Tag:Cincinnati Bengals
Posted on: October 12, 2010 6:06 pm
 

Pair of 4th rounders earn Rookies of the Week

The first step in earning Rookie of the Week honors is, of course, to see the field. Because of their perceived greater talent and their signficantly greater salary, high round picks almost always get the better opportunities to start.

Being fourth round picks, however, certainly hasn't slowed down the progress of Tampa Bay Buccaneers' wideout Mike Williams or Tennessee Titans' cornerback Alterraun Verner .

I've highlighted Williams on numerous occasions, including back in training camp (August 1) when he was already turning heads .

I've long been a fan of Verner, one of the feistier defenders in the draft. I listed him among five players heading up the board as the draft approached (April 7) and was surprised, frankly, that he lasted until the early fourth round.

Unless you're living under a rock somewhere you likely already know that Williams has developed an early rapport with Bucs' young quarterback Josh Freeman. The 3-1 Bucs have featured Williams throughout the season and he entered the matchup against a tough Bengals' secondary leading the team in receptions (12), receiving yardage (139) and receiving touchdowns (2) over the team's first three games. An obvious focus of the Bengals defense, Williams was slowed early in the contest, but stepped up big late, leaping over veteran Johnathan Joseph to catch the tying touchdown with only 56 seconds left. Williams finished with seven grabs for 99 yards and the score.

Like Williams, Verner's solid play contributed to an upset victory. Matched up against a variety of talented receivers and facing Pro Bowl quarterback Tony Romo didn't seem to faze Verner, as he registered eight tackles and stepped in front of a pass intended for tight end Martellus Bennett and tipped at the line of scrimmage by Dave Ball to make the first interception of his NFL career. Verner returned the ball to the one-yard line, where superstar Chris Johnson quickly gave the Titans a touchdown. Playing opposite an established talent like Cortland Finnegan, Verner's tenacious play has earned raves from coaches and scouts throughout the league.

It is interesting to note how closely Williams and Verner went in the fourth round. Williams was the third pick of the round and 101st pick, overall. Verner was selected only three picks later.

** One final note... I considered listing Arizona quarterback Max Hall as my Offensive Rookie of the Week. He certainly made some gutsy plays in the win over the defending Super Bowl champs, but had the Cardinals defense not saved the day by scoring nearly as many points (14) as they allowed to the Saints (20), the interception and two fumbles lost by Hall would be getting more attention than they currently are. Hall was good enough to win -- and that, in itself, is verrry impressive, but all of the comparison between he and Kurt Warner is hyperbole, in my opinion. 
Posted on: October 11, 2010 8:00 pm
 

LSU DT Drake Nevis earns Prospect of the Week

LSU defensive tackle Drake Nevis was a one-man wrecking crew Saturday night against the Florida Gators.

Though his teammate, senior wide receiver Terrance Toliver has earned much of the attention for his standout performance (six catches for 111 yards and two TDs, including the game-winner with six seconds left), Nevis was arguably the bigger thorn in the side for the Gators. Certainly considering the fact that the Gators feature one of the SEC's best and most experienced offensive lines, Nevis' ability to dominate the action early and force Florida to alter their game plan deserves special acknowledgement.

Nevis, moved all over the defensive line, finished with seven tackles (all solos), including 4.5 tackles for loss, a sack and a forced fumble. As I explain in the profile below, he very nearly was credited with a safety in the opening moments of the game, as well.

Player of the Week, along with The Diamond in the Rough (small school prospect), used to be features of Draft Slant . This PDF file can be purchased as an individual issue or one can purchase the entire year (16 issues).

We thought that the Player of the Week and Diamond in the Rough deserved more acknowledgement, however, and thus, every Monday, I'll post my picks for each award.

Player of the Week - October 9, 2010
DT Drake Nevis 6-1 / 285 / 5.04 --
opponent: Florida

Scouts who had never seen Nevis play were given a treat by the LSU defensive tackle early in the Florida contest. He showed exactly what he is and is not in the Gators first offensive possession. When he times the snap count right, Nevis has explosive burst through the hole. An experienced and talented Gator offensive line, (including highly touted OL Mike Pouncey), was unable to cope with Nevis speed on back to back plays during the Gators second and third plays from scrimmage. With the Gators backed up at their own endzone, Nevis exploded through, nearly sacking QB John Brantley for a safety and forced fumble. Nevis left hand inadvertently caught Brandtley s face mask, however, and so the Gators caught a break. The next play, Nevis again broke through the line, shrugged off a block from LT Marcus Gilbert and stopped RB Emmanuel Moody for a loss of one. The next play, however, showed why scouts can t fall in love with Nevis. Late off the snap and thus caught too high by 6-5 OG Carl Johnson, Nevis was popped, lifted and pounded into the turf for a classic pancake block. Again late off the snap on the next play, Nevis attempts a spin move against Johnson and is stoned. Nevis burst gave the Gators problems all night long, helping him accumulate an eye-popping seven tackles, including 4.5 for loss, a sack and the forced fumble. Nevis burst inside reminds me of former Georgia Bulldog Geno Atkins who has flashed as a rookie 4th round pick for the Bengals this year. Nevis lined up directly on the nose (0-technique), as well as in the gaps and man-up on the guards. He doesn t have the power to hold up consistently, but his quickness off the snap makes him an nice option as a gap-splitting under-tackle for the 4-3 alignment.

Posted on: October 11, 2010 7:03 pm
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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 17, 2010 12:45 pm
 

Ten Surprising Rookies So Far (3rd Rd-UFA)

During a handful of radio spots over the past few days I've been asked to list rookies that have stood out to me in film review so far in the preseason.

Of course, I start out with some of the obvious choices. Many of the first and second round picks are already proving that the 2010 draft class was every bit as strong as we said it was .  

Rather than re-state the obvious -- that Ndamukong Suh guy is pretty good -- I thought I'd highlight ten players selected in the third round or later that I and, more importantly, league sources feel have been impressive thus far in the preseason.

This isn't meant to be an exhaustive list. There are certainly other players who have stood out, as well. Feel free to leave comments with others that have impressed you and I'll keep my eye on them.

Players are listed in the order they were selected, not necessarily by who has impressed the most.

  1. S Morgan Burnett, Packers (3rd round, 71st overall): Burnett struggled a bit in Green Bay's preseason opener against Cleveland, but otherwise has been one of the rookies generating the most buzz.  Green Bay loves his range, but wants to see him be more consistent in his gap responsibilities. 
  2. WR Jordan Shipley, Bengals (3rd round, 84th overall): Anyone who focused on Shipley while at Texas won't be at all surprised that he's impressed so far with the Bengals. Shipley's toughness, reliable route-running and soft hands have made him the unsung star of a receiving corps dominated by the personalities of Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens.
  3. TE Tony Moeaki, Chiefs (3rd round, 93rd overall): Moeaki has been one of the real stars of training camp for the Chiefs, displaying the athleticism and soft hands that helped him be a standout at Iowa. If he can remain on the field (durability was an issue in college), he could give the Chiefs the best option down the middle they've had since allowing Tony Gonzalez to leave for Atlanta. 
  4. WR Mike Williams, Buccaneers (4th round, 101st overall): I've already highlighted Williams in a previous blog post as having a terrific camp. He showed off his athleticism in the preseason opener, making bigger plays against Miami than Brandon Marshall was able to do against the Bucs. If Williams can keep his focus, he could end up as one of the biggest steals of the 2010 draft.
  5. CB Walter Thurmond, Seahawks (4th round, 111th overall): Thurmond entered his senior year as a potential Top 50 prospect, but a horrific knee injury sidelined him early. It was surprising to see a team take him as early as Seattle did simply because the belief was that Thurmond was at least a year away from contributing. Instead, he saw extensive time in Seattle's opening game against the Titans at cornerback and punt returner. Watch out for Thurmond. He was among the more consistent of Oregon'd DBs in recent years -- quite a statement considering that the other three starters (Patrick Chung, T.J. Ward, Jarius Byrd) were all second round picks.
  6. DT Geno Atkins, Bengals (4th round, 120th overall): I've touted Atkins' explosive burst off the snap before and it is showing up for the Bengals. Atkins is known for flashing and then disappearing for long stretches. If he can play with consistency, he could emerge as Cincinnati's starting three-technique. In two games he has 3.5 sacks.
  7. FB John Conner, Jets (5th round, 139th overall): Due to his Terminator nickname, the fact that Rex Ryan used "his" draft pick on him and the exposure of Hard Knocks and Monday Night Football, Conner is finally getting the hype his game deserves. It's been awhile since we've seen a fullback this explosive a blocker and capable as a runner/receiver come into the NFL.
  8. NG Cam Thomas, Chargers (5th round, 146th overall): The Chargers made a calculated gamble releasing veteran Jamal Williams, but in Thomas they appear to have the big body necessarily in filling their former Pro Bowler's large shoes. Thomas has impressed head coach Norv Turner and appears well on his way towards seeing extensive playing time as a rookie this season.
  9. DE Greg Hardy, Panthers (6th round, 175th overall): Like the Bucs' Williams, I've already highlighted Hardy's play because, quite frankly, he's been among the most impressive rookies I've seen so far this preseason. With Julius Peppers gone, few are expecting Carolina to have any success rushing the passer this year. I think the combination of Hardy and 2009 second round pick Everette Brown could surprise.
  10. WR Victor Cruz, Giants (undrafted free agent): I considered several undrafted free agents to list here, including Philadelpia offensive tackle Austin Howard, Detroit safety Randy Phillips and Houston DT Malcolm Sheppard, among others), but Cruz's dominating performance against the Jets on Monday Night was too much to ignore. I blogged about his 6 catch, 145 yard, 3 TD performance last night, but all indications are that his efforts have been just as good throughout OTAs and training camp. 


Posted on: August 16, 2010 12:17 pm
 

Tebow's first game as predictable as it comes

There are times when I really do try to not mention a certain quarterback wearing the No. 15.

In explaining the hoopla to a few family members who don't care about football I realized that unless Tim Tebow truly revolutionizes the game, he'll never be able to match his hype. John Elway, who was the best all-around quarterback I've ever seen, couldn't live up to the expectations some are placing on Tebow.

And let's be clear, Tim Tebow is no John Elway.

Like many of you, I've intently watched Tebow for the past four years light up NCAA defenses with a brand of leadership, toughness, power running and passing just consistent enough to keep opponents in check.

I'm kicking myself this morning for not writing a Tebow Preview post yesterday prior to Denver's preseason game at Cincinnati.

Sure, it is easy to sound like a know-it-all after the fact, but was Tebow's up and down premiere really that surprising?

You tell me -- what wasn't predictable about last night?

Consider that:

  • One could see Tebow's nervous energy on the Denver sideline as the game went on and he knew his time was coming.
  • Once on the field, Tebow was loudly booed (amidst some cheers) by the Ohio crowd. Surprise, surprise that Buckeye and Bearcat fans remembered Tebow's impact in the 2007 BCS Championship Game (41-14) and 2010 Sugar Bowl (51-24) throttlings, respectively, of their beloved teams. 
  • Tebow's best throw was a 40-yard bomb to wideout Matt Willis. Though the ball wasn't perfectly placed -- it would have hit Willis in the helmet had it not bounced off of both hands first -- it was thrown with enough trajectory and speed to allow the receiver to catch and run away from the cornerback. It should have been a 60 yard touchdown. Tebow's deep ball prowess was among his most impressive traits I noticed when scouting him during his Pro Day workout and the Senior Bowl .
  • Once pressured, Tebow reverted back to the long wind-up delivery that we'd seen throughout his four years at Florida. By dropping the ball to his hip like he'd done hundreds of times with the Gators, Tebow had the ball knocked free when hit by a Cincinnati blitz. Bengal pass rusher Frostee Rucker picked up the ball and ran for an apparent touchdown. Replay ruled that Tebow's arm was going forward and the defensive touchdown was wiped away, but this was precisely what scouts were concerned about . Even when the ball wasn't knocked away during his wind-up, Bengal pass defenders still got a half-step advantage in breaking to the ball. Again, for all of the talk about Tebow's smoother throwing motion following the season, did anyone really believe the tutoring in a controlled situation would take over for his instincts and muscle memory once back in an actual game?
  • Finally, was anyone surprised that Tebow was able to score on the game's final play? Trailing 33-17, the last timed play of the game wasn't going to have any bearing on the final outcome. The players giving their all on this play would be the ones whose jobs were on the line or simply the most competitive on the field. Tebow's competitive fire is as impressive as any player I've ever scouted and he's a load as a runner (as his SEC-record 57 rushing touchdowns can attest) so it was quite predictable to see him take off from the 7-yard line and bowl over a defender (Bengals safety Kyries Hebert) on his way to the endzone. Even Cincinnati quarterback Carson Palmer wasn't surprised with the outcome. As he told reporters following the game, "It was one of those things where you knew he was going to score on the last play of the game, either run it in or throw it in there," Palmer said. "He's such a competitor. I've been a big fan of his ever since he started at Florida. He's one of the greatest college football players."
Now, the day after the game, sports analysts everywhere are micro-analyzing Tebow's performance. Some are surprised he didn't fall on his face, completely. Others, buying into Tebow-mania, are surely certain that his last-play touchdown forecasts immediate NFL success.

And I guess that mixed reaction is the most predictable of all.
Posted on: April 23, 2010 2:50 pm
 

AFC North First Round Comments

Following the conclusion of the draft, I'll be providing grades for all 32 teams. I've begun the process of writing these grades up based on what transpired in the first round yesterday. I'll be posting comments for each team, by their division, in the blog over the next few hours.

Here is how I saw the action from the AFC North perspective:

Baltimore Ravens:
There will be players drafted in the middle rounds who surprise in the NFL and will one day be called “steals,” but the first theft of the 2010 draft came by the Baltimore Ravens who dropped out of the first round to allow Denver to pick Tim Tebow and in doing so, added second, third and fourth picks in a spectacularly deep draft. 

Cincinnati Bengals:
The Bengals invested a third round pick last April in tight end Chase Coffman but were disappointed with his inability to make any kind of impact as a rookie. Jermaine Gresham gives the club a big play threat down the seam that Carson Palmer can exploit when defenses attempt to load up in the box to stop the Bengals’ powerful running game.


Cleveland Browns:
The Browns got the top overall cornerback in the draft in Joe Haden, giving the team a talented secondary to compete against the underrated passing games of the AFC North division. Haden’s selection could push veteran cornerback Sheldon Brown to free safety or give the team one of the more athletic “starting” three corners in the AFC.


Pittsburgh Steelers:
To compete against the ultra physical defenses of the AFC North the Steelers had to get stouter in the middle of their offensive line and they did so, taking Florida’s Maurkice Pouncey. The reigning Rimington Award winner as the nation’s best center, Pouncey can step in as an immediate upgrade over Justin Hartwig or could be slid outside to guard.

Posted on: April 23, 2010 2:33 pm
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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