Tag:Donald Lee
Posted on: November 9, 2011 7:17 pm
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Film Room: Bengals vs. Steelers preview

Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit



So let’s get this straight: the Steelers, at a respectable 6-3, are in third place of the AFC North? And it’s not the soft-scheduled Browns they’re chasing, but rather, the dysfunctional Bengals?

We’re going to find out over the next two months whether the Bengals are a Cinderella story or a farce. First, let’s establish some expectations by examining what the film has revealed over the past two months.



1. The ginger rookie & Jon Gruden’s brother
There’s a growing movement to anoint Andy Dalton the Offensive Rookie of the Year instead of Cam Newton. That’s a fair. Dalton’s team is 6-2, Newton’s is 2-6. But let’s keep our perspective and remember that Dalton is NOT the physical specimen that Newton is. He doesn’t have Newton’s arm, wheels or athletic improv skills. And he’s not being asked to do the same things as Newton.

That said, Dalton has been much closer to Newton’s athletic level than anyone would have ever guessed. He has shown the arm strength to make just about every throw that first-year offensive coordinator Jay Gruden has asked of him. He’s been poised when operating from a muddied pocket, and he’s very good at releasing the ball on the move.

Gruden has done a phenomenal job playing to Dalton’s strengths. The Bengals have a balanced attack that hinges on play-action and rollouts, two concepts that slice the field for a quarterback and help define his reads (see graphic). Gruden also incorporates a lot of three-and five-step drops – another simplification tactic. As a result, the Bengals offense has not only been nearly mistake-free but also calm and consistent.

A play-action rollout simplifies things for a quarterback by essentially slicing the field in half. In this sample (against a basic two-man coverage), a fake handoff compels the defense to flow left. The only defenders who go right are the ones responsible for the two receivers running their patterns to the right.

Quarterbacking 101 teaches you to never throw across your body or back across the field. Thus, after the quarterback rolls out, he only has to read the right side of the field, which consists of nothing but his two receivers and their defensive matchups. Often, the read is simplified even more by throwing to wherever the free safety is not giving help-coverage. If a play is there, it’s easy for the quarterback to see.

If nothing’s there, the quarterback has plenty of room to throw the ball away or scramble.

2. The “sure thing” receiver & other weapons
Wideout A.J. Green has been exactly what you’d expect a No. 4 overall pick to be in Year One. He’s averaging roughly five catches, 75 yards and a little more than half a touchdown per game. He’s clearly Dalton’s go-to guy, being targeted almost automatically when facing one-on-one coverage. Green has a wide catching radius thanks to uncommon body control and a great vertical leap. He’ll climb to the top echelon of receivers once he polishes his route running (he has a bad tendency to yield ground and inside positioning on downfield patterns).

The receiving weapons around Green have been solid. Jermaine Gresham can cause matchup problems in the flats. Veteran Donald Lee has filled in well in the wake of Gresham’s hamstring injury the past two weeks. Jerome Simpson has shown why the team did not discipline him harshly after police found Costco amounts of marijuana in his home this past September. To be blunt, Simpson’s quickness is too valuable to take off the field. He’s much more reliable than Andre Caldwell.

Surprisingly, the black-and-blue ground game that figured to define Cincy’s offense has been extremely average thus far (the statistics support this, as Cincy ranks 28th with 3.7 yards per carry). Cedric Benson is a methodical, patient runner who needs steady blocking in order to thrive. He has gotten that, but not at the level he did two years ago when he averaged nearly 100 yards per game.

Left tackle Andrew Whitworth, despite a poor outing last week, has played at a Pro Bowl level, and right tackle Andre Smith has flashed astonishing power a few times. But the interior line and ancillary blockers (such as a sixth offensive lineman/fullback/tight end) have been up-and-down.

3. Defensive Overview
The Bengals have a deep, active defensive line that’s extremely potent against the run but just so-so against the pass. Tackles Geno Atkins and Pat Sims both regularly win phone booth matchups in impressive fashion, and Domata Peko almost always punishes teams who try to block him one-on-one. If he’s not penetrating, he’s stalemating in a way that allows teammates to make plays.
 
None of these inside players are dominant pass-rushers, though. And there isn’t much firepower outside. End Michael Johnson uses his athleticism in myriad ways but is not a regular presence in the backfield. Intriguing second-year pro Carlos Dunlap replaces Robert Geathers on passing downs. Dunlap, with his unusual upright style and sinewy explosiveness, is certainly capable of reaching the quarterback, but he’s also capable of disappearing for long stretches.

An impotent pass-rush can put considerable pressure on a secondary. Leon Hall is an elite cover corner who does not command a lot of safety help over the top. Using him in isolated solo coverage is a double-edge sword that has stabbed opponents slightly more than it’s stabbed the Bengals this season. Safeties Reggie Nelson and Chris Crocker are hit-or-miss in coverage but capable of playing in space or the box. They give Mike Zimmer options.

Veteran Nate Clements has done a commendable job replacing Johnathan Joseph. Clements has been especially aggressive in short, underneath coverage. Helping in this facet is the fact that linebackers Thomas Howard and Manny Lawson both move well in the flats. It’s a little surprising that Lawson, who is replaced by Brandon Johnson in nickel (Johnson is the more comfortable of the two between the tackles), hasn’t been asked to put his hand in the dirt on passing downs.

4. Something to consider
This is a sharp, fundamentally sound defense that plays well as a unit in Mike Zimmer’s fairly aggressive scheme. But it’s also a defense that has yet to be tested. Look at the Bengals’ schedule thus far. They opened against Cleveland and Denver, two teams with major problems at wide receiver.

They faced San Francisco in Week 3, a good team but a very, very basic offense. They beat Buffalo in Week 4. Buffalo has a much-improved offense, but they’re not exactly Green Bay. Or even Dallas (never mind what the stats might say). After that it was Jacksonville, Indianapolis and Seattle, three teams with a total of zero proven quarterbacks. Last week the Bengals handled a Tennessee offense that’s respectable but nothing close to dynamic (especially through the air).

You couldn’t ask to face a more banal collection of offenses. This defense is fantastic against the run, but it remains to be seen how it will respond against a rhythmic, up-tempo passing attack.  

5. Matchup with the Steelers
Pittsburgh does have an elite, formidable offense. Cincinnati’s ho-hum pass-rush is not ideal for defending Ben Roethlisberger’s late-in-the-down magic.

The Bengals at least catch a break with wideout Emmanuel Sanders being out (arthroscopic knee surgery). Sanders would have given the Steelers aerial attack third source of speed, which Zimmer’s nickel unit may not be equipped to combat. Instead, it will be either Hines Ward or Jericho Cotchery threatening to catch six-yard slants out of the slot.

On the other side, the only defense comparable to Pittsburgh’s that this Cincy offense has faced is San Francisco’s in Week 3. The Niners were physical in taking away the receivers’ quick routes. The result was eight points and a 1/10 third down success rate for the Bengals. However, Dalton’s game has expanded since then. If need be, it’s possible, though not probable, that he’ll be able to put the team on his back and open things up for the first time this season.

Unless there continues to be slews of the fortuitous field position breaks that this Bengals offense has frequently enjoyed this season, he’ll need to.

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

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: February 2, 2011 1:59 am
Edited on: February 3, 2011 8:45 am
 

Green Bay Packers offensive roster breakdown

Posted by Will Brinson & Andy Benoit

Perhaps the most fascinating thing if you look (at a glance anyway) at Pittsburgh and Green Bay is that they've built their teams "properly." (AKA "the opposite of Dan Snyder.) They draft smart, and they sign smarter. At least that's what we're lead to believe, right?

Andy and I set out to check the roster breakdown for both teams. En route, we* managed to figure out not only where they're coming from, but what they'll do for their respective teams in the Super Bowl.

Name POS Acquired Scouting Report
Aaron Rodgers
QB
Drafted 24th overall, 1st Round 2005
He lacks is a weakness. One of the smartest, savviest and most athletic quarterbacks in the NFL. A Super Bowl ring might even legitimize the inevitable Is he better than Favre? discussion.
James Starks
RB
Drafted 193rd overall, 6th Round 2010
ixth-round rookie arrived on the scene just in time for Green Bay’s playoff push. Not a star, but the upright runner gives the backfield some of the burst it’s been missing.
Brandon Jackson
RB2
Drafted 63r overall, 2nd Round 2007
Doesn’t have the initial quickness or agility to be a quality NFL runner, though has at least found a niche as a pass-blocker and screen pass receiver on third downs.
John Kuhn
FB
UDFA 2005, PIT; FA 2007
Now synonymous with the term “folk hero” around Wisconsin. Has a knack for moving the chains.
Chad Clifton
LT
Drafted 44th overall, 2nd Round 2000
Superb technique and consistent pass protection earned him Pro Bowl honors for the second time in his 11-year career.
Daryn Colledge
LG
Drafted 47th overall, 2nd Round
Was finally kept at one position for 16 games, and responded with a career year. Not the strongest ox in the field, but dexterous at the second level. Packers would be wise to give him the long-term contract he wants.
Scott Wells
C
Drafted 251st overall, 7th Round
Reliable as they come. Will get jolted by bull-rushing nose tackles, but very rarely let’s that disrupt the entire play. Good mobility out in front.
Josh Sitton
RG
Drafted 135th overall, 4th Round
Arguably the best right guard in football this season. Outstanding brute force on contact, has little to no trouble reaching linebackers in the run game. What’s more, he’s at his best in pass protection.
Bryan Bulaga
RT
Drafted 23rd overall, 1st Round 2010
First-round rookie was drafted to eventually become the left tackle, but he might not have the quickness for that. Sound mechanics have made for a fairly smooth debut season.
T.J. Lang
OL
Drafted 109th overall, 4th Round 2009
Versatile player but limited athlete.
Greg Jennings
WR
Drafted 52rd overall, 2nd Round 2006
Known for his catch-and-run prowess, though his best asset is his innate feel for working back to the ball late in a play.
Donald Driver
WR
Drafted 213th overall, 7th Round 1999
The elder statesman saw his production dip in 2010 (thanks in part to a quad injury). But there’s still plenty of speed and quickness left in him.
James Jones
WR
Drafted 78th overall, 3rd Round 2007
When he’s not dropping balls he’s burning teams for long plays. Was actually Green Bay’s second most productive receiver this season.
Jordy Nelson
WR
Drafted 36th overall, 2nd Round 2007
The fact that he’s white and not constantly compared to Wes Welker or Brandon Stokley tells you what a viable field-stretching target he can be.
Andrew Quarless
TE
Drafted 154th overall, 5th Round 2010
Not Jermichael Finley, but then again, Antonio Gates isn’t even Jermichael Finley. The fifth-round rookie improved as the season wore on. Can catch what you throw him within 15 yards of the line of scrimmage.
Donald Lee
TE
Drafted 156th overall, 5th Round 2003
Scaled-back role because he’s not the blocker that Tom Crabtree is. Still athletic, though. Packers try to get him one or two touches a game, usually on a screen.

*Scouting smarts credited to Benoit. HTML and research credited to Brinson.
Posted on: November 28, 2010 11:30 am
Edited on: November 28, 2010 11:50 am
 

Week 12 NFC Inactives

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

First, here are the players who ARE active today: Vikings WR Sidney Rice, Falcons DT John Abraham, Falcons LB Sean Weatherspoon, Redskins WR Santana Moss, and Panthers RB Mike Goodson will start at RB instead of Jonathan Stewart.

And the players who are NOT:

Bernard Berrian, WR, Vikings: He's still dealing with a groin injury, and though he's tried to warm up the past couple weeks, he only manages to hurt himself a little worse.

Will Blackmon, CB, Giants: Replacing Blackmon will be CB Aaron Ross, and WR Darius Reynaud will take over the kick-returning duties.

Shawn Andrews, G, Giants: This isn't a surprise, considering Andrews spent a couple days in the hospital this week with a back problem. But hey, at least he's keeping his sense of humor.

Brian St. Pierre, QB, Panthers:
He goes from starting last week to being completely inactive today. He's not even the third emergency QB; that honor goes to Armanti Edwards.

Donald Lee, TE, Packers: This deactiviation wasn't on the radar at all. He hasn't done much offensively, but still, a big surprise. Andrew Quarless will start in his place.

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

Posted on: October 13, 2010 5:22 pm
 

Finley tweets that he's out for year

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

The Year Of The Take Over (also known as YOTTO, the acronym that’s blared on seemingly every one of his tweets) will have to wait until next season. That’s what Green Bay TE Jermichael Finley wrote on his Twitter page late this afternoon, seemingly confirming the news from earlier today that he’s done for the season after a knee injury last Sunday.

Originally, it was thought Finley would miss (maybe) a few weeks while recovering from meniscus surgery. But when doctors opened his knee, they found more extensive damage.

Earlier, we told you about the report that said he was telling his teammates he’s done for the year. Now, he’s telling everybody else.

So, we turn the page and figure out what this means for the Packers the rest of the season and for the opponents which have to gameplan against Green Bay. For that, we look to the National Football Post’s Matt Bowen who writes that Finley typically would have been the biggest matchup problem of any defense he’d face.

That’s because he was too big and physical for a cornerback or safety to cover but he was too fast for a linebacker to trail in pass coverage.

“Doesn’t matter if you use a nickel corner, a strong safety or a(n) outside linebacker who can run,” Bowen writes. “If I am calling the coverage for the defense, I don’t like that matchup at all.”

More from Bowen: “I try to compare it to what I experienced as a player. For example, the times I played on defenses that went up against Tony Gonzalez. I don’t want to say that panic broke out in the meeting room when we talked schemes and matchups, but there was a level of discomfort knowing that the TE was going to be a big factor. More to prepare for.”

In the absence of Finley and backup Donald Lee, who is out a few weeks with a chest sprain, Andrew Quarless will move into the starting spot. On Sunday vs. the Redskins, the fifth-round pick out of Penn State caught four passes for 58 yards.

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

Posted on: October 10, 2010 1:25 pm
Edited on: October 10, 2010 6:50 pm
 

Jermichael Finley leaves game with leg injury

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Packers TE Jermichael Finley injured his leg on Green Bay’s opening drive, and his return is questionable. After TE Donald Lee fumbled a catch from QB Aaron Rodgers and the Redskins recovered, Finley tried tackling Kareem Moore.

Apparently, he was injured trying to do so.

He was helped to the sideline, but he then took a cart from the sidelines to the locker room.

UPDATE (1:36 p.m.): TE Donald Lee is out for the game with a shoulder injury. That leaves us with this question: where is Mark Chmura when you need him?

UPDATE (6:49 p.m.):
According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, all of Finley's ligaments are intact. He has an MRI scheduled for Monday.

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