Tag:Mario Williams
Posted on: October 13, 2011 11:37 am
 

Keep an Eye On: Week 6's finer points of analysis

Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit

Raiders vs. Browns
Keep an eye on: Raiders passing game
The Raiders are a run-first team, no doubt. That shouldn’t change against the Browns.

Cleveland can stop the run well enough, especially if middle linebacker D’Qwell Jackson stays clean from blockers. But at some point, Jason Campbell will have to make a play or two through the air. Expect Darren McFadden to be the primary receiving weapon out of the backfield.

Throws to McFadden have easy, defined reads for Campbell (who often flounders late in his progressions and when his pocket gets too crowded for him to take a full step into his throw) and they should be available given the way Cleveland’s linebackers have struggled in underneath coverage. Most of those struggles have come against athletic tight ends.

The Raiders, however, are more inclined to run tight end Kevin Boss down the seam and swing McFadden underneath. The Browns will likely commit a safety (perhaps T.J. Ward) to tight end coverage and allow Scott Fujita to cover McFadden (expect zone principles since Fujita doesn’t have a prayer at running with McFadden in man coverage).

This isn’t to say Campbell won’t go to his wide receivers. He’s been attacking deep more in October than he did in September. That’s a response to the new speedy duo of Denarius Moore and Darrius Heyward-Bey. Both are raw but potentially lethal. (No. 3 receiver Jacoby Ford is also a burner.) They’re not a potent one-two punch yet, though. Moore’s only big game came against the Bills, when Heyward-Bey was out of the lineup.

We may find out which receiver the Raiders like better this Sunday. Campbell has avoided throwing at top-flight corners this season (he hardly looked to Darrelle Revis’ side in Week 3 and rarely challenged Houston’s Johnathan Joseph in Week 5). Browns second-year sensation Joe Haden is most definitely a top-flight corner (he may have the most natural change-of-direction ability of any defensive player in football).

If Haden returns from his sprained knee, he’ll likely line up on the defensive left side. Whoever Oakland puts on the offensive left side (i.e. away from Haden) figures to be the go-to target. That could tell you what wide receiver pecking order the Raiders prefer.



Ravens vs. Texans
Keep an eye on: Brian Cushing
The third-year pro has been arguably the best inside linebacker in the AFC this season. That’s significant considering how mightily Cushing struggled as the middle linebacker in Houston’s 4-3 scheme last season.

But the inside duties are different in Wade Phillips’ new 3-4. With less field to cover, Cushing has been able to be more of an attacker than a reader-and-reactor. That’s a style best suited for his speed and ferocity.
 
Cushing hunts down outside runs extremely well and shows vigor when tasked with clearing out a lead-blocker. Both are critical traits for containing a Ravens ground game featuring a dynamic B-and C-gap runner like Ray Rice and a fullback like Vontae Leach.

Cushing is also noteworthy because of what he means to Houston’s pass-rush. Against the Raiders last week, Phillips resorted to frequent inside blitzes in an effort to instill panic in Oakland’s pass protectors and command one-on-one matchups for the rushers outside. Cushing continuously stood out for timing his blitzes well and executing them with reckless abandon.

With Mario Williams out, Phillips may feel compelled to be even more aggressive with linebacker blitzes. And he’s certainly seen the Week 4 film of Joe Flacco and the Ravens struggling to sort out many of the Jets’ inside blitzes.

Lions vs. 49ers
Keep an eye on: the tight ends
The 49ers and Lions are very different offenses. The Lions run a modern, semi-spread, aerial attacking offense. The 49ers run a 1980s, compact, ground-pounding offense.

That’s primarily a function of the quarterbacks. Though both are former No. 1 overall picks, Matthew Stafford is gun-slinger while Alex Smith is, comparatively, a spitball shooter. (To be fair, Smith did have a terrific game against the Bucs. He diagnosed coverages well and made a few stick throws.)

Though vastly different, both offenses are built around the same base personnel package: two tight ends. The Lions frequently line up with Tony Scheffler and Brandon Pettigrew while the Niners often feature Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker. The conundrum that two tight end personnel presents for a defense is in deciding what personnel to respond with.

Go with nickel and you risk getting run on (especially when facing the Niners, given that Davis and Walker are both solid run-blockers). Go with a base defense and you risk getting thrown on (especially with the Lions since Scheffler often splits out as a third receiver in the slot).
 
All four tight ends are weapons. For the Lions, Brandon Pettigrew is surprisingly mobile given his 265-pound frame and ’09 knee injury (from which he’s seemingly gained mobility through rehabbing). Scheffler is a swift downfield target.

For the Niners, Vernon Davis is as athletic as they come. No one save for maybe Jermichael Finley is as dangerous down the seams. Delanie Walker is not as good as Bay Area fans think, but he’s versatile in patterns and can block from a standstill position, off of motion or in a lead out of the backfield.

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Posted on: October 10, 2011 10:29 am
Edited on: October 10, 2011 4:46 pm
 

Mario Williams out for season with torn pectoral

Posted by Will Brinson

During Sunday's loss to Oakland, the Texans suffered a worse loss at defensive end, as defensive end Mario Williams will miss the remainder of the season with a torn pectoral muscle. Coach Gary Kubiak says Williams will go on injured reserve and undergo surgery, the Associated Press reported Monday.

Williams appeared to be hurt while sacking Jason Campbell with about five minutes left in the first quarter. He walked to the locker room on his own, and was on the sideline in the second half, wearing a T-shirt and shorts.

At the time, the team classified the injury as a strained pectoral muscle, but John McClain of the Houston Chronicle reported earlier Monday that Williams will have surgery this week and miss the remainder of the year.

Late Sunday night, there was speculation that the Texans could lose Williams for the year and despite reports of Williams missing time "indefinitely", there's no longer hope that he can return and help the Texans in a playoff push.

Williams, who's had some pretty good success transitioning to an outside linebacker in Wade Phillips' 3-4 scheme, is in a contract season, but as our own Pete Prisco notes, will likely still get paid, given that he didn't blow out his knee or anything extreme.

"I'm not a doctor, so I don't know," coach Gary Kubiak said following Sunday's game. "I hate to answer that right now in the state of mind I'm in, so let's see what happens."


Brooks Reed, a rookie linebacker drafted in the second round out of Arizona, stepped in and filled Williams' big shoes, doing so pretty admirably.

"I think initially I got to say that he looked pretty impressive," Kubiak said. "Looked like he had some good rushes off the edge.  He went from playing 10, 12 plays, to all of a sudden he probably played 50 in the game.  It’s gonna be time for him to step up now, but that’s what he’s here for.  He’s been doing some good stuff."

The Texans seemed prenaturally blessed to roll their way to an AFC South title this season, based solely on the way the quarterback situations shook out for the Jaguars, Titans and Colts. Injuries to Arian Foster, Andre Johnson and now Williams might have Houston thinking otherwise, even if they're still (tied) on top of the division Monday morning.

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Posted on: October 9, 2011 11:41 pm
Edited on: October 9, 2011 11:43 pm
 

Texans could lose Mario Williams for season

WilliamsPosted by Josh Katzowitz

With the reinvention of the Texans defense under new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, Mario Williams was going to be the cornerstone with his new responsibilities as a hand-on-the-ground pass-rusher and a stand-up outside linebacker.

So far this season, Williams had been nasty, accumulating five sacks and helping the Texans to 3-1 start as Houston allowed 13 points or less in three of its four games. But after recording another sack Sunday against the Raiders on Sunday, Williams might have prematurely ended his season on the very next play.

That’s when he injured his pectoral muscle, and if, as some expect, it’s torn, the rest of Williams’ year is in doubt. According to the Houston Chronicle, Williams will undergo an MRI on Monday to determine the extent of his injury.

Without Williams around on defense and without Andre Johnson around on an offense that was non-inspirational Sunday, the Texans allowed the Raiders to pull off the emotional victory. And if Williams is gone for a long period of time, how much will that affect the Texans defense? Who knows? At this point, we're not sure how bad the injury is.

"I'm not a doctor, so I don't know,” Texans coach Gary Kubiak said after the game. “I hate to answer that right now in the state of mind I'm in, so let's see what happens."

Williams’ replacement, rookie Brooks Reed, played well, accumulating four tackles and two quarterback hurries. But when Williams left the game, it was also evident to the rest of the defense that a big void was missing.

"As the game is going on, you know, you start looking around and thinking, 'Where's Mario?'" safety Danieal Manning said. "I didn't know if he was OK, and I still don't know."

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Posted on: October 9, 2011 11:33 pm
Edited on: October 9, 2011 11:40 pm
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Posted on: October 5, 2011 8:57 am
 

Eye on Football NFL Awards: Week 4

Posted by Will Brinson



Every week, our NFL experts will hand out the Eye on Football hardware to the best of the best from the NFL week that was.

Week 4 NFL Awards
Expert Offense Defense STeams Coach
Freeman  Blount  Texans Crosby Schwartz
Judge Rodgers   Osi  Hester Harbaugh
Prisco Rodgers Williams  Hester Harbaugh
Brinson Rodgers  Ngata  Hester Harbaugh
Katzowitz Johnson  Maybin Succop Schwartz
Wilson Rodgers  Ngata  Hester Harbaugh
For such an insane week of NFL action, there was a surprising amount of consensus from our experts on who deserves the hardware.

Aaron Rodgers, for example, was a pretty stone-cold lock for the Eye on Offense award after he scored six touchdowns against the Broncos. That's just what six touchdowns will do for you.

In terms of defensive selections, there was a little more variation, and Mario Williams could have walked away with the hardware, but Haloti Ngata ended up winning the Eye on Defense award for terrorizing Mark Sanchez.

There wasn't a whole lot to wonder about in terms of Eye on Special Teams -- Devin Hester was just the difference maker against the Panthers. And in coaching, it always helps to come from 20-plus points behind on the road if you want to win the Eye on Coaching award, which is what Jim Harbaugh did.

Leave your votes in the comments below or scream angrily at us on Twitter @EyeOnNFL.

Eye on Offense Award
Mike Freeman Clark Judge
LeGarrette Blount LeGarrette Blount, RB, Buccaneers
It was only the Colts. If the Colts' defense had any more holes it would be a script for "Lost." They're still an NFL team, though, and what Blount did at times in that Monday night game was ridiculous. He was a plow and the Colts were fertile soil. He's the size of a small apartment building, has some speed and thank God hasn't punched anybody this season.
Aaron RodgersAaron Rodgers, QB, Packers
He throws for four touchdowns runs for two more and looks more and more like the next great quarterback. Thank you, San Francisco. The 49ers could've taken Rodgers with the first pick of the 2005 draft. Instead, they chose Alex Smith. Life is not fair ... unless, of course, you're Mike McCarthy. He was the 49ers' OC then; he's the Packers' head coach now.
Pete Prisco Will Brinson
Aaron Rodgers Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers
Anytime a guy can throw for four touchdowns and run for two more, like Rodgers did in helping the Packers blow out the Broncos,f it's an easy choice. He can win this award every week.
Aaron RodgersAaron Rodgers, QB, Packers
After 2010, we expect Rodgers to be good. Maybe even great. What he's doing this year is filthy, and the things he did to the Broncos were just dirty. I don't have many rules in life, but one of them is "if a guy accounts for six touchdowns in one game, he's my offensive player of the week."
Josh Katzowitz Ryan Wilson
Calvin JohnsonCalvin Johnson, WR, Lions
Early in the Cowboys-Lions game, it looked like Rob Ryan was partially correct when he said that Dez Bryant and Austin Miles were better receivers than Johnson (though we all knew better, didn’t we?). But who remembers now what Bryant did? That’s because Johnson caught two more touchdown passes, including a jump-ball in triple coverage, and led Detroit to a huge comeback victory.
Aaron Rodgers Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers
Yes, the Packers were facing the Broncos, but unless something's changed, Denver's players still get paid and they are considered "professionals." But we suspect Rodgers would put up similar numbers against the 1985 Bears. He finished the day 29 of 38 for 408 yards, four touchdown passes, two touchdown runs, and the inevitably awesome championship belt end-zone routine.
Eye on Defense Award
Freeman Judge
Mario WilliamsHouston Texans, DST
Yeah, I'm picking the whole damn group. I've never seen the Pittsburgh Steelers during the Tomlin/Roethlisberger era get so physically outmatched. I mean, the Texans. Who would have believed this group could be so tough. Defense and the Texans rarely appear in the same sentence but after they battered Ben, shut down Pittsburgh's running game and intimidated their receivers, those two words might be associated a great deal this season.
Drayton Florence Osi Umenyiora, DE, Giants
In his first game since returning from knee surgery Umenyiora produces two sacks, forces a fumble and makes a case for why the Giants should keep him, pay him and make him happy. You can never have enough pass rushers, and Umenyiora is one of the best in the game. If the Giants were auditioning him for the next trading partner, color me interested.
Prisco Brinson
Mario WilliamsMario Williams, DE, Texans
He had two sacks and made a great tackle on a run for a loss. He is playing at a Pro Bowl level. Got both sacks with his hand on the ground.
Haloti NgataHaloti Ngata, DL, Ravens
The Ravens destroyed the Jets, their second-closest AFC rival, on Sunday night. Joe Flacco and the Baltimore offense had nothing to do with, really. Ngata did though -- with Nick Mangold out, the Baltimore lineman was an absolute terror, limiting the Jets in every facet of their offense.
Katzowitz Wilson
Aaron Maybin Aaron Maybin, DE, Jets
There might be better candidates this week -- like, somebody who played for a team that won -- but give credit to Maybin. After his disastrous stint with the Bills ended before the season started, he was cut by the Jets, then re-signed with New York, and he responded with snappy play and his first NFL sack. Which means he’s already one-up on Vernon Gholston.
Haloti Ngata Haloti Ngata, DL, Ravens
This could go to the entire Ravens defense, but Ngata absolutely obliterated Mark Sanchez on a sack-and-fumble play that ended with Jaret Johnson doing a touchdown dance in the end zone. A lot of big-name defenders got new contracts in recent weeks but Ngata has probably done the most to earn his substantial pay bump.
Eye on Special Teams Award
Freeman Judge
Mason CrosbyMason Crosby, K, Packers
He may be the best at onside kicks in the league. The Packers detroyed the Broncos and while there is no key moment in such an obliteration Crosby's onside kick was the closet thing. The Packers were up 14-3 when Mike McCarthy called for it and Mason was perfect. The Broncos never saw it coming.
Devin Hester Devin Hester, WR/KR, Bears
He returns a punt 69 yards for a touchdown. He returns a kickoff 73 yards to set up another score. Basically, he beats the Carolina Panthers by himself, and where's the surprise? I mean, his punt return was his 11th for a touchdown, setting an NFL record. So why in the world would anyone kick to the guy? Carolina coaches must be asking the same question.
Prisco Brinson
Devin HesterDevin Hester, WR/KR, Bears
Hester had a 69-yard punt return for a touchdown and also had another long return (a kickoff he took back 73 yards). Plus, the Bears won, which is why I give him the edge over Joe McKnight.
Devin HesterDevin Hester, WR/KR, Bears
It was Hester's effort -- a 69-yard punt return for a touchdown and a 73-yard kickoff return that nearly went to the house -- that changed the outcome of this game. Ron Rivera managed to forget that Bears coaches sit back and laugh at anyone who kicks his way.
Katzowitz Wilson
Ryan Succop Ryan Succop, K, Chiefs
The Chiefs scored their first win of the season, and their kicker was the one who did most of the scoring. Succop went 5-for-5 on field goals, including a career-high 54-yarder. Kansas City wasn’t great, but its field goal kicker was.
Devin Hester Devin Hester, WR/KR, Bears
We'll never understand why any team thinks kicking to Hester is a good idea. But the Panthers threw caution to the wind and were predictably  burned. Hester had a 69-yard punt return for six, and added a 73-yard kickoff return for good measure. The Panthers ended up losing by five.
Eye on Coaching Award
Freeman Judge
Jim SchwartzJim Schwartz, Lions
Lions fell behind big but still won. Schwartz is one mentally tough dude and his Lions showed the same. Sure, Tony Romo threw his usual lazy pick sixes and kept the Lions in it but coming back from that type of margin is still impressive and says a lot about Schwartz. I would expect no less from a Mt. St. Joe grad.
Jim Harbaugh Jim Harbaugh, 49ers
Not only does he have the 49ers on top of the NFC West, he just scored a huge victory in Philadelphia after overcoming a 20-point second-half deficit. What that win told me was that Harbaugh is changing the culture there; that the 49ers are learning to close games. A couple of years ago they would've given up and gotten drilled by 30. Instead, they fight back and win. Trust me, this will have a ripple effect for the rest of the season.
Prisco Brinson
Jim HarbaughJim Harbaugh, 49ers
Harbaugh kept his team over on the East Coast -- they stayed in Ohio after playing the Bengals -- for a week and it paid off. Their rally against the Eagles on the road was impressive. He also gets points for making Alex Smith look good.
Jim HarbaughJim Harbaugh, 49ers
Harbaugh's done amazing work with the 49ers, even if the comeback against the Eagles isn't something you can count on every week. His postgame speech and his willingness to give up a first-class plane ticket are indicative that this isn't a fluke -- he's somehow got an Alex Smith-quarterbacked team on a winning streak.
Katzowitz Wilson
Jim Schwartz Jim Schwartz, Lions
It doesn’t matter how far behind Detroit falls to its opponent. 24 points vs. the Cowboys? 20 points to the Vikings? When Schwartz is your coach, none of that matters, because your team can do nothing but win. That zinger on Cowboys DC Rob Ryan in the postgame presser was nothing short of awesome.
Jim Harbaugh Jim Harbaugh, 49ers
Not sure if we should be giving this award to Andy Reid and Juan Castillo, but the fact remains that the 49ers are 3-1, and did what so many west coast teams struggle to do: travel east and win a 1 p.m. start.

Posted on: June 12, 2011 4:12 pm
 

Wade Phillips handcuffed by lockout

PhillipsPosted by Josh Katzowitz

The other day, I caught legendary coach Bum Phillips on the phone for a 45-minute chat, and briefly, I asked about his son, Wade, and how he thought the Texans would adjust to running the 3-4 defense that Phillips will install.

Not surprisingly, Bum said he thought the adjustment would be smooth – even if DE Mario Williams, who’s been much more effective in a three-point stance than standing as an OLB, will have to get used to a new position.

Yet, Ira Kaufman of the Tampa Tribune isn’t so sure.

As Kaufman writes, the lockout has played havoc because Phillips and head coach Gary Kubiak, just like every other coach and defensive coordinator in the league, can’t communicate with their players.

Considering Phillips basically was hired in order to send Houston to the playoffs for the first time, this doesn’t bode particularly well (of course, on the other hand, the Texans’ future opponents aren’t communicating with each other either).

As Kaufman writes:

Phillips has proven to be a pedestrian head coach in several NFL outposts, but he's also an effective assistant who can make a difference and save Kubiak's job.

Unfortunately, his timing is lousy.

This lockout is having a particularly debilitating effect on a Houston franchise that took a major step backwards last season.

It's in (owner Bob) McNair's interests to get this lockout lifted as quickly as possible so Houston coaches can get to work on a daunting turnaround project.

Tick tock, Wade.

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Posted on: May 5, 2011 4:28 pm
 

Is Wade Phillips moving Mario Williams to OLB?

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

When the Texans hired Wade Phillips to be the team’s defensive coordinator – and, in the process, switched from the 4-3 to the 3-4 scheme – some of us wondered what would happen to 4-3 DE Mario Williams.

In fact, less than two months ago, Phillips addressed the issue himself, saying he didn’t envision Williams’ role changing much, particularly since he wasn’t all that effective when trying to rush the quarterback from the standing position.

Super Mario
Perhaps Phillips has changed his mind.

As the Houston Chronicle’s John McClain writes in a recent online chat (via Pro Football Talk) , the Texans will move Williams to the outside linebacker spot.

Now this doesn’t mean Williams won’t get down in his three-point stance, because he most likely will at some point. But that also means Williams also will playing standing up quite a bit more than he normally would.

And now Houston’s first-round pick of DE J.J. Watt actually makes more sense. Assuming Watt can play the defensive end spot, that would allow Williams to jump right into his new position and figure out how to be effective.

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Posted on: March 14, 2011 11:36 am
 

Don't expect Mario Williams' job to change

Expect M. Williams to continue playing with his hand in the dirt. Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Texans DE Mario Williams has been one of the league’s best defensive ends the past four seasons, accumulating a total of 43.5 sacks, and he’s accomplished it in a 4-3 scheme in which he was a major pass-rusher.

Considering new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips will implement a 3-4 defense, where the outside linebackers are the ones who score a plethora of sacks, you’d have to wonder if Williams would have to play more standing up in the second level of the defense rather than with his hand in the dirt on the line of scrimmage.

According to Phillips, Williams has nothing to worry about.

"I think Mario fits in well with what we're going to do," Phillips told the Houston Chronicle. "He's a five-technique, an outside rush guy. That's what he is. I don't see any difference for him. He's going to be outside all the time."

Phillips’ version of the 3-4 is a bit different than the traditional 3-4 where defensive linemen have to control two gaps. Instead, Phillips’ DL control a single gap and, instead of taking up the attention of the offensive linemen so the linebackers behind them can tackle and pass-rush, the defensive linemen are the ones who move up the field to pressure the QB.

Also adding to Phillips’ decision to keep Williams in a three-point stance is that Williams actually isn’t all that good when he rushes from a standing position.

Super Mario
"When they did stand him up, he took that false step every time, and that made him late on his rush," Phillips said. "You don't want him late on the rush. That's just fundamentals, something you have to work on. That's what happens when you have a player who's not used to standing up stand up.

"I don't think you need to stand Mario up. He comes off the ball so well with his hand on the ground I don't know that you'd ever want to stand him up."

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