Tag:C.J. Spiller
Posted on: September 28, 2010 2:07 pm
 

Bills' Spiller, Hawks' Thomas Rookies of the Week

Each Tuesday I'll list two first year players -- one on offense, one from the defense -- as my official NFLDraftScout.com's Rookies of the Week.

Various rookies enjoyed strong performances in Week Three. On offense, it was tough to look past Sam Bradford's first career win (over the Redskins), the continued stellar play of Kansas City tight end Tony Moeaki (who I've listed as a finalist each of the first three weeks!) and Indianapolis receiver Blair White an undrafted free agent who was signed from the practice squad due to injuries and responded with three catches for 27 yards and his first NFL touchdown.

In the end, however, the versatility and explosiveness of Buffalo rookie C.J. Spiller won out.

Spiller, playing behind veterans Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson, didn't get many carries. In fact, he only rushed four times (for 29 yards) against the Patriots. The versatility he showed while starring at Clemson, however, was very much on display against New England, however, as he caught three passes for 10 yards and a touchdown and returned a kick 95 yards for another score. Spiller's ability to make impact plays were one of the reasons that the Bills were able to remain surprisingly competitive against New England, which won 38-30.

It wasn't a particularly strong week for rookies on the defensive side of the ball. Two defensive backs I had high hopes for entering the week -- Bucs' safety Cody Grimm and Broncos' cornerback Perrish Cox -- were torched for touchdowns. Sean Weatherspoon led the Falcons with seven tackles, but other highly touted 2010 linebackers Brandon Spikes (one tackle) and Rolando McClain (four tackles) weren't as statistically relevant nor able to make any big plays in close games.

Big plays, however, was exactly what Seattle free safety Earl Thomas made for the Seahawks, Sunday afternoon in a 27-20 win over the favored San Diego Chargers.

Thomas recorded six tackles, but it was his two interceptions over Pro Bowler Phillip Rivers that helped prove the difference in this game. Thomas' second interception came with only seconds left on the clock and the Chargers in position to tie the score. Thomas read the eyes of Rivers, cut in front of receiver Legedu Naanee and swiped the ball, putting a disappointing end (for San Diego, at least) to Rivers' career-high 455 yard passing day.

Posted on: August 30, 2010 11:25 am
 

2010 class looks worth the hype so far

We told you prior to the draft the 2010 crop of talent looked like one of the best in a long time . Once the underclassmen came on board, the class was being compared by some to the famous 1983 group that included Hall of Famers John Elway, Eric Dickerson, Bruce Mathews, Jim Kelly, Dan Marino and Darrell Green.

Comparing this class to the 1983 crew is, of course, vastly premature.
 
At least throughout the weeks of preseason, however, the class looks every bit as good as advertised.

Most years, by this time, we've already identified a half dozen or so highly drafted rookies who are struggling to acclimate to the pros. Sure, Colt McCoy isn't setting the world on fire, but we should have known to expect that a bit considering that he slipped into the 3rd round. Most of the players drafted in the first round are already establishing themselves as either immediate starters or quality backups... exactly what first-round picks are supposed to do.
Think of the top ten this year. Sam Bradford, Ndamukong Suh, Gerald McCoy, Trent Williams, Eric Berry, Russell Okung, Joe Haden, Rolando McClain, C.J. Spiller and even surprise top ten choice Tyson Alualu have shown flashes of brilliance for their respective teams, already.

The first round picks that have struggled have mostly been due to injuries. Tim Tebow, Demaryius Thomas, Derrick Morgan, etc. have reportedly looked good when practicing, but various injuries have, thus far, slowed their advancement.

Exciting middle, late round and even undrafted free agents have emerged already .

But don't just take my word for it. Check out the stats.

Rookie Anthony Dixon, San Francisco's 6th round pick and the No. 173 player taken overall leads the NFL with 220 rushing yards. 

Rookie Victor Cruz, an undrafted free agent for the Giants, leads the league with 251 receiving yards, as well as receiving touchdowns (4). The only player in the league with as many as three TDs? Another rookie. Patriots' tight end Rob Gronkowski, a second round pick taken No. 42 overall.

So, offensively the rookies are doing well. What about the defense, you ask?

Thanks for asking.

Rookie Pat Angerer, the Colts' second round pick and the No. 63 player taken overall leads the NFL with 24 tackles.

Defensive tackle Geno Atkins, a fourth round pick taken at No. 120, leads the league with 4.5 sacks.

I can hear the dispute already. Yeah, rookies see a lot of playing time, and therefore more opportunities to post numbers in the preseason.

True. But the facts remain the same.

This 2010 class of rookies has a chance to be special.

Posted on: August 24, 2010 3:36 pm
 

5 Most Disappointing Rookies So Far

There are lots of opinions out there as to which rookies will have an immediate impact this year. The popularity of fantasy football puts most of the attention on skill position players, but hardcore fans are just as interested in offensive linemen or safeties (or any other position) giving their favorite teams immediate and significant playing time.

I've featured several higher round picks like C.J. Spiller , Bryan Bulaga and Brandon Spikes already as players I fully expected to stand out as rookies and, at least in the preseason, have done so. 

I've also listed 10 players drafted in the 3rd round or later who have impressed as rookies.

The following five players make up the exact opposite story. They are five well-hyped prospects who have thus struggled to acclimate to the NFL.

QB Colt McCoy, Cleveland: McCoy was recently among a list of eight players characterized by Tony Grossi of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer as "need[ing] good showings in the last two games to make the roster." McCoy, in two games, has only completed 5 of 12 passes for 25 yards. He's thrown two interceptions and taken two sacks.

RB Toby Gerhart, Minnesota: The Vikings were hopeful that Gerhart would win the 3rd down role behind Adrian Peterson. Gerhart's inconsistent hands and route-running is a concern. So too is the lack of foot quickness he's shown so far. Gerhart can help this team as a short-yardage specialist, but that may be it.

WR Armanti Edwards, Carolina: Edwards has flashed for the Panthers, but he's shown just how tough it is to switch from college quarterback to NFL wide receiver. He's had issues at receiver and punt returner and may require a "redshirt" year.

WR Golden Tate, Seattle: The 2009 Biletnikof winner, Tate has been a star in training camp, but in the games -- where he's needed to run crisper routes -- he's struggled to demonstrate the same playmaking ability. Tate will be fine. He's too talented not to, but he has only three catches for 13 yards in two games so far.

RB Joe McKnight, New York Jets: I remember when McKnight signed with USC out of the state of Louisiana as one of the most hyped prep prospects in the country. He never showed the agility and balance of Reggie Bush -- the guy he was signed to replace -- at USC though, at times, he received similar hype. McKnight is a terrific athlete, but I haven't seen the toughness out of him so far to think the Jets can keep him on the field much this year.

Posted on: August 19, 2010 11:28 pm
 

With Jackson/Lynch hurt, Spiller stealing the job

Every year there are a few rookies whose immediate impacts in the NFL are utterly predictable.

This year, one of those players is Buffalo's C.J. Spiller.

I've taken a lot of heat for my pre-draft comparisons of Spiller to Titans star Chris Johnson. While I certainly won't compare Buffalo's offensive line to the one that Johnson ran behind last year for his 2,006 yards and 14 touchdowns, the similarities between the 5-11, 191 pound Johnson and the 5'11, 196 pound Spiller are just too damn striking for me to back down on them now.

Like Johnson, Spiller's game lies in his vision, lateral agility and pure, unadulterated speed. At less than 200 pounds, neither back possesses the power to consistently taken and discard NFL tacklers, but both players have such agility (and underrated leg drive) that they're often able to change the tackle dynamic at the last possible second. Rather than take on tacklers head on, they're able to give one final juke or acceleration to turn direct hits into arm tackles. And like Johnson, Spiller is plenty strong enough to run through arm tackles.

The undersized Johnson used this style to make it through last season unscathed despite a staggering 408 touches. I believe Spiller can do the same for Buffalo. He certainly showed off his underrated strength and determination in tonight's game against the defending AFC champion Colts.

Spiller's best play was his 31-yard touchdown scamper on just his second touch of the game. On the play, Spiller made three very solid NFL starters -- defensive end Robert Mathis, cornerback Jacob Lacey and free safety Antoine Bethea -- look silly in trying to tackle him. Spiller ran through an arm tackle by Mathis and appeared to be going straight up the middle for another few yards. His vision and balance took over, as he cut back outside, slipping by a lunging Lacey to streak down the sideline. Bethea is one of the better tackling free safeties in the league, but in attempting to cut off Spiller, he committed to the sideline, allowing Spiller to cut back inside this time for the touchdown.

For a team as weak in so many other positions as the Bills are, they are very talented and deep at running back. Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch have each proven themselves to be legitimate starting backs.

With each sidelined, however, don't be surprised when Spiller's big plays force the Bills to keep him on the field.

Prior to the 2008 draft, I had one veteran NFL scout characterize Johnson's running ability as "video game-like."

Check out Spiller's touchdown run against the Colts here . Now you tell me -- doesn't that look like a video game?

Posted on: August 2, 2010 9:23 pm
Edited on: August 3, 2010 11:59 am
 

Okung, not Suh/Spiller, most critical holdout

Despite lots of talk heading into the start of training camps about potential rookie holdouts, 29 of the league's 32 first round picks have signed contracts with their NFL teams in this, the first week of August.

The three remaining -- No. 2 overall pick Ndamukong Suh, No. 6 overall pick Russell Okung and No. 9 overall pick C.J. Spiller -- were the three most celebrated senior players at their respective positions in all of college football last season. Obviously, the Detroit Lions, Seattle Seahawks and Buffalo Bills, respectively, want their first round picks in camp as soon as possible. Each are expected to be immediate impact starters for their clubs.

Suh and Spiller are the two more celebrated players and no doubt will generate more of the media attention. The Lions and Suh's agents -- Roosevelt Barnes and Eugene Parker -- are thought to be relatively close to a deal which could put NFLDraftScout.com's top-rated 2010 prospect in Detroit by the end of the week.

Spiller, represented by agent Gary Wichard, however, could be in for a longer holdout. The reigning ACC Player of the Year seemed resigned to that possibility by indicating in a chat with fans at The Sporting News that he was going to "... let my agent handle all of that. We're not going to rush. We're going to make sure we cross our T's and dot our I's, however long the process takes. I just have to be patient. I can't get antsy about the situation. I've talked to a lot of veteran guys. My teammates aren't concerned about me holding out. They know that I want to be there, but at the end of the day it's a business. You have to do what's best for your family. It was good to get that support from veteran guys already — before negotiations have heated up."

It is Okung, however, whose holdout could prove to be the story.

Like Spiller, Okung's contract talks have appeared to hit a significant snag. ProFootballTalk.com reported yesterday that a deal between the Seahawks and Okung's agent Peter Schaeffer is "not even close." Seattle Times beat writer Danny O'Neil noted that Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll labeled his projected starting left tackle's absence as a "concern for him every day."

Suh and Spiller are readier to make an immediate impact. Suh is such a dominant player that I expect him to standout at defensive tackle as a rookie -- a truly rare feat. Spiller, due to his electricity and the relative "ease" of rookie running backs enjoying success in the NFL, projects as one of the league's surest highlight reel additions from the 2010 draft.

Okung, however, is being asked to play the position some believe is second only to quarterback in terms of difficulty adjusting from the NCAA to NFL. With the notable exceptions of Joe Thomas, Ryan Clady and Jake Long, few rookie left tackles have been able to come into the NFL and play well immediately.

I personally attended and scouted some of Okung's first practices as a member of the Seattle Seahawks during June OTAs. While Okung's length and strength were obvious, it was also clear that the former All-American still had a ways to go before understanding the intricacies of Alex Gibbs' vaunted zone-blocking scheme.

Okung is in charge of protecting the blindside of a soon-to-be 35-year old Matt Hasselbeck. If that wasn't enough pressure, he's being asked to replace Walter Jones -- the best player in team history.

The Seahawks certainly won't admit it publicly, but they know they need to get Okung in the fold. With Okung out, the Seahawks have former fourth-round pick Ray Willis, a natural right tackle, starting on the left side. When Willis was given Monday's practice off to rest, veteran guard Mansfield Wrotto, another former fourth round pick, was given the nod. Neither Willis nor Wrotto have demonstrated to this point the ability to consistently hold a starting position in the league. Both, due to marginal agility, are potential liabilities in Gibbs' system -- at any position -- much less the critical left tackle spot.

In a new offense with new coaches, the Seahawks could struggle to protect Matt Hasselbeck even with Okung starting. They're in a potentially dire situation without him.

It doesn't get any simpler for the Seahawks than this -- the more games Matt Hasselbeck starts for the Seahawks this season, the greater chance Pete Carroll has of improving on Seattle's 5-11 record last year. Until Okung signs, however, neither Hasselbeck remaining healthy nor the Seahawks improving in the win column seems likely.
Posted on: July 23, 2010 8:09 pm
 

Some notes after reviewing the ACC

Fellow Senior Analyst Chad Reuter and I have been busy the past month reviewing film of the 2010 senior prospects. Chad, as always, is ahead of me and has been steadily producing finished player profiles already in preparation for our 2010 NFL Draft Preview.

I've completed scouting reports for approximately 50 prospects; most of them coming from the SEC, ACC and Pac-10 Conferences.

I've been working on these reports while tracking the NCAA's sudden focus on agent-related benefits potentially being given to NCAA players. I recognize that the story is a huge one, but quite frankly, I wanted to finally present a blog post about actual football, and not just more off-field concerns.

Thus, here are some of my general thoughts based after film review of some of the ACC's biggest names amongst senior prospects.

  • North Carolina, as I've mentioned in previous articles and blog posts, is ridiculously athletic. It is easy to get caught up with DT Marvin Austin or OLB Bruce Carter's athleticism, but the steady play of CB Kendric Burney and OLB Quan Sturdivant jumps off film, as well. I was a little disappointed, honestly, in free safety Deunta Williams... He may be a ballhawk, but the impressive UNC defense hides the fact that he plays a pretty finesse-brand of football...
  • How does Clemson lose C.J. Spiller and Jacoby Ford and look just as athletic on film? This year though the eye-popping talent is on the defensive side of the ball. DT Jarvis Jenkins really flashes on tape, as does cornerback Marcus Gilchrist. All-American DeAndre McDaniel may have enjoyed as good a first half of football as I've seen a safety have in some time against Kentucky in the Music Bowl...
  • Forget the theory that because Virginia cornerback Ras-I Dowling is 6-2 he can't play cornerback in the NFL. Dowling is impressive on film; reminiscient of former Utah Ute and current Miami Dolphin Sean Smith...
  • Miami defensive lineman Allen Bailey is one of the more fascinating stories in all of college football. The Canes' next first round defender was born and raised in a tiny village (approx. 80 people) called Hogs Hammock on Sapelo Island, approximately 15 miles off the coast of Georgia. He'll be wined and dined by agents and, later, NFL teams as they decide where he fits best in their scheme, but that may not be the best way to get to know this player. The residents of Hogs Hammock fish, hunt and gather shellfish for their meals and are appropriately proud to do so. So much so that once he and his family served a college recruitor a tasty dish... of raccoon .
  • Much has been made of BC linebacker Mark Herzlich's amazing recovery from Ewing's Sarcoma -- as it should. The fact that he's recovery is glorious in itself... but, boy, can this kid play the game too. Here's hoping that Herzlich, North Carolina State linebacker Nate Irving (who missed the 2009 season after a nearly-fatal car accident) and Miami running back Graig Cooper (who tore up his knee in the Champs Sports Bowl) are able to come back and thrill us again this season.

I'll post my thoughts on the SEC and Pac-10 in the coming days.

Posted on: July 10, 2010 2:28 pm
 

C.J. Spiller to be split out at WR


The Buffalo Bills surprised many with their selection of Clemson running back C.J. Spiller in the first round considering their already talented backfield and the number of otherwise gaping holes on their roster.

One of those gaping holes is at wide receiver. Terrell Owens, who led the team in both catches (55) and receiving yards (829) is gone. As is Josh Reed. Lee Evans remains a quality wideout on one side, but the club has yet to see a return on their investment in Roscoe Parrish or James Hardy.

Insert Spiller.

The 5'11, 196 pound Spiller with 4.32 speed has the body control and quick feet necessary to gain separation and showcased reliable hands when used as a running back, wide receiver, punt returner and kick returner at Clemson.

Buffalo head coach Chan Gailey recognized Spiller's versatility recently.

"We can split him out and try to create a mismatch out wide," Gailey said. " ... It just creates a lot of matchup problems in our opinion with defenses. I know in talking to George Edwards, our defensive coordinator, he said every time you have a guy like that you better know where he is on the field, you better know what his assignment is and what he does from that spot. So we feel we have a chance to create some very good matchups in our favor with a guy like C.J." It isn't a surprise that Buffalo would use Spiller at receiver, necessarily. A similarly gifted athlete as Reggie Bush, many forecasted that he'd be used in a similar capacity as the New Orleans' Saints all-purpose dynamo.

Depending on how many times the creative Gailey moves Spiller wide, the former ACC Player of the Year could actually play a role more similar to the one Percy Harvin played with the Minnesota Vikings last year.

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