Tag:Mark Sanchez
Posted on: December 26, 2011 6:46 pm
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Ryan: Sanchez is 'my guy,' no interest in Manning

Schottenheimer and Sanchez are under fire but Manning wouldn't be an offseason consideration for New York. (Getty Images)

By Ryan Wilson

First there was the ProFootballTalk report that the Jets, realizing what the rest of us already knew for some time, had finally come to the conclusion that Mark Sanchez might not be a franchise quarterback. There were also reports, courtesy of CBSSports.com's Mike Freeman, that while Sanchez may not have lived up to expectations, it's more likely that Brian Schottenheimer, the man responsible for calling 59 passing plays against the Giants Saturday, might be in more immediate danger of losing his job.

Well, good news, Mark. Jets head coach Rex Ryan said Monday that you're his guy.

“There’s no way that we’re looking to replace Mark Sanchez,” Ryan said on ESPN radio, according to the New York Daily News' Manish Mehta. “There’s no doubt… If they were both out there and you were starting a draft, I would take…. Would you take Peyton Manning? Yeah, I’d take Peyton Manning over anybody. I’m not saying that….. I’m not telling that lie. Of course, I would take him. But right now, when you’re looking at our football team and our franchise, obviously we feel great about our quarterback situation. Is he going to get better, he absolutely is. Is he perfect? Not by any stretch of the imagination right now. …. But we think he has the ability to be special."

Ryan concedes that Manning, when healthy, is the NFL's best quarterback ("I even put him over Tom Brady"), but that doesn't mean the Jets would be interested in him should he and the Colts part ways this offseason.

"Do I think it’s even a consideration for us?" Ryan asked rhetorically. "No, I don’t.” He also called the PFT report "not true," and reiterated that Sanchez "is my guy."

Ryan, perhaps still caught up in the holiday season, was in a giving mood Monday; he also threw his support behind his much-maligned offensive coordinator.

"I have a huge amount of confidence in both guys," he said. "There’s no doubt. I’ve stated it over and over my feelings about Mark Sanchez. I’ve said it before. No quarterback’s going to look great when that’s all you do… you fall behind. It wasn’t Mark’s best day by any stretch of the imagination, but we know he’s done it. And he’s been doing it. We have great confidence in him and I have great confidence in him. As far as Brian Schottenheimer is concerned,  shoot, we’ll just keep working side-by-side, shoulder-to-shoulder and we’re trying to find a way to beat Miami. I have confidence in him. I have confidence in all our coaches. We have to find a way to get it done.”

Schottenheimer has drawn plenty criticism for his pass-heavy game plans this season, and he's frustrated Jets fans pretty much since joining the staff in 2006. Still, he's rumored to be a head coaching candidate for any number of opportunities this offseason.

For now, though, Ryan likes his chances with Sanchez and Schottenheimer. And if the Jets want to make the playoffs for the third consecutive season, they'll need a lot of help. First things first: New York has to beat the Dolphins in Week 17, and then hope for a Bengals loss to the Ravens, Titans loss or tie to the Texans, and an Oakland loss or tie to the Chargers. Or: a Jets win, Bengals loss, Titans loss or tie, and a Broncos loss or tie.

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Posted on: December 25, 2011 8:00 pm
Edited on: December 26, 2011 10:15 am
 

Report: Jets are questioning Sanchez's future

Sanchez, RyanBy Josh Katzowitz

For the first time in his career, Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez likely won’t be playing in an AFC title game after the Giants severely damaged their city rivals' postseason chances Saturday. Now, there’s a report that the Jets are questioning whether Sanchez is actually the team’s quarterback of the future.

That’s the word from Pro Football Talk, which reports that the Jets are internally asking themselves whether Sanchez is the right answer for them.

Almost from the moment Sanchez entered the league as a No. 5 overall pick in the 2009 draft, he’s been the subject of criticism from media and fans, and though he’s been impressive during the past two postseasons -- especially in road games -- his regular-season performances have been spotty.

This year, he’s completing 56.2 percent of his passes for 3,267 yards, 24 touchdowns and 15 interceptions, and each season, most of his numbers have improved slightly. But unlike, say, Matthew Stafford -- who, to be fair, was the No. 1 pick in the 2009 draft -- it’s hard to imagine any observer placing the third-year player in the top-10 among league quarterbacks.

Now, to be clear, Sanchez hasn’t had much of a running game this year -- it ranks 22nd in the league -- and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer has been the source of criticism for a sluggish offense that hasn’t done much of anything this season.

But as CBSSports.com’s Andy Benoit wrote last week, Sanchez is “as jittery in the pocket and as unreliable in his progressions as he was his rookie year, (and) the Jets’ passing attack is full of simplified one-read plays.”

Coach Rex Ryan has been resolute saying Sanchez is his guy, and it’d be a bit of a surprise for the Jets not to give Sanchez another year to see if he can figure out how to crack the top-10. But the fact there are rumors out there that he’s not the guy is not a good sign.

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Posted on: December 21, 2011 2:46 pm
 

Film Room: Jets vs. Giants Christmas eve preview

Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit


This Christmas Eve battle carries significant playoff implications for both New York teams. With the hype already built in, we can get right to the breakdown.


1. Rex Ryan
The loquacious third-year head coach has already said his is the better team in this game and if that “better team” loses, the blame will be on him. That would make two weeks in a row.

Rarely do we call out a coaching staff in Film Room posts; it’s dicey given the depth of preparation and various subtle and unknown factors that go into a gameplan. But rarely do we see one staff thoroughly outwit another staff the way Andy Reid and his crew did against Ryan & Co. last week.

The Eagles offensive line and backs had no trouble stoning the Jets’ blitzes. That’s noteworthy given that Philly’s front five and LeSean McCoy have been inconsistent in blitz pickup this season. With Jim Leonhard injured, the Jets had to scale back their coverages. They may have scaled too far back; Michael Vick, a poor field reader, diagnosed the Jets’ secondary with ease.

Afterwards, there were reports that Eagles receivers were calling out the coverages prior to the snap. In most of those instances, the Eagles were aligned in spread formations, which widened the Jets defense. That gave Vick clearer looks and, as NFL Matchup Show executive producer Greg Cosell pointed out, it dictated some favorable blocking advantages for the Eagles run game. Instead of adjusting and being proactive, the Jets stagnated and became reactive.

2. Giants run game vs. Jets D
Ryan and defensive coordinator Mike Pettine are two of the best in the business. It’s unlikely they’ll be flat two games in a row. It helps that they’re facing a Giants offense that can’t run the ball. When the Giants do attempt to run (and they will), it won’t be from spread formations like the Eagles. They’re a power run team that girth over quickness up front and relies on fullbacks and tight ends on the edges and lead-blocks.

The Jets are tailored to stop this brand of rushing. Nose tackle Sione Pouha will command extra attention inside, leaving one-on-one mismatches for either Muhammad Wilkerson (a fast-rising rookie with a willowy frame and improved explosiveness) or Mike DeVito (a low-to-the-ground energy guy with an underrated burst).

That’s just in the trenches. At the second level, the Jets linebackers present even greater problems. About the only way to beat them is to make them guess wrong (solid, assertive veteran Bart Scott especially can misdiagnose and overreact at times). The Giants running backs, however, have not proven fleet enough this season to trust on draws, counters or other misdirection runs.
Ballard and Keller have been safety valves for their QBs this season. (Getty Images)

3. Tight Ends
In recent weeks, Jake Ballard has evolved from a lumbering but effective seam pass-catcher to something of a potent all-around receiver. He runs a wider variety of routes than anyone would have guessed and is more than a dumpoff option for Eli Manning. One reason for this could be because defenses have been more inclined to double the Giants receivers outside.

The Jets may not have to double given they can match Darrelle Revis on Hakeem Nicks. But that doesn’t mean Ballard won’t be a significant factor Sunday. The Jets linebackers are not particularly comfortable in coverage, and Manning may even like the matchup of Ballard on safety Eric Smith.

Because the Jets corners play so much man, they’re not going to be too responsive to play-action (the corners are outside and watching the receiver, not inside where they can see the quarterback and linemen carry out fakes). Thus, when Manning does fake a handoff, it’s likely Ballard’s defender is the one he’ll be trying to manipulate.

For the Jets, tight end Dustin Keller is critical because, as you’re about to read, he’s Mark Sanchez’s safety valve.

4. Jets passing game
The Giants are usually willing to cover tight ends with linebackers, especially if nickel ‘backer Jacquian Williams is on the field. It’s possible, though, that they’ll find a way to put a safety on Keller.

He’s often Sanchez’s go-to guy in passing situations. This is gold star for Keller, but more than that, it’s a black checkmark for Sanchez. Because he’s as jittery in the pocket and as unreliable in his progressions as he was his rookie year, the Jets’ passing attack is full of simplified one-read plays. A lot of those one-read plays – rollouts, short drag patterns, flairs to the flats, short hooks, etc. – naturally target a tight end. It helps that Sanchez, for all his short-comings, is superb throwing quickly between the numbers.

The Jets have not been able to consistently incorporate their wide receivers in the passing game this season. Santonio Holmes and Plaxico Burress have not gone over 50 yards receiving in the same game since Week 1. Four times they’ve both been held to 40 yards or less. Some of that is on them (Burress, in particular, has had trouble getting separation as of late), but most of that is on Sanchez and an offensive line that, thanks to right tackle Wayne Hunter, can’t always sustain protection for a seven-step drop.

Perhaps this is the week the receivers come to life. One of them – likely Holmes – will be blanketed by Corey Webster, but the other will get to face either Aaron Ross or Prince Amukumara, two players who have struggled, especially in man coverage.

5. Jets run game
If turnovers hadn’t put the Jets in such an early hole at Philadelphia, we probably would be talking not about Rex Ryan getting outcoached but about Shonn Greene running all over the Eagles D.

The Jets ground game has had some juice in recent weeks. Greene is finally playing downhill, and the line, anchored by indomitable center Nick Mangold, has done a good job hiding its weaknesses and highlighting its strengths (examples: simple pull-blocks for left guard Matt Slauson, running off and not behind finesse left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson, tight ends lining up on the right so that Hunter can maximize his raw strength as a strict north/south blocker, etc.).

The Giants, with their iffy linebacking unit, are not a staunch run defense (though second-year end Jason Pierre-Paul is coming close to singlehandedly changing that).

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: 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 10, 2011 12:21 pm
Edited on: December 10, 2011 12:23 pm
 

Rex Ryan on the Jets: 'If we get in, look out'

Ryan on Sanchez: 'I want everybody to know that (he) is a pretty good quarterback'. (US PRESSWIRE)

By Ryan Wilson

Two years ago, Rex Ryan's first as the Jets head coach, New York was 6-6 heading into Week 14. They went 3-1 and back-doored their way into the final wild-card spot, making it to the AFC Championship game where they lost to the Colts.

Last season, the Jets started 9-2 before losing three of four. A Week 17 victory against the Bills again landed them in the postseason, and again they made it to the AFC Championship game, this time losing to the Steelers.

New York faces Kansas City Sunday and they're in the familiar position of needing a late-season surge to earn a wild-card berth. As it stands, they're ninth in the conference, behind three teams (Bengals, Titans, Raiders) for the final playoff spot. But the Jets are a persistent bunch, particularly late in the year. Which is why it's reasonable to believe that by the time the Week 17 games conclude, New York will be one of the 12 teams still playing.

That journey starts with the Chiefs. Then the Jets are at the Eagles, host the Giants, and finish at the Dolphins. They'll probably need to go 3-1, maybe 4-0.

“Don’t worry, we’ll take our swing,” head coach Rex Ryan told the New York Daily News' Mike Lupica earlier this week.

Despite Ryan's success in nearly three seasons with the Jets (27-19, two playoff appearances), when the conversation turns to the AFC's elite teams, New York isn't one of them. In recent years, that distinction falls to the Patriots, Steelers and Ravens.

“I understand where people are coming from with that,” Ryan said. “Hey, we’re not in the playoffs yet. But if we get in the playoffs, they’re gonna be talking about four teams. I mean, if we get in, how can you not talk about us? … We can beat all those teams. If we get in, look out.”

(In the Ryan era, the Jets beat the Steelers during Week 15 of the 2010 season, are 3-4 against the Patriots, and are winless in two tries against the Ravens.)

Any success New York has will be because of quarterback Mark Sanchez, who still struggles with consistency, particularly when the Jets are trailing. According to Football Outsiders' passer metrics, Sanchez ranks 19th in total value and 23rd in value per play, just behind Matt Hasselbeck and Cam Newton, and ahead of Josh Freeman and Matt Moore. (In 2010, Sanchez ranked 18th and 28th; in 2009, he was 38th and 35th.)

“I’m not putting him up there with Brady and Manning," Ryan said of Sanchez. "The elite guys. He’s not there yet. But he’s definitely in the next rung.”


The New York Jets will look to stay alive in the AFC playoff hunt when they host the Kansas City Chiefs at Metlife Stadium this Sunday at 1:00 PM ET on CBS. Join Jason Horowitz and NFL.com's Pat Kirwan for a preview of this game.

Even that's debatable. But the Jets can't rely on 41-year-old Mark Brunell; they're only going as far as Sanchez takes them.

“He's got the same mentality I have,” Ryan said of his quarterback. “You don’t think I can? I’ll show you. This is a guy who outplayed Peyton Manning in a playoff game, outplayed Philip Rivers, outplayed Tom Brady on the biggest possible stage. And then it’s funny, he’s like eighth in Pro Bowl votes or whatever. And I go, really? Give me a quarterback who wins.”

Sanchez does win, although attributing QB success with team victories is both myopic and naive. We suspect Ryan knows this (you don't see the veteran backup getting first-team reps over the franchise quarterback late in the season in Indy, San Diego or New England), but it does no one any good to admit it publicly.

For now, the focus is on the next month of the season. Ryan and the Jets are going to need Sanchez, which is why the head coach wants fans to support the young quarterback.

“I think our fans definitely understand where we are," the head coach said according to NYJets.com. "We’re fighting for our playoff lives, so they understand that. Have we made it easy to be a Jets fan all these weeks? Probably not like we’ve wanted to, but again, the one thing they know from our team is you’re going to get everything we have. Is it going to be good enough? We think it is. Sometimes, it’s not, but we’re going to lay it out there for us and for them. I think that our fans appreciate that. The fact that we’re going to have a double-take on introducing the offense, I want everybody to know that Mark Sanchez is a pretty good quarterback. I think it’ll be good. I think it’ll be a shot in the arm when he comes out to a bunch of applause, because I think that’s what will happen.”

So, please, Jets fans: cheer for Sanchez when he's announced. He'll appreciated it and and at 7-5, New York can use all the help they can get.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, Like Us on Facebook, subscribe to our NFL newsletter, and while you're at it, add our RSS Feed.
Posted on: November 30, 2011 4:08 pm
 

Keep an Eye on: Week 13's finer points

Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit



Saints vs. Lions
A good over/under on total passing yards for this game is 700. Both teams have gun-slinging quarterbacks and depth at receiver. What’s interesting is the way that receiving talent is used.

Calvin Johnson is the most physically gifted wideout (if not player) in the NFL. He’s the fulcrum of the Lions’ attack. That’s actually part of the reason why Detroit’s offense is at the 300 level while New Orleans’ is at the 500. Johnson is not fundamentally refined. He runs only mediocre routes and does not always read complex coverages well. Hence, he hasn’t always been great against committed double-teams.

Fortunately for Johnson, his weaknesses are drastically mitigated by the magnitude of his strengths. In short, his lack of refinement hasn’t mattered a whole lot because he can outrun and out-jump everyone anyway. This may in fact be part of the reason he’s unrefined – it hasn’t been necessary for coaches to waste time and energy teaching him fundamentals.


It might be a different story if Johnson were a Saint, though. Sean Payton’s offense is very layered and malleable. Receivers must be able to precisely run a litany of routes from a litany of different spots on the field. If they can’t, they won’t play, no matter how high they’re drafted (just ask Robert Meachem or Devery Henderson, two high-round picks who often rode the pine early in their careers). Johnson would certainly have been a No. 1 receiver for the Saints from day one, but he would have been asked to learn more, too.

Certainly, there are other factors that go into the making of the Lions’ and Saints’ offense. Drew Brees is a wiser quarterback than Matthew Stafford at this point, plus the Saints have a better interior offensive line and more complete run game. But in terms of week-to-week sustainability, the fundamental soundness of the Saints receivers trumps the insane athleticism of Calvin Johnson. A defense can drastically alter the Lions passing game by taking away just one player. Against the Saints, a defense must take away three or four players.

Cardinals vs. Cowboys
It’s been a good year for inside linebackers in the NFC. A lot of attention has been paid to the duo in San Francisco (Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman), and rightfully so. Brian Urlacher has been tremendous (as usual) in Chicago.

He’s not talked about often, but Minnesota’s E.J. Henderson has been nearly as good as Urlacher (at least against the run). And from this matchup, Dallas’ Sean Lee has received plaudits for his work in coverage (Lee’s attack speed against the run is also superb).

There’s another NFC linebacker in this elite class that few know about: Arizona’s Daryl Washington. The 230-pounder from TCU was in and out of the lineup as a second-round rookie last season. This season, he’s been in and out of opposing backfields. Washington leads the Cardinals with 59 solo tackles (Paris Lenon leads the team with 68 total tackles). He also has eight tackles for loss and three sacks.

Each week Washington jumps out resoundingly on film, showing sideline-to-sideline speed and a downhill burst that can make the other 21 players look sluggish in comparison. Speed is only relevant if it’s taking you in the right direction, though. What has set Washington apart is his improved recognition.

He identifies run concepts and angles to the ball with preternatural instincts (they have to be preternatural because such sharp instincts can’t be cultivated in just one-and-a-half seasons). Those instincts apply in coverage, as well, evidenced by Washington’s two interceptions and six passes defensed this season.

Redskins vs. Jets
Does it seem harsh to start comparing Mark Sanchez to Rex Grossman? The third-year quarterback has not quite fallen to that level in terms of turnovers and bonehead mistakes, but the clock management and decision-making gaffes, not to mention the 11 interceptions and five turnovers returned for touchdowns, are hard to overlook.

Rich Gannon – who is quickly becoming one of the premiere color commentators in the business and, it’s worth noting, briefly tutored Sanchez a few years ago – recently made a few very astute observations about the ex-Trojan. One was that when Sanchez misses, he tends to miss behind his receiver. Gannon suspects this is because Sanchez is routinely late with his eyes; he’s not a quick field-scanner or anticipator.

More concerning is Sanchez’s jitteriness in the pocket. He perceives pass-rush pressure before it arrives (a crippling weakness that usually lands a player out of the league or in a career backup role). He’s overly concerned about getting hit, which causes him to tuck the ball, flee the pocket or make ill-advised throws.

These were things scouts worried about with Sanchez coming out of USC, where he had the uncommon luxury of always throwing from a clean pocket. Sanchez showed these weaknesses as a rookie, which was fine. But it’s not fine that he’s still showing them after nearly 50 professional starts.

So who will win? Check our NFL expert picks for all Week 12 games

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: November 30, 2011 4:08 pm
 

Keep an Eye on: Week 13's finer points

Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit



Saints vs. Lions
A good over/under on total passing yards for this game is 700. Both teams have gun-slinging quarterbacks and depth at receiver. What’s interesting is the way that receiving talent is used.

Calvin Johnson is the most physically gifted wideout (if not player) in the NFL. He’s the fulcrum of the Lions’ attack. That’s actually part of the reason why Detroit’s offense is at the 300 level while New Orleans’ is at the 500. Johnson is not fundamentally refined. He runs only mediocre routes and does not always read complex coverages well. Hence, he hasn’t always been great against committed double-teams.

Fortunately for Johnson, his weaknesses are drastically mitigated by the magnitude of his strengths. In short, his lack of refinement hasn’t mattered a whole lot because he can outrun and out-jump everyone anyway. This may in fact be part of the reason he’s unrefined – it hasn’t been necessary for coaches to waste time and energy teaching him fundamentals.


It might be a different story if Johnson were a Saint, though. Sean Payton’s offense is very layered and malleable. Receivers must be able to precisely run a litany of routes from a litany of different spots on the field. If they can’t, they won’t play, no matter how high they’re drafted (just ask Robert Meachem or Devery Henderson, two high-round picks who often rode the pine early in their careers). Johnson would certainly have been a No. 1 receiver for the Saints from day one, but he would have been asked to learn more, too.

Certainly, there are other factors that go into the making of the Lions’ and Saints’ offense. Drew Brees is a wiser quarterback than Matthew Stafford at this point, plus the Saints have a better interior offensive line and more complete run game. But in terms of week-to-week sustainability, the fundamental soundness of the Saints receivers trumps the insane athleticism of Calvin Johnson. A defense can drastically alter the Lions passing game by taking away just one player. Against the Saints, a defense must take away three or four players.

Cardinals vs. Cowboys
It’s been a good year for inside linebackers in the NFC. A lot of attention has been paid to the duo in San Francisco (Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman), and rightfully so. Brian Urlacher has been tremendous (as usual) in Chicago.

He’s not talked about often, but Minnesota’s E.J. Henderson has been nearly as good as Urlacher (at least against the run). And from this matchup, Dallas’ Sean Lee has received plaudits for his work in coverage (Lee’s attack speed against the run is also superb).

There’s another NFC linebacker in this elite class that few know about: Arizona’s Daryl Washington. The 230-pounder from TCU was in and out of the lineup as a second-round rookie last season. This season, he’s been in and out of opposing backfields. Washington leads the Cardinals with 59 solo tackles (Paris Lenon leads the team with 68 total tackles). He also has eight tackles for loss and three sacks.

Each week Washington jumps out resoundingly on film, showing sideline-to-sideline speed and a downhill burst that can make the other 21 players look sluggish in comparison. Speed is only relevant if it’s taking you in the right direction, though. What has set Washington apart is his improved recognition.

He identifies run concepts and angles to the ball with preternatural instincts (they have to be preternatural because such sharp instincts can’t be cultivated in just one-and-a-half seasons). Those instincts apply in coverage, as well, evidenced by Washington’s two interceptions and six passes defensed this season.

Redskins vs. Jets
Does it seem harsh to start comparing Mark Sanchez to Rex Grossman? The third-year quarterback has not quite fallen to that level in terms of turnovers and bonehead mistakes, but the clock management and decision-making gaffes, not to mention the 11 interceptions and five turnovers returned for touchdowns, are hard to overlook.

Rich Gannon – who is quickly becoming one of the premiere color commentators in the business and, it’s worth noting, briefly tutored Sanchez a few years ago – recently made a few very astute observations about the ex-Trojan. One was that when Sanchez misses, he tends to miss behind his receiver. Gannon suspects this is because Sanchez is routinely late with his eyes; he’s not a quick field-scanner or anticipator.

More concerning is Sanchez’s jitteriness in the pocket. He perceives pass-rush pressure before it arrives (a crippling weakness that usually lands a player out of the league or in a career backup role). He’s overly concerned about getting hit, which causes him to tuck the ball, flee the pocket or make ill-advised throws.

These were things scouts worried about with Sanchez coming out of USC, where he had the uncommon luxury of always throwing from a clean pocket. Sanchez showed these weaknesses as a rookie, which was fine. But it’s not fine that he’s still showing them after nearly 50 professional starts.

So who will win? Check our NFL expert picks for all Week 12 games

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: November 27, 2011 9:47 am
Edited on: November 27, 2011 9:48 am
 

If Tomlinson's out, it's more pressure on Sanchez

Tomlinson could miss his second straight game. (Getty Images)

Posted by Ryan Wilson

LaDainian Tomlinson missed the Jets' last game with a knee injury -- a loss to the Broncos 10 days ago -- and it looks like he won't play Sunday against the Bills, either. With Shonn Greene coming off a rib injury, that leaves very little depth at running back for New York in their get-together with the Bills.

That very lack of depth crippled the offense in Denver, where quarterback Mark Sanchez struggled to put the team on his shoulders and take over when the Jets needed him. Instead, he threw a third-quarter pick-six and looked uncomfortable in the pocket for most of the evening.

So no what? Well, the Jets, 5-5, might be on a two-game losing streak and need to win out to get into the playoff conversation, but the Bills are in much worse shape. They may share the same 5-5 record, but in three weeks Buffalo has gone from one of the AFC's best teams to one of its worst.

Jets head coach Rex Ryan, clear on where things stand 11 weeks into the season, gave some of the first-team practice reps to backup Mark Brunell earlier this week, presumably in an effort to motivate Sanchez. It's something Ryan has done before and Sanchez responded by playing well down.

NFL Network's Albert Breer reported Sunday morning that Sanchez looked good in practice in recent days, which is a positive sign for the Jets. Whether it's enough to make up for the lack of depth in the backfield, or to reel off six games in a row remains to be seen.


After a tough loss to the Broncos last week, the New York Jets hope to bounce back as they prepare to take on the Buffalo Bills on Sunday at MetLife Stadium. NFL.com's Pat Kirwan and Jason Horowitz have the preview. Watch the game on CBS at 1 PM ET.

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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