Tag:Wes Welker
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.

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Posted on: November 14, 2011 11:06 am
Edited on: November 15, 2011 12:41 pm
 

Belichick mocks Jets D, Rex despondent over loss

Posted by Will Brinson

Sunday night was supposed to be the crowning of the Jets as the new AFC East power. The Patriots were dead (long live the Patriots!) and the Jets were coming on strong. Except, it turns out, everyone lost their short-term memory and the Pats blew out the Jets 37-16, reminding everyone, as Mike Freeman wrote, that the AFC East isn't all that different just yet.

So will the Jets still win the Super Bowl? Well, they should probably try and win the division first, which is something that Rex Ryan doesn't see happening.

"It looks doubtful right now," Ryan said Sunday after the game. "What am I going to say? Maybe I should guarantee the fact that we’re out of it. The last time I did that, we made the playoffs. Yeah, we don’t have a chance."

Before Sunday, we noted that the trash-talking was suspiciously missing from the Jets for Patriots week, and we speculated that it was because Ryan knew he had a chance to really flip the tables in the AFC East. That was correct, because Ryan was clearly devastated by Sunday night's loss.

"We wanted to win this game in the worst way," Ryan said, unprompted, to open his press conference Sunday night.

Bill Belichick said nothing before the game about the importance of this win, but his actions near the end make it pretty clear it was important to him too. As we noted in the podcast, Sunday night was one of the best coaching efforts of Belichick's career and he and Tom Brady just so happened to break the record -- previously held Dan Marino and Don Shula -- for most wins by a quarterback and coach combo.

Week 10 Wrapup

Belichick was seen parading around the Pats sideline, slapping high-fives with backups and, in what's a pretty rare event, smiling after a victory. Oh, and there's this -- apparently he had some colorful words for Rex's crew. Brian Costello of the New York Post reports that Belichick dropped a vulgar little phrase towards the other sideline following the win.

"Thirty-seven points on the best defense in the league, s--- my d---," Belichick reportedly said.

Um, yeah, so that's probably not technically appropriate, and I'm sure we'll hear about this if/when the Jets and Pats meet in the postseason (it's kind of inevitable right?) and it'll probably turn into a big scandal or something. But anyone who's heard Belichick miked up knows this isn't all that surprising.

Besides, for now let's just enjoy the ridiculousness of a 60-year-old man running to midfield and screaming that at his opponent, as well as the silence from Rex.

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Posted on: November 11, 2011 5:59 pm
Edited on: November 11, 2011 8:01 pm
 

Where's all the Jets vs. Patriots trash talk?

Posted by Will Brinson

There are very few truths in the NFL, but over the past few years, there's one that's absolute: when the Jets and Patriots play, trash talk will ensue. But that's somehow changed late in the 2011 NFL season, as we've heard nothing from either side about the Week 10 matchup scheduled for this Sunday night.

You might remember such trash talk from incidents involving Wes Welker's press conference about Rex Ryan's feet, Antonio Cromartie calling Tom Brady an a-hole and telling him to target the defensive back specifically, Nick Mangold going after Welker on Twitter, Bart Scott's said that the Pats want to be the Jets, Rex said he wasn't here to kiss Belichick's rings, Rex called the rivalry with Bill Belichick "personal," Scott threatened to end Welker's career, the local newspapers jumped on board -- really, the list goes on forever, if you look at what's been said over the past three years (and that doesn't even count the NFL intervening).

But this year? Nada. The Patriots, losers of two-straight games, aren't big talkers anyway, but the Jets are abnormally silent. In fact, they're even praising the Patriots now.

"We don’t care what difficulties they’re in," Ryan said this week. "Each team goes through dips in the road."

Look, I don't know what alien took over Rex's body, but pageviews be damned, maybe he should hang around for a while, because it's kind of refreshing to have some quiet leading up to a Jets-Pats matchup.



The reality is this, though: Ryan knows that the Jets are the hotter team right now and he knows that his team just performed a defensive dissection against the Bills, and that playing such a game on defense against the Patriots will probably give him the division lead come Monday.

Additionally, the Patriots are straight-up struggling right now, and the Jets have a shot of putting the Pats on their first three-game losing streak since October ... of 2002. (!)

In other words, Ryan knows that poking the bear after you've killed it is much safer than right when you walk into its cave.

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Posted on: November 9, 2011 10:50 pm
 

Keep an Eye on: Week 10's finer analysis

Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit

Jets vs. Patriots

The recipe for stopping New England’s offense has been discovered: press-man coverage. The Cowboys pressed the Patriots receivers off-and-on back in Week 6. The Steelers did it all game in Week 8. So did the Giants in Week 9. New England scored 16, 17 and 20 in those three games.

Think the Jets might be ale to execute press-man coverage? (Ask the Bills receivers whose white uniforms had practically turned light green by the end of last week’s game.) When these teams met back in Week 5, Darrelle Revis shadowed Wes Welker, though not the entire game. Welker caught a few balls during the breathers away from Revis, including a 73-yarder that gave him a misleading five-catch, 124-yard stat line.

After that game teams may have realized that with Welker bottled up, the Patriots are just another methodical east-west passing team. New England’s offense has no downfield weapon to preoccupy defenses about getting burned over the top. Deion Branch is quick but not fast. Aaron Hernandez, if he regains his pre-Week 3 knee injury form, is fleet for a tight end but not someone who can blaze 40 yards outside the numbers. Ditto for Rob Gronkowski.

There is that Chad Ochocinco guy. He and Brady have not been on the same page all season (Brady actually missed an open Ocho for a would-be touchdown last week; Ocho couldn’t get mad because he owed Brady for other mistakes). The disappointing but charismatic ex-Bengal may actually be the deciding piece in this game. Someone has to step up and be a downfield threat. The last person aslow underneath offense wants to face is Rex Ryan; he knows how to use his safeties as blitzers.



Cowboys vs. Bills
The Cowboys can forget about the fragile Felix Jones becoming their next franchise running back. When Jones returns from his ankle injury (hopefully sometime before his next scheduled injury in December), he’ll be backing up DeMarco Murray. The third-round rookie from Oklahoma State is averaging 6.7 yards per carry and looks like the real deal. It was difficult to assess him after his 253-yard outbreak against St. Louis because, as Murray himself will admit, a truck could have driven through the holes Dallas’ offensive line opened up that game.


But last week Murray registered 139 yards against a quietly impressive Seattle run defense that’s allowing just 3.4 yards per carry (tied for second best in the NFL). He has a unique ability to generate downhill momentum immediately upon hitting his accelerator.

Because of this, Murray can explode to holes before linebackers can identify them or, more often, he can increase his tempo upon reaching those linebackers, which makes him extremely hard to tackle.

For the Bills (and all defenses), the key to stopping Murray will be penetration. Murray has the ability to go left and right, but he has to stop and restart in order to do so. You can’t let him go north and south.

It hurts that Buffalo’s best defensive lineman, Kyle Williams, just went on injured reserve. He was a penetration extraordinaire who would have changed the complexion of this matchup. Marcell Dareus has been impressive since relocating to nose tackle, but the Bills are now thin on the edges and may start waffling again between 3-4 and 4-3 concepts if forced to make another personnel adjustment.

Seahawks vs. Ravens
It’s a classic trap game for the Ravens. Coming off a big primetime win against their archrival, they must fly across the country for an unceremonious bout with a 2-6 team from another conference. And it’s not an awful 2-6 team, either. OK, maybe the offense is awful. Or at least as uninspiring as an Andy Reid press conference. But the defense isn’t bad.

Last week’s stumble at Dallas aside, Seattle’s defense can stop the run. The defensive line has a strong rotation of high-energy players who have the strength to win in a phone booth (end Red Bryant has been the most impressive in this sense). Middle linebacker David Hawthorne reads and pursues well enough, and outside linebackers K.J. Wright and Leroy Hill can both play with physicality on the edge.

On the back end, young safeties Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas are still learning to play with consistency (both mentally and physically). Both, however, offer some playmaking prowess versus in the box or downhill. Cornerback Brandon Browner is a bit stiff but has rare 6’3”, 221-pound-size that he’s just starting to learn to apply at the line of scrimmage. Richard Sherman has, for the most part, been able to back up his bizarre cockiness ever since injuries propelled him into the starting lineup.

Lastly, Seattle has a clear-cut Pro Bowler (their only Pro Bowler, in fact) in end Chris Clemons. He’s fast off the edge (like any quality pass-rusher) and also has a strong suppleness that makes him viable in all facets against the run.

So who will win? Check our NFL expert picks for all Week 10 games

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: November 3, 2011 10:13 am
 

Keep an Eye on: Week 9's finer points of analysis

Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit

Eagles vs. Bears
You could make a strong case that both of these offenses are built around their star running backs. The Eagles have football’s No. 1 offense and lead the league with 179 yards rushing per game (20 more than Oakland’s No. 2 ranked ground game). Running back LeSean McCoy is second in the NFL with 754 yards rushing. The Bears’ 16th-ranked offense would likely rank somewhere in the mid-twenties if not for Matt Forte’s 672 yards on the ground and 419 yards through the air.

These are the best two running backs in the NFC not named Adrian Peterson. (And both are significantly better receivers than Peterson.) Two years ago, neither was very good. McCoy was a callow, unpolished rookie who could not always read basic defenses. Forte was an inexplicably sluggish runner averaging just 3.9 yards per carry. So what’s changed since then?

One noticeable improvement is in both players’ lateral agility. Though not as emphasized as speed, quickness or power, lateral agility is the most important attribute for an NFL back. It’s often the difference between college runners and pro runners. In short, lateral agility is a running back’s quickness and explosiveness when going left and right. It plays a central role in how he sets up blocks and creates his own space.

Unless you’re an incredibly gifted downhill runner playing behind a decent run-blocking front (ala Darren McFadden), lateral agility is vital in the NFL, where holes close quicker than a hiccup and defenses feature 11 world class athletes, most of whom can immediately diagnose about 90 percent of the run plays they see.

McCoy has the best pure lateral agility in the league. He had it as a rookie but just recently learned to implement it with timing and purpose. He can explode left and right behind the line or at the second level. Most laterally agile running backs, including Forte, have to be on the move in order to cut sharply. McCoy can do it from a standstill (which is why Philly is so fond of draws and delayed handoffs). Forte can occasionally do it from a standstill, though with his smooth, patient running style, he’s much more effective off motion.

On Sunday, keep a count of how many of McCoy’s and Forte’s touches are impacted by their east-west prowess.



Patriots vs. Giants
The key to the Giants’ upset of the undefeated Patriots in Super Bowl XLII was the pressure the Giants pass-rush put on Tom Brady. New York’s then-defensive coordinator, Steve Spagnuolo, brilliantly had his linebackers crowd and attack the A-gaps. That did a few things.

For one, it put extra defenders directly in Tom Brady’s line of vision, which would make any quarterback subtly feel a bit hurried. That hurriedness left New England without enough time to run Randy Moss on deep routes.

Another thing it did was force the Patriot running backs to stay in and pass protect. And because there were multiple defenders crowding the A-gaps, the Patriots focused their protection help inside, which left one-on-one mismatches outside for Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora.

Some things have changed in the four years since 18-1. Spagnuolo is now in St. Louis. Moss is retired. So is Strahan. The Patriots’ high-powered passing game has become horizontal instead of vertical. But despite the changes, don’t be surprised if the Giants once again crowd and/or attack New England’s A gaps this Sunday.

Teams like the Jets, Cowboys and Steelers have shown that the best way to pressure Brady is with bodies up the middle. The goal is not always to sack him – it can be to mentally preoccupy him with what’s going on inside. When Brady’s doing that, he seems to lose a little trust in stepping into throws and sensing his protection on the edges.

The Giants had great success with A-gap blitz concepts against the Dolphins last week. Mathias Kiwanuka is a potent defensive end who happens to play linebacker. He’s natural standing up over the center in nickel defense. Lately, end Dave Tollefson, himself a good athlete, has also been used as an A-gap blitzing joker. In these instances, the Giants don’t just rush the A-gaps, they also confuse offensive linemen and set up stunts and edge-rushes for Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora.

New England’s answer to New York’s A-gap attacks will be quick passes in the flats. Wes Welker is not a bad guy to turn to for that.

Chargers vs. Packers
Green Bay can take the lipstick off the pig that is San Diego’s defense. The No. 1 ranked defense from 2010 has been decent but not necessarily impressive under new coordinator Greg Manusky in 2011. A soft schedule has made it difficult to pass full judgment. The Chargers rank sixth in yards allowed, but they’ve faced the Vikings, Dolphins, Broncos, Jets and Chiefs (twice) – all inexplosive offenses.

The Packers have the most lethal offensive attack in football. It’s not just that Aaron Rodgers has been nearly flawless, or that his top five receiving targets would all be No. 1 or 2 targets on a typical team. It’s that the Packers have perhaps the best formation variation in the league. This, with their array of weapons, strongly tests a defense’s depth, intelligence and confidence.

Currently, the Chargers are vulnerable at cornerback. Antoine Cason appeared on the verge of stardom late last year, but the ’08 first-round pick has reverted to the baffling inconsistencies that marred his first two seasons as a pro. Cason normally plays the right outside. The Packers love to create one-on-one matchups for Greg Jennings by lining him up as the X-iso receiver on the left side (across from the right cornerback) in 1x3 receiver sets. It’s a matchup Rodgers goes to virtually every time.

With four receivers on the field, Cason will have to play. Marcus Gilchrest and Quentin Jammer are the outside starters; Dante Hughes is the slot nickel. The Chargers like to blitz Hughes and will likely align him across from the receiver furthest inside on the three-receiver side. Jammer plays outside on the defensive left. That leaves either Cason or Gilchrest, a second-round rookie, to face Jennings outside on the right.

This isn’t a fantasy column, but here’s a tip: if your opponent has Greg Jennings on his or her team, remove yourself from the trash-talking email thread this week.

So who will win? Check our NFL expert picks for all Week 9 games

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: November 3, 2011 9:14 am
 

Can Welker be shut down again by the Giants?

WelkerPosted by Josh Katzowitz

Now that Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor has corralled Wes Welker into his worst game of the season -- which is why I voted Taylor as my defensive player of the week in our weekly awards post -- it seems like EVERYBODY can shut down Welker, who leads the NFL with 57 catches and is second with 824 yards.

Isn’t that right, Antrel Rolle?

“I don’t know,” Rolle said, via the New York Daily News, when asked what makes Welker so difficult to cover. “You’ve got to ask those guys he’s giving trouble to. I don’t plan on having to answer to those questions.”

Before we continue, we should note that the Giants pass defense is ranked 13th in the NFL, so it’s not like New York has played unreal in this phase of the game. In fact, the Giants are a little better than mediocre at stopping the pass at this point. Still, that doesn’t stop Rolle from being, in his own words, a “cocky mother------.” Which is why when he was asked if he could cover Welker, he said, “I can handle anything.”

“You know, he’s human at the end of the day,” Rolle said. “He is a great receiver and you don’t take anything from him, but he is human at the end of the day. And like I said, the game has to be played on Sunday. I’ll answer more questions after the game.”

But what did the Steelers do to Welker that you can use for this Sunday? Can Rolle take lessons from that performance and apply it to himself?

“They didn’t do anything spectacular, they weren’t double-teaming (him), they weren’t doing anything,” Rolle said. “They just lined up and kicked their ass. Bottom line. That’s what they did. They stayed on them the whole game -- not just Wes Welker, everyone. They played great ball.”

In related Welker news, he missed practice Wednesday with a neck injury. And if he doesn’t play at all this Sunday, Rolle won’t have to worry about eating his words. Because covering Welker is awfully easy when he’s not actually playing in the game.

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Posted on: October 14, 2011 11:50 pm
 

Rob Ryan has no comment on Wes Welker's skill

Posted by Will Brinson

In the week before Dallas played Detroit, Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan famously ordered up a plate full of crow when he decided to declare that Dez Bryant and Miles Austin were better than Lions wideout Calvin Johnson. This crow was mainly served when Megatron caught a game-winning touchdown in single coverage.

So, naturally, Ryan was asked about the NFL's leading receiver Wes Welker, whom he's charged with stopping when Dallas heads to New England this weekend. And, surprisingly, Ryan had nothing to say.

"I’m afraid to comment on wideouts," Ryan joked Friday according to Carlos Mendez of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "Apparently, I don’t know anything."

That's not entirely accurate. After all, Ryan's done a pretty damn good job with the Cowboys defense this year. Dallas ranks fourth overall in yards allowed, first in rushing yards allowed, 14th in passing yards allowed, although the Cowboys are giving up 25.2 points per game, 23rd in the league.

And I suppose the Welker matchup is a different animal than the Megatron matchup. That's not to denigrate Welker's ability, because he's certainly shown this year that he's not just a between-the-hashmarks wideout. He's been fantastic, and his leading the NFL in receiving yards isn't a fluke.

Still, it's smart of Ryan to keep quiet on this one, even if it's in a joking manner.

And it means he's learned a pretty good lesson here: don't give opposing wide receivers free motivation to try and torch your defense. Especially when they're better than the guys on your roster.

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Posted on: October 14, 2011 8:59 am
 

Welker wants to stay in New England

WelkerPosted by Josh Katzowitz

It’s no stretch to say that Wes Welker is one of the top receivers in the NFL. His 740 receiving yards leads the league by a whopping 131 yards over the No. 2 Steve Smith, and his league-leading 45 catches through five games puts him on pace for, oh, 297 catches -- which, of course, would be a record (actually, he’s on pace for 144, which also puts him one ahead of Marvin Harrison’s record total of 143 in 2002).

But it’s interesting to think about how Welker would perform if he didn’t play in the Patriots offense and didn’t have a Hall of Fame quarterback throwing passes his way. After all, he didn’t set the league on fire when he played for the Dolphins from 2004-06.

We bring this up because of Welker’s claim that he wants to stay a Patriots player after his contract expires following this season.

“Well, of course I want to stay here, but as of right now, I don’t really think about it," Welker said earlier this week, via the Sporting News. "I think we have a great owner and great coaches and they have put together a model for us to go out there and succeed. Anytime you’re a part of that, it’s a pretty special thing."

Agreed, but you also have to wonder if the Patriots will want to give Welker a huge long-term extension. Before next season, he’ll have turned 31, and though that isn’t the death call for a receiver, the Patriots might not want to make him a four-year commitment either (although he is only making a $2.15 million base salary, which is ridiculous considering his production).

And as we all know, New England isn’t afraid to get rid of a veteran player, no matter how much he’s helped the team, if Bill Belichick thinks he’s outlived his usefulness to the organization.

Obviously, Welker isn’t going to find a better quarterback to play catch with than Tom Brady. He readily admitted that this week when he was asked if he could ever hope to find the same kind of chemistry with another quarterback that he has built with Brady. Welker said, "There’s no way I would."

So, maybe Welker really should try his best to break the record. Because even if the Patriots aren’t interested in retaining his services, there’s no doubt at least half the league would be trying to get his cell phone digits once he becomes a free agent. Even if he’ll lose the chemistry he has with Brady, he’ll get a ton of money instead.

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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