second-best among running backs) and score (he’s recorded a touchdown in all three games). He’s like a Reggie Bush who actually is effective for the Saints. Oh, and he can still return kicks (sixth in the league among those who have at least five chances) and return punts (second in the league).

5. Tramon Williams: Although he helped the Packers to a Super Bowl, Williams isn’t mentioned in the same breath as the Eagles cornerback trio (Nnamdi Asomugha, Asante Samuel and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie) or the Jets duo (Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie). Plus, he plays in the shadow of Charles Woodson, who is still one of the best cornerbacks in the league after 14 seasons. But Williams has shown why he’s a top-10 cornerback. He’s not avoided by other team’s quarterbacks quite as much as Asomugha and Revis -- that’s a byproduct of playing with Woodson -- but he’s shown that when his receiver is targeted, Williams is one of the better cover corners in the league.

4. Rob Gronkowski: Who are the best tight ends in the league? Antonio Gates? That’s true if he’s healthy. Tony Gonzalez? That’s true if this was five years ago. Jason Witten? Yes, he probably is the top tight end out there. But you know who’s really close to him? That’s Gronkowski -- who, in his second season in the league, is one big reason the Patriots offense has been so dominant this season. He was decent as a rookie last season, but he’s exploded for five touchdowns already this year, and with Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez in the lineup in New England, that is a tough, tough matchup for the opposing teams’ linebackers.

3. Brandon Pettigrew: Last Sunday was the perfect example of why Pettigrew can make a Lions fan’s mouth water. He played through a shoulder injury, yet he managed to catch 11 passes for 112 yards in Detroit’s huge comeback victory against the Vikings. He’s probably not on the same level as Witten or Gronkowski, and yes, he drops the easy passes way too much (even if he also makes the spectacular catches). But in his third season in the league, he shows real potential to be a top-five tight end.

2. Trent Cole: He’s always good for between 55-80 tackles a year. He’s always good for between eight and 13 sacks. He’s almost always assured to be making life difficult for whichever offensive tackle who is charged with slowing his momentum. Cole might be the best player many NFL fans don’t know anything about. But this year, he’s off to a hot start in Philadelphia with three sacks. He’s a monster, and even if you haven’t heard his name very much, you can be sure the league’s offensive linemen have.

1. Darren McFadden: Along with Adrian Peterson and Chris Johnson, McFadden might be a top-three running back in this league. But since he plays in the black hole of Oakland, he wasn’t discussed as much as those who have lesser talent. That’s changing this year with the Raiders off to a 2-1 start and McFadden performing like the best back in the league. In 2010, McFadden gained 1,664 yards from scrimmage, and through three games this season, he’s rushed for 393 yards and three touchdowns while catching 11 passes for 84 yards and another score. If he keeps playing like that, he won’t belong on this list next year. Because everybody is going to know about him.

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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