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Tag:Nate Washington
Posted on: December 19, 2011 2:59 pm
 

Adrian Peterson thinks Saints D was playing dirty

A week after a Tennessee player accused New Orleans' D of playing dirty, Peterson does the same. (US PRESSWIRE)

By Ryan Wilson

After missing three games with a high-ankle sprain, Vikings running back Adrian Peterson returned to the lineup Sunday against the Saints to carry the ball 10 times for 60 yards. But following Minnesota's 42-20 loss, Peterson suggested that New Orleans cornerback Jabari Greer intentionally twisted his ankle one play before he ripped off a game-high 39-yard run.

"I came into the game kind of expecting that coming back from a high ankle sprain," Peterson said, according to the Times-Picayune. "Guys are going to try to take their shots when we're on the pile and try to twist it up and things like that.  "I felt like it kind of got overboard. I got up and kind of got in his face. Thank God I was able to keep my composure."

This comes a week after Tennessee wideout Nate Washington accused New Orleans safety Roman Harper of being a dirty player after he grabbed Damian Williams' facemask.

"Honestly, he's a dirty player," Washington said after their Week 14 meeting. "We watched film on [Harper], he's dirty. And I don't appreciate it, I'm going to step out in public and say it: He's dirty. That was dirty what he did, it's unfortunate that he grabbed the facemask -- at the same time you don't walk over a guy and nudge him with your knee. You don't do that. That's dirty. And honestly, that's a dirty player, flat out. This is not just one game. He's been doing it all season. And I'm tired of it. I hope the league did something about it."

During his Monday press conference, Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier said that Peterson came out of the Saints game "fine," which is more than we can say for the Vikings' season. 

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Posted on: December 7, 2011 12:08 pm
Edited on: December 7, 2011 12:09 pm
 

Film Room: Titans vs. Saints preview

Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit


While we weren’t looking, the Tennessee Titans got to 7-5 and in the thick of the AFC playoff race. This week they have a widely televised game against the New Orleans Saints. Perhaps it’s time we get to know Mike Munchak’s club.

Here are some tidbits on one of this week’s showcase games.


1. Saints O vs. Titans D: 31 flavors vs. vanilla
Sean Payton has been known to use 15 different formations on his first 15 plays. As offensive variety goes, the Saints are boundless and peerless. The Titans defense, under Jerry Gray, is the polar opposite. They’ve been the easiest unit to watch on film this season because they line up in base zones, they rarely move before the snap and it’s always clear what each player is trying to do. It’s an execution-based defense.

In this model, the Titans try to make opponents play conservatively and methodically. Instead of trying to beat the offense big once or twice and risk having the offense beat THEM big, the Titans would rather make the offense beat them small again and again, without making any bad mistakes. This formula works against middle-tier offenses – like the Broncos, Browns, Colts, Bucs and Bills, all of whom the Titans have held below 20 points. But unless an execution-based defense has a few top-level playmakers – like the Bears with Brian Urlacher or, in past years, the Colts with Dwight Freeney – it won’t hold up against upper-tier competition.

The Titans have a mobile, fairly athletic defensive line but one that’s devoid of premium pass-rushers. Their linebackers are reliable but not sideline-to-sideline players; it might even be considered a weak unit when outrageously overrated middle ‘backer Barrett Ruud is in the lineup (he’s been out most of the past month with a groin; rookie Colin McCarthy has been an upgrade in his stead). The secondary is sound but not ball-hawking.

The way to beat Drew Brees is to confuse him (which isn’t easy). He’s far too sharp as a progression-read passer for a defense to simply line up and play against. Unless luck intervenes or a few Titans defenders play the game of their lives, we’ll see Brees lead four or five ABC-123 type clock-eating scoring drives Sunday.

2. Chris Johnson
Pilloried for the destruction of fantasy teams nationwide the first 10 weeks of the season, the $30 million running back has rushed for over 100 yards in three of his last four outings. Not until these past two weeks did Johnson show his old acceleration and burst. We may never know what got him off track early in the year, but he appears to be on track now (he’ll have to stay on track a little longer before we fully trust him again).

One theory people floated was that his offensive line was struggling. That’s simply not true. It’s easy to blame the linemen because they’re big, faceless cogs in a unit. But ask yourself this commonsense question: What’s more likely? That one player (Johnson) suddenly stunk, or that FIVE players (the line) suddenly stunk? Johnson’s line wasn’t bad – Johnson was bad. He was stopping his feet to redirect, looking for holes rather than reading the movement of defenders and spinning mud when hitting the gas.

This isn’t to say that Johnson’s line has been sterling this season. Until they started consistently landing blocks on the move last week, guards Jake Scott and Leroy Harris looked very average (Scott maybe even a cut below that). Gritty veteran right tackle David Stewart has at times relied too much on grit and not enough on technique. Even steady Pro Bowl left tackle Michael Roos has struggled a bit (though more in pass-protection than run-blocking). But inconsistent means good AND bad. Until recently, the Titans line had been a tad inconsistent, while their running back had been just plain bad. We’ll see if Johnson can maintain his rhythm against a fast Saints run defense.

3. Titans O vs. Saints D: manufacturing big plays to compensate for a weakness
We’ve covered before how Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams dials up so many risky, complex blitzes in part because he does not have a good enough pass-rushing front four to simply line up and play. On a similar note, Titans offensive coordinator Chris Palmer has done a good job generating big pass plays this season through design.

With Kenny Britt injured, the Titans do not have any receivers who can consistently burn one-on-one coverage. Thus, instead of dictating the terms of engagement and just attacking through the air, the Titans have used route combinations in response to specific defensive looks. That’s good coaching.

Some examples that stand out: in Week 4, the Titans killed the Browns’ man coverages with a litany of natural pick plays (Nate Washington’s 57-yarder to set up a late first half touchdown being the highlight). In Week 13 they found ways to isolate Buffalo’s untested seventh-round rookie cornerback Justin Rogers with presnap motion.

In Week 3 they used a deep crossing route with unassuming tight end Craig Stevens:

The Titans knew that outside cornerback Cassius Vaughan was responsible for covering the defensive left third of field. So they sent wideout Marc Mariani on a fly route to carry Vaughan deep. That temporarily left an unoccupied void that Stevens’ crossing pattern was timed to hit. 

When Stevens caught the ball, Vaughan was out of position and facing the wrong direction. This well-timed, clever approach compensated for Stevens’ lack of speed.

This is quality stuff. It’s not necessarily sustainable – at some point, talent becomes a requirement in pro football – but it’s making the most of your resources.

4. Defending Graham
When facing the Saints, your defensive gameplan often centers around how you decide to defend Jimmy Graham. As the best receiving tight end in football, Graham, frankly, deserves a cornerback’s attention. But most teams can’t afford to sacrifice their run defense by playing a third corner on every down. So, they compromise by using a safety.

Then there are the brave teams that try to stop Graham with a linebacker (like the Giants two weeks ago, who put Jacquian Williams on Graham so that they could have one of their faster safeties defend Darren Sproles).

The Titans play a lot of zone coverage. Even a lot of their man coverages have sprinkles of zone concepts with cautious safety alignments over the top. Because of this, the Titans will likely be stuck in a few linebacker-on-Graham scenarios. Perhaps they’re comfortable with this.

In base defense, Will Witherspoon has been a savvy pass defender over the years. He’s not super savvy, though, as he comes out in nickel. Of course, that’s partly because rookie linebacker Akeem Ayers moves well in space, particularly near the inside flats. Ayers, however, is more inclined to make a tackle that merely prevents a run-after-catch, as opposed to actually breaking up a pass.

Expect Graham to get his usual touches, especially given that the zone defenders will constantly be peaking at Sproles coming out of the backfield.

5. Film Tidbits
Some miscellaneous trends for your viewing pleasure:
--when Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins creeps down into the box, it’s almost always to blitz.

--if the Titans do have one specific target they try to get the ball to, it’s tight end Jared Cook. He’s far from a go-to guy (inconsistent fundamentals, not as good a runner as his athleticism suggests), but he’s well-built and can create a mismatch once or twice a game. It usually comes when he detaches from the formation.

--The Titans like to use backup running back Javon Ringer in hurry-up offense. Ringer can catch and, more importantly, he’s a better pass-blocker than Chris Johnson. (We’ll see if Ringer’s hurry-up reps continue now that Johnson has gotten back to his normal self).

--The Saints almost always throw to the inside receiver in a given formation. It’s not often that the ball goes outside. (This tidbit came from film guru Greg Cosell, executive producer of the NFL Matchup Show.)

So who will win? Check our NFL expert picks for all Week 14 games

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: November 20, 2011 8:53 pm
 

Munchak: Hasselbeck still the starting QB

J. Locker did a nice job replacing M. Hasselbeck (AP).Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Just because rookie quarterback Jake Locker, while replacing the injured Matt Hasselbeck, led the Titans to 14 unanswered points and nearly led a comeback against the Falcons before Tennessee fell 23-17, that doesn’t mean a quarterback controversy is brewing in Nashville.

That’s because Titans coach Mike Munchak said after the game that there was no doubt that a healthy Hasselbeck is still the starting quarterback.

Hasselbeck was unimpressive today, completing 13 of 25 passes for 124 yards and an interception and leading Tennessee only to a field goal (he didn’t, um, get too much from Chris Johnson, who carried the ball 12 times for 13 yards). But after a Falcons defender hit Hasselbeck in the arm, causing a sprained elbow, Locker gave the team a spark, throwing both touchdown passes to Nate Washington.

As Rapid Reporter Matt Rybaltowski wrote, Locker made plays with his athleticism and his ability to extend plays, and he looked good while throwing on the run.

Hasselbeck will undergo tests to determine the extent of his injury, but Munchak doesn’t expect it to be serious.



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Posted on: October 18, 2011 10:40 pm
Edited on: October 18, 2011 10:41 pm
 

Munchak: We looked at Lloyd, will look at TO too

The Titans could kick the tires on Terrell Owens in the coming weeks. (US PRESSWIRE)

Posted by Ryan Wilson

The Titans lost Kenny Britt for the season to a knee injury in Week 3. Days later, the team signed Rams former second-rounder Donnie Avery, who is still learning the offense. That should change soon, though.

“This will be his third week with the team,” head coach Mike Munchak said on his radio show Tuesday (via the Tennessean). “We feel comfortable hopefully that he’ll be able to go in and start pushing the ball down the field a little bit. He’ll start getting more reps in games. We have to start getting him involved and take advantage of some of the things he can do with his speed and his experience.”

Getting Avery more involved may have been important all along, but now it's a necessity. Munchak also revealed that the Titans took a long look at Brandon Lloyd, the big-play wideout who the Rams acquired from the Broncos earlier this week.

“We looked hard at him, no doubt,” Munchak said. “We’ve looked at every opportunity. We’re always looking to upgrade and we lost Kenny Britt … We have young guys we know can step up – Damian Williams and Marc Mariani and Lavelle Hawkins.”

Through four games, Williams, Mariani and Hawkins have combined for 24 receptions, 211 yards and two touchdowns. (Mariani also doubles as a returner where he averages 6.5 yards per punt return and 28.2 yards per kickoff return.)

Munchak cited several reasons why the organization ultimately passed on Lloyd.

“I think it was part business, part what they were looking for at one time as far as what they wanted,” Munchak said. “His contract is also up (after this year), meaning we’d only have him for 11 weeks and then there’s a good chance we could lose him to free agency next year."

In Britt's absence, Nate Washington is the Titans' No. 1 receiver (28 catches, 389 yards, 1 TD). And while the Titans may be happy with Washington's production, they were also interested in adding another downfield target. That not only helps quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, but opens things up in the running game, surely something Chris Johnson would welcome.

“We were looking at [Lloyd] because he is a talent and did have a great year last year. We just played against him a couple of weeks ago, so we know how good he can be. But unfortunately it didn’t get worked out.”

But Tennessee isn't done looking. Munchak said that they'll keep an eye on 37-year-old Terrell Owens when he's healthy.

“That’s something that at some point when (Owens’) health is better and he can pass a physical – people thought the midpoint of the season, maybe – he might be a guy that may be able to to work out to prove where he’s at,” he said. “So of course us, or whoever else, is going to take a look, just like we have with other free agents, to see what kind of shape he’s in.”

Any future Owens might have with the team will be contingent on, among other things, his health, as well as how the Titans' current crop of wideouts perform in the coming weeks.

“A lot is going to depend for us on how we are producing at that (wide receiver) postion three weeks or two weeks from now, and how we’re doing (overall),” Munchak said. “All those things will factor into it. But I’m sure whenever you’ve got a player that has his capabilities, everyone’s going to know exactly where he’s at. If he has a way of helping our team win, then for sure you’re going to take a look at him.”

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Posted on: October 5, 2011 2:37 pm
Edited on: October 6, 2011 4:52 pm
 

Film Room: Steelers vs. Titans preview

Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit


The Tennessee Titans are off to a 3-1 start under first-time head coach Mike Munchak. Are they for real? The Titans have had the good fortune of facing the Jaguars, Broncos and Browns this season – all teams that run a bland 4-3 and suffer from a dire lack of weapons in the passing game. The Titans did, however, defeat a Ravens team that humiliated the Steelers in Week 1.

Which brings us to the next question: how are the Steelers right now? They’re 2-2 but have looked hardly “Steeler-like”. Ben Roethlisberger (sprained foot) is expected to play Sunday, but James Harrison (fractured orbital bone) is out. How serious of a test do the Steelers pose to this minimally tested Titans club?


Here are five keys of the matchup.

Run powers struggling
1. Titans run offense
The natural assumption is that Chris Johnson held out for virtually all of training camp and has therefore been rusty early in the season. An examination of the film reveals that ... this is exactly the case.

Johnson has not shown his usual initial quickness or burst out of the backfield. He’s had a tendency to stop his feet at the first sign of trouble, which is why he’s not creating his own space. These issues were apparent even in his 101-yard performance against the Browns last week.

The fourth-year running back is not the lone culprit for Tennessee’s anemic ground game. Interior linemen Eugene Amano, Leroy Harris and Jake Scott have been inconsistent at times, and right tackle David Stewart seems to have lost a bit of the power that once backed-up his nastiness.

Also, fullback Quinn Johnson is no Ahmard Hall. Hall’s return from suspension this week will be most welcomed – he has great feel and recognition in this Titans offense.

2. Steelers run defense
It ranks 22nd and has looked downright feeble in both losses this season (Week 1 at Baltimore, Week 4 at Houston). The Ravens and Texans both feature a stretch zone rushing attack, which the Steelers have been uncharacteristically poor at defending. James Harrison, coming off back surgery, has not played with the same physicality as past years.

He’s out this game; replacement Lawrence Timmons has superb athleticism but, as a run defender, he’s better equipped for his customary inside position, where he can chase down ball-carriers in either direction. This week, Timmons will have to be an edge-setting outside ‘backer, and against arguably the game’s steadiest left tackle in Michael Roos.

There’s too much history of success to think the Steelers run defense will continue to struggle (though the film through four weeks has often supported the wide-held notion that the Steelers are getting old fast). They have the ultimate X-factor in Troy Polamalu, but the real key to turning things around is at defensive end.

The Steelers’ secret to success is that they’ve always had incredibly active ends who can create chaos in the trenches and allow the linebackers to play downhill. But those ends – Aaron Smith and Brett Keisel, who’s been out the past two weeks with a strained PCL – along with stalwart nose tackle Casey Hampton are also well into their thirties.

Creating big plays: natural vs. manufactured
3. Steelers passing offense (natural)
The Steelers are a pass-first team. It’s been that way for several years now. And it will remain that way as long as Mike Wallace is around. The third-year sensation is the most lethal big-play receiving threat in the game today. He’s DeSean Jackson only with a longer stride.

The Steelers have done an excellent job of designing their route combinations around Wallace. His lifting of the safety is often what allows Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown to get open in the 18-25-yard range. But not everything about Pittsburgh’s passing attack is done through design.

There’s a lot of natural talent driving the force. Much of the production comes from Ben Roethlisberger’s incredible ability to not only extend the play, but make accurate throws downfield off that extension (there isn’t a better off-balance, improvisational passer in all of football).

The key to stymying Big Ben’s improve is to get to him with multiple pass-rushers. It’s hard enough getting just one pass-rusher to a quarterback, but the Steelers’ offensive line is porous right now. The Texans swarmed Roethlisberger by blitzing inside, which crowded his sight lines (thus making him break down earlier than usual) and forced shaky offensive tackles Trai Essex and Marcus Gilbert to work one-on-one.

4. Titans passing offense (manufactured)
A bulk of Matt Hasselbeck’s passing yards have stemmed from big plays that were well-crafted and called against the perfect defensive look (the best of many examples: receiver Damian Williams setting a pick against Cleveland’s man coverage that left Nate Washington wide open for a 57-yard game).

These kinds of plays are fine – it’s what good coaching and preparation are all about – but they can only carry you so far. At some point, you need a threat like Mike Wallace to build around. The Titans had such a threat before Kenny Britt tore his ACL.

5. Injuries impacting outcome
If the Titans can’t find their run game, they’re in trouble. The Steelers, even without James Harrison, have a far stronger pass-rush than the Jaguars, Broncos or Browns. The Titans handled the Ravens’ potent pass-rush well in Week 2, but they were able to build their aerial attack around Britt. Britt’s replacement, Nate Washington, isn’t that type of receiver – especially against a top-tier cover corner like Ike Taylor.

Running the ball could be equally important for the Steelers. With Roethlisberger less than 100 percent and the front five hurting, Pittsburgh’s best bet might be to challenge the Titans inside. Defensive tackle Jurrell Casey has been outstanding against the run, but center Maurkice Pouncey has the technical aptitude to temper Casey’s raw power. On Pouncey’s left, guard Chris Kemoeatu is arguably the best pulling blocker in the game. The Steelers should relish opportunities to get him on finesse middle linebacker Barrett Ruud.

Of course, putting a dent in Pittsburgh’s ground game is the fact that Rashard Mendenhall left last week’s contest with a hamstring injury. Isaac Redman, the spotlight could be on you.

So who will win? Check our NFL Week 5 expert picks for all the games

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: September 28, 2011 3:03 pm
Edited on: September 28, 2011 3:05 pm
 

Titans sign Donnie Avery, place Kenny Britt on IR

Donnie Avery will get another chance with the Titans(US PRESSWIRE)

Posted by Ryan Wilson

Now that Kenny Britt is officially done for the season after suffering a knee injury against the Broncos Sunday, the Titans are in need of a wide receiver to replace him on the roster. The team put at least seven players through the paces the last two days: David Clowney, Mardy Gilyard, Johnnie Lee Higgans, Tiquan Underwood, Buster Davis, Donnie Avery and Juaquin Iglesias.

On Wednesday, the Titans settled on Avery, the Rams' 2008 second-round pick who was released earlier this month. The 27-year-old came into the league with 4.3 40 speed, but was slowed by an ACL injury that kept him sidelined for all of 2010.

In his first two seasons, Avery totaled 100 receptions for 1,263 yards and eight touchdowns. Solid numbers on bad teams, although relative to other NFL wideouts, Avery's performance ranked near the bottom. In 2008, according to FootballOutsiders.com, he was 75th in total value among all wide receivers, and 71st in value per play. Those numbers actually worsened in 2009: Avery was 80th in total value and 77th in value per play.

But the Titans aren't expecting Avery to replace Britt, one of the NFL's most dynamic pass catchers. They just need someone to complement Nate Washington, now the de facto No. 1 receiver.

When the Rams released Avery earlier this month, the St. Louis Dispatch's Jim Thomas wrote that the team "weighed what he could do to stretch defenses with his speed against his injury history and the fact that he didn't seem to come down with many contested balls. It's perhaps another indication, too, that offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels likes bigger receivers."

Whether Avery is capable of stretching defense or coming down with contested passes remains to be seen. But it's not like the Titans have a lot of options at this point. And who knows, maybe this is the week running back Chris Johnson starts earning that new contract.

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Posted on: December 7, 2010 8:19 pm
 

Kenny Britt back; who starts?

Posted by Andy Benoit

Kenny Britt is set to return to the Titans lineup against the Colts Thursday night. The second-year wide receiver is not even listed on the team’s injury report after missing the team’s past four games with a hamstring injury. Britt’s return means Jeff Fisher has a decision to make: does he start his recent first-round pick or keep going with Randy Moss?

Moss was brought in specifically to fill the void resulting from Britt’s absence. He has been close to a nonfactor, catching five total passes in four games. Britt was coming off a 225-yard performance and had scored a touchdown in five straight games before getting hurt. Commonsense would suggest you go with the young guy.

But it is almost inconceivable that Moss, 33, could come off anyone’s bench. Of course, we’ve seen Moss come off the field in a few critical passing situations for the Titans already.

The guess here is Fisher will start Moss opposite Nate Washington and use Britt. This is a role Britt actually had early in the season when Justin Gage was starting.

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Posted on: November 5, 2010 8:29 am
 

Nate Washington's retroactive gaffe

Posted by Andy Benoit

Give Nate Washington an A+ honesty and a C- for judgment. Here’s what the Titans starting wide receiver told Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean about Randy Moss (disclaimer: Washington made these comments shortly BEFORE Moss joined the Titans):

“I don't really think we need him. I'm going to speak up and say that we have so many good young guys. If it so happens he does come to this locker room, we'll find a way to make it work. That's the type of guys we are. We aren't individuals ... We have a team goal in mind. That's what we're reaching for."

This is why so many players take the “no comment” route when discussing other players.

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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