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Tag:Von Miller
Posted on: November 18, 2011 5:00 pm
 

Tracking Tebow, Week 11: Now do you believe?

We're Tracking Tebow … because it's impossible not to watch. 

Posted by Ryan Wilson

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin has a saying: Style points don't matter. The Broncos should patent the phrase, or at the very least, make it a part of their 2011 marketing strategy: "The Denver Broncos: Where Style Points Don't Matter … but Winning Does."

Of course, Tim Tebow doesn't need much help selling this team to the locals -- and now the rest of the nation. Not after his latest comeback performance, one that included a "Yep, we're running and you can't stop us" game plan against Rex Ryan, the guy who literally wrote the book on defending the read-option.

Artist rendering of the Broncos' new helmet.
You know how announcers will sometimes say "(Typical NFL quarterback) has a clock in his head and he knows the ball has to be out of his hands after 2.5 seconds"? Tebow has no such clock (and no pocket awareness to speak of). Instead, his alarm sounds after 55 minutes of horrific football, signifying that now it matters, now it's time to play.

It happened in Tebow's first start of the season, Week 7 in Miami; he couldn't have looked worse through three quarters and two-thirds of another. And then, as if somebody flipped the switch on the electric football game, Tebow made plays with his arm and his feet (mostly his feet), and he had the ball in his hands for the decisive score.

Which was pretty much the script to the sequal we saw Thursday night against the Jets. Tebow drove the Broncos 95 yards with just over five minutes on the clock, and he scored on a 20-yard quarterback keeper that everybody knew was coming but no one could stop.

Like the Dolphins game, a solid Jets defensive effort was wasted on one ill-timed lapse that resulted in a Tebow score.

With 1:06 on the clock, the Jets leading 13-10, and the Broncos facing a 3rd and 4 from the New York 20, Tebow lined up in the shotgun. The Jets brought eight men to the line of scrimmage because there was no way Tebow would throw the ball. Too many things could go wrong. Plus, if the Jets stopped him, Denver could kick a field goal, tie the score, and take it to overtime.

Jets safety Eric Smith was on the line of scrimmage, lined up to the outside of the tight end on the right side of the formation (Tebow's left). His job was to keep Tebow from getting outside the pocket, instead forcing him into the middle of the field where, in theory, other Jets defenders would be waiting to make the tackle. Smith didn't do his job, he lost contain, Tebow beat him to the corner, and 20 yards later, that was that. Ball game.

The dotted lines are what should've happened -- Smith contains Tebow, forcing him inside. The solid lines are what actually happened: Smith took a horrible angle, Tebow scored (you can see a video of the play below).

“When you look at it, it’s a tough thing on him,” Jets head coach Ryan said during the post-game presser when asked about Smith’s angle. “I’ll just say this, it’s a tough assignment. There is no question. Quite honestly, I’ll take Eric Smith every day of the week. He’s a tremendous player. Could we have said, ‘Hey, [have] him be wider? Should the end be wider? Everybody be wider.’ Maybe you could’ve, but you have to give Tebow credit. He made the play. I will say this, Eric sold out. Eric laid it on the line for us and we came up a little empty. [He] made a diving stab at him, but he never quite got him on the ground. Again, when you look at it, I think it’s easy to obviously second-guess, but we need to start looking forward, instead of behind us.”

Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey had a different take.

"When I saw that all-out blitz, I was like, 'That is so stupid,' " he said. "They hadn't really done that all day. Once he broke the contain, that's a wrap."

Last week, Tebow was 2 for 8 and the Broncos ran the ball 55 times (mostly featuring the read-option), and beat the Chiefs. Thursday, by our unofficial count, the Broncos ran conventional running plays 15 times and went with some form of the option (both run and pass) 22 times. Tebow finished the evening 9 for 20 for 104 yards, and added 68 yards on the ground on eight carries.

Before The (New) Drive, the Jets defense held Tebow to 6 of 15 passing for 69 yards, and two carries for 11 more over 11 drives. Those 11 drives resulted in eight punts, a turnover on downs, a fumble and a field goal. And then the alarm sounded…


Lost amid all the post-game revelry and Tebowing is something we pointed out on Friday's Pick-6 Podcast (see podcast player above): the real MVP of the game was rookie linebacker Von Miller. He harassed Mark Sanchez from start to finish, and if not for the play of the Broncos' defense, Tebow never would've been in position score the winning touchdown.

But they did and he was. And now the Broncos are 5-5.

Denver has as legit shot to win the AFC West because it's a weak division, but also because through Tebow, all things are possible.

No, it ain't pretty, but style points don't matter, remember? 


                                                   Play by Play



(Note: Below are the plays -- both running and passing -- involving Tebow. You can view the entire play-by-play breakdown here)



Added bonus: a handy bar graph showing us what our eyes tell us every week. As pass attempts go down, QB rating -- and more importantly -- rushing attempts go up. And the Broncos win.



                                                        Quotes



“He did it. Tim Tebow did it. He shocked me, he probably shocked a lot of people, but he did it. We played them well through the whole game, until that last play. We played them well. Tim Tebow's legs took them to victory, ran them to victory." - Jets CB Darrelle Revis.

"Everybody looks at him from the outside. They don't see what he has on the inside. Yeah, he might not be the greatest passer. But give him a chance at the end? I've never seen anything like it." - Broncos CB Champ Bailey

"It's a lot easier to believe when you see results. That's the biggest (win) I've been a part of. At 1-4, it was very gloomy. Now, our confidence is huge." - Broncos CB Andre Goodman

Some props for Miller:

“As far as (Jets right tackle) Wayne Hunter was concerned, he was going up against an outstanding football player. Von Miller, I think, will be a Pro Bowl player this year. If not this year, he’ll be one next year. And that’s going to be tough on anybody. I thought Wayne, for the most part, did a nice job on him, but he did get Wayne a couple of times. There’s no question about that. [Miller’s] just an outstanding player and those things happen. It’s unfortunate, but Wayne might block him for 90 percent of the time, but the 10 percent that the guy got the better of Wayne are the ones that everybody is going to be focused on.” - Jets head coach Rex Ryan

Speaking of Miller…

"Tebow magic. I believe in it. I feel so happy that he's having the success that he's having. I'm glad he's able to shut up his critics. It seems like everybody wants to bash him. They don't take into account his will." - Broncos LB Von Miller


                                                   Audio-Visual



Here are the moving-pictures of that final, fateful Broncos drive:


Stop. Tebow Time.

John Elway, like everybody else on the planet, doesn't know what to make of Tebow:


Elway and Tebow: two styles, same result (layin' it on a bit thick, we know).

Tebow on brushing off his doubters (of which there are many, though their numbers are dwindling):


Tim Tebow led another fourth-quarter comeback drive ending with a 20-yard touchdown run in the final minute, to lift the Broncos over the Jets 17-13 on Thursday night. Tebow had a few choice words for his critics.

A despondent Rex Ryan talks after the Thursday night loss:


The Jets may need to win out to have a chance at the playoffs.


                                                   Eye on Tebow




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Posted on: November 18, 2011 12:07 am
Edited on: November 18, 2011 12:11 am
 

Stop me if you've heard this: terrible Tebow wins

T. Tebow scores the game-winning touchdown against New York (US Presswire).

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

With less than 6 minutes to play, Tim Tebow had 95 yards to salvation. Down by three points and playing in the comforts of home, Tebow, leader of men, could have been the hero for his team. And it’s actually what we’ve come to expect.

Coming from behind to beat the Dolphins. Knocking off the Carson Palmer-led Raiders. Hurling just eight passes last week in upsetting the Chiefs in Kansas City.

Of course, Tebow was going to lead the Broncos to the game-winning score, but there was no way he was actually going to do it. Right? Until that’s exactly what he did, leading a 12-play drive that ended with Tebow keeping the ball for himself to score the 20-yard touchdown.

It was crazy and heart-pumping and … just screwy. But it was also completely predictable.

“I trust him,” Broncos linebacker Von Miller said on the NFL Network afterward. “I trust him with everything. No matter how many interceptions he throws or how many touchdowns, I’m going to ride with him until the end.”

T. Tebow is 4-1 this year as a starter (AP).For the most part, Tebow had been his regular self -- barely an NFL quarterback. Not two-completion terrible, but bad nonetheless. Yet, the Broncos were within striking distance -- mostly because the Jets offense had been just as bad and because Broncos cornerback Andre Goodman intercepted Mark Sanchez and returned it for a touchdown to give Denver some much-needed points.

But there’s something about Tebow. I can’t put my finger on it. Obviously, none of his opponents can either. Never have we seen a quarterback who’s so clearly not an NFL quarterback continue to be successful as an NFL quarterback.

And as bad as this game was to watch, Tebow made it worth it in the final six minutes.

On the first snap of the drive, Tebow hit Eddie Royal on the goal line, and somehow the Broncos receiver barely escaped Jets safety Jim Leonhard in the end zone and ran for eight yards and out of safety danger. On the second snap, running the option, Tebow kept the ball, running 15 yards for the first down. Later, on third down and with the Broncos in a five-receiver split, Tebow kept it again and ran for the first down.

On the next play, he ran at Darrelle Revis, and Revis kind of side-stepped him, allowing Tebow to gain more yards. Tebow, once again, was playing eerily well with the game on the line. Once again, he had improved his game dramatically. Yes, some of his throws on that drive were grossly inaccurate -- he short-hopped at least one receiver -- but he also hit Dante Rosario for another first down at the Jets 29 yard line.

And then, redemption.

On third and four from the 20-yard line, he made the stadium explode when he recognized a blitz coming up the middle, scrambled around the left end of the line to avoid it, beat Eric Smith to the edge and then broke Smith’s tackle to score the game-winning touchdown.

You know, much was made this week about how Broncos coach John Fox and offensive coordinator Mike McCoy had installed a read-option offense that would increase Tebow’s potential success. Fox already had all but said that Tebow wouldn’t survive in a typical professional offense, so he would bring college ball back to Tebow.

For most of Thursday’s game, it still didn’t work. Occassionally, the Broncos showed flashes of how the option could be successful. But for the most part, Denver was shooting three-and-out blanks (although punter Dustin Colquitt had a pretty good night!). You could look at the game, and say, “See, a high school offense doesn’t work in the NFL.” And you’d be right.

But for some reason, it works for Tebow. And for some reason, Tebow works for the NFL. He wins games, and at this point, you have to stop using the caveat, “Well, he sucks.” Because at some point, that issue becomes moot, and the only thing that matters is this: Tebow is 4-1 as a starter, and the playoffs are still in sight.
 
“He’s the most mind-blowing, polarizing figure I’ve ever seen in football,” NFL analyst Mike Mayock said.

That’s as good a description and explanation as any.  

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.

Posted on: November 14, 2011 4:37 pm
 

Cassel needs surgery, Tyler Palko Chiefs starter

Posted by Will Brinson

The 2011 season's been quite the rollercoaster for the Chiefs. But after back-to-back losses to the Dolphins and Broncos, things are going to get worse, as Matt Cassel has a "significant" hand injury, will need surgery and could miss the rest of the year.

That means it's Shane Falco Tyler Palko time in Kansas City -- Todd Haley confirmed the news.

"We feel good about Tyler, or he wouldn’t be our No. 2," Haley said, per our via our Chiefs Rapid Reporter Bob Gretz. "I have belief in Tyler. He has a great understanding of how our offense works and his role in it."

Haley also indicated that Cassel, who injured his hand in the fourth quarter while being sacked by Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller, could end up on injured reserve, depending on how surgery went.

Week 10 Wrapup

"It’s possible, but I wouldn’t say it’s an absolute," Haley said Monday.

The only absolute is that Palko's starting, and Haley said he would do so "for the foreseeable future." Palko went undrafted out of Pittsburgh in 2007, but was signed by the Saints. Since then he's bounced in and out of the NFL before landing with the Chiefs over the past two years.

Palko's completed nine of 13 passing attempts over the past two years, including five of seven in replacement duty for Cassel on Sunday.

And now he'll get an interesting little trial by fire as the Chiefs play the Patriots, the Steelers, the Bears, the Jets and the Packers over the next five weeks.


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Posted on: November 13, 2011 11:59 am
 

Belichick didn't like Julio Jones draft-day deal

Posted by Will Brinson

When the Falcons decided to trade a pile of draft picks to the Browns for the rights to Julio Jones, there was reason to be skeptical, considering the bounty. But there was also reason to be optimistic if, as Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff thought, the Falcons were just one piece away from a team that was capable of going the distance.

Jones isn't necessarily guaranteed to be that piece, but he's shown flashes of being the prescription for what ails Atlanta's deep-threat problem. More interesting, though, is franchise-building savant Bill Belichick's reaction to the trade, before it happened, when Dimitroff called him to get his input on the deal.

"Thomas, I'm just telling you as a friend," Belichick told Dimitroff prior to the trade, per the Cleveland Plain-Dealer. "I wouldn't do it."

Two things are important to recognize about Belichick's comment, which comes from Michael Holley's book about the coach. One, Belichick felt that Jonathan Baldwin, now a Chiefs wideout, was "just as good if not better." And two, hindsight is always 20/20.

None of that is to say that the deal worked for Atlanta. That still remains to be seen. In fact, their decision to jump up in the draft inherently hinges on their ability to make the playoffs.

What's interesting to me, how Atlanta and Cleveland fare aside, is what would have happened if Belichick, master of the draft-day manuevering, moved up to nab a top-tier prospect.

As I've noted over the past few weeks, the top seven picks in this recent draft are outstanding. Four of those players -- Von Miller, Patrick Peterson, Marcel Dareus and Aldon Smith -- would have an immediate impact on a terrible Patriots defense.

Belichick isn't a guy that jumps into the top 10 of the draft to pay heavily for a player with upside that doesn't equate to guaranteed. But is it possible he missed the economic trend of grabbing the best young players at a much more reasonable cost by virtue of sticking to his guns?

It absolutely is -- Belichick held five picks in the first three rounds of the 2011 draft. Trading up to grab an upper-tier selection would've been tough, but the Pats could've pulled it off. Guaranteeing that they landed a great player is a totally different ballgame of course, and it's hindsight to assume all the top picks from this year will succeed.

But exploiting the new rookie-wage scale is exactly the Moneyball-esque technique we've come to expect out of the Patriots and somehow, instead, New England's left wondering why Ras-I Dowling is on IR and the defense can't stop anyone.

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Posted on: November 9, 2011 8:37 am
Edited on: November 9, 2011 12:41 pm
 

NFL Midseason Awards + Expert Chat Wed 1 pm ET

Posted by Will Brinson

It's a scary thought, but we've moved to the middle (and past!) of the NFL season for every single team, nine weeks into the 2011 year. That means it's time for awards. (You can go back and check out our preseason predictions here.)

We'll also be chatting about said awards -- swing on by at 1 p.m. ET Wednesday to talk with Pete Prisco, Clark Judge, Ryan Wilson and Josh Katzowitz and myself about where your team stands and why certain people actually picked the Dolphins to make the playoffs.

Below you'll find our midseason awards -- Pete has his full breakdown here and Clark's full breakdown is here -- where there shouldn't be much explanation needed. "BFA" is "Best Free Agent" and "WFA" is "Worst Free Agent" addition (though Wilson decided he was going with "offseason acquisition" instead, sigh), ASST is Assistant Coach of the Year, and "DOH" is a pick we'd each like to have back.

Enjoy and join us at 1.

Award Brinson
Wilson
Katzowitz
Prisco
Judge
MVP
Aaron Rodgers Aaron Rodgers Aaron Rodgers Aaron Rodgers Aaron Rodgers
OPOY
Aaron Rodgers Aaron Rodgers Matt Forte Aaron Rodgers Aaron Rodgers
DPOY
Jared Allen Darrelle Revis DeMarcus Ware Darrelle Revis Darrelle Revis
OROY
Cam Newton Andy Dalton Cam Newton Cam Newton Cam Newton
DROY
Von Miller Aldon Smith Aldon Smith Von Miller Von Miller
COY
Marvin Lewis Jim Harbaugh Jim Harbaugh Jim Harbaugh Jim Harbaugh
ASST
Rod Chudzinski Carnell Lake Wade Phillips Wade Phillips Wade Phillips
BFA
Johnathan Joseph Johnathan Joseph Darren Sproles Darren Sproles Darren Sproles
WFA
Rex Grossman Haynesworth Kerry Collins Ray Edwards Tarvaris Jackson
Surprise
Bengals 49ers 49ers Bengals 49ers
Disappoint
Eagles Eagles Eagles Eagles Eagles
DOH
Garrett for COY Rivers for MVP Rams in NFCW Fins in playoffs Rams in NFCW




For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, subscribe to our NFL newsletter, and while you're add it, add our RSS Feed.
Posted on: October 26, 2011 3:17 pm
Edited on: October 27, 2011 9:43 pm
 

Film Room: Broncos vs. Lions preview

Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit



It’s impossible to avoid the Tim Tebow coverage at this point. Since you’ll be hearing about the Broncos-Lions game all week, you might as well make the best of it and be familiar with the two teams. Here is a five-point rundown of the matchup, starting with a quick ode to You Know Who.



1. Tebow
The argument is no longer whether Tebow can become a more conventional quarterback; it’s whether the Broncos can win without him becoming a conventional quarterback. The elongated throwing motion probably isn’t going away. The flawed footwork may improve, but no guarantees. The arm strength will likely always be what it is: middling.

At this point, the Broncos coaching staff is limiting Tebow’s reads with simplified gameplans. That’s common with young quarterbacks. But usually young quarterbacks have more passing tools to work with. Tebow has running tools, which are hard to successfully incorporate into an NFL gameplan.

Tebow worshipers love to tout his “It Factor”. Twice now we’ve seen that “It Factor” late in the fourth quarter when the trailing Broncos have been compelled to cut loose Tebow’s inner sandlot soul. And it’s worked. So why doesn’t John Fox have Tebow play this way for all four quarters? Because he fears that if he did, the Broncos would trail by 30 late in the fourth instead of the usual 15 or 16.

Let’s look at the rest of this matchup.

2. Broncos offense
As we highlighted in last week’s Finer Points analysis, the Broncos have severe limitations at wide receiver. None of their targets are vertical threats. Eric Decker gets off press coverage well but is restricted to underneath stuff. Eddie Royal is an uninspiring slasher. Demaryius Thomas is solid and has upside, but only in a possession sense. And undrafted Matt Willis is untested.

Because of this, the Broncos are a throwback offense that operates out of traditional two-backs, one-tight end sets and abides largely by the laws of run-run-pass. That’s not a winning formula, but if the run game is working, it can at least be a “not losing” formula.

The run game has worked the past two weeks. Though Willis McGahee rushed for 103 yards against the Packers in Week 6, 125 yards against the Chargers in Week 5 and 76 yards against the Dolphins this past Sunday, he's out for for at least the next month with a broken hand. That means, Knowshon Moreno -- last year's first-round pick who is a mechanic, finesse-based back who has been relegated to third down duties -- will take over. Like McGahee, at least Moreno has the benefit of operating behind an offensive line that is well sized and, for the most part, athletic.

3. Lions defense
The Lions run defense is not nearly as bad as its ranking (28) indicates. A few missed tackles have led to big gains on the ground. Missed tackles are the type of mistakes that can quickly be corrected. The Lions have one of the deepest, most athletic defensive lines in football.

The line’s ability to win early in the down allows speedy linebackers DeAndre Levy, Justin Durant and Stephen Tulloch to play untouched and downhill – something all three are doing extremely well. Safety Louis Delmas is also outstanding at locating and quickly filling the point of attack against the run. He’ll see plenty of time in the box given Denver’s nonexistent downfield passing game.

Denver needs to forget about running outside and instead attack Detroit right up the gut. That may seem problematic given the presence of Ndamukong Suh and Corey Williams, but in the last two weeks, the Niners and Falcons, two other power-run teams, have taken a clever approach to this.

Instead of trying to stop Ndamukong Suh’s initial penetration, the Falcons, taking a page out of the 49ers’ playbook, found a way to use it against him. Right guard Garrett Reynolds let Suh get his amazing jump off the ball.



Center Todd McClure swept around to shield Suh backside, while Michael Turner carried the ball right to the spot that Suh vacated. Reynolds stepped to his right to take care of the defensive end (an easy block given the angle of the hole it was creating) and right tackle Tyson Clabo was able to immediately work up to the second level and block the linebacker (also an easy block given that the linebacker had virtually no time to diagnose and react).



The 49ers used a similar tactic the previous week (see the video here), only with different players. They let Suh get penetration and blocked him backside with motioning tight end Delanie Walker. Center Jonathan Goodwin went cleanly to the second level to block the linebacker, while right guard Adam Snyder handled the left defensive tackle that Goodwin left behind.



This concept did three things for the Falcons and 49ers:

1. Eliminated Suh from the play without costing the offense an extra blocker in a double team, and without asking the right guard to win a one-on-one matchup that few, if any, right guards could possibly win.

2. Opened a natural hole in the A-gap, which is the easiest hole for a running back to hit quickly.

3. Allowed an offensive lineman to immediately reach a linebacker without being touched (a run-blocker’s dream).

Expect the Broncos to try a similar tactic this Sunday. It will be interesting to see what adjustment the Lions will have made to combat this (it’s doubtful they’d ask Suh to NOT penetrate off the snap).

4. Lions offense
This unit has had the chinks in its armor exposed the past two weeks. At this point, Matthew Stafford and the Lions are overly dependent on Calvin Johnson. That’s fine when Jahvid Best is in the lineup. But with Best out, the Lions don’t pose much of a run threat out of shotgun (overwhelmingly their favorite formation).

They also lose Best’s outside presence on bubble screens. This allows defenses to be more aggressive near the line of scrimmage against Titus Young, Nate Burleson and tight end Brandon Pettigrew, all of whom struggled last Sunday.

This puts more pressure on Johnson. He’s an otherworldly talent, but he’s never been inspiring against intense double coverage (he was nowhere near as impactful against the Niners two weeks ago as his 113 yards suggested).

Also, as we saw against the Falcons, with the passing game’s quick-strike element suppressed, this unathletic front five gets exposed.

5. Broncos defense
The Broncos have the resources to exploit Detroit’s pass-blocking. Von Miller is the AFC’s answer to Clay Matthews. Elvis Dumervil has had a quiet season but will still a handful for Jeff Backus. And last week the safeties and linebackers timed their blitzes extremely well.

The Broncos also have the resources to keep up with Detroit’s passing attack. Champ Bailey is still a top-tier cornerback, shadowing the opposing team’s No. 1 receiver week in and week out. Bailey will need rookie free safety Quinton Carter (who has replaced Rahim Moore) to be a little more reliable in help coverage than he’s been, but with a respectable pass-rush, the Broncos shouldn’t feel too nervous about this matchup.

Nickel linebackers D.J. Williams (insane athlete) and Wesley Woodyard are both stellar pass defenders who can contain Pettigrew. The deciding factor will be whether cornerbacks Andre Goodman and Jonathan Wilhite can physically stymie Burleson and Young. Teams have targeted Wilhite, who’s been in and out of the lineup.

So who will win? Check our NFL expert picks for all Week 8 games

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: October 21, 2011 2:16 pm
 

Five Questions (or more) with Aldon Smith

A. Smith has become one of the top rookie defenders in the league (US Presswire).Posted by Josh Katzowitz

The 49ers have been the biggest surprise team of the NFL this year -- they’re already running away with the NFC West, for heaven’s sake -- and helping lead the defense is rookie linebacker Aldon Smith, perhaps the biggest surprise pick of the 2011 draft.

You’ll recall that Smith was supposedly a mid-to-late round draft pick, but San Francisco, instead, took him at the No. 7 spot, and after a pedestrian first few weeks on the job, he’s exploded in Weeks 4, 5, 6, accumulating 5 ½ sacks and a forced fumble. Which perhaps is more than we would have expected from him so soon.

Earlier this week, we caught up with Smith, and we talked about the preseason prognosticators who didn’t pick the 49ers to win the division, why he loves playing for Jim Harbaugh and what he thinks about his alma mater, Missouri, heading to the SEC.

Previous Five Questions (or more):

Sept. 16:
Actor/former Patriots DB Brian White

Sept. 30: Bills RB Fred Jackson

Oct. 7: Sweetness author Jeff Pearlman

1. CBSSports.com: I think a lot of people are surprised with the 49ers. I know I picked the Rams to win the division and you could look at Arizona and Kevin Kolb before the season and say they have a chance. But you guys have kind of surprised everybody.

Aldon Smith: First of all, those opinions about us, I’m sorry for them. We’ve had faith since day one, since we got to camp. We just worked so hard from training camp through preseason to practice, and we knew the results were going to pay off.

CBS: But everybody works hard. What is it about San Francisco that you guys are playing so well, so early in the season?

Smith: Everybody has done just a good job, and everybody is doing their job right. Everybody is doing the little things, and it’s paying off for us.

2. CBS: Coming off the handshake game between Jim Schwartz and Jim Harbaugh, and obviously, you can see the kind of passion that Harbaugh has. What it’s like playing for a guy like that?

Smith: That was just him showing his personality. He’s a competitor. He’s somebody who takes the game seriously. It’s a passion of his. It’s a reflection of him. He’s a fighter, and we want to be fighters just like him.

CBS: In college or high school, had you ever played for a coach like that, a guy who’s so fiery?

Smith: I’ve had some great coaches, especially when I was at Missouri and Raytown (High School). But with coach Harbaugh, it’s just great playing for him. He’s a good guy.

A. Smith thinks Missouri will be just fine in the SEC (US Presswire).3. CBS: The 49ers have gone to the Eastern Time Zone three times in the last four weeks, but you guys won all three of those games. Then, you go back to Baltimore on Thanksgiving. How do you have so much success after doing so much traveling?

Smith: Just take advantage of your opportunity to rest. You try to get some rest on the plane. If you take advantage of your rest, everything will be all right. The whole East Coast to West Coast thing is a myth.

CBS: Really?

Smith: I don’t know (laughs). I feel good.

CBS: It really doesn’t affect you? I mean, you guys are playing at 10 a.m. body time three out of four weeks.

Smith: You can feel it a little bit. A little. It’s nothing some 5-Hour Energy can’t fix or some coffee.

4. CBS: I think a lot of people were surprised when you were taken seventh in the NFL draft. Many people thought you were more of a mid-to-late round guy, and then when you were taken seventh, it was like, this big surprise. What was your reaction?

Smith: It was a surprise for me. But man, I’m glad I here. I was happy as hell.

CBS: Were there higher expectations because you were No. 7 instead of going later in the first round?

Smith: I just felt the need to come and play football. There are expecatations with anything. I expect to go out and make plays. It was just another blessing.

CBS: Have you met those expectations?

Smith: Kind of. I did drop a wide-open pick last week.

CBS: For all the people who thought Von Miller and Nick Fairley were going to be the best rookies on defense coming out of the draft, you’ve really outperformed both of them.

Smith: Those guys were crazy in college, and they’ve been good (in the NFL). I’m just getting a little bit more plays.

5. CBS: What do you think about Missouri going to the SEC?

Smith: Bring it on.

CBS: But can Missouri compete in the SEC?

Smith: Yeah, we can compete in that conference. The SEC thing about them being the best conference in college football is just an opinion thing. I thought the Big 12 conference is the best in football anyway.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.
Posted on: October 20, 2011 11:27 am
 

Top Ten with a Twist: New Faces

J. Harbaugh has been the best new face in the league this year (US Presswire).

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Every year, NFL teams make terrible calls. They draft the wrong player, they make ridiculous free agent signings, they let somebody quite valuable go to another team, they make their fan base collectively scratch their head.

Ah, but occasionally, these squads get it right. They draft the right guy, they sign the free agent that’s on the cusp of blowing up, they take somebody valuable from another team, they give their fan base a reason to smile and cheer.

Last year, I recounted the Top Ten new faces, and among the group were Terrell Owens, a combination of Thomas Jones/Ryan Torain/Peyton Hills, and LaDainian Tomlinson. All those guys played well last year, but it just goes to show that this list has less than a one-year expiration.

That said, here are the best pickups thus far in 2011. As I wrote last year, "All of the following have impacted their new teams in many ways and all have made the front offices who signed them seem clairvoyant in the process (though, in the case of a couple players, the decision to add them wasn’t exactly brain surgery). So, here’s to those who have found a new lease on life (or a new burgeoning career) with their new team."

10. Paul Posluszny: Though we could argue about whether the fact the Jaguars stole Posluszny away from the Bills by signing him to a six-year, $42 million contract ($15 million guaranteed) will help the team during the long haul -- Jacksonville, after all, is 1-5 and most likely will lose its head coach sooner rather than later -- but Posluszny has been a tackling machine. As the middle linebacker, he helped hold the Steelers to 55 yards of offense and no points in the second half of Pittsburgh’s 17-13 escape last Sunday while piling up a game-high 16 tackles. The Jaguars have a myriad of problems, but acquiring Posluszny, whatever the cost, was still a solid move.

9. Carson Palmer: OK, he’s been a member of the Oakland organization for less than 48 hours. He’s practiced exactly one time. It’s still unclear whether he’ll start this week (though I imagine he will), and I think there’s a better he doesn’t play well than him actually playing well. But the fact is: the Raiders are making solid moves, and they’re doing all they can to win today. Sure, giving up two first-round draft picks will hurt, but you have to admire the attitude that says, “Screw it, we’re going for it all this year.” And if Palmer plays well and leads Oakland to the postseason, the Raiders will have completely flipped the script.

8. Daniel Thomas: When the Dolphins failed to re-sign Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown, that put the onus on the second-round pick to step into a featured back role and immediately contribute. With Reggie Bush around to take some of his load, Thomas has done that, ranking 10th in the league with 249 yards despite a hamstring problem, and he’s averaging a solid 4.4 yards per carry. He hasn’t scored a touchdown yet, but then again, the Dolphins might be the worst team in the league, so not many touchdowns have been scored by that squad. That doesn't take away from the strides Thomas has made early in his career.

7. Victor Cruz: Technically, he’s not a newcomer, since he made the Giants squad as an undrafted free agent in 2010, but considering he was placed on IR early in the season before he had accumulated any stats, I’ll forgive myself. Cruz has become a player who makes outstanding, circus-type catches and then makes silly mistakes. But he’s also caught 21 passes for 398 yards and three touchdowns, and behind Hakeem Nicks, Cruz has developed into a solid No. 2 receiver for a team that still should contend for an NFC East crown.

6. Johnathan Joseph: He was considered the poor man’s Nnamdi Asomugha in the offseason, signing with the Texans for the reasonable cost of $48.75 million over five years. But he’s been better than Asomugha this year, collecting three interceptions and nine passes defended for an improved Houston defense that ranks 10th in the league. Joseph, though he’s flirted with injuries early on, was the right call for Houston.

Babin5. Ryan Kerrigan/Aldon Smith: These two rookie linebackers are some of the most exciting new players in the league. For the Redskins and 49ers, respectively, the two have combined for 33 tackles, 7 ½ sacks, six passes defended, one interception and three forced fumbles. Forget about Von Miller and Nick Fairley as the two most important defensive rookies emerging from last year’s draft. Kerrigan and Smith, so far, are the two best defensive freshmen in the league.

4. Jason Babin: I had Babin at No. 10 on this list last year, and with the Titans in 2010 -- in his only year with the Titans, it turns out -- he accumulated 12.5 sacks and 58 tackles. This year, he’s been even better, and he’s the new guy who’s done the most damage with the Eagles defense. He ranks tied for third in the league with seven sacks, and though the rest of Philadelphia’s squad has been disappointing, Babin has been a monster. With some scary tattoos.
 
3. Andy Dalton/A.J. Green: So much of the time, Bengals owner Mike Brown comes off as clueless (or maybe he’s just ingenious). Like the time he said, “I don’t apologize for our scouting. It’s an easy target. But if you look at the real facts, you’ll see it different” when it’s clearly evident that many of Cincinnati’s drafts have absolutely stunk. But Brown, also the general manager, hit a home run with Green in the first round of the 2011 draft and Dalton in the second. Green has made some incredible catches, and Dalton has played better than expected. Cincinnati is 4-2, and Green and Dalton deserve some of the credit. As does Brown.

2. Cam Newton: Unfortunately for Newton and the Panthers, we’ve begun to see him play a little more like a rookie recently (he hasn’t even broken the 300-yard mark in the past two weeks!), but there’s no denying that Newton is a special talent. No matter the amount of negativity and doubt Newton received before he took his first snap, he threw for 420-plus yards in his first two outings and then for 374 yards in Week 4. The Panthers aren’t winning, but at least they’re relevant these days. And exciting.

1. Jim Harbaugh: Forgive the guy for showing his belly, jumping up and down like he had just won tickets to see Justin Bieber, and giving Jim Schwartz a hearty handshake and a friendly tap on the back last week. He should be excited. The 49ers, through six games, are running away with the division, and the former Stanford coach in his first season in the NFL has been a huge reason why. Is Harbaugh the sole reason Alex Smith has played well or that the defense is ranked second in the NFL in points allowed? No, but is Harbaugh getting his team to play like Mike Singletary only could have dreamed about? Yes.

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