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Tag:Rob Gronkowski
Posted on: January 11, 2012 2:40 pm
Edited on: January 11, 2012 9:40 pm
 

Film Room: Patriots vs Broncos divisional preview

Will Gronk get his Gronk on this time around? (Getty Images)
Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit

It was assumed the Patriots would draw a rematch in their divisional round playoff opener. However, most figured that rematch would be of their Week 8 bout with Pittsburgh, not their Week 15 bout with Denver.

Here’s the breakdown of what could turn out to be the highest-rated divisional round Saturday night game of all-time.


1. New England’s plan for Tebow
Something to keep in mind is the Steelers had a sound gameplan last week, playing man coverage and using a tepid pass-rush to ensure that Tim Tebow stayed in the pocket. What the Steelers didn’t count on was Demaryius Thomas being able to get by Ike Taylor and Tebow being able to pull the trigger on downfield throws. Those two young ’10 first-rounders both had career days.

The Patriots might bet that the two youngsters can’t do it again.

On the one hand, that’s a smart bet given that Thomas and Tebow were inconsistent all season (Tebow especially). On the other hand, it’s foolish given that cornerback Kyle Arrington – who would draw the Thomas matchup, as Thomas almost always lines up on the favorable side of the left-handed Tebow – is not half the cover artist Ike Taylor is, and given that logic says if Tebow can win against the man coverage of the league’s best pass defense, he can surely win against the man coverage of the league’s worst pass defense.

In the last meeting, the Patriots played predominant Cover 3 in the first half:

The Broncos had success throwing skinny posts to Tebow’s left against the Patriots Cover 3 defense in the last meeting. Cover 3 is what you’d guess it is: three defensive backs each responsible for a third of the field. Because there is so much field to cover, the outside defensive backs often play man-to-man concepts (as Devin McCourty is doing on the right side). Cover 3 is something defenses play when they blitz or when they want to force a quarterback to throw (it’s the default zone coverage behind an eight-defender box).

In this example, the Patriots were clearly baiting Tebow to throw. Notice there are only five rushers (which is hardly a blitz considering Denver has seven guys in pass protection – the idea was to keep Tebow from scrambling). Also notice how linebacker Dane Fletcher has his back to the quarterback and is running towards the left passing window. (Fletcher was late getting there; Tebow did a good job recognizing the coverage and getting the ball out quickly. The result was a 22-yard completion to Eric Decker.)

The Broncos used great routes for beating this anticipated coverage, but Tebow was unable to connect on some of the throws.

Still, throws against Cover 3 are easier than throws against quality press-man, as long as the pass protection holds up. Denver’s protection was tremendous last week.

If tackles Ryan Clady and Orlando Franklin (who may need some help on the right side) can keep speed-rusher Mark Anderson at bay, the Broncos will be golden. (Keeping a backup like Anderson at bay may not sound difficult, but the former Bear was actually very disruptive in the last meeting.)

2. Stop the run!
The Patriots gave up 167 yards rushing in the first quarter of the Week 15 contest. They wound up winning the game handily, but they were on the fortuitous side of a few fumbles.

Common sense says you can’t bank on having success with such porous run defense. The issue last game was outside linebacker Rob Ninkovich’s inability to set the edge and the defensive line’s inability to prevent the Bronco linemen from contacting inside linebackers. This was a problem both with New England’s 3-4 and 4-3 fronts.

Nose tackle Vince Wilfork must stand out more this time around. The Broncos will be willing at times to block him one-on-one with J.D. Walton. The second-year center has been up-and-down (in a good way) handling tough solo assignments against nose tackles down the stretch this season. He was phenomenal against Antonio Garay of the Chargers in Week 12 but had been just so-so the previous week against Sione Pouha of the Jets. In Week 15 he held his own against Wilfork, but in Week 16 he got schooled by Marcell Dareus.
 
If Walton has a strong game, the Broncos can pound the rock inside. If he struggles, Denver’s at least capable of getting to the perimeter, though they’ll miss the fervid blocking of wideout Eric Decker.

3. Defending the Patriots tight ends
Greg Cosell, executive producer of the NFL Matchup Show, did an excellent job breaking down the Week 15 film back in December. Cosell wrote that the Broncos focused their coverages on Rob Gronkowski, successfully disrupting his timing by hitting him at the line of scrimmage.

However, that left fourth-round rookie safety Quinton Carter on Aaron Hernandez. Carter, like the rest of Denver’s safeties, is not great in man coverage, which Hernandez proved by posting what were at the time his career highs in catches (nine) and yards (129).

Though still a little green as a route runner (particularly against zone), Hernandez has the movement skills of a wide receiver. The Broncos may choose to defend him with rising rookie nickel back Chris Harris. That would leave safeties and linebackers to cover Gronkowski.

Defensive coordinator Dennis Allen may figure he can get away with that as long as coverage linebackers Wesley Woodyard and D.J. Williams are once again physical with the second-year superstar.

The Patriots’ counter to this would be splitting Gronkowski into a slot receiver position (likely in a spread 2 x 2 or 3 x 2 set), where he could line up a few yards off the line and operate against an overwhelmed defender in space. Even if the Broncos decided to sacrifice their run defense by going with dime personnel against the two tight ends, they still would be overmatched.

After all, just because Jonathan Wilhite is a corner doesn’t mean he can cover Gronkowski. This is the problem New England’s offense poses, this is why the Patriots are the No. 1 seed.

4. If lightning strikes twice ...
As the tight end analysis just suggested, the Broncos are faced with a very serious matchup problem that can only be solved by their players rising up and doing things no one thought they could do. It’s improbable, but as Denver’s offense showed last week, not impossible.

So let’s say for the sake of extra analysis that the Broncos can stop Gronkowski and Hernandez with their inside pass defenders. That leaves outside corners Champ Bailey and Andre Goodman on Wes Welker and Deion Branch (who did not play in the last matchup).

If the Broncos want to avoid the matchup problems that New England’s flexible formations create (such as Welker working against a linebacker in the slot), they’ll have to play man-to-man, with Bailey assigned on Welker and Goodman on Branch. Those aren’t bad matchups for either side – it would come down to who executes better (general rule of thumb, over the course of 60 minutes, put your money on the offense).

What we’re not considering is New England’s ability to run the ball. They’re not known for that, but against nickel or dime defense, they’re capable of controlling the game the old fashioned way.

Danny Woodhead has great lateral agility. BenJarvus Green-Ellis is a steady, highly professional runner. Of course, he may lose snaps to the more dynamic Stevan Ridley, a third-round rookie who has come on as of late. The Patriots have an excellent run-blocking front five with LG Logan Mankins being a premier puller, RG Brian Waters a shrewd playside anchor, LT Matt Light a crafty angles-creator (including at the second level) and RT Nate Solder a ridiculous athlete out in front.

5. Broncos pass-rush slowing down?
Pass-rush pressure is always a prerequisite for beating Tom Brady. Lately, the Patriots have nullified it with an increased emphasis on three-and five-step drops. Brady is especially sharp at this when working out of an empty backfield.

The Broncos have not had the most fervid pass-rush the last month anyway. They sacked Brady just twice in Week 15. They got Ryan Fitzpatrick just once the next week and Kyle Orton once in the season finale. They got to Ben Roethlisberger in the wild card round but that’s a product of Roethlisberger’s style of play. Denver’s pass-rush did not control the flow of last Saturday’s game. Von Miller has had just one sack since his first game back from a thumb injury (December 11 at Minnesota) and has been less explosive playing with a cast.

So who will win? Check our NFL expert picks for all divisional-round games

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: January 1, 2012 11:35 am
Edited on: January 1, 2012 12:50 pm
 

Calvin Johnson about to unlock $4.5M bonus?

Do not get in the way of Mega and his money. (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

Incentive clauses in NFL contracts are pretty standard business. But the one that Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson could unlock on Sunday is quite the doozy, as it's worth $4.5 million.

Johnson, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter, needs to complete five of seven possible goals in order to unlock the contract. Those seven goals are: record 12 or more receiving touchdowns in a season (check), get in Pro Bowl and play (check), play in 80 percent of the Lions plays in the season and have Detroit wins 9 games (check), lead NFC in receiving TD (he currently does), lead NFC in receiving yards (he currently does), lead NFL in receiving TDs and lead NFL in receiving yards.

So to recap, Johnson has completed five of those goals (with the exception of playing in the Pro Bowl, though he'd probably get out there with one leg if it was worth $4.5 million) and currently has two more tentatively completed.


Johnson has 1,437 receiving yards on the season, putting him just 81 yards behind league leader Wes Welker and 79 yards ahead of the Giants Victor Cruz, who's second in the NFC. (He's also 129 yards behind Steve Smith for those wondering.)

Johnson's 15 touchdowns pace the NFC with only Jordy Nelson (12) and Jimmy Graham (10) also in double-digit touchdown receptions this season. (Rob Gronkowski also has 15 teeters, but he's in the AFC, clearly.)

Since we can pencil in the NFC touchdown title for Megatron, there's a very good chance he unlocks this bonus on Sunday. All he needs is to catch the same number of scores as Gronk or have Cruz stay within 80 yards of his total. In this scenario, 100 receiving yards and a touchdown likely lock down the bonus for Johnson.

And it will likely mean that the Lions will happily hand him the money and then, already heavily invested in the NFL's best wide receiver, try to get him even more during the offseason before Megatron gets to his first contract year, which should be a scary thought for NFL defensive backs.
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Posted on: December 21, 2011 4:52 pm
 

Rodgers tops Pro Bowl voting; Tebow third AFC QB

Aaron Rodgers led the way in all Pro Bowl voting.(Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

We've wondered whether or not Tim Tebow is a Pro-Bowl candidate before this year and the answer is probably "no." But that doesn't matter when it comes to Pro-Bowl voting, where Tebow was the third-highest vote getter among AFC quarterbacks.

Aaron Rodgers, named the Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year on Wednesday, was the top vote-getter among all NFL players, pulling in 1,581,982 votes from fans. Tom Brady was second among all NFL players with 1,454,311 votes. Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker and tight end Rob Gronkowski joined Brady in the top 10, via NFL.com:

Top-10 Pro Bowl Vote Getters
Player Position Team Votes
Aaron Rodgers
QB Packers 1,581,982
Tom Brady
QB Patriots 1,454,311
Drew Brees
QB Saints 1,188,893
Calvin Johnson
WR Lions 1,180,777
Wes Welker
WR Patriots 1,133,787
LeSean McCoy
RB Eagles 962,824
Rob Gronkowski
TE Patriots 936,886
Ben Roethlisberger
QB Steelers 935,535
Adrian Peterson
RB Vikings 925,554
Mike Wallace
WR Steelers 923,073

So, yeah, breaking: the Patriots and Steelers are popular! Also popular? Tebow.

AFC Pro Bowl Leaders by Position
Offense Defense
Player Pos Team Votes Player Pos Team Votes
Tom Brady
QB Patriots 1,454,311 Andre Carter
DE Patriots 511,693
Arian Foster
RB Texans 896,804 Haloti Ngata
DT Ravens 592,603
Vonta Leach
FB Ravens 149,801 Terrell Suggs
OLB Ravens 546,851
Wes Welker
WR Patriots 1,133,787 Ray Lewis
MLB Ravens 413,222
Rob Gronkowski
TE Patriots 936,886 Darrelle Revis
CB Jets 561,986
Michael Oher
OT Ravens 327,644 Troy Polamalu
SS Steelers 230,649
Logan Mankins
G Patriots 337,844 Ed Reed
FS Ravens 198,075
Maurkice Pouncey
C Steelers 376,457 Shane Lechler
P Raiders 228,782
Sebastian Janikowski
K Raiders 244,512 Joe McKnight
KR Jets 140,926

Once again, I'll point out that the Ravens and Patriots are popular (and also good at what they do), along with the Steelers. Brendon Ayanbadejo was the leading "special teams" vote-getter, with 106,515. On the NFC side, well, I hope you like the Packers:

NFC Pro Bowl Leaders by Position
Offense Defense
Player Pos Team Votes Player Pos Team Votes
Aaron Rodgers
QB Packers 1,581,982 Jared Allen
DE Vikings 784,527
LeSean McCoy
RB Eagles 962,824 Justin Smith
DT 49ers 525,578
John Kuhn
FB Packers 322,260 DeMarcus Ware
OLB Cowboys 581,554
Calvin Johnson
WR Lions 1,180,777 Patrick Willis
MLB 49ers 581,554
Jimmy Graham
TE Saints 725,612 Charles Woodson
CB Packers 763,198
Chad Clifton
OT Packers 392,106 Roman Harper
SS Saints 147,542
T.J. Lang
G Packers 327,740 Morgan Burnett
FS Packers 223,292
Scott Wells
C Packers 436,693 Andy Lee
P 49ers 161,812
Mason Crosby
K Packers 184,665 Devin Hester
KR Bears 268,293

For the NFC, Jarrett Bush of the Packers received the most special teams votes with 134,696. (And yes, I suppose I could have kick returners on the offense side, but I'm not trying to have my tables be all uneven. Oh no I'm not.)

Naturally, none of this means any of these guys are guaranteed to make the Pro Bowl -- the fan vote only counts as one-third of the total. The players vote is worth two-thirds. But there's a good chance that many of these guys will end up in the Pro Bowl.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, Like Us on Facebook, subscribe to our NFL newsletter, and while you're add it, add our RSS Feed.
Posted on: December 13, 2011 3:03 pm
Edited on: December 13, 2011 3:57 pm
 

Eye on Football NFL Awards: Week 14

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 14 NFL Awards
Expert Offense Defense STeams Coach
Freeman  Gronk   JPP  Prater Coughlin
Judge Sanchez   JPP  Prater  Kubiak
Prisco  Ryan   JPP Cloherty   Whiz
Brinson   MJD   JPP  Prater Coughlin
Katzowitz   Eli   JPP  Prater  Kubiak
Wilson   MJD  Suggs  Prater Coughlin
Week 14'ss over and we're getting close to the -- gulp -- end of the regular season in the NFL. Before we get too sad, let's hand out some awards.

On offense, there were a number of guys that warranted consideration, but eventually Maurice Jones-Drew's four touchdown game in Jacksonville's blowout win over the Buccaneers was just too much and he's our Eye on Offense Award winner.

The Eye on Defense Award wasn't quite as close as Jason Pierre-Paul's performance on Sunday night was dominant enough to nearly net him a sweep of the votes.

And since Tim Tebow isn't eligible for the Eye on Special Teams Award, we just had to give it to Matt Prater.

Meanwhile, Gary Kubiak's win over the Bengals to get the Texans into the playoffs was just enough to squeak by Tom Coughlin in the Eye on Coaching Award voting.

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

Eye on Offense Award
Mike Freeman Clark Judge
Rob Gronkowski Rob Gronkowski, TE, Patriots
Gronkowski ran over, through, around, under and did I mention through half of the Washington defense. He humiliated the Redskins and in doing so set an NFL record for most touchdown catches in a season by a tight end. Not bad at all.
Mark SanchezMark Sanchez, QB, Jets
He's cheered. He's booed. He's cheered again. Finally, Jets' fans seem to have warmed up to the guy, and for good reason: Sanchez not only is playing well; he's winning. His two touchdown passes and two TD runs in a victory so lopsided it cost Kansas City's Todd Haley his job.
Pete Prisco Will Brinson
Matt Ryan Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons
He threw for 320 yards and four touchdowns in rallying his team from being down 23-7 at the half against the Panthers. Ryan threw for 232 yards and three scores in the second half.
Maurice Jones-DrewMaurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jaguars
Mojo didn't just break the all-time record for touchdowns by a Jaguars player, he shattered it. With gusto -- Jones-Drew got in the end zone four times on Sunday against the Bucs, scoring twice on the ground and catching two teeters as well. He doesn't get nearly enough credit.
Josh Katzowitz Ryan Wilson
Eli ManningEli Manning, QB, Giants
Rob Ryan called Manning elite and unfortunately for Ryan Manning proved why Sunday. New York was down 12 points late but Manning threw for 400 yards and two TDs to lead the Giants to victory. Those who say Eli is more clutch than Peyton might be right and Ryan might agree.
Maurice Jones-Drew Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jaguars
MJD hasn't had much to smile about this season, but he went off on Bucs, Florida's worst NFL team. He had four touchdowns (2 rushing, 2 receiving) in Mel Tucker's first win as an NFL head coach.

Eye on Defense Award
Freeman Judge
Jason Pierre-PaulJason Pierre-Paul, DE, Giants
Giants players are comparing him to LT which is a little much. Taylor is the second best defensive player of all time behind Deion Sanders (yeah, I said it). A little much, yes, but JPP is doing some special things. He singlehandedly obliterated the Cowboys with two sacks and a blocked kick.
Jason Pierre-Paul Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, Giants
He had two sacks, one forced fumble and blocked the game-tying field goal. Pierre-Paul's block not only saved the game; it might have saved the season for the Giants and a job for head coach Tom Coughlin.
Prisco Brinson
Jason Pierre-PaulJason Pierre-Paul, DE, Giants
He had two sacks and blocked the potential tying field goal in the final seconds in the Giants 37-34 victory over the Cowboys Sunday night. He was all over the field with his relentless style of play. He's a Pro Bowl player this season.
Jason Pierre-PaulJason Pierre-Paul, DE, Giants
Pierre-Paul gets most of the credit for blocking the would-be game-tying field goal from Dan Bailey, but he owned the entire game against the Cowboys Sunday night, forcing a fumble and picking up two sacks against Dallas. An absolutely beasty performance.
Katzowitz Wilson
Jason Pierre-Paul Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, Giants
A star was born Sunday when Pierre-Paul recorded eight tackles, two sacks and a blocked kick that might have saved the Giants. Without Osi Umenyiora in the game and with Justin Tuck not healthy, he was an absolute lifesaver for the Giants.
Terrell Suggs Terrell Suggs, DE, Ravens
Suggs terrorized poor Dan Orlovsky (who is now 0-9 as an NFL starter) all afternoon, registering three of the Ravens' four sacks and forcing three fumbles. Mr. T-Sizzle now has seven sacks in his last three games. 
Eye on Special Teams Award
Freeman Judge
Matt PraterMatt Prater, K, Broncos
A 59-yarder to tie the Chicago Bears. A 51-yarder to win in overtime. He becomes only the second kicker in league history to connect on two 50-plus yard kicks to tie and then win a game. Mike Vanderjagt was the other.
Matt Prater Matt Prater, K, Broncos
First, he hits a 59-yard field goal to tie the game; then he nails a 51-yarder to win it in overtime. It marked the third straight week and fourth time in the last eight games that Prater won a game with a last-second field goal.
Prisco Brinson
Dan BaileyColin Cloherty, TE, Jaguars
He scooped up a fumbled punt by Preston Parker and returned it 9 yards for a touchdown. This tight end was recently signed and had considered getting on with another career before the Jaguars signed him off the street.
Matt PraterMatt Prater, K, Broncos
All the credit goes to you-know-who, but Prater deserves a ton of love for his kicking performance on Sunday. He nailed a 59-yard field goal to push the game to overtime, and hit a 51-yarder in OT to win. That doesn't even take into account his near-perfect onsides kick in regulation.
Katzowitz Wilson
Matt Prater Matt Prater, K, Broncos
Prater was the real hero in the Broncos stunning overtime win against the Bears. He matched a career-high with a 59-yard field goal at the end of regulation to force OT and  blasted a 51-yarder to win it. Tebow, Tebow, Tebow. But save a little credit for Prater, who has four game-winning kicks since Tebow took over.
Matt Prater Matt Prater, K, Broncos
Prater striped a 59-yarder to send the game to overtime and did it again in the extra period from 51-yards to give the Broncos the win. It might've been the best special teams performance of the season.
Eye on Coaching Award
Freeman Judge
Tom CoughlinTom Coughlin, HC, Giants
Coughlin beat Jason Garrett like the Cowboys coach stole something from him. And he just happened to take control of the NFC East when it looked like the ship be sinking after four straight losses. Great, gutty win for a Giants team that desperately needed it.
Mike Munchak Gary Kubiak, HC, Texans
He's overcome losses of key players all season, so clinching the Texans' first-ever playoff spot with a win on the road and with a rookie third-string quarterback should be no big deal. But it is. Kubiak consistently beats the odds, and he just beat Cincinnati with T.J. Yates making the game-winning pass with two seconds left. Impressive.  
Prisco Brinson
Tom CoughlinKen Whisenhunt, HC, Cardinals
His team upset the San Francisco 49ers Sunday, even though starting quarterback Kevin Kolb was knocked out of the game with concussion problems. John Skelton came off the bench to lead the upset.
Mike MunchakGary Kubiak, HC, Texans
Houston clinched the franchise's first-ever playoff berth on Sunday and they did it by beating a second-straight playoff contender (Cincy, a week after Atlanta) without Arian Foster being productive. Kubiak refuses to let this team get derailed, even if it means T.J. Yates winning games.
Katzowitz Wilson
Jim Schwartz Gary Kubiak, HC, Texans
He’s done a wonderful job saving his job with Houston’s first-ever playoff-clinching win. Plus, the decision to stick with T.J. Yates instead of trying to acquire Donovan McNabb (or any other QB for that matter) was a good one. The fact the Texans, even with three starting quarterbacks this season, continue to win is one reason Kubiak will stay employed.
Tom Coughlin Tom Coughlin, HC, Giants
I'm still unclear why Coughlin is on the hot seat but the Giants went into the Jerry Dome Sunday night and not only beat the Cowboys in a huge NFC East matchup, they overcame a late-fourth quarter 12-point deficit. Oh, and they now lead the division. Maybe Jason Garrett and/or Rob Ryan should replace Coughlin on said hot seat.

Posted on: December 3, 2011 4:16 pm
 

For the gambler in you, Week 13

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Each Saturday, we’ll take the best -- and most clever -- odds collected by bodog.com for the upcoming week and give our take. This is important stuff, perhaps the most important post you’ll read all week. Because if you can’t lose money while watching a game in which you have absolutely no effect, what’s the point of watching sports at all?

Will Ndamukong Suh be fined by the NFL between Week 13 until the Lions season is over including playoffs?     

Yes 2/1      

OK, let’s think about this. He’ll miss Week 13 because of his suspension and he very well could miss Week 14 if his appeals officer Art Shell doesn’t modify his original two-game suspension. So, it could be Week 15 before Suh even takes the field, and that means he’d have to avoid excessive penalties in the final three regular-season games. I think he could do that. The wild card here, though, is whether, well, the Lions can win the wild card. Playoff games mean Suh has a better chance of getting fined and affecting this bet. Even so, I’d go no. At some point, you’d have to think he’ll learn his lesson (for this season at least). My guess is that he’ll tone it down and save himself some money.

What will be Andy Reid's role be Week 1 of the 2012 NFL season? 
  
Head coach of the Eagles  4/5

Head coach of another NFL Team 5/4       

Not coaching in NFL 5/1

I still think Reid will survive this season in Philadelphia. If not, he’ll be hired immediately by somebody else. I’d go with anything but “not coaching in NFL.”

Will Tim Tebow complete a pass in the 1st quarter Week 13? 

Yes -600    

No +400

That this is even a prop bet is hilarious. If you have some extra money to burn, bet No. Because if Tebow goes 0-fer in the first 15 minutes of the game, you can laugh and then take your pile of money to the bank.

Will Rob Gronkowski break the TE record of 13 TD's in a single season?       

Yes -300    

No +200    

Word on the street is that Bill Belichick enjoys a good Gronk spike* as much as the next guy. So, yes, Gronkowski -- who’s recorded 11 touchdowns so far this season -- will break the record. Because Belichick wants him to do exactly that.

*This might or might not be true.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, Like Us on Facebook, subscribe to our NFL newsletter, and while you're add it, add our RSS Feed.
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.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, Like Us on Facebook, subscribe to our NFL newsletter, and while you're add it, add our RSS Feed.
Posted on: November 22, 2011 5:32 pm
 

Eye on Football NFL Awards: Week 11

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 11 NFL Awards
Expert Offense Defense STeams Coach
Freeman Gronk  Wright Clemons H-baugh
Judge  Smith  Willis  Cards  Reid
Prisco  Smith  Kelly  Pilares  Reid
Brinson  Smith  Miller  Bailey  Reid
Katzowitz  Smith  Miller  Bailey  Reid
Wilson  Smith  Miller  Pilares  Fox
Week 12's in the books and that means it's time to hand out some hardware -- this week provided some pretty unexpected returns for various players.

Kevin Smith is the big winner, as his 200-plus yards from scrimmage netted him a nearly unanimous Eye on Offense Award victory. Of course, he's probably just happy to be back in the NFL.

Von Miller picked up the Eye on Defense Award, which is a surprise, because most of America believes the Broncos are only winning thanks to Tim Tebow.

And Dan Bailey edged out Kealoah Pilares of the Panthers for the Eye on Special Teams Awards, because tie goes to your team winning. (Yes, I'm as surprised that I broke the tie away from a Panther as everyone else.)

And Andy Reid, the much-maligned coach of the Eagles, picked up the Eye on Coaching Award. Winning a game with Vince Young at quarterback will do that for you.

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

Eye on Offense Award
Mike Freeman Clark Judge
Rob Gronkowski Rob Gronkowski, TE, Patriots
It's Gronk's world; we're all just squirrels, trying to get a nut. His stats are borderline insane and he's on an historic scoring pace. More importantly, his athletic skill remains the most impressive thing about his story. He gets open despite teams knowing the football is going his way and it's because of his route running and speed. It's a remarkable thing to see.
Kevin SmithKevin Smith, RB, Lions
He's out of football. He's out of work. He does nothing until Detroit calls. Then he suits up, runs for 140 yards and two touchdowns, scores again on a catch and the Lions overcome another 17-point deficit. OK, so it was against a leaky defense. I don't care. Smith was the right guy at the right time for the Lions and should be recognized. Now he is.
Pete Prisco Will Brinson
Kevin Smith Kevin Smith, RB, Lions
Smith ran for 140 yards and scored two rushing touchdowns and another receiving touchdown. Not bad for a guy who was signed off the street the week before.

 

Kevin SmithKevin Smith, RB, Lions
Maybe we should just make this the "RB facing the Panthers" award, because whoever plays Carolina goes off. Still, that shouldn't discount Smith coming off the street to pile up more than 200 total yards and three touchdowns in an emotional return to the NFL that sparked a Lions win.
Josh Katzowitz Ryan Wilson
Kevin SmithKevin Smith, RB, Lions
For a guy who was out of the league three weeks ago because of ACL problems, this was a welcome showing for the Lions who were in desperate of a boost against the Panthers. His 140 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries was nice, but his 61 yards on four catches were the icing. He was as surprising as he was awesome.
Kevin Smith Kevin Smith, RB, Lions
Three weeks ago, Smith was out of work. But his 140 rushing yards, 61 receiving yards and three touchdowns give the Lions something they desperately need: a threat in the running game. (Disclaimer: Chris Johnson ran for 140 on the Panthers last week and you saw him Sunday. So maybe we should hold off on Smith-Sanders comparisons just yet.)
Eye on Defense Award
Freeman Judge
Major WrightMajor Wright, SS, Bears
Wright picked off a pass for the third straight game on Sunday, this time against Phillip Rivers in the end zone. Wright's pick ended a drive that could have gotten the Chargers right back in the game.
Patrick Willis Patrick Willis, LB, 49ers
He's an All Pro, and he proved why against Arizona: An INT, a FF, a team-high seven tackles and a team-high three pass deflections. Willis is one reason the 49ers are running away with the NFC West. Their defense isn't just good; it's scary good, leading the NFL in points allowed.
Prisco Brinson
Tommy KellyTommy Kelly, DT, Raiders
Kelly had two sacks and was a force in the middle of an Oakland defense that knocked Adrian Peterson out of the game and proceeded to dominate Minnesota in all aspects of Sunday's game.
Von MillerVon Miller, LB, Broncos
The bespectacled Miller doesn't get the hype of his offensive counterpart Tim Tebow, but he should, because he's the real reason the Broncos are suddenly rolling. He forced a fumble against the Jets, recorded a team-high 10 tackles (nine solo) and registered (another) 1.5 sacks.
Katzowitz Wilson
Von Miller Von Miller, LB, Broncos
Remember when Miller was benched from Denver’s 4-3 base defense for lacking discipline? Yeah, neither do we. Miller is one of the leading candidates for defensive rookie of the year, and against the Jets, he showed why, recording 10 tackles (three for a loss), three QB hits, 1 ½ sacks and a tipped pass. He is as scary as we thought he might be.
Von Miller Von Miller, LB, Broncos
The storyline coming out of last Thursday's game was Tim Tebow's 95-yard drive. The MVP of that game, however, was rookie linebacker Von Miller. He had 1.5 sacks, a forced fumble, and was hitting Mark Sanchez all night. He also sports Urkel glasses, which we wish he'd wear during the game.
Eye on Special Teams Award
Freeman Judge
Chris Clemons, DB, DolphinsChris Clemons
Not a household name for sure and there may be better candidates but his blocked punt led to a Miami touchdown. It was the first Dolphins score on a blocked punt since 1990. The play was symbolic of this mini-Dolphins resurgence. Everything is going right for them now.
Calais Campbell Cardinals FG Unit
The Cardinals blocked two David Akers' attempts in two quarters, and that's not easy. Calais Campbell had one, and it's the second time in two weeks he got his hand on a kick. So Arizona lost. Don't blame these guys.
Prisco Brinson
Kealoah PilaresKealoah Pilares, WR/KR, Panthers
Pilares returned a kickoff 102 yards against the Lions, the Panthers first return touchdown of the year, and first in a long time. It gave them a good lead, but, of course, it didn't hold up.
Dan BaileyDan Bailey, K, Cowboys
What ... do ... you ... know ... about ... pressure, DAN? Sorry, I couldn't help myself. But Bailey does know a thing or two about pressure, because he drilled a game-winning field goal in overtime to help the Cowboys win their third straight game, in a tough environment in DC.
Katzowitz Wilson
Kealoah Pilares Kealoah Pilares, WR/KR, Panthers
Who’s that you ask? Oh, well, that’s just the rookie from Carolina who returned a Lions kickoff 102 yards for the touchdown. Considering the Panthers special teams haven’t exactly been a team strength, this was a nice exception. (Ed. Note: First CAR kick return since 2003!)
Dan Bailey Dan Bailey, K, Cowboys
Bailey doesn't provide Hester-like excitement but he did something Redskins kicker Graham Gano couldn't Sunday: converted both his attempts, including a 39-yarder to beat Washington in overtime. He got that opportunity because Gano missed a 52-yarder on the previous series.
Eye on Coaching Award
Freeman Judge
Bill BelichickJim Harbaugh, HC, 49ers
The San Francisco 49ers are a shocking 9-1 and can actually clinch the division this week. Even if the NFC West is the worst in football that's an impressive feat. Harbaugh is doing some remarkable things with the 49ers.
Andy Reid Andy Reid, HC, Eagles
The Eagles' playoff hopes were supposed to go off life support with another loss, this one with Vince Young at quarterback vs. the first-place New York Giants. But they found a way to win, and credit Reid. He's won with backups before. He's trying to do it again. And he just did. 
Prisco Brinson
Andy ReidAndy Reid, HC, Eagles
Reid got his team to beat the Giants on the road with Vince Young. If you can beat a good team on the road with Young, you have to take this honor this week.
Andy ReidAndy Reid, HC, Eagles
The Eagles season might still be shot (it likely is), but kudos to Andy Reid for figuring out a way to beat the Giants while playing Vince Young at quarterback. This team had every right to give up (especially after Young's third pick) but still managed to find a way to win.
Katzowitz Wilson
Andy Reid Andy Reid, HC, Eagles
He’s taking his fair share of crap this year -- and for good reason -- but the way he used backup Vince Young in place of Michael Vick was impressive. Mostly, because he trusted Young to make the plays the Eagles needed. I’m not sure that’s a winning strategy every week, but Reid didn’t try to hide Young. Instead, Reid played to Young’s strengths and won.
Hue Jackson John Fox, HC, Broncos
Maybe Fox would still be Carolina's head coach if he had Jimmy Clausen run the read-option instead of a conventional pro-style offense. After committing to building the Broncos' offense around Tebow, Denver is 3-0, including Thursday's "mind-numbing for 55 minutes and Tebow-tastic for the final five" win over the Jets. 
Posted on: November 22, 2011 11:15 am
 

Gronkowski says he wouldn't admit concussion

Gronkowski had two touchdowns Monday. On the second score (above) he narrowly avoided serious injury. (US PRESSWIRE)

Posted by Ryan Wilson

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski is one of Tom Brady's favorite targets, which also qualifies him as one of the league's best pass-catchers. That's one of the benefits to playing in New England's offense. For the season, the second-year player out of Arizona has 56 receptions for 805 yards and 10 touchdowns, including a season long 52-yard score against the Chiefs Monday night. He is, as our CBSSports.com colleague Mike Freeman explains, "a special player with unforgettable talent."

But it was Gronkowski's second touchdown, a 19-yarder in the third quarter, that left him groggy after he landed awkwardly on his neck.


Gronkowski says he's fine after landing on his neck in the end zone.

Following the game, Gronkowski was asked if he remembered the touchdown.

“I remember the moment and everything,” Gronkowski said, via Larry Brown Sports (by way of PFT). “If I didn’t I still wouldn’t even say I didn’t. I’m trying to play this week.”

Gronkowski, who's listed at 6-6, 265, later joked about what could've been a serious injury.  On the bench after the play, the Patriots' training staff checked him for concussion-like symptoms.

"Yeah, they kept asking me, and I started throwing out my own math problems," Gronkowski said, according to ESPN.com. "I was like, 'Dude, I can count to 10,' and I started counting to 10," he said. "That's pretty easy though, so they kept letting me play."

It's easier to laugh knowing that Gronkowski is okay. And while we applaud him for his toughness, confessing that he'd lie to stay in the game is a problem for a league committed to making the game as safe as possible (obvious exception: the 18-game schedule).

As PFT's Michael David Smith pointed out, Gronkowski's not alone. Ben Roethlisberger and Peyton Manning have said previously that they'd tell the doctors what they want to hear to get back on the field.

One solution: in-game concussion tests. If the NFL truly is serious about head injuries, that should be (ahem) a no-brainer.


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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