Tag:Marcus McNeil
Posted on: October 19, 2011 10:12 am
 

Film Room: Jets vs. Chargers preview

Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit



For the first time in the Norv Turner era, the San Diego Chargers enter their sixth game of the season with a record other than 2-3. Now that the perennial power of the AFC West is finally living up to high expectations out of the gate, no one seems interested in acknowledging them.

That’s about to change. The Chargers’ matchup against the Jets is the only marquee game on an otherwise shabby Week 7 schedule. Below is a breakdown of that game and this very good San Diego team.

(Ed. Note: But first, our film-room edition of the Pick-Six Podcast. Subscribe via iTunes here.)


1. Norv Turner’s offense
Slow starts and a seemingly lax, bland personality have made Turner ripe for criticism over the years. But what no honest critic can deny is Turner has always been ahead of the offensive strategizing curve, particularly recently, as the Chargers have finished in the top five in scoring each year since he arrived.

Turner’s offense is unique. While the rest of the NFL is spreading out, the Chargers operate predominantly out of base personnel (two backs, two receivers and a tight end). Turner believes that you don’t need to align horizontally in order to attack vertically. The Chargers refer frequently to seven-step drops and dictate one-on-one matchups for their gazelle-like receivers by designing routes that go outside the numbers.

This tactic is fairly easy when Antonio Gates is in the lineup, as safeties are compelled to focus on him in the middle. When Gates is sidelined, as he’s been since Week 3, the receivers’ routes are inclined to develop more slowly, which forces the offensive line to elevate its play (blocking on a seven-step drop is not easy). San Diego’s front five has answered that challenge this season.

One-on-one matchups outside can also be commanded simply by lining up in base formations. With a line as powerful on the ground as San Diego’s, defenses are compelled to have a safety eye the running back, if not walk all the way down into the box. Otherwise, the Chargers can run with ease against a seven-man front. A preoccupied safety can’t offer viable help in coverage outside.

Long developing routes not only generate big plays (San Diego frequently finishes near the top of the league in 20-plus-yard passes), they also stretch a defense, which creates space for dumpoff passes to targets coming out of the backfield. Fullback Mike Tolbert (a surprisingly skilled receiver) and running back Ryan Mathews have combined for 48 catches this season, averaging over 10 yards per pop.

2. The personnel and matchups
The Jets don’t mind the Chargers creating one-on-one matchups for their receivers. They’re used to that, in fact, given the way Darrelle Revis shadows the opposing team’s top wideout with no safety help. Expect Revis to blanket Vincent Jackson, and expect Vincent Jackson to see few balls come his way (Revis is coming off a two-interception performance, and the Chargers had no problem going away from Jackson when he was guarded by Champ Bailey two weeks ago).

This leaves Antonio Cromartie-Malcolm Floyd as the key matchup. Cromartie is built to defend downfield routes; he’s a long-striding runner who likes to track the ball in the air, rather than rely on physical jams and proper press technique. If he can handle Floyd one-on-one, the Jets are in business. Most likely, though, he’ll need some help.

With two corners who, for the most part, can match up to San Diego’s receivers, it will be interesting to see how New York defends the running backs underneath. The Jets indiscriminately integrate their linebackers and safeties into blitzes and zone exchanges. Rex Ryan will likely utilize those blitzes and zone exchanges given that even if the Jets can’t sack Philip Rivers, they can at least disrupt and discourage his seven-step drops. Thus, Jim Leonhard, Eric Smith, Bart Scott and David Harris could all take turns blitzing the passer and spying the backs.

3. Philip Rivers
Often, systems are only as good as the quarterback running them. The Chargers have one of the game’s best in Rivers. He is a perfect fit for Turner’s offense. The seven-step drops require a strong arm and the toughness to make throws with defenders bearing down on him.

Rivers has this – all in one package, in fact.

Thanks to his shot-put throwing motion, he does not need much room in order to throw. He can push the ball downfield without having to fully step forward or, obviously, wind up. Mentally, his focus when a hit’s on the horizon is as impressive as anyone’s in the game.

4. The run game
Because Turner’s offense is built largely around manipulating the strong safety, it, more than most, thrives on run-pass balance. That’s why the Chargers traded up last season to draft Ryan Mathews in the first-round. After a disappointing, injury-filled rookie campaign, the first-rounder from Fresno State has started to blossom in recent weeks. Mathews has very fluid lateral agility, which makes him potent in space. The issue has been whether he can create his own space. Last season, he struggled to press the hole and break the line of scrimmage at full speed. That’s a sign of a runner thinking too much.

Mathews has corrected this. He seems to be reading defenses before the snap more than after the snap. As a result, he’s rushed for 98, 81 and 125 yards his last three outings. It helps that he plays with solid lead-blockers in Mike Tolbert and Jacob Hester, a mobile interior line, a capable road-grader like Marcus McNeil and arguably the game’s best left guard, Kris Dielman.

5. Other side of the ball
San Diego’s defense has been every bit as effective as the offense this season. Coordinator Greg Manusky has a very straightforward approach, often basing his tactics on the down and distance. With his corners playing so well and with this being a cohesive veteran unit, Manusky does not have to get cute in his approach.

Aside from the willowy Shaun Phillips, the Chargers don’t have a dominant pass-rusher, though Larry English and Antwan Barnes have both flashed occasionally this season. Still, Manusky is willing to blitz on third down, usually with a traditional inside linebacker who can give the Chargers a fifth pass-rusher to dictate that the speed guys face one-on-one matchups outside. The Jets’ floundering pass attack shouldn’t pose too much of a problem for the Bolts.

What might be a problem is New York’s run game. True, it has been stagnant this season. It’s starting to look like Shonn Greene’s ’09 postseason coming out party will also be the pinnacle of his career. But we’ve seen the Jets succeed before.

Physically, they have the potential to pound the rock, and the Chargers’ run defense stumbled against Willis McGahee and the Broncos two weeks ago. Starting ends Jacques Cesaire and Luis Castillo are both on the mend, and nose tackle Antonio Garay, while a quality player, has not stepped up accordingly. Hard to picture that changing against Nick Mangold.

So who will win? Check our NFL expert picks for all Week 7 games

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: September 13, 2010 6:54 pm
Edited on: September 13, 2010 7:08 pm
 

Chiefs v. Chargers: Monday Night Football Preview

Posted by Will Brinson



First things first -- I recorded a podcast preview for tonight's second game with Joel Thorman of ArrowheadPride.com and Kansas City SB Nation . Give it a listen now and go and Subscribe via iTunes to the award-winning* CBS Sports Football Podcast.

If you can't view the podcast, click here to download .

Now, onto what we'll be watching for in the second matchup:

1. Left Tackle Loss
Two of the biggest weapons for San Diego -- Vincent Jackson and Marcus McNeill -- will be absent Monday night. The latter is far more concerning, because the Bolts can't just plug-and-play a Pro Bowl offensive lineman, though. If Philip Rivers' blindside gets, um, blindsided against the Chiefs, it's only going to be tougher for San Diego to maintain their stance that McNeill should sign his (now lowered) tender.

2. Jack of All Trades
Dexter McCluster is primed for a big year. I'd be willing to bet not-so-hard-earned money on it. Even if he doesn't catch a ton of passes or rush the ball like crazy or lead the league in return yards, he'll do enough of everything in route to sparking the Chiefs' offense to draw rave reviews. That needs to start tonight, though.

3. Franchising
Matt Cassel had a monster year for the Patriots when Tom Brady went down, and then he got straight paid. Unfortunately, he hasn't done much to justify that pay day since -- a lot of people, myself included, think Charle Weis joining Cassel in KC can result in a big year. He gets to start justifying his contract tonight.

4. D-Line Redemption
The Chiefs (still) hope that Tyson Jackson and Glenn Dorsey can become the anchors of a dominant defensive line. Jackson's time obviously isn't running as short as Dorsey's, but they'd still like to see a significant uptick in production for their 2009 investment. If both guys can produce, the Chiefs can really be dangerous.

5. Replacing LT
Ryan Mathews has some serious hype heading into 2010 -- there's no question that he can succeed at this level, but can he adequately replace LaDainian Tomlinson? No, not the 2009 LdT -- the one who became a Hall of Famer in San Diego.

*My mother said it was awesome.
Posted on: July 24, 2010 12:39 pm
 

A few of the many who will hold out

How about some holdout news (though I’m sure we’ll get a ton of it in the next few weeks to follow)?

Don’t expect to see Chargers LT Marcus McNeil and WR Vincent Jackson anytime soon. According to the San Diego Union-Tribune’s Kevin Acee , both players are committed to seeing their holdouts all the way through. Neither apparently has spoken with San Diego’s front office since the middle of last month.

Though this news has gone under the radar – especially as it relates to McNeil and Jackson – LB Shawne Merriman also isn’t happy with his contract situation and might not show up on time.

From the story:

Having stayed away from Chargers Park most of the offseason and having not participated in minicamp or coaching sessions, Merriman has declined to comment on when he will report. However, sources confirmed the sides are in the preliminary stages of discussing the circumstances and timing of Merriman signing his $3.269-million tender and reporting to camp.

Still, it must be pointed out there has been talk about one or all three players sitting out the entire season.

Everyone has debated for months and will continue for months to argue the merits of each side doing what it is doing.

The bottom line: The team has several players whose contracts are up in 2010, and it has prioritized how it will work down the list. (Everyone needs to get in line behind Antonio Gates.) Add an uncertain labor climate, and the Chargers are not doing long-term deals at present.

Also, GM A.J. Smith doesn’t plan to reinstate money he trimmed from Jackson’s and McNeill’s tenders when they did not sign by June 15.


Anyway, check out the rest of the story. Acee has some interesting scenarios that could play out in the next few weeks.

Meanwhile, in Eagles news, ESPN.com reports first-round pick defensive end Brandon Graham probably won’t be in attendance when Philadelphia opens training camp Monday. Apparently, early conversations have begun between Graham and the Eagles, but it sounds like the two sides aren’t close to an agreement.

--Josh Katzowitz

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed .
Posted on: July 22, 2010 10:18 pm
 

Norv Turner goes on the offensive

San Diego coach Norv Turner made a bold statement (Getty). San Diego coach Norv Turner must feel the pressure. He must know that his job only can be secure if San Diego, for the first time since 1994, advances to the Super Bowl. So, the perpetual hot-seated coach must figure: what the hell, I’ll go ahead and raise expectations.

At a lunch today, Turner told the local media, including the San Diego Union-Tribune , that "this has a chance to be the best team since I've been here."

Ah, nothing like giving your end-of-the-season critics massive amounts of ammunition if the Chargers, once again, have a January meltdown.

Plus, they’ll get little immediate help from LT Marcus McNeil and top WR Vincent Jackson – both could hold out for much of the season, and Jackson will have to serve a three-game suspension at the very least.

From Kevin Acee’s story:

Turner said he believes his coaching staff will be better for staying entirely intact for the first time since his arrival in 2007, that "we'll get back to being an elite running team" and the Chargers will have a more aggressive defense.

And because we seemingly cannot discuss Marcus McNeill and Vincent Jackson enough, Turner was asked about them (a lot) and made a case for the Chargers being prepared to absorb the blows of their expected absences.

Turner has made a point for months to acknowledge the Chargers would miss McNeill and Jackson if they do sit out (they will). He did so again yesterday but played up, especially, the readiness of young receivers Legedu Naanee and Buster Davis.


--Josh Katzowitz

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




Posted on: June 23, 2010 2:44 pm
 

Would the Chargers Trade Marcus McNeil?

Kevin Acee Tweeted that the Chargers recently said No to a trade inquiry about Vincent Jackson. There has been speculation that the 6’5” receiver could be dealt to the Seahawks (though it’s mere speculation).

But what about Jackson’s fellow RFA holdout, left tackle Marcus McNeil? When he’s playing with sound technique and awareness, the fifth-year pro is one of the most demonstrative left tackles in the game. McNeil has the resounding strength to be a mauling run-blocker and the athleticism to neutralize defensive ends on an island in pass protection. Of course, he’s been inconsistent in recent years, perhaps in part because of injuries.

A while back, there were faint whispers that McNeil could be dealt to the Colts. Don’t expect Colts president Bill Polian to pull that trigger. (And don’t expect Charger GM A.J. Smith to do that either, considering Indy is in San Diego’s path to a Super Bowl.)

Let’s run through some possible destinations for McNeil. The Redskins just traded for Jammal Brown and are out of the offensive tackle market. The Cowboys might be nervous about Doug Free replacing Flozell Adams, but they’d likely give newcomer Alex Barron a look before making any trade. The Bears and Lions both need help at tackle (so do the Vikings, though they’d never admit it considering how much money they’ve paid Bryant McKinnie). The Bears are probably leery about trading more high-round draft picks at this point; the Lions have no reason not to take McNeil for anything less than a second-rounder.

In the AFC, the only team needing serious help at offensive tackle that A.J. Smith would be willing to trade with is Buffalo. Currently, the Bills are banking on under-qualified second-year pro Demetrius Bell to rebound from a serious knee injury and man the left side.

This all just speculation, of course. Smith is willing to play hardball and would not be against trading a left tackle in his prime. But he’s probably not against holding onto McNeil and waiting this out. The Chargers claim they’re happy with McNeil’s replacement, veteran Tra Thomas, but the 35-year-old was clearly broken down as a Jaguar last season. That said, Philip Rivers is one of the few quarterbacks in the league who is good enough to single-handedly compensate for offensive line woes.

--Andy Benoit

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter.

Category: NFL
Posted on: June 15, 2010 1:03 pm
 

Drama in San Diego

In a move that comes as no surprise, Charger stars Marcus McNeil and Vincent Jackson did not sign their restricted free agent tenders yesterday, meaning both men are willing to leave $2.5 million on the table to stage their protest against not having long-term contracts. Expect lengthy holdouts.

Chargers GM A.J. Smith is always willing to play hardball. He’s already brought in a temporary replacement for both players in lumbering left tackle Tra Thomas and fundamentally-sound possession receiver Josh Reed. Neither Thomas nor Reed is a great fit in San Diego’s offense, but they’re both able bodies who can hold down the fort in training camp.

As for San Diego’s third RFA, Shawne Merriman, Chargers Rapid Reporter Boyce Garrison emailed this to us:

Merriman hasn't signed his one-year tender, but unlike Jackson and McNeill, his offer can't be reduced that much, since he played for over $3 million last year. He'll play for 110 percent of that.

Merriman likely will come to camp at some point. He wants a long-term deal and the only way he will get it is to play this season and prove the last two injury-filled years are over. He will be an unrestricted FA after this season.

--Andy Benoit

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl

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