Tag:Josh McDaniels
Posted on: December 13, 2011 4:26 pm
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Pick-6 Podcast: Harrison suspended, coaches fired

By Will Brinson & Ryan Wilson

Tuesdays are usually pretty slow during the regular season. But last week Jack Del Rio got canned, and today the NFL suspended Steelers linebacker Jame Harrison one game for blasting Browns quarterback Colt McCoy.

Oh, and on Monday, Todd Haley and Tony Sparano got the Del Rio treatment and now the Chiefs and Dolphins are in the market for head coaches, too.

So, yes, we have plenty to talk about on the latest edition of the podcast.

Did Harrison's punishment fit the crime(s)?

Who's on the head-coaching short list in Miami and Kansas City?

As always, we're joined by ProFootballTalk.com's Michael David Smith. We talk playoffs for the Lions and Bears, the latest Tebow awesomness (specifically: can the Steelers win a wild card game in Denver? We couldn't believe we asked that either), the Haley news, and T.J. Yates' accomplishment in Cincinnati Sunday.

All right, let's get to it...

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Posted on: December 12, 2011 12:44 pm
Edited on: December 29, 2011 5:31 pm
 

Who will replace Todd Haley in Kansas City?

By Will Brinson

As is tradition, when an NFL coach is "relieved of his duties," like Todd Haley was on Monday, we'll plow through a list of potential candidates to replace said coach.

The Chiefs search is a little different though, because it's widely assumed that Scott Pioli will chase a "Patriots Guy," which is someone with, duh, connections to the Bill Belichick coaching tree. The success of the next Chiefs coach will likely determine whether or not Pioli continues at the helm of the Chiefs, and thus it would be surprising to see him go in a different direction and hire someone he wasn't truly confident could succeed.

Leave your suggestions in the comments.

Romeo Crennel

Crennel's going to be running the team for the final three games of the 2011 season, and it's possible that Scott Pioli would be comfortable with Crennel as the full-time coach going forward. After all, Romeo was the defensive coordinator for championship-caliber teams in New England when Pioli was working for the Patriots, and Crennel's got head-coaching experience with the Browns. That wasn't the most successful tenure, but, hey, neither was Bill Belichick's first gig in Cleveland either.

Josh McDaniels

McDaniels was canned in Denver and took over as Offensive Coordinator for the Rams this past season. His star has fallen mightily from the 6-0 start with the Broncos in 2009 to the 2-10 effort the Rams have put forth so far in 2011 and the regression St. Louis has shown on offense. McDaniels real downfall in Denver, though, was his personnel decisions (although you could argue he made some smart calls after all) and he wouldn't have to worry about that in KC. At the very least, he'll warrant strong consideration as offensive coordinator for his old boss Pioli. (Added bonus: Haley hates him!)

Kirk Ferentz

My buddy Nathan and I have a running joke about how Ferentz is the hottest coaching candidate on the planet every year (seriously: his name gets dropped into every single coaching search at every single level of football)  but never even considers leaving Iowa. This is actually one gig that could truly entice him to make the jump to the NFL, though, as he and Pioli go way back to the early 90's when they worked together in Cleveland and Baltimore. Plus, you never know -- he could be the AFC's version of Jim Harbaugh!

Jeff Fisher

Fisher's going to be one of the hotter names in most coaching searches this offseason, because of all the success he had in Tennessee, and the fact that he ultimately just left because he and Bud Adams couldn't really agree on Vince Young. Or something. The Chiefs have a lot of cap room and their roster actually resembles the construction of his Titans teams the last few years he was there.

Bill Cowher

Little-known fact about all NFL coaching searches: you must include Cowher's name or else it's not complete. Also, Cowher coached in Kansas City for two years and apparently loves it there. So I'm changing my tune from earlier when I didn't include Cowher. I still don't think he's the answer here, though, because Pioli isn't going to just hand over a pile of player-personnel power to Cowher and it's widely believed that's something he'll require.

Rob Ryan

Ryan's refusal to cut his hair and stop running his mouth prior to games has hurt his reputation as a strong candidate to succeed at the head-coaching level, but he's done good work with the Cowboys defense this season and his track record as a defensive coach is pretty damn impressive. He also worked for the Patriots (linebackers coach for three years) and given how much Rex Ryan's succeeded in New York, it's hard to ignore the possibility of success by the other sibling. On the other hand, given the tenuous nature of Pioli's relationship with the fiery Todd Haley, he may want to avoid a big personality with this hire.

Brian Daboll

Daboll was brought to the Dolphins in 2011 to revamp the Fins offense, and while Miami isn't the most high-powered offense in the NFL, the rejuvenation of Reggie Bush and the late-season success of Matt Moore is impressive. Daboll's offenses haven't ever finished in the top half of the NFL -- he was quarterbacks coach of the Jets in 2007 and 2008 and offensive coordinator of the Browns in 2009 and 2010 -- but he hasn't exactly been working with the same personnel you might find on the 1999 Rams or anything. No head coaching experience probably makes this a dealbreaker, but he could warrant consideration as an assistant.

Eric Mangini

But, no, seriously. Mangini's been known to have interest in returning to the NFL and as recently the past month he's been rumored as someone who might come in as a consultant for various teams. He's currently working for ESPN (and is actually doing a fantastic job, in my humble opinion), and may have burned bridges with comments he made about the Patriots while working as the Jets head coach. But people forget he did a pretty good job there of rebuilding the Gang Green before struggling in a rebuild job in Cleveland.

Pat Hill

Hill, the recently-fired Fresno State coach, is a bit of a darkhorse, especially since "getting fired by a non-BCS school where you've been since 1997" isn't usually the career step taken before "getting hired to take over an NFL team." But again, he's part of the Belichick tree, so it's impossible to count him out completely.

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Posted on: December 12, 2011 2:27 am
Edited on: December 12, 2011 2:35 am
 

Sorting the Sunday Pile: Week 14

Posted by Will Brinson


Sorting the Sunday Pile takes all of Sunday's NFL action and figures out the most important storylines for you to digest. Send your complaints, questions and comments to Will Brinson on Twitter. Make sure and listen to our Week 14 podcast review below as well and feel free to subscribe via iTunes.


1. They're Not Saying 'Boooooo' ...

True story: Just over two years ago, T.J. Yates came on the jumbotron at the Dean Dome during a North Carolina game as the lead-in to a UNC football video, said "I'm T.J. Yates and I'm a Tar Heel," and Yates, who was in the crowd, was booed mercilessly by Tar Heel fans in attendance.

One surprisingly strong senior season and a slew of injuries to Houston quarterbacks later, Yates is the starting quarterback for the first Texans team to ever make the playoffs. He's no figurehead, either, as his play in the fourth quarter of Sunday's 20-19 victory in Cincinnati showed.

We think that logic and common football sense says a rookie quarterback can't take a team deep into the playoffs, but does it? This Texans team's success is predicated on running the ball and playing defense.

And that's not too far off what Mark Sanchez and Ben Roethlisberger leaned on as rookies. Both those guys went to the AFC Championship Game, as a rookie quarterback mind you.

Yates is different than those Sanchez or Roethlisberger because he's matured under tough circumstances, his expectations are lower, he didn't leave school early so he's more experienced and he's got good mentors surrounding him on the roster.

If Houston gets into a shootout with an opponent or finds themselves with a huge halftime deficit, they're probably in trouble. But if that happens, it's not on Yates anyway -- the defense and rushing attack probably already let them down.

Just remember that when it comes time to debate the viability of the Texans in the postseason that the rookie quarterback under center is about as viable as the stereotype that the Texans can't stop anyone on defense.

2. Where It's Due in Denver

It's about time, in this LOL-worthy Tim Tebow saga that hit another high with Denver's 13-10 overtime win over Chicago Sunday, to give credit where credit is due. No, not the defense. No, not the running game. No, not the super-human effort from kicker Matt Prater on Sunday. No, not John Fox or John Elway.

Let's give credit to ... Josh McDaniels.

Remember, McDaniels is the guy that drafted Tebow and blossoming receiver Demaryius Thomas. Both might have been reaches when they were taken (25th and 22nd overall, respectively) and both looked like absolutely horrid selections pretty recently. But McDaniels obviously knew something about these guys and his premonitions and talent evaluation is paying off for Denver now.

Look, there are guys that were taken after Tebow and Thomas that are better overall additions to a roster (Dez Bryant, Rob Gronkowski, Devin McCourty stand out), and the value McDaniels wasted at those spots is disappointing. Also, given the Rams struggles on offense this year, handing credit his way isn't exactly the chic thing to do.

But as we get further from his nightmare regime in Denver and more ensconced in Tebowmania, it at least warrants a tip of the cap to McD for his decision to select two guys who are starting to fulfill the expectations that come with their draft slot.

3. Cowboy Down

We spent the better part of the podcast (you can listen above, just by clicking play!) trying to figure out who to blame for Dallas' failings in their 37-34 loss to the Giants on Sunday night.

But since Rex Ryan egged on some defensive coverages, Tony Romo egged on a big third-down throw to Miles Austin and Jason Garrett egged on clock management, isn't it possible that it's a systematic issue across the team as a whole?

We assume that because there's a new coach running the show, with different coordinators in place and some new players, that things are different. But things just aren't.

Jerry Jones knows this -- with the Giants at the goal line and the clock ticking down, an NBC camera caught him screaming "Timeout, Jason!"

Give credit where credit is to due to Eli Manning and the Giants for clawing their way back into this game, because it was a pretty magnificent comeback, something Eli's becoming quite proficient at this season.

But these Cowboys just can't close. We've seen it over and over this season and at some point, the bossman's patience for a lack of execution is going to run out.

4. Start 'Em/Sit 'Em?

The Packers have, with their 46-16 obliteration of Oakland in Green Bay, now officially clinched a first-round bye. Thanks to the 49ers losing to the Cardinals on Sunday, Mike McCarthy's team is just one win or one San Francisco loss away from clinching homefield advantage throughout the playoffs.

But Sunday's victory came at a price -- star wide receiver Greg Jennings is likely out for the remainder of the regular season. Aaron Rodgers said that "hopefully" the Packers can get Jennings back in time for the team's first playoff game, following their bye, which is approximately five weeks from now.

This begs the question: will McCarthy and Green Bay chase 16-0 with the same fervor as the Patriots?

Losing someone like Jennings is debilitating to their run at repeating as Super Bowl champions, but it's not a dealbreaker because of all the talent they have at the various skill positions. Losing Aaron Rodgers? That's a whole different story.

And what if someone like Charles Woodson or Tramon Williams or Clay Matthews was lost for the rest of the season playing in a meaningless game? Yeah, that would be bad.

There's no right answer that doesn't involve "winning the title" so it's unfair to judge whatever McCarthy and Ted Thompson decide to do. We don't know how things would play out in an alternate universe. But Jennings injury might be a bad sign for the chances at Green Bay running the table.\

5. Familiar Feeling

New England is streaking towards a likely No. 1 seed right now. And they have a  kerfluffle on the sidelines between Tom Brady and his offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien that everyone can talk about. And there's the whole "Can I draft Rob Gronkowski in the second round of my fantasy league next year?" debate that might be worth discussing when going over interesting things about this team. 

But I can't shake the fact that the Redskins piled up well over 500 yards passing between Rex Grossman and Brandon Banks (!) plus 120 rushing yards from Roy Helu and narrowly lost to the Pats 34-27.

Again: the Redskins did this. Back in 2009, New England got throttled by the Ravens in Foxborough, because Baltimore had a stout defense and Ray Rice went HAM on a Pats defense that couldn't shut him down.

This year? The Patriots defense, a season-long problem for the team, reminds a lot of that squad, in that they can't stop anyone who's physical and can play ball control. Or, really, they can't stop anyone -- only four teams have scored less than 20 points against the Pats, and one of those was quarterbacked by Tyler Palko.

There are a lot of good defensive teams headed to the playoffs in the AFC, with a lot of good running backs, and some pretty talented quarterbacks.

Brady and Belichick are great about covering up flaws on a roster, but when they run into a physical team in the playoffs, we might see a similar result from years past.

6. So You're Telling Me There's a Chance?

The 2011 NFL season wouldn't feel right if we didn't get a Lloyd Christmas-inspired false-hope run from the Eagles and Chargers, would it?

The Eagles are still alive after a 26-10 beat down of Miami, although making the playoffs at this point involves jumping a whopping five other teams, and is about as likely as the Eagles retaining Juan Castillo next season.

San Diego's path to the postseason should have been a little bit easier, because the Raiders lost and the Broncos were supposed to lose (see: Tim Tebow doing what Tim Tebow does). Now things are much murkier, as San Diego needs either the Jets -- a team they should have beaten -- to go 1-2 down the stretch, or the Broncos -- another team they should have beaten -- to lose. And the Bolts have to win

8-8 and 9-7, respectively, are doable based for the two teams, based on their schedules. But even that kind of effort might not be enough to save the jobs of certain people in certain positions for these teams.

7. Call It a Comeback, Kid

For the second time this season, four teams in a single week overcame 12-point (or more) deficits to win.

Why? Well, as it turns out, offensive points aren't the only exciting thing that's happened as a result of the offense-friendly rules the NFL installed over the past few years. Comebacks occur more frequently too.

And big comebacks as well -- Atlanta, Jacksonville, Houston and Arizona were all down by 12-plus points and mounted a comeback in Week 14 -- in Week 2, another four teams did it as well.

Limitations on members of the secondary, limitations on defensive players hitting quarterbacks and the middle of the field opening up because of defenseless receiver rules mean teams are able to sling the ball around more frequently.

Defenses simply can't clamp down on teams when they have a lead and if someone takes their foot off the gas (see: the Panthers vs. the Falcons on Sunday), a comeback is absolutely in the cards.

8. Taking Flight

Note to anyone who ends up in a December-only fantasy league: draft Shonn Greene. Dude gets unholy hot when the weather gets cold and he's doing it again this year, with four touchdowns and well over 200 yards the last two weeks, including a career-high 129 rushing yards in a blowout win against Kansas City Sunday.

Not coincidentally, it might be smart to not write off the Jets ever again. Somehow, someway, they manage to win enough games to sneak into the playoffs.

Rex Ryan's crew is doing it again, and even though this rendition of the Jets is clearly inferior to the previous two seasons, it's hard to count them out.

Twice in his two years as head coach, Ryan's used a formula to get to the AFC Championship Game despite fighting uphill to even get into the playoffs. And now he's doing it again.

The Jets last three opponents -- Buffalo, Washington and Kansas City -- are about as cream-puffy as it comes, but you only have to play the people on your schedule. So I'm really not sure why this wasn't as obvious an outcome as Greene being largely irrelevant for fantasy teams until now.

9. Get Your Mojo Running

Lost in some of the fantastic Week 14 action was the fact that the incredibly underrated Maurice Jones-Drew, the only elite skill-position player that the Jaguars have, set the franchise record for career touchdowns, surpassing the also incredibly underrated Fred Taylor.

"Mojo" did it on a day in which he went absolutely b-a-n-a-n-a-s, rushing for 85 yards and two touchdowns, and catching six passes for 51 receiving yards and a pair of scores through the air as well.

“Words can’t really explain how excited I am,” Jones-Drew said.

Jones-Drew's one of the prototypes for the modern NFL back -- small but powerful, quick, great hands and a secret workhorse. (Not to mention he's a stalwart in the community, and a good guy to boot.) Amid an often ugly offensive performance by Jacksonville on a weekly basis, MJD's been insanely consistent in 2011.

Dude deserves some love.

10. Great Expectations

It's fascinating to see that Raheem Morris and Steve Spagnuolo are two guys everyone agrees find themselves firmly on the hot seat. That's because last year, Morris and Spags were a combined one game away from both being in the playoffs last year.

Morris won 10 games with the surprising Buccaneers and even though Spagnuolo went 7-9, he had a shot at winning the putrid NFC West in the final week of the season.

The 17 total wins for the two teams has created a pretty terrible predicament for the coaches who nearly got them to the postseason though: both guys are looking like strong candidates to be fired after the 2011 season.

Tampa Bay lost its seventh-straight game in horrific fashion on Sunday when Blaine Gabbert and the Jags dropped a 41-14 bomb on the Bucs and the Rams are scheduled to start Tom Brandstater against the Seahawks. That will probably not end well.

The point of all this is that the NFL is a what-have-you-done-for-me lately business and Spags and Morris have lost lately. A lot.

Muffed Punts

Leftovers from Sunday's Action ...
... Packers have now scored 466 points on the season, the second-highest total in NFL history through 13 weeks, behind only the Pats 503 in 2007.
... Drew Brees and Johnny Unitas are the only two quarterbacks in NFL history with 40-straight games with passing touchdowns.
... Rob Gronkowski has the all-time record for touchdown receptions in a single season by a tight end with 15.
... Eli Manning's 400-yard passing performance was the 14th over the season, an NFL record.

Worth 1,000 Words


GIF(S) O' THE WEEK

You can see video of KC kicker Ryan Succop executing the worst onsides kick in the history of football right here, but this GIF of the three-yard putt/kick is just mesmerizingly depressing.



And I'm double dipping this week again, as Jabar Gaffney's dive into the seats without being caught is just too much fun to ignore.


Hot Seat Tracker

  • Steve Spagnuolo -- Spags really, really needs a win on Monday night against the Seahawks.
  • Raheem Morris -- As noted above, this team won 10 games last year!
  • Todd Haley -- After righting the ship, the Chiefs are back to sinking. This may be related to "starting Tyler Palko" but still, Haley's the coach.
  • Jim Caldwell -- *stares blankly at Colts record*
  • Norv Turner -- Norv's fanning the hell out of his seat, but the Chargers might not have enough games left to make up for the bad start.

Award Worth Discussing of the Week

Aaron Rodgers has retired the MVP watch and the Colts are locked into Andrew Luck so I'm adjusting on the fly. Today's award worth discussing: Coach of the Year.

I find this race fascinating because you have four primary contenders, all with totally different situations.

There's Mike McCarthy of the Packers, who's threatening to run the table with a defending Super Bowl champ. Then there's Jim Harbaugh, who's made the a talented, underachieving 49ers team relevant again and quickly. They're the two favorites.

Then there's the underdogs: John Fox, who continues to win despite Tim Tebow flying under the radar in terms of media attention, and Gary Kubiak, who will not let a quarterback injury kill his season.

If McCarthy goes undefeated it's impossible not to give him the nod because, well, they didn't lose. But if the Packers falter at all, Harbaugh's sheen could fade enough down the stretch (a loss to Pittsburgh and struggles against Seattle and St. Louis maybe?) to let Fox and Kubes make a play for the award.

My vote, provided things play out the way they have so far, is for Fox, since he's winning with less in a way no one ever saw coming, well ahead of when people believed he'd win.
Posted on: December 1, 2011 11:22 am
 

Top Ten with a Twist: Second-year players

Gronkowski

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

It’s too easy to talk about the best rookies of the season (Von Miller, Cam Newton, Andy Dalton, blah, blah, blah) -- hell  you could find that list just about anywhere online. But the Top Ten with a Twist list strives to take you a little deeper than the surface. So, we talk about the best players who are in their SECOND year of playing in the NFL.

Like last year when we touted players like Clay Matthews, Arian Foster and LeSean McCoy, as well as players like (sigh) Johnny Knox, Knowshon Moreno and Mark Sanchez, we’re giving it another shot to discuss the best players from the 2010 draft. But this year, we guarantee the players on this top-10 list will be Hall of Fame bound one day.

Because if there’s one thing we know for certain, by the time NFLers are in their second year of playing pro football, they’ve got it all figured out. Or maybe not.

10. Earl Thomas: As a rookie safety last year, he recorded 76 tackles and five interceptions. While he’s only got one pick this season, he’s already at 71 tackles. Some observers before this season compared him to Troy Polamalu, and while Thomas clearly hasn’t reached that level yet, Thomas has plenty of talent to justify his first-round selection.

9. Jason Pierre-Paul: He didn’t get much notice last season, but the injuries to Osi Umenyiora and a slew of other Giants have gotten him more playing time. He’s taken advantage, recording 10.5 sacks and 50 tackles on the season. And he’s still only 22 years old. That’s scary.

8. Pat Angerer: If you don’t know much about Angerer, that makes sense. He plays in the black hole known as Indianapolis. But he’s quietly put together one of the best seasons by a linebacker this year. He leads the league with 112 tackles. He’s made at least seven tackles in every game this season, and four times, he’s entered into double digits (including 21 in Week 3 vs. the Steelers, the most for the Colts since Bob Sanders in 2005). Just think how much you would know about him if he played for a team that could win a game.

7. Dez Bryant: He’s shown immense talent the past two seasons, but he’s also shown erratic behavior on the field (ranting and raving on the sideline) and off the field (lawsuits for alleged unpaid jewelry services, charges of sagging his pants at a mall). He should be -- and could be -- one of the best receivers in the game at some point in the near future, but if you’re in the Cowboys organization, how much can you really trust the guy?

Tebow6. Joe Haden: He’s a little more invisible than many others because he’s playing for a franchise that struggles, and he doesn’t have the stats of a top-notch cornerback (he’s recorded exactly zero interceptions this season vs. six during his rookie year). But he certainly has big-time play-making ability (opposing offenses have tended to avoid throwing his way), and though he can be a little inconsistent, he’s got the talent to move into that elite level of defensive back.

5. Tim Tebow: He has to be on this list, right? And I’m not even kidding.

4. Eric Decker: Hmm, maybe Josh McDaniels’ 2010 draft wasn’t all that terrible after all. Decker has become the team’s best receiver, and when Tebow gets rolling in the last few minutes of every game, Decker is usually the one making amazing catches to help the cause. Just think what he could do if he had a quarterback who could actually make NFL throws.

3. Ndamukong Suh: As we’ve been saying since the beginning of forever ago, Suh needs to get a better handle on his intensity if he wants to keep the NFL out of his wallet, because it’s pretty clear that he’s one of the dirtiest players out there. And now that he’s been suspended two games, it’s hurting his team. He hasn’t been as good this year as he was last season -- facing more double-teams and all -- but still, he’s one of the most feared defenders in the league.

2. Jimmy Graham: If Rob Gronkowski is the best all-around tight end in the game (see below), Graham is close on his heels. Graham didn’t begin making an impact in New Orleans until midway through his rookie season, but he’s a hot commodity now, leading all tight ends with 67 catches for 957 yards. He has quickly become Drew Brees’ favorite target, and for any pass-catcher in the NFL, that’s a very good thing.

1.Rob Gronkowski: In his second season, he’s already become the most complete tight end in the game. He can block, he can catch, he can score touchdowns and he can spike the hell out of the ball when the play is finished. Plus, the guy hangs out with porn stars. He’s living the life right now. He’s got 60 catches for a 14.4 yards average and 11 scores (more than anybody not named Calvin Johnson), and simply put, he has been a pleasure to watch this season.

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Posted on: October 18, 2011 1:46 pm
 

Mike Sims-Walker headed back to Jaguars

Posted by Will Brinson

Mike Sims-Walker's headed back to the Jaguars, after being cut by the Jaguars, signed by the Rams and cut by the Rams. Get excited, Duval County!

This is based on Sims-Walker's Twitter feed, which features a pair of messages that strongly indicate he'll be returning to Jacksonville.

For starters, Sims-Walker kicked the day off with a "And the phone calls begin ..." tweet, indicating that his agent was getting calls about where he could end up playing.

Shortly thereafter, MSW shouted (the typing version anyway), "Duuuvvvvvaaaallllllllllll!!!!!!!!!!!!" For those that don't know, Duval County's the home of Jacksonville (see above).

And when asked by a follower if it was a "Mike [Thomas] and Mike [Sims-Walker] sequel," the wideout tweeted "on the way!"

Sims-Walker became extraneous for the Rams when he failed to produce and they managed to swing a trade with Denver to acquire Brandon Lloyd on Monday.

The ex-Jaguar was a healthy scratch in Week 6, indicating exactly how unhappy coach Steve Spagnuolo and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels was with his production in St. Louis.

And while Sims-Walker won't exactly turn around the Jaguars season, he'll at least provide some experience at wide receiver that should help rookie Blaine Gabbert.

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Posted on: October 17, 2011 12:03 pm
Edited on: October 17, 2011 1:37 pm
 

Broncos trade Brandon Lloyd to Rams

Help could be on the way for Rams QB Sam Bradford. (US PRESSWIRE)

Posted by Ryan Wilson

UPDATE: 1:15 p.m. ET. It's official, Brandon Lloyd has been traded to the Rams. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Jim Thomas writes that "The Rams gave up a conditional sixth-round pick for Lloyd, who is from Kansas City and played at the University of Illinois. The pick can change to a fifth-rounder depending on the number of catches Lloyd has for the Rams."

---

Last Tuesday, the Broncos named Tim Tebow their starting quarterback. A few days later, the team was reportedly looking to trade one of its best players, wide receiver Brandon Lloyd. On Monday, Lloyd appears headed to the Rams, the NFL Network's Jason La Canfora reports.

St. Louis, a preseason favorite to win the NFC West and make the playoffs, has started the season 0-5 and quarterback Sam Bradford is without a reliable downfield target. Danny Amendola has battled injuries, and Mike Sims-Walker, signed early in the shortened free-agency period, has struggled with drops and is now on the bench indefinitely. That leaves Brandon Gibson, Danario Alexander, and rookie Greg Salas at wide receiver, as well as rookie tight end Lance Kendricks, as possible options for Bradford.

Not the ideal situation for a team that has a franchise QB at its disposal but no real pass-catching threats to speak of. Which explains the organization's interest in Lloyd.

A season ago, Lloyd caught 77 passes for 1,448 yards and 11 touchdowns. He credited much of his success to Kyle Orton, who now has to tell people that he's Tebow's backup. Lloyd is making $1.395 million this season, which is a bargain based on his 2010 production. No word on if the Rams will offer him an extension, or what the Broncos will get in return for Lloyd (they were looking for anywhere from a third- to a fifth-rounder).

For now, Lloyd appears headed for a reunion with Josh McDaniels, his former coach in Denver who is now the offensive coordinator in St. Louis. We warned last week that it took Lloyd seven seasons and four teams before he became a breakout player. And while he doesn't need a Hall of Fame quarterback to have success, he does need to be in a system that fits his talents. For all his shortcomings, Josh McDaniels got the most out of Lloyd, and it makes sense that the two will team up again.

Whether it'll be enough to save the Rams' season seems like a longshot, but assuming the plan is to lock up Lloyd beyond this season, it could give Bradford a go-to receiver for the foreseeable future. It's a start.

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Posted on: September 21, 2011 2:16 pm
Edited on: September 22, 2011 3:23 pm
 

Film Room: Bills vs. Patriots preview

Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit



We’ll find out this Sunday just how "for real" the Bills are. It’s one thing to face unfamiliar foes from the iffy AFC West. It’s another to face the perennial bully of your own division. Before we forecast the matchup, let’s use the first four points to understand what these 2-0 teams are all about.

1. Patriots passing attack
The last time New England’s juggernaut offense was hitting on this many cylinders was 2007, when the rest of the NFL had no answer for Randy Moss over the top and Wes Welker underneath. New England runs a much different offense now than in those Josh McDaniels days.

Under McDaniels the Patriots in 2008 went 11-5 with Matt Cassel filling in for the injured Tom Brady. The system still worked because of the unique combination of Moss and Welker. If the Patriots were to lose Brady in their current system, they’d plummet to the middle of the AFC East. Virtually everything New England does is predicated on Brady’s unbelievable ability to diagnose a defense and set his feet before throwing.

Most NFL passing offenses are built on the quarterback anticipating where the receiver is going. The Patriots’ offense is essentially built on Brady seeing where the receiver is going before firing. The reason for this is New England’s heavy use of option routes.

The patterns that Patriot receivers, as well as their sensational young tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez (who will miss this game with a knee injury), run often hinge on what the defense does. It’s up to the receiver to correctly assess the coverage – both presnap and on the fly – and choose his route accordingly. This is the premise of an option route.

Because of this, the Patriots don’t look for size and speed at wide receiver; they look for intelligence and precise route running. That’s why Wes Welker and Deion Branch, two classic role players, are stars here. They’re perfect for this system.

Option routes are designed to specifically exploit the weakness of a coverage. The reason other teams don’t run option routes nearly exclusively is because they take a split second longer to unfold, and other teams don’t have a quarterback who can make accurate throws a split second later in the down. Brady happens to have an unmatched ability to square his body and throw soundly with defenders around him.

It’s incredible – the guy has a quick, picturesque release, and you almost never see him throw off-balance. Even other superstars like Rodgers and Brees can’t quickly square up and fire under duress the way Brady can.


2. Buffalo’s quarterback
Since last season, the Bills have been higher on quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick than any other team in football. There are rumors that the front office is looking to quickly sign the 28-year-old Harvard alum to a long-term deal before his market value skyrockets.

But how good is Fitzpatrick, really? Most of his supporters tout his grit. Praising a quarterback’s grit is like praising a girl’s personality. Even if the praise is justified and honest, it still feels backhanded because it implies the absence of more obvious (important?) physical attributes.

While Fitzpatrick is no Chad Pennington, he doesn’t have the world’s strongest arm. He can scramble and buy time with his feet, but he’s no Aaron Rodgers. And he reads a defense OK (he was phenomenal recognizing Oakland’s blitzes last week), but he’s no Peyton Manning. Most concerning is his occasionally erratic accuracy. Every game, poor accuracy costs him a few quality completions. And because he’s such a risk-taker, there’s an increased possibility that his inaccuracy translates to interceptions.

Don’t take this as “Fitzpatrick hating”. We only harp on his negatives because, these days, so many are highlighting his positives.

3. Chan Gailey’s adjustment
Even in the shortened offseason, the Buffalo Bills managed to drastically alter their offensive playbook. Prior to the season, we heard that Chan Gailey (who runs the offense) and Curtis Modkins (who coordinates the offense) would implement more spread formations. A lot of teams talk abot spreading out and being more aggressive, but the Bills have actually done it.

This is somewhat surprising because the Bills, especially after dumping Lee Evans, don’t seem to have the receiving personnel for this. None of their wideouts other than Roscoe Parrish – who is out for the season with an ankle injury – have great speed. And all of them are young.

However, through two games, Buffalo’s spread approach has worked marvelously. Stevie Johnson’s improvement as a route runner (he gets open late in his patterns extremely well) has compensated for his middling speed and made him a veritable No. 1 target. David Nelson, who’s a lanky 6’5” and has a newfound comfort for hauling in passes, has been a matchup nightmare both inside and out.

Donald Jones offers decent quickness off the line of scrimmage, and Fred Jackson or C.J. Spiller (who, by the way, are both running with outstanding fluidity, especially on the perimeter) are capable of flanking out, which gives the Bills formation flexibility in their personnel packages.

Tip your cap to the historically power-run oriented Gailey for recognizing the direction that the NFL is going in and, at age 59, adjusting his philosophy accordingly.

4. The defenses: 4-3 or 3-4?
Both teams have run hybrid 3-4-slash-4-3 defense in recent years, not because they have versatile players or schemes but because they’ve been without a quality pass-rusher and have looked for creative (i.e. desperate) ways to manufacture pressure on the quarterback.

As it stands, neither team still has a quality rusher. Knee injuries have robbed Shawne Merriman of his burst and direction-changing ability. Merriman still has decent power, but without the movement prowess, he’s a shell of his former self. Opposite him, Chris Kelsay, though playing faster than usual this season, is not consistently dynamic. In New England, Bill Belichick is hoping elder newcomers like Shaun Ellis and Andre Carter can skim the edges on third down.

Despite feeble pass-rushing resources, both teams’ 3-4/4-3 ambiguity appears to be gone this season. Both made personnel moves that suggest a commitment to one system. The Bills spent the No. 3 overall draft pick on Marcel Dareus, a classic 3-4 end. So far, Dareus has shown intriguing power in shedding blocks, both laterally and in penetration. The Patriots traded for Albert Haynesworth, a classic one-gap tackle (just ask him) and have settled into a 4-3.

So far, Haynesworth has been a monster, but only in sub-packages. He must improve his endurance if he wants to be an everydown player like Vince Wilfork.

5. The Bills’ prayer
Do they have one this Sunday? They won’t be able to get pressure on Brady, so their best bet is to play coverage and hope for a timely turnover or two. That will be tough, though, as No. 1 corner Terrence McGee is out and his replacement, Leodis McKelvin, has struggled in man coverage.

Also, strong safety George Wilson, while stout in the box, is a slow runner with limited coverage skills. The Raiders took advantage of this with screen passes and underneath passing routes last week; the Patriots, with Gronkowski and Danny Woodhead, will have no trouble doing the same.

Thus, it’s on the Bills offense to control the tempo and shorten the game. Buffalo’s front five, coached by Joe D'Alessandris, has been phenomenal through two weeks. Center Eric Wood has the run-blocking movement skills of a Pro Bowler, while left tackle Demetrius Bell (whom yours truly has been very hard on the past few years) has shown good awareness and improved mechanics in pass protection.

A good front line is key to having a sustainable offense. But unless the Bills can work some magic on special teams, they won’t need a sustainable offense to have a chance Sunday…they’ll need a perfect one.

So who will win? Check our expert picks for all Week 1 games.


Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: September 17, 2011 12:45 pm
Edited on: September 17, 2011 3:33 pm
 

It's not if but when for Tebow, NFL starting QB

It's only a matter of time for Tim Tebow(US PRESSWIRE/Getty Images)

Posted by Ryan Wilson


The Denver Post's Mike Kiszla nails it when he calls Tim Tebow "America's favorite third-string quarterback." He's also onto something when he suggests it's only a matter of time before public pressure thrusts Tebow into the Broncos' starting lineup, for better or worse.

Following Monday's home loss to the Raiders, a game that included plenty of awful football and "TEBOW! TEBOW!" chants from the crowd, head coach John Fox ignored questions about if he had thoughts of pulling Kyle Orton for America's favorite third-stringer. The media can wait Fox out, of course, because this isn't going away until, well, Tebow plays.

"I'm responsible to put the best football product on the field, in my estimation," Fox told Kiszla Thursday, after making it clear Kyle Orton, not Tebow, is his starting quarterback. "Am I perfect? No. But I don't think there are too many perfect people running around this planet. So you do what you think is best.

"You're not going to please everybody. I don't care if you're in politics, I don't care if you're in business or I don't care if you're in coaching. I heard (former Secretary of State) Condoleezza Rice say once, 'Don't let tomorrow's headlines influence today's decisions.' I've tried to live by that the best I can."

In Fox's case, he's in politics, business and coaching, and when you're losing, like it or not, tomorrow's headlines end up influencing today's decisions. Which means that if the Broncos don't get better, Tebow will be the starting quarterback.

There's still the little issue of Tebow not showing much promise as an NFL signal caller (see Hoge, Merril for details). And if he were a fifth-round afterthought instead of a first-round pick there probably wouldn't be quite the zealotry to get him on the field. So, yes, this is Josh McDaniels' fault.

Can Tebow make it as an NFL QB?

Whoever's to blame, fans are serious about the cause. At least one of them is, anyway. Earlier in the week we told you about Jesse Oaks, who's saving pennies to buy a pro-Tebow billboard.

"We believe in Coach Fox, we’re just tired of Kyle Orton," Oaks told the Denver Post. "We were sitting around after Fox said he didn’t hear the chants for Tebow, and we figured if he’s deaf, we hope he’s not blind. …

"I've always been so proud when somebody asked: 'Hey, what's your favorite football team?' " Oaks said. "But lately people seem so happy for the Broncos to be average. What do you mean you hope we get to 8-8 this year? I was hoping for the Super Bowl. I feel like if we keep believing in an average quarterback, we're going to be average."

(The Super Bowl, huh? Hey, set your sights high, even if unreasonably so.) 

Fox, as always, was measured in his response."In this job, you're going to be criticized, and that's why we're compensated like we are."

Well, that and, you know, winning football games.

And the Tebow countdown clock continues to tick…

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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