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Tag:Santonio Holmes
Posted on: September 8, 2011 4:58 pm
Edited on: September 8, 2011 5:09 pm
 

Film Room: Bears vs. Falcons preview

Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit



On paper, the top two seeds from last season’s NFC playoffs are both improved heading into 2011. Consequently, the Atlanta Falcons have become somewhat of a trendy Super Bowl pick. But the Chicago Bears? They’re the team most are picking to finish right behind Detroit in the NFC North. In analyzing five key threads these teams share, we might understand why.

1. Receiver Infusion
Thomas Dimitroff realized that Atlanta’s offense was a playmaker short of being nearly unstoppable. So, the fourth-year general manager traded five premium draft picks to move up and select Alabama wideout Julio Jones sixth overall.

Jones is a great fit because he’s not only a dynamic downfield threat who also has the thickness to go inside, but thanks to his days in the Crimson Tide’s black-and-blue offense, he’s also a savvy downfield blocker. That’s important, as Falcons offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey has always had a predilection for power runs out of two tight-end/two back formations.

In Chicago, with a system built around downfield routes out of three-and four-receiver formations, offensive coordinator Mike Martz needed more firepower outside. Instead of reaching for an unproven wideout late in the first round, overpaying for free agents Santana Moss or Santonio Holmes or taking a risk on Braylon Edwards (attitude) or Plaxico Burress (rustiness), the Bears acquired  Roy Williams after his star fully plummeted in Dallas.

Williams, a straight-line runner with big hands and feet, was never a good fit for the Cowboys’ shifty catch-and-run oriented system. But in the 28 games he played for Martz in Detroit, Williams produced 2,148 yards receiving. However, whatever optimism the Detroit success instilled was likely blown away by Williams’ dropped passes and admission to being out of shape this past August (candor has always been his Achilles heel).

Because the Bears refuse to admit that Devin Hester is merely a return specialist with modest slot receiving ability (i.e. NOT a starter), it was rising third-year pro Johnny Knox whom Williams supplanted in the lineup. Knox, who has superb speed and quickness and excellent chemistry with Jay Cutler, particularly in deciphering zone coverages, is eager to recapture his starting job (and thus, his leverage for a new contract in the near future). He will, if Williams continues to struggle. And the Bears’ passing game will essentially be right back in the same place it was a year ago.

The Falcons figure to clearly have an improved pass attack. The Bears are TBD.

2. Big meaty offensive lines
To put it politely, Atlanta’s and Chicago’s offensive lines both feature more size than athleticism. The lunch pail approach has worked great for the Falcons. They have a straightforward power-run offense that’s conducive to forming good chemistry up front. In the passing game (where a line’s athletic limitations get exposed), the Falcons rarely use more than three wide receivers, which makes an extra tight end or running back available to stay in and block. In short, the Falcons can bend their system for their offensive line.
 
The Bears, on the other hand, are more inclined to bend (or break) their offensive line for their system. Martz frequently has Cutler take seven-step drops, which only gives heavy-footed offensive tackle J’Marcus Webb, laterally stiff guard Chris Williams and the rest of the front more time to get beat in pass protection. Also, with the running back often being an important receiving option in Martz’s system, Bears linemen must shoulder more responsibility in blitz identification and pickup – an area in which they’ve struggled.

Hence, the 52 times Cutler was sacked last season.

3. The traditional  4-3 defense: evolve vs. resolve
Mike Smith was a classic zone-based 4-3 defensive coordinator in Jacksonville. But over his three seasons in Atlanta, he’s drifted away from vanilla Cover 2 tactics and towards more diverse blitzes and zone exchanges. Impressive considering he employs these tactics out of traditional base and nickel sets.
 
Lovie Smith was a classic zone-based 4-3 defensive coordinator in St. Louis. Over his seven years in Chicago, he’s ... remained a proponent of classic 4-3 zone-based defense.

The Bears are the only team that virtually still runs a fulltime strict Cover 2. They’ve made it work largely because they have two perfect linebackers for this scheme in Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs. But as we’ll explore more in-depth another week, there are significant vulnerabilities to a Cover 2. Those vulnerabilities are why Smith and the Falcons have chosen to evolve.

4. The No. 2 defensive end
Arguably the best two defensive ends in the NFC are Julius Peppers and John Abraham. Both have devastating explosiveness off the edge and both can play the run (Peppers is by far the NFL’s best all-around run-stopping 4-3 end; Abraham is more finesse-oriented but is still underrated as a backside chaser).

What the Falcons learned last season is a pass-rush is incomplete without a second outside presence. Kroy Biermann is a very active run-defender, but he registered just three sacks in his debut season as a starter. So, Thomas Dimitroff spent $11 million (guaranteed) on free agent Ray Edwards, who each of the past two years in Minnesota posted at least eight sacks against frequent one-on-one blocking opposite Jared Allen. Edwards is also an adept all-around run-defender.

The Bears have a stalwart No. 2 pass-rusher of their own in Israel Idonije. Versatile enough to line up inside or outside, the ninth-year veteran tied Peppers for the team lead in sacks last season (eight). Idonije does not quite have Edwards’ quickness around the corner, but he’s one of the best in the league at executing stunts.

5. Safeties
Over the years, watching the Bears try out different young safeties in the starting lineup has been like watching Gilbert Brown try on outfits that don’t make him look fat. The Bears drafted Danieal Manning in ’06; Kevin Payne in ’07; Craig Steltz in ’08; Al Afalava in ’09; Major Wright in ’10 and Chris Conte in ’11.

All, with the exception of Conte, were given a shot at starting. And, assuming that newly signed Brandon Meriweather soon supplants Wright as the current first-string free safety, all were ultimately deemed unqualified.

The Falcons have taken a flier with young safeties, as well. The difference is theirs have succeeded. Thomas DeCoud, a third-round pick in ’08, started all 16 games each of the past two seasons. His instincts in coverage have improved and he’s a fast, firm open-field tackler.

His running mate, William Moore, a second-round pick in ’09, stayed healthy for the first time last season and showed genuine game-changing potential over 15 starts. Moore’s a fierce hitter who is developing in pass defense quicker than expected.

So who will win? Check out the video below. And see who our experts pick for all the Week 1 games


Read Andy's Film Room breakdown of Jets-Cowboys.

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter and contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: August 7, 2011 4:09 pm
Edited on: August 8, 2011 6:02 am
 

Jets' Burress able to take part in team drills

Posted by Ryan Wilson

Jets wideout Plaxico Burress twisted his ankle last Wednesday and he hasn't practiced since. And to hear head coach Rex Ryan tell it, it didn't appear Burress would participate in full team practices for the third session in a row.

Ryan sounded like Burress might get some work in individual drills, but the team didn't want to bring him back too quickly and risk a setback, CBSSports.com Rapid Reporter Lisa Zimmerman wrote early Sunday afternoon.

"I want to proceed really cautiously here. I don't want to do too much with him," Ryan said, according to ESPN New York. "But he's moving around good."

Given the Jets' precarious situation at wide receiver, it's probably best to proceed cautiously so early in the season. Santonio Holmes, one of the league's best pass-catchers, was just rewarded with a new five-year deal, but New York parted ways with Braylon Edwards, Brad Smith and Jerricho Cotchery, and replaced them with Burress, who's 34 and fresh off a two-year stint in prison, and Derrick Mason, formerly Joe Flacco's go-to guy in Baltimore and three year's Burress' senior.

But here's the thing: practice is underway and Burress doesn't seem to be taking things all that easy.

After Zimmerman's initial report, she filed this: "Burress is participating in individual drills. He has been doing some minor cutting and his ankle does not appear to be bothering him."  Then this, via Newsday's Rod Boone: "Guess who's participating in team drills? Yup. That would be @plaxico" (related: the photo above is courtesy of Boone). Bart Hubbuch of the New York Post added: "Burress is participating in team drills, so he's ahead of the schedule Rex gave this morning."

Which is good news … unless, of course, Burress retweaks the ankle and ends up missing more time. But such concerns are true for every player on the roster. The only difference is that the Jets don't have much depth at wide receiver, and two of the top three WRs are in their mid-30s, and one of them last caught an NFL pass in 2008.

Barring any complications, Burress is still on track to play in the Jets' preseason opener against the Texans on August 15, though Ryan admits that he may not play much.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.
Posted on: August 4, 2011 7:52 pm
Edited on: August 5, 2011 12:31 pm
 

49ers ink Braylon Edwards to 1-year deal

Posted by Ryan Wilson

UPDATE (Friday, 8/5/11), via NFL Network's Jason La Canfora: "How far did Braylon Edwards fall? Deal with 49ers is 1yr, $1M, with no guarantees. Only reaches $3.5M max with 90 catches/Pro Bowl. Yikes."

Even before the lockout ended, Braylon Edwards said he'd be willing to take a hometown discount to return to the Jets. Instead, New York gave Santonio Holmes a shiny new five-year deal, signed just-released-from-prison Plaxico Burress and were on the verge of adding 37-year-old Derrick Mason.

Meanwhile, Edwards remained unsigned … until Thursday night. ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that Edwards signed a one-year, $3.5 million deal with the 49ers, and Braylon confirmed as much via Twitter: "It's official #Team17 we have moved to the bay. I'm a proud member of the San Francisco 49ers."

The 49ers have been busy in recent days acquiring mid-level talent at bargain-basement prices. In addition to Edwards, the Browns' former 2005 first-round pick, San Francisco has added Madieu Williams, Donte Whitner and Carlos Rogers (and are eager to dump 2010 second-rounder Taylor Mays).

This isn't necessarily a case of the 49ers trying to fill out the roster on the cheap (although fans may feel differently); if the Patriots had made these moves the "Yep, he's still a genius!" proclamations about Bill Belichick would soon follow. Of course, when you win at least 10 games every season since 2003 people tend to give you the benefit of the doubt. By comparison, the 49ers last had a winning record in 2002. 

(For what it's worth, Whitner sent a tweet to Edwards after learning they'd be teammates in San Francisco saying, "Bray I signed there today also...let's get a RING!")

Edwards will likely join Michael Crabtree in the starting lineup once Crabtree returns from a foot injury that could keep him sidelined throughout training camp. Prior to Edwards' signing, wideouts Josh Morgan and Ted Ginn had been running with the first team offense.

"He's really excited about the offense with Jim Harbaugh," Edwards' agent Ben Dogra said, according to the Associated Press. "He has a legitimate chance to play early and often. He's looking for a fresh start and felt good about his conversations with Coach Harbaugh and (general manager) Trent Baalke. That's what made the biggest difference for him. If he does well, hopefully there's an opportunity to prolong his career there."

The AP notes that with the addition of Edwards, the Niners now have the No. 1 (Alex Smith), No. 3 (Edwards) and No. 9 (Rogers) overall picks from the '05 draft.

As for what impact Edwards might make, we'll leave you with this: during Thursday's Eye on Football Podcast (it'll be uploaded shortly -- check back soon), we asked which wide receiver among Randy Moss, Burress or Edwards we would want on our team. Let's just say Edwards twice ranked third behind a 34-year-old fresh out of prison and another 34-year-old who just retired.

Also worth mentioning: the Jets gave Burress a one-year, $3 million deal, which isn't much different from what Edwards got from the 49ers.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.
Posted on: August 4, 2011 1:14 pm
 

Plaxico injures ankle; Mason in, Cotchery out?

Posted by Will Brinson

The Jets wide receiver corps is in serious flux as the head into 2011. With the exception of Santonio Holmes -- who also signed a five-year deal worth $50 million in the offseason, if you want to count that -- it's entirely likely that the group catching balls from Mark Sanchez will look entirely different.

For starters, there's the presence of Plaxico Burress who, by the by, is dealing with an injured ankle after "tweaking" it on Wednesday while "running around, trying to stay sharp." And it's not even the same ankle injury he's deal with in the past. So that should be concerning, right?

Well, coach Rex Ryan said, per our Jets Rapid Reporter Lisa Zimmerman, it's "nothing serious."

And, according to Burress, if this were a game week, he'd be able to practice and/or play.

In other news, the Jets appear on the verge of signing former Ravens wideout (and therefore "teammate" of Ryan's) Derrick Mason, who was cut by Baltimore during their Borders-like employee cuts last week.

To make room for Mason, it looks like Jerricho Cotchery will get the axe.

"If [Mason] passes the physical, he's on the team and I won't be," Cotchery said, per Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News. "It's time to move on."

So that means in a very short time, the Jets will have gone from Santonio Holmes/Braylon Edwards/Jerricho Cotchery/Brad Smith to Santonio Holmes/Plaxico Burress/Derrick Mason in terms of their wide-receiver depth chart.

If that happens, is that an upgrade?

No, I'm pretty sure it's not. In fact, there's a pretty good chance that it's a huge downgrade.

Cotchery was praised last year for his toughness, despite playing the slot and not getting any of the love that Edwards/Holmes did. And while Santonio might be one of the most explosive playmakers in the NFL, he's going to see a lot more coverage coming his way if the only two options on the field are both 30-plus, with one of them just a few months removed from a lengthy absence from football.

All that being said, you can't fault the Jets for some of the moves -- the Santonio signing is justified as long as he doesn't get suspended, Edwards is a troublemaker and not worth the money they might give him, and there's no way they could have paid Brad Smith what the Bills gave and justified it.

But giving Burress $3 million guaranteed and dumping a locker room leader and consistent on-field presence like Cotchery? That reeks of a mistake, even if Cotchery's dealing with offseason back surgery.

Fortunately for the wideout, he's probably got options. As I noted on Twitter, both the Panthers and Chargers stand out as great options for Cotchery. The Panthers could use veteran wide receiver help to draw coverage away from Steve Smith and mentor David Gettis and Brandon LaFell.

Cotchery was Philip Rivers' No.-1 target in college and the Chargers are currently looking for someone to line up opposite Vincent Jackson.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.
Posted on: July 31, 2011 10:01 am
 

Burress finds new home with NYJ

BurressPosted by Josh Katzowitz

He spent most of the day Saturday at Steelers camp, eating breakfast with coach Mike Tomlin and meeting with the front office, and by the end of it, free agent WR Plaxico Burress seemed to have a real shot at landing a spot with his old team.

Instead, as CBSSports.com’s Mike Freeman writes Sunday morning, Burress has a new destination in mind -- the New York Jets.

Freeman writes Burress has accepted a one-year deal with the Jets -- it’s worth, according to ESPN, $3.017 million -- even though he had flown west to meet with the 49ers.

Burress told the Newark Star Ledger on Saturday that he had been invited to visit the Jets but that he wasn’t sure he would make it. Instead, it appears he accepted the job without going for an interview.

“I know they have a good team and everybody knows Rex (Ryan), so …” Burress told the Star-Ledger on Saturday, before making his decision. “I think (Ryan) is great. He stands behind his players, I think his players have a lot of respect for him and they play hard for him. … He’s a great coach, great personality. He seems like he’s always upbeat.”

Burress -- fresh off his 19-month prison stint -- gives the Jets another big-name WR signing after they rewarded Santonio Holmes with a five-year, $50 million deal earlier this week. While it seems unlikely that Burress will be good enough to become a star again, he could fill Braylon Edwards’ old role as the No. 2 receiver.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.
Posted on: July 27, 2011 8:31 pm
Edited on: July 27, 2011 8:44 pm
 

Steve Breaston headed to Chiefs on five-year deal

Posted by Will Brinson

Wednesday was another day of bananas free agent rumors, signings and general insanity (reminder: follow everything in our updating Free Agency Experience and with our 2011 NFL Free Agency Tracker!), but there was a really fun little run on wide receivers late in the evening when Seattle went out and got themselves a downfield threat in Sidney Rice and Kansas City stepped out and grabbed a very good No. 2 in now-ex-Cardinal Steve Breaston.

Breaston, according to Sports Illustrated's Jim Trotter, is reuniting with old offensive coordinator Todd Haley with the Chiefs, and doing so with a five-year deal that guarantees him $9.5 million.

The last time Breaston and Haley were working together, 2008, the wideout piled up 1,006 yards and caught three touchdowns. (Since then, he's totaled 1,430 yards and four touchdowns in two seasons.)

Breaston's addition to the Chiefs roster gives them a non-rookie option (Jonathan Baldwin is there as well) to line up across from Dwayne Bowe, and should help equate to pretty strong offensive firepower from the defending AFC West champions.

Just for comparison's sake, Breaston's pretty good value too, when you consider that Rice netted $18.5 million guaranteed from Seattle, and the Jets coughed up $24 million guaranteed over five years for Santonio Holmes.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.
Posted on: July 27, 2011 10:47 am
Edited on: July 27, 2011 10:52 am
 

Santonio Holmes agrees to 5-year deal with Jets

Posted by Will Brinson

The wide-receiver dominos are beginning to fall -- Santonio Holmes agreed to terms on a five-year deal with the Jets, according to multiple reports.

Holmes was considered one of the priority for this offseason for the Jets, especially given that the Washington Redskins were rumored to be pursuing him as well.

[Related: 2011 NFL Free Agency Tracker]

However the Redskins made their own noise over the past two days in terms of wideouts, re-signing incumbent No. 1 Santana Moss and then inking Donte Stallworth on Wednesday.

Holmes was a critical addition to the Jets in 2010 and despite missing several games because of suspension, still posted big numbers.

The Jets decision to re-up on Holmes contract means it's unlikely that they'll re-sign Braylon Edwards. It also means that we could see a big run on free-agent wideouts in the near future as other free agents now see what the market Bears out and beginning heavier negotiations with other teams.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.
Posted on: July 13, 2011 11:58 pm
Edited on: July 14, 2011 12:21 am
 

Redskins will be busy in free agency

ShanahanPosted by Josh Katzowitz

The Redskins weren’t big-time players in free agency last offseason -- though they did make a pretty big-time trade for Donovan McNabb, which didn’t exactly, um, work out for anybody -- but NFL.com’s Jason LaCanfora writes that the previous attitude will change once the lockout ends.

Apparently, the primary objective for coach Mike Shanahan is to sign wide receiver Santonio Holmes, though you can be sure the Jets will put up a fight for him, while players like Ravens G Marshall Yanda, Packers DL Cullen Jenkins and Jets DL Kris Jenkins also are wanted by the Redskins.

LaCanfora writes that the team very well could land the Jenkins brothers, because neither will be as in demand as Holmes and Yanda.

If the Redskins were to sign Holmes, there’s a decent chance that WR Santana Moss -- who’s been in Washington for the past six seasons -- would not return (though he has stated that he wants to stay with the Redskins).

Not surprisingly, the team doesn’t plan to keep McNabb or DL/troublemaker Albert Haynesworth. Washington most likely will release McNabb once the lockout is over. But the Redskins still will want to find somebody who will take Haynesworth in a trade, in part because they don’t want Haynesworth to get his way and in part because they want to control where Haynesworth plays next year (ie. not anywhere in the NFC East).

But as LaCanfora writes, this will be a big offseason for Shanahan, because he “already has fallen under scrutiny following clashes with top players and acute struggles on both offense and defense during his first season in Washington.”

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

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com